Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Anxiously Awaiting Word OR Oil and Water Don't Mix

Potomac River view looking toward Arlington (Virginia) from the Capital Crescent Trail near mile marker 9, Washington, D.C., 6:12PM, April 28, 2010.

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Still awaiting word ...

I'm just convinced that this whole thing has blown up on me. I'm sure that would titillate some types because, oh, never mind ...

My shadow along the Capital Crescent Trail somewhere around mile marker 7, Washington, D.C., 5:18PM, April 28, 2010.

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Sigh. I'm tired. And I'm so tired of this stupid contracting job crap working on assignments all night and in a mind numbing torpor all day and into dusk. It's all crap. I may have to leave here and go to Florida with my dad and vanish from this Washington, D.C., reality.

Three drunk guys at the corner 16th and U Streets and New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 1:58AM, April 30, 2010.

Well, actually, the guy in the middle was falling down drunk and his friends were holding him up.

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I will update this blog with the pictures I've taken the past few days including on a long walk along the Capital Crescent Trail from Bethesda back into D.C. to Georgetown and thence to Dupont Circle.

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Oh, yes, I've been very interested in following this Gulf of Mexico oil spill following the April 22nd explosion / fire / sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig that probably killed 11 workers. This spill could rival the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 in terms of ecological and economic damage. It is spewing an estimated 5,000 barrels (200,000 gallons) of oil per day with no end in site.

Here is a picture of the oil spill as seen by satellite. I'm not sure what satellite captured this image but it was taken on April 25, 2010. Note that the Chandeleur Islands are mostly gone -- wiped out by Katrina.

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The rig was located about 40 miles off the southernmost tip of the Mississippi "Bird's Foot" Delta in a section of the Gulf called the "Mississippi Canyon," specifically, Tract 252 (referred MC252).

Here is a 2001 satellite picture of it (the view has changed a bit since Hurricane Katrina). The point where the river -- or what's left of it at that point as parts of it have already been diverted -- splits just above the final bit of the delta is called "Head of Passes." I never knew that.

Undated aerial view of the Bird's Foot - Mississippi River Delta.

If left to its natural devices, the Mississippi River radically changes its discharge location over the course of centuries to millennia -- it has been trying to do move its discharge into the Atchafalaya River -- but it's currently so screwed up by the hand of man that it can't do what it should and the whole Delta is steadily vanishing but for the weird berm-like levees.

Meanwhile, New Orleans for slightly different reasons is sinking steadily farther below sea level and in 50 to 100 years or so (assuming the city still exists) it will be an "island" 10 to 20 feet below sea level surrounded by giant walls.

It's a whole other world down there on the Louisiana Gulf coast, though not one I really could more than briefly visit.

--Regulus

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spring Default Swap

A sloping spring meadow somewhere in Wisconsin from a picture I got off the Web.

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Well, it is mid-afternoon on Tuesday and I still haven't heard any follow up since last Friday to my would-be job at that company in support of EERE / DOE activities. I was told by the hiring person that I would hear by Thursday, and if I had not, to contact her.

Let me just say here and now that if this were to blow up on me, I would most likely pack it in and leave D.C. by July and go down to Florida. That is my plan in the event this fails.

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New Plush Hippo Family Portrait ...

Here is Flippo, Harvey, and little Aurora. She was half hiding and we could only get her to appear with Harvey above her like this.

Welcome to the family, Aurora!

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Political Commentary ...

This is worth watching: Sen. Carl Levin grilling this "shitty" former Goldman Sachs partner and senior level crook named Daniel Sparks with more use of the word "shitty" than has probably ever occurred before in a formal hearing in the halls of Congress. I counted 10 times in the clip below. This came about as a result of a Sen. Levin reading internal Goldman Sachs emails from June and July 2007 describing a particular transaction as being a "shitty deal" that was nevertheless a "top priority" in terms of pushing clients to buy it.



The occasion of this clip was today's hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, which is under the larger Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, with the head Goldman Sachs crooks.

My favorite line from Chairman Levin (at 1:20): "Your TOP PRIORITY to sell is that SHITTY DEAL."

Tourre is named in the SEC civil suit against Goldman Sachs. This man strikes me as being basically a sociopath in terms of his clueless indifference and inability / refusal to acknowledge what he did, as his testimony today reveals.

