Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturd80's: German Edition

Nina Hagen, New York, New York:

Klaus Nomi, Lightning Strikes:

Berlin, Metro:

Okay, okay, Berlin wasn't from Germany... but I'll bet I had you wondering, right?


No, toldja is not another Icelandic volcano you've never heard of. There's an interesting report at The Guardian:
Minutes of the Volcano Watch group's annual meeting, held in New Zealand in 2007, note: "There is no definition of a safe concentration of ash for different aircraft ... In order to give a reliable and justifiable all-clear, once a plume has dispersed enough to be undetectable, clear limits of ash content are required from both the manufacturers and aviation licensing authorities." It acknowledged that establishing a safe lower limit was a "difficult and longstanding problem".

A working paper, published by the group after the meeting, warned that airspace shutdowns were likely. It stated: "As remote sensing techniques improve, it is likely that the aggregate areas where ash is sensed or inferred will increase, possibly leading to over-warning for ash and cost-blowouts for airlines."
The following year's meeting examined problems with the monitoring of Iceland's volcanoes. It considered a proposal from the Iceland Meteorological Organisation for a second "Doppler weather radar in the eastern part of the country to assist in monitoring the volcanic eruption activity in that area".

The minutes noted "such eruptions could have a major impact on aircraft operations over the NAT [north Atlantic] regions since Icelandic volcanoes were situated close to important air routes". However, the meeting concluded that the proposal required a scientific evaluation which it could not authorise.

The group's fifth meeting, held this year in Chile two weeks before the Icelandic eruption, invited the aircraft manufacturers to discuss what might constitute safe ash levels. However, the minutes reveal: "IATA informed the group about the strong efforts made in order to get representation from the industry at the workshop but unfortunately these efforts had not been successful."
So the way I read this is that the airline industry has been warned repeatedly for years that large-scale airspace closure resulting from volcanism in Iceland was a real possibility, but the warning wasn't taken seriously enough to participate in developing robust safety guidelines for dealing with that potential. So I have plenty of sympathy for the stranded passengers, who are only now reaching their destinations or returning home. But I have reasonably close to none for multi-billionaire Richard Branson, who is quoted in the article as saying,
"All the experts were telling us there was no danger," Branson said. "There were plenty of corridors through which the airlines could have flown which would have been quite safe."

Branson added: "A blanket ban of the whole of Europe was not the right decision. The first few days the ash was up at 35,000ft, the planes could have flown below 35,000ft. There were plenty of ways of dealing with it. But actually planes have to put up with sandstorms in Africa; the engines are designed to put up with a lot more than existed."
That's right, Sir Dick: As long as meat and metal aren't falling out of the sky, we can dodge and weave through those ash clouds. Then when they do start falling, we can just blame the government and regulators for not telling us to stop flying.

Yeah, it turns out that the experts- the ones that Branson couldn't or wouldn't hear- have an appropriate response in light of this news: "Toldja."

OMG YouTube

Stuff I've never seen before... stuff I only heard two or three times on the college radio station a decade or three ago... I go the the YouTube, and there it is. Here's Robin Williams doing Elmer Fudd doing Bruce Springsteen.

Friday, April 23, 2010


...though I'm not confident 20 ml will be enough. Via EpicPonyz.

12 Monkeys

I'm assuming the teabaggers are immune.

Let me back up.

Earlier this week I learned that for $250, Oregonians would be able to spend an hour with Sarah Palin. 72 lucky duckies willing to shell out $1000 would even be able to have their photos taken with her, and receive a free autographed copy of her book.
The former Alaska governor is slated to give a speech to an audience of 750 people who paid $250 apiece to attend the Lane County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner at the Hilton Eugene.

She’s also to take part in a sold-out private reception for 72 people who paid $1,000 each for a chance to mingle with the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, pose with her for a photograph, and walk out with an autographed copy of her book.

Those attending the less costly dinner or a $100-per-person viewing on closed-circuit television won’t have the opportunity to take a keepsake snapshot of Palin, let alone pose with her for a photo.

That’s because the Lane County Republican Central Committee is banning cameras, as well as recording equipment.
You Betcha.

Meanwhile, in other news, there is an outbreak in western Oregon of a bizarre air-borne fungal lung infection. The symptoms are similar to bacterial pneumonia, but rather than antibiotics, the appropriate treatment is anti-fungals. The mortality rate is about 25%, based on data gathered thus far (only 21 cases, so no need to panic).

Still... coincidence? You tell me. I'll be watching Palin's visits to other bastions of blue for further evidence pertaining to my suspicions.

