Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Golf: The Greatest Game Ever Played

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming movie “The greatest game ever played”, and I have to agree with the title. I love golf, and while I only play a few times a week, I’ve come to realize that passable golf skills are an absolute requirement for any American business executive.

The Last Resort

I always recommend that my people take-off and enjoy themselves, and this week is our turn. We are staying at a “Resort”, but it’s just a condo-like place with nice pool and lots and lots of laid back people.

It’s great to kick-back, paint watercolors on the beach and just relax. The course looks nice and I cannot wait to play. Janet’s crushed hands (from her auto accident) prevent her from playing, but I’m hoping to get matched-up with some fellow “hackers” who play as badly as I do.

The beaches here are gorgeous too, and I the pictures don’t do it justice:

We have a nice room, like a hotel room and the landscaping is very lush:

When I became a manager I discovered that one of the common perks for corporate Vice Presidents is a country club membership and it was always a treat to be invited for an afternoon business meeting on the links.

Whether you are in Finance, accounting, marketing or Information Technology, it’s absolutely imperative that every business school graduate be able to complete 18 holes without holding-up the foursome. Your career advancement can depend on it!

A bad golfer can add 90 minutes to a round of golf, and this poor fellow excused himself to the clubhouse, forfeiting his $90 green fee for fear of running the afternoon for the client.

Many course require proof of proficiency before allowing you on the course, and the famous St. Andrews requires minimum golfing proficiency to play. I've been to St. Andrews, but I was too intimidated to play such a wonderful and legandary course. A great golf getaway, you can’t beat St. Andrews, anywhere on the planet:

When playing with clients, the goal is to have a good time. As Mark Twain commented “Golf is like a walk in the park. Ruined.”, so the goal is to play well-enough to keep-up and bad enough to lose. Now, I rarely break 100, but there have been times when I was challenged have fun especially with clients who are consistently shooting double-par. I often say "Let's not ruin this by keeping score".

I’ll never have the dedication to play daily and I’ll never become a bogie golfer, but I’m no fool either. Take Heed. The business of America is business, and business happens on the golf course.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Michael Bruce: A lesson in personal integrity

Growing up, I was taught that personal reputation and integrity was the most valuable asset you can have, and here is one story.

The Legend of Michael Bruce

It’s sad that ordinary honesty becomes extraordinary in light of our decaying social mores. An acquaintance of mine from New York, Michael Bruce, is renowned for his personal integrity and honestly. There was a story that Michael found a rare Newcomb pot under a lady’s sink, and he could have bought it for a song.

Instead, Mr. Bruce told the woman that this single pot was worth thousands of dollars and helped her get a fair price for it. The story circulated, and Mr. Bruce’s reputation made him the “go to” person for anyone wanting to sell their goods at auction.

As a licensed auctioneer myself, I’m strictly regulated and all North Carolina auctioneers are required to pass a criminal background check with a focus on acts of moral turpitude (not honoring credit contracts, paying bills late, &c). I’m all for the regulation, but it’s sad that these regulations are required in the first place, in a society that places such low value on personal integrity.

Real Profiles in Courage

As Teddy Roosevelt said (I read this on the wall at the entrance to the Museum of Natural History in New York City last week, and felt compelled to write it down):

“A man's usefulness depends upon his living up to his ideals in so far as he can.”

The sad state of unregulated professionals

I’m constantly amazed at the lack of integrity that I see in business today. I’ve had business competitors lie, harass and interfere with me, and it’s really sad that there are no licensing requirements for computer consultants. The industry is rife with unprofessional people, and the problem has gotten so bad that I have to keep a list. Here are the standards from my job page:

“In lieu of an active US security clearance, candidates must pass a background check and be free of any criminal convictions (except minor traffic violations). Further, any acts of moral turpitude (history of drug use, dishonesty, lying, cheating, theft) are grounds for immediate rejection, and all applicants must sign a waiver to disclose personal information and agree to submit to a polygraph exam.”

I’m all in-favor of some sort of government regulations, the same sort as other professions such as engineers and certified accountants.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Burleson Sanatarium

Like all Burleson’s we are very proud of our family history, with such notables as General Edward Burleson, the first commander of the famous Texas Rangers.

But me, I’m most proud of the distant cousins who created the Burleson Sanitarium. My namesakes have quite a history in medicine, as noted by the Burleson Sanitarium, noted as


I bought a copy of the Burleson Sanitarium brochure on eBay, and we like to joke that the Burleson’s have been helping people with bad asses for centuries. . . .

