Friday, September 30, 2005

The Silk Road Re-Opens

China and India have resumed trade along the Silk Road according to this report by Randeep Ramesh:

What's happening [along the Silk Road] is only part of what is now being called the "Chindia effect", a phrase that has gained currency as it dawned on analysts that if the current growth rate persists in China and India, by 2050 the two nations will account for roughly half of global output. The "Chindia" region's potential of huge domestic markets - encompassing a third of humanity - cheap highly skilled labour and governments pursuing capital-friendly policies have led many to conclude that the world is at a tipping point in history.

In Mapping the Global Future, a report by the National Intelligence Council, a division of the CIA, analysts concluded: "In the same way that commentators refer to the 1900s as the 'American Century,' the 21st century may be seen as the time when Asia, led by China and India, comes into its own."....

Despite its reputation as a software superpower, India's exports have been driven by the export of one item: iron ore. Last year the country shipped 60m tonnes of iron ore to China, whose voracious construction industry is gobbling up the world's raw materials.

Chinese officials have long insisted that if their country is the workshop of the world then India is the globe's office.
The logic is that both can work together to corner markets. Many Indian IT firms already employ hundreds of programmers in China. |Guardian Unlimited|(emphasis added)
You can find Mapping the Global Future here.

Santa Ana's burning desire

The entire UCLA campus smells like one giant bonfire tonight thanks to the forest fires. The closest fire is at least 10 or 15 miles away, but you couldn't tell it by the smell.

The Santa Ana winds make September a hot time in Los Angeles.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

RFID to stop hit and run drivers?

This site proposes a new method of using RFID chips to document accidents and allow police to catch hit and run drivers. I think this is a great idea and a clever use of the technology. Actually, it could work just by stamping the VIN number on the chips, but RFID would make it easier to scan the information quickly.

In theory, if a system like this were implemented it should deter people's impulse to flee the scene of an accident since they'll be leaving a digital fingerprint at the scene of the crime.

Although leaving the scene of a crime is a undoubtedly an irrational, fearful thing in many cases...the marker tags probably wouldn't be a total deterrent, but over time they seem like they would reduce the practice of hit and run. I wonder if someone's done a study on reasons people flee the scene of traffic accidents...

Impaired drivers might not even notice that they ran someone (or some thing) down on their way home. This system would certainly net some people who were too drunk or too sleepy to be driving.

Murphy's Law: Peak Oil and Global Warming Together

Zwichenzug in his comment to my last post suggested the global warming poses a far greater threat to civilization as we know it than oil depletion. I agree.

Even if global warming doesn't change the basic climate model, global warming is adding a great deal of energy to the environment and storms are going to become more powerful and we will be seeing many more environmental refugees over the course of this century.

And Z is absolutely right that market forces cannot contain global warming. Truth is, there's absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. Even if we stopped producing any greenhouse gases at all today, global warming will continue to accelerate as evidenced by the the melting of the arctic sea ice.

[M]elting sea ice accelerates warming because dark-coloured water absorbs heat from the sun that was previously reflected back into space by white ice. "Feedbacks in the system are starting to take hold. We could see changes in Arctic ice happening much sooner than we thought and that is important because without the ice cover over the Arctic Ocean we have to expect big changes in Earth's weather." |Guardian Unlimited|
The process of global warming has been set in motion and there is no going back.

Global warming will undoubtedly change the climate model and our traditional system of agriculture will have to adapt as growing temperatures and growing seasons change around the planet. Food yields will probably drop (at least for a while) and problems of feeding people will mount.

So...compared to that Peak Oil doesn't seem like a big deal. I think of Peak Oil more as adding insult to injury.

Just when our global civilization will need all of its resources to meet the changes ushered in by global warming, the availability of oil will start to decline and prices will increase precipitously.

Natural gas is also used as a feedstock for fertilizer, so it will be more expensive to use ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the future as well.

That's why I think we need to think about how best to make our society global-warming resistant. Now I'm not an engineer, but I have a few ideas.

First, we should develop a more distributed power system rather than our centralized power grid. We should encourage alternative fuels and fund the installation of solar cells onto houses, especially in areas like LA and Phoenix where there are tons of people and very few houses with solar arrays.

Second, we should try transport more things by rail and fewer things by air and truck.

Third, we should develop mass transit systems and encourage bicycling. We should give tax incentives to employers to install shower facilities and lockerrooms at places of business along with adequete bicycle parking.

We should also implement a national service requirement for 18 to 20 year olds and put them to work building up infrastructure like railways, levees, designated floodplains, solar arrays, windmills, and wave power to help us deal with the coming storms.

I know I'm not the only one thinking about these issues, so feel free to let me know if you have other suggestions or send me links to other suggestions.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Peak Oil Puzzle

George Monbiot sums up the Peak Oil puzzle well when he writes:

Are global oil supplies about to peak? Are they, in other words, about to reach their maximum and then go into decline? There is a simple answer to this question: no one has the faintest idea.|Link|

He goes on to make an argument for switching to fossil fuel alternatives sooner rather than later to lessen the trauma to society when the oil does start to run out. I concur heartily.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Management Techniques: Balanced Scorecard

Amelia Gruber writes:

The balanced score card [management method] encourages managers to concentrate on five areas when trying to improve program performance: ensuring that the program has a clear mission; attracting resources and support; developing internal expertise; aligning resources; and allocating funds to areas where money would make the most difference....

