Thursday, February 28, 2013

EJ sets it down straight

I have a lot to say about sequestration (and maybe even a Modest Proposal if I get a little more time), but E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post sure said a lot of right things about it in his most recent column.

Ending the permanent crisis

"And a staunch conservative has succinctly explained why this problem really is a Republican problem. In an admirably candid interview Monday with Ezra Klein on MSNBC, Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger, said the new tea party Republicans in the House don’t want their leadership to sit down with Obama to talk because “they have their doubts about the ability of Republicans to negotiate any better situation.”

Read that carefully: We are in this mess because Republicans don’t trust their leaders to bargain. Domenech added that many conservatives “don’t buy this distinction between smart cuts and dumb cuts,” a distinction that is not “all that critical.” This is astonishing: Government is bad, so all cuts are more or less the same.
And you wonder why we have a crisis?"
No, I don't wonder.  A powerless Speaker of the House, a Minority Leader that caused the sequestration, and protected idiots from gerrymandered districts is a recipe for disaster, and that's where we're going.

Forget sequestration a minute, and worry about helium

OK, I know that sequestration is the dish of the day, and I'll have a post about that right after this one.

But I've been posting occasionally on the HELIUM CRISIS ever since I first heard about it, and Congress is trying to take action to avert the worst of the HELIUM CRISIS.

I am not kidding!  The HELIUM CRISIS is real.  We, globally, as a human race, could run out of helium, and helium does a darned lot of things for us besides filling up birthday party balloons and Buzz Lightyear in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

Congress tries again to head off looming HELIUM CRISIS

"A new bill hopes to address issues with the system, and would continue current sales for another year and then again in a second phase lasting until about 2020. But even if the bill becomes law, the helium reserve will be gone within roughly 15 years."

"...  the wispy gas has several properties that make it indispensable for myriad high-tech uses. It's the only element that remains a liquid at absolute zero, so it's the only thing that can serve as a cryogen to cool the superconducting magnets in MRI machines and particle accelerators such as Europe's Large Hadron Collider. The supremely inert gas is also indispensable for the production of microchips and optical fibers."

But here's the worst part:
"For the second time in 8 months, a congressional committee is considering a bill that would avert a calamitous shortage of helium that's sure to take place this year if Congress does nothing."

Since this is a Congress that specializes in doing nothing, it looks like a HELIUM CRISIS is a sure bet.

Update on Elena Delle Donne

The University of Delaware's Elena Delle Donne wasn't in the news much (partly because she plays in Delaware), and the superstar athlete was suffering from symptoms of Lyme disease (really?) early in the season, but I just checked in and she's doing pretty well now.

Elena Delle Donne - ESPN Women's Basketball Player of the Week

Can Delaware make another deep tournament run if their star player is in top form?

Currently on 20-game win streak since losing to Maryland. Wow.  Delle Donne had 32 points against Hofstra tonight.

I'd say she's pretty ready.

Phelps' new girlfriend is outstanding

Michael Phelps had a nice model girlfriend for awhile around the Olympics and a bit after, but they broke up.

Now he's dating Sarah Herndon.  She's a model and a waitress.  She's a good model.

As the saying goes, d*mn.   I mean, D*mn.

She is a treat for the eyes, and looks like fun.  And considering the rigors that Phelps subjected himself to over the past four Olympic quadrennium to get the gold and the glory, I'd say he probably deserved a fun -- and seriously fine -- girlfriend.

Michael Phelps' girlfriend Sarah Herndon is on fire (and I have to add, I'm already tired of that catchphrase, but I'm not tired of Sarah).


A crazy, but genius, idea

I am stunned that no one thought of this before.  It's been in the news -- probably even been trending on Twitter, too -- so my comments come late as this story broke.

Still, the idea of building a replica of the Titanic so that people could recreate the experience of being a passenger on it is really genius, and I think will probably make serious money.   Because it won't have all the amenities of the current cruise monsters (multiple pools, water slides, ice rinks, rock climbing walls, etc.), it won't be the family vacation that cruise lines are pushing these days.  It'll be nostalgia, romantic nostalgia, but it's likely to move pretty fast, and so it might become the posh way to go from New York to London.  Or it could settle into an East Coast - Bermuda route, and give a Titanic experience over just a couple of days.

Anyway, I think it'll be a great ride.  Heck, I want to go.

