Sunday, March 31, 2013

Google Is Watching

This is what greeted me when I tried to log into this blog from a remote location:

Creepy. I suppose I should be reassured that Google is making sure that I am who I say I am, and that my blogging job hasn't been taken over by a spam bot, but it isn't. It's also pretty clear that Google records where I log in from, and keeps that information at least a couple of weeks.

In a world where it's hard to avoid surveillance no matter where you are or what you're doing, this is not at all reassuring. I'm sure I'm just old fashioned, but moments like this give me an overwhelming urge to "anonymize".

Friday, March 29, 2013

Smileworthy Events

Things haven't been too fun lately, for a lot of us. I'm not going to try to explain why. If you don't feel that way, you should count yourself very lucky.

Still, I've seen a couple of things today that ought to induce a smile or two. The first is at Naked Capitalism. Go to today's links, and scroll down the the "antidote de jour". If that doesn't bring a smile to your face, then I suspect you've had a really bad day, and I'm sorry.

The second is a bit more subtle, and this blurb explains it:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

As I mentioned somewhat obliquely recently, MSNBC has done its best to be the "other" Fox News, a place where one could reliably be told how great the Democrats were and how awful the Other Guys are. It's the place where they hired "news anchor" Al Sharpton, who had announced that he wouldn't criticize President Obama. I don't care how good a President is, there will be times when he (or she) deserves criticism. I would make no such vow regarding anyone I supported for President, because, as we saw even with Jill Stein, my favored candidate last time, there is no reason to think that any candidate will do everything the way I'd want him to. If you're not willing to criticize, you're not a journalist. You're a propagandist.

MSNBC is also the network that fired Phil Donahue for telling a truth that the Democrats were uncomfortable admitting back in 2002 - that the basis for our war with Iraq was bogus.

All of which tells me that it's amazing Chris Hayes got this chance. He's a rare thing in television news - someone who loves the intellectual challenge of discussing an issue beyond the conventional view of party politics. Since the departure of Dylan Ratigan, he seems to be the only reporter there who is willing to discuss topics, and points of view, that MSNBC's advertisers might be uncomfortable with. In short, the guy's a journalist, and a good one. That's so rare in television news these days that even thoughtful conservatives ought to find his show interesting.

I don't get cable television, but I'll try to tune in somehow. Meanwhile, if you have cable, I recommend you give it a look.

I Get E-mails

This is precious. I received this e-mail at the account I use for this blog. I probably have used it a time or two to communicate with Democratic politicians for one reason or another, but I wouldn't join a list of supporters using this identity. Plus, as I've explained before, I never do financial transactions using this identity. Yet, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has sent me several e-mails like this recently:
No, my name is not "Abfxvrhxdue". We can confirm that much. It makes you wonder how many others on their "supporters" list are similarly fictional.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Photo

If it weren't Sunday, I suppose I'd have called this "Shooting the Moon". Today was a busy day, which is often how things work out for me. I shot this photo toward the end of the day, because the sky was unusually clear for this time of year, and the Moon was almost full:

Image credit: Photo taken and processed by Cujo359

I enhanced the contrast of the raw photo a bit, which makes the sky look blacker than it actually was (it was early evening, so there was still a bit of sunlight).

Something I'm noticing in these pictures is how different the Moon's features look depending how full it is. For instance, compare it to this photo that I took on March 18:

See how the craters are most visible near the terminator in this photo? In the new one above, they're most visible near the "edge" of the Moon. That's not really surprising. In the first photo, the Sun is almost directly overhead of the craters near the middle of the Moon, so they don't cast as much shadow.

Of course, some of this is due to the limitations of the camera - how much light it needs to see in order to provide a good contrast, etc. Plus, there's probably some performance issue with the photographer, too.

I suppose if I take enough photos, we'll be able to see all the craters on the near side.

