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unraveling

30.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Government by the people Permalink to this item

Keith Allred has a remembrance of the Founders for the 4th of July, and a promo for his organization, The Common Interest. (I'm one of the 1,439 and counting members.)

"We are a group of common Idaho citizens—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We're motivated by a concern that the excessive influence of partisan and special interest politics has made it difficult for common citizens to penetrate through the spin to get honest, substantive information about the issues that we care about."

Beetle hysteria again Permalink to this item

George Wuerthner, on NewWest, provides a detailed explanation for why we don't have to cut down our forests to save them from bark beetles (to oversimplify the hysterical position, slightly).

"(W)e need a paradigm shift in our response to bark beetles. We cannot significantly influence large scale ecological processes like bark beetles and wildfire. Rather we must adapt ourselves and communities to learn to live with them. If climate change is ultimately the reason for changing tree vulnerability to beetles, than we should deal with reducing human sources of green house gases."

Welcome to the Senate, Mr. Franken Permalink to this item

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled unanimously that he beat Norm Coleman in the election they had not quite 8 months ago.

A brand new Library! Permalink to this item

The Mayor holds the door as patrons mob the place The one and only one library built in the City of Boise before this year was the Carnegie Library, opened 104 years ago this month. In 1973, the economic choice for expansion was to renovate an old warehouse on Capitol Boulevard, and a couple other make-do branches have come along since.

But today, June 30, 2009, the city opened a new library for the new millennium, a fabulous facility that our good fortune has placed a 5-minute walk from our front door: The Library! at Cole & Ustick. Among other lovely features, it was designed to meet gold LEED certification, with lots of daylight, efficient use of energy and water, constructed of recycled and local materials and with smart landscaping suited to our dry climate.

Found a stack of books he liked Needless to say, we were there to celebrate the opening, along with a couple hundred of our friends and neighbors, members of the Library Board, most of the City Council, and the Mayor. This was not a kick-the-tires and run crowd, either: a good proportion of the visitors were ready to use this Library! The 50 computer terminals, the multimedia "Study Room," the "Hearth," the checkout desk and even the book returns were going full steam in the very first hour.

Update: The branch supervisor reported that 3,600 people had visited the new library before noon.

Just to clarify what we're doing Permalink to this item

Nampa Classical Academy officials responded to the controversy stirred by the news reports of their plans to use a religious text (a.k.a. "the" religious text) in the classroom.

The Idaho Public Charter School Commission was nice enough to forward a copy of the press release to me in response to the email I sent them yesterday. The NCA is now talking about "religious documents in the classroom," and supporting their planned use to provide "clearer or more complete context regarding the impact that the document itself has had on a given society or civilization," and "when the literary value of such documents adds value to a given lesson or topic in our literature classes."

"The documents will at no time be used to establish what is true or what is not true.... No religious document will be used in a sectarian manner in an effort to convert or expose any student to a specific religious viewpoint....

"At no time will the document be studied for the sake of the document itself but rather for how that document was involved in a particular society or culture. The study of any religious document will be done so in accordance with all state and federal laws."

Flew the coop Permalink to this item

It's harder than it looks, apparently, as one of the three chicks had a crash landing in an early attempt at flying. The Peregrine Fund has a page for the Falcon Cam (the video doesn't work for me, though) with a bird blog:

Monday, 29 June: All three chicks are flying around downtown from rooftop to rooftop, closely monitored by volunteer observers. The adult birds are nearby. On Sunday, Fish and Game biologist Bruce Haak returned the male (who landed in the street Friday) to the nest box and placed a pan of water on the roof to be sure the birds have a water source during this hot weather. After returning to his car, Bruce looked up just as the third chick took her first flight about 9:45 a.m. Sunday morning.

29.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It didn't come up Permalink to this item

It looks like Chuck Sheldon is going to get his wish in a little way, through Nampa Classical Academy's program, "teaching" the Bible "for its literary and historic qualities." Literary or cultural, ok, but historic?

The founder insists "we are not a religious school," and I guess we'll see about that. The folks behind it do seem to be familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse however, because way down at the end of the Associated Press story that the Idaho Press-Tribune and the Statesman picked up, we read that

Bill Goesling, chairman of the Idaho Public Charter School Commission, said the Bible wasn't discussed when Nampa Classical Academy was approved last year. The school drafted a 280-page charter outlining its goals and overall philosophy, a document that does not mention the Bible or religion.

“I don't remember it coming up. Had it been known, I think we would have spent a little bit more time on it,” Goesling said.

Ya think?

Founder Isaac Moffett goes on to surmise that the idea the school is religious "stems from the core values the school has adopted. Those values, he said, include character, charity, civility, destiny, discipline, excellence, industry, integrity, service, loyalty, originality and patriotism."

I always liked those Highlights puzzles. Which one of those core values is not like the other ones? Could it be... destiny? I'm guessing that didn't come up in the discussion with Bill Goesling either, but I'd love to hear just what Mr. Moffett thinks "destiny" has to do with the rest of those fine values.

Searching the NCA site with Google, I find one mention of the Bible:

"Is it any wonder that modern education, sponsored by the government, with attendance there made compulsory by law, shuns large blocks of time devoted to the Bible, Greek, Latin, Logic, and Rhetoric? That would produce free men, thinkers; and, as Richard Mitchell points out, 'the free are quirky'--hard to control. Why do you think our modern system of schooling is modeled after Prussia and not after colonial America?"

