Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The collapse of cursive

My wife heard the following news and took it as a sign of the end.  I think society has bigger fish to fry, but it is indicative of something that cursive is no longer being taught after centuries of its use.  What, I'm not sure.

Discovery News: Cursive is Dead!

Just a few short years ago, cursive was something all kids were taught in schools. Not anymore! In many parts of the country, cursive is becoming a dead relic of the past. But Laci shows us why educators might be smart to keep teaching kids those loopy letters.
With the decline of cursive, I wonder if the next technological development will work as well.

LiveScience: Device Uses Handwriting to Detect Neurological Disorders
Bobbie Mixon, National Science Foundation
July 26, 2013 02:22pm ET
Each year, more than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder that attacks the central nervous system, causing tremors, rigidity, slowness of movement and loss of balance. Detecting it can be difficult, however, especially in early stages. Now, to detect and study neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, researchers have built a system that records signals from hand muscles during handwriting.

Motor neurons transmit electrical signals to muscles to make them contract. Electromyography (EMG) is a process that records and graphs such electrical activity to yield information about the condition of a subject's muscles and the nerve cells that control them. In the new detection system, a test subject attaches EMG surface electrodes to his or her hand and wears a glove to hold the electrodes in place. The subject then writes on a tablet, repeating simple, stereotyped hand movements that involve two basic motor components: firmly holding a pen by the fingers and moving the hand and the fingers to produce written text. The results are collected from both the tablet and the surface EMG electrodes.
Handwriting and health--that's not a connection one thinks about every day!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The high cost of cheap food in India

Two weeks ago, I included the following story from Reuters in Overnight News Digest: Hump Day Edition.
Contaminated school meal kills 25 Indian children
by Annie Banerji, Mayank Bhardwaj and Anurag Kotoky
PATNA, India | Wed Jul 17, 2013 7:04pm EDT
(Reuters) - At least 25 Indian children died and dozens needed hospital treatment after apparently being poisoned by a school meal, sparking violent protests and angry allegations of blame.

The children aged four to 12 fell ill on Tuesday after consuming a lunch of rice, soybean and lentils in the impoverished eastern state of Bihar.

The school, at Mashrakh village in the district of Chapra, provided free meals under the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, the world's largest school feeding program involving 120 million children.
It turned out that was not just an isolated tragedy.  It was connected to a larger story, one that I included in Overnight News Digest: Fast Fill-in Edition and mentioned to my students today as part of a lecture on pesticides.

INSIGHT-The poison pill in India's search for cheap food
By Rajendra Jadhav and Jo Winterbottom
MUMBAI/NEW DELHI, July 28 | Sun Jul 28, 2013 1:10am EDT
(Reuters) - Nearly a decade ago, the Indian government ruled out a ban on the production and use of monocrotophos, the highly toxic pesticide that killed 23 children this month in a village school providing free lunches under a government-sponsored programme.

Despite being labelled highly hazardous by the World Health Organisation (WHO), a panel of government experts was persuaded by manufacturers that monocrotophos was cheaper than alternatives and more effective in controlling pests that decimate crop output.

India, which has more hungry mouths to feed than any other country in the world, continues to use monocrotophos and other highly toxic pesticides that rich and poor nations alike, including China, are banning on health grounds.
As I wrote in Nablopomo for July: Connect, everything is connected to everything else and there is no free lunch.  In fact, this lunch cost India 23 schoolchildren.  That's a steep price for cheap food.

A real-life tricorder shows this fictional technology come to life in 'Star Trek Tricorder' - About To Come True For Medicine?

Is this how the Star Trek medical/environment scanner started out? Scanadu CEO Walter DeBrouwer scans's Clara Moskowitz with his company's non-invasive wireless device and tells her whats under the hood ... in more ways than one.
Here's the article that accompanied the video.

Real-Life 'Star Trek' Tricorder Project Raises $1 Million
by Clara Moskowitz, Assistant Managing Editor
June 24, 2013 05:00pm ET
"Star Trek" fans may soon get a chance to have their own Dr. McCoy moment with the world's first real-life medical tricorder, which will be available to the public soon thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that raised more than $1 million for the Space Age technology.

On "Star Trek," Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy used a medical tricorder to scan patients and immediately diagnose their ailments. While the new real-life version, called the Scanadu Scout, is missing some of the features of its science fiction counterpart — namely the ability to make internal scans and complex diagnoses — it still can be a handy device for medical checkups on the go.

Within about 10 seconds of pressing the Scanadu Scout to your forehead with thumb and forefinger, the tool reads out your heart rate, temperature, oximetry (blood oxygen level), respiratory rate, blood pressure, stress and electrocardiography (ECG).
Yes, we live in science-fiction times.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weiner lives down to his name

I concluded Spitzer and Weiner staging comebacks in New York with my wish for November.
I'm rooting for both of them to win the Democratic primary.  If nothing else, the two of them deserve to be in office together, just for the connection between the two.
Unfortunately for my desires (and those of my friend Egberto Willies over at Daily Kos), they look less and less likely to happen, at least regarding Weiner.  Here's a story from Reuters that I included in last night's Overnight News Digest: Fast Fill-in Edition on Daily Kos that describes part of what's going on.

New York mayoral hopeful Weiner loses top aide amid campaign tumult
By Eric M. Johnson
Sun Jul 28, 2013 11:01am EDT
(Reuters) - The campaign manager who helped to guide Anthony Weiner's bid for New York City mayor resigned over the weekend, a spokeswoman said on Sunday, as the Democratic former Congressman grapples with slumping poll numbers and fresh revelations of his sexually charged Internet activity.

Danny Kedem, 31, who joined Weiner's long-shot campaign in early spring, helped to manage day-to-day political operations before abruptly quitting, said spokeswoman Barbara Morgan. She declined to comment on the timing or give a reason for his departure.

Weiner, 48, once a liberal voice in the U.S. Congress, resigned in June 2011 after admitting he used Twitter and other social media to send lewd pictures of himself to women he met online.
Someone named Weiner shouldn't be playing into the worst part of his name by sending selfies of his penis to strange women, especially if he wants to be Mayor of New York.

Some people assert that Weiner can't help it, as he's a sex addict.  In a video I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (the cost of Arctic thawing) on Daily Kos,* Discovery News has bad news for that claim in Is Sex Addiction A Real Disorder?

Can sex addiction really be placed into the same category as drug and alcohol addiction? Laci Green explains this conundrum facing psychologists.
At the very least, sex addiction does not work like substance abuse.  The authors of the DSM-V apparently were right to leave that as a topic for future study.

*Of course I'm re-using my material.  I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.

Fracking town hall in west Michigan

Tar sands and petcoke aren't the only unconventional oil issues causing concern and activism here in Michigan.  Fracking is as well.  There will be a town hall tonight in Barry County on the topic.  WOOD-TV has the details in State rep. plans fracking town hall.

Hundreds have already taken to meetings across West Michigan to voice their concerns over fracking. Monday, they will have the chance to bring questions and concerns straight to industry experts.
Mike Callton doesn't sound too sure about the subject.  Maybe he should watch this CNN video, which I show to my students to explain fracking.

