Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Crashing into the moon

This should be cool.

BERLIN - Europe's first mission to the moon is due to crash-land in a cloud of dust and rock early Sunday, ending a three-year voyage that gathered data about the lunar surface and tested a new engine intended to propel future spacecraft to Mercury and other planets. ...

Even before the mission ends, however, ESA is already celebrating the main goal — a successful test of the ion engine they hope to use for future interplanetary missions, such as the BepiColombo joint mission to Mercury with Japan's space agency slated for launch in 2013.

"The prime object of this mission was to test the ion propulsion," mission manager Gerhard Schwehm told The Associated Press. "This is a very efficient means to get a spacecraft over large distances with a very small mass of fuel. It worked really well."

I'm glad the Europeans had such a success with this mission. I hope the various space agencies -- and private entities -- continue to work together to move us out to the stars. And, I'm a bit jealous of Anousheh Ansari. I wish her well and hope she has a blast in space.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Repeating a python

The AFP apparently has only one picture of a snake, and they use it as an illustration for all snake stories. Witness below, a screen capture from Yahoo News on August 27, 2006:

The datelines for the stories read "ANKARA" (Turkey) and "GENEVA" (Switzerland), and they were posted on different days, yet they bear the same photo of a python. Lazy on the part of the AFP, especially since the story from Switzerland is about an adder, not a python.

Friday, August 25, 2006

"Company urges tourists to 'save Haiti'"

Sure, I'll go vacation in Haiti. Right after I attend that marketing convention in Somalia.

"Visit Haiti. Don't listen to what you see on the news," says Wilfrid Belfort of MWM & Associates in North Miami Beach....

Recent news from Haiti does not promise relaxation: Gang violence and kidnappings have surged in the capital of the Western hemisphere's poorest country.

But Belfort's Haitian-American-owned company sees increasing tourism as Haiti's best chance to improve its crippled economy and finally achieve political stability — a plan Haiti's new president also proposed at a Florida tourism conference in June. ...

Most tourists will likely heed a U.S. State Department warning discouraging travel to the Caribbean nation. More than 50 Americans, including children, have been kidnapped in Haiti in the past year, the agency says.

Sounds like a good enough reason for me not to go. Florida's got hurricanes, but at least it's in the U.S., so I might try there for a vacation. And, it seems good enough for Haiti's new president.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

"Rare Sumatran tiger killed at Florida zoo"

What a sad headline. You can't tell from it that the tiger first escaped, headed toward a public area, and then charged a person, before being shot to protect human life. It seems to me that the tiger deserved killing. But, then, he was a rare tiger, and that should make people feel sad about his death.

From Reuters:

Enshala, a 180-pound (81 kg) female tiger, was being put into her night house when she slipped past an unlocked latch and headed toward a public area on Tuesday. A veterinarian shot Enshala with a tranquilizer dart but she then charged at him, and zoo president Lex Salisbury killed her with a shotgun.

"I feel sick to my stomach," Salisbury, head of the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, told the St. Petersburg Times. He said he felt he had to shoot to protect the veterinarian.

That must be some comfort to the veterinarian.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Fighting panda extinction ...

... through blogging!

BEIJING (AFP) - A week-old giant panda cub has received her own blog as China seeks to raise public awareness about protecting the endangered animal, state media have said. ...

"Mummy says it will be very hot outside today. So we'll stay together inside where the air-con is on," said one entry.

Oh, Lord!

Ah, well, I guess they need all the help they can get. After all:

The famously sexually inactive giant pandas are among the world's most endangered animals. [emphasis added]

Gee, I wonder why.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Ozone-friendly chemicals lead to warming"


The chemicals that replaced CFCs are better for the ozone layer, but do little to help global warming. These chemicals, too, act as a reflective layer in the atmosphere that traps heat like a greenhouse.

That effect is at odds with the intent of a second treaty, drawn up in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 by the same countries behind the Montreal pact. In fact, the volume of greenhouse gases created as a result of the Montreal agreement's phaseout of CFCs is two times to three times the amount of global-warming carbon dioxide the Kyoto agreement is supposed to eliminate.

