Thursday, December 31, 2015

Sad to say goodbye


I was saddened to hear of the passing of the Harlem Globetrotter's Meadowlark Lemon.  Back when ABC's Wide World of Sports would regularly show a Harlem Globetrotter's game (once or twice a year), Meadowlark was the star of the show, followed by dribbling master Curly Neal.

I went to see the Globetrotters at least once live -- and I can't remember if Meadowlark was there, because they had more than one traveling squad.  I even had a book about the Globetrotters, and one of the main subjects was Meadowlark and how he took over from the previous leader of the show, Goose Tatum.

So Meadowlark's passing strikes me perhaps more than many other celebrities and sports figures of my childhood, because I remember him so well.  And it's hard to forget that name.

Harlem Globetrotter's great Meadowlark Lemon dies at age 83




The GOP vs, Paris


The Hill reported on how the crummy GOPs in Congress are going to try to mess with the commitments made by the USA in the Paris climate pact.

Led by arch climate nemesis Senator James Inhofe, they're going to try to cut funding, tell groups how not to follow rules, and of course try to elect somebody like Ted Cruz as our next President.

This is annoying.  Hopefully most of it won't work.

Republicans grope for way to kill Paris climate agreement
"Many hoped that the Green Climate Fund was their best chance to do just that.

As negotiators were hashing out a final climate pact, Republicans vowed to block American contribution to the fund, an international pool of public and private money directed to help poorer nations prepare for the effects of climate change.

But the omnibus spending deal passed this week allows Obama to find funding elsewhere in the federal budget, effectively taking the matter out of Congress’s hands."

Michelle Keegan has a very demure 2016 calendar


Last year, Michelle Keegan (Britain's phenomenally gorgeous actress who I've discussed on this blog numerous times) had a hot calendar, as described with a few pictures from it here.

But this year, now married, Michelle Wright nee Keegan dialed it way back, and featured her fashions, rather than the figure that wears them so well.

She's still gorgeous, but now she's sophisticated.

Oh well.  Here's the front and the back, which has small pictures of the inside monthly shots.

























Wednesday, December 30, 2015

National Geographic photo contest winners


Great pictures from the winning photographs in the National Geographic photo contest (as one would expect).

Here's one (you can get them all as downloads for devices):






Go here for the rest:

National Geographic photo contest winners


Zhang Ziyi has a baby


One of the most beautiful women in the world, actress Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Rush Hour 2, Memories of a Geisha, and many more) just had her first child, fathered by her to-be husband, rocker Wang Feng.

Zhang Ziyi welcomes a daughter

It's a girl! Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Zhang Ziyi, 36, feels 'infinite gratitude' after welcoming her daughter with fiancé Wang Feng

Her daughter definitely inherits some outstanding genetic material.






To see the impossible sea


Using extremely precise measurements of the changing height of the oceans caused by the gravity field underneath it, measured by a host of satellites, researchers have produced a more accurate map of the ocean floor than ever before.  And while doing so, they discovered a lot of new landmarks (perhaps more accurately called seamarks) down there.

Seafloor features are revealed by the gravity field  (this article has references)

Here's the global image:














You gotta be impressed with the technology.

He was right. And it's not good news.

I don't agree with the man who has the Twitter handle "SteveSGoddard" very much. (Yes, I know his real name.) However, every now and then he tweets about something interesting.

On Christmas Eve, he tweeted this:
"Pine beetles have declined more than 90% in Colorado over the last three years, after brainless experts blamed them on increasing CO2."
I asked him for a reference, but he didn't reply. I suspected I knew why this might be happening, but wanted to confirm.

So I searched and found something he posted earlier this year, on March 10. It had a link to an article.

Colorado spruce bug epidemic eclipses mountain pine beetle blight

And in that article, it said this:
"Meanwhile, the mountain pine beetle epidemic slowed dramatically, likely because the pine beetle has run out of live trees to infest."
Funny how in his March 10 tweet, he said just this:
"Another climate alarmist fantasy up in smoke
"the mountain pine beetle epidemic slowed dramatically"
Context is everything, eh? But I want more confirmation. Let's learn some more.

Mountain pine beetle background 

Here's some anecdotal confirmation:

Destructive mountain pine beetle declining in Colorado 
"They ate themselves out of house and home," said Joe Duda, deputy state forester for the Colorado State Forest Service.
In other words, the beetles have gradually run out of available, stressed pine trees to eat, and their numbers are declining. While that is good news, the damage is done."

My suspicion has support now. And that is a quote from the deputy state forester of the Colorado State Forest Service, who ought to know his subject. But can something more official be found?

First, another anecdote (I added an underline for emphasis):

The beetle and the damage done
"Some efforts are being made to stanch the beetle’s spread. Forest Service officials in the Black Hills have proposed treating 248,000 acres of recently infested tree stands in hope of slowing or halting the advance of the beetles. A drought-ending change in the weather could also tamp down the infestation in some areas. But for the most part, the infestation is expected to run its course, abating when the beetles have consumed most of their preferred host—mature pine trees."
So, the expectation is that when you nearly wipe out their host (the trees), the beetle population will decline. Makes sense.  And Colorado has been very hard-hit. So the decline that SteveSGoddard posted about is probably real, and being real, it's not good news.

But still, I yearn for an official statement of some kind.

Well, here's what the Colorado State Forest Service has on their Web site, rather than an anecdotal quote from Joe Duda.

Mountain Pine Beetle 

I'm going to grab a lot of text and put it here, because I expect that they'll update the page sometime in 2016. (They ought to.) Note my emphasis again.
"In 2014, the area affected by mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) declined to its lowest level since 1996. A total area of 15,000 acres with active infestation were mapped during the annual aerial forest health survey.

Most of these acres (approximately 10,000) were in Larimer County, in the vicinity of Red Feather Lakes. Infestations also continued along the eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo Range and on Miller Mesa near Ridgway.

