Archive for March 2011

The Perfect Story Will Combine Joe Arpaio and Sex with Dogs

This soooo reminds me of Dave Barry's Interview years ago with reason.

​The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office busted two guys -- one of whom was an elementary school music teacher -- last month who allegedly used Craigslist to try and have sex with a dog, and the sheriff seems to think it's becoming a trend -- despite it only happening once.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio earlier this week wrote a letter to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster alerting him of his office's findings and advising him to re-examine security policies on the website to make sure people don't use it to coordinate sex with animals -- again, despite it only happening one time that the sheriff knows about.

Here is the quote from Barry's interview: And here is my post on it

John wrote about it and he got into the usual thing where he immediately got to the question of whether or not you can have sex with dogs. The argument was that if it wasn't illegal to have sex with dogs, naturally people would have sex with dogs. That argument always sets my teeth right on edge....

I got a few letters, mostly pretty nice. One or two letters saying, "Here’s why it wouldn’t work to be a libertarian, because people will have sex with dogs." Arguments like, "Nobody would educate the kids." People say, "Of course you have to have public education because otherwise nobody would send their kids to school." And you’d have to say, "Would you not send your kids to school? Would you not educate them?" "Well, no. I would. But all those other people would be having sex with dogs."

Who Picked Whom

We have 122 backets entered in our competition this year.  Here is the pick report by game

