Monday, November 30, 2009

End-of-November followups, part 4: English cricket on the upswing

The fortunes of the English cricket team appear to be good at the moment; following the Ashes triumph over the Aussies, they're doing well in a one-day international series against world #1 South Africa. (Or maybe SA is only ranked #1 in Test cricket; I don't know.) And since I don't know much about cricket, I don't know why it seems so much easier to take wickets in ODIs than in Test cricket. I'll try to research this.

England is ahead 2-1 in the best-of-five ODI series.

Anderson leads rout of South Africa

Reference resource: One-Day International Cricket (one possible reason for more wickets being taken is the placement of the fielders)

End-of-November Followups, part 3: Asian carp might not thrive in the Great Lakes

Even if the jumping Asian carp jumps out of the Des Plaines River and into the canal (post on this here), a biologist indicates that they may not be very viable in the Great Lakes due to their manner of spawning:

Open lake waters may defeat Asian carp

We can hope. Too bad that Asian carp isn't edible and tasty; these whoppers would sure fill the plates in a lot of seafood restaurants! (As I noted before, why can't these by the delicacy??)

Apparently, though, you can cook 'em:

Bones of Contention: Commercial anglers are having a tough time marketing this abundant nuisance species which ranks better than tuna in taste tests

Without searching much, I discovered info indicating that apparently they're also good smoked, like mullet.

End-of-November followups, part 2: Bluefin tuna is off the menu

Now, if only we could get Japan to do this; top gourmet restaurant chefs in France are taking bluefin tuna off the menu. They reason that people will buy fish that they eat (and liked) in restaurants.

Top French chefs take bluefin tuna off the menu

There are a number of other fish that should be off the menu, and many sustainable chefs have already stopped serving them, notably: orange roughy (deep sea perch, Hoplostethus atlanticus), Patagonian toothfish (Patagonian toothfish, Dissostichus eleginoides -- note, when I Googled that, there were a lot of recipes for it -- agh! -- shark and shark fin, any sturgeon caviar from Russia and eastern Europe.

The National Seafood Guide from the Monterey Bay
Aquarium gives a more comprehensive listing.

National seafood guide
(in PDF)

End-of-November followups, part 1: HCGW (Helena Christensen global warming)

A few posts ago I commented on Helena Christensen's photographic documentation of the effects of global warming on glacier melt in Peru.

Well, it seems Helena must be partly to blame for that. I mean, should a 40-year old woman (even if she's a supermodel) be allowed to generate this much heat by herself? (A caution warning is in order here)

Helena Christensen: on supermodels, and posing n _ _ _ at 40

Bonus: Cheryl Cole cover shoot video (music is loud; go all the way to the end; trust me on this)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Who hacked the CRU emails? I suspect Russian teenagers

I haven't seen a lot of chatter about who actually might have done the CRU hack. I'm surprised there hasn't been more speculation (but the investigators may be playing it very close to the vest to try not to tip the perps and perhaps lose the electronic trail, if there is one.)

The little that was revealed over on RealClimate indicated that the RealClimate server was invaded from a server in Turkey connected to Russia (I think I got that right) and the file with the hacked emails was posted on a Russian server.

Is it too obvious to think that Russia might have had something to do with this?

Here's what I think. And I'm probably wrong. But if I'm thinking, I'm still existing, right?

1. Russia, and probably in particular a few very wealthy petro-dollar Russians, have a lot to gain from continuing the oil flow to the West. They've used it to manipulate the Ukraine (actually on natural gas, but it's a related issue.) It's still one of Russia's main sources of income. If a climate change deal was inked in Copenhagen (even some progressive agreements), then they stand to start losing the energy income.

Pic: Oil rigs near Baku, Azerbaijan

2. There are lots of hackers in Russia (many of them teenagers) writing viruses for profit. Think I'm kidding? Never encountered one? According to reports, some of the most insidious viruses are those that capture commercial correspondence (i.e., when you use your credit card for an Internet purchase), and send the information to Russian organized crime syndicates. Not that I enjoy quoting Fox News, but still: Cybercrime more widespread, skillful, dangerous than ever has this:

"We even have proof of actual job listings on Russian-language sites offering lucrative pay for coders who can create exploits and launch denial-of-service attacks. We've seen evidence of skilled hackers stealing corporate data on behalf of competitors. This isn't just about credit card and bank information. It has all the elements of traditional mafia-type crime," Melnick said.

Roger Thompson, a computer security pioneer who created the first Australian anti-virus company in the late 1980s, is convinced the secretive Russian mafia is masterminding the use of sophisticated rootkits in botnet-seeding Trojans.

"They are paying to recruit bright young hackers and using teenage kids around the world to move money around. They're into everything: spyware installations, denial-of-service shakedowns, you name it. It's the traditional mafia finding it easy to make money on the Internet," said Thompson, who now runs Exploit Prevention Labs in Atlanta.

3. So add that up and you have motivation - derail the Copenhagen Express (well, maybe they were worried about it...) and method by doing something probably very simple, hacking into a research unit and stealing emails that shed a bad light on climate science. Recruit and pay the skilled Russian teenage hackers to crack the site and raid the server. Recruit and pay one or two unemployed (or just under-paid) and maybe a little disaffected Russian climate researchers to read through the emails and find the most incriminating ones, and compile them into a file. Publish your results and let the feeding frenzy begin. And while the climate treaty proceedings stall and the skeptical chorus howls at the moon in major Western countries (United States, England, Australia, etc.) keep watching your petrodollars flow in.

One wonders, if I'm right, if the perps or their sponsors had an insight into the American political progress and realized how a couple of Senators from low-population, highly conservative states can unduly influence and stagnate proceedings in the Senate. Yes, I mean Senator Inhofe.

Quick thoughts on the Tiger Woods incident

1. Never drive when you're angry at 2 AM.

2. If Tiger was having an affair, what the H*LL was he thinking? Quoting Rick Reilly (when Tiger was engaged to Elin): "... and engaged to a Swedish nanny so freaking gorgeous that rivers stop and take a look." I think the Eva Longoria Parker rules apply here; don't even think about it. And my hunch is, he didn't even think about it.

3. If Tiger didn't do it, what the H*LL was Elin thinking going after him? You'd think she'd understand the tabloids by now. This is one of the most lucrative gigs in town (being his wife -- not that I'm saying that she's in it for the money, she very likely is deeply in love with him) -- my point is, are you going to risk his livelihood, not to mention his place in sporting history, without significant corroboration? I would HOPE that she didn't go nine-iron on him just because of an article in the National Enquirer, but if you're stuck at home with a toddler and a 10-month old while your uber-rich hubby is jetting around the world to play GOLF (and GOLF has caused a lot of marital friction in much less moneyed households than the Woodses) -- maybe you are on the edge of going a little bit cabin-crazy and it only takes a slanted article to push you into a blazing rage.

4. I hope there's nothing to it; I hope he recovers; and if the report is untrue, the Enquirer should fire the reported. Because this is what happens when good people are maligned by innuendo.

