Monday, 24 November 2014

Plant kingdom recruits humans for seed dispersal, gives us Doggy Treats.

Primates are "indispensable for regeneration of tropical forests" through seed dispersion.  "In tropical rain forests, the seeds of 80 to 90 percent of trees and lianas are dispersed by animals. In addition to primates, birds and bats are the major animal groups that are responsible for seed dispersal."

A ten foot high bank of blackberries
near Sidney BC.  
We Sapiens are primates too and have been recruited to spread plants throughout the new and old worlds. First the Polynesians and then Caucasians brought the flora of South Asia and the Caribbean to the pacific islands where it would flourish.  Without us, bananas and bougainvillea and coconuts would never have reached this near ideal environment to grow and reproduce. If you spend time on Tahiti, you'll see that almost every significant plant and beautiful flower is introduced as the old timers got dislodged.   Self important people decry the invasive species and predict the end of a stable world ecology.   Plants don't care.  They got what they needed, access to prime habitat.  Our reward, some pretty colours, smells and fruity bites. That's like a doggy treat from the plant kingdom.

Here on Vancouver Island, the broom and gorse and blackberry thickets almost define the landscape at the margins. That's hardly a hundred and fifty years of plant history, a successful colonization. Some groups actually spend time trying to extirpate these colonists, feeling moral ripping out immigrants to re-establish Eden. It's like a zoning bylaw to keep Hispanics and Asians out of a nice Caucasian neighbourhood.  Ulex and Rubus are not pleased.

Hummingbird flight: The magic is filmed and animated.

A thousand frames a second from four cameras captured the motion and a computer has created an animation of hummingbird flight showing the structure of the air around the wing..  Like insects, they create lift on the upstroke too, 30% of the lift thus for 30% of the effort. They rotate wing pitch to optimize the lift of hundreds of vortices that agglomerate into larger ones to let it hover.  I love watching something this intricate and  normally invisible --- the turbulent air flow that lofts such a beautiful creature.  Reported at Science Daily News.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Robinson Crusoe for Geeks: The Martian -- best ever survival story

I spent two days struggling to survive on Mars, captivated by Andy Weir's obsessively accurate survival story about a man left behind for dead on Mars, a story set just a few years in the future. My wife likes it too.

Andy has been running Mars scenarios for years, even writing software to calculate rescue orbits.   He gamed possible answers to worse case life-ending scenarios and lured me into his world.  The astronaut's mates aborted the mission without him when signals showed his suit had depressurized and life signals stopped, but the wind had dropped him with the puncture facing into the sand, his blood sealed the hole, the suit re-pressurized.  I wanted to be there using a spare spacesuit to cache water that I had just manufactured from rocket fuel so I could grow enough potato calories per day so I could survive until the first possible rescue date.   Then there's the moment when a NASA tech scanned the abandoned site to see what could be re-used to fund an extra mission and saw an emergency tent had deployed.  All plausible, heart-stoppingly plausible.  These aren't spoilers because about a hundred
similar obstacles are met and overcome
with Yankee grit and engineering know how.

He published this free, a chapter at a time.  Later he put out a Kindle version for 99 cents.  Now it's over $11 and a movie is in the works.

Obama Scuppering Hillary.

President Obama made the news today with this zinger:  The American people are going to want the new car smell in 2016.   "They want to drive something off the lot that doesn't have as much mileage as me".  (ABC)  There's only one possible candidate with more mileage than him and that's Hillary Clinton.  

This doesn't come out of nowhere.  Klein's book, Blood Feud, spells out the bad relations between Clintons and Obamas.

