Saturday, September 26, 2009


I had never seen the original video for Shriekback's Nemesis. Oh, my. Evil distilled. There's a remix that's OK, but please, please, go watch the unembeddable clip at YouTube. Followup: I just found a live version that's pretty good. I love the line "But you know evil is an exact science, being carefully, correctly wrong."

Lene Lovich, who I describe as being somewhere between Kate Bush and Nina Hagen, with New Toy... distilled 80's.

Fad Gadget- Collapsing New people. This was a group I took some time to warm up to, then couldn't get enough of. The audio's a little muddy, but the video grabs me.


The Tumblebug fire Complex I mentioned earlier this week (here and here) continues to burn, as does the Boze Complex. A "complex" is not an idea that will be familiar to those living outside the west, or at least I wasn't when I moved here. In mountainous areas with dry summers, thunderstorms can boil up suddenly. They generally drop rain, but that rain commonly never reaches the ground; it evaporates as it falls through the warm dry air. Lightning associated with the storm, however, does not evaporate on the way down, and tinder dry forest floor litter and plants can be ignited.

Since the storms are often of limited extent both in time and space, quite a number of small fires can be started in a fairly restricted area. As the fire and the fire fighting run their courses, these smaller fires may or may not coalesce. Rather than worrying about naming maybe a dozen little fires that may or may not grow together to form one enormous fire, officials designate the whole mess as a complex.

The Tumblebug Complex has now burned over 11,000 acres according to the article where I found the vidclip below. The Boze Complex has also burned over 11,000 acres according to the Incident Information System. The video appears to have been made from a position between the two fires, so the first smoke plume (Tumblebug) is viewed in an eastward direction, with the plume moving south (right); the second plume (Boze) is viewed in a westward direction, and is also moving south, but to the left.

I Just Got Off the Phone With Your Teacher...

And Buster, you got some 'splainin' to do.Meh. It was funnier in my mind than in execution, but I'll slap it up anyway.

Jumbo Helicade

Catching up on the week's vid clips... got some chuckles out of this one, and gave me an idea for a later LOL, if I can find a good picture.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Cloudy With a Chance of Heat Balls
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Letter From Honduras

A person I know recently sent me an e-mail from Tegucigalpa, the capitol of Honduras. However frustrated I may get with events in this country, it was a stark reminder that it really doesn't get much better than we have it. In case you're not aware of the situation there, here is a recent article on the events, and here is an excerpt that gets at the crux of the issue:
Armed soldiers toppled Zelaya and sent him into exile in his pyjamas on June 28 after the supreme court endorsed charges of treason and abuse of authority against the leader for repeatedly ignoring court orders to drop plans for a referendum on whether the constitution should be rewritten.
In short, when he tried by referendum to change the constitution, the military threw him out of office and out of the country. He later snuck back in, and is currently holed up in the Brazilian Embassy. Had Bush tried to re-write the electoral rules of our constitution, to be approved by referendum, I hope the military would have thrown him out of office as well. Why Obama and the US are supporting this guy is beyond me.
Recently experienced my first curfew. The city of Tegucigalpa was
shut down for two days. First 24 hours, power was off most of the
time. Using a fork as a sconce, and birthday candles for light, I
read. My computer could play music, so I was pretty set up. Last few
days, curfew has run from 6 pm to 6 am. Thing is, there is no way to
know when/if curfew will be made full time again.

I can't believe how casually 7.3 mm people's liberty is supended here.
The day before yest, I went to buy some food in a 6 hour suspension
of the curfew. The supermarket was so packed I wouldn't have had time
to pay for the food that I could select from what was left. So I went
from neighborhood market to market looking for stuff. Was pretty
successful, and now have enough calories to make it through a week or
so. But as I finished up shopping, I saw everyone was looking down
the street, and I followed their gaze. Some supporters of the
ex-pres, so-called Melistas, had been streaming by, amassing about 200
yards from my apartment. So the riot police were following them,
about 100 or so. I moved towards my place, but everyone else, not
just melistas, moved towards the police. Tear gas was fired off and
the wind, about 10 knots, was moving my way. Just a little of that
stuff is a lot. My eyes were red, my chest twitched, and twitched for
24 hours. But some were trying to kick the cans back towards the
police, which was very dumb. I bet they are miserable right now.

