Sunday, September 29, 2013

Novopangaea, Amasia, or Pangaea Proxima ...? Postulating Planet Earth's Next Supercontinent in 250Million Years (and the Intermediate Steps)

Above: One of the three leading contenders for how the next "super-continent" of Earth will look like 250 million years from now. The possibilities: Novopangaea; Amasia; and Pangaea Proxima (also called Pangaea Ultima).

Regardless the case, this is loooooonng after the human race has gone extinct, the species and its world-girdling, biosphere-altering civilization nothing more than a series of strange and disjointed fossilized remnants ... though maybe, just maybe, one or more of our descendent species will exist.

To be clear, even at 250M years hence, the Sun will not have increased its output to the point that the biosphere has collapsed, a runaway greenhouse in effect, and the oceans boiling off. That is more like 1 billion+ years from now.

The images are partially taken from Christopher R. Scotese's Paleomap Project, in particular, the whole Future Earth series(and related links).

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Pangaea, the comeback
20 October 2007
NewScientist.com news service
Caroline Williams
Ted Nield

Source here

It's the year 250,000,000 and Earth is alive and well. Humans have long since perished, but the planet is still home to a bewildering array of life forms. Yet apart from a few mysterious fossils there is no trace that we ever existed.

If we could visit this future Earth we would barely recognise it. The continents have crashed together to form a single gigantic supercontinent, surrounded by a global ocean. Much of the land is inhospitable desert, while the coast is battered by ferocious storms. The oceans are turbulent on the surface, stagnant at depth and starved of oxygen and nutrients. Disease, war, or asteroid collisions have pushed humans and many of the species we know today to extinction and competition has seen off all but the hardiest of the rest.

A possible view of Earth's continents and oceans 50 million years from now in a scenario on the way to the Pangaea Proxima (Ultima) scenario.

Africa has long since plowed into the underbelly of Europe (western Eurasia), sealing up the last vestiges of the Mediterranean Sea and thrusting up the Trans-Mediterranean Mountains from present-day Paris to the Middle East. The British Isles and northwestern Europe have migrated (rotating clockwise) closer to the North Pole while the Atlantic has continued to widen at the expense of the Pacific Ocean. Australia has migrated north-northeastward toward the equator. Antarctica has moved somewhat off the South Pole but is still mostly entombed in ice, though austral forest is slowly spreading southward on the South Atlantic side.

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This supercontinent isn't the first on Earth, and it won't be the last. Geologists now suspect that the movements of the Earth's continents are cyclical, and that every 500 to 700 million years they clump together. Unfolding over a period three times as long as it takes our solar system to orbit the centre of the galaxy, this is one of nature's grandest patterns. So what drives this cycle, and what will life be like next time the continents meet?

The continents move because of circulation in the Earth's mantle beneath the seven major tectonic plates. Where the plates meet, one is forced below the other in a process called subduction. This pulls apart the crust at the other side of the plate, allowing new molten rock to well up to the surface to fill the gap. This process means that oceanic crust is constantly being created and destroyed, but because the continents are made from less dense rock than the heavier and thinner oceanic crust that forms the ocean floor, they ride higher in the mantle and escape subduction.

North, Central, and South American 100 million years from now. This is a much warmer world with higher sea levels than even our present day one. It presupposes Greenland has mostly (or entirely) melted and possibly even parts of Antarctica. The Americas continue to move westward as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge has yet to be subducted into the Puerto Rico Trench.

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As a result, the continents hold their shape for hundreds of millions of years as they glide slowly around the planet. Inevitably, though, continents collide, and sometimes clump together to form a supercontinent.

The most recent, Pangaea, formed 300 million years ago and was already breaking up 100 million years later as the dinosaurs evolved. Some 1.1 billion years ago, another supercontinent, called Rodinia, formed, breaking up 250 million years later. Before that, another, and there were almost certainly many more still earlier, but since the formation of one supercontinent tends to destroy evidence of its predecessor, no one can be certain about exactly how many there have been.

What is generally agreed is that there have been two true supercontinents containing all or nearly all the land on Earth - Pangaea and Rodinia - and there may have been many more true or partial supercontinents, including Pannotia, Columbia, Kenorland and Ur (see Diagram -- at left).

Right now, we are halfway through a cycle. The Pacific is gradually closing, as oceanic crust sinks into subduction zones in the north Pacific, while the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is feeding out new ocean floor as the Americas move apart from Europe and Africa. Africa is moving northward, heading for the southern coast of Europe, while Australia is also on its way north towards south-east Asia. The continents are moving at about 15 millimetres per year - similar to the speed your fingernails grow.

Roll the clock forward 50 to 100 million years and it's easy to get a rough idea where things are going. But seeing further into the Earth's future takes more than just projection of the continents' current movements. Christopher Scotese of the University of Texas, Arlington, likens the problem to predicting your drive along a highway. "You can make a guess at where you're going to be in 5 or 10 minutes, but there are always accidents, people change lanes, or the road may diverge and you have to make a choice."

