Monday, December 29, 2008

Breathe - the most beautiful snowmobile clip in the world...

Powder Riding 101

After only a couple of minutes of riding the trail away from your truck, the fresh fields of new powder beckon to you. This is it: the moment you’ve been waiting for. Virgin snow lies ahead, sparkling in the morning light. You ARE the Ski-Doo commercial, living the dream. Off the trail with about half a handful of throttle, the machine sings across the top of the freshly fallen snow. Life is good. The machine dips and pushes the snow away like a streamlined ski-boat as you crest the rolling drifts; it is exhilarating. This is why you bought this sled, no doubt about it, it is worth every penny. A smile broadens across your face.

The end of the field quickly looms: time to turn around. The smile fades as you grit your teeth with determination, lean to the inside of the corner and turn the skis in that direction. The machine pitches to the outside and digs in throwing cold mist over your face and obscuring your vision. You lean inside even harder and pull the machine briefly level with all your might, only to have it roll away from you again. As this wallowing routine repeats itself, you no longer resemble the Dance of the Snow Queen From the Nutcracker Ballet, the action more closely looks like the time you tried to help your 250 pound drunken roommate up four flights of stairs at 3AM.

Invariably the battle ends as you land on your back, looking up at the blue sky. The only thing bruised is your ego. The machine is on its side, all 570 wet pounds of it, stuck. You wrestle yourself onto your belly; in a manner you’d rather not have video taped, to survey your pathetic situation.

Next thing you know a beat machine, wailing pipes and a ripped seat held together with duct tape alone, comes screaming towards you. The rider is not seated but is moving back and forth while the machine plays a tune over the terrain. You are certain the guy can write script across the field with the way he is tossing that thing around. How can he do that? Maybe he is writing, “Time to rescue the newbie!” He completes his dance with a final, steeply banked 360-degree turn in an area about the size of your bathtub, coming to a stop about 10 feet away. Snow all over his machine and an ear-to-ear grin appearing under his helmet: “Need some help, dude?”….

Sound familiar? The riding techniques necessary to turn a mountain machine in the powder are not rocket science, but they are not natural either. We all have learned some very bad habits from driving cars that do not translate well to powder riding. Why is powder riding so difficult and trail riding so easy? Why, when I climb a little hill at even the slightest hint of angle, do I end up making one side of the McDonalds arch instead of going up and over?

When a snowmobile is on a hard trail, it drives like a car. We can all relate to the handling characteristics of a small car in the snow. It brakes, accelerates, turns right and left… no sweat. Powder riding is different because the machine is not firmly supported and this makes it handle more like a canoe and less like a car.

What are the ways we can turn a canoe? One way is to shift our weight to one side. With some forward momentum and a little weight shift, the canoe will slowly turn in a gentle arc. Another way is to paddle on only one side or, more applicable in our case, we can drag one paddle dramatically turning the canoe. Both the shifting of weight and the dragging of a paddle can be applied to powder riding.

Let’s revisit the machine as it glides at half throttle effortlessly in a straight line across a powder field. With the power ON, the machine is being pushed by the track so that the front end of the machine is lifted out of the snow, and rides on top. This is like a boat that has been thrust “on the step”. In this configuration the majority of the weight of the machine is on the track and not the front end. When the power is shut off, all the weight dives to the front and you can kiss powder riding good bye as the snow runs over the hood and into your face.

The rest
Scientists plan to ignite tiny man-made star

While it has seemed an impossible goal for nearly 100 years, scientists now believe that they are on brink of cracking one of the biggest problems in physics by harnessing the power of nuclear fusion, the reaction that burns at the heart of the sun.

In the spring, a team will begin attempts to ignite a tiny man-made star inside a laboratory and trigger a thermonuclear reaction.

Its goal is to generate temperatures of more than 100 million degrees Celsius and pressures billions of times higher than those found anywhere else on earth, from a speck of fuel little bigger than a pinhead. If successful, the experiment will mark the first step towards building a practical nuclear fusion power station and a source of almost limitless energy.

At a time when fossil fuel supplies are dwindling and fears about global warming are forcing governments to seek clean energy sources, fusion could provide the answer. Hydrogen, the fuel needed for fusion reactions, is among the most abundant in the universe. Building work on the £1.2 billion nuclear fusion experiment is due to be completed in spring.

Scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, nestled among the wine-producing vineyards of central California, will use a laser that concentrates 1,000 times the electric generating power of the United States into a billionth of a second.

The result should be an explosion in the 32ft-wide reaction chamber which will produce at least 10 times the amount of energy used to create it.

"We are creating the conditions that exist inside the sun," said Ed Moses, director of the facility. "It is like tapping into the real solar energy as fusion is the source of all energy in the world. It is really exciting physics, but beyond that there are huge social, economic and global problems that it can help to solve."

Inside a structure covering an area the size of three football pitches, a single infrared laser will be sent through almost a mile of lenses, mirrors and amplifiers to create a beam more than 10 billion times more powerful than a household light bulb.

