Thursday, June 30, 2011

Amerikansk dressing, Skåne Tourist Board, Volvo, Lots of Color - but No Swedish Chef

"Snapshots from Sweden: Roaming Around a Swedish Supermarket"
Robyn Lee, Serious Eats (June 30, 2011)

"From June 5 to June 11, I visited Western and Southern Sweden on a trip sponsored by Visit Sweden, West Sweden Tourist Board, Skåne Tourist Board, and Volvo as part of their CAR + VACATION contest. Here's a look at something I saw during my trip.

"It was supposed to be a quick stop, but by pulling into the parking lot of ICA, one of Sweden's largest supermarket chains ... when I'm in a supermarket outside my home territory, I look at everything and take bright-eyed joy in everyday items like cereal and mayonnaise. Kids love candy stores; I love supermarkets...."

A tip of the Lemming's hat to anyone who, as an adult, still knows how to "...look at everything and take bright-eyed joy in everyday items...." And, even better, can share that experience with others.

Speaking of "bright" - quite a few displays in the Swedish supermarket were most sincerely not drab.

Besides the colors, the Lemming enjoyed looking at a familiar setting - a supermarket - which featured somewhat exotic foreign items like Amerikansk dressing (hampurilais kastike). Which might have been labeled "American dressing (hamburguesa salsa)" if it were on the shelf of the supermarket down the street from the Lemming's house. Although the Lemming is pretty sure that, whatever 'hamburger sauce' is, that's not what we call it here in America.

It's a fun post - the Lemming liked it, anyway: your experience may vary - with 17 photos from a Swedish supermarket. Including a full-size version of the one you see here.

Swedish supermarket, by the way, doesn't have all that much to do with Swedish Chef, which is another topic.

Related (sort of) posts:

A tip of the hat to williamcooks, on Twitter, for the heads-up on this 'Swedish Supermarket' post.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Asteroid Misses Earth, Good News; It's Not Unique, Not-So-Good News

"Close Shave: Asteroid to Just Miss Earth Today" (June 27, 2011)

"An asteroid the size of a tour bus will fly past Earth today (June 27) so closely it will be beneath some of the planet's satellites.

"The rock, named asteroid 2011 MD will zoom by just 7,500 miles (12,000 km) above the planet, making a sharp turn forced by Earth's gravity before winging off into space again. The flyby will occur at about 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT).

"There is no risk of an impact, NASA scientists said. The space rock, estimated to be between 29 to 98 feet (9 to 30 meters) wide, is likely too small to survive a plunge through our atmosphere anyway. An asteroid this size, if it were mostly stony, would break apart and burn up before hitting the surface. Iron-heavy space rocks are better at surviving the fiery entry, however...."

There was quite a lot of science going on while 2011 MD whipped by Earth: and the odds of anything getting hit in the flyby were really, really low. It helps that the asteroid's orbit isn't in the ecliptic - the plane that planets orbit in. More or less.

The probability that it would hit something was not, however, zero. The asteroid shot by Earth about 7,500 miles out - closer than the uneven ring of geosynchronous satellites. They're 22,236 miles away, over the equator. Which isn't in the ecliptic, either - and that's another topic.

The good news is that 2011 MD wasn't going to hit Earth - and even if it had, it wouldn't have made it all the way to the surface. Probably.

The bad news is that, sooner or later, some hunk or rock, metal, or ice will hit Earth's atmosphere. And get all the way down to the surface. At which point kinetic energy in the asteroid/comet/whatever will be converted into heat. Quite a great deal of heat.

About a century back something exploded over Siberia. It wasn't a particularly big explosion, and there weren't any towns or cities nearby.

Eventually, something's going to hit Earth, near a city - or the rock will be big enough so that it won't matter where it comes down. Something big falling out of the sky probably helped kill off the dinosaurs.

City-Busting Asteroids, Budget Woes, and Congress

The American Congress has budget worries just now, so someone's almost certainly going to get the idea that they'll save money by cutting funding for science projects: like looking for asteroids. I've posted about that sort of thing before. (May 16, 2011)

Right now, that probably won't make any difference. Each year, the odds of some bit of debris from space falling on our heads is quite low. Same goes for each decade.

When it comes to centuries and millennia, though - that's different.

The Case of the Missing Witnesses

So, why don't we have historical records of a massive explosion that wiped out a civilization? These days, information about that sort of thing would be covered by Reuters and other global news agencies, data gathered and stored in archives all over the world - and probably retained for quite a while.

But what if the only witnesses didn't survive? The Siberian explosion didn't leave a crater - we might never know why some collection of ruins was abandoned.

Anyway, written records only go back a few thousand years - and that's another topic.

Related posts:

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Inflatable Sharks? Swell!

"Inflatable Shark Among 300 New Species Discovered in Philippines"
Charles Q. Choi, LiveScience (June 27, 2011)

"A treasure trove of hundreds of new species may have been discovered in the Philippines, including a bizarre sea star that feeds exclusively on sunken driftwood and a deep-sea, shrimp-eating shark that swells up to scare off other predators.

"Scientists braved leeches and a host of venomous creatures from the mountains to the sea to uncover more than 300 species that are likely new to science. These findings include dozens of new insects and spiders, more than 50 colorful new sea slugs and a number of deep-sea armored corals 'which protect themselves against predatory nibbles from fish by growing large, spiky plates,' said researcher Terrence Gosliner, dean of science and research collections at the California Academy of Sciences and leader of the 2011 Philippine Biodiversity Expedition....

"...All these new findings help support the idea that the Philippines 'is one of the hottest of the hotspots for diverse and threatened life on Earth,' Gosliner said. 'We found new species during nearly every dive and hike as we surveyed the country's reefs, rainforests and the ocean floor.' [10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]..."

'You got an inflatable what?!!'

Now that the Lemming's got that out of his apathetic system, a micro-review of the LiveScience article.

What We Know, and What We Know that We don't Know - Yet

First, kudos for writing "likely new to science." Some of the 'new' critters may have been spotted, evaluated, and recorded before - but not all that well-known. Someday, maybe, there'll be some nth-generation successor to the Internet that can search just about all records ever made by anybody, anywhere - fast. But the Lemming's not holding his breath, waiting for it.

The same facts could be reported as Endangered Species Discovered in Philippines - with a sidebar about Save the Armored Coral, a frightfully earnest bunch that's raising funds in a desperate race to protect the critters from something. Probably climate change. Global warming seems to be currently démodé.

The Lemming - Against Biodiversity?

If you've read this blog before, you may realize that the Lemming is apathetic only in a snarky sense of the word. It's the sort of apathy that doesn't necessarily go ballistic over the crisis du jure.

Now, about biodiversity and all that.

It is the Lemming's opinion that kittens are cute. The Lemming also thinks that breathing exhaust fumes is a bad idea.

Earth has been the Lemming's home for decades - and so the Lemming has a very personal interest in what happens to life on this planet.