How is hydraulic fracturing different from drilling for oil? And why is it called 'fracking'? CNN explains it to you.
My students are always suitably shocked by the scene from "Gasland," even the ones who know what's coming.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prediction confirmed on gas prices

When I declared July's fear premium spike is over, I described local gas prices and made a prediction.
As I drove past the stations down the block Thursday morning, they were all at $3.59.  By the evening, the station on the corner had joined them.
I haven't looked at the prices today, although I'll walk past the corner station later.  I expect to see that the prices have sunk a bit more, as the data at Econobrowser show that the average for metro Detroit is currently at $3.58, and the local stations are usually below that by as much as a dime.
Sure enough, when I walked past the corner station, it was selling regular for $3.49, almost a dime below the Detroit average.  Not only did I call the price, the fear premium spike is definitely over.

I would post Professor Farnsworth, but because this price is below the expected national average of $3.52 for the current Brent price of $107.17, I expect that we're near a bottom, just like we were at the beginning of the month.  The local price is not likely to go much lower, and that's not good news.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Warming and drought in NASA simulations of this century's climate

Earlier this week, NASA posted two videos showing projected climate change on the NASA Explorer YouTube channel.  Both show what will happen as the planet approaches Jurassic levels of CO2.  The first is NASA | Projected U.S. Temperature Changes by 2100.

The average temperature across the continental U.S. could be 8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer by the end of the 21st century under a climate scenario in which concentrations of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rise to 800 parts per million. Current concentrations stand at 400 parts per million, and are rising faster than at any time in Earth's history.

These visualizations -- which highlight computer model projections from the draft National Climate Assessment -- show how average temperatures could change across the U.S. in the coming decades under two different carbon dioxide emissions scenarios.

Both scenarios project significant warming. A scenario with lower emissions, in which carbon dioxide reaches 550 parts per million by 2100, still projects average warming across the continental U.S. of 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
The second is NASA | Projected U.S. Precipitation Changes by 2100.

The climate of the southwestern U.S. could be a lot drier by 2100. The climate of the northeastern U.S. could be a lot wetter.

New visualizations of computer model projections show how precipitation patterns could change across the U.S. in the coming decades under two different carbon dioxide emissions scenarios. The two climate scenarios, based on "low" and "high" levels of carbon dioxide emissions, highlight results from the draft National Climate Assessment.

Both scenarios project that dry regions get drier and regions that see more rain and snow would see that trend increase. The scenario with lower emissions, in which carbon dioxide reaches 550 parts per million by 2100, projects more subtle changes. The scenario with higher carbon dioxide emissions projects changes in average annual precipitation of 10 percent or more in some regions.
Both projections come from the same study.
The visualizations, which combine the results from 15 global climate models, present projections of temperature/precipitation changes from 2000 to 2100 compared to the historical average from 1970 -1999. They were produced by the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., in collaboration with NOAA's National Climatic Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, both in Asheville, N.C.

The visualizations show the temperature/precipitation changes as a 30-year running average. The date seen in the bottom-right corner is the mid-point of the 30-year average being shown.

"These visualizations communicate a picture of the impacts of climate change in a way that words do not," says Allison Leidner, Ph.D., a scientist who coordinates NASA's involvement in the National Climate Assessment "When I look at the scenarios for future temperature and precipitation, I really see how dramatically our nation's climate could change."
Climate isn't the only thing that could change.  Ocean acidification is another risk of high CO2.

At least Detroit has great charities

Over at Kunstler's blog, frequent commenter Janet asked a rhetorical question.
So let’s see if the private sector steps up to fight hunger in Detroit.
I decided to demonstrate to Janet why asking a rhetorical question about Detroit around me is not a good idea if one wants it to remain a rhetorical question.
If by the “private sector” you mean the for-profit sector, forget about it except for private security, which is already looking after enclaves like Indian Village, which one of the few places outside of Downtown and Midtown where wealthy people still live in Detroit. Then again, you know that already.

If you were including the non-profit sector, which you probably weren’t, then they are trying to step up to fight hunger, mentor young women, and fix up homes.
As if on cue, WXYZ promoted Gleaners summer food drive to its YouTube channel today.

See, the non-profit sector is stepping up to fight hunger in Detroit, in this case by supplementing the food aid that government gives through the school lunch program.

Gleaners  Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan isn't the only local charity doing so.  Charity Navigator lists at least three non-profits dedicated to fighting hunger among its top charities in Detroit.  Immediately before Gleaners in alphabetical order is Forgotten Harvest, which Charity Navigator rates even higher in financial stability, accountability, and transparency than Gleaners.  Another is Yad Ezra, which specializes in "feeding the Jewish hungry."  That list doesn't include either the smaller food banks or the charities that provide food aid as part of a larger human and social services mission.

Speaking of Charity Navigator, I mentioned it in the rest of the comment.
I have my students research sustainability-related charities in Detroit every semester and I’m amazed how how many high-quality charities there are here. In fact, Charity Navigator rates Detroit’s charities as better than those of New York and Washington, D.C. I’ll have to write up that research and post the link.
I don't have time to do a complete write-up right now.  Instead, I direct my readers to the site's Metro Market Study 2013.  It shows Detroit's charities rank 11th in the U.S., while Washington, D.C.'s rank 17th and New York City's rank 18th.

That written, I acknowledged that Janet's point about the private sector stands.
Of course, they’re inadequate for the task even if they were the best charities in the country, and you know that, too.
Speaking of posting topical items on cue, Warren Buffet's son Peter posted The Charitable-Industrial Complex in the New York Times yesterday.  That makes the point that all the charity in the world, literally, will not compensate for lack of government action on behalf of the poor.

July's fear premium spike is over

I described the local gas price situation last Wednesday in Gas drops slightly to $3.65.
The local stations held steady at $3.69 until yesterday afternoon, when all of them dropped their price to $3.65.  I was right when I wrote two weeks ago that "Prices will go up, but the $3.69 at the corner station is too high."  Unfortunately for my prognostication, it took two weeks for regular gas to fall below $3.65, not a few days.
I should have written "fall below $3.69," not $3.65, but last Thursday, prices did go below $3.65.  As I drove past the stations down the block Thursday morning, they were all at $3.59.  By the evening, the station on the corner had joined them.  That means my prediction from last week came true.
I still expect prices to fall to the $3.59 level by the end of the month.  That's only 11 days away.
It happened in just a week.

I haven't looked at the prices today, although I'll walk past the corner station later.  I expect to see that the priceshave sunk a bit more, as the data at Econobrowser show that the average for metro Detroit is currently at $3.58, and the local stations are usually below that by as much as a dime.  Detroit's price is also below the national average of $3.65 and just above the expected national average of $3.52 for the current Brent price of $107.17.  Since prices are in the reasonable range given the price of crude and Brent is now declining, I declare the July fear premium spike over.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Weather Channel on solar storms

It's time to connect two entries from March, both of which explored that month's theme of Risk.  The first observed that The Weather Channel exploits risk for viewers.  The second described the risks of space weather.  What would be the intersection between the two?  The Weather Channel reporting on the risks of space weather to draw viewers.  Two weeks ago, they did exactly that.  Here are the videos.

How Bad Could a Solar Storm Be?

Meteorologist Jen Carfagno talks to Brent Gordon with the Space Weather Prediction Center. They are responsible for warning us about solar storms that could cause massive power outages.
How Do You Forecast Space Weather?

Meteorologist Jen Carfagno speaks with Meghan Stockman, Forecaster with the Space Weather Prediction Center, to learn how space weather affects us here on earth.
Sometimes, the posts just write themselves.