Likewise for the brave climate scientists who have been unjustly and unthinkingly (because a vast number of climate change skeptics have very little actual intellectual capacity) attacked because of the stolen emails. Next post (actually the one above this).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Underestimating our consumptive aptitude

Survey sees energy efficiency slipping down consumer priority list

"The survey also found that consumers are willing to watch their energy bills go up more than 70 percent, on average, before feeling forced to make energy-efficient home improvements. Respondents said their bills would need to go up an average of $129 a month to make them undertake renovations. “We call this phenomenon the ‘Apathy Gap,’ the price people are willing to pay to do nothing,” Shelton says. “Here consumers are willing to waste more than $1,500 a year, or more than $4 a day, before they’ll take action. For that same amount, a homeowner could install insulation or purchase one or two new Energy Star appliances to start seeing immediate savings.”

In related news:
Cash for Clunkers, household edition

It's spelled A-L-B-E-D-O

NASA has produced an incredible resource of data visualizations and environmental change images:

Climate Essentials

so I have to forgive them for the one typo which I have cited in the title of this posting.

An example:

From here:

Amazon deforestation

Friday, November 27, 2009

International birdwatching, weekend edition: Shilpa Shetty

India occasionally produces breathtaking international beauties: Shakira Caine, Aishwarya Rai are a couple of examples; I'm sure there's more. One such more is Shilpa Shetty, who just very recently got married, and previously was the winner of a round of Celebrity Big Brother. Oh, and she also owns a cricket team. She got in a bit of totally unwarranted trouble when Richard Gere made kissy-face with her (for fun).

Shilpa Shetty throws ANOTHER wedding party as she glitters in gold sari

Below are links to a half-dozen examples of Shilpa's glam appeal:

1. One of the most provocative fully-clothed pictures I've ever seen

2. Traditional beauty, cleavage edition

3. Satin sheets; there is just so much to like here (sensual and safe)

4. Just plain gorgeous

5. A very NICE dress

6. Red carpet in black

New Zealand passes climate bill; Australia on the edge of something

New Zealand passed a climate change cap-and-trade bill! Good new even though New Zealand is a pretty small emitter. But they showed the way and took a courageous move, despite having to make sausage with the Maoris. (Seems like Polynesian islanders do have a stake in this, so I'm glad they signed on.) Now, according to the linked article below, Australia was nearly there, but parliamentary maneuvers may make it necessary to have a new election to pass it.

Boy, this is a fun issue, isn't it?

Cap & trade: NZ commits, Australia wavers

A small bit of good news for world's fish

News out that despite ICCAT's punt on bluefin tuna, there's a new treaty that just about everyone will sign -- a treaty outlawing illegal fishing. Now, if it was already illegal, wasn't it outlawed? Well, apparently not: a lot of countries were tacitly condoning it. Basically, now there shouldn't be any haven ports for pirate fishing vessels.

We can hope so, at least. The world's fish need every break they can get.

FAO signs treaty against illegal fishing

Because the less of this, the better:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Storm chasers finale Sunday

Last week's preview on "Storm Chasers" for this Sunday's finale looked pretty risky.

According to the site, the IMAX guy (Sean) finally gets what he's been seeking; a "head-on" intercept.

Here's some pretty good storm pictures (the best are at the bottom) from books on the subject.

Storm Chaser

This storm is amazing.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NASA seriously contemplates a manned asteroid mission


Mars is a tempting target -- but getting people there and getting people back would be really difficult. I say, explore the place with more and better rovers, even hoppers. (Design a wheel that doesn't get stuck in sand and self-cleaning solar panels, and then you've probably added a lot of longevity, too.) MUCH, much cheaper than sending people. But an asteroid mission -- now that makes sense, and for the reasons delineated in the article:

"Not only would the deep space sojourn shake out hardware, it would also build confidence in long-duration stints at the moon and Mars. At the same time, the trek would sharpen skills to deal with a future space rock found on a collision course with Earth."

Operation Plymouth Rock

My favorite asteroid visited by a flyby satellite:

Ida (and it's little satellite, Dactyl)

Consterning consumption -- humans on non-sustainable trajectory

There's no way I could be surprised by this: a report from the "Global Footprint Network" finds the startling but unremarkable result that the human race is using up Earth's natural resources faster than they are being replenished.

Somewhere (and he's still alive), Paul Ehrlich is feeling vindicated, but I doubt he's smiling.

Neither am I. I am still thinking about what shape this beleaguered globe will be in when my kids are my age and my grandkids are their age. It's not a pretty thought. The only way to change the outcomes that seem both foreseeable and unthinkable is too alter a lot of trajectories. IF we could improve our energy production, energy-consumptive activities like transportation and desalination would fall into place; transportation could become a lot less polluting, and desalination would reduce the need of coastal countries to rely on fickle and dwindling rivers for fresh water. That's why, in case anyone doubts, I tout and advocate and push for nuclear power AS PART OF a robust and diversified and resilient energy portfolio for the Earth. Nuclear can be the bridge to the future, and modular plant construction can reduce costs and increase safety. I/we are still dealing with embrittlement, but I think there are some materials technology that can improve that situation.

Anyway, here's the global footprint report:

Humanity now demanding 1.4 Earths

Monday, November 23, 2009

Helena Christensen's 'Meltdown' project

Supermodel and now conservationally, global environmentally minded woman Helena Christensen (safe, but it isn't hard to find images that aren't, if you want that kind of thing) is ignoring the blogosphere denialists and documenting the melting of Peruvian glaciers photographically. It's really sad that someone like her can do something like this and there are hordes of conservative skeptics in the U.S. who think that nothing serious is happening and that there is no evidence something serious is happening.

Several links with her images follow.

Meltdown: Images of What We Lose When the Glaciers Disappear

'Glacial meltdown': Helena Christensen's photo exhibit at the UN

Supermodel Turned Photographer Helena Christensen Launches 'Meltdown' exhibit

In Pictures: Helena Christensen exhibition

Iceland Sea time-series acidification

If anyone happens to find me by name search after seeing my name on Thomas Fuller's Examiner column, here's the paper I was talking about to the ignoramus named James Mayeau who claimed there wasn't any ocean acidification:

Rate of Iceland Sea acidification from time-series measurements

The Iceland Sea is one part of the Nordic Seas. Cold Arctic Water prevails there and the deep water is an important source of North Atlantic Deep Water. We have evaluated time series observations of measured pCO2 and total CO2 concentration from discrete seawater samples during 1985–2008 for changes in response to increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The surface pH in winter decreases 0.0024 yr−1, which is 50% faster than those at two subtropical time series stations, BATS and ESTOC. In the deep water regime (>1500 m), the rate of pH decline is ¼ of that observed in surface waters. The surface calcium carbonate saturation states (Ω) are about 1.5 for aragonite and 2.5 for calcite, and are about ½ those for subtropical waters. During the period 1985–2008, the degree of saturation (Ω) decreased at a rate of 0.0072 yr−1 for aragonite and 0.012 yr−1 for calcite. The aragonite saturation horizon is currently at 1750 m and rising at 4 m yr−1. Based on local hypsography, each year causes 800 km2 of sea floor, previously bathed in saturated waters, to be exposed to undersaturation conditions.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A short note about the MLS Cup

Underdog Real Salt Lake beat Favorite L.A. Beckham (er, Galaxy) for the MLS Cup [soccer] in Seattle, 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime, 5-4 in the penalty kick sideshow. No matter what the purists say, I still think top-level soccer needs a little more scoring to be more interesting (but I'm an American). That said, penalty kicks are a lousy way to determine a championship -- the NHL [hockey] uses the shootout in the regular season but you have to win it outright in as many overtimes as it takes in the playoffs.

