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Polaroid i1035 10MP Digital Camera with 3” LCD

Polaroid i1035 10MP Digital Camera with 3” LCD

$59.99

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1 Polaroid i1035 Black 10MP Digital Camera with 3” LCD
I Want One!

Unmissed Connections

Hi Stephanie! Andy here, from high school! Can you believe it’s been 18 years since we graduated? Those were some wild times, huh?

Isn’t the Internet amazing? I spent all those years trying to find you and in five minutes on Friendbook, there you are! Remember the badger? Ha ha! I heard Mr. Zeller retired from teaching like two years later. He was pretty much a broken man. It wasn’t so much the bite itself as the series of painful rabies shots that did it. Man, that was a great senior skip day.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering why I sent you this package when we haven’t seen or spoken to each other in years. Well, as thrilled as I was to add you to my Friendbook faces, I couldn’t help but notice that your page doesn’t have any pictures. I’ve been checking for months now hoping you’ll add some, but nope. Then I realized, hey, maybe she just doesn’t have a camera.

So enjoy this Polaroid i1035 with my compliments. It’s nothing major, just a decent little point-and-shoot with 10MP resolution, 3x optical zoom, and a 3” LCD. The manual says it only takes SD cards up to 4GB, but I use mine with an 8GB card and it works just fine.

But there is one condition: you have to take some pictures of yourself and post them to your Friendbook! I mean, it’s only polite to keep the old crew up to date on how you’re doing these days. I’m dying to see if you still look the way I’ve imagined you all these years. Oh, you know what would be a hoot? If you wore your old tennis uniform. Just like old times!

Hey, I see by your profile that you’re married now. That’s great, really, congratulations. But please leave your husband out of the pictures. It’s not his Friendbook page, right? I don’t really care what he looks like, and if your romantic history is anything like mine, you’ll be bitterly divorced in a few months anyway. Don’t get me started on ex-wives, heh!

Now, if you need help on working this camera, or if you ever need somebody to change the batteries or insert the SD card, just give me a call. I’m only a 13-hour flight away. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to seeing those pictures. Really, really looking forward to it. Really.

Verizon Math Fail

Obama History Leson

American Revolutionaries -> Manifest Destiny -> Slaves/Abolitionists -> Abraham Linconln (=Obama in previous life) -> Suffragettes -> the Labor Movement -> the Greatest Generation -> the Civil Rights Movement -> Himself.

Great Daily Show Obama segment

Classic Obama Quote

"And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it."
-Pres Obama in his State of the Union Address

It would make a lot of sense.. if he were the President of Germany..

Go Mercedes go..

Best Phone Name EVER

AT&T is pulling the Quickfire from the market...

And yes.. this should be too good to be true...

They are pulling it because if you put the charger in the wrong way, it catches fire.. amazing.

Universal Cellphone Adapter

No I'm not crazy. And no - this is not some 3rd party adapter with 26 different attachments which let you try and find the charger for your phone that was made only on full moon nights between September 2007 and April 2008, and only availble in three retail locations.

Ok, its not usually that bad, but a much much better world is coming. 17 major cellphone manufacturers have agreed on the micro-USB standard for chargers after 2012. The only major player not to agree is Apple.

This is amazing, changing the course of history absolutely fantastic news. How it did not make national headlines I dont know. What we will be looking at is an era of standardized, cheap, replaceable, interchangeable cellphone chargers. I dont know about anyone else, but I am very very excited (partly as I tend to be somewhat forgetfull with my charger..)

With so much weight behind the standard, I would bet that it becomes common for other devices to adopt micro-USB as well.

BMW M Brand Whoring

BWM has determined there is a market for people with regular 3-series who want everyone else to think they have an M3. Its called desperate style biting idiots, and BMW wants to please them.


It has decided to whore out the M badge, selling $3-5,000 kits that give you "upgraded suspension" and a bunch of M badges on your car.



Wow. All I can say is what a friggin stupid idea if you want to preserve the value to those customers actually looking for a real M3. A sign of the times I suppose that BMW has sunk so low (and that is low).

Saturn to go indie

The largest shakeup in the history of the automotive world continues. The latest news from the front is that Saturn dealers are looking to buy the brand from GM - but the brand only, not any manufacturing capacity. When GM cuts off the models in 2011, Saturn would look for "future vehicles that match the Saturn Brand: fuel-efficient, safe, reliable and affordable." "Boring, plastic, and overpriced" actually fits the original Saturn better, while "Direct copies of European cars" fits the new Saturn. That said, there is something pretty sweet about Saturn's "no hassle" approach, and "tag price" shopping. With one Chinese car company already testing selling cars through Home Depot and other big-box retailers in Mexico (I'm serious), this could be a very good fit for a Chinese or Indian car company (or consortium of companies) looking to gain a massive distribution foothold in the US - and they offer cheap and quirky, which seems to be the Saturn way.

Understanding modern Supply and Demand

Technical chart describing the modern functioning of the supply/demand interaction. Highly academic, but an interesting read:



Camping Gear Fail

The solar powered headlamp. I am not kidding. For sale at amazon.

EverLite Solar Headlamp

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EverLite Solar Headlamp

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List Price: $55.95
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In Stock.
Ships from and sold by Discovery Channel Store.





3 new from $37.99


http://www.amazon.com/EVERLITE-EL8-EverLite-Solar-Headlamp/dp/B0014WN870/ref=pd_sbs_sg_2

Craigslist fail

I like looking at cars on ebay and craigslist. Every once in a while you come across a real gem. Like this:

I NEED TO BUY A 300ZX 3000GT PRELUDE OR .....IDK WAT U HAVE? - $4 (STOUGHTON)


Reply to: sale-1040929056@craigslist.org [?]
Date: 2009-02-19, 12:42AM EST


I NEED A BLOWN MOTOR TRANNY OR WAT EVER 300ZX 3000GT PRELUDE OR THE ONE IN UR DRIVE WAY THAT TAKING SPACE 781 975 6040


All I can say is.. wow.

Ramming Speed Update

It has been confirmed that as the two subs were both just running passive sonar (the online story I read mistakenly called this 'for navigation') they ran into each other because they could not see each other.

In fact, the French had no idea they hit a sub until they returned to port 3 days later: they thought they hit a cargo container.

Just to point out exactly what is going on here - boomers are designed to be very very quiet, and the best way of doing that is moving slow. Both ships were just crawling along. Then, there are two types of sonar: passive and active. Passive = a fancy microphone for listening to the water and figuring out where stuff is. Works really well for boat and biologicals, not so well for other subs. Active = echolocation, with lots of pinging that no sub can hide from. The downside to active is it makes a ton of noise, tells the enemy where you are... and it kills whales (which is sad). Navigation is actually done by dead reckoning, with the occasional pop up to the surface (or sending a buoy up instead).

