Saturday, December 30, 2017

If it's going to happen, it's going to happen here

In case you thought you'd heard of everything, I have to ask if you heard about the new luxury hotel that Russia is planning to build.

In space.

According to the article I've linked below, the Russians are planning to build an add-on module for the International Space Station, that is going to be a luxury hotel.

Russia's plan to build a luxury hotel on the ISS

"UNDERNEATH" the ISS in the picture above is the NEM-1 Science and Power Module, at left.  At right, looking a lot like the NEM-1, is the new hotel module.

I just love this idea.  The problem is, the timetable is kinda tight. The end of the article states:
"Currently, the launch of the NEM-1 module is planned for 2021. In the meantime, the retirement of the ISS is looming in 2028.

RKK Energia estimates that it would take at least five years to build the tourist module, which means that if the work began right away, it would make it to the station in 2022 or later. Hence, the project might not have those seven years required to pay off the investments. Also the project will be vulnerable to currency exchange fluctuations and cost overruns, the authors of the study said."
Now, in case you haven't been reading my other blog posts on the particular subject about which I am going to speculate right now, for years I have been contemplating the question of what human couple is going to accomplish the first human coupling in the environment of outer space.  To state it more succinctly, who is going to be the first man and woman to have sex in Earth orbit?  Now, I don't know who it's going to be, but I will tell you right now, if this Russian ISS hotel actually gets off the ground and attached to the ISS, that's where it will occur.  GUARANTEED.  It's too "juicy" an opportunity to pass up.

If you want to read other of my posts on this subject, just use the words "sex" and "space" in the search box.  Or click right here.  (There are a couple of other post not on that subject included, but you'll get several of my previous musings on the topic.)

And with that, I conclude the 2017 blogging year.  See you in 2018, and look for my predictions!

The Premier League table on the last day of 2017

At the top of the Premier League table, it's very very hard to see how Manchester City will allow any drama regarding who's going to win the league this year.  Oh sure, there are several months left in the season, but they are way out in front and appear to have completely forgotten how to lose a game.

Which is not good news for Crystal Palace, who as I write this will play Manchester City tomorrow morning (morning on this side of the Atlantic pond, that is).

Which brings us to the bottom of the table, where there is a massive pile-up of teams that could be relegated.  And yes, there are a lot of months left in the season, and that will get sorted out, to an extent.

Crystal Palace is back in danger, though on tie-breakers (whatever they are), they are still ahead of West Ham United.  Both of them have 18 points, ahead of Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion.  The problem with that is, while CP is extraordinarily unlikely to defeat MC, the match between WHU and WBA on Tuesday could very well produce a winner.  If WHU wins, then they'd go ahead of CP by three points. If WBA wins, then they'd be tied on points with CP and WHU.  (On New Year's Eve, while CP faces MC, WBA is playing Arsenal, and they aren't likely to win that.  So that Tuesday game is pretty critical.)

But that's not all.  Again, as I write this, Newcastle has 19 points, and Southampton, Bournemouth, and Stoke City are all at 20. 

And to top all of this off, CP plays Southampton on Tuesday, too, and they might have a chance to win or draw that, provided that they can recover from Sunday's Manchester City match.  A good manager will have to decide who to rest and who to play.

It's a happy mess.   Have a Happy New Year!

Making the case for Mitt

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post thinks Mitt Romney should run for the Senate from Utah.  Mitt probably will if Orrin Hatch decides not to run again.

Let's all hope that happens, even though Mitt is a Republican.  Because it's extremely unlikely Utah would elect a Democrat.

Run, Mitt, Run (the column)

Two excerpts are below. In the article, the first one has links to all the examples listed.
"And Hatch wants colleagues to “get behind him [Trump] in every way we can.” That would include backing Trump’s defense of white supremacists, his vulgar tweets, his endless attacks on the rule of law and the institutions of democracy, and, yes, his embrace of a credibly accused child molester for the Senate. Hatch, after enjoying a ride on Air Force One this month, excused Trump’s endorsement of Roy Moore and said the alleged offenses “were decades ago.”

"The lapsed CHIP program now hangs by a thread, and while Hatch says he favors renewing the program, he frets that “we don’t have money anymore.” This as he helped push through a $1.5 trillion tax cut paid for with debt."
May I now add something to "Run, Mitt, Run"?

"Begone, Orrin, Begone".

Let us all hope, indeed.

A short announcement

Coming up next week, the first week of 2018:

Undangerous Predictions for 2018

Edgy Predictions for 2018

I haven't done this for a couple of years (I skipped 2016 and 2017), but I'm going to chance it again this year.  As before for the years that I did this, I expect to get at least 6 of my Undangerous Predictions right.  For the Edgy Predictions, if I get two of them right, I'll be pleased.  Four of them, and I'll be shocked.

Stay tuned.

Lighthouse of the Week, December 24-30, 2017: Galloo Island, New York, USA

It's the end of the year 2017, and I thought I'd offer everyone a present (but you'll have to pay for it yourself).  In this case, it's a private island for sale in Lake Ontario.  Now, according to the Web site about it, it's under contract, but that could still potentially fall through (I guess).  According to Lighthouse Friends, you can have the lighthouse for around $295,000, and the rest of the island, including the lodge-style main house and an air strip, for just under $13 million.

Galloo Island - look at that beach!

You can thank me later.

If you buy it or not, the island is Galloo Island, in eastern Lake Ontario.  And of course it has a lighthouse.  Given that it's been there awhile, there's a current lighthouse and there was a previous lighthouse.   Read the complete history at Lighthouse Friends.

