Friday, May 12, 2006

Troublesome Fibers

I have a weakness for skin diseases, which is why I'm glad I don't live in the tropics, but this one sounds scary:
If diseases like AIDS and bird flu scare you, wait until you hear what's next. Doctors are trying to find out what is causing a bizarre and mysterious infection that's surfaced in South Texas.

Morgellons disease is not yet known to kill, but if you were to get it, you might wish you were dead, as the symptoms are horrible.

"These people will have like beads of sweat but it's black, black and tarry," said Ginger Savely, a nurse practioner in Austin who treats a majority of these patients.
Patients get lesions that never heal.

"Sometimes little black specks that come out of the lesions and sometimes little fibers," said Stephanie Bailey, Morgellons patient.

Patients say that's the worst symptom — strange fibers that pop out of your skin in different colors.

"He'd have attacks and fibers would come out of his hands and fingers, white, black and sometimes red. Very, very painful," said Lisa Wilson, whose son Travis had Morgellon's disease.

While all of this is going on, it feels like bugs are crawling under your skin. So far more than 100 cases of Morgellons disease have been reported in South Texas.
"It really has the makings of a horror movie in every way," Savely said.

... Travis Wilson developed Morgellons just over a year ago. He called his mother in to see a fiber coming out of a lesion.

"It looked like a piece of spaghetti was sticking out about a quarter to an eighth of an inch long and it was sticking out of his chest," Lisa Wilson said. "I tried to pull it as hard as I could out and I could not pull it out."

... "You want to get these things out to relieve the pain, and that's why you pull and then you can see the fibers there, and the tentacles are there, and there are millions of them," Bishop said.

...For more information on Morgellons, visit the research foundation's Web site at
Feeling Amish

Las Vegas ain't for everyone:
Finally, Vegas has too many people craving attention - and I'm not talking about the Elvises, which are everywhere - and fun. I'm talking about people who've spent too much time in front of the mirror trying too hard to look like somebody they are not.

Las Vegas is the love child of Hooter's and the Oregon Country Fair, a human collage that's great for those who like to strut.
And whom, may I ask, doesn't like to strut?
Furtive Rumors

That the documentary about the California Recall 2003 alternative gubernatorial candidates will come out sometime this year, but nothing hard yet.... That would make for some interesting watching. I hope it appears soon!
Squeeze Toy

Last night, returning home after musical theater rehearsal, Sparky ran over to greet me with a squeeze toy in his mouth. Except that it wasn't a squeeze toy, it was a dead baby possum.

Sparky's so cute when he does that, but I really wish he wouldn't do that.
No-Man's Land

The J Street/Southern Pacific railroad crossing in Midtown Sacramento, across from Old Spaghetti Factory, is a kind of no-man's land, owned by no neighborhood business. You can meet all the neighborhood bums in this neutral zone. Yesterday, a photographer, a woman holding a reflective mirror-like surface, and a fashion model dressed in retro-40's clothes, and made-up to the nth degree were carefully posing in the zone, next to the rail crossing gate. Like I said, all the neighborhood bums. I wonder what publication I'll see her appear in in the future?
Recall Candidates Getting Feisty Again

It must be the political season:
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides didn't know it, but when he dropped in on UCSD College Democrats yesterday, he was not the only one in the room who has sought the top job in California politics.

Sitting with about 40 other students – and armed with the toughest question of the day – was Daniel Watts, one of 135 candidates in the 2003 recall election that put Republican action-movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governor's office.

A history and political science major from San Jose, Watts, 23, financed his campaign with some of the $11,300 he won on TV's "Wheel of Fortune."

His platform was simple: He ran against tuition and fee increases for California's public universities and colleges.

That put him in ideological sync with Angelides, the state treasurer, whose call for taxing the wealthy and businesses to finance education – and to roll back higher education tuition and fees – is a cornerstone of his campaign.

Angelides emphasized his education policy heavily yesterday, without
mentioning taxes.

Until Watts raised his hand.

