Saturday, August 1, 2009

Birther Certificate

(John Sherffius, Colorado, Boulder Daily Camera)

It's a well-known fact that reality has a strong liberal bias...

No, I'm NOT Defending Her

The liberal blogosphere is all abuzz with the "news" that Sarah and Todd Palin are getting divorced. She, via her spokesperson, claims she is not. Every one of these stories that provides a link / source goes back to this one.
Earlier this week one of my best sources claimed to have explosive new information for me.

It took all week for us to finally get together, but last night we finally sat down for an amazing conversation. And what I heard made my jaw drop.

According to my source Sarah is finished with Todd and has decided to end their marriage.

She has purchased land in Montana (I wonder whose donations paid for that?), and may be considering moving herself and the children as far away from Alaska as she can get.
See what's missing? Like details, research, supporting evidence and documentation?

Look, I dislike Palin and her politics as much as anyone, but the blogs, and even some news media have picked up this story and run with it. No one is offering more than speculation and circumstantial, possibly unrelated, bits of trivia. Maybe she's getting divorced, maybe she's not. But it seems pointless and irresponsible to gossip about it and its potential consequences before anything is actually known.

Wile E.

Original photo from The Big Picture yesterday.


A song I'd heard before, but had never seen the video clip: Public Image: "Rise."

What I wanted to find was "Burning Down the House" by Talking Heads, but the decent video versions aren't embeddable. Here's the original video, and here's an odd, fun cover by Tom Jones and The Cardigans (also embedding-disabled). What I did find was a live version of Life During Wartime. Also, Tengrain posted a wonderful version of "Naive Melody (This Must Be the Place)" yesterday.

And finally, I don't think I've ever posted any Devo on this blog, a situation that I hereby remedy with "Jerkin' Back and Forth."

Not the Biggest Bang

But a pretty darned big one, nevertheless. New Scientist has an excellent image gallery illustrating the results of a supercomputer simulation of a type 1a supernova. The blast itself would take about five seconds, but would release the equivalent of 10^27 10-megaton hydrogen bombs.
Now, according to Google the "mass of Earth = 5.9742 × 10^24 kilograms," or 1.3578 × 10^15 megatons (converted to english units). So if you took 7.3649 × 10^11 earth masses (that's 700 billion plus earth masses, not volumes) of dynamite, wired it all to detonate within a five-second window, and set if off, it would yield roughly the same amount of energy as one of these firecrackers.

So again, not the biggest bang, but I feel much safer knowing the above example is confined to a supercomputer and images.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Statistic, Now With Math

Krugman pointed this quote out a couple of days ago. I kind of rolled my eyes and figured I'd get back to it. But now, thanks to TYWKIWDBI, you can watch it yourself.

Yes, of course there's a reason Canadians have a greater life expectancy than US citizens, but it most certainly has nothing to do with health care. I, for one, can certainly find no flaw in his rigorous mathematical analysis. (This will be the first time I use the label "Stupid math tricks" in non-facetious way; this may not be the stupidest evar, but it's got to be near the top for those broadcast on national -or international?- television.)

Number Five Was Where I Grew Up

and it has been high on this list every time I see a new edition. Number four is where my little sister went to school, and it is also high on the list perennially. Top Party Schools.

Oregon State not so much. All three of these schools are in relatively small towns, relatively isolated from major population centers in their respective states. But UO and UGa have not had the "in loco parentis" mindset that OSU fosters. Until the 1980's OSU successfully opposed any alcohol licenses near campus, and downtown is a half mile away. UO and UGa campuses are adjacent to their respective business districts. Athens, Ga had a particularly vibrant and successful music scene, and that of Athens, Oh was perhaps not as successful, but certainly active and varied in the late 70's. The Corvallis music scene is notoriously weak, according to my musician friends. Anyone esle have any insights into what makes a schools party scene better or worse?

Quote o' the Day

"Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservative." - John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

Heh. Yah. You betcha.

Moving Forward by Moving Backward

Interesting post by John Cole at Balloon Juice:
I read somewhere that the fact that our seniors are all covered by medicare really makes health care reform difficult. When the most reliable voting bloc already has their coverage paid for by the state, all the Republicans have to do is peel off a few other haves and convince the old folks that Obama wants to euthanize them.
Now, actually, this gives me a great idea. If the Blue Dog-pubblekin coalition does manage to block substantive health care reform, perhaps we should just allow them to have what they want: complete free-market health care. Given that the US government covers better than half the health care costs in the country, I'll bet the seniors would love them some progressivism real quick. And I would love to be a CIA wiretapper listening in on a senator duking it out with his private insurer: "Whaddya mean, you have reason to believe my gonorrhea was a 'pre-existing' condition?"

