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Deforestation &
Apollo 11 Anniversary
Earth Imitates Moon
July 21, 2014

deforestation in Borneo

On this 45th anniversary of men landing on the moon, mankind continues to take steps to make the Earth look more like the Moon through deforestation.

Around the world, rainforests are logged for wood and paper. The (usually) thin soil is then used for mono-crops like soy or palm oil. Or the land is stripped for mining gold or copper.

Deforestation is responsible for up to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The Players
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund, and Brazil are protecting 150 million acres of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest. That's almost the size of Texas. Let's see... 2,124,000 square miles (Amazon rainforest) divided by 234,375 square miles (this protected area) equals only 11%.  That's something, but that's not much. WWF has been accused of corporate greenwashing -- providing sustainability certifications in exchange for donations from Monsanto and Wilmar International.

Cargill has long been criticized for deforestation of the Amazon for soy farming. Last April, Cargill sent a letter to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) promising a zero-deforestation commitment. Environmental groups are wary.

Greenpeace is asking people to contact Herackles Farms (
Herackles  Capital) alias Sithe Global Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SG-SOC), to try to get them to stop their plans to bulldoze 282 acres of African rainforest in Cameroon for palm oil. Herackles Farms may sell off their three year land deal that endangers Elliot chimpanzees.

•  Nature Conservancy -- Osa Peninsula rainforest protection in Costa Rica at $50 an acre & 140 million acres in Brazil
•  Rainforest Alliance -- international food product labeling (Balance bar, Dove dark chocolate, Lipton tea, Naked juices ...)
•  Forest Stewardship Council -- international forest certification and labeling system that was established to offer a single, easily recognizable label for wood and forest products (Greenpeace FSC page).

More information: Ecologist - Don't Be Fooled By Zero Deforestation Promises
                                 Greenpeace - Solutions To Deforestation
                                 Huffington Post - Deforestation: The Over-Looked Climate Driver and What You Can Do About It

Music Association: Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Hopes and Dreams

Como Zoo Escapees
July 17, 2014

Three western lowland gorillas escaped their enclosure a week ago at the Como Zoo in St. Paul.
Como Zoo, St. Paul, Minnesota
Virgil (
450 pounds), Jabir (420 pounds), and Sampson (390 pounds) pushed through an unlatched door into the hallway behind the gorilla and orangutan exhibits last Thursday before the Como Zoo opened.  The escaped animals (code 99) alert was announced at 9:50am. Zoo staff found Virgil and Jabir in the hallway and coaxed them back into their exhibit after only 20 minutes. Sampson found the enrichment closet and was playing with the boomer balls and throwing things around. It took a while longer to coax him back into the Gorilla Forest exhibit. He had been out for 50 minutes.

No tranquilizers were used. The public was never endangered. The gorillas were never harmed. If anything, the gorillas had some fun.

Compare that to the 8 year old male endangered Mexican gray wolf that escaped Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley three years ago. The wolf trotted by people on a bridge who snapped this picture before the wolf was shot by zookeepers. Not shot as in can-I-take-your-picture? or shot as in tranquilized, shot as in killed.

During six years (2006-2012) of the Minnesota Zoo dolphin exhibit, they managed to kill six dolphins. Oops.

The Minnesota Zoo could learn some things about keeping animals alive from the Como Zoo.

Instead they seemed to have taken their lessons from
China's Chendu Zoo, which tested their emergency preparedness in 2011 by shooting a guy in a Tigger costume.

Tiger watches wounded Tigger

Music Association: Scorpions - Zoo
Movie Association:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (opened Friday, July 11th)
Hopes and Dreams 2011 coverage of zoo escapes

Hopes and Dreams

When Drones Crash
July 14, 2014

More than 400 drones have crashed over the past 12 years. The Washington Post studied the 194 upscale $2 million+ drone crashes and concluded that most were Air Force MQ-1 Predator drones crashing in Afghanistan (67 crashes), United States (47 crashes), and Iraq (41crashes).

Crashes are on the rise :) and plenty occur in the United States, as if the United States is attacking the United States.

Last November, a BQM-74 drone crashed into the USS Chancellorsville at port in San Diego, injuring two sailors. Also in November, a MQ-9 Reaper drone crashed into Lake Ontario. In October 2013, a MQ-1 Predator ($4.5 million) drone crashed in New Mexico. It was the 9th drone crash there. Are we at war with New Mexico?!?

