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    One thing you can do for $100

    Posted by Andy B on 4th August 2005 (All posts by )

    Here’s a pretty cool example of an underwater ROV made on the cheap. Granted, it’s not going to 1000 foot depths, and it is a tow-behind, but it still is a good example of garage-workbench ingenuity.

    Posted in Science | Comments Off on One thing you can do for $100

    Poppy Day

    Posted by Andy B on 25th May 2005 (All posts by )

    The local VFW held a Poppy Day today, and while I buy a poppy along with hundreds of other morning commuters, I also always stop to talk to the veterans who are selling them. Around our area, they are always World War II vets, and they are going away too fast, lost to illness, injury, and time. My dad is still among those living, and I think of him and the fact that I may live long enough to hear that the last WWII veteran has passed away someday. Most of the time, my conversation with these men is limited to my saying thank-you for what they have done, and I genuinely think that they appreciate hearing it. This morning, the man I bought my poppy from took a moment to tell me that the day he left home to report for basic, he stepped off the same train platform I was standing on. I choked up a bit. I am not sufficiently eloquent to do justice to them, but this poem is pretty good:

    In Flanders Fields the poppies blow,
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky,
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.
    We are the dead.
    Short days ago,
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved and were loved and now we lie,
    In Flanders Fields.
    Take up our quarrel with the foe
    To you, from failing hands, we throw,
    The torch, be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us, who die,
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
    In Flanders Fields.

    -John McCrae

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Poppy Day

    “a veritable liner of the skies”

    Posted by Andy B on 18th January 2005 (All posts by )

    At the risk of sounding macabre, the coverage of the Airbus A380 launch leaves me feeling queasy. Not being an engineer myself, I will let others expound on the safety and wisdom of flying this machine, but the gushing pronouncements surrounding it still seem frightfully similar to Ismay’s “even God Himself could not sink this ship” regarding the Titanic.

    Personally, I would not be comfortable flying on the A380, given the outsize dimensions, and I am an adrenaline junkie. In-flight turbulence does not bother me, I have skydived multiple times, raced my motorcycle up to silly speeds, about the only lunatic activity I haven’t tried is B.A.S.E. jumping. But this airplane gives me the heebie-jeebies (technical term).

    I hope it flies as well as it inspires hyperbolic copy.

    Addendum: A thought that I just shared with Jonathan: Seeing as how the airplane has never actually flown in real life yet, I hope that the designers used computers with Name-Brand chipsets in them.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 27 Comments »

    Last Night

    Posted by Andy B on 3rd December 2004 (All posts by )

    I went to see a discussion between Abner Mikva and Arthur Schlessinger, hosted by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. In spite of his age and accompanying frailty, Schlessinger wove some interesting tales, and was generally entertaining. The group assembled here was a wide-ranging one to say the least, from a few who looked as if they hadn’t had a bath lately, right on up to Christie Hefner and Bill Marovitz, two of Chicago’s glitterati.

    Anyone who recognizes the four preceding attendants can imagine the tone of the discussion; let’s just say it was fairly partisan Demo-speak, not surprising. I was taken aback, however, at the behaviour of much of the audience. Schlessinger deftly picked up Mikva’s leads, and proceeded to administer a light, verbal spanking to Bush and The NeoCons, accompanied by a steady chorus of tsks, sighs, and harrumphs from this head-bobbing peanut gallery. At one point, Schlessinger touched on the Bush Lied subject, refuting the very idea that he had lied, adding, “I don’t think he is capable of lying,” which brought about a raft of chortles from the all-knowing, intellectually superior audience. They nearly choked on their pretzels when the next words out of his mouth were that he views Bush as a man of integrity. This clearly was not a line the audience was expecting.

    The evening then proceeded to a Q & A session, where the audience competed to see who could insert their nose the furthest into Professor Schlessinger’s hindquarters while still being able to ask a puffball question. Through some miscalculation, the microphone got passed to a man who challenged Schlessinger on his notion that the U.S. incurred no damage to its standing or interests by pulling out of Vietnam in the way we did, and the same would go for Iraq if we were to just up and leave. Heads spun round to find the rabble-rouser, and looks of horror were all over the audience. To his credit, Schlessinger responded rather graciously, basically agreeing to disagree.

