Saturday, June 12, 2010


J Geils Band, Love Stinks:

The original, embedding-disabled video is here.

Divinyls, Only Lonely:

Berlin, Metro:

Friday, June 11, 2010

38 Graduations Later

This is still the anthem of the end of the school year.

I thought I remembered this from my seventh grade year... and apparently I do. It came out in 1972. AC is apparently still rocking, but that bit of trivia makes me feel woefully old.

I found that at least one of my IZ friends is getting her Bachelor's degree this year. Congratulations, Ann!

Unearthly Drainage

There is a fascinating analysis of drainage patterns on Titan at the IAG Planetary Geomorphology Working Group's featured images of the month. Here's an example of rectangular or rectilinear drainage:This pattern suggests fault- or joint-based control of the drainage pattern on this area of Titan, which adds further evidence to the hypothesis that the moon is or has been tectonically active. I was going to say that the more we learn about Titan, the weirder it seems... but that's completely wrong. It would be more accurate to say that the more we learn about Titan, the more earth-like it seems. And that is utterly freaking weird.

And as she did last month, Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society Blog translates the piece from "academese" to language at least somewhat more accessible to most, along with some supplemental material to clarify the matter. Both are highly recommended reads.

Wage Horse Breaks Free

Today's New Discovery in Mathematical/Logical Biological Modeling

Via The Daily What

Thursday, June 10, 2010


According to Backlaze Blog, "CrunchGear published that the National Security Agency (NSA) is forecasting it may need yottabytes of storage to keep all of its surveillance data by 2015." A yottabyte, in case you don't know (and I didn't), is a quadrillion (million billion, or 10^15) gigabytes. See the link for clarifications and conditional ifs.Golly. It kinda sorta looks to me as if NSA might want to consider exactly what and how much information they actually need to capture and store. Maybe recording every telephone conversation and data bit that passes through US territory isn't the wisest use of taxpayer dollars. Just sayin'.

Iceland Apologizes

for Eyjafjallajokull. Could be considered mildly NSFW- brief nudity. But speaking as a geo-nerd, some of those landscape, geothermal and rock shots are positively pornographic.

Inspired by Iceland Video from Inspired By Iceland on Vimeo.

Sweet! Apology accepted.

How I Look to The Rest of The World

Alexandria Sehrer, who I don't recognize, at least by name, posted this photo of Interzone friend Amanda.Who is that guy, totally focused, but a little out of focus, in the background? Yes, that would be me. "Totally focused, but a little out of focus, in the background," is a good description of the position I strive to maintain.

I really like this picture. (Thanks for the permissions, A & A!)

And One of Them Just May Be Santa Claus

Get over it.
Ian McKellen
see more Lol Celebs

Save The Date

I hesitate to say this is representative of science journalism these days, but it's not too far off. My fellow west-coasters should take heed, and have their medical emergency kits and emergency other stuff ready by September. Expect destruction of telephone poles and transformers and everything.

This is serious stuff, folks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Yet Another Awful Tragedy

News reports are emerging suggesting that an employee in a BP office building accidentally spilled a cup of coffee this evening.

Much of the island nation's population is missing and presumed drowned.

BP executives hurried to say "We feel terrible about this regrettable accident, but we assure England. Scotland, and Wales that we will make everything right." Asked about the volume of the spill, an unnamed source explained that "We cannot estimate the size of the cup at this time, but we are working under the assumption that it was a standard 12-ounce (355 ml) mug.

Residents of Ireland and France have been warned to expect plumes of coffee to start washing ashore as early as late morning tomorrow.

An international effort has started to ameliorate the vast flood of dark, bitter liquid. "All known stores of powdered and liquid creamer are being mobilized," according to one government official, "and air tankers are flying in from a number developed nations."

Followup, Thurs. June 10: Apparently, this has been going around for a while.

Stolen Content is Unethical And Illegal.

ReBecca has dealt with a similar problem before, I think, but someone is copying and pasting her blog posts, not into, but as another blog. I find this rather reprehensible and, well, unethical and illegal. So I went and found it here, and helpfully posted the title above as a comment in 7 or 8 posts. Yes, you do have to enter a "name" and an email, and I doubt my comments will get through moderation. In addition, as I worked out a routine for doing the task rapidly, I got the message, "You are commenting too fast. Slow down."

Maybe not the most effective approach, but I invite you to spend a few minutes commenting on the blog yourself.

