Saturday, July 30, 2011

Conservative rag says Boehner plan was a waste of time

I love it when they start eating themselves. The ridiculous "Pass the Amendment or We'll Shoot the Economy" bill that Boehner crafted to show that he was in control of the House -- which is frickin' hilarious -- was deemed by the Washington Examiner, the conservative alternative to the Washington Post, a waste of time. As if that wasn't obvious. As it stands as I write this, they're still trying to craft a Senate rescue bill to bail out the GOP.

I heard Rep. Jim Jordan on the radio today. He still doesn't accept that a default will be an economic disaster. He's literally waiting for the Titanic to hit the iceberg to find out if the ship is really unsinkable! In my opinion, he should be one of the first ones tossed off the rail to see if the water is really cold.

Is it now fair to say the Boehner plan was a waste of time?

Summation paragraph: (BBA stands for "Balanced Budget Amendment". Or possible "Bad Bastard Addition". Have fun with that.)

With the BBA addition, the new Boehner plan is assured passage in the House and immediate rejection in the Senate. Cut, Cap and Balance served the same purpose. So all that will have been accomplished is that he wasted a work week of unveiling the plan, drafting it into legislative language, getting it scored by the CBO and then revised and scored again, putting it on the House floor, debating it, delaying the vote, trying in vain to arm-twist hold outs, and then ending up with a watered down Cut, Cap and Balance anyway.

Opportunity looking into the crater

I think, though I'm not sure, that this recent picture from Opportunity shows the edge of the near rim, and the far rim (or something in between) beyond that. So it's only a matter of days now. Amazing how far this little robot has been able to travel.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I'm not saying Fox News is stupid, but...

... sometimes it takes more than a spellchecker to edit an article.

Now, I'm not talking about the occasional mistake between "affect" and "effect". Nor am I talking about noun-verb disagreements with the word "data", which is plural. And it's hard to use the word "irregardless" correctly.

But screwing up "tenet" for "tenant"? In the lead sentence of the article, in which the accuracy of the data is paramount? (Note: this is correct, as the noun-verb agreement is for accuracy - singular, not data).

That's what Fox News did. And it hasn't been corrected yet. And in case it was, I screencapped it to make sure that it was captured for history.

The first sentence reads: "Has a central tenant of global warming just collapsed?"

You know what they say about people that live in glass houses, don'tcha?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another reason Republicans can't govern the country

Regardless of what happens to the debt ceiling, as the Republicans take us down an economic road to destruction, we're already on the Eve of Destruction from them with regard to the environment. It is astonishing the depths to which they will sink -- the problem is that we are all being dragged down with them.

Republicans seek big cuts in environmental rules

“The new Republican majority seems intent on restoring the robber-baron era where there were no controls on pollution from power plants, oil refineries and factories,” said Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, excoriating the proposal on the floor.

Environmental regulations and the E.P.A. have been the bane of Tea Party Republicans almost from the start. Although particularly outraged by efforts to monitor carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas linked to the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere, freshmen Republicans have tried to rein in the E.P.A. across the board — including proposals to take away its ability to decide if coal ash can be designated as a toxic material and to prevent it from clarifying rules enforcing the Clean Water Act.

What's the name of that medicine that helps prevent vomiting? I need a boatload of that stuff.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The boundaries of the possible...

... at least with regards to female physical pulchritude, are defined by the contours of Bar Refaeli's feminine form.

See below.

More support for using the 14th amendment

I'll keep this short.

The Debt Titanic

"One is raising the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline on a temporary basis for some weeks or months and borrowing the shortfall to pay bills. This would enable a less pressured discussion over time. Second, failing that, President Obama should unilaterally raise the debt limit using problematic Constitutional language that prohibits the U.S. from defaulting on financial obligations. While this might well be challenged, at least it will buy time for more reason in Congress."

Can the Constitution prevent debt ceiling catastrophe?

"That last argument -- what is "good for the country" -- would almost certainly be part of any federal court decision on this issue and it would likely look at it this way: no matter how the language reads and no matter how we understand it to be applied in this circumstance, the size, scope, and particulars of the national budget are without a doubt a "political question." In other words, a decision best left to the branches elected by the people, not the judiciary."

14th Amendment: If Obama Opted For Constitutional Option, Legal Challenge Would Be Hard

But if the country is about to go into default, the temptation to act to avert calamity will grow. Legal experts say if the president were tempted to act unilaterally he might escape without his actions being overturned in court.

Regardless of how controversial a 14th Amendment maneuver might be, a legal challenge would be very hard to mount and so far, no one has stepped forward to say they would challenge him in court.

Nor has anyone said they would sue him if he took the alternative, equally controversial, step of using his broad authorities as guardian of the constitutional order to unilaterally raise the borrowing threshold.

Top 10 reasons President Obama should invoke the 14th amendment and end the debt ceiling crisis

Slightly modified from my one-at-a-time tweets today.

10. He would be a superhero to the global economy, and then could wear a cape to press conferences. Probably still can't jump over tall buildings, though.

9. He would be like the parent taking the ball away from kids because they can't play nice.

8. Instead of getting something by negotiation and compromise, the GOP would get *nothing*. No cuts, no vote on a balanced-budget amendment, no chocolate milk in the cafeteria.

7. It would be a bold leadership move, and he would be rewarded in the polls. (Republicans already think he's Satan, so it won't change his standing there. But even standard GOP people want this over.)

6. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity might both have heart attacks. WINNING!

5. We might get to see Eric Cantor actually throw a public hissy-fit.

4. President Clinton thinks it's a good idea, and thus so do all the black people!

3. It would be hilarious to see the GOP try to impeach the President for saving the country from default. (And if they succeeded, he could get elected Secretary General of the UN. After all, he's from Kenya, right?)

