Friday, September 29, 2006

Ralph Peters Does the Middle East

The Consequences of Stopping

An imminent halt in the European Union’s eastward expansion will create a new geopolitical reality in Russia and the EU’s overlapping neighborhoods.


Arguably, enlargement was the EU’s most effective policy tool. As the “European model” remains very attractive for the less fortunate states living on Europe’s eastern and southern periphery, the mere prospect of joining the rich club helped export European values and institutions to the former Soviet bloc countries. The incentive of membership served as an instrument for transforming the EU’s neighborhood, bringing stability and security to the territories on the Union’s eastern frontiers. It is broadly accepted that, but for the “carrot” of EU membership, most East European newcomers would not have been able to successfully complete the series of complex and painful reforms that they started implementing at the beginning of the 1990s.

So long as the promise of eventual membership is out there -- irrespective of how distant actual membership might be -- the EU has powerful leverage and is able to pursue its strategic interests in the adjacent territories. But if the enlargement process is put on hold and the “membership lever” removed, some analysts argue, there will be a completely different ball game where the poorly defined “European Neighborhood Policy” cannot serve as a viable alternative to full-blown membership.

Thus, a new geopolitical situation is likely to emerge in the “gray zone” between the seemingly ossified eastern borders of the 27 states of United Europe and the western borders of Russia.

First, the nature of the relations between Brussels and such European-leaning post-Soviet countries as Ukraine and Georgia will likely become even fuzzier. Following the EU leadership’s decision to pause the enlargement process to sort out the bloc’s internal affairs, Kyiv’s and Tbilisi’s European prospects, never too promising in the first place, can now be regarded as illusory. The EU’s reluctance to engage Ukraine and Georgia in a meaningful way will play into the Kremlin’s hands, as Russia is keen to restore its influence in the countries that radically changed their geopolitical orientation in the course of the pro-European “color revolutions.”

Second, Europe’s participation in the mediation and settlement of the “frozen” conflicts in the post-Soviet space will likely be negligible. The only exception is possibly Transnistria, due to the lobbying efforts of Romania.

Third, as EU enlargement grinds to a halt, the role of the United States, as sole superpower and leader of the Western world, in post-Soviet Eurasia will inevitably grow.

Fourth, since Moscow and Washington continue to have diverging strategic outlooks on the post-Soviet space, the U.S.-Russia rivalry in the region will likely become more intense.

Does this mean there is an end to EU softpower? If the EU expansion stop where it is, will it pick up again? The loss of the potential to join the EU to Ukraine would be devastating. This would be doubly so if the EU and world does nothing to stop the annexation of parts of the xUSSR republics by Russia [such as Transdnestr and chunks of Georgia].

No Family Pixtures This Week

Sorry guys. Just too busy. I'll have some from this weekend. Avrora and I are haivng our father-daughter day on Saturday and we're going to take Lyuda out so she can go horseback riding as well. I'll get some shots from both.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Spanish Flu

The 1918 Spanish Flu that killed up to 50 million people worldwide caused a severe immune response which may help to explain why it was so deadly, American scientists said on Wednesday.

The pandemic was one of the worst in recorded history and killed more people than World War I. But researchers did not understand what made it so lethal.

By infecting mice with a reconstructed version of the 1918 virus and monitoring their response, a team of scientists believe they have found some clues to solve the puzzle as well as a possible new way to fight pandemic flu.

"What we think is happening is that the host's inflammatory response is being highly activated by the virus, and that response is making the virus much more damaging to the host," said Dr John Kash, of the University of Washington in Seattle, who headed the research team.

"It is an overblown inflammatory response," he added in an interview, adding that it could have caused a similar immune response in humans.

Read more about the Spanish Flu here.

Baby Pictures Delayed

Sorry folks. Just a little too busy. Lyuda's classes are difficult for the moment.

China Tests Their First Tokamak

Scientists on Thursday carried out China's first successful test of an experimental fusion reactor, powered by the process that fuels the sun, a research institute spokeswoman said.

China, the United States and other governments are pursuing fusion research in hopes that it could become a clean, potentially limitless energy source. Fusion produces little radioactive waste, unlike fission, which powers conventional nuclear reactors.

Beijing is eager for advances, both for national prestige and to reduce its soaring consumption of imported oil and dirty coal.

Manned Space Flight and now fusion research.

The Russians and EADS...again

Recently Vneshtorgbank, Moscow’s state owned foreign trade bank, spent about a billion dollars to buy 5.02% of the shares of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Corporation (EADS). The revelation of this purchase is a clear sign, corroborated by press reports, that Moscow seeks a place on the corporation’s management team. It turns out that Russia has been talking to Germany, and possibly France, about acquiring shares and management responsibilities in EADS since late 2004 (Business Week Online, September 15, 2004). But it is not fully clear what Russia hopes to achieve, although a blocking position and a seat on the management board are clearly stated Russian objectives (Liberation Website [Paris], September 22; Vedomosti, September 18).

While Russia’s ultimate objectives may not be wholly clear, it is apparent that Russia seeks to force EADS and its parent governments to take its interests into account. EADS’s stock has been falling and, just as Russia announced that it had bought what it hopes is a blocking minority share in EADS, Moscow announced a major purchase of passenger jets from Boeing and from Airbus. Since EADS is the Airbus parent company, this was widely seen as an attempt to use the lure of a big Russian contract to rescue the falling stock price as leverage to gain a seat on the board. Once EADS’s management announced that Russia would not be given a seat on the board, the order for the Airbus purchases was suspended (Times [London], September 20). And Moscow apparently has also broadly hinted that if it were denied a seat on the board of EADS, it would go exclusively to Boeing (Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 22).

In other words, it appears Moscow is attempting to pressure EADS into giving it a seat on the board of directors. This whole affair has caused considerable apprehension in Europe, because Russia has also announced its intention to acquire up to 10% of EADS’s outstanding shares. Furthermore, it would not be Vneshtorgbank sitting on the EADS board if Russia were to achieve its objective, but the Russian state, which owns the bank. Thus Russia would gain its first entree into a major European aviation firm and secure influence over a major European defense producer. While Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any aggressive intention (New York Times, September 24) it is clear that EADS and the French and German governments share a clear dislike of this possibility.


EADS, for its part, worries that Russian attempts to force its way onto the board would compromise its efforts to compete for American defense contracts, which would help its efforts to recover from the slump in stock prices (Independent [London], September 15).

If the Russians were to acquire that much of EADS, then we'd see a huge problem for EADS gettin American defense contracts. Indeed, it would effectively quarantine EADS from the American defense procurements permanently...or at least until such time as the Russians were within the Western sphere through joining the EU and backing away from the SCO or at least reenter friendly relations!

The Gas War(s) with Ukraine, the annexation drive for parts of the xUSSR republics, the Sahklin Oil fiasco, and now this...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Permian Tetrapods

Today is largely a wash. We had an all hands meeting over in Berkeley that was also a pizza lunch. It broke teh day more than in half. I've been messing around with CF Engine, but...geez. Hard to get much done. As a result, I dug around a little bit for more on the Permian to help flesh out what I am writing for my PT Extinction posts here. I found the above and thought I'd share it.

Are You Black or White

Razib has a very interesting article (link above) about skin color genetics. The people above are 100% real and iirc from the UK. That is their family. No worries about an SFnal beige planet, eh?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Not Dead Yet!

