Sunday, July 31, 2011

OMG! Reporter Hit by Stray BB!

Reporter Leanne Suter struck by BB gun fire in Fontana
ABC7 Eyewitness News reporter Leanne Suter was injured by a pellet fired from a BB gun while covering a story in Fontana on Saturday. Suter was struck in the hand. She was taken to a hospital for treatment and will be OK.

Suter and a photographer were doing a live report on the weather near Summit Avenue and the 15 Freeway just after 6 p.m. when shots were fired. Police were called, and with the assistance of a San Bernardino Sheriff's Department helicopter, were able to pinpoint a house that was possibly involved. Arriving officers found several BB guns inside the house.

Police arrested two boys, ages 16 and 17, for assault with a dangerous weapon, which is a felony. They were later released to their parents. Authorities said they apparently were firing from the home's backyard in the direction where the news van was parked. The news van was hit. Police recovered at least two pellets.

"We are grateful no one was seriously hurt and we are fully cooperating with police in their investigation," said Arnold J. Kleiner, president and general manager of KABC-TV. "Our crews and reporters are very conscious of good safety practices and take proper precautions when on assignment. They could not have anticipated that someone would decide to target them in this way."

The case is being forwarded to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office to see if charges will be pursued.

In less important news, Asma Assad's husband Bashar killed 80 Syrians with tank fire today...

Another Hot and Sweaty Day at the Beach

We got going this morning at 9 AM in a largely unsuccessful attempt to beat the heat.  It was mid 80s when we got started and pushing 90 by the time we finished.  There was almost no breeze, and the air was pretty humid.
A few seagulls and terns were desultorily working over some small schools of bait fish on the south side of the jetty.  There might have been some tiny bluefish or rockfish pushing the bait fish up from below, but they couldn't have been very big from the amount of splashing.

A crab boat just offshore was checking his pots, and collecting his catch.

Skye was having hard time in the heat, and took a lot of short cooling dips.

There was no sign of the raptors that were so prominently out and about yesterday.
However, a little sandpiper of some sort was gleaning food off the rocks...

while a GBH was using the same rocks as a fishing platform. The GBH decided we were no threat, and just watched as we passed his rocks, going both up and down the beach.

A pair of crabs.  Male crabs (on top with blue claw tips) hold and protect the female (underneath with red claw tips) until she molts, then they mate, and he continues to guard her until her shell hardens and she is safe to go.  This pair was in the rocks that line the jetty at Flag Harbor.

Geek Scientists Find Rationale for Fantasy Armor

Heavy Metal Hardens Battle: Body Armor Hindered Medieval Warriors
...A study published July 19 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B shows that soldiers carrying armour in Medieval times would have been using more than twice the amount of energy had they not been wearing it. This is the first clear experimental evidence of the limitations of wearing Medieval armour on a soldier's performance.

During warfare in the 15th century, soldiers wore steel plate armour, typically weighing 30-50kg. It is thought this may have been a contributing factor in whether an army won or lost a battle. "We found that carrying this kind of load spread across the body requires a lot more energy than carrying the same weight in a backpack," says lead researcher, Dr Graham Askew from the University of Leeds Faculty of Biological Sciences. "This is because, in a suit of armour, the limbs are loaded with weight, which means it takes more effort to swing them with each stride. If you're wearing a backpack, the weight is all in one place and swinging the limbs is easier."
I think when they say "soldiers wore steel plate armor" that they are speaking largely of the knights, the professional class of soldier, whose armor we find in museums.  The mass of infantry probably cobbled together whatever protection they could.
...The study also showed that the armour had a clear impact on the soldier's breathing. Rather than taking deep breaths when they were exerting themselves -- as they would have done had they not been wearing armour -- the interpreters took a greater number of shallower breaths.
She looks like she can breathe just fine.

Wisconsin Suburb Attempts to Scalp Grant Funds

It seems River Hills, Wisconsin gets more in grant funds from HUD than it needs, so it gives some away, and it attempting to find a way to "sell" off some of it's excess:
River Hills, Milwaukee County's richest suburb, has found little use for what has become an annual allocation of about $20,000 in federal community development block grant money.

So village leaders instead have cut deals with other suburbs to lend or transfer the grant money and have even sought unsuccessfully to sell the River Hills block grant allocation to another community.

Those practices have drawn increased scrutiny by the county and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the agency in charge of the block grant program.