Winning a championship on penalty kicks in soccer is like deciding the NBA [basketball] championships based on which team can make the most free throws in the last two minutes of each close game. Ridiculous, isn't it?

Oh wait...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This really IS important: new satellite will measure ocean salinity and soil moisture

Wow, meant to get to this two weeks ago, but I can update with even more information. The Europeans launched a new satellite called pedantically the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, and it successfully deployed its triple antenna system after launch, and now it's sending back data in the spin-up phase. Not only that, it's a very COOL looking satellite. Linked articles and an image follow:

Eurockot Launches SMOS And Proba-2

SMOS Forms Three-Pointed Star In The Sky

SMOS satellite instrument comes alive


NASA has a similar mission in the works, with a more harmonious name (Aquarius), but it won't launch until 2010 -- hopefully. And it's not as good-looking, either.


Multi-tasking on the weekend: part 1, Heidi Klum post-pregnancy update, plus Miranda, Alessandra, Marisa, et wowzera

I launched a few messages in response to the Climate Research Unit email hacking incident tonight, and thus I find myself in further arrears posting all the interesting stuff that I should. So first I will post this, which shows that Heidi Klum's modeling days are far from over, and also shows a LOT of Miranda Kerr (and that's never a bad thing), another mother Alessandra Ambrosio, and drum-tight Marisa Miller:

Victoria's Secret Christmas fashion show preview

(You can take your chances -- nothing more than revealing underthings and wings)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

BIG fireball over Utah

Spent too much time over on Accuweather Global Warming tonight, so I'll just post these links about the Leonid-night fireball over Utah that wasn't a Leonid, but sure the heck was a METEOR.

Meteor explosion lights up the sky over Utah

Direct route to the KSL TV coverage (also linked in the article above), with great video interspersed with annoying and unavoidable advertising:

Meteor lights up early morning sky, alarms Utahns

I really like the video where the black-and-white goes to color for a moment. That's BRIGHT.

First time I've ever seen the residents of Utah called "Utahns". I guess they don't want to be confused with Utes or yoots.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's about time

I should have gotten to this earlier in the week, but Michelle Wie finally won a professional golf tournament. It's something that the woman's sport really needs.

Wie takes Mexico event for 1st LPGA win

If she catches fire, there will be more fans (some of them male, and not just to watch her swing) on the links watching the women play.

In that vein, I have always wondered if the lesser attention paid to women's pro sports than men's pro sports is partly because of history. There is less long-term tradition for writers and fans to borrow from and think about. There are fewer hallowed records, like the 18 major tournament wins of Nicklaus that Tiger is shooting for, or all the (argh) World Series titles of the Yankees and the attendant tradition. The one pro sport that seems to get nearly the same respect for women as men is tennis -- and tennis has a long rich history in the women's game as well as the men's game. Women's golf has a fairly long rich history as well, but it's just not as well-known (and I think that women's golf has been mostly a North American/European affair until recently, rather than the more global extent of tennis). And perhaps I'm being parochial. But it's unfortunate that competitive and exciting women's pro sports like soccer, basketball, and golf struggle while the men's sports thrive. Women's college competition still does great (but unfortunately I think that is partly because it's hard and expensive to get tickets to the men's games at major colleges!)

Now, women's volleyball has always appealed to me, both for competitive and aesthetic reasons, and the beach game appears to do fairly well for pros, too. And if they had even more players like Gabrielle Reece and Francesca Piccinini, they're might be even more beer-fueled, red-blooded male fans of that game.

(Note about Francesca: searching finds more with less, caution abounds. Same goes for Gabs, though not at quite the same extent of exposure.)

Photographic serendipity captures natural wonder

Two examples of clicking a pic at the right time. I'm posting the links here; I hope they don't disappear.

A blazing Leonid (and the host page)

A massive storm wave hits Cornwall (and the host article)

Good news, bad news on the nuclear (power) option

First the good news: I'm on board with Senator Lindsey Graham (and a lot of his Republican conservative brethren don't consider him a brother-in-arms on climate):

US should follow France, boost nuclear power: senator

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is working with Democrat John Kerry on the bill, highlighted how France now derives 80 percent of its energy from nuclear power and is presently constructing a next-generation reactor, said to be the most advanced in the world.

"Surely we can be as bold as the French," Graham told reporters.

(Let's note that Graham is from a state with both the Savannah River Site / Savannah River National Laboratory, as well as a nuclear presence courtesy of Duke Power. So I'm not surprised Lindsay is pro-nuke.

Furthermore, Sens. Alexander (Lamar) and Webb (Jim) have put forth a bill also boosting nuclear.

Then the bad news:

Nuclear power: less effective than energy efficiency and renewable energy?

"The Environment California Research & Policy Center concluded that launching a nuclear power industry nearly from the ground up is too slow and expensive a process. Energy efficiency standards and renewable energy options are better solutions, researchers said.

Now, I totally agree with energy efficiency standards and conservation NOW. That can get us where we need to be in the next decade. But we will still need more power eventually, and as of yet (except possibly for the super-powered house battery I posted about a few months ago) the renewable power energy consortium hasn't figured out a good way around solar power problem #1: NIGHT, and wind power problem #1, WHEN THE WIND DON'T BLOW.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Alaska fights polar bear listing to keep drilling and spilling oil

For some reason, Alaskans, the most prosperous citizens in the country (due to oil revenues in every citizen's pocket) don't want to stop drilling. Apparently the stink and appall at what the Exxon Valdez did to Prince William Sound has faded. Apparently the king of the Arctic, the polar bear, means less to them than a widescreen TV in every living room in the wilderness. Apparently the good life has to remain good.

Alaska fights to reverse polar bear listing
Governor doesn’t want expanded U.S. protection hurting oil development

The stakes are high for Alaska. About 90 percent of Alaska's general fund revenue budget is fueled by the petroleum industry. The trans-Alaska pipeline is running at less than one-third capacity and only high oil prices and a new method of taxing oil production have kept Alaska from slashing government services or looking for other revenue sources, such as a state income tax.

Polar bears or income taxes? Hmmmph... there's a choice for you.

I have SOOoo much more to say. Hope I can get to all of it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Part 3: Japan's James Bond energy project

And now we arrive at Part 3, wherein nations of the world come up with hare-brained, massively expensive schemes to keep their power flowing. Japan wants to orbit solar panels in space and radiate down the generate power with microwaves, or better yet, LASER BEAMS.

I ... am ... not ... kidding.

Japan plans giant solar power station in space

"The plan is to create a miles-wide array of photovoltaic panels, like the solar panels used on Earth, and place it in a geostationary orbit."

and then

"Once collected, the solar energy would be beamed down to a substation on Earth, using laser beams or microwaves.

