Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Plague of Spiders?

Trees cocooned in spiders webs after flooding in Sindh, Pakistan

An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters.

Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenomenon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitoes than they would expect, given the amount of stagnant, standing water that is around.

It is thought that the mosquitoes are getting caught in the webs and may be reducing the risk of malaria, which would be one blessing for the people of Sindh, facing so many other hardships after the floods.
 Go look at the pictures, really.

 This image is posted under a Creative Commons - Attribution Licence, in accordance with the Open Government Licence. You are free to embed, download or otherwise re-use it, as long as you credit the source as 'Department for International Development'.

Could You Hold Out for the Ten Year Bonus?

Jessica Simpson's Prenup: Over A Million Dollars To Husband

Skinny Jessica
"Eric is on what you might call a vesting plan," said an insider to the magazine. "He'll get $500,000 as a wedding present. Then, on each anniversary, he'll get another $200,000. If he and Jessica make it to five years of marriage, he'll get an additional $500,000 bonus — and a $1 million bonus if they make it to 10 years."
Chunky Jessica
 Maybe it depends on whether you get skinny Jessica or chunky Jessica?

Doesn't really matter to me, I have my own weight issue to worry about.  And I don't mind chunky...

Or maybe...
(slightly NSFW below jump)..

Gee, Why Didn't I Think of That!

Senators are so smart; let's just arrest Gaddafi...

Lack Of Budget Threatens Bay Buoys

Budget woes could silence bay's talking buoys
...With the boating and fishing season about to begin, the Chesapeake Conservancy sent a letter this week to NOAA administration Jane Lubchenco, asking her to save the distinctive yellow interpretive markers that guide boaters and school children in classrooms on a guided tour of Capt. John Smith's adventures on the bay more than 400 years ago.

The buoys on the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail have a toll-free number (877-BUOY-BAY) and are linked to a website to provide water and weather conditions and commentary on cultural and historical events from Smith's time.

NOAA was planning to launch a 10th buoy this spring, but now the entire program might go silent. Three buoys already in drydock for repairs--the Patapsco, Susquehanna and upper Potomac markers--would remain on land and six others would be pulled because the $150,000 to run them isn't in the stop-gap funding measure...
As someone tangentially  affected by the lack of federal budget, I have sympathy for NOAA on this issue.  The lack of federal budget to date for 2011 is causing disruptions all over the federal bureaucracy, because of the uncertainty of what will happen.  The budget should have have been passed in 2010, but guess what, somebody kicked that can down the road.  The continuing resolutions that keep the government operating do not fund new projects (like the new buoy), nor do they implement any changes in programs that would have been made due to the budget legislation (some win some lose).

I personally value the Chesapeake Bay Information Buoys (CBIBs).  They provide an additional source of weather information that I might tap for work or pleasure (you might note that one of the buoys active in the website above is located at Gooses Reef, a few miles from my harbor).

Nevertheless, I would be willing to give up the whole CBIBs system for deficit reduction.  The US government takes in 20% of GDP in taxes, and spends 25%, borrowing the difference, ultimately from our children, and the Mexican immigrants who chose to live here in the future.  The system is unsustainable.  The Congress is currently deadlocked over whether the expected $1.65 trillion deficit will be reduced by $30 or $60 billion, the difference between 2  and 4 % of the deficit or 0.7 and 1.4% of the total budget. 

That's what I love, bold moves.

Additional $#!* My Brother Sends

For all you urban survivalist types:

To which I respond:

PSA: Got a Samsung Laptop?

If so, they might be spying on you:
In the first part of this two-part report, MSIA 2009 graduate Mohamed Hassan told of discovering a keylogger on two different models of Samsung portable computers. Today he continues the story. Everything that follows is Mr Hassan's own work with minor edits.
On March 1, 2011, I called and logged incident 2101163379 with Samsung Support (SS). First, as Sony BMG did six years ago, the SS personnel denied the presence of such software on its laptops. After having been informed of the two models where the software was found and the location, SS changed its story by referring the author to Microsoft since "all Samsung did was to manufacture the hardware." When told that did not make sense, SS personnel relented and escalated the incident to one of the support supervisors.

The supervisor who spoke with me was not sure how this software ended up in the new laptop thus put me on hold. He confirmed that yes, Samsung did knowingly put this software on the laptop to, as he put it, "monitor the performance of the machine and to find out how it is being used."
Not acceptable.  UPDATE!  False Alarm....

I Thought Oil From Dinosaurs Was a Myth

Oilsands shovel operator discovers dinosaur

On Monday afternoon, a shovel operator at a Suncor oilsands mine site noticed what looked like brown discs in the black rock on a small cliff he was excavating.

Per Suncor's policy, operator Shawn Funk shut off his machinery and reported that he'd found something unusual.

"It was really like finding a needle in a haystack," said Suncor spokeswoman Lanette Lundquist.

The area remained closed to work while Suncor took pictures of the curious find and sent them to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller...
Ankylosaurus reconstruction

..."This thing is in a giant lump, about 85 per cent of it is still in the hill. This is a perfectly preserved three-dimensional fossil. This is the earliest, most complete find in Alberta. This might be the best one so far."

Henderson believes the bones belong to an ankylosaur, an armoured herbivore covered in plates and spikes, with "wimpy little teeth."

When alive, it was roughly five metres long and two metres wide.
 So what would a dino babe do with an Ankylosaurus?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lamark: A Little Right After All

Offspring of predator-stressed mothers grow their wings more quickly than chicks from predator-free females
Female birds that are exposed to predators while they are ovulating produce smaller offspring than unexposed females, researchers have found. The chicks may be smaller, but surprisingly, their wings grow faster and longer than those of chicks from unexposed mothers — an adaptation that might make them better at avoiding predators in flight.
Lamarckism (or Lamarckian inheritance) is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring (also known as heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance). It is named after the French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744–1829), who incorporated the action of soft inheritance into his evolutionary theories. He is often incorrectly cited as the founder of soft inheritance, which proposes that individual efforts during the lifetime of the organisms were the main mechanism driving species to adaptation, as they supposedly would acquire adaptive changes and pass them on to offspring.
Lamark has had a rather bad rap as a scientist, and yes, he was mostly wrong, but it appears, as in many cases, biology is more complicated than rocket science, and no one theory explains everything.

