Saturday, July 4, 2009

Enough Already, Google!

Mr. Google, Tear Down These Ads!

Dead Man Talking

At this point in the recession, you've probably become familiar with the term "zombie bank," a financial institution that can continue operating, thanks to government support, even though its debts outweigh its assets. Now it's time to add a related descriptor to our public discourse: "zombie politician." The term describes a political figure whose electoral worth is less than zero and whose ideas are totally bankrupt, but who can continue to offer up political guidance because he's kept on life support by media-generated oxygen.
(Marc Cooper in OregonLive) Gingritch may be the poster boy of this phenomenon, but honestly, can you name any nationally prominant republicans who don't fit this description? As I've said before, I take no joy in the complete shambles the republicans have made of their party. I pointed out to a friend earlier that, contrary to her statement that the republican front line "has turned out" to be crazy, my feeling is that the party leadership has actively promoted the photogenic members who have demonstrated abilility to talk in non-sequitur soundbites, and actively avoided showcasing members who acknowledge that sometimes hard problems don't have simple answers. The fact that the photogenic soundbiters are lunatics is almost predictable.

Honestly, repubs, I most often disagree with you, and you anger me more than I'd like. But I'm rooting for you, and hope you get better soon.

One-party rule is not, and cannot be, functional.

Happy Fourth, All!

As I've noted many times, crowds and noise set me on edge, so the fireworks downtown are stressful rather than fun for me. But I just found this display at BuzzFeed that's more to my liking...

My personal July 4 tradition for the last ten years or so has been to re-read the Declaration of Independence (text); every year I end up with a little more respect for the eloquence and intelligence of our founding fathers, and a slightly different take on the document itself. It's interesting to note in particular that the stated purpose of the document is not to declare independence, though that is implicit from the outset, but rather to explain and justify the decision to other countries and people. In other words, it's a public relations ploy:
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
The explicit declaration itself comes only in the penultimate sentence:
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
If you have been able to read and comprehend those two passages- sadly, too many residents of this country cannot- you really should take a few minutes to read, and savor the beauty of, the entire document- even if the laundry list of complaints aginst King George gets a little tedious (from our perspective) after a bit. Then take a few more minutes to really think about the context, and how important the statement is, not in terms of just our history, but to world history. Then think about the courage required for the founders to produce it and make it public, knowing that it would precipitate war with what was at the time one of the worlds great military powers.

Thanks, USA. Despite all my snarking, cynicism, gloom and doom, and disdain for your leaders even in my own party, I think the smartest decision I've ever made was choosing to be born as one of your citizens. Happy 133rd, and may you have hundreds more!


Various sources are reporting that North Korea has launched a series of missiles during the last day, including The NYT, CNN, and WaPo. As the country has demonstrated that it has the capability and materials to assemble fission bombs (though I haven't seen any indication they can make fusion bombs... yet), and is believed to either have, or be close to having, the capability to fit those warheads into their missiles, this is seen, understandably, as seriously threatening to US and Japanese security.

I'd like to take a moment to urge calm, and suggest another interpretation. According to the Post article,
Military officials told South Korea's Yonhap news agency that they appeared to be Scud-type missiles and described them as more dangerous than the short-range weapons fired Thursday. Government sources in Japan and South Korea told reporters that the missiles may have been Nodongs.
My suspicion here is that Kim Jong Il is simply embarrassed by having a phallic weapon called "Nodong." I think he should be approached with sympathy and understanding. Let him express his anger and humiliation about the Nodong situation.

Maybe offer him some toys, or Viagra, or something.

I'll bet with a kind explanation that no one really judges him as less than a man because of his Nodong, he'd settle down.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Whom the Gods Would Destroy...

...they first make republican Governors. (Violently burglarized from Krugman's blog)

So, Google?

Can we dump these now?

I Wish It was Hotter

I wish it was hotter. Really. I wish the sun was about 20 times larger in diameter, so I could actually see bubbles of steam forming between my skin and my flesh, rather than just feeling them.Image from APOD.

Which is ironic, really, because tomorrow is the day of the year at which the earth is farthest in its orbit from the sun. Which means that, as viewed from here on earth, the sun is at its smallest apparent diameter- though the difference is only about three percent.


I guess I can take comfort in the fact it's supposed to cool down as the new week gets underway. And in the fact that southern hemisphere summers must be even worse, however hard that is to believe.


Palin is resigning from the position of Governor of Alaska, effective July 26. Huh. Weird. In a couple of clips from WaPo,
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) announced this afternoon she will resign from office on July 26 and return to private life, a stunning decision by last year's Republican vice presidential candidate to leave office before the end of her first term.
"We've seen a lot of nutty behavior from governors and Republican leaders in the last three months, but this one is at the top of that," said John Weaver, a longtime friend and confidant of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)...
Way to establish those poli-creds, Sarah. Or maybe your widdle feewings wuz hurt by Jonah suggesting that you were morally capable of doing anything wrong? Yah, youbetcha! I bet that was it!

