Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pacific Northwest Waves getting bigger

Alarming news from a study by Oregon State researchers shows that already "Big" Northwest Waves are getting even bigger.) (via MSNBC) , posing coastal communities with a triple threat.

(Photo by Erica Harris, Oregon State University)

More on the local impact (especially Seattle) from the Sunbreak:
 Snip: "Twenty years ago, a big winter storm might generate 25-foot waves offshore of the Pacific Northwest. Scientists pegged 33 feet as the maximum in a 100-year storm. But the intervening years--and a strong El NiƱo weather pattern--brought 33-foot waves...and then some..Now researchers at OSU believe that the maximum wave height in a 100-year event is 46 feet (or as much as 55, depending on how you measure).   The largest wave increase, in fact, centers on the Washington coast, down to northern Oregon, says Science Daily. Wave height has grown about four inches per year, for a total of about ten feet over the past three decades."
And from OSU:
"Increasing wave heights, they said, have had double or triple the impact in terms of erosion, flooding and damage as sea level rise over the last few decades. If wave heights continue to increase, they may continue to dominate over the acceleration in sea level that’s anticipated over the next couple of decades. The prior concern about what sea level rise could do, in other words, is already a reality. If sea levels do increase significantly in future decades and centuries, that will only add to the damage already being done by higher waves."
Note - Either of these two issues 1) bigger waves or 2) general sea level increase due to climate change could be compounded significantly if (or rather, when) we experience 3) a major earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone, which could drop the shoreline entirely in some places up to 5 feet (if the similar quake/geology in Sumatra was any indication).

So what does this mean? A lot.  Changes to the coastline itself will effect coastal development; tidal/estuary environments; tsunami evacuation/danger zones; navigation across river bars, roads and recreational areas. And maybe it's a good time to invest in those vacation properties a block or two; or a few hundred yards off the beach.  Could be prime real estate in 50 years!

PSA:  Every winter at least one or more people are swept out to sea along the Oregon or Washington coasts by "Sneaker Waves".  Keep yourself safe.   

Public Option: It's ALIVE!!! No, wait, It's Dead. No, It's ALIVE!!!!

Well, two Progressive action groups are claiming a victory (such as it is) in the free-for-all that's become health care reform.  Per Firedoglake and Bold Progress, most of the Hosue Progressive Caucus is standing by their guns and signing a letter being circulated by Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Chellie Pingree (D-ME) that calls for passing the public option through budget "reconciliation," (which only needs 51 votes in the Senate.)

As for the SOTU speech last night - it wasn't as bad as I expected.  Left me more hopeful than not.  Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell - - that's fantastic, but feels like we're being thrown a bone.  There were aspects I didn't care for - offshore drilling and nuclear energy? Yuck and eh, respectively..... I'd rather focus on less controversial sources of energy.  But I guess those are bones for the Republicans.  So in the end, everybody gets a bone.  Yay for Bipartisanship!!!!

Sure it's great to mention equal rights for Afghan women but what exactly is being done about that?  The war is making it worse, according to them, replacing the Taliban in many places and positions of power with criminal warlords from the Northern Alliance

Snip: "many of the farmers we spoke to said that the (Afghan) government had forced them to stop growing opium but had done nothing to help them repay the debts to the drug lords they still owed crops too...He said he had been forced to pay ( a portion of) his debts to drug lords by marrying his five daughters to them... "they told me I should pay with my daughters if I had nothing else!"   The farmer told us he still owes 12,000 dollars and he has no idea how to repay them.   "I can’t do anything now, I have run out of daughters."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Law to Allow Golf Carts in Bike Lanes

I like this plan!!!! Proposed Washington State bills would let golf cart-like devices on city streets.

I drive less than 3 miles to work every day.  My bank and grocery store are on the way.  Costco and Home Depot are right up the street.   Now that the Monkey is staying home with Daddy I've thought about biking it. When he was in daycare it just wan't feasible since I'd need to pick him up.  Of course, I'd have to buy a bike to do that (my last one was stolen).  And it's hard to get motivated when it's cold and rainy outside.  But if I could use one of these puppies, that'd be swell:  GEM electric cars.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Time for a new Progressive Party?