This unintended consequence now haunts the nations that signed both U.N. treaties.

Well, I guess that's what you get for letting the U.N. try to save the planet. And, was this a surprise? Not really, to some.

Switzerland first tried in 1990 to sound an alarm that the solution for plugging the ozone hole might contribute to another environmental problem. The reaction?

"Nothing, or almost," said Blaise Horisberger, the Swiss representative to U.N.-backed Montreal treaty. "We have been permanently raising this issue. It has been really difficult."

Horisberger, a biologist with the Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape, kept trying. Finally, the first formal, secret talks on the subject were held in Montreal last month.

Wow. The tin ears are holding "secret" talks to save the planet. If nothing else, the U.N. sure has effrontery.

Leafy afternoon

Nothing but some briar leaves.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stink bug morning

Nothing but a stink bug on a prickly pear on a hot morning.

Reclassifying Pluto

Poor Pluto. It may no longer be considered in the same class as its solar siblings.

From the blog:

Several of the panel members favor dividing round objects up as terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars), giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) and a third class that would include Pluto, NPR reported. “We’ll call them dwarf planets or something,” said Iwan Williams, an astronomer at the University of London who served on the panel, according to NPR.

This seems reasonable. Pluto never did fit in with the other eight planets, and it really seems to be something that should be in a different classification. Either way, perhaps that parasite movement can now be forever dissociated from Gustav Holst's masterpiece.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Study also shows some too thin, and some just right

"Mass. study shows some babies too fat"

Something lacking in the metaphor

From the first paragraph of "NYC professor promotes urban fish farm" by AP writer Karen Matthews [all emphases below added]:
NEW YORK - In the basement of an ivy-covered building on the surprisingly leafy campus of Brooklyn College is something even more surprising: thousands of tilapia packed tighter than a subway car into 300-gallon fiberglass fish tanks.

The metaphor is incomplete. What is the subway car packed with?

Another poor metaphor: "Schreibman, a genial 70-year-old in Birkenstocks and a Hawaiian shirt, didn't set out to be the Johnny Appleseed of tilapia."

Johnny Appleseed (really John Chapman), from what I can remember, planted trees far and wide in the Midwest. Martin Schreibman of Brooklyn College seems to be going no further than the school's basement.

Matthews tries to spice up her piece about tilapia in Brooklyn with some metaphors, but they are ill-conceived and incomplete. That's too bad, because the subject matter is interesting enough on its own.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Twin pandas each have twin cubs in China"

This should be good news for all those who love the cute evolutionary dead-enders known as pandas.

BEIJING - Twin giant pandas each gave birth to twin cubs this week as the number of pandas born in captivity this year in China rose to six, state media reported Tuesday.

Here in Texas, we hunt animals. And there's plenty of them.

"China to let tourists hunt endangered species: paper"

Oh, we have plenty of paper, too.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Asterisking words on iTunes II

Arnold Zwicky at the Language Log caught on to the asterisking of cum on iTunes. He says:
Yes, another triumph of the iTunes automatic asterisking program: the innocent Latin preposition "cum" 'with' loses its "u" because of its dirty homograph, as in Blowfly's song "Cum of a Lifetime" and Super 8 Cum Shot's self-titled album. This wonderful fact from Barbara Partee, who downloaded "Carmina Burana" from iTunes and was confronted with "Si puer c*m puellula", which she would never have understood if it hadn't been for the work of the Taboo Avoidance Crew (also known as the Too Asterisked Crew) here at Language Log Plaza.

I also noticed that about the piece from Orff's "Carmina Burana", but I neglected to mention it at my own post on the matter.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Changing the terms on us

Eugene Volokh has an excellent post on the confusing practice of changing terms that refer to groups of people. He concludes:
5. So I think the approach that's more tolerant of speakers, ultimately more likely to avoid offense to the subjects of the speech, and less likely to be subject to the whims of a small minority of activists is generally to tolerate both the old terms and the new terms, and not consider either to be a breach of good manners. [emphasis in original]

Generally, "If you change the term for your group and you don't tell me, don't get mad if I slip up later". Or something like that. I suggest reading the whole post to see how he gets to that point.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006