Sunday, December 28, 2008

Speaking of Zunigas: this sounds like a Lifetime movie plot

I couldn't pass this one up: a beauty queen from Mexico (and she is definitely one) was arrested in a truck filled with guns, associated with drug gangs running cocaine. Her boyfriend is the brother of a major player.

Mexican Beauty Queen Arrested in Gun-Filled Truck, Police Say

(If you search "Laura Zuniga" on Google News you'll get over 1,000 hits. Well, that's pretty darned good publicity for a movie, I'd say. Hopefully she can get out and write a book and get a show on Telemundo. She just lost the title of "Miss Hispanoamericana". Sorry. I truly hope she can find other opportunities and get out of Sinaloa or the Mexican prison system.

Oh, Mommy!

Standing in a long grocery checkout line can be entertaining.

Samantha Harris, likely most famous as the "Dancing with the Stars" co-host, is on the cover of "Muscle and Fitness Hers" this December. I thought the picture was Photoshopped -- she has a better six-pack than Michael Phelps in Beijing, and she has a very young child! So I had to check this one out, and I did. And her six-pack is real; she is in stunning physical shape.

Cover Girl Revealed

And heck, she's a looker, too.

BTW, there's another brand of Samantha Harris findable by searching. Sister Prudence advises care.

Part 2:

Learned in another magazine that Kimberly Williams - Paisley is having baby #2 with country singing star Brad Paisley. Kimberly puts the "hot" in cuteness. She was in a movie with Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) called "Safe House" that got her down to her undies -- worth the price of admission.

If you want to see a little bit more of Kimberly:

Kimberly on the red carpet, in a dress that Brad probably liked

BTW, Kimberly's another one with an exact namesake that Sister Prudence would not approve of! Trust me on this.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mercury poisoning hits another celeb:

Mercury poisoning has claimed another celebrity victim. This time it's Jeremy Piven, most recently famous for entourage. And the cause (again) is excessive consumption of fancy, sushi, seafood.

Jeremy Piven and the toxic sushi

And the thing is: it also happened to The Sure Thing, Spaceballs (I saw this again a few weeks ago: I'd forgotten that Bill Pullman played the parallel Luke Skywalker role of Lone Starr), and Melrose Place star (has been seen most recently on guilty pleasure One Tree Hill) Daphne Zuniga. For the same reason: excessive consumption of high-trophic-level seafood like tuna and swordfish.

One article I found mentions them both:

Speed the Exit: Jeremy Piven out of "Speed the Plow"

Daphne Zuniga interview for Oprah

I think that Piven and Zuniga should be recruited as celebrity spokespersons for the World Sealife Foundation "Eat More Turkey" campaign. As soon as I get both of those things rolling, of course.

And it should also be pointed out that the Bush administration released notably weak mercury emissions regulations:

1st Salon article on mercury

2nd Salon article on Mercury (quote below)

"But even if the suits are successful, it will take years for all these legal challenges to have any impact on the air -- years when the health of hundreds of thousands of American newborns will be put in danger. According to scientists from the Environmental Protection Agency, mercury pollution puts more than 600,000 American newborns at risk a year for permanent brain damage, which can lead to a lifetime of learning disabilities and developmental problems. "Mercury does not affect everyone equally," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. "The E.P.A.'s job is to 'protect human health and the environment' but what it's really doing is putting more women and children at risk of mercury poisoning."

The Bush Administration has argued that mercury pollution is a global problem, and that cleaning up at the polluting sources at home won't have much impact on it. So, the administration has advised American women in their child-bearing years and parents of young children simply to avoid the most contaminated fish. Yet, the administration has simultaneously fought international regulations against mercury pollution, arguing in favor of voluntary actions on the part of industry."

Now, for all of those women and celebrity couples (hello, Jenny McCarthy) who have been endangering kids by causing needless worry about the traces of mercury used in important vaccines: THIS is where your concern should be. Fortunately, the winds of environmental change are blowing in Washington.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A really "cool" image

Data analysis reveals the extent of last week's devastating New England ice storm:

New England Ice Storm

I would hazard that winter storms with a heavy ice component do a lot more damage and end up causing the deaths of more people than snowstorms, even blizzards.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

About that water vapor

One commonly misstated misconception by global warming skeptics is that "water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, and scientists ignore it". Or something to that mistaken effect. So how's a skeptic to explain:

Water Vapor Confirmed as Major Player in Climate Change

From this summary article: "Andrew Dessler and colleagues from Texas A and M University in College Station confirmed that the heat-amplifying effect of water vapor is potent enough to double the climate warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

With new observations, the scientists confirmed experimentally what existing climate models had anticipated theoretically. The research team used novel data from the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) on NASA's Aqua satellite to measure precisely the humidity throughout the lowest 10 miles of the atmosphere."

And further down:

"AIRS is the first instrument to distinguish differences in the amount of water vapor at all altitudes within the troposphere. Using data from AIRS, the team observed how atmospheric water vapor reacted to shifts in surface temperatures between 2003 and 2008. By determining how humidity changed with surface temperature, the team could compute the average global strength of the water vapor feedback.

"This new data set shows that as surface temperature increases, so does atmospheric humidity," Dessler said. "Dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere makes the atmosphere more humid. And since water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, the increase in humidity amplifies the warming from carbon dioxide."

OK, so skeptics, you can drop this particular claim. Water vapor amplifies greenhouse gas-induced warming. For sure. No doubt about it. Most important greenhouse gas, indeed.

Some supplemental linkages:

How not to discuss the water vapor feedback

Anthropogenic greenhouse forcing and strong water
vapor feedback is rapidly warming Europe

The Dust Settles on Water Vapor Feedback

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turkeys are the meat (and sushi) of the future

Production of turkey/poultry uses about 1/4 of the greenhouse gases required to produce an equivalent of meat from ruminants (beef, venison, etc.)

Reducing your red meat footprint

Where's the Beef?:
Roni Neff explains how the media miss the story on food's connection to climate change

Humble chicken, the meat-eaters saviour

Earth to PETA

Meat is not the No. 1 cause of global warming. Yet our diet is cooking the planet, and one surprising staple turns down the heat.

Plus, it's better for you than beef. (But maybe not better for you than buffalo.)


Kate Beckinsale was on the Tonight Show last night. She is positively one of the plain 'ol prettiest Caucasian women on the planet, and she's in her mature prime right now. And thank you to the paparazzi for the contribution in the orange bikini; I always think celebs are justified in seeing paparazzi as scummy, but when they use a telephoto lens relatively discreetly, well, sometimes the results are hard to pass up. And as for the last one in the boudoir: that'd be hard to pass up, too.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A bit more on bluefin tuna

Andy Revkin's DotEarth had a post about bluefin tuna:

Tuna tragedy of the commons

A few pithy comments struck me, both in the article and in the comments. Herewith:

"At the latest meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, created under a treaty 42 years ago to manage shared fisheries in that ocean, European governments ignored a strong recommendation from the group’s own scientific advisers for deep cuts in some harvests of the Atlantic bluefin tuna."

Great. But wait, there's more, quoted from Carl Safina:

"I.C.C.A.T. has always been broken, and the tradition of ignoring the science and insisting on higher quotas was set 25 years ago by Western fishing interests. That tradition remains alive on BOTH sides of the ocean, and the indignant rhetoric by the Western fishing interests masks their own hypocrisy."

and, echoing the late Ransom Myers:

"The big runs of autumn, the “tuna fever,” the great herds of fish thundering across the blue prairies as they rounded Montauk, that’s all gone."

Think about it. We're happy that there are still bison in the West. But are the herds now anything like they were before they were nearly hunted to extinction? OBVIOUSLY not. Will bluefin tuna go the way of the bison; a few remnant schools? I doubt it; the oceans don't belong to anyone, so everyone exploits them. "Tragedy of the commons", indeed. The bluefin tuna should be the symbol of a new World Sealife Foundation -- if indeed it's not too late. If it isn't, it's damn close.

