Thursday, June 21, 2018


In the blizzard of spam I get, I'm tempted by one academic come-on: "3 papers mention Marc Valdez, including one by a highly followed author with 377 followers." Of course, you have to sign up for the premium service to discover who this ethereal person might happen to be.

One of their testimonials announced that their service "was better than Google Scholar." I had never heard of Google Scholar. I haven't looked at a citation index in thirty years. At least Google Scholar is free.

I was amazed when I looked. My Atmospheric Sciences Master's Degree paper has 89 citations, and my three Ph.D. papers have 59, 58, and 45 citations, respectively. I've apparently had more impact than I realized. I'll have to read some of these papers.

Now, if I can get some traction with my "Breaking Bad" books.

The Game Goes On

The game goes on:
The President says he’s signing an executive order to end family separations. ... the President will sign an executive order allowing children to be detained indefinitely with their parents. The problem is that that violates a 1997 consent decree saying that you can’t detain/imprison children for more than 20 days ... It straight up violates that order. ... a court will step in, say you can’t do that and then Trump will announce that the judge is forcing him to keep separating families.

Family values conservatism, killed by the Trumpies:
Donald Trump didn’t bring about the end of “family values” conservatism. It was already on the way out. But now that overdramatic political metaphor exists as a very real policy. And it’s hard to imagine that “family values” talking points can survive much longer while those who long ranted that the federal government was seeking to “destroy the family” sit silently as it literally rips families apart.

Queen Melania:
For Melania to emerge from her customary position on the sidelines to play a critical role in reversing a major policy initiative might seem a perplexing event. But for a historian of the Middle Ages, it is part of an instantly recognizable pattern.

A near-constant in late medieval kingship was the use of the queen as intercessor. Women were conventionally ascribed softer hearts, and subjects were encouraged to appeal to the queen for mercy. The template for this role was the Virgin Mary—the paragon of intercession among medieval Christians—who was believed to sit, enthroned in heaven, at the side of her son Christ, able and willing to make appeals to him on behalf of suffering or desperate devotees. Medieval art and medieval texts customarily liken queens to the Virgin Mary, especially in the role of intercessor.

Immigrant Children Terrified At Ghastly Visage Of La Llorona In Detention Center (link)

Charles Krauthammer Finally Dies

Small pleasures, as some of the worst of the Bushies shuffle off the mortal coil:
Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of Fox News, said in a statement at the time, "Charles has been a profound source of personal and intellectual inspiration for all of us at Fox News. His always principled stand on the most important issues of our time has been a guiding star in an often turbulent world, a world that has too many superficial thinkers vulnerable to the ebb and flow of fashion, and a world that, unfortunately, has only one Charles Krauthammer. His words, his ideas, his dignity and his integrity will resonate within our society and within me for many, many years to come."
The fucker is finally dead.


I did a show with Peter in 1997 ("Fiddler on the Roof" at the Woodland Opera House). Just like his inventiveness and eccentricity!

Whymcycles: A Boy and His Bikes from Nicolette Daskalakis on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Disposing of Plate Glass

Trying to dispose of broken plate glass, I learned that no one recycles it: too cheap to make. So, I tried to break the plate glass into smaller, more-manageable pieces by gently tapping it. That went about as well as expected: 10 trillion pieces of glass everywhere. Into the garbage can and off to the landfill tomorrow, provided the scavenging homeless don’t slice themselves into ribbons tonight.

DMTC's "Disney's 'The Little Mermaid'"

Caught the Saturday night performance. Didn't get any pictures, except for Cyndi Wall as Ursula.

"First Reformed"

Saw this movie a week-and-a-half ago. Still don't know exactly what I think about it. I liked the end, though.

Monday, June 18, 2018

A Ten-Car Pileup on the Channel Separation Highway:

You have to keep the channels separate, and when you run the government, you can't do that:
This is not just sloppiness or indiscipline. The essence of Trumpism is dominance and punishment of those outside the tribal fold. It is probably even wrong to call this a policy of deterrence. It’s a policy of punishment. At the most basic level folks like Miller, Sessions, Trump want to show they are kicking ass at the border, against lawless non-white people. They want to do it and they want to show they are doing it. For them doing it doesn’t matter unless you show it. It’s what a TPM Reader identified as the essence of Trumpism: ‘performative cruelty‘.

