Friday, June 15, 2007

Identity theft victim chases down theif

This is quite a story. But the most outrageous part is that the woman is not going to jail. I guess our prisons are too full of people who do things like sell pot to hold the criminals who are doing actual harm to innocent people.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another reason lawns are bad

From the Economist:

It all adds up

As spring turns to summer, across America millions of small engines are coming to life, cranking out power and puffing out smoke as they mow America's lawns, whack its weeds and trim its borders. Each engine by itself has little effect on the atmosphere, and most are operated only for short spells. But together they contribute a lot of air pollution, a matter on which the federal government and the states are starting to focus.

Small engines--those under 25-horsepower--are much cleaner than they were 20 years ago. But unlike cars and lorries, they are largely uncontrolled; and their carbon-dioxide emissions, combined with escaping fuel vapours and leaking oil, make them remarkably dirty machines for their size. For example, regulators in California estimate that using a chain-saw for two hours produces as much pollution as ten cars each driving 250 miles--though the outdoor-power-equipment lobby, of course, vigorously disagrees.

Under the federal Clean Air Act, California is the only state that can set its own regulations, although other states may adopt them. California has been phasing in regulations for small engines since 1990. For years Senator Kit Bond of Missouri, determined to protect jobs at two factories in his state, blocked an effort to apply those standards nationally. But recently a compromise, allowing the federal Environmental Protection Agency to proceed with proposed new regulations, was reached. The small-engine lobby concedes that stricter regulations were inevitable, and that a national standard would make sense.

Other tactics are being tried as well. The South Coast Air Quality Management District, which covers Los Angeles and Orange County, is offering residents a $399 electric-powered lawnmower for $100 if they trade in an old petrol-burning lawnmower.

Alternatively, America could always give up lawnmowing altogether. Las Vegas residents are encouraged to abandon the unnatural practice of growing grass in a desert and let native plants re-establish themselves. And some have done what so many sweat-drenched people pushing a lawnmower in a Midwestern heatwave long to do; they have paved over their lawns and painted the concrete green.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Sopranos series finale (SPOILER!)

This is really what I kind of expected would happen. It's never been about the satisfying conclusion with this show.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Too many tests

We've just finished test time again in the schools of California. The mad frenzy of testing infects everyone from second grade through high school. Because of the rigors and threats of No Child Left Behind, schools are desperate to increase their scores. As the requirements become more stringent, we have completely lost sight of the children taking these tests.

For 30 years as a teacher of primary kids, I have operated on the Any Fool Can See principle. And any fool can see that the spread between what is developmentally appropriate for 7- and 8-year-old children and what is demanded of them on these tests is widening. A lot of what used to be in the first-grade curriculum is now taught in kindergarten. Is your 5-year-old stressed out? Perhaps this is why.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

America's greatest thinker speaks out on BushCo

Bob Costas: 'Inescapable Fact' That Bush Presidency 'A Tragically Failed Administration'

Some people may wonder about the [political] feelings that I've expressed, and I won't get into all the particulars. I think it is now overwhelmingly evident, if you're honest about it, even if you're a conservative Republican, if you're honest about it, this is a failed administration. And no honest conservative would say that George W. Bush was among the 500 most qualified people to be President of the United States. That's not based on political leaning. If a liberal, and I tend to be liberal, disagrees with a conservative, they can still respect that person's competence and the integrity of their point of view. This administration can be rightly criticized by a fair-minded person smack in the middle of the political spectrum on a hundred different counts, and by now they're all self-evident.

The blogger who posted this goes on to talk about how incredibly qualified Dubya is because he
1) got a degree from Harvard
2) got a degree from Yale
3) flew planes in the National Guard
4) is married and never divorced

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Don't eat Chilean sea bass

As (Chilean sea bass) became the top-selling fish at restaurants across America, fleets of industrialized fishing vessels – many of them pirates – set out to meet the burgeoning demand...

TSA missing thousands of badges

Yeah, this is a little old. But can they really keep us safe if they can't keep track of their own badges (not to mention a guy with TB who's on the no-fly list)?