Organizations that excel at the approach have strong leaders, apply the technique consistently, involve all levels of employees in strategic planning and can translate paper plans into action, Kaplan said. |Govexec|(emphasis added)
That's sounds easy enough...of course the devil is always in the details.

Hunting going the way of the Dodo?

The number of people hunting has been declining for over a decade according to the Christian Science Monitor's Marc Clayton. But the NRA and the hunting lobby are working to change that.

The National Wild Turkey Federation's new Families Afield program is targeting 33 states that currently make it illegal for youths to go deer hunting before age 12. It also is deploying new youth programs like Xtreme Jakes, which combines elements like rock climbing and mountainbiking with target shooting in triathlon-style events.

"We're just starting a new generation of programs based on solid research - not just things that feel good," says Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, a Harrisonburg, Va., opinion research firm serving wildlife agencies and hunting groups.

These programs - built on the research of psychologists like Jean Piaget, who pioneered the study of children's intellectual development, focus on the psychological requirements to build an inclination toward hunting starting at an early age.

Hunting groups have gotten the message. "We decided to use those [extreme sports] as a hook to get them interested first, then involved in the outdoors - and then tell them about hunting," says Mandy Harling, Xtreme Jakes program manager for the Wild Turkey Federation.|CSM|
I'm pretty ambivalent about hunting. If you're actually eating what you hunt, that's cool. But trophy hunting seems superfluous to me. Take up bird watching or something.

While I enjoy shooting guns, I don't see the need to kill animals to have a good time. And hunting is dangerous. I'm not sure I want people under the age of 12 hunting while I'm out in the woods with them. Both for my safety and theirs...

It is true that we've almost eradicated the natural predators for deer and that deer now are damaging some ecosystems with overgrazing, but that strikes me as a good reason to bring back the natural predators.

It is true that permitting brings money into conservation, but there are a zillion different ways to fund conservation. How about taxing gasoline or bullets or SUV's or suburban sprawl or any of the other totally superfluous anti-environmental things Americans buy?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

KSU professor seeks IED detector

The Associated Press' Carl Manning has an article about research being done by Bill Dunn, a professor of Nuclear Engineering at Kansas State University, to develop a detector for explosives and improvised explosive devices (or IED's).

With some modifications here and few tweaks there, Dunn believes technology routinely used to figure soil density or measure muscle fat in meat can detect explosives.

Dunn envisions two types of sensors. One would be large and transported in a van, capable of detecting explosives several yards away. The van could be at a vehicle checkpoint and data could be fed into a computer a safe distance away.

Right now, the sensors can work up to a couple of yards, but Dunn’s goal is to extend that range to at least 10 yards and be able to detect an explosive in less than 10 seconds.|Lawrence Journal World|
I graduated from K-State back in the 20th century and I'm pleased to see K-State making a contribution to saving the lives of our service men and women.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Augmented reality and law enforcement

In my post about the Posse Comitatus Act earlier this week, I was discussing the militarization of the police. Haggerty and Ericson have a great article on this topic in the Journal of Military and Political Sociology that is well worth looking up:

Michel Foucault has suggested that the eighteenth century was shaped by a military dream of the perfect society, a dream which consisted of the "meticulously subordinated cogs of a machine," "permanent coercions," "indefinitely progressive forms of training" and "automatic docility." Contemporary transformations in military technoscience have augmented, and to some degree supplanted, this disciplinary vision. The twenty-first century also promises to be shaped by its own militaristic dream, one that involves a quest for immediate, perfect and total knowledge, absolute command at a distance, all combined with the ability to transcend human limitations on perception.

Kevin D. Haggerty and Richard V. Ericson, The Militarization of Policing in the Information Age, 27 Journal of Military and Political Sociology 233, 237 (Winter 1999) (citations omitted).
Simon Davies has also observed that closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) have had a profound effect on law enforcement and how we define the urban landscape in this post-modern age.
CCTV is quickly becoming an integral part of crime-control policy, social control theory, and "community consciousness." It is widely viewed as a primary solution for urban dysfunction. It is no exaggeration to conclude that the technology has had more of an impact on the evolution of law enforcement policy than just about any other technology initiative in the last two decades....The effectiveness of CCTV in preventing crime is not certain, but it would be difficult to deny that the technology is quickly changing the face of crime prevention and social control.

Simon G. Davies, Re-Engineering the Right to Privacy: How Privacy Has Been Transformed from a Right to a Commodity. Technology and Privacy: The New Landscape 147, 151 (Philip E. Agre and Marc Rotenberg, eds., MIT Press: 1998)
It's hard to discuss these issues dispassionately. David Lyon summed it up well when he wrote:
Several years ago, when I first started researching and writing about surveillance, I endeavored to maintain an appropriate stance that was neither paranoid nor complacent. I argued (and still do) that surveillance of some kind is both socially necessary and desirable but that it is always ambiguous. The dangers and risks attending surveillance are as significant as its benefits. In contexts where I felt people were being alarmist and shrill I cautioned restraint and pleaded for more careful analysis. In contexts where complacency seemed to reign I tried to show that surveillance has real effects on people's life-chances and life-choices that can at times be very negative.