    I walked out of the Millennium Knickerbocker hotel thinking to myself, “Where have the adults in this world gone?” The people upstairs had conducted themselves at roughly the level of my kids’ grade-school assemblies, maybe less respectfully. Here before them sat a man who had rubbed elbows with more than a handful of U.S. Presidents, had witnessed and written about 80-plus years of the most dynamic world history, and all they could do was snicker, roll eyes, feign aggrievement, and then jockey to line up for a book-signing. They deserved to be at an Oprah taping.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »


    Posted by Andy B on 16th November 2004 (All posts by )

    The U.S. farmer is a most productive enterprise, and this year is another good example. A second consecutive season of record corn production (over 11 billion bushels) has stretched storage capacity infrastructure through the Midwest. Here’s a picture of one thing you can do with a 3 million bushel pile of harvested corn:

    Ski Iowa

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Now, where to?

    Posted by Andy B on 4th November 2004 (All posts by )

    I’ve read and heard some curious things in the post-election ether, and I’ve got an idea as to how we look and feel a month or three from now. Let me say for what it’s worth, that this idea comes from my gut, but I’ve learned that the gut is nothing if not an efficient collector and processor of filtered data.

    Yesterday, I heard Katrina vanden Heuvel saying that we are going to have a non-violent civil war here over the next 4 years. Then today, I had an email correspondence with a friend over the Arafat death rumors. When I suggested that Yasser had a river of blood on his hands, my friend shot back with, “and Bush doesn’t?” Never mind that I had not even brought up GWB’s name. My friend then cited the Lancet article as proof of Bush’s crimes. No, he does not frequent our blog, for while he knows of it, he prefers to read only that which reinforces his own beliefs. There is a contingent out there that cannot, will not, and does not want to let go of anger, bitterness, venom. But I think that group will find itself traveling in ever-smaller circles. Hopefully, the Democratic Party will recognize that there is no future in that thinking.

    Now I have no way of knowing what the administration is going to do going forward, and a lot depends on that, but the people that I know and respect, the ones who I listen to closely when they are speaking, are saying basically the same thing: It’s over, we’re moving on (ironically, since the group by that name is not). The country is tired of politics, of “battles,” and of hardball.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    As if there were any doubt…..

    Posted by Andy B on 28th October 2004 (All posts by )

    The French Foreign Minister sends a nice Hallmark get well to Arafat. It’s very touching, especially,

    “I wish to express my most sincere wishes for your recovery, hoping that you can return rapidly to your place to lead the Palestinian Authority”

    And Wretchard writes a fine article on the current state of Palestinian affairs.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

    Churchill’s quote

    Posted by Andy B on 28th October 2004 (All posts by )

    Sir Winston’s quote: “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”

    Jay Nordlinger writes a very good column further illuminating this idea. Take the time to page down, and catch the individual antecdotes about New York city and political button-wearing. Here’s my favorite:

    “I used to wear a “Vietnamese-American Against Kerry” button until someone on St. Mark’s stopped me and delivered a monologue on the Bush police state. When I brought up the real police state that my family lived in (including the re-education camps), he brushed that off and blathered on about Bush and the sorry state of the U.S. I decided to stop wearing the button because I couldn’t take the blind idiocy.”

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Churchill’s quote

    Inching toward Victory, One Democrat at a time

    Posted by Andy B on 19th October 2004 (All posts by )

    Great piece by Sarah Baxter, here is the Times’ own summary:

    Sarah Baxter, New York correspondent for The Sunday Times, has decided to vote for George W Bush despite being a life-long supporter of Labour in Britain and a registered Democrat.

    Or visit their site if you care to register in order to read it in its entirety.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    Political Bizarro-World

    Posted by Andy B on 18th October 2004 (All posts by )

    I just had one of those moments, a combination of “Did I really hear what I thought I heard”, and “I’ve just crossed into a parallel dimension, where black is white, stupid is brilliant”: I flicked on the tube, and came across Chris “I’ve devolved to a screaming parrot” Matthews interviewing Jimmy Carter on Hardballs. I am paraphrasing slightly, due to a lack of Tivo or a photographic memory, but here’s the question:

    Mr. Carter, do you think it was possible to avoid going to war in Iraq? If they had been able to get in touch with Saddam, LIKE ON A PHONE CALL TO BUSH (my emphasis), and he could have explained to the administration that he didn’t have any WMD’s, would that have been able to avoid the whole military confrontation?

