Saturday, December 11, 2010

Panicked Bird

I've been trying to manage my property so it's more bird-friendly. But sometimes there are unexpected consequences. Several days ago, a bird apparently took up residence in the hedge directly above the gate to the back yard. I'm nocturnal: the bird is not. So, every night, when I creep into the back yard at 11 p.m., or 2 a.m., or whenever, the bird wakes up, and panics: TWEET! TWEET!

It's beginning to be tedious....

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christina Applegate Explains....

Help Deborah Win!

Deborah has just a few days to win this contest. The voting deadline is extended, but ends on December 14th. Please help her with a vote!:
Autodesk is calling for entries to the SketchBook Hero Image Contest. Submit your best work created using any Autodesk® SketchBook® software application. The winning entry will become the next Hero Image for Autodesk® SketchBook® Mobile, one of the most popular apps on iTunes. Autodesk will feature the winning artwork on the splash screen that displays every time the app launches.
According to Deborah:
Four days left to vote! Pleasepleaseplease?

Coming Soon - "Beauty Queen" - Kelsey B

Kelsey B (whom I wrote about last Labor Day) has an album coming out at the end of January (composed, it looks like, of various remixes). Sign up on the waiting list over at Amazon now!

Republican Scientists

I'm a bit baffled by articles decrying the partisan polarization of climate science and laying the blame on the absence of Republican scientists. For example:
A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 percent of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55 percent are Democrats, 32 percent are independent, and the rest "don't know" their affiliation.

...Consider the case of climate change, of which beliefs are astonishingly polarized according to party affiliation and ideology. A March 2010 Gallup poll showed that 66 percent of Democrats (and 74 percent of liberals) say the effects of global warming are already occurring, as opposed to 31 percent of Republicans. Does that mean that Democrats are more than twice as likely to accept and understand the scientific truth of the matter? And that Republicans are dominated by scientifically illiterate yahoos and corporate shills willing to sacrifice the planet for short-term economic and political gain?

Or could it be that disagreements over climate change are essentially political—and that science is just carried along for the ride? For 20 years, evidence about global warming has been directly and explicitly linked to a set of policy responses demanding international governance regimes, large-scale social engineering, and the redistribution of wealth. These are the sort of things that most Democrats welcome, and most Republicans hate. No wonder the Republicans are suspicious of the science.
Or this:
But anyone who’s thought about this for more than a few minutes knows a very specific answer to the question of why there are no Republican scientists: it’s because contemporary science is an empirical, reality-based intellectual enterprise and all such enterprises are inherently non-conservative, unless they involve making a lot of money (there are probably some forms of business that fit the above description and I would not be surprised if some of the people who do them are conservative). If contemporary science was based on reasoning from principles (like the sort of “science” Aristotle liked to do), it might be of interest to conservatives. But it’s not.
Well, in my book, science is about puzzling out the Laws of the Universe and it's inherently neither conservative or liberal in nature; or, to be more-specific, it's conservative in its reliance on immutable law, and liberal (if that's the right word) on choices of methods. Science is a hybrid.

People who think and write about politics often rely upon ideology. Ideology is abbreviated thought. When you rely upon an ideology, you don't have to completely rethink matters from first principles - you just cut to the chase - and that's important when there's no time for thought, like in debate. Ideology can mislead, however - sometimes you do have to go back to first principles - so people who rely only on ideology are often in error.

Historically, scientists usually are born into families of professionals and laborers of various sorts - teachers, clerics, independent farmers, engineers, sailors, etc. They usually don't come from the merchant class, however. The root of why so many scientists are Democrats lies in this dichotomy, since modern Republican leaders usually come the merchant class. Nevertheless, with the rapid expansion of college education after World War II, scientists from all kinds of backgrounds are now walking the Earth, including those from the merchant class.

There are Republican scientists out there, even in climate science. The writers of these articles just aren't looking hard enough for them.

I remember when I was in grad school in the 80's, we had two students who might strike most people as conservative Republicans, by today's definitions. One fellow was a lay evangelist. He eventually left grad school, partly because of the hostile social environment of being the only Bible banger in a sea of skeptics, but, in the end, mostly because his interest in serving the Lord exceeded his interest in science.

The other fellow, though, was a classic modern Republican conservative. He was a Son of the South, and Republican in every instinct. His interests, however, took him into the light-scattering properties of aerosols, which naturally took him straight into the science of Global Warming. Today, he is a pillar of the Global Warming establishment.

