Weblog Archives




  Saturday   July 29   2006

global climate change

A disaster to take everyone's breath away

Deep in the heart of the world's greatest rainforest, a nine-day journey by boat from the sea, Otavio Luz Castello is anxiously watching the soft waters of the Amazon drain away.

Every day they recede further, like water running slowly out of an immense bathtub, threatening a worldwide catastrophe.

Standing on an island in a quiet channel of the giant river, he points out what is happening. A month ago, the island was under water. Now, it juts 5m above it.

It is a sign that severe drought is returning to the Amazon for a second successive year. And that would be ominous. New research suggests that one further dry year beyond that could tip the whole vast forest into a cycle of destruction.


  thanks to DANGEROUSMETA!

Greenland's Ice Sheet Is Slip-Sliding Away
The massive glaciers are deteriorating twice as fast as they were five years ago. If the ice thaws entirely, sea level would rise 21 feet.

Gripping a bottle of Jack Daniel's between his knees, Jay Zwally savored the warmth inside the tiny plane as it flew low across Greenland's biggest and fastest-moving outlet glacier.

Mile upon mile of the steep fjord was choked with icy rubble from the glacier's disintegrated leading edge. More than six miles of the Jakobshavn had simply crumbled into open water.


  thanks to Politics in the Zeros

The Threat to the Planet

Animals are on the run. Plants are migrating too. The Earth's creatures, save for one species, do not have thermostats in their living rooms that they can adjust for an optimum environment. Animals and plants are adapted to specific climate zones, and they can survive only when they are in those zones. Indeed, scientists often define climate zones by the vegetation and animal life that they support. Gardeners and bird watchers are well aware of this, and their handbooks contain maps of the zones in which a tree or flower can survive and the range of each bird species.

Those maps will have to be redrawn. Most people, mainly aware of larger day-to-day fluctuations in the weather, barely notice that climate, the average weather, is changing. In the 1980s I started to use colored dice that I hoped would help people understand global warming at an early stage. Of the six sides of the dice only two sides were red, or hot, representing the probability of having an unusually warm season during the years between 1951 and 1980. By the first decade of the twenty-first century, four sides were red. Just such an increase in the frequency of unusually warm seasons, in fact, has occurred. But most people —who have other things on their minds and can use thermostats—have taken little notice.

Animals have no choice, since their survival is at stake. Recently after appearing on television to discuss climate change, I received an e-mail from a man in northeast Arkansas: "I enjoyed your report on Sixty Minutes and commend your strength. I would like to tell you of an observation I have made. It is the armadillo. I had not seen one of these animals my entire life, until the last ten years. I drive the same forty-mile trip on the same road every day and have slowly watched these critters advance further north every year and they are not stopping. Every year they move several miles."


  thanks to Conscientious

The Long and Warming Road
Bush's greatest crime against humanity is one he picked up from his predecessor

Here in the coastal Maine town where my wife spent her childhood, my brother-in-law has lived his entire life. He doesn't talk much; makes his living running the town's water system, and in his spare time does wonderful stone masonry work. He's an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I have no idea what political party he tends to vote for, or whether he votes at all. He seems to tend to think of all politicians as corrupt. He's no fool.

And he has noticed that the weather is changing.


 03:56 PM - link

time travel

Old and New London
Surveys London and Westminster and their environs (6 volumes, 1878).

Writing the history of a vast city like London is like writing a history of the ocean—the area is so vast, its inhabitants are so multifarious, the treasures that lie in its depths so countless. What aspect of the great chameleon city should one select? for, as Boswell, with more than his usual sense, once remarked, "London is to the politician merely a seat of government, to the grazier a cattle market, to the merchant a huge exchange, to the dramatic enthusiast a congeries of theatres, to the man of pleasure an assemblage of taverns." If we follow one path alone, we must neglect other roads equally important; let us, then, consider the metropolis as a whole, for, as Johnson's friend well says, "the intellectual man is struck with London as comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the contemplation of which is inexhaustible." In histories, in biographies, in scientific records, and in chronicles of the past, however humble, let us gather materials for a record of the great and the wise, the base and the noble, the odd and the witty, who have inhabited London and left their names upon its walls. Wherever the glimmer of the cross of St. Paul's can be seen we shall wander from street to alley, from alley to street, noting almost every event of interest that has taken place there since London was a city.