Titanic to sail again in 2016

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Governors deal with sequestration reality

It seems like it's an abstract thing to the Congressional Republicans to cut 5% from the nation's budget. But it sure isn't abstract to the governors of the states of this fine Union.  See below.

Sequester impact on states detailed in new reports

White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer said the blame will fall squarely on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) if the sequester kicks in, since they aren't budging in accepting new revenues that stem from higher taxes on the wealthy.

"Republicans are making a policy choice that these are cuts are better for the economy than closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy," Pfeiffer said on the same call Sunday. The American people, he said, "overwhelmingly disagree with that choice."

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), meanwhile, told HuffPost the real focus should be on passing Obama's proposal, not on how states should be preparing for cuts that will hurt the middle class.

The sequester "is going to stop our economic recovery in its tracks," Hassan said.
"We don’t like taxes. We don’t like increasing taxes," Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) said during a Sunday appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "But we know we have to be pragmatic. We know there has to be some kind of compromise, but dang it, they need to get the job done. They don’t need to leave the public out there hanging."

'Dancing with the Stars' next cast

Dancing with the Stars' next cast

• Boxer Victor Ortiz and new pro Lindsay Arnold
• Singer Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough
• Country star Wynonna Judd and Tony Dovolani
• Soap star Ingo Rademacher and Kym Johnson
• Disney Channel star Zendaya Coleman and Valentin Chmerkovskiy
• Comedian Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess
• Reality star Lisa Vanderpump and new pro Gleb Savchenko
• Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas
• Olympic skater Dorothy Hamill and Tristan MacManus
• Comedian D.L. Hughley and Cheryl Burke
• NFL star Jacoby Jones and Karina Smirnoff

I would think I could pick the final three right now: Zendaya Coleman, Dorothy Hamill, and Jacoby Jones.  Raisman could be a dark horse.  I'd be stunned if Andy Dick got past Week Three.

Like volcano monitoring, maybe?

Jindal on sequestration:  Obama should stop scaring people

I love how Martin O'Malley is behind Jindal commenting on how the idiot is just talking
out of his ass.

Don't sneer at science of volcano monitoring

"Thanks to "something called volcano monitoring," to use the denigrating language of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, passenger jets did not fly into ash clouds when Alaska's Mount Redoubt erupted earlier this week.

Volcano monitoring is a matter of life and death in Alaska," wrote Begich. "The science of volcano monitoring and the money needed to fund it is incredibly important in our state and could affect the economic well-being of other states and countries because of Alaska's key role in international commerce." "

Sequestration is going to cut a lot of things we need, but the true impact probably won't get rung down on the Republicans until people that they think matter DIE.  Sorry to say, but I think that's true.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Speaker Boehner, the American people DON'T WANT what you say they want

Speaker of the House John Boehner yammers incessantly about what "the American people" want with regard to deficits and the budget and spending.  What he's actually doing is quoting a miniscule segment of the American populace that is decidedly way out of the mainstream, moderate, help-your-fellow-man, we're-all-in-this-together NORMAL American citizenry.

A poll shows just how true this is.  Americans really want solutions, and simple, balanced solutions at that. They don't want cuts that reduce services.  They don't want a slowed-down American economy close to recession due to cutbacks in government activities, which will have a trickle-down effect in all sectors of the economy.  They DON'T want deficit reduction at the cost of a government that works - a government that works for them, which many in the GOP seem to forget.

Here's the article about the poll.

On issues, GOP badly out of step with America

"Taxes and the deficit: 76 percent say the we should reduce the deficit with a combination of tax increases and spending cuts (the Democratic position), while only 19 percent say tax increases should be off the table completely (the Republican position). While a majority of those who want a combination of the two want it to be weighted towards spending cuts, that’s also the position held by many Democratic leaders (to the chagrin of the left).

Climate change: 54 percent say the most important priority for our energy supply should be developing alternative energy sources, while only 34 percent say it should be expanding exploration and production of oil, coal and natural gas. Americans favor setting stricter emission limits on power plants by 62-28."

[ NOTE:  I definitely count nuclear energy as an alternate energy source, because it DEFINITELY isn't oil, coal, and natural gas.]

So the next time Boehner lies about what the American people supposedly want, I'd like to choke the tan off of him.

Two predictions: one good (but bad), one not so good

Keeping up with my undangerous predictions for 2013, my prediction that Caroline Wozniacki would win a Grand Slam this year still isn't looking too great.  She's definitely not the equal of Kvitova, Azarenka, Sharapova, and Williams.  I think it's very  unlikely that those four would all falter in a Slam, and there's several other pretty good players out there now, too.  Woz will have to step it up a few notches to get the major silverware.

