Friday, May 25, 2012

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Christchurch Takes A Hit - Again!

I got good news, and I got bad news.

The good news is that Andrew is passing through Sacramento this weekend.

The bad news? Here it is. Andrew reports:

Yikes – shaky day back in Chch today:
Christchurch has been hit by its largest earthquake in recent weeks this afternoon, with a 5.2-magnitude shake sparking the evacuation of 1000 workers from the Red Zone.

The earthquake struck at 2.44pm at a depth of 11 kilometres and was centred 10km east of Christchurch, according to the GeoNet website.

...There have been some reports of people running from malls in Christchurch and New Brighton Library has been evacuated to check for damage, while Orion said its systems show

...The central city red zone cordon has been evacuated, with up to 1000 rebuild workers and demolition contractors told to leave the danger zone.

Debris was reported falling from already quake-damaged buildings and more bricks reportedly came down off the crippled Christ Church Cathedral.

Cantabrians turned to social media to report their experiences on the latest shake - the 31st biggest since the earthquake sequence began in September 2010. Today's quake was the first jolt above magnitude 5.0 since January 15.
I replied:
Cripes! I was checking just yesterday, and noted the 4.8 on Saturday, and the guarded optimism in articles written in February that things were quieting down. The epicenter is about the same place as in December: the blind thrust faults to the east. I'm half-expecting the movement to shift north, but no such sign as yet. Maybe things WILL quiet down soon - just not now.
Andrew replied:
Statistically speaking (which isn’t necessarily the best way to view things), there has been a large quake once every 4-6 months or so.

Sept 4 was the first one (7.4 magnitude) Feb 22 was the devastating one that killed hundreds of people (6.3) June 13 (6.0 or thereabouts) December 26 (6.0 or thereabouts).

So I was half expecting something by late June and I hope this was it and that this isn’t a precursor to another in the 6.X scale.

The good thing is that the trend is downwards in the magnitudes of the largest ones I think.
I replied:
It's funny about that quasi-periodicity: I've been half-expecting a new quake too, and I'm sure we're not alone.

The nature of the faults is much different around Darfield (slip) than it is east of Christchurch (thrust). Beginning vs ending (I hope). Unless the faults to the north become active. (cross fingers).
Andrew replied:
And do you have any information or opinion on the >10,000 aftershocks? Is that normal for earthquakes? Seems like a lot to me.....(but I am not an expert in that field of course).
I replied:
No opinion or knowledge about the number of aftershocks, but it is interesting how shallow most of them are. It's all strong but brittle rock that's shattering like a porcelain plate. When I next visit, I want to take a day & hike the Port Hills, just to check out the china. Possibly dangerous hike too. People were killed up there, if I recall.
In any event, this Web Site is important to keep abreast of the quakes.

Kreayshawn: "Breakfast" Live in Fresno - Debut Performance

The end of civilization? The beginning of civilization?

I like eggs, sunny-side up.

A Tropical Storm Birth Just East Of Florida Is Imminent

Here it comes! And after a feint to the sea, the Georgia/South Carolina coast is one likely target.

Fire Growing Like Crazy

Damn hard to stop:
The Whitewater Fire has merged with the Baldy Fire and is now renamed the Whitewater-Baldy Complex. The fire has crossed the Gila Wilderness Boundary and burned into the Willow Creek Subdivision and the Gila National Forest. It has also crossed State Road 159 at Silver Creek Divide and burning toward or into Mineral Creek. ... The Whitewater-Baldy Complex is now 70,578 acres. It continues to burn in steep, rugged terrain of mixed conifer forest being driven by strong winds. The fire remains at 0% containment as firefighters are unable to directly suppress the fire due to extreme fire behavior and rough terrain. This extreme fire behavior has created large amounts of smoke which was visible in many communities in southeast New Mexico as well as some in eastern Arizona. We are under Red Flag Warnings today which will continue through Saturday. A voluntary-evacuation of the town of Mogollon is now in effect. The fire did reach the Willow Creek Subdivision and is burning on both sides of the creek. Twelve homes and seven small outbuildings were confirmed destroyed late yesterday afternoon and additional structure damage assessment continues today.

