Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hurricane Scale. Shell in AK. Drilling in National Parks. ‘Olive’ Otter. Volcano of Fire. Pain Relievers. Overland Mail. Ali vs. Spinks

For “Summary Saturday”, News, Some New, Some Old:

Is there a better hurricane scale?













“The destruction wrought by Hurricane Isaac - with its 11-foot surge, seven dead, power knocked out in half of Louisiana and nearly $2 billion in damage - has renewed debate among forecasters about how best to warn people of coming storms.

Isaac, after all, was only a Category 1 hurricane, right?

And there lies the problem. First, there's the inadequacy of the Saffir-Simpson scale, which ranks hurricanes on the strength of their winds from Category 1 to 5. It often fails to capture the destructive surge, as Galveston experienced during Hurricane Ike four years ago to the day on Thursday, or the inland flooding potential of a storm.

Secondly, people misuse the scale because they believe the weakest hurricanes are manageable from a risk perspective and don't cause much damage.  "By stating that any hurricane is manageable you underplay the potential for loss,'' said Bill Read, the recently retired director of the National Hurricane Center. "Since this myth has been perpetuated even by us professionals, the misuse of the Saffir-Simpson scale is now engrained in our culture.''

Heller believes he has a solution to the problem. He says the National Hurricane Center should rank hurricanes based on wind speed and/or storm surge - whichever is greater. In such a case, he notes, Hurricane Ike would have been a Category 4 hurricane based upon storm surge.”  More at:


Shell begins drilling off coast of Alaska

Shell begins drilling well off

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- “More than four years after Royal Dutch Shell paid $2.8 billion to the federal government for petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea, a company vessel on Sunday morning sent a drill bit into the ocean floor, beginning preliminary work on an exploratory well 70 miles off the northwest coast of Alaska.

Drilling began at 4:30 a.m., said Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith. Shell Alaska vice president Pete Slaiby called it historic.  "It's the first time a drill bit has touched the sea floor in the U.S. Chukchi Sea in more than two decades," Slaiby said in a prepared statement. "This is an exciting time for Alaska and for Shell. We look forward to continued drilling progress throughout the next several weeks and to adding another chapter to Alaska's esteemed oil and gas history."

Drilling is bitterly opposed by environmental groups that say oil companies have not demonstrated they can clean up a spill in ice-choked water. They say a spill of the magnitude of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico would be catastrophic in a region hammered by climate warming and home to endangered or threatened marine mammals such as bowhead whales, polar bear and walrus.”  More at:


America’s National Parks Threatened by Oil and Gas Development

Oil well in Canyon Country

“Oil and gas drilling is a dirty business that, if done improperly, has the potential to do substantial harm to national parks and other public lands. Drilling involves not just the construction of rigs but also roads, pipelines, and other infrastructure. Toxic chemicals such as naphthalene and benzene are sometimes used in oil and gas drilling and production activities. There is also the equally real threat of spills, which are frequent both onshore and offshore. One estimate found that in North Dakota in 2011 alone there were more than a thousand spills of oil, wastewater or other drilling fluids.

The potential for future drilling within national parks is a real threat when seen through the lens of today’s political context. The American people deserve the right to have their say in the development of our national parks and public lands through their elected representatives in Washington. Rolling back federal regulations and having the states make these decisions would be exceedingly dangerous.”  More at:

Check out this map of 42 park units that currently have oil and gas operations within them and of 30 units that may be threatened in the future.
Map: courtesy of the NPS



First Calif. otter to survive oil spill has a pup 

In this photo taken by the U.S. Geological Society and provided by the California Department of Fish and Game, a sea otter holds her pup at Seacliff State Beach near Aptos, Calif., on, Sept. 10, 2012. The sea otter, known as Olive, has amazed researchers by becoming the first sea otter not only to survive a dunking in oil but then also go on to deliver a healthy pup.

Photo By U.S. Geological Society, Joe Tomoleoni

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — “Just three years after she was found covered in oil and near death, a California sea otter called Olive is a new mom — another milestone for the first otter to survive an oiling in the state.

