Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Concert Review - Acoustic Hot Tuna at the Rams Head, 2/27/12

On Monday Evening, two days ago, Georgia and I went to the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis to see Hot Tuna in concert.  For those who don't know, Hot Tuna is the group founded by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy as a side project for their main gig as lead guitarist and bassist for Jefferson Airplane, the 60's era psychedelic San Francisco rock band.  Even then, it was clear the Jorma's talents as a guitar player far exceeded the needs of the group, and the second group gave him and Jack Cassidy a venue for their love of the older stuff, especially blues and rag-time era music.  Hot Tuna has outlasted both the Airplane and it's successor, Jefferson Starship.

Hot Tuna exists in two form, the acoustic version that we saw on Monday, and an electric version that has toured in the summer festival season, often with the remnants of the old Grateful Dead.   I saw them about 10 years ago in the electric version with the Dead at Nissan Pavilion, and got backstage to talk briefly with Jack and Jorma, as we were with one of Jack's relatives who lives in the neighborhood.

The personnel seems to vary with the needs and interests of the group, often with keyboard players and drummers, but sometimes as little as Jack and Jorma alone.  On Monday, they were a trio, with Barry Mitterhoff playing a variety of fretted instruments, mostly a mandolin, but also a banjo, a tenor guitar, and a ukelele.

At the Rams Head, we were no more than 20 ft from the stage, in the first row, but off to the side.  We both had pretty good views, but Georgia had a post to peer around.

They played a solid set, most of the songs being Hot Tuna classics, "The Hesitation Blues", "99 Year Blues" "Oh Lord, Search My Heart", "Embryonic Journey" "Mann's Fate", but also 3 or 4 songs off their new CD (their first studio CD in 20 years) - "Steady As She Goes".

I consider Jorma to be one of the great guitarists.  He doesn't have quite as many extra fingers as Leo Kotkke, and he plays a slightly different style of music, more standard tuning (with a little phase in Dropped-D), no 12 string (the instrument from hell). I hadn't realized until Monday what a really great bass player Jack Cassidy is, with long bass solos.  Barry Mitterhoff was also a real asset, with great contributions from all of his different instruments.

A video of this line up of Hot Tuna, from 2011 playing "Good Shepherd", one of my favorites, at Fur Peace Ranch, the guitar camp run by Jorma in Ohio.  I am accepting donations to send me there for my retirement...

Another Government Model Disputes Bay Diet

Study raises doubts about EPA's model
A study released this month by one federal agency may supply critics of another's Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan with more ammunition.

Among the findings of the United States Geological Survey study, "Sediment Sources and Transport in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed," is that forested areas account for 2 percent of sediment entering waterways in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency's latest model, forest accounts for more than 15 percent of the sediment degrading the bay — 7.5 times as much.

The EPA's model is guiding mandated reductions of phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment among bay watershed states, a cleanup strategy that could cost Virginia more than $15 billion dollars to implement, according to a State Senate Finance Committee report released last November.

My sense is that the less important forest sources are to the Bay, the more important other sources, including storm water and agriculture are likely to be relatively more important.  However, agricultural representative have leaped onto the opportunity to attack EPA's model as flawed (again).  And since that model is expected to cost them a great deal of money, they have a point that the EPA owes it to them to do the best possible job of getting it right..
But discrepancies in the model and questions about how the data is collected have undermined support for the plan among some groups and led the American Farm Bureau filing a federal lawsuit to halt implementation of the plan until questions about the model are resolved.

"I'm not convinced that the bay model is accurate or even close to accurate," said Virginia Department of Forestry Assistant Director of Forest Management for Water Quality Matt Poirot. "There's a lot of assuming that's being done, and right or wrong, it's going to take years to get the model close to being right."
Remember the "Laws of Models":  1) All models are wrong, the only question is by how much and in what direction.  2) The direction the model errors is likely determined by the beliefs of the model's authors.  With this simple guidance in mind one can guess that EPA's model errors in a direction designed to get the management action they desired before the model was written.  USGS?  I'm not sure they have management action in mind, and I suspect they have less skin in the game.

Chesapeake Bay Not for the Birds This Winter

Annapolis, Md. (February 28, 2012) — Each winter, during the first week of January, pilots and biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) count ducks, geese and swans along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay shoreline and Atlantic coast. This year the survey teams counted 633,700 waterfowl, which is slightly lower than the number of waterfowl observed during that time last year (651,800).

“It is important to remember that the Maryland survey results are ultimately pooled with results from other states to provide a measure of the distribution and population size of waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway,” said Larry Hindman, DNR’s Waterfowl Project Leader. “The survey is conducted in a coordinated manner across the Atlantic Flyway to provide information on the population size for important waterfowl species like black ducks, Atlantic brant and tundra swans.”
 My admittedly very limited observations this winter, mostly from the beach (and well documented here) agrees with this study; I've seen fewer Tundra Swans and less winter ducks (Buffleheads and Old Squaw mostly) than I have in past years, and other people I have talked to have made the same observations, and many have blamed the relatively mild winter for not pushing the migrating waterfowl south as far or as fast as usual:
“The decline in canvasbacks was likely related to the mild winter weather in the eastern half of the United States,” said Hindman. “However, they did arrive in the Chesapeake in greater numbers after the survey was completed.”

European Cavemen in America?

New evidence suggests Stone Age hunters from Europe discovered America
New archaeological evidence suggests that America was first discovered by Stone Age people from Europe – 10,000 years before the Siberian-originating ancestors of the American Indians set foot in the New World. A remarkable series of several dozen European-style stone tools, dating back between 19,000 and 26,000 years, have been discovered at six locations along the US east coast. Three of the sites are on the Delmarva Peninsular in Maryland, discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware. One is in Pennsylvania and another in Virginia. A sixth was discovered by scallop-dredging fishermen on the seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast on what, in prehistoric times, would have been dry land.

