Funny Evening Open Thread: Weird stuff too…

2034152199_633cd4b5eeGood Evening

After this morning’s post, I thought we all could use a laugh…or at least a smile. So tonight, let’s look at some weird news of the day.

Today makes two years since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and because this post will not touch on upsetting news, I will not link to anything about the Fukushima disaster.

Floating tsunami trash to be a decades-long headache

Earthquake and tsunami debris lie at Yamada town in Iwate prefecture on June 6, 2011. The tsunami that ravaged northeast Japan in March 2011 created the biggest single dumping of rubbish, sweeping some five million tonnes of shattered buildings, cars, household goods and other rubble into the sea.

Earthquake and tsunami debris lie at Yamada town in Iwate prefecture on June 6, 2011

The tsunami that ravaged northeast Japan in March 2011 created the biggest single dumping of rubbish, sweeping some five million tonnes of shattered buildings, cars, household goods and other rubble into the sea. About three-and-a-half million tonnes, according to official Japanese estimates, sank immediately, leaving some 1.5 million tonnes of plastic, timber, fishing nets, shipping containers, industrial scrap and innumerable other objects to float deeper into the ocean.

That is some mess in that picture…

Tracking the 2011 tsunami debris
Tracking the 2011 tsunami debris Graphic on tracking the debris created by the tsunami that ravaged northeast Japan in March 2011. Official Japanese estimates say about three-and-a-half million tonnes of debris sank immediately while another 1.5 million tonnes float deeper into the ocean

Read the rest at that link.

I’ve also got some news on space debris, Chinese space debris collides with Russian satellite

According to Analytical Graphics, Inc. (AGI), the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSI) has determined that on January 22, 2013 debris from the Chinese FENGYUN 1C collided with Russia’s BLITS satellite. The FENGYUAN 1C is the satellite that was destroyed by China on January 11, 2007 in a test of an anti-satellite missile. The collision changed the orbit of the Russian satellite, along with its spin velocity and attitude. The animation above is from AGI and it depicts the event. The collision wasn’t reported until February 4, 2013 when engineers at the Institute for Precision Instrument Engineering (IPIE) in Moscow reported to CSSI a significant change in the orbit for their BLITS satellite. BLITS is tracked to high precision by the International Laser Ranging Service (ILRS), and IPIE had detected a sudden decrease of 120 meters in the semi-major axis of its orbit and a change in its spin velocity and attitude.

And one more science/math link: Mathematicians calculate chances of actually discovering King Richard III were less than 1%

As part of a maths project, undergraduate students on the Business Applications of Mathematics module were asked to work out the probability of the University of Leicester archaeologists finding the remains at the time they started the investigation. They concluded that there only a 0.84% chance of the team discovering Richard – or about 120 to 1 against. And they further calculated: the chances of Richard having been buried in the Grey Friars church were about 85% there was about a 98% chance that the location of the Grey Friars precinct had been identified with sufficient accuracy only 2,322m² of the total area of the Grey Friars precinct of 13,648m² (about 17%) was available for investigation. The students thought the chances of the choir –where Richard was reputed to have been buried – being in the available area were about 25%. The skeleton might not have survived, even if it were in the available area. The students assessed the chances of the body still being there (if it had been there at all) as about 66%. One of the most difficult chances to assess was that the investigation carried out would identify the choir. The students assessed the chances of the investigation finding the choir, if it were there, at about 15% and the chances of finding the grave within the choir if the choir were found at 80%. The students considered that the odds on being able to identify the skeleton as Richard’s were about 50%.

Over a decade ago, I went to a local fiber artist to learn how to spin yarn. She had photographs of her herd of sheep and  there was just a couple of pictures that had a sheep looking directly into the camera. She told me that those particular sheep were abandoned by their mothers and had been hand raised from birth. Supposedly, sheep will only look humans in the eyes if they were raised by humans. (Not sure if this is true or not, I never Googled it. )

Anyway, I thought about those sheep when I read this next article: Why Your Brain Like Art That Looks Back At You

A new study of art through the ages suggests that a more accurate adage might be “beauty is in eye contact with the beholder.” Research shows that what we find beautiful — or at least engaging — are works of art that look back at us. Of course, we still wouldn’t recommend staring for very long into the eyes of Vigo, the Scourge of Carpathia.