    How does this guy have a show on anything other than local-access, 3 A.M. cable? Lex, see what you miss with your stubborn refusal to own a T.V. ?

    Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    That’s Entertainment

    Posted by Andy B on 11th October 2004 (All posts by )

    Ok, I haven’t seen the movie yet, and most of the press it is getting has absolutely savaged it, but it must have some redeeming qualities to get Sean Penn in such a lather. When I was in Miami last week, I pointed Jonathan’s web browser to the trailers for Team America. I think his exact words were, “What the hell is this? It looks really stupid.” I can’t dismiss something however, that spears every Hollywood loudmouth, while lampooning Kim Jong Il’s staging of a full musical review for the visiting Madeline Albright. The previews may indeed turn out to be the most entertaining 60 seconds of the whole movie, but I can envision this thing turning into a big hit with the 13 to 30 year-old crowd, whilst the Left Coast objects of ridicule shake their collective heads and moan, “Our fan-base, why have you forsaken us?”

    Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

    Another Erudite Miamian Heard From

    Posted by Andy B on 5th October 2004 (All posts by )

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Another Erudite Miamian Heard From

    Casa de Gewirtz

    Posted by Andy B on 5th October 2004 (All posts by )

    Hello all. Just arrived at Jonathan’s via the scenic Florida Turnpike. I am on a 2 1/2 day whirlwind business trip of Palm Beach-Miami-Tampa, and it just wouldn’t be right to not pop in and see the J-man while in town. He has graciously rented me his couch for the rock-bottom rate of $0. About to head out for dinner, then catch the debate, a few hours sleep, then the drive to Tampa, (leased a ragtop with that in mind). There is still quite a bit of water laying about, and many businesses at first glance appear to be closed because of all the blown-out signage. We will post some pics later on if we see anything of interest.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Casa de Gewirtz

    Round #1

    Posted by Andy B on 30th September 2004 (All posts by )

    And the early returns give a slight edge to John Kerry for Debate #1. Not only did the Bush InTrade numbers ease, but stock index futures also fell as Kerry eked out a thin margin of victory tonight. Last count: Dow down 20 points and S&P’s down 2 1/2, once again proving that free markets are unbeatable forecasting tools.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

    Where do these guys get their hallucinogens?

    Posted by Andy B on 17th September 2004 (All posts by )

    “The framers of our nation never envisioned the huge media giants, never imagined what could happen if big government, big publishing and big broadcasters ever saw eye to eye in putting the public’s need for news second to their own interest and the ideology of free market economics. Nor could they have foreseen a quasi official partisan press serving as a mighty megaphone for the regime in power. Stretching from a legion of think tanks funded by corporations to the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal, to Rupert Murdoch’s far flung empire, to the nattering know-nothings of talk radio, there is a ceaseless conveyor belt, often taking its cues from daily talking points supplied by the Republican National Committee, booming the official party line into the public consciousness”

    — from Bill Moyer’s keynote address to the Society of Professional Journalists on Saturday.

    The frustrations are obviously building. If Bush wins, a large contingent of the country may spontaneously combust.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »

    Free rope here – help yourself

    Posted by Andy B on 30th August 2004 (All posts by )

    Now that the Olympics have concluded, another gymnastics exhibition has begun, as the Kerry campaign should be doing some very challenging contortions to distance themselves from the anti-RNC protests going on in New York. I was watching some coverage last night of a young man throwing dixie cups of water at middle-aged Republican delegates while yelling “Yeah?!? C’mon!! Whatya gonna do about it?!?” High dialogue there. And then these pearls: “Republican murderers go home and kill your babies!” and “Bitch, go home! We don’t want you here!”. Wonderful examples of erudite, tolerant young Dems. I don’t think this will “play in Peoria”, and I’ll mete out all the rope they need to fashion their noose.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Chronological enlightenment

    Posted by Andy B on 11th August 2004 (All posts by )

    Forgive me, but I can’t let this one fade into the ether just yet. A previous comment from Akefa stating that “the economy has only gone down since Clinton left office” , and citing “the esteemed economist Krugman’s book The Great Unraveling ” as a reference was certainly well-timed if nothing else. Had I ridden the train this morning rather than driven, I would have already read Brian Wesbury’s piece on nothing other than……the Economy. Wesbury is chief economist at GKST, and has been a voice in the wilderness for the past couple of years, pointing out the undercurrent of strength in the domestic U.S. Economy. As the numbers have steadily improved, he has picked up quite a bit of company. These few lines jumped off the page for me as I consumed a late dinner this evening:

    “After growing at a 14.5% annualized rate in the first-half of 2000, business fixed investment stopped in its tracks and grew just 1% in the second half. The Clinton White House knew this was happening. A member of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), Kathryn Shaw, said in August 2001, “economic growth had started to fade in the fall of 2000.” Mr. Clinton’s CEA chairman, Joseph Stiglitz, wrote in 2002 that “the economy was slipping into recession even before Bush took office.” Al Gore said that “the economic downturn really began in March of 2000.”

    Obviously, the esteemed economist Paul Krugman holds views that are in direct conflict with the very people who presided over the start of the recession, illustrating that Mr. Clinton & Co. were the beneficiaries of some very fortunate timing, and that my friend Akefa is decidedly not.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments »


    Posted by Andy B on 9th August 2004 (All posts by )

    So it is a gorgeous day in Chicago and I leave my office and go for a walk down LaSalle Street to Torrefazione Italia for a mid-day coffee. Truly the best in the city, they don’t burn the beans. As I leave the shop, a young lady approaches me and says in a polite and perky tone, “Would you like to help us stop Bush in November?” This is the third time in 2 months that I have been asked this question by a young kool-aid drinker on the street, and God bless them for getting involved. I respond by saying, “with 20 years in the Senate, can you point to any of John Kerry’s accomplishments that stands out and makes him a good presidential candidate?” The response: That John Kerry will stand up for the people of this country, blah, blah, blah, and George Bush has done irreparable harm, blah, blah, blah….. Just the typical spoon-fed talking points, not a hint of extemporaneous thought, nor any attempt at an answer to my question. How disappointing that was. I’m not spoiling for a fight, just for an honest effort, but all I get is pap. Most of what I see this election cycle is a largely uninformed, “undecided” segment of the electorate being pursued by largely uninformed campaign volunteers. I think I will have to resort to wearing my W 2004 baseball cap to ward off the flying monkeys (ooooh, he said MONKEYS, we know what that means) when I venture out onto the streets of my hometown.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 63 Comments »

    You just can’t keep a good Information Minister down

    Posted by Andy B on 6th August 2004 (All posts by )

    Commenting to reporters on the flare-up of violence in Sadr City and subsequent “alleged” passing of 300 of Muqtada’s band of merry men, Sheik Raed al-Qathimi said, I categorically deny these American lies . Gosh that takes me back to simpler times, when you could rely on none other than the former Iraqi Information Minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf for a nightly shot of infotainment. Whether secular, or radical Islamist, entrenched dictator, or wannabe, the judicious use of wild prevarication just never goes out of style!

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on You just can’t keep a good Information Minister down

    Camera Please!

    Posted by Andy B on 21st June 2004 (All posts by )

    From the campaign trail:

    Kerry invited Aspen resident and writer Hunter S. Thompson to ride in his motorcade and brought three copies of Thompson’s book about the 1972 presidential race, “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail” for autographs.

    “Just to put your minds all at ease, I have four words for you that I know will relieve you greatly,” Kerry told the fund-raiser. “How does this sound Vice President Hunter Thompson.”

    The only thing keeping this from becoming a Michael Dukakis-in-the-tank moment is the lack of a compelling visual to go with the quote.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »

    Are they jobs or aren’t they?