"What, specifically, are you going to do to pay for it?" Watts asked.
I'm not running this year because I'm not so annoyed as I was in 2003 by the California political situation. And why isn't Daniel running?
As for Watts, he has abandoned, for now, his interest in becoming governor. He got 2,021 votes in 2003, but took a pass on this year's contest. “I ran out of 'Wheel of Fortune' money,” he said, “so I couldn't afford the filing fee.”

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Judge Luttig

Among the most respected conservative judges in the U.S. resigned because the Bush Administration treated him like a chump. Atta boy, Dubya!:
On Nov. 22, U.S. Circuit Judge J. Michael Luttig was at work in his chambers here when he received a telephone call telling him to switch on the television. There, he saw Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announce that the government would file charges against Jose Padilla in a federal court -- treating the accused terrorist like a normal criminal suspect.

The judge was stunned. Two months earlier, he had written a landmark opinion saying the government could hold Mr. Padilla without charge in a military brig. The decision validated President Bush's claim that he could set aside Mr. Padilla's constitutional rights in the name of national security. The judge assumed the government had a compelling reason to consider the suspect an extraordinary threat. Now Mr. Gonzales wanted the courts to forget the whole case.

It didn't take long for the judge's anger to burst out into the open. The next month he wrote that moves such as the attorney general's cast doubt on the Bush administration's "credibility before the courts." Judge Luttig tried to block Mr. Padilla's transfer to civilian custody from the brig. The administration's top litigator fired back that the judge "defies both law and logic."

The clash, which underscores the increasing skepticism among even some conservative jurists toward the Bush administration's sweeping theories of executive power, culminated yesterday in Judge Luttig's resignation. The 51-year-old judge, once considered a likely Bush nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, stepped down from his lifetime seat on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to start a new career in Chicago as general counsel for Boeing Co.
"Are You My Mommy?"

Macabre Mother's Day sentiments from the natural world:
When Douglas W. Mock of the University of Oklahoma began studying egrets in Texas three decades ago, he knew that the bigger babies in a clutch would peck the smaller ones to death. Still, Dr. Mock was caught off guard by what he saw — or failed to see. He had assumed that the murderous attacks would surely take place while Mom and Dad egret were out fishing.

"I figured that, if the parents were around, they'd try to block these things," he said. "I have three older brothers, and I never would have made it if my parents hadn't interceded."

Instead, Dr. Mock witnessed utter parental indifference. The mother or father would stand by the side of the nest, doing nothing as one chick battered its sibling bloody. "The parent would yawn or groom itself and look completely blasé," said Dr. Mock, author of "More Than Kin and Less Than Kind: The Evolution of Family Conflict." "In the 3,000 attacks that I witnessed, I never saw a parent try to stop one. It's as though they expect it to happen."
Memory, And The Pilot

It happens to all of us:
A former Navy Top Gun with decades of flying experience forgot to put his plane's landing gear down during an air show practice run in Tucson in March, the Federal Aviation Administration found.

Retired Capt. Dale "Snort" Snodgrass, a seasoned pro on the military air-show circuit, was piloting a Korean War-era F-86 Sabre that scraped to a stop and caught fire in the March 4 mishap at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

... Snodgrass remains on the Air Force schedule this season. The service still has "total confidence in his abilities," according to a statement from the Air Combat Command.

... If damage is minor and the incident is a simple oversight, discipline usually consists of giving the pilot a talking-to, Schultz said. The lecture would be "kind of demeaning" for a highly accomplished aviator, he said.

Snodgrass, who retired from a 26-year Navy career in 1999, is renowned in the air-show world. He has 10,000 hours of flight time under his belt, half of them in the F-14 Tomcat, a Navy record for the jet. In 1985, Snodgrass was a Top Gun graduate and the Navy's Fighter Pilot of the Year. From 1994 to 1997, he was commander of all the Navy's F-14s. He flew the Tomcat in air shows for more than a decade, and is qualified on at least six other aircraft, including several vintage warplanes.
Cingular Wireless Drops Ringtone

One por los mojados, apparently:
The newspaper reported in its online edition Tuesday that the ringtone started with a siren, followed by a male voice saying in a Southern drawl, "This is la Migra," a slang term for the Border Patrol.

