Friday, September 30, 2011

Beetles, Bottles and Beer

Australian beetles screw themselves to death on discarded beer bottles

  Beetle attempts to mate with a  beer bottle. Credit: Darryl Gwynne
University of Toronto Mississauga professor wins Ig Nobel Prize for beer, sex research.

Gwynne and Rentz were conducting field work in Western Australia 23 years ago when they noticed something unusual along the side of the road. “We were walking along a dirt road with the usual scattering of beer cans and bottles when we saw about six bottles with beetles on top or crawling up the side. It was clear the beetles were trying to mate with the bottles.”

The bottles – stubbies as they are known in Australia – resemble a “super female” jewel beetle, Gwynne says: big and orangey brown in colour, with a slightly dimpled surface near the bottom (designed to prevent the bottle from slipping out of one’s grasp) that reflects light in much the same way as female wing covers. The bottles proved irresistible to males. Ignoring the females, the males mounted or tried to climb up the bottles, refusing to leave. They fried to death in the sun, were eaten by hungry ants or had to be physically removed by the researchers.

Gwynne and Rentz determined that the males were attracted only to stubbies – not to beer cans or wine bottles of a slightly different shade of brown. And it wasn’t the bottles’ contents that captured their attention: “Not only do western Australians never dispose of a beer bottle with beer still in it, but many of the bottles had sand and detritus accumulated over many months,” the research paper notes.
Now that's a great study!

Send an E-mail, Save a Fish

A Turning Point for Menhaden

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is now considering to what goals Menhaden fishing will be managed.  While I'm not a member or Chesapeake Bay Foundation, or even a proponent of many of their points of view, I think they have about the right position on this:
CBF is recommending option F15% as the overfishing threshold, which ensures that 15 percent of the original, unfished menhaden population is left intact (instead of the 8 percent it is currently). CBF is also recommending a fishing rate target of at least F30%, as an appropriate interim target.

As an ASMFC commissioner, I urge people to tell ASMFC that menhaden are very important in their ecological role, and it’s simply outrageous how low we’ve allowed the population to get. The rapid decline of menhaden creates huge problems for the entire ecosystem. People should tell ASMFC they want new reference points for menhaden that are sufficiently conservative and will turn around this decline and increase the population. Furthermore, the population should be allowed to increase to a point where menhaden can support a fishery and fulfill their vital ecological role.
I would be happier if the F15% were raised to 30, but I suspect the politics might not permit that.

Send your comments to ASMFC, by 5 p.m. November 2, 2011.

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Hit Squad

I almost forgot!

Bargains Available in the Obama Economy

Hundreds sell their own burial plots to make some quick cash
Holly Purkey, 28, is one of many Floridians trying to sell her pre-purchased burial plots for some quick cash. She is selling two burial plots in Forest Hills Memorial Park in Palm City. "This is new to me. Kind of a weird investment," said Purkey, of Port St. Lucie.

The side-by-side plots belonged to her grandparents, who had moved out of state. She bought them seven years ago. Now Purkey, a stay at home mother, wants this cemetery real estate off her hands. She would like $3,000 for the pair of plots in return. "The money would help. That's the reason why I should get these on Craigslist and do something about it," she said.

Sellers are posting online, using burial plot brokers, and also funeral homes to market the real estate. Some of those advertisements show single plots starting at about $1,000, while family plots can go for up to $50,000.
$50k for a family plot? Anybody wanna use the wood lot's out back?  Or maybe we could stack a few hundred in at 1k a piece!

Sponge Bob Claims Another Victim

Stephanie Pistey
Florida Teen Murder Suspect Says She's a Vampire
An 18-year-old Florida girl accused of helping lure a 16-year-old boy into a fatal trap says she's a vampire who has drunk the blood of her boyfriend.

Stephanie Pistey confirmed assertions by police in Parker, Fla., that the people involved in the July murder of 16-year-old Jacob Hendershot were in a vampire cult. Pistey, who was arrested last Monday and charged with accessory to murder, said she sees herself as a modern day Dracula.

"Since I was like 12 every fiber in my body, basically everything, I know this is going to be crazy, but I believe that I'm a vampire and part werewolf," Pistey told WBBH-TV.
Vampires always look much better in art and movies than in real life: 

So where did she get the idea to be a vampire?
Pistey's Facebook profile lists "blood" and "unworldly things" among her interests, as well as a fondness for less under-worldly culture, including Hannah Montana, Miley Cyrus, and Sponge Bob Square Pants.

Sponge Bob!  Clearly a sign of insanity. Sponge Bob was recently found by real scientists to be a threat to young children!  See, he turned this one into a vampire!
Pistey says she has drunk the blood of her fiancé and co-defendant William Chase, but she denies drinking Hendershot's blood.

Police believe Pistey cleaned the crime scene and taunted the victim's mother before her son's body was found, The Panama City News Herald reports.
Sounds like a real sweetie.   Maybe she can star in her own Lifetime movie.

Pistey is not the first self-described vampire-werewolf to run up against the law. Other supposed demons have included a Texas man who bit a woman and told cops that he "needed to feed," an Ohio "werewolf" arrested for underage drinking, and, of course, a boozed-up suspect who earned the nickname of "Count Drunkula."
 Or is this a good reason to ban Miley Cyrus?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lighten Up, Dude, She's Only #12

King Mswati's wife 'caught in bed with Justice Minister
IN THE kingdom of Swaziland, subjects must ensure they do not dishonour their monarch.

That rule goes for King Mswati III’s 13 wives as well.
Thirteen?  Are you kidding, one is bad enough luck (just kidding, Georgia, you don't find straight lines that good very often).
And, despite shunning monogamy himself, he was in no mood to tolerate claims that his 12th spouse may have also enjoyed sharing her love with more than one partner.