A picture of hope and innocence from 40 years ago

A photo flashed across my Facebook page a few days ago.  It turns out that it was taken near Detroit in Mt. Clemens 40 years ago.  WXYZ has the story behind the picture and how it went viral in Old photograph comes back to life.

The Daily Mail quoted the photographer, Joseph Crachiola, who dug up the old picture of the grinning children and posted it on his Facebook account, hoping to bring something positive to the heated debate over race relations.
'For me, it still stands as one of my most meaningful pictures,’ he wrote in his post. ‘It makes me wonder... At what point do we begin to mistrust one another? When do we begin to judge one another based on gender or race? I have always wondered what happened to these children. I wonder if they are still friends.’
I'd much rather have this video as my comment on the Zimmerman trial than “The law is an ass with music by Leonard Cohen.”  I'll save that thought I left at Kunstler's blog for the next time the legal system disappoints me.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Financial oversight news from Reuters during July

The past few weeks, I've been filling in for two of the other editors of Overnight News Digest.  Because of that, I've been collecting news for Daily Kos that isn't about science, space, environment, or health.  Instead, I've managed to collect a lot of news about financial regulation, oversight, and crime.  I should have expected exactly that emphasis from Reuters, which has a financial slant to their coverage.  Over time, the articles create their own theme, a kind of connection.

I begin with two items from Sunday's Overnight News Digest: Fast Fill-in Edition.

SEC voted unanimously to pursue charges against SAC's Cohen: sources
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON | Sun Jul 21, 2013 7:36pm EDT
(Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators were united in their decision to file civil charges against billionaire hedge fund owner Steven A. Cohen last week, in a high-stakes case that could result in Cohen being barred from the industry, people familiar with the case told Reuters.

The charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Cohen still fall short of what the SEC had hoped for.

The agency has been struggling to uncover evidence implicating Cohen with insider-trading, one of those people said.
Insight: Resigned to reform, Wall Street tries a different tack in DC
By Lauren Tara LaCapra and Douwe Miedema
Sun Jul 21, 2013 3:04pm EDT
(Reuters) - In March, as U.S. bank regulators were framing a new rule that would affect the $630 trillion derivatives market, JPMorgan Chase & Co sent five bankers from New York and London to Washington to raise some fine points about the impact of the financial reform.

In a jargon-laden, 23-slide presentation, the JPMorgan bankers walked regulators through the complexities of how their decisions would affect the arcane market, according to documents and a person familiar with the meeting.

On July 2, the U.S. Federal Reserve released the final rule. Of three requests made by JPMorgan - which were backed widely by other banks and lobby groups - regulators rejected the first, adopted the second and split the difference on the third.
Follow over the jump for news from previous weeks.

WXYZ videos of Meijer opening

In Meijer opens in Detroit, I included a preview video of the grand opening along with selections of articles about the importance of the store, but no images of the actual opening.  WXYZ has remedied that situation with two videos.  First, here is the station's coverage of the ribbon cutting ceremony last night.

Note all the rest of the stores in the complex.  MLive's report noted that all of them combined will employ about as many people as Meijer by itself, which demonstrates how important Meijer is to the community.

As Julie Banovic noted, the ceremony was last night, but the store didn't actually open until this morning.  WXYZ covered that, too, as Nima Shaffe shows the first shoppers and interviews the manager.

At the beginning of last month, Detroit had no national or regional supermarkets serving the city.  Now, it has two.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Meijer opens in Detroit

WXYZ previews the event in Meijer preparing to open new Detroit store at Woodward and 8 Mile Road.

That was the preview.  MLive reported on the real thing in Meijer's Detroit store anchors Gateway Marketplace, opens with rare party.
The opening of Meijer's long-awaited Detroit store coincided with the city's first day in bankruptcy court.

But the timing didn't damper the festive mood of the store's invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, July 24, the eve of when the store officially opens at 6 a.m.

"It doesn't change anything," said Stacie Behler, Meijer's vice president of public affairs. She said the Walker-based retailer remains committed to Detroit and its $20 million investment in a store at Eight Mile and Woodward Avenue.
My reaction to this news is "finally!"  I first wrote about Meijer in Detroit two years ago in Whole Foods to be an oasis in Detroit's Food Desert and repeated it in Whole Foods opening in Detroit next month.
If you had asked me last week which major supermarket chain would have been the first to come into Detroit, the last chain I would have expected would have been Whole Foods. Instead, I was expecting it to be Meijer, which is slated to open a store in the old State Fairgrounds area on Woodward and 8 Mile. Looks like I was wrong.

Honestly, this entire thing doesn't look like an effort to bring produce to the people in the neighborhoods, which is desperately needed, and something a chain like Meijer or Kroger could do. Instead, it looks like a plan to spur on the revitalization of one of Detroit's existing bright spots and make it more attractive to investors and people moving in from outside the area.  That's not a bad idea at all, and it might make for a good start, but it would only be a good start.
I'm not alone in thinking that Meijer's opening is the more important one.  Forbes does, too.

Meijer Store Is Detroit Retail Opening That Really Matters.
Whole Foods Markets appears to have given Detroit neighborhoods near Wayne State University a shot in the arm with its recent opening. But the potentially far more significant opening will occur this week, several miles away, when Meijer sets up shop at the intersection of the two most iconic thoroughfares in Detroit: Woodward Avenue and Eight Mile Road.

At at time of great hand-wringing in Detroit over the city’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, the establishment of such a significant retail anchor in a crucial area could be a real boon. And Meijer, which used the supercenter concept including groceries long before Walmart did, is really good at running its stores.
And now, after much lobbying by Detroit, Meijer plans to open its very first outlet there: a 215,000-square-foot store that will offer thousands of residents their best and closest access to Meijer’s wide selection and low prices and, specifically, to the fresh produce that lately has been lacking in many areas of the city—and in other “produce deserts” in big cities around the country.
Not only will Meijer take care of the residents of the neighborhoods of Detroit, it has the potential to bring in people from the near suburbs as well as catch people on their way out of the city.  Not only will it bring jobs and food, it has the potential to bring money into the city from outside.  Time to break out Professor Farnsworth.

Gas drops slightly to $3.65

At the end of AAA and ABC News declare end of gas below $3.00, I described how the gas price spike caused by the fear premium was ending.
[L]ocal prices at the pump have gone down, although not by the most direct path.  Last Friday, all the nearby stations lowered their prices to $3.77.  On Monday, the same stations raised them to $3.79.  The corner station wasn't content there.  On Tuesday, its price shot up another 20 cents to $3.99.  That ended up being another charge into No Man's Land, as the three outlets down the street held their prices steady.  By the end of the day Wednesday, the corner station retreated back to $3.79.  Today, all of the stations dropped their prices back to $3.69, exactly where they were when I wrote Crude prices reflected at pump after slight delay.
The local stations held steady at $3.69 until yesterday afternoon, when all of them dropped their price to $3.65.  I was right when I wrote two weeks ago that "Prices will go up, but the $3.69 at the corner station is too high."  Unfortunately for my prognostication, it took two weeks for regular gas to fall below $3.65, not a few days.

I should have known better.  On the gas price rollercoaster, the cars go up like a rocket, down like a parachute.

Eleven charged in protests against tar sands pipeline

I promised to update Civil disobedience against tar sands in Marshall, Michigan in WXYZ this entry.  Recent events have overtaken that promise, as WILX reports 12 Protesters Arrested at Enbridge Inc. Construction Site.  Here's the video.

