Friday, January 09, 2009

Zeitgeist du Vader



From the strip Deleted Scenes by Dave Graff


How to Make a Bad First Impression on Earth


Women are from Venus, Men are from Uranus ...(Rated R)

This strip is from WE THE ROBOTS, one of my favorite comics.  Check it out here.  The author, Chris Harding, is consistently funny and often makes me laugh out loud. 


Thursday, January 08, 2009

This is Precisely the Opposite of Economic Darwinism, isn't it?

Though you do have to give the CEOs some credit for adaptation.  After all, the second time they panhandled Congress they managed to get to DC without four private jets.  I wonder if the black suit plumage in the Congressional hearing rooms attracted any potential mates for the Big Three, who seem to have formed their entire strategy around a misquote of Theodore Roosevelt:  "Whine loudly and carry a big line graph showing the end of America if you don't give us the money, now.  Seriously."




Check out more of this funny comic online at:

Keeping up with the Joneses

Sad, but a bit too true for comfort!

Keeping Up with the Joneses

By Gary Varvel             Varvel's comic in the Indy Star

Before You Yell at the Other Guy...

I believe that when we finally come to understand the smallest building block, the very stuff of which the universe itself is made, it will turn out to be irony.  Yes, irony.  Makes sense, doesn't it?    More about that later, but moving to the second basic element of which the universe has been constructed, I think it is hypocrisy.  Then  comes indignation.  Sadly, I find that I myself am a proof that these elements are indeed fundamental materials; indeed I usually give them away more than most.  Except for this guy I saw at the coffee stand this morning.

I was at a coffee stand this morning and heard a funny exchange.  When it was his turn, a middle aged man in front of me in line, and who seemed particularly rushed while we waited our turn to order, stepped up and in a clipped manner said

"Grande drip in a tall cup."

"I'm sorry, could you repeat that?" said the hurried but pleasant young woman at the counter. 

"Grrraaande drip in a tall cup." He said it slowly, dragging out the syllables for emphasis.

  "Do you want a Grande drip half full?" she said hesitantly. 

Well, at this point the guy had been waiting for more than two minutes in line just to finally get to the front and find himself unable to make the person understand a perfectly simple order (of course, I don't know what he was thinking really, I am just filling in the blanks from his expression and body language. Raising his voice, the guy announced loudly,


The poor person at the counter looked flustered, and she had been so pleasant, and I think she'd been convinced all along that SHE must be misunderstanding him, so I leaned up and said, 

"Unless you are a human compressor or can suspend physical laws you can’t have that.  No one can.  I think a reasonable compromise might be for you to have a tall drip in a Grande cup.  How would that be?" 

The guy looked at me, with irritation, then I believe he realized that he'd been demanding sixteen ounces of coffee in a twelve ounce cup instead of the opposite.  He got kind of white in the face and then walked out without another word to me or the gal at the counter.

"Thank you, I couldn't figure out what he wanted.  I thought I was mixed up and he was getting mad." she said.

"You were very good about it." I said. "Now for me...may I have a grande black tea in a replica space shuttle sippy cup?"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Another Serial Killer in Louisiana? (Updated 1/3/2009)

In just the past five years, three serial killers have been arrested in Louisiana, and yet the killing continues. 

In May of 2003 police in Baton Rouge arrested Derrick Todd Lee for the murder of seven women.  These murders had been particularly terrorizing because the victims were not otherwise high-risk victims, and they were often taken from or murdered in their own homes.  It was DNA that finally brought the police to the killer.  He was sentenced to death by lethal injection. 

Just a year later, in 2004, police arrested Sean Vincent Gillis for the murder of three women.  After his arrest Gillis confessed to killing five more women.  He was sentenced to life in the first of his trials.

In 2006, Ronald Joseph Dominique was arrested for the murder of 23 men over a ten year period.  He confessed to the killings in a deal to avoid the death penalty and was sentenced to eight life terms.

Now law enforcement in Jefferson Parish have formed a task force to investigate a series of murders they believe are likely to be the work of a serial killer.  In this case, the investigation is looking into the murders of seven women since 2005.  There are nearly a score of other unsolved murders of women that could be, but have not yet been connected to this killer in neighboring parishes.  So, either there is another very prolific killer in Louisiana, or there is a prolific serial killer with possibly other serial killers or individual murderers active in the state.  Either way, it must be a very frightening time for people living high-risk lifestyles dominated by drugs and the sex trade.  For many years Washington State was the place most often associated with serial killers, but that may be changing, much to the dismay of the people of Louisiana.

