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.

Baby it's humid outside

Not everything scientifically useful or informative is found in research journals. When scientists have to explain themselves, its sometimes better to find content where they explain what they do to audiences unfamiliar with subject-specific jargon and symbology.

ON the subject of climate, there's a lot of wondering about what warming does to weather (and a huge amount of misunderstanding thereon). The key interaction is what warming does to water vapor. That's because (and I actually figured this out myself!) water vapor makes clouds and clouds make rain. Usually.

Now, here's what's interesting. For years there has been lots of talk and analysis and reanalysis and reanalyses of satellite temperature data. For those who haven't been following this potent and exciting issue -- and don't think you'll be forgiven if you haven't been -- there's an instrument called the Microwave Sounding Unit (MSU) on satellites orbited by NASA and operated by NOAA -- called polar-orbiting satellites to distinguish them from other kinds, like geostationary satellites. Polar orbiters are basically duplicates, with the same instruments, launched every couple of years to keep the instruments fresh and working. They look at clouds, sea surface temperatures, water vapor, etc. (different instruments do different things, the MSU doesn't do everything).

OK. For awhile, the MSU data analyzed by one particular group was a bastion of skeptics; because it didn't show any warming when there should have been. Then there was a big El Nino. Then there were some corrections. Then other groups -- notably Remote Sensing Systems, led by Dr. Frank Wentz -- did the analysis themselves. There were differences. There were more reanalyses. Finally, in general, there was synthesis. The MSU data shows warming of the lower troposphere. Now there is still some back-and-forth going on about this, but that's peripheral to what I'm writing about here.

It turns out that the instruments measure water vapor a whole lot more accurately and reliably than temperature! One of the first clear indications that temperature trends which were flat or showed cooling were wrong was the fact that water vapor was clearly increasing -- and that don't happen if temperatures are flat or cooling. So now there's not much discrepancy remaining on these salient points.

But what does increasing relative humidity mean to climate? More rain, less rain, where will it rain? So I got the foregoing and the upcoming from this:

Water Vapor, Precipitation, and Evaporation: The View from Satellites (this is a Powerpoint presentation transformed to a PDF)

in which Wentz and company explain themselves to the American Meteorological Society.

So what's been happening to rainfall? Well, if you live in western South Carolina or northern Georgia you might not agree, but rainfall has been increasing. Mainly in places where it rains a lot anyway, very much likely the tropical eastern Pacific. And the central Indian Ocean. And the tropical Atlantic. And the Sargasso Sea. HOW MUCH? Well, between 1 and 2% a decade.

What the intrepid Remote Sensing Systematicists did was to check both evaporation and precipitation trends. See, if it gets warmer, there's more evaporation. More evaporation means more water vapor. More water vapor means more rain. Usually.

And also, it looks like maybe that winds over the oceans are blowing a bit harder too -- which also means more evaporation.

So now Wentz and Co. compared models to data. As they note, there has been tome after tome written about temperature sensitivity to CO2 and warming. But what about precipitation and evaporation? The models say -- looking at the slide -- that precip and evap increase 1-3% per degree Centigrade of global warming, and water vapor increases 6.5%.

But the data show something different: a 6+ % increase for precip, evap, and water vapor. All together. Whilst the models seem to underestimate the precipitation increase significantly. The data say also -- and this is probably where there's a lot of meteorological interest, because the models tend to agree -- that areas where it rains a lot while get more rain, and areas where it doesn't rain a lot will get less. On that last point, 8 out of 10 Australians probably agree that this is getting to be more than a little annoying.

So, right now, the data say that there will be a larger increase in rainfall than the models say there will be. This is also supported by rain gauges. But there's a different bottom line here, I note: water vapor is definitely increasing (remember that part about water vapor being easier to measure than temperature)? As long as that's happening, it's warming up. And as long as that's happening, weather patterns and cloud patterns and rainfall patterns will change. I can pretty much guarantee that. Some people apparently don't understand that warmer oceans and stronger winds over the oceans are a long-term effect that determines the dynamics of the atmosphere, even if there's a lot of short-term variability. So if you think Al Gore's wrong on this, talking to Frank Wentz would probably help improve understanding considerably.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gilchrest is the man

Bravo to Representative Gilchrest!