Followup: From The Guardian,
Palin hastily called a news conference this morning at her home in suburban Wasilla, giving such short notice that only a few reporters actually made it to the announcement. State troopers blocked late-arriving media outside her home, and her spokesman, Dave Murrow, finally emerged to confirm that Palin will step down July 26. He refused to give details about the governor's future plans.
So not only was the announcement scheduled for a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend, it was announced in such a way that made it very difficult for media to cover. Based on what I'm seeing so far though, this is a pretty big earthquake in terms of awareness. The best clip I've seen for illustrating the meandering, self-promoting speech, and the trademark Palin trait of repeating the same catch phrases over and over and over is the AP clip in the WaPo piece above. I'm trying to find a clip that starts from the beginning of this mind boggling speech; if I find one, I'll post it.

Followup 2: Woah. This is even loopier than I thought... two parts for a total of 19 minutes.
You should be proud of me. I just waded through 19 minutes of verbal diarrhea.
Well Goldberg was right about one thing: this woman scares the living shit out of me.

Pee Here!

Texaco, an oil company and gas station chain that I'm not sure exists anymore, had an advertising campaign back in the late 60's to early 70's that ended with a tagline, "The Texaco Star stands for (something good and commercially appealing)." Like any effective ad campaign there was enough saturation that you really couldn't escape it, and the tagline and product name were almost physically embedded in the cultural psyche. At that point in my life, our family did regular summer camping trips... which of course involve gas stations and bathrooms.

After noting a peculiar consistency in our experiences with the chain, our family's version of the tagline became "The Texaco Star stands for filthy bathrooms."

So it is with pleasure I found today an innovation that may very well encourage businesses generally, not just Texaco (if it still exists), to offer the most appealing bathroom experience possible to their customers- maybe even offer incentives for using their facilities: Producing hydrogen from urine.

Actually, No, Jonah

Jonah Goldberg (to whom some refer as "doughy pantsload") is not a pundit I've spent much time reading. In fact, I don't believe I've ever read an entire column of his before, just excerpts in other people's blogs. But I came across the headline, "Dear Sarah Palin, You're Blowing It," in OregonLive a moment ago and decided to plow into it.
Some hated you out of the fear that you might stop Barack Obama's unfolding coronation. Others because you seemed to expose the snobbery, arrogance and ideological pieties of elite feminism. Your beauty, your status as a working mom, your blue-collar husband, your bravery in taking on the political establishment in Alaska, your proud status as a pro-lifer and mother of a special-needs child: All of these things were -- and are -- deeply threatening to a secular left-wing cultural elite.
Well, actually, no, Jonah. Speaking for myself, first off, I don't hate Sarah Palin. I was ready to welcome a voice of sanity and intelligence from a prominant republican... it has been such a long, long time since I've heard one. It's just that she didn't have either of the qualities I've been longing for in an opposition party member.

Second, I think it's odd that the first characteristic you choose to note as "threatening" to "a secular left-wing cultural elite" such as myself is "beauty." I'm a big fan of beautiful women. I do try not to stare and drool too much. (hint: they really appreciate that, and it's much easier to befriend them. You should try it out sometime... just sayin') I don't view them as a "threat" so much as a "treat."

Third, since when did conservatives have a corner on working moms and blue-collar husbands? Have you read anything since, say, 1890? Just askin' here.

Fourth, I'll give you her "bravery in taking on the political establishment" simply because I don't know what you're talking about. I have no counter-argument; from my reading, she's a narcissistic temper bomb who will stop at nothing to aggrandize and enrich herself and her family on the taxpayer's dime. I would expect such a person to take on the political establishment.

Fifth, I have no problem with her "proud status as a pro-lifer." That's her choice. I just wish she could understand that other people in other circumstances have a right to their choice as well.

Sixth... yeah, I gotta give you this one too. Mothers of special-needs children just make me piss my britches, even when- no, especially when- they don't have the kid with them. It's something about the way they smell, you know. Every now and then, a complete stranger will be walking by, and I'll just spontaneously emit this window-shattering shriek of terror, wet my pants, and sprint away like a rocket. It will only be a little later when I recover from my panic that I realize, "Oh, yeah; that must have been the mother of a special needs child."

