27 September 2013

Sentimental Riff: Weekend Playlist

Adny, Ross the Boss, & Handsome Dick nailed it first (1975):

Then came Joey & the boys, this from Rock 'n' Roll High School—Boo yeah! Riff Randle! (1978)

Revived and blown to Smithereens (1989)

Bonus Points: Norwegian Style: Turbonegro (1998)


Extra Credit: Speaking of The Dictators and the Ramones, now that Autumn's upon us, here's a half century of California Sun:

Joe Jones (1961)

The Rivieras (1964)

The Dictators (1975)

The Ramones (1977)

Gyllene Tider (1981) (in Swedish!!)

Los Straitjackets (2005)

The Postelles (2011)

Tim Timebomb & Friends (2013)

25 September 2013

This Week in Water

This week, a virtual torrent.

Some believe the radiation in the fuel pool at Fukushima Unit 4 is a potential existential threat to humanity and that TEPCO and the Japanese government are incapable of dealing with the situation.

British Petroleum ("BP") wants to suspend settlement payments to U.S. Gulf Coast residents and businesses affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's Halliburton has pleaded guilty to destroying evidence in the same matter.

How much arsenic is tolerable in our drinking water?

The recent flooding in Colorado has spawned at least 10 separate oil and gas spills. You might have known this, but I'll bet you didn't know that the recent thousand-year Colorado flooding was a direct result of Colorado's political initiatives in legalizing marijuana, liberalizing abortion regulations, and decadent homosexual activity of public figures—at least according to one radio Christianist.

Algae biofuels have proven to be remarkably efficient and cut carbon emissions by up to 70% by comparison to petroleum.

The car of the future might be made using magnesium extracted from seawater.

The second annual IF Water Conference took place in Louisville, KY this week, exploring issues relating to Earth's most precious resource.

Water scarcity affects as many as 2 billion people worldwide and is getting worse. And  global warming isn't helping. This despite the 5 new aquifers recently discovered in the Turkana region of Kenya.

Dam operations can either be beneficial or detrimental to the local ecosystem and should be studied and evaluated on that basis.

Some Floridians have filed to pump 100,000 gallons of water a day out of their local aquifer. They have no intention of doing so but hope to prevent others—big Agro and developers—from taking this valuable resource. Mississippi soybean planters are planning to reduce the amounts of water withdrawn from the local aquifer for irrigation.

Retreating glaciers in Switzerland are a direct signal of global warming. Their rate of shrinkage is increasing. As is the decline in Arctic sea ice—something which accelerates the pace of warming. As is the accelerating decline of the world's coral reefs. One of the reasons coral reefs are declining has to do with overfishing of top predators like sharks.

Overfishing is devastating the world's fish stocksHong Kong's government will no longer allow shark fin, bluefin tuna, or black moss on State menus.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, drought in the U.S. is a creeping, incremental disaster that isn't getting sufficient attention because it is wide-spread and its progress uneven. Nearly 1 in 10 U.S. watersheds is 'stressed' as demand for water outpaces supplyChina is being forced to face its own water scarcity crisis. As is Australia.

Rising sea levels have prompted the sinking island state of Kiribati, inhabited since 3000 BC, to explore the possibility of transitioning to man-made floating islands. And, yes, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa), scientists do know how to measure sea levels. Willful ignorance is self-destructive for humanity.

A major earthquake struck a remote part of western Pakistan this week. It was so powerful it caused a new island to rise 70 feet out of the sea off the country's southern coast.

A monster typhoon, Super-Typhoon Usagi, considered the most powerful storm on the face of the Earth in more than a quarter century, was headed toward Hong Kong and Taiwan. Torrential rains have killed dozens in the Philippines.

A plague of jellyfish is having deleterious effects all over the world on fisheries, shipping, power plants, and even global warming and the biodiversity and acidification of the oceans. Some, however, have the advantage of being edible. Watch for more jellyfish recipes at your local seafood restaurant.

