Friday, November 30, 2012

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Says Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker:

Collaboration, not confrontation, is better for the bay's health
Sen. E.J. Pipkin might be surprised to learn that I agree with much of what he has written, published first in The Sun on Tuesday and in The Daily Times on this page today.

For instance, the Susquehanna River, draining approximately 50 percent of Pennsylvania, is an enormous source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. This has been clearly established by the best scientific monitoring and modeling for decades. It is one more example of why the science behind the Chesapeake Bay restoration is the best in the world.

The impact of the Susquehanna River on the Chesapeake Bay is why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation opened an office in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1986. We have been the primary bay environmental advocacy force in Pennsylvania since then, working to reduce pollution affecting the Chesapeake. And we have had modest success in spite of tremendous odds against us.

Since then, nitrogen pollution entering the bay from the Susquehanna has been reduced by more than 15 percent. But the Susquehanna flow still has a real impact on water quality in the bay. With our mutual agreement on this fact, perhaps Pipkin would be willing to use his significant influence to arrange a meeting between the two of us and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. If he were willing, he could make further strides in pollution reduction from Pennsylvania to Maryland that are critically needed. This would improve water quality in the surface and ground water in Pennsylvania for the benefit of Pennsylvania citizens as well.
15 percent!  Wow.  That's rounding error territory in the measurement of pollution fluxes, and far less than the annual variation.

Finally, we hope and trust Pipkin realizes Maryland must continue to use good science to further address locally generated pollution from all sources to improve water quality for our citizens, who want to enjoy the many rivers and streams that are now impaired.All of us are part of the problem, and all of us must be part of the solution. Let’s work together, and not pick polarizing fights that only serve to slow bay restoration progress.
In other words, please remove your pants, and bend over.

You might remember that a few days ago, Sen. Pipkin wrote a scathing editorial, accusing the Bay Foundation of ignoring pollution passing the Conowingo Dam as a result of its filling up, and focusing their attention on pollution from agriculture, particularly that on Maryland's Eastern Shore.  I still think it's a fair charge, as the Bay Foundation is reluctant to attack its governmental clients, the EPA and the various state environmental agencies, who would have to deal with the issue of the refurbishing of Conowingo.

Switch to Switchgrass?

The Chester River Association hosted an online presentation Thursday to tout the benefits of switchgrass, a sturdy, deep-rooted grass native to much of North America.

Advocates say the complex root structure of switchgrass holds soil in place and absorbs nutrients, making it an ideal crop for buffers to stabilize stream banks and absorb excess fertilizer. They also say switchgrass is very high in carbon, making it a good candidate for biofuel.

The CRA says its goal is to develop a viable switchgrass market and establish switchgrass buffers on farmland, reducing the amount of nutrients and sediments entering the Chester River and Chesapeake Bay.
The idea of switchgrass for biofuel is not quite as awful as corn for gasohol.  At the very least, it is not a crop edible by humans, a commodity that using large amounts of for fuel will increase it's cost as food.  As a use for marginal land, for farmers to make some additional money, it might be useful.

However, it might also have some negative consequences.  If it's grown on land where other food crops, including corn, are currently being grown, it could still reduce food supplies, and drive food prices upwards as gasohol production does, and the temptation to fertilize it for greater yields might cancel it's benefits.  It might also prompt farmers to convert some "marginal" land from wild, to a monoculture of switchgrass, to the detriment of wildlife. I don't know how it's carbon footprint compares to gasohol, which is worse than simply pulling oil out of the ground and burning it.

Unintended consequences are, well, unintended, and often negative.
Why not invasive Phragmites for cellulosic biofuel?  It grows all over the Chesapeake Bay area, unloved and unwanted anyway.  Just harvest unwanted stands of Phrag for biofuel.  Incidentally, that looks like Phrag in the background behind the switchgrass in the USDA photo above.

Your Friday Mid-Life Monkey Dacker Crisis international team of scientists claims to have found evidence for a slump in wellbeing among middle-aged chimpanzees and orangutans. The lull in happiness in the middle years, they say, is the great ape equivalent of the midlife crisis.

The study, which was published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has raised eyebrows among some scientists, but according to the authors, the findings suggest that the midlife crisis may have its roots in the biology humans share with our closest evolutionary cousins.

Maybe they should provide the apes with Viagra, as needed.
The team from the US, Japan, Germany and the UK asked zookeepers, carers and others who worked with male and female apes of various ages to complete questionnaires on the animals. The forms included questions about each ape's mood, the enjoyment they gained from socialising, and their success at achieving certain goals. The final question asked how carers would feel about being the ape for a week. They scored their answers from one to seven.

More than 500 apes were included in the study in three separate groups. The first two groups were chimpanzees, with the third made up of orangutans from Sumatra or Borneo. The animals came from zoos, sanctuaries and research centres in the US, Australia, Japan, Canada and Singapore.

When the researchers analysed the questionnaires, they found that wellbeing in the apes fell in middle age and climbed again as the animals moved into old age. In captivity, great apes often live to 50 or more. The nadir in the animals' wellbeing occurred, on average, at 28.3 and 27.2 years old for the chimpanzees, and 35.4 years old for the orangutans. "In all three groups we find evidence that wellbeing is lowest in chimpanzees and orangutans at an age that roughly corresponds to midlife in humans," Weiss said. "On average, wellbeing scores are lowest when animals are around 30 years old."
Or maybe the forms revealed that zookeepers reacted more negatively to middle aged apes? Maybe they felt more remorse for keeping animals in the prime of life, and less guilty for keeping them when they were either young and unable to fend for themselves or old and feeble. I find it hard to believe that a second hand opinion by zookeepers can actually capture the animals own experiences accurately.

