Saturday, December 5, 2009


Adam & The Ants: Stand and Deliver

Au Pairs: Come Again

The Clash: This is England


This is the result of a funny conversation with Rawley earlier this afternoon.
Original photo from NetNomad's Flickr stream.


(Idiot Box; newest comic here) This explains a great deal...

Vista Source Code

Via FutureBuzz

Happy Zappadan

It has come to my attention that the days between the anniversary of the death of Frank Zappa, December 4, and that of his birth, December 21, are known as Zappadan. Those of us who cherish his works and memory have a responsibility to foster his soul for, lo, these seventeen days, until he is reborn in all his glory.

Others I've seen thus far solemnly observing this holiday include
Blue Gal
Fried Green Al Quaidas
...well, OK, perhaps not so solemnly, but celebrating nevertheless.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bogus Trivia

One of these stories is bogus. Have you been paying enough attention to science news to know which one? (Full disclosure: I picked it out easily; the reason it's bogus is kind of funny in itself.)
Story 1, a study of the views of men who were regular consumers of pornography found that they did indeed have poorer eyesight on average than nonconsumers.

Story 2, photos from the Tiger Woods crash scene revealed a physics book in the back seat of the vehicle.

Story 3, a specific type of anxiety has been linked to the likelihood of becoming depressed—and that anxiety is anxiety about having anxiety.

And story 4, the genome of corn has been sequenced and published.
For the answer click over to Scientific American.

'Tis the Season to Discriminate

Swiped from Professor Chaos. I had seen this news earlier, but my outrage capacitor has been pretty much burnt out over the years. I roll my eyes and sigh dramatically when I read stuff like this, and that's often about all I can muster. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate a well sharpened snarky arrow delivered to the heart of the matter, though. Quite the contrary.
From The Houston Chronicle: "They don't claim to know who's been naughty or nice, but some Houston charities are asking whether children are in the country legally before giving them toys."

I remember, in that one story, the Good Samaritan demanded papers before he helped anyone. And I recall learning in Sunday School that Lazarus almost missed his appointment with reanimation when the Provincial Office misplaced his birth certificate. I can't help but wonder if they're only asking for documentation from households that look... well, you know, sort of... browner.

Liam Clancy, R.I.P.

The Guardian says, "Last surviving member of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, the Irish folk group who found success in the US." Picture me sad. I grew up listening to the Clancy Brothers; it is most certainly the group that fostered my life-long love of Irish and Celtic folk music.

The following is one of my favorites of theirs, though I doubt many would argue it's their best, whatever that means. I'm just charmed by the sweet, wistful romanticism of the song, and have been since before I started grade school.

I'm pretty sure the above was the version recorded on the album "The Boys Won't Leave the Girls Alone." Speaking of which, the title song is probably the most famous of their songs. I'm pretty certain the song is traditional, so it's not really fair to say others have "covered the Clancy Brothers' song," because it's not theirs. Nevertheless, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of the many, many musicians who have played this song first learned of it directly or indirectly from the Clancy Brothers and their recordings. I hear this played once or twice a week, but never one of their versions... perhaps this post may introduce this group, however sappy they may seem by today's standards, to some of my young friends.

Again quoting The Guardian,
"The best ballad singer I ever heard in my life" was Bob Dylan's verdict on Liam Clancy, who has died aged 74. He was the last remaining member of the best-known of all Irish folk groups, the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, who made an impression that was strong enough for them to break through into the mainstream. The popularity of the quartet, comprising Liam, his older brothers Tom and Pat and family friend Tommy, was unrivalled in the 1960s, especially in the US, where the four men had settled. With their hard-living, hard-drinking image, singing Irish folk songs in a hearty and rousing style, the Aran-sweater-clad Clancys inspired Irish bands of all musical genres. Among those who have claimed an influence are Sinead O'Connor, the Pogues, Bono of U2 and the Dubliners.
Yeah, they really were all that. Liam, I am saddened I no longer share the planet with you.

And The Crowd Goes Wild!

Skull Swap. Also too, from the Onion...

Hokey Pokey

The (maybe) author of the song has died. I say "maybe," because while he held the copyright, there's apparently quite a bit of evidence that "Hokey Pokey" had actually been present in popular culture, perhaps dating back to 18th century, according to the linked NYT article.

Now the reason I bring this up is not that I have any deep affection for the song or the man. Reporting on celebrity deaths is tedious and ghoulish (see also, "Michael Jackson"). I bring it up because I thought he was already dead. In the mid-to-late 90's there was one of the viral e-mails going around, which I presumed was based on a true news story, though clearly had been edited for humorous effect. I no longer have the email; I'm sure it's stockpiled in some archive somewhere, but I'll just recreate the general gist. (Quick insert: it was based on an actual news item. Larry LaPrise died in 1996. He is another person who is somewhat credited with the authorship of this song)
Robert Degen, Who Had a Hand in the Hokey Pokey, Dead at 104.

