Friday, June 30, 2006

Maine Guys Putting Mentos into Diet Coke

Well, I'm not sure if this is what Governor Baldacci means when he says we need to increase our Creative Economy, but you have to admit, these guys are making a splash. Watch the video, if you didn't already catch them on Letterman or Today. They say Moxie works really well, too.



Immigration, Democrats and Republicans

Check out this new column by Doug Hufnagel (aka Pole Star) on the subject of immigration. It's a good synopsis of why neither the Ds nor the Rs can really come to unity on the issue.



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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Will the Real Jeremiah Please Stand Up?

William J. Murphy, a teacher of English and history at Belfast Area High School in Belfast, Maine, has an op-ed in today's Bangor Daily News. He's responding to a column that the BDN ran more than a week ago, written by Dan Lips of the Heritage Foundation.

I haven't read Lips's column, but it must have been good, since Murphy twice referred to it as a "jeremiad." I wish I could find it online. If anyone knows where it can be found, please shoot me a link! I guess the BDN doesn't have online repro rights.

When he gets past his socialist hatred of the liberal President Bush (and much of Murphy's rant is anti-Bush), he makes a statement that truly inspires guffaws.

And finally, let me add that I work as a teacher in a public school that has failed to attain the Adequate Yearly Progress mandated by NCLB, and I see little or no evidence of actual educational failure. What I do see, day after day, is an indefatigable staff encouraging and guiding the intellectual and social development of each and every child who comes its way.

As an English teacher at the high school, Murphy must know that BAHS students will read -- or try and read -- his essay. So it seems funny to me that he feels the need to define the word jeremiad each time he uses it. And it seems pitiful to me that most of the students at BAHS will have never encountered the word in their English instruction. Guess the staff isn't totally indefatigable.

The most painful irony is that Murphy's own writing qualifies as a jeremiad, in that it paints a doom-and-gloom picture of the dismantling of public schools. If only there were a true intent from the Bushies to do so. Left-libertarians like me just want all the government-run schools to shut down post-haste. I wonder what Murphy would think of that.

As a fellow who occasionally talks with some BAHS high school students, and some recent graduates, I have to wonder about the extent of the history instruction there, too. One day I referred to Magna Carta in the presence of some high schoolers, and soon found that none of them had ever heard of this extremely important and influential document in the history of freedom and democracy. I would have understood if they couldn't offer up the year in which it was produced, or exactly what it did, but by the time someone is in eighth grade, they should recognize the term and its antecedence to modern constitutional law.

O tempora! O mores!



Linking to: Freedom Watch, Common Folk Using Common Sense, Stingray, Dumb Ox, ImagineKitty

Language, Math and the Buddhist Brain

Anyone who is interested in the inner workings of the mind should read the AP's report on a study of how Chinese and English speakers' brains attack simple math problems.

Researchers used brain imaging to see which parts of the brain were active while people did simple addition problems, such as 3 plus 4 equals 7. All participants were working with Arabic numerals which are used in both cultures.

Both groups engaged a portion of the brain called the inferior parietal cortex, which is involved in quantity representation and reading.

But native English speakers also showed activity in a language processing area of the brain, while native Chinese speakers used a brain region involved in the processing of visual information, according to the report in Tuesday's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The difference "may mean that Chinese speakers perform problems in a different manner than do English speakers," said lead author Yiyuan Tang of Dalian University of Technology in Dalian, China.

"In part that might represent the difference in language. It could be that the difference in language encourages different styles of computation and this may be enhanced by different methods of learning to deal with numbers," Tang said in an interview via e-mail.

Later, the article refers to an earlier, unrelated study of observational differences between Americans and Chinese.

Nisbett last year reported on differences in the way Asians and North Americans view pictures. He tracked eye movements and determined that, when shown a photograph, North American students of European background paid more attention to the object in the foreground of a scene, while students from China spent more time studying the background and taking in the whole scene.

Students of foreign languages don't need to be too advanced to recognize the ways that languages shape the world views of their native speakers. The way things in the world get categorized, or are seen to relate to one another, are often dramatically different from language to language. And some things just can't be said in some languages.