Here are a couple of excerpts from there about the current lighthouse.
"Work on a new sixty-foot-tall tower and dwelling began late in 1866 and was completed the following year. Gray limestone, quarried on the island, was used to build the new structures, which were linked by a covered passageway. Theo Stevens, the head keeper, moved into the new residence, while the old dwelling was retained for an assistant, a position which was added to the station in 1867."
"Despite protests from boaters, Galloo Island Lighthouse was automated in 1963, when the power source was changed from direct to alternating current, and a communication line was installed to the Coast Guard boat station on the island to permit the personnel there to operate the light and fog horn by remote control. The lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and in 1997 the Coast Guard, who didn’t want to spend the money to maintain the aging buildings, declared the station surplus."
So it's historical, and a bargain.  Buy now!

Oh, I wouldn't be a good real estate agent if I didn't offer some pictures of the property. The second is from an old postcard.

Aerial view

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Where the eruptions were in 2017

It didn't seem like there were any massive and dangerous, or gorgeous and breathtaking and awe-inspiring, volcanic eruptions this year.  The lack of disasters is good, of course, and the lower level of activity didn't mean there wasn't any activity.  The Atlantic had a fine photographic recap of the year in molten magmatic extrusions.

2017:  The Year in Volcanic Activity

I grabbed a picture of what Bogoslof in the Aleutians looks like when it isn't blasting out massive ash clouds.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

GREAT news from Virginia

After the startling election results in Virgina, where a Democratic governor was elected (again) in a stern rebuke to Trumpist style politics, something else happened of further significance.  That was the big shift in the House of Delegates, which went from a 66-34 Redumblican majority to a 51-49 majority for the repugnant GOP.

Until the recounts, that is.

Because after the recounts, in Newport News, where the R guy led by 10 votes, the new count put the D girl into office -- by one vote.

I love it when something like that happens.  Couldn't happen to bunch of scummier politicians.

(Now, I know that I'm amalgamating the Virginia Republicans with the rest of the national party, but given what has happened since Trump took office, I'm pretty much nauseated by the entire lot of them.)

A recount just knocked Virginia’s statehouse out of Republicans’ hands — by a single vote

Another celeb gets pregnant

This time, the pregnant lady (for the first time, too) is the lovely and luscious Eva Longoria.

Oh boy! Eva Longoria, 42, confirms she is four months PREGNANT with her first child with husband Jose Baston

Congratulations and best wishes, of course.

Lighthouse of the Week, December 17-23, 2017: Donkin Reserve, South Africa

One more lighthouse from South Africa in this three-peat;  this one intrigued me because of the pyramid next to the lighthouse.  This is the Donkin Reserve lighthouse in Port Elizabeth, and the pyramid and the city are connected.

First, about the lighthouse:
"1861 (rebuilt in 1930). Inactive since 1973 (a decorative light is shone during evening hours). 26 m (86 ft) octagonal tower with lantern, gallery, and four ribs, rising from a 1-story keeper's house. Lighthouse painted white, lantern dome red. Near the lighthouse is a sandstone pyramid built as a memorial to the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, the city's founder; the city is named for her. The original lighthouse had a height of 17 m (55 ft); in or about 1930 the lighthouse was raised to its present height and substantially rebuilt; the buttresses were added at that time, giving the tower an Art Deco design. Built high on a hill behind the harbor, the light was replaced in 1973 by the Deal Light."
(And let me note that the Deal Light is boring.)

So now you know the story behind the pyramid next to the lighthouse.  Apparently Rufane was extremely in love with Lady Elizabeth;  you can read more about that here.'

So now for some pictures of the Donkin Reserve lighthouse.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Abbey Clancy is DEFINITELY pregnant

She may be pregnant now, but I can guess that's not going to be her state much longer.

Abbey is one of my favorite English models, and I've posted about her many times.  She's married to the extremely tall soccer league player Peter Crouch, who plays for Stoke City, and I believe this is their third child together.  There was a spot of infidelity a couple years back (technically they weren't married, but she was pregnant with their first)  but they appear to have gotten over that just fine, because they proceeded to get married and have more kids (obviously).  She's modeled, done TV, done the British version of DWTS (called "Strictly Come Dancing"), been an Ultimo lingerie feature model (which they apparently don't do anymore), so she's accomplished quite a bit on her own and hasn't relied on Peter's compensation for soccer kicks entirely.

So Abbey posed in her highly pregnant state, wearing barely anything, and showing how very pregnant she currently is.

Hey Peter -- good job, as usual.  Remember that you're a very lucky guy. 

No Ashes (cricket) drama

Australia hammered England in the third Ashes test, and by so doing they have regained the Ashes urn.

 The key to this Test series and each match is not hard to determine -- it's the sublime batting of captain Steve Smith. In the first Test, he had 141 runs in the first innings and didn't have to bat in the second. In the second Test, he had a surprisingly tough match, with only 40 in the first innings and six in the second -- which was one reason this was the only close match. In the third Test, they never got him out in the first innings; he was on 239 when they declared the end of their first inning batting, and didn't need to bat a second innings because England couldn't make the Australian first innings score.  Major ouch there.

It's funny, because I had thought Australia was declining in the cricket rankings. Apparently they're pretty good at home, at least.

And Smith is incredible.

The actual Ashes urn is the little one on the right.  The crystal vase on the left is awarded to the winner of each Ashes Test series.  So Australia gets that one too, this time.

Crystal Palace is WHERE in the Premier League table? (i.e., the standings)

Currently as I'm looking at the table, 14th, but over the Christmas holidays when there are lots of games, that can change pretty rapidly. CP has 17 points, and above them by one point are Southampton and Brighton & Hove Albion. I would say that any team in the bottom 12 is in potential danger of relegation, because there is still a lot of the season to be played.

