April 30, 2008

When Pigs Fly!

You can't make stuff like this up!!! Seems they lost a flying pig at Coachella. Wasn't there a Simpson's episode like this?

Flying Pig Lost At Coachella; Reward Offered

Pig Floated Away After Headlining Set

INDIO, Calif. -- When pigs fly, a reward is offered.

Organizers for the Coachella music festival said the gigantic blow-up swine, released into the night sky during Roger Waters' headlining set Sunday, is still out there -- and they want it back.

The festival is offering a $10,000 reward plus four Coachella tickets for life for the safe return of the pig.

As tall as a two-story house and as wide as two school buses, the pig was led from lines held on the ground Sunday as Waters played a version of Pink Floyd's "Pigs" from the 1977 anti-capitalist album "Animals." Then it just floated away.

The pig displays the words "Don't be led to the slaughter" and a cartoon of Uncle Sam holding two bloody cleavers. The other side reads "Fear builds walls" and the underside reads "Obama" with a checked ballot box for U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Posted by Valkyre at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2008

Miraclear - Highly Recommended

It's rare that I recommend a product. It's even more rare for me to go through the trouble to write up and recommendation for a product on a web site. A couple of years ago, I was at my wits end with our above ground pool. The water was cloudy and green and nothing seemed to work. I was running the pump 24/7 as was recommended by the local pool shop. I had tried shocking it, scrubbing it, vacuuming, algaecides and clarifiers. Nothing was working. I was at the point where I figured we were going to have to drain the pool and refill it. Easy enough, huh? Nope. Last time we did that, the liner shrunk and we couldn't get it to stretch back out. I was looking through In The Swim's website and saw this product called Miraclear, a product made by the Lo-Chlor company located in Australia. It's a little seashell shaped clarifier that you drop into the hair trap basket near the pump. (It now looks like they are making it in a cube). For 10 bucks, I thought I would give it a try. So, I ordered it. I backwashed the pump, rinsed and then shut it off, so I could install the little Miraclear seashell. Then, I ran the pump all night. The next morning, I could see results. About 1/3 of the way down, the water was clear. Hmmmm...... The next day, even further down it had started to clear up. By the third morning, the water was crystal clear. It was beautiful, clean and sparkling. No green, no cloudiness. I ran into problems again this season and dropped a Miraclear shell in and was in shock the next morning to see that just running the pump all night was enough to clean the water yet again. The pool looks absolutely beautiful. I highly recommend that your chemicals are balanced, before you add the Miraclear shell. I tried it last year, when the pH was really low and it didn't work as well. So make sure that everything is where it's supposed to be as far as chlorine, pH and alkaline. It's rare to come across something that truly works as advertised. This is one of those products.

Posted by Valkyre at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2008

Let's Not Let the Facts Get in the Way

Interesting commentary about the whole Sean Bell incident. While Reverend Al is spouting off with his quaint little phrases, "This isn't a miscarriage of justice! It's an abortion", the facts come out. Of course, the facts are much more boring and don't make for good sound bites. Anyway, I read an interesting commentary on CNN. It's called Sunny's Law and it was written by Sunny Hostin. Here are some excerpts from the commentary (complete article in the extended entry):

  • NEW YORK (CNN) -- None of us was there that fateful night when a young man lost his life on his wedding day, the night three New York Police Department detectives lost their careers and lives as they knew them.

    But the people who were there told their version of events. And the judge, also sitting as the jury, decided whom to believe. Isn't that the very crux of our judicial system?

  • As judges of the facts, you alone determine the truthfulness and accuracy of the testimony of each witness. You must decide whether a witness told the truth and was accurate, or instead, testified falsely or was mistaken. You must also decide what importance to give to the testimony you accept as truthful and accurate. It is the quality of the testimony that is controlling, not the number of witnesses who testify. If you find that any witness has intentionally testified falsely as to any material fact, you may disregard that witness's entire testimony.

  • He listened to the evidence. He learned that Club Kalua, the strip club that Sean Bell and his companions were at that night, had been at the center of neighborhood complaints, drug activity and prostitution arrests, which is why undercover officers were there in the first place.

