Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturd80's: Pop Edition

Playing right now in my favorite coffee shop! Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty, Stop Draggin' My Heart Around:

The Bangles, Walk Like an Egyptian:

Romantics, What I Like About You:

I tend not to be too fond of top 40 stuff, but I have to admit some of it is catchy, and makes me nostalgic.

Warm Water Worries

Dr. Jeff Masters, at the Weather Underground's Wunderblog, points out that the primary area for Atlantic hurricane development is experiencing record sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies.Why is that of importance?
The high April SST anomaly does not bode well for the coming hurricane season. The three past seasons with record warm April SST anomalies all had abnormally high numbers of intense hurricanes. Past hurricane seasons that had high March SST anomalies include 1969 (0.90°C anomaly), 2005 (1.19°C anomaly), and 1958 (0.97°C anomaly). These three years had 5, 7, and 5 intense hurricanes, respectively. Just two intense hurricanes occur in an average year.
And if I'm reading that map right, currently the SST's are 0.5 to 1°C higher than 2005... the year of Katrina. Hurricane season officially starts in a bit more than two weeks, then ramps up over the summer.

I really, really hope they get that damned well capped quickly.

No Wonder They're Always Ranked 50th

Via Pygalgia, I learn that the Governor of Mississippi has a plan to deal with the plunge in tourism revenue.Folks who book two nights at participating hotels and resorts will receive a $75 gas card.

Oil righty, then.

Friday, May 14, 2010

We'll Call You

I'm a little late to this party, but this is a very funny clip by a master of snark, on someone who deserves every bit of snark thrown his way. And more.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Glenn Beck's Nazi Tourette's
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

As Entertainment Goes,

is pretty dull. In fairness, watching anyone that died nearly 30 years ago is pretty dull.

Me Too!

From Facebook friend SD's pictures.

We Hit 80 Today

And it's really very nice. Corvallis often sees a string of days in the 90's during May. By the time we get to late July and August, I'll be acclimatized to the hot weather and it won't bother me too much (over 100 is a different story), but 90's in May hit me like a truck. 80, though, is feeling really nice about now.

Okay, Pretty Much Every Single "Fact" Is a Mistake

but the pictures at Dark Roasted Blend today are very nice, nevertheless.First, I wouldn't call those striations; the bedding is being clarified as the result of differential weathering and erosion. Second, striations (meaning scratches) are not necessarily caused by glaciers, wind or waves. Third, these canyons are not "fed by the Colorado River." They're tributaries of that river, meaning they flow into it, not vice-versa.

Still, the photos are awfully pretty.

Philip K Dick

He makes you work awfully hard, but his stories are haunting. I read an article the other day saying that because of his numerous film adaptations, he's more familiar to younger people than to people of my generation. I look forward to this one. I don't recognize the title, but the themes here are exactly what I would expect from Dick. What I wouldn't expect is a happy (or at least clear) ending.

Mind-Poundingly Idiotic Quote of The Day

Tony Hayward: Lying Criminal, or Complete Buffoon?
"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said.
Via The Guardian. My verdict? Both.


Steve Benson, via OregonLive; two more at the link. Also, from The Far Left Side,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Cat Power Reminds Me of Beth Orton

This is mostly to remind me that Cat Power, an artist Nikki listens to regularly, but whom I had never heard of before, reminds me a lot of Beth Orton. However, if you enjoy talented female vocalists (I have an awful weakness for the human voice, and the female version more so), you might enjoy this. I think this is from her first album, sometime in the mid 90's. Don't make me Google it for you.

Gusher in the Gulf

Tuesday nine days ago, I commented toward the end of a post that The Christian Science Monitor had picked up on the rumors of serious underestimates of the gulf blowout's flow rate. The number from the US Coast Guard- largely unquestioned by the press- has been 5000 barrels per day for the last two weeks or more. BP acknowledged that buckles and kinks in the riser were probably constraining the flow, but that complete failure might lead to rates as much as 10 times that. Based on last Thursday's estimate of 2500 square miles of water covered by slicks, I made a couple of assumptions of average thickness, 1 mm and 0.1 mm. I'm not going to run through my calculations again, but if I remember, came up with estimates of 20 million gallons total spilled (which would amount to about 1.5 million gallons per day average (~35,700 bbl/day) for a mm, and a tenth of those numbers for 0.1 mm. Without more confidence about average thickness, there was no way for me to constrain the rate better... my upper range placed it in the neighborhood of the alarmist position, the lower range near the official numbers.

