Sunday, April 29, 2012

I volunteer, Chezza

Cheryl Cole says a) she's a woman (check), b) she likes sex (check), and c) she wants to have a baby with someone (check).

Umm, I'm holding up my hand, sweetie.  (OK, I'm married, but we can work around that to accomodate your needs).

'I am a woman and I like sex': Single Cheryl Cole talks about missing intimacy, being broody and fancying Prince Harry

 Cheryl Cole gets broody


Saturday, April 28, 2012

More than one good thing

Victoria's Secret has a new, supposedly very comfortable (not that I could test that), push-up bra on the market, and a new fragrance to accompany it.  And the article from the Daily Mail has pictures of VS models wearing the bra, and one video each about the brassiere and the fragrance.

That pretty much uses up a hand's worth of fingers counting the good things I just said.

Just heavenly!  "... most comfortable push-up bra yet"

If you want to buy some (and see more pictures of models wearing them), go here.  I also recommend the "Glamour" selections.

This was my favorite:

From Nuclear Street: nuclear needed to meet future energy needs

Nuclear Street highlighted the Washington Post's recent editorial pointing out that phasing out nuclear power in favor of renewables, with the goal of reducing fossil fuel carbon emissions, is not going to be easy.  They made several points that I've reiterated before, a couple of which I'll highlight here.

Washingon Post Editorial Board:  Nuclear Necessary to Meet Carbon Goals

From the Washington Post:   Phasing Out Nuclear

"Before the Fukushima Daiichi disaster last year, Japan derived a third of its electricity from nuclear power. Now, with all but one reactor offline, the country’s consumption of crude and heavy fuel oil for power generation has roughly tripled. Even with that backup fossil-fired power, though, the government worries that the electrical system will fail during peak summer demand if utilities don’t switch on reactors.
"The Financial Times’ Gerrit Wiesmann reports a similar situation in Germany, which has committed to closing all of its reactors, even as its power grid teeters and its electricity sector emits more carbon than it must after eight reactors shut down last year."
Doesn't sound very good, does it?

"Perhaps, a Japanese government report claimed, Japan could still reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent of its 1990 levels by 2030 without nuclear power. Yet even if that’s true, it’s hardly a reason to let all of that existing nuclear infrastructure and know-how go to waste. The report also notes that the country could cut emissions 33 percent if nuclear accounted for a fifth of the country’s generation, or even as much as 39 percent if Japan continued to derive a third of its electricity from nuclear."
Regarding Germany:

"Advocates of green energy point out that Germany already derives more of its electricity from renewables than Japan because of hefty government subsidies. But making up for the loss of that country’s reactors and meeting ambitious emissions goals would still require a veritable revolution in its electricity generation on a scale not seen since post-World War II reconstruction, Bloomberg reports."
  I think it's obvious that a pell-mell, shortsighted rush to phase out nuclear power is both bad for a country's energy infrastructure and bad for global climate change, too.

Premier League title isn't locked up yet

Because of some surprising recent results, especially a Man U tie with Everton by the very unlikely soccer score of 4-4), the Monday (April 30) game between Manchester City and Manchester United is for all the marbles of the British Premier League.   If Manchester City wins it, they go from three points behind to a tie, and on the basis of "superior goal difference".  Whatever that is.

But still, it's going to be a no-holds-barred match.

It's back on! United blow chance to close in on title as rivals City move to within three points... and the derby is next up

I wondered what was up with Michelle Keegan

I haven't commented on Brit stunner Michelle Keegan for awhile (and I still need to comment in illustrated depth on her Maxim appearance, which I promise to do SOON.   But anyway, she's still dating her boyfriend but they called off the engagement.   Which might eventually be good news for someone else down the line.

Bare-ing it: Michelle Keegan steps out make-up free as she still awaits boyfriend Max George's return home

Superb videos of national parks

Some great videos of the national parks;  Yosemite is a bit over-represented, and I wish there were more eastern parks, but they're still great to watch.   

National Parks Week:  Best Viral Videos of America's Parks

My favorite is number 4, shown below.

On clay, Nadal is still the master

Rafael Nadal beat Novak Djokovic in the final of the Monte Carlo Masters, a clay court tournament.  Even given that the Joker had beaten Nadal in seven previous finals, including Grand Slam finals, this one wasn't very close, 6-3, 6-1.  Djokovic was also emotionally stressed due to the death of his grandfather.   Well, this bodes well for a continued close rivalry and hopefully a good French Open for the men's singles.

Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to win 2012 Monte Carlo final

Mexico gets it, but will they do it?

The Mexicans, beset by smog in their capital city, have passed a climate change law that will reduce their consumption of fossil fuels and increase their use of renewable energy.   Theoretically, at least, because apparently the Mexican government is long on talk and short on action.

Mexico passes climate change law

"A law recently passed by the Mexican legislature will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 30 percent below business-as-usual levels by 2020, and by 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2050, reported Nature. By 2024, Mexico will also derive 35 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, according to the new law.

