Monday, February 28, 2011

Tonight's Poker Lesson

BTW, this counts a $#!* my brother sends. Thanks Ted.

That'll Get Your Heart Going...

Chicks and Cats Deserve Each Other

Cats Adore, Manipulate Women
...While cats have plenty of male admirers, and vice versa, this study and others reveal that women tend to interact with their cats -- be they male or female felines -- more than men do.

"In response, the cats approach female owners more frequently, and initiate contact more frequently (such as jumping on laps) than they do with male owners," co-author Manuela Wedl of the University of Vienna told Discovery News, adding that "female owners have more intense relationships with their cats than do male owners."

Cats also seem to remember kindness and return the favors later. If owners comply with their feline's wishes to interact, then the cat will often comply with the owner's wishes at other times. The cat may also "have an edge in this negotiation," since owners are usually already motivated to establish social contact...

Nothing like a girl and her cat...

Sewage in the News!

Nitrogen-removing septics might be way to go

Some more verbiage on the possible consequences of Gov. O'Malley's proposal to ban septic systems on any new housing developments with 5 or more houses.   This one is more interesting than many because it is couched in terms of its effects on our county, Calvert:
While the ban would affect the entire state, Calvert County government will have the task of enforcing it, and right now more information is needed to fully understand the impact it will have. Commissioners' President Susan Shaw noted that with the definition of a major subdivision including as few as five houses, it could affect a farmer who wants to give portions of his land to his children. "So if you had a 300-acre farm and you wanted to put five houses on it, you'd have to get water and sewer. It's impractical," she said.

O'Malley subsequently said the proposal would not affect farmers trying to do that, but the language of the bill does not address the issue — it only defines a subdivision as having five or more lots.

While not the sexiest issue around, sewage has been a hot topic in Calvert County over the years. Portions of the county have gotten sewer lines in the past decade, making way for growth spurts in places like the Lusby town center. Other town centers, like St. Leonard, are debating the benefits of having sewer, because some of the residents do not want similar growth.
I'm not so focused on the problem of the farmer with five kids, sure it's a problem that arises, but rather rarely.  Farms around here have fissioned off family pieces, but rarely five at a time.  The issue in my mind is the continued ability of Calvert County to absorb new people and services.  We are predominantly a bedroom community for people who work else where, D.C., Lexington Park, or even further afield.  People come here because there housing is relatively cheap compared to the urban centers, the schools are better, and you can buy a house with some trace of nature around it.  People value that.  To require that essentially all development will require a sewage treatment plant would be prohibitive for much of that development, which is a large part of our county's economy, and freeze it into an exclusive bed room community.  I don't think that's a healthy condition.

Remember, all septic systems in MD are only contribution contributing about 8% of the states nitrogen to the Bay.  Will the restrictions cut that that to 6% or 4%?  Is that enough to take people's freedom to live where they would like to live for?  Can the new N removing septic systems (already mandated in the critical areas) make the same or a similar difference, and continue to allow people freedom of choice as to where to live?

Are You Smarter than an Octopus?

Coconut-Carrying Octopus Stuns Scientists
Homebuilding is first time tool use has been seen among octopi
(Newser) – Australian scientists observing octopi on the sea floor near Indonesia were amazed to discover that the creatures scoop up coconut halves, empty them out, and carry them around to assemble into shelters. The behavior shows a surprising level of intelligence, the researchers say, and is the first recorded instance of tool use among octopi or any invertebrate creature.  "What makes it different from a hermit crab is this octopus collects shells for later use, so when it's transporting them it's not getting any protection from them," one of the scientists tells AP. "It's that collecting it to use it later that is unusual."

I know people who don't show that level of forethought.

Moby Duck

World’s Ocean circulations revealed by lost ship load of toy ducks

27/2/2011 Independent Lost at sea: On the trail of Moby-Duck.The fate of a shipment of bath toys missing since 1992 has led to greater knowledge of the world’s oceans by Guy Adams

They are small, yellow and designed to endure nothing more stressful than a quick journey around a bathtub. But after almost 20 years lost at sea, a flotilla of plastic ducks has been hailed for revolutionising mankind’s knowledge of ocean science.

The humble toys are part of a shipment of 29,000 packaged ducks, frogs, turtles and beavers made in China for a US firm called First Years Inc. They were in a crate that fell off the deck of a container ship during a journey across the Pacific from Hong Kong in January 1992.

Since that moment, they have bobbed tens of thousands of miles. Some washed up on the shores of Hawaii and Alaska; others have been stuck in Arctic ice. A few crossed the site near Newfoundland where the Titanic sank, and at least one is believed to have been found on a beach in Scotland.

Now the creatures, nicknamed the “Friendly Floatees” by various broadcasters who have followed their progress over the years, have been immortalised in a book titled Moby-Duck. It not only chronicles their extraordinary odyssey, and what it has taught us about currents, but also lays bare a largely ignored threat to the marine environment: the vast numbers of containers that fall off the world’s cargo ships...

 Oceanographers have been using floaters for years...  But it's a cute story anyway.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Al Qaeda Attack Video

The Beach, 2/27/11 Edition

Dennis Fleming, the hero of the "near tragedy at my fishing hole" was just heading out this morning as we arrived for our walk.  Fishamajig is his on screen handle and the name of his guide service.  It looks like he's going out alone.  Too bad I didn't hitch a ride.

As usual, click Pics to enlarge.
It's starting to feel a bit like Spring. It was a nice day out, wind calm, temperatures rising from mid 40s to mid 50s as we walked.  The tide was high, but there was lots of exposed shell hash, so we got lucky and found 38 sharks teeth, all pretty small, though.
 Skye did a little skinny dipping.
A cardinal posed and sang for us up at the top of a tree.
An unusual mirage, showing James Island(s) in the distance. I guess this would be categorized as a Fata Morgana type mirage, but this one was new to me, with what looks like a line of fog or mist separating two parts of the image.  The Bufflehead drake heading down the bay is a happy coincidence.

UPDATE:  A little research, and staring at the mirage picture causes me to change my mind.  I think this is an inferior mirage (no, not low class; an inferior mirage is one where the secondary image appears below the primary image). I thinks that what is happening here is that the image of James Island is being reflected off the air above the water like the "water" in a highway mirage is the reflection of the sky.

Dogs as Retarded Wolves...