As always, click on the picture to enlarge. Hope yours was a good Sunday.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Spring Is Here

It's spring in the Pacific Northwest, so I thought we should take a break from hard science and just stop to enjoy the flowers. I saw these at one of the local gas stations today. At first, the flowers looked like azaleas to me, but when I looked at the leaves and the structure of the plants, it seemed pretty clear that they were rhododendrons. Both flowers tend to be among the first perennials to bloom here. So we'll call them rhodies, though opposing viewpoints are welcome.

More importantly, they're magenta:

Image credit: Photos taken and processed slightly by Cujo359

Here's a closeup that includes buds, flowers, and leaves:

As always, click on the pictures to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Climate Change Update: March 19, 2013

The measurements are in, the science done. Here's photographic proof:

Image credit: All photos taken and processed by Cujo359

Monday, March 18, 2013

Progressive Idiocy: Remember - The Other Guys Always Suck

Jon Walker wrote something interesting at FireDogLake today:
Back during the 2008 Democratic primary none of the strongest candidates supported same-sex marriage. Now with the recent endorsement of Hillary Clinton every Democrat that is viewed as a possible top tier candidate in the 2016 Presidential primary has come out in favor of marriage equality.

2016: All Top Tier Democratic Candidates Now Back Marriage Equality

As recently as five years ago, not one "serious" candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for President would support gay marriage. Now, they all do. That's pretty remarkable, all by itself.

What amazes me, though, is that it wasn't too hard to find opinions like this, regarding Sen. Rob Portman's (R-OH) recent reversal on the subject:

Sen. Rob Portman has made headlines by declaring his support for gay marriage after learning that his own son is gay, and apparently we’re supposed to praise him for his new enlightenment. But while enlightenment is good, wouldn’t it have been a lot more praiseworthy if he had shown some flexibility on the issue before he knew that his own family would benefit?

Other People's Children

Sen. Portman is at least able to listen to his son, which is something that far too many on that side of the fence seem unable to do. What's more, when confronted with the truth that right in his own family was someone who had "chosen the gay lifestyle", and that maybe it really wasn't a "lifestyle" at all so much as what genetics had handed his son, he was willing to change his mind. Plus, and progressives no doubt forget this for the simple reason that most would never think of doing this to Democratic politicians, but Portman's base is not inclined to let its politicians off the hook when they go off the reservation, so to speak. Portman is going to face some trouble for this.

Yes, he may have decided that gay marriage is going to happen, and he's better off being on board. That's possible. But the story right now looks a lot more like he changed his mind, because he loves his kid and he wants him to have the same rights most Americans do.

And I'll repeat, because progressives like Prof. Krugman seem unable to recall this point: five years ago no "serious" candidate for President among Democrats supported this. So, am I to believe that all their conversions were principled decisions based on what's best for society, and Portman's was just the selfish act of an opportunistic politician? Am I particularly to believe that in light of the fact that it's more clearly beneficial to Democratic politicians than to Republicans at this point? Apparently, I am.

Sadly, I'm just not that perceptive.

Why can't progressives ever acknowledge that sometimes, every once in a great while, a member of the opposition will do something principled, or at least something that is both right and requires some courage? I guess then we'd have to look at the sorry record of Democratic politicians in upholding what are supposed to be Democratic values against the wishes of their own party leadership, wouldn't we?

Clearly, that isn't going to happen.

Quote Of The Day

Dean Baker, in a post entitled "Robert Samuelson: 'What Frustrates Constructive Debate is Muddled Pundit Opinion'", reacting to the opinion of the Washington Post's alleged economics expert:

Okay, that’s not exactly what Robert Samuelson said, but pretty close. He actually told readers:

What frustrates constructive debate is muddled public opinion.

I just thought I would make a small change in the interest of accuracy.

Robert Samuelson: “What Frustrates Constructive Debate is Muddled Pundit Opinion”

Baker's version is much closer to the truth than Samuelson's. Samuelson is part of the Pete Peterson/Simpson-Bowles crowd who regularly conflate Social Security with the government's budget deficit. That we need to punish the people who crashed the economy never occurs to these people. Instead, the promote the fiction that we "can't afford" to provide a safety net in America.