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said this week that the agency would review the River Hills practice "to see if it violates any rule or law. . . . It just strikes us as a bad idea." Sullivan, based in Washington, D.C., questioned why the county wouldn't simply transfer the money earmarked for River Hills to some other suburb or allowable use if River Hills itself had no need for the funds.

Sometimes the suburbs cut side deals, in effect borrowing from another suburb's HUD allocation.

The block grant program provides money for a range of uses, including building new sewers and streets, fixing homes and making public buildings accessible to people with disabilities. The program is aimed at helping families with low to moderate incomes.

Assistant Corporation Counsel John Jorgensen said selling the HUD allocation wouldn't break any rules or laws, as long as the grant money is used for allowable projects. In a memo to county supervisors, Jorgensen said his opinion matched advice he'd gotten from local HUD officials.
Why would you sell money to another municipality (presumably at a loss).  Well, because then you could use the money for something you think you needed, instead of what HUD thinks you need.
Because of River Hills' high average income, the village is allocated relatively little from the county's HUD pot and has had few eligible uses, said River Hills Village President Bob Brunner.

In 2009, median family income in River Hills was $220,000, almost four times the county's $55,244, according to U.S. Census figures.

Work on the Star Treck Medical Scanner Progesses

Glucose Meter Can Detect Cocaine, Uranium in Blood
Researchers have shown that an off-the-shelf glucose meter can be used to test blood samples for a variety of substances, including cocaine, the pathogen-related protein interferon, the biochemical adenosine, and traces of uranium. The ability to measure such medically important targets without expensive lab testing could be particularly vital in developing countries.

The researchers modified the chemistry of blood samples in order to use glucose concentration as a proxy for detecting the concentration of these substances. The research was conducted by Yu Xiang and Yi Lu at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"There's an elegant simplicity to their repurposing," says Kevin Plaxco, professor of biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Barbara. "The development of a general sensing platform with the convenience and form-factor of the home glucose meter is the holy grail of biosensor research," he says.
It still requires a blood sample, unlike the Star Trek scanner.  It's a remarkable example of how technology can revolutionize medicine, given the opportunity.  Almost all human metabolism can be linked to glucose, which is a fundamental energy source for a variety of purposes. Even if you don't eat any sugar, your body will make it from other sources so it can feed the brain and other tissues that require glucose as an energy source.  This device works by tying the effect of some substance to glucose metabolism.  The trick is to find and exploit the link to glucose.

Fish Bones Fight Pollution

To Nullify Lead, Add a Bunch of Fish Bones

Alaskan pollock is usually the faux stand-in for crab meat or the main ingredient in fast-food fish sandwiches. But now the flaky fish is moving into a new realm — as part of the solution to one of the nation’s longest-running toxic waste problems.

Today, there is more lead contamination in America’s cities than any federal or state agency could ever afford to clean up and haul away. So scientists and regulators are trying a new strategy, transforming the dangerous metal into a form the human body cannot absorb, thus vastly reducing the risk of lead poisoning.

The principle is straightforward, said Victor R. Johnson, an engineer with Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc. “The fish bones are full of calcium phosphate,” he said. “As they degrade, the phosphates migrate into the soil.” The lead in the soil, deposited by car exhaust from the decades when gasoline contained lead or from lead-based paint residue, binds with the phosphate and transforms into pyromorphite, a crystalline mineral that will not harm anyone even if consumed.

This alchemy has been practiced in university and commercial laboratories for more than 15 years, and more recently has been employed at acid-mine sites and military bases.

But now it is also coming to residential neighborhoods like South Prescott in Oakland, which this month became the first in the country where fishbone meal is being mixed into the soil for lead control under a project organized by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It’s fair to say, looking forward, that just about every urban residential area probably has a lead problem and we just can’t afford economically and socially to move that amount of dirt any more,” said Steve Calanog, the E.P.A. official in the San Francisco office that is overseeing the project. “Topsoil is a precious resource, and we don’t have enough topsoil to replace it.”
Lead is a nearly universal contaminant as a result of airborne transport from it's use in leaded gasoline through much of the 20th century. It was phased out of automobile gasoline in the US in the early 1970s; its use continues in aviation gas.  Sediment and soil profiles around the US show a layer of contamination that dates to this period. However, lead is a fairly immobile metal; once bound to sediment, it is largely bound in place until that soil or sediment is moved by erosion, or some extreme chemical event (a good dose of acid will knock it loose).  Most plants cannot take up large much lead from soil, the main route of soil lead to humans is direct ingestion via unwashed residues on food, or actually eating dirt, termed pica.

