May 23, 2009

When a quilter makes a jacket ...

When a quilter decides to make use of scraps, they sometimes make a coat of many colors ... in this case a coat of many patterns.

New photo of Valeta’s quilt inspired jacket.

Belgian firefighters take part in a Nato Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defence capabilities demonstration

May 22, 2009

Say cheese!

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A wall of photographers shoot pictures of Cannes Film Festival jury member and actress Asia Argento.

Clarkson reviews the Honda Insight hybrid

Jeremy Clarkson has written an irreverent review of the new Honda Insight hybrid car (pictured).

Clarkson begins his somewhat tongue-in-cheek critique:

It’s terrible. Biblically terrible. Possibly the worst new car money can buy. It’s the first car I’ve ever considered crashing into a tree, on purpose, so I didn’t have to drive it any more.

For reasons known only to itself, Honda has fitted the Insight with something called a constantly variable transmission (CVT).

It doesn’t work. Put your foot down in a normal car and the revs climb in tandem with the speed. In a CVT car, the revs spool up quickly and then the speed rises to match them. It feels like the clutch is slipping. It feels horrid.

This is a complaint made by some first time drivers of other hybrid vehicles. However, we suspect that Clarkson may be exaggerating just a wee bit - well, maybe exaggerating a whole lot.

Anyway, we have heard previous complaints that driving a hybrid can give the operator the feeling that pressing down hard on the accelerator is like pressing on a wet sponge - not much happens immediately.

One man went so far as to say he wondered if the carmaker expected the radiator fan to pull the car forward like an airplane propeller.

Back to the Clarkson critique. He hates the sound of the car!

The Honda’s gasoline engine is a much-shaved, built-for-economy, low-friction 1.3 that, at full throttle, makes a noise worse than someone else’s crying baby on an airliner.

Really, to get an idea of how awful it is, you’d have to sit a dog on a ham slicer.

Dog on a ham slicer indeed. Why don’t you tell us how you really feel about the car Mr. Clarkson?

Continuing with his review of the Honda Insight:

So you’re sitting there with the engine screaming its head off, and your ears bleeding, and you’re doing only 23mph because that’s about the top speed, and you’re thinking things can’t get any worse, and then they do because you run over a small piece of grit.

In a Prius the electric motor can, though almost never does, power the car on its own. In the Honda the electric motor is designed to “assist” the gasoline engine, providing more get-up-and-go when the need arises.

The net result is this: in a Prius the transformation from electricity to gasoline is subtle. In the Honda there are all sorts of jerks and clunks.

Mr. Clarkson says you could buy a VW Golf diesel, which will be even more economical and hasn’t been built out of rice paper to keep costs down.

Though he tends to exaggerate his criticisms, one would need to test drive the Honda Insight - after driving a Prius - to really know.

The full review can be found here.

Makeshift diving board

Flooding in Brazil has forced nearly 300,000 people from their homes, but for these kids, it was an opportunity to play.

A look at a few Bidenisms and political blunders

The report at the link below has a list of 14 “amusing yet cringe-worthy” Bidenisms made during Joe Biden’s more recent political career. Listed below are a few of the most notable:

1. During a Feb. 25, 2009, interview on CBS “Early Show,” Biden encouraged viewers to visit a government-run Web site that tracks stimulus spending. When asked for the site's web address, Biden could not remember the site's “number.”

“You know, I'm embarrassed. Do you know the Web site number?” he asked an aide standing out of view. “I should have it in front of me and I don't. I'm actually embarrassed.”

2. On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20 2009, Biden misspoke when he told a cheering crowd of supporters, "Jill and I had the great honor of standing on that stage, looking across at one of the great justices, Justice Stewart."

It was Justice John Paul Stevens -- not Stewart -- who swore Biden in as vice president.

3. When criticizing former GOP nominee John McCain in Athens, Ohio, on Oct. 15, 2008, Biden said, "Look, John's last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs."

