Saturday, January 12, 2019

Does Trump know what's going on with the shutdown?

The answer to the question posed in the subject line is:  no, of course not.

That is emphasized in the excerpt I've extracted from the following Washington Post article:

‘In the White House waiting’: Inside Trump’s defiance on the longest shutdown ever

"Only after Christmas did administration officials begin realizing the full scale of the logistical problems a prolonged shutdown would cause. Aides said Trump has been largely uninterested in the minutiae of managing government agencies and services."
Not only that, he isn't interested in the minutiae of the millions of people being hurt by his shutdown.  And it is only going to get worse.

Indiana is pretty flat

For some reason, yesterday I was wondering how high the highest point in the state of Indiana would be.  At the time, I speculated that it might be under 1,000 feet, because Indiana is a flat prairie Midwestern state, mostly.

I was wrong.  Indiana's highest point is 1,257 feet (383 meters).  It even has a name -- HOOSIER HILL, of course.  (Click that link to see where it is.) It also happens to be about 2 miles west of the border with Ohio.

If you go down the road (that StreetView skipped) about 500 meters from this location, you'll be there.   Not exactly Denali, but hey, can you say you've visited the highest point in YOUR state of residence?   (I can't, but I've been near it.)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

I believe the smart guy, not the ideologue

An article from the Daily Mail was about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticizing former President Barack Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East with regard to terrorism by radical Islam adherents.

Pardon me, but I believe the serious consideration of Obama's policy effort over the single- and simple-minded viewpoint of Pompeo.

Pompeo slams Obama in Cairo speech for claiming 'radical Islamist terrorism does not stem from ideology' as he takes new aim at Iran and tries to calm fears about Syria troop pullout

"Former Obama administration officials rejected Pompeo's assertions as petty, political and weak. They said the speech pandered to authoritarian leaders and ignored rights violations that Obama had called out.

'That this administration feels the need, nearly a decade later, to take potshots at an effort to identify common ground between the Arab world and the West speaks not only to the Trump administration's pettiness but also to its lack of a strategic vision for America's role in the region and its abdication of America's values,' National Security Action group, a group of former officials, said in a statement."

The perils of a shrinking winter

Winter is becoming warmer and shorter, and boy would I like to discuss sea ice cover on the Great Lakes with a couple of nasty climate change deniers right now.   The shortening of the winter season is distinctly at odds with any claims that temperature records for the past 120 years or so have been faked or manipulated, because nature shows us exactly what is happening, if we pay attention.

Here's another take on this subject, from the Los Angeles Times, with a West Coast perspective:

Winter is shrinking, study finds, posing new fire and water risks

"Climate models have predicted the snowpack would diminish earlier in the season and melt more gradually as the planet warms. [Amato] Evan affirmed those projections through an analysis of data from 1982 through 2017.

“There are theoretical models that say as the planet continues to warm, this is what should happen; snow melts earlier in the year, and doesn’t melt as fast as it does in the springtime,” he said. “We went back to the mathematics, and said, that’s actually exactly what we’re seeing.”
And the problem is, seeing it means that it's happening, and quibbling over temperature data is not going to change the FACT that it is happening.

Here's another sonnet: 'destinations and desires'

I offer another sonnet for thought and consideration.

destinations and desires 

I've been so many places, in my years,
alone, that this seems normal now; though still,
I would have liked to share some joyful tears
of awe, and talk about the stunning thrill
of merely seeing splendor, rather than
replaying it within my single mind --
and so I also wish, that as a man
in such a splendid setting I could find
the joy of sensuality, to be
exhilarated and enthralled, enhanced
by nature's wonders and their certainty
by which we know that we have been romanced
and overwhelmed, astonished by the place
that we inhabit, in ourselves and space.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Funny picture from a terrible war

The Daily Mail just had an article about colorized pictures of scenes from World War II.

There isn't a lot of carnage and gore in the pictures, so they aren't really horrific, but they do show the reality of war.  However, one picture was kind of humorous.  While the Allies were attacking in Italy (which was actually a very rugged and difficult part of WWII), Mount Vesuvius erupted.  While it certainly wasn't the same powerful outburst as the gigantic eruption that buried Pompeii, it was a strong eruption, and it produced a lava flow.

The humorous picture shows Allied Troops attempting to toast their bread using the heat from the lava flow.