Scientists are using ear wax, plugs of up to a foot long, to determine what is killing off endangered blue whales. It can also provide a record of chemical pollution in the oceans.

Paleontologists in Peru have uncovered 40 million year-old fossils of ancient whales in the Ocucaje desert that could provide clues to the link between marine mammals and their terrestrial ancestors.
"“To see the world in a grain of sand…”, this is the first line of William Blake's poem “Auguries of Innocence” [N.B.: Also too my motto for which see above right] which describe a series of paradoxes about innocence, evil and corruption. But in a biological sense, this line can also describe how “a grain of sand” could gives a glimpse of how evolution works using the remains of planktonic foraminifera which resemble grains of sand to the naked eye and date back hundreds of millions of years."
A yachter discovered an underwater pyramid estimated to be some 200 feet high in the waters off the Azores Islands. The pyramid appears to be perfectly shaped and oriented by the cardinal points of the compass.

Greenpeace activists protesting oil exploration had a run-in with armed Russian sailors in the Arctic. Putin called them pirates then retracted it.

A New Jersey man caught the notorious testicle-eating Pacu fish, an invasive species kin to Piranha and native to the Amazon, in a lake near Passaic, NJ. I'd advise you guys to avoid skinny dipping there. Speaking of testicles, certain female squid can change their appearance to make them look like they have testes. They do this in order to spurn the advances of male squid.

In sports, Larry Ellison's U.S.A. Oracle yachting race team has staged an incredible comeback in the America's Cup coming from an 8-1 deficit to the Kiwis from New Zealand to tie the series of races at 8-8. Weather permitting, the final is scheduled for today in San Francisco Bay. UPDATE: Looks like Ellison's team won. Just wow!

By the way, contrary to Internet rumor, upgrading your iPhone to iOS 7 will NOT make it waterproof. Just thought you needed to know.

23 September 2013

Realisms and Beauty

Here’s a philosophical problem that continually plagues me as a writer:

Is the primary aesthetic goal of a work of art, specifically in this case literary works of art such as the short story or novel, (a) to accurately portray a feeling or (b) to make the audience feel?

Let’s expand and define:

The portrayal of the private, emotional life of a fictional character is certainly an, if not the principle, aim of literary fiction. The writer plunks an invented character into some situation and explores that character’s experience—inner and outer. The character becomes a sort of virtual field (or virtual mind) to whom and upon and within which this experience occurs, analagous, say, to the two-dimensional action space of a painting.

Accuracy of the portrayal of this inner experience, what we might call its 'psychological realism,' is a quality often and widely (though certainly not universally) admired (as, of course, is how well-realized a world the writer depicts and how compelling a situation s/he creates: what we might call its 'narrative realism'). How truly human does this character seem? How well does the writer present the fullness of this character's interior life and his/her emotional engagement with the given situation?

But is this all? No.

In the classic formulation, this imitation of life serves to bring about an experience of catharsis in the audience. This is the purpose of tragedy: "There but for the grace of the gods (or fate or serendipity or overcoming my own flaws or whatever) go I."

Aristotle identifies the emotions tragedy produces in its audience. In summary strokes, tragedy is the depiction of the downfall of a noble hero due either to some flaw (hamartia) in his nature (e.g., pride) or, certainly in the older tragedians, to the actions of the gods. Feelings of disappointment, guilt, anger, resentment, shame, etc. are the sorts of feelings that might be depicted in the tragic hero, and the lifelikeness of their depiction is part of the art of the writer.

But, for Aristotle, these are not the same sorts of feelings the tragic work produces in its audience. The purpose/aim of a tragic work of art is to arouse the emotions of fear and pity in the audience. As the audience, we fear for the tragic hero. Though he does not recognize it, we know he is heading for a fall. And we pity him because we see aspects of ourselves in him. Once we come to this realization, we are able to overcome the same sort of hubris that might very well bring us low.