Things look differently when you actually make the calculations yourself as compared to when you rely upon an ideology to do your thinking for you. I'm sure his thoughts are just as Republican today as they ever were, but unlike most people, he has highly-nuanced views regarding Global Warming. Some aspects of Global Warming he accepts without argument; others with caveats, and others he rejects outright as garbage. And he can do this because, unlike most people, he has thought things through. From first principles. By himself. I'd love to sit down with him again and shoot the breeze and see what his views are these days!

So, the Republicans are there in the sciences, as they should be - they are just hard to spot, sometimes.

Vermont's Bernie Sanders Launches A Filibuster Against The Tax Deal

A real filibuster - live!: not like the fake things they usually have today! Hooray for him, and for us!

Ron Paul Hits The Nail Squarely On The Head

December 10th In History

Over at the Daily Rotten, they have a sidebar that commemorates the particular day in history. Today, they offer:
December 10, 1993: Adolf Hitler is baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in a ceremony performed inside their London temple. Mormons use this strange retroactive baptismal ritual to ensure ancestors or other relatives may join them in heaven.
When I was working on my mom's genealogy, I sent the first, 1993 version to the LDS folks in Salt Lake City, but got cold feet about sending the 2003 update. I mean, do I really want to be in Mormon heaven? Actually, it's probably inevitable that I'll go there anyway, if not by my own hand, then by someone else's. I don't really mind going to Mormon heaven, provided I don't have to stay there all the time, and can wander around and see what's going on elsewhere.

This Wikileaks Stuff Just Gets Stranger By The Day

It's great having to have an opinion about stuff that mutates radically every day. Beats me what's going on!:
One of the two Swedish women who have filed sex complaints against the founder of WikiLeaks has reportedly left Sweden and may no longer be cooperating with the criminal investigation.

According to a report at Australian news site, Anna Ardin has moved to the Palestinian territories to volunteer with a Christian group working to reconcile Arabs and Israelis. reports:
One source from Ardin’s old university of Uppsala reported rumors that she had stopped co-operating with the prosecution service several weeks ago, and that this was part of the reason for the long delay in proceeding with charges — and what still appears to be an absence of charges.
Ardin's blog shows that she has recently posted from the Palestinian territories. Her most recent blog posts make no mention of WikiLeaks or its founder, Julian Assange.

Some of Ardin's most recent Tweets suggest sympathy for WikiLeaks.

"MasterCard, Visa and PayPal -- belt them now!" Ardin urged in a Tweet Wednesday, evidently referring to the cyber-attacks launched on those institutions after they severed their relationships with WikiLeaks.

In a more recent Tweet, she complained of the media reports digging into her background.

"CIA agent, rabid feminist / Muslim lover, a Christian fundamentalist, flat & fatally in love with a man, can you even be all [these things all] the time?" she Tweeted in Swedish.

Some news reports have linked Ardin to the CIA, based on her contact with anti-Castro groups in Cuba. Ardin wrote her master's thesis on these groups, while located in Havana and Miami. But others have questioned the validity of the connection. notes that Ardin, an avowed feminist, has taken criticism from many prominent feminists, who, perhaps surprisingly, appear to have sided against the female accuser and with the male accused.

"Rape is being used in the Assange prosecution in the same way that women’s freedom was used to invade Afghanistan. Wake up!" Tweeted Naomi Klein.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Obama Finally Forced To Join The GOP

The interesting debate regarding the extension of the Bush tax cuts dramatically exposes the divide between centrist and liberal Democrats. Good. It's about time the liberals became more assertive:
Judging the significance of the vote is tricky. According to ABC's Rick Klein, the mastermind of the maneuver, Rep. Peter DeFazio, D.-Ore., the vote rejecting the deal "was nearly unanimous." Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared in a tweet that "we will work to improve [the tax cut deal] before having a floor vote."

However, the vote was non-binding, and if House Republicans fall into line, as expected, Obama doesn't need anything close to a majority of Democrats to pass the bill.
They say the deal isn't so bad for Democrats, and they may be right, but the lack of a deal isn't so bad either. Liberals have choices. Good. It's time to Break Left:
If you look at the numbers alone, the tax cut deal looks to have robbed Republicans blind. The GOP got around $95 billion in tax cuts for wealthy Americans and $30 billion in estate tax cuts. Democrats got $120 billion in payroll-tax cuts, $40 billion in refundable tax credits (Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit and education tax credits), $56 billion in unemployment insurance, and, depending on how you count it, about $180 billion (two-year cost) or $30 billion (10-year cost) in new tax incentives for businesses to invest.