Maryland Sets New Flounder Regs

An inch smaller and few days more than last year
This year, Chesapeake Bay and coastal anglers will be allowed to keep three fish with a minimum size of 18 inches, beginning April 16 and ending on Nov. 30. The new size is an inch shorter than last year.

Earlier this year, Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service biologists proposed three options, approved by regional regulators, and allowed the public to comment at hearings and by email. Each option had a three-fish creel, but varied by minimum size and season length and offered a different level of conservation.

The public didn't strongly favor one proposal over another, so the Fisheries Service chose the option likely to give anglers the best opportunity for success.

For the first time in several years, anglers stayed below the state's quota in 2010, catching 38,221 fish against an allocation of 75,00 fish. That, coupled with a coastwide quota increase tied to a flounder population rise, will allow Maryland to have a robust season, with a quota of 101,000 flounder.

The commercial hook-and-line season also begins on April 16...
Flounder (really, Summer Flounder) are without a doubt the best tasting fish in Chesapeake Bay.  They are highly sought after, and not because of the fight they put up, which has been described as being roughly the same as a boot or t-shirt.  In the fast several years, the size limit for legal flounder has been raised from the something like 14 inches (IIRC) to the last years 19, and the number a recreational fisherman can keep has been manipulated as well in an effort to keep the catch down to what the regulators believe are sustainable levels.  Some people with entirely too much free time on their hands have learned the art of fishing for flounder (I've had lessons, but I lack the patience and the specialized equipment), and in some years recently, it has been extremely difficult even for these people to catch a single legal flounder, never mind a limit.  And the most frustrating part of it all is that it is pretty common to catch flounder just a little smaller than the limit and have to throw it back.
Trevor with a pre-9/11 Flounder

Having the limit lowered to 18 inches this year will help with that.  An 18 inch flounder provides four nice strips of meat, which should provide a meal for two people.  Three per person per day should be sufficient for all but the hungriest fisherman and his family.

As I said, I do not claim to be a flounder pro, but prior to 9/11/2001, I had a pretty reliable spot for a few.  Unfortunately, after the WTC and Pentagon attacks, they established an exclusion zone around Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant, and my flounder hole (it also produced good numbers of croaker and striped bass) ended up inside the exclusion zone.  Now I occasionally luck into a flounder while slow jigging for stripers, but I rarely target them.  I have never forgiven Al Qaeda for that.

Are Wind Generators Coming to the Bay?

Virginia OKs study of wind turbines in Chesapeake Bay
State regulators have approved scientific surveys for a test project that aims to build one of the first offshore wind turbines in the United States, in waters at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to allow scientists working for Gamesa Energy USA LLC to determine if conditions are ripe for construction of a single, prototype windmill that would generate as much as 5 megawatts of electricity in waters about 3 miles west of Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore.

If built there, the turbine would become a landmark and gateway to the Chesapeake Bay, visible from the lower Eastern Shore, to arriving ships and boats and to motorists crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
I don't believe wind energy is a panacea, but it can certainly be part of a mix of energy to help fuel our civilization.  I have conflicting thoughts on wind turbines.  First, negatively, wind turbines are hazardous to some birds, particularly raptors, like the Bald Eagle and Ospreys and vultures.

A Vulture falls to a wind turbine in Spain

Other birds that might be at risk include seagulls, terns, pelicans, and gannets.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

OK, OK, Already!

I bow to the demand  - some bonus Rule 5 Asma al-Hassad

A little while ago, February 13th to be exact, I did a post about dictators wives and how good looking they are. It wasn't a terribly original post; I copied the pictures and quoted quite liberally from a Rule 5 blog post over at Maggies Notebook.  I gave them credit in the opening line, and I figured, what with the 50 or so people a day who visited my blog at that time, and them not being the kind of people to scour the internet for random junk (they'd mostly rather see a fishing post), it would mostly be original to them and might be somewhat amusing. I subsequently added a  tangentially related Mel Brooks video. I also linked a video of Colonel Qaddafi's  Ukrainian nurse Galyna Kolotnyska.  Little did I know what I had unleashed.
Asma al-Assad from a Vogue article

Over the past month and a half, the number of hits on that post has continued to grow.  In the past 24 hours, it has been hit over 300 times.  In large part, the Google hits come on some variant of the name Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, although a couple of the other wives got a few hits as well.  In my mind, Asma was not even the best looking of the lot; I'd have to go with Mehriban Aliyeva, wife of the dictator of Azerbaijan.  Not that Asma is a dog. She's quite attractive.  That being the point that I didn't make too clearly in the original post, that dictators are attracted to beautiful women, and beautiful women are attracted to men in power.  It's biology of the sexes at its most potent.

Asma al-Assad at the7th Special Olympics
I sometimes wonder if I've attracted the attention of Syria's secret police, but given the recent events in the Middle East, I rather suspect they're busy with local affairs, suppressing dissent and all that.
She appears to be an intelligent, western minded woman.  She speaks in an elegant English accent, having been born in England.  We all know a good English accent adds 10 IQ points in the mind of the uneducated American listener.  No sign of confining herself to the hajib. She seems to have sufficient wealth to pay for good clothes  (It's Good to be the King).

