Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quick Australian Open wrap-up

I guess this wasn't the year for heart-warming comebacks or a country's hopes at the Australian Open. Serena Williams had too much power and too much serve for Justine Henin, and Roger Federer had just plain too much game for Andy Murray. Since I like the underdog, I was a bit disappointed. Still, this is true to form; when tennis has had dominant champions, they keep winning. Neither Serena nor Roger looks done yet.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three pieces of news on the celebrity female front

In our #1 piece of news, Charlize Theron has apparently split up with her longtime boyfriend, Stuart Townsend:

Charlize Theron secret split

That's a shame. Well, it would be nice to see if she'd like to go on a date...

Speaking of nice, which I was, Miranda Kerr has posed with very little or nothing on for GQ. That's very nice. Whilst there is nothing in the pictures that qualifies as exposed (and besides, we've seen that already), the pictures are very, very appealing. Take your chances; caution advised.

Miranda Kerr in GQ

In terms of attractiveness, she has the total package.

This one is breath-taking

And finally, somewhat famous British TV personality Amanda Holden is doing a show where she tries out different jobs. When she tried out being a Paris showgirl, in costuming, the cameras followed her closely -- and it turns out that she has quite a nice derriere.

Amanda's behind, behind the scenes

I sure do like the weekends.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Serene (ah) vs. Justine in Australia

OK, I was watching live, and I thought Serena was T-O-A-S-T against Azarenka; to the point that I turned it off and did some other stuff for awhile. Imagine my surprise when I turned it back on and Serena had just won the second set tiebreak! I thought Serena was having both a bad day and was struggling with injuries; that's sure what it looked like.

Well, in any case, she won that match and then managed to beat her sister's downfall, Li Na, 7-6, 7-6; and then played doubles with Venus! She's tough.

On the other side, coming-back-from-retirement Justine Henin thrashed Jie Zheng 6-1, 6-0. So now it's Serena vs. Justine. What's really interesting is that despite the differences in playing style and size, their record against each other is 7-6, with Serena leading by one.

With Serena not 100%, and Justine just coming back, this final could be very close.

Who's #1 (in Test cricket)?

India thumped Bangladesh in a Test series in India (see links below). According to the first one, now India will play South Africa -- who were pretty erratic against England -- for the #1 ranking in world Test cricket.

India in charge despite Tamim Iqbal fireworks

Zaheer routs Bangladesh, India complete series sweep

"India head home, where they now welcome the South Africans, who play 2 tests and 3 one dayers against the Indians in the month of February. India would definitely need to move up the gears as compared to their approach against the Bangladesh team. Nevertheless, they would be riding high on their comprehensive series win and would like to continue the momentum against the South Africans. The series also has the added incentive for India who would be looking to stave off any challenge from the
Proteas for the no.1 spot in Test Cricket rankings."

Bangladesh v India 2009/10 / Scorecard

Tourist trap in Peru

I don't know if you heard -- given the deserved press coverage of the earthquake in Haiti -- but El Nino-connected rains have caused some major problems for Macchu Picchu tourists in Peru. Now, I never thought about trying to get there, but it is a popular tourist destination. There are actually two ways to get there --
by rail or walking (backpacking); the latter takes four days.

In the past week, landslides took out the rail route and have apparently covered sections of the backpacking trail. Thousands of tourists are stranded; the Peruvian government is getting them out by helicopter, but there are a lot more to go. And
there are serious concerns for backpackers that were out on the trail when the landslides began. There have already been deaths on the trail. One of the articles says that these are the heaviest rains in 15 years; I was thinking that it must have rained pretty hard during the 1997-1998 huge El Nino, but 15 years ago is back to 1995. So much for my insight.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I just have to mention Cheryl Cole today

People Magazine lists the world's 50 Most Beautiful People, but they've never included Cheryl Cole, who has got to be gunning for that list. She's already been picked as the most photogenic woman in history -- now wait, that's a stretch, not that she isn't fabulously gorgeous, but in ALL of HISTORY?? -- as well as #1 in FHM's World's Sexiest -- now THAT I can see. (But given this article about Alessandro Ambrosio and Miranda Kerr modeling Vicky's Secret swimsuits, the competition in the Caucasian division is pretty stiff. Ahem.)

But when Cheryl gets dressed up, she's hard not to watch. So I won't try not to watch.

Cheryl Cole parades her slim figure in racy outfits at German awards

Federer vs. Murray in Aussie Final?

Murray can take him.

With Rafael Nadal out of the Australian Open, beset by knee problems that may make the rest of his career a lot less interesting than it has been up to now, Andy Murray faces Maran Cilic, who beat Andy Roddick in five sets, to get to the Australian Open final. Roger Federer has to face Nikolay Davydenko, a question mark, to get there. It's somewhat amazing to me that Roger is in as good form as he is, given the twins that were born only six months ago. Clearly he has a good nanny (or nannies) to give him time to practice. And sleep.

Murray has shown he can beat Roger, but not in a Grand Slam. If it ends up being a Murray- Federer final, will Murray be ready for the big stage?

Still, Roger has to get past Davydenko and also, potentially, Djokovic. Could be tough.

Monday, January 25, 2010

There is very little up-side to ocean acidification

A nice comprehensive view of what global warming's evil twin sister, ocean acidification, could do to the oceans, and by proxy, what it could mean to us:

The Socioeconomic Consequences of Ocean Acidification

One pithy expert, er, excerpt:

“The world is probably going to march on without these species, but it might be darn uncomfortable” for us, forcing our economic and cultural systems to change, she said. “The [natural] communities are going to be very, very different. And different might be OK—maybe. There still is an ecosystem to be had. But a lot of the things that we really enjoy, that our communities depend on, are not going to be there. We may be able to find other awesome things about the new communities, but chances are, the options will be limited.”

a WISE word -- keep looking for NEOs

OK, we lead off with an article about WISE -- that's the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer -- finding an asteroid. Apparently it's expected to be good at this.

NASA's WISE spies near-earth asteroid

On Jan. 14, the WISE mission began its official survey of the entire sky in infrared light, one month after it rocketed into a polar orbit around Earth from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. By casting a wide net, the mission will catch all sorts of cosmic objects, from asteroids in our own solar system to galaxies billions of light-years away. Its data will serve as a cosmic treasure map, pointing astronomers and telescopes, such as NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope, to the most interesting finds.

WISE is expected to find about 100,000 previously unknown asteroids in our main asteroid belt, a rocky ring of debris between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It will also spot hundreds of previously unseen near-Earth objects.

By observing infrared light, WISE will reveal the darkest members of the near-Earth object population -- those that don't reflect much visible light.

This is good for the following reason: Congress told NASA to look for NEOs (near-Earth objects, that is) and they didn't give them much money to do that.

Avoiding planetary hits is a big job

The report says the $4 million the U.S. spends annually to search for NEOs is insufficient to meet a congressionally mandated requirement to detect NEOs that could threaten Earth.

Congress mandated in 2005 that NASA discover 90 percent of NEOs whose diameter is 140 meters or greater by 2020, and asked the National Research Council in 2008 to form a committee to determine the optimum approach to doing so. In an interim report released last year, the committee concluded that it was impossible for NASA to meet that goal, since Congress has not appropriated new funds for the survey nor has the administration asked for them.

Earth not properly protected from asteroids

An early draft of the report, entitled "Defending the Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard-Mitigation Strategies," was released in August 2009. The final report, written by a committee of expert scientists, says NASA is ill-equipped to catalogue 90 percent of the nearby asteroids that are 460 feet (140 meters) across or larger as directed by Congress.

The United States should also be planning more methods of defending Earth against an asteroid threat in the near-term. Nuclear weapons should be a last resort – but they're also only useful if the world has years of advance notice of a large, incoming space rock, the report states.

And as if to remind us that BIG rocks are out there:

Meteorites Crashes Through Virginia Doctor's Office

"It went through the roof. It through one wall partition and then passed through a particle board ceiling into the floor of an examination room," said Linda Welzenbach, manager of the meteorite collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which confirmed that the object was indeed a meteorite from outer space. "It's not really big. It's about the size of your fist."

It may be small, but the space rock packed a big wallop when it struck the doctor's office at up to 200 mph, Welzenbach told It broke apart when it hit the concrete floor of the examination room, she added.

I know it's getting harder and harder to get an appointment...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Just reviewing the Daily Femail

The Daily Mail calls it "Femail" -- keeps me on my toes, I'll say.

Kate Hudson in another NICE white dress.

Those backless dresses really make my day.

Here's the dress, lacking the back.


Cheryl Cole planning to have a baby

I'm thinking nice thoughts about her.


What is Venus thinking?

Have to admit, in tennis you can't miss this particular view.

(If you click the next link, she's in a bikini)
Speaking of tennis, Lleyton Hewitt's wife is comely

Nice outfit in the stands

And finally, I just discovered Alexis Dziena (she'll be in "When in Rome" with Josh Duhamel and Kristin Bell):

Alexis Dziena (safe but a little seductive)

Sad to say it, but she could get some of the roles the late Brittany Murphy would have been up for.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two things in the news that don't go together

Mitch McConnell, who I really wish would end up going the way of Bob Livingston, who was nearly Speaker of the House* before it turned out he was silverbacking, is positively glowing and crowing about the Scott Brown win in Massachusetts.

Top Republican sees little cap and trade support

U.S. vote dims hopes for stronger world climate pact

Meanwhile, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, headed by James Hansen, finds that 2009 was the 2nd warmest year ever (in their analysis), and the decade 2000-2009 was the warmest by far -- which is also stated by NOAA.

2009: Second Warmest Year on Record; End of Warmest Decade

From NOAA/National Climate Data Center's "State of the Climate":

"The 2000-2009 decade is the warmest on record, with an average global surface temperature of 0.54°C (0.96°F) above the 20th century average. This shattered the 1990s value of 0.36°C (0.65°F)."

Why do I anticipate a problem? And why are Senate Republicans such fricking idiots about this?

* (I am sorry for him and his wife about the death of his son, of course.)

More nuclear reactors slated for Middle East countries

Kuwait is working with France on a nuclear power plant; UAE already has a deal with South Korea for 4 plants; and even though I try to keep up, I had not realized that Egypt is also working with Russia (!) to build four reactors in that country.

Hate to say that when I think Russian and nuclear, I conjure up Chernobyl, but maybe they learned something.

Kuwait, Emirates sign up for reactors

Whether or not the far-fringe environmentalists like it, nuclear power can and should be part of the climate change solution (and the Middle East, if they don't end up leading us to major destructive war, is leading the way on this, amazingly enough).

Thence comes SkyFac

"SkyFac" (an orbiting factory) was a key element of Spider Robinson's Stardance. Private space stations capable of being a SkyFac are becoming a possibility for the future.

Private space stations edge closer to reality

Bigelow is now eying 2015 as the year when the larger human-rated habitats will be in Earth orbit, ready for boarding. All that is predicated, however, on launch availability be it on an Atlas 5 or the yet-to-fly Falcon 9 rocket under development by private booster builder Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). It will take seven rocket flights, he said, to hurl the elements for the first Bigelow Aerospace complex into space.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Forget alpha, beta, gamma... here's Delta

On the international bird-watching front, Australia seems to regularly produce some fine females. Several months ago I commented on Candice Alley, married to distance swimming superstar Grant Hackett -- they had twins. Candice is a petite pop singer.

Now I found out about talented and very cute Delta Goodrem, who in addition to being another Australian pop singing star, is also a cancer survivor (Hodgkin's disease). So that makes her, in addition to a pretty and talented woman, a human interest story.

You can find a lot of her songs (various versions) on YouTube. She's got a strong, mid-range voice with variety and depth. I recommend it ("Believe Again" is particularly ear-catching).

She's also got a lot of different looks. Three are shown below.

Cold in Florida: bad for fish, good for birds

According to the following article, it's seafood banquet time in Florida for pelicans.

