Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Little Avrora Update
Ice Age Cave
The bear that left a 3-foot-long claw mark in an Ice Age clay bank was the largest bear species ever to walk the earth, about 6 feet tall at the shoulder and capable of moving its 1,800 pounds up to 45 miles per hour in a snarling dash for prey.
The claw mark by the extinct giant short-faced bear still looks fresh today in a southwest Missouri cave that some scientists are calling a national treasure -- an Ice Age time capsule sealed for thousands of years.
Discovered accidentally five years ago on the outskirts of Springfield, Riverbluff Cave is slowly yielding its fossil treasures as a small team of scientists and volunteers gingerly explores it while trying to preserve a rich bed of remains, from bones to tracks and dung.
"We found 5,000 microfossils in just one 1-foot by 2-foot block of clay," said lead paleontologist Matt Forir, the naturalist for Springfield-Greene County Parks.
Remains in the cave date back at least 830,000 years and possibly over 1 million years. At some point at least 55,000 years ago, it was sealed by rocks and mud until a construction crew blasted a hole in one end while building a road in September 2001.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Putin's Hunger Gets More Apparent
In his annual phone-in dialogue with Russian citizens, televised live on October 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed extending the stationing of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Ukraine’s Crimea beyond the 2017 legal deadline. Moreover, Putin obliquely cast doubt on Ukrainian sovereignty and security in the Crimea and farther afield by purporting to offer Russian military guarantees to that sovereignty and security.[emphasis added - DT]
Putin was answering pre-arranged questions from nine locations in Russia plus Sevastopol in Ukraine. Dwelling at length on two questions from Sevastopol regarding Russia’s Black Sea Fleet based there, Putin replied (Interfax, October 25): “Russia…is ready to negotiate an extension of the timeframe of our Fleet’s presence there… I expect that we can resolve all these issues in a constructive dialogue on the governmental level, the ministerial level. Such negotiations are ongoing.” He also hinted at “difficult internal political processes” in the Crimea and alleged “Slavic”-Tatar tensions there.
Putin carefully couched his proposals in terms seemingly respectful of Ukraine’s sovereignty, though reminiscent of Soviet military assistance offers to then-“fraternal sovereign countries” at their “request.”
Well, it's getting more and more blatant with respect to the xUSSR repbulics what Putin thinks and what he plans. Ukraine is merely the latest example. I could easily see a situation where Putin - or his successor - could engineer a crises or three to fracture Ukraine. He could then develop a horrible misnamed 'frozen conflict' such that Eastern Ukraine and Crimea - possibly more of the Black Sea Coast - would end up having another vote like what was done recently in Transdniestria.
That Europe is merely twiddling its thumbs and looking the other way is disgusting. I had such high hopes for the EU to help Ukraine into membership, but its behavior since the Gas War has done little to acquit itself well.
Africa's Climate is Definitely Changing
Everywhere is hotter (+.5 C average already).
The North is getting drier.
The Equator is getting wetter.
The South is getting wetter too.
(multimegawatts are tres kewl).
Friday, October 27, 2006
More Watery Evidence from Mars
First results from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter provide provocative new evidence that there were diverse watery habitats capable of supporting life on Mars eons ago. MRO is also finding evidence of recent Martian climate changes only hundreds of years apart that could influence Earth climate studies.
MRO is being operated at the red planet, about 240 million mi. away, much like U.S. National Reconnaissance Office imaging satellites are operated over Earth to look at military intelligence targets. Lockheed Martin, which is commanding the spacecraft, is using the experience and software heritage it gained during decades of secret U.S. national security space operations, as well as other Mars missions, for effective MRO commanding with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
The initial findings result from the first few dozen images acquired by the $720 million mission during a week of intensive instrument checkout this month in the new 186-mi. science orbit reached after five months of complex aerobraking.
In addition to new data on potential watery habitats for ancient life, the early information is also likely to become a factor in climate assessments about Earth as well as Mars. MRO has already found unexpectedly narrow banding in the north Martian polar cap, providing a window into periods of rapid and somewhat recent climate change on Mars (see top photo). The data should help researchers address issues such as global warming on Earth, where there's debate about whether rapid climate changes are affected by human activity--no factor on Mars.
Novarchosaurians for Greenland
Those that have been following my blog know I've been pondering what to do with Greenland since the world is acookin and Greenland might, well, become truly green again. I have been making some noises about parts of Greenland to use as a seed ecology for the ultimate resulting giant island. It's a giant gedankenexperiment and a fun one at that. If I ever got rich, perhaps it would really be doable. For now...let's play a little.
Something to note is that until the the crust rebounds from all that ice being on it, Greenland will cease to be an archpelago. This makes it a little difficult for some critters to cross around, especially with the sea level rise, but then island would ultimatley rise above the waves as a very large one like it appears now. Plus or minus a bit.
So, the question is, what would I want there? Critter wise? Obviously, nothing can live there without the tinkering that I desire, but...we'll do that and go from there. After all, even with the climate change, these poor critters are going to be living oh-so-far from Kansas, so to speak.
Very importantly, what sort of environment am I going to try to construct? As in what sort of ecosystems are we talking about? There are three that I am aiming for right now. The first is a coniferous forest with a heavy handed dose of ferns and fern trees. I'd like to toss a few fruit and nut trees of sorts in there too, but we'll see. The second is the marshy ecosystem that has an awful lot of derived bamboo and lilypads. The third is a grassland with a fair amount of ferns and some self surviving variants of our cereal crops mixed with more traditional grasses.