A very long article from National Geographic on the domestication of animals, and dogs in particular.  It covers a lot of ground I've heard before (the Siberian Fox experiment for example), but it also hits some items that I'd never heard of before:
In his own hunt for domestication genes, Andersson is taking a close look at the most populous domesticated animal on Earth: the chicken. Their ancestors, red jungle fowl, roamed freely in the jungles of India, Nepal, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. Somewhere around 8,000 years ago, humans started breeding them for food. Last year Andersson and his colleagues compared the full genomes of domesticated chickens with those of zoo-based populations of red jungle fowl. They identified a mutation, in a gene known as TSHR, that was found only in domestic populations. The implication is that TSHR thereby played some role in domestication, and now the team is working to determine exactly what the TSHR mutation controls. Andersson hypothesizes that it could play a role in the birds' reproductive cycles, allowing chickens to breed more frequently in captivity than red jungle fowl do in the wild—a trait early farmers would have been eager to perpetuate. The same difference exists between wolves, which reproduce once a year and in the same season, and dogs, which can breed multiple times a year, in any season.
It's easy to see how a gene that regulates pupping to be controlled on a seasonal basis that makes sure pups are born so that they can grow with optimal food supply would be selected against in animals with more stable year-round supply of food.  But this one was the most interesting:
In 2009 UCLA biologist Robert Wayne led a study comparing the wolf and dog genomes. The finding that made headlines was that dogs originated from gray wolves not in East Asia, as other researchers had argued, but in the Middle East. Less noticed by the press was a brief aside in which Wayne and his colleagues identified a particular short DNA sequence, located near a gene called WBSCR17, that was very different in the two species. That region of the genome, they suggested, could be a potential target for "genes that are important in the early domestication of dogs." In humans, the researchers went on to note, WBSCR17 is at least partly responsible for a rare genetic disorder called Williams-Beuren syndrome. Williams-Beuren is characterized by elfin features, a shortened nose bridge, and "exceptional gregariousness"—its sufferers are often overly friendly and trusting of strangers.

After the paper was published, Wayne says, "the number one email we got was from parents of children suffering from Williams-Beuren. They said, Actually our children remind us of dogs in terms of their ability to read behavior and their lack of social barriers in their behavior." The elfin traits also seemed to correspond to aspects of the domestication phenotype. Wayne cautions against making one-to-one parallels between domestication genes and something as genetically complex as Williams-Beuren. The researchers are "intrigued," he says, and hoping to explore the connection further.
Williams-Beuren appears to be caused by a deletion of up to 26 genes.  But evolution could provide a more subtle change in those genes, with one or more being suppressed which lead the the "exceptionally gregariousness" and "overly friendly and trusting of strangers" aspects of Williams-Beuren syndrome.  If your going to have wolves in the house, it's a good thing if they're exceptionally gregarious and overly friendly and trusting of strangers. 

Beware of Food Related Injuries

Swiped from Insty who ripped it off from here:

I hate Pizza Burn, but a touch of Wasabi Nose is OK...

What a Day!

Thank goodness that's over.

We started off with our usual beach walk. Pretty nice, not much wind, but a little cool, but otherwise unremarkable.

 Skye has never been a big swimmer (she knows how, but we've only seen her swim once, and that was from necessity, not desire).  My interpretation is that it's usually bad news when a sled dog has to swim, and that they try to avoid it.  I think she looks down on the silly labs that do it for fun.
But she will wade in until half her body is immersed.

A little wade seems to leave her reinvigorated.

I spotted this incipient "Ivy Monster" on the way home.  Funny, I've walked by many times, and never had it catch my eye before.

The Great Ivy Monster prepares to envelop a house

On the way to and from the beach we drove past the slip where I keep my boat.  I had made arrangements with the Marina to put the boat in this week, after some minor work.  Later in the afternoon, I loaded the car with stuff for the boat, including the canopy, and drove down to start getting it ready for fishing.

As I stepped on the boat, water rose up on my feet, and I realized the bilge was full of water, and the boat was in the process of sinking...  I hit the bilge pump switch, but got no response.

I managed to find Blake, the young man (and a long time friend of my sons) who works there, and he rigged a pump, and we pumped it out.  We quickly saw that the water was coming in though a hole in the transom where the cable for the depth finders transducer cable went through.  He poled it over to the lift, and lifted the boat.  After we de-watered it again, we determined that the bilge pump float switch had failed, allowing the bilge to fill with bay water.  Once the bay water covered the battery terminals, electrolysis rapidly destroyed the positive terminal, and cut power to the motor.

So, I guess this week, Blake is going to work on a better solution to patching the transducer cable hole than a big wad of 5200.  I'll work on getting a new bilge pump installed.  Maybe it will be ready again by next week end.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Do You Sleep On Your Left or Right Side?

It doesn't matter, either way you're doing something wrong

If you sleep on your right side, you risk acid reflux.  If you sleep on your left, you may favor congestive heart failure.  All in all, I'll go with the acid reflux and keep taking Prevacid...

Of course, what I really do is roll from side to side, does that encourage both or neither?

Researcher Dies of Bubonic Plague

Plague Death Came Within Hours, Spurred by Scientist's Medical Condition
University of Chicago infectious disease specialist Ken Alexander still remembers the shock he felt almost 18 months ago when his pager shook with the message that a colleague had died from the plague.

A half-hour later, Alexander was sitting at a table in the dean’s office with researchers, lawyers, administrators and campus security officers, he recalled in an interview. The stricken colleague, Malcolm Casadaban, a 60-year-old genetics and cell biology professor, had checked into a hospital five days earlier and died within hours. Lab results were positive for the plague, and the university’s “biosafety fire alarm” had been triggered, Alexander said.
 That'll get your attention.
Casadaban was conducting laboratory research on the bacterium that causes the plague when he became sick. The germ was genetically weakened and considered harmless to humans. It was considered so safe, Casadaban’s work with the live plague bacteria wasn’t noted when he fell ill, according to the CDC. A professor at the university for 30 years, by all accounts he had followed the proper safety protocols, the report said.
 Working with a weakened strain is a good strategy, but something went wrong.  What was it?
An autopsy found the researcher had a medical condition called hemochromatosis, which causes an excessive buildup of iron in the body, according to the CDC report. The disorder affects about 1 in 400 people and goes unnoticed in about half of patients.

Casadaban’s illness is important because of the way the plague bacterium had been weakened. Yersinia pestis needs iron to survive. Normally it gets this iron by stealing it from a host’s body with proteins that bind to it and help break it down. To make the bacterium harmless, scientists genetically stripped it of the proteins needed to consume iron.
"Death and the Maiden" by Hans Baldung Grien (1517)
 So Casadaban's blood gave the bacteria all the iron it needed.  It proliferated and killed him.  It's a neat story, really unfortunate but neat. Still, something had to have gone wrong with this isolation procedures; weakened or not, the bacterium should have been kept under strict biohazard conditions.  But then, I never make a mistake in the lab; no never.

But, the plague wasn't all bad after all.  It gave us all kinds of good art...

They Told Me If I Voted for McCain Congressmen Would Try to Censor Nude Art

And they were right.

"Triumph of Civic Virtue"

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York Congressman is calling for the removal and sale of a statue that once graced City Hall park, saying it is ugly and sexist.Anthony Weiner, who represents parts of Queens and Brooklyn, called on city officials to remove the decaying statue, entitled "Triumph of Civic Virtue," from its pedestal near Queens' Borough Hall, rather than spend thousands to have it repaired.

"Mayor (Fiorello) LaGuardia had it right when he banished this offensive statue from City Hall Park," Weiner told a news conference on Friday.

"Queens residents don't want this sitting in our back yard any longer," the Democrat said, adding the statue "is neither civil nor virtuous, and it's time for it to go."

