Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Asma's Husband Murders Teen

Anyone who has read my 6 month review has a sense of my love/hate feeling towards the Assads, especially Bashar.  Asma al Assad has been a backbone of this site since I published a half plagiarized post on dictator's wives in February.  Since then, hit's keep coming from GOOGLE on Asma al-Assad, one of the dictators wives, to the point that nearly one quarter of the the hits on this site have come to that single post.  Asma is a relatively pleasant western looking woman.  BUT HER HUSBAND IS A VIOLENT, MURDEROUS DICTATOR.  If she was a good woman, she'd kill him in his bed!  The newest outrage, Bashar's secret police kidnapped, tortured, murdered and disfigured a 13 year old boy:

Torture of the child martyr: 'Rebel', 13, shot, kneecapped and had genitals removed before being killed by Syria's sadistic regime 
...Hamza was picked up by security forces at a protest in Jiza, a village in the rebel province of Dar'a in Syria on April 29. For an agonising month, his desperate family waited for him to go home, terrified of what had become of him.

And when his broken body was finally returned, the injuries which disfigured almost every part of his flesh told the horrific story that he could not. Amid the mass of cigarette burns, the bullet wounds and bruises, it is impossible to know what finally killed him.

But it is perhaps unsuprising that Hamza, with his childish features and innocent smile, has become the most potent symbol of Syria's uprising. Thousands of protesters took to the country's bloodied streets this weekend chanting his name. Children demonstrated in Damascas while people clambered on the roofs in Aleppo to mark the 'Day of Hamza'...
Asma and the happy first family of Syria
Remember that, all you people coming looking for pictures of Asma!  This woman tolerates a man who is a stone cold killer.

Another Boater Lost on the Bay

Officials search Chesapeake Bay for missing boater
A number of Maryland authorities are searching the Chesapeake Bay for a boater who was reported missing early Saturday, according to Natural Resources Police.

Sgt. Art Windemuth, spokesman for the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said around 1:30 a.m., boater Charles Martin Carlson, III reported that his sole passenger, 40-year-old Mark Allen Harvison, of Pasadena, was missing from his 30-foot, Rampage fishing boat. He went missing between the Severn River and Thomas Point Lighthouse. Carlson last saw Harvison walking toward the vessel's stern, he told police.

Natural Resources Police officials, along with officials from the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland State Police Aviation, and Annapolis City Fire Department, were still looking for the man around 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Windemuth described the missing boater as a white male, about 6-foot, 200 lbs. He was wearing a T-shirt, tan pants and fluorescent green sneakers.
 Damn, looks like he just fell off the boat while the operator was not watching him and wasn't missed for too long.  He might well have been OK if he'd had a life jacket of some kind on.  Over on TidalFish it says he has a 7 year old son...

UPDATE: His body was recovered on June 2 after it washed ashore.

CBS News Producer: "Sarah Palin Makes Us Stupid"

OK, he didn't quite say it that way, but close.  He was complaining that Sarah Palin's bus tour was not providing their itinerary to the media thus forcing them to drive dangerously to follow the bus:
"I just hope to God that one of these young producers with a camera whose bosses are making them follow Sarah Palin as a potential Republican candidate don't get in a car crash, because this is dangerous,"
Yeah, it's so hard to follow a bus, especially one so well camouflaged:

Sarah Palin, making the mass media stupid since 2008.

Speaking of CBS, Katie Couric's unemployed now. And forget that front porch in Alaska. Sarah Palin can see revenge from her rear window.

Weiner's "Bonergate"

For those who don't follow such things, Representative Anthony Weiner (D, Crazy) is emmeshed in a maybe scandal involving a 21 year old co-ed and twitter message with a picture of an engorged member safely set behind jockey shorts.  The facts as they seem to be:

1) On Friday night, a 21 year old coed from Washington State received a twitter message from Rep. Weiner's account with said picture.  The girl was one of only 91 of his ~45,000 "Twitter followers" that he also followed.

2) Weiner deleted the tweet with the link to the photo four minutes after it went out on his public twitter feeds, and claimed he was hacked, blaming the lewd photo on the hacker. The link that appeared in Weiner’s public twitter feed led to the photo on Weiner’s yfrog account. The photo has also been removed.

3) Friday night, 3 hrs 28 minutes after his last public tweet, Weiner begins an hour of tweets saying that his facebook account had been hacked, that his DVR had malfunctioned while recording a hockey game, and speculating that his blender might attack him next. His facebook and twitter accounts are not linked.

4)  After the tweets in step three, which spanned about an hour, Weiner tweets that his twitter feed had also been hacked, and salutes “Mr. Moriarty” for getting one over on him (Mr. Moriarty is the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes). Here, the recently married Weiner is apparently saluting the person who he claims hacked his twitter feed and sent a lewd photo to a young woman in Seattle in Weiner’s name on his public twitter feed.

5) Both hacking and impersonating a congressman are criminal acts. Weiner makes no mention of referring the hacking or the impersonation of himself to any authorities, and as of this writing, no such referral appears to have been made. Most people do not report hacks of their personal online accounts to the police, but Weiner is a public figure and in this case the hacking, if it occurred, has allowed a person or persons unknown to impersonate a federal official in a way that threatens his reputation and his marriage, making it a more serious matter than your usual run-of-the-mill hacking of a personal twitter account.