But some worry that enforcement of the laws may prove a challenge in Mexico, which is both the world’s 11th largest economy and greenhouse gas emitter.

“We’re very good at making laws. And then the problem is enforcing them,” Juan Bezaury, a Mexican public policy expert with the Nature Conservancy, told Nature."
Well, at least they're taking a position and trying to take action, which is more than I can say for the U.S.A.

Republican Christian Conservatives still VERY iffy about Romney

This is totally not a surprise.

Christian Conservatives at Florida Revival are Lukewarm for Mitt Romney

Illustrative quotes from the article, with my embedded comments.

When asked if he was enthusiastic about Romney, though, Barber laughed.  "That's a good question. I will work with every fiber of my being to see that Barack Obama is not re-elected, and to the extent there is a collateral benefit  to Mitt Romney, so be it."

Asked what he thought about Romney being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of  Latter-day Saints, Ken Brooks said he teaches that Mormonism isn't Christianity.  "He don't believe in the same Jesus that we do," Brooks said. "But he's better  than voting for a Muslim."

(Someone needs to inform him that Barack Obama is NOT a Muslim.  He's a Christian.  Don't any Christian Conservatives remember that overblown controversy about Obama's home church preacher, Jeremiah Wright?  Why's he attending a Christian church if he's a Muslim?)

"Art Ward, 73, of Orlando, Fla., said he is "okay" with Romney even though he would  have preferred several of Romney's more conservative rivals. He said that Mormons  "have some curious beliefs," but that he considers them Christians."

See above, on Ken Brooks' teachings.  Most conservative Christian churches teach that Mormonism is not only not Christianity, it's also heretical regarding what it says about Jesus Christ.

But his wife, Linda, 68, slowly shook her head as he spoke. "I worry. I don't think they are on the right road," she said of Mormons. When asked if they are Christians,  she paused. "I'm not sure of that," she said. She also said she is unsure whether  she will vote for Romney.

"Romney is our only choice, said Sidney Lanier, 76, a retiree from West Palm Beach  who wore a bright red sport jacket with a cross lapel pin. "We're not voting for him.  We're voting against Obama."

And someone should inform Sidney that sometimes it's better to have a known enemy than an unknown ally.

Dawn stays longer

The NASA double-asteroid mission, ion propulsion Dawn has been authorized to spend an extra 40 days in orbit around Vesta, its first destination.   The next destination is the biggest asteroid, Ceres.  So I guess that they worked out the orbital mechanics and propulsion speed and such so that Dawn can leave on August 26 and still get to Ceres on time.

Dawn gets extra time to explore Vesta

There are some new color maps of Vesta available here.

It still makes me astounded and happy that we have such agile and capable robotic satellites exploring our Solar System. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

On the other hand, this is definitely sexy

Did you know Victoria's Secret angel Alessandra Ambrosio is pregnant?

Now we all do.  And the vast majority of us are better for it.

Now this is BIG news

Yes… yes… no? G spot finding fails to convince 

Study confirms anatomic existence of the elusive G-spot

  • "Adam Ostrzenski, M.D., Ph.D., of the Institute of Gynecology in St. Petersburg, FL, conducted a stratum-by-stratum anterior vaginal wall dissection on an 83-year-old cadaver. The dissection established the presence of the G-spot, a well-delineated sac structure located on the dorsal (back) perineal membrane, 16.5 mm from the upper part of the urethral meatus, creating a 35 degree angle with the lateral (side) border of the urethra." 
Boy, that does not sound sexy at all. 
Yes, it does exist: U.S. gynaecologist says he has found the G-spot (but it's very, very small)

G-Spot Exists? Researcher Says He Has Evidence, But Skeptics Dispute Finding 

"This study adds to the debate, but as a whole, it doesn’t contribute new information" to what we know about the G-spot, said Dr. Amichai Kilchevsky, a urology resident at Yale-New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.
But in any case, researchers are likely to learn more from dynamic studies of living patients — such as functional MRIs, which can show what happens to tissue when it's stimulated, he said.
Clearly, this subject requires dedicated, in-depth investigation with a large spectrum of willing volunteers.  I'm in.

Phoebe is weird, we get it

Cassini finds Saturn moon has planet-like qualities


"Cassini images suggest Phoebe originated in the far-off Kuiper Belt, the region of ancient, icy, rocky bodies beyond Neptune's orbit. Data show Phoebe was spherical and hot early in its history, and has denser rock-rich material concentrated near its center. Its average density is about the same as Pluto, another object in the Kuiper Belt. Phoebe likely was captured by Saturn's gravity when it somehow got close to the giant planet."

So Phoebe is a relic moon in a backwards orbit.  Other than that, nothing's unusual about it.

Bayern Munich and Chelsea in Champions League final??