    Posted by Andy B on 9th June 2004 (All posts by )

    I just finished a maddening, circular discussion with my friend Drew regarding the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment numbers. Regular readers know that I take issue with the way my friend argues a point. For one, he posts on a personal journal page that provides no avenue for rebuttal, and that I think he is intellectually dishonest in his arguments, relentlessly panning for the anti-American, anti-Bush-Rove-Ashcroft nugget. Regarding unemployment, he posits that since the BLS changed its methodology 8 months ago, something he calls the CNES Birth-Death model, the vast majority of new jobs being created are not comparable to past, pre-change numbers. Effectively, he believes that the recent positive jobs numbers are an anomaly. I think that argument is without merit, because we should have seen an immediate aberration 8 months ago if the model alone was responsible for the numbers. He claims that the BLS phased in the implementation of the model. I am throwing this out to you, since I am sure there is a labor statistician out there somewhere. Is it at all plausible that this change in calculation method could have been:

    1. Implemented by a phased in approach?

    2. Solely responsible for the improving employment numbers?

    3. Not picked and drilled by the Democrats and Kerry’s economic advisor as a sham?

    I may be completely off-base here, but I am willing to take my lumps if that is so. I await your responses.

    Update: Upon further research, I found it’s the CES Birth/Death model.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Prophet of Boom

    Posted by Andy B on 8th June 2004 (All posts by )

    Good editorial in the Wall Street Journal today regarding Greg Mankiw, the White House economist who was pilloried for claiming 2.6 million new jobs would be created this year. The statistical highlights here:

    Friday’s May job report shows that the U.S. economy has created 947,000 new jobs in the last three months…a faster rate than Senator Kerry’s campaign promise to create 10 million jobs in his first term…..the Institute for Supply Management’s manufacturing index, a leading indicator, is near the two-decade high hit in January

    The article proceeds to touch on outsourcing, where a subtle but important point is made:

    because “our schools have to do a better job of preparing Americans for higher-paid jobs that require more skills……..The politicians and union officials who tolerate dropout rates of 50% in big city public schools are the real outsourcing villians”

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »


    Posted by Andy B on 3rd June 2004 (All posts by )

    Interesting piece on George Soros sent to me. An excerpt:

    That he is anti-Bush is unremarkable, but Soros’ statement last December that the defeat of the President is “a matter of life and death” was silly. His largesse to Bush’s foes-although substantial-does not reflect the stated urgency of the moment: $15 million for America Coming Together; $3 million for John Podesta’s new think tank; and $2.5 million for falls far short of a month’s cost of running his many foundations around the world.

    I have to read it over again, do not agree with everything the author says, but he raises some good points.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

    Coup de Theatre

    Posted by Andy B on 14th May 2004 (All posts by )

    My friend Drew is at it again. I love him like a brother, which is probably why he can get me so agitated. Drew’s web journal is a daily dose of “useless market insights” (his words not mine), mixed with a dollop of anti-U.S., anti-Bush/Rove/Rumsfeld/Wolf/Rice/Etc. diatribe. Today’s topic is the Lt. Cl. Charles Dunlap essay and Sidney Blumenthal’s column insinuating that this essay is currently circulating among top US military strategists. I trust that most of you are familiar with the Dunlap piece, a fairly fantastic work of fiction. Reading it today, I was struck by how dated the work seems despite having been written only 12 years ago.
    However, there are some nuggets, one of which is particularly paradoxical:

    advocates of “political correctness” succeeded in driving ROTC from the campuses of some of our best universities.{117} In many instances they also prevailed in barring military recruiters from campus.{118} Little thought was given the long-term consequences of limiting the pool from which military leadership is drawn.{119} The end result was much more homogeneous military elite whose outlook was progressively dissimilar to that of the nations more broadly-based civilian leadership.

    In sum, an entertaining read, though in my opinion, not all that long on foresight.

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Coup de Theatre

    Illinois politics as usual

    Posted by Andy B on 28th April 2004 (All posts by )

    An unvarnished example of a quid pro quo . Either do what we want you to do, or we are going to “scrutinize” your budget. Should not the legislature be “scrutinizing” the budget of the state-run university as a matter of course? I’ve got to get out of Illinois, always feel like I need a shower.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments »