Saturday, March 05, 2011

Nobody's Here

And that's a good thing:
SEARCHERS in earthquake-devastated Christchurch have found no bodies in the city's iconic cathedral and they say the death toll could be lower than initially feared.

Since the 6.3 magnitude earthquake on February 22, it had been reported that as many as 22 bodies were buried in the rubble of the 130-year-old cathedral, the centrepiece of New Zealand's second largest city.

"We have cleared the cathedral site and we found no bodies in the cathedral at all, so to us that's fantastic news," police superintendent Sandra Manderson told Radio New Zealand.

"Urban search and rescue have cleared the whole area, they've cleared the tower, they've cleared the church and they've cleared the immediate surrounding area all round the church, and they've found no bodies."

She said police were now trying to establish where the estimate of 22 people trapped in the cathedral came from and the list of missing people was being reviewed.

...The dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, said he cried when told by the head of the Urban Search and Rescue task force, Ralph Moore, there were no bodies in the rubble.

"I was expecting to get a call from him saying they had found a body and I and my colleagues were going to go down and say prayers at the side of the body."

"But of course I got this other news and I just burst into tears. I was speechless, it was unbelievable."

Christchurch Still Shaking

Aftershocks continue:
A large aftershock was widely felt in Canterbury this evening.

According to Geonet, the quake struck at 7.34pm. It was a 4.8 magnitude aftershock at a depth of 11km and was centred within 5km of Lyttelton.

It was felt as far away as Timaru.

Friday, March 04, 2011

More Videos With Jetta

Animated History Of Ambient CO2 Levels

To the music from "Inception"

Christchurch Time Capsules

Secrets from the past under Mr. Godley's statue:
During last week's earthquake, Godley's statue crashed down - and then, under its plinth, workmen found the two time capsules.

...However, the glass container shows there is parchment inside, recording perhaps the events surrounding the region when it was placed under the statue.

Just when that was remains a mystery.

...There were two opportunities for them to have been placed under the plinth, the earliest time being when the statue was first erected in 1867.

It was moved in 1918 to make way for a tram shelter and toilets - later demolished - and the statue was then returned to its original site in 1933.

Irishman Godley, known as the 'Founder of Canterbury' - the district in which Christchurch is located on the South Island - travelled in Ireland and North America, developing ideas about how colonies should be established and governed.

Sugary Drinks Linked To High Blood Presure

Each extra serving of sugar-sweetened beverage daily led to an elevation of systolic blood pressure of 1.6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and an elevation of diastolic blood pressure by 0.8 mm Hg higher blood pressure readings, reported Ian Brown of Imperial College London and colleagues. This didn’t hold for diet beverages: In fact, the opposite relationship was seen for diet drinks. The finding appeared to be stronger for those who consumed more sodium and was independent of caffeine, plus the researchers did try to control for other lifestyle factors as well as height and weight.
Now, why would that be? I would think most artificial sweeteners are more-potent than sugar. You'd need less substance to create equal sweetness, so the osmotic pressure of the blood would be lower with artificial sweeteners. But maybe that's different than blood pressure....

In any event:
Finally, here, as listed in the paper, are a few items that seem to be firmly linked to high blood pressure: “high sodium intake, inadequate potassium intake, high body mass index (BMI), and excessive alcohol intake.”
The first three, I've got covered. I just bought a bottle of Kahlua, so maybe I've got the fourth one covered too....

Letter Sent

No particular value in sending Ned to prison.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Surprising Application For My Blog

I received a touching but painful E-Mail from Ned Roscoe.

Libertarian Ned Roscoe was one of the most-engaged of the alternative candidates for California Governor in the Recall Election of 2003 (campaign from August through October, 2003).

Unfortunately, Ned has been convicted of crimes committed during that span of time. He needs a character-reference letter to U.S. District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte regarding that same span of time. And because I was blogging during that span of time, I have names, dates, and places at my disposal that others might not.

You just never know when a blog can come in handy....

World Trade Center Aerosol Health Hazard

Left: Looking out the 2nd-floor windows of the offices of ESA at 26th & Capitol in Sacramento.