Housed within a hanger-sized room that has to be pumped clear of dust to prevent impurities getting into the beam, the laser will then be split into 192 separate beams, converted into ultraviolet light and focused into a capsule at the centre of an aluminium and concrete-coated target chamber.

When the laser beams hit the inside of the capsule, they should generate high-energy X-rays that, within a few billionths of a second, compress the fuel pellet inside until its outer shell blows off.

This explosion of the fuel pellet shell produces an equal and opposite reaction that compresses the fuel itself together until nuclear fusion begins, releasing vast amounts of energy.

Scientists have been attempting to harness nuclear fusion since Albert Einstein’s equation E=mc², which he derived in 1905, raised the possibility that fusing atoms together could release tremendous amounts of energy.

Under Einstein’s theory, the amount of energy locked up in one gram of matter is enough to power 28,500 100-watt lightbulbs for a year.

Until now, such fusion has only been possible inside nuclear weapons and highly unstable plasmas created in incredibly strong magnetic fields. The work at Livermore could change all this.

The sense of excitement at the facility is clear. In the city itself, people on the street are speaking about the experiment and what it could bring them. Until now Livermore has had only the dubious honour of being home of the US government’s nuclear weapons research laboratories which are on the same site as the NIF.

Inside the facility, the scientists are impatient. After 11 years of development work, they want the last of the lenses and mirrors for the laser to be put in place and the tedious task of adjusting and aiming the laser to be over, a process they fear could take up to a year before they can successfully achieve fusion.

Jeff Wisoff, a former astronaut who is deputy principal associate director of science at the NIF, said: "Everyone is keen to get started, but we have to get the targeting right, otherwise it won’t work.

"We will be firing laser pulses that last just a few billionths of a second but we will be creating conditions that are found in the interior of stars or exploding nuclear weapons.

"I worked on the building of the International Space Station, but this is a far bigger challenge and the implications are huge. When we started the project, a lot of the technology we needed did not exist, so we have had to develop it ourselves.

"The next step is looking at how ignition can be used to deliver something of value to the world. It has the potential to be one of the biggest achievements mankind has made."

Although other experiments have attempted to create the conditions needed for nuclear fusion, lasers are seen as the most likely technique to be able to provide a viable electricity supply.

If all goes well, the NIF will be able to fire its laser and ignite a fusion reaction every five hours, but to create a reliable fusion power plant the laser would need to ignite fusion around 10 times a second.

The scientists are already working with British counterparts on the next step towards a fusion power station. A project known as the High Powered Laser Research facility aims to create a laser-powered fusion reactor that can fire once every couple of minutes.

Prof Mike Dunne, director of the central laser facility at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford, said: "The National Ignition Facility is going to finally prove fusion can be achieved with a laser. It will start an exciting new period in physics as it will prove what we are trying to achieve is actually be possible."


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Katzenjammer arrange The Simpsons...

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

We're not sure what makes this vintage Volkswagen more terrifying, the turbocharged V8 engine or the unconventional (for a Bug) engine placement. Either way, this car fulfills a few dreams and, likely, a few nightmares.

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds," was the phrase uttered by J. Robert Oppenheimer shortly after developing the atomic bomb. We can only hope he builder of this certain-death machine felt a similar emotion the first time he planted the progress pedal and rocketed himself into hot rodding lore.

Details are scarce, but we do know this street weapon is powered by a turbocharged 5.3 liter LSx-based engine. Taking the extra indie step forward, the fuel is managed by the beautifully homebrewed Megasquirt system. Die hard vintage VW fanatics will throw a rod when they notice very little original Bug remains, as it sits on a fully boxed one-off chassis with matching integral cage.

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Christmas on the margins
The idea of chief executives being bailed-out while more than 30 million Americans are living on food stamps is unappetising

Sadhbh Walshe is a film-maker and former staff writer for the CBS drama series The District.

I was racing through the supermarket the other day trying to get my Christmas shopping out of the way. I would have been finished in record time had I not been held up at the checkout line because the bozo ahead of me decided to return something. I began to sigh loudly and roll my eyes until I realised that the bozo in question was a young mother obliged to return a pack of chocolate chip cookies she tried to purchase with her food stamps.

I tried not to catch her eye while the cashier recalculated her purchases without the cookies. (Her little boy didn't look too happy.) She was still $1.27 short on her food stamp card, but there didn't seem to be anything else she could spare. She dug into her purse and managed to put together the required sum with dimes and nickels. She smiled at me red-faced as her bags were packed. But I was the one who was more embarrassed.

I had been held up in a similar fashion a few days before in the same supermarket. On that occasion, the perpetrator had to return a bottle of orangeade. Her children were not too happy about it either.

I can't help thinking about what sort of Christmas these women and their families are going to have if a packet of chocolate chip cookies and a bottle of orangeade are beyond their reach.

I told a friend that I may end up on food stamps myself next year if I can't write my way out of my own financial quagmire. He was highly amused and said he hoped they had a second tier of food stamps for people who enjoy champagne and caviar.