When You Hear Hoofbeats, Think Zebra

On Staten Island

A wild scene unfolded on New York's Staten Island Wednesday when a zebra and a pony were spotted running along a busy roadway after they apparently escaped from a Christmas tree seller.

Part of their journey was captured on video by Zachary Osher, who was busy at work when he looked out the window of his shop and saw the animals on Victory Boulevard.

"Is this actually happening to me, am I finally losing my mind. This can't be happening," Osher told NBC 4 New York he remembered thinking. "This is a zebra on Staten Island. On the street!"

Maybe they need to import lions to control the rampaging zebras.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


A classic idiot trap.
According to, this train trestle is 100 years old, so it was built at a time" when there were no standards for minimum clearance." They are not raising it because the Norfolk Southern Railroad doesn't care: it's their bridge and the only thing they want is to guarantee the safety of their trains. "As far as they are concerned, they solved that problem by installing the crash beam," 11foot8 says. Any potential solution ”like raising the bridge or loowering the road” is too expensive to be worth it. The city of Durham installed warning signs along the three blocks that precede the bridge, but imbeciles keep ramming into it on average once a month.

When the Power is Out, Cash is In

The widespread and ongoing power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy not only left millions of people in the dark but reminded many of us of how useful it can be to have some good, old-fashioned cash on hand for an emergency.

Many ATMs in Sandy's path were rendered useless by the storm. Those that remained in operation often had long lines, and some reportedly ran out of cash. Credit and debit cards weren't of much use either, dependent as they are on electronic store terminals.

So, before the next big storm, it may make sense to round up a little extra cash....
And if things get really bad, it wouldn't be imprudent to have a little precious metal and/or guns and ammo...

Kent County Joins 'Bay Diet' Resistance Movement

The county is a partner in Dorchester County's TMDL Coalition after a 2-1 vote Tuesday night. The initial cost is $25,000.

Kent County commissioners Ron Fithian and Billy Short favored joining, while Commissioner William Pickrum dissented.

The coalition consists of Dorchester, Frederick, Caroline, Carroll, Allegany and Cecil counties, and now Kent, too. Worcester County turned down a chance to join.

Since October, the law firm Funk & Bolton has contacted local governments to line up at least eight partners, and also has contacted Somerset, Harford, Queen Anne's, St. Mary's and Wicomico counties. They have yet to decide.

Dorchester has claimed that the state's plan for pollution reduction is too costly. Conowingo Dam has also come under fire as a source of silt and nutrient pollution when major storms strike. Dorchester's council asked Funk & Bolton to come up with supporting material for lobbying efforts but could not afford the price without partner counties.
There's a lot of money at stake; counties are wise not to give in too easily.

MD Planning to Allow Developers Buy Pollution Indulgences

The state is considering plans to allow developers to pay for enhanced pollution controls on other land as a way to permit them to build in areas that might be off limits under new sustainable growth rules, environment officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Environment Secretary Bob Summers was briefing House and Senate committees on the current state of the proposed sustainable growth regulations requiring developers to offset additional nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads from their new projects.

Senate Bill 236 calls for the Department of the Environment to propose regulations for nutrient offset requirements to account residential growth in just tier III areas (large lot developments) by the end of the month. Summers said a proposal for statewide regulations would not be finalized until next September.
Indulgences were one of the old Catholic Church's policy of selling members the right to sin, in advance, as a way of funding the church (mostly to build new churches if my trips to Italy was instructive).  Among other things, they led Martin Luther to rebel against the church and form his own

Happy Birthday!

To this blog.  Two years ago tonight, just about this time of day, I first set fingers to the the keyboard, got onto blogspot, and started this blog.  It's been fun so far, so I reckon I'll keep at it awhile longer.  Along the way, I have amassed almost 4000 posts, and over 1 million page views, a milestone I celebrated some weeks back.

The subjects are still much the same; whatever interests or amuses me today.  Chesapeake Bay news dissected, beach walks and photography,science politics, weird stuff from the internet, girls (hot or not, but preferably hot), zombies and cavegirls.  I must credit much of my success to Wombat-Socho at The Other McCain, for indulging my silly Rule 5 posts.  Apparently I'm not trying hard enough, it took me almost two years to get a million hits, McCain's the original post promised a  million hits in one year, if you followed his model.  Maybe I should read the other four rules...  Maybe tomorrow.

And now for some staples:

BBC Hides the Naked Truth

 and by "naturists" you should understand "nudists."
British Naturism said that the people of Africa, Ancient Egypt, Australia and other areas of the world would have been naked during many of the periods of history depicted in the reconstructions. But in what is claimed to be BBC censorship, they are shown wearing costumes of animal skin and cloth often dreamt up by the corporation, says the organisation.

The group is now complaining to parliament after the BBC admitted it had been “obliged” to compromise accuracy to take into account “sensitivities” of audiences. It described the move as another example of the “once proud bastion of journalistic integrity, sacrificing its reputation for commercial reasons”.

Malcolm Boura, BN's Research and Liaison Officer, said "It is astonishing that the BBC, that once proud bastion of journalistic integrity, should be sacrificing its reputation for commercial reasons...
Well, at least I have the journalistic integrity to show my cave girls in their natural clothing.  At least, I think think it's natural.  I'm just a proud bastion of journalistic integrity, I guess.

