Australia's north braces for massive cyclone

Australia's flood-stricken state of Queensland (left) closed major coal ports, evacuated tourists from vulnerable resorts and warned of heavy rain on Monday ahead of a massive cyclone due to slam into its coast this week.

Forecasters said Cyclone Yasi could be generating gales of more than 250 kph when it hits the coast on Wednesday or Thursday, which would put it on a par with Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans in 2005.

Yasi is expected to hit Queensland just days after another tropical storm struck the state. Cyclone Anthony hit the coast early Monday morning and quickly weakened from 80 mph (130 kph) winds to a tropical low. The storm uprooted trees and knocked down power lines in some areas but spared communities any major damage.

"This is a very serious threat," Queensland Premier Anna Bligh told reporters. "It may be one of the largest and most significant cyclones we've ever had to deal with."

Tropical cyclone Yasi, which formed in the Coral Sea, is emerging as a triple threat to Queensland's highly populated north coast, bringing with it destructive winds, storm surge and heavy rains. Officials are prompting evacuations and are warning that the storm could be the worst the already-swamped region has ever seen.

Weather bureau meteorologist Gordon Banks rated the developing system off Fiji as very dangerous.

Mr Banks said it would move slowly inland, a situation that tended to bring flood rains. "It's developing strongly near Vanuatu and we don't expect it to lose too much strength as it moves towards the coast," Mr Banks said. "If it is as strong as the models suggest, category three or better, heavy rain could potentially affect the interior on Friday, Saturday and Sunday."

Mr Banks said the cyclone was expected to come ashore in the north, but because it was so early in its development, nowhere between Princess Charlotte Bay on Cape York and Fraser Island in the southeast could be ruled out.

Currently, however, the cyclone is expected to cross the coast between Innisfail and Proserpine -- with Queensland's northern capital of Townsville directly in its path (left) -- overnight on Wednesday as a Category 2 system, bringing wind gusts of up to 275km/h and heavy rain.

Authorities are also extremely concerned about possible storm surges and flooding, advising residents in low-lying waterfront areas to relocate to higher ground.

Queensland disaster coordinator Ian Stewart yesterday warned north Queensland residents used to tropical cyclones not to underestimate the system.

"Relocation should be considered by people in low-lying areas. This is a very, very serious threat to the safety of our coastline and the safety of our community," he said.

The coastal region is home to more than 310,000 people, including Queensland's second-largest city of Townsville, with 180,000 people, and the growth hub of Mackay, population 80,000. But the coastline is also dotted with towns of just under 10,000 people, including Innisfail, Ayr and Bowen, and towns with between 3000 and 5000 people, including Ingham, Mission Beach, Tully, Home Hill and Proserpine.

Winds of more than 100km/h will buffet the area by mid-morning tomorrow.

Strong building codes have been in place since the 1960s in north Queensland, in a bid to ensure properties are better protected against cyclones and authorities have advised residents -- other than people in low-lying waterfront areas -- to remain in their homes. Heavy rain, including predictions of dumps of more than a meter, will spread south and inland from where Yasi crosses the coast, and is expected to inundate already sodden catchments of the central highlands. (At right: people in low lying areas wade out of flooding from earlier in year)

Queensland, which accounts for about a fifth of Australia's economy and 90 percent of its exports of steel making coal, has borne the brunt of a cruel summer, with floods having swept across the eastern seaboard in the past month, killing at least 35 people.

Cyclone Anthony then Cyclone Yasi

Queensland is also home to Australia's sugar industry, (left: sugar cane fields being harvested) which was also hurt by the floods and now risks being battered by the cyclone.

The floods swamped around 30,000 homes, destroyed roads and rail lines (right) and crippled Queensland's coal industry, with up to 15 million tons of exports estimated to have been delayed into the second half of this year.

Queensland's coal mines are mostly well inland and unlikely to be smashed by Cyclone Yasi, but they could be drenched again by heavy rain. The mines are still struggling to pump water out of their pits.

The Queensland Resources Council has estimated that the state's coal miners would take until March to return to normal but warned on Monday of further delays because of cyclones.

"If we get any more rain, it's just going to stretch out that time frame," council spokeswoman Caroline Morrissey said.

"The problem is we have got water in the pits, the mine dams are full and to pump water out of the pits they need to pump the water into the mine dams and there is no room for the water."