Based on the videos that BP released yesterday (apparently after resisting either acquiring them or releasing them for the last few weeks), The Guardian is reporting today that another method of analysis indicates that the flow rate- sit down, if you're not already- is around 70,000 barrels per day. 14 times the official estimate. That's a bit short of three million gallons per day, and the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez spill in less than four days. Every four days.
National Public Radio in the United States last night reported that the well is spewing up to 70,000 barrels of oil a day – the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez disaster every four days. Nearly 11 million gallons of oil were spilled in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 when the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground, oiling beaches and poisoning marine life for generations. NPR said scientific analysis of newly released video footage from the ocean floor suggested the gusher was 12 times more powerful than estimates offered so far by the Coast Guard or BP.

Its analysis was conducted by Steve Werely, an associate professor at Purdue University, using a technique called particle image velocimetry, a method was accurate to 20%. That puts the range of the oil spill from 56,000 to 84,000 barrels a day.
I guess the most positive thing I can say is I really, really hope someone screwed up their unit conversions, giving a result four orders of magnitude too high. But I sort of doubt it.

Physorg Newsletter

I get this daily newsletter from physorg, and read basically none of it. It's an aggregator of press releases, and if you've read OTI for a while, you know how I feel about press releases. If not, here's a hint: grrrrr! Unfortunately, I have to remember my password to get them to stop sending the newletter and I don't. So every afternoon, I open it, skim over the headlines, and trash it. Once every week or two, I click through on an article, get angry at PR hacks all over again, and vow to never open anything else from physorg.

Today, it dawned on me I could have some fun with these... I think the links will actually take you to the articles. And while the stories behind them are most certainly real, passage through the mind and keyboards of some of the most scientifically illiterate minds known to man will often distort the story beyond recognition. Don't believe everything you read. Still, I will point out that one of my comments below is actually true. Do you know why mercury has the atomic symbol Hg?

- Nanotube transistor controlled by ATP could improve man-machine communication (Scientists still seeking techniques to improve man-woman communication)

- Building organs block by block: Tissue engineers create a new way to assemble artificial tissues (involves a lot of roadkill around the neighborhood)

- Silver tells a volatile story of Earth's origin: Water was present during its birth (today's trivia: hydro [water]+ argentum [silver]= hydrargentum= watersilver= Hg= mercury. Now you know)

- Mathematicians Solve 140-Year-Old Boltzmann Equation (answer is, unsurprisingly, 42)

- Tibetans developed genes to help them adapt to life at high elevations (Hippies developed jeans for that purpose 45 years ago)

- Aiming to cure deafness, Stanford scientists first to create functional inner-ear cells (Deaf now hear voices of convicts)

- Untangling Facebook, decoding Congress: New mathematical method may help tame big data (genomics and proteomics moved down in grants for computer science research)

- Plant and animal in direct competition for food (next up on the WWF)

- Low oxygen levels prevent X chromosome inactivation in human embryonic stem cells (New explanation for Michael Jackson)

- Why a whiff of cats or rats is scary (if you're a mouse, that is) (well, duh)

- New pathway discovered in cellular cholesterol regulation (Walking it regularly will help lower cholesterol)

- Sun's constant size surprises scientists (If they got out of their darned labs a little more, they wouldn't so frequently be surprised at stuff the rest of us take for granted)

- Feathers too weak for early bird flight (Feathers return home, rest up, get plenty of fluids, and catch later flight)

- Asteroid Caught Marching Across Tadpole Nebula (Ticket issued, and given warning to wait for the green "walk" signal)

Trivial Mistakes Have Non-Trivial Consequences

I was just reading a National Geographic article, which paints a rather gloomy and doomy picture of the ongoing oil spill/leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Here are two passages that stopped me short:
For instance, at the depth of the gushing wellhead—5,000 feet (about 1,500 meters)—containment technologies have to withstand pressures of up to 40,000 pounds per square inch (about 28,100 kilograms per square meter), he said.
The scientists discovered a "tremendous" amount of oiled sediment remained on the Saudi coast 12 years after the spill—about 3 million cubic feet (856,000 cubic meters).
Okay, I get that most Americans don't know squat about the metric system, but that first figure is off by a factor of ten thousand (and kilograms measure mass, not force), and the second is off by a factor of ten. For the first one, try this link; for the second, this one. Granted, the first one is a bit trickier- you have to know that one kilogram under the influence of earth's gravity exerts a force of one newton (and it would be helpful to know that one newton of force applied to a square meter is also known as the unit of pressure called a pascal)- but still. When you get your numbers off by a factor of ten thousand, or even ten, what that says to me as a reader is that you have no comprehension what you're talking about. It also says you make no effort to double check your work. See how easy is to get the right numbers? You can't be bothered to do even that much?

That makes me feel I can't trust any of what you're saying. Yes, those are easy sorts of mistakes to make, but they're just as easy to check and correct. The author of this article is presumably a "professional" "journalist" who actually got paid money for this "job." It's one thing for an amateur or volunteer to have no real idea what they're doing, and make shoddy mistakes, but Nat Geo, your credibility with me has been eroding for some time now. This sort of thing is why.