He was unhappier yet when the man said to be having an affair with his beauty queen bride Mswati Nothando Dube was none other than his own Justice Minister and friend Ndumiso Mamba.
Mrs. Mswati (the twelfth) was one of the subjects of my all time greatest hits post: It's Great to be the King, a post on the wives of dictators, that I cribbed largely from a post at Maggie's Notebook (Thanks Again, Maggie!).
So, after engineering a sting operation and allegedly catching the two in bed, his 22-year-old wife has now been placed under house arrest while her Mamba is in jail, having been forced to resign.
 House arrest?  Where else is there to go in Swaziland?
Swaziland is a small country, no more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) north to south and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east to west. The western half is mountainous, descending to a lowveld region to the east. The eastern border with Mozambique and South Africa is dominated by the escarpment of the Lebombo Mountains...
Some 75% of the population are employed in subsistence farming, and 60% of the population live on less than the equivalent of US$1.25 per day. Swaziland's main trading partner is South Africa, and its currency is pegged to the South African rand. Swaziland's economic growth and societal integrity is highly endangered by its disastrous HIV epidemic, to an extent where the United Nations Development Program has written that if it continues unabated, the "longer term existence of Swaziland as a country will be seriously threatened." The infection rate in the country is unprecedented and the highest in the world at 26.1% of adults and over 50% of adults in their 20s.
I guess that answers the question of what they do for fun in Swaziland...
Of course, the king’s 1.2 million subjects have not been made aware of this salacious story by the country’s press... Journalists there have been told to focus on the honorary degree awarded to the monarch during his visit to Taiwan this week.
Hey, it almost worked for Bill Clinton...

However, this has not stopped reporters from neighbouring South Africa exposing the scandal.

If convicted of the rather odd-sounding charge of ‘trespassing into another man’s home’, married Mamba, who was once a close friend of the king, could be executed.

While Dube, a mother of two who got engaged at 16 after taking part in the annual pageant of thousands of topless Swazi virgins, could be banished from the kingdom.
A kindly Kenyan blogger Rafiki Kenya, kindly provides us a full on NSFW photo of Dube in her courting clothes, as well as a rather bleak outlook for her future:
It is expected that Queen Nothando Dube will spend the rest of her life under 24-hour surveillance.
Rather reminiscent of the old National Geographics I used to hide under the mattress...

The two were arrested at the Royal Villas hotel in a town near Mbabane, the country capital. The hotel is said to be owned by the king.

As is the custom in the tribal state, the monarch’s mother, who shares his power and is known as the Indlovukazi, or Great She-Elephant, sent a delegation to Mamba’s village to press charges.
King Mswati and President and Mrs. Obama
I'll bet she was  really happy with a mother-in-law called the Great She-Elephant.

Political commentators said the alleged affair was “common knowledge”, although a friend of the queen has now told South African Times newspaper that she is "not happy", and wanted to "dismiss the allegations as false”.
I'm waiting for women's rights groups to take up her plight.  But I'll continue inhaling and exhaling while I wait, thank you very much. 

Eat an Oyster, Plant an Oyster

Or eat a crab or a fish for that matter:
Order Maryland seafood, help restore Chesapeake oysters with new restaurant promotion
The Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources are organizing the “From the Bay, For the Bay” promotion next week in Washington. Organizers say restaurants from Pennsylvania to Virginia are taking part in the promotion. Participating restaurants will donate $1 for every Maryland seafood dinner sold between Sunday and the following Sunday. The Oyster Recovery Partnership says each dollar donated allows it to plant 100 baby oysters in the bay.
If you need a guilt free excuse to go eat seafood, hey, go for it! However, given the percentage of oyster spat which survive to adulthood, it's not that big a contribution.  Moreover, the Oyster Recovery Partnership oysters are usually placed in areas where they will become available for fishing once they reach minimum size, so it's more like put and take trout fishing.

Scientist Tracks Bay's Second Ugliest Fish

Researcher Uses Satellites to Track Cownose Ray
Cownose rays are native to the Chesapeake Bay. They arrive late spring when the waters start warming and leave again in the early fall as waters cool. Where they go during the rest of the year? No one knows!

That’s why Virginia Sea Grant Fisheries and Seafood Technology Specialist Bob Fisher is satellite tagging some rays. The satellite tags will gather data about water quality and depth for 90 days. On December 12, 2011, the tags will disconnect from the ray and float to the water’s surface. There, they’ll send the data gathered as well as information on their current position to a satellite which will pass the data back to Fisher at Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Although six rays were tagged, it’s uncertain how much data Fisher will get back. Last year, during a similar study, only one of the tags transmitted data after the 90 day period. Fisher suspects that the other tags probably got eaten, along with the rays, by predatory sharks.
Cownose Rays mark the end of the best spring fishing locally.  While there's a chance of catching a big striper after the rays have shown up, it's unlikely, as most of them have migrated back to the ocean.  But catching a big ray on light tackle is amusing in it's own way.  They fight like a freight train, often not even getting off the bottom until pulled at unmercifully and then starting to move slowly and steadily away, picking up speed as they go.  My goal, once I'm sure the fish is a ray, is merely to get as much of my tackle and line back as possible.  Once in a while I succeed.

They do have a powerful "stinger" near the base of their tail, a rather nasty barbed knife like looking thing, equipped with a venom strong enough to make you unpleasantly sick.  In the Bay, few people get hurt by them, as you have to either stand on one while wading (and probably pin it down, which might be tough), or mishandle it on a boat.  I know of at least one scientist who has been stung that way.  I wouldn't jump on one's back like Steve Irwin did, though.

Their quality as a food fish is questionable.  I kept one once, a long time ago, and was not overwhelmed with the quality of the flesh, and a little put off by the bits of red meat among the white.  I know other people swear by them. Trevor claims to like them, but he's never kept one while I've fished with him, but then Trevor likes everything but Oyster Toads (the #1 ugliest fish in the Bay).