Now THAT's unlikely, especially considering Lionel Messi hit the crossbar on a penalty kick, Chelsea played most of the second half with 10 men,  and Ronaldo got stopped in the shootout in the Bayern Munich - Real Madrid match.   But, as the saying goes, that's why they play the games.

Bayern Munich beats Real Madrid in Champions League semi-final

Go Big Blue!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

One of my better efforts

"Evening at Home"

Flames crackling, groaning, glowing, sparking bright
Illuminating and disguising, shining dark
and flashing light, with curves and lines in sight
or then concealed, as archetypal stark
as stone-bound statues in a park - inside
the realm of spontaneity, both merged
and separate, dichotomous, the wide
and narrow to a single cause converged;
the lightspecks dance on physical romance
across, upon, below, above - beyond
the yearning draw of time, though its expanse
is measured by the burning wood. A bond
far fiercer than 'tween energy and mass,
they live within where timeless pleasures pass.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A conservative I agree with?

Hard to believe there's a conservative who holds a marginally acceptable opinion on climate change.  Even harder to believe that it's the current governor of Ohio, John Kasich.  But there it is.

John Kasich thinks there's a problem with climate change

""This isn’t popular to always say, but I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere," he said Thursday, according to the Columbus Dispatch. "I believe it. I don’t know how much there is, but I also know the good Lord wants us to be good stewards of his creation. And so, at the end of the day, if we can find these breakthroughs to help us have a cleaner environment, I’m all for it."
 Pretty mealy-mouthed, but we'll have to take what we can get.  

Animation of Lutetia flyby

Asteroids are real;  obviously, because the Dawn mission is currently orbiting one (Vesta).   And the Rosetta mission flew by Lutetia.  So here's what it's like to fly by an asteroid, considerably faster than it actually happened.

Margarita shows up

How did I miss that the delicious Margarita Levieva is on 'Revenge'? First noticed her as 'Lisa P' in Adventureland.   Also in forgettable 'Spread' with Ashton Kutcher -- but she's not.

I hate end-of-the-season sweeps month. 

Can't keep up.

Exactly what I was thinking

I had a lot of thoughts about the ridiculous letter that 49 people from NASA, including arch-denier and deeply idiocy-inflicted Harrison Schmitt, wrote to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  But before I had a chance to say anything, I found this well-written response, which did it very well.

Attacks on climate science by former NASA staff shouldn't be taken seriously

Even though I recommend reading this stunningly accurate putdown in its entirety, I have to reiterate its take-away summary:
"On the one hand we have a bunch of former administrators, astronauts, and engineers who between them have zero climate expertise and zero climate science publications.
On the other hand we have the climate scientists at NASA GISS who between them have decades, perhaps even centuries of combined professional climate research experience, and hundreds, perhaps even thousands of peer-reviewed climate science publications."
Read the comments if you want, but it's not necessary.

Biofuel in paradise

The islands of Hawaii, which obviously have to import virtually all of their energy, are taking a small step toward archipelagic energy independence.  They're building a refinery to brew biofuels from agricultural biomass.

Hawaii plans biorefinery

"At the facility, biomass -- including components of Hawaiian crops, such as macadamia nuts and sugarcane -- will be ground into small pieces and dried. The small bits will then go through a process called pyrolysis, which uses sand heated to 500 degrees Celsius that transforms the material to an oil vapor in less than 800 milliseconds, Honeywell's UOP says.

The residue, or char, is used to reheat the sand.

The oil vapor, meanwhile, is condensed into a liquid fuel that can be upgraded and processed to make fuel used for transportation and industrial boilers, without the sulfur pollution associated with petroleum-refined products."
OK, but first question:  what keeps the sand heated, because we know that any process that outputs energy needs more energy as input.  That is, if the laws of thermodynamics are to be believed.

What to do after you lose your head

Natalie Dormer on "Game of Thrones"

Well, I guess it was only a matter of time before Natalie Dormer showed up  on "Game of Thrones".  She was GREAT as Anne Boleyn in "The Tudors", but that's a role that definitely has a cut-off point, so to speak.  She showed up fetchingly in the thankless role of wife to a gay king, and  did her best to muster his forces for at least an attempt at consummation and royal-heir conception.  I hope we see more of her;  she was both innocent and knowing, seductive and yet somehow endearing.

By the way, even though it would be nice to show Natalie's um, appearance on "Game of Thrones", that's not a video you'll find on YouTube.  Probably findable elsewhere, though, and worth the trouble if you're into what she's good at and the goods she's got.

You can get a hint of what she's good at in this still image (pre-disrobing)

Meet Margaery and Brienne

My previous Natalie Dormer post here.

Underdogs lead both Champions Cup semi-final rounds

This year's Champions Cup semip-finals were shaping up to just be warmups for Barcelona and Real Madrid before they renewed their epic rivalry in the final.  But as of right now, Chelsea and Bayern Munich have the aggregate goal lead.  However, and this is a big however, the second leg for each semi-final will be home games for Real Madrid and Barcelona. 