So in summary, the qualities you list have nothing to do with the reasons I see Palin as a very serious threat. Say wut? Well, yes, you did nail this one too:
Second, peddling a few platitudes and truisms about free markets and limited government is no substitute for really knowing what you're talking about. Yes, you can talk well about the stuff you know -- oil drilling, energy, etc. -- but beyond your comfort zone, you fall back on bumper-sticker language that sounds fine to the people who already agree with you but is useless in winning over skeptics.
Yeah, there's that... noting in passing that she knows nothing about oil drilling or energy, I'd really like poitical aspirants to know something about something. Anything, really. I'd also like them to understand that charging fees for access or rights to state-controlled resources, then distributing the revenues or benefits derived from those fees to citizens of the state, is, you know, socialism.
No more Goldberg columns for me... I'll settle for excerpts in other's blogs from now on. They've done just fine up to now.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Where We Are Today

(Click for exciting Full-Size!) Original graphic from Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic. (story at NYT; Actual original source linked by Sullivan's Blog) I have taken the liberty of adding another pertinant data point. By my reading of this, job losses took a steep turn for the worse in August '08, then still worse in September. I seem to remember all the concern that Bush and the wingnuts were expressing for the trickle, then torrent, of folks who were SOL... no, wait a minute... It was the banks! That's it! OMG! Banks are failing! Here's a trillion bucks; we trust you to do the right thing. Wut's that? Extend employment benefits? No can do, buddy, that'd be just like socialism.

Anyway, as you can see clearly with the added data, this whole thing is Obama's fault. He's had nearly half as long to deal with it as Bush did. If we'd just given the shrub that third term we all know he was hankering for, that line would be right off the chart now. (/snark)

This is Why We Have Problems

Arizona Geology blogger Lee Allison found a stunningly stupid comment from Arizona State Senator Sylvia Allen, and accompanying video. From The Arizona Guardian,
On June 25th the senator voiced support for opening up uranium mining in Arizona and countered environmentalists by assuring them that the the Earth has been around for "6,000 years..." and has lasted that long without environmnental laws. She said it twice.
Yeah, the earth has been around for six thousand years, and it has lasted that long without mass extinctions or asteroid impacts either. How is it we keep electing buffoons to positions of power? As I pointed out in my first post today, we must have geological resources. But to allow idiots to make or shape decisions regarding how and where these resources can be extracted is not a good idea.

An Emotional Moment

Subtitles NSFW, but very, very funny. MJ was not my cup of tea, but you gotta feel for the guy. Hitler I mean. And yeah, MJ too.

What's on TV, by Location

From Abstruse Goose. (click over for full, readable size). This is at once charming, nostalgic, funny and scary. That has to be really tricky to pull off. So my TV memories go out to somewhere in the neighborhood of Beta Aquilae to Mu Arae... probably closer to the latter. The first show I distinctly remember is "Days of Our Lives." My babysitter watched it. I seriously hope that when we discover other intelligent life forms out there, they're not sitting around in LazyBoys, watching our reruns.

Will This End the "What About China?" Whining?

I seriously doubt it. But this article from the NYT points out that China has been far more proactive in developing non-carbon, renewable energy sources than has the US.
While the House of Representatives approved a requirement last week that American utilities generate more of their power from renewable sources of energy, and the Senate will consider similar proposals over the summer, China imposed such a requirement almost two years ago.

This year China is on track to pass the United States as the world’s largest market for wind turbines — after doubling wind power capacity in each of the last four years. State-owned power companies are competing to see which can build solar plants fastest, though these projects are much smaller than the wind projects. And other green energy projects, like burning farm waste to generate electricity, are sprouting up all over the country.
And now, just 15 months later, with construction of coal-fired plants having slowed to one a week and still falling, it appears that China will have 30,000 megawatts of wind energy by the end of next year — which was previously the target for 2020, Mr. Li said.
Now in fairness, there are some doubts as to the effectiveness about many of the projects, and as things sit now, AltEn constitutes only a small proportion of the total. But this enormous push has created enough of an energy base that instead of completing two coal-fired plants per week (just think about that number for a moment), China is now only completing one per week.

And that's not trivial.

Meanwhile back home, conservatives continue to whimper, whine and throw tantrums over the fact that any binding legislation we pass with respect to our own carbon emissions will destroy the economy, and turn us all in into socioislamacommunofacsits.

I figured it'd be a cold day in hell before it started to look like China was "the good guys" and we were "the bad guys."

I was wrong. It's going to be a hot day on Earth.

Freshly Paved and Painted

Ever so sharp, neat and tidy!
But is something missing?
Yes, there is...
Heeeere's Jebus!
Now in Green!
And Orange! Still looking for blue...
Across the street from the (fairly) new Kelly Engineering Building on the ever-lovely OSU campus. Thanks to Todd (another Interzone Person I haven't posted yet) for telling me about this new appearance!

