Monday, May 31, 2010

Brief Memorial Day sports comments


Way to go Maryland! Knocks off Northwestern to win women's NCAA Div 1 lacrosse championship. Northwestern was going for six in a row.

OK, congrats Duke. I was hoping for sentimental favorite Virginia, but Duke made a good run to win the men's NCAA lacrosse title. Surprisingly, it's their first.

Blackhawks go up 2-0 on the Flyers, with a nail-biting third, where the Flyers were offensively dominant; Antti Niemi was miraculous. That may be what it takes for Chicago teams to win a championship of any kind, a miracle.

Indy 500, which I used to follow closely when growing up, but my interest now has faded; Dario Franchitti's win should make Ashley Judd happy. (Well, it did.) The late crash was spectacular; I read that Danica Patrick drove under the race car that was crashing.

This picture shows that was close to true; Patrick is in the green "Go Daddy" car.

Daily Mail article including video of crash from other car cockpit cameras

Henin surprisingly loses to Samantha Stosur at the French Open; I thought she might end up facing Serena. Federer and Nadal still cruising toward ANOTHER Grand Slam final showdown.

Celtics vs. the Lakers for the NBA title; yawn. Lakers in 5.

Roy Halladay's perfect game; the most interesting thing was, given the rarity of perfect games, that it was within a month of Dallas Braden's perfect game on Mother's Day. That's statistically improbable. Also, apparently Halladay was really close before; a ninth-inning, two-out hit took away both the perfecto and a no-hitter. Not this time!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meyer lemons

I never knew that Meyer lemons weren't true lemons until I happened to look it up.

All about Meyer lemons

You can get them from!

Meyer lemon comsumer [sic] pack

Month's not over: Dupre deux

Earlier this month I wrote about Ashley Dupre's Playboy appearance. I still have more to say on the general subject of celebrity nudes, but haven't had the time to write that yet.

But in any case, I discovered a video of Ashley shooting her cover scene.

It confirms that she's remarkably attractive.

Video of Ashley Dupre cover shoot "behind the scenes"

Saturday, May 29, 2010

More on NASA solar irradiance observations

Call them climate change skeptics/deniers/denialists/village idiots (Lord Monckton and James Delingpole))/outright a**holes (that would be Marc Morano): one thing that many of them have in common is blaming changes in solar activity, rather than the true situation, which is increasing greenhouse gases.

Well, one way that can be got at is to measure changes in the Sun's activity -- which do happen, to an extent. The following article is about that very subject:

Why NASA keeps close eye on Sun's irradiance

To be an earring, if only for a moment

Kate Beckinsale is right about perfect as a woman (I've noted this before); I'm linking to an article on Huffington Post (and another one from the Daily Mail) about her embarassing moment in Cannes, where she was seen frequently because she was a juror. In this embarassing moment, an earring dropped into her bosom. She retrieved it, put it on again, and continued being gorgeous. The third full-length picture at HuffPost shows Kate at her glamorous best.

Accessories malfunction! Kate Beckinsale has red carpet disaster as earring falls into her dress in front of the world's media (Daily Mail)

Kate Beckinsale Loses Earring To Breasts (PHOTOS)

I'm linking to two articles because you can't get too much of a good thing like this.

If you just want to see the third picture, click here.

She's got a lot of attributes; one of them is her dentition, which is PERFECT.

Goose day care outing

I hadn't heard of this behavior before, but apparently Canadian geese let one or two adults take over caring for several broods at once. This picture qualifies as "priceless".

Photo: Geoffrey Swaine/Rex Features.

Flyers vs. Blackhawks

Despite their supposedly downtrodden status as a sports city, Philadelphia's teams have had decent success. Maybe the Eagles haven't won a Super Bowl for awhile, but under the departed-to-the-Redskins Donovan McNabb, they regularly made the playoffs. The long-lamented Phillies finally won a World Series last year. The 76ers -- well, they did win one under Dr. J, and they've been competitive somewhat, but they need a comeback.

Which brings us to the improbable (but maybe not quite so improbable) Flyers of 2009-2010. After just barely getting into the playoffs on a shootout win, they've now made it to the Stanley Cup finals. They disposed of the Canadiens, after the Amazing Habs disposed of the Capitals (helped by a goaltender interference call) and then the Penguins.

How? Good coaching, aggressive play, and healthy players. That last can't be understated; just about everybody is healthy. That means a lot this late in the season.

So now they face the Blackhawks. And this is history; the last time the Blackhawks were in the Stanley Cup finals, they got blanked by the Lemieux-led Penguins, 4-0. Before that, the last Hurrah for Hull/Mikita/Esposito, they lost to the Ken Dryden-backstopped Canadiens in a 4-3 final series, in 1971. Before THAT, they won it in 1961. Longest no-Cup stretch of any of the original 6 NHL teams.

The Blackhawks are good, and they're due. Two factors totally unrelated to their success in this finals now come into play. One is the star factor. Chicago teams need bona fide superstars to win anything. Bulls: Jordan. Bears: Payton. White Sox: Lisa Dergan (Scott Podsednik's wife). Actually, I'd go with the ascendant Mark Buehrle).

Have the Blackhawks got a superstar? Maybe: Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both qualify as potential superstars. They need to show up. The X-Factor is the Big Buff, Dustin Byfuglien, who's pretty effective clearing out in front of the crease and getting those gritty goals that win games in the playoffs.

The other factor is Marian Hossa, who just might also be a superstar. His factor is the fact that the last two Stanley Cup finals teams he's been on, the Penguins (against the Red Wings) two years ago and the Red Wings last year (against the Penguins) lost. Not his fault, but
this year he's on the Blackhawks. I don't think he wants this trend to continue. Neither does Chicago.

However, Hossa just might have a superstar WAG factor going for him now, too. Jana Ferova.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Poop fuel; potties for progress

There are, as noted by many others, agricultural and biological roadblocks to the growth and usage of biofuel feedstocks like corn, corn stover, switchgrass, chicken offal, etc. But the following article notes that there is one by-product that given just a few tweaks (and hopefully some serious olfactory offensiveness reduction), could be used right away to produced some bio-diesel. With an emphasis on "bio".

Biodiesel From Sewage Sludge Within Pennies A Gallon Of Being Competitive

And we're the source of it. Yes, us humans. The feedstock source is sewage sludge. Which means our poop, suitably rendered. Now, there are still a few steps to be taken to make this work, but according to the article, it's on the verge of price competitiveness now; and one shock (such as discussed briefly in my errand sharing post) could push gas prices higher and thus make poop fuel competitive.

"Sewage sludge is an attractive alternative feedstock - the United States alone produces about seven million tons of it each year.

Sludge is a good source of raw materials for biodiesel. To boost biodiesel production, sewage treatment plants could use microorganisms that produce higher amounts of oil, Kargbo says.

That step alone could increase biodiesel production to the 10 billion gallon mark, which is more than triple the nation's current biodiesel production capacity, the report indicates."

What else are we doing with it? I can't imagine that all of it can be used for fertilizer, so I think it's just sitting there. Converting it to fuel and burning it makes a lot of sense.

Most of the other ideas for disposing of at least some of it involving creating or capturing other combustible by-products (like methane), or making and burying bio-char. Bio-diesel makes a lot more sense to me.


My favorite scene from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"

Final Battle: Part 2

"His pattern indicates two-dimensional thinking".

Just about EVERYTHING is on YouTube, isn't it?

SMOS science mission gets underway

One of the prettiest satellites currently in space, the ESA Soil Moisture and Salinity (SMOS) mission, is getting started on its scientific observations. SMOS launched on November 2, 2009, but I imagine that it took some time to get all those little antennas working in a cooperative fashion. Well, that part is done, so now we'll get two important *new* data insights into the world's water cycle, which as we know is related to climate, and there are some serious concerns about how that's going to change regionally as the world continues to warm up.

Early data return shown below for Australia, which definitely has some soil moisture issues:

Christina Aguilera and Jordan Bratman: too lucky

I've frequently envied Jordan Bratman, Christina Aguilera's husband, because according to an interview a couple of years back, she said that they have "naked Sundays". And she's got the physical confidence to make that somewhat delightful. Even post-baby.

Well, now I have more reasons to envy Bratman:

Christina Aguilera's nude strip for German GQ magazine shows she's ready to combat her pop rivals

And there might be even another reason:

Christina Aguilera Blessed with A Husband with "Good Looks And Large P***s" (he thanked his parents with a toast at the wedding)

Argh. Some guys...

Conservation idea of the month: errand sharing

As I was going out Saturday to pick up some paint, paint thinner, nails, and eggs, I thought about the fact that someone else could probably do the same thing for me while they were out and about doing something else, too.

At least the eggs.

That made me think about whether or not some of these tasks could be shared with other neighbors. Fortunately, I had to get a few things at the same time; if I just needed eggs, I'd feel kind of silly going the normal 14 mile round trip to get them. And occasionally the neighbors and I have cooperated to get some things at the commercial hub of the county, but nothing's organized.

I also thought about more congested localities, which I see frequently while on my long-term commuting stints near Baltimore. Congestion in this case could pay off, where neighborhoods could organize by email or blog or Facebook; people could put up a message about something they needed, and someone else could volunteer to get it. Slip them a buck for saving time and gas, and this would go well.

I think what would make this type of thing more likely to happen would be a significant rise in gas prices. The Gulf oil spill doesn't appear to have caused any price shocks (after all, it's just one very, very, very, messy situation), but other events could -- at any time -- suddenly precipitate a big price shock.

There are some examples of this type of thing; I've listed a few below.

City, suburban designs could be bad for your health

"For decades, cities, towns and suburbs have been developed on the assumption that every trip will be made by car. That has all but eliminated walking from daily life for people in most parts of the country. Americans make fewer than 6% of their daily trips on foot, according to studies by the Federal Highway Administration.

Three-quarters of short trips, a mile or less, are made by car, federal studies show."

West Marin Commons: Networks for Sharing and Exchange
(check out the Over the Hill Gang)

Hard Times Jobs (under Neighborhoods)

"Share Errands – Check with neighbors to see if you can carpool on errand trips around town or to a neighboring city. It’s possible also to do errands for neighbors and have them return the favor for you at another time. You’ll all save on time and gasoline money."

Time management tips: organizing errands

"SHARE ERRANDS: Chances are you frequently bump into your neighbors at the grocery store, or use the same dry cleaners as your friend. Talk to your near-by neighbors and friends, and tell them that you would be willing to call them and let them know when you are going to the store (dry cleaners, post office) in case they need you to pick up or drop off anything. Ask if they would do the same for you, telling them it could save both of you the time and the trip if you work together."

So maybe it's not the most novel idea. Maybe it's just an idea that deserves wider implementation. Start the revolution at home.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

World's longest computer service call

I was impressed when the intrepid NASA engineers working on the Galileo Jupiter mission were able to almost totally rebuild the computer on the spacecraft while it was on its way, after the high-gain antenna failed to deploy properly. (By rebuild, I mean that they totally reprogrammed the way it handled memory, to optimize the transmission of data via the low-gain antenna. Quite amazing.)

Well, they've gone a lot further, in terms of distance. The Voyager 2 probe, which is on the periphery of the Solar System (well into the Kuiper belt) suddenly started sending garbled data. So the engineers on the ground were able to diagnose the problem, identify it, and send commands to fix it -- according to the article it was a "bit flip" that caused a reset. And it worked, Voyager 2 is transmitting science data again.

And to think I'm still impressed that PC repairs can be done over the cable line!

NASA fixes bug on Voyager 2

Monday, May 24, 2010

The boundaries of the frigid

There's a couple of people with the physiological capability and the necessary mindset (combining derring-do, ability to handle pain, courage, and a dash of nuttiness) to swim in extremely cold (life-threatening cold) water.

Most recently, Lewis Gordon Pugh swam in a glacial lake in the shadow of Mount Everest, taking it slow due to the altitude:

British man dubbed the 'human polar bear' becomes first person to complete long distance swim on Everest

Pugh is a physiological freak: his body heats up when he just thinks about swimming in cold water. Because of this, he has also swum a mile in Antarctic waters, immersed for 30 minutes, and a mile in Arctic waters off Spitzbergen, immersed for 21 minutes.

Lewis Gordon Pugh

The other swimmer who has done a couple of these is Lynne Cox, who swam from the United States to Russia in the Bering Sea (between the Diomede Islands) and also a mile in Antarctica. In the Bering Sea, she was in the water about 2 hours, covering 2.7 miles. You can't swim fast in water that cold.

Bering Strait swim

It should also be noted that both Pugh and Cox have done more conventional long-distance swims. Cox was the first person to swim the Straits of Magellan in Chile, and she has also been an English Channel record holder -- twice. Pugh has also done a Channel crossing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Leapin' Lizards: global warming will cause extinctions

News from National Geographic News that lizard populations around the world will face extinction as global warming continues.

The reason? They have to stay cool because they're cold-blooded. Apparently too much sun and heat means that they can overheat, and so they have to take it easy. When they're taking it easy, they aren't eating and they aren't reproducing. This means less eggs, and less lizards. Eventually, the most-overheated populations will die out.

Mass Lizard Extinctions Looming; Global Warming Blamed
One in five lizard species predicted to vanish by 2080.

The paper on which this article was based was published in Science, with lead author Barry Sinervo.

As temperatures inch upward, the reptiles rest more and hunt less. As a result, 20 percent of lizard species could go extinct by 2080, a new study says.

The study team calculated extinction risks for more than a thousand lizard species around the globe for their study, to be published in the journal Science tomorrow.

The research was prompted by the discovery that 50 percent or more of the local populations of certain species had gone extinct in parts of Mexico and Europe.

The team suspected global warming was to blame, because the lizard-population crashes had generally occurred in areas with the warmest springs—when lizards reproduce.

Just another facet of the new world of global warming.

Tribute to Martin Gardner

Reprint from Scientific American, regarding Martin Gardner, who died yesterday (age 95):

Martin Gardner, the mathematical gamester

This image is a Penrose tiling, one of the things that Gardner brought to light in his "Mathematical Games" column.

One thing that I haven't seen in the obits is a mention of Dr. Matrix, Gardner's numerological doppleganger.

Dr. Matrix was famous enough that he even has his own Wikipedia entry: Irving Joshua Matrix

His Dr. Matrix columns were uniformly hilarious. I always wished there'd been a digital representation of Iva. (I looked around but couldn't find any excerpts online; I guess I'll have to revisit the bookstore.)

Gardner was also a famous and true skeptic, and those who profess skepticism but whom are really just denier-bots could learn something from him. If they were capable of actual learning, that is.

Added this in the 2nd go-round: Column about recognizing pseudoscientists:

Hermits and Cranks

(2) "A second characteristic of the pseudo-scientist, which greatly strengthens his isolation, is a tendency toward paranoia," which manifests itself in several ways:

(1) He considers himself a genius. (2) He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant blockheads....(3) He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against. The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture. The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to "enemies" for review. It is all part of a dastardly plot. It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work....(4) He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories.
This is SOOOO true of global warming deniers. Especially the smart ones.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Think globally, (don't) act locally?

Conflicting views on nuclear power

as I've happily described here recently, countries are planning and even starting to build many new nuclear power stations. Even oil-rich countries are seeing the signs of the end of the Carbon Era, and investing while they've got the wherewithal to invest. The Deep Horizon Gulf disaster will only hasten that eventuality. So here's an article that nicely summarizes the current global reawakening of interest and investment in nuclear power:

The nuclear option is back on the table

"The world's energy needs are skyrocketing. Global electricity demand will increase 2.5 times by 2050, according to the NEA, which has predicted that between 2030 and 2050 the world will need between 23 and 54 new nuclear reactors per year to replace decommissioned plants and to increase power production.

Overall, the NEA, a division of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, has forecast the number of reactors worldwide growing to between 600 and 1,400 by 2050, from 430 today. That represents necessary investment of between $680 billion and $3.9 trillion, at roughly $4 billion per reactor.

A recent political trigger in Europe, the NEA's Echavarri explained, was the disruption of gas supplies to several European countries during the bitterly cold 2008-09 winter, following a pricing dispute between Ukraine and Russia. The European Union depends on Russia for roughly a quarter of its gas supplies, and the disruption was a wakeup call to EU governments."


"Another key factor behind the Western world's change of heart on nuclear energy is the technology's eco-friendly credentials. Unlike the combustion of fossil fuels, nuclear fission does not produce carbon dioxide.

"We have set some very ambitious targets for reduction in greenhouse gas. Here in the U.S. we're talking about an 80% reduction by 2050, and when you look at an analysis of what it's going to take to get there, your options come down pretty quickly [to] renewables and nuclear energy," said Adrian Heymer, head of the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute.

In other words, climate change has accomplished in the space of a few years what two decades of lobbying couldn't: It put an end to the industry's nuclear winter.

"One of the most important factors driving the nuclear renaissance is undoubtedly climate change," said Christian Taillebois of Foratom, a lobbying group that seeks to promote the use of nuclear energy in Europe."
Finally, regarding some of the anti-nuke arguments you'll see in the article below:

"It's true that the construction costs are very large, but the maintenance and fuel expenses are vastly lower than for other sources of energy," he said, adding that new plants can be operated for 60 years, compared with 30 or 40 for the earlier generations."

In a study published last month on the projected costs of generating electricity, the OECD found that nuclear is now a more economically competitive source of energy than coal, gas or wind."

At the same time, here's another article that notes that some states in the United States of Energy (U.S.E.) are procrastinating on the renewable and atomic future. Well, here's my state by state analysis after reading the article:

US State Lawmakers Do Not Share Love For Nuclear Industry

Arizona: lost to a strong solar lobby. Have you ever seen how sunny it is in Arizona? This is not a surprise, and if any state should have a strong solar power program, it's AZ.

Illinois: There's still coal downstate, and coal shipping is also strong. The antiquated anti-nukers still cite environmental concerns. May their candles burn bright.

Wisconsin: The article says: "Wisconsin's existing state law requires that any proposed nuclear power facility be proven economical for ratepayers and that federally licensed waste repository be available to safely store spent nuclear fuel. In practice, affordable power and long-term waste disposal are two requirements that nuclear power is incapable of meeting." One, better plants mean economic freedom; two, as plants get built in other states, a real plan for nuclear waste disposal will get put in place.

Iowa: Let them conduct the feasibility studies. They'll find out it's feasible and necessary. If 2010 hits a new temperature record, momentum will build. Corn ethanol doesn't work (but if they started growing high-yield switchgrass...)

Vermont: They needed to shut down that cranky, creaky, leaky dinosaur.

West Virginia: Coal is still king in that state, but with such wonderful PR for the industry as underground killer explosions, and mountaintop desecration that is also hideously bad for the environment, look for consciousness of the benefits of the nuclear alternative to filter down there, too.

Kentucky: Another moratorium on nuclear station building goes down to defeat in a coal-rich state. Shocking I tell you, shocking.

New nuclear stations will get built by power companies in states with growing populations and established nuclear success, like the Carolinas and Florida (and Florida needs power for desalination). With demonstrated successes, the states will turn.

Sergei still scoring (on the ice, and likely off it, too)

Hockey World Championships: Sergei Fedorov

COLOGNE, Germany -- Evgeni Malkin scored twice, and Russia beat Canada again at the world ice hockey championship, eliminating the Olympic champion with a convincing 5-2 win Thursday night.

Maxim Afinogenov, Pavel Datsyuk and Sergei Fedorov added the others for Russia in a showdown with Canada that featured big hits and a fair share of bad blood.

(It wasn't Canada's top-notch squad. But a win's a win.)

Fedorov is starting to get up into Chris Chelios territory. (Well, no, Chelios is 48, Fedorov is 41. But he's still playing top level hockey. I'm amazed given the roughness of hockey how some players can make it into their forties and still contribute. I guess it's the short shifts.

Or maybe it's the ladies.

Fedorov and some girl named Anna; I think she played pro tennis for awhile

Department of Time Goes On

Has it really been ten years since "Coyote Ugly"?

And Izabella Miko was what... 12 years old then? (Oh, sorry, she was 19.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What do you get the woman that has everything? (including drop-dead gorgeousness)

An international sports star boy toy, that's what!

I really enjoy it (guiltily) when I read a story that has every element one could hope for: money, passion, beauty, broken relationships, controversy, intrigue, a stunning young cougar ... so this one has most of that. Background, easily confirmed via Google:

Baroness Caroline Luel-Brockdorff of Denmark married Rory Fleming (very wealthy; distant royal; banking fortune) in 2001. They had two kids; and then in 2008 this version of Royal Wedding went bust. The parting gift for Caroline Fleming was substantial, approximately (gulp) 400 million pounds, which comes out to nearly $600 million dollars. (Double gulp). Not shabby, and I'm certain the kids can go to good schools -- apparently that was one of the issues in the divorce. So anyways, spectacularly gorgeous Baroness Luel-Brockdorff; she's using her maiden name again -- was set for life.

But what's a gorgeous 33-year old mother of two, in her (wink) prime, to do?

Get a hot athletic soccer star boyfriend, that's what. So she did. His name is Nicklas Bendtner; plays for one of the UK's top soccer squads, Arsenal. This makes sense in another way, too; he's Danish as well. So there's no language barrier. Bendtner's 21 or 22; just the right age to satisfy the needs of the Baroness, which are obviously NOT financial at this point.

Nicklas Bendtner: the $600 million dollar man?

I kinda feel sorry for him. He might have to spend nearly a month away from the Baroness at the World Cup.

This is why I feel sorry for him (note, there is nothing objectionable at any of these links, just pictures of a world-class Danish blonde specimen):

Image 1

and this:

Image 2

and especially this:

Image 3

and I would not want to forget about this:

Image 4

or this, either:

Image 5

Now, this last one, which is just a bit risque, is staged. I can't find anything explaining WHY.

Image 6

Well, at least the World Cup will give her more time to spend with her kids. For a little while, anyway.

Christiana Figueres named UN climate chief

This one wasn't a surprise; and apparently her citizenship in a small Latin American country, rather than a economically powerful African country, played a role in the pick. As I noted earlier, she brings gravitas as a woman and a mother to this job; she's directly involved in the well-being of the next generation. She definitely has sufficient credentials; being a "Hero of the Planet" doesn't hurt!

I have nothing against Marthinus van Schalkwyk, but given the ability of the denier side to make crap out of gold, they'd certainly have made fun of his current job as tourism minister. And the current state of climate, with temperature ever-climbing, doesn't need any more detractions. Or distractions.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What is this?

1. Your brain on the most hallucinogenic drug ever invented.

2. Your intestines after ingesting six Supremely Suicidal Nuclear Waste Hot Wings (rated at 1.25 million Scoville units).

3. Your pituitary gland after contemplating several pictures of Blake Lively in swimwear (example below), and her swimwear video (both for Vogue).

4. Your brain wave activity after discovering that Eliza Dushku is still dating Rick Fox (and why is he reading "English Vocabulary Elements"?)

5. A three-dimensional supernova simulation.

6. Edvard Munch's "The Scream" after an unsuccessful digital conveyance ("Galaxyquest").

7. Scrambled eggs and grits from the South's most authentic diner experience.

8. Artistic meandering on the theme "Syrup of Ipecac".

9. A mathematical representation of the romantic lives of Chelsea soccer players.

10. The upper mental processing gland of GorgonthAM! the Magnificent from the planet Xp;ait';*lcortan56^^^ (closest possible rendering in keyboard characters).

Answer here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gallery of new animal finds from Indonesia

An expedition to the Foja Mountains (described in National Geographic) has discovered several new species of animals.

It's good to know that can still happen in the rapidly shrinking realm of nature on this Earth.

Here's the world's smallest wallaby:

Others in the Time Gallery

National Geographic Wallpaper Gallery (Foja Fauna)

[And here's a bonus: 2009 International Photography Contest Wallpaper]

Continuing this particular theme

Analysis will follow shortly.

Stars take it all off (but don't show it all) for charities and foundations

Including Buffy in the buff:

Sarah Michelle Gellar for Vaseline (there's a whole lot more that could be thought about there)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Quick final-day of Charlotte Ultra Swim

Notable final day finals swims at the Charlotte UltraSwim meet:

Justine Mueller outlasted Dagny Knutson in the women's 200 IM;

Phelps showed who's boss over Eric Shanteau with a 1:58 (hurtin' for certain) in the men's 200 IM;

Rising star just-turned-15 Missy Franklin won the women's 200 back over Elizabeth Beisel;

Ryan Lochte won the men's 200 back, Aaron Peirsol wasn't a factor in this one (but I imagine he's not done yet);

Natalie Coughlin won the 100 free rather handily;

and the men's 100 free was won by Gideon Louw in a race that didn't have any notable sprinters -- I think they were all headed home by this time.

Natalie Coughlin is pretty -- and in amazing shape:

Britain beats Australia (again) in one-day cricket

OK, though I admit a fondness for cricket, I've just basically figured out how Test cricket works. I have no idea how one-day cricket, or Twenty20 (which I think is also called Limited Overs) works. I just know that they were playing this tournament in Barbados and the English team, which is on something of a hot streak lately, made the finals and then beat Australia in the finals. And England had never done real well in any form of "shortened" cricket before. (During this tournament, Kevin Pietersen, who has found his form again, dodged volcanic ash clouds to get back to the UK for the birth of his first child, then made it back to the Caribbean for the semi-final, where England ousted Sri Lanka, and then played in the final. Impressive stuff.)

England vs. Australia as it happens (happened)

WORLD TWENTY20: Paul Collingwood's England heroes are a global smash

Wikipedia attempts to explain Twenty20 cricket

(Basically, each team is at bat for a maximum of 20 overs, an "over" consisting of six bowled balls. So there is an emphasis on more scoring. What I don't get is: it seems like the field is set up differently, i.e., it's easier to make catches by the fielders. I don't know if that's true or not.)


Kelly Brook wearing lingerie again, this time bridally-themed:

Rich jacquard satin and delicate eyelash lace combine in this luxurious bridal collection.

I'll take their word for it.

Plain and simple, I hope this works

There are reports that a vaccine that can either treat and eliminate melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) or actually prevent it from happening has been developed.

But the thing is, they're just testing it now.

Cancer vaccine breakthrough reported

“This is huge. We could now have a vaccine that can target a tumor and kill it without damage to surrounding healthy tissues or cells,” Professor Lindy Durrant, head researcher at Nottingham University, told “In the short term, this could cure some patients with the disease and in the long term the jab could be used to prevent people developing it in the first place.”

I would've waited a couple more years before calling it "huge". Methinks "potentially huge" is more apropos.

I hope you're right, Dr. Durrant. I really do.

All they have to do ... is change their minds

From Andy Revkin, at DotEarth, comes this report, that maybe, just maybe, all the bad publicity combined with the pointlessness combined with the anachronistic characteristics combined with the fact that whale meat doesn't taste very good and we haven't needed cetyl palmitate (otherwise known as spermaceti) for decades upon decades...

... means that Japan, or at least residents of Japan, might be rethinking the need to continue their tradition of killing and harvesting whales in the name of scientific research. I mean, under the facade of scientific research.

Now, this may come as a surprise to the five of you who read my blog, but whaling as whaling doesn't completely bother me. There are probably some species of whales (sei, minke, fin) that have sufficient populations such that taking 200 or so wouldn't notably affect their overall numbers. In fact, reducing their numbers might alleviate a little competitive pressure on the whales whose numbers are pretty low and which are in serious need of a bounce-back.

But philosophically, they're beautiful and intelligent creatures. Should we be killing them to take their parts, to consume them? No -- not anymore than we should we do it to cattle, or chickens, or ostriches, or any number of animals that we consume.

But are whales different? Are they more intelligent, more beautiful, more wild? Are they different than bison or elk?

Put it this way -- I'm much more concerned about bushmeat poaching (which means killing and eating animals like monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees, and several other pretty much endangered African fauna) than a few whales. Not that I like whaling; it's cruel, and it's pointless. But if we're going to get serious about being stewards of the planet, then there's a whole host of fauna that we should stop consuming, intelligent or not.

But back to the article. Apparently some Japanese are rethinking... but tradition may be holding them back. That, and the fact that nobody, and no country, really likes it when other entities tell them what they have to do. That's negative. Positive reinforcement works much better.

So here's the article:

Is Japan Seeing Internal Shift on Whaling?

and he's actually writing about this article:

Uncertainty Buffets Japan's Whaling Fleet

which says:

"The Japanese government is facing renewed pressures at home and abroad to drastically scale back its so-called research whaling. Yet, Tokyo seems paralyzed by the same combination of nationalist passions and entrenched bureaucratic interests that have previously blocked any action to limit the three-decade-old whaling program."

and also says

"While few Japanese these days actually eat whale, criticism of the whale hunts has long been resented here as a form of Western cultural imperialism."

and then it says THIS:

" “We can’t change now because it would look like giving in,” said Mr. Kodaira, a lawmaker from the northern island of Hokkaido. “Will we have to give up tuna next?”

(Might I mention that I think this is a good idea? Your consumption of tuna, Mr. Kodaira and your fellow countrymen, is far more likely to seriously affect the global and regional population of endangered tuna than taking a few whales!)

But anyway... oh d*mn, there's more of this:

"The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, one of the most secretive ministries in Japan’s powerful central bureaucracy, has also fiercely resisted any efforts to shrink the program. Among its crucial weapons have been Japanese journalists, who enjoy close ties with the ministry and have tended to dutifully report its claims that research whaling defends Japan’s traditional culture."

And the traditional culture of China that uses tiger parts in mystical medicines is probably the main reason there won't be any wild tigers by the turn of the century. To put it bluntly... screw your traditional culture. It was OK to be traditional when there was a lot less of us and a lot more of them -- meaning wild animals.

and it ends near this note:

"Even its proponents concede that the only real purpose of research whaling is to sustain the shrinking whaling industry, even though much of the meat piles up uneaten in freezers and the last private company dropped out of the Antarctic hunt four years ago. That, in turn, has led to a new round of criticism over the program’s failure to fulfill its own goals of preserving Japan’s whaling industry and traditional whaling culture."

Amen. Let it go, Japan.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Chelsea also wins FA Cup; Ashley Cole gets sixth

Chelsea pulled off an unprecedented double, winning the English Premier League and then the FA (Football Association Challenge) Cup a few days later. They were rescued when goaltender Peter Cech made a foot save on a penalty kick. Didier Drogba scored a few minutes later and that was it.

Ashley Cole has now been on a FA Cup-winning team six times. Despite the fact that he's back from his ankle injury, he's still broke up from magnificent Cheryl Cole. He didn't help his public profile recently when it was revealed that he tried to hit on a blonde in the men's restroom eight weeks after the separation from Cheryl was announced.

Those Chelsea bad boys... you can't take them anywhere.

Guardian report on the game

Daily Mail report -- the after-parade and party

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Watching the Charlotte UltraSwim results

I took a quick look at the Charlotte UltraSwim results (the meet's not actually over until Sunday).

Somewhat predictably, Phelps won the 100 fly and 200 free. Can't wait for the rematch with Biedermann when suits aren't a factor.

Testicular cancer veteran Eric Shanteau won the 200 meter breaststroke, so he's still doing well, post-Olympics and post-cancer (I hope).

Maryland's current top woman swimmer (now that Katie Hoff has moved to California to train), Elizabeth Pelton, won the 100 back, and beat Natalie Coughlin in the process (presumably, Natalie might still be recovering from her "Dancing with the Stars" break). Coughlin won the 100 fly, though.

Dagny Knutson won the 200 fly and the 200 free, the latter in dominating fashion; she's one of U.S.A.'s current best.

Sunday has showcase races I like to watch; the 200 IM and 100 free. I'll also be watching to see who's where in the women's 1500. Kate Ziegler wasn't in the 800 free field. Ziegler is still swimming, though; she was second in the 800 at Ohio State a month ago.

If you're interested and you don't have the right TV link, you can watch replays of all the events on Universal Sports.

This reminded me to check in on Grant, Candice, and the twins, who seem to be doing just fine:

Candice Alley's double dose of motherhood joy

Friday, May 14, 2010

Algae can clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and the EPA will NOW get serious -- supposedly

Algae, the eutriphying, putrefying, anoxifying scourge of the Chesapeake Bay, can actually be used to reduce the nutrient flow from livestock farms if deployed properly, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists:

Algae Advances as a “Green” Alternative for Improving Water Quality

"Microbiologist Walter Mulbry works at the ARS Environmental Management and Byproduct Utilization Research Unit in Beltsville, Md., which is located in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. In 2003, Mulbry set up four algal turf scrubber (ATS) raceways outside dairy barns in Beltsville. The shallow 100-foot raceways were covered with nylon netting that created a scaffold where the algae could grow. ....... Mulbry and his partners harvested wet algae every four to 12 days, dried it, and then analyzed the dried biomass for nitrogen and phosphorus levels. His results indicate that the ATS system recovered 60 to 90 percent of the nitrogen and 70 to 100 percent of the phosphorus from the manure effluents."

(Plus, you can turn it into fertilizer (as shown in the article) or maybe even biofuel.)

The EPA must comply with a case settlement to get serious -- and tough -- about cleaning up the Bay. They say they will.

Our View: Unified effort may save bay

"The federal Environmental Protection Agency released its latest strategy to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay and watershed on Wednesday. On Tuesday the Chesapeake Bay Foundation announced it had settled its lawsuit with the EPA. EPA Director Lisa Jackson acknowledged the impact of waterways on the communities and economies that rely on them and said the new strategy would hold everyone to higher levels of accountability."

They say they're going to address nutrients and noxiousness in urban and suburban runoff -- that's going to be interesting.

EPA vows 'unprecedented' effort in Chesapeake Bay cleanup

"We plan to devote unprecedented resources to this," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said at an event Wednesday on the Anacostia River. "We are holding ourselves accountable for nothing short of real, measurable results."

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker called the administration's commitment "an impressive building block" but said that "we have had these before, and we have a healthy skepticism."

"Getting farm runoff commitment is the big step," said Beth McGee, a water quality scientist with the bay foundation.

Nitrogen from farm fertilizer and manure is the leading pollutant of the bay, and Vilsack said the USDA would commit $700 million to help farmers contain it."

Let's hope this make tangible improvement. We and the Bay could use some.

Jen Schefft is pregnant

She was one of the prettiest, and most appealing, girls for the Bachelor or Bachelorettes. Neither of those efforts worked out for her, but now she's married and just got pregnant. Good for her. I don't know why I'm so proud of her -- people get married and wives get pregnant regularly -- but she just seemed like a girl who deserved a simple, decent, married life.

Whatever happened to Nastassja Kinski?

Nastassja Kinski was huge in the 1980s. Since then, as happens to young actresses, she had affairs and marriages resulting in kids during her hot span (she happens to be a 3x3, with children by Vincent Spano, Ibrahim Moussa, and Quincy Jones, for those who think Ulrika Jonsson's 4x4 is so bad -- I don't), and her career has slowed down, as she's in that limbo called actress middle-age.

It's pretty amazing to remember how huge she was -- "Stay As You Are", "Cat People", "Tess" (of the d'Ubervilles), "Hotel New Hampshire", "Paris, Texas", "Maria's Lovers" and of course the iconic Avedon photo wearing nothing but a snake (another one of those nude moments that I have to write more about, and soon), so noted that it was spoofed in "Bloom County" and by Miss Piggy.

I think that the movie that marked the beginning of her slow wane was "Terminal Velocity". And I've always wished I could have seen "Stay as You Are".

She has a Web site (in French)

OK, and I found this while writing this post:

Nastassja's lovely daughter Sonja recreates her mother's snake photograph

A couple of really shocking weather videos

I know that hardly anybody reads my blog, but for those rarities who indulge in my musings, I want to pass on a couple of Weather Channel videos:

Storm chasers hit by tornado

Nashville flood inundates Pep Boys (For those who don't know, Pep Boys is a chain of automotive parts stores.)

Regarding the latter, this Nashville flood was epic. And tragic.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Nudes in the news, part deux

One venue where celebrities, celebrity hopefuls, starlets, and others in the arts and entertainment realm have chosen to reveal themselves au naturelle is Playboy (obviously). One of the most recent examples of this exposure is Eliot Spitzer's preferred prostitute (ok, call girl) Ashley Dupre. The cover shot is quite fetching:

Ashley Dupre on Playboy cover

She's an attractive woman; another obvious statement is that attractive women can be found in the ranks of call girls and strippers and other forms of sex-for-money. And I'm sure she was paid decently by Playboy for her appearance.

Just thinking back, some of the better examples of Playboy's service to the world were Elle Macpherson, Teri Polo, Kirsty Swanson, Katarina Witt, Cindy Margolis, Denise Richardson, Joanna Krupa, Brooke Burke, and Shanna Moakler; Moakler did the Full female Monty as a centerfold, and acquitted herself admirably. I don't want to think about Farrah Fawcett or the Landers sisters.

Finally, in case you hadn't heard this hand-shaking development, this month's issue of Playboy will have a 3-D centerfold. (It is not true that she will be 10 feet tall and blue, with glowing spots.) Actually, based on what I can tell from news reports, the regulation Playmate of the Month will still be, ummm, flat. The bonus 3-D feature is of the Playmate of the Year, Hope Dworacyzk (a name destined to be frequently misspelled).

Nudes in the news

I promise soon to write my observations on why women, especially attractive women celebrities, posing nude (even if all that they reveal isn't anything more than a two-sizes-too-small bikini would show) has so much significance.

But this is a trend that continues, and which is also being exploited for its attention-grabbing potential. And I think, more than a little, there's a tad of narcissism involved. Particularly with the Demi-wannabes.

Demi-wannabe 1: Chanelle Hayes

Chanelle has posed nearly starkers (as the Brits say) before, yet still with either strategically located hands or a strategically located, frequently Lucy Pinder, fellow model. But she still decided to show off her baby bump, though it isn't at the Heidi Klum-projection level yet:

Chanelle Hayes recreating Demi Moore's famous naked photoshoot

Demi-wannabe 2: Claudia Schiffer

It's not like supermodel Claudia needs more attention, or more visibility, or more exposure, but she too has struck the Demi-pregnant pose:

Claudia Schiffer on the cover of Vogue (slightly risky)

According to the Daily Mail (complete with uncoverage), she also poses in lingerie; showing that attractive pregnant women are still sexy pregnant women, more or less:

Seven months pregnant, but still working and looking great: Claudia Schiffer is on fine form for a risqué shoot in German Vogue

Another PETA campaign (which is rarely a bad thing)

Protesting fur: Kate Ford of Brit soap opera "Coronation Street" goes nude to protest the bearskin caps of the Queen's Guard

PETA and their associated entities has done us fair service in getting fair women to disrobe; in this case, the subject is Kate Ford, a British soap opera actress.

She says:

She said: 'I would never have dreamed of posing nude, but when Peta showed me the footage of the bears being shot and skinned just for the sake of these ornamental Guards' caps, I decided to be brave and show some of my skin in the hope that the MoD will let the bears keep theirs.

'The cowardly hunters even bait the bears with food before ambushing them. When mother bears are killed, their cubs are left to slowly starve to death.

'This breaks my heart. I think it is despicable of the MoD to use taxpayers' money to fund this cruelty overseas when there are synthetic faux furs available.'

OK, my question is: when is her Coronation Street co-star Michelle Keegan (again voted the sexiest actress in British soaps) going to take part in this campaign? I'd pony up some funding for THAT.

Michelle Keegan:

Africa: Provide climate change funds or we won't talk

African nations meeting in Ethiopia have indicated that if they don't get the $30 billion (U.S.), they won't take part in future talks on reducing climate change. I.e., if the developed nations responsible for most of the emissions causing the current climate trends don't pony up what they promised, Africa won't help the talks get to the binding agreement stage.

"Meles [Zenawi, Africa's top climate negotiator] said the meeting of representatives of the Conference of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change, was clear that the issue of financing for the effects of climate change to Africa was critical for future success.

They said Africa was ready to access the funds through the African Development Bank (AfDB) to mitigate the effects of climate change.

These include lower yields from agriculture and increased disease-burden due environmental challenges associated with climate change."

Africa demands billions in clean-up bill or 'no future climate talks'

I think this a good tactic. Utilizing clichés, talk is cheap. The rich nations of the world need to put their money where their collective mouths are. Put up or shut up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rogue black hole on the loose causes gravitic devastation

Chandra X-ray image of Sagittarius-A (near center), the black hole in the center of the Milky Way (Credit: NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff et al.)

Although the chances of it really happening in my lifetime are minimal to non-existent, there is a chance that Earth could get hit by a big asteroid, causing a few problems for humanity. Well, in case that isn't enough of an unlikely nightmare scenario to keep us up at night, how about this one: a massive galactic core black hole has now been observed escaping its galactic home, and is traveling uncontrolled through space.

My first reaction to this story: OK, how many of these are there out there?

If one of them passed nearby (I'm imagining that nearby for a supermassive galactic black hole could be 0.5 light year or so), we could get inundated with gravitic waves. Or, it could get close enough to suck up our entire Solar System, including the Kuiper Belt and Oort Cloud.

Well, we actually do have more pressing things to worry about, like Iran's nuclear program, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, car bombs in American cities, volcanic ash clouds bringing down airplanes, the Maine Republican Party platform, and the impressive stupidity of Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, to name just a few.

But if I want to worry about something the nature of which is so unlikely that worrying about it makes me verging on psychotic, I have every right to. Actually, it's a defense mechanism, because worrying about something this unlikely means that I can spend less time worrying about things happening that are a lot more likely.

(I really don't worry about an imminent encounter with a supermassive galactic core black hole. But ... they do exist. Really. And at least one of them is roaming intergalactic space.)

Monster Black Hole Flung Out of Galaxy

How the planet lost its stripes

Are there any ebony monoliths lurking about?

In the movie (and probably the book too, which I read but don't remember well) 2010: Odyssey Two, the planet Jupiter gets swallowed up by an exponentially proliferating swarm of ebony monoliths, which are the calling card of the never-seen Alien Intelligence that jump-started apedom's rise to humanity (in 2001: A Space Odyssey) and who also built the Star Gate (which is actually on Iapetus orbiting Saturn, but that's another story).

When the monoliths start to suck the gas of Jupiter into their gravitic maw, observers on the Alexei Leonov (the Russian spaceship -- Discovery with HAL aboard ends up being utilized for an extra boost) start to see the colors of Jupiter fade. I believe the character of John Lithgow notes this.

Well, in present-day 2010 (am I the only person on the entire Web that has noticed this?)*, Jupiter's colors are fading. Specifically, the South Equatorial Belt has faded out. This is actually not a new thing; it happens every 10-15 years, and then when new vortex storms form, they kick chemicals back into the mix, and the South Equatorial Belt darkens and reappears.

* After searching about, at least one other person posting about this mentioned a monolith.

Still, seeing the colors fade in 2010; there's an echo there. Thank you, Arthur.

Jupiter loses one of its stripes and scientists are stumped as to why

They may be stumped as to why, but they've studied it:

The South Equatorial Belt of Jupiter, I: Its Life Cycle

A. Sanchez-Lavega and J. M. Gomez

Volume 121, Issue 1, May 1996, Pages 1-17

The South Equatorial Belt (SEB) of Jupiter, located between latitudes ~10°S and ~20°S, represents the archetype of a cyclically changing band between the belt and zone stages. A new analysis of the historical records has been performed, using various published observations and additional data in visual wavelengths, which permit characterization of cloud morphology patterns, the zonal and meridional motions, the zonal wind velocities, and the spatial and temporal scales of the variability of the SEB. For uniformity and clarity each phase of the cycle has been denoted with its proper nomenclature based on the traditional one. The following sequential stages can be distinguished: (i) Zone-like, global “fade” aspect (SEBF); (ii) Outbreak of activity with one or more independent sources in different longitudes but fixed latitudes (SEBD0), followed by the development and zonal expansion of a disturbance to planetary scale within the cyclonic band (SEBD); (iii) Propagation of the activity and formation of new disturbances in adjacent regions, tropical (20°S to 26°S, STrZD) and equatorial (5°S to 10°S, EZs activity). This phase, denoted globally as SEBD1 does not always develop after the SEBD; (iv) Normal belt-like stage (SEB), a period during which secondary outbursts simulating in some respects the SEBD can take place (also the STrZD and EZs disturbances can be present); (v) The cycle is completed with a rapid return to the SEBF phase. A new comprehensive list that includes quantitative data and detailed commentaries of all the documented events has been compiled. We propose and discuss possible dynamical scenarios involved in each one of these phases. In an accompanying paper (part II) the recent SEBD phase, whose onset occurred on April 6, 1993, is described in detail. The data presented in that paper describes the most thoroughly documented event to date and is based on our observations in the spectral range from 400 to 890 nm, which will serve as a guide for comparisons with simultaneous observations by other teams performed at other wavelengths.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nuclear plant updates from around the world

  • Malaysia making long-term nuclear plans

Malaysia mulls nuclear power plant within 15 years

Malaysia is considering plans to operate a nuclear power plant within 15 years, the government said Tuesday, advancing efforts to find cheaper energy sources.

Malaysia uses coal and natural gas to generate most of its electricity supply, and the government has repeatedly warned that the cost of relying on both commodities is expected to spiral in the decades ahead.

Prime Minister Najib Razak wrote on his blog Tuesday that the government was studying the possible use of nuclear energy as an efficient and cost-effective means for electricity generation.

  • China-Pakistan: Let's Make a (Nuclear) Deal

Pakistan Secures China's Help to Build 2 Nuclear Reactors

The nuclear deal with China would give Pakistan an additional 680 megawatts of power a year, or just over a quarter of the country's estimated current electricity shortfall.

China's leaders "do recognize Pakistan's need" for more energy, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told reporters in Islamabad on Saturday.

But more importantly, Mr. Qureshi suggested, the deal would help restore the balance of power in South Asia following a much more comprehensive nuclear pact between India and the U.S., which gives New Delhi access to international atomic fuel and technology markets. In exchange, India has agreed to open its civilian reactors -- but not its military nuclear program -- to international inspections.

This isn't exactly going over well in all sectors:

U.S. studying China-Pakistan nuclear deal

Washington: The United States said Monday it was carefully reviewing China's plans to build two civilian nuclear reactors in Pakistan, urging all nations to respect non-proliferation commitments.

The China National Nuclear Corporation has agreed to finance two more civilian reactors at the Chashma site in Pakistan, despite fears abroad about the safety of nuclear material in the Islamic nation.

China earlier built two reactors for Pakistan. But Beijing in 2004 entered the Nuclear Suppliers Group, a cartel of nuclear energy states that forbids exports to nations lacking strict safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

  • Japan gets breeding again

Japan restarts Monju fast-breeder reactor nuclear plant

The facility, called Monju, was shut down in 1995 following a fire.

The accident and cover-up created widespread public concern over the safety of nuclear power.

No one was hurt and there was no radiation leak in the accident, which occurred less than two years after it had begun generating power.

But the plant's operators were criticised for concealing extensive damage to the reactor.

[Bad decisions on both sides. Come clean, fix the problems, restart. 14 years is ridiculous for a plant in prime condition.]

  • Brazil makes plans for a research/medical reactor

Brazil to build new nuclear reactor: report

The reactor will be used for nuclear medicine, producing what are known as radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosing and treating diseases like cancer, Rezende said, as well as produce industrial-level enriched uranium starting in 2014.

The announcement came as senior officials from around the world meet at the United Nations to review the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and ahead of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's May 16-17 trip to Iran.

Lula in February announced that two new nuclear power plants would be built in Brazil's northeast.

Things are looking up for the nuclear power industry. And that's good news.

(But I don't mind the DoD keeping an eye on the China-Pakistan deal.)

Mixed Nuts in Maine

This is making the rounds a few places, but the Tea Party Republicans in Maine have revised their state party platform. (PDF doc)

OMG. And I'm not saying that lightly.

These people are verging on group insanity. Did I actually say "verging"?

I especially like this part:

"Defeat Cap and Trade, investigate collusion between government and industry in the global warming myth, and prosecute any illegal collusion."

Hey Tea Party Mainers, about that 'myth' :

Didja know that your average winter temperatures have increased between 2-4 degrees C since 1971?

Didja know that Lake Champlain is generally freezing over later every autumn? And thawing earlier? Same with Sebago Lake, and a lot of other lakes in Maine.

Didja know you're probably going to have a lot less snow cover, and less skiing, later this century?

Doya like maple syrup? There's going to be a lot less.

It's unlikely that any of the participants in this process have the capability of reading anything that might alter their concretized mindsets, but if they could, they should take a look at THIS:

Climate Change in the Casco Bay Watershed
(PDF doc)

Dancing with the Stars: Hough Tough

There shouldn't be much of a contest on DWTS for the trophy this season; combining Derek Hough's choreography with Nicole Scherzinger's considerable wow factors, and that's a winning combination. Evan Lysacek will probably be runner-up.

Last night I was somewhat amazed with what Hough came up with; recapping, he was required to choreograph a particular dance -- in this case, the dramatic Latin pasa doble -- in the style of a particular time period, in this case, the 50s. Even he seemed stumped. What he came up with was pretty astonishing; he went with a Danny Zuko (Grease) look, whilst Nicole was more like something out of "West Side Story" -- very 50s Latina. The halter top was also quite appealing. The choreography was mostly pasa doble with some 50s riffs; Hough even hit a couple of quite balletic positions. Scherzinger matched him perfectly. They deserved the perfect scores.

It was amazing on a lot of levels.

Dancing with the Stars: Nicole Scherzinger scores full marks (includes video of pasa doble)

Monday, May 10, 2010

The travels and travails of Galaxy 15

Don't look now, Zombiesat may be gaining on you

About 22,000 miles out in space, in the precincts of geostationary orbit, a satellite has lost its ability to communicate with its ground controllers. The satellite, Galaxy 15, is now adrift. While the chance of a collision with another satellite is remote (hah!), it's still doing its communications satellite job, and when it drifts into the zone of another commsat, it could intercept communications intended for that satellite. Collisions are unlikely because the other working sats can see it coming, and get out of the way. Galaxy 15 is now, according to reports, going to drift over to a libration point, a "gravity well", 105 degrees west and 75 degrees east) that apparently is the location of a few other of these undead satellites.

My question: what are the chances of this zombiesat colliding with another zombiesat, and generating more space junk in geostationary orbit? (Of course, there is more space up that high in space.) Maybe the libration point would be a good place to send our next-generation astronauts for practice before an asteroid rendesvous, and they could practive rendezvousing with these zombiesats and attaching boosters to get them OUT of the geostationary orbit libration points.

Articles about zombiesat Galaxy 15

Zombiesat attack: Solar storm fries satellite's brain

Zombiesat: Out-of-control satellite

Out-of-control satellite threatens others (an angry zombiesat is not to be trifled with)

"But it is a problem that satellite operators know how to deal with. Industry experts say there are several dozen spacecraft, sometimes called "zombiesats," that for various reasons were not removed from the geostationary highway before failing completely.

Depending on their position at the time of failure, these satellites tend to migrate toward one of two libration points, at 105 degrees west and 75 degrees east. Figures compiled by XL Insurance of New York, an underwriter of space risks, say that more than 160 satellites are gathered at these two points, which Bednarek described as the orbital equivalent of valleys."

160 satellites? I wonder what these look like in a telescope?

In a more general sense, and speaking more about the threat to low-Earth orbits, here's another article about space junk (also called ODDs, Orbital Detritus Dangers):

How much junk is in space?

About 500,000 known pieces of space junk – down to items about 0.5 inches (1.27 centimeters) wide – are constantly tracked by the Department of Defense's U.S. Space Surveillance Network. Of those, about 21,000 objects are larger than 4 inches (10.1 cm) in diameter. These are items like spent rocket stages and broken satellites such as Galaxy 15.

Zombiesat! What's next for the out-of-control Galaxy 15 satellite

Galaxy 15 drifts onward

They couldn't shut it down (try a big-a** laser next time, maybe), so now Galaxy 15 is poised to intercept signals intended for other geostationary satellites as it drifts merrily towards its eventual libration point destination.

Attempt to shut down zombiesat Galaxy 15 fails

Will the Gulf of Mexico oil slick get into the Loop current?

Not yet; and I tend to think that the concerns over the Florida Keys reefs are overblown. (Not that this won't be one of the most devastating environmental disasters in history).

But regarding the Keys: the corals have been degrading just fine by themselves due primarily to excess nutrients causing excessive algal growth and thus turbidifying the waters, and the cause of those excess nutrients is us humans. A few tar balls and mousse tendrils drifting by? By the time the oil gets there, what's left of it is going to be in gloppy patches. Sure it'll be annoying and unsightly, but I don't think it's going to be a major problem there. The Mississippi Delta, bayous, Redneck Riviera beaches -- that's another story, and if a major amount of oil despoils them, we could be looking at oil's Cuyahoga River moment.

More on that later, hopefully, as I get a chance, and as the situation develops.

A little acronym fun

What does HAAA stand for?

  • Henderson Area Arts Association
  • HArvard Arab Alumni

What does PPLA stand for?

  • Professional Photographers of Louisiana
  • Planned Parenthood - Los Angeles
  • Pain Practice Liability Association
  • Professional Photographic Laboratories Association
  • Professional and Personal Living Assistants, Inc.
  • Practice Precautionary Landing Approach
  • Please Prevent Little Aggravations

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Were Ovechkin and the Capitals robbed?

The case for review of goaltender interference penalties and "no goal" calls

Sometimes. I admit it, though I'm not a major hockey fan, I live close enough to Washington DC to get whiffs of their sports news -- and nobody could miss the hope and longing in the city for a winner. (Why is it that regular season winning DOESN'T get as much recognition as the playoffs? Oh, I know it's that championship thing, but winning consistently is very difficult, especially with injuries and juggled lineups and such -- and that's true of any sport. So the regular season champion should get more recognition than they do. Even though conferences and divisions are unbalanced. Oh well.)

So I watched game 7 of the Canadiens vs. the Capitals: a game that never should have happened, because the Capitals took the close-out game 5 too lightly, but that's happened in sports before too. Clearly one thing going on was that the Capitals didn't try to adjust ENOUGH to what Montreal was doing. (Brad Gilbert in tennis was famous for being able to do this; he said something like, figure out what your opponent doesn't like, and keep doing it. He got in McEnroe's head a few times doing that. But anyway...) Montreal and Halak were clearly in the Capitals heads. What they needed was something to get them out of the funk.

They almost got it when Ovechkin tied the score -- oh sorry, the goal was waved off -- at the beginning of the third period. It was a VERY questionable call. I've watched the replay, and here are the cardinal points: (below this, I've got a detailed image analysis; looking at details through a microscope for failure analysis scenarios means taking your time and considering everything)

1) Knuble's skate, inside the crease, touched Halak's skate before the puck got there. Amazing shot, it threaded under Knuble's legs through a space about twice as wide as the puck.

2) BEFORE Knuble's skates get inside the crease, Hal Gill puts his shoulder and hip into Knuble, trying to block his access to the front of the goal. They are clearly in contact. Knuble moves (or is moved) backward, his skate touches Halak's, he moves forward, puck goes in.

3) Halak was able to make a complete butterfly and stretch after Knuble goes by. Knuble's contact did not significantly impede his ability to play the puck. You can see in one of the screencaps below that the puck is in the air while Halak is still standing; this is after Knuble's skate touched his! Knuble is out of Halak's way when Ovechkin shoots; he in no way impedes Halak's movement.

4) After the butterfly, Halak goes down on his butt as Knuble goes by. The ref waves off the goal.

Looking at all of this, I'm convinced that referee Brad Watson waved off the goal because he thought Knuble knocked down Halak. It looked like he did. But Knuble didn't. Did the ref really have the angle to judge whether Knuble's skate touched Halak's skate from the other side of the net, before the shot? I doubt it. Should he even have been looking there (and was he)?

According to the goalie interference rule, incidental contact with the goalie in the crease by the attacking player when a goal is scored disallows the goal. No penalty, but no goal.

But the incidental contact in this case was not initiated by the attacking player, it was caused by the defensive player. Does that matter?

I think it does. The contact was minor, and was not due to the positioning of the attacking player, because his positioning into the crease was forced by the defensive player. Furthermore, when the shot was released, Halak appeared ABLE to make the play; he just didn't because he got beaten. Ovechkin's shot was fabulous because of both where and how he released it -- with a Canadien right and front of him -- and where he put it.

It happened in milliseconds, and the referee was on the WRONG side of the goal to see the contact between Gill and Knuble, or for that matter, it was probably extremely hard for him to see the moment of incidental contact between their skates, before the shot.

So the question comes down to: should that call, a critical call in a critical game, have been made? And now I think the answer is philosophically no. If at all possible, the referees should not play a major part in deciding the outcome of a game on a call that is questionable. This was. He took a goal off the scoreboard, and it can't be reviewed. The fact that it can't be reviewed is one reason that the call shouldn't have been made when it was that close. Getting that goal would have changed the entire rhythm of the game. It would have been tied. The crowd would have gone nuts. It likely affected the outcome substantially.

No fan of any sport wants to see a referee's decision on a close questionable call affect an important game. And this did, in a major way -- the Capitals would have had an entire period with a crowd behind them and a sense of determination that they weren't out of it yet.

That's why it was a questionable (bad?) call. It's too bad that the Capitals got into that position, or even Game 7, for that matter. But they could have escaped, and it could have been a truly exciting outcome. But the referee imposed his will on the game on something that was not clear-cut at all.

I've been taught my whole life not to question a referee's calls. They can go either way, and bad calls can victimize either team. And later in the game a case might be made that a Canadiens goal was waved off that shouldn't have been.

But I sure wish I could review the referee's perception and his POV of that play, because if he made the call because he thought Knuble knocked Halak down, then it was truly an atrocious call. Why was he sure it was goaltender interference? What did he see?

We'll never know. But I do know one thing. Sports needs excitement. I wish we could have seen how exciting that third period could have been. Were the Capitals robbed? He made the call according to the rulebook and what he thought he saw. He did his job. But because of timing and positioning and a judgment call, we sports fans were robbed of a potentially breathtaking twenty minutes of sport.

Here's some background information

Official Brad Watson: very experienced

Unfortunate call against Detroit by Watson (2009 playoffs)

Watson's call against Detroit discussed by another official

On the game 7 no goal: The goal that should have been: Caps loss a fraud

[Terry] Gregson [Senior Vice President and Director of Officiating for the NHL] discusses playoff officiating on NHL Hour

"Gregson explained why referee Brad Watson made the correct call in taking away a goal by Alex Ovechkin because teammate Mike Knuble was called for being in the crease and impeding the ability of Canadiens goalie Jaroslav Halak to stop the puck.

"Brad was very decisive, and as soon as I saw it on the television, from an officiating
perspective, I knew it wasn't a good goal and Brad reacted accordingly," Gregson said.

"When we go into each playoff round, we have the series managers discuss things with the coaches and general managers. One area we talk about is protection of the goaltender. And one of the statements we say to the coaches and GMs is that bumping the goalie means the risk of a penalty or a goal being taken away, so make sure your players are aware of the blue ice and allowing the goalie to play his position.

"... The first thing would be the presence in the blue paint -- is that going to allow Halak to make the play? And then when it's on the right-hand side and the contact is there, the arm went up because he felt Halak could not make the play he desired to make."

At one point in the late 1990s, a skate in the crease was automatically enough for a goal to be disallowed, but that is no longer the case. Gregson pointed out that a goal might be scored on a shot from the right point with a player in the left of the crease, but if he does not in any way impede the goalie from making the move he intends to make to stop the puck, the goal is still considered good."

My immediate reaction to this? "He FELT Halak could not make the play he desired to make????????" NO. You make a call that important only if you are SURE the goalie was substantially interfered with.

Bumping the goalie? It wasn't even a bump, it was a touch, before the goalie could make a
play on a shot that hadn't been taken yet.

So, considering everything to this point, I thought this was a protoytypical Bad call.


But here's what I think happened. Gregson noted how decisive Watson was when he made the call. If you look at the YouTube video (link below) that shows the scene both from behind and above the net, it really, really looks like Knuble knocked down Halak! It's hard to believe he didn't. But the pictures show that he didn't. His positioning made Halak stand up straight, and probably contributed to his ignominious sit after the shot, but he didn't knock him down -- he didn't even bump him to knock him down -- the skate touch before the shot did not contribute to Halak's seated position after the shot went in.

Ovechkin's Goal Disallowed [Round 1, Game 7] 4/28/10 (YouTube video -- there's 7 pages of discussion of this video!)

But that's what it looks like. So I think -- after thinking this over a lot -- that Watson made the right call based on what he thought he saw. I cannot believe he wasn't watching Ovechkin -- he should have been, looking for a slash or a trip or a hook or a couple other applicable penalties I don't know the names of. In half a second or less, the shot goes in, comes out, Halak goes down. Bang-bang-bang. The brain fills in the gaps and Watson "saw" Knuble knock Halak down. Hell, that's what I see happening from the view behind the net, too!

So, I cannot fault Watson for doing his job. What I can fault is that goaltender interference calls are not reviewable. Heck, they make a judgment call if a puck that goes off an attacker's skate was kicked (was there a "kicking motion"?). 90%+ of the time a goaltender interference call is going to be really easy to judge; the goalie gets significantly interfered with and can't make a play on a shot.

But this shot was in the other 10%. Add it up:

1) Knuble didn't initiate the contact with the goaltender; he obviously was being pushed back by Gill, who was trying to block Knuble from getting in front of the net. But Knuble was even able to reposition and get his skates out of the crease by the time the shot went in. When you look at it, he knew exactly where his skates were. Somewhat amazing.

2) Knuble was clearly not touching Halak when the shot went in, was not in the crease, and Halak got a full extension -- late! Halak was beaten by the shot -- he was going down as the shot was over the blocker.

3) It looks very much like Knuble knocked Halak down. But he did not. His position may have contributed to Halak's sprawl after the shot, but that's not goaltender interference.

Here's the rule:

69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper – This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.

[Standing in the crease has sorta gotta mean the player's skates are in the crease. It can't be about a butt hanging over the line!]

For purposes of this rule, "contact," whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body.

The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease – If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

If a goalkeeper, in the act of establishing his position within his goal crease, initiates contact with an attacking player who is in the goal crease, and this results in an impairment of the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

If, after any contact by a goalkeeper who is attempting to establish position in his goal crease, the attacking player does not immediately vacate his current position in the goal crease (i.e. give ground to the goalkeeper), and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. In all such cases, whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a minor penalty for goalkeeper interference.

(Knuble did!)

If an attacking player establishes a significant position within the goal crease, so as to obstruct the goalkeeper’s vision and impair his ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

(Knuble didn't!)

For this purpose, a player "establishes a significant position within the crease" when, in the Referee’s judgment, his body, or a substantial portion thereof, is within the goal crease for more than an instantaneous period of time.

[When the puck goes in (see below), Knuble's butt is over the line. Is that a substantial portion of his body?]

Ultimately, this was a very questionable call. The timing was so tight between Knuble's move toward the goal, Gill's bumping Knuble backward, the skate touch, Knuble's repositioning (he did give ground), and then the shot -- which Halak missed, because it was over the blocker -- it wasn't clear-cut. Now, were it reviewable, would the NHL have overturned it? I think that they would have let it stand, because even though I think Watson called it because it looked like Knuble knocked Halak down, there was contact before the shot. I don't think the contact interfered with Halak's ability to make a play on the shot, though. The biggest question in my mind would be whether they would judge that Gill caused Knuble's contact with Halak. I think he clearly did, but the attacking player is supposed to make a reasonable effort to avoid the contact. Knuble was there first, just barely; after his skate touched Halak's due to Gill's push, Knuble moved forward and had his skates out of the crease when the shot went in. (In a space of time measured in tenths of seconds.)

Despite the fact that the Capitals played poorly the whole series, sports history is full of events where a single moment turned around the fortunes of a team. Had this goal stood, it could have been one of those moments. We'll never know. What I've presented here, for me, supports both the call that the referee made on the ice and the case that this was something that in this era of HD TV and instant replay should have been both reviewable and reviewed, because it was SO critical. At least if it was reviewed you can look at every single reason that the goal was disallowed or counted.

In this case, we'll never know, and that's a shame.

[An additional thought occurred to me: why not give the coach the opportunity to have a goaltender interference call reviewed -- either one in which a goal was disallowed or one where goaltender interference should have been called; see the Blackhawks-Canucks analysis below. By the way, Go Blackhawks! Football allows the coach to call for a review; you lose a time-out if the call isn't reversed. Tennis has a great review system on line calls. I say, give the coach a chance to ask for a review of goaltender interference. If it isn't reversed, they get a penalty. Make it tough, give 'em two back-to-back minors, i.e., 4 minutes, so that they really have to think about it before requesting a review. But give 'em a chance, at least, especially on potentially critical goals.]

Image analysis: you can click on each picture to see it considerably larger)

Goal sequence, without commentary:

Now here's the same sequence with my annotated comments:


Blackhawks Canucks -- NO interference?

Byfuglien ruffles Canucks as Blackhawks take 2-1 series lead

"Byfuglien, who skated along the end boards taunting the crowd after his second goal, was back in the spotlight - and on top of Luongo - for the third. Luongo was in position to make the save before Byfuglien pushed him into the net, but the goal - originally given to Kane - was upheld after a video review."

Big Buff roughs up Canucks.

"Patrick Kane was the lucky recipient of the scorer's largesse, at first - but clearly the puck entered the net on a one-yard run with plenty of help from the offensive line, with Byfuglien leading the blocking. Or as they say under the twisted logic of the NHL's Toronto office: ``Good goal!''

Screencaps: if you listen to the commentary (sorry I can't give a direct link to the video, the commentator says: "... the letter of the law should be that, the goaltender has to have the ability to make the save..."

(CHI) Byfuglien, D. (13:58 in 3rd) (Game highlight video)

So a mugging in the crease is allowed as a goal, and Knuble's skate touch and pass-by in front is goalie interference.

Right. Seems to me there's a slight problem.

Goal sequence:

A couple of Blackhawks, a Canuck, and a goalie Canuck in the crease

Luongo gets pushed back; puck is by his blocker, about to slide in

From above:

Puck is under everybody in the crease

Puck visible right next to Luongo's blocker

Puck by blocker and corner of the net as Luongo is pushed back; puck slid in a moment later