Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mammoth Fun

Via Brian Switek at Laelaps, I found this fun commercial:
I think most kids are fascinated by megafauna- whether Mesozoic dinosaurs, Cenezoic mammals and birds (check out the freaking moa! "The two largest species, Dinornis robustus and Dinornis novaezelandiae, reached about 3.7 m (12 ft) in height with neck outstretched, and weighed about 230 kg (510 lb)"), or modern examples such as whales, elephants, rhinoceroses or giraffes. I was no exception, and mammoths were particularly fascinating to me... I didn't really grasp geologic time, but I understood that mammoths and man had probably co-existed, and that they had lived in the area where I grew up. I knew they were like elephants, but bigger, and, well, woolly. So while my childhood allegiances were first to dinosaurs, they were always somewhat alien- and remain so, in large part. Mammoths seemed almost familiar by comparison.

The idea of them being part of our native, extant wildlife is very pleasing to me, though I doubt they would do very well being quite so domesticated as the commercial depicts. I also rather doubt that humans would still be extant if we had started eating a McDonald's diet 12,000 years ago.


The Ramones, Sheena is a Punk Rocker:

Eurythmics, Who's That Girl?:

Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Going Full Barton

After connecting yesterday's apology and last year's twit regarding "baffling" Nobel Laureate and Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, to the same person, some facebook friends and I have been engaged in an ongoing discussion regarding the Gulf disaster and Joe Barton. One friend, when the talk turned to suggestions that we nuke the well (I haven't mentioned this before; for the record, I'm agin' it.), commented, "OMG! So that's what they mean by controlling it with 'boom!'" HAH!

The same person coined the phrase "Going full Barton" for a mind-bogglingly stupid statement. I and others approve. Here are some other examples:(Source)
  • "I'll have to confess, Mr. Chairman, that I am also a video game player. I have worked my way up to Civilization IV. I haven't yet been able to beat it but I at least understand the fundamentals of it." (Source)
  • "I cannot imagine any objective finding that CO2 is a pollutant," he said. "If that's true, God is a polluter." (Source)
  • "...if anything I said this morning has been misconstrued to the opposite effect I want to apologize for that misconstrued misconstruction." (Source)
  • Global warming? People can find shade when it's hot:

  • "Adapting is a common way for people to adapt to their environment."
  • “It’s odorless, colorless, tasteless, doesn’t cause cancer, doesn’t cause asthma… there’s nobody that’s ever been admitted to a hospital because of CO2 poisoning.”

Note on the above: there's an interesting description of CO2 poisoning here, and also, tell the victims of the Lake Nyos disaster about what a harmless gas it is. That said, CFC's are chemically inert and non-poisonous; that is utterly irrelevant with respect to their effects in the atmosphere.
  • “And something that the Democrat sponsors do not point out, a lot of the CO2 that is created in the United States is naturally created. You can’t regulate God. Not even the Democratic majority in the US Congress can regulate God.”
Apparently, you can't regulate stupid either. But I can create a new label for it: please give a warm welcome to "Going Full Barton." I've been considering "idiots" or "morans" for some time, but I think this is even better.

Followup Saturday, June 19: Time has a list of eight Barton gaffes, some of which I mentioned above, some of which are new to me. Sample:
7. When talking about climate change on C-Span in March 2007, Barton attempts to discount climate-change studies by explaining that temperature is determined by cloud shape. But his discussion of the various shapes — "tall clouds or skinny clouds, short clouds, fat clouds, high clouds, low clouds" — comes off as more Sesame Street than science.
Hat tip to Tracy for the link.

Joe Barton... Joe Barton...

I knew I recognized that name! Here, from April of last year, Barton smugly parades his profound ignorance in front of Steven Chu. To say Barton's face reminds me of a pig would be an insult to pigs, which are actually quite intelligent. So I won't say his face reminds me of Porky Pig, who was more intelligent than Barton.

From The Guardian's report on that exchange, Barton twitted (yes, while everyone else on Twitter "tweets," Barton twits), "I seemed [sic] to have baffled the Energy Sec with basic question - Where does oil come from?"
Barton: Dr Chu, I don't want to leave you out. You're our scientist. I have one simple question for you in the last six seconds. How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean?
Chu: (Laughs) This is a complicated story, but oil and gas is the result of hundreds of millions of years of geology and in that time also the plates have moved around. And so, it's a combination of where the sources of the oil and gas…
Barton: Isn't it obvious that at one time it was a lot warmer in Alaska and on the North Pole? It wasn't a big pipeline that we've created from Texas and shipped it up there and put it under ground so we can now pump it up?
Chu: No, there are continental plates that have been drifting around throughout the geological ages.
Barton: So it just drifted up there.
Chu: Uh…That's certainly what happened. It's a result of things like that.
Yeah, Barton, you're our Federal Representative here, and I don't want to leave you out in the last six seconds. Where do laws come from?