Wednesday Wednesday

Rainy, but supposed to be nicer by the weekend... lemonade season approaches. From here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Finals Week

This is finals week at OSU, the last regular school week until late September. I get used to the rhythm of the days and weeks during the regular part of the quarters, and I'm always a bit startled by how the daily rhythm changes during finals. It's particularly notable during the last week of spring term, because people are out in the milder weather, rather than holing up when they can, because they're partying louder and harder, and because during the last three days of the week people are finishing up and leaving town. By Saturday, this area will carry a sense of post-apocalyptic abandonment. Sunday, there will be a brief flurry of crowds and noise during graduation, and some noisy partying in the evening. Monday it will seem, in this part of Corvallis, as if the human race is extinct. And within a couple of days, I will come to prefer that feeling.

I don't know who, if any, of my young friends are graduating this term. I do know that a Turkish doctoral student in civil engineering is expecting to defend soon, and if I recall correctly, return to his homeland in the next month or so... I'll miss our conversations. But I think many of the folks here are either expecting to stick around for the summer for work and/or summer classes, so at worst, I won't see them until next fall.

So compared to the end of most school years, where I'm torn between happiness with my friends' achievements, and and sorrow at saying good-bye to them, the end of the 09-10 year will be an easy one.

Tuesday Tits

Marsh tit, Poecile palustris, by Lubos Mraz, from here.

Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

Sunday I received an email from Barbara O'Brien, who had learned of my humble blog through a "political and health care site search," asking if she could submit a piece for a guest post. It turns out that she writes for a number of blogs and news sources I subscribe to in RSS. So I searched my feed, and found quite a bit of her other work, some of which I even remember (That's intended as a compliment- keep in mind that I skim over ~1200-1400 items a day, and read only a few percent thoroughly). I was flattered by the offer, and today she sent her post.

Health Care Reform Will Help Everybody

[Barbara O'Brien, guest post]

Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.

We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.

And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.

Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.

For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by MD Anderson Cancer Center researchers. Another is a blood screening test for mesothelioma developed by thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.

The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.

I find myself essentially in agreement with all of that. There are a few points I'd like to draw out a little more thoroughly; for example, as of about ten years ago, nine of the top ten pharmaceuticals were developed under funding from NIH, then "transferred" to industry. I don't know what the current figure is, and the whole process is more complex than I'm describing here. My biggest concern though is that the people who really need to read and think about this perspective, "America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots," are very unlikely to spend much time at this blog.

Still, thanks for your thoughts and insights, Barbara!

NASA Face in Space

I presume this will fly as data, not as an actual hardcopy, but it's still amusing to consider data representing me will fly on the last shuttle mission.
NASA Face in Space

Monday, June 7, 2010

Feeling Really Awful

Going home, going to bed.

Bhopal: The Sentencing

About six months ago, I found myself shaken and very upset reading the coverage of the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. Below is the picture I chose to accompany that post:... and here was what I wrote about that picture: "That is the leg. Of. A. Seven-year old. Child. Born 18 years after the disaster." Sickening and heartbreaking.

So here we are 25 1/2 years after the fact. You'd suppose that those responsible have been relaxing in cozy little cells. Well, of course not... but they did get sentenced today.
Campaign groups representing survivors of the Bhopal disaster expressed outrage today at the "insulting" sentences given to seven men for their roles in the tragedy.

The accused, several of them now in their 70s, were convicted of criminal negligence and sentenced to two years in prison but bailed pending an appeal.

The convictions are the only ones so far in a case that was opened the day after the tragedy, which happened 26 years ago.

Up to 25,000 people are thought to have died after being exposed to clouds of lethal gas that escaped from a chemical plant run by the US company Union Carbide on 2 and 3 December 1984.

Half a million are estimated to have been harmed in some way in what remains one of the worst industrial accidents in the world.
But wait, there's more! The accused also got fined! About $2100, if the pound and dollar haven't drifted too much recently.

So YAY for justice served!

I Didn't Know They Could Even Do This

Google, I'm very, very disappointed. Do no evil?
A simple Google search of "oil spill" turns up several thousand news results, but the first link, highlighted at the very top of the page, is from BP. "Learn more about how BP is helping," the link's tagline reads.

A spokesman for the company confirmed to ABC News that it had, in fact, bought these search terms to make information on the spill more accessible to the public.

"We have bought search terms on search engines like Google to make it easier for people to find out more about our efforts in the Gulf and make it easier for people to find key links to information on filing claims, reporting oil on the beach and signing up to volunteer," BP spokesman Toby Odone told ABC News.
And in other news,
LONDON—As the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico entered its eighth week Wednesday, fears continued to grow that the massive flow of bullshit still gushing from the headquarters of oil giant BP could prove catastrophic if nothing is done to contain it.