Subsequent to the 2012 election, Bill Clinton followed up with President Obama on the deal they had made in which Bill would help Obama get reelected, while theoretically Obama would for one thing place Clinton’s handpicked political allies in the DNC — including replacing Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as its chair. Obama did not follow through. And in a post-election phone call, the following occurred according to Klein:

“‘Obama cut right to the chase,’ Clinton’s associate continued. ‘He said he wasn’t prepared to turn over his campaign’s digital operations, data mining, and social media juggernaut to the Clintons. Instead, he said he was going to fold that operation into Organization for Action, his second-term political pressure group. Hillary would have to build her own data and analytics system. Bill listened, said, ‘Okay,’ and let it go at that.
‘Then Obama said it was too early to make a decision about 2016 and who he was going to support of the Democratic Party nomination. He wasn’t prepared to back Hillary now. He was keeping his options open. He was reneging on his promise.
‘Bill’s blood began to boil. He was speechless with rage.

DNA Is The Engine But Not The Sole Driver Of Inheritance

Genes are real but cells are complex.  Shit happens.  While genes set coding in motion, complex proteins by the thousands are folding intricately in a competitive environment.  The geometry of the folds determine the resulting chemistry.  We haven't been able to predict which way the folds will go by using DNA as the sole input.  It looks like the bustle in the cells and not just DNA can trigger the working protein shape.  The cell phenotype is the working model, not the code.  When cells divide, the new ones have the same state, the same working behaviour as the precursor.

Finnish scientists, Arto Annila and Keith Baverstock, a physicist and a chemist, describe this, beginning in paragraph six of Ricki Lewis' review.    A sample:
"The evidence clearly points to routine cellular function (apart from cell division) and regulation in somatic cells being a matter for proteins without the intervention of genes. If, for example, the dark/light rhythm changes (travel over a few time zones) then intervention involving new transcription to adjust the circadian rhythm does occur, but otherwise circadian rhythm is taken care of by protein chemistry."

A view of how beautiful and complex cell life really is:

Student Debt Will Elect Republicans.

Grads with debt load need good jobs.  Democrats lost half their advantage with young voters in the mid-terms.   Market-friendly politicians will look good to someone $33,000 in the hole, unable to afford a down payment on a bungalow or to kit-out a baby room.   That means Republicans and Libertarians more than it means Democrats.   Young and old, we want a place of our own and many would like to be Mom and Dad.  When the credibility of big government is in decline, voters look around.

The feel good degrees are worth a lot less than ones we actually need. The chart shows technical degrees offer double the starting salary of lib arts diplomas.  The soft diplomas have better pay increases over the next five years but that looks like catchup as they learn skills they should have had in college.
Those first years are hard on a debt-slave college grad.  She and he want to leave school and get a good job.   Jobs come from the market looking after what people need and want from each other.
The bottom scale is what you can expect your first year on the job  and the side scale is what sort of raise you can expect over the next five years.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Big Gov Heading for the Crapper: Gruber and UKIP

In Britain, UKIP's byelection wins shine light on the failure of big government to serve voters.  In the US, Gruber does the same, showing big government and Obamacare are built on the premise voters are stupid.  (Why Grubergate is so devastating to Democrats).  Exegeses from both continents follow:

First Stanley of the Telegraph (h/t barrel strength):

Somehow these posh, wide boys have managed to connect with an extraordinary coalition of angry middle-class and alienated working-class voters. How?  The answer must surely lie with collapsing faith in Westminster. The Credit Crunch, the expenses scandal, NHS horror stories, child abuse nightmares, even the dark hints of paedophile gangs at the heart of power – it all adds up to a sense that the establishment is irredeemably broken.                 People don’t necessarily agree with Farage or even possibly like him. But they know what he is; they understand a man like that. And so long as Ukip is respected for being unpretentious, it also won’t be punished in the same way as the other parties are."

And from The Fiscal Times:  "Why Grubergate is so devasting to Democrats":
(Gruber) has become an avatar of not only Obamacare, but of liberal paternalism, a caricature of the snotty know-it-all technocrat who will make decisions for people without consulting them.
The growing impression that politicians don’t play straight with their constituents is completely toxic, particularly to Democrats, who actually want to use government to improve people’s lives. 
Politicians will always be corrupted to some degree by power and will always lie selectively, but perhaps the cure is in the Telegraph article about Nigel Farage which praises the unpretentious:
"People don’t necessarily agree with Farage or even possibly like him. But they know what he is; they understand a man like that."
In Toronto there was the wild cannon, Rob Ford.  Many hated him but he people "understood a man like that".