2. Stick that in your peace-pipe and smoke it, Speaker Boehner!

And the number one reason President Obama should resolve the debt crisis using the 14th Amendment:

1. The American people overwhelmingly want a deficit solution that includes a mix of taxes and spending cuts. Not funny? It's the truth.

China and Hong Kong continue to move forward on nuclear energy

China knows it can't burn coal forever, because it's already asphyxiating (slowly) a good portion of its populace. So it's not surprising, but it is heartening, that Hong Kong's China Light and Power Holdings Ltd. is investing in the 6K MW Yangjiang power station in Guangdong province. It's slated to be done in 2017. Let's hope they stay on schedule.

Ziegler's (almost) back

Even though Kate Ziegler didn't win the World Championships 1500, she was 2nd, and third (and the rest of the field) wasn't close to her, even though she wasn't close to first. But swimming the distances requires absolute faith in your training, as well as good training, because they hurt. Marathon and long-distance runners and long-distance swimmers both have the same situation; if any little part of the machine isn't fine-tuned, then it takes considerably more effort, with less efficiency, to perform. Ziegler's machine wasn't hitting on all cylinders at either the Worlds or the Olympics -- even though to perform at even the level she did is somewhat amazing. It's very hard to make comebacks in distance swimming due to the pain of training and the dedication required to accept it, which makes Ziegler's accomplishment in Shanghai even more impressive. Let's see if she can make Friis work for it in the 800 meter freestyle, the Olympic distance (for women).

Kate Ziegler ends medal drought with silver in the 1500 meter freestyle

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Anoxic dead zone 1/3 of Chesapeake Bay bottom

Hopes for the recovery of the nation's most historic and greatest estuary - the shore of which I take many walks on - are fading.

Alarming 'dead zone' grows in the Chesapeake

Two sides of this story:

Side A: "This year’s Chesapeake Bay dead zone covers a third of the bay, stretching from the Baltimore Harbor to the bay’s mid-channel region in the Potomac River, about 83 miles, when it was last measured in late June. It has since expanded beyond the Potomac into Virginia, officials said. Especially heavy flows of tainted water from the Susquehanna River brought as much nutrient pollution into the bay by May as normally comes in an entire average year, a Maryland Department of Natural Resources researcher said. As a result, “in Maryland we saw the worst June” ever for nutrient pollution, said Bruce Michael, director of the DNR’s resource assessment service."

Side B: "In December, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a “pollution diet” to dramatically reduce the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that states can allow in the bay from municipalities and farms. ..........

But the plan is being challenged by two powerful lobbies and other groups that are seeking a court order to block it. The American Farm Bureau Federation argued that costly conservation requirements could drive farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed out of business, and that states — not the EPA — should determine pollution limits. The group’s lawsuit in a federal district court in Harrisburg, Pa., asks a judge to stop the plan from going forward. The National Association of Home Builders recently joined the suit. The aim of the farm lobby’s lawsuit is not the Chesapeake Bay region. Bob Stallman, its president, said the EPA’s cleanup plan could be a harbinger for far-reaching requirements in the Mississippi River basin, where industrial farms are responsible for chemical runoff that lead to huge dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico."

Hmmm, which side should the angels (and anglers) be on? I don't think this is a hard choice.

Thought for tonight

"House Republicans have lost sight of the country’s welfare. It’s hard to conclude anything else from their latest actions, including the House speaker’s dismissal of President Obama’s plea for compromise Monday night. They have largely succeeded in their campaign to ransom America’s economy for the biggest spending cuts in a generation. They have warped an exercise in paying off current debt into an argument about future spending. Yet, when they win another concession, they walk away.

This increasingly reckless game has pushed the nation to the brink of ruinous default. The Republicans have dimmed the futures of millions of jobless Americans, whose hopes for work grow more out of reach as government job programs are cut and interest rates begin to rise. They have made the federal government a laughingstock around the globe."

From the New York Times, "The Republican Wreckage"

Monday, July 25, 2011

England wins first Test against India

Live action, day 5, at Lords

England won (convincingly) the first of four Tests against world #1 India. Kevin Pietersen showed the up side of his talent with a double century: 200 runs.

This is a great time for alternate sports; swimming world championships going on this week, a cricket Test series between two of the best teams in the world, and the end of the Tour de France, to an Australian who just might be clean. We can hope, anyway. Same goes for swimming, but they are drug-tested so much that they're catching practically anything (even though sprinter Cesar Cielo got off with a warning after SOMETHING was found in his blood - he claimed it was from one of those pesky contaminated supplements).

Men's 200 freestyle finals and women's 100 backstroke finals tomorrow will be GOOD.

The landing site decision

I still wanted Eberswalde (a river delta collects a lot of the stuff that comes down the river), but NASA ended up choosing Gale Crater and its sedimentary layer cake.

OK, so let's get this overpriced robot to Mars, land it, and do as well as Opportunity has been doing (latest picture below -- it is only about a klick away from the rim!)

NASA says Mars mountain will read like a great novel

Darn it -- new French nuke plant behind schedule, over budget

Regarding the over-budget part, they are over by a lot, but part of it is new inspection pressure brought on by the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe. But if the French want to lead us to the nuclear renaissance, they're going to have to do a considerably better job of building the plants economically.

New French nuke plant beset by more delays

EDF's 1,650-megawatt Flamanville 3 nuclear reactor was already two years behind schedule and $2.4 billion over budget before Wednesday's announcement, in which the utility says it needs to carry out tougher safety inspections in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

Citing "structural and economic reasons" for the new delays, the state-owned company sent notice its flagship plant's costs will increase to $9 billion due to the new requirements while its opening has been pushed back to 2016.