Obama bringing Plouffe back is a good sign he may once again be able to connect with the Progressive "NetRoots" that got him elected in the first place.  But I'm not holding my breath.

The Progressive Caucus in Congress is consistently sidelined by De. leadership.    Apparently we need more than a caucus.

Some Progs are calling for the entire Progressive Caucus to up and defect from the Democratic party.  Works for me!

And lookie here - Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive Party is alive and kicking (at least in Washington State and Vermont).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Critter Blogging

Tiger Whinger chilling on the couch.  Background:  Note the very rare African Stick Plant by the window. Foreground: Note the tres cool Curious George fleece throw made by yours truly for my own Monkey for Christmas.

Just like a teenager - hitting Mom's liquor cabinet over the holidays. And you know that cooking sherry... just the entry drug to the heavy stuff.  It's only a matter of time before your precious baby is dealing 'nip to the whole neighborhood.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You don't piss off the base, people.

Don't know why everyone's so surprised about the Mass. senate race.  I could have told you what was going to happen weeks ago when I began quietly deleting any emails from Obama's advocacy group from my inbox, unread.  I presume they were calls to support Coakley - get out the vote, send money.  Same old same old.  The problem was, Dems in the Senate (and Obama ) were giving us the Same Old Same Old in HealthCare "Reform".  We thought we sent a strong message when we elected Obama and enough Dems to do whatever he needed.  I did what I could to get Al Franken, Jeff Merkley and a ton of Congressional Reps elected to support that "super" majority.  I worked my ass off so you all could take over and do the heavy lifting of implementing our agenda.

But what was the point of all that hard work in electing a supermajority if Harry Reid and Obama weren't going to use it?

So new message to Ben Nelson, Lieberman and the rest of the "DINO'S" (Democrat in Name Only):  If you're going to act like an obstructionist Republican be prepared to be replaced by an actual Republican, because I  - and and a great deal of Obama's (previous) Progressive Base will be doing everything in our power to get you out of the Democratic Caucus.  I'd rather have an honest adversary than a backstabbing "buddy".

More thoughts:  Maybe it was our fault.  Maybe we just weren't clear enough during the campaign that when we said we demand "affordable, universal health coverage" we meant "don't force us to buy shitty coverage from the money-grubbing professional claim deniers." 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Is the Entire Caribbean Plate on the move?

Lost among all the human tragedy and triumph in the wake of the Haitian Earthquake a few headlines have been catching my eye in the last week:

Jan 12 Earthquake in Haiti (mag 7.0)
Jan 15 Earthquake on coast of Venezuala (mag 5.4)
Jan 18 Earthquake off coast of Guatemala (mag 6.0)
and the latest, today:
Jan 19 Cayman Islands earthquake (mag 5.8)

Looks like I'm not the only one noticing the trend. But I'm wondering, is this "cluster" of reported earthquakes in the media all around the periphery of the Caribbean Plate just a case of heightened media awareness or an indication of much more significant things shaking out deep below?

These are just the bigger quakes - I notice from the USGS that there was a somewhat smaller quake (mag. 4.7) in Panama/Costa Rica today; another mag 4.7 in Columbia on Saturday, and a dozen or so in the Leeward Islands (just to the East of Haiti/ Dominican Republic).  Those in proximity to Hispaniola may be close enough to the Hatian epicenter (in time and space) to be considered aftershocks - I don't know.  But it's looking like it's own little mini- "Ring of Fire" down in the Caribbean lately.

While I certainly don't want to wish any more destruction on anyone, my Inner Geek is waiting to see where the next round of activity comes from. My bet? The active volcanoes along the eastern subduction zone (Lesser Antilles) on Montserrat, Martinique, etc.

