Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Examiner.com article on popular elections articles for 2013

Stephen Kunselman with his daughters Sophia and Sabrina
The Michigan Daily's endorsement of Stephen Kunselman and other candidates for City Council was the top story about local elections held during 2013.
There is also a slideshow: Looking ahead to Washtenaw County elections in 2014
The five most shared stories about Washtenaw County Elections for 2013 all looked ahead to 2014.  Here are the politicians running for federal and state office to watch next year based on the Facebook likes of the readers.
Top Washtenaw County election stories of 2013 look ahead to 2014
As 2013 comes to a close, it's time to look back on the top stories from the past year.  Based on the number of Facebook shares, five stories stood out, all of which share a common theme, looking ahead to 2014.

All of them were also about elections for federal or state office, such as Senator, U.S. Representative, Governor, even University of Michigan Regent.  No county or municipal candidates or issues broke into the five most liked list for 2013.

Three more tied for sixth.  Two of those were also about next year's elections, while one managed to be the most popular article about local elections actually held in 2013.  This last got an honorable mention in this year's countdown.

Here are the five most shared stories on Facebook along with an honorable mention.
1. Walberg losing to generic Democrat by nine percent: poll
2. Schauer declares 'he's in' the race for Michigan Governor
3. Michigan Democrats already campaigning on Labor Day for 2014
4. U-M Regents: Gratz considers running while Weiser consolidates support
5. Peters endorsed by Stabenow and Levin for U.S. Senate
Honorable Mention: Michigan Daily issues endorsements for city council, millage renewal

In addition to the two commonalities I mentioned in the article, four of the articles (1-3 and 5) are good for Democrats, while only #4 is good for a Republican.  May that be a sign of things to come.

Now, I shall close out my calendar year here the way I did in the article.

"So long, 2013. On to 2014!"

Crossposted to Michigan Liberal, Dreamwidth, and LiveJournal.

2013 in biodiversity

I have only 32 hours until 2013 disappears from the face of the planet at 11:59 PM in UTC-12, which includes Baker and Howland islands.  Consequently, it's time to resume what I started with 2013 in space and What did 2013 say on YouTube? and post the year in biodiversity stories I orginally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Science in 2013).   I don't have any videos to use under "if it moves, it leads."  Instead, I've featured images of the largest animal described this year, Tapirus kabomani, which was first collected by Teddy Roosevelt.  If the animal had been described a century ago, it would likely have been Tapirus roosevelti.  This goes to show that science does follow the fashions of culture.  Hey, scientists are people, too.

As it turns out, "Roosevelt's Tapir" or the "Dwarf Tapir" is among the species featured in Smithsonian Magazine's A Recap of Our Five Favorite New Species of 2013.
New species of insects, fungi, spiders, plankton, plants and even small mammals and reptiles are pretty commonplace. If you have enough expertise and spend enough time in the field, you are almost certainly guaranteed to uncover a new species, even if you’re searching in an urban center or an already well-explored country.

Finding a larger animal–a new bird or carnivore, for example–is a much rarer event. But such discoveries do happen, especially as genetic studies are drawing a much finer line between science’s traditional definition of what is and is not a species. Sometimes those new species turn out to be right below our noses, in museum collections or long-ignored field anecdotes.

Whether discovered using genetic sequencing or traditional field sleuthing, here are five of the most sensational species reveals of the year:
Follow over the jump for the rest of the biodiversity stories from last Saturday, including links to some great animal images.

Monday, December 30, 2013

A boring ten days in the gas war plus a predicition for 2014

Since I wrote Limbo season is over, it's been a boring ten days.
Yesterday, the corner station charged into no man’s land again by raising its price to $3.29, while the stations down the street held firm.  Today, it dropped to $3.19.  By this evening, at least one of the stations down the street joined it.  I expect all of them will by tomorrow, so the cheapest gas part of the year is now over.
All the rest of the stations did join in, and the price remained at $3.19 in the neighborhood until Friday, when the corner station once again charged into No Man's Land, raising it's price to $3.49.  I knew that wouldn't last, as the three stations down the street held steady at $3.19.  I expected that the nearby stations would settle on $3.29, like the outlets two miles away, but, so far, that hasn't happened.  Instead, the corner station retreated all the way back into its trench, first dropping to $3.39 on Saturday, then matching the rest of the stations at $3.19 today.

While my prediction of where prices would end up ten days ago came true, my other prediction, that "prices will only go up from here until after New Years" hasn't, although things could change tomorrow.  Yes, the corner station raised its prices, and the none of them have gone below $3.19 since the 20th, but the three stations down the street haven't increased theirs and corner station ended up returning to $3.19, so it was a wash.  Just the same, prices will follow the seasonal pattern and start going up in the new year, although I don't expect higher maximum prices next year than this year.  That's not the case in California, as ABC 10 in San Diego reports in Experts believe gas prices will rise in 2014.

Drivers should expect to shell out more money at the pump, according to gasoline analysts.
That's from the station's YouTube channel.  Here's what the write up on their website also said.
Charles Langley – who has been tracking gas prices for years – says because of refineries closing, it is likely going to affect next year's prices. However, he does not believe prices will hit $5.

"We'll probably see an average price of $4 a gallon with some fluctuation from $3.80 to as high as $4.40 a gallon as long as oil prices are stable," said Langley.

The average price for a gallon of gas in California in 2013 was actually cheaper than 2012 -- $3.92 compared to $4.05. Both are still high when compared to 2011's $3.80.
As you can see, the report confirmed what I wrote in My thoughts on Helicopter Ben’s last press conference, that gas prices are high but decreasing, removing what New Deal Democrat over at the Bonddad Blog calls “the oil choke collar.”  As NDD pointed out last October The oil choke collar disengages - and that's good news.
The oil choke collar -- the dynamic by which an improving economy caused gas prices to rise to the point where they choked back consumer spending on other items, which weakened the economy, which in turn caused gas prices to decline -- in other words the mechanism that acted as a governor restricting growth -- has disengaged in the last few months. Gas prices are now 13% lower than they were a year ago, and even lower than they were two years ago at this time!
While I expect this trend will last until 2020 at the latest, when the increase in U.S. production from tight oil is projected to end and the country hits peak oil again, I think it will still moderate prices, as this graph from Doug Short shows.

Based on prices following a downward-sloping channel for the past three years, I project that the national average won't go above $3.80 or below $3.10 this year.  That means that I don't expect prices to increase year-over-year here in Michigan, and they certainly won't go as high as California's.  I'd post Professor Farnsworth, but I don't want to jinx myself.

A conversation with The Archdruid about Objectivism, Satanism, and the GOP

Fat Cat goes Galt

I had such a good time putting together A conversation with The Archdruid for the Solstice that I decided to do it again on Christmas while I was in Chicago.  It helped that John Michael Greer revisted the points in The Fate of Civil Religion that I excerpted in The Archdruid on Objectivism as civil antireligion, a comparison of Objectivism and Satanism.*  This time, he made an explicit comparison between Objectivism and Satanism and pointed out the implications for the Republican Party.  I couldn't resist, even on vacation.

