Thursday, February 28, 2013

Twitter Message Of The Day

Anyone who has read this old post of mine can understand why I liked this:

Twitter Message by @Whoozley

That's how freedom works - you get to have your religion, and I get to tell you what's wrong with it. In other words, we both have to put up with something we'd rather not, but we both get to do what we want. Religion should be criticized and even mocked when it violates logic, human decency, or our high water mark for irony.

Right now, in Russia, there are two young women serving terms of hard labor for, supposedly, mocking religion. The health of one may be in danger. I'd suggest that if you feel that your religion is above mockery, that you move there.

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Close One

Image credit: Screenshot of NASA 2012 DA14 simulator by Cujo359

It apparently wasn't the one we were expecting, but a meteorite did hit the Earth today:

A meteor crashing in Russia's Ural mountains has injured at least 500 people, as the shockwave blew out windows and rocked buildings.

Most of those hurt suffered minor cuts and bruises but some received head injuries, Russian officials report.

A fireball was seen streaking through the clear morning sky above the city of Yekaterinburg, followed by loud bangs.

Meteor strike injures hundreds in central Russia

The damage appears to be related to sonic booms from the meteorite's passing, not from any actual strikes:

Russia's space agency Roscosmos said the meteorite was travelling at a speed of 30 km (19 miles) per second and that such events were hard to predict. The Interior Ministry said the meteorite explosion had caused a sonic boom.

Russia's Emergencies Ministry said 514 people had sought medical help, mainly for light injuries caused by flying glass, and that 112 of those were kept in hospital. Search groups were set up to look for the remains of the meteorite.

Meteorite hits central Russia, more than 500 people hurt

It has occurred to people to wonder if this is somehow related to 2012 DA14, the asteroid that was known to be making a close pass to Earth later today. The answer appears to be that it is not:

"This bolide event probably had nothing to do with the upcoming close Earth approach of asteroid 2012 DA14, which is due to pass closely (and safely) past the Earth at 19:24 GMT today," or 2:24 p.m. ET, [head of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Don] Yeomans wrote, adding that the Russian bolide trail did not travel south to north as the asteroid will.

"And the separation in time between the fireball and 2012 DA14 close approach is significant," Yeomans said.

Russian Meteor Explosion Not Caused by Asteroid Flyby, NASA Scientist Says

I can't think of any reason why a meteor fragment related to 2012 DA14 would be on an entirely different trajectory, so this explanation makes sense to me.

Hopefully, none of the injuries are serious.

Meanwhile, if you want to keep track of the 2012 DA14 asteroid's flyby, NASA has a tracking page set up with real time simulation of the event.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentines

Image credit: One Billion Rising

It's that day again, when many of us are hoping to spend some time with a special someone:

Image credit: Cujo359

For many of us, though, romance is the last thing on our minds. Today is also the day when a group called V Day is holding an event called One Billion Rising to protest violence against women around the world:


A global strike

An invitation to dance

A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends

An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers

A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given

A new time and a new way of being

About One Billion Rising

That's their logo at the top of this article. Their name comes from the claim, substantiated nowhere that I can see, that one billion women in the world today will be raped in their lifetimes. I don't know where they get that number, but there is plenty of violence against women, both here and around the world. It doesn't have to be that way.

There's even a search page to find an event near you.

While we're on that subject, the Violence Against Women Act was allowed to expire last session of Congress. The Senate has voted to reauthorize with bipartisan support. The House, which is controlled by the Republican Party and Speaker John Boehner, has so far been reluctant to do the same:

Republican leaders are again facing pressure from within their ranks to act. A letter sent Monday night and signed by 17 House GOP lawmakers nudges Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in the Senate’s direction, twice calling for a bipartisan bill. The House GOP’s version last year passed on a party-line vote.

“Now is the time to seek bipartisan compromise on the reauthorization of these programs. … We believe a bipartisan plan to reauthorize VAWA is more important than ever,” wrote Republican Reps. Rodney Davis (IL), Charlie Dent (PA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ), Mike Fitzpatrick (PA), Jim Gerlach (PA), Chris Gibson (NY), Michael Grimm (NY), Richard Hanna (NY), David Joyce (OH), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Patrick Meehan (PA), Shelly Moore-Capito (WV), Tom Reed (NY), Dave Reichert (WA), Jon Runyan (NJ) and Lee Terry (NE).


Although House Republicans dislike provisions covering LGBT and illegal-immigrant victims, their primary area of discomfort with the Senate bill is the tribal lands provision. Senior House GOP aides declined to comment, but top Republicans, led by Cantor, are leaning toward a middle path that provides legal recourse for those charged with domestic abuse in Native American courts by allowing them to appeal to U.S. courts.

Senate Passes Expanded Violence Against Women Act

If your U.S. Representative is a Republican, telling him that his party's stance on this issue isn't OK with you might be a good way to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Profiles In Fierce Advocacy: Why Not?

The true test of leadership is knowing how to have it both ways:

"We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong,'' Mr Obama said in an hour-long address.

Delivering growth and jobs will be the "North Star that guides our efforts", he added.

But he insisted that nothing he planned would raise the deficit "by a single dime".

State of the Union: Obama pledges to reignite economy

Yes, all roads will lead downhill, and the first 50,000 people through the door will walk away with a perpetual motion machine with a certificate of authenticity that will arrive in the mail.

And don't pay any attention to the guy behind the curtain who's fiddling with your Social Security and Medicare benefits.

I'm waiting for Prof. Krugman's breathless praise for this program.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Anthropomorphized Robot Photo Of The Day

This is today's Astronomy Picture Of The Day:

Explanation: What if you saw your shadow on Mars and it wasn't human? Then you might be the robotic Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars. Curiosity landed in Gale Crater last August and has been busy looking for signs of ancient running water and clues that Mars could once have harbored life. Pictured above, Curiosity has taken a wide panorama that includes its own shadow in the direction opposite the Sun. The image was taken in November from a location dubbed Point Lake, although no water presently exists there. Curiosity has already discovered several indications of dried streambeds on Mars, and is scheduled to continue its exploration by climbing nearby Mt. Sharp over the next few years.

Astronomy Picture Of The Day: Feb. 5, 2013

[go to the link for expository links and a full size version of the picture]

There are a couple of things I found striking about this photo. The first is the look of Curiosity's shadow: the rocks in the shadow of the rover's camera make it look like some anthropomorphic robot's eyes.

The second is the background. It looks like parts of the Southwest do on cold days sometimes. Since Mars is really, really cold, that might just be my imagination, but it's not hard to imagine that this scene could be from a cold November morning on the Mojave Desert.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Football's Almost Over: 2013 Edition

Caption: The Vince Lombardi Trophy. At the end of each Super Bowl, the team with the highest score gets to keep this thing. Don't ask me why - it's just one of the rules.

Image credit: BrokenSphere/Wikimedia

Yes, it's finally here once again - the day the pre-game interviews finally end, and seventy or so large men push each other around in the mud for three hours until a champion is crowned. Sports fans may recognize this event as the Super Bowl, the National Football League's championship game. People who aren't sports fans, but who have the misfortune to live in America at this time of year, certainly do.

Since this year's game will be in the New Orleans Superdome, though, there won't be much mud. If that's what you're looking for, you'll probably have to go elsewhere.

The only reason I even remembered that this was Super Bowl weekend was that I was grocery shopping on Friday. The nice lady who was checking the groceries asked me "Are you ready for Super Bowl weekend?"

To which I replied, "Umm, sure. Who's playing?" She didn't know, either.

It turns out that it's the San Francisco 49ers playing the Baltimore Ravens. San Francisco's baseball team won the World Series this year, so that alone would suggest that someone else should win here. The Ravens are also the team Baltimore finally ended up with after the city told the Colts they couldn't have everything they wanted, because there were a lot of people who need financial assistance and transportation there. Or something. Anyway, the Colts started playing their home games in Indianapolis, which seems to have upset at least a few people in both cities. Nothing tugs at the heart-strings of city managers like the sound of rich middle aged white guys whining that now that their pro football team is gone, they don't have anything to do with their kids on the days they have custody. So the Ravens were born. In addition, while both teams have won the Super Bowl, the 49ers have won five times, most recently in 1995. I suppose if I were rooting for someone, it would be the Ravens.

The truth is, of course, that I don't care. According to this barely readable preview, this will be a game where matchups are key. Or something. The truth is that the NFL seems like 20-plus versions of the same team nowadays. It's one of the reasons the game is so boring now. Most games, the only real mystery is how many times they'll pass on first down.

For those who do care, or work for someone who does, here are the important points:

  • Game time is 6:30 PM Eastern.
  • The game will be broadcast on CBS in America.
  • Beyonce is the pop star who will be providing half time entertainment. It might be more fun to put on her latest album and lip-sync it, but I'm sure you'll think of something.

If anyone finds out who won, please leave a comment.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Climate Change Update

Caption: The Climate Change Cherry Tree. Like a commons that isn't really a commons, a clock that looks like a tree stump, and transmission lines, it's one of the many wonders of downtown Federal Way, WA.

Image credit: Cujo359

In yet another excursion to downtown Federal Way in which the main purpose was to get out of the house, I took some photos readings at the by now world famous Climate Change Cherry Tree. As readers will recall, we recently visited another location in Federal Way and noted, much to our surprise, that there were blooms on one of the local cherry trees there.

Three years ago, buds were starting to bloomon February 17.