Thursday, March 31, 2011

In honor of the NCAA Final Four, I present Ashley Judd

Sorry Ashley, but despite your appeal, I'm pulling for Butler. And I'll likely be disappointed. But I sure wouldn't be if you modeled this outfit privately (yes I know she's apparently very happily married to Dario Franchitti). But combining this outfit with the Final Four would be a treat in anyone's household.

Global curvaceous crisis

Candice Swanepoel less curvy?

This is truly a curvaceousness crisis on the global level. Candice Swanepoel, one of Victoria's Secret's most outstanding current non-pregnant and non-hot mama assets, due primarily to the attractiveness of her own personal assets (emphasis on the first syllable, but she had the total package) has gone skinnier. Way too skinny.

(However, if you look at other media coverage, she doesn't look too bad. She has certainly lost some weight, though.)

I personally volunteer for the necessary mission of putting curvy lovely weight back on her fantastic physiological framework to get her back to the extraordinary level we're all accustomed to ogling.

Candice at her best (not that her thighs don't touch in this lovely pic either, which in the lingerie model-body category is a good thing in my book):

Another day, more optimistic biofuel news

We've got a report here of how plans to upgrade cellulosic ethanol production are just about to happen,

and another one about a breakthrough that will make the production of bacterial butanol biofuel more efficient. Given that corn ethanol is NOT a workable idea, cellulosic ethanol certainly seems the only way to go -- and the fact that it might be producible from corn stover and other types of biomass feedstocks that otherwise go to waste, literally, makes it an attractive option on a lot of levels.

IF it can be commercialized. And competitive -- despite my fondness for nuclear energy, I know that it would take the world several years to adapt to the economic realities of $150 a barrel oil.

"tramble" is a word

Though "tramble" is indeed a word in the English language (circa 1913), it'd be hard to fit it into a common conversation, such as, "Oh, I was just trambling in the back yard yesterday."

It means:
To wash, as tin ore, with a shovel in a frame fitted for the purpose.

(So I wonder: can "tramble" be applied to other ores, or only cassiterite?)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I really liked this commentary about the "Black Swan" pseudo-controversy

The pseudo-controversy is that Natalie Portman didn't do all the ballet dancing in Black Swan.

Who was the real recipient of Kunis-lingus?

This makes sense:

"Maybe we should tell this dancer (whose name I can't bring myself to Google) that those aren't actually spaceships in Star Wars either. That's because movie making is make-believe. That's right, Green Swan, you and a bunch of other people got together to create an illusion for the audience. And here's a little secret... the audience knows it's an illusion."

Shakira makes her relationship status (attached again) official

D*mn. There goes my window of opportunity. Following the young soccer playing stud connects with hottie-in-her-30s-sexual prime path, a path followed by the short but procreative relationship of Niklas Bendtner and Caroline Luel-Brockdorff (about whom I need to further fantasize, contemplate, and speculate).

Shakira confirms romance with Gerard Pique

and since this is Shakira, we might as well all see what he's getting (lucky young soccer playing stud...)

You know it had to end SOMETIME

There has to be a finite amount of oil underground (even if oil shales and tar sands are counted), and modern civilization is currently burning those reserves at a prodigious rate. As daunting as the once-in-a-century (probably) tsunami-induced catastrophe at the Fukushima Daichi nuke plant is, modern civilization is going to contine to need more and more energy, and oil will run out.

The current prediction is in 50 years:
Less than 50 years of oil left, HSBC warns
“We’re confident that there are around 50 years of oil left,” Karen Ward, the [HSBC] bank’s senior global economist, said in an interview on CNBC.

The bank, the world’s second largest in assets, further cautioned that growth trends in developing countries like China could put as many as one billion more cars on the road by midcentury. “That’s tremendous pressure on oil to power all those resources,” Ms. Ward said.

Substitutes, such as biofuels and synthetic oil from coal, could fill the gap if conventional supplies fall short, but only if average oil prices exceed $150 per barrel, the report notes. Increasingly tight global supplies, meanwhile, are likely to cause “persistent and painful” price shocks, it says.

Some oil industry observers take a more optimistic view of future supplies, arguing that further development of Canadian tar sands, offshore discoveries in the Arctic and an expected surge in supply from Iraq will keep oil markets well-supplied for decades. Shale drilling has also managed to boost domestic oil production in the United States after years of decline.

Now, there has been some movement in making oil out of other stuff; a couple of days ago I talked about renewable oil from CO2, and there's always offal, this time in the form of chicken fat, as a biofuel feedstock.

Even NASA is looking at it (but fortunately not for spaceflight).
Chicken fat biofuel: eco-friendly jet fuel alternative?

But as long as fossil fuel is burned in a non-renewable way, climate change will be a problem, no matter if the United States public is more worried about lots of other things right now (like radioactive iodine from Japan -- that's a joke, son).

India-Pakistan World Cup ODI cricket semi-final; comments while in progress

Of course it's over now, but here's what I was thinking while it happened:

Tuned in late; India had respectable 260; Pakistan at 142/5; they could lose it on wickets because that indicates their best batsmen are GONE already.

Pakistan bowled again, so 159/6; India's match to lose now.

Catch, Pakistan at 184/7 with 46 balls left; this one's pretty much over now.

Pakistan at 199/7, 33 balls left; unlikely, but a still a glimmer.

Another catch, 208/8, endgame. (Comment said that Pak should have taken a batting powerplay at 38-43 overs; wish I knew what that meant.)

I still don't quite get it, but here's an explanation:
ODI Powerplay; It makes it harder to field, increasing scoring (and hopefully excitement).

208/9. Pakistan down to their last wicket (I always wanted to say that!)

224/9, 37 runs needed on 12 balls. If they got a four on EVERY ball, that's only 36. If this was golf, they'd concede and shake hands.

Pak late six! But not enuff -- Ends on a catch at 231/10.

--- end in-game comments

MVP of the match should be India's legendary Tendulkar (below hitting for six earlier in the World Cup), 85 runs. Pak's Misbah-ul-Haq put up a good effort at the end with 56.

India - Sri Lanka should be an interesting final.

Cricket diplomacy as India faces Pakistan

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The trees will know

Reminds me fleetingly of the march of the Ents in the Lord of the Rings; in Russia's vast northlands, the compositions of the forests, vis-a-vis what trees are living in them, are changing. Whether or not one subscribes to the (yes it's true, if you're a dolt that doesn't) cause as human activities pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, this arboreal adjustment indicates, as do many other similar indicative trends in the natural world, that climate change is happening, and probably getting faster, too.

This whole article from SciAm is detailed enough to make the trends understandable - and deeply troubling.

Shift in Northern Forests Could Increase Global Warming
Vegetation change underway in boreal forests as a result of climate change creates a feedback loop that prompts more warming, scientists say

Bolden gets frank on Congressional shenanigans with NASA budget

NASA administrator Charles Bolden appears to enjoy respect on the hill -- and I think he's also respected for saying it like it is, with minimal sugarcoating and maximum face-factsness. So I deeply and greatly admire this description of his recent testimony:

Skeptical House Science Committee Reviews FY 2012 NASA Budget Request

"There was discussion throughout this two-hour hearing about space science programs. One member expressed support for the astrophysics program and the discovery of new planets. There was also concern about the adequacy of the agency's earth science programs. Bolden described problems confronting some earth satellite replacement programs, and starkly warned the committee "we are in dire straits as a nation when it comes to weather and climate prediction." He was blunt in calling, as "dumb things" congressional attempts to defund a satellite program that would measure, among other data, shifting changes in the world's climate. "I don't do global warming, I do earth science," he said emphatically.

There was also discussion about the impacts of funding reductions to the agency's future budgets. Saying that current budget projections are going to make it difficult to achieve agreed-upon goals for the development of new human exploration systems, Bolden warned the committee "all bets are off" if Congress cuts the agency's budget."