JAXA say that the system would be safe, although they admit that it might be hard to reassure the public over the image of huge laser beams blasting down from the sky."

Well, yes, that's true. Because when I think of this project, I proceed to think of this image from "Die Another Day":

I would think that there would have to be considerable international insurance that the laser beams from the power stations could not be aimed in such a manner as to cause immediate destruction of any of the property in neighboring countries. Face it: from "Diamonds are Forever" and "Goldeneye" to "Under Siege 2: Dark Territory", having a laser beam in space is a terrorist's wet dream, if they could get their hands on it.

Along a similar theme, laser beams in space get me dreaming of getting my hands on:

Part 2: Oil is bad for the Earth -- target Greenland (and Nils-Axel Moron)

Well, the unsurprising news is that the Greenland ice sheet is melting faster. It's been warm up Arctic way for many decades now, so that's why I say it's unsurprising. This may be surprising to the conservative wing who thinks "it's the Sun, stupid". Sorry, wrong driver.

Greenland ice loss 'accelerating'

For the period 2000-2008, melting Greenland ice raised sea levels by an average of about 0.46mm per year.

Since 2006, that has increased to 0.75mm per year.

"Since 2000, there's clearly been an accelerating loss of mass [from the ice sheet]," said lead researcher Michiel van den Broeke from Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

"But we've had three very warm summers, and that's enhanced the melt considerably.

"If this is going to continue, I cannot tell - but we do of course expect the climate to become warmer in the future."

In total, sea levels are rising by about 3mm per year, principally because seawater is expanding as it warms.

Now, about that last part. It's REAL hard to explain that away with faulty surface weather station siting, leading to erroneous weather data, I think. And there's only one crackpot moron (true name: Nils-Axel Mörner) who denies it's happening.

This is Nils-Axel Morner. Print this picture and place it on dartboard, archery, or pistol range target. Aim carefully. Revel in your symbolic act of addressing climate disinformation.

Part 1: Oil is bad for the Earth (not just because of global warming)

Part 1 of a three-part blog series.

Oil is bad for the Earth. Oil exploitation in the Sudan (not a place where there's a lot of it, as far as I know) is messing up one of the world's great wilderness wetlands:

Sudan's White Nile marshes threatened by oil pollution

The pollution caused by the oil industry is also threatening the Sudd tropical wetlands, which cover an area of 30,000 kilometres (11,500 square miles).

The swamps, flood plains and grasslands support a rich animal diversity including hundreds of thousands of migratory birds and are inhabited by the Nuer, one of southern Sudan's two main tribes.

More than two decades of north-south civil conflict had incidentally protected the site through isolation but the intensification of oil activities since the 2005 peace deal is now a threat.

In 2006, the Sudd wetlands were certified of international importance under the Ramsar convention.

Map shows where it is:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Scarlett and Lauren

Scarlett Johannson in a lovely ad for D&G:

Fifties glamour returns as Scarlett Johansson smoulders in new ad campaign

Sometimes the Oscar (Academy Award) nominating process isn't fair. It probably wasn't in Lauren Bacall's case. In 1999, she was voted one of the 25 most significant female movie stars in history by the American Film Institute.

Lauren Bacall finally gets an Oscar -- but not at the Academy Awards

I hope they give her some time on the actual awards show. She deserves it.

ICCAT blows it

The commission that is supposed to protect bluefin tuna blew the call and set the quota for Mediterranean/eastern Atlantic bluefin at 13,500 tons.

This is ludicrous. Hopefully now CITES will take over, but that meeting is four months away. The future for this bluefin stock is bleak.

Atlantic bluefin trade ban now vital as tuna commission fails to take action again

Dr Tudela said a new provision for a 2011 fishery closure if the fishery was detected as being at serious risk of collapse was difficult to reconcile with the scientific committee’s recent data that the stocks are already at less than 10-15 per cent than unfished levels. “The trends for bluefin tuna are very clear and we need to act on the forward view rather than the rear mirror view to avoid collapse,” Dr Tudela said.

WWF had lobbied the meeting for a fishing suspension and determined action against illegal fishing, estimated to considerably inflate the most recent (2008) catch estimates of 34,120 tonnes. During the Recife meeting almost all harvesting countries were formally identified by ICCAT for breaking its rules – like EU tuna fattening farms accepting fish without proper documentation.

My question: when an organization ignores the advice of its own scientists, what good is it? I'm going to have to ponder that one.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A hockey highlight recommendation

It's late and I've been up watching sports highlights. I recommend going to and watching the action of tonight's (November 14) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Boston Bruins game. I won't give away the ending, but I will quote "Galaxyquest": "Never give up, never surrender!"

I recognize skill when I see it, no matter who the team is.

Thinking ahead; something different to do with leftover turkey

As some rare readers may know, I tout turkey as a major food of the future, for a lot of reasons. I've even pushed turkey sushi -- and given the reports coming out of the ICCAT meeting, in a few years the Japanese had better learn to like it.

But if you want to do something different with your leftovers than just reheat them, here's a recipe for turkey and cranberry ravioli (found on the Food Network):


  • 1/4 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
  • 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
  • 2 tablespoons grated Romano
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 20 store-bought wonton wrappers


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


To make the ravioli: in a medium bowl, stir together the turkey, cranberry sauce, cheese, bread crumbs, parsley, egg, salt, and pepper. Place 10 wonton wrappers on a work surface. Brush lightly with water using a pastry brush. Place 1 tablespoon of the turkey mixture on each of the wonton wrappers. Top with another wonton wrapper. Push out any air bubbles and press the edges tightly to seal.

To make the gravy: in a medium, heavy skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and stir until cooked, about 1 minute. Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring quickly to avoid lumps. Add the cream, parley, salt, and pepper and cook, without boiling, for 2 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook until tender but still firm to the bite and the turkey is cooked, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes. Drain the ravioli into the gravy and stir to coat. Serve immediately in individual dishes, drizzled with the remaining gravy.

Buon appetito!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cute soap opera actress appreciation PREVIEW

Courtesy of the Daily Mail's journalistic excellence, I had been aware of Hollyoaks actress Gemma Merna for a few months now. They showed her poolside in Vegas with her fiance:

Hollyoaks to Hollywood? Gemma Merna tries out A-list style as she sizzles by the pool

But it turns out that poolside tanning isn't the best activity she should be engaging in:

Hollyoaks star Gemma Merna reveals her damaged skin from using sunbeds in Cancer Research campaign

OK, so poolside tanning is not something she should do any longer. However, wearing a swimsuit is something that she and her transformed 30B-to-> 30F figure should definitely continue doing:

More on this subject later. Hollyoaks is stocked with pulchritudinous partridges. This could call for a multiple essay.

Rosetta flyby generates gorgeous pic of Earth

The European Rosetta mission, which will eventually (and that's a long time to 2014) rendesvous with a comet and land on it, just flew by Earth last week. It took a beautiful picture of the limb on its way by.

Good luck. I think it's going to pass by a second asteroid on its way to the comet. Thinking I should check rather than guess, I did: ROSETTA, and yes it will, next year.