    He heard the consistent grand jury testimony of all three defendant police officers. He heard the testimony of Detective Hispolito Sanchez, an undercover officer inside the club who heard Bell's companion, Joseph Guzman say "Yo, get my gun" and heard Sean Bell threaten to beat up a man near an SUV.

  • It was clear that Guzman was the linchpin of this case. If you believe him, that the officers shot at Bell and his friends for no reason at all, the officers are guilty. If you don't believe him, then his statement -- "Go get my gun" -- sent the night into mayhem, causing the officers to believe that the men were armed and justifying the officers' actions that night.

    Guzman was combative on the stand, irreverent. During his cross-examination by attorney Anthony L. Ricco, who represented Isnora, he shot back: "You know what needs to happen? This needs to happen to your family."

  • In explaining his decision, Cooperman said prosecutors had not proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt because of a combination of factors. Chief among them: inconsistent statements by prosecution witnesses, their demeanor on the stand, their interest in the outcome of the case and their motives to lie.

    Commentary: Testimony of Sean Bell's friends sank case

    By Sunny Hostin

    CNN

    Sunny Hostin is a legal analyst on "American Morning."

    NYPD detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper gambled on a bench trial.

    NEW YORK (CNN) -- None of us was there that fateful night when a young man lost his life on his wedding day, the night three New York Police Department detectives lost their careers and lives as they knew them.

    But the people who were there told their version of events. And the judge, also sitting as the jury, decided whom to believe. Isn't that the very crux of our judicial system?

    I predict that the Sean Bell case will be examined in law school classrooms across the country. It has given us a bird's-eye view into a courtroom practice that many had never heard of: the bench trial.

    The Sixth Amendment to the Constitution ensures that we have the right to a trial by a jury of our peers in a serious criminal case. But as with all rights, you can voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently waive that right and instead have your case tried by a judge.

    That is what Michael Oliver, Marc Cooper and Gescard Isnora did. Many thought it was a gamble. It was a gamble that paid off.

    Justice Arthur Cooperman, a 74-year-old bench veteran, acquitted all three detectives. The public is outraged. But it shouldn't be. Cooperman did what we ask every juror to do: consider and determine the facts of the case -- that is, what he believed to be the true facts -- from among all of the evidence in the case. Watch why the judge didn't believe the prosecution witnesses

    In a criminal trial, jurors are instructed that a defendant does not have to prove his innocence. It is the prosecution that has a very high burden, to prove the charged conduct beyond a reasonable doubt. Jurors are also given specific instructions on how to weigh evidence in every single criminal case. In fact, I've heard it so many times that I can recite it from memory:

    As judges of the facts, you alone determine the truthfulness and accuracy of the testimony of each witness. You must decide whether a witness told the truth and was accurate, or instead, testified falsely or was mistaken. You must also decide what importance to give to the testimony you accept as truthful and accurate. It is the quality of the testimony that is controlling, not the number of witnesses who testify. If you find that any witness has intentionally testified falsely as to any material fact, you may disregard that witness's entire testimony.

    It is so very clear that Cooperman did exactly what any juror was supposed to do.

    He listened to the evidence. He learned that Club Kalua, the strip club that Sean Bell and his companions were at that night, had been at the center of neighborhood complaints, drug activity and prostitution arrests, which is why undercover officers were there in the first place.

    He heard the consistent grand jury testimony of all three defendant police officers. He heard the testimony of Detective Hispolito Sanchez, an undercover officer inside the club who heard Bell's companion, Joseph Guzman say "Yo, get my gun" and heard Sean Bell threaten to beat up a man near an SUV.

    And he heard the testimony of Guzman, who denied, contrary to the testimony of other witnesses, that he uttered the words "Go get my gun." Cooperman also learned that Guzman had spent five years in prison for robbery and drug convictions for selling crack and was suing for $50 million in civil court.

    It was clear that Guzman was the linchpin of this case. If you believe him, that the officers shot at Bell and his friends for no reason at all, the officers are guilty. If you don't believe him, then his statement -- "Go get my gun" -- sent the night into mayhem, causing the officers to believe that the men were armed and justifying the officers' actions that night.