The Lemming is also aware that one of the few constants on this planet for the last few billion years has been change. There's a reason you won't find recipes calling for fresh trilobite - and the Lemming's used that one before:
It's probably a mistake to assume that Earth's ecosystems were exactly right at one time, and any that deviation from that 'normal' setting is a planetary catastrophe of epic proportions - and may even result in the other party getting a majority in Congress. Not that there was anything 'wrong' with conditions in, say:
  • 1850
  • 1491
  • 1065
  • 454
  • Whenever
But thinking that Earth's climate in 454 was okay does not necessarily mean that any change from that 'normal' is a problem.

Change may happen easily - whether we want it to or not - but that doesn't make living with change easy.

The trick, in the Lemming's opinion, is to tell the difference between change that might cause practical problems: and change that is not a disaster of global proportions.

"Biodiversity:" At Least Five Syllables Long

Is "biodiversity" important? Probably. Possibly. Could be. Quite a few folks think so, anyway.

Clearly, biodiversity decreases when the number of species on Earth goes down.1

'Save the Cockroach??'

About that "[10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye]" - the Lemming isn't happy with the thought that every species that ever was isn't thriving right now? Wait a minute - let's think about that.

If change didn't happen - or had stopped at some point - that might mean that we'd have forests of lycophytes, and have to worry about a pederpes getting into the garden. Assuming that we'd be here, of course.

It'd be nice if the Sumatran rhinoceros, black-footed ferret, and Sumatran orangutan, weren't - apparently - on their way to being extinct. On the other hand, this may not presage a replay of the Permian-Triassic extinction even - or ever The End Of Civilization As We Know It.

Still, things don't look good for the Sumatran rhinoceros.

When we hear about cockroaches dying by the bushel, pigeons no longer gracing civic monuments, and rats being conspicuous by their absence? Then the Lemming will think there's cause for concern.

Ever notice how the Tasmanian devil isn't often mentioned in appeals to 'save the endangered [cuddlesome critter]?' Despite devil facial tumour disease ravaging the species? "...At present the population has dwindled 70% since 1996. Numbers as of 2010 show an 80% rate of infection throughout the population...." The good news is that six (6) females seem to be resistant to the disease. There's a captive-breeding program that may save the species. (Wikipedia)

Assumptions and an Apathetic Lemming

There's a time and place for intense earnestness. Sally Struthers achieved a kind of fame in the marketing world for her effectiveness at a particular sort of fundraising. That is not a criticism. The actress could emote very well - and had by that time achieved fame for her role in All in the Family. It's hard to argue with success - although some have tried.

And that's another topic.

In a world where the American bison and spotted owl were supposed to go extinct - and didn't; and we didn't mostly die in food riots that didn't happen; the Lemming thinks that there can be a difference between assumptions and reality. And that's yet another topic. Topics.

Related (no - really) posts:

1 Think about it - - -.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Olympic Committee Rules for Social Media: Common Sense; or Signs of a Vast Conspiracy of Space Aliens?

"Olympic Bosses Set Guidelines for Tweeting Athletes"
Erik Malinowski, Playbook, Wired (June 27, 2011)

"The International Olympic Committee has released guidelines on how athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London may engage in social media, an effort clearly designed to avoid the sort of confusion that occurred nearly 18 months ago in Vancouver.

" 'The IOC actively encourages and supports athletes … to take part in "social media" and to post, blog and tweet their experiences,' the guidelines state (.pdf). 'Broadly speaking, the IOC wants people to share their experiences through social media. As a general rule, the IOC encourages all social media and blogging activity at the Olympic Games as long as it is not for commercial and/or advertising purposes.'..."

So far, so good. It's nice to think that the International Olympic Committee can learn. And apply what's been learned.

"...Well, if anything, it should certainly curtail the type of promo-only tweeting we often see from Olympic athletes. But beyond scaling back on this sort of commercialism that could distract from the competitions, IOC officials undoubtedly expect this move to cut down on some of the questions that arose during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia...."

The Lemming suspects that part of the trouble is that the big shots who get to be on international committees are around the Lemming's age. Nothing wrong with that, by itself. But the Lemming stayed in touch with what 'the help' were doing: quite often by being 'the help,' and that's another topic.

That meant that the Lemming knew how to use a typewriter - a vital skill for 'clerical' types, not so much for success-track executives. Manual typewriters: the Lemming's that old. Being able to type maybe 50 words a minute ('good enough,' barely) gave the Lemming a head start when the Disk Operating System, and computers with stunningly huge internal memory1 came along.

The Lemming's rambled on about this before:


"...IOC honchos are expecting the athletes (as always) to best on their best Twitter behavior.

" 'Postings, blogs and tweets should at all times conform to the Olympic spirit and fundamental principles of Olympism as contained in the Olympic Charter, be dignified and in good taste, and not contain vulgar or obscene words or images,' the rules stipulate...."

The Lemming was not aware that "Olympism" was a word. In context, it's pretty clearly a noun, probably meaning something like 'of or pertaining to the Olympics.' And if it wasn't a word before, it is now. Languages - living ones - change, grow, develop. Someone really should let the folks running France know that. And that's definitely another topic. (Another War-on-Terror Blog (June 6, 2011))

The Olympics, Vast Secret Conspiracies, and the Lemming

Back to that article. Last time. Promise.

"...Additionally, no website URLs will be allowed to contain the words 'Olympic' or 'Olympics' in the primary domain, unless they have been pre-approved by the IOC. And, as before, fans and athletes will not be allowed to post audio or video of any events to Twitter, Facebook or personal blogs...."

The IOC controls what folks can name their domains?! Okay - maybe that's part of what's been getting sorted out, as intellectual property laws and customs are catching up with today's information technology. Well, moving in the right direction. Maybe.

It occurs to the Lemming that the 'no Olympic/Olympics' in domain names may be sort of rough on folks who want to start something online about ancient Greece, or Mount [redacted], or Greco-Roman mythology.

Well, as we say here in Minnesota - it could be worse.

Or - - - maybe Wired let a little-known aspect of the Vast Global Worldwide Conspiracy of International Oligarchic Control ("IOC" doesn't stand for International Olympic Committee, although dupes of the lizard-men think that's so - - -

They're the ones who killed John Lennon, and put the face on Mars, and faked the moon landing to cover up the real reason that Kennedy was killed: which was so Elvis could elope with Marilyn Monroe, who had been hiding in plain sight disguised as Jackie Kennedy - who couldn't have married Onassis, since he's one of the shape-shifting space-alien lizard-men who really run the world.

You See??!!! IT ALL FITS TOGETHER!!!!!!!!

Maybe the Lemming shouldn't joke about that - somebody might believe it.

Or the lizard-men might be upset.

Or something.

Related posts:
Not-so-related posts:

1 The early hard drives paled in comparison to the later titans - which sometimes could store as much as 30 megabytes of data!

Lemming Tracks: Hey! Where'd Sunday Go?!

The Lemming was awake all the way through Sunday - afternoon naps were part of the routine, a few years ago, and may return, but they're not part of the Lemming's life at the moment.

Which has very little to do with the topic of this post. Whatever that is. The Lemming had something in mind a minute ago. It can't have gone far - - - aha! Got it.

The Lemming's household had some pleasant breaks in routine, more-or-less over the weekend. The son-in-law and #2 daughter visiting from Thursday to Saturday was one, then the Lemming's father-in-law stopped in for a chat Sunday afternoon - and stayed for supper.