A paratrooper ready to drop into Normandy, the hero crew of the Memphis Belle and troops making TOAST: WWII is brought to life in a series of colourised images

Lighthouse of the Week, January 6-12, 2019: Punta Omo Morto, Sicily, Italy

The third lighthouse of the Five Lighthouse Regatta is the other one on the little gem of an island north of Sicily, Ustica.  The lighthouse is Punta Omo Morto, which means "Deadman's Point", and when you see where it is, you'll know why.  I'm sure this is a great sight from the sea to see when sailing in the regatta.

Here's what the Lighthouse Directory has about it, and it's spelled right:

"1884. Active; focal plane 100 m (328 ft); three white flashes every 15 s; also a red light, occulting once every 5 s, is shown over a shoal to the northeast. 10 m (33 ft) tower with lantern and gallery, rising from the seaward end of a 1-story keeper's house. Tower painted white."

And what the Lighthouse Directory doesn't say, but what one picture attests, is that Punta Omo Morto still has a Fresnel lens in the tower, which is always good to see.

Here are the pictures:

Note the Fresnel lens

Deadman's Point - not an easy stroll

And it's a long way down

Saturday, January 5, 2019

More big important science news

This breakthrough -- and that's the right term to use for this effort -- is actually pretty exciting, even while we're sending satellite probes to the farthest body in the Solar System ever visited and landing a robot explorer on the far side of the Moon.

Scientists Just Melted a Hole Through 3,500 Feet of Ice to Reach a Mysterious Antarctic Lake
"On Friday, the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) team announced they’d reached Lake Mercer after melting their way through an enormous frozen river with a high-pressure, hot-water drill. The multi-year effort to tap into the subglacial lake—one of approximately 400 scientists have detected across Antarctica—offers a rare opportunity to study the biology and chemistry of the most isolated ecosystems on Earth."

So where's Lake Mercer located, I am wondering (as I am sure you are as well)?

At least, what point on the Antarctic continent is it located under?  So let's go find a map:

On the map below, SLM is subglacial Lake Mercer (right under the text reading "Mercer Ice Stream").

The unusual childhoods of DC Comics superheroes

After seeing Aquaman a few days ago (which I liked, though with caveats, which I will hopefully describe in a subsequent post), I started thinking about the unusual childhood lives of the DC Comics superheroes (at least the ones in the Justice League). Now, I will freely admit that some of the following discussion is from the manifestations of the superheroes in recent movies and TV shows - but when you try to get into the convoluted lives and rebirths and reboots and relaunches and reconfigurations in the comics dating back to the 1940s, it's a little hard to keep track of everybody.

So let's run through them.

Superman - Superman's childhood is pretty well established; he was sent to Earth in a spaceship shortly before the destruction of the planet Krypton, which killed his mother and father. So the space orphan was brought up on a Midwest farm by the Kents, even though he did get some beyond-the-grave guidance from Mom and Dad via the memories stored in the Fortress of Solitude.

Batman - another well-established childhood story has Bruce Wayne's mother and father getting gunned down in a street robbery which young Bruce witnessed. This traumatic event led to Bruce's alternate career as a black-clad avenging angel of the night with a lot of cool expensive technology. So Bruce too was orphaned at a young age, though obviously not as young as Kal-El.

Wonder Woman - here's a case where I'm going to go conveniently with Diana's parentage in the movie version, since the comic character has had a couple of different transformations. So we know that Diana was raised entirely by the Amazonian women of Themyscira, but according to the movie story at least, her father just happened to be the number one god Zeus. And we also know that based on the stories of Greek mythology, Zeus was a god that liked the ladies, fathering kids with both lesser goddesses and lovely human women. So Diana was raised entirely by the feminine gender and had a womanizing lightning bolt-slinger absentee father.

Aquaman - I did a little Wikipedia research on this one, and in Aquaman's earliest version, his father raised him after his mother died young. There seemed to have been some convergence on his origin story in the next versions, with Arthur Curry having a human father and an Atlantean mother, the latter who may or may not have been around as Arthur grew up. So it appears that Aquaman had a strong father figure, but less influence from the maternal side.

The Flash - Both the movie and the TV version of "The Flash" as Barry Allen (there have been other Flashes, like Jay Garrick) have Barry's father in jail and mother dead. In the TV version, Barry's father was unjustly accused of murdering Barry's mother. And at least in the TV version, Barry witnessed the murder (and later went after who really did it). So, deprived of his parents, Barry was raised by Uncle Joe West, who has a daughter, Iris West, who is Barry's long-time love (again, this is the story on TV, I didn't research Flash on Wikipedia).