She also  appears to be quite an asset to her husband, making many personal appearances, and doing quite a lot of charity work

Bashar seems to be an unlikely dictator. Originally second in line to take over the position from his father Hafez al-Assad, he seemed destined for a life of relative unimportance, studying ophthalmology in Damascus and London.  After the death of his older brother in a car crash in 1994, and his father's death in 2000 he was elevated to the position without much fuss. 

He seems to have taken to the role with relish, however, and after a very brief respite when many prisoners were freed, dictatorial rule continues down through the present.  Under Bashar, Syria has continued to dominate it's weak neighbor, Lebanon.  Unlike his father's strong chin,which he clearly failed to inherit, he seems to have inherited the ability to dominate a country.

Which brings us to the present.  Tunisia and Egypt have overturned their governments; Libya, Yemen, Dubai all seem to be somewhere on the path, and Syria seems to be experiencing the first hints of strengthened rebellion.  While I don't care a bit about Bashar, it would be a shame if something happened to Asma.

Maybe Barack Obama could take her on as a second wife.  I hear Muslims do that sometimes....

UPDATE: Muchas Gracias to the Rule 5 Wombat for the link from The Other McCain!

Trevor and Goliath

There being no wind, and plenty of light in the sky when I got home, I called Trevor to see if he wanted to fish. (He turned me down last night, but he had a good excuse, a wake). We left the dock around 6:15, and made it to the fishing hole by 6:30. We were one of four boats there when we arrived, and one left shortly thereafter. We started catching right off. Trevor got this "medium" pretty early on:

I answered soon after with this nice 35 inch fish.  By this time, I already count the trip a success...

But Trevor wasn't done.  On the next drift he got what appeared to be a log with a head-shake..
The fish was 40+ inches (it was at least 4 inches over my 37 inch scale, and still had a good bend in the body).  For the rest of the night he called it "Goliath."

 I caught this 32 inch fish after it was pretty dark,
Shortly after that we took off for home.  The sun well behind the Western Shore.

35 Weird Doritos Flavors

Mostly Japanese

My fav - Crispy Salmon! 

Actually a lot of them sound pretty good.

Dictator Longevity Chart

Stolen from Ace's Overnight Thread.  Of course, he got it somewhere else...

Monday, March 28, 2011

I Flunked

How cruel is this?

News to Go Into Reruns

News Budgets Busted by Cost of Covering Disasters 

Let's see, earthquake, tsunami, nuclear accident, unrest in Arab country followed by U.S. military action.  After all that, what could be new?  An asteroid strike?

Just take the old footage and edit it.  You do it, we know you do it, you know we know you do it.

Did Dinosaurs Have Venom?

New evidence suggests that at least one did:

Sinorthosaurus - with grooved teeth for venom
The venom-spitting dinosaur in Jurassic Park may have been fictional, but in a great case of life imitating art, scientists have discovered evidence of a real venomous dinosaur that walked the earth in China over 120 million years ago. Sinornithosaurus is the first confirmed venomous dinosaur, but there is evidence that venom is even older than this most recent discovery--that creatures from up to 500 million years ago could also have been venomous. These ancient venomous creatures are giving us reason to believe that, evolutionarily speaking, not being venomous may actually be more noteworthy than being venomous.

David Burnham, a paleontologist at the Kansas University Natural History Museum, was hunting for raptor fossils in rural China when he and his colleagues stumbled across a new fossil skeleton with grooved teeth and an inexplicable gap in its skull. They puzzled over what these two clues could mean. And then one day, while examining the skulls of venomous komodo dragons, it suddenly clicked. The cavities in the raptor skull very closely resembled areas in the komodo dragon skull reserved for their venom glands. Burnham began to wonder, was it possible that this ancient raptor was also venomous?
 Venomous dinosaurs?  Why not? If you need something dead to eat, venom seems like an obvious way to assist.
Most of us tend to think of venom as something unique that only belongs to a small subset of animals. We've certainly never seen a venomous sparrow, so we imagine that venom evolved recently enough to be confined to creatures like reptiles and spiders. The venomous conodont is changing the way we think about the uniqueness of venom among animals. Rather than spontaneously appearing in more modern reptiles, it seems that venom was there all along--and was just lost along several paths of the evolutionary tree, including our own.

Burnham sees this idea as a game-changer. He points to our recent revelation that there are far more venomous creatures out there than we previously thought. Just a few years ago there were only 200 species of fish described as venomous. Now there are over 1,200 and counting. Fossils of animals like the conodont and Sinornithosaurus help confirm the growing notion that venom is actually the rule rather than the exception, especially when it comes to more ancient creatures. Instead of asking why a particular species is venomous, Burnham now thinks, "The real question is, why isn't something venomous?"
But what would the Dino Babe's have to say about a poisonous dinosaur?

Cardin Lectures on Lawn Care

U.S. Senator tell us when and how to fertilize lawns
The park where Sen. Ben Cardin and environmentalists gathered Monday to report on lawn fertilizer's harmful effects on the Chesapeake Bay made the point for them: the lawn includes a grassy patch on a pier jutting over the harbor where any excess fertilizer threatens to run into the harbor and help fuel oxygen-robbing algae growing in the water.

Cardin joined Environment Maryland on Monday as it released a study on the impact of lawn fertilizers that run into the contaminated waterway. The study comes as lawmakers in Annapolis are considering new regulations for lawn fertilizer that would require changes in ingredients and its application.

Cardin urged homeowners "to be part of the solution" this spring when they fertilize their lawns, urging them to be mindful that those and other chemicals can cause lasting damage to the fragile watershed. Lawns are being eyed in bay cleanup efforts because grass covers more acres in the bay watershed than any other crop. And fertilizers that help lawns grow are blamed for harming water quality when they spill into the bay.
He could have stood in mud, he could have stood on astroturf, he could have stood in a salt marsh, but no, they needed to do the photo op on a bright green piece of real turn. It makes me want to go check out his property(s) and see how well the lawn is cared for, and do the same for all the various state offices and all.  What do you want to bet we could find many acres number of maintained, well fertilized grass.

