Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene a Mixed Bag for the Bay

Storm a boon, bane to the Bay
"There are good things that can come out of this," said Chris Moore, a water quality scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "The one species that this could really help is the blue crab."

Blue crabs spawn near the shore, but their larvae float out into the ocean, often more than 50 miles out, Moore said. High winds from hurricanes could carry many of the juvenile crabs toward the shore and away from larger predators, like sharks and sting rays.

High winds may also benefit fish and shellfish populations in the Bay and in nearby rivers that have dead zones, areas that lack the amount of oxygen in the water necessary for aquatic life to survive.
On the downside, the high rains (we got seven inches, other areas reported up to eleven), wash in sediment and pollutants:
"The streams that feed major rivers are likely to have larger loads and more erosion than normal," Moore said. "The biggest concern is that we might see a much larger slug of nutrients, pollutants and sediment entering the Bay."

Development in the Bay watershed has reduced wetlands and increased hard surfaces, such as paved streets. The result is that more rain water enters streams as runoff, carrying pollutants with it, rather than being absorbed into soft ground.

Sewage overflow is also a concern, particularly for the Bay.
I've heard the fishing is better now, too.  Too bad my boat is still high and dry, awaiting a new coat of bottom paint.

Waterman Catches, Releases Rare Purple Crab

The purple crab Jake Marzucco, a commercial crabber in Queenstown, found recently is not common, said Brenda Davis, blue crab program director for the Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service.

Davis said the coloration, on this crab's belly and claw, is not that different from skin pigmentation in people. It's likely a genetic glitch and has nothing to do with the crab's environment.

"We tend to get a few crabs every year that are overly blue or overly white," Davis said. "It's not unheard of, but it's not common."

Two years ago, a Romancoke waterman caught a similar crab. He quickly termed it a Ravens crab because of its coloring.
A friend of mine who worked on crabs and caught thousands of them across a span of 30 years has a fine collection of freak crabs, including albinos and ones with odd shells.  The most interesting to me was one with a "double" claw.  The unmoving part of the claw was double, like a mirror image, and it had two moving parts.  Definitely scary looking.  I never saw a purple one, though.

Texting For Seniors

Someday I'll learn to text.  Swiped from Ace's ONT.

Good News Girls - Chocolate Could Save Your Life

Chocolate 'cuts heart risk by a third'
Those who eat more chocolate have a 37 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease than those who eat little, according to a Cambridge University analysis of seven separate studies, containing in total over 100,000 people.

They also have a 29 per cent lower chance of stroke, although they do not have a lower risk of heart failure.

The studies, which followed people in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the US and Japan for about a decade on average, did not focus on dark chocolate alone, which is believed to be the most beneficial type.

Rather, they included consumption of other types including milk chocolate and chocolate bars, drinks, biscuits and desserts.

Dr Oscar Franco, from the university’s Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, said no one really understood why chocolate appeared to be so good for heart health.
Remember Fritz's Law: 50% of the science reported in the media is wrong, the other 50% is suspect.  On the other hand, why take a chance? Have a Hershey bar.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Global Warming Makes People Crazy

Mental illness rise linked to climate 

RATES of mental illnesses including depression and post-traumatic stress will increase as a result of climate change, a report to be released today says.

The paper, prepared for the Climate Institute, says loss of social cohesion in the wake of severe weather events related to climate change could be linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress and substance abuse.

As many as one in five people reported ''emotional injury, stress and despair'' in the wake of these events.

The report, A Climate of Suffering: The Real Cost of Living with Inaction on Climate Change, called the past 15 years a ''preview of life under unrestrained global warming''.
Since the global climate has risen far less than regional variations in temperature (think Sahara Desert compared to the Arctic), I think we can safely conclude that what makes people crazy is the stress of living with the media frenzy about global warming.

For Guys Who Fix the Power

A job that probably hasn't got much easier since the 70s.

Arthur's Round Table Found?

King's Knot
King Arthur's round table may have been found by archaeologists in Scotland
The King's Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years. Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older. Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.

Archaeologists from Glasgow University, working with the Stirling Local History Society and Stirling Field and Archaeological Society, conducted the first ever non-invasive survey of the site in May and June in a bid to uncover some of its secrets. Their findings were show there was indeed a round feature on the site that pre-dates the visible earthworks...
Peter Meseldzija-King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table
So King Arthur's Round table may not have been a "table" as such at all, but rather a table-like physical feature or construct, probably an iron age hill fort. Now we just need to figure out who King Arthur was...

Still Cleaning Up!

Spent the last couple of hours splitting wood downed by Irene. I only got one blister.

We got our cable back sometime today while we were at work.

Hang On, Hang On!