Since 9/11, however, the pendulum has swung so wildly from "care" to "control" that I feel compelled to turn more robustly to critique. While I still insist that attitudes towards surveillance should be ambivalent, the evidence discussed in this book obliges me to observe that oblique dissent will no longer do. Some instances of early twenty-first century surveillance are downright unacceptable, as they directly impugn social justice and human personhood. They help create a world where no one can trust a neighbor, and where decisions and policy are made behind closed doors or within "smart" systems.

David Lyon, Surveillance after September 11 143 (Polity: 2003).
Of course, cameras aren't only being used by the state, video vigilantes are using cameras to document abuses by the state. The ubiquity of camera phones and camcorders means that any event could be recorded. Anything you do may be recorded by someone with or without your knowledge. Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase: "The whole world is a stage."

Thursday, September 22, 2005


I ran across the Skijor site while searching for mountain bike trails in St. Paul. Turns out you don't need a dog sled, just a dog and a pair of skis. See for yourself.

Domestic crises sap Iraq support

Opinion polls are showing that Americans support for the occupation of Iraq is waning and most now think we should spend more money on hurricane reconstruction and less on Iraq, according to the CSM's Tom Regan.

Unfortunately for Bush, his foreign policy team has bungled Iraq's reconstruction badly and how he's running out of time and money to build a sustainable democracy there.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Anonymous Lawyer

Just ran across Anonymous Lawyer blog tonight. I laughed so hard I think I wet myself.

Now that's reality TV

Jon Henley reports on a new reality TV show in the Netherlands that will involve illegal drug use and quite a bit of sex.

Main presenter Filemon Wesselink, 26, is billed to go on a pub crawl, take heroin in the form of a pill, and try LSD at home on the sofa under the watchful eye of his mother. He will also retire into a locked room and try to establish whether oral sex is better from a man or a woman.

Meanwhile, his co-presenter, Ties van Westing, will interview both Wesselink and guests about their sexual and/or narcotic practices. "We just want to explain really clearly what all this stuff actually does to you," Mr Van den Broek said.

News of the show has caused a fuss even in the liberal Netherlands, where marijuana is sold and used openly and red light districts display near-naked prostitutes in shop windows."This is dangerous and sets a bad example," a spokesman for the governing Christian Democrat party told the Associated Press.

A justice ministry spokesman said that parts of the show were "probably illegal", but it was not yet clear whether anyone could be prosecuted.|Media Guardian| (reg'n req'd)
You have to admit, it's not boring.

Resources wars update: the folly of Iraqi oil

Tom Englehardt reminds us that controlling strategic energy resources is not as easy as it sounds and that Iraq is showing just how deluded the Bush administration was in thinking they could protect and control Iraq's oil infrastructure.

Energy is a strange thing to control militarily. As Iraq showed and Katrina reminded us recently, its flow is remarkably vulnerable, whether to insurgents, terrorists, or hurricanes. It's next to impossible to guard hundreds, not to say thousands, of miles of oil or natural gas pipelines. It's all very well to occupy a country, set up your "enduring camps," and imagine yourself controlling the key energy spigots of the globe, but doing so is another matter. (As the saying went in a previous military age, you can't mine coal with bayonets.) In the case of Iraq, one could simply say that the military conquest and occupation of the country essentially drove Iraq's oil deeper underground and beyond anyone's grasp. Hence, the signs should indeed say: "BLOOD FOR NO OIL." It's the perfect sorry slogan for a sad, brainless war; and even the Pentagon's resource-war planners might consider it a lesson worthy of further study as they think about our energy future. |Common Dreams|
Michael T. Klare, also printed in today's edition of Common Dreams, provides support for this viewpoint when he writes:
Clearly, gaining control of what Wolfowitz once described as a country that "floats on a sea of oil" was one of the Pentagon's highest priorities in the early days of the invasion. As part of its planning for the assault, the Department of Defense established detailed plans to seize Iraqi oil fields and installations during the first days of the war. "It's fair to say that our land component commander and his planning staff have crafted strategies that will allow us to secure and protect these fields as rapidly as possible," a top Pentagon official told news reporters on January 24, 2003. Once U.S. troops entered Iraq, special combat teams spread out into the oil fields and occupied key installations. In fact, the very first operation of the war was a commando raid on an offshore loading platform in the Persian Gulf. "Swooping silently out of the Persian Gulf night," an over-stimulated reporter for the New York Times wrote on March 23, "Navy Seals seized two Iraqi oil terminals in bold raids that ended early this morning, overwhelming lightly armed Iraqi guards and claiming a bloodless victory in the battle for Iraq's vast oil empire."

This early "victory" was followed by others, as U.S. forces occupied key refineries and, most conspicuously, the Oil Ministry building in downtown Baghdad. So far, so good. But almost instantaneously things began to go seriously wrong. Lacking sufficient troops to protect the oil facilities and all the other infrastructure in Baghdad and other key cities, the military chose to protect the oil alone -- allowing desperate and rapacious Iraqis to go on a rampage of looting that fatally undermined the authority of the military occupation and the U.S.-backed interim government. To make matters worse, the very visible American emphasis on protecting oil facilities while ignoring other infrastructure gave the distinct -- and not completely inaccurate --impression that the United States had invaded Iraq less to liberate it from a tyrannical regime than to steal, or at least control, its oil. And from this perception came part of the anger and resentment that constituted the essential raw materials for the outbreak of an armed insurgency against the American occupation and everything associated with it. The Bush administration never recovered from this disastrous chain of events. |Common Dreams|

Profanity as coping mechanism

The New York Times (reg'n req'd) has an interesting article by Natalie Angier discussing the evolutionary psychology of profanity.