Funny. It looks like the surest and quickest way to get what most Americans want would be to let them have what the pubblekins want them to have for a week or two.

Weather Reporting Done Right

OregonLive has a jaw-dropping report on this week's hot weather. Some of the stats are amazing:
Portland was no slouch when it came to records. Those three days -- Monday's 103, and Tuesday and Wednesday's 106 degree highs -- were all records for the dates.

Tuesday and Wednesday also clocked in as the all-time hottest average daily temperatures ever in Portland.

The average temperature on Tuesday was 90 degrees; and on Wednesday it was 89 degrees, making them, according to the National Weather Service, the hottest full calendar days on record.

The records were set because of the unusually warm nights, mostly in the lower to mid-70s. The 86 degree daily average high on Monday puts it in a tie for fourth with a bunch of other dates.

Other Portland records during the heat wave:

-- Top two hottest three day periods in Portland: Average temperature of 88 degrees Monday through Wednesday; and 86.7 degrees Tuesday through Thursday.

-- July 2009 also looks like it will go down at the second hottest month on record for Portland. The hottest July, with an average temperature of 74.1 degrees, happened back in 1985. The average temperature through Thursday is 73.4 degrees.

-- If the highs reach 90 degrees today through Sunday in Portland, the city will break it's all time record for consecutive days at or above 90 degrees with 9, breaking the old record of 8 consecutive days, which occurred on the 8 days ending on August 19, 1967.
Our local paper... not so much. The lead story was the "controversy" over whether to use the officially designated, National Weather Service thermometer, which read 108 as the high Wednesday, or an unofficial reading of 110 from another site. Corvallis' all time high is 108, so I guess that makes it a big deal- did we set a new high or not? The second story was on an unsuccessful attempt to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Today's report is simply the highs, the forecast high for today, and a note that the NWS has issued a fire alert for the central coast range. (BTW, I think our high today- and it's starting to come down- was 91. Average for the date is 83)

The GT is like a fifth-grade class project every day, where the most commonly-asked question is "How do you spell AP?"

Followup: Once again, OregonLive shines. They actually do some research and interview some experts on the fire risk story. Hmph. Why bother when you can read the wire feed?


As in "there is no." I have twice posted on the Oregon City Crazies who allowed their daughter to die without seeking medical care (here and here). They don't believe in medicine, they believe in prayer, and the whole congregation had been praying over at their house.

I imagine they were pretty startled and confused when their daughter died. But their faith is unshaken.

I didn't bother commenting when the couple was found innocent of manslaughter. I was too angry about the result. The father was found guilty of one charge of second-degree criminal mistreatment. I write today to tell you he recieved 60 days in prison, and five years probabation. "If you kill another kid in the next five years, you are really going to get into trouble."

And their surviving child is required to get yearly check ups.

As is the baby they're expecting.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee..., coffee, coffee... I like coffee, do you like coffee, let's get some coffee, what shall we do with the coffee, let's get some more coffee...
The Mocha Lisa, in Sydney, Australia. The above is from SFGate, and I found another at DemocraticUnderground:
Rob Griffith /AP

I tried to find a story on the inspiration and creation of this wonderful, tongue-in-cheek artwork with no luck, but I did come across a link to a delightfully named coffee shop in Racine Wisconsin, also called the Mocha Lisa. To my fellow caffeine freaks in the northern midwest, greetings from Outside the Interzone. Ilikecoffee,doyoulikecoffee,let'sgetsomecoffee...


Pretty, but potheads nevertheless. From today's photogallery at the CS Monitor.

Also in the Monitor today, an intriguing and somewhat scary op-ed regarding the potential for a revolutionary movement arising during the current great recession:
For the first time in generations, people are challenging the view that a free-market order – the system that dominates the globe today – is the destiny of all nations. The free market's uncanny ability to enrich the elite, coupled with its inability to soften the sharp experiences of staggering poverty, has pushed inequality to the breaking point.
Proponents of neoliberalism are indifferent to this history and dismiss the notion that "another world is possible" that could alleviate grinding misery and poverty around the world. But in opposition to the contemporary individualistic system of capitalism, evidence of a new global movement dedicated to social justice and human rights has sprung from the ashes of the past. Just in the past decade, we have witnessed the expansion of worker insurgencies, peasant and indigenous uprisings, ecological protests, and democracy movements.
People are inherently cautious and take extraordinary action only when they have little to lose and something to gain. The current economic crisis has pushed more people into poverty and despair than at any time since the early 20th century, to the point where alternatives to the current system can be considered.
This is a topic I've been discussing with friends for years. The trend of concentration of wealth among the very richest has been accelerating for decades, with a slight respite during the Clinton years. The impoverished have become much more so, and median wages have fallen with respect to inflation-adjusted dollars. During the 1970's, CEO wages were typically 40 times that of the average worker; that number is now around 500. Service wage jobs typically start at minimum wage, and top out, after years of experience, at a dollar or two higher than that. Even highly-demanding jobs, in terms of work, experience and training, are sickenly underpaid... as a beginning teacher, with a degree in geology, a masters in science education, and years of work experience, my salary was 18K. People are pissed.