The legislation in question restricts (for home owners) the application of fertilizers from March 1 to Nov. 15, or whenever the ground is frozen (to prevent runoff). It also reduces the potency fertilizers, while allowing slightly higher potencies for organic forms.

One result of a bill like this is to increase the number of people who want to get their lawns green but don't want the hassle of following the govt's prescription.  Thus, the lawn care companies get more business.  In other words, rent seeking:
One measure that has the backing of both environmentalists and industry would set limits for the first time on the dates and manner in which do-it-yourselfers can try to keep their grass green and growing.

That's just fine with William Valentine, owner of Forever Green Landscaping in Parkville, who says lawn-care professionals like him are already taking precautions to protect the bay from excess fertilizer getting applied and then washing off yards into nearby streams.
And to make sure that the rent seekers have an advantage over the do they give the professionals an advantage:
The same rules would apply to lawn-care companies, except they'd have an extra two weeks in the fall — until Dec. 1 — to feed their customers' grass.
Now,  I hate lawns.  They cut into my fishing time (I try to cut lawns when the wind blows, but it doesn't always work.   If this passes I will cheerfully use it as an excuse the let the lawn deteriorate into a dusty/muddy weed choked field.  Georgia will be upset, but I'll happily blame big government.  Lawns are a suburban convention that we would be better without.  Nevertheless, I'm not happy to be told how to do it by people who don't understand or care about individual circumstances, and really, when it comes down to it, don't care.

Talk About a Handicap

Man born without sense of rhythm:
The Go-Go’s had a 1982 hit record with “We Got the Beat,” but a 23-year-old man named Mathieu never got their message. Researchers have identified Mathieu as the first documented case of beat deafness, a condition in which a person can’t feel music’s beat or move in time to it.

Mathieu flails in a time zone of his own when bouncing up and down to a melody, unlike people who don’t dance particularly well but generally move in sync with a musical beat, according to a team led by psychologists Jessica Phillips-Silver and Isabelle Peretz, both of the University of Montreal. What’s more, Mathieu usually fails to recognize when someone else dances out of sync to a tune, the researchers report in a paper that will appear in Neuropsychologia.

“We suspect that beat deafness is specific to music and is quite rare,” Phillips-Silver says. She and her colleagues plan to investigate whether Mathieu takes an offbeat approach to nonmusical activities, such as conversational turn-taking and adjusting one’s gait to that of someone else...
If this doesn't do it, nothing will.

Ry Cooder by hotrockers
Sorry about the ad, but I couldn't find a copy without it...

Australian Tourist Jingle

Hey, it might even work...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cute Chick Wins Military Cross

A female medic who twice risked her life under heavy fire to treat two gravely wounded Afghan soldiers has won the Military Cross.
Lance Corporal Kylie Watson, 23, tried to resuscitate one casualty as bullets smashed into the dust around her in a totally exposed position for 20 minutes.

She was also forced to use her SA80A2 rifle in anger firing 15 rounds to help defend her patrol during an ambush.

The LCpl also ran 100 metres under fire to save the life of another ANA soldier who had been shot through the pelvis.

His Afghan comrades were unhappy about a woman treating the wounded man and tried to stop her.

The Lance Corporal from Ballymena, who stands 5'1" tall, said: "I told them straight (through an interpreter), 'If I don't treat him, he dies. There is no argument, he is getting treated...
 Not only does she heal, she fights...
She said: "About 12 of us were patrolling south a few hundred metres when we came under small arms fire from three men in a ditch.

"There was no cover available to us apart from an irrigation ditch but you don't want to dive into one of them in case it has IEDs planted in it.

"We needed to stop them shooting at us quickly and had to help. I just took a knee and fired about half a magazine at their position, about 15 rounds.

"It sounds dramatic I suppose but it wasn't, I know for a fact I didn't hit a thing. I need to get on the range a bit more often I suppose."
Is it my imagination, or do the Brits celebrate their soldiers more than we do here in the states?

They Put the Wrong Moron in the Closet

Vice President's staff lock journalist in a closet for hours during a fundraiser to stop him talking to guests

It's an understandable error..
But try telling Vice President Joe Biden’s staff that, after they held a local reporter in a closet for hours after he was invited to cover a Florida political fundraiser because they did not want him talking with the guests.

As the unaware $500-a-head invitees dined on caprese crostini with oven-dried mozzarella and basil, rosemary flatbread with grapes honey and gorgonzola cheese, grilled chicken Caesar and garden vegetable wraps, veteran reporter Scott Powers was locked away.
Pretty amazing that they could get away with it.  If it was done under the color of the Vice President's authority, I wonder how close it comes to kidnapping or illegal detention legally.  If it was a polite request, and he could really leave when he wanted to
He was told he could only come out when the politicians were ready to give their speeches.

Powers told The Drudge Report: ‘When I'd stick my head out, they'd say, “Not yet. We'll let you know when you can come out.”’

The party was being held for Democrat senator Bill Nelson. Powers emailed from inside the closet: 'sounds like a nice party'

After 90 minutes he was allowed out to hear Biden and Nelson speak for 35 minutes, before being taken back to the closet for the remainder of the event.
They could have saved themselves a whole lot of work and trouble by banning the press altogether and just providing them with the speeches they wanted them to print.  I'm sure the media would  have gone along with that just fine.  That's their normal role.

Oh, and nice carbon footprint on that house...

Beach Report, Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trying something new today. I uploaded the pictures to Flickr, and I'm giving an embedded link to the slide show.

A pretty normal early spring day, despite the snow. I found a fresh, cold beer, washed up among the junk on the beach, but I refrained from drinking it. Skye ran like crazy, as usual, and Georgia found a baby Snapping Turtle, whom we molested briefly before sending it back on it's way.

Winter's Last Gasp...