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Creation Museum

From the Economist:

The Creation Museum

Keeping the word
The triumph of faith over experience in Kentucky

Dinosaus are monstrously exciting. Alas, museums with dinosaur exhibits tend to indoctrinate visitors with Godless evolutionary theory. So parents who believe that every word in the Bible is literally true have nowhere to take their tots for an uncorrupting fix of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Until this week. The Creation Museum opened in Petersburg, Kentucky, on May 28th. Here impressionable youngsters can watch awesome animatronic dinosaurs interacting with primitive humans, just as Genesis implies they did, shortly after the beginning of time one Monday morning in 4004 BC.

The museum's aim is to teach visitors how to answer attacks on the Bible's authority in geology, biology and so on, while providing a "family-friendly experience". The founder, Ken Ham, raised $27m from thousands of pious donors to build it. The exhibits are as whizzy as any in a theme park. But starting with scripture and trying to force the facts to fit makes for odd science.

The museum says that, if Noah took two of every animal on his ark, he must have had dinosaurs. Could dinosaurs have fitted into a boat only 300 cubits (about 135m) long? "It is likely that God brought young adults. Being smaller, they would be easier to care for."

The attention to detail is superb. In one exhibit, tiny human figures about to be engulfed in the rising floodwaters are shown throttling each other, to remind visitors why they deserved to drown. The flood killed off most dinosaurs, of course, but the descendants of those Noah saved survived until quite recently, which is why legends of dragons pop up in so many cultures. They were probably hunted to extinction by chaps like St George, says another exhibit.

The debate about the origins of everything is presented even-handedly. Some people trust God, accept that the universe is 6,000 years old and will go to heaven. Others trust human reason, think the Big Bang happened 14 billion years ago and, having abandoned God, are quite likely to start browsing the internet for pornography or commit genocide. Vistors are spared graphic examples of porn, but there are some nasty pictures of lynched black Americans and of Nazi concentration camps.

The museum has humorous touches, too. Fragile displays are labelled "Thou shalt not touch! Please". Unfinished exhibits carry the apology: "This space is still evolving". And, apart from the supercilious ape-descended journalists at the opening, the crowds seem to love it. Ben, from West Virginia, says he is delighted to be able to take his children to a museum that stands up to secularism, even if, at four and two years old, they may be "a bit young to take it all in".

Friday, June 01, 2007

We, as Bay Area news consumers, are completely screwed

From Grade the News:

Sixty more newsroom positions – almost one in four -- are to be eliminated at the San Jose Mercury News this summer after a layoff moratorium negotiated with the local Newspaper Guild expires, Grade the News has learned.

John Bowman, executive editor at the San Mateo County Times until last week, said the staff reductions were discussed at an April meeting he attended at the Mercury News along with top editors of MediaNews, which now owns every paid daily newspaper around the San Francisco Bay but the San Francisco Chronicle. The proposed cuts would affect 24% of the 250 member Mercury News staff.

Mr. Bowman said he disclosed the layoff plan and resigned as executive editor of the Times because he was fed up with MediaNews' policies of trying to run newspapers short-handed.

"They're way past the point of diminishing returns, of penny-wise, pound-foolish," Mr. Bowman said of MediaNews' operations in the Bay Area.


MediaNews' cuts at The Oakland Tribune have deprived citizens of an effective champion against city corruption and mismanagement.

"The Tribune is actually doing a pretty good job of covering things that are important to me, but there are some really important things that aren't being covered right now," (Mercury News business reporter Elise Ackerman) explained. Among those are corruption in city hall and a soaring crime rate. The FBI is investigating a "pay to play" atmosphere in city government, she said, but not the newspaper.

"The Tribune reporters are good and hardworking, but this stuff doesn't get covered in the newspapers because they don't have the staff."

"When a newspaper becomes so weak it's not an effective counterbalance to the incredible arrogance of some public officials, it can't play watchdog for the public," Ms. Ackerman added. "I'm afraid the same thing will happen in San Jose."