Tuesday, December 4, 2012

News watchers- get your binoculars NOW...

Oh, my, my, my.  There's a really nice chunk of news going on, right this very second- and there's a free education also being offered to all serious citizens in the "reality" of how "news" reaches us.

The Washington Post, this morning, featured as its Front Page Top Headline- a story - and audio recording- apparently stemming from Bob Woodward (remember Watergate?  yeah; him.)  In the "Style" section.

The recording is of a very, very private conversation - in Afghanistan; in the office of General Petraeus.  You can hear them say "are your ears off?"  They weren't off.  It's a flat offer from Rupert Murdoch to "bankroll" a Presidential candidacy by Petraeus.  Run by the current head of Fox News.

Yep.  Read all about it.  Woodward's story here.  Also in "Style"; but a featured top headline.  For a few hours.

If you go to The Washington Post website right this minute- not one word of all this is in any headline- it's been removed.  At least- they haven't removed the links; but you have to search for them.

Are you hearing about it elsewhere?  Only if you search.  Yes, ABC and CBS have picked it up- but you won't find it on their headlines.

I think- tomorrow - you will.  But at the moment- someone is VERY very ticked off- and pressure has been brought to bear, to bury it.  For a while.  But this one is SO not going to go away.

Oh, so many questions.  Why is Fox News advising our top General?  Why are they asking him to write their headlines?  (They did.)  Why is Rupert Murdoch offering to "bankroll" our politicians?

Why is General Petraeus unaware that someone is making recordings of his conversations, in his office??  The guy who was most recently- the head of the CIA?

Oh, this one is going to be fun.  Take a look!  My guess is- they'll keep it wrapped up a little while; but not forever.  It's just way too much stinky fish.


Update; Feb. 20, 2013.    Wow.  I guess even week old stinky fish can be wrapped up so tight it won't smell.  This story; as of now, has disappeared completely.  If you didn't pick up on it within that 3 day window- you're out of luck.  Right now; all the links still work.  Send them around so they can't totally disappear.  And learn- yes; your news is controlled.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pushing On Bergs- The Berg Moves...

One of the things about pushing on icebergs- when an iceberg you've been pushing on, hard, actually moves - and in the right direction- you're still never sure if your pushing is what moved it.

But.  Physics being what it is- it's entirely possible that without your push, it would still be sitting there.

A Berg just moved, and in the right direction.  It was a Bloomberg this time, not an iceberg- but the resemblance is actually considerable, and the Bloomberg had, in fact, been sitting immobile and unmovable for quite some time.

The basic story; the Mayor of New York City came out and endorsed Obama for re-election - because:

“Our climate is changing,” he wrote. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it may be — given the devastation it is wreaking — should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”

So; am I saying Bloomberg endorsed Obama - and climate change- because of my pushing?

I'd like to hope I'm not delusional, at least not more than other folks; (humor) but here's the thing; I WAS pushing- in exactly the right place and time- for my pushes to have added just that last bit.

Do you suppose the Mayor of New York City reads The New York Times?  To keep a handle on what his city is saying?  I would, in his shoes, I think- even though, yes, he kind of has his own news service (uh, you've heard of Bloomberg?)

If he was reading the NYT; the very first article they carried about a possible connection between Sandy and climate change - carried my blunt and rude comment (#9 out of 178, so...), and linked here, to We Told You So, which is even ruder and blunter.  Did Bloomberg read it?  We'll likely never know- but- the We Told You So post got 450 hits, the very first day - mostly from the NYT.

There are now quite a few voices saying "we told you so" - but as far as I know, they only started to speak up the next day...

And I kept pushing.  With what I intended to be readable- but tough- comments, in several places;

Here: "Warnings for Years", my comment has 58 "reader recommends"- putting it high on the list:

"Hurrah!. Thank you for the plain statement- scientists saw this coming, long ago- did their duty and warned the public about it- and nothing happened.

"Journalists, and the NYT, bear some responsibility for that lack of action- by insistently presenting these warnings as doubtful; when in fact they are as certain as the fact that the San Andreas Fault- WILL - slip again some day.

"So it's grand to see this. I'm hoping the Times as a matter of policy will start to bar climate change deniers from its pages- exactly as it now bars Holocaust deniers. Deceiving the public causes very great societal harm. You can see it today- all around you.

"For the non-scientific; there's another powerful fact here: in the practice of Science, everything is constantly doubted; even peer-reviewed "truth" always carries a 5% rating of "or, we could be wrong". (That's not supposed to cause paralysis.)

"But- in the long term testing of concepts; one of the most powerful pieces of evidence is the prediction- that comes true. Einstein's theories have been tested this way multiple times, just in the last decade- and his predictions, so far, are always correct. That's powerful evidence that he understood the universe.

"This storm, and its consequences, were predicted in detail; and it has all happened. That is, formally, a powerful piece of proof that the overarching concepts of global climate change- are correct."

Rude, huh?

Finally, ending with this one- directed to the Mayor; at which time the NYT top Science article was this horror - which has no opportunity for comment with it...  but did have big links on the front page...

"Hurrah for Bloomberg! Frankly, 3 words I did not ever expect to be coming out of my mouth- along with "This just makes Christie look like a bigger man!"

"Now- Mr. Mayor- can you put some pressure on the NYT editors to quit printing this "scientists aren't sure" malarky? Scientists ARE sure- it was predicted, in great detail, that such storms could happen, and how NYC would flood. And here we are- "proof" doesn't get any better than predictions that come true."

You know what?  That comment again got plenty of "likes"; lots of people saw it and agreed- and if you go to the NYT right now- you have to really dig to find that "scientists not sure" article; it's place at the top of everything has been given to articles on "prescient maps" and "preparing for next time."

Not only did the Bloom berg move- the NYT editorial policy seems to have moved; and there's an iceberg for sure.

My pushing?  Laughable.

Except- I did keep pushing; as hard as I could- and I was pushing at the right time, in the right place- for it just maybe maybe- to have made some difference.

It doesn't really get any better than that, when you push on an iceberg.  You'll never really know- if you made a difference.

But the fantasies are great!  And I'm going to keep pushing.  : - )

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

We Told You So.

Yeah, somebody needs to say it, I think; and as I peruse the international news today- nobody is.

A great measure of the effectiveness of the climate denial troops in squashing the dialogue.

That and the basic politeness of good people.  This would not be considered the best time to be getting all hoity-toity - about anything.  A whole lot of people are in a great deal of pain.  We should all just be quiet, and help each other out, right?

Except- that's what climate change warners (such as me) have been TRYING to do - for decades now. Prevent human anguish.

And here we are.  Yes, Hurricane Sandy is a direct result of human caused climate change, brought about by burning way too much fossil fuel, to power "economic growth".

Being silent about it- won't help either.

Big headline at the moment; Gov. Christie of New Jersey is cited by CNN as saying:

"Superstorm Sandy left wreckage in its wake 'beyond anything I thought I'd ever see,' New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at a news conference today.

'The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable,' he said."

Except - it isn't unthinkable, nor beyond what we expected- it's right smack in the middle of mainstream climate change predictions.  Hotter oceans cause bigger storms cause bigger storm surges- floods eastern coastal US cities.  Duh.

So.  Maybe we shouldn't be shy about saying "We told you so."

And maybe we should start saying "You're a goddamn liar." to the deniers; regularly.  Right out loud.

Just to soften my harsh message, a tiny bit- I'll point out I have a long track record of insisting on people hearing the "I told you so", when it's appropriate; this is Smidgen, age 5 (now 7.5) - after "being silly on the stairs" - one time too many.

You see- Smidgen was the one who insisted on my writing that on her cast; she was eager for it.  Because?  She'd already heard the story, many times, about my writing it on the cast her big brother Beelar had to have on his leg, years before...

Friday, October 12, 2012

A little perspective...

We have a little internal conflict these days in the Little House; Spice is deeply engaged by, and involved in, the US presidential election bustle; and I am not.