6) The recipient of the lewd photo, Gennette Cordova, issued a statement about the incident on Sunday, denying any “inappropriate” direct messages between herself and Weiner, and denying being in a relationship with him. Some media took her statement to be an accusation against another twitter user as being the person who hacked Weiner’s twitter account and posted the photo. She has denied making that allegation. Her statement does not address several critical facts, including how it came to be that she and Weiner mutually followed each other. She also does not explain the tweet in step 7; she merely denies an allegation the she tweeted it twice. She denies having ever met Weiner in person, though no one has alleged that they have ever met in person. She also denies having ever visited New York or Washington, DC, though no one has alleged otherwise.

7) Cordova did, however, tweet “I wonder what my boyfriend @RepWeiner is up to,” on April 9, 2011. It is an open question whether she considers such a tweet about a recently married public figure to be appropriate or not.

8)  As of this point, as far as can be determined Rep. Weiner has not contacted any law enforcement authorities to investigate whether anyone of actually hacked his twitter and yfrog accounts.

9) He has, however, retained council to advise him “what civil or criminal actions should be taken”

Reaction from the right side of the blogosphere has been immediate and mocking.  Instapundit has made several such posts:
Too Many Coincidences In Weiner’s Tale.

Related: Is America Ready for ‘WeinerGate’?

UPDATE: Weiner’s office refuses to say if lewd photo is of congressman. No police investigation underway. Meanwhile the press is covering for him like it did for John Edwards, and Mickey Kaus is mocking them for it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More on Weiner from Kaus. Alibi one has collapsed already.

MORE: Bryan Preston: How Long Before Weiner Blames, Fires A Staffer?
Ace was nearly beside himself with anger that the Main Stream Media and even the Main Conservative Media seem to be giving Weiner a pass, and then got aroused as they began to ask skeptical questions.  Start here and work back...

Iowahawk has a usual trenchant parody, offering $1,000 for hacker's ID:
Help Me Bring the Weiner Hacker to Justice. “As much as I admire Congressman Weiner’s Gandhi-like forgiving attitude toward his assailant – as well as his world class ninja programming skills – I’m afraid this incident doesn’t just involve him. For, after all, what Internet user is safe when the person who hacked this unsuspecting Weiner remains at large? Okay, maybe not ‘large,’ but still, come on man.”
Ann Althouse, the Obama voting centroid, wondered what would have it been like if Weiner was a Republican. Answer, of course would be double barreled condemnation from the media without waiting for any facts.

It would seem to me that determining whether the tweets in question originated with machines in his or his offices possession should be a simple task for the FBI or NSA (they may already know...).  Until those machines and accounts are examined, everything remains speculation, but, his actions, not calling the the authorities, and engaging the lawyer first, do not look good.

More popcorn please!

Could the Underpants Gnomes Save Tangier Island?

How odd old accent could save Tangier: Director sees the dialect as opportunity to protect island
What could save Tangier from eroding into the Chesapeake Bay is Shakespeare.

That's according to a New York City man who is bent on replicating the island's unique dialect to present plays the way audiences heard them during the Bard of Avon's lifetime.

Actor and director Hamilton Meadows, 65, spent three weeks on Tangier in his quest to hear English spoken as Shakespeare's contemporaries would have uttered it.

Meadows filmed footage for a documentary he is producing about the idea that Shakespeare's plays ought to be enacted using what scholars call "original pronunciation," or OP, which is said to be a combination of the Cornwall accent of Tangiermen's ancestors and a Southern Irish component.

Despite a somewhat quizzical reception by Tangier residents, Meadows is convinced their speech pattern is a priceless cultural asset with potential to save the island.

"They have such an opportunity here to do a Tangier Island Shakespeare festival every summer -- and make money, too," said Meadows, pointing out an abandoned store for sale on Main Ridge Road, which he said could be transformed into a 100-seat theater.

He continued with a revivalist's fervor: "People would come just to hear Shakespeare, just like I want to do it -- I want to hear it, I want to see it the way it was done in 1600. And there are millions of people around the world who feel just like I do. Then they will put the breakwater up; if they do a Shakespeare festival, it will get built, because the world will demand it."

Several federal projects designed to protect Tangier have been in the works for years, some since the mid-1990s, but have not been funded. One would construct a 430-foot jetty from the north shore and another 50-foot jetty off the south shore to protect the harbor, at a cost of $3.6 million. Another would build breakwaters along the western and northern sides of the island.
Not that I think a Shakespeare festival on Tangier Island is a bad idea, heck, I might even try to go, but I think this as a plan to complete the breakwater and "save" the island makes about as much sense as South Parks Underpants Gnome:

The Underpants Gnomes are businessmen of sorts, and they claim to know a lot about corporations, so the boys eagerly ply them for answers. The Gnomes explain that their three phase business plan is as follows:
  1. Collect Underpants
  2.  ?
  3. Profit
 Tangier Island Plan:

      1.  Hold Shakespeare Festival
      2.  ?
      3.  Save Island

Undergraduate Solves Mystery of the Universe

Not THE mystery of the universe, but a part of a major one that's been bugging astrophysicists for the last few years: "Where the hell is the missing mass"?
A SUMMER internship to learn more about astrophysics turned into a stunning coup for Monash undergraduate Amelia Fraser-McKelvie when she helped solve one of the big mysteries of science.

Astrophysicists have long been baffled by a belief that the universe must have a greater mass than is visible in the planets, dust and stars that make up much of what can be seen. But they had no way of proving it. They estimated that about half the mass required to keep the universe functioning as it does was ''missing''.

