All posts by Christopher Dunagan

Amusing Monday: Entertaining videos don’t show real holograms

An amusing video that shows a young family experiencing close-up encounters with killer whales, a polar bear and several penguins has been making the rounds on social media. The technology has been described as a hologram by many people posting and reposting the video, the first on this page.

Frankly, I was amazed at first, believing that people were really up close and personal with a 3D image in a shopping mall. The animals, which I assumed were projected for all to see, appeared so real that it was no wonder that people in the video were reaching out to touch them. Unfortunately, that’s not what we are seeing, according to observers.

I am not the only one to be fooled by what is actually a recorded video overlaid onto the live actions of people caught on a TV monitor. Although it is fun to watch, this is just one video combined with another, basically a double exposure. For a different perspective, take a look at the still photo that someone found on a Russian website.

I haven’t been paying attention to holigraphic technology lately. I thought maybe I was 20 years behind, although I have begun to learn about virtual reality and augmented reality, which generally require some kind of viewer.

Another video making the rounds is labeled “Virtual whale 7d” (second on this page), but Snopes, the hoax-busting website, says this is no hologram either.

“As the children in the video are not wearing any sort of special headgear, we can assume that they did not actually witness a hologram whale splashing through their gym floor,” Snopes says on its website.

With words like “we can assume,” I’m not sure that the usually reliable Snopes has this one correct. Mainly, I would like to know what this video actually shows — not what it does not show. If anyone can explain these videos better, I would like to know.

Snopes seems to think that the second video is a product of Magic Leap, a mysterious company that is working on a system that merges virtual reality with the real world. Wired Magazine goes deep to explain what might be coming, and this video from Wired gives a quick overview of Magic Leap’s technology.

In a search of the Internet, I found lots of amusing 3D applications, including various forms of entertainment. Some purport to be holograms. Check out the video of the Dragon’s Treasure show at the City of Dreams casino in Macau.

As for true holograms, researchers in South Korea say they have developed the first 360-degree full-color hologram. It is a moving image of a Rubik’s Cube, just 3 inches tall but viewable from any angle. See the last video on this page.

“The floating image relies on diffraction generated by the interference between the many lasers in the complex system, states an article in Digital Trends. “A previous holographic invention out of MIT had a visible radian of 20 degrees, which isn’t exactly a proper hologram but was as close as most technologists could get.”

Crab Team training will foster the upcoming hunt for green crab invaders

A European green crab invasion may be taking place in Puget Sound, and Washington Sea Grant intends to enhance its Crab Team this summer with more volunteers looking in more places than ever before.

The second European green crab identified in Puget Sound was found in Padilla Bay, where three others were later trapped.
Photo: Padilla Bay Reserve

Training is about to get underway, and anyone with an interest in furthering science while being exposed to the wonders of nature may participate. It’s not always good weather, but I’ve been inspired by the camaraderie I’ve witnessed among dedicated volunteers.

The work involves going out to one or more selected sites each month from April into September with a team of two to four other volunteers. It is helpful to have folks who can carry the crab traps, plastic bins and other equipment. For details, check out the Washington Sea Grant website.

As I reported last fall, the first dreaded green crab showed up in a trap deployed on San Juan Island. See Water Ways, Sept. 3. About three weeks later, a second green crab was found was found in Padilla Bay, about 30 miles southeast of the first one. See Water Ways, Sept. 24. Intensive trapping in Padilla Bay located three more. See Water Ways, Oct. 1.

Whether green crabs find suitable conditions to allow their population to multiply is yet to be seen, but an extensive trapping effort can help identify reproductive success, locate new areas of invasion and remove individuals from the breeding population.

It’s an interesting scientific endeavor for Crab Team members. Nobody wants to find green crabs, because of the threat that they pose. Yet these volunteers know that their work may help prevent the destruction of an ecosystem that has stood the test of time. To gather background data, members count other species caught in the traps and measure their average size during the trapping period.

For information about the volunteer effort and the threat of green crabs, please read my stories in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound:

The upcoming Crab Team training will teach citizen science volunteers how to place the traps, identify and measure the crabs that get caught and record the data compiled into an extensive database.