It's one of the things I need to constantly remind myself of.  With 100 m of sea level rise since the low sea level stand of the last glaciation, much of the area where human settlement would have concentrated, along the coasts, has been drowned and covered with sediment by the rising sea.
Solutrean tools from France, Portugal
The similarity between other later east coast US and European Stone Age stone tool technologies has been noted before. But all the US European-style tools, unearthed before the discovery or dating of the recently found or dated US east coast sites, were from around 15,000 years ago - long after Stone Age Europeans (the Solutrean cultures of France and Iberia) had ceased making such artefacts. Most archaeologists had therefore rejected any possibility of a connection. But the newly-discovered and recently-dated early Maryland and other US east coast Stone Age tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago - and are therefore contemporary with the virtually identical western European material.

What’s more, chemical analysis carried out last year on a European-style stone knife found in Virginia back in 1971 revealed that it was made of French-originating flint.
Looks Solutrean to me...

OK, now that's cool, forensic evidence that stone tools found in the Americas originated in the old world.  Unless a bird carried it, it's unlikely to get there via any mechanism except people.
Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, the two leading archaeologists who have analysed all the evidence, are proposing that Stone Age people from Western Europe migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age by travelling (over the ice surface and/or by boat) along the edge of the frozen northern part of the Atlantic. They are presenting their detailed evidence in a new book - Across Atlantic Ice – published this month.

At the peak of the Ice Age, around three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year.

However, the seasonally shifting zone where the ice ended and the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources – migrating seals, sea birds, fish and the now-extinct northern hemisphere penguin-like species, the great auk.
The Inuit (Eskimos in pre-PC days) had an Arctic encircling culture in recent history, and they were certainly at a stone age level of culture, so it it entirely plausible that a similar, earlier culture could have crossed the icy North Atlantic and planted the seeds a culture there.
Stanford and Bradley have long argued that Stone Age humans were quite capable of making the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice - but till now there was comparatively little evidence to support their thinking.

But the new Maryland, Virginia and other US east coast material, and the chemical tests on the Virginian flint knife, have begun to transform the situation. Now archaeologists are starting to investigate half a dozen new sites in Tennessee, Maryland and even Texas – and these locations are expected to produce more evidence.
Not mentioned in this article is the hypothesis that the Solutrean technology formed the basis of Clovis culture, the first North American wide stone tool culture that for years was thought to represent the first human settlers in the Americas and the ancestors of virtually all Native American (formerly American Indians)
Another key argument for Stanford and Bradley’s proposal is the complete absence of any human activity in north-east Siberia and Alaska prior to around 15,500 years ago. If the Maryland and other east coast people of 26,000 to 19,000 years ago had come from Asia, not Europe, early material, dating from before 19,000 years ago, should have turned up in those two northern areas, but none have been found.

Although Solutrean Europeans may well have been the first Americans, they had a major disadvantage compared to the Asian-originating Indians who entered the New World via the Bering Straits or along the Aleutian Islands chain after 15,500 years ago.

Whereas the Solutreans had only had a 4500 year long ‘Ice Age’ window to carry out their migratory activity, the Asian-originating Indians had some 15,000 years to do it. What’s more, the latter two-thirds of that 15 millennia long period was climatologically much more favourable and substantially larger numbers of Asians were therefore able to migrate.

As a result of these factors the Solutrean (European originating) Native Americans were either partly absorbed by the newcomers or were substantially obliterated by them either physically or through competition for resources.

Some genetic markers for Stone Age western Europeans simply don’t exist in north- east Asia – but they do in tiny quantities among some north American Indian groups. Scientific tests on ancient DNA extracted from 8000 year old skeletons from Florida have revealed a high level of a key probable European-originating genetic marker. There are also a tiny number of isolated Native American groups whose languages appear not to be related in any way to Asian-originating American Indian peoples.
I hadn't heard about the genetic marker evidence before.  I would think that this idea is getting more solid all the time.  At least as solid as all the stories that are being created about the modern human/Neandertal/Denisovan interbreeding, which currently get talk about as if they're very nearly settled science.

Scientific Literacy Test

Are you scientifically literate?  50 questions, not much math.

Sad to say I missed 6, a few things I forgot, one simple math error and one thing I never knew.  Which brings us to...

The Middle-Aged Brain
A study in the British Medical Journal lit up the Internet last week with the conclusion that cognitive decline begins at age 45. While it’s true that some innate skills like memory and speed of reasoning fall off as we age, other aspects of intelligence related to learning and experience actually improve.

These findings are part of a wave of new research on the psychology and neuroscience of middle age. Like baby boomers before them, Gen X-ers are learning that entering middle age often means getting squeezed between the demands of raising children, holding down a job and taking care of aging parents. But despite the high levels of stress, people in their 40s, 50s and early 60s generally have a happier outlook than their younger counterparts. They feel more competent and in control — that they can personally take steps to influence what happens in their life. They are also less neurotic, more open, reflective and flexible.
Why ...? One theory is that the older people get, the more importance they place on maintaining a sense of well-being, even if it means downplaying contrary information. In this case, nature and nurture may be working hand in hand. By middle age, people have had their share of life experiences; they have had the opportunity to learn how to cope with a canceled flight, an office feud, a broken ankle, a nagging parent, a traffic ticket or a lost cell phone. These experiences are imprinted on the mass of brain cells, carving new neural pathways and cataloging responses that can be retrieved as needed. This may be why people in middle age report that they are better able to handle stressful conflicts with their friends and family members and that they feel more capable of riding herd on their own emotional ups and downs. Something that may have floored them when they started out is taken in stride in their middle decades.
So even though the brain slows down, the experience more than compensates. Good news, I guess...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Overnight Thought

From The Overnight Thread, of course.

A Clarifying Question

If you had to trust one of these individuals to handle your personal financial affairs..

Let's assume you've got complicated, extensive financial affairs. We're talking about all your life's savings, all the contingencies of a long retirement for you and medical care for you and your family, and all of the wealth that could be preserved for your children and grandchildren, and all that you might be able to contribute to various causes.