Light Above And Below

The Telegraph has a new gallery of photos from the Icelandic volcano. The first few are shots of the eruption with the aurora borealis glowing overhead... lovely!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Jaw-Dropping Volcano Video of the Day

Eyjafjalajökull has shifted from Plinan style eruptions (pulsating high-elevation ash plumes)to Strombolian eruptions (periodic blasts). Via Discovery News, shock waves propagate from blasts at the vent. I'm not absolutely certain what is causing this effect, but I'm guessing as the blast (very high intensity sound wave) moves outward, it pressurizes the air and increases its index of refraction. This would cause light to bend differently as it passes through the pressurized area. What I'm unclear on is whether this is decreasing the amount of light getting to and illuminating the background, a decrease in the amount of light reaching the observer after reflecting off the background, or a combination of the two. Whatever the exact cause, the rapid expansion of the ghostly shadows, followed a couple of seconds later by the plume from the blast that caused them, is quite eerie. Quite awesome, too.

Even though this looks more violent than what we've seen before, it's associated with less ash than last week's eruptions. Erik Klemetti's reporting at Eruptions confirms what I've been inferring over the last couple of days: the decreased ash and explosivity is probably due to a decreased presence of water as the ice melts back from the vent area. He also has an important venting of his own this morning, pointing out the maneuvering of corporate groups to portray the grounding of Europe's air fleet for nearly six days as an over-reaction on the part of governments and regulatory agencies.

Almost forgot... BBC also has a nice graphic workup on information on the recent eruptive sequence. Most won't be terribly new or informative if you've been following this story, but the third frame has a very interesting video clip illustrating how ash can melt onto and coat the turbine blades of a jet engine. The thing that really interested me- I already had a pretty clear idea of how that process occurred- was confirmation that as the blades cool, thermal stresses can cause quite a bit of the glassy coating to pop off. This had been my impression when I've read stories of ash-caused engine failures in the past, but I've never seen it stated bluntly and clearly. From everything I've read, no passengers have ever died as a result of engine failures in airplanes. There have been some very close calls though. To treat the very real danger to human lives, numbering in the tens of thousands, as inferior to the danger of losses of corporate profits, strikes me as exactly what I've come to expect from these companies. Repugnant, short-sighted, and seriously damaging to their long-term reputation and prospects.

Earth Day And National Brotherhood Week

According to Wikipedia,
NCCJ once sponsored a week-long National Brotherhood Week, held generally during the third week of February from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Wonderfully, by the 1980's we had resolved all of our racial and cultural bigotry, and National Brotherhood Week became an anachronism... no one could comprehend why it had ever been necessary or desirable in the first place. There is currently a fringe group called "Teabaggers" who are committed to seeing this tradition re-instituted, but I doubt the issue will get the attention it deserves. In 1964, Tom Leher wrote and performed a song reflecting his attitude toward the observance. (This version was recorded in 1967.)

So that pretty much sums up my attitude toward this, the fortieth anniversary of Earth Day. "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." It's another sales holiday, where you can buy six pink plastic flamingos for the price of three, but Only During Earth Week, and Exclusively at The Box Mart Mall. And if you mention this ad, we'll throw in a Colorful I <3 Earth bumper sticker for free, so you too can show how important the planet is to you.

Yeah, excuse me while I go into a hyperglycemic coma.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Okay, I Lied When I Said No More Today

I should know better than to blog with a cat sleeping on one arm, but I had to pass this along. I'm kind of indifferent to the music; you're welcome to mute it, of course. But those lava bombs are must-see stuff.

Via The Daily What

Wednesday Wednesday

My Little Wednesday. Teh innertubz are apparently clogged at my favorite coffee shop, so I'm home early, trying to get some reading done on a very slow connection. Not complaining, mind you; I'm leaching from someone in my neighborhood, and in fact I really appreciate being able to access it all. Most likely no more today...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rick Sanchez Is More Stupid Every Time He Speaks

It's as if every time his mouth opens, a little more of his brains fall out. Beginning about 12 seconds in,
When you think of a volcano, you think of Hawaii and long words like that. You don't think of Iceland, you think it's too cold to have a volcano there. But nooooo, there it is.

(Clip via Tengrain) Actually, I think of places like Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu and Krungthepmahanakonbowornratanakosinmahintarayudyayamahadiloponoparatanarajthaniburiromudomrajniwesmahasatarnamornpimarnavatarsatitsakattiyavisanukamphrasit. Which make Ejyafjallajokull look positively sedimentary in nature. Easy to pronounce, too.


Tuesday Tits

Long-tailed Tits, from The Guardian.

There Are Apps for That Cat

Nick sent me this link a couple of days ago, and I finally got around to watching it. HA! It's probably only a matter of time until IPads are required for legal ownership of Felis catus.

Iceland or Mordor?

Buzzfeed has a fun little quiz called "Iceland or Mordor?" As I sort of expected, I got 'em all. What I didn't expect, though, was there were a couple of pretty tough calls. Below is #7, which I vacillated on. The other toughie was #13. Also, no answer is provided for #17... what do you think?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Way to Waste A Day, Lockwood!

Today's Big Picture at is More From Eyjafjallajokull. Somehow, it feels like the only thing I have been able to do today is think of silly captions to put on things. The following are all from the link above, but the versions there don't have graffiti, and there are something like 26 others, as well.

(It's hard to see at this scale, but there's a car out there in the distance.)

(Jokulhaups are large, often enormous, subglacial floods.)

