Saturday, June 28, 2008

Poor Reporting Skills in Madison

The Capital Times has a story on the odd behavior exhibited by Charles Peterson prior to his murder of Joel Marino. The story is an interesting if shallow look at the killer, but one little piece of the story made me cringe:

Madison police apparently have a database of people who have exhibited strange behavior, the database maintained mainly for the safety of police officers if they need to make contact with the people on the list, but also as an unofficial record of people who might be dangerous.

What a horrible paragraph that is destined to creep people out about big brother. Let's take it apart piece by piece. First, they never should have used "apparently." They are journalists, and they should have asked a question or two that eliminated the need to use apparently, which is vague and uncertain for a story of this type, and thus allows the reader to create false impressions. An opinion piece can use apparently, a news story should only very rarely use it.

Second, if they are talking about what I think they are talking about, it is an in house contact management database that all departments keep, not some mysterious database that tracks your behavior. It really would be little different in action than the contact management databases that the Capital Times reporters and advertising sales reps use to keep track of their own contacts. This contact database allows the department to have an institutional memory of previous contact that they have had with individuals so officers can better prepare for future contacts. The notes in there might run from a mundane complaint to criminal activity.

That one paragraph is an example to me of how unprofessional the Madison media has been at times during these murder cases. They have every right to hold the Madison Police Department's feet to the fire, but for God's sake, report responsibly. Already in the comments to that story people have picked up on the mysterious strange behavior database and think that it is something that it really isn't.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Forgot My Own Blogiversary

Damn. That's what happens when you get to be one of the 'old' bloggers-you get forgetful. Jiblog began on June 15th, 2004 with a post titled "Opening Salvo," which I could re-print here today and it would still be timely. If it weren't for Wigderson's anniversary, who knows when I would have remembered it.

Happy blogiversary, James. I'm glad I could hop into the fray and blaze the trail for you. You've done okay for yourself, rookie.

The Ten Mysterious Communications from Men

Yahoo tries to decipher men and women for each other on regular basis, and those features never cease to amuse me. Their latest piece, "Man Talk" Translation, is no different. So I've decided to semi-fisk it. Ladies, I'm going to add some context and alternate meanings to their ten pearls of wisdom. Keep in mind, I'm not some cornball dating coach, I'm a married man who is just offering you the real dirt.

1. He starts talking about how crazy all his single friends lives are, and then he tells you that he doesn't miss it at all. What most women will think if they hear this, is that he misses those days. This is not true. He says this because he is looking for confirmation that you feel exactly the same way. He also wants to communicate that he's ready to take the relationship to the next level.

Dude is tired of the dating scene and he is comfortable being out of it with you. Don't assume the ring is just around the corner. He's a guy, so he's pretty literal.

2. Since you recently took him to your family's house for dinner, he can't stop talking about how much fun he had with your brother. What he means here is that he really likes your family, and wouldn't mind being a part of your family.

As it turns out, they like the same beer and sports. They probably drank beer and watched sports. And grunted to each other during timeouts. It doesn't mean he likes your mother, although he might. But he might not.

3. He teases you about things like how clumsy you are or about how you put smiley faces in every one of your emails. What he's really telling you when he does this is that he really likes you a lot. Remember that men are just giant boys... we tease the ones we love and ignore the ones we don't.

He gets this one right, but remember, it has to be good nature teasing. Needling and riding you isn't teasing, and that guy is probably just an asshole.

4. A man tells you he needs his space. So what does this mean to you? It means that you need to ignore him and not call him. Men love the chase. By not calling him, he'll start calling you and wondering what happened.

Methinks the author is throwing his bros a bone here. If he says he needs his space, give it to him, but realize that completely ignoring him may mean that you'll never hear from him again. If so, he ain't that into you, so let him go...but you are free to bash him to all of your friends.

5. A man says that he really wants you to meet his parents. What does this mean in man talk? He's telling you that you are his girlfriend, and that he is ready to take it to the next level by getting you involved with his family. This brings us right to the next bit of man talk.

If you haven't figured out you're his girlfriend by this point, you probably need some remedial classes on "guy signals," and this list is doctorate level stuff for you.

6. When a man calls you and says, "I want you to meet my friends on Friday night," this is as big as meeting his parents. He's introducing you to his pack. It means that he thinks you are attractive and sexy, and he wants to show you off to his friends.

