Wednesday, July 31, 2013

August 1st, the first day of Autumn.

The days are getting shorter.  

Thursday, August 1, is Lammas (loaf mass) Day, the celebration of the harvest and the year's first bread.  

Now is the time of ripening grain and fruit. 

John Barleycorn must die.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Death the Size of Connecticut

Sediments and nutrients darken the waters of the Gulf of Mexico
from the Mississippi River and its distributaries, as seen in this image
captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on May 6, 2013. (Image: NASA)
This summer’s “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico measures some 5,840 square miles, or roughly the size of Connecticut, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A dead zone is an area where oxygen levels in the water drop so low that most forms of life cannot survive. 
A wet spring that brought more runoff of fertilizer from farmlands was projected to trigger formation of a larger than average dead zone this summer. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ammonia Works!

The bumblebee flew away after I stepped on its clover plant.  I hopped, until my wife came running with the ammonia.  The pain was gone in seconds.

Perfectly Safe

That lady in the natural gas ads tells us that our energy future is guaranteed with clean, safe, natural gas.

Researchers think otherwise.

"A new study of 100 private water wells in and near the Barnett Shale showed elevated levels of potential contaminants such as arsenic and selenium closest to natural gas extraction sites, according to a team of researchers that was led by UT Arlington associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry Kevin Schug."

More information is here:  "Potential Well Water Contaminants Highest Near Natural Gas Drilling"

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Guests for Thanksgiving

While enjoying the cold, dry air behind this cold front, I saw some visitors.  These two hens and eight poults have been wandering through my back yard every afternoon.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Kate Gives Birth to Malware

As soon as the royal baby was born, malware distributors went to town, posting videos and photos that are supposedly "exclusive" shots of the kid.  Needless to say, what you get are various forms of nasty programs on your computer.

"Malware authors worldwide have been waiting ages for this," according to anti-malware veteran turned independent security blogger Graham Cluley. "Exclusive first pictures", "Secret video from inside delivery room" and "Sex revealed" images from the royal birth might become the theme of scams, according to Cluley. "I don't want to scaremonger, but it's easy to imagine," he said.

More at The Reg:   

Earth from Saturn

Pale Blue Dot (splash)
In this rare image taken on July 19, 2013, the wide-angle camera on NASA's Cassini spacecraft has captured Saturn's rings and Earth in the same frame. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute Larger image

Sunday, July 21, 2013

John Scopes was GUILTY

In March 1925, the Tennessee legislature passed an anti-evolution law, making it a crime to "teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." 

John Scopes, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) determined to test this law in court. On this date (July 21, 1925),  Scopes was found GUILTY.  In fact, On July 21, in his closing speech, the great attorney Clarence Darrow, who had volunteered to defend Scopes, asked the jury to return a verdict of guilty in order that the case might be appealed.

The fact that the law itself was unconstitutional had nothing to do with the case.  The law was there, and Scopes had violated it.

In 1927, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the verdict on a technicality but left the constitutional issues unresolved until 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a similar Arkansas law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Smile for the Camera!

"On Friday, July 19, between 21:27 and 21:42 UTC, the Cassini spacecraft will be taking pictures of Saturn, the magnificent ringed jewel of our solar system. Unlike most of the tens of thousands of images of Saturn taken, though, these will be special: From more than a billion kilometers away, Earth will be shining in them as well."

Read more about it from the Bad Astronomer.

How the Koch Brothers Work to Kill Us

Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP/File, 'borrowed'
from the Christian Science Monitor
Watch this video and learn how the climate change deniers (those who make money selling petroleum products) are using the tactics of the tobacco companies to keep people from thinking:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Answer Is ...

Wind power can do more than generate electricity.  Rolls Royce is developing a ship that uses sails to reduce  the need for oil.  It is helping to develop a ship featuring a 180-foot sail, backed up by bio-methane engines, which can carry 4,500 tons.

After all, there is plenty of wind available.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Learning by Discovery

I've introduced Mr. GasolineEngineMan before.  He is the neighbor who has a gasoline-powered tool for absolutely every chore.

I use a fat-powered plastic rake for autumn leaves, he has a gas-powered backpack leaf blower, a gas-powered rolling leaf blower, and of course a leaf attachment for his gas-powered lawnmower (the riding mower, not the gas-powered push mower).

He also has a gas-powered boat, gas-powered snowmobiles, gas-powered trimmer (I let the violets grown around the base of the trees), and a gas-powered power washer.   

Mr. GasolineEngineMan just discovered that his gas-powered power washer can be used to wash the shingles on his roof.  Soon he will discover that power-washing a roof destroys asphalt shingles and he will learn how much it costs to replace a roof cleaned by a gas-powered power washer.

Mowers Pollute More than Automobiles
Each weekend, about 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants. Garden equipment engines, which have had unregulated emissions until the late 1990's, emit high levels of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides, producing up to 5% of the nation's air pollution and a good deal more in metropolitan areas.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a new gas powered lawn mower produces volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides emissions air pollution in in in one hour of operation as 11 new cars each being driven for one hour.

Gardeners Spill More than the Exxon Valdezcleaner mowing, the effect of gas powers for one hour
And speaking of gas, the EPA estimates that over 17 million gallons of fuel, mostly gasoline, are spilled each year while refueling lawn equipment. That's more than all the oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez, in the Gulf of Alaska. In addition to groundwater contamination, spilled fuel that evaporates into the air and volatile organic compounds spit out by small engines make smog-forming ozone when cooked by heat and sunlight.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Downhill From Here

Sunlight has a major effect on living things.  Plants, of course, use the energy in sunlight to make sugar.  But animals and plants alike respond to the amount of light we receive.