Skeptical RE. Research

Yesterday I posted on a piece from The Guardian, describing how Exxon-Mobil was still granting hundreds of thousands of dollars to (as the Guardian put it) "lobby groups that have published 'misleading and inaccurate information' about climate change." This is an accurate description of the groups named in the article, including National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC. These examples are two of many well-funded conservative "think-tanks." From what I've seen over the last 15 to 20 years, "think-tank" is not a good description of these groups. Their mission is to not come up with new or improved ideas, it is to come up with justifications- any justifications- for why sticking to their old, broken and disproved ideas is the best solution, and to make as much media noise with those "justifications" (rationalizations) as they possibly can.

They have been extremely effective and successful

So today, when I saw this headline from The Telegraph, "ExxonMobil funds climate-change sceptics," I clicked over to see if there was any new information. And confronted this top-of-the-article summary:
ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, is continuing to fund researchers who cast doubt on global warming, despite public promises to cut support for climate-change sceptics.
Do you see the problem here?

Somehow the recipients have gone from being conservative lobbyists and media manipulators to "researchers."

They are not researchers. They are vultures who are paid to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful. If Exxon-Mobil were actually funding real, peer-reviewed research that might contradict the findings of the vast majority of climate scientists, I would have no problems- in fact, I would be overjoyed if they could establish that climate change was not going to have an enormous impact over the next century and longer. But to fund noisemakers so we as a culture can't hear the fire alarm is unconscionable

Thanks, media, for continuing to clarify and fact-check on these trivial little issues. Kudos for a job well done.

We Dohn' Need No Steenkin' Rocks

Au contraire, mon frere...
(click to enlargify) Interesting set of mineral statistics reduced to a fairly mind-blowing graphic: the total lifetime mineral consumption of an "average" person born in the US. I have some nits I could pick with the above picture (e.g. sometimes reporting as "ores," generally oxides, and sometimes as refined products), but however you cut it, the numbers are stunning. From this report (300 Kb PDF), found at the Minerals Information Institute. MII is apparently a group dedicated to disseminating educational materials on the topic of geologic resources, a mission I strongly support. (with some caveats that I won't fuss over too much)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday Words

Almost forgot it was Wednesday, but don't worry: I remembered. So per request, here are my favorite defintions from last week's edition (there are a few more good ones in the comments):

dubtrala, when you come crawling back home at 6am after an all-night boozefest, à la Dubya. (Randal, and very close to my take on the word)
(Close second) - a reggae remix of a song from an early Disney movie (Anonymous)

sudlibbi- Leftists from southern Germany. (Dean)

boodeval- the process by which something scary loses it's fright value (devalues) if it's repeated too many times. (Dean)

anooks - a movement for truth in ethnographic filmmaking, formed in reaction to famed but highly staged documentary "Nanook of the North." (Anonymous; my definition was "street talk used by a guy to describe an extended period of involuntary celebacy: "I been anooks fer over a month, man!)

ingedup- what a sleeping drunk says when you try to wake him (Anonymous- this one becomes clearer if you space out the first two letters: I n gedup)

Xrstian Monsters

Blogger buddy Dean Wormer has posted on this story before, but it keeps getting crazier and crazier, and nastier and nastier. From OregonLive:
Ava Worthington came into the world at a robust 10 pounds and 21 or 22 inches, according to testimony today in the faith-healing trial of her parents, but she died smaller than 99 percent of girls her age. Her development was so stunted she "was off the charts," said Dr. Christopher Young, the deputy state medical examiner who conducted her autopsy. At death, when Ava was 15 months old, she weighed 15.5 pounds and was 26 inches tall, Young testified today in Clackamas County Circuit Court. The girl's parents, Carl Brent and Raylene Worthington, are charged with criminal mistreatment and manslaughter for failing to get adequate medical treatment for their daughter. The Worthingtons' Oregon City church, the Followers of Christ, shuns medical care in favor of faith healing.
It has been suggested that the emotional pain the parents are going through is so intense that they shouldn't be criminally prosecuted. My argument is this: the parents knew their daughter was very, very sick. They sought no medical attention for her, but they did have members of their church pray for her. Despite all the prayers, she died of (what was later determined) to be pneumonia that could have been successfully treated with antibiotics. As the passage above indicates, more and more evidence is accumulating of a persistant pattern of abuse and mistreatment, of systematically withholding basic needs of the child. Note that in one year and three months, the baby's weight had increased only 50%.

So my response is this: the couple should have the charges dropped, they should be sterilized, they should be labeled as child abusers, and not allowed within 1000 feet of any other children... as we do with sex offenders. That might prevent them from going to their church; that's too bad, but them's the breaks.

