Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Beach

Unlike yesterday's clear skies, today was completely overcast, and thunderstorms are in the forecast for the afternoon.  However, the clouds have the temperatures down, so even though to humidity is up there, it was a pretty tolerable day to walk the beach
An Osprey was hanging around the harbor mouth, doing some hunting.  Ospreys are nesting now, and the chicks require a lot of food.  Life for Osprey parents is almost non stop fishing, not so bad except that it requires crashing into the water head first from many feet up.
 Despite the other Bay scientists promise of a "low anoxia year" we appear to have had a bit of a "crab jubilee" here caused by low oxygen.  There were many crabs in the surf line, as well as a variety of fish, including a Red Hake, Skilletfish, pipefish and others.
Georgia poking around for shark's teeth.  Today was the monthly count of teeth, and we had over 150 for June. Pretty good, although I've had single days that good (over course, I walked almost 6 miles of beach to do it).
Skye showing off her new all body harness system(to make it easier for us to hold her up).  It looks awkward, but she put up with it pretty well
Not a good sunbathing day, but there was one mother/daughter combo out walking the dog.

What Color is the Sunset on Your World?

Apparently, Mars has blue sunsets all the time. Earth doesn't...

So here's our question: Why are Martian sunsets blue?

On Earth, the air is mostly nitrogen and oxygen. We've also got moisture, dust particles, smoke, aerosols, pollen, salt from the ocean. The atmosphere on Earth is denser — meaning there are more molecules per cubic inch in our air.

Martian air, by contrast, is much, much thinner, about 1 percent the density of air on Earth, plus the gasses are different: they've got CO2, nitrogen and argon, but most important, says Mark Lemmon, associate professor of planetary sciences at Texas A&M University, air on Mars is rich with teeny, teeny particles of dust. Their dust is smaller than our dust, and they've got more of it in the Martian sky. Dust is the key to why the two sunsets look different, so we'll be keeping our eye on Martian dust.

Let's stand facing the sun on Mars. It's early evening. The sun is setting. Light is streaming toward our eyes, moving through the dusty air. What happens?

Sunshine, as you know, contains many different wavelengths of light. If you catch a beam of light in a prism (Newton did this) it breaks into a rainbow of colors — reds, violets, blues. When the sunshine on Mars hits the clouds of fine dust floating through the air, it also breaks into different colors. Martian dust is exactly the right size to absorb the blue wavelengths of light and scatter red wavelengths all over the sky. That's why if you are standing on Mars and look away from the setting sun, most of the sky is rosy, pink, and various shades of red.

But now look straight at the setting sun. On Mars, the beams of light streaming toward you, having lost their red waves, show the wavelengths that haven't scattered off. That remaining light is predominantly blue. So when you look straight at the sun on Mars, you see a haze of blue. Look away from the sun, and the light is red.

Newton's Beads

Not, not a Renaissance sex toy...

The Box

Midnite Music: Lord, Take Me Down Town...

...I'm just lookin' for some tush.  Grace Potter and her band The Nocturnals with Warren Haynes do the ZZ Top classic:

Linked by Wombat-Socho in the "Rule 5 Monday: Independence Day Weekend Catch-Up Edition" at The Other McCain.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Does Pollution Poison Hurricanes?

Scientists from Britain's Meteorological Office have fingered a new suspect in their attempt to solve the mystery of tropical storms. It is, unexpectedly, air quality.

If North Atlantic hurricanes are more destructive or more frequent, it may be linked to lower levels of atmospheric pollution. Conversely, sulphate aerosols and other particles from factory chimneys, vehicle exhausts, domestic fires, power stations and other human economic advances may have played a role in keeping tropical storms under control, at least a little, during the 20th century.

Climate scientist Nick Dunstone and fellow-researchers at the Met Office's Hadley Centre in Exeter, Devon, report in the Nature Geoscience journal there is at least circumstantial evidence that aerosols play a more significant role in the storm cycle than anyone had expected.
Yeah, what is this "circumstantial evidence?"
Using climate simulations, the scientists were able to match storm records and predictions from 1860 to 2050 with recorded and predicted levels of atmospheric pollution, and identify an effect.

Through much of the 20th century, the Nature Geoscience paper suggests, aerosols actually suppressed the hurricane forces by cooling the ocean waters. It was not possible to match specific storms with a particular level of aerosol pollution, but in general there seemed to be less frequent tropical storms during periods of greater aerosol discharge.
Ah, climate simulations!  The same climate simulations that consistently over predict the amount of warming based on CO2 increases?  Those models? When the models can correctly predict the temperature rise, get back to me on any other applications for them.

A Bad Half Day Fishing...

...Is still better than a full day working. 

Trevor and I met at the boat a little after 8 AM for fishing.  The sky was overcast earlier in the morning, but was breaking up into partially cloudy and sunny day, and got sunnier as the day progressed.