Ms Fraser-McKelvie found some, and her discovery will aid the development of telescopes in Australia. The 22-year-old aerospace engineering student, who works with Monash astrophysicists Kevin Pimbblet and Jasmina Lazendic-Galloway, explained. ''If we're looking very, very long distances from Earth we're detecting mass, but if we're looking closer to Earth we only see about half the mass that we're expecting to see,'' she said. ''This is what is called the missing mass problem. People have theorized that this mass has settled in filaments that extend between clusters of galaxies, so we tested and confirmed this prediction by detecting it in the filaments.''
This pretty amazing, but I hope it doesn't make my summer intern imagine she'll solve one of the great mysteries of the universe.  If it so happens, great. 

Movie Review - Pirates of the Caribbean!

Well, you know what you're going to get when you go see the third sequel of a popular series.  Johnny Depp as the Captain Jack Sparrow, a beautiful co-star as a sometimes foe, sometimes friend. In this version, Penelope Cruz did a good job of displaying her fiery Latin temper, and Capt. Jack gave her plenty of excuses.  Keith Richards did his bit (literally) as Capt. Jack's dad, and had the best line of the film:
"Does this face look like it's been to the fountain of youth?
Not Penelope Cruz...
Jack and Capt. Barbarossa, Jack's traditional foe, are forced into alliance against the Captain Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard of history.  Barbarossa has now transformed into a half sympathetic character like Jack himself, but in bad need of facial emollients.   Blackbeard, played by Ian McShane, was indeed a blood chilling foe, lacking all traces of humanity. An excellent villain, if you need someone to be more evil than both Captains Sparrow and Barbarossa.

The action was fast and furious, of course, the fight scenes full of apparent violations of a number of inconvenient physical laws, like Newton's, and at least two of the three Laws of Thermodynamics, not to mention a bit of overt magic here and there.  The scenery was gorgeous (I'll bet they had a big travel budget), and the CGI effects as good as you would expect of Disney.  The mermaids as a group were costumed poorly (not very realistically fishy, but nicely feminine).  The one mermaid character Syrena  (Astrid Berges-Frisbey, likely to return in the next episode as near as I can see) did good with a tough part, lying around looking sympathetic in a sexy outfit.

The plot of the movie seemed a bit darker than those of the past, but maybe that's just my memory.  I was surprised at the end to see that the movie was based on the fantasy novel "On Stranger Tides" by Tim Powers.  I dimly remember having reading this back a long time ago (it was written in 1987, I might have read it anytime after it came out in paperback).  From Wikipedia:

Most of Powers's novels are "secret histories": he uses actual, documented historical events featuring famous people, but shows another view of them in which occult or supernatural factors heavily influence the motivations and actions of the characters. Typically, Powers strictly adheres to established historical facts. He reads extensively on a given subject, and the plot develops as Powers notes inconsistencies, gaps and curious data; regarding his award-winning 2000 novel Declare, Powers stated,[2]
"I made it an ironclad rule that I could not change or disregard any of the recorded facts, nor rearrange any days of the calendar – and then I tried to figure out what momentous but unrecorded fact could explain them all."
IIRC, that seems correct, but the adaption had to be rather "loose" to get this movie out of the book.  It's OK though, the movie came out fine.  If you have a couple hours and a little money, this is a perfect summer movie to spend them on.

Monday, May 30, 2011

UMD Flies Human Powered Helicopter

A University of Maryland team has succeeded in building and flying a helicopter powered entirely by a single human pilot. Next Step: The Sikorsky Prize, a human-powered-helicopter award that has been awaiting a winner for 30 years.

Judy Wexler, a biology graduate student at the University of Maryland, was the pilot. Wexler pedaled furiously using both hand and feet pedals to get the craft airborne for just 10 seconds. Ten seconds might not sound like much, but in the 30 years that the prize has been out there, only two other teams have even gotten off the ground. The team is now waiting for the National Aeronautic Association and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, an international body that maintains aviation records, to certify the time.

The helicopter is extraordinarily light—only 210 pounds, including the pilot. Crafted primarily from balsa wood, carbon fiber, Mylar and foam, the aircraft has a limited weight that belies its size. The X-shaped frame has crossbars measuring 60 feet, with a rotor at each endpoint. The rotors themselves are 42-feet in diameter, with blades that are 21 feet long and just 7 pounds each. The helicopter needed to be light enough to lift, but strong and efficient enough so that it wouldn't shudder apart with the motion of the pedals. To accommodate the huge frame, students added additional truss supports, or "baby trusses," at weak points along the structure...

Pretty impressive student engineering. But I don't think it got out of ground effect.

The Quiet Floods

Almost everyone is aware of the horrible flooding in the Southern Mississippi Valley, and probably most were aware of the severe flooding of the Red River, at Fargo North Dakota, a situation which has faded from the news, but is still a serious ongoing problem:
FARGO – At this rate, Fargo’s spring flood may just stretch into summer.

Today marks the 62nd consecutive day the Red River here has been above flood stage, breaking the previous record of 61 days set in 2009.

Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet. The river stood about 19.2 feet Saturday afternoon and is expected to remain above flood stage for at least another week, according to the National Weather Service.

The Red River spilled out of its banks on March 29 and crested at 38.75 feet on April 9, the fourth-highest flood on record in Fargo.
Champy - the Monster of Lake Champlain
But there is another, slow motion, quiet flood going on in the United States this year, the flood of Lake Champlain, on the New York/Vermont Border, that I hadn't even heard of until doay:
Heavy snowmelt and the rainiest spring ever here have combined to send the lake to its highest levels on record. Hundreds of businesses, summer camps, cottages and year-round homes along the lake's New York and Vermont shores have been affected — to varying degrees — for more than a month.