Baker provides some of the reasoning behind why Samuelson is his usual thoroughly wrong self in that link. It's not long, and worth the time if you're not sure why I'd write "conflate Social Security with the government's budget deficit".

Friday, March 15, 2013

Big Week On Mars

Since we haven't checked in with the Mars Science Laboratory, I thought it was time. Here's what popped up on Twitter today, among other places:

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

This mosaic of images from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows Mount Sharp in a white-balanced color adjustment that makes the sky look overly blue but shows the terrain as if under Earth-like lighting. White-balancing helps scientists recognize rock materials based on their experience looking at rocks on Earth. The Martian sky would look more of a butterscotch color to the human eye. White balancing yields an overly blue hue in images that have very little blue information, such as Martian landscapes, because the white balancing tends to overcompensate for the low inherent blue content.

Mount Sharp, also called Aeolis Mons, is a layered mound in the center of Mars' Gale Crater, rising more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor, where Curiosity has been working since the rover's landing in August 2012. Lower slopes of Mount Sharp are the major destination for the mission, though the rover will first spend many more weeks around a location called "Yellowknife Bay," where it has found evidence of a past environment favorable for microbial life.

This mosaic was assembled from dozens of images from the 100-millimeter-focal-length telephoto lens camera mounted on the right side of the Mastcam instrument. The component images were taken during the 45th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's mission on Mars (Sept. 20, 2012). The sky has been filled out by extrapolating color and brightness information from the portions of the sky that were captured in images of the terrain.

A raw-color version of the mosaic is available at PIA16769. Raw color shows the scene's colors as they would look in a typical smart-phone camera photo.

[I've added the raw image here - Cujo359]

Image credit: NASA/JPL/MSSS

PIA16768: Mount Sharp Panorama in White-Balanced Colors

[Click images to enlarge. Blogger limits the size of the image files I can publish here. If you want the full size images, visit the image credit links.]

Since what gives us the "Earth-like lighting" we have here on Earth is a result of our atmosphere's effect on the sunlight that hits us, I suppose blue is a good color. What you'd see if you were on Mars is probably more like the second photo, assuming your space suit's visor was clear, of course.

What has Curiosity found since it's been in Yellowknife? Only this:

An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA's Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon -- some of the key chemical ingredients for life -- in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.

"A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program at the agency's headquarters in Washington. "From what we know now, the answer is yes."

Clues to this habitable environment come from data returned by the rover's Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) and Chemistry and Mineralogy (CheMin) instruments. The data indicate the Yellowknife Bay area the rover is exploring was the end of an ancient river system or an intermittently wet lake bed that could have provided chemical energy and other favorable conditions for microbes. The rock is made up of a fine-grained mudstone containing clay minerals, sulfate minerals and other chemicals.

Caption: Curiosity rover makes its first drill sample in a rock at Yellowknife, Feb. 8, 2013. Even though the rock contains iron, it's gray, unlike the iron on Mars' surface. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS


Curiosity's drill collected the sample at a site just a few hundred yards away from where the rover earlier found an ancient streambed in September 2012.


Scientists were surprised to find a mixture of oxidized, less-oxidized, and even non-oxidized chemicals, providing an energy gradient of the sort many microbes on Earth exploit to live. This partial oxidation was first hinted at when the drill cuttings were revealed to be gray rather than red.

NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

I'll point out the obvious, since it's what I do - mudstone forms in water. Many sedimentary rocks do. So, perhaps a billion years ago, Mars had water and the ingredients that enabled life to form on Earth. It might have formed on Mars, too.

So, big pictures, plus signs of life. It was a pretty big week for Curiosity.