But are the tone-deaf among the Congresspersons even listening? Are they even CAPABLE of listening?

Take a long ride in this

In case anyone remembers the now-antiquated yet visionary movie (and book) "2001: A Space Odyssey", one of the features of the long-duration spaceship was a rotating center section that created pseudo-gravity, allowing the astronauts to maintain some semblance of muscle tone. Also, the big space stations in the movie rotated for the same reason. Even the Russian spaceship in 2010 had a rotating section.

Well, having gravity of some sort appears to be a necessary design requirement for long duration space vehicles, according to this new design released by NASA, called Nautilus-X, which stands for Non-Atmospheric Universal Transport Intended for Lengthy US space eXploration.

Arthur C. Clarke would have loved it.

Nautilus-X update on GoogleDocs (Powerpoint)

My comments while following the New Zealand - Sri Lanka semi-final World Cup ODI cricket match:

NZ only got 217; not enough, I don't think, with 2 Sri Lankan batsmen capable of centuries. Sri Lanka chasing. Dilshan out at 73.

So close! It's down to defense. New Zealand could pull the upset (heck, it's a week of upsets, isn't it?) Sri Lanka needs 28 on 36 balls -- but I think their best batsmen are out. TIGHT.

Sri Lanka wins a close one; only 13 balls remaining to beat a low score.

Monday, March 28, 2011

If not nuclear, renewable oil?

OK, it sounds really strange to be talking about recycling carbon dioxide -- but it could happen. Imagine not sucking fossil fuel petroleum out of the ground, but actually MAKING it with carbon dioxide. So either extract CO2 from the atmosphere (admittedly that would cost a bit), or pipe the CO2 generated by primary fossil fuel energy production to a second plant where the CO2 is put to work making more oil -- the biggest problematic thing in this 1st and 2nd law of thermodynamics nightmare would be finding the power to run the second process.

Now, I have at length chided the advocates of solar and wind power about the fact that solar don't work good when the sun don't shine, and wind don't work good when the wind don't blow -- but I can see using these in production mode to make renewable oil. And if the net result is CO2 neutral, then maybe, just maybe, we have something here.)

Links to more about it:

Researchers Close In On Technology For Making Renewable Petroleum

Renewable Petroleum a Possibility?

U of M[innesota] researchers close in on technology for making renewable "petroleum" using bacteria, sunlight and carbon dioxide

Quoting Summer Glau

Summer Glau, who just seems to have the worst luck with projects (even though I think she has delivered noteworthy performances in every one of them), was recently in Esquire (in February, before The Cape undeservedly tanked). Her pictures are quite fetching, though limited; the video even more appealing. (HD, no less, currently the first one on that page, which deserves more time than I've given it so far.) Also fetching is her quote about what to wear to bed:

"...AT 10:30 P.M. /// CLIMBING INTO BED

I don't wear anything.Nothing belongs in the bed but bodies.

(Wish that was in HD.)

Nice. Very nice. I hope she gets the hit she's looking for. (TV or movie hit, not as in "I'd hit that" -- even though I certainly would if the offer was genuine.)

Here's a screencap of my favorite part:

Quoting Ezra Klein

Earlier this month, I wrote:

I am seriously p*ssed off at the GOP in Congress

Well, today I was reading Newsweek in the orthodontist's office, and I discovered this:

Washington's Suicide Pact

in which author Ezra Klein opines in a very similar mode to my own earlier ode to p*ssed-offedness:

If those job losses were the necessary cost of doing something serious about the deficit, perhaps Republicans could justify them. But that’s not the case. The GOP’s
spending cuts come from the 12 percent of the budget known as “nondefense discretionary spending.”
That’s not Medicare, Medicaid, big tax breaks like the mortgage-interest deduction, military spending, or Social Security—not, in other words, any of the major contributors to the deficit. Rather, it’s a hodgepodge of programs for education, retraining workers, housing the homeless, investing in infrastructure, and so forth. This part of the budget tends to be lean, as politicians continually return to it to make cuts. Why? Because its beneficiaries tend to be politically weak—kids rather than seniors, or unemployed workers rather than corporate titans.

Senate Democrats, frustrated by the depth of the cuts Republicans have proposed, have tried to negotiate. “Tax cuts and expanded mandatory programs are a large part of what got us here,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, “and they are going to have to be part of the solution.” Republicans were not interested. “Right now we need to crawl before we can walk, and that means finishing last year’s business and complet[ing] a spending bill,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. “[The Democrats’] answer is to raise taxes, not to cut spending, and that’s not something anyone else is talking about,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Syrup of ipecac is not necessary to induce vomiting after reading that pap, is it?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I was hoping for more Hope

Hope Dworaczyk, who was on Celebrity Apprentice last I checked (and I haven't checked tonight) is the fourth Esquire "Me in My Place" featured girl. Now, of course Hope posed nude (and in 3D) in Playboy, so it's difficult to see how Esquire could surpass that, and they don't. In fact, given how blazingly hot Sara Shahi was, Hope's a bit tame (though I did enjoy 4, 6, and 10 in the feature, and her interview answers were fun to read). No doubting Hope's got an impressive superstructure.

But anyway, if you're interested, here's where Hope's Me in My Place is located.

It's gotta happen sometime

Yes, an 11 seed meeting an 8 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament Final Four. But that's not what I'm talking about.

Richard Kerr has an article about the possibility that we've hit Peak Oil already in Science. I haven't had a chance to read it, but I'm going to try to and "report" over the next week. Below is the abstract.

Five years ago, many oil experts saw trouble looming. In 10 years or so, they said, oil producers outside the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would likely be unable to pump oil any faster and OPEC would gain an even stronger hand among the world's oil producers. Five years on, it appears those experts may have been unduly optimistic—non-OPEC oil production may have been peaking as they spoke. Despite a near tripling of world oil prices, non-OPEC production, which accounts for 60% of world output, hasn't increased significantly since 2004. And many of those same experts, as well as some major oil companies, don't see it increasing again—ever. Optimists remain. Some experts still see production from new frontiers, such as Kazakhstan, the deep waters off Brazil, and the oil sands of Canada, pushing production above the current plateau in the next few years. But time's running out to prove that newly discovered fields and new technology can more than compensate for flagging production from the rapidly aging fields beyond OPEC.
(And the media is saying that the Japanese nuclear accident might be the end, or the beginning of a long slowdown, for nuclear power. To which I say, what else is going to power human civilization?)

Link to the abstract, and the full article, if you subscribe to Science:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Short cricket World Cup update

Quarterfinal results:

The big upset: New Zealand over South Africa, 221-8 vs. 172-10. South African bats very quiet.

The big whitewash: Sri Lanka over England, 231-0 vs. 229-6. England didn't take a single wicket; two Sri Lankans had centuries. Ouch.

The big easy: India over West Indies, 113-0 vs. 112-10. Windies only had 112 runs; double ouch.

The big exit: Pakistan over Australia, 261-5 vs. 260-6. Australia, which won the last 3 cricket ODI World Cups, won't win this one.

My pick for the championship: Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If I had to choose just one...

Choosing which item of lingerie Playmate of the Year (and Celebrity Apprentice competitor) Hope Dworaczyk is wearing as the most fetching is as difficult as determining which of a set of Yorkshire Terrier puppies is the cutest.

However, in Hope's case I have a certain fondness for the yellow number. But the best picture goes to the red tie and panty combo worn with the white shirt, because I really like girls wearing nothing under a man's white shirt.

Hope Dworaczyk wearing sexy lingerie

Still one of the cutest females on the planet

Cheryl Cole might not get on X factor USA, and she might not be making mad passionate love with Derek Hough (which is something I suspect Derek would wish for -- if he is so fortunate, I am vicariously thrilled), and she might still have that lovely brogue that Americans might have trouble understanding -- but when she shows up for an event, she is one.