One of the witnesses was "Fabulous Fab" Fabrice Tourre, pictured here in his smug arrogance.

Ya' just wanna bitch slap him.


Recall that in 2007 and 2008 he bragged in his emails about his use of exotic financial instruments to make a financial killing while the whole financial system was crashing.

He was referring to the various collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that represent various investment grades or bundles ("tranches") of the underlying securities, many of which turned out to be far more risky and even outright worthless, and to the "insurance" sold on certain kinds of CDOs in the form of the credit default swaps (CDSs).

The latter basically represented the company's bets that the CDO products it was selling to its clients would in fact fail, wiping out its clients' investments while allowing the company, including its traders and partners (such as Sparks and Tourre) to make out like bandits (which they did).

This is at the heart the crime -- and because it was so massive in scope, it nearly took down our entire financial system and threw the world into a Second Great Depression.

Operational diagram of a synthetic CDO, which is a type of CDO where the underlying asset (security) is not owned and instead a credit default swap is used to manage (mitigate) the risk. This image comes from a Web site called BionicTurtle.com -- which seems to have removed all its images. I got this via another blog.

Using the insurance policy analogy, you just own the policy rather than the underlying asset or maybe just another policy on the policy itself -- but one that only pays out if the first policy is wiped out because the underlying asset proves worthless. Now do this a million times over with a "notional" value of tens of trillions of dollars and you have the financial system that collapsed in late 2008.

That's how I understand it.

HERE is an excellent explanation of CDOs.

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U.S.S. Arizona ...

Speaking of things (un)constitutional, I'm happy to hear that there is a lot of anger and disapproval at Arizona's odious state law with lawsuits and boycotts being prepared. I mean, when you upset BOTH Linda Greenhouse AND Joe Scarborough, that's saying something.



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Ash Fall Down

There has been much discussion in the British media that the six-day air space closure over Europe and the British Isles due to the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano was an unnecessary overreaction and that it was based excessively on the use of a single model on the part of the UK Met Office's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC).

The airlines are eying lawsuits or other "compensation" from the British government for the £ 1 billion in direct costs.

My own take on it -- and I think several of my friends agree -- is that the scientists at the UK Met Office / VAAC did the best they could with the information they had and were appropriately cautious and risk-adverse rather than playing with the lives of all those millions of disrupted travelers.

While better models are of course needed so that better risk-informed decisions can be made in future eruptions (Yellowstone, anyone??), they and EUROCONTROL acted appropriately.

Think of what would have happened if one of those jets had crashed and killed 200 or so people.

An April 26th Daily Mail article claimed that the cloud didn't even exist. The Daily Mail is basically the U.K.'s version of The New York Post.

For its part, the UK Met Office issued this press release defending itself.

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Weather Update ...

While there was between 0.5" and 1.1" of precip. in the past several days at DCA, IAD, and BWI, respectively, the three airports are still below normal for the month and two of the three are below normal for the year. It's not a large deficit, but it's always lousy as far as I'm concerned going into the summer months here with a precipitation deficit.

I'll post exact final amounts for April and the first four months of 2010 in a few days.

Baltimore / Washington NWS Forecast Office (LWX) county warning area (CWA) area, 5:18PM, April 27, 2010

There is a frost warning for areas north and west of the immediate Wash. D.C./Baltimore area tonight and a freeze warning in the Blue Ridge and into the Alleghenies.

Thereafter, the weather is supposed to be mostly sunny and cool with temps. around 63F tomorrow and then rapidly warming into the upper 80sF by Saturday.

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That's all for now. I plan to update this blog in a few days once I get additional word on the prospective job.

--Regulus

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Good News, Good Earth

The "Science on a Sphere" globe with projected film in the Global Ocean Systems exhibit at the Natural History Museum, Washington, D.C., 4:08PM, April 24, 2010

For explanation, see entry below.

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GOOD NEWS!

So I have some very good news to report for me: pending final approval, I will be hired on as a regular employee of the DOE contracting company in question for at least a trial 3-month period.

One of the side gardens along the National Mall with a sign that said "Butterfly Habitat," Washington, D.C., 10:04AM, April 23, 2010

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But First ...

However, before I continue with that, I need to post an update to my previous entry. It concerns what I said about my attendance at the 20th Earth Day here in D.C. in 1990. My friend Kevin has taken issue with what I wrote about what he was thinking that day and said what I wrote was inaccurate. I want to note that here and apologize to him.

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Sandra Bacon's "Ripple" globe sculpture on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., 10:09AM, April 23, 2010.

This globe was one of a series along either side of the Mall for an extended 40th Earth Day celebration that includes a concert called "The Climate Rally" on April 25th (Sunday) that features as top billing Sting.

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GOOD NEWS! (cont'd)

OK, back to the 3-month job as a DOE contractor ... during this time I will research and write reports on a variety of energy efficiency / renewable energy topics with the goal of "establishing" myself for the client (various DOE personnel) and thus ensuring a permanent job. The VP of this company is attempting to create a position for me rather than hiring me into an existing slot. She is very interested hiring me. This position would essentially be a cross-programmatic one involving topics such as wind, solar, geothermal, advanced fuels, etc.

Nina Weiss's "Tall Grass" globe sculpture on the National Mall, Washington, D.C., 10:13AM, April 23, 2010

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I found this out on Friday morning around 945AM when I spoke to her at her office near L'Enfant Plaza. I thought I was going there to talk about being a 1099 independent contractor, which is what I already do for the Bethesda company I'm always referencing.

The VP said she needs to get a final OK for this but she did not think that would be difficult to get. She said she'd be in touch with me by this coming Thursday.

The silhouetted Washington Monument with just a tiny bit of the Sun peaking above its tip top capstone, 10:24AM, April 23, 2010

On that capstone is inscribed the words Laus Deo -- "Praise to God."

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It helped that I finished that 30-page report for the other company on the topic of U.S. market assessments and related technical issues for electric heat pumps / heat pump water heaters; small wind turbines; high brightness LEDs; and photo-catalyst building and construction materials. I was able to submit this as another writing sample.

I left the office shortly before 10AM and walked home instead of taking the Metro. I walked on a circuitous route that took me down the axis of the National Mall and over to the Watergate and thence up New Hampshire Avenue to my place by 16th and U Streets, NW. The pictures in this entry are both from that walk and my subsequent visit down there today to the National Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum with Quill and Gary.

Underside of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge over the Potomac River, 10:48AM, April 23, 2010

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As for the news about my likely new job, I called my mom first to tell her and I think the second person I told was Chris T. Most of my blog readers who know me already know that I probably got this job.

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Three men fishing in a weird little boat with the towers of Rosslyn in Arlington poking above the forested spread of Teddy Roosevelt Island, 10:54AM, April 23, 2010. There was also a dog on the boat.

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Saturday Museum Visit

As for my trip down to the National Mall today to the two Smithsonian facilities -- the National Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum -- the reason was that Quill wanted to go to the various museum gift shops to get presents for her friend's children when she visits next month.

Her friend lives near L.A. and Quill wanted to get presents that reflect a D.C. theme -- by this she meant a Smithsonian kind of present. One of her presents is the DVD of the excellent series The Future Is Wild (which, by the way, features "Amasia" instead of "Pangaea Ultima/ Proxima" as the far distant future super-continent).

A slightly blurry picture of a 45-foot long model of the highly endangered North Atlantic Right Whale hanging in the Sant Ocean Hall of National Museum of Natural History.

The model is based on a real female whale named Phoenix. More information is available here.

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Oh, yes, Quill unexpectedly got me a SECOND plush hippo. I think this one will be named Aurora, my first female plush hippo.

Here is The Family in all their plushness. Aurora is the new one in the front next to the furry green frog Oscar and my Sunshine Buddies.

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The museums were overrun with tourists. The really local crowd -- such as those of us who live around Dupont Circle / Woodley Park -- actually don't tend to get down there that often even though it is less than two miles away.

We saw a really cool "Global Ocean Systems" exhibit also called "Science on a Sphere" consisting of a series of four short films projected onto a large rotating sphere. They included information about the oceanic global conveyor belt and the impact of the oceans on the climate. The exhibit's Web site is here. Afterward, we went to the National Air & Space Museum

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The large object is this picture (other than the tourist in the shorts and orange baseball cap) is the underside of the Apollo 11 Command Module "Columbia" that is one of the most prominent exhibits at the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C., 4:37PM, April 24, 2010.

There is a Web site to it here.