Here, laborers are paid daily because they need the money to eat. No
work, no food. Many other people have no refrigeration, so expect to
be able to buy perishable food every day. Day before yest, everyone's
cars were breaking down due to overheating in traffic jams, making
jams much worse. (No one fixes a car until it breaks down here.)

The angry people look like junkies. Their skin is white, their eyes
are dilated. I can sense at a glance that if they move my way, the
only smart thing to do is run.

The riot police are very restrained in my view. Confronted by similar
violence, American police would crush a crowd like that. The rioters
are mainly males aged 16 to 22 or so. Stupid kids.

Here, the Army provided security to the president, so if the courts
wanted to arrest him, which they did want to do, the army has to be
involved. Otherwise, the police and the army are going to have a
shoot out. So it's not really honest to say that it was a military
coup. The current president was elected by the congress and I don't
believe he has a history of involvement with the military. He
certainly did not establish himself, and clearly has no intention of
remaining president past scheduled elections in November.

Mel Zalaya is an asshole, and the US giving hope that he will be
restored protracts the problems here. The poor believe that if they
stir up trouble, eventually the US will use force to reestablish
Zalaya. I spend a lot of time telling people that will never happen.
(It's not the US's fault, of course. But the Obama administration has
taken a badly wrong position on this situation.) On Zalaya, what kind
of patriot goes from country to country encouraging other govt's to
cut off humanitarian aid to his country? Encourages his own
supporters to destroy the property of his fellow citizens? He was
undeniably taking steps to subvert the constitution by attempting to
be reelected. So the country was confronted with a choice of how much
to subvert the constitution, not if to subvert it. I think they made
an OK choice though not exactly what I would have done.

Hope you're well out there, enjoying a break in the heat. Take a swig
of stable government and practical liberty for me.
No kidding.

Friday, September 25, 2009


I don't generally find the CS Monitor's editorial comic choices all that funny; they're not awful or stupid, they're just... not very funny.

I got a chuckle out of this one, though. As an avid television non-watcher, this seems just like something the Big O might choose to do. And I would avidly non-watch that channel too.


In both the imperative sense and in the Keanu Reeves sense of amazement: coastal erosion on the Beaufort Sea. Each still frame (as best as I can tell watching the data flicker by on the bottom) is one day from early July to late August this summer.

From National Geographic, where there's more information.

Cardboard Cutout?

You can tell it's not; his hands do move slightly from frame to frame...

Barack Obama's amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

...but it does leave open the possibility that's just a mannequin.

GMail Down Again?

There was a widely-publicized GMail outage a few weeks ago, and another less-publicized (and smaller) outage yesterday. It seems to be offline again. Every now and then the WiFi here at my favorite coffee shop gets fussy, but a restart of the router almost always solves the problem. That's clearly not the issue right now; everything else seems to be working just fine.

Is this going to be an ongoing problem, Google?

We Don't Need No Steenkin' Gummint Regulators

OregonLive points out that Tylenol has recalled 21 of its children's and infants' formulas, "over fears they are contaminated with Burkholderia cepacia, which can cause pneumonia in those with weakened immune systems, such as kids and seniors." The recalled products were manufactured in spring of 2008, so if your kids haven't contracted pneumonia in the past year, you might want to get a new bottle.

Guess we can chalk this up as another great victory of common sense and conservatism over that socialist FDA.


Cool enough to see my breath this morning; Accuweather says 45 degrees, with a dewpoint of 43. Every now and then I wake up at some crazy hour and can't get back to sleep. This morning I think it was a bit before 5, though I'm not sure; I didn't actually check the time until I decided to get up at about 5:30. I really, really don't appreciate waking up that early, but it's fun to see sunrise and the early morning from time to time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I'm Gonna Bite Your Butt Off!

Best response to the paparazzi evar!
Kingston: 'I'm Gonna Bite Your Butt Off!' (MySpace Exclusive)

Can You Hear Me Now?

(Skull Swap)

HIV Vaccine?

