Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's the economy, stupid: the Caveman sends his first message

McDonnell seeks offshore drilling leases

Caveman Bob McDonnell, not even in office yet, wants to drill for oil offshore of Virginia (and there's not a lot of Virginia to have an offshore). The message is clear; economy first, environment second, as long as he doesn't have to raise taxes to keep the roads smooth and flat.

Typical conservative Republican game plan -- finance state functions at the expense of the environment.

And he hasn't even been inaugurated.

Lakes warming in the Sierras -- told you so

California, Nevada Lakes Warming Rapidly

Deny all they want, but it's undeniable that ice is melting and rivers and lakes are warming up, all over the world. Spring is earlier, winter is later, shorter, and warmer. Even though they hold the Winter NHL Classic on frozen ice, like the frozen ponds of yore, the existence and persistence of lakes and ponds with ice thick enough to walk and skate upon is becoming shorter and more northerly. Canada may be the Great White North, but it's not white for as long as it used to be, nor is it white as much as it used to be.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The downside to renewable energy

One of the types of renewable energy is hydroelectric power. But in developing nations thirsty (pardon the reference) for power, and we don't want them burning carbon, creating hydroelectric power means flooding an area behind a dam -- and that means a destruction of habitat and a dislocation of indigenous peoples, which also means a loss of human diversity and cultural heritage.

Borneo is providing an example:

Borneo mega-dams proposal raises fears for tribes and wildlife

"Now the rivers are all polluted. The wildlife has slowly disappeared -- wild boar, deer, gibbons. Even the broad-leafed plants that we use for roofing, and rattan which we use to make mats and baskets, is gone," he said.

But what brought him to Miri are new threats to his way of life, the dam project as well as plantation firms who want to clear what is left of the jungle and grow palm oil and foreign timber species.

"Our people oppose our area being included for the dam because that's where we come from, our ancestors lived and died and were buried there. For us we have no other place, that is our only place," he said.

The Penan of Sarawak, famed for their ability to live off the jungle armed only with blowpipes and machetes, number around 10,000 including 300-400 thought to be among the last nomadic hunter-gatherers on earth."

On the plus side -- waves can be beautiful

I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves:

Surfer captures the breaks

The fifth anniversary of THE tsunami

For a lot of people, September 11, 2001 (the attack on the World Trade Center) was a defining moment in their lives. It was tragic, unforgettable, and has changed the way that we view the world. But for me, the December 26th, 2004 tsunami was even more unforgettable. The world's great geological events are unpredictable (though we're getting better at it). Seldom do we witness a Krakatau eruption or, thankfully, a San Francisco earthquake. The tsunami was frightening because it converted an area of what we humans think of as idyllic and tranquil into raging chaos -- within seconds. It was literally something that no one saw coming, and
for many of them, when they did see it coming, it was much too late.

It can be hoped that the tsunami was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Perhaps there will be better warnings next time.

Here's a picture:

And a Web site with diffrent video of the succession of waves. The third one ("Phi Phi Island") is stunning.

Tsunami in Thailand

And on the plus side, Petra Nemcova survived, though tragically her boyfriend died.

Petra (nice and safe)

Monday, December 28, 2009

One good reason to make a mink coat

Invasive American minks are wreaking havoc on British island coastal ecosystems!

Whiskers hold secrets of invasive minks

"Wildlife biologists from the Food and Environment Research Agency have been working to eradicate mink, which escaped from fur farms and now live wild on the Outer Hebrides. Having successfully eradicated mink from two islands – Uist and Harris – the team now plans to use the research findings to manage populations across the Outer Hebrides. As a result of the study, the team will focus future efforts on coastal regions.

The American mink is a predator that has a devastating effect on many native UK species, including water voles and other mammals, fish and seabirds. The first American mink were brought to British fur farms in 1929 and all wild mink in Britain today are descendants of escapees."

Of course, there are a lot of good reasons not to make mink coats,

like Joanna Krupa says. (Be cautious.)

More where that came from.
(Stay cautious.)

Buns are nice in the right places and right sizes, I should add.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My new awareness of Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn is an odds-on favorite for a couple of gold medals at the upcoming Vancouver Olympics. Now, Olympic skiing has been notoriously fickle about allowing medal favorites to get medals; while she's been doing great on the World Cup circuit, that doesn't mean she'll get the wins in the pressure-cooker of the Olympics, even if she deserves to. Olympic gold medals are won and lost in the space of tenths of seconds; she could have a great day and finish fourth, just because three other skiers have slightly greater days on the day that counts.

I hope she gets at least one. She's tough, she's paid the time and paid the dues in injuries and dedication.

The thing is; until I saw the linked Dick's commercial, I had not realized what a looker she is. I mean, this is usually what she looks like when watching sports:

Dick's commercial (actually UnderArmor)

Under Armour Lindsey Vonn ColdGear + Dick's - Cold Room - (2009) :30 (USA)

Head shot

In a dress -- now THAT's what an athletic woman looks like in a dress

Saturday, December 26, 2009

More glacier melt numbers

Posted a few links on SciGuy's blog about Himalayan glacier melt after some making-a-name-for-himself Texas State Climatologist pointed out an IPCC quirk. Big ff-ing deal. Ice is melting all over the Earth as the climate warms. This article lays it out:

Climate change: ice melting faster everywhere

In recent years, Himalayan glaciers have been retreating at rates ranging from 10 to 60 metres per year. As the glaciers disappear, the dry-season flows of river systems that depend on them may decrease by up to 70 percent, making them seasonal rivers. River systems at risk include the Yangtze, Yellow, Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra.

The Andes, home to 90 percent of the world's tropical glaciers, are also experiencing rapid melt and a shrinking water supply: between the early 1970s and 2006, Peruvian and Bolivian glaciers lost about one third of their surface area.

In Peru, glacier and snow melt provides 80 percent of the fresh water, used not only for drinking but also for hydroelectricity, which supplies more than 80 percent of the country's power.

This is going to constitute a Major Problem, folks.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Thinking of "Avatar" and Dejah Thoris

The trailers for the movie "Avatar" reminded me of several sci-fi stories (one obvious one being the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey), but as I thought about it more, I started thinking along the lines of human-alien relations -- as in sexual.

This could go a lot of ways and be long, but I'll try to keep it short and relatively simple. In Avatar, the differences between aliens and humans are fixed by putting the human into an alien -- so he gets to do everything that aliens do. No adaptation problems, no genetic or genitalia differences; everything fits nicely. Contrast that with L. Sprague de Camp, who had humanoid (oviparous) Krishnans who could engage in enjoyable fleshly pleasures with humans (short summary here).

And finally these musing brought me back to Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars in Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars series. The prolific Burroughs was most famous for Tarzan, and John Carter was a distant second (he also had several escape-and-capture novels on Venus and inside the Earth, in Pellucidar -- don't ask). John Carter ends up on Mars (Barsoom) somehow mentally, but bodily -- and is therefore able to fall in love with, romance, and mate with the fabulous Dejah.

Totally impossible -- but given the fact that Burroughs described Dejah as wearing very little clothing, quite appealing in a fantasy-adventure kind of way. The beauty of Dejah has thus inspired fantasy artists to portray her -- and that's a wonderful thing. So in the following linkages, caution is advised; Dejah is partially covered, totally uncovered, and somewhere in between. There is some consistency in the portrayals -- and parallels with the Princess Leia bikini in "Return of the Jedi" are not to be overlooked. After the links, there are some brief thoughts on the upcoming John Carter of Mars movie.

