Autonomous car actually has driver dressed as a car seat — WTF?

❝ A gray van was recently seen cruising the streets of suburban, Washington, D.C. — without a driver.

But this wasn’t one of those self-driving cars that Google and car companies have been testing. This was … something else.

❝ The unmarked van first appeared in a video on ARLnow.com, an Arlington, Virginia, news site. In the video pedestrians comment on the van, clearly realizing something is up.

That’s when a local reporter decided to dig deeper. WRC TV’s Adam Tuss and his photographer followed the van for 20 minutes, even after he says the van tried to lose them.

❝ Tuss finally caught up with the 2017 Ford Transit Connect and peered through its windows, only to find a person inside…But instead of sitting in the car’s seat, the person was the seat. The driver was dressed in a car-seat costume.

RTFA for [contradictory] explanations.

Women’s March on Washington more than double predicted size — more than showed for inauguration


Support demonstration in BerlinAP/Michael Sohn

9:40AM EST

A city official in Washington says the turnout estimate for the Women’s March on the National Mall now stands at 500,000 people. That’s more than double the initial predictions.

Kevin Donahue is Washington’s deputy mayor for public safety and justice. He says on Twitter that organizers of the march are increasing the turnout estimate to half a million.

There were early signs across Washington that Saturday’s crowds could top those that gathered on Friday to watch President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Keep on rocking in the Free World!

Contaminated “organic” food makes you just as sick as contaminated”conventional” food

…CRF Frozen Foods of Pasco, Washington is expanding its voluntary recall of frozen organic and traditional fruits and vegetables…because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

This expanded recall of frozen vegetables includes all of the frozen organic and traditional fruit and vegetable products manufactured or processed in CRF Frozen Foods’ Pasco facility since May 1, 2014…These include approximately 358 consumer products sold under 42 separate brands, the details of which are listed below. Products include organic and non-organic broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, cauliflower, corn, edamame, green beans, Italian beans, kale, leeks, lima beans, onions, peas, pepper strips, potatoes, potato medley, root medley, spinach, sweet potatoes, various vegetable medleys, blends, and stir fry packages, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, peaches, raspberries, and strawberries. For a complete list of affected products, click through to the article. It goes on forever.

We apologize for any concern or inconvenience, blah, blah, blah…Consumers with questions may call the company’s consumer hotline at 844-483-3866, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time.

Lots of frozen fruits and veggies under lots of brands – ranging from products sold at WalMart to Trader Joe’s and Wild Oats. I suggest you click that link above and check your freezer.

A new window on the universe — gravitational waves confirmed


The top two plots show data received at each detector
The final plot compares data from both…confirming the detection

For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected on September 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (09:51 UTC) by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors, located in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, USA…

Based on the observed signals, LIGO scientists estimate that the black holes for this event were about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun, and the event took place 1.3 billion years ago. About 3 times the mass of the sun was converted into gravitational waves in a fraction of a second — with a peak power output about 50 times that of the whole visible universe. By looking at the time of arrival of the signals — the detector in Livingston recorded the event 7 milliseconds before the detector in Hanford — scientists can say that the source was located in the Southern Hemisphere.

RTFA. Lots of truly interesting science.

And, sorry, Trumpites – the earth is not flat.

Zero-tolerance madness in Washington school

Webster’s defines “tag” as “a game in which the player who is it chases others and tries to touch one of them who then becomes it.” Wikipedia explains that the game, also known in Britain as “it, tip you’re it” is “a playground game that involves one or more players chasing other players in an attempt to ‘tag’ or touch them, usually with their hands.”

So is the game of “tag” still “tag” if tagging is banned?

That is the question for the Mercer County School District in Washington state and for some unhappy parents.

It all started with a social media report earlier this week when a group of parents, responding to what they had heard was a ban on the game of tag in elementary schools, formed a group called “Support ‘tag’ at Recess.”

