Friday, November 27, 2009

climate scheming

As reported by the BBC, hackers target a lead climate research unit's server to capture files and private emails. They successfully downloaded a number of very damaging emails where scientists were discussing topics such as: ouster the scientists who don't agree with them, hiding climate study results that don't agree with their conclusions, altering data to support their perspectives, etc.

The University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) hacked email system included emails from a veritable "Who's who" of AGW climate scientists, so says the climategate web site. So this brings into question the work directly contributed to the IPCC report very much at the center of the AGW debate.

The site climate gate has also reported the story has been in contact with individuals who were included in the list of hacked emails willing to confirm that the emails matched emails they previously authored. At the same time both climate gate and the BBC have reported that the hacked group is willing to verify that they were hacked but were unwilling to address any specific questions about the contact of the emails or documents.

I think it is reasonable to demand more verification of the facts, and it is not reasonable for this group to simply be unwilling to face the accusation posed by their own hacked emails. At the same time I am not surprised that they are willing to simply not address those very disturbing emails. In one of the emails they are completely honest (privately with each other) about refusing to provide all of the supporting data and models associated with one of their "scientific" conclusions.

Four of the biggest posed cover-ups in those emails have everything to do with [1] screening comments on the supposedly neutral website to ensure a pro-AGW message, [2] "fixing" data to make the historical record appear to consistently rise in temperature over the industrial revolution period, [3] altering land and ocean temperature difference data to hide the reasonable conclusion that the models do not take into account the amount of "urban island" warming heat measurement effect and [4] hiding the fact that measured temperature trends for the last entire decade breaks their trend and invalidates their trending models' conclusions. These three pieces of evidence, acknowledged by these AGW advocates who's science found the results and are now scheming to hide the evidence, would be a significant and reasonable breach in the armor of the AGW initiative.

What does that mean for average Americans?

It means that AGW as a factor in making political decisions is now reasonably in question and that AGW skeptical science results aren't just coming from skeptics but from the models of pro-AGW scientists. We can now put our carbon-tax checkbooks away and ask people like Al Gore to go sell crazy somewhere else.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

First Video With Letus

This is my first video with my new Letus 35mm Lens Adapter. I need to rerender it in letterbox since vimeo doesn't seem to be able to read the information that says it is widescreen, but I don't know that workflow yet. In the mean time, here is the video. Make note of the depth of field in some of the shots (stuff in focus while other stuff is out of focus.)

Everyday Super Heroes from Steve McDonald on Vimeo.

Equipment used:

Canon XH-A1 HD camcorder
Letus 35mm adapter
Canon 75-300mm/4 lens
Canon 85mm/1.8 lens
Rhode boom with Sure SM81 mic
Final Cut Express

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dreams Of War

I woke up this morning face down in my bed. My brain was fuzzy from the deep sleep I just had and I wasn't sure what was real and what was not.

Last nights dream had me sitting along a concrete wall with a crowd of people wearing jeans and jackets or military camouflage. I was still near home in the Arlington area, but along a road that seems to be on a hill. As I looked down the road the sky grew darker and there were flashes of colored lights and the sounds of explosions like faint thunder.

The soldiers around me seemed experienced and calm but also a little anxious. The scene began to make sense as it would seem that the civilian people in the crowd were joining the military in battle down the hill. It was an all-hands-on-deck moment where anyone who could fight was about to.

I was as cool as... ok, completely not true. When faced with the fact that I was in the masses about to go down the hill I started to think about the mortal possibilities. I said to myself, “I don't want to die.” The soldier to my right turned and said, “What? Did you say something?” I repeated my self only a little louder for sympathies sake. Everyone was going down the hill. There was no getting out of it and I was prepared to go. But I was also marking the moment, acknowledging that it could be my last on the planet.

There were soldiers and civilians walking around everywhere making preparations. Then people started going over and down the hill. I turned to the soldier on my left and smiled. She seemed experienced but also empathized with my cavalcade of emotions. People were moving forward now. I reached over for the soldier and for some reason we kissed. It was just simple human contact I think. The desire to connect with something positive and full of normalcy that I think caused that to happen. I don't know.

The hilarious thing to me is that I am the first guy in a movie that instinctively calls out “Come on! Do we have time for this?” in a theater when two characters kiss in the middle of an action sequence. Now, while my motivation didn't really parallel the passion that you see on the silver screen in a action-moment-kiss I think I could understand how if given the right amount of stress and time, such a thing could actually happen.

I woke up after that, my alarm calling me from my sleep.