Do I really think Big Government is heading to the Crapper?  I think networks that rule the land will become increasingly complex but the few with their hands on the tiller will have to let more of us into the inner circle.
The loot acquired by nation states is opening to market bidding and rule will be more democratic as a result.  I blame the internet for this, making obscure and secret information harder to protect and cheaper to distribute quickly.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

US Illegals sneaking into Canada

This is a spoof, right?   Illegal lefty immigrants crossing the Manitoba border, fleeing the Republican onslaught.
"I went out to milk the cows the other day, and there was a Hollywood producer huddled in the barn," said Manitoba farmer Red Greenfield, whose acreage borders North Dakota. The producer was cold, exhausted and hungry. He asked me if I could spare a latte and some free-range chicken. When I said I didn't have any, he left.

Canadian citizens have complained that the illegal immigrants are creating an organic-broccoli shortage and renting all the good Susan Sarandon movies".
The lovely spoof dates from the re-election of George Bush but seems written for today.

Robot Yoga ?

This robot standing on one foot with hands gracefully extended appears to be doing Yoga, performing an asana midway between the Tree and Warrior poses.   This is one of the simpler forms and perhaps I shouldn't read too much into it.   Is there a Turing Test for Yogis and Yoginas?  If you can't tell the difference between a posing human and a posing robot, are robots entering into nirvana?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Russian news from the Russian spigot. It all makes sense in a weird kind of way.

Katsenelson grew up hating America, but became an American.  He immersed himself in a week of Russian news to see the way Russians get it delivered.  Read all about it. You won't find Russians agreeing with your opinion any time soon unless the collapse in oil prices cuts back their living standard.  It's unsettling, a wall-to-wall mixture of emotion, lies and omissions with a small dose of truth.  Russians wouldn't consider relying on other news. Vitaliy's wife couldn't wait for him to finish the project and be cheerful again..

Vitality K"Ukraine was destabilized by the U.S., which spent $5 billion on this project.  As proof, TV news showed a video of Senator John McCain giving a speech to anti-government protesters in Kiev's Maidan Square.  It was followed by a video of Vice President Joe Biden visiting Ukraine during the tumult.  I wasn't sure what his role was, but it was implied that he had something to do with the unrest.  Speaking of Joe Biden, I learned that his son just joined the board of Ukraine's largest natural gas company, which will benefit significantly from a destabilized Ukraine".  

And so on and then on some more.

Predict my vote from my name.

Verdant Labs sorted hundreds of first names by voter registration lists to produce this chart.   Look way, way left to find "Abigail", "Naomi" and "Willie" and scroll far, far to the right to see "Dwayne", "Brent" and "Billy".   Many names are not predictive but it's a cluster of girls names that are predictive to the left and a cluster of mostly boys names clustered to the right.  How did our parents know?

ht Ace of Spades.
Click the link

Democracy doesn't depend on informed voters, it depends on voters.  If our parents pointed us towards being little Libs, Dippers, Tories and Greens, so be it.   Power in quantity always corrupts and any mechanism that creates regular turnover in the leadership is a good  mechanism.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Chopping heads off may save us from ourselves.

Revulsion to the ISIS Muslim butchery may cure us of believing that making nice will end war. Fretting about committing microagressions or saying "negro" or wearing shirts with bare naked ladies is looking a little fluffy.  It's one thing to crowd onto the Victim Train to gain money and attention in America and something quite else to be a victim, fleeing for your life from barbarians with knives, barbarians who cheer in the streets when you die.

As Samuel Johnson said, "When a man knows he is to be hanged.. it concentrates his mind wonderfully."   When we get bloody proof that all religions are not the same and only one, Islam, is producing a strain of beheaders who revel in their butchery, it concentrates the mind. It will change who gets elected.   Politicians will see advantage pandering to shock-concentrated citizens instead of to Occupy types.