4. In a Sept. 22, 2008, CBS interview, Biden misspoke when he said Franklin D. Roosevelt was president when the stock market crashed in 1929.

"When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened," he said.

In reality it was Herbert Hoover -- not Roosevelt -- who was president in 1929, and television had not yet been invented and not used by very many people until many years later!

5. During a Sept. 12, 2008, speech in Columbia, Mo., Biden called for Missouri State Sen. Chuck Graham, who is wheelchair-bound, to "stand up."

6. Biden mistakenly referred to Alaska governor Sarah Palin as the "lieutenant governor" of her state during a town hall meeting on Sept. 4, 2008 at George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia.

"I heard a very, by the way I mean this sincerely, a very strong and a very good political speech from a lieutenant governor of Alaska who I think is going to be very formidable, very formidable not only in the campaign but in the debate," Biden said.

7. Biden said he was running for president -- not vice president -- during a Sept. 1, 2008, roundtable discussion in Scranton, Pa.

"Today is the moment for me as a United States senator running for president to put aside the national politics and focus on what's happening down there," Biden said.

The main stream media headlined every gaffe made by Dan Quayle and repeated them many times, yet they brush by the Biden gaffes as if to say, “move along folks, nothing to see here.”

Wonder if Biden can spell potato?

More Biden gaffes can be found here.

May 21, 2009

A sure sign that summer is actually here

A close-up photo of dandelion seeds ready to blow off into the neighbor’s yard.

A Chinese farmer with a fifth-grade education designs and builds robots using nothing but scrap.

Time Magazine photos.

Fighting ants with flies in Texas

Flies are being released in Central Texas that put their pesky fire ants in zombie-like state, before killing them.

The plot sounds like something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie: red imported fire ants wandering around in a zombie-like state until their heads pop off, and out zooms a fly.

Though the legendary filmmaker may have wished he came up with the idea, it’s actually a real-world red imported fire ant population control method being employed today in Texas. And Waco-area ants are in their sights.

More of this strange story here.

Getting Fido squeaky clean

Romain Jarry has just invented the Dog' O' matic, a washing machine that cleans household dogs.

May 20, 2009

How close is your nearest Chrysler dealer now?

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Pie Eyed

World Pie Championship judge John Young poses with two scotch pies at a competition in Dunfermline, Scotland.

Clinton-era hard drive has disappeared

Ask anyone who has conducted genealogy, or other research, at the NARA (National Archives and Records Administration) and they will assure you there is no chance anything in the archives could go missing by accident.

There is a high possibility theft was involved. And more than likely taken by someone trying to protect the Clinton’s or someone high up in the Clinton administration.

Maybe there was a fear the hard drive may have contained information connected to the mysterious so-called suicide of Deputy White House Council 48-year-old Vince Foster (pictured). In that case the missing data will never be found.

We wonder why the NARA doesn’t have a backup of that hard drive somewhere in one of their vaults. Don’t they backup all mag-media data?


Al Gore needs less clutter or a bigger home office

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Valeta says my office is well organized compared to this office in the home of former vice-president Al Gore.

Love the frog on the wall.

Faces painted as tigers in protest

A pro-Tamil demonstrator and her child look on as they have their faces painted as tigers to show their support to Tamil Tiger rebels during a protest in Parliament Square in London.

Hundreds of protesters are gathering to continue their demonstration against Sri Lanka's government after a ceasefire was declared by Tamil Tiger rebels.

(AP Photo / May 18, 2009)

High court rules for Ashcroft and Mueller

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that several high-ranking government officials cannot be sued for their official actions in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The case focused on the FBI's round-up of mostly Muslim men in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks. One of those men, Javaid Iqbal, sued former Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller and two dozen other government workers he claimed were responsible for his arrest.

"On the facts," Justice Kennedy wrote, "...the arrests Mueller oversaw were likely lawful and justified by his nondiscriminatory intent to detain aliens who were illegally present in the United States and had potential connections to those who committed terrorist acts."

