Friday, February 28, 2014

Neighborhood stations riding different tracks on gas price rollercoaster

The situation when I wrote Another ride up the gas price rollercoaster was that four neighborhood stations were selling regular at $3.49, which happened on Wednesday.  As for how long that would last, I ventured that "I wouldn't be surprised if next Monday or Tuesday, the corner station tries to go up as high as $3.69 before settling at $3.59."

Today, the corner station raised its price to $3.69 for regular, so they made the first half of my prediction right a few days early.  I'm also sure that the price will drop, but it might go lower than the $3.59 I expected.  The response of the three stations down the street was not to raise prices to $3.55 or $3.59 and then wait for the corner station to drop to $3.65 and then $3.59.  No, they all lowered their prices a penny this afternoon to $3.48.  That's a surprise, and it makes me think that the corner station might return to $3.49 this weekend after finding themselves out in No Man's Land.

As for the longer term picture, I still expect prices to go up.  Gas Buddy shows that the national trend of steading increases in the average price has continued unabated, with the mean currently at $3.44.  The Detroit average jumped up yesterday to $3.60 and is now at $3.63.  This follows the same pattern I described two days ago.  However, if the price rise then follows that pattern, then the current step up has crested and the metro area's average should decline slowly.  The next time the corner station raises prices, they likely will stick and the neighborhood price will settle between $3.55 and $3.59 inclusive.  That's next week.  Right now, enjoy the gas war.

Space news for the last week of February

Just a brief generic summary of space and astronomy news this week.  When that happens, NASA weekly summary goes first: Cygnus Released on This Week @NASA.

With delivery of more than a ton of supplies and experiments completed, Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus cargo craft was detached and released from the International Space Station February 18 -- wrapping up the first of at least eight NASA contracted supply missions to the space station for Orbital through 2016. Also, Orion recovery tests, NuSTAR findings, Stofan visits Stennis, Virginia Aerospace Days and Friendship 7 anniversary!
Follow over the jump for the rest of the week's space news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Our best animal friends) on Daily Kos.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Another ride up the gas price rollercoaster

Here's what I wrote almost two weeks ago in Good news for now as corner station lowers prices.
The three stations down the street are still at $3.39, so the holding steady is still happening.  Their prices are 36 cents cheaper than at this time last year, as I had also forecast.  That's not the best news.  The corner station dropped its price to $3.35, so it's selling gas for 40 cents a gallon less than last year.  It's also a decline, which is what I save Professor Farnsworth for.

As for how long this good news will last, probably until sometime between tomorrow and Tuesday, when stations usually raise prices.
Prices have gone up, but it took longer than I expected.  First, the corner station attempted to pull all the rest of the neighborhood outlets up with it by raising its price to $3.55 on the Tuesday I forecast for the price rise.  It turned out to be a charge into No Man's Land, as all the rest held steady at $3.35.  Then it jacked its price up to $3.59 over the weekend.  I thought it would go down again.  It didn't.  The next day, it remained up.  I was walking, not driving, so I didn't go over to see what the rest of the neighborhood stations were charging, but I realized they had to have raised their prices, too.  On Tuesday, the corner station had dropped slightly to $3.55.  That was a sure sign that the nearby stations had increased their prices, but not as high as the corner station.  I was driving, so I checked.  Two of them down the street were at $3.49, while the third matched the corner station at $3.55.  I was hoping that all would meet at $3.49.  On Wednesday, all four neighborhood outlets did exactly that.

Based on the data at Gas Buddy, I expect more price increases, as the national average has continued its slow and steady rise, having gone from $3.32 two weeks ago to between $3.42 and $3.43 today.  Metro Detroit's prices have hit another plateau, gliding done to $3.52 from $3.54 a few days ago.  Just the same, the past month's data show a disciplined stepwise increase of 5-10 cents every week, which I expect to continue for a while.  I wouldn't be surprised if next Monday or Tuesday, the corner station tries to go up as high as $3.69 before settling at $3.59.  That's the bad news.   The good news is that even if that happens, prices will still be below where they were last year.  In fact, almost exactly a year ago, gas was selling locally for $3.85 and then dropped to $3.79 a year ago today.  It's still 30 cents/gallon cheaper now than then.  Now I know why I included Professor Farnsworth in the quoted passage!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 article on library millage passing

The millage increase for the Salem South Lyon District Library passed Tuesday.
Credit: Salem South Lyon District Library Facebook page.
I concluded article on voter registration deadline by wishing my readers "welcome to the next installment of Save the libraries, save civilization."  I'm happy to report that civilization won.

Salem-South Lyon Library millage passes
Voters approved the millage for the Salem-South Lyon District Library overwhelmingly Tuesday night with 1205 yes votes (72.94%) to 447 no votes (27.06%).  Turnout was light, with 12.40% of all registered voters casting ballots.

The millage increased property taxes by $0.495 on each $1,000 dollars of taxable value on eligible property within the Salem-South Lyon Library District for a period of twenty years beginning this year and ending in 2033 to fund library operations.  For 2014, the measure is estimated to bring in a total of $310,103 from all eligible properties.
With the millage passing, the library thanked the voters on its website, saying that because of their support, the library will be able to continue the level of service its patrons have come to expect.
More at the link, including a comparison and contrast of how the residents of the City of South Lyon and Salem Township voted on the issue, the reasons for the millage, and a counterfactual about what would have happened if the millage had failed.   Good thing it didn't.

Physicist retires from congress

While I’m on the subject of Representatives retiring and their replacements, here’s an item from Science Magazine that I first included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Our best animal friends) last Saturday night: Rush Holt to Leave Congress.
One of two physicists in the U.S. House of Representatives announced today that he is retiring at the end of the year.

Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ), a plasma physicist, didn’t reveal why he has decided to leave Congress after eight terms, or what lies in his future. “This is not the time to discuss next steps in my career; that can come later,” said Holt, who was assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory before coming to Washington in 1999.

However, one science lobbyist who knows him well speculates that Holt, who was beaten badly in the Democratic primary last year for an open Senate seat, could still harbor statewide ambitions. “If you wanted to run for governor [in New Jersey in 2017], getting out of the House is probably a good idea,” says Mike Lubell, head of the Washington, D.C., office of the American Physical Society. “At least, that’s what I’d advise him if he asked me.”
The bad news is that a scientist is leaving public office.  The good news is that he may not be gone for good.  Here’s to hoping he runs for N.J. Governor in 2017.  The state needs someone better than Fat Bastard.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 article on Debbie Dingell’s candidacy

I concluded article on Dingell retirement by telling my readers to stay tuned, as “I’m planning on writing an article on the likely candidates to succeed Dingell tomorrow.”  I’ve written it. Here’s the excerpt.

Debbie Dingell, wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), will likely announce her candidacy for her husband’s seat. Here she is at the luncheon where Dingell announced his retirement.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Debbie Dingell to announce candidacy for retiring husband’s seat Friday
This afternoon, the Washington Post reported that Debbie Dingell, wife of retiring U.S. Representative John Dingell, plans to announce her candidacy for her husband’s seat in Congress Friday.  The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, and Ann Arbor News followed up with articles containing details confirming the Post’s report.

Mrs. Dingell would be running for the Democratic nomination for Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, which includes Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas of eastern Washtenaw County along with portions of southern and western Wayne County.  Should she win the seat, she’d be the third Dingell to represent Michigan in Congress, as both her husband and her husband’s late father served in the U.S. House of Representatives with the senior Dingell having first been elected in 1933.