Green Arrow - I was curious about this one, and the Green Arrow / Arrow has had a lot of different personas in the comics. To their credit, the Arrow TV producers/writers have kept a lot of this history in the TV show in some form. However, it didn't seem that Oliver Queen's father in the comics shared the fate of his father on TV, to whit, after the Queen yacht sank, Oliver's father committed suicide so Oliver could survive. Now, we will note that Oliver was older than Bruce Wayne or Barry Allen when his father died, and knew how to party and hook up. So having parents around doesn't necessarily guarantee a well-adjusted youth.

Green Lantern - of all the Justice Leaguers, the Green Lantern has had the most different "lives" and histories, as I found in the Wikipedia summary. So we'll just stick with Hal Jordan, the movie Green Lantern, and one of the main comic Green Lantern identities. In both the movie and at least one character history, young Hal watches as his test-pilot father crashes an experimental plane, which would figure to be traumatic. Not much mention of his mother.

So, as you can see from my brief and totally non-comprehensive discussion, the youth and childhood of the DC Comics superheroes was never ordinary. Obviously, neither are the superhero characters, but its interesting that these heroes apparently had to learn self-reliance and independence early in their lives. Whether or not that was an influence the writers considered (other than the obvious motivations, such as the for Flash and Batman), is not something I have any knowledge of.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

First nature photography contest of 2019

Here's a Daily Mail article about a nature photography contest, the Wild World competition, held by the Society of International Nature and Wildlife Photographers.

DM does this frequently, and it's frequently fascinating.

Here's an example of an osprey with the catch of the day.

First, way out there. Now, the Dark Side.

So, the New Horizons space probe successfully flewed-by the way far out there Kuiper Belt object Ultimate Thule, which even this early into the data receiving process we now know is two nearly spherical and very cold chunks of primordial Solar System matter stuck together.

And now, the Chinese have landed mankind's first-ever mooncraft (Chang'e) on the far side of the Moon, the one that always faces away from Earth.

Not a bad start, science-wise, for the first three days of 2019.

China Makes Historic 1st Landing on Mysterious Far Side of the Moon

One thing I confirmed from this article was something I suspected had to have happened -- they put a communications satellite at a Lagrange point so that they could communicate with the moon landing spacecraft.  Now the little robot, which has wheels, can start exploring while staying on the line with Earth.

Republican response to Romney

If this slipped by you, Mitt Romney, the new senator from Utah, wrote an op-ed piece in which he criticized President Donald Trump's character.

As if that was a big deal. Anybody with a moderately functional brain knows that Trump is an AAA-class jerk -- and I'm being real nice saying just that.

But the thing is, Mitt is still a very conservative Republican, and despite his criticism of Trump as a person, he didn't really take on Trump's multitude of policy failings as a President.  So I can't muster much admiration for Mitt here, despite being somewhat principled.  He's still a Republican.

Now, other Republicans have reacted to his op-ed piece by basically saying he shouldn't have done that.  As the article linked below points out, they really don't say he was wrong -- see the second paragraph.  They just basically admit that character doesn't matter as long as they get what they want, politically.
"Those very logical arguments aren’t countenanced by the most prominent defenses of Trump. Instead, leading voices in the GOP seem to be arguing that tribalism is the end goal — that the ends justify the means. The party of values and morality is increasingly arguing that such ideals are mere speed bumps on the way to conservative policy goals. And they’re saying it publicly."

The GOP’s amoral response to Mitt Romney’s op-ed

Seriously, though -- character does matter.  Who would want to work for someone who belittles them when they leave his "employ" (or that of his administration)?  What allies can believe anything he says when he lies all the time and betrays them, both supportively and morally?  And it's been shown multiple times that he can't give up his own greed and vices for the good of the country, which makes those of us with moderately functional brains wonder if push came to shove (like a deal that would substantially enrich him yet cause economic or security problems for the country), what would determine his decision?  How do evangelicals support him when he's committed documented and publicized adultery?  (Oh yeah, King Cyrus. Sure.) 

For those over that deep end, there's nothing that can be done.  But for the rest of us, we have to hope that the end of the Trump disaster of a Presidential administration happens sooner rather than later.