Plants use photosensitive chemicals to determine when to bloom.   Some bloom as the days get longer.  Daisies are a good example, responding to the lengthening days in June.

Other plants don't bloom until the days start to get shorter.

Early Goldenrod is one of those plants.  They have spend months storing up food and as the summer wanes they use that stored energy to produce flowers and seeds.  I saw early goldenrod in bloom last week, 2 weeks after mid-summer's eve.  Summer is drawing to an end.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dear ABC-
I've heard that Jenny McCarthy is being considered to co-host of "The View". I strongly urge you NOT to hire her.
Ms. McCarthy is a vocal activist for highly dangerous health ideas, including the mistaken belief that vaccines cause autism. While the world suffers outbreaks of measles and pertussis, Ms. McCarthy continues to advocate against vaccines. Having her host a show like The View would imply that ABC condones the death of innocent children. For more info:
Thank you,

Or, this:

Feel free to let ABC know, at Contact ABC at
We appreciate receiving feedback regarding the ABC TV network, and suggest you check the frequently asked questions before completing this form. Your questions may have already been addressed, so you could find the answers you need immediately.

Monday, July 8, 2013


"Nelson Minar didn’t really mean to create a piece of art. When the California-based software engineer began working on All Rivers, a gorgeously detailed look at the waterways in the 48 contiguous states, it was really just a practice in computer nerdery."  Wired Magazine.

See the art/map by clicking here.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

No S***?

Yes!   Believe it or not, it seems the best way to correct many intestinal problems, such as ulcers and Crohn's disease, is with a fecal transplant.  In other words, take the feces from a healthy person, and transplant it into the sick person - through the rear.

There is an excellent description of how useful and fun this is, at the New York Times.

Friday, July 5, 2013

“True Equality Means All Or None.”

My students know that I am not an atheist - there is no way to scientifically prove a negative.  Of course there is no scientific proof that there is a super-humanoid god, either.  So, I remain very skeptical.

Thomas Jefferson, Deist
The founding fathers (mostly deists who believed in a god but not as presented by established religions) were very much opposed to the mixing of government and religion.  They had first-hand examples of what happened when religions rule, all over Europe.  So do we:  just think of how nasty things were when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, or the Muslim Brotherhood was in charge of Egypt.

Unfortunately in this country there are many who feel that their religion can be promoted above others.  This includes the placing of biblical symbols on government property.  

Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union, via Associated Press
Last week a group called American Atheists  put up its own monument,  a 1,500-pound gray granite bench engraved with quotations extolling the separation of church and state, outside a county courthouse in Florida after failing to force Bradford County to remove the six-ton statue of the Ten Commandments that a Christian group had put up nearby.

Building monuments to atheism across the country is not the American Atheists' goal. They figure that once atheists join the fray, every other group  will demand the same privilege — including some that Christians might find objectionable, like pagans and Satanists. In the end, the atheists hope, local governments and school boards will decide that it is simpler to say no to everyone.

“True equality means all or none,” said Ken Loukinen, a retired firefighter in Florida who volunteers as director of state and regional operations for American Atheists. 

More information is here, at the Washington Post.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Buildings Attack!

There seems to be an sudden increase in attacks by buildings on texting drivers.   Apparently the buildings are jumping out in front of the distracted drivers. 


Decade to 2010 was hottest, wettest: World Meteorological Organization

Records reveal a procession of records

I few weeks ago I tuned in the radio news too early and heard on the Rush Limbough show that "there has been no global warming in the last 16 years".   Absolute denial of what any sensible person can deduct from observations.

Today I read in the local newspaper that it doesn't matter if the world gets hotter, we'll be fine, so why bother doing anything about it.  More denial.

The tigers at the American Museum of Natural History -
pretending they aren't there won't save your life.

As Neil DeGrasse Tyson says, "The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."

The bad thing is, if we ignore the tiger, it will eventually kill us.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


They look like pipes, so they are called Indian Pipes.  They are also called Ghost Plants and Corpse Flowers.  They are a flowering plant, but they have no chlorophyll - no green - no photosynthesis.  They get their energy by parasitizing threads of fungus that grow together with tree roots. The fungus threads help the root absorb water and in return are feed by the tree.  The Indian Pipes steal the food from the fungus. Nature can be complicated.

A Bright Idea

Apple has a new data center in Reno, Nevada.  They are building a solar panel farm to power the center that includes both solar panels and also mirrors that concentrate the sun’s rays up to seven times onto the panels. That process increases the amount of power generated.

Mirrors that shine more light on the panels - what a bright idea!

Because building the solar farm might take awhile, Apple plans to also use local geothermal power (the Galena 3 geothermal facility), which is widely available in the Reno area. Part of the reason that Apple chose to build its next data center in Reno, Nevada was because of the abundant clean power there.

All of Apple’s data centers use 100 percent renewable energy. This project will not only supply renewable energy for the data center but also provide clean energy to the local power grid. When completed, the 137 acre solar array will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of clean energy, equivalent to taking 6,400 passenger vehicles off the road per year.

[Full disclosure:  I own NO Apple products.  My phone runs Android.]

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July Gardens

Black Elderberry and Bugbane
May gardens are mostly magenta and white in May and June.  Later there will be yellow.  Now, my gardens are mostly white.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Why Public Education in the US Is Failing

Watch this:   Ken Robinson: How to escape education's death valley.

Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish -- and how current education culture works against them.