"Por favor, put the oranges down and step away from the cell phone. I repeat-o, put the oranges down and step away from the telephone-o. I'm deporting you back home-o," the voice continued.
Reclamation Board Article

It is clear the Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters wanted to place the Board of Reclamation's vote into an established, simplified story line. These matters often have convoluted histories, however, so maybe it's a square peg in a round hole.

My personal view is that development needs to be severely restricted in the Plumas Basin and elsewhere along the Sacramento River, and in the Delta, because the risk of flooding is too great, and also because of environmental concerns. Unfortunately, serving on the Board of Reclamation, one rarely has the luxury of dealing with problems from first principles.

Good luck to you, Cheryl!:
[Letter is removed for the time being]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Let Us Proceed, Quibbles Aside!

Former California Recall 2003 gubernatorial candidate Diana Foss points out that former California Recall 2003 gubernatorial candidate Cheryl Bly-Chester is making waves again:
Last year - on Sept. 16, to be precise - the state Reclamation Board, a relatively obscure state agency that oversees flood protection levees, approved a potentially far-reaching policy to intercede when local governments and developers propose residential subdivisions behind levees designed to protect farmland.

... Ten days later, before the new policy could be finally adopted, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger fired the entire board and replaced it with seven new appointees, most of whom had strong ties to land developers. Ever since, skeptics of building homes behind agricultural levees - including deposed members of the Reclamation Board - have wondered aloud whether the new board would be more favorably disposed toward development interests.

The issue was settled, it would seem, late last month, when the Reclamation Board voted to allow the developer of an immense subdivision on a Delta island south of Stockton to begin widening the existing levee and - ignoring warnings from the board's attorney that it was violating state open-meeting laws - expanded the developer's permit to indirectly allow construction of luxury, riverview homes atop the widened levee.

A transcript of the board's April 21 meeting reveals that two of the board's members - Cheryl Bly-Chester, who owns a Roseville engineering firm that does work for developers, and Teri Rie, a Contra Costa County public works engineer - pushed hard to expand the permit sought by Cambay Group, the developer of the River Islands project.

The development on Stewart Tract, a Delta island that flooded in 1997 when a levee broke, envisions a community of 11,000 residential units, two golf courses, several marinas and 5 million square feet of commercial space. Cambay, owned by British financier F. Allan Chapman, has already obtained the enthusiastic support of the small city of Lathrop, whose boundaries include Stewart Tract.

Cambay - acceding to the board staff - had sought just a permit to begin shoring up and widening the existing levee, but the firm had made no secret of its unhappiness with the board staff's go-slow approach under which the levee expansion would occur first and the issue of what could be built atop the levee would be taken up later. Cambay project director Susan Dell'Osso complained that the company was reluctant to do the levee work without assurances that home construction would be allowed, and that became the board's bone of contention during a lengthy and often rambling debate.

Member Butch Hodgkins, former director of the Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency, tried to delay a decision on housing, but Bly-Chester and Rie eventually prevailed on a 5-1 vote even though the board's counsel, Scott Morgan, warned repeatedly that altering the permit to imply approval of housing atop the levee would violate rules against taking up issues not on the agenda. Hodgkins actually voted with the majority in the end. The only dissenter was Rose Burroughs, owner of a Denair livestock company.
[Updated 05/12/06, 4:00 p.m.] There definitely would be a downside to projects like these if they are as described in Walters' article. Placing premium houses on top of levees would increase the state's liability and add to the cost of levee maintenance.