There's never a good plumber in space when you need one

In case this one got by you, the International Space Station, where NASA money goes to die, is now equipped with a massively sophisticated system that allows the purification and re-use of all manner of fluid input, primarily urine, wastewater, and sweat. Apparently when it works, it works great. It makes perfect sense to exploit every avenue available for recycling, and it's partly too bad that such technology can't find wider use on Earth. Maybe eventually it can, and it would have an impact in arid sectors and drought-stricken areas, such as the previously-blogged about Macau. This might get important as coastal regions get more populous and put more demands on water tables that are getting more saline due to saltwater intrusion.

So here's more on this current difficulty, made more urgent due to the imminent (hopefully) launch of Atlantis on Monday:

Broken Urine Recycler May Affect Space Mission

"The space station's urine recycler is part of a larger, $250 million water conservation system that collects urine and wastewater, as well as sweat and other condensate from the spacecraft's atmosphere. That mix is then filtered through a seven-step process until it is pure enough to drink or use for food preparation, bathing, oxygen generation or any other purpose.

Station astronauts began drinking their recycled urine in May."

I wasn't counting, but there are currently six astronauts on the ISS, and the Atlantis crew will make it 12. That's only one short of the record for the number of humans in space at the same time, which was set this past March.

It's a long way from Arks in Space, but it's a start, anyway.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Another glimpse of the future in Macau

The island realm of Macau, a gambler's paradise, is demonstrating what happens when outflow exceeds inflow. And the negative result is not appealing to anyone.

Macau running out of water

"Some forecasts suggest that Macau may have only 10 days of fresh water left. Stocks of bottled water may have to be shipped in unless a deal can be struck with water companies in Guangdong province - suppliers who are already under intense strain to keep Hong Kong's taps running as the water shortage takes hold."

High and dry

Two troubling paragraphs:

"With key supplier Zhuhai facing woes of its own and Macau having drinking water in its reservoirs for just 10 days, rationing is a real possibility. That would have a crippling effect on businesses as well as major visitor- geared events on Macau's calendar."

"Macau has been urged to cut back on its water use by officials in neighboring Zhuhai, where reservoirs are at a 10-year low. If Zhuhai cannot help with more water, then Macau must start rationing. The Zhuhai government has already banned the use of water for non- essential activities such as street cleaning and watering greenery."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Best soccer dives

This is kind of funny; the Daily Mail has videos of the best dives in soccer history (or at least those captured on video). Diving in soccer upsets the aficionados because it's cheating, trying to draw a foul or card when it isn't warranted. If this is new territory for you, watch and learn:

Best soccer dives

Update from the ICCAT meeting, November 11, 4 days to close

I found an on-site report from the ICCAT meeting; if you'll recall, there is a lot of pressure being focused on ICCAT to institute an eastern Atlantic/Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishing ban. If they did, it would truly be a breakthrough for global governance of wild resources, which means they probably won't even come close.

Negotiating with biology

Quoting author "Willie":

"This year with huge amounts of public pressure, bad press, and celebrity outrage at the state of bluefin, ICCAT members are all talking very sincerely about setting catch levels that 'follow the science'. Surely they should be bound by the scientific recommendations – otherwise, what's the point of having them? Surely it should not take campaigns and catastrophic stock collapses to make ICCAT see that?"

The science recommends shutting down the fishery. Will they?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quick hitter #4: Coral sex: some do it long and slow, others do it big and fast

Corals are promiscuous gamete-mixers. At certain times of the year, when the winds or temperatures or phase of the moon or ocean currents are right, they suddenly take part in a mass coral orgy where the seas are literally awash in coral sperm and female eggs. Now it turns out that corals have different mating strategies depending on their environment.

Study uncovers new fact of coral spawning

Calm Before The Spawn: Climate Change And Coral Spawning

"For decades researchers have known that corals synchronize their release of eggs and sperm into the water but were unsure of how and why. Robert van Woesik, a biologist at the Florida Institute of Technology, explains why corals spawn for just a few nights in some places but elsewhere string out their love life over many months.

The study shows that corals spawn when regional wind fields are light. When it is calm the eggs and sperm have the chance to unite before they are dispersed. Corals off the coast of Kenya have months of light winds so they can reproduce for much of the year. On the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, calm weather is short-lived and the coral reproductive season is brief."

The article linked here (a PDF) has a good picture of a coral spawning slick. And we thought young human males produced a lot of sperm...

Quick hitter #3: Minor good news about global warming and melting

Scientists reported just very recently that the melting of Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves and glaciers is providing more open Southern Ocean waters, and they're seeing phytoplankton taking advantage of the space and growing profusely. This is good because apparently they're taking carbon out of the atmosphere and then dying and sinking to the bottom (which doesn't always happen), keeping the carbon out of the atmosphere. While the actual numbers aren't that great to make a contribution to stopping the problem, this does have to be put down in the "negative feedback" column.

New carbon sink links:

Antarctica Glacier Retreat Creates New Carbon Dioxide Store; Has Beneficial Impact On Climate Change

The abstract is here:

Negative feedback in the cold: ice retreat produces new carbon sinks in Antarctica

In passing, this paper is going to get a LOT of comment:

Controversial New Climate Change Data: Is Earth's Capacity To Absorb CO2 Much Greater Than Expected?

Quick hitter #2: NEOs and debris

Two more indicators that the denizens of Earth are not dealing very well with
a) the threat from near-earth asteroids
b) the threat to spacefaring enterprises from space debris.

First, the NEO:

"ASTEROID NEAR MISS: On Nov. 6th at 2132 UT, asteroid 2009 VA barely missed Earth when it flew just 14,000 km above the planet's surface. That's well inside the "Clarke Belt" of geosynchronous satellites. If it had hit, the ~6-meter wide space rock would have disintegrated in the atmosphere as a spectacular fireball, causing no significant damage to the ground. 2009 VA was discovered just 15 hours before closest approach by astronomers working at the Catalina Sky Survey."

Second, the space debris:

'Space Crashes To Boom As Debris Soars'

"It's all about speed," Dr Lewis said. "For things to be in orbit, typically they are moving at speeds of around 7.5 km per second - that's relative speed of 15 km per second for things heading towards each other. "So you only need something the size of a marble to completely destroy a spacecraft."


The high price of avoiding space junk

Space debris to threaten future launches

Job growth field: Satellite collision avoidance forecasters and satellite collision avoidance maneuver engineers

Quick hitter #1: Mary Wayte versus Kelly Packard

Well, it's not really a challenge. Previously when compiling my list of top ten best-looking world-class women's swimmers, I mentioned that Mary Wayte at her peak (in the 1990s) looked a lot like Baywatch-alum Kelly Packard. Well, I searched and searched and finally got the lightbulb to look on the International Swimming Hall of Fame site -- and I found one low-res picture indicative of how pretty Mary really was. See below. For comparison's sake, I've got a couple of Kelly. I wish (wish wish wish) there were a couple more of Wayte; she was in the public eye briefly after her swimming career, before there were screencaps and YouTube. I also always wished I'd had a chance to meet her when she was in the Maryland area for a short while, but I never did. Opportunities are like bubbles -- they don't last and they vanish in an instant.