Pilots remotely control the drone while watching video-feed on TV. When a MQ-1 Predator crashed in Nevada in May 2013, the pilot was saying, “This thing’s kind of climbing like a pig. Climb, you pig... Boy, this is going to be tight... Okay, interesting. We are falling out of the sky.” When a MQ-9 Reaper crashed in Nevada in December 2012, the pilot was saying, “We’re in the soup here... Dude, uh, we’re not sure what the aircraft is doing... Yeah, we crashed.

ight before takeoff at Jalalabad air base in eastern Afghanistan in July 2012, the MQ-1 Predator camera operator tells the pilot, “Stop saying ‘uh-oh’ while you’re flying. It’s never good. Like going to the dentist or a doctor... ‘Oops? What the f--- you mean ‘Oops?’ ”  Moments later after crashing the MQ-1 Predator, the pilot said,  Whoa... I don’t know what the hell just happened.[source]

when bees crash

Music Association: Peter Schilling - Major Tom (Coming Home)

anti-war cat
Anti-War Cat

You Are Archduke Franz Ferdinand
June 28, 2014

For today and today only, you are Archduke Franz Ferdinand Karl Ludwig Joseph.

Franz Ferdinand for short.

You married Sophie for love. You once confused Austria with Australia and in the melee killed many kangaroos, thinking they were Serbian separatists.

Today, you are acting like you are going on a car ride in a convertible, part of a motorcade touring Sarajevo. Your special security officers are accidentally left behind.

The first two bombers see you and Sophie smiling and can't throw their bombs. You're doing great so far.

The third bomber is Čabrinović. He's sort of behind you when he throws his time bomb. The bomb hits the folded roof of your car and bounces off. Another point for you. The bomb rolls under the car behind your car and explodes, wounding about 18 people. Čabrinović takes an old cyanide pill, but it only induces vomitting. Čabrinović then leaps into the nearby Miljacka River to drown himself, but due to the drought, the river is only five inches deep. The Sarajevo crowd pulls him out and beats him.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand identified
Three other bombers fail to act.

You are doing well. But after the Sarajevo city hall, instead of taking the new route to the hospital to visit those injured in the bomb blast, your driver takes the old route. Another car tells your driver to change his route and he stops the car... in front of one of the assassins.

Bang. Bang.

And you had been doing so well.

From here it only gets complicated, starting the first World War one hundred years ago today.

Music Associations:  Cars - Drive  &  Sheryl Crow - Every Day Is A Winding Road
Famous Last Words:  “Sopherl! Sopherl! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben für unsere Kinder!”
                                             (Sophie dear! Sophie dear! Don't die! Stay alive for our children!)

Minnesota Minions expect rain

Rain Again
June 27, 2014

The weather forecast calls for rain again.

Three weeks into June, it was already the wetest June on record for Minnesota.

Now, more rain.

Harriet Island in St. Paul, which is neither an island nor a Harriet, looks more like Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. It's flooded. The Taste of Minnesota was scheduled to be there July 3-6th. Instead of making everything taste soggy (or fishy), Taste is being moved to higher ground, 40 miles away (the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia, MN). Yesterday, the Mississippi River crested at 20.13 feet in St. Paul, closing Shepard Road. (Other road closures.)

In Stillwater, the water is not still. The St. Croix River is expected to crest today at 87.7 feet. The Stillwater lift bridge is closed.

Flooding has shut down three rides at Valleyfair, flooded farm fields, caused a mudslide near the University of Minnesota medical center, and closed bridges and roads.  A dam held in Blue Mound State Park, in Laverne, Minnesota, but the water carved its way around the dam and emptied most of Blue Mounds Lake.

Gov. Dayton has declared a state of emergency for 34 counties.

Some roads are also closed for President Obama's visit to Lake Harriet.

Music Associations: Beatles - Rain & U2 - Rain

Eli Wallach

The movie The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly was a mistake in translation. That was not the title. The original Italian title was Il buono, il cattivo, il brutto (The Good, the Ugly, the Bad). Lee Van Cleef was Ugly.

So after Eli Wallach played the role of Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez (the Bad, also known as the Rat) and saw the movie, he was surprised that (in the English translation) suddenly he was Ugly.

Tuco knows to take care of his teeth while away from homeThe condemned is found guilty of the crimes of murder, armed robbery of citizens, state banks, and post offices, the theft of sacred objects, arson in a state prison, perjury, bigamy, deserting his wife and children, inciting prostitution, kidnapping, extortion, receiving stolen goods, selling stolen goods, passing counterfeit money, and contrary to the laws of this state...

He was Bad.

He was also the bad guy in The Magnificent Seven. But as a commentator on the DVD release of The Magnificent Seven, he was a very good guy, setting the highest standard for any DVD commentator. He explained the production situation of the movie, commented on the rivalries between the actors and their hat sizes, and told wonderful stories within the story... enriching an already outstanding movie.

Eli Wallach died on June 24th (yesterday) at the age of 98 in New York City.

Music Associations: Elmer Bernstein - The Magnificent Seven & Bon Jovi - Wanted Dead Or Alive
Movie Quotation: “When you have to shoot, shoot! Don't talk.” - Tuco

movie review
Captain America 2
June 24, 2014

Months ago, I saw Captain America 2 in a theater. I've been meaning to review it. It's been on my To Do list.

