Saturday, November 14, 2009

Unsurprising News

A bunch of items I've been meaning to pass along, but not sure what to say about them. I realized a bit ago that what I can say is, "if you've been paying attention to current events, not one of these should come as a surprise." Confirming the obvious is neither necessarily easy nor unimportant, as I pointed almost exactly six months ago. In fact, confirming that your assumptions are accurate is an extremely important part of deciding how to move forward. Not that I'm expecting the leadership of this country to suddenly decide to move forward or anything.

Rich buying again, but middle class still hurting
American shoppers are splitting again: The affluent are finally starting to buy, picking up designer clothes at places like Nordstrom, while those on the lower economic rungs are still scrimping by, heading to Walmart for the basics.
Nevada gold production down, value up
The Nevada Mining Institute has just released the economic analysis of the Nevada mining industry for 2008. Gold production, which accounts for more than 80% of mining value in the state, dropped from 6.04 million ounces the year before to 5.7 million ounces, but the overall value was up to over $7 billion due to rising prices.
At $1,095 an ounce, Alaska's gold production soars
Miners are digging gold out of the ground in Alaska at a faster clip than they have in almost a century. Last year's gold production tipped the scales at 800,000 ounces. The last time that much gold was mined in Alaska was 1916.
On the other hand, if the world DOES happen to end as scheduled (as I've said before), I will be glad to let you say "I told you so" wherever we happen to end up...
Greenland ice loss accelerating
The Greenland ice sheet is losing its mass faster than in previous years and making an increasing contribution to sea level rise, a study has confirmed. Published in the journal Science, it has also given scientists a clearer view of why the sheet is shrinking. The team used weather data, satellite readings and models of ice sheet behaviour to analyse the annual loss of 273 thousand million tonnes of ice.
Palin's book goes rogue on some facts
Ignoring substantial parts of her record if not the facts, she depicts herself as a frugal traveler on the taxpayer's dime, a reformer without ties to powerful interests and a politician roguishly indifferent to high ambition. Palin goes adrift, at times, on more contemporary issues, too. She criticizes President Barack Obama for pushing through a bailout package that actually was achieved by his Republican predecessor George W. Bush -- a package she seemed to support at the time.
Not a jolly holiday for Oregon Christmas tree growers
Record-high prices in the early part of the decade persuaded increasing numbers of farmers to forego other crops and invest in Christmas trees, instead, he said. The nearly 1 million trees planted in 2004, for instance, nearly doubled the amount planted this year. But now, with all those trees reaching maturity, supply is far outstripping demand. As a result, a 7-foot-tall noble fir that sold wholesale for $25-$30 only three or four years ago will fetch maybe half that this Christmas season.
Western Oregon's agriculture is an odd, mixed bag, from my perspective: we're world leaders in the production of grass seed, hazelnuts/filberts, Christmas trees, berries and mint. The Willamette Valley also used to be a leader in hops production. Of all of these, Christmas trees are probably the most risky; a very narrow sales season, very labor intensive, a five to seven year lag between planting and harvest, and harvest requires subsequent replanting, or decision to grow another crop. It is estimated that as many as 90% of some farms' trees this year will be cut and burned.

Safe prediction: your Christmas Trees in 2015-17 will be very, very expensive, especially if you live in the west.

Yamela Anderson

Interzone hasn't run a weekend breakfast special for a while, but it was worth the wait.The Yamela Anderson: garnet yams, homefries, butternut squash, pecans, two homemade vegan soysages, mushroom gravy and fresh cranberry sauce. Unlike our lumpy lady in lettuce, there are no artificial ingredients in this alluring dish. Ramela-yamela-ding-dong!
Sam is shocked, shocked, I tell you as she accidentally spies the deliciosity underway in the kitchen...
Justin starts an omelet for another order, just before discovering the floor is slippery enough...
to dance! Which makes Iris crack up, and almost knocks me down.
Iris is suddenly serious as she realizes how much more there is to do, even though it's past 2 PM, and the kitchen ought to be closed.
But get done it does. So here I sit, two hours later, still pleasantly full, from an excellent, seasonal- and very festive-looking- vegetarian meal.
I told Justin, "It needed more cowbell, but other than that, I wouldn't change a thing."
nom, nom, nom!


MJ has returned:


Yazoo (known in the US as Yaz): Only You.

Guadalcanal Diary: Watusi Rodeo

B-52's: Private Idaho

The latter two came out of Athens, Georgia (which birthed an amazing number of great bands in the 80's; ever heard of REM?), where my sister went to college. The first is from the album "Upstairs at Eric's," which my sister gave me for Christmas one year. So for various reasons, I associate all three of these (and actually, a whole lot of others) with my sister.


