Friday, August 31, 2012

The Republican Convention

I generally abhor political speeches.  I find them bombastic, hollow, and generally a poor predictor of how a politician will actually perform once in office.  I would rather hear them answer questions from a competent reporter (are there any left?, Jake Tapper maybe), or at least debate each other under the thumb of a moderator willing not to indulge his or her bias unnecessarily (again, that's not so easy).  And the commentary on every network except C-Span, well, sucks.

So I'm not inclined to watch days of speeches by candidates and their supporters, even when they're likely to be my ultimate choice.  Possibly the only good thing about Hurricane Isaac is that it shortened the convention, oh, and that it may relieve some drought in the Midwest.

Therefore, I only watched the speeches on the last night.  That means I missed Ryan's speech, but of course, the "liar" controversy (not really a controversy, he didn't lie, he just told some truths unpleasant to liberals) was all over the blogs, TV and the papers (in order of importance) the next day.  I regret missing that speech, a little.

However, I did watch most of the proceedings last night.  I thought the testimonials on behalf of Romney's humanity were touching and powerful, but not likely to turn over any minds not already listing in that direction.  Rubio is a great speaker, and a definite asset to the party; I'd like to see him out of the worthless Senate and into a nation office ASAP.  Ryan/Rubio wouldn't have upset me a bit.

Clint Eastwood was great, unless you didn't understand the bit, and shockingly there seem to be not a few conservatives, and a majority of liberals who don't.  I disagree with anyone who claims this was a waste of time and a distraction.  But, I guess we'll find out.

Romney did just fine, but, it was one of those speeches I talked about above.  I just can't take them seriously.

Now, on to the debates.  I'm particularly awaiting the Ryan/Biden encounter.

Butterflies du Jour and a New Camera

Great Spangled Fritillary
I bought a new camera the other day because I believe my well abused and beloved Kodak Z915 is dying.  I wanted a small point and shoot type with a lot of zoom (gotta bring those eagles in) that's not so expensive I'm unwilling to carry it in the field or fishing. Given the enormous variety of cameras available merely making a choice is difficult.

Eastern Tailed Blue
First, the butterfly above is a Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele).  We've seen it before.

The one on the right is new and, I think, the Eastern Tailed Blue (Everes comyntas), that I once tentatively confused with the Gray Hairstreak.  As small as the Gray Hairstreak is (about the size of my thumbnail) this butterfly is much smaller, barely the size the nail of my pinky finger.

I settled on the Panasonic Lumix ZS15, which I purchased from Amazon, via the link on the right side of my page (Hint, hint).  It has 16 power optical zoom and an additional 2x "digital" zoom.  I took all the pictures in this post with it today.

Some pictures to exhibit the power and clarity of the zoom on the Lumix.  This picture was taken out of the back door of my office, using no zoom.

This picture was taken from the same point with zoom on the full 16 X optical zoom.

Finally, the tops of the trees with the optical plus the digital zoom for 32 X  (yes, I should have done the truck again, so sue me).

Pictures have been resized and touched with a little sharpening - resizing causes a slight loss in sharpness. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

I'm really looking forward to trying this on the eagles...

Washington Post Rates Chesapeakes Beaches - Misses Best

Thank Goodness...

Their choices:

1) Chesapeake Beach
2) Downtown North Beach
3) Flag Ponds Nature Park
4) Downs Park
5) Leesylvania State Park
6) Lake Anna State Park
7) Colonial Beach
8) Matapeake Park and Beach

One of those is too close for comfort.

An Utterly Unobligatory Cave Girl

Just because Wombat-Socho expects one, and I feel like I can't let him down. Normally, I look for an excuse to post one of these.  Almost any weak anthropological or archeological study will do, whether it's sensible, or completely absurd, but science has been letting me down lately.

A completely wrong mash up of time and technology levels.  Perfect! Aww, what the heck, how about another?

Your Friday Starving Monkey Dacker

For 25 years, the rhesus monkeys were kept semi-starved, lean and hungry. The males’ weights were so low they were the equivalent of a 6-foot-tall man who tipped the scales at just 120 to 133 pounds. The hope was that if the monkeys lived longer, healthier lives by eating a lot less, then maybe people, their evolutionary cousins, would too. Some scientists, anticipating such benefits, began severely restricting their own diets.

The results of this major, long-awaited study, which began in 1987, are finally in. But it did not bring the vindication calorie restriction enthusiasts had anticipated. It turns out the skinny monkeys did not live any longer than those kept at more normal weights. Some lab test results improved, but only in monkeys that were put on the diet when they were old. The causes of death — cancer, heart disease — were the same in both the underfed and the normally fed monkeys.

Lab test results showed lower levels of cholesterol and blood sugar in the male monkeys that started eating 30 percent fewer calories in old age, but not in the females. Males and females that were put on the diet when they were old had lower levels of triglycerides, which are linked to heart disease risk. Monkeys put on the diet when they were young or middle-aged did not get the same benefits, though they had less cancer. But the bottom line was that the monkeys that ate less did not live any longer than those that ate normally. Rafael de Cabo, lead author of the diet study, published online on Wednesday in the journal Nature, said he was surprised and disappointed that the underfed monkeys did not live longer. Like many other researchers on aging, he had expected an outcome similar to that of a 2009 study from the University of Wisconsin that concluded that caloric restriction did extend monkeys’ life spans.
Pass me another doughnut...

Midnite Music - Message in a Bottle

A message in a bottle has been pulled from the ocean 98 years after it was written, and officials say it is the world's oldest of its kind.