Wildly popular with people with hiney problems, the Burleson Sanitarium even had their own playing cards made, each with illustration suggesting that if you have problems with butt holes, you had better see a Burleson.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Noel is ready for trips Abroad

Janet and I love kids and we love it when the 4H comes-out to help us groom the ponies and when neighborhood kids come to visit.

We even have made it clear to our daughter that it would not be the end of the world if she got knocked up. We assured her that Janet and I would raise it while she finishes grad school, but hey, Kid's . . . they never listen.

Noel was Janet’s Birthday/Christmas present last year (she was born on Christmas day, so for a combined holiday, I make sure that she always gets something special) and Noel has done a great job in filling the baby void.

Noel is as needy as any human baby, and she goes almost everywhere with us. She is one of the most well-traveled puppies anywhere, and she has already visited every major city in America.

We have even changed our hotels, choosing doggy-friendly hotels where they cater to pampered pups. Noel is now old enough to travel abroad, and I haven’t seen Janet so excited in ages. We are planning an overseas resort trip for some downtime, and Janet has Noel well-prepared for her adventures abroad:

It’s a real pain that we can’t take Noel through Hawaii because of their strict quarantine laws, but Hong Kong is more liberal for traveling pets. Even the United Kingdom has pet laws, and here is the British Airways Scheme for pet travel. You know, I’ve never gotten used to the British term “scheme” since in the USA the word “scheme” has sinister connotations!

Anyway, Noel has these special ”doggles” to shade her eyes, and she seems to like wearing them. She also has a custom-made swim jacket for visits to the beach:

Janet even bought her a stroller, just for dogs:

Janet even has built-in air conditioning, using some of those frozen gel packs, to keep her cool in the tropics.

Yeah, it’s a bit over-the-top, but Noel is our official surrogate baby, and she seems to enjoy her new stuff:

I can’t wait until we get to the resort and people notice the baby carriage and approach us to see junior. . . That should be good for a few laughs anyway. . . .

Numbering people

We have a real problem with non-unique names around here and much of it is due to parents choosing “common” names for their children. We have multiple Terry’s, Robert’s John’s and Jen’s, and at first we tried to give each of them “descriptive” names, but it didn’t seem fair to label people that way, so we started numbering them.

I got the idea from Dr. Seuss' book "The Cat in the Hat" and his mention of “Thing 1 and Thing 2

We now have John 1 through John 3, and at the top of the list are Jens, with four so far.

Here is Jen1 and Jen3 with Noel:

The Jens have been a great asset in helping us keep our horses show ready, and they love to hang-out on the ranch and play with Bear and the sundry farm critters:

It’s weird having to refer to people by number, but it’s the only fair way to keep from hurting peoples feelings.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dog Roasters arrested and jailed

The public needs to know about people like this

This is a horrific story of a burglary where some sicko burglars thought that it would be fun to roast the pet dog in the oven:

She was able to find one of her dogs, a 6-year-old shi tzu named Pepper. But she was unable to find her other dog, a 1-year-old rat terrier. Police later found the dog burned to death in the oven, which had been set to 400 degrees.

The real sick part is that there are no laws keeping these people in prison for life, and the $9k bond is a joke. I think that anyone would tortures small animals should be imprisoned before they escalate into killing people:

Alexander Davis, 19 and Evelyn Jeanette Williams, 24, were arrested after police received an anonymous tip. Authorities suspect Davis also has burglarized another home in the area.

Davis is charged with two counts of burglary and one count of cruelty to animals, which is a felony. No bond has been set in his case. Williams has not been charged in the burglaries but was charged with theft by receiving stolen property. Her bond was set at $8,300.

Let's start a psychopath and sociopath registry

We have public reporting facilities for sex offenders and I wonder if we should encourage laws to warn the public about people who exhibit minor offenses that are recognized precursors to more serious crimes.

In this article, we see a clear correlation between animal abuse, insensitivity about the feelings of others, and violent criminal behavior. The act of deriving pleasure from exercising power over the weak and helpless (i.e. mocking sick or disabled people, torturing children and pets), appear to be classic signs of serious illness and a potential threat to society.

Cruelty to animals has been identified as a symptom of disease. It's usually one of the earliest reported signs of conduct disorder, appearing as early as 6 and a half, and is also one of the better diagnostic indicators of a psychopathic personality. Animal cruelty is associated with increasingly violent behavior and is an indicator of the potential threat of escalating violence, abuse and criminal activity. . .

In 1996, Drs. D. S. Hellman and Nathan Blackman published their formal study on the link between human violence and animal abuse. Their analysis of 84 prison inmates' life histories showed that three fourths of these violent criminals had early records of cruelty to animals.

