Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

We're doin' it our favorite way. Dick Clark on TV with the sound off, the KCSM New Year's special on the stereo and the cats for entertainment.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Xmas. War is hopefully almost over

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, sung by 11-year-old Gayla Peevey in 1953.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

World's smallest aquarium

MIT has created a planktonic ecosystem on a microscope slide. They're using it to study the carbon cycle in the oceans and they wanted to focus on plankton without all the other creatures getting in the way. It's the perfect new conversation piece for our downsized economy!

Photo credit: Donna Coveney

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why we are here

Via Palaeoblog there's an interesting paper by a father and son research team out of Finland that considers why life arose. Not why-because-God-was-bored why, but why an assemblage of chemicals on an infant planet became flora and fauna.

The reason is due to entropy. In this case, the entropy being the reduction of energy differences between chemicals on early Earth. It's like when you put a hot object next to a cold object. The hot object warms the cold one, and the cold object cools the warm one until they're the same temperature. Since the sun and the Earth's core were (and are) pumping energy into the system, the reactions between chemicals and the chemicals themselves got steadily more complex until they fit our definition of life. Physorg gives a more thorough description here.

Creationists will go nuts over this because they make two points. One is that life is ultimately a series of reactions that can be described by thermodynamics.  The other is that life didn't arise by an event. It became what we describe as life gradually by simple reactions growing in complexity.

In a nutshell, we're here because life was brewed. Like beer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can we haz January yet?

Now that the election is over, I don't have as much to get riled over, so I'll have to find something else to blog about. Of course, our economy's collapsing due mostly to Republican policies, so if I lose my job, that should give me fodder. I'm not in imminent danger of that. Yet.

So, pretty much like everybody else, I'm taking care of holiday business and trying not to spend too much and looking forward to this season's big day, January 20th. I scheduled the day off and will be watching the inaugural on TV. Most likely saying "buhbye dickhead," over and over, louder with each drink. And I will drink.

Uhh, Laura?
41 more days.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Belmont blogging

funny pictures of cats with captions
We're here at Lee J's parents again for Thanksgiving and I brought the laptop with me so I've done a ton of web-surfing and caught up on a lot of the blogs I haven't been to lately. It took us a bit to find the password for the wireless, but Beverly, my mother-in-law called tech and got it.

Turkey Day had the traditional dinner which was great as usual and I stopped eating before I reached the pain threshold. I pigged out on Halloween candy, though.

One of their cats went missing about a month ago while their house was being remodeled and the other on disappeared earlier this week. Wednesday night I heard scratching and yowling that sounded like it was above so I suggested we open the hatches to the attic so she could come down that night. A little after midnight I was awakened again by scratching and yowling and I thought the cat might have been stuck in the wall. Then it occurred to me that the sound was coming from the chest of drawers that they had put back in the room after the painters finished. I switched on the light and sure enough, I opened the drawer and out jumped the cat. It took off straight for the litter box. Our cats would have crapped in the drawers.

I wanted to start on the Expectorator, but I forgot most of the files I need. Typical.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Via Carl Zimmer, there's this new genetic study of a photosynthetic sea slug. It's taken the symbiotic algae technique a step further and incorporated photosynthetic ability into it's own DNA. The lead researcher has given it its own website.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Like beaten spouses

Do you have ANY idea  how much you piss me off??
Senate Democrats let turncoat Joe Lieberman keep his Committee chair today. Harry "thank you sir, may I please have another" Reid (D-Spineless) said, "we're looking forward, we're not looking back." We donated, volunteered and voted these dickheads into office and this is the thanks we get.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Kind people

Via kos, list of potheads abound. Pot smokers are successful and have lots of friends. Rich and famous friends, in fact. It's time to stand up for ourselves.

Earworm for ya

For some reason, Poinciana has been stuck in in my head lately. Now it's your turn. From the original poster:
Jazz piano legend Ahmad Jamal performing in 2005, in a set of mostly originals, accompanied by drums legend Idris Muhammad and James Cammack on bass.
Life is returning to normal after the election. I finally cut the grass, sorted some files on the computer, put all the Halloween stuff away and vacuumed the upstairs. Well, the Roomba did, anyway.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Did

Epic win
Last night, at some friends' house, we watched our first black President-elect give a call to a new nation. The long horror of the Bush administration will end soon. The country has repudiated conservative ideology. We are not a conservative country and never were. The slumbering electorate, long content to be led by simpleminded dogma, has awakened to the need for thought again.

The glass isn't full. The passage of Prop. 8 is a big turd floating in the punchbowl. The gains in Congress were less than I had hoped. Scumbags like Michelle Bachmann and Mitch McConnell retained their seats. But, for the second election in a row, we won. The left is energized, organized and on offense again. This is our moment. This is our time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween post-game

The cave in the garage went better than I thought it would. I managed to get it all set up by about 3:30, so I could catch my breath before any kids showed up. It rained on and off through the day and I thought wouldn't get anybody to show up, but we had a fair amount of family groups come by for a couple of hours.

The kids, even the older ones, were hesitant to come in, so I guess it looked pretty spooky. I could never get my mask on and hood up in time when we say them coming down the driveway, so I could only jump up and scare a few of them but I got a lot of 'em with Zombie Nixon.

It was fun. I'm going to try this again next year.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

This is a hurried and blurry photo of the Skeletal Protester character for this year's Halloween display. The body is a cheap Bucky skeleton with a glowing head and hands. The sign says "On all the important issues of our day, I have been totally in agreement and support of President Bush," which is what McCain said on Meet the Press in 2005. With it is a photo of McCain hugging Bush in 2004.

