Friday, January 23, 2009

Choctaw Hayride

A little bluegrass, from one of the best bands around, Alison Krauss & Union Station.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Not to Rain on the Parade...

...but have you noticed this?

South Korean army on alert after North's military threat

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea said its army remained on alert Sunday, a day after North Korea threatened military action in response to Seoul's hard-line stance against its communist regime.

The world's still turning.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Earthquake Swarm is Over

For now, at least.

The earthquake swarm under Yellowstone Lake has apparently drawn to a close. The last week's worth of reports show a return to near-quiescence.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has an excellent poster [warning: big PDF at link]summarizing and contextualizing the swarm. The poster puts the quake swarm into the larger picture - a fascinating and complex picture.

Revitalize the Counter-Establishment

Jay Nordlinger, writing in National Review Online:

In the last few days, I’ve been thinking a little about Dick Cheney’s image. This stems from a lunch a group of us had with him last week (and I wrote about it here). Cheney is an unusual person: very sensible, very measured, very trustworthy. No wonder he has been entrusted with so many sensitive government positions. He is a calm person, and he has a calming effect on others. He is the kind of man you want in public service — party or partisanship quite aside.

In the course of our lunch, he said that the recent Democratic victory was “part of the normal cycle of a competitive two-party system,” and “fundamentally healthy for the nation.” He also talked about how wondrous it was to swear in the first black president.

And what is his widespread image? He is a kind of Dr. Evil to people, although, unlike the Austin Powers one, not a comical Dr. Evil. He is a right-wing menace, a scourge of civil liberties, a Torquemada. This is absolutely perverse.

And what of President Bush’s image — at least one aspect of it? They say that he is less than bright: that he is stupid. And stupid is the last thing President Bush is. Call him willful, call him stubborn, call him petulant or cussed or difficult. Stupid, he is not.

Consider one more public figure: Sarah Palin. I keep hearing and reading, in various quarters, that she is a “bimbo.” That is the word I hear about her, rather a lot: “bimbo.” This is a woman, of course, who has been married since her early 20s. She and her husband, Todd, have five children. Sarah is governor of her state; Todd works in the oil fields. From what anyone can tell, they delight in each other, and in their family. They seem almost an advertisement for monogamy: for the married life. And yet people say “bimbo.”

In a nation full of bimbos, Governor Palin is one of the few who aren’t.

It seems to me that the Left has won: utterly and decisively. What I mean is, the Saturday Night Live, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher mentality has prevailed. They decide what a person’s image is, and those images stick. They are the ones who say that Cheney’s a monster, W.’s stupid, and Palin’s a bimbo. And the country, apparently, follows.

I have a friend who teaches at a prominent university, and she says that, when Palin’s name is mentioned, the people laugh. In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, an extraordinarily accomplished woman — more accomplished than most of the rest of us will ever be — was turned into a laughingstock.

What are the shaping institutions of American life? The news media. Entertainment television. The movies. Popular music. The schools, K through grad school. In whose hands are those institutions? In what areas do conservatives predominate? Country music, NASCAR, some churches? (Talk radio too, I suppose — no wonder so many on the left want to shut it down.)

I will be talking more about this in the coming weeks, months, and possibly years. Sidney Blumenthal once wrote a book called “The Rise of the Counter-Establishment” (meaning conservative associations and institutions). The counter-establishment needs to be tended, and beefed up.

A country that believes that Cheney’s a monster, W.’s stupid, and Palin’s a bimbo is a country with its head up its . . .

Friday, January 09, 2009

New Articles on Yellowstone Earthquakes

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has released a new in-depth article and podcast discussing the recent earthquake swarm under Yellowstone Lake. The article doesn't reveal any new analysis, but does provide an excellent summary of the earthquakes up to now and offers some helpful background information.

This Salt Lake Tribune article also provides some useful information; it suggests that scientists are leaning towards a geothermal explanation, but aren't ready to draw any formal conclusions yet.

We will probably have to wait a while for the analysis; with the swarm tapering off, at least for the moment, some of the urgency is gone, and the scientists can afford to make a more careful analysis. No obvious change in geyser or spring activity has been observed as yet; however a more careful survey will have to wait until spring.

Unanswered, for now, is whether these quakes are due to volcanic pressures, geothermal energy, or the more normal geophysical stresses of the faults in and around Yellowstone.

(The Yellowstone Park region is no stranger to earthquakes due to more familiar forces - one major quake happened west of the Park as recently as 1959. Personalizing the Earthquake Threat has more information.)

Here They Go

Harsh is the noise when unrealistic expectations smack into reality. Stories like this are why the Germans invented the term schadenfreude:

Conyers’s opposition to Gupta is connected to Michael Moore

Let the "But I'm the better liberal/progressive/communist!" games begin!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Where Have the Hollywood Heroes Gone?

Orson Bean, writing at the new website Big Hollywood:

Where are the cinema heroes today, the characters who refuse to surrender, who just won’t give up? Not in Hollywood pictures.

You think audiences aren’t hungry for heroes? There’s a little movie out there called Slumdog Millionaire, which almost didn’t get released and is now being touted for best picture. It takes place in India and tells the story of a young man who overcomes impossible odds to succeed. People are lining up to see it. Why aren’t the many genuinely talented folks in Hollywood making pictures like that? You’d think that simple greed would tempt them to do so. Cecil B. DeMille worshipped the almighty buck.