Many serial killers began their careers by torturing or murdering animals. Ted Bundy, executed in 1989 for 50 murders, spent much of his youth torturing animals. The Boston Strangler, Albert DiSalvo, who killed 13 women in the early 1960s, spent his youth trapping dogs and cats in orange crates and shooting arrows into them. And the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer tortured animals before he turned to young men.”

Studies show that these unspeakable acts, while not serious in and of themselves, can indicate a presidposition to excalating violence and that society has a right to be warned about these people. Convicted criminals loose their civil rights everyday, and I sometimes wonder if public identification of those with predatory sexual disorders and psychopathological behaviors might be appropriate.

The failure of the sex offenders registry

If the goal is to protect the public then the sex offender should be readily identifiable. This MSNBC article notes that over 15,000 registered sex offenders have gone missing because of Hurricane Katrina, and the existing regulations are falling short and even the new proposals are wanting:

“Last week in Washington, the House approved the Children's Safety Act, which would create a national Web site for child sex offenders and stipulates the sex felons face up to 20 years in prison for failing to comply with registration requirements.”

The scarlet letter of the 21st Century

If the goal is to warn people about those predisposed to commit certain crimes, a more active identification system is required. I don’t like the registered sex offenders program because it is passive and you have to check to see the sex offenders in your area. The database provides access to registered sex offenders, and it’s scary to find out how many potential predators live in my NC area. There are six registered sex offenders within a few miles of my house, but I'm more concerned about people who have a history of torturing the weak.

I firmly believe the statistics that show that people who are convicted of tormenting animals, children and sick or disabled people should also be in some sort of registry, and I'm far more concerned about the threats of these types of sicko’s than from the sex offenders.

We require identification and warning for convicted sex offenders, why not a public registry for anyone caught displaying sociapathic apathetic behaviors? Hey, the scarlet letters worked great for the Puritans and allowed them to identify a hussey, why not the same for these deviants? Charles Manson has a great idea, maybe forehead tattoo's:

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Persistence of American Slang

I was watching the hit show Family Guy last night and I noted a scene where Peter helps Kevin Federline appear as a douche bag. Peter defines a “douche bag” as a person with an unkempt appearance, body odor and “an unwarranted sense of accomplishment”.

So, why is the term “douche bag” still being used while other slang terms bit-the-dust decades ago? I'm suprized to hear my kids college friends use "douche bag" as a common term since it dates to the 1960's era of "far out" and "right on".

Because everything on the web is the Gospel Truth, a quick search reveals a 17th century letter titled, “Verily, Thou Art A Douchebag” in the hilarious USCD MQ Magazine where we see this comment that reminds me of a well-known database theorist:

“Thy ignorance of affairs financial so obviously makes itself known that I need not illustrate it further, and yet by the idiocy of your readers I am compelled to do so.”

A more reasonable origin appears here, where this site notes the origin of the common usage for douche bag at about 1963:

By 1967, according to the OED, the term came into its more prominent contemporary usage: "Douche bag, an unattractive co-ed. By extension, any individual whom the speaker desires to deprecate."

Lord DoucheBag

One of the all time funniest SNL skits was Lord and Lady DoucheBag. SML made them a snooty British couple, and here is the transcript from this hilarious master comedy.

Garrett Morris starts the skit by announcing in a formal English accent ”Lord and Lady DoucheBag”. The rest of the skit is a platform for all of the possible usage of the word “douche bag”, a very informative lesson in grammar:

"Where the devil are those Douchebags?"

“Parliament has always had its share of Douchebags, and it always will.”

SNL douche bag skit

Most of the SNL audience was not aware that this skit was based on the popular use of douche bag amongst some factions of society and the term may be centuries old.

As a teen in the 1960’s we would never consider using our parent’s lingo like “23 skidoo”, “the cat’s meow” or my favorite “root hog or die”. So why do kids today continue to use terms like douche bag which were coined by their parents generation?

It looks like folks like my favorite Pol Jon Stewart love to use douchebag in his fun and informative The Daily Show

douchebaggery. These terms can mean a variety of different insults, and have become popular in the comedic media (for instance, comic and The Daily Show host Jon Stewart once named conservative columnist and television pundit Robert Novak a "douche bag of liberty"): An insult is a statement or action which affronts or demeans someone. ...

- Someone who is annoying, bossy or embarrassing.
- Someone who is stupid, intellectually challenged or mentally deranged but less than clinically insane.
- Someone who is unintelligently lying or scamming.
- Someone who is arrogant, elitist or snobby.

So, what does a douche bag look like?

