28 March 2014

This Week in Water

Another week, another episode in the on-going struggle of humankind to make peace with its largest planetary asset:

How did you celebrate World Water Day? It was March 22, if you didn't know. Though it should probably be an every day thing.

The University of Bath (no, really!) is making waves (ugh!) in researching sustainable water resource management. Science and industry are on the case in the UK!

Matt Damon is co-founder of water.org, a non-profit created to help provide access to safe water and sanitation in Africa, South Asia, and Central America. You go, guy! And welcome to my Wise Links sidebar.

The Greenland ice sheet is thinning at increasingly alarming rates. It is the single largest contributor to rising global sea levels.

A UCLA geography grad student has devised a way to calculate river flows using only satellite data. This will assist in understanding how much water is draining from Greenland's melting ice sheets.

The Marshal Islands declared a state of emergency in the wake of "king tides" on rising sea levels which the government blames on climate change.

The U.S. Navy is strategizing how to expand its presence in the Arctic Ocean where the ice cover is thinning.

The latest gold (and mineral and ore) rush is at the bottom of the ocean, threatening ecosystems no one really understands.

A diamond found in a Brazilian riverbed shows evidence of vast reserves of water deep inside the Earth that could rival in amount all the world's oceans put together.

The Australian state of Queensland is in the grip of its most widespread drought ever. El Nino weather patterns appear to be forming in the equatorial Pacific, auguring more of the same.

A barge crash caused a fuel oil spill in Galveston Bay of up to 168,000 gallons. It is threatening fishing, commerce and shipping, and wildlife in the Texas bay. The shipping channel, one of the most important on the U.S. Gulf Coast, is not yet fully open. The spill is spreading and has not been fully contained, much less cleaned up as of this writing. Follow the news here.

A BP tar sands refinery in Whiting, Indiana, has dumped crude oil into Lake Michigan near Chicago. No one is quite sure how much oil was spilled, though estimates are rising as of this writing. Follow the news here.

No one knows how much the cleanup of radioactive waste from the Hanford Nuclear site in Washington state is going to cost—though estimates now are over $100 billion. Follow the news here.

In North Carolina, Duke Energy is still trying to remediate the environmental damages from slurries of coal ash it has dumped into state waterways. Corruption inquiries continue. Follow the news here.

Fukushima nuclear plant continues to be a global environmental disaster. Cleanup operations were suspended this week when a worker died in a mudslide. Follow the news here.

A mudslide in the State of Washington has killed at least 17 people. Some believe it came as a result of clear-cutting forests. Follow the news here.

The USGS has confirmed that injected water from fracking operations triggered a cascade of earthquakes recently in Oklahoma.

20 March 2014

Random Quotes from the Last 8 Books I Read. WTF'ingF?

"She was either next to me on a plane or turning a page of her magazine every time I turned one of mine, or else she had come forward from way back to be a handful anew, because people repeat on you or otherwise go unplundered. I will think of her as Aisler for any priggish intentions I might still manage here.

Aisler had spousy eyes, and arms exemplary in their plunges, and she brought her bare knees together until they were buttocky and practical. I hemmed and hawed inside of her for some weeks after but never got the hang of her requirements. A woman that swaggering of heart will not bask in deferred venereal folderol." Gary Lutz, "Partial List of People to Bleach" from the collection of the same name.



A woman was depressed and distraught for days after losing her pen.

Then she became so excited about an ad for a shoe sale that she drove three hours to a shoe store in Chicago.


A man spotted a fire in a dormitory one evening, and walked away to look for an extinguisher in another building. He found the extinguisher, and walked back to the fire with it." Lydia Davis, "Two Types" [in its entirety] in her story collection Varieties of Disturbance.


"The barge, magnificent barge, a jewel cresting upon the high seas those thirty to forty years when the weather was still a true marvel, when one could see stars at noon, when the rare clouds were so fine and gauze-like and so much more transparent to moons, when rains were frank and without whining drizzle and cleared without lingering—such was the bright and empty space we sailed across seemingly to no end, and where my simple chores could have gone on for days and days without me minding—there could never be too many decks to sweep and wash, too many sails to mend, too many windows to clean amid that everlasting radiance." Stanley Crawford, Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine, Ch. IX, p. 75


"In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city's life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supporters remain." Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, "Trading Cities 4", p. 76