...I hope.  Woke up this morning to about 1 inch of snow on the ground, and it's still going on.  This is the most snow I can remember this late (although I can remember  a  few flakes in April once).  I'll keep this post alive if I get any more decent pictures.

UPDATE:  Well, that was quick.  By 10 AM the sun was out, and by 12, most of the snow was gone.

I did get some decent bird pictures.

Just Big Old Puppy Dogs

Hand Raised Wolves. Be sure to watch with the sound cranked up

Stale Link Dump

The digital fridge is getting full again, and the links are starting to stink.  I need to get rid of a few of these:

Was Moby really his first name?  Whales may have names.

Chili, good for what ails you.  Salmonella killed by chili powder.

Look 'em in the eyes?  Men looking for long term look at the face;  well, you know the rest.

Is the Easter Bunny dead? Giant bunny fossil discovered in Minorca. 

I tawt I taw a puddy tat!  Cats kill 500 million birds a year?

Ancient trash heaps in Florida become natural resource.  Tree Islands grow on trash middens.

Naked Therapist for New Yorkers.  It wouldn't be newsworthy in San Francisco.

In the future, we'll all be the press.  Homemade journalists tell the Japan earthquake news.

Artist creates wall of vaginas.  Even I don't find them that interesting.

Piss in the gas tank?  Is urea a fuel of the future?

Muscles hurt?  Don't blame lactic acid build up. 

The universe may be even weirder than we can imagine.  Was it originally one dimensional?

Fish feel pain!  I don't care.

Organic crops can't feed the world!  They're just not productive enough.

Ons is almal Suid-Afrikaners.  Tracing mankind's origins to South Africa. Are we descended from Bushmen?

One difference between men and chimps?  Men fuck around a lot more...

Speaking of which, swearing really does make it feel better.

Playing dead.  Sometimes it really works.

Rule 5, Sex Sells.  In Australia, it sells real estate, accidentally.

That should keep the door from bulging.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Anarchists Trash London to Protest Government Spending Cuts

After blitz of the Ritz, it's the siege of Fortnum & Mason: Anarchists hijack the anti-cuts demo and go on rampage in central London 

Just think about that for a minute.

Cool at the Beach 3/26/11

It was only 37 F when we left for the beach this morning, and it never go much higher than that.  Wind was not too bad, north around 10 mph.

Some tiny sand pipers were working the waters edge.

The tide was high, and the one of the small creeks we have to cross was pretty full, so we had to improvise a bridge using beach debris. 

Skye thinks we're nuts not to just wade through it.

Spring is beginning to take hold in earnest.  A little daisy-like flower was growing all over the cliffs.  Here it is mixed in with some horsetails (Equisetum).

Other things are starting to green up too.  The Tulip Poplars, one of our most common trees, are just showing green tips.  I tried to take a picture, but it really doesn't show very well.

A macro shot of the little flower.

We saw our first Ospreys down at the beach, today, but, again, I couldn't get a good pictures.  They arrived about 2 weeks ago now (we've seen them from the car in the mornings). 
A good deal for the Bald Eagles, who won't have to rely on their own hunting and scavenging so much, now that they have young to feed.  Eagles would rather steal from Ospreys than hunt.

On the way back we found some more substantial timber for bridge building, and had a much easier time with the creek

Got Any Room For Dessert?

 Since the last cooking video was so popular...

Former Madam vs. Client #9

Spitzer’s former madam ‘probably’ running for New York mayor if Client 9 does:

Ex-madam and former New York gubernatorial candidate Kristin Davis is considering a run against former New York Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer if he enters the race for mayor of New York City in 2013.

“If Spitzer throws his black socks in the ring I may have to throw in my lacy brassiere,” Davis said in a statement sent to The Daily Caller.

Spitzer, who hosts “In the Arena” on CNN, was a prominent customer of Davis’ escort business known as “client 9.” Public revelation of his patronage forced his resignation from the governorship in 2008.
For our foreign guests, and the kids who don't pay attention to politics, Eliot Spitzer is a long time New York pol who rose through the ranks in DA's office in New York City, largely by prosecuting the mob, then won elected office as New York's Attorney general, where he focused on  prosecuting businessmen for white collar crime.  He was elected governor, and served about a year before resigning after his sexual escapades were revealed by the New York Times.

More recently, he has tried to rehabilitate his image with his role of "Bully in-Chief" on the CNN talking head show "Parker Spitzer", where he was paired against the mildly RINOish columnist Kathleen Parker.  After not being allowed to get a word in edgewise, Parker recently resigned, and the show was renamed "In the Arena."

According to her website, Kristin is running largely on the platform of legalization of prostitution and other sex work.  As a libertarian leaning individual, I believe that this is the proper stance, but I can't help but think this is largely a publicity stunt...

Little Girl Channels Chuck Norris

Friday, March 25, 2011

Another Gurkha Rout

Acting Sgt. Dipprasad Pun - Royal Ghurka Rifles
Gurkha who fought off 30 Taliban by himself awarded honour
A Gurkha who fired 400 bullets and 17 grenades while single-handedly fighting off 30 Taliban militants is to receive the second highest military honour for bravery.

Acting Sgt Dipprasad Pun, 31, was on sentry duty alone at night when he discovered two insurgents preparing to plant a bomb outside.

As enemy fighters launched wave after wave of attacks, the 1.7m (5ft 7in) Gurkha opened fire with a machine gun, a rifle and a grenade launcher.

When he exhausted all ammunition he tried to batter one militant with a sandbag before bludgeoning him with a machine gun tripod, as he roared in Nepali: ‘I will kill you.’

The soldier, from the Royal Gurkha Rifles, was alerted to the enemy when he heard what he thought was a cow or a donkey near his sentry post.

But, when he climbed on to the roof, he found two insurgents digging a trench to lay an improvised explosive device at the checkpoint’s front gate.