The Casing is Breached?

That certainly appears to be oil coming out of cracks on the sea floor, and that is very bad news.

In other news, it looks like Tony Hayward will get his life back, and BP Chairman Carl-Henric 'We care about small people" Svanberg will take over day-to day management of the gusher in the Gulf.

The reservoir below the goo geyser may have enough petroleum to continue spewing for the next two to four years, unless some way is found to plug the well. If the casing is breached, the only hope lies with the so-called relief wells.

Followup: you won't very often see me link to Faux News (unless I'm snarking on them) but there's a piece with a little more info on BP management changes:
Asked about Hayward's ongoing role, Svanberg said: "He is now handing over the operation to Bob Dudley."
"This has now turned into a reputation matter, financial and political and that is why you will now see more of me," Svanberg said.

Disaster Preparedness

It's a good thing to think of ahead of time, not when it happens.The Onion

Thursday, June 17, 2010

288 Seconds

A high school classmate sent me a link to this TPM graphic earlier. I had seen it this morning at Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do, but as I said in my reply, I had read the text of that post without paying very close attention to the graphic. But I do think the graphic is worth examining for a moment. Note that the estimated flow rate is now as much 300 times what was initially announced. That would be equivalent to a tanker truck driving by and emptying its load into the Gulf every 4 minutes and 48 seconds. Is it incompetence that caused the initial low estimates? An attempt to hide the magnitude of the mess? Is internal erosion causing the release rate to increase by orders of magnitude? Has the casing worn through or ruptured below the blowout preventer?

I don't know, and I don't really trust any source to be honest at this point. I read the transcript of Obama's speech yesterday and, like others, was disappointed. Prayer? Seriously? Pray? Why not sacrifice lambs, or firstborns, or something actually likely to motivate the big-bearded wizard in the sky?

In other news, Joe Barton apologizes for people being so stupid as to "misconstrue" his earlier apology to BP for the mean ol' gubmint for bein' mean to po-po li'l BP as meaning what he said. Or something to that effect. "Just don't go misconstruin' me again," he didn't add. Barton has also not apologized for a number of other historical and recent miscarriages of Justice, for example, "Joe Barton Would like to apologize to:"
  • Larry Craig, who was unjustly crucified by the all powerful narrow stance elitists.
  • Michael Vick, because seriously, if the good lord didn't want dogs to fight, he wouldn't have given them teeth. and if he didn't want them to be soaked in gasoline and burned to death, why would he have made them so flammable?
  • Al Capone, for our totally unfair income tax system.
  • Darth Vader, for blowing up the death star (twice!). that thing must have cost a lot of money to build. tell you what, we'll write you a check for it from the american taxpayer. copacetic?
Just think, it probably took you 288 seconds, maybe a bit more, maybe a bit less, to read this post.

Tribble with Ears!

Okay, sleepy fennec fox,several points:
  1. OMFG!
  2. I didn't realize these were tamable and pettable.
  4. EARS!
  5. Awwww!
  6. Want. To. Pet.

Via Epic Win. Did I mention that, for me at least, "too cute" = "very funny?" I think I did.

Blind Faith

by Steve Winwood

Following the shadows of the skies,
Or are they only figments of my eyes?
And I'm feeling close to when the race is run.
Waiting in our boats to set sail.
Sea of joy.

Once the door swings open into space,
And I'm already waiting in disguise.
Is it just a thorn between my eyes?
Waiting in our boats to set sail.
Sea of joy.

Having trouble coming through,
Through this concrete blocks my view
And it's all because of you.

Oh, is it just a thorn between my eyes?
Waiting in our boats to set sail.
Sea of joy.

Sea of joy.
Sea of joy.
Sailing free.
Sea of joy.

Relevant how? According to NYT,
One of the deepest offshore oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico lies beneath 7,000 feet of water and under more than 20,000 feet of rock and sand. Estimated to hold as much as 100 million barrels of crude, the field was discovered by Chevron in 2001, and production began in 2008. It is less than 20 miles west of the unstoppable Deepwater Horizon blowout.