Internet still out due to Irene!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Landscaping by Irene

First the good news.  We came through Irene basically unscathed.  Our internet went out for good shortly after my last blog update, the power went out at 8:15 PM (according to the one analog clock still in the house).  We went to bed early in the dark, and slept surprisingly well, even as we heard big gusts, and breaking timber.  When we woke up it was still raining and gusty.  It was apparent that the neighborhood had been hit pretty hard:

This large Poplar tree went down between our house and the next door neighbor (it was on our lot).  It survived the ice storm of 1995, even though most of it's upper limbs were broken off.  Behind it and to the left, you can see a leaning tree trunk.  That's a medium sized Hickory tree, again on our lot and leaning to the neighbors.  It's pretty well hung up in another tree, so I think we have a while to deal with it.
Others were not so lucky.  This house on our street was badly damage by a tree that fell into it.  Out of 20 houses on our street, at least 4 were struck by falling trees.

Before breakfast, I went out to check on a friends house (he's away).  The house was OK, but he lives nearer the bay, and I stopped to take this photo from near his steps.  By now the effects of Irene were clearly waning.

A shot of our front yard, showing the shredded twigs and leaves that covered everything.  Once the rain stopped, I got the chain saw out and began to cut up the big limbs, and the downed Poplar.  The sun came out and it was a pretty nice day after that (still a bit breezy).  After I made moveable chunks out of the limbs, we cleared the yards, and I mowed and bagged all the trash for our compost heaps. 

Our power came back on about 6 PM, as we were eating shrimp boiled on the propane grill.  We did a little more cleaning after that, and went to bed tired at 9 PM.  Still no phone, cable or internet.

OK, that's long enough in the 19th Century.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Update on Gibson Guitar Grab

The Federal Government raided Gibson Guitars in Nashville not because the woods they imported from India are illegal under US law, but because, under their interpretation, the woods may be illegal to sell in India:
“The Federal Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. has suggested that the use of wood from India that is not finished by Indian workers is illegal, not because of U.S. law, but because it is the Justice Department’s interpretation of a law in India. (If the same wood from the same tree was finished by Indian workers, the material would be legal.) This action was taken without the support and consent of the government in India.”
The woods in question are ebony and rosewood for the fretboard.  It would seem to me that it would be very difficult to build guitars from wood pre-finished in India, unless you sanded off the finish anyway.

What are they trying to do, export the jobs at the Gibson factories to India?  Is there something deeper behind the Feds stretching their authority to  enforce an Indian law that even India doesn't seem anxious to enforce?
The raids forced Gibson to cease manufacturing operations and send workers home for the day while armed agents executed the search warrants. “Agents seized wood that was Forest Stewardship Council controlled,” Juszkiewicz said. “Gibson has a long history of supporting sustainable and responsible sources of wood and has worked diligently with entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Greenpeace to secure FSC-certified supplies. The wood seized on August 24 satisfied FSC standards.”

Further update! It seems that Gibson CEO is a GOP donor; the Martin Guitar company, whose company uses the same woods as Gibson is not being raided.  One difference however, is that the CEO of Martin Guitars is a donor to democrats...

One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the DNC over the past couple of election cycles. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood.” In case you were wondering, that is the exact same wood in at least ten of Gibson’s guitars.

Well, It's Begun

Irene that is. As of  9:00 AM, by radar and media reports the center of the storm has come ashore in North Carolina.  Outer bands reached us about 8 AM, and it started to rain.  Not too much yet, maybe a couple of millimeters (or in 'Merican units, just a hair) .  Breeze has picked up and the tops of the trees are swaying, but nothing extreme.

More reports later as it gets more exciting.

10 AM UPDATE.  Heavy rain, wind is rising (as you can see above).  I went and took the fishing tackle out of the boat box in case the storm surge floods it.  Georgia ran into town for a few last errands.

It looks like the storm surge has just started to affect us here:

A few shots from the beach, taken at ca 10:30 AM

Looking south toward the old part of Long Beach.  Winds are about 20 mph at this point, and waves are picking up.
A zoom on the waves hitting the rip rap walls.  This makes it look much worse than it really is; the biggest of those wave are probably on two or so feet at this point.  It will take another few hours of a good stiff wind to build up to waves much above 5 feet here.  The short fetch and the shallowness of most of the bay make it hard to build really big waves here.  But what they lack in height they make up for with choppiness...
Looking north, a familiar view.  I wish I had a good water proof camera for this.

11 AM UPDATE:  It's still raining hard, we've had about a half inch since 8 AM.  Wind is still climbing; it's up to about 25 mph sustained winds at Cove Point (a few miles south). Our power is still on (and that's a good thing); this much wind is apt to knock something down into the lines somewhere in our distribution links.

11:30 AM UPDATE: Calvert County just issued evacuation orders for all dwellings within 100 ft of the cliffs.  That seems a little extreme to me...

12:00 NOON UPDATE:  We're getting serious rain here now, and the winds are up to 30+ mph sustained and still climbing.

