Saturday, March 31, 2012

HuffPo Bloggers Learn Distinction Between "Slut" and "Whore"

AOL Inc on Friday won the dismissal of a lawsuit by unpaid bloggers who complained they were deprived of their fair share of the roughly $315 million that the company paid last March to buy The Huffington Post website.

U.S. District Judge John Koeltl rejected claims by social activist and commentator Jonathan Tasini and an estimated 9,000 other bloggers that they deserved $105 million, or about one-third, of the purchase price.

The lawsuit contended that the work of unpaid content providers like bloggers gave The Huffington Post much of its value, and that the website's sale allowed co-founder Arianna Huffington to profit at their expense. Tasini said he alone had made 216 submissions to the website over more than five years.

But Koeltl said "no one forced" the bloggers to repeatedly provide their work with no expectation of being paid, and said they got what they bargained for when their works were published.

"The principles of equity and good conscience do not justify giving the plaintiffs a piece of the purchase price when they never expected to be paid, repeatedly agreed to the same bargain, and went into the arrangement with eyes wide open," the judge wrote.

Koeltl also dismissed claims that AOL materially misled the bloggers about how often their works were being viewed, and how much revenue they were generating. He dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be brought again.

"This is the electronic equivalent of someone writing a letter to the editor," John Coffee, a professor at Columbia Law School, said in an interview. "You are rewarded by publication, not by payment."
 Which makes me a slut; well except for that little Amazon widget on the side...

Celebrate Human Achievement Hour

At 8:30 tonight (local time), we are supposed to bow our heads in shame, and turn off the lights, and sit in the dark for an hour, and contemplate the evil our civilization has done, all as part of Earth Hour.  Instead, I urge you to join myself and others in Celebrating Human Achievement Hour.  Do it any way you want; light some extra lights, enjoy a motor sport, visit a friend using the benefits of science.  Here is a bit of an essay by Ross McKitrick of University of Guelph:
Earth Hour: A Dissent

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores. Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water.
 Read the rest.

And remember the perennial winner of the Earth Hour benefits - North Korea:

The Snowbirds Return to the Beach

We had some rain this morning, so we put of the walk a little longer than we needed to, and arrived close to 10 AM.  As you can see, it was still cloudy and the tide was high, far above the "predicted tide" for today, thanks to the south winds that blew yesterday.  It was cool, about 50, but the wind was mild from the north.

The first thing we noticed when we drove up was Joel's van in the parking lot. (That little red dot in the photo down the beach is his shirt).
There was a certain amount of scrambling on the beach today to get around objects due to the high tides.  Here Georgia and Joel pick their way through the Phragmites stalks to get around the flooded creek.  I walked across the sand bar.
Of course, with that high a tide, we had to walk the streets around the narrow spot on the cliff.  Lots of things are blooming now; here are some tulips we encountered...
 and an iris.
The Ospreys are back, too!  Everyone else in Maryland reports that they were back before the "customary" day, St. Patrick's Day, however, ours were late, appearing some time this week.  I'm sure the eagles are relieved that they can stop hunting and start stealing again.
Skye and Red had their usual brief greeting and then went back to their usual style, of hunting for stuff together, yet separately.

Skye really seems to have benefited from a change in arthritis medicine over the past week, and it really showed in her energy on the beach, and afterwards.
A terrible crime.  Not only did they litter, and break some beer bottles, they left two full bottle of beer in the sand.  I just don't understand kids these days...
A couple of hopeful fisherwomen trying their luck off the jetty.  I didn't see them catch anything while we were there (and we stood there about 15 minutes talking to a friend).  I think they might be a little early, but, hey, if you don't fish, you'll never catch anything.

Rule 5 Saturday - Swapping Spit With Alicia Silverstone

This Rule 5 Post is inspired by Alicia Silverstone's now infamous video showing how she pre-chews up food for son, Bear and spits it into his mouth:

As a sometimes biologist, this kind of behavior doesn't bother me at all.  Besides fellow primates, few animals have hands to bring food back to weaning infants.  Wolves and other canids actually eat the food, partially digest it and vomit it back up for the pups.  Yum.  She can chew my food anytime...

Anyway, what red blooded American male wouldn't want to swap spit with Alicia?

She was born in San Fran '76 (9 years after the infamous "Summer of Love") to a Scottish stewardess mother, Diedre, and a Jewish actor/realtor, Monty.  She began modelling at 6, advertised for Dominoes Pizza (nice topping!), and had a one episode part in the TV show "Wonder Years" as a dream girl in 1992.  In 1993 she starred in "The Crush", as appropriately enough, a teenage girl out to ruin an older man.  She won 2 MTV movie awards for the role; Best Villain and Best Breakthrough Performance.

What probably brought her the most fame early on was her casting as "The Girl" in several Aerosmith videos, including "Crazy":

Since Crush, she has starred in 20 films, including Clueless (1995), The Babysitter (1995),  Batman and Robin (1997), Scooby Doo 2 (2004), Tropic Thunder (2008) and Vamps (2011); not a bad output.  She has had numerous TV appearances and won a passel of awards, including MTVs "Most Desirable Female" for Clueless.

Enough.  More pictures below:

EPA Withdraws Fracking Pollution Claim

The Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its claim that an energy company contaminated drinking water in Texas, the third time in recent months that the agency has backtracked on high-profile local allegations linking natural-gas drilling and water pollution.