Now, I’ve never seen a douche bag, and I’m not real sure that I want to see one. I’m sorry, but there are some things that men don’t talk to women about, and this intimate hygiene item is one of them. C’mon guys, the ladies hide that stuff from us for a reason. My guess is that a douche bag has just got to be really, really gross.

Seriously, if you don’t want to see what a real douche bag looks like, do not click this link. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

More on word origns

If you like word origins, make sure to gat Dr. Cerutti’s new book “The Words of the Day”, a fascinating exploration of the origins of common English vernacular:

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Great Litigator

Every Arabian horse breeder has their favorite bloodlines, and we are huge fans of Excelsjor and his offspring.

Here is Excelsjor, a pure Polish stallion whose life was cut short when he was kicked to death while trying to breed a mare:

Janet was honored to have owned one of Excelsjor’s most stunning sons, Vaalor, a national champion stallion with amazing beauty and athletic ability. In his day, people shipped their mares to North Carolina from all over the world to breed to him.

After his death in 1998, Janet has been collecting as many Vaalor babies as she can find, a daunting task since there are hundreds of them still alive.

The Great Litigator

There were a few other Excelsjor son’s, and another of our favorites was Litigator, a stunning national champion stallion. Here is a close-up of the immortal Litigator:

We have a Litigator daughter Litianne Bey, and she has an exceptional pedigree with her dam being by a Bey Shah and out of a Raffon daughter.

We bred Litianne to BaskAfire, a *Bask son and produced Praetor, an athletic dressage prospect:

Liti loves babies and two years ago she stole a foal from another mare, bagged-up and started nursing her. Janet and I were at a resort in California and we got a panicked call from the grooms that Dance had given birth a month early and that Liti had “stolen” her foal. Dance was screaming bloody murder and Liti was not about to give-up “her” new baby. Sigh, it took them hours to reunite the proper Mom and baby. . . .

Arabians love babies and whenever a mare goes into labor, all the horses line-up and peek through the cracks in the walls, hoping to catch a glimpse of the newest herd member. We are hoping to breed Liti this years and we have two prospects lined up, Noble Express and GHF Hallmark, 5 time world champion Hackney Stallion.

This is Noble Express, all action, high action:

And of course, Hallmark, who can break-over-level without breaking a sweat. . .

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Terminal Velocity of Cats

Falling Cats in the city, an unavoidable cost of pet ownership, and it's inyteresting that there is a Terminal Velocity for Cats,

Cats have evolved with a innate instinct to land on their feet, a trait that suggests that cats are susceptible to falling in nature. Cats are especially vulnerable to falling when they are stalking prey and they lock-in on their target and I’ve seen several cats meet an untimely end by darting into traffic in pursuit of a bunny.

Cats also love to be outside, which is a special problem for cat owners in the city with balconies, verandas or penthouses. Just a momentary lapse in security and you might witness kitty do a half-Nelson off of your 40th floor veranda, in pursuit of a pigeon.

Falling cats happen and I saw a fascinating article recently about the terminal velocity of falling cats, whose terminal velocity is 60 MPH.

"Cats have a nonfatal terminal velocity (sounds like a contradiction in terms, but most small animals have this advantage). Once they orient themselves, they spread out like a parachute. There are cats on record that have fallen 20 stories or more without ill effects.

As long as the cat doesn't land on something pointy, it's likely to walk away."

It appears that this was a legitimate real-world study by the American Veterinary Association, scientific research where you observe the real-world and develop a heueristic model:

"But the believers trot out a 1987 study from the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Two vets examined 132 cases of cats that had fallen out of high-rise windows and were brought to the Animal Medical Center, a New York veterinary hospital, for treatment. On average the cats fell 5.5 stories, yet 90 percent survived."

The seven story threshold and terminal velocity

Could it be true that in falls above seven stories that cats become aerodynamic? There is some compelling evidence for this:

"When the vets analyzed the data they found that, as one would expect, the number of broken bones and other injuries increased with the number of stories the cat had fallen--up to seven stories.

Above seven stories, however, the number of injuries per cat sharply declined. In other words, the farther the cat fell, the better its chances of escaping serious injury.

The authors explained this seemingly miraculous result by saying that after falling five stories or so the cats reached a terminal velocity--that is, maximum downward speed--of 60 miles per hour. Thereafter, they hypothesized, the cats relaxed and spread themselves out like flying squirrels, minimizing injuries."

The “dumpster” skew?

Of course, we must always consider those clearly deceased cats who were never brought in for medical attention:

"The potential flaw is this: the study was based only on cats that were brought into the hospital. Clearly dead cats, your basic fell-20-stories-and-looks-like-it-came-out-of-a-can-of-Spam cats, go to the Dumpster, not the emergency room. This may skew the statistics and make falls from great distances look safer than they are."