Bayern Munich 2 Real Madrid 1: Late Gomez goal gives Germans narrow advantage

Chelsea 1 Barcelona 0: Drog takes the lead! Blues battle to hold out hope for Nou Camp

Note:  Ashley Cole, who I keep paying attention to primarily because he used to be married to Cheryl and blew that opportunity, is also a great player and made a goal line clearance to keep Chelsea ahead.

My fearless prediction:   one of the two favorites won't make it to the final.   I lean intellectually toward the upset coming from Bayern Munich, but my heart wants it to be Chelsea. 

In case you hadn't heard

Kelly Brook now has a Tumblr page.  Same name as her Twitter handle.


But of course you are.   And I am ... enthralled.

Bar Refaeli, because she is

Bar Refaeli is modeling swimwear again.   I suppose I’ll have to provide links to that.  Bar is so routinely unbelievably gorgeous that she actually saturates my beauty appreciation receptors.   Which means I have to look away for a few seconds before gazing adoringly and longingly at her next picture.

Big hair and bikinis: Bar Refaeli poses in stunning new swimwear shoot

The thing is, Daily Mail showed some of these before.  I definitely remember the big hair and the last swimsuit shown in this article.  The Daily Mail does recycle stories occasionally.

Here's the Web site for the swimsuit company that makes the swimsuits Bar is posing in:

Agua Bendita

Hope they don't mind some free advertising.

(And if you want to see her in a video where she's as nude as the women in Allure, go here)

Rating the Allure nude issue

Every year Allure magazine has an issue where they get five celebrity women to pose nude.   Now, there's nude, and there's NUDE.  In Allure, they're just nude.  I.e., no clothes on, but posed such that the vital areas which are kept undercover by the usual bikini are also out of sight here.  Still and all, skin is nice, and so are naked butts, provided they are smooth and curvy and not too large.   So here's my grades of the photos:    (remembering that the full NUDE glory of Heidi Klum in her untouchable prime is easy to find elsewhere)

Heidi Klum (on the cover):  C (the nude pose is too gaunt due to lighting, but it's still impressive that she looks like that after all FOUR kids, best picture is #3, the smile is still all hers and radiant)

Debra Messing:   C (she's beautiful, but just not enough body)

Maria Menounos:  B- (gorgeous, elegant face;  too much flank and not a bit of her fab abs)

Leslie Bibb:  A- (a little bit of side boob would have enhanced the rear view perfectly, and the rear view is pretty nice as it is)

Morena Baccarin:   B   (nice cleavage, radiant face, and I want my hands on her hips - remembering that her in the opening scenes of Homeland went full all out in a love scene, and that got an A from me)

Taraji P. Henson:   A  (side boob, rear view in the mirror, and just the right arch of the eyebrows.  That's how to do it right, ladies)

Link to a short video of the gals discussing their encounter with the camera sans clothing.

What’s up with Hayden Panettierre

Every now and then Hayden Panettierre goes on vacation and spends most of her time in a bikini.  Considering that Hayden is both fit and tight and pretty, the results of this are usually quite pleasing to the male eye, especially considering that either the paparazzi get pictures of her doing things naturally or unnaturally that are usually done in a bikini, or Hayden obliges her fans by sending pictures of herself in a bikini.  Either is good.    And we can keep up with her bikinied activities via the breathless coverage of the Daily Mail, with assistance from the Huffington Post.   Links and examples below.

Hayden Panettiere in a bikini, kissing her boyfriend (Scott McKnight)

HP:  poolside snap from romantic getaway

Hayden Panettiere plays tennis AND basketball during her romantic holiday...while wearing nothing but a bikini

Body confident

Umm... nice view if you can get it

I know I've got it

Slap from the past

This season  I got to a Washington Capitals hockey game for the first time in three years (which also happened to be attended by wondrous Playboy Playmate Amanda Cerny, who unfortunately I couldn't find in the crowd).  They showed a montage of movie clips to fire up the crowd at the end of the game, their "Unleash the Fury" crowd participation event. I didn't remember them doing this at the last game. Anyhow, I recognized most of the clips, but there was one with Paul Dooley as a sports announcer that I didn't recognize. Turns out it was from the famous near-parody of minor league hockey starring Paul Newman, entitled "Slapshot". Though the era of hockey goons is somewhat beyond us (no matter what's happening in the Flyers - Penguins series right now), it seems timely given the current spate of penalties getting handed out in the playoffs.

You can see the clip below.  Dooley is pretty funny at the end of it.

Hockey does need to do something about its target-the-head concussion problem.  Players are bigger and stronger than they were 20 years ago, but the human head hasn't changed any.