A view of Calvert Cliffs I don't often show, with the morning sun.  Note the many layers of sediment that form the cliffs.
Fishing was, well, to be strictly true, pretty awful.  No decent striped bass, although we tried all our common holes, and some not so common.  We could have fished for 12 inch fish (below the 18 inch legal limit) at the head of the CCNPP discharge, but that gets a little boring, and your bound to kill a few if you keep at it.  We did however, find a few small croaker (shown at left) and large spot out a ways.
We saw another boat struggling with an anchor, and we went over to see if there was a problem.  It turned out the guy had snagged a huge lost anchor with his own, and was trying to figure out what to do.  He didn't want to throw it back, as a possible hazard, but it was all over grown with barnacles and other fouling, and he didn't want to take it on board with his wife and kids and clean boat... We offered to take it, and he let us.  It's a charter boat sized Danforth anchor with 50 ft of heavy chain. I'll probably scrape off most the the junk and take it to the local marine consignment shop and try to find it a new home.  It's way too heavy for me.
 There was a huge pod, school, flock of cormorants hanging around the power plant, more than I've ever seen before.  This is just a small group of them to the outside. There must be a decent amount of small fish around to attract them like that.
After 4 hours of beating the water for fish, we finally gave up and headed for the harbor.  Still a pretty nice day, although the temperatures were heading up near 90, and the humidity was up in the annoying, but not oppressive range.

Addicted to Donuts?

Can You Be Addicted To Carbs? Scientists Are Checking That Out
Fresh research adds weight to the notion that certain foods (think empty carbs like bagels and sweet treats) can lead to more intense hunger and overeating.

Fast-digesting carbohydrates can stimulate regions of the brain involved in cravings and addiction, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Prior studies have shown that highly desirable foods, perhaps a cheesecake or pie, can trigger pleasure centers in the brain. But what's new about this research is that it shows that even when people are unaware of what they're eating, the intake of fast-digesting carbs can activate parts of the brain associated with pleasure, reward and addiction.

To evaluate this, , director of the obesity prevention center at Boston Children's Hospital, and his colleagues conducted brain scans in 12 overweight men after they consumed two different kinds of test milkshakes.

Both milkshakes had the same number of calories and similar ingredients, but one contained more fast-digesting carbs and the other was made of slower-digesting carbohydrates. The here is that so-called high-glycemic index foods such as sugar and highly processed breads move through the body faster than low-glycemic index foods such as fruit and whole grains.

After the participants drank the rapidly digesting carb shake, their blood sugar spiked and then crashed four hours later. And it's at this point that researchers documented activation of a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens, a small area that is involved in emotions and addiction. Ludwig told The Salt: "The scans showed intense activation in brain regions involved in addictive behavior."
I find this to be likely, although to call it "addiction" is kind of extreme.  Food containing sugar triggers pleasure centers; fast food triggers them more rapidly and for a shorter duration.  These pleasure centers are evolved to help us respond to natural stimuli, including food.

Addiction is a similar but more extreme response to an inappropriate stimulus, usually a drug which has no intrinsic value to the system, and for which the system was not evolved to cope with in a manner helpful to the continued survival of the organism.

To equate the pleasant feeling derived from a donut to addiction to something like an opiate is absurd.  And I say this as someone who likes his donuts...

Rule 5 Saturday - Helena Bonham Carter - Red Fairy Queen Godmother

This weeks Rule 5 study is Helena Bonham Carter, prompted by desperation, and the news (via Famous for being Famous in Wombat-Socho's daily "Live at 5" at The Other McCain) that she has been chosen to play the Fairy Godmother in Kenneth Branaugh's new take on the old fairy tale "Cinderella."

Helena seems well suited to the role of a supernatural creature, have played the evil/mad "Bellatrix Lastrange" in the various Harry Potter flicks, the Red Queen in "Alice in Wonderland", the voice of Emily the corpse bride in "The Corpse Bride", and Elizabeth Frankenstein.

Along the way she has also play more human roles in "Fight Club" (1999), "Novocain" (2001) (with Steve Martin) and "Till Human Voices Wake Us" (2002) (NSFW links).

More Miss Bonham Carter below.

Friday, June 28, 2013

NRA T-Shirt Charges Dropped

Over the past two weeks or so, we've seen several cases of overreaction to gun images on the part of school officials, including the case of the West By God Virginia 8th grader facing possible jail time for wearing an NRA T-shirt bearing a picture of an "assault" style weapon to school. Today we find that the school and local law enforcement, probably warned that forbidding such things at school was illegal under current Supreme Court doctrines, and possible a huge law suit from the parents, supported by angry first and second amendment enthusiasts, has buckled and dismissed all charges:

The West Virginia eighth-grader arrested after refusing a teacher's demand he remove a National Rifle Association T-shirt he wore to school won't face criminal charges after all:

Jared Marcum, 14, was charged with obstruction following the April 18 incident after police who were called to Logan Middle School school said he refused to stop talking. The case generated national headlines, as Marcum's family and attorney, Ben White, claimed the demand that he remove the NRA shirt violated his right to freedom of speech. On Thursday, Logan County Circuit Judge Eric O'Briant signed an order dismissing the charge.

"It should have come sooner but it's done and we don't have to have that concern anymore about him having a criminal record."

- Allen Lardieri, Jared Marcum's father

Marcum's mother, Tanya Lardieri, told WOWK that she was overcome with emotion after signing a dismissal order relating to the charge. The boy’s father, Allen Lardieri, said the couple is just glad Eric’s legal troubles are behind him
 Yep, that was a stupid charge to begin with.

Midnite Music - My Fun

A new discovery for me, Dark Water Rising:

Charly Lowry, cute and talented. More here. 