Quotes from the commenters:

"As this is a global (or at least trans-Atlantic) tragedy of the commons, regional institutions will not solve the problem. USA and EU must sit together and negotiate tough limits (=0 catch) on tuna. This probably can only come top-down from the very highest levels as intermediate agencies have too much vested interests. It may be part of a bigger deal of the even more relevant global tragedy of the commons, speak climate change."


"Why is it that no one is willing to go on record to discuss the real problem with our planet? Overpopulation is the root of every environmental issue we face, yet the focus of the dialog remains stuck on tuna catch, carbon credits, etc." (When I get a real chance to write something, I'm going to comment on this.)


"As we approach the top of the population logistic growth curve, where the number of births equal the number of deaths in an ever more brutal economy limited by scarcity and depletion of resources, we can’t continue speak casually about “sustainability” without also addressing human population growth, for without a stable steady-state population a “sustainable” harvest of any natural resource is a moving target."


"The problem, inevitably, whether it be the fisheries the atmosphere, or the rain forests is that there are too many humans consuming too few resources. As long as the human population continues to increase, the world, its wildlife and its environment will be at risk. The human population of the planet in 1750 was 1/10th what it is now - 700 million."

(Do you sense a theme developing?) A couple more:

"The problem of overfishing is a very good illustration to the whole host of other problems that we are either already having or are going to have soon enough. It's simple: too many people, too few resources (in this case tuna)."


"You would think, at some point, that the lesson would be learned. We've been dealing with these depletion issues for decades, and yet the next generation makes the same mistake."

Exactly right. And that will get me to my main point, eventually, which I'll preview here: economic growth is a recipe for environmental disaster.

I'll leave it at that for now. Still gotta get to that Dessler paper, too.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Meteor falls, meteorite found

I did see a daylight fireball once; the one in Canada at night was extraordinarily bright. Watching the video, it seemed pretty clear that some of it had to have reached the ground. Check your definitions, everyone!

Here's the video of the meteor:

Meteor in Canada

And here's the news item about finding the fragments:

Space Rock Found

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Bluefin tuna fishing agreement; can it be enforced?

ICCAT [International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas] managed to come up with an agreement to reduce the catch limit on Mediterranean bluefin tuna:

Bluefin tuna fishing to be cut 30% over two years (Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean)

They say: "What's more, the revised plan will not simply reduce fishing pressure on the stock drastically, it also defines mechanisms for control throughout the marketing chain, and closes many outstanding loopholes," AND

The commission said that the quota cuts were backed up with a four-month reduction in the season of the industrial tuna fishing fleet, which account for the vast majority of catches.

So: is it enforceable? and is it enough?

Collecting food waste; biofuels can't be far behind

Many municipal governments in Britain collect food waste separately from trash and compost it; more are thinking about it:

Food waste collections debated

Composting may be the first option; I make a modest prediction that in 20 years, this will become a biofuel feedstock stream. Right on the heels of landfill mining for valuable metals.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday sports notes

Fairly unbelievable: Ed Reed of the Ravens breaks his 106-yard interception return for a touchdown record with a 108-yard interception return for a touchdown.

MLS Cup: I was really glad tto see the Columbus Crew win the MLS Cup. I saw the Columbus soccer stadium under construction; I'm pretty sure that it was the first stadium in all the MLS to be constructed solely for soccer. And that was several years ago; so it's good to see that a place with only one other major league team (if its possible to exclude Ohio State football) shows its dedication to the sport and gets a championship in the league.

More on water vapor tomorrow; great paper from Andrew Dessler to be discussed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Deadline or longline for the bluefin tuna

Prince Albert II of Monaco calls for suspension of bluefin tuna catch in the Mediterranean:

Suspend fishing to save bluefin tuna

"What ICCAT's own scientists have been saying for a number of years is that the sustainable catch is only about half of what ICCAT set as the allowable catch and possibly less than a quarter of the best estimates of the real catch."

"As delegates were gathering in Barcelona for the World Conservation Congress, the latest findings from the scientific group were just becoming public. They are now saying that collapse is looking dangerously close and the spawning biomass of tuna - a key measure of reproductive ability - is around a third of what it was 30 years ago. The scientists have also shown an immediate moratorium would help tuna stocks to recover. As a next step, they want the Mediterranean completely closed to tuna fishing fleets during the spawning months of May, June and July."

A seafood "snob" has second thoughts:

A Seafood Snob Ponders the Future of Fish

"Already, for instance, the Mediterranean’s bluefin tuna population has been severely depleted, and commercial fishing quotas for the bluefin in the Mediterranean may be sharply curtailed this month. The cod fishery, arguably one of the foundations of North Atlantic civilization, is in serious decline. Most species of shark, Chilean sea bass, and the cod-like orange roughy are threatened."

More: "But the biggest consumers of these smaller fish are the agriculture and aquaculture industries. Nearly one-third of the world’s wild-caught fish are reduced to fish meal and fed to farmed fish and cattle and pigs. Aquaculture alone consumes an estimated 53 percent of the world’s fish meal and 87 percent of its fish oil. (To make matters worse, as much as a quarter of the total wild catch is thrown back — dead — as “bycatch.”)"

So: "This sounds almost too good to be true, but with monitoring systems that reduce bycatch by as much as 60 percent and regulations providing fishermen with a stake in protecting the wild resource, it is happening. One regulatory scheme, known as “catch shares,” allows fishermen to own shares in a fishery — that is, the right to catch a certain percentage of a scientifically determined sustainable harvest. Fishermen can buy or sell shares, but the number of fish caught in a given year is fixed.

This method has been a success in a number of places including Alaska, the source of more than half of the nation’s seafood. A study published in the journal Science recently estimated that if catch shares had been in place globally in 1970, only about 9 percent of the world’s fisheries would have collapsed by 2003, rather than 27 percent."

Message: MANAGE the fishery. Be STRICT. Eat mor chikn.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Speaking of mermaids

I saw a mermaid on a truck today. This got me thinking about mermaids, and how they're portrayed in art. Mermaids are fantasy creatures, and a lot of the images of them are both fantastical and fantasy-worthy. Well, Google being what it is, I found this Disney Dream Portrait -- I hadn't heard about this before -- with Julianne Moore as the Little Mermaid. Check out the merman swimming by in front.

Here's a story about the picture:

Julianne Moore is the Little Mermaid

High-resolution version

Now, if you'll click around a little while, you can find others. Like this:

Peter Pan is played by Baryshnikov.

Wendy Darling is played by Gisele Bundchen.

Now THAT's a dream.

High-resolution version

See if you recognize Tinkerbell.

So I've seen all of them now; Jessica Biel as Pocahontas, Scarlett Johansson as Cinderella, Beyonce as Alice in Wonderland, and Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony as Aladdin and Jasmine. Nice pictures, but I would have held out for Aishwarya Rai as Jasmine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

All the world is not Phelps; all swimming does not take place in 50-meter pools

Three short course swimming world records were broken in Berlin. One of them was only four days old. Peter Marshall (not the game show host) set a 50-meter backstroke record of 23.05 in Stockholm, Sweden last week. Randall Bal went 22.87, with Marshall only 3-hundredths behind (22.90) in Berlin. I guess the question is: how low can they go? (Bal shown at right.)

Paul Biedermann (from Germany) broke Ian Thorpe's 200-meter short course record, going 1:40.83. Thorpe's record wasn't four days old, it was eight years old. Despite Phelps' current prominence, Thorpe was still one of the best swimmers of all-time, and we're lucky he forgot his camera on 9/11/01 and wasn't at the World Trade Center as scheduled.