The group said that in the Exodus from Africa, Ancient Egypt, the Minoans, the Caribs, the Australian aborigines, and members of a contemporary South American tribe, the costumes were the product of the BBC censors, not history.

Mr Boura said: "This series is not an isolated case, BBC programmes and the website often self censor to the point of dishonesty.

“Most of the censorship is hidden so without specialist knowledge few people realise what is being done.

"Whatever happened to the BBC's high ideals of education, journalistic integrity, and honesty?

"The BBC considers this conduct acceptable so we have written to the Culture Media and Sport Committee and we are pursuing this lack of honesty through to the BBC Trust as rapidly as possible.”
Offended that the BBC doesn't show the past as a collection of skinny, ugly naked people? It truly is getting to where somebody can be offended by everything. 

Rule 5 Sunday came on Monday this week over at The Other McCain; thanks Wombat! 

San Berdoo Picks Up the Pieces

So what happens after a city goes broke?  Everybody doesn't just pick up and go away (although I'm not sure that wouldn't be a good idea in this case).  Nope, you have to try to figure out what comes next.

Bankrupt San Bernardino cuts $26 million, tries to stay afloat
Saying it had little choice, the San Bernardino City Council voted to cut $26 million in spending in an effort to keep the bankrupt city from dissolving and being governed by the county. The city is already in bankruptcy proceedings and facing a $45.8-million budget shortfall. The $26 million in cuts will help the troubled city stay afloat.

The austerity plan is a required step in the federal bankruptcy process. It freezes vacancies in the Police Department even as the city deals with an increase in violent crime. The Fire Department’s overtime budget also was slashed by 35%. The city already had stopped making payments to CalPERS, the state's public employee pension fund, since filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection Aug. 1, a move city officials estimate will save San Bernardino more than $12 million.
It will be instructive to see how the broke municipalities  deal with bankruptcy, because it's pretty clear the nation is going that direction. Maybe we can find a some tricks to make the process less onerous. I doubt it, but hey, it doesn't hurt to do research.

San Berdoo's official song, "San Bernadino" by Christie

San Berdoo also inspired Frank Zappa to write this song about it:

My first post on San Berdoo's bankruptcy.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Horton Hears a What?

A long article by Tom Horton on lessons he has learned in the "Battle for the Bay"

Some excerpts and my comments..
“Saving the Chesapeake Bay is a test; if we pass we get to keep the planet,” wrote Chesapeake Bay Foundation president, Will Baker, in the foreword to a book I wrote about 20 years ago for the CBF.

The Bay, on the doorstep of the nation’s capital, polluted by all modern humans do, was as good a place as any to learn if humans could exist sustainably with the rest of nature.
At least one leading Bay researcher (writing when he was a bay expatriate in Australia) was a lost cause at least 10 years ago.  There's nothing like hyperbole to get the blood warm...
Myth of Voluntary: It was clear in 2003 that the voluntary nature of the bay restoration was flawed. Our best successes had been the odd instances where we banned something, from using phosphate detergents to catching rockfish.

Only in the last few years was the voluntary model officially abandoned, with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposing a mandatory pollution diet on the states.
Shockingly, I agree.  Commercial fisherman will never set voluntary fishing limits, and polluters will never set voluntary limits  for pollution.  So government action, by force, is necessary. That said, it is therefore incumbent on those making the limits to consider all the consequences of their actions, and to anticipate unanticipated effects, and be able to adjust goals accordingly.  Too strict a limit can be more damaging to the people (and that's what it's all about, right?) than too little in some cases.
The EPA’s action “represents the biggest progress we’ve made in the last decade...goes far beyond what (EPA) has done anywhere else,” said Roy Hoagland, a longtime top official of the Bay Foundation, now a private consultant.

It will be critical to further strengthen the EPA’s hand, as local governments and states bridle at the costs of meeting water quality obligations, and as the Republican leadership in Congress vows to weaken the agency.
As I've said, just recently, the environmental community has become the EPA's lobbying arm, the incestuous relationship where the the EPA pays the environmental community to lobby for more action on behalf of EPA has gotten out of hand.  As for whether  EPA's actions on the 'Bay Diet' will prove as effective as promised?  Well, we'll see, but I have my doubts.
Republican leadership is abysmal, environmentally. Democrats are better, but no longer pushed by Republicans to hold the line or improve. At state levels, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania have shifted back and forth among Democrat and Republican governors; and it was a Republican in Maryland, Robert Ehrlich, who gets credit for funding major sewage treatment upgrades.
Obviously, I disagree.  I think Democrats are concerned with appearances over results; more money being spent means better protection.  Republicans are more goal oriented, and concerned with the cost benefit analysis. That said, some Republicans hold on too hard to the myth of the the long suffering watermen.  Fisheries need research and regulation; history shows that commercial fishermen, if unrestrained and through the opposite of laziness, will wipe out any fishery in time, through ignorance, and the necessity of pursuing a short-term strategy.
Money: We have spent billions on the bay and need to spend more billions. But money, Hoagland stated, has not been the bottleneck stopping more progress.

He suggested it might become the bottleneck as we confront ever more expense with sewage and stormwater retrofits, where we are into areas of diminishing returns for our dollar.
It's too damn easy to call for someone else, usually a large number of someone elses to spend their money on a problem of your own interest.  Others may differ, and they vote too.