Rays can do a number on shellfish and crabs with their crushing jaws, often moving in on planted oysters in packs and nearly wiping them out.  A current theory holds that ray numbers are up because the number of predatory sharks in the ocean is sharply down due to fishing; many sharks dine on their distant relatives (and their close relatives for that matter).  I don't know about that, but I wouldn't be opposed to seeing a commercial fishing for rays under the right regulations.  I'm sure there's an Asian culture somewhere that would prize them.

Another study from Virginia proposes that Cownose Rays help oysters to disperse:
A study published in April’s “Journal of Shellfish Research” indicates that cownose rays’ mouths aren’t strong enough to crush and eat larger oysters, but this physical limitation doesn’t stop rays from trying. The result? Cownose rays pick up and swim away with large oysters, but eventually drop them after failing to crack the shells open. This behavior could help disperse large, reproductively mature oysters throughout the Bay.

Bob Fisher, Virginia Sea Grant Extension Agent and lead author of the study, says industry and other shellfish growers have confirmed his findings. “I had given multiple talks to industry and oyster gardeners on what I was seeing,” Fisher says. “Some oyster growers started to look at their oysters that remained after the rays and come in and fed, and they say that what I found was true—that their larger oysters weren’t eaten, but were moved away from where they were originally planted.”

Cownose rays are native seasonal residents that migrate in groups into the Chesapeake Bay during summer months. Ever since 2003 when a group of rays was seen descending on an oyster bed and eating all but a few of the newly planted oysters, industry and oyster restoration groups alike have been trying to find ways to keep rays out. According to reports, in a couple of hours those rays ate more than 1 million seed oysters, which were about the size of a fingernail.
Considering that oysters have planktonic larvae that can settle many miles from where they are spawned, this may seem like a trivial help, but for oysters, it may be more important than it seems. Larval oysters need a hard substrate to set on, and the best hard substrate in the Bay is another oyster.  So by moving mature oysters off a concentration of oysters into soft or sandy bottom, the ray may actually help establish a new cluster of oysters.

Now That's Just Low

Cemetery Worker Stole Guitar From Army Vet’s Casket
A Wisconsin cemetery worker allegedly removed a valuable Fender guitar from the casket of a 67-year-old Army veteran who died last week and had told family members that he wanted to be buried with the instrument, which was his “pride and joy,” according to court records.

Steven Conard, a 39-year-old grounds worker at the Allouez Catholic Cemetery, was arrested Saturday and charged with felony “theft from person or corpse.” Conard, who plays in a band, reportedly confessed to stealing the Fender Telecaster when confronted at his Green Bay home by Brown County Sheriff’s Department deputies.

“This isn’t something I normally do,” Conard said, according to a Circuit Court criminal complaint. “I just have a respect for fine musical instruments.” The cream-colored guitar was recovered from Conard’s living room, where the instrument was on the floor “in plain view.” Conard is pictured in the above mug shot.

The $2000 Telecaster had been placed in the casket of Randall Jourdan, who died last Monday. Jourdan, a father of nine and grandfather of 29, “liked to play guitar and watch baseball,” according to an obituary.
Now, if it had been an late 50s Les Paul Gold Top...

EPA Inspector General: We Cheated to Make CO2 a Priority

EPA cut corners on climate finding
The Obama administration cut corners before concluding that climate-change pollution can endanger human health, a key finding underpinning costly new regulations, an internal government watchdog said Wednesday.
The report said EPA should have followed a more extensive review process for a technical paper supporting its determination that greenhouse gases pose dangers to human health and welfare, a finding that ultimately compelled it to issue controversial and expensive regulations to control greenhouse gases for the first time.

"While it may be debatable what impact, if any, this had on EPA's finding, it is clear that EPA did not follow all the required steps," Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. said in a statement Wednesday.
But they already knew the answer they wanted.  The rest was just detail.  Save the people a little money and skip the dirty work.

How convenient that the EPA believes it needs to hire 230,000 more people (and spend $21 billion, with a "B" annually to enforce it's CO2 regulations, increasing it's number of employees more than 10-fold.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Musical Intermission

Toccata and Fugue in D minor - on wine glasses.

I always enjoy annoying people by playing on wine glasses at dinner, but this guy can really make them sing.

The Rules of Rugby

A game I have never had much interest in before now...

Chesapeake Bay Ravaged by Poachers

Poachers Looting Chesapeake Bay
This article reviews the amazing set of mass poaching events in the Chesapeake (which I documented in a long series of posts):
Since February, officers have hauled in more than 13 tons of illegally caught rockfish that has an estimated a value of about $128,000 on the retail market. NRP continues to search for whoever's responsible, and is offering a $30,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Another haul of illegally caught fish included 6,000 pounds of fish tangled in illegal netting. NRP Cpl. Roy Rafter, who helped haul, said several nets were put together in well over a mile of netting.Rafter and his colleagues are also on the lookout for oyster poaching and illegal crab harvests. New research indicates Maryland's crab stock is more depleted than originally believed and will take longer to rebuild than expected.
And then sets up the scene for this winter's annual battle between the poachers and the Maryland Crab Cops  (as they are sometimes called):
Laws that took effect this year impose stiffer fines, provide more jail time and give police the authority to revoke fishing licenses. NRP said poachers know there are few officers available to patrol 17,000 miles of shoreline.
 I like this comparison:
The DNR isn't just looking for the big illegal hauls. In 2008, they charged as many as 43 percent of all the licensed watermen with violating the state's commercial fishing laws.
Then, just a few paragraphs later, they throw this bone to the watermen:
An overwhelming majority of commercial fishermen do not condone any form of illegal fishing activity.
If they actually caught 43% of watermen poaching in one year, I would guess the actual number is well over 50% (They can't all get caught, right?).  So, I would say, yes, the overwhelming majority of watermen do condone poaching.

Greece Too Poor to Buy Ink to Print Tax Forms

Greece Runs Out Of Ink, Can't Print Tax Forms
So.... let's get this straight. If austerity does not force all the tax collectors to be on permanent strike which it appears it will, than the sharp ink shortage will surely destroy any attempts to generate state revenue through tax collections. And there is more bad news: when Greece goes back to its prior currency, the drachma, or the obolus, or goats, or whatever, there will be no ink to print it. And since Greece will enter hyperinflation shortly following its evolutionary transition from disorganized banana republic to organized hyperinflationary implosion, this may be a concern.