Before leaving the topic, remember with sorrow that Americans live under a president who says after Muslim assassins murder praying Jews in Jerusalem:
"Islamic State’s “actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own”"  

Lucky break in the weather - Cold snap just when we need it.

It's getting easy to laugh at climate alarmists despite their money-raising skills.  This is because the weather has taken some cold spells in places near you.  If weather was a tad nicer or we were having a couple hot years instead of 18 years without warming, the big-NGO people would be insufferable. The politicians would shamelessly be stripping us of choice and wealth to fund climate programs with them in charge.  It's happening anyway but slowingly.   Hallelujah cold snap!
US including Hawaii, overnight forecast in Fahrenheit for Nov. 17th.
Remember when "32" meant frost?

Some of the other voices:
“Over the years, the IPCC has changed from a scientific institution that tries to be policy relevant to a political institution that pretends to be scientific. I regret that. There are already more than enough climate activists, while there are too few solid and neutral bodies that make down-to-earth and well-founded statements about climate change and climate policy.” Economist Richard Tol, in a prepared statement for the Dutch parliament.

“I appreciate the opportunity to add my name to those who disagree that global warming is man made,” John Theon wrote to the Minority Office at theEnvironment and Public Works Committee on January 15, 2009. “I was, in effect, Hansen’s supervisor because I had to justify his funding, allocate his resources, and evaluate his results,” Theon is former Chief of the Climate Processes Research Program at NASA

“We’re not scientifically there yet. Despite what you may have heard in the media, there is nothing like a consensus of scientific opinion that this is a problem. Because there is natural variability in the weather, you cannot statistically know for another 150 years.” — UN IPCC’s Tom Tripp, a member of the UN IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] since 2004.

And a Canadian viewpoint: “I am a skeptic on climate change. I know the climate is changing, and it always has been. I've studied this intensively over many years. I started what I call the Carbon Project here in British Columbia back in 1989 in order to bring everybody together to discuss this subject and figure out the facts behind it. Since then, I have watched as hysteria has grown, as if the whole world is going to come to an end and civilization is going to die because of humans causing this climate change. I don't buy that, and I certainly know we don't have any proof of it. I'm not denying that we might be playing some role, but the natural factors that have always caused climate change have not suddenly disappeared. I'm very skeptical of the alarmist nature of climate campaigning.” – Patrick Moore, co-founder of

And for perspective, the long view.  The rise to 400 ppm CO2 observed recently is a tiny blip at the bottom right corner of the graph.  Give me a gigantic break.  Don't tell me the world will drown with doubled C02. Notice the average world temperature seems to have natural upper and lower limits (25C and 10C), some kind of internal governor, and it DOES NOT vary in step with CO2.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Blue Narrative Falling Apart But It's Not Going Away.

The Mid-Terms are over but the train wreck continues.   Gruber is driving the Democrat brand down as this architect of Obamacare says misdirection and the stupidity of voters was key to getting the law passed.    Post-election Obama, instead of presiding, has threatened both houses of Congress he'll make up his own laws on immigration, laws opposed by 70% of the electorate.   The Blue cities in America are the ones in the biggest trouble for debt and crime.   And W.R. Mead, the Philosopher of Blue, shows the Blue social model is breaking down, the idea that an ever increasing social dividend can be diverted from an increasingly prosperous electorate through the hands of big government to the underdog.  Look at the Democrat back bench for talent and the light shines on an aging Hillary, while there's a striking number of younger voices and some women and blacks vying in Republican land.  Until that back bench looks fresher, the Republican brand is going up.  Governorships, the presidency, the House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate are going to turn redder in 2016.

Blue is not going away.  The idea that someone should do something about something, the inclination to help the less fortunate from our plenty, envy of the rich, the tendency to suppress risk and change with rules about rules are all natural expressions of human nature.  To boot, the richest like politicians who buy the votes of the poor with food stamps.    Neither the Republican nor the future Libertarian party will be forever.
 (If you haven't seen it or the five following videos, cynicism and manipulation is policy.)

"Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage, and basically, you know, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to getting the thing to pass," Jonathan Gruber said at the Annual Health Economics Conference.