...There’s also the matter of channel conflict. Channel separation is a bedrock principle of marketing. You sell the same product to different people at different prices – price discrimination. You sell the same product to different people using different pitches. It all works so long as the channels remain largely separate. Since Trump is more than anything a marketing man the framework of channel conflict is an appropriate way to explain what is happening.

For base Trumpists: family separation for the bad people is simply awesome.

For other pro-Trump Republicans: evil against children may not be okay, but abusing Democrats works. So for them, no defense of family separation as such, but stick it on the Democrats. Blaming the opponents of your policy for policy is perverse, nasty and thus awesome.

For more Middle of the Road Voters: It’s simply not happening. There is no family separation policy. It’s literally not happening at all or if it is happening it’s being forced on us and families were separated under Obama too.

What we’ve seen this weekend is that evil practiced on children, by design, with quotes from senior administration officials floating around saying it’s great was just too much. This created a sort of 10 car pile of contradictory BS answers. It’s awesome. The Democrats made us do it. It’s not happening. And here we are. It is difficult to imagine this policy will survive the week in its current form, given this firestorm. But we should recognize how deeply embedded the need for these actions is in Trumpism. This isn’t a byproduct. Child separation as punishment, on display, was always a feature not a bug.

Yes, Seizing Hostages is a Well-Known Negotiating Tool

But there’s no real negotiation going on. Democrats, particularly those from border states, will not support a border wall, and even if they caved, the GOP won’t release the children. The appropriate response is to identify and seize Republican hostages, whether literal or figurative. There are plenty of targets:
President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — separating immigrant parents from their young children at the southern border, according to White House officials.

On Friday, Trump suggested he would not change the policy unless Democrats agreed to his other immigration demands, which include funding a border wall, tightening the rules for border enforcement and curbing legal entry. He also is intent on pushing members of his party to vote for a compromise measure that would achieve those long-standing priorities.

Trump’s public acknowledgment that he was willing to let the policy continue as he pursued his political goals came as the president once again blamed Democrats for a policy enacted and touted by his own administration.

"The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction"

Going through my books, I came across "The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction."

In September 1904, New York City nuns brought forty Irish orphans to Clifton-Morenci Arizona, to be placed with Catholic families, who were overwhelmingly of Mexican extraction. To the town's Anglos, placing a white child with a Mexican family was tantamount to child abuse. Furious at this "interracial" transgression, they formed a vigilante squad that kidnapped the children and nearly lynched the nuns and the local priest. The Catholic Church sued to get its wards back, but all the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled in favor of the vigilantes.

Kidnapping children is what racist Anglos do. Circumstances might change, but the basic patterns of history repeat themselves.

"Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Wonderful movie about Fred Rogers!

I was a little old for Mister Rogers, more my sisters' watching material, so I watched the movie in a spirit of curiosity. There a was a round of applause from the audience at the end.

Preparing to exit the theater, a man asked, "Are you from Pittsburgh?" I said no, and asked why he asked. "Oh, it's because I'm from there, and Fred Rogers is one of the icons of the city, right up there with the Pittsburgh Steelers. See my T-Shirt?" I looked at his T-Shirt of a roller coaster. "See? It features an amusement park that anyone from Pittsburgh will recognize." I grinned and thought his hometown enthusiasm was marvelous!

Favorite Book Covers

I have accepted Lisa Masters' challenge to post the covers of seven books I love. I'm tweaking the rules she passed on to me, though. Instead of asking a friend to take up the challenge every time I post a cover, I'll just ask one friend on Day Seven. Or you can just accept the challenge on your own without my prompting. In addition, I'll post a brief explanation of why I like this book.

Day One

"Son of the Morning Star" is a poetic attempt to penetrate the mystery of why Custer failed at the Little Bighorn. In order to do so, Evan Connell runs far afield, delving into many other mysteries of life on the Great Plains in the 19th Century, such as the practice of "counting coup," the inexperience of his troops (a number had barely ever seen a Native American before), and their surprise when they discovered a dying longtime laundress was a man. Just a great work!

