Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Year Day!

I began the month by writing by promising to write about "four fun holidays this month, Groundhog Day, Lunar New Year, Fat Tuesday, and Valentines Day, plus a bonus--Leap Year Day" and almost finished it by telling my readers to "Stay tuned for a post about Leap Year Day."  As is my wont, I'm taking a scientific tack in observing it with a video.  Without any further ado, I present Vox's How leap year works.

Vox has more in Because the solar system doesn't care about our calendar.
This fact has been vexing humans for centuries: Earth's year (one orbit around the sun) isn't neatly divisible by its day (one rotation about its axis). One full orbit takes more than 365 days but less than 366.

That's not surprising — there's no reason for the two to be linked. The trouble comes when we try to overlay a useful calendar onto this random system. And as a result, our annual calendar is always slightly wrong.

As the short video above shows, leap year is our jury-rigged solution to this problem. To nudge our calendar closer to accuracy, we simply stick an extra day at the end of February every four years. Without it, our calendar would slowly shift further and further from the true year.
One last time, Happy Leap Year Day!  May you be smarter after reading and watching than you were before!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

'Songs about something' and music scores at the Oscars

I recycled Infidel753's comment along with my response at the end of Speculative fiction at the 2016 Razzie Awards.
I hope Lady Gaga wins the best song Oscar, though. I've always liked her. Like Fifty Shades, she offends those people whom, as John Cleese put it, one would truly wish to offend.
Speaking of Lady Gaga, I'll follow up on the music nominees tomorrow.  Stay tuned.
It's tomorrow, so it's time to revisit the nominees for Best Original Song I first mentioned in The songs really are the best part of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.

First, I invite my readers to Listen To The Oscars’ Best Original Song Nominees along with commentary about each of them from NPR's "Here and Now."  In particular, I want to direct their attention to an observation by guest Mason Daring, a professor of film scoring at Berklee College of Music, a composer of dozens of soundtracks, and a voting member of the music branch.  He noted that this year's batch of nominees had two songs from documentaries (“Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground” and “Manta Ray” from “Racing Extinction”) but no songs from animated musicals.  He called those two pieces "songs about something" and thought they were the signs of changing times, as he said this was "a year that things matter."  The changing times might affect the chances of what would normally be the favorite, "Writing's on the Wall" from "Spectre," which won the Golden Globe in this category.  Daring opined that a Bond song would normally be a lock, but maybe not this year.

That uncertainty is reflected in the predictions.  FiveThirtyEight included the category in Every Oscar Prediction We Could Find.
Goegan says “Writing’s on the Wall” from “Spectre.” Paddy Power’s favorite is “Til It Happens To You” from “The Hunting Ground,” with 2-to-5 odds.
New York Magazine's Vulture came to a similar conclusion in Vulture’s Final 2016 Oscar Predictions for Every Category.
The best song in this category is "Earned It," but there is no way on Earth that the Academy is going to give an Oscar to Fifty Shades of Grey. Lady Gaga has been promoting her song from The Hunting Ground with a vengeance, and I suspect "Til It Happens to You" has the advantage because of it.
Finally, Predictwise gives Lady Gaga and Diane Warren's song a 68% chance of winning.  "Writing's on the Wall" comes in second at 12%, "Simple Song #3" and "Earned It" are tied at 9%, and "Manta Ray" has a 2% chance of winning.  Based on those odds, plus Lady Gaga's star Power and Warren's many previous nominations with no wins, my head agrees "Til It Happens to You" will win, although my heart is with "Manta Ray" and "Writing's on the Wall."

Follow over the jump for my thoughts on the nominated music scores.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Speculative fiction at the 2016 Razzie Awards

Today, I follow up on the promise I made at the end of The songs really are the best part of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'.
Some of the nominees are genuinely bad.  Some may be the victims of the voters on beating up on trashy popular entertainment for women, no matter how well executed.  "Fifty Shades of Grey" and to a lesser extent "Jupiter Ascending" may be the recipients of such treatment.  I might have more to say about this when I write about speculative fiction at the Razzies.
I explained more in my response to a comment by Infidel753 on that entry.
I think there's more than a touch of misogyny among the Razzie voters, some of whom are confusing a movie who premise they don't like with a genuinely bad movie--"Pixels" and "Fantastic Four," I'm looking at you.
I repeated that promise as an aside in Drink to 'Deadpool's second week on top of the box office.
I'll write more about "Fantastic Four," as well as the previous holder of the Valentines Day/Presidents Day weekend box office record, "Fifty Shades of Grey," when I report on speculative fiction at this year's Razzie Awards.
Before I take my readers over the jump to list the awards, a reminder of the leaders.
The Razzies, which celebrate the year’s worst Hollywood movies and actors by awarding the winners (i.e. the losers) with Golden Raspberries, have awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actress and Worst Actor. And this year, it’s a four-way tie between Fifty Shades, Paul Blart Mall Cop 2, Jupiter Ascending and Pixels leading the nominations with six nods each.
Now, follow over the jump.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Second article on Michigan polls

Sanders and Clinton shaking hands
Hillary Clinton, seen here at the most recent debate with Bernie Sanders, leads the Democratic primary contest in Michigan by thirty-four points according to a Mitchell/Fox 2 Detroit Poll released February 25, 2016.
Win McNamee/Getty Images.
Clinton and Trump maintain double-digit leads in latest Michigan polls
Two polls released this week show both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New York real estate magnate Donald Trump holding their leads in Michigan ten days in advance of the state's presidential primary on March 8.  The polls indicate that Clinton and Trump appear likely to receive more than twice as many votes as their closest competition, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for Clinton and Florida Senator Marco Rubio for Trump.