Marieke Guehrer (sounds German, considering this was in Berlin, but she's actually from Australia) broke the record and the 25.00 second border in the women's 50 butterfly with a time of 24.99. I wonder where the Australians keep getting these swimmers with German-sounding last names. Imposing Michael Klim had a Germanic (or at least Scandinavic) sounding name, too.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Willy Wonka and Hitler

It's kind of fun to use IMDb to investigate the casts of classic movies and to see what else the cast did. I did this for "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory". The actor that played Charlie didn't do much else -- he's now a veterinarian. Gene Wilder we don't need to discuss. Several of the cast were obviously accomplished character actors: Jack Albertson, Roy Kinnear, even Julie Dawn Cole (greedy Veruca Salt), who had a long career on British TV. More fun: Denise Nickerson (Violet Beauregarde, the blueberry girl) was on The Electric Company and Dark Shadows.

But my favorite unexpected connection is Gunter Meisner, who played Slugworth. Meisner appeared as Der Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, in several productions, perhaps most notably The Winds of War in 1983. From a character in a classic kid's movie to portraying one of the most evil human beings in history: that's range.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Seek and ye shall find

Vanity Fair caught my eye at the supermarket yesterday. The cover shot is of Kate Winslet.

You have to look close, because it doesn't look like Kate has looked in any other pictures or any other movies. The set-up is that she's "channeling" Catherine Deneuve in her most provocative role, Belle du Jour, about a housewife who has a day job as a prostitute. In the movie, when she's the prostitute, Deneuve wears gauzy lingerie, occasionally flashes a breast or a butt, and generally looks as amazing as she looked in her youthful prime. Winslet doesn't quite go so far (not that it's difficult to find more of Winslet than shown in the magazine), but the most du Jourish shot is not online, it's only in the magazine. I shall suffice it to say that Kate's backside and open-backdoor gown are remarkably lovely. When a woman's nethers are bare and most everything else could be rather quickly, then she's clearly ready for a good time. And that the impression conveyed by the picture.

If you're interested in the article, go here: Vanity Fair

If you're interested in "Best Picture", you'll have to raid the racks.

By the way, there's a bit of a controversy about whether or not the pictures were retouched and Kate's complexion appears far more flawless than reality. If these are true-to-life (makeup and all, of course) then she's in great shape and has lushish skin. If she's more normal than shown, well, let's face it, she's still hot -- and a remarkable actress as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Snarling pack of idiots

Let's tell a little story. One day there was a cute and perky climate scientist named Heidi. Here's a little more about Heidi:

She received a bachelor's degree in engineering/operations research from Columbia University in New York City and went on to receive a doctorate in climatology and ocean-atmosphere dynamics at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. Her dissertation focused on understanding the impacts and dynamics of the North Atlantic Oscillation, an important climate influence. As a post-doc, she received a NOAA Climate & Global Change Fellowship and spent two years working at the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction.

Then little Heidi decided to get into journalism, specifically on TV, and she was hired by The Weather Channel as their climate expert. She did some shows, made some appearances, and then they even built a whole new section of their Web site and a feature show on their channel called "Forecast Earth". And to keep it hip and contemporary, they even started their own blog.

And then one day Heidi was merrily posting on her blog, and she remembered hearing a TV weatherman, a meteorologist, expressing the opinion that climate change might be "cyclical". Actually, he said "History has taught us that weather patterns are cyclical and although we have noticed a warming pattern in recent time, I don't know what generalizations can be made from this with the lack of long-term scientific data." Heidi, who has learned a lot more about climate than this guy, knew that there is a lot of long-term scientific data, knew that "cyclical weather patterns" don't necessarily have anything to do with climate change, and also knew a lot more about causes and effects. So she suggested that the American Meteorological Society shouldn't give their Seal of Approval to a meteorologist who, in her words, "can't speak to the fundamental science of climate change". I agree. Whether or not a meteorologist agrees with the posited causes and effects, a meteorologist ought to understand the basic factors that affect Earth's climate, how they are changing, and how climate might change in response.

Well, after Heidi posted her note, screaming demonic h*ll broke loose. You see, there's a segment of society that has basically decided all climate science that indicates increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations will cause the Earth to get warmer is wrong. They are aided and fomented by Web sites that feed them with skewed and biased information, such that they have taken on the demeanor and characteristics of pseudoscientists. In general, pseudoscientists hewing to a cherished belief (such as alien abductions, Loch Ness monsters, Christian-based young earth creationism, Bermuda Triangle navigational interference -- I could go on and on and on) create cognitive filters in their minds that discard anything that disagrees with the belief and amplifies anything that appears to support it. There are psychological volumes out there on this. And with climate change and energy so tied together, this segment also sees any attempt to regulate or control CO2 emissions and the activities that create them an infringement on their personal freedom which is being supported by flawed and inaccurate science.

Add in the anonymity factor of the Internet, and this segment becomes a snarling pack of idiots, attacking anyone that puts forth a new advance in the understanding of climate and how it is changing, or any suggestion of potential alternatives that might also serve to aid our economy and national security in the years ahead (though if they are carefully prodded they might admit that we import to much oil for our own good). This snarling pack of idiots now watches every Forecast Earth blog post for indications of a relationship to climate change, and then unleashes unthinking invective on anyone that posts it (Stu Ostro and James Hrynyshyn have been recent targets) - demonstrating a response similar to a snarling, cornered, angry mutt lashing out due to powerlessness. The strength of their invective is aided by the agents of disinformation that feed their pseudoscientific need. They mark refusal to acknowledge them as further indication of the truth of their beliefs, which is being suppressed by the Church of Al Gore.

Reason does not help with them, their cognitive filters are too firmly fixed in place. This is one of the weights that I talk about. These people are so heavily weighted -- anchored, really -- that they virtually cannot be displaced. I've seen it; if somehow a contravening point penetrates the filter, the usual response is not a gratefully calm increased awareness, but rather a deeper, more smoldering and dangerous hatred for having had their cognitive supports knocked out from underneath them, for having been revealed to THEMSELVES as being both wrong and probably duped. That is why they so vociferously resist useful and accurate information that disagrees with their cherished belief that man's activities can't possibly negatively affect Earth's climate -- if they accepted it, their entire philosophical framework -- rooted, I must note, in the conservative political affiliation -- would be shaken or even collapse. Their prophets would be shown to be false, and their beliefs would have to change. And this is the type of change that is difficult to accept, a change forced upon them from inside.

And that's why I think we have reached the point where to minister to the snarling pack of idiots, before they become destructive to themselves and others, we need a 12-step program, Climate Skeptics Anonymous. These people need support from recovered skeptics who have slowly learned to accept and recognize good science. They will discover that they have hurt others by their angry outbursts. The level of adherence to their skepticism should be recognized as being as difficult to break as for addictive substances or stimulating images.

We need to do this before the next solar cycle starts to increase sunspot numbers rapidly, because as the Earth begins to warm following the past (and perhaps present) cool Pacific Ocean conditions, the false prophets of skepticism will be able to erroneously blame the warming on increased solar activity, rather than CO2 and other greenhouse gases, the true players. If we don't do it soon, they'll even start buying SUVs and incandescent lights again. Well, maybe not SUVs when the American automobile industry shuts down, but they'll find some way to burn the midnight oil.

More importantly, unless we reach out and convert this unfortunate segment of society, they will continue to oppose that which we all should be united on, the need to alter the fundamental way human civilization produces and uses energy. If that trajectory isn't changed -- soon -- there will be much more severe problems than anything we are currently facing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

ESPN is not enough

The other day I was recalling a period in the 1980s when one of my regular daily acquaintances was a gentleman from Britain and an avid football (that's soccer for folks in the U.S.). It just so happened that I had recently read about the exploits -- both on and off the field -- of English cricket legend Ian Botham, er, make that Sir Ian Botham, and we discussed him. My chap didn't think much of Botham, apparently due to his off-field reputation at the time. I looked Botham up -- you can do that now with relative ease -- and while he's been mostly surpassed, he still holds a few cricket records, and his major events rank right up there with some of the best sport has to offer.