UPDATE (September 1, 2009) 8th Victim found:  The most recent victim was a 26 year old woman named Necole Guillory.  Guillory was last seen getting into a car on Sunday, August 16th, near the south Main Street area Jennings.  The multi-agency task force investigating the case released the following:

The multi-agency task force comprised of Acadia, Calcasieu and Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff's Offices, Jennings Police Department, 15 th & 31st District Attorney's offices, La State Police Region 2 CID investigators/ Lake Charles, La Attorney General's Office, and the FBI continue to aggressively investigate the murders of several women from the Jennings area.

The task force continues to seek information from the public, and will continue to share as much information as possible with the public about these investigations without jeopardizing the investigation or prosecution due to recent media coverage and news releases, resulting in enhanced public awareness and combined with the sustained efforts of the task force, it is likely that the offender may have altered his behavior, habits and/or practices.

The following are additional examples of such changes possibly made by the offender:

The offender may have recently left the Jennings area, possibly in an abrupt manner, with no indication of prior planning.

The offender may have recently discontinued his contact with the area of Jennings formerly frequented by the victims.

The offender may have recently altered his physical appearance.

The offender may have altered the appearance of his vehicle, e.g., having his vehicle painted.

The offender likely had sex with some, most or all of the women (decomposition doesn’t allow certain confirmation).  What makes it tougher is that many other men may have had recent encounters with the women (some , many, and though improbable, it is possible men unrelated to the murders had sex with all of the missing women).  At least five separate men have been under suspicion because they were seen with one or more victims shortly before they disappeared.  Two were arrested and then released.

In my opinion, and it isn’t worth much I know, what is raising the temperature of frustration in Jennings isn’t necessarily frustration that sprouts from police incompetence.  A very competent police force very often finds it tough to break open serial murder cases.  I can’t say with any inside information whether the Jennings officers are average, better or worse.  But I can say that anytime a series of murders go on without ending, the community can become inflamed.  I would cite examples, but it seems SOOO unnecessary in this case. 

The most remarkable element in my mind is that the frustration, and a washed pickup truck seem to have lead to the entire police force being swabbed for DNA.  Now THAT is pretty new. 

For good crime news, including reporting on the current Louisiana murder series (last link deals with DNA swabs):

The Criminal Report Daily by David Lohr

Steve Huff:  The True Crime Report

Lost in Lima Ohio


Monday, January 05, 2009

Immodium Billboard

This billboard won an award from Ad Age.  The sign is in Puerto Rico

I Apologize

Look, I know I should not post this photo on my blog.  It is disgusting and will render anything I say about half as credible from here on out.  I know.  But jeez!  Talk about your bad roller coaster rides!  I think what makes me laugh so much at this - aside from the hilarious looks on the other faces as the poor fellow in front unswallows - is that when I was a kid, a similar thing happened to me. 

I was about ten and we were at the carnival at the State Fair.  I wanted to go on a ride that basically just went around in circles - like the Tilt-A-Whirl it goes around pretty fast and then at various angles, but unlike the Tilt-A-Whirl on this one you sat rather than stood.  No one else wanted to go, so I went and was seated with a pretty fat kid about my age.  I say fat, and what I mean is that he was about my age and height, but probably weighed double what I did.  He was big enough that I was trying really hard to figure out centrifugal force before we got on the ride so I wouldn't be squashed when the whirling began.  Turns out that being squashed was not the worst thing that could happen on this ride. 

Being a big kid, within about fifteen loops on the spin cycle, I became aware of sounds next to me that tweaked my intuition.  I am not sure what they were, but whatever sounds they were my mind immediately posted Threat Level Red.  Sure enough, it was only seconds later when that sound - the squelched half choke, half groan that always accompanies regurgitation - came from the lump of unprocessed cotton candy, corn dog and sno-cone sitting beside me.  THAT sound, was followed by the next expected input...a huge, and surround sound-like SPLAT - the surround effect coming from the fact that the ejected material, having been deployed in a circle after all, does indeed splash down all around you.  The elevated aluminum platform of the ride only amplified the sound.  You know it now, if you are still reading, just as I knew it then:  the next sounds would be: first, gasps of shock and revulsion, second, a few stray "Oh my God"  and  "did that kid just puke?" remarks, and then finally, the ultimate in competitive barfing...yep, the sympathy heave.  This large kid, who had only seconds before been full of fair food for a family of four, had achieved the ultimate and elusive goal of any big-time vomit prankster: a multiple sympathy heave.  Once I realized that my inside seat had saved me from a marinated scone and Coke shower, I was free to fully appreciate the large-scale destruction from  my elevated perch.  The big kid had managed to hurl through 270 degrees of the circle, careful or fortunate only to spew in the area occupied by the people waiting for their turn and a group of parents waiting for their kids to exit the ride.  The empty part of the perimeter was also the quadrant of the platform that His Eminence, the Bishop of Barf, left unsullied.  Amazing!  This kid could set a record - volume, accuracy, composition and even the extremely rare multiple sympathy heave!  Two women - looking back I realize that of course they were not mothers, who would have shrugged this off like every other unfortunate bodily function that had assailed them as they raised their little bundles of joy - who appeared to be with dates were caught up in the moment and almost instantly 'applauded' the big kid's effort with smaller imitations of their own.  smaller, but sincere, it seemed to me.  Fitting tribute.