1:00 PM UPDATE: Not much change; we have 1 inch of rain in our rain gauge, and it's falling hard. Winds are holding around 30 mph. The power has blinked a couple times...

2:00 PM UPDATE: No Significant changes, still windy and rainy; the power continues to blink, my UPS seems to be doing it's job.

3:00 PM UPDATE:  Much the same, we had one short power outage.  Wind was up a bit in the last hour, nearing 35 mph sustained.  Not enough to kick us into "Tropical Storm" category yet.

4:00 PM UPDATE.  Still about the same.  We've had 2 inches of rain by now.  One big branch came down in the driveway, and green leaves are scattered all over the ground.

5:00ish UPDATE:  Multiple power blips, but nothing long lasting.  Wind has been near 40 mph a couple times.  Total rain up near 3 inches.  I see that Walleye Pete has posted this video of people down at the beach:

6:00ish UPDATE: Multiple short power failures, with occasional losses of internet connectivity. Winds are now sustained over 40 mph, official tropical storm force. Four inches of rain in the gauge.

Did Humans Get Disease Immunity by Sex with Neanderthals?

Do it for the kids sake!
Sex with cavemen gave humans an immune boost

Sexual encounters with archaic humans like the Neanderthals produced children who inherited key genes that have helped modern humans fight illness and disease, said a US study published Thursday. "The cross-breeding wasn't just a random event that happened, it gave something useful to the gene pool of the modern human," said Stanford University's Peter Parham, senior author of the study in the journal Science.
Random things can add something useful.  In fact, that's how evolution is supposed to work!  The universe really doesn't care whether an organism or a species survives; but random mutations can make it possible.
This study took a close look at a group called HLA class I genes which help the immune system adapt to fight off new pathogens that could cause various infections, viruses and diseases. Researchers traced the origin of one type, HLA-B*73, to the Denisovans, who likely mated with humans arriving in West Asia on their way out of Africa. The variant is rare in modern African populations but is common in people in west Asia.

"We think this had a lot to do with the pathogenic environment in different parts of the world," said Laurent Abi-Rached, a French researcher and lead author of the study. When modern humans came out of Africa, they were going into a new environment. This gave them an advantage. It was a rapid way of acquiring defense," he told AFP.

These ancient HLA genes have multiplied among modern populations and are seen in more than half of Eurasians today, said the study.

"If canoodling was the whole story, that's an awful lot of genes," said Milford Wolpoff, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Michigan who was not involved with the study but said he supported its findings.
 Canoodling, and a few hundred thousand years of selection, maybe.
Some mating must have occurred, given the evidence that lingers in our DNA, but even the latest findings have shed little light on the nature of those relationships -- whether violent or consensual, short or long-term.

"Even though there was probably interbreeding, that was not necessarily very frequent," said Abi-Rached.

"But it has played a major role in shaping modern human immunity."

One thing for sure we can say knowing humans today; if there was a possibility of having sex, sex was had.  

Rule 5 Saturday - Milla Jovovich, Queen of Kick Butt

No particularly compelling news story prompted this Rule 5 post; I just happened to see one of the Resident Evil movies listed on cable somewhere and thought that Milla would make a worthy addition to the list of stars of Sci-Fi movies that I have used for some Rule 5 posts in the past.

Rule 5:  You can't talk politics or science all the time, and everybody loves a pretty girl...

Milla was born in Kiev, Ukrainian SSR in 1975.  Her father was a Serbian pediatrician and her mother a Russian actress.  Her family appears to have been "colorful" folk:
Her paternal great-grandfather, Bogić Camić Jovović, was a flag-bearer of the Vasojevići clan and an officer in the guard of King Nicholas I of Montenegro; his wife's name was Milica, after whom Milla was named. Her paternal grandfather, Bogdan Jovović, was a commander in the Pristina military area, and later investigated finances in the military areas of Skopje and Sarajevo, where he uncovered massive gold embezzlement. He was punished for refusing to convict a friend of the crime. Later, the government briefly imprisoned him in Goli otok for refusing to testify. When he feared that he could be arrested again, he escaped to Albania and later moved to Kiev. A different version of the story claims that he was the one who took the gold. Milla's father, Bogich, later joined Bogdan in Kiev, where he and his sister graduated in medicine

She and her family left the Soviet Union in 1980 for "political reasons".  Her father subsequently got into trouble for insurance issues in the US, and spent 5 years in prison:

"Prison was good for him. He's become a much better person. It gave him a chance to stop and think."
She is a hard ass, isn't she?
During school, many of the students had teased her because she had immigrated from the Soviet Union during the Cold War: "I was called a commie and a Russian spy. I was never, ever, ever accepted into the crowd."
School kids, they just don't have any sense...

She started modeling at age 9 and had her first professional modeling contract at age 13.  She has modeled for over 100 magazine covers, including Vogue, Cosmopolitan. Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Glamour, Harper's Bazaar, and InStyle. She has also modeled for for Banana Republic, Christian Dior, Damiani, Donna Karan, Gap, Versace, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Coach, Giorgio Armani, H&M, and Revlon.