Round 1Round 2Round 3Round 4Round 5Round 6
East
1 Ohio St.122
16 TexasSA/AlaSt0
1 Ohio St.117
8 George Mason3
9 Villanova2
16 TexasSA/AlaSt0
1 Ohio St.102
4 Kentucky14
5 West Virginia3
12 UAB/Clemson1
8 George Mason1
13 Princeton1
9 Villanova0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt0
1 Ohio St.80
2 North Carolina18
4 Kentucky8
3 Syracuse7
6 Xavier5
5 West Virginia2
7 Washington1
14 Indiana St.1
10 Georgia0
15 Long Island0
13 Princeton0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt0
8 George Mason0
9 Villanova0
12 UAB/Clemson0
11 Marquette0
1 Ohio St.51
1 Duke29
2 San Diego St.7
3 Connecticut7
4 Texas5
2 North Carolina5
3 Syracuse5
8 Michigan4
5 West Virginia2
4 Kentucky2
7 Washington1
10 Penn St.1
14 Indiana St.1
6 Xavier1
5 Arizona1
6 Cincinnati0
13 Oakland0
11 Missouri0
7 Temple0
14 Bucknell0
15 Northern-Colo0
15 Long Island0
12 UAB/Clemson0
9 Villanova0
8 George Mason0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt0
13 Princeton0
11 Marquette0
9 Tennessee0
16 Hampton0
10 Georgia0
12 Memphis0
1 Ohio St.36
1 Kansas24
1 Duke17
1 Pittsburgh7
3 Connecticut5
2 Notre Dame4
2 San Diego St.3
3 Purdue3
2 Florida3
8 Michigan2
4 Texas2
2 North Carolina2
4 Wisconsin2
4 Kentucky2
3 Syracuse2
7 UCLA2
5 Kansas St.1
5 West Virginia1
7 Washington1
6 Xavier1
14 Indiana St.1
15 Akron1
10 Michigan St.0
14 St.Peters NJ0
6 Georgetown0
11 USC/VCU0
15 Santa Barbara0
7 Texas A&M0
10 Florida State0
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR0
13 Morehead St0
13 Belmont0
6 St. Johns0
12 Utah St.0
3 BYU0
11 Gonzaga0
8 Butler0
9 Old Dominion0
14 Wofford0
15 Northern-Colo0
15 Long Island0
10 Georgia0
16 Hampton0
9 Tennessee0
5 Arizona0
11 Marquette0
13 Princeton0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt0
8 George Mason0
9 Villanova0
12 UAB/Clemson0
12 Memphis0
13 Oakland0
8 UNLV0
9 Illinois0
5 Vanderbilt0
12 Richmond0
16 Boston U.0
10 Penn St.0
6 Cincinnati0
11 Missouri0
14 Bucknell0
7 Temple0
4 Louisville0
9 Villanova63
8 George Mason59
5 West Virginia91
12 UAB/Clemson31
4 Kentucky73
5 West Virginia36
12 UAB/Clemson8
13 Princeton5
4 Kentucky103
13 Princeton19
6 Xavier74
11 Marquette48
3 Syracuse78
6 Xavier29
11 Marquette10
14 Indiana St.5
2 North Carolina56
3 Syracuse41
7 Washington10
6 Xavier10
11 Marquette3
14 Indiana St.1
10 Georgia1
15 Long Island0
3 Syracuse114
14 Indiana St.8
7 Washington78
10 Georgia44
2 North Carolina95
7 Washington20
10 Georgia7
15 Long Island0
2 North Carolina121
15 Long Island1
West
1 Duke122
16 Hampton0
1 Duke110
8 Michigan8
9 Tennessee4
16 Hampton0
1 Duke83
4 Texas22
5 Arizona8
8 Michigan7
9 Tennessee2
13 Oakland0
16 Hampton0
12 Memphis0
1 Duke60
2 San Diego St.20
3 Connecticut18
4 Texas10
5 Arizona5
8 Michigan4
6 Cincinnati2
9 Tennessee2
10 Penn St.1
15 Northern-Colo0
7 Temple0
13 Oakland0
16 Hampton0
12 Memphis0
11 Missouri0
14 Bucknell0
8 Michigan65
9 Tennessee57
5 Arizona95
12 Memphis27
4 Texas74
5 Arizona32
12 Memphis9
13 Oakland7
4 Texas106
13 Oakland16
6 Cincinnati73
11 Missouri49
3 Connecticut89
11 Missouri17
6 Cincinnati14
14 Bucknell2
2 San Diego St.51
3 Connecticut51
10 Penn St.7
6 Cincinnati7
11 Missouri3
7 Temple2
14 Bucknell1
15 Northern-Colo0
3 Connecticut114
14 Bucknell8
7 Temple68
10 Penn St.54
2 San Diego St.92
10 Penn St.17
7 Temple13
15 Northern-Colo0
2 San Diego St.121
15 Northern-Colo1
Southwest
1 Kansas121
16 Boston U.1
1 Kansas116
9 Illinois4
8 UNLV2
16 Boston U.0
1 Kansas105
4 Louisville10
5 Vanderbilt3
9 Illinois2
8 UNLV1
12 Richmond1
13 Morehead St0
16 Boston U.0
1 Kansas74
3 Purdue25
2 Notre Dame14
4 Louisville4
6 Georgetown1
12 Richmond1
15 Akron1
9 Illinois1
5 Vanderbilt1
10 Florida State0
7 Texas A&M0
13 Morehead St0
16 Boston U.0
8 UNLV0
11 USC/VCU0
14 St.Peters NJ0
1 Kansas59
1 Pittsburgh22
2 Notre Dame10
3 Purdue9
2 Florida5
4 Wisconsin4
7 UCLA3
5 Kansas St.3
4 Louisville3
3 BYU2
15 Akron1
9 Illinois1
11 Gonzaga0
6 St. Johns0
13 Belmont0
14 Wofford0
8 UNLV0
15 Santa Barbara0
16 Boston U.0
10 Michigan St.0
5 Vanderbilt0
12 Utah St.0
6 Georgetown0
11 USC/VCU0
10 Florida State0
7 Texas A&M0
13 Morehead St0
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR0
12 Richmond0
9 Old Dominion0
8 Butler0
14 St.Peters NJ0
9 Illinois61
8 UNLV61
5 Vanderbilt71
12 Richmond51
4 Louisville78
5 Vanderbilt27
12 Richmond14
13 Morehead St3
4 Louisville112
13 Morehead St10
6 Georgetown99
11 USC/VCU23
3 Purdue98
6 Georgetown19
11 USC/VCU3
14 St.Peters NJ2
3 Purdue61
2 Notre Dame45
6 Georgetown6
7 Texas A&M5
10 Florida State3
11 USC/VCU1
15 Akron1
14 St.Peters NJ0
3 Purdue116
14 St.Peters NJ6
10 Florida State61
7 Texas A&M61
2 Notre Dame97
7 Texas A&M16
10 Florida State8
15 Akron1
2 Notre Dame117
15 Akron5
Southeast
1 Pittsburgh121
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR1
1 Pittsburgh109
8 Butler11
9 Old Dominion2
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR0
1 Pittsburgh83
4 Wisconsin19
5 Kansas St.13
8 Butler3
12 Utah St.2
13 Belmont1
9 Old Dominion1
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR0
1 Pittsburgh60
2 Florida14
4 Wisconsin13
3 BYU12
5 Kansas St.10
7 UCLA4
6 St. Johns2
10 Michigan St.2
8 Butler2
13 Belmont1
11 Gonzaga1
12 Utah St.1
15 Santa Barbara0
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR0
9 Old Dominion0
14 Wofford0
8 Butler75
9 Old Dominion47
5 Kansas St.77
12 Utah St.45
4 Wisconsin62
5 Kansas St.37
12 Utah St.16
13 Belmont7
4 Wisconsin96
13 Belmont26
6 St. Johns75
11 Gonzaga47
3 BYU66
6 St. Johns34
11 Gonzaga17
14 Wofford5
2 Florida48
3 BYU29
6 St. Johns18
10 Michigan St.11
7 UCLA10
11 Gonzaga6
15 Santa Barbara0
14 Wofford0
3 BYU110
14 Wofford12
10 Michigan St.66
7 UCLA56
2 Florida83
10 Michigan St.24
7 UCLA15
15 Santa Barbara0
2 Florida118
15 Santa Barbara4