Volunteers are especially needed to monitor sites in Skagit, San Juan, Jefferson, Clallam and Whatcom counties. If interested, one should register for one of the four training sessions:

Other sessions may be scheduled later, depending on need. One can check the Green Crab Events Calendar or email Crab Team organizers at crabteam@uw.edu

Petition seeks to revoke Department of Ecology’s clean-water authority

Citing pollution problems in Puget Sound, an environmental group is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to revoke Washington state’s authority to enforce the federal Clean Water Act.

Northwest Environmental Advocates, based in Portland, says a review of 103 discharge permits issued by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a failure to control nitrogen pollution. Excess nitrogen reduces oxygen levels in the water and triggers algae blooms, resulting in serious problems in Puget Sound, according to a petition submitted to the EPA.

“Ecology determined that over 80 percent of the human sources of nitrogen in Puget Sound comes from cities and towns, but it continues to issue discharge permits as if it were completely ignorant of these facts,” Nina Bell, the group’s executive director, said in a news release.

“It’s just flat out illegal to issue permits that contribute to harmful pollution levels,” she added. “These permits are the walking dead, existing merely to create the impression that the state is doing its job to control water pollution when it is not.”

The 113-page petition filed by NWEA describes the problems that nitrogen can cause and the need to implement nitrogen-removal systems, especially in sewage-treatment plants that discharge into Puget Sound. EPA should either require Ecology to take action on nitrogen or remove Ecology’s authority to issue permits under the Clean Water Act, the petition says.

Asked to respond, Heather Bartlett, manager of Ecology’s Water Quality Program, offered this statement:

“Washington’s water quality permitting program is a role model in the nation. EPA and other states follow our lead when building their programs. We are surprised that Northwest Environmental Advocates has chosen to file this petition rather to appeal the permits they cite.”

In December, the environmental group filed a lawsuit against the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for continuing to fully fund the Department of Ecology at $5 million a year to control polluted runoff under the Clean Water Act and the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments.

“In 1998, the federal agencies told Washington that it was failing to control pollution from farming and logging, dairy operations, urban runoff, on-site septic systems, pesticides . . . you name it,” said Bell in a December news release.

“There is no evidence that at any point in the last 18 years Washington has improved its control of polluted runoff,” she said. “Certainly Puget Sound is as polluted as ever. The passage of time demonstrates that the agencies’ decision to continue unlawful federal funding has not produced results.”

The lawsuit asserts that federal law requires that the EPA and NOAA withhold at least one-third of the federal funds from states that fail to obtain approval for their plans to control nonpoint source runoff, such as stormwater. Since 1998, the state has been on notice that its plan was not acceptable.

NWEA filed a similar lawsuit in Oregon in 2009 and settled out of court a year later, according to Bell. But the state’s proposed pollution plan was disapproved in 2015, and Oregon’s annual funding was subsequently cut by $1.2 million. For documents in the Oregon case, see NWEA’s document library.

The lawsuit challenging Ecology’s actions was filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle, where legal proceedings are moving forward.

Amusing Monday: Ray Troll visits Puget Sound with Ratfish Wranglers

Ray Troll and the Ratfish Wranglers, one of the most amusing bands in the Pacific Northwest, is touring Western Washington this month, with stops in Port Townsend, Gig Harbor and Seattle.

Two years ago, when writing about how fishermen can save rockfish from barotrauma, I featured a video by Ray and the band in Water Ways (June 22, 2015). This video includes a rockfish puppet and an original rap song by Ray Troll and Russell Wodehouse telling all about the problem.

Besides music, Ray is well known for his “fin art,” which is mostly about fish of all kinds, especially salmon. Ray prides himself on the realistic images of fish, produced with scientific precision, which he combines with humor to create some edgy posters.

Ray is based in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he owns and operates the Soho Coho Art Gallery, filled with all kinds of amusing artwork, as shown in the second video on this page. If you can’t make it to the gallery, you could spend several amusing hours looking at his online gallery of art and events, including all kinds of visual puns. The entire website is a kick. Check out a sampling of his style in the third video on this page.

