Yellowstone ready to blow? Not likely

December 31, 2008

Every science nut is, and quite a few fear mongers are following the story of the swarm of small earthquakes miles beneath the waters of Yellowstone Lake.

They know Yellowstone is in the middle of a supervolcano, and they can’t help but wonder whether the Yellowstone Caldera is ready to blow.

Even Cecil Adams at the Straight Dope wonders in the headline whether Yellowston is ready blow, in what must be one of the best-timed, prepared-in-advance columns in any newspaper in the world in 2008.  (My skiepticism for Cecil Adams’ stuff increased mightily when I noticed he had gotten much wrong on Rachel Carson’s claims about DDT and birds, but I digress.)

So is Yellowstone going to blow?

Not likely.  According to me. (I’m a lawyer and teacher — what authority does my prediction have?)

Serious scientists are being more careful.  I asked Relu Burlacu at the University of Utah Seismograph Station, the group that is the front line in the monitoring of Yellowstone, whether this is The Big One.

“The short answer is,” he said, “we don’t know.”

57 quakes, at least, have been recorded for December 31 so far (15:05 UTC).  Since Saturday, there have been more than 300 quakes (conservative estimate).  Because the quakes are so tightly packed, geographically, but from depths covering several miles underground, some amateurs suggest the quakes suggest magma or water moving up a pipe toward the surface.

The professionals I spoke with today are very circumspect about saying what is going on, stopping far short of making predictions about what will happen.  Most telling, they’re taking tonight and tomorrow off, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.  Oh, someone will be on hand to make sure the machines are working, and if there’s a truly significant event, there will be alerts.  But the current swarm is not something that alarms the monitoring people, nor is it something they have not seen before.

Mr. Berlacu explained — patiently, I must add — that so far, there has been just monitoring.  With so many events, one of the problems is determining when one event ends, and the next begins.  There is a great deal of work to be done pinpointing locations of temblors, triangulating from several different recording stations.

“This is not uncommon,” Berlacu said.  He noted that 1985 had a swarm of quakes that continued for nearly three months, with the swarm just tapering off.

Charts from the earthquake monitoring station on Yellowstone Lake, showing raw data recording by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, Earthquake Information Center, for December 31, 2008.  These data must be correlated and corroborated with data from other stations in the area to determine locations of geological events, depths, duration, start and end, before complete analysis can be done.

Charts from the earthquake monitoring station on Yellowstone Lake, showing raw data recording by the University of Utah Seismograph Stations, Earthquake Information Center, for December 31, 2008. These data must be correlated and corroborated with data from other stations in the area to determine locations of geological events, depths, duration, start and end, before complete analysis can be done.

Reality is that the scientists who study Yellowstone’s vulcanism expect eruptions in the future. But they expect smaller eruptions, not the massive supervolcano disaster usually portrayed over the last five or ten years.  Yes, a massive eruption is possible.  Yes, it could be an enormous disaster.

In a video explaining the geology of the Yellowstone caldera, Yellowstone National Park Geologist Hank Heasler explains there are three things geologists think will presage a large volcanic event in the caldera:

  1. An increase in earthquakes, or a swarm of earthquakes, plus
  2. Significantly increased ground deformation, such as a rise of several feet or several meters, plus
  3. Increased thermal activity in the thermal features of the Park.

The current swarm lacks the second two features.  Even so, experts note that all three conditions might be met, without any major eruption.

No, it’s not likely to happen in our lifetimes. Read this entertaining piece by Jake Lowenstern in Geotimes, from June 2005. Lowenstern is the director of the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory (YVO):

Of course, the Yellowstone caldera is a volcano, and it almost certainly will erupt again someday. It’s possible, though unlikely, that future eruptions could reach the magnitude of Yellowstone’s three largest explosive eruptions, 2.1 million, 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago. Smaller eruptions, however, are far more likely, and no eruption seems imminent on the timescale that most people truly care about — their lifetime or perhaps even the next few hundred or thousands of year

Small eruptions do not make for the grand drama desired by television executives and producers.

Instead, the technicians monitor what happens; conclusions, the explanation for what happened, will have to wait for later analysis.

Resources:


DDT falsehoods, taken as an article of faith

December 31, 2008

Just when you start thinking the world is safe for the facts — safe for the truth — some well-meaning-but-poorly-informed person comes along to remind you that it’s a constant struggle to keep the flame of truth from being snuffed out for no good reason.

Henry I. Miller didn’t publish a screed demanding DDT be misused against West Nile virus this year, which I count as a major victory.  As you know, DDT is the wrong stuff to use to fight West Nile, so calling for DDT in that case merely means you’re an ideologue who wants to slam science, and it probably means you wish disease victims would hurry up and die.  (“More statistics to use against libruls!”)

And even Oklahoma’s reigning Senate fool Tom Coburn lifted his hold on the bill naming for Rachel Carson the post office in her hometown.

But, on the second to last day of the year, comes Bob Mattes at Reformed Musings, to claim that climate change is a hoax, and say he knows it’s so because DDT is safe and Rachel Carson was wrong. Mattes is a deacon in a Presbyterian church in Virginia; the name of his site is a reference to reformed theology, I gather.

When someone claims as a matter of faith, things that are well known to be wrong and easily debunked, that someone is unlikely to be swayed by the facts. In fact, Mattes allows no criticism of his post at his blog — he’s turned off comments on that post.

Will he drop by here to read his errors?  Not likely.  Would he correct the errors if he knew?  It’s not good to gamble when the odds are long against you.

Reformed Musings said:

Want a concrete example of the impact of eco-socialism? Three letters – DDT.

Well, no, I don’t want an alleged example of eco-socialism from an eco-fascist, one whose mind is made up, incorrectly, and who will not let the facts sway him.  Notice that the authority he cites is that well-known purveyor of junk science, Junk Science, the ethically-challenged website run by the industry campaign in favor of DDT.  If one dances to the devil’s tune, one should not claim not to be doing the devil’s work.

If this be eco-socialism, it’s God-blessed, and we should revel in it and make the most of it.

In the 60’s, there was the big DDT scare, with activists claiming that the pesticide was killing off our birds and bees.

Right.  And it was true, DDT was killing our birds and bees.  It took more than 30 years of not using DDT to rescue our national symbol, the bald eagle, from DDT’s killer effects.  Is it fair to call it a “scare” if it’s true?

Rachel Carson sold the big lie in her famous book Silent Spring, which was full of misrepresentations.

See, here’s how we know Mattes doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and probably hasn’t read the book.  Carson was very careful in her book.  She offered more than 50 pages of citations to science papers and hard research to support what she wrote — a “don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself” kind of honesty.