The Lansing State Journal's headline read Twelve arrested at Enbridge protest in Stockbridge.
Security around the Enbridge 6B easement will be increased due to "safety concerns" after 12 people were arrested Monday during a protest at the site, a company spokesman said.

Eight protesters from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands were arrested in the morning out of a group of about 40.

Four more protesters, who had attached themselves to two bulldozers, were arrested by early afternoon.
That was yesterday.  Today's Lansing State Journal updated the situation with Four face felony charges after Enbridge pipeline protest.
Four of the 11 people jailed after protesting oil pipeline construction near Stockbridge face felony charges, officials said.

The four are charged with resisting and obstructing police, a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. Each also faces a misdemeanor trespassing charge.
The other seven protesters are charged with trespassing.
Somehow, one person was either erroneously reported arrested or wasn't charged.  That's OK, there are still a dozen people charged with trespassing and other crimes as a result of protesting the Enbridge tar sands pipeline.  Let's not forget Christopher Wahmhoff, who was arrested last month in Marshall.  Follow over the jump for the latest on his story.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WXYZ on petcoke in Detroit

Detroit's bankruptcy may have sucked most of the oxygen out of the room, but it left enough for WXYZ to post a follow-up of sorts to Occupy Detroit and others campaign against petcoke: Large pet coke pile affecting neighbors.

People living near a large pile of pet coke say it is affecting them.
I'm glad to see this issue getting mainstream media attention.  Del Ray may be so polluted already that I joke that it's no coincidence that the Insane Clown Posse came out of the neighborhood, but it doesn't need any more contamination.

Petcoke on the Detroit River isn't the only story about tar sands' effects in Michigan that needs updating.  I'll have the latest on Civil disobedience against tar sands in Marshall, Michigan, in the next entry.

Monday, July 22, 2013

WNWO examines the shrinking middle class

As I mentioned in WNWO talks blackout, I'm showing my environmental science classes The End of Suburbia this week.  WNWO inspired me to link to Still hot enough for you? in which I answered one of my questions about the 2003 blackout.*  WNWO has inspired me to answer yet another of my questions from the worksheet to "The End of Suburbia."
12. What effects would Peak Oil have on the U.S. economy? Do these predictions sound familiar today?
The answer comes from Kenneth Deffeyes, as quoted in a review of the movie at
What would it be like to live after the Hubbard Peak with world oil declining?  I have this list of things: seven trillion dollars lost out of the U.S. stock market, two million jobs lost in the United States, federal budget surplus - gone, state budget surpluses - gone, the middle class disappearing.
That was the quote that inspired me to show this movie to my classes.  I watched the short, updated version of the video online in 2008, when everything that Deffeyes listed in 2003 had already taken place and was about to get even worse.  More money was lost out of the stock markets and more jobs were lost then even Deffeyes had imagined.  Now, all that money and then some has returned to the market, but a lot of those jobs are still absent, and the middle class is indeed declining.

As if on cue, WNWO posted two videos today explaining why the middle class was languishing.  The station began with Part 1: Reasons why middle-class is shrinking.

The statistics are impressive and not in a good way.  At least the three top reasons the guest gave for decline of the middle class are ones I'd agree with, even if the male anchor comes off as a right-wing shill.  He continued in Part 2: Reasons why middle-class is shrinking.

This segment added underemployment to income inequality and the replacement of middle-income jobs with low-income ones.  The rest are generally about how the middle class lost out relative to the well-off, who were able to seize the investment opportunities presented during the past five years, although the high price of college reduces opportunities for young people to advance and high gas prices, like high food prices, erode disposable income.  As for the male anchor, he's still a conservative shill.

*For more answers to some of the rest of the questions, I recommend my students surf over to Sustainability through the looking glass with Jeff Wattrick of Wonkette.  There I give answers to questions 1, 2, 4, and 5 and link to blog entries with answers for 8, 9, 18, 29, and 30.  As for the rest, they'll have to watch the movie.

The Hunger Games: Dystopia as entertainment

I wrote about how dystopia was the next big thing in Twilight over, next up, The Hunger Games!  The hype for this trend continues to build with the release of a new trailer for "Catching Fire" the weekend of San Diego Comic Con.

Reuters covers the hype in an article I included in Overnight News Digest: Fast Fill-in Edition on Daily Kos.

'Hunger Games' ushers in era of dystopian young adult films
By Piya Sinha-Roy
SAN DIEGO | Sun Jul 21, 2013 9:05pm EDT
(Reuters) - Parents of morose teenagers be warned: the next big trend in films for young adults could make the mood at home even darker.

Vampires, werewolves and boy wizards are out; dystopia is in. Having seen the popularity of "The Hunger Games," movie studios are rolling out films that explore darker themes.

Summit Entertainment's "Divergent" and "Ender's Game" and Sony Pictures' "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" are all aimed at the lucrative audience of young adults.

The films were front and center at the Comic-Con convention that wrapped up in San Diego on Sunday in the largest gathering of fans of science fiction, fantasy and video game genres. Studios spend big money there to give that key demographic a glimpse of upcoming films, hoping to whip up the kind of fan hype that can be a powerful marketing tool for Hollywood.
As I wrote last year:
Looks like Hollywood believes that worrying about collapse is good business. I wish segments other than entertainment had that same attitude.
As for the messages the films and the books they're based on promote, here are a selection.
"To have a character who is claiming their identity in a world spinning wildly out of control and to use their means to overcome that world, I think that's a really powerful thing for a teenager to read about," Roth said.
"The issues of the manipulation of young people for their values as soldiers for their special skills ... is something that was really complex and interesting to me," Ford said at the film's presentation at Comic-Con this week.
"It's important for young girls to understand that there are qualities to girls other being just pretty and being told what to do," said Zwart, whose film stars Lily Collins.

"They can take control of their own lives and they need to find their own destiny, and I just wanted my daughter to see that inspiration," he added.
Looks like these works of fiction aren't swimming against the stream on gender equality.  They're sending the message that's one ideal doesn't have to die with collapse.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Detroit's bankruptcy as reported by the New York media

I've relayed how the bankruptcy filing has been reported from Michigan and from Taiwan, but it's time to see how the event is being covered in the news media center of North America, New York.  That is the reporting the rest of the country will take seriously.  Since television is still the number one news source, I'm letting ABC News, broadcast from NYC, go first.

Detroit Is Largest US City to Go Bankrupt

After years of the recession, Detroit has finally succumbed to financial difficulties.
The recession was the last straw.  Detroit was in obvious trouble when I moved here from California 24 years ago and has been declining for 45 years.

As for the video itself, at least it mentiioned the possibility of Detroit as the "Greenest City."  That's a trend I've been cheerleading, most recently in HOUR Detroit displays its green thumb.  I hope that national media does more to pick up on that story.

Follow over the jump for the print media reaction.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Trees down and power out in Oakland County

In WNWO talks blackout, I wrote about the weather contributing to power outages.  I was referring to air conditioning in the heat wave being the culprit, not high winds, but the weather caused blackouts just the same.  WXYZ gave the initial report in last night's Storms leave trail of damage.

I saw a lot of this damage first hand last night as I drove home from an appointment.  A silver maple had fallen across Crooks, completely blocking this major mile road.  I had to drive a half mile out of my way.  Traffic signals were out at several intersections, including Woodward and 13 Mile, as well as the intersections near the three gas stations down the street.  Those stations also lost power, so they weren't displaying their prices.  I also drove through a flooded underpass and a couple of flooded intersections.  I felt lucky to come home to a house with electricity and no storm damage.

