Mar 14, 2009

Streamlined vehicles were not always pretty #3

This vehicle was once part of the Trent Barton bus fleet in the UK.

The car that collected 10,000 stamps in 1936

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This story was published in the November, 1936 issue of Modern Mechanix magazine (the forerunner of Mechanix Illustrated).

Ed Hadley of Casper, Wyoming created this very strange stamp album.

In 1936, Ripley's Believe It or Not! featured this as the “car that went postal.”

Five girls worked for six weeks to plaster the car with the 10,000-odd specimens, which are covered with a protective coat of varnish to shield them from the weather.

The car is believed to be a 1936 Cadillac Fleetwood 2-passenger coupe without side mounts.


Tinkering with computer wallpaper

The wallpaper above has the HP logo in center-right. The computer, however, is a Toshiba laptop but I didn’t like the wallpaper supplied by Toshiba. Proves I’m an incurable tinkerer.

This wallpaper, on an HP desktop computer, was changed to show a pencil drawing I made as a teenager.

The drawing was made on newsprint, which has turned quite dark over time.

In both illustrations the Windows Vista “bubbles” screensaver is in use. It looks really cool and is fun to watch but it can’t possibly “save” a screen.

Screensavers were originally designed to prevent burn-in when the old RGB (red green blue) monitors were left on for hours at a time.

In the 1980’s it was fairly common to see a monitor with something permanently burned onto the screen such as the menu of a DOS program.

Mar 13, 2009

Follow the leader

Marathon ice skaters take part in the Dutch 20th Tour of Eleven Cities in Techendorf, Austria.

Not being able to find natural ice in the Netherlands, Dutch ice skaters have moved the tour to Austria.

Poll numbers show Obama below Bush 2001 rating

Does this mean the honeymoon is over for Barack Hussein Obama?

The following was reported by Douglas E. Schoen, Schoen, a former pollster for President Bill Clinton:

It is simply wrong for commentators to continue to focus on President Barack Obama's high levels of popularity, and to conclude that these are indicative of high levels of public confidence in the work of his administration.

Indeed, a detailed look at recent survey data shows that the opposite is most likely true. The American people are coming to express increasingly significant doubts about his initiatives, and most likely support a different agenda and different policies from those that the Obama administration has advanced.

Don’t hold your breath until the main stream media reports this:

Polling data show that Mr. Obama's approval rating is dropping and is below where George W. Bush was in an analogous period in 2001. Rasmussen Reports data shows that Mr. Obama's net presidential approval rating -- which is calculated by subtracting the number who strongly disapprove from the number who strongly approve -- is just six, his lowest rating to date.

More of the story here.

Do you have paraskavedekatriaphobia?

Paraskavedekatriaphobia is a fear of Friday the 13th.

Many believe Friday the 13th is associated with bad luck.

This is a 20th century phobia. There is almost no mention of Friday the 13th before 1900.

Have a great Friday the 13th.


If you have paraskavedekatriaphobia, click here for information to help you alleviate the symptoms such as:

breathlessness, excessive sweating, nausea, dry mouth, feeling sick, shaking, heart palpitations, inability to think clearly, a fear of dying, becoming mad or losing control, a sensation of detachment from reality or a full blown anxiety attack.

Iron mask on the fashion runway

Proving that nearly anything goes in the fashion world, designer Alexander McQueen served up some unique presentations in his surrealist collection in Paris.

This bold design uses chainmail to cover face, arms and torso. Other McQueen entries can be found here.

Centrist Democrats may sink labor bill

The EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) is a controversial bill cosponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield and Sen. Kent Conrad, both Democrats, to make it easier for organized labor to unionize businesses.

The bill was drawn up in the last Congress as a “thank you” to labor unions for their help in electing Democrats.

That was the last Congress. What about this year?

“I’m still sorting things out,” says Butterfield.

“I’ve got my hands full,” says Conrad.

The two men are hardly alone.

Caught between Big Business and Big Labor in the midst of a deepening recession, moderate Democrats are washing their cars, polishing their silver, rearranging the pictures on their desks — anything they can do to buy some time while hoping that EFCA somehow goes away.

Former supporters of the bill are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who thinks he can get the 60 votes needed, didn’t promise to take the bill up promptly.

In the meantime, Big Business and Big Labor will be taking shots at each other over the airwaves and on Capitol Hill - and moderate Democrats will be trying to stay out of the line of fire.

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What is the so-called Employee Free Choice Act?

