Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Erie stirred up

See the pic at the top of the blog?

After a nearly ice-free winter, Lake Erie was filled with swirls of suspended sediment and algae on the first day of spring 2012. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image at 16:25 a.m. Central Daylight Time on March 21, 2012.
Muddy, tan-colored water along the shoreline reveals sediment that has washed out of the rivers and streams that feed the lake. Milky green, light blue, and white shades may also be sediment-rich waters. As the shallowest of the Great Lakes, Erie’s bottom can be stirred up by strong spring winds and the currents they generate. The lake bottom is rich in quartz sand and silt, as well as calcium carbonate (chalk) from limestone.
Warm temperatures this winter meant more rainfall than snow, and more immediate runoff from streams. River flow with sediment was much higher than average for much of the winter, according to NOAA oceanographer Richard Stumpf.
Some patches of green in the water are algae and other forms of phytoplankton. Air temperatures have been well above normal in the region for most of the winter, and particularly in the past week. Since the lake has been mostly clear of ice, algae and other phytoplankton have been blooming for several weeks. By mid-March, water temperatures in Lake Erie were in the upper 30s (Fahrenheit). “Even when ice covered, Lake Erie can get strong winter algal blooms,” wrote Stumpf.
  1. Related Reading

  2. NASA Earth Observatory (2011, October 13) Sediment and Algae Color the Great Lakes.
  3. NASA Earth Observatory (2006, February 20) Sandusky, Ohio.
  4. NASA Earth Observatory (2002, May) Whiting of Lake Erie.
  5. NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory (2012, February 21) Algae Blooms in Lake Erie. Accessed March 23, 2012.
NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Mike Carlowicz and Jeff Schmaltz.
Terra - MODIS

Go here.

The Church Lady State

Egan calls it "The Church Lady State."  He's too kind.  Here we have yet another resurgence of "Biblical" bullshit being elevated to the level of law.   It seems every now and then the fog of religion creeps back over the people, and they become stupid.  But the fog lifts.  

That Muslim fog seems especially thick and tenacious, doesn't it?  But Christianity has got their share of stark raving crazies too.   And a whole lot of them don't mind killing in the name of the Lord.

MARCH 22, 2012

The Church Lady State

Timothy Egan on American politics and life, as seen from the West.
When people complain about liberal overreach they always bring up the nanny state. You know, sorting your garbage to see if a banana peel slipped in with a cellophane wrapper; energy-efficient light bulbs; neutered language in the public square to make sure no one is ever offended.
But all of the above is a mere teardrop in the Amazon compared to what your freedom-hating Republican Party has been doing across the land to restrict individual liberty.
They want the state to follow you into the bedroom, the bathroom and beyond. They think you’re too stupid to know what to do with your own body, too ignorant to understand what your doctors tell you and too lazy to be trusted in a job without being subject to random drug testing. Your body is the government’s business.

Let’s take a tour of the church lady state to date. Our nation may soon turn its lonely eyes to Idaho, where Gov. Butch Otter could have the final say on a bill that would order women to undergo a medically unnecessary and invasive procedure before deciding to end a pregnancy.
This is the latest version of the mandatory ultrasound law, recently enacted by Virginia and Texas. But the Idaho bill, which passed the State Senate on Monday in a one-party Republican state, goes much further, and would subject many women to invasive, trans-vaginal inspections.
Idaho politicians love to go on and on about how government shouldn’t force people to do things that violate their conscience, or common sense. And for the last three years, we’ve heard Republican presidential candidates condemn the abomination of government coming between you and your doctor.
But given a chance to govern without a sanity filter, these same Republicans become Big Brother in a surgical smock.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Calling all Kinksters

Another great column by Mark Morford.

Calling all kinkster hippie sluts

Hello, deviant. Hello, kinkster pervert hippie slut. Hello, you who are reading this right now, fondling your whips or shopping for fine fetish wear or perhaps merely squirming gently in your office chair, eager to find out more about all these titillating keywords because, you know, mmmm.

I know how it is. Have you been feeling it, too? The heat of recent media attention? The sour breath of bland, conservative evil on your nicely tattooed neck? Perhaps you've noticed. Sluts and sex, gays and deviants, perverts and hippies, yoga teachers and tattooed miscreants have been in the news a lot recently. More than usual, even. And that's saying something.