The Mitchell/Fox 2 Detroit Poll released Thursday, February 25, surveyed both Democrats and Republicans.  It showed that Clinton leads Sanders by thirty-four percent in the Michigan Democratic primary contest, sixty-five percent to thirty-one percent with only four percent undecided.
On the Republican side, Trump has maintained his double-digit lead over Rubio and the rest of the remaining field.  Trailing Rubio are Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson, formerly of Michigan, now from Florida.
More at the link, including highlights of the most recent Target Insyght poll and quotes about both the Democratic and Republican contests.

Follow over the link for my recycled commentary on the Democratic contest in Michigan.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trump is coming and he's building a wall

It's time to be a good environmentalist and recycle a comment I left at Kunstler's blog last December.
Trump is indeed odious--the f-word has been applied to him, and I don't mean the one for sexual intercourse.  However, people are still capable of laughing at him, as Darth Trump attests.  In that video, he's more gauche than sinister.
Here's another parody video of The Penguin Donald, this time inspired by a show I've used before for political humor, Game of Thrones.  Without any further ado, I present Winter is Trumping.

Armed with a Valyrian steel sword named Deal-Maker, Donald Trump embarks on a quest through Westeros to take care its border policies.
Hat/tip to Infidel753, who got it from Republic of Gilead, who picked it up from BBC News, which had the following to say about it.
Melbourne-based political satirist Huw Parkinson has used clips of the US Republican presidential candidate in a new video for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Insiders show.

In it, real quotes and speeches made famous by Mr Trump have been spliced with scenes from the hit HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones.
When the article was published three days ago, the video had 200,000 views in two days.  Now, it has more than 2,000,000.  It's also garnered a lot of comments, including the following.
"Dirty politics, tension between nations and the pursuit of power - Trump would totally fit in on Game of Thrones," commented YouTube user Meredith Don.

Another user Gillian Walsh said: "Trump's political rallies fit in perfectly on such a violent show. Am I the only one who finds that scary?"

"Donald Trump is Joffrey all grown up," said another user referencing one of the most infamous villains on the show.
Speaking of Joffrey and Trump, here they are together.

I can see the resemblance.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016 article on Winter Storm Petros

National Weather Service map of Winter Storm Petros in Michigan
The National Weather Service predicted that up to an foot of snow would fall on Detroit Wednesday and Thursday.
NOAA/National Weather Service (public domain)
Winter Storm Petros predicted to cover Detroit's suburbs with heavy snow
At 3:33 P.M. Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for Washtenaw, Livingston, Oakland, and Macomb counties.  It also issued a winter weather advisory for Wayne County.  These superseded a winter storm watch issued Monday.
The storm, which the Weather Channel dubbed Winter Storm Petros, will drop between eight inches and one foot of snow in Livingston County, most of Oakland County, and the northern parts of Macomb County by the time the system leaves Michigan for Canada on Thursday.  The southeastern corner of Oakland County and the southern portion of Macomb County could see between six and eight inches during the same time.

Wayne County will likely experience two episodes of snowfall, the first between two and five inches during the day on Wednesday and the second between one and three inches Wednesday night into Thursday morning.  In between, the temperature will rise above freezing, so the snow will be replaced by rain.
Details at the link, including a Weather Channel video about the storm.  I can't embed it here (nor would I want to, as I want my readers to watch it at, but I can embed the following video from WOOD-TV: Winter Storm Warning: Heavy, wet snow expected.

A significant storm system will bring heavy, wet snow to West Michigan starting Wednesday. (Feb. 23, 2016)
I expect to have a snow day on Thursday.  Since I'll be on break next week and don't have work on Friday, that would start my vacation a couple of days early.  Let it snow!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The endorsements pour in for Rubio, but the smart money isn't so sure

With the departures of Chris Christie and especially Jeb Bush, the "Establishment lane" to the Republican nomination presents a clear choice between John Kasich/A> and Marco Rubio, and the Establishment has chosen Rubio.

After the Iowa Caucuses, I wrote the smart money and endorsements were more for Rubio than ever.  At that time, Rubio had just passed Bush.  Now, Rubio has shot up from 58 endorsement points to 137 as I write this with more than half of those (72) coming in the past two weeks.  Not only is Rubio in the lead by a wide margin, more than 100 points ahead of Ted Cruz's 22 and Kasich's 20, he's passed both where Ronald Reagan and John McCain were at this point in their campaigns.  The Party has decided on Rubio.

Normally, that would be it, as only one candidate in the past 36 years led in endorsements at this stage of the campaign yet failed to earn the nomination.  That was Dick Gephardt in 1988, who eventually lost the nomination to Mike Dukakis.*  The contrary historical precedent is that no Republican who has won both New Hampshire and South Carolina has failed to win the nomination.  This favors Trump.  Follow over the jump for how the smart money is reacting to that.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Please clap for Jeb Bush as he leaves the island

I wrote that I had a good-bye to Jeb Bush post coming in the footnote to Drink to 'Deadpool's second week on top of the box office.  I could make zombie campaign jokes, but I'm just not feeling it today.  Instead, I'm feeling sorry for the guy. Without any further ado, here's his concession/suspension speech from CSPAN: Jeb Bush Suspends Campaign - FULL SPEECH.

Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) suspend his presidential campaign the night of the South Carolina Republican primary.

Included in his remarks: "I'm proud of the campaign that we've run to unify our county and to advocate conservative solutions that would give more Americans the opportunity to rise up and reach their God-given potential. But, the people of Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have spoken and I really respect their decision. So tonight I am suspending my campaign."
I found it quite appropriate that Jeb made a reality TV reference--"my competitors that are remaining on the island"--considering that he lost to a former reality TV star.  I have a clip from Vox about that, but I'll save it for another entry; today is Jeb's day.