Burning the Pope in effigy at Temple Bar


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 03:39 PM - link

america the beautiful

Adam Smith Meets Cousin Ronnie's Boy
That ain't no class underclass; it's 250 million rugged individuals being pissed on.
by Jow Bageant

Unbelievable as it seems today, there was a time when such people as doctors and lawyers did not necessarily live apart from the dirt front yards and Saturday night domestic scraps of the laboring class. The doctor who delivered me in 1946, the most prosperous in town by all accounts, lived just a few short blocks from the rundown Kent Street "white trash and nigger street" my parents called home. His fee for dragging my screaming ass into the light was an exorbitant $100 -- and for a caesarian birth at that -- because the US Army was writing the check. The good doctor lived close enough that my old man could walk a five-dollar payment over to his house on payday, close enough that I could see his rooftop from my upstairs bedroom window. As a kid, knowing such an educated, prosperous man lived so near was somehow comforting. And at least it gave an example of what one might possibly aspire to, given the education.

Not that the working people then generally aspired to an education. In those days most folks could make a living without being very educated, or even very bright. A high school education was adequate for the jobs available in East Coast agriculture and manufacturing based town like Winchester. As for the professions, our medical and legal needs were meet by a handful of physicians and semi-savory lawyers ground out by the University of Virginia, "men of tradition" who made much of graduating from "Mistah Jeffah-sun's University," then went about their business of real estate theft and keeping the bubbas out of jail. As for teachers, nearby Shepherdstown State Teachers College provided the class in between the bubbas ("Yore Honor I never meant to kill that guy with my truck, I was only trying to take out his mailbox …") and the country club lawyers. But overall, life required little education. Nobody was yet writing computer programs to put multibillion dollar cybernetic nuclear dildos in outer space. It was just plain American life in a plain American town. I know I'm sounding like one more cranky fart lamenting the good old days, but hang on, it takes me a few licks to get good and wound up.


 02:26 PM - link

photographic storage devices

With the tsunami of digital cameras, several film manufacturers, as well as camera manufactures, have given up. So it is with much excitement that those using film greet the news of a new manufacturer of black and white film. Most of the images floating around in my head are in color but a few are in glorious black and white so I'm most interested in the future of black and white film. One of the recent companies that bailed out of film was Agfa. Now, the company I buy my black and white film from: JandC Photo, has apparently bought some of the Agfa film manufacturing machines and is going to be rolling their own, so to speak.

JandC Photo

As many of our customers know we have spent the last few months looking at how to best provide as many film choices as possible. We have looked at many ways to bring new films to the market. This includes plans going forward right now to operate our own coating facility and producing high quality films in various formulations.

Over the next 18-24 months we are planning on introducing the following films to the market. All films we produce will be available in 35mm roll and sheet film formats.

ISO 25 film with fully panchromatic spectral sensitivity.

ISO 100 film with fully panchromatic sensitivity and designed to be ideal for alt processes requiring high density. Specially designed for minimal reciprocity failure

ISO 400 film fully panchromatic multi layer film designed for minimal reciprocity failure at rated speed.


Here are a couple of links to forum threads about this wondrous news.

Good News for B&W Film Fans

Wonderful news!

I wait with eager antici..........pation!

 02:22 PM - link

health care

Unhealthy Returns
by Billmon

Part of my day job is to prepare quarterly reports for our clients on developments in the stock and bond markets. It's generally a tedious chore (the odd Internet bubble or market crash not withstanding) but every now and again I run across a fact or number that illustrates some larger economic point -- like the time (this was at the height of the late '90s tech stock mania) when I added up the quarterly increase in the market value of the S&P 500 and realized it was bigger than the entire gross domestic product of Canada.

The lesson I learned this quarter is that the health care crisis is now hitting the health care industry where it hurts most -- straight in the wallet. Whether that will will be enough to prod our GOP-run Chamber of People's Deputies into actually doing something about the problem isn't clear, but I think it at least raises the odds. After all, we're not just talking about the sickness and suffering of ordinary human beings. There are large corporations out there in real pain. Something has to be done.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that whatever is done will probably make me sick and the uninsured even sicker.