Wombat-socho at the Other McCain lists this in his all encompassing list of Rule 5 posts for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: Taylor Swift, We Hardly Knew Ye."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

This Could Come in Handy on a Busy Day at "Location X"

Story here.

Snakehead Range Expansion Continues

A report from the Eastern Shore puts the northern snakehead — that slithery, toothy Frankenfish introduced to Central Maryland by some ecological saboteur a decade ago — in Marshyhope Creek, suggesting that the invasive species has moved beyond the Potomac River, across the Chesapeake Bay and into the Delmarva Peninsula.

Apparently, these bad boys like to swim as much as they like to eat.

Or, here's another theory: Some scoundrel caught a few snakeheads on the Western Shore, transported them across the Bay Bridge and stocked them in either the Marshyhope, east of Hurlock, or the Nanticoke River into which it flows.

Joey Love, snakehead expert with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, subscribes to the latter theory, but acknowledges the possibility of the fish's natural expansion. "We are currently investigating the genetics of the populations to determine if we can decipher which hypothesis has some legitimate support," Love says.

Either way, Frankenfish expansion probably isn't good news for the Chesapeake ecosystem. The state still thinks they should be fished hard and eaten often.
While the authorities continue to fear the "Frankenfish", fisherman have been coming to terms with them:
In fact, Austin Murphy, who fishes for them regularly — and passionately, with a fly rod — says he sees the region becoming a destination fishery for people who like to go after big, aggressive species. Snakehead could even provide a modest economic boon to Maryland.

Murphy, founding director of the coming weekend's Potomac Snakehead Tournament, likes to stand on an elevated platform of a boat, in the manner of guides who scout bonefish in the Florida Keys or redfish in South Carolina. He only casts to snakeheads he can see.

"I like a cloudless sky, bright sun and the middle of the day. ... It's an obsession with me. A typical day might be 25 shots to snakeheads within my [casting] range, and out of that maybe five or six fish will chase my fly, and out of that I might get four hookups, and out of that I might land two. And that's a good day."
I have a snakehead fishing trip scheduled with Capt. Mike in August, and I hope to be able to report back on their fighting ability and their tastiness.

Dolphins Do Twenty Two

Dolphins Cheerleaders do Taylor Swift's "22"

Linked at Proof Positive's weekly "Best of the Web Linkaround." Wombat-socho at the Other McCain lists this in his all encompassing list of Rule 5 posts for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: Taylor Swift, We Hardly Knew Ye."

Washington DC Reverts to the Wilderness

A young black bear that was tranquilized and captured in a Northwest D.C. neighborhood Wednesday morning has been released to the wilderness in the western part of Montgomery County, the Washington Humane Society reports.

The Washington Humane Society posted a video of the bear being released to the wild on its YouTube page.

Poor little guy, probably took a wrong turn at Hancock.  I know it's happened to me. It could only have improved the city.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hernandez Making 'Big Ben' Roethlisberger Look Good

Aaron Hernandez was ordered held without bail Wednesday afternoon, formally charged with first-degree murder in the death of a Dorchester man last week. Hernandez, 23, who had been released earlier in the day by the New England Patriots after his arrest, was arraigned in Attleboro District Court on charges of murder and carrying a firearm without a license in the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd.
Lloyd was found shot dead in a field less than a half-mile away from Hernandez’s home on Monday, June 17. Investigators say Hernandez shot Lloyd twice and when he fell to the ground, Hernandez allegedly stood over his body and shot him three more times. Authorities say .45 caliber shell casings were recovered at the scene. Police have not found the weapon.
All Ben was accused of was rape.

Chesapeake Wildlife Can't Go It Alone

Two stories today about rescue of cute and charismatic fauna in the Chesapeake Bay.

Sea turtles returned to the wild at Point Lookout
A crowd gathered on a Point Lookout State Park beach Saturday afternoon to watch seven sea turtles saunter into the water after going through months of rehabilitation.

The turtles, one green and six Kemp’s ridleys, were celebrities if for only moments as their handlers released them amid cheers and a barrage of photographs from gathered beachgoers...

A particularly cold 2012 season stunned sea turtles in record numbers, according to the aquarium. The aquarium in Baltimore helped by taking in 13 sea turtles for rehabilitation last December.
Ooops, there's that global warming again, killing our sea turtles.

Eaglet rescued after recent storm destroys nest on Jamestown Island
While the recent quick moving storm was mild for humans, the area lost a young eaglet after it and a sibling were blown from their Jamestown Island nest.

Staff at the Historic Jamestowne Visitors Center, who had a good view of the nest from the parking lot, spotted one fallen nest and chick the evening of June 13. They emailed Stephen Living, a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Living knew another eaglet was likely affected. The department had banded the birds about two weeks before the storm. He went out the next morning and spotted two eaglets. "We found both birds on the ground, both mobile," he said. "There were no obvious injuries to either bird."
When a center veterinary examined the chicks, one was "quiet and not standing," the center's update notes. The vet placed it in an oxygen chamber, but it died the following afternoon. The center sent tissue samples to an outside laboratory for diagnostics. Staff suspects "capture myopathy," which it defines as a metabolic condition associated with stress.

The other eaglet, weighing almost seven pounds, is doing fine, outreach director Amanda Nicholson said. At first it was reluctant to eat offerings of chopped rats, but has since "decided our food is good enough," she said. It is now eating whole rats and fish.
But, but, who is going to teach it how to ambush Ospreys and steal their food?  I hope it's instinctive.