Visit Sunny Juarez

Just - Be careful!:
Juarez returned to the informative brochures to promote the attractions that the border region offers to visitors, after two years of being excluded from the tourist map because of the violence.

"Juarez should never have been excluded from the tourist map of El Paso, since it is our main trading partner, we are a single region where we cooperate with each other", said Beto O'Rourke, a former alderman of El Paso, and a candidate for a seat in Congress by the Democratic Party.

..."The fact that Juarez appears again on the map of tourist attractions in Texas, is like a vote of confidence in regard to the existing security in the city," said Demetrio Sotomayor, tourism director in Chihuahua.

...However, both the Mexican authorities and U.S. federal agencies maintain that this year, they have seen a decline in kidnappings and murders in Ciudad Juarez.

Fun Reading About The Presidential Candidates Whose Eligibility Was Questioned Because Of Citizenship

Fun reading the article in Wikipedia about all the Presidential candidates whose natural-born citizenship was suspect:
Chester A. Arthur (1829–1886), 21st president of the United States, was rumored to have been born in Canada.
And why is that requirement in the Constitution in the first place?:
This requirement was an attempt to allay concerns that foreign aristocrats might immigrate to the new nation and use their wealth and influence to impose a monarchy.
In the beginning days of the Republic, this was a real concern. Even a petty European noble could dream about emigrating and becoming the 'Duke of the Ouachita', or some-such. Some even tried. The United States wasn't strong enough at the time to resist these ambitions.

These days, some assert Barack Obama isn't a natural-born citizen. Even if he isn't, would it matter? Is there a real danger of ambitious Kenyans or Indonesians getting appointed to the Cabinet and driving the United States into ruin? Really? I've seen no sign of them! Show me the treason!

Meanwhile, look at the participants of gun shows near the U.S.-Mexican border. Many of these native-born, Second-Amendment-supporting Americans have unwavering loyalty to the United States, but by objectively-supporting foreign-based drug cartels, through indirect sales of armaments (particularly to the fearsome Los Zetas), they are engaged in treason. Yet they can run for President without any trouble whatsoever. Meanwhile, foreign-born folks who don't do that (like Arnold Schwarzenegger) can't run for President.

Overarching American power in the world has rendered the natural-born citizen clause all-but-irrelevant for its original purpose. That's a good thing, actually. Like Mel Brooks says: "It's good to be the King!"

Which makes it even more ironic that Michelle Bachmann ran afoul of the purists lately:
In March, according to reporting by Politico and a Swiss reporter, and seemingly confirmed by a Bachmann spokeswoman, Marcus, Michele and three of her children decided to add Swiss citizenship to their American citizenship. (More recently, Bachmann’s famously disorganized office changed this account, claiming that she’s actually been a dual citizen since she married Marcus in 1978, and that it happened “automatically,” as if without her consent. Whatever.) In any case, news that Bachmann had opted to become a “Swiss miss,” as Politico delightfully termed her, upset pundits on the right wing, who called her dual citizenship “an insult to both countries,” “political bigamy,” career-ending,” “egregious,” and tantamount to “treason.”
Once again, even if she was a dual citizen (a matter of choice, mind you, not birth), it need not matter much. It would all depend on whose interests she was serving. Are her loyalties divided, or not? That's the acid test!

Michael Fumento's Screed

Fun reading!:
Nothing the new right does is evidently outrageous enough to receive more than a peep of indignation from the new right. Heartland pulled its billboards because of funder withdrawals, not because any conservatives spoke up and said it had crossed a line.

Last month U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Florida Republican recently considered by some as vice-president material, insisted that there are “78 to 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the Communist Party, again with little condemnation from the new right.

Mitt Romney took a question at a town hall meeting this month from a woman who insisted President Obama be “tried for treason,” without challenging, demurring from or even commenting on her assertion.

And then there’s the late Andrew Breitbart (assassinated on the orders of Obama, natch). A video from February shows him shrieking at peaceful protesters: “You’re freaks and animals! Stop raping people! Stop raping people! You freaks! You filthy freaks! You filthy, filthy, filthy raping, murdering freaks!” He went on for a minute-and-a-half like that. Speak not ill of the dead? Sen. Ted Kennedy’s body was barely cold when Breitbart labeled him “a big ass motherf@#$er,” a “duplicitous bastard” a “prick” and “a special pile of human excrement.”