At least, if we understood it. I barely could figure out the basics of Botham's achievements from the Wikipedia article. ("After Botham took the first wicket, Willis skittled Australia out for just 111, finishing with figures of 8 for 43 - rated by Wisden as the 7th best bowling performance of all time".) That's great! What? There's even a YouTube video available of the following amazing achievement: "At 105-5, things looked a little worrying for them, but an Australian win was still the most likely result. Botham then took 5 wickets for 1 run in 28 balls to give England the win by 29 runs.".

This made me think about sports that have a professional presence elsewhere in the world, and a large number of fans, yet which rate barely a whiff of interest from a few dozens of people scattered around the U.S. (mostly immigrants who like these particular sports). This is not to disparage other sports; the U.S. is ethno-centric and sports-centric. This is just about sports that other places in the world are interested in, and which we barely ever see, except possibly for a few hours of coverage during the Olympics. Two of the sports aren't in the Olympics, the other ones are.

In no particular order:

1. Cricket
2. Rugby
3. Team Handball
4. Short-track speed skating (made famous by Apolo Anton Ohno, who may have gotten even more famous doing this in the United States -- trust me, if you haven't seen this and you're heterosexual, you'll like this, especially the moves at the 3:00 minute mark ):

Despite the stunning attractiveness of Julianne Hough's ... well, everything, except apparently a few endometers that had to get removed recently... Apolo makes his pro short-track speed skating money in South Korea and Japan, mainly.

5. Water polo (caveat: apparently there is professional water polo in Europe, but most teams lose money and only survive by being underwritten by wealthy individuals)
6. Short-track (velodrome) cycling
7. Badminton
8. Table tennis, aka ping-pong

It'd be refreshing to see more of these sports occasionally, instead of the steady diet of baseball, football, hockey, basketball, and a dash of soccer, er, football we get in the U.S. Maybe I just need a satellite dish and a lot more spare time.

Oh yeah, I still have to explain why I hate ESPN.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It seems so obvious to me

OK, it seems so obvious to me; I hear every day about how local governments are cutting transportation projects because they don't have the funds to pay for them: property taxes are down, gas taxes are down, transfer taxes are down, title taxes are down -- everybody comes up with ways generate tax revenue when the economy is growing, and they seem so surprised when it turns around! Transportation means infrastructure. I for one do not want to be on a bridge when it suddenly decides it's time to succumb to the lure of gravity and pop a few rivets, and before you can say "Galloping Gertie", head for the water, taking a few dozen cars along for the ride. I thought -- naively enough -- that the Minnesota interstate bridge collapse would be a wake-up call. I was sadly mistaken.

So keeping with the naivete theme, and seeing the unemployment rate jump, why does it seem so obvious that the government should stimulate the economy with a jobs-for-infrastructure bill? This has a two-pronged benefit; one, it provides jobs, and two, it fixes the infrastructure that is vital to the economy. Much as I wish we didn't need them as much as we do, we need trucks. We need trains. We need bridges for the trucks and trains and commuters to travel on.

And I know how to pay for it. Taxes: well yes, maybe some. But I would impose a speed-based user fee. Right now, speed cameras and red light cameras impose a fine, but it doesn't take points off your license. So this amounts to simply a tax on breaking the law. So let's take it one step further, Feds: put speed cameras on the interstates!!! We all know that danger increases as speeds go up, so have an exponential fine (er, tax) structure. First 5 miles over the speed limit: $0. 6-10 over: $25. Next 10: $100. Next 10: $250. So on a standard 65 mph limit interstate, the $250 fine, er, fee, doesn't kick in until the death-wish driver exceeds 85 mph. On 55 mph city routes, the $250 fee doesn't kick in until it's over 75.

In order to cash in on this bonanza, the speed cameras would have to be mobile, digital (because a lot of license plate pictures are gonna get taken), and well-disguised. But there's an immediate objection: if people actually slow down, you lose the revenue stream. WRONG. If people slow down, there's less accidents, less gas gets burned, less people get KILLED or end up in the trauma ward or end up on long-term disability or end up in puff-powered wheelchairs (and also there's less use of those expensive trauma transport helicopters, too). Furthermore, if a dumb-a** gets hit with a couple $250 letters in the mail, he's going to slow down eventually, and maybe not end up killing an innocent father driving his minivan home to his family.

I've already blogged about using GPS to track road-use, and how this eventually could get factored into a time-of-road-use structure. Hmm, did I say "could"? Rather, it will. So the government will get the money either way, but to be fair, the speed demons should get socked a lot harder.

Roads cost money, people. It's a privilege to use them. Why not pay for them and use what we pay for them to fix them, and in so doing, put people to work that are going to need to be working? It sure seems obvious to me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Looking back, looking, well, umm, very good

Reprising an earlier theme; Vanessa Marcil shows the benefits of one size too small.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can the Democrats lower the cloture rule?

The Republicans lost quite a few seats in the Senate last night. We all know what else happened; now the question in my mind is can the Prez-elect choose Cabinet members who actually know what they're doing? Hopefully political considerations will take the back-seat to practicality; choose people who know their stuff and who know how to manage. Much as I might like to see the consternation on the Republican side of Al Gore took the Department of Energy seat, I don't think he's the right man for that job. But we'll wait and see.

But back to the Senate. There was a lot of talk about a filibuster-proof majority; that meant the Democrats needed 60 votes so that they could pass cloture votes if legislation was being filibustered by the minority. I did NOT want to see that; I'm virtually certain that the Democrats will see the results as justification for payback time, and want to put the pedal to the medal on some really unpopular and stupid ideas -- like overturning the Defense of Marriage Act -- Obama had better realize how opposed to gay marriage his supporters in the pews of traditional black churches are. There needs to be at least some "checks and balances" operating.

But it has been suggested that the Democratic majority could lower the cloture vote requirement on a majority rules vote at the beginning of the session. Can they do that?

It's not entirely clear. The Senate requires a 2/3 majority (67 votes) to change the rules. But at the beginning of each session, they vote on the rules -- by majority vote. What's not clear is if a new Senate, i.e., a new Congress, can have an entirely new set of rules or if they have to abide by the rules of previous Senates. If the latter is true, then 60 votes for cloture stays. If not -- they could lower it, and then there's no foot on the brake.

Of course, there's also the "nuclear option", bandied about when the Democrats were blocking judicial appointments -- which they weren't really doing a lot of, but nevertheless. Rather than try to go into all of that, here's a discussion of what was being considered WAAAAAY back in 2005, when the Republicans still controlled the Senate:

Nuclear Option Primer

After reading all that, the bottom line is that the Senate would have to do something without precedent, which is not something done lightly. But there could be a lot of momentum for payback, and it depends on the issue that foments the emotions of the far-leftists who think that their time is now, it's time for Change in America, they have overcome, and it's time to fire up the steamrollers and roll, baby, roll. If they were pushed to it, and did it, all that the Republicans would have left would be to simply walk out and refuse to do anything at all. And then we would be on the brink of a civil war; it wasn't like the Obamajority was 75%. It was 52-46% (if you're wondering where the other 2% are, so do I). And about 98% of the 46% are really ticked off this morning and will be standing in line at gun shops before the Senate tries to pass more gun-ownership legislation. Think I'm kidding? Sarah Palin is already being touted as a new leader for the Republican Party; and she can bring down a moose.

I hope it doesn't come to that. But things have definitely changed. Everybody remembers the beginning of the movie "Patton" -- but do you remember the ending?

"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting."

So is power, Democrats. Use it wisely, and remember 1994.