The seemingly innocuous word of "meep" — you might recall it as the only sound made by Beaker, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s lab assistant on The Muppet Show — has led to suspension for a number of students at Danvers High School in Danvers, Mass.
(image and quote from The Vancouver Sun) Do you feel like being a little rambunctious today? Do you feel like striking an innocuous (yet en masse, probably effective) blow in the fight for freedom of speech and expression? Or do you feel like acting to free innocent teens from the shackles of arbitrary and silly rules? Go read this and act on your impulse.
Yesterday I received a reply email from Assistant Principal Mark Strout, which said (in full) "Your E-mail has been forwarded to the Danvers Police Department."

LOLwut? That simultaneously annoyed and amused me enough to write this article. (Plus, my train was late.)

First, apparently this school doesn't know how email works. If they don't like getting emails that say "meep" -- and I'm assuming they got others before they got mine -- it should be a simple matter for the school's IT person to set their email program to filter all external emails that say meep and send them straight into the trash. Then there'd be no need to even look at them, let alone reply to or forward them.

Second, apparently they don't know how the law works. I haven't researched Massachusetts law, but I'm assuming there's no law that would prevent me from sending a single, non-commercial email, containing a single nonsense "word" (but impliedly relating to their work as school officials) to adults at their publicly-posted work emails. And if there were such a law, it would not survive a constitutional challenge. So I don't understand the point of Mr. Strout's email, unless he's hoping to scare me into -- what, not emailing "meep" ever again? Or more generally not criticizing his performance as a school official?

Gee, I'm scared -- maybe the Danvers police will come to NYC to arrest me! I guess they'll also try to extradite people who (I'm guessing) sent emails from other countries. We can be charged with . . . what, first degree meeping? Yeah, good luck with that.

The article was written by Theodora Michaels, attorney at law. BTW, the pertinent e-mail addresses are in the full length article; the above is just an excerpt.

Any school with competent leadership will have one or more rules against disruptive behavior. It is completely appropriate- in fact necessary- for the faculty and staff of that school to enforce those rules, and to apply the prescribed sanctions against offenders. However, to assume that some particular word, in and of itself, is disruptive, and therefore warrants such sanctions, is indeed an abrogation of freedom of speech and expression. (Sure, there are exceptions, such as widely accepted expletives, but in my experience rules against that kind of language are not often enforced, unless it's disruptive, and I can't recall any suspensions over such language)

I've sent my e-mail to the Superintendent, Principal, and two Vice Principals. Rawley witnessed it. Now go send yours. It'll only take a moment, and you'll feel better about yourself. Hat Tip to Swans on Tea for pointing me to Ms. Michaels' post.


Constitutionally Challenged

The Onion has a piece that goes beyond satire and reaches... well, truth. "Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be:"
"Our very way of life is under siege," said Mortensen, whose understanding of the Constitution derives not from a close reading of the document but from talk-show pundits, books by television personalities, and the limitless expanse of his own colorful imagination. "It's time for true Americans to stand up and protect the values that make us who we are."
"The freedoms our Founding Fathers spilled their blood for are vanishing before our eyes," Mortensen said. "In under a year, a fascist, socialist regime has turned a proud democracy into a totalitarian state that will soon control every facet of American life."

"Don't just take my word for it," Mortensen added. "Try reading a newspaper or watching the news sometime."

Friday, November 13, 2009

Just To Be Safe

Personally, I think they should have taken off and tased him from orbit. It's the only way to be sure. Police mistake man having a diabetic attack for a drunk driver:
But he said officers never keyed into the blood testing kit on his lap, the sugar pills in his hand, the insulin pump on his belt and the alert necklace around his neck. Instead, he said they handcuffed him and threw him on the ground.
Snark aside though, I'm diabetic too. That's one of the main reasons I let my driver's license expire: I can have sudden bouts of dizziness. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can sneak up without much in the way of noticeable symptoms, then suddenly you find yourself confused, disoriented, and so weak that lifting an arm is difficult- let alone getting up and getting something sugary. I do think that people with chronic illnesses should consider carefully the ramifications of driving, and the safety issues associated for both them, loved passengers, and other people on and around the roads they travel. I think auto insurance companies ought to have such driving-and-health related questions on their applications. I hear about diabetics getting stopped for mistaken DUI's regularly.

The fact is, if you're too impaired to drive, whatever the cause, you're too impaired to drive. Period.