The troubling part of this story is that there were four dissenting justices who believe that in a time of war, potential terrorists must be given the right to sue government officials who are trying to protect Americans!


May 19, 2009

Supreme Court: no delay in corruption trial for William Jefferson

The Supreme Court has refused to delay the upcoming trial of former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson (upper photo) on bribery and other charges.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by Jefferson to throw out the indictment against him. The former Democratic congressman has argued that prosecutors trampled on his constitutional privileges as a lawmaker.

Jefferson was indicted in 2007 on multiple counts, including soliciting bribes and racketeering. Investigators raided Jefferson's home and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in a freezer.

Mr. Jefferson was a Congressman from New Orleans who lost is seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to Anh "Joseph" Cao a little-known Republican attorney of Vietnamese decent (lower photo).

A federal judge has set a June 2 trial date for William Jefferson in Alexandria, Virginia.


Court rules against snooping in Bush White House e-mails

A federal appeals court ruled today that Bush administration White House e-mails will not be opened to the public.

The decision was a victory for the Bush administration, which sought to shield its internal communications.

The three-judge panel in Washington concluded the Office of Administration is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act over disclosure of its documents because "it performs only operational and administrative tasks in support of the President and his staff and therefore, under our precedent, lacks substantial and independent authority."


The height of ambition

Mortarboard with message

Graduate Nate Weiner is seen during commencement ceremonies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

AP photo May 18, 2009

What goes around comes around for NYT columnist

A report in Time Magazine wonders if New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd is guilty of plagiarism. From the report:

Et tu*, Ms. Dowd? Maureen Dowd, the love-her-or-hate-her op-ed columnist for the New York Times, scored one for the hate-her team on Saturday when she got caught in an act of apparent plagiarism.

In her weekend column, Dowd sought to highlight the irony of the Republicans holding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's feet to the fire for not opposing Republican policies on torture aggressively enough.

A 43-word paragraph used in that weekend column had already appeared in a column written by Josh Marshall on the political website Talking Points Memo.

This was not the first time Maureen Dowd has been accused of plagiarism. Other instances are in the report at the link below.

It’s especially ironic that Ms. Dowd fumbled in this area. Back in 1987, she caught then Presidential-hopeful Joe Biden borrowing heavily from a British politician's speech.

As the title of this posting says, What goes around comes around for NYT columnist.


*Et tu, Brute were the last words of the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar meaning “And you, Brutus?” Probably not historically correct but used by Shakespeare in the play, Julius Caesar. The Latin phrase is generally used today to indicate the height of betrayal.

May 18, 2009

A Tasty morsel ...

A zookeeper feeds a newborn white-eared night heron at a zoo in Nanning, China.

The species is one of the world's most endangered species.

Photo from Time Magazine

About those energy saving light bulbs...

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Terminological inexactitudes

Sometimes politicians don’t speak the truth because they just don’t know better such as when Obama said he had travelled to all 57 of the United States not including Alaska and Hawaii, and still had "one left to go." Hmm … maybe he was referring to the 57 Arab states.

However, most of the time when a politician tells tall tails it’s on purpose such as Nancy Pelosi when she said she was not briefed by the CIA about enhanced interrogation techniques.

Winston Churchill called these falsehoods terminological inexactitudes.

Another tongue slip from Joe Biden

A report at the link below says that vice president Joe Biden (pictured), who is well-known for his verbal gaffes, may have outdone himself when he confirmed at a dinner the existence and location of a secret hidden bunker that was built for Cheney after the 9/11 attacks.

Biden-debate2According to a report, while recently attending the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, an annual event where powerful politicians and media elite get a chance to cozy up to one another, Biden told his dinnermates about the existence of a secret bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory, which is now the home of the vice president.

The bunker Biden talked about is believed to be the secure, undisclosed location built for former Vice President Dick Cheney after the 9/11 attacks.

Eleanor Clift, Newsweek magazine's Washington contributing editor, said Biden revealed the location while filling in for President Obama at the dinner.