Some 500 homes have been destroyed or damaged in Vermont, Gov. Peter Shumlin said earlier this month. No updated figures have been released.

No one has died. Everyone here is quick to acknowledge that the damages pale when compared with the carnage of Joplin, Mo., the tornado-stricken towns of Alabama and imperiled cities along the Mississippi River.

But this is a slow-moving catastrophe. And it has no end in sight.
 Is it just that we've reached our saturation point for flood coverage?
"We've had so many long duration rain events, it's built a large amount of water and it's gonna take a long time before it gets below flood stage," said Eric Evenson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in South Burlington. "Optimistically, it'll be another 40 days to get below flood stage, with normal conditions."

My, What Big Eyes You Have!

I found this out in the garden today, walking around on one of our big White Oak trees.  I don't know what it's called, but something with "eyed" would be appropriate.  I was gonna write a little about how eyes make it look like a potential predator, but then I checked:

Insect "Eyespots" Don't Mimic Eyes, Study Says
The eyespots on the wings of butterflies and moths are intended to be conspicuous to predators, not to resemble the eyes of larger animals, a new study found. "The story often goes that eyespots on butterflies and moths will startle or intimidate their predators by resembling the eyes of their predator's own enemies," said study lead author Martin Stevens, a behavioral ecologist at University of Cambridge in England. But with no experimental evidence to support this 150-year-old belief, Stevens and his colleagues put the theory to the test...Large bars and squares placed on the waterproof paper wings of the experiments provided as much protection as circles—and the larger the marking, the less it was preyed upon. Likewise, the more the insect spots were on the wing, the less birds attacked them.
The authors concluded that the visual "loudness" of the markings startle or frighten the predator into avoiding spotted prey.

Tom Sherratt, an evolutionary ecologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, was not involved in the study.

"It does seem very likely, based on [the new] work, that it's the conspicuousness of the signal [that] is more of a deterrent than anything to do with it resembling an eye," he said.
Worked with me.  Anything that advertises it's presence like that may be something I don't want to tangle with.

Beach Report, Monday, May 30, 2011

It was a really warm day at the beach.  Mid 80's, sunny and humid.  Last nights beach partiers had left mounds of trash, nicely packaged up for the garbage man.  Overall, our beach users are pretty responsible.
 A great day for kayaking.  No wind, and almost absolute calm.
 We met Charlie and Cheyenne up the beach aways, but they peeled off early for some errand.
 Cooling off.
 More colorful kayakers.
I almost stepped on this little tiny water snake.  Probably a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon).  He really didn't seem to want to be in the water and only went out when we were close.  I think he imagines a big striper coming up and swallowing him whole.  I would, if I were his size.
Well, that looks like the final beach report for the memorial day weekend.  Hopefully, we'll get back some next week.

Are Cell Phones Killing the Honey Bees?

New experiments find that cell phone signals may confuse bees
...according to the UN, local drops in the bee population are being reported by beekeepers all over the planet. And the whole thing may be our fault:A new paper (PDF) from Swiss researcher Daniel Favre claims that part of the problem is our obsession with cell phones.

According to Favre, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, phone signals may confuse honeybees so much that they become fatally disoriented. Favre and his team performed 83 experiments that recorded honeybees' reaction to nearby cell phones in off, standby, and call-making mode. The result: Honeybee noise increases by 10 times when a phone call is made or received. Normally, an increase in noise, or "worker piping," is used as a signal for bees to leave their hives. But in this case, it just makes them confused. Favre explains:
Worker piping in a bee colony is not frequent, and when it occurs in a colony, that is not in a swarming process, no more than two bees are simultaneously active (Pratt et al. 1996). The induction of honeybee worker piping by the electromagnetic fields of mobile phones might have dramatic consequences in terms of colony losses due to unexpected swarming.
A similar report in 2007 showed that bees won't come back to their hives when cell phones are placed nearby--another hint that handsets disrupt bee orientation. There isn't too much we can do about this without dismantling our cell phone culture, and that's never going to happen. In any case, neither of these studies conclusively prove that cell phones are behind all the recent bee deaths...
 I'm ready to give up my cell for the honey bees; how about you? And I don't even eat honey...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

I Went Fishin' This Afternoon

 Got skunked, so I took some pictures.
A much smaller sailboat, back in the shallow water near Flag Ponds Park
A big fellow, and a tug, headed north to Baltimore.

Tornado Dog Crawls Home on Broken Legs

Puppy with broken legs crawls home after surviving tornado
A puppy crawled home with two broken legs after being thrown high into the air by a tornado that ripped through Alabama. Mason, a terrier mix, was feared dead after the storm but was found two weeks later by his owners in the wreckage of their home.
"For an animal just to show up on someone's porch after this time was pretty remarkable, especially with the condition he's in."

Mason has become a minor celebrity, and has a Facebook page with more than 1,200 friends.

Beach Report, Sunday, May 29, 2011

Today was not a significant improvement over yesterday.  The temperature was warmer, the air more humid, and the cloud cover more ominous.  But hotter is yet to come, so it we still enjoyed it.

Click pics to see the large version

At Joel's suggestion, I took a picture or two of "Red, the Wonderdog", here doing something entirely un-lablike and actually wading in the water.   I mean, it's not Labrador.  A Chesapeake Bay Retriever would more appropriate, right?

Here's Georgia getting Skye to put her one the leash because of an unfriendly Pit Bull on a leash up the beach.

Bigfoot Captured on Video Near Spokane?

