Friday, February 27, 2015

Best dress at the Oscars (which was not actually at the Oscars)

There were some good and great dresses at the Oscars 2015.  Too bad about Lupita Nyong'o's pearl dress that got stolen, that was nice.

But after perusing all the red carpet looks, I was actually most impressed by the dress worn by Amy Adams to the Vanity Fair Oscar party.  She didn't attend the Oscar ceremonies, but she still had the best look.

Zoe Saldana, who gave birth to twins not long ago, also looked pretty darn good.

Who's Taylor Hill?

The answer to that question is that Taylor Hill is a new, young, Victoria's Secret lingerie model.

I heard about her in the Daily Mail:

Victoria's Secret model Taylor Hill shows off her slim beach body in a pink bikini while in Miami

In one of the pictures in this article, it appears that her bikini bottom is a little too small.

I really don't mind.

Having seen this, I had to see what she looked like in the VS Fashion Show at Christmastime.

This is what she looked like:


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Never seen anything like this (with actual ice; with pumice, yes)

Many other people saw these pictures and commented on them, but I just have to comment too.  The semi-solid half-frozen waves off Nantucket are amazing.  I've never seen anything like them.

The slurpee waves of Nantucket

Well, actually I have.  But not with ice, with pumice.  The frothy volcanic rock that floats.   After the  pretty big eruption of Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcano in Chile, a lot of the ash fell into some picturesque lakes (especially Nahuel Huapi lake), making them much less picturesque.  Making them pretty mucky, in fact.  But unique that way.

Since I'm on this subject, I checked to see if the lakes are recovering. Couldn't find much. But I did find one tourist guide that recommended taking boat tours of the lakes, so I would guess that they have gotten somewhat better since the 2011 eruption.

Sam Brownback taxes sin to balance the budget

Kansas is in trouble, and Sam Brownback (the reason why), has realized it.  So guess what he's doing to try and fix it?

Raising taxes, that's what.  On booze and cigs.

Sam Brownback reverses course, proposes new taxes

"In a stark turnaround, the Republican called for higher taxes on cigarettes and liquor as part of his annual budget while proposing to make future tax cuts contingent on revenue projections."

Ouch.  ("The latest budget plan includes a major hike in taxes on cigarettes from 79 cents per pack to $2.29 per pack and a jump in a tax on liquor from 8 percent to 12 percent.")

Oh. Sin taxes.  Well, raise them high enough and people won't smoke and won't drink.  Then where are you?

“My budget proposal recognizes that the current budget trajectory is unsustainable and that difficult solutions are required by state law as well as by fiscal prudence,” Brownback said in releasing his two-year budget."


"Kansas revenue analysts reported in November that the state would require $278 million in cuts by this June to balance the budget. They said a state reserve fund of about $379 million would be emptied, and lawmakers should cut an additional $435 million to avoid a deficit this year."

That left a mark, didn't it?

Democrat ideas work in Minnesota

I've written about the Kansas disaster-in-progress that is being formulated and fomented by former Senator, now Governor, Sam Brownback.  I"ve got a shortie coming up on that..   But I found this article of interest, which discusses how Democrat/liberal ideas are being implemented in Minnesota by self-effacing Governor Mark Dayton:

The Unnatural: How Mark Dayton Bested Scott Walker—and Became the Most Successful Governor in the Country

I recommend reading the entire thing.  But here are two excerpted sections that I found of particular noteworthiness:
"Over the past several years, Minnesota has become a testing ground for a litany of policies Democrats hope to enact nationally: legalizing same-sex marriage, making it easier to vote, boosting primary education spending, instituting all-day kindergarten, expanding unionization, freezing college tuition, increasing the minimum wage, and passing new laws requiring equal pay for women. To pay for it all, Dayton pushed a sharp increase on taxes for the top 2 percent—one of the largest hikes in state history. Republicans went berserk, warning that businesses would flee the state and take jobs with them.