Well, I am a bit of a fan of our archosaur rivals. There's something majestic about the long legged bipdeal strides of the long gone dinosaurs. Unfortunately, they're gone. Permanently. And there's not much we can do about that. However, we could 'help' them get a leg up on the next ecological shift around. Call me a traitor to the synapsids, but the thought of a rodent derived world ecology is dull, overused, and annoying. The primary problem is that I want these guys to be flightless. That means we either do away with the wings or turn them 'back' into arms. I think for the herbivores, we'll do away with the wings to be like the kiwi (bird, not fruit, ya twits). For the carnivores...MWAHAHAHA. So what are the base stock for these novarchosaurians, you wonder?
The herbivores are first. I have been watching some Canadian Geese that we have near our apartment. They've stopped migrating! It's a common problem all over the SF Bay Area. However, when Avrora was chasing them on one of our walks in the evening, it seemed to me that these guys would be very impressive as moa/sauropod surrogates. If you scaled them up. so, some wingless, downy-during-the-winter gobsmacking sized geese are our tree top browsers. Their legs have been upgraded to being a wee bit elephantine - have to be with a neck that reaches up 30 feet. There are five smaller forms that range from std goose size all the way up to the 20 foot high tree browsers (the biggest is the monster sized goose at 45 feet high, so there are a total of 6 species). All are wingless and get fluffy during the winter. The bas stock was either Canadian Geese or Hawaiian Goose.
Our next novarchosaurian herbivore actually comes from the NorAm Bobwhite Quail. This one gets scaled up quite a bit and turned wingless as well. The largest ones are the size of dog, call it 50 lbs. There are five species that differ in size and food. One of which is the size of the original bobwhite.; second, 5 lbs; third, 10 lbs; fourth, 25 lbs; and the last at 50 lbs. All slightly different niches.
The third novarchosaurian herbivore is derived from a SoAm bird, the mysterious Hoatzin. We'll upscale these ones to be our primary novarchosaurian grassland grazers. They already have a unique gut that is very reminiscent of a cow's. The largest that we will aim for is a about 200 lbs. This is basically our 'cow' or perhaps our 'deer'. sorta. The stinkcow, I suppose. lol. I hate to de-winging them though. They crawed already, as juveniles at least, and it'd be nifty to have a herbivore able to fight back against the novarchaurian carnivores. We'll go for five sizes: 2 lbs, 20 lbs, 50 lbs, 100 lbs, and 200 lbs.
The last herbivore to be introduced here from novarchosauria is a modified emu. No wings at all. Adapt them a bit to the cold. We'll make three sizes, one smaller and one larger.
That brings us to our carnivores that comprise greenland's novarchosauria. I have been a big fan of the terror birds for some time. I find them fascinating and, honestly, a little saddened that we missed 'just' seeing them. They were competitors with the Indians here soooo...they got wiped out prior to the European civ arriving here. They were nature's second, Cenozoic attempt at a theropod. We have three different base stocks to derive our novarchosaurian predators.
The first base stock we'll adapt is the Secretary Bird of Africa. We'll adapt the wings to have 'hands' - two fingered ones and lose the flight capability. They are already 4ft 3 in tall. We'll scale them up to two, three, and four times that in height. Something has to be able to hunt the giant greenland geese. We'll make sure they get a downy coat when the winter comes as well.
The second base stock we will use is the closest relative to the terror bird that still lives: the Red-Legged Seriema. It and the Black-legged Seriema are both rather nifty critters from SoAm. They have a clawed toe that can be brought up much like the dinosaurian raptors of old, but its too small to be used as a weapon. Let's fix it! We also want to give them their own clawed hands, and replace their wings with arms. Currently they stand at 3 ft tall. That's fine for the small form, but let's make them bigger too: 6 ft and 9 ft are fine.
The last novarchosaurian carnirvore we'll mess with is derived from a NorAm bird, the roadrunner. They'll get the same upgrades as the secretary bird and the seriema derivatives with the exceptions of there being no kick claw like the genengineered seriema has. The biggest deriv is four feet high and an even better runner than its nonmodified cousins. There are a total of four sizes, that are on the foot marks: 1 ft, 2 ft, 3 ft, and 4 ft.
That will wrap up our novarchosaurian additions for now. I might add some more herbivores - we only have 16 - but 11 carnivores are enough. Dont' worry there are other carnivores and some rather different herbivores to come. The other critters that I have a huge soft spot for are the primates, especially the lemurs. One such critter to be is the lemuroo.
Gerta Keller Strikes again
Supposing, however, that Keller is correct, and the Chicxulub impact did not kill the dinosaurs, the finding begs the question as to what caused the mass extinction. Keller suggests that a yet-undiscovered impact on the scale of Chicxulub must have occurred, to explain the anomalous presence of iridium — an extremely rare element associated with certain types of meteorites — at the K/T boundary.
The odds, however, of more than one Chicxulub-sized impact are "beyond astronomical," Koeberl said. "America loves the underdog," he said. "That person doesn't have to be right."
Gulick and Koeberl said that they, along with about 99 percent of other impact crater specialists, do not consider there to be any debate about the Chicxulub impact having led to the K/T extinction event, and they have long since moved on to other crater research. Koeberl, for example, is working with the U.S. Geological Survey and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program, which finished drilling a core from the 38-kilometer-wide Chesapeake impact crater in Virginia in December 2005. Koeberl and others are currently working to analyze the core to help them understand the crater's chemistry and structure and its impact on the region's geology.
It ought to be noted that the geologists involved have turned really ad hominem (keller included) over this. The evidence should speak for itself. However, this debate has gotten NASTY. I have a bad feeling that this one will not end until the participants have retired and fresh eyes can look on the evidence without the personal disccord.
However this part does bare repeating:
Gulick and Koeberl said that they, along with about 99 percent of other impact crater specialists, do not consider there to be any debate about the Chicxulub impact having led to the K/T extinction event, and they have long since moved on to other crater research.
Keller might just be flat wrong and seeing what she wants to. Either way personal biases are getting in the way of science. I guess that's just human though, huh?