CP needs at least a point (three would be better) against the current bottom-dweller Swansea City, their next opponent, because after that they play Arsenal.

Friday, December 15, 2017

OK, this is crazy

I like optical illusions.  I'm not an expert on them or anything, but I've seen many examples of them.

This one is absolutely mind-boggling.

The remarkable "curvature blindness" illusion

After you see it, your world will be forever changed.  Not a big change, mind you, but it'll be changed.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Actor (partner), actress, and dancer pregnancy news

The news was positively aglow with pregnant celebs today.

John Stamos, who didn't manage the feat with his then-wife Rebecca Romijn, now has a pregnant fiancée.

'I always wanted to be a dad!' John Stamos, 54, is to be a father for the first time as he announces his fiancée Caitlin McHugh, 31, is pregnant

Kirsten Dunst, who got married and indicated that having a tyke or two had become one of her top priorities, has gotten busy and gotten impregnated, according to the rumor mill.

Kirsten Dunst 'is pregnant with her first child with fiancé Jesse Plemons'... after revealing it's 'time to have babies and chill'

Robert Herjavec and the athletically and artistically delectable Aussie dancer Kym Johnson announced she was pregnant, and then did some multiplication on that announcement by announcing she was gravid with twins.

'We decided to double up!' DWTS' Kym Johnson and Robert Herjavec confirm they are expecting TWINS

'Tis the fertile season, apparently.

Is this really going to happen?

Apparently the reality of space tourism is a little bit closer to a starting date.

If tourists in space become routine, will sex in space be far behind?  After all, a daring couple would only have to book a flight in the six-seater capsule for two.  I can believe there are a significant number of multi-millionaires willing to take that one small schtup for mankind, given how the bidding goes when a comely young lady puts her virginity up for auction to pay for college.

But that's a way in the future, but maybe not quite so far away as yesterday.

Here's the article that inspired my incredulity, about a successful launch and test of the Blue Origin.  I spelled that right, I think.

A holiday in space? Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin successfully test flies its 6-seater capsule that could take tourists into orbit next year using its reusable rocket

The test dummy in the capsule was nicknamed 'Mannequin Skywalker'.  Cute.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lighthouse of the Week, December 10-16, 2017: Robben Island, South Africa

South African lighthouses were so appealing last week, ending up with the Cape Agulhas light as the featured location, that I figured I might as well go back there this week.

I was going to go with Donkin Hill, but after I saw one image from Robben Island, I decided Donkin Hill has to wait a week.

The reason I chose Robben Hill is the amazing view of Cape Town across the water that it possesses.

(And the fact that this island is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many long years.)

(And the fact that this was the first location of a coastal light signal in all of South Africa.)

Cape Town Heritage:  Robben Island Lighthouse
"The Robben Island lighthouse was built in 1864 by Joseph Flack. It is 18 metres (59 ft) high and was converted to electricity in 1938. It is the only South African lighthouse to utilise a flashing light instead of a revolving light. The light is visible for 24 nautical miles."

More info:
Robben Island (from Lighthouses of South Africa, a relatively ancient Web site)

The classic shot

Just the lighthouse

The lighthouse, the island, and Cape Town, all on a book cover

Just the view

Fossils (not volcanoes) under the City of Angels

We know from what's gotten trapped and then recovered from the La Brea Tar Pits that there were lots of Ice Age animals wandering around what is now the environs of greater Los Angeles.

Now, as the subway gets extended, they're finding even more Ice Age fossil specimens underground. Fortunately, not hot molten magma, no matter what Anne Heche and Tommy Lee Jones think. Of course, that's geologically impossible.  LA has enough trouble with regular fires anyway.

Los Angeles subway work uncovers array of Ice Age fossils (Update)

That's cool. For the record, I am not planning to ride that subway. Ever.

That one missed us by a few seconds

Asteroid 2017 VL2 zoomed terrifyingly close to Earth and NASA didn’t see it coming

NASA Fails To Spot Whale-Sized Asteroid That Skimmed Past Earth

It's never comforting when we find out about a big-enough-to-cause-problems asteroid that missed Earth, after it missed Earth -- and didn't miss by much.

And as a wise sage once said, "The one that's going to get us is the one we don't see coming."

Sobering thought, that.

(Unfortunately, after what Donald Trump did with respect to Jerusalem, our general chances of getting killed in a random lone-wolf terror attack, or an organized automatic weapon gunning-down, have gone up, and that's far more likely than an asteroid strike, even if it would kill fewer people.)

'Tis the season for foxy lingerie

Play on words there -- Megan Fox shows off lingerie, and the benefits of having both a personal trainer (I'm pretty sure) and the dedication to get in shape after multiple childbirths.

Pretty darned amazing, and just in time for the holidays.

 Article: (includes a video!)

'Tis the season! Megan Fox shows off her incredible figure in lacy lingerie as she smolders in new holiday campaign for Frederick's Of Hollywood

Megan's Frederick's of Hollywood collection

Megan Fox Spotlight from Frederick's of Hollywood

And you would be expecting a picture, too, I believe.

The danger of investigating Mueller

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post really lays it on the line here.

The attacks on Mueller push us closer to the precipice
"Only recently, it was widely assumed that if Trump fired Mueller, many Republicans would rise up to defend our institutions. Now, many in the party are laying the groundwork for justifying a coverup. This is a recipe for lawlessness."
And terror.

Not terrorism. The kind of terror where normal people are scared out of their wits.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Supergirl" borrows a line from "Superman II"

In the four-part superhero crossover saga called "Crisis on Earth X" just aired on the CW network (which was very well done and had several moments of believable peril, as well as emotional drama), many of the characters had to confront their lookalike alter-egos (or doppelgangers, if you prefer) from the alternate universe.  And there were a ton of "Easter eggs" and homages to movies and TV shows from the past.