On the other hand, shame on the police who were too ignorant to recognize an obvious health emergency, and felt it was necessary to throw the should-be patient on the ground and handcuff him, rather than rendering useful assistance. Before justifiably writing him up as driving while impaired.

Looks Like Mark May Have More Time

To hike the Appalachian Trail.
First lady Jenny Sanford has endorsed Lexington state Rep. Nikki Haley in her five-way race for the 2010 Republican governor's nomination.
I had been under the impression that not only was Governor Sanford refusing to resign from office, but that he had actually intended to try to run again. I'm not sure how I got that impression, but I'm kinda doubting it's correct... especially with this. I mean, what are your chances if your estranged wife is working for a popular opponent and saying things like, "Oh, he's a bastard. A real prick. Take it from me... I know that for a fact."

BTW, if this is all gibberish to you, here is some back story and my reaction to it as it developed.

Once, At Band Camp

Haven't done a LOLBeck for months... not that he hasn't deserved it. Screen capture from a Moment of Zen.


Here's a link to the answer.

Shorter Jonah Goldberg

Stealing a play from some of the liberal bloggers...
Let me say up front, I don’t think President Obama is to blame for the Fort Hood shootings, and I don’t think it’s fair to say otherwise, but I'm going to say it anyway. In fact, everything wrong in the whole world is because Obama isn't as great as Dubya.
In a column brimming over with confusion and misrepresentation (or complete ignorance) of the facts, this passage stands out:
Whatever his faults, President Bush got to say one thing that the American people always appreciated: After 9/11, he kept us safe from a terrorist attack on the homeland. If Hasan acted as a Jihadist terrorist and not a disgruntled psychiatrist, Obama can’t even make the same claim about his first year in office.
So if we assume "Hasan acted as a Jihadist terrorist," Obama only kept us safe from Jan. 20 to Nov. 5, when 12 people were killed by a lone gunman, whereas GW kept us safe from terrists from Jan. 20 all the way up to Sept. 11, when a mere 3000 were killed in a carefully planned conspiracy by a highly organized team of 20 or so men! (Of course we have to make this as an assumption, since by all the evidence available so far, Hasan had essentially developed 2nd hand PTSD from his exposure to the stories of atrocity he was exposed to daily. He may have been egged on by a radical cleric, but the details aren't clear or public yet. Until there a military trial, I think it's irresponsible to speculate, so let's just assume he's a radical terrist.)


Anyone who says animals don't have emotions like ours has no emotions. Or is a buffoon. Or has never cared for an animal. Or all three.

As long as I'm on the subject of goggies, I'm going to tag on this bit via Buzzfeed: The Guinness Book of World Records has named a new champ in the "world's tallest dog" category. Meet Titan:
According to CBS News,
Titan's official height, as measured by a veterinarian, is 42.25 inches from floor to shoulder. You could add eight inches if official measurements included the head, Guinness spokesman Stuart Claxton said.

Titan weighs 190 pounds and doesn't stand on his hind legs because it isn't good for him. If he did, Taylor figures he would stand 80 or 82 inches tall.

Titan takes over the title held by Gibson, a 7-year-old harlequin Great Dane from Grass Valley, Calif., who died earlier this year after battling bone cancer. He had measured 42.2 inches tall.
So the new record breaks the old one by only a twentieth of an inch; I'd rather not have either one crying and trying to get back into my lap after a long stint serving the country abroad.

New Sea in Washington State

The Salish Sea includes Puget Sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Georgia Strait and the connected waters. That area often is referred to as Puget Sound, but technically that name only refers to the waters south of Whidbey Island.
Reported in OregonLive. I find this logical, but still a little surprising. The purpose of naming things is to distinguish one entity ("Lockwood") or very similar entities ("quartz") from other, different entities. When we name something that has not been named before, we are, in a very real sense, creating a new entity.

Even if it has existed all along.

Will Somebody Shut Him Up?

The next Fox anchor in training:
Not even Cartman can beat Glenn Beck at his game though. I think the funny part of this is that even with planning, foresight, and professional writing, Cartman can't match the crazy that comes out of Beck's mouth spontaneously

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do I Sound Like a Broken Record?

(copyright U.C.A.R., graphic by Mike Shibao)
Andrew Revkin has a piece on the changing ratios of record high to record low temperatures. In it he quotes a bit from the National Center for Atmospheric Research:
If nations continue to increase their emissions of greenhouse gases in a “business-as-usual” scenario, the U.S. ratio of daily record high to record low temperatures would increase to about 20 to 1 by midcentury and 50 to 1 by 2100. The midcentury ratio could be much higher if emissions rose at an even greater pace, or it could be about 8 to 1 if emissions were reduced significantly, the model showed.
Note that even with global climate change, there will still be the occasional cold record broken. This is a perennial argument from the deniers: "Global warming must be false, because it's cold." Well, yes, it's still going to get cold from time to time. Sometimes that's expected variation, sometimes it's because warming itself increases the temperature gradient and causes cold air to move to lower latitudes more rapidly and vigorously than it could have in a non-anthropogenic climate.

