Showing posts from April, 2009
Lark seems to have become a little girl overnight. She suddenly looks the part of a kid rather than a baby. Her unsurpassed cuteness is still unsurpassed.

Here she reads to her Penguin, named Qua.

And she is talking in sentences. Well, kind of sentences. She uses articles all of the time now, as in "a book", "a dog". I think you will agree with me that there is a lot of meaning in the addition of "a". Taken in conjunction with pointing I take to be her speaking the full sentence "This is a book which I find interesting, though with not as well developed a story as we found in Tickly Octopus" and "Look, that is a dog pursuing a squirrel, a thing it does out of instinct."
I know this is semi-old hat for the computer literate, but it utterly blows my mind that google maps has the street level feature of looking 360 degrees in front of almost any address. How in the hell does this work? I can't figure it out unless satellites can provide that sort of lateral view. It has been a while since I wasted time on google earth and the level of detail really has hopped up. It used to be that you could just see a satellite image with some detail (I could tell it was my old Ranger parked in the driveway, for example). But the street view is amazing. This is not me being easily impressed, it is really hard to fathom.

Here is the street scene in front of Lerma's Nite Club, the classic conjunto club in San Antonio.

If you don't know what I am talking about try plugging your address in. Here is the street view of my house. It was taken sometime last summer since my renter's car is in the driveway. You can also see my both of my neighbor's t…
Virginia Beach has taken the radical step of allowing the almost-free practice of religion.

"The City Council voted unanimously to let a group of Buddhist monks hold religious services at their home in Pungo.

The monks can hold mediation services on Sundays with no more than 20 people, and festivals must be held elsewhere. The monks cannot put more statues in their yard, and the landscaping must be maintained. The conditions of the use permit approved by the council were outlined in a tentative settlement filed in federal court in March.

The monks and some followers had filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city had violated their religious freedoms by denying them a permit last year. Some of the monks’ neighbors said they were concerned about traffic and a religious institution springing up in a residential area."

I am sure you can sympathize how shocking it can be when religious institutions spring up in residential areas. From my house a careless rock thrower would have …
Sometimes I like to think virtue gets rewarded.

This weekend brought in some unbelievably perfect weather, the kind of crystalline days that make the spring in Virginia about perfect. My first thought upon stepping outside was that, after several miserable days, it was a perfect day for swarms.

But through sheer force of will (and because I have so much to get accomplished at the moment) I went to the library and read microfilm of nineteenth century correspondence.

Clearly this produced some good Karma. After a couple of hours my cellphone rang informing me of a swarm only a couple of miles away. I went and grabbed it and hived it and was back in the library within a couple of hours.

The swarm was pretty good size and easy to grab on a low branch. I just shook it into a bucket and off I went. This was a fortunate swarm, I need some more bees to get the strawberry honey at my yard in Pungo.

More interesting than the swarm was the place it chose to sojourn. The house was in a rough…
The Navy Seals are not the only government officials out shooting people. Tidewater police are doing their best to take no prisoners:

No weapons in car of men killed by Chesapeake police

"City police recovered more suspected drugs and bullets, but no weapons, from the car of two men shot and killed by Portsmouth police last week."
...Records filed Wednesday with a search warrant in Circuit Court showed that Chesapeake police, who are investigating the April 9 incident in the Holly Cove neighborhood, seized several items including four bullets, a bullet fragment from the seat behind the driver, suspected marijuana, a bag containing a white substance, a digital scale, $27.98 in cash and two cell phones."

Four (4) bullets, $27.98 in cash and two cell phones. Some bigtime drug kinpin killers, no?

here is a possible source of the four bullets--they went through these guys' bodies:

"The men killed were Demetrius D. Edens, 28, of Chesapeake, who police said was the driv…
Following up on my class' discussion today of extraterritorial jurisdiction, the expert government assassination of the teenage pirates, and the question of what to do with the captured pirate, this discussion from Eugene Kontorovich is interesting:

"Just an Honest Fisherman

A professor of piracy often deals with eye-patch and hook jokes. Many people who find this academic specialty intriguing loose interests when they learn that modern pirates wear jeans, tee-shirts and flip-flops, or when they’re feeling natty, fatigues. They certainly don’t fly a black flag. They have very bad personal hygiene: forget Johnny Depp and Cary Elwes.

Yet the ordinary appearance of pirates leads to a potentially serious problem in prosecuting them.

Universal jurisdiction only applies to pirates. Captured Somalis are likely to insist in court that they are not pirates but rather simple fishermen, erroneously seized by a foreign navy. What makes the claim compelling is that most pirates are in fact fi…
If we are supposed to be mortified about the casual-U.S.-marijuana-user-fueled violence in Mexico should we really be celebrating the extraterritorial triple killing of the Somali pirates by Navy Seals? Even if the killing was cinematically cool?

My students were all excited about it today until I pointed out that the pirates were teenagers. (Of course, here in Norfolk we leave the killing of teenagers to other teenagers).

Writer Lindsay Beyerstein said it plainly enough: "Enough dead teen pirate porn already"

The banner headline in the Virginian-Pilot this morning said, boastfully and with more than its fair share of posturing: "THREE SHOTS. THREE KILLS". The Washington Post featured the same phrase, in fact.

Obama, deftly avoiding early, administration staining debacles like Desert One or Black Hawk Down incident had at least the good sense to parade a dog around today instead of landing on an aircraft carrier and declaring the mission accomplished.