You have to choose one of these individuals to take care of everything:

Newt Gingrich
Barack Obama
Ron Paul
Mitt Romney
Rick Santorum
Go to the link and take the quiz.

Obama Admin Not Working Towards Cheaper Gas

The money quote, and likely Fall campaign ad...
“But is the overall goal to get our price” of gasoline down, asked Nunnelee.

“No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil, to build and strengthen our economy,” Chu replied.
It is possible to pursue both cheaper gas and alternative energy (although cheaper gas will tend to make it more difficult to get alternatives developed).  However, Chu is on record as wanting to get gasoline prices in the US up to European levels, which are currently about $8.00 a gallon.  I guess we just have to wait for the algae to start producing it.

I'm with drill here, drill now, and frack it.

Party On, Chessie!

Organizers of floating parties such as the Magothy River’s Bumper Bash would need to get permits weeks in advance and could be required to provide security under a bill being supported by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Senate bill would not apply to sail parades and other events required to have a Coast Guard permit. But gatherings that create unusual hazards would have to apply for a permit and comply with conditions that could include providing security, time limits and placing buoys.

Col. George F. Johnson IV, the superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, says the Bumper Bash has drawn more than 1,000 boats over the past two years. Johnson says the bill is an attempt to limit large gatherings so they don’t overwhelm the department’s workforce.
Probably an excellent idea. I can't imagine wanting to be in the presence of 999 drunk and disorderly boaters.  It's not much of an issue down where I boat, where the biggest problem with crowding is usually 8-10 boats all trying to drift in the Calvert Cliffs Power Plant discharge at one time during the spring striper run.

How To Get an 85 ft Tall Boat Under a 60 ft Bridge

Thanks to Fishmagnate

Does Maryland Need a New Bay Bridge?

ANNAPOLIS State transportation officials continue to oppose a study for another crossing over the Chesapeake Bay, and last week said congestion snarling those using the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge may be a situation that never gets fixed.

The state Senate Finance Committee held a hearing Feb. 22 on a bill dropped by committee member and Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, R-36-Upper Shore, ordering a $25 million National Environmental Policy Act study on the potential impacts of a new Bay Bridge span.

Pipkin has proposed the bill for the last several years without success. Last week, he received support from fellow committee member Sen. James N. Mathias, D-38-Lower Shore, while drawing opposition from the Maryland Transportation Authority.

"The bill does not require that the third span be built, but to begin the NEPA process," Pipkin said during the hearing.

Pipkin said the latest traffic counts show on average 68,000 vehicles crossing the Bay Bridge daily during the week, with summer traffic being about 100,000 vehicles per day during peak hours. He said delays have stretched traffic from U.S. Route 50 to the Interstate 495 cut-off in Washington.
It seems to me that the purpose of the legislature is to determine the laws and directions of the state government, and the business of the State bureaucracy (an extension of the executive branch headed by the Governor) is the execute those directives to the best of it's abilities.  Oh, I know, we've gotten into the habit of thinking of presidents and governors as little tyrants, with broad powers to imagine the will of the people and create policy, and that legislatures have ceded that authority to them in too many ways.

Does the idea of a new Bay bridge have enough popular support that the public will support the cost, and the legislature vote for it?  If so, the MTA should salute and carry on with the mission. I don't know if that will happen but:
Future traffic projections have Pipkin really concerned. He said traffic levels are expected in 2025 to be 41 percent higher than in 2001 and could lead to 12-hour delays at the at the bridge during peak travel times.
 I do know that Marylanders love their Ocean City vacations.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Why the Russians Need Vodka

Today's Lesson: Vodka Un-Sticks Tongues - Watch More Funny Videos

She should have used this trick:

That's Cutting It a Bit Close

Injured BASE-Jumper Jeb Corliss Vows to Keep Flying
Famed BASE-jumper Jeb Corliss says he will continue to jump for the rest of his life despite sustaining devastating injuries in a crash that saw him barrel into rocks at a speed of 120 miles an hour.

“That’s what I live for,” Corliss told ABC News’ Dan Harris in an exclusive phone interview today from the South African hospital room where he is recuperating from the crash.

“The only reason I’m getting better is so that I can jump again,” he said. “That’s what I do. There’s absolutely nothing in this world that’s going to stop me from jumping.”...

Corliss was rescued by authorities at Table Mountain National Park and airlifted to a hospital with broken bones throughout his legs.  He is expected to be released from the hospital Friday and vows the experience won’t dissuade his passion.
A fairly grandiose form of insanity.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Midnight Special

Thanks to Mike Rose.

Taylor Swift - Robbing the Cradle

Lots of guys want to go on a date with Taylor Swift. So, what makes 18-year-old Kevin McGuire from Somerdale, New Jersey any different from the pack of Swift's would-be suitors?

Well, there are a few things, which I'll go over in a minute. But, suffice to say, McGuire, who recently asked Swift via Facebook to be his prom date in June, stands out for the response he got. Swift declined the offer...but asked him to accompany her to a prestigious awards show in April, instead!

His older sister, Victoria, impressed with her brother's bravery and character, started a Facebook campaign with the hope of granting his greatest wish--convincing Swift to attend prom with him.

"Nothing, and I mean NOTHING brightens Kevin's day more than Taylor Swift," she continued. "Kevin DESERVES more than anyone a special event in his life."Kevin McGuire's photo on the Facebook campaign

Victoria's idea caught the attention of local news, who interviewed her about it. "[Kevin] said 'who would want to go to the prom with me? I am going to be bald, my appearance is going to change,'" she told an NBC affiliate. "We both looked at each other and I said, 'What if I got Taylor Swift to go to the prom with you?'"

After the campaign attracted responses from nearly 90,000 people, Swift herself responded to McGuire's sister's plea on her own Facebook account Friday afternoon. She politely declined his offer to go to prom, but asked, "I was wondering, the ACM Awards are coming up.. Would you be my date?"