For example, from today's Telegraph, we have this guy:
However Prof Plimer said the world has experienced three periods of cooling since 1850 and furthermore carbon dioxide was increasing during many of those cooler periods.
And guess what? He is in fact a PhD-holding geologist! And he argues that there has been major climate change throughout Earth's history! And he's right: there has! And every one of those for which we've been able to get reliable atmospheric composition data has shown a striking correlation between CO2 concentration and temperature. And he's also right that there have been cooling periods interspersed with the warming periods over the last 150 years- you can see one in the above chart during the 60's and 70's. JUST AS YOU WOULD EXPECT!


Just to make sure that I do sound like a broken record, here's a picture I posted two months ago:

What She Said

EB Misfit puts pithily a fact that I have been raising for years, and on which I posted a few months back.
So we have two political parties who don't give a fuck about those who work for a living. I don't know what the alternative is right now. The Libertarians are, to put it succinctly, batshit crazy. There is nobody else right now. But history is clear on one thing: If a governmental system does not provide for the common good and only looks out for the already privileged, eventually an alternative arises. Most of the time, that alternative comes with a large butcher's bill and the end result is not very satisfactory.
Apparently it is very difficult for the rich and powerful to understand or remember that it's often in one's best interests to give up a little wealth and control. The word "tumbrel" should be circulating widely to remind them.

High Noon

Actually, it's a bit after, but it works.
Snagged from Julia Segal, who posted it with the tile, "Damn you, little T. Rex Arms!" So now you know: the way to survive a T. rex encounter is to challenge the dino to a gunfight. (And technically, the genus name should be capitalized; the species name shouldn't.) Also, I think the following panel at the very bottom, below the first eye close-up, and beside the holstered gun, would be very funny.

The Mountain Has Came Off

Geobloggers far and wide have been posting variations of this footage. When I see the same thing over and over I tend to assume others have seen it elsewhere, but I do have a somewhat different demographic than typical geobloggers. And this is an amazing catch. It is not made clear in the clip, but a geologist had warned the road crew that a large slide was imminent. No people or machines were injured in the filming of this clip.

Hat tip to ReBecca for a nice write-up; see her post for more information on "The Rock Star of the Week," Vanessa Bateman. She also has links to a number of other videos of this slide. The CNN clip has a couple of slow motion segments. Also (I hadn't looked at it when I first posted this), an AMAZING clip of a mudflow!

Let's look at the situation here...Note the layering of the rocks, and note that the layers are not supported at their base (bold yellow arrow, below). You can also see that the weather is wet and rainy. One of the reports ReBecca links to says it has been rainy for weeks... we can pretty well assume the ground is saturated. (The same report refers to these rocks as granite, which they're not, but we'll let that slide... heh, heh)
The action of water in this situation is often referred to as "lubrication," but physically, the more important component is probably a reduction of normal force. Frictional force (resistance to sliding) is physically described as the normal force (in this case, the weight of the rocks pressing down, pulled by earth's gravity) times the coefficient of friction. The water may play a role in reducing the coefficient of friction ("lubrication"), but when it saturates the cracks and pores, it applies hydraulic force both up and down, as shown by the blue arrows below.
The upward force isn't enough to "lift" the rocks, but it can dramatically reduce the normal force. With both the normal force and coefficient of friction reduced, the total frictional force is much, much lower... meaning the resistance to sliding is very low. With no support at the base of the layers, slides are inevitable.
This is a pretty classic rock slide scenario, and one that pretty much any geologist could recognize. Predicting that it's going to happen now, though, is much tougher. Ms. Bateman's call likely saved a number of lives, injuries, and equipment loss. Well done!

And as an aside, one of the things I love about geology is that you need to understand all the other sciences to understand the earth well. Physics, as above, chemistry, biology, astronomy, math... if you're not fairly well grounded in all of them, you're going to miss a lot of the earth's awesomeness.

