Friday, July 31, 2015

England clobbers Australia in third Ashes Test (cricket)

I have been watching the Ashes Test matches, but haven't been reporting on them much.  Well, things just got more interesting.

In the first Test match, England edged the Aussies in a relatively close match.  In the second, the Aussies gave the England team an absolutely massive defeat.

The third featured something you don't see very often in cricket - low scores and lots of wickets taken quickly.  The Aussies only scored 136 in their first innings, which is about 25% of a "normal" innings score.   8 of the 11 batters had 11 or less runs.  That's nuts.   England only scored 281 in their first innings, and they proceeded to give up 265 in the second innings, but they didn't have much trouble scoring what they needed (l21) to win it -- with eight wickets to spare.

If they win the next one, they get the Ashes trophy (a little brown urn) back. One of their key players, Jimmy Anderson, is hurt and won't be in it, though.

Should be fun.

Ian Bell and Joe Root guide England to victory target of 121 as Australia are beaten within three days in thrilling third Ashes Test

New Piton de la Fournaise eruption

The island of La Reunion (here's how to pronounce it) hosts one of the world's most active volcanoes, Piton de la Fournaise.  And to draw more attention to itself, as if it needed more attention after a presumed piece of the missing flight MH370 washed up on its shores, the volcano started erupting today (or yesterday, depending on the position of the terminator).

Lava fountains never get old.  The article below, though in French, has a nice picture and an impressive, though short, video.

Volcan : fontaines et coulées visibles depuis le Pas de Bellecombe

More pictures and another video here:

Volcano erupts on island near Madagascar where possible MH370 debris found  (note, the first picture is not from this new eruption)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Philae's 60 hours of discovery

The Rosetta mission Philae lander -- which landed, bounced, ended up against a wall of comet stuff, went quiet after 60 frantic hours of battery-powered research, and then which came back to life and communicated (though only enough to say it was awake and not do any more science) -- is the source of most of the content of a new issue of Science.

The article below provides a summary:

Surprising comet discoveries by Rosetta's Philae Lander Unveiled

Here's one of them:

"Philae's observations aren't just skin-deep. Using its Comet Nucleus Sounding Experiment by Radiowave Transmission (CONSERT) instrument, the lander also sounded out the comet's interior. This instrument picks up long-wavelength signals beamed through 67P by the orbiting Rosetta mothership.

CONSERT data suggest that the "head" of the rubber-duck-shaped comet is internally homogeneous on the scale of a few tens of meters, and extremely porous, with open space making up 75 to 85 percent of its volume, researchers said."
Comet from 3 km on Philae approach

New Ultimo, and Petra's in it

Ultimo UK revealed (good word) new lingerie for autumn and winter 2015, and their darlingly gorgeous lead model of the moment, Petra Nemcova, is modeling it.

Let me pause her for just a moment to give thanks for this new opportunity.

Here's the article (in Underlines magazine):

Ultimo Autumn/Winter 2015

Here's the behind-the-scenes video of the shoot, which I think is the best of this genre (behind-the-scenes lingerie modeling videos) that I have ever seen.

And here's an exciting example:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Can Republican travesties be a campaign issue?

What's going on in Congress with regard to the highway funding bill is just a basic example of how these dudes don't know how to make the trains run on time and keep the army fed.  That's basic governing, something they're incapable of.   I made up the link titles to the linked articles:

The new McCarthyism = F*ck the Country
"Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday that the House will not consider the Senate version of a long-term, must-pass highway bill, setting up an apparent impasse as Congress faces a Friday deadline. ...
“We’re not taking up the Senate bill,” McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters. Pressed on whether he was ruling it out, he said, “Yes.” "

Long-term thinking? Not here

The House has already passed its own four-and-a-half month highway bill. But the Highway Trust Fund — which provides federal funding for transportation projects across the country — will expire on its deadline of midnight July 31 unless the two chambers can agree on a version, or pass a stop-gap measure before then.

McCarthy said the House will leave as scheduled on Thursday for a month-long recess, leaving McConnell to decide whether to forfeit his push for a longer-term bill in order to prevent the trust fund from expiring.


My way or no highway (pat on the back for that one)

“We’re not taking up the Senate bill,” the California Republican told reporters at the Capitol, adding that the Senate should instead take up the bill already passed by the House. “My best advice to the Senate is to get our highway bill moved forward,” he said.

The House bill is a five-month extension of current programs while the Senate’s version authorizes $350 billion in transportation programs for six years, though only three of those are paid for.


So will this be a Presidential campaign issue?  Greg Sargent thinks so, and thinks Hillary Clinton expects and wants it to be.

The GOP Congress is set to run off the rails. That could help Hillary Clinton.