The disaster Dayton's GOP rivals predicted never happened. Two years after the tax hike, Minnesota's economy is booming. The state added 172,000 jobs during Dayton's first four years in office. Its 3.6 percent unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country (Wisconsin's is 5.2 percent), and the Twin Cities have the lowest unemployment rate of any major metropolitan area."
 Yeah, that's good.  But wait, there's more:

"Priority No. 1 was raising taxes on the rich. The final tax plan—which bumped up income taxes 2 percent for couples earning $250,000 per year—made Minnesota the fifth-highest tax state in the nation. But the hike paid for an arsenal of new programs. The same day Dayton signed the tax bill, he also approved a $429 million jobs bill. "He was unswayed by the consultants in the Democratic Party who were counseling Democrats to go to the middle to avoid the tax and spend label that is put on Democrats," says Jacobs, the University of Minnesota political scientist."
And yes, it's working.  Now read about Sam Brownback -- and how Kansas isn't working.

Lighthouse of the Week, February 22-28, 2015: Madonetta, Bonifacio, Corsica

This week's (late) Lighthouse of the Week is from the French island of Corsica, in the Mediterranean Sea.

I figured Corsica, like Sicily, would have a lot of lighthouses. I was correct.  And real quick, I found one that was a standout.  It is the "Madonetta" light that marks the entrance to the port of Bonifacio.

This site has some good pictures and information:  Bonifacio Harbor and its History

More on the lighthouse, from the UNC site:

"1854. Active; focal plane 28 m (92 ft); red light, 2 s on, 2 s off. 12 m (39 ft) square cylindrical masonry tower with lantern and gallery, rising from the center of a 1-story masonry keeper's house. Tower and lantern painted red; keeper's house painted white. This lighthouse has a remarkable site atop a triangular block of sandstone attached to the mainland by a narrow peninsula. Located on the west side of the narrow entrance to the harbor of Bonifacio."

More information from Cyberlights.


Unexpectedly, I get an Undangerous Prediction right!

Well, it's almost March, so I'm glad that one of my Undangerous Predictions has come out accurate.

And I want to know what those things are, too.

In this article:
"Bright Spot" on Ceres has Dimmer Companion

we find this sentence paragraph - I added the underlining:

"The brightest spot continues to be too small to resolve with our camera, but despite its size it is brighter than anything else on Ceres. This is truly unexpected and still a mystery to us," said Andreas Nathues, lead investigator for the framing camera team at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Gottingen, Germany."

And in my Undangerous Predictions for 2015, published January 21, 2015, I wrote:

"10.    The Dawn mission will discover something “surprising”, “unexpected” or “unexplained” about Ceres.  One of those words will be used in an article about the discovery."

Yup, nailed it.

Now, what the heck are those bright spots, anyway?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why was this stuck in my mind?

For some reason, I woke up a couple of days ago with the name "Aberystwyth" rattling around in my brain.  I finally had a chance to try and figure out why.  It wasn't too hard for me to figure out that it was English or Scottish.  (I was wrong - it was Welsh.)

The best I can figure is that I read about some of the people that identified the image of the lost "Beagle" lander on Mars, just recently captured in images acquired by the remarkable Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

As in this article: Aberystwyth University scientists helped spot Beagle 2 Mars lander

Well, while doing my research and finally ascertaining this, I discovered that Aberystwyth is a unique and interesting place, and quite scenic, too.

Welcome to Aberystwyth

The guide to Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth waterfront:

In shape, awesomely, on the cover

Several times on this blog I have loudly sung the praises of the radiant Kate Hudson.

Like here.

And here.

And also here.

Well, I have to do it again.

Kate Hudson and her killer abs cover Shape magazine

She could rule me.

If this goes on, it'll be hard NOT to call it El Niño

The classic criterion that defines an El Niño event is for the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) in the Niño 3,4 region to have a sea surface temperature anomaly of +0.5 C or higher for five consecutive overlapping three month periods.

Well, even though the conditions in the Pacific have been uncertain, incipient, and weak, the ONI is 3/5 of the way there.

Cold and Warm Episodes by Season

So here's the last three periods:

SON   0.5

OND   0,7

NDJ   0,7

According to the IRI analysts, the atmosphere, which has been reluctant to do what the atmosphere is supposed to during an El Niño, has been showing some signs of reacting to the warm SST in the Pacific.    And they think there will be neutral to borderline El Niño conditions through April.