Oh, and we should prohibit them from getting a divorce.

I expect within a year or two, one will kill the other, and we can put the survivor away for murder.

Sound fair?

Followup: Here's another article...
Carl Brent Worthington told detectives in tapes played for jurors today that his family tried praying, fasting and laying on of hands but never considered calling a doctor to help his dying 15-month-old daughter. "I don't believe in them," Worthington said of doctors. "I believe in faith healing."
Lethal injection is too good for these zealots.

Johnny Hit-and-Run Palin

OK, I'm such a sucker for the band X that I just had to steal the title of this post from DougJ at Ballon Juice, who tipped me off to this story from Vanity Fair. John McCain is quoted as saying,
"We have, I’m happy to say, a lot of choices out there: Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty, Huntsman, Romney, Charlie Crist—there’s a lot of governors out there who are young and dynamic.” McCain went on, “There’s a lot of good people out there, and I’ve left out somebody’s name and I’m going to hear about it.”
Hee, Hee! The album "Los Angles" got heavy play at the local college radio station, KBVR, when I was and undergrad, and I've owned at least two copies of it, in addition to the cassette copy I listened to most often. Just so I can say I added something to a shameless swiping of someone else's post, here the song that the title refers to...

Congratulate Al Franken, and a Dedication

As I'm sure most of my readers know, yesterday the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld Al Franken's victory in that state's Senatorial election last fall. And Coleman quickly conceded, choosing not to take the last litigation step available to him: appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Thank God.

I tend not to bother commenting on news that I feel has disseminated quickly and widely, unless I have a perspective that I haven't seen expressed well elsewhere. And there are a lot of bloggy pundits out there who are better informed and sharper than me, so I don't comment on big news too much, and I hadn't been intending to comment on Franken's victory.

But just sent me an opportunity to leave a message on Franken's virtual victory card, and doing so was a strangely fulfilling experience that I wanted to pass along. Below is Franken's messge to MoveOn members, and here's the link to sign the card.

What a day! I just wanted to take a moment amidst all this to say thank you to the MoveOn members in Minnesota and across the country.

Paul Wellstone understood that real change comes from the ground up. And there's really no better example of that than

You've been there for me since the beginning. And I look forward to working with you as a U.S. senator to make the progressive vision we all share into a reality: affordable health care for all, new jobs from clean energy, and an economy that works for everyone.

Thank you for all you do.

Senator-elect Al Franken

Congratulations, Al! This one's for you! It's time to make politics funny again.

I'm Shocked! Just Shocked!

To hear:
Records show ExxonMobil gave hundreds of thousands of pounds to lobby groups that have published 'misleading and inaccurate information' about climate change. The world's largest oil company is continuing to fund lobby groups that question the reality of global warming, despite a public pledge to cut support for such climate change denial, a new analysis shows.
From The Guardian (and take a look at some of the linked information). I am just so thankful to live in a society where we recognize that the right of a corporation to rake in profits (so large most people cannot comprehend numbers of that magnitude) far outweighs the right of people and the planet to survive with some modicum of sanity. Here's another juicy bit:
The Heritage Foundation published a "web memo" in December that said: "Growing scientific evidence casts doubt on whether global warming constitutes a threat, including the fact that 2008 is about to go into the books as a cooler year than 2007."
Yay! I lost my job, I lost my insurance, and I lost my house, but I found a buck on teh street today! The trend is looking good!

Sarychev Timelapse

When the International Space Station (ISS) caught the Sarychev eruption a couple of weeks ago, there were a couple of the images that went mainstream very quickly. I posted one myself, and at that post, as well as my last post, there are a number of links to the ISS images. Well, someone has done us a great favor and put the images together in a video clip. One caveat: the features identified as "lahars" are actually pyroclastic flows. Lahars are volcanic mudflows, and are not necessarily associated with active eruptions, though they often are. (For this and other posts where I talk about lahars, click here) I don't doubt for a second that there are lahars down under the dense billowing masses of suspended ash as they tear down the mountain side, but what you actually see in the pictures are clouds of ash suspended in air, not mudflows, and are more accurately described as pyroclastic ("fire-broken") flows.

