Saturday, August 7, 2010

Happy 12th, Interzone!

Interzone will be "closing" at 4 pm today for a quick clean up and prep for their 12th anniversary party. Believe it or not, our local rag printed a story that wasn't from AP or McClatchy. (Also too, a little background on the bands, which should probably be taken with a grain of salt.) I'm going to try to stick around for a while, but I tend not to do well with crowds and noise. We'll see how much I can take.Thanks, Bill and Iris, for creating this space, my home away from home.

Talking to Journalists

I have read so many stories of the pitfalls of talking to journalists that I'm glad I'm not really in a position to do so. A few years back, there was a guy working for a small paper in Newport who had, in several stories, really misunderstood coast range geology. I offered to take him on a day trip up Marys Peak, where you can see the best possible transect of the rock sequence, from sea-floor basalts through a couple of sedimentary units, and a gabbroic sill. He got the geo more or less right, but described me as a professor in geology, even though he knew perfectly well I worked for science education, and I had taken pains to explain the difference between a professor and an instructor.


You'd think "professional" writers would understand that words have meanings, and they matter. Numerous examples of this come up in the science blogs I read, and the sheer incompetence of people who get paid for writing has long ceased to surprise me. Yet another issue with science journalism was described in Swans on Tea earlier:
What is so hard about these caveats and disclaimers scientists take for granted, and come up over and over again, when discussing science results? Is the collective journalistic memory so short that scientists (or their lawyers) have to start reading a statement before they ever make a comment?

Please understand that the following result is preliminary and should not be taken as the final word. For anyone unfamiliar with the field, an effort must be made on the reader’s part to see where this fits in with the prevailing models of the day. There is a chance that it could be wrong or have only limited applicability to broader problems being investigated by other research teams. Further investigation may confirm our findings, or show that our results were anomalous or contained errors.

Scientists already know this. Journalist should know this.
I think this is a fine idea. This statement should be printed up on cards, and when talking to journalists, hand them a copy along with your business card.


Talking Heads, Wild Wild Life:

(I love the line, "Things fall apart... it's scientific.")

B-52's, Private Idaho:

Midnight Oil, Beds Are Burning:

Aww, That's Sweet

Alexandra Shkandrij proposed to his sweetie on their favorite website, The Daily What, in the format of several memes. She said yes.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Science Literacy Fail

Via "Jessica is Confused" at TYWKIWDBI.

Smoke In The Valley (From Fires in The Steppes)

I've noticed the last couple of afternoons that it has been kind of hazy here in the valley. I didn't think much about it- it often is hazy on hot summer days. Some of it is from the oxidation of dimethyl sulfide, produced by plankton at the coast. It oxidizes to sulfate, which forms aerosols and cloud condensation nuclei: haze. Some of the haze is also due to volatile compounds produced by the dense and enormous west side conifer forests. A third source during the later part of the summer is local fires- wild, or set purposely for forest or agricultural management. (Ironically, our clearest days occur in the winter- which is notoriously cloudy. But when it's clear, it's very clear.)

So the haze is no surprise. The surprise is that this haze is being blamed on the historic heat wave, drought, and associated fires... in Russia!
Haze in the Willamette Valley likely traveled all the way to Oregon from Russia, rather than over the Cascade Range from a small wildfire near the town of Sisters.

National Weather Service meteorologists say smoke from more than 500 wildfires that have burned through forests and peat bogs in Russia is being carried across the Gulf of Alaska and down to the Northwest.
On Monday, The Big Picture ran a gallery of 38 photos from the Russian fires, which I found pretty mind-boggling. But for the smoke to be making itself known halfway around the world? Wow.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Why, Yes. Yes They Do.

And don't be fooled... The lion liked it too. It's just too regal and dignified to let on.

More Good News

I don't know how much of this I can take: my inner cynic is screaming bloody murder. Elena Kagan has been confirmed. Now I haven't been following this closely. She seemed like a decent nominee, but I wasn't paying attention to the details of her testimony. I have come to expect confirmation hearings generally to be exquisite exercises in bobbing and weaving, with every effort made to avoid substance. That said, I anticipated that the goopers were going to throw another two-year-old supermarket tantrum: no, no! NOOOOOO! Screeeeeetch! I'm just glad it's over.

