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February 26th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for February 26

I hope your Valentine’s Day was not as exciting as theirs was.

A proper apology for an honest screwup is never a bad idea.

I guess investing in North Korea could be a good idea. Seems awfully risky to me, though.

You go right ahead and keep alienating unmarried women, Republicans. Some more of this should help, too.

I wish I could do literary criticism like that.

Negative campaigning is universal.

“In 1979, McDonald’s introduced the Happy Meal. Sometime after that, it was decided that the Bible teaches that human life begins at conception.”

Since I’ve mentioned Pinterest, I should also mention that there are potentially serious copyright issues with it.

Why libraries are vitally necessary.

Presidential campaigns are not as expensive as you might think, at least historically speaking.

Rick Santorum stopped being funny a long time ago, if you ask me.

If you have to ask how much it costs to build a Death Star, you can’t afford it.

The panel to discuss Viagra distribution will meet tomorrow afternoon.

One reason why piracy happens.

Money in and of itself does not corrupt the political process. But it’s awfully hard to say there’s insufficient evidence of unlimited, unregulated money having a pernicious effect.

Mars, baby.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is being dishonest? Heaven forfend.

In a just world, every misogynistic moron who ranted about the evils of birth control and feminism would die without ever knowing the touch of a woman.

More like this from Occupy Wall Street, please.

The guy responsible for the greatest headline ever has been denied parole.

Sandra Fluke is my new hero.

Dry, not drought

Yippie!

It’s official: According to the latest iteration of the U.S. Drought Monitor just released, the drought is over for most of eastern Harris County.

Here’s the picture:

Compare that to where we were at the beginning of the year and be amazed. But don’t get too cocky. Look at the chart accompanying the current picture and note that as of this time last year, 12.52% of the state – slightly more than double what is the case now – was in no drought, and none of the state was in an Exceptional drought; only 7.78% was in Extreme drought. Then it stopped raining for nearly a year, and you saw what happened. We’re still in a La Nina situation, and though we have bucked the odds so far, there’s no guarantee that will continue. Another dry spell and we’ll all be cooked.

Another way of saying we still have a way to go to catch up is to look at lake levels, especially in Central and West Texas.

There simply hasn’t been enough rain—and, more critically, not enough runoff—to recover from brutally dry and hot 2011. In the case of West Texas, there hasn’t been enough rain in years to bring up key reservoirs. And the outlook for 2012, given the lingering La Nina pattern, is not great.

Midland, Odessa and San Angelo, in fact, find themselves in precisely the same position they were in last year: two of their three drinking-water lakes are dry and the third, O.H. Ivie, is declining rapidly. At current usage levels, the cities could run out of Ivie water by January 2013. New watering restrictions will buy the cities another 90 to 120 days, enough time to build a pipeline to groundwater in Ward County.

Odessa does have some other options, but they’re not cheap and they may have unknown long term effects. Conservation, which includes encouraging people to use less water by pricing it appropriately, is never a bad idea.

More than five million trees lost in the cities

More depressing numbers from the drought.

Aerial view of Memorial Park

It was a sight more common than usual this past summer: a tree too thirsty to live became another casualty to the drought. City workers would either remove the tree, or, if they were too late, it would fall, possibly on power lines, cars or a house.

On Wednesday, Texas Forest Service researchers said the current drought claimed the lives of about 5.6 million trees in cities, or roughly 10 percent of the state’s urban forests, in the agency’s first attempt at counting urban tree loss.

Those trees will cost at least $560 million to remove and provided about $280 million annually in environmental and economic benefits, a study released Wednesday said.

[…]

The death toll is likely to continue to tick upward as already-dead trees become more obvious when they don’t grow leaves in the spring and more trees die from diseases, said the study’s leader, Pete Smith.

“The damage is widespread, but it varies widely from really heavy amounts of loss to not really heavy amounts of loss,” Smith said.

The state’s urban areas, including large metropolitan areas like Houston or Austin, as well as smaller cities like Killeen, have a total of about 60 million trees, Smith said. One of the most dramatic changes came in Houston’s Memorial Park, where thousands of pine trees were lost.

That picture tells the story. Estimates for the number of trees lost in the state range up to 500 million. We’re going to feel the effect of this drought long after it ends.

Snorting caffeine

The next frontier in caffeination: Caffeinated air.

Breathe in the buzz

U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials plan to investigate whether inhalable caffeine sold in lipstick-sized canisters is safe for consumers and if its manufacturer was right to brand it as a dietary supplement.

AeroShot went on the market late last month in Massachusetts and New York, and it’s also available in France. Consumers put one end of the canister in their mouths and breathe in, releasing a fine powder that dissolves almost instantly.

Each grey-and-yellow plastic canister contains B vitamins, plus 100 milligrams of caffeine powder, about the equivalent of the caffeine in a large cup of coffee.

AeroShot inventor, Harvard biomedical engineering professor David Edwards, says the product is safe and doesn’t contain taurine and other common additives used to enhance the caffeine effect in energy drinks.

It was bound to happen. I mean, after caffeinating beer, soap, doughnuts, and potato chips, where else was there to go?

One good thing will come out of Craig James’ Senate campaign

He apparently won’t be brought back by ESPN. Sportwriters and fans alike rejoice.