 02:03 PM - link

analog storage device

I started on my first Moleskine notebook at the end of last November. I've just started on my third. I can't get through the day without it.

There is the almost filled up notebook #2 and the unwrapped notebook #3.

It has an elastic that keeps it closed and keeps the odd bits of papers and receipts from falling out.

I number the pages in red pencil and date stamp each day in red. Makes it easy to see the page numbers and dates from the entries. Much of what i put in the notebook is ephemera: grocery lists, errand lists, things to do, etc. I also use it to layout web sites, design camera straps, plan photo shoots, record exposure information, and design pinhole cameras. The first and last pages of the notebook are heavy card stock and I use those as sort of a table of contents where I note the page numbers with stuff I want to find again.

It's also most useful as a daily calendar. I drawn three lines on each page. The top area is for month and year. The three lower areas are each for a day. That gives 6 days for a double page. I suppose if you want to do it as a week you could make the last area for the weekend. I use Post-it page markers to note the calendar pages. When I need to add a date beyond what I have I just go to the next empty double page, draw the lines, add the dates, and tack on another Post-it page marker.

The back has a handy pocket. I keep a 3x5 card with phone numbers, a calendar, business cards. and an exposure calculator. I don't know how I made it to now without one. By the way, I get mine at Ninth Wave Designs.

 01:57 PM - link


Is Cheney Betting On Economic Collapse?
The Veep's Curious Investment Portfolio

Wouldn't you like to know where Dick Cheney puts his money? Then you'd know whether his "deficits don't matter" claim is just baloney or not.

Well, as it turns out, Kiplinger Magazine ran an article based on Cheney's financial disclosure statement and, sure enough, found out that the VP is lying to the American people for the umpteenth time. Deficits do matter and Cheney has invested his money accordingly.

The article is called "Cheney's betting on bad news" and provides an account of where Cheney has socked away more than $25 million. While the figures may be estimates, the investments are not. According to Tom Blackburn of the Palm Beach Post, Cheney has invested heavily in "a fund that specializes in short-term municipal bonds, a tax-exempt money market fund and an inflation protected securities fund. The first two hold up if interest rates rise with inflation. The third is protected against inflation."

Cheney has dumped another (estimated) $10 to $25 million in a European bond fund which tells us that he is counting on a steadily weakening dollar. So, while working class Americans are loosing ground to inflation and rising energy costs, Darth Cheney will be enhancing his wealth in "Old Europe". As Blackburn sagely notes, "Not all bad news' is bad for everybody."


 01:20 PM - link

something good this way comes

At least not everything in my life (and the world) is a disaster. After my traumatic horror story about destroying my beloved Jupiter 12 35mm lens that I use on my Leica IIIc, I received an email from one of my Australian readers. It was either from Scott or Monica or maybe one of their ferrets (they are the little tricksters). Scott has an extra minty J12 that he is sending my way as a gift. And a generous gift it is! I'm looking forward to it. It will be known as the Scott and Monica Memorial J12. Thanks!!

Things photographic have been on hold with trying to help Gerry this past week. I have 10 sheets of 4x5 color and 25 sheets of 5x7 black and white that want to be exposed but I need to clean up those film holders. I received the M42 adapter for the digital Pentax so that I can use my screw mount Super Takumars from my film Pentaxes. I still need to test those. And I received a piece of 4x5 ground glass and a cable release for the 4x5 Polaroid camera conversion. So many projects, so little time.

At least I have my links organized and I will get them up this weekend.

 01:16 PM - link

  Friday   July 28   2006

a nightmare

Wednesday was a nightmare I wish I could forget. It was immeasurably worse for Zoe and unimaginable for Gerry.

A slight recap — this really started almost two months ago when HomePlace, the Alzheimer's/dementia care facility that Gerry was living at, didn't take the time to make sure Gerry was getting her meds. She was getting aggressive and they sent Gerry to the Senior Behavorial Center at Sedro-Wooley. It was done as an involuntary admission. This meant that the State of Washington now had control of where she went (Zoe still has to pay the bills.) Staying at Sedro-Wolley is only for two weeks max to stabilize her meds. Unfortunately, they didn't try to get her back on the meds she had been taking but put here on different meds. She was calm enough after two weeks that HomePlace took her back. Unfortunately, the new meds amped her up and pretty soon the verbal aggressiveness came back and when HomePlace sent Gerry to the ER at Whidbey General 2 1/2 weeks ago they sent her with a note that she couldn't return because of the behavorial problems. For the last two weeks the doctor at Sedro-Wooley has been adjusting her meds.