Mary Wayte (in "Speedo" uniform)

Kelly Packard (casual, and in "Baywatch" uniform)

Monday, November 9, 2009

George Will is a climate change twit

George Will, the iconoclastic wordsmither known for his bow ties and occasional attempts at polysyllabic obfuscationism, has another post on global warming out today. He's learned his lesson, apparently: there's a lot less mining of skeptical inaccuracies in this one. Rather, Will descends to the level of lampoonery by basically making fun of his ideological opposites. He notes the hyperbolic language that has been used by some politicians in the run-up to the Copenhagen meeting, as sounding at bit over-the-top in terms of the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and then he descends to the level of ignorant bastard when he goes all United States-centric and ignores the plight of the rest of the world.

Which is typical behavior for a twit. (Definitionally, George: 1 : an act of twitting : taunt 2 : a silly annoying person : fool) Both of these are evident in what Will did in this column.

First of all, he makes fun of smart people. "Intelligent people agree that, absent immediate radical action regarding global warming, the human race is sunk. That is a tautology because those who do not agree are, definitionally, unintelligent." Well, Will, you made it up that it is the "intelligent people who agree". A lot of scientists agree on this, and scientists are usually intelligent. Two, nobody says the human race is "sunk" -- that's an exaggeration. Increased hardship is hardly sunk, but would you want to wish it on your grandkids? Will sets up the "us versus them" conflict, i.e., if you don't agree with us, you're stupid. That's bound to rouse the ire in the conservative hinterlands.

Let's try something else: "Intelligent people agree that, absent prudent house maintenance activities, you could end up spending a lot more money than you want to fixing up problems in your house when something breaks down." People that don't agree with this are, definitionally and operationally, unintelligent. YES, they are. Intelligent people plan for the future, try to anticipate likely problems in the future, come up with plans and strategies for dealing with potential problems, and implement those plans and strategies most likely to be successful. Intelligent people analyze, change strategies and tactics if necessary, and adapt to circumstances. Unintelligent people assume that if everything is hunky-dory at present there isn't any need to deal with a problem that isn't currently happening. And then they complain mightily that no one told them that it would be a good idea for a yearly cleaning and tune-up on their air conditioning unit (even if they did) when it goes kaflooey and they have to shell out major buckage to get it fixed or get a new one.

Let's compare maintaining the air conditioner to global warming. If you could monitor the state of your working air conditioner, over time, you would start to notice little indicators that it is aging. The filter is getting covered with dust. The fan belt or gear is getting warm. The unit is drawing a little more power because it isn't running as smoothly as it did when it was new. Things like that. Looking toward the future with these changes, it could eventually be reasonably predicted that the air conditioner would eventually stop working. Is immediate radical action needed when you notice these indicators? Not really -- unless you (the owner) doesn't understand what they could lead to. Then immediate radical action is needed to kick the owner in the keister to get him to start implementing prudent measures to maintain the unit before it breaks down.

So that's why intelligent people -- I'm leaving Will out of that category at this point -- are trying to wake up the slumbering masses that the indicators are there that the system cannot be left unattended, or something catastrophic, at an unpredictable future time, WILL break down. In terms of Earth and ecosystems, this won't be an all-at-once event, but it very likely will be a major shift, such as the sudden realization on the Grand Banks that there weren't enough potato cod to make it worthwhile to fish for them any more. Oops. We missed those indicators and predictions and calls for radical action when radical action still could have made a difference.

Now, Will does get some things right. China and India are not going to lead this effort when they're still trying to catch up to the Western powers who got wealthy on cheap energy and polluted the world and set it on this course, unless the Western powers collectively accept their responsibility and role in this. The U.S. has to do so, too. Obama's trying, but the institutional inertia of Congress (which Will acutely notes is laden with righteous actions of don't do as I do, do as I say mentality) is holding him back from firm commitments. And he doesn't want to promise what can't be delivered -- that would look bad for him, for how the world views us (which is more favorable than under the dumb Dubya, but not much) and even worse back home, giving the conservatives another victory to crow about.

So we are globally, collectively stuck with the problem of dealing with a situation that could have future dire scenarios, but like the fabled frog in the warming pot, the human public is too ignorant (and too uneducatedly populous) to be able to deal with it without leadership. What is actually needed is the true movement of the masses -- something so compelling, so obviously bad, that the people of the world make a concerted call to action that can't be ignored. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Water Act were motivated by the Cuyahoga River fire -- a river so polluted that it ignites is hard to ignore. The EPA and the amazing (despite its flaws) Endangered Species Act put the U.S. on a footing that other countries emulate with only partial success.

That's why I pine for a true world government -- that could have a global EPA with enforcement capability and a global Endangered Species Act that could step in right now and enforce carbon dioxide curbs to maintain polar bear populations and enforced bluefin tuna catch limits before that fishery goes the way of the potato cod. (Too bad the bluefin tuna doesn't have eco-tourist potential; more on that later, hopefully).

Now, what else does Will the twit do? He drags out the "global cooling" meme again -- totally frickin' utterly ignoring the advances in science that have occurred since then. This is something people do to sway their unintelligent, ignorant readers -- make arguments based on false premises and insufficient information. This is Will stooping to the level of Marc Morano and Anthony Watts, and that's WAY low. It's funny how he's talking about intelligent people and then quotes Newsweek -- if he'd quoted a scientific journal (where the intelligent people really hang out) the impression is much different, much more nuanced, and much clearer on the level of uncertainty. But making an intelligent argument is not Will's purpose here.

And finally he goes after notoriously unpredictable hurricane frequencies as a predictor of climate change consequences -- which is funny in retrospect when we read "As this year's Atlantic hurricane season ends, only three hurricanes have formed -- half the average of the past 50 years -- and none has hit the United States." Funny when Ida -- which is not an Atlantic hurricane, I am aware -- is about to hit the United States.

The twit nature of this is that it ignores what's happening elsewhere. El Nino -- not truly an event yet until the end of December, so hold on to your hats -- influences hurricane formation in the Atlantic. That's one reason they're suppressed this year. And what else is happening? The Phillipines get hit with three in six weeks, Ketsana, Parma, and Mirinae (almost five, Lupit just barely turned north before running them over, and Koppu went north); Taiwan gets smashed by Morakot earlier in the year, killing more than 600 people (Morakot even caused flooding in the Phillipines, too), and Japan got side-swiped by Melor.

In fact, the Pacific storm season, which peaks from May to November, was so busy this year that the storms couldn't get out of each other's way:

(thanks, NASA)

So, to sum up: as if we needed more evidence, on the subject of climate change, George Will, is a twit -- a dangerous, widely-read, widely-listened-to, twit. I wish I could grab that bowtie and pull it tight around his scrawny neck while I tried to reason with him. Maybe then he'd listen, but he'd probably just consider me an intelligent person because of my concern about the issue.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Just say wow

Eva Green ("The Dreamers", "Casino Royale") has recreated a classic picture of Charlotte Rampling taken by Helmut Newton in the 1970s:

Its a tad risky -- but its very nice (actual title of Daily Mail article is: "Nude portrait of Bond girl Eva Green who's 'not confident' with her body")

As the article headline says, she claims she's not confident about her body, but I think she has to explain why. No issues are apparent from this angle. I think we needed a guided tour of her supposed insecurities.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Top Ten: Best Looking World Class Female Swimmers

Top 10 best looking world-class female swimmers (in no particular order):

Donna DeVarona

Dara Torres

Stephanie Rice

Therese Alshammar

Amanda Beard

Summer Sanders

Natalie Coughlin

Franziska van Almsick

Mary Wayte

Esther Williams
-- we all know who she is, right? She won the U.S. title in the 100
freestyle and was planning to compete in the Olympics, but World War II got in the way of that)

Regarding the last two (before Esther):

Some might consider Van Almsick too Teutonic, but if you peruse Exhibit A-D below, this is an attractive woman.