...Let's start with the Republicans. For one thing, the things they wanted were things they really, really wanted. A number of sources with direct knowledge of the negotiations have fingered the estate tax as the major player in the size of the deal. "Republicans were extremely eager to get benefits for the top tenth of a percent of Americans," says one senior administration official.

...And it went beyond the estate tax: Conservatives saw the extension of the tax cuts as an important pivot point in American politics -- full stop.

...To put this in perspective, consider that last week, all Washington could talk about was the potential for a deal on deficit reduction. This week, it actually got a big deficit deal -- but it was a deficit-expansion deal. In the world that politicians claim they live in -- where the deficit is the overriding issue -- the deal couldn't have worked. But we don't live in that world. In this world, tax cuts, not deficits, are the Republicans' central concern, and stimulus, not deficits, obsesses the Democrats.

Which brings us to the liberals. My conversations with various progressives over the past 24 hours have convinced me that the problem is less the specifics of the deal -- though liberals legitimately dislike the tax cuts for the rich, and rightly point out that Obama swore to let them expire -- than the way in which it was reached. Put simply, Obama and the Democrats didn't fight for them. There were no veto threats or serious effort to take the case to the public.

Instead, the White House disappeared into a closed room with the Republicans and cut a deal that they'd made no effort to sell to progressives. When the deal was cut, the president took an oblique shot at their preferences, saying "the American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories." And this came a mere week or two after the White House announced a federal pay freeze. The pattern, for progressives, seems clear: The White House uses them during elections, but doesn't listen to, or consult them, while governing. In fact, it insults them, and then tells them to quiet down, they got the best bargain possible, even if it wasn't the one they'd asked for, or been promised.

Julian Assange, And All That

Let's see what's been going on in the world since I went on holiday....

I do have to say that I like almost everything Julian Assange is doing with Wikileaks! Governments reflexively and needlessly classify vast amounts of information that belongs in the public sphere if the public is to have any realistic chance of holding their governments to account, or for governments to act efficiently. Talk about waste in government! THIS is where the waste is!

There is now a concerted campaign in action to blame Wikileaks for causing 1,300 deaths in Kenya, as well as deaths in Afghanistan. Some of this is exaggerated. Interestingly, Assange seems to be cooperating with this campaign, because it makes him seem more powerful than he really is. At least with regards to Kenya, there were long-standing tribal tensions that were more to blame for the violence than anything Wikileaks did. So, no one seems to have an interest in the truth in this matter.

Wartime conditions are a problem, of course, but our involvement in Afghanistan has long since evolved from a war against Al Qaeda to society- building for which we are particularly unsuited. We no longer have much real interest in being there at all (almost no Al Qaeda left), but we are more-deeply involved than ever (and why, I ask?) If Assange's revelations help us get out sooner, so much the better.

This link explains more about the Afghanistan and Kenyan things:
"If there are innocent Afghans being revealed, which was our concern, which was why we kept back 15,000 files, then of course we take that seriously."

But what if it's too late?

"Well, we will review our procedures."

Too late for the individuals, I say. Dead.

"Well, anything might happen but nothing has happened. And we are not about to leave the field of doing good simply because harm might happen … In our four-year publishing history no one has ever come to physical harm that we are aware of or that anyone has alleged. On the other hand, we have changed governments and constitutions and had tremendous positive outcomes."

If Afghan informers are at risk, he says, the fault lies squarely with the US military. "We are appalled that the US military was so lackadaisical with its Afghan sources. Just appalled. We are a source protection organisation that specialises in protecting sources, and have a perfect record from our activities.

"This material was available to every soldier and contractor in Afghanistan …It's the US military that deserves the blame for not giving due diligence to its informers."

...When I try to question him about the morality of what he's done, if he worries about unleashing something that he can't control, that no one can control, he tells me the story of the Kenyan 2007 elections when a WikiLeak document "swung the election".

The leak exposed massive corruption by Daniel Arap Moi, and the Kenyan people sat up and took notice. In the ensuing elections, in which corruption became a major issue, violence swept the country. "1,300 people were eventually killed, and 350,000 were displaced. That was a result of our leak," says Assange. It's a chilling statistic, but then he states: "On the other hand, the Kenyan people had a right to that information and 40,000 children a year die of malaria in Kenya. And many more die of money being pulled out of Kenya, and as a result of the Kenyan shilling being debased."