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Off to Livermore
Let me leave a thought for today. I am sitting here with a tinge of regret that Usenet is dying. The Spam is overflowing the groups. The newcomers are getting rarer and further between in their arrivals. The discussions are starting to get repetitious. There are a few gems there...but most of the people that are worth talking to involved are moving on to other things. Me too honestly.
I once pondered a replacement for Usenet. Something where a moderated multimedia bittorrent had a drunken affair with usenet and java...but couldn't quite see how to turn that into something that would get adoption.
No Picts - We're still sick
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
How Many of Me Are There?
Lyuda and Avrora are unique. I'm the common one. Three of the 479 people are from my family (me, my father, and my grandfather).
Russian Presidential Frontrunners
Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who chairs the board of Gazprom, is widely seen as the front-runner to succeed Putin, followed by Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. Other potential Putin successors reportedly include Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin, Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Sobyanin, and St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko. [emphasis added]
The article above is not actually about the presidential candidates. It is about the conspiracy theory that Anna Politovskaya was a victim of a power struggle behind the scenes of the Kremlin. I just took note of the presidential 'frontrunners'. All I can say is that the idea of the chairman of the board of Gazprom or the current defense minister being President of the Russian Federation produces much indigestion.
O2 Levels Have Been Very Important
He notes that atmospheric oxygen rose sharply at the end of the Silurian period about 415 million years ago, to reach a level of about 22 percent of the atmosphere, similar to today's oxygen content. But 55 million years later, atmospheric oxygen levels sank to 10 percent to 13 percent. The level remained low for 30 million years -- during which Romer's Gap occurred -- then shot up again, and vertebrates and arthropods again began moving from the sea to land.
"It matches two waves of colonization of the land," Ward said. "In the first wave the animals' lungs couldn't have been very good and when the oxygen level dropped it had to be hard for the vertebrates coming out of the water. I wonder if there is a minimum level of oxygen that has to be reached or nothing could ever have gotten out of the water."
Dinosaurs first appeared in the last part of the Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. That was during one of the lowest ebbs of atmospheric oxygen content of the last 500 million years, but he speculates that it took some time, until oxygen levels rose appreciably, before dinosaurs grew to their familiar gargantuan sizes.
I really need to get ahold of that book before I can comment too much.
Two interesting thoughts though.
1. O2 dip -> related to Late Devonian Mass Extinction? Something at sea (where most of the O2 production would be happened and then wiped out the land critters? Or are we seeing a sampling bias that might just mean that we don't have the right fossil beds found yet for that timeframe? It has been suggested that the Triassic Extinction is a statistical artifact rather than a real mass extinction...if so, this points to a problem in this research.
2. This research seems to beg the question then...why didn't the birds/archosaurs come out on top in the Paleogene? If they're that much more efficient, then even in low altitude ecosystems they ought to have thumped us. There's a reason why swimmers prefer to train at very high altitudes and why Los Alamos had at least some teams train there (when I lived there we had the Italian Olympic (IIRC) team come train there...we were at over 7K ft/2.1km altitude).
Like I said though, I need to read the book.
The Coming Environmental Cost
A climate change report by Australia's leading scientific research body released two weeks ago found that Micronesia had experienced an annual sea level rise of 21.4 mm since 2001.
It said a sea level rise of 30-50 cm would affect hundreds of millions of people across the Asia-Pacific region, slashing economic output, inundating large areas of Bangladesh, India and Vietnam and reducing Kiribati, Fiji and the Maldives to a small fraction of their current land area.
The whole of the Pacific Islands are going to have nontrivial serious issues. Very few people have sat and thought about this one compared to arguing about. There will be a huge population displacement coming from the Pacific. we will just have to see how many. 100's of thousands to be sure, with Asia proper included, millions...but the mainlanders still have land they can walk away to...the Pacific Islanders by and large...don't.
The March to Sock Puppethood
Russia’s inability to produce even the An-124 -- a successful, but not very modern plane -- exposes the true state of the country’s high-tech industry. The problem is not only that the collapse of Soviet components industry stifles production: Even if work were somehow resumed, the industry would be manufacturing obsolete items, designed in the 1980s and 1970s.
Many analysts in Russia realize that without Western technologies and components and Western licenses to produce dual-use and dedicated defense equipment, Russian industry is doomed. At the same time, Moscow embraces a military doctrine that considers NATO to be the main enemy and therefore the use of any Western-made components is strictly forbidden. Military-industrial entities experience great difficulty getting licenses that allow production and R&D cooperation with NATO countries.
GNXP's science blog brought to light a paper that points out that brains are expensive. There is a population of orangutans that where there is a persistant threat of starvation that they have started downsizing their brains. Makes you wonder if the same problem was present for the floriensis population, no? They're both 'ape' primates in the Indonesian archipelago...:D
On a personal level, I have found snarkiness to be quite fun...in the short term. Best be careful in the long run. ;)
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
PT Extinction: The Slow Extinction THeorists Fight back
The most likely explanation for the disappearance of up to 90 percent of species 250 million years ago, said David Bottjer, is that "the earth got sick."
Bottjer, professor of earth sciences in the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, leads a research group presenting several new pieces of the P-T extinction puzzle.
Matthew Clapham, a recent Ph.D. graduate of Bottjer's laboratory, has found that species diversity and environmental changes were "decoupled" long before the extinction. Conditions on the planet were deteriorating long before species began to die off, Bottjer said, casting doubt on the meteorite strike theory.
"People in the past used to think this big mass extinction was like a car hitting a wall," he said. Instead, Clapham's interpretation of the geological record shows "millions of years of environmental stress."