The tour, called the “Great Northwest Whorl,” begins Saturday at the Port Townsend Shipwrights Coop, followed by a Tuesday performance at Gig Harbor BoatShop in Gig Harbor. The band will perform at Seattle Aquarium on Thursday before moving down to Astoria, Ore., for a Saturday show at the Columbia Theater as part of the FisherPoets Gathering. For details and ticket information, click on the link to the venue. Tickets are limited in some locations.

For the Seattle event, Ray is quoted in a news release:

“We’ll be playing in front of the big Window on Washington Waters exhibit at the Seattle Aquarium, one of my favorite places on the planet. This promises to be a truly magical evening, not only because we’ll have salmon and rockfish looking over our shoulders but also because my son’s band ‘The Amish Robots’ will be opening for us! And it’s right in the middle of Octopus Week!”

Ray Troll met Russell Wodehouse in 1985 in Alaska, where Ray moved after playing in a band during graduate school at Washington State University followed by a few gigs with a different band in Seattle. In Ketchikan, Russ was performing with The Squawking Fish, a band with Shauna Lee and Brandon Loomis when they invited Ray to join. After adding Craig Koch and Carolyn Minor, the group performed for a few years before disbanding. Ray continued to write with Russ and did a few gigs as The Ratfish Brothers until Ray was inspired to bring together some of his old musical partners to form The Ratfish Wranglers.

Through the years, Ray has blended science and art to produce a series of traveling exhibits, including “Dancing to the Fossil Record,” which opened at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1995. In addition to Ray’s drawings, the project included giant fossils, fish tanks, an original soundtrack, a dance floor and an interactive computer display. In 2009, he teamed up with Russell Wodehouse again to produce music for a traveling exhibit for the University of Washington’s Burke Museum. The paleo-themed exhibit and later CD were called “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway.”

In 2007, Ray was awarded a gold medal from the Academy of Natural Sciences for distinction in the natural history arts. In 2011, Ray and Kirk Johnson were jointly awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to develop a book project, “The Eternal Coastline: the Best of the Fossil West from Baja to Barrow.”

Ray has appeared on the Discovery Channel and has lectured at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale universities. His work has been on display in the Smithsonian, and a species of ratfish, Hydrolagus trolli, was named after him. To read more about Ray’s eclectic life, along with those of his fellow band members, check out the bios on the Ratfish Wranglers and Trollart websites.

Two-for-one executive order on regulations headed for showdown

The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward to protect people’s health from toxic chemicals, despite an executive order from President Trump that requires two existing regulations to be repealed for every new regulation approved.

Photo: André Künzelmann, Wikimedia commons

On Tuesday, the EPA will hold a public hearing to help develop rules for controlling the use of 10 chemicals evaluated under the revised Toxic Substances Control Act. (See EPA Public Workshop.) As I described in Water Ways, Dec. 1, these high-hazard chemicals could be banned or significantly restricted in their use. Seven of the first 10 under review have been found in drinking water at various sites across the country.

Preliminary information about the chemical risks and the evaluation process can be found on EPA’s TSCA website.

The revised Toxic Substances Control Act received overwhelming bipartisan approval in Congress. Even the chemical industry supported the law, in part because it would limit what states can do to ban chemicals on their own. Check out my story in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

We have yet to see how Trump’s executive order on controlling regulations will affect upcoming rules for toxic chemicals, but the order is already causing some confusion. It has been ridiculed as “nonsensical” by environmental groups, which filed a lawsuit this week seeking to overturn the order. More than a few Republicans say they don’t know how it will work.

On its face, the Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs (PDF 1.1 mb) is fairly simple. It requires that two existing regulations be repealed for every new regulation that is approved. In so doing, the costs of the new regulation must not exceed the savings of the two repealed regulations. Details are specified in interim guidance (PDF 667 kb) from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.

One of the primary objections to the order is that it totally ignores the potential financial benefits — not to mention the health and environmental improvements — brought about by many regulations. What is considered an extra expenditure by industry, for example, could ultimately save more money in health costs for people who benefit from the rules.

Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who headed the EPA under former President George W. Bush, said major changes can be expected anytime a new administration comes into office, but Trump may be over-reaching.