Thus, two subs using passive sonar and moving slow to be quiet simply cant see each other.

Still, the best part is that the French had no idea they had his a sub at all.

The end of a kind of golden or at least gold plated or maybe gold painted era..

GM has canceled all high performance programs. The current models will stick around, but no more engineering work is to be done.

SS anything, dead (the ones that really make me sad are the new Cobalt SS, the traiblazer SS, and the lack of a Malibu SS)
V-series Cadillacs, dead
Camero - no SS? Because that would be really really really sad.

The General had been rebuilding its hi-po credentials in recent years, and it had actually been getting somewhere. While some were total flops (I'm looking at you Monte Carlo SS and Impala SS) others were really good: the new CTS-V is amazing, the new Cobalt SS, amazing, and the old TrailBlazer SS, also amazing.

Too bad they had to die.

Also - why is it that CEO's cant take more that $500,000 in salary when hourly workers are not being forced by the govt. to make concessions at all (and gee whiz, I wonder which union should take the blame on this one). Yeah, random extra rant to top of the cake, but there it is.

Logic Backflips, twists, spins, and general torture: Obama's FP

Obama has now authorized a surge (but dont call it a surge) for Afghanistan. He states that the nation was neglected, we need to send more troops in, and it is the fault of the previous administration that things got this bad.

At the same time, he is pushing ahead with pulling out of Iraq, where the surge worked and there have been huge advances in safety, security, and democracy. He is determined to make sure that we pull out whatever the cost, against the advice of every one of his top military commanders.

All I can say is WTF WTF WTF!

That does not make a damn bit of sense any way that you look at it other than the political move where a failure in Iraq = failure for Republicans/Bush, but he things he can make Afghanistan his own success BY DOING THE SAME DAMN THING THAT ALREADY WORKED IN IRAQ AND THAT HE IS TRYING TO UNDERMINE IN IRAQ. Plus, the whole damn point of his "out within 16mo" plan for Iraq was to "bring the troops home." Wasn't it? Am I crazy? Instead, he pulls them out of one war and puts them into another, and somehow that will be a political victory and he will be loved for it. Does. Not. Make. Sense.

Oh, and to top it off, he gave Pakistan a hard time about not being able the fight the Taliban. Maybe he should talk to his colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a serious contender for the "Dumbest Person to ever serve in Congress" award. From the LA Times:
A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorism collaboration with the United States.

The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.

At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Islamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border. "As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.

What a friggin stupid thing to do and to say. It means the US will likely have to re-base the flights, and will likely not find as good basing anywhere else. If she were not a Senator, she would have been charged with revealing official secrets... a significant crime. Instead, its a slip of the tongue which probably leaves the CIA wishing that they were more like the agency from the Bourne movies, and they had the option of terminating a US civilian. How the hell can someone be so stupid?

Oh and on a final note, I love how Clinton has gone around blaming the current problems with N. Korea and Afghanistan on the Bush administration, when they lie largely at the feet of the Clinton administration. There might be a couple people (in California?) out there who think that Monica's war was an effective deterrent to the growing power and influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan (blowing up mud huts with tomohawks usually goes a long way), but those people should not be allowed to vote, or drive, or make their own cereal. At the same time she has made outrageous claims about the agreements with N. Korea reached under her whipping boy's.. er.. husband's time in office which are totally unsupported by the facts or the intelligence community.. more on that later.

Suffice it to say, I would so far rank Obama's foreign policy inititives as a total failure. I agree with the surge for Afghanistan, but that is not even his initiative, it is a continuation of Bush's administrations policies and the requests of the military.

Sometime soon I will get around to looking at his domestic policy and the new protectionist bailout already hated by the rest of the world (way to alienate all those loving Europeans in one swift cutting-off-your-own-leg step.) But, there is only so much rant in me on any given day, and today I am all spent.

Saturn officially falling out of orbit

GM has released its viability plan, and along with it the fate of three 'non core' brands: Hummer, Saab, and Saturn.

Hummer will be sold by March 31st - at least that is the plan. Probably one of the Indian companies will buy it or some such thing.

Saab will be restructured and then sold as an independent company, kind of like what Ford is doing with Volvo. This hinges on about $6 billion from the Swedish govt. so there is a good chance is just ends up dead, which would be too bad.

Saturn is officially naga, naga, nagonnaworkhereanymore. It will stick around until the end of its current lifecycle and then will be killed off unless some kind of groundswelling miracle saves the company (10 years ago, that might have happened, I dont think it will today). Which is really too bad, because it finally started making new cars (well.. importing Opels, but same thing). If there are firesale prices on Saturn Sky's count me in... one of the best looking cars on the road today:
http://www.autobytel.com/images/2007/Saturn/SKY_redline/400/2007_Saturn_Sky_Redline_Roadster_exfrdrvr343.jpg

North Korean Missile Test

North Korean missile test.

North Korea is looking to test its TD-2 missile in the next few days. The missile could strike the west coast of the US with a chemical/biological warhead, or most of the Pacific (Hawaii, Guam, Japan) with a nuclear warhead.

My immediate reaction was "shoot it down." I found out that in 2006, we had planned to do just that, but the missle failed just 100 seconds into its flight. Sadly, with his appeasment stance, Obama will not shoot down the missile. He has not put the interceptor crews on alert, and has not told them to shoot it down. Instead, a successful test will be a bargaining chip for N. Korea in their continued duplicity and manipulation through the 6 party talks. Amazingly, the only thing N. Korea has (its only viable export other than counterfeit US dollars) we are not pushing them on. Shoot it down, and then they might actually be more willing to talk. Prove that the US projection of power is nearly limitless (ok, not true, but its the idea that counts) and they might believe they cant just manipulate the system.

Ramming Speed

A bit stale by now, but the news is that a French and British sub collided in the Atlantic. What makes this interesting is that it was a French and British sub, and both were missile subs. The Brits and the French each just have only a few boomers - about 5 each. Both nations (espeically the UK) maintain a largeish fleet of attack subs, but most are the smaller diesel/electric kind popular with the Europeans. Two boomers colliding (and these are big boats - almost as big as the US Ohio class) is a rare event - I am not sure it has ever happened before. Boomers are designed to move very quietly at low speeds. Usually, subs have collided in the past when they were playing cat an mouse games tracking each other - the game was that US or Russian attack subs would wait outside of ports and try and pick up the other side's boomers and then follow them for their 6mo tour. Or b, find the boomer somewhere and tail it as long as you could. In this case, it was two allied (sadly, we could so kick France's ass) boomers which collided. What that means is that they just ran into each other totally by accident. My best guess is that they were both moving quietly and slowly in one of the mid-atlantic canyons or shipping lanes (too much ocean otherwise for a collision to be statistically likely) and they just did not see each other. Sounds crazy, but using only passive sonar, both of these boats (both launched in the 90s and very advanced) are very hard to see (hear). Two WWII aircraft carrier sized boats running into each other because they had no idea the other one was there? Thats pretty amazing.