On Friday, the agency told a federal judge it withdrew an administrative order that alleged Range Resources Corp. had polluted water wells in a rural Texas county west of Fort Worth. Under an agreement filed in U.S. court in Dallas, the EPA will also drop the lawsuit it filed in January 2011 against Range, and Range will end its appeal of the administrative order.
Being the EPA means never having to say you're sorry:
EPA officials declined to comment on their broader efforts to regulate gas drilling. But in a statement, the agency said that settling with Range "allows EPA to shift the agency's focus in this particular case away from litigation and toward a joint effort on the science and safety of energy extraction." The agency said it and Range would continue to monitor water wells and share data.
Translated, that means we're going to go somewhere else to find an excuse to shut down fracking. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Pesticide Class Implicated in Bee Mystery

Widely used insecticides interfere with the homing instincts of bees, international researchers suggested Thursday, linking a class of agricultural pesticides to the growing threat to beehives known as colony collapse disorder. Explanations have ranged from poor nutrition to diseases to mite pests, which have devastated wild honeybees. Also mentioned in the new study, which looked at both honeybees and bumblebees, are pesticides, including the "neonicotinoid" insecticides that are among the most widely used agricultural pesticides worldwide.

In their study, Goulson and colleagues dosed some bumblebee hives with the insecticides, but not others. They placed the hives in enclosed fields where their bees could forage naturally. After six weeks, they found that the dosed hives were 8% to 12% smaller than the others and, more important, that they produced only 15% as many queen bees, an average of two compared with nearly 14 in undosed hives, important for the hive-producing future generations of bees.

"The bumblebee finding is really important" because reproduction is a key element in deciding whether or not to approve a particular insecticide, says entomologist Jeffery Pettis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The queen bees that survive the winter are the ones that must start a new hive the next year, so if fewer queens are produced that directly affects survival.
Colony Collapse Disorder has dramatically affected the populations of Honey Bees in the United States.  I rarely see them anymore; they used to be common.  However, there have been numerous claims for the cause in the past, including cell phones, and parasites turning them into zombies. I hope we solve this and find something we can do about it, but after many unproven claims, the standard of proof needs to be kept appropriately high.

Trouble Making Ginger

A Random Day in London

I don't think they're protesting anything, or I'd oppose it, to keep the protest alive.

Maryland to Hold "Snakehead Derby"

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) second annual snakehead contest offers prizes and possibly cash for anyone who removes at least one of the “invasive, non-native” snakeheads from the bay and its waterways.

“We do not want snakeheads in our waters,” said DNR Inland Fisheries Director Don Cosden. “This initiative is a way to remind anglers that it is important to catch and remove this invasive species of fish.”

According to the DNR, someone illegally placed the fish in the Potomac River and it has wreaked havoc on wildlife ranging from Great Galls down to the Rhode and Nanticoke Rivers. The snakehead is a top predator in the waterways and negatively impacts the ecosystem and other valuable fish populations, according to a DNR release.
Capt. Mike with a World Class Snakehead.
It's easy enough to assert that the Snakehead has "wreaked havoc on wildlife ranging from Great Galls down to the Rhode and Nanticoke Rivers," but it's a far more difficult thing to prove it.  Evaluating whole ecosystems is not a simple or cheap matter, and I don't believe that much effort has been expended to show that Snakeheads have had much effect at all.  If there is, I'd like to see it.

Somehow, offering a $200 gift certificate and some door prizes doesn't suggest to me that DNR is serious about making any inroads into the Snakehead population.  As I've said before, if the they want to seriously impact Snakehead numbers, allow watermen to sell them to Chinese groceries, set tight seasons and limits, and then turn their backs on enforcement.  That's worked for all the other endangered species...

As for catching and eating Snakeheads?  Go for it, the more the merrier.  Have a ball.  Here's hoping Capt. Mike catches the winning fish this year.

The Price of An Early Spring

Tree pollen spikes to March record high

Fortunately, I'm not allergic to the tree pollens here.  However, when I lived in Florida, I had a very ugly three weeks when the Orange trees flowered.  If you are affected, you have my sympathy.

Man vs. Goose

We have a couple of pairs of resident geese at work. One pair share the garden with me at lunch. I don't attack them and they don't attack me...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Science Invents 3D Computer Screen

To make these work, put your head fairly close to the monitor, and cross your eyes until the two images merge into a single image (the original two will still be seen in the periphery).

Sorry, girls, no guys available, and anyway, they're not so 3 dimensional...

At long last, linked by the Rule 5 Thursday round up by Wombat-Socho at the Other McCain.

A True Fan

A convicted child sex offender was executed Wednesday for the beating death of a 10-month-old boy he was baby-sitting at a home in Dallas.

Jesse Joe Hernandez smiled and laughed at times before receiving a lethal injection for the slaying of Karlos Borja 11 years ago.

"God bless everybody. Continue to walk with God," the 47-year-old Hernandez said. Moments later, he shouted "Go Cowboys!" in honor of his favorite football team.

Enough For One Per Citizen, With a Few to Spare

Department of Homeland Security buy 450 million bullets:
The high performance HST bullets are designed for law enforcement and ATK says they offer "optimum penetration for terminal performance."
This refers to the the bullet's hollow-point tip that passes through barriers and expands for a bigger impact without the rest of the bullet getting warped out of shape: "this bullet holds its jacket in the toughest conditions."
We've also learned that the Department has an open bid for a stockpile of rifle ammo. Listed on the federal business opportunities network, they're looking for up to 175 million rounds of .223 caliber ammo to be exact. The .223 is almost exactly the same round used by NATO forces, the 5.56 x 45mm.
 That certainly is comforting.  In other DHS news:

TSA Manager Arrested for Running Prostitution Ring...