The Lemming got the Sauk Centre Journal's weekly entry done:
By the time that was done, it was late: and the Lemming had a decision to make. To wash, or not to wash: that is the question. Whether 'tis better to let the dishes go until Monday morning, anon explain why the fry pan isn't clean: or face the counter's clutter. And so, sitting well in order, smite the trumpet that will never sound retreat.

The Lemming seems to have slipped from Hamlet (more or less) into Battle Hymn of the Republic, by way of Tennyson's Ulysses. Not the James Joyce one, and that's another topic.

Come to think of it, that bit sounded a bit like Joyce's contribution to incomprehensibility as a literary affectation. And that is yet again another topic.

Briefly, the Lemming decided to wash the dishes, instead of writing a post for this blog. On reflection, that still seems like a prudent choice.

However, there's still one post to do for today - and the Lemming would just as soon have something to show for what you may, or may not, have expected to see yesterday.

Eco-Tourism and Complimentary Snack Trays

By the way, the Amazon Rainforest Hotel - "The Ariau Amazon Towers - Largest Treetop Hotel in the World" is near Manaus, Brazil.

Yes, now you, too, can "Escape to the natural beauty and wild majesty of the Amazon Rainforest... Nestled in a canopy of trees above the Amazon River..." at "... the only hotel resort built completely at tree top level in the Jungle."

"Experience the ultimate in eco-tourism ... " while feeling guilty about breathing in oxygen and selfishly exhaling carbon dioxide - that only encourages wasteful growth by those plants over there. Oh, wait. They're plants: so it's okay if they grow.

Actually, staying at that treetop hotel looks like fun, and the monkeys seem to enjoy hanging around the complimentary snack trays.

Wait a Minute: What If Those Weren't Always Monkeys?

At least, the Lemming assumes that those are monkeys in the photo. Which brings up the question - by all that is sane, why is a major section of Downtown Disney called "Pleasure Island?!" They're re-imagining the area (, as of June 27, 2011) - but apparently keeping the name. Doesn't anybody watch Pinocchio any more? Remember what line of work the Coachman was in?

Oh, well: appreciation of metaphor and symbolism doesn't seem to be one of contemporary American culture's major strengths. And that is definitely another topic. Topics.

"Green" Doesn't Have to be Goofy

At this rate, the Lemming isn't going to get around to The Vermont Country Store, which isn't particularly near Manaus, or anywhere else in Brazil.

The Lemming remembers the first Earth Day. It was groovy.

The Lemming still lives on Earth, so what happens on this planet is of personal interest. Which may be why the Lemming is so annoyed when wackadoo fanatics make 'environmental awareness' sound like a psychiatric condition. Aside from practical concerns, the Lemming thinks that not pouring raw sewage in the well is a moral issue. Which may not mean what you think it does:Eco-tourism may still be controversial, or not. One (1) resort hotel, built in treetops or not, isn't likely to utterly destroy for all time the Amazonian rainforest. The local monkeys may actually have benefited from it - snack trays and all that.

The High Cost of Relevance?

The Lemming tried to discover just how much it costs to stay at the "Largest Treetop Hotel in the World" - and didn't find a price list. Which may mean that 'if you have to ask, you can't afford it.' Particularly since one of the vacation packages is called the "Berkeley Repertory Theatre Package."

All of which is okay - the Lemming made decisions that pretty much guaranteed a lifetime of not vacationing on Côte d'Azur, with a little 79-room cottage overlooking Kathmandu for seasons when (other) nouveau riche sully the pristine beaches. The Lemming isn't likely to see the inside of cruise ship, when it comes to that. So far, the tradeoffs have been excellent.1

Encouraging folks with substantial disposable incomes to dispose of some of the 'extra' in around Manaus probably makes sense. Particularly for folks living in or around Manaus. The city is an industrial center, and Brazil as a whole isn't even close to being the poorest country in the world.2 Still, folks with jobs at eco-resorts buy groceries and pay rent - and that's getting into economics. Also common sense. And yet another topic.

Which isn't saying that Brazil is a veritable Earthly Eden, where the Age of Aquarius really happened. More topics.

Bottom line? The Lemming figures that if folks with money to spend want to spend it in a few nights at a four-star tree house, where watching monkeys will help them feel good - well, there are worse ways to spend money. Much worse. Yet still more topics.

And the Lemming has got to stop writing - or this 'Monday' post won't be finished until Tuesday. If then.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

1 The Lemming lived on the low side of the economic spectrum by choice:
2 "Brazil," CIA World Factbook (page last updated June 9, 2011)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Another Blogger's Readers Opine on Writing

"Written By You"
Shawn Smucker blog (June 25, 2011)

"This week was a little different here at the blog as I abandoned my normal posts for something new: I gave you a quote on writing, a question, and you guys did the work. Here are some of the questions I asked, as well as some of my favorite responses:

"Are artists generally melancholy, dissatisfied people, or is that just a stereotype?

" 'While there are a variety of reasons that spur individuals toward the creative process, I think that history shows the best and/or most creative have survived through a degree of adversity....'..."

"What do you think about imitation? A helpful tool for aspiring artists? A poor excuse for plagiarism? Which writers or artists or musicians do you like to learn from?

" 'My default assumption when a "writer" tells me they don't really like to read much is that they are kidding themselves about being writers...'..."

There's more to that reader's response, by the way: about emulation, plagiarism, and all that.

Mr. Smucker's post is Brilliant! Insightful! Profound! A Must-Read! The Lemming may be a bit biased - since the Lemming pretty much agrees with what's there. There's also a missing apostrophe - but not the sort of scrambled syntax that makes reading difficult. And that's another topic.

You won't learn how to write in five easy steps from this post, earn millions in the privacy of your own home, or get a brighter smile. You may learn a little about writing, creativity, and what folks who actually practice both have to say.

Removing Content, and Other Ways To Avoid Visitors

The Lemming planned to link to five other posts in this blog on (vaguely) related topics. That's pretty common practice here at Apathetic Lemming of the North: Hey, if you don't like the post (and who could blame you?), maybe something else here will be worth a glance. Or, not.

Anyway, the Lemming discovered that - of five promising micro-reviews - One (1) still linked to an existing off-site page.


Also, fairly common.

Providing fresh content is, in the Lemming's considered opinion, somewhere between important and necessary where websites are concerned: necessary and vital for blogs. Just what constitutes "fresh" can vary, of course. Yet another topic.

Removing pages because they're not now and wow - not so smart, unless it's something like a current weather report.

The Lemming recognizes that there are managers and executives out there who apparently live in constant fear that somehow, somewhere, someone's going to visit their website. And come back.

Or, even worse, find some useful or entertaining content that's more than a year old: but still useful or entertaining.

A sincere desire to avoid new traffic and discourage return visits is, in the Lemming's view, a valid reason for taking down 'old' pages. Whether it makes sense to shun visitors like that - is yet again another topic.

Then there are university websites - and a few corporate ones - which seem to be reorganized every semester or so by caffeinated interns, or brilliant sophomores with all the answers and no field experience. Still one more topic.

Anyway, the Lemming did find one (1) related post, where the page that was micro-reviewed was still there. And four where that wasn't the case.

