No, there have not been 1,586 previous silly thoughts.  Silly me, I made the number up.

This is something I’ve thought  about for over 15 years. It got a boost in 2001, when The Patriot Act was passed.  The actual bill was printed out in the wee hours of the morning, the middle of the night, on the same day when the U.S. House was supposed to vote on it.  It ran many, many thousands of pages, as I think I heard.  And yet, the Congressmen were supposed to vote on this thing that nthey had not even had a chance to read.

Well, Congressman John Conyers was asked by a young journalist about just this point, during that day – “Congressman, how can all of you vote on something that just got published a few hours ago?  You cannot have had a chance to read it yet.”

This is one time a politician wasn’t lying when his lips moved. Conyers looked him in the eye and said, “Son, do you think that we ever get a chance to read the bills we vote on?”

Now, to me that was a seminal moment. Continue reading

Strange Thoughts on Politics – Is The GOP Screwed?

I have a strange way of thinking.  It’s a mix of optimism, trust, cynicism, naïvete, education, curiosity, logic, open-mindedness, experience, book learning, principles, and – above all – a belief in the innate goodness and generosity of human beings.

Now most of those can be wrapped up in the first one – optimism.  The one that doesn’t, well, I guess you could call that one – cynicism – pessimism”, if you want to.  But you can see at a glance that the optimism outweighs the pessimism.  By quite a bit.

Though I have to deal with the daily world, like everyone has to, I don’t MAINLY do that.  That is just the “next step”, not the direction nor the goal.  When I am walking down the street, I take one step at a time, and that is the “next step”, but my direction is chosen independently of my means of locomotion, and my goal dictates the direction.  My means of locomotion could be a skateboard (not likely) or a taxi or a bike, etc.  Or it could be typing on the keyboard here, in order to get an idea across that I hope might connect with someone else.  In that case the goal is “idea connection”, and the direction is the sentence structure and paragraph construct (making each step go in the same direction, mostly).  Locomotion in this case would be commonly called writing.

The basic thing is to have a long term goal (e.g., idea connection) and a short term means/activity (e.g., writing or teaching or thinking out loud or making a joke), as well as mastering the steps/skills/methods/protocols/code/talent/techniques.  The latter is the steps, and the middle is the direction, and the former is the goal.

Bear with me on this…  It DOES go somewhere… :-)

Now, what made me think of any of this is that I was talking with a friend today, about US politics.  That was obvious, wasn’t it?  Hahaha

She was worried that Social Security might not be there when she retires in several years.  The GOP and FOX News have repeated so many untrue things so often that people not only begin to believe they MIGHT be rue, but that they almost certainly ARE TRUE.  Thanks, Josef Göbbels, for teaching the mind fuckers of this world that repetition can make people believe all SORTS of things that aren’t necessarily so. Joe, you got HER, anyway, by way of the GOP and its insane mouthpiece, FOX News.  Joe, you screwed up your Germany, and you screwed up America, even though you were long dead by the time Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove and Ronald Reagan and Arthur Laffer twisted the sanity out of the American mind. Continue reading

‘DEAD CLADE WALKING’ – The Mammoth Connection

For those interested at all in mammoths, you probably know about them going extinct.  Some of you will also know that a very few mammoths managed to survive the immediate, main extinction, managing to make it until about 4,000 years ago before the last one bit the bullet.

In my curiosity, I frequent several blogs.  On more than one, every time the subject comes up about the mammoth population going extinct at the onset of the Younger Dryas cold period 12,800 years ago, some bloke brings up the facts of these small island populations of mammoths, the last group of which survived until more or less 4,000 years ago.   They are correct about those mammoths surviving.  But are they right about that not being an extinction event at 12,800 years ago?

There is a post-extinction-event condition called “Dead Clade Walking“. Wiki does a decent job of introducing the subject, so I will quote from them:

Dead clade walking also known as “survival without recovery” refers to a clade (group) of organisms which survived a mass extinction but never recovered in numbers, becoming extinct a few million years after the mass extinction or failed to recover in numbers and diversity.