Dejah View 1 -- the Frazetta traditional

Dejah View 2 by Boris Vallejo

Frank Cho, line drawing, very uncovered. Click to see it considerably larger.

Another Cho view of Dejah.

Dejah Thoris by Cho, in color

Dejah View 4 -- detailed and also uncovered; nice costume, another line drawing

Dejah View 5 my favorite, covered suitably

Dejah View 6 by Bane, fully realized (and more covered)

more covered and more exotic. Click to see it a little larger.

Now, here's the thing; according to lots of press reports, Disney (Pixar) will be filming "John Carter of Mars" (also here) starting next month, with a 2012 release date slated. I want to know how they will finesse the difference between the Barsoom that Burroughs could envision based on very little knowledge of Mars at the time with the Mars we know now from orbiters and landers and rovers. I.e., there isn't a Barsoom on Mars now. Is John Carter of Mars going to go to a parallel-universe Mars, or travel back in time to a Martian civilization now covered by the dunes of time? Good darn question.

But more importantly, who's going to play Dejah? According to the same general sources, it will be Lynn Collins, lately of X-Men: Origins fame (or Wolverine: Origins -- I forget and I'm lazy). Does she qualify?

Apparently, eminently, she does. To decide, Allure magazine provided us with a totally-uncovered (though judiciously posed) view of Lynn.

That image comes from this page, which had other uncovered and similarly judiciously posed ladies from Allure -- leading me to note that Eliza Dushku would also have made a fine Dejah Thoris. Probably Padma Lakshmi too, but she's not an actress and she's about to have a fatherless (well, father-unnamed) baby.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Not enough pictures of Brooke Burns

Brooke Burns is absolutely gorgeous -- has been since "Ally McBeal". She's currently on the new Melrose Place as sleazy Michael's wife, Vanessa. Around this Christmastime, there's a movie on (again) called "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" in which she plays cute-perky-pretty-vulnerable, right up her alley.

Investigation reveals that she never posed for enough of the SEMI-HARDs (She Exposes More Integument, Half Are Revealing Derriere), which Maxim specializes in. There's just enough to make one wish for more -- a lot more, both in terms of quantity and "E". (See above.)

Examples linked below. Yellow light.

Side view

Nice bikini (and nice tummy)

China fingered as Copenhagen roadblock

Mark Lynas has written a provocative article describing how (and why) China derailed and devalued the Copenhagen climate treaty process. It's international diplomacy at its worst. It's no wonder that Gordon Brown and his proxy, Ed Miliband, did not mince words when blaming China for the failure, and it's also not surprising that the Chinese delegation and premier, DID waffle and obfuscate.

Copenhagen failure is China's fault

My observations: I've said before, and you can look back in my posting record, that China will not fail externally. They are an economic superpower, and that economic superiority is built on cheap energy -- just like the Western nations did it. It's no surprise that they want to catch up and pass us. They are driven by an autocratic system, where the goals of the leaders do not get considered and evaluated by a representative government. They control the people, and much like King Edward I at Falkirk, who didn't mind firing arrows into the Scots even if he hit a few of his own infantry, too, they will sacrifice a few thousands or hundred thousands of their people toward the goal of economic success. And they will be unhindered by their own government, with lackadaisical regulations that aren't evenly enforced (if they are at all), regional level corruption that either overlooks or condones evasion of the supposed environmental regulations -- and most importantly, they will ignore the perils of climate change, such as reduced water flow in their major rivers, until such time as criticality becomes catastrophe.

Then they'll try to engineer their way out of it, like the Three Gorges Dam. And it won't work. And then millions will suffer.

The way that this could change is revolution. Truly, if the populace of China perceives the widespread abandonment of their health and safety by the autocratic leadership, then they could rise up. The best thing that could happen for the world climate, and world peace, and even the world economy, would be representative government in China. That would open up at least the possibility of environmental consciousness and environmental action. But something will have to change, pretty drastically. As long as China keeps expelling or executing dissidents, the peasants won't stand a chance, and they'll keep breathing and drinking and eating poison, and dying young. But when you have a population of 1.3 billion, the government dictatorship doesn't even view that as a significant problem.

The center will have to collapse to force China to the table.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jayde Nicole is single again

In case anyone wanted to take a shot, scrumpdillyishus Jayde Nicole and "Hills" boyfriend Brody Jenner have broken up:

Brody Jenner and Jayde Nicole split

A moderate-caution view of Jayde (you know there's no difficulty getting bigger F-stops and more exposure, of course):

Swimsuit by the stairs

As with Kate Hudson, I doubt she'll go begging for dates. She can hang around the Mansion for a few parties (like the upcoming New Year fete, for example) and she'll have plenty of sports stars -- we know what they're like, don't we? -- to choose from. I hope she takes her time and chooses wisely.

The world proceeds in a nuclear direction

Word out about a new deal between the EU and Russia to advance nuclear energy usage between those two entities:

EU to open talks with Russia on nuclear energy deal

The problem is, I don't see -- immediately, at least -- talk of expansion and what to do with aging plants. It does say that Russia has 40 operation or "under construction" -- it's hard to find out what they've actually got under construction. But note the key sentence:

"Nuclear energy generates almost one third of the electricity in the EU"

Combine effective conservation with increased nuclear, and you can mothball some carbon plants (i.e., coal and oil) and you're halfway to the 17% reduction without capping or trading. People keep underestimating the real power of conservation. Add to that biofuels for the transportation sector, and these targets that the retreads ... sorry, Repubs ... think are so hard to achieve become eminently reachable.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Poop flood threatens Jiddah

Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, was hit with massive flooding (which killed a few people) several weeks ago. Apparently, this has also caused a problem with the city's sewage reservoir.

Yes, that's right, a sewage reservoir. Appropriately named "Musk Lake" (probably because some more appropriate names, like "Funk Lake" or "Stinky Poo Lake" don't translate well into Arabic).

What this does is show what water supply and sewage treatment are like in the Third World, many places --- even an affluent Third World country like Saudia Arabia, brimming with petrodollars. Even when the city is the jumping-off spot for the most important single event in the life of a Muslim, the must-do-once pilgrimage to Mecca.

What Jiddah does with its sewage is truck it up into the hills and dump it into Musk Lake. Apparently this wonderful (???) idea has been working -- apparently the prevailing winds must not blow toward Jiddah or Mecca -- up until this recent round of flooding. Because what you don't expect in a desert is sufficient rainfall to fill your reservoir to dangerously high levels -- and thus endanger the downstream populace with the spectre of a dam breach -- releasing not just a flood, but a flood of poop.

Not a pretty prospect.

I can think of worse things pouring through your city -- a massive tsunami, or like the lava flow from Nyiragongo that went blazing through downtown Goma (see links below) -- but not many.

Here's a map; I suspect Musk Lake is in the northeast corner.

View Larger Map

Goma lava 1

Goma lava 2

Goma lava 3

Goma lava 4

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's too bad about Kate Hudson and A-Rod

As we fret over Tiger Woods and his multitude of trangressions, word comes to us that Kate Hudson broke up with Alex Rodriguez.

Boo-hoo. Do I think Alex will still be able to get dates?


Do I think Kate will still be able to get dates?

Most certainly. Below are two reasons (at the bikini level of caution) why:



I will comment: I definitely like women with ample assets. But Kate proves that they aren't a NECESSARY part of the package. She's totally nifty.

I saw a bit of her part in "Nine". She had energy. She was vigorous.