And I say if DJF and JFM are +0.5 or above, it's an El Niño.

Looking at the chart at the first link, the 1977-1978 El Niño peaked at +0.8, and only had six periods above 0.5  (0.5, 0.7, 0.8, 0.8, 0.7, 0.5).   The previous year had a similar period.  Both of these are called El Niño.  So despite playing climatic hide-and-seek, we may just get over the El Niño finish line.

The sea will tell.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Does 'puzzled' count?

One of my Undangerous Predictions for 2015 was this:

"10.    The Dawn mission will discover something “surprising”, “unexpected” or “unexplained” about Ceres.  One of those words will be used in an article about the discovery."

So in this article about the newest, closest pictures of Ceres from Dawn, this quote occurs:

 " "As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser," said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission, based at UCLA. "We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled." "

So... 'surprised' is used, and I could probably go with that.  'Puzzled' isn't one I called out (though it's a lot like 'unexplained').  I could probably take this as a fulfilled prediction right now, but there will be a lot more written about Ceres in the next few weeks.  I'll be patient a little longer.

Rosetta's Valentine's Day flyby

I've been waiting and waiting to see pictures from the 6 km flyby of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko by Rosetta.  6 km is not very far, folks, especially in space.   A near-kiss, as it were.

The pictures are pretty amazing, as I expected they would be.

This is historical stuff.  Glad I'm here at this remarkable time in our history to see these things happening as they happen.

Valentine's Day comet flyby special

Sunday, February 15, 2015

This rookie is a champ

Erin Heatherton, a graduate of both Victoria's Secret and Leonardo DiCaprio's squeeze stable, is in this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

She's classified as a "rookie" because this is her first time the SI annual tribute to extraordinary bodies clad in minimal fabric.  But she's no rookie at modeling.

What she's good at is looking good while looking at a man with a camera.

She's REAL good at that.

Three examples from SI:

The virginal mermaid pose

The back side is a good side, too

This shot is better than what's on the cover

Global warming could threaten summer sports

Just saw this (the Energy Collective is one of the featured blogs on MY blog).

Hey Sports Fans: Time to Deal with Climate Change, and it Won't be Cheap

It's about the situation in Australia, but it also talks about the U.S. as well:

"Host cities and organizers will be forced to cancel, postpone or perhaps even move outdoor sporting events to alternate locations or shift them to different seasons of the year. This could be a big deal for the sports (entertainment) industry. Sport is embedded in Australian society – central to culture and economy. It is not different in American society with both professional and ‘amateur’ sports deeply rooted in American popular culture. The popularity of all kinds of sports is sky-high – including fan interest and support. At the same time, the impacts of climate change on sport are far-reaching. Extreme heat in particular can affect the health of athletes and spectators."
What about winter sports, you are thinking to yourself?

"Consider another example from the [Climate Institute's Sports and Climate Report] regarding winter sports: “Nine out of the 16 world cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics in the 20th century could not again guarantee proper snow conditions by the end of the 21st century.”

That's not good either.

And I doubt this is a solution that works for everybody and it really slows you down on the court, too:

The "Veskimo" personal cooling vest

Hogan wants to cut the gas tax - while the roads get worse

Here we are in Maryland, with a cold snap going on, which means more cracks and potholes in the roads.  And the roads aren't in great shape to begin with.  Or the bridges.

State to inspect aging bridges after overpass concrete falls on car

"The findings showed that 333, or 6.3 percent, of the bridges were structurally deficient. These bridges must be inspected every year because critical load-bearing structures were in poor condition from damage or deterioration, the group said.Structurally deficient bridges were more likely to be in urban areas. 
Another 1,085 bridges, or 20.5 percent, were functionally obsolete and no longer meet current standards for bridge construction. Those bridges, for example, could have narrow lanes or load-bearing standards below those for bridges built today."

So what is our new Republican Governor Larry "Bulk" Hogan going to do about it?  Why, his response is the Republican answer to EVERYTHING!