Follow over the jump for the relevant passages from A Christmas Speculation, my response with side commentary, and Greer's reply to me.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 in space

Original at Gizmag.

I've already begun my end of year retrospectives with What did 2013 say on YouTube?  That means it's time to work my way up from the ridiculous to the sublime.  The best way to do that is to begin as high up as possible, with the year in space.  Under the "if it moves, it leads" policy of the blog, I begin with From Earth to Deep Space: NASA 2013 Highlights.

NASA highlights its accomplishments in air and space for 2013.
There was another NASA year in review video that I included in A Solstice spacewalk and other space and astronomy news, but it was beneath the fold.  For those of you who missed it, I'm being a good environmentalist and recycling it.

2013 What Happened This Year @NASA

In 2013, NASA helped transform access to low Earth orbit ... even as one of our venerable spacecraft reached the boundaries of the solar system ... and we moved ahead on technologies -- that will help us carry out an ambitious asteroid mission we announced ... and, eventually, move on to Mars.

Here's a quick trip back through 2013 for those and some of the other big things that happened This Year at NASA.
Follow over the jump for the rest of the space stories from last night's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Science in 2013) on Daily Kos.

Holiday leftovers from DNews and Tipsy Bartender

While I've already posted Christmas-themed entries from Discovery News and Tipsy Bartender, it turns out both accounts posted more while I was traveling to and from Chicago for Christmas.  In the interest of completeness and because I'm still in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood, here they are, beginning with Discovery News explaining Why You Should Still Exercise Over the Holidays.

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's there are so many opportunities to overeat. A little weight gain may be inevitable - even if you exercise! But don't let that discourage you from working out over the holidays. Guest host Annie Gaus explains the health benefits.
For more tips on this topic, read Losing weight after the holidays.

Follow over the jump for three Christmas drink recipes from Tipsy Bartender.

What did 2013 say on YouTube?

Between my still being in a "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood and the approaching end of the year, it's time for me to post something light-hearted--YouTube Rewind: What Does 2013 Say?

To celebrate 2013, we invited some YouTubers to star in a mashup of popular moments this year. Can you spot all the references?
Once again, I've gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, although last year, I did the reverse.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Cool archeologists named Lawrence, real and fictional

Young Indiana Jones and T.E. Lawrence in "Young Indiana Jones."  More here.

I wasn't finished with news about the historical world with Health news from archeology and history.  I have two news items about a real archeologist named Lawrence and an actress named Lawrence who might play a fictional archeologist, both of which have appeared in my Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos.  Not only are they connected by their surnames, but the character she might play has met the real archeologist and adventurer, as seen in the photo above.

First, the real archeologist from Biblical Archaeology: Lawrence of Arabia as Archaeologist
Read Stephen E. Tabachnick's full article on the archaeological life of T.E. Lawrence as it was published in Biblical Archaeology Review
Stephen E. Tabachnick
Most people picture T.E. Lawrence as the dashing leader dressed in white and gold Arab robes portrayed by Peter O’Toole in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. While the real Lawrence was not exactly like the character in the David Lean film—he never deliberately burned his finger with a match or said he enjoyed killing people, for instance—he was, nevertheless, one of the most colorful figures to emerge from World War I.
Next, the article about the fictional archeologist from MTV: Need A New Indiana Jones? Let's Try Jennifer Lawrence.
With more movies likely to come from Disney, why not take the unexpected route?
By Kevin P. Sullivan (@KPSull)
Dec 9 2013 12:45 PM EST 9,431

But combing through the current roster of young stars that could carry both a beloved franchise and the weight of the roguish leading role, there aren't many better options than Jennifer Lawrence.

The choice would certainly take heat from the comments sections of movie blogs, but a pick as surprising as Lawrence would work in two ways. Recasting the Indiana Jones would make headlines, but casting a woman would be news-of-the-year material.

Why shouldn't it be Jennifer Lawrence, though? Sure, it's unlikely she'd take the part, since she publicly expressed her hesitance to star in franchises when discussing her choice to star in "The Hunger Games," but the personality is spot on. Indiana Jones is confident and cool, but often sarcastic and prone to anger when frustrated, something that we've seen Lawrence do in her films with David O. Russell. And Disney knows that she can lead a film to box-office glory, thanks to the strong performance of "Catching Fire."
Personally, I'd put this in the realm of Will Al Jazeera America hire Keith Olbermann?  That was a good fantasy, but I acknowledged it wasn't likely to happen.  Current TV republished that blog post.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that they did so under Comedy.  Oh, well.  At least they noticed.

More ACA news from KPBS and UAB

It's time to follow up on More ACA implementation from KPBS and UAB.  Under this blog's "if it moves, it leads" policy, I begin with What You Need To Know About The Upcoming ACA Deadline from KPBS.

We speak with Covered California Spokeswoman Lizelda Lopez and Gary Rotto, director of health policy at the Council for Community Clinics San Diego about what you need to know as the Dec. 23 Affordable Care Act deadline approaches.
Follow over the jump for more on the ACA from KPBS and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Second driving update for December 2013: Other car

At the end of Driving update for December 2013: My car, I mentioned that I might traveling during the last two weeks of the year.  I did, and it speeded up the next update on my wife's car.  The the last update on her car had it rolling over 85,000 miles on August 8th.  Since the previous update had been a year ago, it should have been another four months until the next one.  Instead, her car rolled over 86,000 miles on Boxing Day, two days ago.  What happened?

Simple.  We drove to Chicago and back for Christmas, adding more than 560 miles in three days.  We haven't taken a trip like that in her car since November 2011, when we drove to New Jersey and back for business.  At that time, I wasn't keeping track of the miles on her car, so I have no solid numbers about that journey's impact, although the round trip between Detroit and Trenton is 1208 miles, the trip lasted more than a week, and we drove at least 20 miles every day we were there.  I wouldn't be surprised if we went from 80,000 to 81,500 miles on her car in 10 days.  In retrospect, I would probably have been horrified to have done the calculations back then.  Instead, I referred to it in passing in my update for February 2012, when my mileage was ridiculously low because of three weeks of no driving.

Enough narrative--time for the calculations.  It took 140 days from my wife and I to drive her car 1000 miles for an average of 7.14 miles/day and 217.9 miles/month.  That those numbers are just short of double the 4.39 miles/day and 133.8 miles/month look about right.  What about the total mileage for both cars?  Last time, we drove both vehicles 3818 miles in 228 days for 16.75 miles/day and 510.8 miles/month.  I estimate that I drove my car 1640 miles in the time it took for both of us to drive her car 1000.  On top of that, her car has an extra 130 miles on top of the 86,000 from the trip, as the odometer rolled over between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, so the total miles for both cars is 2670 in 140 days for a total of 19.1 miles/day and 581.7 miles/month.  Honestly, it could have been a lot worse.  Just the same, this exercise demonstrates that driving vacations have a major impact on one's carbon footprint.

