From Pine View Farm

April, 2006 archive

My Little Gas Price Survey, Cali Edition 0

I’m in the beautiful and luxurious Best Western in Aptos, California (no, I don’t know what an Aptos is, either). There are two gas stations at the corner.

$3.09 for regular.

Having trekked here in my rental Monday, I know I will not see any other gas stations on my route back to the airport, so that’s all I got.

But I know I’m in Cali. The rental agency’s idea of a “compact” is a Jeep 4×4 SUV. My idea of a compact, is [Valley Girl Mode On], like, you know, a Ford Focus or whatever [Valley Girl Mode Off].


Is Your Computer a Bot? 3

Kelly Martin has a fascinating article on “botnets” in Security focus:

What is a botnet? Today it’s an illegal collection of hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of compromised computers all being controlled with a common infrastructure. There’s even one case where a real botnet was found with about 1.5 million machines under one person’s control. Incredible. According to Symantec’s latest Internet Threat Report, 26% of all bot-infected computers are also located in the United States – making it the number one source of bots. These are most often home computers with viruses or web servers with buggy software that are compromised and then linked together for evil purposes. They’re usually controlled from a central location as well, providing a single point of failure, but as peer-to-peer botnets are developed the ability to fight this evil will certainly change.

If you don’t care about securing your computer, you ought to. Or you are part of the problem.

And once you do, you should read this article. It contains a lot of information in a small space.

With a tip of the hat to El Reg.


Worst President Ever? 3

Now that my company has finished moving, Pine View Farm is cleaned, and this week’s class is over, I have a little time to catch up on my reading after packing for my return flight tomorrow.

I just finished reading two articles from Rolling Stone:

Paul Alexander’s 1999 article, “All Hat, No Cattle” and Sean Wilentz’s recent “The Worst President in History.” I commend both articles to your attention.

As my two or three regular readers know, I have little liking for and absolutely no trust in or respect for the current Federal Administration. They have sold the United States of America to the highest bidder and sacrificed our children for a lie.

They speak with forked tongue.

Frankly, George Bush makes Richard Nixon look good. Nixon at least did some things right.

I was particularly struck by this passage in Mr. Wilentz’s article.

How does any president’s reputation sink so low? The reasons are best understood as the reverse of those that produce presidential greatness. In almost every survey of historians dating back to the 1940s, three presidents have emerged as supreme successes: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These were the men who guided the nation through what historians consider its greatest crises: the founding era after the ratification of the Constitution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression and Second World War. Presented with arduous, at times seemingly impossible circumstances, they rallied the nation, governed brilliantly and left the republic more secure than when they entered office.

Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties — Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush — have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures — an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.

God help us all.


Haunted Loo in Low Valley 0

Police searched the bog, but did not return flushed with success.

Officers arrived at the Low Valley Arms pub near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, 250 miles north of London, after being told the alarm had been set off, but instead of finding any signs of a robbery, they were faced with a shaken landlord convinced he had encountered a ghost with half a face missing in the ladies washroom.


“Your Papers. Now.” 2

New Hampshire has qualms about federal drivers license standards:

At issue is the federal Real ID Act, which is intended to keep terrorists from getting fake IDs. It requires states by 2008 to verify documents such as birth certificates, Social Security cards and passports when people apply for driver’s licenses. State databases with driver information and photos will also be linked.

Last month, the Republican-controlled New Hampshire House voted overwhelmingly to bar the state from participating in the program. A vote in the GOP-dominated Senate is expected in two weeks. Democratic Gov. John Lynch remains undecided


Republican state Rep. Neal Kurk, author of the bill against Real ID, gave a stirring speech during the debate.

“I don’t believe the people of New Hampshire elected us to help the federal government create a national identification card,” Kurk told the House. “We care more for our liberties than to meekly hand over to the federal government the potential to ennumerate, track, identify and eventually control.”

What I find questionable is the linking of databases. The current Federal Administration has shown that it cannot be trusted; with access to more information, it cannot be trusted more.


Science and Creation 0

Speaking of Faith had an excellent show today about science and religion, specifically Christianity.

From the website:

Science and religion are often pitted against one another; but how do they complement, rather than contradict, one another? We learn how one man applies the deepest insights of modern physics to think about how the world fundamentally works, and how the universe might make space for prayer.