It's been a number of years since I went to dinner meetings of the Mother Lode Chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association, but Wednesday's dinner promised to be special: UC Davis' Dr. Thomas A. Cahill was going to give a talk: "Health Impacts Of World Trade Center Aerosol: Past, Present, and Predicted."

Dr. Thomas A. Cahill.

Dr. Cahill is California's leading authority on the aerosol component of California's air pollution. For the last three decades he has been in the thick of almost every controversial aspect of air pollution control on the West Coast. He has access to the world's best equipment and has the ear of the world's leading authorities on these questions.

Nevertheless, I have a kind of love-hate relationship with some of Dr. Cahill's work. A couple of years ago I had to study, in detail, a report produced by his group regarding air pollution in the Ports area of Los Angeles/Long Beach, and I was struck by the report's sloppiness. Data didn't support conclusions. To me, it looked like the report was written in haste, and I wondered whether other reports from his group had the same weakness.

But when you are the among the world's leading authorities, time is scarce, and the opportunities are many.

Tonight's talk was on a subject of great interest. I had not followed the troubles regarding health impacts from the smoldering World Trade Center, and wondered what that was all about.

Met a few people I hadn't seen in a while, including Austin Kerr.

Apparently the initial cloud of dust from the World Trade Center, while very dense, was fairly-coarse in nature. Apart from the very large amounts of dust (mostly powdered gypsum derived from dry wall present throughout the buildings), the dust posed no particular health hazard.

The trouble started when the heaps of burning, collapsed buildings started smoldering. The fires didn't go out till mid-December, 2001.

First, a fine concrete aerosol was released from the smoldering heaps. This fine aerosol could penetrate deep into the lungs, and was very caustic in nature (pH ~ 12) and produced WTC 'dry cough'. Much was worse, however, was an ultrafine sulfuric acid mist (of uncertain origin, but probably deriving from sulfur released from the cooking gypsum deep in the piles), which paralyzed the cilia lining the walls of the lungs' airways, and lead to scarring, and even deeper penetration of the concrete dust. This terrible one-two punch made the World Trade Center site, as well as anywhere in southern Manhattan where the plumes could reach, VERY HAZARDOUS for the purposes of breathing: far worse than any urban aerosol, anywhere. But the danger was not appreciated at first, and thousands of workers were being sent on-site with little, or no breathing protection.

Several days after 9/11, the Bush Administration (specifically the Office of Inspector General) deemed that health issues at the World Trade Center site were regulatory in nature. That meant no special monitoring was to be allowed and that EPA and other government scientists would not be permitted to make measurements there. Being associated with UC Davis, Dr. Cahill had greater freedom-of-action and better equipment than his colleagues located more-closely; say, at Columbia University. Dr. Cahill and colleagues were able to quickly start making measurements, and start sounding the alarm. On their own money and time, brave government scientists began their own guerilla air quality monitoring too, and became alarmed as well. But since the matter was now of special interest to the Bush Administration, which was eager to project an image of normalcy in NYC after 9/11, and thus deprive Al Qaeda of a propaganda victory, these efforts to raise an alarm met active opposition from our own government. And meanwhile, thousands of WTC workers were being led to debilitating and early deaths.

I asked why litigation and legislation was required to support ailing WTC workers when all such matters were supposed to be addressed by Ken Feinberg and his special fund. Cahill answered that Feinberg's efforts were to be directed to the families and estates of the dead; Congress had not foreseen this workplace hazard, and no particular support was available for the WTC workers. It's ironic how hard we make life for the ailing, and how well we treat the dead!

Dr. Cahill emphasized the importance of living in California, where there are lots of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) present to keep an eye on Big Government. When Big Government is the only game around (like in many states, and many nations) alarms don't get sounded in time.

I am curious how this matter would have looked to the people in the Bush Administration. Dr. Cahill cast the story as a sort of David-vs.-Goliath struggle, but, as they say, every story has two sides, and I'm sure Goliath has his own interpretation.