The Star Trek Hypothesis Part 2

A while ago I posted this:

"It is interesting that on Star Trek, most every race encountered seems to be bipedal, human shaped, and generally very similar in both ability and intelligence.

My idea is that it is possible the level of intelligence does not vary greatly between advanced beings, though size and shape will vary widely. Then again...

Following the model of evolution on earth, we know a few things to be true. The first is that intelligence only comes about when there is an evolutionary benefit: increasing survival and the size of the next generation.

The second, and vital question, is at what point does evolution stop? And I believe that to be directly tied to the notion of a self-aware individual, no longer following instincts. It is of course more complex than that, level of support for all individuals must be relatively similar regardless of intelligence etc, but this is something which came about hundreds if not thousands of years ago for humans. At that point, there is no greater likelihood that any given species will increase or decrease in intelligence, and thus it is possible that by reaching this threshold point, all intelligent and self-aware beings are roughly equivalent in their understanding.

But my second thought is this: while the species overall has stagnated its need to evolve higher intelligence, higher intelligence will continue to develop. This is because intelligent individuals are drawn to other intelligent individuals, on average. And dont get all up in arms about this, because its exactly why we are not still monkeys or mice for that matter. In 1, 10, or even 100 generations of course this will not matter much. But over the long term, there will be a spreading of the human race, basically the band from highest to lowest expanding by the highest expanding upwards."

But I believe that I was right only in so far as the species stagnates at the point where intelligence is no longer a determinant in the number of children you can have: the success of the entire species means that each individual is protected under an umbrella of sorts.

What I ignored is the artificial progression of intelligence. In the near future, we will be able to enhance brain function through chemical means -- new drugs are coming to market which are designed to improve brain function. Their targets are technically those who are disabled through impaired brain function, but they work by improving the brain, not repairing it. The time it will take for a black market for these drugs to develop will be measured in months, not years. Beyond that, technology will eventually allow enhanced mental functioning - beginning with life recorder/recall systems giving artificial perfect memory, and reality enhancement giving you "mouse over" information for anything and everything you look at or hear.

Thus, any other race we come across would have likely stopped evolving at a similar time to when we did, but then would continue to to evolve through artificial means.

The period of time between these two events I would guess to always be the most dangerous for a race, as technology especially for destruction develops.

Throwing around trillions..

Jim brought this one to my attention: just how numb we have become to the idea of billions and trillions. Not so long ago, $100,000 was a fair chunk of change and a $50 million govt. bailout brought attention. Today $15 billion for automakers is chump change compared to $2 trillion for the financial world. Now, time for a little perspective:

  • 1 million seconds equal 11 and 1/2 days.
  • 1 billion seconds equal 31 and 3/4 years.
  • 1 trillion seconds equal 31,710 years.
Yeah. Its a very very big jump.

My dubiosity is high..

This is a classic piece of advertising... I am looking at marine additives for work, an area where there are a lot of dubious claims, and came across this gem:

"Through the use of ACES liquid engineering technology produces abundant, upper cylinder lubricant replacing sulfur as the lubricant for injectors and injector pumps. Along with its many other benefits ACES eliminates valve wear by 360% and bore wear by 600%."

WOW. Not only does it get rid of 100% of your valve and bore wear, it liquid engineers you 2.6 new valves and 5 new cylinders!!! Now that is an amazing product..

Living Forever

Some of you probably know that I would like to live a long time. A very very long time.

Which is why this discovery is just so damn cool:

Get ready for eternal life and better sex: Russians scientists working on a Siberian mammoth graveyard have found unknown bacterium DNA which, according to preliminary lab results, effectively extends mice's life-as well as other things.

According to Professor Anatoli Broushkov, their "set of tests and the results prove that simple organisms like fruit flies and mice live longer after being vaccinated with the ancient bacterium extract." Not only that, but the bacterium DNA super-vaccine actually increases mental alertness, physical capability, and sexual activity for both male and female mice. The females actually have had babies at an older age than usual: "Some elderly mice demonstrated a growth of physical, mental and sexual activity, while some females even had babies aged at the human equivalent of 70," said scientist Vera Samsonova.

The bacterium was found still living in the Siberian permafrost, next to frozen the mammoths and woolly rhinos, which the Japanese and Russian scientific teams are exploring in an effort to clone them back into life. Finding an unknown ancient bacteria still living in the permafrost came as a surprise to the Russian scientists, who were blown away by the preliminary analysis of the DNA and their lab experiments.

The team, however, is not claiming an immortality potion yet: They are aiming at extending life at least ten years if everything goes well. The results are so good that it is already attracting the interest of investors.

The only thing that has me thinking here is that these bacterium were found next to extinct prehistoric animals. But hey, I'm all for injecting myself ancient DNA that can either increase my virility and extend my life. Or make me grow huge tusks and plenty of hair. In both cases, it's a win.

Darwin, 200 years on... and a little biblical rant

Darwin is a celebrated figure in the UK, he is even on the 10 pound note. That said, 43% of Brits still dont believe him, stating that they believe in the "young earth," alternately called the "I get my science by literally translating the bible and then shoving it down the throat of others" theory. In related news, 43% of brits also believe in the following:

"When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be charged with any related duty. He shall be free at home one year, to be happy with the wife whom he has married." (Deuteronomy 24:5, NRSV)

"You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether Israelites or aliens . . . . You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt." (Deuteronomy 24:1415, NRSV)

"Suppose two persons have a dispute and go to court, and the judges decide between them, declaring one to be in the right and the other to be in the wrong. If the one in the wrong deserves to be flogged, the judge shall make that person lie down and be beaten in his presence with the number of lashes proportionate to the offense. Forty lashes may be given but not more." (Deuteronomy 25:1-3, NRSV)

They also believe that the death penalty should be dealt out for the following:
Murder (Num. 35:15ff), adultery (Lev 20:10), kidnaping (Ex 21:16), cursing one's parents, hitting one's parents (Ex 21:15,17), rape (Dt 22:25), witchcraft (Ex 22:18), disobeying a minister (Dt 17:12), rebellious sons who don't obey their parents (Dt 21:18f)

They also believe in the justice of GOD:
2 Kings 2:23-24 NKJV "Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths."


And of course 43% of Brits believe in a fair fight:
Deuteronomy 25:11-12 NASB

If two men, a man and his countryman, are struggling together, and the wife of one comes near to deliver her husband from the hand of the one who is striking him, and puts out her hand and seizes his genitals, then you shall cut off her hand; you shall not show pity.