He then found himself pinned down under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s for more than 15 minutes, as he frantically radioed for back-up.

At first, he was afraid but he said yesterday: ‘As soon as I opened fire, that was gone – before they kill me I have to kill some.’

When the fight was over, his company commander arrived, casually slapped him on the back and asked if he was OK.
Hardly a fair fight.  He started with a gun.  The last Gurkha hero took on 40 with a knife.

Only the second highest military honor?  He was gypped...

UPDATE: Now with video

The New Boss Speaks

EPA's Chesapeake advisor responds to TMDL criticism
WASHINGTON — On behalf of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice filed a response March 14 in federal court to a lawsuit from American Farm Bureau Federation and Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.

The lawsuit challenges the legality of EPA's actions while creating a Total Maximum Daily Load plan for the Chesapeake Bay.

A main allegation is EPA over-stepped its authority by not allowing states in the watershed to have control over how they would reduce the amount of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus entering the bay.

"We would adamantly disagree," said Jeff Corbin, senior adviser to EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson on the Chesapeake Bay.

All stakeholders in the watershed have been making progress on its restoration for years and have been at the table, having a voice in the TMDL process, Corbin said. Jurisdictions — the six states in the watershed plus Washington, D.C. — decided how to meet their load allocations. Their only requirement from EPA is to achieve their goals within the set time line, Corbin said.

Jurisdictions must meet milestones every two years, which will help states reassess their plans and change them if they're not working, Corbin said.
The ongoing war between the farmers and the EPA and its surrogates continues.  There was never any doubt where the new EPA Bay adviser would come down.  He would never have been chosen if he hadn't been reliable.  Having a voice in the TMDL process isn't the same as being heard.  Farmers are in a hard spot.  If farmers in the bay watershed have their costs raised or their production reduced by pollution reduction measures and those of their competitors not in the area are not, they will either become less profitable, or if already marginal, may be pushed out of business.  The EPA and it's surrogates simply don't care.  To them, the nasty polluting farmers are the enemy, and the sooner they go out of business and let the Chesapeake Bay drainage area go back to precolonial forest, the better (never mind the megalopolises scattered around the landscape).  No doubt they'll be content to eat food from the gardens on the grounds of their suburban houses with 7 acres of converted farm fields, complete with free range chickens and a goat or two to milk, or free range Chilean Sea Bass.  They will, however, give lip service to the farmers plight:
Another criticism is the TMDL could force farmers off the land by adding regulations that make it increasing difficult to farm. Corbin said states could certainly decide to take land out of production if that's how they decide to meet their pollution allocations. However, it's EPA's preference to include farmers in conservation efforts, he said.

"Farmland, if properly managed, is one of the best land uses you can have out there," he said. "...We've been working very closely with USDA over this. Unfortunately, so much (of the focus) gets down to a few of these issues, like the model and the cost. Our agency and USDA are working hard to clean the bay and keep farmers farming."
Notice, no denial...  On the other hand, yep, agriculture is a big part of the problem, and needs to be a big part of the solution.  About 45% of the nitrogen pollution to the Bay is from Ag.  That's clearly where the big gains are likely to come from.  However, the cities, the other big, identifiable source of shit, is getting considerable outside help in meeting it's goals, in the form of federal support for sewage treatment, and the "flush" tax in MD, which hits all, but serves to meet the goals of the cities.

However, money is limited.  The feds are broke (well past, actually) and any new money, as well as much of the current money, they spend on the Bay is borrowed from our kids, who aren't being consulted.  It may or may not be worth the investment, but the people ultimately paying the bill don't get to decide.  So I have more sympathy for the farmers than for the municipalities.  I think some means of shifting the subsidies from the cities to the farms should be considered.
In 2002, a fiscal analysis launched by the Chesapeake Bay Commission estimated the cost for a clean bay would be $18.7 billion over eight years.

What people aren't talking about is the value of a restored bay, said Corbin.

Administrator Jackson has stated millions of people rely on it for their livelihood and way of life. According to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the bay had an estimated value of $678 billion in 1989.

"We're absolutely confident that this will work," Corbin said about the feasibility of restoring the bay.
To say I'm suspicious of these numbers is an understatement.  Government chronically underestimates the costs others have to pay to satisfy its desires, and chronically overestimates the values of it's own services (in this case the "value" of the bay.  I'll bet that for the first $20 billion, we won't get anywhere close to a solution of the problems.  I wouldn't even begin to know what the line is to which they aspire.  A goal of a "precolonial" bay is unrealistic; where, between the current bay and that is the desired state? 1930? 1950? As for the value, make it an even trillion; the government currently spends those in a fraction of a year. But I don't seen the Bay being likely to contribute 5% of GDP (currently ~15T), even over a substantial time period.  Honestly, can you imaging the CHESAPEAKE BAY COMMISSION underestimating the value of the bay?  Nope, me neither.

OK, I'm done for today.  This fight isn't over, and its not like everybody doesn't have a burden to bear in this.

ASMFC Tries to Slow Striper Kill

ASMFC moves to curb striper mortality. I like my title better...
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board has initiated development of Draft Addendum III with the goals of reducing striped bass fishing mortality up to 40 percent and further protecting spawning stock when it is concentrated and vulnerable.

Provisions of the addendum, if passed, could be implemented prior to the start of the 2012 fishing year.