Nevertheless, this project apparently intends to place houses on fill behind the levees, not on the levees proper (this distinction causes confusion). Project costs are likely to be heavy, however, because of all the earthmoving, and without the ability to sell premium lots on fill, the project itself would be jeopardized.:

What I've heard -- and I want to make sure the rest of the Board members really heard this -- is that the only way they can afford to do this multi-million dollar flood improvement project for the State of California is if they have lot premiums that they can sell. They cannot sell lot premiums if they don't know how close to the levee edge they can build.

So they cannot afford to do this. The state will not get the benefit of this project. And it's free levee protection, is what it is, for the State, as far as the state's concerned.

So this project is not going to be worth it to the applicant if they cannot do lot premiums. They can to lot premiums unless they know where they can build their buildings. We need to give them some direction here so they can do this project.
O Superman

I was listening to "The Other Side - New York", a compilation of edgy performance-oriented music regarding New York City (as chosen by Fischerspooner), and was pleased to hear Laurie Anderson's "O Superman", which dates to 1981. I remember the buzz that accompanied this song when it first came out: all the modern dancers at the University of Arizona couldn't resist but to take this song out for a spin!

In any event, after 9/11, the song is spookier and edgier today than it has ever been! (Lyrics from Let's Sing It):
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
O Superman. O judge. O Mom and Dad. Mom and Dad.
Hi. I'm not home right now. But if you want to leave a
message, just start talking at the sound of the tone.
Hello? This is your Mother. Are you there? Are you
coming home?

Hello? Is anybody home? Well, you don't know me,
but I know you.
And I've got a message to give to you.
Here come the planes.

So you better get ready. Ready to go. You can come
as you are, but pay as you go. Pay as you go.
And I said: OK. Who is this really? And the voice said:
This is the hand, the hand that takes. This is the
hand, the hand that takes.
This is the hand, the hand that takes.
Here come the planes.
They're American planes. Made in America.
Smoking or non-smoking?

And the voice said: Neither snow nor rain nor gloom
of night shall stay these couriers from the swift
completion of their appointed rounds.

'Cause when love is gone, there's always justice.
And when justive is gone, there's always force.
And when force is gone, there's always Mom. Hi Mom!

So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
In your automatic arms. Your electronic arms.
In your arms.
So hold me, Mom, in your long arms.
Your petrochemical arms. Your military arms.
In your electronic arms.
Rise of the Mammals

Via Atrios comes this stirring column by Gene Lyons about the demise of the media pundit dinosaurs. Regarding Steve Colbert's recent roasting of the President:
Satire comes in many forms. I doubt that Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” evoked belly laughs among Ireland’s 18 th century English occupiers when it recommended remedying poverty by roasting peasants’ infants like suckling pigs.

George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” had few fans in the Politburo when it mocked communism’s pretense of universal brotherhood: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” Written in 1943, Orwell’s fable wasn’t published until August 1945, when World War II ended, making Josef Stalin and Winston Churchill no longer allies.

This president loves dishing it out. The Associated Press reporter who introduced Colbert told an anecdote about Bush teasing him at a press conference for having “a face for radio.” Ha, ha, ha. Good one, Mr. President. He is awfully homely. Colbert’s performance, however, made it clear that Bush doesn’t enjoy taking it.

Well, tough. Millions of Americans haven’t enjoyed being subjected to Bush’s swaggeringly contemptuous disregard for the truth. Nor, to come to the point, the posturing of media enablers like Cohen, a liberal columnist who wrote in 2000 that the nation was “in dire need of a conciliator, a likable guy who will make things better and not worse.... That man is George W. Bush.”