I do wonder about the use of fish bones as a possible source of phosphate to the soil.  In Maryland, we are being told we are not supposed to added phosphate fertilizers to our soil to prevent runoff to the Chesapeake Bay and it's consequent eutrophication.  Would the use of fish bone based fertilizers for the treatment of lead in soils also lead to runoff of more phosphate?  Is the benefit worth the result?

Global Warming Models Fail Crucial Test Against Data

Climate models make too hot forecasts of global warming
Data from NASA's Terra satellite shows that when the climate warms, Earth's atmosphere is apparently more efficient at releasing energy to space than models used to forecast climate change have been programmed to "believe."

The result is climate forecasts that are warming substantially faster than the atmosphere, says Dr. Roy Spencer, a principal research scientist in the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The previously unexplained differences between model-based forecasts of rapid global warming and meteorological data showing a slower rate of warming have been the source of often contentious debate and controversy for more than two decades.

In research published this week in the journal Remote Sensing, Spencer and UAHuntsville's Dr. Danny Braswell compared what a half dozen climate models say the atmosphere should do to satellite data showing what the atmosphere actually did during the 18 months before and after warming events between 2000 and 2011.

"The satellite observations suggest there is much more energy lost to space during and after warming than the climate models show," Spencer said. "There is a huge discrepancy between the data and the forecasts that is especially big over the oceans."

Not only does the atmosphere release more energy than previously thought, it starts releasing it earlier in a warming cycle. The models forecast that the climate should continue to absorb solar energy until a warming event peaks.

Instead, the satellite data shows the climate system starting to shed energy more than three months before the typical warming event reaches its peak.

"At the peak, satellites show energy being lost while climate models show energy still being gained," Spencer said. This is the first time scientists have looked at radiative balances during the months before and after these transient temperature peaks.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  All models are wrong.  The only question is by how much.  This research shows that global warming models fail to correctly predict how the earth handles heat, in a way that cause the models to over predict the amount of heat that stays on the earth in response to warming.  The solution to the quandary is to change the models to match the observation.  That will likely reduce the predicted sensitivity of climate to enriched CO2.  Many of us believe that the sensitivity of climate to CO2 has been exaggerated in climate models, and this is powerful vindication for that "hunch".

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Do You Ever Have This Feeling?

Yosemite - Cutting the Trees to See the Forest

Park service to thin out Yosemite's growing crowds -- of trees
Reporting from Yosemite National Park -- National parks tend to be a tree hugger's paradise. Layers of federal laws, strict park service rules and even the disapproving scowls from some visitors prohibit so much as driving a nail into a tree, much less cutting one down.

But it's getting a bit crowded in Yosemite, where more than a hundred years of prompt firefighting have allowed towering pines and cedars to clog the park's meadows and valleys. These days, you can barely see the granite for the trees.

That's about to change. Yosemite National Park officials say thousands of trees will be felled to preserve the iconic views of the park's waterfalls and the craggy faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. The project is part of Yosemite's Scenic Vista Management Plan, approved by the park service's regional office this week.

Chain saws will be fired up in the fall, said Supt. Don Neubacher, aimed mainly at ponderosa pines and incense cedars. Rare or ecologically sensitive trees such as California black oaks, sugar pines and white bark pines will be spared. None of the park's thousand-year-old sequoias will be cut, nor will any trees more than 130 years old.
Yep, most of the forests in California are "fire climax", which is a fancy way of saying that occasional fires are necessary for them to maintain the  community.  In the case of Coast Redwoods and Giant Sequoia, for example, young redwoods will not grow in the forest floor of the mature redwood forest; there's not enough light, or enough nutrients in the soil.  However, once a good hot fire comes along, and opens up the sky and frees nutrients to the soil, they will grow in the ashes of their parents. 

Eventually, though, even selective cutting of the undergrowth trees will prove insufficient, as the old growth trees begin to die of old age and various traumas and disease, and there will be no young of those species to replace them.

Ultimately, the right thing to do is to allow fire to get in, and do it's work.  They let a large section of Yellowstone burn in 1988, and in the resulting severely burned areas, the parks characteristic Lodgepole Pine tree's seed's sprouted in the next 5 years.

Marine Invites Jersey Shore Girls to Marine Ball

Talk about asking for trouble...