However, I am a believer in capitalism. I feel it needs to be watched carefully and regulated. We have uncountable laws that allow authorities to watch, regulate, and if necessary, punish, private citizens, to safeguard and foster a safe, healthy society. Corporations, however, resist any such oversight. Their only concern, as far as I've been able to tell, is to maximize monetary profits. In fact, they are legally required to do so. What they don't seem to comprehend is that private citizens accept and adhere to most of the laws of the land because there is a realization that following the law has enormous long-term benefits. The corporations don't seem to understand that having, accepting and adhering to a code of law might prevent disasterous long-term consequences.

Like revolution.

I'm not going to go out on a limb and predict a revolution as a consequence of this particular recession. I'm not a historian, as is the author of the column quoted above. And he's not predicting a revolution either... he's just saying that all the necessary components, present in numerous other revolutions over the last 500 years, are in place.

However, I will say that if we don't see a reversal in the trends of the last 30 years, a revolution is inevitable. I know too many people who are fuming mad about their inability to make ends meet. To get necessary medical care for themselves or their loved ones. To get regular nutritious meals. As quoted above, when people have nothing to loose, when they can't meet the basic prerequisites of life, there is nothing to stop them from becoming violent in order to get those things.

I've been fearful that we're sort of teetering on the edge for years. I support our current political and economic systems, and perhaps I'm over-optimistic that they could be much improved with some tweaks- minor for the US political system, major economically. But if our global corporate economy does not find ways to reign in its abuse, misuse and disregard of humanity, there will be a revolution.

And the results, with the technologies, tools and devices available today, could plunge us into a new dark age. Or worse, extinction.

Roman City Rediscovered

Altinum, an important coastal trading city in the Roman empire, and a predecessor to Venice, has been (re)discovered, using filtered aerial imagery.
I imagine archaeologists will descend on these agricultural fields like a plague of locusts, but stick around quite a bit longer. Story from Der Spiegel, image above from the accompanying photo gallery. Followup: More at NatGeo, with a better side-by-side comparison of the imagery with the conjectured structures and features of the city.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Beer Summit, Sans Beer

From XKCD a moment ago; Front Page here.Busted a gut with this one- this will go viral for a few days, but in a year or less, no one will even get it. Too good and timely to save for the Sunday Funnies, for which it most eminantly qualifies.

The Axis of Evil

(Click the map for full-size) Note the color of the United States- I perceive it as a light pink or gray, but I'm a little color-blind, and sometimes get colors dreadfully wrong. Every country colored differently (blue, green or red) is now considered by Faux News to be at high risk of harboring, breeding, nuturing, and supporting terrorists...
...because they have or are trying to implement universal health care.
Note the two in red: Iraq and Afghanistan. Guess who's footing the bill for health care in those countries? Though in fairness, from what I've read the US government, as per the rubblekin talking points, is doing a spectacularly bad job of actually caring for the health of those people.

Shatner Does Palin

Again. This time on Twitter. And yes, that double-entendre is intentional.

Will the Flying Pig Land on OSU?

A visitor recently came to my blog via a Google search for "H1N1 Oregon Corvallis." I am frequently surprised by how high this blog ranks in some searches, so I often click over to see where it's placed in the results- second page in this case.

However, I did come across a link to Oregon State's Student Health Services post on the flying pig: a list of common-sense and easy precautions to reduce its transmission and severity, as well as instructions on what to do if you think you've contracted it. Also a number of links to further info- I haven't checked, but I imagine they get fairly repetitive. So for all my student friends who read this, take a minute to glance over the page; it's a quick, easy read, and it may keep you and the ones you love healthy.


But despite the enormous improvement in our weather over the last 24 hours, we're all still suffering from coddled brains. It's hard to stay focussed on reading, I'm feeling terribly forgetful, and analytical or original thought is pretty much out of reach. Others I've talked to are feeling the same way. Hence the number of short, fluffy posts in which I haven't added much substance. Here's another...
Lou Dobbs likes. (from Bruce Plant, 7/29)

Much Better, Thanks

I forgot to nab the 2:00 stats, which is roughly the time I've grabbed them the last few days. But it really cooled down last night, and it was gusty from about 11:oo until I went to bed. Those combined to turn over the air in my apartment, and it was 71 when I woke up- much. much better than yesterday's 84. It has stayed breezy, and it's still much cooler today than an hour earlier yesterday. (Our dew point is still unreasonably high, by Corvallis standards, though.)
I do not think we're going to make it to 99 by 5:00, when the sun gets low enough that it starts to cool.