However some researchers believe that the “flying cat” effect is real and that there is no dumpster skew:

"Dr. Garvey was adamant that the omission of nonreported fatalities didn't skew the statistics. He pointed out that cats that had fallen from great heights typically had injuries suggesting they'd landed on their chests, which supports the "flying squirrel" hypothesis."

Who’s right, well there is not enough data yet. However, it does appear that dead cats are now being considered in Germany as an alternative fuel source.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Real scientists in the real-world

Distinguished scientists know that the real path to knowledge is by observing interactions in the real world. Whether you are researching drug interactions or software behavior, the only way to get valid results is by eschewing artificial experiments.

Janet and I combine our varied backgrounds in scientific animal research and real-world experience in our Guide Horse experiment, as noted by these great cartoons in “Non Sequitur” by our favorite cartoonist, Wiley Miller:

We also greaty admire empirical researcher Jane Goodall, who believes that the best way to understand social systems is to observe them in the real world. Eschewing contrived experiments with artificial populations, Dr. Goodall performs her research by observing interactions in the real-world and publishes her experiences and observations.

In her book “The chimpanzee: a model for the behaviour of early man?”, Dr. Goodall generalizes her real-world observations and suggests how early man may have shared some of the rules of social behavior that she notes with Chimpanzees. Dr. Goodall's observations provide important rules-of-thumb for understanding complex systems of social interaction.

Jane Goodall with Janet Burleson and Don Burleson

Other Oracle database researchers are using Oracle tools to help save lives, such as Tim Wu, MD OCP, a good friend and a brilliant Oracle scientist who is using Oracle tools to help save lives.

Using tools such as Oracle Discoverer and Oracle Data Mining, scientists like Dr. Wu are observing the real-world as captured inside Oracle databases and using Oracle’s powerful tools to perform heuristic modeling. With tools such as Oracle Data Mining, heuristic techniques can reveal hidden patterns that are impossible to simulate in labs.

More than ever before, Oracle scientists believe that there is very little to gain from lab testing and that valid research is experiential, not experimental.

In this tip titled “Oracle Software Saving Lives” we see the limitations of clinical trials and the valuable research being conducted by Oracle scientists to improve the quality of health care for millions of people worldwide.

In an era marked by selfish corporations, it’s pleasing to see companies like Oracle Corporation who are dedicated to making tools that have a direct impact on improving people’s lives. I’m proud to be an Oracle stockholder and to have a part, however miniscule, in helping Oracle develop these powerful tools that improve that quality of our lives.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Scuba diving horses & dogs & cats

Our prize-winning filly Abby amazed me this week when she stuck her whole head into the water bucket and opened her eyes underwater!

Abby is a daughter of Vaaldance, sired by the legendary Arabian Park horse IXL Noble Express and she loves to stick her head ubnderwater.

Abby - The underwater Arabian horse!

But it got me to wondering, do animals scuba dive?

Horses love to swim and the old diving horses from Carnival shows were a staple in the late 1800’s and even more recently at some parks. It’s a testament to the extreme ability of horses to learn and overcome their fear, but this practice is considered both dangerous and cruel:

“Imagine you are a horse, and, after unbelievably difficult training, you have to spend your life diving 60 feet into 10 feet of water - four times a day, seven days a week (pictured on cover).

Then imagine that, when the job folded, you’re sent to an auction and sold to anyone who could get something more out of you before eventual slaughter.”

Personally, Abby’s dunking behavior makes me wonder if it is possible to train a horse to scuba dive, and Twinkie helped by modeled a scuba outfit prototype. We had great fun posing her, and Twinkie is a real sweetheart.

Scuba diiving has already been done with dogs and it appears that water-oriented dog breeds might actually enjoy scuba diving, like this amazing photo:

The web site Cha-Cha-Cha also has an amazing photo of a scuba diving dog! I love the doggie fins! Anf this scuba diving cat:

This web page shows “Shadow” the diving dog, but it's not clear if Shadow is enjoying the experience:

The Pets helping kids web site has a outstanding design for a doggie scuba set:

The site shows a dry suit, made just for dogs:

I just love this picture, and being a cat owner, I'm sure that a lot of trouble went into getting this superb photo. Jason Cross notes that cat dive too, most likely for fish, no doubt:

Monday, September 05, 2005

FEMA, Mike Brown and Arabian Horses

As a member of IAHA (Now AHA), I have been disturbed by the flood of litigation in the Arabian horse industry over the past few years.