Immanual Kant

Which philosopher are you?
Your Result: Sartre/Camus (late existentialists)

The world is absurd. No facts govern it. We live well once we truly accept the world's absurdity. YOU give our life's meaning, and YOU control your world.
(see Nietzsche for very closely tied beliefs)
--This quiz was made by S. A-Lerer.

W.v.O. Quine / Late Wittgenstein
Plato (strict rationalists)
Early Wittgenstein / Positivists
Immanuel Kant
Which philosopher are you?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
All together now,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Well, That's a Domed Shame...

Another clip from the site of the leak, this one of the failed containment dome.

From The NYT.

Too Good to Save for Sunday

Okay, this is mean, and something I would never pull on my (or any other) cat. But I have giggled at this several times today, and it just seems to get funnier each time I see it. (From Skull Swap)


A friend of mine and I talked about our favorite euphemisms for puking at one point on a long drive, nearly 20 years ago. And the winners were:
Runner Up: Buick
3: Technicolor yawn
2: Driving the porcelain bus
1: Speaking in chunks
Which all describe how I feel looking at this vomiting forth.

Via CNN, along with an article on yet another "Well gee, we never really thought about how to stop a blowout at this unprecedented depth. You expect us us to think of everything" "solution." And of course the backup backup plan. And the backup backup backup plan.

Hey, I have an idea... let's everyone chip in our used chewing gum and send it to Louisiana... and once there's a big enough wad accumulated, we can shoot that down the hole. Seriously, I hope someone has thought to test golf balls and shredded tires in crude; many synthetic materials are soluble in oil.

Beyond Pathetic

I keep feeling I want to post something substantive on this... but 1) there's just so much to read, that I'm having a hard time keeping up; 2) the situation keeps changing; and 3) I'm so damned angry that I'm afraid whatever I start will collapse into argle blargle murfle blurp. So here's another silly picture.

The Big Picture is Ugly

I've been expecting this, with a sense of dreadful foreboding. Today's Big Picture features 40 large-format photos from the Gulf spill.
I typically don't click on the blacked-out images with "graphic content," a practice that is only really feasible on the web, and one I really appreciate. I don't want to see gruesome and grizzly.
But some of these photos, including the two above, made me wince. Not saying that you shouldn't look at them- you should. This is our fault. We made this mess. We killed these animals. Just sayin' it doesn't make for a pretty picture.

Wednesday Wednesday

Alarmed dolly is alarmed. From Needle and Clay, the same post where I found the creepy Wednesday doll two weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spill Igjen

Spill igjen is apparently Islenska for "play again." I'm pretty sure "spill" must mean "play" because that was the word associated with the start button the first time I watched this incredible video of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption: spectacular Strombolian blasts and projectiles. I thought it was worth the time to spill igjen, and get a screen capture. Below is one from about 41 seconds in. (Hat tip to Al for sending me this link)As you may have heard, our planet's flatulence disrupted European airspace some more this past weekend, but it looks as if the EU is working out its regulatory snarls... necessity is the mother of invention, after all.
But passengers were today still facing long delays to transatlantic flights in and out of Europe and cancellations to destinations in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, the Canary Islands and Madeira because of the continuing ash plume from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
I wonder if our own FAA is paying attention, or if it will take an eruption in one of the contiguous states to figure out how to fly the ashy skies. Actually, since that agency has already had to cope with multiple Alaskan eruptions, I suspect they're better prepared overall than Europe was.

Tuesday Tits

The only thing better than a great tit is a wet great tit. From here.

Not The News I Was Looking For

More later... suffice it to say that the news over the last few days has been profoundly disturbing and angering to me. (Click the pic to endoublify)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Scammed Into The Parrot Sketch

Today has been "International Monty Python Status Day" at Facebook, and many people have been playing the game of posting a Monty Python quote as their status. My most recent was "Lockwood DeWitt rather enjoyed being a newt." Thanks to Jennifer T, though, I also got to see a very funny clip of Nigerian scammers hoist by their own petards.



In early February of 1978, I visited The Grand Canyon for the first time. I hiked down the Kaibab trail to the river and back up the Bright Angel trail during the course of a single day... which is sort of like running a sprint through the Louvre. On the other hand, I didn't know much about what I was seeing at that point. I did read the interpretive signs, and learned a lot. Upon returning to Ohio, I learned that I had broken my leg about ten days earlier (greenstick fracture, so it wasn't as big a deal as it could have been). Not too many people can claim they hiked to the bottom of, and back out of, The Grand Canyon in a single day on a broken leg.

I don't know whether the above has been modified; I do know that sunset colors in places like this can look other-worldly. This is from the south rim looking north. I'm not seeing the crystalline inner canyon rocks (often referred to as Vishnu Schist, but I think that's one of several of the Precambrian crystalline rock groups). Above the river you can see the eastward (right) tilted Grand Canyon Group, then above those, the horizontal Paleozoic package- or at least the lower part of it. Photo from Flickr. There are two larger sizes, the next of which is lovely, but the full-size version looks like it would choke my computer.