The new right loved it! Upon his own death shortly after, Breitbart was immediately sanctified and sent to lead the Seraphim. He was repeatedly eulogized as “the most important conservative of our time never to hold office,” skipping right past William F. What’s-his-name Jr.

...Civility and respect for order – nay, demand for order – have always been tenets of conservatism. The most prominent work of history’s most prominent conservative, Edmund Burke, was a reaction to the anger and hatred that swept France during the revolution. It would eventually rip the country apart and plunge all of Europe into decades of war. Such is the rotted fruit of mass-produced hate and rage. Burke, not incidentally, was a true Tea Party supporter, risking everything as a member of Parliament to support the rebellion in the United States.

All of today’s right-wing darlings got there by mastering what Burke feared most: screaming “J’accuse! J’accuse!” Turning people against each other. Taking seeds of fear, anger and hatred and planting them to grow a new crop.

Conservatism has also historically emphasized empiricism. Joe Friday of “Dragnet” must have been a conservative: “All we want are the facts, Ma’am.” When President Reagan famously said, “Facts are stupid things,” he meant to quote President John Adams’ observation that “Facts are stubborn things.” But how much fact was there in Heartland’s billboards, whose shock purpose has been likened to tactics of the hard-left animal activist group PETA, with whom I’ve repeatedly locked horns. Or in West’s assertion? Or Breitbart’s tirades? Rush Limbaugh compared Breitbart, who never wrote a single investigative report, to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the dynamic duo who brought down the thoroughly corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon. He actually said Breitbart’s work was superior. Oh, dear!

I know these words coming from somebody identified with the right are heresy – as defined by this new right. An invite to a marshmallow roast with you as guest of honor. Or worse. It’s to be labeled with the ultimate epithet: RINO. Republican in name only. GOP Sen. Scott Brown bears that mark of Cain. Coming from super-liberal Massachusetts, he only has a 74 percent American Conservative Union rating. There you go, then!

So there’s an auto-da-fé out there right now with my name on it. Torquemada is holding the torch; the wieners and s’mores are flying off the shelves. Truth be known, though, I haven’t considered myself a Republican since 1982. Why? That was the year of the massive Reagan tax hike. I figured that’s what liberal Democrats are for. Tore up my donor card and never gave again. By being a conservative at that time, I was a RINO. By being one now, I’m also a RINO. A very curious animal, that.

I Decided To Watch "I, Claudius" Again

Because it's just too much fun!

Even in the first ten minutes of the series, there is a witty exchange that, as a theater person, I much appreciated:

The Emperor Caesar Augustus (C.) has invited the Athenian orator Aristarchus (A.) to address a festival at his palace, and recite a new oration celebrating the 7th anniversary of the Battle of Actium. The palace is noisy, however, and C. asks his house slave Pallas (P.) to call for silence:
C.: Ah, Aristarchus, welcome!

A.: Hail, Caesar!

C.: I hope we haven't kept you waiting too long. Come, we're ready now. (noisy bustle) Give us your piece!

A.: Give me YOUR peace, Caesar, and I shall gladly give you mine!

C.: Yes, of course, I'm sorry. Pallas!

P.: (three heavy knocks on the floor with his staff) Caesar calls for silence!

A.: What a voice! Perhaps we should change places? Only the Romans can afford ushers with a voice like that! Did you have training?

P.: I was an actor, sir.

A.: Oh, that explains it. Resting, are you?

P.: No, sir, I've given it up. Everyone's an actor in Rome. There just isn't enough work to go around.

A.: And what there is goes to friends and relatives. It's the same everywhere.

P.: The theater isn't what it was.

A.: No, and I'll tell you something else. It never was what it was!

A helpful family tree.

Shooting Fish In A Barrel, I Know

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fires In The Gila, And Elsewhere

John E-Mailed with agitated news:
GLENWOOD, N.M. (KRQE) - Firefighters facing high winds and hostile terrain are recommending campers and seasonal residents clear out of Willow Creek in the Gila National Forest.