Here is a delightful article in the April, 2007 issue of Esquire Magazine regarding Dr. Cahill and his WTC efforts. A taste:
With this device, he has produced some of the most respected studies on the air quality after September 11, including an explosive 2003 report that concluded the smoldering debris pile acted like a chemical "incinerator." With this finding, Cahill confuted the EPA's early dismissal of the plume as an "irritant" and its ultimate conclusion about the air in lower Manhattan: "It is not a problem for the general population."

"Someone told me my report ended up on Bush's desk," says Cahill. "Supposedly, he had a cow."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


A perfect illustration of why earthquakes knock over buildings.

Just Heard Beth Gaines' Radio Ad

Somehow I was hoping for more in the race for Assembly District 4.

Basically, Gaines seemed to pit redevelopment agencies (bad) against teachers (good?) in the race for scarce state funding, and talked about the need for having 'our people' in the State Capitol. But 'our people' have always been in the State Capitol, and it's unclear to me just how committed to the teachers a homeschooler like Gaines might be. And she is running against several carbon-copy representatives of 'our people', so I don't know how the distinction helps. Perhaps she's just trying to emphasize the long-standing urban/suburban divide - the swarthy urban Morlochs vs. the fair suburban Eloi - in state politics. But is this the kind of fresh thinking we need in a time of budgetary crisis?

Cheryl Bly-Chester is also one of 'our people', but she has more relevant experience to the task, and understands the need of getting everyone to work together.

Mark Helprin Notes The Decline Of The Navy

Conservative commentator Mark Helprin takes note of the U.S. Navy's shrinking size.

Helprin does not note that the shrinkage of the Navy dates from the end of World War II: it's a long trend. Large fleets are very expensive to maintain, and there is constant, persistent downward pressure exerted on their size, to which we usually yield.

It's quite curious how the Navy has shrunk despite the gargantuan growth of the military budget. Part of this paradox can be explained by the way we have focused on nation-building efforts in recent years, particularly in places like Vietnam, as well as Iraq and Afghanistan (like Helprin, says, the efforts of a gendarmerie) rather than on military projection. Part of the paradox can be explained how we have sunk investments into fewer, but larger aircraft carriers. Part of the paradox can be explained by the shift to air rather than naval power. And part of the paradox is how the projection of power - the real purpose of a military - depends less on hard military force these days and more on communications technologies (Twitter, cell phones, and the like). So, to some extent, we have needed a navy less than we used to. But we still need one, though.

Some commentators have noted how the development of cheap, short-range missiles have made aircraft carriers obsolete, and that we need to shift to many more, smaller vessels in a future navy. That shift has not happened yet, and may not happen at all without a profound military defeat, along the lines of Pearl Harbor. Flyboys like John McCain will support their aircraft carriers long past the point when aircraft carriers become white elephants because of their vulnerability to missiles.

While conservatives tend to pay more attention to the military than liberals do, liberals need to pay attention too (mostly since conservatives usually get things so wrong and so bass-ackwards, that they need liberals to set things straight).

First, we must stop most of our efforts regarding missile defense. It has long been understood (by physicists like Freeman Dyson) that the costs and demands of missile defense are so high - unreachably high - that workable defense systems won't ever be devised. Missile defense is part of the decadence that is driving the U.S. military into impotence. Missile offense, as always, is the name of the game.

We must also get out of the War on Terror mindset. In the end, the War on Terror will be seen as a huge waste of time. Al Qaeda has always been a sideshow, and by aiming all our efforts at wiping it out, and by promoting the War on Terror as a substitute for the Cold War in order to keep appropriations high, we may well have starved the rest of the military - the important parts of the military, like the navy - of what they require to function well.

Helprin states:
And yet the fleet has been made to wither even in time of war. We have the smallest navy in almost a century, declining in the past 50 years to 286 from 1,000 principal combatants. Apologists may cite typical postwar diminutions, but the ongoing 17% reduction from 1998 to the present applies to a navy that unlike its wartime predecessors was not previously built up. These are reductions upon reductions. Nor can there be comfort in the fact that modern ships are more capable, for so are the ships of potential opponents. And even if the capacity of a whole navy could be packed into a small number of super ships, they could be in only a limited number of places at a time, and the loss of just a few of them would be catastrophic.