The only thing that surprised me about Jeb's announcement was the timing.  I made my bets in the candidate deadpool in the conclusion to Kasich stumps in Michigan.
Would such a performance make him drop out?  Probably not.  Losing Ohio would.  That happens on March 15th, the same day as the Florida primary.  That's when I expect Kasich to exit the contest and perhaps the weaker of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.  I expect to be writing another farewell post or two that week.
Good thing I didn't wager any money; I'd have lost it.

Follow over the jump for analyses of Jeb's failed candidacy.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Drink to 'Deadpool's second week on top of the box office

I haven't done a box office post since 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' blasts to new U.S. box office records.  Part of that is how long "Star Wars" stayed on top of the charts, part is that awards season is more interesting, and part is I found the movies that succeeded "Star Wars" as generally unworthy of my attention.  Not the past two weeks, however, as the superhero comedy "Deadpool" has topped the weekend box office both weekends.*  I'll get to the numbers later.  First, here's a drink from Tipsy Bartender, the Deadpool Shot.

This potent shots are based on the hit movie...DEADPOOL SHOTS!
1 oz. (30ml) Strawberry Vodka
2 oz. (60ml) Strawberry Liqueur
1 oz. (30ml) Grenadine
Top with Black Absinthe
The only way those shots could be more dangerous would be if they were flaming.  With the top layer at 160 proof, they could be.  Deadpool would approve.

Enough booze.  Follow over the jump for the numbers.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Not So Pure Michigan on Flint Water Crisis

Full-sized image here.

In the spirt of Not So Pure Michigan on Detroit's Bankruptcy, it's time for some gallows humor about the Flint Water Crisis from John Kerfoot, who I call "Not so Pure Michigan"--Pure Michigan: Flint.

spoof of the Pure Michigan commercials, by John Kerfoot, highlighting Flint, Michigan.
For more of Kerfoot's work, click here, here, and here.

I'm starting work on two articles for  If I get them done, I'll post links to them tonight.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The annual gas price rise has begun

Two weeks ago, I called a bottom for the gas price in my old neighborhood at $1.39.  Last week, I reported that the stations in my old neighborhood had reached that level and could go lower.  They most likely didn't, as GasBuddy shows that the Detroit average for regular hit a low of $1.44/gallon a week ago on the 11th and promptly started rising.  Looks like I got the low exactly right.  Lucky me.

The Detroit average is now $1.66, which is exactly the price that I saw when I passed by the stations in my old neighborhood yesterday.  Unlike the past two weeks, I didn't top off Pearl's tank, as I thought the price was higher than it needed to be.  Given that the stations are usually a dime below the metro area average, so they should be at $1.56, and some nearby stations are selling regular for $1.49, I'm probably right.  I'll wait until next week, when I will need gas, and hope that the cheaper gas elsewhere hasn't disappeared.

Crude futures have also gone up, as Oil-Price.Net lists yesterday's closes for WTI at $30.77 and Brent at $34.28, three and four dollars higher, respectively, than the $27.94 and $30.32 the two futures were at last week.  Even more importantly for retail gas prices, RBOB has jumped 18 cents from last week's $0.90 to yesterday's $1.08.  Falling gas prices are over for the season.

Follow over the jump for one reason the price environment has changed.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Driving update for February 2016: Pearl

Pearl the Prius's turned over exactly 25,000 miles as I drove the final block to my house yesterday evening, so it's time for another driving update.

Pearl turned over 24,000 miles 63 days (nine weeks) ago, so I've driven her an average of 15.87 miles/day and 484.13 miles/month since then.  That's almost two miles per day and 51 miles/month less than the 17.54 miles/day and 535.09 miles/standard month I drove her between October and December.  Yay, I drove less!  That's because I was off from work for three weeks and out of town for nine days.  That's why I posted all those student sustainability videos the first week of January.  I could program a bunch of short entries to post while I was traveling and no one would be the wiser.*  Honestly, I thought that my average would be even less.  After all, I drove Ruby 15.15 miles/day and 462.1 miles/month between January and March last year, and that didn't include a three-week break!  I blame adding two additional meetings a week to my schedule for my increased driving.  I'm sure the full effect will show up in the April report.

Follow over the jump for some context from Calculated Risk and Toyota's Super Bowl commericial for the Prius.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kasich stumps in Michigan

I dropped one of the shoes I dangled in Sanders and Kasich campaigning in Michigan on Presidents Day in article on Bernie Sanders in Ypsilanti.  Now it's time for me to let the other shoe fall.

Ohio Governor John Kasich made at least four stops over the past two days, two of which were covered by the TV stations whose YouTube feeds I monitor.  The first was in Allendale near Grand Rapids, which WOOD-TV showed in At GVSU, Kasich talks education, job growth.

Kasich talked a lot about personal responsibility and spoke directly to students about the role in leading the country in a few short years.
Kasich then stopped at Michigan State University, which I couldn't find a video of, then in Macomb County, where WXYZ caught up with him in John Kasich in Michigan.

Republican Presidential Candidate John Kasich is appearing in Michigan.
Both accounts mentioned how important Michigan is to Kasich's chances, WOOD=TV by pointing out that he needs to do well here, WXYZ by mentioning that this is Kasich's ninth visit to the state, the most of any candidate so far.  If I were a Republican, I'd wish him good luck, as he'll need it.  Instead, I wrote the following in a comment at Booman Tribune.
Kasich has a big hill to climb here.  One of the two most recent polls had Kasich in fourth, 15% behind Rubio and Cruz, who were tied for second behind Trump at 35%.  The other poll didn't even bother asking about Kasich.
He'll have to get all of Christie's and Fiorina's voters just to get into double digits here in Michigan, enough to beat Ben Carson and Jeb Bush, but not enough to win delegates.  Kasich would have to come in first in a Congressional District to get any of those.

