Sunday, May 25, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014


Saw this cloud to the south earlier this evening.

It moved to the northeast.

And we got some rain, fairly heavy but not as wild as the cloud looked. There's still a storm to the south. This one seems to have spun off from it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bits and Pieces - May 22, 2014

As usual, posts about Ukraine, why nuclear plants cost so much, the Kremlin may be watching you on Facebook, and more at Nuclear Diner.

Could it be possible that we are coming to a time when we discuss some of the issues we need to discuss? The Atlantic has two impressive articles on two issues: Ta-Nehisi Coates on reparations for black Americans and Mary Adkins on rape. Lt. Col. Robert Bateman discusses the encroachment of fundamentalist Christianity on the military. He's not that specific, but that's what he's talking about. I've been getting fed up lately with our inability to resist the worst of what our society has to offer in these areas, and I hope we're getting to a turning point.

Our modern way of thinking of maps, and the great variety of maps available to us, began during World War II. Here's some history and cool maps.

A long and scholarly article about Russian as a lingua franca. France provided the first, with English following. Russians managed, often by force, to make Russian a lingua franca within their sphere of influence, but it never got to be as universal as they would have liked.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Kazakhstan's Ancestral Apples In Trouble

We haven't had a post on fruit in a VERY long time.

National Geographic has a long article on apples and their birthplace in northeastern Kazakhstan. They are ancestral to all the apples we know, and they are endangered. A few excerpts:

One of these threatened species, Malus sieversii—a wild apple that Newton describes as "small but highly colored with a very nice sweet flavor"—is one of the key ancestors of all cultivated apples grown and eaten around the world. So rich and unique is this species, Newton says, that on one wild apple tree, "you can see more variation in apple form than you see in the entire cultivated apple crop in Britain. You can get variation in fruit size, shape, color, flavor, even within the tree, and certainly from tree to tree."

The Latin noun malus can mean either "apple" or "evil," which is probably why the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" in the Garden of Eden is often depicted as an apple tree, even though the biblical book of Genesis does not say what sort of fruit tree it is.

"All of the apples that we're eating today and cultivating originate from this area," Newton says. "So if we want to add genetic variation to our crops to cope with new pests or climate change, then the genetic resource is these forests. It's true for apples, apricots, peaches, walnuts, pears. In terms of a wild genetic resource for cultivated fruit trees, there's nothing like it on the planet."

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Don't Believe Your Own Propaganda

The level and tone of propaganda coming out of Russia today vastly exceed anything I recall from the Soviet Union. A quick look at the absurd tweets from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (@MFA_Russia) and the bullying by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin (@DRogozin) should convince anyone. They are far from alone; RT (formerly Russia Today) is going hot and heavy. And no, I don’t think I’ll link to it.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Bits and Pieces - Cinco de Mayo Edition

I'm still writing about Ukraine and other nuclear things at Nuclear Diner. I keep having ideas for great posts here, but real life keeps getting in the way. Although I'm fairly far along on one.

This is why there is so much bitterness about language in Russia and the countries it has dominated. Russia is the universal language, so it is a favor to make it the dominant language in the schools. Why would anyone want to learn stupid minor languages like Ukrainian, Estonian, Czech, Kazakh...?

The only reasonable military analysis of the troops Russia has near Ukraine's eastern border that I've been able to find. It looks like Russia is not planning to invade Ukraine. Rather, the troops are a warning to other countries and Ukraine not to undertake actions there. But so far Russia hasn't chosen to use the many possible pretexts to invade. Perhaps all President Vladimir Putin wants is to destabilize the country so that the May 25 elections can't take place. But then what? More about where the troops are.

Warlords in Ukraine?

NASA and Russia's space program are pretty interwoven. Thanks, Congress and the entrepreneurs and free-marketers who think we don't need to fund NASA!

An analysis of what Edward Snowden may have had access to at the NSA. Of course, he could have hacked into other partitions, but from the material that has been released, it looks like he didn't. The NSA is probably even more aware of this. This analysis seems to show that their information compartmentalization works better than some are saying.

When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions

Iran briefs UN nuclear agency on detonators. This would be a briefing on the exploding bridgewire detonators that Iran has researched. They are at issue because they are essential for nuclear weapons. Iran's willingness to discuss them is a positive sign, although how positive depends on how much they have included in the briefing.