One More Hour -- by 12:20 Eastern Time -- To Submit Your Bracket!

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Wow! Things I Wish I Had Said

Ross McKitrick on "Earth Hour" via Bishop Hill

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance, poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity. People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off there too.

Update:  Here is the whole thing

Best Puzzle Game I Have Played In A While (Also the Geekiest)

Rent-Seeking

I know the FDIC is often in a hurry to place assets from failed banks, but this deal appears absurd

The only way I can find that their math might be wrong is if in the loss payment calculation, the contract might add the value of the promissory note to the short sale proceeds, but that does not change the gravy train here.

Playing the Cowbell in Prison

Will Blue Oyster Cult (gratuitous umlauts omitted) have to go on the lam now that the First Amendment does not extend to telling someone to commit suicide?

Update:  Don't be afraid, BOC.  I read it closer, and they are probably OK.  Only convincing a specific person to commit suicide is unprotected.  General advocacy appears OK.

Japanese Nukes, Michael Crichton, and Frank Borman

I have always enjoyed Michael Crichton's books, but sometimes turn up my nose at his science.  I must say though that the chain of seemingly stupid errors that led to the park crashing in Jurassic Park bear an amazing resemblance to what is going on with the Japanese nuclear plans.  I don't buy his application of chaos theory to the chain of events, but its hard not to see parallels to this:

Engineers had begun using fire hoses to pump seawater into the reactor — the third reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 complex to receive the last-ditch treatment — after the plant's emergency cooling system failed. Company officials said workers were not paying sufficient attention to the process, however, and let the pump run out of fuel, allowing the fuel rods to become partially exposed to the air.

Once the pump was restarted and water flow was restored, another worker inadvertently closed a valve that was designed to vent steam from the containment vessel. As pressure built up inside the vessel, the pumps could no longer force water into it and the fuel rods were once more exposed.