Gus the global warming dog

Dog wants his pool inside

Lots and lots of people have seen this video, but it sure has a remarkable symbolic quality to it. When it's so hot that not just having a pool to jump in will do, but when you drag your pool by your teeth indoors where it's air-conditioned, and when you are smart enough AS A DOG to see this as something you need to do, well...

it's pretty obvious that it's too hot. Are we responsible enough "dog owners" (collectively, as humanity) to take the proper actions with energy production and environmental protection that would make our "dogs" comfortable?

If we cared as much about the world as we did our dogs, we would.

Has Boehner sold his cojones?

Tea Party scores another victory with Boehner debt proposal (?)

If the above is indeed the case, and Boehner includes both spending caps and a balanced budget amendment vote requirement, then it proves one thing.

He's not in charge anymore. The Tea Party is. He might as well just resign the Speakership and hand the gavel to Eric Cantor. He is no longer his own man, nor can he really be called a Republican leader.

This is beyond ridiculous, and that's what I said it was yesterday. Now, he may have proved it.

Go home to Ohio, Johnny. Your time has passed.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A picture of Alice Eve

Why? Because my blog has been all gloom-and-doom for several posts and I just needed a hot picture of a starlet I saw in a movie too late at night.

The definition of ridiculous

House Speaker Boehner is supposedly going to roll out ANOTHER debt ceiling plan -- because he can't get the Tea Party GOP frosh to get behind some of the best long-term deficit cutting plans that we've seen in a decade.

So here's what he's saying now:

The speaker flatly rejects the White House insistence that the plan get the country through the next election instead of offering a short-term fix while a longer-term solution can be worked out.

Boehner's two-part deal includes a savings package first, followed by reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.

He hopes for bipartisan support, but said 'if that's not possible, I and my Republican colleagues in the House are prepared to move forward on our own... today.'

Boehner said he would develop a package 'within the principles of Cut, Cap and Balance.'

From the Daily Mail,

For those who haven't been following along, Cut, Cap, and Balance is the Tea Party-sponsored plan to bring the country back to 1965 levels of spending. As Senator Barbara Mikulski said:

“What are the plain facts: It cuts spending to 1965 levels. That was forty- six years ago. Forty- six years ago. When making $8000 a year was considered a fantastic salary. Would you want to go back and make $8000 a year? I don’t think so.

Global economic collapse? Blame the "nutters"

As the world counts down to Tea Party Crash 2011, one Brit knows exactly who to blame:

'Right-wing nutters': Vince Cable condemns threat by U.S. politicians over world economy

In an extraordinary outburst, the Business Secretary [Mr. Cable] accused Republican politicians in the U.S. of sabotaging recovery by opposing tax rises to help cut America’s budget deficit.

Mr Cable told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘The irony of the situation at the moment is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few Right-wing nutters in the American Congress rather than the Eurozone.’

Preach the truth - amen!

Down Under or Top Over? Don't ask the Daily Mail

While I am very happy with the way the Daily Mail covers uncovered (or nearly so) starlets, supermodels, actresses, wanna-bes, and just plain babes with great bodies, I don't think you should go to them for geographical accuracy after this latest blooper. They may know St. Tropez from St. Kitts, and Barbados from Bermuda, but when they need to locate the Aleutians, apparently Australia is too close in the gazetteer.

Genuine screen cap:

The caption reads: "The 5,676 foot-tall Cleveland Volcano is located on the uninhabited island of Chuginadak in the Aleutian chain about 940 miles southwest of Anchorage"

Now, I'd be concerned about a volcano erupting under a major flight path, but I'd like to be sure where that volcano is, first.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tour de France could have great time trial finish:

Andy Schleck took over the race lead on the Alpe d'Huez switchback climb, but Cadel Evans of Australia is only 57 seconds back. That is CLOSE. (I like competitive cycling, in my pursuit of alternate sports. Hopefully the increased testing will take drugs out of the competition.) Any falls or problems for Schleck or Evans could decide the winner. Andy's brother Frank is only 53 seconds back, so the time trial will be for podium positions, which isn't always the case. Evans is supposedly the better time-trialist. Contador made a play, but couldn't break away far enough.

Pool events in the World Swimming Championships start Sunday. July sure is great for sports, isn't it?

Cleveland could blow sky-high (the volcano, not the city)

Aleutian volcanoes pop off with some frequency, so it's not surprising that the frequently active Cleveland Volcano might be active again:

Alaska volcano shows signs of impending eruption

Scientists are not always certain about what is happening at the remote volcano, observatory officials said. The town of Nikolski, the nearest settlement to Cleveland Volcano, is 45 miles (72 km) away.

Although Cleveland is among the most active of Alaska's roughly 90 volcanoes, no seismic equipment is set up there because the costs of working in such a remote area are prohibitive, observatory officials said.

At times like these, maybe the airlines would pony up for a seismometer. Seems like pocket change compared to the cost of a jet (and the lives borne within it).

Installing the seismometer right now might not be advisable, though.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hey Rush, read this

Memo to Rush Limbaugh:

You should read this tweet from the Weather Channel -- it reports REAL TEMPERATURES, not heat index:

#Syracuse, NY (179" of #snow last season) just hit 100 deg. for 1st time since '02. Nearing all-time rec. from 1936!

Well, Syracuse didn't quite make it. But Elmira did. 1936 is significant because it was one of the Dust Bowl years, which were legitimately hot. When the country is breaking Dust Bowl-era temperature records (and Elmira is not the only place this happened), people should notice. Even if they're conservative Republicans who listen to Rush Limbaugh.

Here's more for Rush to read: an in-your-face rebuttal on the heat index:

The origins of the heat index and why it's important

Coal plant mercury poisons everything

A new study finds that mercury from coal-fired power plants in Indiana is poisoning the rich farmland soil, the local water, the local fish, and probably the local populace as well.