Discover magazine carried an article about DDT and Carson’s book in November 2007Discover said that, since 1962, more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications support Carson’s conclusions, a record remarkable in any branch of science.

In fact, Carson may have underestimated the impact of DDT on birds, says Michael Fry, an avian toxicologist and director of the American Bird Conservancy’s pesticides and birds program. She was not aware that DDT—or rather its metabolite, DDE—causes eggshell thinning because the data were not published until the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was eggshell thinning that devastated fish-eating birds and birds of prey, says Fry, and this effect is well documented in a report (pdf) on DDT published in 2002 by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). The report, which cites over 1,000 references, also describes how DDT and its breakdown products accumulate in the tissues of animals high up on terrestrial and aquatic food chains—a process that induced reproductive and neurological defects in birds and fish.

Had Mattes been paying attention (was he even alive then?), he’d have noted that President John F. Kennedy tasked the President’s Science Advisory Council to check out Carson’s book, to see whether it was accurate, and whether the government should start down the path of careful study and careful regulation of pesticides as she suggested.  In May 1963 the PSAC reported back that Carson was dead right on every issue, except, maybe for one.  PSAC said Carson wasn’t alarmist enough, that immediate action against pesticides was justified, rather than waiting for later studies or delaying for any other reason.

So, here I issue a challenge to Bob Mattes:  Tell us where Rachel Carson was wrong.  Cite for us a page in Silent Spring where she made a significant error in science, a point that has not been borne out as correct in later studies.

I’ve been making this challenge for a year and half now, and not even Stephen Milloy has been able to offer a single error Carson made.  A few have said they “heard” Carson erred in one thing or another, but upon checking, we’ve always found that the claimed errors were nowhere to be found, or the errors alleged were misstated, or, more often, what was claimed as error simply was not.

It’s a very odd situation:  We have a deacon of the Presbyterians assaulting the honor of a distinguished scientist, using false claims as his ammunition.

As usual, the ignorant entertainment industry frothed at the mouth for the new fad cause. Joni Mitchell sang: “Hey, farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now. Give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees.” Cute, huh?

As a result, DDT was banned world-wide. Problem was, not only were the zealots wrong, but nothing killed deadly malaria-carrying mosquitoes better than DDT.

DDT has never been banned worldwide.  It’s still manufactured in several places — it’s still a deadly hazard in India.  It’s been in constant use in many nations, such as Mexico and South Africa.  Limitations on DDT use have always included a loophole allowing DDT to be used to protect against malaria — even the 2001 Persistant Organic Pesticides Treaty has a special clause allowing DDT to be used against malaria.

So it’s false to claim that DDT was banned worldwide, ever.  We might be much better to get to that position because it would keep nuts from claiming that all we have to do is poison Africa to make Aricans healthy — but in any case, there is no ban on DDT to fight malaria.

Use of DDT began to decline in the mid 1960s when mosquitoes began to exhibit resistance and even immunity to the stuff.  Genetic studies now find that almost all mosquitoes in the world have multiple copies of a gene that allows the bug to digest DDT more as a nutrient, rendering it ineffective as a pesticide.  The World Health Organization had begun an ambitious campaign to knock down mosquito populations long enough that malaria would die out; but by the mid 1960s, the burgeoning resistance to DDT rendered that campaign untenable.  DDT use against mosquitoes, which was never undertaken in much of Africa because some local governments were not stable enough to manage an anti-mosquito campaign, declined, and stopped in places where DDT simply did not work.

In fact it was gross overuse of DDT by agricultural interests that drove the resistance among insects.  Had that overuse been controlled earlier, we might have been able to kill of malaria.  It was not a ban on DDT that caused its use to decline.  It was that DDT stopped working.  No one in their right mind will spend money on a pesticide that doesn’t work, no matter how cheap the stuff is.

But it wasn’t popular culture that got DDT banned.  In the late 1960s litigation on DDT spraying worked through the courts.  By 1972, two federal courts ruled in separate cases that the federal government had failed to carry out its obligations to control the use of DDT as required by law, based on evidence presented in court that demonstrated clear harm.  Both courts ordered the government to promptly hold the administrative hearings necessary to alter the registration for DDT.  The hearings started in the Department of Agriculture, which moved slowly.  When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created, it got the authority to regulate pesticides from Ag.  The courts ordered EPA to get off its duff and speed the process.

In the midst of a nine-month-long hearing process that accumulated thousands of pages of scientific documentation of the harms of DDT, manufacturers of the pesticide voluntarily changed their labels to limit use of DDT essentially to emergency situations, not general broadcast applications. Judge Edmund Sweeney, the EPA administrative law judge, thought that change, which was what was pending, meant that EPA did not need to act, and he so ruled at the end of the process.  EPA Administrator William Ruckleshaus, a veteran of more recent environmental litigation, understood the courts had ordered a more ironclad change, and he imposed tighter registration standards on DDT that prohibited its use on agricultural crops, except in emergencies.  There was also a loophole built in to protect public health.

DDT manufacturers sued EPA to overturn the rule.  The courts ruled that the scientific evidence was overwhelming, and that EPA’s rule was firmly grounded.  The manufacturers did not appeal further.  So, DDT use in the U.S. was severely restricted by the end of 1972, following earlier restrictiosn in Sweden.

Can Mattes read a calendar?  How does a ban on DDT in Sweden in 1970, in the U.S. in 1972, make Africa stop using DDT in 1965?

Literally millions of poor have needlessly died from malaria in Third World countries as a result of the ban. Malaria is the 4th leading cause of death in the world. Drug-resistant strains are starting to dominate. Eradication is the real answer. Only recently have countries like South Africa defied the ban and started spraying DDT again to fight malaria. Ideas have consequences – eco-socialism routinely kills, just not in the comfy apartments of the self-serving eco-socialists.

What ban is he talking about? South Africa suspended DDT use only briefly at the end of the 20th century — but South Africa’s problems are not caused because South African mosquitoes roared back when they were not sprayed wholesale with DDT.  Malaria in South Africa rose when the disease came over the border from other nations where the disease was less controlled.  South Africa brought back DDT use, though in a more limited fashion.  There was no ban to defy.  Mattes is telling a whopper here.

Mattes cites the Centers for Disease Control when he says malaria is the fourth leading killer in the world.  He either fails to notice or fails to say that CDC does not ask for DDT to be brought back to fight malaria.  CDC calls for bednets, for draining of breeding areas, for better medical care and better diagnosis, but not for more DDT.  Why?  When the leading disease fighting organization in the world does not ask for DDT, we might assume it puts DDT way down on its list of priorities (as it does).  Remember, CDC’s origins were in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases.  CDC speaks with authority on mosquito eradication.  CDC does not ask for more DDT, anywhere.  His own authority — he should listen to them.