TSA Agents trashed hotel room, fired gun from window...

Screener sentenced in child porn case... 

Spike Lee Apologizes, Pays Off Terrorized Couple

Spike Lee has reached an agreement with the Florida couple forced to flee their home after the film director retweeted their home address and they fled to a hotel to avoid problems associated with the shooting of Trayvon Martin, it was announced Thursday.

Elaine and David McClain, in their 70s, left their Sanford, Fla., home after their address was tweeted by a man who thought he had found the home of George Zimmerman, the 28-year-old who shot Martin, 17. Lee then retweeted the McClains’ address to his followers on Twitter.

The McClains have a son, William George Zimmerman, who is not related to the George Zimmerman who shot Martin and whose arrest is being sought by Martin’s family and civil rights supporters. “The McClains’ claim is fully resolved,” Matt Morgan, their attorney, said in an email. “Mr. Lee personally called them to give a very heartfelt apology. Further, he agreed to compensate them for their loss and the disruption to their lives.
 Maybe he'll think a little harder before he jumps on the demonization bandwagon next time.  On the other hand, that's one way to get the 1%er's money back into circulation...

Why hasn't Obama called the Zimmermans?

UPDATE: Rosanne Barr retweeted the "correct" Zimmerman's parents address in violation of the Twitters terms of service.:
“You may not publish or post other people's private and confidential information, such as credit card numbers, street address or Social Security/National Identity numbers, without their express authorization and permission.”
 I hope she too settles for a substantial sum...

I Can Go For That

No, that's not quite the name of the piece...

A rather cramped place to practice...

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers.

Baltimore Sewage Leak Leads to Shellfish Closure

Due to the flow of up to 17 million gallons per day of untreated sewage into the Patapsco River, the Maryland Department of the Environment on March 28 closed the mouth of the Patapsco and a nearby portion of the Chesapeake Bay to shellfish harvesting.
The closure was issued because of a sewage spill from a ruptured 54-inch pipe at the Patapsco Sewage Pumping Station in Baltimore Highlands that began on Mar. 25.
Health officials in Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County issued notices regarding water contact for a portion of the Patapsco River. MDE determined that an area in the mouth of the Patapsco River and a nearby portion of the Chesapeake Bay normally open to shellfish harvesting will be closed.
Makes me glad they're going hard after that 7% of Chesapeake Bay pollution that comes from septic systems...

Bay Grasses Nose Dived in 2011

The results of the annual survey of submerged aquatic vegetation in Chesapeake is out, and the results weren't good
Fewer acres of bay grasses grew in the shallows of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers in 2011, according to scientists with the Chesapeake Bay Program. Bay grass acreage fell to an estimated 63,074 acres in 2011, down from 79,664 acres in 2010. This is the lowest Bay-wide acreage measured since 2006.
So much for the facts.  Now comes the finger pointing...
  • Summer 2010 was unusually hot, causing severe eelgrass die offs in the lower Bay. These beds had already been measured for the 2010 acreage survey, so these eelgrass losses were not officially recorded until 2011.
  • In spring 2011, heavy rains and resulting runoff created very muddy conditions in the upper Bay and its rivers during the bay grass growing season.
  • Last September, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee brought even more rain and mud to the Bay’s waters.
It's no shock to me that the spring floods and September storms played havoc with the grasses in the upper bay.  I would have been surprised if they hadn't, I wonder if the effects due to Irene and Lee have been accounted for, though, as they occurred after the peak growth of the grasses, and presumably after the survey was conducted.  However, it turns out they may also have had a positive effect:
"2011 was the year that bucked two trends we’ve seen over the last decade,” said Lee Karrh, chair of the Bay Program’s Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) Workgroup. “The Upper Bay had major decreases after years of increasing or sustained high acreages. On the other hand, the brackish parts of the Middle Bay witnessed dramatic increases in 2011, after prolonged decreases since the turn of the century.”
According to the Washington Post, the increase in the Middle Bay was due to lower than normal salinity stimulating the germination of dormant seeds of species more common in the Upper Bay.  Part of the Bay's mysterious restorative processes.  Even the bad things sow the seeds of the good things...

Virginia to Test Nations First Water Sited Wind Generator in Bay

Virginia Approves Gamesa Offshore Turbine in Chesapeake Bay
Virginia approved construction of a wind turbine in Chesapeake Bay that may be the first installed in U.S. waters.

The state’s Marine Resources Commission granted permission to Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA (GAM)’s U.S. unit to install a 5- megawatt prototype three miles (4.8 kilometers) from the town of Cape Charles, according to a statement today from Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

The single-turbine test, which requires approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, may be completed faster than other planned wind farms off the U.S. Atlantic coast that have been in development for years, according to the statement.

Gamesa, Europe’s second-largest turbine maker, selected Virginia for the test in part because of the state’s “unique and efficient permitting process adopted for small energy projects,” McDonnell said in the statement. The project must also be reviewed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Gamesa is working with Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (HII)’s shipbuilding unit and construction is scheduled to be completed in late 2013. The blade will reach a maximum height of 479 feet (146 meters) above the surface and the tower will be installed in 53 feet of water.
 Will they have video cameras mounted to see how many of what kind of birds it chews up?

