Saturday, June 30, 2012

EPA Crucifier Gets Enviornmental Gig

A former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) official who resigned earlier this year for comparing his work to crucifixion has found new employment with a leading green group. The Sierra Club on Friday announced that Al Armendariz would be joining the group’s “Beyond Coal” campaign next month as a senior representative.
I covered this story back in April.  It just doesn't seem that long ago.  I guess he was out visiting Disney World.  I was thinking at the time that he was probably headed into the environmental NGO realm at the time, rather than back to mundane academe.

Some reacted strongly to this news:
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), who released the video of the meeting, mockingly offered his congratulations to Armendariz on Friday.

“Dr. Armendariz follows numerous Obama administration officials who have come from or moved to radical left and green groups,” Inhofe said in a statement. “It's as if there is a revolving door between the White House and organizations such as the Sierra Club.”

"At least at the Sierra Club he won't get into so much trouble for telling the truth that their true agenda is to kill oil, gas and coal,” he added.
 A lot of people move between industry and government too, so it's not exactly shocking for an ex-admin bigwig to go to an NGO.  However, it strongly suggests that he never intended to enforce the laws fairly.

A Spin Around the Garden

I went out a little after lunch today to pick up some of the debris the "Super Derecho" (yes, it's new word for me too; I wonder how it's pronounced?)  left on our lawn, and brought the camera.  I was pleasantly surprised to find another Great Spangled Fritillary on the Purple Cone flowers.  They seem to attract a remarkable number of pollinators and nectar sippers.

I find it hard to get a good shot of the top of the wings; they seem to spend most of their time with their wings folded up, just to frustrate me.  But I did get this shot of it leaving the flower, that's sort of in focus, and shows most of the upper pattern.
These are Cleomes from the seeds I won in Laurence Meade's contest to identify the seed capsule over at the Althouse blog.  We have Cleomes that we allow to reseed from year to year (in fact, you would have to be ruthless to root them out entirely), but we were hoping these might be a little different.
And in fact, they are.  Our original Cleomes (on the right) are much farther along at this point, and much taller.  I guess in Wisconsin you want to be sure spring has really sprung before you put much effort into growing.  Meade's Cleomes are also a darker shade of purple than ours.
Another butterfly, the Red Admiral, on our deck.  Top view...
... and the undersides of the wings.  A very cooperative butterfly.

Another Morning After

As you may know, if you have power, the mid-Atlantic states including Maryland and Washington DC were hit by powerful thunderstorms last night.  Winds of up to 80 mph were reported, there was widespread damage, at least four deaths, and a millions of people without electric power this morning. 

My own experience was that at about 11:00 PM, I walked Skye.  The night was hot and muggy, but air was totally still, but we could hear and see lightening in the distance.

Within 5 minutes, the winds went from zero to astonishing.  You can see it in the wind data from Cove Point (just down the beach a few miles).  Sustained winds on the water jumped from about 10 to 35 knots sustained, with 55 knot gusts. 

 It was a very impressive thunderstorm, with lots of lightening, but I didn't see or hear any very close.  We also received about a half inch of much needed rain.

Things are much calmer this morning.  On our way to and from the beach we saw lots of downed twigs, and a few major branches, but no trees down on houses.  As of now, SMECO reports approximately 5,000 homes out of power.  We are among the fortunate to have it.  Joel isn't.  But we met him anyway at 8:00 AM, in an effort to beat the heat.

 We were pretty successful; we managed the usual walk, north about 1.5 miles, and back, and only got a little sweat in the old eyeballs...

As post storm days usually are, it was gorgeously clear, and a bit breezy, enough to offset the gathering heat.  It was already 92 F at 9:30 AM this morning.
The dogs found this male Box Turtle being washed around by the surf.  Since Boxers aren't aquatic, I suspect he got washed into the Bay in a gully washer last night, and was trying to figure his way out.  After taking his picture, I put him back up by the Kudzu.  Now it's all up to him.
Joel found this nice Mako Shark's tooth literally in my footsteps; I must have been concentrating on something else.
I found this large Snaggletooth lower tooth a few minutes later.
Welp, the Sea Nettle probability is 100%, and I didn't even need a million dollar oceanographic buoy to tell you that.  All I had to do was look at the beach.

Rule 5 Saturday - Channeling the Deschanels

Today is a first for one of my Rule 5 post, sisters, Emily and Zooey Deschanel. Both native to the home ground, Los Angeles, Emily is the elder sis, born in 1976, while little sis Zooey was born in 1980.  Their father, Caleb, is a director, while their mother, Mary Jo, is an actress, so it appears that they are staying in the family business.

In addition to acting, Zooey has a musical bent, with singing and songwriting to her credit.

She been acting since 1998, and has racked up an impressive list of film and TV appearances. As a musician, she has written, recorded and performed quite a variety of pieces, including some with former husband, Ben Gibbard, lead vocalist for The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie.  They divorced in late 2011.
Emily, of course, is best known for her long running role as Dr. Temperance Brennan, the forensic skeleton expert on "Bones", although she has been acting since 1994 in both film and TV.

As a scientist, I should resent the way she perpetuates the all the worst stereotypes of scientists (unemotional, uncomprehending of other people's feelings, obsessive personality, etc) but I can't just because she's so darn cute...

More Deschanel Rule 5 below the jump.

The Obligatory SCOTUS-Obamacare Descision Post

Unlike many bloggers, I won't claim enough legal knowledge to pretend to know whether the 4-1-4 decision of the Supreme Court which narrowly upheld Obama care by declaring it a permissible tax was correctly decided or not.  I don't like Obamacare, and I think it's bad policy.  That is enough to oppose it, but not to judge its constitutionality.

For intelligent commentary on this I suggest you visit Instapundit, Althouse, Patterico, the Volokh Conspiracy, to name a few.  Go to the sites and start scrolling down.

Actually, I take that first comment back; I'm pretty sure it wasn't correctly decided, since there really was no clear consensus, or even two clear opposing views from the court; somebody has to be wrong.

