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Saturnalia – better late than never

January 19, 2012

Saturn produced quite the spectacle for astronomers in 2011. The storm in the image above began in December of 2010 and lasted for over 200 days before finally petering out and was the largest ever seen on Saturn. It measured about 15,000 kilometers from north to south and quickly encircled entire planet, covering a surface area of 5 billion square kilometers at its height. In contrast, the entire surface area of the earth is only a little over 500 million square kilometers. The image above is a false color one, compiled from several other images. The image below is a true color image, making it easier to see why the Saturnian tempests are called Great White Spots.

More details from Science Daily and from Space.com. Lots more images of this and other events on and around Saturn including info on how the images are compiled from the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations, or CICLOPS.

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58 Comments leave one →
  1. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 12:26 pm

    Interesting report from Rodale Press describing the results of their 30 year study of organic vs. conventional farming – The Farming Systems Trial.

    The study concludes that with some caveats, organic farming outperforms conventional farming judged by several different parameters –

    – Organic yields match conventional yields.
    – Organic outperforms conventional in years of drought.
    – Organic farming systems build rather than deplete soil organic matter,
    making it a more sustainable system.
    – Organic farming uses 45% less energy and is more efficient.
    – Conventional systems produce 40% more greenhouse gases.
    – Organic farming systems are more profitable than conventional.

    Have to say that this report is a little short on detail for my liking. Maybe there is a more scientific report somewhere? Anyhow, it doesn’t describe in much detail the methods that were used. One photo shows organic and conventional corn crops side by side and I had to wonder how they could be sure that none of the fertilizer used on half the crop made it over to the other half. Maybe there was some control, but I didn’t see it mentioned.

    The profit motive I thought could have been left out completely, but at least it was not the most-emphasized point. As we’ve discussed, not everything should be based on financial concerns to begin with and also if organic farming does become more prevalent, obviously the profit margins are going to fall.

    Surprised to see that while organic uses less energy and produces fewer greenhouse emissions, it does use substantially more diesel fuel than conventional methods. not much of an explanation given for that. Only thing I can think of is maybe the organic method required more plowing since herbicides weren’t used. Anyway, not much else was too surprising. The benefits of crop rotation etc. have been known for quite some time.

  2. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 1:10 pm

    Using gravitational lensing, researchers have produced the biggest map yet of dark matter in our universe.

    More curiously, other astronomers using the same technique have discovered a distant dwarf galaxy which may be made almost entirely of dark matter.

    Although everything I’ve read on the subject leads me to believe that there is more matter out there than what we can see and the methods used to “see” dark matter appear sound, I remain skeptical. Still wonder if there may be a measurement error or a flaw in a theory somewhere. Been reading a lot lately about the history of the discoveries that led to the big bang theory, and on more than one occasion theorists and empirical researchers had to fix rather large errors – even Edwin Hubble came out with an age for the universe that was far less than the age of the rocks on the earth on his first try. Reading Alan Guth’s The Inflationary Universe and he mentions a few calculations that turned out to be wrong by a dozen or two orders of magnitude before they were corrected. Then again, I’m still quite the amateur and my advanced math skills have withered, so who knows? Stranger things have already been found. Perhaps the LHC can shed some light on all this soon…

  3. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 1:24 pm

    Many prominent websites were blacked out recently in protest of the pending SOPA legislation which would bar access to many internet sites in an effort to stop online piracy, an effort which IMO is 100% wasted. People are going to copy stuff no matter what ridiculous laws are passed.

    Protests against the legislation have been having an effect, with co-sponsors bailing out and support continuing to erode. Once again though, I suspect this is due more to political gamesmanship than out of any genuine conviction on the part of the morons in Congress.

    I am shocked! shocked! I tell you to find out that former Dem Senator Chris Dodd, who claimed he wouldn’t be doing any lobbying after his retirement, is now the biggest lobbyist for Hollywood interests and is pressing hard for SOPA’s passage with his former colleagues. Almost all of the defectors so far have been republicans while the Dems in the Senate continue to push for passage. So have the republicans seen the light, or is this just another opportunity to vote against anything Democrats come up with? I suspect that if Dodd were a republican filling their campaign coffers amply, they’d be all for it.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 19, 2012 5:36 pm

      Best in show goes to the Khan Academy’s primer on SOPA/PIPA. And note its Creative Commons license!

  4. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 2:04 pm

    In the ‘Rats Eat Their Own’ department, here’s the best I can come up with regarding the bond deal clusterfuck in Greece.

    Europe won’t give the Greeks any more bailout funds unless they cut more debt by the end of the month. The Greeks are trying to make bond investors take a haircut (ie a partial loss) on their investments (investments they picked up for pennies on the dollar if I understand correctly) but hedge funds are balking at the proposed agreement. Now you’d think the hedge funds would rather get part of their investment back instead of losing all of it in the case of default, so why the protest, you ask? Because the hedge funds –

    …do not consider the prospect of a disorderly default by Athens as a financial incentive to allow a voluntary writedown deal to proceed.

