Friday, October 16, 2009


And if you don't, just turn on your TV. If that doesn't work, turn to the news. And as a last resort, if you still haven't found one, turn to C-Span. Swiped from Bing McGhandi.


MC Escher + Animation = Mesmination? I have probably spent ten minutes or more watching this loop this afternoon. From Julia Segal's Tumblr, Skull Swap.
In other news, fellow geoblogger Silver Fox stopped by my favorite coffee shop for a couple of hours this morning and early afternoon. It was a pleasure to chat for a while, and I felt kind of honored that she made the effort to drive out of her way during her trek from Nevada to Portland for the GSA Convention. Hope the final leg worked out OK, Silver!

Who's Next?

According to the NYT, "On Oct. 16, 1964, China detonated its first atomic bomb." Tom Lehr responded soon afterwards.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

These Are Some Bodies in Our Neighborhood

Earth and our moon......and Jupiter and some of its moons. All in one photo frame. (Click the pic for full size) Taken from Mars. Below is the geometry of the photo, taken May 08, 2003, and released by Malin Space Science Industries. Visit the link for more pictures, diagrams and information.

Blog Action Day

Preface: This ended up being even more depressing than I expected. You might want to read some of my other "Climate Change" posts instead.

I have been uninspired by this for the last few days; I think it's because it's just so depressing to me right now. There has been a fair amount of science journalism by press release the last two days about some study saying the Arctic may be ice-free in the next ten years. Yeah, we've heard it before. I'm pretty sure I've seen similar articles saying it could be by the middle of the coming decade, and others saying it might not be until the 2040's or 2050's. I'm not seeing any broad effort by either legislators or large numbers of individuals to make a serious dent in CO2 emissions. Nor am I seeing any serious research recently claiming that the Arctic won't melt off this century.

At the beginning of the decade, the most pessimistic forecasts weren't calling for an Arctic meltdown in the next hundred years.

Now, the most optimistic are saying 30 to 50.

Copenhagen is coming up in December, and the US will be coming to the table with good intentions, and an agenda bought and paid for by the energy and automotive industries.

So forgive me if this is a downer of a post. The energy crises of the 1970's really did get my attention; my energy consumption amounts to an average of less than $20 per month in electricity. A third of that is miscellaneous surcharges, fees and taxes. And that's it. Of course, there's consumption directly and indirectly elsewhere- for example, my computer has been plugged in here at the coffee shop since before ten this morning. And I know perfectly well that particular aspects of my life and physiology lend themselves to a low-consumption lifestyle. I tolerate chilly living quarters very well; as long as my apartment is mid-50's or warmer, I'm not even thinking about heat. I have no family, so I don't really need a car (I don't even have a driver's license any more). And on and on.

But here's the thing: I'm one person. I just turned fifty, and I have a slew of health problems. I will not see the worst of the situation we have created for ourselves. Yet I grieve that we as a race, as a culture, and especially as a nation are so greedy and so set in our ways that we willfully ignore a very real threat to our very existence as a species.

Do I believe that continuing our present course with respect to material and energy consumption will lead to the extinction of the human race? I don't know, but I'm pretty well convinced that our present course will lead to a die-back in the range of billions. Do I believe the Arctic will be essentially ice-free in some summer in the next ten years? I don't know, and despite what you may read in news articles written by science journalists who are for the most part science illiterate, neither does anyone else. The point is, we know the risk, but we don't, and never can, have certainty until whatever happens, happens.

We have just spent a day following the metaphorical ups and downs (and happily, in the end, "up") of Balloon Boy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who was mentally castigating the family for what seems like gross irresponsibility in creating such a hazard. I'm happy for everyone involved that it ended well. But it might not have. How often do we take a position of moral outrage against the family or parent who left a loaded gun out, or left the medicine cabinet open, or the parent who ignored signs of mental illness- and who has to live not only with the memory of a dead child, but with the onus bestowed by a number of dead classmates?

Why is it the death of one child grabs us and our emotions, raises our protective instincts to a level of fierce anger, yet a mortal risk to all of them triggers yawns, or even better, enraged cries of "Socialism! Facism! How dare you expect that I should keep my children out of the shadow of foreseeable, obvious and avoidable risk?"

And don't even get me started on the rest of the biota on this poor blighted rock, who did nothing to encourage or deserve our clownish shenanigans.

ET Phone Home

Ralph Lauren has twice now been caught photoshopping their models in order to appeal to their extraterrestrial customer base. These photos look like they're straight from the F/X crew of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." I tend to stick to plain old work jeans and tees in the summer or flannel in the winter. For those of you who might be in the market for this company's fine products, I encourage you to find an alternative. This sort of grotesquerie is an insult to human beings, particularly to those of the female persuasion. I'm sure the uptick in LGM custom will make up for their losses in the terran market.Buzzfeed
Buzzfeed (The above model was in a couple of news articles yesterday, claiming she was fired for being "too fat.")

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why He Received the Peace Prize

Snagged from Mock, Paper, Scissors. Okay, that decides it... I now firmly support the award. BTW, Tengrain, thanks for reminding me about Slowpoke Comics; I had forgotten about that one. Endnote: The internests here at my favorite coffee shop have been snotty for the last couple of hours. I'm behind!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I've blurred out the answer key, but this quiz thinks I'm useful. I'm not so sure about the quiz.