Dam You, Tropical Storm Lee!

Conowingo Dam at flood - Photo Source
Study eyes Chesapeake Bay pollution threat from dams
Two weeks after Tropical Storm Lee flushed millions of tons of mud into the Chesapeake Bay, state and federal officials announced Tuesday they are launching a study of how to protect the estuary from sediment and other pollutants building up behind dams on the Susquehanna River.

Experts from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland departments of environment and natural resources and the Nature Conservancy, a Washington-based conservation group, will team up for the $1.4 million, three-year evaluation of how to deal with sediment accumulating upriver from the Conowingo Dam and three other hydroelectric facilities on the Susquehanna.

Flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee's torrential rains washed an estimated 4 million tons of sediment through the Conowingo Dam into the upper bay, along with large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Those two plant nutrients foul the bay by feeding massive algae blooms, which subsequently rob the water of oxygen that fish, crabs and shellfish need to breathe. An even larger outpouring of sediment from the river during Tropical Storm Agnes in 1972 smothered underwater grasses and killed oyster beds.

Scientists and others have worried for years that efforts to restore the bay could be undermined by one or more storms washing sediment and accompanying nutrients down the Susquehanna from the dams now collecting it. But officials have not acted, put off by estimates that it would be extremely costly and difficult to remove the sediment and place it somewhere else that wouldn't threaten water quality.

Now, under a new push to restore the bay, the Environmental Protection Agency and the states through which the Susquehanna flows have set 2025 as a deadline for deciding how to deal with the dam sediment.
No hurry...

I was interested to see this:
Prior studies have determined that the 100-foot-high Conowingo, the dam nearest the bay, traps two-thirds of the 3 million tons washed down the river each year, but that the reservoir's capacity for capturing and storing sediment will be used up in 15 to 20 years. The latest storm, by scouring out some of the sediment stored behind Conowingo, may have extended that capacity by another two years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
In other words, Lee not only brought a whole lot of it's own sediment into the Bay, it brought an additional two years worth of sediment.  It will be interesting to see what changes happened on the Susquehanna Flats this spring.

I've had a few days up there like that.

Democrat Governor Suggests Canceling Congressional Elections

Another one to file under "What if Bush had said this."
As a way to solve the national debt crisis, North Carolina Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue recommends suspending congressional elections for the next couple of years.

“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover,” Perdue said at a rotary club event in Cary, N.C., according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “I really hope that someone can agree with me on that.”

Perdue said she thinks that temporarily halting elections would allow members of Congress to focus on the economy. “You have to have more ability from Congress, I think, to work together and to get over the partisan bickering and focus on fixing things,” Perdue said.
Yes, removing the ability of the people to determine who represents them, even for while, is a very likely way to improve the results. /sarc off...

Another thing you see in the Washington Post punditry these days so often is the accusation that the system doesn't work because the Republicans won't agree to whatever it is the democrats most desire right now.  I think E.J Dionne has been replaced by a computer program that kicks out a very slightly refreshed version of this meme every week.  It never occurs to him that we could get things moving along smartly if Democrats would merely agree to whatever Republicans want.

All Those Large Square Western States Look Alike Anyway

Oops! White House fails basic geography test
The press office issued credentials to those reporters and photojournalists who are covering the president’s trip this week to Washington state, California, and Colorado. The credential even provides a handy graphic highlighting (in white) which states the president will visit.

The only problem?

Wyoming is highlighted, not Colorado. To be fair, both states are rectangular, nearly identical in size, and stacked next to each other. But we doubt our third grade teachers would buy that!
 File under "What if Bush's White House had done this".

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Carla Bruni Can't Wait to Get it Over With

I can't wait (to have a smoke) says pregnant First Lady of France
She said yesterday: ‘Quite frankly, I can’t stand it any more. I spend most of my time either sitting down or lying down. I can’t drink or smoke any more. I’m in a hurry to get it over with.’

The baby – due in six weeks – will be Miss Bruni’s second child. She has a son, Aurelien, born in 2001, with ex-boyfriend Raphael Enthoven.
Back on May 1, I did a Rule 5 post on Carla, heiress, super model, and rock star and last, but not least, First Lady of France.  At that time, people were  speculating she was pregnant with her second child (and her first with her President/husband, Nicolas Sarkozy).  The rumors appear to have been well founded.

I recall Georgia having similar sentiments with her two pregnancies (except for the smoking), so I don't wish to sound dismissive.  Carla is evidently among the most beautiful and talented women in the world, and to have to sit around, getting heavier and heavier, and not be permitted the simple vices that the French enjoy above all, smoking and drinking has got to be Gauling...
Friends of Miss Bruni told the paper that because she was having a baby after the age of 40, her doctors had urged lots of ‘rest and clean-living’.

The French First Lady has also insisted she will not release photos of the new baby, saying it’s ‘a totally private event’.
No matter, all babies look alike anyway. Fortunately, Carla's life has been well celebrated in pictures.

Some suggest that the pregnancy was perpetrated for political purposes (how's that for extended alliteration?)
France’s Marianne news magazine suggested the birth was ideally timed for Mr Sarkozy’s re-election campaign next year, describing the baby as the ‘perfect marketing tool’ for the 55-year-old president.

It wrote: “Politically speaking, the timing of this pregnancy is perfect. It is a ‘marketing-baby’ that will be born just before the last months of presidential campaigning really get going.”
That's a pretty cynical point of view; I like it. Maybe Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann could use it.

Anyway, I heartily endorse smart, good looking, talented women like Carla reproducing.  Looks, talent and brains are all genetically heritable, and God know the human race needs more of all three.  We may not need more Sarkozy genes, though, he already has three children from his first two marriages.