When Zoe last posted on Friday we knew there was a possibility that she might be transferred to Western State Hospital south of Tacoma since Gerry wasn't really getting much better. We had no control over this. That is a 2 1/2 hour one-way trip for us. With Zoe's health problems, that is a trip we can't make very often. Zoe's concern was that Gerry needed family to visit and we wouldn't be able to do that if she was sent to Western so she called her brother in Iowa and he said if worse came to worse we could send her to Iowa where they would be able to visit. The social worker at Sedro-Wolley said that we could do something like this.

4:30 Sunday morning we got a call form Zoe's brother (7:30 Iowa time.) He said that there was not any way he could take his mother. He had a lot of excuses and would not listen to Zoe as she tried to tell him that this wouldn't be a financial burden on him. He thinks that Gerry doesn't know who anyone is and that she will just be sedated and it wouldn't make any difference where she is. He was afraid it would impact his retirement. We were on our own.

Early Sunday evening we visited Gerry. She was much worse then when we had visited her on Wednesday. She could not walk and it took two people to lift her out of the wheelchair. It was very troubling seeing her like that. One of the problems was that they couldn't find anyone to take Gerry but at last Birchview Manor, also in Sedro-Wooley, said they would so we checked it out after seeing Gerry. It was a very nice place. It would be a 1 1/2 hour drive to visit here but that would have been possible. We went home very encouraged.

Monday we were told that she was definitely going to Western State Hospital and that Birchview wouldn't take her. She was on a waiting list for a bed. Tuesday we told that she would be picked up at 8 Wednesday morning and would be arriving at Western State Hospital at 11.

We left a little after 8 and pulled into Western State Hospital, just south of Tacoma, a little after 11. We walked into the ward and saw Gerry. That's when the nightmare began. Here speech was terribly slurred and it was like she was on speed. She was a totally different person. We were horrified. Over the next couple of hours we met with nurses, a social worker, a doctor (internist), and a psychiatrist. They were great. It was clear to the psychiatrist that she was way overmedicated which would account for some of her behavior. It was so disturbing watching her like this. When they were taking her to the bathroom her legs were very sensitive to touch. The doctor was afraid that might be a sign of a blood clot so he arranged for her to be sent to a nearby emergency room. That is when things went from bad to worse. By this time Gerry was getting very agitated and started yelling at everyone and was starting to hit people.

By the time we got her into the ER she was totally terrified. Zoe and I were there but she was resisting any kind of care. She was yelling and hitting. They had to restrain her wrists. Then she started screaming. Yelling for help and letting out these primal screams over and over again. She would calm down for short periods and try and negotate her release with me and then Zoe and then start resisting and screaming again. This went on for over an hour until the second dose of Atavan finally calmed her down and she went to sleep. At that point Zoe and I left and got back to the Island after 9 in the evening.

Yesterday we got the results of the ER tests back and she is a low risk for a blood clot. It's probablly arthritis.

The positive side is we were impressed with the people taking care of her (except for one) at Western State Hospital. There is hope that they can get the right meds in her that will control her behavior and still let the Gerry that is left come out. When we were in the ER 2 1/2 weeks ago, before they sent her to Sedro-Wooley she, was smiling and joking. She was still talking gibbersh but it was clear that there was still some Gerry left inside. We hope we can get back to that point. It may be that part of this is a progression of the Alzheimer's. Through all of this Zoe has been fighting for her mom. She has been writing emails and making phone calls. Tuesday night she was up late writing a 4 page history of Gerry for the doctors at Western. On the way down she was writing in the margins and on back adding to it. The staff at Western was ecstatic to see it. They want to see the big picture of their patients. So often all they get is a couple of pages from another hospital and that's it. There is no family for many of their patients. If they can get her stabilized we will be able to mover her back into a care facility that is closer to us. We can only hope. I'm sure Zoe will be posting something in her blog about this and I will link to it when she does. Until then, she has this short post.

 01:07 PM - link