Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ever hear of the pine bark beetle?

It makes me sick that the guardians of this country -- or rather, the pretenders who claim to be PUBLIC servants in our esteemed Congress -- are so reprehensibly misguided on climate change and the environment, to the extent that it leads to this:

Republicans Overseeing National Parks Deny ‘Systemic Threat’ Of Climate Change

Three chunks of pain:

1. Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), on the influential House Appropriations Committee, noted that fighting for the park service budget is her “number one priority” in advance of the parks’ 100th anniversary in 2016. But Republicans on committees overseeing the national park service continue to deny the very existence of man-made global warming: - Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), the self-crowned hero of the park service budget: “I believe the jury is still out on whether mankind can alter global climate trends.” [Lummis]

2. The Continuing Resolution passed by Republicans to fund the government through September made $11.5 million in cuts to the national park system when compared to FY 2010 levels. The FY 2012 is still in the midst of being worked out in Appropriations Committee, but House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s “roadmap,” passed by the House in April, cut funding to Interior and environment agencies by $2.1 billion. The park system will be underfunded, at a time when they are the most vulnerable to climate change.

3. Global warming is eliminating Joshua Trees from Joshua Tree National Park

"Now ecologists have found that “it has already gotten too warm and dry” for the unique Joshua Trees “to prosper at Joshua Tree National Park,” and expect that “there is likely going to be an 80 to 90 percent reduction of Joshua trees” in the “current range of southern Nevada, southwestern Utah, western Arizona, and southeastern California.”

Wish someone would mention THIS at the Heartless, er, Heartland Conference. And I wish I could go there with a few dozen eggs, heave them at convenient intervals and at convenient targets (there would be multiple target opportunities) and then get out without being arrested or recognized. That won't happen, but a man can dream, can't he?

Yes, and it feels good, too

From the "Did you know this?" files:

"Boosting self-esteem was one of 237 reasons people have sex, collected by University of Texas researchers and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

That finding makes sense to Gina Ogden, PhD, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in Cambridge, Mass., although she finds that those who already have self-esteem say they sometimes have sex to feel even better. "One of the reasons people say they have sex is to feel good about themselves," she tells WebMD. "Great sex begins with self-esteem, and it raises it. If the sex is loving, connected, and what you want, it raises it."

OK, now I've to find out what the other 236 reasons were, and if instantaneous insane infatuation is one of them. (See my tweets about that).

Building a better bee

Given all that honeybees have been through lately -- especially the worrisome declines due to CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder), also known as SHHD (Sudden Honeybee Hive Disappearance) -- and given the importance of honeybees to the general agricultural world order -- it's not surprising that Canadian scientists have undertaken a project to genetically engineer a better, faster, stronger honeybee.

Canada seeks to breed a better honeybee

Honey bees are critical to global agriculture. They pollinate more than 100 different crops, representing up to $83 billion in crop value world wide each year and roughly one-third of the human diet.

[Like I said, they are vital to the agricultural world order.]

"We're looking for bees (for the breeding program) that are resistant to mites and with a greater tolerance to viruses because these appear to be the two main factors behind colony loss," Rob Currie, entomology professor at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, told AFP.

'Appy Birthday, Chezza

(Translation: Happy Birthday, Cheryl Cole -- June 30th. Daily Mail had BETTER have pictures of the party!!!)

So, Cheryl's wax copy at Madame Tussaud's is wearing a birthday tiara:

And the lady herself has lightened her locks:

X-Factor or not, Cheryl is still one of Britain (and the world's) most striking women.

Colin Montgomerie's Wimbledon "date"

I saw this picture of Colin Montgomerie at Wimbledon, and naturally I had to wonder who the striking blonde at his side was:

So I did some researching, and determined to my satisfaction that it was one of his stepdaughters, and apparently Monty's still married to her mother, despite some recent super-injunction-protected hanky-panky with his ex-wife. I tell you, these Brit footballers and golfers, they've got balls.


Anyway, the daughter's name is either Lynsey or Lindsey Knowles. She's a cutie.

Closing in on targets

While the Dawn spacecraft closes in on asteroid Vesta, the Opportunity rover is getting close enough to the rim of the big Endeavour crater that geological details of the rim are starting to become visible:

It's only a matter of days and weeks now... pretty amazing in both cases - one, a journey of millions of miles, and two, a journey of meters and centimeters, but both about to visit places never seen closely by humans before.

And Republicans want to cut the budget for explorations like this.

Criminal, I tell ya.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Excerpts from "Those Reckless Republicans"

Absolutely incredible op-ed by the Washington Post's Katrina vanden Heuvel:

Those Reckless Republicans

Excerpt #1, regarding the loathsome imbecile Eric Cantor:

"This Republican Party is addled by an extremist ideology and cankered by a vengeful partisanship. In a time of national crisis, it is locked into ideological litmus tests — no new taxes — and opposed to anything the “Kenyan, socialist” president might propose.

This makes the routine difficult and the necessary impossible. Republicans threaten to blow up the world economy by refusing to lift the debt limit without getting drastic cuts in the deficit. Puffed up with locker-room bravado, they set a high bar — more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, a dollar or more for every dollar hike of the debt limit.

But Cantor detonates the talks because, in fact, Republicans won’t negotiate on how to reach their goal."

Excerpt #2, regarding the toadish Mitch McConnell:

"Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell epitomizes the irresponsibility of today’s Republican Party. He is proudly and reflexively anti-anything Obama. McConnell has cheered House Republican efforts to gut funding for the financial regulatory agencies, arguing that “anything we can do to slow down, deter or impede their ability to engage in this kind of oppressive overregulation would be good
for the country.”