So, I hope that you'll forgive me this disgusting and low-class doubt the memory of the Roundup Cleanup makes this picture much funnier for me than for any of you.  Sorry.


Sunday, January 04, 2009

EMT: Travolta 'Amazing'

RADAR magazine obtained an interview with Marcus Garvey, the crew chief for the emergency team that responded to the emergency call at the Travolta's Bahamas home.  The sad details of the death of Travolta's son Jett have been widely published, and I usually don't follow celebrity events very closely, let alone write about them.  But I do often check out Radar because I like Steve Huff and his writing, and when I checked Radar today I saw the article interviewing Mr. Garvey.  In the article Garvey says:

"John and Kelly insisted on traveling in the ambulance with Jett. Garvey reveals that John was holding his son's hand and saying, "Come on Jett."

Garvey told RADAR that Kelly was rubbing Jett's hand, saying, "Come on baby, come on Jett." She was in tears.

Jett was pronounced dead at the hospital and when the ordeal was over, amazingly, John Travolta wanted to express his gratitude to Garvey for his effort. "He tapped me on the shoulder and said 'good job, good job,'" Garvey told RADAR.

It is of course heart-rending for any parent to contemplate the loss of one's child.  It is a sign of character to me that in the throes of such a loss Mr. Travolta thought to speak to the EMT who had worked to save his son, and in his way to thank him for what he had done.  It was a generous thing to do. 

Radar's EXCLUSIVE interview here


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Yellowstone Quake Swarm Update 10

There really isn't news to report about the series of earthquakes that had been occurring at Yellowstone Park for the last week.  The news is really that after over 500 earthquakes in a very small area over the course of six-plus days, there have been none since yesterday just after midnight (approaching two days ago, actually). 

A very quiet earthquake list for the Yellowstone Lake area


Dr. Robert B. Smith, Research Professor of Geology & Geophysics at the University of Utah, and Director of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory  Dr. Robert Smith bio

I'll be looking for interpretation from Dr. Smith and the team that has been studying the Yellowstone volcano system for many years, because even to them this was a unique event.  To me it felt very much like the magma chamber beneath Lake Yellowstone had either swollen or broken through a barrier and was moving to the Northeast during this period.  The webcorder movements were really hectic and seemed to show almost constant vibration in the area - and contrary to some web posters beliefs, this could not be accounted for by wind or other phenomena as the sensors are buried in specially designed borings several hundred feet down.  Even Katrina couldn't tweak those gauges!  Almost as suddenly as it had started, the swarm stopped, as if the moving magma had finally come up against a barrier that it didn't break through or move around.  Fortunately, this movement seems to have been achieved without creating a steam vent - which would likely have triggered at the least a geothermal explosion and at worst a supervolcanic eruption. 

The most fascinating thing about this was that it was clearly an event which was unprecedented - not in history, but in the recorded experience of human beings.  Even the best qualified people had no real way to predict what the activity meant - they could only rely on statistical likelihood based on historical events to discuss what may happen next.  Of the five things Dr. Smith had mentioned leading up to a hydrothermal explosion or supervolcanic eruption, four were present in this case.  The only one that was not noted was an increase in volcanic gasses.  Who knows if the magma movement was more or less routine and the magma was simply able to move more rapidly than is typical through an area where there was minimal resistance, until a after nearly a week a more formidable barrier was finally encountered?  Will this be the end of the quake swarm, or will it resume in the near future and continue for weeks, as some do?  Could these quakes have created new tension instead of releasing it, and a large quake be next?  Might the magma again break through and trigger an explosive event?  I really don't think that, beyond knowing the relative historical frequency of each type of event, anyone can really say what this all means, or what will happen next. 