Their listing of their "core values" is on the Mission page, with their "definition" of destiny:

"a specific purpose for which one is set apart; something for which a person is destined"

Seems a little confused to me, are we destined (and circular, by the way), or are we free?

I smell a rat.

The ultimate punch line Permalink to this item

If you're in the newspaper business, perhaps those letters to the editor ending with "I'm canceling my subscription!" aren't as funny as they used to be, but for the everyday readers, there is an element of comedy. (I guess the writer has to get a copy of their published missive from a friend?) Ok, whatever, what is it this time?

For Chandra Mouli, the last straw was the "extremely offensive and disgusting" article by Richard Farrell that ran on Father's Day, "The power and madness of my father's love," (originally published in the Los Angeles Times under the headline My dad saved me, and I killed him).

She was "glad" that she saw the article before her kids did. "I cannot imagine what my 7-year-old would have thought if he had read this article," she wrote.

"I find it a huge burden to pre-screen what my kids read in the papers daily," she continued, and ended with a note of thanks that the editors had made her decision "far easier."

(I trust they don't have a television in their house.)

Naturally, my curiosity about the article was piqued, and as I re-enacted Mouli's high dudgeon for Jeanette's benefit, she said "oh yeah, that was a powerful piece... but not something a 7-year-old would read."

As Farrell wrote, the story, like life, is complicated. If you're strong enough to want more than a Hallmark sentiment for Father's Day, and have viewer's discretion (and are more than 7 years old), give it a try. Please don't cancel your subscription over it, though.

The temptation made him do it Permalink to this item

Is it my imagination, or is it the case that when a Democrat goes astray, it's a personal failing, and when a Republican splashes into the tabloid section, it's a larger lesson? I just about spewed the morning coffee when I read the lede of Cal Thomas' column excusing Mark Sanford's fall, because "it could happen to any of us."

It could happen?

A sunny day could happen, or you could run over a nail and happen to get a flat tire, but in order to fall into temptation and start an affair with someone in another country, I think one has to take some specific actions to initiate matters.

"Any man who claims never to have had thoughts of straying is a liar. Any man who has sought the help of God and other men in helping him to honor his marriage promises to his wife and children is a hero, especially in today's morally exhausted culture."

And those of us who muddle along with the help of God and other men, and who act with a free will rather than having things "happen" to us, I guess we inhabit a different universe than Mr. Thomas.

26.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Our mileage may vary Permalink to this item

Volkswagen has an ad running regularly during Wimbledon, touting both the fuel economy and the vroom vroom of its Jetta TDI, as compared to the slightly corpulent, pasty-faced, hybrid-loving surburbanite who has to wash his own car. The number provided by the Beetle-accented voiceover is an eye-popping 58 miles per gallon, intended to embarrass the chump in what he thought was his strong suit. (Suburbanites apparently aren't aware that the Diesel cycle with its compression-based ignition is more efficient than the Otto and Atkinson cycles with spark-based ignition.)

Check the fine print: current Guinness World Record? This was indeed news last September, although the CleanMPG forum has a claim of the record being bested just a few months later, to almost 70 mpg. (I tried checking Guinness itself, but their website is too lame to be useful.)

The latest EPA testing method doesn't do any favors to diesel engines apparently, but the test mileage is a wholly different animal, 30/41 mpg city/highway. What matters is actual results of course, not what finely-tuned and motivated hypermilers can squeeze out. I just toted up the entries in our 2001 Prius' notebook, and see that we got 46.1 mpg over 58,087 miles; in winter, summer, city, highway, up and down Bogus Basin Road, the state of Idaho, around the west, with both a slightly more obsessive driver, and one less so.

Mileage, efficiency and cleanliness don't march together. A "clean diesel" sitting in traffic is not like a clean hybrid, emitting nothing other than its occupants' carbon dioxide. The Jetta splash page starts by talking about clean fuel, "ultra-low sulfur diesel that has 97 percent less sulfur content, radically reducing emissions." And their "direct injection system" (which, ah, is what all diesel engines have, isn't it?) "decrease(s) over 95 percent of all sooty emissions." Compared to older, higher-polluting diesels, not gas engines.

Diesel fuel has 13% higher energy content, takes 13% more crude oil to manufacture, and generates 13% more CO2 per gallon than gasoline. And it generates more NOx and particulate matter pollution.

Having outgrown my need for vroom vroom more than three decades ago, I have to say I'm happy with my quiet, efficient, and clean hybrid. And honest advertisers.

25.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Guns for Jesus Permalink to this item

Even in the midst of their pro-gun promotion, the good people at New Bethel Church in Kentucky recognize that something's not quite right with their planned Open Carry Celebration this weekend:

"This event is not taking place on the Lord's Day. This is not a Church worship service, where the focus is on Jesus and our responsibility to Him. Rather, this is merely a Church hosted event, similar to any other event that any other Church may do to celebrate their heritage."

And irony is not dead at NBC. At the bottom of a dense page of fine print and a sidebar with the rules for packing on Saturday, they quote St. Thomas Acquinas: "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

Keep 'em unloaded unless you've got a CCDW permit (in which case you "might act accordingly"), keep your hammer down, and your sobriety. "Official and Private security personal [sic] will be in attendance."

Apparently NBC's insurance company is so confident in the security that they've "canceled the church's policy for the day on Saturday and told [the pastor] that it would cancel the policy for good at the end of the year," according to pastor Ken Pagano.