Scottish fisherman Andrew Leaper found the letter in his nets while sailing off of Scotland's northern coast. And on Thursday, Guinness World Records confirmed that is the old message in a bottle ever found, beating the previous record holder by five years.
In 1914, Scottish Captain C.H. Brown of the Glasgow School of Navigation released 1,890 bottles as part of a government experiment to map the undercurrents of the seas around Scotland. Each bottle contained a postcard asking the finder to record details of where the bottle was located. The letter also promises a reward of sixpence, which the AP notes no longer exists.

"It was an amazing coincidence," Leaper said of being on the same boat that broke both records. "It's like winning the lottery twice."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

University of Texas Ends Witch Hunt

The University of Texas at Austin announced Wednesday that it has it has closed an inquiry into allegations of scientific misconduct against one of its faculty members, Mark Regnerus, over a paper he wrote that found children are generally better off if they have a married mother and father. The paper, which appeared in the journal Social Science Research, has been highly controversial. Many scholars have said that his sampling techniques resulted in a pool of research subjects that resulted in unfairly negative assessments about the children of same-sex couples -- and one writer on the issue filed a complaint of scholarly misconduct. Critics of same-sex marriage have showered praise on the study.
Without addressing the issue of whether the research is right or wrong (remember, reported research results have a high probability of being wrong, no matter what they are), it is a bad idea to take your disagreement with conclusions of a study as evidence from malfeasance, and call for an education/legal intervention. Apparently, UTEX came to the same conclusion:
A memo released by the university outlined the reasons for dropping the matter: "Whether the research ... possessed significant limitations or was even perhaps seriously flawed is a determination that should be left to debates that are currently underway in the academy and future research that validates or invalidates his findings.
 As noted by Insty, one problem with that approach is that two can play the game.

Bay Diet May Starve Dairies

All farms are not created equal, but new state regulations to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay are treating farms across Maryland the same, potentially threatening to put some farmers out of business, according to opponents of the rules...

Frederick County has 106 dairy farms, the most in the state. When the new rules go into effect starting in 2016, farmers will have a stricter time frame to apply manure to their fields and will have to build larger manure-storage facilities. They will also have to fence off portions of their pastures to keep livestock out of streams and creeks.

Who pays the bill for the changes has “yet to be determined,” according to Denny Remsburg, manager of Frederick and Catoctin’s Soil Conservation District, a self-governing state entity that works to address the county’s soil and water conservation needs. Financial help is predicated on farmers being in compliance with state regulations, Remsburg said.
For example, with the big cities and their sewage treatment plants, the Federal government has been giving the cities money to build new and improved sewage treatment plants, well in advance of the actual improvement in nutrient outputs. Fair?

But farmers are unclear what kind of assistance they will receive, and if it will cover the cost of the proposed changes.The state cannot provide a cost analysis, and that concerns him, Eidiger said.Manure-storage facilities can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. “This is just going to put the farmers out of business, especially the dairy farmer,” he said.
Will we have to import our milk from China?

USGS: Susquehanna Dams Near Breakthrough

Sediment reservoirs near the mouth of the Susquehanna River are filling up faster than researchers expected, posing a new obstacle for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

As the holding areas behind the lower Susquehanna's three dams reach capacity, their ability to trap upriver sediment and the phosphorous that is often attached wanes, and the sediment that is held grows more and more likely to flow out of the reservoirs and into the river.

According to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), strong storms, severe flooding and faster-moving water have turned the one-time pollutant blockers into less effective gates.

The Susquehanna delivered more phosphorous and sediment into the Bay last year than it has in more than three decades of monitoring. The past 15 years have seen a 55 percent increase in phosphorous entering the Bay from the river and a 97 percent increase in sediment. And while nitrogen flow has dropped, it shows a jump during large storms--like Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 or Hurricane Ivan in 2004--and the flooding that follows.
Breakthrough, in a chromatographic column, occurs when all the sites in the column are fully loaded, and will not retain any more of the substance of interest.

Since I arrived in Maryland in 1983, managers and scientists have been warning that the dams that hold back the sediment and pollutants coming down the Susquehanna River were filling up, and that some means of dealing with the problem needed to be found.  It reaffirms my faith in humanity that we have succeeded in putting off that solution until it is nearly too late...
The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment team, composed of federal, state and regional partners and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is exploring ways to expand the reservoirs' capacity.
My idea is to take that sediment out of the reservoirs, and used it as to make new soil, to replace that which has eroded to make the sediment.

The Poster

The Joys of Aging - Part Quatre

In which I go to the Retinal Surgeon again.

This morning I had the one week check up/touch up for the laser surgery that I had last week for a tear in the retina in my left eye.

Since then, my eye has been improving, albeit slowly.  Most of the blood corpuscles are gone from my vision, though a few larger clumps of them are still present.  When they move around, I often think there's an insect crawling or flying around.  Lot of other "floaters" of various shapes and sizes are still present, including one giant I call "the gray fog". 

This week, with a little more time to schedule, I got in to see the same doctor at their office in Prince Frederick, far closer to home than the office in Waldorf I had to drive to (dilated) last Friday.  Not being an emergency case, it took a little longer to get through the line, but within an hour my left eye was wide open, and the doctor was checking it out.

He reported that it was healing as expected but that, as he mentioned last time, he would like to laser down the retina on the far side of the tear, where he couldn't reach last time.  So he stuck my chin in the headrest, put the contact lens/eyepiece into my eye and began.  This time, I was determined to keep track of the shots.

At around 160, he stopped, and wanted to inspect the work a little more.  I told him my count and he looked at the counter on the laser (whoda thunk!) and he said "Close! 168."  I think I drastically underestimated the number of shots last time. He said that only about half the shots are effective, as floaters, blood and other garbage absorbs them about that often.

After a few minutes of looking deep in my eye (literally), he decide to take a "few more shots".  This time, he put on piece of headgear that looked like a military helicopters controller, laid me back in the chair and went back to work, free hand!

