Saturday, February 27, 2010


Divinyls, Science Fiction:

Bow Wow Wow. Do You Wanna Hold Me:

Tim Curry, I Do The Rock:

And another favorite from the same album, Charge It:

Strangely timeless, no?

Could You Translate That Into American?

Seriously. To a first approximation, a meter is three feet, giving 27 feet for nine meters. To a somewhat better approximation, it's three feet plus a tenth, giving 27 + 2.7, or roughly 30 feet. I can't imagine any other country in the world where a person could become a newscaster, undoubtedly "worth" a multi-million dollar salary, without knowing that. But this is America.

News Alert:

Some of my fellow Oregonians are idiots.Via OregonLive, "Signs warn people at Nye Beach near Newport to stay off the beach from 1 to 4 p.m. today because of the tsunami advisory." Hope these folks don't end up with Darwin awards. The issue here is not that they're likely to drown or get mashed in a tumble of wreckage, it's that our coastal waters are cold. Simply being swept off your feet and into the surf can send a person into shock very rapidly. Add to that the size of the breakers, and you can instantly find yourself in a situation that is seriously life-threatening. The coast is a beautiful place, and experiencing it is well worth the danger from the cold rough water that is the standard condition year round. But add on the risk of a potential tsunami of unforeseeable magnitude, and a Darwin Award is not an unlikely outcome.

What (Apparently) Hasn't Happened In Hawaii

Kinda hard to tell, what with all the heart warming stories of not being able to get bread and traffic on streets that are nominally closed. I'm not sure that the live streams are even covering the tsunami other than to mention from time to time that the reason for all these stories is that there could be a tsunami.

Chile Earthquake

I guess this is the obligatory topic this morning. Al sent me this link earlier this morning; I was a little baffled. The I started going through my reader... Oh my. I don't feel like there is any point in discussing the quake itself. Take a look at any online news source. 8.8 puts this quake firmly in the top ten recorded quakes of all time; the geoblogosphere has set it at the sixth most powerful. My own tendency in most things is to wait until the dust settles, so to speak, and let the facts become clear. For example, most of the wire services rush to get fatality estimates in print as fast as they possibly can. Those sorts of reports are worse than useless. The numbers will certainly be higher. Coming out and saying "at least 62 dead" sort of implies a low impact, and imparts a false sense of relief. A sense that will almost inevitably will be shattered when the final count will most likely be in hundreds to thousands range.

On the positive side, Chile is much better prepared for an earthquake than many if not most countries. The largest recorded, a 9.5, struck that country in 1960.

Despite all the tsunami warning reports I've seen, I haven't been seeing time estimates. Then interestingly I finally found one in OregonLive.
No coastal flooding is expected to be produced by the wave, according to the National Weather Service. However, some areas of the coast could experience dangerous currents and surges in harbors and bays. Coastal residents are advised to stay out of the water, off the beach, and away from harbors and marinas since wave heights and currents are difficult to predict.

Forecasters say a wave surge estimated between one foot and four feet high may occur.

The threat is expected to begin around 1 p.m. this afternoon along the central Oregon coast. Rises in sea levels could continue for several hours. The greatest rise may not occur until an hour or 90 minutes after the initial onset, the weather service says. Boaters in water deeper than 600 feet shouldn't be affected.
So even though the model above seems to imply little impact for the Oregon Coast, this might not be the best day to visit the beach.

Followup, 12:30 PM: NOAA has also posted estimated arrival times for the initial tsunami along the US west coast, with the warning,
The following list gives estimated times of arrival for locations along the North American Pacific coast from a tsunami generated at the given source location. The list is ordered by arrival time starting with the earliest. Since tsunami speed is directly related to water depth, tsunami ETAs can be computed independent of tsunami amplitude. THE LISTING OF A TSUNAMI ARRIVAL TIME BELOW DOES NOT INDICATE A WAVE IS IMMINENT. The listed arrival time is the initial wave arrival. Tsunamis can be dangerous for many hours after arrival, and the initial wave is not necessarily the largest.
I have to admit that I can't say exactly what that means, but I'll boil it down to a simple expression that's probably more or less accurate: Stay the hell away from the coast until tomorrow. Below are the two locations closest to my little burg; the whole list is at the link. Interesting to note that the arrival time is estimated to be earlier for Cascade Head than for Newport, 31 miles farther south.
Cascade Head, Oregon   1426  PST FEB 27    2226 UTC FEB 27
Newport, Oregon 1429 PST FEB 27 2229 UTC FEB 27
Followup: I'm amazed at how quickly The Big Picture responds to events of this scale. 24 pictures "so far."

Followup: Why do I like the science reporting in The Christian Science Monitor? While some of their analogies don't sit very well with me (e.g. a subduction quake is like a growth spurt...), they take time to talk to scientists- you know, the people who study this stuff- before they rush to print. The resulting stories are regularly better informed than those from other sources. Yes, they do publish a religion-spirituality-oriented column each day called "A Christian Science Perspective," but they restrict that perspective to that column, and keep it well away from their reporting on politics, news, science, and so on. If you want a good US news source, I'd rate The CSM right up there with the NYT, and perhaps better.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Time Delayed Gravitational Olympics

Now, from the center of our galaxy, transmission delayed approximately 25,000 years, the "How quickly can you orbit the Central Black Hole?"