The decline in area with active infestation is primarily due to the death of suitable host trees during previous years of the outbreak. Since 1996, almost 3.4 million acres of lodgepole, ponderosa and five-needle pines have been affected by this bark beetle.
For more information about insects and diseases impacting Colorado’s forests, read the 2014 Report on the Health of Colorado’s Forests and the 2014 Insect and Disease Update."

So I was right. And so was SteveSGoddard. But the reason he was right, the reason I suspected there was a decline, is not good news at all for the pine forests of Colorado (or other Western states). Because the mountain pine beetles are declining due to the fact that they've infested and killed so many pine trees.

I wish that wasn't the way it is, but that's the way it is.


Samuelson's column shows need for nuclear



Robert Samuelson, writing in the Washington Post:

Fighting climate change requires more than soothing fantasies

Some excerpted pieces (underlining is mine):

"But I have doubted that, without major breakthroughs in energy technology, we can do much about warming. The addiction to fossil fuels will triumph."

"Actual choices are harder. For example, Bryce argues that only an expansion of nuclear power could replace significant volumes of fossil fuels. But greater reliance on nuclear poses its own dangers, including the disposal of atomic waste, operational accidents and vulnerability to terrorism."

"We know what’s needed: cheaper and safer nuclear power; better batteries and energy storage, boosting wind and solar by making more of their power usable; cost-effective carbon capture and storage — making coal more acceptable by burying its carbon dioxide in the ground."

Very simple wrap-up: he's right.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, Dec. 27, 2015 - Jan. 2, 2016: Lighthouse of the Castle of Santa Ana



I went back to Spain for this week's lighthouse. Checking the blog, I've only featured a lighthouse in Spain once, so it's a good time for a second time. This one is quite intriguing, as the modern lighthouse is built inside the existing (older) castle of Santa Ana. I went back to Spain for this week's lighthouse. Checking the blog, I've only featured a lighthouse in Spain once, so it's a good time for a second time. This one is quite intriguing, as the modern lighthouse is built inside the existing (older) castle of Santa Ana.

The lighthouse itself is officially in Castro Urdiales, a Spanish seaport. Here's more about it from The Lighthouse Directory:

"1853. Active; focal plane 49 m (161 ft); four white flashes every 24 s. 16 m (52 ft) stone tower with lantern and gallery, attached to one corner of a massive stone castle. The upper portion of the tower is painted white; lantern dome is gray metallic."

More about the castle and church under (in the case of the castle) or nearby (in the case of the church):

Santa Maria de la Asuncion

 (13th Century)

 With a picture featuring the castle - and a bit more information about it.

Castle Santa Ana, Castro Urdiales, Spain

And of course the pictures:



by Postcards from Paris blog


On failure in sports



I had a thought recently, and pursued it philosophically. And the essence of the thought was this:

The main reason that sports succeed is because of failure.

Originally my thought was about baseball, and it wasn't original, because someone else (likely several people) pointed out that even the best batters in modern baseball fail approximately 2/3 of the time. I.e., a .333 batting average, which is a hit every three times at bat (roughly), means that the other two at-bats, on average, are a failure. A strikeout, groundout, flyout, doubleplay, foul out, etc.

But thinking more deeply, I contemplated the pitcher. Great pitchers allow few runs, and get lots of strikeouts, but if they did not fail a few times a game, then baseball would be terribly boring, because there would be very few runs scored. If pitchers prevented any runs from scoring or even worse, didn't allow a hit or a batter to reach first base (the requirement for a perfect game), there wouldn't be any point in playing. The offense has to be more successful than the defense, meaning that the defense has to fail, for scoring to happen. You can't have a winner if you don't have a loser.

And the essence of a championship is failure - because only one team succeeded in wdinning all the necessary games. Every other team fell short. Every other team failed.

Thinking defensively, the same goes for hockey or soccer. Even if goalies are successful more than 90% of the time (in the case of hockey) or maybe even higher for soccer (though there are fewer shots on goal in soccer, so actual save percentages could be lower), if they don't fail or apparently fail at least a few times, there would be very little fun, i.e. scoring. Soccer is frequently criticized because defensive failures are so rare, and tie games more common, but that makes the success -- the defeat of the defense -- even more to be celebrated.

Cricket is a contrast. Cricket has lots of scoring; the odds are loaded against the defense. In cricket, the most notable failure is that of the offense, the batsman -- edging to be caught out, letting the wicket get hit by the bowled ball, or a few other modes of being called out. Basketball is similar - more commonly teams lose because they don't score enough points, rather than playing poor defense (though it's obvious teams can lose because of poor defense).

While pursuing this line of thought, I thought about the Buffalo Bills football team. No other team has been to the Super Bowl more often (they went four straight times) and yet never won it. All of the other teams each year that they went would have liked to be them -- to be in the Super Bowl, but those teams failed earlier. The Bills failed at the end of the season (and notably in their first time there, a failed field goal attempt at the end was the cause of their loss).

Jana Novotna failed the first time she was in a Wimbledon final. She had the chance to win it in 1993 and spectacularly met with sporting disaster. She cried when getting the runner-up trophy. She wasn't thinking about how few women ever played in a Wimbledon final, only that she lost -- to Steffi Graf, whose talent and skill and determination caused many other players to fail in Grand Slam finals! To her credit, Novotna persevered and came back and won Wimbledon (even after losing the previous year in another final), her only Grand Slam championship, and that success was enough to overcome the bitter failure she had experienced earlier. She retired soon after. And yet she even says that her failure was a very important event, if not the most important event, in her athletic career.

Why think like this? Making an Olympic medal final in track and field is a huge success, but there will only be one gold medalist -- all the other athletes will fail to win. Much has been written about being fourth, just out of the medals in gold-silver-bronze sports, and now athletes that finish in that unenviable position can wonder for years what they could have done better to get that esteemed award. Being so remarkable an athlete that one was able to finish fourth in the championship final should be celebrated as such -- and yet both the athletes themselves and the fans of the sport can view such a tremendous accomplishment as a FAILURE. Is that fair?

Of course it isn't. It is the nature of sport. The negative image of the thrill of victory is the agony of defeat. Winning stirs our emotions. So does losing. Losing valiantly can be as stirring as winning gallantly, sometimes even more so. So though I will wish that every athlete and team can succeed and win, I know to appreciate those on the losing side as well -- because that's what happens to a lot more athletes than winning.

It's not the triumph, but the struggle -- as first voiced by Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

It is the struggle that makes us appreciate the difficulty of the triumph -- Oakden Wolf.

Friday, December 25, 2015

'all things come to those', a sonnet for December


It has been awhile since I last posted a sonnet, so before the New Year, I created this tribute to someone who will likely never know their significance to me.


all things come to those


I've heard it happens frequently, though still
not commonly; it does require a right
harmonic linkage, and opposing will
and motion, with a shared acclaimed delight
that seeks to find the underlying note --
which like the belltone calling acolytes
into the shrine, we thus inspired devote
our revelations to the splendored heights
of undeniable reaction, flow-
ing like a riverflood into the sea,
as natural as gravity, a throe
that shows the truest sensitivity
to proffered magnitude, as simpleness
and reverence create profound success.


If you like to see Katie Cassidy in a bikini...



... then I've got two Daily Mail articles with lots of pictures of Katie Cassidy (co-star on TV's Arrow, as the first headline says) to share with you.

Baby it's hot outside! Arrow star Katie Cassidy skips the cold weather to soak up the sun in Miami with a very teeny bikini

Making a splash! Bikini-clad Katie Cassidy turns heads as she hits the beach in Miami once again

And she's looking real good from both sides.

 



Dawn gets close for Ceres' close-up



I just recently saw reported that NASA's magnificent Dawn probe has finished spiraling down to its mapping orbit above the surface of asteroid/minor planet Ceres. I don't know if this means it can gather any more insight into the composition of the bright spots (reportedly a magnesium sulphate salt with some included briny water ice), but now it's going to be very well-mapped. The maximum resolution is 35 meters (120 feet) at the mapping orbit altitude of 385 km (240 miles).

Dawn Journal, November 30


Something new on the bottom



No, I didn't get new underwear for Christmas.

Turns out that scientists exploring the deep ocean have found a new and important kind of hydrothermal vent. The main thing different about the vent is that the primary structural mineral is talc, not metallic sulphides. The vent, which was found off and well below the Cayman Islands, also has a very high heat flow.

New kind of hydrothermal vent system found in Caribbean


Contradicting themselves


Climate Change Isn't Real. It Also Can't Be Stopped.

"Most conservative energy on climate change over the last quarter-century has gone into questioning the validity of climate science. Conservative intellectuals have invested enough of their reputations into this form of scientific kookery that it cannot be easily abandoned."

I've noted this several times, that there has been some two-facedness in some sectors of the climate denier camp. Meaning that at the same time they say nothing's happening, they also claim that there isn't anything that can be done about what's going to happen.

I find it interesting that the article employed the oxymoron "conservative intellectuals" in describing how the right-wing kind of climate denier has operated. I think that the term "intellectual" and the phrase "scientific kookery" have no real business being used in the same sentence together. Rather than "intellectual", in this case a better word might be "groupthinkers", because groupthink implies collaborative self-deception toward formulations of, or support for, erroneous conclusions. Something that it has been definitively psychologically shown the Republicans and conservatives do very frequently.


Lighthouse of the Week, December 20-26: Cap Ferrat, France



Decided to go with a famous lighthouse this week, the Cap Ferrat.

"1952 (station established 1838). Active; focal plane 69 m (226 ft); white flash every 3 s. 32 m (105 ft) octagonal stone tower with lantern and gallery, attached to a 2-story masonry keeper's house. The tower is unpainted white stone; the lantern is green with a white roof."

I knew it was famous, but I didn't know this happened: the original lighthouse was blown up by German troops in 1944.

So why's it famous?

"Cap Ferrat is a very prominent cape projecting into the Mediterranean between Nice and Monaco."

Location, location, location. When Monaco, Nice, and Cannes are your neighbors on the coast, you're likely to get famous. Here's two maps.








































Three pictures below.





Friday, December 18, 2015

More incentive to watch Grease Live!
























How much more incentive do we really need, at this point?



Pushing the limit




Victoria's Secret model Vita Sidorkina displays her slim frame in skimpy bikinis and hotpants as she poses for fitness shoot


Yes, supermodels are not like the rest of us, and they are usually much more slender and lightweight than average human females. (Unless they are the new breed of plus-size models.)

Still, Victoria's Secret (as well as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue) tend to have models with curves, more so than beanpole runway models. But this particular model, Vita Sidorkina, is pushing the limit between "slender and curvy" and "downright skinny". She also looks 16, but a lot of supermodels look 10 years younger than they really are.

Here's how she looked in the holiday show.  Quite tight.























Still, she has curves if you know where to look for them. I found some.




She's posed a lot in their Pink line, which is geared for the 17-20 year old set, and she still looks quite teenagerish. (She's 21). So that works. But much as I hate to say it, based on the way she looked on the beach, she could use a hamburger and a pizza.

Rotating moons of Saturn


The New York Times has a neat animated feature about the larger moons of Saturn.  Newspapers have come a long way.

Cassini Maps Saturn's Moons

While I've seen images of all these moons before, this is a new perspective. The big "Death Star" crater on Mimas, Herschel, doesn't look as prominent here as in photographs with more shadow. And there's just not a lot to see on Titan. Iapetus, of course, is truly weird.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Palace gets Shown the Money


A group of American investors has decided that Crystal Palace, the soccer team in the Barclays Premier League, is worth investing in.  I'm not totally sure how they arrived at that conclusion, but since they did, they're investing a cool 100 million pounds in the club.


Crystal Palace moving into new era after investment deal - Pardew

Though according to Coach Pardew, the team won't spend much on transfers when the transfer window opens in January, this money should substantially upgrade the club in many ways.  So they might in a few years contend with the big money teams for a top 4 spot in the BPL.  Meaning a ticket into the Champions League.