From my own point of view, I would have preferred a ruling that clearly killed Obamacare on the grounds that the mandate was an impermissible aggression against freedom of choice, and that the commerce clause could not be extended to regulating an economic inactivity, which is what the administration and liberals argued. Justice Roberts finding (along with 4 conservatives) that the Commerce Clause could not cover a lack of commerce, seems to be an important step in protecting us from the expansion of government through the Commerce Clause, but is it a clear enough precedent to survive the shift of a single Supreme Court justice?  I have my doubts.

His further decision (and essentially his alone) that the Obamacare mandate is an acceptable use of the taxing power of Congress (apparently taxing an economic inactivity is more legal than regulating it?) has the feeling of a contrivance. 

I would like to believe the Justice Roberts seriously believes this proposition, and that he is not presenting the argument as a convenience to get him to the point where Obamacare was upheld, but the Commerce Clause extension was denied, as many on the right have argued.  If he is that disingenuous, he is not fit to hold office.

As for theories, by many on both the right and left that having Obamacare legitimated, but declared to be tax will ultimately hurt Obama and the democrats in the 2012 election?  I'd like to believe it, but I don't have that much faith in the intelligence or predictability of my fellow man.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Are You Ready to Set Your Clocks Back...

The transition from June to July will be delayed by circumstances beyond everyone's control. Time will stand still for one second on Saturday evening (June 30) because a "leap second" will be added to let a lagging Earth catch up to super-accurate clocks.
I wonder what effect this has on systems like GPS that rely on ultra-accurate timing.  Do they keep time using some "universal" time... Oh yeah, I have the internet; I don't need to know anything, I just need to find the answer:
While most clocks are synchronized to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the atomic clocks on the satellites are set to GPS time (GPST; see the page of United States Naval Observatory). The difference is that GPS time is not corrected to match the rotation of the Earth, so it does not contain leap seconds or other corrections that are periodically added to UTC. GPS time was set to match Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) in 1980, but has since diverged. The lack of corrections means that GPS time remains at a constant offset with International Atomic Time (TAI) (TAI – GPS = 19 seconds). Periodic corrections are performed on the on-board clocks to keep them synchronized with ground clocks.

The GPS navigation message includes the difference between GPS time and UTC. As of 2011, GPS time is 15 seconds ahead of UTC because of the leap second added to UTC December 31, 2008. Receivers subtract this offset from GPS time to calculate UTC and specific timezone values. New GPS units may not show the correct UTC time until after receiving the UTC offset message. The GPS-UTC offset field can accommodate 255 leap seconds (eight bits) that, given the current period of the Earth's rotation (with one leap second introduced approximately every 18 months), should be sufficient to last until approximately the year 2300.

Maryland Hatchery on Pace for Record Oyster Production

Hatchery produces spat for oyster restoration
The ever-changing recipe for making oysters has nearly been mastered here at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Horn Point Oyster Hatchery.

This year's record spat production, which should continue through September, should well exceed last year's total of 610 million oyster spat. During the past decade more than 3.5 billion spat have been produced at the hatchery, with more than 2 billion of those spat deployed in the waters of Chesapeake Bay through Maryland's restoration efforts.

Still, there is a shortage of a key ingredient oyster shells needed for spat to set on. With more private companies now in the business of growing oysters and with fewer seafood packers in Maryland processing oysters, there is now a great demand for oyster shells.

An Oyster Shell Recycling Alliance started in 2009 by the non-profit Oyster Recovery Partnership is vital to the hatchery operation, providing around 75,000 bushels of shells reclaimed from restaurants and shucking houses after processing at the Partnership's shell cleaning facility at Horn Point, not far from the hatchery operation.

Hatchery Program Director Mutt Meritt, speaking during a June 19 media tour of the hatchery, said the need for more shell is an evolving problem. "We will solve it," he said. "It's just not solved right now."
UMCEES Horn Point Hatchery is well known around the Bay, and has been producing oyster spat for oyster restoration as well as scientific uses for as far back as I can remember.  There's a certain simple pleasure in just doing one thing very well, and doing it over and over and helping a lot of different people and organizations.  Mutt Meritt deserves all the praise he gets.

As for question of an alternative substrate for oysters, it's hard for me to believe it as difficult as they make it out to be  Back when I worked in the Patuxent River, in good oyster setting years we had oysters set on fiberglass tank wall, vinyl linings, wood, rock, bricks and even more.  I was afraid if I stood still in the water too long, they'd set on me.  Clearly, the problem is not with the substrates themselves, but rather with having enough good years for them to set it.

It's Summer; Time to Complain about Women Grunting in Tennis

Maria Sharapova
Quiet At US Open? WTA Plans Crackdown On ‘Excessive Grunting’
A plan to crack down on ultra-loud grunting in women’s tennis has been “unanimously green-lighted” by the WTA players’ council, representatives from all four majors and the International Tennis Federation, according to USA Today.

“It’s time for us to drive excessive grunting out of the game for future generations,” WTA CEO Stacey Allaster told the publication.
Victoria Azarenka
Last year this controversy got going as usual but no actual rules were made, but the BBC implemented software to soften their voices on TV.
Umpires would use a handheld device to measure the on-court sound and rule whether it exceeds a to-be-determined acceptable level, USA Today reported.

But there’s a catch. The current generation of screamers – like Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka – would get a pass. The plan also wouldn’t apply to the men’s game.
Elena Dementieva
I don't see how this works at all.  If grunting is an advantage at all, and the women who do it clearly believe it is, to grandmother in the existing grunters gives them a permanent advantage over new players coming up.

According to Wikipedia (I know, I know, but this ain't that important):
Monica Seles and Jimmy Connors are often credited with starting the "grunt" in tennis in the female and male games respectively. Examples of modern tennis players who grunt are Serena and Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Elena Dementieva, Victoria Azarenka, Michelle Larcher de Brito, Martino Lopez, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic.
Michele Larcher de Brito
 Katy Waldeman at Slate Magazine offers a spirited defense of women grunting...
...I was dismayed to read that the Women’s Tennis Association wants to start regulating grunting. Convinced that loud female grunts distract opponents and annoy fans, the organization unveiled a plan to 1) develop a hand-held device with which refs can measure on-court grunting levels, 2) set a maximum volume for grunting during a match, and 3) teach aspiring woman athletes at tennis academies and development programs how to compete quietly.