It turns out you cannot buy champagne on food stamps, or any kind of alcohol for that matter. You can buy orangeade and chocolate chip cookies, though, and if you are really frugal and save up your food stamps for many weeks, you might even be able to afford caviar.

You can buy any kind of food as long as it's not prepared like restaurant food or heated. The snag is that with an average food stamp allowance of $24 per person per week, you can't really buy much of anything.

I hope I never end up on food stamps. If I were obliged to reduce my appetite to accommodate a budget of $24 a week, I would definitely be in need of something stronger than orangeade to take my mind off the situation.

Back in October 2000, just before he was elected president, George Bush described his base as "the haves and the have mores." The remark was made in jest at the annual Al Smith Black Tie dinner, but the joke turned out to be on all those people who used to have just about enough, and who now, eight years later, have next to nothing.

According to government data, as of September, 31.5 million Americans were using the food stamp programme, up 17% from the previous year. That's 10% of the US population. These are staggering figures.

They bring to mind another staggering figure I recently came across that I have been unable to remove from my subconscious. It is $163,987,000 – the salary that Henry Paulson, now secretary of the US Treasury, took home in 2006 for his services as CEO of Goldman Sachs.

Two years later, Goldman Sachs required a massive bail-out from taxpayers. Many of these taxpayers may soon be applying for food stamps.

When Paulson sits down to his sumptuous Christmas feast, paid for with some of the spoils from that nine-figure salary, I hope he will he spare a thought for the 10% of Americans who have barely enough to eat.

I'm sure that if he ever witnessed first hand the humiliation of a person unable to pay for their food at a supermarket checkout, he would feel compelled to redistribute his millions among the 31.5 million food stamp recipients.

Maybe then they could afford a decent Christmas dinner next year.


ABC News, in collaboration with James F. Reda and Associates, complied a list of some of the companies in the headlines today and looked at just how much money some of these CEOs are taking home.

CEO : Cash Salary : Stock,: Other Pay : Total Pay
Lehman Brothers
2007 Richard Fuld $5,000,000 : $66,770,000 : $71,770,000
2006 Richard Fuld $7,000,000 : $55,323,679 : $62,323,679
2005 Richard Fuld $14,500,000 : $89,500,000 : $104,000,000
2004 Richard Fuld $11,000,000 : $24,300,000 : $35,300,000

Morgan Stanley
2007 John Mack $800,000 : $16,431,500 : $17,231,500
2006 John Mack $800,000 : $6,321,000 : $7,121,000
2005 John Mack $337,534 : $30,000,000 : $30,337,534

Goldman Sachs
2007 Lloyd Blankfein $27,600,000 : $15,500,000 : $43,100,000
2006 Lloyd Blankfein $27,800,000 : $15,700,000 : $43,500,000
2006 Henry Paulson $129,087,000 : $34,900,000 : $163,987,000
2005 Henry Paulson $600,000 : $3,363,422 : $3,963,422
2004 Henry Paulson $600,000 : $11,660,000 : $12,260,000

Bear Stearns
2006 James Cayne $17,300,000 : $14,800,000 : $32,100,000
2005 James Cayne $12,900,000 : $10,300,000 : $23,200,000
2004 James Cayne $10,200,000 : $9,500,000 : $19,700,000

Merrill Lynch
2007 John Thain $15,800,000 : $0 : $15,800,000
2007 E. Stanley O'Neal $584,000 : $161,000,000 : $161,584,000
2006 E. Stanley O'Neal $19,200,000 : $45,116,327 : $64,316,327
2005 E. Stanley O'Neal $14,800,000 : $3,120,000 : $17,920,000
2004 E. Stanley O'Neal $700,000 : $16,766,448 : $17,466,448

Washington Mutual
2007 Kerry K. Killinger $1,000,000 : $3,468,625 : $4,468,625
2006 Kerry K. Killinger $5,100,000 : $17,153,715 : $22,253,715
2005 Kerry K. Killinger $4,600,000 : $8,876,608 : $13,476,608
2004 Kerry K. Killinger $2,900,000 : $12,335,416 : $15,235,416

2007 Martin J. Sullivan $10,200,000 : $5,647,439 : $15,847,439
2006 Martin J. Sullivan $16,900,000 : $5,838,656 : $22,738,656
2005 Martin J. Sullivan $7,750,000 : $159,000 : $7,909,000
2004 M.R. "Hank" Greenberg $1,400,000 : $12,002,880 : $13,402,880

Fannie Mae
2007 Daniel Mudd $3,200,000 : $5,200,000 : $8,400,000
2006 Daniel Mudd $4,400,000 : $2,290,000 : $6,690,000

Freddie Mac
2007 Richard Syron $5,590,000 : $0 : $5,590,000
2006 Richard Syron $5,150,000 : $0 : $5,150,000


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Kid knocks himself out... cruel to laugh. I guess I'm cruel.

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Some Norwegian Journalists got to take a KTM Xbow for a spin. In the snow.

Here's Google's translation effort...