The larger point is that Beltway courtiers like Cohen, Time’s Joe Klein and others currently succumbing to the vapors over critical e-mails from fans thrilled by Colbert’s gutsy performance are on their way out. The brief reign of the celebrity pundit began with cable TV and appears to be ending with the Internet. Washington socialites are quickly being replaced in public esteem by politically oriented bloggers like Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, the inimitable Digby, Glenn Greenwald, Billmon, Atrios and many others. As Greg Sargent recently pointed out in The American Prospect, “Readers are choosing between the words on a screen offered by Klein and other commentators and the words on a screen offered by bloggers on the basis of one thing alone: The quality of the work.” Sure, there’s a danger of groupthink. That’s true of all mass media. But there’s also a fierce independence and an intellectual honesty among the best online commentators that are making Washington courtiers awfully nervous.
Arched Eyebrows

This sort of stuff is fun, but just like with La Fajada Butte in Chaco Canyon, you have to limit use, or ban use entirely, just to preserve what Nature gave us:
Climber Dean Potter scaled Delicate Arch, the soaring desert symbol of southern Utah. Now, the National Park Service wants to make sure he doesn't do it again.

Arches National Park on Tuesday announced a tightening of its rules on climbing after Potter announced with photographs and video that he made an unassisted climb of the arch just after daybreak Sunday.

Arches Park Superintendent Laura Joss said she reported Potter's climb to the Interior Department's chief lawyers, and park rangers were investigating whether Potter did any damage to the arch.

Joss said she was rewriting the rules to ban climbing of any named arches or natural bridges in the park.
Huygens Descent - The Movie

Boy, these carefully-assembled videos are great! hosts two videos showing the descent of the Huygens probe to Titan on January 14, 2005. The first video is nice, with a narration from the folks at LPL in Tucson, AZ.

At this Web Page, the second video shows other data displays and has a very soothing, bell-laden soundtrack.

Just the best stuff!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


There's a Southwestern and Intermountain West heat wave coming over the next week, which will be complete with mountain thundershowers. It'll be like a proto-summer, or a proto-monsoon, in NM, Utah, and NV (and a little in AZ too). Probably nothing in the Valley of the Sun, except sun, at least for now.

There are no Atlantic tropical storms yet, but there is a 1000-mile band of thunderstorms lining up over the eastern Pacific Ocean over the next week that looks pretty formidable (west of Costa Rica and south of Acapulco), so there may be an early tropical storm or two out there.
Skateboarding in P.E.

About time!:
The kids at Douglass Elementary School already had a climbing wall and a zip line in their gymnasium. Then their P.E. teacher learned to skateboard.

So the students are taking up skateboarding too. It's the latest in a trend toward physical education that's fun and tempts kids into staying active outside of school and perhaps years later.

... "Skateboarding is definitely a new activity in school P.E. classes," said Paula Kun, spokeswoman for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. "Not everyone is going to love it, but I'm sure it'll be a fun, new activity."

... Experts say school P.E. programs in America are undergoing a dramatic change -- from competitive team sports and physical fitness testing to a smorgasbord of appealing options like yoga, martial arts and climbing. The changes come amid growing concern over children's sedentary habits, helping fuel childhood obesity. About 34 percent of U.S. children are estimated to be overweight or obese.
Which reminds me, it's time to skateboard again. The only time I ever skateboarded was three years ago. The camera crew from San Francisco dared me to skateboard for the first time, to demonstrate just what I was prepared to do to become Governor of California. It was fun, and captured on video, but I suspect they are using the video in P.E. classes across the country, demonstrating just what not to do....
Mystic Dwarfs

And I was just lamenting the other day that I can't forsee things worth a damn. Some people get all the luck!:
A Philippine judge who claimed he could see into the future and admitted consulting imaginary mystic dwarfs has asked for his job back after being fired by the country's Supreme Court.

... He told investigators that three mystic dwarfs -- Armand, Luis and Angel -- helped him carry out healing sessions during breaks in his chambers.
Way Too Late

It's been evident for years, decades even, that FLDS wasn't just a church, wasn't just a scam, but rather a criminal enterprise. So only now is the state of Utah starting an investigation.
Utah has launched an organized-crime investigation into a polygamist sect and its fugitive leader Warren Jeffs, now on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.

... The FLDS church is one of a number of polygamist sects in and near Utah. Followers believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormon church, went the wrong direction when it abandoned polygamy more than a century ago as Utah was seeking statehood. Estimates of the number of polygamists range from 30,000 to 100,000.