    Guzman was combative on the stand, irreverent. During his cross-examination by attorney Anthony L. Ricco, who represented Isnora, he shot back: "You know what needs to happen? This needs to happen to your family."

    In explaining his decision, Cooperman said prosecutors had not proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt because of a combination of factors. Chief among them: inconsistent statements by prosecution witnesses, their demeanor on the stand, their interest in the outcome of the case and their motives to lie.

    "These factors," the judge said, "had the effect of eviscerating the credibility of those prosecution witnesses."

    Translation: The government could not prove its case against the officers because the judge didn't believe Trent Benefield and Joseph Guzman. They are suing the police department for $50 million. They blew the case for the prosecution.

    This is not over. There is a civil case pending, and the standard of proof is much lower. The feds are now looking at it. And we will be watching and deciding what and whom to believe.

    Posted by Valkyre at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)
  • April 26, 2008

    Geez! It's Hot!!!

    Depending on which page you get, when you refresh Yahoo Weather, it's either 86 degrees right now (8:18pm), or 83 degrees. I'm going to go with the 83 degree forecast, since it has a picture of the moon in the upper left corner. The image with the 86 degree forecast has a picture of the sun. Anyway, whatever the temp, it's hot right now. Not wanting to cook and heat up the house, I ordered pizza. Our usual afternoon cooling ocean is nonexistent. I may be taking a night swim, if this heat keeps up.

    Posted by Valkyre at 08:22 PM | Comments (0)

    Glad I Didn't Buy One

    I remember when the Ionic Air Purifiers hit the market. I was almost tempted to buy one or two. But their prices held me back. For that amount of money, did they really work? Well, according to this article in the LA Times, they don't:

    THE HEALTHY SKEPTIC

    Ionic air purifiers' dirty little secret: They don't get rid of dust

    The devices really don't improve air quality, and they can release ozone.
    By Chris Woolston, Special to The Times

    April 21, 2008

    The product: Dust, cigarette smoke, pollen and pet dander: With so many irritants floating around our homes and work places, clean air is a hot commodity. Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on furnace filters and air cleaners each year. Though some consumers are simply trying to bring a little extra freshness into their lives, many others hope that their investment will help relieve their asthma or allergies.

    If you've ever shopped for an air cleaner -- or if you've ever idly flipped through a SkyMall catalog -- you've undoubtedly seen ads for ionic air purifiers, devices that take an unusual approach to clearing the air. Instead of relying on fans to move air through filters, the machines release a steady stream of negatively charged ions that electrify the bits of dust, dander or other flotsam. The airborne particles pick up the negative charge and become strongly attracted to positively charged collection plates inside the machine. (In many cases, they also become attracted to other charged surfaces such as walls, table tops and TV screens.)

    Except for a few models that use fans to help suck in the charged particles, most ionic air purifiers work silently. And, as ads are quick to point out, the devices generally don't have any motors or moving parts, and there are no filters to replace.

    There's another thing that separates ionic air purifiers from other technologies: To varying degrees, all ionic air purifiers release ozone, a potential pollutant. A 2006 study by researchers at UC Davis found that one popular brand, the Ionic Breeze Quadra, released about 2.2 milligrams of ozone per hour, or about as much as a constantly running photocopier. (Ionic purifiers shouldn't be confused with ozone generators that are marketed as "air cleaners." By design, these devices can release 50 to 200 milligrams of ozone per hour.)

    Ionic purifiers are sold at drugstores, at department stores and via the Internet. The well-known and heavily advertised Ionic Breeze line is one of the cornerstone products of the Sharper Image, the high-end gadget store. One current offering, the Ionic Breeze GP, stands more than 2 feet tall and as an added feature comes equipped with a UV light to help kill airborne germs. If you buy one for $400, the second costs $200. The Sharper Image also sells a 13-inch unit for $150. You can buy a 28-inch Ionic Pro Turbo Air Purifier from Wal-Mart for $180. An online company called Heaven Fresh sells the table-top XJ-2000 ionic air purifier for about $50.

    The claims: According to the Sharper Image website, the Ionic Breeze is "proven effective at reducing airborne allergens and irritants -- with no fan, no motor and no noise." The Heaven Fresh website says that its purifiers can provide relief from "asthma, bronchitis, hay fever and other respiratory diseases." Heaven Fresh also claims that the ozone emitted by its machines helps clean the air. According to the site, "ozone is one of the purest and most powerful oxidants and germicides known."

