Friday, March 30, 2007

Dinosaur Disaster Doubts

The Telegraph (UK) reported today on new findings about the dinosaurs.

The traditional telling of the apocalyptic story goes as follows: the dinosaurs ruled the Earth for hundreds of millions of years, until an asteroid struck the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico 65 million years ago that triggered a mass extinction that allowed the ancestors of today’s mammals to thrive, paving the way for the rise of man.

The asteroid part of the story is still true, but a study published today in the journal Nature challenges the oft held belief that the demise of the dinosaurs played a major role in the rise of our ancient ancestors, suggesting global warming and the appearance of flowers could have been much more important.

Well, of course the appearance of flowers would be important! How else could a caveman get a cavegirl to go out on a date with him? They didn't have boxes of chocolates back then. No, the flowers meant he could get a girl, and that would "pave the way for the rise of man." So to speak. And that meant there could be little cavebabies coming along later...

But that's not all the news in this story. It gets even better.

There was a small pulse of mammalian diversification immediately after the dinosaur die-off. However, most of these groups have since either died out completely, such as Andrewsarchus , a species of Mesonychid (extinct group of aggressive wolf-like cows), or declined in diversity, such as the group containing sloths and armadillos.

The researchers believe that our 'ancestors’, and those of all other mammals on earth now, radiated - diversified into new species - in two pulses. The first was about 30 million years before the dinosaurs died out.

Flowering plants radiated then too, possibly aiding the diversification of mammals by giving them new things to eat.

The second pulse was not until 10 million years after the end of the dinosaurs, around the time of a sudden increase in the temperature of the planet - known as the Cenozoic thermal maximum.

Around 55 million years ago, the mid-latitude mean annual temperatures went up by up to 5 deg C over about 20,000 years. “It was a much bigger increase in temperature than we’ve had so far, but within the range that we might get within the next century (never mind 20,000 years),” said Prof Andy Purvis from Imperial College London.

It looks like a later bout of 'global warming’ may have kick-started today’s diversity - not the death of the dinosaurs.

So now what are the environmentalists supposed to do? They can complain about how bad mankind is for allowing the extinction of various species (as though that never happened without us--can you say, "aggressive wolf-like cows"?). And they can complain about how bad mankind is for allowing global warming to happen.

But if global warming contributed to that second pulse of species diversity back in the Cenozoic era, wouldn't they really want that to happen again, now that it might be possible?

Shout it with me:

Global warming for diversity!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Science News

Photo credit: Lewis Smith, Science Reporter

It's lunchtime. I should be blogging, but I keep having to do work instead. So rather than post on something timely but time-consuming, I'm taking advantage of a lull in the demands on my lunch hour to post this really cool story that I've been saving since March 1, 2007.

The Times Online (UK) reported on the first about a new scientific breakthrough.

Scientists have created the thinnest material in the world and predict that it will revolutionise computing and medical research.

A layer of carbon has been manufactured in a film only one atom thick that defies the laws of physics. Placed in layers on top of each other it would take 200,000 membranes to reach high enough to match the thickness of a human hair.

The substance, graphene, was created two years ago but could be made only when stuck to another material. Researchers have now managed to manufacture it as a film suspended between the nanoscale bars of scaffolding made from gold.

Such a feat was held to be impossible by theorists, backed up by experimentation, because it is in effect a two-dimensional crystal that is supposed to be destroyed instantly by heat.

The reporter is obviously engaging in hyperbole by saying this "defies the laws of physics." It merely defies the previously held beliefs about the laws of physics.

The crystalline membrane, comprising carbon atoms formed into hexagonal groups of six to create a honeycomb pattern, is thought to be able to exist because rather than lying flat it undulates slightly. Undulation provides the structure with a third dimension that gives it the strength to hold together, the researchers have reported in the journal Nature.

The graphene membrane has proved to be so stable that it holds together in vacuums and at room temperature. All other known materials oxidise, decompose and become unstable at sizes ten times the thickness.

Kostya Novoselov, of the University of Manchester, said that its main applications were expected to be in vastly increasing the speed at which computers could make calculations and in researching new drugs.

The membrane could also be used as a microscopic sieve to separate gases into their constituent parts.

In medical research the membrane, which at single atom thickness measures 0.35 nanometres, could be used as the support for molecules being analysed by electron microscopes.

As with so many technological advances, once this gets into production, manufacturers and researchers are sure to find even more ways to use the carbon membrane to revolutionize other areas of our lives. And then we'll all wonder how we ever did without it.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dogs, Frogs, and Other Critters

Animals have been in the news lately, and I can't resist. First, the good news:

Dog Gives Heimlich Maneuver

Toby, the golden retriever, saved his owner's life Friday.

[Debbie] Parkhurst said she was home alone with the dogs Friday afternoon when she decided to snack on an apple.

Suddenly, she said, a chunk of the fruit became wedged in her windpipe.

“It was lodged pretty tight because I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I tried to do the thing where you lean over a chair and give yourself the Heimlich, but it didn’t work.”

Parkhurst said she then began beating her chest, an action that might have attracted Toby’s attention.

“The next think I know, Toby’s up on his hind feet and he’s got his front paws on my shoulders,” she recalled. “He pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest.”

Toby’s jumping apparently managed to dislodge the apple from Parkhurst’s windpipe.

“I, literally, have pawprint-shaped bruises on my chest,” Parkhurst said. “I’m still a little hoarse, but otherwise, I’m OK.”

Killer Frogs in San Francisco

This one is is from the March 12, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle.

It's like something out of an animal horror movie -- killer frogs take over peaceful pond, then after terrorizing and eating everything alive, start eating each other.

Only it's no movie. It's really happening in Golden Gate Park's Lily Pond, near the California Academy of Sciences. And after watching the frogs chew through everything in sight over the past several years, the city finally wants to do something about it.

No one knows for sure when the African clawed frogs got into the pond or who put them there. But there they are, and the Toad Warriors have pretty much taken care of the native turtles, frogs and fish.

"They've eaten everything they can get their mouths around, and now they're eating each other," said Eric Mills of the animal rights group Action for Animals.

The city has been trying unsuccessfully since 2003 to eradicate the frogs.

Killer Toads in Australia

As a public service to readers in Australia, I offer this warning from the Scotsman (UK) today.

A MONSTER cane toad the size of a small dog has been captured by an environmental group dedicated to wiping out the toxic amphibian, which has killed countless animals since being introduced to Australia in the 1930s.

The male specimen weighing 2.9lb and almost 1ft 6in is the largest to be caught anywhere in the Northern Territory, according to environmental group FrogWatch.

The creature was one of 39 toads caught in the middle of a breeding frenzy said FrogWatch co-ordinator and chief "toadbuster" Graeme Sawyer.

"The biggest toads are usually females but this one was a rampant male," he said.