Day Two

Of all my professors in college, UNM's Ferenc Szasz was my favorite. He taught American cultural, religious, and intellectual history. It was from him I learned delightful things like: the mindset of the Puritans; Francis Schlatter, the second coming of the Messiah in New Mexico; and the Littlefield allegorical interpretation of the Wizard of Oz.

Szasz was an authority on 19th Century American Protestantism, and nothing made him happier than learning about the teachings of obscure preachers trying to make a go of it in overwhelmingly-Catholic New Mexico.

"The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear Explosion" is based on large amounts of Manhattan Project material declassified in the 1980s, particularly the meteorology (the same batch of material that formed the basis of Peter Sellars opera, "Dr. Atomic"). In Szasz's characteristic way, he focuses on what people in the Manhattan Project believed.

Szasz's wife, Margaret Connell-Szasz, wrote about her husband: "His training was in social and intellectual history, which is almost a nonexistent field now. Because of that, it meant that he was interested in everything in American history - in society, culture, the intellectual world; just common, ordinary, everyday things that included folk history, philosophy, religion, science - you name it." Szasz was about the History of Everything, and I am proud to have studied under him.

Ferenc Szasz gave this lecture in 2009 at Los Alamos. Here is Part 4 of 7, where he introduces some of the geniuses of the Manhattan Project (with a brief sound glitch):

Day Three

Strangely enough, I don't believe I've fully read this book, a memoir by my first ballet instructor and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo veteran, George Zoritch. That's OK: ballet is about doing anyway. Zoritch came from a generation of expatriate Russian nobility that transformed the world of dance in the 1930s an 40s. What an (opinionated) man! Ballet is the best art, ever!

George Zoritch, in Hollywood:

Day Four

Pekka Hämäläinen's "The Comanche Empire" follows the story of a band of Shoshone who decided not to follow the buffalo north with their compatriots on their newly-obtained horses, but instead to cross into the Colorado Plateau, forge an alliance with the Utes about 1710, and begin raiding the Spaniards of northern New Mexico, who had just returned after the Pueblo Revolt. The Comanches soon became the terror of the Southwest, sweeping aside Spaniards and Apache alike, far into Texas and Mexico. At their height, the Comanches controlled a territory roughly the size of Mexico, but never numbered more than about 50,000. A very odd, nearly-empty horseback empire.

The Comanches could have eliminated the Spaniards, but chose instead to abuse and control them, because they had useful armaments. The Spaniards tried various defenses, which proved weak against the Comanche (but later bore fruit against the Navajo). Certain Governors of New Mexico stood out for their statesmanship under difficult circumstances (Cachupín & de Anza).

This book is a reminder that politics in the past was even more-miserable and complicated than it is today.

Day Five

Back in the early Seventies, California's schools were the envy of the nation, but as real estate inflation accelerated, so too did property taxes, igniting a rebellion among home owners, particularly those on fixed incomes. Proposition 13's passage heralded the conservative dominance in America we've seen since 1978. Needless to say, the collapse of high-quality California public education followed almost instantaneously. Even though homeowners led the charge, Corporate America profited most from the sharp reduction in property taxes.

When the California Gubernatorial Recall campaign accelerated in the summer of 2003, and 135 people declared their candidacies for Governor (including myself), we all had to quickly assemble platforms on which to run. I ran on Proposition 13 repeal, and based my campaign entirely on this book.

Day Six

I love puzzles. Over the last thirty years, there has been a great deal of progress in puzzling out how the Maya understood the cosmos, what their constellations were, and what they meant to them. "Maya Cosmos," written in 1994, is right on the cusp of understanding, where the authors piece together what they know, accounting for precession over the last two millennia. It's all exceedingly complex. Inscriptions of Mayan cosmic symbols represent sky maps.

The sky was a rich pageant of Creation. For example, on August 13, 690 AD (the inauguration of an important holiday), the Milky Way begins as the Crocodile Tree at sunset, and then transforms into a great canoe, which then sinks underwater as the hours pass by. The Turtle and the Stones of Creation (what we call the belt of Orion) reach the zenith by sunrise.