21st Century Relationships...

To steal a tagline from Instapundit. A Little NSFW language...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Man Attacked by Mountain Lion, Saved by Bear

A Paradise man says he is lucky to be alive after an attack by a mountain lion Monday morning. 
Robert Biggs, 69, often hikes in the Bean Soup Flat area, which is about a mile and a half above Whisky Flats. He came across a mother bear, a yearling and a newborn, which were about 40 feet from where he was standing. After watching the bear family for a few minutes he decided to leave them be and turned to walk back up the trail. As he turned, a mountain lion pounced on him grabbing hold of his backpack with all four paws.

"They usually grab hold of your head with all four paws, but my backpack was up above my head and (the mountain lion) grabbed it instead," Biggs said. "It must have been stalking the little bear, but it was on me in seconds."

Blends in pretty well, right?
He wrestled with the cat, striking it in the head with a rock pick. The cat screamed when it was hit with the pick, but didn't let go, Biggs said. Before he knew it, the mother bear came from behind and pounced on the cat, tearing its grip from the backpack. The bear and the cat battled for about 15 seconds, Biggs said, until the cat finally ran away. The bear went on its way as well.

Biggs ended up with bite marks, scratches and bruises to his arm, but was otherwise uninjured. Biggs, a naturist, has hiked that same trail several times and has seen the mother bear and its cub last spring and fall. He said the encounters with the bears were friendly. "(The cub) stood up on its hind legs and put its paws up and Igot to play patty-cake with it," he said.
Maybe they were saving him for an afternoon snack.
The patty-cake game was simply touching the bottom of its paw with his open palm, more like a high-five. He said the mother watched the two play and her only reaction was to call the cub back. Biggs said he is certain that the mother that saved him during the mountain lion attack is the same bear he has seen in that area before.

"They're pretty territorial," he said, adding that he recognized some of the bear's markings. Though his arm was pretty cut up, he chose not to go to the doctor, a move that concerned his wife Suzanne.

"There were puncture wounds and skin was hanging off, and you don't know what's in their paws," she said.

Biggs said he wasn't worried because he had a tetanus shot a couple of years ago. Biggs simply put peroxide on his wounds and expects that will be enough.

As for lessons learned, Suzanne quipped, "He doesn't learn."
Biggs just chuckled at the comment. The incident isn't going to stop him from enjoying the Ridge's wildlife.
I call BS, but the story is too good not to pass on..

UPDATE:  Apparently the authorities think this is a hoax, too.

Eat Chocolate and Get Thin?

What's the best way to stay thin? A new study finds it's exercising and eating a healthy diet full of - chocolate?

The study found that people who frequently ate chocolate had a lower body mass index (BMI) than people who didn't.

For the study, published in the March 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers examined more than 1,000 healthy men and women who were free of heart disease, diabetes and cholesterol problems. They were all enrolled in another study that measured the effects of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, but for this study researchers assigned them questionnaires that gauged how often participants chowed down on chocolate.

The researchers found that the participants - who were an average age of 57 - ate chocolate for an average of twice of week and exercised roughly 3.5 times per week. But the more frequent chocolate-eaters had smaller BMIs, a ratio of height and weight that's used to measure obesity.

What explains the effect? Even though chocolate can be loaded with calories, it's full of antioxidants and other ingredients that may promote weight loss, the researchers said.

"I was pretty happy with this news myself," study author Dr. Beatrice Golomb, associate professor of medicine at the University of California-San Diego, told USA Today. "Findings show the composition of calories, not just the number of them, matters for determining ultimate weight."

Does that mean all diet regimens should include a daily chocolate bar? The researchers say it's too soon to tell.

"Our findings - that more frequent chocolate intake is linked to lower BMI - are intriguing," the authors wrote. However, "It is not a siren call to go out and eat 20 pounds of chocolate a day," Golomb told HealthDay.
As much as I'd love for this to be true, correlation is not causation.  If skinny people eat more chocolate because they know it won't make them fat (and there are people like that, damn their souls), while the rest of us BMI disabled folk avoid chocolate because we know it will, the study would come out exactly the same.

At long last the Rule 5 Thursday round up by Wombat-Socho at the Other McCain.

I Was Only Gone a Week, Honest!

Photo from Theo's.

MD Senate Passes Weakened $#!* Bill

Maryland Senate passes controversial septic bill
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to curb sprawl cleared the Senate on Tuesday, although without key provisions that would have given the state power to override some local zoning decisions on new housing developments that rely on septic systems.

O’Malley (D) had said the state needed the authority to ensure it could reduce the waste that leaches from the developments and pollutes the Chesapeake Bay. But last week he weakened the proposal as it became clear that the bill faced an uncertain future. With the override provisions struck from the bill, the Senate voted 32 to 14 along mostly party lines to require counties to draw mapped “tiers” of development before any major subdivisions served by septic systems could be approved.
...weakening the septic legislation was key to acceptance by lawmakers. An amendment to the measure, which Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles) introduced last week with O’Malley’s support, killed provisions that would have given the state authority to deny permits if it decided counties were not abiding by master plan guidelines.
The government continues to try to choke back septic systems which contribute a small proportion of the pollution to Chesapeake Bay, while Baltimore (where O'Malley used to be mayor) continues major sewage spills:

Pipe Break Releases 17 Million Gallons of Sewage a Day into Bay Tributary
A break in a 54-inch sewage line inside a Baltimore area sewage pumping plant on Sunday is releasing 17 million gallons of sewage a day into the Patapsco River, with the pollution flow, including bacteria and excess nitrogen, expected to continue until the rupture can be fixed on Thursday.