Pagano's recent sermon topic caught my eye, "God, Guns, Gospel, and Geometry." Geometry?! I thought Gold was the 4th G. He teased me into giving him a listen.

He addresses the people in the pews as "church," oddly enough. He says "Guns" is in the title just for the alliteration (and don't get hung up on the alliteration, church). And as for they're being "an instrument that is used to protect and preserve life."

Ah, and Geometry is in there to "connect the dots." (Did this guy actually make it through high school Geometry?) It seems that Pagano has stumbled into one hell of a publicity stunt, but he doesn't (in my opinion) have the preacherly horsepower to sustain the celebrity. The vision for his church is modest, "to build a fully functioning Christian community, that is Bible-based, Christ-centered, Spirit-certified, and culturally aware." If they want to add "tool of the NRA" to the vision, he could probably build on that.

'What about guns, why do you believe in guns?'

"To protect your life."

'Why do I need you to protect my life?'

"Because I don't know if your soul is prepared for Judgment Day. Because it's appointed unto me once to die, and then the Judgment. Are you prepared should today–listen–are you prepared to–du–su–today so the little green men happen to land on this building, and settle on top of us, and we die, are you prepared if you die, do you know where you would go if you died right now?"

Rush on Sanford: Obama's fault! Permalink to this item

Limbaugh's offered up plausible deniability for his latest verbal diarrhea: it was his "first thought." And apparently he doesn't have that internal censor telling him "careful, that's too stupid to say out loud." I imagine a "radio personality" has to have insurance for stuff like that?

He can afford it! Lots of people are willing to pay time, attention and ad dollars for someone firing with no filter.

Felony? Burglary? Permalink to this item

Dine, dash, and down the river, and for whatever an entree and a drink costs at a "BoDo area restaurant," Mr. Murphy could get "up to 10 years in prison."

I'm sorry, it's wrong to steal (one of those Commandments, I think), but a "justice" system that could even contemplate this sort of charge, or that sort of penalty for this offense is horribly broken.

Let's not be stupid.

It's an EMERGENCY. Right after the election Permalink to this item

That's the message from the glorious task force established by executive order Tuesday, the plan for said task force having justified punting the transportation funding problem out of the 2009 state legislature. After dozens of ceremonial in-your-face vetoes, and the 2nd longest session in state history?

Ah, now it's time for a "comprehensive, measured and deliberative manner," including two—count 'em!—two members of the minority party in the gang of fifteen. 13% Democrats, that's about right, ain't it?

Power tool Permalink to this item

By now, everybody's weighed in, and swiped all the cute headlines with Argentina in them (along with 2nd tier stuff like Sanford and Sins, thank you Greta Van Susteren), but I just have to say "how sad is this," even before I've read any of the guy's emails, finding out that his wife was the granddaughter of the founder of Skil Corporation, bankrolling the guy as well as running his campaigns.

P.S.: I don’t want to put the genius back in the bottle because I truly believe in freedom. I never gave you sexual details but now you don't need to imagine you can close your eyes and just remember. I'll do the same.

In defense of the sanctity of marriage, I suggest Jenny divorce the schmuck and leave him penniless to start the new life he's apparently wanting with his South American hottie.

In the meantime, we can all be reminded why opera is a timeless medium and replay the "something compelling in the raw and messy nature of his confession" for whatever amusement and edification we can squeeze out of it.

"When you live in the zone of politics, you can't ever let your guard down," he explained, because "it could be a front-page story." But with his Argentine lover, "there was this zone of protectiveness," because "she lives thousands of miles away and I was up here."

Turns out some people need more than just God watching over them.

Update: Gail Collins. Enough said.

22.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Summer Permalink to this item

Two friendly garlic chives Time to get outside and play, as mom used to say. We were at a friend's outdoor wedding instead of the Pride Parade on Saturday. I've caught up on the sailing journal for the local practitioners, hoping to contribute a few more entries myself.

Then there's summer reading: polished off The Shelters of Stone shortly after The Plains of Passage and can now join millions of others awaiting the 6th book in the prehistoric wonder woman saga.

While driving to Moscow and back, and then to McCall, I listened to almost all of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, thinking that it was awfully convenient to listen to a history book on just 8 CDs... until I found out that's the abridged version, and the full one is thirty-four CDs. My summer isn't that long, but I sure enjoyed the short one!

And we have new pets at the house: at least two ant lions (don't miss the YouTube snippet swiped from National Geographic), that I'm doing my best to keep well-fed and happy.

19.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Jumpy Permalink to this item

I enjoyed Nathaniel Hoffman's piece about the plans for Jack's Urban Meeting Place, aka JUMP, and its cute headline, Tractor piazza. Italian like American pizza. The accompanying illustration from the work funded by the Simplot Family Foundation made me think of foam core, mostly, a case when an artistic "statement" echoes Marshall McLuhan's insight more than anything else.

Some of the participants' breathless enthusiams for the project likewise bring to mind the Emperor's new clothes. Lots of parking, with "lots going on and really defies definitions." It's beyond "mixed-use," apparently.

It's not about retail, at least. And they don't plan to make money, other than charging for parking to support "all kinds of nonprofit activities including community fun." It's a "parkscape," apparently not in the sense of "going to the park," but as in "park your car."

But wait, there's more! The "circumference of parking garages" sitting on piers 26 ft. off the ground will have Jack's tractor collection and "public spaces" "interspersed among the parking spots."

"There will be things happening in the parking area rather than cars just sitting there," according to spokesman for the Simplot Company and its billionheirs, David Cuoio.