    This is because these funds are believed to have purchased insurance policies on their holdings of Greek bonds, known as Credit Default Swaps (CDS). If Athens fails to pay its maturing debts in March, that would trigger large CDS payouts to these funds from the large financial firms that sold them the insurance.

    And that would mean the hedgers get 100% on the dollar in the case of default. But as the hedge funds aren’t disclosing their holdings from what I understand, the assumption made in the quote above may be erroneous. As we saw in the case of the AIG bailout, you don’t even have to own the underlying investment to purchase credit default swaps, so perhaps the hedge funds stand to make significantly more than their original investment in the event of default. Who’s to say which hedge fund has any of the actual bonds in its portfolio???? Maybe all they bought were the CDS in the first place because it was pretty clear from the get-go that Greece was likely to default. And then the hedgers have the big brass balls to say this –

    …a hedge fund source denied that the behaviour of small investment funds was frustrating a voluntary deal – and possibly even forcing a default – arguing that the voluntary basis of the restructuring deal being pushed by the IIF and European leaders was “crony banking”. “Who will lose out if the insurance is paid out?” he said.

    “The two biggest issuers are Goldman Sachs and AIG. They are effectively being given a bailout by not allowing Greek debt to default. Seven Goldman Sachs ex-employees are in European Union governments. This is crony banking at its worst.”

    That’s right, the hedgers are claiming this is a back door bailout of Goldman Sachs and AIG since they wouldn’t have to pay out on CDS if a writedown went through. Now AIG, still being a ward of the government which hasn’t shown any financial aptitude recently, may be stupid enough to repeat its past mistakes but I really doubt that would be the case with the Goldies. They had to know how risky Greek bonds were and if they were issuing insurance against them, they quite likely have that position hedged somehow so that they will still make a tidy profit in the event of default.

    And then there was this from rating agency Fitch – Fitch says Greece to default, believes will be orderly. Check this out –

    …Fitch believed that even a voluntary agreement by private investors to take a haircut on Greek debt would constitute a default.

    Now if I’m reading that right, a haircut would get the investors a partial payout but would still be a default, so they could then turn around and still demand payout on the CDS!!!!!! So they really can’t lose no matter what happens. Nice work if you can get it.

    And yet perhaps most galling of all, the hedge funds are now threatening to sue Greece in a human rights court

    Hedge funds have been known to use hardball tactics to make money. Now they have come up with a new one: suing Greece in a human rights court to make good on its bond payments.

    The novel approach would have the funds arguing in the European Court of Human Rights that Greece had violated bondholder rights, though that could be a multiyear project with no guarantee of a payoff. And it would not be likely to produce sympathy for these funds…

    You think???

    No matter what the final decision is, I’m sure it will not be the correct one and these vultures will walk away with most of Greece’s carcass. For what the correct response should be, we have to go to Judge Smails, who knew how to treat a fat, pasty, greedy, white boy with a sense of entitlement –

    • cometman permalink*
      January 19, 2012 2:12 pm

      Meanwhile Barry remains as clueless and tone deaf as ever and will accept the Democratic nomination later this year at Bank of America stadium. That is, if they don’t go bankrupt first and have to take the name down a la Enron.

  5. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 2:22 pm

    Bill McKibben celebrates Obama’s denial of the Keystone XL permit yesterday.

    I would applaud the decision louder myself, however I again suspect that this is just political gamesmanship. Yes, he did stand up against republican threats but the fact is they were asking him to give approval before an environmental impact study could be done. Shouldn’t be too hard to paint the republicans as irresponsible for giving this deadline, especially when he leaves a lot of wiggle room – White House kills Keystone pipeline plan, but open to new route.

    The objections seem to be with the environmental impact on Nebraska (I mean who gives a shit about Alberta or the rest of the world) and if a better route can be found that Nebraskans can live with, then full speed ahead –

    …Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., the company behind the 2,700-kilometre pipeline, has been given the option of making a new application — and company officials confirmed they will propose an alternative route for Keystone XL that avoids environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska.

    This fight is far from over, and Barry is likely just kicking the can down the road to avoid political fallout before November.

  6. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 2:29 pm

    Sobering piece on the hell we’ve left behind in Iraq – Corruption in Iraq: ‘Your son is being tortured. He will die if you don’t pay’. A quote from one of the torture brokers –

    “Look,” he added, “the system now is just like under Saddam: walk by the wall, don’t go near politics and you can walk with your head high and not fear anything. But if you come close to the throne then the wrath of Allah will fall on you and we have eyes everywhere.”

    (Please) Rahm (a rusty roll of barbed wire up your ass) Emmanuel cracks down on dissent in Chicago with the new “Sit Down and Shut Up” ordinance.

