and I like this one by KC Tunstall

This was brought on by Wretchard's dissertation on love.

Dante believed that loneliness was the memory of happy times lost. And for perhaps that reason, the demand for love will always be greatest among those who have only heard rumor of it and glimpsed it, fleetingly, but once.
The comment section is especially good. This comment:
She could have had whatever she wanted from me, and destroyed me.
Caused this reply:
Love is very dangerous. It requires more trust than most are willing to give. To bare your secrets. To bare your soul. To admit your price.

You see the results all too often - "(s)he treated me like dirt and I was happy to accept it."

The net? Most folks are looking for advantage. Which puts the folks in love at a serious disadvantage. Gibran had the answer - love anyway - pay the price.

Or Alfred Lord Tennyson: 'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'.

I'm pretty lucky. The love between me and the first mate just keeps getting better (with the usual hitches - we are dealing with humans here) over time (37 years so far). As usual I'm a little late to the show.

Happy Mothers Day Dear

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:46 PM

Fukushima 7 May 2011

Over a week has passed since the last update. A few things have happened since then.

I posted this link about the Japanese Government upping the radiation safety limit for workers - Japan's Ministry of Health to Get Rid of Annual Radiation Limit for Nuclear Plant Workers - in the last update. Now we know why. #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 2 Workers Exceeded 200 Milli-Sieverts and Two male Plant workers in Fukushima are just under their 250 milliSievert limit

Plans to restart a reactor sitting on an earthquake fault are meeting resistance.

Fairly recent video (around 22 April) of the Fukushima I plants.

We have here a shining example of a Japanese official whose face was not saved. He was none too happy about it.

The Minister is not too happy about Koriyama City removing the radioactive surface soil from the school yards to reduce radiation for the kids.

The public officials in Koriyama City in Fukushima are doing something to proactively protect children by removing the big source of radiation (soil in the school yards) that could harm them gravely. A very rational and compassionate thing to do, though it's just too bad that Fukushima I Nuke Plant continues to spew out radioactive plume far and wide and Koriyama's effort may be in vain in short order.

But it still seems infinitely better than letting the children play outdoors based on an arbitrary number (3.8 micro-sieverts/hr) picked by the national government for this emergency.

That is about 33.3 milliSieverts a year if exposed 24/7/365. About 3.33 REM for those of you who are old school. That is a LOT for some one not working in the field. Especially if they are children. Of course the exposure is limited. Not counting what they drag in from the playground.

Some of the parents from the area have deposited some playground material with government officials.

Furious parents in Fukushima have delivered a bag of radioactive playground earth to education officials in protest at moves to weaken nuclear safety standards in schools.

Children can now be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible. The new regulations have prompted outcry. A senior adviser resigned and the prime minister, Naoto Kan, was criticised by politicians from his own party.

If they didn't just bring the dirt in bags but also spread it around the area will have to be declared a rad hazard area until it is cleaned up.

This may be a case of no choice but it does seem unwise. Some women working at the Fukushima plan exceeded their allowable dose. There is some question about how this should relate to monitoring children.

This incident raises a very interesting point: Since school children outside of the exclusion zone are allowed a recent and upwardly revised 20 mSv/yr maximum allowable dose (essentially the same amount allowed for female Tepco nuclear employees), will these kids have their doses individually monitored also? Will they be pulled from school if they exceed 5mSv over a 3 month period, as is the practice with female nuclear employees when they exceed their doses?

I would expect the Japanese authorities to exhibit a greater sense of caution with the children. Their upper level limit is generous, to say the least. Parents should be informed of the statistical and potential risks associated with these exposures, and should be presented with other educational alternatives should they choose to opt out.

You can bet the parents are not too happy. Fury over 20-fold increase in 'acceptable' radiation limits in schools.

Continue reading "Fukushima 7 May 2011"

posted by Simon at 04:26 PM


Earlier I saw a car which had the back windshield emblazoned with a slogan that Coco takes as an insult.


In case you can't make it out easily, it says the following:



While I would like to tell Coco that some people think in terms of stereotypes and that she should learn to ignore them, I can't. Hence the photo.

I know, I know. I shouldn't tell Coco to "do as I say not as I do." (But does that mean I should tell her to do as I do and not as I say?)

Fortunately, she has not (yet) accused me of hypocrisy.

(Although this video worries me.)

posted by Eric at 11:14 PM | Comments (2)

Anger over here, and anger over there!

I may be slow on the uptake, but I am genuinely having trouble processing all of the anger that the killing of Osama bin Laden seems to have generated on the right. And I do mean anger; in certain teeth-gnashing right wing circles, people seem actually angrier over the death of bin Laden than they did over the passage of Obamacare. In a comment to a post about this anger, I asked,

Would they be happier if the raid had failed?

I think some of them would, and I noted that it is not rational.

As I was thinking this over, I learned from a friend's email that the Europeans are angry too.

...the disdain for American joy about bin Laden's death goes deeper than mere snobbery or concerns about local Muslims. It's not just that Western European intellectuals don't like the United States--they never have--but their unwillingness to countenance aggressive Western self-defense against Islamist terror is a function of their loss of belief in Western civilization itself. Many on the continent seem to have lost any sense that their countries and way of life as well as their faith is something worth defending. When it comes down to it that, and not the faux sophistication of Euro elites, is the difference between America and Europe these days.