The startled teenager told local news after reading the post in a bed at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia that he didn't know what to say. "I was just trying not to throw up." (He recovered enough composure to accept the invitation, provided he's feeling well enough when the date arrives.)
Not much to say.  A good deed.  A vaguely appropriate song...

A Troubled Bridge Over Water

Forth Steuben Bridge, Ohio, Feb. 21, 2012.

Sunday Beach Report - Who Pulled the Plug?

When we got to the beach this morning, we were astonished to see how low the tide was. Huge areas of beach that are normally below the water were exposed. In retrospect, I should not have been surprised, given the strong NW winds we had yesterday.

Here's a record of the tide today (from Solomons, 10 miles south, but close enough).  Note how the bottom dropped out since yesterday.  That low red dip is just about when we were walking.
Tides this low expose lots of material not normally seen, and can make for good fossil hunting.  We, however, struggled to get 25 teeth today, none of them really big.
But Skye had fun running on the beach and greeting people. 
 A Black Drum's tooth in where I found it. 
The water was so far out that the sand flat where the Tundra Swans hang out was totally exposed, except for a narrow channel.
We did have one flyover by one the eagles, but I didn't get enough warning to try a picture.
A professional shark tooth hunter, back from further down the bay.  He pulled up into the shallow water to pick up his son, and go back to look some more.  A neighborhood character, he sells large sharks teeth by the side of the road in summer to make money.

Wyoming Prepares for Doomsday

Wyoming House advances doomsday bill
State representatives on Friday advanced legislation to launch a study into what Wyoming should do in the event of a complete economic or political collapse in the United States.House Bill 85 passed on first reading by a voice vote. It would create a state-run government continuity task force, which would study and prepare Wyoming for potential catastrophes, from disruptions in food and energy supplies to a complete meltdown of the federal government.
I found this over at Althouse.  I can already imagine the anti-survivalist East Coast based media getting ready to blast the Wyoming legislature as somehow backwards and anti-American (as they know it).  I like Ann's comments:
Frankly, I think all the states should have made plans like this a long time ago. Given the possibility of nuclear war, a large asteroid, or — Wyoming, I'm looking at you — the eruption of the Yellowstone caldera, the states ought to be ready to operate independently. I recommend, as part of the plan, ultimate reunion of the states — those that survive with intact state government — under the U.S. Constitution.
In the long run, a tremendous catastrophe of some sort is inevitable in the United States.  There's nothing wrong with planning for the future.

Science, Still Asking the Great Questions

It is well-known that dinosaurs ruled the earth at some stage of life and they could only do this by being good at mating. But have you ever thought of how the 30-tonne animals, higher than four-storey buildings, had sex?

The question has now been answered -- they made love just like dogs do, according to experts, the Daily Mail reported.

Kristi Curry Rogers, Assistant Professor of Biology and Geology at Macalester College in Minnesota, told the Discovery Channel: "The most likely position to have intercourse is for the male behind the female, and on top of her, and from behind, any other position is unfathomable."

Some experts, however, have questioned such a line of thinking while suggesting that dinosaurs romped in water.

According to biologist Stuart Landry, big dinosaurs would just fall over on land and would have needed water to provide support.

Gregory Erickson, a paleobiologist at Florida State University supported Rogers, saying : "It's going to be very touch and go. It's an awkward thing.

"I've heard speculation that they did it in the water, but they're not aquatic animals. Just because they're large animals, doesn't mean they can't mate on land - after all, elephants do it."

Brits Learn Laffer Lesson

The Right-o-sphere is buzzing from a WSJ editorial which shows how when Britain recently raised the tax rates on the wealthy from 40 to 50%, the revenue collected actually dropped 5%:
"Speaking of higher taxes (and President Obama always does), there's news from once fair Britannia. Preliminary figures out this week show that Britain's 50% top marginal income-tax rate may have reduced tax revenue from top earners by as much as 5%, compared to the old 40% top rate. Tax revenue from those filing self-assessments due January 31 was down some £500 million versus last year.
This is generally consistent with the "Laffer Curve" after Arthur Laffer, an economist for Ronald Reagan, made the fairly obvious observation that if you didn't tax at all you get zero revenue, and if you tax at 100% you also get zero revenue (at least in the long run), and that somewhere in the middle (not necessarily 50%), there was a tax rate where you got a maximum yield of revenue.  The notion, despite it's obvious truth, is somewhat in disrepute, largely due to it's association with Reagan and "trickle down" economics so hated by the media.

Curiously, the same obvious observation lies behind much of fisheries science.  In this case, if you don't fish, you don't catch any. But if you fish hard enough, you eliminate the breeding stock, and ultimately you don't catch anymore. Somewhere in between is the Goldilocks zone.  In fisheries, this is called "The Maximum Sustainable Yield", and commonly occurs when the tax rate fishing mortality exceeds about 30% annually.

The difficulty with both the economy and fish is determining where the point of the maximum is.  with fish you can experiment a bit, and try different levels, and follow the population response.  In real fisheries, of course, the fish vary with more than just the fishery and the  data are messy and rather than a clean curve you get a cloud of points which suggest a maximum.  With tax policy, you have similar noise issues, and you have to fight it through the political process. Finally, there are some people who would prefer a higher tax rate even if it results in lower revenue on the basis of "fairness".

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Those Finns Sure Fish Funny

An interesting perspective.

Sand Blasted at the Beach

Following a warm day with thunderstorm and tornado watch, we had typical post-storm weather today, cooler (42 F), windy (gusting to 30 mph NW) and mostly sunny with fluffy clouds (yes they do have a scientific name, but I just don't care).  The wind was enough to blow sand around, but with enough west in it that the Bay was not terribly choppy.
A seagull dipping something out of the water.  Click pictures to see them full screen (well almost) in bloggers viewer.
The Tundra Swans are still here.  They took off as Skye and I approached and I got this flying shot.