A team and its fans can dream.

For one thing, they'll have a better place to play:
"The development comes after a protracted negotiating process with the new investors that has taken almost a year and a half.

It means plans to improve and extend Palace's Selhurst Park ground will soon be put in place, with the new money enabling work to begin quickly."
Next up for the Palace in the BPL:  Stoke City, featuring Peter Crouch, Abbey Clancy's husband.  (I mentioned her in a previous post today. )


To the next level with Official Clancy


Abbey Clancy.

(Actually, Abbey Crouch, but she still goes by Clancy professionally and Twitterly.)

I have expounded on her attributes before.  Just search the blog to see.  Now, as far as I know, she has never posed totally starkers ever, but most readers of the Sports Illustrated Annual Swimsuit Spectacular will fondly remember that she did pose with nothing but cleverly arranged paint upon her fair integument.

The reason I bring up the stunning Ms. Clancy again is that she just did a day for the LOVE magazine Advent calendar.  This is an annual feature where lovely lasses star in short, saucy (as the Brits say) videos to celebrate each day of the Advent season (you know, the anticipatory days before Christmas.

Well, on her day in the LOVE Advent Calendar, Ms. Clancy took it to the next level.  Many of the models just shake their thangs in skimpies, but Ms. Clancy strips off (also something the Brits say) divinely.

If Peter Crouch is watching this, I hope he realizes what he has in this treasure.  There was an apparent instance of marital infidelity a few years ago, but apparently Abbey put that in the "boys will be boys" column, got over it and past it, and had another child with her towering soccer-playing spouse.  And for Pete's sake, I hope it stays that way.

By the way, her Twitter handle is @OfficialClancy.

Article in the Daily Mail:
Abbey Clancy performs a very seductive striptease as she goes completely nude for her red hot LOVE advent shoot (video included)

Go directly to the video:  Day 16

This is a frame from early in the video, before it heats up - as if this wasn't hot enough






Nobody likes Teddy


Interesting article about Ted Cruz from conservative voice Ruth Marcus.  You can read the whole thing if you want;  I pulled out her specific statements about how much respect Senator Ted Cruz gets from his colleagues in Congress.  And also one stark comparison to Donald Trump.

Which is to say, he gets no respect at all.  And Marcus goes out of her way more than once to note that.
- "Just ask the Senate colleagues who join in remarkable, scarcely contained bipartisan loathing of the man."

- "The fact that senators of both parties despise him has tended to obscure the substantive threat he poses to the country."

- "In fact, Cruz is by far the more doctrinaire and ideologically extreme." [than Donald Trump]
Ted Cruz is more dangerous than Donald Trump

Believe It.  It's True.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, December 13-19, 2015:


When I decided to look for a couple of lighthouses on Sardinia, I had no clue that I would find one as strikingly situated as Capo Caccia.

Capo Caccia is on the northwest coast of Sardinia, on a long spit of land west of the city of Alghero.  Obviously, when you look at the pictures below, it sits on a high bluff.  It's as striking as Split Rock Light on Lake Superior or Heceta Head in Oregon.

Here's a bit more about it:

A Dream on a Rock

Because it is so picturesquely located, most of the highest quality pictures of it are commercial, with watermarks.   Below are four pretty good pictures from non-commercial sources.  If you want the really good stuff, just search for it.  






Hope not


Well, I thought the marriage of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini (formerly Cole) was a bit precipitous when it happened.

Unfortunately, if this Daily Mail article is to be believed, their might be problems in their short union.

As my many posts about her attest, I like Cheryl a WHOLE lot.  She's gone through a bit (including malaria and an aborted attempt to establish herself in the U.S. market), so I want her to be happy.  I certainly don't want her to have more drama and trauma in her personal life.  So I hope this just turns out to the type of brief rough patch every marriage hits, and that they can work it out.  And I also certainly hope that he realizes what he's got.

'If you're going through hell, keep going': Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's husband Jean-Bernard posts series of cryptic quotes amid claims their marriage is in trouble


Kama Zlata


OK, I want every guy who thinks along the same lines as the Subject line above after seeing this picture and then reading the article to raise their hands.


















Russian contortionist showcases her incredible flexibility in eye-watering photos - because she wanted to 'emphasise her charms' after splitting from her husband

Most of you?  I thought so.  But I think many of us might get hurt if we attempted to duplicate Zlata's flexibility in feats of manly prowess.








Monday, December 14, 2015

Cassini's not done yet


Though it's near the end of its spectacular mission, the NASA Cassini probe is not done sending back spectacular images of Saturn.   Here's a close-up of Prometheus, a small moon that will always be just a speck in Earth-based telescopes.

























As this article describes, it also got a great view of Epimetheus, another in Saturn's family.


See Prometheus in all its glory: Close-up image reveals the bizarre pockmarked surface of Saturn's 'potato moon'

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A long way to go for dinner


I looked at this Web feature to find out how well-traveled in the culinary world I am, and the answer is:  not very.

49 meals everyone should eat in their lifetime

After going through the listed 49, I've had a grand total of (drum roll) ---

THREE.   Beignets at the Cafe du Monde, lobster roll in Bar Harbor, and poutine in Montreal.  And I've also been to Katz's Deli, but I didn't have the pastrami.  I probably should have.  And I've had pizza in Italy (but not in Naples).

Now, I don't think I'll have any shot at all 49.   But I would like to get up to 6.  So my goals are fish and chips in London, fish tacos in Mexico, and a sachertorte in Vienna.  And I might be able to get a white clam pizza in New Haven, too (pictured below).






Tentative ID of the white spots on Ceres


Well, it's about time.  After months of observing as the Dawn satellites spiraled in toward a closer orbit of asteroid aka dwarf planet Ceres, scientists think they know what the bright white spots are made of.

They think they are a salt, a form of magnesium sulfate called hexahydrite. Darn - back so far as April I thought they'd turn out to be ice.   But apparently the data collected so far indicates that they are a salt, made of substances brought from a subsurface briny layer to the surface by an impact.