In addition to the precautionary evacuation of Willow Creek, firefighters themselves have pulled back for their own safety.

The fire first detected on May 16 was estimated at 1,000 acres Tuesday morning, but that was before Red Flag conditions set in.

..."The fire remains at zero percent containment as firefighters are unable to directly suppress the fire due to extreme fire behavior.

...Late Tuesday the National Weather Service forecast office in El Paso, Texas, warned of smoke from the fire spreading over southern New Mexico and into far west Texas during the night. The strong winds are forecast to become southwesterly on on Wednesday blowing the smoke into central New Mexico.
John added:
Hi Marc,
I'm sure you have already heard about this fire. The Gila high country was largely spared in the huge fires last year but now it is burning out of control. This is an area where my son and I have backpacked two times. We had planned on going last summer but fire closures prevented the trip. It is the area where we came across a recent plane crash which I told you about in 2008. I hope that the Forest Service cabin which we stayed in was spared but a fire of this sort does not miss much. Dyer posted some pictures of an area around Hummingbird Gap on his blog; I'm almost positive that area was burned.

The forests of southwest New Mexico are rapidly disappearing. I would like to believe that it is a natural cycle and that those forests will be renewed in a generation or two. But I have a feeling that that may not be the case. Those forests were in a marginal ecological niche and with the normal climate now hotter and drier--well, it may just become (very) high desert.

I replied:
Hi John:

No, I actually hadn’t heard about this fire (I’m living in my own la-la California land at the moment). I did hear about similar Arizona fires, but only vague headlines. Thanks for catching my attention.

I have my doubts about the long-term forest health in Arizona too. Too many fire-prone people are “recreatin’” in bone-dry forests to avoid long-term problems.

Starting about April 1st, I notice that La Niña is finally, seriously beginning to give up its way-too-persistent ghost. I don’t know if El Niño will be that much better, but at least it will be different, and that might give the battered SW a chance to recover. Tropical Storm Bud is recurving into the Mexican coast, the sort of pattern you normally see late in summer, not at the beginning. I don’t know if it’s good (maybe a few showers for Texas), but at least it’s different.

But of course, New Mexico and Arizona are not the only places with fire problems: California and Nevada too:
A 6,600-acre Nevada wildfire burning near the California border was caused by people, fire officials announced Wednesday.

...The wildfire started about 2 p.m. Tuesday and quickly spread through the rural Topaz Lake area, about 60 miles south of Reno. At least two homes and 17 structures, including barns and garages, had been destroyed as of late Wednesday afternoon, Ayers said.
Change, weather, change!

Joe The Plumber Says He's Picking Up Stakes Tonight

Heading out of town. On the road, in his van. Leaving the losers in Sacramento to their own devices. The American dream, and all that.

Well, we'll see. I just don't want to have to go rescuing anyone in Montana in the winter....


Bad idea to brag about the hit:
A Pakistani doctor who led a phony vaccination campaign aimed at helping the CIA pinpoint Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts was convicted of treason Wednesday and sentenced to 33 years in prison, a decision that is likely to further erode Washington’s fragile relations with Islamabad.

...In January, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told CBS’ "60 Minutes" that Afridi had provided intelligence that assisted the raid and criticized Pakistan’s arrest of someone involved in helping track down the world’s most wanted man.

From the start, however, Pakistani authorities have regarded Afridi as a traitor and have ignored Washington’s calls for his release.

...However, Afridi’s vaccination ruse has also severely hampered the work of numerous Western aid organizations in Pakistan that report being harassed by the country's intelligence agents, who have grown suspicious of their affiliations. Some aid groups have reported difficulties in getting visas renewed for their Pakistan-based workers, while others say they are under constant surveillance by authorities or have had workers detained.

Johnny Depp Adopted As A Comanche

Bruce notes this:
Johnny Depp has been adopted into the Comanche nation following a ceremony in New Mexico, according to reports.