After spending months in remote northwest Florida swamps searching for the ivory-billed woodpecker, researchers say they have seen and heard the rare bird once believed to be extinct.

But Auburn University ornithologists, who published their findings in Canada's Avian Conservation and Ecology journal online Tuesday, failed to capture a picture of the large woodpecker, which makes a distinct double rapping sound.

That lack of evidence means doubt about the bird's return remains.

Florida too? wow.

As to Why for Greenland...

The study also notes that global warming is greatest at higher latitudes near the poles. This is because when the Earth warms, snow and ice melt, uncovering darker land and ocean surfaces. Instead of the once-white surface that reflected solar rays back into space, the darker surfaces now absorb more energy from the sun.

That explains the much larger relative temperature rise in Greenland and gives more credence to my mutterings about Greenland's future ecology. I really think that people ought to consider highland properties - those above the maximum possible water rise of 150 ft/45 m) in Greenland...;)

Warmest in a Million Year

The Earth's rapid warming has pushed temperatures to their hottest level in nearly 12,000 years and within a hairbreadth of a million years, a study by the US space agency showed.

Global warming, which has added 0.2 degree Celsius (0.36 degree Fahrenheit) per decade over the past 30 years, has caused temperatures to reach and now pass through the warmest levels in the current interglacial period, which lasted almost 12,000 years, according to the study led by James Hansen, a leading climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The study, published in the September 26 of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said that Earth was now within about 1.0 C (1.8 F) of the maximum estimated temperature of the past million years.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration researcher said that was the most important finding of the team's research.

"That means that further global warming of 1.0 degree Celsius defines a critical level. If warming is kept less than that, effects of global warming may be relatively manageable. During the warmest interglacial periods the Earth was reasonably similar to today," Hansen said.

"But if further global warming reaches 2.0 or 3.0 degrees Celsius, we will likely see changes that make Earth a different planet than the one we know."

Oh yeah. Don't have to go to another world to get another world now!!!

Monday, September 25, 2006

More on Ways to Go to Jail

A senior lawyer of the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has settled accusations of insider trading in the stock of the Cray Computer Company.

The Securities and Exchange Commission accused William DeGarmo of making $27,332 through trading shares of the Cray in December, based on his knowledge of a canceled contract. The S.E.C. maintained that Mr. DeGarmo engaged in transactions of the company stock just before Cray disclosed Livermore had scrapped its deal to buy a $30 million Cray-3 supercomputer.

Cray's stock dropped on that news. The S.E.C. said Mr. DeGarmo, a University of California lawyer and general counsel for the laboratory in Livermore, Calif., was able to profit by short-selling, or selling borrowed shares then repurchasing them at the lower price.

The S.E.C. made the allegations Tuesday in documents filed in Federal District Court in Denver. Mr. DeGarmo settled the complaint without acknowledging guilt, the S.E.C. filings said. He also agreed to disgorge all profits and pay an additional $27,000 in fines.

There's one more too, iirc,

One of the Ways that I /could/ Go to Jail

The Securities and Exchange Commission (the "Commission") has issued a formal order for a non-public investigation relating to trading in the Common Stock of the Company during the period from September 1, 1990 through January 31, 1992, which is the approximate period during which the Company was negotiating or had in effect a purchase order for a 16-processor CRAY-3 supercomputer system from the National Energy Research Supercomputer Center (NERSC) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The announced loss of this purchase order in December 1991 caused a major drop in the market price of the Company's Common Stock. The formal order states that the Commission staff has information tending to show that during the period under investigation certain individuals and entities may have traded stock of the Company while in possession of material non-public information and that the Company and others may have made false and misleading statements in filings with the Commission or in other public documents concerning this purchase order or the progress of development of the CRAY-3, which allegations, if true, would result in possible violation of Section 17 (a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Sections 10 (b) and 13 (a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The staff of the Central Regional Office of the Commission has notified the Company of its intention to recommend that the Commission seek permanent injunctions and civil penalties against the Company, Seymour R. Cray and a former officer of the Company for alleged violations of these Sections and to seek similar relief against Terry Willkom, the President of the Company, under two of them. The staff of the Central Regional Office has informed the Company and the corporate officers that they may file setting forth their positions and arguments concerning the proposed recommendation, and such a statement was filed with the Central Regional Office on February 15, 1995. The staff has also indicated its willingness to consider a proposed compromise resolution of the issues. Management of the Company is actively seeking to resolve these matters and does not believe that the investigation has uncovered violations by the Company or any of its officers and directors of any of the cited provisions of law or that the investigation will result in a material adverse effect on the business, operating results, or financial position of the Company. However, the Company cannot predict whether a prompt resolution will be reached or what the ultimate outcome of the investigation will be.

There'll be an update later on this. Some people did end up in jail at the same time.

My Little Spot in the Sun

The 2005 NERSC Annual Report is up. My section is up on the website through the link above.

This is the official NERSC report to DOE.

The sun is a hot burning place thouhg...ouch! :D

Not such a Glorious Start

A commercial rocket blasted off from a site in New Mexico on Monday, but malfunctioned before it reached space, organizers said.

The UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket blasted off from Spaceport America, a remote desert launch site near the town of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, but slewed off course 40,000 feet (12,190 meters) above ground due to a malfunction.

"Because of an unexpected aerodynamic effect, the vehicle was short of its effected range, it went to an altitude of 40,000 feet," a mission director said over a public address system said.

The New Mexico Spaceport is near TorC, NM. Not exactly a glorious start for the NM Spaceport.

On Suz's Website

For some reason, I can't comment on Suzanne's website. grrr.

At any rate, Suzanne, an old friend from college, asked her readers whether she should continue her blog and what she should take up as a topic. She grumbled that she tends to be overly verbose and her posts never get finished. Suzanne is a trained chemist with an ubergeekhusband (coming from an ubergeek here) and she has the -vvvvv option enabled, irl and supposedly in her posts too. She's quite bright, t'boot.

This post here is two things. The first is that I know I get more people reading my blog than hers, so I am hoping that the dark hoard that lurks through here will give their input to her question. The second is to give my own input to her question.

Suzanne, presumably you're reading this. You really ought to pick a subject or two that other people are interested in and you have some small amount of knowledge at least to post about. Frex, something that you've been reading a lot about (mass extintctions, in my case) or know a small amount about through work (climate change for me) or have some personal interest in (Russian relations with Ukraine and the West here). Note, I mostly avoid talking about work. Not always the case, when its something that is tangental to my everyday job (like the Tri Challenge stuff from SC05). This is pretty much to avoid the politics and some possible jail time if I let the wrong thing slip.

New profound chemistry technologies are something that's not covered alot. Care to take up that mantle? Or what about the implications about the materials or such that the nanotech folks are talking about? I know you hate organic chem, but...also a reading log, like my reading updates, might be of interest to people too. Updates on what you did on your sordid vacations - but within the box please! - would be good too.

There are many things to talk about. Your blog is read and followed. :P

Honda goes hyodrgen too

Limited availability in 2008. Looks to be much like the GM SUV in the same time frame. GM and Honda seem to have skipped the hybrid and went straight to the fuel cells instead. Interesting.

Reading Update

I just finished reading two books. The first one is related to the house construction and that latter was for pleasure. I've started hitting the gym again to try to get the weight down so when I am on a cycle or some such I am often reading. The textbook sized ones don't work out so well for that so I am at the moment reading two books at a time. One at home and the other while working out.