Yet as much as bad language can deliver a jolt, it can help wash away stress and anger. In some settings, the free flow of foul language may signal not hostility or social pathology, but harmony and tranquillity.

"Studies show that if you're with a group of close friends, the more relaxed you are, the more you swear," Dr. Burridge said. "It's a way of saying: 'I'm so comfortable here I can let off steam. I can say whatever I like.' "

Evidence also suggests that cursing can be an effective means of venting aggression and thereby forestalling physical violence.

With the help of a small army of students and volunteers, Timothy B. Jay, a professor of psychology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and the author of "Cursing in America" and "Why We Curse," has explored the dynamics of cursing in great detail.

The investigators have found, among other things, that men generally curse more than women, unless said women are in a sorority, and that university provosts swear more than librarians or the staff members of the university day care center.

Regardless of who is cursing or what the provocation may be, Dr. Jay said, the rationale for the eruption is often the same.

"Time and again, people have told me that cursing is a coping mechanism for them, a way of reducing stress," he said in a telephone interview. "It's a form of anger management that is often underappreciated." |Link|

It is certainly true that sometimes the best way to get the point across is with a well-chosen profanity. It's all about context...

Ask for an Independent Commission on Katrina

I have to give props to Bush for finally accepting responsibility for something the federal government hasn't done perfectly. I know he was doing the best he could....but the response to Katrina was thoroughly bungled. And since it looks like we're in a very active hurricane cycle for the next few years, it's prudent that the Fed's learn everything they can from this total meltdown.

The Democrats aren't perfect, but allowing the Republicans to run the show by themselves on the investigation into the Katrina debacle is just asking for a whitewash.

That's why I signed Common Cause's petition here. You can read Common Cause's blog here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Send in the cavalry: the militarization of law enforcement and the Posse Comitatus Act

The bungled response to Hurricane Katrina has led many in Washington to question the value of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., has asked the Pentagon to review laws governing the use of the active military for domestic operations, including law enforcement. Warner, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, wants a review of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act and the insurrection statutes written in the 1860s and 1870s.

"That framework of laws has served us well for the history of our country, but our nation is faced with some unusual threats today unlike anything we had when these laws were devised," Warner said. He said he wants a "careful review" and did not put a timeline on when it should be done.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said a review is warranted, adding that it is "probably time for a change."

"We may, in some situations, want to give a president ... the opportunity early on in a crisis to federalize the operation," said Lieberman, who is ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"The fear ... of federal military usurping state and local authority and, in the worst case, martial law imposed by a president has to give way to the reality of lives on the line that in many cases only federal authorities will save," Lieberman added.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said the military might be the only option when first responders and local infrastructure are wiped out.

"I think that mobilization of sufficient resources with a strong command and control structure and good communications is something our military can provide. If it can't be provided locally or at the state level or with the [National] Guard, active military will be deployed," he said.

Frist added, however, that he does not know if any changes to the law are necessary.

But Allen acknowledged that giving the federal government greater control over disaster response operations might present legal complications.

"This country was made to have constitutional challenges," he said. "The organization and the execution of government in the United States was made messy on purpose." |GoveExec|

The Bush Administration has long wanted to dispense with Posse Comitatus and Katrina has given them a very powerful argument for dispensing with the act.

President Bush suggested a larger disaster relief role for the armed forces in his national address last week, and Congress has indicated it will take up the issue this autumn. Though the topic has emerged at other troubled times - most recently 9/11 - Congress has always avoided amending Posse Comitatus, the law that has kept active-duty soldiers out of civilian law-enforcement affairs since Reconstruction.

Anger over the scenes of chaos in New Orleans in the days after the hurricane, however, seems to have shifted the political landscape. It is an issue of profound importance both to the Pentagon and to the country at large, raising questions about the boundaries between the armed forces and American society - as well as the military's ability to press the war on terror abroad if it receives a new homeland mission.

"There's a strong historical precedent against doing this," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution here. "But now we've got a real reason."

The difference is the scope of the destruction and the dire results of the delayed response, scholars say. During previous disasters, local responders were able to help many victims, while others were able to manage without power or shelter. Katrina, however, completely incapacitated local first-responders, and in the days before help arrived, New Orleans was beset by anarchy. |CSM|
Of course the militarization of the police has been a continual process. The Clinton administration actively sought to transfer cold war era technology to the police as part of the peace dividend. A lot of the urban surveillance technology was pioneered by the British as a way to control Northern Ireland. The infra-red camers watching citizens from bullet proof domes are directly military spin-offs. London used to be the most observed city in the world with all of its cameras, and they're adding more after the attacks on the Underground. But I'm sure other cities (like DC) are catching up in terms of surveillance cameras.

After the end of the cold war, defense contractors increasingly marketed their products as dual use meaning they could be used by the military or police. The fact that you see police officers with M-16s and Kevlar helmets jumping out of former military helicopters is not an accident.

I bring this up to point out that the militarization of the police has been a process and this move by the Bush administration takes a long process of militarization to the next level.