"Hillary Clinton has signaled that she hopes to run for president in part by painting the GOP-controlled Congress — and, by extension, the Republican Party — as a divisive, destructive, hidebound, reactionary force. As the Post recently put it, Clinton has accused Congressional Republicans “of waging a war on women, playing politics with a black nominee, shortchanging students, endangering the economic recovery and trying to yank health-care coverage for 16 million Americans.” "
Well, not funding the highway trust fund would definitely endanger the economic recovery.  So yes, she should make these Republican travesties of governing a campaign issue.

Because this is how they are.  

Natalie hits 60

Natalie Coughlin, USA's current female swimmer mostest-extraordinaire, got her 60th international championship medal at the Pan Ams (in a relay).  That's quite impressive.   While she didn't make the World Championships team this time -- obviously she's been there before -- she's still swimming very fast and probably has a good chance of making the Olympic team for 2016.  We'll wait on that.

According to the article, her leadoff backstroke split was the third-fastest in the world thus far, which is pre-Worlds (the swimming events get started on Saturday August 1).  Not bad at all.

(I'll bet that's the fastest 100 meter backstroke ever swum by a woman who has also posed nude.)

Natalie Coughlin wins unprecedented 60th international medal

(The comments indicate that this might not be unprecedented in terms of numbers, as Jenny Thompson appears to have garnered more, and she would have had more gold if not for Chinese women steroid users.  But there aren't many others who have won nearly this many.)

Does climate change mean more dog days?

According to this new report (on the Weather Channel Web site, courtesy of Climate Central), warmer temperatures in the U.S. mean more "stagnant" air quality days.  Stagnant means little wind, lots of sun, high temperatures, not much rain (or none at all).

Now, the warmer temperatures might be related to global climate change.  (That depends on the length of time we're talking about for the warmer temps, trend-wise, but things are getting warmer, generally, and generally agreed upon.)

Even though bad ozone days might be decreasing because of better emissions controls, the report says that stagnant air days are increasing over much of the lower 48.

And they don't call them "dog days" for nothing.

Stagnant summer days on the rise in the U.S.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, July 26-August 1, 2015: Cape Kamui, Hokkaido, Japan

I decided that the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido must have lighthouses.  In this I was correct.  And it was easy to determine the first best choice of lighthouses on Hokkaido -- the lighthouse on Cape Kamui.

The lighthouse itself is not really that impressive:

Here's an edited version of what the UNC lighthouse site has to say about it:

1960 (station established 1888). Active; focal plane 81 m (266 ft); white flash every 15 s. 11 m (36 ft) round cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a 1-story equipment building. Lighthouse painted with black and white horizontal bands.

This cape is at the tip of a blunt, mountainous peninsula and marks the southern side of the entrance to Ishikari Wan and the important port of Otaru. The point of the cape is a knife-like volcanic ridge similar to the famous Pointe du Raz in Brittany. The scenery is spectacular, and the cape is a popular tourist destination.

As you might surmise from the above, it's the setting that makes this lighthouse stand out.  See below.  First picture from Flickr by Colin Leong.

Abbey Clancy - amazement is the word

Abbey Clancy, Brit footballer Peter Crouch's massively gorgeous model-TV host-mother of his two kids --- had the second of his two kids two months ago.

You would not be able to figure that out looking at the pictures in this article:

Out of this world! Abbey Clancy puts on a jaw-dropping display in slashed swimsuit at beach photoshoot... just two months after giving birth

And this rear-view was so impressive that I just had to share it right here:

Ceres provides a hazy clue

Back a few posts ago, I predicted that the mysterious bright spots on Ceres (the dwarf planet, formerly known as a big asteroid) would turn out to be ice in some form.   Here's what I wrote:

"I'm going to hazard a speculation here. The spots are ice. (Wow, major speculation effort.) What I'm expecting is that there is going to be some unique asteroidal geological process in that location that keeps the ice "fresh" and reflective, i.e., not covered by regolith -- another word for dust.  
What that process might be -- I have no clue. But I don't think that they are vapor, like a gas jet, because they are too immobile and there has been not a mention of any kind of Cerean atmosphere with a little tenuous water vapor."
 Well, surprise, surprise, surprise -- I was sort of right by being wrong.  Two articles (there are more, but here's two):

Mystery haze appears over Ceres' bright spots

Strange Bright Spots on Ceres Create Mini-Atmosphere on Dwarf Planet

" "If you look at a glancing angle, you can see what seems to be haze, and it comes back in a regular pattern," Dawn principal investigator Christopher Russell, of UCLA, said during a presentation Tuesday (July 21) at the second annual NASA Exploration Science Forum, which took place at the agency's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California."
OK, so they probably aren't vapor, but because they might possibly be ice, they appear to be releasing vapor -- water vapor, of course.

So, speculating -- if these ice spots release enough water vapor, that keeps the dust off, which is what keeps them bright and reflective.