And I think we're well into the region of diminishing returns for our dollar.  That doesn't mean we should stop spending on cleaning the bay, but we should damn well make sure that the sacrifices we ask others to bear are worthy.

Frack the Bay!

The boys and girls at the Bay Foundation have taken note of the effect of fracking on gas production, and how it has changed the balance of energy in the US, and how that might affect the Bay

Fracking's Dramatic Impact May Soon Be Seen in Chesapeake Bay
Seagulls sit on the natural gas pipelines of a massive industrial pier that towers five stories over the Chesapeake Bay in Southern Maryland. But there are no workers on the docks of the Dominion Cove Point Liquid Natural Gas pier in Calvert County, because no commercial shipments of natural gas have arrived in more than a year.

The silence here -- with sailboats breezing past, and sunlight glittering off the waves -- could change dramatically, however, if the Dominion company receives approval from federal, state, and county governments for a $3 billion proposal to rebuild the facility to allow liquid natural gas (LNG) exports.

The Chesapeake Bay would have the first LNG export pier in the East. Dominion plans to build equipment to chill natural gas to 260 degrees below zero so the fuel can be more easily transported from Maryland around the world on ships in a condensed, liquid form. As many as 75 tankers a year, each about 1,000 feet long, could arrive to load up at the pier.

“It would be a remarkable turn-around,” said Bruce McKay, Managing Director of Federal Affairs for Dominion (shown at right), as he stood before at the pier’s idled cranes. “There will be thousands of jobs created here, in the community, and across the state of Maryland during construction. It will be one of the biggest capital construction projects in Maryland in quite some time.”
Actually, fracking has already dramatically affect the traffic at Cove Point.  A few years ago, before the fracking boom, when gas prices where high, tankers were arriving there at a rate of one to two a week to off load gas.  Now that the U.S. has become a power house of gas production due to fracking, there is no reason to import gas to the U.S. (at least in those volumes) and the gas docks have become idle once again.

But, of course, not everyone is happy with the growth of the the fracking industry:
The Sierra Club wants to block the project in part because it wants to prevent the export of liquid natural gas, said David O’Leary, chair of the executive committee of the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club.

O’Leary said export would encourage more hydraulic fracturing across the Chesapeake Bay region and U.S.

“Fracking has a variety of air quality impacts,” O’Leary said. “There are water quality problems, from the spills on the surface; possible ground water contamination; and additional greenhouse gas emissions.”
Of course, there has been no reported cases of groundwater contamination due to fracking (and none could occur on the land in question, because no fracking is occurring there), a few surface spills have occurred, but they have not been a signficant source of pollution, and use of natural gas to replace coal in powerplants has actually helped to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the US energy industry.  Really, it's not that they like nature; they just hate people.

They also raise the specter of higher gas prices as a result of gas exports:
Homeowners in the U.S. could also be hurt by higher natural gas and electricity bills if export terminals are built as proposed in Maryland, Georgia, and along the Gulf Coast, according to the American Public Gas Association.

“It is going to hurt natural gas consumers here,” said Dave Schryver, Executive Vice President of the association, which represents community-owned nonprofit utilities, many in small towns across the country.

This assessment is not shared by the Brookings Institution, which released a report in May that said the construction of export terminals in the U.S. would have a positive impact on the U.S. trade balance, and stimulate more gas industry jobs in this country.

Exporting natural gas would likely create more jobs for drillers in the U.S. But critics say it could also undermine American energy independence by shipping overseas a limited natural resource that should be conserved.
A valid argument, up to a point. A wider market could drive the price up, but that would cause more production (if that were to be permitted - on open question given the current administrations antipathy to fracking and fossil fuel production in general.  Prices would seek some level, however, where the people who want gas would be able to attain it.

Breaking Stupid

This guy needs his own TV show.

Professor Paul Frampton Convicted in Denise Milani 'Honey Trap' Case
A court in Argentina has convicted an Oxford educated University of North Carolina professor of attempting to smuggle four pounds of cocaine into the United States.

Paul Frampton, a 68-year-old esteemed professor of physics and astronomy, says he thought he was flying to South America to meet with a bikini model but ended up getting caught in what they call a "honey trap."
I really don't think that honey was what he was thinking about.
Frampton flew to Bolivia from North Carolina earlier this year after communicating with someone who claimed to be Denise Milani, winner of Miss Bikini World 2007. She never showed up.

Instead, Frampton says he was met by a man who gave him a suitcase, identifying himself as an intermediary for Milani, and instructing him to take it to her in Argentina.
Yeah, this guy is brilliant.
Once there, he says he could not find her and decided to board a plane home, with that suitcase in hand. Police opened it up at the airport and found more than four pounds of cocaine inside."

He has a high IQ, is well-known and very distinguished in the field of physics and other scientific areas, but when it comes to common sense he scored a zero," said former DC homicide investigator Rod Wheeler.
It may not be well known, but high IQ doesn't necessarily correlate with common sense.  In fact, I suspect that high IQ is necessarily linked with a trend to buck common sense, if only because it is considered "common."
The Argentinean court sentenced Frampton to serve four years and eight months in custody after prosecutors there presented evidence of text messages they say Frampton sent to the person he thought was the model, saying, "I'm worried about the sniffer dogs," and "I'm looking after your special little suitcase."
That indicates to me that he had some hint of what was actually happening. Unless he thought she was smuggling illegal raisins or something.
The University of North Carolina has cut off Frampton's salary in a move that prompted dozens of his colleagues at the university to sign a letter of protest to administrators.