This one was my favorite.

England crashes in the Ashes (2nd Test)

On Day 5 of the second Ashes Test match, this being the famous five-match cricket series regularly played between Australia and England, England was poised for a heroic offensive attack that would be the stuff of legend, scoring a record number of runs in a massive comeback to turn the tables on the Aussies and take the match.

Instead, they got stuffed.  Needing 176 runs, they only got 51, and Australia celebrated going up 2-0.  If they win the next Test match, the Ashes urn will be theirs, and there will be a lot less interest in the last two matches.  So I hope England wins the next one, to keep things interesting for a longer time.  But England just doesn't seem to have offensive depth.

I'll bet we see a couple of personnel changes for the Brits in the next match.

Mitchell Starc takes five wickets as Australia blow England away on day five of second Test to secure 120-run victory and move into 2-0 series lead

Screw the Freedom Caucus

The Freedom Caucus, the ultra-arch, know-nothing, unthinking conservatives in the House of Representatives, just like to gum up the works of the government.  And we have an example right now of their useless intransigence.

Trump again elevates shutdown threat, even as tensions ease on Capitol Hill

Here's a prime demonstration of why they are such troublemakers:
"They [the Freedom Caucus] want GOP leaders to take a firmer stance in negotiations with Democrats — including opposing efforts to link an increase in defense spending, supported by most Republicans, to an increase in nondefense spending, favored by Democrats.  
 Meadows and fellow Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said they are seeking to make it as difficult as possible for Democrats to oppose spending bills that hike spending on the military but not on other domestic programs."
Translation: don't spend on what citizens of this country need, just spend money on military hardware so contractors in our districts get paid.

Now, we do need to build up our military, which is experiencing both materiel and morale problems.  But all the Freedom Caucus dumbasses have to accept is as much spending on the home front as on the military operations.  But since they've just passed a ridiculous and unneeded tax cut, they have to try and control spending somewhere, which means not giving the people of this country programs that they need.

Of course.

It's time for a sonnet

Haven't practiced sonnetry for a short while, so here's a recent contribution.

"many times before and still to come"

She comes to me within a dream that I
have entertained for years, and I again
react as I connect, my inner sigh
fixated on her form just as I then
did first conceive her for my personal
delightment -- based upon a certainty
as real as rock and not unusual,
but which could be transformed especially
into enraptured realms where my impress-
iveness attunes to her exotic skills,
and we create a center of excess
combining lust and love and wondrous thrills
until my own reality compelled
becomes a liquid joyousness expelled.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Lighthouse of the Week, December 3-9, 2017: Cape Agulhas, South Africa

In my search for the Lighthouse of the Week, I strive to find them in many different places. Now, I know that I likely haven't featured two-thirds or so of the lighthouses in the United States yet. But I like to keep it diverse. So I contemplated where in the world I had not yet considered for lighthouse locations, thinking coastally, and I came up with South Africa.

And as I expected, South Africa has lighthouses. In fact, it has a lot of lighthouses -- so many that the amazing Lighthouse Directory has to have separate pages for western and eastern South Africa.

I quickly decided to feature the Cape Agulhas lighthouse, which has as its most prominent talking point that it is located on the southernmost point of continental Africa. It shouldn't be too hard to figure out where that is, but if you want to see it, I have a Google map link right here.

It was easy to find out that Cape Agulhas is the second oldest lighthouse still operating in South Africa. It's a well-designed and symmetrical structure. Here's a bit more about it:
"1849. Reactivated (inactive 1968-1988); focal plane 31 m (102 ft); white flash every 5 s. 27 m (89 ft) sandstone tower with lantern and gallery, rising through the center of a 1-story keeper's house. Rotating 1st order Fresnel lens in use. Building painted white with two red horizontal bands on the tower.

This is South Africa's third oldest light station and second oldest surviving lighthouse (after Green Point). The lighthouse marks the southernmost point of Africa at latitude 34°50' S and the junction of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at longtitude 20°01' E; the ultimate tip of the continent is 1 km (0.6 mi) west southwest of the lighthouse. This historic light, surely one of the world's great lighthouses, was deactivated in 1968 when deterioration of the sandstone walls made the tower appear unsafe. Twenty years of public effort led by the Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum secured a complete restoration and reactivation in 1988."

Not a bad choice for Lighthouse of the Week, I think.

But what really determines it are the pictures. Here they are:

by Eduan Hayman

Click on this for a larger image, it's worth it

by Tony Whitehead

As long as we know what side you're on

Judge Roy Moore, Republican candidate for Senate from Alabama, at a recent public appearance.

(No, not really. But isn't this what he represents?)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Demi's red dress

Not much to say, but much to gawk at.  The 'Demi' in the title is curvy model and up-and-coming gossip favorite, Demi Rose Mawby.

Read more about this dress, and the woman wearing it, here:

Demi Rose flaunts her ample cleavage in a plunging red silk dress with a VERY daring thigh-high split as she attends Beauty Awards in style

It's almost time to chase

I didn't say much about the first Ashes Test in Australia, which the Aussies won handily, and without a lot of drama.

As I write this, the second Test could get more interesting.  What happened was this:

The English captain chose to bowl first.  This gave Australia a chance to get a big lead, which they basically did.  Then England batted, and didn't do real well.  This meant that Australia could force them to bat again, right away, rather than taking their turn (which is called "enforcing the follow-on").  That way, Australia could win outright without ever batting again, if England didn't get enough runs to exceed Australia's score in the first innings, or Australia can see exactly how many runs they'd need to get when they batted after England.

