Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Two things unearthed that are of considerable interest

Archaeology and mining yield some interesting finds.

First, the mining.

Exceptional 500-carat diamond found in South Africa's Cullinan mine

(In case you're not up on your gemology, the Cullinan was the largest diamond ever found until the Golden Jubilee, and it spawned the two largest blue-white diamonds in the world, the Cullinan I and Cullinan II, in the British crown jewels (crown and scepter, respectively).

Now the archaeology.

Emperor Nero's rotating banquet room found

Of course, that's the PG-rated news.

This one's a little more racy.

Pity the Emperor never got to "party" in his rotating room.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If you can't afford to crash it, don't drive it

I hope he had an insurance policy that covered EVERYTHING.

Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner 'badly shaken' after horror Aston Martin crash

You don't see cricket players doing this kind of thing.

Flintoff 'ashamed' by Cup antics

(Well, this was old news. But it was funny.)

Before Soylent Green was people, it was this

France's beaches of Brittany are again plagued with a proliferating plight of plant life; i.e., they are being covered with rotting green algae. I think I posted on this before when a horse died after getting trapped in a particularly noxious patch with high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas. Well, it's still a mess. As if we didn't have to worry about overfishing, we humans are increasingly making the oceans unsuitable for normal existence (ours, and what lives in them).

Seaweed invasion plagues France's pristine Brittany

Now, looking at this, there might be something to those alternative energy ideas of going directly from algae to biofuel.

Monday, September 28, 2009

If you have a great idea for cleaning up space debris

If you have a great idea for how to clean up the growing problem of orbiting space junk, otherwise euphemistically referred to as "space debris", the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) would like to hear from you. No crackpots need apply. Actually, on second contemplation, maybe a couple of crackpot ideas would help here, because everything conventional I can think of is either a) unworkable, b) way too expensive, or c) both.

Space debris gets some respect

Environmental news: good, bad, out there

Good: Palau has a shark preserve. Now the trick is to keep the poachers out of there. Shark-finning is close the most inhumane act of hunting/fishing on the planet. I'll have to think for awhile to see if I can come up with something worse. It's not just a cruel act creating an awful way to die for the shark; it's bad for the planet. And face it, if shark fin hadn't been touted as an exotic delicacy (like caviar, another plundering act of fishing barbarism!) would anyone eat it? Don't get me started.

Bad: Nearly 70% of Argentine forests lost in 100 years (freely translating from the article headline)

But WHY? you ask: "Faced with the breadth of the devastation in the province, the Supreme Court ordered a halt to deforestation in natural forests, following an appeal by indigenous populations. The move ran counter to the provincial authorities, which had authorized forest exploitation." When it's between environmental heritage and preservation on one hand, and jobs/growing economy on the other, the local government and the business community will ALWAYS choose jobs and a growing economy.

Out there: Jordan is going to build a two-billion dollar pipeline to pump water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea and also to desalinate the Red Sea water. The thing is: this is actually good for the bizarre environmental heritage of the Dead Sea, because it's headed toward disappearance as it stands. My question is: what's the power source for the desalination plant. My hoped-for answer: solar power would seem to be a real good candidate.

My question: is the image on the right in the article a projection for the future?

The era of true enviro-engineering officially starts here. (They could have gone with the Hungry as the Sea solution: tow a tabular berg to Saudi Arabia from Antarctica and use all the ice for fresh water. I'd like to know the economics of the gas needed for the tow vs. the cost of desalinization.)

Follow-ups from yesterday

More on Suzanne Celensu

OK, the real news on Suzanne is not that she was wearing vines in a beauty pageant -- it was that she's a third generation beauty queen. You can read the story; her mom and her grandmother were both beauty pageant winners, but in the picture, I'd say her aunt (in light blue) is the real gem.

Family photo

Regarding Suzanne in the group picture and in the solo below; that outfit with the too-short blouse, flat tummy, small waist, and tight jeans gets me every time.

Appealing outfit


More on Zito:

She says, in part:

"The simple thing – a straight-out carbon tax – would be the most honest way to deal with it. It has as much chance of flying as a lead balloon, especially since Republicans have settled on an ideology that says we have no responsibility to pay for anything and Democrats have one that says a seemingly infinite supply of the very rich is waiting to be soaked."

I disagree with what she says about ideology: I see it more that the Republicans have settled on an ideology that says if you can pay for it, fine; if you can't, you shouldn't want something you can't pay for. Democrats, on the other hand, are trying to pay for too much for too many well-meaning programs, but without a robust industrial base to generate profits for taxes, we don't have the money to pay for it, and she's right -- there isn't an infinite supply of rich people with inheritances to get the money from.

Meet in the middle? We all have a stake in the success of future generations. Everyone should have to pay something toward reducing America's carbon energy dependence. I just need to figure out how much everyone should pay. It does seem true that the more wealthy you are, the more carbon you need to maintain a lifestyle,
so a carbon tax shouldn't be regressive; but the downside may be that a higher percentage of energy in a lower-rung (income wise) family goes for basic needs that aren't optional. So how to balance this out... ? Still working on that.

Bonus! Follow-up on Heidi Klum, who's about as big as it's possible to get in this pregnancy process. I think it's OK to have a little fun with Heidi, who likes to have fun, and who is so beyond-reasonable beautiful that it's nice she can look closer to normal when she's pregnant (however, that black dress at the Emmys was NOT close to normal).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The world was up-ended, and other grab bag stuff

1. Watching ESPN Sportscenter a few nights ago, the Top 10 actually featured both a cricket highlight and a rugby highlight. Had they also featured a curling highlight, I would have called in to work sick the next day due to the impending Rapture. Fortunately it was too early in the season for curling.

2. Abbie Cornish. This is a safe link. She's an up-and-coming starlet.

Abbie Cornish quietly makes a name for herself (article)

2a. (has audio)

3. Green problems give Democrats the blues (I'll comment on this later)

4. Things in the ground, Part I:

Feathered fossils prove birds evolved from dinosaurs, say Chinese scientists

Great images of the fossils in this article.