The statue by sculptor Frederick MacMonnies depicts a nude male figure standing atop two women who represent evil sirens...
 The sculptors intent?

"The heroic figure, the sculptor said, "looks out into the distance so concentrated on his great ideal that he does not even see the temptation" of the pleasure and luxury that lead to "devious ways".
Shocking, don't you think?   Does anyone remember the fuss when John Ashcroft didn't want to be repeatedly photographed with the bare breasts of Lady Liberty peering over his shoulder?

Squeal Like a Pig

 Wild Sex Cries Aim to Advertise Partner's Popularity
Hot Lesbian Bonobos

The cries one calls out during sex can serve as status symbols advertising just how popular your partners are, according to new findings in the sexually promiscuous chimpanzees known as bonobos.

Just like humans, sex is not used simply for reproduction among bonobos, but now also serves as a social tool, researchers added.

Bonobos, once known as pygmy chimpanzees, are the sister species of common chimpanzees, and with them are the closest living relatives to humans. These endangered apes are legendary for how sexual they are, frequently engaging in close encounters with members of both the same and opposite sexes.
 Which reminds me of other great moments in sex cries:

Self Administered Anesthesia

Giving women control over their own epidurals during labor could reduce the need for medical intervention
The spinal pain relief is normally given at a steady rate, but some women are offered a button to push when they feel they need an extra dose.

The study, presented at a US conference, suggested that women using the devices used a less anaesthetic, with fewer forceps deliveries...The study at the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center in California compared the experience of 270 women, two-thirds of whom received a steady infusion of drugs, which the other third was given a hand-held controller so drugs could be delivered when needed....While there were no differences in the duration of labor, those using "patient-controlled epidural analgesia" (PCEA) used approximately 30% less anaesthetic.

Patient satisfaction was roughly the same, although women self-administering drugs did report more pain during the final stage of labor.
Seems like a reasonable approach, but I can see some women suffering more than necessary by being unwilling to use as much as necessary to make themselves comfortable.


The Oldest Practitioner of the Oldest Profession

The oldest swinger in town? Milly, 96, makes £50,000 a year... as an escort
A woman who has worked as an escort since the end of the Second World War is still earning £50,000 pounds a year from her sex services - at the age of 96.

Milly Cooper was swept off her feet by a wealthy American at the age of 27, and moved from London's East End to Las Vegas.

But he died in action in 1945, leaving her with a baby daughter and no regular means of support...
Ah, it's the old, "hooker with the heart of gold" story.  It might even be true.
...In 1979, after nearly a 25-year break from providing personal sex services, she resumed that part of her life - and has continued as an escort ever since.

Milly, who has slept with 3,500 men, says her clients range in age from 29 to 92.

She currently sees two clients a week, earning up to £800 each time.

She told a magazine: 'Nowadays, the girls have vast boobs and skinny bodies and parade around half-naked.

'In my day, we would call those girls trollops. The industry's become mucky'...
I see a heckuva movie in this...

Shadow Fighting - Samuri Style

Friday, February 25, 2011

New ET Trailer

Conservative Politicians Better Looking... least in Finland
Rightwing candidates are better looking than their leftwing counterparts, something they benefit from during elections, according to a study conducted by Swedish and Finnish economists.

"One possible explanation is that people who are seen or consider themselves beautiful tend to be more anti-egalitarian and rightwing," Niclas Berggren, one of the three co-authors of the study, told AFP Wednesday.

The study compared election results from parliamentary and municipal elections held in Finland in 2003 and 2004 respectively with an online poll of non-Finns to determine how the 1,357 participating Finnish candidates ranked in terms of beauty.

More than 2,500 non-Finns were shown photographs of each candidate, with no indication of which side of the political spectrum they stood on, and were asked to rank them on a scale from one (very ugly) to five (very beautiful).

"We establish two main results. First, we find that the candidates on the right look better than the candidates on the left. Second, we find a greater effect of good looks, in terms of more votes for candidates on the right," the report states.
 Lefties rushed to rationalize the results to make themselves feel superior:
Explaining the findings, he said that globally, "the left perhaps traditionally has used a more rational approach.

The right meanwhile, "has been more conscious of the importance of looks," he said, pointing to the examples of Ronald Reagan and Sarah Palin in the United States.
Overlooking the obvious explanation that their liberal beliefs made them uglier.

MADD Mother Arrested for DUI

Former President Of MADD Arrested On DUI Charge
GAINESVILE, Fla. (KTLA) -- The former president of a Gainesville, Fla. chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, is facing DUI charges, according to the Gainesville Sun.

48-year-old Debra Oberlin was pulled over last week after officers reportedly spotted her driving erratically.

She blew a .234 and a .239 on a pair of breathalyzer tests, the Sun reports, well over Florida's .08 legal limit.

Oberlin apparently told officers she'd had four beers.
That's a lot of alcohol!

West Virginia Gambling on Bay Cleanup

Chesapeake Bay funding bill passes major hurdles in Senate
MARTINSBURG - The Chesapeake Bay funding bill is well on its way to passage, state Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, said in a telephone interview Thursday. "We've cleared the highest hurdle - the Senate Finance Committee - it was a unanimous vote," said Snyder, who has shepherded the bill through the legislative process.

Senate Bill 245 would dedicate $6 million over 30 years to a bond issue that would help pay for improvements, upgrades and new construction of wastewater treatment plants in West Virginia's eight-county Eastern Panhandle. The improvements are needed to meet new, stringent pollution limits imposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Chesapeake Bay Restoration program. The program is aimed at reducing pollution in bay tributaries.
 I applaud West by-gawd Virginia for stepping up and helping it's communities.
Rather than coming from the excess lottery fund, which is already dedicated to specific programs, the revenue to cover the bonds will come from the video lottery's undedicated surplus funds that are used for supplemental appropriations at the end of the fiscal year, Unger explained.

"It settled everyone down - no one's ox was going to be gored," he said.

The unencumbered dollars come to about $26 to $30 million a year, Unger said, and are a stable revenue source with which to finance the bonds so the interest rate might be better.
 Generally speaking, I don't like lotteries as revenue raisers; it seems too much like a tax on stupidity.

Burn, Baby, Burn!

National Geographic reported that they have recovered the remains of a child partially burned in the remains of what is likely the earliest known house in the Western Hemisphere:
In what's now central Alaska, one of the first Americans—only three years old at the time—was laid to rest in a pit inside his or her house 11,500 years ago, a new excavation reveals....What's more, if the remains yield usable DNA, the child could help uncover just who was living on the North American side of the land bridge that likely still connected the Americas to Asia at the time, experts added.

One thing that apparently isn't a mystery is how the child was memorialized.

"You can see that the child was laid in the pit—a fire hearth inside the house—and the fire was started on top of the child," study co-author Joel Irish said. Charred wood from the pit allowed scientists to assign a radiocarbon date to the site.
Hmm, it sounds pretty fishy to me.  If a modern pit were found with a child partially burned and missing, I suspect the police would put out crime scene tape, and the only religious talk would center around cults and Satanism.  While I don't know anything more about the site than the article, I would think that a properly skeptical scientist would at least entertain and try to eliminate the notion of ritual cannibalism.
Now that an Ice Age Alaskan home has been found, scientists are poised to unlock secrets of how early North Americans lived and behaved, said Goebel, of Texas A&M University's Center for the Study of the First Americans.