Christine Todd Whitman
Photo: EPA

“It’s the two-for-one that bothers me that most,” Whitman said in an interview with NPR’s “Here & Now.”

“I mean, it’s one thing to say, ‘Look, we need to scrub our regulations. We need to make sure that those that we have in place are doing the jobs they’re supposed to do, that they haven’t outlived their usefulness, that they are not holding back our ability to grow as a country, economically,” she said. “But two-for-one just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, because there’s just not a bucket somewhere sitting with useless regulations.”

Trump’s executive order creates a conflict with court rulings and scientific evidence requiring updated regulations under the law, she said. “And, what you don’t want to do is to say, ‘Well, we’re just not gonna move forward with any new regulations, because we can’t find a regulation that we think is irrelevant.'”

The lawsuit opposing the executive order (PDF 1.5 mb) was filed Wednesday by Public Citizen, a consumer-advocacy group; Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group; and Communications Workers of America, a labor union.

As stated in the complaint, “The executive order will block or force the repeal of regulations needed to protect health, safety and the environment across a broad range of topics — from automobile safety, to occupational health, to air pollution, to endangered species.

“Indeed, the executive order directs agencies to disregard the benefits of new and existing rules — including benefits to consumers, to workers, to people exposed to pollution, and to the economy — even when the benefits exceed costs.

“The executive order’s direction to federal agencies to zero out costs to regulated industries … will force agencies to take regulatory actions that harm the people of this nation,” the lawsuit says.

Methods for approving and repealing regulations are spelled out in the longstanding Administrative Procedures Act as well as various statutes approved by Congress — and they cannot be overridden by an executive order, the lawsuit claims.

With regard to the Toxic Substances Control Act, the law requires EPA to evaluate chemicals for safety “without consideration of costs or other nonrisk factors.” One chemical under review is trichloroethylene, which has been found to harm developing fetuses and cause various forms of cancer in humans.

“The agency estimates that the [proposed] vapor-degreasing rule will impose costs from $30 million to $45 million annually but have net benefits (including health protection benefits) of $35 million to $402 million annually,” the lawsuit says, “and that the aerosol-degreasing and spot-cleaning rule will impose costs of $170,000 annually but have net benefits of $9 million to $24.6 million annually.”

The executive order requires that new protective regulations be offset by repealing existing regulations without considering the cost benefits of either the new regulations or the old ones.

“To repeal two toxic substance safety standards for the purpose of adopting one would be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to the TSCA,” the lawsuit says.

While reading over the legal complaint, I was wondering if these groups might have filed the lawsuit too soon. Normally, the courts will not rule on a case like this before the government takes an action that causes actual harm. Perhaps, I thought, they really need to wait until an agency either refuses to approve a new regulation or repeals an existing one in violation of federal law.

Then I realized that various environmental laws allow for any citizen to bring a lawsuit against the federal government for failure to protect human health, the environment or endangered species. In challenging the executive order, the NRDC points out that the president’s directive, if it stands, could force environmental groups to make some life-or-death decisions.

The Endangered Species Act, for example, does not allow federal agencies to consider costs when listing species as threatened or endangered, but costs must be balanced when protecting “critical habitat” to help avoid extinction. Trump’s executive order itself goes well beyond the balancing of costs spelled out in the ESA, according to the lawsuit.

Furthermore, the NRDC and other groups will sometimes sue the government to compel an agency to designate critical habitat. The executive order places groups like the NRDC in an “untenable position,” according to the lawsuit. They can either file a lawsuit, knowing that the responsible agency will then proceed to eliminate critical habitat designations for two other species, or they can allow the agency to continue to violate the Endangered Species Act.

The NRDC argues that the latter would be detrimental not only to the species at risk but also to people who have scientific, recreational, aesthetic and other interests in protecting that species. One way or another, the NRDC argues, the executive order will have a detrimental effect on threatened and endangered species as a whole, contrary to the law approved by Congress.

So far, I have heard of no agencies delaying, avoiding or repealing regulations on account of the new executive order. But, considering that federal agencies come under the president’s authority, we can expect that legal battles have just begun, and this matter may require congressional intervention.