This Tom Toles cartoon gets it just right:

America Held Hostage to GOP ideological extremists

Wimbledon women's semis, 2011

If Sharapova keeps her focus, she should make the final. Now, that said, a player on an upset streak like unseeded Sabine Lisicki, who beat Marion Bartoli today, is sometimes on such a hot streak that she can keep playing at a high level. Maria needs to stifle any chance Sabine even feels that she's in the match.

On the other side of the draw, 8th seed Petra Kvitova will play 4th seed Victoria Azarenka. Hard to call that one, but based on their games, I'd make Kvitova a slight favorite on grass.

If it's a Sharapova - Kvitova final, the better server that day will win.

I thought this might happen

Following her wonderful weight loss, I figured Jennifer Hudson would use her newfound curvesome svelteness to good advantage. I expected something like Maxim. Maybe not yet on that, but in her new video, she wears tight lingerie and a becoming nightdress (and also some weird pants):

Jennifer Hudson's "No One Gonna Love You" Video

Sharapova advances, Williamses out, Wozniacki disappoints

For those of us who occasionally like watch women's tennis for both
athletic pulchritude and prowess, today's news was a mixed bag.
Not surprisingly, Serena Williams was knocked out, but she's just
a couple of months into her comeback. More surprisingly, Venus
went out in a poor match. Caroline Wozniacki, still trying to
find the key to a Grand Slam victory, was bounced, and that is
disappointing to those of us who like watching the cute Dane play
tennis. But Maria Sharapova advanced, so we can still hope she
is close to winning form and makes the final.

France doesn't give up on nuclear

Despite protests, the French government knows what's best for its citizens
and their future, and is upping nuclear funding:

France nuclear power funding gets 1bn euro boost

"We are going to devote a billion euros to the nuclear programme of the future, particularly fourth-generation technology," Mr Sarkozy told a news conference.

"We are also going to release substantial resources from the big loan to strengthen research in the sphere of nuclear safety."

He stressed his government was still investing "massively" in renewable energy. He announced 1.35bn euros of investment for that sector.

This truly represents an investment in a sustainable future. Wish more
countries could see the light.

Really funny post from Romm -- but too true

Joe Romm spoofed GOP Prez pretender Tim Pawlenty; here's the whole thing --
and here's an excerpt:

“Every day I am haunted by the fact that I gave Minnesota citizens a chance to look forward to cleaner air and a climate that doesn’t resemble El Paso, Texas,” Pawlenty told reporters Sunday, adding that he feels ashamed whenever he looks back at how he forged bipartisan support to help advance pollution-free sources of energy that never run out. “Nobody’s perfect…. If you’ve been in an executive position, you’re going to have some battle scars. You’re going to have a few clunkers in your record. None bigger, of course, than trying to preserve a livable climate for our children and grandchildren — not just here but also in the poorest of countries around the world. That’s my cross to bear.”

D*mn if that isn't spot-on.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hang out at Victoria's Secret and watch women buy lingerie because...

they might be ovulating, and therefore receptive.

Ovulating women unconsciously buy sexier clothes

Better yet, try to disguise yourself as a Victoria's Secret mannequin to perform such surveillance.

(That's me on the left. Pretty good disguise, eh?)

Canada's Green Party Parliament member criticizes climate science cuts

Canada has its first Green Party member of Parliament, Elizabeth May, and she's come out blasting at Canada's oil-driven climate science cuts:

Cuts to science budgets have wider economic impact: May

"Cutting out our ability to model, predict, adapt and cope with a changed climate is penny wise and pound-foolish," she said. "It's going to cost us much more long term to cut these particular scientists and to cut the capacity that Canada needs to expand to anticipate climate impacts on the Canadian economy, on our environment, on our society as a whole."


Also from the article:

Ian Rutherford, a former government scientist who is now executive director of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, estimated that the government has cut overall funding for scientific research in half, while adopting an approach that is turning away from research funding for networks, such as the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science, that bring together a variety of scientists from different institutions with different areas of expertise.

"It's a terrible situation," said Rutherford, noting that cuts also affect scientists from other departments such as Fisheries and Oceans. "The collaboration between university researchers and government researchers is going to be crippled. I can't impute motives to the government but it looks to me that they see something bad about the department of environment doing research of any kind and collaborating with university researchers in particular."

I smell Conservatives in power doing this.
Just as bad as the know-nothing-about-climate-change, do-less-about it American GOP pranksters.

Michelle Keegan gets engaged

In a serious blow to young British lads everywhere (not to mention me), British soap actress Michelle Keegan (Coronation Street), named more than once as the sexiest actress on British soaps, has got herself engaged to a rock star:

Michelle Keegan shows off her engagement ring as she and fiancé Max George smooch outside the supermarket

Heartbreaking. This reminded me I have to do a note on Michelle's appearance in British Maxim a few months ago. I promise to get to that in a few days.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Paying attention: more countries call for protection of sharks

Sharks, like wolves in Yellowstone, are efficient and important primary predators. Losing sharks could cause widespread ecological change, at a time when oceans are stressed (as some reports have shown), so it's important to stop finning and cut down on the shark catch overall.

Sensing the problem and paying attention to it, several Pacific countries have called for increased protection for sharks. I gotta applaud that action.

Pacific Island Countries Step Up Shark Conservation Efforts

“Pacific islanders are again taking the global lead in initiatives to safeguard sharks from overfishing,” said Matt Rand, director of Global Shark Conservation for the Pew Environment Group. “The decision reached in Palau, home of the first Pacific shark sanctuary, underscores the growing momentum for conserving these animals across the region and sends another signal to the rest of the world that more needs to be done.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

China acts serious about climate change

China is hosting a conference about climate change to demonstrate that they're serious about the subject, even as they continue building coal-burning power plants and pumping more mercury than any other country into the atmosphere.