Dingell’s announcement has been expected.  The Detroit Free Press had published yesterday that she would be interested in running for her husband's seat, a move her husband appears to support.  He told the Free Press, “if my wife runs, the lovely Deborah, I will vote for her.”
More at the link, including a Daily Best interview of Debbie Dingell and more on her background and qualifications, along with the likely Democratic challengers.  For some reason, I haven’t been able to find the names of any Republican candidates, although I’m sure there will be at least one.

Speaking of challengers, the most serious potential Democratic rival to Debbie Dingell is Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor.  Over in the comments section of the Deadline Detroit article on Mrs. Dingell’s potential candidacy, I mentioned that in a conversation with a couple of disgruntled readers.  Follow over the jump for how the back and forth played out.

Cancer research news to mark a year of being cancer free

Today is the anniversary of the prostate surgery that removed both that organ and the cancer it contained that I first mentioned here in Surgery as a fresh start.  A year after the surgery and ten months after I wrote that entry, what I said then--“that thing was killing me, both literally and figuratively and I'm much better off without it”--still holds true.  My perspective on the my treatment and its outcome has, if anything, become firmer.

To mark the occasion, I present all the cancer research from KPBS and campuses on the campaign trail I’ve included in Overnight News Digests since the last two times I’ve mentioned the topic of cancer, Quitting smoking in the New Year and Health research and outreach from KPBS and campuses on the campaign trail.

Following my policy of “if it moves, it leads,” here is the one video, which comes from KPBS: Task Force Recommends New Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines.

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said lung cancer screening for many chain-smokers and former smokers should be done with a CT scan instead of an X-ray.
I’ll have more to say about smoking in another entry.  For now, follow over the jump for the rest of the stories about cancer research.

Monday, February 24, 2014 article on Dingell retirement

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), 87, the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history, gives a 'thumbs up' before announcing his retirement at a luncheon February 24, 2014 in Southgate, Michigan.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Longest-serving U.S. Representative John Dingell announces retirement
This morning, both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News reported that U.S. Representative John Dingell will not seek re-election for a record-breaking 30th full term.  Dingell is already the longest-serving member of Congress, having been first elected in 1955.

Dingell, who represents Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas of Washtenaw County as part of Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, announced his decision in a statement containing the text of his annual “State of the District” speech that he gave to the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce at noon.

“Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection. My standards are high for this job. I put myself to the test and have always known that when the time came that I felt I could not live up to my own personal standard for a Member of Congress, it would be time to step aside for someone else to represent this district.

“That time has come.”
Reasons for the retirement and testimonials from Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson, U.S. Representative Tim Walberg, and President Barack Obama along with a video on the story from the Associated Press at the link.

Dingell’s retirement has made my position as Washtenaw County Elections Examiner a lot more interesting.  I’m now covering an open Congressional seat for the first time since I started reporting for

Also, stay tuned.  I’m planning on writing an article on the likely candidates to succeed Dingell tomorrow.

More from the Archdruid and his readers on zombies, part 1

Apparently, I’m not done with The Archdruid and his readers on zombies, which is appropriate on another night when “The Walking Dead” is on.  In Fascism and the Future, Part One: Up From Newspeak, which I linked to in The Archdruid on Fascism, part 1, Greer linked back to his previous essay on the subject, Fascism, Feudalism, and the Future.  That entry from 2007 opened with the classic image of collapse that lends itself to the Zombie Apocalypse.
One of the things that I can’t help noticing, as someone who listens for narratives in the ways people talk about the future, is the way that certain motifs reappear over and over again in discussions surrounding peak oil and the future of industrial society. These are distinct from the great mythic stories that shape so many accounts of the future – the myth of salvation through technological progress, for example, or its usual debating partner, the myth of redemption from an evil society through apocalypse. The motifs I’m speaking of here are more self-contained and more flexible, and pop up in most visions of the future in circulation these days.

One classic example is the image of mindless, marauding hordes spilling out of the dying cities and ravaging everything in their path. This one has been a recurring cultural nightmare in the western world for a couple of centuries now, since the cities of the industrial world disconnected themselves socially from their agricultural hinterlands and began filling up with immigrant populations. Read such classic fictional treatments of the theme as Newton Thornburg’s Valhalla (1980) and it’s clear that on this side of the Atlantic, at least, it roots into the enduring emotional legacy of American racism, the terror of the dark Other on which the shadow of white America’s unacknowledged desires has long been projected.

You can look through history books in vain for examples of urban populations invading the countryside en masse in the twilight years of civilizations, but the motif remains stuck firmly in place. The inhabitants of Willits, one of the few American towns that have taken the imminence of peak oil seriously, have apparently laid plans to blow up highway bridges leading into town from the south, to keep those imaginary mobs at bay. Willits is in liberal northern California, but it’s embraced the same fantasy that leads survivalists on the opposite end of the political spectrum to indulge in wet dreams about automatic weapons blazing away at marauding hordes.
The very first comment noted the connection to our culture’s current interest in zombies.
Erik said...
mindless, marauding hordes spilling out of the dying cities and ravaging everything in their path.

And the late resurgence of pop-culture interest in all things zombie-related is surely not a coincidence...
With that, Greer’s readers were off to the races.  Follow over the jump for more.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Post-apocalyptic book list

I’m getting over my “I can’t be all DOOM all the time” mood, but I’m not completely out of it.  Consequently, I’m going to resume posting about the links that the universe (actually, my news feed and research) have dumped into my lap that tie into my previous conversations with the Archdruid beginning with the lightest one possible.  Ironically, it’s all about doom, but in an entertaining way: The Post-Apocalyptic Book List.  This is a resource I found while getting prepared to write The Archdruid and I have a conversation about science fiction.  It lists more than 2000 works by title, author, date, type of catastrophe, and genre.  As comprehensive as it is, the 11 pages do not list one of the books Greer and I discussed, “Star Man’s Son,” although they do include “The Pastel City,” “Hiero’s Journey,” and “Breed to Come.”

The same site also lists e-books (only 20 so far), movies (143 so far--there are some glaring omissions, such as all three of the most recent zombie movies I’ve watched, “World War Z,” “Warm Bodies,” and “I Am Legend,” although the book is on the appropriate index), and comics (118 titles, which does not include “The Walking Dead”).  There also aren’t any TV shows yet.  Fortunately, there is another page, Suggest a Title.  I think I’ll do just that.  With any luck, the titles will end up on the front page along with all the other recently added works.

Sex and drugs in the ancient world

Once again, posting about real corn pone fascists has burned me out and put me into an “I can’t be all DOOM all the time mood.”  Fortunately, last night’s Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Our best animal friends) on Daily Kos included a selection of fun stories from archeology that fit my current mood perfectly.

First, The Daily Pennsylvanian: Dildos, hermaphrodites and old-age intimacy
The Penn Museum hosts an annual event on ancient works concerning sexuality
By Jessica McDowell · February 20, 2014, 9:17 pm
Even 3,000 years ago, people were kinky.

Last night, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology hosted its annual Valentine’s Day presentation, this year called “Blurred Lines,” sponsored by the Young Friends Society. The event, which was rescheduled from Feb. 13 , didn’t suffer in attendance - more than 50 people sat in the audience in the Egyptian gallery.

Surrounded by dozens of artifacts, each thousands of years old, professors Jennifer Wagner and Brian Rose took turns discussing different artifacts and myths from Egypt and Greece, respectively. But this wasn’t just a normal talk. Each story and image projected on the screen detailed the “blurred lines” of sexuality in ancient Egypt and Greece. From winged penises to hermaphrodites to wind chimes made out of dildos, the professors spoke intimately about how sexuality was portrayed in the ancient world.
Follow over the jump for more sex and drugs from the ancient world.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Real corn pone fascists among us in Michigan

I embarked on the project of matching up links to items on my desktop and in my files to conversations with The Archdruid because I got a little overwhelmed after posting The Archdruid on Fascism, part 1.  After having dealt with my “I can’t be all DOOM all the time” mood, it’s time to close the circle and deal with articles about Neo-Nazis here in Michigan.