In other news, a couple of friends yesterday suggested freezing a wetted towel for Ozma (teh kitteh), who had spent enough of the previous evening panting that she had me worried. They said their cats loved laying on the wet cold towel. Ozma wanted nothing to do with it- nothing to the point it was actually kind of comical watching her try to avoid it, as I tried to convince her it might be kind of nice.

No, she wanted to be in my lap, even though both of us know that's uncomfortably hot for both of us. What I did discover though was that she loved being petted with the towel- it dampened her fur enough that she was much cooler. Belly and ears, nose to tail, she was just ecstatic.

Looks like we're out of the danger zone, and I know what to do for her next time it gets nasty. The smell of damp cat, while quite distinct, isn't that bad.


Aside from the cannon blast alerting victims, I think it would be a lot of fun to startle pedestrians passing by outside... harmless fun until I knocked someone into the path of an oncoming car.

Faux Geography

Via Media Matters:The geography make look wrong, but that's Fox for you. I blame plate tectonics.

A Blueprint for Holder

Nice op-ed at CS Monitor regarding the framework and moral necessity for Attorney General Eric Holder's pending decision on whether to pursue an investigation of torture under bush and company:
Eric Holder must decide whether to pursue Bush administration lawyers and one sitting federal judge who set the legal stage for officially sanctioned torture and other degrading practices that violated fundamental principles of international law. As Mr. Holder wrestles with this decision, he must consider the gold standard set by his predecessor Robert Jackson at Nuremberg.
His [Jackson's] opening statement set the tone for the trials:

"That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury, stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to reason.... We must summon such detachment and intellectual integrity to our task that this trial will commend itself to posterity as fulfilling humanity's aspirations to do justice."
The lawyers Holder may pursue advised President Bush that the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the American government, could be ignored. They further argued that acts that America had in the past called torture had now miraculously ceased to be torture. Such positions put those advisers well outside even the furthest boundaries.
This has been my position for some time, but the column puts it more eloquently than I cold hope to.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday Words: Before I Forget

Almost forgot this silliness again.

Dean gave us the following definitions:
graspe- what Chaucer does when he's hanging off a cliff.
evibirp - a new Wonka soft drink that leads to perpetual belching.

And Randal said,
fleabile: an extreme state of being nubile.

My takes were as follows:
ledipern- an obscure form of German pornography featuring people dressed in lederhosen only.
fleabile- what the parasitic insect spouts when it's really worked up. Later applied to Beck, Limbaugh, Coulter, Malkin, etc.
graspe- how a Canadian will ask you to hold something firmly.
sknessl- (the k is silent) A Swiss imperative, requesting that you muffle your sneezing.

Also, new feature at the bottom, based on a new-style capcha I confront on face book, and that I heartily loath...
And here's the new game: take the following words and create a complete sentence with these two words adjacent to each other in the same order. Punctuation between the words is permitted (and you can remove the dash below if you wish), but no new words may be inserted between them.

Another Short Post

Beluga Whale saves free-diver after her legs cramp at the bottom of a freezing-cold pool. More photos at BuzzFeed.


Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Cambridge Police Officer James Crowley, who arrested him, are related.

Ironic, innit?

Oops, Almost Forgot This

I was outside the Interzone for a cigarette about an hour and a half ago, and as I turned back toward the east to come back inside, I saw enormous clouds out over the Cascades... summer instability- high temperatures and humidity often triggers thunderstoms up in the mountains...
I wish they'd move out over the valley, but the chances of that are about zero.

MoveOn, CNN

MoveOn has a petition that it is going to send to CNN president Jon Klein, demanding that Lou Dobbs be reigned in on his "birtherist" rants. I haven't seen any of the clips, and really have no interest in doing so. However, it infuriates me that a "reputable" news organization- which CNN, "The Most Trusted Name in News," purportedly is- allows unsupported allegations, rumors, "Some say" fictions, and outright lies, to continue to be part of its daily output.

Below is the note I sent with my information on the petition. (Here's the link to Saturday's post.)
I put up a blog post on this issue on Saturday (July 25).
Do you also want viewers to "make up their own minds" regarding the non-existent controversy regarding the spherical nature of the earth? Or will you allow the "Some say..." phrase to be used to re-ignite that debate as well?

