Cheat-Seeking Missles

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday Scan

No Fireworks In Gualala

A couple weeks back, I wrote about a particularly worrisome matter of the Cal. Coastal Commission issuing a cease and desist order against a 4th of July fireworks show planned in the No. Cal town of Gualala. It is, I think, the foothold the Coastal Commission has been seeking in a larger effort to stop these patriotic displays all along the California Coast.

How crazy is that? This crazy: One of the Gualala Gaeans said in a comment on the post that the damage of a 15 minute fireworks show would be permanent and unmitigatable. My gosh, if the earth were really that fragile, if would have dissolved into dust long ago.

The Gualala Patriots Day Committee (the good guys) appealed the decision and lost, so there will be no fireworks show this year. But the fight goes on; the judge merely failed to overturn the cease and desist; he did not rule on the underlaying matter. Says the Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing the Patriots Day group:
“The legal fight goes on against this abuse of power by the California Coastal Commission. Although the fireworks won’t happen this year, our lawsuit goes forward. We’ll be litigating to bring the fireworks back in future years – and to have the courts instruct the Coastal Commission on the proper limits of its power.”
For a PLF summary on the case, click here.

The Inevitable In Zimbabwe

The despotic leaders of the multitude of thug-ocracies of the world can breathe a sigh of relief -- the popular uprising against their role model hero, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, has been crushed.

This was a close one, with Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change actually winning a popular election. But Mugabe froze the election results and started a campaign of intimidation ... which may be too faint a word. Remember what Mugabe's supporters did to the wife of Patson Chipiro, a MDC regional leader?
They grabbed Mrs Chipiro and chopped off one of her hands and both her feet. Then they threw her into her hut, locked the door and threw a petrol bomb through the window. (BBC)
Preceding the MDC announcement it was not going to participate in the new election was this, also from BBC:
On Sunday, the MDC was due to stage a rally in Harare - the highlight of the campaign.

But supporters of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF occupied the stadium venue and roads leading up to it.

Witnesses reported seeing hundreds of youths around the venue wielding sticks, some chanting slogans, and others circling the stadium crammed onto the backs of trucks.

Some set upon opposition activists, leaving a number badly injured, the MDC said.

It said African election monitors were also chased away from the rally site.
Sounds like exactly the sort of election Jimmy Carter would deem to be fair.

Another Reason To Vote For McCain

Buried deep in a WaPo story on hate groups and rising racism that's very short on stats and figures and verrrry loooong on opinion, we find this:
"One person put it this way: Obama for president paves the way for David Duke as president," said Duke, who ran for president in 1988, received less than 1 percent of the vote and has since spent much of his time in Europe. "This is finally going to make whites begin to realize it's a necessity to stick up for their own heritage, and that's going to make them turn to people like me. We're the next logical step."
Keep Duke in Europe! Vote McCain!

Alternative Energy Dreamin'

There's another horse in the alternative energy race ... but this one seems unlikely to generate even one horsepower. But what the heck! Don't stop believin', hold on to that feelin':
Scientists from Europe’s Atomic Energy Commission, in Grenoble, France, have shown that vibrations from raindrops landing on a certain type of plastic can generate enough energy to operate some low-power wireless sensors, like battery-powered outdoor thermometers.
Leonardo diCaprio, take note!

Plenty Magazine offers an "In Depth" feature on the new technology, gushing about how it could be used to power climate sensing devices that now need batteries, so that we get a continuous flow of data to feed into the electricity sucking beasts we call computers.

Of course, rain drop power comes with that bane of all alternative energy: a dearth of economic viability. It takes Penty to the last paragraph to mention this tidbit: The material used to generate raindrop power costs $460 for 1 kilogram, and given the milliwatts produced, a bunch of kilograms will be required. Batteries, on the other hand, cost a buck.

Undaunted, the article ends:
Who knows, April showers may soon bring power.
Of course, not enough power to offset the solar power that's not being generated due to the rain.

Very nice art: Josh Cochran

Extreme Climate Change

NOAA (named, perhaps, for that ark chap, since the oceans are going to flood us all) has released its newest climate change report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate. The resulting bad reporting can perhaps be best summarized by two quick cuts.

First, the pocket liner set got their first impression of the report from this Science Digest intro:
Among the major findings reported in this assessment are that droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat, and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace as humans continue to increase the atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
While the mainstream tuned into this Digg summary ...
New report highlights the likely changes in extreme weather and climate conditions under ongoing climate change.
... which in turn generated comments like:
Report: Turning on lamp will light up room.
Report: Pissing into wind will get you wet.
Report: Falling linked to failure to stand upright.

How many of these stories do we need to read before people start seeing this as completely obvious?!
Well, of course, it's just not that obvious. ICECAP gives us this summary by Roger Pielke Jr., who just happens to believe in anthropogenic global warming:
The report contains several remarkable conclusions, that somehow did not seem to make it into the official press release. They include: over the long-term U.S. hurricane landfalls have been declining, nationwide there have been no long-term increases in drought, despite increases in some measures of precipitation, there have not been corresponding increases in peak streamflows, there have been no observed changes in the occurrence of tornadoes or thunderstorms, there have been no long-term increases in strong East Coast winter storms (ECWS), called Nor’easters, there are no long-term trends in either heat waves or cold spells, though there are trends within shorter time periods in the overall record.
Pshaw. What's the fun in reporting boring ol' stuff like that?

Seismic Mitigation As Art

This amazing piece of industrial art is actually the tuned mass damper at the top of Taipei 101, for now the planet's tallest completed skyscraper.

The 728-ton steel ball is so massive it couldn't be lifted into location; rather, it had to be assembled in a cavern carved out of four stories at the top of the tower. Why, you might well ask, put a 728-ton ball at the top of the building?

The simple answer is that Taipei 101 stands just 800 feet from an earthquake fault. More specific: The ball swings counter to motion caused by wind or earth movement, dampening sway.

Deputy Dog, an architecture blog, has a short story on the mass damper, but what really attracts is the video that was shot on May 12, when shocks from China's massive earthquake hit the tower. Tourists in the building actually flocked up to the viewing area for the damper to see it in action.

Don't you just love human ingenuity?

Can You Say "Semper Cheese?"

If you don't understand this, says Blackfive, you've never met a Marine.

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