World Leader Harper to Putin: Get out of Ukraine. (Americans envious).

Quoted from Bloomberg and CBC 
At the G20 meeting, Putin reached out to shake the prime minister’s hand.   Harper acknowledged his Russian counterpart, saying: “I guess I’ll shake your hand, but I only have one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine. “Putin did not respond positively,” MacDonald told Canadian reporters. “Indeed Harper told Putin that Russia should leave Ukraine,” Peskov said by phone today in Brisbane. “Putin told him that this is impossible because they are not there.”  Asked about the tone of the meeting between the two leaders, Peskov said “it was within the bounds of decency.”   

Picked up in the US by Instapundit:  "Smart diplomacy, the Real Thing".
A sampling of the comments there:
"I remember when the US president was the leader of the Free World. Good times."
"Anybody know off the top of their head what one must do to legally emigrate to      Canada?"
"BIG ones. No mom-jeans to poop in. I'll bet he has a pin-up girl Hawaiian shirt, too."

The picture is from the last G20 summit in St Petersburg.
The little guy on the left is making a lot of noise lately, including sending
a column of tanks into Ukraine and sending his warships  just off Australia to
the G20 meeting after he was dumped from the G8.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

President One Note: Amnesty or Bust

President Obama is in love with defeat, trumpeting in advance where he will attack.  Sun Tzu's advice is to do the exact opposite.  Make nice to the enemy (Republicans and rubes) while making plans in secret. Obama's secret plan to amnesty millions of illegal visitors is about as secret as Kim Kardashian's wardrobe.   He's going to be shot down or diminished and appears to have no Plan B.

If he and his camp followers are correct that borders should be no barrier, then disband the IRS and send your taxes to the UN.

Pretty much the first responsibility of a government is to protect the border. From the US constitution, defense is listed right after paying back public debt and before general public welfare in the first statement of duties of Congress:
"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States. (Section 8)"

President Scott Walker?: "Does he sit upon a throne made of the skulls of his enemies"?

From The Federalist:
Does Walker sizzle? Not exactly. Is he a particularly charismatic speaker? No, he isn’t. But does he sit upon a throne made of the skulls of his enemies? Yes, yes he does.
The Nation Needs President Scott Walker In 2016Rick Cromwell's article makes a good case for President Walker.  It's an alternate to my view that America wants a time-out with a decent competent guy like Matt Romney.

Monday, 10 November 2014

DOE funds temperature fakery

Temperatures from DOE-funded USHCN are 30% made up and 100% twisted to make them hotter.  The GIF from Stephen Goddard's blog is unforgettable. Analysis at the link.  (DOE funding mentioned here.)

This reminds me of the joke about accountants.  The truth is whatever they want it to be:
A businessman was interviewing applicants for the position of divisional manager. He devised a simple test to select the most suitable person for the job. He asked each applicant the question, "What is two and two?" The first interviewee was a journalist. His answer was "Twenty-two." The second was a social worker. She said, "I don't know the answer but I'm glad we had time to discuss this important question." The third applicant was an engineer. He pulled out a slide rule and showed the answer to be between 3.999 and 4.001. The next person was a lawyer. He stated that in the case of Jenkins v. Commr of Stamp Duties (Qld), two and two was proven to be four. The last applicant was an accountant. The business man asked him, "How much is two and two?" The accountant got up from his chair, went over to the door and closed it, then came back and sat down. He leaned across the desk and said in a low voice, "How much do you want it to be?" He got the job.

h/t smalldeadanimals

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Climate craziness best predictor of your vote.

From WUWT this exit poll of republicans and democrats who were asked:  "Do you think climate change, also known as 'global warming' , is a serious problem?"

John Hinkeraker comments: "Why is global warming such a partisan issue? I think because there is hardly any evidence to support the alarmists’ case, so the whole thing is a matter of faith and politics, not science."

The voter split is bigger than the political party split and that goes for Canada too.   Even conservatives with a microphone give a lot of lip service to doing something about climate.