Soil samples reveal urban mercury footprints

"Previous research on the spread of environmental mercury has focused on waterways. The IUPUI researchers looked at land, testing soil samples, detecting hot spots of mercury contamination in central Indiana specifically tied to local coal-fired power plants by chemical signatures. Winds blew the mercury contaminated soil to the northeast and the natural flow of waterways brought the mercury back to the southwest, far into bucolic appearing areas frequented by anglers."

"We are fouling our local as well as global environment and little has been done to stop it. It all comes down to the choices we make to produce energy. As we gain a better understanding of the deposition and risk patterns of mercury from using dirty coal as our primary energy source in the Midwest, we hopefully will be better able to stop or decrease the emission of this neurotoxin and halt the damage it is causing humans," said

senior author Gabriel M. Filippelli, Ph.D., professor of earth sciences at the School of Science at IUPUI.

Endeavour crater rim features coming into view

Opportunity is tantalizingly close now; about a month ago I noted that it looked like Dawn's orbital insertion around Vesta would be followed soon after by Opportunity reaching the rim of Endeavour. While that wasn't a difficult prediction to make, it looks like it was accurate.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Vesta in three dimensions

If you have a pair of red-blue anaglyph 3-D glasses handy, this image is Vesta in 3-D. There will be much investigatin' of Vesta's prominent bump. This image was taken before Dawn went into orbit around Vesta, and so there will be better. It's going to move in slowly until it's about 1600 miles off the surface of the minor planet.

Another image: The size of Vesta compared to other planetoids that have been observed close-up by space probes.

Limbaugh goes deeper off the deep end on climate

I actually heard part of this today, and wanted to hear more (if only to confirm my level of disdain for the Limblob), but I had things to do and had to turn him off. I occasionally do have the chance to listen to his blatherings, but I can't take the brainless conservative idiots that call in and talk to him, so I usually can him at that point.

But his meandering mistruths are part of the problem with explaining climate change rationally and reasonably; Chris Mooney has been doing an intermittent series on The Intersection on why people believe irrational things over the rational even after the errors of the irrational are explained to them. (Example here.) One of those reasons is that an erroneous position on an issue is more strongly adhered to if that position is aligned with one's sociopolitical beliefs than the correct position, which would be sociopolitically misaligned.

Got all that? Put more simply, if someone you believe in (both personally and positionally) says something boldfacedly wrong, but which supports your core assumptions, you'll believe what was said because you believe and trust the source.

So anyway, what Limbaugh said is that the heat index is a liberal conspiracy to make climate change seem worse than it is.

Oh my. Not as if it might actually help save lives (or at least preserve health) by telling people when conditions are not just oppressively hot outside, they are DANGEROUSLY oppressively hot. Like is happening now where I live (and where a lot of others of us live, too).

I noted a tweet, I think, that Minneapolis-St. Paul set a three-day consecutive dew point record, which, get this -- HAD NEVER EVER HAPPENED BEFORE. EVER. (Confirmation, and some other info, like Minneapolis - St. Paul setting an all-time dewpoint record.)

Note to Rush: Dew point is not a created index. It's a standard meteorological variable.

And people wonder if positive water vapor feedback is a real phenomenon!

So what's the heat index? Here's the answer, Wikipedia style. It was created by a broadcast meteorologist.

Here's the whole thing (which searching the blogs, nobody else has except ME -- and Rush's site, where I got it from:

This heat index, how old do you think that is, folks? How long have you heard about the heat index and what actually is the heat index? Well, I did a little research out there. The heat index was developed in 1978 by George Winterling, and he called it the humiture. It was a combination of the temperature and the humidity, and in 1979 the National Weather Service under Jimmy Carter adopted it. So some guy comes along and says, "You know what, there's a thing called a heat index out there."

"Like the wind chill index, the heat index contains assumptions about the human body mass and height, clothing, amount of physical activity, thickness of blood, sunlight and ultraviolet radiation exposure, and the wind speed. Significant deviations from these will result in heat index values which do not accurately reflect the perceived temperature." So we move forward to today, and I look here at Drudge: "Stifling States of America, DC Heat to 116." Now, I saw that and I said, "Whoa. It's gonna hit 116 degrees in Washington." So I called up all my weather apps, and what I found was this. Today high temperature in Washington, 95. I scratched my head. Then I went to Thursday, 100 degrees. Friday, 103. Saturday it's gonna be 101, Sunday it's gonna be 96, and Monday 93. I don't see 116 here anywhere.

So then I went to the Washington Post, I figure, well, if it's gonna hit 116 degrees in Washington they certainly will have the news. And, lo and behold, they did. Here's the headline: "Shock Forecast: NOAA Predicts Heat Index of 116 in Washington Friday." Not temperature. So the arbitrary, "You're gonna feel like it's 116," but let me ask you, how many of you were anywhere where it was 116 in the last few years, months, to know what 116 feels like? Why not just report the temperature of what it's gonna be? It's gonna be a hundred degrees, it's gonna be 103. That happens every summer in Washington. And now it's gonna be 116! It's gonna be deadly hot, unprecedented heat, 116 heat index. More manipulation. You wait. What's predictably to follow here? Global warming stories.
As there should be, when temperature records are falling right and left. Oh wait -- that's because the weather stations are in the wrong places. Right?


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

OK, it's expensive, but... Mars landing site to be announced Friday

Despite the fact that the James Webb Space Telescope costs a few billion dollars more, the next Mars lander, a roving laboratory, has eaten up much more of the NASA exploration budget than it was supposed to get. And it's just barely making it to the launch pad in time for it's trip on this Mars cycle. It had better get up and get there, and get down and WORK.

Hoping succinctly that it does, I'll be watching Friday to see if they pick my choice for landing site, Eberswalde.