Would such a performance make him drop out?  Probably not.  Losing Ohio would.  That happens on March 15th, the same day as the Florida primary.  That's when I expect Kasich to exit the contest and perhaps the weaker of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio.  I expect to be writing another farewell post or two that week.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 article on Bernie Sanders in Ypsilanti

Bernie Sanders addressed a near-capacity crowd at Eastern Michigan University's Convocation Center as he campaigned in Michigan.
Bill Pugiliano/Getty Images.
I promised that I'd write an article about Bernie Sanders' visit for in Sanders and Kasich campaigning in Michigan on Presidents Day and I lived up to the promise with Sanders greeted by packed house in Ypsilanti.
Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont addressed a near-capacity crowd in Ypsilanti today.  The Washington Post estimated that more than 9,400 filled the Convocation Center at Eastern Michigan University on Monday afternoon.  In contrast, when neurosurgeon and Detroit native Ben Carson spoke in the same venue during a December visit, the Eastern Echo reported the audience for his campaign appearance numbered about 200.

During an hour-long speech, Sanders expounded on the themes of his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.  In addition to income inequality, which he would solve in part with a fifteen dollar minimum wage, and protection of the environment, he emphasized campaign finance reform as necessary for empowering average Americans over what he called the billionaire class.

“The issue that we’re dealing with now: whether or not we’re going to have a government which represents all of the people of our country or whether we’re going to have a government owned and controlled by wealthy contributors,” Sanders was quoted by the Detroit Free Press. “We have a corrupt campaign finance system which is undermining American democracy. We have a system in which a small number of people are making huge campaign contributions."

He continued with the theme, telling the assembled students “You are the future of the country. You’re not going to stand aside while a handful of campaign contributors determine the future.”
More quotes from Sanders on topics including free public college tuition, climate change, and the Flint water crisis.  In addition, I included the following video from WXYZ: Bernie Sanders speaks to thousands at Eastern Michigan University.

Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was in Michigan today speaking at Eastern Michigan University.
Feel the Bern!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sanders and Kasich campaigning in Michigan on Presidents Day

Happy Presidents Day!  In this election year, there are still eight people campaigning for presidential nominations from the two major parties.  One from each party will be visiting Michigan today, as WXYZ reports Sanders, Kasich visiting Michigan this week.

As the Detroit Free Press introduced their story:
Michigan is in for a double-barreled dose of the presidential campaign Monday when Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republican John Kasich hit the state in an attempt to woo voters.

It will be Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ first trip to the state. Kasich has been a frequent visitor; this will be his ninth visit to Michigan. The state’s presidential primary election is March 8.
I'll probably write an article for on Sanders visit like I did for Ben Carson's.  Not only is Sanders visiting my beat, but he's in the exact same venue.  As for the outcome of this visit, Sanders needs all the help he can get in the state, as the most recent polls of the Michigan Primary show him trailing Clinton by a wide margin.  Here's to hoping he makes more stops in Michigan besides this one and the debate in Flint.

As for Kasich, he needs even more help.  He'll have to get all of Christie's and Fiorina's voters to get into double digits here in Michigan.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

'Warm Bodies': Love, zombies, and marching bands on Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!  I concluded Jim Gilmore gone after losing to Vermin Supreme by noting that "'The Walking Dead' returns tomorrow.  Zombies on Valentines Day!"  The movie that best combines zombies and love is "Warm Bodies," which I mentioned in Post-apocalyptic book list by noting "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."  I've already written about "World War Z," so it's "Warm Bodies'" turn.*

io9 has a good review of the film that explores the romantic angle in Warm Bodies is Romeo and Juliet and Zombies, only better.
What if Juliet was a post-apocalyptic scavenger, Romeo was a zombie who ate Paris' brains, and Mercutio was a monosyllabic Rob Corddry? Zombie romcom Warm Bodies takes us to a post-apocalyptic future in which zombies stalk the Earth eating human brains—at least until one walking corpse, R, falls for Julie, one of the last living girls.

But put aside the nods to Shakespeare. Warm Bodies is a funny and soft-hearted film that plays far more on zombie- and date-movie tropes than it does on the Bard, and puts an optimistic spin on the undead apocalypse. At its basis, this is a movie about how to be alive, told through the lens of a zombie's awakening.
For spoilers, read the article at the link.  For the conclusion of the review, follow over the jump.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jim Gilmore gone after losing to Vermin Supreme

What do all of the people in the above photograph have in common?  All of them were in the first undercard debate and all of them have now dropped out of the contest to be the Republican nominee for President.  Carly Fiorina left this week along with Chris Christie.  Rick Santorum split last week along with Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee. George Pataki packed it in and Lindsey Graham left in December.  Bobby Jindal said good-bye in November.  The candidate most ahead of the curve was Rick Perry, who said 'Oops' in September.  The last candidate to leave was the man farthest away from the camera.  Wochit News has the story in Jim Gilmore Withdraws From Presidential Race.

Former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore on Friday suspended his presidential campaign, shrinking the Republican field to six. Gilmore barely registered in polls and received zero percent of votes in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Gilmore, governor from 1998 to 2002, said he will support the Republican presidential nominee. Gilmore's campaign said in a statement that "the difficulty of the debate structure combined with the national media coverage of the candidates made it impossible for him to continue his campaign for the presidency."
I was wondering when he'd quit.  Maybe it was getting fewer votes than Vermin Supreme, who got 256 votes in the Democratic Primary, good enough for fourth, while Gilmore got 131 in the Republican Primary, placing him last among active candidates and even behind Rand Paul and Rick Santorum, who had already dropped out.

Here's Vermin Supreme's platform.
1) Mandatory tooth-brushing laws ("Gingivitis has been eroding the gumline of this great nation of ours for long enough and must be stopped.");

2) Time travel research ("I'm the only candidate who is willing to fully fund time travel, go back in time and kill baby Hitler with my bare hands before he's even born.");

3) Zombie preparedness ("I am the only candidate who has a plan to protect America from the imminent zombie invasion and I will be harnessing the awesome power of zombies to create electric energy utilizing the latest in giant hamster wheel technology."); and

4. Free ponies for all Americans ("A federal pony identification system and you must have your pony with you at all times.").
Yeah, if I lost to this guy, I'd be embarrassed enough to quit the race, too.