Follow over the jump for this morning's updates on the situation from WXYZ. article on Pam Byrnes

Former State Representative Pam Byrnes is running to unseat Tim Walberg from Congress.
Pam Byrnes declares her candidacy for Congress
Thursday morning, former Democratic Michigan representative Pam Byrnes of Lyndon Township announced that she was challenging Republican incumbent Tim Walberg for his seat in Congress.

"Thrilled to announce I launched my campaign for Congress in the 7th today," Byrnes said on Twitter.
“Washington is broken and Tim Walberg is part of the problem. He puts special interests and corporations ahead of middle-class Michigan families. I have a track record of working across the aisle to get things done and create opportunities to help middle-class families thrive.”
There's more at the link, including Byrnes' background and Walberg's response.

Personally, I'm pleased that Byrnes is running.  She was one of the possibilities I mentioned last November to challenge Walberg.
"For this district, I'm not sure of the exact politician that should be ran, but the archetype has to be a Dem based out of Jackson, if only because it gives them a fundraising base."

That's what Ruben Marquez is, and he lost the primary to Haskell. What about Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin?

Also, there are other places for a fundraising base, such as Monroe (although that's where Haskell's from), the Washtenaw County cities of Saline (Gretchen Driskell, anyone?) and Chelsea (the current Mayor looks like a Republican, but former State House Rep. Pam Byrnes lives nearby), Adrian (the Lenawee County Commissioner who represents the east side of the city, Karol "KZ" Bolton, is a Democrat), and Eaton County (State Representative Theresa Abed).

And you're right; this district is competitive. The Democrats just need the right candidate.
Here's to recruiting a better candidate in 2014.
Pam Byrnes is that "better candidate."

Crossposted to Michigan Liberal.

Friday, July 19, 2013

AAA and ABC News declare end of gas below $3.00

There was an important announcement by ABC News and AAA that didn't show up in either the title or description of Gas Prices Spike, Up 15 Cents in 1 Week.  The days of $3.00 gas are likely over.  Here's the report.

Climbing gas prices may put a dent in everyone's summer fun.
Yes, ABC news buried the lede on this one.  The important story isn't the price spike, which is ending, as I'll describe later, but the recognition of several realities about oil.  First, as I mentioned, the AAA announced in a Congressional hearing that the retail price of gas is not likely to ever go below $3.00.  Second, this is going on despite the domestic production of oil more than doubling.  ABC News blames this on transportation costs.  I'm not discounting these at all, but the reporter neglected the high cost of production.  Fracking and mining tar sands are not cheap and neither is the oil produced by these methods.  Third, the amount of oil on hand is much less than people think.  Finally, Americans have been getting a bargain for a very long time on gasoline, something I point out to my students every semester.  None of these are popular truths, but they are truths just the same.  Personally, I'm surprised that ABC News had the nerve to say them.   They still didn't have the nerve to make any of them the report's title or include them in the description.

As I wrote above, the price spike is ending.  Since the previous report, local prices at the pump have gone down, although not by the most direct path.  Last Friday, all the nearby stations lowered their prices to $3.77.  On Monday, the same stations raised them to $3.79.  The corner station wasn't content there.  On Tuesday, its price shot up another 20 cents to $3.99.  That ended up being another charge into No Man's Land, as the three outlets down the street held their prices steady.  By the end of the day Wednesday, the corner station retreated back to $3.79.  Today, all of the stations dropped their prices back to $3.69, exactly where they were when I wrote Crude prices reflected at pump after slight delay.  Looks like the fear premium is going away.

According to the price of Brent crude and calculator at Econobrowser, the closing price of $108.52 for Brent should translate into $3.55, which is not only below the $3.69 locally and the $3.77 average for Detroit, but also below the $3.68 national average.  I still expect prices to fall to the $3.59 level by the end of the month.  That's only 11 days away.

Next Media Animation makes light of Detroit's bankruptcy

It didn't take long after the announcement of Detroit filing for bankruptcy for the snarky animators at Next Media Animation to put their irreverent and borderline offensive take on the story: Detroit goes bankrupt declares Chapter 9.

Detroit made history on Thursday by becoming the biggest municipality in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

The Motor City used to be the country's fourth-largest city in the country during the 1950s with almost 2 million residents, but the numbers have tumbled down to around 700,000 as residents exit en masse due to rising crime and deteriorating basic services.
I'm only laughing at this video because it hurts too much to cry.

This isn't the first time I've embedded a Next Media Animation video about Detroit.  I included one of their videos in Detroit's problems as tragedy and farce.  Of course, NMA supplied the farce.

On the other hand, NMA has been even more interested in sports contoversies involving Detroit teams than the citiy's financial problems.  Last year's World Series really got their attention in Next Media Animation on Detroit Tigers in the World Series and NMA asked "Does Sandoval deserve to win MVP?"  I even missed embedding one of their videos, Ndamukong Suh ejected for stomping on opponent, likely to be suspended.

Now, what would be the perfect intersection between Detroit's troubles and a Detroit sports controversy?  Detrot losing the X Games to Austin in part because of the city's fiscal crisis.  This is despite Detroit winning the fan poll with 23,334 votes to Austin’s 15,565.  I could see NMA doing a video about that story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Detroit files for bankruptcy

The day I was worrying about ever since I posted about the DIA appraisal has arrived.  WOOD-TV has the executive summary in Once-mighty Motor City files for bankruptcy.

Detroit on Thursday became the largest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy, as the state-appointed emergency manager filed for Chapter 9 protection.
WXYZ has the breaking news reaction in Detroit has filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

Welcome to a front row seat to the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history with me as your host.  It looks like I was very prescient two years ago.
Hang on for "a long, wild ride into the unknown." May I be up to being a worthy tour guide.

Yes, I used to wear a work uniform like that. Stop laughing.

A macro about Twinkies and cougars

It looks like I'm not done with Twinkies yet.  I posted the link to The long-awaited return of Twinkies on a Facebook group and got the following macro in response.

That's a good illustration of Americans' screwed up priorities.  There's just one issue I have with the contrast.  It turns out that the eastern subspecies of the cougar has probably been extinct for decades.  It took until 2011 for that fact to be recognized officially.  That written, the point stands.  Even I, the environmentalist and avid newshound, hadn't heard of the event until now.

Conserving electricity in the heat wave

In WNWO talks blackout, I explained the connections among heat, air conditioning, peak electricity use, and the risk of blackout.  WOOD-TV shows what air conditioner users can do to reduce electricity consumption and save money in Tame your air conditioner to save cash.

Many in West Michigan have kept their air conditioning running non-stop these past few days, sending electric bills soaring.
Here's to enough people doing this to keep the blackouts away until relief comes on Friday.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WNWO talks blackout

Next week, I'm showing my environmental science classes The End of Suburbia.  One of the questions I ask is about the blackout of 2003.
8. Summarize the size, causes, and effects of the blackout of August 2003; include how peak usage contributed to the crisis.
One of the key points the late Matthew Simmons made in the movie was that the blackout of 2003 was a dress rehearsal for a collapse, but Americans and Canadians didn't learn a thing from it.  He might be right, as WNWO asked yesterday Could black-out of 2003 happen again?

Hot and humid days increase the risk of a blackout like the one in 2003.
The video helps answer the question I asked almost as well as the film; peak usage during the late afternoon contributed to the crisis from all the air conditioners running.