I freely admit that when I was her age, I was all tangled up by it.  But, having seen many presidential elections come and go (the first one I remember was Eisenhower...) - I find it all a great deal less exciting these days.

Is it important?  Well, sure.

But- it may help you relax if you can come to truly understand - that what you see going on in the public media is a performance; not government.  And the performances you see have little to do with what will actually happen after the elections.

So; really; you might as well relax a bit; and enjoy the chorus lines.  Because that's what they are; well rehearsed, singing and dancing scripts written by professionals who are not on stage, and yes, occasionally one trips and stumbles on stage, so we can all go "oooo!"

And, there are the old troupers, and the ingĂ©nues.

In amongst all the frenzied kerfuffing (neologism alert) about last nights Biden-Ryan tango, what came to my mind most prominently was Biden's better grasp of old, old advice, long available.

What matters is the emotions engendered, long after the dance; all the "logic" invoked will have been long since lost when voters step into their booths.  Was this person strong, or weak; is what will be remembered.

And in that vein of thought, what I dredged out of my ancient neuro archives was this patter song from a very old Danny Kaye movie; The Inspector General.

For those not familiar- Danny is playing an ignorant, illiterate, sub-peasant; who suddenly finds the people in this village believe him to be the Inspector General sent to root out corruption.  Admitting he is not, will likely get him hanged.  So- this is his pondering how to - fool everyone.

Which- is what politicians do, you know.

Enjoy the song; I love it dearly.  And the wisdom it contains is vastly larger than you might think at first.

As usual; if the Blogger player is cranky; go straight to YouTube for it.  Be patient!  It's a long clip, a bit uneven, but with very tasty bits.


Might as well.

One of my favorite lines of all times:  "Up off your knees!!  STOP LICKING MY BOOTS!"


That and the end of the song; "Give 'em the Fist! Give 'em the Wrist! Give 'em the ....  "  oh, my.  He slipped one past the censors there, the rascal!  The original audiences had to be gasping.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Another maple dance.

Once again, conditions were not quite right this year for the amazing phenomenon I came to think was "normal"; 20 years ago.

We were watching; and were rewarded for that.  But the majority of the big compound leaves, walnuts, butternuts, hickories, and ash- were stripped off the trees by 30 mph winds in the two days before the frost.  So once again, we had a modest version, performed mostly by our sugar maples, with a few turns from the wild black cherries.

Attempts to take video have so far failed to capture anything vaguely resembling the experience; now I'd rather just see; watch.  But the end results can give you some idea:

Oh, hurray!  Blogger seems to have decided that this time it will let you click on the pic, and you can see it in its original, much bigger, format.  So far!  The photo, incidentally, is completely natural- I didn't touch or rearrange a single leaf.

It made quite a carpet, all lying flat as they fell in the calm.  Another change- this year our sugar maples had more red in their colors than I ever remember seeing; usually ours give us yellows, only.  Why?  You can find lots of educated answers- but keep in mind the educated guessers all thought our colors would be poor this year, because of the long drought and heat- but in fact the colors have been unusually bright.

Gone now, of course; they curl as they dry in the sun; fade and tumble when the wind comes up.

Lovely, while it lasts.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Keep your eyes open...

Hi folks-

As always- I'm sorry I've not been writing more often; and will try to do better.   : - )

Mostly it's the crazy weather; which makes for crazy work schedules, all out of whack.  And the confusion levels; which are globally in the upper stratosphere, on any topic.  And harvest.  Etc.

But- I wanted to remind older readers about the autumn phenomenon I first wrote about in 2007; and point out- this may be the year for you to see it.  Locally; I think our trees and leaves are poised for something like this to happen - and in the next few days.  The leaves this year are keeping me enthralled; we've got more red in our sugar maples than I've ever seen, in 30+ years; and- all the experts missed predicting all this color, which tickles me. (I'm way more expert than those guys- I learned to not even try predicting, years ago.)   : - )

The original post is here; give it a read- then, get your morning coffee ready, and keep your eyes open.  And- let me know what you see.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

It's Official.

The scientific world is, finally, actually saying right out loud: "Global 'warming' is here; now; faster and worse than we thought."  James Hansen, the most visible of the mainstream scientists who have been willing to stake their careers on plain speaking, is speaking plainly again today in The Washington Post.  So; that's headline news, right?  Top feature?  Nah, you have to go dig on the Opinion page; and of course, they provide "balanced coverage", with a counter-opinion; from the Editor (idiotors) of the Post.

For those who've been reading this blog for a while; you'll remember I tried to point this out in 2007; scientific "best practices" will cause systemic underestimates for this problem.  And that's a really big problem.

If you've been dithering about changing your life to adapt; I think it's time to stop dithering.

Friday, July 20, 2012

And again.

We're very slow learners, us civilized folks.  Here we are, with another mass shooter orgy; it will go on for weeks now.

If you have the stomach, take a look at my post from 2007; Screaming Headlines.  Nothing has changed, if anything, the media have had practice now and crank out the trash faster.

I maintain now exactly what I said then: THE reason these shootings happen is; the instant celebrity, the media orgasm frenzy, the "smug-shot" photograph the killer knows will be repeated on every front page and news outlet for weeks.

If we banned such coverage- the shootings will stop.  I guarantee you.  Did we have these events before the media potential was realized?  Sure.  Once every 20 years.  Crazy persons exist.  Now- it's twice a year, and accelerating; and so far, not one major media outlet (The New York Times?  Washington Post?) has taken the high road, and announced the will not make a celebrity of the murderer.  Not one.

So what can you do?  There is something.  Don't watch.

And- tell the medium involved you're doing it.  Here's what I do:

When the Smug Shot shows up on my screen; I immediately go to the bottom, where there's a "Contact Us!" link.  I contact them.  I tell them; having seen their murderous coverage, I have turned it off; and will not visit their website for the next 3 days.  Actually- yeah, they lose revenue, when you don't click.  You can make up a standard message, and just paste it in, repeatedly.  Here's mine:

"You have chosen to make a murderer a celebrity.  I choose to not read your lethal coverage.  The media frenzy is unquestionably THE CAUSE of these massacres.

"I am normally a serious reader of your news; but now I have closed your site; and will not return for 3 days; I will take my traffic elsewhere.

"Stop this mindless snuff porn you are pushing.  Look in the mirror.  You are complicit."

If that gives one media employee a sick stomach- it's worth it.  Copy that (or improve it) if you wish.

I'll check back in in 3 days; if their coverage is still "America's Favorite Home Murderers!"- I'm out of there, 3 more days.  Cover the event, cover the survivors?  Sure- a little; then respect their sorrow.  Publicize NOTHING about the killer; not their name, photo, story- make them become a non-person.

Tell them.  And put this post up on your Facebook site.

The media have shown they have the spines of jellyfish- we don't have to follow them or participate.

There is other stuff to do, and read, in the world.

Maybe if the survivors, and parents of the dead- made this their crusade, someone would listen?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A New Effect Of Global Warming...

Yeah, yeah, climate change, what the hey.  This comes under the category of Global Weirding, a phrase I first heard at least 15 years ago, but which has recently started to gain steam.  Or my own choice to describe where we are; Climate Collapse.

We just went through this new effect, one I have not seen really described elsewhere.  We're among the many suffering from the drought here, so we're amazingly sensitive to the hope of rain.

This got my hopes up-

And yeah, we're kind of in the middle of all that.  But?

SQUAT FOR RAIN - out of all that lovely dark green radar (usually heavy) and yellow-orange (usually toad-strangler downpour).  Seriously, the deck is barely damp.

What we have here is an Insincere Thunderstorm.  

Or perhaps, for the poetically and vulgarly inclined: a Pissant Thunderstorm.

'Cause that's how much water we got; about as much as an ant could piss.

(actually, it's still dark as hell, and I'm hoping if I insult it enough, it'll eventually RAIN on us...)

Actually, later- no, it never did.  So-

Or.  Dunderstorm.

