I spent the morning listening to last Friday’s podcast of Science Friday, an excellent NPR program available as a podcast.
The second hour of the program was devoted to science and politics, and featured conservative author Tom Bethell squaring off against Christopher Mooney, author of The Republican War On Science. It was a fascinating debate, and well worth listening too.
I mentioned the lucky happenstance of the space station capturing the Mt. Augustine volcano erupting in the Cook Inlet of Alaska a couple weeks ago; now via Derek Miller’s redoubtable Penmachine blog, here are some more great pictures of this photogenic mountain.
These photos come from a great photo set on Flickr by AKDave, a professional photographer for an emergency services department in central Alaska. Sounds like an exciting job to me.
There’s even a webcam on the island to catch the eruptions. Cool.
How could I have missed this over two years ago? In January 2004 the corpse of a sperm whale exploded in the Taiwanese city of Tainan, covering onlookers and vehicles in blood and gore. Wow.
The whale was being transported to the local university for an autopsy when the belly erupted due to decomposition. That picture is just nasty; the scooter and the street covered in entrails. Wow.
I’ve mentioned the Gapminder presentation before; but now I see there is an interactive tool powered by Google that lets users track the trends in numerous countries through the last several decades. Very cool.
Just a quick link to a funny photo. A particularly timid black bear wandered into a backyard in New Jersey a couple weeks ago and confronted a fearless house cat. Jack, a fifteen pound clawless house cat, chased the bear up into a tree and kept the silly bear up in the tree until the home owner called the cat inside and the bear made its escape.
Got a couple interesting stories about archaeology and human habitation in the American Southwest; a brief story about kingdoms in Chaco Canyon and a nice Smithsonian piece about the history and peoples of the Grand Canyon. The latter has some great photos in a slideshow, check it out.
Let’s take a quick troll through the headlines of our local papers and see what’s caught my eye:
- Camacho Orders Mass Transit Pilot Program – Marianas Variety, June 5, 2006. The government of Guam initiated a program to upgrade the island’s mass transit program last week. Yeah, mass transit sucks on Guam.
- New Technology Traced To Guam’s ‘Jungle Rot’ – A Canadian company developed a new process for creating ethanol using a fungus first identified on Guam during World War II. The fungus Trichoderma reesei produces large amounts of an enzyme which breaks down cellulose into sugar, a vital step in the creation of ethanol.
- Election Follies – It is only June and already the political climate is warming up around Guam. Looks like the race for governor is going to be a nasty one.
- Last Thursday Carl Gutierrez spoke to a Rotary luncheon crowd at the Hilton Hotel. Gutierrez recapped his two terms in office and explained his motives in running for governor again. Once the floor opened for questions, former US attorney general Fred Black stood up and opened fire on Gutierrez, asking question after question about the former governor’s involvement in the Oracle database debacle, GTA privatization and his family’s involvement as government consultants. It apparently degenerated into a name calling shouting match between the two public figures, something I would have loved to witness.
- Sunday saw another round of guerilla action against Democratic hopefuls Bob Underwood and Frank Aguon. Their campaign headquarters in Hagåtña was peppered with paint ball pellets, suspiciously right around the time Carl Gutierrez was holding a massive rally just up the street. This follows a spate of vandalism and thefts against Underwood’s campaign signs around the island.
- Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove could be the next governor’s mansion? It could happen. Local entrepreneur Jeff Pleadwell and his wife Rossane are looking to run as independents on the gubernatorial ticket.
- Max Havoc Loan Defaults – Well it is official; Guam is out $800,000 for Max Havoc. Comerica bank told GEDA on June 6 that they had taken the agency’s collateral for the movie since no payment has been made on the loan. Hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. It’s funny how now people are questioning why GEDA rushed to provide the collateral for the filming of Max Havoc, especially since filming was already underway. More and more folks seem to be realizing that this was a confidence job, and we got scammed.
