Thursday, April 28, 2011

"Journey Into the Whirlwind..." *

*With profound apologies to Yevgenia Ginzburg (b. Dec. 20, 1904 – d. May 25, 1977)

My shadow on a barrier wall of L'Enfant Promenade as it passes over the VRE/Amtrak/CSX train tracks with the U.S. Capitol Building about a mile away, 6:42PM, April 28, 2011.


OK, I wasn't going to update this blog until the weekend, but I had to acknowledge the devastating and stunningly deadly tornadoes that ripped through five states, in particular Alabama on Wednesday, killing at 300 people (maybe more) and causing massive destruction in places. This is the worst tornado outbreak in terms of fatalities since the April 3 - 4, 1974 "Super Outbreak."

No stormy weather here: Another picture taken this sunny early evening as I walked across the National Mall with the U.S. Capitol in the distance, 6:53PM, April 28, 2011.

I walked home from work on a pleasant, sunny, windy April evening. I walk home maybe once every two weeks. It's a two mile jaunt back to U and 16th Streets, NW.


An image of the tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa, Ala., April 27, 2011.


I felt it important to update this blog to note the devastating and startlingly deadly was this tornado outbreak -- now on par with the April 3 - 4, 1974 "Super Outbreak" in terms of numbers of twisters and fatalities. (FYI: I MAY have a dim memory at the age of 4, living in New Jersey, as the front passed through with powerful thunderstorms and talk of tornadoes in the air, so to speak.)

Image of The New York Times online interactive map showing the tornadoes that struck between April 21 - 28, 2011 with most hitting on April 27th.

As you can see from the map -- which covers the period of the 21st - 28th -- there were a few (small) tornadoes in the D.C. area, south and east of the District proper, on the 27th.


The map is actually linked from this New York Times article. (I'm nearing my 20 article per month limit to free articles under the NYT's online access policy. Fortunately, no, Thank GOD, this does not seem to apply to Paul Krugman's NYT-hosted blog.)

For comparison, here the (hand drawn) map of the 1974 Super Outbreak. This outbreak had at least 148 tornadoes during the two-day height of it (April 3 - 4) and killed 315 to 330 people.


In the end, here in the Washington / Baltimore area had only scattered t-storms and officially almost no rain, although Dulles Airport managed to get over 1.5" of rain in two downpours. For updated precip total, see below at the frog rain gauge image.

New York Times online front page as of 10:13PM EDT, April 28, 2011 with news of the tornado outbreak prominently featured.


A paragraph in an Associated Press article captured the essence of how bewilderingly deadly this outbreak of tornadoes was across parts of the South. (Updated 8:35AM 4/29/2011: The wording of the paragraph was changed in the above link because of some idiot editor, but the original is below.)

"The death toll from Wednesday's storms seems out of a bygone era, before Doppler radar and pinpoint satellite forecasts were around to warn communities of severe weather. Residents were told the tornadoes were coming up to 24 minutes ahead of time, but they were just too wide, too powerful and too locked onto populated areas to avoid a horrifying body count."


Some additional pictures of the devastation, in particular in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, that I found online (especially from The New York Times web pages) ...

Aerial view of the devastation along 15th Street in the Cedar Crest and Forest Lake sections of Tuscaloosa, Ala., April 28, 2011 (the day after the tornadoes struck).


Another image of the devastation wrought along 15th Street in Tuscaloosa, Ala., as seen the day after on April 28, 2011.


Residents of Pratt City just outside Birmingham, Ala., survey the damage left by the tornado that struck their community on April 27, 2011.


Another image of the complete destruction wrought by the Tuscaloosa, Ala., tornado on April 27, 2011. This surely must have been at least an EF4.


Chase Spradlin comforts Judy Cook, whose home was destroyed in the tornado that struck Concord (west of Birmingham), Ala., on April 27, 2011.


Rescuers carry Eleanor Stubbs from the wreckage of her apartment, Conway, Ala., after the April 27, 2011 tornado.


Glenda Dillshaw removes debris from her bed in her destroyed home, Pleasant Grove (near Birmingham), Ala., after the April 27, 2011 tornado.