As for how this might play out, I'll quote what I wrote during the 100-degree-days of July 2011, the hottest July on record for Detroit.
Finally, this heat wave and the associated health problems and power outages have become another teachable moment for me. I showed my students "The End of Suburbia" this week and one of the events described in that movie was the 2003 blackout that happened during a heat wave. The late Russell Simmons mentioned that the power grid was most vulnerable between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM on hot days because all three sets of customers, residential, commercial, and industrial, were online at the same time. According to one of my students, the power went out in Ferndale at 5:00 PM on Wednesday. He had watched "The End of Suburbia" the day before and he recalled what Simmons said. Well, that's one way to learn a lesson--the hard way!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Duggan survives as a write-in candidate

I admitted one of my mistakes in Duggan returns as a write-in candidate.
While I was wrong about Duggan giving up, I was right about this election being great entertainment.  Pass the popcorn.
It's still great entertainment, as WXYZ reported in Mike Duggan qualifies as write-in candidate in Mayor's race.

I agree with Duggan.  Barrow has been doing him a favor by challenging him.  All of Barrow's attempts have been free publicity.  Of course, the next stunt Barrow will pull is that he and other candidates will challenge Duggan's write-in votes.  That would be entertaining, but could really mess up vote counting before the ballots are printed for the November election.

The long-awaited return of Twinkies

As I wrote in Twinkies return!
Americans have made good on their screwed up priorities and saved the Twinkie.
Americans who would rather save Twinkies than save the planet can buy their favorite snack food again.  ABC News has the story in Twinkies Return to Store Shelves With a Vengeance.

Walmart has exclusive preview of the return of an iconic American cake.
I should have guessed that Wal-Mart would get them first.  As for how the new owner has managed to extend Twinkies shelf life, WCPO has the answer in Twinkies to be frozen? Fans say no way.

John Matarese reports on a big change to Twinkies that has some fans quite upset.
With this report, I hope I can finally put this silly story to bed and move on to something that is actually important instead of merely symbolic.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Spitzer and Weiner staging comebacks in New York

Here's a story from Reuters I included in Overnight News Digest: Hump Day edition that struck my fancy.

Eyeing a comeback, Spitzer takes lead in NYC comptroller's race
By Edith Honan
NEW YORK | Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:08pm EDT
(Reuters) - Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who is attempting a political comeback five years after resigning from office in a prostitution scandal, is leading the race to be New York City's next comptroller, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

Spitzer's reputation as the "Sheriff of Wall Street" was eclipsed in 2008 by the scandal that earned him the tabloid moniker, "Love Guv." He startled the city's political establishment on Sunday when he announced he was launching a campaign.

With two months to go before the September 10 Democratic primary, Spitzer is leading Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer 42 to 33 percent, according to the NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll.
I was disappointed that Spitzer blew himself up in the scandal five years ago.  He completely disqualified himself from being Attorney General, which would have struck fear into Wall Street at the deepest part of the financial crisis.  Too bad.  I think he would have been a salutory influence.

Spitzer isn't the only one running, as ABC News mentioned Spitzer and Weiner in the same breath just before Spitzer appeared in Eliot Spitzer 'This Week' Interview: 'I've Asked the Voters of This City for Forgiveness'.

The former New York governor on his re-entry into politics.
I'm with Spitzer about the result of the Zimmerman trial, but that topic deserves an entry of its own.  As for the rest of the interview, I think Spitzer handled it well.  The panel had more of a mixed reaction in 'This Week' on Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner - 'The Some of the Man is not the Sum of the Man'.

I'm rooting for both of them to win the Democratic primary.  If nothing else, the two of them deserve to be in office together, just for the connection between the two.

As for the conclusion of the panel discussion, it could have come right out of One reason Washington, D.C., is out of touch.

Sunday, July 14, 2013 article on Schauer fundraiser

Schauer caps eventful week with fundraiser in Ypsilanti
Democratic candiate for Governor Mark Schauer swung through Washtenaw County on Saturday to end a week that began with two political publications moving the Michigan gubenatorial contest from tossup/tilt Republican to pure tossup.  In between, he threw out the first pitch at Howell High School's alumni baseball game.

At the Saturday afternoon fundraiser hosted by Matt and Rene Greff of Ypsilanti, Schauer criticized Governor Rick Snyder for a failure of leadership.

"You know, I think we need to see a little more toughness out of an individual who campaigned as a Tough Nerd. Right now, we’re seeing an ineffective leader," Schauer told Michigan Radio.
Schauer's week began on Tuesday, when Stuart Rothenberg of Roll Call moved the Michigan Governor's contest from tossup/tilt Republican to pure tossup.  Rothenberg wrote that Schauer's candidacy was "rejuvenating Democratic hopes of defeating GOP Gov. Rick Snyder in Michigan next year."
More at the link in the headline, including Schauer describing what he'd to do get Medicaid expansion passed, John Dingell praising Schauer, and Schauer having fun at Howell High School.

As you can see, I decided to continue writing for  While the money isn't much, I really enjoy having the platform and being able to call myself a journalist.

Hot enough to fry an egg in Death Valley

Two weeks ago, I asked if it was hot enough to fry an egg in the desert?  For Phoenix, the answer was no.  For Death Valley, the answer ended up being yes, as Death Valley National Park demonstrated on their YouTube Channel in Frying an egg Death Valley style.

Death Valley is officially the hottest place on earth! Be sure to drink plenty of water and avoid outdoor activity in extreme heat. And please don't try to fry eggs on the ground. It makes a mess and it doesn't work. (jac)
The glass cover did more than keep the moisture from evaporating.  It turned the skillet into a greenhouse, collecting light and not allowing the resulting heat to escape.  Still, it did show that one could cook an egg using ambient temperature and solar power alone.

Despite the warning not to cook eggs directly on the pavement, there were lots of copycats who ended up making a mess, exactly as the NPS employee warned would happen.  The Weather Channel had some fun with the situation in Frying An Egg In Death Valley!!

The Weather Channel host Matt Sampson shows us why frying an egg on the sidewalk is no laughing matter.
Very punny!

Happy Bastille Day 2013!

Time to celebrate the last of the three patriotic holidays in July with Vive la France! Bastille Day 2013.

Dedicated to the French Republic on its National Day - 14.07.2013
Happy Bastille Day!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

CoDominion news from Reuters and Al Jazeera

In Overnight News Digest: Hump Day edition on Daily Kos, I included two stories from Reuters about the Sino-American relationship, which I call The CoDominion.  I'll begin with the official CoDominion, the one involving direct relations between the two countries.

U.S.-China talks cover cyber issues, currency, Chinese reform
By Paul Eckert and Anna Yukhananov
WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:01pm EDT
(Reuters) - U.S. officials appealed to China's self-interest on Wednesday with calls for deeper economic reforms including changes to the exchange rate policy and a halt to cyber theft of trade secrets - actions they said would benefit both nations.

Vice President Joe Biden launched the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue by stressing the shared stakes and responsibility to support the global economy.

"The next steps that China needs to take for its own economy happen to be in the interests of the United States as well," he said as the two-day talks opened in Washington.
The second involves relationships between corporations.  Note that Michigan's Debbie Stabenow has a starring role as part of U.S. government oversight in Smithfield CEO feels Senate heat over sale to China By Doug Palmer.
WASHINGTON | Wed Jul 10, 2013 6:40pm EDT
(Reuters) - U.S. senators sought answers from the head of Smithfield Foods (SFD.N) on Wednesday about whether the proposed sale of the Virginia ham maker to China's largest pork producer could hurt U.S. food safety and raise prices for American consumers.