USS Enterprise: A proud name with a very long and amazing history

The Navy aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was decommissioned last week after 55 years of meritorious service under 10 U.S. presidents. Deployments ranged from the Cuban Missile Crises in 1962 to first-strike operations after 9-11.

The “Big E” was the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and upon commissioning became the world’s longest ship at 1,100 feet. The video shows highlights of the Enterprise and last week’s observance.

I was not aware until last week’s ceremonies that eight ships named Enterprise have served the United States since before the country was founded. I’m providing a summary, below, of the missions and adventures of all eight ships. For much of the information, thanks goes to Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Eric Lockwood of the Navy’s History and Heritage Command.

Enterprise 1 // Image: USS Enterprise CVN 65 website

It’s nice to know that the Enterprise tradition will live on with a new Enterprise, already being planned. It will be the third aircraft carrier in the Gerald R. Ford class and the first supercarrier not named after a person since the carrier America was commissioned in 1966. The new Enterprise, CVN-80, should be under construction in Newport News, Va., by the end of next year. It is scheduled for service beginning in 2027, maintaining no more than 11 active carriers (Congressional Research Service, PDF 20.7 mb).

The new USS Enterprise is scheduled to replace the USS Nimitz, currently home-ported in Bremerton.

Enterprise 2 // Image: USS Enterprise CVN 65 website

The first Enterprise, 1775-1777, was a sailing ship captured from the British by Capt. Benedict Arnold on May 18, 1775. Until then, the supply ship was known as George. Outfitted with guns, the Enterprise defended American supply routes in New England.

The ship was involved in disrupting the British invasion of New York later that year. One of five ships to survive the two-day battle, the Enterprise was run aground and burned to prevent recapture during the evacuation of Ticonderoga on July 7, 1777.

Enterprise 3 // Image: U.S. Navy

The second Enterprise, 1776-1777, was a schooner purchased for the Continental Navy in December of 1776. The ship operated mainly as a transport vessel in Chesapeake Bay. Limited records suggest the ship was turned over to the Maryland Council of Safety in February 1777.

The third Enterprise, 1799-1823, was a schooner used to capture pirate ships during the Barbary Wars. The daring raid to burn the frigate Philadelphia in Tripoli in 1804 was led by Lt. Stephen Dacatur Jr., commanding officer of the Enterprise.

Refitted as a brig, the ship served during the War of 1812, including a skirmish with the British brig Boxer on Sept. 5, 1813, when both British and American commanding officers were killed. After chasing smugglers, pirates and slavers from 1815 to 1823, the Enterprise became stranded and broke up in the West Indies without loss of any crew members.

Enterprise 4 // Image: USS Enterprise CVN 65 website

The fourth Enterprise, 1831-1844, was a schooner built by the New York Navy Yard and protected U.S. shipping routes throughout the world, including Brazil and the Far East. In 1839, the ship rounded the Horn, stopped over in Argentina and returned to the U.S. Following a short deactivation, the Enterprise sailed back to South America in 1840 before a final deactivation in 1844, when the ship was sold.

The fifth Enterprise, 1877-1909, was a bark-rigged sloop-of-war constructed at the Portsmouth Naval Yard in Maine. Launched in 1874 and commissioned in 1877, the ship conducted hydrographic surveys along shorelines and rivers throughout the world, including the Amazon and Madeira rivers in South America. In 1891 and ’92, the Enterprise served as a training platform for cadets at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Enterprise 5
Photo: U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

For the next 17 years, the ship was placed on loan to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and used as a maritime school. The Enterprise was returned to the Navy in 1909 and sold five months later.

The sixth Enterprise, 1916-1919, was a 66-foot motor patrol craft purchased by the Navy in 1916. The noncommissioned motorboat conducted patrol duties in Newport, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass. In 1919, the boat was transferred to the Bureau of Fisheries.

The seventh Enterprise, 1938-1947, offered a vast difference from its previous namesake. The Yorktown-class aircraft carrier earned 20 battle stars during World War II, more than any other warship in operation during the war years. Battles included Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz Islands, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf and the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.