It's the kind of moral conundrum that would unnerve most people, that made some wonder last week what the potential ramifications of the latest leak might be, but it is a subject on which Assange himself is absolutely clear: "You have to start with the truth. The truth is the only way that we can get anywhere. Because any decision-making that is based upon lies or ignorance can't lead to a good conclusion."

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Now THIS Is A Cruise To Remember!

Wow! Forget seasickness - I bet the passengers and crew are getting slammed into furniture and can't even stand up properly!

El Marco at El Arco

El Marco at El Arco.

Strange things happened onboard ship. I remember walking down the hallway near my cabin, and seeing five beautiful women approaching from the opposite direction. In order to make room for their passage, I dove into a doorway, and accidentally stepped on a big ball of butter left on a plate on the floor by someone who had just ordered room service. I skidded across the carpet to a buttery stop.

The women saw the accident and gathered around and started offering all kinds of household advice about how to remove butter from one's shoes. In a flourish, I stated that it was only because of their radiant beauty, and the distraction it caused, that the accident had happened in the first place. They said, "oh, isn't that cute!" Then they continued their way down the hall, trading even more household hints about how to remove not just butter, but almost any unwanted hydrocarbon, from one's shoes.

Embarkation photo.

Arriving back in Sacramento from Los Angeles, I was seized by the desire to save money with the trip back home from the airport (I also didn't want to interfere with anyone else's social schedule on Saturday night). So, despite my overpacked luggage, I took Yolobus into Sacramento, then transferred to the #62 bus at 8th & J Streets. The journey home was time-consuming, but only mildly-inconvenient despite the rain, and cost only $5.00. Time for a bit of thrift!

My sister Marra E-Mails:
Hi Marc,
I was so sorry to read about what happened on the Cruise. I wish you had been able to attend the wedding. A little strange that your roommate stayed in the cabin while you were sick. But you have lots of pictures of when you got better. I of course like the pictures of the birds and the information about the fog formations Towmey Effect. Hope you have a good weekend. I have to get back to work. Love you.
I reply:
Hi Marra:

Glad to hear from you!

In regards to the cruise and missing the wedding – oh well, that’s life! I was still able to socialize with everyone afterwards, and like you say, still get lots of photos and look at things. It is a bit strange that my roommate John wasn’t isolated too, but on the other hand, he never got sick! I suspect I got a bug through food, but the medical people are very suspicious of any sickness (the close quarters in cruise ships make people susceptible to illness and outbreaks have occurred on other cruises), and they anticipate the worst with their quarantines!

I was a little worried about Mexico when I was there. When we were travelling into the salt mangrove swamp, I was thinking, “OK, here we are travelling deep into rural Sinaloa, which is known far-and-wide as one of the most important centers of marijuana cultivation in all of Mexico. What’s wrong with this picture? What’s wrong with this picture?” Fortunately, it appears that marijuana can’t grow in salt mangrove swamp – probably one of the few places in Sinaloa (apart from water or bare rock) where the soil is actually hostile to marijuana cultivation. Beach sand probably isn’t much better for the plant. So, we were likely, more-or-less, safe – as safe, or safer, than in the U.S. At least, I think so!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Pac-Man Sunset

This is what Ben Wormeli called a "Pac-Man sunset."

We were heading north at 20 knots, making our implacable way NNW towards Los Angeles. There was a gentle-pitching motion to the ship (which remained with me for a day after leaving the ship).

In a display case on the Sapphire Princess a Wikipedia article was reproduced describing the distance to the horizon. This is a useful approximation: given a distance h (in feet) above the surface of the Earth of the human eye, the distance to the horizon (in miles) is about: d (miles) = SQRT(1.5 * h (ft)). The Sapphire Princess height is about 54 meters (nearly 18 floors tall). So that means pictures from the Sport Deck (floor 15?) will be about 149 feet above the surface, so the horizon will be about 14.9 miles away!

Here is a Web Page describing basic facts about the Sapphire Princess. The Princess Theater can seat 705 people!

Taking another look at the ship's plume, the red color betrays the presence of large amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in the hot turbine exhaust.