Speaking of zombie preparedness, "The Walking Dead" returns tomorrow.  Zombies on Valentines Day!

Friday, February 12, 2016

'Your Inner Fish' for Darwin Day

Happy Darwin Day!  To celebrate the occasion, I'm sharing four clips from the PBS show "Your Inner Fish."  I alluded to them at the conclusion of Snow Monkeys and Emmy Awards: Student sustainability video festival 47.
The other PBS show that captured my attention by winning was "Your Inner Fish," which won Outstanding Graphic Design & Art Direction.  I featured some of the clips from that program in Teeth and jaws of our inner fish.  Congratulations to this program, other clips of which I show to my students as part of my lecture on primate evolution, thus making this entry a fitting end to a month devoted to lessons.
Here are the clips I show my students, beginning with Meet Your Cousins: Squirrel Monkeys.

Because of our evolutionary relationship, we have quite a bit in common with other living primates, including squirrel monkeys. See what we mean as you watch these agile monkeys navigate their forest world.
Follow over the jump for the rest of the videos I use to demonstrate our relationships to other primates.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Au revoir to Carly and Chris!

The early caucuses and primaries give a good indication of which candidates could win their parties nominations, but they do an even better job of eliminating the aspirants who have no chance.  After Iowa four candidates bid farewell to the campaign trail.  After New Hampshire, two have left the race, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie.  Ladies first, as CNN reported yesterday Carly Fiorina suspends presidential campaign.

Carly Fiorina announces that she will be suspending her 2016 presidential campaign and included a specific message for female voters.
FiveThirtyEight has a brief post mortem of her campaign: Carly Fiorina Peaked Early And Faded Fast.  I'll also be brief and toast iCarly with a Black Sheep Ale.

Follow over the jump for my good-bye to Chris Christie, at least as a presidential candidate.*

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

$1 gas possible in Midwest

I might have been too confident about the level of the floor under gas prices at the end of Limbo bar now at $1.45.
As for how low gas might go, I think the bottom is $1.39.  There's not much lower gas can go and not much time left before the seasonal gas price rise begins.  I expect that should begin after Valentine's Day.
Yesterday, the corner station had already dropped its price to $1.42, while a station a mile away had lowered its cash price to $1.39, $1.29 with a car wash.  Normally, I'd call a bottom, but it looks like I might have to wait, as WOOD-TV reported two days ago MI gas prices hit lowest level since 2003. senior petroleum analyst Patrick DeHaan says gas prices could dip to $.99 per gallon in the Midwest.
The fall is continuing as I type this.  GasBuddy shows the same station that I topped off Pearl has already dropped its price to $1.39 and stations within a mile are selling regular for $1.33.  It could go lower, as the Detroit average is now $1.46 and falling; at least one station in the metro area has a posted price for regular of $1.06.  Wow, I never thought I'd see prices that low again!

Crude futures are not at record lows, but they are close, as Oil-Price.Net lists yesterday's closes for WTI at $27.94 and Brent at $30.32.  Even more importantly for retail gas prices, RBOB is at $0.90, nearly a dime lower than it was on Friday.  Those low wholesale prices will allow the price at the pump to continue falling for at least a week.

Follow over the jump for the 2016 energy forecast.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Paczki Day 2016!

Last night, I told my readers to "stay tuned for a post about Paczki Day."  That's today!  To celebrate, I'm sharing WXYZ's Happy Paczki Day!

As I wrote two years ago, "After discovering paczki when I moved to Michigan 25 years ago, I finally knew why today is called Fat Tuesday."

Stay tuned for more holiday entries, as Friday is Darwin Day, Sunday is Valentines Day, and Monday is Presidents Day.  The cavalcade of holidays continues!

Monday, February 8, 2016 article on Michigan Primary polls

Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, seen here at the ABC debate in New Hampshire, are currently first and second in polls of Michigan Republicans.
Two polls show Trump and Clinton leading in Michigan
On the eve of the first in the nation New Hampshire Primary, two polls of Michigan primary voters show New York real estate magnate Donald Trump leading the Republican candidates and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leading Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas trail Trump in both polls.

On Monday, February 8, Fox 2 Detroit published the results of a Mitchell Research and Communications poll of 330 likely Republican primary voters and 321 likely Democratic primary voters.  The Mitchell/Fox 2 Detroit poll found that Trump had a two to one lead over Rubio and Cruz, with Trump at forty-one percent and Rubio at twenty percent and Cruz at sixteen percent.
In the Democratic nomination contest, the Mitchell/Fox 2 Detroit poll found Clinton leading Sanders two to one as well.  She had 57 percent support with Sanders trailing at 28 percent.
Much more at the link, including details of the Mitchell/Fox 2 Detroit poll, results from an Inside Michigan Politics poll released last Friday, quotes from both pollsters, and a video of Hillary Clinton talking about the Flint Water Crisis.

Now that I've made good on my promise to post another entry promoting a new article, stay tuned for a post about Paczki Day, which is tomorrow.  The cavalcade of holidays continues!

Happy Year of the Fire Monkey!

So long, Year of the Wood Sheep!  It's now the Year of the Fire Monkey!  The Daily Telegraph explains in Happy Chinese New Year 2016! Everything you need to know about the Year of the Monkey.
The new year, also known as the Spring Festival, is marked by the lunisolar Chinese calendar, so the date changes from year to year.

The festivities usually start the day before the New Year and continue until the Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the new year.

Each Chinese New Year is characterised by one of 12 animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is divided into 12 blocks (or houses) just like its western counterpart, but with the major difference being that each house has a time-length of one year instead of one month.