Hope the Caps can unleash the fury, legally, against the Bruins tonight.  They are one of the few Washington-Baltimore sports teams that have been consistent winners over the past decade, something I want to write more about later.  Though it is possible to have nascent hopes for the Nationals, who appear to have a pretty amazing pitching rotation right now.  That's what got the Tampa Bay Rays into the World Series a couple of years ago -- a young and hungry rotation where everybody had a good season.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kudos to Capriati

For years, Jennifer Capriati threatened to be a classic teenage sports phenom burnout. But she managed to clear up her troubles, clean up her act, get back in shape, and win three Grand Slam titles.   (And I seem to remember a loss to Justine Henin under savagely hot conditions in another Australian Open - have to check on that).   Anyway, Jennifer was justifiably just elected to the Tennis Hall of Fame. 

Wrong on the Justine Henin memory - it was actually her third Grand Slam.  Here's the description of what happened:

As a result of Lindsay Davenport's (ranked number one in the world at the time) withdrawal from the Australian Open due to an injury, Capriati was the top seed. She defeated the sixth-seeded Amélie Mauresmo and the fourth-seeded Kim Clijsters en route to her second consecutive final there, where she once again faced Martina Hingis. The match was played in very hot conditions, with the temperature exceeding 35 degrees Celsius. Capriati fought back from 6–4, 4–0 down and saved four championship points to eventually prevail 4–6, 7–6(7), 6–2. This was Capriati's third (and final) Grand Slam title. Her dramatic victory is widely regarded as one of the great comebacks in tennis history.


Jennifer Capriati elected to Tennis Hall of Fame

Amazing video of Mt. Etna eruption

Sicily/Italy's Mount Etna has fallen into a pattern of brief summit eruptions (called "paroxysms") every couple of weeks or so.    The video of the most recent eruption provides some pretty hot (coining a phrase) close-ups.

Comments on the Ann Romney flap

Boiled down and without the meta-messages of language, the Ann Romney flap is all about whether or not the lovely Mrs. Romney is a authoritative source on how the economy is affecting the economic vicissitudes of the distaff side of the United States electorate. And the total unassailable fact is, she is a woman raised in a wealthy household married to a very wealthy man. Has she indeed talked to a true cross-section of women to get an idea of the actual economic issues facing them, or rather has she met with a few Tea Party focus groups that have told her exactly what they think the problems are – which indeed they aren’t, for most of America? Below are some comments from Rosen making similar points. And then I snidely provide some possible comments that Ann has provided to Mitt about how the economy is affecting women that she knows.

Ann Romney and Working Moms

"Noting to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Romney — a daughter of privilege who became wealthier still while married to Mitt — had “never worked a day in her life,”  Rosen voiced the suggestion that she was, perhaps, less than ideally suited for relaying the financial worries and stresses of most American women to her husband’s presidential campaign. “She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues  that a majority of the women in this country are facing, in terms of how do we feed  our kids, how do we send them to school, and why do we worry about their future,” Rosen said.

Hilary Rosen was right and Romney is out of touch

"You don’t have to be a combatant on either side of the Mommy Wars to recognize that Ann Romney’s privileged life experience is not typical. She’s never had to worry about the price of a gallon of gas as she filled up the Cadillacs. She is at the tail end of a generation that did not agonize over the choice of whether to stay home with the kids and from an economic platform that gave her the luxury of making that choice"

1. Mitt, our maid says that the wage we’re paying her is not sufficient for her to pay her children’s tuition. That must indicate that college is getting expensive, because they aren’t even going to Ivy league schools!

2. The women at the hair salon say that the investment companies are really clamping down on salaries. In fact, Megbeth’s son is so strapped that he was only able to buy his fiancé a 1.5 carat diamond engagement ring, rather than the 3 carat ring she was expecting. That is SHOCKING!

3. Did you know that our limousine service driver says that gasoline is almost four dollars a gallon? He said that his wife actually has to use ground beef rather than ground sirloin when she makes tacos for the kids. Gives me shivers.

4. I actually had to pay $400 for this manicure. The salon owner said that he has to pay his girls enough to live on. What are we going to do about getting more jobs in America that pay well, Mitt?

5. The caterer for our garden party told me that the cost of gas is making food more expensive. Maybe we should serve less pate and more braunschweiger next time, to show we care.

6. The women in the focus group told me that ever since Barack Obama was in office, they have not been able to afford all the cable channels because their husband’s aren’t getting the pay raises they were used to before the recession. We have really got to fix this economy.

Why are there so many more upsets in hockey playoffs compared to other sports?

              I heard just prior to the Stanley Cup playoffs 2012 starting that something like 23 of 64 (68?) first round pairings over the last couple of years had resulted in a lower seed beating a higher seed.  Sometimes a drastically lower seed, like a #8, defeating a #1.   It happens very commonly.   Herewith three possible reasons why.

                Goaltending – if a goalie gets hot, and it happens, they can dominate every game.  It’s not like baseball, where a dominant pitcher can only go once every three or four games.  And if the lower-seeded team’s goalie is the one that gets hot, shots that normally go in end up not going in.