Mars Landing Site Chosen for Next Rover

"Eberswalde Crater offers the chance to explore an ancient river delta. In fact, the delta is the most convincing sign that a Martian river once flowed into a standing body of water. Stream channels in the delta have meandered over time. As the streams carved new channels, abandoned streambeds remained behind as "footprints." Today, many of these streambeds are higher than the surrounding terrain. That's because the water deposited sediments that hardened and became resistant to erosion. Orbiters above Mars have detected clay minerals in the sediments. Clays are evidence of past water activity for the Mars Science Laboratory to investigate. Clays form when water dissolves rocks into extremely fine-grained minerals. These minerals form layers, kind of like the parts of a sandwich."

Good article on the coming helium crisis

We're running out of helium.

That could be bad. For health, for astronomy, for physics research, for kid's birthday parties... and lots of other things that I can't think of right now. So I looked them up:

  • Helium is used to cool superconducting magnets in MRI scanners.
  • As helium is lighter than air, airships and balloons can be filled with the gas to gain lift.
  • Helium is used to condense hydrogen and oxygen to make rocket fuel.
  • Helium can be added to oxygen tanks so that divers can breath more easily. This is especially important for people that go deep diving (over 450 ft below sea level).
  • Used in helium-neon lasers. These lasers can be used to read barcodes.
  • Helium can be used to detect leaks in high-vacuum and high-pressure equipment.
  • For materials easily contaminated by air, helium is used as a shielding gas in the arc welding process.
  • Helium is used as a protective gas when growing silicon and germanium crystals and when producing titanium and zirconium. It is a fantastic protective gas as it is inert (unreactive).
  • The age of rocks which contain uranium and thorium can be estimated using helium dating.
  • Helium is often used as a carrier gas in gas chromatography.
  • Helium can be used to detect leaks (small fractures) in some vessels.
So based on this, it would be bad news to run out of helium.

But no matter what we do, the world is going to run out of helium. And probably sooner than when there's no ice in the Arctic Ocean in the summer.

So here's the article about where the helium is and where it's going:

Last Federal Helium Reserve, near Amarillo, is running out

Helium is commonly used by NASA and the Defense Department and has applications including medical research and computer chip manufacturing.

But inhaling the gas to temporarily change the sound of a person's voice could someday be a thing of the past. Some say even private supplies could run out in 25 to 100 years -- and no known substance on Earth can replace helium.

and also

"When we opened the reserve years ago, we had about 32 billion cubic feet of helium at our spot," Theiss said. "We're down to about 18 billion cubic feet now."

Oh well. My first question: what can they do to cool the magnets in MRI scanners when they're out of helium?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Who's to blame for the increasing national debt and deficit


It's clear from this Washington Post figure, which shows how often the debt ceiling was raised ON REQUEST from the White House, that the deficit --

which leveled off during the latter half of the Clinton Administration, helped, yes, by REVENUES (the economy wad doing well at the time) --

really got going and growing larger and larger during the George W. Bush administration, helped by 3 things: the short recession at the beginning of his term, the war on terrorism and two shooting wars, and finally, the Bush TAX CUTS.

It has increased under the Obama administration, yes, mainly due to the necessity to save the global economy (see note below). Which is still not out of the woods, and if the Republican idiot hordes in Congress have their way and don't raise the debt ceiling, they will threaten the stability of the global economy again.


From the linked article:

"Had Goldman, Morgan Stanley, GE Capital, AIG and several giant European banks not received bailouts and instead failed, even capital-rich J.P. Morgan Chase would have gone under because it wouldn’t have been able to collect what these and other players owed it. There would have been trillions of dollars in losses, worldwide panic, missed payrolls and quite likely the onset of the Great Depression II. That’s why we needed a bailout. And why we got it."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Emmanuelle Chiriqui at the ESPYs

Emmanuelle Chriqui was chosen Best Dressed at the ESPY Awards (by the Huffington Post's unscientific poll).

While I'm not arguing with the results, my question is: what's her connection to sports (other than being hot, and we know athletes like hot chicks)?

Best I could find is that she likes going to basketball games, thinks the Lakers are entertaining, but secretly likes the LA Clippers better.

New Moon mission -- who knew?

Twin Artemis Probes To Study Moon In 3D

Well, they cleverly maneuvered the satellites away from their original positions, into Lagrange points, and then into lunar orbit. But that wasn't how it was planned. I wondered when I read this when they had launched these moon probes, and when I found out it was in 2007, I was mildly surprised. This is a very clever retasking.

A bit snippy in the Space News caption

I noticed the caption to the NASA logo in this article:

Appropriations Committee Approves the Fiscal Year 2012 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill

"Tax breaks for executive jets are far more important than fundemental [sic] science for the Tea Party Express and their fellow travellers."

That's a nice short op-ed, isn't it? I wonder if it will survive editorial review. (As of midnight, it did.)

Oh and by the way, I agree.

Opportunity less than a mile from the rim

It's hard to believe that the plucky robot is this close.


Opportunity has exceeded 32 kilometers (nearly 20 miles) of distance on Mars and is now less than 1.5 kilometers (approximately a mile) from the first landfall on the rim of Endeavour crater.

On Sol 2649 (July 7, 2011), the rover drove over 141 meters (463 feet) to the southeast. Available energy permitted Opportunity to wake very early for an ultra-high frequency (UHF) relay pass to return extra data to Earth. On Sol 2651 (July 9, 2011), an atmospheric argon measurement was performed with the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). Also on that sol, a test of trying to warm the rover's electronics to mitigate clock drift was performed by keeping the rover awake longer. On the next sol, the rover drove over 150 meters (492 feet), continuing in the roughly southeast direction towards "Spirit Point" on the rim of Endeavour. Then on Sol 2654 (July 12, 2011), Opportunity drove 80 meters (262 feet) to the southeast, crossing the 32 kilometer (nearly 20-mile) odometry mark.