However, modeling isn't the goal, just the means:
Modeling was never a priority" and it instead enables her "to be selective about the creative decisions I make"

She began acting at 13 as well, and her first major role was the female lead in "Return to Blue Lagoon", where she followed Brooke Shield's lead by disrobing for the camera.

That got her nominated for both the "Best Young Actress Starring in a Motion Picture" at the 1991 Young Artist Awards, and "Worst New Star" at the 1991 Golden Raspberry Awards.

Must be a bunch of old gay guys at the Raspeberries.
From my point of view, her film career began in 1997 with "The Fifth Element", where she starred in white duct tape  and totally fake looking orange hair along with Bruce Willis.

White duct tape is a good look for her, and being an ultra ginger means you don't have to worry about her having a soul.

She said she:
"worked like hell: no band practice, no clubs, no pot, nothing"
No pot I can see, but no band practice?
In 2002 she starred as Alice in the video game based movie "Resident Evil", where she slayed zombies and their ilk with the best of them.  She allegedly also did the majority of own stunts (don't they all say that?), and learned various martial arts (Loo King Goud?).

A box office success, the critics panned it.  Of course, critics are mostly old gay guys, and 14-17 year old boys buy all the tickets...

That was followed "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" in
2004 and Resident Evil: Extinction in 2007, with similar critical and commercial success; didn't some one say insanity is "doing the same thing over and expecting different results"?

I have, of course, skimmed over much of the rest of her career.  She has starred in numerous other films, none of which play nearly continuously on my basic cable channels.  A fourth "Resident Evil" is planned (Afterlife), proving that it's not about the critical acclaim, but rather the box office sales.

She has tried her hand at fashion design (hey, there's nothing wrong with white duct tape, but you might try some other colors, too".  She sings, but her singing career has not yet hit the big time, having opened for "Toad the Wet Sprocket" and "Crash Test Dummies".  You can download some of her songs for free at her website.

As always, thanks to the Rule 5 Wombat at The Other McCain for his link, Maggie at Maggie's Notebook for hers,  Jake Finnegan for his, and The Classical Liberal for his!  Be sure to go check out their post and links (that is, if you like pretty girls).

State Dept. OKs Keystone Pipeline

TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline clears hurdle
The U.S. State Department released its final Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Pipeline to bring fossil fuel from the Canadian oil sands to the U.S.

State Department official Kerri-Ann Jones said the report concludes there would be “no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed pipeline corridor,” according to a transcript of a press conference.
The pipeline, designed to bring oil derived from tar sands and oil shale from Canada to refineries in the southern US has been strongly opposed by environmentalists:
The Keystone XL Pipeline has drawn more 300 arrests in protests near the White House this past week, including Nancy Romer of the Brooklyn Food Coalition.

“I’m worried about climate change,” Romer said in an interview with MarketWatch, after being asked why she took part in demonstrations. By routing fuel from the massive Canadian oil sands projects, the project will ultimately create a “huge amount of carbon and it’s non-sustainable,” she said.

Romer wrote a detailed blog about her 53 hours in jail after her arrest on Aug. 20. She said she endured chilling temperatures in a lock-up with 20 other women with no beds or chairs. They used the wrappers from sandwiches in an attempt to keep warm.
Did she walk to D.C.?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Watermen Await Irene

Fishing Industry Awaits Irene
Mobjack Bay Seafood workers spent Thursday clearing the dock of gear that might blow away if Hurricane Irene continues its march toward the Chesapeake Bay. "I'm not going to tell you that I'm not concerned," said John Vigliotta, owner of the Gloucester County company, which grows millions of oysters annually in steel cages that sit near the bay's bottom.
It was business as usual Thursday among the docks at Deep Creek inNewport News.

Despite warning from the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, Poquoson watermen Jim Diggs said he plans to keep his crab pots in the James River through the storm. With 50 feet of line, he figures the steel baskets will not be disturbed by Irene.

"I'm not too worried about the crab pots," he said.
When your business is on the water in the mid-Atlantic, the annual threat of hurricanes and tropical storms is just part of the game.  Back in graduate school, I remember a professor telling me that anything you hung over the side of the boat, however expensive, had to be considered expendable.  Loosing gear is just part of the business, and the profit margin on the take has to be big enough to pay for it on the average.

OK, We're Ready Now

I found this four leaf clover at work today, so now we'll have good luck over the Hurricane Irene weekend!  And just because luck favors the prepared, we took in most of the loose missiles from around the house (and we have a few more to do tomorrow).  The boat has been pulled from it's slip, the bimini is safely off and in the garage, and we have enough food and water for quite a while.  We have flashlights, and batteries, and our chargeable electronics are being charged. 