This year it's the Year of the Monkey, the ninth animal in the cycle. The next Year of the Monkey will be in 2028.
Click on through for the rest of the article, which describes the traits associated with people born under the sign of the monkey.  That's astrology, which I consider to be "bunk, but it's fun bunk" and "fun nonsense that I'm presenting for entertainment purposes only."  However, there's one prediction I'd like to pass along from NBC News' What Feng Shui Experts Predict for Year of the Monkey:
For the superstitious in China, the astrological divinations of a local feng shui master can be important guidance in making decisions for the coming year. For many others, the annual predictions are just for fun.

Unfortunately for anyone seeking reassurance about the worldwide economic turmoil, Chen does not have any encouraging words.

"In 2016 we will see a big slide in the world economy," he warns. "The global economic situation will be terrible and lots of companies will be bankrupted."
I don't need astrology to tell people that.
Mike Alexander posted his most recent update last June: 10000 point decline in the Dow in the cards over the next three years.  At the time, the DJIA had just hit a record close of 18,312.39 on May 19, 2015.  Since then, the market has already passed the 10% drop for a correction.  If it goes down another 10% to below 14,650, that will signal a bear market, which means we are on track for another recession within a year.  After that, if Mike is right, it's down to the 8,000s by the end of 2018.  The recession beginning late this year or early next looks like it will arrive right on schedule.
Enough gloom.  Time to wish my readers a Happy Lunar New Year, with text that I've recycled many times over.

Mandarin: Gong Xi Fa Cai/Xin Nian Kuai Le

Cantonese: Kung Hei Fat Choi

Hokkien (Fujian/Taiwanese): Kiong Hee Huat Tsai/Sin Ni khòai lok


Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财 新年快乐

Traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財 新年快樂


Sunday, February 7, 2016

Carolina vs. Denver in a drum corps Super Bowl

Super Bowl drinks from Tipsy Bartender was not enough.  It's time for an entry in the spirit of Marching music for the Iowa Caucuses: Colts and Hawkeyes in honor of the Big Game.

Two years ago, I posted Super Bowl marching band moments.  This year, I'm taking advantage of the cities and states of the two teams also having top notch drum corps to post a Drum Corps Super Bowl.

First, representing the home states of the Carolina Panthers, here is Carolina crown 2015.

Carolina crown performing "inferno" DCI semis

Music Used: Symphony No. 9 ~ Beethoven, Adagio in G Minor - Remo Giazotto, Messa da Requiem - Dies iraes
Next, representing the home state and city of the Denver Broncos, the Blue Knights 2015 - "Because" - Final full-run.

I'm rooting for the Broncos, but I have a feeling that the Super Bowl will end up like the matchup between the corps, with Carolina on top.  That's not just because the groundhogs said so, either.

Super Bowl drinks from Tipsy Bartender

It's Super Bowl Sunday, so today's entertainment entry is ostensibly about sports instead of movies, television, or music, although I managed to combine the two last year with Predictions vs. reality for Katy Perry at the Super Bowl.  This year, I'm going to take a cue from Paul W., who mentioned about the topic he most associates with my blog:
So I need to point out, as this is the Internet, LINKS are everything around here. They link to me, I link to them, people can follow through those links to new and exciting places that offer up drink recipes and NSFW comments about crazy Republicans.
Super Bowl drink recipes it is.  Of course, they're from Tipsy Bartender.

Skyy began this year's suggestions with Panthers vs Broncos Super Bowl Jungle Juice with the assistance of Nikki Limo and Inna the Russian.

A jungle juice for each of the Super Bowl teams, Denver Broncos vs Carolina Panthers. Each of these jungle juices cost less than $50!
2 (1.75L) Vodka
1 (.75L) Malibu Rum
6 (2L) Orange Soda

2 (1.75L) Vodka
1 (.75L) Peach Schnapps
3 (1 Gal) Polar Blast Hawaiian Punch
I'm old enough to remember when the nickname of the Broncos defense was the Orange Crush, so if were making the first recipe, I'd use that instead of Sunkist.

Follow over the jump for three more recipes.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Four candidates bid farewell after Iowa

I wrote that "I'll have more about Frothy and three other candidates quitting later" in The smart money and endorsements are more for Rubio than ever.  I'm outsourcing serious commentary on this news to PBS's Washington Week, which posted Four candidates exit 2016 race, Fiorina fights to be on debate stage, Gilmore gets 4 votes in Iowa to its YouTube account as a web extra.

After disappointing finishes in the Iowa caucuses, four presidential candidates left the 2016 race including Republicans Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum and Rand Paul and Democrat Martin O'Malley. Reid Wilson and Doyle McManus discuss why these candidates struggled to gain traction. Plus, Carly Fiorina is being left off the next Republican debate stage, despite being one of only nine remaining Republican candidates. And another Republican, Jim Gilmore, picked up only 12 votes in the Iowa caucuses.
Follow over the jump for my good-byes to each of the candidates no longer contesting their parties' nominations.

Limbo bar now at $1.45

Wednesday, I reported that the limbo bar dropped to $1.55.
I drove past the corner station in my old neighborhood yesterday, and saw it was selling regular for $1.58.  That made me expect that it was undercutting the two stations down the street by a penny.  When I approached them, I saw that their posted price for regular was $1.55.  That was enough to get me to stop and top off Pearl; the car may not have needed gas for another two weeks, but by then regular could be selling for $1.79 or higher.  I'd rather save the money now.
I also thought that the price might be the low for the year, but acknowledged that I could be wrong.
While I have my doubts that the price will be this low when I next need to fill up my car, the price is actually on the high side of where the stations could be and the trend is currently heading down.  GasBuddy lists the Detroit average as $1.53.  These stations could undercut the average by as much as a dime.  If so, that would make gas as cheap as it was during the depths of the Great Recession, back in late 2008 and early 2009.
I was.  On Thursday, I drove past those same stations and saw they were selling regular for $1.48.  Yesterday, I checked GasBuddy and it listed their price as $1.45.  Gas now is as cheap as it was seven years ago.