The next task is to morph between frames to smooth out the jerkyness, as was done with the famous Mt. St. Helens photos, to create this famous (and also very awesome) clip:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sarychev Sunsets

The sunsets here have been quite lovely the last few days, and I suspected that the ash and sulfur dioxide plume from the recent eruptions at Sarychev were responsible. SpaceWeather has confirmed that with a nice photo gallery of colorful sunsets. SpaceWeather also posted a set of photos of the eruption as captured from the ISS that allow sterescopic viewing either with a stereoscope or cross-eyed. Or, if you prefer, APOD posted a red-green glasses version a few days ago.
GIF animation of satellite data showing the movement of Sarychev SO2 (orange) from June 21-26
So how does this work? SO2 oxidizes to sulfate, SO4, in the atmosphere. The sulfate, in turn, forms very small haze particles. Tiny particles of either solid sulfate or liquid sulfuric acid in the stratosphere are very effective at scattering out the red light component of (white) light coming from the sun. The light not scattered out is thus left "bluer" or "more violet" than would ususally be the case. Consider the standard ROYGBIV representation of the spectrum... if you scatter out more of the longer wavelengths (the red end), you're left with a proportionally intensified violet end: roygBIV. So during volcanic sunsets, reds and oranges are intensified near the horizon, blues in the mid sky, and purple-violet overhead. (see the Wikipedia "sunset colors" for more info)

Incidentally, if the sulfate is in the lower, mixing portion of the atmosphere (the troposphere, from ground level to ~10+ km), it just makes haze. The sulfate needs to be in the next level up, the stratosphere, to get the great color. This is why sunsets in areas that rely on coal-burning have pretty bland colors. The smokestacks don't get the resulting SO2 up high enough.

My limited perambulations don't really get me to open areas where I can see sunsets uncluttered with buildings and trees, but it might be worth my while to walk over to the west end of campus this evening to see what I can see.

A Sewer I Particularly Don't Want to Visit

Oh my. It's not as if I've ever spent much time in sewers (though in high school, I did have a habit of exploring the storm drains in my home town). But this is too creepy:

The blogger who found this claims they're bryzoans, but doesn't explain how he's confident of this. Other suggestions in the YouTube comments include cnidarians (jellyfish, coral and anenomies are examples), land snails (slugs), and slime molds, among others, and of course everyone is suspicious of CG shenanigans. The comments are looking through for a while; some are very witty and funny. Here's an excerpt from a thread that cracked me up:
I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Game over, man. Game over, what the F are we supposed to now, huh, what are we gonna do?

Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?

ok look, this is an emotional moment for all of us, ok? I know that. But let's not make snap judgements, please. This is clearly, clearly an important species that we're dealing with and I don't think that you or I or anybody has the right to arbitrarily exterminate them. Look, I'm not blind to what's going on, but I CANNOT authorize that kind of action, I'm sorry.

Followup, a couple hours later... I found this quote on another blog:
Thanks for the video – I had not see it before. No, these are not bryozoans! They are clumps of annelid worms, almost certainly tubificids (Naididae, probably genus Tubifex). Normally these occur in soil and sediment, especially at the bottom and edges of polluted streams. In the photo they have apparently entered a pipeline somehow, and in the absence of soil they are coiling around each other. The contractions you see are the result of a single worm contracting and then stimulating all the others to do the same almost simultaneously, so it looks like a single big muscle contracting.
OK... whatever it is, you're sayin' this is fer realz? I've fed Tubifex to fish before... I don't remember them looking like the above.

The Blooming of ASTER Data

An image of Death Valley - the lowest, driest, and hottest location in North America - composed of a simulated natural color image overlayed with digital topography data from the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model. (BBC)
The BBC is reporting that data from Japan's Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (Aster) aboard the Terra satellite has been combined to create the world's most complete terrain map ever:
"This is the most complete, consistent global digital elevation data yet made available to the world," said Woody Turner, Nasa programme scientist on the Aster mission. "This unique global set of data will serve users and researchers from a wide array of disciplines that need elevation and terrain information."
And after a quick look around, here is the host site. I'll look around a bit more; I suspect the file is larger than I want to deal with, at least until I open up some more space on my hard drive.

Followup: The map appears to be a massive data set, not an immediately viewable "map." I expect it will eventually trickle into Google Earth, which is the app I'll continue using for the time being.

What I Think

Context here and here.

Monday, June 29, 2009

No Doubt

Of course, the Big O has been encouraging much of the watering himself. And added his contribution of fertilizer runoff. From OregonLive.

Slo-mo Katrina

Images courtesy Mike Blum via NASA (a representation of the predicted results of sea-level rise, subsidence and added sediment for the Mississippi Delta region for 2100)

I had already read and starred this article from The Guardian earlier, but the above graphic from National Geographic struck me as a... well, umm... very graphic portrayal of the results of denialism. Krugman lays it on pretty heavily in today's column. In terms of science results, he's not laying out anything that's really new to me... but then I'm a science nerd. This is an issue I follow pretty closely, and I have been feeling more and more panicky about the situation. There doesn't seem to be a broad public understanding that however bad the climatic forecasts were 4 or 5 years ago, the research and modeling, along with a torrent of new data, have led climatologists to revise their planetary prognosis from grim to much worse.