But ice is still part of the story, even if the brightly reflecting spots aren't made of it, primarily.  What the astronomer asteroid geologists think happened is that the impact brought a brine to the surface, whereupon it froze, whereupon the water sublimated to space, whereupon leaving the magnesium sulfate bright salts behind.

One other aspect of this is that the crater haze seen near the spots is putatively ascribed to remnant bits of ice still in the ice sublimating quietly, and taking a little salt and dust with them as they do so.

So if this turns out to be what they say, then even though the spots are not mainly ice, there's ice involved in what Dawn is seeing now, and ice was involved in what made them.   (Not like this is a surprise, as most of the big moons of Jupiter excepting Io are mixtures of rock and ice.)  But the interesting part is that there's enough subsurface water, apparently, to help make the spots shine bright.


Links:

Astronomers have finally solved the mystery of those weird bright spots on Ceres

Salty source of Ceres' mysterious biight spots found

Monday, December 7, 2015

Conflict of interests


From "Class War Comes to the GOP", by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

"And his [Speaker Paul Ryan] big promise: “We want all Americans, when they look at Washington, to see spending going down, taxes going down, debt going down.” 

What about the military? We need more bombs, and planes, and missiles to fight terrorists and ISIS.

What about mental health? We want less mentally ill people having guns (as Speaker Ryan himself said).

I think seeing spending going down, and taxes going down, and having to pay for all of this important activity as being two conflicting interests. I'd prefer the country had enough money to pay for the war on ISIS and to treat mental illness.




Lighthouse of the Week, December 6-12, 2015: Palau, Sardinia


Sardinia is a large island in the Mediterranean, and as such has a lot of coastline and many lighthouses.   I'll do a couple over the next two weeks.

This one is named Palau, like the archipelago in the Pacific.   But according to Lighthouses R' Us (Sardinia):

"Palau is the ferry terminal for ferries serving the Arcipelago di la Maddalena and the national park encompassing those islands. The lighthouse is located on rocks just off a promontory northwest of the harbor of Palau."

Checking a map (like this one) indicates that this area is nearly at the northern end of the northeast coast of Sardinia.

Here's two pictures:





Thursday, December 3, 2015

Catching up with Tessa Virtue


A couple of years ago (March 12, 2014 to be exact) I noted the physical virtues of Canadian ice dancer Tessa Virtue in the posting entitled "Figure Skaters are FIT".

As my esoteric mind does sometimes, I suddenly found myself wondering what pretty Tessa was up to these days.  Turns out she's still performing - not a surprise.   And she's still very pretty - not a surprise either.  But I was surprised (slightly) to find her Instagram, and also slightly surprised to find out she was just releasing a new jewelry line, with jewelers Hillberg and Berk.  Or it's an exclusive limited edition inspired by her. Or something like that.

No matter what it is, she looks great (and remember, she's also FIT).

This is the lead-off picture on her part of the Hilberg and Berk site, but she's so pretty in it that I had to show it again.
















And here's another bejeweled shot, this time in pearls (not sure who they're from), but she looks great here too -- not just fit, but hot.







I believe I thought something like this


A couple of months ago, when musing about the multiple gun murder in Oregon, I suggested that there should be a "no gun" list.  In fact, that was the title of the post.

Here's what I considered to be criteria to get a name on the list:
"If someone is on record as a) making threats, b) attempting or indicating a desire for suicide, c) expressing a desire to harm or injure another person, d) being a professed member of a group or groups that advocate violence toward a different group, e) having a psychological condition or having a family member with a known psychological condition, and f) writing a rambling manifesto expressing threats, endangerment, or hate for other people or groups -- their name should go on a basic "no gun" list. It means they can't buy guns and they can't have guns. If they have guns, they get taken away until they can show that they or the individual associated with them (with the psychological condition) pose no danger to the community."
Well,  it seems like Speaker Paul Ryan is expressing a similar idea following the shootings in San Bernardino (which it appears didn't really have a mental health component, but look at my (d) above):

Paul Ryan: We Must Address Mental Illness To Curb Mass Shootings

"Ryan said U.S. mental health laws are outdated and that people with mental illness should not be able to buy guns.

Congress, Ryan said, is currently looking at whether there are gaps in enforcing laws that need to be filled. "We have to think these things through before we just have knee-jerk reactions," the speaker added, and noted that it was important for Congress not to infringe on the rights of citizens.

Ryan is a major proponent of the Murphy bill, which he said would address "people with mental illness that are getting guns and are conducting these mass shootings." Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Penn.) introduced the bill after conducting extensive research in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School."
So, yeah, there's some similarity of thought.

But here is the first unfiltered thought I had when I read Speaker Ryan's remarks:

I wonder how much funding the Republicans have cut over the past decade that would have funded better and more extensive mental health treatment programs, hmmm??

Wish I could ask the Speaker that one.



Holding pattern


Well, when I wrote the post "Just in time for (you guessed it) Christmas", I didn't know what the future held for the effect of El Niño on the temperature of the lower troposphere.  All I could do was compare the progression of this year's event to the progression of the previous mega-El Niño of 1997-1998.

What I didn't realize when I first did this back in October was that the progress of the event would be so parallel to what happened in 1997-1998, even down to its month-to-month evolution.  But that's what appears to be happening.

So I've plotted up the November TLT temperature from Remote Sensing Systems, and I averaged the weekly Niño 3.4 temperatures from the NOAA CPC (because I couldn't find a monthly value yet).  I checked my averaging for the previous month, and it was very similar to the monthly value I'm using for October, but I'll check back on that.

What is astonishing (and worth checking) is the extremely high sea surface temperature in the Niño 3.4 region.  If you look back at 1997-1998, it's never been this high before.  EVER.  Before this month, the highest anomaly was the last week of November 1997, at 2.8.  Two weeks ago, it went up to 3.1.

All that heat has to go somewhere.  The tropical tropospheric temperature, according to Rockin' Roy Spencer, is the same as it was last month (which is to say, very warm).  So if the atmosphere behaves like the atmosphere is supposed to behave, over the next month the warmth should start to spread globally.   Particularly if this ongoing event wants to maintain parallelism with 1997-1998.