The first book Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods was an elementary book for the so-called 'construction science' types. It wasn't bad, but really, it covered a lot of stuff I already knew. I was hoping it had more on the combination of materials - like their properties - and the methods used to employ each one. alas, it was a textbook instead of a reference. The only item I walked away with that I found very interesting was that they are now selling electrochromatic glass. This was something some friends of mine back in HS modeled on the then HPC systems. Pretty mazing that the stuff has gone from that to a commodity item. Next you know, they'lls tart talking about transparent concrete...oh, wait.

The second book was Peter Dodson's The Horned Dinosaurs. I enjoyed it. It was a good book. It covered the knowledge of the ceratopsia. Triceratops has long been by favourite dinosaur and my daughter has her own ceratopsid Iw as really looking forward to reading this book. It was mainly two things: the history of the discovery of the various ceratopsians and the discussion of their unique skeletal characteristics. The chapter of the paleobiology and paleoecology of the ceratopsians was so brief as to be almost offensive. Dodson made very little attempt to paint the picture of what role they filled in the ecology of the Cretaceous or what the world was like around them. This is depressing. He was so focused on the bones and the history of their discovery that he almost completely neglected the fact that these animals were members of an ecology, had a role in said ecology, and that is very interesting and important to the layman. he complains at one point that he doesn't know much of anything about the plant life of the time yet objects to another researcher's hypothesis as to the ceratopsian diet. A lack of knowledge is adressable through a little research!!! :P Alas. Other than that complaint, this is very good book and I recommend it. As you can see from the wikipedia article there have been more discoveries of ceratopsians since the book was written.

My next pair of books to be read are Architectural Working Drawings and Roman Warfare, home and gym reading respectively.

This weekend

I'm on rotation, so I can't go gallavanting off to get into trouble. In fact, based on the demands of the job, I really can't be more than 15 to 20 minutes away from a secure network connection. This puts constraints on what I can and cannot go do. This in turn puts constraints on what my family can and cannot go do. For those of you that don't know, when I go on rotation I am resposible for the machines that are at NERSC. There are times when its insane: seaborg goes down or NGF gets wonky. However, most of the time it's just a tad bit stressful from the tension of what is going on.

Because of this, we had a subdued weekend. We did get to go over to a friend's house - a coworker - and have dinner. It was fun and we had a show and tell of our trip this summer to Ukraine. Our mutual friend, Tikva, was there as well. We brought some sushi, okroshka - but different than what they describe there; I'll post a recipe at some point - and a mud pie. This was rounded out by Tikva's salad and some BBQed hamburgers. It was quite the international meal.

Sunday, my daughter and I tried to make ourselves scarce so my wife could study. We ran errands and had a good time. That night I tried my hand at BBQing some fish: pomfret to be exact. Unfortunately, we got a little too little (three fish only) since there was so little meat on the fish themselves. Even so, they were good.

I ddi have to work late on Saturday and somewhat late on Friday. Until about 15 minutes ago, it's been a pretty quiet week. Seaborg just took a header. However, the system lead is working on it...since he seems to have been partially responsible for its state.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A Beautiful Picture

Turkey is Making Russia Nervous

The suggestion to form a Turkish commonwealth among Turkic-speaking countries voiced at the recent gathering of leaders of Turkic states in Turkey’s seaside resort city of Antalya appears to reflect Ankara’s desire to strengthen its economic and political positions in Eurasia. Moscow should not treat Turkey’s growing geopolitical ambitions lightly, some Russian analysts say.

On September 18-20, the 10th Turkic States and Communities’ Friendship and Cooperation Congress took place at the posh hotel complex on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. Organized by the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA), the Turkic Convention brought together top policymakers from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and the unrecognized Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, as well as delegates representing the Turkic territories of Russia, Ukraine and Moldova -- Chuvashia, Khakassia, Altai region, North Caucasus, Crimea, and Gagauzia.

“Turkic summits” were the brainchild of the late visionary Turkish leader Turgut Ozal. Ozal, prime minister and then president of Turkey from 1983 until his death in 1993, entertained a sweeping project that included a vibrant Turkic Common Market and a powerful Turkic Trade and Development Bank. A “Turkish model,” based on Turkey’s imperfect but seemingly workable market economy and somewhat restrictive parliamentary democracy, was offered to the post-Soviet states as a roadmap for their transition.


The 2006 Turkic summit has indeed set quite an ambitious agenda. To further develop commercial activities among Turkic states, participants decided to encourage foreign investment and to provide additional incentives to investors from Turkic states. Common energy projects should be developed and additional backing given to pipeline projects passing through Turkey. A common alphabet should be worked out to improve communication among Turkic peoples. Studies in Turkic culture should be encouraged. The summ it’s participants agreed that there is a need to compile a common heritage list of the Turkic world; they also deemed it advisable “to rewrite our common history and teach it at schools.”

To crown these integration efforts, the world’s Turks will have to establish a Turkic Commonwealth “like English- and French-speaking countries do,” Erdogan suggested. “This way we can encourage our cooperation and become more influential in the world.”

How...pre 19th century of Russia and Turkey. Was the 20th Century a respite of the way the world really works?

New Mammal Fossil Found in Bolivia

A new species of ancient mammal has been discovered—in the fossil collection of the National Museum of Natural History in La Paz, Bolivia.

The animal, which has been assigned the tongue-twisting name Hemihegetotherium trilobus, is a member of an extinct group called notoungulates, a term that means "southern hoofed mammals."

The creature resembles a cross between a dog and a hare. It was about the size of a beagle, weighing between 20 and 25 pounds (9 and 11 kilograms), and probably looked something like a capybara, the largest modern-day rodent.

This is a Notoungulate, a strange order that people are unsure how to classify.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wednesday Baby Picts

My Next Car Might be a GM

General Motors will launch a fleet of more than 100 hydrogen fuel-cell powered sports utility vehicles in the US, Europe and Asia in the fall of 2007, the automaker said.

The aim is to have commercial distribution by 2010 of the clean-burning cars that emit nothing but water from the tailpipe.

While other automakers have already distributed a few fuel cell vehicles to retail customers, this will be the first major market test, GM said. It is aimed at testing how customers respond to the vehicles in a variety of driving environments.

GM has not yet determined how much the Chevrolet Equinox will cost or how it will decide who gets a chance to lease the vehicles, spokesman Scott Fosgard told AFP.

This comes as a parry to Suzanne's pronouncement. So Nyah!

PS Forget the hybrid! No gasoline for me! No gasoline for me! All I want is to be troublesome, oil producing country free!

Onward to the North BOAT!

European scientists voiced shock as they showed pictures which showed Arctic ice cover had disappeared so much last month that a ship could sail unhindered from Europe's most northerly outpost to the North Pole itself.

The satellite images were acquired from August 23 to 25 by instruments aboard Envisat and EOS Aqua, two satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Perennial sea ice -- thick ice that is normally present year-round and is not affected by the Arctic summer -- had disappeared over an area bigger than the British Isles, ESA said.

Vast patches of ice-free sea stretched north of Svalbard, an archipelago lying midway between Norway and the North Ple, and extended deep into the Russian Arctic, all the way to the North Pole, the agency said in a press release.

"This situation is unlike anything observed in previous record low-ice seasons," said Mark Drinkwater of ESA's Oceans/Ice Unit.

That relates to this big time.