I have a soft spot in my heart for Bigfoot.  Although it's highly unlikely, in the extreme, I hold out hope that a giant descendant of Gigantopithicus is running around the continent, for the most part staying out of our way, and living and dying somewhere we don't find them.  Anyway, on this video, hikers allegedly unaware of their surroundings accidentally caught a Sasquatch crossing ahead of them.  Probably a fake...

Chinese Dog Lovers Save 520 from Restaurant

Chinese dog eaters and dog lovers spar over animal rights
The mutts were destined for the dinner table — all 520 of them crammed onto a truck hurtling down a Beijing highway toward awaiting restaurants in northeastern China.

Then, fate intervened in the form of a passing driver, an animal lover who spotted the truck and angrily forced it off the road. From there, things began spiraling out of control. News of the confrontation hit the Chinese blogosphere, sending more than 200 animal activists flocking immediately to the highway. Traffic on the road slowed to a standstill. Dozens of police officers were called in. Animal activists, however, kept arriving with reinforcements, carrying water, dog food, even trained veterinarians for a siege that lasted 15 hours...
It's kind of funny how all cultures are equal, and worthy, until they cross one of our deeply held beliefs.  Mind you, I hold that belief.  Just not that all cultures are created equal.  People who respect dogs are better, IMHO.
...And the debate is the latest sign of China’s rapidly changing mores and culture. For centuries, dog meat has been coveted for its fragrant and unique flavor; it is an especially popular dish in the winter, when it is believed to keep you warm. But pet ownership has skyrocketed in recent years as China’s booming economy produced a burgeoning middle class with both money and time for four-legged friends. And with the new pet stores, a once powerless animal rights movement is slowly gaining traction.
Look at that, the more China develops and comes into the first world, the more they adopt our values. 

The Post also has a slide show of the rescue: here.

Fracking! Not Just for Gas

Shale Boom in Texas Could Increase U.S. Oil Output
The Texas field, known as the Eagle Ford, is just one of about 20 new onshore oil fields that advocates say could collectively increase the nation’s oil output by 25 percent within a decade — without the dangers of drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the delicate coastal areas off Alaska.

There is only one catch: the oil from the Eagle Ford and similar fields of tightly packed rock can be extracted only by using hydraulic fracturing, a method that uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through the rocks to release the oil inside.

The technique, also called fracking, has been widely used in the last decade to unlock vast new fields of natural gas, but drillers only recently figured out how to release large quantities of oil, which flows less easily through rock than gas. As evidence mounts that fracking poses risks to water supplies, the federal government and regulators in various states are considering tighter regulations on it...
As we've seen in the past, allegations of environmental problems from fracking have been almost entirely invented out of whole cloth.  They just really don't want the US to develop new, US based energy sources...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wow, just Wow!

Melon sized hail that fell in Norman, Oklahoma from the same thunderstorms that spawned tornadoes across the state.  Imagine a wave of hailstones like this pounding everything into rubble, followed by a F5 tornado that just swirls all the debris into the sky. 

Whodda Thunk!

Pretty girls get free stuff!

Documentary : Sexy Girls Have It Easy from Bright Hand Pictures on Vimeo.

I'm shocked. Of course, to do so, they have to put up with guys looking at them.

The Hazards of Bird Watching

‘I drank my own urine': University president describes how he survived for days lost in a swamp
A university president from Columbia got more than he bargained for while on a trip to the U.S. after he spent nearly five days lost in the Louisiana Bayou surviving on nothing more than plant stems to eat and
his own urine to drink.

Francisco Piedrahita,65, head of Universidad Icesi in Cali, Columbia, was at the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park near New Orleans and was walking along the park's Wood Duck Trail last Saturday to photograph the brightly coloured whistling ducks native to the swampy area when he had become lost.

He roughed it out for the next four days until a local sheriff's office helicopter spotted him...
According to the picture's caption: Francisco Piedrahita, a university professor from Colombia, holds a stuffed male wood duck as his son Esteban looks on...  That looks like a stuffed toy duck and not a stuffed real duck to me.  I wonder what that is all about?  Did someone give it to him as a joke?

Another Nice Day at the Beach - 5/28/11

The Memorial Day weekend started off with some seriously nice weather.  High 70's, sunny, fluffy clouds, and not much breeze.  Georgia had to go to town, so Skye and I went without her, and met Joel and Red about 9:00 AM.

Click pics to embiggen...
 Skye is enjoying her dip in the bay.  So now she has to be hosed off and she'll be damp all day.  Doesn't bother her, though, it's worth the hassle.
A Fisherman gets ready on the end of the jetty.  It's a pretty good place to catch croakers and spot, but once in a while, some stripers, blues and, in years past, sea trout get caught off the jetty.
Despite her worsenin arthritis, Skye continues to enjoy her time on the beach.  She still "hounds" (maybe that should be "huskies") us on weekends until we take her.  She still runs like crazy at the beach, and then limps around all the rest of the day.
There were some dead fish on the beach today.  I don't know quite what's going on, but it didn't seem to be a major problem.  This is a pipe fish, a long, straight relative of the sea horse (we have a few of those too).  This one was up on the beach, dried crispy, with no signs of any damage. Most likely it was a Northern Pipefish, Sygnathus fuscus
A couple of horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) out enjoying the sunshine at the beach as well.

Skye made a few new friends on the beach today, including this young woman who was just at the right level to enjoy her dog kisses. 
She was dog friendly, so it worked out.