Monday, October 12, 2009

One-Two Punch Marks the Beginning of "Winter"

We've been having a long, consistent string of sunny, fairly warm days and chilly nights for the last few weeks, but it looks like we're shifting into the winter phase of our climate tonight. The clouds have been getting more numerous through the day, and thicker and thicker. Up to a few hours ago, the sun was still getting through, but since then... not so much. The rain is expected to start in the middle of the night and continue- with some breaks- for the next week. On the upside, the nights will be warmer; last night we got down to freezing, but we will probably not get below 40 tonight.In the satellite (visible) image above, you can see the lobe of wet, warm air coming in from the south, and the tongue of cold air coming in from the northwest. The colder air is marked by the spotty "popcorn" textured clouds. This is a fairly typical PNW pattern; as we get deeper into real winter, we can get numerous fronts lined up and waiting to come through, like shoppers in a check-out line.

As I've said often, I love watching the seasons and the weather change.

Vegetarian Spiders!

In another tribute to science journalism by press release, I've seen three articles on this news so far today, (BBC, NYT, NatGeo) with none of them addressing the question that most intrigues me: How do the spiders eat these vegetables? Spiders normally kill or immobilize their prey with venom, then follow that up with an injection of digestive enzymes and other substances that liquifies the flesh within the keratinous skeleton (or skin, if it's not an arthropod). Then they suck out the digested soup.

The acacia-ant commensal pairing is a classic example of two different organisms evolving a relationship that benefits both; the acacia has little protein-rich bodies hanging off the tips of young leaves called Beltian bodies. The ants are very happy to have a ready source of protein, and aggressively defend their home tree from other organisms. Some acacias have even evolved hollow spines in which the ants reside. So the trees get protection, and the ants get room and board.

The spider has learned to avoid the ants and eat the Beltian bodies. It spends most of its time in parts of the tree with no food, where the ants don't spend much time, but when it gets hungry, it darts in, jumps and dodges the ants, and goes veggie shopping. The BBC and NYT articles have vidclips showing examples of this expeditionary herbivory.
As I said to Lydia when I sent her the link to the first article, "Yet another long-established "fact" gets pwned."

More Captioning Fun

McClatchy News Service has started a captioning contest, but you have to register to leave a comment. I get tired of having to register everywhere, and don't feel like bothering. So here's my unofficial entry.
I don't know why Blooger is ever-so-helpful in reducing every picture I upload to an unreadable size, but I think it'll get bigger if you click it. Figured it out... the mistake was mine (I hadn't trimmed the excess canvas off the imported image).


I had a laugh at this a couple of days ago, but didn't think to pass it on. Now The Guardian has reminded me, in conjunction with the announcement that the new Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sequel is getting positive reviews. The link in the excerpt will take you to the LCROSS twitter site.
As Nasa's LCROSS spacecraft travelled towards the moon at more than 9,000 kilometres per hour on Friday afternoon, it tweeted in the whale's words: "And what's this thing coming toward me very fast? So big and flat and round ... it needs a big wide sounding name like 'Ow', 'Ownge', 'Round', 'Ground'! ... That's it! Ground! Ha! I wonder if it'll be friends with me?"
I felt that Adams' later books in the series were too grim and dark to really be funny, so I'm hoping that "And Another Thing ..." puts a funny (yet thought provoking) period on the series.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blogging the Portland GSA Convention

Next weekend, GSA, The Geological Society of America, will have its convention about 90 miles up the road from my little coffee shop. I'm a little sad I can't go, if only to meet up with some of the geobloggers whose interests intersect with mine. GSA has provided some information for bloggers, with what strikes me as a very helpful and progressive attitude. So I'm looking forward to hear about all the happenings up there, folks!

In the meantime, this just showed up; be careful. Be careful about journalists, and don't let them mangle your reports. It's a jungle out there! (Noise to Signal)

Sunday Funnies

A pair of funny signs from TYWKIWDBI.
Criggo; I'm sure everyone is pleased.
The Daily What
Epic4chan: Dinosaurs were REALLY big!
What a Deal! From a recent find, Regretsy: a compendium of regrettable Etsy offerings.
pope benedict xvi
see more Political Pictures Run Away!
I can't really explain why I find this one so funny. Skull Swap
Partially Clips Click for bigger
Cyanide and Happiness
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Library Grape
Probably Bad News
This is just weird looking. That Will Buff Out
The North Caucasian Emirate, Russia (1918-1921), one of the "Eleven Coolest Flags Ever," from BuzzFeed.
Just don't burp. Probably Bad News
Who, exactly, printed that newspaper? (hint: read the fine print) Skull Swap
imperial stormtroopers
see more Lol Celebs
see more Political Pictures
Stupid- and cruel- pet trick, from Skull Swap.
For want of a "g," the job was lost... The Daily What
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Skull Swap

Eat your noodles. Or else. Picture is Unrelated
Another battle with static electricity. My First Fail
(Click to biggify) Amazing Super Powers
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
neil patrick harris
see more Lol Celebs
Chinese National Day parade
see more Political Pictures
Via Library Grape- this whole post and the content it links to is pretty funny; Heee's Beh-eck.
Probably Bad News
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Electronic Cerebrectomy