Cyclone Yasi is expected to classified "category 4" by the time it reaches the coast. That is the second-highest category and would be around the same strength as Hurricane Katrina and the strongest to hit Australia since early 2006.

Cyclone Yasi, currently in the southwest Pacific, is expected to make landfall near the northeast military town of Townsville with wind gusts of 200 to 260 kph, but with damaging winds along more than 1,000 km (620 miles) of coastline.

Australia's largest export terminal for coking coal, Dalrymple Bay (at left), had already suspended operations on Sunday because of an earlier cyclone, now passed. It decided on Monday to remain closed with the rapid approach of Yasi.

A poll of analysts last week showed Queensland would lose 11.3 million tons in coking coal output in 2011, equal to almost 5 percent of world exports. Most analysts believed miners would take until end-March to return to normal.

No sugar ships are currently in the major export terminal of Mackay, Australia's biggest sugar export port (right) which can handle up to 3 million tons a year. Most of the sugar from last harvest has already been shipped.

Reuters, "Australia's north braces for massive cyclone", accessed January 31, 2011
The Australian, "Cyclone Yasi a triple threat to Queensland's north coast", accessed January 31, 2011
City Paper's Chris Potter has a 1/27 blog post with News On Dreaming Ant. The post includes links to GoogleDocs containing the affidavit and the search warrant used to seize the hard drive and router from the Pittsburgh coffee shop.

click for full-size documents, opens in a new window

This WTAE news article (screen shot on the right) shows WTAE's story about the seizure of the hard drive and router. The key quote (circled in red) is:
Police didn't say what led them to the computer at the Dreaming Ant video store, where an employee Thursday said he knew nothing of the letter.

What's curious about that assertion is the story of how the FOP came into possession of the spoof press release. Police documents indicate that they received the email and the PDF from Ashlie Hardway, a WTAE journalist (and blogger) who is also married to a FOP member. Nice.

It seems disingenuous (at best) for WTAE to report that police wouldn't say what led them to Dreaming Ant, when in fact it was WTAE that led the FOP to the scene of the "crime".

Another interesting point in the Affidavit was the oblique mention of another, earlier search warrant, looking for IP address information.

Perhaps Mr. Young and Mr. Potter of City Paper will be able to unearth the earlier IP search warrant application and document. It might be interesting reading.

Maybe WTAE can get it, they have a connection.
I have been working on a little project in the garden for the last few months, all I needed was a few extra bags of mulch to finish the job.

I finished it today....

I used one of Paula's steak knives to cut open the bags.  When I cleaned up, I put the knife at the base of the Norfolk Island Pine, placed the bags in the bin and retrieved the knife to take inside.

Well lookit that!  Two knives!  I musta left the other one there from last time.

I'd better get it inside and clean the rust off the blade before Paula gets home.

Remind me not to use that knife for eating in the future.

Alabama coastline named 1 of 10 most endangered places in the South

The Alabama coastline has been named one of the 10 most endangered places in the South by the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Although Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida saw plenty of oil, Alabama’s coastline was the only one singled out for the list, because of this quirk: For its purposes, the Law Center defines the South as a six-state region including Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia.

The threat to the coast is ongoing, even though the oil spill has been
over for months, according to the group, which contends that federal drilling laws still don’t have enough teeth to prevent another major spill.

A statement from the group touts its “legal efforts to strengthen oversight and regulation of offshore drilling, and to ensure that nothing
like the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is allowed to happen again.”

The group does a new list annually. Last
year, Alabama’s Black Warrior River (right) was singled out as one of the most endangered places.

Other places on this year’s list were highlighted due to various industrial projects, including hydroelectric dams, coal mines, bridge construction and hydraulic fracking for natural gas production.

A central theme of the group’s report involves energy, both producing it
and consuming it. The South, according to the group, relies on coal-fired power plants and allows particularly destructive mining practices, including mountaintop removal coal mining (at left) and strip mines.

“Our region is headed down a path that threatens to overwhelm the Southern landscapes we love — our mountains, rivers, coast and rural countryside,” said Marie Hawthorne, with the group. “Decisions made
today about how we extract and produce energy will have consequences for decades to come.”

The group contends that if the six states in which it works were a single country, it would be the sixth-largest carbon dioxide source on Earth. Carbon dioxide is one of the key greenhouse gases associated with global warming.

Source: for the Mobile Register,"Alabama coastline named 1 of 10 most endangered places in the South", accessed January 26, 2011
Out now.....