Winter Test: KTM X-Bow

Further motorcycle, it is not possible to come with four wheels, believes Johan Ahlberg after a spin in the snow with KTM X-Bow.

KTM its first contribution that OEMs are knappest some vinterbil to talk about, but it obviously does not prevent Johan Ahlberg from a Test Drive in snøføyka when he gets the opportunity.

Vinterdekkene er uten pigger, det har snødd kraftig i løpet av natten og snøen faller fortsatt like tett under prøvekjøringen. Winter sheets are without spikes, it has snødd sharply during the night and the snow falls still tightly under trial run. Ganske snart viser det seg at den framre spoileren fungerer som den reneste snøplogen, og snøen flyr opp over fronten og rett i ansiktet. Pretty soon it seems that the front spoileren serves as the purest snøplogen, and the snow flying up over the front and right in the face.

Vi kjører med helhjelm selv om det ikke er påbudt med hjelm i X-Bow, men sikten blir likevel merkbart forverret! We take the helhjelm although there is no mandatory helmet with the X-Bow, but visibility is still noticeably deteriorated!

NOK helmet would be useful no matter, for here is nothing that displays your face against the rubble, or a flying insect. Det kan både gjøre vondt og få stygge konsekvenser. It may make pain and ugly consequences.

Frontvindu finnes ikke, og ikke en gang en liten stoff-cabriolet er det mulig å få tak i. Den er rett og slett som en såpekopp på fire hjul. Front Window does not exist, and not even a small drug-convertible, it is possible to get in. It's just like a soap cup on four wheels. Riktig nok en utrolig lekker, eksklusiv og morsom såpekopp. Correct NOK an incredibly beautiful, exclusive and fun soap cup.

Til tross for det glatte underlaget kjennes X-Bow sikker og distinkt. Despite the smooth surface is X-Bow secure and distinct. Her fins ingen elektroniske hjelpemiddel i form av ABS-bremser, antispinn-systemer eller lignende. There are no electronic aid in the form of ABS brakes, antispinn systems or the like. Vi snakker "pure racing" og ekstremt høy morofaktor. We are talking "pure racing", and extremely high fun factor.

I'm knappest some bilekspert, but has since run and other sports in my time. Aldri før har jeg kjørt en så morsom gateregistrert bil som dette. Never before have I run such a fun street registered car as this. Ok, jeg kan ikke uttale meg om hvor effektive bremsene er eller hvordan en oppfører seg i høy fart på tørr asfalt, men X-Bow er imponerende lettkjørt til tross for bakhjulsdrift og en turbomatet Audi rekkefirer på 250 hester i hekken. Ok, I can not comment me about how effective the brakes are, or how one behaves in a high speed on dry asphalt, but the X-Bow is impressive lettkjørt despite rear wheel operation and a turbo fed Audi number four on the 250 horses in hekken.

Karbonfiberbygget minner egentlig mest om en formelbil. Carbon building memories actually most of a form elbil. Den er ekstremt lett framme og styringen er ultrakjapp. It is extremely easy to arrive and control is ultra quick. Men på vinterføre som her gjelder det å holde tungen rett i munnen uansett om man kjører langsommere og styrer med framhjulene eller drar på friskere og styrer med hjelp av bakhjulene. But in the winter cause here is to keep your tongue right in your mouth whether you are running slower and governs with the front wheels or drag on the healthy controls and with the help of the rear wheels. Føreren har rett og slett stålkontroll på X-Bow. The driver has simply steel control on X-Bow. Alt kjennes på et vis selvsagt. Everything is on a show of course.

There are no electronic aids to control and brakes. Framhjulene styres manuelt uten servohjelp. Front wheels are controlled manually without servo assistance. Ikke en gang bremsene har servopumpe. Not once the brakes are servo pump. Med føre som dette er det like godt. With the result that this is just as well. Med racingsstøvler på beina er bremsefølelsen fenomenal. With racing boots on the legs are feeling great braking. Det samme er feedbacken i rattet. The same is feedback in the steering wheel.

Som prikken over i'en er girene distinkte og skiftene går av seg selv. As a finishing touch is girene distinct breaks and goes by itself. Gjett om jeg lengter etter å få prøve bilen på tørr asfalt! Guess if I'm longing to get to try the car on dry asphalt!

Egentlig er ikke X-Bow noen versting om man ser på vekt og effekt. Actually, is not X-Bow some Worst if you look at the weight and power. Blytung er den ikke, men heller ikke ultralett, med tanke på at den er laget av karbonfiber og er uten tak og bagasjerom. Blytung is not, but not ultra, considering that it is made of carbon fiber and are without a roof and trunk. Motoren er for så vidt også beskjeden, men mater på så det rekker og vel så det. The engine is as far too modest, but mater as the series and then some.

But it mainly means that I'm a little småforelsket is the flexible totality and the extremely high fun factor. Selv om den ikke når opp mot å kjøre motorsykkel, er ikke X-Bow langt unna. Although it does not reach up to run the motorcycle, is not X-Bow far away.