I personally found the study of foreign languages to be similar to the study of Buddhist philosophy insofar as it forced me to see the assumptions that are inherent in my native English-speaking, American worldview. In even so simple a matter as the verb tenses, for example, German and English don't exactly match up. Nor do Latin nor Attic Greek. The ability of a German speaker to utter a sentence that is grammatically correct, and yet lacking what an English speaker would recognize as a subject, profoundly shocked me when I first encountered it.

One advantage that students of foreign languages will have in studying Buddhism, apart from learning any highfalutin' Sanskrit or Pali or Tibetan terms, is the ability to grasp (tho grasping is generally a no-no in Buddhism) the warnings of Nagarjuna not to mistake the words of a scripture for the ultimate truth.

Scriptures are likened to a finger pointing at the moon. W hen we recognise the moon and its brightness and beauty, the finger is of no more use. As the finger itself has no brightness whatever, so the scriptures have no holiness. The scripture is to be thought of as religious currency representing spiritual wealth. What it stands for is of paramount importance, not whether it is made of gold or sea shells



This is this week's post. Click on the chicklet for an FAQ on the subject. In a nutshell, trackbacks on any subject are allowed to this post till midnight my time, so long as you link to this post. I'll manually transfer the links below as I'm able.

Samantha Burns, Open Trackback Alliance headmistress and authoress of The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, has trackbacked with The Gangs of New Orleans. Be sure to also read her update.

And it's just not Tuesday without a ping from Planck's Constant. Today, the subject is Aksa Martyrs Brigades Pulling a Saddam.

And now a pair of trackbacks that almost fell through the cracks:

Angel at Woman Honor Thyself would like us to read about Gilad Shalit. No relation to Gene, apparently.

And here's one that was posted on 20 June from Conservative Cat: Confused Americans For Truth: Kerry Needs A Date With The Iraqi Government. Sorry, Ferdinand. The trackback ping didn't come through, but it just showed up on Technorati four hours ago! I'll put the link on this post, so it will show up on T'rati.

If anyone doesn't see a ping come through on my trackback, do what Angel did and leave a comment, or shoot me an email!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Deals On eBay

Welcome to this week's tenant at Tor's Rants, Deals On eBay. It's what the title would suggest, "a large group of eBay sellers who will be posting their most recent listings. In addition, look for posts of special sales, useful articles, and much more!" Do click through the thumbnail at the top of the right-hand column and see what they're about!



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Jeffrey Kaelin of Winterport Summoned for OUI

Oops. Donna Gilbert has been catching the breaks lately. First she won the June Democratic primary against veteran legislator Joe Brooks in a recount, after the inept election officials made some tally sheet errors and declared Brooks the victor. Now, her November Republican opponent, Jeffrey Kaelin, might have to be chauffeured to and from campaign functions, assuming he's not in jail for part of the campaign season. If this is his first offense, he might not get any jail time. If any of the nine previous convictions referred to in the article are also for OUI, he might have to spend some time in the slammer.

The article's quotes from the police report suggest that Kaelin might have been trying to influence the officer to treat him differently, due to his being an incumbent legislator.

Kaelin told Stuart he was a legislator, admitted to having had a few beers that night and said he was on his way home, the police report said.

During his Intoxilyzer test, he reportedly told police, "You guys should be out charging people that are doing bad things." Stuart noted that Kaelin "then went on to lecture me about OxyContin and heroin."

That's the funny thing about drugs, be they alcohol, OxyContin or marijuana. If you do them at home, at a time when you won't be operating any heavy machinery (e.g. a 2006 Ford pickup), you likely won't be doing any "bad things." To yourself, maybe, but not to other folks.

Once you get behind the wheel and start smashing into other people's stuff, or into other people (the latter which Kaelin fortunately avoided doing), you are doing very, very bad things.

It will be interesting to see how Kaelin handles this during the campaign. And if the voters care. If I were a voter in his district, I would vote against him. He's obviously on at least a minor power-trip due to his legislative post. When people like that are in the legislature, regardless of their party affiliation, things go badly for Maine citizens.



Linking to: Bloggin' Outloud, Committees of Correspondence

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Saturday, June 24, 2006

Premium Gasoline, Boutique Gasoline and Libertarian Environmental Ethics

The Washington Post reports that sales of premium octane gas are noticeably down in the U.S.