There are two main ways today's continents could fit together. If the Atlantic continues to widen, the Americas will eventually crash into Asia. Alternatively, a subduction zone might somehow open up in the Atlantic and reel the sea floor back in, forcing Europe and America back together. This would essentially re-create Pangaea.

In 1992 geologist Chris Hartnady, from the University of Cape Town in South Africa took up the challenge of "pre-constructing" the next supercontinent. As the Atlantic continues to widen, "the Americas, swinging clockwise about a pivot in north-eastern Siberia, seem destined to fuse with the eastern margin of the future supercontinent", which Harvard University geologist Paul Hoffman called "Amasia". In this vision of the future, Australia will continue northward while Africa stays more or less in its present position. Antarctica won't join the supercontinent, remaining at the South Pole. "It's not attached to any subduction zone so there is no reason for it to move," Hoffman says.

A possible view of parts of Asia in 100 million years . Japan doesn't really seem to exist anymore. The Himalayas have been partially worn away while new mountains have been lofted by the collision of Indonesia into Southeast Asia. Again, sea levels are substantially higher than today.

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Roy Livermore, now at the University of Cambridge, came to a similar conclusion. In the late 1990s he created his own version of Amasia - a future supercontinent he called Novopangaea. "I have taken the liberty of opening up a new rift between the Indian Ocean and the North Atlantic," he says. "We know the East African Rift is active, so we project that into the future by opening a small ocean. East Africa and Madagascar move across the Indian Ocean to collide with Asia; Australia has already collided with south-east Asia." South of what is now India, a mountain chain has risen from the sea along a new subduction zone. Just south of it is Antarctica.

A possible view of Africa in 100 million years: The rifting of East Africa is complete while  large portions of the present-day Congo basin and French West Africa have been inundated by shallow, tropical seas.  Africa itself has moved farther northward.

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In Livermore's future, all the present continents take part. "I don't believe Antarctica is going to stay at the pole," he says. "I want it to come north." For this to happen, he postulates a new subduction zone will open up to drag it that way. "The beauty of all this is that no one will ever be able to prove me wrong," he says.

That may be true, but other researchers disagree on how the future planet will look. Scotese has spent much of his career reconstructing where today's continents used to lie, and now applies this knowledge to project the continents into the future. He sees the planet's distant future very differently to Hoffman and Livermore.

Making mountains

Like them, he predicts that over the next 50 million years Africa will continue north, closing the Mediterranean and driving up a Himalayan-scale mountain range in southern Europe. Australia will rotate and collide with Borneo and south China. But 200 million years later, everything will change, he says. Subduction starts up on the west side of the Atlantic. The widening stops and the Atlantic begins to shrink, bringing most of the world's land masses back together as North America comes crashing into the merged Euro-African continent. Scotese originally called the resulting supercontinent Pangaea Ultima, but has recently renamed it Pangaea Proxima, meaning the next Pangaea. "The name Ultima bothered me because it implies that it's the last supercontinent," Scotese says. "This process will continue for another couple of billion years."

Europe and northern Africa in 100 million years in a scenario in which the Trans-Mediterranean Mountains are already beginning to wear away while a shallow inland sea has spread across much of the present-day Sahara Desert (itself located significantly farther north, outside the sub-tropical subsidence zones). The British Isles are much closer to the North Pole.

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He says a new Atlantic subduction zone could start if a small existing subduction zone, such as part of the Puerto Rico trench in the Caribbean, spread up and down the American coast as a result of changing stresses on the planet. Under the right circumstances, he says, the crust could start to tear along this line, signalling the beginning of the end for the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Today it lies halfway between Europe and the Americas, but "if we were to start subduction in either the western Atlantic or the eastern Atlantic, then the ridge would be forced to move toward the subduction zone", he says. "Eventually it would be subducted and we'd have an ocean with a subduction zone but no ridge. That means we close the ocean, and we close it pretty fast."

The Earth 150 million years from now in a Proxima Pangaea scenario: The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is in the process of being subducted into the Puerto Rico Trench. Antarctica and Australia have joined back up again (since the latter never actually moves that far to the northeast -- itself a contested scenario from the Amasia and Novopangaea ones). Northwestern Europe is about as close to the North Pole as it will get while Antarctica is only partially off the South Pole.

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For now there is nothing to show whose model is right, but what everyone agrees on is that life on the next supercontinent - however it forms - will be tough. "Supercontinents create extremes," says Paul Valdes, a climatologist at the University of Bristol, UK. We can tell what Pangaea's climate was like from geological evidence: the positions of climate-sensitive deposits such as coal, which originates in warm, wet conditions, for example, or the mineral deposits called evaporites that form when lake sediments dry out in a hot climate. This evidence can then be used to build computer models to forecast what the climate might be like in the future. The models that result suggest that supercontinents are prone to violently changing seasons.