Akkurat som de fleste motorsykler er X-Bow skapt for å kjøres i pent vær. Like most motorcycles is the X-Bow created to run in the pretty weather. Vår testbil manglet også kupevarmer, men det finnes på standardmodellen. Our testbil also lacked parking heater, but there are standard on the model. Samtidig er den ikke det minste kjedelig å kjøre om vinteren heller, det er bare å kle seg skikkelig hvis du vil ut og leke i snøen. At the same time, it is not in the least boring to run in the winter rather, it is just to dress up properly if you want to get out and play in the snow.


XDL EAST 2007 - 1st place Teach Mcneil

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Pay It Backwards: An Act Of Coffee Kindness

Just before Christmas of 2007, almost exactly a year ago, I steered into a Starbucks drive-thru line for a cup of tea on my way to teach a morning tai chi lesson. There were a few cars in line, and I got in behind them. When my turn came I gave my order at the billboard menu and moved up as far as I could while waiting patiently for the cars in front of me to get through the cashier line. While the South Florida weather would probably would have felt tropical to much of the rest of the country, I was a bit chilled and was looking forward to my hot drink.

The fellow in the SUV behind me reached the menu. Dissatisfied with the alignment between his mouth and the microphone, he laid on his horn, leaned out his window, yelled an insult and exhorted me to move up. There was nowhere to go. I was in a line, and mere inches separated my car from the one in front of me. Indignant at rudeness, I felt my temper come up, and because I am a pure and enlightened being who entertains nothing but positive thoughts, I reached for the door handle with the intention popping out of the car, taking a few steps, reaching into his open window, and sending him to the dentist for a holiday visit.

I'll show you what happens to rude and impatient people, I thought. I'll teach you that a martial artist is waiting in every car around you with the express mission of settling the world down into just the fair, quiet, and patient place they think it should be. Running that tape in my head, my ire grew even further. Testosterone and adrenaline flooded my body and in a few seconds I had transformed from the peaceful, content, slightly thirsty writer/teacher to a raving lunatic. My heartbeat was up, my hands were clammy, my muscles were tense, and the whole world had constricted down to the tiny business of completing my hostile mission.

Then I glanced in the mirror. The face of the impatient driver behind me was florid and twisted with anger and hate. I refocused my eyes and noticed that my own face didn't look much different. Whatever plague had taken him had penetrated the steel and glass of my car to infect me too, robbing me of my much-vaunted equilibrium, my peace, my balance, my equanimity--precisely that thing that my beloved tai chi training, and the Chinese philosophy behind it prizes most highly.

I teach my students that it is best not to lose that balance--wuji in Chinese--through meditation, breathing, and tai chi training, but when you do, you can use any of three "doors" to get it back. Door number one is meeting force with force: I could go ahead and start a fight. Door number two is yielding: I could kowtow on the concrete, admit to being an idiot, and beg the other driver's forgiveness. The best option, however, is door number three. That door is different every time. The trick is to figure out what that is.

The car in front of me moved off and I pulled up to pay. "I'd like to buy the coffee for the guy behind me," I said.

The barista looked at me in surprise. "But he's a jerk!"

"Just having a bad day, " I said. "Happens to the best of us."

"A random act of kindness, eh?"

I shook my head, thinking how I could explain door number three to her before the guy rammed my bumper with his. "Not really. I'm not doing it for him; I'm doing it for me. I was mad right back at him, but now that I'm doing this I feel much better."

I had only a $10 bill in my wallet, and I handed it over. She checked her order screen. "He has ordered breakfast for five people. It's a lot more than ten dollars."

That gave me pause. I'd already regain my wuji. Did I really need to go through with more? I took out my credit card and handed it over.

She searched my face. "You're sure?"

"Do it," I said.

After I'd signed the charge slip, I drove away without a backward glance. I had found my door number three, was finished with the act, and indeed was already forgetting about it. I didn't want to meet the guy on the road, either to hear thanks or more yelling, so I took a circuitous root to my lesson, avoiding the main highway.

Six hours later, I returned home to find my answering machine full of messages from the Starbucks manager, and from a reporter for NBC news. They had me using my credit card information. Apparently the guy behind me had continued my act of giving and the person behind him had done the same, and on and on. No doubt encouraged by the store manager, the chain was intact well into the afternoon. NBC covered the story.

The news spread around the world. Within 24 hours I had received calls and e-mails from as far away as Australia. The key point, of course, is that I had performed a random act of consciousness rather than a random act of kindness. I'd nearly lost my cool, had retrieved it, and done something good for myself and someone else in the process.

In a sense, you can think of this as self-centered, but in a good way. Keeping your cool, maintaining your wuji is just like putting your own oxygen mask on in a damaged airplane before helping those around you. If you pass out, you can't help anyone. If you lose your temper, you are of no good to the world. Cool, calm and collected you are ready and willing to participate in the world.

Violent crimes and burglaries are up this holiday season. The financial crisis is creating anxiety, depression, desperation and anger. Spread the word about wuji. Do your best to control your own feelings before acting rashly. Think twice before doing or saying something you'll regret. Random acts of consciousness are perhaps even more contagious than random acts of kindness. Raise your level of view, dig deep for perspective, and help make this a more peaceful holiday season for everyone.