Makes sense to me....

Pakistan Backs Down

In a fortunate turn of events, Pakistan has backed down in its confrontation with India, stating that the attacks were partly planned in Pakistan, and that they will work to track down suspects and supporting groups.

1 major international crises/possible war down, 3 (or 4) to go.

Responsibility

Forwarded from James.

Reaganomics vs. Obamanomics

Forwarded from my Mom, good article on why we are facing a crappy next few years, and why you got to love Reagan. (Ok, some dont love Reagan.. but so it goes.)

Reaganomics vs. Obamanomics
The current president wants higher taxes, more regulation, more spending and loose money.
By PETER FERRARA

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama said, "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified." Or as administration spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in January, the touchstone is, "What will have the biggest and most immediate impact on creating private sector jobs and strengthening the middle class? We're guided by what works, not by any ideology or special interests."
[Commentary] Corbis

Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker, July 1981.

Unfortunately, this rhetoric is not true. Mr. Obama's economic policy is following not what has been proven to work but liberal ideology.

The best way to understand this is to compare what's being proposed now with what Ronald Reagan accomplished. In 1980, amid a seriously dysfunctional economy, Reagan campaigned for president on an economic recovery program with four specific components.

The first was across-the-board reductions in tax rates to provide incentives for saving, investment, entrepreneurship and work. The second component was deregulation to remove unnecessary costs on the economy. In today's world, that would especially mean removing the onerous restrictions on energy production -- allowing drilling offshore and onshore for oil and natural gas, revival of the nuclear power industry, and construction of more electric power plants.

Third was the control of government spending. In 1981, Reagan forced through Congress not only his famed, historic tax cuts, but also a package of budget cuts close to 5% of the federal budget -- equivalent to roughly $150 billion today. In constant dollars, nondefense discretionary spending declined by 14.4% from 1981 to 1982, and by 16.8% from 1981 to 1983. Moreover, in constant dollars, this nondefense discretionary spending never returned to its 1981 level for the rest of Reagan's two terms. By 1988, this spending was still down 14.4% from its 1981 level in constant dollars.
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Even with the Reagan defense buildup, which helped win the Cold War, total federal spending declined to 21.2% of GDP in 1989 from 23.5% of GDP in 1983. That's a real reduction of 10% in the size of government relative to the economy.

The fourth component of the Reagan recovery plan was tight, anti-inflation monetary policy, which was spectacularly successful. Inflation was cut in half to 6.2% in 1982 from 13.2% in 1980, and cut in half again to 3.2% in 1983.

We know such policies work because they turned around in just two years an economy far worse than today's. We were suffering from multiyear, double-digit inflation, double-digit unemployment, double-digit interest rates, declining incomes, and rising poverty. In fact, what we suffer with today is not the worst economy since the Great Depression, but the worst economy since Jimmy Carter -- the last time liberals were dominant politically and intellectually.

The Obama administration's economic policies do not include any of the four Reagan components. In fact, the stimulus plan is the greatest increase in government spending in the history of the planet. Meanwhile, the Fed is furiously reinflating, sowing more havoc down the line. Mr. Obama is still promising future increases in tax rates by letting the Bush tax cuts lapse, because for ideological reasons he thinks even current rates are too low. And instead of deregulating for more energy production, he is still promising massive increases in regulatory barriers -- through global warming cap-and-trade legislation -- to increased production from proven energy sources to serve an extreme environmentalist ideology.

This is why America seems so hopeless right now, and so depressed. We are stuck going in exactly the wrong direction on economic policy because of currently dominant ideological fashions.

A natural economic recovery will begin sometime this year, not because of the president's policies, but because soon this will be the longest recession since World War II. However, thanks to the administration's retrograde policies -- cut from the cloth of the 1970s and even the 1930s -- the recovery will not be what it should be. Rather, unemployment will remain too high, and inflation will resurge, recreating the disastrous economic results we suffered the last time Keynesian policies were dominant.

Mr. Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan.



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Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A17

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US + Russian sats collide

In the first recorded satellite collision, a defunct russian sat and a current US sat collided today.

The pundits are all saying this is a sign that we have too much crap in space. At the same time, experts are saying that there is a tiny chance of this ever happening.

Which leads me to two conclusions:
1) Someone somewhere screwed up. The Russian sat could be a dead hunk of metal, but the US sat should have been able to maneuver to avoid getting smashed. We have the technology. We have the radar. Someone was asleep at the wheel.

2) Russians probably think its pretty sweet that their old dead bird just blew up a new expensive eagle.

Chrysler Cost Cutting (illegally?)

Chrysler seems to be using slashed production numbers as a way to skimp out on the engineering and development costs of suppliers. It also is accused of pulling a US Government and taking the designs of on supplier and passing them on to a cheaper (in this case Chinese) supplier. I suppose it is what you get with a bunch of hedgies calling the shots, but (even without the lawsuit) the moral of the story is they will be completely screwed in the long term.

Full article from autoblog:
It seems like all the news coming out about Chrysler these days is of the bad variety and today is no different. The ailing automaker has just been sued by one of its suppliers, Faurecia Interior Systems Inc. of Auburn Hills to the tune of $110 million. Faurecia currently provides interior systems like center consoles, instrument panels and door panels for the PT Cruiser, Chrysler Sebring (at right), Dodge Avenger, Jeep Liberty and Dodge Nitro.

Faurecia is claiming that Chrysler hasn't paid their tab for some up-front costs related to a bunch of engineering, research and development work that the supplier completed on their behalf. The lawsuit states that Chrysler agreed to cover these costs by paying a set per-piece fee, based on the expected quantity sold over the life of the systems. When Chrysler slashed production on the affected models, Faurecia asked for more money per item to recoup those costs in full, but they say Chrysler denied their claim. If that isn't bad enough, Faurecia even claims that Chrysler turned the system plans over to some Chinese firms to fill additional orders for similar models in their lineup. Chrysler hasn't had a chance to respond to these charges, but you can bet this fight won't be pretty.

Russia Picks another Fight

Russia has impounded a Japanese fishing ship. Not content with just pissing off Europe and the US, Russia is bickering with its old enemy Japan. Technically speaking, the two are at war, as they have never ratified a treaty to end WWII. The reason is a number of islands which Russia took days after Japan surrendered, and has never returned. Because of Russia taking the ship, Japan has canceled humanitarian aid to those islands (they provided medical services). Hopefully, from a political standpoint, oil prices stay low because they are what is financing Russian agression (not to mention Muslim terrorism, Iran, and Syria). It continues to amaze me that Russia is getting away with being hyper-agressive and the collective world response is a slap on the wrist. The pacifist Japanese (who technically still do not have a military), have more backbone than Europe. At the same time, Japan could buy and sell Russia a few times, and the JDF (Japanese Defense Force) could still kick Russia's ass (at least at sea).

