Friday, February 5, 2010

Flexible Spaces...From Paris

I'm sitting here. Stuck. In my house. 100 inches of snow happening outside, as we speak. Okay. Not exactly 100. 30 inches predicted. I have to face it. After 5 inches of snow, I stop counting, so it might as well be 100. Naturally, I'm focused on my house and regretting that I didn't ask the builder to install pocket doors from the living room into the family room. Although my house is frozen solid still, no walls on the move, I'm intrigued with a concept I've been reading about: flexible floor plans and active changeable spaces. Houses are being built to include fiber board walls that can be easily moved. Pocket doors and walls on wheels that retract to reveal a view or create a different space. An upstairs landing can be converted into a play area for grand kids; a large family room can retract into two spaces (home office). Families are dynamic; changing, blending. Unconventional pairings (stepchildren, and aging grandparents) can comfortably co-exist with flexible floor plans.
The photo? It has nothing to do with flexible spaces, but doesn't the view make you forget about 100 inches of snow piled outside?

Lone GOP gunslinger stymies (doncha love that word stymie?) Obama nominees

'If you don't give me what I want, I'll get my toys and leave the playground ... so THERE!'

Maybe it's time to revisit the Senate's arcane rules, which allow any individual senator to block any presidential appointee on a whim. With dozens of government posts still unfilled, Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama is reportedly throwing a historically unprecedented temper tantrum by placing a hold on at least 70 presidentially nominated jobs. Shelby's office will not talk to reporters about the reported move, which can be undertaken anonymously, but according to Congress Daily the lawmaker has clashed with the White House over a $40 billion military contract whose recipient is threatening to scrap a planned factory in Mobile, Alabama. Holds force the Senate to break a filibuster, which requires 60 votes and can slow Congressional business to a crawl even if the vote succeeds.

Stern to replace Cowell?

Someone will need to warn Howard about what he can/can't say on TV; maybe George Carlin ... if he were alive

This sounds like the best idea since Rush Limbaugh hosted Monday Night Football: A source tells Page Six that Howard Stern is producers’ top choice to replace Simon Cowell on American Idol. Stern’s Sirius XM Radio deal expires in January, and Idol might have the cash to lure him away. However, a second source says that Stern has been sending mixed messages. "We believe this is a ploy to make Sirius pay up and keep him on his huge contract. But if Sirius can't pay him the money he wants, he may negotiate to film Idol on the side."

Hachette joins Macmillan in eBook pricing war

Price quarreling for eBooks continues to escalate

"We want the agency model" seems to be the message publishers are sending to Amazon as the e-book pricing war intensifies. All week the battle between Macmillan and Amazon as to how the e-tailing giant will price digital books has been raging. And now Hachette has joined the fray, with HarperCollins calling for negotiations as well.

That means that Amazon is now butting heads with three of the five biggest US publishers. It would seem that something's got to give – quickly.

Up until now, the Amazon model has been to sell many popular e-books at the subsidized price of $9.99. (The publisher is paid $15 and Amazon sells the high-profile books as loss leaders.) But publishers like Macmillan prefer the agency model proposed by Apple during the unveiling of its iPad last week. This would allow publishers to set their own prices, with a 30 percent commission going to the seller.

Approved/unapproved books in Texas prisons

Not that we expect cons to be intellectuals, but certain authors are not welcome in 'the joint'

Prisoners can’t peruse certain books by Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide, both Nobel laureates. “Krik? Krak!” by Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, who last year won a MacArthur “genius” grant, is prohibited behind Lone Star bars. Books of paintings by some of the world’s greatest artists — da Vinci, Picasso, Botticelli, Michelangelo — have been ordered out of state correctional facilities.

And just because a book is a best-seller in the free world doesn’t mean it’s available on the inside. Harold Robbins, Pat Conroy, Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Barry and James Patterson belong to the don’t-read fraternity. Mystery writer Carl Hiaasen does, too, as do Kinky Friedman and Janet Fitch, whose “White Oleander” was an Oprah’s Book Club selection.

Aston Martin Rapide review

The four-door Rapide is beautiful compared with rivals from Porsche and Mercedes

GW crimes

AP/Penn State

How well did Penn State probe key 'Climate-gate' figure who brought school big money? Critics say barely.

Michael Crichton art collection on sale

Author Michael Crichton’s collection of art - including Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns - is going on sale. The author died in November 2008 at the age of 66.

Four pieces from Crichton’s collection valued at $32 million — including an iconic Johns Stars and Stripes “Flag” painting that once hung in the writer’s Beverly Hills bedroom — went on display Friday before being auctioned by Christie’s in New York in May.

I have had this same thought, who is “buying” what they are claiming. Internal Growth seems unlikely to explain the numbers they are putting out.

Wash Times
Skeptics wonder: Are China’s numbers masking a recession?

WaPo: a Republican budget plan actually cuts the deficit

Rep. Paul D. Ryan says he is determined to make sure the Republican Party is viewed as “the alternative party, not the opposition party.”