Earth in 250 million years in the Pangaea Proxima scenario: The Atlantic Ocean has RAPIDLY closed up thanks to the subduction of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, again leaving the Pacific Ocean as the next Panthalassa. The Indian Ocean is a large but closed inland sea. North America has been drawn much closer to the Equator again -- and the sealing up of the Atlantic means that a future continental-collision Appalachian Mountains have been raised to Himalayan heights, the fossilized remnants of the Eastern Seaboard cities lofted up to the tops of this range.

NOTE: This is ONLY ONE of the possible scenarios.

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"In Pangaea, tropical latitudes could be quite hot, up to perhaps 44°C. Mid-latitudes had very hot summers with very cold winters when it could get down to -20 or -30 °C with very heavy snowfall," Valdes says. "In summer it would all melt, producing major flooding." Despite this, vast areas of the interior would have been dry, because rain clouds would not have been able to penetrate far inland. In such extreme climates, only a small proportion of the land could support life. On Pangaea, Valdes says, the best real estate was probably in a narrow zone just outside the tropics on the north coast of the Tethys Sea.

The vastness of the supercontinent's land mass will also provoke extreme weather. "Monsoons form because of temperature differences between the land and ocean. If you have a huge land mass, it warms up a lot and stimulates a mega-monsoon," Valdes says.

The next supercontinent's weather could be even worse. If the supercontinent happens to form at the end of an active volcanic phase, leaving behind an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide and a warmer planet, warm surface waters could drive extreme hurricanes or "hypercanes". These huge weather systems, thousands of kilometres across and some 50 per cent stronger than today's strongest hurricanes, would batter the landscape with wind speeds of more than 400 kilometres per hour.

Screenshot from the episode of "The Future Is Wild: Tropical Antarctica"  featuring what Antarctica may be like 100 million years from now.

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Life will also be difficult in the oceans. The global conveyor system of currents that keeps today's oceans oxygenated and stocked with essential nutrients depends on the size and shape of the ocean basins, and therefore the positions of the continents. Move the continents and these conveyors could cease to exist. As a result, below a few hundred metres the waters will become stratified and anoxic, and little will be able to survive.

Antarctica today: Entombed in ice.

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A possible future Antarctica: Antarctica covered in lush austral temperate and even tropical forests 100 million years hence.

This is the Amasia scenario as portrayed in the episode of "The Future is Wild" featuring a possible Tropical Antarctica 100 million years from now. However, based on the New Scientist article, this is actually a hybrid of the Amasia and Novopangaea scenarios since Antarctica has moved off the pole to a tropical location even while the Pacific Ocean has sealed up and the Atlantic become the new Panthalassa.

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The reef-fringed coasts close to the equator will be full of life, but even here life won't be easy. As the continents crowd together, there will be a vast reduction in the area of shallow seas that will probably lead to a mass extinction as species from all over the world are thrown together and forced to compete. Something similar will happen on land. The formation of Pangaea has been implicated in the greatest species loss of all time, the Permian mass extinction, due in part to the huge reduction in available habitats.

Life has a knack of making the best of new situations, however. As Pangaea formed and the southern icecaps melted 290 million years ago, there emerged perhaps the Earth's eeriest ever ecosystem. Dense forests of now-extinct Glossopteris trees stood up to 25 metres tall on the southern coast of the Tethys Sea and stretched inland to within 20 degrees of the South Pole.

Despite having only a summer of feeble light to sustain them, they were able to survive months of unremitting winter darkness. Trees close to the coast were lashed by mega-monsoon winds and rains roaring in from the Tethys, with thick cloud obscuring the already weak sunshine. As winter approached, Glossopteris's tongue-like leaves would fall to the oxygen-starved peat before six months of total darkness. Not surprisingly, analysis of fossilised growth rings shows that Glossopteris grew frenetically when it could.

The previous iteration of Pangaea 200 million years ago with present-day political boundaries.

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Whatever life has to cope with on the next supercontinent, humans won't be around to see it. The next supercontinent is no more than a glint in the planet's eye, but already it has valuable lessons to teach us: clever we may be, but the Earth marches on, with or without us.

From issue 2626 of New Scientist magazine, 20 October 2007, page 36-40

For the latest from New Scientiist visit www.newscientist.com

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-Regulus

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Jukebox Saturday Night Entry for Sept. 28th, 2013: "Is It Over Yet?" Edition


"It Ain't Over 'til It's Over" by Lenny Kravitz, (Mama Said release, 1991)

I just wrote a little bit about Lenny Kravitz in my 9/27 entry.

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"Hello" by Martin Solveig and Dragonette, Smash release (2011)

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George Jinda performing "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)", Between Dreams album (2005)

The song (with lyrics) was performed originally by The Temptations and released in January 1971 -- and zoomed to number 1 for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.

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OK, that's all for now. I may update the blog tomorrow night.