Robert Matthew Degen was born in Scranton on Nov. 23, 1905. His father was a farmer. He briefly attended a local business college before settling on music to make a living. After World War II, Mr. Degen gave up his full-time music career and worked as a furniture salesman until his retirement in 1970. He subsequently moved to Lexington, where his brother was then living.

In addition to his son William, who lives in Lexington, he is survived by his wife of 74 years, Vivian; a second son, Robert, a jazz musician who lives in Frankfurt, Germany; a grandson; and two great-grandchildren.

The family has announced that funeral ceremonies will not be held, due to unforeseen difficulties. Reportedly, the problems began when Mr. Degan's corpse was being moved into his coffin. The funeral director first put Mr. Degan's right hand in...
No disrespect to the dead, but I do find that awfully funny.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Mud Bowl

In about half an hour from the time I start this post, Oregon State and University of Oregon will kick off their annual football faceoff. Those of us who regard this as a waste of our time and an unnecessary aggravation (puke, broken glass, and noise) refer to this annual tradition as either the mud bowl or the toilet bowl. This is often the most anticipated game of the year in Oregon, and is traditionally held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. This year they're holding it on the Thursday after Thanksgiving.

Why? Because ESPN paid them off.

See, whoever wins this year's game goes to the Rosebowl... and I guess that's a big deal.

So people will take off work early (or call in sick), and drive from all over the state to attend a three-hour game that starts at six (sunset was at 4:33), and probably won't end until after nine, then drive home. 'Cause tomorrow's also a work day, don'cha know. Or a school day, if you're an OSU student. Now that may sound fairly innocuous, but this is one of the busiest events of the year for Oregon's highways. OregonLive had a piece yesterday, "Before Thursday's big game, expect a Civil War in traffic." The traffic jams associated with Oregon College football, especially the Civil War game, are legendary.

Oh, yeah... then there's the tailgating. Add in the weather that's typical at this time of year- drizzly rain and fog- and you have a recipe for disaster. The majority of the attendees do not have the option of spending the night; they need to be back home tomorrow morning.

Now the positive news is that the last couple of days have been chilly, but mostly clear, so the pavement is dry. NOAA is not predicting rain until late Sunday. So precipitation will not be an issue... but we've had a lot of fog this week, and the I-5 corridor is fog alley.

In short, my opinion is that underfunded Oregon Universities have been pushed by economic starvation into accepting bribes from a sports network to change a scheduled event. And that change is likely, to an utterly unacceptable degree, to put the lives of their alumni and current students at risk.

I hope I can't say "I told you so" tomorrow. I honestly do. Football is obnoxious and stupid from my perspective, but that is what it is: my perspective and my opinion. It's worth exactly what you paid for it. Other people have the right to choose whatever entertainment they want to engage in. It just pisses me off that lives are being put in jeopardy for a goddamn cable company's corporate bottom line.

Followup, Fri. December 4: Yay! I can't say "I told you so."
OSP said there were no major traffic incidents besides a rear-end, non-injury crash on I-5 south of Salem at 3:25 p.m. and the one-car accident on I-5 north after the game.
There were, however, 14 DUI's; 12 of these are implied to be related to the game.

Days Like These

I've had them. Via The Daily What. The original was small, so I doubled its display size; that's why the resolution isn't great.


Today is the 25th anniversary of the most horrific industrial disaster in human history: the release of tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) from a Union Carbide factory in Bhopal India.
"Wake up people of Bhopal, you are on the edge of a volcano!"

In September 1982, Bhopali journalist Raj Keswani wrote a terrifying story, the first of a series of articles, for the city's Jansatta daily. Bhopal was about to be annihilated. "It will take just an hour, at most an hour-and-a-half, for every one of us to die."

Keswani's information came from worried staff at the Union Carbide factory, where a worker, Ashraf Khan, had just been killed in a phosgene spill.
I have been reading and marking articles for several days preparing to put this post together; it has been more heartbreaking and disgusting than I was expecting... and I was expecting it to be bad. The above quote is from a truly disturbing article in The Guardian, and the lead picture is from The Big Picture's Monday photo gallery commemorating the event. This photo made my eyes watery... here's the caption: "In this Friday, Nov. 20, 2009 photograph, a physiotherapist holds the leg of a seven year old child at a clinic run by a non-governmental organization to cater to victims of the gas tragedy in Bhopal, India." That is the leg. Of. A. Seven-year old. Child. Born 18 years after the disaster.