The overall effect of recent erosions is illustrated by the fact that 60 ships were commonly underway in America's seaward approaches in 1998, but today—despite opportunities for the infiltration of terrorists, the potential of weapons of mass destruction, and the ability of rogue nations to sea-launch intermediate and short-range ballistic missiles—there are only 20.

As China's navy rises and ours declines, not that far in the future the trajectories will cross. Rather than face this, we seduce ourselves with redefinitions such as the vogue concept that we can block with relative ease the straits through which the strategic materials upon which China depends must transit. But in one blink this would move us from the canonical British/American control of the sea to the insurgent model of lesser navies such as Germany's in World Wars I and II and the Soviet Union's in the Cold War. If we cast ourselves as insurgents, China will be driven even faster to construct a navy that can dominate the oceans, a complete reversal of fortune.
Here is a speech by Helprin in 2008. He takes gratuitous shots at liberals in the speech, and defends a lot of foolish conservative ideas like missile defense, but he also implicitly takes shots at conservatives too. Here, he urges increasing reliance on the concept of deterrence. In the 1980's, Reaganites derided deterrence as complacency in the face of Soviet expansion, but Cold War liberals knew that deterrence saved the peace in the Cold War. Deterrence retains its relevance in this century, despite the damage done by Reaganites.

Sheen, Beck, or Qaddafi?

I did just dreadful with this game: only 5 out of 15 correct:
Clearly, February was a peerless month in the history of unhinged rants. Between Charlie Sheen, Glenn Beck, and Muammar Qaddafi, it was difficult just to keep track of who was saying which unintelligible thing at any given time. Really difficult, in fact. To demonstrate just what a struggle it is to distinguish between the mad ramblings of an entertainer, a despot, and another entertainer, we’ve put together this quiz. If you get them all right, you are some kind of savant.

Pima County Democrat Wants To Secede From Arizona

Pima County Democrat Wants To Secede From Arizona Raw Replay

Skateboarding Accident

I was departing work Tuesday evening about 5:30 p.m. when I noticed a big hullaballoo just outside, at the corner of 18th & J Streets. I stopped to check it out.

Several people were standing about, cellphones in their hands, and serious expressions on their faces. Poker faces, actually. I couldn't tell precisely what the people were thinking, but I could sense a great disquiet. I gingerly started asking questions....

From what I could piece together, a city bus let a skateboarder out at the bus stop in front of Gifted Gardener, at the SW corner of 18th & J Streets. The skateboarder then proceeded to cross J Street directly in front of the parked bus, and either rode or walked directly into the eastbound, one-way traffic. At least two people heard the brief, abrupt sound of automobile brakes being applied, then heard an impact.

Apparently the skateboarder was struck by two cars - one blue and one silver. Interestingly, one observer said the skateboarder got up immediately and didn't seem to be seriously injured. Nevertheless, by the time I arrived, all I could see of the skateboarder was his two sneakers, as he lay down inside the ambulance parked at the corner. Right now, I don't know his condition.

The drivers of the two cars, two women, were standing around looking serious. I wanted to ask them questions, but they hadn't even talked to the police first. I shied away....

In this picture, the driver of one of the two cars looks at the driver's side of her windshield, where the skateboarder had left spider cracks from the impact. The hood of her car was also dented.

From what I could tell, the drivers may have had almost no time to react to the sudden appearance of the skateboarder from around the corner of the bus.

Be careful out there!

Bob Woodward Bites Donald Rumsfeld

That Beltway lickspittle Bob Woodward is a real viper when he gets crossed. Donald Rumsfeld can dodge and weave, and let other people take the fall, but he can't escape an angry Woodward:
Rumsfeld's memoir is one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others -- including President Bush -- distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away. It is a travesty, and I think the rewrite job won't wash.

...As numerous accounts have documented, the post-war planning and organization was close to a disaster. Rumsfeld blames the lack of "effective interagency coordination" and "the way the United States government is organized." (p. 487)

As secretary of defense he was responsible. Under our system, he was next in the chain of command after the president, effectively making him the deputy president for war. But he sidestepped his responsibility time and time again.