Now, I first heard of Dead Clade Walking on the TV show Elementary, a Sherlock Holmes in modern day New York City series. I had not heard of the term when Holmes used it. He actually DID explain what it meant to Dr. Watson, and when he did, that piqued my interest.

It piqued my interest because the principle of it seemed to be exactly what happened to those small mammoth groups that survived for up to another 8,000 years – only to finally die out, anyway. Continue reading

Wow – Fracking May NOT Be the Source of Gases in Well Water

I found this:

MANY people are convinced that fracking is the source of gas and oil in well water.  I’ve kept an open mind, while suspecting the conclusions might be  premature.

Now comes a study, Elevated levels of diesel range organic compounds in groundwater near Marcellus gas operations are derived from surface activities, with this:

Organic compounds found in drinking water aquifers above the Marcellus Shale and other shale plays could reflect natural geologic transport processes or contamination from anthropogenic activities, including enhanced natural gas production. Using analyses of organic compounds coupled with inorganic geochemical fingerprinting, estimates of groundwater residence time, and geospatial analyses of shale gas wells and disclosed safety violations, we determined that the dominant source of organic compounds to shallow aquifers was consistent with surface spills of disclosed chemical additives. There was no evidence of association with deeper brines or long-range migration of these compounds to the shallow aquifers. Encouragingly, drinking water sources affected by disclosed surface spills could be targeted for treatment and monitoring to protect public health. [emphasis added by me]

To me, surface spills/leaks are a wild card in this that, for some reason, I missed as a possibility.  And it makes sense. Continue reading

Spacecraft to Nudge Asteroid Off Course – For Practice

I ran across this article from The Independent about moving asteroids:

End of the world plan: scientists to nudge asteroid off course as practice for protecting the Earth

This is a plan to send a spacecraft to an asteroid by 2020, to intercept the asteroid by 2020, and see what we can learn. This makes good engineering sense – use what we have to see if it does what we think it can do.

This, I think, is just exactly what we should be doing at this time – building and trying out a prototype to do just this.  We today have what we think are technologically feasible methods of deflecting asteroids or comets. And we THINK we know what their make-up is. But we don’t know exactly for sure, either one.  The correct approach is to learn about the asteroids and to learn HOW to intercept any dangerous bodies flying around “out there”.  So, doing this is a REALLY smart thing to do.

I like that they are sending it FAR out – two years out – because, as we all know, the earlier we mitigate an actual threatening asteroid by deflection, the easier it is to change the course enough to miss Earth.

It is an obligation for our generation to DO this – to actually LEARN how to do this, because we are the first generation to have the capacity to stop an extinction level event. If we screw this opportunity up, mankind will always be starting over from scratch – always be blown back to the Stone Age.


Orthodox science now considers that our history has been a linear ascent, up from nothing, and that this ascent has never happened before. This despite the evidence of civilizations in the very remote past that were capable of some technological achievements that were more or less equal to things we do now. I refer to the megalithic cities and sites around the world and some of their incredible stone work. The orthodoxy misreads these as having been done by people working with copper chisels and granite balls being dropped many millions of times to work stone. Christopher Dunn, for one, has shown how inadequate such orthodox thinking is.

So, if there is ANY evidence of high technology of ANY kind that existed in the past, the orthodoxy is busted, and our history is, therefore, NOT a linear ascent but an interrupted history. With SOME forensic evidence of the YDIH now in hand (no matter HOW much a small group of skeptics thinks otherwise), we appear to have evidence from TWO angles that humankind has experienced an extinction level event before. For one, we have sites with incredible stone work, in most cases far beyond the capacities of the aboriginal societies that Europeans found. Secondly, we have the evidence in nanodiamonds and other impact materials.

The lesson, it seems, is that it appears to have happened BEFORE. And if it did, we are SORELY obligated to prevent it happening to US.

The End of the World is NOT a fore-ordained event, not if we humans can do anything about it.  And the way to do it is logically, step by step. We don’t want to end up like all the End of the World movies, in which we have to take a flyer on some un-tried method. We have the technology, and we have the people, and we have the TIME – to do it RIGHT.