I can say that this is likely a media dream. Between reading the book “flashforward” to watching the TV shows “V” and “Flashforward” and recently beating the video game “Modern Warefare 2” and all of the press talking about a Congress bankrupting the country, the idea of being engaged in a bunch of unsettling upheaval where regular citizens have to get involved or get plowed under seems to be at the front of my mind.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Save Money, Get Breast Cancer

The American Cancer Society is not recommending any changes to breast cancer screening, despite what a government task force says about self and mammogram breast cancer screening.

You might wonder why I would care about this issue. Am I just being political somehow? Yes and no. I lost my mother to cancer and I am hopeful that people will keep an eye on potentially political decisions on health care.

For the last 20 years the American Cancer Society has recommended that women start preventative exams at the age of 40 and recommends self exams regularly and mammograms once per year. At the same time the government committee called the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force claims that the costs associated with breast cancer screening and biopsy scares a lot of people unnecessarily and doesn't “substantially” improve the odds for survival.

I recall when my friend Gregg became sick with cancer. He and his wife did everything they possibly could to fight, fight, fight. I seriously doubt that they weighed the idea of not trying something because the odds weren't “substantial.”

In the case of my mother, every medical professional agreed: if her cancer had been caught earlier, it wouldn't have been fatal. In her case colon cancer became liver cancer which eventually spread until her body couldn't fight it any longer.

According to Dr. Otis Brawley, the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, “This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over.” He went on to say that the committee is “essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives, just not enough of them.”

While Medicare and private insurance companies are currently not announcing any changes in coverage at this time, they admit that the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force reports do influence the coverage plans of those groups.

All of this to say, I believe we are looking at an in-kind example of government managed health care decision models that would change the rules for mandated insurance coverage and cost containment. If you haven't been paying attention, it would be likely true that a government run health option would decide rules like this and fine health insurance that didn't “competitively” conform to the types of service decided by new government managed health care rules.

What is even more disconcerting is the idea that these declarations are coming from a preventative task force. This is like your local Police deciding not to respond to all 911 calls because, statistically a certain number of crimes never get solved. At what point should efforts in prevention decide to stop passing along preventative advice and instead only pass along advice proportionate to the amount of potential benefit? I know the answer to that one. Never! Nobody wants to be a cancer statistic.

So with respect to statistics, and in conclusion, let's briefly review a few stats. According to, if you are woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer...

  • you are 1 in 233 if you are in your 30s
  • you are 1 in 69 if you are in your 40s
  • you are 1 in 38 if you are in your 50s
  • you are 1 in 27 if you are in your 60s

Which of those statistics do you want to become? If I could ask your families and friends that question, I know the answer would unanimously be, "You are 1 person fully worthy of not becoming a cancer statistic."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

TV Show V Tops All Shows

Well, the new TV show “V” is a hit. The typical top-of-the-list show has been “Grey's Anatomy” for a while now, but as of November sweeps, “V” topped it for over-all viewership and specifically within the 18-49 crowd (that's a large crowd!)

What I find fascinating about the show are the seemingly political analogy that underlies the program. From using “devotion” as a weapon, to marketing for favor via selling “universal health care” to a large demographic of youth getting involved in promoting the “visitors” doing what they call “spreading hope” the show seems to have taken it's plays straight out of the 2008 presidential election.

Some might say there is nothing new about those political ploys, but there is an interesting twist only more recently found in the 2008 presidential election: courting of the fan-boy press by the visitors to gain influence over the masses through “news” media.

People are very aware of the influence of the press. And, of course, as “news” in the 21st century has become a commodity like shampoo brands, people behind the news desk think about their careers more often than not. It is understandable as everyone who works likely thinks about their careers. But promoting someone at a news desk in “media” today is far different than merit-promotions of old. Look at the rise of previously unknowns like Katy Curric, who was formerly lost in small offices as a lowly pentagon reporter who “caught her break” during dessert storm in the early 1990s and was later promoted because of her demographicly-tested trustworthiness. Through the years weather forecasters have gone from scientists/climatologists to up-and-coming wanna be actors who said their first lines in front of green-screens reading scripts about the coming day's weather before heading to Hollywood. Every news job is a stepping stone today. And it isn't about telling the truth or breaking some news. It is about effective polling and degrees of perceived trustworthiness and influence.