Well, a sort-of related post. The pictures are cool, anyway.

There are probably more, but who has time to go through several years of posts?*

Posts about creativity or writing, or something:
  • "Never mind: What was reviewed is gone"
    (November 17, 2009)
  • "This one, too"
    (July 8, 2009)
  • "The Lemming micro-reviewed a *good* resource - that's gone"
    (May 22, 2009)
  • "These Landscapes Look Good Enough to Eat"
    (July 8, 2008)
  • "More good advice - that's gone"
    (September 18, 2007)

A tip of the hat to @shawnsmucker, on Twitter, for the heads-up on that post.

* This will be the Lemming's 4,937th post in this blog - going back to July, 2007. And they're all still there. ;)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Driverless Cars: Keep an Eye on Nevada

"Google driverless cars will soon hit the road in Nevada"
Matt Weinberger, Googling Google, News & Blogs, (June 24, 2011)

"Nevada has just passed legislation removing many of the legal barriers to the use of Google's self-driving car technology. So if you see a Toyota Prius or Audi TT without anyone at the wheel the next time you're in the state, don't worry - Google's got their back.

"Let's back up. All that Assembly Bill No 511 says is that Nevada lawmakers have to draft legislation which provides rules for Google's fleet of autonomous cars, according to the Daily Mail report. That means it could still be a little while before the general public will get to take a ride...."

The Lemming remembers when driverless cars were just around the corner. That was in the late '50s. This time around, the Lemming thinks we're a bit more likely to see practical transportation that brings 'horse sense' back to driving. Without the horse.

Quite a bit, actually. Between systems like GPS, and AI that's almost worthy of being called "artificial intelligence," a whole lot more pieces of the puzzle are on the table this time.

It's more than a matter of getting the technology to work.

Who Do You Trust?

"...The benefits of driverless cars include less traffic accidents and greater fuel efficiency, to hear Google tell it. And they never let a car go off without a human operator who can take over in the case of a mistake. But would you ride in a car without a driver?"

Right now, with state-of-the art technology and road systems that aren't designed to handle autonomous cars, the Lemming probably wouldn't.

Having redundant systems will probably be necessary:
  1. A control system in the car that works okay on its own
    1. Staying on the road
    2. Not running into
      • Other vehicles
      • Obstructions
    3. Pulling over on the shoulder if A1 or A2 aren't possible
      • And calling for help
  2. A control system in or over the road that works okay on its own
    1. Staying on the road
    2. Not running into
      • Other vehicles
      • Obstructions
    3. Pulling over on the shoulder if B1 or B2 aren't possible
      • And calling for help
    4. Monitoring traffic near each vehicle's stated destination
    5. Re-routing vehicles to alternate routes if congestion is likely
    6. Updating each vehicle's occupants on
      • Estimated arrival time
      • Rerouting
        • if any
      • Weather conditions at the destination
      • Snack concession reviews at the Cineplex
      • Which friends and acquaintances are at or near the destination
        • What they think of the
          • Popcorn
          • Movie
          • Meeting
          • Decor
          • Whatever
        • Lichee nut futures
        • Whatever
    7. Tracking road usage
      • Anticipating maintenance needs
Unlikely? In detail, yes. For example, the Lemming doubts that there's going to be much demand for a lichee nut futures data channel. Not as standard equipment, anyway. Not soon.

Robot Cars? What Next: Trains Without Firemen?

Maybe a third of a century ago, the Lemming lived in San Francisco, and used the BART trains fairly regularly. Each train had somebody in the 'front,' in a little 'driver's compartment.'

The human didn't have all that much to do, really. Certainly not 'driving' the train.

Then there was the time the 'driver' left the train - and didn't tell the train that he'd gone. (April 21, 2010)

Still, the idea of driverless cars seems rather far-fetched.

Next thing you know, we'll be hearing about some crazy new technology that'll make it possible for some guy living in some small town to publish regularly. And have just about anybody who understands the same language, and has the same tech read the stuff.


Wait a minute - - -

Related posts:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Banana Wallpaper! It's Yellow!

"Banana wallpaper"
by ~Cysiunio: original art in .png format, 900 x 628 pixels.
by ~Cysiunio

Just when you had despaired of finding banana wallpaper for your desktop: this 900 x 628 pixel ping pic, peerlessly pixilated: positively pleasing!

And very, very yellow.

Related (?) posts:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sic Transit Gloria Bunny - Cinnamon, of Disapproving Rabbits

Disapproving Rabbits (June 13, 2011)

"Hello all.

"It is with deep sadness that Sharon and I tell you that Cinnamon has passed away. She had a wonderful life of some 13 years.

"As you can imagine, this is an emotional time for us. We're going to take a break from the website for a week...."

Disapproving Rabbits is back now - with "All disapproval, all the time." Today's post reads: "You're home? But... Dead Man's Curve! The brake line!" ("Cadbury,"Scott & Joanna, via Disapproving Rabbits (June 22, 2011))

Cinnamon's still with the blog, in a way: the posts are still "Disapproved of by Cinnamon."

The Lemming will let some of the 378 comments on Disapproving Rabbits' June 13, 2011, post speak for the Lemming:

"My sympathies on your loss. Thank you for sharing Cinnamon with us -- she was the best disapprover there was."

"Oh no :(
"we're so sorry to hear this....but wow, 13 years! She had a bunderfully long life and was so very loved by you and by all of us...bunny prayers to you and your family!"

"I'm sorry for your loss. Over the years that you have this blog, I've enjoyed seeing Cinnamon do her thing.

"I hope this won't mean the end of Disapproving Rabbits because I love this blog."

Related posts:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Bird Poop, Animal Carcasses, and Dumping 8,000,000 Gallons of Drinking Water

Most folks in America probably realize that it's a bad idea to drink water that's had an animal carcass, or bird poop, in it recently.1 Also that whizzing in the well isn't likely to win you any friends.

Not all countries are the same, as the Lemming's pointed out now and then. Which isn't the same as buying into 19th-century social Darwinism, in the Lemming's opinion. "Different" doesn't necessarily mean "better." "Healthier," maybe.

Water Supplies: Safe and Otherwise

Take these statistics about how many folks in three countries have drinking water that's "improved." "Improved" in this case means folks getting their drinking water from the sort of filtration system, pipes, and water tower that Sauk Centre, Minnesota has, or at least a well that's sort of protected.

"Unimproved" in this list means folks who have to drink out of something like what you find behind dams, or in lakes, ponds, streams, canals or irrigation channels. Or, for those who can afford it, bottled water. Which may or may not have come out of that pond behind the store.
  • United States
    • Improved:
      • Urban: 100% of population
      • rural: 94% of population
      • Total: 99% of population
    • Unimproved:
      • Urban: 0% of population
      • Rural: 6% of population
      • Total: 1% of population (2008)2
  • India
    • Improved:
      • Urban: 96% of population
      • Rural: 84% of population
      • Total: 88% of population
    • Unimproved:
      • Urban: 4% of population
      • Rural: 16% of population
      • Total: 12% of population (2008)2
  • Haiti
    • Improved:
      • Urban: 71% of population
      • Rural: 55% of population
      • Total: 63% of population
    • Unimproved:
      • Urban: 29% of population
      • Rural: 45% of population
      • Total: 37% of population (2008)2
If you're expecting the Lemming to rant about how one party is absolutely vile for making Americans drink tainted water, and this would never happen if another party was in office - you haven't been reading this blog very often.

