Friday, November 05, 2010


From the Associated Press:

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia — Searing gas avalanched down an Indonesian volcano with a thunderous roar, torching houses and trees and incinerating villagers as they fled Mount Merapi's worst eruption in a century. Scores of bodies found Friday raised the death toll to 122.

The injured - with clothes, blankets and even mattresses fused to their skin by the 1,400 degree Fahrenheit (750 degree Celsius) heat - were carried away on stretchers following the first big explosion just before midnight.

All Friday, Merapi shot towering plumes of ash that dusted the windshields of cars 300 miles (480 kilometers) away. Bursts of hot clouds occasionally interrupted aid efforts, with rescuers screaming "Watch out! Hot cloud!"

The intensifying eruptions have baffled scientists who have monitored the mountain for years and left them uncertain what to expect. Dozens of explosions that followed Merapi's initial blast Oct. 26 had been predicted to ease pressure behind a magma dome.

The danger zone where residents have been ordered to flee has now been expanded to 12 miles (20 kilometers) from the crater.

Friday's explosion - said by volcanologists to be the biggest since the 1870s - hit hardest in Bronggang, a village nine miles (15 kilometers) from the crater. Soldiers joined the rescue operations, pulling at least 78 bodies from homes and streets blanketed by ash up to one foot (30 centimeters) deep.

 "We're totally overwhelmed here!" said Heru Nogroho, a spokesman at Sardjito.

In terms of the amount of volcanic material released - 1,765 million cubic feet (50 million cubic meter), "it was the biggest in at least a century," Gede Swantika, a state volcanologist, said as plumes of smoke continued to shoot up more than 30,000 feet (10,000 meters).

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Indonesian Volcano Erupts Again!

Eruptions continue from Mount Merapi in Indonesia blasting ash tens of thousands of feet into the sky killing six more people Thursday as the overall death toll hits 44.  This volcano is one of the world's most active volcanoes in the last 100 years.  In 1994, eruptions killed 60 people; in 1930, more than 1000 people were killed in another violent eruption.  These eruptions contain a mixture of sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and water vapor gas with temperatures near 500 degrees. 

Indonesia and the thousands of islands that make up the south Pacific region and the more than 200 million people that call this home live on the "Ring of Fire".  The area of islands along with the edge of the Pacific that runs through the Asian coastlines, around Alaska and down along the western coast of North America is named as such due to its position on fault lines that separate the continents.  These fault lines are the focal point for major earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

The Pacific Ring of Fire has almost 500 volcanoes.  90% of the world's earthquakes occur in thie region.  The Ring was created over millions of years due to Plate Tectonics--the movement of the continents on rock that is under great pressure and heat at a depth of between 65 and 120 miles beneath the surface.  This heat and pressure allows the rock to become "flexible" just enough for the landmasses around the planet to ride along it at speeds measured in centimeters per year.  The Ring of Fire is the intersection of many of these plates.   Some of these plates move underneath other as is the case in California.

The first volcanic blast from Mount Merapi back on October 26th caused a tsunami impacting the Mentawi islands killing hundreds of people.

Scientists believe that these eruptions may get worse in the days and weeks ahead.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Election, the Economy and the Blame Game

As with the Bush tax cut and $300 Bush rebate checks back in 2001, no one remembers the months leading up to the 2008 election.  As Barry Ritholtz mentions in his post on his website,    

"...Had Al Gore been President from 2000-08 (and controlled Congress), the next GOP President would have flailed him for the recession and crisis bank relentlessly. Hell, the GOP still beats Jimmy Carter like a piƱata. Once Obama took office, that was pretty much the last we heard of the Bush recession. The public actually forget who authorized TARP, who bailed out Citibank, BofA, AIG, Fannie Mae, Bear Stearns, etc."  

The tea party movement--while distancing themselves from the Bush years--blame Obama for the failing economy.  Now the shift in power is back to the Republicans in the House establishing a split Congress.  Funny how our memories are short term.  The same people that voted for change this year voted for change 2 years ago with a strong shift back to the Democrats. 

Pivital election years like this one only verified my long standing thoughts on the voting public:  Most people have no idea what REALLY drives the economy and this go-around, what REALLY caused the financial crisis.  No one realizes that the systematic failure of the financial sector and eventually the global economy is beyond any individual person or political party.  We so easily overly simplify the economic issues in 2010 to one or two areas:  taxes and government.  Television and radio ads beat these ideas in our heads.  Yet the seeds of economic destruction that lead us to where we are now reside in deregulation and--at the time, clever--financial engineering.  The environment existed in the 2000s and still exists to this day. It wasn't illegal
but it was hazardous and full of great risk.  As long as Congress is lobbied by the banking industry regardless of who is in power, PROPER and SMART regulation will never be established.  The Consumer Protection Bill was a good start but won't have a huge effect on the overall economy and unemployment.  It might not be next year or 5 years from now but the same problems that got us in this mess will resurface sometime in the future. 

We fail to remember that after the smaller recession in 2000-2001, employment took several years to recover to pre-recession levels.  We want unemployment to fall NOW yet our economic reality dictates otherwise. 

I guarantee that in two years, if the economy is still struggling, the balance of power will shift once again.  The blame in 2008:  The GOP.  The blame now:  The Dems and Obama  The blame in 2012 will shift back to the GOP if unemployment stays high (which it probably will).

Watch it happen.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

My Yearly Movie List - 92 and Counting

A few years back, I began to make a list of movies that I hadn't seen.  The list started as a list of current or somewhat current movies going back 4 or 5 years.  Then the list grew to movies I missed in the 1990s then 1980s then classics from earlier than that.  Needless to say, the list grew to more than 300 movies which I have made a point to watch.  Its my cultural duty, right?  (I'm promoting the art of film making. At least that's what I tell my wife)

Even if I average 100 movies a year (which I reached last year), we are still talking more than 3 years to finish the list.   This also doesn't count adding new movies to the list which I do invariably each each year. 

Here is the list so far in no particular order:  The movies in BOLDFACE are recommended flicks

92 and counting

The Insider
Ed Wood
Jacobs Ladder

Sherlock Holmes
Up in the Air
Public Enemies
Quiz Show
The Informant!

Inglorious Basterds
The Hurt Locker


A Serious Man
The Conversation
The Lovely Bones
Ground Hog Day
An Education

The Verdict
The Blind Side
Man on Wire

Mulholland Drive
Silent Running
The Road

Ironman 2

Taxi to the Darkside
Trinity and Beyond
The Mosquito Coast

The Messenger
Donnie Brasco
The Godfather

The War Room
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
The Watchmen
America: The story of us (ep 1-3)

America: The story of us (ep 4-6)
Grizzly Man
The Usual Suspects
Boiler Room

The A-team
The Butterfly Effect
Good Night, Good Luck
Hut Tub Time Machine
Fight Club

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang
The Cruise
Moon 44
Echelon Conspiracy

Rabbit Proof Fence
I am Legend

Flight 93
The Machinist


Darkened Room
Shattered Glass
Touching the Void
Control Room

Owl: Legend of the Guardians
The Mist
The Peacemaker
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Shutter Island

Babylon A.D.
The Killing Fields
The Score
Ken Burns: 10th Inning


The Expendables