First, Deadline Detroit presents Meet The Neo-Nazi Down The Street: Eastpointe Resident Jeff Schoep.
To be the "largest neo-Nazi group in the United States" is kind of dubious distinction. After all, what does it mean really? That you have a few dozen mouth-breathers on your mailing list?

And it's not like these things ever end well. A couple years ago, a neo-Nazi leader in California was killed by his own 10-year-old son. Frank Collin, the "Illinois Nazi" who wanted to march in Skokie, turned out to be a pedophile. Also, these dummies want to be Nazis. That's just always bad.

It turns out the largest neo-Nazi organization in the U.S. is based in Detroit and run by an Eastpointe resident named Jeff Schoep.
Deadline Detroit then links to WXYZ’s Nazis Next Door: Michigan is home to largest Neo-Nazi group in U.S.
The National Socialist Movement is the largest Neo-Nazi group in the United States.They display swastikas in their rallies and marches. The NSM lists its headquarters as a P.O. Box inside a post office on Detroit’s East Side.
The NSM may be the biggest Neo-Nazi group in Michigan, but it’s not the only one.

The American Nazi Party is headquartered in the all-American city of Westland.
Researchers at the Southern Poverty Law Center say hate groups across the country are on the rise.  In 2000, they counted 600 groups.  In 2012, that number had grown to 1007.

Michigan has 25 known hate groups, and experts say our state has long history with the extreme right.  During the 1920’s Detroit had more than 60,000 members of the Ku Klux Klan.
That’s not all.  Crooks and Liars brings its readers the tale of James Laffrey and His Call to Assassinate Jews.
James Laffrey has not been publicly advocating ethnic hatred for very long. He does not appear to have many, if any, followers. He is not particularly well-connected to more established entities on the anti-Semitic far right. But what he does have is a website and plans to create a white supremacist political party called Whites Will Win.

Laffrey, a middle-aged man who appears to be based in Michigan, has caught people’s attention with the bloodcurdling nature of his agenda: he openly calls for the assassination of Jewish people by their white neighbors.
Ugh.  There’s only one piece of good news.
Laffrey has generated little attention outside the white supremacist realm, but he has drawn notice within it. However, a number of his fellow white supremacists have indicated they resent his entry into anti-Semitic organizing without having established himself first in the community. Laffrey appears to have little following, with only slight web traffic, and no financial support.
This man may not self-identify as a Neo-Nazi or fascist, but if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and especially quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.  If he’s a goose instead, then I have another conversation to associate him with, one about Satanism.  On that note, here’s what I have to say to all these people: Go to Hell!  In the case of Laffrey, I have one other thing to say: Seek help.  A lot of the people commenting at Crooks and Liars think you’re ill.

As for the rest of us, be warned.  The reason that Kunstler, Greer, Crooks and Liars, Deadline Detroit, and WXYZ warn us about “corn pone Nazis,” the return of fascism, and Neo-Nazis who are our neighbors is that people like these can become a real threat, however pathetic they seem now.

Did you know Ragnarok is today?

I didn’t.  But the International Business Times did.  Here’s what it has to say this predicted put not well-publicized non-event*: Viking Apocalypse Ragnarok: End of the World Predictions that Never Came True.
Viking apocalypse will cause end of the world on February 22 with Ragnarok, according to an ancient prediction in Norse mythology.

Vikings, the people of the Norse culture (793 to 1066 AD) in Scandinavia, called their apocalypse prediction Ragnarok, which coincides with the grand finale of York's 30th Jorvik Viking Festival that celebrates the city's Viking heritage.

Ragnarok, or Doom of the Gods, is described in Viking mythology as the catastrophic event where the nine worlds that make up the cosmos are destroyed.

It is a prophecy about the end of the world in which all the Viking gods including Odin, Thor, Tyr, Freyr, Heimdallr, and Loki, will fight in a great battle following which the world will submerge in water to resurface afresh with two human survivors.

Like any other previous mythical doomsday predictions, Viking apocalypse will also see a new sunlight the next morning. Cataclysmic events like floods, bad weather, volcano or earthquake can affect only parts of the world but the end of life on earth is not foreseen for several decades.
The Jorvik Viking Festival has a countdown clock to the end of the festival, which is also the onset of the Gotterdammerung.  As I type this, it’s just dropped below 20 hours.  That’s barely enough time for the performance of the entire Ring Cycle, which takes 15 hours.  I’ll just cut to the chase and embed the final scene: Götterdämmerung (19/19) - Wagner, "Ring" Akt III - Finale Erlösungsmotiv - Valencia 2008.

Now I see where the saying “it isn’t over until the fat lady sings” comes from.

*I wrote that I’d follow through with the promise I made in Steampunk fans ejected from San Diego area mall to post entries about the other links that tie into conversations with The Archdruid today.  In an odd way, dealing with this shiny thing that dropped into my lap qualifies, as the fake Norse Doomsday would have made a good next date after 2012, but was never even mentioned in Perspectives on the next doomsday from The Archdruid and me.  I guess 2/22/2014 was too close to 2012, making 2030 more attractive.  As for the other links, I'll get to them either later today or tomorrow.

This concludes your dose of DOOM for today.

Steampunk fans ejected from San Diego area mall

Just as it did before I wrote Fukushima radiation being monitored in U.S. kelp beds, the universe is sending me signals again.  Today, two news items appeared on my feed that tie into my series of conversations with John Michael Greer the Archdruid.  That reminded me that I had another tab open that also tied into that series as well as a link and excerpt that I had included in an Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.  Since listening to what the universe is trying to tell me is often inspiring, I decided to go along.

As I mentioned in The importance of high-speed Internet for work and play, I’m in a “I can’t be all DOOM all the time” mood, I’ll start with one of the less serious items.  In this case, it’s KPBS, which reported a couple of days ago Steampunk Carousel Outing Cut Short By Security Guards by Kim Keeline.  This ties into I inspired The Archdruid to write about Steampunk.
When I chose my long floral skirt and the matching puff sleeved Victorian top, and put the green feather in my hair, I didn't realize I would be seen as a threatening figure. I just chose the outfit because I thought it was pretty. With my husband, in his brand new top hat, and the rest of my family, I was looking forward to a fun and slightly whimsical day, with a short ride on a carousel and what I hoped would be some flattering photos. It didn't have to turn into a run-in with police.

A group of people in Steampunk clothes gathered to ride the carousel at the Westfield Plaza Camino Real...

Before 1pm, as a few of the Steampunk fans were walking the mall to shop and eat lunch before the carousel ride, security stopped them and insisted that they leave because of their “costumes.” They also called the Oceanside Police, who sent two cars.
Follow over the jump for more from this article, which is currently among the most shared and commented among at KPBS’s site.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The importance of high-speed Internet for work and play

The Internet is a necessity.
As my readers can probably guess by the light tone and subject matter in A Detroit funny from Wonkette and Deadline Detroit and Meteor fragments in Olympic medals, I’m in an “I can’t be all DOOM all the time” mood.  In part, that’s because being in the middle of a long series by The Archdruid on Fascism is burning me out and I need some relief.  It’s also because I’m on break this week and I’d be in a mood for something less serious anyway.  On that note, here is something from KPBS I first included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (NASA and Super Bowl) on Daily Kos which looks at both the silly and serious sides of high-speed Internet: Tijuana's Need For Internet Speed.