One thing tha…
There may be some good news about stopping Colony Collapse Disorder:

"ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2009) — For the first time, scientists have isolated the parasite Nosema ceranae (Microsporidia) from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

In a study published in the new journal from the Society for Applied Microbiology: Environmental Microbiology Reports, scientists from Spain analysed two apiaries and found evidence of honey bee colony depopulation syndrome (also known as colony collapse disorder in the USA). They found no evidence of any other cause of the disease (such as the Varroa destructor, IAPV or pesticides), other than infection with Nosema ceranae. The researchers then treated the infected surviving under-populated colonies with the antibiotic drug, flumagillin and demonstrated complete recovery of all infected colonies."
Universities and colleges are making cutbacks all over the place, but vaunting over the sad stupidity of Brandeis selling off its art collection last fall is Florida State, which is planning to eliminating whole departments.

Among the losers are majors that just might be of interest in Florida, like Oceanography, or of interest to students living in the modern era, like Software Engineering.

Here is the full list:

"Programs targeted for elimination:
Apparel Design
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
Geological Sciences
Molecular Biophysics
Hospitality & Golf Management
Physical Education
Science Education (College of Education)
Behavioral Psychology
Software Engineering
Art Education
Studio Art
Recreational Management
Slavic Languages
Art Administration

Fortunately, they are so far planning on keeping a winning major like "Creative Writing with an Emphasis in Business". This last one should be helpful for the Wall Street ac…
The New York Times numbingly keeps running the same article about gun sales in Texas and other southwestern states to Mexican drug gangs. This is no longer "news" per se, now it is the kind of drumbeat they once sustained over the gender discrimination at the Masters (if memory serves). Oh, and the reporting they ran emphasizing the need for a war in Iraq, there are certain echoes of that. For such an austere newspaper, their advocacy journalism can be tired, not to mention tiresome.

My guess is that the paper thinks if it keeps running the same article about the danger of guns over and over that there will suddenly be a national movement to regulate guns. Their calculations seem clear--Mexican drug gangs buy American guns, therefore American guns should be regulated to stop Mexican drug violence.

I have this suspicion that if guns couldn't be easily bought in Texas by billionaire drug gangs, they might have to spend marginally more buying superior weaponry from thei…

'I'm Naturally Radioactive...You Are Too!''

I've been doing some research on nuclear weapons manufacturing (not in the interests of making one, but to gauge the environmental impact of them) which has brought me to some interesting spots on the web.

I stumbled on this site for the American Nuclear Society, which is some kind of trade group. I'll confess I didn't read their various position papers, though I was struck that they are not placed in numerical order. And that the numbers don't seem to correspond with the years either. The papers are organized in the following descending order: 11, 40, 50, 12, 76, 82, 73, and so on. These are the same people reading the gauges in the nuclear what did the red line mean?

They also peddle a bunch of stuff. I was struck by this stickers.

''I'm Naturally Radioactive...You Are Too!'' Stickers....A popular giveaway item for exhibit booths, legislator visits and at utility visitor centers. These stickers also are used by many teachers as …
It is a fine world we live in when you can buy an 1860 slide with a sample of Ichaboe island guano on it.

As promised, here are a few pictures from Portsmouth, Ohio. I was there for the Appalachian Studies Association conference, giving a presentation on my research into Latinization of Appalachia. Portsmouth is about as far away from here as you can get and still be in southern Appalachia. It is right on the Ohio River near Ashland, Kentucky. (where we stopped by and saw the house locations of legendary old time fiddlers JW Day and Ed Haley) It is right in the area where there are some magnificent indian mounds. We saw one, the more spectacular ones were a bit more of a drive.

The conference was at Shawnee State University, which has a very nice and well set-up campus. Here is a view of the Ohio with the Kentucky hills on the other side. The campus was at the base of this bridge over to the left.

The flood wall (the town was massively flooded in 1937) along the river has a mural painted on it which is designated the longest piece of art by a single artist in the world. This is a ver…

21st century American success stories

It is interesting news to discover that that your suspicions are true: Portsmouth and Suffolk really are among the very worst places in Virginia, at least in terms of something as basic as high school graduation rates.

"The Portsmouth and Suffolk school systems have two of the highest dropout rates in the state - nearly one in five students who entered ninth grade for the first time in 2004 left school within four years before graduating, according to Virginia Department of Education data released Tuesday.

"When you've got a dropout rate of 18 percent, there's no silver lining," said Kevin Alston, Suffolk's assistant superintendent for administrative services. "That's 18 percent of our students that we're failing."

One other South Hampton Roads school division - Norfolk - had a dropout rate higher than the state's rate of 8.7 percent. Thirteen percent of students in that city left school early, placing Norfolk among the bottom 25 of the 1…
The paper here, often supremely useless, has been running daily articles on the piece of whatever-it-was that fell from the sky and that was heard and seen from NC to Maryland. Now they are saying it was a meteor.

The various theories floated out there by the NASA officials and the changes to them seem designed to give people something to suspect.

We were in the living room at that time on Sunday night and heard a huge boom and felt the house shake a bit. We both thought that it was somebody throwing something heavy onto the porch. I thought maybe it was somebody protesting the dogs barking, or just run of the mill hooligans. It definitely is wild that the meteor could make the house shake like that despite the fact that it was hundreds of miles off of the coast.

Oh, sorry, I meant the "meteor".

Surplus? What's a surplus?

Since the U.S. is not likely to be posting such a headline in the near future (or ever, if China does indeed succeed with its plan to be the world leader in electric cars) we might as well enjoy this headline that the JoonAngDaily has today:

"Trade surplus hits a record monthly high of $4.6 billion
The Korean trade surplus for March was $4.6 billion - a record high, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said yesterday.

The news comes a day after the central bank announced that the country saw a $3.6 billion surplus from its February current account balance, signaling the possibility of an economic recovery."