A bit more than two years after the "edge of a volcano" quote above, some tens of tons of MIC were released when a storage tank ruptured. I had not seen a statement of the quantity; that turns out to be for the very reasons I expected: Union Carbide's refusal to discuss anything having to do with the "accident." According to WiseGeek, "The volume of gas released in the Bhopal Disaster is a topic of dispute, with estimates ranging from 20 to 40 tons" (A real "wisegeek" would know that "tons" is not a measure of volume. Units are important, people)

According to an extensive, and apparently well-documented article at Wikipedia,
The government of Madhya Pradesh has confirmed a total of 3787 deaths related to the gas release. Another source says that a few days later the death toll had doubled. Over the next few years, the lingering effects of the poison nearly doubled the toll again, to about 15,000, according to government estimates. Local activists say the real numbers are almost twice that. Others estimate 8000 to 10,000 died within 72 hours and 25,000 have since died from gas-related diseases.
But as the lead picture shows, the impact is still profound, a quarter century later. Children not yet born, not yet conceived, are doomed to lives of pain and disability. According to The Guardian article,
Union Carbide bosses hoped to dismantle and ship the plant to Indonesia or Brazil, but finding no buyers, went instead on a cost-cutting spree.

Between 1980 and 1984 the workforce was halved. The crew of the MIC unit was cut from 12 to six, its maintenance staff from six to two. In the control room a single operator had to monitor 70-odd panels, indicators and controls, all old and faulty. Safety training was reduced from six months to two weeks – reduced in effect to slogans – but as the slogans were in English, the workers couldn't understand them.

By the time Keswani began his articles, the huge, highly dangerous plant was being operated by men who had next to no training, who spoke no English, but were expected to use English manuals. Morale was low but safety fears were ignored by management. Minor accidents happened routinely but were covered up. There were so many small leaks that the alarm siren was turned off to avoid inconveniencing the neighbours. A Union Carbide memo boasted of having saved $1.25m, but said that "future savings would not be so easy". There was nothing left to cut. Then bosses remembered the huge tank of MIC. They turned off its refrigeration to save freon gas worth $37 a day.
If safety was ignored inside the plant, Union Carbide had no plan at all for the surrounding densely packed neighbourhoods. As the situation worsened, factory staff, fearing for their own lives and those living nearby, put up posters warning of a terrible danger. Keswani wrote begging the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh to investigate the factory before Bhopal "turns into Hitler's gas chamber". His sensational style, perhaps, caused him to be ignored. His final article, "We are all about to be annihilated", appeared just weeks before the gas disaster.

As night fell on 2 December 1984, none of the factory's safety systems was working. The vent gas scrubber lay in pieces. The flare tower was undersized. The siren stayed silent. Years later – too late for the thousands who would now die in unimaginably hideous ways – a prosecuting attorney would say that Union Carbide had demonstrated a "depraved indifference to human life"
Many other sources are recognizing this anniversary, but the article I have emphasized here is the one that finally had me quietly weeping in the corner.
A Cloud Still Hangs Over Bhopal- NYT
India: Bhopal disaster lingers, 25 years later- CS Monitor
India's "death factory" leaves toxic legacy 25 years on- Reuters, via Scientific American
In Pictures: Bhopal, 25 Years On- BBC
Bhopal survivors fight for justice- BBC

Of course, it's only fair that I admit that Union Carbide and Dow's corporate profits look safe. And that's the important thing.

Followup, 6:12 PM: I realized there was no mention of the Indian journalist, Raj Keswani, spotlighted in the Guardian article, in the aftermath of the disaster and feared that he, too, had perished. Happily, he's still working.
After the tragedy he challenged the government sell-out to Union Carbide - the Indian government sued the company for $3bn but settled for 15% of the amount - and Mr Keswani became a mythic hero of sorts: Dominique Lapierre, for example, mentioned him in great detail without once talking to him while writing another best-seller. "He wrote that I used to go around in a car with a bagful of CDs because I was a music lover. Those days, as a struggling journalist, I had an old scooter and CDs hadn't even come to India," Mr Keswani laughs. This is one of my favourite Bhopal stories - it tells you how fact and fiction blur in the chaos of India.

Meme of the Months

There hasn't been a meme circulating in the geoblogosphere for some time... this looks easy, and based on the first sentence I wrote on this blog at the beginning of the current month, it looks like it could be fun, too. Via Short Geologist at Accidental Remediation, "Post the link and first sentence from the first post of each month this year." Here's my list; I've also added the titles of the posts. As others have pointed out, there's something about us geotypes that makes us prone to playing with meme rules.