I watched a documentary about recent theories involving "earthquake storms" that speculate, in short that slippage along a fault at one location causes additional stress to build up further along and can trigger a series of earthquakes one after another.  Sometimes within hours, other times years apart.  This makes perfect sense to me and I like to envision tectonic plates/faults as the vertebrae along the backbone of Mother Earth, and earthquakes as her natural spinal adjustments. In my mind, it's just like when I go to the chiropractor and they "crack" one pivotal, tension-filled spot and the release of that tension triggers the release of several other adjacent vertebrae, resulting in that ever-satisfying "crack crack crack" up and down my spine.

Anyway, I hope for the sake of everyone in the Caribbean that Mother nature is done shrugging her shoulders. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Missing Pier 39 San Francisco Sea Lions Found on Oregon Coast

Remember this lonely little guy from last October?

It looks like he was the vanguard of a mass exodus!


Just what we need - more transplants from California **sigh**. What's the allure? No sales tax? Indian casinos? Nope. It's the anchovies. They're highly plentiful off Oregon in this El Nino year when sea lions' normal staple, the S.F. herring population has taken a nose dive. Now if they'd just invest in some retirement properties and stick around for awhile the economic picture of Florence may get a little brighter. If they bring in more tourists, that's a huge plus too.

If you'd like to save yourself a trip to expensive San Francisco and see these famous residents in their new "winter" home, I can't recommend the Florence/ Yachats area enough. However when we went to the Sea Lion Caves it was more than a little on the expensive side ($30 admission for a family of 3...)and not really worth the money. You couldn't get close to the animals and didn't really want to because of the deafening noise and pervasive stink. The KGW article says they're all hanging out at Heceta Head anyway, so I'd recommend saving your money and just going to Heceta Beach State Park, just north of the Sea Lion Caves. The old Heceta Head Lighthouse Keeper's cottage is now a lovely Bed and Breakfast if you'd prefer to take your time. Other nice places to stay in the area are Driftwood Shores, near where we spotted our herald on the rocks at the Siuslaw River North Jetty; Ambrosia Gardens B&B; Seaquest Inn B&B; Overleaf Lodge; and the Edwin K B&B.

***Update Jan 14, 2009 -  Apparently, there are a large number turning up south of Florence in the Coos Bay/ Charleston Marina area.  Below, from - an interview with one of the missing sea lions themselves:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's the Swamp Thing!!!!

From Live Science, via MSNBC:  Half plant, Half slug.
"The sea slugs live in salt marshes in New England and Canada. In addition to burglarizing the genes needed to make the green pigment chlorophyll, the slugs also steal tiny cell parts called chloroplasts, which they use to conduct photosynthesis. The chloroplasts use the chlorophyl to convert sunlight into energy, just as plants do, eliminating the need to eat food to gain energy. "  photo Credit: Nicholas E. Curtis and Ray Martinez

And somewhere a Syfy Network producer is gearing up to make another really bad, cheesy made-for-cable movie. I see a whole new era of Godzilla vs. Mothra movies, this time involving Swamp Slugs vs. Fishzilla.   From NatGeo: "A snakehead has teeth like a shark, a taste for blood and even walks on land. It is an insatiable alien predator that can obliterate the food chain and overpower native life. It mysteriously showed up near a small Maryland town and now can be found coast to coast. Scientists are sounding the alarm. It is a showdown of man vs. fish as scientists and anglers work together in the fight to defy it, control it - and stop it from destroying everything in its path!"

So here's the plot:  Swamp Slug, a benign, shy... beneficial creature may just hold the evolutionary key to cleaning up our toxic waste and saving humans from oil dependence.  If only we can save them from being eradicated by the swarms of killer Fishzillas!   Enter a team of heroic scientists turned reluctant heroes who try to enlist the help of a grizzly, gruff, guilt-ridden alcoholic world champion fisherman who is trying to drown his sorrows over a loved one drowned when their boat was capsized by Fishzillas (maybe he's the one who introduced the species to Maryland to begin with....ooohh.). Throw in a loyal yellow dog and a cute kid and voila!  Instant B movie.  It can end with the grizzly old fisherman being genetically assimilated by the slugs and becoming the first photosynthetically capable merman.