    The bottom line: Ionic air purifiers have undeniable appeal, but there's a problem: They don't really improve air quality, says Dr. James Sublett, a clinical professor at the University of Louisville; a fellow at the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology; and co-chair of the 2007 ACAAI Healthy Indoor Environment conference. "We [allergists and immunologists] generally don't recommend them," he says. "This is a windmill that I've been tilting at for a number of years."

    According to Sublett, the devices don't effectively remove dust, dander and other irritants from a room. Without fans, he explains, they can't collect airborne particles from more than a few feet away. And when even small amounts of dust enter the device, the plates inside quickly lose much of their power to attract more particles. Meanwhile, the charged particles that stick to walls or TV screens haven't left the room and can always billow up again to cause trouble.

    The ozone released from the devices is another deal-breaking shortcoming, Sublett says. "Ozone is a pollutant and an irritant. Even small amounts are too much." People who use several units at a time are especially likely to get an ozone overload, he says. One of Sublett's patients noticed a great improvement in her breathing when she turned off the six ionic purifiers in her home.

    The California Air Resources Board recently banned all devices that create an ozone concentration of more than 50 parts per billion, starting in 2009. Under normal conditions, ionic purifiers (as opposed to ozone generators) would fall below that threshold, says Jeffery Siegel, an assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied the devices in laboratories as well as his own bedroom. Still, he says, the new standard is misleading because even products that release small amounts of ozone could easily reach that concentration in small, poorly ventilated spaces.

    Sublett says people with asthma or allergies should consider installing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in their heating or cooling systems. The ultra-fine mesh on these filters traps all sorts of irritants that would otherwise circulate through the home.

    Is there a consumer product you'd like the Healthy Skeptic to examine? E-mail the details to health@latimes.com.

    Posted by Valkyre at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

    April 20, 2008

    A True Incredible Journey

    A story that's like the movie, The Incredible Journey. Our old dog, Dufus, was proud of himself for being able to walk around the block and find his way back home.

    From CNN:

    ELY, Nevada (AP) -- A dog that ran off during a road-trip rest stop apparently made her way nearly 80 miles across Nevada's high desert and two mountain ranges to return home a week later.

    Moon, a Siberian husky, was reunited April 14 with owner Doug Dashiell, who had last seen her April 6 near Railroad Valley, about 77 miles from his home in Ely.

    Moon, who is nearly 2 years old, was no worse for the wear, with the exception of stinking like a skunk that apparently sprayed her somewhere along the journey.

    "I've had trouble with her running away before. She's always come home," Dashiell said. But he didn't expect her to show up after a week had passed.

    "After seven days -- no way," he told the Ely Times.

    Then the White Pine Veterinary Clinic called Dashiell and told him Moon was back in town. She had wandered up to an Ely residence where Alvin Molea took her home, fed her and gave her a place to sleep.

    Molea called the clinic because the dog was wearing a tag from there.

    The dog's journey would have taken her across the White River and Ward mountain ranges.

    Posted by Valkyre at 05:51 PM | Comments (0)

    April 18, 2008

    What a Difference Ten Minutes Makes

    Yesterday, I bitched about the aggressive traffic I encountered when I left for work at 8:50am. Well today, I left the house at 9:00am and it was completely different. No overly aggressive drivers. It seemed like there were less cars on the road. Even though the freeway onramp was being metered, traffic wasn't backing up and moving slowly, but regularly. And, I still got to work at the same time I did yesterday, even though I left ten minutes later. What a relief. I feel much better this morning. Less stressed. Which will make for a better day.

    Posted by Valkyre at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

    April 17, 2008

    If You Are Going to Do Something Stupid.....