Funny News

Secret service agents in Ukraine have impounded hundreds of tonnes of bananas - for five months.

The Ukrainian secret service - the SBU - impounded a Greek-owned cargo ship loaded with bananas as part of a drug smuggling investigation.

No drugs have been found but security chiefs have said they will not release the ship which is being held in Odessa.

Now the ship's crew has been issued with nuclear war-style bio-hazard suits and respirators to protect them from the toxic rotting bananas.

Valery Osipov, head of a local ecology group, said: "We are now raising this with the SBU, the port authority and the regional environment department.

"They need to understand the situation and release the crew from this 'banana prison'."

Israeli Election: Who Won?

Israel, with a parliamentary multi-party system is well known for coalition governments. This time will be especially fractured. The election left both of the major parties without a clear mandate, 61 seats are needed to form a government: the governing centrist Kadima won 28 seats and the right-wing Likud opposition won 27 (see chart).

Israel election results graphic


Analysts say that gains by right-wing parties could give Mr Netanyahu a better chance of forming a coalition. On the basis of the exit polls, Likud and various nationalist parties control 65 of 120 seats in the Knesset. Which is kind of a scary idea. Israel has not exactly been a pacifist the last couple years, and with a nationalist governing coalition it is likely that the goal will be to secure "security" for the country.

Iran, you may have just launched your first satellite into space, but dont expect to have any kind of nuclear capablility for much longer. Actually, though I believe that Israel is often the agressor state, and often in the wrong, I think bombing the crap out of Iran's weapons programs would be a good thing. For that matter, destroying the capability of North Korea--the main proliferator of missile systems around the world--would be a good idea too.

I failed to mention it before, but a week ago Iran managed to become the 10th nation to make it into space, in a clear indication that they are now capable of firing ICBM's at Europe. Amazing that such a backwards state is the 10th.... then again, it is 50 year old tech based on WWII German designs..

Lines of Communication, 1901

2009. We've come a long way. But this pic of Eastern Telegraph's undersea lines in 1901 (!!!) is very badass. From Gizmodo:

thermoelectric generator (TEG)

VW and BWM have both come out with thermoelectric generator (TEG) systems. The basic premise here: use waste heat to make electricity. Get a couple of different types of metal, and some heat, and you get 600w in the VW case or 200w in the BMW case. It is a very cool idea wich completely runs around the difficulties of extracting greater efficiency from the maxed out (as an idea) internal combustion engine.

Undercover at Walmart

Great article on Walmart, capitalism, and efficiency:

By CHARLES PLATT

Writer Charles Platt during his stint as a Wal-Mart employee in Flagstaff, Ariz.
Writer Charles Platt during his stint as a Wal-Mart employee in Flagstaff, Ariz.
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Last updated: 8:03 pm
February 7, 2009
Posted: 7:36 pm
February 7, 2009

Some people, usually community activists, loath Wal-Mart. Others, like the family of four struggling to make ends meet, are in love with the chain. I, meanwhile, am in awe of it.

With more than 7,000 facilities worldwide, coordinating more than 2 million employees in its fanatical mission to maintain an inventory from more than 60,000 American suppliers, it has become a system containing more components than the Space Shuttle - yet it runs as reliably as a Timex watch.

Sheltered by rabble rousers who forced Wal-Mart's CEO to admit it "wasn't worth the effort" to try to open in Queens or anywhere else in the city, New Yorkers may not fully realize the unique, irreplaceable status of the World's Largest Retailer in rural and suburban America. Merchandise from Wal-Mart has become as ubiquitous as the water supply. Yet still the company is rebuked and reviled by anyone claiming a social conscience, and is lambasted by legislators as if its bad behavior places it somewhere between investment bankers and the Taliban.

Considering this is a company that is helping families ride out the economic downturn, which is providing jobs and stimulus while Congress bickers, which had sales growth of 2% this last quarter while other companies struggled, you have to wonder why. At least, I wondered why. And in that spirit of curiosity, I applied for an entry-level position at my local Wal-Mart.

*

Getting hired turned out to be a challenge. The personnel manager told me she had received more than 100 applications during that month alone, chasing just a handful of jobs. Thus the mystery deepened. If Wal-Mart was such an exploiter of the working poor, why were the working poor so eager to be exploited? And after they were hired, why did they seem so happy to be there? Anytime I shopped at the store, blue-clad Walmartians encouraged me to "Have a nice day" with the sincerity of the pope issuing a benediction.

I found my first clue in the application screening process. A diabolically ingenious quiz probed for my slightest hesitation or uncertainty regarding four big no-nos of retailing: theft, insubordination, poor timekeeping and substance abuse. (The quiz also tried to make sure that I wasn't accident-prone.) After I cleared that hurdle, I was called in for an interview. At the Flagstaff, Ariz., store where I applied, this took place in a vinyl-floored, gray-walled, windowless room, tucked away at the back of the store and crowded with people sitting on cheap folding chairs at cheap folding tables. Some of these people were talking on phones, some were doing job interviews, some were typing on computer terminals, and some seemed to be eating lunch.

I sat at a table that was covered in untrimmed fabric under a protective layer of sticky transparent vinyl, like a couch cover. I'd seen better-looking decor at firehouse bingo evenings. Was Wal-Mart going out of its way to emphasize its commitment to cost-cutting? I guessed that the utilitarian ethic was so deeply embedded, it was just taken for granted.

A friendly lady in her 50s, wearing the Wal-Mart Smile, sat opposite me and started asking questions from a printed form. Meanwhile another job applicant was going through his interview right behind me. Privacy, apparently, was as unaffordable here as tasteful decor.

"Are you easy to work with?" the lady asked. Since I couldn't imagine anyone being dumb enough to say "No," I concluded that the content of my answer must be irrelevant, and the way I answered must be the real issue. To judge from my interviewer's sunny demeanor, enthusiasm and sincerity were key. Fortunately, I had no problem reflecting her positivism, because I was becoming so fascinated with the Wal-Mart phenomenon, I really did want to work there.

I managed to satisfy her expectations, and then went through two additional interviews, followed by a drug test, before I received formal approval. It may have been one of the most intense hiring processes I've been through; hardly the schedule of a company that didn't care who it hired, or employees who didn't care about getting a job.

*

A week later, I found myself in an elite group of 10 successful applicants convening for two (paid) days of training in the same claustrophobic, windowless room. As we introduced ourselves, I discovered that more than half had already worked at other Wal-Marts. Having relocated to this area, they were eager for more of the same.

Why? Gradually the answer became clear. Imagine that you are young and relatively unskilled, lacking academic qualifications. Which would you prefer: standing behind the register at a local gas station, or doing the same thing in the most aggressively successful retailer in the world, where ruthless expansion is a way of life, creating a constant demand for people to fill low-level managerial positions? A future at Wal-Mart may sound a less-than-stellar prospect, but it's a whole lot better than no future at all.