By some measures, Mexico might have some of the fastest Internet in Latin America. But for Tijuana's ambitious tech entrepreneurs and aspiring professional gamers, it's still painfully slow.
The accompanying article by David Wagner has more.
By some measures, Mexico might have some of the fastest Internet speeds in Latin America. But for Tijuana's ambitious tech entrepreneurs and aspiring professional gamers, it's still painfully slow. They know much faster connections lie just across the border, and feel like Mexico's telecom giants are holding them back.

I spent some time with Gustavo Leyva to find out more about this digital divide. In the super popular online video game League of Legends, he's known as 'h4ckerv2.' And when I say he's known, I mean he's known. His Facebook page has close to 12,000 likes.

Playing as Tryndamere, the Barbarian King, Leyva has competed throughout Mexico, Chile and even Germany. And he's cleaned up nicely, too. He says he made around $7,000 playing League of Legends in the second half of 2013.
Even gaming can make money for the gamers.  What about the more serious side?
But Internet service isn't just an issue for hardcore gamers. It's also a thorn in the side of Tijuana's emerging tech economy. Many of the scrappy start-ups here are based inside the BIT Center. It's a modern-looking complex with huge, open spaces, concrete walls and sleek, colorful furniture.

Claudio Arriola is the director, and he has a start-up of his own. He recalls one of the times when shoddy Internet connections hurt his business.

"That was a Skype conference call between a partner in Merida, Yucatan, and one in Madrid," Arriola said. "There was no way that whole day that we could have a decent Skype call. If it wasn't my Internet, it was the one in Merida. And that was to try to make a proposal for a customer. Well that never happened."
Arriola's company can't even sell its products in Mexico, as they require higher speeds and more bandwidth than is available in the country.  That's serves as an example of how and why our current economy doesn’t run well without good connections.  Also a lot of innovation needed to survive the current crisis, to say nothing of providing a prosperous future, depends on fast connections as well.

Let Mexico’s issues be a lesson to us in the U.S., who pay more for slower connections than people in a lot of European countries.

Meteor fragments in Olympic medals

In Soviet Russia, Space explore you!

Here’s a story that I alluded to in Ten more years of ISS and other space news.
That’s it for last week’s non-asteroid, non-Olympics space news.  Yes, that means there will be an entry that features both of those topics.  Stay tuned.
From Winter Olympic Gold Medalists to Get Bonus Meteorite Medal Saturday.
What is better than winning gold at the Olympics? Winning gold at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia on Saturday (Feb. 15) — because on that day, and that day alone, earning a gold medal also means being awarded a piece of a rock that fell from space.
 Ten of those medals will be presented to those who place gold at the Sochi 2014 Olympics on the anniversary of the Chelyabinsk meteor fall.
The medallions, which were crafted out of gold and silver, feature a design that was inspired by the footage of the meteor's fall as captured by car-mounted dash cams. The videos from that day quickly went viral, shared across the planet by social media.

The meteorite pieces are affixed in a small indentation at the center of the medals.

The meteorite medals are not replacing the Olympic gold medals awarded to athletes on Saturday, contrary to some media reports. The Chelyabinsk medals will be presented to the athletes separately and not as part of the traditional podium ceremony.

The 10 meteorite-embedded awards will be bestowed to the gold medal athletes competing in speedskating (men's 1500), short-track speedskating (women's 1000 and men's 1500), cross-country skiing (women's relay), ski jumping (men's K-125), Alpine skiing (women's super giant slalom) and skeleton (men's) events.
And that completes the observation of the first anniversary that I began with Russian meteor one year later--for now.

A Detroit funny from Wonkette and Deadline Detroit

At the end of last week’s Derp Roundup: Your Weekly Waltz Through A Wonderland of Weird, Doktor Zoom included this bit of old but funny piece of performance art that happened this summer in downtown Detroit.
And finally, this make-of-it-what-you-will story of a beautiful prank in Detroit. It happened last summer after the city declared bankruptcy, but at Derp Roundup, we feel no obligation to deprive you of stuff just because someone sent a tip long after something happened (on the other hand, please don’t do that). See, Detroit has this big statue commemorating Joe Louis, and it’s a mighty fist:

Context? Who needs Context?

Well, OK, maybe a little context? Fist First off, it’s not a photoshop; the artist “Jerry Vile” installed the can of Crisco as a comment on the inevitable pain that the bankruptcy would cause the city. Sadly, it was removed as “abandoned property” by 2:00 of the afternoon he dropped it off. Some people got no sense of humor.
The full original story is at Deadline Detroit and includes this gem.

I should read Deadline Detroit more often.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Archdruid on Fascism, part 1

I began The Archdruid and I have a conversation about science fiction by noting that Greer’s first essay about Fascism, Fascism and the Future, Part One: Up From Newspeak, was up and I was awaiting his reply.  Not only is Greer’s response to me posted, but his next entry on the topic, Fascism and the Future, Part Two: The Totalitarian Center is as well.  Since I’ve finished my discussion with Greer on the topic of the first essay and already started on the second, it’s time to post our first conversation.

Here is the part of Greer’s essay that got my attention.
When George Orwell wrote his tremendous satire on totalitarian politics, 1984, one of the core themes he explored was the debasement of language for political advantage.  That habit found its lasting emblem in Orwell’s invented language Newspeak, which was deliberately designed to get in the way of clear thinking.  Newspeak remains fictional—well, more or less—but the entire subject of fascism, and indeed the word itself, has gotten tangled up in a net of debased language and incoherent thinking as extreme as anything Orwell put in his novel.

These days, to be more precise, the word “fascism” mostly functions as what S.I. Hayakawa used to call a snarl word—a content-free verbal noise that expresses angry emotions and nothing else. One of my readers last week commented that for all practical purposes, the word “fascism” could be replaced in everyday use with “Oogyboogymanism,” and of course he’s quite correct; Aldous Huxley pointed out many years ago that already in his time, the word “fascism” meant no more than “something of which one ought to disapprove.”  When activists on the leftward end of today’s political spectrum insist that the current US government is a fascist regime, they thus mean exactly what their equivalents on the rightward end of the same spectrum mean when they call the current US government a socialist regime: “I hate you.”  It’s a fine example of the way that political discourse nowadays has largely collapsed into verbal noises linked to heated emotional states that drowns out any more useful form of communication.
I’d long ago observed that use of the word fascism, didn’t like it, and decided to do something about it.
Thanks for pointing out what the word fascist has become in preparation for talking about what it really was and should be understood as.  I was a Republican for 22 years and got tired of people on the Left calling conservatives "fascists" as a general purpose insult.  Fifteen years ago, I decided to do something about by seeing what the academic experts on the subject had to say.
Follow over the jump for what I found out and the responses.

Approaching zero waste in San Diego

KPBS has a video I should have shown my class last week, when I was lecturing about recycling and matter quality: San Diego Leaders, Environmentalists Gather For Zero Waste Symposium

Zero Waste San Diego is hosting its first symposium Tuesday in Kearny Mesa, bringing together business leaders, nonprofits and local governments for a discussion on reusing or recycling all materials.
The accompanying article by Dwane Brown and Susan Murphy, Originally published February 4, 2014 at 6:50 a.m. and updated February 4, 2014 at 5:05 p.m. has more fun facts.
The average person throws away 4.5 pounds of trash every day, including recyclable items like aluminum cans, newspaper, plastic cups and styrofoam food containers.
In San Diego last year, nearly 70 percent of the city's waste stream was diverted through recycling and other means. That figure has remained unchanged over the past three years, according to city documents.

California set a goal in 2011 of 75 percent recycling, composting or source reduction of solid waste by 2020.
According to the video, the goal state’s goal is 100% recycling by 2040.  Can it be done?  Yes, as the City of Oceanside has already achieved it.
"Actually what I've really found trying to work with the community going on the road to zero waste its always a process. Its about behavior change," said Colleen Foster, a solid waste and recycling management analyst with Oceanside.