It's not that there's no good news; here's an example from yesterday, about how the Chinese are developing the technology to route the exhaust from coal burning through what amount to algae reactors. The algae can then be farmed as a source of both biofuel and animal feed. I know parallel research with algae is going on in a number of countries, including the US. Good idea, but there's a lot left unsaid. Algae and other photosynthetic organisms need lots of nutrients in addition to the raw ingredients of CO2 and water... how are those supplied? How close is this to being practical?

And that's the thing that terrifies me: what we have already done has created more damage than we even thought possible a few years ago. Five years ago it looked like a 4 degree (F) rise over the course of this century. Now it looks like 9 degrees. Over the last two summers, the meltback of the Arctic ice sheet has approached or exceded ranges predicted for mid century, and exceded ranges predicted for the end of the century by a number of more optimistic models. And it doesn't look, to me at least, as if we're within a decade, or even two, of having practical, widely available and widely implemented alternatives to dumping CO2 into the air.

In short, we're about 50 years further along in the process of climate change than we figured we'd be only five years ago. And not a bit closer to realistically addressing it.

We had plenty of information 20 years ago to indicate that this was an area that demanded not just more confirmative research, but active development of mitigation technologies. And here we are, 20 years later, twiddling our thumbs as our home burns, still listening to jackasses like Representative Paul Broun (R-Ga), and not just accepting his dementia, but applauding it:

Here's my bottom line: I will not experience the full consequences of what we have done, and continue to do, to our planet and its inhabitants. I'm not particularly healthy, and I will be quite surprised if I live to see 2020. I'm at peace with that. But it seems to me that most people, particularly those younger than me, would like to live long, healthy and comfortable lives. And, I would assume, most parents hope for the same for their children.

People, unless we figure out how to live sustainably, and in the next few years, there ain't a chance in hell of that happening. What you're buying into is hell on earth. Traitors indeed.

Did You Mean....?

The Telegraph has an amusing list of Yahoo Search mispeelings.* Below are my five favorites, but there are seven more in the article.
* Swan Flu (for Swine Flu)
* Susan Boil (for Susan Boyle)
* Paperview boxing (for pay-per-view boxing)
* Farrah Faucet (for actress Farrah Fawcett)
* “Dancing With the Starts” (for Dancing With the Stars)
*sic, he saif

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Funnies

The weather has been beautiful the last few days: warm but not too hot, sunny and breezy, and clear as a bell. And you know what they say: "On a clear day you can pee see forever." I think the view would be better for urinating females than males; most of the time it would make no difference.
see more WTF Pictures and WTF videos by Picture Is Unrelated) This is the kind of thing that can spawn some very prolonged speculation... what the dickens is the story here? Of course, most of you actually have lives. Speaking of which, how's your day going?
(At the risk of being obvious, note the height of the bridge. Then note the height of the truck's cargo. From Weather Moose) If the above was a scene from an old batman show...
adam west
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...the next few frames would have a splash graphic like this:From Dark Roasted Blend. This is an interesting one: it only seems to be moving when your eyes are moving. If you stare at a fixed point for a few seconds, it seems to stop wavering. The cat below is from the same post at DRB:
The following cat was either too rehydrated, or it was riding in the convertible above...(I Can Has Cheezburger) Turning to the news, a great deal has happened this week. I think celebrity mortality gets way, way, way over-reported, but that's the nature of the culture I inhabit; I try not to complain too much. With respect to Billie Mays, I would have settled for a laryngectomy. As I commented elsewhere a little while ago, he and his ilk are the reason I really can't watch television anymore. That said, I'll bet none of these folks will have as awesome a tombstone as Mel Blanc:
From Tombstone Funnies, a blog of (you guessed it) pictures of funny tombstones. Here's another (which has actually been around for a decade or so):Of course, when our minds are captured by thoughts of mortality, can thoughts of zombies be far behind? Not for Obama...(From Library Grape) Obama has mastered the arcane talent of not thinking about zombies by instead focussing his mind on Abe Vigoda...(Medium Large) ...or Phil Spector.
gollum totally looks like phil spector
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In other news, we mustn't forget about the Siege of the Totally Legal and Completely Legitimate Government of Iran:
political pictures for your blog
see more Political Pictures.

The above lends a certain degree of credibility to Rob Cottingham's take at Noise to Signal...
A couple of editorial cartoons from OregonLive also struck me as offering funny yet thoughtful takes on the situation...
And here's a revolutionary who has not been participating in all the twittering:From B3TA Board, via buzzfeed.