January: And I feel fine? (The End of the World)

February: I'm not a huge fan of Thomas Friedman- his enduring support for the illegal war in Iraq has irritated me from its beginning. (Rekjavik)

March: I was glad I wasn't sipping my coffee at the moment I saw this... (Sunday Funnies)

April: Science people are often hard-pressed to explain or give examples of how "basic" or "theoretical" science is justified, when there are so many "application" or "practical" science problems waiting to be solved. (The Heart of the Planet and Heart Disease)

May: OK, I've wasted too much time on this post, so I'll try to make it short and sweet... with photos. (Skulls On Mars! OMG!)

June: This is my guess for Silver Fox's current edition of her occasional game, Where In The West. (My Guess)

July: 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. (Sarychev Timelapse)

August: But a pretty darned big one, nevertheless. (Not the Biggest Bang)

September: elements are not particularly rare, they're just not particularly concentrated. (Rare Earth)

October: Stole Ohman's title, too. (IMHO)

November: Mr. E.T. Skull Swap (Sunday Funnies)

December: I suppose, at the time, this was a no brainer. (50 Years Ago Today)

I think that as a representational cross section of my blog, geology is probably over-represented, and politics is under-represented. But I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Huffington and Fluffington

I'm not a fan of Huffington Post; there's too much focus on celebrity news and titillating news, and not enough paring. One of my frustrations is with sites that have no sense of judging whether something is worth including, and fall into the "more is better" mindset. They put up more and more and more to the point that the reader can't get through it. And too often the reader has no way to judge the nature of an article: the title is cutesy or punny and does little to convey the content therein.

I know that I'm guilty of the above from time to time, and I also know that lots and lots of people are quite fond of that site. I have no problem with that, I'm just pointing out that I'm not a big fan of Huffpo. Too many posts that I think of as "fluffy:" attractive, but in the end, empty.

All that said, I do have a certain admiration for Arianna Huffington herself; I think she's very smart and savvy. I came across an excerpt from a speech she gave recently. In light of Rupert Murdoch stating he intends to put all of his media behind a paywall, pushing other media outlets to do so as well (so that he's not demanding readers to pay for what they might get for free elsewhere- it's as if prostitutes started demanding that wives charge for sex, so as not to undercut the former's business), and Google agreeing to implement structural changes (see a response here) that would allow media outlets to emplace paywalls, I think Huffington makes some very good points.
It's time for traditional media companies to stop whining and face the fact that far too many of them, lulled by a lack of competition and years of pre-tax profits of 20 per cent or more, put cash flow above journalism and badly misread the web when it arrived on the scene. The focus was on consolidation, cost-cutting, and pleasing Wall Street – not modernisation and pleasing their readers.
Get real, you guys. The world has changed. Did you know that newspaper circulation is down 7 million over the last 25 years while unique readership of online news is up 34 million in the last 5 years? Did you know newspaper advertising fell nearly 19 per cent this year while web advertising is up 9 per cent and mobile advertising is up 18 per cent? Did you know that more video was uploaded to YouTube in the last 2 months than if ABC, CBS, and NBC had been airing all-new content every minute of every day since 1948?
As I've said repeatedly, I don't watch television anymore. But it goes further than that: I can't watch television anymore. Between mostly vapid writing and commercial breaks, it doesn't hold my attention. If I've been watching the tube for more than a few minutes, I'm reaching for a magazine, newspaper or something else to read. Or turning on my computer to play a game; I completely lose track of what I'm supposedly watching.

The media world is a very different place than it was a mere 10-15 years ago; it would behoove megacorps like Murdoch's to get their little heads around that fact.

A Few Recent Science Image Collections

Dark Roasted Blend has a gallery of terrific renderings of recently discovered crocodiles via National Geographic. I have been less than impressed with NatGeo's science reporting over the last few years; they seem too eager to jump on sensationalist reporting, and sometimes don't vet their research and sources well. Nevertheless, their imagery is, as always, very impressive. Just take the veracity with a grain of salt.Another recent post at Dark Roasted Blend features some photos of magnificent science glass work created by a couple from 1887 to 1936 for a Harvard botany professor who wanted to show what plants actually looked like, rather than dead, faded, dried, and flat specimens. Yes, you read that right: the above are glass!Later in the same post as the glass plants is this photo of street art from Russia. I can't help but think of Night of the Lepus... (If unfamiliar, you can see some clips from this enjoyably awful movie here.)Finally, today's Big Picture features a selection of 24 shots from 100 photos on 100 consecutive days from Glacier National Park, compiled to commemorate the park's upcoming centennial anniversary. There is also a link there to the full gallery, but I haven't looked at that yet.