I may be off the grid for a few days, or at least have limited access, so wish us the best!

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Dog Owner

CERN Study Finds Cosmic Ray-Cloud Link

Probing the cosmic-ray–climate link
Best known for its studies of the fundamental constituents of matter, the CERN particle-physics laboratory in Geneva is now also being used to study the climate. Researchers in the CLOUD collaboration have released the first results from their experiment designed to mimic conditions in the Earth's atmosphere. By firing beams of particles from the lab's Proton Synchrotron accelerator into a gas-filled chamber, they have discovered that cosmic rays could have a role to play in climate by enhancing the production of potentially cloud-seeding aerosols. Describing their findings in this week's Nature, the team has also found that our current understanding of the chemistry of these aerosols is inadequate and that manmade pollution could have a larger role in their formation than previously thought.
The climate link is a bit indirect.  As we've seen before, the Solar Cycle influences the rate of cosmic ray bombardment of earth.  An active solar cycle shields the earth from cosmic rays, while a weak solar cycle allows cosmic rays to penetrate to the earth's atmosphere.   If (and this is the IF that CERN was testing) cosmic rays help initiate clouds, then periods of low solar cycle would be cloudier and likely cooler than times of high solar activity.  This has been observed in the past but the link was unknown, the actual change in solar radiation from the sun is not reduced enough in the low solar activity periods to account for the difference.  Now, it would appear that cosmic rays may provide the link.

The hypothesis was proposed by Henrik Svensmark of the National Space Institute in Copenhagen.  It is anathema to global warming activists as it invokes a solar explanation for much of the warming that has been observed in the 20th century. 

While it is now established that cosmic rays can, in fact, initiate such aerosol formation, the question of whether such aerosols do grow to initiate cloud formation is unknown.  There appears to be some role left for other compound in the atmosphere, including man-made contaminants in the growth of aerosols into clouds.  As we say in the business "more work is needed."

Previous posts on the cosmic ray-climate linkage:

Dalton or Maunder?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Virginia Earthquake Update!

Only not so so much damage .  We think we had one curtain rod rattled loose.  The water company reports a broken water main, which may or may not have been caused by the earthquake (it just happens for no apparent reason sometimes).

Image courtesy of Eatmofish.

This just in:

Hurricane Irene Update

Extra-tropical Storm Surge Predicted for Solomon's Maryland
Sucks to be us.  Hurricane Irene is shaping up to be a real bear.  The predicted track hasn't changed much since my last update, a near miss or a clip at the Outer Banks, then proceeding just offshore north striking the Outer Banks and skirting the shore until it slams into New York/Long Island.  The severe part of the storm will pass by late Saturday night to early Sunday morning; that leaves Saturday to take care of most of the needed preparations.

While it will be a good ways offshore here, the storm is  wide enough that we are expected to experience near hurricane force winds, 3-6 inches of rain, localized flooding, downed trees and limbs and storm surges of at least 1 feet above normal.  This picture should update itself as the storm approaches and passes, courtesy of NOAA.  Elsewhere on the coast, extreme storm surges are being predicted.

With luck, the marina will get my boat out of the water before it all starts, which will relieve me of that worry.  If wind predictions are severe enough, we'll board up the front windows. 

All in all, I expect a tough day, but hopefully, with good preparations and a little luck, no particularly onerous consequences.  Others who take a more direct hit from this extremely powerful storm are unlikely to fare as well.

Feds Give Beetle Buyout to Bay Owners

Federal grant to protect endangered beetles in Md. cliffs
The Obama administration announced Wednesday it is providing $2.4 million to protect endangered Puritan beetles living in cliffs overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

The land acquired in Calvert and Cecil counties with the federal grant boosts the rare insect's chances of survival, officials said. But it also gives a ray of hope to Calvert bayfront homeowners who've been barred from shoring up their crumbling cliffs because of the federally protected beetles on their property.

The grant, among $53 million in payouts for endangered species protection nationally, would be paid to six landowners in the two counties for easements guaranteeing that rare beetle habitat on more than 450 acres would remain permanently undisturbed. The largest is a 230-acre Girl Scout camp on the Sassafras River in Cecil.
This article isn't all that clear to me, but is sound as if the grants are being used to protect some particularly good beetle habitat, and having that protected, will allow relaxed regulation on cliff protection in some other areas (like communities with lots of cliff hanging houses, like, say ours?).  I'll believe the relaxed regulation on that when I see it.
Leopoldo Miranda, supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Chesapeake Bay field office, said the easements would put recovery of the rare beetle within reach, and would give the federal agency more flexibility in dealing with homeowners seeking permits to shore up the cliffs beneath their dwellings.