In addition, despite its huge size, the corporation turned out to have an eerie resemblance to a Silicon Valley startup. There was the same gung-ho spirit, same lack of dogma, same lax dress code, same informality - and same interest in owning a piece of the company. All of my coworkers accepted the offer to buy Wal-Mart stock by setting aside $2 of every paycheck.

They were less enthused about health benefits, which offered minimal coverage during our first six months. The full corporate plan would kick in after that, but seemed to require significant employee contributions. Still, my fellow trainees assured me that health plans at other retail chains were even worse, and since the federal government had raised the limits for Medicaid eligibility, that was an option for people with children. (In the time since my experience at Wal-Mart, the company has improved its health plans significantly.) The assistant manager who served as our trainer was still in her 20s, highly motivated, friendly, smart, and perceptive. Naturally she overflowed with Wal-Mart positivism. In fact she projected the feel-good sincerity of a Baptist running a bake sale.

Still, she wasn't afraid to tackle the topic of termination. During our initial six months on the job, we would be on probation on a "three strikes" basis. One major screw-up would trigger a session of "verbal coaching." (Since positivism is endemic in Wal-Mart, words such as "discipline" are seldom used. The goal is self-improvement.) A second offense would trigger some written coaching. On the third offense, the employee would be sent home to think long and hard about what happened, and would have to come back the next day with a good argument for not being fired. In effect, Wal-Mart would say, "You seem to be a hopeless case. Now tell us why we're wrong." We were given only a handful of outright prohibitions. No swearing in the store, for instance - not even the word "damn," because some people might be offended. No funny-colored hair or blatant skin piercings, because some people might be offended. In fact almost all the rules devolved to the sacred principle of never, ever offending a customer - or "guest," in Wal-Mart terminology.

The reason was clearly articulated. On average, anyone walking into Wal-Mart is likely to spend more than $200,000 at the store during the rest of his life. Therefore, any clueless employee who alienates that customer will cost the store around a quarter-million dollars. "If we don't remember that our customers are in charge," our trainer warned us, "we turn into Kmart." She made that sound like devolving into some lesser being - a toad, maybe, or an ameba.

And so we came to the Wal-Mart Pledge. Solemnly, each of us raised one hand and intoned: "If a customer comes within 10 feet of me, I'm going to look him in the eye, smile and greet him." Having pledged ourselves, we encountered the aspect of Wal-Mart employment that impressed me most: The Telxon, pronounced "Telzon," a hand-held bar-code scanner with a wireless connection to the store's computer. When pointed at any product, the Telxon would reveal astonishing amounts of information: the quantity that should be on the shelf, the availability from the nearest warehouse, the retail price, and (most amazing of all) the markup.

All of us were given access to this information, because - in theory, at least - anyone in the store could order a couple extra pallets of anything, and could discount it heavily as a Volume Producing Item (known as a VPI), competing with other departments to rack up the most profitable sales each month. Floor clerks even had portable equipment to print their own price stickers. This was how Wal-Mart detected demand and responded to it: by distributing decision-making power to grass-roots level. It was as simple yet as radical as that.

We received an inspirational talk on this subject, from an employee who reacted after the store test-marketed tents that could protect cars for people who didn't have enough garage space. They sold out quickly, and several customers came in asking for more. Clearly this was a singular, exceptional case of word-of-mouth, so he ordered literally a truckload of tent-garages, "Which I shouldn't have done really without asking someone," he said with a shrug, "because I hadn't been working at the store for long." But the item was a huge success. His VPI was the biggest in store history - and that kind of thing doesn't go unnoticed in Arkansas.

He was invited to corporate HQ as a guest at a management conference. "It was totally different from what I expected," he told us. "I thought it would be these fatcats talking about money, but no one even mentioned money. All they cared about was finding new ways to satisfy customers. I met everyone including the chairman of the company."

*

After my two days of instruction I returned for the first real day of work. Inevitably, it was anticlimactic. The essence of life on the sales floor should be obvious to anyone: It is extremely boring.

I had chosen the pet department, which sells goldfish, cat food, dog food and accessories. As I patrolled the aisles, repositioning misplaced items and filling gaps in the shelves, I realized that Wal-Mart "guests" really are like guests. They are visitors who move things around and create a mess before they go home. Cleaning up after them was not very different from doing housework.

My amiable, laid-back department supervisor had been doing this kind of thing for 15 years. When I asked him why, he took a moment to process the question. He had to think back to other employers he'd worked for in the distant past. None of them, he said, had treated him so well.

What exactly did he mean by that?

His answer lay in the structure of the store. "It's deceptive, because Wal-Mart isn't divided into separate stores like a mall," he said. "But really, that's how it works. Each section is separate. This is - my pet store! No one comes here and tells me how to run it. I could go for weeks without a supervisor asking any questions." Here was the unseen, unreported side of the corporate behemoth. Big as it was, it was smart enough to give employees a feeling of autonomy.

During my few subsequent days as a Walmartian, everyone at every level was friendly and decent toward me. No one had the slightest clue that I might write about my experiences; no one even knew that I had a former career as a journalist. Still, they behaved like poster children for enlightened capitalism.

My supervisor reminded me unfailingly to take my mandatory two (paid) quarter-hour breaks during each eight hours of working time. I was cautioned never to abbreviate my lunch hour. Most of all I was encouraged to educate myself using instructional videos on computer terminals at the back of the store.

These videos served Wal-Mart's self-interest by teaching skills ranging from customer service to the art of lifting heavy boxes without hurting your back. I was paid to view them, and was rewarded with an increased hourly rate when I finished the course.

My starting wage was so low (around $7 per hour), a modest increment still didn't leave me with enough to live on comfortably, but when I looked at the alternatives, many of them were worse. Coworkers assured me that the nearest Target paid its hourly full-timers less than Wal-Mart, while fast-food franchises were at the bottom of everyone's list.

I found myself reaching an inescapable conclusion. Low wages are not a Wal-Mart problem. They are an industry-wide problem, afflicting all unskilled entry-level jobs, and the reason should be obvious.

In our free-enterprise system, employees are valued largely in terms of what they can do. This is why teenagers fresh out of high school often go to vocational training institutes to become auto mechanics or electricians. They understand a basic principle that seems to elude social commentators, politicians and union organizers. If you want better pay, you need to learn skills that are in demand.

The blunt tools of legislation or union power can force a corporation to pay higher wages, but if employees don't create an equal amount of additional value, there's no net gain. All other factors remaining equal, the store will have to charge higher prices for its merchandise, and its competitive position will suffer.