Andy Page in the wreckage of his apartment with his cat (who, I believe, was not hurt), Trenton, Ga., April 28, 2011.


Some additional scenes from the same weather system ...

A lightning-laced violent thunderstorm at stormy dusk near Vicksburg, Miss., April 27, 2011. This was part of the same weather system that spawned the tornadic outbreak.

Flooding rains in Horn Lake, Miss., just south of Memphis, Tenn., outside a convenience store with an intriguing looking whirlpool.


Here a young man climbs a levee wall in Cairo, Ill., to peer over at the cresting flood waters. The same weather system brought flooding rains to parts of the Midwest.


Updated area precipitation totals

As noted already, in the end, the Washington / Baltimore area didn't get that much rain at all, or rather it was quite scattered and missed the two of the three airport regional airport recording stations.

Here are the numbers valid through midnight April 29th (11:59PM April 28), 2011.

Month: 3.20" +0.63" (2.57")
Year: 11.97" -0.04" (12.01")

Month: 3.52" +0.74" (2.78")
Year: 13.86" +0.66" (12.20")

Month: 5.21" +2.23" (2.98")
Year: 14.36" +2.01" (12.35")

Note 1: National Airport (DCA) clicked below normal on YTD precip today.

Note 2: Dulles Airport (IAD) had 1.33" on the 27th so the two-day total was 1.65". By contrast, National and BWI Airport (BWI) both only had 0.04" over two days.


(Another) Political Commentary Detour...

Quotable quote:

"The US's problems are real; there is a fork in the road. It took searing depression to break the self-delusion in the 1930s. It may take disaster again to disabuse the American majority of the idea that the motley crew – Palin, Trump, Murdoch and Fox News, Paul Ryan, US bankers and shock jocks – are not on the side of reason. Until then, beware. A superpower that has lost its grip on reality is very dangerous indeed."

-- Will Hutton (former editor-in-chief of The Observer) in an April 24, 2011 column in the UK Guardian


Reposted from previous entry ...

A fascinating article appeared on Yahoo finance news about the impending economic eclipse of the United States by China by 2016 based on on real economic data known as purchasing power parity (PPP). The author Brett Arend is a columnist for MarketWatch and the Wall Street Journal. He quoted a professor describing the difference between the Chinese and U.S. economic paradigms in place:

"'There are two systems in collision,' said Ralph Gomory, research professor at NYU's Stern business school. 'They have a state-guided form of capitalism, and we have a much freer former of capitalism.' What we have seen, he said, is 'a massive shift in capability from the U.S. to China. What we have done is traded jobs for profit. The jobs have moved to China. The capability erodes in the U.S. and grows in China. That's very destructive. That is a big reason why the U.S. is becoming more and more polarized between a small, very rich class and an eroding middle class. The people who get the profits are very different from the people who lost the wages.'"

I am repeating this because I want to add to that picture -- and speaking of the British, except it is a very different perspective -- the views of one Sebastian Mallaby.

Who is that?

Mallaby is a former Washington Post editorial writer (the unsigned pure shitty ones that represent the opinion of "the newspaper," i.e. the Graham Family Evil Empire) and columnist.

Mallaby is also a truly awful British Tory pseudo - intellectual and moral gigolo who long ago found a comfortable corporate brothel roost here in the Capital of the Empire.

Currently, he is ensconced in the Council on Foreign Relations (this is his mugshot from there)-- where he spends his days coming up with bogus intellectual justifications for whatever monstrous corporate crimes the ruling oligarchical overclass seeks to commit or is already committing with impunity, including whatever war of aggression the Empire is set to wage (as long as other poor peoples' kids go off to fight and be maimed or die in them).

Here he was slightly younger when he was at The WaHoPo in the halcyonic 1990s.

It is here in D.C. that Mallaby and the rest of the elite D.C. pundit crowd engage in the daily circle jerk of neocon imperialism and (to my original point for mentioning him) "Free Trade" fundamentalism.

That term is ALWAYS just a code phrase for the most vicious form of destruction of the American economy into a tiny corporate oligarchical financial - information and entertainment overclass versus a debt-enslaved, no-benefits, just-drop-dead working "service economy" underclass (in the way that the Gomory quote above suggests).