As I've commented elsewhere, I think we should modify the Posse Comitatus Act, but not do away with it entirely.

It would be more prudent to amend the Act to allow use of the military in disaster situations or terrorist attacks or any other case where the President and Governor agree.

I'd probably put some nominal safeguards as well, such as neither the Speaker of the House (or agent) nor the Governor of the State(s) involved must have any objection to the deployment of U.S. troops in a domestic law enforcement role.

If there were an objection, I'd send it to a randomly selected Circuit Court of Appeals for an expedited ajudication.

As to reversing the militarization of the police, I don't think it will happen. I think that the Second Amendment and the prevalence of firearms almost requires the police to go to the next level to keep up. The threat of terrorism (as much as the reality) will also push law enforcement to adopt ever more sophisticated and militant tactics.

What's $2 billion among friends?

Bush and his puppet Allawi may have presided over the greatest theft in human history.

The Bellman has some analysis of the story here. Of course, we may never know how much was actually stolen.

This revelation coming on the heels of the mismanagement of the Katrina disaster really makes me fear that there is no strong hand steering the ship of state in this country.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Come on coppers...

Dan Merkel has some thoughtful commentary on the news that Governor Jeb Bush's son was arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest.

I, for one, will be curious to see what kind of leniency young John Ellis Bush receives in Austin. It appears that Gov. Bush's daughter, Noelle, has already benefited from judicial largesse. |Prawfsblog|

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Hundred Handed Ones

I recently re-organized my left hand links and added some labels to make it easier to browse.

One of my friends is a sculptor and metalsmith and he makes some incredible art. The armor that he makes just boggles my mind.

He has images up of a custom motorcycle gas tank that he sculpted out of 16-gauge steel. Very impressive stuff.

Minnesota hunter convicted of killing Wisconsin hunters

Chai Vang was convicted in Wisconsin of murdering six hunters and attempting to kill two more. Mr. Vang faces life in prison for his crimes. Neither Wisconsin nor Minnesota have the death penalty, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

If you ask me, the safety tip to be garnered from this sad episode is that it's a mistake to scream profanity at someone carrying a deer rifle. It's even less advisable to make racial slurs (whether racial slurs were actually used in this incident is a matter of dispute...) There's an old Hmong saying that is apropos: Mess with a tiger and you'll get bit.

Members of the Hmong community question the fairness of the trial. This incident has certainly revealed racial fault lines in the upper midwest.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A "close call" database & new safety tip

My friend Allison sent me a link to this Yahoo news story by Joe Mandak discussing the use of databases to catalog close calls to help prevent airline accidents and to prevent injuries to firefighters.

I also gleaned a safety tip from the article:

Safety Tip #220: If you see one emergency vehicle, be on the lookout for a second one.

In 2003, 36 of 111 U.S. firefighter fatalities involved traffic accidents, according to the U.S. Fire Administration....Many crashes involve motorists who stop for the first fire truck, but continue through the intersection without waiting for others...|Link|

Neal the Vampire Killer

While I prefer a shotgun for killing zombies, vampires are an entirely different matter. Vampires are much smarter than zombies. They tend to be better equipped, better trained and better led.

Shotguns are great for close-in work and pistols are passable. But when you are engaging highly motivated opponents with ranged weapons, I prefer a carbine or rifle.

In carbines, I like a 9mm carbine with a pistol (as backup) in the same caliber. While there are many good combinations in this caliber, I carry an H&K MP-5 and a Sig 226 when I hunt vampires.

The MP-5 is a good intermediate weapon especially for urban hunts. But if the coven I'm hunting has been known to wear body armor, I generally carry a lightweight rifle in 5.56mm. A flat-top AR-15 clone or an Armalite 180-B work well. I haven't had a chance to try the Austrian Steyr or the French FAMAS, but they sound decent.

The best way to employee the 5.56mm against vampires is to use the 4x1 method. Four shots to the body and one to the head. Using silver bullets, it's possible to break the spine. If you break a vampire's spine, he is no longer an immediate threat. Or she. Nasty pieces of work, vampires are.

With the 9mm, it's much harder to break the spine, so I usually just settle for a two in the body and two in the head. If you shoot out both of their eyes it really reduces their combat effectiveness.

Since vampire hunts are always at night, infra-red is a must. I generally mount an infra-red scope on my carbine/rifle with tritium backup sights. A white light source with an infra-red filter works well in most conditions. The new generation of pressure-sensitive switches make rifle-mounted lighting systems quite handy. Remember, always positively identify your target before killing it.

Keep your powder dry and your bags packed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rex Libris

First, librarians have been subtly guiding human civilization for almost two thousand years. By emphasizing, or de-emphasizing, strains of knowledge, they are able to influence the development of our societies. They approach human knowledge as if it was a great Bonsai tree, and they cull and encourage it into the desired shape.

Second, librarians are all part of a secret society called the Ordo Bibliotheca, known in some circles as the Litterati Sodalicium. Its existence has been successfully concealed from the public since its inception in 242 BC in Ptolemaic Egypt. Founded by Callimachus, the chief librarian at Alexandria, and funded by Ptolemy Philadelphus, the society quickly expanded throughout the Middle East, to Rhodes (237 AD), Athens (235 AD) and in 230 AD, Pergamum. All were major Telluric energy hubs. The order outlived the fall of the Ptolemaic Empire, and continued to spread throughout Europe and the East under the Romans, working tirelessly to advance human knowledge and minimize the unspeakable, yet waning, influence of the mad Old Ones and their Chthonian minions. |Comic Readers|
My boss sent me this link to a preview of the comic book called Rex Libris about kick-ass librarians (to borrow a phrase from Mun).