For all of our problems and divisions, most Americans still believe in their country. All too many of our friends across the pond have lost faith in theirs. And that crisis in confidence, not good taste, is why Americans and not Europeans are celebrating the death of bin Laden.

Well, not all Americans are celebrating; many on the right are doing just the opposite. The difference between them and the Europeans is that it is not the killing of bin Laden that upsets the red meat conservatives, so much as the fact that Obama is seen as getting credit for it.

OK, then, so why not just credit Bush and move on to other issues? Either Obama adopted Bush's policies or he did not. If he did, then at least some of the credit goes to Bush, and it should be pointed out. But even there, I see a problem which lends itself to a cognitive disconnect. If Obama has adopted Bush's foreign policy, that would mean that he is doing something right, wouldn't it? And because we can't have that, then he can't be credited as adopting Bush's foreign policy. But we can't have that either, because that would credit him with having his own foreign policy -- and one which succeeded at killing Osama bin Laden.

I think this conflict might explain the torrent of irrational anger. 

As to my own anger, I have been and still am angry at Obama for his socialist policies and wholesale disregard for the Constitution. So angry for so long that I long ago reached the saturation point. The killing of bin Laden is for me little more than an item in the plus column that will not change my disdain for the man's overall policies. I repeatedly predicted that he would engage in triangulation, and in this instance he has. Killing bin Laden was a smart move for Obama politically, and it was the right thing to do for this country.

I can't tell people what to do, but I think it might be a good time for angry conservatives to consider dumping the anger over the killing of bin Laden and returning to their traditional anti-Obama anger. After all, isn't he the same socialistic, Constitution-violating, postmodernist that he always was? 

Because if they're not careful, pretty soon this irrational anger at Obama for doing the right thing is going to start looking silly.   

European, even.

(And how silly is that?)

posted by Eric at 10:51 AM | Comments (9)

Red meat traitor

Since 1994, I have been resolutely, unalterably, vehemently, opposed to the left. No matter what the right wing does, I will always vote for them over the left, even if I have to hold my nose. Even if I have to throw up. 

But seeing a comment like the second one to this post by Ann Althouse reminds me of why I dislike "red meat" conservatives (and why they make me throw up):

This is depressing.

I really wish you would rethink your vote for Obama.

It is one thing that I have never forgiven you for.


Bear in mind that I never liked red meat conservatives. I just hate the left more, so despite the effect on my mental health I tend to appease their enemies. Unlike Ann Althouse, I didn't vote for Obama and never will.

But people like commenter "Titus" are being assholes, plain and simple. If they keep this shit up, they will kill the GOP's chances of winning in 2012.

Maybe that's what they want.

If so, they are hypocrites for calling Ann Althouse a traitor.

Yeah, yeah, I could have made a rational argument and explained exactly how treason is specifically defined in the Constitution and that Ann Althouse did not commit treason by voting for the wrong candidate, but these assholes have about as much respect for the Constitution as the left. 

Hating the left more than the right is no guarantee of happiness.

posted by Eric at 01:18 PM | Comments (14)

Preemptive surrender? I hope not!

At PJM, Michael Ledeen consults the spirit of James Jesus Angleton and asks a good question: "What if the Killing of Bin Laden Is the Beginning of The Great American Retreat?" Interesting theory and speculation, and if the killing turns out to be an excuse for retreat, I will oppose the retreat. However, the possibility that the killing was meant to grease the skids for a pullout not change my wholehearted support for the killing of bin Laden. How could it?

If the right thing is done for the wrong reasons, does it somehow become the wrong thing? 

This is somewhat related to Sarah's piece about the immense desire on the left to see the killing of bin Laden as an excuse for ending the war -- as if for all these years we were at war with one man, Osama bin Laden.

How naive to imagine that ideology would ever work that way! True, there are instances in history in which one man can be so all-important, and Adolf Hitler comes close. But even if an attempt on Hitler's life had been successful, would that have meant the end of World War II, much less an end to the war with Nazi Germany? Of course not. Sure, it might very well have accelerated the end. And if the bin Laden killing accelerates the end, that would be great. 

Tell you what. When I see Ayman al Zawahiri, Mullah Omar, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the rest of that scurvy crew of murderous thugs climb the steps to one of our aircraft carriers to sign the surrender documents, I might be willing to call it a victory.

But what these lefties and some of the Ron Paul types seem to forget is that we are dealing with people who have pledged to kill us. 

When you're dealing with people who have pledged to kill you and have not backed down one inch, anything less than their surrender ultimately means your surrender.

It comes down to what Sarah has called the Sarah Doctrine, and what I  call ordinary street smarts.  

posted by Eric at 08:59 AM | Comments (6)

Wind Power To Be Collected More Efficiently

It will be done by optimizing siting.

Evolution is providing the inspiration for University of Adelaide computer science research to find the best placement of turbines to increase wind farm productivity.

Senior Lecturer Dr Frank Neumann, from the School of Computer Science, is using a "selection of the fittest" step-by-step approach called "evolutionary algorithms" to optimise wind turbine placement. This takes into account wake effects, the minimum amount of land needed, wind factors and the complex aerodynamics of wind turbines.