The Board's action responds to recent trends in the fishery and resource, including a 66 percent decline in estimated recreational catch from 2006 to 2009; a 25 percent decline in estimated striped bass abundance from 2004 to 2008; and lowered recruitment in recent years.
As many of us have been screaming (or whining, depending on your point of view) for the past several years, striped bass populations show signs of crashing, as they did in the late 70s- early 80s.  That resulted in the moratorium on striper harvest in Maryland and Delaware from 1985-1989. Virginia had a shorter moratorium, 1989 only. 
Additionally, states in the northern extent of the fishery have expressed concern over decreased availability of striped bass as a result of the diminished water quality in the Chesapeake Bay during the summer months that may also contribute to increased prevalence of mycobacteriosis in striped bass.
I assume that by "northern extent of the fishery" they mean to say Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey, who have substantial fisheries, without having the responsibility for producing any substantial fraction of the coastal population (The Hudson has a small breeding population).  I agree that in all likelihood, myco is part of the story, and that a substantial fraction of the non-fishing mortality is death due to myco, directly or indirectly (e.g. sick fish predated by other fish).  However, I don't see where that helps, other than by making it more important to conserve the current ocean-going stock that provides most of the females in the breeding pool of Chesapeake Bay and other breeding centers.
Draft Addendum III will propose a range of fishing management measures including, but not limited to, adjustments to commercial and recreational minimum size, reductions in annual coastal commercial allocation, reductions in recreational bag limits, and reductions on fishing for striped bass in known spawning areas during the spawning season by at least 50 percent. The commercial and recreational fishery is currently managed through Amendment 6 to the Striped Bass Fishery Management Plan. The Amendment, passed in 2003, allocates the coastal commercial quota and set a two fish bag limit and a 28-inch size minimum for the recreational fishery, with the exception of the Chesapeake Bay fisheries, Albemarle Sound/Roanoke River fisheries, and states with approved alternative regulations.
This is likely to have important consequences for the spring trophy season in Maryland, where, in the past few years, the catch has been regulated at one fish over 28 inches per angler per day from mid-April through mid-May, a period when post spawn stripers are thought to be migrating out of the bay.  (The reality is that many prespawn stripers are caught during this season as well, as attested to by many angler finding fish full of ripe eggs).  One hopes that commercial fishing would be scaled back as well.  Of course, as a recreational angler, I think that striped bass should be a game fish only, but that seems unlikely in the current political climate.  Most likely recreational and commercial fishing will be restricted in tandem, with the goal to maintain the relative recreational/commercial take at 50/50. 

Johnny Applefish

Black Pacu - Colosoma macropomom
Fruit-feasting fish plant faraway forests
Massive Amazonian characid fish may carry seeds more than five kilometres across forest flood plains, researchers say.

Although fish have long been suspected of having an important role in seed distribution, proof of their ability to carry fertile seeds such distances has been lacking.

Jill Anderson, an evolutionary ecologist at Duke University in North Carolina, and her team had previously discovered thousands of seeds in the guts of Colossoma macropomum fish in Peru's Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve. However, it was not clear how far the creatures might carry these seeds, nor whether they deposited them in areas where such seeds might grow.

To answer these questions, Anderson, then at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and her colleagues radio-tracked 24 of the animals during three flood seasons at the reserve and found that the location of wild fish varied by as much as 5.9 km. Combining this with data from captive fish on how long seeds are retained in their guts, the authors predict that C. macropomum probably have a mean dispersal distance of 337–552 metres and can carry seeds up to 5.5 km.
I was pretty familiar with the Pacu from my teenage years I spent working in a tropical fish store.  Pacus look a lot like Piranhas, except for their blunt, crushing teeth.  I had never heard this before, but apparently you can make pretty good ribs out of a big Pacu.  It's not uncommon to find one giant Pacu taking up a big tank in a restaurant.  Maybe being saved for a special meal.

Buono Berlusconi!

My hero, Silvio, is back in the news. Photos from Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi's 'bunga bunga' sex parties surface online.
Photos from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's "bunga bunga" bashes have surfaced online.

The risqué photos feature unidentified women kissing and fondling one another, as well as Italian TV beauty Barbara Guerra dressed in a low-cut police outfit, London's Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.

The pictures were recovered from laptops and cameras seized by authorities from several dozen women who allegedly attended the 74-year-old leader's infamous sex parties at his home near Milan.

OK, the pictures are pretty low quality; I presume the Italian cops kept the best ones.  Well, at least we may have found out at last what Bunga Bunga means:
The exact meaning of "bunga bunga" is apparently a bit of a mystery. It has been used in many different ways in the past century, but one claim is that the phrase is actually a nickname for Sabina Began, a German actress and friend of Berlusconi's who says she organized the elaborate parties.

"'Bunga bunga' is simply my nickname," the 36-year-old said, according to the BBC.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Obligatory Elizabeth Taylor Dies Post

In case you've been living under a rock somewhere, or been confined on a boat without a working radio, Elizabeth Taylor died on March 23, 2011.  I was neither a fan nor detractor of the actress.  I saw a few of her movies, but was never struck by her talent especially.  However, there is a lesson here, kids.  You start out looking good, and if you have the fortune to survive long enough, you end up looking not so good.  In the end she seems to have lived an interesting life, had a lot of friends and lovers and died rich.  How much more can a person ask?  RIP, Liz.

Stupid Athletic Tricks

Athletes freeze their bodies to -275 degrees to get an edge
Professional athletes will do pretty much anything to get a performance edge, but this latest trick sounds especially nutty. Using a machine called a Cryosauna, the athlete stands in a tube filled with nitrogen gas at -275 degrees Fahrenheit for two minutes, causing blood to rush towards their vital organs.

The idea is that the super cold dip tricks the body into thinking it's dying, and rushes blood to vital organs like the heart, brain, and lungs to preserve them. Then when you step out of the cold the blood rushes back to your muscles again, only now it's saturated with extra oxygen from being in your heart and lungs.
You think these guys have ever heard of the placebo effect?

Stay Safe Out There

A large number boating screw ups on one convenient video:

They Made Skynet...

...But all it wants to do is sit on the couch and play 'Resident Evil'

Rome, NY -- Computer scientists just up the Thruway at Rome’s Air Force Research Lab have assembled one of the world’s largest, fastest and cheapest supercomputers — and it’s made from PlayStation 3s.