I have seen this news a number of times over the last day, but I appreciate seeing some of the numbers.
A relatively small number of people became infected with HIV – 51 of the 8,197 people given the vaccine, and 74 of the 8,198 who received dummy shots – but the difference was statistically significant, which means scientists believe it could not have happened by chance. It worked out at a 31% lower risk of infection for the vaccine group.
The only quibble I have with the above is with the "could not have happened by chance" statement; it would be more accurate to say "is very unlikely to have happened by chance." The alpha value is chosen somewhat arbitrarily. In educational research, it's most often 5%, meaning that (on average) one in twenty times you say "the results are unlikely to be due to random chance," you're wrong and the results are due to random chance. Medical research typically sets the bar higher, with an alpha value of 0.5% or even 0.05%, meaning that your likelihood of identifying random results as meaningful is only 1 in 200, or 1 in 2000, respectively.

Still, the article above stands out as one of the nicest bits of science/health reporting I've seen in a while, in terms of allowing the interested reader to see the structure and meaning of the research.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Leaving the Light On For You

The above map graphically shows the distance from the closest McDonald's. Basin and Range is notable for the paucity of those restaurants, but apparently the record is South Dakota.
For maximum McSparseness, we look westward, towards the deepest, darkest holes in our map: the barren deserts of central Nevada, the arid hills of southeastern Oregon, the rugged wilderness of Idaho’s Salmon River Mountains, and the conspicuous well of blackness on the high plains of northwestern South Dakota. There, in a patch of rolling grassland, loosely hemmed in by Bismarck, Dickinson, Pierre, and the greater Rapid City-Spearfish-Sturgis metropolitan area, we find our answer.

Between the tiny Dakotan hamlets of Meadow and Glad Valley lies the McFarthest Spot: 107 miles distant from the nearest McDonald’s, as the crow flies, and 145 miles by car!
From Weather Sealed; now you know. If your life depends on McD's, there are some places in the lower 48 you want to avoid. Click the pic to view the Golden Arches Glow at maximum intensity.

Smokey Skies

The wind is starting to move inland now, it's getting cooler, and the smudge to the east isn't as pronounced as it was yesterday. Above is a much reduced crop of a ginormous MODIS image (Be careful with that link; the image is 5200 by 6000 pixels, and it kind of boggled my computer.) Aside from the great plume of smoke, from north to south, one can see Mt Adams, Mt St Helens (partly obscured by smoke, but you can pick out the gray of the blast zone), the Columbia River, Mt Hood, Mt Jefferson, Three Sisters, and Crater Lake. To the west of The Cascades, the tan grasslands of the Willamette Valley are prominent. Corvallis ("the "heart of the valley") is in about the middle, on the western edge of the tan. In the forearc ridge of the coast range, the land is heavily forested, and the color switches from late summer grassy earth tones of the valley to bright green. As is typical when we have our hottest weather here, the coast is foggy and cloudy.

From OregonLive about an hour ago,
On Tuesday, the Boze fire grew by 3,000 acres, pushed along by ridgetop winds. Officials said the fire had reached 6,470 acres while containment dropped to 20 per cent due to the increase in size.

The hot, dry weather is expected again today with fire growth likely to continue and firefighters are preparing for days of extreme fire behavior. Temperatures that soared into the 100s earlier this week contributed to the intensity of fires that threatened homes in Ashland and Medford and prompted Gov. Ted Kulongoski to issue a conflagration act on Monday.
So we're talking 10 square miles; I'm not sure where the break falls technically, but I would now say we're talking Big Fire. The only fire I had read about yesterday was the Tumblebug complex, but there was another, discussed in the above excerpt, the Boze. Below is a picture from the same article of the Tumblebug complex.
A massive smoke plume erupts off the Tumblebug Complex of fires 24 miles east of Oakridge Tuesday. The fire grew by 3,000 acres, pushed along by upslope winds, low humidity, high temperatures and dry fuels.

Red Dawn

The Big Picture at has a stunning set of photos of the Australian dust storm. Below is a satellite image with boundaries marked in, which was posted at NASA's Earth Observatory. An unmarked version is among those compiled at the big picture. Of particular note in that collection are few that fade from the early morning dust storm to clear skies at noon, showing the same view with and without dust.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


There's been an ugly brown cloud in the east for most of the afternoon, and it's been getting uglier and darker as the day has gone on. I noticed an article this morning talking about the fire danger associated with the kind of weather we're having:
A fire warning is in effect for many areas in the Cascades as dry conditions combined with high winds have crews on alert. Any blaze that starts in the mountains could quickly blow up into a major fire under the current conditions, according to fire officials.
But I hadn't seen any news about any large fires that were actually ongoing. A little while ago I stuck my head out the door, and it seemed noticeably worse, so I came in and Googled Oregon Fire. Yeah, there's a pretty bad one.