I like that.  But why (even though there are other small bright spots on the dwarf planet), are these big bright spots just in one crater?


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

June was... well, the hottest everer

Here's what NOAA National Climate Center has to say about June 2015, succinctly:

"During June, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.58°F (0.88°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for June in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record set last year in 2014 by 0.22°F (0.12°C)."

Well, this makes sense.  The El Niño is making the sea surface temperatures in the Pacific VERY warm, and that generally means warm temperatures just about everywhere, but particularly in the Northern Hemisphere summer.   Put that El Niño influence on top of the ongoing warming trend (which indeed exists, though it could have been a little slower in the past few years as more heat went into the ocean and other secondary effects contributed), and you get a very warm month during what is so far a quite warm year.

I'm sure hoping the climate treaty talkers are paying attention to this.

In the percentile map below, notice especially the Pacific equatorial pattern (both sides, but particularly on the left).

Random but related thoughts

I had time to think over the past few days.  This gave rise to many thoughts and contemplations and musings, resulting in some thought statements that resulted in guidance for me now and hopefully in the future.  I'm sharing them with the world (the little bit that reads what I write) to potentially spur others to think as well.

1.  If you don't do something because you might not like it, you'll never know if you would actually like it.

2. Taking the initiative can be intimidating, but it also can result in unforeseen rewards.

3. If Plan B worked, don't bother worrying about whether Plan A worked or not.

4.  Strive to find variety in everything you do;  find a different angle than the common viewpoint.

5.  Perfection is extremely difficult to achieve in anything, but it can always be a goal for everything.

6.  Foresight + hindsight = insight.

There you go.  Any questions?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Keeping up with Elle and Matt

Elle Evans, ingenue, model, Blurred Lines video dancer (topless if you watch the famous version), upcoming actress, former Playboy centerfold, talented and good-looking, is for certain dating and probably mating with pop singer Matt Bellamy of Muse.

Which is good because that gives the Daily Mail an excuse to have an article that shows them holding hands and kissing, which if was Matt Bellamy and she was my current girlfriend, I would certainly want to partake of those activities.

Matt Bellamy puts on a passionate display with Kate Hudson lookalike girlfriend Elle Evans as she slips into a bikini and shorts for romantic St Tropez getaway 

Still, like a good tabloid, they're stretching things to call her a "Kate Hudson lookalike".  They don't look the same at all except that they're both currently blonde.  They are two very attractive women at two different stages in their lives.

Good excuse to show Elle in a bikini

Curtis Stone has beach food show on Food Network

Chef Curtis Stone, who I admire because he has married and fathered children with lovable Lindsay Price, will have a new show on Food Network (six episodes) called "Beach Eats".   Starts in mid-August.

So which show will have the lobster rolls, I wonder?  Should be fun.  Food and beaches go together like boardwalks and fries.

Lighthouse of the Week, July 19-25, 2015: Kolbeinstangi, Iceland

Kolbeinstangi is certainly not the standard cylindrical design.  Here's what UNC has to say:

"1942. Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); one long (2 s) flash every 10 s, white, red or green depending on direction. 19 m (62 ft) square cylindrical concrete tower with lantern and gallery. The design of the building makes it appear at a distance to have one or more black vertical stripes on each face. This is the leading light for the village of Vopnafjörður, located about 2 km (1.2 mi) northeast of the town."
Where's Vopnafjörður?  Click here.  (Google Map link) It's almost exactly on the other side of Iceland from Reykjavik.   (Don't bother with Google's satellite image;  it's socked in with clouds.

This is the only other picture I could find other than the one on the UNC Lighthouses site.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hingis? Really?

As was mostly expected, despite some nostalgic hope that Roger Federer could dethrone Novak Djokovic on Centre Court and rethrone himself, it didn't happen.  And Serena Williams used her power to put away Muguruza, win her 21st Grand Slam event, and put herself into a position for a calendar year Slam.

But the surprise was Martina Hingis, who after a successful Team Tennis campaign with the Washington Kastles, won two doubles titles on the grass.  Considering that there are only three and she isn't eligible for the other won, that's damn great.

I've always liked her game.  She came along just before the Williams sisters became dominant, and lost a couple of championships because she played her heart out to defeat one  of them in the semifinals, then didn't have enough gas to win the final.  I'm pretty sure that happened at least twice, have to check.

But here's the article about the second win in the mixed doubles with Leander Paes. They rolled to the championship 6-1, 6-1.  Not much drama but a nice comeback.

Martina Hingis wins second Wimbledon title of the weekend after landing mixed doubles crown with Leander Paes in just 40 minutes

She won the women's doubles with household name (not really) Sania Mirza. This one was a LOT closer;  they lost the first set 5-7, then won the second set in the tiebreak and finished the win 7-5 in the third set.  That is a great match;  wish I could find it to watch!

Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza fight back to clinch Wimbledon women's doubles title

So it's nice to see Martina lifting some hardware again.  Especially since it's the trophy kind of hardware.

Another eruption - Raung in Indonesia

Impressive ongoing eruption of Mount Raung, East Java, Indonesia.  Explosions and a river of lava. This would be fun to watch -- from a safe distance.  This eruptive phase forced the closure of some nearby airports and evacuations.

Recommend expanding this to full screen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Time lapse of Colima's July 10 eruption

Colima volcano in Mexico, which is normally mildly explosive, was a bit more explosive on July 10, releasing a lot of incandescent clouds and ash, and a few pyroclastic flows to boot.  There have been evacuations and inconveniences, but no injuries or fatalities, fortunately.

The video shows a time-lapse of the eruption from night into morning. Some impressive pyroclastic flows near the end of the show.

Minnesota vs. Wisconsin

So, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin declared for President today.

So, how well has Wisconsin done during the administration of the (to put it mildly) controversial Walker?  Well, this article suggests we compare Wisconsin to adjacent Minnesota.

A closer look at Wisconsin's economy under Gov. Scott Walker

"How big a failure have Walkernomics been? Just look next door at Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s Minnesota, which leads Wisconsin in almost every economic indicator. 
In Minnesota, Dayton turned a $5 billion budget deficit into an over $1 billion budget surplus in just one term. By requiring the wealthiest earners to pay their fair share, Minnesota is now in a position to invest more resources into the state’s schools and infrastructure.

In Wisconsin, Walker was unable to take his state out of the red and faced a $2 billion budget deficit. Walker made the decision to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing education funding and refusing to make investments that would benefit middle class families and Wisconsin’s financial wellbeing.

In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid, and investing in the middle class, and now we are seen as one of the most business friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the 9th best state for business and careers, 7th in economic climate and 2nd in quality of life. On top of all that, CNBC just ranked Minnesota the country’s top state for business in 2015."
So, Wisconsin's economy with Walker at the helm has been adrift.  Next up: his horrendous positions on climate change and the environment.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Before Scott Walker declares for Prez, read this

Now is not the time to discuss how horrific a candidate for President Wisconsin governor Scott Walker would be.   (Not to mention the nightmare of having him as a President.)    He might actually be a candidate for Most Dangerous Man in America, as he might be an appealing candidate for many Republicans to vote for.

But what is written in this Washington Post article should give any thinking voter, Republican or Democrat, pause to consider what Scott Walker running a government is really like.

What Governor Scott Walker is about to do to Wisconsin's public schools

"Buried within the [Wisconsin biennial] budget are 135 non-budget policy items — a toxic cocktail of attacks on public education, democracy, environmental protections and labor rights."

"The attack on the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is in the context of a frontal assault on public education across the state. The budget cuts $250 million from the University of Wisconsin system, holds overall K-12 funding flat in the first year with modest increases in the second (which, given inflation, means cuts)."

"Elected school boards and lack of choices are not the problem with our schools. Milwaukee arguably has more publicly funded school options than any urban system in the country, from citywide and neighborhood-based public schools, to MPS charter schools, to city-controlled charter schools, to charters run by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, to private voucher schools, to open enrollment that includes suburban districts. The rhetoric around governance is a smokescreen to get rid of democratically elected school boards and publicly controlled schools. Yes, democracy can be messy, but the alternative is worse. If we decide to abandon every democratic institution that is not up to our hopes and dreams, why not get rid of the U.S. Congress? Or the Wisconsin Legislature?"
Not good at all.

England wins first Ashes Test match

The Ashes is the five-Test series contested between Australia and England national cricket teams. From what I read, they are supposed to do it at least every four years, but it's usually more often than that.  The last series, in Australia, held over the austral summer in 2013 into 2014, was a whitewash for England, with the Aussies winning all five matches.  The Ashes was originally a line in a newspaper article, and now it is represented by a small brown urn filled supposedly with the ashes of a burnt bail (the crosspieces on the wicket -- if a bowler dislodges the bails with the ball by hitting the wicket, that's one way of getting an out).

So now that England is hosting, they'd like to regain a little honor.  And with a win in the first Test in Cardiff, Wales, that helps the honor a bit.   Their first innings was a little rough, but their current best batsman Joe Root got l34 runs to give them a good total.  They didn't get as many in the second innings, leaving Australia with a total of 412 to "chase", i.e. if they scored 413 runs in their second innings, they'd win, otherwise, England would win.  412 is not a mountain too high, but it is pretty challenging.

Well, with some good bowling, England didn't let them get close, and won handily by 169 runs.  Stuart Broad had four wickets for the UK boys.  Moeen Ali got a crucial wicket just before lunch.