Showing Arabian horses is a high-stakes endeavor. We own numerous IAHA champions, including Successor, a stunning Bask Grandson:

Our whole family participated in IAHA shows for many yares. Here is John Lavender showing Praetor at an IAHA show in 2002. John has been a champion Arabian horse rider since he was seven years old, and Janet had him Riding Arabians while he was still in diapers. John is an amazing equistrian and a very polished rider, especially in English classes:

Mike Brown and IAHA

From 1991 to 2001, Mike Brown was the Commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association, an international subsidiary of the national governing organization of the U.S. Olympic Committee. This Bridle and Bit article notes a lawsuit settlement offer:

“Fernando Santibanes, the owner of the Arabian stallion Magnum Psyche, and Darlene and Harold Orr, the owners of the Arabian stallion Dark Victory, have advised me that they intend to file suits against IAHA for defamation, and other claims, based upon the statements made by Commissioner Brown during his investigation of mine, and I would agree to use my best efforts to convince Mr. Santibanes and the Orrs not to proceed with litigation over these matters.”

According to the Boston Herald, Mike Brown, after 11 years as president of the International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA), Mike Brown was forced to resign:

“Before joining the Bush administration in 2001, Brown spent 11 years as the commissioner of judges and stewards for the International Arabian Horse Association, a breeders' and horse-show organization based in Colorado.

``We do disciplinary actions, certification of (show trial) judges. We hold classes to train people to become judges and stewards. And we keep records,'' explained a spokeswoman for the IAHA commissioner's office. ``This was his full-time job . . . for 11 years,'' she added.

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.”

Mike Brown was involved in high-dollar lawsuits against the IAHA. Most notably the controversial suspension of David Boggs, allegedly for having plastic surgery done on the National Champion Stallion, Magnum Psyche, a stunning grandson of Padron, one of my favorite all-time halter stallions. This is Magnum, an amazing stallion:

This is *Padron, Magnum's grandpa, one of my favorite halter stallions. I went to his ranch to meet *Padron in-person recently and his photos don’t do him justice. *Padron was well-mannered and absolutely gorgeous, with the best neck I’ve ever seen. He is still available at stud by private treaty, but I was told that breeding must be live cover. Gorgeous, isn't he?

Guess what Mike Brown did after we tossed him from IAHA?

Mike Brown is now in-charge of FEMA!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Treating oaks for tree boars

We have a gorgeous 80 foot-tall white Oak tree in our back area and the tree is in-decline so we have the tree surgeon out for a visit:

Like many other things in North Carolina, you can call yourself a tree surgeon without having attended tree medical school or ever having operated on a tree, so we had to do quite a bit of digging to find a qualified tree surgeon.

Our Oak tree is just a baby at 140 years old, but it was infested to tree boars and some type of fungus. We are getting emergency tree-age for it, and we will also re-stimulate the root system by successive fertilization. The cost is just under $3,000 but it’s worth it because buying a replacement tree costs over $20,000 and moving a huge tree in to replace it costs $120,000.

The tree surgeon says that resorts and places like Disney World move super-huge trees all-the-time, so there technology is there. The root system spreads hundreds of feet from the trunk, so we have to divert a road so that it does not damage the roots.

The prognosis is dodgy and the tree surgeon says that we could spend all of the cash and the poor tree could still die. But he recommended it, and this tree still has 200+ years to live if it makes it, so off we go, it’s part of our “no tree left behind” program!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Your teeth can reveal Indian ancestry

Ontology Recapitulate Phylogeny.

Of course, it's just another one of the totally incorrct phrases that we learned in freshman biology, but then I was a teacher I would always use it as an answer for the coctail party challenge: "So, you're a professor, eh? Say something intelligent! My response: "Ontology recapitulates phylogeny."

Anyway, I just finished a great book “The Anthropology of Modern Human Teeth” and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in forensic anthropology.

The thrust of the book is that permanent genetic markers exist in the teeth of specific racial groups and that dental analysis can find "markers" that are passed-down for many generations, making teeth an ideal way to trace the racial characteristics of ancient graveyards. This may be true for other populations as well.

For example, I've heard some people say that they can tell if someone is from from England just by looking their teeth.

Now I don’t know much about genetics, but I know from my personal experience that your teeth can reveal Indian heritage.

I did some research and there are several million Americans with a little bit of Indian ancestry. Ever since John Smith and Pocahontas, Americans began the process of genetic assimilation (interestingly, Pocahontas is buried in England and has over 100,000 descendents, as noted in this Superb article on Pocahontas by David Morenus).