Enterprise 6 // Photo: USS Enterprise CVN 65 website

During the Battle of Guadalcanal, the carrier took three direct hits, killing 74 and wounding 95 crew members. In October 1942, when the aircraft carrier Hornet was abandoned during the Battle of Santa Cruz, the Enterprise was able to take those orphaned aircraft.

During much of 1943, the Enterprise was relieved of duty while undergoing an overhaul at Bremerton’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. In June of 1944, the ship was one of four carriers engaged in the largest carrier aircraft battles in history, the Battle of the Philippine Sea.

Enterprise 7 // Photo: U.S. Navy

Damaged by a bomb in March 1944 and by a kamikaze attack the following April, both events required repairs. In May, another kamikaze attack destroyed the forward elevator, killed 14 and wounded 34 in the ship’s last battle of the war.

After repairs at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, the carrier sailed to Hawaii, then on to New York via the Panama Canal, where 1,141 sailors were discharged from duty in October 1945.A series of three voyages to Europe brought home more than 10,000 veterans. Decommissioning was in February 1947. Private groups were unable to raise enough money for preservation and the ship was sold for scrap in July 1958.

Enterprise 8 // Photo: U.S. Navy

The eighth Enterprise, 1961-2012, was powered by eight nuclear reactors, two for each of its four propeller shafts. It was a major engineering accomplishment, and the designers were not sure that it would work until testing began on the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Highlights of the ship’s legendary history are outlined in a timeline published by the Virginia Pilot in Norfolk, Va. Enterprise trivia questions are available in Maritime Executive magazine.

There is one other proud Enterprise, a fictional spacecraft called the Starship Enterprise. Of course, I’m talking about the primary setting for the Star Trek television series and movies. The Enterprise carried the registry numbler NCC-1701, designating it as a civilian aircraft, the first to be built in the 17th federation series.

Three versions of the Starship Enterprise were developed for the original Star Trek series along with the first through seventh films. Three ships were featured in the “Next Generation” series, and several others were shown in alternate timelines.

Starship Enterprise
Image: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Amusing Monday: Did any of the commercials bowl you over?

It’s becoming an annual tradition for me to feature some of the amusing Super Bowl commercials on the day after the big game, especially focusing on those with water-related themes. I also try to share a little of the backstory about the commercials on my list.

Kia ad with Melissa McCarthy

A day after actress Melissa McCarthy appeared on “Saturday Night Live” as President Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer, Melissa was back on television in a Super Bowl commercial, doing her best to save whales, trees and rhinos.

McCarthy, who has won at least 20 awards for comedic roles in films and television, plays a tragic eco-hero in the Super Bowl commercial. In real life, she has accepted a position as Kia spokeswoman to promote the brand-new Niro, a car that captured a Guinness World Record for the lowest fuel consumption by a hybrid vehicle, tested during a coast-to-cost trip. For details, check out Carscoops online magazine.

Lifewtr “Inspiration Drops”

In the second video on this page, we hear John Legend’s rich voice singing in a vibrant commercial called “Inspiration Drops” for Lifewtr, a purified water product created by PepsiCo.

To promote a stylistic image, Lifewtr has teamed up with several artists to bring unique artistic talents to the product labels. As stated on Lifewtr’s Facebook page, “We believe inspiration is as essential to life as water, and exist to satisfy your thirst for both. That’s why every drop of LIFEWTR is pure and crisp, and every bottle is a showcase of vibrant art from artists around the world.”

The strategy to capture a specific segment of the premium bottled-water market is described in Fortune magazine.

Mr. Clean

Proctor & Gamble is testing the waters to see if the act of cleaning can be packaged as a sexual turn-on. This is the first time Mr. Clean has appeared in any Super Bowl ad, despite his presence on the product label for about 60 years, according to Advertising Age magazine.

“There’s no better way to reach a co-ed audience than the Super Bowl,” said Martin Hettich of P&G, quoted in the magazine. “And the subject we’re broaching with Mr. Clean really is for a co-ed audience, because it’s talking about cleaning and how men and women divide up the chores. And there’s still a way to go.”

Honda’s “Chasing Dreams”

I could never have guessed that this was a commercial for an automobile — the Honda CR-V to be exact. In the commercial, we see school yearbook pictures of celebrities coming to life and speaking out from their yearbook pages. Participants include Jimmy Kimmel, shown playing the clarinet.