Now all fuss over Iran sort of overlooks (or allows us to forget) that we (umm, how to put this politely...) have some issues that we really need to be taking care capitol
see more Political Pictures. Now obviously, I don't want to sound all revolutionary and stuff. I'm sure they're noticing what this aging sociocommunofacist hippie is looking at...
From ImageR.CC. But I do think it's fair to ask, in the face of the procedeing disembowelment of health care, ignoring a whole lot of civil rights issues, including gay rights, continuing Bush-era attitudes towards prisoners from the "War on Terror," and many others (this is supposed to be funny... don't get me started on climate change), "Is there any separation of business and state anymore?Another from Noise to Signal. And in fairness, there really is an enormous difference: Modern corporations are trying to capture maximum profits, but unlike most other parasites in the natural world, have not adapted to the fact that it is dangerous for them to kill off their target prey. In contrast, the government is opposed to trying to do anything. The Republicans are on top, below, but we're all getting screwed.
funny pictures of cats with captions
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Speaking of sex, I laughed my lungs empty at this one from XKCD:
And I'm bettin' this big boy can pick up a date in seconds with that trick.
From Ugly Overload- crazy animal pictures; not necessarily funny, but the above cracked me up. Now my own approach is similar to the conclusion reached in the following XKCD cartoon... if you don't get it, go watch "War Games" again:But I'm very aware that it's a fundamental biological drive necessary for the survival of most multi-cellular organism, and not one that's easily denied. Some people just don't get it...(From Criggo. Newspapers are disappearing. That's too bad)
...and some people do, but want to make sure no one else does:john ensign
see more Political Pictures I can't reproduce it here and do it justice, but if you, like me, are starting to have trouble keeping all the political sex follies straight, Mock, Paper Scissors published a most excellent flow chart a few days ago to help us figure out which scandal is which. Unfortunately, it was apparently finished before Sanford got back from his Argentinian assignation. Nevertheless, it is clear, accurate and very funny, and Sanford can easily be added later.

Now apparently this deep concern with what others do with various portions of their respective anatomies is rooted in trying to live up to the standards of one very uptight and unhip dude:(From Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal) And in return for living up to this guy's standards, he performs miracles for us... just like David Copperfield.(another from Criggo) So I guess we can assume Chad hasn't done anything on the disapproved list. Yet. However, there's some suspicion that the dude in question, like Ensign and Sanford and all the others (and it's a big list), is not capable of living up to the standards that he demands of others. (The following is titled "No church this Sunday.")(And yet another from Criggo) People will do the damndest things to make themselves more appealing to their partners of choice...Another from Mock, Paper, Scissors. Why do you think R2D2 was cussing through the entire original Star Wars trilogy? Did he ever once get a chance to hook up and unwind?r2d2
see more Lol Celebs. Some people are even willing to shell out what seems to me as an absurd amount of money for a few minutes of pleasure with a complete stranger (eliot spitzer). Maybe there's some discount programs, or coupons or something that could make it a little less of a bank loan situation...
(Last one from Criggo today. Promise) The same drive can lead us to commit terrible acts of violence, as evidenced by this kitty who thought his kitty friend was cheating...
funny pictures of cats with captions
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So summing up, here's the deal: We're born because two people have sex. We are intriniscally and biologically driven to repeat that comedy. Then we die. The purpose of life is more life... and while it's not logical, it's nevertheless true. So I predict during the next week more people will be born, and more people will try to have sex- many of whom will make complete and utter fools of themselves in the attempt, and probably a few of whom will actually succeed. And more people will die- maybe not as well known as our losses this week, but I'm willing to bet some will.

Because, however silly the whole process may sound when I lay it out like this, unless you're made of material the earth and biosphere haven't learned how to reuse're stuck with it. That's Life! (From Indexed) So after good nutricious food...Flapjack Fiasco from This is Why You're Fat... "Layers from bottom to top: pancake; cookie dough; pancake; peanut butter and jelly; pancake; chocolate and bananas; pancake; caramel, oreo, marshmallow, sprinkles, M&M’s; pancake; caramel buttercream frosting granished with Trix cereal."

...actually, try to get the real food in before desert...
Dorm Food Casserole from This is Why You're Fat... "Bottom to top: stuffing, ramen, ground beef, shredded cheese, mac and cheese, ramen, shredded cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, shredded cheese, bread crumbs, all topped with sliced onions and pound of bacon."

(Pass the ketchup; I hate to admit it, but that last one looks good), and I and everyone else will commit laughable actions in service to undeniable drives.

Which is not to say we can't develop some wisdom about the whole situation:
Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart. She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her.

So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.
See? There's an example right there. From E.B. Misfit.

Have a good week at work. I hope your employer is as concerned about your health and safety as the one who posted the sign below.
fail owned pwned pictures
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See you in the Funnies!