As a child of the city, let's just say that "things happening in the parking area" doesn't necessarily sound like a good thing to me, but hey, this is a new category.

It's to be "a green oasis, a clearing in the urban fabric which becomes a stage set," the enclosed-park-facing balconies and stairways serving as "a tailgating/people watching/hanging out venue."

City Councilman Alan Shealy ("a frequent critic of design in downtown Boise," according to Hoffman) seems to have had a double helping of the Simplot Foundation Kool-aid, calling the preliminary drawings "visionary."

"They've gone around the world to find the best mix of public and enclosed spaces. It's an attempt to sort of amalgamate public and private uses in the best fashion....

"There really is a spiritual part of this; this is a project that comes from the heart as much as the mind."

Hoffman has an illustrated tour of the location on the BW site as well. Underneath the architect's clean slate, there is currently a street that would have to be abandoned, an alley, a network of defunct railroad spurs, a big puddle, a stray Jersey barrier or two, a parking lot, the Emerald Club, Knock 'em Dead Dinner Theater, and the law firm of Breck Seiniger, who has not yet been served any Kool-aid.

Do-over Permalink to this item

Among the damage done in the waning days of this year's legislative rendering, a "compromise" to satisfy the Governor's insistence on more money for highways was made, to take Parks and Recreation's share of the state's gas tax, $5 million-ish.

Speaking for the Idaho Recreation Council, Sandra Mitchell says "that would gut recreation in Idaho as we know it today," while Raul Labrador (R-Eagle) backpedals that "no money has been taken." Yet. Maybe the legislative task force will come up with a "solution," and maybe next year's legislative session will repair the damage this year's did.

Tidbits that were news to me in the (printed version of the) story: "Idahoans own 183,000 off-road vehicles, ATVs and snowmobiles and 91,000 motorboats," according to Parks and Rec stats. And from Dave Claycomb, off-highway vehicle program manager, "If you don't have [trail] grooming, you don't have snowmobiling in Idaho."

Really? I've never liked snowmobiling, or snowmobiles (preferring the pristine quiet and fine exercise of cross-country skiing without the smell of exhaust), and never wanted to ride one, but I can at least understand the attraction. But is it really so crippled as to require trail grooming to exist as recreation? That's rather pitiful, and seems most unmanly.

Local booster Permalink to this item

The Idaho Business Review sends a big, sloppy kiss Chris Oates' way, for his being "arguably the über-aggregator of all things politics, food, and booze in the Treasure Valley" and reTweeter, as he describes himself.

Teach your children Permalink to this item

Single car rollover, 1:50am, "...we're not sure how many times it rolled," and "police think alcohol may have been involved."

You think?

The headline piqued my curiosity to see if "rollover" and "SUV" went together, which they did, and because the worst wreck I've been in was a late night rollover (and yes, alcohol was involved, although so were winter, high winds, ice and Wyoming).

Down past the five people taken to three different hospitals, we get to no one was wearing a seat belt. Ranging from 19 to 29 years old, with a 26 year-old driver.

Unconscionable stupidity, and they're all paying for it.

18.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

From Now to the Future Permalink to this item

Interesting ideas from Jim Pinto: on living in the present moment - here & now, and thinking about the future, of Capitalism, Energy, Education, Health Care, Television, War, Newspapers, the Internet and Social Welfare. So far.

They're bloggy snippets, interesting jumping-off points, with links to follow should you want to explore the categories.

Nice to have that backup Permalink to this item

So the feel-good headline can be Jetliner lands safely after pilot dies.

"Asked whether the plane's 247 passengers had been told of the situation, a Continental spokesman said only that the plane had arrived safely."

If I'd been on the plane, I don't think I would have wanted to know that one of the people in charge had died, whether or not there was somebody else who could fly the thing. I mean, as a last resort, I'd give it a whirl and hope there was somebody on the radio to tell me what to do, but I'd much prefer to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Grand Marshall Permalink to this item

I only got as far as the 2nd of 10 (!) screens of comments on the story about a member of Middleton's Canyon Springs Christian Church coming to Boise's parade on Saturday to spread the message of God's love (and oh by the way, He finds your sin an abomination). I was going to mention that I thought that bottled water is an abomination, but I quit after the good laugh from bikeboy nominating Larry Craig for Grand Marshal.

Cycling craze Permalink to this item

After three deaths in a month, bicyclists are all over everybody's news. The stack of papers I'm saving for the wife includes banner headlines of Is Boise unsafe for cyclists? and Cyclists, motorists can co-exist, as well as Colleen Lamay's follow-up from inviting readers to "share gripes and advice" and "10 tips for safe bicycling," adapted for Idaho from yieldtolife.

Tip of the day:
WATCH THEIR WHEELS
Don't count on a turn signal, but cars have to follow the laws of physics, just like you do. Watch those front wheels to see if someone's going to turn right in front of you.

We just can't get enough of that. Sometimes, I like to get out on main roads, including some of the ones hideously unsuited to mixed mode traffic, just so that I can be seen as a bicyclist—we're still here! Look out! Share the road!—even if it means employing guerilla tactics such as dodging on and off sidewalks (always in a non-threatening and unsurprising manner, of course) or slipping into subdivisions for the worst sections.

Richert's thinking of making Boise bicycle-friendly, while Sisyphus has pushback on the Armstrong & husband advice. KIVI has Helmet Safety Statistics, sort of ("estimated at anywhere from 45 to 88 per cent" and "our best wild guess" or as helmet.org tags the helmet and injury statistics KIVI excerpted, "they don't agree, so take your pick!").

Bill Schneider's got practical tips for making bicycle commuting safer and easier. What I did when I had a job to commute to was to look at a map and find a route that threaded almost entirely through subdivisions. For a 5 mile path, less than one mile was on arterials. If you're not where the cars are, they can't kill you.

This guy needs to get out more Permalink to this item

Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is worried about Obama "destroying the best health care system the world has ever known."

This is one of 99 (or 100, if they ever get around to letting Al Franken have his seat) people who are "representing" us in the debate, and they all have substantial paid staffs who can go out and collect "facts." Is this willful ignorance, or stunning incompetence?

Unless by "best" he means the most expensive system in the world that still fails to cover 1 out of 5 of us, while achieving a ranking of

out of 192 other countries? He—or his staff—could look it up.

Dave Horsley seems to have captured the scene well enough.

17.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Idaho is relieved, too Permalink to this item

Eye on Boise reports that the head of the U of I Caine Center for Veterinary Medicine, Marie Bulgin, has agreed to "take leave from her administrative duties at the Caine Center and will not be involved in research projects on sheep and sheep-related diseases, nor publish or otherwise disseminate research materials regarding sheep or sheep-related diseases pending the outcome of the university's investigation," effective immediately.

This retirement plan will self-destruct in 6 seconds Permalink to this item

As designed, if the company were ever taken over or if the company ceased to perform well, according to former AIG CEO Maurice Greenbert. Back in 2005, Greenberg presciently removed $4.3 billion worth of AIG stock from the plan (back when AIG stock was worth more than scratch paper).

The jury may find Greenberg culpable whether or not the formerly "top performers" at AIG are a sympathetic aggrieved party.

Uncle Sam wants you Permalink to this item

Corporation for National and Community Service logo And he's working the web to get it: United We Serve, Baby Boomers (now a.k.a. "seniors"!) Get Involved! along with the somewhat more familiar AmeriCorps and Peace Corps (from back before we used to run words together), Learn and Serve America, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service (starting? next year), all under the grand umbrella of the Corporation for National & Community Service.

Every picture tells a story Permalink to this item

The Daily Mail's portrait of Rouslan Torunaniantz Tipping into the tabloid realm, we have the Belgian teenager who regrets her stardom, after getting 56 little tatoos on her face. She says she "fell asleep," incredibly, and pretty much no one is buying that.

Not to put too fine a point on it, and no offense to Mr. Toumaniantz, but with a face like this, even an 18-year-old should have been able to question this guy's artistic judgement. Notwithstanding "Swartrosie's" reminder not to judge a book by its cover, and Anonymous's injunction that "just because he has body art doesn't make him a bad person," we are within our rights to judge an artist by his or her work.

Unless Toumaniantz fell asleep while he was getting his done, too?

Good thing they didn't need the backup Permalink to this item

You might remember that last month's Atlantis mission to the Hubble had Endeavor set up and "ready to go" in case they needed an alternate return. The rescue scenario wasn't elaborated in the general news, and it never came to pass at any rate. Now for it's scheduled departure, a troublesome hydrogen leak in Endeavor's fuel system has scrubbed today's planned launch, pushing it out to mid July, earliest.

"It's a reminder that spaceflight is not routine." This is rocket science, after all.

That clears the way for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, on top an Atlas V rocket, to be moved to the pad this morning and launched tomorrow. Also along for the ride is the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) which, just for fun and to see what happens, they're planning to smash into the moon.

NASA Diagram of the LCROSS orbit Ok, that's the slightly simplified version. The LRO and LCROSS payloads split up 45 minutes after launch and make their separate ways to the moon.

"The LCROSS (shepherding) spacecraft... and the Centaur will execute a flyby of the moon and enter into an elongated Earth orbit to position LCROSS for impact on a lunar pole. This elongated orbit portion of the mission is expected to be four months...."

The "Lunar Gravity Assist, Lunar Return Orbit" is larger than the moon's orbit, with a 37 day period.

"On final approach, LCROSS and the Centaur will separate. The Centaur will act as the first impactor to create a debris plume with some of the heavier material reaching a height of up to 6.2 miles above the lunar surface. Following four minutes behind, the LCROSS will fly through the debris plume, collecting and relaying data back to Earth before impacting the lunar surface and creating a second debris plume. Lunar orbiting satellites and Earth-based telescopes on the ground and in orbit will observe the impacts and resulting debris plumes. The impacts are expected to be visible from Earth using telescopes 10-to-12 inches and larger....

The question to answer is: how much water is in the plume, coming out of a permanently shadowed crater at the lunar pole?

When they finally send it in to smash, the Centaur will be about the same mass as a large SUV, flying at 1.55 miles per second ("five times faster than a bullet fired from a .44 Magnum"), pretty much straight in, leaving a 90 foot divot.

Lots more interesting stuff in the well-illustrated, 44-page LRO/LCROSS press kit.

16.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Slithy toves Permalink to this item

Here's where "away" is when we throw things there: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (as featured on NPR 6 years ago, NPR 2 years ago, in the New York Times Magazine last year and on Good Morning America).

Green and soggy Permalink to this item

Palouse grass in June Posting got a little thin here due to a long weekend visit to north Idaho for a family get-together. The clouds were nice enough to part for a lovely Saturday afternoon, and then returned to the job of watering the heck out of the state. I guess Boise got drenched while we were gone.

Things are green enough from here north that the few spots along the Salmon River that were brown stood out as unusual.

Step into the new world Permalink to this item

Vickie Holbrook, managing editor of the Idaho Press-Tribune, provides the rhyme and reason behind the opinions they publish, in print, and online.

Good thinking. The contest of ideas has always been a big part of what makes the news interesting, and we now have more ways to make it interesting (if not profitable) than ever before. It probably should be promoted from blog post to a fixed link from "the opinion section," whatever all that comes to be.

I think the selection (and editing) of submitted opinions is what makes a news site (or any site, for that matter) compelling. Promoting anonymous opinions seems a bit more dicey; if they're innocuous, it's not big deal, but then why bother? Pseudonymous opinions are another matter and one with a storied tradition. All they'd need is to require the samesort of identifying information for an account sign-up as they do for a published letter.

(H/t to TreasuredValley for the link.)

15.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Another funeral procession of bicyclists Permalink to this item

This one for Kevin Pavlis, who worked at one of my favorite bike shops, Idaho Mountain Touring, where Jeanette an I bought our 10th-wedding anniversary tandem. (Or was it 15th? Time flies.)

Three adult cyclists killed in about a month. A two-year-old without a daddy. A 16-year-old, not yet in full command of an SUV. "Rancher" in the comments probably speaks for more motorists than I can imagine:

"Perhaps at a time like this, we hope all bicyclists will take more care when riding on the roads and highways. Rather than expecting the motorists to see and look after their safety."

And we hope all motorists will take more care when driving on roads and highways, so they don't kill anybody.

Newest addition to the 'hood Permalink to this item

Ok, so it won't be "spring 2009," but it will be early summer: we're cutting the ribbon on the new West Boise library on June 30. Woo hoo!

10.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

An even more one-way blog Permalink to this item

"interstices" has a catchy name, and serves up data in interesting graphics. But it says little about itself, and offers no way to respond. (I still don't have a comment setup, but it's not like I'm hiding much about me, or how to get in touch. Please do.) So, here:

A "map showing election results between McCain and Obama in Ada County bears [an] astounding correlation with the map... showing foreclosure rates originally published in the New York Times in May...

I'm sorry, but I don't see a graphical correlation, much less an "astounding" one. As I commented last month at some length, the NYT graphic followed ZIP code boundaries, sort of, and glosses over some pretty significant geography of the area in question.

I'm guessing the "future post" will have to strain mightily to connect the dots with a post hoc explanation.

Wool gets in your eyes Permalink to this item

Former President of the Idaho Wool Growers Association and current head of the University of Idaho's Caine Veterinary Teaching and Research Center at Caldwell Marie Bulgin has a little problem with "hard science." At worst, she actively surpressed information about disease transmission from domestic sheep to wild bighorn. At best, she was ignorant of research that had been done in her own organization, and incompetently insisted that it didn't exist.

The Statesman editorializes that "bad science has a way of spawning bad public policy," but we're not talking about bad science, we're talking about bad administration. Washington State University professor Bill Foreyt responded to an inquiry from Moscow Rep. Gary Schroeder after Bulgin's testimony in February with his opinon that "essentially all scientists who work with bighorn sheep or have evaluated the scientific literature, dispute or ignore most of the testimony that she has given for the last several years."

Rocky Barker's report in Sunday's Statesman noted that the "collaboration, formed in August 2008 by the American Sheep Institute, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Wild Sheep Foundation, convened by Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, is still going strong," unlike the disintegrating Working Group the Governor set up.

The story is not new: Nathaniel Hoffman's feature piece in the Oct. 1, 2007 High Country News sets the stage for this year's legislative Kabuki, including Bulgin's insistence that there wasn't enough proof of what's been blindingly obvious for most of a century.

Sounds like a better island Permalink to this item

Palau steps up to volunteer a home for 17 Gitmo "detainees"; it looks to be about the same distance from "home," but a bit more pleasant if they're not in solitary for 22 hours a day. For years.

And that pandemic, too Permalink to this item

As we roll into summer up here, it's turning winter down under, and the news is that Australia looks like the tipping point for the H1N1 flu virus. The good news is, officially calling it a pandemic won't make it any more deadly. The bad news is, it's deadly enough.

The deficit express Permalink to this item

Given the incessant political sound biting about government spending, it's nice to see a succinct analysis of how we got where we are, not so nice to consider where we're headed:

"Things will get worse gradually," Mr. Auerbach [an economist at UC Berkeley] predicts, "unless they get worse quickly." Either a solution will be put off, or foreign lenders, spooked by the rising debt, will send interest rates higher and create a crisis.

The "roughly $2 trillion swing" from the large surpluses forecast in early 2001 to the current horizon of nothing but deficits came out of "four broad categories: the business cycle [37%], President George W. Bush’s policies [33%], policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend [20%], and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama." [10%]

As for the back bench sound-biters, the Republicans can't even convince the CATO Institute that they're serious about doing something constructive.

9.6.9 Permanent URL to this day's entry

It's clear that Gingrich is a flapping gasbag Permalink to this item

As seen on YouTube, via JackAndJillPolitics, Sean Hannity and the Newtster are among the chattering bloviators taking one misquotable quote out of context and running with it. So far Ellen Goodman is the only person I've seen who's even hinted that there was a context.

Hannity chops it off (ouch!) right after "white male," which is all he cares about.