--Regulus

On Italian Villas and GOP Crazy Houses

**This entry was posted September 28, 2013.**

The famous Villa del Balbianello in the Comune di Lenno on Lake (Perry?) Como in the Italian Alps of northern Italy. (No, this isn't the villa I reference below in the entry ...)

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This entry turned into a longer one than I anticipated. I only have a handful of disjointed images that are mostly meant to break up the text.

For starters, I shall refrain from any discussion of the ongoing GOP manufactured crisis in Washington over the budget and the debt limit except to say we continue to careen toward a Federal Government shutdown on Tuesday of unspecified duration even while the much scarier possibility looms of a debt limit breach, a wholly unnecessary event that potentially could be so cataclysmic I simply don't see how it can be allowed to happen. Obama would have to assume emergency powers. It simply can't happen.

This is a suitable image for the situation we face. (This image is also useful for entries about "HG" but that's not a topic in this one.)

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But we are also at a point where this situation has morphed into a possible Constitutional crisis as a cohort of neo-Confederate Republican radicals are threatening to alter the balance of power between the executive and legislative branch by using outright extortion tactics -- threatening to blow up the world, as it were -- if they don't get their way in the form of President Obama surrendering on his signature health care law achievement. But Obama simply cannot do that -- even if it means a debt limit breach. 


These loony neo-Confederate Jacobins are facilitated and fueled by the rightwing media / entertainment complex and enabled by what is (as former Pres. Clinton described on Piers Morgan's show this past week) one party rule in severely gerrymandered districts even as this group is in a demographic death spiral.

I imagine that The WaHoPo editorial board and the Washington Consensus Central courtiers -- with their inability to recognize good versus depravity and their obsession with "process" and (to quote Paul Krugman) "Views Differ on Shape of Earth" false equivalency journalism -- can still find the "subtle nuance" of the GOP position and urge "a bipartisan approach" to make the world safe for corporate oligarchy and Wall Street crooks.

Platform of the Rockville Metro, Rockville, Md., 10:23PM September 27, 2013.

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At this point, it may be the case that the agency for which I work as a Federal contractor (through a private company) may in fact remain partially open. In addition, my company would continue to operate for the time being. I have initiated a preliminary step to taking out a 401k loan if necessary if I were furloughed (since my company could not keep me on for an extended period solely on overhead).

Updated 425PM 9/29/2013: Actually, this may overstate the case concerning how much of the agency would operate. It may just be a tiny part of it. As it is, I estimate that after 1 to 2 weeks of shutdown, I would be furloughed.

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I'm home right now in my dimly lit, air-conditioned wee little efficiency. I just made dinner -- enough for two portions -- in the form of two bags worth of that Tyson grilled steak strips, an onion, and some mushrooms along with two bags of boiled rice and steamed broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower. Everything got mixed into the big pan at the end.

It came out quite tasty.

At this precise moment, I am listening to the RCN channel 891 music choice easy listening channel -- John Gregory's rendition of My Cherie Amour. But it's time to switch over to Me TV and watch the "Sci-Fi Saturday Night" line-up on MeTV of Lost in Space, the original Star Trek, and the Svengoolie-hosted monster movie. I think tonight's movie is The Leech Woman.

I had a strenuous gym workout over at my YMCA National Capital after a three-day hiatus including a 5.5 mile / 778 calorie / almost 1 hour jog climbing the equivalent of 1,042 feet; about 50 minutes of weight-lifting; and about a 25 minute swim. My weight was actually a whisker under 145 pounds on the big scale in the locker room, a new low since I rejoined the gym 15 months ago. Now yesterday at my doctor's appt., I weighed 150 pound on that scale, though I had some clothes on.

The pedestrian bridge over Rockville Pike between the Rockville Metro and the courthouse / town square area, 10:24PM September 27, 2013.

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We continue to be in a completely dry and shitty pattern with temps in the 70s F for highs forecasted to rise into the lower 80s F by midweek. There is no flippin' sign of rain anywhere in the foreseeable forecast future (at least 7 days out). We are quickly entering drought conditions.

Two-month areal precipitation and departures from average for Maryland, the District, parts of Virginia, and Delaware, 7/27 - 9/24/2013.

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I'm sure the CWG weather weenies are thrilled over this as is the Palka-Cabra Creature and Drool Hill. There has actually been an east northeasterly flow the past few days with periods of cloudiness as the oceanic air mass banks up against the Blue Ridge, but there has been no rain, no mist, no fog.

There is a low off the East Coast but it should remain well offshore and keep us in a dry subsidence zone. In short, there isn't the slightest chance it would approach the coast.

Yours truly at the Friendship Heights Metro, Washington, D.C., 10:01PM September 27, 2013.