Three of six groups of beetles identified by biologists already have been protected, he said, and the grant would safeguard two more. With the insect's long-term survival more assured, regulators would have greater latitude under federal and state endangered species laws to let homeowners try to stabilize their cliffs even if it would cause the "incidental" loss of some beetles.
As I've shown earlier, with photographic evidence, the Puritan Tiger Beetle is a present in swarms on our beaches here, mostly in the areas up past the cottages, where there are few structures, and little demand for cliff reinforcement. 

Feds Raid Gibson Guitars

This should send the price of Les Pauls climbing.
Federal agents are in the process of raiding the offices of the Nashville-based Gibson Guitar Corporation.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents began executing search warrant this morning on guitar factories and corporate headquarters in Nashville and Memphis, according to Nicholas Chavez, special agent in charge with the Fish and Wildlife.
Chavez said the raid stems from a Texas case, but declined to offer more details.

“We can’t get into specifics right now,” Chavez said. “This is an ongoing investigation.”

Gibson officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.Gibson was also raided in 2009 for possible violations of the Lacey Act, which bans the importation of endangered plants and wildlife. Federal officials seized ebony and other woods they said were prohibited under the act. Gibson has said in the past it was "fully cooperating" with the investigation.
Hey, maybe this will raise the value of my 1976 J-45 Gibson.  I hear the buttons on the fret board are made of unicorn ivory.

Hurricane Irene Threatens US Coastline

Irene forecast to become a major hurricane, likely Category 4.

Click here to see in motion.

It has not escaped my attention that we are potentially in the area likely to be affected by high winds and excess rain...

I'll keep updating this one as new information comes in.

The newest set of predictions does not seem to be good news for us. Particularly if the modelers are leaning to the left side of the prediction envelope:

8/25 AM Update: The models seem to agree on a pass by or clipping of the Outer Banks, and coming ashore near New York. It's gonna be a bumpy weekend.

Higgs Boson, Very Expensive When Bought by the Gram

Higgs boson may be a mirage, scientists hint
Scientists chasing a particle they believe may have played a vital role in creation of the universe indicated on Monday they were coming to accept it might not exist after all.

But they stressed that if the so-called Higgs boson turns out to have been a mirage, the way would be open for advances into territory dubbed "new physics" to try to answer one of the great mysteries of the cosmos.

The CERN research center, whose giant Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been the focus of the search, said it had reported to a conference in Mumbai that possible signs of the Higgs noted last month were now seen as less significant.

A number of scientists from the center went on to make comments that raised the possibility that the mystery particle might not exist.

"Whatever the final verdict on Higgs, we are now living in very exciting times for all involved in the quest for new physics," Guido Tonelli, from one of the two LHC detectors chasing the Higgs, said as the new observations were announced. 
Which bring to mind the Chinese curse "May you live in exciting times".  I've always thought that finding the Higgs Boson could probably wait a while longer.  I would say that it's OK, because it's just the European spending money they don't have to discover the Higgs boson, but the US has a parallel effort at Fermilab in Chicago that's been looking for the elusive boson for 30 years, with the same result.

Can we get our money back?

Worlds Largest Venous Lizard

The Komodo dragon, long thought to kill using "dirty teeth", turns out to have venom.
Komodo dragons kill using a one-two punch of sharp teeth and a venomous bite, scientists have confirmed for the first time. The find dispels the common belief that toxic bacteria in the Komodos' mouths are responsible for ultimately killing the dragons' prey.  An animal that escapes a Komodo's initial attack soon weakens and dies. The fierce carnivore tracks the wounded creature and dines at its leisure once the prey collapses.

Researchers have long thought that the Komodo dragon, native to Indonesia, kills via blood poisoning caused by the multiple strains of bacteria in the dragon's saliva. But "that whole bacteria stuff has been a scientific fairy tale," said Bryan Fry, a venom researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Fry and colleagues studied the biochemistry of Komodo venom after they had the rare opportunity to examine two dragons from zoos that both had to be put down due to terminal illnesses. The team found that the dragon's venom rapidly decreases blood pressure, expedites blood loss, and sends a victim into shock, rendering it too weak to fight.

In the venom, some compounds that reduce blood pressure are as potent as those found in the word's most venomous snake, western Australia's inland Taipan...
I always liked that story that Komodo Dragon bites killed because they don't brush their teeth, but in retrospect, it does seem a little simple.  No animals have good dental hygiene and not all of their bites cause systemic infections and death. And poison is a widespread feature in reptiles.

And wouldn't it be cool to have a Komodo Dragon to ride?  Especially if they're venomous?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Idaho Man Charged With Shooting Griz to Protect Kids

Grizzly shooter garners support

A man charged with unlawfully shooting and killing a grizzly bear had so many supporters at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court that the judge had to move the hearing to a larger courtroom.

Even there, every seat was taken as his family, friends and neighbors, young and old, squeezed in.

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to killing the animal with a rifle on his 20-acre property near Porthill, Idaho, at the Canadian border. He lives five miles from the closest grizzly bear recovery zone.