This quest for a daintier and more decorous women’s circuit has been blessed by luminaries like nine-time Wimbledon singles champion Martina Navratilova, who insists that female players’ grunts are “louder and more abrasive” than men’s. (How does she know? Did she get a trial version of the grunt-o-meter?) Even feminist icon Billie Jean King seems to regard the WTA’s campaign against “excessive grunting” as a step forward...
See better pictures of grunting tennis women below the jump

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Cat Wrangler

Yeah, I know, I've missed the Monkey Dacker post a few time lately. So don't pay me. Another cheesy/cute monkey playing with kitty video.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Look, You Can See America From Here!

The U.S. Northern Command and joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) Command said two Russian bombers violated U.S. airspace near Alaska during recent arctic war games. Disclosure by the command in charge of U.S. homeland defense followed a report in the Free Beacon quoting U.S. officials who said the Russian aircraft had threatened U.S. air space but did not cross into it and were met over the Pacific by U.S. F-15 interceptor jets.

“There was a single out-of-area patrol by two Russian
long range bombers which entered the Alaska ADIZ that were visually
identified by NORAD fighters,” John Cornelio, chief spokesman for Northcom, said in an email response to questions about the recent war games. ADIZ is the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, a line of airspace surrounding Alaska used by the military to monitor aircraft threats.
Just a couple of long range bombers; after all, how much damage could they do?
Cornelio, the Northcom spokesman, identified the Russian aircraft were Tu-95MS bombers that “are capable of carrying a variety of payloads, including
 nuclear weapons.”
Alaska is pretty big and empty, a handful of nukes wouldn't do that much.  Maybe melt a glacier and raise sea level.
The arctic exercises by the Russians are raising concerns among European and North American governments regarding efforts by Moscow to seek control over the resource-rich arctic territory, a strategic transit point for international bombers since the Cold War.

Defense officials believe the Russian war games simulated strikes using long-range cruise missiles against the U.S. missile defense interceptor base at Fort Greely, Alaska, as well as strikes on strategic radar systems based on the Aleutian island chain.

The maneuvers also likely practiced targeting the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. A Russian military spokesman, Air Force Lt. Col. Vladimir Deryabin, was quoted in Russian press reports as saying the purpose of strategic exercise involved “practice destruction of enemy air defenses and strategic facilities.”
I'm sure President Obama will be more flexible in his response to such challenges in his second term.

Frederick Co. Bay Diet Cost Half; Still "Astronomical"

Frederick County might be on the hook for $1.5 billion for its share in reducing stormwater pollutants as part of the state’s plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

That number is well above the $200 million the state estimated it would cost, but under the $2.3 billion the county initially projected. The new estimate is based on numbers and scenarios from the Maryland Department of the Environment, said Shannon Moore, the county’s manager of sustainability and environmental resources.
What?  They were almost a factor of ten different in their estimates of cost?  Does anyone here know how to estimate them?  (Don't ask me, I'm a Ph.D.; we're notoriously awful about estimating how much something is going to cost).  Still, it looks like the country knows better about their costs than the state did.
Moore and staff recalculated the cost to the county using best management practices developed for the county by MDE, cost estimates prepared by MDE analyst Dennis King, and a scenario assessment developed by MDE. The $1.5 billion cost includes all stormwater retrofits within Frederick County, including municipal, state, federal, county-owned and unregulated urban land. The estimated cost to Frederick County government, based on the pollution reduction target for the county’s stormwater permits, is 43 percent, or $644 million. Municipalities have their own permits, but are not required to submit WIP plans. MDE has stated in its Draft Phase II WIP that the permit renewals are expected to have a goal to reduce 20 percent of their untreated urban impervious areas built prior to 2002, and that these permit renewals will take place in December.

The reduction goals will be written into upcoming stormwater permits as conditions of the permits.

“At the end of the day, these are [MDE’s] numbers,” Moore said.
It's still $1.5 billion for about 233,000 people, about $6,500 per person.  That's not chump change.

Silvio! Silvio!

Last year, we were all shocked, shocked when the manliest and most heroic European leader of recent time, Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, was forced from office, after numerous sex scandals, and running running the country into near bancruptcy.  Since then, Europe has gone straight down hill, you must agree, even forcing the husband of heiress, super model and rockstar Carla Bruni from office in France!
But now, good news! Silvio is planning to come back!
He may have been jeered from office last year. He may be on trial accused of paying for sex with a 17-year-old girl. And last week a prosecutor in Milan asked for him to be locked up in jail for three years and eight months for allegedly shady business practices.
Karima el Mahroug: Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy, is accused of paying Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug – also known by the stage name Ruby Rubacuori (Italian for "Ruby Heartstealer") – for sexual services between February and May 2010 when she was under the age of 18 and, still more seriously under Italian law, for abuse of office (It. concussione) relating to her release from detention.
But this weekend, Italy was abuzz with speculation that Silvio Berlusconi is planning a comeback – and could return to lead the right into an early general election, perhaps as standard-bearer of a party bent on withdrawing Italy from the euro.

Barbara Matera: A former Miss Italy contestant and soap actress who, despite being a political novice of only 27, was the only one of Berlusconi's original line-up of potential MEPs to actually get elected this summer.
The media tycoon gave his clearest indication yet that he is planning a return at the end of last week, when he told an audience of young rightwingers: "I'm working on solutions. I'm still here." And then, as if speaking from a campaign platform, he added: "Give me 51% [of the votes]."