Copenhagen finger-pointing: Britain blames China

Britain blames China over 'farcical' climate talks

I'm not surprised by this. China is still putting economy #1, no matter what lip service they pay to CO2 controls. It's gonna take a major glacier falling off a Himalayan peak and cutting off water to a couple tens of millions of Chinese to make them wake up -- actually I think it will take a bloody eco-revolution.

Meanwhile, we'll hear this:

"Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down those talks. Never again should we let a global deal to move towards a greener future be held to ransom by only a handful of countries," he said.

While Brown refrained from naming countries, his climate change minister Ed Miliband said China had led a group of countries that "hijacked" the negotiations which had at times presented "a farcical picture to the public".

The agreement finally put together by a select group of leaders set no target for greenhouse-gas emissions cuts and is not legally binding -- omissions Miliband blamed on Beijing.

"We did not get an agreement on 50 percent reductions in global emissions by 2050 or on 80 percent reductions by developed countries," he wrote in The Guardian.

"Both were vetoed by China, despite the support of a coalition of developed and the vast majority of developing countries."

So again I have the question: if China really signed on to a climate treaty with impact, what would they get in return?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brittany Murphy's death

All I know about Brittany Murphy, after seeing her in a few movies, is that she was awesomely cute. As with most sudden deaths of young stars, this seems senselessly tragic. I guess we'll find out in awhile what happened; it would seem that drugs had to be involved somehow.

Brittany Murphy's death (LA Times)

Here is a picture of her being really cute (and a little sexy).

There are pictures of her in a sexier way, but that would be tasteless. Still, she could be cute-and-sexy, too.

Soyuz launches to International Space Station; was it safe?

After the Challenger disaster, NASA has some pretty strict guidelines for weather and launching the Space Shuttle. But it seems like Russia doesn't worry about it so much.

Astronauts blast off on Christmas space voyage

"Rain and then sleet poured down onto the sparse Central Asian landscape, quickly blanketing the site in a thick layer of ice, weather conditions which nonetheless helped create a breathtaking backdrop for the launch."

Just speaking for myself, I wouldn't want to ride a launch vehicle in weather like that.

England gets a draw in first Test match against South Africa

OK, you ask, why follow English cricket? Why not West Indies, Pakistan, India, or Australian cricket?

Well, the Daily Mail reports on English Cricket. And also, England is playing the #1 team, in the world, South Africa, after beating the former #1 team, in the world, in the Ashes.

That makes it somewhat interesting.

The first match of the Test series in South Africa, they earned a hard-fought draw; had to survive with one wicket to go and very little time remaining.

The next one should be good. I wonder if they get to go home for Christmas?

England earns a draw in a close one

I think now I'm going to have to pay more attention to rugby. Kelly Brook's boyfriend Danny Cipriani is a rugby player. (This is not a picture of Danny Cipriani playing rugby. This is a picture of Danny Cipriani with Kelly Brook on a beach. You'll see why I picked it.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Planet with atmosphere + water?

Super-Earth with water and an atmosphere

Basically they've discovered a planet -- the second smallest planet ever discovered, only 3 times bigger than Earth. Even though it's in close, and hot, the scientists think it's possible that a thick atmosphere could mean it has water on the surface "in a liquid state". (Note that the planet is only 40 light-years away, too.)

Here's what the first paragraph says:

"And though astronomers are pretty certain the water exists, they don't know its state, with speculations ranging from liquid water to water ice and an exotic state called a superfluid."

This last bit immediately called to mind Hal Clement's sci-fi novel "Close to Critical": (btw, Hal's real name was Harry Clement Stubbs)

To summarize (thanks to Wikipedia,and I really need to send my donation):

"The book is set on the planet Tenebra, a planet of the star Altair and a world with thick atmosphere, a shifting crust, crushingly-strong gravity and surface temperatures of just over 374 degrees Celsius, close to the critical point of water. Human scientists have spent the last two decades studying Tenebra's intelligent life from the safety of an orbiting laboratory."

What's the critical point of water, you ask?

Back to Wikipedia:

Critical point (thermodynamics)

So on Tenebra, during the day, it warms up, the oceans evaporate. Sea level goes down by tens of meters in a day. When the Sun sets, it cools off. It rains; big hot-air-balloon size raindrops. The cover illustration from this version of the book portrays this.

Just think; we might have a Tenebra only 40 light years away.

Hal would have been very happy. (He died in 2003.)

Hong Kong in smog -- almost all the time

I've been to Hong Kong. Fortunate to go on a tourist jaunt to see some of the limestone pillars in Guangxi province, along the Li River, and also the stone forest of Shilin (in Yunnan province). Lots of images available of these picturesque places, so I won't grab any here. Getting from point A to point B was an adventure; it requires patience. I lost most of mine. But actually being there was transcendent (and calmed me down).

But what got me most was the haze. It wasn't too bad in Yunnan, it was worse in Guangxi, and it was terrible in Hong Kong. There was one half-clear day when the skyline was mostly visible. And Hong Kong is supposed to be famous for its skyline and the view of the city from Victoria Peak. If you go, you'll be lucky to see some of it.

It's getting worse, according to the articles below. And this is what continues to confuse me about China -- can't they see how bad it is? That's what coal-burning and industrial air pollution does to you. It would be in their best interest to clean things up. At some point the populace is going to realize that they're being poisoned and suffocated to death. The problem is that the population is so huge the government techno-autocrats don't see a few premature deaths -- and in this country, a "few" could mean a few million -- as a major obstacle toward economic prosperity. But they are damning (and damming) their next generations, along with most of the Western world, to a deteriorationg climate.

So anyway, here's the article that inspired that reminisce + rant, with a couple of highlighted passage. And a couple of images showing what I mean.

Smog sinks Hong Kong's famous skyline

"Statistics from the Hong Kong Observatory show that the annual number of hours of "reduced visibility" jumped from 295 in 1988 to 1,100 in 2008."

"Reduced visibility is part of the regional air pollution problems in the Pearl River Delta region," he said in a statement to AFP.

Christine Loh, chief executive of Civic Exchange, warned that dirty air is now driving away the people who are instrumental to the success of the city.

"The biggest shocker of all was that our surveys showed that half a million Hong Kong people -- usually in the professional classes -- are planning to leave because of air pollution," she said.

Clear views:

Hong Kong daylight view

This one is STUNNING: (and more recent; note the new buildings)
Clear Panoramic view of Hong Kong

The much more common smoggy view
City of smog

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Deep Range"

All of this talk about climate, and bluefin tuna, and algae biofuels being grown in the ocean (see below) made me remember a book I read as a kid: The Deep Range by Arthur C. Clarke. He wrote in 1957; I read it in the 1960s. I actually read the edition shown here:

Clarke has always been credited with a lot of foresight as a sci-fi writer: The Deep Range showed off this skill. He anticipated a different direction for whales than has actually happened; he figured the best way to deal with whaling would be to raise them and harvest them as farm animals. Amazingly enough, this industry runs into a vegan roadblock, a Buddhist leader who opposes cruelty to animals (much like Greenpeace, Sea Shepherds, and PETA).

But there's more in the book. Clarke anticipated small manned deep-sea submersibles -- Cousteau may have had his in the development stage (the first one dove in 1959), but there weren't many others in 1957; farming of the oceans, as the whales feed on nutrient-augmented plankton farms; large-scale fish farming; the need for expanded agri- and aqua-culture to feed a growing world population; even mining the oceans (though Clarke's idea of getting it from seawater isn't as economic as dredging defunct hydrothermal vents).

It even anticipated Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter becoming an undersea aquanaut on Sealab -- the hero of The Deep Range is a former astronaut with a fear of wide-open spaces, which isn't conducive to a job in the depths of space.