But, and this is the point, the depicted emotions are not the same as the emotions aroused in the audience. The audience's emotions are reactive, responsive to those of the tragic hero (and, of course, his plight). Sympathetic, if you will.

This helps frame the issue for me: Does the accuracy and, let's say, poignancy of the depiction of the nobility of the hero and his/her situation, the nature of his/her flaw, and the violence of his/her downfall determine the nature and quality of the audience's reaction? Is there a direct causal relation between the verisimilitude of the psychological and narrative realism and the nature and quality of the sympathetic emotions evoked from the audience? The closer our identification with the hero the more profound our catharsis?

Again: As the writer is my primary concern the perfection of my depiction of the narrative, and more specifically the psychological, realism or should I focus principally on how I want the audience to feel upon reading the narrative?

Some might say there isn't any real difference. Just write well and let the audience respond how it will.

I want readers to identify with my characters. I want them to feel sympathy for my characters' predicaments and plights. I am less concerned with whether they like a particular character than that they find her interesting/intriguing. I want them to experience a character's complexity—emotional and otherwise. To this end, my aim is akin to that of realism, both narrative and psychological.

(Aside: Thesis: I go beyond mere realism(-s) if I am able to depict a unique situation or a portray a new, or even fuller, emotional consciousness. But that's a point for another day.)

But this begs the main question. It is not just through literal, realistic depictions of situations or inner states of consciousness or even physical reactions that writers reach and, indeed, affect the emotions of their readers. Rather, it is primarily through techniques of persuasion.

As the writer, I want to show you how the overarching power of love can fulfill a life's course and make you feel the sadness of a missed chance at true love. (Love in the Time of Cholera). I want to show you how a selfish, adulterous act can be unwittingly cruel to an underserving character and can, in fact, destroy your own life—so don't do it! (Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina). I want to show you how religious belief can have a positive/negative impact on your life and, in fact, on society in general and persuade you to convert your lifestyle. (Brothers Karamazov, Origin of the Brunists) I want to portray the presence of evil in the world in all its multifaceted, larger-than-life-and-death enormity and terror and leave you in awe of its abject beauty and power. (Blood Meridian, Omensetter's Luck) I want to show you the power that unseen conspiratorial forces exercise over our daily affairs and make you feel that perhaps it's reasonable to be afraid, very afraid—paranoid even. (Gravity's Rainbow, and A-game Pynchon) I want to show you how certain political/social/economic situations are manifestly unjust and ultimately untenable and move you to want to change them. (Disgrace, and anything from early Coetzee) I want to show you that fascism is a bad thing so you'll recognize its symptoms in yourself and be repulsed by its very presence. (Animal Farm, 1984, Lord of the Flies, Auto-da-Fe)

Affecting catharsis. Scaring. Shaming. Educating. Moralizing. Sermonizing. Proselytizing. Propagandizing. These goals are not different in kind, merely in degree.

And how do I achieve these types of ends? Rhetoric, affective language, figurative language—the tools of aesthetics. Blatant or subtle manipulations. The realisms of discursive language—psychological and narrative—are, on this view, subsidiary concerns.

Granted, situational poignancy and its accurate depiction can take us partially there, can move us—but only to a certain extent. It takes persuasive power to amplify its effect and make it stick. And these same techniques can either "beautify" or "ruin" the work. That is to say, the techniques of beautification can quite easily be used for purposes other than aesthetic.

Therein lies the dilemma. And the delicate balancing act of/for the writer/artist.

I know this post has been longish and a bit rambling, and I apologize. Yet it has helped me clarify the problem I began with: As a writer, should I be more concerned about trying to keep my characters' actions (and emotions) true to (that character's) experience as I've envisaged it or should I constantly be keeping in mind how I hope to move my audience by my depiction? Should I be more concerned about the realism of the piece or its aesthetics? Which is more important, the verisimilitude or the message? The depiction or the rhetoric?

There is a difference, an important one. Please feel free to weigh in.There are reasoned approaches and well-thought-out positions in both directions on this issue. I'd like to hear from you.

