Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Flying From Responsibility

Living very close to the nation's most troublesome nuclear power plant, Indian Point, I have understandable concern about security and safety. Apparently, in the wake of 9/11 many others do too. But the NRC deosn't see it that way.

ENS Link

WASHINGTON, DC, January 30, 2007 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NRC, Monday turned down a petition to strengthen security at nuclear power plants from Los Angeles-based Committee to Bridge the Gap, which monitors governmental radiation policy.

The commission's new rule defining the kind of threats nuclear power plant operators must address does not require protection against a deliberate hit by a large aircraft, as the group had recommended.

"The NRC has already required its licensees to take steps to mitigate the effects of large fires and explosions from any type of initiating event," the commission said in a statement.

"The active protection against airborne threats is addressed by other federal organizations, including the military," the NRC said.

Umm, yeah, right. Except that the areas those other agencies oversee does not include the design of nuclear plants. With respect to such things as the thickness of facility walls, only the NRC has the power to set standards.

Essentially, the NRC has abdicated an issue directly within its realm. Potentially, thousands could suffer. Bravo NRC.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol. 77

Welcome back.

This week we'll be starting an entirelyu new project inspired by the Sedona, Arizona scene seen in the photo directly below. It is another small photo, this one depicting a group of condos with the red rock buttes behind. In the far right corner is a small slice of sky.

I was so struck with the pattern of the cube shapes and their shadows that I am putting off the painting that I was going to start at this time.

My version will have more dramatic colors but will closely follow the same assortment of cubes. Those all important first few lines are seen directly below.

Next week I'll have the latest changes. See you then.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

USDA Mishandling Biological Agents

Just as the US is turning the tide in the dreaded Snowglobal War on Terror, another threat has reared its ugly head. But this one is a bit more serious.

The potential threat comes from toxins in widespread use by Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The toxins, sodium cyanide and sodium fluoroacetate (Compound 1080), are used to exterminate wildlife deemed to be a nuisance. Their potency can't be understated.

...Both agents are classified by EPA as having the highest degree of “acute toxicity.” Compound 1080 is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, water soluble toxin considered by several countries as a chemical weapon for its potential threat to water supplies. ...

In 2004, the most recent year for which there is a record, some 2.7 million animals were killed.

The chemicals have been in use in a variety of areas and are stored in a number of diferent locations. One might believe that such dangerous substances would be under stringent security but one would be wrong. Recently, these sites have come under scrutiny for their questionable security.


The Inspector General repeatedly found the agency in violation of the Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act for failing to secure "dangerous biological agents and toxins," including not keeping accurate inventories whereby theft, unauthorized sale or other losses of these toxins could be detected. Other violations included regular access to toxins by unauthorized persons, distribution of chemical agents to untrained individuals and inadequate security plans. All ten of the Wildlife Services sites audited by the Inspector General were found to be out of compliance with bioterrorism regulations.

But surely there is sufficient justification for the use of such substances against all those animal nuisances? Well, not quite.


...The cattle inventory for 2005 ran to 104.5 million head. Disease, illness, weather, theft, calving complications and other non-wildlife causes accounted for losses of 3.86 million cattle during the year, while predators of all types killed 190,000 cattle. ...

And why are such dangerous toxins still being used after a period of time extending back many years?

...Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that in 1972, EPA banned Compound 1080 but, during the Reagan administration, the agency reversed itself and allowed re-introduction of the poison for use in livestock protection collars. ...

Accordingly, PEER, along with several other organizations, has filed a petition with the EPA to immediately suspend the use of the two substances. The petition can be seen here (pdf file).

More Macro

I tried taking photos of a vintage car hood ornament of unknown make. This is the result.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tribal Council

We haven't had one of these in a while. To be booted off the virtual island this week is former White House speechwriter David Frum. His recent interview with Spiegel Online indicates that he recognized the administration's failure to acknowledge problems beyond the Iraqi borders. But apparently he chose to remain silent.

Frum: I would say that the story of the Bush Administration is the story of an administration caught halfway across the bridge; they did not want to face up to the magnitude of the problems. Its policies are premised on the assumption that we have a firm alliance with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. If it had been possible in 2001 to address the problem of Saudi Arabia, maybe there never would have been an Iraq war.

I can't say if this is true. But instead of turning a pretty phrase, he might have started a dialogue. Instead, Frum left the White House in 2002. Subsequently he joined the American Enterprise Institute where one would assume that he is less reticent. His most memorable legacy to the Bush administration is coining the phrase axis of evil. And the violence continues in Iraq.

Mr.Frum, the tribe has spoken.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol.76

Welcome back.

This week we'll be completing the painting that was inspired by the Sedona, Arizona scene seen in the photo directly below.

When last we were together, the painting appeared as it does in the photo directly below.

Since that time I have completed the painting.

I have painted over the building on the right, making it a uniform color. Now, the shadows are the only details. The former doors have no been subsumed in a more unified structure. It is also more in keeping with my plan for minimalism.

The bushes have been repainted with a wavy edge. It brings a bit more realism yet still fits in with the clean details of other elements.

I've painted over the parking surface with a bit more variation.

The final painting is seen below.

I am pleased with the result of this experiment. Only 4 tubes of paint and yet I never felt constrained.

Next week, an entirely new project. See you then.