But it hasn't worked out that way.  Australia didn't enforce the follow-on, and apparently due to some changes in the way that the ball behaved late in the day, England started taking wickets.  And today their star bowler, Jimmy Anderson, caught fire and took five wickets (which is a lot because the innings is over when 10 are taken).  So now, literally now, England needs one more and then it's their turn to bat -- and they have to "chase" a total of around 350 runs.   Not easy, but not impossible.

Chases can be fun.  We'll see how much fun this one is for the English side.

The Ashes, Second Test, Day Four update

Really? They might want to figure out how to stay in the PL first

I read today that Crystal Palace, which is no longer in last place in the 20 team Premier League (they're in 19th), is going to have a dramatic makeover of their stadium, called Selhurst Park.

Here's one artist's conception of it; it's pretty amazing.

Crystal Palace reveal plans for stunning £100m redevelopment of Selhurst Park main stand that will boost ground's capacity to 34,000 in three years

There's one little problem, though.

If the season ended now, Crystal Palace is in the relegation zone.  Which means they'd get sent 'down', out of the Premier League, to the next level of English soccer, the "Championship".  If that happened, they'd lose a lot of money and prestige, both of which I think are useful when building a new palace for your team named Crystal Palace.

So before I made extensive plans, I'd make sure you were going to stay in the top flight.  While they've shown promising signs, they're still in danger (though yes, it's still a long season).

Side of the road, part 2

I've been to this next place.  Route 28 in California, also known as Tahoe Boulevard, follows the coast of Lake Tahoe around Crystal Bay and through Lake Tahoe State Park.  It also goes near "Bonsai Rock".

Side of the road, part 1

I'll bet most of you have never wondered where Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was born and raised.  It happens to be the Franklin Pierce Homestead, which is definitely is where he grew up and might be where he was born.  It's in New Hampshire, somewhat near Manchester.

And you can see it when you drive by on the road.  It's the white house (ha), not the gray house on the other side of the street.

Cool, eh?  I can tell you're excited.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Award-winning pano photos

I know that I have mentioned before that I have a fondness for photography contests.  (I haven't figured out where the awards for nude photography are located, though.) In lieu of nudes, I also have a great liking for nature and landscapes and scenic locations.  My ongoing "Lighthouse of the Week" feature here demonstrates that.

So I always like a good photo contest, and this one, which features panoramic photographs, is quite good.

From misty peaks in China to a rainbow over Arizona: The stunning winners of the panoramic photography awards revealed

The images in the Daily Mail article above are from the contest Web site;  it is officially the Epson International Pano Awards.  Let your eyes and mind appreciate the

2017 Winner's Gallery

This shot of one of the Italian Dolomites' most recognizable landmarks, Tre Cime Lavaredo, at night under the Milky Way, really appealed to me.  It helps that this is a location I viewed during the day -- but not this spectacularly.  (Click on it to make it bigger -- I wish I had it even bigger than this.)

A quick quote from Eugene Robinson

In the continuing comedy of errors that is the Trump Presidential Administration, there has been one clear pattern of consistency:  disdain for mainstream science.  Of course, there is also a disdain for fact and indeed reality itself, but that's a topic for many others to handle.  (And they have, and likely will continue to do so.)

But I spied a small yet profoundly troubling part of Eugene Robinson's recent column, entitled "We will all pay a price for Trump's nihilism*", and that quote reads like this:
"The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, by contrast, has no master. In its 41-year history — it was founded during the Gerald Ford administration — the office established to advise presidents on scientific matters has never gone so long without a leader. From 135 staffers under Obama, it has been slashed to 45."
That's shocking.  OK, cut a few positions to help with the budget, but this level smacks of book-burning repugnance for actual knowledge.  Wouldn't it be nice to have a few experts around to provide good advice?

Clearly not where the Trump administration is concerned.

* nihilism -- in case you don't know what it means, and I had to look it up myself:

1. total rejection of established laws and institutions.
2. anarchy, terrorism, or other revolutionary activity.
3. total and absolute destructiveness, especially toward the world at large and including oneself

Sounds about right to me.

Lighthouse of the Week, Nov. 26-Dec. 2, 2017: La Corbière, Jersey

As with last week, I decided to go with a well-known, oft-visited, and oft-photographed lighthouse again this week.  This one is named La Corbière, which might make one think it is France.  But no, it is actually located on an island on the island of Jersey, which in fact is much closer to France than the main landform on which England resides.  (Where is that, exactly?  Right here.)

Wait, look again!  It's on a peninsula on the island of Jersey.  Must be low tide.  (Switch to the satellite view in Google Maps above and you can see where the frequently-submerged land that connects the lighthouse island to the mainland is located.)

La Corbière has a few distinctions, one of them being that it's the first reinforced concrete lighthouse built in England. (But Jersey is not officially a part of England/UK, it's a "self-governing state", though it does recognize the monarchy.  So is it really the first reinforced concrete lighthouse in England?  You make the call.

Here's a Web site about it, though they can't spell "concrete" consistently.  Must be a French translation thing.

Here are the main facts, from the Lighthouse Directory, of course:
"1874 (John Coode). Active; focal plane 36 m (119 ft); white or red light, depending on direction, 5 s on, 5 s off. 19 m (62 ft) round concrete block tower with lantern and gallery, painted white. Fog horn (4 blasts, long-short-long-short, every 60 s); the signal is the Morse code for "C," representing the name of the lighthouse. This was the first British lighthouse to be built using concrete. The lighthouse is perched atop a rock just off the southwestern tip of Jersey. It is accessible by a causeway at low tide, but visitors must take care not to be stranded by the incoming tide (an alarm sounds to warn visitors when it is time to return)."
Enough with the text.  Let's get to the pics.

At high tide

At low tide

by Danny Evans

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Palace edges closer to safety

They've got a long way to go.