Gasoline sales figures show that drivers are forsaking the higher price in unprecedented numbers. After years of decline, the market share for premium gas dwindled to the single digits last year. Some analysts expect the drop to be more pronounced this summer, as the gap widens between the prices of regular and premium gasoline. Regular gas is averaging about $2.98 a gallon in the Washington region, up 80 cents from the comparable time last year. Premium fuel is selling for $3.25 a gallon, up 87 cents.

I noticed several weeks ago that one local, independent station where I regularly refuel stopped carrying anything but regular octane gasoline and diesel. With gas prices what they are, only people with vehicles whose manufacturers recommend the higher-octane gasoline due to their high-compression engines should buy it. And that's hardly anybody.

Actually, even when the prices are lower, there's no reason to buy higher-octane gas, unless your engine specifically requires it. Just ask Click and Clack (scroll down to Part 2 to read their whole rant):

Does your owner's manual say "Premium Unleaded Only"? No? Then don't ever use premium fuel. There. We just saved you 40 cents a gallon... or $8 on a 20-gallon fill up. If your engine is designed to run on regular gas, there's absolutely no benefit to putting in "high test." It pollutes more, it costs more, and doesn't give you any benefit in performance or fuel system cleanliness.

The fact that higher octane gas actually pollutes more without any benefit other than in the oil companies' pockets also makes it, in my mind, an environmental and ethical issue. Environmental despoliation is an unfortunate side-effect of human existence, as it is of the existence of any living creature. But we must always weigh the benefits of what we do against their costs. Extra costs, both fiscal and environmental, must be outweighed by their benefits. Here there are none, except for a very small percentage of drivers.

The gas companies keep complaining that boutique mixtures of gasoline keep gas prices up, though some recent reportage by the AP claims that a draft of an EPA report to the White House disputes that. Well, if the gas companies still figure that having different boutique blends is pushing up the price of gas at the pump, then they must know it's true due to their experience in providing three different octane grades nationwide.

As a left-libertarian, my belief is that voluntary cooperation of individuals with exclusive property rights in terms of pollution and truly free markets (i.e., not the oligopolistic corporate market we now have in the U.S.) would take care of both the pollution problems due to gasoline engines and the nonsense of people using a fuel grade that they don't need to use. Actually, the extent to which we have a free market in gasoline (the consumer side, mostly) seems to be already taking care of the latter problem.

An excellent resource for those who would like to look into free-market environmentalism is the Commons Blog.



Linking to: The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, Point Five, Assorted Babble, Selective Amnesia

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Friday, June 23, 2006

Snapping Turtles in Maine

Apparently, in Orono, Maine, they just don't have the density of snapping turtle population that we do in Liberty.

Twice in as many days this week, a snapping turtle has made an appearance on the pavement in Orono...

...Orono police Officer Casey Miller approached the turtle for a closer look on Wednesday. Miller, who has faced unruly people and intoxicated motorists, admittedly found himself in a new situation...

"As soon as I got close to her, she pretty much freaked out," he said Thursday. The snapping turtle began flopping around and, of course, snapped at the officer.

The really scary part of this story -- for the turtle -- comes with her second appearance on the next day.

The woman who had contacted police about the turtle said she had tried to scoop the turtle up with a shovel, but Myrtle would have nothing to do with that, and the reptile "just kept snapping at her," Miller was told.

As a person who has frequently aided snappers in their road crossings, reading what this well-intentioned woman tried to do sends chills up and down my spine. How easily the turtle might have fallen -- or crawled -- off the shovel and sustained injury! Thank goodness someone from the university showed up with a trash can.

The easiest way to help a snapper is to approach it quickly from behind, grab onto the ridge of its shell just above and slightly in front of its rear legs. Call it four o' clock and eight o' clock. Pick up the turtle, but never more than a few inches off the ground, in case you drop it. Take it in the direction it was going, and put it down. If it was a big one, get away quickly. They can really spin around quickly and snap! This is also why you want to approach the turtle quickly, before it decides to spin around and defend itself.

The only time this hasn't worked for me is on a really wet day a couple of weeks ago, when a large snapper had just gotten out of a slimy bog. When I tried to get ahold of it, it got loose by wagging its head violently. If I'd had some rubber gloves in the car, I might have been able to get a grip. As it was, all I could do was hope the turtle got across safely on her own.