The likely culprit: Fire officials said the Tumblebug Complex exploded in acreage overnight from 500 acres to more than 2,200 acres.

Markos said she has fielded reports Tuesday morning of smoke and ash in south Eugene along Willamette Street; in Lowell, Ore.; and in downtown Eugene.

"As long as we have really low humidities and the wind speed picks up, that fire is going to get larger and we are going to get smoke in the valley," Markos said.

It seemed to smell a little smokey last time I was out, but I'm not certain. 2200 acres isn't huge for Oregon, but it's substantial. The hot, dry weather and the east winds that are causing it are expected to last through tomorrow, then taper off through Thursday.

Most Oregon wildfires are in the Cascades or the east side, and the prevailing winds are most often from the west, so we don't generally see serious smoke here in the valley. It's ominous, and I don't like it.

Shucks! I Missed the Equinox

It was an hour and a half ago. In case you don't know, "equinox" means equal night; it alludes to the fact that during the autumnal and vernal (spring) equinoxes, the nights are equal in length to the days. The "opposite" variations are called solstices, and occur during December and June. "Solstice" comes from roots Sol, meaning sun, and sistere, latin for standing still. It means the sun has stopped moving south and will now start moving north from day to day as it rises and sets along the horizon (winter) or has reached it's northernmost position on the horizon and will now start rising and setting further to the south (summer). At least in the northern hemisphere.

As far as I'm concerned though, it's still summer; it's 91 degrees outside, and supposed to be another hot one tomorrow. Yesterday morning it was 39; yesterday afternoon it was 90. A 51 degree diurnal temperature range is sort of weird.

Water Logged

There's been some rain in the southeast...
In the chart above, from NASA's Earth Observatory, the darkest blue indicates greater than 300 mm (1 foot), and the lightest tone indicates 50-100 mm (2-4 inches). I had heard about the flooding, but I didn't realize how severe it was. Below is a roller coaster at Georgia's Six Flags Amusement park.
This is going to be a horrid mess to clean up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

About That Turtle...

"We've gone from 'it could be a turtle' to 'it could be a tortoise' to 'it's one huge rock that's still one of the biggest concretions we've ever seen on the Oregon Coast,'" DiTorrice said.

"We're not sure what it is, but it's a hazard," Hanshumaker said.
And that's it.

Part one, part two, part three.

Followup Sept. 22: The Oregonian has a nice little article that, amazingly, gets the science pretty much right! The headline is pretty much FAIL, though.

New Record?

Earlier, Accuweather was predicting a high of 99 today; they've dropped that to 97. Either way, it's about as hot as I can tolerate already. I was just outside, and FYI, I still don't see swarms of people rising into the sky. But there's lots of sunshine pouring down. The record for the date is 95, and it seems pretty likely we'll break it.


Followup, 5:15: Current temp is only (only) 90 degrees; it's unlikely to get any warmer. We had brisk winds from the north yesterday, indicating a high from the west was moving in. When a high moves to our east, it can drive desert air over the mountains and into the Willamette valley. The high desert is about 3000 to 5000 feet elevation, so as the air descends into the valley, it compresses and warms up. My suspicion was that this phenomenon was the reason the prediction called for several days of unseasonably and unreasonably hot weather. OregonLive confirms this.

He's Coming to Take You Away, Ha Ha!

It's sine waves, so it must be true; mathematics is always true. I've seen in a number of places (Pharyngula, Bing McGhandi, Buzzfeed) that today is the rapture. So if you're one of the Xrazy Xristains who believes in that kind of thing, ta ta, bon voyage, toodle-oo, and such like. Don't let Heaven's gate hit you in the butt.

I'm not sure if it's an all-at-once sort of thing, or if it proceeds in an orderly manner around the time zones. Since it's already tomorrow in some parts of the world, I'm assuming the latter. I'll keep an eye out to the east from time to time, and report here if I see clouds of people rising into the sky. I'm also looking forward to checking out the website tomorrow and finding out if Gabriel also raptured the godly parts of the innertubz.