When he was done, the shot counter stood at 468, the eye was almost totally blind from the bright lights and laser, and it was throbbing, and weeping.  He said it might hurt a little more this time because he used a little more power.

It's still a little uncomfortable, but I think the acetaminophen has started to kick in, and it's getting better.  The eye is still partially dilated, though, as I write this.

The next appointment is in 2-3 weeks, mostly to check on the healing; I'm pretty sure that's the end of the laser treatments. I hope so.

Scientists See the Gravity of the Universe

" A team of researchers has found visible evidence of gravity waves around two dead stars, confirming ripples in space-time that were first predicted by Albert Einstein. The concept was part of Einstein's theory of relativity, but had only been inferred through use of radio waves. Now, investigators have seen changes in the orbits of two white dwarf stars 3,000 light years away that prove the theory.

The star duo is known as J0651, and they orbit each other in less than 13 minutes. The orbit time changes as the stars eclipse each other as seen by the scientists here on Earth. "There have been 30 years of using radio telescopes and timing pulsars, but this is the first time we've been able to detect the influence of gravitational wave radiation using an optical telescope," lead investigator J.J. Hermes from the University of Texas at Austin said.

Zimmerman Judge Disqualified for Prejudice

 Three judge panel rules Judge Lester went a step too far:
The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach today ruled that second-degree murder suspect George Zimmerman deserves a new judge.

A three-judge panel voted 2-1 that Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester Jr. in Sanford went too far when, among other things, he wrote that Zimmerman is a manipulator...
Yet another case of saying something when shutting up might just be the right thing to do. On the other hand, maybe it was hard justify raising his bond to a million without some charge of serious charge of malfeasance.  But I would think that just citing evidence that Zimmerman had access to ample fund would suffice.
The order was released this afternoon.

There will be no appeal, according to Florida's Office of Attorney General, which had argued in court paperwork that Lester should stay. He was not biased, wrote Assistant Attorney General Pamela Koller. He had merely given Zimmerman a "well-deserved tongue lashing."

Special Prosecutor Angela Corey's office, the one in charge of putting Zimmerman on trial, had no comment...
She may be on shaky ground as well.  She's certainly dealt with the truth much as would an Aes Sedai in one of Robert Jordan's works...
O'Mara had pressed for a new judge, arguing that Zimmerman did not believe he would be treated fairly by Lester because of a July 5 bond ruling.

In that nine-page order, Lester set Zimmerman's bond at $1 million but also accused him of showing "blatant disregard for the judicial system" and "manipulating the system for his own benefit." He also hinted that he might, in the future, charge Zimmerman with contempt of court.
I think the whole trial stinks.  The fact that the police and prosecutors had initially decided not to prosecute, only to charge after a stink was raised in the minority community gives it the stench of a witch hunt and a show trial.

Midnite Music - Don't Know Why

Music by Nora Jones, body by Brooklyn Decker.

Wombat-Socho delivers the big Rule 5 list at the Other McCain "Rule 5 Sunday: Like A Rock."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Remember the 11th Commandment

In today's news in civility, Yahoo! News Bureau Chief (and former ABC News Director) David Chalian was overheard on a hot mike in a broadcast telling a fellow employee that Mitt Romney was "happy to have a party while black people drown,"  a reference to Hurricane Isaac striking the Gulf Coast while the GOP convention was on.  Ooops! Sometimes it's not a good idea to give vent to your real thoughts near a microphone.

It was an expensive gaff for Chalian; once the remark received attention, Yahoo fired him, with the comment:
"David Chalian's statement was inappropriate and does not represent the views of Yahoo!. He has been terminated effective immediately. We have already reached out to the Romney campaign, and we apologize to Mitt Romney, his staff, their supporters and anyone who was offended."
Chalian, for his part, made the standard cut and past apology:
I am profoundly sorry for making an inappropriate and thoughtless joke. I was commenting on the challenge of staging a convention during a hurricane and about campaign optics. I have apologized to the Romney campaign, and I want to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to Gov. and Mrs. Romney. I also regret causing any distraction from the exceptional coverage of the Republican convention by Yahoo News and ABC News.
The problem, of course, is not that he is not permitted to hold these thoughts as a news media figure. Lots of them feel that way.  A few of them (very few) may even feel that way about liberals.

No, the problem with it is that he can no longer be trusted to maintain the facade of objectivity that the major media hide behind.

No doubt he will have a short vacation before being picked up by MSNBC (or more likely, given that NBC can't afford Keith Olberdork) some liberal non-profit.

Butterfly du Jour

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) - dorsal view
 The Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). Similar in size and color to the Common Buckeye featured a few days ago.  However, the Painted Lady does not have the bold eye spots on the upper surface, and has a row of eyes pots on the trailing edge of the underside of the hind wing. 
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) - ventral view

However, it is very similar to the American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) I spotted earlier this summer. The keys to telling them apart are the small white spot seen in the upper side (barely visible in my old photo), surrounded by orange, and the two very bold eye spots on the trailing edge of the underside of the the hind wing in the American Lady.

I did spot and identify one other new one today, but I didn't have a camera at hand, and by the time I got mine, it was gone.  Maybe later...

Gray Hairstreak
However, I did get a good new shot of a little Gray Hairstreak....

Pearl Crescent

and a Pearl Crescent.

Uncle Suger Adds a Little Sweetener to the Bay Diet

The Chesapeake Bay cleanup got a shot in the arm today (Tuesday, 8/28), as federal and nonprofit officials announced grants totaling $9.2 million for planting trees, restoring wetlands, installing rain gardens and other projects across the watershed.

The announcement was made at the Maryland Science Center in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where one of the grants will help replace an existing parking lot with rain-absorbing "pervious concrete," intended to reduce polluted storm-water runoff. The press conference was planned to highlight such urban water-quality efforts, with more than $800,000 in grants being handed out for projects in the Baltimore area alone.
$9 million may sound like quite a lot of money (and it is), but compare it to the estimated cost of the "Bay Diet", $7-10 billion (with a 'b'), and it really is just a drop in the bucket.