New Name

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front needs one. Here's the headline as it appeared in Gmail:

Kidnapped Irish priest released by MILF

And here's the lede:

Irish priest Father Michael Sinnott, who had been kidnapped by militants in the Philippines, was released Wednesday night to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

Also too, I think The CS Monitor needs to pay closer attention to pop colloquialisms.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dobbs Quits CNN

NYT, first brought to my attention by John Cole at Balloon Juice. How long before he starts at Fox? Is immigrating from CNN to Fox even legal? Will he need a green card?

Frankly, this is long overdue. The line up when I still watched TV and CNN from time to time was Dobbs, then Beck. Then Beck jumped ship to Fox; it seems that Dobbs just took a little longer. I'm sure we'll never know whether he decided for himself or if he was given an ultimatum by CNN. Dobbs fancies himself as a rational centrist, and does a more convincing job of playing one than Beck ever was able to do. More convincing, that is, until you actually pay attention to his coded- or not- extreme racism. I suspect that a move to Fox will be humiliating to him, but he'll take their job offer and salary regardless.

Followup: Via Firedoglake, which seems to be paying close attention to this story, and updating this post frequently, Dobbs has not only announced his resignation, but that it is effective immediately.

Tree Lobsters

The title refers to a recently discovered web comic (hat tip to Callan Bently) that I have been enjoying... science humor appeals to me. Browsing through my news today, though, I found an article from BBC, "The deep-sea crab that eats trees." Oh, Kewl! The photo above is more of a crab than a lobster, but the photo that actually leads the article looks like it is a lobster, albeit with much-reduced fore claws.

The general gist is, crustaceans are much more abundant as marine cellulosic detritivores than had been previously recognized. Or, in English, we've long known that plant material- particularly driftwood- gets waterlogged in the ocean and sinks to the bottom. We've long known of various mollusks (e.g. clams and snails) that eat and bore into the sunken wood, and have gut bacteria that help them digest it. This new study shows that there are a large number of crustaceans that have the same ecological niche.

The question that I was thinking about as I read the article was "How did they do this?" I was imagining a trawler with a winch hauling logs up off the ocean floor... not a cheap- or particularly safe- operation. Thankfully, the writer answered that question. The method struck me as kind of elegant. But you'll have to go read the article yourself if want to know.

And just to close the circle where I opened it, here is the latest Tree Lobster:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Symbols Are Important

Never think they aren't. Things like symbols, metaphors, images, models and analogies allow us to think about reality in the abstract. We can bundle our understanding of reality into one of those neat little mental packages in the list above and perform cognitive operations on it, or predict interactions between two or more and come to conclusions regarding the nature of the thing we are nominally thinking about. The final step, though, is to compare our conclusions or predictions to reality itself, and note and respond to important differences between our conclusions and the actuality as we can observe it. Iterating this procedure ought to allow us to better predict reality's behavior, even if we can never "know" the "truth" about reality. This is perhaps the central failure of the politcal right today: they are very good at manipulating symbols, metaphors and so on. But that manipulation is not an end in itself. The end is to better predict the nature of reality, which requires reference to reality: checking mental models against observations of reality, and repeating the process as long as one clings to life. Palin is the poster child of picking and choosing favored observations, then mentally constructing an entire symbolic universe based on that (very) small selection. But she never bothers to check her mental model once she's done; she simply presents it as reality. From Michael Tomasky at The Guardian,

This is the speech where she re-raised the spectre of death panels, but the real vintage Palin moment came when she the following, which Martin then dissects

Noting that there had been a lot of "change" of late, Palin recalled a recent conversation with a friend about how the phrase "In God We Trust" had been moved to the edge of the new coins.

"Who calls a shot like that?" she demanded. "Who makes a decision like that?"

She added: "It's a disturbing trend."

Unsaid but implied was that the new Democratic White House was behind such a move to secularize the nation's currency.

But the new coins – concerns over which apparently stemmed from an email chain letter widely circulated among conservatives – were commissioned by the Republican-led Congress in 2005 and approved by President Bush.

Do these people not have anything better to do than to worry about a phrase being not removed but merely moved on coins? And then work themselves into a state about it? Yes. It's a disturbing trend all right.
I wouldn't give her a penny for her thoughts. They're not worth that much.

Yep. That's About Right.

From Regretsy. The last frame is an actual product for sale (only $50.00). What? You don't recognize The Artist formerly known still known as Prince? (He is still called Prince isn't he?) The whole series is Helen Killer's mathematical summary of how one gets to that last frame.

Today's Top Ten

  1. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.
  2. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.
  3. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed, like many of the principles on which this great country was founded: women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.
  4. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.
  5. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society, and we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.
Actually, I cut out five, to encourage you to go read the full list from Modern Fabulousity. Via Brilliant at Breakfast.