This is Economics 101, but no one wants to believe it, because it tells us that a legislative or unionized quick-fix is not going to work in the long term. If you want people to be wealthier, they have to create additional wealth.

To my mind, the real scandal is not that a large corporation doesn't pay people more. The scandal is that so many people have so little economic value. Despite (or because of) a free public school system, millions of teenagers enter the work force without marketable skills. So why would anyone expect them to be well paid?

In fact, the deal at Wal-Mart is better than at many other employers. The company states that its regular full-time hourly associates in the US average $10.86 per hour, while the mean hourly wage for retail sales associates in department stores generally is $8.67. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour. Also every Wal-Mart employee gets a 10% store discount, while an additional 4% of wages go into profit-sharing and 401(k) plans.

*

As for the horror stories: Let's take a couple of random examples. Unpaid overtime? Maybe it happened at some stores in the past, but an instructional video warned me that if anyone in management ever encouraged such a heinous transgression, I should report him to his superiors immediately. Illegal aliens? That particular news story really referred to a cleaning company retained by Wal-Mart. The cleaning company hired the illegals.

You have to wonder, then, why the store has such a terrible reputation, and I have to tell you that so far as I can determine, trade unions have done most of the mudslinging. Web sites that serve as a source for negative stories are often affiliated with unions. Walmartwatch.com, for instance, is partnered with the Service Employees International Union; Wakeupwalmart.com is entirely owned by United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. For years, now, they've campaigned against Wal-Mart, for reasons that may have more to do with money than compassion for the working poor. If more than one million Wal-Mart employees in the United States could be induced to join a union, by my calculation they'd be compelled to pay more than half-billion dollars each year in dues.

Anti-growth activists are the other primary source of anti-Wal-Mart sentiment. In the town where I worked, I was told that activists even opposed a new Barnes & Noble because it was "too big." If they're offended by a large bookstore, you can imagine how they feel about a discount retailer.

The argument, of course, is that smaller enterprises cannot compete. My outlook on this is hardcore: I think that many of the "mom-and-pop" stores so beloved by activists don't deserve to remain in business.

When I first ventured from New York City to the American heartland, I did my best to patronize quaint little places on Main Street and quickly discovered the penalties for doing so. At a small appliance store, I wasn't allowed to buy a microwave oven on display. I had to place an order and wait a couple of weeks for delivery. At a stationery store where I tried to buy a file cabinet, I found the same problem. Think back, if you are old enough to do so, and you may recall that this is how small-town retailing used to function in the 1960s.

As a customer, I don't see why I should protect a business from the harsh realities of commerce if it can't maintain a good inventory at a competitive price. And as an employee, I see no advantage in working at a small place where I am subject to the quixotic moods of a sole proprietor, and can never appeal to his superior, because there isn't one.

By the same logic, I see no reason for legislators to protect Safeway supermarkets with ploys such as zoning restrictions, which just happen to allow a supermarket-sized building while outlawing a Wal-Mart SuperCenter that's a few thousand square feet bigger.

Based on my experience (admittedly, only at one location) I reached a conclusion which is utterly opposed to almost everything ever written about Wal-Mart. I came to regard it as one of the all-time enlightened American employers, right up there with IBM in the 1960s. Wal-Mart is not the enemy. It's the best friend we could ask for.

A really really really really big snake

From Popsci: a prehistoric snake has been found that was 43 feet long at its biggest point it would have been as tall as your hip. All possible because of having a really warm environment. B-movie producers rejoice: more techno-babble for your movies.

Largest Snake on Earth Uncovered

Holy reticulated snake spine! A fossil reveals a 2,500 pound prehistoric python (along with some surprising facts about global temperature)

Sliding Easy: An artists conception of the snake in its natural habitat, 60 million years ago. Jason Bourque/University of Florida

Any character in a B-list film would yelp "Snake? Snaaaake!" upon spotting a specimen stretching longer than a school bus – and now scientists have uncovered the remains of such a beast.

A research team found the vertebrae of the 43-foot long snake down the Cerrejon Coal Mine in northern Colombia. Their report appears in Nature this week, and gives a conservative estimate that the snake weighed 2,500 pounds when it lived 60 million years ago.

Big Changes: A comparison of the fossil vertebra (Titanoboa, left) and a similarly placed vertebra from the spine of a 10-foot-long boa constrictor (right). Jason Head, Univ. of Toronto.
"At its greatest width, the snake would have come up to about your hips," said David Polly, a geologist at Indiana University-Bloomington. "The size is pretty amazing. But our team went a step further and asked, how warm would the Earth have to be to support a body of this size?"

"Titanoboa" would have needed an average annual temperature of 86 to 93 degrees F to survive, according to Jonathan Bloch, a paleontologist at the Florida Museum of natural History. The average annual temperature of the Colombian city Cartagena is just above 82 degrees F.

"Tropical ecosystems of South America were surprisingly different 60 million years ago," Bloch said. "It was a rainforest, like today, but it was even hotter and the cold-blooded reptiles were all substantially larger."

The new find represents an ancient relative of non-venomous constrictors, which wrap themselves around prey to suffocate them before swallowing whole. That contrasts with the approach taken by smaller, poisonous snakes.

Scientists also found skeletons of giant turtles and crocodilian relatives near the "Titanoboa" remains – possibly examples of the prehistoric monster's prey. That seems to fit with a general evolutionary drift toward "bigger is better," even if smaller has its advantages under other circumstances.

"Truly enormous snakes really spark people's imagination, but reality has exceeded the fantasies of Hollywood," Block noted. "The snake that tried to eat Jennifer Lopez in the movie Anaconda is not as big as the one we found."
Yep. That's one solid snake.

Worlds Largest Construction Projects

South-to-North Water Transfer Project, China

Who’s building it: the Chinese government

Budget: $62 billion (445 billion yuan)

Estimated completion date: 2050

What it takes: 400,000 relocated citizens and a very thirsty northern China. Economic development in the North China Plain is booming, but its water supplies are falling short, far short. Desperate farming communities are digging wells as deep as 600 feet to find clean water, but the Chinese government has much more digging in mind. Drawing on an unimplemented proposal from Mao himself, the Communist Party has decided to divert water from the Yangtze—a southern river known for its rising tides—to the dry rivers of the north. If it is completed, 12 trillion gallons of water will flow northward yearly through three man-made channels whose combined construction is expected to displace almost 400,000 people. Construction is well underway for the east and central canals, but environmental concerns have kept the western route at the planning stage. The project’s $62 billion price tag also makes the South-to-North project by far the most expensive construction project ever in China. But having finished the Three Gorges Dam—a $25 billion project that has forced the relocation of more than 1 million people—China is no stranger to pricy megaprojects.


citycenter.com

CityCenter, Las Vegas, Nevada

Who’s building it: MGM Mirage

Budget: $8.4 billion

Estimated completion date: 2009

What it takes: 200 million gallons of concrete and a spot on the Las Vegas Strip. MGM Mirage has filled in the last 76 acres of available real estate on the center portion of the Las Vegas Strip with the largest privately funded construction project in the United States. CityCenter, a multi-use plaza with three hotels, a casino, luxury apartments, and retail and dining facilities, will cover about 18 million square feet and may cost as much as $8.4 billion. But MGM is not the only one footing the bill. Dubai World, the state-controlled investment fund, dished out $5 billion for the project and now holds a 50 percent stake in the megaresort. Money hasn’t been the only price paid in this project—four construction workers have died in on-site accidents.