In many ways, he IS the face of what was done -- in the name not of some Ayn Rand bullshit but of a "utopian" nightmare "post-historical free market borderless corporate capitalist" dystopia -- to the American nation and its working class in the past 50 years.

Mallaby, why don't you just go back to England and try to ruin everything there instead of here for a change.


The diagram applies equally to the rightwing GOP crowd, or to the D.C. pundit Beltway Circle Jerk crowd.


OK, that's about all for now. I won't be updating this blog in all likelihood until Monday. My weekend plans are indeterminate at this point but I'll recount whatever they are. I also have a dentist and doctor appointment on Monday.

The building at 1717 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 7:43PM, April 28, 2011.

I was walking home and as nearly there at this point.

OK, that really is all. G'night.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"It's Clouds Illusions I Recall ..."

Cumulus clouds over L'Enfant Plaza in the early evening as I was leaving work (on the late side), Washington, D.C., 6:20PM, April 26, 2011.

These clouds looked like those painted ones you see a canvas "sky" setting in an old movie.


This is my midweek update. It has been hard to write this entry as I got distracted by the weather this evening (although in the end nothing actually happened here in D.C. proper) and I was "busy" watching TV (discussed below).

More cumulus clouds over L'Enfant Plaza as I walked to the Metro station, Washington, D.C., 6:24PM, April 26, 2011.


As noted, my gum infection seems to be gone, but there is inexplicably some lingering pain inside the NEW permanent crown (which will need to be resealed on next week). That doesn't make much sense to me since the tooth isn't even real. I'm still on antibiotics and will be for another five days or so.

The Washington Monument under a threatening looking sky -- although in the end there were no storms in the District proper -- on an unseasonably warm spring evening, Washington, D.C., 5:30PM, April 27, 2011.

Sometimes I walk to the Smithsonian Station instead of L'Enfant Plaza. On rare occasions (once every two weeks or so), I walk the 2 miles home.


The view from my apartment -- after I removed the screen -- looking at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and 16th and U Streets, NW, Washington, D.C., 6:33PM, April 27, 2011.


Political Detour on the Teabagger Crazy Express to Nowhere...

Earlier tonight I was watching "The Last Word" with Lawrence O'Donnell, whom I really enjoy, and he was in high-dungeon over the whole Teabagger / birther bullshit sideshow that is being fanned by Donald "Deranged Egomaniac" and showman Trump for his own narcissistic and financial reasons -- and that hit a frenzy today when the White House released Obama's actual birth certificate from that vault in Hawaii where it was.

Behold! -- the Teabaggers' "anti-Holy Grail" (as I heard it said today) -- President Obama's birth certificate.


O'Donnell -- whose show is on MSNBC, which is the news division that is part of the larger NBC company -- was tearing into NBC's entertainment division. O'Donnell also had a "interview" with the Original Birther Queen herself, Orly Taitz (R - Scary Crazy) that was as brief as it was disastrous. It ended after about 2 minutes, if that, when (Bill O'Reilly-style) he stopped the interview and had her thrown off the show.

The New York Times online front page at 9:39AM, April 27, 2011 with the birth certificate featured prominently "above the fold," as it were.


End of the Age of America ...

A fascinating article appeared on Yahoo finance news about the impending economic eclipse of the United States by China by 2016 based on on real economic data known as purchasing power parity (PPP). The author Brett Arend is a columnist for MarketWatch and the Wall Street Journal. He quoted a professor describing the difference between the Chinese and U.S. economic paradigms in place:

"Under PPP, the Chinese economy will expand from $11.2 trillion this year to $19 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile the size of the U.S. economy will rise from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion. That would take America's share of the world output down to 17.7%, the lowest in modern times. China's would reach 18%, and rising."

Interestingly, the IMF actually issued a statement denying this interpretation and instead said it prefers market exchange rates, which Arend easily takes down as a point.