I'll tell you where to send the royalty checks.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Ringing in the New Year

I'm suffering from post-holiday let down. Or rather, benefitting from it.  I was finally able to get enough R&R last weekend to get a hold on this crazy cold & sinus infection we all seem to be passing back and forth.  It's not completely licked, but getting closer than a hoot owl taste-testing a Tootsie Pop.  If I don't relapse I may get away with not needing antibiotics.  There's a novel approach!  As it turns out, it's also one those innovative Norwegians have been using successfully for the last quarter century to earning them bragging rights to be the most MRSA infection-free" country in the world.
snip: "OSLO, Norway – Aker University Hospital is a dingy place to heal. The floors are streaked and scratched. A light layer of dust coats the blood pressure monitors. A faint stench of urine and bleach wafts from a pile of soiled bedsheets dropped in a corner.

Look closer, however, at a microscopic level, and this place is pristine. There is no sign of a dangerous and contagious staph infection that killed tens of thousands of patients in the most sophisticated hospitals of Europe, North America and Asia this year, soaring virtually unchecked.

The reason: Norwegians stopped taking so many drugs.

Twenty-five years ago, Norwegians were also losing their lives to this bacteria. But Norway's public health system fought back with an aggressive program that made it the most infection-free country in the world. A key part of that program was cutting back severely on the use of antibiotics.

Now a spate of new studies from around the world prove that Norway's model can be replicated with extraordinary success, and public health experts are saying these deaths — 19,000 in the U.S. each year alone, more than from AIDS — are unnecessary.

"It's a very sad situation that in some places so many are dying from this, because we have shown here in Norway that Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) can be controlled, and with not too much effort," said Jan Hendrik-Binder, Oslo's MRSA medical adviser. "But you have to take it seriously, you have to give it attention, and you must not give up."

The World Health Organization says antibiotic resistance is one of the leading public health threats on the planet. A six-month investigation by The Associated Press found overuse and misuse of medicines has led to mutations in once curable diseases like tuberculosis and malaria, making them harder and in some cases impossible to treat."
Important take-aways from that article: "Norway's PUBLIC HEALTH SYSTEM... made it the most infection-free country in the world.  Here in the U.S. where the, pro-profit, pro-corporate folks claim we have the BEST (PRIVATE) healthcare in the world, we kill 19,000 people annually (insured, uninsured, doesn't matter - MRSA doesn't do wallet checks) .  More than die from AIDS.  And these deaths are absolutely and totally preventable. Or at least so a government run system has proven elsewhere.

I'd like to know how this phenomenon is explained by the tea-baggers/Republicans/Independents who believe *anything* government-run is doomed to be incompetent.   Maybe, since gov't is actually run *by* the people (of the U.S.), *for* the people, it's just we Americans who are incompetent?

Granted, Norway is swimming in oil revenue which helps pay for their welfare state.  They're actually much wealthier per capita than the U.S.  But still - it's another great example of how a non-profit, public based health care system can be extremely effective. Here's an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review that discusses the wide divide between right and left on discussions of health care reform:  How Effective Is American HealthCare

When we swallow that huge chunk of Patriotic Pride and are completely honest with ourselves, we find out that "The United States gets the smallest bang for the buck in terms of life itself amongst developed countries: it realizes the lowest level of "life returns."  United Kingdom healthcare system delivers life returns more than twice those of the American healthcare system.  The Canadial system, THREE times more returns.

You know, it's not that Progressives are necessarily anti-capitalist.  We're kind of like the old lady from that vintage Wendy's commercial - "Where's the Beef?"  When we're forced to pay Filet Mignon prices we want to be sure we're going to get Filet Mignon, dammit and not hamburger.  Or give us the option of paying what a hamburger's actually worth!.  But right now, our only options seem to be a) pay outragous prices and get screwed; or b) starve.