ELMER MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Panama Canal Expansion

Who’s building it: the Panamanian government

Budget: $5.2 billion

Estimated completion date: 2014

What it takes: 123 million cubic meters of excavated material and 3,000 ships that just don’t fit. Once a marvel of engineering, today’s Panama Canal is too narrow to fit 92 percent of the world’s shipping fleet through its passage. More than a quarter of the goods that are transported through its locks are carried on Panamax-size vessels—ships that are the maximum size that can fit through the canal. But in a project that broke ground—or canal bed—in the fall of 2007, the Panama Canal will soon be equipped with the world’s biggest locks, capable of handling most shipping vessels that are over Panamax size. Also, by adding a wider, deeper, and longer third lock lane to the existing two, the project will more than double the canal’s current effective capacity of 15,000 transits per year.


Foster & Partners

Crystal Island, Moscow

Who’s building it: Shalva Chigirinsky, oil and real estate mogul

Budget: $4 billion (98 billion rubles)

Estimated completion date: 2014

What it takes: 27 million square feet of floor space in the middle of the Moscow River and an eye for the extreme. In a city booming with petro-wealth projects, Crystal Island—designed to be the largest building in the world—is sure to grab most of the attention. Planned as a “city in microcosm,” this tentlike structure of steel and glass will, if completed, stand at almost 1,500 feet and house 900 apartments, 3,000 hotel rooms, shopping spaces, offices, an international school for 500 students, a major sports complex, an IMAX theater, and a system of solar panels, wind turbines, and naturally insulating winter gardens designed for energy efficiency. Throw in a few onion domes, and Crystal Island could replace Moscow altogether. Filling one of the few large-scale sites left near the city’s center, Crystal Island will sit on the Nagatinskaya, a large peninsula that juts into the Moscow River, less than 5 miles from the Kremlin.


GOH CHAI HIN/AFP/Getty Images

Terminal 3, Beijing Capital International Airport

Who’s building it: the Chinese government

Budget: $3.65 billion (27 billion yuan)

Estimated completion date: Feb. 29, 2008

What it takes: 50,000 workers, 400 million gallons of concrete, and 1.1 million Olympic spectators. Beijing authorities are expecting at least that many visitors to the capital between Aug. 8 and Aug. 24, many of whom will arrive via the Beijing airport’s Terminal 3—what will be the world’s largest airport terminal. Designed by Foster & Partners, a team known for its monumental projects, Beijing’s newest terminal will cover almost 10.8 million square feet and resemble the back of a scaly dragon when viewed from above. Olympic planners hope the added megaterminal will be enough to support the expected increase from the airport’s current 1,100 flights daily to as many as 1,900 come Olympic season. And for Beijing, airport renovations are just the beginning. China plans to invest between $40 and $50 billion in work on roads and stadiums. Preparations also include a new subway, improved railway lines, and wheelchair-friendly renovations for September’s Paralympic Games.

IBM Sequoia = 20X Faster Supercomputer

In the world of supercomputing, everyone always watches who is on the Top 500 list. Every once in a while something comes along that really dominates the old number 1, doubling or tripling its capacity.

The new IBM Sequoia is 20x faster than the old number 1. Specifically, 20 petaflops instead of 1.

IBM released some info on how to wrap your head around the numbers:

• If each of the 6.7 billion people on earth had a hand calculator and worked together on a calculation 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, it would take 320 years to do what Sequoia will do in one hour. (that's pretty incredible)

• 20 petaflops could offer a 50x improvement in our capability to predict earthquakes, allowing scientists to predict an earthquake's effects on a building-by-building basis across an area as large as Los Angeles County.

• 20 petaflops could also provide a 40x improvement in our capability to monitor and forecast weather. This would allow forecasters to predict local weather events that affect areas 100 meters to one kilometer in size, down from their current ten-kilometer ability.


As I think I have said before, it always is sad to hear that this newest greatest computer will be used primarily for the modeling nukes. Why NASA does not build itself a couple of these I dont understand. That said, why we dont build more of these for science in general is beyond me.

Deathstar Pricing... dork alert

Had to repost this article from Gizmodo. Yeah, its really dorky.. but in a seriously funny and endearing way..

If you had $15.6 septillion and 94 cents in your account, would you save the world from the economic crisis or build a Death Star, destroy the world, and move on to invade the galaxy?

A guy called Ryszard Gold—who probably is an alien villain from the Outer Rim planets and got a 49-point score in our Geek Social Aptitude Test—made the calculation of the most basic Death Star's price with current materials and space transport costs here on Earth. Here's a quick summary:

• First, assume that 1/10 of the 17.16 quadrillion cubic meters of the Death Star is something other than empty space and 6/10 of the total volume is pressurized space.
• That will require 1.71 quadrillion cubic meters of steel, about 134 quadrillion tonnes. That's $12.95 quintillion in current 2008 prices, and that's without counting strange alloys and elements.
• Shipping that to space will cost $95 million per tonne: So add $12.79 septillion in transport.
• Now you need to add air, which will require 8.23 quintillion cubic meters of Nitrogen, and 1.65 quintillion cubic meters of oxygen, for a total delivery cost of $2.81 septillions and $212.46 quintillion.

The total: $15,602,022,489,829,821,422,840,226.94.

Yes, that's a whooping 1.4 trillion times the current US Debt. Or a sightly more meaningful number: 124 trillion years of war in Iraq.

That will only get you the very basic model of Death Star, no options, no GPS, no radio, no leather heated seats, no mega-laser to obliterate planets, no turbolaser towers, no computer systems, no miscellaneous life support systems, no crew quarters, no turbo-elevators, no energy generators, no showers, no air conditioning, no Darth Vader's jacuzzi, no Emperor's home theater system, and no bloody canteen. And don't get me started on the cost of all the lunch trays and the constant supply of penne all'arrabbiata and peas needed for all the Death Star personell*. That will probably double the final bill, coupled with the construction costs, for a total of more than $31 septillions.

As for the answer to the first question, there's no doubt about it. But then again, I always liked the Emperor's robe. He goes naked everywhere and nobody notices.