One thing that Clarke does have in this book (which we could use) is an effective world government -- and ocean governance. Without it, we're stuck with the overfished and overexploited oceans and fisheries that we see today. (As well as the climate treaty mess in Copenhagen.)

Now, as might be seen by looking around where I've judiciously commented on the Web, I'm no fan of geo-engineering, particularly ocean fertilization. But what might work is better use of the oceans, such as using spherical pelagic fish cages, fertilization of the Southern Ocean to augment krill (which could be under some pressure from phytoplankton) and expanded fish hatcheries for some species for which that reproductive mode would work. We could have a real version of The Deep Range -- provided we had enhanced management and a global vision. That's hard to come by these days.

Algae biofuel farm (sponsored by NASA)

Robotic offshore fish cage

Robotic offshore fish cage, link 2

Cousteau diving saucer

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

England cricket in South Africa

England's cricket team is in South Africa; they pulled off an upset in the one-day international (ODI) series by winning 2-1 (the 1st and last matches were canceled due to weather).

Now they're into the TEST phase; and the first day was all South Africa (England chose to bowl first). The current score is 262-4 (262 runs over 4 wickets; I'm getting better at this). SA batsman Kallis got a century (100 runs) and is still batting.

Long way to go. Remember, with England beating Australia in the Ashes, SA is the world's #1 ranked cricket team. But England has former South African Kevin Pieterson back from injury, and that should help their batting.

Gotta take some wickets quicket, though.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Little Night Music, please

Regarding Catherine Zeta-Jones, now starring in the titular musical, on Broadway:

OK, so she's a bit older (40), and has had a couple of kids with Michael Douglas, and thus has moved from Zorro-hottie to ... lusciously curvaceous mom and actress.

Premiere night

She's put on a tad of weight and is a little bit bustier, it appears.


Here is Catherine, somewhat younger, in mind-bogglingly fine form:


Earth Angel: the first wind-up, eco-friendly, vibrator.


Earth Angel, The World’s First Wind-Up Sex Toy

This article includes an instructional video. But don't get too excited, it just demonstrates the wind-up, not the pitch.

However, this does put a new spin on the phrase "cranking one out of the ballpark".

From a different article on this important subject:

'Green' vibrators promise truly sustainable pleasure

"You just flip out the handle, grab a hold of it there, and you just wind it," said Janice O'Connor, the co-founder of Earth Angel makers Caden Enterprises along with her husband Chris.

"So for four minutes of doing that, you should generate enough power to give you 30 minutes of full-on, right-to-the top vibrations," she told AFP.

She added: "I've only used it a couple of times, and it's fantastic. It's very intense, and sometimes, at the top level, depending on the person that's using it, it can actually be too intense sometimes.

That may qualify as too much information. Or too little.

Anchovies are a massive cash crop for Peru

The anchovy is king in Peru.

The Peru Upwelling System, hopefully not too much affected by this year's moderate El Nino, provides huge nutrient flow to create immense numbers of phytoplankton, feasted upon by the anchoveta. The amount of fish protein this fishery creates is immense. I somewhat wish, parochially, that some of this could be shipped to Omega Proteins in Virginia so they'd stop depleting the Chesapeake of menhaden.

"With some six to eight million tonnes fished each year, the Andean country and its 2,800 kilometers (1,740 miles) of coastland reap the lion's share of the tiny fish, ahead of Chile's one million tonnes annually."

Lithuania needs a new nuke plant!

Lithuania calls for investor into new n-plant

Given that they have to shut down the current plant at the end of the year (which isn't very far away) and that the next one won't come online for nearly a decade -- if they're lucky and they find the billions needed -- maybe they should have started planning for this new power station a little earlier?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Melissa Rycroft gets married

Lovely comeback queen Melissa Rycroft got married this weekend.

A very nice picture (totally safe) in the above news article.

And I'll have to link to one picture that indicates the likelihood of an enjoyable honeymoon for Tye (thought I suspect the couple has already undertaken some activities that improve the likelihood of that outcome):

Dancing in blue

And since I was on the subject of NFL cheerleaders:

Melissa Rycroft, Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader

Space debris could be a new business area

NASA, DARPA host space junk "wake-up call"

"Pearson is a strong advocate for a roving space vehicle based on his work to fashion a propellant-less electrodynamic thruster system. This ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator (EDDE) vehicle, he said, is the only viable method known for the plucking from space of large debris. EDDE would be maneuverable, flying from place to place in low Earth orbit. This concept is reusable with each vehicle capable of removing many targets by simple debris capture, utilizing lightweight nets or a grappler."

as well as

"At this week's meeting, space law specialist, James Dunstan, along with Bob Werb of the Space Frontier Foundation are set to call for an Orbital Debris Removal and Recycling Fund.

It's the belief of Werb and Dunstan that the current legal regime creates perverse economic incentives that are greatly aggravating the problem of orbital debris. The quickest and surest path to resolving the problem, they contend, is to establish a legal and economic environment that places a high price on anyone generating new debris while simultaneously creating adequate rewards for anyone who mitigates

"From the predictions I've seen of how the space debris population will grow in the coming years, it looks like the space community will need to take active measures soon to clean up at least some of the existing debris, or the problem could get away from us," said Robert Hoyt, leader of Tethers Unlimited, Inc. of Bothell, Wash.

Hoyt is bringing to the DARPA/NASA event his notion tagged "RUSTLER", short for Round Up Space Trash Low Earth orbit Remediation. It too makes use of a propellant-less electrodynamic tether, he said, along with two other unconventional technologies to enable safe and cost-effective removal of defunct satellites, spent upper stages, and other debris from orbit.

"The question has always been who is going to pay to clean up the mess? Nobody really wants to get stuck with that bill," Hoyt said."

This really seems to call for a global satellite debris insurance fund. Anyone that operates a satellite in space has a vested interest in keeping it going (beecuz they're EXPENSIVE!!!). So if every satellite-operating (and also satellite-using) nations paid into a space debris insurance fund, which may be what Dunstan & Werb are describing, then there would be funding to develop technologies that work. (Or more accurately, maybe could work.)

Now, it seems that nations are having trouble funding the effects of climate change action, if the reports from Copenhagen are close to accurate (and I think they are). There's a problem there with the perception of imminent danger; the imminent danger is in not taking action soon enough, but the effects that will be noticeable are still looming on the temporal horizon, too far away to frighten enough people yet (but not far enough away for any kind of comfort). With regards to space debris and the economic viability of investments in space technology, the danger is imminent, has been demonstrated, and it will continue to worsen if strategies for debris reduction and mitigation aren't conceived and implemented soon.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ravens beat Detroit 48-3; still have a chance for playoffs

I like to keep an eye on the Ravens upstate; they beat woeful Detroit 48-3, and Jacksonville and Denver both lost, so they're still in the playoff mix.

In their honor this weekend, a picture and the Web page for my favorite Ravens cheerleader, rookie "Heather C" (who's also in this season's swimsuit calendar, so that is a heck of a rookie debut).

Heather C

When in Copenhagen...

In case you haven't heard, in response to a call by the mayor of Copenhagen for the climate change delegates NOT to partake of Copenhagen's legal prostitutes, the prostitutes fired back by offering sex to the delegates for free.

Prostitutes offer free sex to global-warming delegates in Copenhagen

Heard on "Saturday Night Live" last night: "If you're a delegate to the conference and you have free sex with a prostitute, you'd better cap your emissions."