Finally, about that promise I made at the end of the last two reports.
Yes, I bought this car in October 2003.  I have a story about that, but I'll save it for the next report, along with why I named my car Yuki.  Stay tuned.
I’m going to take a rain check on this promise.  These look like the kind of stories I would write to post while I’m traveling, which I might do over the next two weeks.
It's late and I'm tired, so I'm not up to it.  Besides, this report is about my wife's car, which I call Ruby (my wife doesn't give her cars names).  I gave her that name because of the car's color and because my wife and I are fans of "Once Upon a Time," which had a character named Ruby, who is really Red Riding Hood, for the first two seasons.  Here's a picture of her as Red Riding Hood.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Health news from archeology and history

I'm taking a break from examining current research in health and outreach in health policy to present three news items about health in history that I've included in Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos the past two weeks.  I begin with a release from Columbia University that fits in with the theme of campuses on the campaign trail, as Columbia is located in New York City, which elected a new Mayor last month.

Professor Probes Mental Disorders in the Ancient World
The examination of mental disorders would seem to be the almost exclusive domain of psychiatrists and psychologists, not humanities scholars. Yet William V. Harris, the William R. Shepherd Professor of History, has spent his time in recent years studying his chosen field—the history of ancient Greece and Rome—through the lens of mental illness.

Harris, director of the Columbia Center for the Ancient Mediterranean, has explored subjects in ancient times ranging from war and imperialism to literacy and economic history. More recently, he began to focus on emotional states, in books such as Restraining Rage: the Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity in 2002, and Dreams and Experience in Classical Antiquity in 2009. “I’ve always been interested in psychiatry and psychology, which I see as a quite natural interest for historian,” he said.
Over at Daily Kos, I place psychology in between health and archeology.  The above article shows exactly why I do this.

Follow over the break for two more health stories from the ancient and historical world.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Quitting smoking in the New Year

As I mentioned in Losing weight after the holidays, “Along with quitting smoking, losing weight is one of two popular New Year’s resolutions.”  It’s time to post about quitting smoking with contributions from all three of the San Diego news sources I’ve been using for Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

I begin by approaching the topic indirectly with KPBS on Report: California Skimping On Spending For Tobacco Prevention.

In California, only 14 percent of the recommended $441.9 million of tobacco settlement dollars is being spent on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, report by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids finds.
Also see Report: California Skimping On Spending For Tobacco Prevention By Megan Burke, Maureen Cavanaugh, Peggy Pico.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
It's been 15 years since most U.S. states agreed to a more than $264 billion settlement with the big tobacco companies to recover health care costs.

Many people figured that would be enough to help smokers who wanted to quit, and deter the next generation from picking up a smoking habit. But a group of public health organizations finds that in California, tobacco prevention programs are getting a very small cut of that large pot of money.

A report published Monday by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids found only 14 percent of the amount recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is spent on the state's tobacco prevention and cessation programs; Only $64.8 million of the CDC-recommended $441.9 million will be spent this year in California.
Tsk, tsk.

Follow over the jump for more on quitting smoking from SDSU and UCSD.

Losing weight after the holidays

Along with quitting smoking, losing weight is one of two popular New Year’s resolutions.  Two campuses of the University of Alabama have advice on this topic that I originally included in Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

University of Alabama at Birmingham: Skip the fat talk and go directly to model behavior to avoid fights
By Nicole Wyatt
Friday, December 06, 2013
Politics and religion are considered unsafe topics of conversation at holiday dinners and parties, and experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say avoiding another topic — weight — can help everyone be more merry and bright.

“People might gain weight during the five-to-six weeks of the holiday season, but the reality is most will not put on a substantial amount in that time period,” said Josh Klapow, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAB School of Public Health.

A clinical psychologist, Klapow says discussing weight should be avoided during the holidays, even if opinions are rooted in concerns for a loved one’s health. Bringing it up will likely only cause hurt feelings.
University of Alabama: UA Matters: How to Lose Weight in a Healthy Way
Dec 16, 2013
Losing weight tends to be a popular New Year’s resolution or goal. But there is definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about achieving that goal. The University of Alabama’s Sheena Quizon Gregg shares a few tips on how shake loose those extra pounds in a healthy way.
The advice:
  • Avoid Skipping Meals.
  • Make Your Meals Complete.
  • Take Time with Your Meals.
  • Make Friends with Veggies.
  • Don’t Underestimate the Power of Water.
  • Get Moving.
Here’s to those of you who wish to lose weight doing so safely and successfully.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas drink from Tipsy Bartender

No session of “I can’t be all DOOM all the time” from me would be complete without a video from the Tipsy Bartender.  Therefore, here is Candy Cane Infused Vodka.

CANDY CANE INFUSED VODKA...an amazing treat for the holidays. We used it to make a yummy Candy Cane Hot Chocolate cocktail. Enjoy.
Candy Cane
2 oz. (60ml) Candy Cane Infused Vodka
1 packet Hot Chocolate Mix
4 oz. (120ml) Hot Water
Whipped Cream
Merry Christmas and drink responsibly!

Merry Christmas from NASA and Crazy Eddie’s Motie News!

Season's Greetings from NASA Television 2013

The theme of this year's holiday greeting is "Children's Imagination".

Inspired by Brian Basset's Red and Rover comic strip, this year's NASA Season's Greeting takes us into the imagination of a ten-year-old who loves all things NASA.

When you are home on a snowy day, with your trusty canine companion, and only the contents of your yard, shed, and garage - how can you build all your favorite NASA stuff?

Look carefully, in this piece you will find a beach ball, shutters, shoe box, trashcans, plastic food containers, round snow sled, welding gloves, water cooler bottles, paint can, fishing pole, tuna cans, holiday ribbon, rocks, sports drink bottle, soup can, pet's water dish, barrel, ruler, 2x4, storm windows, ladder, shovel, lattice fencing, recycle bin, and a wagon.
Once again, Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Eve space walk

I mentioned A Solstice spacewalk, but that was only one of several to fix a coolant leak on the ISS.  Discovery News reports that the astronauts will be taking another one today in NASA Making Urgent Space Repairs on Christmas Day.

A major equipment failure on the International Space Station has made for a rough week for the six astronauts living aboard. Two of those astronauts will be doing a Christmas Day spacewalk to fix the problem. Trace tells us what's gone wrong, and details the work they'll be doing.
So, while the rest of us are enjoying a day off, the astronauts are working.  Merry Christmas!

 ETA: Space.com writes that the spacewalk has been moved up to Christmas Eve in the U.S., which means it will be taking place during Christmas Day in Australia and Japan.
Originally, NASA officials planned three spacewalks to fix the issue, however, if all goes well during the Christmas Eve EVA, the astronauts should be able to get the system back up and running at full capacity without a third spacewalk. You can watch the full 6.5-hour long spacewalk on SPACE.com via NASA TV. Live coverage starts at 6:15 a.m. EST (1115 GMT), and the Christmas Eve spacewalk should start at about 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT).
For the Christmas Eve spacewalk, Mastracchio and Hopkins will work to install a new pump module to replace the one they removed during the earlier walk. Some non-vital systems have been powered down since the problem began, but the replacement should get the cooling system back up and running, NASA officials have said.
Hey, good news!