The other line I am reminded of comes from the docu-drama "From the Earth to the Moon."  In the episode after the fire on Apollo 1, they have Frank Borman testifying to a hostile Congressional committee about the fire.  When asked to explain the root cause, he said "a failure of imagination."  I don't know if this is a true quote of his or purely fiction, but it resonates with me from my past troubleshooting work.  Almost every fire or major failure we looked at in the refinery resulted from a chain of events that no one had even anticipated or thought possible, generally in combination with a series of stupid human screwups.  I would describe the Japanese nuclear plant problems in the same light.

Update: Failure of Imagination from Wikipedia

From IMDB, how the line was quoted in the mini-series

Clinton Anderson: [at the senate inquiry following the Apollo 1 fire] Colonel, what caused the fire? I'm not talking about wires and oxygen. It seems that some people think that NASA pressured North American to meet unrealistic and arbitrary deadlines and that in turn North American allowed safety to be compromised.
Frank Borman: I won't deny there's been pressure to meet deadlines, but safety has never been intentionally compromised.
Clinton Anderson: Then what caused the fire?
Frank Borman: A failure of imagination. We've always known there was the possibility of fire in a spacecraft. But the fear was that it would happen in space, when you're 180 miles from terra firma and the nearest fire station. That was the worry. No one ever imagined it could happen on the ground. If anyone had thought of it, the test would've been classified as hazardous. But it wasn't. We just didn't think of it. Now who's fault is that? Well, it's North American's fault. It's NASA's fault. It's the fault of every person who ever worked on Apollo. It's my fault. I didn't think the test was hazardous. No one did. I wish to God we had.

The Paul Krugman Award for Forgetting Everything You Knew About Economics In Order to Shill for Your Favorite Political Party Goes To.....

Obama budget director Jacob Lew, who wrote this lucid statement about the Social Security "Trust Fund" back in 2000

"These [trust fund] balances are available to finance future benefit payments and other trust fund expenditures—but only in a bookkeeping sense. These funds are not set up to be pension funds, like the funds of private pension plans. They do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits or other expenditures. The existence of large trust fund balances, therefore, does not, by itself, have any impact on the Government's ability to pay benefits." [bold added]

Needless to say, he has changed his tune now that he is being paid to shout "all is well" as enabler-in-chief of Obama's spending habit.

Submit Your Bracket, Its Free!

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/CoyoteBlog and sign up, then enter your bracket.  This year, you may enter two different brackets if you wish.

The deadline is Thursday at noon, Eastern time.

Climate Updates

I have posted a number of updates on climate science here.

This is Unbelievably Aggravating

From today's WSJ:

A House subcommittee will hold an "oversight" hearing today on the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the über-regulator that will soon have jurisdiction over most of the country's credit-making institutions. We put "oversight" in quotes because Congress has little say over either the new bureau or its unofficial czar, Elizabeth Warren.

This unprecedented lack of accountability is by Ms. Warren's design. The bureau was the Harvard professor's idea, and she lobbied the Obama Administration and Congress to make it part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform. That law calls it an "independent bureau," akin to an independent agency like the Securities and Exchange Commission. But that's deceptive. Unlike other agencies, it isn't subject to annual Congressional appropriations.

Incredibly, the law says the bureau's director gets to set her own annual budget by requesting a share of the "combined earnings of the Federal Reserve System." The total she can request is capped this year at 10% of the Fed's total operating expenses (which in 2009 were $5.4 billion). That cap rises to 11% next year and 12% in 2013, and the Fed Chairman has no authority to deny her request. The director can also request an additional $200 million more per year for the next five years from Congress.

This arrangement may be unconstitutional under the separation of powers, and we hope it is soon tested in court. It was a deliberate political gambit to make the bureau less accountable to either Congress or the rest of the executive branch. In July, when its powers fully vest, the bureau will have supervisory authority over banks with more than $10 billion of assets and independent rule-making authority.

Both are cause for worry, given that the bureau will not have to incorporate the views of other banking regulators into its rules when it comes, for instance, to issues of safety and soundness. While the IRS Commissioner and Comptroller of the Currency report to the Treasury Secretary, Ms. Warren and her successors can tell him to crush rocks.