I Study This Stuff!

Health care is like a house on the beach.

"If you have money, you're gonna get a house on the beach. If you don't have money you're gonna live in a bungalow somewhere." No Rush... in this country, if you don't have money, and you're lucky, you're gonna live in a one bedroom, no bath, station wagon with your spouse and a couple of kids. If you're not so lucky, you may get a box. Or not. Not that I'm going to have any effect on the Great White Fail, but this really, really pisses me off.

Arm photon torpedoes.

Rodent Talent

Apparently, this is a real advertisement for a real product. I have bought bottled water once in my life, and firmly oppose it. I make a sustained effort to avoid advertising at all times; I'm not successful overall, but I try.

For this, though, I'll make an exception. Via The Daily What.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


One of the long-gone traditions of my childhood was the Advent calendar... A calendar with 24 (or 25 sometimes) windows that would be opened, 1 a day, until Christmas Eve (or Christmas Day, with the 25 window editions). I see these online versions each year, and found a couple today that I enjoy.

The Big Picture at did a Hubble Space Telescope image Advent calendar last year; I'm glad to see a new one this year. I don't recall the image below, and it is awesome!
If your tastes are less to the amazing and beautiful, and more to lewd, crude and hysterical, Regretsy is offering an Advent calendar of regrettable Etsy products. Regretsy has, by satirizing and drawing attention to some of the less tasteful and/or skillfully rendered Etsy offerings, actually moved quite a few of these handiwork disasters. I get the idea that the items in this Advent calendar are indeed for sale, and might be acquired for that gag-loving (either in the sense of "joke" or "retch") person in your life who has everything, or for that person in your life you wish to offend deeply. The following December 1 window shows "The Ghost of Christmas Past:"
Remember, for both of these, you'll only be able to see one new image each day. Visit again tomorrow; I'm sure it'll be worth the effort.

Just What You See, Pal

From Terminator (the first film):

The Terminator: The .45 Long Slide, with laser sighting.
Alamo Guns Clerk: These are brand new; we just got these in. That's a good gun. Just touch the trigger, the beam comes on and you put the red dot where you want the bullet to go. You can't miss. Anything else?
The Terminator: Phased-plasma rifle in the forty watt range.
Alamo Guns Clerk: Hey, just what you see, pal.

News Item: Researchers demonstrate 100-watt-level mid-infrared lasers. " temperature peak output power as high as 120 watts was obtained from a single device, which is up from 34 watts only a year ago."

So our technology has passed that 40 watt threshold in the past year. Just sayin'.


Per ounce. Gold has set a new record- at least as measured in dollar value.
Gold struck $1,201.63 (£722.69) an ounce on the London Bullion Market, after striking historic peaks over recent weeks.

The dollar index fell 0.8% against a number of currencies as fears about the Dubai debt crisis waned across international markets.
Again, from my elementary understanding of economics, this is due primarily to the decreasing value of the dollar, not to increasing demand. Given the factors that are depressing the dollar, for example the enormous and chronic US trade deficit, the value of gold may not go higher, but seems likely to remain elevated for quite some time.

That does not mean it would be a good time to buy gold; I have no idea regarding nor qualifications whatsoever to discuss investment strategies. But from a geological and economic perspective, it does mean that I'd be willing to bet lots of minerals groups are prospecting for and scouring potential ore deposits, and revisiting known deposits that previously haven't been worth developing and extracting.

Trying to coax numbers out of my memory hole is always a dubious business... I don't really know how much to trust my recollections. But I do feel pretty confident that when I took the class called economic geology about 25 years ago, our prof, Cy Fields, told us that not too long ago, gold needed to be in the neighborhood of an ounce of gold per ton of ore to be profitable. With the development of new refining technologies and techniques (cyanide leaching, for example), for larger deposits, it could be extracted at a gram per ton. In round numbers, that's a decrease from one part in fifty thousand to one part in a million.

According to,
Gold's average concentration in the Earth's crust is 0.005 parts per million. The technology of extraction is expensive primarily because the process always requires gold mining companies to manipulate large physical quantities of ore for small results. The energy required to heave, grind and process ore is itself valuable, as are the chemicals used in the process, and this places a lower limit on the quality of ore which can be profitably worked in the gold mining process.