A number of important stories and legends play out as the sky rotates. By understanding these stories, the reasons why certain days are Mayan holidays can finally be understood and referenced against the sky.

Day Seven
This is day seven; the final day.

Ernest Dimnet (1866-1954) was a French priest, writer and lecturer. In his 1928 book "The Art of Thinking," Dimnet discusses "Preserving One's Thoughts":

"To keep no track of what one learns or thinks is as foolish as to till and seed one's lands with great pains, and when the harvest is ripe turn one's back upon it and think of it no more.

Some people have extraordinarily retentive memories and can do with a minimum of notes, but phenomenal exceptions do not count. Most men who have made a name in literature, politics, or business have found it necessary to have a paper memory and those who have thought it possible to dispense with the drudgery of forming such a one have inevitably someday rued it. For humorists who define memory as the faculty enabling us to forget only emphasize an unfortunate truth. Striking or vivid impressions which we imagine can never be effaced from our consciousness do not survive in it more than a few weeks, sometimes a few days, unless something is done to give them permanence. A busy life teaches even congenital idleness to do that. Anybody whom his fate compels to use his brain actively soon realizes that he cannot afford to lose any of his resources, and he devises some plan for stopping waste. If he is rich enough he buys the assistance of a trained secretary. If not, he reads the books in which the methods of erudition or those of business (they are almost alike) are expounded, or he invents devices of his own. We marvel at the immense knowledge which some writers possess of what used to be called foreign politics but should be called at present the politics of us all. We wonder at the enormousness of the archives they must keep and the difficulty for even them to find their way through that mass of papers. As a matter of fact, folio volumes of coarse paper on which clippings from the newspapers can be glued according to some happy combination of the vertical and the horizontal are all that is necessary. Red ink annotations will provide indication of richer dossiers. The secret is to clip all that seems important at once. Newspapers are historical documents prepared by men and women generally ignorant of, and indifferent to, history. An occurrence of far-reaching consequence may be mentioned in an inconspicuous column and in unemphatic type by so-called specialists who do not realize its importance and will never allude to it again. If the passage is not filed at once its absence may mean the loss of a capital link in the chain of events.

Facts are only the material for thought. Thoughts themselves, that is to say, the illumination produced in our mind by the presence of rich facts, should be preserved even more carefully."

What Dimnet describes above is, in essence, pre-Internet blogging. The habit of blogging preserves information and the annotations one makes generates thought. It is a very good habit to have.

Trump Salutes His North Korean Masters

What a disgrace. Despicable, and a grave dishonor to the 50,000 American soldiers who lost their lives in Korea, as well as their families.
North Korean state television aired a 42-minute documentary on Thursday that offered a different view of Kim Jong Un's meeting with President Trump in Singapore.

Notably, the documentary appears to have captured several scenes that international news organizations missed — including one awkward moment when Trump was saluted by a North Korean military leader. The U.S. president then salutes in return.

Though only a brief interaction, it was telling that the salute was included in the documentary, according to Jean H. Lee, a North Korea scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

“This is a moment that will be used over and over in North Korea’s propaganda as 'proof' that the American president defers to the North Korean military,” Lee said. “It will be treated as a military victory by the North Koreans.”

Fear The Carpet

There might be Legos there:
BILLUND, DENMARK—Lego has just introduced new and improved interlocking plastic bricks that will instantly kill you when you step on them, sources at the company’s headquarters confirmed Thursday.

The sharper edges in the new design will just immediately put you out of your misery, so you don’t have to roll around on the ground in excruciating pain for minutes on end. Utilizing advanced laser-driven techniques, Lego factories can now hone the edges of the famously sharp and painful bricks to such a fine point that the human nervous system instantly shuts down upon coming into contact with them.

Ivanka's Chinese Proverb

The daughter of the US president tweeted on Monday: "'Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it.' - Chinese Proverb".

But digital sleuths in the US and China said there is no evidence such a pearl of wisdom originated in China.

Social Media Influencer, That's The Life For Me!