We saw no sign of the eagles today.  Since they're probably nesting at this point, that may not be a complete surprise.
 A willow tree already showing signs of green.
Sky and I were well ahead of Georgia at the far end.  I heard noise an looked up and saw a herd of deer, all bucks, crossing the sand bar in front of us, and tearing into the brush.  I think there were 4 or 5 of them.  As a sign of Skye's advanced age, she did not pursue them into the woods, but stayed on the beach prowling around.  She did come back when I called, so all was well.
I was really proud when I found this pretty decent Mako lower tooth
Then I got back to where Georgia was and she had this hand full of teeth, including the largest Black Drum's tooth that we have ever seen.  Combined, we found 26 teeth, a couple of Tilly Bones, a crab claw a sting ray barb, and one thing I'm pretty sure is a fossil but couldn't identify. Not a bad haul.
When we got back to our own beach, we found this little girl, Ninja.  A few weeks ago we met Ninja's people and they told us they were getting a Siberian Husky puppy, and yep, here she is.  Almost a spitting image of what Skye must have been before she started to lighten up as she grew older, down to the one blue eye on the right side.
Skye was a little stand-offish at first, but eventually she broke down and started romping with the puppy.  Between chasing the deer and romping with Ninja, Skye is going to have an extra long nap this afternoon.

Climate Fake Continues

Very briefly, letters to board members of the Heartland Institute, a well known organization that publicizes against Global Warming Alarmism were released to the lefty and Global Warming Alarmist blogs.  It turned out the letters were real, but a dubious memo associated with them appears to be a false construct.  It transpired that Dr. Peter Glieck, founder and President of the Pacific Institute, received the letters by fraudulently pretending to be a board member of Heartland Institute, and released the letters.  He claims the memo was provided to him earlier by an anonymous source, but that seems dubious, as it appears to summarize and mischaracterize the letters.  Glieck resigned from number of prestigious scientific positions, including Chair of the American Geophysical Union's Ethics Panel.

Since that post, some significant developments in the scandal have occurred:

The day after the my first pose (Wednesday), the EPA began scrubbing it's website of evidence of  grants that it had given to the Pacific Institute over the years.  Evidence for the grants is still buried in the online data base, however, and probably cannot be removed by law.

The Heartland Institute has been in contact with the FBI regarding the purloined letter.  In response, Gleick has hired the lawyer for former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, to represent him:
Said Gleick’s lawyer John Keker, “Heartland no doubt will seek to exploit Dr. Gleick’s admitted lapse in judgement in order to further its agenda in the ongoing debate about climate change, but if it wants to pursue this matter legally, it will learn that our legal system provides for a level playing field.” Keker added, “Dr. Gleick looks forward to using discovery to understand more about the veracity of the documents, lay bare the implications of Heartland’s propaganda plans and, in particular, determine once and for all who is truly behind Heartland and why.”
The emails Gleick sent to Heartland to fraudulently obtain the letters have been released in screen capture format. I love the one where he says not to delete the email on file for the board member but to continue using the new one as a duplicate.  Sounds like he wanted to be on the inside forever..

Rep. Markey (D-Mass) demands that Heartland release more internal documents and budget documents:
"These documents appear to indicate that the Heartland Institute is receiving large donations from corporations for the direct purpose of discrediting the mainstream science of climate change and has planned to engage in a campaign to undermine the teaching of well-established science at our public schools,” Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in the letter.
Actually, the documents show that Heartland is rather poorly funded by the standards of non-profits engaged the in media, and it's no business of Markey's, so they should tell him to bugger off.

Yesterday, Gleick "requested" a "short-term" leave of absence from the Pacific Institute.
"Given the events of the past week, I would like, with the permission of the Board, to take a temporary, short-term leave of absence from the Institute," said Gleick in a letter released Friday. "I believe such a leave would allow the Institute staff to continue to refocus on its work, while permitting the Board to conduct a full and fair review and determine an appropriate course of action."
Is this the rat leaving the sinking ship, or just going into the walls until the lights go dim again? 

Rule 5 Saturday - A Rose By Any Other Name - Rose McGowan

I was sitting here are the computer, half listening to the TV on Thursday evening, wondering what to do about Rule 5 Saturday.  You know, life can be really tough sometimes.  But just as I was losing hope, "Planet Terror" (2007) came on.  A masterpiece of camp, it starred Rose McGowan as  Cherry Darling, the "Go Go dancer" turned machine gun legged zombie killing machine.

From her first role in film in 1992 (Encino Man) to the 2011 remake of "Conan the Barbarian, Rose has starred in 26 films.  That's keeping pretty busy.  She is probably best known for her role as "Paige", Shannon Doherty's replacement in "Charmed", the off brand TV show about a trio of witches in San Francisco, a stint that lasted from 2001-2006 and 112 episodes.
Born in Italy, to American parents who ran an odd cult called "children of God", she bounced around Europe growing up, but moved back to the US for a few years before divorcing her parents and pursued a career in modeling and acting.

She did a number of "Indy" films in the 1990's including "The Doom Generation" (1995), "Going all the Way" (1997) and "Southy" (1998) (NSFW links).

At this point, she has one movie (Rosewood Lane) in the can, and three more in the works, so we probably haven't seen the last of Rose.

That's all I got.  More pictures of Rose below the leap:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Can Radishes Save the Bay?

The daikon radish, a staple at sushi bars worldwide, is helping Maryland farmers fight Chesapeake Bay pollution.

Some farmers are experimenting this winter with using the radish as a cover crop, which are planted in the fall to absorb excess fertilizer and prevent it from running off into waterways where it can cause oxygen-robbing algae blooms. Wheat is most often planted, but some farmers are experimenting with the slender, white, deep-rooted radish.