Pedro Marenco, a doctoral student in Bottjer's lab, has been testing a leading theory for the P-T extinction: that a warming of the earth and a slowdown in ocean circulation made it harder to replace the oxygen sucked out of the water by marine organisms. According to the theory, microbes would have saturated the water with hydrogen sulfide, a highly toxic chemical.
There are two groups of theorists with respect to the PT Extinction. The first is the more traditional ones that view the event as something that happened slowly and over time. The second group is that of the fast killers: the PT Event was on the order of thousands of years or less. The latter group has a lot of impact theory supporters. The former has a lot of others such as anoxia supporters.
The PT Event was a pretty dramatic one that has many aspects that we are still undecovering. I would hesitate to do what is often done and pronounce that X new evidence completely rewrites and solves EVERYTHING. Such pronouncations tend to come back and bite the prouncer in the kartoosh.
That said, this IS interesting stuff.
Beige Planet Again.
However, I am back at work even so and I have blog access again. For some reason I could not get to my blog's publishing tools from home.
I have a lot of work to catch up on so I will be only posting some links I encountered over the last few days that are interesting.
Expect a climatic wild ride
The world -- especially the Western United States, the Mediterranean region and Brazil -- will likely suffer more extended droughts, heavy rainfalls and longer heat waves over the next century because of global warming, a new study forecasts.
But the prediction of a future of nasty extreme weather also includes fewer freezes and a longer growing season.
In a preview of a major international report on climate change that comes out next year, a study out of the National Center for Atmospheric Research details what nine of the world's top computer models predict for the lurching of climate at its most extreme.
"It's going to be a wild ride, especially for specific regions," said study lead author Claudia Tebaldi, a scientist at the federally funded academic research center.
Tebaldi pointed to the Western U.S., Mediterranean nations and Brazil as "hot spots" that will get extremes at their worst, according to the computer models.
And some places, such as the Pacific Northwest, are predicted to get a strange double whammy of longer dry spells punctuated by heavier rainfall.
As the world warms, there will be more rain likely in the tropical Pacific Ocean, and that will change the air flow for certain areas, much like El Nino weather oscillations now do, said study co-author Gerald Meehl, a top computer modeler at the research center. Those changes will affect the U.S. West, Australia and Brazil, even though it's on South America's eastern coast.
For the Mediterranean, the issue has more to do with rainfall in the tropical Atlantic Ocean changing air currents, he said.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Open Mikes are Dangerous Things
Unaware a microphone was switched on during talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Putin called Katsav a "mighty guy" and said: "Raped 10 women! I would never have expected that from him. He surprised us all. We all envy him. [emphasis added - DT]"
Wow. I just mean...wow.
And not in a good sense.
Looks like Narsarsuaq Might be the Better place
This is a map of where Greenland is losing ice. The rate is less than previous studies have said, but it's still a vast increase over what it was in the beginning of the 1990s (which was a net neutral for ice accumulation vs loss). Now...well...read for yourself.
It looks like southern and eastern Greenland are losing the most ice, the fastest. I was goofing around with where to put a seed ecology for the Warmer Archipelago Greenland. I first looked at near Narsarsuaq and then thought perhaps the larger and more unihabited site here north of Arsuk would be better. Yet, Narsarsuaq has lost more ice...and would allow more spread of 'wild life'. It also has more people too.
Barf Cannon Redux
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Tag, you're out! Officials at an elementary school south of Boston have banned kids from playing tag, touch football and any other unsupervised chase game during recess for fear they'll get hurt and hold the school liable.
Our nation's geniuses have gone and done ...this.
Los Alamosian Sound Off
I have seen Greg and Allen. In theory Eric and Aaron ought to have this blog's URL too.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Permian Extinction SFnal Settings
Epylium Aurora (or whatever exactly the name comes out to be) is exactly that sort of thing. The whole Rome in America scenario tickled and tickled and tickled until I finally decided that I wanted to spit it out. I tried to get it out on SHWI, but instead found that wasn't enough. I'm progressing nicely, if haltingly, there and it's slowly tickling less while gelling into a very nice tale (IMO). It will probably, even so, require a rewrite to a memorable story, but we will get to that when we get to that.
The PTE ideas are pretty simple. They have one commonality: there are no human characters here. That's pretty tough to write. However, if anyone has any ideas on how, be my guest, just give me a little credit for the idea, k?
The first story seed is nothing more than the thought that the PTE climate and related near death spiral of the ecosystem was nothing more than a botched attempt to 'terraform' the Earth. This could be written as a plucky Sklrop finding that there's something going wrong with the process and too many native critters are dying. That's the obvious plot. The alternative is that a Sklrop scientist is trying to figure out why the whole process that has worked so many times before is getting oh-so-mucked-up now.
The second seed is the PT Event was a combination of things. There was a sentient species that arose (handwave). They end up fighting a war that near destroys the planet...but not with their own species. The Ancient Enemy is a survivor of the Ediacara Fauna that's evolved for as long as our heroes fauna now has developed sentience and is Evil. Think Cthulhu meets paleontology in SF. The Permian sapients find the only way to desroy/plug the Evil in its place is to trigger the Siberian Traps...ending the world. However, that's better than letting the Evil out. It'd have to be written as a pretty bleak tale. As a side note, Lystrosaurus was the sapient's cattle.
That last one is pretty fascinating to play with mentally, but my cycles are limited these days and I play with too many ideas as it is. After Epylium Aurora - or Aurelia? Dawning Little Epic or Golden little epic...second seems better since I will not be revisiting that world again after I finish the book - Great Vision is the next project and its going to be a doozie to write. The world building exercise there is going to a major mental exercise. 75 million years in the future...plus or minus and in the post human world, posthuman climate, ecology, everything. There's a new sentient too and its figuring out its way...at the same time there's the story of the last days of humanity to tell in there too and one Woman's Great Vision. I can see how to plot it already, but I am not going to put anything to paper until after EA is done.