Mr. Morenus has fascinating details and show that Pocahontas looked nothing like the Disney cartoon characterization of her:

I also recommend the book “A Little Bit of Indian” for some fascinating facts about inherited physical traits. There is an Indian Halotype and the Cherokee Nation is doing blood research.

“Research into genetics in the 21st century has revealed that American Indian Haplotype is a type of material found in over 95% of American Indians so far tested.

This particular Haplotype is an easily obtained chain of genetic material that is obtained by the extraction of Mitochondria as a means to prove one has American Indian Blood somewhere in their family history.”

There is also the GeneTree Native American blood tests. This site has a wonderful world map showing how genetic testing can reveal historical patters of population movement:

The research article “Bye Bye Beringia” quotes an archeological study suggesting that the some Native Americans were quite similar to Europeans:

“They walked the ground between the site of today's Walt Disney World and the Space Coast, hunting white-tailed deer and bobcat among the pine and oak trees.

They fished for bass and sunfish or scooped up turtles, frogs, and snakes.

Their primary job -- filling their stomachs -- took only about two hours each day”

This article also notes that the Windover site has enough usable DNA to discover the genetic origins of the inhabitants, even though it is 8,000 years old:

"The ancient human DNA is of such quality as to allow genetic cloning, or to make comparisons with present living ethnic groups, or to test kinship with other ancient peoples. But the latter would require usable DNA, and this treasure trove seems to be the oldest group of human DNA ever found anywhere in the World. "

But there is more evidence. This CNews article suggests that there may have been pre-1492 genetic mixing of Native Americans bloodlines, with some Indians looking like Europeans:

"There were three men here whose beard is almost the same colour as mine and who look like typical Scandinavians," he wrote. "One woman has the delicate features one sees on Scandinavian girls."

Stefansson speculated the people he met had descended from the inhabitants of the vanished Norse settlements. His theory thrust him onto the front pages of newspapers across the continents with headlines of a "lost white race."

This GeneTree genetic ancestry blood test looks fascinating:

“AncestryByDNA 2.5: Determines what genetic percentage of Native American, European, East Asian, and African a person has, based on their autosomal DNA profile.”

My friend Tim Wu worked as a physician on the human Genome project, and he told me some fascinating predictions. Evidently, the human genome project is just the blueprint for human genetics, like an empty database. It will not be until we start collecting data for all 3-billion pairs (25,000 genes), a task that costs over $30,000 per person today.

However, once reliable data is added to the genome template the whole world will change, with a resolution to the eternal “nature v. Nurture” argument and important privacy issues. Best of all, the annoying old saying “Ontology Recapitulates Philology” will finally be proven wrong. Who knows, we may someday see these results too:

  • The lifespan of a baby will be known to within two years.
  • Your probable natural cause of death will be accurately predicted.
  • Insurance companies will know with a high degree of reliability your predisposition to get a host of diseases.
  • Your intellect and physical abilities can be predicted with high reliability.

Here is a great summary of the hopes of the human genome project. I’m no Oracle, but I’ll bet that the human genome will open-up possibilities that scientists have never thought of before.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Inside the NORAD War Room

As part of my work in Oracle Government sector I get to meet some air force folsk who worked in the NORAD war room, one senior officer who worked inside Cheyenne Mountain, home of the famed North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).

I was thrilled when he invited me to go on a personal tour of this super-secret site, and he even took me into the legendary NORAD war room!

This excellent site has a great history of Cheyenne Mountain and a photo of the War Room:

The NORAD “war Room” is considered one of the most highly classified spot in the U.S.A. I had to get a security clearance just to enter as a V.I.P. visitor, and when I signed-in I was told that I would be shot on-site if I left the side of my escort!

I’ve carefully checked about what is public knowledge so I don’t disclose anything, but Cheyenne Mountain resides inside a mountain of solid stone and can survive a direct hit nuclear attack.

They keep a list of personnel who are allowed to go inside the mountain during a nuclear attack, and you can tell how much the USAF values your life by whether or not your name appears on the list!

The NORAD War Room has been portrayed in many movies, but very few civilians have ever seen it. It’s staffed by a Air Force General at all times and has direct contact to the White House “Football” the crypto-case carried by the President.

I’m not going into details, but I can assure you that the War Room is cooler than it looks on TV and movies, like this clip from the fantastic movie "Dr. Strangelove":


Weird Math - If you know math and would like to explain this to me, I’d sure love to hear from you. Just send an e-mail to While you are at-it, explain this coincidence also. This is just too weird.

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Hillbilly Video!

I appear briefly in the super-funny new video, Ode to the American Hillbilly, a great new online video!