For more turtle-related news, check out Little Turtle Heads Poking Out.

Update: I have just discovered that my lovely wife Rowan ranted about the very same subject last night, with many links to both turtle and porcupine safety sites. Great minds and great hearts think and feel alike!



Linking to: Woman Honor Thyself, Comedian Jenee: People are Idiots, Gospel Fiction, MacBros' Place, Dan Mancini, Leaning Straight Up, Pirate's Cove

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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Genealogy, Royalty and Genghis Khan

This post is about one of those quirky little stories that caught my attention because it deals with a hobby that I take out of the drawer occasionally: genealogy.

I even briefly worked for a nationally known genealogical publisher, where I learned a little bit about researching family trees from professional genealogists. One of the best bits of advice I ever read in one of the company's publications came from German Church Books, in which the author advised anyone who disapproved of illegitimacy to give up genealogy, as most everyone has it in their family tree. I didn't need to go too far to discover that the first man who adopted my surname was an illegitimate child.

Many people get into genealogy with the idea of proving the family rumor of noble descent, or at least Mayflower descent. Others (you know who you are) just want to hang up a chart showing their path back to Adam and Eve. Some people, like me, just like looking over old documents and wondering about our ancestors' lives. Or solving puzzles.

These days, DNA evidence is able to be applied to genealogy. Apparently, it's no longer prohibitively expensive for folks to try and substantiate descent from historic figures when they lack documentation. Here's a recent interesting case:

MIAMI (AP) -- An accounting professor who thought he was a direct descendant of the fearsome Mongol warrior Genghis Khan has now been told: never mind.

Tom Robinson, 48, said Wednesday that a second DNA test, by Family Tree DNA in Houston, showed that he matched some genetic markers with Genghis Khan but that a direct line, as an earlier test had indicted, wasn't likely after all.

On his blog, Robinson goes into great detail about the findings. The best thing about it is that, as an honest accounting academic, he retained a healthy skepticism about his lineage even though the first testing firm was quite emphatic in their proclamation.

The results did come as a surprise and I inquired as to how the DNA of the Mongolians would have ended up in England. Professor Sykes speculated that the Vikings acquired slaves in Central Europe in an area that the Mongolians had conquered (see Jack Weatherford's excellent book for the range of land Genghis conquered) and that these slaves may have ended up in England. While we will never know, it is an interesting conjecture.

I was not expecting all of the press coverage and attention being paid to this story since it did not appear I was an exact match and it seemed from published research that there were apparently a lot of potential offspring from Genghis that shared this DNA.

Here's to the egoless pursuit of genealogy. Long may it reign, even if our ancestors didn't.

Linking to: Third World County, Gribbit's Word, Diane's Stuff, Stuck on Stupid, rashbre central, Cigar Intelligence Agency
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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Quick and Dirty Open Trackback Post

Here's this week's post. I don't have any time today to do a real post, so this is it. I'll manually add the links to the main post later tonight or perhaps tomorrow afternoon. Click on the chicklet to get an FAQ on what it's all about. Thanks, all!



True to my word, here it is the next afternoon. Our trackbackers are:

Woman Honor Thyself submits for your approval HonoR our SoldierS

AbbaGav has hard-hitting parody of the famous Nigerian letter in Al-Zahar Needs Cash, Time for Hamas 4-1-9?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Reason Tax Increment Financing Should Be Stopped

Apparently, Tax Increment Financing has become such a shell-game of funds and spending that even the philosopher-kings who are on the other side of the table can't keep track of where they've put the foam wad.

Just read this article about the experience of Poland, Maine. They've apparently mismanaged their TIF district into a $2 million negative balance. (My apologies if the link changes to something else on subsequent days. It doesn't look like a permalink. Get a clue, Advertiser Democrat!)



Saturday, June 17, 2006

Valedictorians, Salutatorians and Speeches

Maria Glod has an article in today's Washington Post about the currently changing definitions of the words valedictorian and salutatorian.

But it is clear that there is no consensus among educators, or students, on defining valedictorians. In Fairfax County, the decision is made school by school. Edison High School has one valedictorian. But Principal Gregory Croghan said it has gotten so close -- with GPAs separated by only the tiniest fractions -- that he has decided to recommend a policy change to make everyone with a 4.0 or higher an "honor graduate."