Some six weeks after the invasion Rumsfeld visited Iraq and was leaving on his plane. He had been notified by General Tommy R. Franks, who was retiring as combatant commander for the region, that Army Lt. Gen. David McKiernan "would be the senior commander in Iraq for 90 days." (p. 497) He then recounts this scene, which would be hilarious if it weren't so tragic:
On my flight heading back to Kuwait City I was startled to see McKiernan onboard the C-130 aircraft. I asked him where he was going.

"To my headquarters back in Kuwait," he said.

"Well, aren't you in charge of what's going on in Iraq?" I asked.

McKiernan told me he went in and out of Iraq once, sometimes twice a week to check on things. It struck me that in the crucial weeks following the fall of Saddam, McKiernan did not seem to think of himself as the command in charge of the ground operations ... McKiernan seemed to have removed himself from the critical daily responsibilities in the country.
Rumsfeld makes no effort to explain how he, the well-known control freak, would allow such drift and ambiguity about who was in charge.

By June 2003, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the junior three-star in the Army was made commander in Iraq (p. 500-01). "I do not recall being made aware of the Army's decision to move General Sanchez into the top position," Rumsfeld writes. The Army's? It was an abdication of his own, clear responsibility.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

RIP, Jane Russell

I remember her principally for "The Outlaw", which was part of the larger 20th-Century effort through the movies to make New Mexico's most-notorious citizen, Billy the Kid, among the world's most notorious (and interesting) historical figures.

And also for her good humor, and her figure....

Remaining Professional When Your Family Is At Risk

Rescuing people when your daughter is in harm's way:
Mr Yusaf was in the station mess when the quake hit. As he and his colleagues raced into town in a truck, they were stopped by a bystander who told them the Pyne Gould building had collapsed.

They arrived on foot, with only the tools they could carry, and were confronted by the full horror of the crumpled building.

"It was a five or six-storey building that had literally just fallen over on to its side and you could see hands waving out of the rubble between the floors.

"You could see people, hear people hollering out to be rescued. Everything was happening very fast but I remember just being struck by the scale of the job."

..."So I knew that she was in there somewhere but I had no way of getting to her," Omar Yusaf said.

"I just had to keep doing what I was doing and trust her teachers had managed to get her out of the building and to a place of safety. I found that absolutely terrifying.

"In a situation like that – I don't mean to sound callous because I love my daughter as much as anyone – but if I concentrated on her then I'm just not going to be able to function here.

"It sounds crazy but I had to put her out of my mind and trust that she was being looked after by somebody."

Kalilah had been badly affected by the carnage. "I don't think I've got the courage to send my daughter back to school in the inner city.

"As it was, she was in one of the most dangerous places she possibly could have been. She had an extremely traumatic day.

"She's only 13 years old and saw buildings collapse on to people. She saw burnt corpses in Latimer Square.

Another Tropical Cyclone For Queensland?

The long-range NOGAPS forecast shows a tropical cyclone approaching the Queensland coast, then stalling, in about a week. Hopefully that won't come to pass: they are pretty much tired of tropical cyclones on that coast this season. The storm doesn't exist yet (if it's going to exist) and the NOGAPS model is notoriously too-prone to nucleate these storms, so hopefully this alternative future won't come to pass.

"Guys And Dolls" - DMTC - Opening Weekend

Very busy this weekend with "Guys and Dolls" at DMTC in Davis. So busy, in fact, being co-stage manager and on stage too, that I had little time to snap pictures. The ones I have are fairly undistinguished, but here they are anyway.

Left: Brittany Bickel as Miss Adelaide.

Below: Laura Wardrip as Sarah Brown.

Left and Below: Travis Nagler as Sky Masterson and Laura Wardrip as Sarah Brown.

Below: "Take Back Your Mink", featuring Jessa.

Below: "Take Back Your Mink", featuring Christina Rae.

Left: Brittany Bickel as Miss Adelaide and Steve Isaacson as Nathan Detroit.

Left: Laura Wardrip as Sarah Brown and Brittany Bickel as Miss Adelaide.

Maloofs Lost Focus

This article seems to suggest that had the Maloofs been more disciplined, they could have succeeded in getting a new arena built.