5. Things in the ground, Part II.

In pictures: Britain Anglo-Saxon Treasure Find

6. Suzanne Celensu brings new meaning to green. (Safe, but enjoyable.) More on this later, too.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Traditional (read: primitive) medicine still claiming tigers

They've tried, but apparently not well enough to stop the trade. Just like Japan and fish, "traditional" Chinese medicine -- which means witch-doctor-level potions that use animal body parts -- is still claiming tigers by poaching because the poached tiger parts demand a high price in China. This means that there are areas in China in serious need of enlightenment.

India's tiger protection plan 'failing': experts

The federal government swung into action in 2007 after India's tiger population plunged to just 1,350 -- just over a third of the 3,700 estimated to be alive in 2002.

A new tiger conservation plan chalked out some bold and urgent steps to end the poaching menace, move forest dwellers away from reserves and transfer tigers from one reserve to another while monitoring their movements.

Wildlife experts and directors of the 38 Indian tiger reserves met in Delhi last week for a conference on the highly-prized animals which were estimated to once number about 40,000 before independence from Britain in 1947.

"India has framed all the policies and is doling out ample monetary aid to save the tiger but it is clearly not trickling down," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection of India who attended the conference.

"Poaching cases are just not stopping."

In the last nine months, 25 tigers have been killed by poachers and another 43 have died due to other causes.

On average, poachers kill 30 tigers every year in guarded reserves with demand driven by China where pelts, claws and bones are prized in traditional medicine.

Map to the gaps in Saturn's rings

Map to the gaps

Full-size (no labels)

I've linked both the small version of the Equinox image of the Saturnian ring system (with the gaps labeled) and the full-size one on the Cassini Web site. This is in case you get confused when trying to remember all the different gaps and ring segments in the Saturnian system (which happens to me all the time!). So this image should help keep things straight. Now if I could just remember where Daphnis and Pan are located...

My question: Is the E-ring missing?

My answer: It's partly due to Enceladus, and very tenuous.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I sense a theme here

The woman behind Heidi is pointing out the current location of her feet, since Heidi obviously can't locate them visually at this stage.

Jude Law's one-timer gives him something to remember her by

McDreamy or McSteamy?

I know what they did last winter

Amanda Beard produces a next-generation Aquaman (and will he be as photogenic?)

Bluefin tuna ban languishes for "more research"; first step should be turkey sushi for Japan

The Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing ban that seemed so promising a couple of weeks ago failed a vote; now the involved parties want to wait for more data. That's like waiting to see if your house is going to burn down while collecting data on how quickly the flames are moving to the second floor.

No consensus for global tuna trade veto

I have a quick translation for this: bluefin tuna is too profitable right now to give up. As soon as there are so few tuna left that it becomes unprofitable to get the scant few remaining (the scant few being too few to allow populations to recover, of course), then we can talk about a ban.

Why is bluefin tuna SO endangered? The onus is on Japan, and the United states.

Fish consumption and trade on the rise

China has been consuming more, but also producing more, too. Apparently quite a bit of tilapia and carp???

Global fish trade facts (careful, it's a PDF)

Japan imports $14 billion worth of seafood, the U.S. $13.3 billion, as of 2006.

Top fish exporters and importers

Spain has TRIPLE the per capita fish consumption of average fish consumers globally!

Empty coasts, barren seas

Sobering extracts:

"The EU is partly to blame for overfishing world fish stocks; it ranks among those with the largest fishing fleets – 90,000 of the world’s 1.3 million decked vessels. It is estimated that about 80% of all species in EU territorial waters are overfished. Spain and the UK lead in the number of foreign fleets outside
Europe. Some estimates suggest that about 60% of fish landed in the EU come from outside its territorial waters."

"But while aquaculture is projected to take pressure off the world’s oceans, we should note that it is also increasingly contributing to their demise. The rapid expansion of farming shrimp, salmon and other carnivorous high-value species such as cod, sea bass, and tuna has increasingly diverted fish catch into industrial feed rather than food for people. This comes into direct conflict with local food security, as it takes 2–5 kg of wild-caught fish, processed into fish meal and fish oil for feed, to produce a single kilogram of farmed fishmeat.16 In 2006, the aquaculture sector consumed an estimated 23.8 million tonnes of small pelagic fish in the form of feed inputs (about 26% of total world catch from capture fisheries), including 3.72 million tonnes used to make fish meal, 0.83 million tonnes to make fish oil used in compounded aquafeeds, and an additional 7.2 million tonnes of low value/trash fish as direct feed or in farm-made aquafeeds."

The fish and seafood market in Japan

Opening paragraph:

"Japan is the world's largest consumer and importer of fish and seafood products. Imports accounted for about 45% or nearly $17.3 billion(1) of the total fish and seafood market in 2005. About half of Japan's total fishery product imports consist of shrimp, tuna and marlin, salmon and trout, crab, processed eels, cod and pollock roes, and processed shrimp. Although per-capita Japanese fish and seafood consumption has fallen slightly in recent years, Japan's self-sufficiency in supplying its domestic demand is falling at a greater pace, creating increased dependency on imports. Total fish and seafood sales in Japan were estimated by Thomson Business Intelligence to be $104.5 billion in 2005--up from $98 billion in 2004--and are projected to reach $141.8 billion by 2010."


"The average per-capita fish consumption in 2004 was 34.5 kg (net weight), down from 35.7 kg in 2003, but still remains the highest fish consumption rate in the world. The average Japanese household spent $1026 on fish and seafood in 2005. Total fish and seafood sales in Japan, estimated by Thomson Business Intelligence to have increased from $98 billion in 2004 to $104.5 billion in 2005, may reach $141.8 billion by 2010.

Japan is also the world's largest fish and seafood importer, importing nearly $17.3-billion worth of fish and seafood products in 2005. Because of the immensity of the Japanese fish and seafood market, Japan is generally considered the world price-setter for fish and seafood products."