If his "pack" howls at the moon and hunts domesticated animals, be very wary. Seriously though, you'd better hope it means that he's into you. If he's just doing it because he thinks you're sexy and attractive, he may be showing off his trophy, not his gal.

7. After sleeping over at his house several times, he tells you that the next time you sleep over you should bring some things to make you feel more comfortable and a change of clothing. In man talk, that is basically telling you that he's wondering what it would be like to live with you. He also wants your things around.

He certainly could be saying that. He could also be saying that he likes the fringe benefits of you staying over, and he wants to make it easier to enjoy those fringe benefits more often.

8. You have plans with him on a Sunday, and you find out that he passed up floor seats to his favorite basketball team to keep those plans with you. What does that tell you in man talk? It tells you that he's hooked... and that you are his girlfriend.

Ladies, this has even more meaning than the author lets on. It means he is completely whipped and you own him. Try not to take advantage of the poor soul. I love and adore the lovely Mrs. Jib, but c'mon, we're talking floor seats here. This would be like you passing on a 90% off sale on [your favorite product] at [your favorite store].

9. He is watching one of your favorite shows on a night you're not together, and he calls you afterwards to talk about it. In man talk, what does this mean? By doing this, he's telling you that he pays attention to you, and he's interested in learning more about you and sharing more things with you. Men generally do not choose to watch "Project Runway" on their own. If we're watching your TV shows, we really like you.

Stop! The author gets this one completely wrong. He'd have it right if your guy watches the show with you. But if he watches Sex in the City on his own and calls you up to chat about it, he might be your gay best friend, not your boyfriend.

10. He tells you, "I've cleaned today." What this means in man talk is, "I spent the day doing something I dislike more than anything." You need to realize that when a man says this to you, he really likes you. To most men, cleaning the house is just about the worst way he can spend a day.

Partially incorrect. In man talk, he's saying, "I spent the entire day...well, in between beers and ball to impress you. Don't count on me doing this forever, because I didn't even do that great a job, which I'm hoping you'll notice."

I hope this helps, ladies. The dating coach is really good at theory, but he missed some real world things. I'm glad I could fill in some of the holes for you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How Exploration Can Affect Oil Prices Now

I stumbled across this article at National Review today, and it is very informative. I suggest that you read it and learn a little more about the oil futures markets. This portion of the article is particularly significant.

With that in mind, anything Congress did today that indicated a change in philosophy concerning U.S. oil production would send shockwaves throughout commodities exchanges across the globe.

Just how much of an impact could such a change in policy have? Well, one of the factors involved in prices being determined on futures exchanges is the current disincentive for oil producers to sell their product today rather than months from now, a condition called “contango.”

As of Friday, the New York Mercantile Exchange price for July delivery was $134.86. By comparison, the November contract closed at $136.04, giving producers $1.16 more to hold their product an additional four months.

Commodities experts for years have claimed this contango acts to restrain the immediately available supply as oil companies opt to sell their product more expensively in the future rather than at today’s prices.

The point being an announcement today of vastly increased exploration will remove the financial incentive for oil companies to hold supply for later higher prices. This is actually the piece of the puzzle that has been missing in my mind. Demand has not risen so significantly this year as to justify the run up in price, so there is a supply component involved here. With Saudi Arabia and Iran even saying that there is enough oil out there for oil to be under $100 a barrel, opening up domestic exploration would go a long way to break the speculation bubble and remove any incentives to sell oil "more expensively in the future."

On Those Plug In Cars

I tried to make this point the other day.

But at 25 percent market penetration, we are now talking about a serious strain on the grid, which means more coal, nuclear, or hydro plants — all of which are as popular with California pols as drilling in ANWR. Says Jim Owens of the Edison Electric Institute: “If you continue the scenario (of plug-ins reaching significant market numbers), then you’ll need more capacity. And California isn’t building any new capacity.”

In other words, even if one of the most promising alternatives pans out, we’re facing the same challenges we face now with our “old” technology and supplies: Planning ahead (six years to construct $2.5 billion coal plants, or ten years for $5 billion nuke plants) to develop the resources needed to fuel tomorrow’s energy demand.

Look, it doesn't matter what path we take, we need to expand energy production. Doing so via the electric grid makes sense, but only if we are going to start unshackling ourselves from the bondage imposed by environmental groups. It is time to get over our nuclear phobia and start building more plants. In the mean time, solar and wind technologies can continue to be developed in order that one day they might actually be price competitive.