"As more information about his case becomes available ... it becomes more and more obvious that Paul was the innocent, although very gullible, victim of a scam," the joint letter said.

Many wrote separate letters of reference on a website they created to support the embattled professor, who is hoping to serve his time under house arrest in Argentina at a friend's apartment.

From prison Frampton has said, "It does seem unfair that an innocent scam victim is treated as a professional drug smuggler."
Maybe Denise could come to Argentina and help persuade the judges of his innocence. At least if they're men.

The Ghost Prank

Pretty cruel, especially if you you've seen one of the "Grudge" movies recently.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hurricane Intensity Reaches New Low

Hurricane Sandy was leaped on, almost literally, by left wing politicians and environmental activists as an example of how global warming climate change (what the hell are we calling it this week?) was causing more severe weather.  Fresh from the National Hurricane Center post Sandy (by way of Roger Pielke Jrs. blog, via WUWT) comes this graph of the power dissipation from US falling hurricane systems since 1900:

Individual years are in red, a five year running average in black.  Note that there are large variations, but no overall long term trend.  There are clearly periods of higher activity and lower activity, but even with Hurricane Sandy in the mix, the current 5 year average is the lowest ever.  In no way can it be inferred that global warming is causing increased hurricanes or hurricane damage in the US.

Need to Save Some Money in the Next Budget?

Here's 12 Billion (with a "B").
The Production Tax Credit (PTC), a subsidy of 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour to producers of electricity from wind turbines, is set to expire at the end of this year. The American Wind Energy Association cites a study by Navigant Consulting, claiming that, “…37,000 Americans stand to lose their jobs by the end of the first quarter of 2013 if Congress does not extend the PTC.”

The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club, and other environmental groups have rushed to the defense of the PTC. The Sierra Club states, “At a time when we need clean energy more than ever, we simply cannot afford to let the PTC expire.” The PTC is the cornerstone of President Obama’s green energy program and a key measure supported by environmental efforts to fight global warming.

The Production Tax Credit was established by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 to support the nascent wind industry. But twenty years later, is this subsidy still needed? By the end of 2011, 39,000 wind turbine towers were operating in the United States and about 185,000 turbines were in operation worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. This is no longer an infant industry. Despite the large number of wind towers, wind provides less than one percent of U.S. energy and less than one percent of global energy. A one-year extension of the PTC would cost American taxpayers over $12 billion.
12 billion here and 12 billion there (inflation), and eventually it adds up to real money.  The wind power industry, such as it is, is a mature industry.  It can stand or fail on it's own, without subsidies.

Legislator Accuses Bay Foundation of Turning a Blind Eye

By E. J. Pipkin

2:18 p.m. EST, November 26, 2012

Why does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation refuse to take seriously the threat posed by the Conowingo Dam's inability to hold back Susquehanna River pollution? With respect to the effect of Susquehanna River pollutants, the bay foundation has taken an inexplicable U-turn in its long-held doctrine regarding pollutants and the Chesapeake.

In August, the U.S. Geological Survey reported last year's Tropical Storm Lee contributed 39 percent of the sediment, 22 percent of the phosphorus and 5 percent of the nitrogen flowing through the Conowingo Dam over the entire previous decade. The report also states that there has been a 55 percent increase in phosphorus loading and 97 percent increase in sediment loading over the last 15 years as the reservoir behind the dam has filled with sediment and lessened the Conowingo's ability to keep pollution out of the bay. Given the heavy rains associated with Hurricane Sandy, we can only assume that the problem with excess sediment and nutrients in the Chesapeake Bay's main stem has gotten worse.

As Maryland has pushed bay clean-up efforts to the county level, the counties have begun to question the cost-effectiveness of a clean-up plan if major storms like Lee and Sandy can undo progress. In Cecil County, where I live, the estimated cost of compliance with the Environmental Protection Agency's pollution diet is $600 million. With such a hefty price tag, the counties deserve to know whether the science used to develop clean-up plans is the most effective available and that their efforts will not be in vain...
Conowingo Dam at flood stage.
I think it's a pretty fair charge.  IMO, the Bay Foundation and several similar NGOs tend to act as lobbying organizations for the major governmental managers such as EPA (which, while officially forbidden from lobbying, have a pretty consistent message they manage to project).  NGOs are even invited to sue EPA to get court cases that the EPA would like to have heard, and even trained on how to go about about suing EPA by EPA itself!

The problem Conowingo Dam present is an enormous problem facing the bay, and one which the managers can't find a simple, cheap regulatory solution (which is to say, force someone else to clean up at the point of a gun).  It's a massive money pit, which will need to be born by a few of the jurisdictions involved, the feds, and a few states (Pennsylvania, New York, and Maryland), which nobody is in a hurry to address (at least with their own money).  On the other hand, they can easily go after the agricultural industries 15-20% of pollution relatively easily, by making the individual farmer do it.  If you crucify the first five, the rest of them will likely fall in line pretty quickly.  Even individual counties don't have the full power of the state to resist the power of the federal government to force them to do their part to clean the bay.

So CBF is predisposed to ignore the problem of the filling of Conowingo Dam, because it is not a priority with their client agencies.

That's not to say that agriculture can't contribute to the Bay clean up, but ever since I've arrived in the Chesapeake Bay region, managers have talking about the need to deal with the problem of Conowingo dam filling up.  Unfortunately, much like Mark Twain Charles Dudley Warner commented about the weather, everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it.

More Money in Rodent War

The war on nutria on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is poised to receive a fresh infusion of federal resources for a final push to eradicate the invasive rodent from marshland along the Chesapeake Bay.

U.S. Senate bill 3525, called the sportsman bill, covers everything from the price of duck stamps to the use of lead in fishing tackle. It includes $6 million for nutria eradication and control programs, $2 million of which is slated for Maryland over the next four years. The bill was poised to pass in the Senate on Monday evening, but may not make it through the House of Representatives before the December recess.

Since 2000, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and a group of public and private partners have worked to trap and kill about 13,000 animals on more than 160,000 acres in five counties on the Eastern Shore. The effort is called the Chesapeake Bay Nutria Eradication Program.

“I have to say that the program is going extremely well,” said Jonathan McKnight, associate director of the Natural Heritage Program at DNR. “We’re seeing beautiful marsh recovery.”

Aw, but they're so cute.  So what do you want, more cute, cuddly, fur bearing, edible rodents, or stinky, slimy marshes that nobody wants to go out into anyway?

Virginia Scientist Studies Unexplained Sea Level Rise

While sea-level rise has become an everyday topic of conversation, research by professor John Brubaker of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science is throwing light on another, less-familiar component of sea-level variability. He studies “intra-seasonal” changes between rapid, storm-related surges and the long-term increases due to global climate change.

"These are cases when the water is just 'running high,'" Brubaker said in a release, "but not from an obvious direct cause of a storm. It isn’t necessarily windy, it’s just an elevated water level without a clear cause."

Intra-seasonal variability, which Brubaker says takes place over 10-90 days and can add or detract a foot or more from the predicted tide, is likely due to shifts in oceanic currents and large-scale movements of water masses along the coast.
I've observed such changes before.  Here, you can see some of the variations in this long term tide record from Kiptopeake, Virginia, on the ocean side of the Bay.  There's a lot of variation, larger than the annual signal of long term sea level rise, and on all kinds of time scales.  Certainly, short spikes and dips are caused by short term weather events, but we also see season and even perhaps year long variations from the trend.

Floron Makes Late Bid for Darwin Award

A 32-year-old man who died after downing dozens of roaches and worms last month to win a python at a Florida reptile store choked to death, medical officials said Monday. Edward Archbold died "as a result of asphyxia due to choking and aspiration of gastric contents," said the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office. It said his airway was obstructed by bug body parts, and ruled his death was an accident.

The Darwin Awards salute the improvement of  
the human genome by honoring those who  
accidentally remove themselves from it...

Watch Out Girls!

Lesbian women will steal your men...

Thanks to PJ. Rule 5 Sunday came on Monday this week over at The Other McCain; thanks Wombat! Also picked up by The Classical Liberal for "Cold Shot" Rule 5 Thursday, with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Identify that Tramp Stamp!

Alma Mater Plans Pot Program

or should that be Makes Marijuana a Major?

Humboldt State University launches research institute devoted to pot:
The Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research at Humboldt State University plans to sponsor scholarly lectures and coordinate research among 11 faculty members from fields such as economics, geography, politics, psychology and sociology.

The Times-Standard of Eureka reports ( that one professor is studying recent campaigns to legalize marijuana, while another is investigating the environmental effects of pot cultivation.

"If anyone is going to have a marijuana institute, it really should be Humboldt State," economist Erick Eschker, the institute's co-chair, told the newspaper. Eschker is studying the connection between marijuana production and employment in the county.

The institute is probably the first dedicated to examining marijuana through the lens of multiple disciplines, according to sociologist Josh Meisel, who is leading the enterprise with Eschker. Humboldt faculty started discussing the idea in 2010 when California was preparing to vote on a bitterly contested ballot proposition that would have treated marijuana like alcohol.
As we used to say, repeatedly, on the way to the Arcata Burger Bar "Far out, dude."

Oh yeah, found at Ace's, and not in that newsletter they keep sending me. Oh, you mean I'd have to read it?

Obama's Unrepentant Prisoner of Conscience

...In his first public comments since his incarceration soon after the video gained international attention in September, Mr. Nakoula told The New York Times that he would go to great lengths to convey what he called “the actual truth” about Muhammad. “I thought, before I wrote this script,” he said, “that I should burn myself in a public square to let the American people and the people of the world know this message that I believe in.”

In explaining his reasons for the film, Mr. Nakoula, 55, a Coptic Christian born in Egypt, cited the 2009 massacre at Fort Hood, Tex., as a prime example of the violence committed “under the sign of Allah.” His anger seemed so intense over the years that even from a federal prison in 2010, he followed the protests against the building of an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in New York as he continued to work on his movie script. Until now, only the barest details were known about the making of the film that inspired international outrage.

Of course, we know he was ostensibly jailed for violating his parole for unauthorized use of the internet, and/or using an assumed name in the course of making and "marketing", if that's what you can call uploading a video to Youtube, the video that caused the President of the United States to say:
The Future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.
No word that he supports similar sentiments about Christianity, Buddhism, Animism, Wicca, Zoroastrianism, Seventh Day Absentism (my own sect), or any other ism.

It's also relevant that the administration was  actively trying desperately trying to sell the lie that the attack on the Benghazi consulate that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Stevens, was the outcome of a spontaneous demonstration over the video.  Everybody stops traffic three hours in advance of spontaneous demonstrations, brings along RPGs and mortars, and holds them on propitious anniversaries, all facts well in evidence on the day of the attack.

Snakeheads Celebrate 10th Anniversery in Maryland

10 years after Crofton snakehead discovery, concerns linger
The Frankenfish.

It can walk on land! It can breathe air! It will eat everything in sight!

The prospect of a predatory and toothy invader captivated reporters and gawkers for months in the summer and fall of 2002, making the peaceful west county suburb the center of a frenzied story. The tale of the walking fish garnered attention from as far away as Europe and China. Even Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” got into the act, with Stephen Colbert taking aim at the snakeheads.

“For some reason, it just captured people’s imagination. I think the name, ‘snakehead’ — it’s exciting. It’s like a snake,” said Don Cosden, a fisheries biologist with the state Department of Natural Resources both then and now. “That got people’s imagination.”
Maybe they should have called them "Chinese Herring" instead, to make them sound less threatening.  Capt. Mike Starrett, a friend, and guide in the Potomac River system, is trying to sell the name "Potomac Pike."  Gook luck with that, Mike!

A decade later, where the uproar began, there are no reminders of the Summer of the Snakehead. The privately owned pond where the fish were found sits behind a commercial complex on Route 3. These days, leaves are dropping off the trees into the calm waters. There are no more wanted posters for the snakeheads, no one selling T-shirts, no signs of all the drama. And while the snakeheads were eventually eradicated from the pond — the whole pond was poisoned by the state — they remain an ecological threat to the Chesapeake Bay system.

Snakeheads have colonized creeks up and down the Potomac River, and now they’re spreading into the main portion of the bay and finding more creeks to occupy. “I hate to be a pessimist, but we’re probably going to see them eventually in most of the tributaries to the bay,” Cosden said.
I think that's right. That genie is out of the bottle, for better or worse. Snakeheads are expanding their range and numbers in the Potomac River system, and occasional individuals are caught in odd places, including the Northeast River, the Rhode River, and Point Lookout.  I've even heard an unconfirmed rumor that one was caught in my own harbor this last summer.

The good news is, that to the extent the we can determine, the spread of snakeheads in the Potomac has been relatively benign.  No bait fish has been extirpated as yet, and the favored sport fish of the the tidal region, the largemouth bass seems to be holding it's own, at least so far. But as they say, only time will tell.

Midnite Music - Red, Blonde and Brunette

The Ginger - Caroline Wonderland "Still Alive and Well" - stolen from Bert

The Blonde - Joanne Shaw Taylor "White Sugar/Rude Mood"

and a Brunette - Desiree Bassett "Rock and Roll" (with Sammy Hagar)

A little note on the last one. Desiree was billed as "the best 15 year old guitarist" a couple years ago (when this video was shot). Now at 18 she has been selected to be lead guitarist on the "Michael Jackson" memorial tour. This video takes a while to get to the point. Skip ahead to 1:28 for the start of the song if you want.

Rule 5 Sunday came on Monday this week over at The Other McCain; thanks Wombat!  Also picked up by The Classical Liberal for "Cold Shot" Rule 5 Thursday, with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I Knew That

How Do Porcupines Mate? Very Carefully.

Sunday 11/25/12 at the Beach

We put it off a good while this morning, but eventually Skye wouldn't let me procrastinate any more.  Without the wind from yesterday and the  sun a little more often, the 40 F temperature was much more tolerable than yesterday
I relented and let Skye back off the leash today, and she was, well, pretty good.  You can see for an old dog, she still has "it".  Well, up until she tried to jump a log, blew the jump and hit it square with her chest, and took the wind out of her for a while. After that she walked the rest of the way home.
We got further than yesterday, too, up past the Smiths to where the eagles dwell. I was watching one sitting in a tree, trying to sneak up in case it decided to fly, when a second came in from the bay.
They hung out a while, until I was just ready to get a really good shot, then both of them left.
Not a bad day for fossils; I got 16 sharks teeth, nothing huge, and this Eagle Ray plate that was complete.  The "homeless" gloves are back out for the season.
The mirage was pretty well developed today, with the bay calm and the water and air at pretty different temperatures.  Here is what a ship looked like directly offshore.
And here's what it looked like a few minutes later, after it had turned to go up the next leg on it's way to to Baltimore (or maybe the C&D Canal)

French Girl Sings Like an Angel

Summer's Child, Bad at Math

Pupils born in summer lag behind their older classmates when it comes to maths, a report has found. And children born between May and August are around a third more likely to need extra numeracy tuition, according to the findings.

The report, produced by the Every Child a Chance Trust, studied 47,237 six and seven-year-olds who were among the weakest in their class in terms of numeracy. It found that many summer born children were around 13 months behind the average for their year group in maths.

It comes after a separate study found children with birthdays in the summer are more likely to be unhappy at school, have low self esteem and are less likely to be accepted into top universities.

Children who struggle with numbers are also more likely to be boys, much more likely to qualify for free school meals, to have Special Educational Needs, to speak English as a second language and to come from an ethnic minority background.

But with a short but intense tutoring scheme struggling children can catch up with their peers. After just 3.7 months of support, the children made average gains of 15.7 months.
It's hard to imagine such a massive statistical effect remaining undiscovered until now. It certainly begs the question of what would cause such a large difference, given that kids don't begin to be seriously trained in math until several years after birth, and you would expect any birth effect to be seriously "smeared" by differences in development over that period.

And for what it's worth; I was born in July, and I was not a particularly good student in math in elementary school.  Eventually, somewhere during junior high and high school, I more or less caught up, and  by college, found math to be relatively easy.