More, specifically about tuna:

"Japan is the world's largest producer and market for fresh and frozen tuna and tuna-based products (excluding canned tuna). On average, a Japanese household spends $77 on tuna per year, well-above the $43-per-year average for shrimp, the second-most consumed fish and seafood product. Consumer spending on tuna increases dramatically in December, with prices reaching up to $22 per saku (120-150 g) in the last week of December (leading up to most important holiday in Japan, shogatsu [New Year]). Bluefin tuna, southern bluefin and bigeye tuna are the highest-priced tunas."


"Consumers and buyers in Japan are fairly price conscious and with prices increasing, these factors are changing Japanese consumption of fish and seafood products. For example, Japanese consumption of surimi has fallen to 52% of the global total from 65% five years ago, due to the rising popularity of surimi in Western countries. Since domestic retailers do not accept price hikes for kamaboko, Japanese surimi importers are often beaten on price by foreign companies.

Many restaurants and fish retailers are dealing with the increased prices by revising their menus or selling fish in smaller portions. For example, the Mutenkura sushi bar in Itami, Hyogo Prefecture, have increased their offering of non-sushi dishes to account for 30% of their menu, thereby reducing the impact of rising fish prices. Ito-Yokado Co., a major supermarket in Japan, reduced the quantity of sashimi it sells in packs in order to cut the unit price by 13%, but has maintained the same price. If the fish gets too expensive, fish and seafood retailers will withdraw the pricier fish from their offerings. Many sushi restaurants stopped offering salmon once it became more expensive than delicacies such as toro (fatty tuna) or uni.

In Japan, as consumers adopt a more Westernized diet and increase consumption of meat, fish and seafood consumption has fallen. Where traditionally the Japanese diet relied almost entirely on fish and seafood for animal protein, in 2003 fish consumption accounted for only 39% of total animal protein intake. Markets for traditional products (e.g. herring roe, smelt, or spawn on kelp) are stagnant or declining. In 2004, however, the volume of fish and seafood consumed by Japanese households still exceeded that of meat by 37%.

Consumers are purchasing fewer fresh fish and seafood products directly from retailers, and are consuming more fresh fishery products in the food-service sector and through consuming ready meals (e.g. boxed meals, rice balls). This change in consumption patterns can be attributed in part to an increase in the number of
single-member and two-member households, which tend to prefer convenient meal solutions, and an increase in the number of working women, which has decreased households' time available for cooking from scratch."

In my evaluation of this, the time is right to get Japan to back the EU bluefin tuna ban, and to get their consumers to change their patterns substantively. That would give the ban a chance to stick. Gut the market, and then gut a lot less bluefin tuna. Get the Japanese to enjoy turkey sushi (and the U.S. can export a lot of that).

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

California thinks about cleaning up ocean plastic pollution

You may have heard about the cruise to the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Well, if or if not, California wants to tackle the problem.

State Joins Forces with Non-Profit Groups to Find Solutions to Ocean Waste and Toxicity of Plastics

One aspect:

"The Watershed Project embraces the reality that marine debris and the growing amount of plastics in our ocean must be addressed in the context of a cradle-to-cradle approach said Linda Hunter, Executive Director of The Watershed Project. Manufacturers, municipalities and citizens need to work together to take responsibility for the tsunami of trash that we create every day."

Good luck to them.

This IS a public service announcement

Amanda Holden, lovely judge on Britain's Got Talent (famously seen when accolading Susan Boyle's astonishingly unexpected performance) is raising money for women's health issues wearing nothing but her shoes and her underwear.

And she's not wearing the shoes on her feet.

Here's the charity:

Heels that Heal

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

2-for-1: sable males, and stable mates

A thematic post. You'll see.

Part 1: Once feared extinct, Angolan sable wins new hope for survival

When I first saw this, I thought that all giant sables were thought extinct; which seemed strange, because I'd seen them in zoos rather recently. Turns out this is just about the Angolan giant sable subspecies (which the title of the article said), but I thought that that Angolan sable was substantially different than the other giant sables. I'm not knocking diversity and this is good news, but still, we'd still have giant sables (for awhile) if we lost the Angolans.

Anyway, the large news here is that they found a captured a male sable.

"After six years of monitoring stealth cameras and tracking dung samples, the team has finally captured 10 pure-bred giant sables for a breeding programme and tagged dozens of others to monitor their progress. ... The search then turned to the more remote Luando Reserve, where the only lead was a positive DNA test on a dung sample collected on an earlier trip. There they found two herds, in total around 40 giant sable, and chose one for the breeding area. Even after several weeks back in the capital Luanda, Pedro is still ecstatic about his encounters with the giant sables.
"Getting close to that first male was just incredible," he said. "But for me the most emotional part was when we put the male into the area with the females and stood back to watch them interact. "We only took one because if we put two in there they would kill each other, but this one we chose is at his prime so we hope will be good for breeding." ... A leading authority on the giant sable, Richard Estes of Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology: "I did not think we would find a single male, so to find as many as we did was amazing. This is an absolutely seminal step for the project."

Seminal (from the Merriam-Webster dictionary) -- he certainly chose his words wisely.

Which brings me to part 2.

What really makes a woman want to sleep [aka have sex with] a man?

Trust me, there's science here.

There are seven different sections in the article: Size Matters [height, if you're worried]; The Scent of Sex; Fit for Sex; The Face of Attraction; A Sexy Voice; Something In the Way He Moves; and Sexy Personality -- but the one I find most interesting (and I've read about this particular aspect of sexual attraction before) is the Scent of Sex aspect:

According to new scientific research, a woman will literally sniff out a man's genetic make-up before she decides if he's right for her.

A woman's sense of smell reaches a peak around the time of her ovulation, the 24-hour window -during the monthly menstrual cycle in which she can become pregnant.