Cheryl Cole at the Prince's Trust

Some of the bad news

Natural gas to gain from nuclear crisis

"All this leaves one fuel as the prime alternative -- natural gas, its proponents say, is cheap, readily available and significantly cleaner than oil or coal.

Some of the downsides of gas in the past -- price volatility and tight supplies -- have been overcome for now.

Reserves have increased by nearly 70 percent over the past two decades because of new finds, the shale gas revolution in the United States, the advent of LNG and Europe's own potential shale gas reserves, which are being explored at the moment.

A host of new pipelines is being planned or built from Russia and Central Asia to customers in Western Europe, opening new import routes the companies involves want to be filled.

Because of the oversupply, prices have been lower than they were for years, meaning that natural gas is also a commercially attractive option."
If it wasn't for that pesky climate change thing...

Italy halts nuclear plan after Japan crisis

Italy will declare a one-year moratorium on the country's nuclear programme at a cabinet meeting Wednesday, Economic Development Minister Paolo Romani told a parliamentary committee.

"At the cabinet meeting tomorrow we will call a one-year moratorium on decisions or the search for nuclear sites," Romani said Tuesday.

Rome had planned to start building nuclear power stations from 2014 and hoped to produce a quarter of its electricity with atomic energy by 2030.

So what would they plan to use instead of nuclear to get to that 25% goal number?

No, that's not right

Daniel J. Mitchell of The Cato Institute tries to explain why the GOP in Congress is running scared of a government shutdown over the budget and deficit and their idiotic short-sighted budget cuts:

Are Republicans Winning the Budget Battle but Losing the Budget War?

and they say:

The elephant in the living room, of course, is the threat of a government shutdown. Republicans seem terrified that they will get blamed if there is a stalemate and this leads to a shutdown of the non-essential parts of the government. And they are terrified of this outcome even if they have approved a budget and the stalemate exists solely because Harry Reid has blocked their budget in the Senate and/or Barack Obama has vetoed their budget.

Let's rephrase that. The House GOP approved a RIDICULOUS budget and Harry Reid (and the Democrats) have not allowed the RIDICULOUS budget to even come up for a vote, because it is indeed RIDICULOUS to try and score political points with ill-considered, ruinous budget cuts solely to discretionary spending.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SeaWeb Seafood Champions Awardees

After a bit of looking, I found the Seafood Champions Awardees -- who are recognized for "outstanding leadership in advancing the market for sustainable seafood." The awards took place at the annual Boston Seafood Show. Here's the list:

  • Robert Clark, Executive Chef, C Restaurant, & Harry Kambolis, CEO, Kambolis Restaurant Group, Vancouver, Canada
  • Phil Gibson, Group Director Perishable for Seafood, Safeway, Inc., San Francisco, California, United States
  • Dune Lankard, Founder and Chairman, Eyak Preservation Council, Cordova, Alaska, United States
  • Steve Phillips, President and CEO, Phillips Foods, Inc., and Seafood Restaurants, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
  • Olivier Roellinger, Vice President, Relais & Châteaux, Paris, France
  • Peter Weeden, Head Chef, Paternoster Chop House, London, United Kingdom

Associated articles:

And the Seafood Champions are...

Seafood industry aims to halt that sinking feeling


Boston Seafood Show

NOW, I wonder if there's a talk at the Boston Seafood Show about how to sell the public on the increased consumption of Asian carp and lionfish.

Asian carp, Chicago's Lockwood restaurant (at the Palmer House Hilton)

Lionfish in herbed crust, Luciano's Gourmet Restaurant, Port Lucaya, Bahamas

Keira Knightley in a sheet, on a motorcycle, in Paris, in three minutes

Oh, just watch. Do I have to explain? It's a perfume advertisement. That should be enough information.

Coco Mademoiselle film

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blythe spirit

There's a reason Gwyneth Paltrow is so attractive, and her name is Blythe Danner (her mom).

Fell for her when I saw the movie "1776". Haven't changed my mind much since.


At the premiere of "Paul"

With Gwyneth

Guest-starring on "Columbo", back in the day

Unfortunately, in her later years, with glasses on, she's got a passing resemblance to long-term porn star Nina Hartley. Which isn't too bad, considering that Nina is pretty good-looking too, but would Blythe want to be mistaken for her? Imagine the conversation if someone made a mistake like that and asked for an autograph... (Blythe on the left, Nina on the right)

Spring has sprung; record highs dominate mid-March

If seasonal spring is coming earlier, then in the transition period between meteorological winter and spring, there will be more high temperatures, because the period with warmer temperatures will be happening earlier in the year than in past years.

So what to make of this? (March 16 - March 22)

I wonder if Steven Goddard blogged about this. Probably - he blogs about everything. If you click on this picture you can see the original size, much easier to read.

Good news -- Repubbies failing on budget in public eye

Poll: Public already losing patience with new Congress

"A new Pew Research Center poll shows that about half of Americans think the debate over spending and deficits has been "generally rude and disrespectful."

There's even bipartisan agreement — 48 percent of Republicans and Democrats have that view, as well as 57 percent of independents. President Barack Obama signed legislation Friday to provide funding to keep the government open until April 8, the sixth such temporary extension in the 6-month-old fiscal year.

Pew surveyed 1,525 adults from March 8-14. The poll's findings suggest the political losers so far have been Republicans, who rode a wave of voter irritation to win control of the House of Representatives last fall.

After the election, 35 percent said Republicans had a better approach to the deficit, expected to reach a record $1.65 trillion this year. This month, that number has plunged to 21 percent."

The article says that the Pubbies are blaming the Senate for the slow pace of getting things done. The actual reason is that the Republicans, particularly the Tea Party Republicans, are way overinterpreting the length and breadth of their mandate, they are making STUPID budget cuts based on having to hit a "number" rather than actually conducting prudent public policy, and because the Senate is actually thinking (albeit slightly), they aren't going to let these ill-considered budget cuts happen. Much as it would be a very dumb thing to do, if the government shutdown happens, the blame will be ALL on the going-too-far Republicans.

Just like it was last time.

Cricket World Cup: England will play Sri Lanka

Because the West Indies fell on their faces against India (only 34 runs scored while India took eight wickets -- geez), England will end up playing Sri Lanka at HOME (in Sri Lanka) in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Now it's just like NCAA March Madness -- win or go home. Apparently Sri Lanka is good, and England is uneven. Batsman Kevin Pietersen should be back from hernia surgery, but the bowling is iffy, even though they've got ace Graeme Swann.

Game is next Saturday. (Oh, I guess they call it a tie.)

England's quarter-final tie against Sri Lanka rings a Bell for class of 2007

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good comebacks are good stories

Charlie Davies, lightning-fast U.S. striker who was injured badly (and that covers almost every meaning of "badly" short of quadriplegia or death) in a car crash a couple of years ago, has been forging a comeback and was picked up by the formerly-good D.C. United squad, which plays just up the road from me.

Saturday was their first game, and Davies got two goals, a penalty kick and a curving run for the second at 77 minutes.

Not a bad start to the comeback. Josh Wolff, another player with something to prove, got the other goal in DC United's win over the Columbus Crew.

Debut double strike a "special moment" for Davies

Video highlights of the game (Davies 2nd goal sequence starts at 4:43)

They also had a great save on a headed free kick at about 70 minutes (4:17 on the highlight video) by Onstro.