Some schools even go so far as to have multiple valedictorians.

[W]hen Robinson Principal Dan Meier praised the school's top academic talent at commencement Thursday afternoon, nearly two full rows of graduates stood to be recognized as valedictorians.

To my Latin-student ear, that would indeed be a hellishly long commencement ceremony. As far as I'm concerned, you're not a valedictorian unless you give a valedictory speech. The literal meaning of the Latin roots of valedictorian is "the one who gives the farewell speech." Similarly, salutatorian means, "the one who gives the greeting speech."

One of my roommates during my abandoned graduate school career once admitted that he had been his high school's valedictorian. When I inquired as to the topic of his speech, he started to turn pale at the very thought of public speaking. Turns out, he hadn't given a speech. I immediately invoked Latin Student Snob Code Clause 43, "You're not a valedictorian unless you've given a valedictory speech. You may have been the top student in your class ranking, but you were definitely not valedictorian."

In the interest of self-disclosure, I must humbly admit that I was never in any jeopardy of attaining either valedictorian or salutatorian in my high school or college careers.

In my high school commencement, I recall that a single valedictorian and a single salutatorian actually gave speeches.

I went to a college in the late 80s and early 90s that had even abandoned class ranking in the 70s to help folks avoid the draft. As a result, there could be no top two students to give speeches. But commencement ceremonies are commencement ceremonies, and even the most avant-garde commencement ceremony requires speeches. Therefore, anyone who was interested in speaking at the ceremony had to submit their proposed speech to a board of faculty and students who would select the best two speeches. The end result was that we got some speeches that actually helped keep us awake, rather than dispense bromides.

You have to admit, there's no logical correlation between being one of the top two in class ranking and being a good speech writer or orator. Unless you're in a school specializing in rhetoric.

But please, let's reserve the words valedictorian and salutatorian for the folks who are the top two in their class, and who actually get up and talk a bit. Lest the wrath of young classicists be aroused.

Linking to: The Crazy Rants of Samantha Burns, Point Five, 7 Deadly Sins, Blue Star Chronicles, Stuck on Stupid, 123beta

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Orbitrek Elliptical Machines by Thane Fitness are Pieces of Crap

I wasn't planning on getting anywhere near the computer today, but my experience yesterday with an Orbitrek elliptical machine by Thane Fitness left me no choice but to rant about what a piece of crap it is.

For a few years now, I've been using an indoor trainer on my mountain bike for exercise. One of my wife's coworkers happened to have an elliptical machine gathering dust in a closet, and we agreed to take it off their hands.

Despite the fact that the Orbitrek elliptical machine had been passed down from owner to owner, it had obviously been used very little. I mean, it looked like it had just come out of the box. The folks we got it from admitted that they had used it perhaps once or twice, total, and they think the previous and original owners -- relatives of theirs -- might have put it through a similar amount of use.

So I had used it perhaps a dozen times in the last three weeks, and yesterday, about a dozen minutes into my workout -- kerblam! The crankshaft suddenly broke where it attached to the right-hand pedal.

In browsing Thane's website, it doesn't seem that they offer parts for repairs. The instruction manual states that the unit is good for users up to 250 lbs. I'm well below that limit, and was using the machine normally. If anything, I've been taking it easy on the elliptical machine, because I've been using a lot of muscles that I hadn't used on the stationary bicycle.

A quick search revealed other folks with similar problems.

13 Mar 2005 - Daniel of New Mexico, USA writes:

I purchased my OrbiTrak in 2001 from a TV shopping channel. When it arrived it was easy to assemble and i began to use it immediately.I noticed when i would increase the intensity of my workout it started to make alot of noise in the rear. It sounded like the chain was slamming against the plastic cover. I continued to use it until about 8 months later when the metal bar that connects the foot step to the machine busted in half renduring the product useless.It was good while it lasted but dont plan on it lasting long if your a deciplined user.

Bottom line: even if the Orbitrek is gratis, as mine was, accept it only at peril of physical harm.