Ok, or, just Understorm.

Yet another horror awaiting us all as the climate goes over the edge.  Big promises- but it was only teasing.  The grass - is outraged, I assure you; and my neighbors who were hoping this would save their corn may be opening their arteries as we speak.

And I would like to talk to the radar people.   What's up with this!!???  Seriously- I sweat more water than this big blockbuster official "Severe Thunderstorm Warning" produced.

sigh.  Back to sweating.


You guys should, like, vote.  I'm currently liking Dunderstorm, myself.  Noisy, but totally incompetent.

Monday, July 16, 2012

100,000 March In Tokyo...

And you didn't hear about it at all.  My 100,000 is between two estimates.  There's a video at the link; much larger than their usual, with photos of the huge crowd in Tokyo- in 37° heat.  Someone (of you) should grab it, and repost to YouTube, before it vanishes.  From NHK:

Anti-nuclear rally held in Tokyo

"Tens of thousands of people have staged one of the biggest anti-nuclear rallies in Tokyo since the Fukushima accident in March, last year.

"Labor union activists joined members of the public in the main protest rally at Yoyogi Park on Monday. Many of them responded to calls on the social network Twitter and the Internet.

"Nobel prize-winning author Kenzaburo Oe was among public figures who called on people to take to the streets.

"The rally came after a reactor at the Ohi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, was brought back online. It began operating at full capacity earlier this month.

"Oe said the government's move to push forward the re-starting of idled reactors despite wide public opposition is an insult to the people. He added that people must defeat this move.

"Organizers say 170, 000 people took part in the rally, while police estimate the number at 75,000.  The crowd then marched on to the streets to protest the restart of the reactor and show their opposition to nuclear power.

"A woman took part with her son, who is in elementary school. She said she wants the government to scrap nuclear plants immediately for the safety of her child.  A man in his 70s said he joined the rally because the government won't listen to the people. He added that he cannot accept its decision to restart the reactor.

"Jul. 16, 2012 - Updated 15:55 UTC (00:55 JST)"

And you thought the world could not change?  This is an astonishing change for Japan; before Fukushima, anti-nuclear protests typically garnered numbers of under 100 protesters, year after year.  Granted- it took massive disaster.  But look at the people in the video.  I have to say- I see some hope in their faces.  They're not going away, or giving up.  I hope.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grab this one quick!

The rumors today that the US Justice Dept. is preparing CRIMINAL! charges for some folks over the Libor fixing scandal - has got the folks on Wall Street seriously spooked!  (What!  Golly!!  You mean- you were expecting us to follow the rules!??  We had no idea!!)  And we've got the proof right here!

Bloomberg News feed is currently (but not, I bet, for long) running THIS headline:


Yep, that's right.  There may be charges- in Sepetmeber!

LOL!!!  For a news service that certainly strives for cool and correct- Sepetmeber is just a really huge whoopsie.  Only accountable as- oh, some nerves, maybe?  Or, maybe that's how you spell it, in Amercia?
UPDATE; next day, the URL is still working, to my amazement- but they DID change the resulting headline, to something quite different, and spelled correctly.  Tres amusant.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It ain't that there's nothing else to talk about...

And it's far from my favorite topic; but I just don't see anyone else really passing this information, and a couple of you guys have said you appreciate it- so; from NHK; again:

S.Korea nuclear plant officials indicted for graft

"South Korean prosecutors say they have indicted dozens of senior officials at a state-run utility for taking bribes in return for business favors. The Ulsan District Prosecutors' Office said on Tuesday it indicted 22 officials at Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, along with 9 others who worked for suppliers or as brokers.

"Prosecutors said the bribes amounted to about 1.9 million dollars in total.  They said officials at the utility's nuclear plant in Gori in the southern region received bribes in return for tolerating delivery of supplies that did not meet safety standards.  They said other officials instructed suppliers to pad their bills and then pocketed some of the excess.

"The safety of nuclear power plants has drawn attention in South Korea following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan last year.

"The revelation of systemic corruption while compromising nuclear safety could severely undermine public trust in South Korea in nuclear power generation.
Jul. 11, 2012 - Updated 07:03 UTC (16:03 JST)"

Yeah, I think that's news.  And powerful ammunition for those combating nukes around the world.  Anybody wanna bet what's hiding under the rug in France?  Maybe the new proprietors there will take a look now; after this incident of "dozens" of "senior officials" taking bribes for installing sub-standard materials- in a nuclear facility.

It will not turn out well.  There will be another Fukushima event in our future, of course.  My guess is, we'll see little real action on shutting down nukes until that happens.  My best two candidates- France, which is incredibly arrogant about their nuclear technology, inspite of their actual record not being that good, and the USA- likewise.  Plenty of chances for things to go wrong, in both places.  And- do you think the chances of corruption are increasing, or decreasing, as the years go by?  It's been a long time since I've seen a headline saying "Investigators find (x) to be squeaky clean."

UPDATE: Roz, in the comments, pointed out the NHK link no longer works (which is why I quote it in toto; they usually quit working in 24 hrs.)  But- doing a little Google search, I was able to find the story again.  Not on any big international news feeds; of course.  On a South Korean news feed.  I haven't been to that site before, so not sure how long it will work, but longer than NHK, apparently.  Do take a look; there are more details.  And isn't it just amazing that no one else in the journalistic world has picked this up?  My, my.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Only an "oops"

Hey, it's not hot!  My brain is functioning again.  Fingers, too, apparently.

In skimming the news today, this one hit me as beautifully relevant to all our considerations of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

From NHK, again, (remember these links only work for about 12 hours) one more little problem not in the original design specs:

"Jellyfish problem at nuclear plants

"Operators of Japanese nuclear power plants have experienced power reductions at times, caused by a swarm of jellyfish being sucked into water intakes.

"Electricity at the plants is generated by steam-driven turbines. The steam is then sent to condensers to be cooled down with pipes in which seawater flows.

"An influx of jellyfish to the intakes sometimes disrupts the supply of cooling water, forcing operators to reduce power output to curb heat generation.

"Many plants now have filters or equipment to remove sea creatures at the intakes. But these measures do not work perfectly when a massive bloom occurs.

"Thermal plants have been affected too. Kansai Electric Power Company says jellyfish problems have forced it to reduce power output in 17 of its generators from April to June, the largest number of affected plants for the utility in the past 5 years.

"The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says reports on jellyfish trouble have been made from spring through fall, mainly at plants on the Sea of Japan coast.

"But the agency says no reports have been made that jellyfish have completely blocked water intakes. The agency says that safety can be ensured by measures such as monitoring the flow of seawater.
Jul. 9, 2012 - Updated 10:50 UTC (19:50 JST)"

So - nothing has blown up yet, so it's all ok, no worries.  Yep, monitoring will make it safe.  When the big surprise upwelling from the abyss of unanticipated ctenophores arrives next month, totally blocking all intakes, we'll be able to monitor the shut-downs as they happen.  Fabulous.

Irony aside- this is what is going to bite us, as a species, on our collective butt.  The utterly unforeseen consequences of global change, that our technologies simply have no ability to cope with.

With thanks to T.S. Eliot:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
With neither a bang nor a whimper;
But with only a soft spoken- "oops."



"Jellyfish cause problem at Ohi plant

"The operator of the Ohi nuclear complex in central Japan says it will strengthen the plant's defenses against jellyfish plagues.

"Kansai Electric Power Company was forced to reduce the power output of a generator on Sunday after a mass of jellyfish was sucked into a water intake of reactor 3.

"The utility said that conveyer-like equipment used to remove objects that had slipped through a mesh filter at the intake was overwhelmed by the volume of jellyfish.

"The invasion disrupted the supply of seawater that cools the reactor, forcing the utility to power down a generator.

"Last month, the same problem forced Kansai Electric to reduce the power output of a generator at one of its thermal plants.