Monday, November 3, 2008

If it was a whale or a rhinoceros

Think now; how would you really feel if you were offered a white rhinoceros steak for dinner? Hopefully appalled; there's maybe 12,000 left in Africa (and a few in zoos). Or how about someone suggesting a banquet featuring fillets of northern right whale? Even more appalling; there might be 300 left. Even if the whale was not the highly endangered right whale, and was a blue or a minke or a humpback, most of us (with some exceptions in Japan, Norway and the Inuit) have pretty much gone beyond eating whale, and virtually nobody thinks about grilling a Rhinoburger.

Which brings me to the bluefin tuna; one of the most magnificent fish in the ocean, if not THE most magnificent. Built for speed, with adaptations for warming the blood and muscles to maintain high-speed swimming capability in frigid waters. It even has retractable pectoral fins -- it's the F-15 jet of the ocean! The tail of the bluefin tuna has the perfect camber and shape to generate power. This is a magnificent aquatic machine.

And we eat it! It's a delicacy. It's extraordinarily high-priced, partly due to heavy demand from sushi consumers. The Mediterranean stock is highly endangered, and still countries protest that they haven't taken their share. Wake up; you're eating a rhinoceros.


Or this:

So what should we do about humanity's voracious appetite for seafood, which is depleting the worlds fisheries (even though a lot of fish are being caught to feed pork and chicken -- let them eat soymeal, for goshsakes)? Answer: control the mind of the consumer. Make it a truly moral choice not to eat seafood, or to eat different kinds of seafood. Change the tradition. Make turkey sushi. (I've had it; it's good!) Compare eating bluefin tuna to eating rhinoceros, or panda, or orangutang. Change people's minds, give them better choices, and lower demand.

Turkey Sushi Recipe

There is some hope:
Spain, Japan Back Bluefin Tuna Ban

EU agrees to tougher protection of tuna stocks

Jessica Simpson was confused, thinking that "Chicken of the Sea" tuna was chicken. Well, it's not; it's wild, it's free, and it's threatened. Eat mor chikn.

Friday, October 31, 2008

I demand a recount

The World Series MVP was Cole Hamels. The World Series' Most Valuable Play was Chase Utley's.

Hamels wasn't pitching when the game that mattered -- the 3-inning sudden death overtime period, actually -- was played on Wednesday night in Philadelphia. Maybe he got them there, but they wouldn't have gotten out of there were it not for Chase Utley's perfect decision-making under pressure. I think he should be a Presidential adviser -- could even get a role on "24".

Bottom of the seventh, Bartlett on second, Iwamura hits a grounder up the middle that Utley has to go deep for. 2 outs, so Bartlett is running on the crack of the bat, about to round third as Utley backhands the ball. Utley glances to first, sees that Iwamura is almost there, sees that Bartlett is going home. He fakes (or second-guesses) a throw to first, takes a step, fires to the catcher. Bartlett is bearing down on home, the catcher snares it, gets back to the base path, puts the tag on with Bartlett's hand a foot from the plate. Out. Inning over. Tie score rather than a one-run, momentum-snatching, crowd-quieting lead for the Rays. Instead, a screaming crowd and a fired-up dugout; then the bottom of the Philly order goes out and gets the game-winning run.

Utley had about a second to make the right decision. He made the decision that won the series for the Phillies. Tampa Bay had a great season, but winning and losing frequently comes down to inches (even millimeters, in the case of batting, hitting a golf ball or a tennis ball), and such tiny dimensions are frequently determined by skill and experience. Utley utilized his. He deserves an award, but he did get a World Series ring.

Y'know, the period after the World Series ends; basketball and hockey just getting started; football in the middle of the season; even Major League Soccer in just the first round of the playoffs -- I guess all we can do is start complaining about the lack of a college football playoff instead of the idiotic BCS.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Corrugated cardboard recycling is big business and takes up a lot of space otherwise

Corrugated cardboard that makes boxes is a big recycling item.

I remember reading/hearing that recycling corrugated cardboard is another money-winner in the recycling game; I couldn't find clear confirmation of this so far. Japan supposedly relies totally on corrugated cardboard for paper production, because they don't have significant forest resources. It apparently is profitable, according to this Web page from Ohio:

So recycling corrugated cardboard makes economic and environmental sense. Another factoid for those with an "antisocial resistance" to recycling.

Here's some information about corrugated cardboard recycling:

Facts about recycling 1 ton of corrugated cardboard

Saves 17 trees from having to be cut down and used for pulp

Saves 7000 gallons of water

Cuts pollution 95%

Saves 11 barrels – 462 gallons – of oil

Saves more than 3 cubic yards of landfill space

Corrugated can be recycled an average of 7 times before the fibers become to short and they are filtered out as sludge during the pulping process. The sludge is then ready for disposal, but often has one more usage and that is as daily cover at landfills in place of soil.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More on water conservation; plug those leaks!

Rather than build new dams for reservoirs, following in the "we're all in this together" tradition, American Rivers is pointing out the significant water savings that could accrue by fixing personal and civic water infrastructure. A lot of water involved:

"The report estimates conservation could save up to 210 million gallons of water a day in Atlanta; 47 million gallons a day in Charlotte, N.C.; 20 million gallons a day in Raleigh, N.C.; and 27 million gallons a day in Columbia." (There's a problem here, though: one aspect of this is higher water prices. See the note about road pricing; we already accept monitors mounted on our homes which keep a detailed track of every drop of water we use, so if you open a car-wash in your driveway with bikini-clad cheerleaders, the county will notice your water use going up and charge you accordingly. Your neighbors might notice, too, which might lead to other problems. That partly depends on who your neighbors are.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's not what you burn, it's where you go

I saw this coming for a couple of reasons: there's a pilot project taking place now to test the use of GPS systems to monitor road use in order to pay taxes. Drive on a Federal highway, the Feds get the money. Drive on a state road, the state gets it; drive on a county road, the county gets it, etc. Reason: high gas prices and gas CONSERVATION! Use less gas, there's less gas taxes to pay for roads. Make it a pay-as-you-drive system, and this will be more uniform.

It will also change behavior. If this catches on, people will start to figure out cheaper ways to get places. There will be Web sites mapping the less-tax-routes. It will force reexamination of the time vs. money equation vis-a-vis personal vehicle vs. mass transit. And if the privacy concerns are adequately addressed (I don't think anyone wants a record of where they've been, even if it supposedly won't ever go public), the next step is even more logical, following successfully-implemented road-pricing systems around the world; the taxes will be adjusted for time-of-use, as well as distance. This is the other reason I saw this coming; such road pricing systems address congestion. People adjust their commute to travel at less expensive times, even if only by half an hour. The problem is; if congestion lessens, people drive more (provided the personal finance equation still works). But if we convert slowly over time to vehicles powered by something less polluting than gas -- and yes, I mean CO2 here -- then this isn't as much of a problem.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

We're all in this together

I'm constantly surprised by the inability of some groups to accept the necessity of giving up a bit of free will, their own ability to exercise their own rights to do whatever they feel that they want to do, for the greater good of local, regional, national, and world society. (Say society and they think "socialism" -- keep that in mind). Take recycling; it seems to pain some people to take the modicum of extra effort required to pitch an aluminum can into a recycling container instead of the trash. This surprises me; seems like there is some sentiment out there to "drill, baby, drill", not realizing how much energy could be saved, obviating the need for drilling, by conserving.

[ A brief aside on aluminum recycling; how much energy does it save? Quick Google searching and quoting: "It takes 12 to 20 times more energy to make aluminum from bauxite than making it from recycled aluminum". "only about 33 percent of America’s aluminum in 2001 came from recycled scrap and much of the credit goes to industry". "Recycling a ton of aluminum uses just 5% of the energy required to make virgin metal. Every ton of recycled aluminum that Alcoa uses saves about 14,000 kilowatt hours of electricity." So what's good for Reynolds and Alcoa is good for the American economy and good for the environment. I wish some T. Boone Pickens fellows, one in particular who apparently doesn't think much of big blue recycling bins, and who confesses an "antisocial recycling opposition", would read this. ]

But let's take this in a different direction. It seems that there can be a change of heart when a vital commodity becomes scarce. And there is more than one dimension to this change of heart; one is the acceptance of government-mandated restrictions on individual rights in the name of community good to maintain the availability of the vital resource becoming scarce; the other is the acceptance and implementation of personal conservation measures to maintain the availability of the scarce resource; it is the latter that I term the "we're all in this together" mentality.