This is one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had, and I can hardly contain my excitement. It’s way cooler than being an Adjunct Professor Emeritus. Me and Dan only appear for a split-second, about halfway into the video, but it’s a HUGE honor.

Viewing Ode to the American Hillbilly:


1 - You will need to download QuickTime to view the movie.

2 - Once QuickTime is installed, start QuickTime

3 - Then choose from QuickTime:

File -> Open URL in New Player

And paste-in this link:

WARNING - Adult Content: Some items in this video are not acceptable for viewing by children.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Guide Horse television ad!

The State of Florida just released this Guide Horse television ad. While the ad is superb, we always cringe because it will mean a flood of more applicants to add to our growing waiting list. .

Cheryl Spencer and her husband Chris came to the Guide Horse Foundation several years ago and they could not wait for our multi-year backlog and decided to have a guide horse trained for them by a professional trainer.

We could have cranked-out dozens of Guide Horses over the past 5 years, but the personal responsibility and commitment is overwhelming and we more very carefully and slowly. We never forget that blind people trust their lives to their guides every day.

While we felt bad at not being able to provide Cheryl a horse immediately, we are thrilled at her work with her gorgeous guide pony “Confetti”. Confetti has been very well-trained, and she has flown commercial and is welcomed everywhere, including a cruise ship:

Cheryl loves Confetti very much, and made her special “evening shoes” for formal occaisions:

We are thrilled to see our invention of Guide Horses becoming widely accepted. . .

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Choices of last meals

The facinating site "Dead Man Eating", has a detailed breakdown of the menu's of condemned prisoners. It's a weird read, but it reveals insights about the favorite foods of murderers. This site even offers commemorative prison food trays, with a complete last meal.

It’s safe to assume that these prisoners are not concerned with nutrition, so here we see the last-meal preferences for killers:

Hamburgers/Cheeseburgers ......13
Fried Chicken ...........................12
Steak ...........................................7
Shrimp ........................................5
Chicken Fried Steak ....................5
Fried Fish ....................................5
Chili Cheese Dogs ......................4
Pork Chops .................................3
Beef Ribs ....................................1

Condemned killers also prefer Coke two-to-one over Pepsi for their last swig. I wonder if the Madison Avenue folks know about this? This preference is interesting because the data is largely from southern killers, where Coke products dominate. I’ll bet a list of last sodas from northern killers would show the opposite, with Pepsi taking the lead:

Coke ..........................................11
Iced Tea ......................................6
Dr. Pepper ...................................5
7Up .............................................3

Ice cream topped the killer last meal desert list 2-to-one with pie and cake.

Killers also prefer apple pie, and here we see that there may be a correlation here. As new data rolls in, a larger statistical sample might reveal “food preference profiles” that can be used to predict future homicides:

Pie (Total) .................................11
Pie Breakdown
Apple ..........................................6
Pecan ...........................................4
Banana Cream.............................1
Cake (Total) ................................7
Cake Breakdown
Cherry Cheesecake .....................3
Chocolate ....................................3
Chocolate Fudge .........................1

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The best high status car

If you think that your giant SUV is the ultimate status car, think again. North Carolina is the land of big vehicles, and most of my cohorts have these giant SUV assault vehicles, designed to have high luxury and big gas bills, especially with rising gas prices.

As a child I was intrigued by the 1960’s bestselling book “Is your Volkswagen a Sex Symbol?” and I begged my parents to buy me a copy. It’s essentially a treatise on sociology and how someone’s vehicle preference reveals insights about their personality:

Around here, the ultimate status vehicles are the amazing John Deere tractors, such as this one. It has an enclosed cab, full air conditioning and a fantastic stereo system.

I like ”Old Yeller” a 1958 Chevy Dually. It’s a great chick-bait car, and my son is always after me to borrow her:

Of course, I’m #1 on Google for ”redneck car”, but that old heap was sitting out on the back 40 when I bough the ranch. I may cut the top off and use it for a planter:

Sigh, cars don’t do much for me anymore, but I do enjoy my pickup, a fully-loaded Ford F350 dually with a color TV and all the gadgets:

This sucker is so big that it takes two parking spaces and it has two gas tanks. A typical fill-up is $60, and we don’t drive it much, except when we need to haul horses to shows.

A big fancy car may be OK for status-oriented folks, but I like my plain-old minivan. It’s like the old joke about the show-off Yankee and the southern redneck. The Yankee tries the impress the rube by saying "Check out my new $70k Beemer. Nice Huh?". The redneck replies:

“Seventy thousand dollars, eh? I’m impressed.

See that reaper over there?

I paid three hundred thousand dollars for it, and I only use it six weeks each year. . . . “