This looks like the gig for me. Marc, the Thought Bot as social media influencer. I'll stay in your motel for three months in exchange for two social media posts about your continental breakfast:
“Everyone with a Facebook these days is an influencer,” she said. “People say, I want to come to the Maldives for 10 days and will do two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers. It's people with 600 Facebook friends saying, ‘Hi, I'm an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days,’” she said. Others send vague one-line emails, like “I want to collaborate with you,”with no further explanation. “These people are expecting five to seven nights on average, all inclusive. Maldives is not a cheap destination.” She said that only about 10 percent of the requests she receives are worth investigating.

A Golden Age of Clever Product Names at Target

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Kilauea Annihilates Hawaii's Largest Freshwater Lake

A flick of Pele's hair:
A steam plume first appeared around 10 a.m. Saturday as lava poured into Green Lake in Kapoho, but by 3 p.m. a Hawaii County Fire Department overflight confirmed to the US Geological Survey that the lake had filled with lava and the body of water was no more.

Whatever Happened to the Concept of Peace Through Strength?

Another time America went after Canada:

Here Comes Bud

Forecasts are looking good for Hurricane Bud's remnants to hit the Southwest with some welcome rains. Unclear if the rains will move up the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico, or a little farther west, but either way, there's lots of parched ground ready and waiting.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Listening to EDC 2018 Las Vegas Videos

Most are a little too dubsteppy for me, but Tiesto seems about right. Long track record. A few years ago, I passed by a retirement home, and I was surprised to hear Tiesto booming out from the windows.

Bad Company

New Mexico man flees to Florida and mixes with a bad crowd of bikers and FBI agents:
When Apodaca first came to the attention of the FBI, he was living in a trailer in Davie, Fla., north of Miami, behind the clubhouse of the”Dirty White Boys Motorcycle Club,” which prosecutors say supports more notorious motorcycle gangs such as the Outlaws.

...The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that a fellow white supremacist-turned-FBI-informant testified at trial that at the Davie clubhouse, Apodaca had told him “tales of violence,” including about his role in McGuire’s slaying. In response, Apodaca testified that the stories of violence were just bravado, referring to them as “tall tales and legends.”

Regardless, the FBI in Miami was intrigued enough to open up an investigation into Apodaca in May 2016, supposedly to “mitigate any potential threats posed by Apodaca and to determine whether he was engaging in criminal activities.”

The agents didn’t find any evidence that he was.

So in September 2016 they introduced themselves, posing as “affluent violent members of a criminal organization with white supremacy extremist beliefs” in a covert undercover warehouse in Broward County, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hurricane Bud Moisture

Forecasts of lots of Hurricane Bud moisture entering NM/Arizona this weekend. It'll be interesting to see how much rain might fall, and where. Here's the current idea.

Flint-Knapping as a Path To Human Speech

I like this argument:
Kolodny’s arguments build off the groundbreaking experiments of Dietrich Stout, an anthropologist at Emory University. A flintknapper himself, Stout has taught hundreds of students how to make Acheulean-era tools, and he’s tracked their brain activity during the learning process. Stout found that his students’ white matter—or the neural connectivity in their brains—increased as they gained competence in flintknapping. His research suggests that producing complex tools spurred an increase in brain size and other aspects of hominin evolution, including—perhaps—the emergence of language.

But language couldn’t just pop out fully formed, like Athena from the head of Zeus. “Every evolutionary process, including the evolution of language, has to be incremental and composed of small steps, each of which independently needs to be beneficial,” Kolodny explains. Teaching, he says, was a crucial part of the process. When hominins like Homo ergaster and Homo erectus taught their close relatives how to make complex tools, they worked their way into an ever more specialized cultural niche, with evolutionary advantage going to those individuals who were not only adept at making and using complex tools, but who were also able—at the same time—to communicate in more and more sophisticated ways.

85 Percent Of Gun-Owning Parents Did Not Practice Safe Gun Storage

Depressing, but not surprising statistic: "85 percent of gun-owning parents did not practice safe gun storage and 72 percent believed their young children could differentiate a toy gun from a real gun.":
Children who participate in gun safety programs often ignore what they learned when encountering a real firearm, according to a Rutgers School of Nursing study.

The report, published recently in Health Promotion Practice, reviewed 10 studies on the effectiveness of strategies for teaching gun safety to children ages 4 to 9. The researchers found such programs do not reduce the likelihood that children will handle guns when they are unsupervised, that boys are more likely than girls to ignore gun-safety rules and that few studies exist of gun-safety programs for children beyond the fourth grade.