Adding credence to Biden’s boast is the part of the report stating that:

In December 2002, neighbors complained of loud construction work being done at the Naval Observatory, which has been used as a residence by vice presidents since 1974.

The upset neighbors were sent a letter by the observatory's superintendent, calling the work "sensitive in nature" and "classified" and that it was urgent it be completed "on a highly accelerated schedule."

Residents said they believed workers were digging deep into the ground, which would support Biden's report of a secret bunker, but officials never confirmed the purpose of the work performed.

The revelation is the latest from Biden, who has a long history of political blunders.

One wonders if Biden was drunk when he divulged the location of the secret bunker. A YouTube video at the second link below shows a drunk Joe Biden the day after the Democratic National Convention.

Anyway, it only took Biden a couple of minutes to convert a multi-million dollar secure bunker into a wine-cellar.

Maybe the vice-president is cleverly trying to get a new, improved bunker somewhere with better amenities. With Biden, you never know.

The Biden tongue slip story is here. The YouTube video of a drunk Joe Biden is here.

May 17, 2009

A moment’s notice before the battle...

Photo below shows a 19-year-old U.S. soldier wearing pink 'I Love NY' boxer shorts and flip-flops after rushing from his sleeping quarters to join his fellow platoon members after they received fire from Taliban positions in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley.

Zachary Boyd had been asleep when the firefight erupted in the mountains of Afghanistan. So he only had time to put on his helmet, pink boxer shorts, flip-flops, body armor and grab his weapon and join his comrades.


The Speaker refuses to speak

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (upper photo) turned down several invitations to appear on Sunday news shows.

It’s not as if the media will treat her like Sarah Palin. You know, put her in a deep chair with short legs under poor lighting and have Charlie Gibson loom over her (lower photo) trying to trap her with a question he didn’t even know the answer to.

And it’s not as if Katie Couric would edit her interview to make her look bad like she did to Palin.

No, it wasn’t like that at all. According to a report at the link below, Nancy Pelosi was invited to appear on NBC's "Meet the Press,” ABC's "This Week,” “Fox News Sunday” and CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The Sunday morning talk show circuit is a traditional place to find politicians trying to recover from political missteps or trying to explain themselves after a week at the top of the news cycle.

It can also give them a chance to set the agenda for the week ahead.

A Sunday show appearance, with its in-depth, one-on-one interview format, gives politicians a chance to answer many questions on a specific topic, often resulting in a controversy being put to bed.

Possibly Ms. Pelosi’s comments were too big to be “put to bed” by appearing on the Sunday political talk shows.

It’s a sure sign she is in trouble when she declines a chance to bash Bush on alternative interrogation in front of the friendly CNN and MSNBC cameras.


Pelosi’s conception of waterboarding in 2003

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Another dumb celebrity quote…

Axl-roseAxl Rose, of the rock band Guns N' Roses, told Rolling Stone in1989:

“It's really hard to maintain a one-on-one relationship if the other person is not going to allow me to be with other people.”

You just can't make this stuff up!

Obama health care will bankrupt the nation

Larry Kudlow (pictured), CNBC’s financial guru, says Obama’s ‘public” health plan will bankrupt the nation. At the link below, Kudlow explains why:

The idea that Obama-care is a cost-cutter is a myth. It can’t happen nor will it happen. Instead, Kudlow says, costs are going to explode!

Think of it: Can anyone name a federal program that ever cut costs for anything?

Let’s not forget that the existing Medicare system is roughly $80 trillion in the hole.

And does anybody believe Obama’s new “public” health-insurance plan isn’t really a bridge to single-payer government-run health care?

And does anyone think this plan won’t produce a government gatekeeper that will allocate health services and control prices and therefore crowd-out the private-insurance doctor/hospital system?

Federal boards will decide what’s good for you and me and what’s not good for you and me. These boards will drive a wedge between doctors and patients.

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The poor are already on Medicare so Obama’s government health care is nothing but a massive, unfunded, middle-class entitlement program that is destined to be a huge problem for everyone concerned.