But my favorite quotable quote from the article -- other than the line about the Euro not being "the drachma in drag":

"'There are two systems in collision,' said Ralph Gomory, research professor at NYU's Stern business school. 'They have a state-guided form of capitalism, and we have a much freer former of capitalism.' What we have seen, he said, is 'a massive shift in capability from the U.S. to China. What we have done is traded jobs for profit. The jobs have moved to China. The capability erodes in the U.S. and grows in China. That's very destructive. That is a big reason why the U.S. is becoming more and more polarized between a small, very rich class and an eroding middle class. The people who get the profits are very different from the people who lost the wages.'"


Dramatic looking cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds to the southeast of D.C. as seen from the Washington Nationals Stadium earlier this evening, April 27, 2011, in a picture taken and sent to me by Kevin. There were severe t-storms in the area tonight (see below).


Weather Update ...

It has been a sort of an active weather evening with scattered but severe thunderstorm clusters moving quickly SW-to-NE -- and a general tornado watch across the Washington / Baltimore extended region.

The Sterling LWX radar in enhanced base mode, 7:30PM EDT, April 27, 2011.


We missed one batch of t-storms right here in the District proper, but there is another one (if it holds together) over central Virginia that could bring stormy weather in a couple of hours. However, the storms that sort of split around D.C. itself had tornado warnings associated with them in Prince George's and Anne Arundel Counties (right in the area where my mom lives!) but everything ended alright.

The Baltimore/Washington NWS (LWX) county warning area (CWA) map updated at 7:28PM EDT, April 27, 2011.


As of 9:30PM, the storms had moved on / dissipated and only 0.01" had fallen so far today at DCA and a trace at BWI, though Dulles had 0.77" in a thunderstorm. All three airports are at or slightly above normal precipitation for the year-to-date totals.


Apropos of nothing except I like it ...

This is Ford's new Focus spokes-puppet Doug and his human friend, John. It sort of looks like Mr. Sirius and me.


A few other pictures ...

Here is the view from the DOE cafeteria looking at the top portion of the Washington Monument poking above the expansive USDA headquarters building. This was lunchtime, 12:40PM, April 26, 2011.


A leafy triangular plot created by the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and 16th Street at U Street, NW, Washington, D.C., 6:03PM, April 27, 2011.

The trees and shrubs are basically in full-leaf at this point.


OK, that's all for now. It is nearly quarter to eleven at night and I'm planning to go to bed, although both Gary and Kristof are going to Larry's Lounge and I said I would join them briefly. But it IS nearly quarter to eleven at night ... and I really should be winding down and going to bed ... sleep-deprived, exhausted, agitated, and on antibiotics for my (recovered) gum infection ... as I am.

My next planned update won't be until at least Friday.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Lunar Tidal and Queer Cultural Drag

Behold the Virgo Cluster, which is on average about 48 million light years away and forms the heart of what is known as the Virgo (or "Local") Supercluster.

Our Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, and their respective swarms of attendant satellite galaxies that form the "Local Group" are on the outskirts of the Virgo Supercluster. They, in turn, belong to an intermediate structure known as the M94 or Canes Venatici I Group (or "Canes Venatici Cloud of Galaxies").

The above image was the April 22, 2011 APOD.


So my gum infection SEEMS to be over. I'm still on the antibiotics, though. I went to my black dentist -- I kind of like him and he's quite good -- this morning and he confirmed that it was indeed an infection and that I was right to start taking the amoxicillin (which I had left over from late last year).

The intersection of V and 16th Streets, NW, Washington, D.C., 9:19PM, April 25, 2011. I was walking back from a Larry's Lounge happy hour tonight with Kristof where we actually watched the Are You Being Served? movie from 1977.

BTW, British actor Trevor Bannister -- a.k.a. Mr. Lucas on AYBS? -- has died.

He was 76 years old.

Only Frank Thornton ("Captain Peacock"), age 90, and Nicholas Smith (Mr. Rumbold), age 77, of the original cast survive (as well as Mike Berry, a.k.a., Mr. Spooner, age 68).


So, Thank You God, this did NOT turn into anything like the nightmare of Jan/Feb. 2000 when a severe gum infection / abscess nearly killed me.

The dentist actually inserted my permanent crown on (and I was able to pay the remaining $234 balance, a bit less than I thought, on my flexible spending account card). However, he didn't use the permanent bonding agent at this time, but rather he used a removable cement in case the infection is not over. But, as it now stands, my face is now back to normal ...