His cry brought his audience to their feet, chanting: "Silvio, Silvio." Speaking as if he had already taken back the leadership of the Freedom People, the movement he founded in 2007, Berlusconi said he intended to change its name and ensure that half its candidates at the next election were women.
Barbara Montereal: A 23-year-old who visited Berlusconi's villas in Rome and Sardinia along with Patrizia D'Addario, and says that, although she didn't sleep with him, the Italian Prime Minister gave her presents of "rings and necklaces that he said he designed" and a CD of Neapolitan love songs.
It was the latest in a succession of interventions that have Italy's political class wondering about a Berlusconi comeback in a more eurosceptic guise. The former prime minister recently warned that Germany "should get out of the euro, or others will do so". Last week, he said that regaining its own currency would have advantages for an export-led economy such as Italy's.

It's all a far cry from Berlusconi's ignominious exit last November, when, having governed Italy for eight of the previous 10 years, he handed in his resignation to the strains of "hallelujah" from a crowd outside the presidential palace.
Angela Sozio: A former Italian Big Brother contestant who two years ago joined a group of soap actresses and TV showgirls for a party at Berlusconi's holiday villa in Sardinia. She was photographed sitting on his lap. Now 36, she once featured in an Oggi magazine article titled 'Berlusconi's Harem'.
By then, a flood of leaked claims about his "bunga bunga" parties, including allegations of half-naked showgirls dressed up as nuns and policewomen, had turned the billionaire politician into a figure of international ridicule. In the final weeks of his leadership, fellow EU leaders made strenuous efforts to avoid being photographed with him, and almost his only high-level friendship was an intensely controversial one with Russia's leader, Vladimir Putin.
Noemi Letizia: The aspiring 18-year-old model from Naples who affectionately calls Berlusconi 'Papi' and received a €6,000 gold and diamond necklace from him for her birthday. Berlusconi's friendship with Letizia, who he claims is simply the daughter of old friends, was the last straw for his wife Veronica Lario, leading her to commence divorce proceedings.
Berlusconi's party still has the votes in parliament to bring down the unelected technocratic government led by Mario Monti. A snap vote in the autumn would have effects far beyond Italy, because it would bring down the curtain on Monti and his team, put into office last November to pass unpopular measures demanded by Italy's eurozone partners that Berlusconi's government had been reluctant to introduce. Their fall would almost certainly plunge the euro into renewed crisis.
Camilla Ferranti: A trained ballerina best known for her role in 'Incantesimo'. Berlusconi once allegedly telephoned the director of a state TV channel to ask him to give her the lead role in a drama. Though she was on the initial list of candidates for the European Parliament, Ferranti, 30, didn't make the final selection.
The yield on Italian government bonds – a benchmark indicator that moves in the opposite direction to confidence in an economy – has been creeping higher since mid-March, though the rate dipped last week to close on Friday night at 5.77%. Berlusconi said the rise in Italy's borrowing costs showed that, since he left office, "the situation has not changed".
So, it's not like he can make it much worse, and well, maybe he can make the ride downhill more fun!

Previous Berlusconi posts:
Eye-Talians Hava da Besta Scandals
Bunga Bunga, Berlusconi!
Bonus Berlusconi!
Berlusconi Forever!
Our Man Berlusconi...
Say It Ain't So, Silvo!

 Wombat-Socho checked in early this week with The Other McCain's Rule 5 list "Exile on Duke Street".

Obama Golfs While Colorado Burns

Four days ago, as fires consumed forests and house in Colorado which have force over 30,000 people from their homes, President Obama played the 101st round of golf of his presidency.  President Bush, roundly criticized for golfing during his terms as president, played only 32 rounds in two terms. If I recall correctly, he was criticized for playing while soldiers were fighting wars on his behalf; well thank goodness that's changed.

So, maybe it's not fair to criticize a president for pursuing a little leisure during his presidency.  It is, as we have been told, a hard job.

But it is fair to criticize his policies when they contribute to the tragedies.

President Obama's administration has cut the funding for the flying tankers used to fight fires in the western states:
Washington-based Human Events magazine reported in September of 2011 that nearly half of the federal government’s air tankers sat idle at a California airport, as wildfires ripped through national forests throughout California, Texas, New Mexico, and other states.

It turns out the Obama administration ended a long-standing contract, leaving the Forest Service with only 11 tankers to battle 50 wildfires that were burning nationwide. A decade ago, the Forest Service had 40 firefighting tankers.

The Obama administration canceled the government’s contract with Aero Union — a company with 60 employees that had been under contract with the Forest Service for 50 years. Though it canceled that contract, the administration had no plan for an immediate replacement. Aero Union CEO Britt Gourley told Human Events the administration provided no details on why the contract was ended.

“They didn’t want to talk about it,” Gourley said of Obama administration officials.

A Forest Service official said the contract was cancelled over safety concerns, but the company had recently passed its annual inspection.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Didn't Even Know This Was a Sport

But it looks cool.

The Cost of $#!* Goes Up in Baltimore

The typical Baltimore area household will see their water and sewer bills rise to nearly $1,200 a year following today’s approval by the Board of Estimates of a 9% rate hike for fiscal 2013.

The jump will increase the annual water and sewer charges for a family of four from $1,073 to $1,170, according to the city Department of Finance.

This does not include the separate Chesapeake Bay Restoration fee, or “flush tax,” that was passed by the General Assembly this year and will double from $30 to $60 a year beginning on July 1.

This fee is designed to make improvements to the state’s 67 major sewer treatment plants that discharge into Bay waters.

The Baltimore rate increases – scheduled to go into effect tomorrow (June 28) – will affect residents of both Baltimore city and county under an intergovernmental agreement. A 9% rate increase is also expected for consumers using “city water” in Anne Arundel, Howard and Carroll counties.

The hike in city fees will be the fifth in the last five years, which have pushed up residential water and sewer bills by nearly 50% since 2008. (Rates were increased 4% in 2008, 9% in 2009, 9% in 2010 and 9% in 2011.)
I guess $1230 is worthwhile if the other choice is a giant pile of $#!* in your backyard.

Has Philadelphia Gone to the Wolves?

Penny the wolf hybrid?  Could be...
Since late last week, employees of the Speedwell Forge Wolf Sanctuary have camped out in a pickup truck on a residential street in Rhawnhurst hoping to capture a creature they have nicknamed Penny.

