N&O’s Colin Campbell writes hit piece on Crowder

July 28th, 2014

Well, that was predictable.

Days after Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder defended against the recent attack on planning documents our city and citizenry spent millions of dollars and many years crafting, News and Observer reporter Colin Campbell writes a hit piece on Crowder’s pursuit of parking lawbreakers.

Objectivity does not appear to be Campbell’s strong suit. He needs a new beat, pronto. And shame on the News and Observer editors for condoning this tripe.

On a related note, I have been doing some research on Campbell’s reporting that is providing some interesting insights. Stay tuned.

RALEIGH — Two years ago, Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder spearheaded an effort to ban front-yard parking in his district. These days, he’s filing dozens of complaints to make sure parking scofflaws are held accountable.Crowder has asked city zoning staffers via email to investigate 26 possible front-yard parking violations – many within blocks of his house – in his Southwest Raleigh district during the past year. Crowder’s complaints represent nearly 30 percent of the parking ordinance reports received in Raleigh since July 2013, according to city records.

“I have complaints regarding the above referenced property,” Crowder says in many of the emails, sometimes including a photo of the offense. “Please investigate and notify me of your findings and action taken.”

via RALEIGH: Raleigh councilman turns in neighbors under controversial parking ban | Wake County | NewsObserver.com.

Vladimir Putin’s circle of fear

July 27th, 2014

I enjoyed this account of the current state of Russia’s political opposition.

The tragedy of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 has brought the conflict between Russia and Ukraine back into the headlines. This crisis, and the accompanying crackdown on domestic dissent in Russia, represents a new and frightening phase in a process that began 15 years ago: Vladimir Putin’s reversal of the freedoms Russia gained after the fall of communism in 1991 and the creation of a new authoritarian Kremlin regime.

Consider it a predictive metaphor for recent events in Russia, a quarter century after the country’s awakening from communism. The neo-authoritarian Kremlin regime of Vladimir Putin is squeezing the air out of the remaining pockets of dissent, cranking up the propaganda machine to Soviet levels, and setting up the conditions for a new Iron Curtain.

The spring of 2014 featured a high-water mark for Putin’s post-Soviet restoration, with its belligerent rejection of ‘‘Western values,’’ its confrontational stance toward NATO, and its aggressive claims towards former Soviet territories. As Komsomolskaya Pravda columnist Ulyana Skoibeda rhapsodised after the mostly unchallenged Russian annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, ‘‘It’s not about the Crimea coming back to us. It’s we who have come back. Home, to the USSR.’’

via Vladimir Putin's circle of fear.

BBC News – US says evidence shows Russia fired artillery into Ukraine

July 26th, 2014

While the United States government has been investing billions of dollars so it can listen to Grandma’s phone calls, Russia has been busy boosting its military and invading neighboring countries.

Hey, DoD, the threat is over THERE.

The US says it has evidence that Russia has fired artillery across the border targeting Ukrainian military positions.

Russia also intends "to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the state department said.

Russia has frequently denied sending any rocket launchers into Ukraine.

The US comment comes a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, with the rebels widely accused of shooting it down.

via BBC News – US says evidence shows Russia fired artillery into Ukraine.

Copious free time? What’s that?

July 24th, 2014

I’ve been burning the midnight oil on both ends lately. My new job is keeping me plenty busy (and engaged) but had led to several early Sunday mornings spent doing server maintenance. On top of that, I’ve spent the last few weeks putting together the Ligon PTA newsletter when the parent who had volunteered to do it declined at the last minute. Oh, and family life has also been squeezed in there whenever possible.

Don’t worry, I’ve been saving up a few things to say since then. I’ll get to posting them when I can.

Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete | Giles Parkinson | Comment is free | theguardian.com

July 9th, 2014

Astonishing.

Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

via Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn't compete | Giles Parkinson | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K

July 9th, 2014

For the new issue of Forbes Magazine I wrote an article about David Crane, the visionary CEO of NRG Energy. When I met Crane for lunch a couple weeks ago, no sooner had we sat down than he began singing the praises of this new contraption he had in his basement. The machine — which can generate 10 kilowatts of continuous power, fed by Crane’s natural gas line — is a new iteration of an old creation, the Stirling engine. This version, called the Beacon 10, was created after a decade of engineering by famed inventor Dean Kamen.

With the Beacon 10, says Kamen, “you don’t have to feel guilty heating up the pool.” That’s because of the highly efficient nature of the Stirling engine. First conceived in 1816 by Scottish minister Robert Stirling, the device in its simplest form consists of applying an external heat source to a closed cylinder where the cyclical expansion and compression of air inside the cylinder drives the pistons up and down. Unlike your car, where fuel is combusted inside the engine, the Stirling is an external combustion engine; it can work with any external heat source.

via Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K.