I had to put it on the front step to keep it out of the fucking rain. We're supposed to have rain tonight through Sunday. It couldn't have waited two more days?! I took tomorrow off to finish building my cave in the garage. Hopefully we'll get at least a couple of kids. I can't do anything in the garage until tomorrow because we park the cars in there so I'll be busy. The zombie Nixon is done though, and I should be able to finish before it gets dark. I'll keep the garage door closed as long as possible but I'll have to finish hanging the cobwebs from the ceiling when the door is open. If everything works ok, then I'll try to post a better picture.

5 days until the election! Don't forget to vote early if you are able to and haven't done so. I'll hit the phonebank over the weekend and maybe get out in the street for No on 8 if I can.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Upgrade city

This is my first post on my new Mac. I waited until the new MacBooks came out then decided to get a previous generation Pro on clearance. This upgrade was desperately needed and it feels good to be up to date again. Of course, now I have no excuse not to assemble a home network.Or at least I don't after the election.  Next spring, when the weather is nice I'll blog from the back yard. I love technology.

Funny or die

Ron Howard reunites with some old friends for Obama. When you've lost Andy Griffith, you've lost the country.

A look inside the right-wing mind

They want to smear Obama with his tenuous association with Bill Ayers yet Palin doesn't consider abortion clinic bombers terrorists. Palin and her supporters think killing people is just fine when it's done on their behalf.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cambrian conga line

A paper out last week describes a strange fossil. It's a group of small shrimplike creatures attached head to tail. Nobody knows what they were doing 500 million years ago, but it must have been important for them to hold on to each other as they were buried in sediment. Feeding has been ruled out since that would have been nasty for all but the first one. Mating? Maybe it was a wedding that got out of hand.

Catalogue of Organisms, HMNH and Pharyngula have more insight into this mystery.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How to filet a wingnut

A good example of why we love Rachel Maddow.  Oily slimeball David Frum tries to draw Rachel into a Crossfire-style shouting match, and she pins him down and nails him to the wall. Tristero at Digby's house and HTML Mencken at Sadly, No! love her, too.

McCain: Pallin' with terrorists

2  2  = 5
The Huffington Post has a live one: William Timmons, the lobbyist heading up John McCain's transition team, lobbied for Saddam Hussein. It's a long post, but read the whole thing anyway. Two guys working for Timmons were convicted of acting as unregistered agents for Saddam, and Timmons bragged that his ideas led to the disastrous oil-for-food program. MCain want's to bring up Obama's associations in the debate tomorrow. We can only hope.

2 votes in the bag for Obama

Lee J and I filled out and mailed in our absentee ballots. If you are voting absentee or are in a district where you can vote early, please do so! There is going to be a huge turnout for this election and the earlier we can get our ballots in the easier it will be for the election officials to count them. This will also give the Republicans less of an opportunity for messing with the process and making false claims of vote fraud.

A trained parrot

John Cleese defines Sarah Palin.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The mask is off

Republican voters are showing their true colors:

More examples of compassionate conservatism here, here, here, here, and here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Here's mud in your eye

The McCain campaign has decided that, since it can't win on the issues, it wants to drag Obama into the mud. This weekend, Sarah Palin pulled out the race card and tried to pin Obama to retired Weatherman Bill Ayers. They also plan to exhume the corpse of the Jeremiah Wright "scandal," even though they said they wouldn't. Fine. Let's play that game, shall we?

Since we're on the subject of past associations with supposed terrorists, what might we find? For starters, McCain doesn't think bombing abortion clinics is terrorism. He also hangs out with several convicted criminals, such as G. Gordon Liddy, Carl Lindner and Ollie North who've all supported terrorists. When Clinton was trying to warn everybody about Osama bin Laden, McCain didn't think bin Laden was such a bad guy. And, of course Todd Palin's membership in a party that seeks Alaska's violent secession from the US should also be in our tally.

When it comes to rubbing shoulders with religious crazies, Obama can't touch McCain or Palin. McCain's associations with bigoted and unstable preachers such as John Hagee and Rod Parsley is well-known as is Palin's pal, witch-hater Thomas Muthee.

Oh, and McCain's oft-told war hero story might be not what it's made out to be.

Since the economy is on everyone's mind, the Obama Campaign made a little documentary on McCain's role in the Keating Five scandal:

McCain was supposed to be contrite about that and called it one of his worst mistakes. Seems that he's apparently only sorry he got caught. McCain is right; his only way to victory is to distract voters from the collapse of the free-market economy that he championed. The only problem is, if he's going to resort to cheap smears, Obama is rubber and McCain is glue.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Winter wonderland

Nasa's Phoenix Lander has detected snow falling on Mars.

Mother of all geese


Dasornis, an enormous relative of geese lived 50 million years ago in southern England. It had a 17-foot wingspan and teeth-like structures on its beak. It soared over the waves much like an albatross. I wonder what the white meat tasted like.

Image courtesy of Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yet another reason to vote for Obama

Shhh!  John's taking a nap!
With John McCain growing more infantile by the minute, there is no shortage of reasons to vote against him. This makes us forget that there are just as many reasons to vote for Obama. Here's another one; 61 Nobel science laureates endorse him because he understands the importance of research.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

As if we didn't have enough to worry about

We're being tugged at by forces from outside the known universe. If the universe isn't big enough for you, cosmologists are talking about multiverses now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Birthday blogging

Today is my birthday so I took the day off from work, which made a nice 3-day weekend, except for the fact that all of the mammals that legally live here are under the weather. Lee J and I have colds, Chubba Bubba has a sinus infection and is sneezing on everything, and Doris has a swollen chin that she probably got fighting.

Other than that, it was a nice weekend. The weather was good, there was plenty of sports on the TV and the extra day let me relax before getting back to the phone bank and voter registration. Lee J had a cake made for me in the shape of my car (shown here) by Patty's Pastry Creations. She also got me a cell phone, so I'm part of the Borg, now. She also took me out to dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant, Jhanthong Banbua.