It's "reporting" such as that of Dobbs that has driven me from television news completely. And people wonder why "traditional media" can't compete.
I have mixed feelings about MoveOn; I joined pretty early, I think spring or summer of 2000, in the run-up to that election. But I get awfully sick of their constant "Can you chip in?" begging. No, I can't. The suggested minimum amounts are most often more than I spend to stay alive for a day. Furthermore, I have no way to get money to you, short of paying extra for a money order and mailing it. And you provide no way for me to tell you that- that every time one of your little begging notes shows up in my inbox, it breaks my heart a little further.

Next there's the lack of followup. I don't know if there's any way to see what others are saying in notes such as the above, nor does MoveOn regularly send me followups saying "we delivered the petition with your comment and two (or two million) others." So I have little idea what kind of response is raised.

Nevertheless, even in age in which the pen (virtual or otherwise) is less powerful than the bank card, this virtual pen is the only tool I have.

And I intend to use it.

New Funnies Site

Emails From Crazy People. Here's their latest post (I adjusted the levels on this to make it a little more readable.)

Better Than the Last Two Days...

...but still pretty awful.
Sorry if you're getting sick of my bitching about the heat; all I can say is I'm getting sick of having to bitch about the heat. It was still over 90 in my apartment when I went to bed at about 1:30; at that point it's normally down into the mid 60's. It was 84 when I woke up. Soaking wet. I'm going through a good couple of gallons of water a day... at least my kidneys are getting good exercise, as are my sweat glands.

Glarck! I just noticed they've raised the predicted high to 109! That would be the all-time record for Corvallis.

The Flying Pig Lands in Corvallis

H1N1 has hit my little burg with a bang: 2 hospitalized, 6 suspected cases. As I noted in an earlier post, this might not be a bad thing. If a lot of people get this flu when it's in a milder form, there should be both some resistance to re-infection and (as a result) lowered virulence when and if a more dangerous mutation emerges as we move toward the winter flu season.

On the other hand, I'm just a little infuriated to see that the state has refused to pay for antivirals as part of it's OHP coverage. OHP is Oregon's health plan for low income and vulnerable folks- especially kids. I'm not sure I understand the rationale here, but I am pleased that our hospital, Good Samaritan, has announced that it will provide the drugs to those suspected of H1N1 infection whether or not they're covered by insurance, state-provided or otherwise.

Followup: (7:47 PM) This probably deserves it's own post, but I'm feeling lazy. A new GAO report has declared that the US is unready for the next (potential) wave of swine flu.
WASHINGTON — The federal government isn't prepared for a potential outbreak of swine flu this fall, a Government Accountability Office report released to Congress concluded Wednesday.

Furthermore, said the GAO, Congress' nonpartisan investigative arm, federal agencies haven't addressed nearly half of the 24 recommendations it made last month.

Cesspool of Corruption

For a variety of reasons, I no longer consume pot, though I certainly smoked my fair share in my late teens and early 20's. I think US drug laws are insane, unfairly targeted, and result in indefensible expenditures of tax revenue. Faux News, of course, disagrees. A citizen of Amsterdam provides some interesting statistics in response...

Child of Krakatoa

16 days ago, I posted a gorgeous photo of Anak Krakatoa erupting, taken at night; it had been the post at the Astronomy Photo of the Day (APOD) site. An article in today's MailOnline (UK) shares a number of other stunning pictures of the eruption from the same photographer.
Speaking of APOD, when I hopped over to the site to get the link, I saw today's photo. t's also a stunner, and geology-related... maybe even volcano-related.The Milky Way over Devil's Tower, Wyoming. (Click either or both pictures for embiggenment, and follow the links for the stories)

Followup: (1:18 PST) The Telegraph also has a gallery of the Krakatoa photos- not as large, but with more photos. I really like the one below; there are a number of interesting features to look at in the exposed layers, as well as in the blast.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In Other News on Heat

In part because of warming and the retreat and thinning of Arctic sea ice in summer, this northern sea route is slowly becoming a reality. Russian vessels have long hauled ore and oil along the country’s sprawling northern coast, but no commercial ships under other flags have passed between Asia and Western Europe. Now, a German company, the Beluga Group of Bremen, has a ship poised to make what appears to be the first such trip, an 8,000-mile shortcut compared with alternate routes.
The first commercial shipping through the Arctic will apparently take place this summer.

Help Desk, Circa 1200 AD

Swiped from Matty Boy. Pegged out at 108 today... I'm freakin' dying.

The Pot Calls the Snow Black

How is it we give fence posts like this a podium to spew their poison across the airwaves?

Palin's Poetry

As interpreted by Conan O'Brian and Captain Kirk.