The genes responsible for fighting off disease-causing bacteria and viruses are found in a group of genes called the major histocompatibility complex, or MHC.

Different people have various versions of these genes - and it turns out that women can benefit in two ways from mating with men whose MHC genes are dissimilar to their own.

Such a mate is likely to have more dissimilar genes in general, so finding someone dissimilar attractive might help to prevent many of the birth defects associated with reproducing with close genetic relatives.

A second benefit is any children of such a union will have a more robust immune system.

The interesting thing is that women seem to be able to sniff out men with dissimilar MHC.

In a revealing study, Brazilian researchers asked 29 men to wear cotton skin patches for five days to absorb their sweat - and thus their body odours.

A sample of 29 women then smelled each cotton patch and evaluated the odour on a scale from attractive to unattractive.

Scientists identified the specific MHC complex of each man and woman through blood tests. Women found the aromas of men who had a complex dissimilar to their own to be the most desirable.

The odours of men who had a complex similar to their own made them recoil in disgust.

This highly developed sense of smell can have a profound effect on women's sexuality.

Evolutionary psychologist Christine Garver-Apgar studied MHC similarity in 48 couples.

They found that as the degree of similarity between each woman and man increased, the woman's sexual responsiveness to her partner decreased.

Women whose partners had similar genes reported wanting to have sex less often. They had less motivation to please their partner sexually compared to the women going out with men with dissimilar genes.

Women with MHC-similar partners also reported more frequent sexual fantasies about other men, particularly at the most fertile phase of their ovulation cycle.

And their sexual fantasies about other men did not just remain in their heads. They also reported higher rates of sexual infidelity.

[This last part is really interesting, because studies of birds have shown that even in stable nesting pairs, the female frequently goes out and gets some on the side so as to increase the bio-diversity of her offspring.]

And thus, thematically, we have human females chasing different men to maximize the genetic fitness of their offspring, and we have seven female sables chasing a male to have offspring.

Speaking of stable (not sable) mates, also from the article:

Other studies show women prefer tall men as husbands and put an even greater emphasis on height in shorter-term sex partners. Women even place importance on height when selecting sperm donors.

Two studies also found that taller-than-average men tend to have a greater number of live-in girlfriends and more children, confirming their popularity for romance and reproduction.

And there does seem to be an underlying logic in women's preference for tall men. In Western cultures, tall men tend to have higher socio-economic status than short men.

Each added inch of height has been shown to add several thousand pounds to a man's annual salary.

It is estimated that, on average, 6ft men earn more than £100,000 across a 30-year career than 5ft 5in men.

Tall silverbacks that smell right and who are in pretty good shape, with square jaws and a sense of humour, get the babes?

This explains George Clooney.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This is the first I've heard of fish vaccination

Chile's farmed salmon industry took a big hit with an outbreak of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) very recently, cutting down to size the world's second-largest farmed salmon industry (after Norway). The industry in Chile has taken criticism for not being well-managed and being somewhat unsanitary; this virus may cause them to rethink and redo their practices. To recover, one of the things they're doing is vaccinating fingerlings:

Chile Vaccinates Salmon Against Deadly Virus

Here's the numbers:

"We hope to vaccinate between 10 and 12 million fish over the next six months, Alejandro Pino, a manager at the Recalcine pharmaceutical company which manufactures the drug, told AFP.

He said the vaccination programme, along with stepped up oversight of fisheries, was needed to save the once-thriving salmon industry, a source of millions of dollars each year in revenue.

Now, I wondered, is that feasible? So I looked up a fish vaccination company:

Eurofish Fish Vaccination Services

and they say, regarding how fast they can do this:

"Eurofish normally attend sites as a team of between 4 and 6 operatives, each capable of vaccinating 2000 fish per hour, giving an optimum capacity of 120,000 fish per day for a normal working day of 12 hours. Teams can be tailored to meet clients’ requirements - the company can, for example, provide the service of anaesthetising the fish, in which case a team of up to 7 personnel could attend the site."

OK, so 10 million/120,000 fish vaccinated per day = 83 days. 83/5 = 16.6. So at optimum speed, they could get this done in a little over four months.

Count me impressed. I'd like to see a video of how each operative vaccinates 2000 fish an hour, which is a remarkable 33 fish stuck a minute. I can barely eat 33 potato chips a minute.

Here's what the job looks like:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seen in the checkout line

Yes, there is a reason they put these things where they do.

Jennifer Love Hewitt On Shape Magazine [Cover]

She looks healthy... and shapely.

Lots more important things to write about... later this week.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Why isn't the Chesapeake Bay a national park?

I was reading the other day about the plight of Maryland watermen, (here's another view on the same subject) in conjunction with cleanup efforts that have never made much inroad on what needs to be done. Now, this is close to my thought processes, because I rose to maturity in a city that is identified with the Chesapeake Bay and what it produces in the way of seafood, and I currently live part-time close to its shores, but due to reasons of both income and family, I divide my time between my cute little house by the shore and a more mundane abode stuck in suburbia. It's nice to have that ability, and it's nice to have a family situation that makes it work, sort-of. But I won't dwell on the economic vicissitudes that make such an arrangement necessary. I don't, I won't, and it probably won't last for too many more years. I hope, at least.

But be that as it may be, the "plight" the Maryland watermen caught my attention. Basically, they are saying that everyone needs to get on the ball to clean up the Bay because they have to take part-time jobs so that they keep doing their other part-time job, which is maintaining the sorry state of the Bay's fisheries (and that means shellfish, crabs, and fish). Attitudinally, it sounds like this:

He said both watermen and the bay itself are "at the brink of collapsing," necessitating strict controls on pollution from all the various sources.

[Larry] Simns [President of the Maryland Watermen's Association] said watermen pay the price for pollution and mismanagement. There was the famous rockfish harvest moratorium in the 1980s, recent restrictions on crabbing and persistent talk of shutting down the oyster harvest.

"They don't mind putting a moratorium on watermen when stocks get low, but they won't put a moratorium on building," he said.