At different points concentration of minerals within the earth's crust varies from their average, and it is those variations which produce workable ores for gold mining. Iron, for example, accounts for an average 5.8% of the content of the Earth's crust. It needs to be concentrated by natural variations to about 30% to be considered an ore, indicating a required geological concentration of about 5 times. A lower grade gold ore would contain something like 5 grams per tonne (5 parts per million). So gold ore needs to be concentrated by about 1,000 times above its average dispersion to become viable for gold mining.
(Note the above is a commercial website intended to draw investors interested in buying, selling and investing in gold; unless you know a lot more than I do about investment, and can make a realistic cost-risk analysis, you'd do well to simply read the information there. That said, there is a great deal of information to interest those curious about the intersection of geology and economics.)

The "ore-grade" (extractable at a profit) level is higher than I'd remembered by a factor of five, but nevertheless, five parts per million is a low concentration. The rough rule of thumb is that 20 drops of water makes about a milliliter. One million drops of water would thus be 50 liters, or 13.2 gallons. Imagine five drops of something else mixed into that, and you've got the ratio about right.

So while this isn't the greatest news for the dollar, it's not bad news at all for exploration geologists.

50 Years Ago Today

On Dec. 1, 1959, representatives of 12 countries, including the United States, signed a treaty in Washington setting aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, free from military activity.
(NYT; full article here.) I suppose, at the time, this was a no brainer. The idea of limited geological resources was understood in the abstract, but not really in a gut sense. Make no mistake: there are vast resources in Antarctica, a few known, most unknown and buried under ice. For one example,
"The South Pole, a world of ice and snow, has become a hot spot in recent years. The Argentinean Foreign Ministry stated that vice-Foreign Ministers from Argentina and Chile would be meeting in early December to discuss the South Pole issue, and work out a joint strategy to boycott British sovereign demands on the South Pole's continental shelf."

The same source provided this background information:

"The vastness of seemingly barren, ice-covered land is uncovered and exposed to the outside world, revealing a 'treasure basin' with incredibly abundant mineral deposits and energy reserves....A layer of Permian Period coal exists on the mainland, and holds 500 billion tons in known reserves.

"The thick ice dome over the land is home to the world's largest reservoir for fresh water; holds approximately 29.3 million cubic kilometers of ice;
and makes up 75% of earth's fresh water supply.

"It is possible to say that the South Pole could feed the entire world
with its abundant supplies of food [fish] and fresh water."

And warned that the "the value of the South Pole is not confined to the economic sphere; it also lies in its strategic position.

"The US Coast Guard has long had garrisons in the region, and the US Air Force [is] the number one air power in the region.

"[T]he South Pole [Antarctic] Treaty points out that the South Pole can only be exploited and developed for the sake of peace; and can not be a battle ground. Otherwise, the ice-cold South Pole could prove a fiercely hot battlefield."
And the go-to Wikipedia, which I've said before I don't entirely trust, but is nevertheless not a horrible place to start, says:
The main mineral resource known on the continent is coal. It was first recorded near the Beardmore Glacier by Frank Wild on the Nimrod Expedition, and now low-grade coal is known across many parts of the Transantarctic Mountains. The Prince Charles Mountains contain significant deposits of iron ore. The most valuable resources of Antarctica lie offshore, namely the oil and natural gas fields found in the Ross Sea in 1973. Exploitation of all mineral resources by signatory states is banned until 2048 by the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.
So from the perspective of 50 years later, with shortages and unequal distributions of resources, particularly energy resources, the idea of locking commercial and military interests out of this vast, rich and delicate continent would be, in my view, quite contentious. I would go so far as to say it probably wouldn't and couldn't happen.

During the Christmas season of 1995, I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting the Antarctic peninsula. While (no surprise) I was captivated by the geology in this land of ice and stone, I think the thing that struck me hardest was the density of life- particularly penguins. It is confusing, at an emotional level I can't really describe, to look out across landscapes with literally not a single plant, yet seeing millions of birds in their nests, spaced out at two or three feet apart, and covering square miles of ground.

Intellectually of course, I understand that the vast bulk of the food chain is invisible to the tourist, hidden under water. But I'll reiterate that at an instinctive level, there is serious cognitive dissonance in seeing millions of animals going about their business, naturally, in the ecological equivalent of an icy parking lot.

I hope and pray that mankind sees fit to maintain a hands-off policy to this incredible land, despite the temptation presented by the riches therein.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Buh-Bye, NYC

A clip of a variety of demises of New York, as imagined in film over the years. Classy. Via Kottke. And now I finally know which piece "Rhapsody in Blue" is. I've always been a little ashamed I didn't associate the music with its name, though of course I find both familiar. I probably would have referred to the music as "you know, it was in that airline advertisement."


Via BuzzFeed:Have yourself an incendiary Christmas!
I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is burning the town!
Up on the rooftop, tick, tick, tick, up like a bomb goes old Saint Nick!