A trio of sun bathers.  Two of them are the sunbathers from last weekend.  They weren't quite as thrilled to have the dogs sniff them and their stuff (looking for sandwiches, I presume), but they were pretty good sports about it.  At least they answered Joel when he asked whether or not the two of them on the left are twins (they are).

A View from the Beach - The Six Month Review

As of tomorrow sometime, this blog will be 6 months old.  In that time, I have not missed a day of posting, which says not much except that I have a somewhat obsessive compulsive nature.  It has been fun, and interesting, but sometimes it seems to be a bit of a chore.

This is likely to get has become long and rambly, so I'm going to put a jump here, and if you're interested to see some of the details of all of this, I encourage you to look below.

Some Girls Will Do Anything to be in a Video

Catfish Noodling!

Grabbing a catfish by the mouth doesn't bother me. I am a little leery of the dorsal and pectoral spines, though. I got stuck once while working at the tropical fish store, and it got badly infected.

Some Oldies but Goodies - A Saturday Rule 5 Post

Time for another Rule 5 Post!  Somewhere, in an odd corner of the internet I ran into some digital copies of what appear to be old black and white promotional photos of Hollywood stars  and I thought I would share some of them:

Click pictures to enlarge.
First, here's Greta Garbo starring as Mata Hari, the Dutch exotic dancer convicted and executed by France in 1910 for spying for the Germans.  There's probably a good Rule 5 Post in there somewhere too.

She is widely quoted as having said "I want to be alone", but she denied that, saying "I only said 'I wanted to be let alone.' There is all the difference."
An old friend, Hedy Lamar, who I posted about a few weekends ago.  She was quite an interesting character outside of her work in the movies, and it's well worth delving into her story.  Here she stars as a classic temptress in "Samson and Delilah."  She seems to have fallen into that role a lot, and quite naturally.
In the same movie, with the male lead, played by Victor Mature. Curiously, Angela Lansbury co-starred as Delilah's short lived sister, Semadar.

Ida Lupino, with Basil Rathbone in the classic "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes."  On a personal note, I had occasion to help take care of Basil Rathbone's pet turtle when I was a teenager working in a tropical fish store in Los Angeles.  Ah, one of my few brushes with fame.  She also starred with Bogie in "High Sierra", and became a director in her own right.
Joan Crawford.  I haven't figured out where this one came from, but I'm guessing some pirate movie.  Joan had a nasty book, "Mommy Dearest" written about her by her daughter Christina, who accused her of vicious child abuse. The book was later made into a movie of the same name.

Best Quote: "I need sex for a clear complexion, but I`d rather do it for love."

Marlene Dietrich with Gary Cooper in "Morocco". From Wikipedia: 
"Dietrich was known to have strong political convictions and the mind to speak them. In interviews, Dietrich stated that she had been approached by representatives of the Nazi Party to return to Germany, but had turned them down flat... Dietrich became one of the first celebrities to raise war bonds. She toured the US from January 1942 to September 1943 (appearing before 250,000 troops on the Pacific Coast leg of her tour alone) and it is said that she sold more war bonds than any other star.

Susan Hayward and Gregory Peck playing another biblical couple, "David and Bathsheba".

She starred in over 50 movies. When she was my age, she'd been dead for two years... Brain cancer followed by pneumonia.

Vivian Leigh starring a Queen Elizabeth the First in "Fire over England". A product of the British Empire, born in India, Vivian made a habit of playing American Southern Belles. She also had a habit of Laurence Olivier; she was quoted that she "would rather have lived a short life with Larry [Olivier] than face a long one without him". She had what was probably bipolar disorder (back then, we'd have called her crazy). She also suffered from recurrent tuberculosis, which killed her in the end, at 54.

Rule 5 posts come from Stacey McCain's post on "How to Get a Million Blog Hits in Less Than a Year", the fifth rule of which states (in part) "Everybody Loves a Pretty Girl". I guess I need to review Rules 1-4, as I seem likely to fall short of that goal. I'm approaching the 6 month mark in a few day, and I'm at least an order of magnitude off the 500,000 mark. I'll put up a six month review in a couple of days. though. It's been interesting.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Copper Thieves Darken Nation's Capitol

D.C. copper thieves may be posing as road crews
WASHINGTON - Copper thieves possibly posing as road crews are causing parts of the District to go dark.

The D.C. Department of Transportation says thieves have stolen copper wire installed in underground conduits at least four times in recent weeks. Officials say in some cases the thieves may be posing as road contractors at staged work zones in order to commit the crime. They may even be detouring traffic.

One wire theft caused an illuminated Interstate 295 sign to go dark on northbound Kenilworth Avenue between Polk Street and Eastern Avenue...

...The thefts come as scrap metal dealers are paying nearly $3 per pound for copper wire. Acting DDOT Director Terry Bellamy says the incidents constitute a "community safety problem." ...

...In an incident in the 2700 block of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE, a man was transported to a local hospital after suffering burns in what may been an attempted theft of copper wire. 
It's just really sad, but somehow oddly encouraging that thieves have the initiative to recycle a commodity to stay off welfare, in the heart of the welfare state.

Our Congressmen Must be Geniuses

or is that genii? Congressmen out invest investment bankers:
It’s no secret that members of Congress qualify as political insiders, but a new report strongly suggests that they also may be insiders when it comes to trading stocks.

An extensive study released Wednesday in the journal Business and Politics found that the investments of members of the House of Representatives outperformed those of the average investor by 55 basis points per month, or 6 percent annually, suggesting that lawmakers are taking advantage of inside information to fatten their stock portfolios.