"We kill them with carbon dioxide gas, stockpile them in a big freezer and then put them through a liquid fertiliser process that renders the toads nontoxic," Mr Sawyer said.

"It turns out to be sensational fertiliser," he added.

First released in Queensland, cane toads have since multiplied across Australia, poisoning millions of native animals, including crocodiles in World Heritage-listed Kakadu.

These toads were introduced to Australia in an attempt to eradicate the cane beetle. But the toads couldn't reach the beetles at the top of the sugar cane, so they were left to breed and expand their territory. Another case of unintended consequences...

Baby Polar Bear Blamed for Panda Death

Knut, the baby polar bear, who recently rocketed to fame when animal rights groups called for his death rather than leaving him in the care of human beings, is back in the news.

The Times Online (UK) reported today that some people, including the Bild newspaper, are starting to blame Knut for the sudden death Monday of Yan Yan the panda.

He may look cute and cuddly but Knut, the world’s most famous polar bear cub, stands accused of conspiracy to murder.

As thousands of wellwishers flocked to Berlin Zoo to coo and sigh over his antics, few were aware of the tragedy that unfolded only a cage or two away. Yan Yan, the zoo’s most popular resident until Knut’s arrival, died suddenly aged 22.

A gift from the Chinese leadership to Helmut Kohl, the former German Chancellor, Yan Yan spent much of her time lying on her back chomping at bamboo shoots and was, by all accounts, a happy panda. Heinrich Kloes, the zoo’s chief bear curator, said there that had been no signs of illness.

But something changed on Monday, days after Knut’s introduction to tumultuous crowds, and Yan Yan lay down and died. The cause of death has yet to be determined but already fingers are being pointed at three-month-old Knut.

As many visitors were unable to see Knut through the crowds, they moved on to pay their respects to Yan Yan. Flashbulbs popped from dawn to dusk. That, according to Bild, may have been too much for Yan Yan to bear. “She seemed restless and intimidated,” the newspaper said. The verdict: fatal stress induced by Knut, or at least by his fans.

Poor little Knut. It's a tough job being cute.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Britain 15

BBC News reported today about British Prime Minister Tony Blair's latest response to Iran over the kidnapping of 15 British Royal Navy personnel.

Efforts to secure the release of 15 Royal Navy personnel held by Iran will enter a "different phase" if diplomatic moves fail, Tony Blair has said.

Downing Street said the UK could end up releasing evidence proving the group had not ventured into Iranian waters.

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett has called for their "speedy return".

And when Britain releases their evidence proving the innocence of their Navy, followed by Iran's declaration that Britain doctored the evidence, then what? Will Blair declare he's "really cross this time"? Will the Brits stomp their feet and wag their finger most seriously? What's left for them in terms of diplomacy?

Not much.

I like this quote from a commenter (BBC News placed it in a sidebar): "The country of Iran needs to have a good long hard look at how this situation will look to the rest of the world " --Gary, UK

The country of Iran doesn't give a rip how this situation looks to the rest of the world. They've already said they want to destroy another country. Why would they care about world opinion over 15 Brits?

It seems to me that Iran is testing the waters. If they make provocative moves like kidnapping British Royal Navy personnel, and nothing much happens, then they'll know the Brits have no more will to fight. I'm sure they already suspected as much, but this event will cement the answer.

And then comes their next move. Bigger. Badder. More provacative.

Followed by more international calls for more diplomacy.

Late Parking Ticket

I heard this on the radio news, and then Google found the story for me in the Journal Sentinel (fifth one down).

A parking ticket issued in 1980 for $1 showed up at the police department - paid in full and including the $3 late fee - over the weekend, leaving police dumbfounded.

"It's kind of cool that someone took the time to take care of their obligation after 26 years," Capt. Mike Babe said, adding that he doesn't know who mailed in the payment but he would just like to thank the person for paying their debt.

"Maybe their conscience got to them," he joked.

The return address on the ticket read: "Someone who keeps way too many old papers way too long." The stamp chosen to mail the old ticket was the patriotic "Home of the Brave."

And the signature on the money order used to pay the ticket is not readable.

It's never too late to clear your conscience.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sunni Sheik Joins Americans

The AP reported today on a change of alliances in Iraq.

Not long ago it would have been unthinkable: a Sunni sheik allying himself publicly with American forces in a xenophobic city at the epicenter of Iraq's Sunni insurgency.

Today, there is no mistaking whose side Sheik Abdul Sattar al-Rishawi is on. Outside his walled home in Ramadi, a U.S. tank is on permanent guard beside a clutch of towering date palms and a protective dirt berm.

The 36-year-old sheik is leading a growing movement of Sunni tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaida-linked insurgents in Anbar province. The dramatic shift in alliances may have done more in a few months to ease daily street battles and undercut the insurgency here than American forces have achieved in years with arms.

The American commander responsible for Ramadi, Col. John Charlton, said the newly friendly sheiks, combined with an aggressive counterinsurgency strategy and the presence of thousands of new Sunni police officers on the streets, have helped cut attacks in the city by half in recent months.

Al-Rishawi, whose father and three brothers were killed by al-Qaida assassins, said insurgents were "killing innocent people, anyone suspected of opposing them. They brought us nothing but destruction and we finally said, enough is enough."

Al-Rishawi founded the Anbar Salvation Council in September with dozens of Sunni tribes. Many of the newly friendly leaders are believed to have at least tacitly supported the insurgency in the past, though al-Rishawi said he never did.

His movement, also known as the Anbar Awakening, now counts 41 tribes or sub-tribes from Anbar, though al-Rishawi acknowledges that some groups in the province have yet to join. It's unclear how many that is, or how much support the movement really has.

But violence in some districts of Ramadi previously hit by daily street battles has dwindled to a degree so low that American soldiers can walk on the streets in some areas and hand out soccer balls without provoking a firefight - apparently a direct result of the sheik's influence.

The mindset in Iraq is often that of siding with the Strongman, helping the side they believe will eventually win. That some prominent Sunnis are starting to align themselves against al Qaeda is an encouraging sign. Especially when it makes a difference in safety on the streets for the Iraqis and for our troops.

Al-Anbar province and sections of Baghdad have been--and continue to be--the hotspots on the Iraqi front of this war. If this change in alliances can begin to build some momentum, then things will start looking more promising for a lasting peace in Iraq (and the return Stateside of a lot of our troops over there).

But "if" is still a pretty big word...

Sunday, March 25, 2007

School Decisions

I've been going back and forth about what I want to do about school. I want to learn Ultrasound, but the wait to get into the local community college's program is at least 3 years, on a first-come-first-served basis, once all your prerequisites are completed. And then the program is 2 years.

That school's Cardiovascular Technology program could get me in for the Fall of 2008, which is when I want to start (that would be right after my mom and I finish our motorhome road trip). It's also a two-year program, but the first year teaches how to do EKGs and pacemaker-checking, which is not what I want to do. We wouldn't learn to do the echocardiograms (my second choice after ultrasound) until the second year. And then, there aren't as many jobs out there for echo techs as there are for sonographers, and they don't pay quite as well, and I'd really rather do ultrasound.

But I put applied for Cardiovascular Technology (we can only apply for one program), because I can't afford to put my life on hold for five years.

Meanwhile, I'm applying for the online ultrasound program in Michigan, because I looked more closely at the timeline. They have more prerequisite classes (that I can take while my mom and I are on the road) than the local program, and that makes their ultrasound program shorter.

If I go for the Cardiovascular Tech degree (and get accepted for Fall 2008), I'll be finished with school and hitting the job market June, 2010. If I go for the online ultrasound degree (and get accepted for Spring 2008), I'll be finished August, 2009.

Let's see... I can learn my preferred technology, finish sooner, have more jobs available, for better pay. Or, I can go for second-best, take longer, compete for fewer jobs, for less pay. Which would you choose?

I thought so.

The only snag would be if I don't get accepted to Michigan for next Spring. But they do it on points, not who got there first, and I think I've got a chance for a lot of points. But I'm keeping Plan B open, just in case.

Real Men Wanted

Reuters reported Saturday that Harlequin Books needs real men.

Real men don't pose for the cover of a Harlequin romance. And that's something the publisher wants to change.

"We're looking for some guys that are not your usual models, but have that iconic look that women go for -- sexy, sensitive, beautiful and fit," said Harlequin spokeswoman Marleah Stout, who attended the open casting.

"We want real men ... exactly what you think in your mind when you're fantasizing or imagining that ideal man."

If that's you, be sure to apply. The modeling job pays as much as $215 (US) an hour, but you'll have to get to Toronto pronto, before they find all the real men they're looking for.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

John Edwards' Announcement

The AP reported today that John Edwards' anticipated announcement about his wife's cancer was not a good one.

John Edwards said Thursday that his wife is now battling an incurable reappearance of cancer but vowed to continue his second bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The recurrence of the cancer — this time on Elizabeth Edwards’ bone — presents a setback for the couple, both personally and politically. But both said the cancer was treatable and that they would stick with their plans to campaign vigorously for the nomination.

Faced with questions about how his wife’s illness affected his political future, Edwards said he will pursue his second bid for the presidency, but: “Any time, any place I need to be with Elizabeth I will be there — period.”

Keep them in your prayers.

Grand Canyon Skywalk

20 Mar 2007 REUTERS/Jeff Topping

My mom and I have to try this!

I found this photo in the Reuters top pictures of the day yesterday and saved it. Here's the caption that accompanied the photo:

Members of the media get a view from the Skywalk after dedication ceremonies at the Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation in Arizona, March 20, 2007. When visitors step out on the new U-shaped observation platform, they will be standing on all-glass flooring suspended 4,000 feet above the Colorado River.

A quick Google turned up the official website for the Skywalk, which says the gravity-defying walkway opens to the public March 28, 2007.

I'm starting to think that Arizona (and maybe New Mexico too) isn't a good destination for July and August. We might want to save our visit to Arizona for a cooler time of the year and bring my sister along for that part of the trip, so she can go out beyond the cliff with us.

Of course, if we really gather up the nerve to go out on the Skywalk, I'm sure I'll be white-knuckling the railing on my walk around the loop...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fred Thompson

On my way to work, Laura Ingraham had Fred Thompson on her radio show. I've heard his name before, so I knew he's on some legal/cop show like CSI or Law & Order but I'm not really sure which (No, CSI is the one with the fattened-up Thor, so Fred must be on Law & Order). And I knew he was in Congress somewhere. Laura said he was a former Senator from Tennesee, so there you go. That's everything I knew about Fred Thompson before this morning.

As I listened to him, and as Laura tried to recruit him into running for President, I liked his voice. It's deep and resonant, the kind of voice that makes all the other male Presidential candidates sound like wussy-boys and that makes Hillary sound like a shrew. No wait, she sounds like a shrew with or without Fred Thompson.

And then I saw this column in today's The American Daily (HT: WorldNetDaily) about drafting Fred Thompson for the GOP Presidential race. It's like a media vortex pulling all the attention in one direction. Where have I been that I missed it--besides work and school and coming back to work until all hours?

Liberal cheeks are puckering all over this country, including at RNC headquarters, at the prospects of a Fred Thompson presidential campaign. The last good-ole-boy conservative actor turned presidential candidate became the most universally beloved US President of the 20th century!

Traditionally liberal rags like the NY and LA Times are talking about the conservative quake underway at the RNC on a daily basis. RNC leadership seems baffled at the news that their hand-chosen liberal frontrunners are meeting with a less than exuberant welcome from the party faithful. They just aren’t used to constituents telling them what to do and they are not so sure they like it.

Even Republican talk show hosts like Sean Hannity, seem agitated that they are unable to anoint Rudy Giuliani, who is having trouble connecting with conservatives over his liberal social values.

For a change, conservatives seem awake and engaged in the primary process of selecting themselves a real “people’s” candidate for ’08, instead of waiting for RNC leadership to anoint another lackluster RINO, compassionate towards liberal values and policies. As a result, there appears to be a growing national conservative movement to recruit Fred Thompson.

I liked what I heard from Fred Thompson on Laura Ingraham's show this morning, though it's not enough for me to be able to make an informed decision just yet (should he choose to run). But this little bit of dialogue from the show is an example of what I liked:

Laura: Is Albert Gonzales doing a good job?

Fred: No.

He didn't preface it with the usual political-hack's, "Now, I have great respect for the guy, but..." He just said no. It's a simple word. It's a word people understand. It's not couched in disclaimered language that has to be parsed out, analyzed, crunched, interpreted, and fed back to the people in almost-recognizable form. I like knowing that when a candidate (and subsequent office-holder) says something, he means it and I know exactly what he means.

If Fred Thompson decides to run for President, and if his policies are in line with where I stand, I may take my current front-runner, Mitt Romney, and toss him aside like yesterday's puppy poop (we still have Zeus). We'll just have to wait and see...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


They changed the carpet in the elevators last night. They were just getting started when I came back to work after class, and they were still working when I left late to go home. It confused me at first, because I had trouble knowing which elevator was open for business and which one was just open.

This morning the elevators smell like new carpet. The floors have a border of pinkish-brownish marble that matches the outside of the building, and in the inset, the carpet has a border of solid black, with a geometric patterned beige in the center.

I have no idea what the carpet looked like yesterday. None.

It's disappointing to be proven unobservant, but the evidence is (was, actually) right before my eyes.

I know when they change the flowers in the planters outside, especially to or from pansies. Right now the planters have primroses. And across the street another business has just planted Iceland Poppies.