It was their impression that there was indeed a ban and the word soon spread to the news media…

Sounds like a ban to me

“The Mercer Island School District and school teams have recently revisited expectations for student behavior to address student safety. This means while at play, especially during recess and unstructured time, students are expected to keep their hands to themselves. The rationale behind this is to ensure the physical and emotional safety of all students…”

Thursday the school district attempted to clarify. What it really has in mind, said a statement, was a “new form of tag-like running games to minimize the issues of ‘you were tagged/no I wasn’t’ or ‘the tag was too hard and felt more like a hit.’ Tag is not banned,” it insisted. “We plan to support our elementary students with new games and alternatives that still involve running and exercising.”

Running. Exercising. But no mention of touching, however, raising the question of how a child can become “it” without being touched.

RTFA. It goes on and on, here and there. The object is central to what I’ve been watching happen to education in America since the 1950’s. How to educate our children is now grounded in becoming a vaguely Freudian assembly for the purpose of group therapy.

I can understand any portion of our alienated society trying to come to grips with stupidity, grand illusions, imperial arrogance, bigotry, misogyny, the whole ball of bullshit our culture is capable of. Replacing education with touchy-feely fear and trembling aids nothing more than ignorance.

Stuffed tiger on car roof prompts 911 call


Image/Connor Zuvich

Police in Washington state…responded to an emergency call about a Bengal tiger lounging on top of a car, but it turned out the cat was actually a big stuffed animal.

A concerned citizen called 911 on Monday after seeing what appeared to be a live tiger riding atop a sport utility vehicle at Lacamas Lake, a popular recreation area, according to police in the city of Camas.

“This person thought it was real and called it in,” Camas police Sergeant Rob Skeens said, adding no report was taken during the Monday incident because there is no law against strapping stuffed animals to the top of a car.

According to the Columbian newspaper, Connor Zuvich, 19, of Vancouver, Washington, had found the stuffed tiger among some trash bags at the lake and decided to strap it to the top of his black SUV.

Connor has kept the tiger on his truck since the 911 call. No further news. Yet.

Deputies find stolen cabin — huh? wha?

stolen cabin

Authorities say a log cabin that a family reported stolen off its foundation has been found in rural northeast Washington.

Stevens County Sheriff Kendle Allen says deputies following a tip found the cabin Thursday morning about 10 miles from its original location. He says the structure had been placed on stilts and was sitting at the end of a private road east of Springdale.

Chris Hempel tells The Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane that her family drove to their cabin Tuesday and found the entire 10-by-20-foot structure missing.

Investigators think that whoever took the cabin was living in it.

Allen says deputies are getting a search warrant to get onto the property and inside the cabin. He says he has identified suspects but declined to name them.

Do Tiny Homes come with a VIN number?

Suspending kids for using marijuana leads to more – not less – pot use

Suspending kids from school for using marijuana is likely to lead to more — not less — pot use among their classmates, a new study finds.

Counseling was found to be a much more effective means of combating marijuana use. And while enforcement of anti-drug policies is a key factor in whether teens use marijuana, the way schools respond to policy violators matters greatly.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and in Australia, compared drug policies at schools in Washington state and Victoria, Australia, to determine how they impacted student marijuana use.

The results startled researchers: Students attending schools with suspension policies for illicit drug use were 1.6 times more likely than their peers at schools without such policies to use marijuana in the next year — and that was the case with the student body as a whole, not just those who were suspended

By contrast, the study found that students attending schools with policies of referring pot-using students to a school counselor were almost 50 percent less likely to use marijuana. Other ways of responding to policy violators — sending them to educational programs, referring them to a school counselor or nurse, expelling them or calling the police — were found to have no significant impact on marijuana use…

The researchers were initially most interested in teens’ use of alcohol and cigarettes, Catalano said. But after Washington legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in 2012, researchers decided to take a closer look at the data to determine how legalization might influence students in Washington versus their counterparts in Australia, where pot remains illegal…

Of course, the same applies to alcohol, cigarettes, unneeded stimulants – and watching reality TV.

Let’s go to the beach and play in the radioactive water from Japan!

12/30/14 — Radioactivity from Japan’s crippled nuclear reactors has turned up off the British Columbia coast and the level will likely peak in waters off North America in the next year or two, according to a Canadian-led team that’s intercepted the nuclear plume…

The radioactivity “does not represent a threat to human health or the environment,” but is detectable off Canada’s west coast and the level is climbing…The team’s seawater measurements reveal Fukushima radioactivity first showed up 1,500 kilometres west of British Columbia in June 2012, more than a year after the Japanese nuclear accident.