Arthur Rosenfeld


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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

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Seattle refuses to use salt; roads "snow packed" by design

By Susan Kelleher

Seattle Times consumer affairs reporter

To hear the city's spin, Seattle's road crews are making "great progress" in clearing the ice-caked streets.

But it turns out "plowed streets" in Seattle actually means "snow-packed," as in there's snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

"We're trying to create a hard-packed surface," said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. "It doesn't look like anything you'd find in Chicago or New York."

The city's approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle's refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

"If we were using salt, you'd see patches of bare road because salt is very effective," Wiggins said. "We decided not to utilize salt because it's not a healthy addition to Puget Sound."

By ruling out salt and some of the chemicals routinely used by snowbound cities, Seattle has embraced a less-effective strategy for clearing roads, namely sand sprinkled on top of snowpack along major arterials, and a chemical de-icer that is effective when temperatures are below 32 degrees.

Seattle also equips its plows with rubber-edged blades. That minimizes the damage to roads and manhole covers, but it doesn't scrape off the ice, Wiggins said.

That leaves many drivers, including Seattle police, pretty much on their own until nature does to the snow what the sand can't: melt it.

The city's patrol cars are rear-wheel drive. And even with tire chains, officers are avoiding hills and responding on foot, according to a West Precinct officer.

Between Thursday and Monday, the city spread about 6,000 tons of sand on 1,531 miles of streets it considers major arterials.

The tonnage, sprinkled atop the packed snow, amounts to 1.4 pounds of sand per linear foot of roadway, an amount one expert said might be too little to provide effective traction.

"Hmmm. Six thousand tons of sand for that length of road doesn't seem like it's enough," said Diane Spector, a water-resources planner for Wenck Associates, which evaluated snow and ice clearance for nine cities in the Midwest.

Spector and snow-control experts in four cities said sand is typically mixed with salt and used for trouble spots.

"The occasional application of salt is probably not going to have a lasting effect" on the environment, Spector said. But she cautioned it's highly dependent on where it's used, how often and how much is applied.

Seattle's stand against using salt is not shared by the state Department of Transportation, which has battled the latest storms in Western Washington with de-icer, 5,800 tons of salt and 11,500 cubic yards of salt and sand mix, said spokesman Travis Phelps.

Many cities are moving away from sand because it clogs the sewers, runs into waterways, creates air pollution and costs more to clean up.

Its main attraction is that it typically costs less than one-fifth the price of salt, according to Spector.

"We never use sand," said Ann Williams, spokeswoman for Denver's Department of Public Works. "Sand causes dust, and there's also water-quality issues where it goes into streets and into our rivers."

Instead, it sprays an "anti-icing" agent on dry roads before the snow falls and then a combination of chemicals to melt the ice.

Cheryl Kuck, spokeswoman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said her city prepared the streets last week with the "anti-icing" spray. Once the snow started, Portland used chemical de-icers, followed by plowing with 55 plows and treating trouble spots with sand and gravel.

Although the city had plowed 29 of its 36 major routes, "nothing is clear," Kuck said late Monday afternoon. "This is a difficult and challenging situation that's going to take us a long time to recover from."

Wiggins, of Seattle's transportation department, said the city's 27 trucks had plowed and sanded 100 percent of Seattle's main roads, and were going back for second and third passes.

"It's tough going. I won't argue with you on that," he said. But here in Seattle, "we're sensitive about everything we do that impacts the environment."


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Time Warp - Lighter in Blender

Time Warp - Tattooing

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These hand crafted urinal sculptures are made of durable, high-fire porcelain - the same material as commercial fixtures. You are not likely to find anything like these anywhere else. Clark Sorensen has been featured in design and art magazines around the world for these unique creations. Each piece is a one-of-a-kind work of art and made completely by hand.

These urinal sculptures are fully functional and are meant to be installed and used. They do not carry any plumbing certification at present, so you will need to work with your installer to address any building permit issues that this might involve.

Finally, something for that guy who has everything...

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I know you can hear me, Fox....

Fox, let's be real with each other. I know you are pretending to sleep right now, because you can hear beetles walking on sand. So either you can turn those things off, or you are just playing around here. DO YOU THINK THIS IS FUNNY, FOX? DO YOU THINK THIS IS A GAME? You better not wake up right when I finish this post, Fox. I will not be happy.

All of the above shamelessly stolen from FUPenguin, an....interesting blog where the author tells off various animals. Completely NSFW, but pretty funny.

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Neat idea....

Our Survival Bracelets are tough, large, and very masculine. They are all business. There is approximately 15' - 20' of 550# paracord used in each bracelet. In an emergency situation, you can easily unravel the bracelet and deploy the paracord for use. If you do use your Survival Bracelet, simply send what is left back to us, along with your story, and we will remanufacture it for you, free of charge. Whether you are in the woods, on the boat, or running errands around town, you will always have several feet of 550 lb. test paracord with you at all times in a compact and stylish package. They come constructed with either a tough side release buckle, or a marine grade stainless steel shackle. It's your choice. You can wear it on your wrist, or clip it to your pack. If you are looking for a big, bold, bracelet, this one is for you.