Apathetic Lemming of the North isn't a political blog. (Curious about what the Lemming is? Read "About the Lemming." Or, not: your choice.)

The Lemming's none too happy about folks living in places like in Haiti making do with none-too-adequate conditions - and that's another topic, mostly for another blog:

Animal Carcasses and Bird Poop in the Drinking Water? Sure: Why Not?

You'll notice that in those three countries, folks living in cities have better odds of having "improved" drinking water. The Lemming figures that's at least partly because it's easier to build water towers and run pipes to where folks live - if you've got a lot of folks living close to each other. In rural areas, where one family may have to travel a mile or so to their nearest neighbor - not so much.

Even living in a city with plumbing in most buildings doesn't guarantee safe water.

Take this one city, for example: They've got plumbing, and even run water for some sort of processing facility before pouring it into a reservoir. An open reservoir, where the water collects bird poop and the occasional animal carcass before being pumped into the city's water mains.

The locals don't seem to mind: like the Lemming said, not all countries are the same. Folks in different parts of the world have different values - you've heard that all before.

Then, somebody noticed one (1) man urinating in the reservoir. One (1) time. Gross, yes: but the Lemming might assume that since the locals normally drink a dilute solution of animal carcasses and bird poop, one dude taking a whiz in the water shouldn't make much difference.

The Lemming would have been wrong.

The city's leaders decided to empty the reservoir. All 8,000,000 gallons of it. That's a whole lot of drinking water. "Safe" drinking water, too.

Remember - the locals figure that a little bird poop and the occasional animal carcass in their drinking water is okay.

Here's the punch line: the city's Portland, Oregon.

The Lemming is Not Making This Up

"Man caught relieving, lake emptied"
The Times of India - UK (June 21, 2011)

"A lake in the US state of Oregon was emptied after a man was caught on a security camera urinating in it....

"...Health experts said the incident would not have caused any harm to people, who are supplied drinking water from the reservoir, since the urine would have vastly diluted.

"But David Shaff, an administrator at the Portland Water Bureau, defended the decision to empty the lake, which is said to cost the taxpayers $36,000, saying: 'It's not an over reaction. What you have to deal with here is the "yuck" factor. Imagine how many people would be saying "I made orange juice with that water this morning".'..."

"Man caught urinating in reservoir, US city flushes 8 million gallons of water" (June 21, 2011)

"Call it the big flush. Because a 21-year-old man was caught on a security camera urinating into a city reservoir, Oregon's biggest city is sending 8 million gallons of treated drinking water down the drain.

"Portland officials defended the decision yesterday, saying they didn't want to send city residents water laced, however infinitesimally, with urine.

"Public health officials say, however, that urine is sterile in healthy people and that the urine in the reservoir was so diluted perhaps a half pint in millions of gallons that it posed little risk.

"Some people in the city, in the suburbs and around the world called the flush an overreaction, especially since animals such as ducks contribute waste routinely and, sometimes, die in the water....

"...City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who is in charge of the water bureau, defended the decision, citing a potential public health risk. He said he worried about the possibility of chlamydia or AIDS from blood in urine....

"...The young man, Josh Seater, told KATU-TV he'd been drinking, was with friends and thought that the reservoir was a sewage treatment plant. He said he felt guilty instantly, and then security guards arrived.

"Besides the sewage charge, Shaff said, the flushed water is worth US $28,000."
" 'Yuck' factor??"

Okay - the Lemming will skip over the horror of it all, and what a shame it is that this perfectly-good drinking water was dumped when millions are in need. It's not likely that the 8,000,000 gallons would have been shipped to Haiti, or India, or anywhere else - and there's still the little matter of bird poop and animal carcases.

And this is part of that 100% "improved" drinking water in the United States?! Well, Portland's just one city.

NDTV said the sewage charge was $8,000: bringing the total cost of dumping that 'safe' drinking water to $28,000+8,000 = $36,000.

Offhand, the Lemming suspects that the city of Portland can afford that.

As for being afraid that the young man might have chlamydia or AIDS? News that the Lemming's read hasn't said anything about Mr. Seater being tested for blood in his urine - or having those, or any other diseases. If that's a real concern, that sort of testing shouldn't be too great a strain on the resources of Portland, Oregon.

On the other hand, the Lemming's noticed that quite a few folks in America have odd ideas about what they call "privacy." And that's another topic.

How Many Pints in 8,000,000 Gallons?

The "pints" and "gallons" cited in the news are almost certainly the sort we've got in America - so the ratio of pints to gallons is 8 to 1.

The NDTV article said there was "perhaps a half pint" of urine involved. Just to make things come out more even, let's say it was 8/10 of a pint, or 0.8 pints. in 8,000,000 gallons of water. That's -






That urine was diluted by a factor of 1 part per 10,000,000. Probably less.

Still, there's the " 'Yuck' factor."

And folks who are scared silly of particular diseases.

And odd notions of "privacy."

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:
  • 1 Carcasses, poop, and drinking water
  • 2 Nations
    • "Haiti"
      CIA World Factbook (page last updated June 14, 2011)
    • "India"
      CIA World Factbook (page last updated on June 14, 2011)
    • "United States"
      CIA World Factbook (page last updated June 14, 2011)
  • Definitions of
    • Improved drinking water = any of the following
      • Piped water into dwelling, yard, or plot
      • Public tap or standpipe
      • Tubewell or borehole
      • Protected dug well
      • Protected spring
      • Rainwater collection
    • Unimproved drinking water = any of the following
      • Unprotected dug well
      • Unprotected spring
      • Cart with small tank or drum
      • Tanker truck
      • Surface water, which includes
        • Rivers
        • Dams
        • Lakes
        • Ponds
        • Streams
        • Canals
        • Irrigation channels
        • Bottled water
    • Drinking Water, in Definitions and Notes, CIA World Factbook

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ray Guns, Electric Cannons, and the Mind of the Lemming

Once in a while, the Lemming feels a need to explain just what's so "apathetic" about this blog. This is one of those times.

"...Apathy, of course, was anathema to the anguished campus activists of the sixties and seventies. The cultural pressure to care - deeply, passionately, hysterically - led to the slogan 'Apathy is Rampant, But Who Cares?' I still treasure the sight of those words, emblazoned on a bumper sticker. Or maybe it was in a magazine...."

"...Apathy can be defined as not caring about what is supposed to be important. What is considered important, and what's not, in America seems to be determined in the coastal cultures. Since my priorities don't even come close to the stereotype Starbucks-frequenting, Armani-wearing, New York Times reader, I must be 'apathetic.'..."

That page was written before the Lemming started writing quite so many posts in the third person: and that's another topic.

More about the Lemming, on a page called (what else?):
Now, here's why the Lemming thought it was time to say just what sort of "apathy" you're likely to see in this post.