Although there was no indication Congress would intervene to block the deal, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow said she was worried that it would undermine the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. pork industry by exporting valuable production techniques to China.

"This is a precedent-setting case and we owe it to consumers, producers and workers to ensure we are asking the right questions and evaluating the long-term implications," the Democrat said at the hearing with Smithfield President and CEO Larry Pope.
Al Jazeera English provides some background on the deal in US meat company awaits for Chinese takeover.

The world's largest producer and processor of pork, Smithfield, has agreed to sell to China's biggest meat company.

The deal, which is subject to approval by company stockholders and regulators from both countries, would be the largest purchase of a US company.

Residents and workers of Smithfield, in the US state of Virginia, are keeping a wait-and-see attitude towards the $4.7bn possible deal by the Chinese company, Shuanghuai International Holdings.

Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman reports from Smithfield.
I have another stake in this story besides my interest in Sino-American relations.  Smithfield happens to be one of the subjects of the movie Food, Inc., and I ask two questions about the company in my worksheet on the film.
21. What ethical effects does he think the treatment of pigs as “a pile of protoplasmic material” would have on the treatment of people and other countries?

22.Does the portrayal of the working and living conditions of the Smithfield meatpackers support the opinion of the owner of Polyface Farms that you described in question 21?
I'd like to think that Chinese management might improve working conditions at Smithfield.  I have my doubts that it will.

Star Trek and Star Wars in the news

Both major science fiction franchises were in the news this past week as the government acknowledged their importance.*  First, Star Trek received a consolation prize from NASA, as Mike Wall of reported in 'Star Trek' on Pluto? It Could Really Happen, Scientists Say.
While the naming gods have swatted away an attempt to christen one of Pluto's newfound moons "Vulcan," the "Star Trek" universe may still leave its mark on the dwarf planet soon enough.

After NASA's New Horizons spacecraft gets the first up-close views of Pluto in 2015, craters, mountains and other features spotted on the dwarf planet's surface could bear the names of famous "Star Trek" characters, researchers said.

"We might have craters called Sulu and Spock and Kirk and McCoy and so on," Mark Showalter of the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif., said during a Google+ Hangout today (July 2).
So the IAU ruled against calling one of Pluto's moons Vulcan.  Miriam Kramer of describes what they will be called in 2 Pluto Moons Get New Names (Sorry 'Star Trek' Fans).
It's official! Two tiny moons orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto finally have new names: Styx and Kerberos.

The International Astronomical Union — the organization responsible for naming celestial objects — has approved "Kerberos" and "Styx" as the new monikers for two of Pluto's moons that were previously called P4 and P5 respectively, but fans of TV's "Star Trek" might not be too happy about the new names.

The IAU selected the names based on the results of the Pluto Rocks Internet poll sponsored by SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), but the top vote-getter, Vulcan, ultimately wasn't chosen as a name for one of the tiny moons.
Next, Star Wars creator George Lucas got a presidential recognition, which Roberta Rampton of Reuters used as part of her headline and lede in Honoring opera to 'Star Wars,' Obama awards arts medals to 24.
(Reuters) - Citing the power of artists and academics to open minds, President Barack Obama on Wednesday awarded 24 medals to people including "Star Wars" creator George Lucas and writer Joan Didion who he said touched his life and the lives of Americans.

"They challenge us to think and to question and to discover, to seek that inward significance," Obama said, awarding the winners of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

This year's winners included filmmaker George Lucas, creator of "Star Wars," whom Obama applauded for transforming movies.

"I remember when I first saw 'Star Wars,'" Obama said. "There's a whole generation that thinks special effects always look like they do today. But it used to be you'd see, like, the string on the little model spaceships.
I bet that got a good laugh.

*Yes, that's the connection.  It beats J.J. Abrams.

A TEDx talk on sustainability and innovation

While I work on a more involved entry, I invite you to watch Sustainability and the Innovation Ecosystem: Bruce Walker Ferguson at TEDxWWF.  He thinks about a lot of the same things I do, but on a grander scale.

Can sustainability go hand in hand with innovation? This is the question Bruce Walker Ferguson, professor at Masdar Institute, seeks to answer by considering how our need for sustainable solutions to the planet's environmental issues will require a system for innovation to thrive.
I think I've found another Crazy Eddie.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Fear Premium continues to push up gas prices

ABC News shows fear premium at work in Summer Bummer: Gas Prices About to Spike.

As families get ready to hit the road for vacation, gas prices are expected to rise.
The increases at the producer and wholesale levels are showing up here and jacking up prices even higher than I reported in Crude prices reflected at pump after slight delay, which made my prior predictions both right and wrong.
Prices will go up, but the $3.69 at the corner station is too high.  I still expect it to drop by the end of the week.
Prices did go up, including that at the corner station.  Thursday morning, local prices all went up, but to a wide range of levels.  The corner station raised what it charged for regular to $3.79.  The three outlets down the street had prices from $3.59 to $3.79.  When I returned home last night, all three of the stations matched what the corner station had been charging at $3.79 and the corner station increased their price to $3.85.  Eep!  By this afternoon, the corner station had dropped its price to conform with the rest of the local stations at $3.79.  About the best I could salvage from my prediction is that the price at the corner station fell all right, but from 16 cents higher than I expected.

As for what future holds, I tend to believe the ABC News report, which means that prices should drop a little bit from the current high.  Given that today's price for Brent crude closed at $108.81, which should translate to $3.56, slightly below the $3.58-$3.59 national average, I expect prices to fall to the $3.59 level by the end of the month.  Here's to hoping that prediction comes true.

Snowden asks for asylum, Chapman asks for Snowden

In the ongoing soap opera that is La Affair Snowden, the latest development is that he has applied for asylum in Russia again.  Russia Today, which in this case I think would be a reliable source, reports in Snowden asks Russia for asylum.

NSA leaker & former CIA employee Edward Snowden has asked for political asylum in Russia, saying he could not fly to Latin America, according to Human Rights Watch representative who met the whistleblower. Thirteen Russian and international human rights advocates and lawyers have gathered at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport for a meeting with Snowden.
I know at least one person who would be happy about this development, deported Russian spy and model Anna Chapman.  She tweeted her desires last week, which were captured by New York Magazine.

So she isn't Putin's mistress after all.  I'm disappointed.  On the other hand, Next Media Animation wasn't disappointed in the least.  This is exactly the kind of goofy sexy story that they specialize in, as they demonstrated with Edward Snowden receives proposal from spy Anna Chapman via twitter!

Edward Snowden received an unexpected surprise during his extended layover in a Moscow airport transit zone. Anna Chapman, the former Russian spy and current Russian model proposed to him via Twitter. Since her spying career came to its ignominious end in 2010, Chapman has reinvented herself as a TV host and model. Marrying Chapman might not be the worst choice for Snowden, who could use the Russian passport to finally get out of the airport.
"A match made in James Bond's fever dreams"--I'll say!  It's a crossover of "From Russia with Love" and "The Spy who Loved me" updated for the 21st Century with touches of "Goldeneye" and "Skyfall" for good measure.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Correction to latest driving update

I was right to be suspicious about my mileage in Driving update for July 2013 for my car.
The last update noted that I rolled over 216,000 miles on April 19, 2013.  That's 61 days ago.  That means I drove 16.4 miles per day and 500.0 miles/month.  That's much higher than last month.
This is the most I've driven in a month since October 2010, when I drove 630 miles/month and was still posting these updates to LiveJournal.