The guest is John Polkinghorne, who is a both a physicist and a theologian. He is currently

Canon Theologian of Liverpool Cathedral in England and author of many books, including Quarks, Chaos, and Christianity. He served as Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge University, and is a Fellow of The Royal Society.

Listen to the show here.


A Week at the Farm 0

I spent the past week at Pine View Farm.

I’ve added some new images to the Pine View Farm page.

My father died about 11 1/2 months ago. My mother is not able to live by herself in a big old Southern farm house; she’s in a local Methodist home where many of her friends and my father’s older sister (93-years old) currently reside. My father’s last words to her were “Move to [the home].”

Shortly after moving there, she fell. It was a both a real and a metaphoric fall: all the events surrounding his death and funeral crashed in and pushed her down. She spent six months in the “Health Center” (the hospital wing) of the home, finally recovering to the point that she is once again in a room of her own in an assisted living mode.

Daddy said to us, “When the time comes, sell the house or rent it, but don’t let it sit empty.”

Empty houses are the ones that gradually turn grey, then fall down. All across the area where I grew up, you see houses turning grey–not a lot, but enough–turning grey and falling down, big old houses that no one lives in anymore.

Pine View Farm has been in the family for almost 100 years. The family has lived in the area for over 300 years.

We will not sell.

But neither of us is in a position to move back home–yet.

My brother and I were finally able to coordinate a time when we could go to the farm together, to clean up the house. At the end of each day, I was too tired to blog. I was too tired to do much of anything other than to spectate. And crash.

We sent three pick-up truck loads of stuff to Lighthouse Ministries.

We filled a roll-off dumpster with all kinds of old stuff. (Daddy never threw anything away–aways a farmer, even when he no longer farmed, he reckoned that anything could be recycled or reused in some form, for some project.)

We boxed up everything we want to keep in the family. The rest of the stuff is pending further decision.

We were referred to a local restaurant that both of us grew up with but that neither of us had ever visited, whose kitchen warrants four stars in any book. The scallops wrapped in bacon were worthy of the Hotel Dupont.

And we relived our past, each in our own way.

The place has changed over the years. There is no longer a regulation Little League diamond in the back yard; it has been replaced by a stand of pine trees and a flower garden.

The five pecan trees that bore through many years have all passed away, victims of old age or of lightning, but the fig trees seem ready to bear another bumper crop (my mother’s fig preserves were to die for, as were her watermelon rind pickles–things you just are not going to find in a Safeway or an Acme).

And the little magnolia tree has become a giant pile of huge leaves.

But the dogwoods still bloom in April, the roses still bear little red leaves, presaging blooms to come in May, and the corn still starts to poke out of the ground in the spring.


The Big Bang 0

This seems to be flying under the radar: The current Federal Administration is planning to test a really big bomb.

Almost as big a bomb as the current Federal Administration

And it adds credence to Seymour Hersch’s research:

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) proposes to provide a test bed to be used by DTRA to conduct a single large scale, open air explosive detonation in Area 16 of the NTS. The proposed detonation, known as DIVINE STRAKE, would occur tentatively in mid 2006 above the existing U16b Tunnel Complex. DIVINE STRAKE would supply a relevant full scale simulation demonstration with a tunnel complex to create a post test underground environment sustaining light to severe damage.

The logical next step, in this portion of the HDBT program is the Proposed Action: a full scale test bed for final validation of the modeling effort. The explosive yield (700 tons (635 metric tons) of ANFO emulsion) was selected based on modeling predictions of the amount of ANFO that would be needed to cause the appropriate extent of damage to the underground facility, and on information gained from the small and intermediate scale tests. A larger amount of ANFO emulsion is not needed for the Proposed Action, and a smaller amount would not be adequate to significantly damage the full scale tunnel facility.

And what could be the purpose of this? To calculate how large a nuclear bomb would be needed to nuke underground complexes.

And what underground complexes might we be planning to nuke?

The current Federal Administration is dangerous.

It’s whacko dangerous, and it’s turning the United States of America into a rogue state.


Why My Truck Will Outlast Me 0

From yesterday’s local rag:

Rust has virtually gone away,” declared David Champion, director of automotive testing for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, the leading U.S. car-buying guide.