The name of the field, and the rig anchored above it, is Blind Faith.

It’s a curious choice for a high-tech drilling operation pushing the boundaries of modern engineering, perhaps a bit like NASA naming a new shuttle “Dumb Luck.”

Followup: Just what I expected from Hayward: "I know NOTHING!"Wikipedia: "Schultz is a basically good-hearted man who, when confronted by evidence of the prisoners' covert activities, will simply look the other way, repeating "I hear nothing, I see nothing, I know nothing!" (or, more commonly as the series went on, simply "I know nothing–NOTHING!") to avoid being blamed for allowing things to have gotten as far as they already had-which might see him given a one-way trip to the Eastern Front." But I'm not going to give "I want my life back" Hayward credit for being a "basically good-hearted man."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Our Amazing Planet

A site that I started following recently is Our Amazing Planet; the post that got my attention was one that went viral in the pop aggregators, and was pointed out by two or three geobloggers as well: a to-scale column of earth from 36,000 feet in the atmosphere to 36,000 feet depth. If you haven't seen this infographic, I do recommend it... for example, had you asked me to guess a typical jetliner cruising altitude, I would have essentially nailed it. But had you asked me the highest elevation a bird has been seen flying, I would have been off by a factor of fifty percent or more.

Sites like this are fun and enjoyable, and to the extent that they cite their sources (as they do quite nicely on the above infographic), educational. Other pieces can be unclear and misleading, though if you know your science, you can see how they chose the words they did. Unlike, for example, National Geographic, which has been disappointing me more and more recently with their sloppiness, this site is not pretending to be authoritative or to be interviewing the power hitters of cutting-edge research. They're having fun with something they obviously enjoy, and at that level, doing a good job.

A Willy Wonka-worthy post was The Scrumptious Chocolate Falls of Arizona. Two other recent ones I've enjoyed were the Ten Most Visited National Parks (the national park bucket list) and Ten Least Visited National Parks (all yours). It's another one of those US-centric ones, but I thought this might be a fun early summer geo meme. Bold the ones you have visited, and italicize the ones you've never heard of before. Leave a comment and/or link if you decide to play, and I'll post a link to you.

Most visited:
10: Glacier
9: Acadia (Maine, Alaska and Hawaii are the three states I've never visited)
8: Grand Teton
7: Cuyahoga Valley (I've visited the area many times in the 60's and 70's, though it wasn't until 2000 that this became an official unit of the NPS)
6: Rocky Mountain (I'm kind of ashamed of this one)
5: Olympic
4: Yellowstone
3: Yosemite
2: Grand Canyon
1: Great Smoky Mountains

Least Visited:
10: City of Rocks NR, Idaho
9: Cumberland Island NS, Georgia
8: Florissant Fossil Beds NM, Colorado (This is one I've always wanted to see)
7: Chiricahua NM, Arizona
6: Tonto NM, Arizona
5: Dry Tortugas NP, Florida
4: Katmai NP & Preserve, Alaska
3: Kalaupapa NHP, Hawaii
2: Hagerman Fossil Beds NM, Idaho
1: Russell Cave NM, Alabama

Callan's in, and yes it is the same Cuyahoga River, but upstream of the Cleveland metro area. The rocks are Ordovician and Silurian Mississippian and Devonian. The exposures are quite spectacular.

Phillip, the only other Oregon Geoblogger I know of, has his list here.

Gaelyn's back yard is #2 on the first list... Soooo jealous!

Silver Fox smokes out a spelling error, and her list is here. As always, mistakes are my own, and I reserve the right to edit ones that embarrass me.

Ed at Geology Happens has the fullest list I've seen so far.

Geotripper Garry Hayes is playing too, and notes how few of us have been to many on the "least visited" list.

Via a comment at Callan's list, blarg! Another spelling error on my part: Russell Cave should have two l's... now it does.

Oops, missed Fab Grandma's post a couple of days ago.

Coconino, at Ordinary High Water Mark, gets into the game.

Planelight at Life in Plane Light adds another list, with the comment, "I need to visit more National Parks / Monuments." So do we all.