Kvitova pummels Wozniacki to reach Dubai final

On the other hand, the sequester cuts will hit the national parks very hard. Still no word of actual full-park closures, but they are getting closer, with full areas, campgrounds, visitor centers, and entrances being closed or opening later in the season.   I think that a demonstration will be enacted by one of the park managers to show the f*cking GOP that caused this mess (see the links and quotes further below in this post) what dumbasses they really are.    I could also add heartless idiot bastards. So I will.

A look at potential sequester cuts to national parks

* Glacier National Park, Mont.: Delayed opening of the only road that provides access to the entire park.

* Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.: Close the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, Lawrence S. Rockefeller Preserve and the Flagg Ranch Information Station impacting 300,000 visitors.

* Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, HI: Invasive species would go untreated.  [ Very serious problem on the islands).

About that stupid sequester:

In sequester fight, there are no winners

"Even more absurd is the fact that there are unnecessary crises yet to come. In another month, the federal government faces a shutdown unless Congress keeps it running by passing a continuing resolution. And not far down the road, there will be another fight over preventing default by raising the debt ceiling.

Obama is likely to continue winning “victories” that only King Pyrrhus could love. The president is aided by the fact that public opinion is with him on two key points: Elected officials were not sent to Washington to do gratuitous harm; and the nation’s fiscal woes should be addressed with a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases."
Ruth Marcus is EXACTLY right here.

Republicans rewrite history on the sequester

"The underlying concept, from Democrats’ view, was never to implement the $1.2 trillion through spending cuts alone. Rather, the threat of sequester was to be leverage for a blend of spending cuts and tax increases. Sequester is happening because Republicans in the supercommittee balked at raising adequate revenue. [And they were instructed by their Congressional leadership NOT to accept any deal that included new revenue.]

Second, no matter whose brainchild it was, Republicans voted for a deal that included the sequester as the enforcement mechanism. They can’t now disown their vote by insisting it was the other guy’s idea."
So, and I will be repeating this mantra many times:  the sequestration is totally the Republicans' fault, and the recession it will cause is ALSO the Republicans fault.  All the hardships, longer lines, reduced services, less availability of those things we Americans have a right to as citizens of this great country -- all those things are the Republicans' fault.


Bluefin Tuna Caught Near California Still Radioactive Years After Fukushima 

I still think that the best way to get the Japanese to stop depredating the bluefin tuna fish stocks around the world in their quest for super sushi is to publicize the hell out of the fact that bluefin tuna is now radioactive due to the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.  Who cares how much actual radioactivity they're radiating?

The key is to stop them from eating ANY of it.  Add to that the mercury and  maybe toss in some PCBs and other long-lived organics, and the conclusion should be that eating bluefin tuna is DANGEROUS.

Stop the madness!

Solar flare video

This solar flare video is mesmerizing and remarkable. Remarkable because solar scientists used to just watch single pictures of the Sun. Now they can watch movies!
This sure makes magnetism obvious, doesn't it?

Monday, February 18, 2013

I'd console her


According to this article, "Dancing with the Stars" male dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy split with his scrumptiously fit girlfriend Peta Murgatroyd a couple of weeks ago.

Considering what I wrote about her before I even knew who she was, I'd be glad to lend a her a shoulder to cry on and perform other consoling activities, particularly those that she might be missing without a man in the domicile.

Prime Peta view

I wonder what's going on with Eliza Dushku, and then...

I speculated brainily about what had happened to hottie Eliza Dushku, did a bit of Web searching to find out she was in an online Hulu series (and got nominated for an acting award for it), and then a couple of days later the Daily Mail shows her at the awards show for aforementioned award.

Eliza in the IMdB

The show, "Leap Year", in the IMdB

She didn't win.  But she looked good doing it.

Eliza at the Streamy Awards

Of course, Eliza looks pretty good doing just about anything.

And may I just laud the good fortune of Rick Fox, who wed, bedded, and impregnated Vanessa Williams in her prime (which was top notch), and then moved on to Dushku.   Some guys...

And the thing is, they even do nice things for the community.  This is them visiting a center for the blind last June.  They also compete in triathlons.  D*mn.