Linking to: Leaning Straight Up, Dan Mancini, MacBros' Place, Comedian Jenee: People are Idiots, Woman Honor Thyself

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Early Maine Primary Results 2006

There are a few things that are settled in the 2006 Maine primary as I write this. Actually, a few of the things were settled before the first vote was cast. Baldacci was a shoo-in for the Democratic gubernatorial vote. I'm actually surprized that Miller has a whole quarter of the vote, with about half of the precincts reporting.

I'm really surprized that Woodcock seems to be taking the lead in the Republican gubernatorial race. I'm even more surprized that Emery is last. I'd been assuming that Emery would win it by a nose over Mills, even tho I didn't intend on voting for him. I must have been influenced by my midcoast upbringing, where Emery is still revered.

I did end up voting for Mills, and the choice for me was always between him and Woodcock. Woodcock's going to have to impress a lot of people to unseat Baldacci. I think there are quite a few folks, like me, who will be looking to some of the independent candidates.

The second worst travesty of the night is Rockland's repeal of the pay per bag transfer station policy. This tiny intrusion of market forces into the waste disposal habits of the citizenry and businesses of Rockland would have been good.

The worst travesty of the night is Courier-Gazette reporter (and editor!) Stephen Betts' ignorance of the definition of the word margin the first time he uses it in the article:

By a two-to-one margin, city voters repealed the pay per bag law approved earlier this year by the city council.

By its second use in the article, the word seems to be used correctly:

And in the race for the Republican nomination for Knox County Sheriff, Ockenfels of Rockport is leading incumbent Davey of Warren by a wide margin...

The one bit of Schadenfreude that I'll engage in tonight is the clobbering that new Maine Christian Civic League operative Mike Hein took at the polls in his quest for the Republican nomination in the House district 57 race. The guy's just sick in the head. He sent me an email characterizing a woman as "no stranger to leaving broken families in her wake" because she had once left a husband who had abused her physically and to a severe degree. Lay off the Jack Chick comics for a while, Mike. You'll start to see that people aren't all Satanists just because they've made some bad choices in life.



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I Voted Today

It was painless. No lines, no waiting. If you live in Maine, and you're at your home computer, you still have time to get to your voting location and mark a ballot. I can almost guarantee that you won't have to wait too long, unless you're in an area where there's some extremely contentious local issue. I'll be reacting later tonight or early tomorrow morning to results as they come in.



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Tor's Maine Gubernatorial Primary Prediction

Every year, I have a simple way of predicting who will win any election. Most people this year seem to think that the Republican primary for the Maine governor's race is too close to call. I think it's going to be a landslide.

My methodology is simple. On my way home from work on the eve of the primary, I count the campaign signs out on peoples' lawns. This year the count was:

Emery 5

Mills 4

Woodcock 2

For Sale 26

The results are incontrovertible. Most folks don't care about whom the GOP is putting up to try and wrest the Blaine House from Baldacci. They're abandoning ship. You know things are bad when even the socialistic Green candidate Pat LaMarche's radio ads say taxes in Maine are too high.



This is this week's post. Trackbacks are allowed on any subject at my sole discretion (and I haven't refused any yet) till midnight my time, as long as there's a link to this post or to my front page in your post. You don't need to be an Open Trackback Alliance member to participate. Links will go up here as I'm able to investigate them later today.

Planck's Constant has been scouring the Want Ads lately, and tells us about FBI Recruits Sought for Porn Squad.

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Friday, June 9, 2006

Jane Desaulniers and Knox County Commissioners, Round Two

Knox County (Maine) commissioners voted on the advice of attorneys to agree to a $47,500 settlement to stave off a $300,000 lawsuit, according to the Courier-Gazette. The two semi-positive things about this development are (1) that the county taxpayers are saving a cool nine grand from the original settlement, and (2) that taxpayers and voters are getting some insight into what the whole deal was about in the first place.

There are lots of interesting accusations springing forth here. Either Desaulniers is putting forth lies of extreme intricacy, or the county commissioners are a bunch who should be turned out on their ears at their next elections, assuming they don't have the good sense to resign immediately.

In the claim, Desaulniers claims that Beebe-Center wanted to get rid of the treasurer, emergency management agency director, and building supervisor.

“Beebe-Center states that the treasurer’s position will be an easy fix since that position becomes my appointment under the newly adopted county charter,” the claim states.