I have mixed feeling about wildlife rescue, especially when performed by government agencies.  Life in the wild is a brutal business and natural selection works it's magic thereby.  Saving a lucky individual doesn't do much to thwart it, but it certainly doesn't help, except to breed animals dependent on humans.

I love my local eagles, and I'd probably do what I could to get one in trouble on my beach rescued, but frankly, Bald Eagles aren't endangered here, and in fact, it seems like there is not enough space for our locally breed eagles to settle, and they are force to look further afield for territory.

Kemp's Ridely sea turtles, on the other hand, are critically endangered.  Keeping just a few more alive might help determine the survival of the species, which was mostly threatened by hunting, trawling, and habitat loss.

Maryland Scientists Try to Ride Sea Level Gravy Train

Saying climate change is already underway, a panel of scientists is urging Maryland officials to plan to accommodate rising seas of up to 2 feet along the state's shoreline in the next 40 years — and perhaps nearly 6 feet by the end of the century.

In a report to be released Wednesday and commissioned by Gov. Martin O'Malley, the group of 21 scientists from Maryland, Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states said recent, more sophisticated studies suggest that sea level is rising faster than forecast just five years ago.
It's far from obvious that climate change is occurring; currently global temperatures have been stagnant for up to 17 years, depending on what set of temperature numbers you choose to believe.  Even "true believer" global warmists are starting to express their doubts.

However, yes, climate changes constantly. Any view of earths' climate history longer than a single lifetime shows that the earth's climate is always in flux.  The only only question is what direction it will go when the "thermo-pause" ends.

As for the concern about sea level rise; yes, the sea level has been rising since we've been measuring it, at a more or less constant rate close to 1 foot per century; there is simply no convincing data that suggest that sea level rise is actually accelerating:

To get beyond these simple facts you have to assume that warming will pick up again after the pause, and start to melt large volumes of continental (i.e. Greenland or the Antarctic) ice.

However, we do need to justify the damage we will do the the economy with the war on fossil fuels, and the wasted money on so called "green" energy.

If the threat of global warming is so severe, I propose to zero out all the other environmental projects and support the state provides and devote it only to climate change.  Do you think they'll approve?

There Goes My Second Post-Career Choice

Some first class Japanese weirdness here.

A three-piece robot rock band called Z-Machines has taken to the stage in Tokyo, Japan to perform with pop group Amoyamo.

Guitarist Mach, drummer Ashura, and keyboardist Cosmo are creations by Zima, a Japanese alcoholic beverage brand, as a part of a new advertising campaign.

The band performed their debut piece Monday, "Post People, Post Party," composed by Tokyo-based DJ Tasaka.

DJ Tasaka says he had a disco-electro type song in mind before seeing how technically sophisticated the robots were.

"So then I wrote a new song, a much more complicated piece thinking, take that," says DJ Tasaka, "but then they were able to play it."

DJ Tasaka says the three robots in Z-Machines have the ability to create sounds that are impossible for three human musicians to mimic.

Mach the guitar robot, for example, has 78 fingers using 12 picks and the drum robot Ashura plays 22 drums with six arms - many more than the average human.

Cosmo, the keyboard robot, was designed separately by Yoichiro Kawaguchi, an artist and professor at Tokyo University.

It's the only robot out of the three that does not have a physical mechanism of playing an instrument. Instead, it is electrically wired to the keyboard.

That's just cheating...

Wombat-socho at the Other McCain lists this in his all encompassing list of Rule 5 posts for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: Taylor Swift, We Hardly Knew Ye."

So Chris Christie Goes Wading...

...and they get Tsunami-like waves along the NJ coast

I'm sure you've seen the ads, at least if you live on the East Coast.

It's a cheap, fat joke, but at least it's all mine...

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"Many Parts of a Pine Tree Are Edible"

They just don't taste good, or have much nutritional value...

Feasts are afoot in area forests
Walk down any nature trail, field or patch of woods in the Fredericksburg area, and you pass by a veritable feast of edible plants.

But most people don’t know the difference between the edible and tasty false nettle, and poison hemlock—both of which grow along the Rappahannock River.

So, Hal Wiggins, a local environmental scientist, and Lytton J. Musselman, a botanist and professor at Old Dominion University, spent three years researching not only which common plants along the East Coast are good—and safe—to eat, but also where to find them, and how to identify and cook them.

The result is their new book, “The Quick Guide to Wild Edible Plants,” (Johns Hopkins University Press, $18).

“It’s just the essentials for people who want to go out and forage,” said Wiggins, who has spent much of his career prowling area forests and waterways as a scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ field office in Fredericksburg.

The book includes more than 50 edible plants, separated by category: greens, starches, grains, flowers and sweets. There are pictures for easy reference and recipes.
The title quote, of course, refers to the old 1970s Grape Nuts advertisements by Ewell Gibbons, a "natural food expert".  I wasn't able to find the "pine tree" quote ad, but here's another favorite,  "reminds me of wild hickory nuts".  Having several wild hickory trees in my yard, I am reminded that it's virtually impossible for anyone other than an Eastern Gray Squirrel to open a wild hickory nut, and actually gain energy from the encounter.  And they don't taste like much (although the pecan is a cultivated, thin skinned hickory).

I was told by a white guy in Australia that he went for a walk with an aborigine in the outback, one of the most desolate areas I've ever seen, and came back fuller than when he left. People can eat and digest a lot, and with a little work, a many apparently poisonous plants can be made into useful food sources (Indians Native Americans in California consumed many acorns, which would be toxic if consumed unprepared.

One song for the road:

Maryland Reports Lower Pesticide Use

A new statewide report shows pesticide use among farmers, public agencies and commercially licensed businesses is down in Maryland, but some pesticide opponents are wary of the findings.

The voluntary survey completed by the Maryland Department of Agriculture released May 28, states the amount of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides used in 2011 was about 4.7 million pounds, about 50 percent less than the 10.5 million pounds used in 2004. The survey focused on commercial pesticide use and did not include residential users.

The department received 3,434 responses to the survey. Certified public applicators accounted for 49.6 percent of responses, farm operators 24.9 percent, and licenses commercial applicators and public agencies accounted for 19.4 and 6.1 percent, respectively. According to the report however, just 856 farmer operators out of the 12,800 in the state replied to the survey, meaning the report showed results for 7 percent of all farms in the state.
Some were not impressed:
Ruth Berlin, director of the Maryland Pesticide Network questioned how many pounds of pesticides are being used by the farmers who didn’t respond.

In response to these concerns, Berlin said the Maryland Pesticide Network supported a bill that originally would have required all major pesticide applicators in the state to submit their annual use in a database. State licensed pesticide applicators are already required to keep records of pesticide use at their place of business, but the state doesn’t collect them. This database could then be used to help scientists find links between pesticide use and its effects on the Chesapeake Bay as well as cancer and autism clusters found in certain communities, Berlin said.

“This (current) voluntary, once-every-five-year survey only provides a small sampling of applicators - only about 20 percent of farmers - and does not provide needed information on what pesticides have been used, when and where needed to help public health experts and scientists looking at possible links between pesticides used to disease clusters or problems in the Bay,” Berlin said.
FWIW, I worked with the Maryland Pesticide Network for a few years. I agree that commercial pesticide use should be reported and data based, and that residential pesticide sales should be reported by area.  It looks like Ruth's effort to get such legislation passed has been at least partially successful:
The original bill was met with much opposition from the farm community, but an amended version, the Pesticide Reporting and Information Act SB 675 and HB 775, was passed in the 2013 state legislative session. The amended version requires a group of state lawmakers to meet after July 1 to decide on whether a statewide database will be implemented or not. A decision about the format in which data should be collected in, recommendation on how data should be collected and whether or not legislation will be needed to implement the data collection system must be reached by December 31, Berlin said.

No, No, No! Not Silvio!

Berlusconi convicted in sex-for-hire trial

My hero, Silvio Berlusconi, has lost his trial on charges of soliciting under age prostitutes.  He forgot the rule, 17 will get you 20!  When renting women, it's important to get the proper age.

A Milan court on Monday convicted former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of paying for sex with an underage prostitute during infamous "bunga bunga" parties at his villa and then using his influence to try to cover it up.

Berlusconi, 76, was sentenced to seven years in prison and barred from public office for life — a sentence that could mean the end of his two-decade political career. However, there are two more levels of appeal before the sentence would become final, a process that can take months.
At 76 he should be resting on his laurels, and getting his staff to vet his performers better, not going to jail.
Berlusconi holds no official post in the current Italian government, but remains influential in the uneasy cross-party coalition that emerged after inconclusive February elections.

Both he and the Moroccan woman at the center of the scandal have denied ever having sex.
Uh huh, and I have a bridge to sell...
His lawyer, Niccolo Ghedini, immediately announced an appeal and said the sentence was as expected as it was unjust...
Really, it's not fair; starting at about 14, girls dress and get made up like they're 21.  Once they get over about 21, they try to maintain that appearance.  Maybe, to be fair to men, we should insist that their birthdays be tattooed on their...
The charges against the billionaire media mogul stem from the "bunga bunga" parties in 2010 at his mansion near Milan, where he wined and dined beautiful young women while he was premier. He says the dinner parties were elegant soirees; prosecutors say they were sex-fueled parties that women were paid to attend.
Potato, po-tah-toh...
Neither Berlusconi nor the woman at the center of the case, Karima el-Mahroug, better known by her nickname Ruby, have testified in this trial. El-Mahroug was called by the defense but failed to show on a couple of occasions, delaying the trial. Berlusconi's team eventually dropped her from the witness list.

El-Mahroug did testify in the separate trial of three Berlusconi aides charged with procuring prostitutes for the parties. She told that court that Berlusconi's disco featured aspiring showgirls dressed as sexy nuns and nurses performing striptease acts, and that one woman even dressed up as President Barack Obama.
I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.  That was not at all the image I had of Silvio.  He definitely needs to get a better class of aide. 
Berlusconi was not in court on Monday. The three female judges deliberated for more than seven hours before delivering their verdict. Their written explanations for arriving at the verdict will be submitted in the next few weeks.
Three female judges?  That just ain't fair. How could a man possibly get a fair trial with three women judges?
Berlusconi frequently has railed against Milan prosecutors and judges, accusing them of mounting politically motivated cases against him.
I expect they did; politics ain't bean bag.  It's not like you didn't buy them the ammunition, and paint a target on yourself.
El-Mahroug, now 20, said in the other trial that she attended about a half-dozen parties at Berlusconi's villa, and that after each, Berlusconi handed her an envelope with up to 3,000 euros ($3,900). She said she later received 30,000 euros cash from the then-premier paid through an intermediary — money that she told Berlusconi she wanted to use to open a beauty salon, despite having no formal training.
Not bad pay for a night's work.  Beats catching crab in the Bering Sea.  And I'm sure she has spent days on her own beauty routine; it shouldn't be that hard to branch out to others.  When I was 17, I worked at a wholesale tropical fish dealer.  I got paid 5 bucks an hour to count, and bag fish to send to Japan, and I was pretty happy to get it.
She was 17 at the time of the alleged encounters but passed herself off as being 24. She also claimed she was related to then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Berlusconi's lawyers argued that he — thinking el-Mahroug was indeed Mubarak's niece — called police after she was detained in a bid to avoid a diplomatic incident.
Actually, a pretty decent article on Karima here.  You can imagine how she actually got caught up in all this, although the pictures tend to make the matter clear, too.  She was clearly having a good time giving Berlusconi and others a good time.
El-Mahroug denied that Berlusconi had ever given her 5 million euros ($6.43 million). She said she told acquaintances and even her father that she was going to receive such a large sum "as a boast," but that it was a lie to make her seem more important.
So she's not an expensive call girl, just a middle priced one?
The verdict garnered intense international media attention with half a dozen TV satellite trucks taking positions outside the courthouse. The verdict comes on the heels of Berlusconi's tax-fraud conviction, which along with a four-year prison sentence and five-year ban on public office, have been upheld on a first appeal.

The tax-fraud case is heading to Italy's highest court for a final appeal after Berlusconi's defense failed to derail it last week at the constitutional court.
Good; at least one more post to go  I'd hate to lose Silvio; he's been a mainstay!
Berlusconi, who has been tried numerous times relating to his business dealings, has been convicted in other cases at the trial level. But those convictions have always either been overturned on appeal or the statute of limitations has run out before Italy's high court could have its say.

The sex-for-hire case is the first involving his personal conduct.
Given the slow pace of Eye-talian justice, I may need to hold back some pictures for the appeals process...  Previous posts on the continuing Berlusconi comic opera:

Eye-Talians Hava da Besta Scandals
Bonus Berlusconi!
Bunga Bunga, Berlusconi!
Buono Berlusconi!
Berlusconi Forever!
Our Man Berlusconi...
Berlusconi Defense: I Did It For My Country!
Say It Ain't So, Silvo!
Silvio! Silvio!
Tiring of Italy, Burlesconi Set His Sights on Argentina
But, But, But, Berlusconi!
Go, Go Silvio!
Way to Go, Silvio!
Oh No, Silvio!

Wombat-socho at the Other McCain lists this in his all encompassing list of Rule 5 posts for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: Taylor Swift, We Hardly Knew Ye."

Now That's a Bad Trip

A 41-year-old man from Columbus, Ohio, is recovering after, police say, he ripped off part of his penis while high on hallucinogenic mushrooms. The man was found naked, screaming and bleeding heavily at Ypsilanti Middle School at around 1:00 a.m. Tuesday morning by officers who were responding to a burglar alarm.
It's a miracle that there are any intact men left at HSU.

Monday, June 24, 2013

We're Saved!

Hostess is betting on a sweet comeback for Twinkies when they return to shelves next month.

The company that went bankrupt after an acrimonious fight with its unionized workers last year is back up and running under new owners and a leaner structure. It says it plans to have Twinkies and other snack cakes back on shelves starting July 15.

Based on the outpouring of nostalgia sparked by its demise, Hostess is expecting a blockbuster return next month for Twinkies and other sugary treats, such as CupCakes and Donettes. The company says the cakes will taste the same but that the boxes will now bear the tag line "The Sweetest Comeback In The History Of Ever."

Hot and Muggy at the Beach

It's a bright, sunny, windless, and intensely muggy day here in Slower Maryland.  Which is not too bad for beach walking, especially if you get started early (and wear a white shirt!).
 Skye headed straight for the water to cool off; the fact that it offered a little buoyancy was a plus.  Georgia was poking around in the shallows for fossils (we found a few, maybe 20?). 
There was lots of life in the shallows; minnows running away from you, and Sea Nettles, our nasty stinging jellyfish putting in their first big appearance.  Usually, we consider the 4th of July the target date for their arrival, so this counts as an early start to jellyfish season.

We even saw a few crabs.

The Ospreys are out and about.  Here one carries a fish back to shore to eat. 
There were other fishermen out as well.  For a small skiff, this one is set up with a lot of trolling power.
We even made the acquaintance of a new neighbor today, Shelby, a 5 month old English Sheepdog/Standard Poodle cross, whose owners are renting a cabin down by the beach.  Being a puppy, Skye put up with his bounciness for a while...

Good Neighbors, Friends More Help Than Government

A poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that after the storm in New York and New Jersey, friends, relatives and neighbors were cited the most often as the people who helped them make it through.

People overwhelmingly said the Oct. 29 storm brought out the best in their neighbors, who shared generators, food, water and other supplies. Far fewer said they found help from federal or state governments.

Stranded in her darkened 20th-floor apartment in Brooklyn's Coney Island with two small children, Irina Medvinskaya was feeling desperate in the bleak days after the storm. The elevators stopped working. The food in her refrigerator spoiled.

Without the help of friends and family — particularly her boyfriend, who lugged full water-cooler bottles up the stairs — she doesn't know how she would have survived.

"People who can bring you food and water, and walk up 20 floors?" she said. "That's family, not FEMA."
Your friends and neighbors are with you for the long haul, maybe even life.  Your government gets paid to help and leave, and hopefully take your vote.  They have no personal investment, nor should they.  We risk a lot by allowing the government to become our surrogate friends and families.

Greedy Africans are Eating Our Gas

Found at Watt's Up With That, who also noted:
The United States is using 40 million acres of cropland (Iowa plus New Jersey) and 45% of its corn crop to produce 14 billion gallons of ethanol annually. This amount of corn could feed some 570 million people, out of the 1.2 billion who still struggle to survive on $1.25 per day.

This corn-centric agriculture is displacing wheat and other crops, dramatically increasing grain and food prices, and keeping land under cultivation that would otherwise be returned to wildlife habitat. It requires millions of pounds of insecticides, billions of pounds of fertilizer, vast amounts of petroleum-based energy, and billions of gallons of water – to produce a fuel that gets one-third less mileage per gallon than gasoline and achieves no overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Gasohol sucks.  It's a bipartisan outrage.  Oh, and on aid to Africa?

Smart and good looking.  Too bad she was born in Zambia; she would make a better president than the one we have.

EPA: Peer Review for Thee But Not For We

The Environmental Protection Agency declines to have outside experts review its study claiming water contamination from fracking in Wyoming. Why confuse an analysis based on ideology with the facts?
In 2011, the EPA released the non-peer reviewed report on Pavillion in which the agency publicly linked fracking and groundwater contamination for the first time. However, then-EPA administrator Lisa Jackson stated that there is "no proven case where the fracking process itself has affected water."
First, the contamination was found in two "monitoring wells" drilled by EPA outside of town, not in water wells that actually supply residents their water. EPA use of "dense soda ash" to drill its monitoring wells into a hydrocarbon-bearing layer probably skewed the results.

According to the industry research group Energy in Depth, "dense soda ash has a recorded pH (11.5), very similar to the level found in the deep wells, creating the possibility that the high pH recorded by EPA could have been caused by the very chemicals it used to drill its own wells."
Well, yes, soda ash is strongly basic.  I don't know why it would be used in drilling fluid (I'm sure there's a good reason), but it would certainly result in high pH being recorded from the monitoring wells until they were well flushed.
What the EPA report doesn't say is that the U.S. Geological Survey has detected organic chemicals in the well water in Pavillion for at least five decades, long before fracking was done. The deepwater wells that EPA drilled are situated near a natural gas reservoir.

Encana Corp., which owns more than 100 wells near Pavillion, says it didn't "put the natural gas at the bottom of the EPA's deep monitoring wells. Nature did."
As, indeed, the whole point of fracking is to get to the the hydrocarbon bearing layers and get the gas out. It should be no shock when monitoring wells also encounter them.

Peer review isn't perfect.  Even performed well, it tends to be kind of uneven, with a few experts honing in on problems not foreseen by the studies authors, and some glossing over them, and focusing on others.  However, not being willing to subject the study to peer review suggests that the EPA doesn't trust peers to come to the "right" conclusion.

Here, Kitty...

Last Thursday, a woman in Charlestown, Indiana and her boyfriend stayed up all night, armed with a rifle, to hunt down whatever it was that had been attacking small animals in her neighborhood. After spotting and shooting a creature prowling in the shadows by the woman's pool, they were shocked to find that they'd just killed a leopard, an animal that's not native to North America, much less Indiana.
 I hope she was using something bigger than a .22 long rifle.  There are lots of stories about wounded leopards that have bad endings.
The woman, who didn't want to be identified, mentioned the story to her friend and neighbor Donna Duke, who then told ABC affiliate WDRB about the strange kill. Officials at the Indiana Department of Natural Resources confirmed that a leopard had been found on the woman's property. Duke said the woman was worried about a recent streak of attacks against cats and dogs in the neighborhood.

"She's got cats that are basically her family," Duke said. "She was trying to protect her babies.”
A panther is like a leopard
Except it hasn't been peppered
Should you behold a panther crouch
Prepare to say "Ouch!"
Better yet, if called by a panther,
Don't anther.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Showers at the Beach

When we woke up this morning, we were surprise to find it raining, a nice soft, but definite rain, the kind that's especially good for the garden
We got a pretty decent break in the rain in time for our walk on the beach; we even had some sun for a little while, and then light showers again.
It was a pretty good morning for shark's teeth; we had 17, nothing awesome, but some nice. 
Skye was doing well for two days in a row; she even lobbied for the trip.
A clump of Day Lilies, escaped from cultivation, emerging from the Kudzu vines on the cliff.

Chesapeake Bay - Less Dead in 2013

Forecast: Smaller Bay dead zone this summer
Scientists expect a smaller than average hypoxic level in the Chesapeake Bay this year, according to a forecast from researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The forecast calls for a mid-summer hypoxic, or low oxygen, zone of 1.46 cubic miles, a mid-summer anoxic, or oxygen-free, zone of 0.26 to 0.38 cubic miles, and a summer average hypoxia of 1.108 cubic miles, which are all at the low end of previously recorded zones. Last year, the final mid-summer hypoxic zone was 1.45 cubic miles...
That's a 27% improvement!  Four years of that, and the bay will be all clean again, right? 

But wait, there's more...

Kelsey said the estimates are based off the amount of nutrients that are entering the Bay, and what people do in the watershed to reduce nutrient concentration will hopefully have an effect on the amount of nutrients and low-oxygen waters that reach the Bay.

But, he said people taking care of their local watersheds and the surrounding land only helps hypoxia levels so much, as weather is still a large cause of hypoxia zone variability.

If there's more river flow from the Susquehanna and Potomac rivers due to higher rainfall, there are generally higher nutrient loads coming from point-sources of pollution, like sewage treatment plants, which is what the hypoxic and anoxic levels are responding to, he said...
So, what's being said here, albeit in an understated manner, is that the interannual variability of the size of the dead zone is largely caused by weather, and that any improvement in the yearly "dead zone" problem from pollution control is a small incremental effect imposed on a wildly swinging signal.
He said hypoxia zone awareness is important during hot summers, because the fish won't want to be near the top of the water because it's too hot and won't want to be in the hypoxia zone because they can't breath, so it limits the area they will swim in.

When that happens, he said it also limits the area the fish can hunt for prey.

As for how large 1.108 cubic miles is, Kelsey said, "If you can image a mile ... in one direction and make a right angle so that makes a square and go up into the atmosphere one mile, that's a big cube. That's a big volume, and that's what we're talking about."
It's interesting that every news report I could find on this gave the size of the "dead zone" in units of cubic miles.  Now, a cubic mile is a lot of water, but it's not a unit that most people are familiar with.  I would think the number would have more scare value expressed in trillions of gallons of water, or something else with tons of trailing zeros  (the entire volume of the bay is approximately 18,000,000,000,000 gallons).  Why not teaspoons or milliliters?  I guess maybe the image of the mountainous cube of water was irresistible  

Just to put this in scale, taking the surface area of the bay 4,480 square miles, and it's average depth of 46 ft , we can calculate the approximate volume of the bay, which turns out to be about 39 cubic miles.  So the size of the "dead zone" is about 2.8% of the volume of the Bay this year.  That is certainly a perspective you'll never see publicized, because it make is look small in comparison, and that is not the desired message.

That's not to say it is not important.  Bottom area is important as well because that's where much of the biota live.  But again, the anoxia only covers about 5% of the bottom area of the bay, only the deep channels.

A Trick for the Next Dog

Wombat-socho at the Other McCain lists this in his all encompassing list of Rule 5 posts for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: Taylor Swift, We Hardly Knew Ye."

Do You Really Want to Understand Global Warming?

It's a long slog.  Stick with it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Supermoon over Chesapeake Bay

Well, close.  Trevor and I went fishing after dinner.  Fishing was OK, not great, 9 croakers, 2 spot and one legal rockfish (striped bass). The near Supermoon came up while we were out. The real thing occurs tomorrow.

Back to the Beach, Again

We slept in late, and skipped breakfast to get down to the beach a little earlier than usual.  It's really a gorgeous day here in Maryland, warm but not humid, and almost perfectly clear.  Skye was happy to get back to "her" beach.
Not much noteworthy, other than this large Mako Sharks tooth that Georgia found.  That one went right onto the "top shelf" in the kitchen to enjoy gloating over for a while.
We pretty much beat the crowd to the beach, but people were starting to arrive just about the time we left.

How to Remove McAfee Antivirus

From the $#!* Ted sends file, NSFW, language.

Wombat-socho at the Other McCain lists this in his all encompassing list of Rule 5 posts for the week, "Rule 5 Sunday: Taylor Swift, We Hardly Knew Ye."

Rule 5 Saturday - What Amber Heard

This week's lucky winner of my intensive Rule 5 treatment is Amber Heard.  The reason?  Do I need one?  Anyway, I didn't know who she was before I read this article:  On Older Men, Younger Women, and Moralistic Claptrap: Hugo Schwyzer owes Johnny Depp an apology,  trashing this article :  What If Men Stopped Chasing Much-Younger Women? wherein we find that Johnny Depp, an ancient at 49, is "dating" (IYKWIMAITTYD) Amber Heard, a near spinster at 27.

And as long as we're at it, why don't we make pi = 3.000 ad infinitum; it would make the math so much easier.

Miz Heard, a Texan from the liberal colony of Austin, is noted, at least according to Wikipedia (and cited in the first article):
...declared herself an atheist after being introduced to the works of Ayn Rand by her then boyfriend. She has said of Rand, "I've read all of her books. Ever since then, I have been obsessed with her ideals. All I've ever needed is myself." Dropping out of school at the age of 17, she went to New York to start a career in modeling, then relocated to Los Angeles to get into acting...  Heard came out in 2010, at GLAAD's 25th anniversary event... She has said about her sexuality: "I don't label myself one way or another—I have had successful relationships with men and now a woman. I love who I love; it's the person that matters.

Which would make her the Austin version of a free thinker.

Amber has been in some 23 films since she began in 2004 with "Friday Night Lights", including such other artful pieces as "Alpha Dog" (2006), and "The Informers" (2008) (NSFW links) and a part in Zombieland, quite possibly the best zombie movie ever.

Anyway; best of luck to Johnny Depp for this.