Ice, Ice, Baby

I really need to chill.

Monday, July 27, 2009

It's Not Just Me Complaining

That's not high by Death Valley standards, of course; that California desert town hit 122 degrees on Sunday. Ultimately, Portland's temperature spike could prove to be meteorological much ado about nothing. Understandably, people from hotter states are inclined to scoff when Oregonians complain about the heat. In some ways, it's a summer reprisal of last winter's debate over whether Portland should be better prepared for extremely low temperatures.

The answer is similar, too: We're not prepared because we don't often have to be prepared. But the fact that Oregonians are not acclimated to hot temperatures multiplies the risks when such weather arises. So it was impressive to see the city of Portland and Multnomah County both reacting swiftly, over the weekend, to counteract the heat.
From an op-ed in OregonLive, titled perversely, "Counteracting the Cold." Still 102, but it's been feeling cooler. I've been a little confused... it was starting to feel cooler even as the temp rose to 104. But I just noticed the dewpoint has fallen to 56 from the 64 degrees it was when I posted the screen capture earlier.

It's still bloody hot.

The Feature Being Edited Has Been Destroyed

Kyle House at Geologic Frothings is the geoblogosphere's Gadget Geek-in-residence. He's always filling us in on the latest technologies, how to use them, and how they can benefit geological work. He's also the blogger that convinced me in one of his posts last summer that I needed to figure out how to use RSS and gave me enough information to do so. (Thanks a bunch! ;D) He has a post up on a new feature Google Earth that allows the user to track airline flights in real time. Yesterday he was tracking his wife and kids' flight back to Oklahoma, and a pop-up alert gave him the message in the title of this post.

It's the best laugh I've had all day, but I'll bet there was a moment there Kyle didn't think it was least bit funny.

Ahh... Evening Cooling

We're back down to a glorious 102 degrees from a sweltering high of 104.

On the plus side, our predicted low is 61; our low last night was 58. I have only a couple of times seen a fifty-degree or more diurnal temperature change here, but I may witness another in the next few days.

Only three more days of this to go.

Poor Li'l Thing

I'll be honest here... my first reaction was to giggle. Then when I started reading, I was little shocked and disgusted. Now I'm sort of hopeful that this can help a lot of people who suffer spinal injuries.
The basic problem has been understood for years... long term spinal cord damage is most often not from the initial injury. It's from subsequent inflammation that chokes off the blood flow to the nervous tissue, killing it. Scientists have performed a series of tests with a rat showing that injection of a common blue food coloring (apparently used in blue Gatorade), within a few minutes after the injury, inhibits the damage-causing inflammation.

Hence the blue rat. Three more photos and the full story at NatGeo.

Almost Twins

I hadn't realized that Maya Lin was born only one day after me, on October 5, 1959. I have a number of connections to her. According to Wikipedia,
In 2000, Lin re-emerged in the public life with a book Boundaries.[15] Also in 2000, she agreed to act as the artist and architect for the Confluence Project, a series of outdoor installations at historical points along the Columbia River and Snake River in the state of Washington. This is the largest and longest project that she has undertaken so far.
Though the article doesn't say so, a number of those installations are also in Oregon, and from time to time I read articles about her project in Oregon papers. Here are some articles about Confluence: One Two Three Four, and a map of the individual installations.

She and I also graduated from high school in the same class, Athens HS, 1977.


I subscribe to a number of the Google blogs. Most of the posts are not of interest to me, but every now and then, there's a standout. The Google Sightseeing blog has a "Volcano Week 4" post, with an update on Pinatubo. Apparently, the crater lake- I'm assuming that technically it's a caldera- has become quite a tourist attraction. Also, if you scroll to the bottom of the piece, you can find links to the previous three volcano weeks.

Followup: Expansion and clarification of Google Sightseeing's Volcano Week.

Modern Politics

Involves dodging, weaving, avoiding, dashing, running and ignoring. If your constituents actually know what you stand for, they might not vote for you. Rep. Trent Franks (R-Arizona) may have numbered days. I disagree with his follow-on comments, but I admire his courage and honesty. The vidclip is both funny and disgusting.
As you might gather from recent posts, I'm suffering from a serious case of poached brains; please don't expect too much substance or clear thinking here for the next few days. Still 102... hopefully we've peaked for the day, and it'll start cooling in an hour or so.


And still rising. Air conditioner here isn't keeping up, but it's still a relief to walk in.

Diagnosis: Hot.

Prescription: Lots and lots of ice water.



Sunday, July 26, 2009

Colourful Pub Signs in Colour!