The California Department of Fish and Game said Friday that "Olive the Oiled Otter" was spotted recently swimming on her back with a pup resting on her belly.  "Olive is an attentive mother, frequently grooming, nursing and holding her pup," the agency said in a statement.  The birth continued the remarkable story of the animal rescued in 2009 from a beach near Santa Cruz. It also was welcome news following a recent state and federal study that found tepid growth of the threatened California sea otter population on the Central Coast.

Scientists say oil is especially harmful to the species that has the thickest coat of any mammal. When the animal's coat is damaged by oil, its skin is exposed to cold water, which can lead to hypothermia and death because otters don't have a layer of blubber like other marine mammals.

The U.S. Geological Survey said there are 2,792 sea otters left in the California population, which spans more than 200 miles of the Central Coast, from Morro Bay to Half Moon Bay.  The animals once ranged from Mexico to Alaska, but they were hunted to near extinction in the early 20th century for their fur.

David Jessup, a veterinarian with the state wildlife agency who washed Olive, said the animal was "circling the drain" when she arrived.  "She was in very bad condition," Jessup said. "She had probably been oiled for some period of time and (had) not eaten."

For the previous two years, he had been researching techniques for washing oil off otters — the Monterey coast sees regular natural seepage, which likely was the source of Olive's oil.  Jessup and others bathed the otter in olive oil — hence the name — which he'd found could loosen the tar-like oil off the thick fur. Once cleaned, Olive was fed by Jessup and his staff.

After she recovered, Olive was outfitted with a microchip and transmitter and released back into the wild, where scientists have tracked and studied her.”  More at:


Guatemala eruption turns to tourist draw

ANTIGUA, Guatemala (AP) — “A terrifying eruption of one of the world's most active volcanoes tapered off Friday into a draw for delighted tourists, who snapped photos from a neighboring colonial city and made plans to take night hikes to see glowing rivers of lava.

Villagers were returning to their homes on the flanks of the Volcano of Fire as it wound down its largest eruption in nearly four decades, spewing smaller amounts of ash and lava. Guatemalan authorities reduced the alert level from the highest, red, to orange around the Volcan del Fuego, or Volcano of Fire, and said Thursday's ferocious lava flow was now two smaller, 3,000-foot streams.

Tourists walking the cobblestone streets of the colonial city of Antigua, about six miles from the volcano, said they were making plans to take guided trips to the mountain to see the lava, and guide companies said they were getting dozens of calls for tours.” More at:


How Do Pain Relievers Work?

“Some people take aspirin or ibuprofen to treat everyday aches and pains, but how exactly do the different classes of pain relievers work? Learn about the basic physiology of how humans experience pain, and the mechanics of the medicines we've invented to block or circumvent that discomfort.”

View full lesson on TED-Ed BETA:

What You Didn’t Know:

In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. By pulling on the ropes, the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Hence the phrase...'Goodnight, sleep tight'.

It was the practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink.  Mead is a honey beer and because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the honey month, today it’s the honeymoon.

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts... So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them 'Mind your pints and quarts, and settle down.'  It's where we get the phrase 'mind your P's and Q's'.


On This Day:

The first transcontinental mail service to San Francisco begins, Sep 15, 1858:

“On this day in 1858, the new Overland Mail Company sends out its first two stages, inaugurating government mail service between the eastern and western regions of the nation.

With California booming, thanks to the 1849 Gold Rush, Americans east and west had been clamoring for faster and surer transcontinental mail service for years. Finally, in March 1857, the U.S. Congress passed an act authorizing an overland mail delivery service and a $600,000 yearly subsidy for whatever company could succeed in reliably transporting the mail twice a week from St. Louis to San Francisco in less than 25 days. The postmaster general awarded the first government contract and subsidy to the Overland Mail Company. Under the guidance of a board of directors that included John Butterfield and William Fargo, the Overland Mail Company spent $1 million improving its winding 2,800-mile route and building way stations at 10-15 mile intervals. Teams of thundering horses soon raced across the wide open spaces of the West, pulling custom-built Concord coaches with seats for nine passengers and a rear boot for the mail.