The radish's roots help break up compacted soil and reduce weeds, and the plants break down even if the radishes are not harvested. That means spring planting can be done without plowing under the cover crop and without weed killers, according to the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension service, which provides technical assistance to farmers.
Every couple of weeks, some new idea to reduce nutrients, or otherwise fix a problem with the bay comes out and makes the circuit around the media in the area.  This is the first I've seen of this one, but I'm sure it will be popping up in other publications soon.  Some of these ideas must work, but generally they disappear without a trace.  Cover crops are nothing new, but one that works better might be a small advance.
However, the experiment has not been without hiccups. In western Maryland, rotting radishes are being blamed for odors reported by some near the Antietam National Battlefield.

Farmers say the radishes are convenient because they can be seeded by air in the fall.
  Maybe a smelling field of rotting radishes will be coming to a field near you soon.

Ringside View From a Hula Hoop

Hula Hoop? I remember those from the late 50's! Is Wham-O still in business? Apparently! Good for them.  Wombat-Socho puts up his giant list of Rule 5 Posts on "Rule 5 Wednesday" at The Other McCain. The Classical Liberal also included this in his weekly Rule 5 linkfest.

Your Friday Monkey Dacker Swinger

This is at the cafe inside the Memphis Zoo. The manager of the cafe told me that the alpha male monkey noticed me the second I walked in the door and started going crazy, because, as the alpha male, he feels threatened by tall males. So she told me to go stand by the window and turn my back on him and that he would "attack" me...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What If They're Wrong?

Suppose it turns out that CO2 has essentially nothing to do with the earth’s climate. How will the history of this colossal mistake be written?

Dr. Judith Curry (actual climate scientist), examines a couple of blog posts; what happens if the global warming alarmists are wrong?
 They will say that a mechanism called the “greenhouse effect,” was postulated long ago (~1824 by Joseph Fourier) and gained adherents in the late 20th century. They will say that the theory was seemingly invalidated by the decrease in global temperatures from 1940-1975, but that the adherents patched this up by explaining the cooling with pollution, specifically sulfur, from industry.
 They will say that the theory was challenged by the noted vast gap between the amount of CO2 produced by civilization and the substantially smaller increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, but that the theory was patched up by examining the increased CO2 uptake by the hydrosphere and the biosphere.
 They will say the theory was seemingly invalidated by the evidence that the atmosphere was already nearly opaque in the wavelengths that are absorbed by CO2 and so the additional CO2 could have, on its own, little effect, but that the theory was patched up by positing a feedback mechanism between the small temperature increases directly due to CO2 and the production of water vapor which is the main greenhouse gas.
They will note that the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proceeded much like any scientific theory (cf. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) in that it was modified and patched up and adjusted to fit empirical challenges until it finally collapsed altogether under the weight of incontrovertible evidence. But, the scientific historians will have a new phenomenon to consider, and that is the social and political context of this particular scientific theory.

Obama Finds Gas Price Solution: Algae

President Obama admitted today that he does not have a "silver bullet" solution for skyrocketing gas prices, but he proposed alternative energy sources such as "a plant-like substance, algae" as a way of cutting dependence on oil by 17 percent.

"We’re making new investments in the development of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that’s actually made from a plant-like substance, algae -- you've got a bunch of algae out here," Obama said at the University of Miami today. "If we can figure out how to make energy out of that, we'll be doing alright. Believe it or not, we could replace up to 17 percent of the oil we import for transportation with this fuel that we can grow right here in America."

The Department of Energy (DOE) currently spends about $85 million on 30 research projects "to develop algal biofuels," according to the White House, which announced that Obama is committing another $14 million to the idea.

Obama did not say when he expected algae-based fuel to reach that level, but the federal government has a dodgy track record with respect to developing alternative vehicle fuels. Biodiesel, for example, accounted for less than 1 percent of the diesel fuel market as of 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration. And of course there's ethanol -- after four decades, tens of billions of dollars in subsidies, and draconian mandates that force it on unwilling consumers, ethanol was five percent of vehicle consumption (by volume) as of 2008. Although algae-to-gas is a very different idea, it is still in its early stages.
If we had started to 'Drill Now' 10 years ago, when democrats were says "Even if you start drilling now, the new oil is 10 years away", we'd have the oil now, and we'd have have been self sufficient.  Instead, they relied on unreliable foreign to make up our own unused resources.

By those rule, algae is way more than 10 years away.  Growing algae is simple.  Give them sunlight and nutrients and algae do all the hard work themselves (Chesapeake Bay presents a fine example of that).  But turning that into a reasonable fuel source is much more difficult.  While algae reproduce rapidly, the business of an organism is to reproduce itself, not to produce oil for export.  While algae can be "tricked" into producing high concentrations of lipids by manipulating light and nutrients fairly easily in small cultures, the scale up involves significant problems.  Only a few species produce the lipids desired, and for best production, the culture must remain pure and bacteria free.  Troublesome on a small scale (trust me) it's nearly impossible on a massive scale.

Algae are basically solar cells, converting sunlight to biomass. The First and Second Laws (you can't even break even) makes it impractical to use artificial light. Theoretically, algae can utilize light with a 20% efficiency.  In practice, it's difficult to get much above 5%.  Thus, to produce enough biomass to fill millions of gas tanks with fuel, massive areas of would need to be dedicated to growing extremely pure and finicky cultures of algae.

Then, having grown the algae, one has to turn it into usable fuel.  Alga grow in water.  The algae (or at least the lipids), must be removed from the water.  There are a number of approaches, filtration, extraction, distillation, all of which requires a substantial input of energy.  It's doubtful that even the most obliging algae will produce high test gasoline or diesel fuel directly, so further refining will be necessary.

Finally, the water, and non-lipid parts of the algae remaining after processing must be handled.  Will it become waste?  The solids extracted, the unwanted products removed (remember, an algae cells "job" is to reproduce itself, and than means DNA and protein), and recycled back to grow more?, and the water recycled?  More energy cost, more wastes.

Basically, by relying on algae, Obama promises to put off solving the problem of high gas prices not only beyond his theoretical second term, but beyond the following President's term as well, assuming that he "stays the course".