Dark Roasted Blend has a fun gallery of British pub signs- I first took "color" to mean visually, but as I started reading, "quirky" is probably the more important of the two meanings.
This article does not aim to mention every single pub in the UK, or every one with an unusual name, but delves into the history of pub signs, the stories behind them and examines some of the interesting names I discovered in the course of my research.
And some very interesting stories and histories there are. For example, "Ye Olde Trip to Jersualem" was founded in 1189, and claims to be Britain's oldest pub. Some pubs may date back to the Roman Empire, but have been rebuilt. Pretty Amazing.

A Refreshingly Intelligent Approach

Ruthlessly snatched from the Satirical Political Report.

Manipulating the Margins

People in this country seem to have a very difficult time understanding marginal tax rates. I have seen this since working near Cleveland after high school, when a co-worker explained how it wasn't smart to work overtime because it would put me into a higher tax bracket. With the higher tax rate, I would supposedly loose more in taxes than I would earn in over time. And I have seen the same confusion among a lot of smart, educated people who really ought to know better.

Just to pick a simple (and imaginary) example, let's suppose that the tax stucture is this:
  • <$20,000- 0%
  • $20,000 to $40,000- 5%
  • $40,000 to $100,000- 10%
Now at first glance, you might suppose that a person earning $100,000 would be $10,000, but you would be wrong. Such a person would pay nothing on the first 20K, 5% on the next 20K ($1000) and 10% on the next 60K ($6000) for a total tax of $7000. In other words, the listed tax rate applies only to income above the lower margin. This is an issue that the rubblekins are exploiting to whine about how terribly unfair Obama 's proposed surcharge tax on the very wealthy (to offset the costs of health care reform) is to those earners.

Jonathon Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution provides some powerfully snarky schoolin' to a right-wing, Columbia MBA, media figure, trying to explain exactly this same idea: it's not the gross tax rate being talked about, it's the marginal rates.
Here's how the proposed surcharge would actually work. There would be:

• an additional 1% tax on income between $350,000 and $500,000. Thus, if someone makes $500,000 per year, they would pay an extra 1% of $150,000, or $1,500.

• an additional 1.5% tax on income between $500,000 and $1,000,000. Thus, if someone makes $1,000,000 per year, they would pay an extra 1.5% of $500,000, or $7,500.

So under this proposed law, someone making a million dollars per year wouldn't pay $54,000 more in taxes. They'd pay $9,000 (ie, $1,500 + $7,500), or 0.9%.

(Now, it is true that someone making $10 million per year would pay an additional $495,000. That would consist of the extra $9,000 on the first million plus 5.4% ($486,000) on the next $9 million.)
I guess they don't teach about marginal rates and arithmetic in the Columbia MBA program. Which is kind of funny, as they certainly taught the former in the introductory econ classes here at this little backwater state school, and pretty much expected you to have mastered the latter.

Kinder, Gentler Electrocution

For the kid who has everything: The Hello Kitty Taser!
Because nothing shows the true cuteness and sweet side of Hello Kitty — and the love and happiness she brings to all — as 50,000 volts of electricity streaming through your body:
From Hello Kitty Hell. This is being reported in a few places as a real product; Neatorama tells us it isn't. Which, actually, renews my faith in humanity just a little.

An Insider Speaks Out

This is the kind of thing we can only hope for... an insider becomes disgusted with the culture of his group, leaves, and goes public with his/her observations and commentary. After visiting a free medical clinic in an impoverished area of Tennessee, Wendell Potter, a senior executive at giant US healthcare firm Cigna, resigned over the industry's anti-social behavior, and is now speaking to Congress regarding the reform movement.
For Potter it was a dreadful realisation that healthcare in America had failed millions of poor, sick people and that he, and the industry he worked for, did not care about the human cost of their relentless search for profits. "It was over-powering. It was just more than I could possibly have imagined could be happening in America," he told the Observer

Potter resigned shortly afterwards. Last month he testified in Congress, becoming one of the few industry executives to admit that what its critics say is true: healthcare insurance firms push up costs, buy politicians and refuse to pay out when many patients actually get sick. In chilling words he told a Senate committee: "I worked as a senior executive at health insurance companies and I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick: all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors."
In this article from The Guardian, Potter confirms, from an insider's perspective, everthing we already know about the "health care" industry.

In other health-related reading, Paul Krugman has an interesting piece on his blog regarding the economically idiosyncratic nature of health care:
All of this doesn’t necessarily mean that socialized medicine, or even single-payer, is the only way to go. There are a number of successful health-care systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn’t work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.
That's the concluding paragraph, but the rest is well worth the few minutes it takes to read.