“We find strong evidence that members of the House have some type of non-public information which they use for personal gain,” according to four academics who authored the study, “Abnormal Returns From the Common Stock Investments of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”
So, isn't insider trading illegal?  Certainly, if I got insider information (like that will happen) and I took advantage of it to make a killing on a stock, I'd be pretty nervous about being investigated and arrested for insider trading like say, Martha Stewart.  But when you make the laws...
To the frustration of open-government advocates, lawmakers and their staff members largely have immunity from laws barring trading on insider knowledge that have sent many a private corporate chieftain to prison.
This must be those dastardly Republicans, in bed with industry, that are raising the Congressional average, right?  Well, not exactly:
Despite the GOP’s reputation as the party of the rich, House Republicans fared worse than their Democratic colleagues when it comes to investing, according to the study. The Democratic subsample of lawmakers beat the market by 73 basis points per month, or 9 percent annually, versus 18 basis points per month, or 2 percent annually, for the Republican sample.

“Given the almost folkloric belief that Wall Street invariably favors Republicans, the superior performance of trades made by Democratic representatives may seem surprising,” the study authors said.

One theory is that Democrats were the majority for most of the years under review and thus held more leadership posts, giving them greater access to nonpublic information. Once they took power in 1995, Republicans may have limited their ability to profit from the perks of political power because of their lack of leadership experience.
So, what to do?  Congressmen should be held to the same standards regarding insider trading as the rest of us, but that means they have to pass a law against their own interests.  Fat chance.  The other alternative is transparency in their investments, and voters choosing to punish those who abuse their insider knowledge.  I'm not confident that will work either.

Italians Charge Seismologists With Manslaughter...

...for not predicting 2009 earthquake.

Italian government officials have accused the country's top seismologist of manslaughter, after failing to predict a natural disaster that struck Italy in 2009, a massive devastating earthquake that killed 308 people.  A shocked spokesman for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) likened the accusations to a witch hunt.

"It has a medieval flavor to it -- like witches are being put on trial," the stunned spokesman told FoxNews.com.

Enzo Boschi, the president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), will face trial along with six other scientists and technicians, after failing to predict the future and the impending disaster...
Expect a massive emigration of Italian scientists out of Italy soon.

Northeast Coast Seeing Fewer Striped Bass

Striped Bass Population May Be Wavering

I've noted before that Chesapeake Bay recreational Striper fishermen have noted what we believe to be signs of the decline of the fish in Chesapeake Bay over the past several years.  The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) has acknowledged that sampling has shown that to be true, and moved to restrict the take of Stripers.  This article from the East Hampton Star on New York's Long Island notes that fishermen in the Northeast have also noted a recent dearth of Striped Bass:

From the mid-1990s when bass populations were placed under strict regulatory control to about 2006, a peak of abundance, all was right with the world as defined by those whose lives revolved around them for sport or money. But, for the past several years there have been whispers among fishermen, and they’re growing louder: There don’t seem to be as many bass around. The farther east one looks, the more profound the sense.

The Vineyard Gazette, a venerable broadsheet that pays close attention to the bass beat, ran a banner earlier this month that read: “Scary Decline in Striper Stocks.”
The paper reported that last year’s springtime sea worm hatch in the island’s coastal ponds — “an event that historically attracts stripers by the thousands — had just about failed after years of under-performance.” The Massachusetts division of marine fisheries has seen a 75-percent drop in the catch of small stripers in the past four years.

For the past two, the SurfMasters surfcasting tournament with contenders among the more expert casters found anywhere on the coast, has had to make do with shorter and shorter periods during which 30 to 50-pound fish get within range. A noticeable downturn.

“Last year, it never rose to a high note. It happened for about two days, a short period. Last year and the previous year were two of the worst in the past decade. Very little action. If you caught a 20-pounder it was something special,” said Fred Kalkstein, one of the SurfMaster tournament’s annual organizers.

“The recreational harvest has been down coastwide for the past several years,” said Stephen Hines, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s section head for finfish and crustaceans. Mr. Hines said the commercial bass fishery had remained more consistent, perhaps because of its “individual quota system.” Specific numbers of tags allocated to each licensed fisherman tend to impose stricter catch limits.
Time to start choking back the harvest even more than we have already.  When you're trying harder and  catching less, you're beyond the point of sustainable yield.  If we want to keep them at all, we'll need to keep less of them.

Maryland to Increase Take of Female Crabs

DNR will increase female crab limit
ANNAPOLIS -- State officials have announced they will increase the commercial daily catch limits for female crabs this fall after determining that it will not have a negative impact on rebuilding the blue crab population.

Jody Tull, a waterman from Marion Station who serves on the state's Blue Crab Advisory Committee, said the increase was one of three options offered to watermen by the Department of Natural Resources.

This year, DNR will increase daily female catch limits between Sept. 1 and Nov. 10.

A crabber with a Limited Crab Catcher License will be allowed to land 12 bushels a day, an increase of two bushels compared with the same period last year...
The past two years have seen crab numbers rebound somewhat after crabbing restrictions were instituted as a result of falling stocks.  A strong run of female crabs (sooks) occurs in fall, when the females migrate from the upper bay where they spent the summer feeding, growing, having sex and molting to their final adult size down to the lower bay, and the ocean, where they release their planktonic young.

In Maryland, male crabs, Jimmies, are the most highly prized for consumption at the traditional Maryland crab feed.  Many people will refuse to buy females (sooks), and as a result, their price tends to be much lower.  Females do, however, form a substantial part of the commercial catch which goes to picking houses, and are shipped all over as crab meat.  No one can see the sex of crab meat...