APOD @ 15

I think Netscape was installed in the department's computers in the summer of 1994, and that I had been using that program for a year or so to explore teh innertubz when Astronomy Picture of the Day went live. I don't remember when I found it, but it is without a doubt one of the sites that I have followed most closely over the last decade and a half. Here is the first image posted there, 15 years ago today- I'll make you click over to get a description of what you're seeing here. It's kind of bizarre, very cool, and probably not what you're guessing.And here is the picture they chose for their 15th anniversary:A detail; the picture is a tiling of some of the thousands of daily pictures from the site!
Here's the link to the full-size (4 Mb) jpg. And one more I set aside a few days ago: an excellent multi-exposure image of Martian retrograde motion from a terrestrial perspective.

Wednesday Wednesday

From Tuscon Weekly. Remember the name of her doll? I can't find a video or audio track of Alan Sherman's great song, "You Went the Wrong Way Old King Louis," to drop as a hint, so I'll just remind you: it's Marie Antoinette.
You went the wrong way, Old King Louie.
You made the population cry.
'Cause all you did was sit and pet
With Marie Antoinette
In your place at Versailles.
And now the country's gone kablooie.
So we are giving you the air.
That oughta teach you not to
Spend all your time fooling 'round
At the Folies Bergere.
If you had been a nicer king,
We wouldn't do a thing,
But you were bad, you must admit.
We're gonna take you and the Queen
Down to the guillotine,
And shorten you a little bit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

John McCain is Confused

A suggested new meme from Buzzfeed...I can relate, I guess. The background is lifted from an Abstruse Goose Comic I used in my last Sunday Funnies.

Tuesday Tits

Yellow-bellied tit, Periparus venustulus (from here). When I started this silly series, I had been under the impression that tits were European. I have since learned that they are global in their distribution; the lovely tit above is native to China. I have so much to learn about tits!


  • According to USA Today, "Federal funding for oil spill research was cut in half between 1993 and 2008, falling to just $7.7 million in fiscal year 2008, data from the Congressional Research Service show."
  • Tony Hayward's annual salary: £3,158,000.00 (~$4,682,000).
  • Date brown pelicans were delisted as endangered "due to recovery:" November, 2009.
  • Number of pelicans killed by a 15-barrel (630-gallon) oil spill near Plaquemines Parish in 2005: 400.
  • Number of pelicans oiled in that spill: 1000.
  • Amount BP claimed was leaking as of April 23, after the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform: Zero
  • Amount estimated to be leaking as of Tuesday, April 27: 1000 barrels per day (bbl/d).
  • Amount estimated to be leaking as of Wednesday, April 28: 5000 bbl/d.
  • Amount estimated to be leaking based on video of flow from the wellhead and broken riser, by non-BP employee and mechanical engineer Steve Wereley as of Wednesday, May 19: 95,000 bbl/d, +/- 20%
  • Amount of oil estimated to be escaping from the leaky well, per day, as of today: "The team said the most likely flow rate of oil today ranges from 35,000 to 60,000 barrels per day."
  • Tony Hayward's assessment of the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon Spill: " "The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume." (May 14) "I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to be very, very modest," (May 18) "There's no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back."(May 31)
Followup: Number of Senators who told BP's Lamar McKay in testimony today that he "should resign or consider suicide:" 2

Mobile Building

Mobilizes ur carz, then divides by zero.

Via Jeff Masters' Weather Underground, where he notes that 8-11 inches fell on Oklahoma City yesterday. This post is particularly notable, however, for the skill with which he finds the line of clarity between climate change sensationalism and the shoulder-shrugging "we can't attribute any single event to climate change." This is the well-played final paragraph of the relevant section, "Flooding and Global Warming:"
We cannot say that any of this year's flooding disasters were definitely due to global warming, and part of the reason for this year's numerous U.S. flooding disasters is simply bad luck. However, higher temperatures do cause an increased chance of heavy precipitation events, and it is likely that the flooding in some of this year's U.S. flooding disasters were significantly enhanced by the presence of more water vapor in the air due to global warming. We can expect a large increase in flooding disasters in the U.S. and worldwide if the climate continues to warm as expected.
Another section of interest to me today was "Funding issues threaten hundreds of streamgages."
According to the USGS web site, river stage data from 292 streamgages has been discontinued recently, or is scheduled for elimination in the near future due to budget cuts. In Tennessee, 16 streamflow gages with records going back up to 85 years will stop collecting data on July 1 because of budget cuts. Five gages in Arkansas are slated for elimination this year. Hardest hit will be Pennsylvania, which will lose 30 of its 258 streamgages. With over 50 people dead from two flooding disasters already this year, now hardly seems to be the time to be skimping on monitoring river flow levels by cutting funding for hundreds of streamgages.
Yeah, what he said. It's hard for me to believe that a nation with a population of about 116 million, and resources to maintain a streamgage in 1925, and now with a population of about 308 million, no longer has the resources to maintain and monitor those gages.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dear Mr. Hayward