Today's Trivia

Fuel from dismantled nuclear bombs, including Russian ones, generates about 10 percent of America's electricity.
Wow! I might have guessed that about 20% of our domestic electricity came from nuclear power (it looks like the official number is 20.6%), but I would have in no way imagined that half of that was from fuel recovered from bombs, nor that 90% of that was from Soviet warheads. From today's NYT.
Salvaged bomb material now generates about 10 percent of electricity in the United States — by comparison, hydropower generates about 6 percent and solar, biomass, wind and geothermal together account for 3 percent.

Utilities have been loath to publicize the Russian bomb supply line for fear of spooking consumers: the fuel from missiles that may have once been aimed at your home may now be lighting it.

But at times, recycled Soviet bomb cores have made up the majority of the American market for low-enriched uranium fuel. Today, former bomb material from Russia accounts for 45 percent of the fuel in American nuclear reactors, while another 5 percent comes from American bombs, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade association in Washington.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sometimes April Fool's Jokes DO Come True

This high-quality sleeping bag looks just like a Tauntaun, complete with saddle, printed internal intestines, and a plush lightsaber zipper pull. That’s right. A lightsaber zipper pull. So you can gleefully “slice” open the tauntaun’s guts. That’s one childhood fantasy down, eh?
I think I posted on this, lo, these seven months past... and if I didn't, I meant to. I had seen the announcement that the go ahead had been given to actually manufacture them. I assume licensing any Star Wars-related stuff is a tedious process. And I had seen (probably at this same blog) that they would be available for pre-order before too much longer. That was a few weeks to a month ago. Now... Ta-Dah!
The Tauntaun Sleeping Bag–once a widely-discussed April Fool’s joke and now a highly-coveted retail product–is now available for pre-order from ThinkGeek, just in time for the holiday consumerist binge.
Thanks to Great White Snark for keeping me up to date on paraphernalia that gives me a giggle, but that I wouldn't actually buy. But I imagine there will quite a number of very pleased kids and kids at heart in the weeks and months to come.

I Hate This Playground...

Toles, via OregonLive

This is Bad. Very Bad.

A quick glance at the clock tells me that the stock market is closed, and that's a good thing: it'll allow overnight for people to fact check this, and, I hope, show it to be an overblown concern.
Exclusive: Watchdog's estimates of reserves inflated says top official

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.
A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was "imperative not to anger the Americans" but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. "We have [already] entered the 'peak oil' zone. I think that the situation is really bad," he added.
But as far back as 2004 there have been people making similar warnings. Colin Campbell, a former executive with Total of France told a conference: "If the real [oil reserve] figures were to come out there would be panic on the stock markets … in the end that would suit no one."
Yikes. I mean seriously, yikes. If this turns out to be substantiated... well, regarding the current economic situation, and in the immortal words of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, "B-B-B-Baby, you just ain't seen nothin' yet."

Followup, Tuesday, November 10: The Telegraph has also picked this up, but the article appears to be based entirely on The Guardian piece quoted above.

2nd followup today: The NYT has an article on the IEA's report. (note that the above was purposely released on the eve of the expected release date of this report) The article is very upbeat. This is going to be interesting to watch, regardless of the outcome. P.S. The front end of the report is here... it's very upbeat.

A Brief Explanation

Man, I post these sorts of things regularly, but this brought to my attention the fact I never explained how to actually use them. And I call myself a teacher. Sheesh!
song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs. On one hand, it needs a "no" arrow from "So you get it?" to "How'd you get this far, anyway?" On the other, if you don't get it, you're probably not going to end up in the final state until you do.

Followup: As it happens, there's another graphic information format that I haven't explained either:
The Daily What

The Man Who Tore Down The Wall

I'll try to add on to this post as I come across other articles that speak deeply to me about the events of twenty years ago today. Here's the first: an interview with the East German border guard who ordered the first barrier open, without orders from his superiors.
SPIEGEL: Would it have been possible to give the order to open fire?

Jäger: No, we had the order not to open fire even if the border was breached, unless our own lives were in danger.

SPIEGEL: So shooting at people in front of the barriers was not an option at any point on November 9?

Jäger: No, but people could have been injured or killed even without shots being fired. In scuffles, or if there had been panic among the thousands gathered at the border crossing. That's why I gave my people the order: Open the barrier!
Also, a few photos here, including the above.

Another gallery of about 30 amazing photos- I think the thing that strikes me is how these images represent a destruction of symbols and patterns of thought, more so than a simple dismantling of a physical entity.