First of all, the name is purposely deceptive. “Card Check” would be a better name for the bill. If it passed, union organizers could come in and have employees sign a card indicating whether they want to be represented by a union.

Problem is, instead of a “secret ballot” vote, the card check could be done right in front of the union organizers who could intimidate employees to vote against their will.

Bill Samuel, the director of government affairs for the AFL-CIO claims that “The business community has been extremely aggressive in running ads back home to spread misinformation about the bill.”

Actually, it is the ads sponsored by organized labor that contain misinformation about the bill.

Even former Senator and former Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern (pictured) is speaking out against this bill.

McGovern, a staunch union supporter in the past, is highly critical of this bill and his personal comments are included in many of the TV ads against the Employee Free Choice Act.


Obama official on leave after FBI raids

A report at the link below has more bad news for the Obama administration:

An aide to President Barack Obama is on leave from his White House job after the FBI raided his old District of Columbia government office Thursday, arresting a city employee and a technology consultant on corruption charges, a White House official said.

The charges were lodged against the two men at a federal court hearing as the FBI finished searching the city’s technology office, which was led until recently by Obama’s new computer chief, Vivek Kundra.

Kundra , a native of New Delhi , India, is on leave from his White House job until further details of the case become known.

At the court hearing, Yusuf Acar, the acting chief security officer in the city’s technology office, was ordered held without bond pending a hearing Tuesday. Prosecutors said $70,000 in cash was found during a search of Acar’s Washington home and that he posed a serious flight risk.

Acar worked under Kundra, Obama’s pick to coordinate federal computer systems.

Technology consultant Sushil Bansal was released but was ordered not to conduct overseas financial transactions or leave the Washington metropolitan area.

Bansal is due back in court on April 21, and prosecutors said they were hopeful that a plea agreement could be reached in his case.

Acar, a 40-year-old native of Turkey, had a $127,468-a-year position purchasing the city’s computer equipment and lining up contract workers for numerous city agencies, according to court documents.

Authorities say Acar and Bansal, along with others, defrauded the government through a variety of schemes, including billing the city for items that were never delivered and “ghost” contract employees who did not work.

The scheme involved Acar approving falsified bills and splitting the money with vendors including Bansal, who submitted them, court documents alleged.

The report says that an FBI affidavit supporting the arrest warrants indicates that several other businesses and individuals were involved in the alleged schemes but were not named.

The FBI worked with another employee in the city’s technology office, who was in on the scheme and secretly recorded conversations with Acar and Bansal as part of the investigation.

In 2007, federal investigators uncovered a massive embezzlement scheme in the city’s tax office.
Men and women dressed in suits and wearing latex gloves could be seen entering and leaving the glass-enclosed lobby of the Office of the Chief Technology Officer on Thursday afternoon.

Ironically, even as the raid was taking place, Kundra was giving a speech at FOSE, an annual government technology expo.

Kundra said part of his focus is to change the way the government buys technologies from vendors.


Mar 12, 2009

Addicted to the telepromper

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Google snooping is becoming more ambitious

There is a report at the link below titled: Don't look now, but Google is watching you...

Google will use its surveillance of web surfing habits to figure out which ads are best suited to each individual's interests - a practice likely to illuminate just how much the internet search leader has been learning about millions of people around the world. also snoops on users. There are likely many others but none as blatant and ambitious as Google.

If you use Google toolbar, every search you make will be reported right back to Google along with your IP address and your geographic location.


Stimulus includes millions for Kennedy legacy

The Kennedy legacy will get a big boost from the Obama spending spree.

More than one out of every five dollars of the $126 million Massachusetts is receiving in earmarks from a $410 billion federal spending package is going to help preserve the legacy of the Kennedy’s.

The bill includes $5.8 million for the planning and design of a building to house a new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate. The funding may also help support an endowment for the institute.

The bill also includes $22 million to expand facilities at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum.

Another $5 million for a new gateway to the Boston Harbor Islands on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, a park system in downtown Boston named after Kennedy's mother and built on land opened up by the Big Dig highway project.


Cardboard cops on UK police force

Police forces in the UK have spent more than $27,600 (£20,000) on cardboard cut-outs of uniformed officers designed to confuse criminals.

It was billed as the latest police tactic to combat crime and now the idea has taken off nationwide.

Rank-and-file officers are questioning the wisdom of spending police funds on fake officers.

It seems that the cardboard cops are designed to prevent crime and also to give peace of mind to citizens by making them feel more secure.