“Honda celebrates the people who chase their dreams with reckless abandon, and the amazing things that happen when their dreams come true,” states the description on YouTube. “For us, they lead to vehicles like the all-new Honda CR-V, a 20-year dream come true.”

Wendy’s non-frozen beef

The idea for this commercial, which shows a guy thawing out hamburger with a hair dryer, grew out of a Twitter battle between someone at Wendy’s and a person dubbed an “Internet troll” by folks recounting the story, including Aimee Picchi of CBS Moneywatch. Aimee provides the full Twitter exchange.

The so-called troll, whose handle is “Thuggy D,” could not believe that Wendy’s hamburger meat was never frozen along the way from cow to table. Describing meat wasting away in a warm truck, the writer must have forgotten about a technology called refrigeration — which the Wendy’s rep soon pointed out.

Another Twitter user complimented Wendy’s for taking up the Twitter battle and tweeted: “Whoever your social media expert was, they need a raise. They burned that guy so hard.”

NFL babies

How many of the baby look-a-likes were you able to identify? Of course, I’m talking about the NFL commercial in which babies are playing the roles of identifiable football greats — but at one-tenth the size. Take a look at the video on this page if you’d like another chance at guessing who the tiny tots will become when they grow up.

If you’re still not sure, the babies are meant to show a resemblance to Mike Ditka (sweater vest), Michael Irvin (diamond stud earrings), Joe Namath (long fur coat), Bill Belichick (scowling), Marshawn Lynch (dreadlocks) and Von Miller (cowboy hat), according to USA Today.

Next, we see a tiny Vince Lombardi strolling away (fedora and overcoat), following by the question, “Who’s next?” as babies Belichick and Davonta Freeman appear with the Super Bowl trophy.

“If you are an avid fan, you crack up right away and get each one,” Dawn Hudson, the NFL’s chief marketing officer, tells USA Today. “If you are a casual fan, you’ll know a couple, and we think it will intrigue you enough to go online and see who the others are.”

Ballast water bill could allow invasive species to enter Puget Sound

Invasive species from San Francisco Bay — known as the most infested waterway in the country — would have an open door for entry into Puget Sound under a bill moving through Congress.

Vessel Incidental Discharge Act invasive species
Ballast discharge from a ship
Photo: Coast Guard

You may have heard this line before. I posted the same warning last summer, when the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act, or VIDA, was attached to the “must-pass” National Defense Authorization Act. (Water Ways, July 16). Opponents fought back and were able to strip VIDA from the bill before final passage.

Now, with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress and an anti-regulatory atmosphere in place, the bill’s passage seems more likely this time — to the detriment of Puget Sound, the Great Lakes and other waterways.

If VIDA passes, ships coming up the coast from California will be able to take on infested ballast water in San Francisco Bay and discharge it without treatment into Puget Sound. Invasive species that hitched a ride in the ballast water would have a chance to populate Puget Sound.

A similar scenario could play out in the Great Lakes, where lack of treatment years ago may have resulted in the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels, causing billions of dollars in damages. Check out the opinion column by the Green Bay Press-Gazette Editorial Board.

The legislation also would exempt small commercial vessels and fishing boats from federal discharge rules. That would allow these vessel owners to clean their hulls in open water wherever they want — even if the hulls were covered with invasive species, said Allen Pleus, who heads Washington state’s Aquatic Invasive Species Program.

VIDA opponents — including the governors of nine coastal and Great Lakes states — are trying to attach amendments to the bill to shore up protections for their states’ waters, Allen told me. But representatives of the shipping industry, who have been pushing hard to get the bill passed, appear to be in no mood for compromise.

The legislation, S. 168, was passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation without amendment two weeks ago. Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell, a member of the committee, was unable to stop it.

“Puget Sound restoration is a priority for me, and that’s why I voted ‘no’ on the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act in the Commerce Committee,” she said in a short email. “Strong protections to prevent pollution and halt the introduction of invasive species are two key priorities needed to keep Puget Sound healthy and productive. I will continue to work to protect clean water, healthy ecosystems and support our sustainable fishing and maritime economy.”