My smallish mind interpreted what I was seeing and reading as magma movement-related, but that wasn't how Dr. Smith and his colleagues were seeing the same information.  According to Dr. Smith, the earthquake swarm was more of a major seismic event rather than a major volcanic event.   That is, it was related to faults and plate movements mostly and NOT to magma movement.  If anyone is one the fence on this, I say GO WITH THE GUY WHO HAS SPENT 30+ YEARS STUDYING YELLOWSTONE!  Still, I am eager to see anything they come up with concerning this event. And I'll be sure to post whatever I do find, so stay tuned.

New Scanner Takes Stunning Images of Internal Organs

excerpted from an article by Lisa Zyga (article here at

Philips Medical Systems has recently unveiled a new medical scanner that can take images of the inside of the body with stunning precision.


While older scanners would have taken hours to perform a full-body CT scan, the Brilliance scanner can complete a full-body scan in less than a minute. The new scanner also reduces a patient's radiation exposure by up to 80% compared with other CT scanners.

Too Much Fiber?

What do you get when breakfast is a flax and  bran muffin, spirulina drops, a prune and a large coffee? 

Answer: Severe mid-commute spatter cone activity!  This is a gal after my own heart!  Notice the dude in the background.  Does he think she really just made this boom-boom?


Colder Weather Spurs Late Revival of Arctic Ice

Arctic Research Center:  Sea Ice Ends Year at Same Level as 1979


  "Thirty years of sea ice data. The record begins at 1979, the year satellite observations began (Source: Arctic Research Center, University of Illinois)

Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close. "        

--Michael Asher (Blog) - January 1, 2009  Link to full entry

Arctic sea ice decreased significantly through much of last year, but satellite data shows the trend was reversed late in the year, with the rate of increase from September to year end showing the fastest rate of change on record - either for rate of increase or rate of decrease.  According to the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center as reported in the blog above, the information is collected via satellite observation of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.  This is the method used to calculate snow cover data as well.

Sea ice is a very useful indicator of short-term trends because it forms and melts much more quickly than the huge and thick ice sheets anchored to bedrock in Antarctica and around the Arctic Circle.  In the last quarter of 2008, the thinner sea ice had less snow cover than the ice sheets to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

The Arctic Research Center report (Arctic Research Center Website) uses a system based upon the mean ice anomaly - a measurement which reflects the difference between the current sea ice value and the mean sea ice value for the period between 1979 and 2000 (1979 is the year satellite data first began to be used for this purpose).  The above image shows the mean sea ice anomaly value at near 1, about where it was in 1979.  Note that as late as September the word "unprecedented" was frequently being attached to predictions of low sea ice levels:


This is just one of the many ways that science continues to learn about the processes, causes and effects, and the historical record for climate related processes on earth.  Because the record is so complex, it can be very difficult to model the future based on data from multiple and variable sources, collected by different means and over a very short period of time, in terms of the planetary history.  Clearly, science does not yet understand all of the earth's processes or the complex interrelationships that drive them. 

By way of disclaimer, though, please note that merely publishing reports that do not conform to global warming doctrine at face value does not in any way indicate that I am a denier.  I am uncomfortable with many definitive statements that are made concerning earth processes for which we have only cursory and recent data to interpret.  However, that does not mean that we should conduct ourselves as if our activities have no impact on the planet.  Clearly they do, and to whatever extent science ultimately demonstrates, human actions are wasteful and have an unnecessary impact on the ecosystems and processes of the planet.  I prefer to take a logic-based approach in this case rather than an empirical approach where facts are tough to demonstrate.  The logic-based approach, as I see it (and no doubt Gifford Pinchot would concur), is simply to conserve our natural resources, minimize the footprint of humans to the greatest practical degree, and to conduct our future designs, economy and collective lifestyle with as great an emphasis on preserving the natural processes and resources of the earth as we can manage.  By taking this approach, the objective of the current global warming proponents can be met without the need of introducing political agenda and public relations into the scientific process.  The need to prove that each wasteful or polluting activity is having grave consequences right now is moot, if the guiding principal is conservation. 

Oh, and yes, I realize that is idealistic.  Once we have uniformly adopted conservation I propose we move on to world peace. 

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
As always, the photos we use are either my own, or in the public domain. Please let me know if there are any errors and I'll correct them immediately.