Also too, it looks as if the "Static Kill" approach to closing BP's Macondo blowout has succeeded. I had planned on posting that particular bit with the title "Ding Dong, The Bitch is Dead." But two pieces of good news in a day took precedence.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Gneiss Photo

A friend just e-mailed me this great photo of rocks being bullied, with the note:

"A gneiss photo- at least, that's my guess and since it's an obvious pun, I'm sticking to it. The photo is from this site and shows a tunnel being bored beneath the Bronx, NYNY. I've tried to find additional pix of the rock face and the machine, but only came up with a NYC page describing the project."

I responded:

"Actually, I think it's a pile of schist- the Manhattan schist, specifically. The wiki link is not too helpful, but let's see... Oops, you were right:
Deep below the buildings and busy streets of New York City, beneath the labyrinth of subway tunnels and stations, lies the geologic foundation that makes New York City unique in the world. This foundation consists of the city’s five bedrock layers: Fordham gneiss, found primarily in the Bronx;(...)
The Manhattan schist is pretty famous, which is why I jumped to that conclusion. In the photo, since you can't see the mineral grains, I couldn't tell. Remember, the distinction between a schist and a gneiss is the former is mica-rich. In the latter, the T & P are high enough that the micas start to convert to feldspars and other silicate minerals- they lose a lot of the platy nature of schists. The textures could be either one.

So, yes, it is a gneiss photo."

I had not heard of the Fordham gneiss before, at least that I recall, and I guess I'll say that in addition to being a gneiss photo, it's pretty gneiss.

Proposition 8: Should a judge or voters decide gay marriage rights?

That's the headline on a CSM piece I just read. I left a comment saying "Basic human rights should never be left to a popular vote. Whether they're established and protected legislatively or judicially is largely irrelevant." (I submitted my comment and found it awaiting moderation, so that might not have been the exact wording)

I doubt very many people would argue that everyone shouldn't have the right to spend their lives with the one they love and who loves them in return... or not, as the person chooses. The argument seems to gain steam with respect to the question of whether gays should be afforded the same rights and privileges in those unions as people involved in heterosexual partnerships. I have never seen any valid reason for denying those rights. Most excuses devolve into selectively quoting the bibble, and I'm sorry, but both the Constitution and I agree that that is not a valid source for legal argumentation.

In a story that makes me happy, OregonLive reports that
The University of Oregon tops a list of 230 universities in a new ranking of the most gay-friendly colleges in the nation, followed closely behind in 15th place by Oregon State University.
BooYah! Go Oregon!

At any rate, the judicial decision on California's Prop 8 is expected today; based on what I've read about the procedings, I expect the judge will most likely make the call I'd prefer. I know too many people that this kind of thing directly affects to be impartial about it.

Followup: Wow, that was quick. Apparently the decision was announced while I was putting this together. BooYah, California!Followup 2: Some more details and a link to a PDF of the decision at NY Magazine.
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.

Followup 3: And more at The Guardian. Rights? Yeah, I gotcher rights right here. In a few years. Maybe.
But even before the ruling was announced, supporters of the ban had already filed for the decision to be put on hold pending an appeal to the next level, the US ninth circuit court of appeals, the last stop before reaching the Supreme Court in Washington DC.


They had at least one fossil of one of these critters at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History when I was growing up... it mesmerized me.(image from the old standby online reference) When I saw the following photo from Picture is Unrelated a moment ago, my first reaction was "That has got to be shopped." Then "waitaminit... that looks familiar. Was it um... eurypterid?" I don't know if it's a mock-up for a museum or something, but it looks right to me.Whether it is or isn't, my memory freaks me out sometimes; occasionally I get to the end of the day and can't remember whether I've eaten or not. Yet somehow "eurypterid," correct spelling and all, bubbles up with barely a pause, 35 or 40 years later.