Fast high school swimming in DC area

In case you hadn't heard (and if you don't follow swimming, you probably didn't), several high school records were set at the Washington DC Metro championships.  The records were set by Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky in the 500 freestyle - twice, and Olympic trialist Jack Conger in the 500 freestyle - and the 100 freestyle, when he led off the 400 freestyle relay.  (Ledecky also broke the independent school 200 freestyle record, and her 500 was less than a second off the American record, held by another Marylander, Katie Hoff).

We've got fast swimming here in Maryland. And I think the unfortunate move of Maryland to the Big 10 means that the University of Maryland has a swimming team again - not that any of these superstars will go there.

Pretty impressive stuff, nonetheless.

Below are links to articles with videos of the two 500s.

Ledecky resets the 500 free record

Jack Conger knocks off 30-year old 500 freestyle record

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Close to a fulfilled prediction

Many times on this blog I've talked about a bit of concern that we might get smacked with enough of an asteroid to cause major civilization problems.  Back at the beginning of the year, in my 10 undangerous predictions, I didn't choose to predict that we'd get hit with a notable asteroid.  But I did predict this:

 10. A major satellite collision in space emphasizes the space debris problem.
-- The odds of this keep increasing every year!

Oh, how I wish I'd predicted "a major bolide event will emphasize the danger of NEOs".  But I didn't.

However, as we now know, we HAVE been reminded of the danger of NEOs.

I think Robert Reich is right

Robert Reich argues repeatedly that the budget deficit is not the biggest problem facing us now, economy-wise.

Though obviously I'm not as well-versed in economics as he is, the arguments ring true.

The biggest Republican lie

Perhaps most importantly, it advances the Republican's biggest economic lie - that the budget deficit is "the transcendent issue of our time," in McConnell's words, and that balancing the budget will solve America's economic problems.

Big lies can do great damage in a democracy. This one could help Republicans in their coming showdowns. But it could keep the economy in first gear for years, right up through the 2014 midterm elections, maybe all the way to the next presidential election.
Republicans who say the budget deficit is responsible for this are living on another planet. Consumers still don't have the jobs and wages, nor ability to borrow, they had before the recession. So their belts are still tight. To make matters worse, the temporary cut in Social Security taxes ended January 1, subtracting an additional $1,000 from the typical American paycheck. Sales taxes are increasing in many states.

Under these circumstances, government deficits are not a problem. To the contrary, they're now essential. (Yes, we have to bring down the long-term deficit, but that's mostly a matter of reining in rising healthcare costs - which, incidentally, are beginning to slow.)

If Republicans paid attention they'd see how fast the deficit is already shrinking. It was 8.7 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2011. The Congressional Budget Office forecasts it will shrivel to 5.3 percent by the end of 2013 if we go over the fiscal cliff on March 1 -- and some $85 billion is cut from this year's federal budget. Even if March's fiscal cliff is avoided, the CBO expects the deficit to shrink to 5.5 percent of the GDP, in light of deficit reduction already scheduled to occur.

This is not something to celebrate. It translates into a significant drop in demand, with nothing to pick up the slack.
Wish there were intelligent Republicans to listen.

Now he's simply a coward

John Boehner has given up on trying to convince the Tea Party crazies in the House to do the right things for the country.  He wants the President and the Senate to lead the way, and then let his House idiots block their good ideas.


John Boehner, House Speaker, Leaves Major Legislative Proposals Up To Senate 

Now, as the government lurches toward automatic, across-the-board spending cuts known as a "sequester" that are set to drain $85 billion from the Pentagon and domestic programs, Boehner is acting as though it's not his problem.

"Remember, this is the president's idea. He insisted on this," the speaker says. "And until he puts forward a plan to replace the sequester and his Senate Democratic colleagues pass it, we're going to be stuck with it."


 More of Boehner's most ardently conservative Republicans are embracing the cuts as the deadline nears,


If he was a leader, he would tell the House that they have to replace the sequester cuts with something much smarter and more flexible.

But he's not a leader, is he?

Sharapova might be 2nd best, but it's a long way to first

Semi-Big news in tennis that 31-year old Serena Williams got ranked 1st again. And she just showed how good she is right now by easily getting by Maria Sharapova 6-3, 6-2 in Qatar.  She will play Azarenka in the final.

Maria is running into the Roger Federer-syndrome with Williams, who is about the only player that can beat her consistently.   Otherwise, with the exception of Azarenka and Kvitova, Maria is pretty much clobbering everybody else.  However, Serena occasionally has mental lapses or physical setbacks, so if Maria hangs in there with her current form, she could still win a couple more Slams.