Sunday Funnies- Early Edition

I've not been very good about getting my Sunday Funnies up the last couple of weeks, so I decided that today I would put up an edition before I started in on my RSS reading (well, actually, I did read my geoblogs). So it's not really early, but it is earlier than usual, and I'll actually get it done. Below is a fair description of my time managment habits:
From XKCD.

And speaking of early, yesterday I posted a vidclip of the Boomtown Rats song, "I Don't Like Mondays..."
From My First Dictionary, where the author finds illustrations in vintage grade-school texts, then captions them with words and their macabre, twisted and very funny definitions. This particular piece has a great comment thread; here are a couple of selections.

Oswald Bastable said...

I don't like Mondays, either.

Kathleen Fisher said...
My favourite posts are the ones that make me gasp in horror at your audacity first, then uncontrollably giggle for the rest of the day!
Here's another example.and another...
Running with the theme of sexual innuendo, here's one from Saturday Bulletin:
A somewhat more blatant example:
From a recent find, Pwned on Camera, a gallery of people (mostly guys, of course) caught looking.

I'm not sure if "Amy Winehouse" has become an innuendo for anything, but if so, it's probably not sexual.
amy winehouse
see more Lol Celebs

Of course, these kinds of suggestive jokes do on occasion actually lead to sex... which as I've discussed in a previous edition is viewed differently by different people. But fundamentally, the reason we enjoy it, the reason many see it as "recreation," is that it is a necessary biological drive. Consider that word in the previous sentence: re-creation. So it would be valid to conclude that the above funnies could potentially lead to marriage... (From Criggo)
...and babies.Cyanide & Happiness @ Another recent funny find; like so many of the web comics I follow, Cyanide & Happiness often goes right over my head, but the times it tickles my funny bone more than make up for the time I spend scratching my head.

Babies require an enormous amount of care, attention. There's potty training...
From a site I just stumbled across this morning, Sticky Comics. I haven't read enough yet to say whether I like it overall, but I got a giggle out of the one above. I also enjoyed the following comment on the comic: "And the toilet water says, 'it’s time to get pissed.'"

You need to train kids in the social niceties of dealing with others...
... and to be accepting of the differences between us. (From Pictures for Sad Children)

Children need to be exposed to experiences that are not part of their everyday world; so few these days have had a chance to see and touch farm animals. (From Criggo, of course)
You need to bring them up to respect, and hopefully, follow whatever religious beliefs you hold...
(Another from Cyanide & Happiness)

...and help them understand how to use the framework of those beliefs to make wise and ethical decisions.
(Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal)

They need to understand that others may hold different beliefs, and come to their own decisions in different ways.
Don't do it!  It wouldn't be right!
see more Lol Celebs

There's so much they need to learn! As they get older, they need to learn how to make wise nutritional choices...
(Engrish Funny)

...arts and crafts...
william shatner
see more Lol Celebs

...they need to learn about economics and money...(From Misery Loves Sherman, another recent find) to gracefully acknowledge when they've made a mistake...
(From The Daily What; this retraction of a rather insulting mistake, issued on January 13, 1920, was published on July 17, 1969, days before Apollo 11 landed on the moon. I guess the rest of the Apollo program had convinced the NYT that you actually could "push against a vacuum")

... and the basic academic subjects. Educational programming can help with many subjects, including science. For example, physics is regularly discussed in children's science programming,

as is biology and nature.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Pop culture is important too; kids need to have interests they can share with their friends and others.
(Another from The Daily What)

Hobbies can help a youngster learn all sorts of things: academic subjects, patience and persistence, ingenuity. For example, electronics is a great hobby for science- and mechanically-inclined children. They can also learn important life lessons about subjects such as personal health and safety as they engage in a hobby.
(There I Fixed It)

As they mature, children must learn to help with household chores...
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures

...and how to cope appropriately with strong emotions and negative feelings.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Bringing a pet into the household can help a child learn how to care for and nurture others, and to place other's needs before the child's wants.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

As they grow older, they should start developing an interest outside the sphere of their family and their town. International news and political realtions can open their eyes to the amazing diversity of our world.
see more Political Pictures

Critical thinking skills, such as the ability to rationally weigh evidence, and developing confidence in answering difficult questions, is crucial, but can be frustrating. Sadly, many never do develop such skills, and their lives are poorer as a result.
nasa rocket
see more Political Pictures

And of course, all too soon, they do grow up, and develop an interest in "adult" topics...

Which brings us full circle, doesn't it? Just as you did, your children will do silly things their parents wish they hadn't.
laura bush
see more Political Pictures

But if you've done your job half way decently, they'll have a good understanding of the most important fact of life there is: There are a lot of clowns in the world...
song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

...but you can learn how to deal with them.

Speaking of clowns, have a good week at work; I'll see you in the funnies!