"Sci-Fi Weapons," Budget Concerns, and Living in 'the Future'

"Railgun, Laser Weapon Lose Senate Funding, Face Uncertain Future" (June 20, 2011)

"The Navy's most futuristic weapons will remain more fi than sci.

"The Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday voted to eliminate funding for two of the Navy’s still-in-development guns: the free electron laser, essentially a super-powered death ray, and the railgun, which shoots bullets powered not by explosions, but by energy.

"The Navy had planned to incorporate these sci-fi weapons in a revamped fleet of the future, and asked for $60 million to continue research and development. Those plans may have to change, following the tersely worded cuts -- unveiled on Page 21 of a lengthy press release outlining the Senate's completion of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012...."

Don't misunderstand - the Lemming likes science fiction. The Lemming even enjoyed watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004).

On the other hand, the Lemming will be 60 years old this year: and has been living in "the future" for quite a while. It's not quite 'as advertised:' no flying cars or floating cities. Actually, we've had quite a few flying cars, but they never took off in the commercial sense.

Phrases like "sci-fi weapons" and "fleet of the future" remind the Lemming of the sort of "World of Tomorrow" future that folks may have taken seriously when Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon first appeared on the silver screen. Now that "silver screen" is used when someone wants to evoke nostalgia, a different sort of future seems to be in fashion. And that's almost another topic.

The point is that, although the Lemming enjoys alliteration, "fleet of the future" is emphatically not how the Lemming would describe something that was supposed to be taken seriously.

Electric cannons and ray guns? The Lemming's pretty sure that you'll find practical, level-headed folks who are convinced that those staples of (occasionally atrocious) science fiction stories are as much "science fiction" as spaceports. Of which America has about a half-dozen so far - and it's not just this country. Which is yet another topic.

Great Scott! These Things Work! QUICK!! CUT FUNDING!!! DO IT NOW!!!!

Back to that article:

"...'[The Act] directs the Navy to develop a broader affordable strategy on laser systems and terminates the Navy's free electron laser due to concerns over operational technical challenges. In addition, [it] terminates the Navy's high-risk Electromagnetic Rail Gun,' the release reads.

"Neither the Navy's Office of Naval Research, which has been actively developing the two technologies for several years, nor senior Navy officials were willing to comment on the news, pending the release of the full bill later this week.

"The cuts come on the heels of major successes by both weapons: In February the free-electron laser set a new power record, bringing it closer to the goal of megawatt-class power. In December, the railgun produced a walloping 33-megajoule blast, three times the power previously achieved...."

The American federal government, along with quite a few others around the world, seems to have discovered that spending more money than you take in has consequences. Not-nice ones, eventually. The Lemming thinks America's politicos are to be congratulated for noticing this awkward little point.

What's even more remarkable, in the Lemming's view, is that Congress is putting on a pretty good show of wanting to discuss doing something besides taking more of somebody else's money to pay for their pet projects. The Lemming's discussed this before, in connection with the NASA budget.

If you're expecting a rant about the absolute necessity of more and more military spending, no matter what: That's not gonna happen.

The Lemming also isn't going to do the conventional hand-wringing (paw-wringing?) about the Evils of War and how Yankee imperialism and CIA plots cause tooth decay - or whatever.

Maybe - just maybe - the Senate's decision to (apparently) scuttle these particular weapons development programs is based on something practical. That's possible: at least in principle. There are, probably, comparatively sober members of Congress who do something besides keep chairs warm and/or send naughty photos of themselves to coeds.

On the other hand, the Lemming remembers the 'good old days' when being anti-war, anti-military, and anti-fuzz was groovy. Pulling the plug on weapons systems when they seem to be working seems like politics-as-usual from folks whose hearts may be in the right place.

The Mind of the Lemming

The Lemming thinks that there's a difference between having idealistic goals, and trying to attain them - and deciding to live in a fantasy world. Not that everybody who disagrees with the Lemming is delusional, stupid, and probably wants to destroy the planet. This is not, as the Lemming has said before, a political blog.

The Lemming thinks that scrapping weapons development programs when they're starting to show practical results - - - might not be a good idea.

This could be seen as proof that the Lemming
  • Is a red-white-and-blue-blooded 100%-American Patriot
  • Is a heartless dupe of imperialistic capitalistic aggressors
  • Wants to destroy the planet
Or, maybe something else is going on. Here's an over-simplified, superficial, look at part of the mind of the Lemming:

Does the Lemming think that weapons are nice? No. On the other hand, does the Lemming think:
  • Weapons should be forever banned, right now?
    • No
  • It would be nice if everybody would agree to be nice?
    • So we wouldn't need any more
      • Police
      • Jails
      • Guns
      • Anything icky like that
    • Yes
  • It would be nice if bad things never happened?
    • So nobody ever
      • Got sick
      • Died
      • Felt bad
    • Yes
  • It would be nice if everybody was just simply perfect?
    • You know -
      • Smart
      • Good-looking
      • Athletic
      • Stuff like that
    • Yes.
Does the Lemming expect to see any of the above, in the foreseeable future? No.

That doesn't mean we should stop trying to fix what's wrong with society, support what works, and help folks who need help. And that's yet again another topic, for another blog.1

The Lemming recognizes that folks don't always play nice, even if they're asked nicely. That is, granted, an opinion: pretty much like it's the Lemming's opinion that water is wet. Except during Minnesota winters, when it's a mineral.

"Megajoule?" What's a Joule, and Why Call Them Mega?

Time to get technical: a megajoule is (what else?) 1,000,000 joules. A joule is a watt second, or "a unit of electrical energy equal to the work done when a current of one ampere passes through a resistance of one ohm for one second." (Priceton's WordNet) 33,000,000 joules is - quite a lot of energy.

Let's put it this way: an outlet in your house might have a 500 joule surge protector. The Lemming isn't sure what would happen if a burst of 33,000,000 joules hit something that was designed to protect against 500 joules of power: but you might notice the results.

A rail gun that pumps 33,000,000 joules of power into a solid projectile with modest efficiency? Again, you might notice the results. "...A single megajoule is roughly equivalent to a 1-ton car traveling at 100 mph. Multiple that by 33 and you get a picture of what would happen when such a weapon hits a target...."

Destruction equivalent to 33 one-ton cars going 100 miles an hour, all smashing into something at the same time? Is that nice?

And the Lemming's been over that before.

Somewhat-related posts:

The Lemming's take on 'relevant' issues, in another blog:
That's right: the Lemming's one of 'those' people. Yet again another topic.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Move Over, Sony: Sega Joins 'We Were Hacked' Club

"Games Company Sega Becomes Latest Hacking Victim"
Associated Press, via (June 18, 2011)

"Video game developer Sega said that its online database has been hacked, making it the latest in a string of games companies to be attacked....

That's the bad news. The good news is that Sega knows about the hack, took its Sega Pas system offline, reset passwords, and sent emails to customers whose accounts were compromised. Even better, the customers' personal payment data was safe. Sega uses "external payment providers."

Now, let's hope that the "external payment providers" don't get hacked.

"...The email stressed that no financial information was at risk and that it has launched a probe into the extent of the breach. It is not immediately clear how many users were affected....