    Things not getting much better in Nigeria – Two Missing As Shell Oil Rig Catches Fire off Nigerian Coast.

  7. cometman permalink*
    January 19, 2012 3:07 pm

    Good rundown of where the WA state marriage equality bill stands from The Stranger. Looks like one more fence-sitting Dem made up his mind to vote ‘yes’ today.

  8. artemis54 permalink
    January 20, 2012 7:32 am

    World’s longest running lab experiment produces nine drops in 81 years.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 20, 2012 12:38 pm

      Neat-O. Were you able to view the live webcam? I wanted to link to it on the sidebar here since it goes nicely with the 10,000 year clock and the As Slow As possible organ concert but unfortunately I couldn’t see anything at the link. The video player seems to be working – it started to play when I hit ‘play’ – but all I saw was a black screen. Maybe it’s something on their end? Anyway, with nothing for over 11 years now, that next drop could come any second! As long as they don’t crank up the AC again….

      • artemis54 permalink
        January 20, 2012 1:34 pm

        I had the same experience with the player. As you say, maybe their end.

        • cometman permalink*
          January 20, 2012 2:12 pm

          Thanks. I’ll add it to the sidebar and hope it starts working soon.

        • cometman permalink*
          January 20, 2012 2:27 pm

          Just checked some of the sidebar links when I added the new one and found something that may be of interest. The Seattle Aquarium is having its 2012 Octopus Symposium & Workshop this March 17. Looks like they have some interesting talks lined up.

  9. cometman permalink*
    January 20, 2012 1:25 pm

    The local city council took a stand against Citizen’s United on Wednesday –

    After hearing more than an hour of testimony, the council voted 6-2 in support of a nonbinding resolution calling on Maine’s congressional delegation to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing “corporate personhood.”

    Today I joined the local OWS and some people from the UU church protesting Citizen’s United at the Federal Courthouse. Found out that one of the city council dissenters who felt the council wasn’t the appropriate place to lodge such a complaint is also a staffer for Sen. Olympia Snowe. Some in attendance today felt that reasoning was an invitation to let Olympia Snowe know how they felt so maybe she will be getting Occupied soon.

    Those in attendance today were also treated to an impromptu visit from none other than Bill McKibben! He addressed the gathering for 15 mins. or so and gave some welcome support. He mostly talked about Citizen’s United but discussed the recent Keystone XL decision briefly and mentioned that there was still a big fight to go before all is said and done in that regard. Would have liked to pick his brain for a minute or two to get his thoughts on where Barry really stands but unfortunately he had to run to a scheduled interview with somebody or other.

    • artemis54 permalink
      January 20, 2012 1:36 pm

      Now that is cool

      • cometman permalink*
        January 20, 2012 2:30 pm

        I did notice several people turning their phone cameras on him. If anything turns up on youtube I’ll post it here.

  10. artemis54 permalink
    January 21, 2012 3:32 pm

    Snowed in yesterday. A real slopbucket – at one point it was 22 degrees and raining.

    So another movie suggestion: you really have to see Agora.

    When these period pieces go wrong, esp those set in the classical world, they usually go spectacularly wrong. Too many examples from which to choose. In the case of this movie, I made the mistake of listening to critics, many agenda driven, who bitched about historical inaccuracies. Actually there aren’t any, other than the prickly pear cactus in the city square and the usual time compressions and extra characters that wouldn’t raise an eyebrow in a film about, oh I don’t know let’s say Jaysus. While Hypatia’s discovery in the film of elliptical orbits is completely apocryphal, who is to say? No one has the slightest notion what works of hers were destroyed along with everything else in Alexandria.

    Don’t listen to the reductionists. When the subject is the destruction of the classical world by Christian mobs, pretty good bet there are going to be people who don’t want to hear it. In any case, it’s not as if the Jews or pagans come off much better.

    This comes at a time when I am mightily irritated with the Catholic church between the abortion display on their grounds a block from my house and the WA bishops attempting to intervene to derail marriage equality in the state. Matthew 7 comes to mind.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 21, 2012 4:17 pm

      Just talked to one of my buddies out there and he said Seattle was a mess right now. Meanwhile we’ve gotten more snow out here in the last week or so (the first of the year) and I don’t think anybody noticed. Do you happen to remember Charlie Chong who once ran for mayor of Seattle and was pooh-poohed as not being a ‘serious’ candidate? I remember one of his suggestions was that maybe the city ought to invest in a few snow plows. Sounds like they still haven’t bothered and are once again just waiting for it to melt…

      And funny you should mention your irritation with Catholics. I was just reading an art review of Maurizio Catellan who I don’t remember hearing about before so I looked him up on the interwebs. Besides finding some fodder for a future post, I also found something that might help you out. My suggestion would be to erect your own lawn display with the words ‘Matthew 7’ attached to this –

  11. cometman permalink*
    January 23, 2012 12:04 pm

    Notes –

    Paul LePage to Maine – Let the old and poor die or the schools get whacked. meanwhile, no mention of making the largest national and multinational corporations in Maine who have been the beneficiaries of huge tax cuts in recent years pay their fair share.