Well put. Simns recognizes that there are a lot of vested interests involved in screwing the Bay royally, but that his platoon should be able to keep pulling out about as much as they want if everybody else would just get together and clean the Bay up.

Look at it this way: the Chesapeake Bay's watershed extends to New York, but New Yawkers are going to be far more interested in what affects the Hudson than what flows into Pennsylvania. And Pennsylvania has so little Bay coastline that they basically see it as a downstream dump, and the lovely Susquehanna carries the agricultural runoff of half the state into the upper Bay (and some acid runoff from coal mining, too, and that also includes West Virginia). Speaking of WV, Virginia and West Virginia haven't agreed on much since they split up during that little contretemps called the Civil War, and though they contribute both the Potomac and the James into the Bay, they seem to think that the problem is mostly Maryland's. Now, Democrats Warner and Kaine have been a tad more cooperative than Gilmore and Glendening, who probably would have preferred derringers at 20 yards than actual conversation, but still, Maryland seems to get most of the blame for what's wrong with the Bay. And if Maryland can't control Tyson and Perdue's chicken poop and the combined suburban runoff from the DC and Baltimore sprawling suburbs (except hey wait a minute, DC isn't part of Maryland, so the Anacostia -- or is the the gonna-cost-ya -- River doesn't fall under Maryland's purview), so DC is yet another jurisdiction that has to be somehow involved, but the Feds keep punting this ball back to the states. Who are doing a d*mned poor job of it.

But look what they're up against. Agricultural interests; farmers complain about increased restrictions on what runs off their farm fields and what gets discharged from the excretory systems of their livestock. Illegal dumping abounds because legal dumping costs more. Grow-at-all-costs developers (why oh WHY is housing starts such a fricking important economic indicator? -- it's partly an indicator of how increasing less open land gets converted into homes, driveways, and parking lots) are treated like royalty if they bring venture capital to the table, especially in these economic times. Commercial fishing -- has Virginia yet tried to rein on Omega Proteins' rape of the filter-feeding menhaden? (Let me check: doesn't look like it.) And this particular region also hosts a thriving, commuter-clogged economy, and we certainly don't want to put the brakes on THAT -- despite the amount of water yanked out of the rivers for drinking and lawn-watering and power plants (OK, yes, nuke plants need cooling too) and all the excess fertilizer dumped into sewers and all the food waster dumped into disposalls.

How the heck are we going to clean this mess up? As the saying goes, the answer to that question is: not easily, and not quickly.

The problem is, because the Bay is shared by so many states, it is seen as a shared resource and not a national ecological and historical heritage. Washington DC would not be where it is, and neither would Mount Vernon, were it not for the Bay. Neither indeed would Norfolk or Hampton Roads be as important. Of course Baltimore's primary reason for existence was the Bay: it had a port, and of course the port had a fort, and the Key to that is the National Anthem. And the Bay's oysters used to be a gigantic cash crop, and up until a few years ago, crabs were pretty noted as a Bay specialty too. But again, this is economic exploitation, not ecological preservation. (Oh yeah, Annapolis has a bit of a connection to the Bay; so does the Potomac River all the way to Harper's Ferry; we could talk about how many Civil War battlefields lie within 100 miles of Bay waters, or the Monitor vs. Merrimack, so I could delve deeper into the historical importance, from colonial day to modern day) -- BUT I WANT TO MAKE A POINT.

And my POINT is: the Bay is unique, probably like no other estuary in the entire United States. Had it been viewed as such, as an ecological and historical gem, not as an economically-exploitable, multi-interest facilitator of commerce, it might have been viewed as something to preserve, just as explorers in wonderment saw everything in the valley of the Yellowstone and decided that it was too unique to lose.

Had we collectively viewed the Chesapeake Bay as too unique to lose and made it a national park, then the wildlife (terrestrial and aquatic) would be protected. Activities occurring outside of Chesapeake Bay National Park would all have to be viewed in terms of their potential impact on the ecosystems of the Park. Oysters, crabs, stripers, menhaden would be exporting themselves to waters external to the Bay, not trying to survive in the oxygen-depleted, murky waters of the current Chesapeake Sewer. If this had happened early in the 20th century and maybe part of the Bay was preserved as a cultural heritage park, those plighted watermen would be getting their oysters and crabs out of the Bay the traditional way, like the Indians, and they wouldn't be complaining that there was too little left to make this a viable lifestyle. And there would be recreational opportunities galore: sailing, clean beaches, skin diving to see the beauty of a thriving oyster bed, larger and more viable national wildlife refuges with waterfowl and the things they eat, ungutted coastlines, nook and cranny bays and rivers to be explored by kayak or canoe or skipjack --------------

---- this is a vision of something that will never be, but something that ought to have been. And so I think and wish and hope that these valiant multilateral efforts that accomplish nothing would see the Chesapeake Bay as the mid-Atlantic equivalent of the Everglades, which is a park that was beset with outside influences that threatened its viability, but which (despite what sea level rise is going to do to it) was deemed worthy of receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in restoration money to try and preserve a tenth of what it was before all the outside influences started kicking in to nearly destroy it. Why can't developers be taxed 10% of everything they profit in a development (of any kind) that lies within the Bay watershed? Oh, I know it's a lot of money. But when I talk about what the Bay used to be to my kids (hopefully I'll write more on that theme soon), they think it's a dreamland, a fantasy, an abstraction, a far-removed-reality that couldn't really have ever existed.

The Chesapeake Bay should have been a national park. It's a shadow of its former self, and that is a national shame and tragedy. I feel sorry for the watermen, because they are like typewriter repairmen, trying to hang on in an environment in which their skills are antiquated anachronisms. But it didn't have to be that way.

It didn't have to be like this: Chesapeake Bay Might Now Also Be a Health Threat to Humans

A compendium of a few more articles

Large sanctuaries urged for recovery of wild oyster population

Beauty on the Brink

Failing the Chesapeake

By the way, through the wonders of the Internet, this particular idea did actually come under consideration, around 2002:

Chesapeake Bay National Park?