Discovery News on the Holidays for Christmas Eve

For the day before Christmas, I present a sequel to Discovery News on the holidays with more of Discovery News’s videos on the season.

I begin with 5 Holiday Lies You Believe.

There are a bunch of facts surrounding the holiday season you probably believe to be true, but totally aren't! Anthony rights a few holiday wrongs.
Follow over the jump for more.

Monday, December 23, 2013

SciFi is now: Revenge porn, a 21st Century crime

As I wrote in 21st Century crime scenes from KPBS, “We may not have flying cars, but we are starting to have crimes right out of Johnny Mnemonic.”  I also remarked in E-Cigs: A 21st Century health issue, “technology is providing new opportunities to run afoul of the law in ways that were in science fiction 20-30 years ago.”  Here is an ongoing story about one such crime that is being covered by KPBS.

First, the video and story that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Jade Rabbit lands on Moon).

What's Happening Now With San Diego Man's Arrest For Revenge Porn Website

A San Diego man was arrested Tuesday on charges related to operating a revenge porn website. It's the first bust of its kind since California criminalized revenge porn earlier this year.
San Diego Man Arrested In Connection With Revenge Porn Website
By David Wagner
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Kevin Bollaert, 27, allegedly owned and operated ugotposted.com, one of the most notorious examples of revenge porn. It allowed users — often vindictive ex-boyfriends — to anonymously upload nude photos of women without their consent.

The site connected photos with identifying information about the women pictured, including their names, ages and Facebook profiles. Victims reported being harassed and intimidated by the site's visitors.
Follow over the jump for more.

Happy Festivus!

I may be a doomer here at Crazy Eddie’s Motie News, but I love holidays, including fake ones.  Here’s one more to add to the list--Festivus!  I’ll let the cast of Seinfeld explain.

A brief History. As told by George Costanza of the NBC Show Seinfeld.

I do enough airing of grieveances here the rest of the year.  If you want to read some, I recommend Kunstler's rant from today about Helicopter Ben’s last press conference.  If you want a humorous take on that tradition, surf over to Wonkette, which is snarking on Rand Paul on Twitter and making fun of Mitt Romney a Man of the Year award.  As for feats of strength, forget it.  I’m on vacation!

A Solstice spacewalk and other space and astronomy news

Good morning!  To start the work week,* I’m moving up my weekly space news report to Monday.  I begin with NASA Begins Series of Spacewalks to Fix Coolant Pump on ISS.

Expedition 38 astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins ventured outside the space station on Dec. 21, for the first in a series of spacewalks to remove and replace a faulty coolant pump module. The pump is associated with one of the station's two external cooling loops, which circulate ammonia outside the station to keep both internal and external equipment cool.

The previously planned mission of Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft has been moved to no earlier than mid-January. The postponement will allow ample time for the station crew to focus on repairing the pump module, which stopped working properly on Dec. 11.
Follow over the jump for more from NASA, including a retrospective of this year’s events, plus bonus reports from campuses on the campaign trail about IceCube.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sustainability of banning plastic bags from DNews and KPBS

While the videos in Student sustainability video festival 18: Great Pacific Garbage Patch, again, were used to illustrate a talk about plastic water bottles and their caps, plastic bags are another source of the pollution depicted in the videos there and the entries linked from there.  Two of my regular news sources, Discovery News and KPBS, have been covering the movement to ban plastic bags.

DNews summarizes the environmental impact of banning plastic bags in Paper or Plastic: Which Bags Hurt the Environment More?

Paper vs. plastic bags: You'd think this fight would have been settled by now. But as Trace explains, for cities around the world, the fight is more complicated than you'd think.
As you can see, banning bags does not necessarily help with the rate of filling landfills, greenhouse gas emissions, or costs to consumers.  Note, however, that the DNews video ignored the externalities of plastic bags, such as the garbage patch, but only the (now) internalized costs.  I suspect that their analysis might look different if they had.

That’s the big picture.  Follow over the jump for KPBS’s ongoing coverage of how this is playing out in one San Diego County community.

SciFi is Now: Minority Report edition

As I wrote in Psychology on Facebook, it’s “Time for another reminder that we reveal ourselves on Facebook and there is no such thing as a free lunch on Facebook.”  In this case, it’s through an article from UCSD that I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Jade Rabbit lands on Moon) (yes, I’m still catching up from when I was grading) and a video from Discovery News.  I’m reversing my usual order of “if it moves, it leads” by presenting the UCSD press release first.

Hipster, Surfer or Biker? Computers May Soon Be Able to Tell the Difference
Researchers develop algorithm that uses computer vision to identify social groups
By Ioana Patringenaru
December 10, 2013
Are you a hipster, surfer or biker? What is your urban tribe? Your computer may soon be able to tell. Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego, are developing an algorithm that uses group pictures to determine to which of these groups, or urban tribes, you belong. So far, the algorithm is 48 percent accurate on average. That’s better than chance--which gets answers right only nine percent of the time--but researchers would like the algorithm perform at least as well as humans would.

An algorithm able to identify people’s urban tribes would have a wide range of applications, from generating more relevant search results and ads, to allowing social networks to provide better recommendations and content. There also is a growing interest in analyzing footage from cameras installed in public spaces to identify groups rather than individuals.

Computer scientists presented their findings at the British Machine Vision Conference in the United Kingdom this fall.
Discovery News explains what this means in New Software Tells If You're A Hipster.

There's a new piece of software out there that can identify a whole lot more about you than your name via Facebook. By analyzing a photo of you alone, it can accurately predict intimate details about your life. Anthony explains how it works and if you should fear- or embrace- this new tech.
Welcome to the world of Minority Report, where technology scans you and costumizes ads for you, but also tracks you.  So it’s not your retina, but your photos on social media.  It’s good enough that I can repeat my mantra and then Nebris’s: “We live in Science Fiction times” and “SciFi is Now.”

San Diego Election News from KPBS for the week of the Solstice

This is still a Detroit-based blog, but I’m also an expatriate southern Californian.  Lately, I’ve been indulging that part of me by monitoring the special mayoral election in San Diego for Daily Kos.  It gives me an opportunity to get science, health, and environment stories from two top notch public universities (UCSD and SDSU) and an outstanding public broadcasting station (both radio and TV) in KPBS.  I’ll plan to continue this until the third week in February, as the runoff election will be held February 11th.  I don’t know if my readers like this (my page views have gone down this past week), but I’m enjoying it.  Here’s to hoping my readers turn around, or at least I get some new ones.