St. Mary's Tells State to Slow Septic Scale

The St. Mary's County Board of County Commissioners has issued a letter to Governor Martin O'Malley calling on the state to rethink its implementation of new septics regulations.

Commissioners say serious questions have arisen with regard to the Best Available Technology (BAT) septic systems which will be required throughout the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal watersheds in Maryland. While in general support of the goals of nutrient reduction and water quality improvements, the board remains "strongly opposed to the implementation of these regulations without addressing apparent flaws to the practicality and implementation of such a far reaching set of regulations."

The new Maryland Department of the Environment nitrogen delivery system scheme of 30%, 50% and 80% replaces the current 40% delivery rate used by all other states. Commissioners say the three tier delivery system would cost the county an additional $45 million to implement. The board is also "deeply troubled by inconsistent methodologies that yield unbalanced and unworkable impacts at the local level."

Commissioners say they hope the Governor would "slow down the implementation process, further evaluate the data and initiate further discussions with local government."
By googling around, I think I found what the 30%, 50% and 80% refers to:
• 80% for septic systems within the Critical Area (1,000 feet from tidal surface water)
• 50% for septic systems outside the Critical Area and within 1,000 feet of nontidal waters
• 30% for all other septic systems
The percent refers to how much of the nitrogen from a septic system is presumed to reach the bay.  For very close systems (Critical area), most of the nitrogen (80%) is presumed to reach the Bay and progressively less for more distant systems.  In a place like St. Mary's county, with water on two sides, and many residents seeking water front, this could produce a greater weighting than, say in upstate New York at 40%, and require St. Mary's to achieve higher levels of reduction.  Fair?  Maybe, but the arbitrary even numbers for the attenuation rate suggests they were pulled out of someone's ass.


Hotel Chantelle bartender Sunny Miller
When a group of 20-something women recently ordered a round of mojitos at Upper East Side sports bar Sin Bin, they were surprised at the response. Bartender Krystal Campbell said the bar didn’t have mint. “[Mojitos] are messy, they’re time-consuming and we don’t have the ingredients,” Campbell says. The request was rejected.

Instead, the women ordered margaritas. Not a comparable alternative, but a preferable one for New York bartenders revolting against the mojito masses.

This summer, those behind the bar are taking a stand by deleting the cocktail — made with rum, muddled mint, sugar and lime juice — from the menu, or refusing to make it. The reason is twofold: The drink is simply too time-consuming to make, while at labor-intensive cocktail bars, it’s been deemed out of fashion.

Mojitos, mo’ problems. Hotel Chantelle bartender, Sunny Miller, loathes making the labor-intensive drink, whose ingredients include crushed mint.

“The [mojito] has always been the bane of bartenders, as it is a time-consuming drink to prepare well,” explains cocktail guru Eben Freeman, director of bar operations for chef Michael White’s Altamarea Group.

It’s a matter of basic economics, says Freddy Thomas, 41, a bartender at a bustling downtown spot where groups of tourists and high-heeled young women often order the drink en masse, much to his chagrin. “Time is money. You can make six or seven other drinks in the same time [it takes to] make three mojitos,” he says.

Another issue: Once one person is seen with a mojito, others are inspired to order it. “It’s like a disease,” says Thomas.
I tried a mojito; once.  I wasn't impressed.  I'll stick to a simple bourbon and diet coke, or gin and tonic.  I've been inoculated.

Wombat-Socho delivers the big Rule 5 list at the Other McCain "Rule 5 Sunday: Like A Rock."

Many Fish Bite If You Got Good Bait

Looks like a Green Heron to me. We see them often at the harbor, fishing from the rocks. I've never seen one use bait, though.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Thoughts Go Out to Ted and His Family

Who lost their dog, Cinnamon, to a bout of illness.

Their family has had a tough time, lately.

More Zero Tolerance Insanity

Deaf Pre Schooler Told He Can’t Sign His Name In Sign Language Because It Looks Like A Gun

An Interesting Series of Interviews

First, Chris Matthews goes frothing ape shit mad at Reince Priebus:

Then, Newt Gingrich goes after Chris Matthews. This is one of the reasons, that even recognizing his obvious problems, I liked Newt as a Presidential candidate. He's not afraid to get in there and mix it up and actually make his argument:

Finally, Reince Priebus responds to question regarding the run in with Matthews:

Bay Bridge Closed for "Excessive Motion"

BALTIMORE, Md (WMAR) - The westbound lanes of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (US 50/301) were closed, and officials with the MDTA said the reason was reports of abnormal movement of the bridge.

Delays were expected throughout the morning as traffic was limited to one lane in each direction on the eastbound side of the bridge.

MDTA spokesperson Kelly Melhem says the bridge was closed overnight for maintenance, and the concern came from workers on the bridge.

"Just after midnight, workers on the bridge observed unusual and vertical movement on the bridge," Melhem said.

Melhem said workers were concerned because the movement they observed is not the "typical movement" of the bridge.

The bridge was reopened at around noon after inspectors completed their review of the bridge. According to a press release provided by the MDTA they found the bridge to be "safe for travel."

Officials say the unusual movement was caused by wind patterns coupled with tarps in place on bridge towers. They say the tarps have since been removed.
Nothing to worry about...

Topless DC Protest!

Whatever they're for, I'm against; Keep the Protest Alive!  (NSFW link), at least as long as they keep that soulless ginger as the lead marcher...  Hmm, as near as I can see their protesting their inability to go topless by going topless.