The Deserter

An Air Force officer who deserted in 1983 and was just rediscovered in California. Strange. Was at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, and is now imprisoned not far away, at Travis AFB in Fairfield. Still, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to have an alternate identity. A chance to start over:
Hughes was assigned to temporary duty in the Netherlands, working with NATO to test its new Airborne Warning and Control System, designed to be used for surveillance, command and control, battle space management and communications. He was expected to return to duty at Kirtland on Aug. 1, 1983.

He never showed up.

His car was found at the Albuquerque airport and a search of his home in the 1900 block of Chandelle Loop NE revealed notes of planned activities and books to read upon his return, according to reports.

Hughes was seen in the Albuquerque area withdrawing more than $28,000 from bank accounts, according to the AFOSI news release.

After the Air Force formally declared Hughes a deserter in December 1983, his family said in an Associated Press article printed in the Journal on Jan. 20, 1984, they believed he had been abducted.

Story of My Life

Idiots By The Dozen

Never learned a damn thing:
A State Department spokeswoman has been ridiculed for citing the D-Day invasion as an example of America’s “very strong relationship” with Germany.

“We have a very strong relationship with the government of Germany,” Heather Nauert said.

“Looking back in the history books, today is the 71st anniversary of the speech that announced the Marshall Plan. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the D-Day invasion. We obviously have a very long history with the government of Germany, and we have a strong relationship with the government of Germany.”

What Happens When a Bad-Tempered, Distractible Doofus Runs an Empire?

Pretty much like we got now:

One of the many things that Wilhelm was convinced he was brilliant at, despite all evidence to the contrary, was “personal diplomacy,” fixing foreign policy through one-on-one meetings with other European monarchs and statesmen. In fact, Wilhelm could do neither the personal nor the diplomacy, and these meetings rarely went well. The Kaiser viewed other people in instrumental terms, was a compulsive liar, and seemed to have a limited understanding of cause and effect. In 1890, he let lapse a long-standing defensive agreement with Russia—the German Empire’s vast and sometimes threatening eastern neighbor. He judged, wrongly, that Russia was so desperate for German good will that he could keep it dangling. Instead, Russia immediately made an alliance with Germany’s western neighbor and enemy, France. Wilhelm decided he would charm and manipulate Tsar Nicholas II (a “ninny” and a “whimperer,” according to Wilhelm, fit only “to grow turnips”) into abandoning the alliance. In 1897, Nicholas told Wilhelm to get lost; the German-Russian alliance withered.

Your government at work:
That’s where Solomon Lartey comes in. The records management analyst has spent hours tediously attempting to piece together pages ripped apart by the commander in chief. Spending his days piecing together the world’s most important government transparency “jigsaw puzzle,” scores the staffer just a little over $65,000 annually.

Sometimes his job is easy. Papers torn in half or quarters make for a simple day in the office. Others, however, “would be torn into pieces so small they looked like confetti.”

While the Republican leader campaigned on the importance of transparency, his administration and cabinet appointees have taken a different approach. For president himself, old habits die hard. His “process” is an “unofficial filing system” in which he rips papers to pieces when he’s finished with them. Sometimes they make it into the trash, others they are strewn about in the Oval Office.

Rather than trying to teach an old dog new tricks, the staff decided simply to clean up after him.

“We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” Lartey told Politico in an interview. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.”

Papers would then be sent to the National Archives where they would be filed.

“I had a letter from Schumer — he tore it up,” he said. “It was the craziest thing ever. He ripped papers into tiny pieces.”

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Thursday Night Fierce Funk


I don't pay much attention to genetics, but I was really struck by this article. I had learned that the discovery of DNA had proven Darwinian evolution - evolution by natural selection - as correct, and pushed Lamarckian evolution - evolution by inheritance of acquired characteristics - into the realm of fiction.

The role of methylation in affecting gene expression, however, may make evolution more Lamarckian in nature.