The new study is rooted in a concept known as cognitive attraction, and it states that our neurological processes — our hardwired human brains — cause us to favor specific cultural traits more often than not. That plays out in our unconscious preferences, and has been used to explain our interests and desires in everything from religion to  video games.

The study, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior and authored by Olivier Morin, goes on to state that the psychology of cognitive attraction led painters during the Renaissance to favor direct-gaze portraits over others. That is to say, paintings where the subjects are looking back at us — at you — instead of the profile, the three-quarters shot, or the looking-totally-somewhere-else style of painting that came before. Morin’s paper points out this cultural shift over the course of 16th century Europe didn’t take much into account for the subject’s age or sex. Whether the subject was young, old, male, female, pretty, or ugly — a young woman or Carpathian tyrant, it doesn’t matter – the direct-gaze approach was favored during the Renaissance. And here’s the clincher: It still is. Our museum collections and our coffee table books still demonstrate a preference for the creepy I’m-watching-you style of painting.

Morin posits that whenever cultural restrictions don’t override it, our neurological preference is the Mona Lisa approach in creating or observing. He even found a parallel artistic evolution in the poses of historical Korean paintings, showing that this isn’t a European trend but a human one.

Eye-to-eye contact, whether from a living person or a 2D, rendered image, are simply easier for us to identify — the same is true for infants — and are there more attractive to us. We’re just hardwired this way. Of course, “attractive” is not synonymous with “handsome.” It just means we have an easier time looking away from people not looking back at us.

For this next link, art meets immigration issues. Photos: Life in Mexico’s Fast Lane

Alejandro Cartagena

While working on an assignment to capture how people made use of the streets in Monterrey, Mexico, photographer Alejandro Cartagena discovered an unusual perspective on commuting. Two or three mornings a week for a year, Cartagena would stake out pedestrian bridges overlooking a southbound highway to snap shots of workers riding in the back of pickup trucks.

The trick, he says, was to “try to predict which trucks would be carrying people on the back,” then run across the overpass and prepare to quickly photograph the moving vehicle’s passengers. Many of the men were ducking down to avoid attention, though some were likely just protecting themselves from the cold.

The “Car Poolers” photos, now on display at the Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles, show workers preparing for the mundane—another day of construction in one of Monterrey’s many suburbs. Taken together, they serve as an unusual portrait of survival and adaptation amid sprawl and uncertainty.

Okay, this one is for Boston Boomer and Pat Johnson…and anyone else in the Bean Town greater area.

The Postal Tower: 1908 | Shorpy Historical Photo Archive


Can you guess where that photo was taken?  “Post office in Lowell, Massachusetts.” Circa 1908.

And finally, this last link made me think of those weasel toys they sell at Cracker Barrels. Weasel Interrupts A Soccer Match [VIDEO]

Technically, it was a “marten” (basically a weasel) that was on the field. That’s not the exciting part, though. Watch as the helpless players and stadium officials struggle to capture the varmint as the game was momentarily halted for the sake of comedy.

Anyone ever hear that expression about having a face like a cats ass? Well, see if you can spot an ass in this picture, from pinterest:

That is an illustration for some early book of fairy tales…

This is an open thread.

Sunday Reads: Happy Birthday Sebastian!

Good Morning!

My very good friend Jessica is having a birthday party for her little boy who turns four years old today…I wanted to share with you all something Jess wrote about her son…

Alas I have tried to halt time with my super awesome Mom powers, but to my dismay is has not been a success. My darlin booger will be four in a matter of hours. I can see him getting taller and the wheels and gears turning in that smart brain of his.