No one knows just what Penny is. She — the Wolf Sanctuary crew refers to her in feminine terms — could be a dog, a wolf, a coyote, or a blend of species. But the team from the Wolf Sanctuary in Lititz, Pa., along with workers from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, local animal control agents, and residents of Penny's adopted Algon Avenue habitat, know she prefers McDonald's to a deer carcass.

On Tuesday, Penny, who might be an abandoned pet, eluded traps set by Wolf Sanctuary workers and regularly peeked from the edge of the woods of Pennypack Park — to the delight of spectators.

"I've been seeing her. I've been feeding her Kibbles 'n Bits," said Dale Pyle, an Algon resident who said he has observed the animal for the past two months.

Game Commission and Wolf Sanctuary employees have laid traps in the woods and fed the animal a tranquilizer-laced hot dog.

Next, Wolf Sanctuary worker Dustin Deyoe said, they plan to shoot her with a tranquilizer dart equipped with a remote tracking device. Once she lies down, they will take her to a vet for DNA testing. If she is at least 65 percent wolf, then she can have a home in the 25-acre sanctuary in Lancaster County.
I vote to leave her be. Wolves could only improve Philadelphia by thinning the herd.  A least she's not a zombie.

You Can See the Future from Here

Back in December, Texas utilities predicted that if the EPA forced them to shut down power plants and did not allow new capacity to come on line, the state would face more power problems:
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees much of the state’s power, released projections this week for grid reliability over the coming years. ERCOT says rolling blackouts like the ones we had last winter remain a possibility. The report includes a list of energy projects that it expected to be online by now but are still on hold, adding to the state’s power crunch.
This week, news from Texas that the hot weather was straining the grid, and asking for voluntary conservation measure to prevent reliability issues:
Texas power use peaked on Monday afternoon at a higher level than in any previous June even as the state urged consumers to limit appliance use to avoid straining power plants, as much of the state broiled under triple-digit temperatures.

Power demand reached 65,047 megawatts in the hour between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. CDT (2200 GMT), surpassing the June record of 63,102 MW set last year, according to preliminary grid data.

Real-time power prices briefly exceeded $100 per megawatt-hour Monday afternoon and next-day power prices in the state traded between $165 and $175 per megawatt-hour, down several dollars from Monday's trades.

The extreme heat hit Sunday when the mercury hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) in Houston, San Antonio and Dallas, the three biggest cities in the Lone Star State, prompting residents to crank up air conditioners. Triple-digit highs are forecast for several more days this week, with some high enough to set records, forecast.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), the grid operator for most of Texas, said in a release it was looking closely at anticipated electric use and available generation.
ERCOT warned that rolling outages could occur this summer given the state's limited amount of surplus generation.
 Couldn't happen to you could it?

Midnight Music

Wombat-Socho checked in early this week with The Other McCain's Rule 5 list "Exile on Duke Street".

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Frack the States - Feds Rule!

Defending the Obama administrations drive for federal regulation of fracking, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said on Monday that the United States must toughen up its rules to protect the environment.

State level oversight of hydraulic fracturing or fracking is not sufficient and criticism leveled at the Obama administration for its proposed rules is not valid, Salazar told Reuters in an interview.

"I think the criticism is simply wrong," Salazar said on Statoil's Kristin oil and gas platform in the North Sea, about a 100 kilometers offshore Norway.

"There are some who are saying that it's not something we ought to do, it should be left up to the states. That's not good enough for me because states are at very different level, some have zero, some have decent rules."

The Obama administration unveiled long-awaited rules in May to bolster oversight on public lands of oil and natural gas drilling using fracking technology, running into criticism it was creating a duplicate layer of bureaucracy and infringing on states' rights.
So, despite the fact that there is essentially zero evidence for environmental problems from fracking, especially any that would cross state boundaries, the feds have to add another layer of difficulty and expense.

OK, Now This Zombie Nonsense Has Gone Too Far

It was OK, when they were just eating the faces off homeless bums, or a roommate, but now they've gone too far.  They're killing man's best friend!

Texas - Police in Waco arrested 22-year-old Michael Daniel Monday after they say he ate a dog. Family members called police on June 14, saying Daniel assaulted people at the home, chased a neighbor and started barking and growling.

What happened next is horrific. Witnesses say Daniel grabbed the family dog, beat and strangled it...then started to eat it.

The dog died at the home.

Daniel is believed to have been on a bad trip from ingesting "K-2," a synthetic drug. He was taken to the hospital and now faces a felony charge for animal cruelty.
Question.  Under Romero zombie rules, do dogs become zombies when bitten by zombie humans?  Or does the disease have to arise separately from veterinary doctors messing with dog diseases?

Apparently human to dog transmission is permitted up Resident Evil zombie rules.  You show him Milla!

Oh My! Sea Level's Rising and We're All Gonna Die!

Somebody sent out a press release today saying that sea level on the East Coast of the United States is rising faster than elsewhere (where else?  I dunno), and that we can expect all the problems that they've been screaming screeding about for the fast few years.  It was in three sites this morning, and I expect more tomorrow:

Here's the Baltimore Sun version:Study finds sea level rise accelerating along Atlantic coast
Sea levels are rising faster along the Atlantic coast - including in the Chesapeake Bay - than elsewhere around the world, and the increase appears to be accelerating, according to federal scientists.

In a paper published online in Nature Climate Change, the U.S. Geological Survey reports that sea level rise is increasing three to four times faster than globally along a heavily-populated 600-mile stretch of coast from Cape Hatteras, NC to north of Boston.

Since 1990, the rise has increased 2 to 3.7 millimeters per year in the "hotspot," as the federal scientists call it, compared with a global increase of 0.6 to 1 millimeter per year. That hotspot includes the Chesapeake Bay, according to USGS oceanographer Asbury H. Sallenger, lead author of the report.

"If you raise sea level across the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, it's going to increase the overall level of the Chesapeake Bay," he said.

Climate change causes sea level to rise as land-based ice near the earth's poles melts, but also as rising temperatures cause the ocean water to expand. But researchers expect sea-level rise to vary around the globe because of various factors, including ocean currents, differences in sea-water temperature and saltiness and the earth's rotation.