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I'm not really sure what to do tonight. I spent way too much money last night as part of that trek up to Rockville even while having in the end a crummy time. I headed up to Rockville from Friendship Heights after my evening doctor's appt. in Chevy Chase and an hour stop at Chad's (formerly Chadwicks's). While there sitting at the bar, I had some dinner and drinks and a really good conversation with a real estate agent named Gene who by the end was insisting that I am two or three friends take him up on his offer to stay at his villa in Italy near Lucca.

Speaking of Lucca, Italy, here is a picture of it I found online.

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As for the doctor's appt., I was given a prescription for Sumatriptan Succinate (that is, Imitrex). The filled prescription included only four but up to four refills.

OK, that's all for now. I intend to post a Saturday night musical interlude entry.

--Regulus

Friday, September 27, 2013

Bicycles and Bars; the Late Roxie Roker and the Great Marquesas Islands; Forgettable Tuscana West; and Al Bundy's Church of NO MA'AM

An older, very happy tourist couple gadding about Washington, D.C., as seen at the corner of 7th St. and Constitution Avenue NW, 11:03AM September 26, 2013.

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OK, it's a late night, though not crazy-late as my blog entries are occasionally. And I am rather happy in that NOT ONLY was I able to get my bicycle fixed rather quickly -- at The Bike Rack on Q Street NW -- but I was able to bike to work rather quickly (approx. 22 minutes) and park it safely there for a number of hours. Then I biked back around 620PM to No. 9, where I met AP. She is such a dear friend of mine. Oh, yes, and the bicycle WASN'T STOLEN but was STILL WHERE I LOCKED IT when I departed along P Street. Imagine that. Thank You, God. No, really.

Globe-hopping / world travelling Bartender A. was working. I had a nice conversation with him the other night about the following (in rapid-order): Spirituality, faith, the late actress Roxie Roker (Lenny Kravitz's mom), the Marquesas Islands, and Pitcairn Island.

Screenshot of Lenny Kravitz and his mom, the late Roxie Roker, on "The Arsenio Hall Show" in September or October 1991. YouTube link here. She was so proud of him.

Of note, I posted this Jan. 15, 2012 entry (GOD, I was FAT) that included an interview of Lenny Kravitz on Piers Morgan's show back in December 2011.

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Quoting the late, great George Page on the Marquesas Islands: "POWERFUL BEAUTY."  This is Hiva Oa.

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Thereafter, I went to Larry's Lounge where I later met up with Gary and Kristof, and had a conversation with Mark D. and one of his friends -- Jay -- whom I met about a thousand years ago when he lived in the Cairo (actually, around 1998 -- it just FEELS like a thousand years ago) and let me go to the rooftop of that building with its spectacular view.

Shrubbery at the corner of S and 15th Street NW (technically, the yard of 1444 S Street NW), Washington, D.C., 10:40AM September 26, 2013.

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Anyway, I am home now at this late hour and ready to go to bed ... Even though I have to spend about 2 to 3 hours finishing up the geothermal technical working paper series glossary.

Al Bundy in the Church of NO MA'AM (the "National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood" -- ha ha)

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Oh, yes, I skipped the gym last night and tonight -- and will do so again tomorrow (Friday) night before going on Saturday and maybe Sunday and/or Sunday. I was so wiped out exhausted the past few days but now I feel as though I've over-indulged big time. (I was so damn hungry yesterday.) In short, I've been eating like crazy. Of note, earlier this week I hit an all-time record low weight of 146 pounds since I rejoined the gym in June 2012.

1435 Street NW, Washington D.C., 11:09AM September 25, 2013.

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OK, that's all for now. I have a doctor's appt. at 7PM (yes, 7PM) in Chevy Chase, Md., tomorrow at the MedStar facility on Wisconsin Avenue. Thereafter, I may go to Imara's birthday party event, which AP is having in Rockville starting at an outdoor concert. If so, I won't be updating this blog until Saturday.

Oh, wait ... I forgot to mention ...

A lamp in the far corner of the front bar at Tuscana West restaurant, Washington, D.C., 8:35PM September 25, 2013.

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And, yes, I wanted to post terrific headline from Talking Points Memo about White House reply to the latest, greatest neo-Confederate GOP Teabagger take-America-hostage / threaten-to-blow-up-everything if their unappeasable demands aren't met ... 

This is the White House's response (as given through senior White House aide Dan Pfeiffer on Jake Tapper's CNN show). At this point, I say just go ahead default -- ENOUGH with the GOP Teabagger insanity. Enough is enough. Or better yet, just mint that trillion dollar coin.

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Last (Wednesday) night, I went to Tuscana West for dinner. The meal was good but the bartender / waiter was kind of crappy -- and this was all the more disappointing because he had been so nice the last time I was there about five or six months ago. I am not going to go there again -- that was a waste of $70 -- but the good news is that in the purgatory that is D.C., there is no end of places to go.

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at dusk at 1313 New York Avenue NW, Washington, D.C., 7:31PM September 25, 2013.

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OK, that really is all for now. My next planned update will be Saturday evening.