Now I'm trying to figure out how I drove 4.5 more miles/day and 132.5 miles/month more than I drove last month.  Part of it is that I have been driving a couple miles per workday to get food as the cafe where I teach closed down for the summer in the middle of the last week of June, but that's only about 50 miles at most.  It also was something I was doing last year at this time when I was only driving 10.3 miles/day and 311.4 miles/month and actually decrease my driving since the May 2012 update.  That doesn't work.  There were also days that I drove to the store instead of walking because of rain and thunderstorms.  There was also a relatively long trip to a meeting that was not part of my regular schedule.  Still, I'm surprised all that added up to more than 100 miles.
I didn't drive that much more.  In fact,the only things above that were correct were the days that I rolled over the odometer.  The rest resulted from a series of cascading errors that began with me forgetting an entire month.  Derp.  There were other mistakes, but why worry about mice when there are elephants about?

Now, how much did I really drive per day and month?  The correct number of days between the two events was 81.  1000 miles/81 days=12.35 miles/day.  That's 376.5 miles/month (30.5 day months).  That's only 0.35 miles/day and 4.4 miles/month more than the 11.90 miles/day and 363.1 miles/month during the previous 1000 miles.  Now, that I can believe!

As for why I made such a silly error, I can blame it on Mercury Retrograde, which I used as a joke reason for why Kunstler's blog wasn't displaying properly in Firefox yesterday.
I have my own unscientific explanation–Mercury Retrograde. The planet Mercury is currently being observed as moving in reverse. When that happens, astrologers claim that communication and transportation go awry. This includes electronic communication and devices that support it. Based on this woo-woo story, glitches like this are more likely.

Of course, this is all BS. My official position on astrology is that it’s bunk, but it’s harmless, fun bunk that tells great stories. It even tells an interesting story about me.
Or I could chalk it up to the driving update being the first post requiring thought that I wrote since one of our dachshunds died.  I still haven't recovered from that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sinkhole and infrastructure become issues in Toledo election

I ended Sinkhole in Toledo provides teachable moment with the moral of the story.
Toledo may not have learned anything from Detroit's experience, but my students got the message that this kind of thing is what happens when infrastructure is neglected.
Toledo appears to be learning that lesson, as the sinkhole has become an election issue.  WNWO has the story in Mayoral candidates talk sinkhole, city infrastructure.

Toledo mayoral candidates takes shots at the current mayor for his handling of the city.
In the struggle between austerity and sustainability that I think defines politics and policy now, it looks like events are pushing Toledo in the direction of sustainability.  I hope the winning candidate doesn't forget that lesson after the election.

Crude prices reflected at pump after slight delay

I ended the previous report by predicting higher prices.
The local station raised its price today to $3.48, exactly what the three stations down the street were selling it for Wednesday as well.  Not only is it a fair price based on that of Brent crude, but it's also right at the national average and below the prices being charged last year at this time.
Again, I'd post Professor Farnsworth, except I'm sure the price will continue to go up for the next week or so.  Maybe I should fill up my car.
At first, prices didn't increase.  They actually dropped slightly to $3.47 over the weekend, two pennies less than last year at this time.  That was happening elsewhere, such as Cincinnati, where WCPO asked if it was cheap gas Monday?

Want to know where to fill up? Well, here is where gas prices are falling.
It was still like that Monday morning, which prompted me to use it as an example against fuel inflation at Kunstler's blog.
CPI is low. It’s even true with energy. I haven’t checked the national averages, but in my little corner of metro Detroit gas prices are actually a few cents lower than they were at this time last year. That’s despite the unrest in Egypt.
I spoke too soon.  That evening, the corner station had jacked the price of regular up to $3.69.  It was still there Tuesday morning, while the three stations down the street held their prices steady at $3.47.  I expected the price at the corner station to drop, but this evening it remained at $3.69.  That's enough to make me check the price of Brent crude, which Reuters via CNBC reported Crude Prices Surge on Falling Inventories during Tuesday's trading.
Crude oil prices on both sides of the Atlantic ended with moderate gains on Tuesday, supported by a stock market advance and worries over Egypt. But gains were limited by a strong U.S. dollar and supplies were brought back online.
Brent oil futures ended the day 38 cents higher at $107.81 per barrel. U.S. crude oil futures settled 39 cents higher at $103.53, after trading as low as $102.31.

Fears that violence in Egypt could ignite conflict in the broader Middle East, which pumps a third of the world's oil, continued to lend support to oil prices.

While oil prices had shaved some gains, Brent was still hovering at a three-month high and U.S. crude at a 14-month high.

"The majority of last week's near $5 gain is on the back of geopolitical risk premium," said Gene McGillian, analyst with Tradition Energy in Stamford, Connecticut.
Ah, yes, the fear premium.  I'm glad I haven't seen that for a year.  Here's to hoping that goes away now that the government has changed.

Meanwhile, Brent is at $107.81.  According to the calculator at Econobrowser, the price at the pump should be $3.53, almost exactly where the national average is now.  Prices will go up, but the $3.69 at the corner station is too high.  I still expect it to drop by the end of the week.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Driving update for July 2013 for my car

My car's odometer rolled over another 1,000 miles today, this time to 217,000 miles.*  The last update noted that I rolled over 216,000 miles on April 19, 2013.  That's 61 days ago.  That means I drove 16.4 miles per day and 500.0 miles/month.  That's much higher than last month.**
Right on schedule, my car's odometer turned over 216,000 miles yesterday afternoon.  That means I drove 1,000 miles in 84 days for an average of 11.90 miles/day and 363.1 miles/month since January 25, 2013, an decrease of 0.15 miles/day and 4.4 miles/month over the 12.05 miles/day and 367.5 miles/month I drove between November and January.
This is the most I've driven in a month since October 2010, when I drove 630 miles/month and was still posting these updates to LiveJournal.

Now I'm trying to figure out how I drove 4.5 more miles/day and 132.5 miles/month more than I drove last month.  Part of it is that I have been driving a couple miles per workday to get food as the cafe where I teach closed down for the summer in the middle of the last week of June, but that's only about 50 miles at most.  It also was something I was doing last year at this time when I was only driving 10.3 miles/day and 311.4 miles/month and actually decrease my driving since the May 2012 update.  That doesn't work.  There were also days that I drove to the store instead of walking because of rain and thunderstorms.  There was also a relatively long trip to a meeting that was not part of my regular schedule.  Still, I'm surprised all that added up to more than 100 miles.

As for how I'm contributing to the trend, I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle one of the charts from Happy Motoring in the U.S. has peaked.

Looks like my mileage is increasing while the total miles driven is staying flat.  Then again, this chart only goes up to April.  I'll have to wait until September to see how the past two months of driving added to the total.

*Note that this is the update for my car.  My wife's car is within a few score miles of rolling over 85,000 miles, 1,000 miles more than the vehicle had in December 2012.  Expect a report for her car later this month.

**These numbers are wildly off.  I forgot an entire month of days.  As I calculated in the correction to this entry, the real numbers are 12.35 miles/day and 376.5 miles/month. Those numbers I can believe!