The possibilities just seem endless. Click over to the link above for the series, or to Geekologie for the complete series.

50 Christmases

Owned: 61, 62?, 67, 69, 70, 72, 80 (71?, if it's silly putty. Or a Weebil. WTF?)
Played with: 62 for sure (even if it wasn't mine), 63, 64, 65, 68, 76, 87, 90 (or something like it)
(Picture from SkullSwap)

Stupid (But Funny and Harmless)

I saw this picture and story yesterday, and I think I starred and shared with the anticipation I might use it for next Sunday's funnies: it is pretty funny.
Turns out, the station doesn't find the incident funny. A pair of mangers have allegedly been suspended.
The advertisement, for WPMI-TV in Alabama, showed the station's anchors, Greg Peterson and Kym Thurman, with their top weatherman Derek Beasley, alongside the latest headline and the words “Right now on Twitter”.

Unfortunately for the station, at one stage the top headline on Twitter read “Three accused of gang rape in Monroeville”, and the misleading juxtaposition was caught on camera by a passing motorist as he drove through Mobile, Alabama.
Electronic networking has allowed communication to move at speeds and efficiency that are breathtaking and nearly unbelievable to me. The downside is that stupid mistakes can escape into the big, wide world before anyone realizes just how stupid the mistake is. The nature of the e-world is for these sorts of things to "go viral," and come to the attention of tens to hundreds of millions of people for the second or two they deserve.

Not sayin' that's good or bad, just sayin' that's what it is.

The thing that gets my attention here, though, and the reason I bring this up now rather than giving the above photo its passing second in the spotlight next Sunday, is the complete randomness of the situation. Suppose that a couple of motorists had been startled or offended by the unfortunate juxtaposition, and called into the station with a verbal report. Would managers have been suspended? But a passing motorist happened to have a camera, and being amused, captured a picture to pass along for the amusement of others.

And now two peoples' careers are presumably at risk for what was, yes, a stupid decision in the course of doing their jobs. But it was a decision that, in the end, harmed no one, and most likely benefited millions with a quick chuckle, as was the case with myself. If you want to argue that the anchors have had their honor and credibility impugned, I'll respond that if their egos are so fragile that they are threatened by something as trivial and downright silly as this, perhaps it is they who should be suspended. They clearly don't have the thickness of skin required to be journalists.

So I think this event (or non-event, really) should be taken as a word to the wise that your stupid can become very public, very quickly, if you don't pause for a moment and consider what you're about to irrevocably send out into the world, how it's going to look and what its context will be. Yes, it was stupid, but it was harmless.

And I, for one, appreciated the laugh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Insurance is Gambling, Too

Sen. Maria Cantwell wants to use state gambling laws to regulate parts of Wall Street, saying someone needs to police financial markets where "casino capitalism" involving highly speculative trades she likens to sophisticated betting continue unabated and threaten to create yet another financial crisis.


Derivatives essentially began as a form of insurance, offering a hedge for such companies as airlines that wanted to lock in the cost of jet fuel to avoid sharp increases. Over the years, however, derivatives became more exotic, allowing investors to place what were essentially side bets on such things as whether people would default on their mortgages or whether the price of oil or natural gas would go up or down.

Industry groups said Cantwell's bill goes too far.

(McClatchy) Yeah, there's a surprise. The system we're in, "Heads we win, tails you lose," needs to be stomped down hard. I'm at a point where if the financial and insurance industries say something is a bad idea, that in itself is a demonstration that it's a very good idea indeed.

So I'll float an idea: I think we should consider dropping a tent over Wall Street in the middle of an active work day, and fumigate it. Wipe out every insect infesting our nation's financial center.

Anyone think that's a bad idea?

Today's Trivia

World of Warcraft celebrates its fifth birthday this month, and the population of Azeroth – the virtual world where this online game takes place – is around 11.5 million. More people now play World of Warcraft, or WoW, than live in Greece.
Source: The Guardian

Must See This Movie

It's been interesting to see the various responses to "2012." Some hate it, others enjoy it as it was intended to be: mindless entertainment. But so very few take it upon themselves to go the next step, and actually try to improve it. Fewer still succeed. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "2012: Benny Hill Strikes Back."