I Thought "Talk Like A Pyrite" Day Was in the Fall

Okay, Okay, not bad, but I'm synclined to say this only manages to whet my apatite. These guys have only managed to break the crust of the very rich ore of this particular variety of puns. Not that I've ever gotten to the core of the matter myself, nor that I'm trying to claim the mantle of champion geopunner. But I suspect I'm less of a greenhorn blende than these two. (Via Geology Rocks)

What If They Called a Lahar And Nobody Left?

A lahar is generally described as a "volcanic debris flow." They can be triggered by volcanic activity, but active volcanism is not a necessary component.May 18, 1980 lahar covering highway at the Toutle River. The bridge was wiped out.
USGS Photograph taken July 1, 1980, by Lyn Topinka. (Large version, archived here)

So the above, from St. Helens 1980 eruption qualifies as a lahar, and so does the following, which was not associated with an eruption:Photo of the debris flow at Newton Creek, Mount Hood, 2006. This debris flow turned and flowed down Highway 35, destroying several miles of highway (photo from Bill Burns, 2006) (Large version, archived here)

Volcanic arcs, such as the Cascades, tend to have numerous composite stratovolcanoes. Those two modifiers- composite and strato- refer to the fact that the volcanoes are made of layers (strata) of differing rock types (composites). Volcanoes of this type tend to be tall and steep. Volcanic rocks tend to be heavily fractured, and to weather rapidly compared to many other rock types. Combine this with increased precipitation due to orographic effects, and it becomes obvious that lahars are a natural and inevitable consequence of volcanic landscapes. Eruptions can trigger them by shaking or by rapidly melting large amounts of snow and ice, or they can be triggered by something as innocuous as a fall rain (like the Mt Hood example) or spring snowmelt.

Debris flows are a well known hazard throughout the more rugged parts of the Pacific Northwest, but they are of particular concern in heavily populated areas on the western drainages from the Cascades. And nowhere is the concern greater than the northwest flank of Mt Rainier. A test of a debris flow monitor and alarm system failed there; it turns out the wrong audio file was loaded. The report says it has been fixed.

I say get a kid with an Ipod to double check (and maybe get his/her recommendations for an alarming audio file as well), then test it again. This one's too important to bollix it up.


Oops... totally forgot this: Saturday was the second blogoversary of Outside The Interzone.Thanks to the many, many visitors and webby friends who have made this an engaging and rewarding project! You make it a real pleasure. And thanks to Interzone for being my home away from home.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I Love the Smell of Napalm in the Mid-Afternoon

A dark day in my little hamlet... (Corvallis to Albany is about 9 miles straight-line distance, as measured in Google Earth.)
...most of the rest of the Willamette Valley, and fair-sized chunks of the Coast Range and Cascades as well. (Eugene to Salem is about 62 miles, or 100 km)
The above images are from a Google Earth-based online app that allows you to overlay the size and shape of the Gulf Coast oil spill on whatever area you want to wish the disaster on. Or more reasonably, to get a better sense of scale in the context of an area that's more familiar to you. All in all, it looks as if maximum N-S extent is about 100 miles, and E-W about 150 miles. Of course, the spill is irregular, so its total area is less than those two numbers would imply- about 2500 square miles. On the other hand, if I'm reading the linked site and the resources it's based on correctly, the data above are based on Thursday's observations. So I'm sure it's significantly larger by now.

...And One More

Found at Mule Dung and Ash, this might actually be a good idea to implement at western European Airports for the next few months to years. You may have heard that more airports were shut down during the past week. Ireland and Scotland I know were shut down for at least a part of a day, and I think I saw that Spanish and Portuguese airports were threatened, though I don't know what, if anything, came of that.

Sunday Funnies

Hawking up another weekly batch of funny...FuckYeahAlbuquerque
Skull Swap
Bits and Pieces
Bits and Pieces

Some Guy With A Website (Copyrighted, click over)
I Can Has Cheezeburger
The High Definite
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
demotivational posters
see more demotivators
The Bahston Tea Pahtty? Non Sequitur
The Daily What
Friends of Irony
Hacked IRL
David Tennant
see more Lol Celebs
Odd name for a goose... Probably Bad News
moon landing
see more Political Pictures
Via Alphaville
Big Fat Blog
Savage Chickens
Sober in a Nightclub
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
Bits and Pieces
pro-life protester
see more Political Pictures
Via The Daily What; can be ordered here.
I Has A Hotdog
Bits and Pieces
Chuck & Beans
The Daily What
i can count to potato
see more Autocompletions
The Daily What
Señor Gif
I Has A Hotdog
demotivational posters
see more demotivators