I don't think I'm any closer to a resolution of this issue as a writer, but I do think I have a better handle on what a resolution must entail. Of course, it might turn out that my formulation of the problem is faulty and there's no real issue here. If so, how might that look? Or maybe there's something other than emotionality at stake?

19 September 2013

This Week in Water

It's been a strange, busy week in water. But, then again, aren't they all? Let's get to it:

First, check these magnificent photos of a jaguar attacking a caiman in Brazil. A taste:

Over Russian objections, New Zealand hopes to create the world's largest fishing-free ocean sanctuary in the pristine waters off Antartica. The U.S. is supportive.

A dam under construction on the Mekong River in Laos threatens the diversity of fish and wildlife.

The recent massive and deadly flooding in Colorado has fueled fears of the spread of mosquitos which transmit inter alia West Nile virus.

Two hurricanes converged on Mexico from west and east, sending crocodiles into Acapulco's city streets.

Sea bass stocks in the European Union have fallen to 20 year lows and countries such as the U.K. are thinking about imposing quotas on commercial trawling.

Bacteria in three expanding low oxygen zones in the Pacific Ocean off Chile and Peru contribute to the production of nitrogen in the atmosphere. This further weakens the sea's ability to absorb carbon dioxide. (See below)

An eight-state commission that sets water quality standards for the Ohio River is seeking to delay enforcement of new, more stringent mercury standards by up to two years while it considers relaxing those rules.

Environmentalists unveiled unprecedented footage of a legendary sea serpent, a 36 foot, 500 pound, giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne), the world's largest bony fish, in an effort to highlight the dangers of ocean bottom trawling.

The oldest living fish in captivity celebrated its 80th year at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Granddad, an Australian lungfish, arrived in Chi-town for the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.

A beach patrol on San Francisco's Ocean Beach discovered a human foot in a running shoe that had washed ashore. No sign of the rest of the body has been found.

Authorities recovered two vehicles from an Oklahoma lake that contained the bodies of five people who may have been missing since possibly the 1950s.

The motion picture documentary Blackfish, about the plight of Orcas in captivity, highlights how insensitive treatment creates a sort of psychosis in these extremely bright and emotionally complex mammals that has resulted in at least four trainer deaths in recent years. I encourage you to see it.

As mentioned above, parts of Colorado in the American west are experiencing 1000-year floods caused by torrential rains. The numbers of dead and displaced are still being tallied. Property damage and destruction is immense.

The Colorado flooding has raised serious concerns about the possible release of toxic chemicals into local rivers from flood-stricken hydraulic fracking operations.

Colorado's richest oil field has similarly been buried in floodwater, and people downstream in places like Nebraska are justifiably worried about contaminated drinking water. No one has any idea whether, where, and, if so, how much any of these wells are leaking. Though 5250 confirmed gallons of oil has spilled into the South Platte River.

The aforementioned torrential Mexican rains show no sign of letting up. Meanwhile, the death toll, currently at 57, is likely to increase.

Beef and corn production in Kansas has been drawing down water from the High Plains Aquifer at an unsustainable rate more than six times the natural rate of recharge. The High Plains Aquifer supplies 30% of the nation's irrigated groundwater.

Texans are squabbling over who owns the rights to the groundwater under their land. The law in this area, as with riparian rights in general, is murky and therefore contentious.

Meanwhile, in a what may be the biggest news of the week, two enormous fresh water aquifers have been discovered in the drought-stricken region of North Kenya. Issues arise, however, about how to deliver and distribute this resource to the rest of the country and continent.

Access to potable water worldwide is likely to become increasingly difficult as world temperatures continue to rise.

Some believe a new ocean may be forming under the Afar Rift in Ethiopia.

Europeans are attempting to measure and weigh the costs and benefits to improving water quality in the continent's various catchment areas.

TEPCO, the operators of the leaking Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, dumped more than 1000 tons of contaminated water into the ocean. Meanwhile, as much as 300 tons of contaminated groundwater is seeping into the oceans every day.