The toxic bullshit, which began to spew from the mouths of BP executives shortly after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, has completely devastated the Gulf region, delaying cleanup efforts, affecting thousands of jobs, and endangering the lives of all nearby wildlife.
The Onion is truly America's finest news source.

Clarification: A friend just checked on a Google search for "oil spill," and says it's pretty obviously an advertisement. I use AdBlocker Plus with Firefox, and when I did the same search, the ad didn't come up. So to clarify, it's clearly an advertisement, not a ranked page. Okay, Google, that's your bread and butter; I guess I have no grounds to complain.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


So Google now has the option to customize your own Google homepage with a wallpaper of your choice. I almost never actually visit the actual Google page, unless a cool doodle comes to my attention; I use the search bar embedded in Firefox. It's still Google, but I don't see the page. Further, I have tried various background pictures, and I find them distracting in both Windows and Mac operating systems. I honestly prefer a dull monotone background. It makes things much easier for me to read, recognize and find.

Still, I know many people do like wallpapers, and I thought the above was pretty kewl. This is from The Frogman, and captioned "My google background is cooler than yours." A couple of formats can be found here, as well as a different Eyjafjallajokull kitteh with red lightning. You know, if you like to wallpaper your computer.

All The President's Emails

Every Sunday afternoon, I find myself delightfully surprised when this series shows up in my International News folder. I know it shows up Sunday afternoon, it's just that I haven't learned to anticipate it yet, as I do with Krugman's columns on Friday and Monday, or Rich's columns on Sunday mornings (today's is a real doozy, BTW). Further, this is primarily intended as humor and snark, not serious analysis with a little snark added for seasoning. The archive is here.

To: BP Group CEO Tony Hayward Subject: My boot, your neck

Don't get me wrong, Tony – I like it that this is your fault. Of course I would love to see the oil leak contained, but it's vital that each new failure to contain it is your failure, and yours alone. In fact I'm cancelling my trip to Asia in order to be on hand to take full responsibility for blaming you. I'm gonna be scrubbing pelicans all week, and shaking my head ruefully. I've attached the next invoice as a pdf, by the way. Barack

To: Michelle Obama Subject: Re: Fw: George W Bush wants to be friends on Facebook

I know, I got one too. Just ignore it. Don't even click Ignore – do nothing. I know it seems rude, but if you friend him back everyone will know. You might as well join the "I'm Glad We Waterboarded Khalid Sheik Mohammed" fan page. B

Medusaceratops lokii and Other Recent Geo-Trivia

I know it's frowned upon to combine Greek and Latin roots to create new science terms, but is it OK to combine Roman and Norse mythological characters to create new scientific names?
The stunning new species has been identified as Medusaceratops lokii, a nod to two freakish mythological beings that inspired Michael Ryan -- the dinosaur's Ottawa-born co-discoverer-- when it came time to assign a name to the creature.
You can see a rendering of this very strange looking creature at Paleoblog.Any geology person worth his or her halite luvs them some Far Side. And this has to be one of the favorite geology panels from that comic, from 1982. It's hardly news, first being officially used in 1993, but it's news to me that "thagomizer" is actually the official term for the arrays of spikes at the end of Stegosaurus tails. The comic below came to my attention via Swans on Tea.
Via Andrew Revkin at the NYT Dot Earth blog, I learned that the total amount of oil in the reservoir that is currently vomiting into the Gulf of Mexico amounts to trivia:
BP officials have estimated it contains no more than 100 million barrels of oil. That’s five days and change worth of American demand for this precious fuel.
Note that's a maximum. I'll try to do a more meaty post on the spill, but there's an awful lot of information, and it's painful and infuriating for me to go through.

This hurricane season is shaping up to be the worst since 2005, perhaps comparable.
The hurricane season of 2010 is upon us. With unprecedented sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, El Niño gone and possibly transitioning to La Niña, a massive oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, a million earthquake refugees in Haiti at the mercy of a hurricane strike, and an ever-increasing number of people living on our coasts, the arrival of this year's hurricane season comes with an unusually ominous tone. NOAA is forecasting a very active and possibly hyperactive season, and Dr. Bill Gray has said he expects "a hell of a year."
"2010 hurricane season seen more active than feared." Whew! That's a... say what? "Worse!?!?" Guess what? Haiti's not prepared.