10 Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly

July 5th, 2014

A friend posted this article on Facebook, generally agreeing with it. I, on the other hand, could only smirk at its premise that goes along the lines of “when women get interrupted by men it’s men being sexist.”

Baloney. The author says “ask any woman” if they’ve ever been interrupted. Well, no shit, they probably have. Men get interrupted all the damn time, too. Did she question if this was sexist?

It always irks me when someone wails about being oppressed: “they took my power away” and the like. No one can take you power away unless you let them. The key is to claim your power.

I think the author has a self-confidence issue that get overlaid onto a gender gap issue. If someone is interrupting her then perhaps she needs to learn to be more assertive instead of blaming someone else. Or she could simply be drawn to dumbshit men who like interrupting people, in which case she should ask herself why she likes to hang out with them. Either way, whining will get her nowhere.

And, oh, I say this as a father raising a fiercely self-confident daughter in complete control of her destiny who could kick anyone’s ass at anything she chooses.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments life where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.This irksome reality goes along with another — men who make no eye contact. For example, a waiter who only directs information and questions to men at a table, or the man last week who simply pretended I wasn’t part of a circle of five people I was the only woman. We’d never met before and barely exchanged 10 words, so it couldn’t have been my not-so-shrinking-violet opinions.

These two ways of establishing dominance in conversation, frequently based on gender, go hand-in-hand with this last one: A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

via 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly.

Feds raid CIA-connected air charter in Fort Lauderdale | MadCow Morning News

July 3rd, 2014

I spent a little time learning from the Internet how to track planes, just ’cause I’m one of those meddling kids. I turned up an interesting report on a Miami-based drug investigation last year which has some ties (albeit tenuous) to a CIA “rogue operation.” The affidavit provided by the DEA agent in charge of the investigation reads like a “Breaking Bad” script.

Don’t know if I subscribe to every conclusion on the site but it makes for interesting reading.

They combed through the trash. They searched dozens of planes. And while TV cameras from all the Miami TV network affiliates looked on, they loaded box after box filled with aviation records into government SUV’s parked in plain sight on the tarmac in front of the office.

But today— more than two weeks after more than 100 Federal agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security descended on the headquarters of the infamous and notorious World Jet Inc. at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport—if you want to know why they were there or what they were looking for, you’re two weeks too late.

That’s because the detailed 35-page affidavit supporting the request for a search warrant of Don and Bill Whittington’s air charter company filed at the United States District Court in Grand Junction Colorado has been sealed.

But not, thankfully, before it was discovered and leaked onto the Internet in an exclusive story by reporter Joe Hamel from The Durango Herald in Durango Colorado.

via Feds raid CIA-connected air charter in Fort Lauderdale | MadCow Morning News.

CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to SNATCH SNOWDEN • The Register

July 3rd, 2014

When this story broke last month that the Feds had dispatched an extradition plane to fetch Edward Snowden, I followed it with interest. I have just begun tinkering with plane tracking through their ADS-B transponders.

There are plenty of aircraft who would prefer not to broadcast their position. These include, among others, the rendition/extradition planes used by our government. Rather than use the position-broadcasting ADS-B transmitters, these aircraft use Mode-S transponders which don’t include position.

Usually these planes can only be tracked by radar, however some enterprising folks have figured out the technology needed to triangulate these planes positions, using multiple ground-based receivers. Called multilateration, hobbyists using tools like PlanePlotter can combine their receiver data to plot the position of a mystery plane. This technique has been used by activists to “out” the black ops aircraft which would normally fly below the radar (well, technically above the radar above 45,000 feet). The same technique was used to get the approximate position of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
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Downtown summit? First things first

July 2nd, 2014

The News and Observer wrote an editorial about the need for a downtown summit. I’ve been pondering it for a while and have a few comments.

Revitalization has been a success, to be sure. But with that success comes challenges the city now must address. Yes, the City Council is doing so in working on a “downtown plan,” but a broader effort is needed, because the boom has brought up some issues.

Therefore, council members can lead the way in calling for a downtown summit of sorts, bringing in not just the dedicated advocates from places like the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, but residents from North, South, East and West Raleigh, people who perhaps, even now, don’t come downtown all that much. Even with all the hoopla, it’s still not uncommon to meet North Raleighites who have never been downtown, period.

Actually, some people will never visit downtown and it doesn’t matter what you try to do to change this. There are suburbanites who don’t “get” downtown and likely won’t ever. And you know what? That’s okay. Raleigh is a big city now and offers something for everyone – for downtown fans and others. You can get by just fine if you never go downtown.
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