Is it too early to start increasing the take of crabs, particularly the take of "pregnant" females?  I guess we'll find out in a few years.

Students Suspended for Wearing White Shirts

Soquel Students Suspended for White Supremacy Claims
SOQUEL, Calif. - Students banned from a Central Coast school for wearing a white t-shirt. On Wednesday, Soquel High School suspended at least two students. The students say it's because of allegations, they're part of a white supremacist group.

"All the girls wore pink, all the sports guys wore tank tops," says Soquel High Senior Mikey Donnelly. "We were all going to wear white so that was the plan. Just wear white t-shirts to identify ourselves and look back and say that was our group of friends right there."

Soquel High Senior Mikey Donnelly wore a white t-shirt for his senior class photo Tuesday. About 10 of his friends did the same. That decision may seem harmless. But Soquel High suspended Donnelly for three days because of it...

..."I feel disrespected," says Soquel High Senior David Mine. Mine also wore a white t-shirt and was also suspended. He's missing out on finals and that could jeopardize his graduation. I'm Asian," says Mine. "I don't see how I can be a white supremacist. I'm against it completely."
 The administration better be able to back up their claims that this was a white supremacist group and that they were actually doing something, or being California, they'll be facing serious legal problems.

Found at The Other McCain's.

Your Friday Monkey Dacker

What Nemo Didn't Know Was Coming...

Nemo - in front
...probably wouldn't have upset him.

There's been a little furor in the media recently about a program in the San Francisco Bay area (natch) to teach kids lessons about tolerating alternative sexual lifestyles using examples of what we humans might regard as odd sexual practices among animals.  The example being put forth are clownfish, a large group of tropical fish in the tropics which mature first as males, and which then may switch to female if no larger female is present.  Nemo the Disney cartoon star was modeled after a clown fish.
Redwood Heights Elementary School, in Oakland, is in the hot-seat after the school decided to educate students about gender diversity.

On Monday and Tuesday, students of every grade were taught what the school called age-appropriate lessons about gender differences. Some lessons included all-girl geckos, a transgender clownfish, and boy snakes who act "girly" reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

"That's a lot of variation in nature," Gender Spectrum trainer, Joel Baum, told the students. "Evolution comes up with some pretty funny ways for animals to reproduce."

Principal Sara Stone said the lesson on gender differences was part of a larger effort to control bullying in the school, something parents supported last year.
Religious folk and people just plain opposed to having the state propagandize their children regarding sex have expressed outrage, while liberals of various sorts have expressed outrage that conservatives reacted with outrage:
The Pacific Justice Institute, a conservative organization, said teaching children that there may be more than two genders, "does not represent the values of the majority of families in Oakland,"
Students at Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland, Calif. have learned a valuable lesson in gender diversity after Joel Baum, director of education and training for Gender Spectrum, introduced lessons on transgender clownish and single-sex geckos.
I think odd animals are a lousy way to teach kids about human sexuality, especially from an anti-bullying perspective because every where you look around the animal kingdom, including the sex swapping clown fish, animals are involved in violent behaviors for sex.  On second thought, maybe that's not such a bad lesson after all, but I don't think that was what they were trying to preach. 

On the other hand, teaching about the various solutions that other animals have evolved to reproduce themselves is an excellent perspective from which to teach evolution.  If you really want to learn about how human sexuality developed, you might consider looking at now our nearest relatives in the animal kingdom, the great apes behave.  But you'd likely find them too violent to teach at an elementary school in San Francisco.

Snake Oil

The Scientific Evidence for Popular Health Supplements

A cool interactive graphic.  Well worth a few minutes.  Found at Maggie's Farm (not to be confused with Maggie's Notebook, but go there too, if only because I owe Maggie a few thousand hits).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Is It Playing With Him, or Stalking Him?

Terminally cute...

Farmers versus Everybody Else

The Bay news today is full of article about the Ag interests suit against the EPA Bay cleanup proposal (TMDL, aka Bay Pollution Diet).  In January, the American Bureau Federation filed suit against the EPA, alleging EPA over reached it's authority and used bad science to formulate its plan:

Yesterday, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a number of other NGOs, including Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Defenders of Wildlife, the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation and the Jefferson County Public Service District, and the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (an organization representing sewer authorities nationwide) announced that they intended to intervene on EPA's side in the lawsuit if possible.  There was clearly a mass e-mailing of talking points yesterday as the news rattled around the region today :

So where am I on all this?  In the muddle I suppose.  Yes, to clean up nutrients in the bay, we have to do something about agricultural inputs.  As Willie Sutton said "I rob banks because that's where the money is".  Agriculture is one of the biggest sources of nutrients to the bay.

But then, so is urban wastewater, and they are joining EPA's side in the suit.  Why?  Why not!  If told by the EPA to institute a particular technology to clean their effluent, they grumble, and do it.  How?  They get a grant from the state, a grant from the feds, or god forbid, they actually raise the water and sewage rates for the municipality.  The money doesn't come out of their hide.

On the other hand, the farmers, even the big agricultural giants (and you'll see lots or references to giant agribusinesses in the links above), actually exist to make a profit.  In a good year they do, in a bad year, they might not.  They might get some help from the government to offset some of the costs (if they have good grant writers), but in all likelihood, the costs of those upgrades will be reflected in increased costs of their product.  If they have no competitors outside the region, those costs will merely be transferred to the consumer, us.  If they have competitors outside the region, the added cost may well make the difference between making money and staying in business in the long run or losing money and going out of business.  I can see why they might not be enthusiastic to take EPA's first proposal.