Ground is looking a little rockier:

A collection of Eric Cantor cartoons

This f*ckwit has rapidly become one of the most abhorrent, detestable members of Congress. I included the first one because this is where it seems he and the Tea Party want to take the country -- and I included the second one because that's how I feel. His district is only a few miles away over the water... I may have to do some campaigning. But it's one of those solidly Republican districts that will likely beatify Cantor before they vote him out.

I can't believe that the GOP doesn't believe the signs and signals and warnings and predictions. If they do take the country over the precipice with them, there will be HELL to pay.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eat the invaders!

Just a short note today; the movement to eat invasive seafood is spreading. Coming soon to a Red Lobster near you -- lionfish scampi and Asian carp almondine!

Or at least we can hope.

Diners urged to eat invasive sea life

"We think there could be a real market," said Wenonah Hauter of Food and Water Watch, whose Smart Seafood Guide, for the first time this year, recommends invasive species as a "safer, more sustainable" alternative.

But few restaurant menus feature lionfish, Asian carp or European green crab.

"What these species need now is a better, sexier profile, and more cooks who know how to use them," Hauter said.

Here's Asian carp on a bed of fettucine:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Good to see her looking good

Kelly Brook, who miscarried the baby she and Thom Evans were going to have together, was back on the beach (this is from mid-June). Certainly that was a difficult time; she looks pure Brookish. Something tells me that despite the unplannedness of the first pregnancy, they might procreate sooner rather than later. There's something about that second picture...

This shouldn't surprise anyone

The embattled but still dimpled Cheryl Cole had dinner in LA a day or so ago, and she invited her former escort -- that's about the best I can characterize it -- Derek Hough to join her for a chat. Apparently they chatted about 15 minutes, during which Cheryl told Derek directly the news that she's getting back with her lyin', cheatin', cold deadbeatin', two-timin', double dealin', mean mistreatin', lovin' ex-husband Ashley Cole.

Derek apparently told Cheryl the level of the mistake she was makin', and didn't even bother to stay for the appetizers.


Are you headed for a heartache, oh yeah
Gonna get a bad break, oh yeah
You made a bad mistake, oh yeah.

But apparently in matters of the heart and the major histocompatibility complex, reason doesn't need to apply.

Time will tell if she's in it for remarriage or just for conjugal fertilization.

'I won't pick up the pieces again': Cheryl Cole slammed by friend Derek Hough over reunion with ex-husband Ashley

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some things are rare

For some reason, I wish there would be a discovery of a new really big diamond. Lesotho has produced some large ones this decade:, including the Lesotho Promise in 2006. But the largest polished diamond cut from the Promise was only 75 carats. I want one that would be around 500 carats cut! The Incomparable, from 1988, is 407 and a half carats.

The Lesotho Promise (uncut, above) and the diamonds cut from it (below).

Speaking of Mars

According to the folks at JPL:

"Opportunity is making excellent progress towards Endeavour crater with only about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to go before the first landfall on the rim, a place called "Spirit Point."

Mars landing sites down to two

OK, I was wrong. Holden Crater has been eliminated. The final two choices of landing site for the Mars Curiousity Rover are Eberswalde and Gale Crater.

Two Possible Sites for Next Mars Rover

Eberswalde was my pick back in 2009, and it still is. Eberswalde! Eberswalde! Eberswalde!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mark Warner for President

Time to call out the dishonesty in the debt talks

"In six months of increasingly tough negotiations as part of the Senate’s “Gang of Six,” I’ve learned that failing to embrace a bold, comprehensive, bipartisan plan will wreck our economic recovery, kill jobs and place our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades. The president’s bipartisan fiscal commission called its report “The Moment of Truth.” Here is the truth: We need to raise the debt ceiling and ignore irresponsible politicians who would let us default. To regain fiscal health, we need a plan that cuts our debt by at least $4 trillion. It can achieve that only with spending cuts and greater revenue."

Jim DeMint shows the level of his nuttiness

Let DeMint's words speak for himself.

"Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Republicans should continue demanding steep spending cuts as part of a debt ceiling deal, even if it means the government will default.

[With brains like these, who needs assholes?]
“What I'm advocating here is let's use this as a point of leverage, give the president an increase, but don't come away without real cuts from real caps and spending, and without a balanced budget,” DeMint said on Fox Business News Wednesday night.

[Senator Mitch McConnell's office said that the debt ceiling negotiations should not be tied to calls for a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.]

“We're at the point where there would have to be some, you know, some serious disruptions in order not to raise [the debt ceiling],” he said. “I'm willing to do that.”

[Maybe the rest of us don't want the country to commit economic seppuku, Senator Demented. Oh, I'm sorry is your name DeMint? So easy to mess that up.]

A major player in the Tea Party movement, DeMint's statements are likely to broaden the divide between the far-right and mainstream Republicans over the debt ceiling as negotiations with President Barack Obama continue."
[Ya think?]

Dawn is eight days out from Vesta

Even as the Republican House committee tries to stifle the spirit of exploration in the James Webb Space Telescope (which is indeed the telescope that ate NASA's budget, but I never said I didn't want it to fly, just not cost as much) -- the once-canceled Dawn mission is only eight days out from Vesta orbit.

Amazing. So does Vesta have a moon? Or more than one? We'll find out soon.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Long-lived ERS-2 satellite retires

The long-lasting and long-working European Remote Sensing satellite -2 (ERS-2) is retiring and moving to a lower orbit, so that it will eventually be atmospherically cremated.

Here's to many more orbits of doing nothing, because it did a great job.

Pioneering ERS-2 satellite retires

Can bans on shark finning restore fisheries sanity?