No Global Warming, eh?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yanukovich to NATO: Nyet...for now

Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych’s September 13-14 announcement in Brussels, removing Ukraine from consideration for a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP), was entirely predictable (see EDM, August 7, September 12). In all its aspects, including its technical breach of Ukraine’s constitution, which empowers the president to conduct foreign and security policies, Yanukovych’s announcement is an inescapable result of the internal political situation in Ukraine at the present stage. However, it is not the government’s final word on this issue, and it may prove to be a temporary detour on the road toward an eventual MAP, rather than a U-turn from it.
One could hope, but it reall depends on what happens this winter. If Yanukovich can pull off keeping Russia from pulling Ukraien over a barrel over gas prices this year, then he may make the 'nyet' to NATO permanent. Unfortunately, Ukrainians are very afraid of NATO. It's almost irrational, but they seem to think if they join NATO they are at athe beck and call of the United States. I seem to believe that Germany and France would beg to differ on that, but for some reason that I cannot fathom Ukrainians do have the belief set in stone. Ole Yanukovich is going to play this to the max. However, if he flubs it this winter as expected - no one is going to be in a good position wrt the gas issues this winter IMO - then the NATO acesnion may proceed after the next election.

Russia and EADS

Russia has been seeking a seat on the board of EADS. Sergei Prikhodko, a Russian foreign policy presidential wonk, commented that Russia "will insist on at least a blocking stake" in the EADS board as EADS and the Russian military industrial complex grow more and more entangled.

EADS just rebuffed Russia for the suggestion.

That would be one way for Russia to bootstrap its military tech from the Soviet derived stuff they have now. That must have been something that made the Europeans rather uncomfortable.

Martian and Venerian Oceans

There is a website with two related maps. These are built using the Magellan data and the Mars orbiter laser altimeters. The java applet allows you to move the ocean depth up and down. My personal preference is for a +350 meters on the Martian Oceans because it connects the Argyre Sea with the Boreal Ocean and makes a very impressive and isolated island of Elysium. I would also choose about +2000 m for the Venerian Oceans. Those are VERY shallow oceans on Venus.

The sites are here for Mars and here for Venus.

This stemmed from a conversation on Usenet on SHWI.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Gore's Pollution Proposal: hrm

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Monday suggested taxing carbon dioxide emissions instead of employees' pay in a bid to stem global warming.

The pollution tax would replace all payroll taxes, including those for Social Security and unemployment compensation, Gore said. He said the overall level of taxation, would remain the same.

"Instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees it would discourage business from producing more pollution," Gore said.

Curious. I'd suddenly get a lot more money in my paycheck. This is rather radical though and I doubt it would make it through Congress.

Russia Cancels Shell-Sakhalin Development Contract

Russia cancelled an essential permit for a Shell-led consortium to develop the huge Sakhalin-2 oil and gas fields, as a top official warned foreign energy companies may lose their licenses.

The environmental permit withdrawn from British-Dutch Shell is the latest example of official pressure on foreign investors as the Kremlin moves to tighten its grip on the country's vast energy resources.


Shell's troubles also come at a time when the Russian government is moving aggressively to increase state control over its natural resources sector, especially oil and gas production.

Earlier Monday, a top official at the natural resources ministry said foreign company licenses on three energy projects -- ExxonMobil's Sakhalin-1 project, Shell's Sakhalin-2 and Total's Kharyaga Arctic oil field -- were at risk.

The ministry's director of government policy Sergei Fyodorov said that the licenses could be cancelled on the grounds that technical conditions were not being fulfilled, Interfax reported.

A report by the ministry in May attacked both ExxonMobil and Shell for inefficiency and cost overruns at Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2, saying Russian companies should be given majority control of both projects.

Analysts said that Russia's growing desire for majority control of all major energy projects was the main motivation behind recent pressure on foreign companies.

"Everything that is happening around Sakhalin-2 can be interpreted as the Russian government's desire to have more control over these projects," said Andrei Gromadin, oil and gas analyst at MDM Bank.

Valery Nesterov, oil and gas analyst at Troika Dialog, called the stated environmental concerns "a pretext" and said the move could be "alarming" for other foreign investors.

"It just means that the state continues to tighten its grip over the oil sector," Nesterov said.

Comtemplating the Scotese Geological Temperature Graph

Assuming this is accurate, we have pretty close to 10 C of temperature rise before we get into scary regions (aka End Permian Temperatures).

Right now we're covering things I already know in the class.

Not up Yet

I have a nice mention in the 2005 NERSC Annual Report for the SC05 StorCloud award.

Uber Excellent.

In and Out

I am in class this week to study the sysadmin info for the $52 million Cray XT*/Hood we are buying. Blogging will be hampered. :)

Friday, September 15, 2006

West will have to accept Russia's Energy Agenda?

Some Russian pundits argue that Russia’s assertive behavior is an indicator of the tectonic shifts in the world economy. The essence of the deep geo-economic changes lies in the fact that Western companies that dominated the world energy market in the 19th and 20th centuries appear to be slowly losing political control over the sector. As time goes by, countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Venezuela will account for an ever-larger share of world energy production. For Russia, this means the country’s importance will inevitably grow not only in terms of production of fuel, but also in terms of its transportation.

For the West, the loss of political control over the energy market means a serious weakening of its position in the world economy with a likely “prospect of the revision of global economic and, possibly, political rules of the game,” some Russian analysts suggest.

Seen through this prism, the West’s pressuring Russia to ratify the Energy Charter is a last-ditch attempt to prevent the final loss of control over the world gas market.

But these days, Russian strategists display an enviable self-assurance. The West will likely have to reconcile itself with the fact that its dominance in the global energy sphere belongs to the past, they contend. In the 21st century, the United States and the European Union will have to accept the “energy agenda” advanced by Moscow, one recent commentary asserts. [emphasis added.]

hrm. Sounds mildly ominous. Nuclear energy and hydrogen fuel cells sound better and better, don't they?

Vast Polar Ethane Cloud on Titan

Cassini's Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) has detected what appears to be a massive ethane cloud surrounding Titan's north pole. The cloud might be snowing ethane snowflakes into methane lakes below.

The cloud may be the clue needed in solving a puzzle that has confounded scientists who so far have seen little evidence of a veil of ethane clouds and surface liquids originally thought extensive enough to cover the entire surface of Titan with a 300-meter-deep ocean.

Dwarf Astronomer T-shirt

Via Nasa Watch.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

New Greenland Ecology: A Usenet Post

This is actually a semi fun post. I'd like to get people to speculate wildly, but rigorously. I'd like to see preferences, but constrained by some reality.

There have been some interesting articles that I've linked from my blog as of late. They are about climate change. When people often talk about it, they say that the world's temperature is going to go up/down/whatever by x number of degrees C. This is misleading. Climate change is not uniform. Some places change a lot more than others. The climate is an enormously complicated beast. Whether you are a winner, loser, or netneutral, it really depends on your location.

For our discussion here, we are going to assume that the climate change in question is global warming and that it is really happening as bad as said. I am also going to go by some of the off hand conversations I've had with climate guys around here and to reference articles I've found online. I'll differentiate between them where I can.

Based on the conversations here, the net gain in world temperature is going to be 5 C by mid century. We'll use that for the discussion. It may or may not be exactly right. Modeling is a triksy business, hobbitses.