Probably prudent.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Greg Long wins Quiksilver Eddie Aikau

I count myself extremely fortunate to have happened onto the TV broadcast of the Quiksilver Eddie Aikau Surfing Tournament, having read two days ago that there were going to be monster waves on Waimea.

Much like I say about vertical mountain climbing, it sure would be fun to have the talent to do something like that for fun (and also be able to survive it).

It's going to be on again, on Fuel TV, if you have a big cable lineup:

Saturday, 12/12/09 10:00am ET / 7:00am PT
Saturday, 12/12/09 3:00pm ET / 12:00pm PT
Sunday, 12/13/09 10:00am ET / 7:00am PT
Sunday, 12/13/09 7:00pm ET / 4:00pm PT
Monday, 12/14/09 12:00pm ET / 9:00am PT
Tuesday, 12/15/09 6:00pm ET / 3:00pm PT

Greg Long edged surfing god Kelly Slater for the championship.

Don't look back, dude.

Best collection of pictures:
Huffington Post

History, get me rewrite

Since I'm not ambitious tonight, I'll just comment lightly on this story of a British soldier who for decades was thought to have been a reckless show-off who accidentally killed himself --- and now it turns out he was a hero who lost his life while saving the lives of many young children.

Villain to hero: Disgraced WWII soldier sacrificed himself to save lives of 20 children

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tiger Woods is... James Bond

OK, bear with me here. I was thinking the other day about this Tiger Woods scandal (at least it's a scandal in the media; it's a catastrophe for him personally), and while realizing my first two comments on it were way off, I thought to myself, "You know, Tiger Woods is the sporting world's equivalent of James Bond."

Does that seem far-fetched? Tiger Woods, the world's greatest golfer, similar to the fictional British secret agent/assassin, 007, James Bond?

Well, in order to follow me on this, let's first ponder Bond, both his personal as envisioned by Ian Fleming, and his on-screen persona in the movies (Connery, Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan, and most recently, Daniel Craig). In the books, which I actually read several of, Bond is not completely the cool-under-fire, droll double-entendre snapping, techno gizmo wizard, ladies man that he is in the movies. He has aspect of those functions that the movies exploit, but he's also more human. He can be hurt. He worries, frets, gets nervous, even gets panicky. He makes mistakes. Basically (and this is where it gets important), he's constantly under stress because of what he does; maintaining a secret identity -- he's an agent, after all -- and killing people. Necessarily, according to his government, but he still has to kill people. Sometimes in cold blood, sometimes not. Sometimes face-to-face, where he knows the person he is assassinating.

In the movies, of course, Bond is larger-than-life -- but there have still been hints as to why. The basic Bond functions under pressure, and has two ways to relieve that pressure -- drinking (the famous vodka martini) and sex. Lots of sex, with a variety of women. He can't have a normal relationship. He uses women, leaves them, or sometimes, unhappily in his line of work, they get killed too. (I think that happens more often in the movies than in the books). To put it simply, Bond compensates for the extraordinary stress of his unique lifestyle with vices. Temporary escapes from his life-on-the-edge, kill-or-be-killed, danger around every corner, life, in which very few people can be totally trusted.

Ultimately Bond is one of a select few -- the "double 0s", as the satiny Miranda Frost put it -- and one of their requirements is that they have to make the shot. Their own life, the lives of their countrymen, the lives of millions of people (in the movies, anyway) depend on their ability to make the shot when it has to be made. Without remorse. And not miss. As Bond said in "The World is Not Enough": "I never miss..." after gunning down point-blank his former lover, Elektra King (played, I have to mention, by the extraordinary Sophie Marceau).

And now there's Woods. Is it possible for normal people to comprehend the pressure that this man has been under since boyhood, groomed to be the absolute best golfer that the world has ever seen? The pressure his father put on him; the pressure to get better at every aspect of the vexingly difficult game; the pressure of not just being the best, but a symbol, a black golfer winning a white man's elite, exclusive game; the pressure of not just winning tournaments, but chasing history, winning the majors, with the goal of winning more than Jack Nicklaus and proving to history that he is the best golfer ever to have played.

Look at the shots Woods made under enormous pressure, and marvel. Look at the shot he's missed, and be amazed that he could recover his poise, concentration, and ability to come back and win.

But it's not just that. Golf is a personal sport; you see your opponents, talk to them, sometimes they are even good friends of yours (or at least colleagues). Team sports don't have this same level of one-on-one, mano-a-mano competition; few other sports, which include boxing, tennis (and other racquet sports), billiards, bowling (?) require you to face your opponent, match them shot for shot, like a sporting duel. Occasionally at the highest levels of competition it truly becomes a shoot-out, a playoff, where one shot can leave your opponent reeling. If you watch as your opponent takes a lead, you have to march to the next tee, and in a game where literal millimeters of adjustment and tiny increments of speed can mean the difference between a perfect shot and one mired in the weeds or the trees, you have to make the shot. Though wounded, fire back. Survive, and hope your opponent falters. And if you yourself have that opportunity to finish off your opponent (or opponents), you have to make that shot with incredible skill and determination. And sometimes that means murdering the hopes of fellow players to just one time achieve sporting immortality, to win a Major. Sometimes you even destroy the dreams of your friends, like Woods did to Chris DiMarco.

That's got be difficult to handle, emotionally and psychologically. Add to that the stress of slump or injury; or even just the inexplicable slight changes that can frustrate anyone's ability to figure out why 8-10 foot putts will go in one day, and miss the next. And for Woods, add to that the stress of being a corporate billboard, a family man with lovely children and a fittingly gorgeous wife, and probably an entourage in which there was no one willing to tell him the risks of his behavior, and willing for their own reasons to provide him with cover and escape when necessary, facilitating his ability to live this strange double life that has now been revealed.

And now we do in fact know he was leading a secret life -- perhaps knowing that drinking or drugs could ruin his fine edge of control, womanizing appears to have been his other escape, his way of finding temporary relief from the stress that only he knows. Am I condoning this behavior? Not at all. I'm trying to understand it. His opportunities were obvious, as any high-level sportsman can attest, it isn't hard to find a willing woman when you're on the road. And if your lovely wife is at home and unavailable, and you're young, attractive, and wealthy beyond anyone's even normal dreams, the need for companionship and release, for pleasure, for the same thing that has scandalized politics, show business, and sports, becomes very acute. And since it's so easy to satisfy that need -- and since the thrill of the hunt fades once the prey has been acquired, then there also may develop that additional need for that more of that same kind of thrill -- escalating -- becoming more dangerous, the sex stranger, rowdier, and riskier -- expanding the spectrum of what is ultimately addictive.

In "Goldeneye", Natalya Simonova (Isabella Scorupco) asks Bond how he can be so cold, knowing that he has to kill someone, a former friend. Bond replies "It's what keeps me alive." Natalya replies, "No, it's what keeps you alone." Then they have a passionate, almost violent kiss -- and then Bond makes love to her. He proves he's not alone, and he proves he's still alive. And in the arms of his partner, for those short moments, he doesn't think about his next mission. (And as we know, Bond uses different women to achieve that temporary escape for every mission.)

So Woods, like Bond, lives a life that is unimaginable to us normal mortals. But Tiger Woods is not a fictional character. He had to (has to) live with who he was. He had to find some kind of way to wind down and ... relax. And probably in times of doubt and slump, he had to reaffirm that he was indeed a sporting god, an icon and a legend, by proving once again to himself that he could be a man with a woman, and get just about any woman he wanted. And for moments of passion and pleasure, forget about golf and be just human, like anyone else but unlike anyone else.