China holds climate conference aimed at showing world it’s committed to a low-carbon economy

Su Wei, director general of the commission’s climate change department, said they were not intending to deliver signals for the next major U.N. climate conference in Durban. “But what we would like to say and to convey the message is that China is paying a lot of attention and China is determined to develop a low carbon economy,” he said.

Su, who was China’s chief negotiator at last year’s U.N. climate conference in Cancun, said delegates would discuss how to reduce emissions while continuing to develop an economy and how to encourage the development of the renewable energy industry.

I'll believe it when I see it - but to their credit, the Chinese are building more nuclear power plants, which is a necessary element of any realistic path to a low-carbon, thriving and productive national economy.

Can we sell this concept to the Japanese?

I was alerted to this restaurant via the video:

Sustainable Sushi?

Here is the Web site for the restaurant featured in the video:

Bamboo Sushi

This successful concept proves that we (collectively, or if you prefer, socialistically) as a society can effect change and perhaps forestall and prevent the ecologically catastrophic avalanche of extinctions and species-shifting that will otherwise ensue during the next generation. But it really does require collective effort and willpower to change the trajectory of what we're doing now - averting the tragedy of the commons requires self-interests to be set aside.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Asimov covered moviemaking errors in novelization of "Fantastic Voyage"

Since I briefly mentioned the possible remake of "Fantastic Voyage", I have to mention that I also read the novelization by Isaac Asimov. Ike had hit his stride by that time, and it was probably wittier and more interesting than the movie -- and the description of what the Proteonauts were seeing was probably biochemically and physiologically accurate ca. 1967.

And Ike, who had a legit Ph.D. in biochemistry, covered some of the oversights in the movie. One of them was when the Proteus had to refill their air tanks by borrowing some air from the lung of the person (Benes) they were inside of. As Ike noted in the novel's dialogue, trying to do this with a miniaturized submarine and unminiaturized air wouldn't have worked; it would have been like sucking raisins threw a straw. So Ike said that the Proteus had a miniaturizer on board (to collect deep-sea samples originally) and the genius who built and was piloting the Proteus rigged it to collect miniaturized air for the miniaturized air tanks of the Proteus.

Very clever, Dr. Asimov.

Sri Lanka hopes for a draw

Sri Lanka is down a few runs with seven wickets left; England declared early in hopes to get all 10 wickets before the Sri Lankans caught them. I guess (I think I'm right) that if Sri Lanka goes ahead but England's still batting by the end of the day tomorrow, then it's a draw and England wins the series on the virtue of the amazing first Test match win.

Masterclass from Ian Bell allows England's seamers to set up final day victory charge

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Checking in with Abbey Clancy

When last we heard of Abbey Clancy, she had a baby by her footballer (soccer player) Peter Crouch, who in a remarkable show of faithfulness for an English football player, apparently only cheated on her once with a high-priced hooker.

And all this came out after she found out she was pregnant. So Abbey apparently forgave him (as one of these pictures demonstrates adequately), and had the baby, and now they've been on vacation in Sardinia with the baby, which gives Abbey plenty of opportunities to show how absolutely wonderfully her body "bounced back" after the pregnancy.

They're going to get married next month. And I hope Peter has learned a LOT from the infidelity follies of other English football players, counts all the blessings that he has had bestowed upon him, and sticks with a truly remarkable woman, in face, form, and forgiveness.

You're a LUCKY sod, Crouch. I hope for your sake that you never forget it.

Oh yeah, Abbey also posed ostensibly nude for a sun-safety campaign.

What a bobby-dazzler! Stunning Abbey Clancy soaks up Sardinian sun in sparkly bikini while gorgeous baby Sophia snoozes

Fun in the sun: Abbey Clancy and Peter Crouch kiss and cuddle as they enjoy pre-wedding holiday

Doting dad Peter Crouch keeps baby out of the sun... while Abbey tops up her tan

Pre-wedding glow? Bride-to-be Abbey Clancy peels off for new safe sun campaign

Abbey Clancy for St. Tropez (video)

Nice bum if you can get it:

England v. Sri Lanka cricket Day 3: England leads a little

England is at 195-4 in their third and final Test against Sri Lanka; they won the first and the second was a draw, so a draw here would mean a match win. But the real opponent is the rain; they may not get enough play in for a chance to win it. But again, a draw means a win.

England v. Sri Lanka Day 3 Live Coverage

Friday, June 17, 2011

Great quote from Washington Post sportswriter Thomas Boswell

As Rory McIlroy dominates the first 2 days of the U.S. (Golf) Open, I read this great quote from the Washington Post's occasionally brilliant, always insightful sportswriter Thomas Boswell:

"Get above the hole and imagine putting from your car’s roof and trying to stop the ball
on the hood
. The lower scores the pros shoot, the less the USGA will water and the more
they will roll the greens to harden them."

But it keeps raining 'round here, so the greens may fight back and stay playable.

Boswell's full piece: At Congressional, it's golf as good as it gets

Thursday, June 16, 2011

First year ice is thinner in the Arctic

Probably one of the biggest fears of the skeptics is a grandstand play by the world's warming climate that gets worldwide attention -- an event that is so undeniably due to warming, so stark and obvious that it can't be denied without the denier looking UTTERLY and TOTALLY detached from reality, that it breaks down the whole denial enterrprise in one massive blow.

Yes, I wish it would happen soon, because then (dammit) we'd get out collective clean energy act together and dismiss these nonsensical fears of a radiation leak from a clean, carbon-free nuclear plant, and put the world on a new non-fossil-fuel-centric energy path.