Options: Our standard paracord Survival Bracelet contains approximately 15' of paracord and is 1" wide. Our "Wide" paracord Survival Bracelet contains approximately 20' of paracord and is 1.25' wide.

Your Survival Bracelet will be made to fit comfortably. To measure, use a string to wrap around your wrist and then measure the string. Let us know this exact size.

Colors: Our Survival Bracelets are available in 30 colors. You can pick any 2 for 2-Tone. Please choose your colors from the Colors Page. When ordering your products, indicate what colors you would like in the space provided. If ordering 2-Tone, please list which color you would like in the center first, and the color you would like on the edges second.


The Finished Work Of Ken Imhoff

his story...

The time was 1985 and I was watching the movie Cannonball run. Yeah, you know the one with Farrah Fawcett and Adrienne Barbeau? 'That red car was a what?' I asked. A Lamborghini Countach. I was mesmerized. I spent the next five years figuring out how I was going to build one. The idea of buying something was out of the question — I was raised by a German perfectionist of a father who would quote, "I can't understand why anyone would buy something when they could make it" whenever the topic of buying something came up. He would say, "You have the skills, just build one". As things were starting to heat up with the Lamborghini, I got involved with a young lady and things started moving pretty quickly. When the topic of car finally came up, I told her 'I need to build this car and I hope it isn't going to be a problem.' She said 'I can't see how it would. I love you.' I figure I would test the waters and asked her if she had two grand for a ZF transaxle. I had a guy in CA with a Pantera ZF he wants to sell, but I was short on cash at the time.
Long story short, she lent me the money and we got married a year later just before we closed on a house with a 2 1/2 garage.

The idea to build the car in the basement is pretty simple really. I recalled back to my childhood again and remember my Dad's car projects always being put on hold during the winter because we couldn't afford to heat the one car garage. Sure I could heat my garage and do the work in there, but then my cars would have to sit in the driveway. I live in Wisconsin where winters seem to last six months out of the year, so that would be a long time with no place to put the daily drivers. This was going to be a long project and I figured the house had an unfinished basement with plenty of room and was heated anyway, what a perfect scenario. There would be no excuses not to work on the car right? Before I started off on the project, I had a neighborhood contractor take a look at it and he was confident I wasn't losing my mind. I will admit, the one thing I didn't think beforehand was how everything was going to either go down the stairs or go through a small basement window. There were times I wondered how well those 50 year old stairs were built, but thankfully I never did have an incident.

When I started the project, my wife would read in a recliner next to me but soon that faded. Even the dog left as soon as she did. I shouldn't pick on her though, she was very supportive coming down to see the latest part I had completed or asking "Sweetheart does this look right?" She seemed to always say the right thing and I always was always thankful for her outside point of view. Sometimes I would be way out there in la-la land and she would have to reel me back to reality. She had a level way of thinking I don't think I ever acquired.

At the beginning of the welding process I tried my hand at gas welding aluminum. Despite putting hours of practice in In ever quite got it. I tried everything. Cobalt glasses, flux and welding rod, I think I tried for six weeks but could never master it. I talked to an old timer about gas welding aluminum and all he would say was "Practice, practice, practice." His younger son, who was also in the family business pulled me aside and said "Buy a Tig machine and get it over with." The old man meanwhile mumbled something under his breath about "Always looking for the shortcut. Whatever happened to doing it right?" So with that advice in mind, I bought a Miller Syncrowave 250 a week later and never looked back. I did hear much later from the neighbors that they could tell when I was welding as it interfered with their TV antenna and picture.

I built a paint booth in the corner of the basement to prime a panel when needed. It worked really nice with a positive pressure blower forcing the fumes out a basement window. The neighborhood smelled like paint but my neighbors never complained, they would just move their cars to avoid the long distance overspray. I'm not quite sure how my wife put up with the paint smell that lingered in the house despite my best efforts. For those wondering, I choose not to color paint down there, after the mess I made priming and the fact that it wasn't all that clean to start. It was OK for priming but painting is another thing.

The project did end up costing a lot more than I ever thought it would — projects always seem to do that. You buy a 160MPH speedometer because that was the highest made at the time. You don't even get it out of the box and you see that they now make on that tops out at 180. Two units later I got a 200MPH... buying parts goes on like that until you end up with shelves of stuff you don't need and keep in mind, for a lot of this project, E-bay had not been invented yet. Speaking of the internet, if my project had started when the internet was available, I actually think it would have cost me a lot more. There are so many more options now right at your fingertips and I seem to have champagne tastes with beer money. I think I have 40K in my project without the equipment/tools I bought. I used to save every receipt until I started getting depressed at how much I was spending. Besides it could be held against me as spousal blackmail, so I eventually got rid of the evidence!