Exhibit A (bikini level)

Exhibit B (same level)

Exhibit C (nice angle, same level)

Exhibit D (glam)

Regarding Mary Wayte: when she was doing commentary, she was nearly a clone for Kelly Packard (Baywatch). Even now, as a Mom in her 40s, she's still attractive -- but boy I wish I could find a picture of her at her peak.

Wayte 1

Wayte 2

Vestiges of the Confederacy, supported by the U.S. Government

Fort Hood -- John Bell Hood (Texas)
Fort A.P. Hill -- Ambrose Powell Hill (Virginia)
Fort Lee -- Robert E. Lee (Virginia)
Fort Benning -- Henry L. Benning (Georgia)
Fort Gordon -- John Brown Gordon (Georgia)
Fort McPherson -- James McPherson (Georgia -- this one is an anomaly, because it's a
Union general)
Fort Polk -- Leonidas Polk (Louisiana)

It struck me yesterday after hearing about the horribly tragic events at Fort Hood that there were still a few military bases in the United States named after heroes of the Confederacy. Now, I'm going to be the first to say that I find the Civil War fascinating (with horrific carnage when you stop to think about it) -- and the generals on both sides were at times valiant and at time stupid and idiotic (which come to think about it, is pretty much true of any military conflict). There is no dispute about the right of the Confederate generals to defend their country at the time -- they signed up to fight and they led their troops into battle.

The thing is -- there have been ongoing battles to stop various levels of government from glorifying their past relationship/alliance with the Confederacy. Places that used to display the battle flag have been compelled to stop doing so, either by force of law or by force of public opinion. Places and situations where they used to play "Dixie" don't do so anymore. I won't try to go into details, because we know it has happened.

But the remainder of military bases in the South named after Confederate generals is a vestige of the remaining affiliation in the minds of Southerners with the heritage of the Civil War. Now, it's entirely possible to claim that the war was about "states' rights", but the right that those states were most concerned with was the right of people to keep slaves. And that's why all those other symbols of the Confederacy in "public places" have slowly (at times painfully and with resistance) been phased out or severely downgraded.

But with military bases still named after Confederate generals, the U.S. government still condones and supports this recognition of the heritage of the Confederacy -- and it's affiliation with slavery.

They should be phased out too. History's one thing, but -- let's call 'em as we see 'em.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Brazil cuts deforestation rate

Short article: Amazon deforestation slows: Brazil

Short quote: "Environment Minister Carlos Minc said the speed at which the vast Amazon rain forest was being stripped was down 32 percent [compared to the same month a year ago], based on satellite imagery from the government's National Space Research Institute."

Longer article (from Brazzil Magazine): Brazil Cuts Half New York in Amazon Trees in a Month, And It's a Record Low

Longer quote:
Environment minister, Carlos Minc, is celebrating the pace of Brazilian deforestation. The last numbers released by the National Institute of Space Studies (Inpe) this Wednesday, November 4, shows that Brazil in September has downed 400 km² (154 square miles) of trees in the Amazon or the equivalent of a half New York City.

As big as this number seems it's the lowest deforestation Brazil has ever experienced, according to Brazilian authorities. Minc credits those results to intelligence activities, increased surveillance and the work of Operation Green Arch, which educates about sustainable development.

September of last year Inpe's satellites registered 587 km² (227 square miles) of deforestation. So, there was a 31.8% reduction. When the total deforestation from January to September is taken into account, the comparison between 2008 and 2009 shows even a bigger improvement. By that parameter the reduction goes up to 54%.

It's hard to see deforestation as good news, but this is as good as the news gets. Let's hope their efforts continue to be effective, at least modestly. The Earth's environment needs some good news.

Now, about that Brazzil magazine. Watch out for those dating ads. If you like window shopping...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A real, honest-to-goodness, moonbow

A moonbow is the moon's version of a rainbow.

Rainbow in the dark: Bright moon creates stunning arc at night

As the article notes, moonbows are more common near waterfalls.

Here's a link to a panoramic picture of a moonbow by Kentucky's Cumberland Falls.

Less babies is good news for Earth

I want to discuss this more later, but just to note it (and find it again) and let others who might be interested read it:

Fertility and living standards: Go forth and multiply a lot less

One excerpt to kick it off:
"Lastly, a special case: China’s one-child policy, which began nationwide in the early 1970s. China’s population is probably 300m-400m lower now than it would have been without it. The policy (which is one of population control, not birth control) has had dreadful costs, including widespread female infanticide, a lopsided sex ratio and horrors such as mass sterilisation and forced abortions. But in its own terms, it has worked—20m people enter the workforce each year, instead of 40m—and, to the extent that China is polluting less than it would have done, it has benefited the rest of the world."

Did I ever say that draconian dictatorial edicts enforced by a ruthless, corrupt, autocratic Communist government were universally a bad thing?

The costs of sprawl keep rising -- if you live there, you'll pay them

Have fun with this:

View Larger Map

Where is it? Over Virginia way (where they just elected Cro-Magnon Bob McDonnell governor, and Neanderthal Ken Cuccinelli Attorney General) -- good luck with that, and certainly this is absolutely unmitigably bad, terrible news for any progress from the Virginia side on improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay), there are apparently complaints that the tolls on the Dulles Toll Road (also misnomered the Dulles "Greenway") are going to go up to pay for the expansion of the Washington Metro system to Dulles Airport. It's a short stretch of road, and it's going to cost $2.25 to travel most of the length of it in about two years. People who regularly drive on the road are complaining.

Too damn bad.

I've been to enought airports in my life to know that linking the local city to the airport by rail is convenient for travelers. Examples I've seen personally: Chicago*, Portland, Baltimore, Paris (Charles de Gaulle, not Orly), Frankfurt, and Hong Kong. It's a whole lot better than bus or taxi. *Note on Chicago: it helps to have a political-machine run city to get things like this done, regardless of cost, especially when part of the cost is paying political cronies to keep the machine running.

The Dulles Rail project does two things: links the sprawling suburbs to both the city and job-hub Tysons Corner, and also links the airport to downtown D.C. When finally finished, this will make Dulles a much more logical place to fly into, and out of, D.C. than (urp: sorry, indigestion) Reagan National, especially for international flights that don't fly into Reagan National. And given where the jobs are, the rail project here does make a lot of sense. But it's going to cost a lot of money, and if people chose to live where they have to connect the rail to make things a bit less worse, then they foot the bill. They chose to do that by choosing where they live and exacerbating the current situation.