What a Nice Bit Of Work. Collecting energy which is mostly useless more efficiently is a big advance. Evidently storage - which is the real missing ingredient is more difficult.

Not useless you say? This story says otherwise.

Today in Scotland, as the Great Recession rolls on, and as newly reprimitivized "wind farms" replace more tried and true -- and apparently predictable - methods of electricity generation, history rhymes rather nicely. The BBC reports, "Six Scottish windfarms were paid up to £300,000 to stop producing energy, it has emerged:"
I guess wind is different. With normal power plants you pay for the energy used. With wind plants unusable energy now has value. Well not to civilization of course. But the wind farmers do quite nicely.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:05 PM | Comments (4)

Briefly weighing in on the weighing in

Rarely have I seen the blogosphere so alive with commentary as it is right now about the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Just to make my position clear, I don't care what anyone thinks of President Obama's overall performance, but it is undeniable that this is a decided plus. M. Simon and I both said so.

Considering all of the trouble the country has undergone lately, people really want a reason to feel proud of their country, and by any standard this is a good reason. Even though the war is by no means over (as Sarah explains eloquently), the killing of Bin Laden is a major milestone, a victory people should be celebrating, and I am not going to detract from the celebrating in any way.

As to weighing in, I congratulate the president on a job well done. Can't remember the last time I did that. Was there ever a time? I don't know; if there was it might have been by way of sarcasm, as I make no secret of my disdain for the actions of this president and his administration, which I will of course continue to criticize. But I have to give credit where credit is due. He made the country proud, and as I don't want to say anything to detract from that, I really don't feel like wading through and weighing in on the predictable snark, the impugning of motives, the second-guessing, and conspiracy theories right now.

I would feel less than patriotic if I did.

However, I will say that he has gotten closer to having now earned his unearned Nobel Peace Prize (which, I would note, there had already been some international movement to take away).

So I agree what Glenn Reynolds' reaction to a remark made by Allen West that "Maybe he should think about giving back that Nobel Peace Prize." Quoting what he said in an earlier post, Glenn said,

I totally disagree. In the words of Keith Laumer, there's nothing more peaceful than a dead troublemaker.

As a SciFi ignoramus, I had to Google Keith Laumer, whose remark is all over the Internet. 

Peace through strength. It's a tried but true idea.

Works a lot better than peace through surrender, and I am glad to see President Obama was willing to use it in defense of this country.

posted by Eric at 01:26 PM | Comments (9)

Blood sucking is as blood sucking does

There's a blog for greedy lawyers, which is nice to see, because I believe that deviants and other misfits need to stick together.

Hey, maybe I misspoke. I mean, is it really fair of me to describe greedy lawyers as "deviants" and "misfits"? To most people, "greedy lawyers" is a redundancy. Still, even if they are the legal norm, I think they're entitled to worship together at their own blog.

Anyway, from the "Greedy Associates" blog I learned about the next area of hot practice.

Vampire litigation:

A vampire epidemic is spreading across this country, touching courts from coast to coast.

People are blaming vampires and vampire-related TV and movies for a lot of ridiculous behavior in this country.

HBO's True Blood may well be to blame for the biting of a 3-year-old boy on the neck. And for an Arizona "vampire" sentenced to three years of probation for stabbing his roommate after he refused him his blood.

As people are no longer responsible for their actions, I can see plenty of litigation by vampire victims -- who can basically work in collusion with the forseeable claim by vampires that the TV made them do it. Naturally, if the TV made them do it, then the TV industry becomes liable!

At this point, you might ask "who are the real vampires?"

Well, let's assume they are. In light of the old saying that "it takes a thief to catch a thief," isn't that a plus?

posted by Eric at 11:20 AM | Comments (4)

Painful sounds of pleasure

Here's a very San Francisco story about the problems which can be posed by carpet removal:

When Jack Hagerty closed on his new condo three weeks ago, he thought it had everything he wanted: a quiet, safe Glen Park location, easy access to BART and a backyard for his 10-year-old son. Turns out it came with an extra feature - a self-described "leather sex" enthusiast living downstairs.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"He's entitled to his life," Hagerty said. "I just wish he'd told me sooner."

Hagerty said all was well until he announced that he intended to remove the carpet and padding in his unit to help with allergies. The downstairs condo owner explained in an April 24 e-mail that he opposed the idea.

"I am a sexual enthusiast and enjoy leather sex," the man wrote. "At times, it is possible and even likely that the sounds of leather sex will be coming from my bedrooms to your bedrooms without an effective sound barrier. While it is not my issue, you may find you need to explain things to your son as it could be confusing to him since it frequently doesn't sound as pleasurable as it is."

"I just don't think it is appropriate for my son to bear witness to that," Hagerty said.

But the neighbor says if Hagerty just left the carpet and pad on the floor everything would be fine.

Normally, we think of sex noises as involving moaning and groaning, and possibly screaming. But I'm assuming the noises here involve not only screaming, but the sounds of whips cracking.