Under my policy of “if it moves, it leads,” here is the video summary of the week’s political news from KPBS: From Barrio Logan To San Diego's Economy, An Update From Interim Mayor Todd Gloria

The Barrio Logan plan heads to the ballot, and San Diego pays out $98,000 in legal fees for its former mayor. We get an update on city business from Interim Mayor Todd Gloria.
Follow over the jump for much more on the mayoral election, Barrio Logan, legislation outlawing special elections, and the disgraced former Mayor, all of which appeared in the tip jar to Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Winter Solstice 2013).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The intersection of public health and the environment

I already posted one of the stories that fit this description in Real-life tricorders for health and environment, but there were more where that came from in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Jade Rabbit lands on Moon).  Using the “if it moves, it leads” criterion, I begin with KPBS’s Public Transit Improvements Benefit Public Health.

One thing that emerged at Wednesday's North County Transportation Business Summit is that improving public transit is one of the most effective ways to improve public health. Our car culture is dangerous in several ways, not least because it contributes to one of the nation's fastest-growing public health problems: obesity.
The story continues in Public Transit Improvements Benefit Public Health By Alison St John.
Nick Macchione, director of the county’s Health and Human Services department, is a strong advocate of finding ways to get people out of their cars and moving, whether it’s walking, bicycling or catching a trolley.

“We need to invest in good healthy transit systems and get people to be more active and walk more,” he said.

Macchione pointed out to the business leaders and policy makers at the summit that poor public health is one of the largest drags on our whole economy. Currently, it eats up 18 percent of our gross domestic product. In San Diego, he said, it costs $4 billion in direct expenditures and that doesn’t even take into account lost productivity.
See, improving sustainability improves health, too.

Follow over the jump for more stories about the intersection between public health and the environment from the University of Wisconsin.

A conversation with The Archdruid for the Solstice

Over at his blog, Greer the Archdruid has been writing a series about the end of progress, or at least the civil religion of progress, for most of the year.  I posted an excerpt from one of the early entries in the series as The Archdruid on Objectivism as civil antireligion, but haven’t had much to say about it here since.*  This week, he finally winds down the series with An Old Kind of Science, in which he points out that science, as it has been thought of for the past four centuries, has been entirely wrapped up in the pursuit of progress, which he posits as “The attempt to conquer nature—in less metaphorical terms, to render the nonhuman world completely transparent to the human intellect and just as completely subject to the human will—was industrial civilization’s defining project.”  He then goes on for several paragraphs about how science went from describing any organized body of knowledge to the way of finding out information using “Quantitative measurement, experimental testing, and public circulation of the results of research” that we know today.  He then tied the history of science back to his thesis about progress and conquering Nature by pointing out that “The dream of conquering nature, though, was what made modern science the focus of so large a fraction of the Western world’s energies and ambitions over the last three hundred years.”

This is very deep stuff, and deserves a lot more thought and text than I am willing to put together right now.  That written, it did inspire me to respond to him.  In turn, he replied back.  To mark the Winter Solstice, I’m reposting our exchange here.  Follow over the jump, please.

Happy Winter Solstice 2013

Washington Post: Winter Solstice 2013: Shortest day of the year, but sunset already creeping later
By Justin Grieser
December 20 at 10:52 am
Winter may just be getting started, but those looking forward to a bit more daylight have not much longer to wait. This Saturday is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, marking our shortest daylight period and longest night of the year.

At 12:11 p.m. EST on December 21, the sun appears directly overhead along the Tropic of Capricorn, at 23.5 degrees south latitude. With the Earth’s north pole at its maximum tilt from the sun, locations north of the equator see the sun follow its lowest and shortest arc across the southern sky. For the next six months, the days again grow longer as the sun spends more time above the horizon.
Accuweather has more on how this happens in Winter Solstice - The Day of Least Light.

For more on the science of the day, click on the link in the headline of the Washington Post article; that has lots of fun facts!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Limbo season is over

I finished Gasoline headed back to this year's lows with a couple of predictions.  The first came true.
The three stations down the street all dropped their price for regular to $3.09 in the morning.  By late afternoon, the corner station dropped down to $3.10.  I'm sure it will match the rest of the neighborhood stations today or tomorrow.
Later that evening, it did.  The next week, it led a charge into no man’s land by raising its price to $3.29 for a few days, but the stations down the street ignored it and it matched them at $3.09 for more than a week--a rare truce in the gas price war.

The second never happened and isn’t likely to.
As for where it will go next, GasBuddy shows all averages dropping.  The national average is now at $3.24, the Michigan average is down to $3.15, and the Detroit average is between $3.13 and $3.14.  The previous record low of $3.04 is now back within reach.
Yeah, it was within reach, but none of the stations dropped below $3.09 for more than two weeks.  Yesterday, the corner station charged into no man’s land again by raising its price to $3.29, while the stations down the street held firm.  Today, it dropped to $3.19.  By this evening, at least one of the stations down the street joined it.  I expect all of them will by tomorrow, so the cheapest gas part of the year is now over.

GasBuddy confirms this, with the national price rising from $3.20, a penny above the year’s low of $3.19, a couple of days ago to $3.23 today.  The same day, Detroit hit its low of $3.09 and is now up sharply to $3.18.  That’s when the state bottomed out at $3.07 and is now over the national average at $3.24.  Prices will only go up from here until after New Years.  Time to fill up my wife’s car, especially since I’m driving it more.

Driving update for December 2013: My car

Yesterday, my car turned over another 1000 miles since the last driving update on October 1, 2013 to reach 219,000 miles.  That means it took me 80 days to reach this milestone, four days less than last time.  I could have done it in six fewer days, or 73 days, but I took my wife’s car to work on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday instead.  Yes, I cheated, but the important thing is the total miles driven by both cars.  As of the last update on her car, our combined mileage has gone down.  Besides, her mechanic told her that she wasn’t driving enough to keep the battery charged, so I did that for her.

Just the same, my rate of driving increased to 12.5 miles/day and 381.25 miles/month, up 0.5 miles/day and 18.15 miles/month more than last time, completely erasing the decrease of 0.45 miles/day and 16.4 miles/month since July.  The resumption of off-site meetings and going to more meetings along with teaching at a new site most like did that.

It could have been worse.  If I had driven my car last Friday, I would have driven it 13.7 miles/day and 417.8 miles/month, an increase of 1.65 miles/day and 54.7 miles/month over the summer.  Wow!

Over at Calculated Risk, it shows that total miles driven in the U.S. went up in September while I was driving less, increasing 1.5% over September 2012.

Also, I made a promise at the end of the last report.
Yes, I bought this car in October 2003.  I have a story about that, but I'll save it for the next report, along with why I named my car Yuki.  Stay tuned.
I’m going to take a rain check on this promise.  These look like the kind of stories I would write to post while I’m traveling, which I might do over the next two weeks.

My thoughts on Helicopter Ben’s last press conference

Original at dshort.com.

I began China lands “Goddess and Rabbit” on Moon and other space news by begging off commenting on Wednesday’s big news.
Now that I'm through grading for the year, it's time to resume "regular programming" here.  I should be remarking on yesterday’s announcement of tapering off Quantitative Easing and Wall Street’s reaction, but I’m not up to it right now.
I’m up to it.  Time to quote the Reuters articles, beginning with Fed cuts bond buying in first step away from historic stimulus.
The Federal Reserve on Wednesday embarked on the risky task of winding down the era of easy money, saying the U.S. economy was finally strong enough for it to start scaling down its massive bond-buying stimulus.