A current illustration of this principle is now taking place in the U.S. drought-stricken Southeast. For the past three-four years, it hasn't rained very much in the quad-state area: northeast Georgia, western North and South Carolina, and eastern Tennessee. Western South Carolina is the current ground zero; an area of exceptional drought. This isn't good, for one thing, for nuclear power plants, which need a lot of water for cooling, and Duke Power has several nuclear power plants. Metro Atlanta is dependent on Lake Lanier for water supply, and Lake Lanier is 17 feet below normal. I doubt that the Chattooga River has had enough water for whitewater for a couple of years. Water restrictions, voluntary and increasingly mandatory, are widespread. And even the Free Willians are accepting such restrictions, because they have to. Without water, there is no garden, no lawn, no shower, less hygiene, unwashed dishes, less power, less cooling, and ultimately we need water to drink, to survive. So even in this vaunted bastion of conserv-- I vowed I woudn't use the "con" word -- bastion of right-wing politics, the politicos (even Jim DeMint!!!!) accept the need for conservation, for government-mandated and enforced conservation.

And there's another aspect, of course, highlighted by the article below; personal and household conservation measures.

Rain barrels

People are putting in rain barrels, collecting hundreds of gallons of water from a single light rain shower. Some people are tearing out brown withered lawns and replacing them with gravel. Gardeners are using drip irrigation rather than sprinkler systems. Plumbers and home-do-it-yourselvers are putting in water-conserving shower heads, even flushless (or flush-less) toilets. Result; water use is down. The dwindling water supplies are getting stretched. It wouldn't hurt AT ALL to have a late season tropical storm wander over Atlanta and Greenville-Spartanburg and dump 8-10 inches, and the problem hasn't gone away, but because they're all in this together, community efforts (voluntary socialism) is helping. Quite a bit.

Which brings me to energy. And carbon.

There is a stunning level of opposition from conserv... er, those persons with right-leaning political views, against any form of carbon consumption regulation. These are the people protesting "An Inconvenient Truth" as political propaganda when its shown in schools to their kids (inconveniently, the science in AIT has passed muster quite well). These are the people who think that any economy built on any energy foundation other than the burning of Carboniferous and Cretaceous carbon is preposterous. These are the people who might not even vote for John McCain solely for his views on this issue despite the level of anathema Barack Obama represents. Carbon at all costs -- and the costs are considerable, and growing. But I won't go into that quite yet.

What I will go into is the "we're all in this together" principle. Energy conservation makes sense for economic reasons, and as we're seeing, a stable economy is desirable for a whole lot of national self-interest reasons. "Drill, baby, drill" will take time to deliver anything to the pump and to the home. Rapid implementation of conservation measures -- with incentives to defray those upfront costs -- can deliver in months. It would be interesting to see how much the need to drill could be obviated with a national, concerted, dedicated, "we're all in this together" effort. It goes beyond keeping tires inflated. It means more efficient lighting, refrigeration, home heating and cooling, business heating and cooling, the entire transportation sector. It also means many different forms of generation: more wind, nuclear, biofuels, etc.

In fifteen years, I expect to see solar power cells (probably far more efficient than those today) as common on rooftops around the country as rainbarrels in Georgia and South Carolina are becoming now. I expect to see windmills sprouting everywhere; I've already seen them in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It will be interesting to watch this transition. And it will be interesting to see how many Free Willians climb on board the electric- or natural gas-powered bus.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What Happens Behind Closed Doors?

Today's speculation concern the high percentage of failure in the marriages of beautiful famous people. Or so it seems, I guess, partly because the failed marriages of famous beautiful people make the news (which is because they're famous, goes with the territory). Now I'm sure that I'm responding to this due to bias; certainly there are lots of marriages of beautiful people that don't fail. (Seems like the second or third or fourth marriage is more likely not to fail; either they learned something or they just can't afford another divorce.) There are marriages of famous people that don't fail either. But what I notice and find inexplicable -- so I'm going to theorize about why it happens -- is why the marriages of beautiful famous people do fail. Because they do. (I will also include unmarried long-term relationships in a couple of cases here, but they have a higher failure potential because the legal untanglement process is reduced.)

Some of the motivations for this assessment:

Tea Leoni and David Duchovny
Christie Brinkley and Peter Cook
Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford
Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley
Diane Lane and Christopher Lambert
Fisher Stevens and Michelle Pfeiffer
Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon
Leonardo DiCaprio and Gisele Bundchen
Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid
Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
Lynne Austin and Darren Daulton
Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt
Bruce Willis and Demi Moore
Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora
Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams
Heidi Klum and Flavio Briatore
Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger
Sophia Bush and Chad Michael Murray

(There, that ought to attract a few Google searches!) But seriously... serious physical beauty is a two-edged sword. It opens doors, gets attention (wanted and unwanted), creates opportunity (both deserved and undeserved). A truly beautiful person knows it because they're told it all the time. They can see it in the mirror, they can see how it affects other people. A truly beautiful person has power. And a truly beautiful person can develop an ego. Highly gifted athletes have the same problem; they get treated special, too special, they are given shortcuts and free passes and personal failings get overlooked because they are a commodity, a money maker, a product. (And they can be exploited, overexploited, and used. There is a downside. Think Michael Vick.)

There are beautiful people that work hard for everything they get, and gifted athletes that don't get perks and don't get in trouble. It's just that the problems shared by the top echelons of beauty and athleticism are similar: what they have is partly an advantage of youth, so as youth becomes maturity their power and/or skills diminish, and then they aren't so special. That can be a problem. Being treated special all the time creates a peculiar and unique mindset; people that are treated special all the time likely start to think that being treated special is a right, and not a privilege.

So let's get back to the subject of failed marriages (and relationships) of beautiful famous people. Put simply, if you're used to being treated special because you're beautiful, it's hard to be with someone who's supposed to treat you the most ultimately special (your spouse, significant other, love interest, etc.) and not get that special treatment you think you deserve, the special treatment you get and expect from so many others in your life sphere. Let's consider the male sexual ego (which is considerable) for a moment. Get married with all the expectations that entails to someone possessing abnormal pulchritude, and you might look forward to daily visual gratification, a procession of lingerie and nudity and loveliness at the breakfast table, at dinner, around the pool, in the shower, and of course, most of the imaginable sexual fillips that the young and nubile and beautiful are capable of. What if your phenomenally beautiful love interest takes to wearing baggy sweats and saggy jeans as their costume de rigeur? Not exactly treating you special, are they?

Hugh Grant and Elizabeth Hurley reportedly had an even-better-than-marriage commitment for years, until she showed up in The Ultimate Red Carpet Dress (suddenly bringing her fame up to a level with his) and he soon after was requesting a streewalker to hork his manhood in the back of a car. Why couldn't Elizabeth ingest the manly emissions of his passion? Was she not treating him special enough? David Duchovny has a sex addiction? I could have a sex addiction to Tea Leoni -- why wasn't her fabulousness enough for him?

Fisher Stevens and Michelle Pfeiffer; Fisher goes for a BABYSITTER instead of a YOUNG Miss Pfeiffer who reportedly was slavishly devoted to him? Peter Cook and another young babysitter, when he's with the ultimate MILF; well, admittedly a young nubile babysitter may have physical and appetudinal attributes that a gorgeous MILF can't match... and that brings us to the silverback "Alpha Male" syndrome, whereby an older famous beautiful male indulges the primal urge to fertilize the young and fertile. This explains Heidi Klum and Flavio, and how Flavio was already moving on once the fertilization of Heidi had been accomplished. I could go in another direction on the whole older rich famous beautiful male and the young fertilizable female phenomenon and its genetic heritage from our ancestral Australopithecines, but I won't, except to note that Kevin Costner's current wife is SO hot.