By linking together 1,716 PlayStation 3s, they’ve created a supercomputer that’s very good at processing, manipulating and interpreting vast amounts of imagery. This will provide analysts with new levels of detail from the pictures gathered on long surveillance flights by spy planes.

The PlayStation 3 is a video gaming console that originally sold for about $500. It was developed by Sony, released in 2006 and is known for its sizzlingly clear video graphics.

The Air Force calls the souped-up PlayStations the Condor Supercomputer and says it is among the 40 fastest computers in the world. The Condor went online late last year, and it will likely change the way the Air Force and the Air National Guard watch things on the ground.

Bad News, Guys!

Men about to become totally dispensable:  Sperm grown in laboratory
Scientists have grown sperm in the laboratory in a landmark study that could help preserve the fertility of cancer patients and shed fresh light on male reproductive problems

Fertility experts called the work a "crucial experimental advance" towards the use of lab-grown sperm in the clinic and a stepping stone to the routine creation of human sperm for men who cannot make the cells normally.

Though the procedure would be illegal in Britain under current legislation, sperm grown in the laboratory, if proven safe, could be used to help infertile men have children through standard IVF treatments...
It could also be used to make women totally independent of men for reproductive purposes.  Since we already know they're smarter, more social, cleaner, and better citizens in general, I can only imagine it is a matter of time until they find a way to open jars by themselves and don't require us at all.  It's not like we're needed to fight off the saber toothed tigers with knives anymore...

Watermen Beg for Amnesty

The best part is that they got shot down. The watermen remind me of the little girl who killed her parents, and then begged for mercy from the judge because she was an orphan:
Gibby Dean's proposal to give poachers a three-day amnesty window to remove their illegal gill nets from the Chesapeake Bay was rejected twice this week.

First, the Sport Fish Advisory Commission voted 14-0 against the proposal by the president of the Chesapeake Bay Commercial Fishermen's Association.

Two nights later, it was rejected by the Tidal Fish Advisory Commission, which consists mostly of representatives of the commercial industry.

Dean is worried that if, on the off chance, poachers left their nets in the water rather than risk arrest during February's saturation patrols by Natural Resources Police, those fish-filled receptacles of stink could case a public relations nightmare if they snag recreational boats and fishing lines.

Dean pitched his idea as a way to wipe the slate clean and restore accountability. Poachers could retrieve their nets and tag and check illegal striped bass. The total would be take off December's allocation. The poachers would not get paid, but would get to keep the nets, which could be modified to make them legal, he said.

TFAC member Bob Evans, a long-time waterman, was certain nets remain in the bay. "If you don't clean them up and the water temperature reaches 65, they're going to be floating and stinking everywhere...We've got a problem. We need to address it. We've got to stop it."

But Commissioner Brian Keehn, president of the Maryland Charter Boat Association, objected to giving poachers their nets back, asking, "Where's the deterrent in that?"

Fisheries Service Director Tom O'Connell warned that "having nets show up this spring could be devastating to the industry," and suggested watermen concerned about their image could call the Poacher Hotline (800-635-6124) and tell NRP where the nets are.

So far, 12.6 tons of striped bass have been seized from illegal nets around Kent Island.
Aw, they were afraid that somebody might discover a whole new set of nets when the water gets warm and the corpses start to float and stink, and it would make them all look bad.  Poor babies...

I copied the whole article as is because it's all so germane.  Hit the link so Candy gets the count.

I'm Not Fat, I'm Just Big Boned!

Researchers found that the heavier an individual was, the wider the shaft of that person’s femur.

Study Finds That Overweight People Really Are Big-Boned
“This research allows us to determine whether an individual was overweight based solely on the characteristics of a skeleton’s femur, or thigh bone,” says Dr. Ann Ross, an associate professor of anthropology at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. However, Ross notes, this research does not give us the ability to provide an individual’s exact weight based on skeletal remains.

Researchers found that the heavier an individual was, the wider the shaft of that person’s femur. The researchers hypothesize that the femur of an overweight person is more robust because it bears more weight, but also because overweight individuals move and walk differently to compensate for their greater mass.
Makes sense.  We've known for a long time that bones respond to stress by increasing in mass and strength to compensate.  Nothing makes more stress than carrying around an extra 50 or so lbs constantly.

How's the diet going, you ask?  Well, I'm currently down 28 lbs from Jan. 1.  And yes, I do feel lighter.  Hungrier too, a lot.

I'm Kind of Surprised They Didn't Eat It

Baby dolphin saved after dumped in rice field by tsunami
A baby dolphin has been rescued in Japan after being dumped in a rice field by a giant tsunami that hit the coast on March 11.

The dolphin was spotted in the flooded field, about 2 km (a mile) from the coast, said Ryo Taira, a pet-shop owner who has been rescuing animals abandoned after the 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami left 23,000 people dead or missing.

"A man passing by said he had found the dolphin in the rice paddy and that we had to do something to save it," the 32-year-old Taira told Reuters.

Taira found the dolphin struggling in the shallow seawater on Tuesday and after failing to net it, waded in to the field, which had yet to be sown with rice, to cradle the 1.2-meter (four foot) animal in his arms.

"It was pretty weak by then, which was probably the only reason we could catch it," he said.

Taira and some friends wrapped the dolphin in wet towels and drove it back to the sea, where they set it free. The dolphin appeared to perk up when it was back in the Pacific, he said.

"I don't know if it will live, but it's certainly a lot better than dying in a rice paddy," Taira told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Japanese Dolphin Hunt
Dolphins are considered fair game by the Japanese, who also have a taste for whale, as well as many other things that westerners consider, well, odd.  I guess maybe this one caught them in a sentimental mood.  Dolphin meat is also becoming recognized as source of mercury and PCBs, a result of accumulation of from the fish they eat.