As a result of the problems at the Patapsco Pumping Station at 4612 Annapolis Road, Baltimore and Anne Arundel County officials are warning people to avoid all contact with the Chesapeake Bay tributary, from Hammonds Ferry Road to the Middle Branch.

“The Department of Health has posted emergency closing signs along the section of the Patapsco River, and the closure will remain in effect until further notice,” the Anne Arundel County Health Department advised. “People coming in contact with the affected water are advised to wash well with soap and warm water immediately. Clothing should also be washed.”

Water Rocks Reaffirms Global Medieval Warm Period

Calcium carbonate can crystallize in a hydrated form as ikaite at low temperatures. The hydration water in ikaite grown in laboratory experiments records the δ18O of ambient water, a feature potentially useful for reconstructing δ18O of local seawater. We report the first downcore δ18O record of natural ikaite hydration waters and crystals collected from the Antarctic Peninsula (AP), a region sensitive to climate fluctuations. We are able to establish the zone of ikaite formation within shallow sediments, based on porewater chemical and isotopic data. Having constrained the depth of ikaite formation and δ18O of ikaite crystals and hydration waters, we are able to infer local changes in fjord δ18O versus time during the late Holocene. This ikaite record qualitatively supports that both the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age extended to the Antarctic Peninsula.
The paper has been put out as evidence of a global warm period during the middle ages (MWP).  There has been a great debate about the existence and scope of the MWP.  It is quite clear from historical records that it was a good time in Europe.  Wine grapes grew in England, crops were grown in Iceland, many contemporary writers commented on the good conditions.

Fig. 6 from Liu et al, 2012, showing δ180 from ikaite in green, and other paleoclimate data.
However, with the rise of global warming fear mongering, it was convenient to minimize the importance of the MWP, and claim that, if it existed at all, it was strictly a local (European) phenomenon.  The famous Mann Hockey Stick climate originally had no MWP, despite previous IPCC paleoclimate recreations that had shown that during the MWP, the world was at least as warm as it is now.  Anthropogenic warming proponents were shown in emails attempting to minimize the existence and/or importance of the MWP.

This method works because the unique rock formed in cold waters (ikaite) traps and records the 18O concentrations of seawater it forms in.  Seawater becomes higher in the heavy isotope of oxygen in cold times lower during warm times because ice receives higher concentrations of the light isotope (because the heavy isotope is stripped out preferentially by precipitation before it reaches the poles).  So, it essentially records the ice volume.

Because the surface ocean is fairly well mixed on a few year time scale, the Antarctic records almost essentially the same world wide decrease as water elsewhere in the world.  This record demonstrates that the world ocean recorded a substantial period when the amount of ice in the world was at a substantially lower amounts than common, and perhaps less than exists now.  It doesn't necessarily demonstrate that every region of the world was warmer than usual, but it strongly suggests that the world was warmer than average overall.

Spike Lee Terrorizes Old Folks

With Twitter and Facebook continuing to explode with posts purporting to contain the address of George Zimmerman, property records and interviews reveal that the home is actually the longtime residence of a married Florida couple, both in their 70s, who have no connection to the man who killed Trayvon Martin and are now living in fear due to erroneous reports about their connection to the shooter.

The mass dissemination of the address on Edgewater Circle in Sanford--the Florida city where Martin was shot to death last month--took flight last Friday when director Spike Lee retweeted a tweet containing Zimmerman’s purported address to his 240,000 followers.

The original tweet was sent to Lee (and numerous other celebrities like Will Smith, 50 Cent, and LeBron James) last Friday afternoon by Marcus Davonne Higgins, a 33-year-old Los Angeles man who uses the online handle “maccapone.” Higgins included the direction, “EVERYBODY REPOST THIS.”
I haven't commented on the Trayvon/Zimmerman incident previously, because, well, I don't know anything that can't be readily found in numerous news reports and blog posts.  The story is still moving pretty fast, and the facts appear to be a moving target, and subject to quite disparate interpretation.

However, it's pretty clear that "certain elements" in the media, including Spike Lee, have raced to make this a racial and partisan issue (pun observed).  Ginning up massive public indignation against the "other side" for political gain is trick used by all (think Sandra Fluke/Limbaugh and Operation Fast and Furious).  Wearing my Spock ears, I'll observe that humans are an emotional species, and emotions are a powerful motivator.  Asking people to refrain from abusing this is useless.

While this tweet did not originate with Spike Lee, he was, by virtue of his celebrity status, in a position to be able to boost it's circulation enormously. Like Spiderman says, "With great power comes great responsibility".  He shouldn't have been retweeting Zimmerman's address to incite mob violence, and worse, before retweeting any address at all, he had a responsibility to determine its accuracy. He owes the couple an apology at a minimum, and maybe monetary damages for turning their lives into hell.

It's Official Sex Week at Harvard

According to its web site, the event was organized by “Sexual Health Education & Advocacy throughout Harvard College (SHEATH), a recognized student-run organization at Harvard.” The organization is “dedicated to empowering the Harvard community to explore their experiences with love and sex by providing comprehensive programming addressing a wide range of issues relating to sex, relationships, dating, sexual health, and sexuality.” All the important subjects a well-rounded college student would wish to master.