Dubious propositions: walling off Afghanistan

The White House is pushing a plan to build a wall between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Washington is backing a plan to build a 1,500-mile fence along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan to prevent Islamic insurgents and drug smugglers slipping between the two countries....

The cordon, officials said, would deter infiltration in both directions and there would be arrangements for controlled crossings. A spokesman for the US state department, Sean McCormack, told reporters that Washington thought it was "important that Pakistan and Afghanistan take up this idea".

Details of the fencing are sketchy although the Pakistani president said his country could not afford to construct the fence through mountainous terrain and a deeply conservative region "by itself". "We could do selective fencing," he said, as an alternative to an unbroken barrier.

Aware that the security situation could deteriorate in the run-up to the Afghan elections, Pakistan announced last week that it was sending 9,500 more troops to its border regions. Underlining the fragile peace in Afghanistan's southern cities adjoining Pakistan, Britain's defence secretary, John Reid, said in London that several thousand extra Nato troops would be needed in the volatile region. |Guardian Unlimited|
I think a barrier makes more sense in urban areas and to fence in a relatively small area (such as Israel or East Berlin). I question how effective any barrier could be in remote mountainous terrain and how feasible it would be to guard 1,500 miles of fence even with the use of high tech gadgets like a distributed sensor network and remotely piloted drones.

By way of comparison, 1500 miles is roughly the distance from Kansas City, Kansas to Los Angeles, California.

Administrative Note: no more anonymous blogger comments

Readers should still be able to post anonymous comments using Haloscan, but the spam is starting to mount with the blogger comments. I'm also going to start requiring that commenters use the anti-spam feature. I know it's annoying, but so is the spam!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Diverse Katrina coverage by the Law Professor's Blog Network

The Law Librarian's Blog today has a nice round-up of Katrina coverage by the Law Professor's Blog Network. The most disturbing perhaps is the report from White Washing the Black Storm:

After Katrina, evacuees in poor, black areas were left with anywhere from one inch to one foot of water. Shortly after the hurricane passed, emergency and/or law enforcement officials came through neighborhoods with megaphones or bullhorns and announced that "we're opening the flood gates" and that up to 20 feet of water was about to be "dumped" on residents. Within 5-10 minutes of the announcement, the water began to rise quickly. Within minutes, the water was up 10-20 feet from where it had been just minutes earlier. We were told that residents had no chance to evacuate, only the warning. Survivors told us about the many who drowned.

After the last person is rescued from New Orleans, these stories should be investigated to find out if they're true and, if so, who authorized lifting flood gates that would save property at the expense of lives.|Link|
Can someone help me with New Orleans' geography? I didn't realize that there were floodgates in New Orleans. I thought a levee failed.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hypermedia revisited

Apophenia has an post indicating that the Times Online cited her blog without even talking to her. eBohn and I were discussing how blogs have influenced the evolution of the mainstream press previously.

The Northwest Passage

The arctic is heating up in more ways than one. Global warming is making shipping in the arctic possible throughout more of the year which creates opportunities for trade as well as a potential threat to Canada's national security, and by extension, the security of the U.S.

Anne McIlroy writes:

Global warming means that in the not-so-distant future, the fabled and usually ice-bound Northwest Passage could become a major shipping route between Asia and Europe. Melting ice, which could be catastrophic for the people and wildlife of the Arctic, could also make it more economically viable to look for undersea resources like oil and gas....

"[Canada is putting up] new patrol the Arctic, and we will be looking at the use of unmanned aerial vehicles. And we're looking at the way in which we can extend a radar protection which we have off the east and the west coast, to put it at the either end of the Northwest Passage so that we could control and ascertain what traffic is taking place there," [Canadian defence minister, Bill Graham] said in a television interview.

In the past, Canada has not felt that it was necessary to have a continuous presence in the Arctic.

"These are new times and there will be new measures," he said.

Will it help [Canada cement its case for owning the Northwest Passage]? It's hard to say. The United States, for example, does not recognize that the Northwest Passage is under Canada's control. It argues the passage is an international waterway, open to foreign ships. |Guardian Unlimited|

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Of weddings and China...

I went to Mun's wedding reception tonight after work. Free food and great conversation were present, what more can you ask for in life? I really enjoyed myself.

I met a couple who had just returned from a vacation in China, they were duly impressed with China. They were still a bit groggy from the long plane ride, but managed to keep me entertained until the karaoke started.

China sounds fascintating, but I'm not into crowds personally, so that's not where I would go on vacation, but I'm always interested in talking to people who have been. The associate director of the Tulsa law library, Lou, went on a river tour of the Three Gorges dam and put on a presentation for the faculty that I was fortunate enough to attend last year.

Cornell West on the fallout of Katrina

Joanna Walters' interview with Cornell West touches on issues of race, class, and poverty in America.

Selected quote:

In the end George Bush has to take responsibility. When [the rapper] Kanye West said the President does not care about black people, he was right, although the effects of his policies are different from what goes on in his soul.

You have to distinguish between a racist intent and the racist consequences of his policies.