I'll know I'm rich when...

1984 version:
I don't have to go to work right away but can enjoy a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, a fresh-baked croissant and read the Financial Post.

2014 version:
Semi-retired, and self-employed, I don't have to go to work right away.
(60% complete)
A glass of Not-From-Concentrate orange juice goes down well.  (70%)
I buy a gross of frozen Costco croissant starters, let a couple rise overnight and give them 15 minutes in the toaster oven before breakfast.   (90%)
And instead of the Financial Post, with PC or smartphone I skim the surface of the whole earth reading what is deemed news and wisdom.  (100%)

So, I'm rich.
The price of wealth came down.
Thanks to markets.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Obama: "Did I do that?"

Obama and Urkel:  "Did I do that?"
Remember, his policies are "on the ballot".
As the cartoonist says,  Obama is offering amnesty to millions because they are willing to do the jobs Americans aren't willing to do: Vote Democrat.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

What would you take in a time machine to the Stone Age? Update: Software

If I brought a smartphone, it would probably be torn down and reprocessed as blade edges.  In one hand I'd carry a piece of scrap steel and in the other some mirrors and patterned silk.  Stuffed in my pocket would be plasticized Google satellite maps.

The men and women of thirty thousand years ago would be quick learners.  You can think of lots more if your goal is to kickstart the industrial revolution.  I'm thinking of what the people would be ready to accept:   Sharp edges for battle and things to make women look stunning to men.

Added:  Probably the stuff you bring would be taken by force. If you don't want to try for the Number One position, perhaps a retreat to the forest with a personal survival kit would be wiser.

Update:  Bring software not hardware.  Language is software and it seems to have been upgraded maybe six thousand years ago to have a word for everything we see and do and to let us tell stories.  No one can steal my language.

All Politics Is Old Politics When Smartphones Are Lie-detectors.

Cheap smartphones on the net are upending party politics.  There is no longer a memory hole to throw stuff down.  The sound bits and video clips are starting to resurface at election time. Those who run for high office have to match their walk and talk better.  Now there's news of effective lie-detector apps to add to your phone.   (What happens when your friend’s smartphone can tell that you’re lying?)  Do you think the voters won't be checking it out?    

The average person has a random chance of spotting a lie while good poker players and trained interrogators can get above 70%.  We all give out tells when we lie, a little glance, finger fidget, change of pitch, "let me be clear".    Voters are about as smart as politicians but they have been handicapped for lack of information.  That is changing and not because of policy, just because that's what people do with cheap smartphones and internet access.

Chance of spotting a lie.
Remember, 50% isn't a pass, it's the baseline, strictly random
  Another four or five elections will pass before it's obvious.  We're only a dozen years into the eWorld where Everyman has a phone.  Politicians will put policy brakes on it but it will spread anyway because they want it too.  Cheap quick information is addictive.

The ultimate compliment

"Mustafa, now you may die".
Some years back in a Palestinian camp in Jordan,  a Western optimist tried to interest the camp leaders in digging a well for their own supply of fresh water.  They thought it was a hopeless project.  He ended up recruiting the kids.  They dug down over thirty feet, shoring up the sides as they went and truly did find water.  The community came to see and a cup of water was drawn up for the eldest to sip.   He turned solemnly to the volunteer and said, "Mustafa, now you may die".

This one act made his whole life worthwhile to the community.  The ultimate compliment.

I read this in a book about thirty years ago and haven't found it on the Internet or in Google Books. If anyone knows the source, I'll add it.

Christmas Math

Grandpa and Grandma are sending $150 to buy all the kids presents this Christmas.  At our end, we don't know what G&G need and have decided to send them $100 to get something they really like.  You see where I am going.

All the love can be handled in a single clearing entry.    Make a phone call.  The high bidder does a $50 transfer on their smartphone. Not only is this cheaper, it's greener.  No cars drive around burning gas and no Christmas card paper is consumed.

On the receiving end, I used to bank the cheque.  Next time we talked, I'd mention the nicest thing I'd bought since then and give them the credit.