McClatchy has reprinted a letter to Tony Hayward from the House Subcomittee on Oversight and Investigations:
The Committee’s investigation is raising serious questions about the decisions made by BP in the days and hours before the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. On April 15, five days before the explosion, BP’s drilling engineer called Macondo a “nightmare well.” In spite of the well’s difficulties, BP appears to have made multiple decisions for economic reasons that increased the danger of a catastrophic well failure. In several instances, these decisions appear to violate industry guidelines and were made despite warnings from BP’s own personnel and its contractors. In effect, it appears that BP repeatedly chose risky procedures in order to reduce costs and save time and made minimal efforts to contain the added risk.
The letter goes on to briefly describe apparent corner-cutting and disregard for industry and even internal standards in five areas: Well Design, Centralizers, Cement Bond Log, Mud Circulation, and Lockdown Sleeve, then goes into some detail in terms of description for each of those in a second iteration.

This is kind of a long and demanding read, but I found it worthwhile for two reasons. First, I don't know much about the physical and procedural details of constructing an oil well and, while I could have really used a diagram to clarify what I was reading about, I feel much better informed now. Second, I am more than a little blown away by the depths of negligence apparently displayed here. For example, the cement bond log would have cost $128,000 and taken 9 to 12 hours, and could have demonstrated conclusively whether the cement had formed a good seal. The Schlumberger team was on board to conduct the test, but was told "their services would not be required," and departed even before pressure checks were carried out. So while I found the letter slow going, it condenses and clarifies a great deal of information I hadn't really grasped before.

As the letter politely concludes,
During your testimony before the Committee, you will be asked about the issues raised in this letter. This will provide you an opportunity to respond to these concerns and clarify the record. We appreciate your willingness to appear and your cooperation in the Committee’s investigation.
I don't feel the least bit sorry for Hayward. I don't doubt that there will be an infuriating degree of bobbing, weaving, and dodging. I'm confident there will be one or two classic Hayward gaffes... at a minimum. But I'm very, very grateful I won't be in his shoes Thursday morning.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Funnies

Yet another incarnation of Sunday Funnies:
Oddly Specific
Hacked IRL
Sober in a Nightclub
Abstruse Goose
Friends of Irony
Bits and Pieces
Epic Win
M Thru F
The Daily What
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
There, I Fixed It
culture jamming graffiti
see more Hacked IRL - Truth in Sarcasm
M Thru F
The Frogman
Matt Smith
see more Lol Celebs
demotivational posters - LAXATIVES
see more demotivators
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Kim Jong-Il
see more Political Pictures
BP's CEO Tony Hayward
see more Political Pictures
Clay Bennett
The Far Left Side
Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza
Pearls Before Swine
The High Definite
Skull Swap
Non Sequitur
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Probably Bad News... those panties will definitely make someone's ass look fat.
Amazing Superpowers
Friends of Irony
The High Definite

“Oh man. That sucked. Where am I? Some kind of tunnel. This is spooky.”

“Hello little bug. Everything is fine now. You have crossed over to the other side.”

“Who said that? I’m….dead?”

“It’s okay little bug. Nothing can hurt you now. Just head towards the light.”

“Hah! I’m not falling for that again.”
The Frogman
PETA protester
see more Political Pictures
Let There be Blogs
Let There be Blogs
Abstruse Goose
Skull Swap
The Far Left Side
The Daily What
Your one-stop shotgun wedding shopping store. Oddly Specific
demotivational posters - FOUND IM!
see more demotivators

demotivational posters - ENGINEERING
see more demotivators
Engrish Funny
Friends of Irony
Darius Whiteplume's Tumblr
The High Definite
The Frogman
Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza?
Señor Gif's
Friends of Irony
Let There Be Blogs... The "Learning" Channel... don't get me started.
Poltergeist poster
see more Lol Celebs
Negative Alphabet, from Did You Just Eat Sofa Pizza
Sober in a Nightclub