And just in case the link goes dead, here's the first photo (NSFW link).  It's also worth going to Althouse to see her post and the comments.  A taste:
Warning, lots of large photos of breasts at the link, which I recommend not for the usual gawking at breasts, but for the careful contemplation of the expression and demeanor of the various women. The pictures tell a story, and each woman is different — not just in the size and shape of her breasts — but in her attitude about joining this demonstration... and the way that attitude evolves as the demonstration progresses and as the various women perceive the differences in breasts and attitudes of the other women.
Just go there to gawk at the breasts; that's what it's really all about, right? They get the attention they want, and we get to gawk at the boobs.

Not bad; so much better than San Francisco, but not quite as good as Femen (on average).

It's a rare day I regret I don't work in the city.

Oh heck; just because it's real news story, and local...

New Proposal for Clean Coal: Deep Freeze

A new way to treat the gaseous waste from coal fired power plants is being proposed by a scientist from the University of Oregon, freezing out the toxic nitrogen and sulfur gases and a large fraction of the carbon dioxide.
Refrigerating coal-plant emissions would reduce levels of dangerous chemicals that pour into the air — including carbon dioxide by more than 90 percent — at a cost of 25 percent efficiency, according to a simple math-driven formula designed by a team of University of Oregon physicists.

The computations for such a system, prepared on an electronic spreadsheet, appeared in Physical Review E, a journal of the American Physical Society.

In a separate, unpublished and preliminary economic analysis, the scientists argue that the "energy penalty" would raise electricity costs by about a quarter but also reap huge societal benefits through subsequent reductions of health-care and climate-change costs associated with burning coal. An energy penalty is the reduction of electricity available for sale to consumers if plants used the same amounts of coal to maintain electrical output while using a cryogenic cleanup.

"The cryogenic treatment of flue gasses from pulverized coal plant is possible, and I think affordable, especially with respect to the total societal costs of burning coal," said UO physicist Russell J. Donnelly, whose research team was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy for the work detailed in the published journal article
While the required cooling machinery would be large — potentially the size of a football stadium — the cost for construction or retrofitting likely would not be dramatically larger than present systems that include scrubbers, which would no longer be necessary, Donnelly said. The new journal article does not address construction costs or the disposal of the captured pollutants, the latter of which would be dependent on engineering and perhaps geological considerations.
Last December the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new mercury and air toxic standards (MATS), calling for the trapping of 41 percent of sulfur dioxide and 90 percent of mercury emissions. A cryogenic system would do better based on the conservatively produced computations by Donnelly's team — capturing at least 98 percent of sulfur dioxide, virtually 100 percent of mercury and, in addition, 90 percent of carbon dioxide.
The energy costs of the system are pretty obvious; it takes a lot of refrigeration to reduce the temperature of the flue gases in a coal fired power plant below the temperature needed to freeze out the gases, essentially making dry ice out of the CO2.  But those costs are well known; apparently they would cost on the order of 25 percent of the energy produced by the plant.

However, it offers other benefits as well. Current flue gas discharge (FGD) treatment techniques are massive scale chemical neutralization in the scrubbers, (barge loads of lime or limestone), massive post capture treatment treatment system, and resulting large scale water pollution hazards.  Does the 25% efficiency loss include replacing the existing treatment systems?  Could it be even more economical in the long run?  It's certainly worth consideration.

Found at Watts Up With That.

Chesapeake Watermen Being Put in a Museum

The Calvert Marine Museum opens a traveling photography exhibit entitled “Endangered Species: Watermen of the Chesapeake” beginning September 14 in the Mezzanine gallery. Produced by the Mariner’s Museum, this exhibition takes visitors on a rare photographic journey to explore the proud heritage and determination of watermen and women of the Chesapeake Bay. The story is told through inspiring black and white portraiture of Norfolk photographer Glen McClure. Join Glen McClure for a public lecture about the exhibit at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, September 14. The exhibit is on display through the end of December 2012.

“Endangered Species: Watermen of the Chesapeake” focuses on the pictorial stories of the hardworking men and women whose livelihood is jeopardized by the diminishing stocks of oysters, blue crabs, and fish in the bay. As the fisheries teeter on the verge of collapse, so does this traditional way of life, followed by generations of watermen and their families that may soon disappear. In addition to McClure’s photos, a selection of original photographs from the Museum’s archival collection by A. Aubrey Bodine, one of the finest pictorialists of the 20th century will be on display. As a photojournalist for the Baltimore Sun, Bodine traveled the Baltimore area and Chesapeake Bay region learning about it in every tide, wind, weather and season. His remarkable documentary pictures were seen in the Sunday Sun, in books, magazines, calendars, and murals.
I know I seem pretty negative about Chesapeake Bay watermen in previous posts, and I would like to temper those remarks.  I have known and respected members of Maryland's Chesapeake Bay commercial fishing community ever since I moved to Maryland.  It's a hard life, and by and large they are a hard working group of men. 

In fact, the problems with commercial fishing by and large stem from the fact that they are hard working.  When the fishing gets hard, they work harder, longer hours and more gear.  That is precisely the problem, when the yield of fish at a given effort level starts to decline, it's time to stop fishing as hard, and allow the stock to reproduce.  Unfortunately, personal economics and the "Tragedy of the Commons" dictates that the instinct is to try harder.

My Next Camera

Or maybe not; I'm not so sure all women would come off this well. In case you're wondering, yes, Monica Cruz is Penelope Cruz's little sister.  It certainly shows.

Wombat-Socho delivers the big Rule 5 list at the Other McCain "Rule 5 Sunday: Like A Rock."

We're Losing the War on Infectious Disease

A couple of skirmishes in the long-term war against pathogenic bacteria  that human beings have been fighting since the dawn of human beings (before that, our pre-human ancestors fought in the same trenches).