As always, the Christian Science Monitor delivers a tremendous amount of information boiled down into an eminently readable and fairly concise analysis, with perspectives from a wide variety of observers. I found this passage important in showing the resonance of the day's events:
"We didn't realize how the world was changing because part of that change was held back by the cold war," Mr. Scowcroft says.

It was like a dam breaking, powerful ideas and technologies sweeping the globe.

"One of the important aspects of globalization was information technology," Scowcroft says. "What the radio and television was doing was politicizing the world's people. [For much of history] the population of the planet did not know what was going on past their own neighborhood, didn't much care; life went on. All of a sudden they saw what was going on in the world and they were energized."

Some took that energy and immigrated to the West in search of better lives, Scowcroft says. Others, though, were outraged by what they saw in the West, triggering a rise in religious fundamentalism.

It took Al Qaeda's strike on the US on Sept. 11, 2001, for the world to turn its attention to the currents that roiled the Middle East. Now, the US finds itself in two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, battling terrorism – shadowy, stateless foes.

Indirectly then, the Berlin Wall's fall ushered in a new, more complicated era, one unimaginable to those who built the bedrock post-World War II institutions like the United Nations and NATO.
Chuck at Lounge of the Lab Lemming offers a wise geological perspective... I feel like I'm swiping a bit much here, but I really wanted to get his smackdowns of both the right and left. Obviously, I'm biased toward the left, but I appreciate on-target criticism of my own biases as much as I do criticism of others.
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. In the 20 years since then, it has become easy to take freedom for granted. The idea that people would be imprisoned for pursuing their dreams and aspirations seems barbaric, and the idea that they would be shot for trying to see the rest of the world seems absurd. But 20 years is just an instant- one 200 millionth of the history of the Earth. For most of that time there were no people at all, of course. But the idea that our lives are ours to live as we please is a very recent development even when you only consider the 200,000 years that we have walked this Earth.

Sadly, communism does not appear to be as dead as it seemed to be headed in the early 1990’s. While military parades and red flags have fallen out of favor in most places, many of the fundamental ideas that made the Eastern Bloc so vile have become entrenched in Western culture. The left’s political correctness and the Right’s truthiness are both examples of communist style diktats demanding that the universe conform to a group’s bland paradigm.
Followup Tuesday, November 10: A very good summary of the history prior and subsequent to the fall at Just an Earth-Bound Misfit:
The preparation on both sides was deadly serious, as both sides regarded each other as the future enemy. The Western Berlin Garrison had a wartime mission that could be boiled down to two words: Die bravely. The NATO forces in Germany had a mission of to hang on until reinforcements could arrive (or things went nuclear). Both sides had enough chemical nerve agents to turn most of Europe into a dead zone. Life during the Cold War was to live with the knowledge, however much [one] wanted to bury it, that if things went horribly wrong, we all had less than an hour before civilization basically ended.
The Big Picture has a wonderful gallery of photos from the days around November 9, 1989, and celebrations and memorials from the last couple of days. Again, I'm struck by the expressions of various people- citizens and soldiers- of joy, confusion and dismay. For those who lived through it on site, it was truly a day the Universe changed. As I mentioned in a comment at EB Misfit's blog a little while ago, the event seems much more important and profound to me now than it did at the time.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Science and Technology 75 Years Ago

As the late August, 1924, Mars-Earth closest approach neared, the Navy requested its radio crews to monitor the airwaves carefully. Astronomers had informed them of the possibility that Martians might use the time for an attempt at communication. The Daily What.
From BuzzFeed. Robocop three quarters of a century ago.

No generation can imagine what will happen in their own lives, let alone those of subsequent generations. The following is the least bad cover I could find of John Prine's song "Living in the Future." (I found three, and they were all kind of painful)
We are living in the future, I'll tell you how I know:
I read it in a newspaper 15 years ago.
We're all driving rocket ships and talking with our minds,
wearing turquoise jewelry and standing in soup lines.

And by way of apology for a poorly tuned guitar, a weak voice, and at least two instances of poor lyric memory, here is the master himself showing you how to (...well, almost) do it right, with a very sweet and funny song. The happy enchilada song. HA!

("That's the Way the World Goes 'Round") I'm not much of one for poetry... I just get lost (my fail, not that of poets). But "naked as the eyes of a clown" has always been an amazing line to me. Could anything be more naked?