So the Dulles Rail project is a logical response to the sprawl problem in NoVA that the Toll Road commuters epitomize. They think that they shouldn't have to pay because they probably won't ride the rails when they're running. But every mile they put on the roads slows down other people currently driving who WILL ride the train when they can. So they are paying for the convenience of a better driving commute because other people won't be in their cars driving and slowing them down. See?

I put the map up to show the contrast between the NoVA side and the Maryland side in western Montgomery County, which is a rural/agricultural reserve. There were brief and unsuccessful talks many years ago about trying to find a place to put in a new Potomac Bridge between the Washington Beltway bridge and the Point of Rocks bridge north of Leesburg, partly because a lot of MOntgomerians (as well as Prince Georgians, and even a few Calvertians, though more of them go south over the Wilson Bridge) commute to NoVA to work. But when you look at this view from space, its obvious that won't happen, because it would tear right through the reserve and open it up to the type of sprawl on the other side of the river. So to its credit, sort of, Maryland still has a few places resistant to sprawl:

Even thought "Smart Growth" really isn't working in Maryland -- take your pick:

Our View: Smart Growth defeated by compromise

Smart Growth incentives fail to rein in suburban sprawl

Study calls Md. smart growth a flop

Actual study that described all this: Managing Growth With Priority Funding Areas: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Yet to Come
(if not now, WHEN?)

Not much we can do about that, either, until collectively we decide that business-as-usual is unacceptable. We're pretty far down the line towards "too late" for that to happen and have an appreciable effect.

And some more not-so-good news about the Chesapeake Bay.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

First the work zones...

When I wasn't paying attention, the state of Maryland slipped some speed cameras onto the Interstates -- in work zones, for now. When they see what steady revenue producers they are, I predict they will find other ways to get them where the money will keep flowing in. (Especially in budget-crunch times.)

State Picks Work Zones For Three Speed Cameras

I'm safe, I never drive anywhere near these places. Closest I get is the southern Baltimore Beltway on rare occasions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cassini flys by Enceladus

Earlier today (November 2) and later this month, the Cassini probe orbiting in and around the Saturn system flew by /will fly by the icy moon Enceladus, which despite its frozen-ness, has a region that is avidly expelling icy plumes into the intra-planetary (inter-lunar?) space around the ringed planet. Cassini is attempting to figure out what the plumes are made of, where they come from, and what causes them, things like that.

This flyby (Quicktime animation of the flyby events) caused me to think back to the context of the movies "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the sequel "2010". Arthur C. Clarke collaborated on the screenplays for both -- "2001" was based loosely on his story "The Sentinel".

(In case you're wondering, I know it's "flies". Havin' some fun.)

There might be small spoilers about the plot of each book and movie below. Of course, all of this is probably Googlable. (Hmm, try saying that five times fast.)

I read -- and enjoyed immensely -- the novelization of "2001". It's short and fast. What readers may not know is that in the movie production, the spaceship Discovery was originally destined for Saturn. There were good reasons for that: the presence of the rings was attributed to activity of the black monolith builders, and the moon Iapetus (which is still pretty weird) was weirder back then, when very little could be perceived about it other than it was about 6x brighter on one side of its orbit around Saturn than on the other side. As Cassini has found out, it's painted by ring-derived dust to make this unique light side/dark side pattern. Picture below.

Unusual Iapetus

As viewers of the movie know, Discovery went to Jupiter, not Saturn. The reason was that Kubrick wasn't satisfied with the attempts to render
Saturn's rings, and gave up, and so the ship went to Jupiter instead, which was easier to depict.

This set up "2010" (and I should note that our spacefaring is a lot less advanced on the cusp of 2010 than Clarke thought it was; apparently he didn't consider the funding constraints of space travel, but to his credit, he DID consider the gravity constraints) -- and Clarke, probably figuring a lot more people saw the movie than read the book, sent the sequel-nauts to Jupiter in his book sequel (which was the basis of the movie screenplay, naturally) to fetch Discovery and murdering HAL --- which should have been in orbit around Saturn, if he'd stuck to his original concept. He and the movie-makers also had images from the Voyagers to make the science more realistic and up-to-date, as well. This included improved knowledge of the icy moon Europa, which Galileo subsequently discovered has ice tectonics likely due to a liquid ocean somewhere beneath the ice. Clarke didn't need that -- he just needed Europa to be icy, and utilized this fact to set up the star-seeding, life-encouraging denouement induced by the monolith builders -- I'm trying not to give too much away here on the off-chance the rare person reading this might want to see the movies or read the books.

I'm still peeved at Clarke, God rest his soul, for not going to Saturn in the sequel, because I still think Saturn made more artistic sense (despite the fact that mighty Jove also has a ring system, though much more tenuous than Saturn's). The first thing I thought of when the plumes of Enceladus were discovered was that Enceladus could be Saturn's version of Europa. It turns out that based on what is currently known, Enceladus likely doesn't have liquid water beneath its icy crust (but I don't think that's been entirely ruled out). But in the context of extremophiles -- organisms that live under extraordinarily extreme conditions that "we" would think should be inhospitable to life -- I think there could still be a chance (even if it's small, that's all they need) that primitive organisms could still live on Enceladus. That's what was needed in "2010". Saturn and icy Enceladus possess all the other necessary "ingredients": and the special effects akin to the climax of "2010" would have been even more astonishing for Saturn, provided that it was made with current CGI technology and not the movie special effects technology circa 1984 -- wow, was it that long ago???

This is all water under the bridge (I'll be posting on new and amazing bridges soon) and past history. But while I'm at it, why in the WORLD hasn't there been a special-effects updated remake of "Fantastic Voyage", with a) Megan Fox, b) Olivia Wilde, c) Jessica Alba, or d) Evangeline Lilly assuming the Racquel Welch role? (I'm accepting nominations for other young, suitably endowed starlets to be cast in this role). Seriously, this is a NATURAL (heh heh heh) for current cinematic computer-generated special effects -- and it would be much more educational and cerebral (heh heh heh) than "Transformers 3".

Umm,by the way, I just checked, and "Day After Tomorrow", "Independence Day" and "2012" director Roland Emmerich had been picked to do a "Fantastic Voyage" sequel, but that news is from 2007 and that there were artistic differences between Emmerich and screenwriter James Cameron, but according to

as of last March somebody was still trying to get keep this going.

Done right -- I'd like to see it, and not just to find out who gets to fill Racquel's skin-tight scuba suit and go diving amidst the dangerous antibodies. But given the way other remakes have gone, the odds of it being "done right" are probably about 20%.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Ricci goes waif

Christina Ricci -- a talented actress who's not afraid to take a chance or two in her roles -- used to be considered a bit overweight (several years ago). This is not the case now. She has also struggled with anorexia, which is never good. She's apparently got a good relationship going -- I hope that keeps her in a healthy kind of lifestyle.

Ricci then 1 (teenager)

Ricci then 2 (2003)

Ricci now 1

Ricci now 2 (& accompanying article). She looks healthy enough here.

I'm still not fond of all the body decorations, though. Call me old-school.