Now as for some losers in the climate change, if you're 9 meters or less above sealevel, you're going to get flooded. (local convo) This is due to the ice cap meltings and the the ice free summers that the Arctic is headed to under the models(climate modeling group conference coming up). The middle east through central asia are supposed toget it bad too. Temperatures, iirc, go up 7 or 8 C.

A net neutral is Antarctica. It will lose some ice, but the Antarctic Current seems to be protecting the icy continent much more than previously thought and acts as an excellent bit of protection. The anarctic pennisula might end up with some marginally habitable land, but mostly AA is cold is going to stay frackin cold. One area that might be a net neutral (and was in the presentations here at LBNL) was the American midwest. For some reason the sims show it not going up or down much in temperature, but it might
have more catastrophic precipitation that comes up from the Gulf of Mexico.

A net gainer, and the focus of the post, is Greenland. There was an article[1] in Spiegel about the fact that Greenland is already experiencing more than twice the effect of the rest of the world in temperature rise. Some models predict that it might get twice the temperature rise, on average, than the rest of the world. Largely this is because of the wholsale melting of the icecap. Locals here predict its going away altogether. That has a huge impact, one of which is that the atmospheric circulation no longer is impacted by that great big hunk of cold ice. IDK what that will have as an impact exactly, but my climate coconspirator for SC05 said it has as much of an impact on the climate of Europe as the Atlantic Conveyor. It's loss is a net negativefor said climate, but in what way...well. IDK.

What will the climate look like? Assuming that the 2x increase and the 5C global are valid, I went and grabbed some climate data for different locations in Greenland: Thule AFB[2], Godthab[3],
Angmagssalik[4],and Narsarsuaq[5]. There is a map[6].

New Mean Temperatures (in C):
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
A 3 2 2 6 11 14 17 16 13 9 6 3
G 3 2 2 6 11 14 17 16 13 9 7 4
N 3 4 5 10 15 18 20 19 16 11 7 4
T -13 -15 -16 -8 4 12 15 14 8 -1 -8 -12

It still remains damned cold in Thule during the winter, to be sure, but the more southerly cities, things actually look habitable now. Even cozy. Narsarsuaq would look nicer, temperature wise, than does London[7] and in fact looks quitea bit like Paris[8].

We know that Greenland used to have forests warm enough for primates[9]. That was some time ago. there would have to be a lot of soil importation because what's there after the ice is little more than glacial leftovers and most of it inorganic at that. Pielou's work[10] is actually handy here as to what
might happen over the course of thousands of years in Greenland, but that's not going to happen with all of us biological transporters around.

The question for discussion for ahf is what could and would live in the new, warm, and hip Greenland? What would you put on this ubersized island? Why?

Remember, the light and dark cycles up north impact what plants can and cannot live there without tinkering. Alas, my redwoods wouldn't work out too well. Conifer forests would be great though and I am sure that those would makeit there, but what else? Why?

110 million year old bird tracks found

Kim Jeong-Yul, an earth science professor at the Korea National University of Education in Cheongju, said his team discovered 100 fossilized prints on Changseon Island, 270 kilometers (162 miles) south of Seoul.

"The prints were found in a geological stratum created 110 million years ago," he said, adding each print was 4.5 centimeters (1.8 inches) wide and 5.1 centimeters long.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Russian Naval Tactical Nukes

The tactical nuclear limitation agreements are not a formal treaty, and no compliance verification mechanism ever existed. Despite statements to the contrary, questions about Russian compliance with non-strategic nuclear disarmament have been raised. Unlike U.S. naval-based, long-range cruise missiles, their Russian (Soviet) equivalents -- the Granat and Granit -- were not designed or ever tested to carry conventional warheads. Still Russian attack subs continued to deploy these missiles at sea, which did not make sense if only their nuclear tips continued to be in place despite official pledges.

However, now the time for speculation is over. Ivanov’s statement, made in front of reporters and President Putin reveals unequivocally that Russian attack subs are being deployed "on combat patrols" against NATO ships with battle-ready non-strategic nukes onboard. Russia is clearly cheating now and may have been cheating on its signed tactical nuclear arms control promises all along.


The collapse of the existing tactical nuclear limitation regime is not in Russia’s national interests, since the United States and Great Britain have the capability to deploy tens of times more naval nuclear long-range cruise missiles and other non-strategic nukes than does Russia. But it would seem that the Kremlin is still ready to risk drastically worsening relations. Increased military tension may facilitate a nationalistic anti-U.S., anti-NATO surge of public opinion in Russia that might help carry someone like Ivanov (or whomever Putin chooses) into the Kremlin as the new president.

What game is the Kremlin playing?!

Warmer Winters Cause Remarkable Loss of Arctic Sea Ice

A pair of new studies shows that winter sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk dramatically in the past two years and that perennial ice in particular is disappearing.

Two types of sea ice cover the Arctic Ocean: thick perennial ice that resists thaw year-round and thinner seasonal ice that melts during the summer and freezes again in the winter. Both types are experiencing decline, according to analyses of microwave satellite data.

Researchers led by Joey Comiso of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland found that the amount of ice covering the Arctic has declined by six percent over each of the last two winters.

"This amount of Arctic sea ice reduction the past two consecutive winters has not taken place before during the 27 years satellite data has been available," Comiso said.

The researchers said that warming temperatures and a shorter winter-ice season are likely to blame.

"In the past, sea-ice reduction in winter was significantly lower per decade compared to summer sea ice retreat," Comiso said. "What's remarkable is that we've witnessed sea ice reduction at 6 percent per year over just the last two winters, most likely a result of warming due to greenhouse gases."

And if this happens, we're going to see an ice free Arctic in the very near future.

Neandertals Getting Younger?

Small bands of them took refuge now and then in a massive cave near the southern tip of Spain. Now a study says charcoal from their fires indicates that Neanderthals were still alive at least 2,000 years later than scientists had firmly established before.

"Maybe these are the last ones," said Clive Finlayson of The Gibraltar Museum, who reported the findings Wednesday with colleagues on the Web site of the journal Nature.

The paper says the charcoal samples from the cave, called Gorham's Cave in Gibraltar, are about 28,000 years old and maybe just 24,000 years old.

It would be interesting if eventually the last Neandertals ended up being within the cultural memories of historical european populations. Highly doubtful, but it'd be fun if the one of the older culture's had encountered them and passed down that experience as a warped myth or legend.

Maybe I should scribble some notes as a tie back to this setting.

Woohoo! Assimilation is Alive and Well

U.S. citizens concerned that Latino immigrants will have them singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in Spanish can rest easy, according to an academic study published on Wednesday.

A report in the Population and Development Review found that far from threatening the dominance of English, most Latin American immigrants to the United States lose their ability to speak Spanish over the course of a few generations.

The study by sociologists Frank Bean and Ruben Rumbaut of the University of California, Irvine, and Douglas Massey from Princeton, drew on two surveys investigating adaptation by immigrant communities in California and south Florida.

It concluded that by the third generation, most descendants of immigrants are "linguistically dead" in their mother tongue.

Truthfully, I haven't been terribly worried about this. At one time, really, I was. Now...not at all. After reading history and participating discussions, I found a model that people throw around for other reasons, but actually somewhat fits here: Rome started as a Latin speaking state +/- 700 BC. It ended as a Greek speaking state in 1453 AD. Approximately half that time was speaking primarily each. If America survives as a state until 3758 AD, then even as a Spanish speaking nation, we would have had a good, long life as a people.

A Harsh Critque of the OCSE Moldavan Mission

The Transnistria conflict is not one between two parts of Moldova, or the two banks of the Nistru River and their respective populations, or some kind of inter-communal conflict. The OSCE will continue to fail unless it recognizes the conflict’s real nature: An inter-state conflict in which Russia has seized a part of Moldova’s territory by military force and installed its political and administrative appointees there. The ongoing “negotiating process” and diplomatic terminology long associated with it are obscuring that reality. Imposed by Yevgeny Primakov in 1997 on a then-isolated Moldova, and supported by a line-toeing OSCE Mission to date, that process and that terminology misdefine Transnistria as a “party to the conflict” (ostensibly co-equal with the rest of Moldova); and Russia as “mediator” between two parts of Moldova, ignoring Russia’s actual role as initiator of and party to the ongoing conflict. Moreover, Russia claims the role of “guarantor” of an eventual political settlement of the conflict thus defined.
A timely article based on what was posted over at A Fistful of Euros.

I disagree with Jonathan over his conclusions of Russia's goals, but I don't have time to write a rebuttal at this point. I think Russia really does want to annex Transdnistria, and other chunks of states, rather than what Jonathan states. I also think that Eastern, or perhaps even the whole of, Ukraine is also on Russia's menu as well.

Climate change to make nuclear power a winner

The increasingly urgent need to combat climate change will probably spawn U.S. policies to impose fossil fuel charges and so dramatically favor nuclear power, Citigroup said in a research note on Wednesday.

If we adopt a carbon market like the EU has that is.


I have to confess that I have started watching Eureka. It's a light weight, silly show, frankly. However, it's fun. It's actually funny, especially for those that have any background in science and for those that have some inclination for SFnal things. However, while those might get my attetntion sometimes and cause me to watch now and again, what's really caught it is the fact that it reminds of me of home.



Well, if you add in mad science above and beyond what's reality, yes, home. A home that I haven't spent more than a couple weeks in since I left in 1992 for college, but it's still home. It's a parody of LA, but damned if it doesn't just tickle the nostalgia button a bit. Truthfully, Global Dynamics' buildings are a lot cleaner than it's real life equivalent though. I just chalk that up to the common SF problem of either being bright shiny and unlived in or ubergrunged.

Wednesday Videos

here, here, and here.

Wednesday Baby Picts

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Another Step Closer

There was nothing particularly disturbing about the failed launch of the experimental Bulava (SS-NX-30) strategic missile from the Dmitry Donskoi submarine on the evening of September 7. Failures happen, and they are quite useful for identifying problems that should be addressed before the missile is approved for deployment and mass production. Two previous tests, in September 2005 and December 2005, were entirely successful, so from a technical point of view, Yuri Solomonov, head of the Moscow Institute of Heat Engineering design bureau, should not be that worried. Technicalities regarding the guidance system, however, are of only secondary importance in this project, since the as-yet-non-existent Bulava is already a big political issue (Kommersant;, September 8).

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly portrayed this missile as tangible proof of the modernization of the Russian armed forces.


The real problem is that Bulava (which means “mace”) constitutes a central element of a new policy that could be called “virtual deterrence” as it aims at enhancing Russia’s international status mostly by means of PR campaigns and strategic bluff. This policy has a pronounced anti-U.S. character, emphasized by the stream of statements about the uniquely maneuverable warheads that could penetrate any missile-defense system. Simultaneously, Moscow seeks to convince the United States to start a new round of high-profile arms control negotiations. Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov tried to sell this idea to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld a few weeks ago, and for lack of better arguments dropped a hint that Russia might withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that had marked a breakthrough in Gorbachev’s New Political Thinking back in 1988 (Ezhednevny zhurnal, August 30).


As far as military matters are concerned, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile grand plans such as the recently approved Armaments Program for 2007-2015, estimated at $185 billion, with the fact that the Russian Army is able to buy only 15-30 tanks a year, while India has purchased more than 300 Russian tanks without greatly straining its defense budget (, May 12).

One step closer to the Shanghai Confederation. Empty shell of a Russian military: check!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Sino-Russian Space Cooperation

Russia will cooperate closely with China on moon exploration, and the two nations could sign space cooperation agreements by the year's end, the Russian space chief said Monday.

Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov said that Chinese experts had shown a strong interest in Russia's lunar experience.

"Russia is ready for close cooperation with China in the field," Perminov said in remarks posted on his agency's Web site. "This is a serious and quite promising field of cooperation. In the past the Russian-Chinese cooperation have been mostly limited to the sales of Russian equipment, but now we are considering the development and implementation of joint projects."


Perminov said that the two nations had formalized their plans for the moon research in a specific action plan approved in June 2005 and followed up on that with several expert meetings. The latest meeting of Russian and Chinese space officials took place last week.

Two Links: here and here.

Russian Demographics

Take a read. Claus has a grim look at Russian demographics. Demography Matters has an older post as well. It looks grim. Very grim. Oh, and any posts by Ez Em Stirling you should ignore. SF author he may be, but 'tard he is. I used to like his books, but he came out as a seriously nutso bigot on SHWI (google up magic buttom Stirling muslims).

Permian Disappointments

I have been reading and digging about the Permian, as some of you know from reading my blog, as part of small bits of posts about the various mass extinctions through deep time. I am very disappointed about the Permian in one way. The books I have about it discuss the extinction, to be sure, but they don't discuss the animals so much and the ecosystem just prior to the so-called Great Dying. I am very disappointed that there's not popular book on the synapsids that we call the Mammal-like Reptiles.

Oh, I can say that I have grown very disappointed with the BBC/Discovery Channel presentation of "Before the Dinosaurs". There was an awful lot of pure and utter speculation passed off as science fact. It was fun to watch, had little to do with real science brought to life. Frex, almost all of the commentary about Dimetrodon was cut and paste from the Komodo Dragon's habits.

FWIW, the best website that I have found on the Permian Critters is in German (and here for the Pareiasaurs).

This Last Weekend

While today is a somber day, I am going to be a little bit ofa rebel and post about the living and the celebration of life instead of death. I won't go on expounding on where the hell bin Ladin s head is (or rather why it's not on a pike displayed for all in Washington). I won't go on about the stupidities of the follow-up with respect to Iraq's occupation and rehabilitation. Others are doing the ranting far better. Instead, I am going to talk, briefly, about the fun and amusement that we had this weekend, as a family, instead.

On Staurday, after a much delayed leave-taking, we - Avrora, Lyuda, and myself - took off with a friend for Six Flags Marine World up in Vallejo. We arrived at about 11 AM and stayed until about 6:30 PM. We had a very good time. We rode a lot of rollercoasters: Medusa, Boomerang, Roar, etc. The only ones we didn't do were Kong and Cobra. Cobra's a bitty one and Kong has only one car on it so it takes forever to get through the line. Lyuda and Tom made it through to almost the end - a 45 minute wait - to find out they were doing a 10 minute shutdown and chased everyone out of line. We visited a few of the animal exhibits: dolphins, stingrays, penguins, and butterflies. I was hoping to get some picts of Avrora with the dolphins, but...not this trip. We'll go back again, of course. Lyuda screams VERY impressively on the rollercoasters, actually. At least until she lost her voice. The Boomerang - a rollercoaster where you ride first forward and then backwards on the same track you just traversed - is what did her in at the end. We had a very good time.

Yesterday, Lyuda needed to study, so Avrora and I split. We ran up to Forest Knolls in Marin for a walk and other reasons. Then we ran some errands back in the East Bay: car maintenance related and such mostly. Then we ran over to get a gift for my wife, a belated anniversary gift because we had spent so much on the trip to San Deigo. We got her an Ipod Nano. Avrora bolted out the Apple Store with the bag with the Ipod like a bat out of hell. She zipped out to the right and kept going. It was funny, but a little scary being her father and worried she'd run out into the street. I finally caught her after chasing her with the stroller while people were very amused with her antics. Dorks. I swapped the Ipod with a bottle in the bag so she'd not damage what I'd just bought. She was mostly happy with that. We then tried to go to a little beach near us, but when we arrived, the tide had only just receded and all the sand was very, very wet. With the cool wind blowing, it seemed like a less than wise idea to play there. Avrora was unhappy until she saw the parasailing folks zipping back and forth near us. She was very happy with watching that. We ahd a good day. Lyuda was less than happy, but she'd had a headache all day and had to stay inside to study: ie that's understandable. She brightened with her Ipod though.

We had a good weekend. Next weekend won't be as fun since Lyuda has tests on Monday. Bleh.

Russia will not act like an 'energy superpower'

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will be a reliable and stable supplier of energy to foreign customers and has dismissed talk of Russia as an "energy superpower" which would throw its weight around and hold other countries to ransom.


Foreign concerns about Russia's reliability as an energy supplier, following the stand-off with Ukraine last winter, were uppermost in Mr Putin's mind. While reassuring the West of Russia's good faith, however, he dismissed the idea of Russia as an "energy superpower" as a "cold war" term.

"We're not behaving like an energy superpower," he said. "We just want negotiations that are fair. We don't need superpower status." Yes, he said, "we have huge energy potential that is still underestimated ... but we have always behaved responsibly and intend to continue doing so."

I have some Ukrainian friends and relatives that would definitely beg to differ.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Something So Wrong...

Look at it through the link. That was just too annoying after a while to leave up.

Russian Challenges to Western Europe

The article says 'The West', but, frankly, it's all about Western Europe and the EU, not the whole West. NorAm and Latin America are hardly included here.

A Disturbing Thought: Homo and Lystrasaurus

As I've said here, I have been working my way through the books I have about the Late Permian and the PT Event. I have been gathering notes, digesting - again - what they mean, and doing a mostly poor job of organizing them. There's a lot to do and a lot to think about. However, somewhere along the way I had a very striking and a very disturbing thought.

Is Homo the modern equivalent of Lystrasaurus?

Lystrasaurus was a critter that survived the PT Event. In fact, it became ubiquituous and ranged across all the continents from Antarctica to Siberia. There hasn't ever been a critter that survived as well as our friends here until we came. It was herbivorous and about, iirc, two meters long. Benton called it the 'pig' of the PT Event, but it was a generalist and could eat about least anything in the foliage department. It is normally referred to as one of a few disaster taxa: animals or plants that bloom across areas that have suffered through a mass extinction and exploit the situation. When digging through the early Triassic to find fossils, Lystrasaurus is ubercommon and the paleontologists at least in books are unhappy to find it. Thousands of them, frex, have been found in the Karoo in South Africa - one of the two places that I know of to get good Permian vertebrate fossils from the time period in question.

Now look to us. All our competitors are gone, just like Lystrasaurus. We range all over the planet, yet another parallel. We can eat damned near anything, even better than our friend Lyssie. When the time comes, and we're long gone as a species, what will the paleontologists of 250 million + years think? Were we the great world straddlers that we think we are? Or are we just the mammalian equivalent of Lystrasaurus? Will the future paleontologists bemoan yet another Homo fossil?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Global Warming to Cause Mass Extinctions?

Global warming over the coming century could mean a return of temperatures last seen in the age of the dinosaur and lead to the extinction of up to half of all species, a scientist said on Thursday.

Not only will carbon dioxide levels be at the highest levels for 24 million years, but global average temperatures will be higher than for up to 10 million years, said Chris Thomas of the University of York.

Between 10 and 99 percent of species will be faced with atmospheric conditions that last existed before they evolved, and as a result from 10-50 percent of them could disappear.

Towers that are to be Built with the Freedom Tower

Another Interesting Site

More comments later. I really need to get downstairs. KVM switch rewiring is calling my name.

An Interesting Site

Comments later. I have to go work downstairs in the computer room.


I am nerdier than 83% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Backpacking Photos Three of Three

Backpacking Photos Two of Three

Backpacking Photos One of Three

More Videos in General

Have a look.

Two of Lyuda and Avrora at Wildcat Beach.

Special Video Just for Vicki


Avrora loves her gifts, Vicki! Thank you, Mrs Blondage!!!

2006 Mexican Presidential Elections by State

I do believe that I have a useful guide to the equivalent of Blue State - Red State in a Greater USA for what would-be the former Mexico now for that 2050s scenario.

I am glad that the Mexicans have sorted out their Y2K election equivalent goofiness.

I blame James Nicoll

As the Earth warms, greenhouse gases once stuck in the long-frozen soil are bubbling into the atmosphere in much larger amounts than previously anticipated, according to a study in Thursday's journal Nature.

Methane trapped in a special type of permafrost is bubbling up at a rate five times faster than originally measured, the journal said.

Scientists are fretting about a global warming vicious cycle that had not been part of their already gloomy climate forecasts: Warming already under way thaws permafrost, soil that had been continuously frozen for thousands of years.

Thawed permafrost releases methane and carbon dioxide. Those gases reach the atmosphere and help trap heat on Earth in the greenhouse effect. The trapped heat thaws more permafrost, and so on.

"The higher the temperature gets, the more permafrost we melt, the more tendency it is to become a more vicious cycle," said Chris Field, director of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "That's the thing that is scary about this whole thing. There are lots of mechanisms that tend to be self-perpetuating and relatively few that tends to shut it off."

The effect reported in Nature is seen mostly in Siberia, but also elsewhere, in a type of carbon-rich permafrost, flash frozen about 40,000 years ago. A new more accurate measuring technique was used on the bubbling methane, which is 23 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than the more prevalent carbon dioxide.

I first heard about this via James Nicoll. That should have been a warning sign. James is noted for his harrowing tales of near death experiences that his family has had and yet still survives long enough to reproduce. I have no doubt now, that this is almost certainly going to be worse than even James thought it might be simply because James noted it first in my light cone. This means we're all screwed. Except James' gene line. 500 million years from now, his will be still around. Even if we have another PT level event or two.

NMSU gets into it over Pluto's Planet Status

Friends and colleagues of the late Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto, had this to say Friday about the International Astronomical Union's decision to reclassify Pluto as a "dwarf planet": Don't rewrite the textbooks yet.

"Why not? Because the debate is not over," New Mexico State University astronomer Bernie McNamara told a high-spirited group of Pluto supporters outside the university's Zuhl Library.
From my alma mater.


"The International Astronomical Union membership in attendance at a meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, has voted upon and approved a definition of the term 'planet' that excludes Pluto from a position it has held since its discovery 76 years ago, in 1930. This new planet definition excludes Pluto from the family of significant planets because Pluto has not 'swept clean' its portion of the solar system, though Pluto does meet other definition criteria by orbiting the sun and by being massive enough to overcome its own material strength and gravitationally pull itself into a spherical shape.

"This reclassification of Pluto as a 'dwarf planet' does not in any way change the physical aspects of Pluto. More importantly, this reclassification does not minimize the tremendous astronomical work that Clyde Tombaugh and his Lowell Observatory colleagues conducted leading up the 1930 discovery. In fact, this reclassification indicates how 'ahead of its time' Pluto's initial detection actually was. A greater than 60-year time interval was required for another Pluto-like object to be detected in that distant realm of our solar system, and it was 73 years before a comparable sized object was discovered, using technology that was greatly enhanced over that available in 1930.

"The NMSU Department of Astronomy is and always will be proud of its history with Clyde Tombaugh, and his family, and will always hold his accomplishments in the highest esteem. Long live Pluto and its sibling 'dwarf planets'!"

From Pluto Today. (I couldn't find it at NMSU's webpages).

Jane's Comments on the Sino-Russian Relations

Since Russian President Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999, Russia has increasingly gravitated towards China. The formation of initiatives such as the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation in June 2001, with Russia and China as key players, underlined the desire to develop close bilateral and regional ties. Despite a short period of Russian rapprochement with the US following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks, a cooling of the Russian-Western relationship followed on from the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the perceived Western influence in the 'coloured revolutions' in Georgia and Ukraine.

However, the situation is much more complicated as a result of internal influences on Russia's position. A particular cause for concern is the level of Chinese immigration, principally into the Russian Far East and Siberia. The Russian population in these regions has fallen by some 18 per cent since 1990 and is being gradually replaced by Chinese migrants. It is estimated there are already more than a million Chinese living in Russia's Far East, making the region's economy massively dependent on their labour.

I really wish that Jane's wasn't so expensive...:(

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Meme

1. your name and why your parents picked it

William Patrick Baird. I was named after my grandfather, but William is a standing first son name for the Bairds for a while. We just mix up the middle name as to not make the boys into goofy numerals. We'll see if I get to continue the tradition with my wife. Ukrainians think its bad luck or karma or something to name your children after a relative. Yes, despite the ptronymic goofiness.

2. your ancestry

European. Probably. Actually verifiably: 1/4 German and 1/4 Italian. The rest is debateable in their percentages, but Scotish, Irish, and English are the predominants, but with pinches of French and suspicions of others. Baird is Scottish and brought over by the exiled Captian John Baird Sr who was an obnoxious Covenanter. He was captured and exiled to East Jersey. We've been here a looooong time. We've seen it ALL.

3. one country/place you have semi-definite (or definite) plans of visiting someday


4. one thing you dislike about people (in general)


5. one thing you like about people


6. your ideal profession

trillionaire renaissance man. I'd like to mess around with genetic engineering, rockets, paleontology, architecture, HPC, and a lot more in a single life time.

7. favorite song lyric or quotation (or something along those lines)

The Secret is to Know When to Stop Remebering.

8. one kind of food that you could eat every day for a month and not hate it

steamed artichokes are tied with chile derived foods.

9. one teacher or professor that you've had who has affected your life (be it in a good way or a bad way)

Karl(?) Max. A bio teacher in HS. He helped get me the job at LANL while a student in HS. It ahs made all the difference in the world in my career.

10. age you expect to grow up by

31. I can even name the day: February 28th, 2005. Avrora's birthday. It was pretty profound for me the day that my lil girl was born.

Fossils Hint at Chaotic Recovery from KT Event

Plant and insect biodiversity is strongly linked today: Where there are many types of plants, there are many insects to eat them. But after the mass extinction, the devastated plant and insect populations might not have been so in sync, according to a new study.

"The recovery from a mass extinction was more interesting and chaotic than we thought," said study leader Peter Wilf, a paleontologist at Pennsylvania State University.


The demise of the dinosaurs after this event, known as the K-T extinction, later brought about a restructuring of the animal world and the rise of mammals. But it initially marked the end of the biologically rich Cretaceous period and the beginning of the more anemic Paleocene epoch. Most Paleocene fossil sites show both low numbers of plants and insects.

But scientists have discovered two sites in the western United States that show remarkable biodiversity—one in plants, and one in insects. Paleontologists looked at leaf fossils for signs of the bite marks left by different species of insects.

At one site, near Denver, the fossils showed that "the plant diversity was really high—like a modern rainforest," Wilf said. "It was a big shock."


But what really surprised paleontologists were the fossils at another site in Mexican Hat, Montana that showed just the opposite relationship. The leaf fossils found there were more typical of those discovered at other Paleocene sites. But the insect bites left on them indicated a teeming insect population. [Image]

Wilf and his team haven't found any other sites that show evidence of such a robust insect population. "We don't know where [the insects] went or where they came from," he said.

Wilf believes these unusual fossil records show biodiversity recovery is more interesting than previously thought.

Definitely makes sense in a way. Survivors take time to spread and diversify.

Prepping for the PT Event

I'm gathering notes and rereading the books I have on the Permian Extinction. I am going to go about this differently than the other extinctions I've written short articles on. I am actually going to describe a bit the Permian ecology just prior to the extinction, what was lost, the evidence, the events themselves, and the aftermath. This extinction is a very important one that fewer people know about than the death of the dinos at the KT boundary. In fact, it is probably more important than the extinction of the dinosaurs, as much as that's unbelievable to most people. If I can get enough input from the right people, I'd love to do a WI post of what the world would have looked like if the Permian Extinctions hadn't happened. Everything will be cited. That way I can avoid some of the hairiness that happened before when I ventured into blogging about the Permian. :)

We'll see if I can get some people to discuss the critters of the end Permian here to do some extrapolations. If not, I'll post to SHWI, but I don't think that will work so well. Biological WIs are not as well recieved. or at least discussed.

Next Books to Read

There are number for the house that I am having to order. They're spendy and I've not wanted to buy them before because of that. However, I need them now. They are not the only ones I am getting, but they make up the vast majority of the cost.

For the House:

Architectural Working Drawings by Ralph W. Liebing.

Working Drawing Manual by Fred A. Stitt.

Fundamentals of Building Construction: Materials and Methods by Edward Allen and Joseph Iano.

Foundation Design: Principles and Practices by Donald P. Coduto.

Structural Analysis by Russell C. Hibbeler.

For Fun:

The Horned Dinosaurs by Peter Dodson.

Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy.

Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? by David Raupp.

First Person by Vladimir Putin (yep, that one).

Frozen Earth: The Once and Future Story of Ice Ages by Douglas Macdougall.

In Search of the Mayan Sea Traders by Heather McKillop.

The amusing part - or distressing one - is that the fun reading costs 1/5th that of the cost of the house books. *sighs* Who said building a house is ever cheap though?

Interestingly, I actually put a finger just how much of a difference being married and having a kidda makes in my reading habits. After I moved to the Bay Area, I was reading about 120 to 150 pages per day, average. I read on the BART to and from work. I read while I was on an exercise bike (90 minutes/day). I read for about an hour besides that too. Often when cooking. Now I read about 20 pages per day and I drive to and from work (time is more critical now and mass transit is more expensive than gas for the distances involved). La Kidda and my wife need more attention than I had to give out before, reading suffers. Occasionally, Lyuda takes pity on me and lets me read for a few hours as a break while she takes Avrora out to do something, but not too often. She's under pressure too for her time with homework and trying to get to the YMCA to work out.