Serena Williams reaches Qatar Open final

Inside the guts of a geyser

I never thought I would live to see the day when enterprising researchers put a camera down the conduit of a geyser.  It always seemed like a good idea to me.  So it has been done, as the video below shows, and they learned that the inner plumbing of a geyser is more complicated (and in a sense, less complicated too) than what had been thought before.

More complicated in the sense that there appear to be little piles of rubble all around, sort of like a little cave, and many of these little piles of rubble act as boiling points, just like the little bubble pebbles that are put in beakers in the chem lab to prevent explosive BIG bubbles of scalding hot acid.  (That's a good thing to avoid.)  Less complicated in the sense that the plumbing had been envisioned more as a complex series of tubes.  This is just basically a cave flooded with hot boiling water.

This also explains to some extent why geysers can be off and on.  Just a small shift in the location of a couple of boulder blocks might totally change the generation of the right size and number of bubbles to cause an eruption.  And then the geyser might not erupt for years until another shift gets the bubble pattern right again.  Also, an area of the underwater cavern might get cut off or restricted by a rock pile shift.

Anyway, cool to watch.  This was filmed at the Valley of the Geysers in Kamchatka.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

And I like nuclear energy

Interesting points made here:

The top 5 reasons intelligent liberals don't like nuclear energy

1. Ignorance.
2.  Bad psychological connections.
3.  Waste.
4.  Damn them Republicans.

"It does not help that climate change deniers such as Republican Senator James Inhofe are also pro-nuclear power. The only way to stop oneself from making such flawed political connections is to be reminded that this is not a political issue. Objections to and support for nuclear power should go beyond political partisanship. The merit of nuclear power lies in the science and thus bows to no political or partisan mongering, and especially not to dedicated deniers like Inhofe. It’s important for liberals to separate the scientific pros and cons of nuclear energy from the political credentials of those who support or oppose it."

However, the weirdest thing is that climate change is one of the best reasons FOR nuclear power.  If the skeptics would give up their quixotic and increasingly creationistic campaign against the realities of science on climate, then we would have more impetus for major expansion of nuclear power.

5. Fear of the Unknown .

Read the article at the link to get the full explanation of each point.

Will Julianne Hough be able to act?

I am a big Julianne Hough fan. Her dancing was amazing, she's marvelously good-looking, she's likable, and fame doesn't seem to have affected her too much -- plus her mega-rich and decent-looking BF Ryan Seacrest seems to know what he's got and treats her right.

But the problem is, she's tried to branch out from the dancing base with mixed success.  Country singing didn't seem to work, even though she had good pipes and the sexiest video this side of Lorrie Morgan in a low-cut dress. It seemed, however, that the establishment didn't like a bright-smiled, long-legged hoofer trying to get into their business without paying the requisite honky-tonk dues.  So she has gone acting, starting from her foundation with "Footlose", still doing the dance and song thing with "Rock of Ages", and now this Valentine's Day goes for the romantic ring with "Safe Haven".

So there are two questions. 
A) Can she act?  B) Are established actors going to be miffed at her for getting in above the ground floor?

I don't know. The "Safe Haven" trailers look promising, and there are OBVIOUS comparisons to "The Notebook".  Unfortunately, because she's the lead here, I think if she falls flat and gets panned, it's going
to take her awhile to recover.

Well, I should point out she looked great at the premiere.  That's a start.

The 60-second Movie Review was fairly kind to it.

Rotten Tomatoes, however, was not.  There is, however, one of the more massive disparities between the Tomatometer and the audience "like" rating (70%) that this might still be a decent romantic movie.  Curious about the weird twist at the end that's mentioned in a couple reviews.

If not fish, what?

Because of the vastness of the overfishing crisis facing the world, I frequently chide countries and citizenry that eats lots of fish on their overconsumption of the already-overfished fisheries.  And unfortunately, there are certain things about seafood that make it desirable as a dinner dish, such as:

1. It tastes good, frequently;
2. It looks good, frequently;
3. It's good for us, frequently (except for the mercury), and
4. Tradition.

Now, I am not advocating and end to eating fish.  What I'm advocating, just as I advocate energy conservation measures IN ALL THEIR FORMS, is eating LESS fish.  A modest reduction in the amount of seafood consumed in this world could go a long way toward restoring the beleaguered fish stocks. 