Foster helped 1,000 city employees in Oceanside reduce their waste to zero by simply removing their plastic trash cans and replacing them with much smaller ones. That forced everyone to think twice about what to do with their trash.
While I missed my opportunity to show this video in lecture this semester, I haven’t missed it in lab.  Next month, the students will be working on a double assignment on recycling and the life cycles of consumer products.  That should be a perfect opportunity to watch this video.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

San Onofre decommissioning from KPBS

This morning, I wrote about Fukushima radiation being monitored in U.S. kelp beds.  Tonight, I’m presenting the news from the past few months about a much less dangerous closed nuclear power plant, San Onofre.  I first mentioned the plant’s closing in Energy news from California, when I quoted a LiveScience story about the plant being permanently shut down last June after a leak was discovered last January.  Since then, I’ve been following the story through KPBS’s coverage that I’ve been quoting for Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

I begin with San Clemente Doesn’t Want San Onofre’s Nuclear Waste Sticking Around by David Wagner on Wednesday, December 18, 2013.
Without a national repository for nuclear waste, plants scattered throughout the country will have to keep waste on site for decades, possibly even centuries. Elected officials in San Clemente are expressing concern about how long waste will be stored in their own backyard.

With San Onofre Nuclear Generating System just a few miles down the coast, nuclear waste sits close to home. The San Clemente City Council voted Tuesday to take a stronger stance on waste storage at the plant, which was permanently shut down earlier this year.
As I point out to my students, the worst aspect of nuclear power isn’t the risk of meltdown, as in Fukushima.  Very few plants melt down.  All of them, however, produce radioactive waste, which is dangerous for thousands of years.  Dealing with that is the big issue.

The next article on the topic came this month: UCSD Professor To Lead Community Panel On Decommissioning San Onofre by Erik Anderson on Thursday, February 6, 2014.
SAN DIEGO — A UC San Diego professor will help keep the public informed about the decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. David Victor was picked for the job by Southern California Edison, the plant's majority owner.

Victor is an international relations professor and the director of the UCSD Laboratory on International Law and Regulation.

He is seen widely as an authority on energy markets.
Interesting choice.  Looks like he’s highly qualified both in understanding energy and regulatory issues and communicating them to the public.  I wish him luck; he’ll need it.

Finally, I concluded last June’s entry by hoping that San Onofre would be replaced by something cleaner.  It seems that is in the works, as mentioned in Carlsbad's Vote On New Peaker Plant Hinges On Removal Of Smokestack by Alison St John on Tuesday, January 14, 2014.
Carlsbad has fought for years to get a massive power plant off its coastline. The Encina power station will be put into mothballs in 2018 because its sea-water cooling system no longer meets state environmental regulations.

But under previous proposals, there was no guarantee the 400-foot smokestack would be removed. And until now SDG&E had not signed any contract to use power from a replacement plant, so any energy produced might have gone out of the region.

Now, because the San Onofre nuclear power plant has shut down, the energy landscape in San Diego has changed. SDG&E is interested in contracting with the owner of the Carlsbad power plant, NRG, for electricity to use at times of peak consumer demand. The new plant would be gas powered like the old one, but it would be air cooled, rather than using ocean water, to meet new state mandates.
It’s not as clean as I would like, as it’s still a fossil-fuel-powered plant, but of all the fossil fuel choices, it’s the cleanest.

Fukushima radiation being monitored in U.S. kelp beds

Once again, I’m getting a signal from the universe to talk about a topic, in this case, Fukushima.  First, Elaine Meinel Supkis is ranting about Fukushima again.  Then one of my students asked if she could talk about Fukushima for her presentation this semester.  Finally, I watched this video and read the accompanying articles for Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Science of Relationships) on Daily Kos.  The third anniversary of the tsunami may be next month, but it looks like the time to write about this ongoing story is now.

KPBS: Fukushima Fallout: San Diego State Researchers Monitoring Sea Kelp For Radiation Exposure

San Diego State University researchers will be joining in a new program to monitor one of the most vulnerable areas of the marine environment — kelp beds — for radioactive isotopes.
Also read the accompanying article and SDSU Professor Helps Test California Kelp For Radiation Exposure From Fukushima Disaster.  The following comes from the first link.
Now San Diego State University researchers will be joining in a new program to monitor one of the most vulnerable areas of the marine environment —kelp beds — for radioactive isotopes.

"The root reason for this study is there's a nuclear disaster and the waters around Fukushima are heavily contaminated," said Matthew Edwards, professor of biology at SDSU, who is part of the research team, "...we know there's a major impact there (Japan)...the question becomes: Is it going to impact other ecosystems?"
From the second link, Edwards thinks that the answer for the kelp beds along the U.S. Pacific coast and the people on land near them will probably be no.
Q. My understanding is that you doubt if radiation is detected, it will pose a public health threat. Why is that?

A. It's not that I doubt it will be detected. Our levels of detection are quite good with the instruments we have. However, by the time the waters reach our coast they've traveled great distances and it's been some time. And as water travels across the ocean it dilutes greatly.

Q. There's some confusion over "detectable" amounts of radiation and "harmful" amounts. If they're not harmful, or of concern, would there still come a point where they could affect the food chain?

A. At the levels we're talking about right now, I don't believe so.
I’d post Professor Farnsworth, but I’m not that optimistic.  Just the same, this news is another good example of three things that I teach my students: Everything is connected to everything else; There is no away; and There is no free lunch.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Whale meat sushi chefs plead guilty

As much as I’ve written aboutBlackfish,” there are far worse things that can happen to whales than being captive entertainers, things that are outright illegal, not just unethical.  KPBS reports on one of them in California Sushi Chefs Plead Guilty To Using Endangered Whale Meat.
Two chefs who worked at a now-closed Santa Monica sushi restaurant pleaded guilty Tuesday to serving meat from federally protected sei whales.

Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda, who worked at the The Hump at Santa Monica Airport, each admitted three misdemeanor charges -- conspiracy and offering to, and selling, a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose.

The chefs and Typhoon Restaurant Inc., parent company of The Hump, were initially charged in 2010, but the charges were dropped, later refiled and revised last month.

Yamamoto, 49, of Culver City, and 40-year-old Ueda of Lawndale each face up to three years in federal prison, plus fines and community service.
I doubt they’ll get the full prison sentences, but I’m not worried that they’ll pay for their crimes.  They will and they’ll serve as examples for anyone else in the U.S. that thinks they can get away with doing this.

The practicality and esthetics of LED streetlights

One technology that I’ve been telling my students is coming is LED, which will replace fluorescent bulbs, which have themselves been taking over from incandescent lights for most of this century.  The technology’s acceptance in one application shows my prediction is already becoming reality.  As KPBS reported on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 3,000 San Diego Streetlamps Getting LED Upgrade.
The city of San Diego and General Electric announced Tuesday that a program to replace 3,000 streetlamps around the downtown area with energy-efficient LED lighting is underway.

The new lights are expected to shine brighter while saving the city $254,000 annually in utility costs.

A digital system will provide status updates on the condition of the lights, and allow the Environmental Services Department to adjust the brightness of individual lamps.
In addition to saving money, the light cast by the LED streetlamps is more balanced.  That’s generally good, but it will have unintended consequences.  Geoff Manaugh explains in Gizmodo How LED Streetlights Will Change Cinema (And Make Cities Look Awesome).
The decision by the city of Los Angeles last year to replace its high-pressure sodium streetlights—known for their distinctive yellow hue—with new, blue-tinted LEDs might have a profound effect on at least one local industry. All of those LEDs, with their new urban color scheme, will dramatically change how the city appears on camera, thus giving Los Angeles a brand new look in the age of digital filmmaking. As Dave Kendricken writes for No Film School, "Hollywood will never look the same."
Here’s one of the images he used making his point.

His essay also makes two points of mine: Everything is connected to everything else and there is no free lunch.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ten more years of ISS and other space news

For the third week in a row, the week’s real lead space story got its own entry.  This week, it was Russian meteor one year later.  However, some story has to get featured, so I’ll be a good environmentalist and recycle one of the leads from ISS extended and dead stars in this week's space news.

NASA: ScienceCasts: 10 More Years

With the space station no longer "under construction," the world's most advanced orbital laboratory is open for business. The station has just received a 10-year extension from NASA, giving researchers the time they need to take full advantage of its unique capabilities.
Follow over the jump for more from NASA and

Russian meteor one year later

In Soviet Russia, Space explore you!

Last Saturday was the anniversary of In Russia, space explores you!  To mark the occasion, published the retrospective Russian Meteor Blast Thrust Asteroid Danger into Spotlight 1 Year Ago Today by Mike Wall, Senior Writer on February 15, 2014 12:41am ET.
One year later, the impact of the surprise Russian meteor explosion is still being felt all over the world.

On Feb. 15, 2013, a 65-foot-wide (20 meters) asteroid detonated in the skies over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, causing millions of dollars of damage and injuring 1,500 people. The dramatic event served as a wake-up call, many scientists say, alerting the world to the dangers posed by the millions of space rocks that reside in Earth's neck of the cosmic woods.

"These types of events are no longer hypothetical," David Kring, of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, said in December at the annual fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco. "We've been up here talking about these types of things for years, but now the entire world understands that they can be real."
It turns out that goverments have been taking the threat seriously, as United Nations Takes Aim at Asteroid Threat to Earth.
As the anniversary of last year's surprise Russian meteor explosion nears, a United Nations action team is taking steps to thwart dangerous space rocks, including setting up a warning network and a planning advisory group that would coordinate a counterpunch to cosmic threats.

A global group of experts on near-Earth objects (NEOs) met in Vienna Feb. 10 to11 for the 51st session of the United Nations' Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Space.

The meeting came just a few days before the one-year anniversary of the Russian meteor impact.
The planning started well before last year’s meteor strike.
The plans the experts discussed have taken shape over a decade of work by the UN Action Team on Near Earth Objects, known as Action Team 14. AT-14 was established in 2001 and has crafted a roster of recommendations for an international response to the asteroid impact threat.
That’s not to say that last year’s disaster didn’t spur action, as revealed in NASA Report: How to Defend Planet From Asteroids.
The results of a workshop to find the best ways to find, track and deflect asteroids headed for Earth were released by NASA on Friday (Feb. 7).

NASA's Asteroid Initiative, started in 2013, includes a mission to capture a small near-Earth asteroid and drag it into a stable orbit around the moon, and a challenge to devise the best ideas for detecting and defending against potentially dangerous asteroids.

The agency put out a request for information to refine the objectives of the Asteroid Initiative, to generate other mission concepts and increase participation in the mission and planetary defense.
By the way, today is another flyby: Huge Asteroid to Fly Safely By Earth Monday: Watch It Live.
An asteroid the size of three football fields is set to make a close brush of Earth on Monday (Feb. 17), and you can watch the flyby in a live webcast.

Near-Earth asteroid 2000 EM26 poses no threat of actually hitting the planet, but the online Slooh Space Camera will track the asteroid as it passes by Earth on Monday. The live Slooh webcast will start at 9 p.m. EST (0200 Feb. 18 GMT), and you can also watch the webcast directly through the Slooh website.

You can also watch the asteroid broadcast live on Scientists estimate that 2000 EM26 is about 885 feet (270 meters) in diameter, and it is whizzing through the solar system at a break-neck 27,000 mph (12.37km/s), according to Slooh. During its closest approach, the asteroid will fly about 8.8 lunar distances from Earth.
That’s close enough to be exciting, but not close enough to be any danger.  Still, it’s a reminder of the sentiment in the image below.

The Archdruid and his readers on zombies

Tonight is the showing of the second episode of the second half of the fourth season of “The Walking Dead,” which I just finished watching with my wife.  To mark the occasion, I’m going to pull out a different conversation the Archdruid was having in the comments to 2030 is the New 2012, which was quite distinct from the one I had with him that I converted into Perspectives on the next doomsday from The Archdruid and me.  This one was with his other readers about the role of the zombie apocalypse.

Greer himself mentioned it twice in his essay, both time in terms that demonstrated that he didn’t take it seriously as a literal event.
From Jonathan Edwards’ famous 1741 sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” right through to today’s zombie apocalypse craze, a good number of the biggest pop-culture phenomena in American history have focused on the end of the world in one way or another.
 Besides the purely religious notion I hold to of an inevitable end (a product of faith and not extrapolation of current forces), I don't foresee an extinction of mankind, nor a zombie apocalypse, nor anything else.
While I am enough of fan of zombie apocalypse media that I have a zombies label for this blog, I share Greer’s opinion of it.
I consider the zombie apocalypse to be at best a metaphor for what Americans fear about the future, not a real possibility.
That written, it’s still worth exploring as a metaphor, which Bruin Silverbear did in comments.
I am a zombie fan. I have been since I was rather young. I even got myself (for a time) into the zombie apocalypse camp. I believe that your use of the word "fantasy" sums it up nicely. It has been my experience that most people who subscribe to the zombie apocalypse scenario, which has evolved into a metaphor for sudden collapse, see it as a fantasy in which they get to live out their hollywood dreams of shooting people and not having to answer to some moralistic entity for it. Nowadays, in the survivalist scene, individuals who are unprepared for sudden collapse and who seek to take your carefully hoarded goods are called "zombies" which implies a rather sinister fate for such folks at the hands of those more prepared. I suspect I could write a paper on the concept. Be that as it may, it is an easy fantasy to find yourself in. We live in a culture of limited or non-existent social justice, war, unreason and power allocated to people who do not have our best interests in mind in any way. Those that do are drummed out of the corridors of political power rather efficiently if they get elected at all. People like the idea of a zombie apocalypse or a falling meteor or a sudden collapse of any kind because it also feeds the idea that they can take more immediate control over their own lives when a secular authority no longer prevents them from living their fantasy of a large farm and a trusty assault rifle, even if that life is difficult and fraught with danger. There is also what you mentioned in that people can use impending doom as an excuse not to have to stand in front of the Tiananmen Square Tanks of progress who will stop for no protestor. In their version of events, as essentially pointed out by yourself if I am interpreting correctly, there is no need to stand in front of those tanks when you can just let them run out of gas on their own? I have often found that people want to join their voice to large scale social justice causes without actually doing anything in their communities for much the same reason. In the end, when the cause fails to gain ground, they need not be held personally responsible for the failure where at a local level they might be pointed out as being another ring leader in a failed philosophical coup de tat. All of this of course going back to what you have been saying for some time, cognitive dissonance. Is it wrong to tell believers in infinite progress that they will only be correct if we get the aliens to begin trading technologies with us? I am sure they could use Preservative filled frozen dinners and Microwaves for those long space/inter-dimensional journeys in return for whatever powers their spacecraft...
Back in October, I recall Nebris saying on Facebook that he didn't watch "The Walking Dead" because he wasn't interested in what he called "white trash fantasies."  Based on what Bruin wrote, it looks like he's right to call the show that.  That won’t keep me from watching it, but I’m keeping what he said in mind from now on.