It's not difficult to see why. There's a very weird, grisly Republican presidential race underway right now, featuring some of the least appealing, most disagreeable conservative candidates to limp across the national stage in decades. And that's really saying something.

It's all a result of the sad fact that the once-noble GOP has devolved in the past few decades from a semi-reasonable party of stiff values and staid institutions, into a kowtowing, far-right, fundamentalist drainage ditch full of Christian fear, Bible literalism and anti-everythingism. Voilá: one hell of a kinkystrange little witch hunt, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

That's right, nothing. It's tempting to suggest there is a malicious attack afoot, that sex and intellectualism, kink and individuality and "alternative" lifestyles of every kind are under severe threat by the ultra right, all spearheaded by Rick "I (Heart) Dan Savage" Santorum's hilarious pledge to ban hardcore porn, banish gays, inbreed church and state, slap women back to 1952 and return sex to its rightful place as shameful, procreation-only guiltfest even your grandparents would be embarrassed not to have.

Don't forget confused sweatpuddle and ex drug addict Rush Limbaugh, who was kind enough to remind everyone that you absolutely do not call a young, intelligent woman a "slut" without express written dominatrix contract consent, and/or unless she asked you to do so as you spank her, quite hard ....

For the rest, click here.

The Daring Spectacle
Mark Morford's latest book is 'The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism'. Join Mark on Facebook and Twitter, or email him. His website is For his yoga classes, workshops and retreats, click
Mark's column appears every Wednesday on SFGate, and is frequently cross-posted to Huffington Post. To join the notification list for this column, click here and remove one article of clothing. To get on Mark's personal mailing list, click here and remove three more.
This column also has an RSS feed and a very handy archive page.

Read more:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Garbage in Houston

What rotten luck!  I just found out that Garbage, the band, has reunited and has released a new collection.....  AND they're on tour ... AND they're coming to Houston to the House of Blues on 4/20 ... AND they're already SOLD OUT!  

What rotten luck!  Anybody got any tickets?

They're giving away one track from their upcoming album if you go here.

Frank's Chop House

On a visit in late January 2012, the food was OK, the service was decent, and so my wife left a 20% tip.  She's a generous person.  But apparently that wasn't enough of a tip for whoever ADDED another $8 to the $70 credit card charge.  My wife, trusting as she is, didn't look at the receipt till later.  When we noticed what happened, she called to try to get a refund and they stiffed her.  Wouldn't call her back, then they called and said they'd refund the money but didn't.  It's been 7 weeks now, and she's called them several times, they still haven't refunded the $8.   Needless to say, WE WILL NEVER EAT HERE AGAIN.

Frank's Chop House on Urbanspoon


The next in the series...
On the socially-responsible scale, Patagonia is way up there.  No, not the land mass in South America.  The clothing company that was founded in the '70's by a couple of outdoor enthusiasts who wanted to market sustainable outdoor clothing.  

Patagonia was the first outdoor apparel firm to use recycled soda bottles as fleece, the first to make mass-market use of organic cotton, and the first to commit to "green buildings" in all its operations. 

Patagonia also donates 1% of sales to grassroots environmental groups.  It pays its employees well, offers flexible schedules and provides day care for its employees.  They take Corporate Responsibility very seriously.  

And they make great products.

Our Reason for Being

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
–Patagonia's Mission Statement

Patagonia grew out of a small company that made tools for climbers. Alpinism remains at the heart of a worldwide business that still makes clothes for climbing – as well as for skiing, snowboarding, surfing, fly fishing, paddling and trail running. These are all silent sports. None requires a motor; none delivers the cheers of a crowd. In each sport, reward comes in the form of hard-won grace and moments of connection between us and nature.

Our values reflect those of a business started by a band of climbers and surfers, and the minimalist style they promoted. The approach we take towards product design demonstrates a bias for simplicity and utility.

For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet. We donate our time, services and at least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide.

We know that our business activity – from lighting stores to dyeing shirts – creates pollution as a by-product. So we work steadily to reduce those harms. We use recycled polyester in many of our clothes and only organic, rather than pesticide-intensive, cotton.

Staying true to our core values during thirty-plus years in business has helped us create a company we're proud to run and work for. And our focus on making the best products possible has brought us success in the marketplace.

Click here.  

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Financial Advisor

A Day in the Life of a Financial Advisor.  Damn, can my poor wife relate to this video!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cake Wrecks

Ah, the beauty, the bounty, the bizarre-i-tude of the internet.   Perhaps the greatest information storehouse, time suck and masturbatory aid ever created.