"Jellyfish are a considerable risk for power plant operators. But predicting an infestation is notoriously difficult and a solution has proved elusive.
"Jul. 9, 2012 - Updated 11:52 UTC (20:52 JST)"

That's the nuclear power plant in Japan that they just restarted- the only one now actually operating, since 2 days ago- and they've already had to cut output, because of a "notoriously difficult" problem, where the "solution has proved elusive."

Fascinating that the announcement of an actual power reduction event at a nuclear plant followed a previous "theoretical" announcement by about 6 hours or so, isn't it?  An amazing coincidence.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Parenting is hazardous to your health.

I was mortified to see that my "previous post" on poultry was - over a month ago.  I'd been intending some updates on our guineas, etc, right?  Hey, it was hot.

But, also; about 2 days after that post - chickens started to disappear from the two "tractors" we have going.  So I got preoccupied with tracking down causes, before updating; then... hey, it got hot.  : - )

It was particularly painful/frustrating/infuriating to lose birds because I hadn't lost any; not one, for months.  And zero chicken losses from the tractors, since moving birds out of winter quarters.  We did lose a few guineas immediately after the winter to tractor transition.  That happens.  The guineas are just a little too likely to take off on their own, and simply not come back.  We're hoping to select guineas that are better about that, eventually.  But the numbers had been stable for a long time.  Then, suddenly- 1 or 2 hens a day; failing to come in at night.  Long searches of their range usually failed to show either birds sitting on eggs or piles of feathers.

There were a couple piles of feathers, however; unequivocal proof of predation.  Both guineas and chickens have a "shed feathers" reflex, in response to fear of predation; suddenly their feathers become very loosely attached, and fly everywhere.  In normal predation circumstances, that might be expected to save their lives, once in a while- leaving the predator distracted, or with only a mouthful of feathers.

It can also help the forensics on the farm.  Got a big central poof, with a few feathers in all directions out to 10 feet- then nothing?  Probably a hawk or owl.  Big poof, then another poof 5 feet away, then a trail going in one direction for 30 feet?  Probably a mammalian predator.  Note the "probably"; lots of variations will happen.

But when the thief took my big Cochin rooster, Thor- with the 40' trail; that let out not only avian thieves but most wild mammals, and focused suspicion on - the farm dogs.  Sigh.

Daisy, alas, was looking guilty when I asked her "Have you been after the chickens?"  You think they don't understand?  I think they do.  We're down to two dogs, these days; Daisy's sister Schatze fell victim quite some time ago to her unbreakable desire to chase cars.  And Theodore, now far from this puppy.  Both have been trained, intensively, to behave themselves around poultry.  And both had been allowed totally free access for many months; with no indications of problems; on the contrary, both dogs accompanied me as I tended the tractors and birds- both dogs and birds behaving as if there were no tensions here at all.  But.  Daisy was now looking... shifty.  And we were down 7 hens at this point.

So; both dogs went on chains.  During the day.  Thankfully, and sadly, the birds stopped disappearing immediately.  Dogs were set free as soon as the birds were shut in for the night (our standard practice to prevent them from quickly become owl-chow), then put back on before letting birds out in the morning.  They weren't happy during the day; but are well trained enough that putting them on chain in the morning was easy- just call, they come right to the chain, not looking cheerful, but unquestioning.

After 10 days with no poultry disappearing- I let Theodore stay off-chain all day, trepidatiously .  Of the two dogs, he's the stay-at-home, oddly; usually males roam more than females, but our current two work the other way round.  And - no birds disappeared.  Sigh.

That would seem to be pretty convincing evidence. And I'm pretty convinced.  But.

Alas, there is more than one threat to free-range poultry.  This was a guinea.  And the cause in this case was- newly hatched babies.  Spice was out early, and found 5 newly hatched baby guineas (keets) running about.  She captured them, of course.  We have about 10 farm cats at this point, and while the adult poultry are cat proof; baby birds are irresistible cat morsels.  They have to be protected, at least until they can fly.

Only 5 keets were in evidence.  After catching them (no small feat) and bringing them in, she went back to see if there were more keets, previously hiding (or perhaps not hatched yet) - 5 is a very small number for a guinea clutch ... and found instead, this poof.

Almost certainly, a Cooper's Hawk.  We see them pretty often; and generally like to; they catch mice and bluejays.  Usually the poultry are too big for them to attempt; but if they're really hungry; they may try.  If they try, they'll pretty certainly succeed in killing the chicken, even if they can't carry it off.  The guineas rarely are caught, they're too wary.

Unless- they're new parents, or protecting a nest, and distracted.

A few days ago- we had 2 more poofs show up, in the woods.  Poof 1 was- an Araucana hen who'd been missing for weeks- presumed eaten by Daisy.  But, nope.  She'd evidently gone broody, and started sitting on a clutch of eggs, in the woods.  The timing of the poof- just right for the eggs to have hatched.  And the hen to have become hawk food, while watching the new chicks.  Poof 2 was- the Araucana hen who had been proven our best foster mom.  Probably- when the original mom disappeared, the chicks started calling; and the 2nd hen's maternal instincts called her into the woods, to also encounter the hawk.

Pretty sad.  No way around that.  These were birds I'd known for years, as individuals.  I miss them.  And I feel guilty that I somehow let them down- I wasn't able to provide them with a safe place, or a safe way, to be parents.  They'd survived just fine- for 3 years of free range - until there were unprotected chicks in the picture.

Still working on figuring out how to protect them in the future.  It'll be work.  But the benefits the birds provide are pretty clear.  (I'll make a list, one of these posts).

Meanwhile.  At least, the 5 keets are protected, and being tended by an adult guinea.  I'm pretty sure this bird was NOT one of the birds that hatched the eggs, but she responded strongly to the keets calling, went into the cage I set up, and now broods them when they get a little cool.

They're thriving.  With no heat lamp.  Life goes on.  For some.

Daisy is now resigned about being on chain all day.  But the reality is, we need her free, 24 hours, guarding the farm.  Particularly since we've now got reports of bears, nearby.  More work ahead, one way or another.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Are you a Greench?

I'm just having fun with the word, which when I Googled it; came up zero.  "Did you mean 'grinch?' Google smirkingly inquires?  Did I coin it? (Well; apart from the 2007 bit in the NYT... and the 200,000 some other hits when you try it in quotes.  Oh, and the World of Warcraft stuff.)

I like it because the meaning is obvious- a Green Grinch, don't ya know.  Of course, he was green (colored) in the original Seuss; but I mean the other kind; Green Meanies.

I've been getting cranky about Greenches, recently.  You know; the ones for whom anything short of their definition of perfect is a failure, and to be fought to the death against.  (Check my comments here, if you like rude and blunt.)

What a disaster that will be; if the people who care about the world adopt the "I'M RIGHT AND YOU'RE WRONG" attitudes currently paralyzing the world.

Lighten up, everybody.  We just don't need to go Greench.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chickens And Guineas And Eggs, Oh, My.

I  do have a life outside of fretting about Fukushima, really I do.  Older readers here will remember I started a series of posts way back there when I launched a guinea fowl keeping project in 2008, the Guinea Saga; with a Part 2, and a Part Trois a year later.  I think that was about the last update.  Sorry about that!

I've been intending to take up the topic again for months now; the primary reason I haven't being - it's turned into a big topic.  I've learned a lot.  And as always happens, much of what I've learned is how much there is to learn, and how much of it not only I don't know; but nobody knows.  Tackling all that has kind of intimidated me.

Today has provided the key bit to kick me over edge though; I mentioned my chickens over on the NYT, and thought you might enjoy seeing that.  It's in a Green Blogs post on water.  Do take a look; it'll bring you up to date on what we're doing here just a bit; besides being highly educational on the water thing.

The article states that "It takes 52 gallons of water to produce one egg" - and that stimulated my response. Sure, I'll easily believe industrial eggs use that much; but - any version of home/local/free range certainly won't be even close to that.  I'm guessing I pump and carry about a tablespoon of water per egg.  Putting those calculations on an honest comparison basis is beyond me, of course; but the basic facts have to be pretty obvious; industrial production is going to use way more.