The Connecticut Cougar

The Cougar Behind Your Trash Can
YOU have to admit, the cat had moxie.

The 140-pound cougar that was spotted last month among the estates of Greenwich — and was later struck and killed on the Wilbur Cross Parkway — has been the talk of southern Connecticut. New England, along with most of the Eastern United States, hasn’t been cougar country since the 19th century, when the animals were exterminated by a killing campaign that started in colonial times. So where had this cougar come from?

Now we know the answer, and it couldn’t be more astonishing. Wildlife officials, who at first assumed the cat was a captive animal that had escaped its owners, examined its DNA and concluded that it was a wild cougar from the Black Hills of South Dakota. It had wandered at least 1,500 miles before meeting its end at the front of an S.U.V. in Connecticut. That is one impressive walkabout.

You have to appreciate this cat’s sense of irony, too. The cougar showed up in the East just three months after the Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar extinct, a move that would exempt the officially nonexistent subspecies of the big cat from federal protection. Perhaps this red-state cougar traveled east to send a message to Washington: the federal government can make pronouncements about where cougars are not supposed to be found, but a cat’s going to go where a cat wants to go...
I hadn't heard about this one, but I think that's kind of cool.  I know people have been talking about spotting cougars here in the east for a long time now, and it been pooh-poohed by the authorities pretty much all along, but as we see here, there are always a few animals, that for whatever reasons, go roaming off their reservations.  With as cryptic as cougars are in places where they are common, we can be fairly sure a fair number have wandered through the east unnoticed in the past.

I really think cougars should be established throughout their former ranges, particularly in big cities, where there are lots of people to appreciate them...

But When a Bear is in Your Kitchen, It Seems Bigger

Human Run-Ins With Bears May Portend Deeper Changes
Griffin W. Smith has some practical advice to offer about bears. As a cross-country trail runner, he has seen them in the woods many times in southern Colorado. But when a bear is in your kitchen, it seems bigger,” said Mr. Smith, 21, a biology major who was at home last week from college when he came downstairs for breakfast and found a black bear by the refrigerator, slurping from the dog’s dish.

Bears — dangerous and unpredictable always — are prowling broader areas of the West in closer contact with people than ever. In some places, drought is driving the animals out of their wilder haunts and into human settlements. Longer-term climate change, scientists say, is also disrupting bear foraging patterns, especially in and around Yellowstone National Park, where grizzlies have been compelled to search more widely for food in recent years as a tree that produces pine nuts crucial to their diets has been decimated.

Mr. Smith’s encounter here last week in Colorado’s second-largest city ended without further trouble. He ran back to the bedroom, closed the door and grabbed his phone. The bear wandered back out through a door — which had been left open for the family pets — and was gone by the time the authorities arrived.
The obvious problem with bear human interactions is two-fold.  First, there are more people who want to go and visit and live on land where bears are common.  Second, bears are hunted less, and better protected now than they have been in the past, so they are less likely to react to people as a personal danger, and more likely to see man and the works of man as a potential source of food.  And since bears are pretty much eating machines on 4 legs, that's generally a recipe for a problem.

Georgia and I had an encounter with a bear once upon a time (before kids).  We were car camping in British Columbia, sleeping the back of our old Volvo station wagon.  We carefully put all our food in the car, but left the cooking equipment and a box of utensils and misc stuff out on the table.  In the middle of the night, a bear came through camp, and basically tossed it.  He knocked the camp stove around, spilled the box of utensils, and bit into a salt shaker.  We saw him on the bumper of the camper next to us jumping up and down, and trying to get in the door.  I guess we were lucky he hadn't heard you can open a car by bashing in the window...

The NYT goes on about how climate change is going to make this all worse.  It's probably all alarmist nonsense except that, yes, there will be more people in the future, and plenty of bears, and plenty of opportunity for the two to mix.

Back to the Beach - The Day of the Raptors

Georgia and I got back from Halifax yesterday evening.  When we arrived at BWI the temperature was around 99 F; quite a shock from the mid 70s in Halifax.

This morning, the temperature was already in the mid 80s, but a 10-15 mph North wind made it pretty nice out.
We bailed Skye out of the kennel this morning at 9:00 and headed straight to the beach. She was pretty thrilled to be back, both with us and to get down to the beach and get all wet.

As usual, click the pictures to enlarge.
There were lots of people out using the beach.  I don't think this woman was catching many fish, but I'm not entirely sure that was the point...

"Is that a wolf?"
"Can I pet it"? 