Whattaya want?!  Dancing with the Stars?  

It's!!  When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.

Ahhh, Spring, when a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of...

Thanks to John B. for the hare-raising peep at the original Playboy Bunny.  This explains so much. 
(Like why the Easter Bunny never mentioned having a sister.)

The Superblock!

Finally!  For quite a long while now, there has been a 5 square block of empty space sitting smack dab in the middle of Midtown.  I was afraid they were going to build a massive condo project on the space.  Not that that would necessarily be horrible, but it's a fantastic place to put a park, and we need more parks.  And now, it appears that a giant park is EXACTLY what's going to happen!  And just a few blocks from our home.   Awesome!!  Midtown in Houston just keeps getting better and better!

Midtown Superblock and Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm...

Does anyone ever wonder about what the deal is with that huge lot of land right in the middle of Main Street at McGowen, right next to Camden Travis? Well we’ve got the scoop. See the concept here.

Lovingly termed “the Midtown Superblock,” this strip of land is the future home of the approximately 1.5 acre Superblock Park. The Midtown Redevelopment Authority will transform this vacant space into a desirable and necessary asset that will benefit not only Midtowners, but the entire inner loop community as well.

Programming at Superblock Park will include underground parking (more parking has to make you smile), retail space, landscaping, seating and other park furniture, pedestrian-related infrastructure, and additional site amenities. The development of Superblock Park will attract a mixed-use community centered on a rejuvenated Main Street.

Take a look and see what’s coming in the Spring 2014… Proposed Superblock Park Concept

Superblock Park
A world-class social destination in the heart of Midtown.
  • Includes a balance of items that support the overall goals of the Midtown District.
  • Includes over 140 underground parking spaces that support park activities, nearby retail destinations and the Main Street rail line.
  • Includes over 7000 feet of restaurant and retail space.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Road We've Traveled

Here's the 15-minute documentary on the first 3 years of Obama's presidency.    As disappointed as some of us may be with Obama, the alternatives are far, far, FAR worse, so, we need to keep those loony tunes far away from the White House, AND we need to kick them out of the Senate and the House, AND your local state legislatures.  So you need to vote, even if you believe it doesn't matter.  Lots of loony tunes out there.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Jim Jeffries

It's rare to find an openly atheist comic, but Jim Jeffries fills the bill.  It's refreshing.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Boycott Chick-Fil-A

It's well-known that the owners of Chick-Fil-A have a history of donating money to Christian extremist and anti-gay groups.  Well, it's well-known to some, at least.  Just take a few minutes to search on the internet.  You really can't assume that "everyone" knows this or that.  

With the information overload rampant today, it's easy to miss something as it streams by you.  But just remember: you give your money to Chick-Fil-A, and they turn around and give it to radical Christian groups.   They won't get a cent of my money, unless they are the only restaurant for miles and miles around.  Even then, I'd think twice.

A few toons

Remember to click the pics if you can't read them very well.  

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fall of Foolish Faith

Here's a nice read from Victor Stenger, recently published in the Huffington Post.  Nice, that is, if you share my antipathy towards religion.  If you consider yourself religious, you should read this anyway.  You don't want to be close-minded, do you?

The Fall of Foolish Faith
by Victor Stenger, Physicist, PhD, bestselling author
In America today, petro-dollars fuel a giant Christian propaganda machine that works to undermine the efforts of scientists to find solutions to the problems that face us with overpopulation, pollution, and climate change. They use techniques that were pioneered 30 years ago by the tobacco industry to suppress the evidence that smoking causes cancer and heart disease. And these techniques exploit the antiscience that is inherent in religious belief.
A new technique that in recent years has been added to the arsenal of global warming denialism is to frame climate change as a theological issue. Global warming deniers say that God would never allow life on Earth to be destroyed. After all, he gave humans dominion over the planet. Besides, the world is coming to an end soon anyway, so it doesn't matter.
Republican politicians are in the forefront of the battle over climate change. John Shimkus, Republican of Illinois, has said that climate change is a myth because God told Noah he would never again destroy Earth by flood. All the current Republican presidential candidates have either always said climate change was a hoax or have backed off previous statements in which they agreed that warming is taking place.
We can only solve the problems brought about by the misuse of science by adhering to the scientific method, and by more rational behavior on the part of scientists, politicians, corporations, and citizens in all walks of life. Religion, as it is currently practiced with its continued focus on closed thinking and ancient mythology, is not doing anything to support the goal of a better, safer world. In fact, religion actively and vigorously opposes that goal.
Religion has destroyed our trust by its repeated failure. Using the empirical method, science has eliminated smallpox, flown men to the moon, and discovered DNA. If science didn't work, we wouldn't do it. Relying on faith, religion has brought us inquisitions, holy wars, and intolerance. Religion doesn't work, but we still do it.
Science flies us to the moon. Religion flies us into buildings.
Science is not going to change its commitment to the truth. And religion is not going to change its commitment to nonsense. And that is why I call upon scientists and all thinking people to focus their attention on reducing the influence of religion in the world, with the goal of the eventual fall of foolish faith. The future depends on it.