Wikipedia describes the source of the propulsion power:
The diesel-electric plant consists of 4 diesel generators and a gas turbine generator. The diesel generators are Wartsilla 46 series common rail engines, two of the straight 9 cylinder configuration, and two of the straight 8 cylinder configuration. The 8 and 9 cylinder engines can produce approximately 8 1/2 and 9 1/2 MW of power respectively. These engines are fueled with Heavy Fuel oil (HFO or bunker c) and Marine Gas Oil (MGO) depending on the local regulations regarding emissions, as MGO produces much lower emissions but is much more expensive. The gas turbine generator is a GE 2500, producing a peak of 25 MW of power and being fueled my MGO. This generator is much more expensive to run than the Wartsilla generators, and is used mostly in areas, such as Alaska, where the emissions regulations are strict. It is also used when top speed is required to make it to a port in a short time period.

Punta Eugenia, The Boundary Between Waters, And The "Twomey Effect"

Returning to Los Angeles on the last day of the Princess Sapphire's cruise to the Mexican Riviera ports of Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas - specifically Friday, December 3, 2010, at about 10:30 a.m. ship time (MST; 9:30 a.m. PST) - I was lazing around my cabin in the ship's interior when I turned the cabin's TV to the channel where they featured ship-specific information, like where the ship happened to be located at that instant. We were located not far west of Punta Eugenia, the big cape that extends off the west coast of Baja California. That realization made a big bell go off in my head!

Back in graduate school in the early 1980's, like many others in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson, I used to gather in the hallway where they posted the weather maps and satellite photos transmitted by facsimile machine, and ponder the day's coming weather.

One of the other people pondering the satellite photos was one of my professors, aerosol scientist Sean Twomey. Dr. Twomey was serious, and rather laconic for an Irishman, except on those occasions when a subject excited him (like when he and lightning expert E.P. Krider gathered at an off-campus watering hole to calculate the rate at which bubbles rose to the surface of beer). Like the very best of the post-WWII generation of scientists, he kept a highly-schematic vision of the world foremost in his mind, and tried to keep calculations just as simple as possible (the back of the envelope calculation was everyone's Holy Grail).

I helped Dr. Twomey grade freshman-level tests one semester, and he never provided me with an answer key, reasoning that the answers should be self-evident to a graduate student. I found that the answers weren't THAT self-evident a number of times, and I slowly realized that I knew a lot less than I thought. I liked the way he gave advice: as simply as possible. "Have you looked in the Big Black Book?" he'd say when I asked a microphysics-related question (meaning reference book Pruppacher and Klett). "Have you looked in the Big Red Book?" (Abramowitz and Stegun, for math questions), or: "Have you looked in the Big Brown Book?" (Gradshteyn and Rhyzik, for yet harder math questions).

In the 1970's, Sean Twomey had studied satellite photos, and like others, noted the presence of ship tracks in the vast banks of stratus clouds that often formed off the California coast. Smoke from ship plumes contributed many more cloud condensation nuclei to the air than would typically be found in a place so remote from the land, creating clouds with smaller droplets that were more effective at scattering sunlight back to space. As a result, when observed from space, the clouds were whiter where ship plumes were located, and thus could easily be spotted from satellites. Based in part on these observations, Sean Twomey formulated what he called his "indirect aerosol effect" theory, which is now often called the "Twomey Effect". At this link, friend Peter Pilewskie describes the Twomey Effect in more detail, as part of Sean Twomey's nomination for the 2004 Haagen-Smit Award:
This relationship between increased cloud albedo and pollution, today widely known as the Twomey effect or the first aerosol indirect effect, was given little attention when it was first proposed in 1974. However, in the 1980's the climate community recognized that ship tracks, long identified but now more frequently observed in satellite imagery, were visible manifestations of the consequence of injecting additional particles into a cloud layer. Twomey elaborated on his theory in a 1984 paper in Tellus. In a 1991 paper in Atmospheric Environment, Professor Twomey introduced the term cloud susceptibility, a quantification of the sensitivity of enhancing cloud reflectance for a given droplet number concentration and cloud reflectivity. For example, if a cloud was produced in an environment of high concentration of condensation nuclei, introducing additional particles would do little to make the cloud even brighter. Conversely, a cloud forming in a pristine environment with sparse available nuclei would be more prone to albedo change when more nuclei were added. This is why ship tracks are readily observed in some environments, such as the California Pacific coast region, but less frequently in others, for example, west of the Namibian coast in southern Africa. And this is also why quantifying the magnitude of this effect globally is so challenging: it is difficult to identify a background state above which the influence of pollution can be measured.