NIH superbug outbreak highlights lack of new antibiotics
As doctors battled a deadly, drug-resistant superbug at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center last year, they turned to an antibiotic of last resort. But colistin, as it’s called, is not a fancy new creation of modern biotechnology. It was discovered in a beaker of fermenting bacteria in Japan — in 1949.

That doctors have resorted to such an old, dangerous drug — colistin causes kidney damage — highlights the lack of new antibiotics coming out of the pharmaceutical pipeline even in the face of a global epidemic of hospital-acquired bugs that quickly grow resistant to the toughest drugs.

It’s a case of evolution outrunning capitalism. Between 1945 and 1968, drug companies invented 13 new categories of antibiotics, said Allan Coukell, director of medical programs at the Pew Health Group. Between 1968 and today, just two new categories of antibiotics have arrived. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved one new antibiotic, which fights one of the many bacteria, Clostridium difficile, causing deadly hospital-borne infections.

Experts point to three reasons pharmaceutical companies have pulled back from antibiotics despite two decades of screaming alarms from the public health community: There is not much money in it; inventing new antibiotics is technically challenging; and, in light of drug safety concerns, the FDA has made it difficult for companies to get new antibiotics approved. As a result, only four of the world’s 12 largest pharmaceutical companies are researching new antibiotics, said David Shlaes, a drug development veteran and consultant.

Last year, Pfizer, the world’s biggest drug company, closed its Connecticut antibiotics research center, laying off 1,200 workers. The company said it was moving the operation to Shanghai. But Shlaes said Pfizer is struggling to open the Chinese facility and has largely abandoned antibiotics.

and in more "good news", CDC moves to keep new resistant gonorrhea at bay
Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that infects 700,000 Americans a year, already has become resistant to all but one class of antibiotics and could soon become untreatable, federal health officials warned. Doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new treatment guidelines, hoping to delay the inevitable day when standard drugs no longer work. The guidelines call for withholding a potent oral antibiotic now commonly used to treat the infection. Instead, doctors should use an injectable form to which the gonorrhea bacteria seems less likely to develop resistance, along with a second type of antibiotic pills.
And, of course, multiple antibiotic resistant tuberculosis has been a problem for years.

 There are a few things that need to be done here:

First, we need to end the abuse of the antibiotics that still work; in fact we need to end the abuse of antibiotics in general, and reserve them for illness where they will make a significant difference.  No more prescribing antibiotics for sniffles that will resolve themselves in time.  No more use of antibiotics on a prophylactic basis in raising animals for food.

Second, we need to eliminate any regulatory barriers to antibiotic development (see above).

Third, we need a new approach to infectious diseases.  It's time to bring the power of DNA sequencing, and today's insane computational capabilities to bear, and determine just where a pathogenic bacterium is vulnerable, and develop non-antibiotic, genetically specific means to attack these bacteria.

Fourth, we need to be willing to pay for the new antibiotics, and the genetic approaches I advocate.

Hurry, my health depends on it.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Butterflies du Jour

Common Buckeye - topside view
The change in weather seems to have brought a change in the butterfly fauna on the Joe Pye Weeds at work; either that, or simply a change with the changing seasons  The number of Swallowtails of all types seems much less, and a few new ones seem to be showing up.  Today I'm featuring a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia).

Common Buckeye - Underside view

The bold pattern of eyespots and white bars on the upper wing surface is distinctive in much of its range, though compare related species in the same genus. These are Mangrove Buckeye (Junonia evarete) and Tropical Buckeye (Junonia genoveva), formerly considered one species, and the Smoky Buckeye (Junonia evarete). The eyespots likely serve to startle or distract predators, especially young birds. The species has many flights throughout the year, with mostly northward migrations for the summer. Much of the northern United States is only colonized in the fall from southern populations. Some of the later broods move southwards in the fall. Common Buckeyes exhibit seasonal polyphenism, the summer version of the butterfly has light yellowish ventral wings and is called "linea". The Fall morph has pink ventral wings, and is called the "rosa" morph.
Another common, but difficult to photograph, and identify visitor to the garden.  I tentatively identify this as a Gray Hairstreak, (Strymon melinus), although once before I ID'd it as an Eastern Tailed Blue.  The markings fit the Gray Hairstreak a little better though.  It is gray on top, from the few glimpses I actually get.

This Would Scare Me, If I Were a Senior

Oh, that's right, I am, and it does. Health Care Expert: ObamaCare Will Kill Estimated 40,000 Seniors Every Year
Betsy McCaughey is the former lieutenant governor of New York. She has a Ph.D. from Columbia University. Her Web site is and she is the author of The Obama Health Law: What It Says and How to Overturn It.Today at Newt Gingrich’s “Newt University” conference, Dr. McCaughey explained that the “skimpy care” that Obama’s health law would impose on Medicare hospital patients “is likely to cause an estimated 40,000 unnecessary deaths each year.” As she explained in a brief video interview with me today, this is not a political charge, but is based on evidence from extensive medical research.

If you pay doctors. less, you'll have fewer doctors, and they'll be less competent on average. It's just that simple.

Spread from The Other McCain.

When The Rain Comes

Forget Isaac for a moment. Nearly two thousand miles north a storm with no name is causing problems in the Mid Atlantic. This time last year there was an evacuation for Irene. Now it is a small storm circulating through Virginia that has created problems. It tapped into tropical moisture off of the Atlantic Ocean and dumped a lot of rain on the Delmarva. Just watch the long range radar loop in the video clip on the left. (see below - Fritz)

According to Doppler Radar Rainfall Estimates, parts of Virginia and Maryland received 6-8 inches of rain today. Many more areas picked up a more tolerable 2-4 inches, which may or may not be too late in the growing season for the farmers.
After our walk yesterday, where we got drenched at the end, there was a brief lull which allowed us time to rinse Skye, and our beach shoes, and then the sky opened up.  It thundered and rained all afternoon, and well into the night.  When we came home this evening and emptied the rain gauge, we had accounted for 155 mm of rain, or 6.1 inches since the start of the storm.  We also found 6 inches of rain in Charlie's rain gauge as well.  From the looks of the radar, it may have rained twice as hard on places in the Delmarva.