Bush is still a 'frat boy', making jokes and trying to please everyone while the Neanderthals behind him push him more to the right....

Bush talks about God, but he has forgotten the point of prophetic Christianity is compassion and justice for those who have least.

Hip-hop has the anger that comes out of post-industrial, free-market America, but it lacks the progressiveness that produces organisations that will threaten the status quo. There has not been a giant since King, someone prepared to die and create an insurgency where many are prepared to die to upset the corporate elite.

The Democrats are spineless. |The Observer|(emphasis added)
It is too bad that the Democrats are such a spineless mess. Would the real political opposition party please stand up?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A brave new world of cruelty free meat

Spiegel Online has an article by Philip Bethge discussing the potential for meat to be grown from tissue samples (maybe in your own kitchen) rather raised on farms and ranches.

The purpose of the [Living Tissue Art Project] was to probe the boundaries between the living and the "semi-living," while at the same time creating "victim-free meat" -- meat that doesn't require the slaughter of a single animal....

Laboratories, some hope, may someday replace slaughterhouses and even now, researchers are working feverishly to pull steaks and hamburger out of their pipettes.

Their goal is the development of giant bioreactors where butcher shop wares are grown out of cell cultures, potentially forever relegating mass-production chicken farms, veal calf production and pigsties to agriculture museums.

One day, say some scientists, meat incubators could become standard kitchen equipment, allowing consumers to grow their own liver [pate] and meat balls, turkey sausage and smoked salami. |Speigel Online|

India beckons...

Sarah's going to the megalopolis known as Delhi, India in a couple of weeks. She's going to the 10th International Women and Health Meeting.

I've been listening to Dido's song Mary's in India off of Life for Rent quite a bit recently. I love the central metaphor of the sun rising on one lover and setting on the other at the same time.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More tales of official insanity and inhumanity from New Orleans...

If you cannot stand to read another post about the Katrina debacle, skip this post. But I just read an account on the Guardian newsblog by Ros Taylor of two paramedics' experience in New Orleans after the flood.

As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole...

Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement"....

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies. (emphasis added) |EMS Network|

Shocking is the only word that comes to mind right now.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Job for Neal

I accepted a position as a legal reference librarian today.

Good bye, Los Angeles. Hello Saint Paul!

I plan to start my new job on or about November 1st.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Societal Madness: Inviting Disaster

Americans have been increasingly moving to the sunbelts, and the explosive growth along America's shoreline in the last two decades was a disaster waiting to happen.

Selected quote:

Scientists and environmentalists have cautioned for years that the nation's coastline is dangerously overbuilt. But with Americans migrating in increasing numbers to coastal counties, construction only accelerated, and local officials increasingly relied on technology and luck to forestall catastrophe. As high-rise condominiums and sprawling beach homes have proliferated, warnings have been consistently ignored....

The development pressure comes from one immutable fact: Americans love waterfront property. And the federal government has fueled that love through flood insurance that minimizes its risks and by paying for infrastructure such as bridges and roads that makes it more accessible.

In the process, coastal development often degrades the barrier beaches and coastal wetlands that can serve as natural buffers against hurricanes. "You just cannot justify massive building and rebuilding near the most dangerous property in the United States," said Orrin H. Pilkey Jr., a professor emeritus at Duke University and a specialist in coastal ecosystems. "It's a form of societal madness."....

In 1960, there were 180 people per square mile in the coastal United States; by 1994, there were 275 per square mile. A USA Today study in 2000 found 1,000 year-round settlers arriving in coastal counties each day. |Washington Post (reg'n req'd)|
Engineering News Record discusses the measures taken by the UK and the Netherlands to protect their low-lying areas from flooding. But they have to be prepared for even more adversity due to global warming and rising seas levels.
For the future, the Netherlands and the U.K. forecast sea level rises in flood defense planning through the effects of global warming and long-term falling land levels caused by geological factors. High tide levels in central London are rising by some 60 centimeter each century. Dutch forecasts put the increase there at 10 to 90 cm.|ENR|
So, spending $100 billion to rebuild New Orleans is just another example of our gung-ho American spirit. Super.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Burning issues in public policy: health care in the U.S.

Since the New Orleans debacle has put poverty and social services back into the public eye, this is a good opportunity to discuss America's dysfunctional health care system. Malcolm Gladwell has written a short essay discussing some of the shortfalls of the U.S. health care system here.

Selected quote:

Americans spend $5,267 per capita on health care every year, almost two and half times the industrialized world’s median of $2,193; the extra spending comes to hundreds of billions of dollars a year. What does that extra spending buy us?

Americans have fewer doctors per capita than most Western countries. We go to the doctor less than people in other Western countries. We get admitted to the hospital less frequently than people in other Western countries. We are less satisfied with our health care than our counterparts in other countries. American life expectancy is lower than the Western average. Childhood-immunization rates in the United States are lower than average. Infant-mortality rates are in the nineteenth percentile of industrialized nations.

Doctors here perform more high-end medical procedures, such as coronary angioplasties, than in other countries, but most of the wealthier Western countries have more CT scanners than the United States does, and Switzerland, Japan, Austria, and Finland all have more MRI machines per capita.