SO-16 makes an amazing tight corner, but SO-02 closes the loop and takes the gold!

I have requested a better sense of scale, but this is Freaking Awesome! As best as I can tell from Dan at Cosmic Variance, this is not an artist's conception, but an actual movie made of actual images from actual telescopes. According to comment #11, SO-16 comes within 45 AU of the CBH, and reaches 4% of light speed as it carves that corner.

Beat that, Apollo.

Multicultural Music

It can be funny where coffee shop conversations can take you. This morning, Rawley was working on a crossword puzzle, and the clue "Balkan" was given for a four letter word beginning with s. He said he was going with "slav." (It turned out to be "serb," but that was later.) So when I went back inside, I asked Hessina, who is finishing a dissertation on Balkan music, if Balkan and Slav were more or less synonymous. She said there was overlap, but Slav refers to more specifically the Russian influenced part of the area, and Balkan refers to a broader area, heritage and culture. As she was describing various cultural influences in the area- Russian, Roma and Indian, among others- I thought of some of my favorite musical forms, and how they had arisen as cultures met and influenced each other.

In particular, I thought of the region of Spain known as Galicia. Following the Crusades, Arabic warriors conquered and held portions of Spain. As an aside, this was pretty important for the foundations of western science: it allowed Europeans the opportunity to rediscover classic Greek and Roman literature that Arab scholars had preserved, as well as a wealth of Arabic thought. Loreena McKennit is Canadian, and started out in her early work as a mostly solo Celtic harpist. As she grew, she became fascinated with the influence of the Arabic occupation of Spain on Celtic Music. The northwest corner of that country, Galicia, is Celtic in culture and music.

Now I love nearly all of Loreena McKennitt's music, but I have to admit I was a little startled when The Mummers' Dance started showing up on alternative rock radio and cable channels toward the end of the 90's. (I love this song, but that guy rockin' out on the hurdy gurdy cracks me up)

After McKennitt clued me in to Galicia, I was going through the folk section at a music store, and picked up an album with mostly Spanish text, but prominently labeled "Celtic Music From Galicia." It was a spur-of-the moment decision, but one of the most profitable such I've ever made. I had discovered Milladoiro. This is not on an album I owned, but it's one I liked: The Clumsy Lover.

This next is the closing song of that album, Castellum Honesti, a hauntingly beautiful farewell: Invernia.

And as long as I'm on the topic of cultural mashups with Celtic Music, I'd be remiss not to mention Afro Celt Sound System. This was more of an intentional project rather than a "natural" cultural merger, but I still love the result. The volume is awfully low on this, but I'd rather watch the musicians perform than a bunch of random pictures strung together. The song is Whirl-Y-Reel, off their first album.

I remarked to Hessina that I'd really like to track down some of the music she's studying, and that in my experience, a number of cultures interacting with each other often created fascinating and beautiful music. She agreed, thanked me for the question and opportunity to discuss a topic she enjoys discussing, and hurried off to an appointment.

It's not music per se, but random interactions with people in a coffee shop can produce much of the same effect. It can be funny where coffee shop conversations can take you.

The Coffee Party

Now this looks like a party I could get behind. I tend to be cautious about throwing my support behind things I don't know or understand very well, and the Coffee Party is just getting started. It's not extremist, but determinedly centrist. It's not anti-government, but seeks to pressure the government to do the job for which it was elected.

(more clips here) The sentiments expressed in the video are a good match with my own. And I think the thing that grabs my attention most is the fact that these people seem to have a grasp of reality.

And I think we need a reality-based party about now.

Followup: Pygalgia has also posted on this, and provides the party statement and some other links. As usual, he and I are more or less in agreement: "While I somehow doubt that logic can have an impact on our current political circus, I do wish that this could work."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Couple of Clips for Katie

A pair of clips I've mentioned to one of my Interzone friends today and yesterday. Walking a Cat...

...and The Marshmallow Test, mature version

If you don't recognize the source of the above spoof, I'll post it again. This was an actual psychological experiment done with children to look at traits associated with delayed gratification.

Today's Trivia

Apparently Canada is disappointed, maybe even ashamed, that they didn't do better in hockey. To Canadians I say, buck up. You have history on you side. Bet you whip ass next time.
In the first Olympic Winter Games, in 1924, the Canadian hockey team won all five of their games and outscored their opponents 110 to 3.

Also too...
(TYWKIWDBI) ...and...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Am So Proud of John Day

Oregon is not exactly a racist hotbed, but there are some areas that tend toward that direction. When I think of Aryan Nations territory, I tend to think "the south" and Idaho. I'm also uncomfortably aware that there are enclaves of this group and other like-minded groups right here in my own state. So I was sorry to read over the weekend that the Aryan Nations group was looking at property for a headquarters in the town of John Day.