Because the practice is barbaric, obviously wasteful, horrific to watch, and is due to a supposed "delicacy" that probably doesn't even taste that good, bans on shark finning and sales of shark fin are starting to spread. This might possibly mean a larger awareness of the circle of life in the oceans, the importance of top predators, and a recognition that mankind -- we, collectively -- can in indeed alter the ecosystem of the vast oceans by overconsumption.

But maybe, maybe, stepping back from the brink with regard to shark finning is a small step in the right direction. Perhaps this recognition that taking the lives of vital animals for such a profligate price is not worth it. Perhaps this will lead to seeing the light on more fisheries, such as bluefin tuna. Maybe we can learn.

I doubt it, but we have to find hope where it may exist.

Farewell to sharks (and yes, that's a bad thing) -- excellent article in Time

"Each year, fishermen kill as many as 73 million sharks, usually cutting off their fins — which are valued for shark-fin soup, a popular dish in Asia — before tossing the bloody carcasses overboard."

"Rapid economic growth in China has led to a sharp increase in demand for shark fins — which is a little peculiar since the shark-fin soup for which the animals give their lives is not all it's cracked up to be. I tried some once in the Chinese port city of Qingdao and was surprised by how thin and watery it is. But the soup isn't served for the taste. It first emerged as a delicacy in China during the Sung dynasty more than 1,000 years ago as a way for the Chinese to show off their wealth."

[And I might add the Chinese are probably to blame for the rise in rhinoceros poaching, to get that horn into "traditional medicines". Ignorance kills.]

"Hawaii has instituted a comprehensive ban on all shark-fin products, making it illegal for any person to sell or distribute anything with shark fin, and California is moving on a similar ban. (Hawaii and California have some of the largest markets for shark fin outside Asia.) On July 5, the Bahamas established new protections for sharks in the 250,000 sq. miles of ocean that surround the island,"

"A lawmaker in the National People's Congress has introduced legislation banning the trade of shark fins in China, though such laws have little chance of passage now. But prominent Chinese have begun to speak out for sharks — most notably NBA star Yao Ming, who has pledged never to eat shark-fin soup — and there are signs of a dawning conservation movement among younger Chinese."


How pretty is THIS?

Jessica Alba rivals Kimberly Williams Paisley in the "Prettiest Pregnant Actress on a Magazine Cover -- Non-Nude" category.

A suggested change to the lyrics of "Cool, Cool, Considerate Men"

To the right, ever to the right

Never to the left, of brains we are bereft

We have gold, a market that will hold

Tradition that is old, a reluctance to be bold.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Amanda's well-rounded

I've watched a movie with Amanda Seyfried (and Vanessa Redgrave) on cable a couple of times now, entitled Letters to Juliet. Twice is enough, because it's a bit sappy and the male romantic lead, despite being dishy, is a bit grating. Redgrave does well and rises above the material. Seyfried does her best cute, girly, wide-eyed, girl. And at times it is possible to notice that despite the slender frame, she's got a well-presented bosom, mainly notable when cleavage is evident.

Which as you might expect got me to wondering -- is there more of that? Turns out there is, to an extent. She did an Esquire shoot (reminding me to update the Me in My Place roster soon), and she also did a sexual thriller movie called Chloe with Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore.

And Chloe had a lot more of Amanda visible than in Letters to Juliet. Enough so to confirm the implication that she's ripe and peachy. Searching works for this confirmation.

I don't think Chloe's been on cable, or if it was, I missed it. Darn the luck. Have to check the video availability.

Oh yeah, Amanda also has lovely blonde hair, which she just recently cut a bit shorter.

Another contemplation of LeAnn Rimes' navel

Actually, this is more about LeAnn Rimes' remarkably toned tummy, which is yummy.

More uncoverage here:

Say cheese! Bikini girl LeAnn Rimes captures her Fourth of July festivities on camera

Rare earths might be less rare?

Well, I knew that as rare earth metals became more valuable, the concept of recycling them would gain favor. Yes, it has.

A new source of indispensable rare earth metals

And it also turns out that there's a lot of rare earths under the ocean. I believe that the economics of need will drive the necessity of seafloor mining for them -- but first, the amount that can be provided by recycling should be well-estimated. There's no sense in tearing up the sea floor if it's cheaper just to reuse the stuff in the batteries that's already in hand.

Vast reserves of vital rare earths found in ocean bed

The problem of food waste, revisited

I hate throwing food away, but for lots of different reasons, I have to. Throwing processed food away is basically throwing away energy. I have documented here before that some municipalities in Britain are implementing ways to receive and re-use food waste, either voluntarily or mandatorily. I expect that this will happen domestically over the course of time, and I wish it would happen sooner rather than later. (Progressive San Francisco already requires it.)

But what we toss into the garbage bag or down the disposal is but the tip of the food waste iceberg. The article linked below discusses the staggering global level of 0f food waste, and there is a lot wasted on the supply end as well as the consumption end. As the article notes, this profligacy is bad on a lot of levels, both for the costs of food for those who need low-cost food, and for the energy required to transport, produce, store, and market foods in affluent consumer countries like the U.S. of A.

Reducing food waste: making the most of our abundance

"Meanwhile, industrialized countries waste some 222 million tons of perfectly good food annually, a quantity nearly equivalent to the 230 million tons that sub-Saharan Africa produces in a year."
So I wish that my overripe bananas could be turned into biofuel. ASAP.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Wimbledon: surprise, surprise

It DIDN'T surprise me that Novak Djokovic beat Rafael Nadal in the men's singles. Novak has been ascendant to the top spot in tennis, and Nadal wasn't at the level he needed to be to beat him on Centre Court.

It DID surprise me that Kvitova defeated Sharapova. Kvitova did not show first-timer nerves much, and Sharapova's serve wasn't where it needed to be, particularly her second serves. Kvitova's returns were pretty impressive. It wasn't quite the all-the-way comeback that Maria wanted (and I admit, I did too), but when sports is real, the favorites don't always win.