It reminds me of back when I was a kid. I took a population of tadpoles and put them in a tub. The remaining mud-puddle population quickly grew legs and hopped away as tiny toads as the mud puddle dried out. The tub population, however, just became fatter tadpoles, developing legs only very late. Somehow their growth was being affected by the availability of water. Pretty amazing stuff!:
As scientists came to better understand the function of methylation in altering gene expression, they realized that extreme environmental stress—the results of which had earlier seemed self-explanatory—could have additional biological effects on the organisms that suffered it. Experiments with laboratory animals have now shown that these outcomes are based on the transmission of acquired changes in genetic function. Childhood abuse, trauma, famine, and ethnic prejudice may, it turns out, have long-term consequences for the functioning of our genes.

These effects arise from a newly recognized genetic mechanism called epigenesis, which enables the environment to make long-lasting changes in the way genes are expressed. Epigenesis does not change the information coded in the genes or a person’s genetic makeup—the genes themselves are not affected—but instead alters the manner in which they are “read” by blocking access to certain genes and preventing their expression. This mechanism can be the hidden cause of our feelings of depression, anxiety, or paranoia. What is perhaps most surprising of all, this alteration could, in some cases, be passed on to future generations who have never directly experienced the stresses that caused their forebears’ depression or ill health.

Friday, June 08, 2018

Person A

Paul Manafort and Russian Intelligence are linked at the hip:
When Manafort first began to contemplate doing business on a grand scale in Russia and Ukraine, he faced a basic logistic challenge. He intended to operate in countries where mastery of English was not a prerequisite for the acquisition of wealth and power. ... So he grew reliant on Konstantin Kilimnik, a Soviet-born native who could render idiomatic English and translate the cultural nuances of the region that might elude outsiders. Manafort would describe him to others in his office as “my Russian brain.” For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs.

After so much time spent in close quarters, the relationship between the two became trusting and deep. By 2011, Kilimnik had taken over Manafort’s office in Kiev. This made Kilimnik the primary interface for Manafort’s lone client, a corrupt clique of former gangsters that ruled Ukraine under the banner of their political organization, the Party of Regions.

...For more than two decades, Konstantin Kilimnik, known familiarly as Kostya and K.K., has worked for Americans, the bulk of his time with Manafort. During that entire period, he has been dogged by suspicions. There were always hints that he might be serving another master, providing a set of surveilling eyes for Russian intelligence. One of his former colleagues, Michael Getto, told me, “From my standpoint, I kept my distance from Kostya, because I knew there was a better-than-even chance that he was connected to people I didn’t want to be.” These insinuations were never backed by more than a smattering of circumstantial evidence. They were never enough to deter State Department officials from grabbing the occasional gossipy drink with him—although one diplomat, casting a backwards glance over the course of his dealings with Kilimnik, told me, “He has excellent tradecraft.”

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Evidence of Organic Material on Mars

The odds of life on Mars get better all the time:
A set of geological results recently delivered courtesy of Curiosity's drill bit provides a deeper understanding of the organic chemistry of the 300-million-year-old mudstone in two separate parts of Gale crater.

The samples were found to contain thiophene, 2- and 3-methylthiophenes, methanethiol, and dimethylsulfide.

...The other set of results announced today deals with the mysterious case of Mars's methane. Spikes of methane (CH4) were first noticed in the Red Planet's atmosphere several years ago, drawing intense debate over the hydrocarbon's possible source.

Data from the plucky rover Curiosity and the Trace Gas Orbiter high above the planet have spotted it in puffs, suggesting a dynamic process is churning it out parts per billion.

It should take methane several hundred years to break apart in the presence of UV light, but that's not what happened on Mars. The surge in methane seems to fade as quickly as it appears, indicating there's not just a variable source, but a methane sink as well.

A new analysis of data gathered by Curiosity has confirmed a long-term pattern of methane highs and lows, varying between 0.24 to 0.65 parts per billion.

The most exciting news is that the changes definitely match the Martian seasons, hitting a peak at the end of summer in the northern hemisphere.

"This is the first time we've seen something repeatable in the methane story, so it offers us a handle in understanding it," said lead author of the second paper Chris Webster of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).