                Penalties – there are hardly any other sports (lacrosse is one, possibly) where a penalty results in a clear offensive advantage.   That’s what power plays do in hockey.  Just a couple of successful power plays by the lower-seeded team can win a game against the higher seed.

                Lucky bounce – hockey is fast-paced, and the element of chance sometimes plays a part.  A shot off the backboards that pops right in front of the net, a deflection off the skate of an opposing player, a rebound that skitters  just out of reach of the goalie’s glove – all happen, and provide scoring opportunities.  

Crap, Envisat appears to be toast

                The successful European environmental Earth observation satellite Envisat suddenly went silent on April 8, and thus far attempts to get it to respond to the “please wake up” entreaties from the ground have engendered no answer.    Now, satellite engineers have managed remarkable recoveries of impaired satellites when they get telemetry indicating what is going wrong, but when they ain’t getting’ nuttin’, there isn’t much they can do.  Which makes me wonder – again –if there wouldn’t be a viable business opportunity for manned satellite repair missions.  We proved it was possible to do with both the SolarMax satellite and the optically-challenged Hubble (and even for that matter Skylab) – there are such considerations as having to be able to get a ship above low-Earth orbit into the orbits where a lot of these satellites reside (and of course geostationary satellites are a whole lot higher) – but still, considering the multi-million dollar investments that go into the instruments on these satellites, wouldn’t it make sense to be able to fix them for a few more millions, rather than have to build new ones that cost a lot more?   We also need a reliable human-rated launch system, and a better spaceship in terms of maneuverability and flexibility than Soyuz, but hey, if you want astronauts to have something to do, what could be better than fixing broken satellites?  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I like Marta

I like Marta, Brazil's scintillating female soccer star, even though I'm glad the USA defeated them in the thrilling World Cup semifinal.  (I can feel bad for her and good for the USA women both at the same time.)

The video below shows why Marta is right up there with the best of the male soccer wizards like Messi and Ronaldo in terms of on-field creativity.

Go Scott

Washington Post article about Maryland's own Scott Mann's

third attempt to make the Olympic whitewater kayak squad.

At the 2012 U.S. Olympic trials for Canoe Slalom beginning Thursday in Charlotte, Mann, 29, could take a major step toward guaranteeing himself a trip to the London Games this summer. A win would give him an edge, but the selection will remain unresolved until a World Cup event in Cardiff, Wales, in early June, when the three-tiered process concludes.

Good luck, Scott.  It'd be nice if there was still a Wide World of Sports so this would be on the telly.

A sonnet for April

Every nowand then I post one of my sonnets here.  This one's for April.

"In the shadows of the stage lights"

A sharp excursion from expected norms
beneath the placid bland exterior
which I present; their unencumbered forms
beguile, bewitch and fascinate the roar
of singing blood and ringing raging need
Which heretofore I have mosttimes suppressed.
I am too bound by knowledge and my creed
to deviate intensely - so expressed
in eyeful adulation is the grain
of brotherhood and manhood to be joined
with bared connubiality - the sane
dimensions of intention have been coined
in mint condition, like my own, so bright
exposure hides me from inquiring light.

No way to run a state

Maryland legislature scrambles, and doesn't finish budget

I've previously chuckled when the partisan politics in the state across the river (Virginia) couldn't get their budget figured out, which is actually the case again this year.  (And they've still got problems, such as cutting their portion  of the promised funding to finish the Washington Metrorail extension to Dulles airport.  GREAT.)

But our Maryland legislature hasn't looked very good at doing its job this year either. 

But by the way, the Republicans played the game well.  Even though their tactics suck eggs.

"Realizing Democrats were running out of time, they [GOP] attempted to filibuster a  measure to authorize a new set of environmental fees to offset pollution  from storm-water runoff."

And of course they were happy about it:

"Jubilant Republicans shared their thoughts via Twitter following the  midnight adjournment. “Great ending. Session falls apart no income  tax increase. Spending increase cut in half,” read one tweet, from Del. Michael Hough (R-Frederick). Another, from Del. Michael Smigiel (R-Cecil), declared success: “We saved taxpayers $600 mill tonight  as failure to pass a funding source means we revert to doomsday budget."

Which means, among other things:

"Funding for grade school students would also be reduced by $111 per pupil. And grants to the state’s largest school districts would be cut entirely,  accounting for nearly $129 million.

Stem cell research, bio-tech tax credits, and local law enforcement grants would be eliminated. Over 500 state jobs would be eliminated and all state agencies would have to cut expenses by 8 percent."

So -- the Republicans are jubilant about the potential for poorer education and higher crime.  Just what I would expect from them.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just passing this along

Humans are very fortunate creatures, in that we enjoy sex and can have as much as we want (provided partners are amenable).    Pandas, on the other hand, have reproductive constraints due to the fact that they're only ready for and capable of sex for about a maximum of three days every year.

Nature supposedly knows best, but this sure doesn't seem to be advantageous.  Or enjoyable.  But I'm not a panda, thankfully.