Cold-killed fish washing up on shores in Bay area

The cold weather that was threatening strawberries and oranges (and probably a few other types of produce) also lowered water temperatures down to the Everglades below survival levels. As if Florida wildlife needed something else to worry about. Anyway, the dead fish are getting eaten by some very stuffed seabirds.

"Residents there [apartments near the shore of Tampa Bay] filled two 5-gallon buckets with fish, including many mangrove snappers that washed ashore, some still barely alive, Bedore said. Other victims included a large number of catfish and some snook.

On the adjacent beach behind the former Georgetown Apartments, "There must have been thousands of terns, seagulls, some pelicans; they must have been having a smorgasbord," Bedore said."

Snook fishing (except for catch-and-release) is now banned until September.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Black and white; two great Golden Globes dresses

OK, who won Golden Globes on Sunday night? Sorry, I didn't even pay attention; (just checked; "Avatar" and Jeff Bridges won. Yay. But it would have been cool if "The Hurt Locker", directed by Cameron's ex-wife, beat "Avatar". "Avatar" was visually spectacular but with a mundane story, and that's what everybody says -- and I might interpret it later. "The Hangover" won for comedy; so much for a compelling question about what's going to win "Best Picture" at the Oscars. But when was the last time, or first time, a sci-fi flick won "Best Picture"? Like never, and "The
Return of the King" was the first fantasy, and it partly pulled it off because it was based on one of the greatest literary achievements of the 20th century. So that's something.)

But back to the dresses. Jennifer Aniston was a knockout in black, and one of my current faves, Kate Hudson, looked ready-to-be-unwrapped (a la Gwyneth Paltrow in "Shakespeare in Love") in white sheath.

Another one of Kate

A whole set of Kate's glamorous cuteness

Hot shot of Jennifer Aniston

The Jennifer set

I see London, I see France, I see Jenny's ...

A full rundown on the red carpet runway from the Daily Mail

Plan now for 2050's climate

Climate Conditions in 2050 Crucial to Avoid Harmful Impacts in 2100

Forget all that Climategate nonsense. Real scientists, several of which I listed for Tom Fuller yesterday, are ignoring all that and proceeding with their basic research. This paper is getting airplay in the realm of reality, and it's sobering. It basically says, if we want to meet our goals for the century, which particularly means keeping the planet in such a state that it won't be collapsing, climate- and ecosystem-wise, as our grandkids try to cope with what's happening,

THEN where the world is at the half-century mark will be very critical.

"The team focused on how emissions levels in 2050 would affect the feasibility of meeting end-of-century temperature targets of either 2 or 3 degrees Celsius (about 3.5 degrees or 5.5 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively) above the pre-industrial average."

So how's that look?

In a paragraph, not good.

"Our simulations show that in some cases, even if we do everything possible to reduce emissions between now and 2050, we'd only have even odds of hitting the 2 degree target-and then only if we also did everything possible over the second half of the century too," says co-author and IIASA scientist Keywan Riahi.

According to the article, conventional alternatives (like nuclear, of course) were considered, but not some of the more outlandish ideas, such as injecting sulfates in the atmosphere, and nuclear fusion.

Yes, if we could all have our own Mr. Fusion reactors ("Back to the Future", remember?) we'd not have much of a problem.

Another bit of good news for nuclear power

Italy is making serious noises about bringing back nuclear power. After Chernobyl, the Italians banned domestic nuclear power generation and shut down their existing stations; but now they're going to build several, with the help of France and pressurized reactors. Ladies' man Prime Minister Berlusconi is pushing for this, apparently.

Enel says 4 nuke plants to cost up to 18 bln euros

Monday, January 18, 2010

Two contrasting climate views -- an introduction

European Union seeks to keep its leadership role on cutting carbon emissions:

E.U. Seeks to Regain Influence on Response to Climate Change

E.U. officials are looking to use every avenue to work with Brazil, South Africa, India and China — the so-called Basic countries — on climate mitigation.

Away from the sound-bite diplomacy, those countries are eager to draw on European experience in developing a low-carbon economy, administering emissions quotas and carbon trading.

Insiders say the E.U. will seek to use informal bodies like the Major Economies Forum and the Group of 20 to make progress in fighting climate change because the unwieldy U.N. framework can too easily be blocked by a handful of obstructionist states.

But there's more, and I'm going to wait on that. The contrasting view:

Two cheers for China's climate wall (by the effervescent Bjorn Lomborg)

"In short, China is aggressively protecting the economic growth that is transforming the lives of its citizens, instead of spending a fortune
battling a problem that is unlikely to affect it negatively until next century. Little wonder, then, that Ed Miliband, Britain’s secretary for energy and climate change, found ‘impossible resistance’ from China to a global carbon mitigation deal.

Trying to force China into line would be impractical and foolhardy. The inescapable but inconvenient truth is that the response to global warming that we have single-mindedly pursued for nearly 20 years — since the leaders of rich countries first vowed to cut carbon — is simply not going to work."

It is time to recognise the impracticality of trying to force developing countries to agree to make fossil fuel ever more expensive. Instead, we need to make a greater effort to produce cheaper, more widely-used green energy. And to do this, we must dramatically increase the amount of money we spend on research and development.

A global deal in which countries committed to spending 0.2% of GDP to develop non-carbon-emitting energy technologies would increase current spending 50-fold, and it would still be many times cheaper than a global carbon deal. It would also ensure that richer nations pay more, taking much of the political heat out of the debate."

More on this later, too, with regard to the role of nuclear power.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Billie Piper meets the real "Belle du Jour"

Billie Piper, the actress playing the call girl/blogger "Belle du Jour", who was recently revealed to be Dr. Brooke Magnanti, a specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology, recently met with Dr. Magnanti to discuss the real experience vs. the dramatized version.

Belle meets Billie: The more I did it the more I came to enjoy it.. you must feel like that when you've absolutely nailed a scene (has a few pictures, nothing dangerous)

Regarding the "real" Belle; she's respectably pretty, but nothing extraordinary. But it's not all about looks, is it?