Gilchrest unloads on know-nothings

As a rule, the Wolfs (it is not proper to pluralize the surname Wolf as Wolves, I point out in passing) have not cleaved to any particular political affiliation. That is why I have counseled others to be aware of the weights that they bring to their assessment of issues, and to make measured responses. Having a political affiliation that forces and contorts one's own ability to consider issues on facts and merit is a very considerable weight. It is like those creationist-minded individuals who must be so affiliated to their religious ideal of piety that they disbelieve the evidence of their eyes and think the Grand Canyon could form in years, not millennia; or those climate change skeptically-minded who don't understand the lessons of paleohistory that atmospheric carbon dioxide has been the major thermostatic determinant of Earth's climate state.

From what I read of Representative Gilchrest, he has been a public servant, and his weight (shall I offer "burden"?) has been to be part of a Republican party that seems to add on more and more weights of policy positions, until like a prize racehorse the races can no longer be won or run. So a positional mouthpiece such as his primary opponent takes out someone who has measured, not reactive, responses. It would serve the Republican rightists right if their chosen spokesperson loses the strongly Republican district that Gilchrest represented so ably (in the Democratically gerrymandered map of Maryland -- a device that I detest when either side employs it) -- his district was unusual in that it favored a Republican, and so losing it would serve the hardlinists right.

Gilchrest was a warrior for the estuarine needs of the ailing Chesapeake Bay. One would hope that perhaps there would be a place in an Obama administration for a man who knows how to serve the people and not service a political philosophy that does not recognize the value of reconsideration, reevaluation, and refinement.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Define unusual

Let's see: 100-year floods happen about once every 25 years, 100-year El Nino events happen twice a century, and we have a hurricane of the century about every other year. (Even more now that there are such large coastal populations that tend to notice when their houses get washed away en masse.)

But the Cubs winning the World Series? Now that's an unusual occurrence. I felt bad when the White Sox made the playoffs, because that hadn't happened for 102 years. So the problem is, the thirst of history for milestones has now been satisfied by this convergence of Windy City baseball teams. It is now not necessary for history to amend its balance sheet with another event of similar unlikelitude. Plus, the Cubs think that the Dodgers that they beat in the regular season are the same as the Dodgers now; I say it ain't so, Manny. Plus, Derek Lowe had a big part in dispersing the gloom of the Red Sox curse, so he does not need to satisfy history either, having already done so, therefore he felt no obligation to pitch badly in Game One. And he didn't.

So unfortunately I believe that the Gods of Chance and Circumstance are smiling elsewhere, this year on the city with the sunshine guarantee, St. Petersburg, Florida. How many of you knew that the Tampa Bay Rays played in the Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg, not Tampa? Apparently not many Tampa Baynians (or is it Tampites -- don't go there, NO don't go there! OH sorry you already did) don't know either. I for one, having experienced the Floridian climate in all its aspects for a few years, can't believe that they actually play baseball outdoors in daylight in August in Miami.

For all its glory and history and friendliness, Wrigley Field, despite the ivy on the walls, doesn't impart much of a homefield advantage. When the wind is blowing out, all balls carry. But the weirdness of the Trop apparently does, just like playing the caroms off the Green Monster at Fenway. Still, maybe Zambrano can recapture the magic; home field didn't mean much to him either when he pitched the no-hitter. (Update: he didn't. Wait 'til next decade, Cubbies.)

Yeah, I like sports. Speaking of which, I'll soon have a post on why I hate ESPN.

In other news: I didn't expect to have another asteroid post so soon, but an astronomer just discovered (after almost 9 years of observations) that a strange dumbbell or dog-bone asteroid -- Kleopatra by name -- apparently has moons. Now, ever since it was discovered that Ida had a moon by the Galileo flyby --

The little guy is Dactyl. If it were possible to stand on this moonlet, it would be possible for a baseball pitcher to throw a ball into orbit around it. Actually, Dactyl is so small it probably would be possible for a pitcher to throw a pitch to Ida, because the velocity of the pitch would probably exceed Dactyl's escape velocity. Don't know how well C.C. Sabathia would fit into a pressure suit, though.

-- I've suspected that other asteroids had to have moons. There's just too many of them up there not to have chunks experiencing the occasional gravitic capture or recapture. But it's neat to see that those depictions of asteroid fields from "The Empire Strikes Back" or "Galaxyquest" have a bit of truth to them.

Two Companions Found Near Dog-Bone Asteroid