Chesapeake Bay National Park? Study considers adding bay to system

But yeah, that didn't work:

Bay Gateways Network's future in jeopardy as funds are eliminated


"The White House [aka the Bush Administration], which did not include funding for the Gateways Network in its last two budget requests, has in policy statements encouraged Congress to terminate the entire Statutory Aid program. The House has also recommended the elimination of the program, and for the past two years followed the lead of the White House and eliminated funding for the Gateways Network.

This is not surprising to me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Let's nip this in the Budd

Now, I was going to write an extended post today about vested interest vs. the public good vis-a-vis national and global environmental heritage, but I became hopelessly delayed and didn't get to it. So instead I'm going to fall back on loveliness. I'll try to do the other thing tomorrow.

Now, what's available at the link below is no more daring or provocative or scandalous or revealing than a nice bikini. However, it is an accumulated compendium of wowness that one should be CAUTIOUS of inspecting if it is possible that disapproving eyes might be glancing over your shoulder or reviewing your URLs. But if the loveliness of youthful lines and curves is appealing to you as it might be clear that it is to me, well, this is one sweet and warm cup of tea.

Lauren Budd

(Found out about her from this Daily Mail article.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starts with La Nina, ends with El Nino

Over on Open Mind, Tamino has predicted (via a Sophisticated Mathematical Analysis) that 2009 will end up ranking as the 5th warmest year in the instrumental record, specifically the record from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS).

My question: if it happenstances that way, what does that do to the top 10?

Current list of top 10 warmest years, globally (Hadley Climate Research Unit T3)

1. 1998
2. 2005
3. 2003
4. 2002
5. 2004
6. 2006
7. 2007
8. 2001
9. 1997
10. 2008


1. 2005
2. 1998, 2007
4. 2002
5. 2003, 2006
7. 2001, 2004
9. 2008
10. 1997

So if 2009 comes in 5th (let's put it 5th in both, even though the placement might be a little different in both), here's the new rankings:


1. 1998
2. 2005
3. 2003
4. 2002
5. 2009
6. 2004
7. 2006
8. 2007
9. 2001
10. 1997


1. 2005
2. 1998, 2007
4. 2002
5. 2009
6. 2003, 2006
8. 2001, 2004
10. 2008

Interesting is what this does to either data set. For Hadley, it drops the cool 2008 off the 10th spot, so this aberrant La Nina-influenced year is no longer in the conversation, and places 2-9 are all after Y2K. For GISS, 1997 drops out, leaving only one year not in the first decade of the 21st century in the top 10.

What was anyone (particularly the dissonauts) saying about a 10-year cooling trend?

(Dissonaut: a combination of dissenter, disparage, and dissonance, cognitive. Also implying
that most of them are spaced-out, spacey, or just plain space cadets.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Checking in with El Nino

I decided to compare two El Ninos today. (Actually three: but I realized very quickly that the exceptional 1997-1998 event defies comparison.) What I did was go to the SST anomaly page and compare mid-September 1997 to mid-September now. That told me that the 1997 event was much, much bigger than what's happening now. So I checked in with the next El Nino, in 2002, which was MMM (much more moderate). Below are the SST anomalies as of September 16, 2002 (on the top) and September 14, 2009 (on the bottom).

What's interesting to me is that while the 2002 even looks a bit stronger over the Equator, the area of warm anomaly was much narrower than the current state. I don't know if that means anything or not. The SST anomalies south of Central America look about the same.

So is this one going to hang on 'til winter? Still too soon to tell.


Dark sky view of the entire Southern Hemisphere: I wish my kids could see just one night of dark skies and thousands and thousands of stars...

Giga Galaxy Zoom

OK, I'm sorry that I have to comment on this...

But wow.

CAUTION. May overheat monitor. Even though what's given is not nearly as overt as a lot of other things that can easily be found and viewed, it's the way it's given.

Heidi Klum poses -- hotly -- 3 months pregnant

Monday, September 14, 2009

Keeping up with the world's tallest buildings

A tragedy in Hong Kong alerted me to the fact that something I thought I knew to be correct now requires updating. The tragedy was that six workers fell to their death in a construction accident in the International Commerce Centre, which will be Hong Kong's tallest skyscraper and the world's fourth tallest building.

I thought I knew that the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur were the world's tallest building, but they've been surpassed. Petronas Towers now rank third tallest of completed buildings, and they'll be fifth when the ICC in Hong Kong and the Burj in Dubai are finished.

Here are links to descriptions of the top five:

1. The Burj, Dubai

2. Taipei 101

3. Shanghai World Financial Centre

4. International Commerce Centre

5. Petronas Towers

Grant Hackett and Candice Alley greet twins

Checking in on things I've written about before, such as:

Tall athletes and the lovely petite women who love them

included a profile of superstar distance swimmer Grant Hackett and his singing pop star wife, Candice Alley. At the time of that writing in June, they were expecting twins.

Well, they are now the parents of twins. Petite Candice carried the twins nearly to term. Congratulations and good on ya (as if I knew Aussie slang).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Energy and... the dishwasher

I asked myself, as I was unloading the dishwasher, "Who invented this thing??", and "Since I'm not going to go back to sink washing with a drying rack, can energy be saved with this thing?"

Answering the latter question is easy a little: wash full loads whenever possible; to save money (not necessarily energy) wash during off-peak hours. Now this might save a little energy because bringing peak generators online generally uses a bit more energy.

Here's a couple more links on that:

6 Energy Saving Tips for the Dishwasher


Dishwashers (Energy Star)

As for that question "Who invented the [machine] dishwasher?", I found a fascinating site that I haven't even read all of yet:

Chemistry in the Cupboard: Finish which provides everything you would EVER want to know about dishwashing.