It's already clear the residents had a taste for salmon—the remains of about 300 of the fish were found in the pit.

In addition to remains of young ground squirrels, the salmon are among evidence that the house was a summer residence for a seminomadic people. Both animals are abundant in the warmer months...."We picture these people as foragers hunting large game, like bison or elk. But the fishing element is kind of new, and it's kind of striking that there are so many fish."
How could a semi-nomadic people in Alaska not use salmon as food?  Even I can catch salmon by hand in clear Alaska streams.  (Yes, I've done it, just on a C&R basis).  Of course, dodging the grizzly and brown bears could have been an issue.

Unsurprisingly, the culture of the people who used the site seems similar to those on the Siberian side of the Bering Strait
Study co-author Irish, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, noted that some of the site's stone artifacts, construction style, and animal remains recall those found in today's Siberia..."The Alaskan record looks much more like Siberia or the Russian Far East record than it does anything in the lower 48" U.S. states, study co-author Potter added.DNA could clear up the picture considerably, and the ancient child's remains offer an unprecedented opportunity.

"We're really interested in using the record from Alaska to define how the first Ice Age humans crossed the Beringia land bridge," Goebel said...
This is cool, if somewhat gruesome, but then, that's the way much archeology is.

Petition to Ban Nets in Chesapeake Bay

A petition to abolish nets for harvesting fish in Chesapeake Bay is in the works.  If this issue interests you, I suggest you read it, and make your own decision as to whether to sign it.

I have signed it, but I consider this to be a largely quixotic gesture.  The use of nets in fishing is too deeply ingrained in the culture of fishing, and for such fishing as menhaden, herring and other forage fish, no other means are available, and that won't be banned with the wave of a wand.  However, given the recent spate of egregious gill net violations, I think putting a little fear in the the commercial sector to go straight or have their means of livelihood eliminated might prove to be useful.

You do not need to be a resident of Maryland or Virginia to sign, but I have no doubt that opponents will screen the signatures on that basis.

Stranger thing have happened.  Florida did get inshore nets banned after a long, bitter battle between commercial and recreational fishermen. However, the recreational fishing industry in Florida is enormously more organized and powerful than that of Maryland or Virginia, and the relative power of the inshore commercial fishermen much less.

A Chris By Any Other Name

Doesn't get as much action.
Men named Chris get laid more than any others; Edward, Dylan, and Frank fare the worst. A dating Web site called poll almost 20,000 men (and a similar number of women) who use their site to find out who’s having the most sex. The results show that guys with an “S” at the end of the name fare the best.
On the women’s side, Vanessa, Angela, Tamara, Diana, and Sheila were the top five female names giving up the golden portal the most ranging from 10.2 to 9.4 sexual partners.

Girls named Dorothy fared the worst, averaging 1.3 partners (though still higher than the Edwards, Dylans, Franks, and Jasons of the world).

And the race to message chicks on Facebook named Vanessa starts…NOW.

Pitch Perfect?

Pitch standards, playback speeds, and metronome marks. In music, time is everything.
On 16 February 1859 the French government passed a law that fixed the frequency of the A note above middle C at 435 Hz. Besides the benefits of uniformity, the new standard sought to end a growing problem: pitch inflation.

Violins, pianos, and other stringed instruments sound livelier when their strings are tightened to raise the pitch. The tightening amplifies the harmonics. High, bright notes sound thrilling to an audience, but they're harder to sing. Pitch inflation was troubling opera singers, whose complaints helped bring about the French law.

Although the French standard didn't catch on everywhere, the idea of a standard did—sort of. In 1995 the International Organization for Standardization chose 440 Hz for its A-note standard, but orchestras around the world have not unanimously adopted it. 
  My guitar tuner can be set to A 440,441, etc etc as desired, not that I'd ever have the desire to meddle.
On 2 March 1959 Miles Davis and his band went into Columbia Records' 30th Street studio in New York City to record the first four tracks of Kind of Blue. They recorded the rest of the album on 22 April. Kind of Blue was an immediate critical and commercial success. It remains the best-selling jazz album of all time.

In 1992 Mark Wilder, senior mastering engineer for Sony Music Studios, undertook a new remastering of the famous album. During the project he discovered an error. The three-channel tape deck used to record the 2 March session had been running slowly. Thus, the first four tracks, which occupied side one of the original vinyl LP, ended up faster and sharper than Davis had intended. Wilder corrected the problem for his remaster.
Not at all uncommon.  I have a number of pieces of music in my collection which seem to be slightly off key to a guitar tuned to A440.  Apparently the speeds on the old tape decks tended to vary somewhat with the amount of tape on the reels.
In 1817, two years after the mechanical metronome had been patented, Beethoven went back to his musical scores and marked the tempi at which each movement should be played. To some conductors, Beethoven's tempi seem too fast, but to others, like Carlos Kleiber shown here, the tempi are exhilarating.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shut Up and Sing!

Why you shouldn't pay any attention to science or politics from a rock star.

Friction in a Vacuum

Vacuum has friction after all 
A ball spinning in a vacuum should never slow down, since no outside forces are acting on it. At least that's what Newton would have said. But what if the vacuum itself creates a type of friction that puts the brakes on spinning objects? The effect, which might soon be detectable, could act on interstellar dust grains.

In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle says we can never be sure that an apparent vacuum is truly empty. Instead, space is fizzing with photons that are constantly popping into and out of existence before they can be measured directly. Even though they appear only fleetingly, these "virtual" photons exert the same electromagnetic forces on the objects they encounter as normal photons do.

Now, Alejandro Manjavacas and F. Javier GarcĂ­a de Abajo of the Institute of Optics at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid say these forces should slow down spinning objects. Just as a head-on collision packs a bigger punch than a tap between two cars one behind the other, a virtual photon hitting an object in the direction opposite to its spin collides with greater force than if it hits in the same direction.

So over time, a spinning object will gradually slow down, even if equal numbers of virtual photons bombard it from all sides. The rotational energy it loses is then emitted as real, detectable photons (Physical Review A, DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.82.063827)...
 I'm kind of surprised that Stephen Hawking didn't pick up on this first. It's related to the way he predicted the evaporation of black holes, the creations of virtual particles near the object, and then an unequal distribution of the results. We'll, I guess he's got a lot on his plate.

So why doesn't it slow forward progress of an object through space? That's relatively easy.  By the principle of relativity, no object can be said to be absolutely moving in space, only with respect to other objects.  Therefore the virtual particle act evenly on the particle.  Spin, however, is absolute, and can be detected without reference to outside frames of reference.

If Lions Have Prides, Cougers have...?

A Passel of Pumas:
DOUGLAS COUNTY — They don’t exactly hunt in packs, don’t travel in herds and aren’t typically thought of as communal beings.