Monday, January 15, 2007


Having discovered the macro setting on my camera with the help of photo guru Olivia of Parvum Opus (see blogroll), I set about shooting my dying orchid bloom. The final phase of this bloom has made the veins more prominent. My first attempt at macro is seen below. Thanks, Olivia!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

A Slice of Racism

Apparently, not all currencies are fungible. Strange though it may be, the acceptance of Mexican pesos as payment is now seen in some quarters as a facilitation of illegal immigration.


Texas-based pizza chain accepts pesos


DALLAS -- A pizza chain has been hit with death threats and hate mail after offering to accept Mexican pesos, becoming another flashpoint in the nation's debate over immigrants.

"This is the United States of America, not the United States of Mexico," one e-mail read. "Quit catering to the damn illegal Mexicans," demanded another.

Dallas-based Pizza Patron said it was not trying to inject itself into a larger political debate about illegal immigration when it posted signs this week saying "Aceptamos pesos" - or "We accept pesos" - at its 59 stores across Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and California.

Pizza Patron spokesman Andy Gamm said the company was just trying to sell more pizza to its customers, 60 percent of whom are Hispanic.

I'd better check under the couch cushions for some real money.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol. 75

Welcome back.

This week we'll be continuing with the painting that was inspired by the Sedona, Arizona scene seen in the photo directly below.

When last we were together, the painting appeared as it does in the photo directly below.

Since that time I have continued to work on the painting. At this point it is almost done, but the final installment for this piece will be next week.

The partial foreground car has been enlarged a bit. It just feels better in this slightly larger size, more in balance with the other elements. Also, it now appears in red paint rather than last week's blue. This red carries over the red color from other elements into the foreground. Now, the eye follows the red from buttes to the central car to the foreground. In short, a rather small change has had a large impact.

The details of the central building have been simplified. The structure is now more in keeping with my original experiment, a simple depiction using only 4 tubes of paint.

The current appearance of the painting appears below.

Next week's installment will show the final changes. There are just a few things left to be done. See you then.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Many thanks to all who participated and commented in the BooMan Tribune ArtFair. This year produced more art and more comments. I very much enjoyed seeing all the original artwork. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saturday Painting Palooza Vol. 74

Welcome back.

This week we'll be continuing with the painting that was inspired by the Sedona, Arizona scene seen in the photo directly below.

When last we were together, the painting appeared as it does in the photo directly below.

Since that time I have continued to work on the painting. I've repainted the shrubs again, bringing the two on the left together. I still need to address the edges of the shadowing.

The other change is a new element in the form of a partial car in the foreground. (Words can't express the strength of my impulse to paint the word creampuff in yellow in the windshield.) The lot was a bit too vacant. This is a natural addition.

The current state of the painting is seen directly below.

That's about it for now. See you next week.

BMT ArtFair 2007

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

TSA: Don't Touch The Monkey

The ban includes the popular souvenir snow globes seen in shops wherever one would find tourists.

NYT Link

"Snow globes, regardless of size of amount of liquid inside, even with documentation, are prohibited in your carry-on."

Judging from the lines one regularly sees at airport security checkpoints, I suppose that a total ban makes more sense than weighing each individual globe for the 3 ounce compliance.  One can only imagine the outbursts of young children upon the loss of their prized possessions.

But attempting to put a lid on terrorism via bag searches is seen by at least some private security experts as a futile pursuit.  As to the foiled liquid explosive plot:

But the plot seems to have been thwarted before the bad guys reached the airport, because of intelligence and police work, not a focus on rummaging through carry-on bags for bottles of shampoo.

"If you look at the London plot, assuming it was a plot, no security measure then in place would have caught it at an airport," said Bruce Schneier, an authority on security technology and the author of the book "Beyond Fear."  ...

He added, "Screeners are so busy looking for liquids that they've missed decoy bombs in tests. We've defined success so weirdly. When T.S.A. takes away some frozen tomato sauce from grandmom because it might become a liquid, they think of it as a success. But that's a failure. It's a false alarm."

The TSA has thoughtfully provided various other directives, all in the intended interest of safety.  In its quest to protect the travelling public, the TSA has appparently left no stone unturned.  The agency has even gone so far as to provide guidelines to the handling of trained monkeys sometimes used by the physically challenged, much as dogs are used by the sight-impaired.

One can only imagine the mood of the author of this passage.

"When the handler and the monkey go through the W.T.M.D. and the W.T.M.D. alarms, both the handler and the monkey must undergo additional screening." The rules add that security officers "have been trained not to touch the monkey during the screening process" and that "the inspection process may require that the handler take off the monkey's diaper as part of the visual inspection."

Now that I have been protected from dangerous monkey butts, I can sleep soundly at night.

Mr.Schneier again:

He added, "We spent billions on security to make the bad guys make minor modifications in their tactics. Focusing on the tactics only works if you happen to guess correctly."

More TSA here.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Celebrating Our Good Nature

After reading about the 3000th American death in Iraq, more important news reared its ugly head in the form of the Rose Parade. Today's Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, the 118th edition of the long-running event, celebrated with the unlikely theme of celebrating our good nature.


President Holman revealed Our Good Nature as the theme for the 118th Rose Parade. "I felt the theme should incorporate the elements that make our parade and our organization so extraordinary," says Holman.

Good plan. Don't let too much reality intrude upon the gala flower-laden celebration.

There's some comfort in knowing that though the world may be churning in upheaval, the celebration just goes on and on.