OK, so that's my bottom line. In a successful marriage (any successful marriage), both partners get treated special. And they know their partner wants to treat them special, and they like being treated special, and they treat special back. That covers a lot of ground, sex-wise and otherwise. For beautiful famous people, accustomed to an intense level of specialness, when you don't get that intensity of being-treated-special by the One who's supposed to treat you more special than anyone else, that smacks hard onto the ego that has been supported by the lucky attributes of remarkable beauty. And if you can't get that special level of treatment from the person that's supposed to be lavishing it on you, you know that your beauty should be able to garner -- without much difficulty -- someone else who will, at least for awhile. And that's what so many of these beautiful yet flawed people seem to be seeking -- to be treated the way that everyone says they should be treated by the one person that's supposed to treat them more special than anyone else. So, if they can't get it from one over time, why not a succession of ones over time (this explains Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney).

So while I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall for a week in the Scarlet Johannson - Ryan Reynolds household, I don't envy them. I think it's going to be difficult. And good luck to Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake, too.

As an aside, there is also the issue of mismatch, both in looks, devotion and adoration. I was in love once -- deeply, madly, passionately -- with a lovely woman who attracted men like butterflies to a butterfly bush. She tolerated me; she even became a good friend. I tried to seal the deal numerous ways (romantically, not sexually), but I couldn't make her feel the same way about me that I felt about her. She moved on, had a couple of passionate marriages that failed before getting into one that succeeded. I managed to convince her to kiss me once -- deeply, madly, passionately -- and that taste convinced me of two things -- one, that bedding her would have been fabulous, and two, that if I had married her, I would have devoted my every day to her happiness. But in retrospect, such devotion probably would ultimately fail. I would have wanted her to be happy, and satisfied: if she wasn't as into me as I was into her, trying to satisfy might not have worked, and I would have probably worked harder, still fallen short, and ended up resenting her for not being able to satisfy her, just on the basis of the fact that I was me. So there's still a mystery there of marriages that are apparent mismatches, but which work. I think sometimes women can love men beyond reasons that are obvious.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And there before me was a pale horse

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

Sometimes the fourth horseman is just Death, and sometimes he is Pestilence. Either way, he's not good news. One of the themes of this blog over time (I've just started, remember, and nobody's commenting, so I can pretty much do what I want) is how to fix the Earth, regardless of the weights and measures that affect us. Humanity is currently facing a host of problems, and it's impossible to come up with solutions if the reality of the situation is not first realized.

So either Death or Pestilence; and it comes not just for humans.

There's a reason that bird flu is under such close scrutiny; because every civilized country fears a civilization-destabilizing pandemic. Take out the "dem" (no political meaning) and what's left is "panic". And if a full-blown case of Spanish flu hits again, that's what would happen. Look at what happened with SARS, and that was mild in terms of how many people could contract it. When the Spanish flu rode into town, healthy people in the morning were dead people by nightfall. Schools would close. People wouldn't go to the local grocery store. Businesses would tell employees to stay home. Congresses would phone it in. And so it goes.

But closer to home, think about what we poop. Everybody poops (I think there's a book with that title). And all that poop has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, most of the time and most of the where, it's just going into the stream, river, and ocean. There are some political affiliations that are concerned with the fate of the unborn child; what about the fate of the born children that are dying of diarrhea? There's a new book out called The Big Necessity that tells us all about the history of poop, crap, shit, turds, excrement, feces, doody, etc., and how civilization fared better when it was taken care of. Problem is, a lot of it is not being taken care of. Kids are dying, coral reefs are getting buried by algae and infected by bacteria and viruses, fish are changing sex and sporting lesions and tumors; and I'm only scratching the surface. I don't want to scratch any deeper or I might catch something.

And it's not just humans. Science has yet to come up with a better mass pollinator than the honeybee, and something a lot like Pestilence is attacking them, too. Now, not all of our agricultural crops depend on honeybees, but without them, there'd be a lot less produce being produced. Here's a partial list:

apples, peaches, soybeans, pears, pumpkins, cucumbers, cherries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, cashews, macadamias, cola nuts(!), avocadoes, asparagus, broccoli, celery, squash, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, kiwi, blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, carrots and onions (for seeds)

So we have to worry about Pestilence in the animal kingdom too. Trees are dying in great numbers; the wooly adelgid is destroying hemlocks, beetles and blister rust are destroying whitebark pines (whose nuts are a great favorite of bears), gypsy moths are still a major problem...

Much of the spread of Pestilence is attributable, at least in part, to the activities of humans. We can do a lot and should do a lot, for our sake and that of the environment, to control Pestilence. I'll get back to what we could and should do in a short while.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wustest to Fustest

I'm a sports fan. In this era of overpaid athletes -- even athletes in sports like swimming and track and field -- it's hard to revel in the purity of sport for purely the sake of competition, but I try. I'm fascinated by golf, but I also think to myself now "how hard can it be to live like that when you go home with $100,000 or so for finishing sixth?" I think that the rewards vs. effort equation is much tougher for tennis -- those men and women work hard for their money. (Just look at the injuries they go through.) But yet, I like sports. I like tension, games coming down to the final seconds, the to-and-fro, ebb-and-flow, mano-a-mano: you name it, there's hardly anything as exciting as watching a great competition except for the even rarer thrill of being able to actually compete in one.

For me, there are two ultimately exciting events in sports. One is the big upset, the hungry upstart defeating the cagey veteran. Rarely are such upsets blow-outs; usually (like Nadal over Federer in this year's Wimbledon), it "goes the distance". The other is the big comeback, when a person or team looking down-and-out rallies against pain and fatigue and injury and odds and manages to win. Andre Agassi in tennis had a number of major comebacks from two sets down; even his personal comeback from double wrist surgery where his ranking dropped into the 100s, and he came back to win the U.S. Open, was exciting. Football is famous for sudden turnarounds and lightning-strike comebacks; baseball fans yearn for the rally.

So I was enthralled by the Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Red Sox in the just-completed American League Championship Series. It had all those elements; Tampa Bay is a team (and a municipal region) with very little championship history, despite hosting a number of spring training baseball teams. They got excited back when Steve Spurrier was coaching the Bandits. (Think hard now; what league and what sport was that?) Oh YEAH -- the Tampa Bay Lightning did win a Stanley Cup. Hockey in Florida? But anyway: the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were awful. There biggest moment prior to this year was in a Dennis Quaid movie. But change the name and get young hungry upstarts on the team, and they made the playoffs. And came up against the Red Sox, now become the Evil Horde from the North with two championships in this decade, as the former Empire has faded (the Yankees, dontcha know).

So Tampa Bay takes the lead in the series,and then in Game 5, and Boston looks done; cooked; over. Until Dustin Pedroia, who is nearly impossible to get out, got a two-out, two-strike hit. Boston came back big time, with homers and long flies and basically destroyed Tampa's momentum. And it looked like, their will to win. Then Boston won game 6, with more clutch, and the Tampa Bay team needed a lot of Pepto-Bismol. Everything was going Boston's way.

Until it wasn't. Upsets are close, and game 7 was very close. The big event was phenom David Price striking out J.D. Drew with bases loaded in the eighth and Tampa only leading 3-1. But it was even closer than that; Coco Crisp was out when he should have been safe trying to break up a double play that probably wouldn't have happened, and Pedroia just missed on a long fly to left field that with a few more yards would have put Boston in the lead. In almost every upset, the winner has to have a little luck. The Rays did.