Street Sign Too Perky for Sweden

The signs, which depict a silhouetted woman crossing the road, were from a batch of images outsourced by independent designers that were rejected by the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) for running afoul of the agency's policies.

The woman on the sign, known as Fru Gårman ('Mrs. Walkman'), is a gender-sensitive version of her male counterpart, Herr Gårman, a name that translates both as 'Mr. Walkman' and 'This is where you walk'.

The signs erected in Uppsala, however, show a seemingly younger and bustier woman, with a shorter skirt and a somewhat sprightlier step compared with the design that was eventually approved.

According to a report in the local Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT), the female silhouette's breasts were "too perky".
 Look, it's a dumpy woman warning sign!

EPA Happy with MD Bay Diet Plans, Counties, Not So Much

As the Chesapeake Bay “pollution diet” moves forward, the federal government is giving good marks to Maryland’s latest plan for cleaning up the estuary. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency praised Maryland for “exceptional” outreach efforts to those who will be affected by new cleanup programs.

In a letter to the state, Jim Edward, deputy director of EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, said his agency will “maintain ongoing oversight” to ensure that Maryland follows through on its bay-saving promises.

The latest plan updates broad statewide actions to reduce pollution. The revised plans include details from county governments and will be finished this summer.
 Officials skeptical over costly WIP
The Calvert County Planning Commission’s criticism of a federally mandated Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan echoes concerns also expressed previously by the county commissioners — mainly, that the $1.28 billion cost to Calvert is too extreme for a plan about which they have doubts.

It is expected to cost the county more than five times its annual budget, however, making Calvert’s WIP the second highest cost per budget in Maryland, second only to Frederick County, which has to cough up nine times its budget to implement the plan, Brownlee said.

According to the model used by the EPA and Maryland Department of the Environment to calculate expected load reductions, Calvert must reduce nitrogen pollution by 120,000 pounds. “That’s our largest requirement. That is significant,” Brownlee said.

To achieve this, the county will have to spend $152 million on replacing 12,673 septic systems with nitrogen-removing systems. Right now, the county only replaces about 60 per year using “flush tax” money from the Bay Restoration Fund, he said. Legislation is currently underway to double that fund, which Brownlee said will help, though even with extra funding the county will not meet its 2017 goal. It would meet the 2025 goal, however, he said.
 As a wise plumber once told me "Shit don't run up hill."

I'm Sure They'll Claim Credit

Former Obama Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag has an article in Bloomberg touting the life extending properties of a bad economy:
Given the added anxiety created by a weak economy, you might think life expectancy would decline. Oddly, though, during recessions, exactly the opposite tends to happen: Life expectancy rises.
Or maybe it just seems longer
It’s happening again now.

The age-adjusted death rate in the U.S. declined by 2 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As a result, projected life expectancy at birth rose to 78.7 years in 2010 from 77.9 years in 2007, an increase of 0.8 year.  In contrast, from 2004 to 2007, when the economy was much stronger, life expectancy rose by only 0.4 year.

Life expectancy appears to have risen more in the states with relatively large increases in unemployment. In Michigan and Illinois, for example, where joblessness rose much more than in North Dakota or Iowa, age-adjusted death rates have had a steeper decline since 2007. (In the states with the smallest increase in unemployment, the death rates have perversely risen.)

These cross-state data are consistent with historical patterns that economists Douglas Miller, Marianne Page, Ann Stevens and Mateusz Filipski have found. Their research shows that a one-percentage-point increase in a state’s unemployment rate is associated with a 0.5 percent reduction in the state’s mortality rate.
Obama ruined the economy to make us all live a little longer?  The same way his wife wants to force feed us vegetables (while eating a 1700 calorie burger lunch)?

So what accounts for this effect, supposing it to be true?
It appears that while suicide rates rise during downturns, other types of fatalities, such as from motor-vehicle accidents, fall more. The surprising findings apply even to heart attacks. In a study titled “A Healthy Economy Can Break Your Heart,” Ruhm finds that higher unemployment reduces deaths from heart attacks, perhaps because when there is less economic activity, hazards such as air pollution and traffic congestion are less severe. Smoking and obesity also tend to decline, Ruhm has found.

By the way, the reduction in deaths averted tends to be proportionally smaller for the elderly, but larger in absolute numbers -- because their underlying mortality rates are higher than those of younger people. 
See, that's the way to get the American people to eat healthy and lose weight as the government wants.  Take away their ability to spend money and pursue the life style they want.  See, $4.00 a gallon gas is good for your health!

Scientists Revive Ice Age Plant

 Not exactly Jurassic Park material yet, but...

Russian Scientists Grow Pleistocene-Era Plants From Seeds Buried By Squirrels 30,000 Years Ago
On the frozen edge of the Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, in an ancient pantry harboring seeds and other stores, an Arctic ground squirrel burrowed into the dirt and buried a small, dark fruit from a flowering plant. The squirrel’s prize quickly froze in the cold ground and was preserved in permafrost, waiting to grow into a fully fledged flowering plant until it was unearthed again. After 30,000 years, it finally was. Scientists in Russia have now regenerated this Pleistocene plant, transplanting it into a pot in the lab. A year later, it grew forth and bore fruit.

The specimen is distinctly different from the modern-day version of Silene stenophylla, or narrow-leafed Campion. It suggests that the permafrost is a potential new source of ancient gene pools long believed to be extinct, scientists said.

The fruits were buried about 125 feet in undisturbed, never thawed permafrost sediments, nestled at roughly 19.4 degrees F (-7 C). Radiocarbon dating showed the fruits were 31,800 years old, give or take about 300 years. Seeds are incredible things, storing the embryo of a new plant and encasing it in protective material until conditions are right for it to germinate.