Here's the plot. So is the global TLT going to start its upward ascent just in time for Christmas?  Soon into the New Year, we'll find out.

(I just noticed something about my little plot below.  Both temperature axes should correctly be labeled as anomalies, not just temperatures.  So mentally add the word 'anomaly' after "Niño 3.4  SST" and "REMSS TLT" and we'll be fine.)






Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Russian tracksters out of the next Olympics


I didn't think that following quickly on the heels of the news that Russian athletes were under suspicion for doping at recent Olympics, that the Russian Federation would accept a competition ban (for track and field).

It's good for the sport, though sadly the problem of doping will likely never go away. But it's tough on the Russian athletes who didn't do it, and especially those who weren't planning on doing it, but who now can't compete in the next Olympics.

Russia accepts IAAF ban for doping violations

But this is just for track and field.  Based on what has been recently written about the water offshore of Rio, the athletes who have to compete out there might wish they were banned.

Want to swim in this Olympic water?




The UK wins the Davis Cup


In this age of rampant professionalism (including salaries and bonuses) in sports, the Davis Cup of tennis stands out as an anachronism of amateurism.

The players don't play for money, they play for country.  Without appearance fees or anything else, just for their country.  And they also play real tennis, no tiebreakers, in any set.

(Which can lead to some true epics, like the 1982 match between John McEnroe and Mats Wilander, which went 9-7, 6-2, 15-17, 3-6, 8-6 and over six hours.  McEnroe, to his credit and at odds with his boorish behavior, always showed up for the Davis Cup.)

For many years and for many countries, the Davis Cup was their main sporting event.  It seems almost quaint now, but it used to be one of the premier sporting events on the calendar.

So winning it still means something, and this year, led by the heroics of Andy Murray, the Brits have captured the Davis Cup by defeating the team from Belgium.

Andy may not have won everything he could have or should have (though his timing is good, first winning the Olympics on the Wimbledon centre court and then following that up by winning Wimbledon), but he came through this time.

He won both of his singles matches (both in three sets).  He and his brother Jamie won the doubles match in four sets.  So this is very much Andy's Cup.

It happened to be the first time the UK won it since 1936 -- they also lost in the final in 1978,




Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Emily hits the beach


Once upon a time, I wrote a post about Arrow actress Emily Bett Rickards, known on the show as Felicity Smoak.

Pretty girl, Actress:  Emily Bett Rickards

Surprisingly, it's been a very successful post, with hundreds of hits (good for my little blog).  Now, Emily isn't such a big name that she's often in the public eye, so when the Daily Mail teams up with the paparazzi to bring us Emily on the beach in a bikini, we must acknowledge their effort.

Arrow star Emily Bett Rickards shows off her athletic figure and flat stomach in a black bikini as she hits the beach in Maui

She's got a wonderful womanly figure, not the freak-of-nature kind that models bikinis, but the fit and curvy kind that looks quite good.

Oh, and in case you missed last year when she and Oliver finally got busy, here's the top-drop GIF (from the back, because this is not HBO).


China and climate


From the Washington Post, a commentary from Eugene Robinson about climate and the climate conference in Paris, and the movement toward clean energy happening globally (though the U.S. is dragging its feet, of course).

In Paris, clean energy gathers steam

Here are two excerpts that caught my eye:


A: "Two important things have happened in China. First, the nation’s leaders have come to realize that the noxious, choking, particulate-laden smog that periodically blankets major cities — as is happening this week in Beijing — poses a real threat to the Communist Party’s legitimacy."

(I have said similarly in postings past.)

B. "The other big development in China is that its leadership — rather than deny climate science, as most Republicans do — is making a huge bet on clean energy."

Including NUCLEAR ENERGY.

China is leading the way, well ahead of us, on societal energy transformation. They have to. The question is, will the U.S. keep up, follow, or fall behind?



Lighthouse of the Week, Nov. 29 - Dec. 5, 2015: J.C.J. van Speijk, The Netherlands


I was checking back in my archives and discovered that although I have posted Lighthouses of the Week from several Scandinavian countries, I had not posted one from the Netherlands.  So I went happily searching for a lighthouse from the Netherlands, and I found one that doubles as a monument.

So this week's Lighthouse of the Week is the J.C.J. van Speijk lighthouse, which is on the North Sea, as are probably most of the lighthouses in the Netherlands.

It's located in Egmond aan See, which I'm guessing translates as roughly "Egmond on the Sea".

Here's a video with five facts about it (that's different).





Here's a short (translated) Web site about it: Lighthouse J.C.J. van Speijk Egmond - Lighthouse

Here's Wikipedia on Jan van Speyk:  Jan van Speyk

And here are three pictures:






Saturday, November 28, 2015

Alessandra: sexiness is her business


Catching up on my babe posts, here's Alessandra Ambrosio on the cover of December's Maxim:





'Stunning' and 'oh my God' only partially capture my reaction -- and I expect that of a few other guys.

Here's the rest of the article (which is nicely illustrated):

Alessandra Ambrosio is Maxim's December cover girl

(Let's not forget that she's also the mother of two kids, and is still with their father, who had better keep realizing what he's got and not lose it.)


Don't try too hard to find them


By my count, I've only posted three articles this month where the main subject was a woman.  That's well below my average, I'm sure.  I read quite a few (the Daily Mail is a rich source), but I try to be diverse in my subject matter, and only occasionally perverse.

So I had forgotten about this Daily Mail article featuring the scrumptious supermodel Nina Agdal, who unfortunately couldn't find her pants, and commemorated the occasion with an Instagram shot.

Now, I think the Daily Mail's headline was just a bit too overt, so I'll just link to it this way:

Nina can't find her pants

(By the way, she's totally naked.  As if that matters.)




ESA mission doing better than NASA's missions


Back in 2009, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a mission named Soil Moisture - Ocean Salinity, with the acronym SMOS.

