Friday, June 08, 2018

Person A

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

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

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

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Evidence of Organic Material on Mars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice Words

A Landscape of Yarn

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

Monday, June 04, 2018

This is Just Bonkers!

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

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

Just crazy.

Light Rail Day

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

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

Planet of the Female Invaders (1966)

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

Cool Costumes at Phoenix Comic Fest

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

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

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

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

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

"Moon Over Buffalo" - Sutter Street Theater

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

Time to Build a Wall

Bollywood Thriller

Guinness World Record For Jump Rope

Unexpected Check

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

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

Ute Park Fire

How to Talk to Cows

Dunes on Pluto

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

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

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

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