Different Disturbing News: IQs of the US States
I got this from Dienekes' Anthropology Blog. I haven't read the paper (and don't have time right now), but it's fracking depressing that Massachuesetts has the highest IQ of the nation and the states that I love dearly and call home are so low: New Mexico and California. While I don't know how they derived their IQ stats for each state, the NM numbers REALLY depress me because you see, NM has LANL, SNL, and numerous other government labs. These are often filled with people with PhDs...which would suggest that they have higher than average IQs. With the small numbers of people in NM that should skew things the other way! Unless, of course, the rest of the state is all the worse.
What's really fracking depressing is that Texas, for love of all and good, has a higher IQ than NM or California. I weep for the nation.
Monday, October 16, 2006
That could make for an interesting SFnal setting. Cornucopia tech gone wild. Not grey goo though...
Putin's New Strategy...not pretty
According to Putin, Western companies who wished to participate in the Shtokman consortium “had to offer to Gazprom some of their own assets. Not money, but assets. We don’t need money for such investment projects, money can easily be obtained on international financial markets. We need assets.” However, Putin concluded, none of those candidate companies could offer assets commensurate to the value of the Shtokman gas deposits (Putin’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung interview cited by Kremlin.ru, Interfax, October 10, 11).
Three implications stand out in Putin’s statement. First, it insists on a form of barter whereby Western companies -- and, by implications, societies -- would transfer parts of the national infrastructure to Russia for the privilege of what Moscow terms “access” to its hydrocarbon deposits. Second, this strategy relies on manipulation of Western financial markets by Russian anti-market actors, as seen in Gazprom’s and Rosneft’s recent multi-billion dollar IPOs. And, third, the insistence on transfers of capital and infrastructure clearly forms a part of Russia’s political strategy to weaken and neutralize Europe.[emphasis added - DT]
Rather frightening that. Just imagine if Russia decided to pull a Gas War on Western Europe.
A Small Update
Today I came in rather late to work today because I went to the Marin County offices for development and building, the fire marshal, and public works with regards to a lot we have been looking at. I just made an offer on it but its much lower than they were asking. However, there's an enormous amount of work that has to be done to satisify all the parties involve for that lot.
Anyways, I had better get some work done since I came in so late.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Then again...maybe here
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Back Online, but not for long
I really ought to do a haiku about caffiene, but won't.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
More on Greenland
Solana Bows to Moscow
The European Union’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana, opined in a European Parliament hearing that international recognition of Kosovo’s independence from Serbia could set “a precedent” adversely affecting Georgia in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. With some trepidation Solana imagined, “We are trapped here…. President [Mikheil] Saakashvili is trapped; all of us are trapped in a double mechanism that may have good consequences for one, but not for the other” (RFE/RL Caucasus Report, October 6).
This statement gratuitously bows to Russia’s untenable, self-serving theory linking the conflict settlement in Kosovo to the post-Soviet conflicts. Given Solana’s top position, this statement -- inadvertent or improvised as may be the case in a hearing -- is the strongest public support for Moscow’s position from a Western official thus far. It undercuts U.S. policy and that of many old and new EU governments, which rule out any linkage between conflict resolution in Kosovo and in the post-Soviet conflicts. Those governments -- and also Georgia, Moldova, and Azerbaijan, whose territories are the scene of conflicts -- point out that the Kosovo conflict differs profoundly in its nature from the post-Soviet “frozen” conflicts and that any outcome in Kosovo can have no bearing on eventual outcomes in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria, or Karabakh.
That answers that. It seems that the EU's position is going to be rather clear: they are calling the eastern border what it is. When combined with statement that the EU should stop its expansion to the east temporarily - though probably permanently, honestly - it seems that the future of the remaining border states between the Russian Federation and the European Union can only hope for neutrality at best. I have to say though, should Ukraine have anotehr election that affirms the Orangers (as a rejection of the Party of Regions) what would you bet that suddenly Eastern Ukraine and Crimea have referendums seeking independance (first) and Russian annexation (second).
Y'see, like the missing Nina Reiser, my wife is of that cultural background. She speaks Russian. She is a Ukrainian and not a Russian they're rather close to each other culturally, especially those of the Donbas Region where my wife is from. Ms Reiser was from St Petersburg. Like Nina Reiser, my wife married an American computer geek. That aspect creeps her out. She doesn't really think I would harm her like what appears to have happened with Ms Reiser, but...
That Yanqi computer geek she married would be me. I am a computer professional (aka geek) and have been my whole adult life. What happens to make this even more disturbing is that Mr Reiser works in file systems. While his work was and is far more profound and with a different emphasis, that also happens to be the same area that I am working in. Freaky parallel there.
Cue much disturbance in the Bairds' psyche.
I truly pray that they find Ms Reiser alive. I doubt that they will. I am hoping that the wheels of justice are turning and whoever did this gets roasted. and good. I wish I didn't think it was Mr Reiser, but yesterday when the news washed over work, a coworker came in and asked if I and another person had heard about it. We answered in the affirmative. The coworker that was talking to us then made the comment of something to the effect of, "For some reason, I'm not surprised [about Hans being arrested for this based on who he is]." He rarely makes a good impression.
Now, I am simply going to pray for the kids.
Climate Change and Asia
Global temperatures will rise by up to 4 degrees by 2030, particularly in the arid regions of northern Pakistan, India and China, predicted the report, conducted by Australia's main research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
It said there is "little room for optimism" about the effects of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region unless governments take immediate action to curb carbon dioxide emissions.
Higher temperatures coupled with changing rainfall patterns, including more tropical cyclones, flooding and heavier monsoons, could put millions of people at a greater risk of malaria, dengue fever and other infectious diseases, the report warned.
