Daily Archives: June 1, 2011

Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 26: “My head is full of question marks”

Even as the situation at the troubled Fukushima Nuclear Reactors … well, remains troubled … the post-game analysis of what went wrong and what could have been done better develops. It is becoming clear that the plant had no real plan for the event of a tsunami even though it was built at an elevation within that affected by historically known and documented tsunami waves, and there is post-hoc confusion and denial related to early screw ups in trying to avoid a meltdown in the reactors (which ended up occurring), for instance.

Highly radioactive water continues to leak out of at least one reactor vessel, and no real progress appears to have been made in securing cooling mechanisms or containing damage to the environment around the plant. The level of radioactivity at the ocean outlet of the plant has increased rather than decreased. It was news when a broken pump in reactor 5 was repaired, but Reactor 5 is stable and was quietly and uneventfully shut down until this pump broke and the reactor started heading for a meltdown (objections that these reactors can’t melt down in three … two … one …). It became especially clear over the last few days that the situation is very far from under control when a regionally typical tropical storm threatened the area and there was no plan for how to address flooding rains and winds or other inclement storm conditions.

Monitoring for radiation exposure of people, plants, landscapes, etc. continues within a climate of increasing uncertainty about the dangers of ionizing radiation. Cattle are being moved out of the area, the snow in the mountains near Fukushima is found to be radioactive, and junior high students are being urged to wear long sleeved shirts, just in case. The Prime Minister is facing a no confidence vote.

The estimated cost of the cleanup (and it is a bit early to estimate, but still..) is about four or five percent of Japan’s GDP.
Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 26: “My head is full of question marks”

Dangerous Teenage Texting

Moms and Dads: Are your children idiots?

There is a distinct possibility. Better check your paperwork from school, see if there’s any warning notes in there.

Here’s the thing. For some reason, over the last week, I’ve been the unwitting recipient of mis-dialed text messages from giddy tweens. In each case there was a series of indecipherable messages that I ignored for a while. Eventually, in each case, I finally sent back a text saying “U have the wrong number.” In each case the child did not understand the meaning of that phrase and proceeded to explain how they have the correct number, the number is (such and such) and why don’t I add them to the speed dial, etc. etc.

So in each case, not being sure what I was dealing with, and thinking that maybe it was me who was wrong about this being a wrong number, I sent a text that said “Who are you?” …. and in each case I got a text back saying the person’s name, the town they live in, and the school they go to. It was like a POW giving name, rank, and serial number; “My name is Johnny and I live in Springfield and I go to the John Glenn Elementary School” or whatever.

OMG. I happen to not be a child predator, but if I was, I’d be on to something with these gullible kids! What I did, instead of requesting more information so that I could easily find them and use the old “my puppy is lost” trick to lure them into the conversion van or whatever, was to text them back a message saying “I don’t know you, you don’t know me, don’t text me again.”

The first kid texted me back with “ooops, sorry” and the second kid just stopped texting. I hope they both realize that they should not have given me their names and how to find them. All I wanted was a first name so I could check with my daughter to see if she knew them, or in the case of the second kid, who seemed to think initialy that I was “Johnny” and then that he was Johnny, I just needed to establish a baseline in reality of some sort.

Parents and guardians: Give your kids the basics. Tell them what to not tell other people, what information to not give to web sites, what to not text to those they don’t know as well as those they know. And tell them about the puppy trick, just in case.

Because, even if your particular kid is not an idiot (and I’m sure your kid is a perfect genius) any kid can be an idiot any time. Temporary idiocy can strike without warning.

The Birder’s Handbook

I recommend The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. It was written by three serious bird experts and it will serve any bird watcher in North America very well. Here’s how you use it. You go bird watching and later, you look up one or two of the birds you saw, read the entries on them, read the entries cross referenced in those first entries, and otherwise explore around this compendium of information about bird ecology and biology.

The Book
For instance, you spy a Clapper Rail. So you look that up and see the reference to the essay on rails. There, you learn, among other things, that rails are rare on birder’s lists not because they are rare (they are not) but because they are hiding.

Then, the next time you are out with someone birding, and you see a rail, you can impress your friend with this bit of knowledge about rails. How cool is that?

OK, so you see a Gray Kingbird. You look it up. There, you find a reference to an essay on the evolution of bird nesting behavior, which will blow your mind.

And so on and so forth.

This is one of those books that I don’t have in the field back but that I do keep in the other pack (actually, a Duluth Tote Bag) which gets dragged to and from the car, cabin, etc. One of these days Imma build a trailer that hold books and battery chargers.

Anyway, The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds is a must-have.

“If You Love Evolution, Tweet About It!” COE # 36

i-80e531b0d2456037296ea380dfc94a8a-_main_top_1872_Expression_F1142_327-thumb-300x300-65652.jpgWelcome to the Thirty Sixth Carnival of Evolution. The world of blog carnivals is in a state of flux and uncertainty these days, with the distinct possibility of a mass extinction just around the corner. One of the oldest, longest running, and most important carnivals, I and the Bird, issued its last issue only a few days ago, and the Keepers of the Carnival of Evolution themselves are said to be thinking about ways that this whole carnival thing can be made to work better. That could, I suppose, mean killing it and replacing it with something else. We are hopeful that this will not be something monstrous. Well, actually monstrous would be fine, I suppose, just highly unlikely to found a new species of scientific social networking.

With that thought in mind, I’d like you do to me a favor. If you are into evolution (which you probably are because you are reading this post) then help promote excellent evolution blogging. Do you have a facebook account? Good. Open up a selection of the following posts and if you like them or find them interesting, post them on your wall. Let your facebook friends see some of this interesting blogging. Do you tweet? Then tweet them! Oh, and go ahead and facebook-share and tweet this very carnival. Stumble, Digg, Reddit, Whatever. The idea is go get the word out that there is some interesting stuff to read, about evolution, on the intertubes. We want Evolution Blogging to be more linky and socially networked than other topics such as, well, creationism for example. This carnival is a pretty darn good listing of what has come out over the last few weeks across the blogosphere. So, your job as a lover of and promoter of evolution is to use this list of blog posts as a kind of todo list … working off this list, promote the posts.

I’ve taken a very straightforward approach to the carnival, which is my style; I let the posts speak for themselves. So, in the following listing you’ll see the title of each post and a brief excerpt. Click on the title to see the post. The categories into which I’ve divided the post make total sense and form a very good taxonomy of evolution blogging. For some of the posts. For others, the categories suck. It is not easy making categories for this sort of writing, as many of the posts are so darn multifarious, which is a good thing.

And now, the carnival:
Continue reading “If You Love Evolution, Tweet About It!” COE # 36