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.