And if we DO – if we succeed – we buy humankind time, at least until the next Big One – and that might be another 10,000 or 100,000 years.  And what capacities will humankind have a chance to develop, given that much time? Look at what we’ve done in our 12,000 or so years of civilization so far.  If there was a “last time” – if we got hit in the past – we can see that they got very far in terms of architecture and building.  But they are not around anymore, so they didn’t develop enough to protect themselves.

But even if there were NOT such sites around the world, we STILL are here and now, and we DO have this capacity to develop methods – reliable methods – for “saving the Earth” and preventing the End of the World.  (They used the term in their headline, so I feel I have free reign to use the term, too.)


I see this spacecraft project as being a logic and hugely important first real step toward being able to do that anytime we need to – and to know that it will do the job. Sooner or later SOME such body will come at us. It might be in 100 years or 100,000 years, but it WILL happen. Every crater on every solid body in our solar system tells us it DOES happen. Shoemaker-Levy 9 tells us also that it happens on UN-solid bodies, too – leaving no evidence on those that comets and asteroids DO hit planets.  (We have observed that two other bodies have impacted on Jupiter since SL-9.)

If we pretend that we are some blessed planet that is immune to impacts, that is to be ostriches with our heads in the ground.  I, for one, think that that is a monumentally STUPID approach.

THIS spacecraft is IMPORTANT. We are doing the right thing, and at the right time.

(Thank the stars that Chelyabinsk has people taking this seriously.)

That Clovis Overkill Hypothesis? How much evidence is there for it, really?

I am amazed that this Clovis as mammoth murderer to extinction idea still has traction.

I am presenting this here not to convince the reader, but to show that the popular idea of humans as mammoth “extinction machines” has another, valid, side to it.  I was not looking for this article or anything along these lines at the time I found it (a couple of months ago) – but it blew me away, that two BIG names in this area of research (Grayson and Meltzer) had such a paper out there.  In my opinion, this paper eviscerates the Overkill hypothesis.  See what you think:

See “A requiem for North American overkill” Grayson and Meltzer 2003. (Yes, the very same Meltzer who is a co-author on some of the YDB skeptical papers.) All the quotes are from that paper.

The argument that human hunters were responsible for the extinction of a wide variety of large Pleistocene mammals emerged in western Europe during the 1860s, alongside the recognition that people had coexisted with those mammals. Today, the overkill position is rejected for western Europe but lives on in Australia and North America. The survival of this hypothesis is due almost entirely to Paul Martin, the architect of the first detailed version of it. In North America, archaeologists and paleontologists whose work focuses on the late Pleistocene routinely reject Martin’s position for two prime reasons: there is virtually no evidence that supports it, and there is a remarkably broad set of evidence that strongly suggests that it is wrong. In response, Martin asserts that the overkill model predicts a lack of supporting evidence, thus turning the absence of empirical support into support for his beliefs. We suggest that this feature of the overkill position removes the hypothesis from the realm of science and places it squarely in the realm of faith. One may or may not believe in the overkill position, but one should not confuse it with a scientific hypothesis about the nature of the North American past.

They discuss island versus continental extinctions and causes.  And they argue efficiently that projecting island extinctions onto continents – which is VERY commonly done – is a completely wrong extrapolation:

The initial human colonization of island after island was followed by vertebrate extinction. That this premise is true, however, does not mean that it is relevant to continental extinctions. After all, the factors that make islands prone to vertebrate extinction — small population sizes of resident vertebrates, the lack of a ready source of conspecific colonizers, and so on — do not apply to the continental setting.

It is not enough to blame humans for mammoth and mastodon extinctions. Over 30 other species went extinct at virtually the same time – with the lack of evidence of Clovis killing them being non-existent:

How many of those genera can be shown to have been human prey during Clovis times?  The answer is two – mammoth and mastodon—(Table 2) and there are only 14 sites that securely document this relationship [39].  As has long been known [42], this is not a sampling fluke (see Fig. 1). There are more late Pleistocene occurrences of horse than there are of mammoth or mastodon, and nearly as many for camel as for mastodon, yet there are no demonstrable kill sites for horse or camel or for any of the remaining genera [30,31,34,36,37,39]. This is not for want of looking.  Given the high archaeological visibility of the remains of extinct Pleistocene mammals, and their great interest to archaeologists and Quaternary paleontologists alike, if such sites were out there, they would surely be found. Indeed, there is a strong bias in the Clovis archaeological record toward just such sites…