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Saturday Night

I'm home on this cool, overcast, showery night here in Washington, D.C., watching the Britcoms on WETA and MPT. It's actually NOT frickin' pledge-a-beg-a-thon time on either of them. I have been watching Keeping Up Appearances and Last of the Summer Wine. Later on Waiting for God, Are You Being Served?, and Fawlty Towers are on, as are Vicar of Dibley and To the Manor Born.

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This is the teddy bear Magellan T. Bear, who has flown in space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1995 and has also been around the world. He is now on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Surprisingly, Magellan T. Bear does NOT have a Wikipedia article to him.

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Weather Update

The weather is supposed to be showery - rainy and cool tonight (temps are only around 57F). There is a low pressure system in the mid Mississippi River valley with complex warm, cold, and occluded fronts extending across the Southeastern U.S. and then another quasi-stationary frontal system to the northeast of it that is creating almost a cold (cool) air damming situation for the mid-Atlantic and New England.

This is a very energetic springtime system with a widespread outbreak of severe / tornadic thunderstorms. A series of tornadoes killed at least 10 people and maybe more around Yazoo City.

Portion of the U.S. radar mosaic at 0048UTC April 25, 2010 (8:48PM, April 24, 2010)

Maybe God was mad that the state didn't do enough to stop Obamacare and gay marriage.

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Political Commentary

Speaking of the political weather, The New York Times is at it again with nonstop articles about the impending GOP midterm tsunami (OK, so a tsunami is not a weather event) that will obliterate the Democratic Party and usher in the 1000-year American Republican Reich, or at least for six months until the idiot electorate ping-pongs back and forth again.

The Apollo Lunar Module exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., 5:10PM, April 24, 2010.

The Web site to the exhibit is here.

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I personally loathe Adam Nagourney's brand of political journalism. He and the other gay New York Times political writers past and present (I'm thinking of Richard Berke, to whom I once said "fuck you" at a house party, admittedly not my finest moment, but I was so mad over his treatment of Al Gore in the lead up to the 2000 Bush Coup, and he asked me if I were crazy) are titillated when they can write articles about impending GOP blitzes and why that will remake America for the next 1,000 years. I think this is at least the third time in the past 16 years we've gone through this.

I won't even talk about The WaHoPo, a totally unreadable and worthless newspaper that I actually expect will go bankrupt within 10 years, or at least be reconstituted in a very different form, maybe just wholly electronic.

The Apollo Lunar Module exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C., 5:13PM, April 24, 2010.

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Have You Seen Me?

BTW, the Washington Times print edition seems to have disappeared from street view. All its vending machines seem to have disappeared.

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Don't Piss Off A Closeted Republican Gay Guy

Oh, yes, there was a major development on the "KGL" climate change / energy bill today as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R - Closeted Gay) threatened to pull out of the trio consisting of himself and Sens. John Kerry (D - Windsurfing) and Joe Lieberman (I - Annoying) after Sen. Reid announced the Senate would take up immigration reform this session.

Sen. Graham is very upset about this and says he won't participate in the roll out or even support the bill -- which would ensure its death in the dysfunctional and broken Senate where 60 votes are needed to do anything -- if immigration reform is considered before the long-awaited KGL bill. It was to be unveiled on Monday. This bill will be basically supersede HR 2454 "Waxman Markey" and its Senate counterpart, S. 1733 "Kerry Boxer" (yes, the same Kerry).

The tiresome and silly issue of immigration has flared up again following Arizona's passage of a draconian and unconstitutional bill that criminalizes illegal immigrants and turns the civilian police into a kind of internal ministry of interior in support of a law that would please any fascist government throughout history.

Like most U.S. states, Arizona has a state legislature dominated by rightwing crazies, and it has a leathery rhymes-with-witch of a governor who couldn't wait to sign this bill.


Naturally, the mainstream media -- never mind the Fox Nazis -- have flattering articles about how "brave" and "courageous" she is. Bullying and harassing the weakest among us is what passes for political bravery and courage in America, a country whose existence is based on immigration of people seeking a better life (though that really isn't possible any more).

The good news is it will almost certainly be voided in the Federal courts, and legal challenges are already being prepared.

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The Solo Piazza rooftop with quintessential D.C. rooftop architectural fluff, Washington, D.C., 6:28PM, April 24, 2010

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OK, I think I will now end this entry. Gary and LP are supposed to come over in a little while. LP is dealing with an ongoing serious family medical issue involving one of his parents.