Looking at the satellite pictures, there always seemed to be something a little different about Punta Eugenia. Oftentimes there was a boundary of a fog bank or stratus cloud there. Sometimes, even if no clouds were present, there seemed to be something subtly different about the way the water looked south of Punta Eugenia, compared to the water north of Punta Eugenia. There was some kind of transition zone there, where the cold currents from the north broke free from the coast, and allowed warmer water to infiltrate northwards along Baja California Sur's coast. Alternatively, perhaps there was cold water upwelling on the north side of Punta Eugenia, but not the south side. Certainly Punta Eugenia always seemed to be a killing zone for tropical storms. San Diego, Tijuana, and Ensenada almost never see tropical storms, but Cabo San Lucas sees them quite often. Waters abruptly turn cold in-between! Where? At Punta Eugenia!

Whatever the reason, sitting in my cabin, I realized we were about to pass through some kind of transition zone within a few minutes. Whether that transition was subtle or abrupt would depend on what kind of day it was. Perhaps if there was fog or stratus clouds, we might generate a bright ship track ourselves, and I could watch that process in situ. And, if not, I still might see subtle changes in the water. I hustled upstairs with my camera to find out what kind of day it was.

Meanwhile, the day had started warm and sunny, and optimistic sunbathers had already started finding places on the upper deck of the ship, particularly around the lavish "Neptune's Pool". My cabin mate, John, was doing his morning constitutional, and walking laps around the track that circled the forward part of the deck. Scattered patches of kelp off the ship, and the presence of birds and occasional dolphins, suggested we were passing over vast beds - vast forests - of kelp. A good place for living things!
The Baja California coast can be seen in the distance to the east; specifically Sierra Vizcaino.

There was a fog bank looming ahead. Off starboard, to the east, a mountain could be seen above the fog. This mountain was either part of the Sierra Vizcaino, or Isla Cedros.

Looking forward off the starboard side, and away from the sun, a diffraction effect called a glory can be seen. This kind of glory is sometimes called a "Specter of the Brocken", or a "Brocken Bow" (ref. Robert Greenler's "Rainbows, Halos, and Glories"). On deck level, we are located just below fog top, with most of the fog ranging below us. Here the fog is quite thin, but the Brocken Bow is still quite evident.

Brocken Bow.

More Brocken Bow as we plunge into the fog.

Brocken Bow, as seen from the bow of the ship.

Looking aft from near the bow, a shroud can be seen over the ship's superstructure where the stacks are located. A nearly fog-free strip is evident immediately besides the ship's track. Presumably the ship generates something like a gravity wave as it passes through the fog, with adiabatic cooling enhancing cloud formation as air is pushed across the top of the ship (quite apart from any aerosol effect), with countervailing adiabatic warming immediately beside the ship.

A closer look.

Meanwhile, the sunbathers had become very distressed. Not only had the day turned abruptly cold (and this mattered, because they were nearly naked), but the ship began using its god-awful loud foghorn, which deafened everyone gathered near Neptune's Pool. They were not happy.

Sure enough, that fog shroud extends forwards of the ship's superstructure.

Making my way aft.

Now the ship is passing into a nearly fog-free patch of air (looking aft).

Looking aft, the smoke plume can be seen, plus that portion of the fog directly affected by the plume. The plume extends forward from the fog bank, and is presumably a bit more persistent than the rest of the fog (maybe because of a higher liquid water content?). The nearly fog-free strips on either side of the plume are evident too.

To me, these pictures suggest the formation of ship tracks may be more complicated than first contemplated, and depend a lot where the plume is injected into the cloud. Here the plume is injected at the top, or just above the top, of the cloud, and cloud base is at the surface of the water. Maybe it's a simpler process when cloud base is above plume level.

Left: Detail of map in the Punta Eugenia area.

What do satellite pictures look like on this date? Here is the GOES West picture for 11 a.m. ship time....

Taking a closer look at Punta Eugenia, a fog bank is present offshore west of Isla Cedros (likely where we were located). No ship track is evident (the fog is a bit too small and patchy today), but a nearly fog-free zone hugging the coast south of Punta Eugenia is evident (probably where warmer water infiltrates northwards along Baja California Sur's coast).