So, the next time you see an “artist’s rendition” like this, think about what you are reading today:

The Extinct Late Pleistocene Mammals of North America

Genus / Common name
Pampatheriuma / Southern Pampathere
Holmesina / Northern Pampathere
Glyptotherium / Simpson’s / Glyptodont
Megalonyx / Jefferson’s Ground Sloth
Eremotherium / Rusconi’s Ground Sloth
Nothrotheriops / Shasta Ground Sloth
Glossotheriumc / Harlan’s Ground Sloth
Brachyprotoma / Short-faced Skunk
Cuonb / Dhole
Tremarctos / Florida Cave Bear
Arctodus / Giant Short-faced Bear
Smilodon / Sabertooth Cat
Homotherium / Scimitar Cat
Miracinonyx / American Cheetah
Castoroides / Giant Beaver
Hydrochoerus / Holmes’s Capybara
Neochoerus / Pinckney’s Capybara
Aztlanolagus / Aztlan Rabbit
Equus / Horse
Tapirus / Tapirs
Mylohyus / Long-nosed Peccary
Platygonus / Flat-headed Peccary
Camelops / Yesterday’s Camel
Hemiauchenia / Large-headed Llama
Palaeolama / Stout-legged Llama
Navahoceros / Mountain Deer
Cervalces / Stag-Moose
Capromeryx / Diminutive Pronghorn
Tetrameryx / Shuler’s Pronghorn
Stockoceros / Stock’s Pronghorn
Saigab / Saiga
Euceratherium / Shrub Ox
Bootherium / Harlan’s Musk Ox
Mammut / American Mastodon (2)
Mammuthus / Mammoth (12)


Only the ones in red have confirmed kill sites (number of sites).  See Clovis hunting and large mammal extinction: a critical review of the evidence (Grayson and Meltzer 2002) .  Also see How Many Elephant Kills are 14? Clovis and Mastodon Kills in Context (Surovell and Waguespack 2008).

The experts in the field don’t sign on to the idea, to their credit (but how about the rest of us and the rest of scientists?) : Continue reading

A Look at Fracking-Earthquake Claims

As I am wont to do, I thought I’d look at one of the claims about fracking in wells in Oklahoma.  Why Oklahoma?  I’ve heard quite a few people who are alarmed about all the quakes in Oklahoma since fracking came on line.  So, why not take a look at some basic information?

Here is a map of Oklahoma (without the Panhandle, which has had no quakes):

Map of Oklahoma Quakes 1980-2015

Oklahoma quakes from 1980 to 2015. The yellow circles are quakes in the last week. (Source: USGS)

That looks pretty, bad, I have to admit.  Especially when we all think of Oklahoma as a place that doesn’t HAVE quakes!

And this map makes it even look worse, doesn’t it?  At least on first glance (also not showing the Panhandle).

Fracked Wells in Oklahoma (most of)

Map of Fracked wells in Oklahoma. (Source:


Look at all those fracked wells!  All of that LOOKS like an indictment of fracking. But let’s at least go through the motions and see how bad it is…  Let’s gather some information and do some comparing, okay?  We need to identify the basic information first, and see what happens.

I guessed that the 10 basic pieces of information should be the follwing.  I hope that the list looks pretty sound to you.  If the fracking is causing quakes, we should get a good sense of that – not by looking at general impressions, but by going into a little detail.  The questions:

  1. When did fracking in Oklahama begin?
  2. Has fracking increased in recent years?
  3. Where are the fracking wells?
  4. Is there a pattern to the fracking well locations?
  5. Where are the quakes in Oklahoma in recent years?
  6. How many quakes have there been?
  7. How strong are the earthquakes?
  8. Is there a pattern to the quake locations?
  9. Is there a tie-in between the fracking well areas and the quake areas?
  10. For comparison, do neighboring regions show any fracking-quake patterns?

Continue reading