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.