--Regulus

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Photo Recap of Sunday Bicycle Ride; Jonathan Chait on GOP's Anti-Obamacare Fanaticism; and Yours Truly on CWG's "Anti-Weather" Blogging

The sweeping view to the east across Old Town Alexandria and into Prince George's County, Md., as seen from the base of the steps of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Va.., 6:11PM September 22, 2013. It was a lovely first day of fall.

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I am posting this after around 2AM on Wednesday morning. I wrote the bulk of it on Monday night / after midnight Tuesday, but it just got too late to post. I completed it on Tuesday night / after midnight Wednesday. This entry contains some of the pictures I took on my Sunday bicycle ride that I discussed in brief in my Monday morning entry. It includes two that I posted in that entry. The post itself contains a separate discussion, although the photo captions more or less describe the bike ride.

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The Sun shines through a mottled stratocumulus cloud deck as seen from the East Falls Church Metro, Arlington, Va., 4:46PM September 22, 2013. As I mentioned, I tried to take the picture at the exact moment of the autumnal equinox this year -- 4:44PM EDT -- but I just missed it.  Taking into account standard "Sun" time versus "daylight savings" time, I estimate that the midpoint of the solar disk transited the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere for the start of the austral spring around 130W somewhere over the Pacific Ocean (about 800 miles to the NE of the Marquesas Islands).

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Clouds and sunlight and trees along Sycamore Street, Arlington, Va., 4:50PM September 22, 2013.

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The following was written on Monday night. I will update it at the end with some additional Tuesday night content ...

I'm exhausted tonight so I'm not really going to post much content -- even though there are some things I'd like to post and discuss, most notably this astonishingly good piece by Jonathan Chait on exactly why the GOP / VRWC is worked up into such a mouth-foaming frenzy over "Obamacare" and the guerrilla / scorched-earth tactics it is employing to undermine it -- all the way up to the craziest of the Teabagger crazies (and the megalomaniacal impresario Ted Cruz) threatening / seeking / demanding US Government shutdown and default to stop it.

Four Mile Run near East Falls Church Park at the border of Arlington and Falls Church, Va., 4:52PM September 22, 2013.

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The piece is "The Plot to Kill Obamacare" and it appears in New York Magazine and it is so good that I can't really post excerpts of it. It is a disturbing reality but -- and the fanaticism only grows precisely along with the change -- "threat" -- that the law (serious implementation issues aside) might actually work in insuring America's millions upon millions of uninsured people. (Chait writes for New York Magazine and contributes to its Daily Intelligencer blog.)

A section of Four Mile Run bicycle trail in Arlington, Va., 4:55PM September 22, 2013. This is not far from the East Falls Church Metro and it is rather confusing because the Custis, W&OD, and Four Mile Run Trails all sort of run in parallel -- the latter two intertwined -- for a while.

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Chait is to political analysis for me what Paul Krugman is to economic writing these days.) Deep in the Fox News / rightwing Hate Radio Bubble, there is a completely altered / inverted reality in which the law is a Socialist / Marxist monstrosity written by Satan himself, designed to extinguish freedom and eventually bring about nothing short of genocide (these people are nuts), and every day the law is failing catastrophically but -- Emmanuel Goldstein-style -- never actually goes away, and resistance to which is (in a weird bit of neo-Confederate GOP irony) is akin to the work of the Abolitionists).

A house -- 6100-something -- on Ohio Street at 12th Rd. N. in Arlington, Va., 4:57PM September 22, 2013. This looked like a cozy, conservative house with an American flag prominently hanging outside (not visible in this image).

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Let's never forget that the original idea of providing subsidies through the tax code for individuals to purchase health insurance from for-profit health insurance companies was a REPUBLICAN idea during the last go-around in the failed Clinton health insurance reform effort of 1993 - 1994. Or that Obamacare is basically a version of Mitt Romney's Romneycare in Massachusetts.

The big pedestrian / biker bridge that flies over the quarter-mile's worth of spans of I-395 in the Shirlington part of Arlington, Va., 5:35PM September 22, 2013. Alexandria is on the other side of the bridge.

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As for that GOP bubble reality, unlike a specific and dramatic event such the 2012 reelection of Barack Obama, there is no single "catastrophic" event to puncture their reality -- indeed, as Chait notes: "The final, decisive stage of the Obamacare wars is one in which perception can ­create its own reality. The predictions of a train wreck are intended to precipitate one."

Martha Custis Drive, Alexandria, Va., September 22, 2013

I now recall that I spent a Thanksgiving or an Easter (can't recall which) in one of the apartments along here (opposite side as the picture) back circa 1998. It was the house of a sweet little old lady who was the mother of this guy Ray, who was one of the nutty, neurotic rightwing Catholic libertarians with whom I used to associate back then because of Tim. I had forgotten I was ever there. She was so nice. I was so argumentative with Ray. I was an idiot. He was just a nut. I understand she died a few years ago. (I was going to try to have a rapprochement with Ray but when I heard that, I opted not to.)