It's been doing quite well, going into its fifth year in space.  It provides soil moisture data with a resolution of 35 km in the center of the scan, 50 km overall.

This is the mission site (with links to recent news):
Observing the Earth (SMOS)

On the other side of the pond, NASA launched the Aquarius satellite, to measure ocean salinity, on June 10, 2011.  It worked great, until it quit working, on June 18, 2015.   Just over four years.

302 days ago, according to the Web site on the day I write this, NASA launched the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission, to measure soil moisture, at high resolution with the active radar part of the mission.  Well, I just recently learned that the active part is inactive.  The highly powerful and highly cool circular radar is defuncto, as of September.

NASA Soil Moisture Radar Ends Operations, Mission Science Continues

That cool radar system provided soil moisture data with a resolution of 9 km -- while it lasted.  The passive side of mission, a radiometer that's still working, gives soil moisture data with a spatial resolution of 40 km -- about the same as SMOS.

So right now, ESA's single mission to do both measurements is doing better than NASA's two missions that each did only one measurement.

Now, I'm not writing this to compare ESA to NASA.  Sometimes NASA missions last longer or do more things than ESA missions.  What I really want to say is why can't somebody figure out a way to fix these expensive things when they break in space?  We managed to do it a couple of times, for Solar Max and the Hubble, the latter partly because it was designed to be fixed and updated by astronauts, and because it was in a serviceable orbit.   Note that the highly expensive James Webb Space Telescope won't be.

But what would that take - to fix satellites in space?  Well, one thing that has been proposed to deal with BIG pieces of space junk (i.e., dead satellites) is a "tug", that could grapple onto it and send it Earthward (hopefully oceanward), to get it out of orbit before something catastrophic happened to it and it broke into lots of little pieces, which is bad.

Why not build a slightly better space tug, capable of bringing the expensive satellites down to ISS orbit and in proximity to the ISS, and then let the astronauts go out and fix it, and then let the tug push it back up?  The tug could have an ion engine, so it wouldn't be real fast (obviating the need for lots of maneuvering fuel), but it could substantially extend the missions of these valuable investments.

Wouldn't it be worth it?





It's coming


"Grease: Live" is on January 31st, 2016.

I'm counting the days.



Icelandic photography


The Daily Mail featured the photography of Iceland photographer Arnar Kristjansson, who specializes in photographing scenes of Iceland.  That would not be a bad job/vocation to have.


Chasing waterfalls: Stunning photographs reveal Iceland's epic natural wonders as you've never seen them before (with the Northern Lights and golden sunrises almost stealing the show)

I did a quick search, and found Mr. Kristjansson's Instagram.    Lot more great photos there.  In addition to waterfalls, he also has auroras, seascapes, and geothermal features -- all of which Iceland is good at.

And some ice.  Iceland has that, too.

Here's a small example -- with three elements of what he's good at.





Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Republican Prez candidates miss the mark on climate


Not surprisingly, the field of Republican Presidential candidates does not know the facts about climate change, according to scientists who do.  Now, if they really studied the issue, they might know more, but if they revealed their insightful knowledge, most of their potential voters will abandon them in a flash.

Here's a ridiculous statement by Donald Trump:

" "It could be warming and it's going to start to cool at some point," Trump said in a September radio interview. "And you know in the 1920s people talked about global cooling. I don't know if you know that or not. They thought the Earth was cooling. Now it's global warming. Actually, we've had times where the weather wasn't working out so they changed it to extreme weather and they have all different names, you know, so that it fits the bill."
Here's how they ranked:


Astronauts snap Lake Titicaca


NASA showed off a picture of the highest navigable lake in the world taken by astronauts on the International Space Station.   It's a great shot.  

Lake Titicaca



It seems like I've heard of Lake Titicaca since I was a toddler.  It was mainly because of the reed boats (like here) and Thor Heyerdahl's Kon Tiki.


Not a place I'm planning to visit, but it is unique.


Lighthouse of the Week, November 22-28: Strumble Head, Wales, UK


So I said to myself, "I wonder what lighthouses in Wales would look like?".   So that's what I searched for, and I found Strumble Head.

Now this is Wales, so it's located on an unpronounceable (unless your Welsh) islet:  Ynys Meicel.  (St. Michael's Island, if you speak English).

Here's the Web site for this unusual lighthouse: Strumble Head

And some pictures:  from a distance, closer, and close-up.









Thursday, November 19, 2015

So what happened to WT1190F?


A short while ago, I wrote about the impending incoming of an object known as WT1190F, likely a piece of derelict space junk.  It was scheduled to enter Earth's atmosphere over the Indian Ocean on November 13.

Silly me, I was busy and I forgot to check on it until yesterday.  So it did re-enter on schedule (there are very limited reasons why it wouldn't), and it was observed from a chase plane equipped with the proper cameras.  Apparently it didn't last long.

Spectacular breakup of WT1190F seen by airborne astronomers

Here's the video of the flaming entry into the atmosphere.



Keeping up with Princess Charlene


Princess Charlene of Monaco, despite the somewhat rocky start of her royal marriage to Prince Albert II of Monaco a few years ago, appears to be settling in nicely to domestic life in the high castle.

She's got a new, very short haircut, and she's making visits to the Red Cross.

And she made a balcony appearance on National Day with the cute young heir and heiress.

Here's how she looks right now:


Given the age of the young Prince and Princess, I suspect that Princess Charlene cut her hair really short primarily to reduce the amount of hair-pulling the tots are likely currently capable of.


Historical diamond find


For some reason, I've always been fascinated by large diamonds (and actually, other large gemstones as well).  I don't collect them, I can't afford them, and I don't go looking for them, but I really enjoy their uniqueness and their history.  Because most of the big gemstones have some history.

But this one doesn't, because they just found it:

Largest diamond in over a century found in Botswana

It's a nice one, clear and white, and 1,111 carats.  The Cullinan diamond, which begat the world's current two largest blue-white cut diamonds in the British crown and scepter, was 3,106 carats.  This one is now the second-largest ever found.