More of the story here.

Economists: Obama and Geithner get failing grades

Participants in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey gave Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner failing grades for their efforts to revive the economy.

The economists' assessment stands in stark contrast with Mr. Obama's popularity with the public, with a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll giving him a 60% approval rating.

A majority of the 49 economists polled said they were dissatisfied with the administration's economic policies.

On average, they gave the president a grade of 59 out of 100, and although there was a broad range of marks, 42% of respondents rated Mr. Obama below 60.

Mr. Geithner received an average grade of 51.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke scored better, with an average 71.

More here.

Mar 11, 2009

Check out this moving tropical island

Wally Island is a 100-meter boat with a full tropical garden.

This giant mega-yacht is still in the design stage but don’t rush out to order one.

If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford one.


Wearing snow socks at Iditarod

A team of sled dogs charge through the snow during the 37th Iditarod Race in Alaska.

Reuters photo in Time Magazine

Homeless thinking outside the box with EDAR

EDAR (Everyone Deserves A Roof) has been supplying small tents on wheels for homeless people on the streets of Los Angeles.

Click here for a video demonstrating the EDAR tent on wheels that help get some of the homeless out of their cardboard box.

Click here for more information about EDAR.

More charges filed in Palin e-mail hacking case

The University of Tennessee student accused of hacking into the persoanl e-mail account of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (pictured) picked up three additional federal charges at his arraignment on Monday.

David Kernell, the son of a Democratic Tennessee state legislator, was charged with unlawfully transmitting electronic information, fraud and attempting to impede an FBI investigation in addition to an earlier hacking charge.

Kernell pleaded not guilty to the new charges, according to The Associated Press, as he did in September after he was arrested for hacking.

If convicted, Kernell could face a $250,000 fine and up to three years in prison.


President claims he is not taking on too much too soon

Obama responds to critics who say he is taking on too much too soon.

Barack Obama has rejected the charge that he is taking on too much too soon, by comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D Roosevelt and John F Kennedy.

The new president's response ran the risk of reviving the criticism sometimes heard during his campaign and inauguration that he was prematurely ranking himself among the great American politicians.

Even supporters are questioning whether or not the president would be better advised to concentrate all or most of his fire on reviving the economy, and in particular, finalizing the details of saving the banking sector.

Former Obama supporters are now taking another look at their “boy wonder.”

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, an early of supporter of Mr. Obama, has criticized the government for a "muddled message".

Another Obama supporter David Brooks, a columnist for the New York Times (incorrectly referred to as “conservative” by the Daily Telegraph) said "Democrats apparently think that dealing with the crisis is a part-time job".


Mar 10, 2009

Barbie accused of plastic surgery

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Don’t look now but Barbie just turned 50

Barbie looks young for her age don’t you think?

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Photo above shows Australian model Erika Heynatz cutting a Barbie doll chocolate mud cake to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the world's most popular doll as girls look on. The foreshores of Sydney Harbor and Sydney Opera House are shown in the background.

The cake is covered in gold icing, gold silk and 2,000 Swarovski crystals and was based on the design for toymaker Mattel's limited edition 50th Anniversary Barbie Doll, which wears a champagne silk gown.

Pelosi unhappy military jets unavailable to her

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (pictured) can’t have Air Force One - it’s been spoken for. Next best thing is to make the Air Force her personal transportation service.

Representatives for Judicial Watch, which obtained e-mails and other documents showing the requests, say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has treated the Air Force as her "personal airline."

Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly requested military aircraft to shuttle her and her colleagues and family around the country.

The group reported that Pelosi was notorious for making special demands for high-end aircraft, lodging last-minute cancellations, and racking up additional expenses for the military.

When told a certain type of aircraft would not be available, Pelosi aide Kay King said "This is not good news, and we will have some very disappointed folks, as well as a very upset Speaker."


Face of Saudi tourism industry

A woman waits for customers to buy traditional crafts and rugs at the Saudi Travel and Tourism Investment Market in the Riyadh.

Getty Images Photo

Utility sent them wrong gas bill for 3 years

Avista, based in Spokane, Washington, serves 121,000 electric and more than 93,000 natural gas customers in Idaho.

The utility has reimbursed a northern Idaho couple nearly $2,000 after sending them someone else's gas bill for more than three years.

Don and Penny Fisher complained of high bills to no avail. They finally reported a fake gas leak just to get someone from the utility to come out to see what went wrong.

A company representative discovered that meter readings in the subdivision had been crossed.

The Fishers said they had to skimp on three Christmases due to their nearly $500 in winter gas and electric bills.

The Fishers said one of their bills was for $238, while the neighbor who was paying their bill was charged $28.


Three liberal journalists with buyers remorse

How Buckley, Gergen and Brooks finally realized Barack Obama's left leanings.

Christopher Buckley and David Brooks (upper photo) have been hard-core political left wingers for a long time.

David Gergen (lower photo) was an advisor to Nixon, Ford and Reagan and later was a George H.W. Bush campaign staff member in 1980.

Gergen, the opportunist, saw a greener pasture on the Democrat side of the fence and served as advisor and aide to Bill Clinton and Warren Christopher, Clinton’s first Secretary of State.

David Brooks is a columnist for the New York Times and an outspoken leftt-wing liberal.

Christopher Buckley, son of conservative William F. Buckley, has also been an outspoken liberal.

Buckley, Brooks and Gergen are having second thoughts about Barack Hussein Obama as reported in the article at the link below.

All three used to insist that Obama was some species of centrist or moderate.

Now that Obama has proposed the most massive expansion of government in the history of the republic, each has recognized that just conceivably he might have been mistaken.

After listening to Obama address Congress, Buckley wrote last week: One thing is certain: government is getting bigger and will stay bigger. Just remember ... that a government that is big enough to give you everything you want is also big enough to take it all away.

How long before other liberals will express buyers remorse after actively cheerleading the campaign of Barack Obama just a couple of short months ago?


Mar 9, 2009

Coffee war

A not so subtle message to Starbucks on a McDonald’s billboard.

Too tired to give Gordon Brown a proper welcome

Why must we rely on foreign media to report any news that may shed a bad light on Barack Obama? Members of the media in this country still are still in cheerleading mode.

A report from the UK says:

Barack Obama's offhand approach to Gordon Brown's Washington visit last week came about because the president was facing exhaustion over America's economic crisis and is unable to focus on foreign affairs, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

More on Mr. Obama’s shabby treatment of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) can be found here.

The Sunday Telegraph report continues:

Sources close to the White House say Mr. Obama and his staff have been "overwhelmed" by the economic meltdown and have voiced concerns that the new president is not getting enough rest.

British officials felt that the Prime Minister should have been granted a full-blown press conference and a formal dinner, as has been customary.

They concede that Obama aides seemed unfamiliar with the expectations that surround a major visit by a British Prime Minister.

But Washington figures, with access to Mr. Obama's inner circle, explained the slight by saying that those high up in the administration have had little time to deal with international matters, let alone the diplomatic niceties of the special relationship.

Has any other president complained about being exhausted and how hard the job is?

Allies of Mr. Obama say his weary appearance in the Oval Office with Mr Brown illustrates the strain he is now under, and the president's surprise at the sheer volume of business that crosses his desk.

A well-connected Washington figure, who is close to members of Mr. Obama's inner circle, expressed concern that Mr. Obama had failed so far to "even fake an interest in foreign policy".

Could this mean that Mr. Obama is just now finding out that demands more than just voting “present” as he did as a Senator in Illinois. Much of the time he was a Senator in Washington, he was campaigning and making other public appearances.

Snubbing the British Prime Minister was rude. The White House occupants and staff appear to have poor manners and little grasp of protocol.

Joe Biden’s statement referring to Barack Obama during the primary campaign saying “The White House is no place for on-the-job-training” seem very prophetic now.


Streamlined vehicles were not always pretty #2

Labatt’s beer truck built on a White truck chassis in the 1930’s.

Duck swims through oily-water in Moscow

A duck swims through the oily-waters of the Moskva river in central Moscow . The Russian navy has admitted responsibility for a 500-ton oil spill off the south coast of Ireland this month, an Irish transport ministry spokeswoman said.

(AFP / Getty Images Photo / February 27, 2009)

Obama safety net: the teleprompter

President Barack Obama doesn’t go anywhere without his teleprompter.

The textbook-sized panes of glass holding the president’s prepared remarks follow him wherever he speaks.

Resting on top of a tall, narrow pole, they flank his podium during speeches in the White House’s stately parlors.

They stood next to him on the floor of a manufacturing plant in Indiana as he pitched his economic stimulus plan.

They traveled to the Department of Transportation this week and were in the Capitol Rotunda last month when he paid tribute to Abraham Lincoln in six-minute prepared remarks.