The truth is they’ve forgotten how. They went to college and were taught that their country is wrong, that the system stinks, that to be a hero is to be a sucker fighting for a lie. Like Louis B. Meyer and Sam Warner before them, they want to make picures that have meaning. But their “meaning” is very different from that of the movie makers of my boyhood. When they churn out what’s in their hearts (the depressing view of life as they actually see it), no-one buys a ticket. Then, because they have to make a living, they revert to meaningless special effect extravaganzas and tell themselves there’s no market for “serious” pictures.

Check out the site.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Yellowstone Lake Earthquakes - Jan.6th Update from YVO

The latest statement from the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has some analysis and earthquake history that is very helpful.

Quoting their latest statement:
Through 5 January 2009, seismic activity has markedly decreased. It is possible that the swarm has ended, though a return of activity may occur as Yellowstone swarms of the size usually last for tens of days to many weeks.

About 500 earthquakes occurred between Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. Three hundred of the earthquakes (including all >M2.0) have been reviewed by seismologists. There have been 86 earthquakes with M > 2.0 and 16 earthquakes > M3.0. About 200 smaller earthquakes have yet to be reviewed. Depths are difficult to determine accurately. The best located earthquakes have depths on the order of 3 to 10 km (1.8 to 6.0 miles). From Dec. 26 through Jan 2, the earthquake hypocenters appear to have migrated northwards, starting southeast of near Stevenson Island, with many of the latest events occurring near Fishing Bridge.

The recent swarm is well above typical activity at Yellowstone. Nevertheless it is not unprecedented during the last 40 years of monitoring. Swarms are the typical mode of occurrence of earthquakes within the Yellowstone caldera, with magnitudes ranging to > 4.0. The 1985 swarm on the northwest rim of the caldera lasted for three months, with earthquakes up to M4.9 and over 3000 total events recorded.

Interesting. Most valuable, to my mind, is the discussion on the 1985 swarm, which provides some needed context.

It also suggests that, barring a sudden return in activity, that this is an event to notice, but not to worry about.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Yellowstone Lake Earthquake Swarm Tapering Off?

Today's earthquake map, current as of about 12 hours ago, shows a marked reduction in the frequency and severity of earthquakes located under Yellowstone Lake, a swarm of which had been ongoing for almost a week. This reduction in severity started about Jan. 2nd; the frequency started dropping on Jan. 3rd. It's too early to say what that means, or even if there is any significance to the swarm's slowing.

It would appear that seismologists and geophysicists are still trying to determine what the swarm meant in the first place. Judging from their press release, they are not too concerned about volcanic activity right now; it appears that geothermal activity (i.e. hot water, as opposed to hot lava) may be the culprit. There is a history of that at Yellowstone Lake. In addition to the geothermal features such as geysers, springs, mud pots, and fumaroles around the park, occasionally steam explosions of various sizes rearrange the topography. (Pretty much what it sounds like - steam builds up underground to the point that the rock constraining it shatters.) Parts of Yellowstone Lake's shoreline were carved out by steam explosions. From "Questions About Volcanic Activity at Yellowstone" on the Yellowstone Volcanic Observatory website,
The most likely type of eruption would not be volcanic but, rather, hydrothermal. This type of small, but still explosive eruption can occur from shallow reservoirs of steam or hot water rather than molten rock. These reservoirs are the sources of Yellowstone's famous geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles. Such explosions could blast out shallow craters more than a kilometer wide; as has occurred in the northern Yellowstone Lake Basin, including Mary Bay and nearby Turbid Lake and Indian Pond, and in western Yellowstone National Park north of Old Faithful. Each of these craters was produced by steam blasts within the past few thousand years.
So we more likely are seeing the beginnings of a steam explosion, rather than an active volcano. But that is not certain, yet. There's going to be a bunch of scientists spending a lot of hours studying seismograms before we hear any hypotheses.

There is agreement on point - there is nothing to panic about. Yet.

Geology, in action. Bring a lunch.

Friday, January 2, 2009 19:30 MST (Saturday, January 3, 2009 02:30 UTC)

44.43°N 110.67°W, Summit Elevation 9203 ft (2805 m)
Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Aviation Color Code: GREEN

Yellowstone Lake Earthquake Swarm Update: 2 January 2008

The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that as of 1800 MST on 2 January 2009, seismicity of the ongoing Yellowstone earthquake swarm continues. Over 500 earthquakes, as large as M 3.9, have been recorded by an automated earthquake system since the inception of this unusual earthquake sequence that began Dec. 27, 2008. More than 300 of these events have been reviewed and evaluated by seismic analysts. Depths of the earthquakes range from ~ 1km to around 10 km. We note that the earthquakes extend northward from central Yellowstone Lake for ~10 km toward the Fishing Bridge area, with a migration of recent earthquakes toward the north. Some of the dozen M3+ earthquakes were felt in the Lake, Grant Village and Old Faithful areas. Personnel of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory continue to evaluate this earthquake sequence and will provide information to the NPS, USGS and the public as it evolves.

This earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years. No damage has been reported within Yellowstone National Park, nor would any be expected from earthquakes of this size. The swarm is in a region of historical earthquake activity and is close to areas of Yellowstone famous hydrothermal activity. Similar earthquake swarms have occurred in the past in Yellowstone without triggering steam explosions or volcanic activity. Nevertheless, there is some potential for hydrothermal explosions and earthquakes may continue or increase in magnitude. There is a much lower potential for related volcanic activity.