So he's fallen off the high wire. He's exposed, shamed, no longer with a fabricated persona. Many times, when Tiger missed a fairly easy shot, or had a relatively bad round, commentators would say, "Well, he's human, after all."

In this exposure of his personal life, his transgressions, his sexual adventures, now the truth of that is truly known. He's human like the rest of us, but also unique, in a situation that hardly anyone could compare to. The question now is: can he restore himself to some semblance of a normal life, sufficient to allow for the necessary steely self-control that will allow him to pursue his goal? That's the question for the sporting community. The question we should really be asking right now is -- can Tiger Woods actually find some way to be normal enough to rebuild a shattered life? He has to do that first, before he ever swings a golf club in competition again. James Bond is fictional; his life ends when the credits roll or when the last pages is turned. Tiger has to keep on living in a world that has tilted unimaginably for him.

At the end of many Bond movies, there's a short line: "James Bond... will return".

Will Tiger?

Guessing game

If you haven't seen this somewhere on the Internet, try to guess what it is.

Give up?

Well, it's a composite image from Cassini of the "hexagon" atmospheric circulation pattern at Saturn's north pole, now visible in visible light, because it was in darkness for 15 years due to the Saturn light-dark cycle.

More info here:

Saturn's Mysterious Hexagon Emerges from Winter Darkness

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

IPCC rallies around its own

Climategate: UN scientists defend 'targeted' colleagues

"I think this is an illegal act. The only issue that has to be dealt with as far as this occurrence is concerned is to find out who is behind it," said Pachauri. [I.e., the Russian teenage hackers.]

"One can only surmise that those who have carried out this act have done it with the very clear intention to influence the process in Copenhagen -- but, barring a few isolated voices, people over here are totally convinced of the solidity of the findings in the IPCC report."

So much for the Climategate influence on the EPA finding. Big whooping deal.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Climategate/CRU Hack: The media suspects Russian teenagers (aided by the Russian government)

On November 29, I "predicted" that the CRU Hack that caused Climategate would be ultimately traced to hired Russian teenage hackers.

Who hacked the CRU emails? I suspect Russian teenagers

Turns out that this fairly simple supposition is now finding support in the media:

Is Russia behind the Climategate hackers?

Climate e-mails were hijacked 'to sabotage summit'

Was Russian secret service behind leak of climate-change emails?

"The leaked emails, which claimed to provide evidence that the unit's head, Professor Phil Jones, colluded with colleagues to manipulate data and hide "unhelpful" research from critics of climate change science, were originally posted on a server in the Siberian city of Tomsk, at a firm called Tomcity, an internet security business."

The FSB security services, descendants of the KGB, are believed to invest significant resources in hackers, and the Tomsk office has a record of issuing statements congratulating local students on hacks aimed at anti-Russian voices, deeming them "an expression of their position as citizens, and one worthy of respect". The Kremlin has also been accused of running co-ordinated cyber attacks against websites in neighbouring countries such as Estonia, with which the Kremlin has frosty relations, although the allegations were never proved.

"It's very common for hackers in Russia to be paid for their services," Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, the vice chairman of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, said in Copenhagen at the weekend. "It's a carefully made selection of emails and documents that's not random. This is 13 years of data, and it's not a job of amateurs."

Were Russian security services behind the leak of 'Climategate' emails?

Other information indicates that the source of the hack is traceable. If my supposition is supported by evidence, will the tide turn? We shall see.

Acronym time!

Typed this one in today:


which stands for a number of New Jersey-related associations and other things:

New Jersey Sanitary Supply Association

New Jersey Self Storage Association

New Jersey Senior Softball Association

New Jersey Skeet Shooting Association

New Jersey State Society of Auctioneers

New Jersey State Society of Anesthesiologists

New Jersey State Service Award

New Jersey Shared Services Association

Monday, December 7, 2009

Real Good Science -- the molten rock spring from whence cometh Hawaii

By using seismic waves, scientists have mapped where the famous "hot spot" that caused the Emperor Seamounts and which created the Hawaiian islands, and which keeps the lava from Kilauea flowing (subtitled: "Still Waiting for Loa"). The research team put a lot of seismometers (73) on the sea floor -- just keeping them running down there is pretty daunting -- and then via the seismometers listened to the wave patterns from earthquakes. They mapped the plume in three dimensions down to a depth of 1,500 km. This showed that the hot spot really is a mantle plume -- a place where mantle rock punches up through the upper mantle and crust to make big middle-of-the-sea islands.

Here's the press release:

New research uncovers deep origins of the 'Hawaiian hotspot'

and here's the Web site, which doesn't have much info:

The Plume-Lithosphere Undersea Melt Experiment (note: it's bad form to use the name of your acronym in the title from which the acronym is derived)

and as of yet, there are no cartoons of what the plume actually looks like from the 3-D model. I guess we'll have to wait for Hollywood to make the movie.

Conference Considers Space Trash

This conference isn't far away across the Bay, and if I had nothing better to do it might be fun to see if there any far-fetched ideas up against more conventional ones. (Actually, right now just about anything planned to remove orbital debris will be pretty far-fetched. But it would be fun to find out what's being considered.)

Seems to me the main problem is small debris. Large debris; just catch up, strap on a thruster, and send them into the ocean.

"You're gonna have to declare that." (Customs official inspecting a piece of Skylab that fell on Australia.)

International Conference on Orbital Debris Removal
(This is a PDF.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How England became the "precious stone set in the silver sea"

In case you didn't know, England at times (Neanderthal times) used to be connected to the European mainland -- where now we have the English channel, then there was the English land bridge. A new study geologically describes the occurrences of the land bridge, the breaches (not the breeches, King James), and the flow of the Fleuve Manche -- the giant river flowing where the English Channel now is.

I tell you, if humans could live 10,000 years, it would be as much fun to watch sea level rise as it is for us 80-year-lifespan humans to watch the tides in the Bay of Fundy.

Rather than for me to try and describe this, here's the summary:

'Super-river' formed the English Channel

Best thing written about the relationship between science and Climategate

From "Because As We All Know, The Green Party Runs the World."

Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”?

There’s this myth in wide circulation: rational, emotionless Vulcans in white coats, plumbing the secrets of the universe, their Scientific Methods unsullied by bias or emotionalism. Most people know it’s a myth, of course; they subscribe to a more nuanced view in which scientists are as petty and vain and human as anyone (and as egotistical as any therapist or financier), people who use scientific methodology to tamp down their human imperfections and manage some approximation of objectivity.

But that’s a myth too. The fact is, we are all humans; and humans come with dogma as standard equipment. We can no more shake off our biases than Liz Cheney could pay a compliment to Barack Obama. The best we can do— the best science can do— is make sure that at least, we get to choose among competing biases.

That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby. Every time you put out a paper, the guy you pissed off at last year’s Houston conference is gonna be laying in wait. Every time you think you’ve made a breakthrough, that asshole supervisor who told you you needed more data will be standing ready to shoot it down. You want to know how the Human Genome Project finished so far ahead of schedule? Because it was the Human Genome projects, two competing teams locked in bitter rivalry, one led by J. Craig Venter, one by Francis Collins — and from what I hear, those guys did not like each other at all.

This is how it works: you put your model out there in the coliseum, and a bunch of guys in white coats kick the shit out of it. If it’s still alive when the dust clears, your brainchild receives conditional acceptance. It does not get rejected. This time.

Make me gag, Ken

I won't even give Ken Connor a link to his column (it's on TownHall if you want it, and I have a link here) because he wrote this:

As a result of the intrepid work of several warming skeptics skilled in the art of hacking into computer systems, an extensive network of corruption at the heart of the international climate change movement has been exposed.