"...The hackers' group that claimed credit for the Sony attack, Lulz Security, had also said it was responsible for the recent breaches of the U.S. Senate computer system and the CIA website...."

And let's not forget Nintendo and the United States Congress. The CIA website that got (sort of) hacked was their for-public-access website, the one that includes the CIA World Factbook. That attack seems to have been more of a denial-of-service hack, than an effort to get at data.

Google's Gmail's another matter - servers in China were used for that hack attack, which China's government insists they didn't do. Their military says the Gmail hack - and probably the others that originated in servers in China - are a Yankee plot to bring down Arab governments. The Lemming's not making that up, and discussed hacks in another blog:Lulz Security doesn't seem to have been involved in the Sega hack - and they "...said on Twitter Friday that it wanted to help Sega 'destroy the hackers' that attacked it."
(Associated Press, via

"Destroy" is a pretty strong verb - but the Lemming thinks that folks who run places like Sony, Nintendo, the CIA, and the Senate office that let hackers into the Senate website, should be more careful.

A lot more careful.

Lulz Security hacked the CIA's public-access website because, they explained, they didn't like the American government. Which is pretty much why they hacked PBS. Why they went after Sony and Nintendo is another question.

Good news, bad news, and the Lemming, again: Lulz Security hacks, but doesn't seem interested in stealing data or doing serious damage. That probably isn't true of everybody who's able to break into other people's servers. Sooner or later, there's going to be a serious breach of online security - and a whole lot of folks are going to wish their credit card and bank accounts, financial records, and other personal data hadn't been stolen.

Or, maybe folks - from the International Monitory Fund, down to your local bank - will find ways of making their data as secure as it's supposed to be.

Related posts:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Post is Not About Mutant Bananas

"War, Genocide, Refugees, and a Somali-American Helping Rwandan Refugees"
A Catholic Citizen in America (June 18, 2011)

"For two days now, I've been writing about World Refugee Day. Also Minnesota, the United Nations, turkeys, Antarctica, jobs, and getting along with neighbors:...

"...'Getting along with neighbors' can mean anything from dealing with a neighborhood association led by a control freak with an aversion to inflatable Santas, to deciding not to kill the family next door - even though they don't have the 'right' ancestors.

"Rwanda - It Could be Worse

"My guess is that there are several places on Earth that are in worse shape today, than Rwanda. Somalia and the Darfur region of Sudan come to mind. Even so, there are reasons why quite a few folks decided that it was time to move...."

The Lemming wrote that post, so this micro-review is pretty much a blatant example of full-bore self-promotion.

On the other hand, you might be interested in knowing what happened to a man who hid in a cattle truck, bribed a pilot, and eventually wound up in Utah. And why he was in the truck to begin with.

Or, not.

Almost-related posts:

Friday, June 17, 2011

Litigation-Based Business Model, Freedom of Speech, and Intellectual Property

"Bloggers Mull Legal Action Against Righthaven"
David Kravets, Threat Level, Wired (June 15, 2011)

"Bloggers who paid thousands of dollars each to settle copyright-infringement allegations with Righthaven were mulling their legal options Wednesday, a day after a federal judge said the copyright troll had no legal standing to bring that kind of lawsuits.

" 'We're thinking seriously about what to do,' Clayton Cramer, the former operator of the now-defunct, said in a telephone interview.

"More than 100 owners of blogs and other sites have settled with Righthaven for undisclosed sums, and Cramer wants his money back. Righthaven has lodged more than 300 lawsuits across the nation in a courthouse barrage that might not have been legal.

"Cramer settled for an undisclosed sum with Righthaven last year to end allegations his gun-rights site committed copyright infringement for running an entire Las Vegas Review-Journal article. The agreements prohibit either party from disclosing the settlement terms, but Righthaven's suit initially sought $75,000 in damages.

" 'That made their threat demanding $75,000 a credible threat, so we settled,' Clayton said...."

This isn't a political blog. The Lemming doesn't say that one person, or party, is always right - and that anybody who disagrees is stupid. The Lemming is also "apathetic" in the sense of not having the properly-hysterical reactions to the proper ideas. ("About the Lemming")

The Lemming isn't upset because Righthaven wanted $75,000 from a "gun-rights site." Lifting an entire article is, the Lemming thinks, a dubiously-sensible practice, since a blog or website can link to outside articles. Or do what the Lemming does: quote excerpts, link to the original source, and say where the material is from and who created it.

Which is why the Lemming calls these posts "micro-reviews." They're short(ish) reviews of stuff the Lemming digs up.

The Lemming is a trifle concerned that someone may have tried to drive a website supporting the 'wrong' views off the Internet by 'assault with crippling lawsuit.' Freedom of expression is something the Lemming does care about - and folks with money to hire lawyers have, in the Lemming's opinion, quite enough clout as it is.

To Link or Not to Link - That is the Question

Sorry, Shakespeare - the Lemming couldn't resist that one. Didn't, anyway.

Linking without quoting a meaningful excerpt assumes that the original source will still have the article available - at that URL - a week, a month, or a year from publication. Some outfits realize that they lose viewers by shuffling their content or deleting pages - and don't hide or destroy their content. Some editors/bosses/supervisors may think they've got a reason to discourage repeat visits - and that's another topic.


Back to that article:

"...Cramer's reaction was in response to a Nevada federal judge's Tuesday decision that Righthaven did not have standing to bring a copyright lawsuit against the Democratic Underground blog for allegedly pilfering four paragraphs from a 34-paragraph story published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by Stephens Media.

"Righthaven sues on behalf of Stephens Media copyrights, and U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt ruled that such a litigation tactic was impermissible because a 'copyright owner cannot assign a bare right to sue.' (.pdf) The decision, and a similar one in Colorado, has thrown a monkey wrench into the litigation-based business model, which the Electronic Frontier Foundation has declared a 'sham.'..."

Quoting 4/34 of an article - and that's "pilfering??" "Allegedly" or not - that's just a little over 1/8 of the article - which isn't all that much, in the Lemming's opinion. Maybe Democratic Underground claimed - tacitly or otherwise - that they'd created the content.

If "Las Vegas Review-Journal" sounds familiar - a post by the Lemming mentioned them about a year ago. (June 13, 2010)

Intellectual Property Rights and the Lemming

The Lemming thinks intellectual property rights are important. Partly because the Lemming creates content - like this post (the stuff that's not an excerpt from the Wired article), and that picture.

Is what the Lemming writes as valuable, word-for-word, as a Stephen King novel? Or are the Lemming's pictures going to sell like a Mary Cassatt original? Hardly. Not even close. But the Lemming slaps identifying text on images the Lemming makes, anyway - and has fairly standard copyright statements in blogs and websites.

On the other hand, the Lemming doesn't lie wake nights, worried that somewhere, somehow, some nefarious nogoodnik has copied a paragraph of a post and republishing it. The Lemming's got enough to do, just writing these posts.

And making the occasional semi-nifty picture.

Related posts:
More of the Lemming's opinions:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Save the - Goldfish?!

"San Francisco Wants to Ban Goldfish to Prevent Their 'Inhumane Suffering' "
Todd Starnes, (June 16, 2011)

"The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission wants to take away your goldfish, proposing a bill that would also include a renewed ban on pets like puppies, kittens and hamsters.