    Been watching with interest the fallout from the failure of a Russian Mars probe. The Russians have been trying for years with no success to get a probe to Mars and can’t come up with an explanation for why this one failed not long after launch. Saw some suggestions from Russia that it may have been deliberate sabotage by the US. Now they are saying it may be due to interference from a US radar installation, although they now claim it was unintentional. Very curious.

    McClatchy has been very good about updating stories the rest of the media seems to have forgotten. Not surprisingly, after the US backed coup a few years ago events have taken a huge turn for the worse in Honduras

    In a city that’s just earned the title of the most dangerous in the Americas, few people dare go to the police with complaints. Rather, they view police officers with fear, scorn and disgust.

    “Society has completely lost confidence in the police. The citizenry is more afraid of the police than the criminals,” said Jhon Cesar Mejia, a federal prosecutor assigned to look into abuses by the state.

    In recent months in Honduras, evidence has turned up of police units involved in murder-for-hire plots, drug trafficking, extortion, auto theft and kidnapping. Distress over police corruption has grown only more intense in the three months since the dean of Honduras’ national university fingered police in the murder of her son and the widow of a slain national drug czar blamed police for his assassination.

    And while the pom pom girls cheer for Barry’s “exit” from Iraq, it hasn’t taken long for the US puppet government there to come unraveled – With U.S. troops hardly gone, Iraq’s government is coming apart.

    In the wake of yet another extrajudicial assassination, Greenwald has an excellent discussion of the hellish Catch-22 faced by those put on Barry’s hitlist –

    On Saturday in Somalia, the U.S. fired missiles from a drone and killed the 27-year-old Lebanon-born, ex-British citizen Bilal el-Berjawi. His wife had given birth 24 hours earlier and the speculation is that the U.S. located him when his wife called to give him the news. Roughly one year ago, El-Berjawi was stripped of his British citizenship, obtained when his family moved to that country when he was an infant, through the use of a 2006 British anti-Terrorism law — passed after the London subway bombing — that the current government is using with increasing frequency to strip alleged Terrorists with dual nationality of their British citizenship (while providing no explanation for that act). El-Berjawi’s family vehemently denies that he is involved with Terrorism, but he was never able to appeal the decree against him for this reason:

    “Berjawi is understood to have sought to appeal against the order, but lawyers representing his family were unable to take instructions from him amid concerns that any telephone contact could precipitate a drone attack.”

    Obviously, those concerns were valid. So first the U.S. tries to assassinate people, then it causes legal rulings against them to be issued because the individuals, fearing for their life, are unable to defend themselves.

  12. artemis54 permalink
    January 23, 2012 2:53 pm

    Go Camano Island! We now have the magic 25 senators to pass marriage equality.

    Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen:

    This is the right vote and it is the vote I will cast when this measure comes to the floor.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 23, 2012 9:31 pm

      Very nice! And kudos to Gregoire for showing such leadership on this issue. That’s how it ought to be done – support legislation because it’s the right thing to do and then go out and twist some arms to make sure it passes.

      It will be extremely interesting to see how this affects things on a national level. The Mormons are already gearing up to oppose it like they did in CA and ME – how will that go over with a Mormon running for Pres? I’ve heard rumors that Barry may come out in support in the SOTU address. Good if he does, but since he’s on the record as being opposed to actual marriage, that gives his opponents more fodder than they would have had if he’d just taken a stand and stuck with it. However it plays out, I’m sure the “debate” will manage to be stupider than I imagine it.

  13. cometman permalink*
    January 23, 2012 10:23 pm

    Rumor has it that Barry is set to announce a settlement agreement with the big banks for their fraudulent foreclosure practices. Of course this rumor has been going around for over a year now, so who knows? According to the AP, Barry is set to announce it in the SOTU.

    From everything I’ve read, this deal is another bank-friendly whitewash that won’t help homeowners all that much, but will protect the banks from a lot of liability. Basically a $25 billion slap on the wrist with immunity from any prosecution.

    Quite a bit of criticism from various parties in this Nation piece. Sherrod Brown’s take –

    Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio characterized the rumored deal as “not much more than a slap on the wrist,” and added that while banks were always know to be too big to fail, they were now apparently “too big to jail.”

    “When laws are broken there need to be full investigations,” Brown said. “Wall Street should not get another bailout.”

    Brown urged Obama to reject the deal and order investigations into the banks’ practices immediately.

    Yves Smith is pissed – Obama to Use Pension Funds of Ordinary Americans to Pay for Bank Mortgage “Settlement”.

    Mike Whitney suspects the settlement is just a prelude to another round of “quantitative easing”, since the only way to make the bad mortgages and foreclosed properties the banks still hold worth a shit is to pump another cheap trillion $$ or so into the economy (via the big banks) to inflate prices.

    Several state AGs have already balked in recent months though and have decided to pursue investigation and prosecution on their own. And now Yves Smith mentions that the lead AG Miller is saying no deal is done after all – Tom Miller Says No Mortgage Deal Imminent.

    So what the hell is going on? Got me. Could be a case of Barry running something up the flagpole and ‘hoping’. Maybe he thought that if he mentioned it at the SOTU the holdout AGs would fall in line.

    All I know is I’m really sick of this equivocating, bankster-coddling, go along to get along sorry excuse for a president. The world isn’t going to end if a few banks fail and a some rat bastards take a well deserved trip to the big house.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 25, 2012 8:18 pm

      Well now I’m even sicker of this rat bastard. A new task force to investigate the ne’er do wells! Except it isn’t really new because he’s already started some task forces that haven’t done shit and those on this “new” one are either affiliated with or directly part of the ones that have been sitting on their thumbs. Not sure why Schneiderman agreed to join up when he had been making noise about his own independent investigations as NY AG. Perhaps Barry offered him a plum position if he’s re-elected in exchange for giving some legitimacy to the whitewash.

      More-

      Is Schneiderman Selling Out? Joins Federal Committee That Looks Designed to Undermine AGs Against Mortgage Settlement Deal

      The Schneiderman Gambit: Financial Fraud Unit Appears Designed to Fail, and Grease Skids for Foreclosure Fraud Settlement

      Even if Schneiderman is acting in good faith here, he’s likely to be overruled in any penalties sought against the banks, criminal or otherwise, by the other douchebags Barry appointed like Robert Khuzami, a former attorney for Douche Deutsche Bank.

      And it sounds like Barry is still pursuing a settlement with the banks that would give them a get out of jail free card and hopes to have it fairly quickly. The investigations, if they ever really occur, wouldn’t likely be done until the banks are already off the hook. Doesn’t seem to be any point in this other than an attempt to fool the rubes in an election year and give the pom pom girls something to cheer.

  14. artemis54 permalink
    January 25, 2012 12:44 pm

    Washington United for Marriage gets support from Alcoa, Nike, Starbucks, Google, Real Networks, Group Health, among others.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 25, 2012 8:06 pm

      Looks like it should be a done deal now in WA. I’d think that even if the Mormons dump a ton of $$ into a repeal campaign, those types of backers ought to be able to make it look like chump change. Any idea if Cantwell had anything to do with Real networks getting on board?

      And nothing from Barry in the SOTU on this issue I take it. Not all that surprising.

      • artemis54 permalink
        January 26, 2012 11:29 am

        I doubt it on Maria. I think she cashed out period when she left – giving her enough to buy a senate seat although all in all we could do a lot worse. Still it is her old circle, and she has endorsed the bill.

  15. artemis54 permalink
    January 25, 2012 2:22 pm

    Maurice Sendak does Colbert

    • cometman permalink*
      January 25, 2012 8:02 pm

      Hilarious. Eagerly awaiting part 2 tonight!

  16. cometman permalink*
    January 25, 2012 8:37 pm

    Jubilee!

    A 375-Year-Old French Bank Forgives Debts of Paris’ Poorest

    Very interesting and worth reading in full if only for the historical value. Never new such an institution even existed. A sample-

    The 3,500 clients who benefitted from the bank’s largesse had debts of 150 euros or less (about $190) with the Crédit Municipal de Paris, also known as the “Mont-de-piété,” the bank of the poor, which has for centuries allowed the needy to get loans against their valuables—a kind of ethical pawnshop, or the original microlender.

    ~snip~

    The Crédit Municipal de Paris was created in 1637 by Théophraste Renaudot, a doctor, journalist and philanthropist who wanted to combat poverty by giving the needy access to fair banking.

    “The goal was to combat usury,” explains Thierry Halay, who authored a history of the Mont-de-piété. “Interest rates at the time could go up to 130 percent,” [and even 130% is still far less than what today’s payday lenders get away with – cman] which quickly turned small loans into unmanageable debt.

    The good doctor’s idea was to give the poor people of Paris loans they could reasonably hope to repay, at decent rates for the time (about 10 percent annually) against whatever collateral they could produce: pots and pans, linens, silverware, artisans’ tools.

    May not be restructuring billions of $$ of bad mortgages, but it’s a start at least….

  17. cometman permalink*
    January 27, 2012 2:02 pm

    If the Mormons are going to try to strike down any equal marriage laws and initiatives this year, they’re going to have their hands full.

    Maine has enough signatures and an initiative to allow equal marriage rights will be on the ballot this year. For those not closely following Maine news, the legislature already voted to allow equal marriage rights a few years ago, then the damn Mormons funded a successful initiative to repeal the law. For what it’s worth, polls now show a majority in favor of equal marriage rights in ME so maybe the third time will be the charm.