The trio of USGS scientists found that tide gauge data over the past 60 years tend to confirm computer models that have forecast an increase in sea level rise along the Atlantic. The models have hypothesized that ocean currents running along the Atlantic coast are slowing, resulting in increases in sea level, Sallenger said....
 Similar articles at CBS Baltimore and Boston's NPR site.

So now, lets look at some data.  How about Baltimore:

See any important (I won't use the word significant because it has important statistical meaning) increase in the rate of sea level rise?  Nope, me neither.  I see lots of short term variation, and some decadal scale wiggle, but overall, sea level in Baltimore has been rising at a pretty constant rate since about 1910. 

Lets look farther south, Charleston South Carolina:

Look, almost exactly the same patterns, and the same rate, within the error on the slope.

OK, lets look farther north, The Battery, New York

An even longer record,  still linear, and with a slightly lower slope (the land is rising instead of sinking).

So what increase in the rise of the sea level rate are they talking about?  Well, if you take the midpoints of 50 year intervals and plot them every ten years, you get something like this:
In this graph we see the that the rate of sea level rise in Baltimore has shown a sinusoidal variation with higher rates in the 1920s-1950s, and then lower rates from 1950-1990.  In the early part of the 20th century the rates were higher than in the latter, and after a minimum around 1970, are starting to return to the rates of the 1940s and 1950s!  Oh my God, we're all gonna drown, just like we did in the 1950s!

Not to mention the silliness of the assumption the sea levels rises can be concentrated in a region over the long run.  At 1 mm extra accumulation a year, in 10,000 years, the water over the East Coast would form a hill about 30 feet high.  I guess that plumber who taught me shit don't flow up hill didn't know his shit.

Science, It's a Chick Thing

From the EU, like they don't have enough problems, this advertisement trying to convince girls that science is a glamorous job.
"This campaign will show women and girls that science does not just mean old men in white coats," Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner, said in a written statement. "We hope that by providing positive role models and by explaining the options we can persuade more young women to stick with science."

Where I work, likelihood of getting mud or acid on your clothes is such that most women come in jeans (or shorts, when it's hot).  Moreover, spiked heels aren't really good footwear in the marsh...

Meanwhile, men are falling farther and farther behind in education in the United States.
In an op-ed published Saturday in Newsweek, President Barack Obama marked the 40th anniversary of the enactment of Title IX--which bars gender discrimination in education—and noted that more women in the United States are now graduating from college than men, which he characterized as “a great accomplishment” for the nation.

“In fact, more women as a whole now graduate from college than men,” Obama wrote. “This is a great accomplishment—not just for one sport or one college or even just for women but for America. And this is what Title IX is all about.”

According to the Census Bureau, 685,000 men and 916,000 women graduated from college in 2009 (the latest year for which statistics have been published). That means 25 percent fewer men received college degrees than women.
It's not as true in the STEM fields, but the trend is continuing, and it seems inevitable that most of science will be dominated by women the future.  At the bachelors level, women are already ahead in 3 of 8 STEM field identified by GAO, biology, sociology and psychology, and gaining ground in EAO (Earth, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences), engineering, physics, and technology.  Only in mathematics are women actually losing share. At higher levels, women become progressively less dominant, although they are gaining in every field except Technology.

As noted by the PJM Tatler:
In 1975, before Title IX was implemented, there were 17% fewer women graduating from college than men. Commenter Mark Simmons points out the obvious:
So if a 17% deficit was a catastrophe requiring federal intervention, what are we to conclude when that same federal intervention has created a 25% level of inequality?
Wombat-Socho checked in early this week with The Other McCain's Rule 5 list "Exile on Duke Street". The Classical Liberal links to this in "Hot Legs!"

Where the Wild Things Are,...

Last October, Sendak was interviewed by Gary Groth of The Comics Journal. And unfortunately, he said this:
SENDAK: Bush was president, I thought, “Be brave. Tie a bomb to your shirt. Insist on going to the White House. And I wanna have a big hug with the vice president, definitely. And his wife, and the president, and his wife, and anybody else that can fit into the love hug.”

GROTH: A group hug.

SENDAK: And then we’ll blow ourselves up, and I’d be a hero. [Groth laughs.] To hell with the kiddie books. He killed Bush. He killed the vice president. Oh my God.

GROTH: I would have been willing to forgo this interview. [Sendak laughs.]

SENDAK: You would have forgotten about it. It would have been a very brave and wonderful thing. But I didn’t do it; I didn’t do it.

Hey Baby...

How about a little tail?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Carroll County Stiff Arms State, EPA on Bay Diet

 OK, three Chesapeake Bay posts in one day might seem excessive, but this one seems significant:

Carroll County Refuses to send the state its local Watershed Implementation Plan
Unhappy with how the state has estimated the county’s nutrient reduction requirements, Carroll County planning staff will not submit the county’s local Watershed Implementation Plan to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Counties are required to develop a local plan with strategies that help the state reach its pollution mitigation goals to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and state waterways. The goal is to lower the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus getting into the state’s waterways. Counties must submit their plans to the MDE by July 2.

The Maryland Department of the Environment wants to work with the county so that the state can meet its water quality goals.  “If the county does not submit a plan, MDE will assume Carroll County will implement standard strategies from the state plan that will meet our statewide water quality goals,” said MDE spokeswoman Samantha Kappalman. “If no progress is made to implement the strategies, then MDE can begin to look at some of the permits under its legal authority for ways to encourage the county to implement those strategies.”
I'm curious what sort of leverage the State would have over a County to force it to go along.  It's probably a good thing to have one or two counties resist the state to find out what their "or else" really is.  At some point, the state gets into the business of punishing the people who vote them into office and pay their bills; I'm curious to see how that will work out in the long run.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said that if the state does not meet its water quality goals, it would impose consequences which will affect federal permits that the state issues, such as wastewater, stormwater and animal feeding operations, Kappalman said.
That's the EPA's stick; "if you don't work it out, we'll decide, and frankly, we don't give a $#!* about you, so you better do it yourself."