"The proposed ban is meant to discourage 'impulse buys' of pets that sometimes end up at shelters, said commission member Philip Gerrie....

Before anybody has a stroke, please note that the Lemming thinks:
  • Animals should not be mistreated
  • Pet owners have responsibilities
  • Kittens and puppies grow into cats and dogs
  • Free Willy was a fun movie
The Lemming also thinks that even elected officials should think before acting.

Is impulsively buying a kitten or puppy - or a baby chick - a bad thing to do? Not, in the Lemming's opinion, necessarily. In principle, it's possible for someone who knows about litter boxes and leash laws to suddenly decide that it'd be nice to have a kitten around - and a dozen years later still be taking care of the long-since-grown-up cat.

The Lemming also realizes that not everybody who grabs a cute little ball of fur and fangs really understands what having a pet means.

That's the real world, now, back to the article:

Swim Free, as Free as the Wind Blows - - -

"...He [commission member Philip Gerrie] said goldfish, guppies and other tropical fish were added to the proposed ban because of what he called the 'inhumane suffering of fish' and the way the fish are harvested.

" 'It causes animal suffering,' Gerrie told Fox News Radio. 'Whole reefs and ecosystems are being exploited for whatever might be marketable or sellable.'

"The Board of Supervisors considered a similar ban last year that would have included dogs, cats, hamsters, mice, rats and guinea pigs – but not fish. That proposed ban was tabled last August. The supervisor said they were going to reconsider it in January of this year – but did not.

"The proposed fish ban has local pet store owners up in arms...."

There's a lot going on in those four paragraphs.

Fish Really do Have Feelings - Sort of

About the "inhumane suffering of fish?" That may not be as crazy as it sounds. Fish are animals with a central nervous system that doesn't work all that differently from ours.1

On the other hand, it's anyone's guess whether or not the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is aware that domestic goldfish are just that - domestic. There are no prides of Lionhead Goldfish swimming free along the sunlit shores of some exotic island.

Commercial exploitation of exotic animals, that's something else.

Remember how groovy "zero tolerance" must have seemed at the time? And that isn't quite another topic.

By the way, here's an entirely different sort of commercial goldfish:

"Goldfish Commercial"

link2772, YouTube (December 8, 2006)
video, 0:31

Save the Endangered - - - Rats?!

Last year's efforts to save San Francisco's (pet) rats may not have been the result of someone assuming that greedy pet store owners recklessly disturbed delicate ecosystems in the city's dumpsters and sewer system, harvesting rats for the pet trade. Still, you never know.

Again - rats have central nervous systems. They're not all that different from mice - and the Lemming's been over this before:In the Lemming's considered opinion: elected officials should get out of the office more often, and see what it's like on the planet the rest of us call home. So, again in the Lemming's opinion, should quite a few scientists.

And that is another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:
1 Background (pretty boring):

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ancient Dodecahedrons, and Crocodile Clocks

"History Mystery: Ancient Dodecahedron's Purpose Remains Secret"
Alexandria Hein, Archaeology, (June 10, 2011)

(Portable Antiquities Scheme / British Museum, via, used w/o permission)

"Can you do what the world's archaeologists can't? Can you explain this -- thing?

"It's been called a war weapon, a candlestick, a child's toy, a weather gauge, an astronomical instrument, and a religious symbol -- just to name a few. But what IS this mystery object, really?

"There are books and websites dedicated to properly identifying it, dissertations dedicated to unveiling the truth, textbooks and class curriculums spent arguing over what its function is. Fans can even 'Like' it on Facebook.

"Yet the only thing historians will agree on is a name for the odd object: a Roman dodecahedron....

"...It's dated from somewhere around the second and third century AD, and has been popping up everywhere in Europe. Archeologists have found the majority of them in France, Switzerland and parts of Germany where the Romans once ruled.

"But its use remains a mystery, mostly because the Romans who usually kept meticulous accounts make no mention of it in records. And with sizes varying from 4 to 11 cm, and some bearing decorative knobs, it only gets harder to pinpoint a function.

"Speculation among historians has resulted in many different hypotheses, which is as close as we may get to an accurate answer. Few archeologists will even comment on it, because the dodecahedron isn't defined to a specific cultural area and therefore not their area of expertise. Even the theories that do exist are highly debated among historians.

"Plutarch, the famous Greek historian reportedly identified the dodecahedron as a vital instrument for zodiac signs. The twelve sides represent the twelve animals in the circle of the Zodiac, but even this theory comes under contest when the argument of the knobs as decoration is presented.

" 'My take is that it is yet another piece the use of which we shall never completely sort out even though we are fortunate to have Plutarch's testimony,' said Andrea Galdy, who holds a Ph.D from the School of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Manchester and is currently teaching Art History in Florence, Italy. Galdy has not come across it in her own work, and does not regard herself as a specialist, but she does have plenty of experience in labeling artifacts...."

The Lemming doesn't know, either: but thinks that Dr. Galdy is on the right track. Over a dozen centuries after the things were made, just exactly what they were used for will probably remain a matter for more-or-less-informed guesswork.

That won't stop the Lemming from speculating, though.

Let's start with what we've got - smallish things that are fairly easy to make, and that look cool. That were so common and/or unimportant that even compulsive record-keepers didn't keep track of them.

That sounds like the sort of nicknack folks pick up in the 'home decor' section of a hardware store.

If that doesn't sound 'scientific,' or 'scholarly,' that's because the Lemming's studied enough history to know that, for several thousand years of recorded history, people have acted pretty much like people - no matter where they are.

That, with a few exceptions, generally includes having a few things around that don't do much of anything except look cool.

Yes, we've got your standard-issue native idols and totems and stuff. But - let's take a hypothetical case.

It's about 1,700 years from now - between the years 3700 and 3800 in the calendar quite a few of us use these days.

Archeologists have been puzzling over dozens of objects, the purpose of which baffles them. A few centimeters across, these sculptures portray a mechanical elapsed-time display, embedded in - or held by - a creature.

Although a few experts maintain that the creature is a dragon - or a personification of the ancient deity Elvis John - many identify it as a crocodile or alligator. The crocodile camp point to those rare specimens in which the creature is an actual reptile, into which a display device was mounted.

Disney Crocodile clock and figure 2000Miniature fishing gator, crocodile, 2006Taxidermy crocodile, antique clock/watch parts, mixed metal components, Lisa Black Creations

Scholars are nearly all in agreement, however, that these devices were part of an ancient Cult of Entropy: as evidenced by the time-display being captured by - or consumed within - the Great Lizard Of Entropic Progression.

Far-fetched? Maybe.

About the Roman-era dodecahedrons, the Lemming suspects that they may have been the 2nd-century equivalent of garden gnomes.

Related posts:
Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle online store

Pinterest: From the Man Behind the Lemming

Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts

Today's News! Some of it, anyway

Actually, some of yesterday's news may be here. Or maybe last week's.
The software and science stuff might still be interesting, though. Or not.
The Lemming thinks it's interesting: Your experience may vary.
("Following" list moved here, after Blogger changed formats)

Who Follows the Lemming?


Family Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory