Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hottest month so far on Crazy Eddie's Motie News

This blog passed two milestones this month.  The blog surpassed 11,000 page views during a month for the first time ever.  Also, this morning it passed 200,000 page views since the first post nearly two-and-one-half years ago.  In fact, as of Midnight GMT, the blog received 11,759 page views in August and 200,153 page views over its history.  To put these achievements in perspective, it's time to re-examine the entry I wrote to mark when the blog first reached 9,000 page views in a month and 100,000 page views in its history.
As of Midnight GMT, this blog had 9,246 page views for November.  That's a record, so far, and it follows two other record-breaking months, October with 8,333 page views and September with 7,761 page views.  That's well ahead of where I was at the end of July 2011, the last time I wrote a weekly roundup with the month's stats, when I was thrilled to have more than 4,000 page views.  That level became a plateau that lasted until the end of September.  After that, the number of page views rose over the next three months to just over 6,000.  Page views oscillated at level for eight months until the current rise, which I credit to the election.

That's not the only milestone this blog passed.  By the end of the first week of November, Crazy Eddie's Motie News passed 100,000 page views and 50 followers.  The blog currently has 107,168 page views and 53 followers.  Considering that I had not passed 50,000 page views yet as of March 21st of this year, that means I have had more page views during the past eight months than all of the previous year.  I'm pleased.
That was at the end of November, exactly nine months ago.  Since then, the blog has added 93,000 page views.  Going back to the first week of November, the blog had as many page views in just under ten months as it did during the past nineteen and a half.  Again, I'm pleased.

It's also time to see which of my predictions came true.
As for whether this trend will last, I have my doubts.  I might have another month of growth or this might be the start of another plateau.  Since there will be no election to drive readership, I'm betting on another plateau.  I would love to be wrong about this.
I would have won my bet.  The next month, readership went down from 9,246 to 8,494 in December.  In January, readership increased to another milestone and monthly record, 10,637.  From there, it hit a bumpy plateau, staying in a band between 9,781 (February) and 10,903 (March) all the way through July, when readership was 10,756.  Yes, I got a seven-month plateau very much like the eight-month plateau around 6,000 last year.  Then again, an average of 10,000 page views a month for ten months is nothing to sneeze at.

As for what bumped this blog over 11,000 page views, I had a very good month of people coming over from Kunstler's blog.  They all deserve a big thank you, which they will get when I post my acceptance speech for The Best Moment Award Julie Bass gave my blog in May.  Yes, I'll get around to it.  Next month's NaBloPoMo theme will be perfect for doing so.

Hot: Puerto Rico and Florida need to prepare for climate change

I began Hot: assisting species in coping with climate change and other recovery stories with a hopeful comment.
Not all stories about climate change are alarms.  Some are about actually doing something.
Too bad more stories aren't like those.  Here are more alarms about people not doing anything.

Associated Press via News Daily: Scientists warn Puerto Rico not prepared for climate change effects
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Environmental officials and scientists warned Friday that Puerto Rico is dangerously vulnerable to the effects of global climate change and urged it to prepare by better-regulated coastal development, and perhaps even by building artificial reefs.

The storm-caused floods and erosion that have always affected the U.S. Caribbean territory are expected to grow worse as temperatures and seas rise, perhaps by 22 inches (57 centimeters) by 2060, according to a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study.
That's not all.  Rolling Stone has a great expose of the effects of climate change just a little bit farther north in Goodbye, Miami.

By century's end, rising sea levels will turn the nation's urban fantasyland into an American Atlantis. But long before the city is completely underwater, chaos will begin.

That's an article I've recommended my students read.  It's accompanied by The 10 Dumbest Things Ever Said About Global Warming.

The most egregious myths, misconceptions and flat-out lies about the future of the planet.

I hope people read those and actually do something.  Otherwise, they'll be like the families in the public service announcements that CNN FEMA portrays in Humorous disaster preparedness campaign.*

Does your family have a plan in the event of an emergency? Do you know who will pack supplies and how you'll contact each other if you aren't all at home? No? Neither does the family in this humorous video by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "We couldn't be any less prepared — I'm proud of you guys," says the father. September is FEMA's National Preparedness month and this year's effort to get the message across is choosing humor over high drama. Through a partnership with the Ad Council, the 30-second video is part of a series to help families be better prepared for emergency situations. "Winging it is not an emergency plan," it says. True enough. Watch the video, and if the spirit moves you, make a plan of your own.
May we not be these people.

*The caption for the CNN video I originally had here read "Kelly Wallace explores a poignant and funny new ad campaign that encourages families to prepare for disasters." I like this one better. Besides, CNN took down the original.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Corner station consolidates position in Syria fear premium battle

I described the price action and made a prediction in The fear premium strikes again over Syria.
Yesterday morning, the corner station jacked up its price to $3.79, while the three stations down the street were still selling regular at $3.45.  This evening, they followed the corner station with prices of $3.78.  The corner station took them with it.  I was right not only to fill up my car, but to fuel up my wife's.  Of course, the saber rattling over Syria's use of chemical weapons helped push things along.  The fear premium strikes again.

Speaking of the fear premium, Econobrower lists the closing price of Brent crude yesterday at $116.61, a jump of $2.25 and 1.93% from the day before.  That translates to a national average price of $3.75.  That's well above the national average price of $3.59, the Detroit average of $3.62, and even the Michigan average of $3.67.  Expect prices to keep rising, although I think the local gas is fairly priced given the current price of oil.  That written, the fear premium can continue to go up if tensions increase and more countries get involved in Syria's civil war.  Stay tuned.
Instead of prices continuing to increase, they actually declined.  Yesterday, the three stations down the block dropped their prices to $3.69 pulling the corner station down to $3.75.  Today, the corner station joined them at $3.69.  It turns out that the local stations were merely reflecting the price of Brent crude, which fell to $115.16 from its peak yesterday of $116.71, a drop of $1.45 and 1.26%.  According to Econobrowser, that translates to a national average price at the pump of $3.72.  The local price has merely adjusted to that level.

While the neighborhood stations are well above the current national average of $3.62, they are right at the Detroit average of $3.69 and below the Michigan average of $3.74, which appears to already be declining.  While I'm confident that the national average will continue to rise for at least the next week, whatever happens locally depends on the price of oil, and that depends on what happens with Syria.  Stay tuned.

Hot: assisting species in coping with climate change and other recovery stories

Not all stories about climate change are alarms.  Some are about actually doing something.  Virginia Gewin of Nature reports on one such proposal in Plan seeks 'chaperones' for threatened species.
Botanical gardens proposed as stopping-off points for plant species as climate warms.

The notion of intentionally relocating plant species when climate change threatens their ability to survive in their natural habitats is steeped in controversy.

Critics claim that such ‘assisted migration’ could transform struggling species into destructive invaders, or inadvertently transmit disease, or that hybridization between species could occur that would lower the planet's overall genetic diversity. But without some form of assistance, many plants will face certain extinction as the planet warms.

With that in mind, researchers are proposing a heavily supervised form of assisted migration — using a network of more than 3,100 botanical gardens to 'chaperone' plant relocations.
The inability of organisms, particularly plants, to disperse or migrate fast enough to cope with climate change, especially as change is happening at a record pace.

Use of conservation centers and controlled releases for the recovery of threatened and endangered species is not new.  In fact, its being used now in Australia, as Oliver Milman of The Guardian describes in Tasmanian devils to be released back on to mainland.
Devils, Leadbeater's possums and helmeted honeyeaters will gradually be released into Victorian 'halfway house' to test survival fitness

Zoos Victoria is to create a “halfway house” for endangered species in a new conservation strategy in which there will be a controlled release of Tasmanian devils on mainland Australia.

A former Aboriginal reserve called Coranderrk will be used to release four of the devils, as well as 40 each of the Leadbeater’s possum and helmeted honeyeater. All of the species are endangered, with just 60 helmeted honeyeaters remaining.

The 140-hectare site, which adjoins the Healesville Sanctuary, will be used to test the “survival fitness” of captive species, ahead of potential release to new sites.
There are more high-tech ways to get a species to recover.  In fact, there are proposals to bring back extinct animals with biotechnology.  Red Orbit updates this story with Dolly The Sheep Creator Discusses Woolly Mammoth Clone.
Ian Wilmut, creator of Dolly the sheep, says that woolly mammoth stem cells may be the way to go in order to bring the ancient behemoths back to life.

Wilmut, Emeritus Professor at the MRC Center for Regenerative Medicine at University of Edinburgh, wrote in The Conversation about his thoughts on how we could bring woolly mammoths back from extinction. The professor is best known for cloning Dolly, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell.

The scientist wrote that the same methods used to create Dolly would not work for recreating a mammoth. However, he said there are other ways in which it would be “biologically interesting to work with viable mammoth cells if they can be found.”
Finally, what's a story about humans helping endangered species recover without pandas?

LiveScience: It's a Cub! Giant Panda Mei Xiang Gives Birth at National Zoo
Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor
August 23, 2013 07:28pm ET
The giant panda Mei Xiang has become a proud mama, again, giving birth to a cub today (Aug. 23) at 5:23 p.m. ET at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Using the panda cams, zoo workers have been monitoring Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) every day, all day, since Aug. 7. And then at 3:36 p.m. ET today her water broke and the giant panda began having contractions

"I'm glued to the new panda cams and thrilled to hear the squeals, which appear healthy, of our newborn cub," said Dennis Kelly, director of the Smithsonian's National Zoo. "Our expansive panda team has worked tirelessly analyzing hormones and behavior since March, and as a result of their expertise and our collaboration with scientists from around the world we are celebrating this birth."
This story wouldn't be complete without either a picture or video, so here's the clip from ABC News.

Giant Panda Cub's Birth Celebrated at National Zoo

A cute baby panda was born at the national zoo in Washington DC.
Stay tuned for more climate change stories to close out the month.  Meanwhile, keep cool.

Hot: More climate and biodiversity in history

At the end of Videos for my environmental science class from Discovery News, I wrote "I'll have an entry on climate change after I return home."  I didn't say how long after I came home, did I?  Actually, I did, as I concluded Hot: Storms usher in heat wave for month's end with "I'll have more climate news tomorrow."  Well, it's still "tomorrow" from Chicago west to the Aleutians, so here goes.

Tonight I'm following up on the topics I covered in Hot: Biodiversity and climate from historical documents by examining climate change in human history, beginning with an article about one of the same episodes of climate change covered in the earlier entry.  Melissa Pandika of the Los Angeles Times has the story in Climate change may have caused demise of Late Bronze Age civilizations.
Archaeologists have debated for decades over what caused the once-flourishing civilizations along the eastern Mediterranean coast to collapse about 1300 BC. Many scholars have cited warfare, political unrest and natural disaster as factors. But a new study supports the theory that climate change was largely responsible.

Analyzing ancient pollen grains from Cyprus, researchers concluded that a massive drought hit the region about 3,200 years ago. Ancient writings have described crop failures, famines and invasions about the same time, suggesting that the drying trend triggered a chain of events that led to widespread societal collapse of these Late Bronze Age civilizations.
Next, Joseph Castro of LiveScience describes a more recent interaction between climate and biodiversity in Penguins Thrived in Antarctica During Little Ice Age.
Penguin populations in the Ross Sea of Antarctica spiked during the short cold period called the Little Ice Age, which occurred between A.D.1500 and 1800, new research shows.

The results run contrary to previous studies that found increases in Antarctic penguin populations during warmer climates and decreases during colder climates, suggesting penguin populations living at different latitudes in the Antarctic may respond to climate change differently, scientists said.

"How ecological systems adapt to climate change is a very important and hot topic," said study researchers Liguang Sun and Zhouqing Xie, who are both environmental scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei, China. "Our study suggests that it is not simple to answer this question," they told LiveScience in an email.
Stay tuned for more climate stories and keep cool in the heat wave at month's end.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Videos for my environmental science class from Discovery News

Today is the first day of classes at the college where I teach.  To mark this occasion, here are two videos on topics I lecture on in environmental science from Discovery News, both of which I've included in this month's Overnight News Digests on Daily Kos.

First, I present Making Invasive Species Work For Us.

What happens when a nefarious bug threatens valuable California citrus crops? Unleash a swarm of foreign parasitic wasps to kick the little bug's butt! Trace explains how this is gonna work, and tells stories of what other invasive species are up to around the world.
Not only do I lecture on invasive species, I tie that topic into that of biological controls of crop pests.  This video might work well for that.

Next, here's When Earth Can't Produce Enough Food.

Us modern-day humans require a lot of food to keep us going, and we're craving more than ever. But as the world population continues its inevitable march upwards, the question must be asked: What happens when the planet is no longer able to keep up?
I lecture on food production right after I lecture on population.  This video might make a good transition.

I'll have an entry on climate change after I return home.  Until then, I'm off to teach.  See you all later!

The fear premium strikes again over Syria

I made a prediction in The corner station finished its retreat.
I expect the price to hold through Tuesday, when the corner station charges into No Man's Land again.  It might take the nearby stations with it, as Econobrowser shows the closing price of Brent crude to be $111.04, which translates to an expect price at the pump of $3.61.  That's slightly above the national average of $3.57 and the Detroit average of $3.59, which has risen 10 cents in one week and 15 cents in two weeks.  At 14 cents below the regional average, it might be a good idea to fill up while the price lasts.
I was wrong about the price rise happening Tuesday, but that's all.  Yesterday morning, the corner station jacked up its price to $3.79, while the three stations down the street were still selling regular at $3.45.  This evening, they followed the corner station with prices of $3.78.  The corner station took them with it.  I was right not only to fill up my car, but to fuel up my wife's.  Of course, the saber rattling over Syria's use of chemical weapons helped push things along.  The fear premium strikes again.

Speaking of the fear premium, Econobrower lists the closing price of Brent crude yesterday at $116.61, a jump of $2.25 and 1.93% from the day before.  That translates to a national average price of $3.75.  That's well above the national average price of $3.59, the Detroit average of $3.62, and even the Michigan average of $3.67.  Expect prices to keep rising, although I think the local gas is fairly priced given the current price of oil.  That written, the fear premium can continue to go up if tensions increase and more countries get involved in Syria's civil war.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hot: Storms usher in heat wave for month's end

It's time to take a break from climate change to examine a related topic, weather.  Despite the generally mild temperatures most of the season, summer is ending here just like it began and again in July, with a heat wave.  WXYZ has the forecast for Detroit through Labor Day in Warm, Muggy & Damp Start.

It's even warmer down south in Toledo, as WNWO reports in Heat and humidity return as we head into the weekend.

Heat isn't the only way that summer is going out with a bang here.  Last night, winds knocked down trees to the northwest.  WXYZ shows its viewers how badly in Storms cause damage in Brighton area.

People in Genoa Township are cleaning up after storms caused major damage to the area's trees.
I used to shop in Genoa Township while living in Whitmore Lake and working in Howell, so this hits home for me.  I'm glad my wife and I only got rain, as we've had enough of this kind of weather this summer already.

That's it for the weather report.  Stay tuned, as I'll have more climate news tomorrow.  In the meantime, stay cool!

Hot: shrinking Arctic ice cap

In Hot: IPCC report leaked, I made a program note.
It's time to return to my original take on this month's Hot theme, climate change stories.
That's the first of at least six stories about climate from the past two weeks of ONDs.  Stay tuned and keep cool.
Here's the second.

LiveScience: Shrinking Arctic Ice Will Lead to Ice-Free Summers
By Denise Chow, Staff Writer
August 23, 2013 05:37pm ET
The Arctic is losing about 30,000 square miles (78,000 square kilometers) — an area roughly equivalent to the state of Maine — of sea ice each year, NASA scientists say. And while ice cover at the North Pole has rebounded from last year's record-setting lows, Arctic sea ice continues to retreat and thin at an alarming pace.

In 2012, the ice cap over the Arctic Ocean shrank to its lowest extent ever recorded. Measures of sea ice extent take into account the area of the Arctic Ocean on which ice covers at least 15 percent of the surface. This year's summer melting season is unlikely to break that record, but that does not necessarily herald good news, said Walt Meier, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

"This is not going to be as extreme a year as last year, but we're still seeing a strong downward trend," Meier told LiveScience. "We're still at levels that are much lower than average."

The Arctic Ocean's blanket of sea ice covered 2.25 million square miles (5.83 million square kilometers) on Aug. 21. For perspective, when the smallest extent was recorded last year, the Arctic's icy cover measured 1.32 million square miles (3.41 million square kilometers).
 If current melting trends continue, the Arctic region will see completely ice-free summers in the future, he said.

"At this point, we're looking at 'when' as opposed to 'if,'" Meier said. "There's still a lot of uncertainty, because there's a lot of variation year to year, but it's definitely coming, and coming sooner than we previously expected."

Ten years ago, researchers predicted the Arctic could experience ice-free summers by the end of the century. "Now, it's really looking pretty likely that it could come mid-century at the latest, and perhaps even within the next couple of decades," Meier said.
The video Melting Season: Summer 2013 Arctic Sea Ice Retreat accompanied the article.

This animation shows changes in Arctic sea ice cover between May 2013 and August 2013. The sea ice cap, which has significantly thinned over the past decade, can be seen retreating quickly during the first half of July.
I'll get the rest of the stories posted here by the end of the month.  In the meantime, stay tuned and keep cool.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hot: Rim fire threatening Yosemite and San Francisco's water

I have another hot subject from Overnight News Digest: Syria's Business on Manic Monday on Daily Kos, the same diary in which the stories in Syria's business from Reuters on Manic Monday appeared.  Given what I've written about Yosemite, one can see why I care about it enough to write about Yosemite on a day other than February 3rd.

Reuters: Yosemite blaze rages closer to reservoir for San Francisco
By Laila Kearney
SAN FRANCISCO | Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:28pm EDT
(Reuters) - One of the largest California wildfires in decades roared largely unchecked for a 10th day through forests in and around Yosemite National Park on Monday and threatened a reservoir that supplies most of San Francisco's water.

As of midday, the eastern flank of the so-called Rim Fire had burned to within a mile of Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy reservoir on the Tuolumne River, raising concerns about the possibility of ash and soot contaminating the sprawling artificial lake.

On Saturday, flames had been no closer than 4 miles from the reservoir, which supplies 85 percent of the water consumed by 2.6 million people in San Francisco and several communities in three adjacent counties about 200 miles to the west.
That was last night.  Here is this morning's video report from ABC News.

Extreme Weather: Wildfire in Yosemite National Park Blankets Communities in Unhealthy Smoke

An all-out war against the huge wildfire has been raging for a week.
That's the view from the ground.  LiveScience has a view of the fire from the air in Rim Fire Seen Through Airborne Firefighters' Eyes.

As of Aug. 27, 2013, the massive fire has burned more than 160,000 acres of timberland, including parts of Yosemite National Park. The 146th Airlift Wing of the California National Guard captured footage during a dousing run.
In addition to San Francisco's water supply, the fire is also endangering two Giant Sequoia groves inside the park.  A normal fire would leave the Big Trees alone, but this one might actually get into their crowns.  As I implied in Live fires and dead dolphins: hot environmental news from Reuters, these are not normal fires.
Early August is still too early for brushfires like this.  When I moved from southern California to Michigan, they didn't erupt in force until the end of August.  Now, there are major fires as early as May!  Of course, I blame climate change.
Worse yet, there are two more months of fire season left, complete with Santa Ana winds to fan them.

Stay cool, everyone.

Hot: IPCC report leaked

It's time to return to my original take on this month's Hot theme, climate change stories.  Here's the lead story from last Saturday's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (IPCC report leaked) on Daily Kos.  Agence France Presse via PhysOrg has the story.

Human activity is 'almost certainly' driving climate change, IPCC leaked report says
Aug 21, 2013
Human activity is almost certainly the cause of climate change and global sea levels could rise by several feet by the end of the century, according to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report leaked to media.

The draft summary of the report all but dismissed recent claims of a slowdown in the pace of warming, which has seized upon by climate-change sceptics.

"It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010," The New York Times on Tuesday quoted a section of the leaked report as saying.
That's the first of at least six stories about climate from the past two weeks of ONDs.  Stay tuned and keep cool.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Syria's business from Reuters on Manic Monday

Here are the stories from Reuters about the hot topic of Syria that I've included in Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos for tonight.

The headline story, taken from International News, is Washington warns Assad over 'undeniable' chemical weapons attack by Lesley Wroughton and Erika Solomon.
WASHINGTON/BEIRUT | Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:57pm EDT - The United States put Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on notice on Monday that it believes he was responsible for using chemical weapons against civilians last week in what Secretary of State John Kerry called a "moral obscenity."

"President (Barack) Obama believes there must be accountability for those who would use the world's most heinous weapons against the world's most vulnerable people," Kerry said in the most forceful U.S. reaction yet to the August 21 attack.

Speaking after U.N. chemical weapons experts came under sniper fire on their way to investigate the scene of the attack, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the use of chemical weapons was undeniable and "there is very little doubt in our mind that the Syrian regime is culpable."
The domestic story is U.S. lawmakers call on Obama to consult them on Syria by Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON | Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:43pm EDT - U.S. lawmakers urged President Barack Obama on Monday to consult them as he decides how to respond to last week's apparent poison gas attack in the Damascus suburbs, with some complaining that they have not been fully informed.

Secretary of State John Kerry issued a tough statement on Monday, saying that the suspected chemical weapons attack was a "moral obscenity" and accused Syria's government of covering it up.

He added that the Obama administration was consulting with allies and members of Congress and would decide soon how to respond.
There is even a Syria angle to a business story: Wall Street ends lower after Kerry blasts Syria on chemical weapons by Angela Moon.
NEW YORK | Mon Aug 26, 2013 5:05pm EDT - U.S. stocks fell in light volume on Monday after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called Syria's use of chemical weapons "undeniable."

In a kneejerk reaction to Kerry's strong words against Syria, major U.S. stock indexes gave up their gains and turned negative in the last hour of trading. Stocks had traded higher for most of the session, as sharply weaker orders for long-lasting manufactured goods eased investors' worries of a cutback in the Federal Reserve's economic stimulus.

"The turnaround (in stocks) is probably a reaction to Secretary of State Kerry's comments. We are seeing signs of escalation here and geopolitical concerns are trumping," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
Syria's business, indeed.

Fracking as a bad T in I=P*A*T

Over at Kunstler's blog last week, I riffed on the environmental impact equation* by noting that "fracking is a perfect example of technology in the service of population and affluence increasing impact."  That reminded me that I had been sitting on several stories on the subject of fracking besides Discovery News reviews 'Gasland'.  Follow over the jump for more on this hot topic.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The corner station finished its retreat

I finished The corner station is making an orderly retreat with a prediction.
[On] Tuesday...the corner station repeated its pattern from the past few weeks and raised its prices, this time to $3.69.  At the same time, the three stations down the street actually dropped their prices to $3.45.  This was an unstable situation that usually leads to the stations either meeting in the middle or the corner station retreating.  The result so far has been retreat.  On Thursday, the corner station lowered its price to $3.65.  Today, it dropped more to $3.59.  All this time, the three stations down the street have held firm at $3.45.  I expect the corner station to continue its retreat over the weekend.
Today, the corner station is selling regular at $3.45.  Retreat over.  I expect the price to hold through Tuesday, when the corner station charges into No Man's Land again.  It might take the nearby stations with it this time, as Econobrowser shows the closing price of Brent crude to be $111.04, which translates to an expect price at the pump of $3.61.  That's slightly above the national average of $3.57 and the Detroit average of $3.59, which has risen 10 cents in one week and 15 cents in two weeks.  At 14 cents below the regional average, it might be a good idea to fill up while the price lasts.

A song for Neil Armstrong

People are digging into the archives to read R.I.P. Neil Armstrong and other space and astronomy news, which means it's time to post the following from NASA Television.

NASA Remembers Neil Armstrong

One year after his death, NASA is remembering Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on another world.

As part of the tribute, Grammy-nominated artist Eric Brace, with some video assistance from NASA, honors Armstrong with an original composition, "Tranquility Base."
I have other tributes to Armstrong here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Carolina Crown wins with Einstein on the Beach

Time to recycle.
As dedicated readers of this blog might know, I was involved with drum corps for four decades and can't even get away from the topic here, especially when The Activity (yes, that's what the participants call it) intersects with sustainability, science fiction, disasters (real or imagined), or holidays (including fake ones).  I've stumbled over yet another example of drum corps exploring a science fiction theme.
This time, I present Carolina Crown's 2013 Victory Run of their show "E=mc2."

Carolina Crown's victory run after winning the DCI 2013 World Class Championship.
This show fits my criteria for inclusion both because of its scientific content and its indirect reference to a work of post-apocalyptic literature.  In addition to Einstein's famous equation, the drill features an infinity symbol, a sine wave, a water molecule and two spiral galaxies.  That's geeky enough for me.  Also, the bulk of the show consists of selections from Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach, a reference to Nevil Shute's post-nuclear-war novel, "On the Beach."  This post may be a celebration instead my usual mourning-in-advance, but it's still a warning.  As I've written before about both drum corps and drum corps videos, enjoy them while they last.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The corner station is making an orderly retreat

When I reported that the gas price bounced in time for Dream Cruise, I noted an episode of price stability.
That was Monday.  On Tuesday, the corner station jacked its price up to $3.65 for regular, while the three stations down the street were still at $3.39.  On Wednesday, the corner station dropped its price to $3.49 and the three stations down the street matched it.  That's where the prices remained on Thursday evening.
That's also where they remained until Tuesday, when the corner station repeated its pattern from the past few weeks and raised its prices, this time to $3.69.  At the same time, the three stations down the street actually dropped their prices to $3.45.  This was an unstable situation that usually leads to the stations either meeting in the middle or the corner station retreating.  The result so far has been retreat.  On Thursday, the corner station lowered its price to $3.65.  Today, it dropped more to $3.59.  All this time, the three stations down the street have held firm at $3.45.  I expect the corner station to continue its retreat over the weekend.

Fingers pointed while state counts Detroit's disputed votes

I concluded Student sustainability video festival 12: Bed Bugs on 'The Simpsons' with "Crazy Eddie's Motie News now resumes its regular programming, whatever that is."  Since the last entry that wasn't part of the video festival was Detroit's version of hanging chads, I'm returning to the topic of Detroit's disputed 18,000 write-in votes for Mike Duggan.  WXYZ has a comprehensive update in The latest on Detroit's Mayoral election mess.

7 Action News looks at the latest in the mess surrounding the Detroit Mayoral Election.
The good news is that those votes will not be summarily thrown out; the state will tabulate the disputed ballots.  The bad news is that the video reinforces my opinion that the poll workers were poorly trained.  The ugly news seems to be this election in general and this controversy in particular has exposed a rift between the Wayne County Clerk and the Detroit City Clerk.  The County Clerk openly favors Benny Napoleon and her ruling on the disputed ballots favors him, while the City Clerk's tabulation favored Mike Duggan.  In fact, she has ruled in Duggan's favor in all of the previous disputes over his being on the ballot.  This has led Tom Barrow to accuse her of favoritism.
“An incredible amount of money has been expended by all sides during this legal battle, all of which was unnecessary and should have been avoided had the Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey upheld her oath of office and not favored one office-seeker over others who were not allowed onto the ballot based on the same Charter violation,” Barrow said in a statement calling for her resignation.
I think the quote attributed to Stalin is appropriate here.
"I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how."
Pass the popcorn.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Student sustainability video festival 12: Bed Bugs on 'The Simpsons'

All grades for the semester just ended have been submitted.  To celebrate, I'm posting the video from the favorite presentation, as voted by the students in their final exams, Pest Week Ever from "Pulpit Friction" from The Simpsons.

Bed bugs have come to Springfield.

Yes, a talk about bed bugs was voted most popular.  Chalk it up to the clip above and the sparkling personality of the presenter.

Crazy Eddie's Motie News now resumes its regular programming, whatever that is.

Student sustainability video festival 11: Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The last three videos have all been from previous semesters.  It's now time to feature this semester's presentations, beginning with Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

I've featured a video about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch before in Student sustainability video festival 5: previous years' winners.  That was the unofficial upload of a TED Talk.  Here's the official version from TED Talks Director.

Captain Charles Moore on the seas of plastic

Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he's drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.
My students watch the latter video every semester as an example of how a solid waste and consumption problem becomes a water pollution problem.

Back to grading.  See you later!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Student sustainability video festival 10: Asian Carp Invasion

It's time for me to take a short break from grading to resume the Student sustainability video festival.  This video comes from the same semester as the previous two entries.  It's Battling the Asian Carp invasion from CNN Money.

The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers is using electric currents to keep Asian Carp out of the Chicago River.
If you can't beat them, eat them.

Detroit's version of hanging chads

I interrupt the Student sustainability video festival to bring this news about the final topic I promised to write about in I know, let's blame the aliens!  I was wondering how I could present a two-week-old election in an entertaining way, but reality has done the job for me.  The ballots for the primary election were not certified.  WXYZ has the story in Board of Canvassers won't certify election.

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers will not certify the Detroit Mayoral  Primary results because of problems with the count.
That was the 5PM report from last night, which I included simply because of the "hanging chads for Detroit" comment.  It was too good to pass up.  Smitha Kalokhe and company had more to say during the 6 PM newscast in Detroit mayoral race results in limbo.

As you can see, they got lots of reaction shots from Duggan and others.

I'm still in the middle of grading, so I can't spare the time for extensive analysis.  Fortunately, WXYZ had Wayne State University professor and former and likely future Democratic nominee for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson on to explain what all this means in 20,000 votes for Mike Duggan in jeopardy.

I wonder what Benson would do if she were Secretary of State?  Probably certify the contested ballots since she's all about protecting the right to vote.

I will make two observations on all this before I return to grading.  First, this appears to have been the result of poor training of the poll workers.  Second, as I've written before, I was right about this election being great entertainment.  Pass the popcorn.

Student sustainability video festival 9: 10 effects of climate change

Here is another video from the semester that included Jamie Oliver's chicken nuggets, 10 Surprising Effects Of Global Warming, which has the benefit of fitting this month's Hot theme.

From squirrels hiding in the mountains to the return of deadly diseases, here are 10 surprising effects of global warming.
There is a companion video that my students didn't show, but I wouldn't be surprised if I see it in the future, 10 Disturbing Facts About Global Warming.

Ahead of Earth Day, here are 10 disturbing facts you may not have known about global warming.
Stay tuned for more videos while I'm grading.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

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.  Time for another entry featuring the videos my students have used in their presentations during the past twelve months.

Here's one that was used during the same semester that was aired the same semester that the videos in Student sustainability video festival 6: Urban farming and Student sustainability video festival 7: Hantz Farms were shown, Jamie Oliver - Nugget experiment epic failure.

From the show Jamie Oliver Food Revolution. Jamie Oliver attempts and fails miserably in trying to convince a group of American kids that consuming processed chicken nuggets are bad.
It turns out that a student had shown this to me before.  Back in 2011, one of my students in Global Politics of Food found this and convinced me to let the class watch this.  It's now the definitive clip I use to answer the question, "how are chicken nuggets made."  Just the same, note that Jamie Oliver himself points out that McDonalds doesn't make their Chicken McNuggets this way any more.  As Snopes points out, they've been made of white meat, not mechanically separated poultry, since 2003.

Al Jazeera America premieres today

In January, I asked "Will Al Jazeera America hire Keith Olbermann?"  The answer is no.  Keith will be going to ESPN, where he will be joined by Nate Silver.  That means two of my favorite political voices will be concentrating on sports, although they can now show up on ABC News as special guests commenting on politics.  That's disappointing, but it could be worse.

Just the same, I'm not disappointed as Al Jazeera America has hired some top talent.  Watch Meet the Al Jazeera America Team, for some of them.

Al Jazeera America's team is dedicated to delivering news that moves you. Four employees share why they chose to follow their passions and join Al Jazeera America.
Those are some of the less famous names.  The Denver Post lists some more well-known ones.
They hired Ali Velshi away from CNN to anchor a prime-time business show, hired Mike Viqueira from NBC News to be Al Jazeera America's White House correspondent. John Seigenthaler was lured from NBC, David Shuster from MSNBC and Joie Chen and Soledad O'Brien from CNN. Overseeing the news operation is former ABC News executive Kate O'Brian.

The channel's centerpiece daily primetime news hour, "America Tonight," (7 p.m. MT), hosted by Joie Chen, will feature correspondents Sheila MacVicar (mostly recently with CBS News), Adam May, Lori Jane Gilha, Christof Putzel and special correspondent Soledad O'Brien.

Ed Pound, formerly an investigative reporter for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and US News & World Report, will lead a 16-person investigative news unit. Andrea Stone (of The Huffington Post/USA Today) and Tony Karon ( will serve as senior online executive producers.
That's an impressive roster of top talent.

AJA also has ambitions about covering the U.S. completely, and not just from New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago.
Al Jazeera America will be a specifically American channel, programmed by and for Americans, with newscasts originating in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The initial bureaus are Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The network says as much in Building Al Jazeera America from the Ground Up.

Al Jazeera America is headquartered in New York City and has 12 bureaus around the country. Watch how countless builders and technicians worked around the clock to build the new American news channel.
A Detroit bureau? Yes.
Al Jazeera America, the new American news channel that will launch on Aug. 20, today announced that Bisi Onile-Ere is joining the channel as the first correspondent in its new Detroit bureau.
“Bisi has lived in Michigan the past 10 years and is committed to covering the news and its impact on the people who live in Detroit and the rest of the Midwest,” said Marcy McGinnis, Al Jazeera America’s senior vice-president, newsgathering. “That is the kind of dedication and experience that Al Jazeera America values and wants its correspondents to bring to its viewers.”

Before joining Al Jazeera America, Onile-Ere reported for WDIV-TV, Detroit’s NBC affiliate. She also was an anchor and reporter at WJRT-TV, the ABC affiliate in Flint, Mich. She began her career at KDLH in Duluth, Minn. as a morning anchor, reporter and producer, and at WCCO in Minneapolis, Minn.

Onile-Ere has won two Emmy Awards and an Associated Press Award.

“Local reporting is my passion and I take pride in being able to share the stories of the people in Detroit and make them relevant to Americans across the country,” said Onile-Ere. “Al Jazeera America is committed to telling the in-depth stories of everyday people from around the block and around the globe. Detroit has seen so much transformation in the last decade. I am excited to bring my experience and knowledge of it as I report on the business, political and social news happening here and in the larger Midwest region."
So it doesn't have Keith.  So what?  I really have nothing to complain about.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saturday afternoon at the 2013 Dream Cruise from the Detroit News

As I promised, here are the Detroit News video reports from Saturday afternoon.

Tom Greenwood invited his viewers to come to the Dream Cruise in Dream Cruise afternoon report.

Classic cars thrive on Woodward

Despite the perfect weather and Greenwood's invitation, I didn't have the slightest urge to walk to Woodward, unlike years past.  As much of a success as my surgery was six months ago, I'm not quite at 100%.  Besides, I had other things to do, like correct papers (the end of the semester is at hand), put together Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Egypt as Science Crime Scene), and play Rift with my wife.  Among all of those, seeing early cruising on Thursday  and Friday, and all the video reports I've watched, I think I got enough of the Dream Cruise experience this year.

Speaking of the Dream Cruise experience, Greenwood interviews Bob Petrusha and his car, Viagra.

Petrusha, 72, talks about his 1948 station wagon.

A Woody named Viagra?  Well, that shows that Petrusha both has a sense of humor and believes in truth in advertising.

Not all the classic car action is on the street.  Here is Lee Jones and his '68 Dodge Dart GTS in the parking lot at Woodward and 13 Mile.

The world's biggest Cleveland Cavaliers' fan comes to the Woodward Dream Cruise.
I liked both Jones and his Dart more than Petrusha and his Woody.

Just like the morning report, the afternoon report concludes with one of the side shows, Mustang Alley remote control racing.

This just goes to show that there really is not difference between men and boys but the size and price of their toys.

Unless and until WXYZ posts a video of its Saturday Evening broadcast, that's it for the 2013 Dream Cruise.

Saturday morning at the 2013 Dream Cruise from the Detroit News

I'll have to correct my program note at the end of Saturday at the 2013 Dream Cruise from WXYZ.
I have one more Dream Cruise entry featuring coverage from the Detroit News.  Stay tuned.
I looked at the videos and there are too many for a single entry, even if they are short.  Instead, I'll post a batch from the morning and another from the afternoon.

Here's the best video to use for an introduction for Saturday morning's cruising, Tom Greenwood reporting from behind the wheel.

Rolling down Woodward

Yes, the weather was perfect for crusing.  I could not imagine better conditions.

Next, here's someone who adds new meaning to the term "gearhead": Dream Cruise fanatic.

Dave Findlay of Goodells, Mich., sports a custom-made costume for Cruise day.
His costume was such a big hit, he got on the cover of the Sunday Free Press.

The events around Dream Cruise can be a show in themselves.  Here's one of them, Freestyle MX at Dream Cruise.

Monster Energy bikers take to the skies.

I've seen the jumping motorcyclists in action before, and they're every bit as spectacular as Greenwood describes.

Finally, here are two videos of the cars driving by.

13 Mile and the Avenue in Royal Oak.

Cars roll in Royal Oak.

I'll have the afternoon report later to conclude coverage of Dream Cruise--for now.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Saturday at the 2013 Dream Cruise from WXYZ

I ended Friday at the 2013 Dream Cruise with the following program note.
And that was Friday, as covered by WXYZ.  I'll have least one more post tomorrow about Dream Cruise and probably another on Sunday.
When I wrote that, I didn't realize that tomorrow was Sunday.  I should have written tomorrow and Monday.  That would have made more sense.

Just the same, I'll have to hurry to put out a post before Sunday turns into a pumpkin at midnight.  Here goes.

WXYZ began their coverage yesterday morning with Nima Shaffe in Royal Oak.

Nima's 8am live shot

Nima continued in the next hour and had a great time.

Nima's 9am live shot

After all the fluff, WXYZ asks a serious question, Should the Dream Cruise be extended to Detroit?

If Detroit's Chief of Police says yes, and he can get the next Mayor behind him, the answer will be yes, if not next year, then eventually.

Finally, here's a segment from the evening broadcast, Hoppin' rides down Woodward Avenue in the 2013 Dream Cruise.

Yes, it's a piece of manufactured fluff, but it's fun fluff.  Besides, it's not like I'm surprised by WXYZ doing things like this.  At least it's not a dancing flash mob.

And that's it for WXYZ's coverage that the station posted to its YouTube Channel.  They might get around to posting their entire evening broadcast, but that might not be until December or January.  If so, I'll be sure to post it.

I have one more Dream Cruise entry featuring coverage from the Detroit News.  Stay tuned.

Detroit Zoo director's salary goes up along with zoo's rating as a charity

In At least Detroit has great charities, I described the work that some of Detroit's top charities do.  I concentrated on those fighting hunger and food insecurity, such as Forgotten Harvest, Gleaner Community Food Bank, Yad Ezra, then explained how I use non-profits in my teaching.
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.
One of the non-profits that contributed to Detroit's high ranking was the Detroit Zoological Society, which ranked fifth out of the region's top 45 charities in financial stability, accountability, and transparency with a score of 67.28.*  One of the ways the zoo got such a high ranking was cutting down on administrative costs, which raised its rating from only two stars four years ago to four stars today.  Now, WXYZ reports that salaries are going up, starting with the man at the top, Ron Kagan.

Director of the Detroit Zoo takes big pay raise

As long as administration's share of the budget doesn't go up and the program services continue to improve, the zoo's Charity Navigator rating shouldn't be harmed.  In fact, Kagan's salary has gone up at the same time the zoo's ratings have improved, so I'm not too worried.  Just the same, I'll keep an eye out for next year's ratings to see if the zoo's score goes down and brings Detroit's ranking down with it.  Only then will I think that WXYZ's concern was justified.

*The local charities ranked higher than the zoo are Helping Hand for Relief and Development in first with a score of 69.25, Forgotten Harvest in second with a score of 67.82, Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society in third with a score of 67.73, and American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association in fourth with a score of 67.35.  Among the local organizations my students would write about for their assignments, that places the zoo in third behind Forgotten Harvest and the Michigan Anti-Cruelty Society.  That's something to be proud of.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Discovery News reviews 'Gasland'

I concluded Discovery News reviews Chasing Ice with a preview of coming attractions.
I'm looking forward to the review of Gasland, another film I'm thinking of showing to my students.  They've already seen the scene of the the exploding tap water in the CNN video I embedded in Fracking town hall in west Michigan.  Let's see if the rest of the film is worth watching.
Here's the review: Screening Room: Gasland Heats Up The Fracking Debate

In this edition of the DNews Screening Room, Laci reviews the award-winning documentary 'Gasland', which provides an inside look at the rise and impact of hydraulic fracking in the US.
Looks like the answer is yes.  If so, then it's time to replace The End of Suburbia.

Discovery News on the sun flipping

The Sun Is About To Flip

Ok, don't freak, but the the sun is flipping out! Scientists are spreading the word that it's about to undergo a complete polar reversal that will be felt throughout our solar system. Laci explains what's going on and how it will impact you.
I discuss polar wandering and magnetic pole reversal on the Earth as part of my lecture on plate tectonics in geology every semester.  The topic prompts my students to ask about what effect that would have if it happened now.  I point to magnetic reversals of the Sun as examples of how that event would play out.  As Laci points out, the reversal of the Sun's magnetic field is a good thing for Earth as it increases protection against cosmic rays.  However, Laci ignores the effects of increased sunspot activity, which would make for more solar storms.  That wouldn't be good for Earth, especially if they happen when the Earth's field is also reversing.  Such a combination might fry our electric grid.  Good thing the U.N is organizing an international response to stormy space weather.