Twitter Message Of The Day

Cenk Uygur gets it right:

Twitter Message by Cenk Uygur, Mar. 15, 2013

He'll get no argument from me. As one respondent put it, it's just that one of those two parties is more up front about its goal of serving the rich than the other is. Come to think of it, I've written that in the past. A lot. I also wrote this:

As I've noted, Ralph Nader's admonition that when you choose between two evils, what you end up with is evil, is just as true today. When you're in the habit of just choosing the lesser evil, the evils will get worse over time.

Quote Of The Day, Oct. 29, 2011

So far, I don't see any reason to recant that prediction.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day

Image credit: See NOTE 1

I'm reminded that today is Pi Day. Without Pi, we'd have never been able to figure out how long to make tire chains, so I'd say it's a thing to celebrate in at least some parts of the world.

NOTE 1:Drawing by Cujo359 based on this photo by Jonathunder/Wikimedia. Drawing was created using xpaint and GIMP. Yes, it really took both, because GIMP can't draw circles and lines, and xpaint can't handle transparency.

Progressive Idiocy: A Pundit Awakens

Progressive columnist William Rivers Pitt apparently noticed something recently:

From the moment the Supreme Court decision came down in 2000 that gifted the White House to Bush, to the moment he was finally and forever out of power, I resisted him and his works, because I knew what he represented, what he was about, and what he was doing to my beloved country. My instincts were finely honed, and I gave probably a million words - in print, and spoken aloud on the road for some 800,000 miles - to the cause of thwarting him and everything he stood for.

And now? Now I'm suddenly wondering where that guy has been. He sure as hell isn't the one I see in the mirror. He lapsed into a moral coma, lulled by his idea of America and by the election of someone who can talk the birds out of the trees even as the lumberjacks clear-cut the forest.

Waking From My Moral Coma

I should point out that at least Mr. Pitt seems to be waking up to the reality of what's been going on all these years since the Little Bush Administration went to the great pig ranch in the sky. He's way ahead of some of his colleagues in that department. Still, you have to wonder why it took so long. I think that portion I emphasized explains why. I'll get back to that in a moment.

The proximate cause of Pitt's awakening was the case of Tomas Young, an Iraq War veteran whose spinal cord was severed by an insurgent's bullet not long after he arrived there. The man's health has deteriorated so much that he is contemplating suicide. It would be a tragic story even if the war he'd been engaged in was a necessary one. Unfortunately, it wasn't, and one hell of a lot of other people suffered similarly awful fates.

As Pitt writes:

I believe in the idea that is America, but Tomas Young is dying because he believed, too. He is dying, and the people who delivered him to the slow sunset of his death remain utterly unmolested by the rule of law we Americans take so much misguided pride in. I live with my idea of America in one hand, and the dying light of Tomas Young in the other, and when I look in the mirror, I cannot meet my own eyes. I spent all those years fighting against everything that is ending Tomas Young's life, I made documenting their serial crimes my life's work...and then I let it slide, because Bush was gone, and I couldn't summon the necessary energy to remain outraged over the fact that they all got away with the crime of the millennium scot-free.

Waking From My Moral Coma

That Pitt is late to "the party", as John MClane put it is mostly interesting because Pitt is right - he should have known better. Even now, though, he still mostly seems to be berating himself for not staying outraged enough.

But Barack Obama was so much more articulate than W. had ever been, Pitt seems to be saying. This is something that has had me grinding my teeth ever since Obama was inaugurated the first time whenever a progressive has uttered those words. All I can ever seem to say in response is "Who frigging cares?"

Really, what difference does it make? The man has delivered thousands more young men and women into the same hell Tomas Young inhabits. He has carried out assassinations at a rate Bush and his crew of thugs could only dream of, and most progressives haven't raised an objection worth noting. "Oh, you can't change things overnight", they'd say. Yes, he could. He had the power to order our armies home just as much as Bush had the right to order them there in the first place, maybe more. He didn't.

Pitt seems to disagree with that assessment, though:

Make no mistake, now: that's not an "Obama is the same as Bush" argument. Nobody is Bush, because Bush stands alone, and whoever makes that kind of equivalency either slept through the first eight years of this century, hit their head and forgot what those eight years were like, or is trying to sell you something.