On this morning of scientific serendipity, despite the cold and the foghorn, I was ecstatic. The geophysical transition I was looking for had been much more abrupt than even I had hoped for!

Looking aft at a patch of kelp (presumably the uppermost tippy-top of a kelp stalk attached to the ocean bottom far below) I saw a dolphin leaping in a perfect circle around the kelp (presumably a nervous tuna was hiding in that kelp). That ecstatic leaping dolphin perfectly-caught my mood!

Sapphire Princess - "Pop Star Final" - Mark Ettensohn and Andrew Scroggy

At 10:30 p.m. MST on December 3, 2010, the folks at Club Fusion onboard the Sapphire Princess cruise ship hosted the "Pop Star Final", a karaoke sing-off featuring the best six karaoke singers of the cruise, as the ship returned to Los Angeles after a week visiting the Mexican Riviera (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, & Cabo San Lucas). Our group of 24 sported two of these six karaoke singers. Mark Ettensohn of Sacramento (known in local community-theater circles) went first: Andrew Scroggy went last. The winner was deemed singer number four (I know, I know, we was robbed!)

"Mack The Knife" - Mark Ettensohn


"Bust A Move" - Andrew Scroggy

"Cracklin' Rosie" - First Annual Princess Pop Choir

At 3 p.m. MST on December 3, 2010, the Princess Pop Choir sang for their fellow holiday cruisers onboard the Sapphire Princess (Atrium, Deck 5 midship) as it returned to Los Angeles after a week visiting the Mexican Riviera (Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, & Cabo San Lucas). "Cracklin' Rosie" was the finale of the program.

Entertainment On Board The Sapphire Princess

Left: Rising comedian Carlos Oscar.

Opening night, the Sapphire Princess featured John Michael (The Bad Boy of Magic), together with the Sapphire Princess dancers and guest vocalists, Sam Holder, Mary Elizabeth Rich, Leslie Turner, and Jo Patrick).

On Monday and Tuesday night, family-oriented comedian Carlos Oscar was featured. Oscar won a real following on this trip!

On Wednesday night, comedian Shayla Rivera was featured.

On Friday, both John and myself saw a new pop musical revue, "I Got The Music", featuring the Sapphire Princess dancers and guest vocalists: Sam Holder, Mary Elizabeth Rich, Leslie Turner, and Jo Patrick). I really liked Mary Elizabeth Rich (a blonde), whereas John expressed a preference for Leslie Turner (a brunette). We talked to a woman who identified herself as Leslie Turner's mom, who told us more about her career so far and her happy years performing with Princess cruise lines.

Cabo San Lucas - Humpback Whales

On Thursday, December 2, 2010, The Sapphire Princess cruise ship anchored offshore of Cabo San Lucas, and eager folks were brought onshore to join various excursions for the day. I joined the "El Arco & Coastal Cruise" two-hour catamaran cruise around Cabo San Lucas.

We received reports of three humpback whales being sighted not far away, to the southwest (a mild surprise, since it was a bit early for the humpback season). Our boat (Boat 2) joined another (Boat 1) in attending the whales.

Upon returning to the Sapphire Princess, we heard reports that a number of other folks on a snorkeling excursion had also seen three humpback whales. It's still a little unclear to me whether these were the same three humpback whales (likely, but I thought the snorkelers were busy to the east, not the west). Nevertheless, one of the snorkelers (Melissa from B.C. Canada) showed me awesome video she took of her much-closer encounter (which also showed a boat in the distance - perhaps Boat 2?). I hope to locate that video soon.

My two videos are inferior to Melissa's (because we were a bit far away and looking into the sun glint), but for the record, here are these two videos.

Location is approximately 22 degrees, 51.3 minutes latitude; 109 degrees, 56.5 minutes longitude.

Cabo San Lucas - Pacific Side

Cabo San Lucas - El Arco

Here is Lover's Beach (Divorce Beach is through the gap, on the other, windier Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas).

El Arco

Cabo San Lucas - Cultural Pavilion (Under Construction)

Thursday - Cabo San Lucas - Marina And Town

A growing cultural awareness.

Brown Pelican takes off!

Sapphire Princess, with parasailer.

Holland America ship, with Sapphire Princess behind it.

The old, abandoned tuna cannery.


This gold-painted actor posed mannequin-style at the Cabo San Lucas marina, for tips (sadly, I forgot to tip, but he seemed to be doing well, nonetheless).