I think Gary, Gerry, and I are going to try to take one of our Northern Virginia drives tomorrow. We haven't done that in a while.

My next planned update will be around Tuesday or Wednesday.

--Regulus

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 40 and Washington in April

Planet Earth as seen from near by in space with Australia, Antarctica, and the Indian Ocean prominently visible as well as India.

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Earth Day 2010 ... the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day in 1970 when I was a wee baby of just five months old living in New Jersey.

I remember going to the Earth Day 1990 here in D.C. That wast the 20th anniversary and I was 20 years old, half my current age. That was still 2 years before I settled in the D.C. area.

Here is a New York Times online picture I found from that long ago Earth Day, April 22, 1990.

Notice how the trees (on either side of the Capitol building) are NOT in leafy bloom back then (the green ones you see are "evergreen" Southern Magnolia trees). By contrast, they are completely out this year. Yet if I don't miss my guess, the previous month (March 1990) had featured some freakishly hot weather with temps near 90F.

For comparison, look at this picture ...

This is view from the Connecticut Avenue Taft Bridge looking down onto the Rock Creek and a finger of Rock Creek park on a rainy afternoon, Washington, D.C., 4:00PM, April 21, 2010

And even more so this picture ...

The electric green of a wet spring forest at the southern / western edge of the Connecticut Avenue Taft Bridge on a rainy afternoon, Washington, D.C., 4:03PM, April 21, 2010

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That Earth Day in 1990 was still when I read and respected the frickin' worthless Washington Post, believed in a caring and involved God, and foolishly thought the world was moving toward a better condition rather than just being full of shit and pain.

I remember actually met at the event the guy who organized the first Earth Day event (Denis Hayes). He had been featured in a Style section article a few days earlier. He was just sort of standing on the Capitol steps -- back when they were open and you could do that, before everything was in a post-9/11 Mega-Giga-Tera-Peta-Exa double lock down code red Cheney terror alert.

The ivy-covered yard and exterior of the house at 4200 Van Ness St., NW, Washington, D.C., 12:09PM, April 20, 2010

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At the time I was totally fucked up at St. Shitty's Mary's College in southern Maryland, obsessed over some idiot. God, I hated that school. I remember coming up to D.C. on that sunny, warm, late April day with some friends at the time -- some of whom, such as Kevin and Aaron I am still friends with (as well as Quill, although she was not with us that day), while others such as Phil I appropriately no longer have anything to do with, and still others, such as Lynda M. that I have long since lost touch with.

Rainy Connecticut Avenue by the Chinese Embassy and near where Chris T. lives, Washington, D.C., 4:04PM, April 21, 2010

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I remember when we saw the crowd in the distance by the Capitol, Kevin did not want to go there (he got a bit angry as I recall), but in the end he went and it was no big deal. I think he thought it was some kind of pro-Pol Pot - Maoist Communist communal cult compound kind of thing, or maybe a riotous Socialist mob, rather than just a mainstream corporate friendly way to spend a feel-good afternoon in Washington on the National Mall. Meanwhile, Lynda ended up dancing with a bunch of wacky Hari Krishnas later in the day.

Gee, that was along time ago.

The world is as vicious, dumb, and pointless as ever, except now people are more hyper-aware of everything at all times, which kind of makes it worse.

Imagine 20 years hence? We better have had some serious sea level rise by then or else I'll lose my faith in global warming. Actually, I'll probably be dead in 20 years, but let's avoid going down that road right now.

Wet Wyoming Avenue, Washington, D.C., 4:09PM, April 21, 2010

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A few quick updates in the here and now ...

I got paid in full for the two assignments at my Bethesda contracting job before the office manager (and my friend) went on her 2 week vacation to Japan, and so I can now pay my May rent EARLY. And I'll have a small cushion of money til the following week. What's gonna happen?

Actually, I don't know what's gonna happen by July / August if I haven't become more gainfully employed.

Wet California Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 4:13PM, April 21, 2010

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Last night -- or rather this morning -- I finished a 30 page paper for the same company on the U.S. market for four types of "energy efficiency equipment / products", namely, heat pumps and heat pump water heaters; small wind turbines; high brightness LEDs; and (the smallest of all), photo-catalyst building materials.