To whit, cut taxes and make somebody else pay for it.

So you're thinking, you've got to be kidding me.


Report: Hogan’s gas-tax relief would threaten billions in transit projects

"Democratic leaders are fiercely resisting the governor’s bill, saying it and other funding changes that Hogan is proposing would be a fatal blow for the light-rail Purple Line in the Washington region and kill most major road improvements across the state that are not underway.

“I don’t know who he’s expecting to vote for this,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). “If this bill passes, it would leave you barely enough money for filling potholes.”

(Especially if there are more of them!)

And remember that part I said about making somebody else pay for it?
"Hogan has proposed passing on a greater share of state transportation dollars to counties and municipalities for local projects. He is also proposing to pay for some previously planned environmental projects with transportation funds. Those changes could reduce the amount of funding available for state transportation projects by an additional $1.5 billion during the six-year period, according to the document, leaving little money for projects in the state transportation fund."

Yes, that's the way it would be.

Let's sum up.

"Ralph Bennett, president of Purple Line Now, a coalition of business, labor, environmental and civic groups that is pushing for the completion of the light-rail line, described Hogan’s proposal as “ridiculous.” "
Yes, it is. But that's what happens when a Republican governor gets elected.  Kansas, here, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Texas, Louisiana.  The ridiculous becomes the norm.

Lighthouse of the Week, Feb. 15-21, 2015: Cape Mears, Oregon

I was looking for uniqueness, and so I looked for Oregon's smallest lighthouse.  That was easy;  it was this one, the Cape Meares Lighthouse.  Like most lighthouses in Oregon, it's spectacularly situated on the Pacific Coast.

Some links about it:

Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge, Inc.

Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint

Cape Meares, OR (Lighthouse Friends)

From UNC;  Lighthouse of the United States:  Oregon

1890. Inactive since 1963. 40 ft (12 m) octagonal tower, brick sheathed in iron, attached to a workroom. Tower painted white, lantern black. The original 1st order Fresnel lens, vandalized after the lighthouse was decommissioned, was partially restored and is still mounted in the tower (one of the four bullseye prisms is missing). The keeper's house and other light station buildings were all demolished around 1968 after severe vandalism. The visitor center is a reconstruction (1978) of the original workroom.

Good view of the lens

Amazing site

Another good view of the lens at sunset

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Some things to think about

An article in Scientific American discusses the problems that might accrue if the U.S. experiences significant gaps in satellite earth observation, and if doesn't make plans to deal with the REAL threat of climate change.

Climate, Satellite Gaps Could Cost U.S. Government Big Time

The obvious question asks itself:  "But why?"

"The GAO report highlights the threat climate change poses to federal property, and insurance and disaster relief programs. In fact, the National Flood Insurance Program is so at risk of going underwater—last year, the program was $23 billion in the red—that it warranted its own chapter in this year’s report. The GAO also said the government is still lagging in its efforts to be the provider of information to decision makers, and coordinating actions to reduce climate risks nationally."


"In comparison, the satellite gap is a more clear-cut, though still pressing, issue. While there has been some improvement, including upgrades to weather models for integrating satellite data, GAO still identified a gap of at least a year where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) could be without polar-orbiting satellite capabilities. That’s shorter than the 17- to 53-month gap first identified by GAO in 2013 but longer than the three months NOAA has said it could last."

Well, maybe we need to start thinking harder about these things, and make better plans than we're currently making.

Getting crazier, if that's possible

Greg Sargent in the WashPost explains about what might happen if the Republicans try to hang tough on shutting down the Department of Homeland Security just to try to score political points on the immigration debacle.

The Republican mess on immigration is only going to get crazier

One thing that the Republicans are speculating about is who will get blamed if the DHS in fact gets shut down.

Gee, I think many of them might have figured that out.

From the column:

The Hill quotes a number of GOP Senators wringing their hands about how awful a DHS shutdown would be for the country, including this one:

"One senior GOP senator leaned in and whispered to The Hill: “Of course Republicans will get blamed” for a shutdown."
You know, it’s almost as if Republicans have tried this before and might even learn from their previous experiences.