But the big story today was the raptors.  The north wind creates a nice wave of uplift over the cliffs, and the Bald Eagles and Ospreys were out in force, cruising.  The first thing I saw was this juvenile Bald Eagle being harassed by an Osprey.  The Osprey would dive from overhead and the Eagle would flip over on it's back to put it's talons up in protection.

However, the Ospreys (lower left) didn't mess with the adult Eagles (upper center), who were also cruising about.  Normally, the adult Eagles would prefer to steal their food from Ospreys than to fish for themselves; I guess it's hard to blame the Ospreys for taking it out on the young ones while they're still a little inexperienced.

Just cruising over the treetops.

Rule 5 Saturday - Scarlett Johansson Sends Her Regrets

Scarlett Johansson turns down Marine Corps Ball invite, but sends champagne
Sgt. Dustin L. Williams will have to find another date to the Nov. 10 Marine Corps Ball. His first choice, A-lister Scarlett Johansson, won't be able to make it. In an exclusive statement to Zap2it, Johansson writes:

I feel incredibly honored to have been invited to the Marine Corps Ball by Sgt. Dustin L. Williams. Not only does Sgt. Williams deserve recognition for his bravery, selflessness and dedication to the United States and its people, but he also displays a cheeky talent for film making.Sgt. Williams, unfortunately due to prior commitments I will not be able to attend the Ball with you this year but I am sending you a case of Moet and Chandon with gratitude. In my absence, I raise a glass to you and all the men and women of the U.S. Marine Corps, past and present, in thanks for your continued commitment to preserving the safety of our nation...
Scarlett is not the the first Hollywood star to be asked to the Marine Ball.  Mila Kunis was asked and accepted, as did Justin Beiber.  Betty White was asked and declined.

I think it's pretty funny, and pretty good image making for the Marines to do this.  It's great publicity for both the Marines and the stars, and it gives the stars a chance to demonstrate their "patriotism" without doing anything controversial.  And who knows, maybe they'll even enjoy the ball!

I can't honestly say I can remember ever seeing a movie with Scarlett in it.  Well, there's no time like the present, they say.

However, unless she has a really grueling shooting schedule abroad or something, it's hard to imagine why she'd risk the damage to her image by turning him down.

It's not like she's totally opposed to servicemen or anything. 

The YouTube where she is asked to the ball is located here, and it's amusing to run down the right side of the page and see who else has been invited...

Maggie's Notebook wins the race to be the first blog to post this link, in her Rule 5 post on Annie Ilonzeh, Thanks Maggie! And The Other McCain checks in a day late (the Rule 5 Wombat usually gets his Rule 5 posts out on Sunday).  Thanks, Wombat!  And thanks to a couple of late linkers, Jake Finnegan, the Classical Liberal and the Full Metal Jacket Patriot!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Angler Cashes in On Fish

Pennsylvania Angler Catches "Diamond Jim Impostor"
The first Diamond Jim imposter of the 2011 Maryland Fishing challenge has been caught by David Huffman of Jersey Shore, Pa. Huffman was fishing off of Rock Hall, Md. on July 20, when he hooked the 22-inch striped bass. The Diamond Jim imposter, worth $500, was one of nearly 600 rockfish tagged so far this summer. If no one catches the authentic Diamond Jim─ worth $25,000─ the money will be split among those who caught the imposters.

“I want to congratulate Mr. Huffman as a winner in the 2011 Maryland Fishing Challenge,” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “This annual tournament is a local tradition and showcases the wonderful fishing opportunities we are afforded in Maryland.”

Over the summer, three batches of specially tagged striped bass – one authentic Diamond Jim and the rest imposters – have been released into the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The current Diamond Jim is worth $25,000. Also still on the loose are as many as 599 imposters worth $500 each. Zachary’s Jewelers is adding to the prize pool, giving away a set of diamond stud earrings valued at approximately $4,000 to the angler who catches the authentic Diamond Jim released today.
I've never quite understood the purpose of the "Diamond Jim" fish.  Do they really attract people to fish who wouldn't ordinarily fish?  Even if some do, does the boost to the economy pay for the cost of the catching, tagging and releasing the fish, and paying off winners?  I doubt it.  Save the money and put it into something else.  Enforcement for example.

I Warned You Not To Pick On The Gingers!

Floron arrested after KILLING another man who called him a GINGER!
Richard Starks, Jr., 27, faces second-degree murder charges for landing a lethal sucker punch on Samuel Smith, 19, during a booze fueled house party at 1 a.m.