Jeffs has been on the run for years. On Saturday, he was added to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, and the federal reward for him was boosted to $100,000.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lawmakers And The National Anthem

Difficult song. Andee Thorpe sings it very well. How about our lawmakers, the one's who insist that it not be sung in Spanish?:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., sang the first stanzas so robustly we weren't about to challenge his knowledge of the rest. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham was gentlemanly when we put him on the spot, saying, "I am like 61 percent of Americans. If I had to get up and recite the national anthem, I would fail miserably."

We came upon a woman dressed as a fish — she was lobbying for clean water — and she sang it with just a minor flub. A group of chiropractors whirled around and sang it backward. Get it? Backward.
Yopp! - "Suessical, the Musical" at DMTC's YPT

Final bows. Working from left to right, people I easily recognize: Blake Thomas (Thing 1); Bird Girls in the back row (Hannah Allen, Kimberley Casazza, Caitlin Humphreys, and Hannah Trost); Rebecca Rudy & Linnea Lampinen (front row), Kennedy Wenning (Mrs. Mayor, back row); Julia Soto (Sour Kangaroo) and Anna Miles (Mayzie LaBird), back row; Elliot Mende (Cat in the Hat, back row), Andrew Lemons (Horton, next to Cat in the Hat), Jocelyn Price (Gertrude McFuzz, back row), Andrew Lampinen (Vlad Vladikoff, back row), Mary Ellen Price (Thing 2, front row); Kat Holder and Joey Lemons (back row); and the four Wickershams (Cass Olson, Cody Craven, Wyatt Floerke, and Casey Bowman).

Bows for Julia Soto (Sour Kangaroo), Blake Thomas (Thing 1) and Mary Ellen Price (Thing 2). Back row, working from left to right: Hudson Shively (Jojo), Anna Miles (Mayzie LaBird), Jocelyn Price (Gertrude McFuzz), and Andrew Lemons (Horton).

Dr. Suess' books came out in the late fifties and early sixties, so I'm among the first generations of school kids to have had the pleasure to read his tales (I started elementary school in 1962). Dr. Suess' whimsical books reached instant, timeless, classic status immediately: they are as fresh today as the day they first appeared.

Very nice YPT show. Several standouts... Hudson Shively as Jojo. Wonderful presence on stage. Anna Miles was sassy as Mayzie LaBird: hope to see more of her flamboyance on stage! Cody Craven was excellent as General Genghis Khan Schmitz - very articulate and emphatic. Elliot Mende made a good Cat in the Hat: I especially liked the Yiddish imitation.

Sounds like Julia Soto has been training for R&B singing - excellent stage presence and singing! As an up-and-coming presence, Kennedy Wenning caught my eye. She was required to be formal for her role as Mrs. Mayor, but she played it excellently. Andrew Lemons is great on stage, although his voice suffered at the beginning of Sunday evening (he was over-taxed - he was also doing "Bye, Bye Birdie" this weekend at VAPAC).

I'm really glad that Jocelyn Price did the choreography. Some of the movement was very clever: the 'Perils of Pauline' part, which I almost didn't catch, because of the multifaceted layers of activity, with Jojo, the Thingys, and the Cat in the Hat at the top of Act II, really caught my eye. For choreography, it's important that the person doing it have close and intimate contact with dancers and the dance world, in order to retain the freshness required for good work. Teenage dancers seem very well suited for the task. Teenagers blossom, dancewise, from ages 12-15, and have the time required to hone their skills. Good job, Jocelyn! (If only we could get Erin Carpenter back to do some dance stuff...)

According to the Davis Enterprise, Emily Jo Seminoff (currently at Solano Community College) contributed much in the costuming of the show (Costume Design: Jenifer Price). Good job, all!
Poppies...Well, Not Poppies, Exactly

Sunday afternoon at the Hoblit Performing Arts Center. "Wizard of Oz" is on stage, inside, at this very moment!