Speaking of Old Nick, in another new article, Carla claimed she was attracted to him not because of his political power, but because of his interest in flowers:
Carla Bruni says her husband is "interested in every type of thing" - including history, geography, and of course politics - but it was his knowledge of gardening that captured her heart.

"When I met him, walking around the garden in the Palais of the Elysee, he keeps giving me all these flowers' names.

"He knows all the Latin names, all these details about tulips and roses.

"I said to myself: 'My God, I must marry this man, he's the president and he knows everything about flowers as well. This is incredible.'"
Oh, Carla, I'm interested in flowers, too, and I'm willing to bet I know more about them than Nick, and I'm interested in everything, too  And Georgia would just love to have another woman around the house to help with the housework...  Just leave the baby at the Elysee Palace; I'm sure Nick can find a good nanny.

"Marrying him is very rock-and-roll for someone like me," she says with a laugh.

"Being able to change your life from one day to another, that's really rock-and-roll. Most people wouldn't go for this sort of change.

"Also from his side, it's very rock-and-roll, you know - after all, I'm a songwriter!"

But she insists that they have the opposite of a "rock-and-roll" lifestyle.

"I'm very quiet myself and we have a very quiet life.

"I like peace and solitude and silence. And his day schedule is so frantic that nights, evenings, we keep them for us as much as we can."
Quiet walks on the beach, occasional fishing trips out on the Bay; I can offer the quiet life, too!  Heck, I might even quit my day job and hang around the house.  And if you want to go back to work as a rock star?  Well, I've been a roadie for less well established bands:
And when she stops being France's first lady, what does she hope to do?

"Just going back to touring, you know. Playing guitar and touring is what I miss the most.

"My dream life is just to go back to my job full-time. And be with my family. You know, regular dreams, common dreams that everyone has."

The Astonishing Toll of Global Warming

A guest post over at Watts Up With That on the how deaths due to weather related causes have declined from 1900 through the present, the era of global warming

The graph at the right gets straight to the heart of the matter. As the globe as warmed over the last 100 years, deaths due to weather related causes has dropped dramatically:
  1. Deaths and death rates from droughts, which were responsible for approximately 60% of cumulative deaths due to extreme weather events from 1900–2010, are more than 99.9% lower than in the 1920s.
  2. Deaths and death rates for floods, responsible for over 30% of cumulative extreme weather deaths, have declined by over 98% since the 1930s.
  3. Deaths and death rates for storms (i.e. hurricanes, cyclones, tornados, typhoons), responsible for around 7% of extreme weather deaths from 1900–2008, declined by more than 55% since the 1970s.

As the stock prospectus says "past performance is not proof of future performance", but it does give one reason to question cries about how doom is at hand if the earth should happen warm another degree or two.

An alarmist commenter correctly notes that much of this decrease is due to the increase in technology and civilization over that period.  What he fails to note is that this technology and civilization has been built on the back of energy consumption, largely fossil fuel.

And it would really piss me off if warming were to raise the temperature of Maryland to the temperature of, say, South Carolina, and bring snook and tarpon in to the Bay.

Virginia Reinstitutes Winter Crab Dredge Ban

Virginia regulators have placed a ban on dredging blue crabs during the winter months.
The Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved the ban on Tuesday in an effort to help rebuild the Chesapeake Bay's crab population.

The century-old winter harvest involves the dragging of steel-toothed dredges that scoop up hibernating crabs. It primarily targets female crabs.

Scientists say that ending the winter dredge fishery has helped improve crab stocks the past few years

The ban was instituted over the objection of commercial crabbers and others in the seafood industry. They contend there are plenty of crabs in the bay and that limiting when crabs can be caught damages the local and state economies.
Good.  That may be the dumbest fishery ever devised, and that's a low bar. Previous article on crab dredging here.

ATF Bought Guns for Mexican Drug Gangs

U.S. Gov't used an ATF employee to buy weapons with taxpayer money & walk them

The "Gun Walker" scandal just amped up a notch.  ATF agents actually bought weapons from gun shops to provide to Mexican drug gangs.  This is more direct involvement than previous reports that merely had the ATF giving gun shops the permission to sell to "straw" gun buyers.  When the agent who bought the guns attempted to follow where they went, his superiors stepped in and stopped him.

At this point, 1 US Immigration and Customs officer, and as many as 300 Mexicans are suspected of having been killed the guns which ATF allowed to slip across the border.  No rationale for allowing the guns into Mexico, but not tracing them further has been made public.  As of yet, Mexico has received no official word from the US Govt regarding Gun Walker.

Cynics (like me) strongly suspect the US administration was trying to make the case for increased gun control by pointing to the guns bought in the US appearing at Mexican crime scenes.  At this point the only real question is how far up into the Justice Department did actionable knowledge of this program go.  Heads should roll.

Read the article for more horrible examples of ATF malfeasance.

The Jobs Plan: 230,000 New Paper Pushers

EPA: New CO2 Regulations would require 230,000 new employees, Cost $21 billion
The Environmental Protection Agency has said new greenhouse gas regulations, as proposed, may be “absurd” in application and “impossible to administer” by its self-imposed 2016 deadline. But the agency is still asking for taxpayers to shoulder the burden of up to 230,000 new bureaucrats — at a cost of $21 billion — to attempt to implement the rules.
What's that, 40 Solyndra's, and not a single solar panel made?  In fact, nothing is made, no service provided, and all 230,000 of them would be federally funded to restrict someone else's ability to make something useful. (To be fair, this may include support staff, which may well out number the actual bureaucrats)
“Hiring the 230,000 full-time employees necessary to produce the 1.4 billion work hours required to address the actual increase in permitting functions would result in an increase in Title V administration costs of $21 billion per year,” the EPA wrote in the court brief.
1.4 billion hours of paperwork per year!  Assuming a life span of 80 years (which the US has attained as an approximate average without these regulations), that adds up to about 2000 lifetimes per year.  That doesn't even begin to address the amount of time wasted by people outside the agency trying to satisfy the 230,000 new regulators.  You'll have to decide for yourself whether those are valuable or wasted hours...

The agency currently has a staff of 18,000.  But this is not a power grab.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some Things are Universal

The Kent Island Dilemma

Save the Bay or Stop Development - Proposed sewer line stirs cost, growth concerns
Four out of five homes here are pumping water-fouling nitrogen into the bay every time they flush, Queen Anne's County health officials estimate. Some even leak raw sewage into their yards or drainage ditches during wet weather.

Now county officials see a potential solution: linking more of the island to a sewage treatment plan. But that plan threatens to create another problem — increased development — and the issue is dividing island residents.

"It's crazy," says David Olds, the Queen Anne's County commissioner who represents Kent Island. "You're damned if you do, damned if you don't."

County officials voted last month to seek state funding to connect 1,500 homes on southern Kent Island to the county's wastewater treatment plant, which was upgraded years ago to take out the nitrogen contributing to the bay's "dead zone."

Extending a sewer line nearly eight miles down the island to reach them all could cost upwards of $70 million — up to $40,000 per existing household if they had to pay for it. That's far more than many residents are willing or able to spend, which is why county officials say they need help with the project.

But many residents also fear that a sewer line could open the island up to more intense development. As many as 1,600 vacant lots there have never been built on because they were deemed unsuitable for septic systems.

The issue is a divisive one, with sewer proponents deriding opponents as "no-growthers" and opponents suggesting profit rather than public health motivates sewer supporters.
Actually, I'm kind of shocked the Sun is willing to put the issue into such sharp contrast.  If you do what's right for the Bay, and build an adequate municipal sewer system, you open the possibility that people on your island could sell their own private land at higher prices, and more people could move in and enjoy your comfortable island lifestyle.  Wouldn't want that.  Now, if you can just find some other excuse to ban development.

We faced a similar dilemma on a smaller scale.  After the development in our neighborhood was nearly complete, the three lots behind our house were left undeveloped.  The lot immediately behind our house "perked", and had a building permit.  The two lots on either side of that lot did not "perk" and were unlikely to be developed soon.  We solved our privacy problem by buying all three lots from the developer.  The lot that perked was much more expensive than the two that didn't.

Kent Island resident could also choose this solution.  They could buy out the undeveloped land on their island at market prices to preserve the character of their island, if they valued it that much.  My bet is that they don't.

They Call it Stormy Monday
A strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm is in progress following the impact of a coronal mass ejection (CME) at approximately 12:15 UT on Sept. 26th.

The Goddard Space Weather Lab reports a “strong compression of Earth’s magnetosphere. Simulations indicate that solar wind plasma [has penetrated] close to geosynchronous orbit starting at 13:00UT.” Geosynchronous satellites could therefore be directly exposed to solar wind plasma and magnetic fields. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for Northern and Southern Lights after nightfall.

Having already unleashed two X-flares since Sept. 22nd, sunspot AR1302 appears ready for more. The active region has a complex “beta-gamma-delta” magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M- and X-class eruptions. Flares from AR1302 will become increasingly geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward Earth in the days ahead.
Doesn't sound like a "Carrington Event".  It would be nice to see an aurora down here; the sky is free of clouds for the first time in a week.  Not likely, though.

T-Bone Walker Stormy Monday Blues by Zone19

Shockingly, EPA Finds EPA Bay Model Correct

EPA, Chesapeake Bay Foundation challenge ag industry report questioning bay cleanup strategy
A new assessment has found fatal flaws in an agriculture industry report calling for a halt in the new federally led bay restoration strategy.

The report said the strategy should be delayed until differences can be resolved between models developed by the Chesapeake Bay Program and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The assessment released Monday by the Chesapeake Bay Program, the regional, federal-state partnership coordinating restoration efforts, says the models were developed for different purposes and differences are unavoidable.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation scientist Beth McGee says the report was an effort to mislead the public. The federal Environmental Protection Agency, which developed the tough, new strategy in response to a presidential order, says it is pleased an independent panel supports its position.
Notice how the EPA and it's allies in CBF resort to calling the Department of Agriculture "the Ag industry".  It would be just as fair to call any study by the EPA to be by "the Enviro Industry", because the environmental business has many people depending on money funneling through the need to do environmental work.

Yes, there are two models, both built by governmental bureaucracies whose objectivity is suspect.  You can reasonably suspect both models of favoring the outcome preferred by it's funders and  advocates.  All Models Are Wrong! (Maybe this should be Fritz's Second Law), the only questions are the mechanism by which they are wrong, how much they are wrong, and in which direction.  When the models are funded and built by advocates, you can be nearly 100% certain that they favor the advocates preferred out comes, and by nearly as much as they can get away with.

The Dates

Women and Men review their dates, and needless to say, see things differently.  A little naughty, the boss might pretend not to understand.

Another Stale Link Dump!

Is that small a dead mouse in the wall, or all those old links I never got around to making a real post out of?  Time to get a bunch of these out before they liquefy.

165 People Missing off Cruise Ships - I smell a bad movie plot in the making.

Is Yawning a Way to Cool the Brain? - My brain must run hot.

Why Older Women Lust - A BS explanation of the 'Cougar' phenomenon.

Do TIGERS like catnip? -The one in this video does.

'Buffett Rule' Wouldn't Bring In Much Revenue - But then, that's not the point, is it?

Times Atlas is 'wrong on Greenland climate change' - Can you guess which direction?

Shark Molecule Kills Human Viruses, Too - Of course, massive doses of it make you eat everything.

Guns Better Than Gold? - Some of them.

Boys reach sexual maturity younger and younger - Too soon oldt, too late schmart.

Can Lack of Sleep Ruin Your Marriage? - Maybe not, but it can get it part way there.

Accidental sea turtle deaths drop 90 percent in U.S. fisheries - The excluder devices really work.

Birth control pills affect memory - Your brain is chemical, not an electronic hard drive.