If that's true (and Ken's "several warming skeptics skilled in the art of hacking into computer systems" may be my Russian teenagers hired by SOMEBODY to do this), then Ken here is equating stealing private email correspondence with a heroic act. If the tables were turned, and somebody had hacked into Marc Morano's email and found out he's getting coaching from a retired oil exploration company executive somewhat skilled in statistics -- oh wait, that's a virtual certainty -- anyway, Ken would be calling for the liberal scalps of the perpetrators.

Funny how that works.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

If this is true... great news for the nuclear option

Environmentalists Admit Being Wrong for 40 Years - Shackles of Nuclear Power Being Removed

Read it! A couple of pithy quotes:

"Instead, the source of the industry's happiness was The Washington Post leading Page One with an article that detailed how the environmental movement, after 40 years of bitter opposition, now concedes that nuclear power will play a role in averting further harm from global warming.

Mind you, not every environmental group has come around; but the feared and respected Natural Resources Defense Council in the United States has allowed that there is a place for nuclear power in the world's generating mix and Stephen Tindale, a former anti-nuclear activist with Friends of the Earth in the United Kingdom, has said, yes, we need nuclear.

as well as

"Nuclear was such a target of the environmental movement that it embraced the “anything but nuclear” policy with abandon. Ergo its enthusiasm for all forms of alternative energy and its spreading of the belief--still popular in left-wing circles--that wind and solar power, with a strong dose of conservation, is all that is needed.

OK, so the enviromentalists are coming around. Now what we have to do is disable the "keep-it-burning, oil is good for the economy and the environment" head-in-the-sand conservatives arguments: point out that nuclear is part of both a responsible national security portfolio and a responsible global environmental portfolio -- and we've got something. If dumbasses like Inhofe would get out of the way, if the basic inconvenient truths about global warming would get out there, and the conservatives would see the light (as IF that could ever happen, whilst they're busy stewing themselves in the juiciness of the "Climategate" kerfuffle) -- then nuclear power can help lead us to a much better 21st century than I can currently envision.

Climategate is the clarion call for the scientists involved with climate science to take the offensive; be offensive; start tossing out the idiot arguments that kept getting repeated over and over, like John Rennie just did in Scientific American did* -- and we can buckle down and get things right, with sufficient energy for the techno economy, and that includes energy generated from God's own atoms.

*Tommy Fuller, I hope you're reading this.

Friday, December 4, 2009

New nuclear sites in Britain; "fast-tracked"?

Britain announces new nuclear sites, plans shake-up

Britain's government named 10 sites where new nuclear power stations could be built Monday, while unveiling changes to planning rules aimed at speeding up approval for energy projects.

(and later on)

"The threat of climate change means we need to make a transition from a system that relies heavily on high carbon fossil fuels to a radically different system that includes nuclear, renewable and clean coal power," he said.

"The current planning system is a barrier to this shift... that is why we are undertaking fundamental reform of the planning system which will result in a more efficient, transparent and accessible process."

All of which is eminently sensible; considering that if you read the rest of the article, they're going to have to shut down all of their current nuke plants in about 14 years.

And that is not a lot of time.

Two short items

Item #1: I'm not a drinker. I like beer, very rarely wine. The hard stuff? Forget it. If I've consumed a total of 8 ounces of vodka in my entire life, I'd be surprised.

But I just might have to support Absolut Vodka, for putting Kate Beckinsale in a chain-mail gold bikini.

Item #2: Apparently there is some controversy that the Sun-Maid girl has evolved from an actual girl into an admittedly stylized young woman.


Thoroughly modern:

Now, I took one look at this picture of the new Sun-Maid girl, and realized:

It's Kelly Brook! (totally safe unless cleavage is dangerous)

Another example (best I could do for the white top comparison)

Some thoughts related to soccer

Thought #1: What has this picture (a jot of caution advised) got to do with the World Cup?

Thought #2: What do Ashley Cole and Tiger Woods have in common? Answer: they both cheated on women that qualify in the top 0.00001% (or even higher) of human feminine pulchritude.

Thought #3: How good a player is Ashley Cole, anyway, irregardless of his step-out on Cheryl, where he got drunk, got lucky with a hairdresser, all the while puking before, during, and after? How romantic is that? (Search with "Aimee Walton" for all the details, if you want them.) But anyway, wanting the answer to this question, I happened to find the game between Chelsea (Ashley Cole's team) and Arsenal (a team he was previously on) a couple of nights ago, live, and decided to watch a few minutes. Cole proceeded to set up a perfect cross with some nifty footwork that was an easy kick-by, and then a few minutes later an even better cross turned into an own-goal by an Arsenal back.

He's good. I want to know if he's going to be on the England World Cup team (the answer is very likely yes, he was on the team in 2002 and 2006, and named an all-star in 2006) because that's who the USA is going to play in the first round (which is the answer to Thought #1, by the way). A fellow footballer and teammate, Frank Lampard, considers Cole to be the best left back in the game.

Cheryl and Ashley are apparently still trying.

And if the USA even ties England in the first game, that will be a major, major upset.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Not good -- another study of drastically declining fish populations

A researcher from SUNY-ESF (next to Syracuse U.) -- a very nice campus; SUNY-ESF is just about literally in the shadow of the Carrier Dome -- has done another study of fish stocks in the North Atlantic...

...and guess what

(wait for it)

... they are severely depleted. WOW, I didn't see that coming.

Populations of numerous migratory fish species in the North Atlantic have declined by more than 95 percent, threatening not only food supplies and economic systems, but also the way humans perceive the health of the planet's ecosystems, according to a paper published today (Dec. 1) in the journal BioScience.

"It's shocking," said Dr. Karin Limburg, a fisheries ecologist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, N.Y., who is the paper's lead author.

Limburg and her co-author, Dr. John Waldman of Queens College of the City University of New York, report that a complex combination of habitat loss (caused largely by the construction of dams that prevent fish access to traditional spawning areas), urban sprawl, overfishing, pollution and climate change have led to the precipitous decline. Compounding the problem, they say, is the evolving knowledge of the humans who make decisions about how natural resources are managed.


As an example, Limburg pointed to a graph that depicts the status of the American shad between 1887 and 1997. It indicates the species was more than 10 times as plentiful during most of the early years of that period as it was during the middle of the 20th century. But a second chart shows that the levels in the 1880s were just 10 percent of what they had been 50 years earlier. (Ouch.)

"We can't envision salmon being a thing of the past," she said. "That was once the case with shad. It was the most important fish in U.S. fisheries, after cod." In fact, the shad's Latin name (Alosa sapidissima) reflects the species' high status as a food fish: "sapidissima" means "most delicious."


WHY should this be a surprise? Or is it (to you, at least)? As has been stated by others, numberous times, the fish in the ocean are the global example of the Tragedy of the Commons. Nobody owns the fish or the fisheries (particularly outsize the EEZs), everybody takes them, and nobody, but NOBODY, is trying to come up with ways to save them and allow them to return to somewhat sustainable populations -- albeit much, much smaller than the populations that once existed, as the article notes.

I was at the library today and discovered this; I emailed it to myself, so that I could bring it to my wide audience!!

Breaking news: Algal blooms increase where predatory fish decrease (due to overfishing)

And then I found online:

which is the study itself, but you've got to either subscribe or pay for it to read it.