Scientists led by David Gilichinsky at the Russian Academy of Sciences worked with three of these fruits and took placental tissue samples. They fed the tissue cultures a cocktail of nutrients to induce root growth, and once the plants were rooted, they were transplanted into pots in a greenhouse. Just as they were supposed to, plants grew, developed flowers and fruits, and went to seed. (Gilichinksy died a few days ago, the BBC reported.)
Pretty cool stuff.  This probably isn't high tech work, just careful tissue culturing.   One interesting thing is that this seems to offer a glimpse back at the evolution of this weed:
Gilichinsky and colleagues also grew modern-day narrow-leafed Campion as a control, and noticed some key differences among the two generations — the Pleistocene version put out twice as many buds, but the modern version put out roots faster.
I had to stretch pretty hard to find the right "Cave Girl" for this post.  It seemed to me that the bears were appropriate because of the Brown Bears and their American equivalents, Grizzly Bears that lived out on the tundra. There's the plant in the lower right. of course.  The high heels?  You didn't know the Denisovan's had high heels? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

FTL Neutrinos? - Maybe Not So Fast

The sensational result that neutrinos can travel faster than the speed of light may be undone by nothing more than a simple mechanical error.

Scientists from the OPERA collaboration at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy have “identified two issues that could significantly affect the reported result,” wrote OPERA spokesman Antonio Ereditato in an email.

The first issue is a faulty connection of the fiber-optic cable bringing the GPS signal to the experiment’s master clock. The experiment’s GPS may also have been providing the wrong timestamps during synchronization between events.
There's an old saying: "Chemistry is dirty experiments with clean equipment, while physics is clean experiments with dirty equipment."

To which I'd like to add Miller's corollary, "Biology is dirty experiments with dirty equipment."

Next They'll Be Telling Them They Can't Vote

Ban on dead sex discrimination!
Illinois bill would make it illegal to have sex with dead
Spurred by cases in which bodies of overdose victims were moved to thwart investigations, Illinois state Rep. Dan Beiser, D-Alton, is sponsoring a bill to make unauthorized movement of a corpse a felony.

It also would criminalize something that even Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn thought was already illegal — having sex with the dead.

Beiser said he introduced the legislation at the request of Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons and other law enforcement officials. Gibbons called the relocation of overdose victims an "impediment to investigation" in several cases.

Prohibiting sex with a dead body corrects an obvious omission in the law, Beiser said.
Zombie rights, now! It is, after all, a classic victimless crime...

At last, a flu-wracked Wombat-Socho puts up his giant list of Rule 5 Posts on "Rule 5 Wednesday" at The Other McCain.

Shockingly, State Agencies Oppose Efforts to Restrict Their Power

Maryland agriculture and environmental officials are opposing a bill to prohibit additional bay restoration regulations on farmers until other states in the watershed catch up to their pollution reductions. Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance appeared Tuesday before a Senate committee in Annapolis saying the bill would tie his department’s hands. Richard Eskin, director of the Department of the Environment’s Science Services Administration, says it will significantly damage the state’s ability to improve water quality and meet requirements under a new federally led bay restoration strategy.

Farmers turned out in support of the bill by Harford County Sen. Barry Glassman, noting they are ahead of schedule in reducing pollution. Representatives of environmental groups, meanwhile, said the bill could have significant impact on restoration efforts and force even steeper reductions by others.
I don't know enough to judge whether or not this is bill is a good idea or not, but it is up to the legislature to rein in the executive branch when it commits excesses.  Another front in the war over the "Bay Diet."

Praise for the Yellow Perch

Yours truly with an Allan's Fresh Yellow Perch
Gold-green and shimmery, the fish slide off of Matt Meredith's shovel and onto the culling board of Capt. Anthony Conrad's small boat in the Bush River.

Meredith and crewmate Kevin O'Neil quickly sort the fish, loop yellow tags through their mouths and drop them in a crate.

The crates of fish will be sold to restaurants and at Conrad's Baltimore County seafood market.

They're a fish that few Marylanders have eaten or would recognize: yellow perch.

Small and pretty, yellow perch run up into the Chesapeake Bay's rivers during a brief period each winter. For many years, the Chesapeake Bay's yellow perch were shipped off at rock-bottom prices to the Midwest, where yellow perch are a seasonal delight.
Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) is the first fish to spawn in Maryland each year.  In Chesapeake Bay, they live in the upper regions of subestuaries, where the water is fresh but lake like, and migrate into the small freshwater streams in late March or early February, where the females lay huge strings of eggs, which stick on the bottom, side and any objects (like sticks).  The eggs hatch and the fry are live in the streams for a while before moving down into the bay.  In most of the northern US,  they live in lakes and spawn in streams.  The fact that Yellow Perch in the Bay live partially in brackish water is unique, and thought to be do to the ice ages forcing them to colonize the brackish waters as the Bay itself came and went several times.

Despite the article, most Maryland outdoorsmen (and women) are well acquainted with Yellow Perch, and the early spring spawn is a pretty big deal as the first opportunity to catch (and eat) fish of the year.  They are a delicious fish, with sweet, white flesh.  In some regions they seem prone to parasitic worms that form cysts in their flesh; while off putting, these can be cut out with out problem.

Like many other highly sought after fish, Yellow Perch populations have been seriously impacted, by both fishing and land use changes in their watersheds.  Many tributaries that formerly had healthy populations of Yellow Perch currently have little or none.  The Maryland chapter of Coastal Conservation Association made Yellow Perch conservation a big issue for several years, which helped Maryland to get serious about producing a Yellow Perch fishing management plan:
About four years ago, Maryland reworked its management plan for yellow perch. Commercial watermen aren't allowed to catch a lot of yellow perch, and so, for the past two winters, the Department of Natural Resources has been promoting the fish in hopes of driving up prices.

Statewide, several dozen watermen combined can catch only 50,000 pounds of yellow perch, with most of it in the Upper Bay and smaller quotas in the Patuxent and Chester rivers. If watermen can make more money without catching more fish, that's good for the fish population, said Steve Vilnit, the DNR's seafood marketing expert.
 I'm proud to say I was part of that effort.