Look at these nice flowers. The property management firm (Buzz Oates) takes care of these. They should be poppies! They aren't though. They look like they are from the Sunflower family (Asteraceae), not the Poppy family (Papaveraceae). Whatever they are, they sure are pretty on a Sunday afternoon! And I feel very, very sleepy.....
When Elephants Fight, The Grass Suffers

It's high school graduation season again, and this year, two girls from Albuquerque are graduating. The girls are cousins. One is the daughter of a dorm mate, and the other is the daughter of his sister.

I was surprised, first, that either was old enough to graduate, and second, that I was invited, since I've met one girl maybe four or five times over the years, and the other just once. But hey, it's the season, and and they are to be congratulated!

The girls live on opposite sides of town, and go to cross-town rival high schools. The west side (Cibola) Class of 2006 class motto is:

Life is not measured
by the number of breaths we take
but by the moments
that take our breath away.
The east side (Manzano) Class of 2006 class motto is:
Life doesn't consist of
how many breaths you take
but by how many moments
take your breath away.
I sense trouble.
Another Bad Hurricane Season Approaches

I believe this. Already, with the NOGAPS model loops, you see proto-hurricanes already trying to fire up in the Caribbean and elsewhere, and May isn't even half over yet. The cause is primarily a natural temperature cycle of Atlantic water, and who knows about global warming? Hurricane formation is something like a nucleation phenomenon, and a slight warming can lead to a proliferation of the strongest hurricanes. Conversely, slight cooling could shut down all the big ones.:
In what could signal a frightening new fact of life in the age of global warming, Canadian and U.S. forecasters are warning that another major hurricane season is brewing in the Atlantic Ocean.

The 2006 hurricane season officially opens on June 1, and already scientists are telling people living in eastern North America that numerous storms are predicted, with as many as five major hurricanes packing winds of 180 km/h or greater.

"It's kind of comparable to what we were looking at last year at this time," says Bob Robichaud, a meteorologist with the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, N.S.

"Last year we were looking at 12 to 15 storms and this year the forecast is for about 17. No one would go out on a limb and say it is going to be just as bad as last year, but the indications are there that it is still going to be another active season, almost twice as active as normal."

Last year's hurricane season was the most destructive on record.

There were 27 named storms, 15 hurricanes and seven intense hurricanes during the 2005 season. The worst damage was along the U.S. Gulf coast.

Scientists with the Colorado State University hurricane forecast team say the same factors that contributed to last year's violent season are still in play this year.

"The Atlantic Ocean remains anomalously warm, and tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures have continued to cool," says Colorado University forecaster Phil Klotzbach, explaining two of the key triggers for hurricanes.

..."We are seeing stronger hurricanes - almost a 100 per cent increase in category fours and fives," he says.

"When they do develop, they're a lot bigger, tougher and have more destructive power. They stay together longer. This is the concern. They seem to have more power. That could have a connection to global warming - the fact the atmosphere has changed and ocean temperatures have warmed."

... Phillips says that despite this year's grim forecast, a lot can happen to shut down offshore hurricanes and prevent them from causing onshore harm.

"The temperature of the water has to be right, the winds have to be just perfect, the timing has to be just so and the depth of the water has to be just so," Phillips says.

"It's like baking a souffle. A lot of things have to come together and if someone slams the door, it won't rise."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Last American Survivor of Titanic Passes On

And the last one who actually remembered:
Lillian Gertrud Asplund, the last American survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, has died, a funeral home said Sunday. She was 99.

Asplund, who was just 5 years old, lost her father and three brothers -- including a fraternal twin -- when the "practically unsinkable" ship went down in the North Atlantic after hitting an iceberg.

... Asplund was the last Titanic survivor with actual memories of the sinking, but she shunned publicity and rarely spoke about the events.

At least two other survivors are living, but they were too young to have memories of the disaster. Barbara Joyce West Dainton of Truro, England, was 10 months old and Elizabeth Gladys "Millvina" Dean of Southampton, England, was 2 months old.