Here's the discussion from Nature, edited a bit for length and fair-use:

by Matt Kaplan
Nitrogenous fertilizers and detergents have long been known to cause algal blooms that block sunlight and strangle ecosystems, but a study now reveals that overfishing of large predatory fish is also playing a key part.

Britas Klemens Eriksson at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands noticed that populations of predatory fish in the Baltic Sea seemed to be declining in areas where algal blooms subsequently tended to form. Curious as to whether there was a connection, Eriksson and a team of colleagues from the Swedish Board of Fisheries in Öregrund set up an investigation.

The team reviewed a year's worth of field data ...

"In areas where there were strong declines in perch and pike there were massive increases in smaller fish and large blooms of algae," comments Eriksson. Where perch and pike populations were intact, the surrounding waters had a 10% chance of experiencing an algal bloom; in areas where their populations had been substantially reduced, the chances of an algal bloom were 50%.

Intrigued by these trends, the researchers ran small-scale field experiments for 2 years ...

As expected, the nitrogenous pellets increased algal growth. But surprisingly, when predatory fish were prevented from accessing a given area, algae in that area became much more prevalent. The effect even proved to be true when nitrogenous pellets were not added to the system.

"This is the first study to show that top predators are linked to the formation of macroalgal blooms," says marine biologist Heike Lotze, at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Eriksson speculates that the effect results from the disruption in the food chain caused by excluding the large predator fish. Top-predatory fish feed on mid-level predatory fish, which in turn feed on invertebrate herbivores such as snails and crustaceans. These are the animals that control the algal community. Knock out the top predators, and mid-level predators develop huge populations which, in turn, reduce the numbers of algal-eating species, allowing blooms to grow unchecked, explains Eriksson.

The team report in Ecological Applications that, on the basis of their findings, fighting algal blooms by more tightly controlling nitrogenous materials in waste water and agricultural run-off is not the best approach. "If we want to manage algal blooms effectively, we need to start by taking an ecosystem perspective … we have to restore depleted fish communities," says Eriksson.

"That they are showing effects over four trophic [feeding] levels is really impressive," says Lotze. "We've tried to experimentally explore these sorts of interactions before, but with so many levels there is often too much noise to see trends. That they've managed to get clear results is exciting." (I'd actually use the terms "sobering" and "depressing", rather than "exciting", but scientists do get excited about clear research results, even when the implications are bad news.)

[a couple concluding paragraphs removed]

And here's yet another piece of sucky news about fish in the sea:

Warming drives off Cape Cod's namesake, other fish

Blue Moon on New Year's Eve

This year (at least in North and South America, probably most of the world) there will be a blue moon (second full moon of the month) on New Year's Eve. Now, since blue moons have to happen late in the month, this isn't that unusual. The last one was in 1990, and the next one will be in 2028. I found the answer on, which also indicated that a full moon happens on the same date at 19-year intervals.

I did not know that before today.

This is a painting, pretty, sensual, and I'd be careful:

Blue Moon

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Can space-based solar power really happen?

Controversy Flares Over Space-Based Solar Power Plans

"Last week, California regulators proposed a plan to approve a 15-year contract with the American company Solaren Corp. to supply space-based solar power to utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) by 2016. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has also teamed up with a private Japanese coalition to design a solar space station for launch by the 2030s."

(2016? Are they serious?)

Lasers vs. microwaves are commented on:

Another more recent choice has arisen in the form of solid-state lasers. Such lasers now have enough power to deliver energy as a tightly focused optical beam that requires much less costly equipment in space and on the ground. But unlike RF, lasers can run into bigger problems with atmospheric interference and weather.

"Microwaves can beam through clouds, which lasers can't," Hoffert explained. "With lasers you're going to have to have receivers in desert sites that are cloud free, and maybe backup receivers in several sites."

I figured that. On the other hand:

Space solar power has to deal mainly with expensive launch costs of about $15,000 per kilogram, as well as the huge capital costs of building ground arrays if RF technology is involved. Hoffert has pushed for the laser beaming approach as newly effective cost-cutting measure, and even submitted a proposal with his son to ARPA-E, the U.S. Department of Energy's new agency.

As the saying goes, I think there are still a few bugs in the system.

Still trying to figure out how (and why) climate change deniers think the way they think?

No comments here, just excerpts:

I'd rather not know: the psychology of climate denial

"Yet there may also be a darker explanation. It is the human instinct to shut out or modify a terrifying truth: that the world as we know it is heading for a smash."

+ + +

"Even scientists reluctantly pushed by their growing sense of alarm into launching public appeals for action have trouble coping.

When Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Australian National University, attended a September climate conference at Oxford tasked with imagining a world warmed by 4.0 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit), he was struck by how researchers spoke among themselves.

"It was very revealing. As they relaxed somewhat, they began to speak about their fears, about losing sleep, not wanting to think about the implications of what they do," he recalled."

+ + +

"Hamilton, who is running for Parliament in Australia, said more and more people he meets are having what he calls an "Oh sh*t!" moment.

"It's that moment when you really get it, when you understand not just intellectually but emotionally that climate change is really happening. I think we will see a rush of that over the next couple of years," he said.

It may take one or more terrible shocks -- national bankruptcies, a major environmental disaster in a vulnerable country like Bangladesh -- for that to happen, said Grayling."

Tiger Woods: He may not be silver, but he's a silverback (or actually, the alpha male)

My earlier post on Tiger Woods -- well, forget about it. It appears now that there was motive and opportunity, both for Tiger to get some and for Elin to find out what he was getting. Not that domestic violence is ever justified, but I think we can understand why she probably took a few swings at him.

So what happened?

I haven't calculated timelines, but I think that Tiger may have lost both his moral compass and a controlling influence in his life when his father died in May 2006. The current statements from Jaimee Grubbs claim a 31-month affair; let's figure this out: November 2008 is 12 months ago, November 2007 is 24 months ago, November 2006 is 36 months ago. So the affair (at least that one) began around April 2007; just about one year after his father died. There's no significance to that anniversary; people recover from mourning at different rates.

But what else happened in April 2007? From the Zach Johnson entry on Wikipedia:

"On April 8, 2007, Johnson won the Masters Tournament in Augusta by a margin of 2 strokes over Tiger Woods, Retief Goosen, and Rory Sabbatini."

That's right; on nearly the anniversary of his father's death, Tiger had a chance to win the Masters again, and got beat by the (at the time) 56th-ranked player in the world. Thinking in his place, I'd be upset and frustrated and maybe even a bit concerned about the state of my abilities. I'd perhaps wanted to show my father, with whom I had a documented love-hate relationship, that I was my own man, that I could win without him in the same place that I had won with him. And just maybe, I'd want to prove something to myself.

Tiger Woods is not a silverback; he's an alpha male, perhaps the ultimate alpha male in sports today (cases could be made for Roger Federer or Ronaldo or Beckham or Kobe Bryant or A-Rod ... might want to think about those last two ...), but Tiger is an industry and an enormously recognized figure. And the thing about the alpha male is --- they get all the babes. Not just the best one, the alpha female, but ALL of them.

And unfortunately in April 2007 I think he decided it was time to prove it.

Note on the "Russian teenagers" post, regarding the CRU hack:

Those thinking that the CRU hack was the work of an inside whistleblower have to also take into account that there was an attempt to post the file on by hacking into their server. That's a pretty sophisticated whistleblower who can steal email messages and try to hack into other systems to post what he had stolen -- also targeting probably the most prominent Web site explaining the science of global warming -- particularly a site associated with the "Hockey Stick", Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt, and by proxy, the Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS) and James Hansen.

I stand by my supposition until there is evidence conclusively disproving it.