Waiting for El Nino

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Last fall, Californians were warned by “the experts” to prepare for El Nino. We were told where to get our sandbags, how to prepare an emergency kit – which most Californians have anyway, and to make sure we had alternate escape routes planned – just in case. Time to build an ark!

Well, the rain finally came.

The reservoirs are full, the Sierras have snow, surfs been up, and the hills are green. Everybody’s happy even though the rain stopped several weeks ago.

The other day, while watching the weather report, the presenter told us “Even though it looks like a storm front is headed our way, don’t expect rain because it was a “dry storm.” Huh?

Who knew a storm could be dry?

Anyway, the “dry storms” have brought us daytime temperatures in the high 80’s, Santana winds are beginning to blow and I’m getting shocked by static electricity every time I touch metal.

It looks like El Nino has left town and the “experts” have just told us to get ready for “La Nina.”

In the meantime, enjoy Sting singing Heavy Clouds No Rain:

Road Trip

Texas-Landscape-Photo

Driving Through Flyover Country
Watching the weather reports of the cold front moving down from Canada into Texas brings thoughts of the great weather we had on our road trip to Austin a couple of months ago.

It’s always nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of the coast and head into the wide open spaces of the southwestern desert. Some places are exactly as they were 20 years ago and some places belie what travel will be like in the future. In California and Arizona we have security check points now. Cars and truck funnel through a gauntlet of cameras aimed at every angle possible to scan the front, back and side of each vehicle and the passengers inside. It might be fun to wear one of those fake noses with a mustache just to mess with the facial recognition cameras.

The only problem we had on the road was getting a flat tire just outside of Lordsburg, New Mexico. A nice fellow on a motorcycle on his way to Waco stopped to help Floyd change the tire. Other than that, we had a great time at the lake, the Tommy Bahama outlet store, Cabela’s sporting goods store and the new barbecue joint we found. Life is good.

Time to start planning our next road trip.

Enjoy some southern rock by JJ Grey & Mofro – Brighter Days:

The beautiful photo of Guadalupe River State Park is by Laura Vu.

Travel

747

The Boeing 747
The iconic plane that made it’s debut at the Paris Air Show in 1969 is still the favorite of intercontinental travelers. The unique-looking jumbo jet revolutionized air travel as the first airliner to carry more than 500 passengers – almost double the capacity of the DC-8 and 707. Even with the increased number of travelers, flying was still glamorous and fun on the jumbo jets.

The new 747 is reminiscent of those days when you stepped on board and it felt like you were walking onto a small cruise ship. To the left was first class, to the right was economy and in the middle was the curved staircase leading up to a first class seating area. That was the best! Oh dear, I’m dating myself.

Although it still looks almost the same with its famous 1st class hump, the plane is lighter, more fuel-efficient and has all the electronic bells and whistles on the interior that we all expect.

Lufthansa, is already flying 6 of the planes out of Frankfurt to several U.S cities as well as the lucrative Frankfurt/Hong Kong route.

In fact, the White House is considering replacing the current Air Force 1 with a new 747-8. The only problem I see with the current Apple-loving administration is that the software used on the plane is Microsoft. Maybe there will be an iPlane in the future. Ya’ never know.

In the meantime enjoy Sugar Ray – Fly:

Big Data

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Yottabytes
Since Edward Snowden revealed details of the massive surveillance program the NSA uses to spy on pretty much everyone in the world who uses a computer or phone, the NSA data centers has been in the news.

Much of the information attributed to leaks by Snowden were already public knowledge. In fact, prior to its recent opening, the Pentagon proudly released information on the Utah data center. The agency boasted the fastest Cray computers in the world that could handle mind-boggling amounts of data, and a facility that covers a million square feet of space. As any tech will tell you, you can never have enough storage, and the NSA has more storage than anyone in the world. We’re talking yottabytes – a number so large that no one has yet coined a term for the next higher magnitude.

The 5 Eyes
A lot of storage is needed to handle the staggering amounts of data being funneled into the NSA from their data centers all over the world.

The Five Eyes, comprised of five English-speaking countries, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US, all share information on defense, science, technology, and national security. Originally set up as The Technical Cooperation Program to share signal intelligence during the cold war, the dark government agencies working together no longer have to ask for your personal information, they just take it.

Enjoy Rockwell from 1984 – Somebody’s Watching Me:

Spy Rocks

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A New DIY Project
The NSA, CIA, FBI and all the other alphabet agencies have spent billions of dollars spying on all of our correspondence, online searches, who we talk to, what we eat, when we sleep, what medical conditions we have, etc. Is all that necessary to prevent a terrorist attack? No. What really works is the good old-fashioned spy stuff – like rocks with cameras.

All countries have them, but we were reminded they exist when one exploded near a nuclear enrichment plant in Iran. That one had a built-in self-destruct mechanism.

Someone has put a “spy rock” up for sale on eBay for $10 million dollars. Ten million dollars, really? With all the off-the-shelf technology available, I bet I could build one of these things for around $500. I’ll add it to my “to-do” list. In the meantime enjoy

Daryl Hall and friends – Private Eyes:

A Great Idea From the Ancient Greeks

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When All Else Fails, Ostracize
Ancient Greece, specifically Athens, is considered to be the birthplace of democracy. The early Athenians passed down many great gifts to western civilization, including philosophy, science, sculpture, architecture, and the theater. But their most enduring contribution has to be the form of government known as democracy: rule by the people. It took one revolution after another to get rid of the small groups of the rich and powerful families, but eventually the people prevailed – if only for a couple of hundred years.

“It is called a government of the people (demokratia) because we live in consideration of not the few, but of the majority.” –  Thucydides on Pericles’ view of democracy, 450 BCE

Back then the citizens of Athens took their politics seriously and if a politician became overly ambitious or tyrannical they could be voted out in the famous unpopularity contest called ostracism. It was a simple procedure. Once a year there was a vote to determine if a politician was becoming too powerful and might threaten the democracy. If at least 6,000 votes were cast the man with the most votes lost and was sent into exile for 10 years. It’s time to ostracize San Diego’s disgusting mayor, Bob “who looks like the devil” Filner. Don’t dramatize, ostracize!

Enjoy the Rolling Stones ‪performing Sympathy For The Devil at Glastonbury, May 2013:‬