Visit Victor Stenger's blog by going here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yeah, try that

Something good I can say about Santorum is that at least he's willing to acknowledge that the economy is improving.  The other clowns in the race have to lie their asses off to try and convince Republicans that everything is going to hell.  Sigh.  Republicans WILL believe just about any old shit out there, as long as it doesn't come from a Democrat, of course.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Greece in trouble

Greece in trouble?  An understatement.  I hadn't found anyone to put what was going on in Greece in stark relief until I read this column by Nicholas Kristof.    

Greece should be a precautionary tale that austerity in the face of recession is NOT a good idea.  We hear this message a lot from "the left", but telling that to a conservative - American or European - seems like talking to a brick wall.   Still, I wonder, I'll bet you that SOMEBODY is getting rich over the situation in Greece.  I wonder if that is true, and who it would be?   Someone like Mitt Romney, probably.

In Athens, Austerity's Ugliness
by Nicholas Kristof
Europe declared war on Keynes, and Keynes is winning.
In the United States, Republicans lambaste President Obama’s stimulus package as a failure and insist on bone-crunching budget-cutting. If you want to know how well that works, come visit Europe — especially Greece.
Yes, Greece needed a wake-up whack and economic reform, but Republican-style austerity knocked the patient unconscious. Contrast the still-shrinking economies of Europe with the stirrings of recovery in the United States, and you feel lucky to be an American and a beneficiary of President Obama’s stimulus.
It’s stunning here in Athens to see many traffic lights not working, to see beggars pawing through garbage for food, to see blackened ruins of shops burned in rioting. I was even greeted by a homeless man who spoke impeccable British-accented English.
That man, Michael A. Kambouroglou, 35, claims that he studied English literature at Cambridge University and worked for years in the tourism industry, most recently at a five-star hotel. He told me that he had enjoyed a good life, visiting the United States and traveling around the world, until the day nearly a year ago when the collapsing economy caught up with him, and he was laid off.
“To be honest, I never thought it could come to me,” he recalled. “It happened in a flash.” Kambouroglou says he goes out every morning, knocking on doors and looking for work, but in this economy it seems hopeless. The overall unemployment rate here is 21 percent — 48 percent among young people — and the European Union forecasts that the Greek economy (and all of the euro zone) will shrink further this year.
When Kambouroglou’s savings ran out, he moved under a bridge in Athens. The suffering is widespread. Some 250,000 Greeks now receive free meals from churches or shelters, according to the Greek Orthodox Church.
There’s no doubt that Greece had been living recklessly and needed structural reforms. While much of Europe was fundamentally healthy until the crisis hit — the caricature Americans hold of a socialist Europe in decline is a vast exaggeration — Greece truly was a mess. For example, if you’re a business owner, taxation often works like this: Instead of paying a tax bill of, say, $100,000, you pay $40,000 to the state, hand a $20,000 bribe to the tax collector, and keep $40,000.
Republicans are right to see in Greece some perils of an overgenerous government: The state sector was bloated, early retirements and pensions were sometimes absurd, and rigid labor markets undermined Greece’s competitiveness. But the problem was not a welfare state — Greece has much less of a safety net than northern Europe. Rather, it was corruption, inefficiency and a system in which laws are optional.
I drove around Greece and found driving here easy because traffic rules don’t seem to matter. If you’re blocked by a one-way street, you barrel through in the wrong direction. Stop signs are merely suggestive. No-passing markers before blind turns mean: pass anyway, and pray. When an entire economy operates without rules, it has a problem.
Yet instead of structural reforms or improved tax collection, what has changed in Greece, so far, has mostly been slashed budgets. And, as in the rest of Europe, austerity in the middle of recession has made matters worse — just as John Maynard Keynes predicted.
Granted, there are no easy solutions for Greece, but this path doesn’t seem to be working. “It might end up as a social revolution,” Kambouroglou said grimly. That’s too pessimistic, but my hunch is that the latest rescue package will fail (except that it will buy time, perhaps its purpose) and that Greece eventually may leave the euro zone. In any case, the rescue packages seem more about saving French and German banks than saving Greece.
Countless Greeks are giving up on their homeland and emigrating to northern Europe or Australia. Gloom is as thick as a morning fog on the Peloponnesus.
“The state has ceased functioning,” editorialized an Athens newspaper, The Kathimerini.
That’s an exaggeration, but schools, hospitals and social services are devastated. Staff at some halfway houses for the mentally ill haven’t been paid for six months, and electricity has been cut off. “And it’ll get worse,” predicted Dr. Cristos Panettas, the chief psychiatrist of the Psychiatric Hospital of Attica.
One of the earliest recorded economic crises in the Western world came in Athens in the 5th century B.C. Fortunately, Athens was then led by the great Pericles, an early Keynesian who did not respond by slashing budgets.
Instead, he ordered a public works initiative and built the Parthenon. I dropped by the Parthenon the other day, seeking inspiration, and a guide, Miranda-Maria Skiniti, was incisive about the lessons: “We need Pericles today.”
There’s ageless wisdom there for Greeks, Europeans — and Americans.