Is this some hint of any original seasonality in human reproduction?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Diver Saves Whale Shark

Pretty cool how the shark just swims on as the diver saws through the line.

The 'Futility Report'

The futility of climate change mitigation
Last week, the Virginia-based Science and Public Policy Institute released a report showing, in chart form, the above results of Big Green's dream scenario. The SPPI study sports a cover graphic of a flaming dollar sign and a long title beginning "Analysis of US and State-by-State Carbon Dioxide Emissions," but readers are already just calling it "The Futility Report."

The report's author, Paul Knappenberger, made his assumptions "based on the [United Nations] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports." He ran a scenario in which "the U.S. as a whole stopped emitting all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions immediately," and found that "the ultimate impact on projected global temperature rise would be a reduction, or a 'savings,' of approximately 0.08°C by the year 2050 and 0.17°C by the year 2100--amounts that are, for all intents and purposes, negligible." Under this wild scenario, not only do the rest of the world's new emissions completely replace ours in just 6.6 years, but China's growth alone replaces them in less than 11 years.
Yep, the math has been pretty clear for some time.  The amount of climate change the US alone is responsible for is vanishingly small (under the most optimistic, or is it pessimistic? assumptions), and the means proposed to stop it would be so counterproductive to our economy that there is essentially zero chance of the US following through, at least deliberately.

For what it's worth, the carbon output (footprint if you prefer) of the US has actually fallen in recent years, for two predominant reasons, first, the recession/Obama weak recovery have substantially suppressed the energy requirements of the US.  Second, the boom (and resulting low prices) of natural gas, largely as a result of fracking, has caused a significant shift in electricity production from coal to natural gas.

The SPPI report.  It's short.  Look it over.

Buffies are Back at the Beach

Very reluctantly, I allowed Skye to talk me into going down to the beach this morning.  It was cold, 40 F, mostly cloudy, and blowing like snot, so hard I had to tighten the neck string on my hat.
"Thanks, Dad!  How about letting me off the rope?"

It was a short walk; the way around the cliff was closed by the tide, and I didn't feel like dragging Skye up the steps and around.
Very rarely, the sun would escape through a break in the clouds, and cast a little light.  Unfortunately, never where we were.  By the time we were done, my hands were nearly numb.  Time to get out the "homeless gloves."
Stupid Seagull?  Can't you read.

Do you seen them?  I didn't at this point; I actually saw them as I was getting in the car and came back for the next shot.
The Bufflehead Ducks, our classic winter duck, are back for winter.  I don't care what the calender says; now it's winter.

Utility Plans to Reduce Recreational Access to Patuxent Lakes

As suburban Maryland’s water utility considers how to reduce sediment and pollutants in its two Patuxent River reservoirs, an outside expert has concluded that decades-old horse trails should be moved farther from the water and unauthorized shoreline fishing areas should be closed.

People who use the reservoirs as lakes for boating also should be required to sign affidavits promising not to use their boats in other waterways, the consultant said in a report to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. Doing so, the analysis said, would help ward off invasive species, such as zebra mussels, that can damage intake pipes at water treatment plants.
Rocky Gorge Reservoir
Zebra Mussels are a serious threat to industrial equipment in freshwater areas.  In addition to being in the Susquehanna River, they (or at least one) has been found in the Sassafras River on the Eastern Shore.
The Rocky Gorge Reservoir, which straddles eastern Montgomery County and northwestern Prince George’s, and the Triadelphia Reservoir in Montgomery and Howard counties, provide drinking water for about 600,000 people in Montgomery and Prince George’s. Drinking water for the other 1.2 million people served by WSSC in both counties comes from the Potomac River, but the utility does not own or control the land around those reservoirs.
Down here in "Slower" Maryland, we do not have surface water in sufficient quantities for use as a source for domestic water.  In some ways, that's nice because our well water are free of horse poop, among other things. However, water resources, both surface and subsurface, are becoming limiting, and must be cared for properly.

Rule 5 Saturday - Swedish Meatball - Victoria Silvstedt

For this week's Rule 5 main event, I've selected Victoria Silvstedt.  Born in Skelleftehamn, Sweden, she was an aspiring skier, until an accident at age 16 ended those hopes.

Her mother and sister sent her pictures to the Miss Sweden contest, showing their love for humanity, and the pageant asked her to participate.  In 1993, she was chosen to represent Sweden at the Miss World pageant in Sun City, South Africa.
She began modelling in Paris, and shortly thereafter, came to the attention of Playboy and Hugh Heffner.  She was Playmate of the month in Dec. 1996, and Playmate of the Year in 1997, and has done several other bits with Playboy.

She has stuck with modelling, and has an impressive list of credits, including Guess?, FHM, Glamour, GQ, Hello!, Maxim and Vanity Fair.
More recently, she has tried her hand at acting, and playing in reality shows (they will take anyone pretty, won't they?), and even a bit of singing, although she admits to not taking that very seriously.

A well rounded woman, in more ways than one.

Jersey Shore May Keep Drowned Coaster

The roller coaster that was swept right-side up into the Atlantic Ocean as Hurricane Sandy slammed the Jersey Shore may not be torn down, according to Seaside Heights Mayor Bill Akers.

But Mayor Akers, in an exclusive interview with NBC 4 New York, said he is working with the Coast Guard to see if it is stable enough to leave it alone.

If it is, Akers said it would make "a great tourist attraction."
It looks like a great attraction for fish to me; I'd fish around a structure like that in the water.