Well, of course they'll get blamed.  They should get blamed.  They're the ones forcing the issue.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, February 8-14, 2015: Helsingør , Denmark

Surprise!  This week's Lighthouse is actually a pair, painted bright orange and bright green, on twin piers (moles) in the harbor of Helsingør, Denmark.  This is my first posting of a lighthouse from Denmark, and it probably won't be my last, as the small country has lots of coast and lots of lighthouses.

More information on them here:

 Helsingør Nordmole
Date unknown (1916?). Active; focal plane 7 m (23 ft); continuous green light. 6 m (20 ft) 2-stage round tower with a small lantern, painted green with white trim; lantern dome is gray metallic. 

 Helsingør Sydmole
Date unknown (1916?). Active; focal plane 7 m (23 ft); continuous red light. 6 m (20 ft) 2-stage round tower with a small lantern, painted red with white trim; lantern dome is gray metallic. 

And here:

Helsingor North Mole 

And here's the pictures.  First both of them together, and then each one of them separately.

A comet near, a comet far

Two different cometary perspectives, one from Rosetta and one from the Earth's surface.

The first is of Comet Lovejoy, as it passes by a nice spiral galaxy (at left, in that tail).

The second is from Rosetta, showing bright jets from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.  In just a couple of days, on Valentine's Day, Rosetta will swoop in and come only 6 km from the comet's surface. Those will be some great pictures.

These are amazing times we live in.

Jindal's jinxed

I never have been impressed with Lousiana governor Bobby Jindal, who has Presidential aspirations. I don't consider him a potential Most Dangerous Man in America, because I think he's unelectable at the national level.  And after reading this, I'm more convinced.   (The auditions for presidential candidate are starting out pretty poorly;  Scott Walker showed how shallow he is recently, too.)

Bobby Jindal's unpleasant record

"Louisiana’s travails are particularly problematic because they have been caused in large part by Jindal’s tax cuts, which, along with declining oil revenue, blew such a hole in the state budget that even huge spending cuts haven’t made up the gap. In the last few days, articles in the New York Times and Politico have detailed Louisiana’s fiscal travails, including a possible 40 percent operating-budget cut at Louisiana State University and an increase in tuition at public universities of 90 percent during Jindal’s time in office. Jindal has already raided state reserve funds and resorted to the sort of budget-keeping gimmicks that he once criticized."
Yeah, that ain't good.

This is a good thing

In case you hadn't heard this, women's tennis pro Caroline Wozniacki (who I picked to make the semi-final round in at least one Grand Slam tournament in my 2015 Undangerous Predictions and to win one in my 2015 Edgy Predictions) is showing off her pulchritudinous side in the 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

This is a good thing.  A very very good thing, because that's how she looks in swimwear.  Very very good.  The pictures show what we already knew, basically, which is that she's fit and strong. And hot.

Caroline Wozniacki gets the deuces flowing by revealing her stunning picture in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2015 edition

The above link goes to a Daily Mail article that starts off with Caroline's pictures, but also has a lot of pictures of the other SI models, so don't click on that link if you find that sort of thing repugnant.

I obviously don't.

So go beyond that point, Caro

Thursday, February 5, 2015

This is a fun fantasy

Really liked this little "short film" starring Natalie Portman as a bride with issues, named Miss Dior.

Rosetta's Valentine's Day comet kiss

On February 14, the Rosetta satellite is going to get real, real close to the comet it's been studying (same comet that it dropped a lander on a few weeks ago),  Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

The pictures should be flat-out awesome.

Rosetta swoops in for a close encounter

YouTube video animation of the maneuvers that will take Rosetta in close

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ode to Bleu

a sonnet for a never-to-be-realized love

I know her only as a picture, yet
I want to know much more, and find what lies
behind her shaded eyes. Where has she met
with wonderment? What stimulates the cries
of her delight?  And when does she bestow
her sensual perfection, giving one
enamored man a vivid, private show
where two physiques and souls shall merge and stun
their avid hungers with a multitude
of massive affirmations?   I would be
that man, to probe her layers from the crude
and basic to refined, sublime, and free
expressions celebrating life and lust
and mutuality of naked trust.