Ashes 2015: Superb England hammer Australia to take 1-0 lead

Lighthouse of the Week, July 12-18, 2015: Baron Bliss Lighthouse, Belize

Belize doesn't have a lot of lighthouses (not being a big country and all), and many of them are just metal towers with rotating lights on top, but it does have the streamlined Baron Bliss lighthouse in Belize City.    Pretty simple description:

"Recent (station established 1885). Active; focal plane 16 m (52 ft); red flash every 5 s. 15 m (50 ft) strongly-tapered concrete pillar, with a gallery but no lantern. Tower painted white with a broad red band at the base; gallery red."
It also has this:
"This light was built as a memorial to Henry E.E.V. Bliss, an English financier and self-styled baron who was a major benefactor of Belize. Bliss's tomb is adjacent to the base of the tower."
And three pictures:

Reshma Shetty preggy

I was watching "Royal Pains" the other day, which is one of my habits (not sure why, but it keeps me entertained with humor, emergency medical procedures, and wondering what Boris (Campbell Scott) is up to now.

While watching, I noticed that Reshma Shetty, who plays physician's assistant Divya Katdare, was wearing voluminous dresses and carrying big purses.  This is a signal that a character on a show is pregnant out-of-storyline.  (Ha, I came up with that just now, I wonder if it's been used before).  I hadn't even learned that she was married, but she is:

Be inspired by Reshma Shetty & Deep’s Indian wedding in New York City

The wedding attire was quite traditional, but the dress she wore to the reception was a bit more sexy.

Well you know what happens with sexy.  She is indeed pregnant, too:

Baby girl on the way for Reshma Shetty

Thursday, July 9, 2015

So who is Camille Kerslake?

While following the Daily Mail's coverage of Wimbledon, I spied Camilla Kerslake next to her (as the journalists called him) her partner Chris Robshaw.  Robshaw is the English captain.  Of what?  Rugby, it turns out.  I kind of guessed that looking at him.

Gary Lineker, James Anderson, Chris Robshaw and Graeme Le Saux turn out at Centre Court for day six of Wimbledon 2015

So who is Camilla Kerslake?  I'll get to that.

Gary Lineker and his wife Danielle (formerly Bux, who I have covered in earlier years on this blog), were also there.  (A quick Bux link, for those of you interested in a buxom girl in lingerie.)

But back to Camille Kerslake.

She's an English "classical/crossover" singer.  And she's really pretty.

Her Web site

Her Twitter feed

Here's her sideboob on the red carpet

Her Amazon music page

(I should listen to a few of her tracks.)

And of course, a couple of nice pictures:

As usual

The main event turned out to be the breeze in the Wimbledon women's semifinals, as Serena Williams continued her (expected) dominance over Maria Sharapova, 6-2, 6-4.  Serena's just got too much power at the right time for Maria.

In the other semi, Muguruza got off to a fast start, taking the first set with great play but losing her edge in the second, when Radwanska came back to take six straight games and the set.  The third set was closer than the final score (6-3) indicated, with lots of great shots, including lobs, which you hardly see anymore.   Muguruza now gets the honor of being present on the other side of the court when Serena wins her 21st Grand Slam title.

(Maybe I shouldn't be so sure;  on clay last year, Muguruza handled Serena 6-2, 6-2.  But that was then and this is now;  Serena is playing great and this is on grass.  If Muguruza wins 7 games, she should be proud of herself.  I think she's going to win four, tops.)

This is truly the Serena era.

Petra Nemcova in the views

One of my favorite models ever, currently the spokesbody for Ultimo UK lingerie, is Petra Nemcova.

But that's not all she does, of course.  She recently hit some red carpets for fashion shows in Paris, and showed off both some fine form and fine fashion.

Here is some media coverage:

Petra Nemcova attends the Zuhair Muhad fashion show

Petra Nemcova at the Viktor and Rolf show

Petra Nemcova stuns at the Lancôme annivesary bash

Petra Nemcova sexy at the Elie Saab show

Here she is at that last show.  Rowr.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Do something different!

Tomorrow Maria Sharapova plays Serena Williams in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

She brings in an 0-16 record in their last sixteen matches.  Ouch.  Even though the played pretty credibly in the Australian Open final.

Paging Brad Gilbert...

You see, Gilbert had the ability to play to his opponent's weaknesses.  He didn't give them what they wanted to hit.  It infuriated them (John McEnroe in particular), because they knew they were better.  And Gilbert knew they were better.  Gilbert basically tried to return everything and force mistakes.

Now, could Maria do that?  I don't know.  She'll have to play great.  Serena's game doesn't have many weaknesses, obviously.

But Maria can't just hit with her.  She's tried that.

So here's what I would try.  Occasionally, just occasionally, try to drop her and then lob her.  Move her vertically on the court.  She's deadly side to side and powerful backhand and forehand if she can hit out.  But she can't be as powerful volleying, and she certainly can't be as powerful running back to retrieve a lob.