Unfortunately in sports that have playoffs leading to a championship, its hard to remember the "semi-finals". Vitas Gerulaitis took Bjorn Borg to five sets in 1977 ( 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 3-6, 8-6), and even had a match point winner on his racket, but lost (still, it was a classic match -- Google "Gerulaitis Borg" and you'll see). But we much more readily remember Borg-McEnroe than Borg-Gerulaitis, and Borg's five straight Wimbledons.

The Phillies-Rays World Series could be a classic or a bust. But I hope we don't forget the "semi-finals", the 2008 ALCS.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Political Signage, Wasted Timeage

What is the deal with political signs? In this time of electioneering, political signs sprout in lawns and highway medians and office parking lot berms more readily than dandelions and crabgrass. Has there ever been a study of how many people actually utilize these signs to determine who to vote for in an election? (Hopefully not very many!!!)

Really what these are for is to cause other people to be angry with you for your choice of political candidate. This has already been determined with regard to bumper stickers:

So put a sign on your lawn showing with whom you're affiliating, and your next-door neighbor of the opposite polarity is likely to take umbrage and post his own sign. No sooner than you can say "Hatfields and McCoys", the home with the signs that lean to the right is knocking out windows and sprouting more calibers than Dodge, to make it easier to defend their right to be obnoxious about the Second Amendment -- but don't ask if the homeowner has ever thought about joining the local militia! (He's got more ammo than the local militia anyway.) Next door, the pacifist with the left-leaning signs, who summarizes his patriotism by asserting the doctrinal "don't win a war that we could possibly find a way to lose and turn the country we almost saved from a genocidal dictator into a summer camp for terrorists" is loading up on marshmallow guns (see below) and grazing herbivores on his property to provide biodegradable land mines.

I chuckle Oakdenly when I drive by an untended street corner that has about six dozen political candidate signs. Wish I was back in Ol' Chicago where the signs had an unmistakable ethnic flavor, such as

Bernyzewsczewisch for Assistant County Poultry Inspector
O'Donleighmere: Your Choice for the Sanitary Board
Dunkelbacker: Remembr My Name for the Beer Advesory Council
ZsengZseng: Student Representative for Cafeteria Quality Advisory Panel
D'Shontae Delingus Brown: Vote for Me to Fix your Sidewalk (If You Have One)

So, as we approach The Most Critical Election in Our Nation's History, please don't make your voting decision based on the last street sign or bumper sticker you saw. And we can't afford a filibuster-proof majority; the Senate still has to have some fun, and remember, Everything in Moderation.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Everything in Moderation

Red wine. There's been an ongoing research interest in the health benefits of red wine. Quite recently, another study came out that indicates moderate consumption of red wine is good for a person's well-being. See the link:

And there's a lot more like that on the Web if you search. And those of you reading this may know about that already.

But this symbolized to me the basic simple premise of both our own personal bodily health and that of the planet that we live on. To whit: moderation is good. Over-consumption is bad. Under-consumption is frequently bad, too.

So let's examine the red wine topic in this light.

Good: Glass of red wine with dinner.
Bad: 10 glasses of red wine with dinner followed by a drive home before notable effects of alcohol on mental abilities have dissipated. Bad for physical health due to catastrophic wrapping of Lexus around tree. Bad for mental health due to awful mug shot taken at police station followed by incarceration, loss of driver's license, etc.
Good: Walking ten miles to work every day because of loss of driver's license.
Good: A glass or two of wine with dinner as a healthful habit. Cancer preventative measure, even reduction of blood cholesterol.
Bad: A bottle of wine for dinner three or four nights a week. Really messes with the liver. Family life probably suffers. If already out on the street pushing a shopping cart full of old blankets and aluminum cans, you've got other health problems to worry about, like seasonal hypothermia.

Following the everything in moderation theme:

Good: Necessary for photosynthesis. Respiratory by-product, indicative of good health because that means that emitter is breathing. Earth in general CO2 balance based on input to the atmosphere contrasted with output from the atmosphere. General CO2 balance good for climate stability. Climate stability good for agriculture. Agriculture good for civilization.
Bad: Too much CO2 emissions from over-consumptive consumerism, road culture, fast-food drive-throughs, excessive use of electronic devices, underinsulated, overcooled (in the summer), overheated (in the winter), inefficiently-lighted housing. Causes increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations, leading to global warming, ecosystem damage, coral reefs degradation, sea level rise, polar bear demise, and generally a host of other effects that I am sad to say it is likely my grandchildren will be dealing with as "normal" on a daily basis.

Good: Necessary for plant growth, i.e., a nutrient. Important component of fertilizer. Really adored by nitrogen-fixing organisms like legumes.
Bad: Too much nitrogen on the soil, in the water, in the river, and particulamente in the lake and in the ocean. Leading cause (with it's companion nutrient phospate as a secondary cause) of eutrophication leading to reduction or elimination of dissolved oxygen from the water, which is pretty bad for those creatures which respire in the deep.

Good: A host of indicators that eating fish is good for health. Fish also useful ecosystem component in the basic workings of the ocean. Menhaden -- super oily, the swimming filter feeder par excellence; can reduce those nasty algal eutrophication patches if left to themselves, and a superior baitfish for sportfish.
Bad: Eating too much fish. Directly, eating too much of the top level predators like swordfish and tuna can cause ingestion of too much mercury (a by-product mainly of coal burning and atmospheric deposition, another indicator of too much CO2 that isn't nearly as publicized as the climate change effects). Eating too much fish causing fishery collapses like everywhere, even the superabundant pollock that masquerades as crab, and even masquerades as actual fish in those fast-food fishburgers. Too little fish can cause downstream ecological effects like causing the starvation of top predators like whales, walrus, puffins, etc.

Summary: Eat mor chikn! (but I'll have more later on what too much chicken consumption can do to the ecosystem, and what we can do about that).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Whither direct-to-DVD?

My question today is: how does one go about finding a good direct-to-DVD action movie, or a good direct-to-DVD suspense/thriller movie?

My followup-question is: are there any?

Apparently the direct-to-DVD market is booming, particularly for sequels with tenuous connections to the original theatrical releases. But there's another category of direct-to-DVD: movies that either didn't make it to theaters despite an A-List cast member (or even a couple) -- usually on account of being stinky* -- or tryout projects for new directors with a cast of relative unknowns, perhaps including a hunky male soap opera star or a slinky, sultry, and hopefully partially clad female soap opera star.

* Admittedly, my interest in this subject was piqued by the DVD cover of "The Babysitters".

That's a nice tummy.

From my perusal at the local Blockbuster, there are LOT of these. How does one ever find one that's any good? (How would you define "good"? someone asks Oakden; well, if I could get Sharon Case in one of these vehicles partially clad or totally unclad, I'd watch it). But still I'd like a plot, decent writing, a twist or two, a good love scene, stuff like that.

Awhile back, Linda Fiorentino starred in a movie that was seemingly like these direct-to-DVD action potboilers, called "The Last Seduction". It got shown on cable TV before someone noticed how good it was and put it in theaters, and Fiorentino probably lost some award nominations because of that. It was a really good movie, a gem; and maybe a couple of direct-to-DVD releases are similar. But how do we find out? How are we supposed to know?

And even more pertinent; as DVD movie rental stores go the way of the dinosaur, how will these movies ever see the light of day? Does that mean many promising movie careers might get stifled before they have a chance to blossom? More importantly, what does this do to the starlet pipeline?

Even as Wall Street stocks tank, there are important questions that have to be answered!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Looking back, looking good

Saw the movie "Iron Man" this summer. Critics raved over it. I guess it's more realistic to have a techno-superhero than a mutant superhero. But anyways, what caught my attention in "Iron Man" were three over-the-shoulder lookbacks. See what I mean:

Leslie Bibb doing great things to a shirt. I'll have to get back to that theme.

Gwyneth Paltrow looking back whilst everyone is looking at her back:

Leslie Bibb doing even better things to a sheet.