Waking From My Moral Coma

I think that anyone who can write that has slept through the last five years, and let's not forget, Pitt is the one who said he was in a "coma". There's no difference that matters to me between those two. How they have conducted their business has been remarkably similar, and the differences don't always speak well of Obama. I'm outraged by Obama's actions for the same reasons I was outraged by the same actions when George W. Bush committed them. I was outraged when it was clear that Obama was going to give Bush and his torturers cover.

What someone does, measured against what he has the power to do, is what matters to most to me about a person. In that regard, Obama is as much of a failure as Bush. If Bush had made this country a better place while he was in office, or at least had tried to, I'd consider his bumbling verbal style nothing more than an amusing quirk. What matters is the work, and in that regard Obama has kept the Bush Administration alive into its fourth term.

Being articulate and educated doesn't impress me, in and of itself. What a person does with that education is what matters. When educated people do wrong, it's far worse than when people who might not understand the historical or social context do so. In short, educated people should know better. "Constitutional scholars" who violate the Constitution offend me more than lazy minded oafs who do the same.

Why do I think that's what Pitt was doing? This quote, for one thing:

I am finished with the moral geometry that says this is better than that, which makes this good. This is not good; this is, in fact, intolerable. Allowing the perpetrators of war crimes - widely televised ones at that - to retain their good name and go on Sunday talk shows as if they had anything to offer besides their ideology of murder and carnage is intolerable. Entertaining the idea that the billions we spend preparing for war cannot be touched, and so the elderly and the infirm and the young and the weak and the voiceless must pay the freight instead, is intolerable.

The pornography of America's global killing spree is intolerable, and, by the by, I am sick of hearing about drones. A child killed by a Hellfire missile that was fired from a drone is exactly, precisely as dead as a child killed by a Hellfire missile fired from an Apache attack helicopter, precisely as dead as a child killed by a smart bomb, precisely as dead as a child killed by a sniper, precisely as dead as a child killed by a land mine, or by a cruise missile, or by any of the myriad other ways instant death is dealt by this hyper-weaponized nation of ours.

Waking From My Moral Coma

Caption: A BLU-97 cluster bomblet found in Al Maajala, Yemen, in December, 2009.

Image credit: Amnesty International/Common Dreams

For that matter, dropping a cluster bomb on a "terrorist camp" is a war crime, too. It amazes me still that so many of the same progressives who proclaim loudly that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes have no comment on the indiscriminate use of our air power against targets in countries that we're not even at war with. At least our leaders in World War II had the excuse that they were fighting against real enemies with real armies, and they hadn't signed a treaty yet that made such things explicitly illegal. Using an area weapon like a cluster bomb in an area where civilians are located is the same thing, just on a smaller scale.

Obama is every bit as about those things Pitt decries as George W. Bush. It's just that Bush couldn't have come up with a phrase like "the moral geometry" to save his life. That kind of excuse-making is the sort that people with some logic and language skills devise.

So, if I were able to give Mr. Pitt advice, it would be this: don't worry about looking in the mirror. Everyone gets tired sometimes. I did. What I'd be thinking about if I were you is why you let it slide - what made you think that it was OK, or to use your terminology, what made you decide there was a "geometry" to the pointless deaths of innocent people when Obama was the Decider? Then, and I say this in all seriousness and with considered thought:

Don't fucking do it again!!

Pitt is still ahead of most progressives on this issue, if this recent article is any indication. So congratulations on waking up. Now pass it on.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Progressive Idiocy: A Fundamental Truth Everyone Else Knows

Over at Corrente, letsgetitdone (A.K.A. Joe Firestone) had this to say today about the Senate Democrats' refusal to amend filibuster rules after they've been abused for three terms running by the Republicans:

[I]t's clear that part of the reason for the dysfunction we see is the existence of the filibuster and various procedures related to it, that now prevent the Senate from passing legislation unless 60 Senators will support a cloture vote. In itself, the maintenance of this rule has nothing to do with partisan commitments and much more to do with the individual wish of every Senator to be able to block legislation they are opposed to.

The power to say no, is a very important one for each Senator, allowing them to get special concessions when their vote is needed to get legislation through. Senators fear being in the minority and not having the power to say no. When they are in the majority they worry that some day, perhaps soon, they will be in the minority, and will need that ability to say no to extract concessions. They also worry that removal of the filibuster, would give campaign contributors much less reason to donate to the campaigns of individual Senators and even more reason then they have now to focus donations on Congressional leaders.

Is It Really About “Dysfunctional” Partisanship?

This is entirely correct, and from what I've seen, it is news to most progressives. Whenever I'm unfortunate enough to be involved in a conversation about politics with progressives these days, one of the things I almost inevitably have to tell them is that there is one thing that all politicians, whether good ones or bad, no matter what the system they work in, need in order to be effective at their jobs. That something is this:


They need to have the ability to get people to do the things they need those people to do in order to accomplish what they want. Whether that power is for the betterment of society, or just the betterment of themselves, they need that ability or they won't succeed. That power can be in the form of persuasion, intimidation, money, or favors traded, or a combination, but they have to be able to exercise it better than their rivals.

To me, this is the fundamental rule of politics. Yet it seems to be a mystery to most progressives. When they label voting for alternative parties or otherwise withholding support from errant Democrats "making a point", they clearly don't understand that it's the only point that matters, at least if you as a progressive voter have any hope of getting what you want. Unless Democratic politicians understand that they will lose their power if they fail to do what we want, then they will continue to fail to do what we want. The power they will work to maintain is the power that will go elsewhere if it's not satisfied.

If there's another way of making that point, then tell me. However, if that solution involves the word "primary", then your next words need to be an explanation of where the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to mount credible primary challenges in enough places to matter are going to come from. What we've seen in the past is that the current crop of Democratic politicians will happily use the money of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and its Senate counterpart, the DSCC, to finance incumbents facing progressive challengers. We learned that in Bill Halter's campaign, and in Ned Lamont's. "We'll out-organize them" isn't an answer, either. You need money for polls, television, and other advertising. Being better organized and attracting volunteers just makes the money required somewhat smaller. Don't tell me just the act of challenging an incumbent in a primary will change his behavior, either. It won't.

Nor is "reforming the party from within" an answer. You don't reform an organization you work for. You do what the bosses tell you. The bosses need to be given motivation to do the right thing. That will not come from their underlings. It will come from outside. Only when the bosses believe that their success, or the success of their organizations, depends on changing course will they do so.

Conservatives understand this. That's why their politicians will do just about anything they demand, even if they risk their chance of being elected. Republican politicians know which side will withdraw its support should they fail to do what's expected, and it's not progressives.

Until progressives grasp the basic concept that their undying support of the Democratic Party will only bring them more of the same, more of the same is all we'll get. There's really no point in discussing how to change things until that concept sinks in.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Strange Event Of The Day

Caption: A guy dressed in green felt delivering season tickets? Not even close to the strangest thing. In some parts of the country, in fact, this is a disturbingly common occurrence.

Image credit: Screenshot of this MLB video by Cujo359

Yes, this really is something that doesn't happen to everyone:

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel occasionally reminds people he has been in baseball 50 years. He has seen almost everything.

But it took until Sunday for a grown man pedaling a tricycle to crash into him on the field.

Tricycle collision gives Manuel a good laugh

I've read a lot of things today, including some folks trying to sound like they understand what happened in the recent Italian elections (does anyone, really?), and the usual run of strange things at and NASA. This is the strangest, and second strangest isn't even close.

After all, when you're standing on a grass and dirt surface, the last thing you'd expect to be hit by is a tricycle, no matter what the age of the driver.

Major League Baseball wins that competition today.

Sunday Photo(s)

As I think I've mentioned before, I wasn't too interested in my new camera's big zoom lens when I bought it. I was really more interested in having better low light performance, and a bit better anti-shaking performance as well. Of course, now I use the zoom lens all the time.

Last weekend at Redondo, I saw a lot of airplanes passing overhead, since SeaTac Airport is a few miles north. Thanks to the zoom lens, I was able to photograph some of the bigger airliners in high enough resolution to see their registration numbers.

So now I can identify aircraft more precisely, which is good. For instance, this is Alaska Airlines' Boeing 737-800 N581AS:

Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

Even at this distance, I find it hard to tell the difference between this model of 737 and the previous generation of stretched 737, the 737-400. The finlets aren't a spotting feature, because they can be retrofitted, and often are.

Springing Forward?

Caption: An elephant clock in a manuscript by Al-Jazari (1206 AD) from The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices. Image credit: Al-Jazari/Wikimedia Commons

Did you remember to spring forward today? Oh, stop complaining that it's too early to be daylight savings time already, and how can that other time be "standard" time when daylight savings time lasts longer? Oh, and don't even think of complaining that we can't be springing forward, because it's not even spring yet.

Just think of all that energy we're saving. No, I have no idea how that works.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday Photo(s)

It was a beautiful day around the Puget Sound, so I took another trip down to Redondo:

Image credit: All photos by Cujo359

There was lots of sunshine and scenery:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Something's Shaking In Gold Bar

Caption: Screenshot of the PNSN earthquake map near Gold Bar and May Creek, WA, Jan. 29, 2013.

Image credit: Screenshot of Pacific Northwest Seismic Network website by Cujo359

Out along U.S. Highway 2 in western Washington is a pair of little towns called Gold Bar and May Creek. Neither is much more than a wide spot in the road - there are a couple of restaurants and a gas station, and a grocery store, if I remember correctly.

But something weird has been going on out there recently, as the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network (PNSN) noted today in its blog:

Though the residents of Gold Bar may not have noticed, tiny earthquakes have been popping off fairly regularly just a few kilometers east of town (and 11 kilometers below it) over the past few months. A total of about 300 quakes have occurred here since October, though only 100 of these were big enough to make it into the PNSN catalog, the rest were too small to show up on enough seismic stations.

Tremors Under Gold Bar

I'd noticed this before, since I check the PNSN earthquakes site fairly often. Hardly a week has gone by in the last few months without one of those little quakes. They really are small quakes, too, most less than 2.0 magnitude, so almost no one living there has noticed them. The screenshot at the top of the article is one that I took of it back in January.

There is no volcano in that area that I know of. The quakes bear a superficial resemblance to those that occur around Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, but those quakes don't occur around such a small area for so long.

There's also an old mine in the area, according to the OpenCycleMaps data, but the tremors were west of it, and I doubt that mine went 11 kilometers (roughly six miles) beneath the surface, so subsidence or any other form of mine collapse seemed an unlikely explanation, too.

I was about to ask the PNSN folks what they thought, but it turns out they don't seem to know, either:

When we look at patterns of event occurrence using this more complete dataset (below), we see that these little quakes have been popping off nearly continuously since October, with some sporadic bursts of activity, particularly in December.

A high resolution relocation of the events relative to each other using a method called “double difference relocation” shows that the earthquakes fall more or less on a oval-shaped patch ~1.5 km tall and ~0.8 km wide that dips steeply, about 70°, toward the southwest. There is no obvious migration in the locations over time to suggest fluid migration, sometimes a cause of swarm-like seismicity, so what is it? Perhaps Hollywood has some answers?

Tremors Under Gold Bar

[graphic from original article. Click on it to see it full size.]

What they seem to be describing is some sort of steep slippery slope about six miles underground, but nothing seems to be headed anywhere.

If they're looking for answers in Hollywood, I'd say no one has any real idea yet.

Whatever it is, it looks like it will be a mystery for a while longer.