I truly think that despite warming in the face of low solar activity, warming despite a burgeoning La Nina (last calendar year), the warmest decade in the instrumental record, the warmest year in the instrumental record (last year again), unprecedented high temperatures, biblical floods, horrific droughts, and trend after trend after trend after trend heading in the same direction, consistent with what we reasonable and reality-connected people know -- that the event which will catch the world's attention is a new Arctic ice sea cover extent minimum record.

I don't think it has to be gone completely. I think just the new record would turn the corner on the idiotic debate. I think it would confirm in the public mind all that climate scientists are saying about the irreversible and accelerating changes mankind is causing to the climate of the Earth. Because after explaining away the previous big new minimum record in 2007, they (the skeptics) have been able to distract and distort the "recovery" of Arctic sea ice. Another new minimum record would put the kibosh on that -- and enhance a perception that these deniers are just either a) lying or b) stupid, or even c) both.

Because of this report of even thinner first-year ice, it's going to be a strong melting season. I saw a report that they aren't predicting a new minimum, just something quite close to the 2007 record.

But we can hope (sadly) that the predictions are wrong, and that a new record will be set.

Melt, baby, melt.

Arctic sea ice cover 3rd smallest area during May

From the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

"Importance of storms
Arctic weather in the next few months will be a critical factor in how much ice remains at the end of the melt season. New research led by James Screen at the University of Melbourne shows that the storms that move northwards into the Arctic from the lower latitudes during summer strongly influence sea ice extent at the end of summer. Years with dramatic ice loss, such as 2007, have been associated with comparatively warm, calm, and clear conditions in summer that have encouraged ice melt. Summers with slow melt rates are opposite and tend to be stormier than average. The number of storms influences how warm, windy and cloudy the Arctic summer is."

Those clever Russian marine biologists

Leonard Nimoy jumped in to commune with the humpback whales in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" -- and now a female (of course) Russian named Natalia Avseenko studying beluga whales has gone him one better, jumping into extremely cold water NAKED to commune with the big blubbery white sea canaries. I wonder if they whistle when she gets in with them.

Of course, she had to be "convinced" by some clever Russian Arctic biologists to do this. And it doesn't hurt that it appears from the pictures she's rather willowy and slender. Exactly how much convincing was required here?

(Turns out that she's also a world-class free diver.)

The Daily Mail uncovers this story COMPLETELY.

And I would be so remiss if I did not illustrate this.

"Oh really? The water's fine?"

"I am NEVER listening to a Russian marine biologist again!"

So close and yet still so far

Opportunity rover is getting so close to the Endeavour crater that if it was a sentient being, it would probably be tempted to run there (despite the thin atmosphere on Mars).

As it is, some of the features on the rim are getting clearer.

NASA has a lot of interesting rendesvous coming up; Dawn with Vesta in July, and then Opportunity with the crater (hopefully) later in the summer. That first look over the rim will be EPIC.

What do you get when you put "sweet" and "hot" together?

a) A chocolatey mole sauce
b) Red Hots candy
c) Really fresh cotton candy
d) Vanessa Hudgens in Candie's (including lingerie!)

For the last, and a video that just drips sweetness and hotness, go here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The famous Wilmas

I could only think of four famous Wilmas -- and only one of them is a real human being.

The human being: Wilma Rudolph, Olympic Gold Medalist sprinter.

The cartoon: Wilma Flintstone, of course.

The science-fiction heroine: Wilma Deering (from Buck Rogers), below as played by Erin Grey

The hurricane: Wilma (2005)

Anyone (or anything) else?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Is solar energy really competitive with nuclear?

Joe Romm breaks it down:

Solar is Ready Now: ‘Ferocious Cost Reductions’ Make Solar PV Competitive

Here's the key, as I read it:

However, this comparison neglects the “value” of energy. Nuclear is a baseload resource; solar PV is more of a “peaking” resource. To compare 17 GW of global solar PV development to 17 GW of nuclear power plants ignores the fact that nuclear produces far more electricity than an equivalent solar PV plant.

Precisely. Solar works great if the Sun is shining (and even if it's going to be a mite less active, it's still going to shine), but we still have a problem on the Earth's nightside, mainly, lack of the Sun shining. So that would mean generating energy by some other means, or getting electricity from those newfangled batteries I occasionally post about. We need that technology too. And as far as I can tell, this will only cover existing electricity demand, not NEW demand, especially in the developing world -- which is why nuclear energy is still needed. In this country too, because we still need electricity at night, and my laptop battery is just about exhausted.

More MESSENGER Mercury photos

NASA has a new release of MESSENGER photos of Mercury (provided by

Latest Photos of Mercury from NASA's MESSENGER Probe

The best ones are 5, 12, 16, and 20. Below is number 5, which shows three different ages of crater. The central peak in the medium sized crater keeps visually reversing on me, but luckily it keeps switching back.

Plus signs of the times

While there is interesting news afoot that the Sun might be entering an extended minimum (as soon as we get through this maximum, and considering how BAD predictions of what the Sun was doing while ramping up were, I take the predictions of its ramping down with considerable reasoned skepticism), the real temperature news is that we're warming up.

As if we didn't know that.

Record temperatures from last week: (record highs outnumbered record lows 13 to 1)

And a preview of the new weather "normals" from NOAA -- every month's average is hotter, with January warming up the most:

Abnormal normals: January now one full degree [Fahrenheit] warmer

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Fantastic Voyage" remake finally being made?

It looks like one of my best candidates for a remake, the classic (but dated) "Fantastic Voyage", might finally get made, and with Jim Cameron producing, it has a chance to get made well. The gossip even has Hugh Jackman in it. Now, the big question is who will get the voluptuous bombshell scientific assistant role that originally had Raquel Welch in a form-fitting unisuit. Jessica Alba (after she has her second tyke) would be ideal for this curvaceous seat on the internal submarine. I wonder who else could do it? Jennifer Lawrence? It's gotta be someone who can look serious and studious, but who also has a knockout bikini body.