John Day is a rural community of a little under 2000 citizens. I have spent some time in the area, though not much in the town itself. My experience is that these people are hard-working, honest, and simple- not in the sense of intellectually, but in the sense of not expecting or particularly tolerant of pretension. I presume that I most often disagree with their politics, but I didn't spend much time talking about politics. From that perspective, I didn't meet any folks in that area that weren't polite, likable, and fun to chat with. Still, when I heard the AN news, I was afraid they would be greeted with open arms, or at least tolerance.

I am so glad to report that I was wrong, wrong, wrong!
The white supremacists who wandered into John Day from northern Idaho last week looking at downtown properties for a national headquarters for their hate group apparently expected to find like-minded racists in the remote eastern Oregon county. Instead, they discovered that Grant County is as repulsed by them as everyone else.

On Monday, scores of Grant County residents marched through downtown John Day in opposition to the Aryan Nations. As The Oregonian's Dick Cockle reported, log truck drivers honked their horns in support of the marchers, who carried signs that read "Say No to Hate and Violence!" and "One Race: Human." On Friday, hundreds of people are expected to gather at town hall meetings in Canyon City to express their concerns and hear two Idaho attorneys who won a landmark judgment against the Aryan Nations in 2000.
Good for you, citizens of John Day and Grant County! I should have trusted my experience with you and known better.

Followup, 2/25: The self-proclaimed National Director of Aryan Nations is named Paul Mullet. How... apropos.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Life-Long Phobia of Balloons

I just showed Chelsea the gif in the last post, and while she found it funny, she explained that she developed a fear of balloons in middle school. I didn't take it too seriously at first, but when she said she would start hyperventilating, get a racing heart, and trembling if she was even in the same room with a balloon, I was startled. I had never heard of balloon phobia before. Turns out there are two distinct varieties, each with their own name: one is a fear of balloons popping, classed as a fear of loud noises, and the other is a fear of balloons themselves. According to WikiAnswers,
Fear of balloons popping is a very common form of irritation and can be categorized as fear of loud noises: Ligyrophobia. The fear of balloons, by itself, is Globophobia.
Chelsea says she doesn't know what caused the phobia. I have a couple of Tim Curry video clips backburnered that I want to post sometime, so he's been on my mind. I wonder if this phobia isn't his fault?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Life-Long Fear of Balloons... 3... 2... 1...I just adore that "WTF!!!???" moment, and the delayed reaction. I feel bad for the kitteh, but this was definitely a LOL for me.

Unintentionally Funny Headline

Royal astronomer: 'Aliens may be staring us in the face'

Actually, he appears to be looking off to one side, but still...
This does turn out to be a mildly interesting article:
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive. Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there as aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
Exactly. This is one reason among many that science shouldn't presume to reach "truth." It is fearsomely good at making predictions, and for practical purposes, that is a useful meaning for "truth." But as soon as one assumes that something is an absolute fact, the line is crossed between practicality and hubris. That's a dangerous line to cross.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Funny Money

Inspired by a funny in the previous post, I tried this on a US $5, and it looked terrible. I was like:So I went back and looked at the picture more carefully, and realized you have to run the folds through the eyes for the full effect. I tried it again, and I was like:

Sunday Funnies

The Warehouse
Funny Tattoos - No, It Doesn
see more Ugly Tattoos. Posted with the title, "You Give Rawr A Bad Name."
Skull Swap
An unfortunate juxtaposition from Cranky Epistles, via Just an Earth-Bound Misfit.
The Saturday Bulletin
billie thomas
see more Lol Celebs
Probably Bad News
Favorite Comment: "Nothing but Nyet!" Epic Win
So how did they manage it before GPS? Acting Like Animals
Autocomplete Me
see more Lol Celebs
epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails
Criggo... to be served simultaneously, I suppose.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Skull Swap
Abstruse Goose
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures
Posted by Ben Trovato at The Wulfshead.
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
engrish funny has cat
see more Engrish I has a chill cat too.
My First Dictionary
jabba the hutt
see more Lol Celebs
Comic JK
Oddly Specific
A Gallery of (currently) 216 upside down celebrities at FreakingNews
Ironic Photos
see more Friends of Irony
Criggo... A quick calculation shows that the beach is only about 500 miles away.
Skull Swap
funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs
Via Great White Snark
Shoebox Blog
Random Russ
Picture is Unrelated
Nedroid Comics
Savage Chickens
Skull Swap
Bits and Pieces. I posted this some time back as an embedded video, but it works great as an animated gif too.
Bits and Pieces
Oddly Specific
funny pictures of dogs with captions
see more dog and puppy pictures
Chuck and Beans. So true... I remember, back in the day, we actually had to get most of our information off these flat sheets of a substance called "paper." It's hard to explain...
Friends of Irony
Posted with the title, "Fox News Finally Realizes Its Viewers Are Illiterate," at Princess Sparkle Pony.
Above and below, two selections from a gallery of twisted toys at Dark Roasted Blend.
Criggo... posted with the question "Is is 2012 already?"
Samurai Vodka, from TYWKIWDBI

see more Friends of Irony
wtf photos videos
see more WTF Pictures and WTF videos by Picture Is Unrelated
Rant Hour
Engrish Funny
The Daily What
Busted Tees, via Dinochick Blogs
Oddly Specific

The Daily What