The central bank modestly trimmed the pace of its monthly asset purchases, by $10 billion to $75 billion, and sought to temper the long-awaited move by suggesting its key interest rate would stay at rock bottom even longer than previously promised.

At his last scheduled news conference as Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke said the purchases would likely be cut at a "measured" pace through much of next year if job gains continued as expected, with the program fully shuttered by late-2014.

The move, which surprised some investors but did not cause the market shock many had feared, was a nod to better prospects for the economy and labor market. It marked a historic turning point for the largest monetary policy experiment ever.

"The recovery clearly remains far from complete," Bernanke said. But "we're hopeful ... we'll begin to see the whites of the eyes of the end of the recovery, and the beginning of the more normal period of economic growth."
To soothe investors' nerves, the Fed said it "likely will be appropriate" to keep overnight rates near zero "well past the time" that the jobless rate falls below 6.5 percent, especially if inflation expectations remain below target.
I watched the entire news conference as I was grading final exams and presentations.  Follow over the jump for my reaction and those of actual experts on the subject.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Canada claims North Pole so Santa is Canadian

Discovery News explains why Canada is making a claim to Santa’s Workshop in Who Owns the North Pole?

No one (besides Santa, of course) claims ownership over the North Pole... but that may soon change. Guest Host Annie Gaus tell us which country is making a play for the North Pole and why.
If Canada is successful, then Santa and his elves are now Canadian.  I have a song for that possiblity.

Merry Christmas, eh?

China lands “Goddess and Rabbit” on Moon and other space news

Now that I'm through grading for the year, it's time to resume "regular programming" here.  I should be remarking on yesterday’s announcement of tapering off Quantitative Easing and Wall Street’s reaction, but I’m not up to it right now.  Instead, I’ll ease back into my routine by posting one of my themed news compilations, beginning with my weekly space news series.

The top story of last Saturday’s Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday was “Jade Rabbit lands on Moon.” Here’s the item I ran from the Christian Science Monitor, which was the most recent I could find at the time but is already out of date.

China moon landing: Beijing puts Jade Rabbit on the moon.
China moon landing: China joined elite company today with the controlled landing of its "Jade Rabbit" rover on the moon. China follows the US and Soviet Union as the third country with a controlled - or "soft" - landing on the moon.
By Peter Ford, Staff writer
December 14, 2013
China became only the third nation to soft-land a spacecraft on the moon, as Chang’e 3 – the first visitor from earth for over 35 years – touched down safely on a flat plain facing the Earth today.

A lunar rover, nicknamed “Jade Rabbit,” is due to start exploring the lunar surface by Sunday, burnishing China’s credentials as a space power and bringing it a step closer to putting a man on the moon.

“This is a very significant step for their space program,” says Gregory Kulacki, who studies China’s efforts in space for the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s a prospecting mission, their first real chance to test whether there are mineral resources on the moon.”
As I’ve been documenting for the past two-and-one-half years, the Chinese are catching up to the U.S. in those areas of space with the most propaganda value.  For broad-based space science, I’d put my money on the Japanese and Indians in the Asian Space Race.  Just the same, I’m not going to dismiss the Chinese efforts as signs of the technological capability of their civilization and their willingness to challenge the U.S. in one of our areas of strength.

Follow over the jump for the rest of last week’s space and astronomy news.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Student sustainability video festival 18: Great Pacific Garbage Patch, again

I just submitted all of my grades for the semester.  To celebrate, I’m posting the videos from the presentation the students voted their favorite this semester, just as I did last semester when I posted Student sustainability video festival 12: Bed Bugs on 'The Simpsons'.  The talk itself was about the environmental effects of plastic water bottles, but the videos used to illustrate the presentation were about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which I covered in last semester’s installments as Student sustainability video festival 11: Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Hey, deja vu!

The talk used two videos, the first of which was Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Ocean Pollution Awareness.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive dump of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean. We contribute to it everyday by littering and using un-biodegradable materials. Our trash is taken downstream from rivers into the ocean, where currents sweep it to the closest patch.
The second was portion of the Vice program Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic (Part 1/3).

Vice sails to the North Pacific Gyre, collecting point for all of the ocean's flotsam and home of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch: a mythical, Texas-sized island made entirely of our trash.
Come aboard as we take a cruise to the Northern Gyre in the Pacific Ocean, a spot where currents spin and cycle, churning up tons of plastic into a giant pool of chemical soup, flecked with bits and whole chunks of refuse that cannot biodegrade.
The students only saw the first three minutes, and it was enough to get them to vote the talk in first.  Imagine if they watched the entire show.  I just might tell them to do that for extra credit.

Student sustainability video festival 17: Searching for West

One of my students who hunts gave a talk to my environmental science class about hunting.  Here is the video she showed as an attention grabber.

Searching for West Trailer from Searching for West on Vimeo.

I may be an environmentalist, but I have no objection to hunting done right, which is why I have a hunting label for this blog.

Student sustainability video festival 16: Meet the Freegans on Trashopolis

It’s time to pick up where I left off Student sustainability video festival 15: 'The Top Banana' trailer with another video from my students’ presentations.  Tonight, it’s Trashopolis : Meet the Freegans from the Smithsonian Channel.

Not all garbage should be thrown away -- at least, that's what the Freegans, a group of dumpster-divers who live off unspoiled discarded food, believe.
This is the second time that one of my students have presented on this topic, but the last time was at least five years ago.  Both times, the student was simultanteously disgusted and amazed and showed a perverse admiration for the lifestyle.  Freeganism certainly wasn't for either student.

My comment is that this video fits this month’s theme perfectly; the Freegans are showing how to do more with less.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Real-life tricorders for health and environment

I last mentioned tricorder becoming real in July.  The Space.com story described a purely medical device.  Now USCD and San Diego State are both working on tricorder like devices which will not only monitor human health, but also the environment.

UCSD: Research Team Enlists 'Citizen-Sensors' to Improve World Health

Enterprising researchers and students at UC San Diego are looking for funding to complete a "citizen-sensor" project that they hope will revolutionize global health and environmental monitoring -- especially in remote and undeveloped areas of the planet. They also hope to attract the faith and funding of people around the world through the open, global crowd-funding resource Indiegogo, the first partnership between UC San Diego and a funding platform.
UCSD via University of California has the press release: Using 'citizen-sensors' to improve world health.
Date: 2013-12-12
“What if you could hold the power of modern medical equipment in the palm of your hand?” they ask. The device the students call “a cool gizmo” can also monitor your environment’s health by sampling the air, soil, and water for pollutants, then analyze and report the findings.

For non-Star Trek fans, the gizmo is much like the “tricorder” of the popular sci-fi series — a nifty hand-held device used for scanning, analyzing, and recording data. Less evocatively named, but nearly as high-tech, the UC San Diego device is called the Open Health Stack.

It would beneficially alter the landscape of the medical economy, researchers say, first by changing how people sense and perceive their own health, and then by collecting enough data to enable changes to environmental practices or policies.