One thing that isn't entirely well-known is that the Cullinan I (in the scepter) isn't the world's largest cut diamond.  That record is owned by the Golden Jubilee, about 15 carats bigger, but the Golden Jubilee isn't blue-white, it's yellow-brown ("gold" is a stretch).

Here's a page with a list of the world's ten largest cut diamonds, even though one of them, the De Beers, is currently whereabouts unknown.

Crazytopics:  10 largest diamonds in the world

So the question is:  could they possible cut this new one to be even bigger than the Cullinan I or the Golden Jubilee?  A lot depends on the internal structure of the big rock.  I'm sure that setting the record has to be on the minds of the owners.

There are only a few pictures of it - below is the best one that shows it's transparency.  The other pictures show it being held, though because we can't judge the size of the hand holding it, we don't have a good size scale.


Idiot watch


Now, there's two sides to every marriage and two sides to every divorce, so one cannot judge why a marriage comes to an end in terms of who's to blame without getting a very clear picture from both sides.

In the case of a celebrity couple, it's pretty much impossible to get a clear picture, unless they both talk about it in very honest terms.  A lot of times, they don't talk or the stories don't match, in which case it's hard to figure out who really deserves to be tabbed as the main reason for termination of the marriage.

Other times, it's easy.  There have been many instances in which cheatin' by the guy or girl was the obvious motivating factor for ending the marital situation.  Even if they didn't ever admit it.

Some cases consitute idiocy (or madness).  Just for the sake of a fling, men have bedded a babe that was no match for their high-class, high-quality celeb wife, giving them grounds and justification for kicking the guilty party out (or hitting the road themselves).

Hopefully that isn't the case here.  I've often lauded lucky Len Wiseman for apparently treating his glorious wife Kate Beckinsale right.  They have been shown in the clinches of PDA many times, and he didn't seem to have an eye for other ladies.  Married to Kate, how could he?

But it now appears that the Beckinsale-Wiseman marriage is in a questionable state.  Len's been seen out with a younger woman while Kate films overseas.   Not a good sign.  Now, it certainly could be that she trusts him SO much that she's just letting him have fun, but the fact that he's observed not wearing a wedding ring is not a particularly good sign.

So, if Len is straying  for a younger woman, I think he's crazy.  Or an idiot.  Or both.  We'll have to just watch and see what happens.   If I had any advice for Len, it would be: if there's a chance to stay married to Kate, take it.  Any sane normal man would.


Len Wiseman, 42, parties with model CJ Franco, 24, for the THIRD time in two weeks as wife Kate Beckinsale shoots new movie Underworld 5 in Prague

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A good outcome


A good outcome of the newly revived diplomatic relationship between the U.S.A. and Cuba is greater protection of marine natural resources.  I've got to admit, I didn't see this coming, but it's a Very Good Thing.


U.S. and Cuba Sign Agreement to Protect Shared Marine Life


"   The agreement, which was first announced in early October at the Our Ocean 2015 conference in Chile, commits the two countries to collaborating on science, outreach and education regarding “sister” marine protected areas.
     Scientists and other officials from the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service and Cuba’s National Center for Protected Areas will initially focus their efforts on Guanahacabibes National Park and its offshore San Antonio Bank in Cuba, the Flower Garden Banks and Florida Keys National Sanctuaries in the United States along with the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks."

The agreement is also a product of continuing effort by the Environmental Defense Fund, a noted environmental group.

Good outcome for everybody.



A nano-submarine? WHAT?


I absolutely found this article fascinating:  chemists have made a molecular nano-submarine.

It runs on light.

Yeah, and when I read that, I said "WHAT"?  (Roughly translated, that means "How does it work and what is it good for?")

Well, let's read a bit about what it actually is and what it does:

Single-molecule Submarine: team makes light-driven "nanosubmarines"

"Each of the single-molecule, 244-atom submersibles built in the Rice lab of chemist James Tour has a motor powered by ultraviolet light. With each full revolution, the motor’s tail-like propeller moves the sub forward 18 nanometers.

And with the motors running at more than a million RPM, that translates into speed. Though the sub’s top speed amounts to less than 1 inch per second, Tour said that’s a breakneck pace on the molecular scale."

OK, that's how it works. So what's it good for?

"Rice’s [University] researchers hope future nanosubs will be able to carry cargoes for medical and other purposes."
What about cancer tumor cell torpedoes?

Well, it's an idea.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Great shots


Pictures from the 2015 National Geographic Photo Contest are extraordinary.

Here's a couple of the newest entries.

Tatras Mountains




















Lake Louise

Waiting for Comet Catalina


We might have a naked-eye comet in December.

Might. 

Comet Catalina just completed perihelion (closest passage to the Sun) two days ago.  Near the end of November it should be emerging into visibility.

Sky and Telescope has the story.

Comet Catalina sails into northern skies

As usual, the question is how bright it's going to get.   According to the article, it might be naked-eye by mid-December.

We shall see.  Literally.  Meanwhile, here's where to look.



Oh yeah - it's called Catalina because it was found by the Catalina Sky Survey.


Lighthouse of the Week, November 15-21, 2015: St. Catherines, UK


A classic, historical, famously-situated lighthouse in the United Kingdom is St. Catherine's on the Isle of Wight.

This Web page is all about it:  St. Catherine's

An excerpt about it:
"A small light was first set up at St. Catherine's in about 1323 by Walter de Godyton. He erected a chapel and added an endowment for a priest to say Masses for his family and to exhibit lights at night to warn ships from approaching too near this dangerous coast, both purposes being fulfilled until about 1530 when the Reformation swept away the endowment. Neither the present lighthouse tower lighted in March 1840, nor the chapel of which the ruins remain, held these ancient lights. The present tower was constructed in 1838 following the loss of the sailing ship CLARENDON on rocks near the site of the present lighthouse. The lighthouse was built of ashlar stone with dressed quoins and was carried up from a base plinth as a 3 tier octagon, diminishing by stages."
And some pictures of it: