Friday, August 8, 2008

Louie, Louie and Tricky Dicky

According to I'm Not One to Blog, But... this is the 45th anniversary of The Kingsmans' "Louie, Louie." I first heard it in the movie "Animal House," and fell in love with it immediately. The Animal House version was by a diffferent group, but this sounds just fine.

A bit of trivia I was pleased to learn: The Kingsmen were from Portland. Why is it that a group (or anything, for that matter) from a nearby place somehow seems more important, and how is it that I feel more of a sense of ownership and pride in this wonderfully silly song now that I feel a geographic connection to it?

Another anniversary, probably more important as far as those stodgy old historians are concerned, is that on today's date in 1974, Richard M. Nixon resigned from the presidency. Say what you will about Tricky Dick (and I've said plenty), but I'd trade Shrub in for him in a heartbeat. I'd even trade Cheney for Agnew. Probably.

And, oh yeah. I guess the opening ceremony for the Olympics is today. Whoopee.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lighting and Economics

Couple of interesting stories in ALDaily today. Arts and Letters Daily puts up three selected links each day. Often they aren't of interest to me, but often enough I find some real gems amongst their choices. Their home page also has a slew of links to interesting and engaging stuff.

The first story is on lighting. I was just talking to a friend here at my favorite coffee shop about the forecast that we might get a thunderstorm tonight. In fact, the weather forecasters mention that just to cover their butts: maybe one time in 15 or 20 that they predict thunderstorms do we actually get any here on the valley floor. But the Coast Range and the Cascades do get much more violent weather than we do, so the butt-covering forecasts are not just teasing to people that live in more rugged terrain. Growing up in Ohio, summer thunderstorms were the one part of the season's weather I looked forward to. I miss them here- are summers are dry, dry, dry. We actually had a few minutes of drizzle in the early morning, about 6:00, late last week, and the sound and smell were delicious to me, even though there wasn't enough rain to more than dampen the pavement. So I miss lightning, and this article was a fun read for me. I would take issue with some of the author's science factoids, but they're minor in context. An aspect that I enjoyed is that much of the narrative takes place in the Georgian Bay/Parry Sound area of Ontario, Canada, an area in which I've spent a fair amount of time.

The second story is on "what we know for sure" in the discipline of economics. I took the intro year of econ as an undergrad, a decision I've never regretted. That series didn't leave me strongly knowledgeable about econ, but it left me with a strong enough background that I can understand journalism aimed at an educated layperson, and with a little effort, unravel the logic behind the conclusions that experts come to without explaining intermediate steps. The author here is clearly a follower of Friedman's free-market-is-god school of thinking. As I've noted before, I'm a strong supporter of free-market ideals, but in it's current incarnation (in my opinion), the main cause of free market failure is the fact that it's too easy, in fact accepted and promoted, to exclude and ignore real costs that don't have an immediate free market dollar cost, but that do impose real costs down the line. For example, cutting down a stand of trees interferes with the availability of clean water. But that cost is not figured into the cost of producing lumber. A coal fired power plant produces enormous amounts of carbon dioxide that is interfering with our ability to count on a consistent climate, but as things stand now, those costs are ignored.

With all that said, the article on economics was quite interesting to me, in that while I recognized I was inclined to disagree with the author on many points at a fairly fundamental level, I found myself for the most part agreeing with his basic conclusions- there were a couple that I have a hard time accepting, but again it gets back to what essentially amounts to philosophy as opposed to empiricism. I don't think on these points he's relying on empiricism as much as he thinks he is- there is less consistent agreement then he seems to be claiming amongst experts. Nevertheless, if you are interested in economics, and you should be, I recommend this article. I have purposely omitted the points I take issue with, but I would be interested in your take.

Late-Summer Ice Cubes

Late last spring, scientists were predicting a 50-50 chance that the North Polar area could be ice-free at the end of the Arctic melt season (mid-September). That would be the first time in recorded history such an event occured. Last year's minimum ice extent was an enormous record, with vast areas that had never been ice free in the past exposed as open water.