    ....Or obnoxious, make sure you can make a clean getaway. Starting on Tuesday, I have been getting up earlier and arriving at work earlier. I had got into the bad habit of getting up at 7:30am and leaving for work at 10:00am, sometimes even 10:30. Which means that I wouldn't get out of work until 7:00pm, or even 7:30. Then, I would come home and stay up till 1:00am. And the vicious cycle would continue. So, I have been getting up at 6 and getting to work by 9. Which means I am encountering a different type of traffic. A more aggressive. And more of it. On Wednesday, I managed to get out at 20 til 9, and didn't notice it as much. However, this morning, I got out at 10 til and encountered a bunch of idiots who appeared to be late for the 9:00am starting shifts. And so, they speed and cut through lanes and tailgate people. I'm sorry that you don't utilize your time better, but don't take it out on me.

    So, I exit the 110 freeway, southbound at the 223rd exit and am heading west towards Normandie Ave. I am about to pass Meyler, when a car suddenly comes up behind me and tailgates me. I slow down. She passes me and honks as she drives by. She then cuts me off and accelerates away. Oops! Sorry I was doing 5 miles above the speed limit. Next time I'll do 90 to please you. But then, karma smiled upon me. Dumbass didn't look ahead and notice that the left turn lane, to turn from 223rd onto Normandie, is so clogged with cars that they are spilling out into the #1 lane of 223rd. So, she has to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting the flatbed truck that is stopped in her path. Which means that I now pull up behind her....

    I guess that I should take the high road and act like nothing happened. But, that wouldn't be me. I never take the high road. If there is a low road, ditch, gutter or even a muddy dirt road available, I would much rather take that. So, I pull up inches from her rear bumper. This way, she can't back up from the truck. And then, I honk the horn. I dared her to flip me off. But, she took one look at me in her rear view mirror and slowly started to slide down into her seat. I've been told that I look mean, and that's when I've been smiling. I would hate to see what I look like when I'm pissed. Eventually, she was able to squeeze by the truck and then had to wait for the red light to change before she could go. So, what did her little maneuver and her indignant honk get her? Absolutely nothing.

    Posted by Valkyre at 07:37 PM | Comments (0)

    April 13, 2008

    Maybe I Am Paranoid

    About 10 years ago, we were set to go on our annual summer camping trip. But this time would be different. Mike, and two of our daughters were going to leave on Labor Day as usual. (This always works to our advantage. The bad traffic is always in the opposite direction since people are heading home for the long weekend.) I would be coming up on Tuesday evening with our third daughter. There was a mandatory student/parent meeting at the junior high school on that Tuesday. We would head out as soon as it was over. Mike would haul all the camping stuff with the LTD. I would be in the Camaro. Driving the car a little over 200 miles, in one trip, wasn't something I had done in that car for awhile. When I first got it, I went on junkets to Vegas and even drove down the Baja peninsula. But, that was when the car was 10 years old and had 70,000+ miles on it. I was now looking at a 25 year old car with 175,000 on the odometer. I was a little worried. From the town of Mojave on, there's nothing but open desert. If one's car craps out, you're pretty much on your own. This was well before the advent of cheap cell phones. Mike and I had a plan. If I didn't show up at a reasonable time, he would start down the road to find me. Hopefully, if anything happened, I would be able to flag down a CHP car, or someone to call a tow truck. So, it was with some trepidation, that we started out on our journey. I was hyper-sensitive. I could feel every bump in the road, hear every minute sound. What was that!? What was that!? And, we were still in bumper to bumper LA traffic! But, once we hit the open desert, I wasn't really worried anymore. If anything was going to kill the car, it would be stop and go traffic. On the open road, I got the old beast up to 80 and we roared across the desert at night. Seemingly the only car on the highway. A desert storm moved in and hot, humid air blew through the open windows as lightning flashed across the sky. It was beautiful. I made it to the campground in record time. Shaving about an hour off the usual trip, due to my lead foot and the highway being virtually empty.