"It's clear that the quote is clearly racist," Gingrich says (while backpedaling on his initial tweet that she was a racist).

Is it, now.

What is clear is that Hannity and Gingrich didn't bother to read the whole speech that Sotomayor gave in 2001 before jumping into the deep end of blatheration.

Red babies marry younger Permalink to this item

Ridenbaugh Press: Marriage age as a political indicator. The political climate of Idaho is two shades redder, and the average age of marriage is two years earlier.

15 minutes came early Permalink to this item

The other 4 students at the Joffrey When my grand-niece showed up for her ballet class in a pink tutu instead of the (quite seriously) specified attire, there may have been a moment of embarrassment (maybe more so for mom than her daughter?), but there was also the opportunity for the cutest possible picture in the world for the Joffrey Academy of Dance in Chicago.

None of the 5 dancers are quite up to spec, actually, but if we could read minds, I think 4 of them are thinking "why don't I have a pink tutu?"

7.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Censorware Permalink to this item

This just in: "China has issued a sweeping directive requiring all personal computers sold in the country to include sophisticated software that can filter out pornography and other "unhealthy information" from the Internet."

Manufacturers will be required to install Big Brother (officially, "Green Dam") on all new PCs, starting July 1.

A source from the company that made the software says concerns are "overblown." Users can just delete it, or turn it off? That doesn't sound very Chinese government...

"On Monday, Green Dam's own website offered a hint of discontent over the filtering software. On the bulletin board section of the site, several users complained that pornographic images slipped through or that their computers had become painfully slow. “It seems pretty lousy so far,” read one posting. “It's not very powerful, I can't surf the Internet normally and it's affecting the operation of other software.”

"By Monday night, however, most of the comments had been deleted."

The path of democratic socialism Permalink to this item

I'll confess to a few moments of concern in the waning years of the last administration that George W. Bush and/or Richard B. "Dick" Cheney would find some crisis serious enough to go Code Red and declare that they weren't leaving office. But seriously, there seemed a better chance that one of them (IMPEACH CHENEY – FIRST) would be impeached by the House of Representatives, and chances of that weren't very good once Nancy Pelosi had taken it "off the table" to facilitate the 2006 campaign.

But here we are not quite 5 months through the Obama/Biden administration, and we have the first sighting, in today's Statesman Letters to the Editor, from one Ralph W. Hahn of Boise:

"Look for the mother of all crises in 2016, when Obama will ask that Article XXII [sic] of our Constitution be suspended, allowing him to run for a third term."

One thing at a time, Ralph, Obama hasn't even stolen any elections yet.

5.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

Transformation Permalink to this item

Thanks to Garrison Keillor for asking the right question, and for telling us what happened when he did.

"And an intensely quiet blond girl, a math whiz, who, with no reluctance, sat down at the piano when I asked her if she played piano, squared her shoulders and played the exquisite Chopin Prelude No. 2 in A minor, the notes of the slow movement like raindrops on birch leaves, smoke drifting by, an anguished old man pacing in the grass, and played it so beautifully it transformed the entire evening."

"We weren't scared" Permalink to this item

Lucky Peak rooster tail, May 2008 Imagine this: the Boise River close to 5,000 cfs, a cool day with thunderstorms, no life jackets, one paddle (now broken), one of your party flushed downriver trying to free your boat, you and your two BFFs in bikinis are stuck in a tree over the whitewater, you're waiting for someone to rescue you...

And you're not scared?

Lord amercy girl, you need to stick with mommy and daddy a while longer, you are not ready to be out of the nest.

4.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

May 35th, 20 years later Permalink to this item

We know it as June 4, but it's apparently an unmentionable date in China, 20 years after the the crackdown on the student uprising in Tiananmen Square. Today, police swarmed the square, and the censors throttled social networking, but in slightly less-controlled Hong Kong, there was a vigil held with somewhere between 62,800 (the official estimate) and 150,000 people (estimated by the organizers).

Down toward the bottom of the story is this lovely Orwellian touch:

"One government notice about the need to seek out potential troublemakers apparently slipped onto the Internet by mistake, remaining just long enough to be reported by Agence France-Presse. “Village cadres must visit main persons of interest and place them under thought supervision and control,” read the order to Guishan township, about 870 miles from Beijing."

Fourth generation Permalink to this item

1245 N. Water St., Milwaukee, Wis. in 2003 Just past 77 years on for the business, and 116 years for its founder, my grandfather, my niece Stacey has started work as the 4th generation in the family business. Her proud papa is my brother Phil, and the whole family is thrilled by the news.

My memories of the business go back into the mists of time to the early 1960s, when Wm.K. was enjoying semi-retirement, leading travellers around the world and enthusiastically photographing trains wherever he could find them. "The office" was at 1245 N. Water, having moved from Erie St., soon to move to 35th St., and later to a big box retailer that was gone and left its box and huge parking lot behind, off Florist Ave.

The history of "urban renewal" seems written on the buildings. On Water Street, the silversmith's two-story frame building is still tucked against it on the south side. The 4th floor was added after the trains were gone, and the sooty brick and stone cleaned from gray and black to a lovely cream. It was the home of "Theater X" for a while, and whatever it is now, they're quiet about it.

For its 75th anniversary, the company commemorated the building built before my grandfather was born with, what else, an HO scale model. Built well before the heyday of the automobile, it was threatened with demolition by a freeway spur in the middle of Milwaukee during the madness of the 1970s. My dad's negotiation helped tweak the freeway location enough to save it (as I remember), and now the shadow on its NW corner is long gone, and there's a ton of open space (developers wanted! I'm sure) in the neighborhood. (The photo above is from 2003, when the Knapp Street updgrade, and/or the freeway demolition was still in progress.)