Myself, I've had it with running down perfectly-good Arco (now Power Balance) Arena. Despite the naysayers, it remains a fine place.

The taxpayers of Sacramento are never going to accept paying so soon for the replacement of an arena that dates to the mid-80's, just to satisfy the spoiled Veruca Salts of the NBA. The taxpayers might have listened to other arguments, and might still listen to other arguments, but spoiled whining is what we heard, and we responded in kind with our "No" ballots.

If the Maloofs walk away from Sacramento, that is their loss - they won't be able to replicate what they had here in Los Angeles. And maybe someone else with greater vision will see Sacramento as the ideal sports opportunity that it is:
Elmets handed Maloof a script. He was supposed to say the railyard was an ideal location for an arena and the venture was a tremendous opportunity for Sacramento. Instead, Maloof said he wasn't sure an arena would work there.

"I turned ashen as did everyone else in the campaign," Elmets said.

Voters later rejected arena tax Measures Q and R by wide margins. By then, Elmets said, the owners had all but walked away from the campaign, offering only "tepid financial support and minimal moral support."

...Townsend represented former Sheriff Lou Blanas and developers including Angelo K. Tsakopoulos in a private push to rezone property for development in North Natomas in exchange for financing for a new arena. He blamed its failure on a collapse of the development partnership, but was amazed by the brothers' demands in negotiations.

"They wanted a $40 million to $50 million parking garage so that you could drive right up and park at your (arena) box," Townsend said. "They were being somewhat excessive in their demands for what the arena should have."

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lady Gaga - Born This Way

"A race which bears no prejudice, no judgment; but boundless freedom."

I still haven't figured out what to think about Lady Gaga. She is using less blatantly-decadent imagery these days, which I guess is an improvement, but her trajectory is still unclear. She reminds me of Madonna in many ways, including my emotional reactions to her: neutral at first, then strongly-negative, and still negative at times, but overall very positive.

GOAT? Government-Operated Alien Territory? Sounds like my home state of New Mexico! But she's from NYC. Which some people would also maintain is also GOAT....

The Christchurch Wizard Speaks Out

What a sensible person!:
The Christchurch Wizard dishes out some sensible advice to his fellow Cantabrians - including not to listen to Ken Ring and his 'crackpot lunatic' theories.

Marching Orders From "Good Day, Sacramento"

Mike Ball sends some alarming news from Channel 13/CW 31. Not only will I have to get up early Sunday morning (a rarely-accomplished feat), but with my pedestrian singing skills I will have to demonstrate those "amazing harmonies and crescendos" on the tee-vee:
DATE: Sunday, March 6
ARRIVAL TIME: TENTATIVE: 6:30am (segments in the 7am and 8am hours)
LOCATION: 2713 KOVR Drive; West Sacramento


Performing two songs: “Oldest Established” and “Fugue for Tinhorns” for the segments

Using “Guys and Dolls – ending” for the tease

TO DO: (Because segments on TV are so short, we need to make Oldest Established shorter to get to the amazing harmonies and crescendos of the songs)

Innerpartysystem - American Trash

Kelsey recommends this.

Fighting Back Against Humanity's Impulse To Burn Witches

Andrew writes from Christchurch:
I had one night at home and the aftershocks were nasty (some at a depth of less than 1 km now!!) so I am at the airport heading to Queenstown again. The earth doesn’t shake, rattle and roll down there (yet!).
Nevertheless, that's not really what has Andrew upset: it's humanity's regrettable tendency to find fault and cast blame:
[H]ave you seen that awful website which thankfully is now down – – if you Google it you will find some pages cached and they are atrocious. Also a pastor of a mega church in Auckland (Max Legg) has been writing to politicians in NZ stating somewhat similar stuff – i.e. that the earthquake was a sign of God’s judgment on NZ for allowing homosexuals to have gay ski week in Queenstown for example. So by that logic we are to assume that every tornado, hurricane, cyclone, fire, earthquake, volcanic eruption etc is a sign of judgment? As a Christian, I am offended at such suggestions as there is only one sure thing about such disasters – i.e. that people should help each other and do everything positive that they can to support and help those in need rather than sitting back and speculating about judgment or other negative things. Besides, usually those who shout loudest with negative destructive comments are hypocrites and those who quietly get on with being constructive and showing true love to others are the real heroes.
I replied:
I hadn’t heard about that Web Site. Following your suggestion, I briefly-glanced at a cached page, and saw all I needed to see.