Wednesday Wednesday

Starting on solid food a little early. From Stop Podcasting Yourself.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday Tits

Blue tits, Parus caeruleus, from Garden Safari.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday, August 2, 2010, By The Numbers

  • Only 145 shopping days left... Christmas shop, selling seasonal decorations, opens in London department store.
  • Scientific American takes pains to note that the Spirit Rover is conserving energy to keep itself at a minimum of -40 [Fahrenheit], failing to notice that -40 is the same temperature in both Fahrenheit and Celsius scales.
  • Bajillions of charged particles headed toward earth as a result of a pair of ionic flatulence events on the sun yesterday... Aurora alert for tomorrow (August 3)? Go to SpaceWeather for updates, reports, observations and latest news.
  • While you're looking at the sky, at least three planets- Venus, Mars and Saturn- should be easily visible after sunset for the next week or so. Even though the story is described as from Western Oregon, making allowances for your latitude and minor variations regarding where you are across the breadth of your time zone, these should work okay for the northern mid-latitudes generally.
  • This week marks the "35th Anniversary of Global Warming." Pretty amazing call, given the uncertainties at the time.
  • Value of a piece of gag merchandise, the Hot Wheels version of "Wonder Woman's invisible jet" (an empty box, with a jet form molded into the plastic window), a week ago: $5.00. Asking price for the same empty box today: $20.00. I'm in the wrong business.
  • Is it over now? Best estimate to date of total amount of oil spilled at BP's Macondo prospect: 4.9 million barrels, or ~206 million gallons. This makes it half again as large as the previous record-holder, the Ixtoc spill of 1979.

How Not To Be Seen

I ws just telling a friend about this clip. It's not exactly as I remember it, but it's a classic nevertheless. Of course, I think that's true of almost all of the Monty Python stuff. Enjoy, Chris!

I Came On Greyhound

Didn't carry any bullets either.

I first saw this game when I was student teaching, and I never spent any time with it, but it was such a phenomenon with people 15-20 years younger than me that I can't pass this by. Warning: scenes of dysentery affliction.

What Is the Opposite of Irony?

Predictable? Expected?
One man dies when California-based death metal bands' van rolls on I-5 near Medford
The man who died was identified as Makh Daniels, lead singer for the San Francisco death metal band, Early Graves. Daniels, 28, from Pacifica, California, was one of five members of the band; the other four-member band traveling in the van was identified as The Funeral Pyre from La Habra, Calif.
Now this isn't really funny; a person died, and though the article doesn't say, I'd be surprised if others weren't injured. Somewhere family and friends are mourning. Still, this is stunning in how opposite it is to irony.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Funnies: OMG! It's August Already?!?! Edition

I guess that means it's Lisa Simpson's wedding day; Chelsea is so yesterday...
Roflrazzi-click over for the details.
Skull Swap
Totally Looks Like
Hacked IRL
Señor Gif
Comic JK
Pundit Kitchen
Friends of Irony
I Hate My Parents
One of "13 Hilarious Headlines Fails" at Oddee
Clay Bennett
Engrish Funny
Skull Swap
"This is what my nightmares look like." Skull Swap
My First Dictionary
The High Definite
This one isn't immediately obvious... here's the caption that went with it at Bits and Pieces:
These contractors are installing the steel pillars in concrete to stop vehicles from parking on the pavement outside a Sports Bar downtown. They are now in the process of cleaning up at the end of the day and anxious to go home.

How long do you think it’ll be before they realize where they parked their truck?

Savage Chickens
Pundit Kitchen
Clay Bennett
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Fake Science
Sofa Pizza
Basic Instructions
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Tree Lobsters
Friends of Irony
Medium Large
Oddly Specific
That Will Buff Out
Abstruse Goose
Press any key to continue, or any other key to quit. MthruF
This exists. The Daily What
Cake Wrecks
Sticky Comics
Very Demotivational
Skull Swap
Pundit Kitchen
Brilliant at Breakfast
Very Demotivational
Graph Jam
Totally Looks Like
Sofa Pizza
Questionable Content is a fun webcomic I've been following for a month or so; the humor is in the through story and the characters, which I'm only beginning to "get." Most don't work well as stand-alone pieces, but I thought this one did.
Via The High Definite
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
The Daily What
xkcd, via Bits and Pieces
Sober in a Nightclub
Failblog, via Blackadder

see more Lol Celebs
Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine
Sofa Pizza
Sofa Pizza
Hacked IRL