You can read it here online

Can we separate the artwork and the artist, the performance from the performer? Should we?

Can the artist's behavior render their art unworthy, or does the product or performance stand on its own merits regardless of the artist's notoriety?

Performers, writers, athletes, they're all artists.
Is the movie you watched still great after you learn it's a Mel Gibson project?
Is Cosmo Kramer still funny after Michael Richards went off?

One of these artists is different from the others,
One of these performers is different from the rest.


One of these artists is nicer than the others,
Can you guess?

(please click on the button of the nicest performer)
Roman Polanski is the nicest of the three.
Woody Allen is the nicest of the three.
Ben Roethlisberger is the nicest of the three.

I realize that good people can disagree on the matter of separating the performer from the performance.

I can't watch Roman Polanski movies.
I can't enjoy Woody Allen's work.

I can't support Ben Roethlisberger, the team that puts him on the stage, or the entertainment business that profits from his work.

I hope the Green Bay Packers win this weekend's bit of entertainment.
I hope that young coed in Georgia is doing all right.

Every week I seem to be needing some new tool or rather.  I've got that many now I need a shed...

This week I posted about the removal of the seats in the black car.  What I didn't post was the trouble I had in simply unbolting the f-o-u-r bolts.

First remove the plastic thingy to expose the bolt. Ezy.

Eek!  What sort of bolt is that?  Hang on I think I have a drill bit that fits them......

I use about two things from this set of douvalackies for the drill.  The bits I require are in the bottom right.


Double eek!  It's too small.  It has T45 on it - looks like I need a T50.

So off to Bunnings I go to get one.  Whilst I'm there, the local Vietnam Vets are running a sausage sizzle, so I got the bolt and had sausage sandwich at the same time; and I also gave the boys a bit of cheek because they deserve it.

This is the T50 Torx bit.  But you can't just buy one.  Oh no.  You knew that didn't you?

This is what I had to buy.....

$21, thank you very much.

Plus $2.50 for the sausage sandwich, plus 50c tip.

I have a storage system for all the tools I have now amassed...

They could be on the front verandah in a couple of milk crates, or, they could be in the laundry on the shelf, or, they could be on the back verandah on a set of shelves, or, in some other milk crates.

It's good exercise for me running around all the time looking for stuff.  

I have a system.  I just leave them lying around anywhere.  

Hey, it works for me.

'Many seed-bearing trees may become extinct'

Global warming is already affecting the earth in a variety of ways that demand our attention. Now, research carried out at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem indicates that many tree species might become extinct due to climate change if no action is taken in time.

According to the research, trees which disperse their seeds by wind,
such as pines and maples, will be unable to spread at a pace that can cope with expected climate changes. (Right: red maple seeds)

The research, which focused on the ecological consequences of expected changes in the climate and the environment on tree spread, was conducted by Prof. Ran Nathan, head of the Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Science at the Hebrew University; his student, Nir Horvitz; and researchers from abroad.

Climate changes, which can be sensed already today and which are expected to continue in the next 50 years, include the increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the air and a reduction of surface wind speed
in many areas. On the basis of earlier work, elevated concentration of carbon dioxide is expected to cause trees to produce many more seeds and to reach maturity earlier than under current conditions, hence speeding up their spread. On the other hand, the weakening of wind speed in certain areas should reduce spread rate of these trees. The balance between these opposing forces remained unknown.

Furthermore, it was unclear whether even the projected increase in wind speed in certain areas, together with the higher seed production and earlier maturation, will result in a fast enough spread of trees in order to be sufficient to match the climate changes.

The new research, published in the journal Ecology Letters is based on a unique, fully mechanistic model developed to predict trends in plant spread. This model is the first to consider how projected changes in biological and environmental factors would impact tree spread in future environments. Predictions which were made until now were founded on past trends and did not take into consideration the expected future changes in the key biological and environmental factors that determine plant spread. (at right: different ways seeds disperse)

They note that global warming is already affecting the earth in a variety of ways that demand attention. Among the tree species that might
disappear due to climate change if no action is taken in time are pines and maples (left).

Climate changes, which can be sensed already today and which are expected to continue in the next half century include the increase of carbon dioxide concentration in the air and a reduction of surface wind speed in many areas.

On the basis of earlier work, higher concentrations of carbon dioxide are expected to cause trees to produce many more seeds and to reach maturity earlier than under current conditions, hence speeding up their
spread. (At right: a dandelion's seeds are spread by wind)

On the other hand, the weakening of wind speed in certain areas should reduce spread rate of these trees.