Are carrots orange for political reasons? - Well, that's one theory.  They used to have purple ones.

Raising a child -Village not required, may not even help.

Humpback Whale Sex - 10 ft penises and vaginas covered with barnacles - Fun!

Scientists discover switch that turns white fat brown  - Brown fat burns calories.

Evolutionary mystery of female orgasm deepens  - Adaptive value, or a vestige of male orgasm: Who cares?

Setting the record straight about MMR vaccinations and autism - No, vaccinations don't cause autism, just stop, please!

Team finds new 'evidence' of dark matter  - If this theory is right, the universe is full of WIMPS.

Clouds help cool the Earth - And it seemed so obvious. 

“Most people are simply not designed to eat pasta” - And yet so many of them do.

Strippers Help Australian Youth Football Team Celebrate A Big Win  - Australians, almost as odd as Japanese...

The Loneliest Plant In The World  - But it never complains.

Why we're right to trust our gut instincts - Because our instincts are better than our brains?

Ladies, Be Prepared To Fall In Love If You Have Sex  - Damn hormones.

Women Gain Weight After Wedding, Men After Divorce - I got nothing on this one.

Men believe discussing problems is a waste of time - Well, duh!!!! 

The statistical error that just keeps on coming  - One reason for Fritz's Law.

Did Amy Winehouse die trying to come clean? - Amy Winehouse: Dad Speculates on Cause of Death.

Can Vitamin C treat Alzheimer's? -  Treatment with vitamin C dissolves protein aggregates in Alzheimer's disease

Well, that should help a little. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

How About a Little Hair of the Dog?

Yet another article about how extinct mammals might be resurrected using DNA.  In this article, they stress how preserved hair follicles might have recoverable DNA:
One surprising discovery has been the value of ancient hair. Scientists recently discovered that the hair shaft seals DNA inside it like a biological plastic, protecting it, and making hair a rich and plentiful source of genetic information.

"Does that mean that you can take extinct animals, I mean, there's hair in museums? ...And get the genetic sequencing?" Stahl asked.

"Possibly, and especially if those animals were preserved in any way, there's a good prospect of that. It's sort of like 'CSI,' you know? How good is this forensic material? Can you get good DNA information from older and older and older material? That's pretty promising," Carroll replied.
 So what would they propose to bring back?
Who wouldn't be dazzled by an animal like the woolly mammoth, or the sabretooth tiger, the Irish elk or the giant sloth? Today they exist just as bones in museums, alive only in our imaginations and the recreations of artists and filmmakers. But what if that could change?
Dire Wolf skull
Ah, but they missed one that would be of great interest to me, the great American Dire Wolf:
The Dire Wolf, Canis dirus, is an extinct carnivorous mammal of the genus Canis, and was most common in North America and South America from the Irvingtonian stage to the Rancholabrean stage of the Pleistocene epoch living 1.80 Ma – 10,000 years ago, existing for approximately 1.79 million years.

Although it was closely related to the Gray Wolf and other sister species, Canis dirus was not the direct ancestor of any species known today. Unlike the Gray Wolf, which is of Eurasian origin, the Dire Wolf evolved on the North American continent, along with the Coyote. The Dire Wolf co-existed with the Gray Wolf in North America for about 100,000 years.

The Dire Wolf was one of the abundant Pleistocene megafauna—a wide variety of very large mammals that lived during the Pleistocene. Approximately 10,000 years ago the Dire Wolf became extinct along with most other North American megafauna.
Not only did the Dire Wolf co-exist with the Gray Wolf, it co-existed at least briefly with humans, who arrived in the New World at least 13,000 years ago, and possibly substantially longer, if reports of pre-Clovis sites are substantiated. Which, if nothing else, is a decent excuse to post the cave girl drawing...

The only problem with this, as near as I can determine, is that we do not have any Dire Wolf remains with a good chance of recoverable DNA, like we have had with Mammoths.  But possibly, some where in the La Brea Tar Pits there is a patch of hair, or a tooth that will prove to be enough, once cloning techniques are perfected.  We have good DNA profiles for Neanderthals from teeth that are older than that.

Prudence - An American Alsatian

In the course of snooping around for this post I also came upon a website by a group of people dedicated to breeding a Dire Wolf look alike from modern dogs.  Taking German Shepherds, Malamutes, and other dog breeds, they are breeding towards a dog with the skeletal structure of a Dire Wolf, but the temperament of a good pet and companion dog, that they call the American Alsatian:
The Dire Wolf has become a mythical creature and many misbeliefs remain regarding its structure. However, the Dire Wolf was a very prominent carnivore in North and South America at one time. Paleontologists who study the Dire Wolf can only speculate on certain physical traits not revealed through skeletal remains. We would like to exactly replicate the Dire Wolf's bone and body structure in order to help solve part of the mystery still surrounding the Dire Wolf's legacy. When skin, fur, muscle, tendons, cartilage, and peering eyes look back from a body structure that mimics the great wolf, what will we see?

It is also the aim of this project to create a breed that is docile, loving, loyal, confident in character with low prey and play instincts. We further believe that the large bones and heavy weight of the Dire Wolf promote a companion dog temperament as with size and weight comes a slower response with less energy. The fleet of foot Gray Wolf was faster and caught quicker, smaller prey. According to experts, it was the overwhelming size and larger jaw that allowed the Dire Wolf to take down large prey that would otherwise not have been pursued by the smaller, lighter wolf.
A good temperament is probably a good idea in a dog big enough to take on the American Megafauna.

Beach Report, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011

Today was much the same as yesterday, misty, warmish and muggy.  Georgia and I brought down a couple of trash bags to fill, and did do, commenting on the number of Bic lighters, tampon covers and Styrofoam cups in the trash.  But while we were down the beach, the kids that the civic association hired came down with their truck, and picked up the big items.  Except for the wood, our beach looks pretty good again.
We encountered this Osprey floundering in the surf, apparently holding onto a fish too big to lift free of the water. Maybe it was a young of the year and didn't know it's lifting capacity yet.
It got to shore with it, but a bigger predator (Skye) scared it off without it's prey. I never did get to see what it was struggling with; I think it swam away.  Probably crab food now, though.