It also predicted that millions of people living in low-lying coastal communities in Bangladesh, Vietnam, China and many Pacific islands could become displaced as sea levels rise by up to 20 inches over the next 65 years.
Interestingly, that 20 inches is low. We had almost 8 inches in the 20th century. The temperature rise over that period is, iirc, a 'mere' +1 C. Now we're headed to +5 C?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
McCain Points at Clinton
"I would remind Senator (Hillary) Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure," McCain said at a news conference after a campaign appearance for Republican Senate candidate Mike Bouchard.
"The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They've diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military," he said.
Democrats have argued President Clinton presented his successor with a framework for dealing with North Korea and the Republican fumbled the opportunity. In October 2000, Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright made a groundbreaking visit to Pyongyang to explore a missile deal with Chairman Kim Jong Il. There was even talk of a visit by President Clinton.
Well, that's the guy I wanted to be teh Republican nominee especially after he thumbed his nose at the uber conservatives in the Republican Party...ah well.
Pondering the Clintonian Diplomatic Legacy
Or so it seemed at the time.
Yet. In repsospect Things are looking pretty bad for his several of his diplomatic plans.
Consider the hunt for bin Laden and dealing with terrorism: there was the first attempted bombing of the WTC in NY. Then there was the embassay bombings. And the USS Cole. And the barracks in Saudi Arabia. There was a lot of signs that something was building up and that we led by Pres Clinton were not dealing with it. True, America as a whole didn't seem to have terrorists on our radar screen. Yet, in theory, the President ought to be taking the longer view. Lobbing cruise missiles didn't seem like the right thing to do at the time. There doesn't seem - and I can be wrong - to have been a special forces hunt for bin Laden either. There was also a very long argument about whether or not - frex - arming Predator drones was even legal. There may or may not have been actual requests to kill bL too. Whatever the actions, the end result was 9/11. Hindsight is 20/20, they say, yet a lot of the signs were there...for a loooong time, especially for someone with a lot more intel than the Joe on the Street.
There's also Iran. The engagement policy seems to have been a failure, frankly, as the Iranians seem to be rushing off to make a nuke. I had, honestly, hoped that we could move towards de-demonizing each other's nations during the Clinton years. Now, well, the EU, with US backing, is pulling out its collective hair trying to keep the Iranians from doing what what the North Koreans just attempted. My hopes that they'd be successful, even if I felt it was a long shot, seem to be dashed. This doesn't look good either for Clinton's legacy in the foreign policy domain.
Now, there's the North Korea flubbed boomski that happened over this weekend. Clinton had originally made many offers of carrots to prevent them from building a nuke and even, iirc, delivered on those offers. Yet NK went on to work on their boomski. They flubbed their test, true, but are we sure they will the next one? For all intents, it looks like they never stopped their program. *sighs*
Overall, in some very critical areas, things are not looking so good for Clinton's legacy in the foreign departments. I voted for him in 96 over Dole. I didn't vote for Gore in 2000...or Bush...but I can't help but look at the Clinton Years as naive and illspent in the foreign affairs. For a man who was very obcessed in the end with what his legacy would be, it's not looking so shining...at least when it comes to threats to the nation.
This Last Weekend
Friday, October 06, 2006
Observations on Arab Culture
He paints a rather broad brush. Egyptians != Saudis != Lebanese != Moroccans != Tunisians. My favourite coffee shop is run by some Orthodox Christian Lebanese (Aroma Cafe in downtown Oakland for those that care). They're obviously going to be different just based on religion. Yet, they're Arab.
At any rate, read the post and think about it. Don't just knee jerk.
I saw this via Gene Expression.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Some Examples of the Climate Change Problems
The climate in the nine states — from New Jersey and Pennsylvania up to Maine — could become like that of the South with longer, much hotter summers and warmer winters with less snow, the report by the Union of Concerned Scientists said
If power plant and auto emissions of carbon dioxide - considered the main culprit in global warming - continue unabated, average temperatures in the Northeast could rise between 6.5 degrees and 12.5 degrees by the end of the century, she said. A shift to cleaner, renewable energy sources would cut that increase in half, she said.
The study said Boston could see its number of 90-degree-plus summer days jump from one to 40 if no changes are made. New York City could have 70.
John R. Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at University of Alabama-Huntsville, said regional analyses he's done indicate the latest climate models can't predict well for a region, especially for rain and snow.
He said the report's recommendations — mostly centered on replacing or upgrading buildings, cars and appliances with more energy-efficient ones — won't have much effect on the total amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, partly because energy demand will keep growing.
Well, that's interesting. They're saying an average of 9 degrees F here. A 12.5 deg F increase is almost a 7 C increase. That's...bad. As for New York City could have 70 [days above 90 deg]:we'll burn the NYers out! BWAHAHAHAHA! Oh and Dr Christy is right. The regional stuff is not as good right now for modeling. They've been focusing on that for the past year now to get it in line. The paleoclimate guys too, iirc.
hrm. I wonder if I need to adjust my figures for the Greenland temperatures. I really ought to sit down to figure out how fast the ice will retreat on Greenland and contact some real estate agents. Done right and I could sit near future water way...;) And after all, there's 56k of them and Greenland is about five times the size of Texas! Woo.
The Norwegian Monster
The Norwegian researchers discovered remains of a total of 28 plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs -- top marine predators when dinosaurs dominated on land -- at a site on the island of Spitsbergen, about 1,300 km (800 miles) from the North Pole.
"One of them was this gigantic monster, with vertebrae the size of dinner plates and teeth the size of cucumbers," Joern Hurum, an assistant professor at the University of Oslo, told Reuters on Thursday.
"We believe the skeleton is intact and that it's about 10 meters (33 feet) long," he told Reuters of the pliosaur, a type of plesiosaur with a short neck and massive skull. The team dubbed the specimen "The Monster."