I digress. Here is an exchange between two characters from “V.” In episode #2 a news reporter was asked to give an exclusive interview of the “V” high commander, when just before going on-air the “V” high commander instructed the reporter to not ask any questions that could portray the visitors in a bad light. When the reporter asked what she meant by that, the response was to appeal to the reporters rocketing career and the highly visible nature of the interview. Said another way, make us look good and we will do exclusives with you that rocket your career to the top. So, now in episode #3, the reporter is struggling with having sold out his conscience for an advancing career move:

Other news person, “Poll numbers. The country is split about the visitors.”

Lamenting reporter, “50 percent are still undecided.”

Other news person, “Yeah, I mean, people don't have enough info.”

Lamenting reporter, “That's my fault. I didn't ask any of the hard questions. I got played”

Before you think this is just pure entertainment fiction, check out this news article from the Orlando Sentinel:

When Barbara West asked a few tough questions that Joe Biden could have answered in a manner that laid such questions to rest, instead his response was “I don't know who's is writing your questions” and the Obama team canceled scheduled interviews and cut off that news outlet. In recent days the White House has given the same cold shoulder to any news group willing to continue to ask tough questions, attacking those news groups and questioning if they can even be qualified as news because they are thinking about questions that the White House would rather people not think about.

Spoiler alert:

The show “V” is a remake. In the original the alien “visitors” come to earth to consume humans as a food source. And how do they make their ulterior motives happen? They mislead and lie about their intentions attempting to persuade the masses to support them while they quietly work out their actual plan.

In general, the show is maintaining it's basic plot. What is different would be a modernization of tactics and efforts to fool people in order to gain their devotion and support. The makers of the show admit, they are drawing these modernizations from our contemporary life.

It is interesting how palatable the idea of people feeling undecided because they don't have enough questions is in a TV plot, or how obvious it is for the news reporter to claim the blame because he wasn't asking any hard questions. It is just interesting to me that TV shows can expose this problem in the form of allegory, but if a news outlets or common people call the press on such stuff then (in the 2008 presidential election) they are labeled “enemies of hope.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Busy Days

I've been busy lately with a number of new developments:

Video Work!

At work we have been talking about incorporating more video into our e-learning and marketing products. In some cases we are supplied content. In other cases we need to produce big content, so we will be outsourcing much of that for sake of scale, resources and quality. But there seems to be a number of opportunities to take on small to medium-sized video work.

About a year ago I investing in a nice Canon XH-A1 HD (1080i) 24f pro-sumer camcorder. I love it. The images from this piece of equipment are amazing. But, if I am going to use my camera for these projects, I have decided that getting the "film" look is important.

Recently I purchased a glidecam, which is an in-hand stabilizing device that makes your shots appear to have been taken from a dolly rig.

Secondly, I just purchased a Letus device which allows me to attach my Canon XT Digital SLR lens onto my XH-A1. This allows the camera to shoot with an extremely shallow depth of field (which means that your subject stays in focus while everything closely in front and behind the subject falls out of focus.)

A while back I had already invested in an XLR field condenser microphone and rode boom for the purpose of capturing higher quality audio while on the run.

Click the above image to check out a larger pic!

This next week is the first shoot. Unfortunately I do not have any light gear and investing in a basic low-quality 3-pointing kit (for film) costs around $2k!!! So, if anyone knows of some place with a better price, let me know, so I can get my boss to make the investment.

Updating My Resume!

Specifically, I've been thinking about revamping my website for the purpose of "simplification." The current site is quite busy and filled with a level of detail that is, well, distracting.

I am pondering taking on more side work in my free time, so revamping the site might be the way to go. Here is a shot of the new site.

You can checkout prototype (which does nothing yet) at:

Mobile Games!

Lastly, this one here is a completely new venture for me. At work we are talking about building playable games for mobile devices, but rather than learning proprietary languages for each device we are targeting, we have been looking into both browser-based javascript-driven games as well as flash CS5 mobile game development.

For my first javascript-browser-based game, I decided to attempt to reinvent a classic old-console game. I am not done yet, but so far I have been able to master animating a few bits using HTML, DHTML, CSS and JavaScript, and it works on my iPhone!

If you want to check this out in your browser (or on an iPhone) go to...

When I complete any games I will be sure and post them here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Health Insurance For Illegal Immigrants

Congress has made a lot of statements about Health Care Reform and specifically providing a public option. People who have read the bills proposed have shown serious concern about supporting a bill that funds a government run health insurance plan, especially a plan that can be utilized by people who are not here legally. Here is the idea...