I only slept a few hours in the mid to late morning and I was on time for what was possibly (probably?) the final day of my Census job ... unless there is some sudden and unexpected group quarters enumeration follow-up and/or I get chosen to be in the residential enumeration follow-up.

At the very least, I made a new friend (Jamie) who went with me to Cobalt on Tuesday night (he's straight) and tonight we went to Fox & Hound (where I haven't been in years) with his friend Kaitlyn. Jamie and I may go to Cobalt tomorrow night to take advantage of the open bar for rail vodka at Cobalt between 11PM and midnight. He lives near me in the gayborhood even closer in than I do -- right on 17th Street.

BTW, 17th and 18th Streets, NW, are all "stimulated" and torn up with roadwork construction from Stimulus money to improve them.

Yours truly under the trees along Florida Avenue nearing Massachusetts Avenue -- this whole entry has featured state-named thoroughfares -- in Washington, D.C., 1:40PM, April 22, 2010

I was walking to the West End Library, where my group finished up the American University Census enumeration.

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Tomorrow at 930AM, I have an "interview" at that same DOE contracting company down by L'Enfant Plaza to discuss doing STILL MORE "1099" contracting work for it. I'm meeting the VP -- the same lady who interviewed me on Feb. 26th for a regular job that I did not get. This does have some potential to turn into an actual regular job.

Still no word from the IRS or even the D.C. Tax & Revenue office concerning all the income tax I owe (approx. $1580 to the former and about $170 to the latter by my calculations, before penalties).

OK, I think that's all for now. My next planned update will be this weekend. I'm supposed to see Quill and maybe Gerry, along with Gary and Chris T and maybe LP.

Weather-wise, it's supposed to be on the showery wet and cool side this weekend. I hope so.

--Regulus

Monday, April 19, 2010

Celestial Stars and Earthly Fires in the Sky

The three super-duper blue giant stars (left to right) of Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka that make up the Belt of Orion. The (small) Horsehead Nebula is visible just below Alnitak.

Orion as depicted in a set of constellation cards known as Urania's Mirror published in London in the mid 1820s.

Alnitak (Zeta Orionis) is a triple star system 800 light years away with the primary being a class O blue supergiant.

Alnilam (Epsilon Orionis) is a class B blue-white supergiant star about 1300 light years away that is only 4 million years old (a newborn by stellar standards) and losing mass at a fantastic rate. It will likely go supernova within a few million years.

Mintaka (Delta Orionis) is a multiple star system about 900 light years away consisting of a binary class O blue and class B blue-white supergiant pair in close orbit and two smaller stars significantly farther way.

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I'm home on this Monday late night in my wee, lamp lit apartment with the window a/c purring. I'm watching reruns of The Golden Girls on We TV and/or Hallmark Channel.

Screen shot of Bea Arthur as Dorothy Zbornak.

I really want one of those shirts that have a picture of her and say, "Don't you wish your girlfriend was HOT LIKE BEA."

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Last night, I finished the second of two "Misc-1099" reports I needed to write this past weekend. I worked on it all night until dawn. I also submitted the invoice for the second project (my 15-page biweekly climate change news compendium) grand total of $840. Whether I will get paid for this or not in the next few days is unsure and for complicated reasons involving office administrative and vacation issues, I might not get paid for almost a month.

Nicola's Trattoria on 23rd St., NW, Washington, D.C., 4:56PM, April 19, 2010

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The problem is that the office manager (who is also my friend) is going away for two weeks starting this Thursday, and will be returning two ays after the next biweekly visit by the company accountant. The result would be to delay my getting paid until after May 17th (probably around May 20th).

This is, obviously, a ridiculous arrangement -- part of the ongoing farce of my daily life -- and I will go to the company head (it's a small firm so you can do stuff like that) and ask to be paid in a more timely manner. A month is simply too long to wait.

Upstairs room at the West End Library, Washington, D.C., 4:48PM, April 19, 2010. I was there today as part of the post-AU Census enumeration counting of forms. The actual enumeration is still not finished (see below).

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Ironically, if I do get paid the full $840 amount by Thursday and use my upcoming Census pay check to pay my May rent of $994 early, it will wipe out my money and have little for day-to-day expenses -- for my "life style" -- until next week and the next regular Census payment. It's so much better when you're on a regular pay schedule.