To re-launch the topic, I think it will make sense for me to just list and outline where we are now.  We started with 30+ guinea keets, in 2008.  Six of those birds are still alive.  They're our wise old survivors.  All together, we now have about 55 birds; about 34 of them guineas.  Three roosters, and about 16 hens of 3 breeds.  I have a database.  Most of the birds have numbered aluminum leg bands; and about twice a year they get weighed, as a measure of basic health.  The uncertainty in the numbers comes because a few are "missing in action" at the moment; I suspect they are sitting on stolen eggs somewhere.

The majority of the birds are "out", divided between two chicken tractors which are about 1/4 mile apart.  Every morning, they are let out of the tractor, and are absolutely free to roam.  Boy, do they roam.  We see them 200 yards away, and more, daily.  Just before sunset; I go out and call them to me- using a half cup of white millet and about a quart of layer crumble per tractor as training bait, to get them back into the tractors for the night.  The main reason for that is - foxes etc. for the chickens, some of whom don't fly much; and owls for the guineas, which will roost high in the trees if you're 10 minutes too late.  A few birds remain in the big permanent chicken coop, built to winter the birds.  The idea of building a soddy coop definitely did not work out; but at least it's semi-earth sheltered; making it cooler in the warming summers, and warmer in the winter.

We do collect the eggs.  We have way more than we can eat, but not really enough to make sense to try to sell.  And of course, both chickens and guineas frequently hide their eggs, and I definitely don't find them all.  Working on that; I'd rather harvest that resource, and the hidden eggs are also an encouragement to predators to hang around.

The bottom line- it's worth while; we intend to continue, and even expand.  The details on why and how though, are complex.  I'll be writing more, very soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Second Whisper from Japan?

Once again, from the NHK news feed- the headline reads: "Review of Japan's nuclear policy suspended."  And my immediate expectation was that this major government review was being suspended because it was giving too much attention to anti-nuclear views; like those of ex-Prime Minister Kan.  The "nuclear village" still has plenty of clout; enough to pull that off, I'd bet my boots.

But- it turns out- the reasons (given to the public, anyway) - are exactly the opposite.  The head of the review is concerned that the nuclear industry has too much presence on the panel.  The story, in toto:

"Review of Japan's nuclear policy suspended

"The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has decided to suspend a review of the country's nuclear policy guidelines currently being conducted by an expert panel.

"In a meeting on Tuesday, some of the panelists expressed concerns over the selection of some of the panel, which includes members from power companies and research institutes that are promoting nuclear power.

"The experts also criticized a working group set up by the commission. The working group compiled a report on the country's nuclear recycling policy in mid-May following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. It later came to light that the unreleased draft report was distributed in closed door sessions to people involved in the government and in the power companies who were promoting nuclear power.

"The expert panel said it is still not clear why the working group distributed the draft, and called for an investigation by a third-party. The panel strongly criticized the atomic energy commission.

"The panel plans to come up with a review of the guidelines by this summer. The commission decided to temporarily halt its review of the guidelines and exclude from the panel any persons from the nuclear industry and research institutes promoting nuclear power.

"The head of the commission, Shunsuke Kondo, said he plans to rethink the commission from scratch following the nuclear accident and try to recover public trust in the commission. The commission plans to draw up concrete proposals by the next meeting of the expert panel.
May 29, 2012 - Updated 12:01 UTC (21:01 JST)"

Wow.  Again.  In fact; that's what Kan recommended- that only a panel of entirely outside experts should be consulted; no representation from nuclear industry insiders whatsoever.

If they can pull that off- it will be a huge, huge, change in the process.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A whisper of hope from Japan.

More than a whisper, perhaps, though one needs to be careful, hoping, these days.

The former Prime Minster of Japan, the man who was in power when the Fukushima reactors melted through, and who lost power partly because of that- has come out publicly and clearly to say: Japan should end all use of nuclear power.  It's simply impossible to make it safe, in his opinion.  (Mine too, as you know.)

And, this is being repeated via the Japanese news feed; here's the NHK story today:

"Former PM calls for Japan to end nuclear power

"Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan says the nuclear accident at Fukushima convinced him that, for safety's sake, Japan must end its dependence on nuclear energy.

"Kan on Monday attended a hearing of a panel appointed by the Diet to investigate the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that began on March 11th of last year.
He blamed the government for promoting nuclear power as a national policy. He apologized for failing to prevent the accident as the head of government at the time.

"Kan said a nuclear safety agency said nothing about what would happen in such an accident, nor did the government receive information from other sources. He added that he feared the situation could get out of control.  Kan acknowledged that the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, consulted the government about evacuating plant workers.

"He said that when the industry minister informed him of the workers' possible withdrawal, he thought it was out of the question.

"Kan said that he told Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu that the government would not allow the workers to leave, and Shimizu complied.

"The former prime minister criticized what he calls an inner circle of nuclear policymakers, experts and businesses for trying to hold on to their power without doing any soul-searching after the accident.

"He said disbanding the circle is the first step in a comprehensive reform of nuclear policy.

"He also said the accident could have jeopardized state functions, and that he is convinced that the safest way forward for Japan is to end its nuclear power generation.

"The panel plans to compile a report on its investigation by next month at the earliest, and submit it to the heads of both chambers of the Diet.
May 28, 2012 - Updated 10:23 UTC (19:23 JST)"

You have to think- "wow!", reading that.  Absolutely extraordinary for the top politician to - change his mind, and speak straight out like that.  Hopeful, I would have to say.

It will be interesting to see how much that statement penetrates in Japan.  It's getting coverage internationally, at least; the NYT has picked it up.

The NYT article adds several points not covered by the NHK; perhaps as a matter of differing translations.  My favorites:

"the country should discard nuclear power as too dangerous, saying the Fukushima accident had pushed Japan to the brink of 'national collapse.' "

"In his testimony, Mr. Kan said that Japan’s plant safety was inadequate because energy policy had been hijacked by the “nuclear village” — a term for the power companies and pro-nuclear regulators and researchers that worked closely together to promote the industry."

“It is impossible to ensure safety sufficiently to prevent the risk of a national collapse,” Mr. Kan said. “Experiencing the accident convinced me that the best way to make nuclear plants safe is not to rely on them, but rather to get rid of them.”

The current Prime Minister is still intending to restart the now 100% off-line nuclear plants, and keeps pushing.  The people of Japan are resisting- but that "nuclear village" has huge power.  Perhaps Mr. Kan's speaking out so clearly can help.  There is international momentum now that the people of Japan can point to - Switzerland and Germany are now committed to total shutdown of their nuclear generators.  So the voices of sanity in Japan don't have to go it alone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Boycott Pom Pomegranate Juice. Really.

Yesterday I was greeted by the top banner ad on the New York Times reading "CHEAT DEATH" - and advising us all to drink Pom.

It's a seriously sad statement, when a corporation responds to a highly adverse decision by a judge, by launching an immediate new ad campaign- that pushes the claims even farther.

I was already aware that the day before, a judge had ruled that Pom's advertising crossed quite a few lines in making health claims that were simply not true, nor justified by any credible research.  And he did tell them to knock it off.

So?  Pom thinks it's a joke.  That is- your health is a joke to them.  And so is our society's legal requirement that advertising should not be misleading.  Up yours, FTC.  And incidentally- up yours, American citizen.

You can read about it here: NYT; and in various other places.

So, yes; I'm seriously suggesting you BOYCOTT POM - and let them know you are.  Put this up on your Facebook page- etc.

Sorry, Pom.  Not funny.  Not at all.  And- knock it off.  Or no juice for you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sigh. Why me?

Again- news from the Japanese Public TV feed- which is NOT being repeated elsewhere.

This one is a real corker.  Watch the video while you can; it could disappear.

So- how's the security at French nuclear power plants?  Here's the answer.  You can just walk in.