More than 233,000 gallons of molasses spilled into Honolulu Harbor from a damaged pipeline owned by Matson Inc. More than 25,000 fish have been killed as a result. Molasses? WTF?

The crippled, capsized Costa Concordia cruise ship was righted during a complicated, 19-hour operation of the coast of Tuscany. Now it can be towed off and scrapped.

Despite reports to the contrary, Arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels.

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a "microbial battery" which produces clean, renewable energy from the bacteria in wastewater. "They hope their technique could be used in wastewater treatment facilities and to break down organic pollutants in the 'dead zones' of oceans and lakes where fertilizer runoff has depleted oxygen, suffocating marine life."

Speaking of wastewater, ever wonder how astronauts use the toilet in zero gravity? Apparently it's a thing.

An icy comet collision billions of years ago might have kickstarted life on Earth by producing molecules that transform into amino acids under the heat of the impact.

18 September 2013

Why Did the Wild Turkey Cross the Road?

Took some time off from the internets and politics and even fiction writing for a few days R & R with Wisdoc in the NC mountains last week. She has just submitted a couple grant applications and we've just packed our youngest off to college. First non-school-recess-related vacay in I don't know how many years.

Drove 100 miles or so on the Blue Ridge Parkway—something you must do at some point in your life. Hiked to/from waterfalls. Ate vegan in the hipsterest area of one of America's hipsterest towns: Asheville—clad in hiking shorts and boots (not Five Fingers this time). Didn't feel out of place, oddly. Took it easier than on some 'forced march' trips we've had in the past.

So, pics. As always, mouse over pic for 'secret' message and/or click to embiggen slide show.

Goats on the Roof, near Tallulah, GA
Love the colon!
The Cabin
The view from the cabin porch
First waterfall of the week
'Tis the season
For all your one-stop mountain shopping needs, Brevard, NC
Next waterfall
Wisdoc dwarfed by boulder
Wisdoc beneath another waterfall
Another in the 'things growing on other things' series
Sliding Rock, Pisgah National Forest
Sky shadows and mountains
Mt. Mitchell, NC
Vista after vista along the Blue Ridge Parkway, both sides of the road
On a magical hike around Mt. Mitchell peak
Again with the Blue Ridge Parkway vistas
More things growing on other things
Last waterfall of the week
Mountain muffin
Blue ridges at evening (courtesy Wisdoc)
Why did the wild turkeys cross the road?
Water flowing over rocks (courtesy Wisdoc)

10 September 2013

My Fringe Odyssey—An Update

The ATL is a great place to run—if you don't mind Hills, Heat, Humidity. Oh yeah, and Elevation (~1000 ft.). This post is about my own running experience here. It's probably more for me than you, so feel free to skip it. I feel a need to mark my milestones.

If you're interested in my running odyssey, you can catch up here. (Reading, of course, from the bottom up—it's a blog, after all.) Long story short: I ran a bit—recreationally—in my 20s as a graduate student, got involved in law and family and more or less quit. After moving to Atlanta in 2000, I tried to start up again but could manage no more than a mile or two without inflicting pain on my hips and knees that lasted for days afterward. I don't do pain well. In August, 2009, I saw Christopher MacDougall on the Daily Show, went out immediately and bought his book, Born to Run, and began teaching myself to run barefoot/minimalist style. I've now been running regularly for 4 years, and this post is an update on my progress.

Beginning around Thanksgiving in 2009, I began keeping a log of my training and race miles. Here are my totals as of today:

In 4 years, I've run a total of just over 1600 miles—400 miles/year on average—337 of which miles have been barefooted (just under a quarter of the total). The rest have been exclusively in Vibram Five Fingers or XeroShoes Sandals. I don't own a pair of traditional running shoes.