Enbridge denied extension on clean-up, sued by Bell's

Enbridge isn't only having trouble with protesters who are climbing into pipes and chaining themselves to equipment.  The company is having trouble with the EPA.  WOOD-TV posted two segments about that development to their YouTube channel yesterday.  The first gives an overview and mentions the replacement of the pipeline that leaked in 2010.

The second has more detail, including location shots and reaction shots from the people living near the cleanup.

That's not the only trouble Enbridge is having with the project.  MLive reported last month that Bell's Brewery filed a lawsuit against Enbridge and Comstock Commerce Park developer over dredging plans.
The Bell's lawsuit, filed Monday in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court, says the planned dredging will "release pollution, hazardous substances, odor, dust and particulate" which could negatively impact brewery operations.

The complaint alleges Enbridge violated condominium covenants by failing to submit a site plan application before installing equipment. It also alleges that CCP, as developer of the commerce park, violated the Michigan Condominium Act by failing to disclose to the condominium association its intent to lease property to Enbridge.

Larry Bell, founder and president of Bell's Brewery, has met with EPA official about his concerns and spoke out against the dredging plans at a township meeting.

"The EPA doesn’t know what is in the sediment," Bell said July 9. "They don’t know what they are dredging up. They are going to put it next to my brewery and they don’t know what contaminants are there."
Messing with people's beer is like messing with their entertainment.  It's guaranteed to make them act.

Friday at the 2013 Dream Cruise

Today, WXYZ pursued different angles than it had during Wednesday and Thursday.  Instead of focusing on the cars at street level, the station first gave its YouTube subscribers the big picture, as their helicopter cruised up and down Woodward Avenue between 13 Mile and 14 Mile in Royal Oak in Chopper 7 flies over Friday afternoon Woodward Dream Cruise cars.

WXYZ's Chopper 7 flew high above Woodward Avenue catching cruisers as they spent the day before the 2013 Woodward Dream Cruise taking to the streets of Royal Oak and Birmingham.
The helicopter never actually was over Birmingham, but it pointed its camera directly into the city's downtown as it flew in its direction over Royal Oak.

Next, the station pursued various human interest angles.  First, here's Anson Williams in Cruisin' with Potsie from "Happy Days" TV show.

Nothing like emphasizing the connection with the 1950s like using a 1970s TV star who played in a show about the 1950s.  Yes, folks, this is about the fantasy, not the reality.  Then again, I'm from Los Angeles, so I can tell.

Next, a Local non-profit giving deserving cruisers a chance to dream.

I liked the idea of giving the handicapped a more normal passenger experience, especially one on a special week like this.

Finally, NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson has hashtag trending on Twitter has the race car driver giving an interview as he's cruising down Woodward.

At least he has a sense of humor about the whole situation.

And that was Friday, as covered by WXYZ.  I'll have least one more post tomorrow about Dream Cruise and probably another on Sunday.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thursday at the 2013 Dream Cruise

In Wednesday at the 2013 Dream Cruise, I reported that "WXYZ has returned to Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak to cover the Dream Cruise on location" and "[b]oth the classic cars and their admirers were already out in force."  That was even more true yesterday, as WXYZ showed in their location segment from yesterday's lunchtime broadcast, Passion draws dream cruisers together.

Nima Shaffe reporting on passion drawing dream cruisers together.
For more of the cars briefly glimpsed in the opening, here's the raw footage in Dream Cruise Cars.

Chopper camera flying over dream cruise cars.
As a smart aleck wrote in a comment, "so, are you buying any gas?"

WXYZ continued their coverage that evening with Rollin' down Woodward.

Jeff Vaughn rollin' down Woodward.
I'm already seeing a pattern, as Jeff Vaughn not only got to test-drive the new Mustang in the clip, but also test-drove an electric Smart Car in Ann Arbor earlier this week.  He also reported on Green Cars for Earth Day.  I suspect he'll be driving more cars for WXYZ in the future.

I drove down Woodward briefly yesterday afternoon, and the street view Vaughn and his camera operator is very much like the one I got then.  "America's Main Street" was already a parade of cars and spectators.  I also drove down Woodward today, and it's even busier.  Expect a report on today's cruising overnight tonight or early tomorrow.

Finally, note all the people from outside Metro Detroit and even out of state who are participating.  WXYZ expanded on that theme with Out-of-towners arriving to take part in the Dream Cruise.

The tourism angle is an important one for the local economy as well as the image of Metro Detroit.  It's also one that WXYZ likes to report, as seen in The Dream Cruise attracts visitors: Saturday at the 2012 Dream Cruise, Part 2.  If anything, people traveling here might be an even bigger story this year.

The gas price bounced in time for Dream Cruise

In Gas drops again and makes news I reported a price drop and then my action based on lack of confidence that it would last.
Last Thursday, the corner station lowered its price to $3.39, back where it was at the end of June.  Today, it was still selling gas at that price, along with the three stations down the street.  On the way home, I filled up my tank, since I didn't know how long the price will stay down...
That was Monday.  On Tuesday, the corner station jacked its price up to $3.65 for regular, while the three stations down the street were still at $3.39.  On Wednesday, the corner station dropped its price to $3.49 and the three stations down the street matched it.  That's where the prices remained on Thursday evening.  Just the same, I'm glad I filled up on Monday.  I was right not to be confident that the price would stay low.

One of these days, I might be able to laugh at gas stations and gas prices the way the WXYZ reporter does in his all-electric smart car ride.

How appropriate that he test-drove the car in Ann Arbor.  It wouldn't have been the same driving it down Woodward.  After all, a Smart Car isn't a Volt.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wednesday at the 2013 Dream Cruise

WXYZ has returned to Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak to cover the Dream Cruise on location.  Andy Choi reported yesterday afternoon in Revving up for 2013 Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.

I drove next to "The Judge" yesterday on my way home.  I admired it, but also reminded myself to drive carefully.  That car is a piece of living history.

Andy Choi returned later that night for another location report, and so did "The Judge" and its owner.

Those reports do a good job of summing up what I saw yesterday as I crossed Woodward.  Both the classic cars and their admirers were already out in force.

A celebration of Krazy Jim's through television

I mourned in Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers closed today, but I was just saying so long for now, not good-bye forever.  In that hopeful spirit, I'm posting videos from television shows that celebrate the restaurant in its full operational glory beginning with Food Network's official clip of Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger's segment on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

At Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger, know what you want and how to order it.
That's only part of the segment.  Here's an unofficial copy of the entire segment: Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: Blimpy Burger.