I got a gift card from my mom, money from my in-laws and the present I got for myself showed up on time. I spent the day like I've usually done in recent years by puttering about the house, surfing the net and napping, with a loud soundtrack of guitar rock, with Tool, Tantric, T Rex and Stereolab all conveniently located near each other on the CD shelf.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

California's propositions for 2008

Here's my two cents over the propositions on November's ballot.

Prop. 1A Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act. I've been on the bullet train from Paris to Lyon and it's amazing. Whisper-quiet at 250 mph. This would get people of the overstrained highways and airports. Good for the environment, too. Yes.

Prop. 2 Standards for Confining Farm Animals. Initiative Statute. I like meat, but there's no reason for my meat to live in misery. Yes.

Prop. 3 Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program. Initiative Statute. Single-payer health care is what we need, but this is a step. Yes.

Prop. 4 Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor’s Pregnancy. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Another cut at Roe v. Wade. No.

Prop. 5 Nonviolent Drug Offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Initiative Statute. People shouldn't be in jail at all for these offenses. Until people get common sense over drugs and legalize them, we can limit the effects of this witch-hunt mentality. Yes.

Prop. 6 Police and Law Enforcement Funding. Criminal Penalties and Laws. Initiative Statute. More lock-ups for kids? No.

Prop. 7 Renewable Energy Generation. Initiative Statute. Badly written and counterproductive. No.

Prop. 8 Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Deny gays the right to marry? Hell, no.

Prop. 9 Criminal Justice System. Victims’ Rights. Parole. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. More punishment and prison overcrowding. No.

Prop. 10 Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy. Bonds. Initiative Statute. Swift Boat funder and oilman T. Boone Pickens is behind this. That's snake oil you smell. No.

Prop. 11 Redistricting. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute. More election game-rigging by the Republicans. No.

Prop. 12 Veterans’ Bond Act of 2008. Extends benefits for veterans. Yes.

Take it for what you will. See you at the polls, bitches.

They're doing it again

Disaster is imminent.
As Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, put it Friday morning on the ABC program “Good Morning America,” the congressional leaders were told “that we’re literally maybe days away from a complete meltdown of our financial system, with all the implications here at home and globally.”
Mr. Schumer added, “History was sort of hanging over it, like this was a moment.”
When Mr. Schumer described the meeting as “somber,” Mr. Dodd cut in. “Somber doesn’t begin to justify the words,” he said. “We have never heard language like this.”

We're in trouble. But something about that meeting seems familiar... why do the words weapons of mass destruction and civil liberties keep popping into my head? As usual, Glenn Greenwald explains why:
What's most vital to underscore is that the beneficiaries of this week's extraordinary Government schemes aren't just the coincidental recipients of largesse due to some random stroke of good luck. The people on whose behalf these schemes are being implemented -- the true beneficiaries -- are the very same people who have been running and owning our Government -- both parties -- for decades, which is why they have been able to do what they've been doing without interference. They were able to gamble without limit because they control the Government, and now they're having others bear the brunt of their collapse for the same reason -- because the Government is largely run for their benefit.
We're being played again. Yes, this is a serious problem, but anything these people say is probably a lie. So how we deal with it is something we should be careful with. One way of being careful is making the choice between John McCain, who said this;

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
and Barack Obama, who said this:

First, there must be no blank check when American taxpayers are on the hook for this much money.
Second, taxpayers shouldn't be spending a dime to reward CEOs on Wall Street.
Third, taxpayers should be protected and should be able to recoup this investment.
Fourth, this plan has to help homeowners stay in their homes.
Fifth, this is a global crisis, and the United States must insist that other nations join us in helping secure the financial markets.
Sixth, we need to start putting in place the rules of the road I've been calling for for years to prevent this from ever happening again.
And finally, this plan can't just be a plan for Wall Street, it has to be a plan for Main Street.
Time for new management.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Monday, September 15, 2008


I had added air to my tires at work and was making good time when an insect of some sort flew under my helmet and got stuck. I had to tear my helmet off, which sent my glasses flying into the street. Fortunately, nobody drove over them but the sunglasses part is scratched and I have a throbbing bump on my forehead. Some guy pulled over and asked if I was ok and when I told him what happened, he laughed and drove off.

Today sucked.

The Great Gig In The Sky

Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright died today. This is from Wright and David Gilmour doing Arnold Layne from last year. Shine on.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Watcher of the skies

One thing that's great about YouTube is I can see videos of tours I never got to see live. This is Peter Gabriel-era Genesis from 1974. There are several versions of this tune from different tours and venues of varying quality.

Cool palaeo stuff

Laelaps has an article on an early whale discovered in Georgia. Georgia Southern University has a cool interactive view of the skeleton.

New research shows that dinosaurs were the underdogs of the Triassic, being somewhat outclassed by crurotarsans (crocodiles are surviving crurotarsans). Something happened and dinosaurs took over. Similarities to this election?

This article combines two of my favorite topics, evolution and beer! Though it's not palaeontology, research done on the evolution of yeast strains by breweries in Europe gets down to basics on the difference between ale and lager, and shows which breweries use which strain of yeast.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

McCain/Palin family values

Sarah Palin Pictures
John McCain covered up his wife's drug abuse to further his career. Palin charges rape victims for their own rape kits.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

The kind of guy McCain is

A bully, and an asshole. We can't afford another asshole President.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A neighborhood wedding

Two houses away from us live a pair of ladies, Kate and Anne. They're the kind of neighbors that everyone knows. They've been together for 27 years, and have lived in our neighborhood for most of that time. The kind of neighbors who take care of your pets when you're away, give great gardening tips, and will readily share their tools.