(Hat tip to Nologic)

Sunday Funnies

Rockin' on down with some funnies...Blackadder
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
They're reloading! Blackadder
That's the point, isn't it? Criggo
The Daily What. I foresee a problem when an equine digestive system tries to deal with what a canine head eats.
Don't Judge My Hair
Cyanide and Happiness
Some Guy With A Website
This might actually work. Night Deposits.
I would sooooo love to hear Spock deliver that line... Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Guantanamo Bay is now open as a cruise destination. Oddly Specific
Criggo... That's not an important hatch, anyways.
funny pictures of cats with captions
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epic fail pictures
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"The greater the ignorance the greater the dogmatism." Sir William Osler, British (Canadian-born) physician (1849 - 1919) The Quotations Page

funny pictures of cats with captions
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Funniest Family Circus panel in... ever. Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
The Daily What
The Saturday Bulletin
funny pictures of dogs with captions
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Oddly Specific, and another from the same post, "Stickmen in Peril."Yeah, that'll help.
funny graphs and charts
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Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
funny pictures of dogs with captions
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Keith Knight, via Pharyngula
Fox rushes to the defense of churches again. I have no idea what the back-story is here, nor do I want to. Probably Bad News.
Click to enlargify. Matt901 at Emptees.
funny graphs and charts
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The electrocuted turkey cake. Jen at Cake Wrecks had a wonderfully, tearfully funny week of turkey cake fails. It's hard to choose just one. But in the interest of customer relations, here is the archive: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday (slightly NSFW if your co-workers maintain puritanical standards) , and of course, today's Sunday Sweets, wherein she acknowledges that it's actually impossible to create a turkey cake that's not hilarious. (The above was from Wednesday's selections.)
Brown Sharpie... I'm ashamed to admit that many of these comics are so math-intense that I don't even get them.

OBJECTIVE: To be the best customer service type person you can ever find!


EXPEERENCES: I graduated in 2005! I treid to get into a college, but I decided that I didn’t really wanna do that. College is for people that aren’t self starters. I am a self starter.

SKILLS: I can type really good, like wicked fast! I can also text really fast! I can cook lots of stuff. I can sort of make coffee… accept I don’t know how to make creamer. I am really good at talking on the phone also.


EXPEERENCE: I worked at a day care center, a coffee shop at the mall and I was a waitress at Applebee’s.


HOPES: I would like to be making $40 an hour. I think that would be enough for dealing with customers. It would also help me pay my way through cosmetalogie school. I want to do hair one day. But before I get there, I would work for your company.

REFERENCES: you could call my dad or my mom. Also, my best friend Amy. She knows me really well. You could call my ex, but we ust broke up last weekend. He was cheating. Long story. Anywho, you could also call the people I babysat for last year… I don’t remember where they live or what they were called. There sons name is Aubi. That’s a wiered name, right? They were nice. They paid me 20 dallers, which wasn’t really enough, I don’t think. My science teacher last year was really nice. She would say some nice things, I’m sure. Everyone else, might say smoething bad. I would rather you nto talk to them.


Resume, Emails From Crazy People. Now runs a major financial company. And has no self-esteem problems whatsoever. Education WIN!
Engrish Funny
Cyanide and Happiness

"Keanu Reeves out-acted by Legos." Via BuzzFeed.
funny pictures of cats with captions
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funny graphs and charts
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joe biden and barack obama
see more Political Pictures. It's interesting to consider that with the exception of Dick Cheney, every VP I can recall from my life (Hubert Humphrey on) has been portrayed as something of a putz. Given the apparent alternative, I'll settle for putz.
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
I Hate My Parents
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
I have officially stopped paying attention to any, any, I tell you, nutritional advice in the MSM. Criggo
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Feline angst. Skull Swap.
This has been all over the place, but it's still pretty funny: "193% is the new 100%" Probably Bad News.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Star Wars FaceBook Update (screen capture of one of five at CollegeHumor)
Via The Daily What.
Is this an endorsement or something? Sarah Palin autographed a portrait of Saddam Hussein. From BuzzFeed.
Two of her balls have ruptured, but it's okay: she still has three, and a fourth is pending. Don't Judge My Hair.
Fractions are hard. Probably Bad News.
In order to save space in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this was shortened to "Don't Panic." Blackadder.
We have many of these in Oregon, but I've never seen one labeled as such. Blackadder.
"Thin Ice", by Clay Bennett at The Chattanooga Times Free Press.
News for all those who failed 2nd grade... Criggo.
Skull Swap: "Jerry Seinfeld has been training to whip your ass..."
vladimir putin
see more Political Pictures
Funny, but the philosophical problem with this is that it would be relatively easy to actually add a monkey dressed as Hitler to the imagined situation, and then it would no longer be fiction. Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
What to do with those pesky Easter left-overs: Sweet Peep-tato Pie... Sweet potato pie topped with marshmallow Peeps. From This is Why You're Fat.
william shatner and red shirts
see more Lol Celebs
Above and below, evidence that not only are Xrazy Xristians illiterate, they're inumerate as well. Both from Criggo.

From ReBecca Hunt-Foster's Shared Items