She further claimed that on her first day on the job in August 2005, the former county clerk handed her a list of employeesÂ’ names that she and Beebe-Center wanted eliminated....

Desaulniers also claims that she warned commissioners about meeting after meetings are adjourned. She claimed that Commissioner Lawrence Nash told her to mind her own business.

The former county administrator also claims that Beebe-Center has repeatedly asked the sheriffÂ’s department to provide the names of juvenile offenders so that she can solicit them to attend the Community School in Camden where she works.

If any of those allegations are close to being true, they are really damning of the commissioners. Commissioners are supposed to enact policy, and the administrator is supposed to implement it. That's the point of having an administrator: someone who will hopefully handle personnel matters professionally and without consideration to political connections. I know that's not often carried out in practice, and that's certainly one of the main reasons that I'd like to see the county governments in Maine either eliminated or severely truncated.

But if the commissioners were so arrogant as to take advantage of the change of administrators to try and get rid of people in positions that they dislike, that's beyond outrageous.

To be fair, some of Desaulniers' filings to support her threatened $300k suit have nothing to do with the commission's responsibilities.

Desaulniers claims her aquaculture business will suffer a $60,000 loss because of the failure of the county to make the payment. Each year the family purchases seed stock, which takes three to four years to reach market size, and had to delay the purchase this year because the payment was not made.

The former administrator purchased an older home when relocating to the Midcoast because of the tight housing market, the document states. The home required major renovations, including the updating of electrical, plumbing and heating systems, the roof and chimney. Desaulniers said she is currently in the fifth year of an eight-year schedule to complete the repairs and has been forced to postpone the necessary projects.

Additionally, the document states Desaulniers may be forced to relocate in order to secure comparable employment and will not be able to obtain the return on investment for having to sell the home with incomplete renovations.

It's not the responsibility of Knox County taxpayers to make sure that Desaulniers' side business doesn't have a cash flow problem. If she had remained employed by the county, she presumably wouldn't have had the cash on hand to buy the seed stock, either.

Also, the fact that Desaulniers is living in a fixer-upper that she owns, rather than renting a small, affordable apartment somewhere downtown, was entirely out of the commission's hands. I can't imagine how the taxpayers should be forced to compensate her for the fact that she might have to sell her house before she finished all the renovations she had planned.



Linking to: Pirate's Cove, Leaning Straight Up, MacBros' Place, People Are Idiots, Woman Honor Thyself

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Of Censors, Censures and Gubernatorial Candidates in Maine

It looks like there are going to be several choices for Mainers in November's gubernatorial election. Village Soup reports:

There could be as many as seven candidates for governor on the November ballot, after four independents qualified last week — with two of the four handing in enough $5 donations to likely make them eligible for public financing of their campaigns.


Merrill is a former Democrat who turned independent on the first day of the legislative session this year, ultimately leaving Democrats with a one-vote lead in the House.

"We have a comfortable margin," said Merrill, who had handed in some checks before the deadline to get the verification process started.

Michael, a controversial figure, ran for governor as an independent in 2002. As a state representative, he was censored by the House for yelling at two women senators, and when he ran for governor he used a racial slur during a live radio interview. He did not qualify for public financing in 2002 and got 2 percent of the vote.

Note to Maine political reporters: consult your handy online dictionaries for the definitions of censor and censure. As long as Michael remains in the race, knowledge of the distinction will serve you well. Also, study Merrill's correct use of margin. Eschew using it as a synonym for ratio. And reserve using the word controversial for people who truly are. The results of the last election belie Michael's claim to controversy: Mainers have overwhelmingly made up their minds about him.

As I've said before, Barbara Merrill is still the candidate for whom I'm most likely to vote, if she's still in the race in November. I'm not too pleased with the prospect that I'll be voting for a candidate who is taking public money to finance her campaign; however, she does seem to be willing to put out the big ideas that Mainers need to debate.

I've no idea for whom I'll vote in next Tuesday's GOP primary; none of the candidates has any appeal for me. Dave Emery is most likely to win, due to name recognition. But if he doesn't do a better job of making his positions clear than he did at yesterday's debate, he won't stand a chance in the general election against John Baldacci, who is the uncontested king of obfuscation in Maine politics today. Baldacci had folks vote for him last time around because they actually believed he would lower their taxes.