To be emulated:

Actually, Welch looked much more dweebish and all scientific-like in the actual movie:


This would get those antibodies all excited again, wouldn't it?

Good for Harrison

It's always heartwarming to see the occasional story of a lifelong golfer on the PGA finally winning a tournament for the first time. And Harrison Frazar didn't make it easy, bogeying on the final hole when par would have won, and then gutting out a 3-hole playoff to finally get the win. I'll bet he's going to enjoy the Masters next year!

Harrison Frazar Wins St. Jude Classic For 1st PGA Tour Title In 355th Try

Italy turns away from nuclear power for the future

In a short-sighed reactive move that they will very likely come to regret in coming years, the Italian populace has soundly rejected more nuclear power investment in their country. They had better hope that the renewable industry gets its act together very quickly, or I predict that Italy will be moving into a new Dark Ages in which their energy demand outstrips energy supply.

Italy nuclear: Berlusconi accepts referendum blow

This is something biofuels need

One of the big hang-ups for turning vegetative feedstocks into biofuels is the lignin content, the stuff that isn't cellulose. Lignin does not break down or degrade easily, and this is not easily digestible by digesters. Well, the enzymatic breakthrough for the breakdown of lignin might be something that the biofuel industry has really needed.

First wood-digesting enzyme found in bacteria could boost biofuel production

Professor Timothy Bugg, from the University of Warwick, who led the team, said “For biofuels to be a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels we need to extract the maximum possible energy available from plants. By raising the exciting possibility of being able to produce lignin-degrading enzymes from bacteria on an industrial scale this research could help unlock currently unattainable sources of biofuels."

Carla Gugino looks pengtastic

Carla Gugino has always been a sight to be appreciated, as she makes "voluptuous" a truly desirable appellation. Notwithstanding her curvaceousness, she's also a talented and probably very under-appreciated actress. "Mr. Popper's Penguins" probably won't be high on her list of dramatic accomplishments, but I expect she'll earn a nice paycheck.

And in the blue dress she was wearing at the public appearance, she probably earned many appreciative looks from the onlookers. And it looks from the picture below that the penguins want a piece of her action.

Yowza. Almost as good as cold fish!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

T-minus salinity

As I write this, there are 8.5 hours to the launch of one of the most innovative satellite remote sensing missions of all time (except that the Europeans launched a satellite that's attempting to do this too):

NASA's mission to study ocean surface salinity

Let's hope (and I am hoping) that tomorrow is the dawning of this particular age of Aquarius.

(And I sure wish that they put emergency recovery parachutes on expensive satellite missions. How much more does that cost the mission if the satellite that's being launched -- and occasionally lost on launch -- is worth a couple hundred million dollars????? Am I the only one that ever thought this?)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

England - Sri Lanka 2nd test ends in a draw

Well, this wasn't really unexpected. But captain Strauss waited until they were 342 ahead before declaring on the last day, which was being pretty conservative. There's one more Test in this three Test series, and Sri Lanka's captain Dilshan is doubtful for that with a broken thumb.

Touch of class to a shower of glass: Another ton for Cook but victory charge falls short

I guess I really should pay more attention to what the other cricket countries are doing. The only other Test series recently was a 2-Test match between West Indies and Pakistan that was a 1-1 draw, with the Windies ekeing out a 40-run victory in the first Test. In my opinion, they shouldn't bother with a Test series that has anything less than 3 Tests.

Just when you think...

... Shakira can't get any more sensuously appealing, she emulates a peeler (stripper, if you must be told) and shows how to pole dance in bra and panties. And know we have a full muscular demonstration of how she does what she does practically better than anyone else.

Plus she finishes it off with a full cheerleader split. That's talent.

The video is two-track; in the other track, a demure and brunette Shakira in a light green dress dances with a pal and gets bombed with styrofoam balls in a bathtub. It makes no sense at all visually, and I wonder if it makes any more sense if I understood Spanish. She ends up getting carried off body-surfing on the hands of the crowd.

Not much of a plot. But with Shakira on a stripper pole, who needs a plot?

No, I'm not embedding the video here. It's in the Daily Mail article:

Singer turns raunchy pole-dancer for new video

Monday, June 6, 2011

England vs. Sri Lanka cricket: 2nd Test down to wire

England leads Sri Lanka going into the final (5th) day of their 2nd Test match. England pulled off an unlikely win in the first Test when they shut down Sri Lanka for 82/10 in their second innings; this 2nd one is likely to end in a draw partly because of the rain. The Brits will probably add a few more runs at the start of the 5th day, declare, and then try their best to get all 10 wickets from the Sri Lankans, like they did before. They'll need some luck and no rain.

England vs. Sri Lanka, Day Four action, at Lord's

Captain Andrew Strauss got bowled for a duck (that means he didn't score any runs), but the other big batsmen have been decent. We'll see what happens.

India heads into energy future with nuclear and renewables

Any sensible energy strategy for any nation for the next decades is a combination of several. Not including nuclear severely limits choices and options. India isn't going to do that; the Prime Minister went on the record to say that nuclear is part of the plan.

"One thing which is quite clear is that if India is to meet its emission targets, then nuclear energy along with renewable sources of energy is a combination which we need,'' Singh said at a news conference Tuesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to India.

His comments come a day after Germany announced it would close all of its 17 nuclear power plants over the next 11 years. Germany obtains nearly one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear power.


"We will make every effort to ensure that safety norms in generation and utilization of nuclear power are world class but we must have the option to make use of nuclear energy, together with the heavy reliance on coal which is inevitable for quite some time, to come in our country,'' he added.

Oh well. They plan to quadruple their nuclear output from 5K MW to 20K MW.

India does all this with small plants, according to the article. That could be a model for our future, too.

India stands firm on nuclear power

Next Me in My Place celeb

This month's Esquire Me in My Place girl is Hilarie Burton, probably best known as Peyton on One Tree Hill, but also regularly appearing on White Collar (USA Network). Found out from reading the captions that she has a 1-year old son; found out from reading IMdB that the father is Jeffrey Dean Morgan, likely most well-known as Denny from Grey's Anatomy.

Hilarie is willowy slendery, and it's shure hard to tell that she had a baby anytime recently. As far as the general Me in My Place standards go, it's pretty tame. She has a very remarkable look, but she looks less remarkable brunette than blonde. Sorry, but I have to give an honest review here. Picture #2 shows off her lengthy gams, and picture #10 is the sexiest -- it doesn't hurt that she looks the most like Peyton in this one.

Also, she needs to smile more. Her smile kicks her attractiveness up a notch.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The end of l'affaire Cheryl: money for nothing

According to this most recent, just out today report, rather than get sued for breach of contract, Fox and X-Factor boss Simon Cowell are just going to pay Cheryl Cole what she was going to get if she'd been on the show.

'X Factor' says Cheryl Cole out, will be paid

So that's getting paid to the tune of $1.5 million for doing nothing, except getting humiliated, and I bet she might have wanted to sue their pants off, which she would have been justified in wanting to, but now she won't have grounds.

All of which basically gives me an excuse to do this:

and this:

which serves to explain why I am thoroughly p*ssed (or alternatively, why I in the British sense wish to get thoroughly p*ssed to drown my sorrows) that the divine Miss CC will not be regularly appearing on U.S. television.

Yesterday, Pestilence; today, Famine

Yesterday I wrote about the outbreak of antibiotic resistant E. coli in Germany and Europe (and for a great take on why this is indicative of something far worse, read "The reason why this deadly E. coli makes doctors shudder" by Maryn McKenna. Excerpt: "According to Germany's Robert Koch Institute, [E. coli] O104 is resistant to more than a dozen antibiotics in eight classes: penicillins; streptomycin; tetracycline; the quinolone nalidixic acid; the sulfa drug combination trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazol; three generations of cephalosporins; and the combination drugs amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, piperacillin-sulbactam, and piperacillin-tazobactam.")

Yikes. But today our subject is another of the Four Horsemen:

The reason I bring this up is a long and detailed NY Times article about the threat to the global food production posed by --

you guessed it --

wait for it --

CLIMATE CHANGE. Yes indeedy. Fear, fire, floods, and Famine are all connected, and the threat to food from fire (drought, if you must have it explained) and floods causes the fear that Famine is about to break the seal. We have been lucky for years, even decades, that global food production has kept up with population growth, despite the overuse of fertilizer, tremendously wasteful irrigation, and an increasing urban population increasingly dependent on stretched-to-breaking supply lines. (I could mention the carbon footprint of meat consumption and long-range imports, but I'll leave that for another posting and another time).

But now, the Earth is warming, notably, and the favorable tides of food are beginning to turn. Food prices are up -- if you are a wealthy American, have you noticed your supermarket bills lately? But that pales -- yes, it does -- compared to the threat to the staples which sustain billions, the rice, corn, wheat, and soybeans. (And we could probably also mention millet and sorghum, too.) There have been food riots in the past years, which we wealthy Americans barely notice. Part of that was blamed on conversion of corn from corn we eat to corn we make ethanol with, but I'm not sure if ethanol corn is the same as eatin' corn.

The problem is worsening, and the article notes that the vaunted CO2 fertilizer effect has been found to be rather ineffectual, actually. So any gains provided to grains by increased CO2 are offset by problems with actually growing them, particularly problems due to drought and heat. (Which go together a lot of times.)

Let's hear quotes from the farmers, who do not care if Senator Inhofe says it's a hoax and if Marc Morano labels good honest climate scientists as liars:

Sitting with a group of his fellow wheat farmers, Francisco Javier Ramos Bours voiced a suspicion. Water shortages had already arrived in recent years for growers in his region, the Yaqui Valley, which sits in the Sonoran Desert of northwestern Mexico. In his view, global climate change could well be responsible.

“All the world is talking about it,” Mr. Ramos said as the other farmers nodded.

Farmers everywhere face rising difficulties: water shortages as well as flash floods. Their crops are afflicted by emerging pests and diseases and by blasts of heat beyond anything they remember.

In a recent interview on the far side of the world, in northeastern India, a rice farmer named Ram Khatri Yadav offered his own complaint about the changing climate. “It will not rain in the rainy season, but it will rain in the nonrainy season,” he said. “The cold season is also shrinking.”

Yes, the farmers know, and compensate as best they can. If they can.

If they don't, Famine smiles and weighs us with his scales. Especially when he hears this music to his ears:

But the recent price spikes have helped cause the largest increases in world hunger in decades. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated the number of hungry people at 925 million last year, and the number is expected to be higher when a fresh estimate is completed this year. The World Bank says the figure could be as high as 940 million.

Dr. Borlaug’s latest successor at the corn and wheat institute, Hans-Joachim Braun, recently outlined the challenges facing the world’s farmers. On top of the weather disasters, he said, booming cities are chewing up agricultural land and competing with farmers for water. In some of the world’s breadbaskets, farmers have achieved high output only by pumping groundwater much faster than nature can replenish it.

And is the GOP going to be involved in this? You betcha:

The Obama administration has won high marks from antihunger advocates for focusing on the issue. President Obama pledged $3.5 billion at L’Aquila, more than any other country, and the United States has begun an ambitious initiative called Feed the Future to support agricultural development in 20 of the neediest countries.

So far, the administration has won $1.9 billion from Congress. Amid the budget struggles in Washington, it remains to be seen whether the United States will fully honor its pledge.