As for Greer, while he dismisses an actual zombie apocalypse, he is interested in what the metaphor means.
Bruin, fascinating. As I'm not a zombie fan at all, it's interesting to hear from someone who gets that part of popular culture. I have to say, though, that I'd wondered whether the dehumanization of potential enemies was part of it, and it's rather troubling to find that I was right -- that way lies some very ugly futures.
That wasn’t the end of the discussion.  Follow over the jump for what three more people had to same about the meme and the replies they inspired from Greer.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lady Gaga does a water conservation PSA and other drought news

I concluded The last election report from San Diego by noting that it would “not the last entry that will feature the station’s stories.  I have a whole bunch saved up, including the bulk of the next drought update.”  On that note, here are the stories from the L.A. Times and KPBS on the drought since NASA on California drought and other drought and water stories.  I’m going to violate the “if it moves it leads” policy by succumbing to celebrity first instead.

L.A. Times: Lady Gaga: California's new drought spokeswoman
By Anthony York
February 13, 2014, 3:38 p.m.
Lady Gaga has a new message for all of her “little monsters”: Save water.

The five-time Grammy Award winner will soon be on the air with a public service announcement urging Californians to do their part to help with the state’s drought.

So how did Lady Gaga become the new face of drought awareness? It started when the “Poker Face” singer wanted to use Hearst Castle for what the Hearst Castle Foundation is calling "a special creative project."
For her trouble, Lady Gaga got a thank you note from Governor Brown (reproduced at Buzzfeed).

As I’ve written before, Americans demand their entertainment.  At least Lady Gaga and the State of California figured out a way to deliver it to them sustainably.

Follow over the jump for the drought news from KPBS.

The last election report from San Diego

As I wrote in News for the last day of campaigning for San Diego Mayor, next week will be the post-mortem.  It’s next week and it’s time to examine the corpse of the election.  KPBS complies with Breaking Down Faulconer's Win In San Diego Mayor's Race.

Overnight, Republican Kevin Faulconer went from city councilman to mayor-elect. For insight into how he defeated Democrat David Alvarez, KPBS Morning Edition Anchor Deb Welsh spoke with San Diego Mesa College political science Professor Carl Luna.
More analysis in Faulconer Defeats Alvarez For Mayor; Vows To Unite San Diego By Sandhya Dirks, Mark Sauer, Claire Trageser, Originally published February 12, 2014 at 6 a.m., updated February 12, 2014 at 7:07 a.m.
San Diego Mayor-elect Kevin Faulconer, a Republican, defeated fellow Councilman David Alvarez by a wide margin on Tuesday. He vows to be an independent leader for all San Diegans.

Democrat Alvarez, 33, conceded the race via Twitter shortly before midnight. Faulconer said the two men had an amiable conversation and that he looks forward to working with his former opponent, who returns now to City Council.

San Diego Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna said Alvarez's inexperience contributed to his loss.

"I think...what you've got is something of a perfect storm for Democrats: the triple 'w,' " he said. "They had a weak candidate, a weak message and a weak turnout."
After watching this contest closely for the past few months, I’m disappointed but not surprised.

Follow over the jump for more from KPBS.

Science and engineering of the Olympics from the NSF

I took care of my promise to post more from Discovery News I made at the end of The physics of figure skating with More science of the Olympics from Discovery News.  Now it’s time to take care of the rest of that promise to post more from the National Science Foundation.  Follow over the jump for six, count them, six videos posted this past week.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

More science of the Olympics from Discovery News

I promised more from Discovery News at the end of The physics of figure skating.  Time to follow through.

First, Are Olympic Gold Medals Really Made of Gold?

With the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi beginning, and the earning of medals has begun, an interesting question arises: Are Olympic gold medals actually made of pure gold? Trace runs down a history of the Olympic games and answers the question of what each medal is really made out of.
Next, SCIENCE FRICTION: All About the Physics of Curling.

After watching countless hours of 2014 Olympic Game coverage from Sochi, Trace became curious about the actual physics behind curling. Curiosity got the best of him, and he decided to learn about it first hand by actually learning how to play from the professionals themselves!
Finally, Things More Acceptable Than Being Gay in Russia.

Russia has been under the microscope globally with all of their anti-gay laws. Many people are boycotting the Olympics in Sochi because of their stance on homosexuality. Meg Turney from Sourcefed joins us today to tell you a few surprising things that are more acceptable than being gay in Russia.
Those findings deserve Putin the Brony on His Little Pony.

The physics of figure skating

Both Discovery News and the National Science Foundation are posting videos about the science of the Winter Olympics.  So far, they have overlapped on only one topic--the physics of figure skating.  I'm giving the real scientists over at the NSF the first word with Science of the Olympic Winter Games: Figure Skating Physics.

Figure skating has become one of the most popular events at the Winter Olympics. Head of the Physics Department at the University of Michigan Brad Orr explains that good balance, or stability, is basic to everything a skater does--and that begins with understanding the center of mass.
Discovery News has their own take on the subject, sending Laci Green on a location shot in The Physics of Figure Skating.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics have begun! Feeling inspired, Laci thought it would be fun to do some research of her own. So, watch as she takes to the ice to interview some professional figure skaters, learn the physics of figure skating, and view some of the incredible moves these skaters can perform!
Cool, pun intended.

I'll have more from both NSF and DNews, along with LiveScience's science- and technology-themed coverage of the Winter Olympics later.

Twitter as a 21st Century Crime Scene

In SciFi is now: Revenge porn, a 21st Century crime, I mentioned that I was "a beneficiary of the third-party protections of the Communications Decency Act."  I didn't say in what kind of case.  It was one much like this, except that unlike Ms. Love, I didn't actually type the words that were the basis of the action, nor did I even repeat them, hence my benefiting from the Communications Decency Act.  That's not something Love could use in her defense.

KPBS: San Diego Attorney Loses Twitter Libel Case Against Courtney Love
By David Wagner
Friday, January 24, 2014
San Diego attorney Rhonda Holmes has lost her libel lawsuit against grunge icon Courtney Love. A Los Angeles judge ruled Friday that Holmes couldn't prove Love deliberately defamed her over Twitter and in later press interviews.

The case represented a social media milestone: the first time a public figure had to defend a tweet in court.

Holmes believed Love — a former client — defamed her in a 2010 tweet reading, "I was (expletive) devastated when Rhonda J Holmes Esq of san diego was bought off." Love also told reporters, "they got to her," in reference to Holmes. The prosecution argued these statements falsely claimed Holmes took bribes in return for severing ties with Love.

Even though Love was found not guilty, Prof. Junichi Semitsu of the University of San Diego School of Law says this case shows Twitter is fair game in libel suits. Anyone can be held accountable in court for what they tweet about others.
So if the CDA couldn't help Love, as she actually wrote the tweet, what did?
Context matters in defamation law. And if reasonable minds conclude Love's tweet was never meant to be taken seriously, charges should be dismissed.
"Her history of saying incredibly loopy things means that perhaps no one should take her seriously," Semitsu said.
Twitter and Ms. Love, welcome to the legal state of the rest of the Internet in the 21st Century.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Science-based relationship advice for Valentines Day

Last year, it was Wayne State research on love for Valentines Day.  This year, history repeats itself as Wayne State presents more research on love and relationships to mark the day by touting the advantages of double dating.

Light a fire in your relationship: Wayne State University research says double dating may be the answer to a perfect Valentine’s Day
February 12, 2014
DETROIT — Romantic relationships often start out exciting, but later often become routine and boring. A Wayne State University study reveals that going on a double date may reignite passion in a couple’s relationship more effectively than the classic candlelit dinner for two. According to their research findings, integrating other couples into their social life can make couples feel more passionate toward their own romantic partners.

“Passionate love is one of the first dimensions of love to decrease in couples over time as the newness of a relationship begins to wane,” said Keith Welker, a doctoral student at Wayne State University and lead author on the study. "Relationships have widely been thought to flourish and develop in a broader network of social relationships, while emerging research has suggested that novel, arousing experiences can increase feelings of passionate love.”

The research, conducted by Welker and his advisor Richard B. Slatcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology in Wayne State’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, brings together these two research areas, which show interactions with other couples can increase feelings of passionate love. Such interactions, the researchers say, may cause partners to view their and the relationship in a new and positive light.

The study will be presented this week at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) annual conference in Austin.
That's not all.  Discovery News posted 5 Ways To Save Your Relationship With Science!

Need a date for Valentines day? Is your relationship falling apart? We all have love problems sometimes, so Trace and Meg Turney from Sourcefed are here with all the relationship advice you need... using science!
Happy Valentines Day!

Good news for now as corner station lowers prices

I opened and closed The spring gas price rise has finally begun by reporting where prices were and forecasting where they'd go next
Sure enough, all of the rest of the stations in the neighborhood were selling at $3.39.  I was pretty sure that the corner station would match them by the evening.  When I came home, it had.
The neighborhood stations are actually over the metro area average.  That's not usual for them, so I expect their prices will hold steady for a while.
The three stations down the street are still at $3.39, so the holding steady is still happening.  Their prices are 36 cents cheaper than at this time last year, as I had also forecast.  That's not the best news.  The corner station dropped its price to $3.35, so it's selling gas for 40 cents a gallon less than last year.  It's also a decline from the previous report, which is what I save Professor Farnsworth for.

As for how long this good news will last, probably until sometime between tomorrow and Tuesday, when stations usually raise prices.  Although Gas Buddy is showing that Detroit prices fell from the time of the last report, they've leveled off at $3.34.  Also, the national average has continued rising slowly and steadily and is now at $3.32.  I expect that will start dragging prices up.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Old news: Alan Turing pardoned

I was looking for science and technology crime scene stories to post and came across this in my stash from the last Overnight News Digest of 2013.  It's old news, but it bears repeating and celebrating.

Discovery News: Alan Turing Granted Pardon for Being Gay: Photos
Dec 26, 2013 07:40 AM ET
Computer scientist Alan Turing, born in 1912, was a man light years ahead of his time. He performed groundbreaking computer science work long before the concept even existed. An artificial intelligence test he developed remains relevant today. During World War II, his cryptanalysis work helped Allied convoys safely cross the Atlantic.

Turing was also openly gay. In 1952, he was convicted for homosexuality and punished by being chemically castrated. Just two years later, he died after eating a cyanide-laced apple. An inquest ruled the death a suicide, but friends and family dispute the finding.

Now, finally, after several petitions, appeals and even an apology from prime minister Gordon Brown in 2009, Turing has finally received a pardon. It was granted on December 24 under the Royal Prerogative of Mercy after a request by Justice Minister Chris Grayling.
Good news, 60 years too late for Turing, but not too late for everyone alive today.

The Archdruid and I have a conversation about science fiction

Cover art for The Pastel City.

At the end of I inspired The Archdruid to write about Steampunk, I observed that Greer's next essay is about Fascism.  That's up and I've responded to it, but while I'm waiting for my comments to be approved and Greer to respond to them, I'm going to revisit an earlier entry of his, Return of the Space Bats.  In it, Greer reminisces about his favorite genre of science fiction and how it might be useful for telling narratives about the future that he sees coming.  He then challenged his readers to a science fiction short story contest taking place in a post-collapse future.  While I'm a science fiction fan, I'm working for a different future than what he expects.  That didn't stop me from participating.  After all, in the very first post, I promised "expect digressions about post-apocalyptic science fiction."  Follow over the jump for the conversation.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sodastream commercial aired during Super Bowl

It turns out I was wrong in KPBS on the business of the Super Bowl.
I'll come back with my comments on commercials with science fiction, fantasy, or sustainability themes later.  Right now, I'll just mention a commercial that didn't make it.  The product also got its spokesperson in trouble, Sodastream.  I've already used that as an example of a clash of values in class, as Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam Split Over Seltzer.  I won't say more today, as the commercial is one that I plan on using for the next installment of Student Sustainability Video Festival, beyond it being a shame when environmental values conflict with social justice values.  I'd rather they play well together.
A Sodastream commercial did air during this year's game.  Oops!  However, it wasn't the original, which SodaStream has on its YouTube channel.

Sorry, Coke and Pepsi. (Uncensored)

'Sorry, Coke & Pepsi' is the uncensored version of SodaStream's commercial for the Big Game 2014. Watch as Scarlett Johansson shows us how to save the world with a soda that's better-for-you and all of us. Less sugar, less bottles.
I don't remember the title line in the commercial, but I do remember the rest of the spot.  As for the commercial that was banned, that was from last year's game.  I still plan on sharing that one in April during the next session of the Student Sustainability Video Festival.

This commercial reminded me that Scarlett has appeared on this blog before in Chasing Ice, where I embedded the Oscar-nominated song in which she sang.  Hmm, SodaStream, OxFam, Chasing Ice--it's enough to make me think that Scarlett is an environmentalist who is proud to let her green flag fly.  I'm right, too.
Although her acting career brings us back to the late 90s, Scarlett’s been aware of the budding climate and environmental issues with our world since she was born. Throughout her career, she’s been quite public about her focus on recycling and making sure to do her part. But it wasn’t until she took up a starring role in the CG movie The Spirit that she really came to the forefront of Hollywood environmentalists.

During promotion for the super hero film, she teamed up with the Environmental Media Association and posed for a series of ads asking people to make sure they properly recycle their old cell phones. The campaign was called Answer The Call and featured Scarlett and her co-star Eva Mendes acting as their characters from the movie. In the campaign they make sure that people become aware of the good they can be doing if they start recycling their old technology.
Scarlett can frequently be seen speaking at various summits across the globe, urging businesses to reduce carbon emissions and increase sustainable practices. Even though Scarlett is mostly known for her on-screen work, her environmental work should be noted in the same light.
I'm a fan.

Earth and Moon from Mars and other space and astronomy news

Just like last week, when the real top story for space was NASA and Super Bowl, this week's top story was Space and climate at Sochi followed by NASA on California drought and other drought and water stories.  Even after two entries, there were a lot of space and astronomy stories left.  Since something has to lead, I give the honor to for Curiosity Sees Earth and Moon From Mars | Video.

The Mars Science Laboratory captured imagery of the brightest object in its twilight sky, Earth and its orbiting Moon. The rover's Mast Camera imaged them on January 31st, 2014, its 529th day on the Red Planet.
That's not scientifically significant, but the image is important for its emotional impact, as it gives another perspective on our home planet.  Besides, it's really cool.

Follow over the jump for more from NASA and on last week's space and astronomy news.

Evolution news for Darwin Day

It's time to celebrate Darwin Day, just as I did last year and the year before.  This year, I'm on time (no Paczki Day to blame) and have something special planned--all the evolution news I've posted on Daily Kos since Archeology and paleoanthropology from campuses on the campaign trail, the last entry with the evolution label.

I begin with UA Museum Celebrates Darwin Day from the University of Alabama, dated Feb 7, 2014.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Charles Darwin is turning 205, and The University of Alabama is having a party.

The community is invited to Darwin Day from noon to 5 p.m. Feb. 12, at UA’s Alabama Museum of Natural History in Smith Hall. The free event is a collaborative effort between the University’s Evolutionary Studies Club, biology graduate assistants, the Evolutionary Studies Working Group and the museum.

“Darwin Day is an international event,” said Dr. Dana Ehret, the museum’s curator of paleontology. “It’s an opportunity for campuses and museums worldwide to celebrate his contributions to science.”
Follow over the jump for the rest of the evolution news.