Cheryl (Fernandez-Versini) ready to release

Even if she used to be Cheryl Cole, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini is still a talented musician and singer.  And she's about to release a new song, "Only Human".  (Wait, wasn't there a song with that name recently over here?  I get so confused.)

Anyways, she released a few pictures from the video.

She's Only Human! Cheryl Fernandez-Versini gets emotional before flashing a smile (and her toned tum) in new music video

Oh, and I did have to add this.  I "complained" when she messed with perfection by getting a rose tattoo on her bum

Well, I wasn't the only one who thought this was a step back(side).

Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's rose tattoo voted worst celebrity tattoo ever

Now, if Cheryl was mine (in fact, she is now the wife of Mr. Fernandez-Versini), given the remarkableness of all the rest of her, I would no doubt be able to overlook the rose tattoo.  In fact, that would be quite a view under the right circumstances.  But still, I would take Cheryl in a moment, rose tattoo and all, so Mr. F-V had better understand his REMARKABLE good fortune, and adore every part of Cheryl, whether or not that part is decorated indecorously or not. 

Lion around

Natural History Museum of London's Wildlife Photographer of the Year features the best nature photography of the year.  I don't know if this is all of them in Discover magazine, but this is a good collection of them.

12 Photos that Reveal Nature in All its Glory

Here's an example, but they are all remarkable.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, February 1-7, 2015: Split and Stannard Rocks in Winter

I missed last week, so here are two striking lighthouses with a winter theme, as that's the season we're in.  The first is iconic - Split Rock on Lake Superior's North Shore, north of Duluth.  The second is isolated Stannard Rock, also on Lake Superior, or rather in, as it is on a small reef that is usually overrun with waves.  Stannard Rock is almost directly north of Marquette, Michigan, which is in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

More on Stannard Rock from Lighthouse Friends

Split Rock with a big Superior winter wave

How SMAP deploys its antenna

NASA launched a new Earth observation satellite on Saturday, January .  This one studies soil moisture (how wet the ground is) with a spinning circular antenna.  The antenna hasn't deployed yet, so this mission could still end up being a disaster.  Hope not.  The video embedded here shows the amazing deployment sequence, starting about 1:00 in.

Shakira's second

Over the weekend it was reported that international singing superstar Shakira, she of the incredible dance moves, amazing voice, and hips that don't lie, had her second child with Spanish soccer player Gerard Piqué.   Another athlete with a WAG that he shouldn't ever let go.

Gerard Piqué and Shakira welcome son Sasha

Here's how you do super-cute when you're a superstar and pregnant:

Speaking of Abbey

The previous post was about Petra Nemcova becoming the new Ultimo lingerie spokesmodel, but pregnant predecessor Abbey Clancy was sure looking great at three months pregnant, as reported here.

And that swimsuit she's wearing sure is unzipped pretty far down.

Peter Crouch, her extremely tall soccer playing husband, recently re-signed by Stoke City, should count his considerably blessing every single day.  And keep them close.

A really great choice for Ultimo

Ultimo lingerie revealed - ahem - its new lingerie spokesmodel recently.

Petra Nemcova.

The same Petra that was a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, got caught in the 2004 Indonesian tsunami (and lost her boyfriend in it), survived her broken bones (including a broken pelvis), came back, started a number of charities, had a couple of romances, including a near marriage, if I remember correctly, and all through it, continued to look fantastic.

Well, Ultimo must agree, and I have always admired Michelle Mone's taste in spokesmodels, especially because she picked Luisana Lopilato.  After that it was Abbey Clancy, who is now pregnant enough to have to let someone else display the Ultimo undies.  So Michelle picked Petra.  Now, I did mention that Michelle Keegan might have been a great choice, but because of all that Petra represents, and also because of her killer bod, she's a great choice too.

Some pictures of Petra in her first Ultimo representation are here. I checked out the Ultimo Web site and found a lot more.  They're nice.

Like this (the 'Vivian' slip, if you need to know):