I think I already mentioned this entertaining story about teens using ultra high frequency noises as ring tones for their mobiles, frequencies that older adults can no longer hear. Well the New York Times ran a story on the ring tone yesterday, and they provided a sample of this ring tone for teens only. That set me off on a search for other people talking about this ring tone and I found this, which led me to this. Ochen K. was curious just how high he could hear this noise, and he created a sample of sound files at progressively higher frequencies. I can hear the noise up to 16,000 Hz, then nothing at 17,000. Absolutely nothing. A man’s got to know his limitations.
I have to agree with Jimbo, this is an awesome commercial. The ride if freaking ugly, but that commercial is genius.
And kudos to Doug for pulling out Bonnie Anderson from the nether reaches of my mind. Most excellent recollection of a dim and cloudy semester spent under the spell of Dan Shea’s monotone. God, my memories of her could have stayed lost in my subconscious, along with visions of Kirino’s cack showing up in my inbox…
“It appears to have pincers, like a crab or something…” Good God man, I remember that day. I remember the expression on Dan Shea’s face too, absolutely priceless.
This isn’t exactly anything new, but it’s nice to see it get some recognition. I use this sort of stuff all the time. I use ODBC to pull data into Excel everyday.
I stumbled across a link to a classic from my anthropology undergrad days: Horace Miner’s Body Ritual among the Nacirema, and it made me laugh to reread, even if it is a bit dated. The joke is similar to David Macaulay’s Motel of the Mysteries, a very humorous book about archaeologist’s of the far future excavating a motel. And of course Babakiueria is the same sort of joke in a television program.
I read a very good interview with Karen Armstrong in Salon last week. Armstrong is a noted author on religion and spirituality. She is promoting her latest book The Great Transformation, an exploration of the “Axial Period,” the era when many great sages appeared on the face of the earth, thinkers like the Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Confucius, the prophets of Israel, and the mystics of the Upanishads. It’s a fascinating interview, and well worth reading. Her general gist is that these thinkers were not interested in dogma; they focused on doing good works for the sick and poor, not bickering on theological debates about the nature of the Trinity.
And while I’m at it, let me offer up a link to an interesting interview with Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith. The gist of it is again that spirituality is good, but religion is dangerous because if foments an ‘the chosen us vs. heretical, damned them’ mindset.
Some members of my family went on a float trip
over Memorial Day weekend; it’s a Missouri
summertime tradition to go floating on Ozark rivers and streams. Memorial Day is one of the peak times to go floating
and my eldest brother said the river was full of drunk yahoos. They floated the Courtois
(pronounced COE-TAH-WAY) into the Huzzah and finally the Meramac. He said the Courtois was very closed in amongst the trees and with plenty of good fishing. I can’t really remember. I floated the Courtois once in graduate school, and that was a few years ago now. Once they hit the Huzzah, they were amidst the holiday drunkards on inner tubes. And when they got on the Meramac, power boats joined in the fray, which must have been a total buzzkill.
His description of this float, along with an earlier one he did on the Jacks Fork got me to daydreaming about a nice float trip. It’s been a few years. Last one I did was in 2000 on the Current for a three days. I really enjoyed that trip and I’m having a hard time not thinking about floating or backpacking around the Ozarks this summer. Seems like a far better way to spend my time than sitting in a cubicle babysitting computers. I’d especially like to spend some time hiking the Ozark Trail, wandering along the hills doing some long distance backpacking for a week or two. The Ozarks are a great place to hike, camp, float or fish. And there’s all sorts of wildlife in the mountains, including bears and even the occassional mountain lion. I’m not kidding. It’s where my mind is definitely at right now.
Found this great little travel essay on Tinian and the Marianas at the JG Ballard (author of Empire of the Sun) blog. Simon Sellars was through the region last fall, writing a travelogue for Lonely Planet and he captures a real sense of the ghosts that linger throughout Micronesia. The real gem he links to is the link to photos taken by a seabee on Tinian during the war, showing life on what was the world’s largest airport during the early 1940’s.