    That journey came to mind today, as Amanda and I were going down the freeway. I was taking her to work. We were rounding a curve, on the freeway, when it felt like a strong gust of wind hit the car. The car veered to the left suddenly. "Did you feel that!?" I said. "It felt like we got hit by a gust of wind!" I looked out the window at the trees. They didn't seem to be moving. Amanda responded, "I thought I heard something rattle when that happened." And then, the old paranoia crept in. Rattle!? Rattle!? Had some part of the suspension shaken loose? Was there no mysterious gust of wind!? Was my car falling apart!? Maybe there was some ongoing problem with cars from my year. Maybe tomorrow I would read in the paper that there is a sudden recall of cars, same make as mine, due to the front end falling apart at high speeds. We rounded another curve and sure enough, I heard a rattle. Oh no! We hit the exit, make a right. Rattle.... Go up a couple of blocks, make a left. Rattle.... I swear I can feel it in the steering. A left turn into the driveway by her work and yet another rattle. I drop Amanda off and head back home. Okay, I am going to trace out this suspicious rattle. Hopefully before I have some catastrophic failure. I pull into the left turn lane. I get the green light. I turn off the A/C and the radio so I can have complete silence. And, there it is.... The Rattle!!!!! It's the knob from the emergency brake. It fell off months ago and I never got around to gluing it back on. I dropped it into the door pocket beside me and forgot about it. For some reason, it has started to roll around an rattle ominously as I drove today. I felt relieved and somewhat stupid for being so paranoid. It's okay to be a little cautious. But, I can get overly paranoid sometimes.

    Posted by Valkyre at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

    April 12, 2008

    Forget Spring, Let's Go Straight to Summer

    This was the temp at 7:00pm tonight. I left work at that time, and had to crank up the A/C in the car. Our usual afternoon "ocean breeze" is non-existent. Fortunately, this isn't supposed to last long. It's so hot, it's almost difficult to breathe as the heat bears down, with hardly any humidity.

    Posted by Valkyre at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

    April 06, 2008

    I Guess I Don't Exist

    I made an appt. last Thursday to bring my car in for an oil change. I made it online and picked the first time slot available: 7:00am. I figured that I could get the car in, get the oil changed and get to work on time. I'm normally not up that early and worried about whether I would be able to function properly. But, they're supposed to have Starbucks coffee available for people who wait for their cars to be serviced. I sleep drive to the service area and get there at 6:58am. I pull up to the very front of the service bay. I am the first car for the day. I walk in to the counter and the nice gentleman verifies my appt. He also noted that the rear brake pads were due for replacement and my car was also due for some 40,000 work in the fuel injectors. (I am a little late for this as the odometer is showing 43,000.) I was all ready to have them do everything on that day when I realized I had left my checkbook at home. I counted the cash in my wallet and realized that I wouldn't be able to do both the brakes and the fuel injectors. So, I opted for the brakes and scheduled another appt, for Tuesday, April 8th at 7:00am. Went to sit down and noticed that there was no Starbucks around. Just one pot that said, "House Blend". House Blend? Volkswagen dealers have house blends? I also noted that the employees were helping themselves to the pot. Ummmm.... Won't it run out? I managed to get a cup before it ran out. I didn't need to worry though. Around 8:00am, the place started waking up and someone brought in a couple of other pots. Those were the Starbucks blends. So, it was actually quite nice, kicking back, reading the paper and sipping coffee. I hadn't been able to do that in about 5 years, since I started working. They had a TV going in there too. It was an interesting History Channel show about the Titanic. An expedition went to the location in 2005 to see if they could find her hull. I got caught up in that, and would read the paper during commercial breaks. Pretty soon, the waiting room started to fill up with customers and the number of available seats was disappearing. Which would probably explain why the vagrant, who wandered in off the streets, chose to sit right next to me. I saw him out of the corner of my eye as he walked into the place. I thought at first he was another customer getting work done on their car. But, his clothes were filthy and he was holding a bag of trash. He walked over to the large stack of Los Angeles Times newspapers that were placed on a table for the customers. I thought, for a second, that maybe he was going to grab the whole stack for their recycle value. But, he just grabbed one off the top and sat next to me. He seemed harmless, he just wanted to read the paper. After a few minutes, he grabbed a cup of coffee and left. Soon after, my car was ready.

    So, why the title on this entry? After all that, I got a very strange e-mail from Pacific Volkswagen.

    Boy, talk about making me feel irrelevant. I was there! He confirmed the appt. I scheduled yet another one! I tried to e-mail her back, telling her that I did show up, but the e-mail bounced back to me. It was from the server for Pacfic Volkswagen telling me that the e-mail address didn't exist in their system. *sigh*

    Posted by Valkyre at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)