And what makes Famine joyful?

"The United Nations recently projected that global population would hit 10 billion by the end of the century, 3 billion more than today. Coupled with the demand for diets richer in protein, the projections mean that food production may need to double by later in the century.

Unlike in the past, that demand must somehow be met on a planet where little new land is available for farming, where water supplies are tightening, where the temperature is rising, where the weather has become erratic and where the food system is already showing serious signs of instability."

Gather ye corn cobs while ye may.

For Famine is ready to ride.

L'affaire Cheryl drags on

Because of my deep and abiding admiration for Cheryl Cole (hey, I live in the U.S., I love her accent, and she's both cute and hot together -- when is that BAD?) I have been following the events surrounding her hiring, firing, and now re-hiring (at least it be offered) for the US X Factor with interest. I don't watch American Idol, I don't watch the Voice, I'd never watch America's Got Talent, but if Cheryl was on the U.S. X-Factor, I'd watch just to see what she was going to wear, and wish that she was whispering her Geordie accent into my ear on the pillow.

So it is with amazement that I read the reports that they've reoffered to hire her after she got kicked off the show after barely being on it. There's some indication that this just might be a ploy to save them money, but I hope she takes it, dresses like the thoroughbred she is, and shows the U.S. she's got star appeal.

And for Derek Hough's sake, I hope they let her date him again, too.

Cheryl Cole's American dream back on? Singer 'invited to rejoin X Factor USA'

And let me finish by saying that nobody should be treated in the shameful fashion that she's been treated, no matter if you can understand their accent or not.

Pestilences: E. Coli and MRSA

One of the devil's bargains of modern society is the danger of evolutionarily-savvy microbes finding new ways to get us. The current outbreak of virulent, kidney-ravaging E. Coli in Europe show that flu virus ism't the only thing that can mutate and evolve and get more nasty. The ongoing struggle with methycilline-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), now found in cow's milk, also shows that bugs won't take antibiotics lying down, and they will evolve their way around them.

What does this mean for current humanity? Just that there are always more ways to get sick and die. The concern is that the current population boom might get decimated (in the decimal sense) by something that we as yet have no way medicinally to handle. We know the watchdogs are watching, but flu or tuberculosis or staph might still find a way to control our populative excess, no matter how much we try.

German hospitals 'may run out of beds' under pressure from E.coli outbreak

New MRSA Strain Found In Dairy Cattle and Humans

Friday, June 3, 2011

If you need a guide to sex positions for men with long-lasting big organs

You can tune this sex position guide from Woman's Health for your gender, and further tune it for the size of the masculine implement, its persistence prior to propulsive profligacy, and the overall athletic flexibility of the propagatory partnership. (Yes, the actual reason for the delightful act of human conjugation is to make more humans. But that's certainly not the main reason to do it frequently!)

Assume a New Position

Oh be serious; how many women are going to let their lovers try this one?

Like Butter (it's just a line drawing; maybe sorta how it would have looked if Matisse had illustrated a sex manual)

Ass a bonus (and her's is) there's a picture of Julianne Hough in the top left corner (at least sometimes), and she's someone on my Freebie list that I'd like to do it long and strong with, no matter what the size of my averageness.

Mitt Romney is unelectable -- but now I like him

Let's face facts, no matter how much money Mitt Romney raises for his campaign, one thing is now clear. HE CAN'T WIN. Because of the ascendancy and power of the hardest-core conservatives right wingnutters, the primary outcomes will be controlled by the Tea Party folk and their less visible (recently) but no less important, super conservative Christians.

Let us not forget that it wasn't the Tea Partyers that got all blissful when John McCain made the #1 mistake of his campaign, which was choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate. The conservative wing, and especially the right-to-life, family matters types, were the ones most excited by this egregious error. It was because (erroneously) they perceived simple Sarah to be "one of them", partly because she had gone ahead and had a Down's syndrome baby, and maybe also because daughter Bristol had an out-of-wedlock one; maybe that wasn't a family issues candidate's finest moment, but in their eyes, having the baby, bastard or not, was better than ending the pregnancy. And Sarah obviously professed Christian values, plus the also erroneous view that the Christian Founding Fathers founded a Christian nation (losing the historical fact that they didn't want either a nation ruled by a king or a nation ruled by a Church), so Sarah was their supreme choice. Her unpreparedness, clothes-horsedness, low level of intellectual acumen, torpedoed McCain but ascended her star amongst the archest conservatives.

Because this Christian bloc is still so vital to the GOP, Romney's Mormonism -- which is, to be blunt, heretical to the conservative Christian wing -- will not fly with them. No matter what, they can't vote for a heretic to lead the nation. They'll either vote for somebody else or not vote at all. But they won't vote for Romney.

And now, Mitt has clearly stated that he is not following the Gospel of Inhofe, with Morano as his prophet, either. That orthodoxy is that global warming is a hoax; it's not happening, and if it is happening in spite of the fact that it isn't, than whatever is happening is entirely and wholly natural and probably caused by the Sun. If it isn't caused by the Sun, then it's caused by clouds or El Nino. (Cue Bob Tisdale to explain this impossibility.) But more importantly, no matter if it's happening or not, It Is Vitally Important That We the People of the United States Do Absolutely Nothing About It. That is truly the orthodoxy; damn the sea level rise, forget the biospheric ecosystem ravaging, and don't worry about the extremes that are on the rise globally -- it is the economy first and foremost (never mind all the economic downsides of global warming, the higher food prices, the higher fuel prices, the trade deficit, the insecurity of relying on the unstable Middle East to be the world's petrol bank, the deleterious effects on human health, the potential oceanic disaster of ocean acidification), and in their little minds, that means burn all the coal and oil we can, disregarding the potential for the occasional multi-billion barrel oil spill.