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Stanford Just Couldn't Let Us One Up Them
Nearly a half-century after his father was awarded a Nobel Prize, a Stanford University professor won his own Wednesday for groundbreaking research into how cells read their genes, fundamental work that could help lead to new therapies.
Discoveries by Roger D. Kornberg, 59, have helped set the stage for developing drugs to fight cancer, heart disease and other illnesses, experts said.
At a press conference, Kornberg said the immediate application of his work is in making better antibiotics for diseases such as tuberculosis. "There will be specific cures for several diseases in the next decade," he said.
He said several pharmaceutical companies are developing drugs based on his research, but he declined to be more specific other than to mention cancer therapy.
Stanford and Berkeley have a loooooooooooooooong standing rivalry. As I posted about, we just got a Nobel ourselves (or one of the brilliant people did), but physics DOES trump chemistry in all that's right and good....soooo NYAH!
A bit more seriously, talk about a SF Bay Area coupe.
Oh Good Grief
A suburban county that sparked a public outcry when its libraries temporarily eliminated funding for Spanish-language fiction is now being asked to ban Harry Potter books from its schools.
Laura Mallory, a mother of four, told a hearing officer for the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Tuesday that the popular fiction series is an "evil" attempt to indoctrinate children in the Wicca religion.
Board of Education attorney Victoria Sweeny said that if schools were to remove all books containing reference to witches, they would have to ban "Macbeth" and "Cinderella."
"There's a mountain of evidence for keeping Harry Potter," she said, adding that the books don't support any particular religion but present instead universal themes of friendship and overcoming adversity.
I'm not an HP fan, but good grief folks! Don't you folks have something better to do?
Putin Talks Regime Change in Georgia
On Monday Moscow announced sanctions against Georgia, including cutting off all air, sea, and land transportation links, postal services, and money transfers. On Tuesday, October 3, after the officers were already back in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that sanctions against Georgia would not be revoked. Lavrov declared that the money sent by the hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians living and working in Russia to support relatives back home "is criminal in nature" and used to rearm the Georgian military. Lavrov also called the Georgian government’s procurement of weapons abroad "criminal" and expressed hope that Russian sanctions would help stop this activity. Lavrov accused "third parties" of selling weapons to "the Saakashvili regime" and interfering in Russo-Georgian relations, while Moscow's objective is to "eliminate this problem" (Itar-Tass, October 3).
Lavrov's aggressive rhetoric follows Putin's harsh statement made during a meeting of the Russian Security Council on Sunday (Kremlin.ru, October 1). Putin accused Georgia of "continuing the policies of Lavrenty Pavlovich Beria, both inside the country and on the international stage." (Beria, an ethnic Georgian, was the notorious chief of Stalin's secret police.) Putin inquired: "They feel at ease, safe and secure under the protection of their foreign sponsors, but is this really so? I would like to hear the views of the representatives of the civil ministries and the military specialists."
The message seems clear: Putin wants regime change in Tbilisi to be achieved with virtually any means. Of course, Russia has been pressuring Georgia for years, trying to subvert it with economic sanctions, political and military pressure, supporting pro-Moscow opposition forces, arming separatist forces, and deploying military intelligence officers.
Putin has accused Georgia's leadership "of state terrorism with hostage-taking" (RIA-Novosti, October 1). But the main problem, constantly raised by Putin, Lavrov, and other officials, is that of "foreign sponsors" or "third parties" -- a clear reference to the West and the United States.
The mirage of a new Russian-led union to replace the old Soviet one has obsessed the Kremlin since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The ruling elite in Moscow today is split between those who want to recreate the Soviet Union per se and "reformers" who want a new, remodeled Soviet Union (or "Imperial Russia") with a thriving market economy and a newly armed, professional military imposing itself on its neighbors. As Putin told the country in August 2000, after the sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine, "We will overcome it all and restore it all, the military and the navy and the state" (RTR TV, AP, August 24, 2000).
Today the Kremlin seems to feel itself strong enough, thanks to billions of petro-dollars, to enforce its sovereignty on former Soviet republics. Georgia, a small, impoverished country, riddled with separatist problems, may seem to be a good showcase to install a pro-Moscow regime and at the same time kick out the United States, the West, and NATO.
This is going to get rather ugly.
Russia Conducts Naval Exercises Near Georgia
Georgia on Tuesday urged Russia to stop naval exercises near the countries' sea border, calling them a threat to regional peace and a violation of the United Nations charter.
Georgia's U.N. envoy Irakli Alasania made the comments amid a spying row that has chilled relations between the ex-Soviet neighbors to the worst level in a decade.
"Georgia calls upon the Russian side to immediately cease these trainings that are directed against the national interests of Georgia and threatens peace and security in the entire region," Alasania told a news conference.
Russia, which has been irked by Georgia's pursuit of NATO and EU membership, has cut rail, air and postal links with Georgia and recalled its ambassador over the arrest of four Russian soldiers on spying charges. Georgia released the four on Monday in what it termed a goodwill gesture.
Now Russia's conducting naval exercises right nearby...hmmm.
What My Birthday Means
|Your Birthdate: January 7|
You are an island. You don't need anyone else to make you happy. And though you see yourself as a loner, people are drawn to you. Deep and sensitive, you tend to impress others with your insights. You also tend to be psychic - so listen to that inner voice!