Water Skiing in Africa

Looks like fun...

Scientists Predict Bad Year for Bay Dead "Zones"

Water sampling done in early June by the Department of Natural Resources found dissolved oxygen levels too low to be suitable for fish, crabs and shellfish in just 12 percent of the bay, according to the department's "Eyes on the Bay" website.

That's well below the long-term average since 1985 of 17.1 percent of the Chesapeake experiencing low oxygen levels. It's also a dramatic improvement over last year, when a third of the bay's waters was starved of the oxygen that fish, crabs and shellfish need to breathe.

Oxygen levels in the bay's deepest waters decline every spring as warming temperatures spur algae to grow, fed by the glut of nutrients in the water from sewage, fertilizer runoff and air pollution. Those thick algae blooms then consume the oxygen in the water as they die, sink to the bottom and decay.

State scientists say favorable weather most likely is responsible for healthier bay water so far this year, just as unfavorable weather has been blamed for last year's record large dead zone. Drier, warmer conditions from February through April this year meant less pollution washed off the land to feed the algae growth, while wetter, cooler weather in late spring helped keep low-oxygen conditions from setting in. Last year, by contrast, an extremely wet spring helped flush more nutrients into the water.
 As you may recall, about this time last year scientists correctly predicted the bad summer for anoxia in the Bay. The variations of summertime anoxic area in the bay are largely determined by the extent and timing of rains in late winter and spring.  These rains bring in the nutrients which fuel the algae blooms, which rot to use up the oxygen in the deep water, and the excess fresh water which forms a layer of less dense water on the surface, which makes it more difficult for winds to mix the bottom water with the surface water, and prevents the restoration of oxygen to the bottom.

After a few years of such predictions, it begins to feel a bit like kabuki dancing, a stylized drama we go through annually.  The second act it is the various bay report cards, in which various agencies and non-profit breathlessly report how the condition of the Bay (and it's various tributaries) actually turned out, and whether it represents an improvement or a step back from the year before.  Sometimes they even acknowledge that the weather played an important role in how that year turned out.

They never acknowledge that there is enormous annual variations in the bay, in anoxia and in many other parameters linked to it, which, are in fact, largely driven by weather and climatic variations, and the noise in the system is far greater than the signal, and that decades more data will be necessary to see if the Bay is actually improving through the noise.

Swatting a Fly with a Sledgehammer

If you like to swim in the Chesapeake, but don’t like being stung by jellyfish, a new high-tech bay buoy system can help.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System can tell when conditions are right for jellyfish, also known as sea nettles. NOAA says sea nettles are found from Cape Cod to the Caribbean but abound in the Chesapeake.

NOAA says observations have found concentrations of jellyfish are normally found in water between 79 and 86 degrees and in a specific salinity range. The buoys are listed on an online map, which shows data for each buoy, including sea nettle probability.
Using the buoy system to predict the probability of finding Sea Nettles (Chrysaora quinquecirrha, the incredibly abundant and highly annoying stinging jellyfish of the East Coast) with multimillion dollar buoy system strikes me as the acme of overkill.  If it's summertime in Chesapeake Bay, there's a really excellent chance of finding yourself wading or swimming with Sea Nettles.  Sure, they have preferred salinity range (pretty broad, but they won't be found in very fresh water), and it takes them a while to get going as the bay heat up, and their most important prey, the comb jelly to get going, but really, it's a pretty wide range of both time and space.

Now of course, that's not really all the buoys are doing; they're collecting a wide range of oceanographic data.  The "sea nettle probability" is just generated from some regression model from a suite of these values.

I  looked for the buoy closest to me, Gooses Reef, and indeed, there on line 19, nestled between relative humidity, and ocean acidity, was sea nettle probability, 27.8%.  What that means is unclear to me.  Does that mean if I go out to the Gooses Reef buoy (about 30 minutes by boat, or a long, wet walk from my beach), would I find a sea nettle in sight 25.7% of the time (using some calibrated system for looking for one)?  Gooses reef is so far from me, and anyone swimming except from a boat near Gooses Reef (a favorite fishing spot, but not considered a swimming hole).  How does that apply to my beach?  Sometimes the nettles are thick on the shore, and sometimes quite rare; I think it has a lot to do with wind moving the surface waters around, myself.

But, on the other hand 25% seems like a reasonable number.  I've seen nettles this year, but not too many yet.  Is my intuition as good as a million dollar buoy?

An Utterly Imbecilic Sex Post

Time to clean the directory I store the stupid links on sex articles; the ones that websites and magazines have to titillate and draw you in to reading them.  Always amusing, usually bad advice, I try to find an appropriately inappropriate photo to go with them.  With that preamble:

6 Rules for Sex on a Plane

  1. Chose A Seat In The Back Row - But what if you're the pilot?
  2. Make A Plan - But I thought spontaneity was important!
  3. Timing Is Everything - It is best to be there together.
  4. Enter And Exit The Restroom One At A Time - What, we were supposed to use the restroom?  Now you tell us.
  5. Um, Stand Up - Like you have a choice in a plane's restroom.
  6. Make It Snappy - Seven minutes and done? No problem, how about her?
At high risk
Cancer risk on the rise as average woman's breasts are larger than ever before
Women’s breasts are expanding with their waistlines, Ms William told USA Today. The average U.S. bra size has grown from a 34B to a 36C in just a generation. That’s troubling, given that weight gain has been associated with an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer.
 Kind of a good news bad news thing.
Not so much

Girls also are hitting puberty earlier than ever before - another trend that increases their long-term breast cancer risk. About 15 per cent of all American girls begin developing breasts at age seven, according to an influential 2010 study in pediatrics.
Seven?  I don't remember anything happening until 6th grade! I blame TV!  That, adequate nutrition.
Breasts today are also under assault from pollutants, Ms William says. Because chemicals such as PCBs and mercury are stored in fatty tissue, they tend to end up in breasts - and breast milk.
 Men Think About Sex Less Than Women Think About Fashion
How many times a day do you think about fashion? According to an online study, women have fashion on the brain 91 times in a given day -- that's more than four times the amount that men think about sex.
Men admit to thinking about sex only about 22 times a day?
Online retailer surveyed British women to see just how many times from sunrise to sunset their minds wandered from the task at hand to fashion, taking into account things like window shopping, perusing online retail sites, noticing a stylish item and even simply daydreaming about that dress you should have bought during Kim Kardashian's eBay sale. 
I demand a recount!