I have competed in 49 foot races for a total of 316 miles—one per month. Five of those races were half-marathons (13.1 miles), 16 were 10K (6.2 miles), 13 were 5K (3.1 miles), and a couple were 15K (9.3 miles)—all road races. The remainder were trail runs of varying lengths, from 3.1 miles to 9.3 miles. Only one did I not finish.

My Personal Bests in the standard distance road races are:

 5K  -    26:18
10K -    55:21
15K - 1:37:27
Half - 2:03:00

Not bad for an old guy—especially one didn't run track or cross country as a youngster and who hasn't been running his entire life. I'm not the fastest person out there, but by no means am I the slowest. I have to admit there's something fairly self-satisfying about a gray-haired old guy in a pair of flip flops or toe shoes passing a fit young athlete in his/her 30s, say, wearing a pair of fancy running shoes in the last couple miles of a middle distance race. I'm not gonna' lie. Racing gets my competitive juices, as well as my endorphins, flowing!

For the record, here are the mileage totals for each shoe: Vibram Bikila - 600 miles; Vibram Sprint - 270 miles; Vibram Trek (used exclusively for trail running) - 151 miles; XeroShoes Huarache - 190 miles. These figures do not include hiking miles or the miles I walk before and after each run.

Now I've just about talked myself into trying to fun a full Mary in December. That's 26.2 miles. It's an intimidating distance, and requires a serious training regimen—one which, unlike the shorter distances, includes dietary issues. I want to do it without hurting myself.

My marathon training will have several components, each of which requires constant attention:

•  Improving my barefoot technique—landing forefoot each step, inter alia
•  Monitoring my heart rate—keeping it in the aerobic range
•  Increasing my base mileage—on a weekly basis
•  Coaxing my aging body to achieve a new distance—16 is the most miles I've ever run
•  Staying injury-free—not a simple task, but essential for endurance training

•  As for technique, I constantly fiddle with it, monitoring each step. The mental focus of barefoot running is more intense than when running in cushiony, impact-softening running shoes. Some of my barefoot running friends call them foot coffins. Good technique effects each of the other components. There's much discussion and debate on the Web about how to run properly barefoot/minimalist style. My earlier posts in this series point to a number of these sites.

•  As for aerobic training, Dr. Phil Maffetone has devised a system for endurance training that involves staying below a prescribed, age-relative heart-rate. It increases aerobic fitness and does not tax the more impactful anaerobic functioning. His book, The Big Book of Endurance Training and Running, and website are invaluable in this respect. The key is that a runner can either train for speed or endurance, but not both at the same time. I'm training for the latter.

•  As a rule, base weekly mileage should increase by no more than ~10% per week over a 16-week marathon training schedule. This aspect of training should build leg strength and stamina, not sap it. And about three weeks before the race, the weekly mileage should taper.

•  LSD once a week is the most important aspect of marathon training. No, it's not what you think. That's the "Long Slow Distance" run, an easy run which pushes out farther each week—though every three weeks or so, it pays to back off and run a shorter distance to allow the body to adapt and rebuild its distance capacity. The LSDs should peak at somewhere between 20 and 23 miles three weeks before the race. If you can do that, the theory goes, you can run the marathon. The remainder of the training should be designed to maintain the shape and fitness you've achieved.

•  Technique plays a large part in staving off injury, as does mileage maintenance and rest and recuperation after training runs. Also, where muscle and soft tissue tightness comes into play, Trigger Point Therapy has proved to be a golden solution for me. The notion of 'referred pain' was completely new to me, but has borne out over the last few months since I've been learning how to do it. Foam rollers, the Stick, and a lacrosse ball have been invariably invaluable in my adventures with myofascial self-release.

The marathon I've chosen to run will be on a flat course at sea level in December. This means my training in the heat, hills, humidity, and elevation of the ATL will be magnified. I attempted to train for a marathon two summers ago, but did not make it to the end. I went too hard, too far, too fast and thought I'd hurt myself. What I didn't know then was how to release the tension in my muscles and other soft tissues—Achilles tendinopathy, e.g.—with Trigger Point Therapy.