Are you feeling a little shiver of cognitive dissonance, a slight frisson of surrealistic displacement? There’s a lot more where that came from. Here’s the description of sex week:
Sex Week at Harvard intends to promote a week of programming that is interdisciplinary, thought-provoking, scholastic, innovative, and applicable to student experiences in order to promote a holistic understanding of sex and sexuality. Our goal is to connect diverse individuals and communities both within and beyond Harvard through common human experiences with love, sex, sexuality, and relationships
A highlight:
Anal Pleasure 101” which you can experience tomorrow at 4PM, Ticknor Lounge.
Come learn everything about anal sex from the expert, Tristan Taormino, author of two books and director of six sex ed films on the subject! Tristan will dispel myths about anal sex and give you insight into why people do it and how to do it well. She’ll cover a wide variety of topics, including: anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for men and women; how to talk about it with a partner; basic preparation and hygiene; lubes, anal toys, and safer sex; anal penetration for beginners, and much more! Learn the facts about this exciting yet often misunderstood form of pleasure, find out the common mistakes people make, and get all your questions answered!
At a little old state school, we were responsible for our own explorations of experiences with love and sex.

And at long last, the Rule 5 Thursday round up by Wombat-Socho at the Other McCain.

Is The Air Here Better Than In Your Parent's Basement?

At long last, the Rule 5 Thursday round up by Wombat-Socho at the Other McCain.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Driving Stress Discriminates Against Men

No Stress Here
It’s official: traffic is hazardous to your health. According to independent research commissioned by TomTom, drivers, and men in particular, seem to suffer a significant and unhealthy increase in physiological stress when driving in traffic.

Independent tests – which measured physiological stress markers in participants’ saliva – revealed that while women experienced an 8.7% increase in stress from driving in traffic, men suffered a significant 60% increase in stress. These statistics were in contrast to how the participants perceived the situation. For instance, although 67% of women and 50% of men reported they did they not ‘feel’ stressed after driving in traffic for 20 minutes, the saliva tests confirm that they actually were physiologically stressed. The research goes on to suggest that the effects of long-term exposure to stress chemicals include suppressed immune function, raised blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels.
Or Here, Either
So you can be stressed, and not report it; what's new?

“These findings make good evolutionary sense,” said David Moxon, the health psychologist who led the research. “Men, in particular, show a strong acute physiological ‘fight or flight’ response. The fact that they are not always aware of this could indicate that driving regularly in dense traffic could have a profound effect on their health.”
Tell your wife it's essential for your health that she do all the driving in stressful situations. And, finally, at long last, the Rule 5 Thursday round up by Wombat-Socho at the Other McCain.

So Much Disinformation, So Little Time

In which I highlight the garbage being dished out as science in the Bay news.  Take for example this piece:  Phosphorus, Part 3: Fishing industry struggles with fertilizer runoff;
Steve Carter finished unloading a dozen bushels of oysters from his battered fishing boat when he paused to look at the Pagan River.

"All out here," he said gesturing toward a nearby inlet, "it's loaded with oysters."

"But you can't get them," he continued, "because they say the water's polluted" with phosphorus and other nutrients that, in excess, can wreak havoc on waterways, including Chesapeake Bay tributaries like the Pagan.
Notice how the quotes end just before the "phosphorus" in the final sentence?  That's because the watermen did not say the words after that point, they were the invention of the author.  Pollution does cause closures on oysters, but it is never for "phosphorus and other nutrients".  Oyster closures are for bacteria, or in extremely rare cases (I can't think of one in Chesapeake Bay) for high concentrations of toxics.  Phosphorus and "other nutrients" (nitrate, ammonium and silicate) are not in fact directly harmful to oysters, at least at the levels found in even the most polluted waters.

Oysters are closed because of bacterial contamination, and that is associated with sewage and septic contamination almost exclusively.  Sewage and septic contamination do bring in nutrients, but it is not the phosphorus, nitrogen or silicate that are responsible.

Is it too much to ask that reporters get the basics right?  Don't bother to answer.

Rick Santorum Discovers the Obvious...

"You Don't Care About the Truth!"

Notice how even the CBS News video cuts it off...
Previously, Jeff Zeleny’s biggest claim to fame was asking Barack Obama the hard-hitting question, “What has … enchanted you the most from serving in this office?” The question was so sycophantic that even Zeleny’s colleagues in the White House press corps laughed out loud when they heard it.
Santorum ain't my guy, but if journalism had standards ... oh, never mind.

Oh, So Wrong...

and yet so funny.

Monday, March 26, 2012


Putting Things in Perspective

Everything to scale.

Swiped from Ted.  I didn't even have to beat him up for it.

Pennsylvania Sells $#!* Credits

The Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PENNVEST) and the Department of Environmental Protection, along with financial information services company Markit, has held the first “forward” auction in 2012 for the sale and purchase of nutrient credits in Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay watershed.

A “forward” auction means that the certified credits sold on March 21 will be delivered later and applied to the 2012-15 compliance years. The auction affords wastewater treatment plants and other regulated entities the opportunity to purchase credits to meet their nitrogen and phosphorus discharge limits for these compliance years.
Credits representing the annual removal of 55,224 pounds of nitrogen from the Susquehanna River watershed and the Chesapeake Bay during 2012 were sold for $4 per credit. Credits representing the annual removal of 30,000 pounds of nitrogen from the Susquehanna River watershed and the Chesapeake Bay over each of the following three years, 2013 to 2015, were sold for $2.98 per credit.
Sounds cheap at twice the price...