Making those ambitious goals a reality is the role of their Distributed Health Lab, a collaboration between UC San Diego’s School of Medicine and the Qualcomm Institute, the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).
The Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize was mentioned in the UCSD video.  It turns out that SDSU is also competing: SDSU Team Advances in Global Competition.
SDSU’s X-Team is now one of 33 teams competing for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE.
By Beth Downing Chee
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Beth Downing Chee
When San Diego State University's X-Team entered the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE competition in April, there were more than 300 teams intending to compete. Now just 33 teams remain in the 3.5-year global competition.

Sponsored by the Qualcomm Foundation, XPRIZE will award $10 million to teams that develop a consumer-friendly mobile device that could change the face of health care.

The SDSU X-Team aims to be one of them.
We do indeed live in science fiction times.

Monday, December 16, 2013

WXYZ on floating to the edge of space

The same week I posted Arthur C. Clarke's legacy: space tourism, WXYZ broadcast World View Enterprises wants to take passengers to edge of space about a space tourism outfit proposing to lift passengers into the stratosphere in a balloon.

So it's not a rocket.  It's still a ride to space.  As I've written before, "We live in science fiction times" and "SciFi is Now."

Nelson Mandela and forgiveness from Discovery News

It turns out that I was not finished with the late Nelson Mandela after A great song for a great man.  Discovery News has a science-related item about the man and the lessons he offers for us in Nelson Mandela and the Science of Forgiveness.

With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the world loses not only an international icon of peace and reconciliation, but also someone with the unique ability to truly forgive. Casting aside his anger and resentment to those who held him imprisoned for 27 years, he went on to achieve greatness and influence the lives of millions of people. Trace looks at the science behind this power of forgiveness.
Stay tuned for more short entries like this until Thursday.  As I quoted Nablopomo in Nablopomo for December: MORE/LESS:
We know that NaBloPoMo runs straight through that busy time period from Christmas to New Years.  Be easy on yourself and keep it simple.  Feel free to do photo posts, or tell us your favourite family recipe.  And yes, it's okay to schedule a post in advance.
I'm just doing more with less.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Student sustainability video festival 15: 'The Top Banana' trailer

Time for another video presented by a student.  This one addresses a point I make every semester, about how the dessert bananas people eat are threatened by fungus because of the unintended effects of growing monocultures of clones.

The Top Banana - Trailer from Emily James on Vimeo.

Spygames and paranoia 2: The World of Watchcraft

I finished Spygames and paranoia 1: No that's not Cthulhu on the patch by pointing out that people were worrying about the wrong thing.
If they want something to freak out about, it's the spying going on inside the World of Warcraft.  That's real.  It's also silly.  Stay tuned for more on this story.
I then procrastinated more at the end of Forging an Urak-Hai: an educational experience.
I looked for a text story to accompany this video, but instead found Orc And Dagger: U.S. Reportedly Spied On Gamers Online about the story I promised to cover as part two of Spygames and paranoia 1: No that's not Cthulhu on the patch.  I'll use that one in the morning.  Right now, I'm going to bed.  Good night!
Here it is, the morning of the next day, and I've already used that story in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Jade Rabbit lands on Moon), so it's finally time to post it here.

NPR via KPBS: Orc And Dagger: U.S. Reportedly Spied On Gamers Online
Bill Chappell / NPR
Monday, December 9, 2013
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have worked to infiltrate networks of violence-prone individuals who might unite for a common cause. And in some cases, the spies are also targeting networks that aren't regional terrorist cells -- they're online gaming communities, according to the latest revelation from documents given to the media by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"Exploiting Terrorist Use of Games & Virtual Environments" is the name of a 2008 NSA document being cited in coordinated reports out Monday from The Guardian, ProPublica and The New York Times.

The reports describe spy agencies' push to infiltrate systems that allow millions of people to closely collaborate and even exchange money -- all through a veil of alternate identities.

The project involved spies creating identities in networks that include Second Life and World of Warcraft, according to the reports. Another arm of the work is said to have collected massive amounts of data from Microsoft's Xbox Live network and elsewhere.

The effort was not a small one, the news agencies report. In fact, so much anti-terrorism work was being conducted in the virtual worlds that a separate "deconfliction" group was tasked with monitoring spies from the CIA, Pentagon, and FBI so that they wouldn't interfere with -- or waste time spying on -- one another, according to Pro Publica.
This is a silly project for various reasons.  The more serious objections were raised in the New York Times story, summarized here by two reporters having a chat on WOW in character, pun intended.  Follow over the jump for the video.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Student sustainability video festival 14: Discovery News on white tigers

As I concluded Student sustainability video festival 13: Real vs. artificial Christmas trees, "My students showed about half a dozen really good videos this semester.  Stay tuned for them between now and Wednesday, when the grades are due."  Here's another on the genetics of white tigers: How A Genetic Mistake Can Save White Tigers.

For years, white tigers have been inbred with one another to maintain their regal, milky coats. It's an unsustainable practice that causes a host of problems. So is there a safe way to keep the White Tiger white? Scientists think they've found the answer.
I've been showing my students Discovery News videos for a year.  I guess it was about time that one of them returned the favor.

Student sustainability video festival 13: Real vs. artificial Christmas trees

As I last wrote in Student sustainability video festival 8: Jamie Oliver's chicken nuggets, "It's the end of the semester, which means it's grading time.  It also means posts light on text and analysis until the grades are posted."  That means it's time to resume where I left off in Student sustainability video festival 12: Bed Bugs on 'The Simpsons'.  This afternoon, I present a video about one of my students' favorite topics, both to present and to watch, the debate over which is more sustainable, real or artificial Christmas trees: Christmas Tree Debate: Real vs. Fake from The Nature Conservancy.

The Nature Conservancy's Frank Lowenstein, director of climate adaptation, solves the growing debate: should families buy real or fake Christmas trees? Watch to see if Frank recommends cutting down a real tree for your home!
The answer from the video is to use a real tree.  That's usually, but not always, the conclusion the students come to as well.

My students showed about half a dozen really good videos this semester.  Stay tuned for them between now and Wednesday, when the grades are due.

Forging an Urak-Hai: an educational experience

I'm still in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood, so I'm responding to another event of yesterday, the premiere of the second Hobbit movie, to present How To Make An Orc Sword For Extra Credit from KPBS.

KPBS arts reporter and resident geek Beth Accomando visits the Grossmont College foundry where one sculpture student was making an orc sword, specifically a Uruk-Hai scimitar.
I looked for a text story to accompany this video, but instead found Orc And Dagger: U.S. Reportedly Spied On Gamers Online about the story I promised to cover as part two of Spygames and paranoia 1: No that's not Cthulhu on the patch.  I'll use that one in the morning.  Right now, I'm going to bed.  Good night!

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's Friday the 13th, drink up!

As I wrote in An entire college drinking and eating experience in one glass, "Once again, I've hit the wall of 'I can't be all DOOM all the time.'"  Also, once again, I'm going to be inspired by the day to post a drink recipe or two.  It's the last Friday the 13th of the year, and I've found the perfect drink recipe for the day.