    Looks like I’m going to have to show up at the polls this year after all.

  18. artemis54 permalink
    January 28, 2012 1:11 am

    Speaking of paganism, some moron is yammering on about Agora.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 28, 2012 12:32 pm

      Nice to see that’s up and running again! Hadn’t realized that was in the works although if I checked my email more often I might have…

      Just ran out to the video store and will be watching the movie later tonight.

    • cometman permalink*
      January 29, 2012 8:29 am

      Excellent movie! Very well done on many levels – thx for the recommend.

      Here’s one that you or Miss D might like. Very good Nova program this week on the art world – Mystery of a Masterpiece

      In October 2007, a striking portrait of a young woman in Renaissance dress made world news headlines. Originally sold nine years before for around $20,000, the portrait is now thought to be an undiscovered masterwork by Leonardo da Vinci worth more than $100 million. How did cutting-edge imaging analysis help tie the portrait to Leonardo?

      Hadn’t heard of this controversy before and was pretty skeptical that they could tie this painting to Leonardo but they made a really strong case. Particularly enjoyed the segment when they called in an artist (definitely NOT a forger according to the program -ha!) who whipped up a copy of a Monet in fairly short order just to show how “real” forgers work.

      For more info, here’s a paper on the subject from the art researchers behind the program – La Bella Principessa and the Warsaw Sforziad.

  19. cometman permalink*
    January 29, 2012 9:02 am

    So after a large public outcry and several Republicans removing their sponsorship of the legislation, SOPA was withdrawn by Congress last week.

    The very next day, Barry says “we don’t need no stinking laws”, seizes and shuts down Megaupload, one of the largest traffic sites on the entire internet, and jails its founder.

    Now the founder Mr. Kim Dotcom (!) is definitely not a sympathetic figure and it’s quite likely that many people had uploaded copyrighted material to the site. However there were also many people who had simply stored their own material on the site and all of their intellectual property was seized by Uncle Sugar as well.

    Meanwhile, Anonymous fought back, temporarily blocking many prominent websites and at one point completely deleting CBS.com.

    Once again I find myself agreeing with Greenwald’s take on this

    Megaupload obviously contains numerous infringing videos, but so does YouTube, yet both sites also entail numerous legal activities as well. As Sanchez put it: “most people, presumably, recognize that shutting down YouTube in order to disable access to those videos would not be worth the enormous cost to protected speech.” The Indictment is a classic one-side-of-the-story document; even the most mediocre lawyers can paint any picture they want when unchallenged. That’s why the government is not supposed to dole out punishments based on accusatory instruments, but only after those accusations are proved in an adversarial proceeding.

    Whatever else is true, those issues should be decided upon a full trial in a court of law, not by government decree. Especially when it comes to Draconian government punishments — destroying businesses, shutting down websites, imprisoning people for life, assassinating them — what distinguishes a tyrannical society from a free one is whether the government is first required to prove guilt in a fair, adversarial proceeding. This is a precept Americans were once taught about why their country was superior, was reflexively understood, and was enshrined as the core political principle: “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” It’s simply not a principle that is believed in any longer, and therefore is not remotely observed.

    Upon further inspection it looks like Barry’s heavy handedness may have been a way to satisfy a whole lot of well heeled potential campaign contributors. Mr. Dotcom had previously announced an upcoming digital jukebox called Megabox

    Dotcom described Megabox as Megaupload’s iTunes competitor, which would even eventually offer free premium movies via Megamovie, a site set to launch in 2012. This service would take Megaupload from being just a digital locker site to a full-fledged player in the digital content game.

    The kicker was Megabox would cater to unsigned artists and allow anyone to sell their creations while allowing the artist to retain 90% of the earnings. Or, artists could even giveaway their songs and would be paid through a service called Megakey. “Yes that’s right, we will pay artists even for free downloads. The Megakey business model has been tested with over a million users and it works,” Kim Dotcom told TorrentFreak in December. Megabox was planning on bypassing the labels, RIAA, and the entire music establishment.

    So Chris Dodd’s Hollywood friends are all happy because the site was shut down, Google is happy because no law which would have affected them was passed in order to do so, and Apple is thrilled because a huge potential competitor was shut down completely before it ever got off the ground. What’s not to like? Unless of course you were a little peon who had stored some recipes and family photos at Megaupload that you won’t be getting back, but c’mon, do you really think they still give a rat’s ass about you?!?

    • cometman permalink*
      January 29, 2012 9:13 am

      On a related note, I just went to the library and took out Star Wars to watch with the squidlette and George Lucas didn’t get a dime.

      Although had I lived in the UK, he might have. Ran across this post from Charlie Stross discussing ‘austerity’ measures in the UK – Eating the Seed Corn. He discusses the very reasonable sounding system (which is being partially cut of course) they have in the UK to compensate authors –

      As in several other countries, here in the UK we have a thing called the Public Lending Right. PLR is a small pot of cash distributed annually to authors who have registered books that are loaned out via British libraries. This is compensation for sales lost to library loans. It’s not a huge pot, and the disbursement is relatively small: it was 6.29 pence (£0.0629) per loan prior to February 2010, and there was a ceiling on payouts — both Terry Pratchett and J. J. Rowling stood to take home no more than £6600 each. To put it in perspective, the royalty an author receives for the sale of a £7.99 paperback is on the order of 60p, or the equivalent of ten loans under the scheme.

      I’d have no problem with my tax dollars going to a program like that. I’d imagine that the millions of dollars that will be used in an attempt to prosecute Mr. Dotcom (who will likely be hiring some extremely good lawyers) would go a long way toward funding such a program. But since it’s a somewhat reasonable solution, pretty sure nobody will bother with it.

  20. artemis54 permalink
    January 30, 2012 12:02 am

    Here’s one to avoid: Humpday

    I have no idea why I started watching this movie, and am extremely irritated with myself for watching it all the way through in the vain hope that there would be some reason that they made this pile of dreck. I really don’t get it.

  21. sisdevore permalink
    January 30, 2012 8:39 pm

    hey guys (and maybe a girl in there somewhere) I am getting the shock doctrine treatment at work. reassignment under the threat of firing.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 1, 2012 8:50 am

      I’d suggest Occupying your office, but maybe spending day and night there really isn’t what you’re looking for…

      Hope it works out OK Miss D.

  22. cometman permalink*
    February 1, 2012 5:42 pm

    The smartest thing I’ve heard a politician say in a long time on the subject of equal rights, marriage or otherwise –

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 1, 2012 9:56 pm

      Marriage equality passes WA Senate 28-21. In the end four Rs joined the majority.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 5, 2012 9:25 am

        Saw your comment elsewhere that $1 mil was already donated to try to repeal this. I’d like to think that won’t work if poll numbers can be trusted, and I’d love to see it shoved in Romney’s face now that it’s clear just how much he personally donates to the Mormon church.

  23. cometman permalink*
    February 1, 2012 5:55 pm

    Things are bad out there but I don’t think it’s quite time for the “supplement your diet with city park varmints” narrative yet.

    Second time in a week I’ve run across one of those. The other was from the Seattle Times or PI about some woman who was feasting on squirrels from her back yard.

    I’ve run across a number of people who had a penchant for more traditional appetites. They didn’t do it because they were poor. They either genuinely liked the stuff or were a little off, sometimes both.

  24. cometman permalink*
    February 5, 2012 9:32 am

    Law enforcement looking foolish –

    Scotland Yard and the G-men had a conference call to discuss recent Anonymous hacking activities. The call was hacked by Anonymous and audio posted on the internet. At first I was skeptical that this may just be some sort of law enforcement phishing designed to draw out real hackers but judging by the reaction of the various agencies it does seem to be legit. Ha!

    And, perhaps the result of having to sit through one too many screenings of Supertroopers while in state custody? One VT inmate took it upon themselves to add some bacon to the decal adorning VT state police vehicles. Only took about 4 years before anybody noticed. Haha!

  25. cometman permalink*
    February 5, 2012 9:52 am

    Some notes –

    Pirate Bay attempts to avoid the fate of Megaupload by changing its domain name from .org to .se.

    Very good article on the recent trend to teach through technology – Who really benefits from putting high-tech gadgets in classrooms? Of course it’s the tech companies. I may have mentioned this before, but I was not happy to find out that my school district has been filling classrooms with something called “smartboards” at several thousand $$ a pop which from what I can tell are touch screen chalkboards that erase themselves. Do these really help students learn or do they simply teach students how to use “smartboards”? I’m guessing it’s the latter. Meanwhile teachers continue to be laid off of have their pay and benefits frozen so Apple can make a few extra bucks. All I know is that the only math class I didn’t ace back in the day was the “self-paced” one that had no teacher. Once I got the teacher back I did fine.

    Side note to the above: Is it just me or has Apple been getting some seriously (and much deserved IMO) bad press in the wake of Jobs’ demise? Would have thought it would be the opposite.

    These would be more fun if I weren’t pretty sure what use they will be put toward –

    Yeah, you could dispatch these with a medium strength butterfly net, but once they get too small to see…. While they will likely be used for nefarious purposes by governments and others, drone swarms could also be the must have Xmas gift for 10 year old boys in 2015.

    And a little levity. Bill Maher unbaptizes Mitt Romney’s dead father-in-law –

    And oh yeah, Go Pats!