However, the temporary Census job as a group quarters enumerator too is highly convoluted and day-to-day uncertain. It is also probably ending this week, at least in its current form. I don't know if I will be asked to stay on as a residential follow-up enumerator for all of those folks who didn't answer their forms here in the District of Columbia.

The intersection of 23rd and M Streets, NW, Washington, D.C.,4:54PM, April 19, 2010

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I still have not finished up the American University enumeration. The dorm for which I am responsible had a self-enumeration response rate of 57 percent and I need to boost that to 100 percent by actually getting the info from the school itself. Our group went to AU last night that was timed for campus wide "mandatory" end-of-semester residence hall meetings. The response rate was so low because so many students just skipped those mandatory meetings. This is the nature of college.

This is a picture of Wakefield Hall located in the 2100 block of New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C., 5:37PM, April 9, 2010. This is another William C. Smith rental building located a block from where I live. This is also one of the last photos I took with my previous cellphone camera.

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Beyond all this and the bigger issue is that I really can't continue this whole life I've been leading for the past year. The ridiculous tax burden (see my April 15th entry) on such a low income is just that -- ridiculous. Of course, I don't see how I could actually leave to go to Florida to live with my dad.

Anyway, turning to the weather ... it was sunny and pleasantly cool today -- although the Sun is so strong that it is warm in full sunlight. It was really nice yesterday, all cloudy, breezy, and cool, but no rain showers. There is a chance of some rain midweek but we are still in a dry pattern and there is the real possibility of a hot, humid, but drought-dry summer.

Dusk along 16th Street, NW, between R and S Streets, NW, Washington, D.C., 8:06PM, April 16, 2010

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I'll refrain from any political commentary today, esp. given all ugly anniversaries associated with April 19th in that uniquely wacky American way, i.e. Janet Reno's Branch Davidian catastrophe.

Joe Conason had a nice column in Salon about how the Republican Senate leadership works, and the implications for when a GOP Senator would actually try to do something bipartisan, only to be required to turn on the very thing he/she helped put together.

Even better was a Salon interview with environmentalist Fred Pearce on the occasion of his new book The Coming Population Crash: And Our Planet's Surprising Future.

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Dramatic nighttime picture of the lightning-and-fire-laced ash clouds billowing from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in southern Iceland on April 17, 2010.

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A correction from my previous entry was on the pronunciation of the erupting Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. I have since corrected it in that entry. According to what the Icelandic linguist / translator named Erla Skuladottir who appeared on Good Morning America last Friday said, it is pronounced:

"EYE-a-fyat-la-jo-kuTL"

There are other versions of how to pronounce this word.

Another dramatic image of the erupting Icelandic volcano with an apocalyptic looking sky taken over the weekend.

It looks like there is some serious pressure to reopen some of the commercial passenger jet routes over Europe despite the volcanic ash -- which, by the way, may or may not have entered the stratosphere.

A friend of mine insists it has only gone into the upper troposphere. About the closed air space, I don't know if the air control authorities are being overly cautious or not. I just don't know enough about it.

The 0GMT (0Z) 20 April 2010 (or 8PM EDT 19 April 2010) forecast for ash concentrations over Europe as issued by Jorgan Brandt of the National Environmental Research Institute at Aarhus University in Denmark.

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I don't recall such widespread closures and disruptions when Mt. St. Helens erupted in 1980 -- which, even though I was 10 years old at the time -- I distinctly remember, including all the coverage of how the ash cloud was tracking across the country. I believe St. Helens' eruption sent ash into the upper troposphere rather than puncturing the stratosphere, which results in global / climatic effects.

Map of the ash fallout from Mt. St. Helens across the Lower 48 following the eruption of May 18, 1980.

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Here is what Kristof wrote me in an email about how quiet the skies over London have been the past week. He lives close to an approach into / out of Heathrow Airport:

"Anyway, the sky is completely quiet over London. This is unusual. I live just north of the approach path to Heathrow where a plane lands every 90 secs. Every time I look out the window there is an aircraft. Now nothing since last week. Also, the contrails are gone. There is always a thick network of contrails in various stages of entrainment / sublimation over London. You never really see clear sky. Now we do. No spectacular sunsets though. Not sure why."

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OK, I think I'll wrap up this entry now. My next planned entry will be around Friday.

--Regulus