No drink recipe entry of mine would be complete without a video from The Tipsy Bartender.  While he doesn't have a Friday the 13th recipe, he does have a similar Halloween drink, right down to the black vodka with licorice garnish: Black Absinthe Halloween.

The BLACK ABSINTHE HALLOWEEN...is stronger than death! It's loaded with booze, colorful and just an amazingly fun halloween cocktail. Watch Inna try to drink it!
1 1/2 oz. (45ml) Orange Juice
3/4 oz. (22ml) Orange Soda
3/4 oz. (22ml) Campari
1/2 oz. (15ml) Grenadine
Black Vodka
Black Absinthe
Have fun, but don't tempt fate by drinking too much!

Health research and outreach from KPBS and campuses on the campaign trail

It's time to post the rest of the health news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Die, Selfish Gene!).  Under the "if it moves, it leads" preference, KPBS starts off with San Diego Professor Discusses Warning Signs For Communication Difficulties In Children.

After a poll finds many caregivers are missing the warnings signs, a new campaign underway aims to educate them about identifying the signs of a communication disorder in children.
Also read the related story San Diego Professor Discusses Warning Signs For Communication Difficulties In Children.

Follow over the jump for more health research and outreach from UCSD, University of Alabama, Auburn University, University of Georgia, and University of Kentucky.  Yes, it's an SEC night here at Crazy Eddie's Motie News.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A wake for Comet ISON and other space news

While I'm giving my students a final, I've programmed this week's space news to autopost.  Enjoy the stories from NASA, the Hubble Space Telescope and campuses on the campaign trail I first used in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Die, Selfish Gene!) on Daily Kos.

NASA Television comes first with ISON update on This Week @NASA.

With a more than ninety percent probability that Comet ISON broke apart from a major heating event on its approach to the sun Thanksgiving Day, the search is on for what's left of it. NASA will use a variety of space and Earth based telescopes to monitor the comet over the next several weeks, before the fate of ISON can be confirmed. Also, Orion's heat shield, Blue Origin milestone, Rover Challenge, Stone awarded medal and Celebrating Centaur.
Follow over the jump for more.

An entire college drinking and eating experience in one glass

Once again, I've hit the wall of "I can't be all DOOM all the time."  To cheer myself up, I'm going to take inspiration from giving my students their final exams today and Monday to post this video from Tipsy Bartender: Finals Week Bomb.

Cheap beer, Ramen Noodles, Coffee and Liquor, everything from your college days rolled into one shot...THE FINALS WEEK BOMB! There is Ramen Noodle juice in this one. It's a super disgusting shot but Meghan handles it like a champ!
Ramen Noodles
It does look disgusting, but the idea is hilarious. And, no, I'm not ever going to drink this thing.  I remember my college days at UCLA well enough not to try this.

I'll post something serious later.  In the meantime, to any students reading this, good luck on your finals and DON'T DRINK THIS!

More ACA implementation from KPBS and UAB

I began KPBS and others on the ACA for the week of Thanksgiving by justifying why I'm using KPBS's coverage of how California is putting the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare into effect.
Here is another entry in that vein, as I pass along KPBS's reporting on the implimentation of the Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare in California.  It makes for a good mirror in which to see the process as it was intended.  That means any issues will be the result of intrinsic factors, not outside interference.
It's time for the next installment in my examination of the issue.

Under my "if it moves, it leads" policy, I begin with KPBS asking Second Opinion: Will Obamacare Streamline Care for Disabled People?

Christina Mitchell is a graduate student at the University of San Diego. She's working with families who care for disabled dependents to document the challenges of coordinating care for their loved ones through a tangled web of doctors, insurance providers and community resources.
That's a good question.  I hope the answer is yes.

Follow over the jump for more from KPBS and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Spygames and paranoia 1: That's not Cthulhu on the patch

I included a story in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Die, Selfish Gene!) that has been inspiring suspicion, if not downright paranoia.  The odd part is that it's the publicity that's doing this as much as the secrecy.  First, here's the U.S. Air Force showing the Atlas V NROL-39 Launch.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) have launched their Atlas V rocket on the NROL-39 mission for the National Reconnaissance Office. Liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was on schedule at the opening of the launch window at 23:13 local time Thursday (07:13 UTC on Friday).
KPBS has more in Atlas V Rocket Launches From California Air Base On Top Secret Mission (Video) By Beth Ford Roth on Friday, December 6, 2013.
A 19-story tall rocket called the Atlas V launched from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base late Thursday night, carrying a top secret payload for the U.S. government's National Reconnaissance Office.

The mystery payload is the size of a loaf of bread, and weighs just 11 pounds, according to American Forces Press Service.
So far, it's a run of the mill reconnaisance mission, although I'm surprised that an Atlas V is launching such a small payload.  According to Wikipedia, the rocket is capable of lifting much larger objects to geosynchronous orbit.*  That's not what's freaking people out.  This is.

That prompted a user on Daily Kos to call it Cthulhu and point it the mission's motto, "Nothing is beyond our reach."  Sorry, that's just an octopus, not Cthulhu, and the motto is just another military badass boast.  That didn't stop people from thinking the worst.

The next day, there was an entire thread about the mission on Daily Kos.  I'm not going to quote any of it; you'll just have to see for yourselves the level of distrust and outright paranoia the patch alone is eliciting.

Yesterday, Elaine Meinel Supkis jumped on the bandwagon with NROL-39: The Evil Octopus Emblem Perfect For Bilderberg Gang Controlling US Citizens.  I'm taking this as yet another sign that Elaine has lost the plot.  Too bad.  Once upon a time, I really enjoyed her writing and was delighted to be in her virtual company.  No longer.

Just the same, I think everyone is going nuts over the symbolism, not the substance.  I'm sure it's another surveillance mission of other countries, not a domestic spying instrument.  If they want something to freak out about, it's the spying going on inside the World of Warcraft.  That's real.  It's also silly.  Stay tuned for more on this story.

ETA: Follow over the jump for some answers to my question about the size of the payload and the nature of the mission.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

E-Cigs: A 21st Century health issue

In 21st Century crime scenes from KPBS, I reminded everyone that technology is providing new opportunities to run afoul of the law in ways that were in science fiction 20-30 years ago. Now, I wish to remind everyone that technology is causing new health issues as well through the the invention of e-cigarettes.  KPBS has the story in E-Cigarettes: Safe Alternative To Smoking Or Gateway To Nicotine Addiction?

Electronic cigarettes are catching fire nationwide. E-cigarettes offer the sensation of smoking, without burning tobacco. These battery-operated devices heat up liquid nicotine, and turn it into vapor. Users say they're a lot safer than smoking cigarettes. But KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg says public health experts aren't so sure.
For the text version, read E-Cigarettes: Safe Alternative To Smoking Or Gateway To Nicotine Addiction? By Kenny Goldberg.  For what it's worth, one of my students is presenting on this topic this week, maybe even tonight.  I'm looking forward to it.