We had desperately needed the rain, and we're fortunate in that few of the roads in our area are prone to flooding.  Today, the grass is noticably greener.

Some Pillow Talk

From Miss Hannah Minx:

See, this blog is educational, too.

Now where's the Italian version? Wombat-Socho delivers the big Rule 5 list at the Other McCain "Rule 5 Sunday: Like A Rock."

Cute Emergency Bicycle

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Isaac on Track for New Orleans

Last night, I noted that a single model showed Hurricane Isaac hitting New Orleans at Category 3, making it potentially as damaging as Hurricane Katrina back in 2005.  Today's models have shifted  the consensus track westward to a point that predicts landfall in the vicinity of New Orleans.

New Orleans Mayor Landrieu announced that no evacuations would be ordered, and that the inhabitants of New Orleans will be expected to "shelter in place."
With Tropical Storm Isaac expected to strengthen, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has declared a state of emergency and urged residents to begin preparing their homes as shelters through the storm. Landrieu said the storm is moving along at about 16 miles an hour, and if it stays at that pace, it could reach the city in the next 34 hours, putting it ashore late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Landrieu emphasized that there will be no shelters of last resort, so people need to be prepared to evacuate, should it come to that.
If it were me, I'd already be looking at options well away from New Orleans.  I hope New Orleans is better prepared than they were in 2005.  I have a bad feeling we might find out soon.

Grizzly Kills Photographer in Denali Park

A hiker in Alaska's Denali National Park photographed a grizzly bear for at least eight minutes before the bear mauled and killed him in the first fatal attack in the park's history, officials said Saturday.

Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, which show the bear grazing and not acting aggressively before the attack, Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.

The hiker was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when he came within 50 yards of the bear, far closer than the quarter-mile of separation required by park rules, officials said.

"They show the bear grazing in the willows, not acting aggressive in any form or manor during that period of time," Anderson said.
I'd like to see those photos, to see if it was worth it.

Stormy Weather at the Beach

We finally had a decent rain early this morning, almost 2 inches, along with a pretty decent thunder storm.  By the time we got to the beach, about 8:30 the sky was only partly cloudy, and there was a decent wind blowing.

We met Ernie, and his dogs, out practicing a little fetch.


 The tide was very high today, due to the winds of the past few days.  That, and the fact that the stream by Matoaka Cottages, made for a pretty wet walk, and not a great day for finding fossils.

One of the harbingers of Fall to come, the blooming of Sweet Autumn Clematis.  Often confused with Virgin's Bower, it is one of those plants escaped from cultivation.  It forms huge mounds of flowering vines.  While described as an invasive, I find it far less widespread than Kudzu, which literally cloaks the cliffs.
It's quite a pretty little flower, and has a wonderful scent.

A sudden cloudburst came in at the end of our walk, and drenched us, and drove us back home.

The Amazin' Missin' G

In one of his recent attack on Romney and Ryan, Vice Preznit Joe Biden made it a point to drop his "G"s in his speech in North Carolina, even though droppin' Gs at the end of words is not a common practice in the middle class (and certainly not the upper class) in Delaware, his home state.

Commentors have noted in the past how politicians not from southern states, including Hillary Clinton (Connecticut), Barack Obama (Hawaii??, by way of Indonesia and Chicago) have also used the vernacular dropped G when trying to appear "folksy".

According to this article by Charles Cooke at the National Review, they may be more correct than they imagine, and that the actual pronuciation of common English at the time the United States was settled was without the pronounced G:

Southerners and Gs
In Britain and in certain parts of America today, dropping Gs is perceived as a negative class or educational indicator. This is especially true in England, in which country a “cockney” or “estuary” accent is — albeit unfairly — redolent of ignorance, lack of social grace, and naivety. This association is a modern trend. Until the mid-20th century, the phenomenon was as strongly associated with the upper classes as those at the bottom of the social ladder. A favorite aristocratic pastime? “Huntin’, shootin’, and fishin’.”

This being the case, it would presumably horrify many to learn that, per the esteemed linguist Henry Wyld, as late as 1936, G-less pronunciation was “still widespread among large classes of the best speakers, no less than among the worst.” Among these “best speakers” was King Edward VIII, who was recorded asking a friend wearing a particularly loud tweed to Royal Ascot, “Mornin’, Harris. Goin’ rattin’?” Much research bears Wyld out, showing as it does that for most of the time in which modern English has been spoken, the G has remained predominantly orthographic. Even Bertie Wooster, P. G. Wodehouse’s dandyish blueblood, was prone to dropping his Gs — at least until his habit was kicked in 1934’s Thank You, Jeeves.
But why is the Southern accent different? Simplistically: From 1717 up to the eve of the War of Independence, Scots-Irish from the northern and western parts of Britain moved to America, helping to populate the South. Ultimately, most of these immigrants followed the rivers, setting up home along their paths. As the University of Pennsylvania’s John Fought has argued, the consequence of this was that the inland South was filled by immigrants who extended their manner of speaking “beyond the Mississippi to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri and beyond . . . taking Inland Southern down the major rivers.” As they moved away from the coasts, the accents and modes of speech that these immigrants brought with them were incubated and preserved in the new country.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Britain, Rs were going out of fashion, softening almost to the vanishing point in words like “Lord” and, for that matter, “word,” and Gs were coming in, especially among the upper classes and those who aspired to their ways. During the 19th century, British English changed dramatically, leading eventually to the quasi-codification of the Received Pronunciation that is still the calling card of the elites. Slowly but surely, the new way of speaking spread through the old country, and then to a lesser extent across the Atlantic. To varying degrees, in the cities of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, and in a few other parts of the upper East Coast — plus a few snobbish Southern outliers such as Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah — American accents were influenced by these British changes. But outside of these areas, distance inured most from being affected, and they kept their older pronunciations, including the silent G.
In fact, the language that Shakespeare wrote and spoke in, probably sounded a lot like the Scots-Irish  derived Appalachian accent of today:
The British Library has completed a new recording of 75 minutes of The Bard's most famous scenes, speeches and sonnets, all performed in the original pronunciation of Shakespeare's time.