They got married on Saturday because they finally can. California has given gay people full marriage rights. Kate and Anne had the legal ceremony on Friday, at the courthouse. Their family, friends and many of us neighbors joined them in their back yard for the reception. It was a sweltering afternoon, but it was a joyous atmosphere with an undercurrent of pride; we were all proud to be a part of something good, to be on the right side of history.

It's hard for me to understand why conservatives want to stifle something positive like this. Where's the threat from two people love each other, who have already stood by each other for more than a quarter-century and want to commit forever after? I can now say from experience that gay marriage is not a threat to "traditional" marriage. Just the opposite. Lee J spent three nights assembling blow-bubble party favors for this wedding. On Saturday, I would look over at her proud to be married to a progressive, lucky to be with someone who loves love, and helps me do the same.

This is what happens when progressives drive policy. People in California are free to love, and are celebrated for loving rather than hated for it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A little Friday weirdness

An excerpt from Falling Rain Dance by Univers Zero. A Belgian avant-prog band with some heavy jazz influence.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Will there ever be coal forests again?

Probably not. That's the prediction over at The Dragon's Tales. It's a nice overview of the ecology of the Carboniferous Period. If you've ever wondered where our fossil fuels come from and whether any more is being made, check it out. In short, There just weren't enough creepy-crawlies to burrow through the coal forest detritus and eat it. Surprising, since the Carboniferous was the Golden Age of creepy-crawlies. Some of them were bigger than we are. The article is part of the Boneyard, the great monthly gathering of palaeontology posts. The latest one is at When Pigs Fly Returns.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Can this get any sillier?

I'll be your VP  but no kissing!
If you were out doing fun things or yard work this holiday weekend you may have missed one of the most entertaining news cycles of this campaign- the emerging absurdity of Sarah Palin. McCain's camp insists that she was thoroughly vetted before the decision was made, but vetting must have been done over beer and mooseburgers. So far we have learned that:

She has lawyered up over the abuse-of-power charge that we already knew about.

She was once a member of a fringe right-wing Alaska secessionist party and still might be sympathetic to their cause.

Palin positions herself a reformer who is against pork, like the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, but has been caught lying. She also was for earmarks before she was against them.

A lobbyist she hired as mayor of Wasilla has Abramoff connections.

As mayor of Wasilla, she wanted to ban books from the library and fired anybody who disagreed with her.

Since McCain is vocally against "527" political organizations, how will he reconcile the fact that Palin ran one for indicted senator Ted Stevens?

Her husband has a DUI from 1986.

To debunk rumors that her new baby was really her 17-year-old daughter's, Palin had to reveal said daughter is 5 months pregnant now, and will marry the father in a shotgun wedding this spring. The father, a self-described "fuckin' redneck," doesn't want kids.

This list is by nowhere near complete. I haven't touched on Palin's propensity to say stupid things and new revelations are coming faster than I can type. Stay tuned. It's great comedy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Something is happening

I had planned to spend Labor Day weekend finishing off the summer with barbecues and yard work but with taking down my reef aquarium and some short-notice volunteering it became pretty busy. I received an email from MoveOn asking if I could join the Obama campaign at our local Safeway and register voters. Since it's just around the corner from me, I signed up for a couple of hours. In a short time, I was running out of forms, needed a couple more clipboards and had people signing up three abreast. Young people, people who'd moved and people switching to Democrat wanted to be a part of history. I even registered a few Safeway employees who wanted their chance to vote for Obama.

On Sunday we attended the opening of the local Democratic party headquarters in downtown Santa Rosa. They had optimistically expected 100-150 people on a holiday weekend that usually means few people would stop by. Not this year. Well over 300 people showed up, overwhelming the office space and spilling out over the sidewalk. Buttons, bumperstickers and signs vanished as people waited in line to volunteer. Our local representative, Lynn Woolsey spoke and even though I was only 20 feet from her, I could barely see the top of her head through the crowd.

We're in an indigo-blue district, so I'd expect Democrats to be popular. But people can be complacent out here, with progressives winning regularly and with comfortable margins. There's a buzz this year, however, even more so than '06. Obama is deadlocked in the polls with McCain so far, but when I look at the trees instead of the forest, I see energy like never before. Something is happening in America.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Goodbye, aquarium

Sometimes you just have to face reality. My little piece of ocean had been in decline for several years and it was time to pull the plug. We moved here on a hot August day six years ago and even though I spent most of my time fussing over the tank while our friends carried our stuff in, it suffered from that day. Projects and maintenance on our new home took priority over the tank and critters died off one by one. I was really bummed when the clam died, because I'd grown to like that iridescent vulva. Last year I had a dinoflagellate bloom that killed a lot of things off. To get rid of the dinoflagellates I upped the alkalinity component which worked, albeit like chemotherapy. Since my snails were gone, algae grew like crazy. I still had a few determined zoanthids and disc anemones left and I didn't want to just throw them out so I put an ad on Craigslist and a woman from Danville took the live rock with them on it. Good luck to her.

I'm keeping the tank, lights and equipment in the hopes that maybe at a later date when I have the time it'll need I can restock it. Maybe I'll get a chiller and stock it with critters from the local coast. We'll see. I admit I feel kind of liberated right now.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A Female Dan Quayle

Sarah Palin? Are you kidding me? How desperate can he get? Biden will shred her. McCain just blew apart his own "experience" argument and if he stands next to her, he'll look even older than he already does. She's only been governor for two years and already has a scandal brewing.

DNC Day 4: "It's time for them to own their failure."

There's a new sheriff in town. Even Pat Buchanan knows it. This was what I was hoping for. If Rove thinks he can undercut this guy, he's dreaming.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DNC Day 3

Play the McCain POW POW POW Game: No matter what the question is, the answer is POW!

I didn't get home in time for Big Dog, but LeeJ watched it and said he gave a rousing endorsement. Kerry gave the speech he should've given in 2004. Biden gave a speech that literally had the crowd in tears and then on their feet. He just might be the attack dog the Democrats need.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

DNC Day 2

Hillary was terrific; gracious and funny. She made it clear to the PUMAS to get with the program. Warner was ok, but Schweitzer was hilarious. We may see more of him down the road.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bicycling across the ring plane

The rings of Saturn have to be one of the most bizarre and spectacular structures in the solar system. Like a vinyl record nearly 130,000 miles across, they were one of the first things Galileo discovered when he peered through his telescope.

I always wondered what this huge disc made of ice chunks looked like up close. Since I love to check in to the Cassini site to see the latest, if there's a new view I look at the scale, usually in miles per pixel to get an idea how big the structures are.

It's getting closer. This picture, cropped from here, is a little under a half-mile per pixel. I added the little bracket, 10 pixels wide, which is about the length of my daily commute. My guess is that these ridges would appear like low hills if I could float next to the ring plane.

Cassini is due to pass through the plane next week, and again in the spring. I hope we'll get ever closer views of this amazing object.

DNC Day 1

For what it's worth, we were glad to see the old lion, Ted Kennedy give one more call to arms. Jim Leach made some great points about the current Republican party if you can stand his droning style. Michelle Obama's speech made me wonder if we nominated the wrong Obama.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Vegetable garden update

We're finally enjoying the fruits of my labor. Literally. The tomatoes are ripening, with plenty of fresh basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary for pasta sauce, and the strawberries are producing again. The snow peas have died off and the lettuce has slowed down; I think it's too hot. I'll plant them again when the rain starts up again. Elsewhere at the Haus we're still buried with plums and peaches. I pickled some of the plums and I'm attempting to dry the peaches.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I'd love to have this problem

McCain is so rich (or so senile)  he doesn't even know how many houses he owns. McCain doesn't give a shit about us. It'll be  4 more years of neo-feudalism under McCain. But nothing he will ever do is wrong, because he was a POW! Check out more great video from Brave New Films.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Ella rocks Mack the Knife

I know it's much hipper to worship Billie Holiday, but I think Ella was the greatest female singer ever. She never fails to lift my mood and she swings like nobody's business. This is from 1965 and her fellas on this one are the Tommy Flanagan Trio, with Flanagan on piano, Billy Yancy on bass and Gus Johnson on drums.

Did McCain cheat?

I did not watch McCain and Obama on Rick Warren's special. We had a MoveOn council meeting and I wasn't expecting much anyway. Warren in just another televangelist huckster, he just soft-pedals the xenophobia that the rest of them wear like a badge. From what I heard, the crowd was ideologically inclined towards McCain, but Obama came across to them as somebody who believes in his principles. With luck, Obama might have deflated the myth that he's a closet muslim.

Two stories are worth noting though. One, that since Obama went on first, McCain was kept in a "cone of silence" so he wouldn't have an advantage, has turned out to be false. He was en route and surrounded by blackberry-toting assistants. He was not proven to have heard Obama's replies, but he easily could have, contradicting the claim.

The other is that McCain's "cross in the dirt" answer to Warren's faith question appears to be plagiarized from Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. McCain has built a mythology around himself that would never stand up to the scrutiny he would get if he was a Democrat.

Oh, and I almost forgot, McCain thinks people who earn $4.99 million per year are middle class.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Valleys of Enceladus

Cassini made its closest flyby of Saturn's mysterious ice moon Enceladus on Tuesday, snapping pictures as it whizzed by at 40,000 mph. The valleys are cracks in the ice that covers the small moon. Scientists believe the cracks are caused by liquid water under the ice.

This flyby showed that the jets of water vapor that Cassini discovered emerge from these cracks.

This picture was taken 545 miles above the surface with a resolution of about 20 feet per pixel. The lumpy objects all over the hills are said to be house-sized ice boulders, but I dunno. From this angle they look like trees dotting an arid, mountainous terrain. Every answer begets new questions.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

RIP Robert Rice

A former neighbor of ours, Robert Rice, died August 2nd at the age of 71. He was an accomplished artist who led an unconventional life. We knew him as a sweet and funny guy who always had a story to tell. We have one of his originals hanging in our hallway. There'll be a celebration of his life on Sept. 20. Email his widow, Joan at if you want to go.

What's up with Pat Wiggins?

The state senator from my district, Pat Wiggins, has been acting strange lately. She can be heard off-camera a ways into the video saying, "I think it's bullshit." Her term does not come up for a couple more years, but this needs to be looked into.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My street will be a bike boulevard

We went to a public meeting last night where the city department of public works aired a proposal to turn Humboldt street into a bicycle boulevard. Since I live on Humboldt and ride the entire length on my way to work every day, this is tailor-made for me. When we first got the meeting notice, I was a bit alarmed at the "boulevard" part thinking they were going to widen the street and cut down all the stately trees. Not to worry. It just means adding signage and a couple of roundabouts.

Roundabouts are way better than stop signs. Other improvements will be bike boxes, which give bicycles the right of way over cars at intersections, bulbouts to shorten crosswalks by schools and bioswales to improve drainage and clean water going into stormdrains.

The meeting had a lot of people and a lot of comments. There were the usual grumpy old men complaining about "young people" ignoring traffic laws and people complaining about crazy drivers. Outside of that, it looks like it'll be a positive development. This is what happens when progressives have a governing majority: common-sense solutions that make a city better.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

McCain to wife: show 'em your tits!

John McCain was at the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally yesterday and told the crowd that he encouraged his wife, Cindy to compete in the Miss Buffalo Chip contest. No skin, no win!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A trip to the fair

LeeJ and I went to the Sonoma county fair on Saturday for our 11th wedding anniversary. We didn't go on any rides but we ate a lot of junk, looked at a lot of arts and crafts and I won her some Mardi Gras beads by hitting a balloon with a dart. Our first stop was the Hall of Stuff. That's where people sell all kinds of miracle things that you see on late-night infomercials. LeeJ got an EZBun for her hair, a directional nozzle for the sink, a glow-in-the dark pendant showing the phase of the moon on the day she was born, and some moisturizer. She also got her horoscope read. I got some ratchet clippers because I can never find them at the hardware store.

We also stopped by the Democratic party booth. They were doing a brisk business selling Obama '08 stuff. I got the last white t-shirt they had in extra large, two buttons and a bumper sticker. LeeJ got four buttons. The Republican booth had three guys twiddling their thumbs. I strolled back and forth between the two booths while LeeJ was entertained by sales pitches, and it was still the same; the Democrats were selling merchandise like crazy while the Republicans were ignored.

The polls show McCain closing in on Obama now that Karl Rove and his acolytes have taken over McCain's campaign, but the enthusiasm gap is clearly visible out on the street. I live in a pretty Democratic district, but it's different this year. People want to be a part of history.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Remember the anthrax attacks?

Right after 9-11? They killed a couple of people and probably scared us more than 9-11 did. The current suspect killed himself this week. The media breathlessly claimed that the anthrax used was traceable to Saddam Hussein. Much more quietly, that was proven false and the anthrax was shown to have come from a U. S. facility. The FBI originally accused another guy of it and ended up having to pay him $6 million. We didn't hear much after that. Glenn Greenwald goes into depth on this. There are still a lot of questions.

Cool Astronomy Stuff

Lots of interesting discoveries lately:

Phoenix has hit paydirt on Mars. It was sent there to look for water ice and that's what it found.

A lake of liquid ethane was found on Titan. That makes Titan the only other body besides Earth to have a surface liquid.

Scientists have figured out what the first star looked like. Centauri Dreams speculates what that means for civilizations besides our own.

Cheap, clean power storage

This is huge. This, along with new advances in panels, will make solar power much more viable. I'm still on the grid because storing the electricity from my panels would require a huge, toxic, expensive battery and adding more panels. Being able to store my electricity would make me independent of PG&E. No more blackouts, cost run-ups or terrorism threats.

Obama's answer

We know who the adult is in this race.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

All Blues

One of the greatest jazz tunes ever. Miles Davis with the second quartet. This is from the Steve Allen Show in 1964. Burt Lancaster is hanging out on the set. The quality is not so good, but it shows this quartet at the height of its powers. Watch Ron Carter's fingers fly over the bass.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

McCain has found his Veep

John McCain put out a new ad comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. The truth is, when you look at Britney's political views, she agrees with him; you should support the President. Since none of the other Republicans would be a good fit for him, he should pick Britney! She's young, photogenic and needs a job.

On a more serious note, this ad is part of an increasingly vicious update of Nixon's Southern Strategy. Presumptuous is the new uppity. Karl Rove is hard at work.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Are we Presidential yet? Final score

Obama over McCain 200,000+ to 6. Obama speaks to a throng of people in Berlin, McCain speaks to a half-dozen businessmen in front of a "Fudge Haus."

In France, Obama acquires a new fan in French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is a conservative and should be stumping for McCain.

They love Obama in England, too.

McCain shows himself to be a sore loser by whining for attention, trying to steal Obama's plays, and making shit up.

That was supposed to be an away series for Obama and he swept. Next up? The economy, stupid. This should be good.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Are we looking Presidential yet?

I did it my way....
I was going to wait until Obama's world tour was over to blog about it but there's just too much juicy stuff happening. It's already clear that this trip has been an unmitigated disaster for... John McCain. Earlier this spring McCain had belittled Obama for not going to Iraq and Afghanistan to see for himself the conditions there. So Obama went.

Obama first landed in Afghanistan, where he met with Hamid Karzai and stated that more troops were needed there to combat the resurgent Taliban. McCain, on the other hand, thinks Iraq borders Afghanistan, and didn't get the memo that Czechoslovakia is no longer a country.

In Iraq, Obama met with Maliki, who agreed with Obama that 16 months would be a good timeline for the troops to leave, deftly puncturing one of McCain's main assertions, the famous Hundred Years.

Then Obama went to Israel and met with both the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders, meanwhile, stateside, a new poll has him more popular among Jews than Joe Lieberman.

Obama now heads over to Germany where a projected million people are expected to hear him speak. Then on to France and England, where he is also wildly popular. It will take a long time to repair the damage Bush has done to America's image abroad, but if this is any indication, electing Obama will get us off to a running start.

At the same time, John "Offshore Drilling Now!" McCain had to cancel an appearance on a Gulf oil rig due to an approaching hurricane and since all the press is on Obama's plane anyway, canceled his famous press availability. McCain needs a vacation.

God I hope no one smells that....

Supporting the troops

If you want to see how well our government treats soldiers injured in combat, look here. This is why calling oneself a patriot rings hollow for me. A real patriot wouldn't allow this to happen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Use me while you can

I just had to include some live stuff by Bruce Cockburn. He's my favorite songwriter. He's also a terrific guitarist and a great live performer. This is off his Breakfast in New Orleans, Dinner in Timbuktu album. If you dig him as much as I do, check out the fan site over in the sidebar.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Family tree of cats

If you've ever wondered how closely related your cat is to the king of beasts, The World We Don't Live In has a post that shows the tree, and typical of cats, shows how much they've wandered during that evolution. An interesting fact is that mountain lions are very closely related to cheetahs. Also, lions are most closely related to jaguars. Ligers, which are hybrids of lions and tigers, are trippy-looking animals. I wonder what a lion-jaguar cross would look like. Or a tiger-snow leopard one.

If you have an interest in this sort of thing, check TWWDLI out. It's another one of my favorite paleo/bio/evo blogs.

Time 4 sum campaignin'

The latest from JibJab

Monday, July 14, 2008

The garden so far

The tomatoes are starting to fruit. I planted some more lettuce and cilantro. The basil I got is growing slowly but I can harvest from it now. I pick leaves of the lettuce for my workday lunch sandwiches. The peas are still producing, but not a lot. The shriveled potato I stuck in the ground is growing like crazy but I have no idea how or when I'm supposed to harvest it. I'm not using any fertilizer or pesticide other than snail bait.

It's not particularly impressive, but I'm learning.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Quit whining, losers

Yeah, I mean you. And me. And just about everyone I know. That's the message that Phil Gramm, John McCain's economic advisor has for all of us:
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

"We've never been more dominant; we've never had more natural advantages than we have today," he said. "We have benefited greatly" from the globalization of the economy in the last 30 years.

That's some straight talk, all right. McCain's economic policy in a nutshell- STFU and get back to work. My yacht needs a new GPS.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Total capitulation

Our 9% approval Congress killed the 4th amendment today. Just about everyone, including Clinton and Obama have blood on their hands. Good places to share the misery are here, here, and here. I'm going to stand in the hot sun for a couple of hours and try to get people to vote for Obama. The thing to remember is that, even though he let me down today, he's still much better than McCain. However, we still have a long way to go.

McCain jokes about killing Iranians...

...with cigarrettes. This, along with "bomb, bomb Iran" should give you an idea of what his foreign policy will be. He can't wait to get his hands on The Button.

McCain calls Social Security a disgrace

Of course he does. He'll never need it. All the poor people can go to hell.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A reminder

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
We'll be at the Chevron on the corner of Mendocino and College for MoveOn's Rally for an Oil-Free President tomorrow from 5-7 pm. We'll be waving signs and passing out flyers contrasting Obama's and McCain's positions on energy. It's supposed to be 104 degrees tomorrow so hopefully we won't pass out.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What a picture is worth

north poleThis story about global warming really brings home what is happening. The above picture was taken today at the North Pole. What's the big deal? There's open water. At the North Pole! This hasn't occurred since the Pliocene. The NOAA webcam is here. Tell your kids there'll be no more presents for Christmas, ever. Santa's workshop and all the elves are at the bottom of the ocean.

Friday, July 4, 2008

John McCain's lobbyist crew

Political Picture - John McCain & George W. Bush
A handy list from TPM.

July 4th liveblogging from Belmont

We're here at LeeJ's parents' house in Belmont for Independence Day. I had tickets from my boss to see the Giants play the Cubs (8-3 Giants) and drove south afterward to spend the 4th down here. We watched the parade in Redwood City in the morning. In my opinion, the first marching band, which was a local drum corps, whose name I forget, was the best. They played a funky, hip-hop-inflected beat with a lot of tommy-drum and cowbell action. We checked out LeeJ's brother's pad afterward and came back for the traditional backyard BBQ.

My in-laws are having the house painted and I had to connect their computer back together so I could blog this. Does this mean I have a problem? LeeJ thinks so. Fortunately, my in-laws don't mind me playing with their computer. One fun thing is that LeeJ's parents are also staunch liberals so political conversations are among kindred spirits. It's worth the cross communication because I get most of my politics via the blogosphere and they get theirs from TV and we can compare the two. The consesus is that libereals are kinder, smarter and just plain better than conservatives.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Drug policy is... Dude, what was the question?

We are a nation of stoners. 16.2% of us have tried cocaine, 42.4% have smoked weed. That's just the ones who admit it. By contrast, 1.9% of Dutch have used coke and 19.8 have smoked weed. That's from a country where marijuana is legal and is supposed to be like a permanent Dead show. Shows how well the War on Drugs has worked, hasn't it?

MoveOn action July 9

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures
Rally for an oil-free President. It'll be on the sidewalk in front of the Chevron at Mendocino and College from 5-7 pm. Bring your best sign and if you're driving by, honk if you hate gas prices!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Hypocritical whining from McCain

Wesley Clark goes on TV and makes a simple statement:
"I don’t think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."
An obvious truth. Of course, Republicans hate truth, so they throw a hissy fit. Obama gets nervous and disavows it. Republicans claim yet again that it's legal for them to lie about Kerry's military record but Democrats are not allowed to touch McCain's.

It looks like the Democrats are just going to let the GOP walk all over again for another election.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Time to get a MoveOn

LeeJ and I were at a MoveOn meeting last night and LeeJ signed up to head our local council for this election. That means we're going to be really busy for the next 5 months. That's okay. This is the most important election of my life and we're going to need all hands on deck if we want to pull this country out of the muck.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Try not to breathe too much

There are about 900 fires going on around us right now. Whenever that happens, the outside gets this weird apocalyptic look. The sky is grayish and the sun is a salmon-pink color. The paper said that exercising outdoors was not advised so I drove to work today. I needed to make a Costco run anyway. I don't think fire season has officially begun and we're already worse than last year. Last year was a bad year. As scary as this is, I'm still glad I don't live in the midwest.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's starting

Karl Rove on Obama:
Even if you never met him, you know this guy. He's the guy at the country club with the beautiful date, holding a martini and a cigarette that stands against the wall and makes snide comments about everyone who passes by.
Of course, the country clubs Rove hangs out at wouldn't let a guy with Obama's complexion in without a court order. Karl Rove is trying to paint Obama as a sarcastic elitist, yet he uses a country club metaphor. Sounds to me like Rove has had a fair amount of snide comments directed his way by kids who were cooler than he was, and he hasn't quite gotten over it.

Rest in fucking peace, George Carlin

This sucks. We really needed this guy.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Congressional Cowardice

Security Fail
Passage of the FISA Destruction Bill by Congress today was a total collapse of integrity by congressional Democrats. This bill, which will bury forever any knowledge of how far our government has gone to undermine our rights. The President has given himself the right to eavesdrop on anyone, without a warrant, for any reason purely because he wants to.

The Democratic Congress, who we spent hours on the phone for and donated money to, betrayed us. Nancy Pelosi let herself be steamrolled by Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel, then gave a mealy-mouthed defense. Barack Obama had a golden leadership opportunity pitched right down the center of the plate and didn't even swing.


The Democrats are still better than the Republicans, who are just plain crazy, but we have a lot dead weight to get rid of before we can turn this country back to the light.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

War Criminals

Lots of info lately on the authorization, nay, encouragement of torture by the Bush Administration. First, via Meteor Blades at Kos, the stunning report by Physicians for Human Rights called Broken Laws, Broken Lives: Medical Evidence of Torture by the US. This has accounts by the victims backed up by medical tests. The PHR is a  human-rights organization that shares the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and demonstrates that international standards for the treatment of prisoners were willfully broken by the White House and the Defense Department.

Another article from the Guardian via C&L depicts how Donald Rumsfeld overruled military lawyers who warned against using torture. C&L also writes that General Antonio Taguba, who investigated Abu Ghraib and was fired for doing his job to well, states that "there is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes."

Naturally, Congress's response to all of this is another toothless hearing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Out of the tunnel

Less than a month after graduating, LeeJ found a job. Starting Monday, she will be officially a paralegal. She's contracted for 5 months, which is perfect, because it will give her experience without locking her in long-term. Plus, it's close by so she doesn't have to spend all her money on gas.

More McCain goodies

I'm just going to link because I'm too lazy to write and these people say it better than I could.

DemFromCT at Kos writes about McCain on women's issues.
BarbinMD at Kos summarizes McCain's support for the troops.
McCain will be Bush 3 on Iraq.
MCCain wants a filibuster on raising the minimum wage.
McCain lets industry lobbyists shape his housing policy.

We want to be your one-stop shop on all things McCain!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Liveblogging from Modesto

We're at the Days Inn in Beautiful Downtown Modesto! I'm blogging naked on a motel bed! LeeJ says no pictures.

We spent the day at our friends Gretchen and Mike's for their son Cody's 3rd birthday. There was a backyard barbecue and a zillion little kids running around squirting each other. Getting hit by the occasional errant shot felt good actually because it was 100 degrees out. That's pretty temperate for Modesto.

We're watching The Stand on the room TV. Isn't this fascinating? OK I admit it. I'm doing this because I can.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Space case

Last night we went to a meeting of the Sonoma County Astronomical Society. We'd been to one back in October that was really interesting, with a talk given by an engineer for NASA who worked on the Hubble telescope. This time the speaker was Bernard Pietsch, who is a longtime member of the group.

I dunno. I thought it was a little too Da Vinci Code. The other people in the room seemed pretty skeptical as well. But LeeJ got a handmade replica of the Philosopher's Stone, although the way Pietsch described it was different than anything we had heard. Pietsch claims to be in possesion of the Stone, and said it explains the mysteries of the universe. So why hasn't he gotten us out of Iraq?

Justice wins for once

The recent Supreme Court decision to uphold habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees is a rare victory for our civil rights. The problem, of course is that it never should have been an issue. Also, it just barely passed with a 5-4 majority. Given the fact that the majority judges are all over 68 years old and the dissenters were under 60 except for Scalia at 72. The next President will most likely pick at least one new SCOTUS judge.

McCain and Obama are polar opposites in this regard. Obama supports it and McCain is against it. Also, to use a familiar lightning rod, McCain wants a judge who will overturn Roe v. Wade and Obama does not. For the future of this country we can't afford a McCain presidency.

P.S. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) hates our rights so much he wants to amend the Constitution to overturn this ruling.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Warren Harding was a negro!

That was a line shouted out by TV gasbag John Mclaughlin. We saw this excerpt on The Colbert Report. I cannot believe this is real. I can't find a video, otherwise I'd post it. It was on a recent segment on Obama's historic nomination and that he might be the first black President. McLaughlin denied it's historic and when asked why, that's when he said it. Apparently there were some rumors that Warren G. Harding had a black grandmother. I swear, conservatives are bonkers.

Monday, June 9, 2008

He wanted to be 25

Political Picture - John & Cindy McCain
By now everybody's getting familiar with Cindy McCain, the beer-heiress second wife of John McCain but what about his first wife? The Huffington Post points to a story about her in the venerable London tabloid, the Daily Mail. We have to go overseas to find news the media here will ignore.

"My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that just does."
Some of McCain’s acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to ‘play the field’. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons.

He first met Carol in the Fifties while he was at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis.He was a privileged, but rebellious scion of one of America’s most distinguished military dynasties – his father and grandfather were both admirals. But setting out to have a good time, the young McCain hung out with a group of young officers who called themselves the ‘Bad Bunch’. His primary interest was women and his conquests ranged from a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’ to a tobacco heiress.

I suppose everyone has their wild oats to sow. But I'm sure his experiences made him the straight-talking maverick he is today, right?

And yet despite his popularity as a politician, there are those who won’t forget his treatment of his first wife. Ted Sampley, who fought with US Special Forces in Vietnam and is now a leading campaigner for veterans’ rights, said: ‘I have been following John McCain’s career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is – deceit.

‘When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.
‘Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.
‘This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.’

Whew. Apparently she forgives him. But this old family friend hasn't:
But Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel – even by the standards of modern politics.
‘McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory,’ he said. ‘After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.’