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The Christmas song

Marvin Gaye:

All I want for Christmas is you

Mariah Carey:

And of course, the parody:

Please Come Home for Christmas

Weather patterns

I was reading Jeff Masters’ blog on weatherunderground.com, and he is the master of understatement:

The death toll on the Philippine island of Mindanao is at least 632, with hundreds still missing, in the wake of extreme flash flooding from Friday’s passage of Tropical Storm Washi. Washi hit Mindanao as a tropical storm with 45 – 55 mph winds, crossing the island in about eighteen hours. Washi was unusually wet, as the storm was able to tap a large stream of tropical moisture extending far to the east (see the University of Wisconsin CIMSS satellite blog for imagery.) Aiding the heavy rains were sea surface temperatures that were nearly 1°C above average off the east coast of Mindanao, one of the top five warmest values on record. The exceptionally warm waters added about 7% more moisture than is usual for this time of year to the atmosphere.

Washi hit a portion of the Philippines that does not see tropical storms and typhoons very often. Mindanao lies between 6°N and 9°N latitude, which is too close to the Equator for the Earth’s spin to provide much help for a tropical storm trying to get spinning. Mindanao is thus hit only about once every twelve years by a significant tropical storm or typhoon. Washi’s rains were not all that unusual for a Philippine tropical storm, with a peak rainfall amount of 7.44″ (189 mm) observed in the city of Hinatuan. However, since the rains fell on regions where the natural forest had been illegally logged or converted to pineapple plantations, the heavy rains were able to run off quickly on the relatively barren soils and create devastating flash floods. Since the storm hit in the middle of the night, and affected an unprepared population that had no flood warning system in place, the death toll was tragically high. Washi is currently a tropical depression near the southern coast of Vietnam, and is dissipating.

The personal liberties lie

Columnist George Will is rarely at a loss for words, but he could only respond with cliches yesterday when Barney Frank asked him to square his alleged libertarian leanings with his authoritarian views on personal liberties. More here.

Ash Wednesday

I realized last night that yesterday was nine years since the death of my ex-husband, so I thought I’d put up this rerun.

IT WAS FREEZING COLD, and of course I was still driving around with my dead husband’s ashes in the trunk of my old Tercel. My sons weren’t sure what to do with them, and since the marble cask was so heavy, I left them in the trunk until they made up their minds.

“Well, there were times you sure sounded like you wanted to put him in the trunk,” said my best friend.

“I feel funny,” I said. “It’s so cold. I feel like I should take him a blanket and a Thermos of hot chocolate or something.” He was gone, and years of hard feelings left with him.

I was fifteen when I met him, eighteen when I moved in with him and nineteen when we married. Roy and I stayed married for thirteen years and had two sons.

It was one of those cerebral, friendly marriages where we had no real emotional understanding of each other; worse, we lacked compassion. We once thought we’d manage to stay friends despite our divorce but mostly, we could only manage friend-ly. Often, there were hard feelings between us. Most of those hard feelings appeared to be related to money but ultimately, they had to do with the way each of us looked at the world. Roy was afraid of so many things and he tended to hoard things to keep himself safe. He thought money was his armor.

People were so quick to write off my complaints as the embittered exaggeration of an ex-wife. They weren’t standing there in the support hearing when, asked by the judge if he had anything to say, Roy laid out an elaborate explanation of how much it cost him to feed the boys each week. “So you see, your honor, not only should I not be paying more support, I believe I should be paying less.” (At the time, he paid $35 a week for two boys. I was making $16,000 a year. He made more than twice that.)

The judge looked genuinely shocked. “You know, sir,” he said, peering over his glasses, “I have fathers in here all the time, begging for the opportunity to spend more time with their children. I must say, I believe this is the first time I’ve ever had a father ask for a rebate for time spent with their own children. Increase granted!” He banged the gavel.
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Why women need fat

 A piece in Salon that explains why one “common ingredient in much of our food is making us fatter, why women are very different from men when it comes to weight and health.”


How your Facebook page may affect your credit rating.

Suffocating protestors

You have to wonder who is their target audience, huh? Via Gizmodo:

It’s not the first crowd control tool to use sound waves, but Raytheon’s patent for a new type of riot shield that produces low frequency sound waves to disrupt the respiratory tract and hinder breathing, sounds a little scary.

Crowd control tools like the LRAD Sound Cannon emit bursts of loud and annoying sounds that can induce headaches and nausea. But Raytheon’s non-lethal pressure shield creates a pulsed pressure wave that resonates the upper respiratory tract of a human, hindering breathing and eventually incapacitating the target. The patent points out that the sound waves being generated are actually not that powerful, so while protestors might collapse from a lack of oxygen reaching their brains, their eardrums won’t be damaged in the process. Phew!

And like Roman soldiers joining their shields to form a large impenetrable wall, these new riot shields can actually be networked together to form a larger acoustical horn, vastly improving their range, power, and effectiveness.

Electronic medical records

Why the refusal of the medical profession to streamline information with computers keeps the system from finding out what actually works – and from saving money.

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