Speaking of faces, let's look at the Moon's two different ones ...

Behold -- the Dark Side of the Moon! -- as seen in a remarkable closely high resolution series of images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and shown in the April 9, 2011 APOD.

Actually, it's the "far side" of the Moon (it does get sunlight) that we never see from Earth because -- all at once:

"The metal-poor Moon is tidally locked to the much more massive (heavier) Planet Earth, although there is a bit of a "libration" in that we see about 60% of the lunar surface over its 28-day orbital cycle. But the Moon returns the favor by creating a lunar tidal drag through ocean tides that (very slowly) is spinning down the Earth (about 2 milliseconds per century) even as -- due to the exchange of angular momentum -- the Moon moves farther away (a few millimeters per year)."

Very good class. A's for everyone.

Ah, that's better -- the "Man in the Moon" nearside of our beloved and vitally important lunar companion we know. The nearside is very different with a more ancient face of dark "sea" mare and fewer recent meteor impacts.


My follow up visit to the dentist is next Monday morning. Next Tuesday afternoon I have to go to the dermatologist and to -- finally -- get the blood work as a follow-up to the visit to my doctor last week. The two places are next to each other on Wisconsin Ave. in Chevy Chase near the Friendship Heights Metro. Yes, suburban Maryland.

Speaking of suburban Maryland, I went to Quill's parents' house in Silver Spring (near where I used to live with an ex-friend in 2004 and early 2005, except that was actually and unexpectedly a very peaceful and nice time (out of a horrible time preceding it). It was for Easter Sunday dinner and it was very nice.


Some pictures from Easter Sunday ...

The intersection of Brunett Avenue and Bruce Drive in Silver Spring, Md., 5:59PM April 24, 2011.

There had been a thunderstorm a short time earlier across the northern part of the area including Silver Spring. Later, there were big storms across Northern Virginia into D.C. Everything was vibrant electric green and in floral bloom.


Azalea bushes in floral bloom and a Japanese maple tree in Quill's parents' driveway, Silver Spring, Md., 6:03PM, April 24, 2011.


Here my dear friend Quill dons a hot and holds an Easter basket in a peaceful place in Silver Spring, Md., 10:09PM, April 24, 2011.


OK, that's about all for now. I'm going to have to bypass any political commentary or links to commentary.

It's Monday night just after 10:30PM as I start this entry. Tonight is We TV's marathon of reruns of The Golden Girls and Frasier is on Hallmark Channel from 9PM to 11PM.

But over on WETA 26 was a reairing of an amazing episode of The American Experience on the Stonewall Riots of late June 1969 in New York and the whole American cultural back story leading up to that very hot week way back then.

Some people who were at the actual event were interviewed -- including the police officer who oversaw a morality squad that was involved in the actual raid. (The people interviewed are also noteworthy in that they survived the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s.)

The Stonewall Inn in Sept. 1969 shortly after the riots. (I was born in Nov. 1969 about 40 miles as the gay DeeP Oooza crow flies.)

I've seen this and similar documentaries before and they are so informative.

It wasn't easy to be gay back then. America was a very constipated and repressed place, so to speak, in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Today's bogus Teabaggers and cartoonish fundamentalists are just silly parodies.

I realize this runs afoul of my oft-stated romanticism of the 1940s.

Gay life, such as it was, as late as 1969 was very difficult indeed. There was no "gay mafia" and its attendant narcissistic monsters as it now exists on 17th Street here in D.C. Rather, the only mafia was the ACTUAL mafia that ran some of these places in between police raids.

Can you imagine someone like him in a bad cultural place and time rather than the current one in which he gets celebrity, prestige, and adulation, not to mention money by the wheelbarrow full every night?

Me neither.

But let's not talk about that now.


Speaking of monsters (far away ones) ...

The "Monsters of IC 1396" -- as it was dubbed in the April 25, 2011 APOD -- also known as the Elephant's Trunk Nebula located about 3,000 light years away in the constellation Cepheus. That brilliant star in the upper left is creating a stellar wind that is blowing away the gas and dust of the star-forming nebula.


OK, that really is all. It's now about 1AM as I finish this entry. My next planned update will be in a few days.