But a lot of other teams do too.

With a draw versus Everton, a win over Stoke City, and a draw with Brighton and Hove Albion, the Crystal Palace Eagles now have 9 points.  That isn't a lot, of course -- but for the first time, they aren't the only team at the bottom of the table on points;  Swansea City is down there with them.  And they're only one point behind West Ham, and a win (combined with Everton and West Brom not getting any points) would drag them out of the bottom three.   

There might be a little hope yet.  And it's a long season.

Match report for Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Crystal Palace

Apparently CP forced some great saves from B&HA standout keeper Mathew Ryan, but I haven't found any videos of them yet.  I'll keep looking.

Highway 41 in Fort Myers, Florida

Three more stops on Highway 41 in this post.

By Page Field, Fort Myers (note plane in flight as you pan around).  That was a lucky shot.

By the Fort Myers Country Club

Crossing the Caloosahatchee River Bridge, Fort Myers

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Titanic was not the target

Just read this short but interesting story today about the discovery of the Titanic shipwreck on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

It turns out that the Titanic was not the main target of the expedition -- but they had to make it seem like it was, because the true targets were the U.S. nuclear submarines Thresher and Scorpion, which in a somewhat unlikely coincidence, had sunk near where the Titanic ended up. Inspecting the sunken subs was a secret at the time.

Bob Ballard inspected both wrecks for the Navy to see if their nuclear plants were leaking.  (They weren't.)

After looking them over, he had extra time, and the Navy had told him he could do what he wanted with the extra time, if he had any.

So he went looking for the Titanic -- and found it, using a technique he'd learned while looking at the submarine wrecks.

And now you know the rest of the story.

Jenna Dewan Tatum wears a DRESS to the American Music Awards

While considering how to evaluate the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, I just have to note the dress that extremely fit and quite comely actress Jenna Dewan Tatum wore to the American Music Awards.

In a word: Wow.

In three words:  WOW. WOW. WOW.

As you might be able to tell, I was considerably impressed. No doubt that she's a hottie starlet, and she showed it to full advantage.

See what I mean.

Rendesvous with Oumuamua

OK, if you don't get the reference in the title of this post, I'll help.

Back to the Hugos: Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C Clarke

Now, I won't give very much away, but suffice it to say for the purposes here is that Rama was a very big, unusually shaped object that came into the Solar System from interstellar space.

OK, just a very short time ago, the Solar System had an encounter with an asteroid from interstellar space.  And it was reasonably big (though not nearly as big as Rama).

And now it turns out it was very unusually shaped, too.

ESO Observations Show First Interstellar Asteroid is Like Nothing Seen Before

Here are a couple of different renderings of what it might look like up close.  Note that these are artistic conceptions, not photographs.

Now let's note that we already know asteroids can have unusual shapes.  Consider Ida, which was encountered by Galileo on the way to Jupiter:

I used this picture as a reminder that Ida was accompanied by the cute little moonlet named Dactyl.

So anyway, we know asteroids can have unusual shapes.  It's just fun that Oumuamua came in from outer space and was unusually shaped, too.  This allows our imaginations to roam wildly.

Jana Novotna only needed one Grand Slam singles victory

Sad to hear of the death of Jana Novotna at age 49. I distinctly remember her crushing loss to Steffi Graf in the 1993 final, one of the most memorable losses in the history of the tournament. And it was never clear if she would win it, because she was a grass court serve-and-volley specialist near the end of the era of that kind of player. But she persisted, persevered, whatever -- and indeed did win it. Despite all the doubles titles -- and she was really good at doubles -- winning Wimbledon once in singles, her only singles Grand Slam, and the only Grand Slam tournament that suited her grass court skills -- capped her career.

I couldn't say it better than this Washington Post perspective, so I won't try.

Jana Novotna faced her humanity, and triumphed
"And of course, her losses had magnified her win, in that odd capability of all losses. She had become both a one-time Grand Slam champion and unforgettable. The perseverance, the overcoming, all the things that make competition so compelling, all filled Centre Court."
I won't give away the ending. Read it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lighthouse of the Week, November 19-25, 2017: Petit Minou, France

After looking for lighthouses around the Black Sea for a couple of weeks, where I found some but couldn't find a lot of pictures of them, I decided to look for more popular lighthouses, specifically ones that have been photographed numerous times.  I found a couple of Web sites with lists of popular lighthouses, which led me to Le Phare du Petit Minou, or (in English) the Petit Minou lighthouse.

It's located near Brest, France, which is on the northern coast of the Bay of Biscay.  You know that part of France that sticks out west into the Celtic Sea, south of England?  That's where it's located. (Click to jump to Google Maps.)

Here's how the Lighthouse Directory describes it:
"1848 (Louis Plantier). Active; focal plane 32 m (105 ft); two flashes every 6 s, white or red depending on direction; also a quick-flashing white light, focal plane 22 m (72 ft), which serves as the front light of the Portzic range. 26 m (85 ft) round granite tower with lantern and gallery, rising from a circular 1-story stone keeper's house. The tower is painted white on the southwest (seaward) side and is unpainted otherwise; lantern painted red. Fresnel lens in use. Next to the lighthouse is a shorter signal tower carrying radar equipment.

The lighthouse is the front light of a range, with the Portzic lighthouse (see above) as the rear light. Located on an islet just offshore, connected to the mainland by an arched stone bridge, at the northern entrance to the Goulet de Brest, about 6 km (3.5 mi) southwest of La Trinité."
Because this is a well-known and picturesque lighthouse, there are indeed lots of pictures of it.  So I have a variety of them (6) below, and also a drone video, which seem to be proliferating all over YouTube.