Health care professionals note that malaria made a serious resurgence when the malaria parasites themselves became resistant to the pharmaceuticals used to treat them.  This has nothing to do with DDT, because DDT is not given as a drug to humans (it’s a poison, mildly carcinogenic, and there is no demonstrated effectiveness against the parasite).

Can Bob Mattes read a map?  How do restrictions on spraying DDT on cotton fields in Texas, cause malaria to increase in Africa?

Mattes closes his post:

History shows that the eco-socialists have NEVER been right. EVERY scare prediction they’ve ever tried fails to materialize. Unfortunately, history starts today for most folks. We don’t teach logic or real science in public schools anymore, just the religion of political correctness. Ignorance breeds disaster, especially for those in developing countries who can’t speak for themselves and don’t have a George Soros funding their latest fad cause. Remember DDT. Remember global cooling. Remember the limitations of computer modeling. Don’t be duped.

Except, the “eco-socialists” as Mattes mislabels them were right about DDT, they were right about malaria, they were right on the science about wildlife damage from DDT, and they were right on the history.

Ignorance does indeed breed disaster, which is where Mattes’s views will take us.  He should carefully consider his closing trio of words, and follow them religiously.

If Mattes is so wrong on every claim about DDT, do you think we should trust anything he says about climate change?

Updates:


Beyond what is required: Another Scout earns all merit badges

December 30, 2008

From Oceanside, Long Island, New York, we get brief reports of an Eagle Scout, Shawn Goldsmith, who earned all 121 merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America.  He finished work on his last badge, for bugling, in November.

Eagle Scout Shawn Goldsmith, Troop 240, Greater New York Council - Goldsmith earned all 121 Merit Badges - Photo from GNY Council

Eagle Scout Shawn Goldsmith, Troop 240, Greater New York Council - Goldsmith earned all 121 Merit Badges - Photo from GNY Council

From WBBH, Channel 2, an NBC affiliate television news operation on Long Island:

Goldsmith says he took about five years to earn his first 62 badges and then nearly doubled that number in a matter of months. He did it with the encouragement of his grandmother, who died shortly before he reached his goal. He was awarded his final badges on Dec. 19.

Goldsmith is a freshman at Binghamton University and hopes to become a businessman and politician.

Shawn is a member of Troop 240, Greater New York Council (Bronx), whose chartered organization is Riverdale Presbyterian Church.  Shawn was editor of his high school’s newspaper, and he served as an intern in the Long Island office of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

More information:

Related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Update – other mentions:


Happy Hubble Day! Look up

December 30, 2008

Ultraviolet image of the Andromeda Galaxy, first known to be a galaxy by Edwin Hubble on December 30, 1924 - Galaxy Evolution Explorer image courtesy NASA

Ultraviolet image of the Andromeda Galaxy, first known to be a galaxy by Edwin Hubble on December 30, 1924 - Galaxy Evolution Explorer image courtesy NASA

Today is a good day to celebrate the universe in all it’s glory – December 30. Below, mostly an encore post.

This year for Hubble Day, Wired picked up on the story (with a gracious link to last year’s post here at the Bathtub).  Wired includes several links to even more information, a good source of information.

Hubble was the guy who showed us the universe is not only bigger than we imagined, it’s probably much bigger and much more fantastic than we can imagine. Hubble is the guy who opened our imaginations to the vastness of all creation.

How does one celebrate Hubble Day?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Easier than Christmas cards:  Send a thank-you note to your junior high school science teacher, or whoever it was who inspired your interest in science.  Mrs. Hedburg, Mrs. Andrews, Elizabeth K. Driggs, Herbert Gilbert, Mr. Willis, and Stephen McNeal, thank you.
  • Rearrange your Christmas/Hanukkah/KWANZAA lights in the shape of the Andromeda Galaxy — or in the shape of any of the great photos from the Hubble Telescope (Andromeda Galaxy pictured above; Hubble images here)

    A few of the images from the Hubble Telescope

    A few of the images from the Hubble Telescope

  • Go visit your local science museum; take your kids along – borrow somebody else’s kids if you have to (take them along, too)
  • Spend two hours in your local library, just looking through the books on astronomy and the universe
  • Anybody got a good recipe for a cocktail called “The Hubble?”  “The Andromeda?”  Put it in the comments, please

The encore post, from last year:

December 30, 1924, Edwin Hubble announced the results of his observations of distant objects in space.

PBS

Edwin Hubble - source: PBS

In 1924, he announced the discovery of a Cepheid, or variable star, in the Andromeda Nebulae. Since the work of Henrietta Leavitt had made it possible to calculate the distance to Cepheids, he calculated that this Cepheid was much further away than anyone had thought and that therefore the nebulae was not a gaseous cloud inside our galaxy, like so many nebulae, but in fact, a galaxy of stars just like the Milky Way. Only much further away. Until now, people believed that the only thing existing ouside the Milky Way were the Magellanic Clouds. The Universe was much bigger than had been previously presumed.

Later Hubble noted that the universe demonstrates a “red-shift phenomenon.” The universe is expanding. This led to the idea of an initial expansion event, and the theory eventually known as Big Bang.

Hubble’s life offered several surprises, and firsts:

Hubble was a tall, elegant, athletic, man who at age 30 had an undergraduate degree in astronomy and mathematics, a legal degree as a Rhodes scholar, followed by a PhD in astronomy. He was an attorney in Kentucky (joined its bar in 1913), and had served in WWI, rising to the rank of major. He was bored with law and decided to go back to his studies in astronomy.

In 1919 he began to work at Mt. Wilson Observatory in California, where he would work for the rest of his life. . . .
Hubble wanted to classify the galaxies according to their content, distance, shape, and brightness patterns, and in his observations he made another momentous discovery: By observing redshifts in the light wavelengths emitted by the galaxies, he saw that galaxies were moving away from each other at a rate constant to the distance between them (Hubble’s Law). The further away they were, the faster they receded. This led to the calculation of the point where the expansion began, and confirmation of the big bang theory. Hubble calculated it to be about 2 billion years ago, but more recent estimates have revised that to 20 billion years ago.

An active anti-fascist, Hubble wanted to joined the armed forces again during World War II, but was convinced he could contribute more as a scientist on the homefront. When the 200-inch telescope was completed on Mt. Palomar, Hubble was given the honor of first use. He died in 1953.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.”