According to St. Petersburg Times, the men were intoxicated after drinking vodka and Sailor Jerry rum, which ignited a verbal altercation.

Starks, who is described as having “anger issues” grew furious after Smith called him a “ginger” and insulted his “weak knees.” Friends of the suspect say he goes by the nickname “Red” but hates being called a “ginger.”
He uses the nickname "Red", but resents "Ginger" enough to kill someone?  I blame South Park.

Time to remind us again of the ginger's contributions to humanity...

So try and tell me this one has a soul...

OK, so this ones totally fake, and may have a soul after all.

 But in some versions of the elf mythos, elves don't have souls, so this one works.

Thanks for the links Wombat and the Classical Liberal!

Emergency Refrigerator

I might have to try this tomorrow. Seen at Ace's.

Steve Jobs Richer than Uncle Sam

U.S. balance now less than Apple cash
Steve Jobs is now more liquid than Uncle Sam.

While it’s highly unlikely that President Barack Obama is looking to ask the founder and chief executive of Apple Inc. for a loan, it became a fact as of Thursday afternoon — the world’s largest technology company now has more cash on hand than the most powerful democracy on Earth has spending room.

As Republicans and Democrats continue to work towards a compromise to the country’s debt ceiling crisis, the U.S. Treasury Department said on Thursday that Washington now has a total operating balance of only US$73.768-billion.

Meanwhile, Apple currently boasts a cash reserve of US$75.876-billion, as of its most recent quarterly earnings report at the end of June...
 Well, Steve Jobs knows how to run a business, too.

Halifax Day 6

Down to our last few hours in Halifax.  Had breakfast out this morning, and took in a couple of last talks (did you know that mosquitoes are an important flux of methylmercury out of boreal bogs?  Me neither...

A bunch of kids down in the square listening to kids songs (and chasing pigeons).
A happy little candy store.  So in a couple hours, onto the plane and back to Maryland.  Hopefully, I'll get a beach walk and report tomorrow AM

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Exerciser

With bonus dog.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Halifax Day 5

Not too much to report.  A long day of meetings.  Much mercury was discussed.  I may even recall some of it later.  So instead, how about a couple of photos?

Economy Shoe Store is one of the many cafes in the strip between our hotel and the convention center.  Reputedly, it got it's name when they couldn't afford a new sign when they first opened.  They seem to be doing well this week.
So who's that girl hanging out the window?  Click to enlarge.

Remember to Eat Your Fruit!

The music didn't do that much for me...

Stolen from Theo.

Well, that's a bummer; see it here, instead.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Halifax Day 4 - Peggys Cove and the coastal barrens

Today was cool and misty.  We went to morning talks, and then had an eco-tour, sold through the conference, and went off to visit the barrens and Peggys Cove.

Click pictures to enlarge

A typical scene on the barrens.  Very rough and boggy land near the coast on Nova Scotia.  The land was scoured clear of soil in the last glaciation down to the bare granite rock, and huge boulders, called glacial erratics dumped at random on the landscape by the retreating glaciers.  It is now covered with low plants, blueberry, cranberry etc.  What trees that grow (mostly conifers and alders) are small and stunted.

The tour group (or most of them) looking out on the Atlantic Ocean.  At least I think it was the Atlantic Ocean.  It looked like a fog bank.

Next we stopped at Peggys Cove, a small, working fishing village, and a big tourist destination on the shores of the Atlantic.  Peggys Cove was near the site of a terrible plane crash, Swissair Flight 111, on Sept. 2, 1998, which killed all 229 passengers and crew.

No truly working fishing village would be complete without an old wooded boat melting back into the landscape.

The Peggys Cove Lighthouse. Don't walk on the black rocks. They're slippery, and you might fall and die.  Others have.

A view of Peggys Cove and Lighthouse from the main road.

Ethics Researcher Charged in Data Theft

Harvard ethics fellow accused of hacking MIT
A former employee of Reddit has been accused of hacking into the computer systems of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and downloading almost 5 million scholarly documents from a nonprofit archive service.

Aaron Swartz, a 24-year-old researcher in Harvard University's Center for Ethics, broke into a locked computer-wiring closet in an MIT basement and used a switch there to gain unauthorized access the college's network, federal prosecutors alleged Tuesday. He then downloaded 4.8 million articles from JSTOR, an online archive of more than 1,000 academic journals, according to an indictment filed in US District Court in Boston.