Peter Mills has adroitly summed up the GOP primary:

"“Something's got to happen," said Mills earlier Tuesday. "I'’m afraid that people will start seeing us as three boring white guys over 50."

Candidate, the voters can't start doing something that they finished doing a long time ago.



Linking to: Third World County

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Donating Computer Power for Good Causes

I've become aware of a project headed up by Berkeley that lets home computer users become part of virtual super-computers to solve the world's problems. From the AP article:

Baker's work could one day lead to cures to diseases from cancer to Alzheimer's. The project takes a more direct approach to other diseases, including the search for an HIV vaccine. In that case, his team hopes to develop a way to help the body recognize critical parts of the virus' proteins so that it can no longer hide from the body's immune system.

The project sends work to computers that have installed the necessary free software. When the machine is idle, it figures out how an individual protein - a building block of life - might fold or contort, displaying the possibilities in a screen saver. When the PC is done crunching, it sends the results back to Baker's team and grabs more work.

The program discussed in the preceding paragraphs is called Rosetta(at)Home. Unfortunately, my ancient computer is too slow and feeble to participate in this program. There were warnings about overheating and such, so I decided not to risk it. Perhaps I'll talk my wife into getting our super-duper new computer enrolled into that one.

I browsed through Berkeley's other programs, and found one set up by IBM called World Community Grid, that even this old clunker could handle. Through it, my computer will be doing computations to help fight AIDS and researching human proteins. This will only be happening when my screensaver comes on. In the event that I'm doing something like an antivirus scan and don't want my computer's processing power to be diverted to virtual supercomputing, I just put the program into snooze mode on the task bar. Very simple. If you've got a really souped-up machine, I think it's possible to let the program run in the background all the time, within constraints set by you.

Some of the other programs available through Berkeley include climate change predictors and SETI(at)home, whose effort to discern signals from extraterrestrial intelligences was the pioneer of virtual supercomputing. So if you're an Art Bell fan, that would be an enticing option.



This is this week's post. Anyone may send a trackback ping on any topic, as long as the post contains a link to either this post or the front page of Tor's Rants. My abject apologies to OTA regulars for not getting this up earlier in the day, but them's the breaks. For my part, I'm sending trackback pings to: Freedom Watch, historymike's musings, Common Folk Using Common Sense, and the inimitable and indefatigable Planck's Constant.

Whaddayaknow, Planck's Constant pinged us, urging that we read Owoooo Lorraine Bracco on the Couch. Our pleasure.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Winsome Gunning Art Walk

This week's blog renter in the right-hand column is Winsome Gunning Art Walk. To quote from her eBay store:

Winsome Gunning lives on Australia's Gold Coast. Her paintings show special moments, walks on a beach, planting flowers, a frangipani night, moon over the sea, birds flying in the sky, an orange tree, a moment of solitude & peace.

The blog itself isn't just about hawking stuff on eBay, tho. Her blog is more about the creative process, especially for art. As a blogger who at times has experienced writer's block, I can certainly relate to her struggles. Here's a part of a recent entry:

Look around you and think of the energy and time spent in collecting and caring for possessions. How much is what you truely need and how much is what you think you should have.

We don't need a lot to create with power and strength. What we need is a state of mind, a state of spirit.

Society is clogged down with 'objects'’ that need to be paid for and cared for, but there is a line between need and greed and when that line is blurred 'The Creative Spirit' in our work and lives is quickly impeded. Our lives all too easily become blocked by objects and the freedom and joy that nourishes creativity is lost.

Do go and have a look. Beautiful artwork abounds.



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Friday, June 2, 2006

Lots of Comics and Golf Clubs For Sale on eBay

If you've been wondering why posting has been a little light here at Tor's Rants over the last week, here's why: I've been busy getting a lot of New Teen Titans, Conan the Barbarian and other comics ready to sell on eBay. Click here to see my current eBay auctions. If you win multiple auctions from me, be sure to mention that you're a Tor's Rants reader to get your discount (see right-hand column).

Also, there are still a few days left for some good golf clubs that some friends are selling. Click here to see the golf clubs. (Sorry, they're just my friends and I'm plugging them here, so no discount. It's out of my hands.)



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