Captain America 2 do list
Captain America 2 do list

Maybe the subtitle “The Winter Soldier” had something to do with not reviewing the movie. Last winter made everyone a winter soldier.

I'm not an expert on Captain America or Marvel comics (Wikipedia link).  My understanding is that he always needed someone as a sidekick. He started with kid sidekick Bucky, then Falcon, then it was either Hawkeye or Black Widow or they switched back and forth.

Tony Stark had the drinking problem, but everyone knew not to leave Captain America alone. He always needed a buddy.

What's odd about Captain America is that I'm not completely certain if he's a superhero or not.

Supposedly a shot of some miracle serum turned weakling Steve Rogers into Captain America without any side effects. Everyone in that world has been trying to duplicate the serum ever since. I'm thinking it was a placebo.

Captain America is a comic book character whose only real flaw is that he was frozen for decades since World War II.

Cap has a To Do list and is fuzzy on modern devices and events, but otherwise he's not really flawed. He doesn't have a problem with being too hot or too cold. (That could be interesting.) He doesn't visit antique shops. (That might be interesting.) He doesn't look for exercise shortcuts. (That would make sense.) He doesn't have a problem with being out of step with a faster-paced world than the world of the 1940s.

Basically Cap is superman. If he were Superman, the solution would be to take the hero out of him. DC Comics writers regularly don't know what to do with Superman, so they make him evil or a monster or send him away somewhere.

The plot of Captain America 2 is ultimately Cap (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) against a HYDRA infested S.H.I.E.L.D. and U.S. government out of control. The basis of the government amuck was targeted killing but it works as a post-Edward Snowden NSA-overreach movie as well. HYDRA's plan is to trade freedom for the illusion of security.

What's odd is that Captain America is up to speed on government amuck. He shouldn't be. Cap woke up in 2011 (movie version) not 1964 (comics version). He doesn't know Vietnam or
Watergate or Iran-Contra or Iraq WMDs. He should be caught in the middle, just like the rest of America.

The movie was good, just not good enough. Three shields out of five.
Captain America 2Captain America 2Captain America 2

Music Association: Hall and Oates - Out of Touch (Out of Time)

History Isn't Alien
D-Day Invasion of Normandy - 70 Years Ago
June 6, 2014

Normandy was a killing field 70 years ago today. The pre-dawn paratroopers were scattered. The aerial and naval bombardments missed the German pillboxes.  The infantry were weighed down with heavy packs.

D-Day Invasion of Normandy - June 6, 1944

Despite the high Allied losses in the Normandy assault (Operation Neptune), the beachhead was secured and an artificial port (Port Winston) was created.

The much more successful Operation Fortitude had the Allies attacking Trondheim, Norway (Fortitude North) and Pas de Calais, France (Fortitude South) by July 1944. Fortitude was a deception which threw off the Germans from the Normandy assault (despite having problems of its own).

Music Association: La Marseillaise
German joke of the day: “If the plane in the sky is silver, it's American, if it's blue, it's British, if it's invisible, it's ours!”

History Isn't Alien
Tank Man - 25 Years Ago
June 5, 2014

On this day in 1989, the day after the government crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square, an ordinary man carrying groceries stopped a procession of more than a dozen type-59 tanks.

a little dot stops a dozen tanks and inspired the world
Tank Man, one of the greatest humans of all time, in Tiananmen Square, June 5, 1989 (photo by Stuart Franklin)

Tank Man, Tiamanmen Square, June 5, 1989

Music Associations: Daughtry - Waiting For Superman & Staind - So Far Away

Clear The Air
Driving all Over LA in Search of Pollution
May 31, 2014

Science is a little bit of observation and a whole lot of dirty work.

Like many people, I noticed the rich blue skies when all the planes were grounded after 9-11. During those three days, the U.S. airspace was without contrails and plane exhaust. Scientists discovered a 1° C increase in global temperatures and a decrease in global dimming. [BBC-Horizon, PBS-Nova]

Recently, some west coast scientists drove a serpentine path across Los Angeles, measuring particles of air pollution.

Serpentine, Sheldon, serpentine!

They crossed the paths of LA freeways, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Westmont, and Florence neighborhoods. And they crossed under the flight paths of LAX planes.

Los Angeles particulates in 2014

The results were four times the particulate concentration at 10 kilometers east of the Los Angeles International airport (LAX) than elsewhere in Los Angeles.

The very promising study was published this week in Environmental Science & Technology (May 29, 2014) on newstands now. My copy is tucked under the recent issue of PLoS One, a copy of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, the Applied Physics Letters, Mad Magazine, and a dogeared copy of Health Nut journal.

TL;DR - Planes pollute more than LA traffic.

Music Association: Kansas - Dust in the Wind

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