YouTube link here.  The version at NHK has a bit of an interview, too; in French-

Update 5/3; ok, we're getting a little mainstream media penetration; this article in Bloomberg Businessweek adds considerable detail, and was cited in the NYT Green Blogs section.

I love the public response of the French top nuke guy:

“Safety at the installation was never called into question,” Dominique Miniere, director of French nuclear production, told reporters today. “What is clear is that safety measures put in place at the end of 2011 allowed the detection and immediate arrest of the intruder. The whole thing was over in less than 10 minutes.”

Uh.  Right.  So if this guy had actually been a terrorist, carrying a nice shoulder launched missile, for example, they definitely would have seen him, and caught him... AFTER he'd delivered his ordnance.  No problem!

The first cygnets of summer-

If you're not already, better get used to headlines that read something like "Cherry trees blossom 2 weeks ahead of average."  The year is off to a hot start already; and lots of early events are in the pipeline by now.

This is the one that motivated me to post today: "The first cygnet of the year at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset is the earliest since records began in 1393."

That's a pretty substantial record.

Thing is; here on the other side of the globe, I have our own to report.  Last night at 11 PM, as I went outside to check the sky for lightning, since our neighbors to the west were having tornadoes again, I was greatly startled by some flashes of light- from the wrong direction.

They were fireflies; 10, at least.  On May 1st.  That is absolutely the earliest, by far, we've ever had fireflies here.  Ok, I've only got a 30 some year observation track, not quite up to the swans' records.  But the first firefly, like the first cygnet, has always been an event to watch for- yes, it's summer.

About 3 weeks earlier than the average, I think.

Supposed to hit 80°F today.

Another headline to get used to: "Long, hot, summer..."

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A little more nuclear, alas

Hi folks; I'm actually away from the farm at the moment; doing "meetings" stuff; making things more hectic.

So- not very thoughtful material here; but by way of keeping the news channels open re: Fukushima; two bits from NHK, in toto:

"Why containment vessels must be examined

"An examination of the reactor containment vessels is essential for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

"The biggest challenge in the decommissioning process is finding a way to remove the melted nuclear fuel inside the reactors and on the floor of the containment vessels.

"Melted nuclear fuel is too radioactive even for robots to handle. So workers are considering filling the containment vessels with water, which shuts in the radiation.

"But highly radioactive wastewater continues to leak out of the No.1 to No.3 reactor containment vessels.

"Wednesday's examination aimed to pinpoint damages to the No 2. vessel for repair.
The No.2 unit was the first to be inspected because its reactor building is less damaged compared to that of the No.1 and No.3 units, and workers have been able to open the door leading to the suppression chamber at the bottom of the containment vessel.

"That door on the No.3 unit had been damaged by an explosion. Inspection at the No.1 unit is being hampered by high levels of radioactive wastewater.

"Wednesday, April 18, 2012 21:41 +0900 (JST)"
We had earlier bits indicating how incredibly radioactive #2 is; and here they tell is- it's the least damaged of them. Oy.
"PM names lawyer Tokyo Electric's new chairman

"The chairmanship of the troubled Tokyo Electric Power Company will be taken over by a lawyer brought in from outside the utility. Kazuhiko Shimokobe will formulate a plan to rescue the utility, which has been limping since last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

"Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asked Shimokobe to take the job. The government had been struggling to fill the post for months.

"Shimokobe, who currently chairs the steering committee of a state-backed nuclear compensation fund, said he will do all he can to lead the company with its employees.

"A former vice president of the federation of bar associations, Shimokobe is an expert in corporate compliance issues. In 2006, he helped investigate a high-profile window dressing case involving Internet firm Livedoor.

"He later headed a third-party panel vetting TEPCO's management and finance after the nuclear accident.

"The new chairman will play a crucial role in drawing up TEPCO's business turnaround plan by mid-May. The plan comes with an injection of 12 billion dollars in public funds.

"After the nomination, Shimokobe said he will first replace TEPCO's president to give the company a fresh start.

"Thursday, April 19, 2012 20:11 +0900 (JST)"

The not quite obvious bits: TEPCO was unable to find anyone who would take the job of chairman. They'd been trying for months; no one would take it. So- the Prime Minister of Japan has appointed one; along with putting in $12,000,000,000 in public funds- to pay off the public fines and compensations... um, how's that? "We're fining you a billion dollars! Here; use this billion, that'll work."

TEPCO, as a private corporation, is toast; which ought to be a warning of sorts to other companies wanting to get into nuclear power- but- the real accountability thing is mostly being bypassed, again.

Monday, April 9, 2012

In case you were worried...

You can now relax.

We have some mildly amusing, and wholly bemusing evidence today that there's nothing all that urgent, and the world has such an incredible abundance of resources we can, and should, just fritter them. I'll present two examples.

In Japan, which, as we know has a problem or two, really on the serious side; one of their most prominent corporations, Panasonic, announced today that it is in the final stages of commercializing a new robot, and is going to start selling it. Since this is NKH feed, I'll include some of the text:
"Japanese electronics maker Panasonic will start testing a shampooing robot with the aim of putting it on the market within a year. Panasonic announced on Monday that it will start the tests this week at a barber shop in Nishinomiya, western Japan.

"Sensors in the robot's hands scan the shape of a customer's head. The robot then wets and washes the hair with 24 'robo-fingers,' which Panasonic says recreates the feel of human fingers.

"Panasonic official Yukio Honda says the robot will help improve the quality of life for people receiving nursing care or those with disabilities. He adds that the company intends to install the robot in hair salons across Japan and put it on the nursing care market as soon as possible."

I confess, my mind boggles a bit. Japan is struggling with huge youth unemployment, is trying to import health care workers from the Philippines and Malaysia- so... yeah, this seems like a great idea. Chop human contact further for the aging and disabled, and just run them through the new car-wash machine. I suppose it's possibly that it could actually take 3 people to run and maintain the machine now; instead of the one shampoo-girl it used to... that would improve the jobs situation, right?

The second example is from the good ol' USA college community.

"A team of engineers at Purdue University has set the world record for "Largest functional Rube Goldberg machine" with a mind-boggling contraption that takes 300 steps to inflate and pop a balloon. In doing so, they bested themselves, as they had the previous record, with 244 steps. "

But wait; it gets better. "14 members worked on this project over a span of six months -- for a total of 5,000 hours."

Ok, so call me a cranky-pants. I realize, engineers just want to have fun; but really- couldn't they have had 5,000 hours worth of creative fun working on something that actually had a chance of being useful, somewhere, somehow? It seems a bit excessive to work so hard on something where the entire point of the work- is that it is useless.

Or, go to YouTube if Blogger is cranky.

Grump grump. Oh, look; I like Rube-Goldberg gimmicks too. Yes, their uselessness and pointlessness is useful and educational. But. Maybe it can be overdone? I mean- they could have built a robot that can trim toenails in assisted living homes. The Japanese are way, way, ahead of us.

And, they might have asked for a little help from some student with experience in video making...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Another day at Fukushima

I think this story is actually going to grow, now. It's showed up at the BBC, and the AP has picked it up, though with a very brief commentary.

Blessings on NHK -they speak the truth, unvarnished; however briefly. Here's today's installment, and I'm going to insert my "translations"; from "Official Obfuscatory" to "Real-Speak". Remember, the direct link to the article won't work in a day or so.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has detected extremely high levels of radiation inside one of the crippled reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

TEPCO was able to place monitoring equipment directly inside the reactor for the first time since last year's accident.

A dosimeter lowered into the containment vessel of the No.2 reactor registered 72.9 sieverts, or 72,900 millisieverts per hour at maximum -- a level where a human is certain to die within about 7 minutes of exposure.

(Real-Speak: wow! nice! The radiation is so intense you will literally cook to death in 7 minutes; not thermally, but from pure gamma and beta radiation damage.)

The utility hopes to determine the state of the vessels as it moves to decommission the reactors.

(Real-Speak: Stay tuned for further very, very, slow publication of what we knew last year.)