And note that I have NO problem with eating seafood that is not overfished, and some that should be overfished, like lionfish and Asian carp.  Barramundi looks like it could be a good choice, likewise for tilapia and catfish.  And  hatcheries seem adept at raising and releasing trout.

So we could change patterns of consumption quite readily, and help out the fish that need help, such as the dangerously overconsumed tuna.  The EU is taking steps that need to be taken, realizing that the path they're on is unsustainable. (It'd be nice if they also went more for nuclear energy, because renewables aren't going to cut it unless we come up with amazingly better batteries, but that's  another article).

The subject of this is what we could replace the fish with.  And I have three ideas:

1. Turkey - My meat of choice. Turkey is not consumed nearly enough, even though just about every deli has smoked turkey breast available.  But other than that, we see it as a holiday food.  Turkeys are big, raised to be eaten, and taste superb.  What's not to like?  According to some stats I looked up quickly,
turkey is the #4 choice of protein for Americans, and consumption has doubled since the 1970s.  If we could only make it taste more like tuna...   But here's the thing.  Americans eat about 7.3 kg of turkey per capita, Canadians 4.2 kg,  and Europeans (see below) 3.6 kg.  We need to get the Euros to eat more  turkey, and we need to eat more...

2. Rabbit - Europeans eat about 8 kilograms of rabbit per year, a lot more than us in North America.  And there is a lot of rabbit out there to be eaten.  Rabbits reproduce famously well, they can be barbecued (just ask Katniss  Everdeen), and it also goes well in stews and meat pies.  And they don't take much to feed.  If we could come up with genetically engineered rabbits with  omega-3 fatty acids, we'd be in REAL business.

3. Scallops.  OK, yes, it is technically a seafood.  However, scallops are  not free-swimming, net-caught, pelagic fish.  Scallops are picked as a Seafood Watch "Best Choice", because farm-raised scallops are pretty benign to the environment.  They taste great, are profoundly easy to cook, are low fat and  high in protein.  Plus, many of the wild types are also a best choice  (despite the bottom dredging for a couple of them). 

So there we go.  Cut back on the fish a bit, eat more turkey, rabbit,  scallops (plus as much lionfish and Asian carp as you can stuff into yourself), turn the Asian carp into fishmeal for fish farms for some of the more desirable farmed fish, and we ought to be able to satisfy  the world's appetites and rebuild the fisheries at the same time.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Good fish have bad mercury

One of the best ways to get people to stop eating something is to tell them that it has something bad for them in it.

For some reason, this doesn't seem to work for fish.  Lots of fish (especially the top-end popular kinds) have too much mercury in them for safe human consumption.

Mercury is bad for us.  Very, very bad. 

So we should stop eating popular fish.  Now.

Tell Japan.

Large levels of mercury being found in fish

 BRI and IPEN found that mercury contamination is worse in some regions than others. For example, the fish in certain spots in Japan and Uruguay is so high that the organizations recommend not consuming it at all.  But they also found that mercury contamination is basically everywhere – all over the globe: rivers, lakes, oceans, etc.  (Their stated goal though is to reduce this contamination.)  What’s more, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 86 percent of the fish we eat is imported.

Mercury Levels in Humans and Fish Around the World Regularly Exceed Health Advisory Levels

Global mercury hotspots

A couple of comments on Biello's op-ed

David Biello said some sad things about nuclear power recently:

Is nuclear power doomed to dwindle?

This leads me to make a couple of brief comments.

Biello uses the Crystal River plant shutdown to lead off the article.  Then he follows with this factum:

" What will replace the reactor’s 860-megawatts worth of power? Electricity generated by natural gas turbines, according to Duke. In fact, cheap natural gas may sound the death knell for the nation’s dwindling number of nuclear reactors, now down to 102. "

The problem is, burning natural gas is STILL not good for climate change.  The big natural gas boom (fracking and the like) is not good for climate change.   So the momentum swing back toward nuclear will (at least could) happen when the urgency of climate change becomes apparent. 

(Which is why climate change skeptics make me very angry, frequently.)

Biello alludes briefly to this problem at the end of the article.  If we burn more natural gas, our emissions dip won't stay dipped very long, because we constantly need more power.  We Americans are not energy conservationists - yet, that is.