Tell it to Mike Duran, manager of the Fairfax, Va., franchise for Ziebart, once the nation’s busiest rust-proofer. “If you bought a car in the ’70s, you’d have holes in your fenders three years later unless you went straight from the showroom to someone like us,” said Duran, 49.


The improvements are helping cars’ longevity. In 1977, half of all U.S. passenger cars lasted until they were 10.5 years old, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates. Their travel lifetime was 107,000 miles. By 2001 – the latest year tallied – median longevity was 13 years for passenger cars, and their travel lifetime was up to 152,000 miles.

A companion story featured the rust-bucket Hall of Fame. Oddly, it didn’t mention my Chevette with the custom floorboard–custom made of 3/4 plywood by moi.

Yugos, any year and everywhere.

Fiats, no longer sold in the United States.

All pre-1980 sports cars.

VWs through the ’80s, especially Beetles and Rabbits.

Japanese imports through much of the ’80s, especially early Datsuns, Honda Accords, Datsun 280Zs, and Toyota Celicas, Corollas and pickups.

Chevy Vegas and Caprices.

Early Ford Aerostars and Dodge Caravans.

Light trucks, foreign and domestic, especially their tailgates, well into the ’90s.

Land Rovers of the ’80s and ’90s, especially those with external door hinges and/or spot-welded fenders.


They Can’t Stand It, Either 0

From the lead story in today’s local rag:

When it comes to their own tax returns, many members of Congress who specialize in writing tax laws turn to professional preparers rather than completing the paperwork themselves.

“It’s onerous and everybody knows it,” Rep. Richard Neal (D., Mass.) said.

Three of the four top lawmakers on the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees, which are in charge of writing tax laws, pay professionals to file their annual tax returns with the IRS.


“When I Get Older, Losing My Hair, Many Years from Now . . . 0

Paul McCartney isn’t losing his hair, but he is 64. And his birthday is celebrated in the AARP magazine.

Make me feel old . . . .


Night of the Iquana 0

Lizards, lizards, everywhere:

Death and taxes may be life’s only certainties, but for folks in this upscale island town, add iguanas. And another tax.

During the last three decades, the resort community on Florida’s Gulf Coast has been overrun by the black, spiny-tailed, nonnative lizards that demolish gardens, nest in attics and weaken beach dunes with burrows.

Last month, Lee County commissioners agreed to create a special tax for Boca Grande to cover costs of studying the infestation on the barrier island of Gasparilla, where scientists estimate there are up to 12,000 iguanas on the loose, more than 10 for every year-round resident.


Where Does the Money Go? 0

You tax dollars at work. Follow the link for more details:

Washington will spend $23,760 per household in 2006 – the highest inflation-adjusted total since World War II, and $6,500 more than in 2001. The federal government will collect $20,044 per household in taxes. The remaining $3,716 represents this year’s budget deficit per household, which, along with all prior government debt, will be dumped in the laps of our children.

Here’s a breakdown of how Washington will spend that $23,760 per household:

Social Security/Medicare:$7,875.


Low-income programs:$3,579.

Interest on the federal debt:$1,930.

Federal employee retirement benefits: $870.


Health research/regulation:$671.

Veterans’ benefits: $618.

Community and regional development:$456.

Highways/mass transit:$402.

Justice administration: $363.

Unemployment benefits:$338.

International affairs:$305.

Natural resources/environment: $287.

Agriculture: $235.


Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld 0

I’ve been hearing about Rumsfeld all day.


And here.

And here.

And here.

Mr. Rumsfeld’s critics are missing the point.

He’s not the problem. The problem is not in Arlington, Va.

He’s a symptom.

The problem is at the intersection of 16th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W., Washington, D. C., where zealous fanatics create policy in a fantasy world and where lies become truth.


Pyro-Therapy 1

I have four days off in a row. It’s the first time in over two years I’ve had four days off in a row at my own disposal.

Yeah, I got vacation last year, but it all got tied up in my father’s death and funeral and in ensuring that my mother received the right care.

So four days seems like an endless stretch to me.

I cut the yard and mulched and fertilized the roses. The weather report keeps promising, “Rain, heavy at times.” It hasn’t materialized yet, but, when it does, it should help the mulch and fertilizer do their thing.