Blue Cats in the News Again

No, not kittens, but our giant Blue Catfish - Monster catfish may cause monster problem
Blue catfish are monsters — in more ways than one. They grow to gargantuan sizes, reeling in anglers who live for the thrill of catching a giant trophy fish that can weigh more than a small child. But they’re also an invasive species that can wreak havoc on the Chesapeake Bay’s food chain, gobbling up small fish and leaving little for other big fish to eat.
I hear that over and over from managers and others who would try to pare down the blue cat population, but I don't see the data; what fraction of the available forage do blue cats consume?  No one is saying.  They probably haven't been able to estimate it because they don't have 1) an accurate knowledge of the blue cat population, 2) the amount of different things they eat, and 3) the amount of available forage.
I don't think she wants to hold it...
Regulators in Maryland and Virginia are trying to control these whiskery invaders, and federal officials who work on the bay have officially declared blue catfish as a problem that needs fixing.
Blue catfish get so big because they are not picky eaters. Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has done a few stomach surveys — they see what’s inside a dead fish — and found all sorts of fish, including at least one northern snakehead, a fellow problematic invader.
That's just BS.  Very few fish are picky eaters.  Most fish, even allegedly grazers, will eat some animals if it's easy enough.  Some of the largest animals in the world are really picky eaters; they just eat a few things that are available in very great quantity (think whales and elephants). Very little separates the eating habits of the blue cats from other similar native catfish.  What determines their ultimate size is their genetics, growth rates, and some innate physiological factors, such as their ability to take up oxygen from water as they get larger.
While there’s an official kill-on-sight rule for snakeheads, there’s no such death sentence for blue cats. Still, “we prefer that you kill it and eat it,” Cosden said.
One of Capt. Mikes fishermen with a big Blue Cat
However, not everyone feels that badly towards the Blue Cats...
Capt. Mike Starrett of Indian Head Charters knows the economic benefits of blue catfish. He has clients come from out of state for charter fishing trips to catch blue cats on the Potomac River.

Starrett said anglers are almost guaranteed to catch blue catfish if they go fishing at the right time of year. The high probability of success makes blue cats popular. “It’s the kind of fishing that everyone can do,” he said.

Starrett isn’t sure that the blue catfish warrant such concern for regulators. He’s among the camp that thinks that the blue cats will balance out with other fish and may be able to coexist with other predators.

Starrett usually releases larger fish back into the water, especially since they aren’t usually eaten because of concerns over contamination in larger fish.

“There’s an old Indian saying, ‘Never kill what you won’t eat.’ ... There’s no sense in killing them,” he said.
As you may know, I'm a friend and sometimes client of Capt. Mike, and I have gone out after the blue catfish in the Potomac with him.  It's a ball, and there's no fish like it in the Bay (well, unless you hook a big sturgeon, and that's darned unlikely.

We are stuck with the blue catfish now; they'll never be eradicated.  We might as well manage them as a sports fish, and seek to maximize their value in that manner, consistent with keeping a healthy balance of species diversity in their habitat.

Musical Intromission

Woo Hoo!

Posting this from our new IPad 2. Entering a whole new era here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Bit of Sanity in the 9th Circuit Court

On Tuesday, Federal Judge Louis Guirola Jr., in the Southern District of Mississippi, dismissed the case of Comer vs. Murphy Oil for lack of standing. Gulf Coast property owners had sought to hold a grab bag of energy companies responsible for damage they suffered from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The plaintiffs claimed the power companies knowingly had endangered them by emitting unsafe levels of carbon dioxide. The case was dismissed in 2007, then resurrected by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009. The latest ruling should put an end to it.
It was an absurd suit to begin with.  If anything, Hurricane activity has been lower in recent years than the historical average, suggesting that anthropogenic global warming climate change, if it exists, may actually reduce tropical storms and hurricanes.  Moreover, the contribution of "Murphy Oil" to the increased CO2 that allegedly caused the hurricane is trivial compared to all the other sources, and the plaintiffs would have burned petroleum and contributed to CO2 increases as well, generating a defense of contributory negligence.

The judge should have assessed fines, court costs, and punitive damages on the plaintiffs for filing such a clearly frivolous suit.

Found at Maggie's Notebook.

Cool and Misty at the Beach

The sloppy weather continues today, cloudy, a few showers, windy and only about 50 oF. 

This guy prospecting for metal was the only person we saw on the beach.  I don't offer him a lot of hope of finding gold coins; that whole stretch of beach has accreted since the jetties were built in the 1930's or so, so most of the beach trash will be newer, so you might find some silver, but that's about all.

We couldn't walk around the narrows due to a high tide, so we walked up the steps to Calvert Beach, and decided to walk the neighborhood back to the car.
A Redbud (Cercis canadensis), a small flowering  understory tree native to the region, which flower early, while most trees are still bare.  They're quite distinctive in bloom, but sort of inconspicuous the rest of the year.  They are also sold in nurseries, so I don't know whether this one is left over from when the area was clear, or store bought, though I suspect the latter.
All the maple trees look red now, and this is why, the developing samaras (winged fruit), or as we used to call them, whirligigs. 
The May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum, also known as mandrake root, American mandrake, raccoon berry, wild lemon, Indian apple, duck's foot, hog apple, umbrella plant, ground lemon) popped up this last week or so.  Despite the name, their yellowish fruit is not especially edible:
The ripened fruit is edible in moderate amounts, though when consumed in large amounts the fruit is poisonous. The rhizome, foliage and roots are also poisonous. Mayapple contains podophyllotoxin, which is used as a cytostatic and topically in the treatment of viral and genital warts.
So there you go, if you have warts..