Sometimes the Dead are the Best Choice

Take Romania:

Romanian villagers have voted to re-elect a dead man as their mayor, to prevent his living rival winning.

Neculai Ivascu - who led Voinesti for almost two decades - died from a liver disease on Sunday, too late to cancel the contest.

The village's loyal residents still gave him 23 more votes than his rival, Gheorghe Dobrescu of the ruling National Liberal Party.

C'mon, like there hasn't been a race where you'd have rather voted for a dead man.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The News You Can Expect: Elian Joins Young Communists

I could have written this in 2000.  Really, anyone could have.  In news that was a matter of when, not if, Elian Gonzalez is used for propaganda.
Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy whose two-nation custody battle sparked debate about parental rights versus political freedom and ended with a raid by gun-toting U.S. agents, has joined his homeland's Young Communist Union.

Gonzalez, 14, was among 18,000 people who joined the communist youth group two days ago, said the state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde. The teenager is quoted as pledging fealty to ex-President Fidel Castro and his brother and successor, Raul Castro.

``Fidel and Raul can count on us,'' Gonzalez said, according to the newspaper. ``We won't let them down.''

Gonzalez may very well have joined of his own volition, but even if not, he was destined to be trotted out as a good little communist.  He is a trophy for the Cuban communist regime, and they are going to show him off every so often as long as the Castros run the island.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Toyota Gamble

Even if you are a long time member of the UAW, I think you have to give Toyota credit for having a prescient view of the market. They make calculated decisions, and more often than not, they come out smelling like a rose. That doesn't mean that they don't make mistakes-their expansion of Tundra production in the U.S. is beginning to look like a big one. More often than not, their choices work out to their advantage, though, so the fact that they are following GM into the plug-in realm is very significant:

Toyota, rightly or wrongly, is widely considered the greenest automaker, and the company hopes to solidify its hold on the title and move beyond oil through a sweeping plan to produce cleaner, more efficient cars -- beginning with a plug-in hybrid it will produce by 2010.

It's no secret Toyota's been working on a plug-in hybrid to compete against the forthcoming Chevrolet Volt, but Wednesday's announcement sets a firm deadline and makes it clear Toyota has no plans of ceding the green mantle to General Motors. It also underscores how quickly the race to build a viable mass-market electric car is heating up.

Here's the catch. Electricity is not all that different from oil or any other energy source. Supply and demand set the price. So let's consider the electricity production market. Wind and solar are a long, long way off from being significant contributors to our electricity supply because they are just not cost effective. Coal and hydro power are cost effective, but they are stymied at every corner by environmentalists. That leaves one source of abundant, cost effective electricity to meet the explosive demand that popular plug ins would create: Nuclear. Unless the U.S. is willing to start fast tracking new nuclear plants, political pressure from the environmental groups be damned, plug ins will run into the same cost of operation problems that internal combustion engine vehicles already face, only the costs will spread to household and business expenses.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fort Atkinson Flooding 2008

Storms this week in southern Wisconsin have lead to historic flooding across the region. It is no different here, but fortunately the lay of the land is such that damage is confined to low laying areas. While horrible for those who live and own businesses in those area, it has confined the Rock River to a certain extent. I've taken some photos in an unobtrusive way as possible, and this one is perhaps my favorite. I suspect that by the time the river crests, this view will show a statue where one little boy is helping the other out of the river itself.

Rest in Peace, Tim Russert

I was a busy guy yesterday, but even with all I had going on, I still had to stop for a moment when I heard the news of Tim Russert's death. Russert was one of those few people in the political realm that was very likable, even when you completely disagreed with him or the way he as conducting an interview. From this recliner, Russert came off as a good guy who knew his stuff. Meet the Press will never quite be the same.

My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and particularly with his family. I know first hand how hard it is to suddenly lose a loved one around Father's Day, and I wish them much comfort during this difficult time

Thursday, June 12, 2008

And Then, Finally, They Confiscated Our Sporks

Shocking.  It seems people will kill one another even if they can't get guns:
Britain is redoubling its efforts to stop young people carrying knives, after a volley of fatal teenage stabbings and headlines warning that the country is in the grip of a knife-crime epidemic.

Police have embarked on a stop-and-search operation to retrieve weapons, the government has warned of tougher sentencing for teenage culprits, and a "youth summit" has come up with a $6 million ad campaign to warn of the perils of carrying a knife.

So what does a good, caring, Western nation do?  Well, it starts by confiscating knives from the young.  But it might not stop there.