"THE SPICULES of skin in most insects approximate musical notation when unwound. Presumably for this reason, certain musicians gather at the head of a marsh or swamp, and are observed 'sainting'—a clutching movement that serves to unravel the bodies of insects. Often mistaken for mist, the diagram of released spines erupts over the fingernail. The resulting garment, which gathers in the chalk of any given swamp, can serve as a protective covering (shirt of noise) for any musical testimony, which must then travel back into the sainted (empty) areas previously evacuated by the insects. Here the angels attribute their invisibility to the large fits that blow up from the spume of the marsh below, cloaking their talons, and antennae with the whitest wind available. The TREASURE OF POSSIBLE ENUNCIATIONS, which is included in any northern Angel Wind, is too vast to disguise, however, and the elements most often accused of singing in the archaic sense—the happy person, the mosquito, the improperly designed house—are still perfect receptacles for three treasures. Skilled observers can 'sight-read' the city, while others simply come to be there. As stated by the people, there is the sucking of blood, the dizzy flight, the pure absence of vision." Ben Marcus, "Outline for a City," in his alleged story collection The Age of Wire and String. p 134.


"The lights went out. The radio died. Moldenke went to the lookout. Both suns were up, and clouded over. It was dark enough to be close to noons, although he didn't have a clockpiece anywhere. The second double Sunday in an artificial month.

He opened his refrigerator and found a cockroach at the lettuce. Something scratched in the eggs.

The juice was off. He would call the Power Co-op." David Ohle, Motorman, p. 13


"A different winter and a different kind of winter, the air peated with dark and me swimming through it, I saw, or thought I saw, the car's red lights receding: good-bye, good-bye. By then Mother's nose had been broken, so that whenever she spoke, she sounded stuffed up. "Good-bye, good-riddance," she was saying to Walter when we were caught up in our Florida." Christine Schutt, Florida, p. 8.


"—noise background.

My getting out or what?!

Eleven hours and Thirty-Three minutes since meridian said the clock perched high atop a ledge on the wall and positioned to look down on us all meaning we were well into hour seven of this particular battle between Good and Evil and, oh yeah, that was Good taking a terrific beating with the poultry-shaped ref looking intently at its eyes and asking if it wanted to continue. We were what passed for Good there: the three of us and anyone we stood beside when we rose to speak for the mute in that decaying room (100 Centre Street's AR-3); and in that place, at that moment, Evil had us surrounded." Sergio de la Paya, A Naked Singularity, p. 2.

11 March 2014

Swamps of the 'Hootch

First nice Spring-like weekend of the season and what did we do? Took a walk along the Chattahoochee River, Atlanta's non-navigable waterway. Some wetlands have been preserved. [Click to embiggen slide show. No captions or commentary this set]

Canada Goose (looking to mate!) on the 'Hootch

Yes, it is. In its own way

09 March 2014

La grande bellezza

Saw a great movie last night: La grande bellezza. The Great Beauty is an Italian film by Paolo Sorrentino. It won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

It was like a Fellini film—a good Fellini film: spectacle, fractured narrative, lurid characters, farce. Stylish, scenic. Roma! Then honesty; sadness; laugh-out-loud, tear-streaming humor; and, at last, surpassing beauty. Best, most moving film I've seen in years. YEARS! I'm not sure a film like this could be made in Hollywood. It's a completely different sensibility. I urge you to see it if it comes to a theater near you. No critique, merely a recommendation. We will be seeing it again.

It's better on the big screen, magnificent, in fact; but I noticed that Comcast has it in its On Demand section.

The soundtrack alone is worth the price of admission. So I recommend seeing it in theater with a really good sound system.

Here's Kronos Quartet playing Vladimir Martynov's "The Beatitudes" which threads throughout the film. First time I'd heard it. Brought a welling of tears to my eyes.

Likewise, Arvo Pärt's "My Heart's in the Highlands" performed by Else Torp and Christopher Bowers, based on the poem by Robert Burns.

06 March 2014

Anarcoins®© and Anarcurrencies®©

Anyone notice that as soon as I put a Bitcoin-begging widget in my gutter over to the right the Bitcoin market tanked? Fraud, hacking, theft, corruption. Who would've guessed that an unregulated on-line "currency" market would be subject to such problems?

My putting that up was more an inside joke than anything. Wisdomie and I have been having a vigorous back-and-forth about this matter for months.

Fiat currencies—that is, government back monies like the U.S. dollar—can be pegged to a discernible valuation: a basket of commodities such as oil, orange juice, sow bellies, gold, e.g.—and are backed by the full faith and credit of their issuing nations. That is to say, they can send in their armies to support and sustain them.

These anarcoins®© or anarcurrencies®© are the darlings of libertarians and anti-government activists. Also, money launderers, drug dealers, sex traffickers, and other unsavory characters. They have no muscle behind them. Their only valuation is the price a willing buyer will pay a willing seller at a given transactional moment. Unfortunately, the knowledge market is skewed. There is no way to mark them to the market because there is no underlying value.