Like Stacey, when I was a kid I "often came in on Saturdays," first to explore and play fantastic games of hide-and-seek with siblings in the creaky old building with the steel-wheeled carts stored in the dusty upstairs, an open-cage elevator started with a tug on the cable, and a coal furnace in the basement; then with "work" to supplement my allowance. After the move to 35th Street, when I was a teenager, I clocked more useful hours after school and Saturdays, in the print shop, the warehouse and the retail store. My favorite part of working the counter was when someone from out of town would ask with wide eyes if gee, could they get a tour of the place? They could, and I was happy to lead them around and show off the behind-the-scenes magic of Walthers Trains.

2.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

For-profit health care is good for profit Permalink to this item

Hat tip to Randy Stapilus' Ridenbaugh Press blog entry for the other Wyden health bill (the "Empowering Medicare Patient Choices Act") with several good leads to important pieces on the subject of our most expensive health care system in the world, and its underperformance in delivering what people want.

"In 2006, doctors performed at least sixty million surgical procedures, one for every five Americans. No other country does anything like as many operations on its citizens."

Atul Gawande's New Yorker article, The Cost Conundrum, is particularly worth reading to help understand the problem with for-profit health care: the focus is on the profit, driven by quantity, not on the health of the recipients.

The hospital CEO (and radio show bloviator) "explaining" that "government is the problem" without bothering to actually collect any facts to support his opinion is a classic.

Gawande notes in passing that Boise is one of the low-cost regions; the high-cost regions seem to follow density, but the pattern is spotty. Don't tell me, let me guess: higher costs are driven by higher profits.

"Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together [to build a house] and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected, and the whole thing fell apart a couple of years later? Getting the country's best electrician on the job (he trained at Harvard, somebody tells you) isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check."

Jacob Hacker writes that a public-plan choice is essential, and that we should build on the success of Medicare, which "has increasingly out-performed private plans in restraining the rate of increase of health spending while maintaining broad access." Aside from the various other countries that have better, lower-cost health care systems that we might use as models, Medicare is the best "invented here" choice. When you hear or read criticism about it, ask yourself if the parties originating the criticism are interested in profit, or health care, first and foremost.

1.June 2009 Permanent URL to this day's entry

A great idea Permalink to this item

Larry Grant: let's have two-thirds of our state Legislators find gainful employment.

Found a job! Permalink to this item

Good for Bryan Fischer, soon to be a Tupelo, Mississippi talk show host, and good for Idaho to be rid of a self-righteous, religious bigot. If you wish to join in the general celebration, 43rd State Blues has it goin' on.

Contentious at times Permalink to this item

Couple of terse TV reports, and this one in the Idaho Press-Tribune about the Saturday meet-up at Lake Lowell, to let the motorboaters (mostly) vent, but somehow the one recreational activity the Fish & Wildlife Service already saw fit to ban—kitesurfing—didn't get mentioned.

"Of the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge's about 200,000 annual visitors, thousands of people boat there annually," and maybe a couple dozen, at most, kitesurf. With pretty much zero impact. A much more intensely used sailing venue is Lucky Peak Reservoir, and the local windsurfers and kitesurfers have had several work parties to help improve Barclay Bay.

What's wrong with this picture?

New metering Permalink to this item

Our analog electric meter, taken out of service The last time Idaho Power changed our meter was in early 1985, shortly after we'd moved into this house. (My goodness, how time flies.) It seems that from their point of view, the meter wasn't spinning fast enough, so it must have been broken. Without so much as a ding dong, how do you do, a field tech yanked our meter in the middle of the day and put in a new one.

Jeanette, who was working on her computer at the time, was not amused.

This time around, the field tech did take the time to ring the doorbell and get our approval to proceed, giving me time to save all of what I was working on and shut down my computer. These are the new remote-read meters, an idea that's blindingly obviously better than having someone walk door-to-door every month to read dials.

The tech had a little digital camera, took a picture of old and new side-by-side during the process. I told him I was going to miss the dial spinning around, something that first fascinated me back in my single-digit days. Can't keep the meter as a souvenir either, but we did get to keep the glass cover.

The DirecTV R22 DVR gets kudos for smartly dealing with the power cycle: it's slow rebooting, but remembers everything, and picked up where it left off, recording the French Open.

The coffee maker gets the "worst appliance" prize, for turning off its warming function, being unable to resume keeping the day's brew hot, and flashing in distress.

Three screens and a cloud Permalink to this item

Your future, according to Microsoft, as distilled under the shiny dome of CEO (and Stanford GSB dropout) Steve Ballmer.

"Yeah, the world is now going to be three screens and a cloud. Phone, Pee Cee, Tee Vee, Cloud. Three screens and a cloud."

Oh and the good news for graduates in a bad economic climate is that if your idea isn't good enough, you won't get misfunded right now.

"In a sense you could say there's really not a better time to start a business. If you've got the right idea, you will get some funding. The ideas that weren't good enough shouldn't have been funded, and they won't be funded today."

raveling

Tom von Alten      tva_∂t_fortboise_⋅_org

ISSN 1534-0007

Thursday, 02-Jul-2009 20:18:59 MDT
http://www.fortboise.org/blog/200906.html