I agree with you whole-heartedly. There are many, many unsung heroes in Christchurch right now, earnestly trying to reassemble their lives, while remaining optimistic too. These are the people who deserve our support and respect.

Some people even find time for humor, in conditions that are grave. I was touched by this article (you may have already seen it) about a Christchurch bricklayer.

Marc's Patented Tilt-A-Whirl Theory About the Christchurch Earthquakes

I was trying to illustrate better my boneheaded understanding of the geologic reports I was reading last week. It seemed to me that the Tilt-A-Whirl carnival ride is a useful analogy.

Picture the northern Canterbury Plains (which is carrying the City Of Christchurch) as one of the cars rotating counterclockwise in the YouTube video below – preferably one of the cars moving to the left, on the far side of the Tilt-A-Whirl (mimicking the movement of the Pacific Plate as it moves westwards to collide with the Australian Plate). The Greendale Fault, and the new fault made evident by the February quake are the visible portions of the circular base upon which the car sits.

As the car rotates, the circular base of the car slips to the right of the observer.

Similarly, as viewed from Diamond Harbour, the City of Christchurch slips to the right (and vice-versa: as seen from Christchurch, Diamond Harbour seems to slip to the right).

Here is a much better animation showing how New Zealand will be affected over the next four million years by the collisions between plates.

Familiar Visitor On The Streets Of Sacramento

Interesting display on J Street, near 9th Street.

I am reminded of Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life":
Lady Presenter: [after she and the other dinner guests have supposedly died after eating the salmon mousse, and are being carried away by the Grim Reaper]:
Wait a minute. I didn't eat the salmon mousse.
Apparently this is a union protest:
CIM Group is preparing new tenant space for the Sacramento County Employees retirement System and they are using Marketone Builders, who fail to pay area-standard wages and benefits.

The Carpenter's Local 46 urges everyone to inform the CIM Group to get some standards!

CIM Group
6922 Hollywood Blvd., 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90028
phone: (323) 860-4900
fax: (323) 860-4901

Prophecy And Ken Ring

I got an interesting E-Mail from Christchurch, NZ:
This is VERY interesting:

Note that these guys have predicted the earthquakes in Chch within a few days accuracy based on gravitational forces. What do you think?
What is this forecast? (dated 2/14):
Solar activity is picking up in pace right now, with coronal holes appearing close to where they appeared before the 4 September earthquake in Christchurch. ... It means ths area of the sun that corresponds to NZ is again seeing some activation. The window of 15-25 February should be potent for all types of tidal action, not only kingtides but cyclone development and ground movement. The 18th may be especially prone. The possible earthquake risk areas are N/S faults until after 16 February, then E/W faults until 23rd. The moon will be full on the 18th and in perigee on the 19th. This perigee will be the fifth closest for the year. The 15th will be nodal for the moon. On the 20th the moon crosses the equator heading south. Strong winds and swells may arrive around 22nd to NZ shorelines.
A brilliant forecast! Right on the money, and for all the wrong reasons!

Unfortunately, I suspect a confidence man here: a con man who happened to get lucky.

Ken Ring seems to have created a weather-and earthquake-forecasting consultancy based on records of solar flares, and phases of the moon, among other factors.

Most meteorologists discount the effect of solar flares on weather, since there is no obvious way that solar flares couple with the weather. Solar flares interact primarily with the ionosphere and the tenuous reaches of the upper atmosphere, not deeper in the atmosphere, where weather happens. The stratified nature of the stratosphere is very effective at keeping these two realms distinct and separate.

While the moon's gravitational force causes tides, which flex the crust, and might trigger earthquakes already primed to happen, the moon's influence dwarf's in significance with the primary factors, like continental drift.

While the Christchurch earthquake seemed to correspond to the full moon, similar recent earthquakes, like the Jan. 2nd Chilean 7.1M earthquake, occurred at new moon.