I'm generally OK with it; I'm a pretty fatalistic kind of guy. I accept that in the long run, we're all dead, and compared with that, any other situation in which uncertainty might arise is pretty trivial. I came across the following series of pictures from That Will Buff Out, titled "Bungie Jump Truck Has Last Second Change Of Heart." Pictures from that site occasionally end up in my Sunday Funnies posts, but this is not funny. In fact, it makes me positively queasy. Did everything turn out okay? In fact, I was unsure whether I would even look at the photos again, let alone use them for a post. But I've been pondering for most of the afternoon how I wanted to address the historic passage of a health bill through the house last night. It's certainly a move forward. Is it a good move forward? Is my anger regarding the last-minute Stupak Amendment enough to turn me against the House bill? Probably not, though I regard that addition as abhorrent. From Americablog,
The House passed the anti-choice Stupak amendment last night. Basically, the amendment stops any government money from funding insurance plans that cover abortions. The twisted logic being that any money connected to any insurance company covering abortions is "abortion money," i.e., profits earned from "killing babies." We can't have the government touching that.

So I sure hope that no pro-life members of Congress are accepting political donations from any insurance companies that cover abortions. Because if they are accepting such donations, they're accepting profits that came from "killing little babies."
Will Leiberman show us his manliness, and stand with republicans in a filibuster, because $100 billion a year is a lot of money (though not as much as it would end up saving the economy over the next decade, and not nearly as much as we're spending in two wars)? And the important thing is not to "waste" money; it's much better to waste lives. Whether it's war or denying health care makes no difference.

Or will the Senate have the opportunity to vote on their bill (gee, I seem to recall a recent eight year window where the phrase "straight up-or-down vote" could be heard on a daily basis)? What sort of abortion will come out of reconciliation if it passes? ...Oh, that's right, we don't pay for abortions anymore. Guess you poor congressturds won't get your salaries this year. I know your salaries are a tiny fraction of your corporate kick-backs though, so it won't hurt too bad.

So, yes, I'm pleased with the news at some level, but I follow a lot of news. (Scroll down the side to see my link list; at the very least, I skim over every post from every one of those links, every day) This is another one of those bits of news that gets a very muddled reception- at least on the liberal side of the blogosphere. I'm sure the right side is marching in locked goosestep, crying how this is going to lead to fascist, locked-stepped authoritarianism, death panels, and re-education camps.

I'm sure I'll talk about this more, but I wanted to get my initial thoughts on record. I've been thinking for hours about what this means (among other things, of course), and my conclusion thus far is this: I have no idea what my thoughts are. But I do know I'm reacting very strongly in an emotional sense.

After long consideration, and trying to find my way through a fog of others' conflicting reactions, I suddenly realized the above photo set is a good metaphor for my own feelings: queasy and uncertain.

Sunday Funnies

How's That For a Slice of Fried Gold?
But not much more... The Daily What
Via The Daily What
Sometimes, a straight and sober delivery works best. Probably Bad News
Abstruse Goose
Cyanide and Happiness
political pictures for your blog
see more Political Pictures
Ostracism, from TYWKIWDBI
Chewey's first day at school... Skull Swap
Street Wars, from The Daily What
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
engrish funny metropolis infested
see more Engrish
Non Sequitur Wouldn't that hurt their fingers?
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny picturesCake Wrecks brings us "New discoveries in the animal kingdom." Above is "The Majestic Disco Newt! Let's pause a moment to admire his beautiful plumage." Click over to see "The Majestic Coiled Crap Hound," and "The Majestic Bagel-Nosed Falcon of Uganda," among others.
epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails. Rumor is the Mormon Church largely owns Safeway. And I can't help but suspect this is photoshopped. But still...
Abstruse Goose
wayne lapierre, dick cheney and john sigler
see more Political Pictures
arnold schwarzenegger
see more Political Pictures
Want. Sooooo Want. Skull Swap.
The Scr-emo, from Skull Swap
Via Daris Whiteplume's Tumblr
A strong case can be made for emissions abatement. Don't Judge My Hair
epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails
Non Sequitur
Tree Lobsters, a recent find, comes with the tag line, "You can't prove they don't exist."
Mario: The Origin. The Daily What
Library Grape
Medium Large
Ho, Ho, Ho! Criggo
(not fer realz) The Daily What.
my fetus totally looks like the emperor
For Ben and Lydia... looks like the little one is going to be a handful. see more Celeb Look-A-Likes
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Satanic gestures from Skull Swap.

Misery Loves Sherman
 anti-health care reform protester
see more Political Pictures
Frankly, this attitude keeps me alive. Blackadder.
Off to work. Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
True story. From Criggo.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Emo garbage from BuzzFeed
I've read that entire series. Blackadder.
Criggo. They have to make due with Canadian flags up there.
Regretsy... My sense is that this is intended to be serious, but maybe not...
Skull Swap