For passengers, the overland route was anything but a pleasure trip. Packed into the narrow confines of the coaches, they alternately baked or froze as they bumped across the countryside, and dust was an inescapable companion. Since the coaches traveled night and day, travelers were reluctant to stop and sleep at one of the "home stations" along the route because they risked being stranded if later stages were full. Many opted to try and make it through the three-week trip by sleeping on the stage, but the constant bumping and noise made real sleep almost impossible. Travelers also found that toilets and baths were few and far between, the food was poor and pricey, and the stage drivers were often drunk, rude, profane, or all three. Robberies and Indian attacks were a genuine threat, though they occurred far less commonly than popularly believed. The company posted guards at stations in dangerous areas, and armed men occasionally rode with the coach driver to protect passengers.

Though other faster mail delivery services soon came to compete with the Overland Mail Company-most famously the Pony Express-the nation's first regular trans-western mail service continued to operate as a part of the larger Wells, Fargo and Company operation until May 10, 1869, the day the first transcontinental railroad was completed. On that day the U.S. government cancelled its last overland mail contract.”


Ali defeats Spinks to win world heavyweight championship, Sep 15, 1978:

“On this day in 1978, boxer Muhammad Ali defeats Leon Spinks at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to win the world heavyweight boxing title for the third time in his career, the first fighter ever to do so. Following his victory, Ali retired from boxing, only to make a brief comeback two years later. Ali, who once claimed he could "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee," left the sport permanently in 1981.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, on January 14, 1942, the future world champ changed his name to Muhammad Ali in 1964 after converting to Islam. He earned a gold medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome and made his professional boxing debut against Tunney Husaker in October 1960, winning the bout in six rounds. On February 25, 1964, Ali defeated the heavily favored Sonny Liston in six rounds to become heavyweight champ, after which he famously declared, "I am the greatest!"

During the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be inducted into the U.S. armed forces and in 1967 was convicted of draft evasion and banned from boxing for three years. He stayed out of prison as his case was appealed and returned to the ring in October 1970, knocking out Jerry Quarry in Atlanta in the third round. On March 8, 1971, Ali fought Joe Frazier in the "Fight of the Century" and lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career. In June 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ali's conviction for evading the draft.

At a January 1974 rematch at New York City's Madison Square Garden, Ali defeated Frazier in 12 rounds. In October of that same year, an underdog Ali bested George Foreman and reclaimed his heavyweight champion belt at the heavily hyped "Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, Zaire, with a knockout in the eighth round. On February 15, 1978, in Las Vegas, an aging Ali lost the title to Leon Spinks in a 15-round split decision. For Spinks, who was born in 1953 and won a gold medal in boxing at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, the fight was just the eighth of his professional career. However, seven months later, on September 15, Ali won the title back, in a unanimous 15-round decision.

In June 1979, Ali announced he was retiring from boxing. On October 2, 1980, he returned to the ring and fought heavyweight champ Larry Holmes, who knocked him out in the 11th round. After losing to Trevor Berbick on December 11, 1981, Ali left the ring for the last time, with a record of 56 wins, five losses and 37 knockouts. In 1984, he was revealed to have Parkinson's disease. Spinks retired from boxing in 1995 with a record of 26 wins, 17 losses and 14 knockouts.”



It rained off and on.  Misty couldn’t go out unless I put her raincoat on, she hates to get wet, and I wouldn’t want her to get damp, anyway.  Not much can be done in that sort of weather, so I just did laundry and caught up on some other odd jobs.

Some things can’t be put off.  Such as, I had several inquiries about things I have for sale, so I have to answer them.   One lady in Alaska wanted to know how much to send some of my rare Corelle up there, so I had to weigh it and the packaging, to figure that out.  I had hoped to sell it locally.  Just a lot of odd jobs, and not much to show for it.

A busy, but dreary day.

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