Nor is our system more efficient. The United States spends more than a thousand dollars per capita per year — or close to four hundred billion dollars — on health-care-related paperwork and administration, whereas Canada, for example, spends only about three hundred dollars per capita. And, of course, every other country in the industrialized world insures all its citizens; despite those extra hundreds of billions of dollars we spend each year, we leave forty-five million people without any insurance. A country that displays an almost ruthless commitment to efficiency and performance in every aspect of its economy—a country that switched to Japanese cars the moment they were more reliable, and to Chinese T-shirts the moment they were five cents cheaper—has loyally stuck with a health-care system that leaves its citizenry pulling out their teeth with pliers. (emphasis added) |New Yorker|
I never use the phrase socialized medicine anymore, since the spectre of socialism is the kiss of death for any public policy measure in the good ol' USA.

Rather I refer to a single-payer health care system, which is nerdy, but less perjorative.

Thanks to Lei for the link.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Of Historical Interest

Over in the comments at Engineer-Poet, someone posted a link to this special report from 2002 by the Times-Picayune on the risks posed to New Orleans by hurricanes.

Destruction of wetlands exacerbated Katrina storm surge

Sidney Blumenthal relates how the Bush administration's willful destruction of wetlands around Louisiana helped spell the doom of New Orleans.

The Bush administration's policy of turning over wetlands to developers almost certainly also contributed to the heightened level of the storm surge. In 1990, a federal task force began restoring lost wetlands surrounding New Orleans. Every two miles of wetland between the Crescent City and the Gulf reduces a surge by half a foot. Bush had promised "no net loss" of wetlands, a policy launched by his father's administration and bolstered by President Clinton. But he reversed his approach in 2003, unleashing the developers. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency then announced they could no longer protect wetlands unless they were somehow related to interstate commerce.

In response to this potential crisis, four leading environmental groups conducted a joint expert study, concluding in 2004 that without wetlands protection New Orleans could be devastated by an ordinary, much less a Category 4 or 5, hurricane. "There's no way to describe how mindless a policy that is when it comes to wetlands protection," said one of the report's authors. The chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality dismissed the study as "highly questionable," and boasted, "Everybody loves what we're doing."
(emphasis added)|Spiegel Online|
Blumenthal's research paints a picture of an Administration's that failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the disaster and demonstrates how their ideological commitments have trumped scientific research time and again.

New developments in paleontology: dinosaurs had feathers

Dinosaurs had feathers according to a new find in China where the feathers were actually preserved.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

It's like the whole country is constipated

I was reading an article on Angela Merkel and the coming federal elections in Germany and this line jumped out at me.

Everyone feels unstable and insecure and fearful, but no one wants to talk about it. It's like the whole country is constipated.|Guardian|

Wikipedia on Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

I've been travelling and have missed much of the coverage on Hurricane Katrina. Just what I was able to catch while waiting at the airport gates to board a plane.

In case you aren't totally drained emotionally by reading about the hurricane damage, someone has been working overtime at Wikipedia to get up an extensive page on the effect of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Today's Safety Topic: Bug-Out Bags

207. You may not have any time at all to respond a disaster. If you can only escape with the clothes on your back, then escape!

But if you have 5 minutes, grab your bug-out bag before you flee a disaster.

208. Wikipedia describes a bug-out bag here. A bug-out bag is the one thing you grab on your way out the door. It should have clothes, food, a pocket knife and money in it. If you are on prescription drugs, pack those. If you wear glasses, an extra pair is handy. A hand-cranked flashlight is great. I like these Russian dynamo flashlights. You can only carry so much, especially in a figure out what works for you depending upon your financial resources, age, size, general health, and fitness level.

Wikipedia also has some interesting background information on the survivalist movement if you want to learn more about the community of people who obsess over what to do when the things go South in a hurry. Captain Dave is just such a survivalist. See his list of bug-out bag links.

209. For bonus safety points, keep a small bug-out bag in your car and another one in the workplace. Lots of people spend more time at work than at home. It never hurts to learn more about your disaster preparedness at work, either. But I'm obviously a safety geek...

210. If you want to go to the next level, have a hiking backpack with an internal or external frame ready to go. Add a map, compass, and a multi-tool. Gloves, a first aid kit and a pair of sturdy shoes are all desirable in most disasters. (By one estimate, 20% of the refugees evacuated to the Astrodome did not have any footwear.)

211. I once read that flooding is the most common natural disaster. Not sure if it's true, but it makes sense to put some thought in to how to respond to flooding, whether localized or regional. Sometimes flooding is localized to your home because of a sewer back-up or a pipe break. In those cases a 5 gallon bucket, a shovel, and trash bags are really handy.

The flood 1993 inundated much of the Midwest, which I recall quite vividly. I was volunteering as a crew leader with the Topeka Youth Project that summer and we were tasked for flood clean-up and sandbagging duties at times.

Ironically, flash floods are also a problem is the desert. The ground doesn't absorb water well and people who have camped in depressions can be swept away by the sudden torrent of water.

My thoughts go out to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Hopefully we can all learn something from their misfortune.

VIP treatment

I had a great time in Minnesota. Even if I don't get the job, it was a great experience. My presentation went well and they were very kind to me. Kim Dayton is a professor from KU law school who is currently a visiting scholar to William Mitchell. Sarah and I actually met in Professor Dayton's class on feminist theory.

William Mitchell has a beautiful campus. I love the hostas they have planted around the grounds.