And it told me that Josephine Cochrane invented the first machine dishwasher in 1893, because her servants keep chipping her fine china. After I found that, I sort of vaguely remembered that story, but I don't know from whence or where.

That's a dose of esoterica for ya.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Tea Party on the Mall

I'll bet most of these yahoos think that global warming is a hoax, too.

Up to two million march to US Capitol to protest against Obama's spending in 'tea-party' demonstration

Other sponsors of the rally include the Heartland Institute, Americans for Tax Reform and the Ayn Rand Center for Individuals Rights.

Yup. Global Warming "Facts" from the Heartland Institute

This is what the Heartland Institute's "science director" says:

"Lehr opened by noting, "When I point out in a couple of different ways that we're not responsible for the warming,"

which is ridiculous.

He also says this:

"We need 70 per cent of the public recognising this scam before the government will respond. In the United States we have risen in the past five years from 32-34 per cent recognising that global warming was not man-caused to right now around 54
per cent,"

and the idjit also says THIS:

"The shocking number is that, of that 4 per cent, man only contributes 3 per cent. That's our power plants, our automobiles, our own breathing; everything we do on the planet contributes 3 per cent. 97 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere comes from the ocean and from plants."

Well, I see about two million people who think this guy is a scientific genius; all are definitely citizens of unscientific America.

Pardon me while I get nauseous.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The rocky road to Copenhagen (climate treaty meeting)

Lots of stuff in the news about the Copenhagen conference today. Not all of it is good news; some of it isn't too bad.

This is the most bad:
UN climate talks could fail, EU ministers warn

"French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told AFP that Copenhagen would be judged as a success if there is the willingness from rich countries to help poorer ones deal with the effects of global warming.

"It is the richest who must share most of the burden with developing countries," Kouchner said.

This is less bad:
European Commission offers aid for developing countries on climate change

"The commissioner proposed that the EU pay between 10 and 30 per cent of the global total of the international public finance part of the requisite financing, which would amount to between 2 billion euros and 15 billion euros a year by 2020. The precise amount finally decided upon would depend on the relative weight accorded to two principles: the ability of a country to pay and its responsibility for emissions."

This is astonishing (and unlikely):
Wind could meet China's electricity needs by 2030: study

"McElroy's team used meteorological and geographical data to calculate China's total wind capacity and then estimated how much power could be delivered profitably at different floor prices.

They found that wind energy providers could profitably supply all of China's projected electricity demand by 2030 if they receive at least 0.516 yuan (7.6 US cents) per kilowatt hour for the first 10 years."

further on down it says "Benefits in terms of improvements in Chinese air quality would be substantial, however, and there could be important benefits also for the Chinese economy." By contrast, meeting future needs with coal could increase carbon emissions by 3.5 gigatons a year from the current annual level of 6.6 gigatons.
Health problems caused by air pollution are currently estimated to cost 0.7 to 4.3 percent of China's GDP, the authors note."

and finally: A network of wind turbines operating at as little as 20 percent of their capacity would be able to produce as much as 24.7 petawatt hours of electricity annually, which is seven times the country's current consumption. "Wind farms would only need to take up land areas of 0.5 million square kilometers, or regions about three quarters of the size of Texas," said co-author Xi Lu, a graduate student in McElroy's group at Harvard.
But how many turbines do you really need? And how fast do they have to be built? And can T. Boone Pickens explain all this to me?

People-previously-covered news

Kate Beckinsale... because she is

Kate Beckinsale and her dazzling new dress make a big splash at Hollywood premiere. But does her daughter like it?

Laliberte set to put cirque in space
Circus man ready to make 'fairy tale' come true in space

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Keeping up with George

George Clooney, that is.

That's amore: George Clooney takes girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis for a romantic motorbike ride around Lake Como

George Clooney and his new girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis enjoy la dolce vita on Italian boat trip

George Clooney goes public with new girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis at Venice premiere

Now, about Elisabetta. It's possible to do an image search for her photogenic countenance, pulchritude, and comeliness. If you do, be warned: she's been photographed wearing swimsuits and bikinis. And less. Comely indeed.

The only thing that has kept GC from achieving true silverback status is lack of offspring. He says (and promises) he won't ever have kids. Actually, I have to admire a man who is actually responsible about that. I wonder if there's a woman that could change his mind. Seems to me that Elisabetta could be persuasive if she wanted to be...

Bluefin tuna fishing ban nudged forward by European Union

EU firms up bluefin tuna fishing ban support

"This decision marks an important step in the protection of Atlantic bluefin tuna," Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said in a statement.

"We must act on the best scientific evidence available to us -- and scientists say that urgent action is needed to safeguard the future of one of the ocean's most emblematic creatures."

But as seems always, fishermen seem to think fisheries are an inexhaustible research (quoting from the article again):
But a fishermen's association grouping fleets from Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain termed the Brussels' stance as "nonsense."

Lest we forget: A Run on the Banks:
How "Factory Fishing" Decimated Newfoundland Cod

"The shock came in 1988. New modeling techniques and the latest stock survey revealed that many groundfish stocks were on the edge of collapse. The northern cod stock--by far the largest and most important--was in the worst shape of all. Fisheries scientists concluded that quotas had to be more than halved in order to prevent this stock's collapse. Politicians were appalled; the proposed quotas would have caused economic chaos throughout Eastern Canada. So the politicians compromised what could not be compromised. Quotas were cut by only 10 percent."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Proving the fixed Hubble works

In case you didn't catch this, NASA released a compendium of pictures and analyses from the refurbished and retooled HST (Hubble Space Telescope) that are somewhat on the level of mind-blowingly gorgeous.

Go here.

But if you want to see mind-blowingly gorgeous right away, just click this link to the full-size picture of Stephan's Quintet.

A smaller version:

You know it's serious when...

... when there's an actual prospect of serious, remedial action that is ultimately necessary.

It happened with the Montreal Protocol and ozone. Now it appears that the much of the world is waking up to the fact that some fisheries may disappear forever if there is not serious protective action taken in a somewhat immediate fashion.