Your strength: Your self sufficiency
Your weakness: You despise authority
Your power color: Maroon
Your power symbol: Hammer
Your power month: July
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
More Bad News for Moldova
Following the September 17 referendum that approved Transnistria’s secession from Moldova and goal of joining Russia in a Soviet-style 97% vote, Moldova is being pressed into negotiating with Transnistria without even a decent interval. The forces behind such pressure are a familiar constellation: Moscow and elements within the OSCE. The latter include the organization’s Belgian chairmanship and old-timers within the OSCE’s Moldova Mission, the main public spokesman for whom is the mission’s German deputy chief Gottfried Hanne. The European Union and the United States -- “observers” in the 5+2 negotiating format -- also favor the resumption of negotiations, but are not pressing for immediate “results.” Russia and those elements in the OSCE, however, are turning up the pressure on Moldova for quick results at the country’s expense. They seek to adopt Transnistria’s political status on the quick, with Russia’s troops in place, Transnistria’s army and pervasive security apparatus intact, and holdover OSCE officials facing perhaps their last chance to implement the old recipes to which they are wedded.
Shaking the Eight Ball says: Outcome does not look favourable.
If A Buttefly Flaps It's Wings In China...
A bad storm in Alaska last October generated an ocean swell that broke apart a giant iceberg near Antarctica six days later, U.S. researchers reported on Monday.
The waves traveled 8,300 miles to destroy the iceberg, said Douglas MacAyeal of the University of Chicago and Emile Okal at Northwestern University.
Writing in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, they said their study shows how weather in one region can affect events far away.
"One of the things we're debating in the world right now is whether global warming might increase the storminess in the oceans," MacAyeal said in a statement.
"The question we then pose is: Could global storminess have an influence on the Antarctic ice sheet that had never been thought of?
This...could be bad. Very bad.
A little more on the LBNL/UCB Nobel Win
'Human beings have had the audacity to conceive a theory of creation and now, we are able to test that theory.':D
-George F. Smoot
Smoot, a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, and an astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), shares the prize with John C. Mather of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. This is UC Berkeley's twentieth Nobel Prize since Ernest O. Lawrence won in 1939, and its eighth physics Nobel.
Smoot, a resident of Berkeley, was surprised by an early morning call from Sweden to his unlisted cell phone, which the Nobel committee obtained by waking his neighbor.
"There were no rumors. I figured they only give the prize when you're close to death, and I still have enough life left in me," said Smoot, 61.
Smoot and Mather together led the building and launch of the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite in 1989 to look for telltale signs of the primordial explosion. They announced in 1992 the discovery of residual heat from the explosion, in addition to variations in temperature across the sky that indicated the beginnings of structure in the early universe.
Maybe Saul will get the next one. ;)
We take ANOTHER Nobel...woowoowoo!
Americans John C. Mather and George F. Smoot have won the 2006 Nobel Prize in physics for work that helped cement the big-bang theory of the universe.
Mather, 60, works at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., and Smoot, 61, works at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif.
Their work was based on measurements done with the help of the NASA-launched COBE satellite in 1989. They were able to observe the universe in its early stages about 380,000 years after it was born. Ripples in the light they detected also helped demonstrate how galaxies came together over time.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Lukashenka: Why There Isn't a Belorusian-Russian Federation
Lukashenka commented, as often in the past, on the tragedy of the dissolution of the Soviet Union and he informed the journalists that "We are one people" and that it is unfair that we “live in different apartments." Thus a reunion between Belarus and Russia would be a natural event, representing the bright future of the two peoples. However, he made it plain that that union is unlikely to occur in the near future, largely because of problems created by Russia. He noted that the Belarusian side had proposed a draft of the Constitutional Act. However, at the time the draft version was supposed to have been submitted to the Supreme State Council of the two presidents for approval, and then to a referendum for acceptance, the Russian government added some amendments. According to Lukashenka, the revised Constitutional Act would be weaker than the current treaty on forming the Union state. Belarus "is categorically opposed to this."
Lukashenka maintains that Putin would like an arrangement similar in terms to that of the European Union, but such a structure is unacceptable to the Belarusian side. Another option is for Belarus to become part of Russia, but the president noted correctly that the population of his country is strongly opposed to absorption. "Even Stalin didn't go as far as that," he stated. Now he (Lukashenka) is being blamed for the failure of the proposals, but he has no choice because he does not wish to be the first and last Belarusian president. The current draft would also bring back the conditions of the early 1990s -- a favorite reference of Lukashenka -- and as soon as Belarus becomes part of Russia it would be reduced to worse shape than Chechnya. The Union can only work if the partnership is an equal one, he stressed.
Concerning the leadership of a Union state, Lukashenka hinted that both incumbent presidents might bar themselves from office if such a state is set up. "The issue is not Putin or Lukashenka," he commented. He added frankly that he could not deny the two leaders had ambitions and that they would be afraid of losing the independence of their countries. The issue of how that statement would apply to Russia was not elaborated. Lukashenka added that there could be no immediate resolution of such questions because Russia would soon enter a very busy period, lasting for approximately three years, in which that country would endure both presidential and parliamentary elections. He commented that Putin should run for a third term if he wishes, but he appreciated that the Russian president wished to adhere to the Constitution. It is not a commitment ever made by the president of Belarus.
There are three outcomes to this.
The first is that Russia absorbs Belarus. This is what Lukashenka does not want. This is actually, with the Transdniestria, South Ossetia, et al plebecite consequences looming, seems the most likely. Russia merely absorbs Belarus and is done with it. After deposing Lukashenka.
The second outcome is the EU like structure that apparently Lukashenka thinks that Putin prefers. This might be in the frame work of the SCO since they've been talking about making it an economic free trade zone as well as a semi-alliance. People that have read my blog know what I think of the outcome of this line of development, the explotation being the so-called Shanghai Confederation. Belarus would be a 'member state' in such.
The last possibility is the least likely. Unfortunately. That is that Belarus, as a consequence of an even more appaling economy overthrows Lukashenka in a 'color revolution' and moves itself into EU orbit with a track, maybe, of eventually joining the EU.
I suspect the first is the most likely and fear the second, truthfully and pray, despite the floundering of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, for the last.