The problem is, nobody is talking about the transportation sector yet.  Cars and every other vehicle with an internal combustion engine still pretty much use oil-derived gasoline to get around.  If we replace lots of IC vehicles with electrics, which is possible, then we'll still be burning fossil fuels in natural gas plants to power them, not nuclear.  Hence, more carbon dioxide.  We're still stuck with that.

Here's another thing Biello says:

"Nuclear power has more steam in countries such as China, which continues to push forward with a massive construction program in a bid to cut down on coal burning. Last week, Westinghouse lowered the top of the containment dome on its first new AP1000 reactor in Sanmen. But even 80 large nuclear power plants will do little to restrain China’s now world-leading greenhouse gas emissions (and air pollution) from all of the country’s coal burning."

When I read that, I just wondered if Biello read this:

China to cap dirty coal

""The State Council of China took a decision (February 2013) that implies putting a cap on coal consumption of less than four billion tonnes, which is a huge amount of coal but it's not much more than they're consuming now."

Is it achievable?  Perhaps not, but it's a goal.  And with China trying to reach its goals, the nuclear renaissance will likely continue - at least with China leading the way.  If we (U.S., that is) see China making real progress with clean nuclear power and greenhouse gas emissions reductions, then there might be a rather sudden sea-change in the nuclear prospects in this country.

Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida shuts down permanently

After the attempted repair of the Crystal River plant failed, I doubted that they would make another attempt to fix it, and I was right.  What is really daunting, however, is the cost of the plant that Duke Power will still try to get back - $1.65 BILLION.   That seems to me to be another good argument for the mini-nuclear power plant model.  However, the Westinghouse AP1000 could still make inroads in the bigger plant category.

Florida nuclear plant will be closed permanently

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Too bad it's melting

Most of us won't get to see the wonders of the far north, the Arctic snowscapes and icescapes.  And this marvel is melting before our eyes, too.  So these pictures are capturing a world that is slowly being lost.

Majestic glacier towers over Arctic landscape in extraordinary pictures of ice melting into the ocean

Including this astonishing photograph:

Here's a link to photographer Hans Strand's Arctic galleries:

Arctic #1 (you can click on each successive number to see more)

His site has many other superb landscape photographs.

The mini-reactor might just be the key to a better future

So the Russians had a few problems with the nuclear reactors on their submarines.

But seriously now;  have we, the United States, ever had a major serious problem with a nuclear reactor on a submarine or an aircraft carrier?

(Yes, maybe the sub service is so secretive that a nuclear reactor problem might have remained classified.  But I don't think so.  No, I think little, well-behaved nuclear reactors just work well).

And Babcock and Wilcox (not to mention Bill Gates, the Microsoft guy) apparently think so too.

Are mini-reactors the future of nuclear power?

We shall see.  But count me as NOT skeptical that this might work.

And you didn't believe that prediction?

Back at the beginning of the year, prediction number 8 of my undangerous predictions was:

8. Due to the nation's budget problems, several large national parks will close for at least a few days during the summer vacation season, to demonstrate how bad the situation is.
-- This would be a smart way to sway public opinion.

Well, read this and ponder if I might be right about that one:

Leaked documents show looming budget crisis for national parks

"A second leaked document shows the actual budgets of each of the parks and how much they are being asked to cut in order to make the 5% goal. Some of the hardest hit national parks include Yellowstone, which is being asked to cut $1.75 million, and Yosemite, which will lose $1.4 million in operating expenses. Those two locations aren't the only ones feeling the pinch, however, as the National Mall will also shed $1.6 million from its budget and the Grand Canyon will cut an additional $1 million.Unless the budget sequestration is averted before March 1, these cuts could have a dramatic impact on the national park experience for travelers. Understaffed and under-budgeted parks could lead to reduced hours of operation, shorter overall seasons and even the potential closure of certain areas. Visitor services would also likely be hit hard with fewer rangers on duty and less staff in visitor centers and information kiosks."

This ain't over.  The government could still close a park.  The President could even order the closure of a park to save money -- and further foment public opinion against the idyit Repubs in the House.

(But it looks like I was wrong on #5, sort of.  The Republicans aren't fighting a pitched battle over the debt ceiling.  Rather, they're going to fight a pitched battle over the sequestration cuts and over the next annual budget.  And theyre still going to take the economy down with them in this fight).

Ha ha ha, you skeptics (sad)

When a big Arctic storm hit the poles this summer, I predicted that skeptics, led by the arch fiend Marc Morano, would blame it for the worst loss of sea ice in the summer we've ever seen.  And I was right. 