Say it ain't so, Cheryl

According to what I'm reading in the Daily Mail, Cheryl Cole is getting close to getting back together with the remarkably immature (but darned good soccer player) Ashley Cole, her former husband.

Now, I've read a lot, and it would seem accurate to so that Cheryl isn't interested in getting married again, but might be interested in getting preggers. Since Derek Hough didn't work out in the romantic or procreative department, it seems that Cheryl might go with the tried-and-untrue (well, speaking with regard to faithfulness), but as least familiar, Ashley.

I totally believe the reports that her mother doesn't approve. But Cheryl does seem to be a woman ruled somewhat by passion, and less by intellect -- and she still qualifies as young and impulsive, having just turned 28. So it will not surprise me if in a few months Cheryl announces that she's "with child" -- Ashley's child. It would certainly keep her name in the headlines.

I'm going to remarry ex-wife Cheryl Cole, vows Ashley just nine months after divorce

Well, maybe Ashley thinks he's getting remarried. But I think Cheryl wants to avoid the legalities.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

And Rand Paul is just plain crazy

It's hard for me to even comment on the level of sheer dementia represented by this:

Rand Paul plans filibuster over debt ceiling

Actually and fortunately, he got slapped down quick, and even the nausea-inducing Mitch McConnell said (through his office) isn't supporting tying a balanced budget Constitutional amendment to passing the increase in the debt limit.

Does this mean I actually have to say that Mitch McConnell did something right? Well, if opposing someone stupider and crazier than you are from doing something crazier and stupider than you're doing is a good thing, I guess I have to.

Perhaps the most dangerous man in the Senate

Despite the loathing I feel for Mitch McConnell and the utter disgust I harbor for Eric Cantor, the true depth of my disdain and distaste is reserved for the Senator from South Carolina, Jim DeMint. I knew DeMint was absolutely bad news for the country before he got elected to the Senate, and his espousal of the Tea Party holy writ, not to mention his sponsorship of some absolute true clunkers of candidates due to their level of discipleship, proves the point again and again.

Well, DeMint has a book out now, and my first reading of a review confirms that DeMint is DeTestable, DeMented, and DeTached from Reality. Totally.

Jim DeMint's Book 'The Great American Awakening' Highlights GOP-Tea Party Power Struggle

"DeMint writes in almost messianic terms as he repeatedly casts himself as fulfilling a mission assigned to him by God to "save freedom," prevent bankrupting the future and pull the nation back from a moral abyss."

I wonder how many other nuggets of nuttiness there are in the book. Sort of like this:

"The hope and change the Democrats had in mind was nothing more than a retread of the failed and discredited socialist policies that have been the enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world. I fear America is teetering towards tyranny."

Oh, right. Well, what do you expect from a Tea Party "kingmaker"? Cogent thought?

One of the most dangerous men in America

Texas governor Rick Perry, who is thinking about running for President, in considering how much the almost-certifiable Michelle Bachmann appeals to the Tea Partly-crazy flox, and is also considering how much money Mitt Romney has in his campaign coffers. Romney is a non-issue; he has zero, nada, zilch chance of getting through the primary season. His Mormonism, his stance on climate change, his prior record on health care, his lack of endorsement for many tenets of the Tea Party gospel of nuttiness -- no chance.

But Perry has conservative appeal, and he's run a state -- Texas. Never mind that he's running it into the ground, he's still on record as running it. Plus, damn the luck, he looks good doing it. All that "secession" talk -- he'll say he was just trying to make a point and didn't really mean it. Pretty soon I'll have to see how much Perry has been researched and how many other of his out-there conservatism is on the record.

Perry thinks about Bachmann's appeal and Romney's money

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wow. Just plain wow.

Mind-boggling, jaw-dropping, beauty of nature video of the Kuroshio Sea aquarium tank.

At YouTube
Kuroshio Sea

Embedded here:

Some guys have all the getting lucky

Turns out that Salma Hayek's husband, Fran├žois-Henri Pinault, also the father of her child, who is a VERY wealthy man, fitting the profile of a silverback to a T (CEO of a conglomerate that owns fashion houses Yves Saint-Laurent and Gucci, and probably lots of other things) -- well, when he and Salma were on a break, he had a fling with Linda Evangelista and fathered her child (just found this out today) -- then he got back together with Salma later that same year and father her child, too.

Here's one of numerous articles about this

OK, three questions.

1. How does anyone manage to do that?

2. How do you manage to do this with two women who are obviously knowledgeable about the "way things work", and not have one of the partners using birth control?

3. Or, do you just ask politely if the women with whom you are consensually entwined would mind bearing your spawn? And they just say, "Yeah, OK, that sounds good, fire away!"

It boggles the mind of us normal peons who fly coach. Or even first-class. Because this guy flies in his own jet.

I wonder if Rick Perry believes in climate change now

Due to the ongoing, amazing, persistent drought, most of Texas has been declared a disaster area.

Obama signs disaster declaration for wildfires

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this week designated the entire state a natural disaster area, allowing farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans. Many producers in the nation's second-leading agricultural state have lost entire crops because of drought and wildfires. May 31 marked the end of the driest-ever eight-month span and some parts of Texas have not seen significant rain since August."

OK, I know, I know -- there have been droughts before. But as McKibben noted -- take it all together, it's a head-in-the-sand reaction to think/believe/maintain/skepticize that this is NOT related to the known trends in global and regional climate.

In case anyone thinks JLoH has declined

She hasn't. The curves are where they ought to be.

Jennifer Love Hewitt Turns Heads At 'Horrible Bosses' Premiere

Plus I think she's currently still officially "single". After wearing that dress, I think that ought to change. That dress is actually a sign that reads "Available".