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The law itself is actually turning out to be a lot more "progressive" in its implementation than the way liberals viewed it when it was passed -- owing to the fact that it contained no public option and instead maintained the basic structure of America's for-profit health insurance system. However, it is turning out to be a far more complex and potentially wonderful web of innovation, cost-savings, and most importantly affordable insurance to those without it.

A stretch of the very pleasant residential street called Timber Branch Parkway in Alexandria, Va., 5:50PM September 22, 2013. In all my years in the D.C. area, I had never even heard of Timber Branch Parkway, much less been on it.

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But so much remains to be done in the implementation and the Republican guerrilla warfare against it at the state and Federal level is tremendous. The "legal" intimidation tactics against those who would help in the implementation have been ugly -- including against the "Navigators" who would help explain the law to the uninsured -- and why the Justice Department isn't involved on THIS one is a good question (it gets involved on everything else).

Ivy Mike Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, Va., 5:54PM September 22, 2013 

Timber Branch Parkway dead ends at Ivy Hill Cemetery. There is a fence around it, but a narrow zigzag access path into the cemetery. I walked the bike respectfully through the cemetery.

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The vast ignorance about the law across America -- esp. among those it is supposed to help -- is also helping the GOP, although the Obama side is trying to get out the word including with social media efforts (a bit GOP effort is to dissuade young, healthy, uninsured people from signing up to create the "death spiral" for the exchanges). I would like to note -- indeed, give a positive "shout out" (even though I hate that term) -- to Katy Perry for tweeting to her 42 million followers this month that the health insurance exchanges will come into existence (even if not fully running) on October 1st.

Another view in Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria, Va., 6:00PM September 22, 2013. This is the full version of the close-up cropped one I posted on Monday morning with the dark "HENRY" headstone in the middle of the other headstones.

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OK, I said I wouldn't post an excerpt but this is just too good to pass up:

"...Obamacare has come to fill the place in the conservative psyche once occupied by communism and later by taxes: the main point of doctrinal agreement. (In constituent meetings, 'this is the overriding issue that is being discussed,' one Republican member of Congress explained late last month. 'Way more than immigration, way more than the debt.') The transformation of Obamacare from a close relative of Republicans' own health-care ideas to the locus of evil in modern life is owing to several things, including the almost tautological political fact that its success would be Obama’s: Permanent health-care reform would define Obama as a Reaganesque transformative figure, rather than the failure conservatives still hope him to be remembered as. The law’s slow rollout has made it a live issue, unlike the already-expired stimulus, and thus the main receptacle for simmering concerns over unemployment and the tepid economic recovery.

Most important, the law has, in its direct impact, opened a fissure over the role of government deeper than any since the New Deal. Obamacare threatens America’s unique status among advanced economies as a country where access to regular medical care is a privilege that generally must be earned."

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A rolling series of yards along King Street, Alexandria, Va., 6:02PM September 22, 2013.

There are some really expensive houses on either side of King Street with spectacularly views to the north and northeast of D.C. I caught a glimpse of the U.S. Capitol dome gleaming white in the low-angled sunlight about 6 miles away.

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As an update this Tuesday night (wee hours Wednesday morning), the GOP Bubble's latest megalomaniacal showman, Senate Ted Cruz, is into hour 10 of a fake filibuster in the Senate even as there are new threats of shutdown possibilities. Cruz first contrasted his efforts to the failure of appeasing the Nazis in 1939. Then he read part of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. All the cable channels -- including liberal MSNBC -- insisting on endlessly showing their "Cruz Cams" (replete with tiresome puns on "Cruz Control") of his talk-a-thon.

A large house of some sort along King Street (2200 block, I think) and at the intersection of, I think, Highland Place, Alexandria, Va., 6:03PM September 22, 2013.

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Changing subjects ...

I had a decently productive day at work on Monday. In addition, I went to the gym tonight where I had a regular / full workout -- 5 mile / approx. 745 calorie / 56 minute jog (with cool down) climbing the equivalent on the treadmill incline of 1,063 feet (if the numbers are accurate); an hour of light-to-moderate weightlifting; and a half hour swimming in the pool -- all at the YMCA National Capital where I spend those nights when I'm not drinking in a bar or home watching TV.

That's my life, dear Reader.

The evening blue sky mottled with stratocumulus clouds above the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Va., 6:14PM September 22, 2013.

AP pointed out to me something I never realized: This memorial is basically in the form of the Lighthouse (Pharos) of Alexandria of ancient Egypt.

Of note, I had dragged the bicycle up the grassy incline from King Street to the base of the Memorial, where some event was letting out and people were driving away.

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I weighed myself tonight (Monday night) at the gym and was 146 pounds -- a new low since I began my gym routine in late June 2012. This is in my bathing trunks on the big scale in the locker room before going into the pool. This is down 37.5 pounds from my first post-workout weigh-in on June 23rd, 2012 at 183.5 pounds and including muscle mass gain and loss of fat is easily 40 pounds.