I remember the first time I started it. I filled the tank with racing gas, set the timing, and hit the start button — the engine exploded with life. Open headers in a basement, no matter how ready you are for it, will catch you off guard. I decided to not run it too long and made sure no one was home at the time. By the way, those carbon monoxide sensors really do work and you have to keep the windows open unless you want the sweet smell of racing gas lingering in your basement.

Actually getting the car out of the basement was pretty straight forward to be honest. I built a skid to put the car on — a trailer without wheels you might say. The rig is basically an angle iron frame designed to make it down into the basement to which I added 4 swivel casters to move the car to the opposite wall. We used an excavator to dig a ramp and then cut the block of the foundation out. We pushed the car to the opening, hooked it up to the excavator and pulled it out. Simple. I was like an expectant father watching it come through the wall. I was literally shaking and running the supposed plan over and over in my head. 'Have I overlooked anything? Is some of the wall going to fall on my work of seventeen years?...' The blankets I covered it with surely wouldn't stop that from happening, but I worried nonetheless, an it was in the end, worry for nothing. It went as smooth as something like this could. The neighbors started gathering around as it emerged, waiting for me to remove the blankets. It was like a artist unwrapping his masterpiece. I had never seen it in the light of day either. As the last blanket and car cover were removed I knew at that moment I had accomplished what I had dreamed about so many years ago and to see it sitting there in front of me was surreal. The whole process took two and a half hours and there it was, my Lamborghini safely in the garage. The next day we filled the hole in the basement with new block in no time it was good as new.

All that said, I couldn't have done this alone. A lot of people have helped me along the way. My wife and family that helped when things got rough. A close friend that would never let me give up even though at times I wanted to. I owe a great deal of gratitude to those people in my life.

The end of this story really wasn't about owning the car of my dreams, but the lessons I have learned, the people I have met, and the inner satisfaction knowing I built something piece by piece, each piece a new and different challenge and having it all come together. Paraphrasing an old cliche here, 'It wasn't the destination that was important, it was the journey along the way.'

Tech info:

* All hand formed aluminum body representing a euro spec 1982 Countach LP5000S
* Real Lambo tailights, parking lights, windshield, badges
* All tube space frame
* Ford Cleveland Boss 351 (514hp@ 6800rpm) with a Probe 377C.I. stroker kit with
* Forged 11.75 comp. pistons H-beam rods
* .630 lift roller cam and Milodon gear drive
* Crower pushrods and S.S. roller rockers with S.S. HiFlow manley valves
* Ported and polished heads and Hall Pantera Weber manifold
* 48 IDA downdraft Webers built by Inglesse
* Canton 10 qt. trap-door road racing pan and oil cooler
* Twin Howe sprintcar aluminum radiators with 2400cfm puller fans
* ZF 5 speed transaxle with 4:10 gear
* 15lb. aluminum flywheel
* MSD box and billet dist.
* Tires rear Hooiser 25.0x13.0x16 front 23.5x12.0x16 slicks
* Wheels custom BBS rim shells with hand made center sections. 12x16 rear 10x16 front
* Brakes Wilwood Suprelite 4 piston calipers and 12"x1.25" rotors.
* Exhaust handmade 180deg. 2" S.S. headers, 3.5" collectors, 12" long x 3.5" racing muffers.
* Wilwood racing pedals/master cylinders/hyd. clutch.
* Pantera shifter and linkage
* Performance untested weight 2700lbs.

Lots of pics of the build/extraction Here and Here.

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The Monty Python guys have their own YouTube channel... here's why...

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Monday, December 22, 2008

So, here in Seattle we're snowed in. Consistently cold temps, several snowfalls atop an icy layer, and the lack of any significant roadclearing equipment have basically put the city into lockdown.

We're ok, I've got chains on all four wheels and the 4wd is adequate, so it's easy to get around, even up and down the icy steep streets signed as closed. The chains keep me under 30mph(they slap the fenderwells if I try any faster), but they make getting around in the stuff a virtual non-issue. Yet, I don't see many other vehicles with them. Odd. Also, Seattle people CAN'T DRIVE!!! We're basically staying in until we need to get to work.

The backyard...

The street out front...

The rarely seen abominable snowdog...


Went to the International motorcycle Show here in Seattle a week or so ago. Snowy, cold, only one or two bikers in the lot. Seemed to be a lot of alternative vehicles around, Like Honda's DN-01....

The 2009 Honda DN-01 ($14,600 and up) aims to merge the sport bike and cruiser, with a muscular four-valve, 680cc liquid-cooled V-twin engine, fully automatic transmission, low seat height, a combined ABS triple-disc braking system, and more. For maximum badass-ness, we recommend the nearly all-black model (sissy boy cherry red also available).

Denise really liked the low seat height and automatic transmission of the little Ridley bikes....

All CF Buell 1125R was pretty...

Otherwise all pretty standard fare... Almost not worth the entrance fee.


I know I saw "Mythbusters" episode about this...



Nope. Scooters are still uncool.



XKCD commentary....

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Heyelan - Land slide

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Cardboard Tube Origami....

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