The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act, and protected by federal law. Hill's charge is a misdemeanor.

Magistrate Judge Candy Dale set trial, at least for now, for Oct. 4.

Hill has declined comment. His lawyer, Marc Lyons of Coeur d'Alene, said he plans to defend Hill on the basis of self-defense and protection of family.

Following the hearing, his father, Mike Hill, of Athol, said, "This whole thing is a waste of taxpayer money."

He said his son was concerned for the safety of his children playing outside when a mother grizzly and two cubs wandered onto his property on May 8.

Jeremy Hill has six kids, ranging in age from 14 years old to 10 months old. At least five were home when the grizzly was killed, Mike Hill said...

Six kids?  Surely he could spare one for an endangered species.

Kate Winslet - Live Action Heroine

Kate Winslet saved Sir Richard Branson’s mother as a fire ripped through the tycoon’s Caribbean home. 
Winslet carried Eve Branson, 90, from the Great House on Necker Island after it was struck by lightning during a tropical storm at 4am.

All the guests escaped unharmed, including Sir Richard’s daughter, Holly, 29, Winslet’s children, Mia, 10, and Joe, seven, and the actress’s boyfriend.
Carried?  Wow, that is pretty live action.  That takes a little presence of mind and maybe some hysterical strength.  Good for her.

Sir Richard credited the actress for her actions during the blaze, which Winslet described as like being on a film set waiting for the director to say “cut”.

The businessman said: “My mum is 90 and can walk but it was more just to speed the process up than anything else. But anyway, she was great. She swept her up into her arms and got them out of the house as fast as possible.
With Sir Richard's net worth being a cool 4.2 billion (with a "B" as Carl Sagan might have said), that ought to be worth a hundred million or so.  Not that I think that was running through her mind.
“Talking to her, she said it’s like being in a film set where you’re waiting for the words 'cut’ but they just don’t come. So it was quite surreal for her to be in a real-life situation.”
So, I want to know why they were hanging around on a low lying island during a tropical storm.  When you have a whole airline at your disposal, isn't the sensible thing to do is leave?  Or at least send away the old women and children?  I guess it's true, the rich aren't like the rest of us.

Sir Richard, 61, who bought 74-acre Necker, in the British Virgin Islands, for about £200,000 in 1981 and began work on the Great House the following year, was staying at a neighbouring property with his wife, Joan, and son, Sam, 25.
That sounds like quite a bargain, even in 1981 £s.  Still no excuse for hanging around on a small island in a tropical storm.
He said he would rebuild his home, which also housed his office. “It’s very much the Dunkirk Spirit here. We want to rebuild the house as soon as we can. We have a wonderful staff here and we want them to stay in work,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage and we won’t be able to stick it back together again right away. It was a beautiful house.”
Maybe she should audition for the next draft of "Supergirl".  She's has the right hair color...

He said winds of up to 90mph had lashed the island. “It was terrifying for me because my daughter and nephews, nieces, friends were all staying in the house so I just ran, naked, towards the house to try to see if I can, to make sure I can, get people out.”
 You know, they can predict when these things are coming these days, with a few minutes to spare, if you own your own planes...

The Great House, built on Devil’s Hill, the island’s highest point, was expected to be the venue for the wedding this year of Holly Branson to Freddie Andrews, a shipbroker. It had eight bedrooms, each with a balcony. The master suite had an outdoor Jacuzzi and bathroom with views over Necker and neighbouring islands.

Sir Richard built the house for the use of family and friends, but also rented it out along with six shacks on the island from £33,000 a night for up to 28 guests.

As always, thanks to the Rule 5 Wombat at The Other McCain for his link

Are Humans Permanent?

Lasting evolutionary change takes about one million years 
A new study, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, combined for the first time data from short periods such as 10-100 years with much longer evidence found in the fossil record over millions of years.

It determined that rapid changes in local populations often don’t continue, stand the test of time or spread through a species.

In other words, just because humans are two or three inches taller now than they were 200 years ago, it doesn’t mean that process will continue and we’ll be two or three feet taller in 2,000 years. Or even as tall in one million years as we are now.

“Rapid evolution is clearly a reality over fairly short time periods, sometimes just a few generations,” said Josef Uyeda, lead author of the study and a zoologist at Oregon State University. “But those rapid changes do not always persist and may be confined to small populations. For reasons that are not completely clear, the data show the long-term dynamics of evolution to be quite slow.”

Across a broad range of species, the research found that for a major change to persist and for changes to accumulate, it took about one million years. The researchers wrote that this occurred repeatedly in a “remarkably consistent pattern.”

“What’s interesting is not that we have so much biological diversity and evolutionary change, but that we have so little,” Uyeda said. “It’s a paradox as to why evolution should be so slow.”...
The human race, as Homo sapiens, has existed for about 200,000 years, about one fifth of the magic million year threshold for stability.  I guess that makes us a work in progress...