Picture (pretty safe)

The sad state of the mighty Everglades

A recent assessment of the Everglades -- subject of a multi-billion dollar restoration effort (upon which the U.S. government has reneged its commitments) -- show that it is still an imperiled ecosystem. The parallels with the Chesapeake Bay are notable, except for the fact that the Everglades are a national PARK.

Everglades still in decline, study says

Ten years ago a $7.8 billion project, split between the federal government and Florida over 36 years, promised to restore the Everglades, whose ecosystem lawmakers ranked with that of the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon and the redwood forests of California.

The project has since shrunk in scope, in part because Congress failed to match Florida's commitment of more than $2 billion, The New York Times reported.

I wonder why. Who writes the budget Congress votes on every year? The Executive Branch, I believe. Who was writing it the last eight years? The George W. Bush Administration.

The study by the National Research Council, required by Congress, warned the Everglades was quickly reaching a point of no return.

Without "near-term progress," more species will die off "and the Everglades ecosystem may experience irreversible losses to its character and functioning," it said.

Point of no return... now where have I heard THAT recently???

England vs. South Africa cricket update

While the first three matches of the England vs. South Africa test cricket series were pretty dramatic, the last one showed that South Africa is a pretty strong team, and was about as dramatic as three of the four NFL playoff games this weekend --

which is to say, if you think a blowout is dramatic, then the last match of the Test series was dramatic.

So the outcome is a 1-1 draw; unexpectedly good for England.

Slaughter at The Wanderers: South Africa make a quick kill as England fall under barrage from fired-up Morne Morkel

"No, this was as one-sided a Test as you will see to end a series which has been full of drama, controversy and thoroughly exciting cricket. England are hurting but they would have taken 1-1 at the start of the series.

There is no disgrace in that scoreline, particularly as South Africa were so good at The Wanderers. It has been a series to savour."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

More climate idiocy from Walter E. Williams

A tip of the dunce-cap to Walter Williams.

Walter E. Williams: Global warming is a religion
Let's dissect this little "gem".

"Today, the Earth is not covered by a mile of ice; a safe conclusion is that there must have been a bit of global warming. I don't know the cause of that warming, but I'd wager everything I own that it was not caused by coal-fired electric generation plants, incandescent light bulbs and SUVs tooling up and down the highways."

You're right, Walter-the-dunce; it was caused by carbon dioxide, the same thing that we're worried about now, because we've changed the atmospheric concentration of it by 80 parts-per-million or so.

"The very idea that mankind can make significant parametric changes to the Earth has to be the height of arrogance. How about a few questions because temperature is just one characteristic of the Earth. The Earth's orbit is another. If all 6.5 billion of us, all at once, started jumping up and down for a little while, do you think we'd change the Earth's orbit or rotation? Do you think mankind could change the direction and timing of the ocean's tides?"

OK, Walter-the-dunce, we already HAVE made "significant parametric changes to the Earth". That atmospheric concentration of CO2 I just talked about; that's one. Creating ozone depletion and the Antarctic ozone hole (which also affects Earth's temperature); that's two. Measurably changing Earth's total albedo due to land use change (forests converted to agriculture); that's three. Impounding significant amounts of freshwater in reservoirs; that's four.

Changing the Earth's orbit or the tides? What a well-constructed strawman that is.

"Is there anything that mankind can do to stop or start a tsunami or hurricane?"

As for the latter, the answer is: yes, we probably could.

Cloud seeding could tame hurricanes

"A few years back, Dr. Heidi Cullen, the Weather Channel's climatologist, advocated that the American Meteorological Society (AMS) strip their seal of approval from any TV weatherman expressing skepticism about the predictions of manmade global warming."

No, she didn't, Sir Dunce. She said this: "If a meteorologist can’t speak to the fundamental science of climate change, then maybe the AMS shouldn’t give them a Seal of Approval." I.e., to earn the AMS Seal of Approval, a meteorologist should know the basics of climate change. She didn't say take it away from them if they already had it.

But there's more:

Hot Air: Why don't meteorologists believe in climate change?

Let's excerpt some of this:

"Except that it wasn’t. Coleman had spent half a century in the trenches of TV weathercasting; he had once been an accredited meteorologist, and remained a virtuoso forecaster. But his work was more a highly technical art than a science. His degree, received fifty years earlier at the University of Illinois, was in journalism. And then there was the fact that the research that Coleman was rejecting wasn’t “the science of meteorology” at all—it was the science of climatology, a field in which Coleman had spent no time whatsoever."

moving on

"The American Meteorological Society (AMS)—which formally endorsed the scientific consensus on climate change years ago, but counts many of the skeptics among its members, to its chagrin—has started including climate-change workshops for weathercasters in its conferences".

further down

"When asked whom they trusted for information about global warming, 66 percent of the respondents named television weather reporters. ... There is one little problem with this: most weathercasters are not really scientists. When Wilson surveyed a broader pool of weathercasters in an earlier study, barely half of them had a college degree in meteorology or another atmospheric science. Only 17 percent had received a graduate degree, effectively a prerequisite for an academic researcher in any scientific field."

but it gets better!

"But in my own conversations with skeptical meteorologists, I began to think that that earlier effort had helped create the problem in the first place. The AMS had succeeded in making many weathercasters into responsible authorities in their own wheelhouse, but somewhere along the way that narrow professional authority had been misconstrued as a sort of all-purpose scientific legitimacy. It had bolstered meteorologists’ sense of their expertise outside of their own discipline, without necessarily improving the expertise itself. Most scientists are loath to speak to subjects outside of their own field, and with good reason—you wouldn’t expect a dentist to know much about, say, the geological strata of the Grand Canyon. But meteorologists, by virtue of typically being the only people with any science background at their stations, are under the opposite pressure—to be conversant in anything and everything scientific. This is a good thing if you see yourself as a science communicator, someone who sifts the good information from the bad—but it becomes a problem when you start to see scientific authority springing from your own haphazardly informed intuition, as many of the skeptic weathercasters do. Among the certified meteorologists Wilson surveyed in 2008, 79 percent considered it appropriate to educate their communities about climate change. Few of them, however, had taken the steps necessary to fully educate themselves about it. When asked which source of information on climate change they most trusted, 22 percent named the AMS. But the next most popular answer, with 16 percent, was “no one.” The third was “myself.”

Brilliant. So, bottom-lining it, Cullen's suggestion that the AMS withhold its Seal of Approval from weathercaster dunces who don't know jacksh*t about climate change -- but who think they are experts because they read "Watts Up With That", which is managed by an equally dunce-level meterologist -- is tacitly endorsed by the AMS itself, which is endeavouring to educate weathercasters about climate change; the same AMS that endorses the basic scientific consensus on climate change and what's causing it. (Simply: us and our CO2.)

Back to the original dunce that started this, Walter E. Williams:

"Over long periods of time, there is absolutely no close relationship between C02 levels and temperature."

Dead-wrong, Walter. Here's a scientific paper that will bounce off your dunce cap, but anyway, I'm committed.

CO2 as a primary driver of Phanerozoic climate

"Contrary to what educators are brainwashing our children with, polar bear numbers increased dramatically from around 5,000 in 1950 to as many as 25,000 today, higher than any time in the 20th century."

So d*mn wrong, Walter, and elementary to refute your dunceness.

Are Polar Bear Populations Increasing?

"Today's polar bears are facing the rapid loss of the sea-ice habitat that they rely on to hunt, breed, and, in some cases, to den. Last summer alone, the melt-off in the Arctic was equal to the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined—a shrinkage that was not predicted to happen until 2040. The loss of Arctic sea ice has resulted in a shorter hunting season for the bears, which has led to a scientifically documented decline in the best-studied population, Western Hudson Bay, and predictions of decline in the second best-studied population, the Southern Beaufort Sea.

Both populations are considered representative of what will likely occur in other polar bear populations should these warming trends continue. The Western Hudson Bay population has dropped by 22% since 1987. The Southern Beaufort Sea bears are showing the same signs of stress the Western Hudson Bay bears did before they crashed, including smaller adults and fewer yearling bears."

Walter finishes his dunce column with this:

"Political commentator Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956) warned that "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed -- and hence clamorous to be led to safety -- by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." That's the political goal of the global warmers."

Walter's aim is to lie about what he knows and to bloviate about what he doesn't know, so that the Rush Limbaugh listeners who listen to his demented musings continue to have their brains turned to pudding by the disinformation and misinformation that he constantly brings forth.

You're on my dartboard, Walter. Skewered repeatedly.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tycho, the shining jewel on the neck of the lady in the Moon

What? You don't know about the lady in the Moon?
Look closely (and you may have to step back from the monitor a few feet), and there's a lady in profiile, with the Tycho crater a diamond pendant on her neck.

Trust me. Well, that's just an introduction to the next picture, which is a closeup of Tycho, and a link to the NASA article, with an even closer close-up of the floor of Tycho crater.

The floor of Tycho crater

South Korea will build nuclear plant in Jordan; UAE gets FOUR from S. Korea

The Middle East is hot for nuclear power AND solar (remember the Sahara solar panel farm?) Good idea for the oil burners to go nuclear; gives them extra power for desalination, too. They're going to need it.

S.Korea signs deal to build nuclear reactor in Jordan

"The contract, estimated at 200 billion won (178 million dollars), is to build a five megawatt reactor in Jordan by 2014, the South Korean science
ministry said."

UAE [United Arab Emirates] buys four nuclear power plants

The UAE signed a series of agreements with South Korea by which the latter will build and maintain four nuclear stations at a cost of $20 billion. The deal was signed during a recent visit of the South Korean president to the UAE. The Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), one of the world's leading nuclear power organisations, is in charge of the plan. KEPCO already operates 20 nuclear power plants. ...

For some years, the UAE government has been seeking a way of meeting increased demand for electricity in the country. It is estimated that the consumption of energy in the UAE will double in the next decade. Therefore, a clean and renewable form of energy was needed to sustain the UAE's high rates of economic growth.

Just as long as they keep the nuclear fuel out in the open -- and non-weapons grade, this looks like a great deal.

This is an advertisement

And Ashley Greene is really, really pretty.

More of this particular genre:

Twilight star Ashley Greene wears nothing but body paint in sizzling new ad campaign

Thursday, January 14, 2010

European Union and France mired in bluefin tuna ban dilemma

The potential bluefin tuna fishing ban (Atlantic/Mediterranean) is becoming more contentious with a CITES listing looming in March. Here's some article updates

France unwilling to ban bluefin tuna fishing

"I do indeed want us to take decisions on supervising the fisheries and banning trade (in bluefin tuna) -- but not banning the fishing of it," Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bruno Le Maire said on television.

France has a large bluefin fishing fleet and fishermen there have urged the government to resist pressure from green groups when it decides whether to back adding bluefin to a list by CITES, the convention to protect threatened species.

Curbing just the trading "will ban 90 percent of exports from the European Union to outside countries, so I think that in itself will be substantial progress" in protecting bluefin tuna stocks, Le Maire said.

(Isn't this position like saying you want to stop smoking, but you still want to be able put a lit cigarette between your lips and just not inhale any of the smoke coming from it? Please.)

[European] Commission still at war over tuna ban

The EU has to take a common position on whether bluefin tuna should be included on an international list of hundreds of endangered species that require protection.

The college of commissioners was meant to take a final decision yesterday (13 January), but the item was dropped because Stavros Dimas, the environment commissioner, who favours a temporary ban, is at loggerheads with Joe Borg [no kidding], the fisheries commissioner, who opposes it. Neither of the commissioners has signalled any willingness to compromise.

A meeting between Borg and Dimas broke up yesterday (13 January) with no apparent progress.

The Commission is running out of time to end its divisions as the EU must prepare a common position ahead of a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) on 13-25 March.

Too scared of fishermen to protect tuna
(a hard-hitting article)

Even though experience ought to teach him [Borg] otherwise, he appears to believe that reduced catch allowances will be complied with and that the reporting of catches will be improved. This is naivety bordering on recklessness: under-reporting or non-reporting is endemic. The EU's own auditors have pointed out that the real levels of fisheries catches are unknown.

The conclusion that Borg should be drawing from the ICCAT's deliberations is that the prospects for the bluefin tuna are so dire that even the ICCAT, which has a record of setting catch-levels far above the recommendations of scientists, knew it had to do something. The ICCAT restrictions are perhaps an attempt to pre-empt more painful measures, such as a trade ban, but that does not mean that Borg should be taken in.

The bluefin tuna is hurtling towards elimination from EU waters at such a speed that the ICCAT's fishing restrictions should be reinforced by a CITES trade ban. Of course, that position will not be palatable to the EU's Mediterranean member states; Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain have all previously opposed such a ban. But that does not mean the Commission should back down. The Commission's duty is to stick to the unpalatable facts: stocks of bluefin tuna are being run down at an unsustainable rate.

Let's finish with this from the same article:

The Commission should consider the balance of probabilities and work out that bluefin tuna is in danger of extinction. The Commission should ask itself whether, when it arrives at that point, it will want to look back and say that it did nothing, or look back and say that it at least made an attempt to stop the destruction. ...

Ironically, the Commission is about to launch a paper about halting the loss of biodiversity. The Commission describes biodiversity loss as the major global environmental problem alongside climate change.

It is not too difficult to read across from the biodiversity issue to the fate of the bluefin tuna. The loss from the oceans of these huge fish, which can grow to 800kg in size, would be a scandal. The Commission should unite behind support for a trade ban.

Sunflowers wouldn't be a bad biofuel crop

Sunflowers, according to the article, could be a food AND biofuel crop. Not a bad way to go -- because in addition to being practical, a sunflower field is kind of pretty.

Sunflowers could provide food and fuel

Once the genetic makeup is known, sunflower species could be crossbred to produce a plant that grows up to 15 feet tall with stalks up to 4 inches in diameter while producing high-quality seeds, said project leader Loren Rieseberg of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver.

"The seeds would be harvested for food and oil, while the stalks would be utilized for wood or converted to ethanol," Rieseberg said. "As a dual-use crop it wouldn't be in competition with food crops for land."

And I didn't realize the sunflower plant family has around 24,000 species.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Should we be comforted?

I ask, considering that the ability to find smaller asteroid chunks seems to have improved, should we be comforted by the fact that it's possible to find more of them...

or concerned about the fact that more of them are being found as they zip on by?

Well, statistically, the statistics haven't changed. What I think is changing is perception... we could get hit by one of these things.

Let's keep looking for 'em, then.

Weird Object Zooming by Earth on Wednesday [January 13) Is Likely An Asteroid

More on this later

Just heard about another British WAG (that's wives and girlfriends) named Carly Zucker:

Worth the click (totally safe)

Like I said, more on this later...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

This is how the world ends

France has to decide whether or not to join the endangered species ban for bluefin tuna:

France set to decide on bluefin tuna ban

"French fishermen are urging the government to resist pressure from green groups when it decides on Monday whether to join a global ban on trade of the overfished bluefin tuna.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon is to announce whether France is in favour of adding Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna to a list drawn up by CITES, the convention aimed at ensuring the survival of threatened species.

The stance taken by France, which has a large bluefin tuna fishing fleet, will weigh heavily in the European Union's position, to be announced on Wednesday.

The national fishermen's committee said the government "must not give in to pressure from" green groups and argued that scientists were divided as to whether a ban was necessary to save tuna stocks.

"Showing too much haste to satisfy environmental fantasies risks destroying an entire sector of French fishing," wrote the committee.
(Actually, just let us do it ourselves! Au revoir!)

The certainty that overfishing bluefin tuna will wipe the stock down below rehabilitation levels is even higher than the strong scientific certainty that the world will warm up by about 3 degrees Centigrade by the end of this century."

The French fishermen will be one of the groups demonstrating how to lead themselves to destruction of their way of life. Ask any Chesapeake Bay waterman.

Oh yeah -- a 513 pound bluefin tuna sold in Japan for $177,000. That's... about $345 a pound.




Monday, January 11, 2010

Another problem for China

Deep cold in January in the northern Hemisphere: China is doing power rationing, and the Brits are having to conserve natural gas:

China: coal supplies run low at power plants

"As of Sunday, coal reserves in 598 major power plants were decreasing and were only enough to last for nine days. Coal storage in 205 power plants will last for seven days, an alarming level, the National Power Dispatch and Communication Center said yesterday.

The situation worsened in 11 percent of the power plants which will shut production any time coal reserves cannot support three days of power generation.

On Sunday, Shanxi, Shandong, Henan, Hubei and Chongqing continued electricity rationing because of power shortages."

(And the above is from China Daily, no less!!)

Britain: 'energy crisis' not yet over

Britain's demand for oil and gas is at an all-time high because of a continuing cold spell that has left most of the country in subfreezing temperatures for weeks.

The grid operator last week asked some 100 companies to switch to alternative heating fuels and cut off supply to dozens of large companies to protect resources for private households.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn vowed that domestic customers had nothing to worry about.

Energy -- it makes modern civilization possible. Imagine how uncivilized things might get if we ran out of it for a few days during a cold winter...

We need more of these

Upstate (nearer to Baltimore than I am), Staples has a distribution center now covered with solar panels. Biggest solar panel installation in the whole Free State, according to the article:

Maryland's Largest Single Rooftop Solar Power Installation Unveiled at Staples Fulfillment Center in Hanover

"The environmental savings associated with the system will offset more than 43 million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) over 20 years, equivalent to removing CO2 produced by more than 4,200 automobiles driving 12,000 miles per year. The zero-emission, silent photovoltaic system will generate approximately 1.2 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity per year, and 21 million kWh during the initial 20 years of the project. The solar installation was financed, built and maintained under a power purchase agreement (PPA) with SunEdison. Under the PPA, Staples will purchase the electricity produced for the term of the contract."

OK, now I have lots of ideas about what a "fulfillment center" might mean... but disregarding that, this is a great idea. There are lots and lots of these business parks with buildings with flat roofs that do nothing but bake under the sun. Imagine if a lot of them were covered with solar panels, at least generating the electricity for the air-conditioning in the summer.

That would be so easy -- and it would save oil. A lot of oil.

Conservation and alternate energy and nuclear -- is the way to stop man-made global warming.

By the way, a "fulfillment center" takes orders from customers and fills them.

How mundane.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Catching up on some things -- Ekaterina Ivanova

I don't know if you've heard of Ekaterina Ivanova or not; but it's a short story that still's being written.

Chapter 1: get involved with lothario aging rocker Ron Wood, when you're 19 and he's drunk, which appears to be most of the time. Also manage to break up a 23-year marriage to his wife Jo, and you know that's an accomplishment.

Chapter 2: quit the relationship when aging rocker Wood tries to choke you to death.

Chapter 3: Tell-all to the British tabloid press.

Chapter 4: Get on Celebrity Big Brother (follow the stories below) and show that you apparently have some remarkable effect on guys.

Story 1

Story 2

Now... if I could come home to a 22-year old who posed as thus below (and I know I'm taking a slight chance here) -- I'd understand the effect, I think.

Hello! indeed.

Catching up on some things -- Carrie Stevens

Carrie Stevens has had a fairly interesting life -- first as girlfriend to the "other" KISS drummer (Eric Carr), whose death from cancer forced her to grow up fast; then as a very elegant (and somewhat unusual) Playboy Playmate; then as an actress, with TV and movie bit parts, which led to the movie Rock Star and a liaison with the director, which begat a son; and now she's helming a project to provide green lifestyle alternatives for fashion, beauty products, sexual aids, food, pets... which is a very noble thing to do. I can't tell if it pays the bills or not, or just part of them. I've followed her career ever since her Playboy days, and she seems to be cutting her path her way. And that's nice and unique.

The reason I'm posting this is that her project, Envi-Image, has a profile of her. It was worth reading. The pictures were nice, too (and they were quite safe).

The sexual aids article, on the other hand... ahem...

Catching up on some things: Lara Stone

I just wanted to note that model Lara Stone (who can be found frequently deshabille or more with very little effort, and it's quite worth it for connoisseurs of the feminine form) recently shot an impressive cover for the magazine Love.

Caution is quite advised. And it's a very noteworthy effort. Unfortunately, Stone smokes and makes a habit of being photographed smoking, and that detracts from my overall assessment of her health.

Love cover

Here's the magazine's Web site. Not much there -- but the magnify feature is cute.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I should've been paying more attention to Dr. Who

OK, I found out via the irrepressible Daily Mail that Dr. Who's female sidekick of late has been played by a precocious British actress named Billie Piper (who also played the recently out-of-the-bedroom call girl Belle du Jour, who also has/had a blog, if you're interested).

Billie told the Daily Mail what it was like to decide to have a baby with her husband (if you're interested).

The Daily Mail wrote an article about "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" (if you're interested -- be careful if you are). It has some, well, scenes from the show. Well indeed. Billie from both sides now.

What interests me about Billie are the following: (cautionary yellow flag as usual)

Interesting 1

Interesting 2

Interesting 3 (from "Dr. Who" -- pretty tame)

What were the Sea Shepherds thinking?

I don't get it. The Sea Shepherds get this incredibly fast "Batboat" called the Ady Gil, and just a few weeks (or is it just days) into their anti-whaling efforts, they stick the nose of the thing in front of one of the harpoon ships and get it sheared off. Dumb! This was going to be a weapon (and a lot of fun to watch on "Whale Wars").

The video shows that they did push in front of the Japanese ship. They weren't steered into. So they either did it deliberately or were really, really stupid. First rule of defensive warfare; save your best guns for when you really need them.

So now I guess it's back to following the Japanese ships and crying when they harpoon a whale.

Just plain dumb.

Whaling war set to worsen after crash

Oil spill in China's Yellow River

A broken pipeline has spilled a whole lot of oil into China's iconic Yellow River, pointing out the sad state of the environment in the country -- a situation that I still think could destabilize the country eventually. If you actually don't agree with me on this, look at what happened to the country when there were problems with melamine-contaminated baby formula.

So here's a particularly good article about the Yellow River oil spill and it's ramifications:

Yellow River Oil Spill a Reminder of Chinese Pollution


"The accident mirrors a 2005 explosion that released 100 tons of toxic benzene into the Songhua river in northeastern China, tainting the water supply for several million residents of the city of Harbin. While that disaster helped sparked new public awareness of the extent of the nation's water pollution, the lessons of 2005 are still being painfully relearned today. Then as now, news of the incident was only made public days after the initial accident. While the initial response to last week's spill was quick, coordination with downstream governments was slow, says Wen. "When the spill occurred, there were 700 people immediately mobilized to try to deal with the problem. That's still not enough," he says. "Officials should realize that once the spill occurred, they should immediately inform downstream areas."

Furthermore: "In its latest annual assessment of the state of pollution in China the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in June that the country had released several plans for control of emissions into major rivers and inspected more than 15,000 drinking-water sources. But the agency acknowledged that "surface water pollution remained very serious" and nearly half of the water in the country's rivers was unsafe for human contact."

And the article concludes: "As hundreds of workers race to prevent its already tainted waters from absorbing a new flood of befouling chemicals, it serves as a painful reminder of how imperiled by pollution this society has become."

Yep, they appear to get it. If the people truly lose faith that the government does not have their best interests in mind -- and their health has to be one of their best interests -- they will get upset. And that could mean Revolution.

OK, maybe the CRU hackers weren't Russian teenagers

A few weeks ago I speculated with reasonable cause that the hackers who broken into the Climate Reseearch Unit computers and absconded with email conversations of researchers, thus precipitating the so-misnamed "Climategate", were paid Russian teenagers. Paid by the oil and gas industry of Russian who would prefer that their clients keep burning oil and not splitting atoms or spinning turbines. And this seemed somewhat supported by the fact that the email file got posted on a server in Russia which had been utilized by this sort of thing before.

Well, the Russians claimed they didn't do it. And searching around, it seems that they are vindicated. Even though the stuff was posted on a Russian server, there's been sufficient tracing to find that it came through Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with an IP address deep in the scientific center of China -- "the Research Institute of Forest Ecology and Environment Protection", no less.

Now does that make sense? What would motivate someone(s) working on environmental protection in China to undermine the climate change community in the West?

How about -- someones that don't want the environmental protections of slowing down fossil fuel energy production to slow down the go-go-go economy of China? What if the RIFEEP is a rip-off; a front that has a nice sounding environmental name, like the "World Climate Report", the propaganda arm of Patrick Michaels, and they really are intending not to research forests and protect the environment? It's been done before. If this is the true heart of the matter, then it makes the Chinese look remarkably nefarious.

But given the next post on the oil spill, you can understand why. The Chinese government -- if you can call it that -- doesn't care about the environment as long as the economy is pushing them to the #1 spot of world domination.

Here's the article discussing this:

Chinese Hackers May Have Leaked ‘Climategate’ E-mails

This is from the original Daily Mail article:

"Several professors from this institute are regulars at climate change conferences where they have shared a platform with the University of East Anglia experts.
After our enquiries in Malaysia began, the suspect computer links to China were suddenly cut."

So this appears to be where the electronic trail leads -- and probably ends.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

England vs. South Africa cricket; down to the last bowl

I tell you, I'm getting fond of this cricket game. England was way, way, WAY behind South Africa in the most recent Test match that finished up yesterday -- but with a 1-0 lead in the four-match series, a draw would guarantee them a tie in the series, big news for the world's #4 ranked team against the current world #1. So what they had to do was keep playing until the match was called.

Now, simply, in Test cricket, the innings is over when 10 wickets are taken. England looked to be doing well to get to the end of the day, but South Africa managed some late wicket-taking, so a bowler (the mouthwateringly named Graham Onions) had to protect the last wicket until the allotted balls number of balls were bowled. He had to do this in the first match, too -- and like the first match, he managed it. So England will do no worse than a tied Test. Very, very, tense stuff.

I was thinking why they didn't play best 3 out of 5, but when you can have draws, it doesn't matter.

So the question will be can England win the series by either winning or losing the last match? We'll see. They'll need their captain to bat better, and also the mercurial, sometimes brilliant, but apparently not-yet-back-in-form Kevin Pietersen to bat better too.

Here's the last-day action described in narrative form. It has to be read from bottom to top.

England vs. South Africa as it happened

Seaweed a problem again

Unlovely seaweed -- which seems to crop up anywhere that mankind's activities contribute to excessive nutrients in the water -- now appears to be encroaching on Australia's unique and wondrous Great Barrier Reef.

Seaweed takes over Great Barrier Reef

Despite their apparent proliferous life, reefs actually thrive in really clear, really low nutrient water (that's why the coral polyps have algal symbionts, natch). So when the water gets more nutrients, this is not prime coral habitat, and it encourages the growth of unlovely seaweed.

Yet another indication that we, collectively, need to clean up our acts.

Monday, January 4, 2010

France tries carbon tax 2.0

The first try for a carbon tax in France didn't work; it wasn't equitable, apparently.

Sarkozy fights to save French carbon tax plan

"Significantly for the French government's plans to revive the new tax, the Constitutional Council ruled against the legislation on the grounds that it offered too many exemptions, arguing that efforts to protect businesses from the tax meant that 93 per cent of industrial emissions were exempt from the levy.

Campaigners argued that the exemptions left an unfair burden on households, a position with which the council agreed, concluding that as a result the bill in its current form breached constitutional requirements for equality."

So what shall they do?

"The government is now reportedly considering removing most of the exemptions for businesses, but imposing a lower carbon tax on firms in order to ensure that competitiveness is not damaged. However, Lagarde hinted that farmers and fishermen were likely to retain their exemption from the new tax."

I like Sarkozy's attitude, though.

"... Sarkozy positioned the legislation as a major test of his political authority, arguing that its introduction was similar to other unpopular decisions that had later been proved to be of great historical significance, such as president de Gaulle's decision to end colonial rule from 1958."

Sometimes you gotta make the tough unpopular decisions to make real progress. The American Congress needs to learn that lesson, pronto.

This will leave a mark

Lithuania nuke plant shutdown

"Vilnius [capital of Lithuania] later tried and failed to convince Brussels to let it keep the plant open until a replacement is ready -- something not expected until 2018-2020."

"Power prices in this country of 3.3 million people are to rise Friday by 30 percent for households and 20 percent for companies, marking a new blow amid one of the world's deepest economic crises."

This is a particularly apt demonstration of the need for long-term planning.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I don't usually comment much about football

I don't usually comment much about football, but I'm glad for the fans that my hometown Baltimore Ravens made the playoffs (in what is probably Ray Lewis' last year). They've got to play the Patriots, which would seem to be a mismatch, but with the really, really unfortunate injury to Wes Welker (I hate it when a great player gets hurt badly), their chances improved.

New Year's highlight: the original J Lo still has form

I only caught a glimpse live of Jennifer Lopez's New Year's Eve catsuit (she was wearing a big fur coat over it), but the Daily Mail covered both sides of the story quite well:

J Lo brings in the New Year in her own kind of style

A little late: England swamps South Africa in Test match #2

Sorry, if you care, I didn't note that England thrashed South Africa in the second Test match (won by an INNINGS!) a few days ago. This answered my question about whether or not they got to go home for Christmas. Reading the play-by-play, English bowler Graeme Swann is doing really well (he's an orthodox spinner, and that's as much as I know), while South African great bowler Ntini appears past his prime, and the South Africans are thus vulnerable.

Can't wait for the next match.

Summary of test match #2