That accent sounds a little more Edinburgh — and sometimes even more Appalachia — than you might expect. Actor Ben Crystal, director of the new recordings, joins NPR's Scott Simon to talk about the effort to perform Shakespeare's works authentically.

Bacon in Park No Hate Crime Caller Claims

Non-Halal Bacon Muffins
On Tuesday, various news outlets reported that someone had left raw bacon scattered around the field near the site of Ramadan prayers in Staten Island, presumably to offend the Muslims worshipers.

Hesham El-Meligy, founder of the Islamic Civic Association-Staten Island commented: “It’s unfortunately a manifestation of the atmosphere and the irresponsible rhetoric of some politicians and some in the public.”
Probably not served in Saudi Arabia

But now, a New York City newspaper has received an anonymous call from a person claiming to have discarded the spoiled bacon– and there was allegedly no offense intended to Muslims.

The caller, seemingly a little tongue-tied, told the Staten Island Advance he was putting it out for stray animals to eat because it had gone bad.

Haram Swim Suit Top

“Hi, Deborah,” the anonymous man said on the voice mail of the local reporter. “This is– I was reading the article about the horrible incident of bacon and Muslims in the park and I wanted to let you know that is not my intention,” stopping himself before saying his name.

“I had put the bacon there. It was going bad in my trunk and I put it out for the scavengers like the opossums and the raccoons and sea gulls, and I did not intend for that to cause anybody any problems.”

“It was not any (inaudible) anti-Muslim act, and I did not want to offend anybody in way. Thank you and have a good day,” he concluded.
If Georgia puts out excess blue berry pancakes for the birds, is that a hate crime if some bizarre Swedish cult thinks that  blueberries offend the ancient God of Lingonberries?

Can you imagine anything that could be done to a Mormon Church that would be labeled a hate crime?  Scatter coffee grounds around, or beer?  We've gotten to a state where offending certain groups (Christians and conservatives) is a considered a good thing, and offending certain other ethnic or societal groups is haram.

Wombat-Socho delivers the big Rule 5 list at the Other McCain "Rule 5 Sunday: Like A Rock."

PSA: How to Identify a Racist

Found at "The Other McCain."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Isaac a Threat to New Orleans?

GFS Model run shows Issac hitting New Orleans as Category 3 storm in 3 days..

Repeat after me: Just one model, just one run. Just one model, just one run. Deep breaths. Just one model, just one run. But with just over 72 hours until the night when a reliable computer model is calling for a 125 mph Category 3 hurricane to directly hit New Orleans from the southeast, then stall out northwest of the city and dump copious rains… it may be time to dust off & review those evacuation plans, lest they be needed tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. It takes time to evacuate New Orleans, if an evacuation is needed. Decisions need to be made soon.
In other words, if Isaac is going to hit New Orleans, it could be bad as Katrina, and it's getting late to to prepare in anticipation.

Maybe they should send Biden...

70% of Obama's Twitter Followers Fakes

30% are just twits.

RIP Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, died Saturday, weeks after heart surgery and days after his 82nd birthday.

His family reported the death at 2:45 p.m. ET. A statement said he died following complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.

Armstrong commanded the Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, and he radioed back to Earth the historic news: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind."

He was also the pilot in a previous mission space mission, Gemini 8, where his flying skills and cool head probably saved the mission:
After the Agena began execution of its stored command program, which instructed the Agena to turn the combined spacecraft 90° to the right, Scott noticed that they were in a roll. Armstrong used the Gemini's Orbit Attitude and Maneuvering System (OAMS) to stop the roll, but the moment he stopped using the thrusters, it started again. They immediately turned off the Agena and this seemed to stop the problem for a few minutes. Then suddenly it started again.

Scott noticed that the Gemini attitude fuel had dropped to 30% indicating that it was a problem on their own spacecraft. They would have to undock. After transferring control of the Agena back to the ground they undocked and with a long burst of translation thrusters moved away from the Agena.

It was at that point that the Gemini spacecraft began to roll even faster, and approached one revolution per second. The astronauts were now in danger of impaired vision and loss of consciousness due to the violent motion. At this point Armstrong shut down the OAMS and used the Re-entry Control System reaction control system (RCS) to stop the spin. After steadying the spacecraft, they tested each OAMS thruster in turn and found that Number 8 had stuck on. Mission rules dictated that the flight be terminated once the RCS had been fired for any reason, so Gemini VIII prepared for an emergency landing.
A statement from his family read, in part:
While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink."
The loss of the manned space programs is one of awful effects of the budget being squeezed to death by the growth of entitlements.

Back to the Beach

We're back at the beach, after a week off.  It's not the best weather, occasionally raining and blowing 15-20 mph out of the east.  But we're not complaining, we desperately need the rain, and Skye is happy to be back at the beach.
It was a good day for soaring birds, though.  This Osprey was using the wind to hover just over one spot in the water.  Eventually he moved away without diving though.
This pteranodon Great Blue Heron was also soaring.  I don't understand that behavior, as they normally feed while standing up.
Why lookie here, it's Joel and Red!  Joel and his wife have been on a long cruise out of Boston, about a month, that hit all the Atlantic Arctic hot spots, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, which is why he and Red have been absent from blog posts for a while.