Two phenomenal tsunami videos

There are obviously a lot of tsunami videos on the Web by now; I just had to repeat these two, which show the wave looking like what people think a tsunami wave looks like.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quick cricket World Cup update

England is in the quarterfinals after South Africa crushes Bangladesh

South Africa defeats Bangladesh in World Cup cricket

Best batsman (so far) for UK: Jonathan Trott

Republican budget summary reprise: more may die, them's the breaks

Republican budget summary reprise: more may die, them's the breaks

The GOP in Congress, dead-set on cutting the budget, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, have not thought about the true consequences of what they propose, of if they have, they actually know in their hearts that the cuts won't pass because the Senate will block them.

The former smacks of abysmal ignorance, the latter of abject hypoocrisy.

Let's think about what could happen:
Cuts to the EPA
Ignore climate change for now, which is what they're doing anyway. Worried about unborn kids, right? Well, the mercury emissions regulations would protect the neurosystems of babies in the womb. The GOP wants to cut the EPA's ability to regulate mercury emissions. So, potentially, more kids will have neurological development disorders caused by elevated mercury levels in our food.

"[Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P.] Jackson said the House Republicans' plan to cut more than $3 billion from the EPA would have a major impact. "Big polluters would flout legal restrictions on dumping contaminants into the air, into rivers, and onto the ground," she said. "There would be no EPA grant money to fix or replace broken water treatment systems. And the standards that EPA is set to establish for harmful air pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes would remain missing."


"During the hearing, the EPA released a report that said that the cost-benefit of enacting the 1990 Clean Air Act under former president George H.W. Bush would reach about $2 trillion in 2020. The report also said the Act would save about 230,000 people from early death that year.

According to the report, which the EPA said received a review and input from scientists, economists and public health experts at the Council on Clean Air Compliance Analysis, estimated that 160,000 cases of premature death, 130,000 heart attacks, 1.7 million asthma attacks and 13 million lost work days were prevented last year by the reduction in fine particle and ozone pollution."

Cuts to tsunami warning centers and severe weather forecasting
Tsunamis? Tornadoes? Hurricanes? Well, swallow hard, America, because the GOP wants to cut our ability to see them coming. Tell that to the Oklahoma or Kansas family whose house gets destroyed and whose two-year old toddler gets killed by a twister. Tell that to the Florida families that get beset by storm surge because the evacuation order didn't come in time. Tell that to the coastal Californians when the next BIG tsunami hits.

Cuts to the National Institutes of Health: I don't even know where to begin with this.

Drug companies and scientists ire over budget cuts

Budget Cuts Threaten New-Drug Initiative
NIH Program meant to find new cures on Congress' chopping block

David Koch: Lamenting Cancer Research Cuts—and Bankrolling the GOPers Behind Them

And a summary of what else? From Lindsay Cogdill, Hood College:
"The problem that is causing an inability to compromise is a fundamental disagreement over what is important for the nation. Proposed budget cuts include cuts to programs that directly help people, such as Title X family planning and low-income heating assistance. Different people, and different political groups, consider different programs vital to America. Republicans are attempting to remain true to their ideology by cutting government spending, without considering the effects of cutting it. Of course, there is plenty of spending that can be cut - but Republicans are proposing cuts to programs like Public Broadcasting Service, funding for health research and special education, Pell Grants, and clinics like Planned Parenthood - in short, things that the American people rely on. Jobs are also sure to be lost if the Republican plan for the budget goes through. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified that budget cuts could lead to a loss of around 200,000 jobs."

Cut low-income heating assistance. More kids and families in homeless shelters; more exposure to transmitted diseases, a few more deaths due to pneumonia and the flu

Cut family planning; more kids born to low-income unmarried girls; less childcare, more disease, developmental problems, drop-outs, crime and drugs

Cut special education: more kids with developmental and psychological problems don't get recognized and treated. See above.

It makes me SICK.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sometimes luck and skill come together

Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues scores a looooonng goal.

Alex Pietrangelo's Center Ice Goal: Blues Beat Kings 4-0 (VIDEO)

Glories of the universe

Not much I can add to this picture of newly-aborning stars other than to say "WOW!"

"This very detailed false-colour image from ESO’s Very Large Telescope shows the dramatic effects of very young stars on the dust and gas from which they were born in the star-forming
region NGC 6729. The baby stars are invisible in this picture, being hidden behind dust clouds at the upper left of the picture, but material they are ejecting is crashing into the surroundings at speeds of that can be as high as one million kilometres per hour. This picture was taken by the FORS1 instrument and records the scene in the light of glowing hydrogen and sulphur."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury!

NASA (and Johns Hopkins APL) get a win -- the Mercury orbital insertion burn went perfectly, and the MESSENGER probe is now in orbit around the hot rock planet Mercury.

From National Geographic: NASA Probe Successfully Orbiting Mercury - A First

There will be a few days to make sure everything's working properly, then MESSENGER starts sending back pictures from Mercury orbit.

This is exciting. Really exciting. Historical, in fact. It's not every day that you get to witness unprecedented history.

If it wasn't for the climate change thing

Tar sands will supply oil, it's inevitable, and we're (the U.S.) going to use some of it. And we'll need it, we have to reduce our dependence on oil imports. If, even despite the Japan nuke crisis, the country depends a lot more on nuclear power for domestic and business energy (i.e., households and businesses fixed locations), we need oil for the transportation sector. By increasing mileage through all methods we can use less, but we still need oil.

Tar sand oil extraction uses a LOT of water. Bad for the environment where it's happening, which happens to be mostly in Alberta, Canada. So a process which uses less water would be welcome.

And now there is one, using ionic liquids instead of water. The liquids can be recycled and reused. And as a bonus, it's good for cleaning up oil spill messes on the coastline!

As the article sayeth: "However, the production of petroleum from tar sands causes environmental damage. Part of the damage comes from the storage of contaminated wastewater from the separation process in large open air ponds. Wastewater from the ponds can seep into groundwater and pollute lakes and rivers. In addition, the requirement for large amounts of water can deplete the supply of local fresh water resources. The Penn State separation method uses very little energy and water, and all solvents are recycled and reused."

I'm no fan of oil -- there are a lot of reasons not to like it and to wish for a cleaner energy future SOON -- but we're going to be using oil for awhile yet, and so this helps the environment a bit.

England takes close one in World Cup cricket

OK, I know a lot less about World Cup cricket than I do about Test cricket, and I truly don't know much about that. So I don't know how the scoring works -- all I know is that England had to beat the West Indies to get into the quarterfinals. They're playing in India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. England got upset by Ireland, which put them in a precarious position; Ireland subsequently was eliminated.

Here's the Web site: Cricket World Cup 2011

Wikipedia will help, too: Cricket World Cup 2011

One Day International format (in this case, 50 overs)

Now, before we get to England's status, I always wonder if they score more in ODI. Let me see...

Not really much different, but there's these things called Powerplays for a certain number of overs. That reduces the number of fielders -- which would increase the scoring.

Well, anyway, England needed to beat the West Indies to get into the quarters. They play a single innings, so they put up a score, in this case 243. To win, the West Indies has to beat that score.

Summary: they came close (222), but England nailed some wickets late, and pulled out the victory. According to the play-by-play article, now South Africa has to beat Bangladesh (on the 19th, considered really likely) and India has to beat the West Indies (on the 20th, considered likely) for England to get into the quarterfinals. So they'll know by Sunday if they're in or not.

Cricket World Cup: England vs. the West Indies

Looks like the heroes for the UK were Jonathan Trott, 46 runs, and bowler Graeme Swann, who got the last wickets.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chile rethinking nuclear power

Considering that the entire country is on top of a tectonic subduction zone - and considering that the country (with marvelously spectacular scenery due to its geologic setting) is also host to numerous active volcanoes and has frequent large earthquakes - and considering that it has recently experienced both a big volcanic eruption and an earthquake-tsunami event of its own - I'm perfectly OK with the country of Chile not committing itself to nuclear power generation. If they actually need more power, solar is an option for them (solar fields in the high clear altitude), and they could always partner with Argentina to host a nuclear station and build a long transmission line over the mountains. It might not be the most aesthetically pleasing concept, but it beats the alternative.

Chile atomic energy support wanes post-Japan quake

Will they have Slim Jims, coffee, and maps too?

I just discovered this rather stunning announcement that a fuel station in space (I can't call it a gas station, because satellites don't really use gas, they use propellant) will launch in 2015. REALLY. 2015. NASA's budget is getting cut into little tiny slivers, and yet a fueling station for satellites running low on propellant will launch in 2015. It will operate on sats in the economically vital geostationary orbit zone.

Now, about this thing. As the article says, it's designed to keep satellites working longer; to extend their orbital lifetime if that lifetime is slated to be cut short due to low propellant. This is touted as a pretty good idea to help reduce the amount of space debris in the form of defunct satellites orbiting Earth. For that I laud the creators of this bold concept.

World's First Space Gas Station for Satellites to Launch in 2015

The refueling craft – a flying satellite gas station – will be built by the Canadian company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) and is slated to launch in 2015. Communications satellite company Intelsat, based in Luxembourg and Washington, has signed on as its first client, agreeing to pay more than $280 million over time for its satellites to be refueled.

About space debris:

" ...the ability to tow or refuel dead satellites in order to steer them out of the way would have a big impact on the growing problem of dangerous space debris clogging the crowded corridors of Earth orbit.

"In the context of debris removal, this is the absolute best and absolute most fantastic new venture for the entire space community."

Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch name their baby

Well, since she didn't have a name when the first article about the blessed birth came out, it's worth a second article:

'Thrilled' new parents Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy name their baby daughter Sophia Ruby

That just about covers it, until the first baby pictures are released.

Four things about Kelly Brook

1. She's in a video called "A Kind of Blue". The link there goes to an article about the video; the actual video is at LOVE magazine. To find it, click on "Older Posts" on the left side, until it scrolls to the video. It's kind of interesting. Though her assets are featured, they aren't fully revealed.

2. CAUTION advised. She was just about totally revealed in this feature, where she got covered by more and more lipstick. The pictures where she is less covered by lipstick are rather revealing.

3. I just found out she has a Twitter account:!/IAMKELLYBROOK. The reason I found that out is:

4. She just announced on Twitter that she's pregnant by her four-month boyfriend, rugged former rugby player Thom Evans, who she met in November. She's three months pregnant or so. Apparently they got along swimmingly. The British Empire will never be the same. I may never be the same, either.

5. (I know, I can't count.) Here's a gallery of Kelly, in various dresses and at various ages.

6. I forgot that this is a posting about Kelly Brook. Forgive my deplorable lack of math skills.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I really LIKE this guy

Thomas F. Steyer, California billionaire, is putting his money where his mouth is and taking on the despicable Koch Brothers Gang:

A foil for the Koch brothers?

"Now Mr. Steyer appears to be itching to take on the Koch brothers and their supporters as Republican lawmakers seek to limit the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “As an investor who one might say is insanely obsessed with energy and its generation and use around the world, it seems crazy to me we would roll back science-based clean air standards because there are skillful political operatives and wealthy political donors who really want to get rid of E.P.A. regulations,” he said in a speech Monday evening at the Cleantech Forum conference in San Francisco. “That seems nuts to me.”

Yeah, I really DO like this guy.

Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch have baby girl

The few readers of this blog are probably aware that I follow Abbey Clancy closely. Not as closely as her fiance (still) Peter Crouch does, and that's probably a good thing for my health. Having put the little peccadillo about a dalliance with a Spanish hooker behind them, Clancy and Crouch are now in newborn baby-care mode (well, she'll be doing most of it, as he is in the midst of the Premier League football season. But I'm sure he'll visit from time to time.)

Proud parent! Peter Crouch can't wait to get back to Abbey and their new daughter

Now, I hunted around and hunted around and hunted around to find a picture to illustrate this posting with, and this was the best I could do:

(She wasn't pregnant when this photo was taken.)

Vanessa Hudgens is in SHAPE (really)

Having previously posted on the subject of Vanessa Hudgens (Vanessa Hudgens: 1st in a series of Disney graduates), I couldn't pass up her athletically scrumptious appearance on the cover of Shape magazine. To whit and too wow:

Two links about this:

Vanessa Hudgens shows off body in teeny bikini (photos), which has the obligatory cover shoot video

Vanessa Hudgens reveals she gave up fast food after bursting out of High School Musical costume

Thank God she did.

More info on how to prepare and eat lionfish

Having previously posted on the subject of lionfish (If you can't beat 'em, eat 'em), I must pass along this site with more information on how to consume the pest:

Ocean Film Fest 2011: 20 Recipes For Lionfish, Eat Up to Save Coral Reefs! (Video)

That site links to this site, which has a how-to video on how to fillet the delicious lionfish and not get stuck with its venomous spines in the process.

OK, there's no excuse now. Have a lionfish dinner tonight!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The long burn at the end of the long road

The Mercury MESSENGER mission is on the verge of history; March 18 is the date for the orbital insertion burn around Mercury, 14 minutes of nerve-wracking waiting to see if it pulls off this final critical maneuver. This particular maneuver is one that hasn't always gone well for previous planetary probes. After the loss of the Glory mission, NASA needs a win.

NASA Probe Set for Historic Arrival at Mercury This Week

On this side of the Pacific

The devastation wreaked on Japan by earthquake and tsunami is heart-rending; the images and videos are heartstopping. Restoring the country to some semblance of normal will be a long-term struggle. And it isn't helped by the serious problems at the affected nuclear power plants, which could have long-term deleterious effects on the energy and environmental future of humankind.

I'm sure many more words will be written on this. I'm sure I will write a few more words myself.

Leaving Japan aside for the moment, I was curious what video existed of the effects of the tsunami on Crescent City, California, which was hit the hardest. I've also watched a video showing the tsunami boiling into the harbor; below are links to four videos showing the tsunami on the coast near Crescent City. It's fascinating to see such power transmitted over so long a distance.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One of many "oh God" videos from Japan earthquake

Tokyo skyscrapers swaying in the waves of seismic power emanating from the displaced fault zone:

Full-width on YouTube

(Some) Senators still back nuclear power

I am much afeared that the events still unfolding in Japan - where a couple of older, non-modern design reactors have, understandably, been somewhat compromised because they were located a bit too close to the world's fifth-strongest EVER seismic event - will slowdown the measured progress towards a significantly increased share of energy generation by one of my primary raisins of etter+, nuclear power.

Not exactly your happens-every-day scenario, is it? NO, it's not. And therein lies one of the main rubs of this tale; Japan, due to it's near-total lack of anything else to make energy out of, has had to put a pretty large stake in nuclear, despite the fact that the highly prosperous island nation is located on the Pacifically subducting Ring of Fire.

Somewhat surprisingly - accompanied by the shocking realization that the despicidious Mitch McConnell and I remotely share a similar view on something - many Senators in our nation's Senate agree that the Japanese events, however unfortunate (losing the top of one of your reactor vessels might be considered that), shouldn't be a primary motivation to stop our insightful and foresightful re-implementation of nuclear power plant construction and powering-up. (Joe Lieberman, nodding to the Connute leftists, called for a couple of things like waiting until we understand what happened in Japan. Joe, summary: Lots of shaking. Power lost. Cooling capacities compromised. Things heat up. Boom boom. Clickety-click go the Geiger counters. Big deep breath -- everything is overall fine. So you inhaled a couple extra mrad. Same thing happens if you take a shower in Florida. Let's start putting this country back together, shall we?)

I think the public is going to wonder if it could happen here, and the answer to that is, briefly, in how many places in this country do we have active fault zones and nuclear power plants? Yes, there's a couple that maybe-might be affected under some fairly close to worst-case scenarios. But there's a whole bunch more -- the vast, vast majority in fact -- that wouldn't be. So there's no reason for us to abandon the nuclear movement, and there's no real reason for the Japanese to do so, either. For one thing, they can't, there's no other way for them to generate the necessary amount of energy. And as we contemplate ever longer pipelines to less-than-ideal feedstocks (tar sands, which use up an inordinate amount of water to be broached), we are also going to face the energy crunch, led by higher oil prices, public sentiment turning against dangerous coal, and the growing awareness of the true perils of climate change. The primary holdouts against the change that's a-comin' are the core of the old guard, the conservative salient, older white men. And unfortunately for reasons of economic influence they will hold some sway for a few more years. But the young bucks are already trying to get the old bulls out of the herd.

Well, maybe I'm getting a little too happy with the metaphors here. The bottom line is, the younger generations know what's at stake, deficit-wise and climate-wise. And just as they don't want to be saddled with the burden of paying for the older generation's economic foibles and follies, they don't want to be paying for the sad environmental legacy of the profligates, either. The younger generation can engage with the newness of new nukes, just as they've readily adopted texting and apping, even as the older generation realizes that Skype is cool, too.

So, to finish this up, let's quote from the article from which I drew a wealth of inspiration:

UPDATE: Obama Administration, Senators Stand Behind Nuclear Power Amid Japan Meltdown Scare

Schumer: "We are going to have to see what happens here -- obviously still things are happening -- but the bottom line is we do have to free ourselves of independence from foreign oil in the other half of the globe," he said. "Libya showed that. Prices are up, our economy is being hurt by it, or could be hurt by it. So I'm still willing to look at nuclear. As I've always said it has to be done safely and carefully."

"McConnell, the Senate's leading Republican, told Fox News Sunday that he stands behind his support for nuclear power despite the devastation in Japan.

"I don't think right after a major environmental catastrophe is a very good time to be making American domestic policy," McConnell said.

Lieberman: "Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) offered a slightly different take on the issue, telling CBS' "Face the Nation" that he believes the United States should halt permits for new nuclear power plants until they can determine what went wrong with nuclear reactors in Japan. Still, he said he supports nuclear power in the larger sense."

(+raisons d'etre, you uncivilized ilksters)

Bottom line: we, collectively and globally, still need nuclear power. Right now, the Japanese need all the power they can get -- and they're currently getting a lot of it from working, safe, nuclear power plants.

Jewel credits car with saving her and her unborn baby

I've always had a soft spot for Jewel, especially when she went from country folkie with funny teeth to pretty (and at times hot) pop country folkie with funny teeth. But she has always seemed, for lack of a better term, "real", despite living in the stardom layer just below superstardom.

So when she came up pregnant after some apparent struggles getting there -- sex is great for babymaking but when you're trying to make babies and it doesn't happen, it can be less fun -- I was happy for her and rodeo husband Ty Murray. So I'm very happy that apparently she and her baby survived a pretty hard hit from a fire truck, and she credits a big solid car for doing that.

Jewel: In accident, car saved my life

And I guess because I mentioned it, I should illustrate it:

(Jewel's hotness, that is. Not the car.)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Meet you on the far side of the Moon

I'm old enough to remember when there was only one picture of the far side of the moon -- a Russian space first, actually. The Russians managed to send a satellite, Luna 3, into a position where it could send back a very noisy picture of the side of the Moon we never see; this showed up on textbooks for many years hence. Here it is.

Things have changed. Below is the newest complete image of the Moon's backside; and it's decidedly different than the front side. I wonder if the Moon's front side hadn't had the face, the maria, the lady with the diamond necklace (Tycho), etc. if it would have been quite so interesting to us. I imagine it would have been, but I'm glad the side we see has more variety to look at.

The current lunar far side image, courtesy of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter:

There are theories as to why the two sides are so distinctly different, such as:

The Far Side of the Moon Explained

I don't think that's the final word, however.

This is more like it - House GOP leader talks entitlement cuts

I've chastised the GOP nutcase crowd trying to cut the budget as not being realistic and not proposing real, long-term, it-would-do-something cuts to things like Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Well, maybe that could be changing. If they'd then just realize that the STUPID cuts they proposed to discretionary spending were the wrong way to go, then we'd really have something.

Health Care Benefit Cuts Being Mapped Out By House Republicans

"If you want to be honest with the fiscal problem and the debt, it really is a health care problem," he said Thursday. "If you look at the future of our debt, it primarily comes from our health care entitlements. We have to reform those if we are going to get this debt crisis under control."

Umm, yes, and that was also the reason for the health care reform bill passed last year -- which would eventually lower healh care costs. But they also have to cut entitlements.

"[Rep. Paul] Ryan has been calling for big changes to the social safety net for years. Known as "the roadmap," his approach calls for individuals to take on more of the financial responsibility for retirement, including the costs of health care. The government would provide a floor of protection for everyone, particularly the poor and those in failing health, but middle-class people who desire more than a basic plan would have to pay extra."


"Republicans this week conceded that the government's budget can't be balanced this decade without cutting into current retirees' Medicare and Social Security benefits, something they've indicated they're unwilling to do. But many tea-party activists and junior lawmakers still believe the red ink can be reduced to zero with just a bit more pain, according to Ryan.

"They literally think you can just balance it, you know, (by cutting) waste, fraud and abuse, foreign aid and NPR (National Public Radio)," Ryan said. "And it doesn't work like that."

MY God, does Ryan actually partially get it?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Superb take on GOP budget insanity by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer's op-ed on the HuffingtonPost today is scathing -- and dead-on.

Cut Head Start But Keep Subsidies for Big Oil? Earth to Boehner...Come In!

How about this:

The Republican proposal, HR1, actually proposes cuts in the Head Start program that would mean:

* 218,000 children from low income families will lose Head Start/Early Head Start services;
* 16,000 Head Start/Early Head Start classrooms will close;
* 55,000 Head Start/Early Head Start teachers and staff will lose their jobs;
* 150,000 low-income families and their children will lose assistance in paying for child care.

They say they need to make these cuts because we must "tighten our belts" to cut spending because "America is broke." But at the very same time they voted to cut Head Start, the Republicans voted to continue $4 billion worth of subsidies to Big Oil. That's right, they want to continue to hand over $4 billion of the taxpayers' money to companies like Exxon-Mobil, the most profitable company in human history.

as well as this:

Of course that's not all. The Republicans in the House voted to cut Pell Grants, that help middle class kids go to college, by 25%.

They voted to kill a program that helps low-income families weatherize their homes and permanently reduce their energy bills. Guess we just have to tighten our belts!

They voted to cut funds for employment and training service for jobless workers -- so much for "jobs, jobs, jobs."

They voted to cut funding for clean, safe drinking water by more than half, to cut funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by 10% and to cut funds for the Food and Drug Administration by another 10%. All the while handing out billions to the oil companies.

There's a word for this: apalling hypocrisy.


But the Republicans not only want to give subsidies to the oil companies, their spending plan would cut our investments in clean energy that would allow us to throw off the yoke of foreign oil. H.R. 1 slashes key Department of Energy (DOE) programs that promote clean energy by about $1.7 billion -- approximately a 23 percent decrease from current levels. What's more, they have included non-budget "riders" that gut the clean air act.

The Republicans are not only endangering our economic security. They are endangering our national security by guaranteeing we are held hostage by whoever happens to control the oil fields thousands of miles from our shores.

UGGGGGH. Will common sense get into the minds of the Tea Partiers?

I doubt it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Palindromic names for babies

In my post about Melissa Rycroft's baby, who she named Ava (fortunately it's a girl), I speculated on how many palindromic names there are.

This being the Internet era, I found a list of them.

Palindromic baby names

I see very few that would likely be used by English-as-a-first-language parents (i.e., us whitey Caucasoids) in the United States. This is not meant to slight those of foreign extraction, it's just most of the names obviously originated in countries/regions other than the United States. For the U.S. crowd, I think the only likely kandidates for kids are the following:


which are all pretty obviously names for girls. There's only one boy name that might be considered by the typical whitey U.S. parents, and I would think/hope that they would still have a pretty direct connection a Germanic origin if they chose it:


A few other commentary gleanings from the list:

Longest name: three at seven letters, Haeleah, Reidier, and Reinier.

Shortest: There's lots of three-letter combos, but none with just two. Unless someone wants to name their kid for blocky basaltic lava flows, I doubt that will ever change.

Hopefully: if a boy's named Tit, he doesn't ever live in an English-speaking country, or if he takes up long-term residence in one, he has a preferred nickname.

One of the names on the list is Level, and another is Neven. I supposed it would be cruel and unusual parents to name one kid Level and the other kid Uneven. (Or Tilt, noting that Tilt is a legitimate name for a boy in Scandinavian/Nordic countries. )

Your assignment: find me a real person with the first name of Level. Too late: I Googled "Level Smith" and there is one on Facebook. Really.

Thematically, more on the stupid budget, this time regarding NASA Earth Science

Because of the budget battling, and even after the loss of the Glory aerosol and solar energy measuring satellite, NASA's always-beleaguered Earth Science budget (and missions) are taking more hits for the team; now two promising missions are being put on the long-term shelf.

NASA cuts 2 Earth Science missions on White House orders

With U.S. President Barack Obama under pressure to rein in federal spending, the White House eliminated funding for the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) and Deformation, Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics of Ice (DESDynI) missions, Steve Volz, associate director for flight programs at NASA’s Earth Science Division, said in a Feb. 24 interview.

Here's the main crap:

While NASA’s Earth Science Division fared better in the president’s 2012 budget proposal than other parts of the agency, the division stands to receive some $1.7 billion less between 2010 and 2015 than forecast just last year.

That spending plan, which called for giving Earth science a growing share of a NASA budget expected to surpass $20 billion within four years, included enough funding to build and launch all four top-tier decadal survey missions by the end of 2017.

The NASA budget plan unveiled Feb. 14 puts last year’s growth plans on hold. The agency’s overall spending would be frozen at $18.7 billion, and Earth science, after receiving a $400 million boost for 2012, would remain flat at $1.8 billion through at least 2016.

Can I say ridiculous again, like the British fellow did repeatedly? Or maybe I can say something even more profane?

Brit view of Yank budget turmoil (The Economist)

At least one respected British media center has voiced a notably askance view of the GOP level of insanity on current budget cutting:

Budget cuts at the NIH: Department of nose-cutting, face-spiting

This is choice. I recommend reading the whole juicy thing, but I'll provide the finale, with breaks for emphasis:

"And for what? Once again, and for the umpteenth time: the United States faces a serious debt problem on the order of trillions of dollars over a 20- to 30-year time frame.

This debt problem is overwhelmingly driven by rising Medicare and Medicaid spending due to rapid cost inflation in the medical sector.

Other significant budget problems include a substantial but demographically limited increase in Social Security expenditures,

and immense and spectacularly wasteful defence spending.

The final serious budget issue is that American taxes are set at a level that remains several per cent of GDP lower than expenditures throughout the business cycle,

a problem either created or severely exacerbated by the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003.

Every other federal spending category apart from the ones I have mentioned is, from the point of view of our debt problem,


and cutting any other category has a negligible effect on the debt. [Interjection: thus, fully fund commitments to science!]

Cutting peer-reviewed research funding in order to generate trivial savings that will have no measurable effect on the debt problem is just ridiculous.

It may be tedious to just keep repeating, over and over, that these cuts are ridiculous. But they're the dominant political event in the country this spring, and when the dominant political event consists of

overwhelming, repeated ridiculousness,

there's not much to do but keep pointing out

how ridiculous it is."

YES. And that's exactly what I said (or close enough) in my "I am seriously p*ssed off at the GOP in Congress" post.

Budget comment from Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

From an article entitled "Senate still wrangling over spending bill", this quote from a speech by Chuck Schumer, Democratic Senator from New York:

Meanwhile, in a speech Wednesday at the Center for American Progress, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to call on lawmakers to merge talks over the short-term spending cuts with the Gang of Six bipartisan negotiations over the budget for next year and beyond. Doing so, he suggested in a statement, would "broaden the playing field" - now narrowly focused on the domestic programs that make up less than a fifth of overall federal spending - to include cuts to the entitlement programs that make up nearly two-thirds of federal spending, as well as higher revenue.

A voice crying in the wilderness, but maybe the Gang of Six will have a breakthrough. And then maybe John Boehner will take the Tea Party freshmen into a House backroom and whip from friggin' sense into those carpetbombers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Found out Melissa Rycroft had her baby

Happy baby day to Melissa Rycroft and husband Tye Strickland

Melissa Rycroft Strickland welcomes a baby girl

And here's pictures of mommy and tyke.

OK magazine cover story

The baby girl's name is Ava. Which makes me wonder (for another time): how many palindromic names are there?

Triple play

Trust me.

Girl Walks Into a Bar starlets

I may have to see this one. If the reviews are decent, I'll find a way.

Looking at the cast list, I guess "Entourage" was on hiatus. Or the producers of one are also the producers of the other.

Do you read Cyrillic?

If you read Cyrillic, you'll get more out of former spy Anna Chapman's new Web site than I did.

If you need a reminder of why she was the most famous of the recently deported spies, this cleavage + red hair picture should help:

Anna Chapman 2

Monday, March 7, 2011

This is what I call a line-up

Left to right: Lily Aldridge, Erin Heatherton, Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel, and Chanel Iman

The occasion: the coming-out party (see above) for the Incredible Bra.

Follow along on the House climate hearings

The House Subcomittee on Energy and Power is holding a climate hearing on Tuesday, March 8. RealClimate will be commenting merrily along.

Live blogging the climate science hearings

After that's over, I'll review the transcript and post my favorite comments here, with a few choice comments of my own.

Phelps, Vonn have good weekend efforts

Michael Phelps won five in-the-middle-of-training races in the fast IUPUI (that's the Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis) pool last weekend, including a win over Ryan Lochte in the 200 IM. (And I realize I never did note that a few months ago Lochte set the first post-supersuit era world record in the short course 400 IM).

'Confident' Phelps goes perfect in Indy

USA Swimming Grand Prix, Indianapolis: Michael Phelps Completes Five-For-Five Outing

(Meanwhile, back in Maryland, Elizabeth Pelton set an American record in the 200-YARD backstroke. Not meters!)

On the other side of the pond, golden girl Lindsey Vonn indicated she was over her concussion with three World Cup titles, via two second-place finishes in the downhill and super-combined, and she outright won the Super-G in Tarvisio, Italy. She's still got a chance at the overall World Cup championship.

Vonn completes dream weekend

Now, since I'm writing about Lindsey Vonn, I guess I'll just have to add a sexy picture of this skilled and sexy female athlete.

Fooled you, didn't I? But if you want sexy, this bikini shot in the snow will suffice, I think.

If it doesn't, this should. (Moderate caution advised.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Perspective helps

When I first saw this picture of the "rare bulls-eye crater" on the HiRise Mars pictures site, I didn't get it. It was just a crater.

To get it, you have to see the whole picture. The full perspective definitely helps here! (This image is actually a lot bigger. Click it and see.)

At least a contender

I think it's possible that Laura VanderVoort ("V", formerly Supergirl on Smallville) is currently the best-looking young woman on American television. Discuss?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stacy Keibler in her place

I would have preferred her to have been a bit bolder/riskier, but even so, the new "Me in My Place" Esquire feature with Stacy Keibler is pretty darned appealing.

Esquire presents Me in My Place with Stacy Keibler

Numerically speaking, numbers 6 and 9 float my boat the highest.

Poop biofuel is even more potent

I think this will eventually be inevitable; using human sewage (aka poop) as a biofuel feedstock. Now it turns out that the water used to treat the sewage contains enough leftover organic matter to augment the process by 20%. This news is courtesy of the American Chemical Society, which would probably know about those things.

There have likely been thousands of jokes, good and bad, based on flatulence and natural gas. Well, when poop becomes a biofuel feedstock, everybody becomes a power source.

Developing News Sources of Energy: Sewage treatment plant wastewater as a huge new energy source

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I am seriously p*ssed off at the GOP in Congress

OK. My rant hat is on. I am, as the title of this posting says, seriously pissed off at the new GOP in Congress. To start off, they are arrogant we-think-we-know-it-all, so-screw-your-viewpoint jerks (and that's one of the milder epithets I considered).

They are also hypocrites. I could use some choice adjectives, but I won't. I want this to be a focused rant.

The subject of the rant is the budget and the budget bill. The GOP has gotten a majority in the House, and they interpreted 52% of the country (predominantly in the GOP-skewed flyover country) as a "mandate". I'd be SERIOUSLY interested in the exact numbers of people that voted for a Republican House rep and how many voted for a Democrat House rep. I think those numbers would surprise some people. (Found it: 45,088,67 voted GOP (51.6%) to 39,107,430 (44.8%). So like I said, 52% is not a mandate, it's just a majority.

But they have sniffed power, and they're high on it. And they're radically motivated to change things. Despite the overriding issue being the economy and jobs, they've decided that they have to cut the budget. And they aren't cutting the budget in a way that would address the problem, they are playing the wool-over-the-eyes shell game known as cutting the discretionary spending part of the budget.

And they aren't only cutting this part, they're slashing, burning, and mutilating it.

What they've decided, as high on power as Charlie Sheen is on coke, booze, and sex, is that they can cut what they don't like. And they can make those cuts stick.

Robert Reich has a couple of editorials on the Huffington Post that support what I'm saying.

The Republican Shakedown

And if America had higher marginal tax rates and more tax brackets at the top -- for those raking in $1 million, $5 million, $15 million a year -- the budget would look even better. We wouldn't be firing teachers or slashing Medicaid or hurting the most vulnerable members of our society. We wouldn't be in a tizzy over Social Security. We'd slow the rise in health care costs but we wouldn't cut Medicare. We'd cut defense spending and lop off subsidies to giant agribusinesses but we wouldn't view the government as our national nemesis.

The Coming Shutdowns and Showdowns: What's Really At Stake

Nationally, you remember, Republicans demanded and received an extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich. They've made it clear they're intent on extending them for the next ten years, at a cost of $900 billion. They've also led the way on cutting the estate tax, and on protecting Wall Street private equity and hedge-fund managers whose earnings are taxed at the capital gains rate of 15 percent. And the last thing they'd tolerate is an increase in the top marginal tax rate on the super-rich.
He also said:

Meanwhile, of course, more and more of the nation's income and wealth has been concentrating at the top. In the late 1970s, the top 1 percent got 9 percent of total income. Now it gets more than 20 percent.

So the problem isn't that "we've" been spending too much. It's that most Americans have been getting a steadily smaller share of the nation's total income.

So let's look at this problem another way.

Anyone with a modicum of higher intelligence (excluding Star Parker, perhaps) can see that the problem with the budget is not with the 15% or so that is called "discretionary spending", it's with the other 85% that doesn't have a great name, but which could be termed "necessary obligations". It means, primarily, defense spending -- which the GOP has tentatively made a few small steps toward cutting some of the truly unnecessary stuff, like a jet engine even the DoD doesn't want -- and then the kahunas, Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the debt. Well, we can't do much about interest on the debt, but we can do something about the other two.

The debt commission, to its considerable credit, took the step of cutting into the third rail (SS and Medicare) as one of the steps that could/should be taken to address the nation's gigundo deficit problem. Small steps like raising the age when recipients could start to collect Social Security. People are living longer and working longer -- this seems like a reasonable step to take.

But Obama didn't do it in the 2012 budget, and the GOP and rabidal right pundits attacked him for not doing something realistic and meaningful about the budget. Why, should he, for whom deficit reduction was not a political issue that put him into office, commit political seppuku by proposing cuts to SS and Medicare? He knows that if he did, he'd get attacked for doing so. The commission provided some cover, but its recommendations weren't passed.

So it's up to the Tea Party GOP to take that step. To say, "look, we got elected to do something meaningful about the deficit. We trust our constituents. So we will do this politically risky thing and propose reasonable cuts to SS and Medicare, and maybe some DoD programs too."

Is that what they did?

HA. Fat chance!!

What they did, of course, is to carve major and unreasonable (as the Democrats have noted) chunks out of the discretionary spending section. Things that will cost jobs -- as two different analyses have noted. Things that will reduce our future competitiveness; investments in education in science and engineering. Things like climate science. (OK, we absolutely know they
don't like climate science. But there should still be investment in what COULD happen. It's called insurance. Everybody has health insurance because eventually most people get sick or hurt or have a cavity. Even if sea level rise ends up not being as much as it might be because of climate change, it makes sense to address coastal erosion and subsidence, because they are still going to be Pacific storms, nor'easters, and hurricanes.

So cutting discretionary spending, which is the big issue that will likely still push Congress to a shutdown showcase, should not be where the major attacks on the deficit take place. And to show that, I'm going to describe a thought experiment.

Let's consider a family that has a net income of $50K. Doesn't matter how many kids or cars or pets they have, the fact is that they break even or save a little on $50K. They also have a balloon mortgage.

So here's what happens to this family. Their mortgage payment, which had been $1000 a month ($12,000 a year, or half their net income, roughly) hits the balloon point and goes up to $3000 a month. [This has happened.]

So now they aren't breaking even. Their total annual mortgage outlay went from $12,000 a year to $36,000 a year. Put another way, the difference: $24,000 a year -- is their projected annual deficit. And it's BIG. It's almost half of their net income.

So, to address this issue, they decide to cut their discretionary spending. They stop having their weekly latte when they go grocery shopping. Net: $32 a month, $384 a year. They cut their actual grocery budget from $600 a month to $400 a month (saves $2400 a year) by using coupons and buying store brands instead of name brands. They cancel their annual vacation trip to a cabin by a mountain lake: $4500 saved. They reduce their clothing purchases by $1000 a year. They cancel their membership at the health club (which the doctor had recommended because like most Americans, they were a tad overweight). They'll replace that with brisk walks around the block. They saved another $1500 right there.


Only about $14,000 more to go!

Now, let's be serious with the family. The only real way that they'd have a chance to stay close to solvent if this happened would be to either try to sell the house and move into one with a smaller mortgage (very unlikely to work unless they could get a foreclosure property) or to refinance. That would address the big issue.

Now rich Star Parker doesn't get this. She sees a big number, like a family's total net income, and says it's easy to cut a little bit out of the discretionary spending. What she doesn't address is that, somewhat like the US Government, a large part of a family budget is not discretionary, unless you consider eating and sleeping in a warm house optional. Furthemore, Star's cut was just the equivalent of the House GOP's opening salvo -- the massive cuts to useful programs -- NOT the real deal about actually getting the domestic or nation's financial house in order.

So, to sum up: what the House GOP is doing is a massive game of chicken, supported by hubris and utterly crass politics. If they want any respect from this side of the political spectrum, they'd be honest and propose real solutions to the problem, like the debt commission did.

HA! Fat chance!