Damn!!! I caught a glimpse of this section of one of the episodes this weekend and was stunned by how good those burgers looked with all the meat...and cheese...and toppings! Good lord it made me want to kill a cow right then and there! Haha. Anyway, I only bothered uploading the first part of this visit and not the second because it was irrelevant; I wasn't going bother showing two people gorge themselves on copious amounts of beef just to satisfy some deranged, warped sense of pride.
Now, that's Krazy Jim's as I remember it!

Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives wasn't the only TV show to cover Krazy Jim's.  Travel Channel's Man vs. Food also had a segment on Krazy Jim's.  It begins just under two minutes into Man v Food Ann Arbor, MI part 1.

I also know the other two places in the clip, Tio's and Maze and Blue, although I actually ate a lot at Maze and Blue.  I just walked past Tio's.  The clip does a good job of capturing both Maze and Blue and Krazy Jim's as I remember them, although I think the part on Krazy Jim's is more fun.

Here's to that fun atmosphere and great food being revived at the new location of Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers closed today

Today is a sad day for me.  By the time this entry posts, Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burgers will have closed at its original location for the last time. has the story, beginning with the video of Waiting on line for a final Blimpy Burger.

Hear why some people were willing to wait up to two hours for a last bite of Blimpy Burger.
Two-hour wait for a Blimpy Burger? See and share photos from Ann Arbor icon's last days
By Ben Freed Business Reporter
Posted on Tue, Aug 13, 2013
Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger will close Wednesday at 8 p.m., owner Rich Magner said. The iconic burger joint known for its greasy food and gruff staff was forced to look for a new location after the University of Michigan purchased the building and surrounding properties to make way for a new graduate student dormitory.
This hits even closer to home than Borders bankruptcy and closing.  While, "I spent more than a decade hanging out, browsing, drinking coffee, and buying books" at Borders, I didn't know the owners and employees.  I do know the Magners and their employees.  Rich's second son is the same age as my son, and the two of them were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts together.  The two of them were even accepted into Western Michigan University together, although my son ended up not going to Kalamazoo with his friend.  I hung out with both Rich and his wife Chris throughout most of the 90s, when I lived in Ann Arbor, and continued eating at their hamburger stand throughout the next decade when I'd come into town.  In retrospect, they were my closest friends among all the parents of my children's friends.  I didn't realize how much I missed them the past few years after I moved out of Washtenaw County until I started reading about the original location closing.

That's the bad news.  The good news is that Krazy Jim's will open again, unlike Borders which is dead and gone.
Magner told that he is in the early stages of negotiating a lease for a new location for the restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor but that there will be a hiatus that could last several months before a reopening.
I wish Rich success in finding a good location and a long career ahead of him in keeping his family business open.  He and his family deserve it.

2013 Green Cruise

If it's time for Woodward Dream Cruise, then it's also time for Green Cruise.  Here's Crystal Proxmire's video of the hightlight's of last Saturday's event, 2013 Ferndale Green Cruise

Again, I didn't go, both because I still don't have a bike and because I thought the parade was going to be held on Sunday.  Next year, I make sure I'll have the right date and own a bike of my own.  I'm too big for my wife's.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Psychology of power and the power of tipping

In Discovery News on the psychology of rich people plus a financial crime story, I embedded a video that described how being rich or even role-playing being rich made one less ethical, empathetic, and generous.  Now, Chris Benderev of NPR describes how having power operates the same way in When Power Goes To Your Head, It May Shut Out Your Heart
Even the smallest dose of power can change a person. You've probably seen it. Someone gets a promotion or a bit of fame and then, suddenly, they're a little less friendly to the people beneath them.

So here's a question that may seem too simple: Why?

If you ask a psychologist, he or she may tell you that the powerful are simply too busy. They don't have the time to fully attend to their less powerful counterparts.

But if you ask Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, he might give you another explanation: Power fundamentally changes how the brain operates.
So, someone who is both rich and powerful is doubly likely to lack empathy.  Lovely.

Speaking of power and empathy, it turns out that an act that is usually regarded as an act of generosity is also an expression of power.  Discovery News examines the combination of motivations in What Kind of Tipper Are You?

Tipping can be a touchy topic. And it's a great power we wield when eating out: give us good service, or get a bad tip. Laci explains how this power trip works and the psychology behind tipping.
Our daughter worked her way through high school and college as a waitress.  Because of empathy for her situation, my wife and I are generous tippers.

2013 Dream Cruise kickoff

As I've promised twice, it's time for this year's installment of dopamine returned on gasoline invested, the Woodward Dream Cruise.  The cruise itself doesn't officially start until later this week, although I'm sure there are classic cars driving up Woodward as I type this, but the official kickoff event happened last week just a few miles away at Duggan's in Royal Oak.  WXYZ promoted the event, posting two clips on the station's YouTube channel.  Here they are.

The Dream Cruise festivities are getting under way with the kick off event.
The Dream Cruise is kicking off with the special Dream Cruise kick off.
If you can't wait until Saturday for the full blown event, surf over to Finally, the last night of 2012 Dream Cruise to see WXYZ's coverage of last year's finale.  Enjoy this celebration of Happy Motoring--while it lasts--from Detroit!

Gas drops again and makes news

When I last updated the local gas price war, the corner station won a battle in the gas war by dropping its price.
Sunday, the corner station dropped its price for regular to $3.49 while it sold premium at 15 cents higher, $3.64, instead of the usual dime.  I thought that was odd.  Monday morning, I found out why.  The three stations down the street were selling regular for $3.55 and premium for $3.65.  That meant the corner station was undercutting the competition by the usual one cent on premium, but six cents on regular.  This morning, the three stations down the block relented and dropped regular to $3.49.  That's not the usual scenario.  Usually, it's the corner station that tries to raise prices, not lower them.
Last Thursday, the corner station lowered its price to $3.39, back where it was at the end of June.  Today, it was still selling gas at that price, along with the three stations down the street.  On the way home, I filled up my tank, since I didn't know how long the price will stay down, despite the good news from USA Today via the Detroit Free Press: Relief at the pump: Gas prices on the decline.
Consumers are about to get a break at the gas pump for the rest of 2013 and much of 2014.

Gasoline prices typically head lower after the peak summer driving season, and despite a blip Friday, wholesale prices reflecting September levels are slumping. Coupled with ample supplies and lower autumn demand, the national average price of regular-grade gasoline is likely to fall to about $3.40 in the coming weeks. That's about a 6% drop from today's $3.56 national average.

Prices look even brighter for 2014 after three straight years of rising prices. The federal Energy Information Administration forecasts 2014 will average $3.37 a gallon, vs. an estimated $3.52 a gallon for 2013. That would be the lowest national average since 2010, when gasoline averaged about $2.80.
Wholesale gasoline prices have been sliding. Despite a nearly 2% jump Friday to $2.90 a gallon, they're down from about $3.20 since late July.
That was Saturday.  Yesterday, more good news arrived, as the Detroit Free Press repeated the Associated Press report that gas prices fell 16 cents in Michigan over past week.  The average price Monday for the state was $3.50.  That means I got gas at more than a dime below the Michigan average again.  As I wrote last time, I can't complain.