In a nutshell, not everyone benefiting from the plan will be paying taxes. In fact, quite a few will not be paying taxes. So those who are paying taxes (that's you middle-class) will be financially backing this plan and so naturally you might prefer the the idea that IF you are going to pay then you would rather limit your financial investment to only paying for people who are currently citizens or who have undergone the complicated, lengthy and costly process of earning the right to be here legally. Now... I have lost most of your at this point! Most of you either don't want the public option (because it has almost nothing to do with reform in reality) or don't want a plan that pretends to save you money on health insurance only to crank the cost back up again through new taxes! I get you!!! But stay with me.

As a protective measure to at least mitigate some risk with regard to paying for illegal immigrant health care a number of senators have proposed passing an amendment to any health care bill that closes the illegal immigrant loophole. Well, as reasonable as that sounds, Dems won't have it.

"I would find it extremely difficult to vote for any measure that denies undocumented workers health care," said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat. He said undocumented workers should be allowed access to insurance coverage provided that they get no tax assistance.
This sneaky little health care quote above is from the Washington Times newspaper. Breaking his verbiage down, this is what he means:
  • I would find it extremely difficult to vote for any measure that denies undocumented workers health care: the missing word here is "coverage." Nobody is talking about denying health care. If someone gets sick in America and they are not FROM America, we do not refuse them health care. What we don't do is pay their bill... well, in some cases. To date, many hospitals have philanthropic arms that "forgive" medical bills for people. So, nobody is really talking about refusing health care to anyone. The Illinois Democrat is simply making an emotional appeal here. What he really means is that he WANTS to allow people who are living here illegally the ability to participate in the public health care insurance option.

  • He said undocumented workers should be allowed access to insurance coverage provided that they get no tax assistance : This means that the illegal immigrant CAN take part and sign up for a public option. What he doesn't want to allow is the Federal Government cutting that illegal immigrant a "tax credit" check that further subsidizes that public health care option provided by the Federally Funded Health Insurance Plan!!!

You see there are two moving parts in this plan. First, the whole plan will be funded through taxation (now basically admitted when Congress asked state Governors to sign a letter that committed states to help fund the Congressional Health Care Scam.. I mean Plan.) Secondly, in addition to the existence of a Federally run Health Insurance public option plan they want to cut checks to people (also paid by you in taxation) in the form of a "tax credit" to make the plan more affordable.

Note that this week Republicans are also going to present a plan to help control the rising cost of Health Care. This is a very limited plan with a number of reforms (many in the legal realm) that would likely lower the cost of health care due to reduced number of fraudulent lawsuits which would in return likely reduce the number of unnecessary butt-covering procedures that doctors have learned to employ to simply reduce their legal exposure but that do not help the person who is undergoing the procedure or bearing the cost of that procedure. Keep an eye out for that proposal and read up on it. It actually works to achieve the initial goal of Health Care reform!

Health Care Reform Passing The Bill

So in a revelation shared by the Washington Times newspaper Congress has asked state Democrat Governors to sign a letter to Congress promising to locally fund the medicare portion of the health care bill.

Basically, Congress can't find a way to make their health care plan affordable so they are hiding cost at the state level. What does this mean to us?

Well, first off it means that Congress can't balance the cost of this program. Secondly, it means that your local state politicians will have to raise money to pay for these programs. Said another way, Congress is looking to find a way to semantically claim they have an affordable plan while pushing program taxation down to a state decision so that they don't get blamed for it.

What is the outcome of this? Well in the case of a number of state governors they are either refusing to sign the letter or are getting vocal about the Fed not printing more funny money to pay for these programs we cannot afford.

So, let's add up the score so far. Dems in Congress can't balance the cost of the plan. A number of Dems have gotten vocal about refusing to support a plan with a public option. Other Dems don't think the cost is something American can wisely invest in right now. So Congress reaches down to the state level in search of more support and more than 25% of those politically aligned Governors are vocal about the fiscally irresponsible budget-busting nature of the Congressional plan. In my score book the American's are still loosing the Congressional Health Care Reform game!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Virginia And New Jersey Go Conservative

Sending a significant and critical message to Washington, both Virginia and New Jersey selected conservative leadership in their Gubernatorial elections. With a year-long Federal power grab led by the current Presidential Administration, selecting conservative governors (important for a state so strategically located next to DC and huge for a state as historically liberal as New Jersey) means defending states rights against an out of control and out of touch Congress and White House.

Just two days ago President Obama called incumbent liberal Governor Jon Corzine a "key component" in his ability to keep his campaign promises. according to the Associated Press. Tonight, according to CNN's political ticker White House aides claim that President Obama isn't even watching those same "key" election results roll in.

I guess that means President Obama can't keep those campaign promises?