Friday, September 30, 2011

America Getting Results The Easy Way

Some good points have been made regarding two recent "wins" against terrorism that made me stop and think.

First, the "death by drone" of this American guy, Al-Awlaki, in Yemen: What we DO know is that the guy was very vocal about fighting against America, hating America, jihad, and all that stuff. What we do NOT know is whether he ever got involved in what the intelligence community calls "operational actions" (e.g. plots, attacks, material aid) against America. What we may have witnessed was the American government assassinating an American citizen (no trial) for rhetoric that was, more or less, on the same level as the "God Hates Fags" people out of Kansas.

Glen Greenwald:
What's most striking about this is not that the U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment was designed to bar ("No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law"), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law). What's most amazing is that its citizens will not merely refrain from objecting, but will stand and cheer the U.S. Government's new power to assassinate their fellow citizens, far from any battlefield, literally without a shred of due process from the U.S. Government.
Remember: Before you say "he had it coming", "he was a traitor", or he was "helping the terrorists with his words", consider the following scenario: A white supremecist leader in Appalachia is saying the same anti-American, take-up-arms, kill-kill-kill things to a crowd of angry white hillbillies as Al-Awlaki was saying to Muslims in Yemen. As the white supremecist finishes speaking, an army sniper from a building across the street shoots him through the head. That is the same thing — an assassination by the government of an American — with only a degree of jurisdiction as the difference.

Second, the arrest of the guy with the model airplanes wanting to load them with explosives and crash them into the capitol building. What we DO know is that pretty much every step the guy took was on a paving stone laid down by the FBI. What we do NOT know is whether this "would be terrorist" would have ever made it past the "contemplative" stage without FBI guidance.

"All for the best," is my thought: Anybody who will "step that far down the road" — whether that road is paved by the FBI or not — is, in my mind, a potential terrorist and a threat. But here is something I had not considered:

Julian Sanchez:
One possible motive for these elaborate and highly publicized stings is that, whether or not the particular people they indict would have moved from rage to action without prompting, the steady stream of news reports will eventually force any candidate for jihad to assume that an “Al Qaeda recruiter” who approaches them is much more likely to be an FBI informant or undercover agent than a genuine operative. That’s likely to make it much harder for any real recruiters who’ve gone undetected to rope in anyone savvy enough to be truly dangerous. In a haystack of 300 million people—or even 2.5 million Muslims—the government can’t possibly be confident it will be able to identify in advance all the particular needles who are really prepared to carry out an attack, rather than simply ranting online. They may have concluded that the next best thing is to create a climate of suspicion in which such people are unwilling to risk collaborating with others. That means that the scale and destructiveness of any attacks that do occur are more likely to be limited to what a lone individual can achieve.
Indeed. The FBI goes fishing for gullible-but-earnest zealots, lures them in, then splashes their spoiled "evil-genius plot" all over the news, and the really dangerous people who are smart enough not to talk to FBI agents about their plans, may slink back down under their rocks and stay there.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Most Helpful Kitchen Hint I've Ever Seen

How to peel an entire head of garlic in under 10 seconds.

This works so well I almost think they are playing a joke on us. I'm making chicken soup tomorrow, and I'll give it a try.

Monday, September 26, 2011

How To Succeed In Life

Find one thing to do, and do it better than anybody else.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Daily Report: Looking Forward

Blogger redesigned the entire appearance of its blog publishing software. I suspect my mother will have a fit trying to get used to it. Best of luck, Mom.

It's a gray, rainy day here in Florida again. It was actually nice for about a week, but now it's gone wrong again.

Epril's visa was approved on September 22, approximately 8 months after first mailing it in. Now the government has put Epril's visa application in the mail (where they had previously lost it for 2 months, June and July — fingers crossed this time) to send it to the American Embassy in Manila, who will then contact Epril with the date of her interview.  Epril will go to the interview, then she will wait a couple of weeks for her green card, and then she will be getting on a plane to come to America.

But wait; there's more.

This coming week is the real, official beginning of my company's sales efforts, where hands shake hands, samples are tested, presentations are made, and promises are delivered. Over the next 5 days, people from PeGreSol will be scattered to 4 different locations in 3 different countries in Southeast Asia talking with oil companies about setting up contracts to sell them the product that will provide them wax-free oil wells.

Assuming that we get just one contract out of the four (though I am certain we will get all of them, and we are expecting hundreds, if not thousands, of additional contracts), I'll be buying a plane ticket as soon as possible to The Philippines and going to pick up Epril.  Then we will be flying to Thailand, where we will be renting a house  in Pattaya (Maid Go is even available to clean and cook). There, we will stay and wait for Epril's embassy interview in Manila, having fun with all of our old friends, and working hard at getting PeGreSol moving to supersonic speeds. Then we will return to The Philippines for Epril's embassy interview. After that, we will have a couple of weeks to wait around in Cagayan De Oro until Epril's green card is received, getting Epril packed, and again having fun with all of our old friends. Then we will throw the biggest despidida (going away) party The Philippines has ever seen for Epril once the green card is received. Then Epril and I will finally fly to America together. We will be renting a nice house in Sarasota: So we'll have houses in both Pattaya and Sarasota, and we'll spend part of the year in each place.

