Monthly Archives: April 2006

Comfortably Numb


Your Theme Song is Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd


“There is no pain, you are receding.
A distant ship’s smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.”

You haven’t been feeling a lot lately, and you think that’s a good thing.
The comfortable part is nice… but you should really work on numb.

Tibet Tibet

Interesting synchronicity this week with Tibet. I picked up this used cd, Long Live Tibet, at the music store mostly because of the mesmerizing cover:

Long Live Tibet

Man, I love that photo of that girl. The album’s pretty good, featuring tracks for a number of artists; David Bowie, Pulp, Blur, Bjork, and Radiohead. Sort of a late ’90s hit parade.

This week the BBC chose to feature Tibet on their website too. An in depth look at the roof of the world and what’s going on up there. The photo essay on Tibetan nomads is well worth clicking through, but the real meat of the feature is a look at Tibet’s political future. China holds all the cards, and they are content to wait. The current Dalai Lama can’t live forever. When he eventually passes away China hopes that all this talk of a free Tibet collapses without his powerful presence and charisma to sustain it. After all, it seems so many are willing to kowtow to Beijing these days. Young Tibetans also sense a changing of the guard, perhaps from peaceful protests to violence.

What is inevitable is the political turmoil the Dalai Lama’s passing will create. China is certain to appoint their own successor, while the government in exile will likely choose their own. A similar event happened in 1995, when the Dalai Lama chose a Tibetan boy as the successor of the Panchen Lama. Chinese authorities selected another child, and the original boy disappeared, never to be seen again.

Some more links, to explore the issue further.

More Random Links

Just keep clearing those tabs Tom;

  1. Soviet era underground submarine base
  2. Sci Fi announces Battlestar Galactica spinoff, Caprica
  3. Russian rocket scrap litters the steppes
  4. Why does HAL sing “Bicycle Built for Two” in 2001?
  5. Excellent Fresh Air interview with Michael Pollan on food that I heard last week
  6. Snipe Gallery photo gallery software
  7. Procrastination explained – I am a perfectionist, not lazy
  8. TextMate is really, really cool
  9. ThinkFree Office, an online alternative to Microsoft Office
  10. 33 Wikis – a sample of wikis deployed across the web

…as funny as as a cat that gets really really scared and leaps straight up in the air like an explosion

Got this in an email today:

Why English Teachers Die Young

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here are last year’s winners…..

  1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.
  2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.
  3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.
  4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.
  5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.
  6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.
  7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.
  8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.
  9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.
  10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.
  11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.
  12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.
  13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.
  14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.
  15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.
  16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.
  17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.
  18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.
  19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.
  20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.
  21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.
  22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.
  23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.
  24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.
  25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Some of those sound made up, others too good to be true. But it make me chuckle.

Scattershot Links

Time for a random smattering of links as I clear some tabs off of Camino:

  1. Scientists penetrate fossil magma chamber beneath ocean crust – drilling more than a mile through the ocean floor, geologists drilled through volcanic rock to reach an ancient magma chamber beneath the ocean’s surface. Remember that movie The Core? I wonder if it was like that?
  2. A survey of open source applications for Mac OS XFink and DarwinPorts, more software than you can shake a stick at. And it’s all free.
  3. Vibramfivefingers – A bootie with toes, it’s supposed to fit the foot like a glove. Looks freaky deaky to me.
  4. US Navy obsolete in War on Terror – Another example of that old aphorism that the military always prepares to fight the last war. The world’s most powerful navy has nobody to fight.
  5. More evidence for Nemesis? – That’s Nemesis, the undiscovered companion star of our Sun. The chief proponent of this theory says that newly discovered Sedna orbits in resonance with previously published orbital data for this undiscovered star.
  6. Nile explorers relate their adventures – Rousing adventure tale on the National Geographic website. Wonder how long before it is featured on the National Geographic Channel?
  7. Citizen Cope – Been listening to this guy a lot lately. Once I get my iBook back from Marianas Electronics I think I’ll pay a visit to the iTunes Music Store.
  8. Itchy ‘N Scratchy – Yeah, I got jafjaf. That reminds me, I need to go take my prescription for this.
  9. Odd man out in a cut-throat world – Now there’s a bookstore I wouldn’t mind working in for a few years.
  10. Kryptos confounds sleuths – because of a typo – The mysterious sculpture Kryptos adorns an atrium on the grounds of the CIA in Langley, Virginia. For sixteen years it has stymied cryptographers attempting to decipher the code encrypted across the undulating surface. Turns out there’s a good reason why: the artist made a typo.
  11. Surprise! Bugs at airport blamed on Yingling – Boy, I didn’t see that coming from a mile off.
  12. Warcraft III – Been thinking about actually buying a video game. Of course, it’s three or four years old, but it still looks cool. And it’s cheap…
  13. Nepalis celebrate – Looks like the king caved in and recalled parliament after several years. Hopefully this calms the situation in Nepal.
  14. The English laugh at our low gasoline prices – They pay $8 a gallon in merry old England for petrol.
  15. CNMI mentioned in Alternet – a look at Jack Abramoff’s dealings with the Northern Marianas and guest workers.
  16. Gas prices spurring ‘moped madness’ – I must admit, I’ve been thinking about buying a motorcycle. The incredible mileage is hard to beat, but frankly it would suck to ride a bike on Guam in August.
  17. Apocalysts now – Finally, how about a screed against George W. Bush’s religious overtones? Nothing like scaring the atheists and riling up the devout.

A River No Longer Runs Through It

Dry RiverbedI read this interesting interview with author Fred Pearce yesterday and it really opened my eyes. Mr. Pearce released When the Rivers Run Dry this year, and I need to read this book. I’ve heard time and again how fresh water is becoming a scarce commodity, but I had no idea how bad it’s become. I knew the Colorado River was essentially used up by the thirsty Southwest, but I didn’t know the Rio Grande also runs dry 700 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. The litany of rivers sucked dry is frightening; the Indus in Pakistan, the Yellow River in China, and the Nile River in Egypt is a trickle when it reaches the Mediterranean. Water is a looming crisis, and it looks like another case of the Tragedy of the Commons.

Earth Week: Hope For The Future

Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School
One final thing with the Earth Week logo: There is hope for the future. It seems like the submersion of New Orleans really brought the idea of global warming to the forefront for many people. Coupled with the obscene rise in gasoline prices, a new sense of environmental urgency is appearing. In the 35 years since the first Earth Day, considerable strides have been taken in cleaning the air, water and protecting endangered species.

So let’s celebrate those eco-heroes with bright ideas and simple solutions for helping to reduce, reuse and recycle our natural resources and protect what’s left of the natural world.

Sure there is lots left to do, but the future does not look so bleak as I sometimes paint it. My brother Gary pointed out that my post on sustainable fisheries was a classic case of the Tragedy of the Commons, and he was absolutely correct. The idea is that unrestricted access to a natural resource ultimately dooms the resource because over-exploitation benefits the individual while the costs are distributed to the many.

Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit – in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons.

Aristotle noted this phenomena, it was obvious in English cow pastures in 1833 and it is still apparent today with the overfishing of the ocean. What is needed is government regulation and oversight of these commons. Enforceable laws and fines for those that abuse the common good are the only viable option for preserving what’s left and preventing a complete collapse. Perhaps people will spontaneously realize that protecting these natural resources is ultimately in their best interest, but millennia of human history indicate that we will rapaciously consume all available resources without some form of coercion or punishment to force us. Government regulation and coercion might be objectionable to the libertarian, but it is preferable to ruin and collapse.

The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, as authoritative a report on the condition of the planet as I could find on the internet, describes several scenarios that await the planet. Each seems possible, and none are particularly dystopian visions.