Happy Birthday Sebastian. Have awesome fun will all your friends tomorrow at your party. You are everything a momma could ask for and more. Love you, mommy.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Funny how there are some people you meet in life that no matter what length of time passes, you can just connect like you never were apart. That is the kind of friend Jessica is…I love and treasure my friends that are special in that way, I feel so fortunate to have this bond and quiet understanding…

No matter if we live on a sunny coast of Florida, in the land of corn or in the backwood mountains of Banjoville…we are never too far apart in our hearts.

I know it is a strange way to start a post, and a bit heavy on the sentiment, but the Earth keeps spinning in its own little portion of the universe…and during those years we have on this planet, it is important to live and to be passionate about what you feel is right.

Jess has fallen asleep while trying to get the birthday boy to bed, so while she lies resting next to that little booger, I sit here writing this post…and I smile.

The world is still turning, and soon it will spin on a new morning…and a little boy will celebrate his fourth birthday.

Happy Birthday Bastian…enjoy your wonderful special day.

The Sunday news round-up begins after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

Evening News Reads: Islamic Law, Polygamy and “Fukushima-ed” Washington…

Photo: Bert Hardy 1957

Evening everyone!

The news today out of Washington DC has me so pissed (Take a look at the comments on both of today’s earlier posts and you will see what I am talking about.)   I just want to ignore that swamp for now. So if my commentary seems a bit bitter…you know why.

Today on Juan Cole’s blog, he writes a statement that bothers me. I always read his blog, and respect him so much…but now that Libya is doing away with the law that prohibits polygamy, it should be of great concern, because it goes against women’s rights.  And even if it is a part of the Islamic Law that Cole is discussing…there is something wrong with any person, country, or government, or religion that advocates for polygamy…and that is what bothers me.

I understand the point of Cole’s article. If a US Republican Presidency does not have a problem with Islamic Law in Iraq, what reasons can a US  Democratic Presidency have for their negative reaction to Islamic Law in Libya…But I am disturbed by this paragraph in his latest article.  Islamic Law not a problem in Bush’s Afghanistan & Iraq, but a Problem in Libya? | Informed Comment

Polygamy is legal in Iraq with a judge’s permission, and Iraqi legislators have been considering making it easier for men to take more than one wife in order to have the country’s vast number of war widows supported.

Okay, in other words…the extra wives are taken out of pure concern for women’s welfare.  Oh, what considerate souls these men have…taking in poor widows as sex slaves wives, trapped in a life of servitude, out of the goodness of their hearts.  Maybe I am a bit touchy today, but Cole seems to pass this “excuse” for polygamy as a legitimate reason. He ends the post with this…

So far, Jalil has said nothing that was not said repeatedly by his predecessor, Qaddafi. He has said nothing that is not in the constitutions and/or legal practice of Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq. But there is no hand-wringing about those two “liberated” countries and Islamic law or sharia. I guess if secular, communist Afghanistan was made fundamentalist by Reagan and Bush, or if the relatively secular Baath Party of Iraq was overthrown by W. in favor of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Islamic Call Party and the Bloc of Ayatollah Sadr II, that is unobjectionable and not even reported on. But if there’s a Democratic president in the White House, all of a sudden it is a scandal if Muslims practice Muslim law.

Okay, let me just say that I have come to the conclusion that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party (including any of the other minor parties involving the color Green, Liberty or Tea) should change their party slogans to, “Fuck off and die.”

But, back to Cole…the reason GOP presidents have not had issue with Islamic Law, that includes polygamy, is simple…the GOP have been on an anti-women crusade for years. And polygamy is one thing, that I feel goes against the rights of women. Most of the time polygamy is forced on the women, who more than likely are just girls, trapped in a life that is degrading and perpetuates a society that feels women are nothing more than objects…to be collected as the older ones get less desirable and have more difficulty doing their chores.