There's some additional discussion of whether real estate agents have the duty to disclose such goings-on to potential buyers.
Rob Rogers of Zephyr Real Estate, who helped to handle the sale, said, "You certainly don't have to disclose someone's sexual preferences or what they are doing."
There is a duty to disclose facts which would be relevant to a buyer's decision, but there's also a duty not to assist a buyer in illegal discrimination. If regular and annoying noises were known to the seller and and not readily perceivable on ordinary inspection, failure to disclose them might bring rise to liability. The problem is, what might annoy one person might not matter to someone else. An opera singer who practiced at home might sound lovely to one person while driving another crazy. Some people might rather hear the occasional screams associated with leather sex than the sounds of a teenager learning to play an electric guitar. It also depends on the hour; loud music or a barking dog during the day might not bother me during the day, but I wouldn't tolerate it at night. 

I'm not sure the noise is the issue with the leather guy, though. It's what the noise will mean to a kid who hasn't yet learned that for some people, pain is pleasure. 

So I understand the dad's concern, but he might keep in mind that the sounds of pleasure can drive criminals away.

Like this car alarm.

posted by Eric at 05:15 PM | Comments (4)

I Wake Up Screaming

As you know I'm not one to see the glass as half empty.  At least I hope I'm not.  But the day after Osama's death, I woke up screaming.  Before I even checked my facebook, I knew the vast majority of my friends would be going "We won, let's go home now."

Well... what do you know, they were saying exactly that.  And my fear led me to write an article for Pajamas Media: http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/do-not-go-back-to-sleep-america/2/ 

I want to be told I'm wrong.  I don't like being afraid.

posted by Sarah at 09:51 AM | Comments (7)

The scientific origin of vulnerable species

In a Washington Examiner piece about Washington's job killing machine, Hugh Hewitt gives an example of how the Endangered Species Act is being manipulated to thwart oil exploration:

...in Texas, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service presides over the dunes sagebrush lizard's crawl toward protected status under the Endangered Species Act, which will quickly affect oil and gas exploration across west Texas.

The FWS was taking "input" last week and will continue to do so for a few more before acting to sequester tens of thousands of acres of resource-rich land from use.

These are just four fingers of the many-handed beast that the federal government has become. I am aware of each of them because my law partners and I practice in these areas and field calls daily from companies that have received a recall notice, or which produce food that will have to change its advertising, or who wish to build in areas that are dry 350 days a year but perhaps about to be regulated by the feds under new rules.

The lizard is just the latest in a long line of not-remotely-endangered species that get catapulted onto the "endangered species list" by radical environmentalist groups, with devastating consequences to land owners and those they employ in the building of residential or commercial projects or natural resource exploration.

This fascinated me, because I know the Sagebrush Lizard is quite common, so I took a closer look. It turns out that the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard is a species that until recently was a subspecies. 

The Dunes Sagebrush Lizard, Sceloporus arenicolus, (formerly known as Sand Dune Lizard and the Dunes-Sagebrush Lizard, Sceloporus graciosus arenicolus, a subspecies of sagebrush lizard), is an insectivorous spiny lizard species which only occurs in the Shinnery oak Sand Dune systems of extreme South-east New Mexico and only four counties in adjacent Texas. Sceloporus arenicolus has the second smallest range of all lizards in the United States.

Formerly a subspecies of the Sagebrush lizard? How does a former subspecies get to become its own species? 

By having its status elevated in 1992, that's how:

The dunes sagebrush lizard was elevated to a species in 1992 and this elevation was validated with molecular and morphological evidence in 1997

Elevated on whose authority? "Top scientists"? What sort of due process is involved? Considering the legal implications -- both to property owners and the general public -- of a threatened species designation, shouldn't all parties that might be affected have input?

And precisely what is a species?

A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring.

Has it been officially verified that the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard cannot interbreed with other Sagebrush Lizards?

As I say, it matters. Because this alleged "species" of lizard is now considered a "vulnerable species."

A Vulnerable species is one which has been categorised by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as likely to become Endangered unless the circumstances threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

Vulnerability is mainly caused by habitat loss or destruction. Vulnerable species are monitored and are becoming threatened. However, some species listed as "vulnerable" may in fact be quite abundant in captivity, an example being the Venus Flytrap.

I hate to pick nits, but I have some major concerns about the methodology of species classification, as well as the methodology behind the determination of "vulnerable" status. 

I learned that there is considerable skepticism among scientists over the designation of similar Sceloporus lizards into species, because the various species can interbreed.

Sceloporus undulatus

The most widespread and variable Sceloporus in New Mexico. Infraspecific taxonomy is somewhat uncertain, and Sceloporus undulatus has been split into several species based on mitochondrial lineages by Dr. Leache of the University of Washington. However, these "species" apparently interbreed & do not correspond with morphological variation.

So if they interbreed, why would they be considered different "species"?

I don't know, but in this long scientific discussion, I found evidence that the creation of subspecies and the reclassification of subspecies into species might be based on factors other than pure science.

As an example of the importance of subspecies in conservational considerations, Sceloporus undulatus garmani, an arenicolous, terrestrial, cursorial, striped subspecies with reduced semeions (ventral color patches) appears to have become extinct, or nearly so, in parts of its range on the plains of eastern Colorado. On the contrary, another, very different, larger, cross-barred subspecies with well-developed semeions, S. u. erythrocheilus, remains common on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountain foothills, where it leads a scansorial life on trees and, mostly, rocks. The two subspecies occur within a few kilometers of each other in some areas, but no intergradation occurs and even gross sympatry is possible. Different conservational measures may be required for these two subspecies, but they would be difficult or impossible to prescribe or implement if no subspecies were recognized. Entire subspecies populations could become extinct if attention were directed to the species as a whole, which could be regarded as basically healthy. In cases such as this, elevating the constituent subspecies to species rank does not always provide a solution. For example, in the case cited, there is a complete, although stepped, continuity between the two taxa: S. u. garmani intergrades to the south with S. u. consobrinus, the latter with S. u. tristichus to the west, and that in turn with S. u. erythrocheilus to the north - a typical circular approximation of range, if not overlap.

Although the practical constraints of conservation efforts may require restriction of attention to the species rank, elevation of subspecies as here and as commonly defined to species rank would be a disservice to limited conservational efforts aimed at preservation only of major genetic resources.

Excuse me, but what has "conservation" to do with the elevation of a subspecies to a species? Has "science" has become an insiders' game where political considerations dictate when species are to be reclassified? If so, I am flabbergasted. But then, I grew up in a different era, when the scientific method prevailed, and scientists subjected each other to what was called "scientific scrutiny." It is one thing to for scientists to be interested in preserving species, but if species are being redefined to assist conservation efforts, than conservation (which is political) has contaminated science.

How can "scientific findings" be trusted when they translate directly into restrictive environmenal regulations?

While it is disturbing enough to find evidence that subspecies are being upgraded to species status for political reasons, what was even more disturbing (for me, anyway) was to discover this genetic analysis (PDF file) of numerous "subspecies" in a large, related lizard group.  In addition to including the Dunes-Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus, formerly Sceloporus graciosus arenicolus), the genus Sceloporus includes many other species,  one of the largest being Sceleporus undulatus. Within undulatus, there have been numerous (11 or so) subspecies claims, and according to the study most of them turned out to be lacking in genetic support.

...our results indicate a significant amount of genetic structuring among the surveyed populations of S. undulatus. A notable result is the absence of fixed differences among the populations of S. undulatus. The lack of fixed allelic differences argues that S. undulatus comprises one large interbreeding species.

Got that, folks?

One large interbreeding species!

Apparently (and I guess if we charitably assume political considerations were not involved), the species designations were based simply on morphology:

The patterns emerging from our analysis of S. undulatus are largely consistent with the first hypothesis of Zink and Dittman (1993). For example, apart from the close relationship between the grassland populations, we found little correspondence between genetic similarity and geographic proximity (note the placement of Florida and Ohio, or South Carolina with the western populations). We argue that the recency of divergence among the various eastern and western populations has limited the opportunity for differentiation. Hence, we found no evidence that geographical races are reflected in genetic differentiation. Therefore, we have the scenario where ''morphology'' (scalation and coloration) has evolved at a different rate than molecules and suggests that the subspecies reflect convergence in morphology.

It would be like calling different breeds of dogs "subspecies" based on appearances. Or like saying that racial differences in humans denote subspecies. I think it is worth noting that many fish and lizards have the ability to change color depending on background, and captive-bred Oscars lack the extra dorsal spot that wild Oscars have. That geographic changes might induce behavioral changes accompanied by morphological changes is not surprising, but it should never be a basis for establishing a subspecies classification.

Just how scientific are these scientists? Who polices them?

Considering what I have read, I am very skeptical about the reclassification (elevation) of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard subspecies Sceloporus graciosus arenicolus to species Sceloporus arenicolus.

I am also skeptical over the methodology of how the scientists determine the population. According to a long analysis published in the Federal Register, they (or, I suppose, their students) simply look to see whether they can find the lizards:

In Texas, the species was historically found in Andrews, Crane, Ward, and Winkler Counties. During 2006 and 2007, surveys were conducted to determine the current distribution of the dunes sagebrush lizard in the State. Surveys were conducted at 27 sites (19 of these sites were historical localities) that contained potential dunes sagebrush lizard habitat in Andrews, Crane, Cochran, Edwards, Ward, and Winkler Counties. Dunes sagebrush lizards were found at only 3 of the 27 sites surveyed (Laurencio et al. 2007, p. 7). Two of the sites were in large patches of shinnery oak dunes that stretch through Ward, Winkler, and Andrews Counties. In north and western Crane County, shinnery oak dune habitat exists, but dunes sagebrush lizards were not found. One dunes sagebrush lizard was found at a site in Gaines County that is within the easternmost contiguous habitat that stretches from the southernmost population in New Mexico (Laurencio et al. 2007, p. 11). The sites where dunes sagebrush lizards were detected in either 2006 or 2007 likely comprise the last occupied habitat for dunes sagebrush lizards in Texas (Laurencio et al. 2007, p. 11). During these surveys the search time to find dunes sagebrush lizards was between 68 and 115 person-minutes. The species is considered rare at sites where it takes more than 60 minutes to find a dunes sagebrush lizard. By comparison, at some sites in shinnery oak dune habitat in New Mexico, 74 percent of dunes sagebrush lizards are found within 31 person-minutes. The longer search time required to encounter individuals in a given area may represent a lower number of individuals in that area. Future surveys should incorporate detection probabilities and utilize standard survey techniques for the species, in order to more accurately compare results.Show citation box

Dunes sagebrush lizard populations in Texas are all on private land except for the population at Monahans Sandhills State Park, a 1,554-ha (3,840-ac) park where dunes sagebrush lizards were thought to be extirpated after surveys were completed in 2007 (Laurencio et al. 2007, p. 11). In 2010, the park was again surveyed, and dunes sagebrush lizards were present (Fitzgerald 2010, p. 1). Monahans Sandhills State Park is a well-known historic locality that is the only area where dunes sagebrush lizards have been known to occur on public lands in Texas. It is evident that the dunes sagebrush lizard is still present at the park, but the negative survey data from 2007 suggests they may be present in small numbers, and that further monitoring should be done at this site.

So they looked, but could only find the lizards in 3 out of 27 sites. So they say. How scientific is that? If I drove there and found some running around, would that count? Or do you have to have a Ph.D.? (BTW, are they running around on private land with permission of the owners?)

And what about bias? How can "surveys" which point to the presence or absence of lizards be seen as pure science when the people conducting them are environmentalists conducting the studies with full aware of the political implications of their findings? Isn't that a classic conflict of interest?

It is one thing to seek legitimate protection for a truly threatened and vulnerable species, but how do we know this is a true species, much less a truly threatened and vulnerable one? Because "scientists" say so?

My worry is that these scientists are biased activists with a huge amount of power to regulate and control large numbers of people, in the name of "science" that they alone define. 

Sorry, but when one group of people has the power to regulate the rest who have no say, that's tyranny. 

That it might be scientific tyranny is hardly comforting.

posted by Eric at 04:25 PM | Comments (6)

No Jimmy Carter

I know a lot of folks like to compare Obama to Jimmy Carter these days. But compare Jimmy Carter's failed hostage rescue attempt Operation Eagle Claw with Obama's successful killing of Osama. Of course in these matters one must not only be good but also lucky. Now if only economics worked that way as well. Of course Obama is starting out with the handicap of being no good at it. So it is difficult to tell how much luck would avail.

One thing that was done right in the operation was to limit the amount of equipment required for the mission to be a success. Of course there were no hostages to rescue and only one body to bring out. Still, as some wag put it: For the first time in the Obama Presidency I'm proud of my President. And as a Navy Man I must say that I'm very proud of my service today. I'll go with what is flying on every jack staff of the US Navy since 9/11:

Don't Tread On Me


Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:25 PM | Comments (5)

Inexplicable drunken reveling all makes sense now

Last night I was furious about noisy fireworks (which included visible mortars) which erupted in the neighborhood at midnight. Coco is extremely sensitive to that noise and it is one of the few things that gets her really freaked out. What irritated me to no end was that there was absolutely no occasion which might justify fireworks.

So I thought. I was watching a DVD and not online, so of course there was nothing to put me on notice that there had been a major announcement just an hour before, and this not only explained the fireworks, but the seemingly bizarre cheering. Some of the people were screaming "AMERICA!" and it wasn't the Fourth of July, or Memorial Day, or anything. 

So I just went to bed really pissed off at the drunken and boorish rudeness of some people.

This morning I learned that I might have been wrong. 

I was delighted to read that Osama bin Laden is dead after being killed in a successful raid by Navy SEALS, God bless them. Not that I have anything to add (and of course there is something anticlimactic about his death after all these years and of course the war still goes on), but it is great, great news:

Osama Bin Laden was killed not by a drone strike, but up close during a firefight with U.S. troops Sunday. He was not living in a cave when he died, but in a million-dollar mansion with twelve-foot walls less than 100 miles from the Pakistani capital.

The U.S. had been monitoring the compound in Abbottabad for months after receiving a tip in August that Bin Laden might be seeking shelter there. He had long been said to be in the mountainous region along the Afghanistan, Pakistan border, hiding in a cave as the U.S. sought to kill him with drone strikes from above. Instead, he was in a house eight times larger than its neighbors, with walls more than 12 feet tall and valued at $1 million. The house had no phone or television and the residents burned their trash. The house had high windows and few points of access, and U.S. officials concluded it had been built to hide someone.

According to U.S. officials, two U.S. helicopters flew in low from Afghanistan and swept into the compound late Sunday night Pakistan time, or Sunday afternoon Washington time. Twenty to 25 U.S. Navy SEALs under the command of the Joint Special Operations Command in cooperation with the CIA stormed the compound and engaged Bin Laden and his men in a firefight, and killed Bin Laden and all those with him.

There were spontaneous celebrations like the one that I stupidly didn't "get" all around the country.

And in unfortunate but not surprising news, Pakistanis are said to be "stunned and angered." The hell with them.

I wish I knew how to explain last night's celebrations to Coco. Had I simply gone online or turned on a news channel, I'd have gone to bed happy instead of angry.

You'd think that by now I would have learned never to assume anything.

MORE: Glenn Reynolds has this roundup of reactions and links to additional analyses.

posted by Eric at 09:40 AM

Fukushima Blockbuster

No. No one has dropped a bomb on Fukushima. Not a Big One (nuclear). Not even a big Small One. What we have (and it is devastating) is an Information Bomb. And it is wrecking Japanese complacency about ongoing efforts at Fukushima. I'm going to quote excerpts from the report. But you should read the whole thing. Needless to say my regular Fukushima report will be delayed.

More on 77-year-old Michio Ishikawa of the Japan Nuclear Technology Institute on the situation at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, as he appeared on Asahi TV on April 29.

As I watched the video, I started to like Mr. Ishikawa, who continues to believe in the safety of nuclear power generation. He didn't mince his words, and said what they are doing at Fukushima I Nuke Plant is not working. That surprised some, including the host of the show, as Ishikawa is known as a strong proponent for the nuclear power generation and the nuclear industry.

I believe in nuclear power if done right and so far we do not have any plants in construction that meet the real safety requirements of nuclear power. And what is that requirement? No core loss caused by lack of electrical power. What I call Intrinsic Safety.

Mr. Ishikawa says:

"I believe what they are trying to achieve after 9 months is to cool the reactor cores and solidify them so that no radioactive materials can escape. But they are just doing peripheral tricks like water entombment and nitrogen gas injection. Nitrogen gas, it's dangerous, by the way.

"What they must do is to cool the reactor cores, and there's no way around it. It has to be done somehow."

Yes. But the plans are sketchy and are subject to reversals.

Mr. Ishikawa further states:

"I believe the fuel rods are completely melted. They may already have escaped the pressure vessel. Yes, they say 55% or 30%, but I believe they are all melted down. When the fuel rods melt, they melt from the middle part on down.

(Showing the diagram) "I think the temperature inside the melted core is 2000 degrees to 2000 and several hundred degrees Celsius. A crust has formed on the surface where the water hits

I have thought this the case for quite some time. I have alluded to it in my own subtle way. I don't call them reactor cores. I call them piles of junk.

He says this about current efforts.

"They (TEPCO) want to circulate this highly contaminated water to cool the reactor core. Even if they are able to set up the circulation system, it will be a very difficult task to shield the radiation. It will be a very difficult work to build the system, but it has to be done.

"It is imperative to know the current condition of the reactor cores. It is my assumption [that the cores have melted], but wait one day, and we have water more contaminated with radioactive materials. This is a war, and we need to build a "bridgehead" at the reactor itself instead of fooling around with the turbine buildings or transporting contaminated water."

The problem with highly contaminated water is that it will contaminate the cooling system and make repairs and modifications of that system difficult or impossible.

And he is right on one thing. Japan should be at war when it comes to cleaning up Fukushima. And here is where the report gets really good.

"Take the debris clean-up job for example. They are picking up the debris and putting them in containers, as if this is the peacetime normal operation. This is a war. They should dig a hole somewhere and bury the radioactive debris and clean up later. What's important is to clear the site, using the emergency measures. Build a bridgehead to the reactor.

"The line of command is not clear, whether it is the government, TEPCO, or Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

"Look squarely at the reactors and find out the true situation. [Trying to do something with] the turbine buildings is nothing but a caricature [a joke, a manga, a diversion]."

The show's host says "But wait a minute, Mr. Ishikawa, you are a proponent of nuclear power and we expected to hear from you that everything is going well at Fukushima..."

Mr. Ishikawa answers, "Well, if I'm allowed to tell a lie..."

Ah. So the authorities have been lying all along? It is what I have been saying from near the the beginning. And I got that mind set from available evidence published in newspapers and on the 'net. Mr. Ishikawa has much better sources than I do. So you can probably take that one to the bank. i.e. TEPCO is lying to you. I don't know what it is with reporters these days. They are such trusting creatures. In direct contravention to their job specs. "If your mother says she loves you, check it out."
Mr. Hasegawa of Chunichi Shinbun jumps in, and says "We took the numbers from the government like 30% core melt as true, and went from there. But then Mr. Ishikawa says it's a total melt."
Well of course at this time no one can say for sure. But it is best to err on the side of the worst case and plan accordingly.

From what I can tell no one has thought through what to do. You start with the worst case. The plan MUST cover that. Then you go on down to the not so worst case possibilities. The plan should cover those. The plan must have branches. And it must have alternative plans (possibly developed in parallel) in case the plan they have chosen leads to unexpected problems.

And first and foremost the Japanese in charge must start with a "we are at war" mindset rather than "business as usual with a few minor problems".

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:28 AM | Comments (2)

Blue Plate Special -- Thirst

*This was the first story I sold, and, again, one of the ones that's available for free in my collection in the Baen Free Library.  It is the one that killed several magazines and one editor -- i.e. they bought it, they died -- including one (the first, Bloodsongs) through getting its entire first print run confiscated and destroyed in Australia.  I didn't think it was that controversial, but I wrote it while recovering from complications of child birth and high on (legally obtained) morphine.  Warning, it contains vampires.  Also warning, it is set in ancient Rome and involves historical homosexuality and (though not considered that at the time) pedophilia.  Not in any way approving of it, but your mileage may vary.  I'd researched this to do a time-alternate novel.  I NEVER meant to write this short story.  But it had other ideas and wanted to be written.  Turned out to be the first I ever sold (though the second I sold that got published.) Again, as always, kindly remember this was written ...  almost twenty years ago.  I hope I've gotten better, though this story being sort of itself more than mine, I'm not sure about that.*

"Sing to me of that odorous green eve when crouching by the marge


You heard from Adrian's gilded barge the laughter of Antinous

And lapped the stream and fed your drought and watched with hot and hungry stare

The ivory body of that rare young slave with his pomegranate mouth"

(Oscar Wilde, The Sphynx)


Sarah A. Hoyt

Sometimes I wake up in the evening and think them here, immaterial wisps of dream in the cold twilight air, and yet undeniably themselves: the Emperor and the boy he loved, etched by time into heroic figures without flaw.

The Emperor wears his purple, and the boy stands in one of those sweet, head-drooping postures immortalized in his countless statues.

And sometimes, confused by a day of death-sleep and the centuries that have flown heedless by my changeless self, I reach for them, try to clutch them in my long-dead yet immortal hands.

They laugh and vanish through my fingers like smoke. As they did so many centuries ago.

In those moments, I am again a nameless thing, crouching on the muddy banks of the ancient Nile, my mind filled with hatred, my body with thirst, while I stare at the gilded Imperial barge anchored in the dark waters. And I hear again the laughter of Antinous.

Hylas is my name, or was my name, when I was a mortal among mortals, a living, breathing being in the sun's embrace. A Greek name for a Roman boy born in the Suburra, raised in that maze of smelly, noisy streets that was the pulsing heart of Rome.

My father was a Greek freedman, a grammarian who grew prematurely old teaching Greek and writing to uninterested students on the sidewalk, in front of our insula. My mother, suavely rotund, wasted her life bent over the cooking fire. Both of them were mere props in the stage of my life. I can't recall a thing they said, nor anything they taught me.

They lived in two smoky rented rooms in an insula, a vertical slum, where people crowded side by side and on top of each other, crammed together as close as possible, for the wealth of the rich landlords.

My own life was not confined to such a prison. My true teachers, my true instruction, were in the streets. From other boys, my neighbors, I learned all there was to know. Who could be safely robbed, where to buy the best wine, and just the right time to go to the entrance of the Circus and get the seats closest to the arena, from where we could scream encouragement at our favorite gladiators and hoot the cowards.

I will forever remember those afternoons as the best of my childhood: the sun-dappled, bloodstained sand, the certainty that life and death were shows played for my entertainment.

Continue reading "Blue Plate Special -- Thirst"

posted by Sarah at 10:48 AM

Natural born narrative killer

This morning I saw a tantalizing bit of news that does not fit any of the convenient political narratives. If the allegations here are true, then Barack Obama's birth was illegitimate:

Concerns about Obama's [Barack Obama, Sr.] personal life while he had been studying in the U.S. had been raised previously, according to the INS documents.

In 1961, while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii, the school's foreign student adviser called an immigration official and said Obama had recently married StanleyAnn Dunham - the president's mother - despite already having a wife in Kenya.

According to a memo written by an INS official in Honolulu, the adviser said Obama had been "running around with several girls since he first arrived here and last summer she cautioned him about his playboy ways."

Obama told the adviser that he had divorced his wife in Kenya.

He told the president's mother the same thing, though she would later learn it was a lie.

If it was a lie, then the marriage to Stanley Dunham was bigamous, and a legal nullity. Under common law at the time, any children (meaning Barack Obama II) would have been illegitimate. Moreover, it means the INS would not have allowed Obama's father to obtain citizenship by marriage (they require proof of termination of any previous marriages), and it also means that it would have been legally impossible for Barack Obama II to have been a dual national at birth. If born in Hawaii (which no one can show he wasn't), he would have simply been a natural born citizen by virtue of his illegitimate birth to a United States citizen mother.

As his illegitimacy would undermine the claim of the Natural Born Vattelist Truther contingent, they're already unhappy with the issue.

Whether anyone on the left will be comfortable with this, I don't know, but I doubt it. They might see it as a potential distraction, I suppose. Otherwise, I think it's headed for the unwanted narrative dustbin.


posted by Eric at 09:21 AM | Comments (1)

Polywell Update 1 May 2011

Finally there is some news about Polywell Fusion progress. From recovery.gov here is the essential news.

Projects and Jobs Information

Project Title Federal Contract

Project Status More than 50% Completed

Final Project Report Submitted No

Project Activities Description Other Scientific and Technical Consulting Services

Quarterly Activities/Project Description As of 1Q/2011, the WB-8 device operates as designed and it is generating positive results. EMC2 is planning to conduct comprehensive experiments on WB-8 in the next 9-12 months based on the current contract funding schedule.

Jobs Created 11.00

Description of Jobs Created two full time plasma physicists. one full time equivalent electrical engineer.

So figure another year before the final report. In the mean time testing is ongoing.

There is a funny in the report. Note: jobs created = 11 and actual jobs created (as provided by a description of the jobs) is 3. Government accounting.

If you would like a fuller discussion of what this report means may I suggest a visit to the Talk Polywell board.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:04 AM

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