The image of the mountain lion as a stealthy, solitary beast is woven into the fabric of the American West.

And yet there they were on a game trail in Douglas County — eight creatures famous for being loners, all huddled together as if attending some big-cat block party.

Brad Thomas captured the images a few days before Christmas on a trail camera, triggered by a motion sensor, set up on private land.

“The pictures are 100 percent legit,” said Jon Gallie, the assistant district biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Wenatchee.

 So what were eight cougars doing together (besides having a snack)?

Gallie’s best guess is that the photos show a female cougar with her three kittens and a daughter from a previous litter with her three kittens. Females sometimes set up home ranges near their mothers and have occasional rendezvous.

Beyond that, neither Gallie, Koehler, nor other wildlife biologists could say with any certainty what was happening in the pictures.

“We don’t know if this was a chance event, or something they communicated,” Koehler said. “Perhaps it’s like bumping into your neighbor when you go out to get the mail.

“We’re starting to discover that they’re just more social than we once thought,” he continued. “Not like African lions, of course. But they do a lot of communicating.”

“What’s interesting from the landowner’s perspective is, there’s cattle all around there, and no one’s reported a loss. Those cougars are behaving like they should,” Gallie said. There have also been no complaints from people about losing pets, or any concerns about safety, he said.
 Aww, that's just cute, they're just staying near Grandma.  But if I were a 90 lb jogger, I would still be nervous.

Well, Tolkien's Dwarves Were a Tough Bunch

Dwarfism Gene Linked to Protection from Cancer and Diabetes
A 22-year study of abnormally short individuals suggests that growth-stunting mutations also may stunt two of humanity's worst diseases. Published in Science Translational Medicine, the study raises the prospect of achieving similar protection in full-grown adults by other means, such as pharmaceuticals or controlled diets.

The international study team, led by cell biologist Valter Longo of the University of Southern California and Ecuadorian endocrinologist Jaime Guevara-Aguirre, followed a remote community on the slopes of the Andes mountains. The community includes many members with Laron syndrome, a deficiency in a gene that prevents the body from using growth hormone. The study team followed about 100 such individuals and 1,600 relatives of normal stature.

Over 22 years, the team documented no cases of diabetes and one non-lethal case of cancer in Laron's subjects. Among relatives living in the same towns during the same time period, 5 percent were diagnosed with diabetes and 17 percent with cancer.

The Food and Drug Administration has already approved drugs that block growth hormone activity in humans. These are used to treat acromegaly, a condition related to gigantism.

Because studies have shown that growth hormone deficiency protects mouse and human cells against some chemical damage, Longo said his team would initially seek approval for a clinical trial to test such drugs for the protection of patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Growth hormone-blocking drugs such as pegvisomant appear to be well tolerated, Longo said. But even if chronic growth hormone blocking should come with a minor side effect, Longo predicted that societies and governments would make the trade in exchange for less chronic disease.

He called it the "square survival curve," where most of one's life is lived without major illness.

"It's the dream of every administration, anywhere in the world. You live a long healthy life, and then you drop dead," Longo said.

Going, Going...

Where have all the stripers gone?

An editorial in the Norwich Bulletin by Bob Sampson:
I’ve been around long enough to see striped bass populations build up and disappear twice since the late 1960s, when they were abundant.   In those days, when alewives, or buckeyes, were legal live bait, all you had to do was net a couple, impale one live one on a hook, cast it almost anywhere in the upper Thames River between late April and early June, and it was doomed...

Heavy fishing pressure, mostly from commercial netters in Chesapeake Bay, the stripers’ primary breeding area, combined with a constant drain on adults from both sport and commercial rod and reel fishermen here in the northeast, eventually devastated the striper population.  By the mid-1980s, fishery managers were in panic mode as the east coast population of striped bass plummeted to historically low levels.

To protect the few remaining fish, stringent regulations were put in place. During the mid-1980s, federal authorities imposed a five-year moratorium on commercial fishing in Chesapeake Bay. Here in the northeast, rod and reel sport fishermen were limited to a single fish per day that had to be at least 38 inches long.
And that's about when I arrived in the Bay area, just in time for the moratorium on striped bass in the Bay.  
Striped bass were saved from destruction and their numbers built up during the 1990s, only to be chiseled back down by heavy targeted pressure from all sides over the past half-decade or so.
 And as you can see the recreational catch Coast wide has gone back to the levels at the time of the moratorium, and a similar pattern is seen in the Maryland data:

So, while fishing pressure is up, the catch is down. In the simplest of fishing management schemes, increasing effort and declining catch is a sure sign that you are fishing beyond the "Maximum Sustainable Yield", the holy grail of fish management.  (The Holy Grail being something one seeks with religious fervor, maybe glimpses, but never attains).

Time to step up and do something about it.

Graphs swiped from Brandon's post on TidalFish.

And They Ask Me Why I Drink

More Intelligent People Are More Likely to Binge Drink and Get Drunk
In an earlier post, I show that, consistent with the prediction of the Hypothesis, more intelligent individuals consume larger quantities of alcohol more frequently than less intelligent individuals. The data presented in the post come from the National Child Development Study in the United Kingdom. The NCDS measures the respondents’ general intelligence before the age of 16, and then tracks the quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption throughout their adulthood in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. The graphs presented in the post show a clear monotonic association between childhood general intelligence and both the frequency and the quantity of adult alcohol consumption. The more intelligent they are in childhood, the more and the more frequently they consume alcohol in their adulthood...
The association between childhood intelligence and adult frequency of getting drunk is equally clear and monotonic, as you can see in the following graph. “Very dull” Add Health respondents almost never get drunk, whereas “very bright” Add Health respondents get drunk once every other month or so...
Well, that explains Christopher Hitchens.

The Family Guy

Indian man with 39 wives, 94 children and 33 grandchildren 

Thirty nine wives? The man is either a saint or completely nuts, or both.
"I once married 10 women in one year," Ziona Chana said.

His wives share a dormitory near Ziona's private bedroom and locals said he likes to have seven or eight of them by his side at all times...

..."Even today, I am ready to expand my family and willing to go to any extent to marry," Ziona said.

"I have so many people to care (for) and look after, and I consider myself a lucky man."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Promising Cystic Fibrosis Treatment?

Phase 3 Study of VX-770 Shows Positive Results
The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced today that VX-770, an oral medicine in development that targets the defective protein that causes cystic fibrosis, showed promising results in a Phase 3 clinical trial.

The trial was designed to evaluate patients age 12 and up who carry at least one copy of a CF mutation called G551D. The study included 161 patients who received at least one dose of VX-770 or placebo.

Patients who took the drug, compared to those on placebo, showed a marked improvement in lung function at 24 weeks, which was sustained for the duration of the 48-week trial.

Patients also showed improvement across all key secondary endpoints in the study, including reduced likelihood of experiencing a pulmonary exacerbation, decreased respiratory symptoms and improved weight gain. Each of these areas is critically important to the health of people with CF.