I guess my over-sensitivity stems from dealing with crap like this:

Push for ‘Personhood’ Amendments Is New Tack in Abortion Fight –

A constitutional amendment facing voters in Mississippi on Nov. 8, and similar initiatives brewing in half a dozen other states including Florida and Ohio, would declare a fertilized human egg to be a legal person, effectively branding abortion and some forms of birth control as murder.

With this far-reaching anti-abortion strategy, the proponents of what they call personhood amendments hope to reshape the national debate.

“I view it as transformative,” said Brad Prewitt, a lawyer and executive director of the Yes on 26 campaign, which is named for the Mississippi proposition. “Personhood is bigger than just shutting abortion clinics; it’s an opportunity for people to say that we’re made in the image of God.”

Or reports of immigrant women being taken advantage of:

Immigration Detainees Fear Rape and Death » Blog of Rights: Official Blog of the American Civil Liberties Union

The Department of Homeland Security assumes that mass detention is the key to immigration enforcement. But in fact, our detention system locks up thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, exposing detainees to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement at massive costs to American taxpayers. Throughout the next two weeks, check back daily for posts about the costs of immigration detention, both human and fiscal, and what needs to be done to ensure fair and humane policy.

Every year for at least the last four years, an officer, guard or other employee at an immigration detention center in Texas has been criminally prosecuted for sexually assaulting an immigration detainee. Every time, the government issues a press release about the prosecution and trumpets its efforts to protect detainees and punish bad actors — the implication being that sexual assault in detention is limited in scope and due merely to the actions of a few bad actors.

But it isn’t.

Government documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act and made public last week contain nearly 200 allegations of sexual abuse of immigration detainees jailed at detention facilities across the nation since 2007 alone. While more complaints came from facilities in Texas than any other state, allegations have come from nearly every state that houses a detention center. And because sexual abuse is something that is widely underreported, there can be little question that the information we have thus far received is only the tip of the iceberg. What is clear is that the sexual abuse of immigration detainees is a widespread problem and that immigration detainees are particularly vulnerable to abuse.

Or, politicians that don’t give a flying fuck about half of the country’s population:

Mississippi Dem Unsure What Personhood Does, Still Supports It | Mother Jones

…the push to pass state-level constitutional “personhood” amendments to ban abortion (among other things) by defining life as beginning at conception. Previous initiatives have fallen short, but Mississippi’s personhood movement, which was initiated by a one-time Christian secessionist who backed a plan to create an independent theocracy in upstate South Carolina, has a decent chance of passing this November—at least if its high-profile endorsers are any indication:

Mississippi will also elect a new governor on Nov. 8. The Republican candidate, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, is co-chairman of Yes on 26 and his campaign distributes bumper stickers for the initiative. The Democratic candidate, Johnny DuPree, the mayor of Hattiesburg and the state’s first black major-party candidate for governor in modern times, says he will vote for it though he is worried about its impact on medical care and contraception.

Yes, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee supports the measure, which would ban abortion even in cases of rape. DuPree fleshed out his views a bit at a debate at the Mississippi College School of Law.

Video of Johnny Dupree at that MoJo link…but if you don’t feel like watching it…

… DuPree says he also has concerns about exceptions for things like rape and incest, but thought of the ballot question as one of principle: Where do you believe life begins? But he really should have concerns about rape and incest, because the group Personhood Mississippi, which collected the signatures to put the question on the ballot, campaigned for the measure by holding something literally called the “Conceived in Rape Tour.” Brad Prewitt, spokesman for Yes on 26, told me, “you don’t execute the product of the crime, and that’s what abortion does.” Prewitt also referred to the morning-after pill as a “human pesticide” and explained that while he supports in-vitro fertilization, the amendment would require changes in the way IVF is currently handled. (For one thing, if you froze an embryo, that could be redefined as child abuse.)

Or, maybe my over-sensitivity is due to the PLUB personhood policies making birth control a crime!

Then They Came for Your Birth Control | Mother Jones

Mississippi anti-abortion activists wants to define personhood as starting when a sperm fertilizes an egg. In that case, it would likely make intrauterine devices (IUDs), which can prevent pregnancy by blocking the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, illegal. (IUDs can also prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg in the first place, and IUDs with hormones also operate much like regular old birth control pills, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anti-abortion activists.)

The measure would also almost certainly make Plan B, also known as emergency contraception or the “morning after” pill, illegal. This high dose of hormones is used to prevent a woman from ovulating, but anti-abortion groups also insist that it can prevent a fertilized egg from implanting (despite the fact that the scientists say that’s not the case). Needless to say, anti-abortion groups don’t like Plan B very much, either.

But the law could also introduce the possibility of banning any form of hormonal birth control. Generally, “the pill” (as well as the shot, the patch, and the ring) work by stopping ovulation. But some anti-abortion groups argue that there can be failures on that front, and the doses of hormone could possibly also work by stopping implantation should an egg and sperm still manage to meet up.

(This Kate Sheppard article has a link to a good legal explanation of the personhood law by Irin Carmon published in Salon. Give that article a read.)

Okay…I seem to have gotten a bit carried away there…my point being that if this bone I have to pick with Cole over his statement on polygamy is seen as a ridiculous rant, those reasons for my oversensitive reaction should be more than enough to explain my state of mind lately.

Yesterday, I posted a link to a new sushi radioactive meter plate that is being sold in Japan. I have a couple more links on Fukushima…

Fukushima Nuclear Plant Released Far More Radiation than Government Said: Scientific American

Global radioactivity data challenge Japanese estimates for emissions and point to the role of spent fuel pools

The disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in March released far more radiation than the Japanese government has claimed. So concludes a study1 that combines radioactivity data from across the globe to estimate the scale and fate of emissions from the shattered plant.

The study also suggests that, contrary to government claims, pools used to store spent nuclear fuel played a significant part in the release of the long-lived environmental contaminant caesium-137, which could have been prevented by prompt action. The analysis has been posted online for open peer review by the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

The Scientific American article is very good…please take a look at the entire post because it discusses the results of the study in a detailed way.

Also, there have been recent news article about the debris from the Japan Tsunami that appears to be making its way to Hawaii a little faster than expected. But there looks like some feathered creatures may be hitching a ride… Secret Tsunami Stowaways | Mother Jones

As an interesting aside, monstrously huge rafts of tsunami debris may well be one of the mechanisms by which life originally dispersed to the Hawaiian Islands. 

Pallus' rosefinch, Carpodacus roseus, native to China, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia.: Credit: M. Nishimura via Wikimedia Commons.Pallus’ rosefinch, Carpodacus roseus, native to China, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Russia. Credit: M. Nishimura via Wikimedia Commons.

A new analysis of the genome of Hawaiian honeycreepers reveals they’re not descended, as thought, from the honeycreepers of the Americas, but are instead a sister taxon to the Eurasian rosefinches of the genus Carpodacus.

Based on a genetic analysis, the precursors of Hawaiian honeycreepers probably arrived on Kauai and Niihau about 5.7 million years ago and continued to diverge into different species after Oahu emerged from the sea.

ʻIʻiwi, or scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, Vestiaria coccinea.: Credit: Paul Banko, NPS.ʻIʻiwi, or scarlet Hawaiian honeycreeper, Vestiaria coccinea. Credit: Paul Banko, NPS.It’s possible that huge floating mats of tsunami debris—perhaps from Japan—brought the ancestors of Hawaii’s present-day honeycreepers to the islands.

Those of you who’ve spent time at sea know how land birds get blown off course and will rest on any platform at sea—ship, boat, raft, the backs of sleeping whales—as they fight to stay alive.

Maybe the current tsunami debris will transport some newcomers to the Hawaiian Islands.

Townsend's warbler rests on boat.: Credit: Andrew Revkin via Flickr.Townsend’s warbler rests on boat. Credit: Andrew Revkin via Flickr.

Would we recognize them as naturally-delivered refugees?Or would we try to exterminate them as human-introduced aliens?

Hmmmm….perhaps we should put up a Cain influenced electric water shield around Hawaii as a precaution?

BTW, that MoJo article has links to some very cool animation on the currents that are taking the stowaways to Hawaii…check it out!

So that is it for me today, what are you all reading and blogging about?

Disaster in Japan

Last night, a 8.9 quake and tsunami hit Japan. Tsunami waves have hit Hawaii and are now hitting Washington state.  The worst damage is in the northern sections of Japan.  There is a worse danger looming that I wanted to mention here if you haven’t heard.  The Japan earthquake has shut down two nuclear plants and the core is not cooling in one.  This is a potentially dangerous situation. The U.S. is now rushing coolant to Japan at the request of the Japanese government.

Yet even light was on short supply, with nuclear power plants shutting down after fires broke out at some of the facilities and raised concerns of potential radiation leaks. Millions of buildings around Tokyo were reported without power.

The 8.9-magnitude earthquake struck northeast Japan at 2:45 p.m. local time, collapsing buildings 240 miles away in Tokyo, triggering a 30-foot tsunami that swept away everything in its path, and killing at least 300 people already. Hundreds more remain missing, including 100 crew on a lost fishing boat.

The plant experienced a fire.  People in the area are being evacuated. No leaks have been reported so far but again, CNN said that the core is not cooling so they are preparing for the worst.

About 5,800 residents near a Tokyo Electric Power Co. atomic plant were ordered to evacuate because of a possible radiation leak and the failure of the cooling system after Japan was struck by a powerful earthquake.

People within 3 kilometers (2 miles) of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were told to evacuate, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said in Tokyo today. Residents within 10 kilometers were told to stay indoors, said Ryohei Shiomi, a spokesman at the Emergency Information Center of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Emergency power supply at the 4,696-megawatt plant 210 kilometers north of Tokyo failed after the quake triggered automatic shutdowns of the reactors, officials at the trade ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told reporters without identifying themselves. Power is needed to keep cooling the reactor to prevent rising pressure and damage, they said.

A battery, which can last about eight hours, is being used to cool the reactor for now, the agency officials said. Another six batteries have been secured, and the government may use military helicopters to fly them in, they said.

CNN has just reported that radiation is rising in the Fukushima Daiichi plant. A refinery has also exploded.

Natural Gas prices are already on the rise in UK.

U.K. natural gas prices soared Friday after a major earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, shutting down nuclear plants and raising expectations that the country will import more liquefied natural gas as a replacement power source.

But with the global gas market so well-supplied, and the length of the nuclear plant outages unknown, the gains could prove short-lived, traders said.

Winter gas contract prices had risen to 68.8 pence per therm by 1420 GMT, around 4% higher from Thursday.

At least two nuclear power plants on Japan’s Pacific coast shut down following the 8.9 magnitude quake that hit the country Friday morning, leaving market watchers wondering as to the extent of the damage.

“The problem is there are a whole bunch of nuclear outages, which I’d think would be out for at least three to four weeks,” said a London-based trader.

Japan’s last major earthquake in 2007 caused an extended shutdown of the country’s largest nuclear power plant, sending the country scrabbling for LNG suplies as it sought alternative means of power generation.

However, the current rally in the natural gas market may be premature. The extent of the damage to nuclear facilities is still unknown and the market is better-supplied than it was a few years ago.

Unlike in 2007, the market today is oversupplied, said Noel Tomnay, head of global gas at Wood Mackenzie.

Japan quake area map from the BBC

Casualties from this quake/tsunami now number in the hundreds and may rise.  Japan has requested help from the US.  The navy is sending ships there now.

There are some amazing images at The Atlantic.  Videotapes of the moments during the quake and tsunami can be found at the NYT at the Lede Blog.