“As JSTOR, and then MIT, became aware of these efforts to steal a vast proportion of JSTOR's archive, each took steps to block the flow of articles to Swartz's computer and thus to prevent him from redistributing them,” the court document stated. “Swartz, in turn, repeatedly altered the appearance of his Acer laptop and the apparent source of his automated demands to get around JSTOR's and MIT's blocks against his computer.”
What the heck was he going to do with all those articles?  He had access to them as part of his job, I would hope (I do).  Going into business to sell them?  I doubt it. As a get rich quick scheme, that just sucks.  According to prosecutors  he intended to give them to some kind of file sharing group to post to get around the pay wall system ordinary folk face.

I have some sympathy for that view.  The majority of the scientific article published were paid for by government grant funds (US, state or foreign) and ethically, it makes sense that their content should belong to the people that paid for the research, through their government.

In the old days, the publishing houses had an important role to play in providing the editing, publishing, and distribution of the literature to interested people and libraries.  No other institutions had grown up with that capacity.  Yep, they made a profit at it.  Good for them.

But now, the internet offers the possibility of instant self publication.  If you can write it, you can put it on line, and Google (and probably the NSA as well as others) will make sure it lives forever.

However, ethically, at least in my opinion, the way to reform the system is not to steal everything and put it on line, but to move academic publication off of dead trees and on line as soon as possible.  Once we all get used to looking on line first, and all the current research is going there, the profit motive for holding the old stuff behind pay walls will fade.

And what will happen to Aaron Swartz?

Swartz was charged with computer intrusion, fraud, and data theft. If convicted, he faces a maximum of 35 years in prison, restitution and forfeiture, and a fine of $1 million. A PDF of the indictment is here.
 Even the indictment is on line. I doubt it will come to 35 years, or a million bucks.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Halifax - Day 3

Today was cloudy, and ended in rain. I Had to go to talks and poster sessions most of the day, but I ran into these on the way to lunch:

A view from the side, to show more of the inscription.

This one is a little less somber.  I wouldn't mind having a small version of this one in the garden to keep the squirrels in line.

New Energy Saving Device - The Solar Bikini

Solar-powered bikini lets you charge gadgets with your boobs

I hear the Europeans are planning a Speedo version...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Maybe the Word "Sanctuary" Doesn't Mean What I Think It Means

Leasing allowed in oyster sanctuaries
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is preparing to open up areas within newly established oyster sanctuaries for aquaculture leasing.

More information should be available soon, said Mike Naylor, DNR shellfish program director, that will let watermen and others lay claim to waters within the state's thousands of sanctuary acres. The state has pushed to shift the dwindling oyster harvest from public bars to aquaculture, in which watermen grow their own oysters, either on the water's bottom or in floating cages.

"A lot of our sanctuaries already have leases in them," Naylor said. Existing leases, like two within the St. Mary's River, were grandfathered into an oyster management plan that went into effect last year.

A change in the law this year will allow for new leases within certain areas of oyster sanctuaries.

Naylor said it was never the state's intention to stop people from raising oysters and harvesting their own within a sanctuary. Throughout the oyster management plan, sanctuaries are often defined as prohibiting the harvesting of wild oysters.

About 24 percent of what the state deemed as the remaining quality habitat for oysters was mapped out as sanctuaries under the new plan, making the areas off limits to public harvest.
While I'm all for oyster aquaculture in Chesapeake Bay, I think that a sanctuary should be some place where native oysters are allowed to grow unmolested, not a place where watermen set out their cages to grow oysters for harvest, or to lay oysters on the bottom for growth and subsequent harvest.

Halifax - Day 2

We got an early start, and headed up the Citadel hill for a view of the city.  For Halifax, this is heat wave, day time temperatures hitting close to 80 (but pretty dry and with a nice breeze). A welcome change from Maryland's real heat wave.

Then we headed down the hill, though town to the convention center, and sat through the morning talks.  The conference provided a good lunch, (not great overall, a spinach salad and some chickeny dish, but some great desserts!).  After lunch we headed down to the waterfront for some exercise.

One of the many boat ride options down on the waterfront.

 A popular kids attraction.  Be sure to click the picture to enlarge, and read the inscription on the stone.

A sign of the times, a boat flying the Jolly Roger comes into the harbor as a Canadian Navy vessel leaves.

 This native seemed unimpressed.