I've observed and remembered these things. But the carpet beneath my feet? Not a clue.

I hate when that happens.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Reliving a Day

I got this idea from Bekah, who got it from a radio show host, who got it from someone else.

If you could relive a day or event in your life (excluding your wedding day or the birth of your children), what would you choose to relive and why?

Bekah came up with a Top Ten list, but I'm going to go with five (and maybe a followup of travel moments).

It's hard coming up with days to relive, because so many of the good times are bittersweet or tarnished. In high school and early adulthood I was insecure and feared rejection, and my fears often got in my way. But these five days or events were pure joy, pure pleasure. In no particular order:

1. Dancing with George.
One of the beach cities farther south has a tavern that holds concerts with semi-big names, and they used to have swing dancing Sunday afternoons. Having taken lessons, I went to the tavern by myself to dance. There was this bald-headed man in jeans and a white T-shirt who looked like a stevedore, and he was dancing very intimately with a woman who was obviously his love-interest. But then he danced the same way with another woman, and another. And then he asked me to dance, and I said, "Oh, I'm not ready for you!"

I learned his name was George, and he used to be in amateur competitions with his former dance partner, but she ran off with some other man.

That next Valentine's Day, one of the area churches was having a Swing Dance for their singles group, and I was telling a co-worker about it. She asked me a question, for which the answer was, "I'll dance with anybody. Except George."

Yes, you guessed it. George was at the dance. But he behaved himself, leaving actual air space between himself and his dance partners, so when he asked me to dance, I accepted.

Dancing with George was an E-ticket ride! He was a strong lead, easy for me to follow, and all I had to do was obey his direction and feel the thrill. It was exhilarating, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

2. Northern Lights.
On a high school speech tournament (I did Oral Interpretation of Literature, NOT Debate), we were coming home late at night from another town in Montana. On this trip, we were stuck with a school bus, instead of the Greyhound-style bus with storage beneath the floor. So all our luggage was piled on the back rows of seats up to about window-level.

Somebody noticed the Northern Lights out the back window and mentioned it. But only three of us, out of about 30 people on the speech team, sprawled out on top of the luggage and watched for a long time as the Northern Lights glowed and changed colors and swirled like a filmy curtain billowing in a breeze.

3. The Girls' Long Weekend in Dallas.
Several years ago, after my mom and I had been to multiple Women of Faith conferences, we realized my sister hadn't ever been to one. So we bought tickets to the conference in Dallas (the nearest one to where she lives), made reservations at a nice Bed & Breakfast in downtown Dallas (it looks like she's remodeled since we were there), and the three of us girls spent our time at the conference or trying to beat the 112 degree heat outside. We had a wonderful time. And with the trip my mom and I will be taking--with my sister joining us sometimes--we should be able to relive the Girls' Long Weekend again.

4. Coming to Faith.
I mentioned at the top of this post that I was insecure and afraid of rejection for much of my life, and this led me to believe that God--who knew the real me--wouldn't have me. I won't go into a lot of detail, but when I was 33, I finally had to wrestle with what I knew about God in my head and what I feared in my heart. And I knew that who I was at the core of my being depended on the result of that battle.

Of course, God won the fight (and so did I), and I've never doubted His love for me since. But the contrast from before was remarkable. I felt taller. And cured, as though my soul had been infected all my life, and now all the infection was gone. I learned to say, "No," and I didn't feel guilty, though I did overwhelm a couple people with No until I learned to handle the freedom.

But the biggest difference was that, since I no longer focused on whether people might reject me, I had so much more energy and attention to focus on how the other people felt. I went from self-centered misery to having a heart for the misery of others. All because the Lord finally got through to me that His love was for me too.

I'd relive that joy over and over.

5. Any day with my dad.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Gender Neutral

While I'm on the topic of boys and girls, I might as well add this.

I've heard a promo for Dennis Prager's radio show that has Dennis telling about a man he talked to who was trying to raise his daughter "gender neutral." The man had given his daughter some trucks to play with. "She named them," Dennis said. "Boys would never do that."

On the other hand, I read an email (probably not true, but indicative of "truth") about a woman bragging to her girlfriends that she and her husband were raising their son to be gender neutral. "In fact", the woman says, "he's upstairs playing with his Barbie right now."

All the other women wanted to see this amazing sight, so they snuck upstairs and peeked into the boy's room, where he was indeed playing with his Barbie. She was naked, and he was holding her face-down, with his hand across her back. He rubbed her belly along the carpet over and over, saying, "Vrooom! Vrooom!"

Dangerous Superhero Costumes

This Is London (UK) reported yesterday that British doctors are warning of the dangers of allowing children to wear superhero costumes.

Doctors say the increasingly popular trend of dressing up like superheroes can cause youngsters to hurt themselves as they try to copy the characters' death-defying feats.

They often believe their own abilities have been given a "super-boost" by wearing the costume.

Although risk-taking is normal for children, doctors fear the advent of superhero role models can give them unrealistic expectations.

The doctors are right about one thing: Risk-taking is normal for children. And when kids don't have costumes, they'll improvise.

When I was a kid, the boys in the neighborhood dressed up as Superman by draping a bath towel around their shoulders and fastening it at their throats with a clothespin. Then they got up on the roof of one of the boys' garage and jumped off, hopefully into the iceplant. I can't remember if any of them broke any bones, but there were definitely some sprained ankles.

It's called, "growing up male."

One of my co-workers told the story (forgive me if I've told you this already) of his son and his son's friend who were playing with golf clubs in the front yard. The dad had warned them to be careful, so of course they got a little wild and the friend hit the son with a club and gashed his head. When the dad got the son into the emergency room, he said to his son, "Now, look around and tell me how many girls you see here." There weren't any.

The article continues:

A study describes the cases of five boys who injured themselves while dressed as Superman or Spider-Man.

In one case, a six-year-old boy suffered a head injury and a broken foot when he fell from a first floor window pretending to be Spider-Man. He needed a brain scan and X-rays.

Four other boys, aged between three and eight, hurt themselves while dressed as Spider-Man or Superman.

Three were injured when they attempted to fly "without having planned for landing strategies".

One of the four had a head wound while three suffered broken bones which needed treatment under general anaesthetic.

The report noted that one of the children would have sustained even worse injuries had his costume not been padded with imitation muscles.

I have all the sympathy in the world for the parents of these boys (note how many are girls), and even a little sympathy for the boys themselves. But the doctors doing the study and raising the alarm are a bunch of girlie-men who have obviously forgotten what it was to be a kid.

Let the kids dress up and pretend to be Super-Duper Man. But buy them the costumes with the fake muscles, just in case.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

My Little Dog Abby

I had to have Abby put to sleep last night. It was 12:30 am when I signed the papers, so technically, it was today.