Then I indulged what my brother calls “the family predilection for pyromania.” Back on Pine View Farm, there was no trash collection; we burned our trash, and what we couldn’t safely burn, we took to the local dump.

Then times changed, and the dump became a landfill, but there is still no trash collection. We burn the trash and, what cannot be burned gets taken to the local “collection center.”

The neatest chore of all was burning the trash. And my Daddy burned everything: branches, stumps, brush, fallen trees, whatever. If it didn’t want to catch, he’d help it along with a little gasoline. If he wanted to burn something, by God, it burned!

In my little corner of Delaware, open burning is legal, so long as one does not burn household trash or leaves. And the ban on open burning because of a lack of rain was removed early this week.

So today I burned all the sticks and branches that have accumulated throughout the winter. I burned the Christmas tree. And I burned the doghouse.

Now, no dog ever slept in that doghouse. My ex insisted on getting the doghouse when we got the dog who passed on two years ago, but he was an inside dog, frankly, I don’t think he ever entered it.

But I slept in it several times. It was a little short, but with the right sleeping bag, it wasn’t too bad.

Over the years, though, it gradually fell apart. But it sure burned good.

Frankly, I’m glad it’s gone. Watching it disappear into the flames, feeling the heat of the fire, and poking about in the ashes—there’s something to be said for pyro-therapy.


What’s with This Iran Thing, Anyway? 1

Professor Cole has a theory:

What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush’s poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.

If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames. The real threat here is not unconventional war, which Iran cannot fight for the foreseeable future. It is the spread of Iraq-style instability to more countries in the region.


Fresh Air Looks at Layoffs in Modern America 0

This is worth a listen:

New York Times business writer Louis Uchitelle argues for corporations to move towards preserving jobs. His new book, The Disposable American, is also a history of the rise of layoffs in the United States.


Tom Delay, on a Mission from God? 0

This is truly scary:

In the next 20 years, DeLay came to develop a single-minded vision of how America should be. DeLay’s America would acknowledge that the Constitution was inspired by the Bible; it would promote prayer and worship, and would stop gun control, outlaw abortion, limit the rights of gays, curb contraception, end the constitutional separation of church and state, and adopt the Ten Commandments as guiding principles for public schools.

One Sunday in Sugar Land, I knelt alongside DeLay as we prayed at the First Baptist Church, then listened to the fiery preaching of DeLay’s friend and minister, whose name was Rambo. I went to Bible study and the Sunday school class DeLay taught. Afterward, I told DeLay I was somewhat troubled by the idea that he essentially wanted to remold the government to meet his fundamentalist Christian worldview. I told him I thought a good many Americans would share my reaction.

He looked me squarely in the eyes and shook his head sadly at the fate of us nonbelievers. “When faced with the truth, the truth hurts. It is human nature not to face that,” he said. “People hate the messenger. That’s why they killed Christ.”

And now, DeLay says he prayed long and hard before God made clear to him that He no longer wants DeLay to represent Texas’s 22nd Congressional District. Instead, DeLay says, his God wants him to be a messenger — on a much broader scale. And we will see DeLay constantly smiling as he delivers his message because in his heart he knows that we hopeless sinners will always hate the messenger.

Not a messenger from my God.


What I’m Listening To 0

My Daddy’s music.

The best station on the net.


The Price of Lies, III 0

You can tell they are on the ropes when they start trying to shoot the messenger, but Dick Polman’s not having any of it:

As conditions in Iraq continue to deteriorate, and as President Bush’s popularity at home continues to wane, administration leaders and their conservative followers have been busy honing a provocative message:

It’s the media’s fault.


But these attacks are proof that the war itself is going badly; there would be no need to point fingers if it were going well. And many nonpartisan observers dismiss the conservatives’ media-bashing as an attempt to pin blame to the wrong people – while exonerating Bush . . . .

Nobody is making up the bad news. It’s lying all around.

The current Federal Administration seems to think that, if they repeat something often enough, however outrageous it might be, persons will believe it, and them. And they sure as heck got away with it long enough.

It looks like they’ve come to the end of that rope.

Let us hope that they have, so the country can get back to truth-based policy-making.