Friday, April 11, 2014

The great Ledecky

Up in the Washington suburbs north of here, they had the high school Metro Championship swim meet a few weeks ago.  This is essentially the state championships of Maryland, a state that doesn't have swimming statewide as a sport, but nonetheless seems to be regularly producing pretty good swimmers (Mike Barrowman, Anita Nall, Katie Hoff, Jack Conger who set the 500-yard freestyle record for boys last year, some guy named Phelps, too).

Well, now Metro Maryland is also the home of Katie Ledecky.  Katie looked a bit tired in December, but at the Metros she was rested and ready.   So she proceeded to become the first woman ever to break 4:30 in the 500-yard freestyle, a new American, U.S. Open, and of course high school record.   She did this in the prelims, because she had something else to do in the finals, which was to smash the high school record in the 200-yard freestyle.

Now, I looked around and around and around, but could not find a video of the record-breaking 500-yard swim end-to-end. I did find what I think is the end of that race; see below.  She won the 500 in the finals, about 3 seconds slower, and that video is available.  If you're interested, go find it.  I did find the 200, which is also below.

It may sound trite to say that is pretty impressive swimming.  But it sure is.

The 500

The 200

So if you're not dead by now...

This is one of the deadliest animals known.

It's a box jellyfish.  Those lovely tentacles hold a very powerful venom.  If a swimmer encounters the box jellyfish and gets the tentacles on them, it's extremely painful.  The pain can cause swimmers to go into shock;  in the water they can drown.

Box jellyfish can kill.  It's no laughing matter.

If a box jellyfish victim comes ashore with the tentacles still attached, the standard way to treat the stinging tentacles has been to wash them off with vinegar (if it's available - if not, urine can work too, but not as well. Seriously.) New research has indicated that maybe that isn't the best way to do it.  But the research was attacked as not being conducted in such a way as to be comparable to the situation when a swimmer actually has tentacles on their skin.

Read about it here:
Should we stop using vinegar to treat box jelly stings?  Not yet

So now there's this scientific debate going on about whether or not washing off the tentacles with vinegar is a good protocol to follow, or not.  All of which is very scientifically interesting and proper, but when someone has burning, stinging box jellyfish tentacles on their skin, they aren't interested in the specifics, because they are danger of DYING.  So, based on the current state of the science, if a swimmer gets stung by a box jellyfish, don't consult the Internet to see what to do.  Wash them off with vinegar as fast as possible.

(Of course, if you're accidentally reading this because you're searching for how to treat someone that's been stung by a box jellyfish, then you didn't follow my advice.  OK, take care of that unfortunate victim NOW!)

Tax the carbon!

Another good article about some good reasons to tax carbon emissions from fossil fuel use.

A taxing solution to the greatest challenge of our time

"One of the simplest ways to slow the pace of climate change is by levying a fee on greenhouse gas emissions.
Putting a price on burning oil, gas, and coal that reflects the damage inflicted on the environment will make renewable energy alternatives (like solar, geothermal, and wind) and energy-reducing investments more competitive. 
Our friend Alan Rushforth lives near Philadelphia and started a small solar-powered water-heating business a few years ago. Even with state and federal subsidies, it took Rushforth Solar's customers five to seven years to break even compared with the cost of installing natural gas heaters, so it was a tough sell. 
"If there were a 10 to 15 percent fee on carbon pollution, with a schedule of more increases to come, it would light a fire under all sorts of energy saving technologies and behaviors," Alan said. "Not just hot water solar."
And I must myself point out -- taxing carbon emissions would provide funds for the R&D required to bring small modular nuclear reactors into the market and energy mix.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Chile plans to enact the first carbon tax in South America

A courageous, and smart, move.

"The proposal this week from [newly elected Chilean President] Bachelet calls for charging thermal power plants with a generation capacity of at least 50 megawatts a tax of $5 per metric ton of carbon dioxide emitted. Chile is the world’s leading copper producer, and many copper mines in the country are powered by coal-fired power plants that rely on imported oil and gas to operate.

“These companies can incorporate technologies to reduce pollutants or simply change the fuel they use,” Chile’s new environmental minister, Pablo Badenier, told local media. “Once you have the taxation in place, you open a range of possibilities to reduce emissions.”

That's very much right.  And something the U.S. government needs to learn - fast.

But we knew that already!

Oyster Aquaculture Could Significantly Improve Potomac River Estuary Water Quality 

"All of the nitrogen currently polluting the Potomac River estuary could be removed if 40 percent of its river bed were used for shellfish cultivation, according to the joint study. The researchers determined that a combination of aquaculture and restored oyster reefs may provide even larger overall ecosystem benefits. Oysters, who feed by filtering, can clean an enormous volume of water of algae which can cause poor water quality." 

No surprise here.  But can they aquaculturists keep the oysters alive?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Americans? Winning WOMEN'S golf?

Apparently a young American woman won a major tournament on the women's PGA tour.  Her name is Lexi Thompson, and she's the real deal, athletic, skilled, and also cute.  And she's only 19!!

Surprisingly, not-quite-a-wunderkind Michelle Wie came in second.  She hasn't been near the top of the board at the end of tournaments for awhile.

It's refreshing to see the women from this country do well for a change, rather than the furriners (South Korea, Japan, Mexico, Sweden...)

Lexi Thompson  wins Kraft Nabisco

Two pics of Lexi below.

Could Rick Perry become the most dangerous man in America again?

When Rick Perry was about to enter, and then entered, the 2012 Presidential race, I tabbed him the Most Dangerous Man in America.  That's because he was good looking, and was bringing an evangelical Christian, Tea Party appealing message to the race (and was much more of a conservative than Mitt Romney could ever be).  Part of Perry's dangerousness was that he appears to believe everything he says, and he says some pretty darned stupid, er, far right-wing, things.  Remember, this is a guy who suggested Texas could and maybe should secede from the Union.

However, I thought that his unsuccessful and unceremonious run for the nomination would end his Presidential aspirations.  He appeared to be in over his head, and he's also an intellectual lightweight.  But apparently he's gotten healthier (he had some back problems), and maybe also smarter, at least about why he lost the last time.  So according to the article, he's considering running again, and might have a better chance this time.

So if he does, he then immediately becomes the Most Dangerous Man in America - again.

10 reasons we shouldn't discount Rick Perry for 2016