Her health was not good, and when I got home from work about 10:30 last night, she was in obvious respiratory distress. She had soiled herself, so I gave her a bath, dried her off as well as I could, and took her to the emergency vet.

They took x-rays, and the vet showed me side-by-side comparisons to the ones they took back in November. Then, her heart was only slightly enlarged, and her lungs were clear. Last night, her heart was enormous, and she had lots of fluid in her lungs. The vet said they could try to get her back out of her congestive heart failure condition, but there were no guarantees, and we could end up right back where we were last night.

I told the vet that Abby's not a fighter. She's just a little sweetie pie.

They had her in a little oxygen incubator, and I got to take her out to say goodbye. I scratched her ears and told her all her favorite things for me to say, but I just couldn't bear to keep hearing the sound of her breathing the tiniest of breaths. So I took her back to the oxygen, and one of the assistants took me up front to take care of the paperwork. The assistant was crying too.

Abby never really made much noise, but the house is so quiet now. I see her empty bed and her dog food dish with food she hadn't eaten, and I know I'll need to do something with all her things. But not right now.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Global Warming Lunatics Leave the Assylum

The AP's Wired published an article today about the Big Four suggestions for reducing global warming. It's utterly flabbergasting that people are taking them seriously.

There's the man-made "volcano" that shoots gigatons of sulfur high into the air. The space "sun shade" made of trillions of little reflectors between Earth and sun, slightly lowering the planet's temperature. The forest of ugly artificial "trees" that suck carbon dioxide out of the air. And the "Geritol solution" in which iron dust is dumped into the ocean.

"Of course it's desperation," said Stanford University professor Stephen Schneider. "It's planetary methadone for our planetary heroin addiction. It does come out of the pessimism of any realist that says this planet can't be trusted to do the right thing."

That's the crux of the matter. Even though the earth's temperature has been fluctuating for millenia, quite without our help, these scientists trust only themselves and their like-minded compatriots to make sure the earth behaves properly. The fact that during the Medieval Warming period, people prospered (eg, Erik the Red established two colonies on Greenland that lasted until the next global cooling), doesn't improve the alarmists' ability to trust the earth.

Here are the Big Four ideas for saving the planet from itself:

The Geritol solution

A private company is already carrying out this plan. Some scientists call it promising while others worry about the ecological fallout.

Planktos Inc. of Foster City, Calif., last week launched its ship, the Weatherbird II, on a trip to the Pacific Ocean to dump 50 tons of iron dust. The iron should grow plankton, part of an algae bloom that will drink up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Tim Barnett, a marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said large-scale ocean seeding could change the crucial temperature difference between the sea surface and deeper waters and have a dramatic effect on marine life.

As I recall from grade school Science class, too much algae kills the other life in ponds. That's why we banned phosphates from laundry detergent. Why would we do this to our oceans?

Man-made volcano

When Mount Pinatubo erupted 16 years ago in the Philippines it cooled the Earth for about a year because the sulfate particles in the upper atmosphere reflected some sunlight.

Several leading scientists, from Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen to the late nuclear cold warrior Edward Teller, have proposed doing the same artificially to offset global warming.

"It's an issue of the lesser of two evils," [Tom Wigley of the National Center for Atmospheric Research] said.

Scientists at the Center for Atmospheric Research put the idea into a computer climate model. The results aren't particularly cheap or promising, said NCAR scientist Caspar Ammann. It would take tens of thousands of tons of sulfate to be injected into the air each month, he said.

Scientists also complained about all the pollutants Pinatubo spewed into the air, not to mention the acid rain... But that's different. It's not a problem to pollute, when it's for the right reasons.

And if Mt. Pinatubo only reduced the temperature for a year, how long do the advocates of this approach plan to keep up the sulfer pollutants in our atmosphere? And what will be the long-term consequences?

Solar umbrella

For far-out concepts, it's hard to beat Roger Angel's. Last fall, the University of Arizona astronomer proposed what he called a "sun shade." It would be a cloud of small Frisbee-like spaceships that go between Earth and the sun and act as an umbrella, reducing heat from the sun.

About 800,000 of these would be stacked into each rocket launch. It would take 16 trillion of them - that's million million - so there would be 20 million launches of rockets. All told, Angel figures 20 million tons of material to make the discs that together form the solar umbrella.

I tried finding out the byproducts of rocket launches, and it's unclear whether carbon dioxide is one of them. Solid propellants may be able to produce CO2. But even if it's just the "immense volume of steam" put out by the space shuttle rockets, twenty million immense volumes of steam over the course of 30 years may have other side effects on the planet that we're not expecting.

Artificial trees

What's wrong with real trees?

Scientifically, it's known as "air capture." But the instruments being used have been dubbed "artificial trees" - even though these devices are about as treelike as a radiator on a stick. They are designed to mimic the role of trees in using carbon dioxide, but early renderings show them looking more like the creation of a tinkering engineer with lots of steel.

Nearly a decade ago, Columbia University professor Klaus Lackner, hit on an idea for his then-middle school daughter's science fair project: Create air filters that grab carbon dioxide from the air using chemical absorbers and then compress the carbon dioxide into a liquid or compressed gas that can be shipped elsewhere. When his daughter was able to do it on a tiny scale, Lackner decided to look at doing it globally.

It would take wind and a lot of energy to power the air capture devices. They would stand tall like cell phone towers on steroids, reaching about 200 feet high with various-sized square filters at the top. Lackner envisions perhaps placing 100,000 of them near wind energy turbines.

Even if each filter was only the size of a television, it could remove about 25 tons of carbon dioxide a year, which is about how much one American produces annually, Lackner said. The captured carbon dioxide would be changed into a liquid or gas that can be piped away from the air capture devices.

This is a great idea. We can put all the "radiator on a stick" devices with all the windmills in front of Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite's houses in Martha's Vineyard. All their hot air will keep the windmills spinning.


The fact that some in the scientific community are seriously considering any of these options is evidence of how far off the deep end the global warming alarmists have gone.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Good News From Iraq

Mohammed at Iraq The Model has this post tomorrow about Iran's adventure in Iraq and the direction it's headed.

Iran’s “project” in Iraq has recently been facing one setback after another. There are an increasing number of signs that the “project’s” prospects for success, for realizing Iran’s ambitions in Iraq, do no point upward anymore. It simply isn’t having much success lately in undermining Iraq’s emerging democracy through politics and force.

In the past Iran has employed several tracks to interfere directly and indirectly in Iraq. The mullahs celebrated several achievements in the project. They rejoiced when pro-Iran powers took over a big part of the Iraqi government. In this they saw the real chance of a satellite Islamic state in Iraq offering them a strategic extension into the western front. It seemed as if the project of exporting the Islamic revolution designed by ayatollah Khomeini was reaping fruit after decades of planning. The dramatic fall of Arab nationalism in Iraq and the potential transformation of Iraq into a Shia theocratic ally would mean the fall of the last geographic wall between Iran and the allies in Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territory. It would make the dream of Tehran’s dominance in the region a reality.