In addition, average sweat chloride levels of patients on VX-770 dropped toward normal levels, while those on placebo did not change — indicating the drug is impacting the underlying defect in CF. Excessive sweat chloride (salt) is a key clinical indicator of CF.
CF sucks.  I had a cousin, maybe year younger than I, or less, who had it.  He died in his mid thirties, after a life-long struggle with it.  It drove his mom near the point of insanity, and drastically hurt the rest of his family.  I really hope this is for real. 

We Have to Shoot the Owls to Save Them

Should Oregon shoot barred owls to save spotted owls?

Ted sent me an article which contained this link to the Oregonian, an article on the how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has discovered that the greatest threat to the Spotted Owl appears to be a more adaptable and aggressive relative, the Barred Owl, rather than loss of habitat or mean loggers with guns.
Come summer, federal wildlife officials expect to finish a draft environmental impact statement that most likely recommends taking to the woods with shotguns. Over the next year, in three or more study areas from Washington to northern California, they might kill 1,200 to 1,500 barred owls -- the larger, more aggressive competitor that has routed spotted owls from much of their territory and become, along with habitat loss, the biggest threat to their survival.

It's a wrenching decision that splits wildlife biologists and environmentalists. Killing one native animal to benefit another -- especially a "big, beautiful raptor, a fantastic bird," as one biologist puts it -- is such a leap that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hired an environmental ethicist to guide its discussions.
Barred Owls killed to make room
Growing up, Ted and I spent a lot of time together on a piece of timber land named Walden III, a piece of land, approximately 2000 acres of mixed timber, pasture, and scrub near Roseburg, Oregon.  Our father, and a bunch of his friends bought it in pieces, starting in the mid 60's as a vacation site and an investment.  Of all the people involved, it's quite likely that Ted and I got the most use out of the property, which we used to visit and hunt on regularly when I was a grad student at Oregon State, and Ted was, well a multitude of things.

One of our great fears was that someone might find pair of nesting Spotted Owls on the property, which might have effectively ruined it's value as timber land.
Some biologists believe the proposal won't work. More barred owls, perhaps hundreds, would have to be killed every year to keep the study areas free of interlopers for three to 10 years. One biologist estimated the cost at up to $1 million annually.

Others oppose intervening in what they see as natural selection at work.

"Population dynamics between two native species should not be artificially manipulated," says Blake Murden, wildlife and fisheries director for Port Blakely Tree Farms in Tumwater, Wash. The company is not anti-owl. In 2009 it agreed to manage 45,000 acres as spotted owl habitat in exchange for protection from additional logging restrictions.

Murden says barred owls expanded rapidly because they adapt well to mixed habitat and eat a variety of prey, while spotted owls prefer old-growth to nest and, in most of its range, flying squirrels to eat.

"It's a generalist and a specialist," Murden says, "and invariably the generalist will win."
I disagree with the last statement.  If it were true, there would be no specialist species, and a few generalists, like humans would rule the world.  But, in fact there are many specialists, and they exist because, at least for a while, a specialist can utilize a particular environment more efficiently than a generalist.  They may not survive a major change in that environment.  To a large extent, evolution consists of a continual propagation and pruning of specialists.

Anyway, I won't pretend to know what is right to do in this case, but I'll offer this, once you start playing God, you better be be omniscient.

Does Birth Frequency Affect Chances of Autism?

A new study suggests that having babies at close intervals may increase the risk autism in the second child by up to three times.
Babies who were conceived within a year of their older sibling were found to have the greatest risk. On the other hand, babies conceived within 12 to 23 months and 24 to 35 months of their older sibling also had a heightened risk of being autistic, albeit the risk was not as evident... The study found that second-born children who were conceived within a year of the first-born kids had a more than three times higher to have autism than those who were conceived intervals of more than three years. Moreover, children who were conceived within 12 to 23 months had almost two times the risk of having autism, while those conceived within 24 to 35 months were found to have 26 percent higher odds of having autism, the researchers found.
Wow!  We just conclusively disproved myth that childhood vaccines were causing autism, and now we have a new suspect.  Unfortunately, this one, if it pans out, will directly implicate parents, who have the option of choosing how frequently to have children.  Will autistic children, or their lawyers start suing parents for having them too close to their older sibling?

What mechanisms are offered to account for the increase in autism in the second children from closely space births?
The president of scientific affairs for Autism Speaks, Andy Shih, said that it is not known why closely spaced pregnancies may raise the risk of autism, but that it could be attributed to the mother’s body having insufficient time to recover fully from the impact of the previous pregnancy. Shih said that when you get pregnant so quickly after the first, the environment of the womb may not have undergone a complete recovery to be able to provide optimal support to a second pregnancy. According to the researchers, the first pregnancy may eat up essential nutrients such as folate, and iron, plus the fact that the mother may also have additional stress during the second pregnancy.
But wait, people used to have a lot more kids, one would presume they were closely spaced; why have the rates of autism diagnosis increased recently?
The findings of the study have a special significance because of the trend in women having closely spaced pregnancies. Between 1995 and 2002, the proportion of births taking place within 24 months of a prior delivery went up from 11 percent to 18 percent. The reason for this could be that more women are postponing first pregnancies and are in a hurry to have their second baby due to concerns regarding waning fertility, noted the researchers.
Hmmm, so the decrease in births is actually leading to more closely spaced births, and that, in turn, is increasing autism?  Unintended consequences will get you every time...

Bay News de Jour

There's a lot of different news topics floating around the Bay today, so I'll try to hit some highlights.

Virginia legislators drop plans for special oyster zones.
The House of Delegates voted 70 to 25 to do away with aquaculture opportunity zones. The 25 opposing votes came from Democrats, including Del. Albert C. Pollard, Jr., the Northern Neck lawmaker who in 2010 wrote the law that created the program.
I've mentioned this bill before, or at least the Senate side of it, here. Generally, I'm in favor of aquaculture approaches to oysters as opposed to the "rape and pillage" of open oyster fishing.  Generally, having people doing the harvesting have an ownership interest is a good idea.  Maybe next year.

Virginia on path to ban phosphate lawn fertilizer.
Environmentalists are hailing the General Assembly’s passage of a bill that would bar the Virginia sale of fertilizer containing phosphorus for use on established lawns... Effective in 2013, the ban could reduce phosphorus pollution into the bay by at least 230,000 pounds a year.The legislation is headed to Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Phosphate lawn fertilizers are a small but not trivial contributor to eutrophication in the bay.  I hate lawns (I have too much of my own, mostly because it's hard to kill, and hard to keep looking good), so maybe this will help push me toward better landscaping (when a bill like this comes to MD).  I do object to the force aspect of this.  Maybe a prohibitive tax on phosphate fertilizers would work better, and also raise money for the state?

Virginia makes the Striped Bass it's official state fish.

Hey, you can't have it, that was our state fish first! Interestingly, the mighty striper almost lost to the lowly menhadden:
Del. Jackson Miller, R-Manassas came two votes shy of amending the bill to designate the menhaden, an oily, commercially harvested forage fish, as Virginia's official saltwater fish. His floor amendment failed on a 48-49 vote.
At least that guy has a sense of humor.