Walking the dog on the leash on the streets is a treat, especially when she hasn't been there in quite a while.  Every hummock, bush and stump must be nasally checked for pmail, and the occasional return message left.

Asma Assad - "I Wear the Pants in this Country"

That's not quite how she put it, but what she really said might be worse:

Syria: 'I am the real dictator', declares Asma al-Assad 
“As for listening – I am the REAL dictator, he has no choice ...” she wrote on Dec 14.
This in an email to a friend, recently revealed to the world by unfriendly leakers.

On Jan 17, she circulated an email cracking a joke at the expense of the people of Homs, shortly before a regime onslaught that would claim hundreds of lives.

Slow Homsi Students
 Mrs Assad received from her husband an email with the subject line “Student who obtained 0% on an exam”.

It contained one of those lists of jokes that circulate widely on the internet, in the form of questions with silly answers. The first was: “In which battle did Napoleon die? – His last battle”. The next day she forwarded the email to her father and two other family members with the changed subject line: “A really bright Homsi student!”
 She also revealed to a friend that she had taken an on line personality test and had been diagnosed as "a monster."
Some bad news for Asma, the EU has issued a travel ban for her, forbidding her from visiting Paris and other European hot spots where she and her husband like to shop:
Her days of shopping in the EU for the president's palace are over, as ministers have decided the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is no longer welcome. The ban on travel and shopping in the EU, will come as a blow to Asma al-Assad, whose love of pricey purchases has been well documented in the past few weeks in leaked emails.
 Asma, could you please order from the little Amazon gizmo over on the right hand side of this blog?
They detailed Asma placing an order for £10,000 worth of candlesticks, concern over getting hold of a new chocolate fondue set from Amazon, and swapping details with friends of crystal-encrusted designer shoes costing nearly £4,000.

The announcement comes as diplomats try to crank up pressure on his government to end a bloody crackdown on popular unrest. Her name is now among 12 people added to the sanctions list, which already includes her husband.
The good news for Asma is that when Syria finishes revolting, she can go back to the U.K:
Asma, who holds dual citizenship, British and Syrian, was educated at a Church of England school in Ealing before attending a private girls’ day school - Queen’s College, Harley Street. From Queen’s, where she achieved four A-levels, Asma went to King’s College London to read Computer Science and take a diploma in French Literature.

She graduated with a First and, after six months of travelling, joined Deutsche Bank as an analyst in hedge-fund management. She then moved to the investment bank JP Morgan and worked in Paris and New York, as well as London. On family holidays back in Syria, she met Bashar.
Maybe she can give economic advice to the Obama administration.  How much worse can she be than John Corzine?

The completion of the revolution in Syria can't come soon enough for me.  I'm tired of Asma, tired of people looking for pictures of Asma (but here's a few more...) and tired of Bashar.  Sure, the revolution in Syria will probably be a total failure, result in a blood bath of the reasonable people in Syria (all six of them), and result in the country becoming an Iranian vassal-state, but really, how much worse would that be?

Really, I'll find another topic.

Gold Bugs Beware

1 Kg gold bar found with tungsten rods
It is now time to rekindle the Tungsten Spirits with a report from ABC Bullion of Australia, which provides photographic evidence of a new gold bar that has been drilled out and filled with tungsten rods, this time not in Germany but in an unnamed city in the UK, where it was intercepted by a scrap metals dealer, and was supplied with its original certificate. The reason the bar attracted attention is that it was 2 grams underweight. Upon cropping it was uncovered that about 30-40% of the bar weight was tungsten.

So two documented incidents in two years: isolated? Or indication of the same phenomonenon of precious metal debasement that marked the declining phase of the Roman empire. Only then it was relatively public for anyone who cared to find out on their own. Now, with the bulk of popular physical gold held in top secret, private warehouses around the world, where it allegedly backs the balance sheets of the world's central banks, yet nobody can confirm its existence, nor audit the actual gold content, it is understandable why increasingly more are wondering: just how much gold is there?
Gold is tempting to buy at this point because, even though inflation is low at this point, given the level of deficit and debt, it is unlikely that the Fed can keep it that way indefinitely. At some point, they will realize the only way out of the debt problem will be to inflate it away, and it will happen.

Holding gold personally is tempting too, because when everything goes to $#!*, you don't want to trust the banks or financial institutions to hold it for you (MF Global, anyone?).  However, how do you protect yourself against this?  You can easily weigh a 2 gram difference in a 1 kg weight, but what if they were a little brighter, and kept the weight identical, and inflated the volume 0.1%?  You could measure the specific gravity, but that's not quite as easy with home tools.

Why tungsten?  It's cheap and heavy.  Currently tungsten sells for about $50 a kilogram or 5 cents a gram.  It's specific gravity, 19.25 g/cc, is very close to gold's (19.30).  Replacing 40% of a gold bar with tungsten yields 400 grams of gold worth about $50 each, or $20,000, not a bad days work. 

You can be pretty sure, that if there's one bar like that out there in circulation, there are thousands more.  So, if you like to keep your gold in heaps in your treasure room, I would beware of bars of unknown provenience.  It would be tempting to stick to gold coins.