The affront is compounded by President Obama's decision to evade the spirit of the law by letting Ms. Warren set up the bureau without Senate confirmation. Republicans objected to her potential appointment, and even Democrat Chris Dodd said she would be hard to confirm. So Mr. Obama created a special position for her at both the White House and Treasury, letting her essentially create the bureau and hire its staff without facing the Senate. She has proceeded to sign up a raft of liberal antibank populists, such as former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, former AFL-CIO deputy counsel David Silbermann and University of Connecticut law professor Patricia McCoy

Imposing accountability on public officials is hard enough without laws being structured to purposely evade it.

One of the World's Great Bad Ideas

Corn ethanol

The United States spends about $6 billion a year on federal support for ethanol production through tax credits, tariffs, and other programs. Thanks to this financial assistance, one-sixth of the world's corn supply is burned in American cars. That is enough corn to feed 350 million people for an entire year.

Government support of rapid growth in biofuel production has contributed to disarray in food production. Indeed, as a result of official policy in the United States and Europe, including aggressive production targets, biofuel consumed more than 6.5 percent of global grain output and 8 percent of the world's vegetable oil in 2010, up from 2 percent of grain supplies and virtually no vegetable oil in 2004.

It's the Only Way I Found to Stop Bullying

I was struck by this article about a kid who was bullied for years finally fighting back against his tormentors, and being suspended for his efforts.   I was physically bullied for years in elementary school and it was not until middle school I woke up one day and realized I was now a lot bigger than the perpetrators and I beat the sh*t out of one of them in a library study room.  Problem over.

I am probably the most passive, least violent person in the libertarian blogosphere (half the sites I really like sound like Burt Reynolds in Deliverance).  For God sakes, I am a libertarian that does not even own a freaking gun.  But at some point there are people who only understand violence.  I figure five years of failed attempted dialog on my part constituted sufficient due diligence before I activated the ground troups.  Afterwards, I was absolutely embarrassed that that the problem turned out so easy to end.

PS-  This is NOT a plea for some stupid government anti-bullying program.  It sucks to be bullied, but it would suck worse to have the government try to aggressively administer justice among 13 year olds.

All You Need to Know About State Fiscal Responsibility

Via Reason

The baseline takes state government budgets and grows them by population growth and inflation.  In other words, baseline spending in 2007 would be the same real level per capita as in 2002.  The Total Revenue line is the actual revenue collections by state governments.  Actual collections grew about 4 times faster than population and inflation in this period.  And states still did not balance their budgets or pay down debt in this period.  Nick Gillespie writes

Had the states kept their outlays constant while allowing for inflation and population growth, they would have been sitting on $2 trillion in reserves when the recession hit. Instead, they were broke heading into the recession and are in even worse position now.

Revenue is IRRELEVANT to fixing state budget problems.  No matter how much money is collected, governments will spend all the money and more.  The only solution I can see is imposition of statutory, perhaps Constitutional, spending caps in each state.

Wisconsin Officials Rushing to Prove Why Public Unions Are A Problem

So the Republicans in Wisconsin eliminated collective bargaining for public unions except on wages.  The Democratic Secretary of State, fully within the law, is delaying making the law official for 10 days.  This 10 days is giving us a great picture of the problem with public unions.

Why?  Because the 10 days was explicitly to allow cities and counties to cut new deals with unions, since all deals before the law is passed are grandfathered.  The fact that many city and county governments are rushing to take advantage of this window just proves that public collective bargaining is broken -- no one is looking after the taxpayers.  I have argued that public unions are basically on the same side of the table with governments in bargaining sessions.  What could be better proof?  If government officials really cared about the taxpayer or their fiduciary responsibility, why in the world would they be rushing to cut above-market deals with government employees when they won't have to do so in just 10 days?  Government officials are colluding with unions to race to transfer more wealth from taxpayers to workers before the window for such subsidies shuts.