While Iran couldn’t secure a majority support in Iraq’s political arena, it definitely secured enough clout to impede the secular democratic project. This costly -in lives and treasure - policy could, in the minds of the mullahs, force America to forsake her goals in Iraq.

That, at least, was the plan. But a number of interesting developments in Iraq in the last few weeks may mark the beginning of failure for Iran’s plan. The developments listed here were collected from both large and small stories in local Iraq newspapers. Perhaps none of them are significant alone, but putting the pieces together allows one to sense that a sea change is underway in this country and the tide is moving against Iran.

I'll leave the details of the sea change for you to read yourself.

At the same time I've heard reports out of Iraq (Christopher Hitchens on Hugh Hewitt's radio show is one) that attitudes among the Iraqis has changed since the announcement of the Surge and the change in tactics that accompanies it. Hitchens reprted that where the American and Iraqi armies used to clear an area of insurgents and then leave that area, now they're staying to patrol, much like beat cops. The residents have become cautiously optimistic, where they used to be pessimistic.

It's not a full-blown success at this point, but it seems the tide has changed in Iraq, and that's good news. Here's how Mohammed ends his post:

All in all, things are not going the way Khamenie or Nejad were dreaming of just a few months ago. Overall the course of events recently in Iraq indicates the beginning of a severe fall for Iran’s stocks in Iraq.

Of course we shouldn’t expect Iran to just sit back and not respond. I think an escalation in attacks by militias loyal to Iran will take place soon, especially outside Baghdad.

UN Predicts Mass Migration

The Telegraph (UK) reported today about the UN's latest population prediction.

At least 2.2 million migrants will arrive in the rich world every year from now until 2050, the United Nations said yesterday.

Britain's population will rise from 60 million to approaching 69 million by 2050 - almost entirely because of immigration.

The latest figures from the UN's population division predict a global upheaval without parallel in human history over the next four decades.

There will be billions more people in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Of these, tens of millions will migrate to Europe and America, while the indigenous populations of most countries in the rich world will either stagnate or decline.

By 2050, India will have the highest population in the world, totalling almost 1.7 billion people. There will be 292 million Pakistanis, giving their country the fifth biggest population. Nigeria will have 289 million people - making it the world's sixth most populous country - and Uganda's population will rise to 93 million, comfortably exceeding the totals in both its larger neighbours, Kenya and Tanzania.

This massive population growth will lead to land degradation on a huge scale and place an immense strain on the limited water resources of poor countries. Malawi cannot feed its present population of 13 million - and every year its soils become more degraded and yields steadily fewer crops.

I find it ironic that the UN publishes reports like this, without seeming to recognize the hand they had in shaping these conditions.

What has the UN done about Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe? They've honored him with invitations. They've ignored what he does to his own people. And he's just one murderous dictator-thug out of many.

No, the UN has bigger fish to fry. They have almost-daily condemnations of Israel and the Unites States to write and deliver and vote on. The rest of the suffering world be damned. And they will be if the UN population prediction is right.

Get the US out of the UN, and then get the UN out of the US! Let them set up their headquarters in Darfur.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Bird News

I've been neglecting the animal kingdom for a while, but I've been saving the news. Here are a couple items that have caught my eye:

Stumpy the Duck:

Photo credit: AP Photo

When this little cutie was hatched, the owner noticed something amiss right away: Stumpy the Duck has four feet, not the usual two. The AP reported the story February 17, 2007.

A rare mutation has left the eight-day-old duckling with two nearly full-sized legs behind the two he runs on. Nicky Janaway, a duck farmer in New Forest, Hampshire, 95 miles (150 kilometers) southwest of London, unveiled the duckling to reporters on Saturday.

"It was absolutely bizarre. I was thinking 'he's got too many legs' and I kept counting 'one, two, three, four,"' Janaway said.

Stumpy would probably not survive in the wild, but Janaway, who runs the Warrawee Duck Farm in New Forest says he is doing well.

"He's eating and surviving so far and he is running about with those extra legs acting like stabilizers," Janaway said.

Remote-Controlled Pigeon:

Photo credit: 28 Feb 2007 REUTERS/China Daily

This is more in the line of science news, rather than freak show, even though the picture looks freakier than Stumpy.

This was one of the Reuters "Best Pictures from the last 24 hours," with this caption:

A pigeon with micro-electrodes planted in its brain is seen at Shandong Science and Technology University in Qingdao, east China's Shandong province February 27, 2007. Scientists in eastern China say they have succeeded in controlling the flight of pigeons with micro electrodes planted in their brains, state media reported on Tuesday.

An article in Engadget, February 27,2007, has this to say about the experiment:

While chief scientist Su Xuecheng boasts, "It's the first such successful experiment on a pigeon in the world," they were fruitless in the search for any type of practical use, which was, ironically, the group's initiative when moving forward from similar experiments in mice in 2005.

No practical use? I see this as a favorite new toy of young boys, especially boys with younger siblings. They'll keep the pigeon circling their target sibling until the bird lets the droppings fly. Great for hours of fun! The scientists should start talks with Mattel before another Christmas season goes by.

Earthquakes and Tornados

I keep an earthquake detector at my desk at work. I've done that at the last several jobs I've had here in Southern California, ever since the Newport Beach earthquake back in the early '90s (working from memory here, so don't quote me on the date).

I was working in Irvine (the next town inland from Newport Beach) on the fifth floor of a building with rollers. The earthquake happened during the workday, and so did the aftershocks. My desk was near the middle of the floor, away from the windows, so I couldn't check the miniblinds to see if they were swaying (a symptom of earthquake). Because of the distance from the windows, I installed my first earthquake detector.

It was a pink highlighter hooked through a loop of yarn, with the yarn taped to the bottom of the overhead cabinet. If there was an earthquake, the pen would sway side-to-side.

Being out in the middle of the floor, I learned quickly that the floor had some flexibility. Whenever someone really heavy walked by, or someone pushed a loaded cart down the aisle, the floor would bounce up and down, and people would look around to see if we were having an earthquake. But my handy-dandy earthquake detector would hang still as could be. No swaying, no earthquake.

Now that I'm going to get retrained as a medical person, I'm also considering moving away from California to somewhere with four seasons (and I don't mean Warm, Gloom, Heat, and Rain). I won't need my earthquake detector there.

If I end up in Tornado Alley, what will be my tornado detector? Clearly a pen suspended from the underside of a cabinet shelf isn't going to tell me much.