  • The Global Orchestration approach is defined as socially conscious globalization, one in which we emphasize equity, economic growth, and public goods, reacting to ecosystem problems when they reach critical stages.
  • Order from Strength represents a regionalized approach, in which our emphasis is on security and economic growth, again reacting to ecosystem problems only as they arise.
  • Adapting Mosaic is also a regionalized approach, but one that emphasizes proactive management of ecosystems, local adaptation, and flexible governance.
  • TechnoGarden is a globalized approach with an emphasis on green technology and a proactive approach to managing ecosystems.

I can’t say any of these possible futures looks like a utopia. Each has solutions and problems to our current crises in land, development and resources. I’d suggest those interested in these things read the Millennium Ecosystem Assessments, and perhaps take the time to explore EARTHscope, an interactive series of simulations developed by the Buckminster Fuller Institute.

April 26, 1986

1When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

2I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.

3Another angel came and stood over the altar, having a golden censer. Much incense was given to him, that he should add it to the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.

4The smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel’s hand.

5The angel took the censer, and he filled it with the fire of the altar, and threw it on the earth. There followed thunders, sounds, lightnings, and an earthquake.

6The seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.

7The first sounded, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and they were thrown to the earth. One third of the earth was burnt up, and one third of the trees were burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.

8The second angel sounded, and something like a great burning mountain was thrown into the sea. One third of the sea became blood,

9and one third of the living creatures which were in the sea died. One third of the ships were destroyed.

10 The third angel sounded, and a great star fell from the sky, burning like a torch, and it fell on one third of the rivers, and on the springs of the waters.

11The name of the star is called “Wormwood.” One third of the waters became wormwood. Many people died from the waters, because they were made bitter.

12The fourth angel sounded, and one third of the sun was struck, and one third of the moon, and one third of the stars; so that one third of them would be darkened, and the day wouldn’t shine for one third of it, and the night in the same way.

13I saw, and I heard an eagle, flying in mid heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe! Woe! Woe for those who dwell on the earth, because of the other voices of the trumpets of the three angels, who are yet to sound!”

Wet Mars? Not Recently

Speaking of Mars, there’s been some fascinating developments over the red planet. Looks like a mineralogical report release last week lays out the Martian geological history, and it is a dry and dusty story.

The Mars Express orbiter arrived in orbit around the red planet in late 2003, and mapped the planet’s surface in excruciating detail. The OMEGA instrument created mineral maps that suggest three distinct eras on Mars; an initial warm and wet period, a fiery volcanic interlude, and the long deep freeze that continues today.

The OMEGA team, led by Jean-Pierre Bibring of the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale in France, found about two dozen sites rich in clay minerals, which form in water and in conditions of low acidity. These sites are scattered around the planet in ancient craters and where an overlying layer of volcanic cover or wind-blown sand and dust has been removed.

That suggests the clays formed early in the planet’s history, says Bibring: “The clays may have been formed on a large scale but we only see them where they have been exposed by erosion, outflows, or impacts.”

The spectrometer also found sulphate minerals, such as gypsum and grey haematite, concentrated in a few places. These locations include Valles Marineris – the Red Planet’s “Grand Canyon” – and Meridiani, where NASA’s Opportunity rover landed and also found sulphate-rich rocks. Sulphates require water to form, but some detected by OMEGA must also have been created in acidic conditions.

Finally, OMEGA found minerals rich in ferric oxides that had not been altered by water. These minerals are found over most of the planet and are thought to be caused by the slow weathering of rocks through chemical interactions with the atmosphere.

This mineral evidence ties in with current thinking about the planet’s history. For the first 600 million years, Mars had a warm and wet atmosphere and large bodies of surface water, conditions ripe for the development of life.

Then the eon of supervolcanos began. Massive Olympus Mons and the Tharsis Bulge speak to the size and power of this volcanic era. The volcanism release huge amounts of sulphur into the atmosphere, creating sulphuric acid and covering the surface of Mars in sulphates that require acidic water to form. This lasted for approximately 500 million years.

Finally, the failing heat of the planet’s core shut down the volcanism and the internal dynamo that generated Mars’ magnetic field collapsed. The atmosphere, exposed to the solar wind, bled away into outer space like fog dissipating on a sunny morning. The loss of atmospheric pressure put Mars into a deep freeze, desiccating the planet’s surface for 3.5 billion years.

Scientists are most interested in those early clay layers which formed during the wet and warm period. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will probably focus its big cameras on those regions, looking for evidence of the planet’s brief springtime and the possibility of life.

If liquid water still exists, it lies beneath the ice just like those lakes in Antarctica. The surface of Mars is an inhospitable, dry frozen wasteland, bathed in solar radiation.

Rivers Flow Beneath Antarctic Ice

A British team of scientists revealed an interesting hypothesis this week. Scientists at the Natural Environmental Research Council and the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling announced the discovery of massive rivers of liquid water buried deep beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. The rivers run beneath the various lakes that are known to exist under the ice on the frozen continent.

The rivers are ephemeral subglacial phenomena, briefly existing when conditions are right. The lakes exist because of the intense pressure generated by the weight of miles of ice. Occasionally the pressure becomes too much, and the lake pops like a champagne cork, unleashing a flow of water to the next lake which can run for several hundred miles.

The evidence for this discovery is compelling. Between 1996 and 1998, the ice above one subglacial lake on Dome C in eastern Antarctica fell three meters in 16 months, a drastic change that normally would take decades. At the same time in two neighboring areas 290 kilometers away, also above lakes, the ice rose by over a meter.

The only explanation the scientists could find to explain this change was that the water suddenly rushed out of one lake and ran beneath the ice sheet to the neighboring lakes.

The lake that lost the water is 600 square kilometers, about the size of Lake Tahoe. The researchers calculated that the flow of water was probably comparable to a major river, specifically the Thames in England.

It is possible some of these subglacial floods even burst forth upon the surface and reached the ocean in the past. Ice free areas of Antarctica show evidence of past floods, deep trenches carved into the rock by moving water. These floods could be the source.

This sounds a lot like what could be happening on Mars. There are certainly signs of past Martian floods, and hints of massive ice packs buried beneath a layer of dust. I wonder if liquid water could be flowing beneath the ice on the red planet as well?

Avian Flu Coming To Guam?

So I got into a discussion last night about bird flu. The topic was sparked by yesterday’s conference about island pandemic preparedness that featured the Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Richard Carmona.

The basic gist of it was how Guam is a migratory stop off for Asiatic birds. The transiting birds, infected with avian flu, pass it along to the myriad feral chickens on the island. Those chickens in turn pass it to the scores of fighting gamecocks ensconced around the island. The rooster handlers live in close proximity to the birds and the jump to humans will occur there, with 100% fatality.

Huh. That’s an interesting chain of events. Can’t say I’ve ever seen flocks of migratory birds on Guam though.

PS – I know what the H5N1 in H5N1 avian flu stands for. Do you? Here’s a hint; the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 was H1N1 influenza virus.

Google Make A Miró No No

Last Thursday was the birthday of Spanish painter Joan Miró (okay Catalan, not Spanish) and Google decided to honor his birthday with a custom Google logo. This did not go over well with the family of Miró, and they demanded the internet search company take down the image. The family alleged copyright infringement with the logo, and while Google did not believe it was a copyright violation, they agreed to the family’s wishes and removed the offending logo.

I wouldn’t be a good blogger if I didn’t slap it up here myself, and I will, but I won’t show it on the page. Click here to see the offending image.

I don’t think it’s a copyright violation either. Fair use. Besides, it’s not like Joan Miró is on everybody’s lips, they ought to be thanking Google for the honor and the boost in art sales this will cause.

Senza Titolo, by Joan Miro

One final bit about Miró; he was apparently great friends with Desmond Morris, author of The Naked Ape and a longtime British TV personality. I never knew that, just like I never knew Morris is an accomplished painter in his own right, whose surrealist paintings sell for thousands in auctions. The Naked Ape was one of the critical books I read in high school. Once you got past all the titillating parts about sexual behavior, it really prompted me to study anthropology in college. And while I didn’t take the path through life that I expected, I still retain my love of anthropology and art.

Earth Week: A Couple More Ideas

Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School

I went shopping at Payless tonight and I started thinking about how all the food on Guam is shipped from the far corners of the earth and so little agriculture takes place on the island. Then via the wonderful food blog Chez Pim, I came across an intriguing idea. The Eat Local Challenge. Jen from Life Begins at 30 is hyping up the month of May as Eat Local Month. The idea? Eat only food grown within a 100 mile radius of my home for a whole month. That will not only be easier on the environment, it cuts out the vast majority of refined foods, fast food and junk food that so many Americans gorge themselves upon. Unfortunately I think my diet would be fairly meager if I attempted this challenge. According to Local Harvest, the only locally produced food on Guam is the tilapia fishery down in Inarajan; and I don’t really like tilapia. Still it deserves some looking into.

Speaking about fish, another thing I read came across tonight was sustainable fisheries. I suggest reading the report released by the Pew Oceans Commission a few years ago for a good understanding of the state of the world’s oceans. Fisheries are in a precarious situation across the planet and if the ocean is to remain a viable source of food and livelihood for the world’s population then changes need to be made to manage fish stocks more effectively. Four things maintain a sustainable fishery:

  • Adequate fish populations – ascertaining if there are enough fish in the ocean to harvest
  • Eliminating by-catch – reducing the capture of unwanted and discarded fish, turtles and dolphins
  • Reduce pollution of the marine environment – mercury, dioxin, and effluent from shore and fish farming operations pollute the oceans
  • Preserve habitat – bottom trawling and drift nets despoil vast areas of marine habitat, indiscriminately removing all fish and their refuges

Guess it all comes down to creating a comprehensive plan for ocean conservancy. Just like wildlife and game animals are managed on land, fish stocks and their habitat needs to be effectively conserved for the future.

Japan, US Agree On Marine Relocation

Japan and the United States reached an agreement on how to finance the relocation of 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam. Japan originally balked at the over US$10 billion price tag that the Pentagon placed on the move. After weeks of negotiation though, Japan agreed to finance almost 60% of the move, paying over US$6 billion to build facilities on Guam and boost the island’s infrastructure. The United States will pay the remaining US$4 billion price tag.
Cool. Bring on the cash cow. That will certainly boost the island’s economy. And it certainly shows how keen the Japanese are to get the Marines off Okinawa after 60 years.

Earth Week: Regional Efforts Lauded

Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School

Two regional organizations were honored for their environmental work this week by the US EPA in the agencies 8th annual Environmental Awards Ceremony. The Conservation Society of Pohnpei and Basula Produkto in Saipan received plaques for the Region 9 awards, along with Willie Nelson and Patagonia sporting goods.

The Conservation Society of Pohnpei works to protect the unique environment of the lush island of Pohnpei from deforestation, erosion and coral dredging.

Basulo Produkto focuses on recycling efforts on Saipan and the Northern Marianas, processing cardboard and paper, aluminum, scrap metal, old tires and glass.

Even though Earth Day has passed, let’s continue to work for a sustainable, cleaner future for everyone. Congratulations to the recipients for making Micronesia a better place for our children.

It’s Good For Glaucoma…

Legalize  ItOh man, I totally saw this chick standing on the street corner at ITC on Thursday. I was going to mention it earlier, but I totally spaced it. I was driving along and I saw them standing there with placards. Another political campaign function at the island’s busiest intersection I thought. Not quite. It was a few kids out advocating drug reform.

Yeah, Thursday was Hitler’s birthday, which for some reason is a big excuse to smoke pot now. The Wired article lays it all out. (I especially like the bit about how Deadheads were the first folks out there on the internet – ain’t that the truth. Say hello to the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link folks…)

No, I didn’t grab that picture, it all happened too quickly for me to pull out my camera. That shot comes from the blog of the estimable DZer. I couldn’t help but laugh thinking about those dudes out there and that they were probably baked right at that moment.

Of course it was a shame that the FDA harshed their mellow the very same day and said marijuana has absolutely no medical use. Sounds like propaganda to me man, especially coming from the uptight Republican administration with a history of twisting science for political gain.