Friday, November 17, 2017

On Highway 41 north of Naples

Continuing our Streetview trek on America's Highway 41:

Crossing the bridge over the Cocohatchee River

Mel's Diner in Bonita Springs

Crossing the Imperial River

Hertz Corporate Headquarters (note the sign)

The Estero River by the Koreshan State Historic Site

Next stop: Fort Myers.

Close encounters of the fireball kind

If you haven't seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, then you might not get this, but simply put, many cinematic alien abductions or other relationships with extraterrestrials tend to start looking a lot like this fireball sighting in Lapland.

Hopefully the aliens picked up the reindeer they were looking for and left quietly.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

And now some words from Robert Rubin

The House Republicans have passed a terrible "tax reform" plan -- it's hard to see how they can even say good things about it with a straight face -- but hopefully the Senate will derail their hopes.  Meanwhile, I am quoting from Robert Rubin's appearance in the pages of the Washington Post, in a piece entitled "The Republican Tax Plan's Five Worst Dangers".

"Adding $1.5 trillion or more to the federal debt would make an already bad situation worse. A useful measure of our fiscal position is the ratio of publicly held government debt to economic output or gross domestic product, called the debt/GDP ratio. In 2000, the debt/GDP ratio was 32 percent. The ratio is now 77 percent. Looking forward, the CBO projects the debt/GDP ratio to be 91 percent in 2027 and 150 percent in 2047. After $1.5 trillion of deficit-funded tax cuts, those future ratios have been estimated to increase to roughly 97 percent in 2027 and 160 percent in 2047. These estimates likely substantially understate the worsening of our fiscal trajectory. That’s because they do not account for the increasingly adverse effect on growth of the difficult-to-quantify effects of fiscal deterioration.
We have an imperative need to address our unsustainable longer-term fiscal trajectory with sound economic policies. Few elected officials want to face this fact, but, at the very least, they should not make matters worse. We can only hope that responsible elected officials will prevent this irresponsible tax plan from being adopted."

There might be just enough responsible elected Republican senators to stop this atrocity. These are dangerous times.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Probably sexist, and somewhat sexy

The Daily Mail had a fun/funny article about the sexist Christmas ads of yesteryear:

Sexist Santa! Cringe-worthy Christmas ads from yesteryear show how ironing boards, hoovers and toasters were marketed as ideal presents for women

Yes, we've come a long way, even though these recent reports of widespread sexual harassment indicate that in many ways we haven't come far enough.

(I personally respect women and their rights, and I also think that a fit woman naked is beautiful. Myself and thousands of artists and photographers -- mostly male, admittedly -- are all in agreement here.  And there's a reason that lots and lots and lots of men watch the Victoria's Secret Christmas special, and I daresay that it's not because of all those fancy wings.)

But getting back to the article:

One ad in particular caught my eye.  I expect that most women don't get fantastically excited about boot polish, but even given the lady's antique hairstyle, the figure under that flimsy lingerie is pretty darned fine.  And they even allowed a hint of the presence of what the French call les mamelons to show through.

Tu n'es pas d'accord?

Global warming makes it hotter more often

As if anyone with a functioning brain didn't realize that global warming will make the world get warmer, there's news from the AGU (that's the American Geophysical Union) that makes it clearer:

Human-caused warming increasing likelihood of record-breaking hot years

Yes, that should be fairly obvious.  But what's the statistical breakdown?

Quoting the press release:

"Global annual temperature records show there were 17 record hot years from 1861 to 2005. The new study examines whether these temperature records are being broken more often and if so, whether human-caused global warming is to blame.

The results show human influence has greatly increased the likelihood of record-breaking hot years occurring on a global scale. Without human-caused climate change, there should only have been an average of seven record hot years from 1861 to 2005, not 17. Further, human-caused climate change at least doubled the odds of having a record-breaking hot year from 1926 to 1945 and from 1967 onwards, according to the new study."
Here's something really interesting -- which I have told to numerous global warming denier-types on Twitter, sometimes repeatedly:
"He [Andrew King, lead author of the study] also determined human-caused climate change at least doubled the odds of having a record-breaking hot year from 1926 to 1945 and from 1967 onwards. The odds didn’t increase from 1945 to 1967 because man-made aerosol emissions generated a cooling effect, which counteracted warming due to anthropogenic greenhouse gases."

The press release provides a link to the article (which isn't even officially published yet), and I will do the same here:

Attributing changing rates of temperature record-breaking to anthropogenic influences

Final thought: sometimes you have to clarify the obvious for the benefit of those for which the obvious is not something they want clarified.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rupert Murdoch's legacy

How Rupert Murdoch destroyed the Republican Party

by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post
"Murdoch’s lifelong passion has been newspapers, but his real power base is Fox News. The network is to Republicans what the Daily Worker was to American communists — the only trusted news source. With the possible exception of the way the once isolationist Chicago Tribune dominated the Midwest, there has never been anything like it. In the most recent presidential campaign, fully 40 percent of Trump voters said their main source of news was Fox News. Just 8 percent of them relied primarily on CNN — enough, nevertheless, to send Donald Trump baying at the moon about fake news."

And we wonder why some people would vote for Roy Moore even if he was a convicted child molester?

A Niklas Bendtner sighting!

Denmark played Ireland today for a spot in the World Cup tournament.  It was Ireland's first chance to get in for quite awhile, so the Irish were pretty excited.

Denmark played it cool and dominated, winning 5-1. 

The late highlight was an appearance by Niklas Bendtner, put in for the last couple of minutes.  But he saw action, drawing a penalty and converting the penalty kick.

I'm not sure what kind of shape he's in, but he's obviously still on the Denmark national team.  And it's noteworthy for the Danes, because they missed the tournament in 2014.