That news on December 30, 1924, didn’t make the first page of the New York Times. The Times carried a small note on February 25, 1925, that Hubble won a $1,000 prize from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

(Does anyone have a suitable citation for that video?  Where did it come from?  Who produced it?  Is there more somewhere?)

Happy Hubble Day!  Look up!

Resources:


News from the Yellowstone Caldera: Earthquakes

December 29, 2008

Yellowstone Lake, site of swarm of earthquakes, December 27-30, 2008

Yellowstone Lake, site of swarm of earthquakes, December 27-30, 2008

Yellowstone National Park holds more than 70% of the world’s geysers, and rumbles with earthquakes and eruptions all the time.  It is, after all, rather in the middle of the great Yellowstone Caldera, a supervolcano that probably will erupt with astounding destruction someday.

Massive, super eruptions in the caldera occur about every 600,000 years (take THAT Don McLeroy!).  The last eruption was about 640,000 years ago, which means that we may be a bit overdue for the sort of eruption that would make the destruction of Krakatoa look like a firecracker compared to a nuclear bomb.

So, of course, some people worried a bit with the cluster of earthquakes under Yellowstone Lake in the past two days. A swarm is a better description, perhaps — 250 little quakes, all under 3.5 on the Richter Scale.

It is unusual in the number, but they are all small.

Watch that space!

(See update for December 31, here: ‘Yellowstone not likely to blow’)

USGS Regional map for earthquakes, Yellowstone Region

USGS Regional map for earthquakes, Yellowstone Region

According to the USGS system, at the time of this post, earthquakes are occurring frequently around Yellowstone, with about 35 in the past 24 hours (I copied the chart to preserve the historical data; click on the link to get more current data):

MAG UTC DATE-TIME
y/m/d h:m:s
LAT
deg
LON
deg
DEPTH
km
LOCATION
MAP 2.4 2008/12/30 00:36:39 44.510 -110.384 0.2 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 21:25:15 44.525 -110.360 2.0 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/29 21:18:51 44.521 -110.362 2.2 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/29 21:18:36 44.522 -110.359 2.1 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.9 2008/12/29 20:38:25 44.514 -110.381 2.1 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2008/12/29 20:38:04 44.511 -110.385 2.3 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.0 2008/12/29 20:26:29 44.520 -110.355 2.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/29 20:14:26 44.498 -110.364 2.3 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.4 2008/12/29 20:13:31 44.508 -110.359 2.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.2 2008/12/29 19:56:46 44.522 -110.365 1.2 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 19:53:50 44.511 -110.377 2.2 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.1 2008/12/29 19:46:13 44.515 -110.386 2.4 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 19:44:50 44.525 -110.373 0.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 19:40:27 44.511 -110.379 2.5 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 19:37:07 44.502 -110.366 1.8 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 19:36:08 44.521 -110.385 2.0 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 19:35:27 44.511 -110.385 2.4 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.9 2008/12/29 19:29:38 44.513 -110.381 0.5 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.5 2008/12/29 19:28:55 44.515 -110.381 0.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/29 19:26:21 44.519 -110.370 2.0 60 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.5 2008/12/29 19:24:43 44.520 -110.342 2.3 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.3 2008/12/29 19:14:49 44.521 -110.369 1.8 60 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 18:47:45 44.523 -110.371 2.1 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.4 2008/12/29 18:40:00 44.533 -110.359 4.8 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.1 2008/12/29 16:32:12 44.494 -110.360 2.4 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/29 16:31:55 44.491 -110.360 2.3 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/29 16:15:28 44.480 -110.363 2.3 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.5 2008/12/29 14:58:37 44.486 -110.354 1.3 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 10:25:18 44.523 -110.371 2.4 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/29 09:14:04 44.527 -110.376 0.3 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 08:57:55 44.527 -110.378 0.5 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 08:28:24 44.527 -110.382 0.4 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/29 05:30:35 44.517 -110.372 1.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2008/12/29 05:30:04 44.477 -110.349 6.5 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/29 05:29:23 44.489 -110.354 4.2 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.4 2008/12/29 05:23:36 44.516 -110.361 6.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/29 04:29:18 44.522 -110.385 1.0 59 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.8 2008/12/29 04:25:53 44.514 -110.370 0.1 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.6 2008/12/28 23:57:56 44.521 -110.371 1.4 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/28 23:08:25 44.491 -110.390 1.7 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.1 2008/12/28 19:55:17 44.511 -110.353 0.7 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.0 2008/12/28 19:32:15 44.511 -110.356 2.7 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.8 2008/12/28 15:37:40 44.514 -110.359 0.0 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.2 2008/12/28 09:25:14 44.508 -110.364 1.9 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.2 2008/12/28 09:23:57 44.511 -110.361 0.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 07:16:13 44.513 -110.374 2.0 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.5 2008/12/28 07:15:18 44.495 -110.359 0.0 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.5 2008/12/28 06:37:41 44.492 -110.356 2.6 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/28 06:37:20 44.497 -110.379 2.1 60 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 05:28:49 44.498 -110.383 2.3 60 km ( 37 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 05:28:05 44.485 -110.371 2.5 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/28 05:26:14 44.484 -110.359 2.0 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/28 05:26:03 44.470 -110.355 5.2 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.3 2008/12/28 05:24:39 44.489 -110.359 4.1 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.8 2008/12/28 05:23:54 44.489 -110.354 2.5 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.9 2008/12/28 05:21:16 44.480 -110.344 4.0 64 km ( 40 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.7 2008/12/28 05:20:10 44.494 -110.379 2.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/28 05:19:11 44.492 -110.372 2.2 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.9 2008/12/28 05:15:56 44.502 -110.366 0.3 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.6 2008/12/28 00:08:50 44.493 -110.354 0.4 63 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.3 2008/12/27 22:30:03 44.498 -110.358 4.3 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.5 2008/12/27 22:28:53 44.500 -110.368 2.1 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.8 2008/12/27 22:27:36 44.499 -110.367 2.5 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.0 2008/12/27 21:28:06 44.500 -110.362 3.5 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.6 2008/12/27 21:22:08 44.495 -110.372 2.6 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.1 2008/12/27 21:08:49 44.496 -110.370 2.0 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.2 2008/12/27 20:26:27 44.505 -110.364 2.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.5 2008/12/27 20:17:33 44.488 -110.357 4.1 62 km ( 39 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.3 2008/12/27 18:56:35 44.484 -110.367 0.5 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 3.0 2008/12/27 18:23:07 44.495 -110.364 2.8 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.0 2008/12/27 18:21:36 44.493 -110.362 7.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 1.2 2008/12/27 17:01:46 44.484 -110.373 2.4 61 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.7 2008/12/27 17:01:07 44.490 -110.366 1.2 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT
MAP 2.6 2008/12/27 16:30:54 44.498 -110.362 2.5 62 km ( 38 mi) ESE of West Yellowstone, MT

At the site of the Deseret News (published in Salt Lake City), one commenter noted he is from Texas, a commented he was safely out of the way.  One might do well to remember that volcanic activity in the Yellowstone often affects life well outside the area.  Ashfall Beds State Historical Park in Nebraska, for example, marks a prehistoric waterhole where dozens of mammals died from ash from a volcano that erupted 10 million to 12 million years ago — a volcano in Idaho, south of the Yellowstone Caldera, and considerably smaller.