If I follow the storyline accurately (and I'm not sure I do, or even can), we now get seven years to make a start on cleaning up all the messes that mindless adherence to bronze-age religions has created.
Yes, it is. And Frabjous Day, Calloo, Callay, it's leaving earth today.

An Eggistential Question

Via Buzzfeed, where there are two other eggistential comics.

Ballroom Blitz

I'm not sure what Obama expected to achieve with his marathon set of appearances on the Sunday talk shows yesterday; I'm speculating that he just wants to solidify support for any health care reform he can get. In my readings so far, I haven't seen anything new, either in terms of policy, nor in terms of potential compromise between the two parties. Democrats are trying to negotiate with "No," and that's a losing proposition.

However, I'm deeply amused by Fox News' howling indignation that they were snubbed. They don't seem to understand that there is no reason for a president to waste his time discussing adult issues with a "news" network, which treats childish fantasies, lies and false gossip as newsworthy, with the same respect accorded to other networks... and plenty of reasons he shouldn't.
Mr. Obama declined to discuss his proposals on the one outlet guaranteed to find fault (or change the topic to the Acorn scandal). And that made his star turn look less like a media blitz than Medici vengeance — Fox did not broadcast Mr. Obama’s health care speech to Congress on Sept. 9, so Mr. Obama did not speak to “Fox News Sunday.”
Apparently, the feeling is mutual. “We figured Fox would rather show ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform,” a White House deputy press secretary told ABC News on Saturday. “Fox is an ideological outlet where the president has been interviewed before and will likely be interviewed again; not that the whining particularly strengthens their case for participation any time soon.”
From the NYT.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunday Funnies

A weekly compilation of things that made me laugh. This week, it looks like we're starting at the end.Criggo.
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Now that you've read the punchline, go back and re-read what was said when they first found it for another off-color giggle.
Skull Swap.
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr.
Photography is a much older technology than you thought. Probably Bad News.
My First Fail is a site I've been following for a few weeks. Mostly cutesy sort of stuff, but sometimes, very funny.
Skull Swap.
The above was posted at I Hate My Parents with the title, "We have a crazy cat!"
OK, I like a burger more than some and less than many... but seriously: 185 pounds? I'm queasy. From This is Why You're Fat.
Actually, that is not Chief Inspector Dreyfuss... but the resemblance is uncanny, no? epic4chan.
Skull Swap.
There are some interesting metaphors and allegories to be discussed with respect to the above, but don't worry... I won't. From XKCD.
Boone, NC, must have been pretty miserable (Yes, it's a glitch) From Phydreaux and Phriends.
Skull Swap.
Skull Swap.
pope benedict xvi
see more Political PicturesBut watch out for bats. Skull Swap.
(Finish the phrase) epic4chan.
Lane County is the next one south from here; The Register Guard is the Eugene newspaper. So this one is close to home. Via Criggo.
I don't think I've ever seen a comic with an embedded animated gif before; it's funny and effective. From Cyanide and Happiness.
From Dr. Monkerstein, who made the image ever so much funnier with the caption, "You Christians. You're so cute when you try to be hip. You fail at it, but you're so cute trying it"
It's part of their charm and excitement. From Hypo-theses.
sean bean
see more Lol Celebs

Yes, This Sounds Familiar

I suppose I need to watch it again, and count just how many times the "Wilhelm Scream" is repeated in this clip. I suppose every time I watch a movie, particularly an action film, from now on, I'll be alert for this sound clip.


I like words. I like learning new ones. I especially like learning new ones for things I'm familiar with, but didn't know had words. So I liked this piece. The words are:
  1. Petrichor
  2. Elflock
  3. Nidor
  4. Salmagundi
  5. Scree
  6. Don Juanism
  7. Tenesmus
  8. Podsnap
  9. Hibernaculum
  10. Muliebrity
Now I knew #5, but I didn't know its etymology, and I knew #9- it's an often-used concept in science fiction- but I didn't know it could be used appropriately in natural science. I have mentioned often that I love, love, LOVE #1, but I didn't know it had a word. Podsnap is perfect; the world needs that word. Nidor sounds like it should be dark and evil, but unless you're a vegetarian, it's actually more of a warm, loving memory: I still recall the Thanksgiving nidor from my grandmother's kitchen. Tenesmus got a giggle from the middle school component of my personality.


Master Plan

Tom the Dancing Bug.