I forgot to mention this interesting article last night in connection with the Da Vinci Code. Instead of Leonardo, why not pause to give Athanasius Kircher a moment’s notice. Kircher was Jesuit priest and genuine Renaissance man who taught mathematics at the Collegio Romano in the 17th century. He also ran the museum at the Vatican. A case could be made that we owe Kircher a far greater debt than Da Vinci. While Leonardo encrypted all his thoughts in private notebooks, Kircher was a prolific publisher. He was the prototype of the modern university professor, though with a polymath’s myriad fascinations. Archaeology, alchemy, biology, mathematics, history, languages, and cryptography, Kircher was truly ecumenical in his tastes and interests.
It’s been a long, long while since I mentioned any movies on this sight so I thought I’d post a little bit on some recent movies I watched at home and on DVD:
- The DaVinci Code – Yes, I broke down and went to see this movie last Friday. What can I say? It was just as silly as the book, albino killer monks for crying out loud. I guess some people will like it, but it seemed like a spiritless enterprise to me. Tom Hanks was wooden, Audrey Tautau looked embarrassed, and Jean Reno was completely wasted. Find all that talk of Knights Templar and the Holy Grail fascinating? Then read Umberto Eco’s marvelous novel Foucault’s Pendulum instead.
- Domino – A bloody, incoherent, violent train wreck of a movie. Didn’t make much sense, but it looked like everybody enjoyed making it. I honestly thought Mickey Rourke was dead like a decade ago, and this movie did nothing to dispel that notion. The way he shambled around on screen I expected him to start moaning “Brains, brains” at any moment.
- 2046 – ‘One of these three is not like the others…’ A beautifully sad, poignant film, mesmerizing and rapturously shot. It is a series of love stories revolving around one man and 2046; a room, a year, a memory, a destination, and ultimately one fascinating movie. It takes a second viewing and knowledge of In the Mood for Love, Kar Wai Wong’s previous movie, to piece together this tesseract of a film.
Time for a Link-O-Rama of stuff I’ve come across in the last week or so. It’s mostly science related stuff, with a couple political stories tossed into the mix. Enjoy.
- The Condor And The Whale – It’s kind of grisly, but also pretty cool: Check out these California condor’s picking on the washed up corpse of a whale near Big Sur.
- Giant Impact Crater Found Under Antarctic Ice – Scientists located a massive 300 mile wide impact crater from a meteor strike buried under a mile of ice in Antarctica. They speculate this strike played a part in the Permian extinction event 250 million years ago.
- From Hawaii to Iraq: A century of American Regime Change
By Stephen Kinzer’s count, the United States has toppled foreign governments 14 times in the 110 years between the 1893 coup in Hawaii and the occupation of Iraq, making regime change by force as American as apple pie. But Mr. Kinzer says the results are always damaging to the countries involved, and to American security as well.
Mr. Kinzer, formerly a foreign correspondent for The New York Times, has written on this subject before, in books on United States intervention in Iran and Guatemala. In ”Overthrow” he surveys all 14 cases in an admirably written page-turner.
Although the book does not add to historical knowledge of the individual cases, it may be the first to bring them together in a comparison over time. This makes the narrative more interesting than a single case study, but also more depressing.
In Mr. Kinzer’s treatment there are no bright spots. In one instance after another, arrogant Americans are shown tossing out legitimate governments and installing corrupt brutes who turn out to cause more problems for foreign policy than did the ousted leaders.
Mr. Kinzer’s main explanation for these recurrent misadventures is greed.
- Ash Plume Photographed from Space – Maybe the Internation Space Station has some uses after all. Astronaut Jeff Williams was the first person to notice the Cleveland volcano erupting on the Aleutian island of Chuginadak on May 23. He snapped some cool photos as the ISS passed overhead.
- Slab of Ocean Floor Found Deep Within Earth – Geologists discovered a piece of the ocean floor submerged deep within the earth’s molten mantle, halfway to the center of the earth. They believe it offers up clues to the dynamics of plate tectonics, theorizing that the slab actually pulls the ocean floor down towards the center of the earth “like a carpet sliding off the dining room table.”
- Drought Worsens Water Problems in China – China is in the grip of a terrible water shortage and the countryside is particularly hard hit.
- Dalai Lama gives Awards to Tutu and Tintin – The Dalai Lama presented Archbishop Desmond Tutu with the Light of Truth Award from the Campaign for Tibet, along with another award for the Herge Foundation, publisher of the Tintin series of children’s books.
- 5,000 Years of Genetic Manipulation in a Cup of Yogurt – Turns out yogurt is a hotbed of genetic evolution. The bacteria that causes yogurt, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, originally ate plants. Somehow it got mixed in with some milk and people discovered it clotted the milk and kept it from spoiling. Thousands of years of yogurt making produced a markedly different creature from that original bacillus, one that can no longer survive outside of its creamy habitat.
- Ozone Making a Comeback – Finally a little good news about the environment. Almost 20 years after halocarbons (like CFCs) were banned by international accord, the ozone layer shielding our planet from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is making a comeback. The gaping hole over Antarctica is still there, but the global concentrations are increasing. Make no mistake, the ozone is still terrible depleted and letting unprecedented amount of ultraviolet light reach the surface.
- Flock of Dodos – I’d like to catch this movie, probably on DVD I guess. Carl Zimmer has good things to say about it, so let me plug it here too.
- Flores Hobbit and Her Tools – Speaking of Carl and his excellent blog, The Loom, he has a good piece on Home floresiensis, the Hobbit discovered last year in Indonesia. There’s been a lot of discussion about the skull found by the archaeologists, and whether a being that small was the norm on Flores, or just a diseased individual. But it looks like the tools found in the cave were just as diminutive as the Hobbit fossils and show a long period of habitation on the island.
- Container Wasteland – The interesting bit in this story about railroad and shipping upgrades is the first couple paragraphs. Across the eastern USA, vast yards of empty shipping containers have piled up alongside railroad tracks. “China is shipping so many goods to the United States that the Chinese often find it cheaper to build new containers with low-cost labor and leave their empty ones in the United States than send them home empty.”
- Meat on a Stick – I like meat. Our species eats meat. It tastes good. But it has all these messy ethical challenges in our industrial era. I can’t say I’m happy eating ground beef from those meat packing plants, or pork from hogs raised in cages. So why not grow our meat? We have the technology to create artificial meat cultured in labs. I’d rather eat something like that than a can of Spam…
- Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – Nice intro article on number stations, that weird relic of the Cold War (maybe) which can be found on shortwave all over the world. To make a long story short, number stations are used by governments to send orders and instructions to spies and undercover moles. They are rather creepy to listen too, check out the archived recordings.
I was hoping somebody would ask about who was silly enough to fall for a Nigerian 419 scam on Guam. Let’s go ahead and rescue this trusty little gem before it gets tossed down the memory hole.
Kurt Moylan, former Lieutenant Governor, father of current governor Kaleo Moylan and owner of Moylan’s Insurance, was contacted by by Nigerian Benjamin Okafor in 1994 and Moylan fell for the scam. Okafor, claiming to be a representative of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), with access to an excess $20 million in the corporation’s bank accounts. He dangled the lure of an $8 million kickback in front of Moylan if he submitted a fraudulent invoice for a $20 million contract to the NNPC. Oh, and Moylan would also need to submit $1.35 million in administrative fees to make it look legit before the Central Nigerian Bank would release the millions. Moylan was initially suspicious, but agreed to the scheme after meeting Okafor in Hong Kong.
The FBI got wind of the deal when they noticed large transfers of money from Moylan’s account to a bank account in Viriginia belonging to Nigerian Ihedinachi Uzodinma. They froze the account and charged Uzodinma with wire fraud and conspiracy. The court ruled that Moylan was complicit in the scam and not entitled to restitution of the siezed funds. Moylan’s run in with the Nigerians cost him $1.3 million, most of which was taken by the Federal government from the Virginia bank accounts. Okafor was not apprehended remains at large.
It is worth reading the entire decision in which Moylan tried to get his money back from the Feds. He got scammed by the Nigerians and then burned by the Federal government when they refused to give him back his $1.3 million.