As for whether the price could go down more, the answer is still yes.  Nearby stations are selling regular for as low as $1.41 cash (the stations in the old neighborhood sell gas at the same price for both cash and credit).  Also, the Detroit average is now $1.52 and still falling.  There is pressure on the stations in my old neighborhood to match the competition and be a dime lower than the metro Detroit average.

Also, Oil-Price.Net reported that yesterday's close for RBI was $0.99, down a penny from Tuesday's close.  Oil may be up slightly with WTI at $30.89 and Brent at $34.06, but it's RBI that matters for the short-term price of gasoline.  As I wrote last time, "Gas might just continue dropping if that's the wholesale price on the spot market."

As for how low gas might go, I think the bottom is $1.39.  There's not much lower gas can go and not much time left before the seasonal gas price rise begins.  I expect that should begin after Valentine's Day.

Stay tuned for another article and the Sunday entertainment entry.

Friday, February 5, 2016 article on Michigan debates

Donald Trump, seen here while boycotting the last Fox News debate, has promised to attend the next Fox News debate in Detroit, Michigan.
Getty Images.
Republicans and Democrats announce dates for Michigan debates
This week, Michigan found out that it will be the host of both party's presidential debates in advance of the state's presidential primary on March 8, 2016.  The Republican candidates will debate in Detroit on March 3, while the Democrats will be in Flint on March 6.

In a statement released Thursday, February 4, Fox News Channel revealed Detroit as the location of the already scheduled Republican presidential debate.  Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly, and Chris Wallace will return as moderators for the third Republican debate of this election cycle on Fox News, which will last two hours and begins at 9 P.M. Eastern Time.

The Fox News press release followed in the heels of one from the Democratic National Committee.  The Democrats' press release, posted Wednesday, February 3, included Flint as the location of three debates added to the schedule in addition to the already scheduled two remaining debates on February 11 to be broadcast by PBS News Hour and March 9 to be shown by Univision as well as last night's debate on MSNBC, which was also added this week.
Details and quotes, including Donald Trump's promise to attend this debate after boycotting the previous one, at the link.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The smart money and endorsements are more for Rubio than ever

In December, I noted that the smart money is moving from Rubio to Cruz but the endorsements aren't.  The betting lines at PredictWise showed that people were bidding up Cruz's chances while bidding down Rubio's.  Meanwhile, Rubio racked up seven endorsements during December to Cruz's one.  Based on Cruz's win and Rubio's third place showing in Iowa, one would think that the bettors would say "we made a good bet, double down."  Nope.  It turns out I skipped a step, as my comment at PM Carpenter's blog shows.
PredictWise, which had been predicting that Rubio was the most likely nominee until a couple of weeks ago, is now even more firmly betting (literally, so pun fully intended) on a Rubio victory. Rubio was last the favorite at 33% chance to win when Trump passed him. Yesterday, Trump peaked at 52% before falling to 26%. Rubio jumped from 33% to 55% overnight.
That was two days ago.  This morning, Rubio's odds are now at 60%, while Trump has fallen to 21%, Cruz has held steady at 14% (his odds had dipped briefly to 4% before the caucus, so confident were some bettors that Trump was on his way to winning the nomination), and Jeb! is at 4%.  Rubio comes in third and his chances go up, while Cruz wins and his chances fall?  Nate Silver has an answer in Why Iowa Changed Rubio’s And Trump’s Nomination Odds So Much.
Presidential nominations are a lot like the stock market. In the long run, they’re reasonably well governed by the fundamentals. In the short run, they can be crazy. Iowa represented the equivalent of a stock market correction, a sign that sanity might prevail after all.

In the stock market, the fundamentals consist of things like the profitability and growth of a company. In the nomination process, the most important fundamentals are what we call electability (can the candidate win in November?) and ideological fit (does the candidate hold positions in line with the consensus of her party?). A party would prefer to nominate a candidate who scores well in both categories.

Rubio fits the bill, perhaps uniquely among the remaining Republican candidates. His image with general election voters is not great, but it’s better than the other leading Republicans. He’s also quite conservative. That’s convenient, because Republican voters are quite conservative also. In fact, Rubio is almost exactly as conservative as the average GOP primary voter.
Nate agrees with Rubio's movement up, but he thinks that the market overcorrected on Cruz.
That doesn’t mean the betting markets have things exactly right; I think they’re too low on Cruz, for instance.
Just the same, this is very much a "Party Decides" argument Nate is making.  Follow over the jump for how that is playing out with endorsements.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The limbo bar drops to $1.55

I opened Limbo Kitty dances to $1.65 gas with two predictions.
Yesterday, the two stations down the street from the corner in my old neighborhood were selling regular for $1.65.  That's eight cents lower than the last time I checked, when the same stations were selling regular for $1.73.

Will it go lower?  At those stations, probably, as Gas Buddy lists the Detroit average as even lower at $1.62, although it is rising from $1.59 a couple of days ago.  So the second question becomes, "will I see that lower price?"  Probably not, so this might be Limbo Kitty's last dance until fall.
The answer to both questions ended up being yes.  I drove past the corner station in my old neighborhood yesterday, and saw it was selling regular for $1.58.  That made me expect that it was undercutting the two stations down the street by a penny.  When I approached them, I saw that their posted price for regular was $1.55.  That was enough to get me to stop and top off Pearl; the car may not have needed gas for another two weeks, but by then regular could be selling for $1.79 or higher.  I'd rather save the money now.