Cargo Cult Social Engineering

Glen Reynolds has a great observation on government social engineering.  I hadn't thought about it this way before, but in many ways government drives for things like home ownership are like a cargo cult

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them

The Last Frontier in Worker Exploitation

Name a multi-billion dollar industry where all the competitors in the industry have formed a single cartel.  This cartel performs many functions, but one of its highest profile functions is to aggressively punish any member who pays its employees more than a cartel-enforced maximum.

Believe it or not, there is such an industry in the US... college sports.  The cartel is the NCAA, and whenever the NCAA makes the news, it usually is with an enforcement action punishing a school for allowing any of its athletes to make more than the agreed maximum salary, which is generally defined as free tuition.  As folks are learning at Ohio State, even trading your autograph for a free tattoo is not too small a transaction to attract ruthless NCAA retaliation.

This ESPN page (via Phil Miller) shows 2010 athletic revenue by school.  Take the top school on the list, the University of Texas.  In 2010 its athletic program brought in over $143 million in revenues.  It paid its workers (athletes) who helped generate this revenue $8.4 million (in the form of tuition), or 5.9% of revenues.  Its hard to decide whether this is high or low, though this percentage of labor for a service business seems low.  Looking for an analog, we can turn to the NFL, which is currently negotiating a revenue split with players.  The issue is still under negotiation, but for years players have been guaranteed over 50% of total revenues.

Even the Olympics finally gave up its stupid distinction of amateur status, allowing the best athletes to compete whether or not someone has ever paid them for anything.  This only makes sense - we don't have amateur engineers who work for free before they give up their amateur status for the professional ranks.  I can still continue to earn my degree at college in programming while being paid by outside companies to do programming.   I can still participate in the school glee club if I make money in a bar singing at nights.  I can still be student council president if I make money in the summers at a policy think tank.  Of all the activities on campus, the only one I cannot pursue if someone is willing to pay me for the same skill is athletics.

Only the NCAA holds out with this dumb amateur distinction, and the purpose is obvious -- it provides cover for what otherwise would be rightly treated as worker exploitation.  And they get away with it because most of the members of this cartel are actually state governments, who are really good at exempting themselves from the same standards the rest of us have to follow.

Paging Charles Babbage

This is really pretty cool -- a 1953 Navy training film on the components of a mechanical fire control computer.  Steampunk for our parent's generation -- this kind of gear/sprocket exercise is what my dad studied as a mechanical engineer.

Speaker Build Report

I wanted to share my build report on my new home theater speakers.  I built three matching speakers - left, center, right - to go behind my acoustically perforated projection screen.   Because they stay behind the screen, this is perhaps the last time they will ever be seen.  But I wanted to get better at wood-working skills, so I tried to build these as if they were to be visible (but at several steps I could have taken shortcuts which I will describe).

Here are the finished product:

I will put the rest below the fold so as not to bore those not interested.  My apologizes to feed readers, but I think you will see the whole thing.

Continue reading ‘Speaker Build Report’ »

Book Update

I had a nice Instalanche this morning on my post about the 99-cent price point on the Amazon Kindle for my book BMOC.  I also got a bit of attention at the KindleBoards forum.  So my book is nosing into the top 500 on Kindle, but until my kid noticed I did not see the other topical rankings:

LOL, #1 in Books>Entertainment>Humor>Laywers.  #2 on the same but for business.  Whole new niches beckon!  (Actually, these categories kind of make sense, though I am not sure who chose them --  I am not sure I did).

What is Happening at the Japanese Nuclear Plants

This is the most helpful article I have found yet on the problems at earthquake-damaged nuclear plants.  As one can imagine, it is a lot more sensible than some of the garbage in the general media.

It cleared up one point of confusion I had - I was not sure why there was still heat generation after the control rods slammed down, killing the fission process.  But apparently there are a number of intermediate fission products created that continue to decay for several days, producing about 3% of the heat of the full fission process.  This heat is what boiled away the water in the reactor vessel once flow of cooling water stopped.  It is this boiling that led to the necessity to release steam (to reduce pressure in the reactor vessel).  It was this steam that was partially disassociated into hydrogen and oxygen, which led to the explosion.