Despite Ring's calculations, I suspect no easy conclusion is possible about the effect of the moon on earthquakes.

I also think it's interesting how Ring appears to disparage the science of long-range weather forecasting, yet may quietly be using these same forecasts. Ring states:

The concept of longrange forecasting may seem unfamiliar and less than possible at first hearing, but that could be because there has been a lack of longrange capability of western metservices since the 1850s. Despite claims to the contrary with regard to climate scientists preaching about imminent climate change, the science of classical meteorology has not progressed in 150 years, and whilst same-day predictions may be excellent and well-supported by state-of-art satellite technology, predictions more than 1 or 2 days ahead by forecasters cannot be relied on. For the longer outlook, one can liken our work in longrange weather projection to local tidetables which cover a year ahead or longer and have long been purchaseable in advance from institutions supporting maritime activity. Our longrange weather reports are simply tidetables of the atmosphere.
Actually, the science of classical meteorology has proceeded in leaps and bounds in the last 150 years. One of meteorology's major discoveries - an unfortunate discovery, but a discovery nonetheless, attributed to Edward Lorenz, and often called the Butterfly Effect - is that classical, short-range weather forecasting is not possible past a few days. Nevertheless, certain statistical properties of the atmosphere often endure, allowing predictions of a sort to be made for a week, and sometimes a month, or a season in advance. Thus, weather segues into climate....

High pressure systems can be especially-enduring. For example, long wavelength Rossby waves can be nearly-static, and can last a month. Here in Sacramento, California, we got lots of rain in December, 2010, but I could see that one of these big ridges had locked into place at the start of January, 2011, and I knew deep in my heart that the entire month of January would be almost rain-free. Indeed, that was the case! Even in the rainiest winters here, we often experience weeks with no rain whatsoever. That's the advantage of experience. It's knowing how the atmosphere typically behaves that allows this kind of wizardry.

Why do I think Ring may be surreptitiously using long range weather forecasts available on the Web? For example, Ring's 2/14 forecast called for swells in the seas near northern NZ around 2/22. This was a reasonable forecast, since weather-forecast modeling likely already-available by 2/14 suggested the approach of a tropical cyclone (later named Tropical Cyclone Atu) to the North Island around that time. Even as early as 2/14, swells would have been a safe forecast for the North Island.

My documentation isn't good here, though. The hardest thing to find on the World Wide Web are two-week-old weather forecasts. As soon as weather happens, the old, embarrassingly-wrong weather forecasts immediately get dumped into the memory hole, so it's hard to recreate the long-range weather-forecast landscape that forecasters were looking at just two weeks ago. Even archives of the actual weather are sometimes hard to find (one useful archive is here).

Nevertheless, I'm certain that some forecasts foresaw the development of Tropical Cyclone Atu, and also foresaw its movement towards New Zealand. I remember looking at these forecasts just two weeks ago (even if I didn't remark upon them in print).

In any event, it's tropical cyclone season, and even if you knew nothing else about the weather, forecasting swells along North Island shores is a pretty-safe forecast in February.

Commingling forecasts (e.g., earthquake and weather, like Ring seems to like to do) is a hallmark of the prophet trade. As a teenager, I used to read the forecasts of psychic Jeanne Dixon, but soon realized she was commingling forecasts, so that failure on one front might be offset by successes on two other fronts. The successes would be remembered, and the failures forgotten.

Any intelligent person, poring over reports of rising grain prices last year, might have been able to offer a prediction of events like Mubarak's recent overthrow. That was Dixon's method: she carefully read her hometown newspaper (the Washington Post), looking out for neglected trends, before stepping forward with her commingled forecasts. The well-informed person seems to be more psychic than anyone else, simply because they know more.

This Ring fellow is very sophisticated! Perhaps I should do something along the same line....

Which reminds me, Gabe sent me a note indicating The Rapture will occur on May 11, 2011. So mark your calendars now!

But I offer no predictions, because, as always, I've fallen behind on my reading, and am too-poorly-informed to offer much in the way of prophecy.

[UPDATE: Apparently others are less-than-convinced about Ken Ring's abilities.]