I am still researching the nutritional issues I mentioned earlier and may or may not post my conclusions upon reaching such.

Edit: Sorry, somehow I deleted the latest version of this post. It might have something to do with Sasha walking across my keyboard while editing. I'm afraid I lost the Comments by Thunder and Big Bad Bald Bastard. My and my cat's apologies.

05 September 2013

This Week in Water

Put on your drysuits and nose plugs, it's that time again.

First the big news of the week: Diana Nyad, age 64, became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without use of a protective shark cage. It was her fifth such attempt.

Turns out fish like to listen to music, preferring Bach.

Living evidence for evolution? Here's a video of a bamboo shark walking on the ocean floor.

How about this? Here's a video of a puffer fish creating artistic patterns on the sea bottom. Okay, it's maybe the coolest thing EVER. So cool in fact I'm going to post it here so I can watch it again and again. Seriously, dude is like the Picasso of fish.

Scientists have traced ever-increasing mercury levels in Pacific Ocean fish to coal-fired power plants in China and India.

Hundreds of thousands of dead fish were left floating in the Fu River in the Chinese province of Hubei after a discharge of ammonia. This after more than 16,000 dead pigs were recovered from a Shanghai river earlier this year.

Climate change is threatening fresh water fisheries world wide, even ice fishing in Minnesota.

Some officials in Minnesota want to divert the Mississippi River to replenish a seriously depleted lake.

Conservation easements are at stake in a dispute in California about water diversion tunnels proposed to run under an island owned by the Nature Conservancy. Staten Island, CA, is a prime refuge for inter alia the endangered sandhill crane.

A woman in China was arrested for apparently boiling her abusive husband's dismembered corpse in a pressure cooker.

Did you know this is World Water Week? An international conference convened in Stockholm this week with a plea for the energy, food, and water industries to use the scarce commodity more wisely and to clean up contaminated waters that cause upwards of 5000 deaths a day. "Mortgaging our future by draining water from the ground, surface and sky faster than it can be replaced by nature is untenable," said a spokesman.

Also, September 18 is World Water Monitoring Day.

You've heard of carbon footprinting? What about water footprinting? Do you have any idea how much water you use/waste every day? If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down.

The politics of water is moving to the forefront globally and can actually be a source of cooperation. The UN has declared 2013 to be the International Year of Water Cooperation.

One area where this is happening is the area around the Guarani Aquifer in central South America between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.

Hydroelectric dams erected by China and India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan are beginning to deplete the Himalayan region of water.

Closer to home, if the U.S. Forest Service permits hydraulic fracking for natural gas in and around the George Washington National Forest, the D.C. area could experience the same sort of methane pollution in its drinking water that is currently plaguing Texas, Pennsylvania, and other flyover areas of the U.S.

In areas of California, wineries are straining the local water supply.

Japan is planning to build a half-billion dollar 'ice wall' to try to contain leaking radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant destroyed in the 2011 earthquake/tsunami.

The Nicaraguan government has granted a Chinese businessman the right to build a canal through that country that could rival the Panama Canal.

Australians are attempting to harness the kinetic force of ocean waves (and tides?) to desalinate seawater. Now that's what I call synergy! Brilliant, really.

A coal company has been granted a lease by the Commonwealth of Virginia to build the first wind farm off the coast of that state.

Satellite pictures have revealed two large maelstroms in the South Atlantic Ocean—large enough to suck ships under. The mechanics of these whirlpools are quite similar to those of black holes in space.

Melting snow in Norway has uncovered Neolithic artefacts some 6000 years old, including a remarkably well-preserved woolen tunic.

Engineers are developing a design for a waterflow-based battery that could power electric vehicles over much longer distances than lithium-ion batteries do today.

RustOleum's NeverWet apparently repels water completely.

Japanese astronomers have discovered planets outside our solar system that appear to have water-rich atmospheres.

Oh, and yeah, people stop washing your raw chickens!