Panda sex iffy because male, female reproductive cycles must align

Iowa nuclear plant still under repair

Seems like there are a more than usual number of nuclear plants out of commission for repairs.  Maybe not, but any loss of capacity in the summer is cause for concern.   This one and San Onofre in California are in the news.

Fort Calhoun [Iowa] nuclear plant unlikely to restart before fall

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Omaha Public Power District met in Blair, a few miles from the plant that's about 20 miles north of Omaha. The meeting is part of the strict oversight regulators have imposed on Fort Calhoun because of problems at the plant.
The NRC's Troy Pruett said he expects the agency will be conducting detailed inspections at Fort Calhoun through the summer. After that, NRC officials will review the situation before deciding whether the plant is ready to restart safely.
Background quote from the article:

Utility officials said earlier this year that they expected to be able to restart Fort Calhoun sometime this spring. Now the restart date is unknown because the NRC will have to sign off on all the repairs and changes OPPD makes to Fort Calhoun before it can restart.
The problems at the plant don't represent a public safety threat, according to regulators and utility officials, but additional scrutiny is required because of them.
As with any complex system, maintenance and high-quality monitoring procedures are going to be required!

Germany out; Russian in on Brit nukes?

With a German company backing out of a two-plant nuclear energy project in Britain, it appears that the Russians might be willing to step in.  Sounds like a reasonable business move to me.

Russia looks to nuclear power expansion in the UK

Kommersant daily reports Rosatom has long been interested in the U.K. nuclear industry, but this opportunity came up as two German companies, RWE and EON, said they are willing to sell their share in the project.
The Horizon project involves the building of two nuclear stations in Wales and in Gloucestershire. They are set to replace two old plants due to be decommissioned in 2012 and in 2014.
Britain is moving forward with nuclear to meet their energy needs and for climate concerns.  We could learn a lot from their foresight.

Though German energy companies promised to find buyers for Horizon as soon as possible, their decision has already raised concerns about the UK reform of the electricity market that includes building up to 12 new generation reactors. The country is set to cut 12 GW or 13% of its installed coal generating capacity in 2015 and a further 7GW of nuclear capacity by 2020 in order to reduce greenhouse gas emission.
 I'll have to investigate that last part - why would they cut nuclear capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

So many wrong reasons

Anytime I read about a new hydroelectric dam project in a relatively pristine, unique environment, I cringe.  It's a major change for an ecology.  We have so few pristine or nearly-pristine regions and environments left in this world.

Thus, the Chilean Supreme Court's approval of a dam project in Patagonia -- which is a relatively untouched environment, due to location -- sure makes me feel poorly.  I wish there was another way.  And I also ask, if this dam system is going to supply 20% of the country's electricity needs by 2020, how long are the transmission lines?  Which, by the way, are another disruption of what are probably fairly pristine mountain ranges.


Chilean court rejects opposition to Patagonia dam

Further back in time:

Protests after Chile backs giant dams in Patagonia's valleys

The Patagonia Without Dams advocacy group accused the commissioners of conflicts of interest and said the project was "destructive and illegal". It said the dams would flood at least 5,600 hectares of rare forest ecosystems, river valleys and farmland.
Regarding the transmission lines, from International Rivers: Patagonia

Electricity from these dams would be sent thousands of kilometers north to serve Chile’s biggest cities and its mammoth copper industry. More than 2,000 kilometers of transmission lines would require one of the world's longest clearcuts – much of it through untouched temperate rainforests found nowhere else on the planet – and would traverse a seismically active region strewn with volcanoes.
Pictures and background on what would be lost

Now, I suspect that not all the pictures are of places that would be affected;  my favorite picture is below.  And looking at the map, I think that perhaps more damage would be done by the transmission lines to the forests than the actual flooding of the lakes.  Still and all, I don't like any of it.  Given Chile's seismicity, this isn't a great place for nuclear power - solar could make a dent but couldn't cover all the need.   This is one place where international cooperation would be useful - build nuke plants in Argentina away from the seismic zones and transmit the electricity to Chile.  Transmission lines in Chile are going to be endangered by earthquakes no matter where the lines are.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Starting line on CO2-driven deglaciation

Background:  for a long time, it has been held as a basic arguing point by the climate skeptic crowd that there's an ice core record from Antarctica that shows global temperatures rising about 800 years before Earth's temperature started rising when the Earth's climate transition from glacial to interglacial conditions during the Pleistocene Era.  This is the so-called "lag" problem. 

Numerous informed blog posts have addressed this:

The lag between temperature and CO2 (Gore's got it right).

CO2 lags temperature - what does it mean?

Now, here's some of the better summaries of the most recent Nature paper, first-authored by Jeremy Shakun.  Put simply, combining a global (emphasis on the global) temperature proxy record plus a state-of-the-art climate model clarified the timing of events on a regional basis.  That's what has been lacking before.  And that's why anyone who clings to the "800 year lag" argument and is dismissive toward the continuing process of knowledge advancement via the scientific process is demonstrating CLASSIC confirmation bias.