It says radiation levels increased as the dosimeter was lowered inside the reactor. This suggests the nuclear fuel melted down and collected at the bottom of the vessel.

(Real-Speak: we knew the fuel was melted and in the bottom of the vessel about 4 days after the tsunami. Really.)

The utility also learned the water level inside the vessel was only 60 centimeters, compared to the original estimate of about 3 meters.

(Real-Speak: Ok, the company didn't KNOW that until now; but they suspected it, with a probability well over 70%)

TEPCO suspects the suppression chamber at the bottom of the vessel may have been destroyed.

(Real-Speak: TEPCO KNEW it had been destroyed in the first month after the tsunami.)

The findings are a setback for plans to scrap the reactor. The utility has to pinpoint and repair damaged parts inside the vessel and fill it with water before extracting the fuel.

(Real-Speak: The idea of "fill it with water" has been a pure fiction for public consumption from the outset- no matter how much water they pour in; it's been leaking out as fast as water goes through a gallon glass jug with the bottom completely cracked off, the whole time; and they know it.)

TEPCO says the development of devices that can withstand the extremely high levels of radiation is a pressing matter.

(Real-Speak: this reactor had the lowest level of radiation of the 3 (4) ; TEPCO knows the others are WORSE. Yeah, it's so bad that the toughest instruments we can find, or think up, are destroyed by the intense reactor-core radiation in just a few minutes. )

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 11:13 +0900 (JST)


And in other radioactive news today, from NHK:

Fishing ban due to radioactive contamination

Radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear accident is forcing fishermen in a neighboring prefecture to suspend catches of one of their fish.

Catches of Japanese sea bass are the first marine products of Miyagi Prefecture, north of Fukushima, to be suspended due to the nuclear accident.

Up to 360 becquerels of radioactive cesium were detected in sea bass hauls over the past 2 months off the coast of Miyagi.

Radioactive cesium levels in fish exceeded the stricter restrictions that will begin next month. This will be 100 becquerels per kilogram.

Miyagi Prefecture and fisheries cooperatives are considering asking fishers in the prefecture to voluntarily refrain from catching the fish.

2 other types of fish from the Miyagi coast have also exceeded the 100 becquerel level.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 07:39 +0900 (JST)

Bamboo shoot contamination detected

More radioactive contamination has been found in farm products for human consumption about 200 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Authorities in a northern city of Chiba prefecture on Tuesday sampled bamboo shoots grown for food. They found contamination of up to 250 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. 180 becquerels of cesium was found in the bamboo shoots harvested in another northern city in the prefecture. Both locations are some 200 kilometers from the crippled nuclear plant.

The contamination levels are up to two-and-a-half times the government's new limit of 100 becquerels per kilogram, which goes into effect next month.

Prefectural officials also say 130 becquerels of cesium per kilogram was detected last week in a bamboo shoot in a third city.

The prefecture is asking farmers to refrain from shipping their bamboo shoots to customers.

The officials suspect radioactive cesium carried from Fukushima landed upon the leaves of the parent bamboo and was absorbed by the roots.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012 08:30 +0900 (JST)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Oops. 60 cm; instead of 3 meters of water in the reactor-

Just a little shocker to take your mind off health care.. from NHK, and I'll bet you don't hear about this one again...

TEPCO: Just 60cm of water in Fukushima reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Company says it has found that the cooling water in one of the damaged reactors at Fukushima is only 60 centimeters deep, far lower than previously thought.

The utility confirmed the water level by inserting an endoscope into the No.2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Monday.

TEPCO had thought that the water level was about 3 meters. It has been injecting nearly 9 tons of water per hour into the reactor to cool the melted fuel that has fallen to the bottom of the containment vessel.

But the shallow level indicates that the water continues to leak into the reactor building through the suppression chambers under the vessel.

The utility argues that the fuel is still being cooled, as the water temperature remains at around 48 degrees Celsius.

But the low level suggests that decommissioning the reactor could be much more difficult. The operator may need to repair more parts of the containment vessel so it can be filled with water to block the strong radiation.

The No. 2 reactor's containment vessel is believed to have been damaged on March 15th with the sudden loss of pressure inside the reactor.

Monday's survey was the second look inside the No.2 reactor since January. During the first survey, an endoscope was unable to confirm the water level in the containment vessel. This time, TEPCO used a scope that is 10 meters longer.
Monday, March 26, 2012 21:40 +0900 (JST)

UPDATE, 3/27-

The AP did pick up the story- which is repeated in several places, among them the Washington Post. It has, as expected, disappeared from the NHK news feed.

You have to pick out the bits of information on what is actually going on- basically, instead of 10 meters of water in the containment vessel, supposed to be cooling it; there are 60 cm- and all this time, TEPCO has been pouring cooling water into it- and the water has just been leaking right out the bottom (carrying radioactive stuff with it, of course) - and going- nobody knows where.

They didn't know. They hadn't looked. Yes, this is still going on, right now- the cracked reactors continue to leak. Into the ocean, of course. They did admit today that "80 liters" of strontium contaminated water had reached the sea:

Tokyo Electric Power Company says about 80 liters of water contaminated with radioactive strontium has leaked into the sea off the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Workers found the leak in tanks at the plant site around 8:30 AM on Monday. The facilities store water after radioactive materials are removed.

The leakage stopped 20 minutes later when the workers turned the pumps off.

But the firm estimates that 120 tons of water has seeped out through pipe connections, and 80 liters reached the ocean via a sewer system located below the pipes.

TEPCO said it detected highly radioactive substances in the sea water around the overflow, emitting 0.25 becquerels per cubic centimeters of beta particles.

It said a safety barrier is still under construction and was unable to stop the spill.

The utility had a similar incident at the plant last December. After that, the government had declared a cold shutdown but since then, water has leaked many times.
Tuesday, March 27, 2012 01:19 +0900 (JST)

So, that's all right, then.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

OMG. Actual good news.

One of the barriers to my writing more is the deep, deep, "good news" deficit the world has been running. I see limited value in just passing on depression; so tend to take the Thumper Option. I think we hit Peak Good News back in the 1950's.

But- here today- and in the New York Times, forsooth- is a chunk of what I have to consider seriously good news.

A company is entering the real world with a potentially world-changing technology- the first application of which is in solar power; a way to peel silicon wafers, 20 microns thick, off the stock material, rather than sawing far thicker wafers.

Take my word for it; that's HUGE. The cost per watt for photovoltaics is already under the supposed magic point of $1/watt, for large installations. Which is why Solyndra went broke. My guess- when this is fully mature, this process could put it under 10¢/watt; and in just a few years.

Genuinely mind-boggling. Kiss your nukes goodbye.

And it shifts the entire solar energy world. The barrier is just not cost of the cells, any more; it's the cost of the land to put them on; costs of installation and maintenance.

There is, you'll be glad to know, plenty of bad news there. While the inventor of this new process can rightly expect to make mind-blowing profits- the profits associated with a 30 year contract to keep a square mile of solar panels clean and connected- are not going to interest Big Capital. It's just not sexy enough. And; there will increasingly be security problems- like the moron who decided to shoot out a wind generator near here yesterday.

But, hey; there's a new career track opening up. Night watchman/woman at a solar power generator. That'll impress them at the singles bar. :-)

A bit more seriously- I do see this as a big technological leap forward. But, my inner Eeyore does grumpily demand acknowledgement of this particular bad aspect: it will encourage the "technophiles", who insist that progress in technology will, of course, solve all human and environmental problems.

Oh, that's a really, really, bad bet; and one not actually supported by history. While this means a lot in regard to clean energy, one of the most likely outcomes will ultimately be- more babies. And we know where that goes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

More News From Bree

That's a Tolkien quote; a phrase used to indicate news from far away, which is therefore highly doubtful, if not laughable.

We're struggling with climate change here, right at the moment; the calendar says March 13; but the weather seems to have settled on about April 25th. Or maybe May 10; hard to say exactly.