  26. cometman permalink*
    February 5, 2012 10:04 am

    The very long unenjoyment staycation is over!!!!! No more fighting with the Dept. of Labor which from what I can tell has been deliberately hamstrung by the idiot governor. And yet somehow we are told that all these lazy poor people want to be on the dole where they have to fight through bureaucracies for hours on end just to receive scraps that are barely enough to survive on. It’s easier just to go to work.

    And this comes just in the nick of time. As soon as I find employment, my significant other gets laid off. Great!

    • artemis54 permalink
      February 6, 2012 10:19 am

      Great news c-man. Well, the first part anyway.

      Probably not so much in yr case, but often the worst part of the “man of the house” – note quotation marks! – being laid off is that he drives everybody else nuts.

      • cometman permalink*
        February 9, 2012 5:42 am

        Yeah, I pretty much just buried my nose in a book. Got caught up on a LOT of reading.

  27. artemis54 permalink
    February 6, 2012 7:09 pm

    Too close to home, in too many ways. I have been in tears half the day: Rafael Morelos

    • cometman permalink*
      February 9, 2012 5:45 am

      Very sad. And in the Wenatchee area too. Recalling the scandals of the mid 90s, seems the only way that region makes the news is when people’s lives are destroyed.

  28. artemis54 permalink
    February 7, 2012 6:10 am

    Not good: Maldives president and green superhero studmuffin Mohamed Nasheed has resigned and is being held in “protective custody.”

    It is a complex mess, with the police and the army on opposite sides. But the thought of it ending in a hyper-Islamist state will be a very hard pill for India and a lot of the rest of us to swallow.

  29. artemis54 permalink
    February 7, 2012 7:19 am

    Updates on the mess in the Maldives at Global Voices and on Facebook

    • cometman permalink*
      February 11, 2012 9:04 am

      Thanks for those links. Hadn’t heard a thing about these goings-on.

  30. artemis54 permalink
    February 7, 2012 1:07 pm

    In the,quantum world, marriage equality flickered back into existence in CA for two or three nanoseconds before being stayed again, Raising the question: Prop 8 has been invalidated several times now as discriminatory, but each time the ruling is stayed. What is the presumption that makes that okay? Is the stay, maintaing a discriminatory state in the interim, not itself presumably discriminatory?

    NOM’s reaction is to accuse the 9th Circuit of being “out of touch with reality.” This seems to be the one size fits all wrench in the right’s tool box these days. Gingrich dismisses Pelosi as coming from the land of “strange fantasies” and “strange understandings of reality.” California is out of touch with reality if it tries to launch a climate initiative or elects a Democratic governor. When Iowa approved marriage equality, it too had lost touch with reality. I guess it goes back to Palin and her “real America,” which excludes three quarters of the country and seems limited to whatever podunk county fair invites her to speak when the tractor pull gets rained out.

    • cometman permalink*
      February 9, 2012 5:50 am

      Your reasoning sounds pretty good and it doesn’t make much sense to me either.

      But when I read idiocy like Michael Steele telling Dan Choi that the rights gay people want are somehow different than the rights black people have I am reminded that a lot of people in position’s of power don’t use reasoning.

  31. artemis54 permalink
    February 7, 2012 7:15 pm

    Text of today’s Perry v. Brown ruling

    My favorite part cites Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, and Grouch Marx:

    We need consider only the many ways in which we encounter the word ‘marriage’ in our daily lives and understand it, consciously or not, to convey a sense of significance. We are regularly given forms to complete that ask us whether we are “single” or “married.” Newspapers run announcements of births, deaths, and marriages. We are excited to see someone ask, “Will you marry me?” whether on bended knee in a restaurant or in text splashed across a stadium Jumbotron. Certainly it would not have the same effect to see “Will you enter into a registered domestic partnership with me?” Groucho Marx’s one-liner, “Marriage is a wonderful institution . . . but who wants to live in an institution?” would lack its punch if the word ‘marriage’ were replaced with the alternative phrase. So too with Shakespeare’s “A young man married is a man that’s marr’d,” Lincoln’s “Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is simply purgatory,” and Sinatra’s “A man doesn’t know what happiness is until he’s married. By then it’s too late.” We see tropes like “marrying for love” versus “marrying for money” played out again and again in our films and literature because of the recognized importance and permanence of the marriage relationship. Had Marilyn Monroe’s film been called How to Register a Domestic Partnership with a Millionaire, it would not have conveyed the same meaning as did her famous movie, even though the underlying drama for same-sex couples is no different. The name ‘marriage’ signifies the unique recognition that society give to harmonius, loyal, enduring, and intimate relationships.

  32. artemis54 permalink
    February 11, 2012 8:10 am

    Coolness for me anyway, maybe for the squidlette too: Science Oxford Live

    • cometman permalink*
      February 11, 2012 8:56 am

      Nice website – thanks! The squidlette has been interested in stuff like that lately. We took out one of the Life videos (Attenborough version!) from the library this week. Right now she is most interested in what eats what and I’ve had to come up with the menus of many different types of fauna for her.

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