While danger is probably slight right now, and this swarm most likely does not presage anything of great note, one should not forget the power of volcanic eruptions from supervolcanoes, like the Yellowstone Caldera.

Update, December 30, 2:20 p.m. Central:

Resources:

Great photo for the heck of it:

Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring, Wikimedia photo (all text in caption from Wikimedia); Hot Springs, Midway & Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The spring is approximately 250 by 300 feet (75 by 91 m) in size.  This photo shows steam rising from hot and sterile deep azure blue water (owing to the light absorbing overtone of an OH stretch which is shifted to 698 nm by hydrogen bonding [1]) in the center surrounded by huge mats of brilliant orange algae and bacteria. The color of which is due to the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoid molecules produced by the organisms. During summertime the chlorophyll content of the organisms is low and thus the mats appear orange, red, or yellow. However during the winter, the mats are usually dark green, because sunlight is more scarce and the microbes produce more chlorophyll to compensate, thereby masking the carotenoid colors.

(Caption from Wikimedia) Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Spring; Hot Springs, Midway & Lower Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park. The spring is approximately 250 by 300 feet (75 by 91 m) in size. This photo shows steam rising from hot and sterile deep azure blue water (owing to the light absorbing overtone of an OH stretch which is shifted to 698 nm by hydrogen bonding) in the center surrounded by huge mats of brilliant orange algae and bacteria. The color of which is due to the ratio of chlorophyll to carotenoid molecules produced by the organisms. During summertime the chlorophyll content of the organisms is low and thus the mats appear orange, red, or yellow. However during the winter, the mats are usually dark green, because sunlight is more scarce and the microbes produce more chlorophyll to compensate, thereby masking the carotenoid colors.


Texas Statehood, December 29, 1845

December 29, 2008

163 years ago today: Rub your pet armadillo’s belly, slaughter the fatted longhorn, crank up the barbecue pit with the mesquite wood, put Willie Nelson and Bob Wills on the mp3 player, put the “Giant” DVD on the television, and raise your glass of Lone Star Beer (or Pearl, or Shiner Bock, or Llano Wine).

Texas was admitted to the union of the United States of America on December 29, 1845.

President Polks Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood - Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

President Polk's Authorization to Affix the Great Seal to Texas Statehood - Texas Memorial Museum, University of Texas at Austin

The text reads:

I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of State to affix the Seal of the United States to an authenticated copy of “an act to extend the laws of the United States over the State of Texas and for other purposes” approved Dec. 29, 1845 dated this day, and signed by me and for so doing this shall be his warrant.

James K. Polk
Washington, Dec. 29, 1845

Great Seal of the United States of America - State Archives Division, Texas State Library

Great Seal of the United States of America - State Archives Division, Texas State Library

Resources:


Typewriter of the moment: Willie Nelson

December 29, 2008

Willie Nelsons guitar, Trigger, a Martin N-20 nylon stringed acoustic

Willie Nelson's guitar, Trigger, a Martin N-20 nylon stringed acoustic

Okay, so it’s not exactly a typewriter.  So sue me.

It’s the closest thing to Willie Nelson’s typewriter we’re likely to find, I think.  It’s certainly analogous to a typewriter, for Nelson.


A neglected 91st anniversary of Mencken and Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

December 28, 2008

91 years ago today, on December 28, 1917, this column by H. L. Mencken was published in The New York Evening Mail:

Portrait of H. L. Mencken

1927 Portrait of H. L. Mencken by Nikol Schattenstein; Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore

A Neglected Anniversary

On December 20 there flitted past us, absolutely without public notice, one of the most important profane anniversaries in American history, to wit, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the introduction of the bathtub into These States. Not a plumber fired a salute or hung out a flag. Not a governor proclaimed a day of prayer. Not a newspaper called attention to the day.

True enough, it was not entirely forgotten. Eight or nine months ago one of the younger surgeons connected with the Public Health Service in Washington happened upon the facts while looking into the early history of public hygiene, and at his suggestion a committee was formed to celebrate the anniversary with a banquet. But before the plan was perfected Washington went dry (This was war-time Prohibition, preliminary to the main catastrophe. — HLM), and so the banquet had to be abandoned. As it was, the day passed wholly unmarked, even in the capital of the nation.

Bathtubs are so common today that it is almost impossible to imagine a world without them. They are familiar to nearly everyone in all incorporated towns; in most of the large cities it is unlawful to build a dwelling house without putting them in; even on the farm they have begun to come into use. And yet the first American bathtub was installed and dedicated so recently as December 20, 1842, and, for all I know to the contrary, it may still be in existence and in use.

Curiously enough, the scene of its setting up was Cincinnati, then a squalid frontier town, and even today surely no leader in culture. But Cincinnati, in those days as in these, contained many enterprising merchants, and one of them was a man named Adam Thompson, a dealer in cotton and grain. Thompson shipped his grain by steamboat down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans, and from there sent it to England in sailing vessels. This trade frequently took him to England, and in that country, during the ’30s, he acquired the habit of bathing.

The bathtub was then still a novelty in England. It had been introduced in 1828 by Lord John Russell and its use was yet confined to a small class of enthusiasts. Moreover, the English bathtub, then as now, was a puny and inconvenient contrivance — little more, in fact, than a glorified dishpan — and filling and emptying it required the attendance of a servant. Taking a bath, indeed, was a rather heavy ceremony, and Lord John in 1835 was said to be the only man in England who had yet come to doing it every day.

Thompson, who was of inventive fancy — he later devised the machine that is still used for bagging hams and bacon — conceived the notion that the English bathtub would be much improved if it were made large enough to admit the whole body of an adult man, and if its supply of water, instead of being hauled to the scene by a maid, were admitted by pipes from a central reservoir and run off by the same means. Accordingly, early in 1842 he set about building the first modern bathroom in his Cincinnati home — a large house with Doric pillars, standing near what is now the corner of Monastery and Orleans streets.