New Regulations Proposed to Stop Rockfish Poaching

DNR's proposals include:
  • Requiring watermen to mark their gill nets.
  • Banning watermen from having rockfish on their boats outside of the gill net season if they have gill nets or gill net reels on board.
  • Requiring watermen to notify the DNR when they head out to catch rockfish, and also when they return to the dock - a "hail in / hail out" system.
  • Completing random, on-site audits of check-in stations, to make sure fish buyers and watermen are following the rules.
  • Boosting penalties so watermen can lose their rockfish privileges for up to two years for violating harvest laws.
  • Boosting penalties for dealers who violate rockfish laws while running check-in stations.
  • Developing a way for police officers to check a database of rockfish tag numbers while in the field, so they can quickly see if a watermen is using proper tags.
  • Developing a voluntary program to test tracking devices on watermen's boats.
  • Requiring watermen to buy the tags they must put on their fish to track the catch.
This is, of course, in response to several examples of rockfish poaching out of season, and nets abandoned with tons of dead rockfish as amply documented last winter.  Watermen are not thrilled with additional restrictions, but they are wise enough not to protest too loudly:

"It's going to be a nuisance to us, but I think it's necessary," said Larry Simns, longtime president of the Maryland Watermen's Association. "We've got to keep those fellas that are breaking the law from breaking the law."
If they had turned in a few of their brethren who turned outlaw last year, perhaps they wouldn't be facing this now.

The Buck Doesn't Even Slow Down As It Whizzes By:

Obama blames Congress for his low popularity ratings

As AllahPundit points out, this isn't entirely false: theory, the more people hate “Washington” generally, the more all relevant players should suffer — but it’s astounding to think this is the same guy who swore up and down on the trail that he was going to transform the way D.C. does business. Three years ago his message was, “Elect me and strike a blow for hope.” Now his message is, “Reelect me because Congress is hopeless.” Now that’s Change.
But, hey, you wanted the job.  Responsibility goes with the job.  Grow up to it or get out.

Gas Exec Drinks Fracking Fluid

Can you drink fracking fluid? One gas exec did

Mind you, this is a new fracking fluid; many of the older mixtures do contain compounds that could do serious damage.
An energy company executive's sip of fracking fluid at an industry conference this month has been called a demonstration by some and a stunt by others, but it's bringing attention to new recipes for hydraulic fracturing fluids that in the past have contained chemicals commonly used for antifreeze or bleaching hair.

During a keynote lunch speech at the conference presented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, Halliburton Co. CEO Dave Lesar talked about addressing public concerns about hydraulic fracturing, which extracts natural gas by blasting a mix of water, chemicals and sand underground.

He raised a container of Halliburton's new fracking fluid made from materials sourced from the food industry, then called up a fellow executive to demonstrate how safe it was by drinking it, according to two attendees.

The executive mocked reluctance, then took a swig.
I wonder if it gave him gas...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Can't Resist

Shrödinger's wife:

I can't make myself steal it...


Main driver of current deficit is 'Stimulus' spending:

Sometimes obvious things just need pointing out.  Byron York has analyzed recent budgets and concluded that two main factors have exploded the deficit during the Obama years.  The first is the economic downturn with caused approximately $680 billion in added "income support" (unemployment benefits etc), and the $814 Stimulus program:
There is no line in the federal budget that says "stimulus," but Obama's massive $814 billion stimulus increased spending in virtually every part of the federal government. "It's spread all through the budget," says former Congressional Budget Office chief Douglas Holtz-Eakin. "It was essentially a down payment on the Obama domestic agenda." Green jobs, infrastructure, health information technology, aid to states -- it's all in there, billions in increased spending.

As for the Troubled Assets Relief Program, or TARP -- it has no specific line in the budget, either, but that is because it was anticipated to pay nearly all of its own cost, which it has.

Spending for Social Security and Medicare did go up in this period -- $162 billion and $119 billion, respectively -- but by incremental and predictable amounts that weren't big problems in previous years. "We're getting older one year at a time, and health care costs grow at 7 or 8 percent a year," says Holtz-Eakin. If Social Security and Medicare were the sole source of the current deficit, it would be a lot smaller than it is.

The bottom line is that with baby boomers aging, entitlements will one day be a major budget problem. But today's deficit crisis is not one of entitlements. It was created by out-of-control spending on everything other than entitlements. The recent debt-ceiling agreement is supposed to put the brakes on that kind of spending, but leaders have so far been maddeningly vague on how they'll do it.
The usual suspect thrown out by the left is the spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  However, before the election of the democratic congressional majority, great recession and Obama's election, deficits had be been trending down despite the wars.

Moreover, the original budget forecasts had been for the deficit to decline after a one year peak in 2009.  You can see from the chart on the right that prediction is DOA.

A billion here or there every year ain't gonna cut it.  Control spending first, and then go after entitlement reform.