The August report from National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is now available, and it appears that this year's melt back will not be as severe as last year's. The average area considered ice-free (maximum of 15% ice) since 1979 is 8.88 million square Km; this year the ice free area is 7.71 million square Km. Last year at this time, the ice free area was 6.82 million square Km. Couple of interesting pictures: a map shows the ice cover as of August 1 compared to the average, and a diagram shows the historical average of ice coverage by date compared to this summer and last summer.

In other news, a British scientist warns his country to prepare for a 4 degree Celsius rise in temperature (7.2 F). According to the article, this would be roughly equavalent of moving the climate of Morroco in Northern Africa to Great Britain.

Hope your Hummer has air conditioning.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008


A week from today, the Perseid meteor shower will peak. This year the show will be somewhat compromised by a gibbous moon. The glare from the moon can wash out all but the brightest meteors. However, the moon sets at about 2:00 AM; after that the viewing should be good.

Like other meteor showers, it's not a one night show. The number of meteors will slowly ramp up over the next days, peaking Monday night and Tuesday morning, then taper off over the following week. The hours between sunset and midnight see fewer meteors, but the ones that are visible tend to be quite spectacular as they skim across the upper atmosphere. They tend to be more numerous and shorter lived after midnight. does a good job of following these sorts of events, and posts pictures (sometimes even videos; today there's a short clip of a fireball over New Mexico; use the archive tab upper right on the page to get to August 5) and skywatching tips for you. Another good resource is NASA's 2008 Perseid Meteor Shower page. The sky maps you see on pages such as this can be a little misleading; the meteors don't necessarily start in the constellation Perseus, but if you trace the paths of the streaks back, they tend to radiate from that direction. Keep an eye out!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Because Sharing is Nice

As I mentioned recently, I've figured out RSS, and I'm very happy with it. You can get your own RSS reader from Google here. The benefit, basically, is that it puts all the blogs and websites effectively onto one page, so you're alerted when something new is posted, and you don't have to browse around to figure out when and where new posts have gone up. The downsides, which are minor in my opinion, are that one, often there's quite a lag (up to a couple of hours) between posting and showing up in the reader, though often it only takes a few seconds for new items to show up. Two, you often get only the introductory lines, or pictures/embedded videos don't show up so you still need to click over to the full post. Three, you don't get the full formatting of the site, nor all the site's links and other extras, just the content of the posts. So if you follow others' links or enjoy their sidebar features, you still need to click over to the site itself to access those items. Four, ditto comments. You need to go to the site to read and post comments.

But another item of interest, which I'm about to start exploring is "shared items." Any post showing up in the feed can be marked as of interest- "starred." This allows the user (me in this case) to mark things that are longer than I want to deal with at any particular moment, for example, but to go back and find it quickly and easily. I can also mark it as "shared." All shared items get posted to a page called (oddly enough) "Lockwood's Shared Items." If you click on that, it should take you to that page. These are generally things that I think are interesting enough to write a post on, but when all is said and done, either don't have the time or motivation to post. If you generally enjoy the stuff I post here, you'll probably generally enjoy the items I've shared. Do you have a shared items page? Let me know in comments.

Followup: Okay, interesting. Apparently, the items are posted in the order that I clicked on them to share. And just as with the feed, many of them are just the first couple of lines- if you're interested in reading the full post, you'll need to click through to the original posting site. And it seems only 10-12 items get posted per page, so you need to look at a number of pages to see the whole list. Have fun!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Press "Enter" to Continue

I'd rather press "Return" and just do the last 8 years over. From Spook and Muffin's Relaxed Politics.

What Our Spider Friends Teach us about Drugs

At first I thought I had been shown this video in 6th grade during our illegal drug unit. Now I'm not so sure. I don't think crack was around then.

So Long Mom (A song for WW III)

Tom Lehrer is not as well known now except amongst us older folks- even I'm a bit young to know his music as well as I do, but my father had a number of his albums. I grew up loving his dark, acerbic, and very funny satire. On the original album, he introduced this song by saying, "Every really great war has had really great songs. I figured if we wanted songs for World War III, we'd better start working on them now." Somewhat dated (Huntley-Brinkley was the evening news team of the mid-60's) this gung-ho ditty shows Lehrer at his best.