So could Maria do that?  Maybe not.  Maybe she can't hit a decent drop shot.  But she needs to mix it up a little, and make Serena think that maybe she isn't going to get the same menu from Sharapova that she has feasted on before.  

Just make her doubt her magnificent ability a little.  Then maybe Maria has a chance.

I don't think this article agrees with me, though.

How Maria Sharapova can reverse a decade of duds against Serena Williams

Mitch McConnell supports his disgustingness

Sen. Mitch McConnell, a name that I can hardly say without following it by a gag reflex, is planning to hamstring the EPA's legally-mandated role to protect our environment by not giving them enough money to do that.

Gag me. Ugh.

Here's what the Hill wrote about that:

McConnell won't back down in EPA spending fight

"McConnell earlier this year placed himself on the appropriations subcommittee with authority over the EPA, in an effort to exercise more power over the agency.

“As a member of this subcommittee, I was able to secure a number of policy provisions in this EPA funding bill that passed out of committee, provisions that seek to scale back the overreach of the EPA,” he said."
He calls it "overreach".  I and many others concerned about the environment and its healthy functioning call it "doing the job it was created for".

But wait... as always, there's more.

"Specifically, the Senate bill blocks funding to enforce carbon dioxide limits for power plants in states that do not consent. It also blocks funding to enforce the EPA’s “waters of the United States” rule on the federal government’s Clean Water Act jurisdiction and funds that would make final a proposed rule to reduce ozone pollution that contributes to smog."

So let's see. McConnell is opposed to:

A.  Attempts to begin to address the human impact on the climate (we just had the second-warmest June ever, and extreme rains are being clearly linked to higher temperatures);

B.  Insuring that our natural fresh water supply continues to be clean (and also the envy of many Third World nations that hardly have a drop of clean, fresh, PROTECTED water);

C. Simply put, he's opposed to keeping the air we breathe clean.

UGHly.  And frickin' unbelievable.

If you haven't seen...

Natalie Coughlin's picture on the cover of ESPN's Body issue, then I shall provide:

She certainly does get tan swimming those outdoor workouts.

Here are a couple of links in relation to this:

Natalie Coughlin featured on cover of ESPN's "The Body" issue - video interview

Even scoliosis couldn't stop Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin

It'll be interesting to see if she can make it to the next Olympics. She's still swimming REAL fast.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Kelly splashed in gold

Kelly Brook.

What more can be said about her?  She's adorable, has a famously well-known spectacularly curvy figure, she seems to be willing to put her love on the line, she's loved and lost and came through smiling and still curvy, and when she got a bit more curve than she needed, she publicly went on a fitness and diet plan (with some corporate support) to get back into her much-admired shape.

And she and her trainer in the effort also fell for each other.  And she seems kinda happy with that arrangement.

So, why this post?

Well, to celebrate a new gold version cell phone, and probably to sell a few cellphones in this gold version, she posed in a dress made of gold paint.

Really.  Now, I did a bit of research on how this is done (mainly here -- there's toplessness in that video, but it's unfortunately blurred) and determined that the lucky guys who got to collaborate with her on this got to splash gold paint on her.

While she was, ahem, topless.  At least she was probably topless, so the paint "fit" better.  (I got that from the video.)  And it probably took awhile to get this just right.

WHERE do you sign up for this kind of job?????

The results are pretty impressive.

As is Kelly -- which is to be expected.

The psychology of nuclear energy

If nuclear energy is such a good idea for humanity and the world (environment-wise, climate-wise, energy-wise), then why isn't it more widely accepted?  Why is there so much reluctance?

Despite the accidents (stupid stupid stupid operators at Chernobyl, a stupendous tsunami, and occasional leaks), it's safe.  REALLY safe.  Put in climate context, it's even safer in the long-term than fossil fuel energy production.

So why not nuclear?

This article goes a way toward addressing that.  It's good.

Why are we so afraid of nuclear?

Some ideas from the article:
A.  "Fear of radiation is an obvious candidate. Dr. Spencer Weart traced how the fear of nuclear is much more complicated and much older than nuclear weapons or nuclear energy, starting from the beginning of modern science and technological societies in the late 1800s. While we presently think of radiation as a subset of the nuclear age, it was the concept of radiation that came first."
B. "Later, with the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan, nuclear came to be associated with the ultimate end member of this dark side to technology. ... That the many firebombing campaigns during World War II released over 10 times more energy than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined is not relevant to this meme. The idea that so small an amount of mass could release so large an amount of energy captivated the mind and enshrined nuclear as the ultimate power, and thus, the ultimate seduction in these mythologies to those who would wield it."
But here's where I thought it got really good -- and made sense.
"Our first trials with nuclear energy over the last 50 years proved that nuclear is the safest and most efficient of all energy sources, from both the human health and environmental perspectives. To produce a trillion killowatt-hours of electricity, nuclear takes less land, uses less steel and concrete, kills fewer people and has less harmful emissions than any other energy source, including wind and solar.

But this experience has not yet infused the meme of global energy sufficiently to move nuclear power to the forefront of the energy sources we need to embrace as a species in order to save the planet. Renewables, new generation nuclear, low carbon sources, efficiency and environmental protection all need to be incorporated into the meme of a safe, reliable and sustainable energy future."
Right.  That makes GREAT sense.

Why can't we therefore be more sensible about nuclear energy - and why we (collectively) need it?

8 minutes of Opportunity's Martian trek

This article includes an eight-minute time lapse video from the Opportunity hazard avoidance cameras (low on the robot's frame) that shows the trek it took from start to where it is now.  They're planning on where it will go during the cold and dim Martian winter.  The video includes sound based on the roughness of the Martian surface.

Opportunity's 7th Mars winter to include new study area

"The rover is working about half a football field's length away from entering the western end of "Marathon Valley," a notch in the raised rim of Endeavour Crater, which is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and has been studying the rim of Endeavour since 2011.

Engineers and scientists operating Opportunity have chosen Marathon Valley as the location for the solar-powered rover to spend several months, starting in August, to take advantage of a sun-facing slope loaded with potential science targets.

Marathon Valley stretches about three football fields long, aligned generally east-west. Observations of the valley using the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have detected exposures of clay minerals holding evidence about ancient wet environmental conditions. Researchers plan to use Opportunity to investigate relationships among these clay-bearing deposits."

Monday, July 6, 2015

Is nothing sacred? And what's your phone number?

Sadly, lusciously and exotically attractive Morena Baccarin (Firefly, Homeland) is getting a divorce from her husband of only a short time and the father of their one-year-old son.

Never like to hear that.  Wish they could stay together, much as I wish the same for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner and Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick (though the latter male seems to typify his name with the "is" subtracted).  After all, marriage is a sacred and holy institution and should be respected.

Back to Baccarin.  (See what I did there?)

Homeland's Morena Baccarin 'faces costly divorce battle as husband seeks spousal support and joint custody of their son

That's too bad.  Especially with a toddler in the mix.  Well, on the upside (though there really isn't one), she will be single soon.

So Morena, umm...

can I have your phone number?

My wife won't mind, even though I do respect the institution of marriage.  See, you're on my LIST (wink wink).  You know the LIST of those we could entertain without reproach if the occasion arose.  I'm sure my occasion would be energetically enthusiastic.

As if that would happen.  Still, I wouldn't mind if it did.

Lighthouse of the Week, July 6-12, 2015: Dondra Head, Sri Lanka

I tried to think of a place with a lot of coastline that I hadn't explored for lighthouses before. I came up with one pretty quick: Sri Lanka, the teardrop island off the southern tip of India, which probably became most famous in past history with the December 26, 2004 earthquake that caused a tsunami which hit the island hard.

My first question was, does it have lighthouses? Turns out it does. So the next question is, what's a good Sri Lankan lighthouse for Lighthouse of the Week?

That question was easy to answer too; I chose the absurdly photogenic, palm tree surrounded, famous Dondra Head lighthouse.


1890. Active; focal plane 47 m (154 ft); white flash every 5 s. 49 m (161 ft) octagonal brick tower with lantern and gallery, painted white.

Article about a visit to Dondra Head lighthouse (from 2004, apparently, pre-tsunami)


No one expected THAT

When I wrote before the final match of the 2015 Women's World Cup, I said that the team that made the least mistakes would win.

I didn't expect Japan to be the team that made the most mistakes. I didn't really predict, but I thought, against the biased beating of my patriotic heart, that they were the most likely winner.

But they got forced into mistakes early, and that meant mistakes. And that meant goals. And that meant a relatively easy win and World Cup trophy for the USA women.

Much has already been made, and more will be made, about Carli Lloyd, who scored the hat trick, which as a third goal had a half-field strike that went over the goalkeeper's head and desperately extended hand as she tripped. As amazing as the shot was, it succeeded due to a mistake, the goalkeeper being out too far as the USA attacked quickly at midfield after a takeaway (a mistake).

A goalkeeper mistake again, a poor clearance, led to the final goal from Tobin Heath A bad header by a defender, another mistake (we had one of those, too, for one of the two Japanese scores) led to Lauren Holliday's volley for the game's third goal.

The two-set piece goals by Lloyd were opportunistic, but it can be pointed out that set pieces result from defensive errors or breakdowns.

So the normally low-mistake Japanese women made a lot of them, probably due to a combination of final match nerves, the raucously loud pro-USA crowd, and an energized attack fueled by the crowd and the desire of the team to amend for the 2011 defeat.