Maybe if I keep a cow in the front yard, that might work. If the cow starts to lift off the ground, I'll know to run for shelter.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Hope for Medical Life

After I got over being discouraged (or maybe it was before I got over it) about the long, long wait to get into the ultrasound program, I started looking for other options. My fellow "mature" students said there were programs at some of the other community colleges in the area (which are farther from home than the one I'm attending right now). But if a longer commute could get me into a job a few years sooner, then I might be willing to put up with it.

So I went online and found an accredited ultrasound program in Michigan where the entire thing is conducted online. They arrange with a hospital or clinic in your area for you to do the clinical work, and you do the academics over the internet, and you never have to go to Michigan for any of it.

Of course, it would mean paying out-of-state tuition, but the difference between that and California's in-state tuition is about $10,000 over the two years of the program. And that's only half of the difference in expected annual pay between ultrasound and the other program I would be able to get into right away if I stay here.

I haven't decided for sure yet, since I haven't finished checking out the relatively local schools. I'm leaning toward the Michigan program, but I want to let the idea percolate for a little while. Tomorrow night's Intro to Medical Occupations class is when we get the presentation of the Ultrasound program, and I'll try to find out what I can about licensing and all the rest of the information that is generic to the field.

If I decide to go with Michigan, then I'll have to take several prerequisite classes while my mom and I are on the road, so I'll be ready to start in May a year from now.

In the meantime, I've got just a few days more than a month until my last day at work. Then I'll have to scramble to get my house ready to sell (silly me, I thought I could do that while I was also working and going to school), and play it by ear if the housing market has tanked. It's exciting (the trip), and it's scary (cutting the ties to a home), but it's in God's hands, and that makes it good.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Democrats Cancel Nevada Presidential Debate

Barbara Simpson in her WorldNetDaily column today calls John Edwards a "Democrat Wuss" over it. Patrick Ruffini's post at Hugh Hewitt's blog Saturday was titled, "Democrats Wuss Out." I'm detecting a pattern.

Politico's article today didn't use the "W" word, but I presume that's because it's more of a straight news story.

The Nevada State Democratic Party is pulling out of a controversial presidential debate scheduled for Aug. 14 in Reno and co-hosted by Fox News, according to a letter released late Friday from state party chairman Tom Collins and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).

The letter said Nevada Democrats had entered into the agreement with Fox, despite strong opposition from Democratic activist groups such as, as a way of finding "new ways to talk to new people."

But Collins and Reid wrote that comments on Thursday by FOX News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, when he jokingly compared Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, to Osama bin Laden, "went too far," and prompted Nevada Democrats to end the partnership.

Riiiight.... The Obama/Osama joke was just a handy excuse for the Democrats' leadership to cave in to their far-left constituents and bow out of the debate. The fact that the Dems can't handle Fox News is indicative of their general lack of toughness. And hypocrisy.

When left-leaning news organizations host debates for Republican candidates, the Republicans don't cancel. The GOP is apparently more ready for hard questions than the Democrat Party.

I hear journalists over and over on Hugh Hewitt's radio show declaring that they're able to keep their own personal views out of their reporting and be objective on the job. These are lefty journalists, for the most part. And most politicians are willing to accept this journalistic belief at face value.

Unless the news organization is Fox News.

Barbara Simpson points out John Edwards' (and the rest of the caving-in Dems') ridiculous position:

The person in [the presidency] is supposed to be tough and resilient. He's supposed to embody courage and fortitude. He's supposed to be strong and resolute.

It's clear now that John Edwards isn't any of that and never will be, no matter how well his hair is styled.

Think of it. Our president must have what it takes to face the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-il, Mahmoud Abbas or even Osama bin Laden.

How can we believe that Edwards could do that when he's spooked by the potential of being questioned by television reporters?

She's absolutely right.

This morning Laura Ingraham read a quote by Dennis Kucinich (Update: Link here - HT: Michelle Malkin), in which he stated that he'd be happy to debate his views on the war, the environment, and all the rest of the issues, with any of the candidates before any news organization, anytime and anywhere.

If I were a Democrat, at this point Kucinich would have my vote, because he's the only Democratic candidate who has the courage to face Fox News.

God help us if the Scaredocrats win.

Groundhog Day

When I left my house for church yesterday morning, my car said the outside temperature was 48 degrees. By the time I left church, about three hours later, it was 90 degrees.

Maybe this year the groundhog was right about winter...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ann Coulter on Legal Issues

Ann Coulter (who some are trying to excommunicate from conservative circles and inflict other punishments for having said a bad word about John Edwards, and they're doing it mainly because she had the nerve to be Ann Coulter--but that's another story) had an excellent column in Wednesday's WorldNetDaily.

Lewis Libby has now been found guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice for lies that had absolutely no legal consequence.

It was not a crime to reveal Valerie Plame's name because she was not a covert agent. If it had been a crime, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald could have wrapped up his investigation with an indictment of the State Department's Richard Armitage on the first day of his investigation since it was Armitage who revealed her name, and Fitzgerald knew it.

With no crime to investigate, Fitzgerald pursued a pointless investigation into nothing, getting a lot of White House officials to make statements under oath and hoping some of their recollections would end up conflicting with other witness recollections, so he could charge some Republican with "perjury" and enjoy the fawning media attention.

As a result, Libby is now a convicted felon for having a faulty memory of the person who first told him that Joe Wilson was a delusional boob who lied about his wife sending him to Niger.

This makes it official: It's illegal to be Republican.

Since Teddy Kennedy walked away from a dead girl with only a wrist slap (which was knocked down to a mild talking-to, plus time served: zero), Democrats have apparently become a protected class in America, immune from criminal prosecution no matter what they do.

As a result, Democrats have run wild, accepting bribes, destroying classified information, lying under oath, molesting interns, driving under the influence, obstructing justice and engaging in sex with underage girls, among other things.

Meanwhile, conservatives of any importance constantly have to spend millions of dollars defending themselves from utterly frivolous criminal prosecutions. Everything is illegal, but only Republicans get prosecuted.

She gives examples of the double standard. Plenty of them. But she seems subdued, not quite as full of her usual invective, though there are detectable traces of it.

In the end, what stands is her point that what we've suspected is true. Not only are Democrats given more of a pass in the press than Republicans are, but that pass carries over into our court system as well.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Handwriting on the Wall

It's there, and some of it is clear, but I can't quite read all of it.

I'm taking my prerequisites for the Allied Health program I want to start, which I plan to do after my mom and I finish touring the country in her motorhome. One of the prerequisites is a half-unit class that consists of showing up and listening to presentations about each of the Allied Health programs the school offers. There's no other homework besides sitting in your assigned seat by the time they take attendance. At the end of the class, they'll let us apply for the program we want.