Bendtner (the Dane in red on the right) played in the first game of the playoff, too

USA wins the Fed Cup

I completely missed this when it happened, and if I hadn't been paging through a two-day-old sports section while waiting for coffee, I never would have known about it.

But the USA won the Fed Cup!

If you're now asking what the Fed Cup is, I don't blame you.  Years and years ago, when amateur sports still had panache, the Davis Cup, the nation vs. nation tournament played by men was bigger than the Grand Slam tournaments.  Because it was for king and country, don'tcha know.  And it had some epic matches, too.  John McEnroe was positively heroic for the USA in Davis Cup play, including a truly epic monster of a match against Mats Wilander.  Because they play "real" tennis in the Davis Cup -- no tiebreakers.  The McEnroe-Wilander match lasted 6 hours and 22 minutes and the score was 9-7, 6-2, 15-17, 3-6, 8-6.  The USA went on to win the Davis Cup that year (1982) over Australia.  And in 1987, McEnroe lost to Boris Becker 4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2.

So what's the Fed Cup? you are no doubt still wondering.  Well, the Fed Cup is the women's version of the Davis Cup.  It began in 1963;  if you want to know lots and lots more, go here:  Fed Cup - the World Cup of Tennis.

This is the actual Fed Cup:

The USA had won 17 Fed Cups, but none since 2000 -- which is a pretty long time for a country that has won 17 of them.  So they finally won again over Belarus.

The hero was Coco Vandeweghe, who won both singles matches and was one of the partners in the deciding doubles match, paired up with Shelby Rogers.

Here's the story:

United States downs Belarus to claim first Fed Cup since 2000 and 18th overall

Sloane Stephens, though she played a rugged 4-6, 6-1, 8-6 match (the winner was Aliaksandra Sasnovich), lost both her matches.  But she softened up Aryna Sabalenka with in a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 match on the first day.

Monday, November 13, 2017

More from Juno

The Juno satellite, on a spectacular mission to Jupiter, has provided more images of the Lord of the Planets.

Astonishing images of Jupiter

Here's just one example:

And there's still more to come.

It's almost time for Miss Universe (November 26)

Occasionally in the past I have taken a few looks at the contestants in the Miss Universe contest.  As one might expect, they are generally and uniformly fantastic looking women.  And despite the ethnic variety involved for women from around the world, it's hard to prefer one gorgeous example of femininehood over another.  

I.e., they're all pretty hot.

But this year I have a favorite.  My favorite is Miss Iceland, who has a back story.  But first, here she is:

Her name is Arna Ýr Jónsdóttir, and her back story is that she relinquished a previous beauty queen title when the organizers wanted her to lose weight.  Seriously, what were they thinking?

Yes, I follow her on Instagram.

What's interesting is that she said she wouldn't compete in another pageant after her experience with the previous one. But she set her sights a little higher, and she's in the big one now.

I wish her well, and I just don't want Brazil to win it again.  (Kinda like the World Cup.)

OK, I know what some of you are thinking.  Yes, she took a stand, and she competed again, and that's all good, but does she have what it takes to win Miss Universe? 

She doesn't have to have a talent in the Miss Universe contest, she just has to look good.  And as the picture above shows, she's really beautiful.  But there is one other aspect to these contests.  And I'm sure most of  you know what that is.

Yeah, that's what it is.

She can win it.

What affects coral growth rates

Here's a very good summary of research into what affects coral growth rates for the reefs around Bermuda.

Study of Bermuda corals finds temperature is most influential factor on coral growth

Ah yes. Temperature.

And right now, temperature is helping the corals around Bermuda compensate for the effects of ocean acidification.
" “At the present time, Bermuda’s coral reefs appear to be faring reasonably well with high rates of coral production and calcification that appears to be temporarily offsetting the impact of ocean acidification,” said Nicholas Bates, the director of the Bermuda Institute for Ocean Sciences and a co-author on the paper.

“We saw that as the temperature got warmer, there wasn’t a point in the data where it got too warm and calcification started to slow down,” Courtney said. “We also didn’t observe significant coral bleaching in the study, so in Bermuda the thermal maximum, or the highest temperature at which coral can grow, likely wasn’t exceeded during the two-year study.”
However, not all is rosy, if the temperature of ocean surface waters keeps increasing.
"The positive effect of modest warming on coral calcification had been observed in many laboratory experiments. But, as [graduate student Travis] Courtney explained, it comes with a caveat: if the warming is too much or too fast, corals quickly reach a tipping point. 
“Then there's a very sharp downturn, which is usually somewhere around the maximum average summer temperature—just a little warmer than what they’re used to—where corals have a very quick downturn in how fast they can grow,” Courtney said. “About another degree past that maximum summer temperature is often when bleaching can happen. The coral is stressed, and it starts growing slower, and then stress mechanisms trigger bleaching and it loses its symbiotic algae. If that bleaching stress is severe enough for long enough, that's when you can have coral mortality.”
And this has been happening when it gets too hot.

Yes, people, there's a warning in that.  And we need to pay attention to it.

Lighthouse of the Week, November 12-18, 2017: Gelendzhikskiy Vkhodnoy, Russia

Last week I featured a lighthouse on the Black Sea, and as I indicated in that post, I returned to the Black Sea this week.  This week's lighthouse is Gelendzhikskiy Vkhodnoy.  It's located at the entrance to this bay on the Black Sea.   Here's what the Lighthouse Directory says:
"Date unknown. Active; focal plane about 55 m (180 ft); two white flashes every 15 s. 42 m (138 ft) octagonal concrete tower with lantern and double gallery, painted white with three red horizontal bands."
There's no indication of how tall it is.  But here are some pictures, one near and one far away: