Thursday, February 16, 2017

The nightmare is real


I was hoping it wouldn't happen so fast, but the emboldened Congressional Republicans are planning to go after the Endangered Species Act -- one of the most important, if not THE most important, pieces of enviromental legislation ever passed.  The powerful ESA could keep nearly-extinct species from being extinct, and preserve necessary habitat, and stop development in its tracks.  Literally.

Hence, since it interferes with the march of the economy and environmental exploitation, Republicans hate it, even while a majority of Americans support it.  (From Huffington Post: "A 2015 poll found that 90 percent of registered voters support the law. And late last year, another poll found that 70 percent of voters opposed eliminating protections “for some at-risk wildlife species such as the gray wolf or the greater sage grouse,” that would prevent them from being safeguarded by the ESA.") That level of support doesn't matter to the cool, cool conservative old geriatric dodderheads in Congress.  They've hated the ESA for a long time, and they see this as their chance to rewrite it.  Not do away with it, mind you -- that would be too obviously drastic -- but to gut its powers.

What GOP lawmakers mean when they talk about modernizing the Endangered Species Act

"Patrick Parenteau, an environmental law specialist at the University of Vermont Law School, said that rather than “modernizing” the Act, so far all he’s seen is “weakening” in the form of making it harder to list species, designate critical habitat, prevent habitat loss, and even base decisions on sound science.

He said Republican leaders have come out so strongly in favor of changing the ESA because “it gets in the way of development and activities that destroy habitat and frustrates narrow but politically powerful economic interests.”

The panel talking about "modernizing" (i.e., weakening) the ESA is now headed by John Barrasso, who has been a long-time enemy of it.   He said this in his opening statement:
“States, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders are all making it clear that the Endangered Species Act is not working today.”
I wonder what he defines as not working?  Well, let's look at what the reformers want to do, and then interpret.   From Planet Experts:

"The reform agenda is focused on delisting endangered species and effectively removing restrictions on their habitats, capping the number of species listed, making it harder for citizens and civil society to file suits supporting conservation, and decentralizing decision authority so states and private entities– rather than the federal government – have rights over public lands."
So, to make the ESA "work", the Republicans would likely:

  • take species off the endangered species list, perhaps by changing the classification criteria;
  • allow economic activity in, on, or around endangered species habitats;
  • allow home building, construction, farming and ranching on land currently classified as endangered species habitat;
  • put a limit on how many species can be listed as endangered;
  • make it more difficult for lawsuits to either get a species listed for preserve/conserve habitat for endangered species;  and
  • give the states and private owners control of land where endangered species live.

To make it simpler, the Republicans want to create a scenario where basically the Endangered Species Act doesn't protect endangered species.

Nightmare.

But real.



Now just WIN, baby


We know that Eugenie Bouchard and Caroline Wozniacki are very pretty, athletic women.  And we also know that between them, they haven't won a single Grand Slam tournament.  On the other hand, Serena Williams has won more Grand Slam tournaments than any other woman in the Open era.

The one thing that they have in common is that they are all swimsuit models in the just-released Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.  And they all look good in the swimsuits (from both sides).  Caroline, sadly, doesn't reprise her painted-on suit like last year (see below) but still showed plenty of Caroline.

But still... now that they've shown their look in SI, they need to establish their athletic credentials by winning a Slam or two.  It won't be easy (never is), but I like to see more champions in swimsuits.  That's just me.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A change in captaincy


Cricketeer Joe Root has taken over the captainship (captaincy, captainhood, I don't know) of England's Test cricket team.   The previous captain was Alastair Cook.   Apparently they like last names with two o's in the middle.

Here's a two-minute interview with the new captain:  Root promises exciting brand of cricket

The first Test series that will test the new captain is scheduled for April - July 2017, against the West Indies, hosted by England, and there will also be a World Test Championship in England in June.

So he's got a couple of months to get used to his new position.  At least it's called "Captain" and not "silly mid-on" or something like that.  Cricket has several weird names for positions in the field.




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lighthouse of the Week, February 12-18, 2017: Nagasakibana, Japan


This wasn't a difficult find;  I traveled mentally to the small southernmost main island of the Japanese archipelago, Kyushu, and looked for lighthouses.  The one I found was the southernmost, and also notable because it has a symmetrical volcano nearby (Kaimondake, last erupted in 885 AD) that shows up in some of the pictures.

The short name of the lighthouse is Nagasakibana;  the long name is Satsuma Nagasaki Hana.  It isn't a very big lighthouse, and it's not one that is accessible from the inside.  What it lacks in size it makes up for in a picturesque location, as you'll see.

Here's a short descriptive excerpt from The Lighthouse Directory:

"1957. Active; focal plane 21 m (69 ft); white light, 3 s on, 3 s off. 11 m (36 ft) round concrete tower attached to a square 1-story concrete equipment room. Entire lighthouse is white. The base of the lighthouse has been developed as a public observation deck, with a circular roof to provide shelter and a broad stairway leading down to the beach."

And the pictures I found.  There are a lot of stock (professional) pictures available of this lighthouse too, but I don't feature those.


Kaimondake volcano on the horizon




The BEST news of the day


I read happily today that Playboy is going to stop its non-nude format, and return to that which made it famous -- lovely nude women.

It was a mistake, anyway.  The Playmate is an American symbol, icon, ambassador, and representative of the best America has to offer.  Without the Playmate, the Playboy Bunny is just another rabbit.  A nude Playmate is special.  A non-nude Playmate is just a pretty model.

And the thing about the Playmate that set her apart from other formats and venues was that usually she wasn't particularly famous or noteworthy before the centerfold appearance.  (There have been a couple of exceptions, but Playboy was fairly famous for finding their girls young, so they had their careers ahead of them.)  And of course, some Playmates went on to more conventional show business success, some did something entirely different, some married or partnered well, some got into various kinds of trouble, some just did the conventional route of getting married and having kids -- and some of them did ALL of that.  Just like life -- even though Playmates set a rarely-equaled beauty standard that was not like normal life at all.  Which made them special, desirable, and almost (but not quite) untouchable.  Playmates were the girl-next-door who was also the captain of the cheerleading squad.  Few of us could play in that league, but boys could dream. (And did, frequently.)

So this is happy news, at least for this loyal reader.  Now, if they could just bring back pubic hair...

Cooper Hefner Tries to Make Playboy Great Again by Bringing Nudity Back

And to celebrate, here's a non-nude (but she was, in a lot of others) picture of cutaceous Dorothy Mays, Miss July 1979.


I wish I could spin this ... but I can't


Bad financial news about Toshiba today, which owns Westinghouse, which was/is building the first new nuclear power plants in the United States in a long time (in Georgia).

Toshiba is writing down their investment to the tune of $6.3 billion dollars.  That's a lot.  Toshiba is potentially facing bankruptcy.  And because Westinghouse has been the main builder of new plants other than Areva, and has plans with other countries, this affects those plans, too.

Not good.

Uncertainty at Toshiba puts Westinghouse in limbo



Monday, February 13, 2017

Unique lava, unforgettable pictures


For a brief time a few days ago, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano created an amazing geological event.

You see, Kilauea has been pumping out lava for quite awhile, and one of these lava flows recently entered the ocean.  Lots of fun things happen when lava meets the ocean;  explosions, steam, acidic water vapor, shards of lava, Pele's Hair, and notably, the formation of cooled lava that builds up as the lava pours in can suddenly collapse and fall into the ocean waters, which is Not Safe (and people have died when it happened).

Well, it did happen, and fortunately this time nobody died.  But after the fume cleared, there was a single massive flow of lava pouring powerfully into the ocean -- a "firehose flow".  It was a remarkable and short-lived phase of an eruption that has been going on for decades.  Well, that's what these kind of volcanoes do, they keep erupting fast-flowing basaltic lava.  That's why the Hawaiian islands look like they do.

So, below is a link to the Daily Mail article about it, which has videos, too, and I borrowed a picture. I don't think the photographer was in a save place when he took these shots, but they are great.

Now that's one brave photographer! Stunning new images taken just METRES away show a firehose of lava pouring from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano




Did she or didn't she?


At a pre-Grammy party, highly talented and highly lookable Nicole Scherzinger (dancer, singer, etc.) wore an outfit that was either somewhat transparent or translucent.  And the lighting may have helped reveal what was underneath, which has happened to a few other women wearing black on top and nothing underneath.

In this case, it was clear that Nicole chose not to wear a brassiere.  That was her choice, of course.  The question is, did she know or did she not know what was visible?  If she did know, then this is another case of breasts as fashion accessories, a previous subject of mine.  If she didn't know, then we just get to contemplate the wardrobe malfunction, as the Daily Mail likes to refer to such incidents like this.

Peep show! Nicole Scherzinger puts on an eye-popping display as she goes braless in sheer dress at Pre-Grammy gala

Here's one paparazzi pic of Nicole's niceness:


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Trump lies - read all about it


Charles Sykes in the New York Times speculates on why no one cares anymore that the President is lying.

(Well, I do, but he makes a lot of good points.)

Why nobody cares the President is lying

Two  of his points:

In a stunning demonstration of the power and resiliency of our new post-factual political culture, Mr. Trump and his allies in the right media have already turned the term “fake news” against its critics, essentially draining it of any meaning. During the campaign, actual “fake news” — deliberate hoaxes — polluted political discourse and clogged social media timelines.

Some outlets opened the door, by helping spread conspiracy theories and indulging the paranoia of the fever swamps. For years, the widely read Drudge Report has linked to the bizarre conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who believes that both the attacks of Sept. 11 and the Sandy Hook shootings were government-inspired “false flag” operations.

and ...
All administrations lie, but what we are seeing here is an attack on credibility itself.

The Russian dissident and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov drew upon long familiarity with that process when he tweeted: “The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

This is true of a lot of things. Those of us that know the truth must protect and defend the truth.

Another sonnet in February



Inspired by true events.

the right of certitude

Within a simple night I found a place
that no one else would find, save me; I knew
my seat was there reserved and my embrace
expected, but the unknown factor to
be still determined there was time, the course
events would take and aspirations make,
although the basic bare essential force
created its accession. So the stake
was planted and the borders ascertained
and ev'ry boundary was cast aside
as hope became a certainty ingrained
with penetrating wonder and the pride
of mingling fascination, whole and same,
and while unseen 'twas worthy of acclaim.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Elevated action at Erta Ale


Erta Ale, the shield volcano with a lava lake that is about as far from anything as anything can be in Africa, recently had a surge of activity.  This surge meant that the normally quiet lava lake, down low in a crater inside the caldera, rose, and finally overflowed its crater, pushing lava flows onto the caldera floor.  And then, the lake level dropped, the crater collapsed, and lava broke out from fissures on the side.  That has happened before, but not recently.

A group from Volcano Discovery was fortunate to be at Erta Ale when this activity was taking place, but missed the fissure eruptions (they were seen from space).

I grabbed two great pictures from the gallery of pictures that the group took.   Go there for some more hot lava action.







Obamacare repeal? Nah, we'll wait


Clearly it was a pandering lie when Donald Trump adopted the "repeal Obamacare" hypnotic chant that has mesmerized so many of the Republican voters.  He never had a plan to replace it;  no Republicans have a plan to replace it;  and this truth is slowly becoming increasingly apparent.

But it's eventually going to get them into trouble, I think.

This supposition is supported by a column in the Washington Post:

What are Republicans going to do about Obamacare?  ' No idea '. 

And they'd better watch out, because the situation could get out of hand:

"What Republicans don’t seem to have come to terms with is that, as a political matter, they already will be held responsible for whatever happens to health-care markets, even if they don’t introduce a replacement soon. An executive order Trump signed relaxing enforcement of Obamacare, and the constant talk of repeal, have injected a debilitating uncertainty into the health-care market — essentially beginning the unraveling of Obamacare with nothing to replace it."
While I don't want anyone to lose insurance, exposing this major lie by Trump and the Republicans would be flat-out great.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pay attention if you go to the museum


The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco will be having an exhibit of objects found in tombs of the Han Dynasty in China.

You can read about it here:

Tomb Treasures

However, this article doesn't have any mention of two things found in the tombs that caught the attention of several other online news services.  Linked below is an example.

Bronze Dildos And Jade Butt Plugs Show Life And Death In Ancient China

You didn't think the Han Dynasty built their empire by being celibate, did you?

These two objects will be on display.  Don't forget to look for them.

A midwestern fireball


The skies over the Midwestern states of the United States lit up early on February 6 with an impressive fireball that headed toward Lake Michigan (not sure if it splashed down in the lake or not, though).  It was big enough to cause sonic booms heard in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

This article from the Chicago Tribune indicates that size-wise, it might have been big enough to produce meteorites, which if it did, ended up in the lake.  Several videos included.

As meteor lights Midwestern skies, Lisle cop captures 'giant green-lighted orb' on dashcam

Here's video from a school in Neenah, Wisconsin (south and inland of Green Bay), with several different views.  The brightness of this was amazing;  check out the shadows.


Lighthouse of the Week, February 5-11, 2017: Biarritz, France


The Biarritz lighthouse is in the deep southwest of France -- in fact, on clear days, you can see Spain from there.  Plus, Biarritz has some great beaches.  So it's well- and oft-photographed.  It's a classic white tower, nothing fancy or unusual, but very prominent.

Here's a bit more from this Web page (with a map):

"The lighthouse of Biarritz stands on Saint Martin Point. It is a 44 m tower that was built between 1830 and 1834. From its upper deck (248 stairs to climb!), a wonderful 360° panorama opens to the visitors eyes and on a clear day even the i the Spanish city of Saint Sebastian can be seen on the horizon!"
Here's a page with more technical info, translated from the French:  Biarritz Lighthouse

Below, this week's pictures:





Thursday, February 2, 2017

Tillerson the weasel


When the cameras were rolling and the Senators were asking questions, the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, smiled and said all the right things about climate change that he was supposed to, to reassure the Senators that he wasn't a lying weasel on this subject.

The problem is, as the former CEO of Exxon/Mobil, he's a lying weasel and his company has funded climate change denialism for years, and still can't get over the habit.

Because in written answers to questions from Senators, Tillerson backed off his public climate change presentation and descended into denialism heaven.

This is what he wrote, in answer to Maryland's Honorable Ben Cardin:

“I agree with the consensus view that combustion of fossil fuels is a leading cause for increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” he wrote to Cardin. “I understand these gases to be a factor in rising temperature, but I do not believe the scientific consensus supports their characterization as the ‘key’ factor."
First of all, why are they called "greenhouse gases", Rex?   And if of increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (which by their very identity are known to be responsible for maintaining the temperature of the planet's atmospheric layer) aren't the key factor in Earth's rising temperature, then what the f*ck (excuse me) is?

Well, let's put it this way.  Tillerson gets it utterly wrong in the above answer.  Not only is the consensus view that combustion of fossil fuels is the leading cause for the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (that's not much of a stretch, given that burning fossil fuels produces CO2), but the consensus view is ALSO that this increase is the main cause of increasing global temperature.   The scientific consensus STRONGLY supports this.

So what can we make of Rex's statement, then?

That's easy.  It's a f*cking lie, by a f*cking asshole who wouldn't know science from a hole in the ground.  And that's what he's good at, drilling holes in the ground.  And lying to Congress.  Guess we can expect a lot more of that, can't we?



First sonnet for February


Even though I've got several sonnets to publish here, I was busy last month and didn't get a chance to sort them out.   So here's my first "release" for February.  I hope to have a few more.

The wishes of the watchers

I found another's moment -- not my own,
of course, but one I wish could have been mine;
unbridled and exposed down to the bone --
authentic, far beyond the safer line
that marks mere simulation. Time and place
could not be known, but they are lesser to
the import of the moment, flesh and lace
entwined with strength and softness and a true
expression of emotion's power and
conviction. As I then anticipate
finality, I watch her hopes demand
their expectations of his destined fate --
and he complies with ecstasy's intent
while I assess the marvel of consent.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Looking back in time


I've been blogging for several years.  Way back in 2010, I wrote a post about women's cleavage:

The space that drives men crazy

One of the five women that I featured in this post was one that I knew very little about, other than the fact that her picture had a stupendous example of cleavage.  Her name is Rachael Neiberding.  Well, I found myself musing that in this social media era, she might be findable.  And it turns out I was right.  And even though she doesn't feature herself in bikinis very often on her Instagram account, she does provide the occasional swimsuit shot, and this demonstrates that her cleavage is still world-class.

Rachael Neiberding (rachaeln_)

If you want to see what I mean, click on this location.

And if you would like to see a lot of barely-contained-bosom shots of Rachael, click here (I've done the image search for you).




Should Trump tweet?


The simple answer to the question is:  No.

Michael Gerson takes up this subject here:  Why a tweeting President is so bad for our politics

Of course, I have extracted an excerpt:
"But the shallowness of Trump’s preferred form of communication indicates deeper things. His mind seems perfectly suited to a medium that rewards impulsiveness, that ignores fact-checking and that encourages incivility. Those are not generally the traits we hope for in a new president."
Well, as we are seeing daily, President Trump has a lot of traits we don't want in a new President.  But we're stuck with him and those traits.  In the scripted words of Denzel Washington, "God Help Us All."




Street view of Beacon Rock


Beacon Rock in Washington State is a volcanic neck, perhaps not as striking and unique as Devils Tower in Wyoming, but pretty much the same thing geologically, if not mineralogically.  (Not sure what mineral/rock Beacon Rock is made of.)   Beacon Rock is one of the striking landmarks on the Columbia Gorge

It's also right next to the road on one side of the Columbia River, and visible for long distances from the other side (though as I discovered, trees can block the view from much of the main road).  I grabbed three separate views of Beacon Rock, shown below.   I've been by there once, and it stands out.