Pump and dump schemes like the currency has experienced over the past few weeks victimize the ignorant, the trendy, the vulnerable. The people who have hordes of Bitcoin have been trying to drive up the price so they can dump them on the unwitting before the market crashes even further.

Forewarned is... well, you know the rest.

01 March 2014

This Week in Water

This Week in Water: always interesting, always important.

Make no mistake about it, the current unrest in the Ukraine/Russia conflict is, at root, about water. "The Russian Black Sea fleet has been stationed in Sevastopol since the 18th century. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union it remained there, according to an agreement between Russia and Ukraine." Russian access to the Black Sea and, hence, Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, Africa, and the Middle East is dependent on its having control of Yalta and the Crimean port Sevastopol. Thus, today, the Russian parliament has authorized Vladimir Putin to use military force in the Ukraine. U.S. and E.U. policymakers are scrambling to determine the extent of American and European interests in the conflict.

Watch this space
U.S. intelligence is warning that shrinking water resources pose threats to global security, increasing the risks of terror and war.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling for governments, corporations, entrepreneurs, NGOs, academics, the media, and environmentalists to work together to bring attention to the problems affecting the world's oceans. “Every human on Earth depends on the oceans for the food we eat and the air we breathe,” Kerry said. “The environmental reasons for protecting the planet’s oceans should be leaping out at people.”

We've highlighted the on-going historic drought affecting California. But did you know northeastern Brazil is also in the midst of a historic two-year drought, the worst in that country in decades?

California ice cap from space (h/t NASA)
As is the case in Texas, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and other regions of the U.S., Yukon fracking threatens groundwater safety in Canada. Seems like the threats to freshwater from fracking are beginning to surface in Alberta and British Columbia as well.

Oil companies are dumping billions of gallons of wastewater from their hydraulic fracking operations into the Pacific Ocean in sight of the coast of California. And, by all indications, they are doing it legally by virtue of a loophole in EPA regulations.

Yet another spill into a West Virginia waterway. This time coal slurry into the Kanawha River. Meantime, the repercussions from the Elk River spill continue to resound there.

As do the repercussions—political, economic, and environmental—from the Dan River coal slurry spill in North Carolina by Duke Energy. Reports say there are Federal criminal investigations into the issue, highlighting potential corruption by the N.C. Governor Pat McCrory, a former executive with Duke Energy, and the state's environmental agencies.

The traditional lifestyles and livelihoods of Native Americans in Panama are threatened by the construction of an illegal, upriver dam.

Some are calling for a new global water ethic.

The leader of Fiji has invited residents of the island nation of Kiribati to relocate to Fiji as their home islands are subject to rising sea levels.

Scientists are forecasting an El Niño event in the Pacific this year. "[T]he effects of El Niño events can reverberate around the globe, wreaking havoc with typical weather patterns. El Niños increase the likelihood for California to be pummeled by Pacific storm systems, for example, while leaving eastern Australia at greater risk of drought. Because they are characterized by higher than average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean, and they add heat to the atmosphere, El Niño events also tend to boost global average temperatures." Global warming is increasing the frequency of these events.

Huge offshore wind farms can protect vulnerable coastal cities against cyclones and hurricanes, reducing the devastating winds like those from Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina significantly.

Need a quick water filter? Break off a branch from the nearest pine tree, peel away the bark, and slowly pour lake water through the stick. This improvised filter will trap any bacteria and produce fresh, uncontaminated water. Or, so say MIT scientists. This method can produce up to four liters of potable water per day.

Soon, you might be able to produce hydrogen for your home fuel cell from your own desktop algae bioreactor.

The face, as we know it on animals of all sorts consisting of eyes and mouth and breathing apparatus and ears, etc., probably developed (evolutionarily speaking) from a small, primitive, armored, jawless fish known as Romundina that swam the seas some 415 million years ago.

A 2500 year old, half-ton naked sculpture of the Greek god Apollo discovered by Palestinian fisherman is causing international authorities to open tentative political discussions with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

The recent Ham-on-Nye creationism/evolution debate (farce) has raised enough money for Ken Ham's creationism museum in Kentucky to build a replica of Noah's Ark. According to creationists, Noah put two of every species of animal on the Biblical ark to survive a global flood that his god, Jahweh, had sent to punish humanity for its sinfulness. That includes, by the way, everything from dinosaurs to bacteria, including all microspecies—e.g., grey wolf and red wolf and timber wolf, etc. This is also the guy who claims to have a saddle humans used to ride dinosaurs. He believes the Earth is 6000 years old, and that fossil and carbon-14 dated evidence to the contrary was put here on earth by a peevish sky god to test our faith. Oh, and light can't possibly travel billions of light years to reach us here. Come on, Bill Nye Science Guy, don't be such a dupe! And here I thought faith was the opposite of cynicism.