Here's the prediction post:

I knew it, I knew it

and then the "See, I told you so" post:

And of course I was right again

But one might still ask, what was the ultimate scientific verdict on this storm and the sea ice loss?  Well, here we go with that:

Arctic CSI: Cyclone Absolved in Record Sea Ice Melt

"The Great Arctic Cyclone of August 2012" arose in Siberia on Aug. 2 and crossed the Arctic Ocean to Canada, lasting an unusually long 13 days. The cyclone hit a pressure minimum of 966 millibars on Aug. 6, the lowest ever recorded for an Arctic storm. The stronger the pressure gradient, or difference in pressure, the stronger the winds associated with a storm."

"Not guilty.

The scientists conclude the cyclone reduced the final September ice extent by almost 60,000 square miles (150,000 square kilometers), an additional 5 percent. However, they point out that 2012's record loss was 18 percent greater than the previous low, set in 2007. [Video: Powerful Arctic Cyclone Wreaks Havoc on Sea Ice]

"Thus without the storm, 2012 would still have produced a record minimum," the authors report in their study, which appears online this week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters."

 Thus, I was totally and completely and unalterably right.  Because what Morano said (quoting Anthony Watts, who was wrong too) was that the storm made the new record low possible (i.e., if it hadn't happened, the new low would not have been possible). 

But as we can clearly see now, that's not true.

Alert: Miranda Kerr in bridal lingerie

Just not fair.  Totally not fair.

But very, very nice.

Miranda Kerr models Victoria's Secret bridal collection

Like I said, not fair at all.

Hey, Kelly Brook is available again

Not that 99.8% of the male population of this globe has a chance (if that much), but Kelly Brook has quietly announced that she has broken up with her powerfully handsome boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend, to be precise) Thom Evans.

As the article notes, Kelly has been a bit unlucky in love.  Now, depending on the way you look at it, maybe she's been lucky in love, because she apparently hasn't found "The One".  So she hasn't  been a bad marriage, even though she has had a couple of broken engagements.

Now, what I'm hoping is that Kelly has enjoyed each of her paramours, in all the senses that entails.  She emanates wholesome sexiness and curvaceous healthiness.  She's the type of woman that you hope enjoys sex, because you know you'd enjoy it with her if you ever got the chance.   Impossibly unlikely, but still...

'It was a mutual decision': Kelly Brook confirms split from Thom Evans as she cuts a lonely sombre figure

But wait, she's having fun with friends on the beach!

Green with envy: Single lady Kelly Brook enjoys the company of her girlfriends as she takes some downtime from modelling shoot

This particular article included the shot below, which the paparazzi photog who took it must have nearly fainted when he saw this piece of doubly good fortune through the lens:

Seriously, that's a gift.

Sometimes it makes sense to take a break

I haven't written a post for a few days.  Anybody notice?  I don't know how many regular readers I have, but I know I don't have many.

That's not the point.  Now, I'd like to get more people to realize that climate change skepticism is a farce and that we face a serious globalwide problem.  And I'd like more people to realize that nuclear power is a definite part of the way we can potentially avoid the worst of it.

I'd like more people to realize that a lot of Republicans in the House of Representatives (and a few Senators, too), are way, way, way out of the mainstream of what normal Americans are thinking.  It makes my feel pain when John Boehner says "the American people want 'this' " (whatever 'this' is). He's massively skewing the truth, because what he really means is that a tiny fraction of the American people who live in massively skewed safe Republican districts have elected super-wingnuts who want 'this'.

I want people to appreciate women the way I do.  Beautiful women are beautiful to look at.  That's why a lot of beautiful women get paid a lot of money so that men will look at them, of course.

I want people to realize that the Earth, the solar system, and the Universe are amazing places with amazing, astonishing sights.

But if that's what I want, why write this?   Well, put it really simple, it's self-expression.  It's me.  It's what catches my interest and so I'm going to write down that it catches my interest.  And if anyone shares what I think is interesting, then I hope they appreciate what I'm doing.

And I also don't have to hold back.  My opinion holds as much weight as any other average American's opinion - which is, not much.  So I can state it, on this little soapbox in the digital world.  I can be crazy or stupid or smart and not get noticed.  Not much, at least.  But I can state my view of the world.

Yes, I take this seriously.  But I don't always have to be serious.

Now, on with the show.