While I have my doubts that the price will be this low when I next need to fill up my car, the price is actually on the high side of where the stations could be and the trend is currently heading down.  GasBuddy lists the Detroit average as $1.53.  These stations could undercut the average by as much as a dime.  If so, that would make gas as cheap as it was during the depths of the Great Recession, back in late 2008 and early 2009.

Oil-Price.Net shows that oil is still cheaper now than it was back then with WTI closing yesterday at $29.88, again below $30, and Brent settling at $32.72.  The site also is also reporting RBI at $1.00, down 8.21% from the day before.  Gas might just continue dropping if that's the wholesale price on the spot market.

That might not last for long, as Reuters reported this morning that Oil gains after Russia says open to talking with OPEC.
Oil rose on Wednesday, paring earlier losses after Russia reiterated its openness to talking with OPEC about output cuts, which helped revive hope among investors that the world's largest producers could act to boost prices.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said if there is consensus among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and non-OPEC members to meet, "then we will meet".

This helped push the price of oil, which had been set for a third day of declines after data on Tuesday showed another big build in U.S. inventories, off the day's lows.
In the great game of Chicken being played by the oil-producing countries, Russia just flinched.  It wants to steer away from a crash with Saudi Arabia, which has pushed its gas pedal to the floor and is showing no signs of wavering.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Woodchucks (handlers) predict the weather for Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day!  It's time to see what predictions for the coming weeks' weather the animal oracles made this morning.  First, NBC News reports Punxsutawney Phil Says An Early Spring Is On The Way.

Weather forecasting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil does not see his shadow, indicating there won’t be six more weeks of winter.
Nice, but I'd like a second opinion.  Fortunately, the New York Times has one: On Groundhog Day, Staten Island Chuck Predicts an Early Spring.
Charles G. Hogg, Staten Island’s weather-forecasting groundhog, predicted an early spring on Tuesday at the borough’s zoo, making his bold prognostication amid the excitement of a crowd of onlookers — and the notable absence of one public official.
That's good news.  Even better was what didn't happen.
He did not bite anyone this year, as he did in 2009 when he nibbled at Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Nor were there any drops, like the groundhog’s fall from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s hands — and subsequent death — in 2014 that prompted allegations of a cover-up orchestrated by city officials.

Instead Mr. de Blasio, who would normally lead the ceremony, was in Iowa after volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In his place was Kathy Hochul, the lieutenant governor of New York, who embraced her turn in the spotlight.
As one can read, Chuck does not have the best luck with Mayors of New York.  It's a good thing for him that Mayor DeBlasio was at the Iowa Caucuses instead.*

I hope that they're right, but I fear I might be disappointed as I was in 2013, when both predicted an early spring, but we got six more weeks of winter instead.

Both Phil and Chuck are on the east coast.  What about here in Michigan?  The Associated Press via the Detroit Free Press reports From Howell, Woody predicts more winter coming.  The east coast might have an early spring, but we're not likely to.  At least if Woody's right, I won't be able to say "I told you so" as I did in 2013.

Speaking of animal predictions, Woody also predicted that the Broncos would prevail over the Panthers in the Super Bowl.  I have more confidence in animal auguries over that event than their ability to forecast the weather.

*Stay tuned for my comments on the Iowa Caucuses, as I had promised last night.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Marching music for the Iowa Caucuses: Colts and Hawkeyes

I'll have more to say about the Iowa Caucus results later.  Right now, I'm just going to play some music.  First, 2013 Colts from Dubuque, Iowa, playing "Field of Dreams," an appropriate choice for tonight's festivities.

If the candidates build it, will the voters come?

Next, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes at this year's Rose Parade.

The University of Iowa Hawkeye Marching Band performing at the at the 127th Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade on Friday, January 1st 2016.
If the voters come, will they march into the caucus sites?

Stay tuned for the answers tomorrow, along with the answer to the question of Groundhog Day, will the woodchuck see his shadow?

Theme for February 2016: PASSION

Find Your Passion with February's BlogHer Writing Lab
So what is the BlogHer Writing Lab theme this month?


February is dominated by Valentine's Day. If you're not in a relationship, it can be a difficult holiday to swallow, and even if you are in a relationship, it may be a day that brings more stress than its worth. Or, hey, maybe you love Valentine's Day and can't wait to tackle that box of truffles.

In any case, when I talk about passion, I'm talking about the ideas that get under your skin. What lights your fire? What makes you excited? What do you feel so strongly about that you would dedicate hours of your time or go out of your way to do?

If there isn't an answer on the tip of your tongue, there hopefully will be after you tackle the writing prompts this month.

Moreover, I'm giving double points to anyone who helps another Writing Lab member fulfill their passion this month. I want to hear those stories of bloggers helping bloggers, whether it's getting started learning a computer language, passing along recipes that inject new passion into a meal, or helping someone else fulfill their acting dream.

The Writing Lab will also be lighting a little flame underneath you and pushing you to complete a query challenge by the end of the month. If you're not already in the Facebook group head over there before that publication challenge begins.

The February BlogHer Writing Lab theme -- PASSION -- runs from February 1 until February 29. You can blog daily for a month, blog daily for a week, blog on random days throughout the month -- it's really up to you. There is no blogroll you need to join: just enter and exit the project based on your needs.
The BlogHer Writing Lab is what you make of it. At its core, it's about getting you writing. It's about helping you get your words ready once you've taken the time to write. And it's about helping you grow your space and take next steps.

So join the February BlogHer Writing Lab, and let's find your passion.
I don't have to find my passions.  I already have--writing about science, technology, environment, politics, education, and entertainment, especially if the subject of that entertainment speaks to one or more of my other passions.  Stay tuned for more on these topics, along with four fun holidays this month, Groundhog Day, Lunar New Year, Fat Tuesday, and Valentines Day, plus a bonus--Leap Year Day.  I love holidays!