By June 2013, the “Fukushima signal” had spread onto the Canadian continental shelf off the B.C. coast, and by February 2014, it was detectable “throughout the upper 150 metres of the water column,” says the report, showing how the Pacific currents are carrying the radioactive plume slowly across the ocean. It says the Fukushima’s radioactive signal off the B.C. coast is now double the “background” radiation in the ocean from atmospheric nuclear bomb testing…

The scientists predict the Fukushima radioactivity off North America will continue to increase before peaking in 2015-16 at levels comparable to those seen in the 1980s as a result of nuclear testing. Then levels are expected to decline and, by 2021, should return to levels seen before that Fukushima accident — considered one of the most serious nuclear reactor accidents…

A huge earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011 triggered a tsunami that flooded the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants. Loss of backup power led to overheating, nuclear meltdowns and evacuation of the Fukushima site. Land and farms around the nuclear plants were severely contaminated and a large radioactive discharge washed into the Pacific…

While the Cesium-134 from the accident will disappear within a few years, Cesium-137 can linger for years.

Thus, the scientists predict the Cesium-137 levels off the North American coast will not return to the levels seen before the Fukushima accident until 2021.

The level of Cesium-137 in the water is far below levels seen in the 1960s and 1970s from nuclear weapons testing and “well below Canadian guidelines for drinking water quality,” they say.

I recall the response from many scientists in the 1960s and 1970s. They campaigned to stop the nuclear weapons testing exactly because it was contaminating Earth’s air and water. Now, we’re supposed to believe everyone passed through that era without harm so radioactive contamination at those levels are safe.

I worked with materials used in nuclear reactors in the 1950s and 1960s and recall many occasions when we were notified that the level of radiation previously declared safe – was no longer considered safe. Sorry, folks.

I have to ask the arch-typical question of the scientists and politicians who say we needn’t worry. Any of you live on the seashore – and let your kids play in that water?

The race to block a Pacific oil route with a real estate development

oil terminal site
Click to enlargeDavid Kasnic

Environmental passions, which run hot in the Northwest over everything from salmon to recycling, generally get couched in the negative: Don’t fish too much, don’t put those chemicals up the smokestack, don’t build in that sensitive area.

But here in southern Washington, some environmental groups are quietly pushing a builder to move even faster with a $1.3 billion real estate project along the Columbia River that includes office buildings, shops and towers with 3,300 apartments.

The reason is oil.

Two miles west of the 32-acre project, called the Waterfront, one of the biggest proposed oil terminals in the country is going through an environmental review, with plans to transfer North Dakota crude from rail cars to barges. Up to four trains, carrying 360,000 barrels of oil, would pass every day through this city’s downtown, only a few hundred feet from the Waterfront’s towers, westbound from the Bakken shale oil fields…

The result is a sort of race to the crossing: If the Waterfront can get its bricks and mortar in the ground before the terminal is approved — possibly late next year, with litigation likely to follow — more people would be living and working near the oil-train line. Compounding what opponents, led by the city, say are the dangers of spills or derailments, would make the terminal’s path to approval steeper…

The Waterfront project, Brett VandenHeuvel said, makes the threats from the oil trains “more tangible and more real.” At least 10 large crude oil spills have been reported since early 2013 because of train accidents in the United States and Canada, including one in Quebec that caused a fire and explosion and killed 47 people…

The Vancouver city manager, Eric J. Holmes, said every advance at the Waterfront potentially changed the final arguments on the terminal, which he thinks could be years away, perhaps ending up before the State Supreme Court.

If the city itself changes in the meantime, he said, those final arguments about oil and rail and safety will change, too. “If it adds to the argument about our community’s safety, we’ll certainly invoke it,” he said.

Go for it, folks. The history of American courts ruling on behalf of NIMBYs is pretty strong. That the sum of struggle benefits the whole region – excepting folks profiting from the fossil fuel economy – ain’t a difficult motivator.