The Ospreys should be getting ready for the trip back south where they winter.
A little later we encountered this Canada Goose.  Any Canadian Geese here this time of year is likely the undesirable "resident" geese that hang around all year, occupying golf courses, farm fields, yards etc, breeding more resident geese and generally making a mess.
Skye showed a lot of interest in it, and went out into the water about as far as she can get without swimming chase it.  The goose was relatively unconcerned, and only swam out a few additional yards, just to be sure.
Today's beach trash.  Not a bad day for shark's teeth either.  We probably found 20, including a large Snaggletooth and a smallish extinct Mako.

Lazy Lunch

Paw Paw Lhassi:  Our last four Paw Paws, some yogurt, a banana and some ice in the blender.

Smoked oysters, crackers and cheddar cheese.

$#!* Karl Posts on Facebook

Ted's son Karl send along these instructions for how to respond to Facebook new layout:
Here's a step by step guide on how to respond:

1: Whine and complain about it (ironically on Facebook).
2: Join miscellaneous *change back Facebook* groups.
3: Swear to abandon if the site changes again.
4: Forget the difference between *old* and *new* Facebook within a few days.
5: Eventually become please with the new layout.
6: Wait a few months and repeat.

But Then, That Wasn't Ever the Point

Obama's Jobs Plan Wouldn't Make Huge Dent in Jobless Rate, Economists Say:  The point is to get re-elected.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Red Wine May Not Extend Life Span After All

But why take chances?
This all has to do with some natural proteins called sirtuins. (That's pronounced sir-TWO-ins in American English, in case you're reading this out loud at a bar.) Yeast carry a version. So do worms, mice and people.

About 10 years ago, scientists noticed that an extra helping of sirtuins seemed to help living things live longer. And there was some evidence that a substance in red wine called resveratrol could crank up sirtuin production.

Then, in 2006, a Harvard researcher named David Sinclair reported that obese mice that got doses of resveratrol lived longer than fat mice who didn't — about 30 percent longer.

The study was published in Nature and reported by media around the world. The assumption was that what was good for fat mice would also be good for thin animals, or even people.

As a result, sales of red wine jumped and a biotechnology company founded by Sinclair and others to develop the substance as a drug became extremely valuable. In 2008, the drug company GlaxoSmithKline bought Sinclair's company, Sirtris, for $720 million.

But over the years, some scientists had begun to question whether sirtuins really were the key to extending life. Some studies of sirtuins even suggested they didn't affect lifespan.

And this week, Nature published research that offers a strong rebuttal to the idea...
Ah, Fritz's Law strikes again.  But just in case, I hear a bottle of Carmenere left over from the wedding singing to me...

Take Me Disappearing Though the Smoke Rings of My Mind

Speaking of dolphins, they're not always the cute, cuddly animals some might wish them to be.  A recent rash of deaths among Harbor Porpoises has been linked to Bottlenose Dolphin.  Young male dolphins appear to attack the porpoises out of sexual frustration.

Bad Flipper.

You Don't Have the Right To Grow Your Own...

Food, according to a judge in Wisconsin
This court is unwilling to declare that there is a fundamental right to consume the food of one's choice without first being presented with significantly more developed arguments on both sides of the issue."...As if to show how pissed he was at being questioned, he said his decision translates further that "no, Plaintiffs to not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;

"no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;"

And in a kind of exclamation point, he added this to his list of no-nos: "no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice..."
The ruling came in the context of a ban on unpasteurized milk, which many people prefer for health reasons (reasons I do not agree with, but then again, I drink minimal amounts of milk).

The ruling seems to imply that if you want to grow a cabbage for your own nutrition, you can do that, provided the government has not seen fit to ban growing a cabbage for home consumption.

I was under the impression that our rights work differently, that we have the right to do pretty much as we pleased unless the government had at least moderately compelling reasons to take away those rights.  Apparently, I was wrong.

I Won! I Won!

The contest to identify Meade's Mystery Pods over at Ann Althouses' blog.  Down in the comments, Mead offers a prize for the first person to identify them to genus and species.

We grow them here. Well really, we mostly just thin them.  After starting them 15 or 20 years ago, they self seed well enough that all we have to do is pluck them out of the places we don't want them. 

Anyway, Mead offered a packet of their seeds, a $5 value!  I wrote back and said we probably don't need their seeds, but Georgia told me later that if they're the short variety called "Sparkler" she'd be interested.

I probably wouldn't have put it together, except that Ann posted a picture of them in their garden a few weeks ago.

It's Getting Better All the Time

The beach that is.  After the trash that landed on the beach last week from the storms, we were interested to see how much the beach had changed.  While there is still a lot of woody debris down, the beach looks much better.  I'm not worried about the wood.  It will wash further up with higher tides, get buried, and get burned in bonfires.
One woman (Mrs Stamper) who walks there nearly every day has been picking up the trash in bags and it has made an enormous difference.  Georgia and I took trash bags down with us today, and on our stretch of beach we had a hard time finding enough plastic trash to fill them.

Georgia and the president of the Long Beach Civic Association (who walked with us) discussed getting some kids down in trucks to pick up the big stuff and bags of trash. Skye is not in favor of picking up trash, as it slows the walking pace.
 A couple getting set to go out on the bay. 
The stretch of beach above where Mrs. Stamper walks daily is still covered with trash.  One person can make a difference.
The continuing adventures of Scuffy, the Tugboat.  I'm pretty sure we had that book when I was growing up.  According to Wikipedia, that was the eighth most popular kids book of all time.
This, on the other hand, looks a bit like one of the Grateful Dead "Dancing" Bears.  Named after Owsley "Bear" Stanley, the bands early road manager, sound man and LSD manufacturer extraordinaire, who died this past March in an automobile accident in Australia.