Builders offer compromise on O'Malley's septic system proposal:
...HB 177 and its companion bill, SB160, would extend virtually statewide the law enacted two years ago that bars installation of conventional septic systems on land near the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coastal bays. Similar statewide legislation was introduced in 2009, but its scope was whittled down to apply just to the 1,000 strip of waterfront known as the "Critical Area" around the bays and their tidal tributaries...

...The builders group suggested that advanced septic systems only be required for new construction within 100 feet of a water body that's officially designated by the state as "impaired" by nitrogen.

While nearly all of the Chesapeake and the coastal bays are impaired by nitrogen, only 1.6 percent of the nontidal river and stream watersheds in Maryland -- 171 miles out of a total of 10,820 stream miles - are similarly classified, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of the Environment...
Sneaky, using their own designations against them.

The Supremes Protect Vaccine Makers

Supreme Court rules vaccine makers protected from lawsuits
...The court ruled 6 to 2 that going before a special tribunal set up by Congress is the only way parents can be compensated for the negative side effects that in rare instances accompany vaccinations.

The majority said that Congress found such a system necessary to ensure that vaccines remain readily available, and that federal regulators are in the best position to decide whether vaccines are safe and properly designed....
...Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, saying the threat of lawsuits provides an incentive for vaccine manufacturers to constantly monitor and improve their products...
Elena Kagan recused herself because of her work on this issue for the Obama Administration.  I find it curious that the two women able to vote on this issue ended up on the opposite side of all six men.

I believe this to be a reasonable and just decision.  Vaccines are designed to save the vast majority of us from a long series of dangerous and deathly ills that have plagued mankind since we crawled off the African savanna, if not longer.  To hold vaccine makers responsible for the idiosyncratic reactions of a few people in the face of the millions that are saved is simply counterproductive and wrong headed.  They are simply innocent bystanders in the war on disease.  The tribunal mechanism appears to be a reasonable way for vaccine incidents to be tried without the emotion and grandstanding of a jury trial, with attorneys like John Edwards channeling the spirits of dead babies for cold cash.

The Madison Blues: No More Phoning It In

Panel backs voter ID; Democrat not allowed to vote by phone 
Madison — Republicans on a state Senate committee approved a bill Tuesday to require voters to show ID at the polls, in their latest effort to entice Democrats to end their boycott of Senate proceedings.

The committee made significant changes to the bill in a meeting that included a bizarre element. Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) participated in the meeting by phone, but Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the committee chairwoman, refused to let him vote because he and the 13 other Senate Democrats left the state Thursday.

Senators routinely participate in committee meetings by phone and are allowed to debate, offer amendments and vote on measures. But Lazich said she wasn't allowing Erpenbach to vote because he had an invalid reasons for being absent.

"I won't extend courtesies for unethical behavior," Lazich told Erpenbach.

"Do you want the headline to be, 'Republicans won't let Democrats vote,' even though we've allowed that many, many times?" Erpenbach said.

Erpenbach's name was not called as the clerk took the roll, but he repeatedly yelled, "No!" over the speakerphone. The committee's three Republicans voted for the bill.
If I had been in charge, I would have declared that his voting by phone was legal, declared a quorum of the Senate present by law, and passed Walkers reforms.  

If It Was CSI, They Would Have Had the Answer by Now

Letter DNA could unseal mystery of Amelia Earhart’s disappearance
...A Canadian scientist could soon have the lingering mystery of aviator Amelia Earhart’s disappearance licked. Donya Yang, a forensic scientist at Simon Fraser University, is extracting DNA from some of Earhart’s personal letters and envelopes — which should have still genetic evidence left over from her saliva. The letters were written by Earhart in the years before her disappearance over the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 1937. Yang will then have a potential sample that could prove a genetic match for a finger bone fragment, found on the island of Nikumaroro in 2009, that has been touted as possibly belonging to Earhart...
Us lab rats always get a special laugh when the TV programs show a DNA sample collected, analyzed and linked to a suspect in one day.  The various CSIs are the worst offenders, particularly Miami, which often gets a match off an odd cigarette butt within a few minutes, while the suspect is still cooling in an interrogation cell.  Real DNA tests still take weeks if not months, assuming the laboratory has the time available to work on a single sample full time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beer, the Next Sports Drink?

Athletes Replacing Sports Drinks With Beer

A Bavarian brewmeister is touting its no-alcohol beer as the latest sport drink for athletes, handing it out at the finish line of sporting events and touting its regenerative benefits.

Unlike Gatorade, Erdinger Alkoholfrei is served up with a frothy head. And it comes in one color, a golden hue, unlike conventional sport drinks.
 Stolen from here, by way of Theo's.

Contrary to Popular Opinion...

...Plastic Bags May be Better for the Environment than paper or reusable cotton
A draft report for the Environment Agency showed that the production of high density polythene (HDPE) bags used by shops had less impact on the climate than cotton or paper bags.

The report was commissioned in 2005 and due to be published in 2007, but has still not been released.

The findings suggest that, in order to balance out the impact of each lightweight plastic bag, consumers would have to use the same cotton bag almost 200 times, or use paper bags at least three times.

It found that an HDPE plastic bag would have a baseline global warming potential of 1.57 kg Co2 equivalent, falling to 1.4 kg Co2e if re-used once, the same as a paper bag used four times (1.38 kg Co2e).

A cotton bag would have to be re-used 171 times to emit a similar level, 1.57 kg Co2e.
Georgia may be able to get 171 or more uses out of her reusable bags, but at once a week it will take, oh, let's see, at least four years, assuming she uses all of them every week, which she does not.  Call it 5 years.

May I Have This Dance?

Stolen from Theo's

Going After 'Kingpin Poachers'

A state delegate from Annapolis wants to increase penalties for poachers with a proposal he's dubbing a "kingpin poachers" bill.
Following repeated discoveries of illegal fishing nets trapping 12 tons of rockfish in recent weeks, Del. Herb McMillan said he thinks current laws aren't doing enough to punish or deter poachers.

McMillan, R-Annapolis, plans to introduce the bill tomorrow.

"Right now, the punishment does not fit the crime," McMillan said.

He said first-time fish poachers could face a fine of up to $1,000. Second-time offenders can get a $2,000 fine and up to one year in jail, he said.

Fines of up to $1,500 per fish can be applied, but only if the poacher is caught with the fish in their possession, McMillan said.

McMillan's bill would set a maximum two-year prison term for any convicted poacher whose actions result in a capture of fish worth more than $20,000. He said the bill is written so that it would apply to cases like the recent ones, where the illegal fish were actually hauled in by police, not watermen.

The bill likely will have a mundane title like "large-scale striped bass poaching penalties," but McMillan has dubbed it the "kingpin poacher" bill because he's going after large-scale, intentional poachers.
It has long been noted that the fines and penalties meted out to repeat offender commercial fishermen amount to little more than a minor cost of doing business.  This bill would raise the ante considerably.  I expect Eastern Shore delegates to shoot this down momentarily...

Must be the Smell...