Nice Words

A Landscape of Yarn

I’m waking up from a curious dream where I needed to conjure up a desert landscape in a part of Utah I’d never visited, but one nevertheless friendly to cross-country runners. So my brain made the landscape out of fluffy yarn, so I could tumble down steep cliffs without harm as I ran. Landscape looked like a Google Earth rendering of fantastical, ropy-looking 1950’s sci-fi lunar mountains. I wish this place was real. Like my own Private Idaho.

Monday, June 04, 2018

This is Just Bonkers!

Just bonkers at 10th & X Streets in Sacramento! Apparently started with a freeway crash, and the guy was lit. Surprised the cops didn't go ballistic.

According to the woman who posted the video: "Apparently he hit another car on the freeway and then proceeded to get off and then start hitting this poor blue CR-V. The police said there was no relation. I saw the owner of the blue CR-V. He look pretty shook up and upset. Such a random act."

Just crazy.

Light Rail Day

Truck problems today, so in a relative novelty, I’m riding light rail. Fun to ride light rail once in a while.

Attended ballet class in Rancho Cordova, but that's pretty much all I did today. That, and getting the truck to the mechanic. And taking Zumba. Probably walked at least five miles today, all told. I ache....

Planet of the Female Invaders (1966)

Mexican film, apparently. This clip doesn't make much sense. Diplomacy may be the best course when dealing with female space invaders.

Cool Costumes at Phoenix Comic Fest

Impressive cosplay skills:
Cosplayers from around Arizona got a chance to show off their best efforts and wowed those in attendance with their artistry, creativity, and hard work.

We came across some of the best costumes we've ever witnessed at the event, including all manner of outfits inspired by films, video games, books, and other geeky subject matter. (Heck, someone even dressed up as a Falcon Heavy rocket.)

It wasn't all cosplay bliss, however. ... An emergency evacuation emptied the convention center on Saturday, May 26, after a false alarm caused the annual Masquerade Costume Contest, the biggest cosplay event of the weekend, to be postponed until the following evening.

...Valley cosplayer Prue Dense was one of the people whose costume was affected by the evacuation. Her expertly crafted costume, which depicted the Enchantress from Beauty and Beast, was ruined after she and other cosplayers were forced to wait outside the convention center for several hours.

“It melted and I melted,” she told Phoenix New Times.

"Moon Over Buffalo" - Sutter Street Theater

A little over the top, but I nevertheless enjoyed the show.

Time to Build a Wall

Bollywood Thriller

Guinness World Record For Jump Rope

Unexpected Check

I don't understand medical billing. Sutter Hospitals mailed me a $1,500 check. I have no earthly idea why.

I’m like a deer in the headlights with this stuff. I was impressed with the original hospital bill: $91,000, minus an $84,000 “adjustment” (that’s all it said). Of the remaining $7,000, I paid $2,000 and the insurance company paid $5,000. But if I get a $1,500 refund, then all I pay is $500 (plus an additional $5,000 paid separately to doctors). None of it makes any sense to me, but it seems better than paying $91,000. It’s like playing “Wheel of Fortune.”

Ute Park Fire

How to Talk to Cows

Dunes on Pluto

Grains of frozen methane:
Dunes form on Pluto in the same way they do on Earth. Winds carry loose grains through the atmosphere and shape them into gently sloping peaks.

Scientists have observed dunes on other bodies in the solar system, including Mars, Venus, Saturn’s moon Titan, and even a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The planets and moon all have atmospheres that can sustain grain-sweeping winds, and the comet ejects jets of gas that, when they hit the surface at the right angle, can stir up particles and send them flying. “As long as we have something that can move particles or sand grains, then we should also have dunes,” Radebaugh says.

But scientists hadn’t expected to find them on Pluto. The dwarf planet does have an atmosphere, but it’s so thin that they didn’t think the wind there would be powerful enough to sweep the landscape into peaks and valleys. “The wind is sufficient to move the particles away, but it’s not sufficient to lift up the particles,” says Cathy Olkin, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and a deputy project scientist for New Horizons.

To shape dunes on Pluto, the wind needs a little help from a process called sublimation. In the afternoons, when Pluto is at its warmest, sunlight gently heats up the upper layers of the surface and sends large amounts of icy particles flying into the atmosphere, sometimes at high speed.