Sorry about this - I couldn't resist
Cliche Confirmed - Touch of a man makes women hot!
"Women showed a temperature increase when they were involved in social contact with the male experimenter," study researcher Amanda Hahn, of the University of St. Andrews, in the United Kingdom, told LiveScience. "In some women they changed by almost a whole degree" Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

These changes were subconscious in many of the participants. Figuring out how skin temperature changes in response to stress and other emotional factors could help researchers study arousal non-invasively and develop hands-off lie detectors.

How Porn "Shuts Down" Women's Brains 

The question is whether that is a good thing or a bad thing
In a recent study conducted at the University of Groningen Medical Center performed PET scans on the brains of 12 pre-menopausal women, measuring differences in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in the primary visual cortex as the women watched three videos. One video was a documentary on Caribbean marine life, and the other two were "women-friendly" porn films depicting foreplay, manual stimulation, oral sex, and vaginal intercourse.

The researchers found that viewing pornography lead to a decrease in the amount of blood sent to the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes visual stimuli. This is, of course, the exact opposite of what happens when we watch television or read a blog. Unlike with the blog or the TV show, the brain doesn't take in all of the visual details of a sex scene, and the more explicit the video, the less blood is sent to the visual cortex. (Looks like there's something to the "you'll go blind" threat, afterall.)

The researchers surmised that the blood was diverted to regions of the brain involved in sexual arousal. "You have to realize that the brain wants to spare as much energy as possible, so if some part of the brain is not necessary at a high level of functioning, it immediately goes down," uroneurologist Gert Holstege told LiveScience.
Curiously, they did not compare their results with what happens when men watch porn.

Heart attack more likely during sex with mistress
Your cheatin' heart might just kill you. "Sudden coital death" -- a fatal heart attack during sex -- is more common when a man is with his mistress than when he's with his wife, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Florence reviewed the available medical literature on the prevalence of infidelity and its effects. "Unfaithfulness in men seems to be associated with a higher risk of major cardiovascular events," the researchers found. ...

Some may call it karma, but the researchers suggest a guilty conscience, the demands of satisfying a younger woman and the strain of keeping the secret as possible explanations, as reported in the Telegraph. "Several interpersonal, sexual, and biological factors are associated with having extramarital affairs," the researchers said. They also found that unfaithful men display "better sexual functioning" and "larger testis volume."
 Big balls?
Picked up in midweek by the Classical Liberal in "Rule 5 Forever". Wombat-Socho checked in early this week with The Other McCain's Rule 5 list "Exile on Duke Street."

Political Science... Ain't

Political scientists are defensive these days because in May the House passed an amendment to a bill eliminating National Science Foundation grants for political scientists. Soon the Senate may vote on similar legislation. Colleagues, especially those who have received N.S.F. grants, will loathe me for saying this, but just this once I’m sympathetic with the anti-intellectual Republicans behind this amendment. Why? The bill incited a national conversation about a subject that has troubled me for decades: the government — disproportionately — supports research that is amenable to statistical analyses and models even though everyone knows the clean equations mask messy realities that contrived data sets and assumptions don’t, and can’t, capture.

It’s an open secret in my discipline: in terms of accurate political predictions (the field’s benchmark for what counts as science), my colleagues have failed spectacularly and wasted colossal amounts of time and money. The most obvious example may be political scientists’ insistence, during the cold war, that the Soviet Union would persist as a nuclear threat to the United States. In 1993, in the journal International Security, for example, the cold war historian John Lewis Gaddis wrote that the demise of the Soviet Union was “of such importance that no approach to the study of international relations claiming both foresight and competence should have failed to see it coming.” And yet, he noted, “None actually did so.” Careers were made, prizes awarded and millions of research dollars distributed to international relations experts, even though Nancy Reagan’s astrologer may have had superior forecasting skills.

Political prognosticators fare just as poorly on domestic politics. In a peer-reviewed journal, the political scientist Morris P. Fiorina wrote that “we seem to have settled into a persistent pattern of divided government” — of Republican presidents and Democratic Congresses. Professor Fiorina’s ideas, which synced nicely with the conventional wisdom at the time, appeared in an article in 1992 — just before the Democrat Bill Clinton’s presidential victory and the Republican 1994 takeover of the House.
Science involves quantifiable data and testable hypotheses.  Political Science has neither.
How do we know that these examples aren’t atypical cherries picked by a political theorist munching sour grapes? Because in the 1980s, the political psychologist Philip E. Tetlock began systematically quizzing 284 political experts — most of whom were political science Ph.D.’s — on dozens of basic questions, like whether a country would go to war, leave NATO or change its boundaries or a political leader would remain in office. His book “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?” won the A.P.S.A.’s prize for the best book published on government, politics or international affairs.

Professor Tetlock’s main finding? Chimps randomly throwing darts at the possible outcomes would have done almost as well as the experts.
It's also better when your predictions work slightly better than random guesses.

The author, a political scientist himself, thinks that because political scientists cannot accurately predict anything, they should be given their money for nothing, at random.
Government can — and should — assist political scientists, especially those who use history and theory to explain shifting political contexts, challenge our intuitions and help us see beyond daily newspaper headlines. Research aimed at political prediction is doomed to fail. At least if the idea is to predict more accurately than a dart-throwing chimp.

To shield research from disciplinary biases of the moment, the government should finance scholars through a lottery: anyone with a political science Ph.D. and a defensible budget could apply for grants at different financing levels. And of course government needs to finance graduate student studies and thorough demographic, political and economic data collection. I look forward to seeing what happens to my discipline and politics more generally once we stop mistaking probability studies and statistical significance for knowledge.
 That's not obvious to me.