There was then, of course, no city water supply, at least in that part of the city, but Thompson had a large well in his garden, and he installed a pump to lift its water to the house. This pump, which was operated by six Negroes, much like an old-time fire engine, was connected by a pipe with a cypress tank in the garret of the house, and here the water was stored until needed. From the tank two other pipes ran to the bathroom. One, carrying cold water, was a direct line. The other, designed to provide warm water, ran down the great chimney of the kitchen, and was coiled inside it like a giant spring.

The tub itself was of new design, and became the grandfather of all the bathtubs of today. Thompson had it made by James Cullness, the leading Cincinnati cabinetmaker of those days, and its material was Nicaragua mahogany. It was nearly seven feet long and fully four feet wide. To make it water-tight, the interior was lined with sheet lead, carefully soldered at the joints. The whole contraption weighed about 1,750 pounds, and the floor of the room in which it was placed had to be reinforced to support it. The exterior was elaborately polished.

In this luxurious tub Thompson took two baths on December 20, 1842 — a cold one at 8 a.m. and a warm one some time during the afternoon. The warm water, heated by the kitchen fire, reached a temperature of 105 degrees. On Christmas day, having a party of gentlemen to dinner, he exhibited the new marvel to them and gave an exhibition of its use, and four of them, including a French visitor, Col. Duchanel, risked plunges into it. The next day all Cincinnati — then a town of about 100,000 people — had heard of it, and the local newspapers described it at length and opened their columns to violent discussions of it.

The thing, in fact, became a public matter, and before long there was bitter and double- headed opposition to the new invention, which had been promptly imitated by several other wealthy Cincinnatians. On the one hand it was denounced as an epicurean and obnoxious toy from England, designed to corrupt the democratic simplicity of the Republic, and on the other hand it was attacked by the medical faculty as dangerous to health and a certain inviter of “phthisic, rheumatic fevers, inflammation of the lungs and the whole category of zymotic diseases.” (I quote from the Western Medical Repository of April 23, 1843.)

The noise of the controversy soon reached other cities, and in more than one place medical opposition reached such strength that it was reflected in legislation. Late in 1843, for example, the Philadelphia Common Council considered an ordinance prohibiting bathing between November 1 and March 15, and it failed of passage by but two votes. During the same year the legislature of Virginia laid a tax of $30 a year on all bathtubs that might be set up, and in Hartford, Providence, Charleston and Wilmington (Del.) special and very heavy water rates were levied upon those who had them. Boston, very early in 1845, made bathing unlawful except upon medical advice, but the ordinance was never enforced and in 1862 it was repealed.

This legislation, I suspect, had some class feeling in it, for the Thompson bathtub was plainly too expensive to be owned by any save the wealthy; indeed, the common price for installing one in New York in 1845 was $500. Thus the low caste politicians of the time made capital by fulminating against it, and there is even some suspicion of political bias in many of the early medical denunciations. But the invention of the common pine bathtub, lined with zinc, in 1847, cut off this line of attack, and thereafter the bathtub made steady progress.

The zinc tub was devised by John F. Simpson, a Brooklyn plumber, and his efforts to protect it by a patent occupied the courts until 1855. But the decisions were steadily against him, and after 1848 all the plumbers of New York were equipped for putting in bathtubs. According to a writer in the Christian Register for July 17, 1857, the first one in New York was opened for traffic on September 12, 1847, and by the beginning of 1850 there were already nearly 1,000 in use in the big town.

After this medical opposition began to collapse, and among other eminent physicians Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes declared for the bathtub, and vigorously opposed the lingering movement against it in Boston. The American Medical Association held its annual meeting in Boston in 1849, and a poll of the members in attendance showed that nearly 55 per cent of them now regarded bathing as harmless, and that more than 20 per cent advocated it as beneficial. At its meeting in 1850 a resolution was formally passed giving the imprimatur of the faculty to the bathtub. The homeopaths followed with a like resolution in 1853.

But it was the example of President Millard Fillmore that, even more than the grudging medical approval, gave the bathtub recognition and respectability in the United States. While he was still Vice-President, in March, 1850, he visited Cincinnati on a stumping tour, and inspected the original Thompson tub. Thompson himself was now dead, but his bathroom was preserved by the gentlemen who had bought his house from the estate. Fillmore was entertained in this house and, according to Chamberlain, his biographer, took a bath in the tub. Experiencing no ill effects, he became an ardent advocate of the new invention, and on succeeding to the Presidency at Taylor’s death, July 9, 1850, he instructed his secretary of war, Gen. Charles M. Conrad, to invite tenders for the construction of a bathtub in the White House.

This action, for a moment, revived the old controversy, and its opponents made much of the fact that there was no bathtub at Mount Vernon, or at Monticello, and that all the Presidents and other magnificoes of the past had got along without any such monarchical luxuries. The elder Bennett, in the New York Herald, charged that Fillmore really aspired to buy and install in the White House a porphyry and alabaster bath that had been used by Louis Philippe at Versailles. But Conrad, disregarding all this clamor, duly called for bids, and the contract was presently awarded to Harper & Gillespie, a firm of Philadelphia engineers, who proposed to furnish a tub of thin cast iron, capable of floating the largest man.

This was installed early in 1851, and remained in service in the White House until the first Cleveland administration, when the present enameled tub was substituted. The example of the President soon broke down all that remained of the old opposition, and by 1860, according to the newspaper advertisements of the time, every hotel in New York had a bathtub, and some had two and even three. In 1862 bathing was introduced into the Army by Gen. McClellan, and in 1870 the first prison bathtub was set up at Moyamensing Prison, in Philadelphia.

So much for the history of the bathtub in America. One is astonished, on looking into it, to find that so little of it has been recorded. The literature, in fact, is almost nil. But perhaps this brief sketch will encourage other inquirers and so lay the foundation for an adequate celebration of the centennial in 1942.

(Text courtesy of Poor Mojo’s Almanac(k))

The entire history was a hoax composed by Mencken.

Even conservative wackoes appreciate the column.

Content with his private joke, Mencken remained silent about the hoax until a follow-up article, “Melancholy Reflections,” appeared in the Chicago Tribune on May 23, 1926, some eight years later. This was Mencken’s confession. It was also an appeal for reason to the American public.

His hoax was a joke gone bad. “A Neglected Anniversary” had been printed and reprinted hundreds of times in the intervening years. Mencken had been receiving letters of corroboration from some readers and requests for more details from others. His history of the bathtub had been cited repeatedly by other writers and was starting to find its way into reference works. As Mencken noted in “Melancholy Reflections,” his “facts” “began to be used by chiropractors and other such quacks as evidence of the stupidity of medical men. They began to be cited by medical men as proof of the progress of public hygiene.” And, because Fillmore’s presidency had been so uneventful, on the date of his birthday calendars often included the only interesting tidbit of information they could find: Fillmore had introduced the bathtub into the White House. (Even the later scholarly disclosure that Andrew Jackson had a bathtub installed there in 1834—years before Mencken claimed it was even invented—did not diminish America’s conviction that Fillmore was responsible.)

(No, dear reader, probably not correct; surely John Adams brought a bathtub with him when he moved into the White House, then called the President’s Mansion.  Plumbing, hot water, and finally hot water to a bathtub in the president’s residence, were installed between 1830 and 1853, as best I can determine.)

Mencken wrote an introduction to the piece in a later bookA Mencken Chrestomathy (Alfred A. Knopf, 1949):

The success of this idle hoax, done in time of war, when more serious writing was impossible, vastly astonished me. It was taken gravely by a great many other newspapers, and presently made its way into medical literature and into standard reference books. It had, of course, no truth in it whatsoever, and I more than once confessed publicly that it was only a jocosity… Scarcely a month goes by that I do not find the substance of it reprinted, not as foolishness but as fact, and not only in newspapers but in official documents and other works of the highest pretensions.

There’s a moral to the story:  Strive for accuracy!

So, Dear Reader, check for accuracy, and question authority.

Resources:


Typewriter of the moment: Australian journalist Ron Boland, OBE

December 27, 2008

1930s era typewriter that accompanied Australian journalist Ron Boland through his journalistic career - State Library of South Australia (on loan from Jasin Boland)

1930s era typewriter that accompanied Australian journalist Ron Boland through his journalistic career, a Remington Portable - State Library of South Australia (on loan from Jasin Boland)

Ron Boland played an important role in the expansion and maturation of Australian newspaper journalism in the 20th century – in the era before Rupert Murdoch, mostly – though Boland worked for Murdoch and could be said to have created the style that made Murdoch rich — in an era when newspapers still set the pace of the Information Age.  He retired in 1977, the year Altair was a top computer name, the year RadioShack almost got the TRS-80 to market, the year Jobs and Wozniak started work on the Apple II (before Macintosh).

For nearly 50 years, this typewriter was the peak of technology, for a world class journalist.

Boland’s life and timeline could make for some interesting projects or study assignments — see Boland’s campaign for topless swimming on Australia’s beaches.  Topless swimming for men.

Boland’s work is probably mostly invisible to American students, but it should provide some good enrichment for students of world history.

The case for Australian journalist Ron Bolands Remington Portable typewriter, testifying to the globe trotting done by the typewriter, and Boland.  State Library of South Australia

The case for Australian journalist Ron Boland's Remington Portable typewriter, testifying to the globe trotting done by the typewriter, and Boland. State Library of South Australia

Resources

Read the rest of this entry »


Meow Meow, 19

December 27, 2008

Meow, reminding her humans that paying attention to the cat is always more important than reading Dilbert - June 24, 2008

Meow, reminding her humans that paying attention to the cat is always more important than reading Dilbert - June 24, 2008 (photo copyright 2008, Ed Darrell)

It was a dark and stormy night.  A meow rang out.

That’s how she came to adopt us.  Kay Lawrence was out walking, before the storm blew in.  The wind was picking up.  50 yards from home, she found a sad scene:  A kitten dead on the pavement.  Kay got a bag to hold the body.  As she was scooping it off the road, she heard a loud meowing from the bushes.

It was the sister of the dead kitten, probably.  Alone in any case.  Kay knew that Kathryn had studied how to save kittens, and having a large golden retriever, she thought better of taking the kitten to her own home.

With the first flashes of lightning, before the rain, there was Kay Lawrence at our door holding a remarkably flea-ridden kitten, wide-eyed and making enough noise for a litter of 12.

“We’ll find a good home for her,” Kathryn said as Kay dashed back home before the rain.  I suspected the kitten had already found that home, though Kathryn was still at least mildly allergic to cats.*

That was more than 19 years ago.

We learned from Meow that cats show joy with their tails, express love by blinking, and that each one has a different personality.  Some cats can ignore catnip, for example.   She liked to join us in reading newspapers — or perhaps more accurately, she liked to prevent us from reading newspapers, telling us that paying attention to a cat was a better use of time.

Meow would occasionally become seriously agitated when a peanut butter jar was opened, making a ruckus until she got a half-teaspoonful of the stuff for herself.  She wasn’t concerned at how silly a cat looks trying to get peanut butter off the roof of her mouth.

Meow left us this morning. For the past couple of weeks her eyesight was failing much faster — she had cataracts.  For a week she bravely tried to learn how to navigate the house blind, mastering a lot very quickly.

Something else happened, though.  One veterinarian said it was brain — stroke?  Tumor?  We don’t know.  For much of the last week she was walking circles through the house, sometimes bumping into things, sometimes walking over things she shouldn’t.  And in the last couple of days, the circles she walked grew smaller.  She’d circle until she couldn’t, then collapse in the middle of the floor and sleep.

On the way to the vet this morning, the clouds rolled in.  It grew dark.  Lightning flashed, and the rain came furiously.  It was a dark and stormy morning, very similar to the night she found us.  Meow passed very quickly.  The clouds disappeared, and the sun shines.

Down at the end of the path past the big live oak, Meow now rests with others in our departed menagerie, Maggie and Rufus the dogs, Sweetie the rat, and Katie, the other brave, one-eyed road kitten (from a different, later rescue).

We miss her. We started the year with two dogs and three cats.  Now we’re down to one cat, with the two dogs.  It’s a lot quieter.

Meow, winking for the camera, 2008 - photo copyright 2008, Ed Darrell

Meow, winking for the camera, 2008 - photo copyright 2008, Ed Darrell

*  A book we had Natural Cat, had a recipe for a food supplement for cats which, the author claimed, would alter the cat dander so it would not trigger allergic reactions.  What can I say?  It worked like a charm.  We stopped feeding the supplement to the cats 15 years ago.  Kathryn’s allergic  reaction, to our cats, has not returned.


Incomplete history and Willie Nelson

December 27, 2008

Fort Worth Weekly did a story on Willie Nelson’s living in Fort Worth in the 1950s.  The writer drove by Willie’s old haunts.

But no pictures? No directions on how to get to the future shrines?  How is the National Register of Historic Places supposed to find the things?

The Weekly was doing what might amount to a local sidebar on Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, Joe Nick Patoski’s biography of the composer and singer.  The Weekly needs to learn a bit about including web links, and especially about including photographs!

(Who’s going to get Patoski’s book, get the addresses, and post photos?)