So over the next 5 days especially, I wish good luck to my business partners and our global sales crew. Hopefully by the end of this week, I'll be able to give my beloved wife the second-best anniversary present I could give her: The date of my impending arrival.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Possibly The Most Important News In Years

Seriously. It is not often that one of the fundamental laws of the universe as we know it is broken.
While studying neutrino oscillations — where particles shift from one type of subatomic particle (muon-neutrinos) to another (tau-neutrinos) — scientists clocked a beam of muon-neutrinos outpacing the aforesaid ray of light by 60 nanoseconds.
In other words, scientists at CERN think (think, mind you) that they just witnessed something moving faster than the speed of light, which everybody believed (most notably Einstein) was simply not possible.
Oh. A month later and... never mind.

An Interesting Chart

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How To Improve The Educational System

Surprisingly, spending more money on education is not the most important thing, according to the Economist. The main conclusion of the article seems to be "diversity of approach": Try as many different educational formats as possible and build upon what works best. Oh... and of course, the obvious: Good teachers. Oh... and of course, the also obvious: Good parents.

Here are the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) educational rankings by country for 2008.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Define Irony

How about the man who literally defines himself by his take-no-prisoners, budge-not-an-inch, stick-to-the-guns approach to policy making writing this?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Republicans Corner "Creepy Political Party" Vibe

It's true, ya know.

In the first September 6th Republican Presidential Primary Debate, the crowd of Republican supporters gave the biggest cheers of the night (the biggest cheers, not just "cheers", but the biggest cheers of the night) with regard to the fact that Candidate Governor Rick Perry had "executed 234 death row inmates, more than any other governor in modern times."

I support the death penalty, but I certainly do not get politically orgasmic over it, and it just surprises me that there are people who not just DO get politically orgasmic over it, but it is literally their biggest political erogenous zone.

In the second September 12th Republican Presidential Primary Debate, the crowd of Republican supporters gave further cheers for the concept of letting people without health insurance die.

While I don't believe that people with emergency medical situations should be refused care because of inability to pay "up front", I do believe that people with chronic medical conditions who do not have insurance should not be treated until they get insurance (yes: even government-provided insurance if/when possible). But again: Cheering and clapping about the prospect of somebody dying in America due to being denied medical assistance? Again: What kind of angry, heartless people do that?

I just could not be a part of a political organization that thinks in those terms. I fully condone the necessary evils that the American version of freedom, responsibility, and citizenship require, but I sure as shit don't clap about those necessary evils and I sure as shit wouldn't support any political movement that actually celebrates them... especially when they think they are God's Greatest Christians (cheer for killing, clap for death) at the same time.


Andrew Sullivan says more or less the same thing:
Of course, even if such libertarian purity does make sense, that cannot excuse the emotional response to the issue in the crowd last night. Maybe a tragedy like the death of a feckless twentysomething is inevitable if we are to restrain healthcare costs. But it is still a tragedy. It is not something a decent person cheers. Similarly the execution of hundreds, while perhaps defensible politically and even morally (although I differ), is nonetheless a brutal, awful business. You don't delight in it. And the same is true of torture. Even if you want to defend its use in limited circumstances, it remains an absolute evil, no humane person would want to do it, and no civilized person would brag of it or dismiss any moral issue with it at all. And yet that is what Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney have repeatedly done. They are positively proud of their torture record. The fish rotted from the head down. Last night, we got a whiff of the smell.

Monday, September 12, 2011

When I Can Afford It, I'll Get One

I just adore the look of this car, the Fisker Karma, a hybrid sedan (similar to the Nissan Leaf in that the only thing the gasoline engine powers is an electric generator while the only thing powering the wheels are electric engines) designed and built in America. Close to 100 miles per gallon equivalent, they say.

It really is the prettiest 4-door car I've ever seen: A blend of American muscle car and European sedan. A true design triumph that takes the standard sedan shape in a beautiful new direction. No wonder too: Mr. Fisker, according to the article in Car And Driver, "designed the BMW Z8 and the Aston Martin DB9 and V-8 Vantage", which are among the world's most beautiful cars.

What's next? I hear from Autoblog that a bit of a redesign is taking place, where the back end is going to get lifted up a bit to form more of a "flying brake" shape (think "station wagon") similar to the new 4-seater Ferarri FF.


Here is the updated version, called the "Fisker Surf Shooting Brake"... even nicer! Well, I think I would have liked a bit more of a "hatchback", rounded rear than this (again, like the Ferrari FF), but it is still just a gorgeous piece of automotive art.