Another medical expert, Dr. Mike Beckett, argues that it is time to remove sharp knives from kitchens altogether. He says there is no need for the pointed tips that make knives fatal. "What people want in a kitchen knife is the edge," he told the BBC. "The point on the end of the knife actually serves little culinary purpose, but it is the point that kills people."

Next thing you know, you won't be able to own a plastic spork in the UK because of the potentially dangerous tines.  I say why ban objects?  Let's ban fingers instead.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another McCain Campaign Slogan Idea

I saw this over at Ol' Broad's, and another campaign slogan for John McCain came to mind: Shoot yourself in the foot, not the head. John McCain 2008.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Wisconsin Storms and the Winds of Doom

Round four of storms is here. As I understand it, a good chunk of town is without power. I do not have such a problem in my part of town, but my cable is out. Thankfully, Tivo and the internet aren't out. I'd whine more about my cable being out, but I'm afraid of jinxing myself.

Tornado Look-Alikes

Most of us never see a tornado in our lives, so when storms move in, it isn't unusual for people to mistake non-tornado phenomena like scud (low, fast move clouds) for tornadoes. The National Weather Service has some great pictures of this that are extreme in nature. The photos look like they could possibly be tornadoes in the formation stage. In reality, they are scud that got pulled into a storm updraft. If you are a weather geek like me, check them out.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Storm Report

After things settled down, I decided to head out to get a few items to make life easier/more enjoyable tonight. I was aware that there were reports that a tornado had touched down on Janesville Avenue here in Fort, so I drove down to take a look. If one did touch down, it didn't do any damage. Interestingly, if one did indeed touch down, it is the third tornado Janesville Avenue has seen in the last six years or so.

There really wasn't much of any damage to be seen around town, although there was some minor flooding. I stopped at a grocery store where I talked with a cashier who worked through the storms. She and many others watched the "tornado" from the store, and they saw much the same thing that I did...a low, rotating cloud mass with strong winds at the surface. Base on what I saw, I'm not prepared to call it a tornado, but it is possible, and I'm quite sure a lot of people in town will have stories of the day they saw the Fort tornado.

Summer fun

Most of southern Wisconsin has been under the gun for severe storms this afternoon, and the system finally made its way here. When the tornado sirens sounded, we were quite ready and got move down there quickly. It wasn't too bad, and after it began to look like the storm had cleared us on the radar, I went upstairs to check. I looked out my deck doors and saw some very, very low clouds over us that were swirling. Then, out of no where, the wind was blowing very hard. Needless to say, I wasted that perfectly good pair of clean underwear. I also haven't moved as quickly as I did en route to the basement since I was 19 or so. Good news is that law enforcement never saw anything touch down, although they did see two separate menacing cloud structures move through town.

So to my fellow southern Wisconsin bloggers and readers still under the gun, take care all. These storms don't seem to be creating widespread damage, but they still aren't fun.

Down we go again. The cat is really pissed off at life. We're not pleased with mother nature.

Update 2
All clear. I think I'll have a stiff drink or three.

Friday, June 06, 2008

I don't care who you are, this is funny

Guantanamo Military Judge Sentences September 11 Mastermind To Full Body Wax

Irrational Oil Market

Things are just getting crazy in the oil futures market.  Why do I say this?  Well, because we've gotten to the point that a prediction of higher prices can actually drive prices.

Oil is trading above $134 per barrel on an analyst prediction that prices could hit $150 by July 4.

Prices jumped $6.43 Friday shortly after Ole Slorer of Morgan Stanley released a report saying he expected a "short-term spike in oil prices," on the back of rising demand in Asia, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Slorer's logic could be dead on, but the fact remains that his prediction is still just that, a prediction.  The market is shorn of actual market conditions, and is now just drifting on the breeze of speculation. 

Race, Gender, and Presidential Politics

Barack Obama has finally sealed up the Democrat nomination for president against Hillary Clinton and much has been written about the first black nominee for president.  There has also been plenty written about the cracks in the "glass ceiling."  I have remained silent on the topic because I don't feel like begrudging minorities or women any feeling of accomplishment that these two candidacies might have provided.  That said, I think I can safely say that I've grown up in a generation where racism and sexism, while not dead, have eroded and withered at steady clip.  Because of that, for me this is all anti-climatic.  I don't really care what gender or race the candidates are, and I'm looking forward to the day those two issues aren't even thought of twice.  So celebrate if you will, but let's get back to the issues, and soon.