And the thing is, now Mitt appeals to me, because of this single act of unbelievable political courage to state the truly obvious -- the world is warming up and humans are involved in that. There are a host of other reasons that I couldn't vote for Mitt, but now there's this chance that if he got to the White House, he might have the stones to tell the GOP hardcore hardliners to take a hike on their steadfast positions. And boy would I like to see a GOP President giving hell to Bogus Boehner and McDunce McConnell.

If Barack stumbles and suddenly the door is open for a GOP Presidential winner, then I'd have to hope it's Mitt. But he has no chance. No chance in Hell, because that, of course, is where every good Christian Republican knows he's going.

So, best of luck, Mitt. Use those big bucks to totally screw up the GOP Presidential campaign so that they end up nominating a sure loser. Don't, no matter what, get nominated and then tempt a bunch of actual independents and middle-leaning Republicans. Because then, perish the thought, you could actually win.

Romney reaffirms stance that global warming is real

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Is this climate forcing paper for real?

Shortwave forcing of the Earth’s climate: Modern and historical
variations in the Sun’s irradiance and the Earth’s reflectance

P.R. Goode, E. Palle´
Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics 69 (2007) 1556–1568

Changes in the Earth’s radiation budget are driven by changes in the balance between the thermal emission from the top of the atmosphere and the net sunlight absorbed. The shortwave radiation entering the climate system depends on the Sun’s irradiance and the Earth’s reflectance. Often, studies replace the net sunlight by proxy measures of solar irradiance, which is an oversimplification used in efforts to probe the Sun’s role in past climate change. With new helioseismic data and new measures of the Earth’s reflectance, we can usefully separate and constrain the relative roles of the net sunlight’s two components, while probing the degree of their linkage. First, this is possible because helioseismic data provide the most precise measure ever of the solar cycle, which ultimately yields more profound physical limits on past irradiance variations. Since irradiance variations are apparently minimal, changes in the Earth’s climate that seem to be associated with changes in the level of solar activity—the Maunder Minimum and the Little Ice age for example—would then seem to be due to terrestrial responses to more subtle changes in the Sun’s spectrum of radiative output. This leads naturally to a linkage with terrestrial reflectance, the second component of the net sunlight, as the carrier of the terrestrial amplification of the Sun’s varying output. Much progress has also been made in determining this difficult to measure, and not-so-well-known quantity. We review our understanding of these two closely linked, fundamental drivers of climate.

The Hockey Schtick makes a big deal out of this 2007 paper. If it was so seminal and important, then why is it unknown in 2011?

Might also want to read this too:
Can Earth’s Albedo and Surface Temperatures Increase Together?

At least here's an update, sort of (I'll have to see if this was actually published):
Inter-annual variations in Earth's reflectance 1999-2007.

The conclusion is kinda fun:

"In this paper, we have demonstrated that the agreement between earthshine and CERES reflectances have shown a dramatic improvement after CERES data were re-calibrated and earthshine data were re-analyzed. In the common period, earthshine, CERES along with ISCCP-FD data show a trendless albedo. However, preceding CERES, earthshine and ISCCP-FD reflectances show a significant increase before flattening and holding the increase. This implies a reduction in the net sunlight reaching Earth. In the context of the recent climate change, it is important to point out that the physical causes behind these large decadal variations in albedo are still unknown, and that we just don't know yet whether we should expect the albedo changes observed during the modern period to persist into the future."

I agree; we just don't know. We just don't know if this is an important result or not (but considering a climate skeptical site is pushing a 4-year-old paper that doesn't seem to register on the climate research radar, I tend to expect that it's not really very important. I reserve the right to later say that I was wrong about this, though.)

The thing is: Philip R. Goode is a top-notch solar physicist. So I dug around some more and found this:

NJIT Solar Physicists Report Paradox in Eos: Less Sunlight, But Temps Rise

So let's get clear:

“Recently analyzed cloud data from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP) confirm the trend in reflectance,” said Goode. “The data also reveal that from 2000 to now the clouds have changed so that the Earth may continue warming, even with declining sunlight. These large and peculiar variabilities of the clouds, coupled with a resulting increasing albedo, presents a fundamental, unmet challenge for all scientists who wish to understand and predict the Earth’s climate.” Co-authors with Goode are post-doctoral associates Enric Palle and Pilar Montanes-Rodriguez, who work at the observatory, and Steven E. Koonin, a professor of theoretical physics at California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech).


“That increase in the difference signals a relative decrease in the cooling effect of clouds,” said Goode. “Thus, the rising reflectance of the Earth has not led to a reversal of global warming from the increase in sunlight being reflected back into space.” What has happened is that the low, cooling clouds have decreased during the most recent years, while high, warming clouds have increased even more. Thus, the cloud data also reveal an increase in total cloud amount during 2000-2004. That increase is consistent with the earlier earthshine result of growing reflectance throughout that period.

So if we think about this a moment; this is BAD NEWS for climate skeptics, because it a) indicates that the world is still warming, and b) that clouds aren't providing a negative feedback, even though they're increasing and reflecting more sunlight back to space -- or so it seems.

So it seems that this Hockey Schtick post is schlock.

I wish this would stop

Personally, I am sick and disgusted reading the every-summer-it-happens stories about young children left in cars who are seriously endangered or killed by the heat buildup. I know that the U.S. doesn't allow cruel and unusual punishment, but the people responsible (generally parents, but not always) should have to experience what they did to these kids as part of their punishment. I cannot imagine the pain, frustration, and panic of feeling that level of heat before finally being overcome.

Let's get responsible, people. Make this stop.

Best of Earth from space

Best scenes of the Earth from the Space Station.