P.S. Since I've mentioned the Ferrari FF a couple of times, and not many people are familiar with Ferrari's new 4-seater coupé, here is a photo:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Best Thing I've Watched In A While

Watch in order. These kids take a while to get their trick right... but when they do...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

No, Really I Can

I promised you video of me playing piano, and here it is.

Sorry about the sound quality. First generation electronic piano, little microphone on my netbook, and fingers that haven't touched a piano in 17 years combine for a suboptimal listening experience.

And no... nobody is calling you on Skype. That is my Skype ringing while I'm playing.

"The Self-Fulfilling Crisis Is On"

When a nobel-prize winning economist comes on and says, in effect, "There it is. That was the bad sign that we've been waiting for. It just happened today." Then you know we're in deep.
Did the euro just enter its death throes?

By resigning from the ECB, Juergen Stark has conveyed, deliberately or not, the message that there will be no ... lender of last resort, that there isn’t enough political cohesion in the eurozone to stand behind countries under market attack. And this translates directly into soaring spreads for Spain and Italy; the self-fulfilling crisis is on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Daily Report: Waiting

It's been terrible weather here in Florida: Rain and clouds almost all day, every day, since I got back from New York. Uncle Bob says this happens this time every year.

I quit smoking 4 months ago (and I was only smoking 1 or 2 cigarettes a day for a year leading up to that), but since stopping I've developed a bad cough... a big tickle in the back of my throat. Due to the times I cough (especially upon going outside), I've figured that somehow having stopped smoking made me more sensitive to breathing in stuff in the air. I bought some allergy medicine and that seems to control the cough.

Epril's visa is once again momentarily tripped up: The visa people didn't seem to care for the "official copy" of the marriage certificate I sent in, or the quality of the copy of the police clearance certificate either. Per instructions I got from the help line at the National Visa Center, I sent a "pretty please, look at it again" e-mail to the People Who Look At Things, and hopefully that will settle the issue. If not, I'll have to have new copies of the documents sent from Epril.

I've been practicing piano. I'm working on the 17th Chopin Prelude, Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique, and Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# Minor (my old pieces that I was best known for playing). Hopefully I'll put up some videos of my playing on YouTube soon.

I'm now (along with my business partners) waiting on the first PeGreSol meetings with prospective clients, which are scheduled to start about 10 days from now. I'm so excited. FloWell is going to change the oil industry overnight... and certainly drastically change my life: Income from selling FloWell to only 2 (two!) oil wells on a regular basis would provide me enough to allow me to finally quit my transcription job. Mike is fully expecting us to supply FloWell to 20,000 oil wells in a very short period of time! Having my income increase by a factor of 10,000? I really just can't imagine it... but my fingers are so totally crossed, and I've even offered up a prayer or two.

By the way, here is why FloWell is so special (a description for the lay person): Imagine an oil well as a car. Every 45 days or so, your car's performance gets so bad that you have to take your car in to the repair shop, take the engine apart, clean out all the gunk that the dirty motor oil has left behind, put the engine back together, and put in new motor oil. If you don't do this, your car will eventually grind to a halt.

FloWell basically is a fluid that — while you are driving down the road — constantly drips into your car's engine, and stops any gunk from building up, and makes it so that your car never works less efficiently due to that gunk building up, and totally eliminates the cost associated with taking the car off the road and putting it in the repair shop to clean out that gunk.

So, in conclusion, FloWell is, as of now, the only product in the world that stops "gunk buildup" on oil wells as they are actively pumping oil.

Signs Amended With Amusing Graffiti

This will provide you with half a dozen smiles at least.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Daily Report: Encounter

I was out at the beach, wading back to shore in about navel-deep water. About 20 feet in front of me closer to the beach was a dark patch of underwater seaweed — of which there is not much on Florida beaches. Then I noticed that the patch of seaweed was being dragged towards me on the undertow, which was strange. In an instant, the dark patch was next to my hip, 8 feet long and as wide as the trunk of an oak tree... brown speckled skin: A manatee. He was past me before I could really react, and had swum on to visit a couple of people standing 20 feet further out. (I had just enough time to shout, "Hey, a manatee is heading for you!") His big snout came up in front of them for a few seconds, then submerged again, and his big rear flipper made a splash out out of the water, and he was gone.

Because I have a lot of readers from other countries who might not know what a manatee is, here is a video below. A manatee is a water mammal, sort of like a gentle walrus. They are vegetarians and hang out normally in canals and inlets where there is underwater vegetation and the water is a bit warmer. Cousin Paul says that they are friendly and curious, and will come up and visit with humans who venture into their habitat (or vice versa, as happened wtih me). However, they are a protected species in Florida, and messing around with them (or chasing after them, especially in water craft) is strictly prohibited.