Assorted chuckles

A reminder to click each pic to make them larger, if you have trouble reading them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Bagby going green!

They have finally begun reconstruction of Bagby Street here in Houston, which runs about 1.5 blocks from our house.  The end-result is going to be very nice, AND it will be the FIRST official "Green" road in the state of Texas!

from the Midtown Rocks blog...

I’ll bet you didn’t think a street reconstruction project could go ‘green,’ did you? The design concept for the Bagby Reconstruction was greatly influenced by the national Greenroads™ Program and is conceived to incorporate sustainable practices. Such as, you ask? The Bagby and Pierce Street Reconstruction Project will feature numerous rain gardens, which aids in the decontamination of water before it’s released into Buffalo Bayou. Get a sneak peek of what the street will look like upon completion by clicking on  Bagby_Reconstruction

And what exactly is a Green road?  

What is Greenroads?

Greenroads is a sustainability rating system for roadway design and construction. It is applicable to all roadway projects including new, reconstruction and rehabilitation (even overlays), bridges, you name it. If it is a project where a road is involved, you can use it.
Greenroads is a collection of sustainability best practices, called "credits," that relate to roadway design and construction. Achieving these credits can earn points toward a total score for the project, and in general, this Greenroads™ score can be used as an indicator of sustainability for the roadway. Four different certification levels (rating) are available depending upon total score on a voluntary basis.

Go here for more info.

Stanford guilty

Thursday, March 8, 2012


A couple of weeks ago my wife looked at my scooter helmet's visor and asked if I could even see through it, it was so cloudy.  I put it on, and, wow, I actually couldn't see through it.  It had gradually gotten cloudier and cloudier.  So gradually that I hadn't even noticed.  But there was a tough film of crud, road tar, exhaust fumes, and you-name-it caked onto the visor.  It was pretty disgusting, not to mention dangerous.

I searched the internet in vain for a good cleaner for a visor.  Windex?  Forget it.  Dishwasher detergent?  Not hardly.  Regular soap?  Just caused a smear.  High-priced specialty cleaners?  No one on the net suggested those, so I didn't even try that.  Everything I saw on the net and tried didn't work worth a shit.  The internet was NO HELP!!

I had some serious CRUD on my visor.  

Finally, my wife said, how about vinegar?  We've probably all heard the stories about the 1000's of uses for vinegar.  Well, make this 1001.  It took a lot of elbow grease, but it turns out that good ol' vinegar is the ONLY thing that got the visor clean.  Now, it's good as new.  And the solution cost but a few pennies.  What a deal.

Funny thing is, I've read through several websites touting the benefits of vinegar for this and that, but not one of them suggested it was a good cleaner for helmet visors.  I feel like a pioneer, boldly going where none has gone before.  It sure does stink, but it works.  

More uses for vinegar here.  And here.  And here.

What the hell is vinegar anyway?  Go here.