This was picked up by Geology Rocks:
from Good Will Job Hunting, URL Hire Me Because I'm Smart, with the comment,
The Earth’s altitudes are bimodally distributed — there is lots of terrain just above sea level, and lots of terrain 2 miles below sea level (the “abyssal plain”).

Weird, huh?
Well, no, not really. This distribution is an easily predictable result of having two different kinds of crust over a plastic (but solid) mantle. Continental crust is thick and comparatively low density; oceanic crust is thin and comparatively high density. I'm sure this was kind of weird looking fifty years ago before the development of plate tectonic theory, but someone who has a middle school level understanding of geology at this point shouldn't find the above diagram the least bit mysterious. It is very cool, though.

Exciting news about my home ground, from my home ground:
America's Pacific Northwest has a 37% chance of being hit by a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 50 years, a new study shows. That's more than double previous estimates of a 10-15% risk, says Chris Goldfinger, a marine geologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
I'm curious to see how this stands up to verification and critical review.

Speaking of Oregon, it's official: NOAA is here.This is very big news for Newport, about an hour across the Coast Range. OSU has a world-class school of Oceanography, Jane Lubchenco is from OSU, and Newport, along with most of the Oregon Coast, has been slammed pretty hard economically over the last 20 years, by both loss of logging jobs and fisheries restrictions. Tourism has helped, but not enough. Good on ya, Newport!

I don't do Twitter; nothing against it, and there are a couple of accounts that I check from time to time, but there's just too much other stuff for me to read and check on. So I was aware of this contest, but wasn't paying any attention to it. "Stephen Fry crowns most beautiful tweet at Hay Festival" Imagine my surprise to find it was a geology-related winner! And here it is:
The winning tweet read: "I believe we can build a better world! Of course, it'll take a whole lot of rock, water & dirt. Also, not sure where to put it."

Poll, Baby, Poll

Brian at Clastic Detritus has put up a poll on which day of the week people would most like to see a geoblogospheric round-up. I think this is a great idea. I and others irregularly point out one or more posts that strike us as outstanding, but to have a regular round-up would be peachy. You can see and vote on the poll at Brian's blog.

Sunday Funnies

This week's edition of the Sunday Funnies is staring you in the face:I coming up with, "One does not simply park into Mordor," and "All-seeing eye of Sweetgum sees you." Neither quite makes it. Oh well. The Daily What, where there's a caption you might like better.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr... Earlier this week, Dr. Monkerstein pointed me at a fifth-grader's blog, Ethel's Law. This has got to be her.
Luke Surl
Sober in a Nightclub
PhD Comics
Señor Gif's
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
One tenth of one percent of one percent discount! Criggo
I Has A Hotdog
Criggo I have a deep commitment and drive with respect to apathy. I wasn't there.
Oddly Specific
demotivational posters
see more demotivators
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
0.5-0.6% ingredients. Engrish Funny
The High Definite
Skull Swap
Bits and Pieces
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Mona Diesel. Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza?
Fuck Yeah Stupid Gifs Off to bag some womp rats.

Via EpicPonyzFuck Yeah Stupid Gifs
The Frogman
Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza
Buzzfeed... it even has his name embossed on it.
Seen in a rift. Engrish Funny
Probably Bad News
demotivational posters
see more demotivators
Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine
So, um, yeah. Criggo
Alternate Reality Fail. Señor Gif's
Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza?
Oopsie. Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza?
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza
When it’s Spring Time in the Pacific Northwest, no matter how nice the day, DO NOT leave your roof and windows open. You might return to find that a localized tsunami has hit and there is 2 inches of standing water in your car. #LFMF
Learn From My FailJet Stork cleared for landing. Bits and Pieces
demotivational posters IN THE SAME WAY
see more demotivators
Turn left here. Oddly Specific.
The Daily What
Firefox disapproves. Skull Swap
Iron2-D2. Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza?
Dolphin: it's what's for breakfast. Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza?
Godwin's Law: in an internet argument, the first to invoke a comparison to Hitler loses. The Daily What.
Brooklyn Industries (Yes, that's a tee-shirt), via Let There Be Blogs
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
I have this draft restaurant review in my head that goes something like this:

“The hot new restaurant in town is Air Canada Flight 166, but for the life of me, I can’t understand what the fuss is about. The seating is cramped, intrusive video advertisements play at the beginning of the meal – which is indifferent at best – and, most baffling of all, when I left the restaurant, I was 2,600 kilometres from where I’d parked.”
See the comic that goes with this hilarious restaurant review at Noise to Signal.
Bits and Pieces