Accuracy note: I linked to Robert Hilburn’s review of the book in the Los Angeles Times; he has another version of the story of Willie’s first wife, Martha, sewing him in the bedsheets when he came home drunk, then beating him with a broom.  Hilburn’s review is worth reading just to get this story from another view.


Ding Dong, VHS is dead: Is your school ready for DVD?

December 26, 2008

VHS can now be considered dead, really most sincerely dead.*  New tapes are not being produced for almost all programs, and the last, die-hard distributor who sold pre-recorded VHS tapes announced the company will stop those sales in the next few weeks.

For projecting programs in the classrooms in your school, is your school ready to switch to DVDs?  I’ve never tried a poll here before, but I hope you will answer this one, especially if you’re a teacher.

Please express your opinion.

* You recognize the line from “Ding, Dong!  The Witch is Dead,” from “The Wizard of Oz,” of course.

FAIL repeated: Challenges to Obama’s eligibility

December 26, 2008

Some weeks ago we visited six hurdles that the case against Barack Obama’s eligibility for the presidency would have to overcome to disqualify him.

All six hurdles still remain.  No one has made any serious response to any of the six.

Above the West Entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court is engraved Equal Justice Under Law

Above the West Entrance to the U.S. Supreme Court is engraved "Equal Justice Under Law"

But the Birth Certificate Obsessed (BCO) people go on and on.

Let me note that the six hurdles still stand — six reasons why the objections to Obama’s eligibility will fail:

  1. Obama has a U.S. passport (claims that he doesn’t have a passport were put to rest when it was revealed, in March 2008, that State Department workers had illegally accessed his passport records).
  2. Because we know Obama has a U.S. passport, we can be quite sure his draft status was verified before it was issued — which puts to bed any issue about his registering for the draft (which he wouldn’t have been required to do in any case until 1980 — draft registration had been suspended in 1973 until the Afghanistan/Soviet crisis).
  3. Obama’s a lawyer; the National Conference of Bar Examiners, or the Illinois Bar, would have checked on any problems that surfaced when verifying his fitness to practice law.
  4. Obama was a U.S. senator; as a matter of course, the FBI does a background check on every U.S. senator to verify they may view top secret material. Security clearances are absolutely necessary for members of the Intelligence Oversight Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Armed Services Committee.  Obama was a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, chairing the subcommittee that deals with U.S. relations with NATO — a post that requires top secret clearances.
  5. Obama has been getting the full national security briefing every day that the president gets; CIA and Homeland Security would have to verify his top secret clearances, and then some.  There is absolutely no indication that this top, top check was not carried out.
  6. Perhaps most important, Obama posted an image of his birth certificate on-line in June; experts who checked the actual document verify it is real, and therefore authoritative.

Each of these six circumstances creates a rebuttable presumption that Obama is a citizen, and a natural born citizen under the somewhat ambiguous requirements of Article II of the Constitution.  In order to make a case that Obama is ineligible, contestants would need to make a strong showing, with clear evidence, to rebut the presumptions created by by these official actions.

Professional poker player Leo Donofrio has made no such evidentiary showing, anywhere, at any time.  Nor has any other Obama critic presented any evidence to overcome any of these six presumptions.

Recently a poster named Carlyle complained that my previous post had been unknown to him. While I posted trackbacks to his post at Texas Darlin’, that blog censors my posts and trackbacks, and thereby deprived this BCO from knowing about the facts (indeed, trackbacks are automatic, since Texas Darlin’ is also a WordPress blog; the only way the trackbacks and comments don’t show up at TD’s blog is because she censors them).  With some fury, Carlyle and others found that post from November 27 and complained I was unfair to them.  However, none has presented any serious challenge to the six hurdles.

How can I be unfair when they won’t make a case?

Here, below the fold, is an example of the heated and off-target responses I’ve gotten.  Of course, I offer comments as we go.

Read the rest of this entry »


A no-bourbon Christmas

December 26, 2008

You can’t buy bourbon in Dallas on Christmas day.

We planned pork tenderloin with apricot/bourbon filling.  Wonderful recipe.

But we needed a cup of bourbon, and when we got to the liquor cabinet, we had only about a quarter cup left in a bottle.

We aren’t bourbon drinkers.  The last time we used bourbon was the last time we cooked pork tenderloin with apricot/bourbon filling . . .

So at about 10:00 a.m. I headed out of our nearly-dry end of the county to a precinct rife with liquor stores.  If any place was selling bourbon on Christmas day, it would likely be among this small city of liquor stores just off I-35, near the sinning areas of Harry Hines Blvd. and a couple of truck stops.

A mile down the road the new quickee mart was open, selling beer and wine.  No hard liquor in this precinct, though.

Liquor store by I-35 near Dallas - photo on Flickr by Futurowoman

Liquor store by I-35 near Dallas - photo on Flickr by Futurowoman (Polaroid photo?)

12 miles up the road, past the doomed Texas Stadium, I passed four liquor stores at one exit, all dark.  At the next exit, the gas station at a liquor store was open.  The main liquor store next door was dark, but I was hopeful.

Inside, one man with an obvious need for a hit of something bargained with one employee over the price of a can of malt liquor.  Another customer queried the other counter man about where he could get a ribbon for the can of beer he’d just bought for his girlfriend, sleeping outside in the car.  Merry Christmas, baby.

No ribbons.  It would be an unwrapped, un-beribboned can of beer.

“What are the chances of finding some bourbon?” I asked.   The guy looked at me like I came from Mars.  His store was selling cheap alcohol in tiny amounts to people down on their luck, but of me he wanted to know:  “What are you doing with bourbon so early in the day?”

Cooking, I told him.

“You won’t find any today.  State law.  All the stores are closed.”

The sauce would have been better with more bourbon, I think.  What else would I be doing with bourbon on Christmas morning?


Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus still exists

December 25, 2008

Francis Pharcellus Church, the man who answered Virginia's simple query about Santa Claus

This is a bit of an encore post, from 2007.  Merry Christmas.

Is this the man who really saved Santa Claus?

The Newseum itself doesn’t open until opened in the autumn of 2007, but some exhibits are already up, were online earlier. Important ones.

Among other things already up is this explanation for the 1897 editorial in The New York Sun, with the famous line: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” It is “history’s most reprinted editorial,” the Newseum says.

While you’re there, look at other exhibits already in place. This is a good source for kids’ reports and for teachers’ lectures.

Update: Parallel Divergence is at it again (remember the “how Hubble killed God?”) Here it is: “How Google Earth Killed Santa Claus.”

Update May 2007: Coverage of the Newseum’s pending opening.

Update December 2008More on the Sun editorial

And about angels:


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