On a farm of any kind; you have to jump when spring hits; and it's here far too early, which causes dislocations in other work loads. Exhaustion is a side effect of climate change which is rarely addressed.

All of which is by way of making excuses for my lack of good activity here. Sorry. Working on it.

Meanwhile; I'm going to put up another couple of in toto quotes from Japanese public televsion news; if you'll check the last post, indeed the links to the original stories no longer work. So you have to grab this stuff while you can.

Three stories which will NOT hit MSM repeats here inside The Shire; one stemming from the anniversary of the quake/tsunami/melt-throughs:
Human chain surrounds Diet in anti-nuclear rally

Thousands of people have formed a human chain around Japan's Diet to call for scrapping nuclear power plants in the country.

The protesters held the rally in central Tokyo on Sunday, the first anniversary of the powerful earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

They observed a minute of silence at 2:46 PM, the time the quake struck. The demonstrators then marched to the Diet building and formed the human chain.

A 71-year-old man from Tokyo said he used electricity generated at the Fukushima plant while people from the prefecture shouldered the burden. He said nuclear plants must be shut down and everyone in Japan should think about energy issues.

A woman who brought her child to the rally said it's unthinkable to keep nuclear plants that could cause accidents and force people to leave their homes because of radioactive contamination.

A university student said daily life would become inconvenient if nuclear plants were shut down, but this is the time to switch to other energy sources to ensure safety 30 years from now.
Sunday, March 11, 2012 23:09 +0900 (JST)

Such a demonstration would have been impossible/unthinkable- before Fukushima. But the attitudes being reported from the common people in Japan are now radically different.

And; NHK goes to lengths to report on anti-nuclear activity elsewhere on the globe; which we do not hear about from our regular news sources. 30,000 people protesting in France, against nukes? Nah, that's not news.
Protestors say "No" to nuclear power plants

Around 30,000 protestors came together in France on Sunday to form a human chain to call for an end to nuclear energy.

One year after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, people linked arms for some 230 kilometers along a major road in southeastern France, where many nuclear facilities are located.

Demonstrators from France, Germany and Switzerland also rallied at 10 sites as part of the anti-nuclear power protest set up by an NGO.

In the town of Cruas, which has power plant facilities, many protestors, including children and old people, formed a human chain and chanted "No to nuclear power."

One participant said that even though Japan is known for its advanced technology, it still experienced a nuclear catastrophe. He said that means it will be even more difficult for France to avoid such risks.

Almost 80 percent of France's electricity is generated by nuclear power. The country has 58 reactors, the second-largest number in the world after the United States. In the wake of the nuclear accident in Japan, the French anti-nuclear movement has gained momentum.

Anti-nuclear rallies were also held across the United States on Sunday.

In New York, about 200 people, including some Japanese, marched through the city center, calling for a society without nuclear energy.

The protestors gathered in a square in Manhattan to hear speakers call on the world to learn from Fukushima to build a society without nuclear power stations.
Monday, March 12, 2012 11:05 +0900 (JST)

And another story about the memory of war, from the losing side. Japan often teaches its high school students essentially nothing about WWII; where Germany teaches basically everything; from Hitler to the Holocaust.
67th anniversary of US air raids on Tokyo

Tokyo is observing the 67th anniversary of massive US air raids during World War Two.

About 100,000 people living mainly in eastern residential areas of Tokyo are estimated to have been killed in the predawn raids and fire after the attack on March 10, 1945.

A memorial service was held on Saturday at the site in Sumida ward that contains the unidentified ashes of 105,000 people.

More than 350 people, including family members of the dead, mourned the victims.

A 71-year-old man, remembering the area burned flat that day, said he wants to tell his late father and brothers that he is now living in peace and in good health thanks to them.

An 80-year-old woman said she could not forget watching her mother die while trying to flee the devastation along with family members. She added that she wants to describe the disaster to her grandchildren as part of the horror of war.

The metropolitan government is still identifying the dead of that time.
Saturday, March 10, 2012 21:50 +0900 (JST)

And, fourthly; a "canary in the coalmine" story; which I am struggling to comprehend:
Beer shipments plunge in February

Shipments of beer and beer-like beverages in Japan dropped in February to a record low for the reporting month.

Domestic shipments totaled just less than 360,000 kiloliters. That's the lowest for the month of February since comparable records became available in 1992.

The February shipments were down 4.7 percent year-on-year, and marked a third straight month of decline.

Demand was hit by cold weather and heavy snowfall in parts of Japan. Beer makers add that sales of new, non-alcoholic-type drinks also hurt beer shipments.
Monday, March 12, 2012 12:36 +0900 (JST)

Beer consumption is down???? I think some analysis is called for! "Cold weather" might be part of it- but others are up... people usually drink a little more beer if they're feeling depressed, which all other measures in Japan indicate is the case... Is it possible to become too depressed to drink beer? That would news.

Just some more fun stuff to contemplate, as you go about your business today.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Slippery news

One of the things needed, if you're going to strive for rationality- is "facts" that have some chance of being real. And it's getting harder to get hold of those, or to keep them where everyone can see.

One of the news sources I regularly scan is the NHK World feed; the Japanese version of National Public Television.

For reasons that are fascinating to speculate about, this news source often seems to be almost "unfiltered" - they just blurt out the truth, as they record it from first hand sources.

Like this; for instance, in toto:
"40% of residents' exposure tops annual limit"

"More than 40 percent of the people surveyed in 3 municipalities near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were exposed to radioactivity levels above the annual safety limit in the 4 months after the disaster.

"Fukushima Prefecture released on Monday the results of its survey of external radioactive exposure among some 9,750 residents of 2 towns and a village after the accident last March. This number excluded people working in places with high radioactivity, such as a nuclear plant.

"Participants were asked about their behavior over a 4-month period immediately following the nuclear accident in order to estimate their external exposure.

"Forty-two percent of the respondents are estimated to have received more than one millisievert --- the annual limit for the general public --- in the 4 months following the disaster.

"Estimated exposure exceeded 10 millisieverts for 71 people. The highest dose was 23 millisieverts for an adult woman.

"Among young people under the age of 20 at the time of the accident, the highest exposure was 18.1 millisieverts over 4 months.

"The prefecture is conducting the survey on all its 2 million residents.
Monday, February 20, 2012 19:28 +0900 (JST)"

The thing is- the next day; you can't find that story anywhere. I'm pretty sure the "filters" kicked in. The original link does still work, one day later; but my experience is that in several days, they stop working; hence my in toto quote.

Do you suppose it would be news, of international interest, that where 1 millisievert per year is the "allowed" dose, they were finding numerous people with 10 millisieverts - accumulated in 4 months? And some up to 20?

Nah. Haven't seen anyone pick it up, yet.

Then; today's fun story from them:
"Survey: 95% of disaster debris not yet disposed of

"The Japanese Environment Ministry says 95 percent of debris from last year's disaster in northeastern Japan has yet to be disposed of more than 11 months on.

"The March 11 quake and tsunami created more than 22 million tons of debris on the coasts of hardest-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures alone.

"The ministry said on Tuesday that just over one million tons, or 5 percent, of debris has been either incinerated or buried. 72 percent is still stored at temporary sites.

"The ministry says many of the incinerators planned for disaster-stricken municipalities have yet to enter operation. It cites the difficulty in finding sites for new incinerators.

"The ministry also says disposal in other areas of Japan, expected to shoulder 4 million tons of debris, has hardly begun.

"Environment Minister Goshi Hosono told reporters the ministry's goal of completing disposal by the end of March, 2014 is unrealistic.

"He asked municipalities outside the disaster-affected region to help, noting that delays are greatly hampering reconstruction.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012 13:25 +0900 (JST)"

The link for that is here.

Hey, I just wouldn't want you all to be worrying about Greece today, and forget that the problems in Japan are - pretty much entirely not dealt with. At all.

But hey- Technology will certainly come to our rescue; the free-market system guarantees it!