I want Diagnostic Medical Sonography (Ultrasound). It's the most interesting to me, because it would let me do prenatal ultrasounds. Plus, it pays the best starting salary out of all the Allied Health programs. But because of that fun work and high pay combination, the waiting list to get in (if you have all your prerequisites finished) is 3 - 4 years. And then the program itself is two years. I just can't bring myself to wait that long before I start living like a grownup again.

The medical procedure that really rang my chimes when I was getting my Psychology degree was PET scans, where they inject radioactive sugars into you and then track where in the brain the sugar goes as you do or think things. That's Nuclear Medicine, and they teach it at Loma Linda (translation: expensive), but only if you've already finished Ultrasound or Radiation Technology training (Rad Tech is the other program with a 3 - 4 year wait).

So that's the handwriting on the wall: If I want to get into a medical field soon, it won't be in Ultrasound.

I'm disappointed. And frustrated. And I wish I could read the part where it tells me what to do instead.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

North Dakota Goes For The Record

Photo credit: Will Kincaid, AP

The AP reported March 3, 2007 (as near as I can tell), that Bismark, North Dakota, is trying to reclaim its record.

More than 8,900 people flapped their arms and legs on the state Capitol grounds Saturday in an attempt to reclaim the record, which was snatched away about a year ago in Michigan.

The Guinness Book of Records still must confirm the number. The snow angel category was created in 2002 when 1,791 people made snow angels on the Capitol grounds in North Dakota.

Among the thousands of people frantically flapping in the snow Saturday in an attempt to set the record for the most snow angels ever made were parents, children, even snowplow drivers.

And then there was Pauline Jaeger — who on her 99th birthday, was making her very first angel.

"It's fun," Jaeger said. "I feel just like a kid."
Edna Arvidson, 84, of Bismarck, said she participated in the city's record-setting event in 2002.

"It's fun and puts us on the map," Arvidson said. "People think there's nothing going on up here."

Yep. People think that.

But let's hope for the sake of the folks of the happening place, Bismark, that justice will prevail with the Guinness confirmation team.

Wussification of World Opinion

The Canadian Press reported yesterday on a poll taken of world opinion about twelve different countries.

The survey for the British Broadcasting Corp.'s World Service asked more than 28,000 people to rate 12 countries - Britain, Canada, China, France, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, North Korea, Russia, the United States and Venezuela - as having a positive or negative influence on the world.

Israel was viewed negatively by 56 per cent of respondents and positively by 17 per cent; for Iran, the figures were 54 per cent and 18 per cent. The United States had the third-highest negative ranking, with 51 per cent citing it as a bad influence and 30 per cent as a good one. Next was North Korea, which was viewed negatively by 48 per cent and positively by 19 per cent.

Canada had the most positive rating in the survey of 28,389 people in 27 countries, with 54 per cent viewing it positively and 14 per cent negatively. It was followed by Japan and France.

Oh, please! Canada has the most positive influence on the world? Most of its energy on the world stage is spent making sure the other countries know it's not the same as the US.

If I had to choose, and wasn't allowed to pick the US, I'd probably go with Japan for all the lovely cars and toys (though I believe the iPod is a US invention).

"It appears that people around the world tend to look negatively on countries whose profile is marked by the pursuit of military power," said Steven Kull, director of the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes, which conducted the research along with pollster GlobeScan.

"Countries that relate to the world primarily through soft power, like France and Japan and the EU in general, tend to be viewed positively," he added.

"[C]ountries whose profile is marked by the pursuit of military power" really gets to me. And Israel is listed as the worst.

Let's see... Israel's military power is defensive. She's been attacked since the day she became a nation (under a UN directive, no less), and when she's not being attacked, she's being threatened with attack. But for Israel to have a strong military makes her the most negative nation in the world. Some people are just wilfully stupid.

It's encouraging that the US is viewed less negatively than Iran. I guess they didn't poll quite enough "Great Satan" believers to overcome Ahmadinejad's bad press.

America's "pursuit of military power" is not for selfish purposes. We have a responsibility--because we're just about the only country left that's willing to take that responsibility--to defend the defenseless against the aggressors. And our military power allows countries like France to ignore their own military defense, while they sit on their butts eating fromage and drinking wine and talking with disdain about American power and how great the French are for wanting peace.

Well, America wants peace too, but unlike the Europeasers, we understand that sometimes you have to beat the aggressors to a pulp before you can get real peace.

What would the world be without the "negative influence" of America? Let me refresh your memory with just a couple items:

Peter Brookes at Real Clear Politics

British group

God bless America!

Monday, March 05, 2007

European Invasion

I read the news, reported Saturday by BBC News, about the recent invasion of Liechtenstein by the Swiss Army, and I didn't think much of it. It was all glossed over, very hush-hush, as though it were nothing.

But that was before I knew the background behind the story.

Charlie, at Another Think, has the whole sordid tale spelled out in shameful detail. He tells the history, and he names the names.

With all the Euro-carping against the US over Afghanistan and Iraq, no doubt the Europeans are ashamed of their own aggressive tendencies. Read the whole sad story for yourself.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Possum Problem

This morning I took out a heavy trash bag and nearly dropped it on this wretched creature in the garbage can. I have no doubt it would have killed him.

It's been over a decade since I've seen a possum in a garbage can. When I was married, we used to get them now and then on the day after Garbage Day, because they came from the big, empty field by our house. They'd climb in from the steps by the back door, and then they couldn't get back out. So we'd call the animal control people, and they'd take the possum away for us.

One time, I asked the guy where they took the possums, and he said, "Oh, we have a restaurant down the road...." Animal Control Humor! Then he said they take the critters out to a field away from houses and let them go there.

So I called the animal control people today, expecting the same, but the service has deteriorated since then. The lady told me to tip the garbage can over and let him wander away, which he'll do tonight, since they're nocturnal beasts.

Great! Won't he just turn around and rummage through the garbage again? Nasty things...

Friday, March 02, 2007

Mars Has Global Warming

National Geographic reported Wednesday that Mars is experiencing warming and the subsequent melting of its ice cap.

Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet's recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human- induced—cause, according to one scientist's controversial theory.

Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

In 2005 data from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide "ice caps" near Mars's south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

"The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars," he said.

No, Abdussamatov can't be right. The warming has to be man-made, because most scientists agree we're causing it here on earth. It's probably those rovers we left on Mars. Driving them around is heating up that planet, just like here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rats in the UN

The Telegraph (UK) reported today about a problem at the UN.

The United Nations headquarters in New York is infested with rats, mice, worms and even salt-water eels, according to staff members.

An insider told the New York Post: "In some instances the rats have beaten the UN staffers and delegates to the daily buffet. All of this has been reported to Aramark [a food supplier], which has done nothing."

The source said that infestations of mice and worms had been found throughout the UN campus, in offices and restaurants.

Security officers told the newspaper that leaks have developed in the subterranean levels that allowed river eels to wriggle through.

Rats and eels attract other rats and eels...