The marina at Old Town Alexandria, Va., 8:07PM, September 22, 2013

I had just had a very nice steak dinner at the bar at Virtue Feed & Grain in Old Town, along with a nice conversation with a fellow named David who lives in Prince William County down near Woodbridge and who was waiting for a lady date (except he mentioned he had a brother-in-law ...). He explained to me the whole concept of "slugging / slug lines" as he does every day heading inbound to his job in downtown D.C. (he takes a bus home). Anyway, I had just started out on my bike trek back into D.C. on the Mount Vernon trail at night.

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I don't want to keep harping on these numbers since my goal is NOT to keep losing weight. Ideally, I'd like to get to about 140 pounds -- where I was back in late 2003 -- but I'm fine with where I am now. I would like to put on a bit more muscle at the expense of lingering belly fat but that is very hard to do. I would have to undertake a lifestyle change in the form of not drinking liquor or more systematic dietary change, or start doing more serious weightlifting. But I'm not inclined to do those things, so there you have it.

A blurry nighttime view of D.C. -- including the scaffolding-covered illuminated Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol and Nationals Stadium -- as seen from the Mt. Vernon bicycle trail somewhere in Alexandria, Va., just south of National Airport, 8:30PM September 22, 2013.

The broken overcast was wanly illuminated by the glow of the lights of D.C., which along with the trail dashed lines made it possible to dimly see some distance ahead. There was also a cool breeze blowing and it was just sublime. I stopped briefly at Gravelly Point -- at the exact point lined up with the main runway at National Airport. The lights were spectacular -- not just the terminal lights and the runway lights stretching to a strange singularity but also a shifting cluster of jets on upriver approach to DCA. They reminded me of that scene in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" at Devil's Tower. One just took off and roared overhead on the upriver takeoff. I then continued on my way, weaving way around a group of four young men on the path.

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OK, that ends the Monday night portion of my update. It is now Tuesday -- or rather, Wednesday just after midnight -- and I'll a bit of extra content.

Today was an OK at work including being reasonably productive, especially toward the end of the day. There were some partial reassurances about what will happen in the event of a Federal Gov't shutdown next week. I then went to the gym, except I was really tired. I managed to get in a full 5 mile jog (700+ calorie / climbing the equivalent of 996 feet over 56 minutes) but the weight-lifting and swimming were rather abbreviated (half hour and barely 15 minutes, respectively). I will be taking Wednesday night off and may not go again until Saturday, though I'll try to go Thursday night.

I met Gary briefly at Larry's Lounge before getting home around 1120PM. Tomorrow morning, I need to wheel my bike with its totally flat front tire to The Bike Rack, and hopefully it can be fixed with minimal trouble by the weekend.

The pedestrian / bike lane on the George Mason span of the 14th Street Bridge with a view into D.C. including the scaffolding-covered and illuminated Washington Monument, 9:01PM September 22, 2013.

Up the Potomac a couple miles away, the skyscrapers of Rosslyn looked especially stunning at night -- and its skyline has definitely gotten larger and more expansive.

My flat tire occurred at 16th and K Street, so I was within a mile of home.

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OK, that's all for now.

Oh, yes, I do want to mention that I checked in at The Washington Post's online Capital Weather Gang for the first time in about 10 days ...

It is astonishing -- and disappointing -- to see how Jason Samenow -- who really should know better -- has been using his perch to opine about "how great" has been this endless string of sunny, dry days (such as the current lead entry "YOU CANNOT DENY THIS IS THE BEST WEATHER OF ALL TIME!" -- he didn't quite say that but that was basically the sentiment).

Inexplicably, he is being kind of obnoxious about it, and intentionally so in hectoring Ted Cruz-style -- the aim being to get comments and create buzz -- and yet for a variety of reasons he should know better.

After all, he's not Sue "Snake Eyes" Palka nor drooling Doug Hill playing to a totally and proudly clueless American TV audience that doesn't know a high pressure from a smiley face or positive vorticity advection from Miss America's waist size, let alone interpretations of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice trends from last night's Powerball numbers.

ECMWF run from earlier on Tuesday 9/24/2013 valid at hour 144 / 0Z September 30, 2013 showing 850 mb (hPa) windspeed and MSLP pressure.

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But I want to note that the ECMWF -- as well as (according to Gary) the in-house NASA GSFC GMAO model -- is showing a big mid-Atlantic coastal hybrid tropical / extratropical storm on Sunday night (see above image). (There was a CWG entry about this on Tuesday by the same Jason Samenow. Sterling LWX hasn't dared mention it yet since it screws up WOODY!'s September/October FAV weather paradigm.)

We'll see.

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OK, that's really all for now. My next planned update will either be Thursday late night or Saturday during the day.

--Regulus