The balance between these opposing forces remains unknown. It was also unclear whether even the projected increase in wind speed in certain areas – together with the higher seed production and earlier maturation – will result in a fast enough proliferation of trees to be sufficient to match the climate changes.

These questions were examined in this study for the first time. Surprisingly, the results show that changes in wind speed, either the
projected increase or decrease, have negligible effects on the rate of wind-driven spread of these species. The effects of increased seed production and earlier maturation is that which prevails, giving rise to faster spread in the future compared to current conditions.

Still, this research showed that the faster spread predicted for these trees in the future will be much slower than the expected poleward shift of temperature ranges, so these tree species might not be able to withstand this climate change.
“Our research indicates that the natural wind-driven spread of many species of trees will increase but will occur at a significantly lower pace than that which will be required to cope with the changes in surface temperature,” said Nathan.

“This will raise extinction risk of many tree populations because they won’t be able to track the shift in their natural habitats, which currently supply them with favorable conditions for rooting and reproduction,” he explained.

“As a result, the composition of different tree species in future forests is expected to change and their areas might be reduced, the goods and services that these forests provide for man might be harmed, and wide-ranging steps will have to be taken to ensure seed dispersal in a controlled, directed manner,” he continued.

“Predictions that were made until now were founded on past trends and did not take into consideration the expected future changes in the key biological and environmental factors that determine plant spread.”
In Israel, the research has bearing on various native tree species whose
seeds are dispersed by the wind, such as Aleppo pine , Syrian maple (right) and Syrian ash. The model that has been developed will be useful also in predicting the invasive spread of alien tree species into Israeli natural habitats.

The current research points to the need to take human action to insure the dispersal of the seeds of the desirable trees within the next half century, in view of the expected climate changes.

“It is important for those responsible for forest management in many parts of the world to understand that nature alone will not do the job,” concluded Nathan. “Human action will be required to ensure in a controlled manner the minimization of unexpected detrimental byproducts, and that those trees which are very important for global ecological processes will not become extinct,” he said.

“These forests are important in many ways to man, including the supply of wood, the safeguarding of water quality and the provision of recreation and tourism facilities.”

The Jerusalem Post
, "'Many seed-bearing trees may become extinct'", accessed January 25, 2011
Science Daily, "Climate Change Threatens Many Tree Species", accessed January 25, 2011
"Cop Drama" is an excellent article in the City Paper by Chris Young, about an ongoing show situated in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, it is not a television series that the Pittsburgh Film Office can take credit for; it is a case of real life imitating bad art. But if this were a series, the key points of this week's show would include:
  • Outcry over the beating of Jordan Miles has been overshadowed, if not replaced, by the hue-and-cry over a spoof press release on the first anniversary of the beating
  • "If we catch anyone with regard to this, it's going to be multiple felonies," FOP President Dan O'Hara was quoted as saying in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. I don't think the FOP, which is an employee union, is entitled to conduct investigations, seize evidence, or file felony charges.
  • According to an affidavit of probable cause -- a sworn statement needed to justify the Dreaming Ant search warrant -- police were forwarded a copy of the statement by WTAE-TV reporter Ashlie Hardway.
  • The role of WTAE and Ashlie Hardway in sending the police squad to Crazy Mocha / Dreaming Ant to seize their hard drive and router has not yet been fully explored.
  • Pittsburgh ACLU says the press release "is parody protected by the First Amendment"
  • "It's a part of democratic free speech," says Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill Peduto
  • a neologism was introduced: "douchenarchists"

Kudos to City Paper, Chris Young, Chris Potter, and Sadie Gurman, the only Pittsburgh journalists who seem to be working this beat.

Although the Post-Gazette reporting staff seems too interested in Steelers pep-rallies to cover the story, the PG Editorial Board awoke, arose on their hind legs, and wrote an interesting piece on Friday:
A year after what looks like the unnecessarily harsh treatment of a law-abiding citizen, there is no sign of movement toward a just conclusion.

Pittsburghers have a right to know what happened to Jordan Miles. He and the officers have a right to see the facts aired in public. Until that day, a cloud will hang over Pittsburgh and what passes for justice, accountability and transparency in this city.

Finally, in the top-left corner of this blog, you will find a Justice Delay Counter which keeps track of the number of days since Jordan Miles was beaten without any accountability. At press time, 383 days and waiting.