One fact that has been lost in all the hype, and may continue to be lost, is that the earthquake alone (which was 7 times larger than the plant was designed for) was necessary but not sufficient to lead to the current problems.  Everything probably would have been fine had it not been for the tsunami knocking off all the diesel generators the plant used in an emergency to keep the colling pumps running.  Apparently the generators they rushed to the site later could not be used due to various incompatibilities, the type of real-world frustrating problem that will be immediately recognizable to any engineer who has a troubleshooting background.

Update: Unfortunately, the author may have been overly optimistic.  The author implied the pile would stop producing new heat after a few days, but that does not seem to be the case, particularly since spent fuel rods apparently have to be kept in water to keep them cool months or years after they were in service.  With the apparent rupture of the main presure vessel around the core, all bets would seem to be off in terms of containing the most harmful radioactive elements.

I did troubleshooting at a refinery for years, and almost every time the worst disasters were from improbable event and/or screwup after improbable event.   The human mind seems to be unable to really grasp just how screwed up things can get.  The novel Jurassic Park was as much about this problem as it was about dinosaurs.

Update #2: This is the piece that was missing from the earlier linked report:

The sharp deterioration came after a frantic day and night of rescue efforts focused largely on the No. 2 reactor. There, a malfunctioning valve prevented workers from manually venting the containment vessel to release pressure and allow fresh seawater to be injected into it. That meant that the extraordinary remedy emergency workers had jury-rigged to keep the nuclear fuel from overheating no longer worked.

As a result, the nuclear fuel in that reactor was exposed for many hours, increasing the risk of a breach of the container vessel and more dangerous emissions of radioactive particles.

By Tuesday morning, Tokyo Electric Power said that it had fixed the valve and resumed seawater injections, but that it had detected possible leaks in the containment vessel that prevented water from fully covering the fuel rods.

Update #3:  Things are slightly better.

Sixth Annual NCAA Bracket Challenge (Sticky, New Posts Below)

Note: This post sticky through 3/17.  Look below for newest posts.

Back by popular demand is the annual Coyote Blog NCAA Bracket Challenge.  Last year we had over 140 entries.  Yes, I know that many of you are bracketed out, but for those of you who are self-employed and don't have an office pool to join or who just can't get enough of turning in brackets, this pool is offered as my public service.

Everyone is welcome, so send the link to friends as well.  There is no charge to join in and I have chosen a service with the absolutely least intrusive log-in (name, email, password only) and no spam.  The only thing I ask is that, since my kids are participating, try to keep the team names and board chat fairly clean.

To join, go to http://www.pickhoops.com/CoyoteBlog and sign up, then enter your bracket.  This year, you may enter two different brackets if you wish.

Scoring is as follows (its the same scoring we have always used)

Round 1 correct picks:  1 points
Round 2:  2
Round 3:  4
Round 4:  6
Round 5:  8
Round 6:  10

Special March Madness scoring bonus: If you correctly pick the underdog in any round (ie, the team with the higher number seed) to win, then you receive bonus points for that correct pick equal to the difference in the two team's seeds.  So don't be afraid to go for the long-shots!   The detailed rules are here.

Bracket entry appears to be open.  Online bracket entry closes Thursday, March 17th at 12:00pm EDT.  Be sure to get your brackets in early.  Anyone can play -- the more the better.  Each participant will be allows to submit up to two brackets.

They're Done

My speakers (L-C-R for a home theater) are complete!  They sound fine on the initial test, though they need to break in for many hours.  Here is how they look (the paint job is actually truck bed liner).  I will post a complete build report when I can get caught up.

99-Cent Kindle Book Update

For the second straight day, I have sold fifty copies of BMOC, for a total of a hundred in two days, at 99-cents.  Fifty copies is more than I was selling in several weeks at the old price.  Thanks to Glen Reynolds for linking the idea.