Men can sense when a woman is fertile:
...It may seem hard to believe that men could distinguish a woman who’s at peak fertility simply by sitting next to her for a few minutes. Scientists long assumed that ovulation in humans was concealed from both sexes.

But recent studies have found large changes in cues and behavior when a woman is at this stage of peak fertility. Lap dancers get much higher tips (unless they’re taking birth-control pills that suppress ovulation, in which case their tips remain lower). The pitch of a woman’s voice rises. Men rate her body odor as more attractive and respond with higher levels of testosterone...
The older I get, the more fertile they seem...

As I Suspected...

...the watermen want another bite of the gill net apple.
Gibby Dean, president of the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fishing Association and Tidal Fish member, said it was unfair to punish watermen for the actions of outlaws, who have netted 12.6 tons of fish in eight incidents since Jan. 30.

"Everyone says we're stealing from the natural resources. We're not. We're stealing from ourselves," said Dean. "When you shut a gill net season down, you're suspending the license of everyone."
Older post, and link to still older posts..

UPDATE: MD DNR Announces reopening of gill net season

From CCA:
Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) moments ago announced that the 2011 commercial gill net season will be re-opened for two days, Friday, Feb. 25, and Monday, Feb. 28. The Department indicated opening the season for only two days would not threaten the fishing mortality rate nor would it risk the harvest going over the quota.

DNR had closed the season early in February after illegal nets were found in several locations resulting in the harvest of more than 10 tons of striped bass. Additional illegal nets and striped bass have been discovered since that announcement with the latest being Wednesday.

The Natural Resources Police will saturate waters on that Friday and Monday to check on compliance with the law, and DNR staff will monitor check-in stations where the striped bass are brought to the commercial market.

The Department also stated that recent events have shown there are issues that must be resolved in the gill net fishery and invited stakeholder groups, including the commercial industry, to develop reforms that would improve accountability.

“Naturally with the recent record of illegal activities in the gill net fishery we would have preferred that the season remained closed,” said CCA Maryland Executive Director Tony Friedrich. “However, the steps that both DNR and NRP are taking to enforce the law, reform the practice and protect the resource are positive. CCA MD looks forward to the process of reform, and will be watching closely to see whether future gill net fishing can be conducted in accordance with the law.”

Earlier this month CCA MD put forth a motion at the Sport Fish Advisory Commission meeting which was approved unanimously by the commissioners. The motion stated that the season should remain closed until the Department is able to conclusively demonstrate:

• that illegal gill net fishing is under control,
• that the fishery can be effectively managed, and
• that the fishery’s catch can be fully accounted for.
“The Department has looked closely at the concerns of the Sport Fish Advisory Commission, and we appreciate the consideration of the requests of these important stakeholders,” Friedrich said.

The Tough Question is Finally Answered!

The plural of Prius is Prii.

Seen first at Insty's.

State Plans 'Waterman Buyout'

The state plans to spend $4 million in federal money to buy watermen's licenses and retire them.
Watermen will get letters by March 1 explaining their options for selling their licenses, said Lynn Fegley, a fisheries biologist at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The goal of the program is to retire licenses that are going unused. Large numbers of unused licenses - called "latent effort" - can make it difficult to estimate how many watermen will work in a given year and how many crabs, fish or oysters they might catch.
Many of Maryland's watermen are part timers, who have jobs on land, but hold commercial licenses often passed down from relatives, which they use to make extra money when fishing is relatively easy.  It is also suspected that many such part timers are among the less ethical fishermen, and more likely to slide around the game laws than the commercial fisherman who do it on a full time basis.

Boating Accident Kills One, Injures Two

One man was fatally injured, and two men critically injured when the boat they were going fishing in collided with a "buoy like object" off Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG) in the Gunpowder River in the Northern Chesapeake Bay.  A brief media report is located here, with the following video:

Far more details of the accident have been reported in the "social media". The boat was reported as belonging to Capt. Danny Beck, one of the survivors of the incident. Danny Beck is a commercial waterman, and onetime president of the Baltimore County Watermen's Association. They were reported to have been going catfishing, which would be legal outside of APG. However, in 2005 Danny Beck was arrested and convicted of poaching yellow perch within APG waters, a Federal crime, and was sentenced to a year of probation.  In 2000, he was convicted of illegally catching $70,000 worth of striped bass off APG, and was sentenced to a year in prison.  From the Baltimore Sun:
Charles "Sonny" Norris, Daniel F. Beck and Harry Foote III were arrested March 1, 2005, by officers of the Army installation's Marine, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement Division, who pulled up about 85 nets filled with more than 22,000 pounds of yellow perch, a fish protected under Maryland law.

State law prohibits commercial yellow perch fishing in February, the fish's spawning month.

Federal officers said that after warning the men for several years, they watched them set their nets in early February.

When the men boarded the boat March 1, the officers confiscated 2,500 pounds of fish and released 20,000 pounds, a catch valued at $39,000.

The three watermen - who work out of Middle River - each pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to a single misdemeanor, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Beck, 57, who led the Baltimore County Watermen's Association for 20 years, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis to a year of probation, was fined $5,000 and was ordered to forfeit three nets.

Norris, 40, the current president, received a year of probation, was fined $1,500 and forfeited one net.

Foote, 47, received one year's probation, was fined $1,500 and forfeited three nets.

In 2000, Beck pleaded guilty to federal charges of catching as much as $70,000 worth of striped bass off of APG using state fishing licenses issued to his wife and daughter, then falsifying his catch information at his state-licensed check station.

Garbis sentenced him then to one year and one day in federal prison, fined him $5,000 and ordered the forfeiture of his fishing license, boat and nets.
While the presumption of innocence should be preserved, nonetheless it will be interesting to see what the Army investigators determine.

Gonna Need a New Pair of Boots

Md. to enforce ban on boots blamed for stream ills
As an algae with a gross nickname invades pristine trout streams across the U.S., Maryland is about to become the first state to enforce a ban on a type of footgear the organism uses to hitchhike from stream to stream: felt-soled fishing boots.

The state Department of Natural Resources plans to prohibit wading with felt soles starting March 21 to curb the spread of invasive organisms that can get trapped in the damp fibers and carried from one body of water to another.

Similar bans will take effect April 1 in Vermont and next year in Alaska, aimed especially at didymo, a type of algae that coats riverbeds with thick mats of yellow-brown vegetation commonly called "rock snot."

Maryland fishery regulators say didymo, short for Didymosphenia geminata, can smother aquatic insect larvae such as mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies that are favored food for trout...
Me with a Steelhead from the Salmon River, 2002
I bought a pair of felt soled boots several years ago when I went on a Steelhead fishing trip to the Salmon River, New York.  They are wonderful in streams filled with large, slimy cobbles, or with large slick rocks.  They have been my "boots of choice" for field work ever since.  One disadvantage is that the felt picks up a lot of material, and if you wear them in a muddy marsh, as I often do, it's very difficult to get all the black, smelly mud out of the felt. 

Will it stop the spread of Didymo?  I doubt it, since there are numerous other vectors.  It may slow it down, some, though, until the stream community can adapt to it.