1. Carbon dioxide caused Ice Age's end, pioneering simulation shows

2. How carbon dioxide melted the world

3. Greenhouse gas is no weakling

Here's the basic summary, from the second link:

"The global record shows that the end of the ice age was probably triggered by changes in Earth’s orbit and subsequent shifts in the ocean currents that move heat around the world. But rising CO2 levels amplified this initially regional warming.

It's not clear what caused the rise in carbon dioxide. One idea is that it leached out of the deep ocean when melting ice and shifting winds brought water rich in the gas up to the surface.

In Antarctica, the temperature rose more quickly than elsewhere owing to a slowing of the ocean currents that usually carry heat away from the south to the north. This accounts for the lag between the carbon dioxide and temperature records on that continent."

Regarding the recent paper, the uninformed masses at WattsUpWithThat are all over it.  And probably all wrong about it.  But I include this because it shows how the skeptical mind deals with contravening evidence by belittling and dismissing it without valid grounds to do so, based primarily on biased thinking.

It should be noted that it only has serious non-peer-reviewed problems stated by people who have a mindset already attuned to only that evidence which confirms their viewpoint.

I hope to write a longer analysis of this later.  But this is a good start for now. 

When does "The Client List" start?

The answer is:  April 8th.   Same night as premiere of Season 2 of "The Borgias" and episode 2 of Season 2 of "Game of Thrones".

Thank God cable re-airs shows during the week.

The Client List premieres Sunday, April 8th  (there are preview videos at this link)

What took us so long?

How in the world did it take so long for us to invent a Starship Enterprise pizza cutter?

If you want one, you can get it here.  (from ThinkGeek)

NASA makes a good (easy) decision

The amazing NASA Kepler mission, which is showing us that there are lots and lots and lots and lots of planets in the galaxy, was in danger of ending before it was done, because it was taking longer to do what it was doing.  The reason was that it measures changes in the brightness of stars, and some stars just vary in brightness.  A lot more stars than was expected, it turns out.

So -- Kepler needed a funding extension to finish the job it was sent into space to do.  And since it has been to this point a remarkable success, that would seem to be an easy decision to make.  But nothing is certain when bean counters and budget balancers are putting pressure on all the agencies and administrations to cut, even groundbreaking, unprecedented, worldview-changing science like Kepler is doing.  So nothing is certain until it's certain.

Well, thankfully, NASA made the right easy decision, and Kepler will keep on counting planets.

NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission extended through 2016

More on the Kelly Brook bottom

One of the most popular posts on my blog is entitled "A brief tribute to Kelly Brook's backside".  I had no idea that this would be popular, but at least some people take a look at it.  I checked it, and some of the links were defunct.  So I updated all the links and added several new ones.   There is no doubt, despite the magnificence of her muchly-lauded frontside pair, the backside pair is nearly as loverly.   So enjoy the update - I certainly did.

A brief tribute to Kelly Brook's backside (updated)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Besides the obvious reasons, sex is good for you

This article was happened upon by accident;  I figured as a public service I'd provide a link and a summary.  And a position, as a bonus.  

The Hidden Health Benefits of Sex

1. "it can actually make you physically healthier"
2. "people who had intercourse at least once over two weeks were better able to manage stressful situations"
3. Sounder Sleep -  "It's downright dreamy how an Orgasm can lull you to sleep"
4.  Pain relief - "The surge of hormones released after an orgasm can help ease any annoying ache, whether it's a strained back or a head pounder"
5. Fewer colds - " People who have sex were found to have higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A (IgA)"
6. "Regular sex promotes the release of hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, which can keep the body looking young and vital"
7. Lighter Periods (with Fewer Cramps)
8. "cardiologists consider sexual activity comparable to a modest workout on a treadmill"

 Tonight's prescription is called the "Leap Frog"

The back story on the Linz symphony

I heard this in its entirety on a long Maryland drive today.  The introduction was informative;  there are many different ways to show that Mozart was a musical genius (stating the obvious), but writing an entire symphony in four days and having it performed  - amazing.  Amadeus indeed.

Symphony No. 36 in C major, K. 425, "Linz"

Of the music he [Mozart] composed in Linz, and the hospitality he enjoyed there, he wrote to his father with some excitement on October 31:

"When we arrived at the gates of Linz, a servant was standing there to conduct us to the Old Count Thun's, where we are still living. I really cannot tell you how they overwhelm us with kindness in this house. On Thursday, the Fourth of November, I am going to give a concert in the theater, and, as I have not a single symphony by me, I am writing away over head and ears at a new one, which must be ready by then."
The Symphony in C major composed for that occasion, apparently in the incredibly brief period of four days, is clearly Mozart's finest work in this form up to that time; it marked the beginning of a new and magnificent phase for him as a symphonist.