The actor, who is currently playing Native American sidekick Tonto in Disney’s forthcoming big-screen adaptation of The Lone Ranger, gained a new mother at the age of 48 following an approach from LaDonna Harris, president and founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity. The pair were united at her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last week after Harris reached out to a cousin who is working as a cultural advisor on the film, which is currently shooting in the state. Depp, originally from Kentucky, has made it clear in interviews that he considers himself to be part Native American.

“I had read about him and his Native American heritage so I said to my children around Mother’s Day, ‘Why don’t we adopt him?’” Harris told the Chicago Tribune. “He was adopted into my family. The (Comanche Nation) chairman then recognised that adoption which made him an honorary member of the Comanche Nation tribe.”

...With Depp in the role, Disney’s take on The Lone Ranger looks likely to significantly enhance Tonto’s screen time compared to the original series. The Social Network’s Armie Hammer is playing the masked hero himself.

Maybe People Are Just Fragile

You read stories like this, and wonder:
A 23-year-old woman who attended Purdue University died Saturday afternoon while hiking the Tortolita Mountains with her family, authorities said.

Amalia Barber was on a trail in the mountains northwest of Tucson with her aunt and uncle, who are from Tucson, a cousin from Tempe and a friend from Indiana, where Purdue is located, said Capt. Adam Goldberg, a Northwest Fire District spokesman.

Saturday was the woman's birthday, he said.

The group set out on the Wild Burro trail near the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain resort at about 7 a.m., he said. They were not staying at the resort.

Barber, who is from Clinton, Ill., started experiencing heat-related symptoms four hours into the hike, including fatigue, excessive thirst, muscle cramps and exhaustion.

The hikers missed a turn, which took them a mile and a half off the trail.

When the group started backtracking to the trail, Barber told them she couldn't go any farther.

..."This is a stark and tragic reminder that we are in the summertime hazard for heat," Goldberg said.
The hikers lost the trail, but they did they prudent thing, and backtracked. No seriously-poor judgement was on display. Still, she couldn't hold on. And how odd is that?

Maybe we are all vulnerable, in one way or the other, in this hard, cruel world....

Is It Safe To Poke My Head Up?

Lots of work at work the last week, or so. Too much to do, lately. Not enough time for blogging.

But there are other issues too....

Newt's Not Looking So Good, Either

These weird ventures pull in so much money and generate nothing but hot air:
The Gingrich Group bankruptcy proceedings spotlight the remarkable reversal of fortune of the half-dozen organizations associated with Gingrich. The presidential contender recently ended his campaign $4.8 million in debt. A political nonprofit he headed, American Solutions for Winning the Future, which raised $52 million between its founding in 2007 and its dissolution last July, also ended in debt.

The decline of the health policy center began earlier than previously realized. When Gingrich began considering a presidential bid in early 2010, "the membership began to drop off," according to Nancy Desmond, who served as managing partner of Gingrich Group LLC, which did business as the Center for Health Transformation. She was one of three owners of the company, but as the managing partner she alone testified at the May 9 meeting of creditors on the third floor of the Richard B. Russell Federal Building.

Take Heart!

Because the Heartland Institute is now floundering:

Heartland's claims to "stay above the fray" of the climate wars was exploded by a billboard campaign earlier this month comparing climate change believers to the Unabomer Ted Kaczynski, and a document sting last February that revealed a plan to spread doubt among kindergarteners on the existence of climate change.

Along with the damage to its reputation, Heartland's financial future is also threatened by an exodus of corporate donors as well as key members of staff.

In a fiery blog post on the Heartland website, the organization's president, Joseph Bast, admitted Heartland's defectors were "abandoning us in this moment of need".

Over the last few weeks, Heartland has lost at least $825,000 in expected funds for 2012, or more than 35 percent of the funds its planned to raise from corporate donors, according to the campaign group Forecast the Facts, which is pushing companies to boycott the organization.

The organization has been forced to make up those funds by taking its first publicly acknowledged donations from the coal industry. The main Illinois coal lobby is a last-minute sponsor of this week's conference, undermining Heartland's claims to operate independently of fossil fuel interests.

Its entire Washington, DC, office, barring one staffer, decamped, taking Heartland's biggest project, involving the insurance industry, with them.

Board directors quit, conference speakers canceled at short notice, and longtime associates demanded Heartland remove their names from its website. The list of conference sponsors shrank by nearly half from 2010, and many of those listed sponsors are just websites operating on the right-wing fringe.

"It's hemorrhaging," said Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, who has spent years tracking climate-denying outfits. "Heartland's true colors finally came through, and now people are jumping ship in quick order."

It does not look like Heartland is about to adopt a corrective course of action.

In his post, Bast defended the ads, writing: "Our billboard was factual: the Unabomber was motivated by concern over man-made global warming to do the terrible crimes he committed." He went on to describe climate scientist Michael Mann and activist Bill McKibben as "madmen."

The public unraveling of Heartland began last February when the scientist Peter Gleick lied to obtain highly sensitive materials, including a list of donors.

The publicity around the donors' list made it difficult for companies with public commitment to sustainability, such as the General Motors Foundation, to continue funding Heartland. The GM Foundation soon announced it was ending its support of $15,000 a year.

But what had been a gradual collapse quickened when Heartland advertised its climate conference with a billboard on a Chicago expressway comparing believers in climate science to the Unabomber.

The slow trickle of departing corporate donors turned into a gusher.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tropical Storm In New England On May 25th?

I'm puzzled by the NOGAPS forecast that seems to show a tropical-like storm crashing into New England late on the 25th.  Not even Tropical Storm Alberto, but the one after that.  Strange:  the season doesn't even officially start until June 1st.

Annular Eclipse - May 20, 2012

According to this map, Live Oak, was barely in the zone where annularity could be observed (unlike my hometown of Albuquerque, which was squarely on the annularity path). So, I would have to look fast to see the annulus!

Wearing two pair of sunglasses (the same ones I purchased on the Mexican cruise in 2010) I did indeed see the annulus, but barely: just for 30 seconds at the most. Still, it was there! Success!

Looking conspicuous at the roadside, people sometimes honked, and one even asked what I was doing as he drove away in his pickup truck. I pointed at the sun, but I don't know if anyone understood.

Here are a series of pinhole images of the progression of the eclipse:

I tried to get images of the annulus with the digital camera, but the challenge was too great for this camera. Despite the presence of the moon, the annulus is so bright that it overwhelmed everything else. Nevertheless, there must have been a little pinhole somewhere in the outer pair of sunglasses, because in the lower left is an image of the progress of the eclipse.

Below is a series of photos showing the same scene. I was hoping the effect of the darkening would be visible, but it may have been too subtle for the camera (particularly as the camera automatically adjusts as the lighting changes. Nevertheless, I noticed the darkening. To me, it felt like an unidentifiable oppression: like it was clouding up, even though there were no clouds in the sky.

Trek To Live Oak To See The Eclipse

Left: The Sutter Buttes, near Yuba City.

May 20, 2012 was the day of the big annular eclipse, and like all science-minded folk I was excited. According to the map published in the Sacramento Bee, in order to experience full annularity, however, you had to be farther north than metropolitan Sacramento: at least as far north as Marysville. So, what to do?

It just seemed frivolous to undertake a trip just to see an annular eclipse, but I had to remember, first of all, that near-total eclipses are very rare events. Plus, did I not travel to Australia in 2006, and New Zealand in 2008, just to see Kylie Minogue concerts? In comparison, traveling to Marysville for an annular eclipse was a practical matter: almost utilitarian. So, off I went!

I ended up in Live Oak, north of Yuba City, looking at this clothing collection box. What a list of things I do just by throwing old clothes in here!

Car Wash? Sure!

As I filled up my gas tank at this Live Oak convenience market, there were a series of announcements on speakers from the 'Gas Station Radio Network' that in order to keep fit, it was a very simple matter to do abdominal crunches, and that I could do abdominal crunches anywhere. I begged to differ, of course. It's a bad idea to do abdominal crunches while driving, for example. Like texting, working out while negotiating traffic is rather a distraction. So, I was puzzled by these odd announcements (particularly as I was already taking photos with my camera while driving, and bicep curls and other exercises would just compromise photo quality).

Traditional Chinese wives walk six paces behind their husbands. Fortunately, Americans don't follow these obsolete traditional ways.