Released two days before the unusual back-and-forth session between Obama and the GOP, the bill sponsored by Ryan and five other House members would seek to reduce the deficit and spur economic growth by cutting the tax rate on corporations, shifting future Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to private insurance plans, and both raising the retirement age gradually to 70 and reducing the growth of benefits to make Social Security solvent. Even Democrats have acknowledged that it is one of the few plans offered by a member of either party that would lower the long-term budget deficit.

Sports Brand Values. Amazingly Colts and Saints absent. From Peter

Forbes' top 10 sports teams in brand value

No. 1 Manchester United (English Premier League)

Brand value of $270 million

No. 2 New York Yankees (MLB)

Brand value of $266 million

No. 3 Real Madrid (Spanish La Liga)

Brand Value: $245 million

No. 4 Dallas Cowboys (NFL)

Brand Value: $208 million

No. 5 Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

Brand Value: $200 million

No. 6 Arsenal (English Premier League)

No. 7 AC Milan (Italian Serie A)

No. 8 Barcelona (Spanish La Liga)

No. 9 New York Mets (MLB)

No. 10 Boston Red Sox (MLB)

Now that is some some old cold whisky

1908 South Pole explorers with Shakleton second left

Shackleton (second left) pictured with other members of his team in 1908

Five crates of whisky and brandy belonging to Sir Ernest Shackleton, the polar explorer, have been recovered after being buried under the Antarctic ice for over 100 years.

The spirits, supplied by the Scottish distillers Whyte and Mackay, were excavated from underneath Shackleton's Antarctic hut

Quick Hits

(ABC News)
And so an end so long delayed has come to pass at last: after 48 years of endless fire, $42 million in federal relocation funding and 500 buildings razed, Centralia PA is down to just 5 houses and a dozen residents

Euro falls to 7-month low against the dollar on news that the fate of the entire European Union is in the hands of a country with an economy based on goat cheese and olives

(Contact Music)
After seeing footage of the devastation in Haiti, Naomi Campbell decides the best thing to do is organize a fashion show for them. Thankfully, they all wear her size

(Washington Post)
Liberals wouldn't have to be so condescending if people weren't so damned stupid: "Their views are correct, self-evident, and based on fact and reason, while conservative positions are not just wrong but illegitimate"

Global warming has all the elements of a religious faith

Olbermann is getting canned

Reports are circulating that Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show on MSNBC could be nearing the end of its run. Ratings are in free-fall, dropping 44% since last year's election.

The Worst Scifi Snubs In Oscar History

Best Director - 1968

Who Won: Carol Reed for Oliver!
Who Should've Won: Stanley Kubrick for 2001: A Space Odyssey

For CNN if you believe in the Constitution and Fiscal Restraint you are “Far Right” but believing in Socialism is not news worth.

The Gallup Poll finds that 53% of Democrats and 61% of liberals have a "positive image of socialism." That could explain a lot about the Obama administration. Meanwhile, the Tea Party is meeting in Nashville. CNN provides a primer on the Tea Partiers, and twice describes them as "far right."

So: socialism is mainstream, but fiscal sanity and constitutionalism are "far right."

Dr. Krauthammer answers the question we have been asking for some time

This being a democracy, don’t the Democrats see that clinging to this agenda will march them over a cliff? Don’t they understand Massachusetts?

Well, they understand it through a prism of two cherished axioms: (1) The people are stupid, and (2) Republicans are bad. Result? The dim, led by the malicious, vote incorrectly.

Steve Wozniak Describes the Eureka Moment That Brought Color to Computers

Dutch Point Out New Mistakes in U.N. Climate Report

The IPCC's beleaguered climate report faces the prospect of still more errors, as Dutch authorities point out factual inaccuracies about the Netherlands.

Dutch environment ministry spokesman Trimo Vallaart has asked the U.N.'s climate change panel to rethink its assertion that more than half of the Netherlands is below seal level. Dutch authorities explain that, in fact, only 26 percent of the country is below sea level.

The Scots-Irish connection to American common sense

Michael Barone writes in the Wall Street Journal -
Ask anyone reasonably well versed in American history to name our most populist-minded president, and you'll likely hear the name of Andrew Jackson. He was the son of Scots-Irish immigrants, raised on the frontier, and he ran the first democratic (and Democratic) campaign. A gang of Jackson's roughneck supporters, so the legend goes, rushed to the White House after his inauguration and tore the place apart.

But Jackson was not a "spread the wealth" populist. On the contrary, he opposed the American System of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay to have the government build roads and canals and other public works. He killed the central bank and paid off the national debt.

Jackson argued that government interference in the economy would inevitably favor the well-entrenched and well-connected. It would take money away from the little people and give it to the elites.

That view seems to be shared today in what I have called the Jacksonian belt, the broad swath of America settled by the Scots-Irish from the Appalachian chains in Virginia southwest to Texas. The Obama administration argues that Democratic big government and health-care programs will help the little guys. Jacksonians today, as in the 1830s, don't agree.

. . .Why has the politics of economic redistribution had such limited success in America? One reason is that Americans, unlike Western Europeans, tend to believe that there is a connection between effort and reward and that people can work their way up economically. If people do something to earn their benefits, like paying Social Security taxes, that's fine. But giving money to those who have not in some way earned it is a no-no. Moreover, like Andrew Jackson, most Americans suspect that some of the income that is redistributed will end up in the hands not of the worthy but of the well-connected.

Good Question, although I think she was asking another President.

FLASHBACK: Pelosi: Where Are the Jobs, Mr. President?

How Clarence Thomas Picks Law Clerks. Love the “not part of this new or faux nobility.”


He says he thinks it’s important to have diversity, and his idea is to concentrate on his circuit, the 11th Circuit. So he’ll look for law students who are near the top of the class in schools in that circuit (which includes Florida).

He’s explicitly scornful of the bloggers who refer to the students at the less highly ranked law schools as “TTT” or “third tier trash.”

Plus: “And for law clerks he chooses ‘the kids I like,’ with “a preference for non-Ivy League law clerks, ‘because “I’m not part of this new or faux nobility.’”

So much for “Jobs Saved or Created”


Economy Sheds 20,000 Jobs But Unemployment Rate Drops to 9.7 Percent.

Okay, not so much of a miracle: “A sharp increase in the number of people giving up looking for work helped to depress the jobless rate. The number of ‘discouraged job seekers’ rose to 1.1 million in January from 734,000 a year ago.”

Wow! Dems are different

Great news: 53% of Democrats have positive image of socialism

Explaining with Science that which may not be Science

Potential Evolutionary Role for Same-Sex Attraction

ScienceDaily (Feb. 4, 2010) — Male homosexuality doesn't make complete sense from an evolutionary point of view. It appears that the trait is heritable, but because homosexual men are much less likely to produce offspring than heterosexual men, shouldn't the genes for this trait have been extinguished long ago? What value could this sexual orientation have, that it has persisted for eons even without any discernible reproductive advantage?

One possible explanation is what evolutionary psychologists call the "kin selection hypothesis." What that means is that homosexuality may convey an indirect benefit by enhancing the survival prospects of close relatives. Specifically, the theory holds that homosexual men might enhance their own genetic prospects by being "helpers in the nest." By acting altruistically toward nieces and nephews, homosexual men would perpetuate the family genes, including some of their own


WSJ: Families With $45k AGI Face 41% Marginal Tax Rate Under ObamaCare

Wall Street Journal op-ed, Another Obama Tax Hike: The Senate Health-Care Bill Would Raise Effective Marginal Tax Rates on Lower and Middle-Income Singles and Families up to 41%, by Douglas Holtz-Eakin (Former Director, Congressional Budget Office; Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations) & Alex Brill (American Enerprise Institute):

[The Senate health care bill raises] to shocking levels the effective marginal tax rates (EMTR) on lower and middle-income singles and families--with the government taking up to 41% of each additional dollar. ...

WSJ Chart

Strange Sights in the Sky

The scientific and pseudoscientific worlds are buzzing over that mysterious, x-shaped object zooming through space at 11,000 mph. But it's just one of several recent UFOs that caught our attention. Vote on which is most likely piloted by aliens.

Your first contender is, of course Object X, pictured above and below in closeup.

Last month, there was the "green jellyfish" light over Norway.

The Complete History Of Pandora, According To Avatar's Designers

Avatar didn't sweep the Oscar nominations just because of its amazing special effects — it captured the hearts and imaginations of Academy voters because of its world-building. Here's the complete history of the movie's intricate world, from the designers themselves.

Maybe Apple will do better

Click here to read The $9.99 Ebook Is Dead: Third Major Publisher Hachette Dumps on Amazon

The $9.99 Ebook Is Dead: Third Major Publisher Hachette Dumps on Amazon

Amazon's ebook pricing structure has crumbled. Hachette's the third major publisher to push for the agency model, following MacMillan and HarperCollins: They'll set the ebook prices (higher, natch) and the bookseller takes a cut. The $9.99 ebook? Poof

From Paul on a climber he meet in Argentina where they were discussing the Canadian Health care system. (Yes it is a small world)

btw, one of the climbers I met on Aconcagua last month was a Canadian businessman -- operates a factory in Ontario with 120 employees.  Very conservative.  Sounded like Limbaugh / Beck / O'Reilly on every issue except healthcare.  Insisted he had never run into a Canadian who was unhappy with their system.  I said that's impossible; he replied "believe what you will, I'm just telling you the truth."

800,000 more with out jobs. Only 53% of adults are working.

Grim Jobs Report Likely

Analysts are expecting the Labor Department to add another 800,000 jobs to the total lost during the recession

India Tell UN GW Panel to go to hell

BAD NEWS FOR THE IPCC: India has established its own body to monitor the effects of global warming because it “cannot rely” on the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group headed by its own Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr R K Pachauri.

It must be getting bad when this happens

Comes out swinging against COMCAST - NBC deal...