For years, the shipping industry has been frustrated by a multi-level regulatory system in which they must comply with “clean water” rules coming at them from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and any number of states that have developed their own regulations. Who can blame the industry for being frustrated? Industry officials would like one national standard to follow.

In the furor over regulations, however, many people have forgotten that state and EPA rules were imposed only after the Coast Guard failed to protect the environment. VIDA would address the problem, but not by considering the serious concerns being faced in different parts of the country. The bill would place the Coast Guard in charge of a single national standard, stripping authority from the states and EPA.

While the Coast Guard requires ballast water to be treated or exchanged on ships crossing the ocean from other countries, there is no such requirement for ships moving along the coast if they don’t have treatment systems on board.

Coast Guard officials have many duties when it comes to ensuring the safety of ships, and invasive species are not among their priorities, noted Allen Pleus, whose program resides within the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Industry officials have told me that state concerns can be addressed by petitioning the Coast Guard for stricter rules in those geographic areas where they are needed. But that could take months or years with no assurance of approval. More importantly, there are no stop-gap measures to prevent ships from dumping infested ballast water into Puget Sound. Everyone knows that once an invasive species gets established, there is no going back.

This is a complicated issue, which I tried to explain step-by-step in last summer’s blog post, as well as in a detailed story I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

Changes are coming with new ballast-water-treatment systems being certified by the Coast Guard. The new treatment systems are technologically complicated, and trained operators are needed to make sure they kill a fair number of invasive organisms, as designed, Allen said. Without adequate funding, the Coast Guard will be in no position to make sure that invasive species aren’t transported from place to place, he said, adding, “States should be allowed to pick up the slack.”

There is another important difference between Washington state’s approach and that of the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard conducts inspections and checks paperwork only after a vessel has arrived in port. State rules require ship operators to send documentation prior to arrival, allowing time to address potential problems before it is too late.

A letter to U.S. senators (PDF 236 kb) from seven governors, including Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, expresses grave concern about the effects of VIDA on the waters of their states.

“The economic and regulatory issues faced by the shipping industry are of great interest to our states,” the letter says. “However, VIDA does not provide a reasonable balance between the economic benefits of the shipping industry and the significant environmental, economic, and human health costs states face from infested and polluted waters.”

Recent information compiled by VIDA opponents:

Seals and sea lions may be undercutting chinook and orca populations

Seals and sea lions can no longer be ignored in the effort to recover our threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon or our endangered killer whales.

A new study shows that seals and sea lions are eating about 1.4 million pounds of Puget Sound chinook each year — about nine times more than they were eating in 1970, according to the report. Please read the story I wrote for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound, also published in an abridged version in the Kitsap Sun.

Harbor seals rest on the breakwater at Poulsbo Marina. // Photo: Meegan Reid, Kitsap Sun

Seals and sea lions in Puget Sound get the first chance to catch the chinook as they leave the streams and head out to the ocean. Since they are eaten at a very young age, these small chinook, called “smolts,” never grow into adults; they never become available for killer whales or humans.

Based on rough estimates, as many as one in five of these young fish are getting eaten on their way out of Puget Sound. If they were to survive the seals and sea lions and one factors in the remaining mortality rate, these fish could translate into an average of 162,000 adult chinook each year. That’s twice the number eaten by killer whales and roughly six times as many as caught in Puget Sound by tribal, commercial and recreational fishers combined, according to the study.

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Amusing Monday: Playing with water in the weightlessness of space

Since the beginning of the manned space program, astronauts have been playing with water in microgravity conditions. The result has been a large assortment of videos demonstrating the unique and amusing properties of water.

In the first video on this page, Chris Hadfield, an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency demonstrates what happens aboard the International Space Station when you ring out a soaked wash cloth in the weightlessness of space.

The experiment was suggested by students Kendra Lemke and Meredith Faulkner of Lockview High School in Fall River, Nova Scotia. It was posted on YouTube in 2013.

The video shows that the surface tension of water is great enough that the water keeps clinging when Hadfield rings out the cloth. If you watch closely, however, you can see a few droplets fly off when he starts to ring out the cloth.

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