No other president has used a teleprompter so consistently and at so many events, large and small.

Photo above shows Barack Obama using his ever-present teleprompter during an outdoor speech.

Mr. Obama has relied on a teleprompter even when giving the shortest announcements. He also uses a teleprompter when repeating the same lines on his economic stimulus plan that he's been saying for months.

Past presidents have mostly worked off of notes on the podium except during major speeches, such as the State of the Union.


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Mar 8, 2009

Parade reveler in Rio de Janeiro

A reveller from Imperio Serrano samba school dances atop a float during the first night of the Carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro

Reuters photo

Is Hillary an embarrassment as Secretary of State?

A report at the first link below tells of the “Hillary reset button” gaff.

It began when US Vice-President Joe Biden spoke of pressing the "reset button" on relations between Moscow and Washington during a speech in Germany last month. It has since been repeated in various forms by both US and Russian officials.

When Hillary Clinton got involved in the reset button story it turned out to be a joke at her expense.

Russian media has been poking fun at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she gave her Russian counterpart a "reset" button with an ironic misspelling.

Clinton's gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their meeting in Geneva on Friday evening was meant to underscore the Obama administration's readiness to "to press the reset button" in ties with Moscow.

But instead of the Russian word for "reset" (perezagruzka) it featured a slightly different word meaning "overload" or "overcharged" (peregruzka).

The “overcharge” Clinton gift gaff sends the wrong message to Russia.

As it that wasn’t enough, the second link below has more Hillary gaffs.

Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows on her first visit to Europe as secretary of state when she mispronounced her EU counterparts' names and claimed U.S. democracy was older than Europe's.

The photo above shows Hillary Clinton with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

A veteran politician, Clinton compared the complex European political environment to that of the two-party U.S. system, before adding:

"I have never understood multiparty democracy.

"It is hard enough with two parties to come to any resolution, and I say this very respectfully, because I feel the same way about our own democracy, which has been around a lot longer than European democracy."

The remark provoked much head shaking in the parliament of a bloc that likes to trace back its democratic tradition thousands of years to the days of classical Greece.

And if that wasn’t enough, there is more to come:

One working lunch later with EU leaders, Clinton raised more eyebrows when she referred to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who stood beside her, as "High Representative Solano."

She also dubbed European Commission External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner as "Benito."

Barack Obama takes his teleprompter wherever he goes. Maybe Hillary should to the same.

Link here and here.

Biggest solar roof is in energy-gobbling city

Atlantic City, with all of its flashy casino’s, is probably the most energy-gobbling citiy for its size along the eastern seaboard.

Ironically, Atlantic City also has a new convention center with the largest single-roof solar-panel array in the United States as shown above.

Details here.

Obama’s gift to Gordon Brown - as exciting as pair of socks

To say the Brits were unhappy over Obama’s treatment of their Prime Minister Gordon Brown (pictured) is surely and understatement.

The Daily News reports:

London newspapers are howling over a string of alleged snubs by Obama to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown during his visit to Washington.

"President Obama has been rudeness personified towards Britain," sniffed The Daily Telegraph Friday.

"His handling of the visit of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to Washington was appalling."

The list of complaints is longer than the Magna Carta: Obama canceled a planned, podium-to-podium news conference with Brown (actually, none was ever scheduled).

He recently removed a bust of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office; and he gave gifts to the Brown family that were "about as exciting as a pair of socks," one Fleet Street wag whined.

Equally insulting, as reported in the Times of London, was Michelle Obama's "solipsistic" and "inherently dismissive" gifts to the Browns' two little boys, Fraser and John.

Mrs. Obama bought the Brown boys Toy models of Marine One, the President's helicopter — gifts the Times decided must have been plucked from the White House gift shop at the last minute.

As for removing the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office:

The Times of London immediately traced Obama's "disdain" for Churchill to Kenya, where Obama's grandfather was caught up in the Churchill-led suppression of the 1950s Mau Mau Rebellion that left thousands of
Kenyans dead.

"It's not surprising that Mr. Obama didn't want Churchill looking over his shoulder," explained one correspondent.

All this shows new evidence that the "special relationship" between the two nations is no longer quite so special.

The people of Britain are learning, along with Americans, that the Obama’s have less class than possibly any previous occupants of the White House.

One doesn’t learn etiquette as a Community Organizer in south Chicago nor by attending a church led by the racist pastor Jeremiah Wright.