(That little white spot between and a bit to the right of the first two question marks is a plane.)

One Must Take A Boat

From Banger1977, via Mary at Geographile.


Humble admissions:
  1. I have not once actually typed the name "Eyjafjallajokul" by hand. I have cut and pasted it every time, including this sentence and in the caption below.
  2. I have no idea how that name is supposed to be pronounced. I have my mental pronunciation (which is wrong), but I have only twice tried to speak it aloud. Disastrously in both cases.
  3. I can't even hear how it's supposed to be pronounced. There are sounds in there that I can't perceive.
  4. Regarding the above three points, I don't care. This is still a riveting event to me, and I'm not likely to shut up about it any time soon.
  5. The idea for this LOL came from Miss Lyd, at Sober in a Nightclub. Her offhand comment cracked me up, and needed to be expressed graphically.
All that said, I can take some comfort that many in a more public setting than I are no better at hearing, spelling, or pronouncing the name...


More Eyjafjallajokull lightning from the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD).Link(Click the pic for full size. Trust me.) How this qualifies as astronomy escapes me. But I'll let it slide.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

If You Need A Dose of Squee...

...this should do it. A compilation of great kitteh moments captured on video.

Via Pharyngula, of all places. His idea of cute and funny normally involves lethally poisonous cephalopods.


VEI stands for Volcanic Explosivity Index, and The Christian Science Monitor has a nice article using it to designate the "Five Biggest Volcanic Eruptions of Recent History."
By the measure of the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI) – a sort-of Richter scale for eruptions – the current outburst is probably a 2 or a 3, experts say. In other words, eruptions like Eyjafjallajökull happen virtually every year somewhere in the world.

The biggest eruption of the past millennium, by contrast, was a 7. Given that each number on the scale represents an eruption 10 times more powerful than the previous, that means Eyjafjallajökull is 10,000 times less powerful than one in Indonesia's Sunda Islands in 1815.
There are several points in this article that I really appreciate. First, they are objectively ranking the eruptions on a standard criterion. As a result, Mount St. Helens, which almost always makes these lists, isn't even mentioned. It may be the most famous eruption in the US, volcanologists learned a tremendous amount from that eruption, and it certainly influenced my academic direction, but as volcanoes go, it just wasn't that big.

Second, there were a few tidbits that were new to me, for example, in the discussion of Tambora, I learned that, "The eruption is also tangentially credited with the invention of the bicycle, as the cost of maintaining horses rose, both because of the cost of oats and the death of many horses."

Third, somehow, I don't remember ever hearing of the Santa Maria eruption.
Santa Maria

Oct. 24, 1902

The least powerful of the VEI 6 eruptions recorded since the beginning of the 1700s, the Santa Maria eruption hit the Pacific coast of Guatemala. The 1902 eruption was the first in the recorded history of the mountain, spewing ash that was detected as far away as San Francisco.
Well done, CSM!

Eyjafjallajokull Lightning

Stunning video from Britain's Channel 4 News, via The NYT.

Though the whole thing is awesome, the most striking (heh) parts of the clip are the volcanic lightning, at about the five-minute mark, and from about the six-minute mark to the end. They save the best bolt for the very last. This is worth watching full-screen.

Also, I want to see the footage from that teeny tiny helicopter caught making a few passes.

Followup: More Eyjafjallajokull Lightning from NYT. Woah.

Sunday Funnies

This week's edition of Sunday Funnies is dancing your way...EpicPonyz
Friends of Irony
Oddly Specific
The Daily What
Savage Chickens
Norwegian wisdom from Oddly Specific
demotivational posters
see more Demotivators
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
The Scientific Method. Indexed
Hacked IRL
Sober in a Nightclub
Comic JK
demotivational posters
see more
oprah winfrey
see more Lol Celebs
The birth of the King, via Blackadder
ironic photos
see more Friends of Irony
demotivational poster
see more Demotivators
Balloon Juice
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs
Oddly Specific
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
johnny depp
see more Lol Celebs
Engrish Funny
Skull Swap; posted with the caption, "Lady Gaga's World."
Dave's Landslide Blog
Picture Is Unrelated
Probably Bad News
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Medium Large
Doghouse Diaries
Chuck & Beans
Via The Daily Irritant, Little Known Bible Facts:
1) Although it is not mentioned in any of the Gospels, Jesus could balance a 747 on top of his head.
Above and below, Robert Sinclair's amazing discovery (extensive galleries at both links [followup- these don't seem to be showing up. Follow the first link; the two I picked were the Calvin and Hobbes, and the kid praying his grandpa was alive for one more day]):
It was recently theorized that all New Yorker cartoons could be captioned
with “Christ, what an asshole” without compromising their comedic value.

I discovered this is true of virtually all comics, old and new.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Bits and Pieces
Paul Krugman's Blog
If you get your breakfast in 12 oz. cans or bottles, seek help. Criggo
Graham Sale, via Salon
Sober in a Nightclub
Sober in a Nightclub
Atheist Barbie, via The Daily What