So if you want to save this:

Do this:

The European Union is preparing to back a temporary ban on bluefin tuna fishing which would see the suspension of catches around the world, a source linked to the dossier said Tuesday.

A bit further down in the article it says:

"According to the proposal put to the UN agency against illegal wildlife trade CITES, stocks are so fragile that the species should be classified as being at threat of extinction.

"The idea is not to definitively ban fishing but to suspend it for two years, for example, to allow the species to build up again," the source in Brussels said.

As the Nike slogan goes: JUST DO IT.

It isn't safe to be a dumb silverback

Actually, I'm not sure this guy qualifies to be a silverback; I would rather think he's a silverback wannabe -- and he ain't gonnabe now.

(This story is just plain funny, were it not for the fact that there are families involved.)

The spanking senator

Hope the ride was worth the cost.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Insightful information on the southeastern Australia drought

A new study has come out on the drought that is bedeviling southeastern Australia:

Water Scarcity In Southeast Australia Started 15 Years Ago

"The data shows the first signs of diminishing water availability in Australia appeared somewhere between 1993 and 1996 when the rate of water resource capture and use started to exceed the rate of streamflow supply,” Dr van Dijk said.
Summary translation: when you start to take out more than's going in, you'll end up having less.

"The data also reveals that the impact of the drought on Australia’s current water resources is broadly consistent with both the historical trend and climate change predictions.

“Parts of Australia have had record low rainfall the last several years, but our records aren’t very long and the drought may still be within natural limits.”

“What makes the situation appear so much worse is that the sixties and seventies were quite wet. That’s also when we started capturing river flows in large reservoirs for our growing cities and irrigated agriculture. In retrospect it appears we have become over-reliant on what is now looking like ‘bonus’ rainfall during that time."
Summary translation: don't base long-term planning on periods of extraordinary abundance. California is learning this now. And this should also apply to every state budget in the United running-low-on-cash States of America.

Who's got Showtime?

There's going to be a new Bud Greenspan film about the Beijing Olympics; every Bud Greenspan film about the Olympics has been GOOD.

This one will feature a close look at Jason Lezak, who managed an out-of-his-body last 15 meters to beat France in the 400-meter freestyle relay; and made Michael Phelps 8-for-8 instead of 7-for-8.

Greenspan film to feature Jason Lezak

I want to see it. Unfortunately I don't subscribe to Showtime. I'm gonna have to find someone that does...

In case you want to see it again (someone filmed it on-screen as it happened)

It still looks impossible.

Monday, September 7, 2009

One step at a time for fish recovery

This news item last week caught me with a happy surprise:

New Treaty Would Cast Net Over Illegal Fishing

"Over 90 countries, including more than 30 from Africa, have agreed on the language of a new treaty to crack down on illegal and unregulated fishing.

The treaty would toughen port security and make it much harder for vessels to unload illegal catches. Its official name is the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing.

David Doulman, an official with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's Fisheries and Aquaculture Department in Rome, says, "It's an attempt to block the entry of illegally caught fish into international markets, so that the perpetrators of this type of fishing will not be able to benefit…or it will be more difficult for them to benefit."

Supposedly, according to other sources, this thing is set to be signed in December and then needs to get ratified by 25 countries. Let's hope this won't be nearly as hard to pass through the process as cap-and-trade is going to be in the U.S. Senate.

If you like comebacks...

If you like comebacks ... you've got to like what Melanie Oudin has been doing in the U.S. Open (tennis, of course).

Against Elena Dementieva: 5-7 6-4 6-3 .

Against Maria Sharaopova: 3-6 6-4 7-5 .

Against Nadia Petrova: 1-6 7-6(2) 6-3 .

After she got stomped on in the first set, ageless Dick Enberg commented that Melanie had Petrova "right where she wanted her". Pretty darn remarkable.

Now she has to see if her magic can extend to defeat a woman whose first name doesn't end in " "a" and whose last name ends in a different vowel (Danish 19-year old Caroline Wozniacki).

We'll see. Quite a run, and quite a lot of fun to watch.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

More of Mars, up close

There's just been a new release of Mars images from the HiRise camera:

September 2009 release

I haven't had a chance to look at all 95 pages; have fun if you want to!!!
I started with the first 10 pages, and this one caught my eye:'

Spider Trough Network

Browse image (it's more fun to go to look at the full-resolution images, which load easily, I will add)

There ought to be a contest to find the most unusual (or most eye-catching) image in this release; then a lot more people would look at them ALL quite closely.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Watching "Entourage"

For surprising reasons, I got to watch two episodes of "Entourage" a couple of days ago. I'd heard a lot about it, and it has in it one of my favorite waiting-to-make-it-big starlets, Emmanuelle Chriqui. (By the way, getting named "Emmanuelle" could put a lot of pressure on a girl: besides the famous book-and-movie sensual series, which brings to mind Sylvia Kristel and Krista Allen, there's Emmanuelle Beart and Emmanuelle Vaugier)... that's good company. Anyway, even though my first introduction to Emmanuelle C. was in a movie where she ended up getting sliced in half (time to hit IMdB, people), I've been waiting for her to break out. She's getting noticed as 'Sloan' in "Entourage".

The thing about her is, despite her obvious cuteness and assets, she doesn't take great still pictures. She's more engaging in action than frozen in time. This one, in a nice dress, (totally safe) isn't bad, but I've yet to find the definitive "hot" Chriqui capture.

Here's a set of pics from the Entourage Season Six premiere (courtesy Popoholic). One thing she does is smirk at the camera sometimes. When the smile is more natural, she heats up.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Silverback update for the 1st week of September

I haven't been too active yet this month; always seems to happen at the beginning of the month. Updated news for one of the silverbacks I've mentioned:

Gary Lineker and Danielle Bux wedding news (Danielle's dad didn't get invited)

Check out the honeymoon suite; as the saying goes, if you have to ask...