So, capitalizing on a lot of unexpected mistakes, the USA women got what they deserved.

The Cup.

Whither the women of Wimbledon?

If Serena loses, it's a surprise. But surprises do happen, occasionally. She defeated sister Venus (not a surprise), and it won't be a surprise if she wins the next round, either, against Azarenka or Bencic.

If things go according to form, guess who Serena will play in the semifinal round? Yes, indeed, Maria. Maria is through past Diyas, and next on the docket is the well-known C. Vandeweghe of the USA, who defeated Safarova, merely ranked sixth in the world.

Wait a minute, WHO? (Coco) And how many Vandeweghes are there in the world, anyway? Turns out, not so many. She is part of the athletic Vandeweghe family - her mother is Tauna, who was a world-class swimmer AND volleyball player, and her uncle is thus Kiki, NBA pro, and her grandfather is also a former New York Knickerbocker. Speaking of genetics, it just so happens that her grandmother was Miss America in 1952.

So I guess I should say that the Vandeweghes are well-known, even if Coco isn't. Yet. If she knocks off Sharapova, that will change.

Coco Vandeweghe links:

Tauna Vandeweghe (Wikipedia)

Former Miss America Vandeweghe left a legacy of family and faith

An athletic temper all her own

Coco Vandeweghe

Suddenly, this syllable fest has become must-watch tennis.

But wait, there's more. Unfortunately, Caro Wozniacki, who has yet to get to the semifinals of a Grand Slam this year (and is running out of chances), lost to 20th-seed Muguruza. There's a lot of syllables available in the Muguruza-Bacsinszky match -- though perhaps Muguruza can lend Bacsinszky a badly-needed vowel.

And American Madison Keys, who is better known than Coco Vandeweghe at this point, is also through to the quarters, along with Radwanska, who I think should win a Grand Slam eventually.

A lot depends on when Serena stops winning them.  And I don't think she's planning on stopping yet.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Don't know yet

Here's a link to a discussion of what the Dawn satellite, circling the asteroid Ceres, learned and what it's going to do next.

Dawn Journal, June 29

A couple of crumbs to follow:

"And what marvels Dawn has beheld! How can you not be mesmerized by the luminous allure of the famous bright spots? They are not, in fact, a source of light, but for a reason that remains elusive, the ground there reflects much more sunlight than elsewhere. Still, it is easy to imagine them as radiating a light all their own, summoning space travelers from afar, beckoning the curious and the bold to venture closer in return for an attractive reward."


"In addition to evidence of aging and renewal, some powerful internal forces have uplifted mountains. One particularly striking structure is a steep cone that juts three miles (five kilometers) high in an otherwise relatively smooth area, looking to an untrained (but transfixed) eye like a volcanic cone, a familiar sight on your home planet (or, at least, on mine). No other isolated, prominent protuberance has been spotted on Ceres."

Much more to learn. But now Dawn takes a break and lets the New Horizons Pluto flyby take the spotlight.

A great loss to art

I sincerely mourn the death of movie soundtrack composer James Horner.

Though he did occasionally reuse a motif, he wrote stirring, uplifiting, gorgeous, triumphant, and memorable music for the movies.  He will be missed.

James Horner - IMdB

One of his best:

Can they win? (USA women's national team vs. Japan)

I sit here writing this early in the morning of the day that the U.S. women's national (soccer) team will play Japan for the FIFA women's World Cup.

So the question I'm asking myself is:  can they win it?

The simple answer is yes, of course they can, they're good.  They've got a great defense, some skilled players up front that can score, youthful vigor and veteran savvy.  And the coach, though somewhat criticized, has also proven she can mix it up and take chances.

The obviously more difficult question to answer is:  will they win it?

At this level, international soccer is a game of breaks and mistakes.  Far more goals are scored because someone screws up than a well-organized offensive attack (though they do happen, as the second goal against Germany in the semi showed).   So it's real simple;  the team that makes less mistakes will win.

And I think the team that makes less mistakes is... Japan.  That's how I think they've advanced the whole tournament.  Play well, make less mistakes than the other team.

So, do I predict with my heart or my head?   No, I don't predict, I state the likelihood, which is that the team that makes less mistakes will win.

And I also can easily say this:  Go USA.

Charisma's back (in more ways than one)

Charisma Carpenter, far most famous for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel", has been tabbed to play Ariana Grande's mother in "Scream Queens" this fall.

Always liked her, both for her acting style and her spectacularly curvy figure (which, I will remind everyone, she displayed for full appreciation in Playboy, which I admit appreciating highly).

So welcome back.

And speaking of back...  this shot is from a few years ago, but still well-remembered.

(I'm not a big fan of tattoos, but in this case, I'll appreciate what I'm given)