Monday, June 30, 2014

Research on online incivility challenges some stereotypes


For the final entry in June about this month's Nablopomo theme of comment, I present this research that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Gliese 832c) about uncivil comments to online news articles from the University of Utah, which asks Are You Guilty of Posting Rude Comments to Online News Sites?
New study confirms that uncivil behavior is common online, but its sources challenge stereotypes

June 26, 2014 – Anyone who’s ever ventured into the comments section of a news website has likely observed some unfriendly exchanges. Now research from the University of Utah and the University of Arizona has confirmed just how common such behavior is.

In a new study published in the Journal of Communication, researchers analyzed more than 6,400 reader comments posted to the website of the Arizona Daily Star, the major daily newspaper in Tucson, Arizona. They found that more than 1 in 5 comments included some form of incivility, with name-calling as the most prevalent type.

“We tracked six different kinds of uncivil language, but name-calling was far and away the most common,” said Kevin Coe, assistant professor of communication at the University of Utah and one of the study’s authors. “Many people just can’t seem to avoid the impulse to go after someone else.”

The study also showed that these types of commenters do not fit the stereotype of a few angry individuals who spend hours at their computers blasting others and making baseless claims. In fact, incivility was more common among infrequent commenters. Equally surprising, uncivil commenters were just as likely to use evidence in support of their claims as were the more respectful individuals.
The study explains why the more frequent commenters might be more civil than the infrequent ones later.  Follow over the jump for the rest of the press release to find where that explanation might be.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Video games are not bad for you


This has been a very busy week for collapse-related entertainment, what with the The Hunger Games' Mockingjay trailer arriving last week, the premiere of "The Leftovers" tonight,  and both "Defiance" and "Falling Skies" continuing their seasons.  However, it's also been a busy week for me, and all I have time to share with my readers tonight are these two articles about video games from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Gliese 832c) on Daily Kos last night.

First, University of Buffalo reports via Science Daily that 'Bad' video game behavior increases players' moral sensitivity: May lead to pro-social behavior in real world.
New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players' increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated. The current study found such guilt can lead players to be more sensitive to the moral issues they violated during game play. Other studies have established that in real life scenarios, guilt evoked by immoral behavior in the "real-world" elicits pro-social behaviors in most people.
...
"Rather than leading players to become less moral," Grizzard says, "this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others."
Thus, one of the traditional knocks against video games, that they promote violence, is not true.  In fact, the opposite may be the case.

Next, Colorado State University finds that Gamers know grammar, and aren't afraid to use it.
Gamers use good grammar? Surprising as it might sound, that's one the findings from studies of online gaming chat led by a CSU researcher.

The studies found that millennials – notorious for misused language and sloppy typing – are actually more accomplished communicators than many of us believed.

“Online chat – especially in games – is often thought of as eroding the typing and self-expression skills of younger people, but our study shows that they are very expressive and do pay attention to how they communicate both with text and non-verbally with their avatars,” said Rosa Mikeal Martey, the study’s lead author and a professor in Colorado State University’s Department of Journalism and Technical Communication.
One other finding was how players of different ages explored the capabilities of their avatars in different ways.  Younger players, especially young men, were more likely to jump and emote than older ones.  One of my favorite examples of that are the dance videos from various MMOs out there, such as this one from Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It's the first I've seen from that game.


I'm sure someone young made this video, and a damn good thing, too.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Progress on Orion and other space and astronomy news


A recurring themes of this blog is my fear that the United States is acting out one of the great tragic tropes of science fiction--turning its back on space as part of its decline as a civilization, which I explored most recently in Space News for the second and third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.  Therefore, I'm interested in any signs that the U.S. will resume independent crewed spaceflight, if for no other reason than to rub the naysayers noses in it, as I wrote in Mars, solar flares, and this month's stargazing in this week's space and astronomy news.  NASA provided me such a sign in Orion Spacecraft Is Taking Shape on This Week @NASA.


I'll be following Orion's progress intently.

Continue over the jump for more space and astronomy news.

Friday, June 27, 2014

U.N. declares Detroit's water shutoffs a human rights violation


I haven't written here about Detroit's water system since I posted Detroit Regional Water Authority talks in the news in January.  It turns I should have, as the water system is one of the sticking points in dealing with Detroit's bankruptcy.  One of the actions taken as a result has become big news, as WXYZ reports in City of Detroit shutting off water to thousands for lack of payment.


WXYZ did a fairly good job of summarizing the story, complete with quotes from both activists and the water department, as well as pointing out that the United Nations had become involved.  That written, it doesn't go into many of the details, including the actual finding of the U.N.  Follow over the jump for perspectives on the situation from The Huffington Post and the Detroit Free Press.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Great Lakes cities and their roles in the regional economy


I left a variation of a story I tell my students as a comment at Kunsler's blog two weeks ago, a shortened version of how and why Detroit became the Motor City in the context of its place in the Great Lakes regional economy and what might be in store for it in response to a remark by Kunstler.
“I’m convinced that the Great Lakes region will be at the center of an internally-focused North American economy when the hallucination of oil-powered globalism dissolves. Places like Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit will have a new life, but not at the scale of the twentieth century”

In my classes, I spend a good chunk of a lecture on the roles of Great Lakes cities. It was pretty natural that North America’s manufacturing would be centered on the Great Lakes, as all of the natural resources required for making things out of steel were there–iron ore, coal, and lime–and the entire region was connected by a vast natural waterway, making shipping cheap. All that was needed to make cars was imported rubber. Detroit ended up with the distinction because of its central location, skilled manufacturing work force, and money looking for something to invest in once the timber boom ended. Now that cars are winding down, the city is looking for something else to make. Urban farming and trade with Canada aren’t enough to support a metropolitan population of four million.

It also helped that all the rest of the Great Lakes cities had something else to do already. Buffalo is a trade center between New York and the Great Lakes to the west. I suppose the Erie Canal might get revived as a functioning trade route in the post-petroleum future. Cleveland was the original oil capital and secondary manufacturing center. Now, it’s trying to become a tourist attraction. I’m not sure what it will do in a future without mass tourism. Toledo is the Glass City, which means its a subsidiary of Detroit. It’s still a trade center where the Maumee enters Lake Erie, but the rest of its future depends on what Detroit does.

As for the cities to the west, Chicago is the ultimate trade center, where the raw materials of the west get sent to the manufacturing centers of the east and the manufactured goods get sent to the west with Chicago profiting as the middleman (think Chicago Board of Trade). There will still be room for such a role in the future, even if it’s smaller. Milwaukee is the place where milk and grain become beer and cheese. Again, that’s useful, but how much of a mass market will there be for it?

All of the above is a story I tell my students that helps them understand their place in the world. Now they have to help create their own story so that they can keep a place in the world.
I transitioned out of that passage by promising to repost it to here in a more refined form.  Honestly, I think it's good enough.  Now follow over the jump for responses to it and to another comment about Detroit I posted this week at Kunstler's blog.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What the Sith Jihad wants includes science crime scenes


When I posted ISIS looks like Sith, not Jedi on Facebook, someone called ISIS "The Sith Jihad" in comments.  That's such a good label, I'm using it for them from now on. Unfortunately, the best image is one from the prequel trilogy to "Dune."  The rest are too offensive.  So be it.

I begin with Test Tube's Who Is ISIS And What Do They Want In Iraq?


You heard the presenter right; ISIS prepares quarterly reports.  Here's what Vox had to say about one of them in The surreal infographics ISIS is producing, translated.
We know that ISIS, the al-Qaeda breakaway group that's gaining more and more ground in Iraq at the moment, is an exceptionally well-trained and disciplined fighting force, with a shockingly sophisticated social media strategy to boot. But did you know that they also produce annual reports with fancy infographics detailing all the operations they carried out over a given period?

The most recent report, published on March 31, details the group's operations from November 2012 to November 2013. It's a dense, text-heavy 410 pages, with plenty of data tables tallying up various actions the group took. A previous report covered the period from November 2011 to November 2012 over a much more concise 198 pages. Each report begins with a big, splashy infographic counting up various actions undertaken in the previous year.
The infographics at the link show how many bombings, assassinations, prisoner rescues, and other military operations took place during the reporting period.  The latest includes how many cities they've captured.  I don't know whether to be disgusted or impressed.

That's not all ISIS wants.  Apparently they want to create a bunch of science (and culture) crime scenes.  Follow over the jump for the story explaining how and why that I originally included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Summer Solstice 2014).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Giant hogweed and poison ivy in class


Last November, I concluded Rutgers on Sandy anniversary and other climate news with something appropriate for Halloween.
Speaking of invasive plants, here's one that scares my students, complete with spooky music appropriate for Halloween.

Attack of the Giant Hogweed

Protect yourself from Giant Hogweed. Its toxic sap can cause severe burns.
It still scares my students and this time, they brought it up first.  When asked in my biodiversity class if I had heard about Giant Hogweed, I played the above video along with this one from Michigan: Giant Toxic Plants Pop Up in Mid-Michigan.


Those videos answered their questions, although they weren't reassured.  What was reassuring is that Giant Hogweed is rare in Michigan.  That's a good thing for a plant that is more toxic than poison ivy.

Speaking of poison ivy, it's likely to become more dangerous as the climate warms.  Follow over the link for a press release from Virginia Tech that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Fathers Day) on Daily Kos.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Detroit fireworks show continues for yet another year


Yes, I told you all to stay tuned for comments about "Defiance" and "Falling Skies" at the end of Animals predict the World Cup in space, but other than a couple of cursory comments, I'm not really feeling it tonight.*  Instead, I want to follow up on what I wrote in last year's Detroit River fireworks show continues.
Last year, I commented on the possibility that there might not be a fireworks show this year.
Based on what I think motivates Americans to act and the presence of the Michigan State Police and Wayne County Sheriffs at the show, I'm sure that the fireworks and parade will continue. People want their entertainment, especially if it comes in the form of an annual civic ritual to celebrate the seasons, and messing with America's entertainment is the one guaranteed thing that will get Americans to act.
The fireworks show was held again last night with a lot of help from the Michigan State Police...

The security efforts of the police seemed to have worked.  That should mean more fireworks next year.

Speaking of events continuing next year, this year's Thanksgiving parade has already been scheduled.  Take that as evidence that, while Detroit may go into bankruptcy, the entertainment people demand will go on.
I already commented on last year's parade in Detroit's Thanksgiving Parade--the tradition continues and Detroit Thanksgiving Parade--Battle of the Bands.  Tonight's entry is about the fireworks show, which is indeed being held--tomorrow (Monday) night.  Follow over the jump for the news about the event.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Animals predict the World Cup in space


No, not really, but I couldn't resist the title based on combining the two World Cup related items from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Summer Solstice 2014) I'm recycling tonight.

First, Discovery News asks and answers How Do Astronauts Watch The World Cup In Space?


Next, Tanya Lewis of LiveScience reports Animals 'Predict' 2014 World Cup Winning Teams.
They're baaack — in zoos around the world, animals are taking to the field — or at least, the tank or the food bin — to predict the results of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
I'll plan on returning with another entertainment-themed entry later, as this weekend sees the return of two post-apocalyptic alien invasion shows, "Defiance" and "Falling Skies."  Stay tuned.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Asteroid impact tied to Eocene extinction and other space and astronomy news


I've already shared today's top astronomical news in Happy Summer Solstice 2014!  It's time to pass along all the space and astronomy stories I collected for Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Fathers Day).  First, Becky Oskin of LiveScience reports on an ancient disaster in  Russia's Popigai Meteor Crash Linked to Mass Extinction.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — New evidence implicates one of Earth's biggest impact craters in a mass extinction that occurred 33.7 million years ago, according to research presented here Wednesday (June 11) at the annual Goldschmidt geochemistry conference.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles precisely dated rocks from beneath the Popigai impact crater in remote Siberia to the Eocene epoch mass extinction that occurred 33.7 million years ago. Popigai crater is one of the 10 biggest impact craters on Earth, and in 2012, Russian scientists claimed the crater harbors a gigantic industrial diamond deposit.

The new age, which is later than other estimates, means the Eocene extinction — long blamed on climate change — now has another prime suspect: an "impact winter." Meteorite blasts can trigger a deadly global chill by blanketing the Earth's atmosphere with tiny particles that reflect the sun's heat.
Apophis Day may be postponed until 2068, but it is coming.  We should be prepared.

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

Happy Summer Solstice 2014!


Summer Solstice 2014, Longest Day Of The Year, Arrives Saturday
Get set for the 2014 summer solstice! The longest day of the year arrives on Saturday, June 21 at 6:51 a.m. EDT.

The occasion brings celebrations across the Northern Hemisphere, from Swedes who wear wreaths and dance around maypoles to modern-day Druids who flock to Stonehenge to Americans who enjoy their pool parties and cookouts.
That's today.  Happy Solstice!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Examiner.com article on Detroit Regional Chamber endorsements

Debbie Dingell, seen here after she announced that she is running for Congress, earned the endorsement of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Detroit Regional Chamber endorses federal and state candidates for 2014
Thursday morning, the Detroit Regional Chamber's political action committee (Chamber PAC) issued its endorsements for candidates running for federal, state, and county offices in the August 5 primary in Michigan. 

The organization based its recommendations on responses to a survey, input from committee members and personal interviews with leading candidates interested in the Detroit Chamber’s endorsement to determine the candidates’ stances on business issues and their potential to represent the regional business community.

Chamber PAC endorsed a bipartisan group of candidates, with Democrat Gary Peters earning the organization's nod for Michigan's open U.S. Senate seat, the highest office that earned the Chamber's endorsement this morning.
More, including quotes from the Detroit Regional Chamber, responses from Gary Peters and Debbie Dingell, and the names of the other candidates appearing on ballots in Washtenaw County who earned endorsements, at the link.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

ISIS looks like Sith, not Jedi

With Kunstler shifting gears from Ukraine to Iraq in Heads, You Lose, it's time to share this rotten tomato I threw at Elaine Meinel Supkis in the comments to her blog this week.  I'll begin with her set-up last week, Pentagon Continues To Redo Computer-generated Uniforms That Look Increasingly Stupid.
The US patrol of Iraq was a howling failure and this photo shows one element of this failure: the ridiculous way our troops looked.
...
Yes, they have lethal weapons.  But they are way overburdened with junk and look sad sack to boot.  Lucas Films has this right:
If these Jedi Knights showed up wearing camo pajamas, no one would be amazed, they would laugh at them.  I would also suggest this should have been the uniforms worn by our Afghan troops.  Then, the Taliban would at least felt they were honorable fighters and not mud walls.
She elaborated her point using her personal experience in comments.
Rulers knew eons ago you have to LOOK the role.

I used to fight medieval style in the SCA years ago. I would enter the battlefield with full pomp, ceremony and wearing classy armor, shield painted with my standard arms, gold leaf details on the edges of the armor, etc.

The sun shone on me and I was brave!
Monday, she followed through with Al Qaeda Soldiers Look Like Jedi Knights As I Explained Why Mud Wall Uniforms Are For Losers.
The other day, I wrote about the ugly computer generated mud wall uniforms worn by NATO, US troops invading Muslim nations.  Look at the al Qaeda fighters!  As I compared earlier to Star Wars, they ARE ‘Star Wars Jedi Knights’.  Only very, very brutal.  These vicious men are out to rule with an iron fist and they will succeed because Iraq was tottering off a cliff ever since Saddam disarmed and let the US invade.
At this point, I threw the rotten tomato at her.
Jedi wore brown; these guys wear black. That means that the ISIS fighters look like the Sith from the days of the Old Republic, back when there were more than two at a time. That’s what you get when you have vicious, brutal people with the power of Jedi Knights [who want to rule with an iron fist]. They may be strong in The Force, but they serve the Dark Side. All they need are the red-bladed light sabers.

That was two days ago, and so far I still have the last word.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Examiner.com article on Sierra Club endorsements

Shari Pollesch earned the Sierra Club's endorsement in her campaign to unseat Joe Hune in the Michigan Senate.
Credit: www.voteforshari.com
.Pollesch earns Sierra Club endorsement
Shari Pollesch gained another endorsement Monday as the Sierra Club included her in the latest batch of candidates it is recommending to voters. Pollesch is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge incumbent Republican Joe Hune, who represents western and northern Washtenaw County along with most of Livingston County in District 22 of the Michigan Senate.

Pollesch has served on the Michigan League of Conservation Voters Board, including two years as chair.  She regularly participates in Sierra Club activities including Citizen Lobby Day, advocacy trips to Washington D.C., writing letters to newspapers, and fighting against fracking in Livingston County.

When asked about her endorsement on Tuesday, Pollesch told Examiner.com "if we make the planet uninhabitable, nothing else will really matter."
More at the link, including a list of the eight other candidates on the ballot in Washtenaw County this year who have been endorsed by the Sierra Club, all of whom are Democrats.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The corner station awakens, advances, then retreats


I concluded Corner station goes into suspended animation in No Man's Land by suggesting that I take a break from watching gas prices.
[T]he corner station charged into No Man's Land last Thursday, raising its price to $3.99.  By Saturday, it had dropped down to $3.95.  Normally, it would have matched the rest of the stations by now, but it hasn't.  The reason is simple; the station is closed for construction, so it's not changing its price.  It went into suspended animation on the battlefield.  I think this series might go into hibernation with it.
Last Saturday, the corner station opened up again and promptly raised its price to $3.99.  Off to No Man's Land!  By Sunday, it had lowered it to $3.95.  Yesterday, it had matched the rest of the neighborhood stations at $3.85.  Throughout this entire episode, they kept their prices where they have been for a couple of weeks.

According to GasBuddy, that's exactly where they belong, as the metro Detroit average has been $3.95 for the past three days and the local stations normally are a dime cheaper.  Prices aren't going down any time soon.  If anything, they might go up based on the slight increase in the national average from $3.63 to $3.66 during the past week as well as the increase in crude oil prices Calculated Risk noted two days ago.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Archdruid on Fascism, part 2


Greer returns to blogging this week after a six-week hiatus he announced at the end of The Time of the Seedbearers.  To mark the occasion, I'm going to make good on the promise I made at the end of The Archdruid on Fascism, part 1  to post my observations on Fascism and the Future, Part Two: The Totalitarian Center.  I kicked that down the road in On 'Weimar America' with The Archdruid and his readers.  Now I'm ready to tackle it.

Greer argued that fascism isn't really a movement of the right or left, but of the disenfranchised center.  In my first comment I agreed with him that fascism was a threat, but didn't agree with him about it being a movement of the center.  Instead, I pulled out an observation of mine from my youth much like the one I recorded in Brooke Shields shows that fame can last, one that time has confirmed.
Decades ago, I decided that the radicals on the Right (note that I didn't call them conservatives, even if they call themselves that these days) were more dangerous than the ones on the Left.  First, I figured out that there were a lot more of them.  Second, I looked at the history of Communist vs. Fascist regimes.  I can't think of a single successful indigenous Communist revolution that took place in a democracy. When the socialists take over a democracy, it looks like Sweden, not the U.S.S.R.  Therefore, that wasn't going to happen to the U.S.  On the other hand, I looked at all the fascist regimes and every one of them came out of a failed experiment with democracy.  That could happen here.

Also, you're not alone among Peak Oil thinkers in expecting fascism in America's future.  James Kunstler has been predicting for more than a decade that we'd elect maniacs who'd promise to allow us to keep our McMansions, cars, and commutes long after Peak Oil made all of them untenable.  After a few years, he changed "maniacs" to "corn-pone Nazis led by a corn-pone Hitler."  He's been looking for that "corn-pone Hitler" since.  The last time he identified one, it was Sarah Palin.  That turned out to be a false alarm; women historically don't become fascist dictators.  However, there are plenty of candidates for that role these days.
Follow over the jump for the conversation among Greer, me, and his other readers that ensued.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

After zombies and vampires, what's next?


For today's collapse-related entertainment-themed post, I tie in tonight's season finale of Game of Thrones to zombies and a prediction about what's next in horror with this excerpt of a press release from the College of Charleston that I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Fathers Day) on Daily Kos: Grade of Thrones: Monsters in Popular Culture and Academia with Scott Poole by Hannah Ashe, posted 12 June 2014.
Don’t spoil Game of Thrones season four for Associate Professor of History Scott Poole. He’s a few episodes behind, with perhaps na├»ve hopes for his favorite characters, Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister.

“I absolutely love it,” Poole said. “I really like the combination of revenge, horror and a little bit of the supernatural thrown in. Daenerys is probably my favorite character and a lot of that has to do with the dragon association.”

But when Poole, who has tied his lifelong captivation with monsters into his scholarship, has to guess about the post-vampire-and-zombie phenomenon, dragons don’t make the cut.

“There’s actually been a notable uptick in interest in the horror genre since 9/11,” Poole observed. “That’s especially true of apocalyptic horror, which includes zombies in a way. I’ve noticed that films that deal with the idea of pandemics and disease have been gaining popularity, obviously by feeding on very real fears from the past decade – everything from terrorists using biological weapons to bird flu and other possibilities for pandemics.”

His other contending theory also involves fears based on current events, like invasion of digital privacy and security. “I could see something like ‘monsters of the digital frontier’ – films essentially about human beings losing themselves and becoming pure data. There’s so much about social media, for example, that seems perfect for horror films.”
I like that explanation for why zombies have become a major component of pop culture lately, although Poole's analysis misses the revenge fantasy aspects explored in The Archdruid and his readers on zombies and the fear of the other during collapse described in More from the Archdruid and his readers on zombies, part 1.  Add them all together and I think that one would get a more nearly complete picture of the phenomenon.

As for the "monsters of the digital frontier," we already have hackers, trolls, and kooks, who are quite real and who I've dealt with for more than 20 years.  Those belong in genres other than horror, such as action films, so they don't fit in the horror genre in their mundane forms.  Instead, I suspect Poole has something like The Lawnmower Man in mind.  That film was a financial success but a critical failure and was followed by a sequel starring Matt Frewer, who is known for the original human scanned into pure data and escaping into the Internet, Max Headroom.  That was appropriate casting, but the film was even worse.  My verdict is that the concept could definitely use an update and reboot for the 21st Century, but the Lawnmower Man franchise is a good example of leaving bad enough alone.

The science of fatherhood for Father's Day


To celebrate the holiday, here are the two lead stories from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Fathers Day) on Daily Kos.  Under the "if it moves it leads" policy, the video from Discovery News goes first.

The Science Of Stay-At-Home Dads!


LiveScience explains 5 Ways Fatherhood Changes a Man's Brain By Bahar Gholipour, Staff Writer, on June 14, 2014 11:21am ET.
Fatherhood can change a man's life. It also changes his brain, in ways that it seems to equip dads with the very same "baby sense" that's often attributed to moms.

From an animal kingdom perspective, human dads are unusual. They belong to a group of less than 6 percent of mammal species in which fathers play a significant role in rearing offspring. In these species, paternal care often involves the same behaviors as maternal care, with the exception of nursing.

But how does fatherhood change a man's brain? Science has only recently delved into the neural and hormonal mechanisms of paternal care, but so far the evidence suggests that mothers' and fathers' brains use a similar neural circuitry when taking care of their children. Moms and dads also undergo similar hormonal changes that are linked to their brain and behavior changes.
Once again, Happy Fathers Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oldest possibly habitable planet and other space and astronomy news


The lead story of last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Oldest possibly habitable planet) on Daily Kos came from Mike Wall of Space.com, who declared Found! Oldest Known Alien Planet That Might Support Life
Astronomers have discovered what appears to be the oldest known alien world that could be capable of supporting life, and it's just a stone's throw away from Earth.

The newfound exoplanet candidate Kapteyn b, which lies a mere 13 light-years away, is about 11.5 billion years old, scientists say. That makes it 2.5 times older than Earth, and just 2 billion years or so younger than the universe itself, which burst into existence with the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

"It does make you wonder what kind of life could have evolved on those planets over such a long time," study lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, of Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement.
As the illustration shows, it's also a much larger planet than Earth, although not as large as 'Godzilla Earth' planet Kepler 10c, which has a mass 17 times that of Earth.

Follow over the jump for more space and astronomy news.

Discovery News on staying up late


Discovery News asks Why Do We Stay Awake When We're Tired?

It's late at night, you're tired, but you just don't want to go to sleep! Why do we all procrastinate when it comes to when we go to bed? Join Tara as she explains this new phenomenon and why it occurs.
Time to go to bed!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Full Moon Friday the 13th


GeoBeats has the quick summary in Friday The 13th 'Honey Moon' Offers A Rare Viewing Opportunity.


For more detail, read Today is Friday the 13th and a full moon. That won't happen again until 2049 on Vox and Why Do We Fear Friday the 13th? on LiveScience.  Also, here are links to previous entries about Friday the 13th.

It's Friday the 13th, drink up!
More on Friday the 13th from Rutgers
Friday the 13th research a bit late
Paraskevidekatriaphobia and Happy Apophis Day!

The first of the four is the most popular entry today so far.

Nuclear waste in cat litter


Here's another story I tell my students in addition to Cleaning Cleopatra's Needle and the Collosseum and Parasites and prostate cancer.  Discovery News asks and answers Where Do We Store Nuclear Waste?

Nuclear energy is one of the most efficient forms of energy, but it is also very dangerous. Where do we store the radioactive waste? Trace explains where we store it, and if our current method of storage is safe.
I knew the DNews crew was going to mention the cat litter.  My students will get a big kick out of that detail.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Corner station goes into suspended animation in No Man's Land


At the end of Everyone retreats in the gas price war, I made the following prediction.
The neighborhood prices are exactly where they are supposed to be given the local price environment, so they should hold relatively steady except for the corner station making its weekly charge into No Man's Land.
That's exactly what happened, except with a twist.  The three stations down the block have remained at $3.85 for the past 11 days since I posted that on the first.  Also, the corner station charged into No Man's Land last Thursday, raising its price to $3.99.  By Saturday, it had dropped down to $3.95.  Normally, it would have matched the rest of the stations by now, but it hasn't.  The reason is simple; the station is closed for construction, so it's not changing its price.  It went into suspended animation on the battlefield.  I think this series might go into hibernation with it.

Instead of making a prediction or checking GasBuddy, I'm going to to off on a TANJit by showing the following video from Discovery News that asks Are We Ready For Suspended Animation?

Suspended animation, or cryogenics, is a procedure where the body is drastically cooled down so that human life can be temporarily stopped. How does it work, are we ready for it, and what are the benefits of this procedure? Trace and Tara discusses how a new, approved study will allow for the testing of suspended animation on humans.
Short-term suspended animation for medicine.  So the technology for interplanetary travel isn't ready yet.  At least it's a start.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Parasites and prostate cancer


I have more stories I tell my students than just Cleaning Cleopatra's Needle and the Collosseum.  UCLA and Discovery News have an item that I'm going to include in my lecture about protists this afternoon.  First, the video from DNews, which asks Could An STD Cause Prostate Cancer?

Trichomoniasis is the most common STD in the world, and people have been finding links between the infection and prostate cancer! Tara and Laci are here to report on this finding, and also discuss research showing that dogs are able to sniff out patients with prostate cancer!
Next, the press release from my undergraduate alma mater about the research that DNews is citing.

UCLA: STD may heighten risk of prostate cancer
Elaine Schmidt
May 27, 2014
Could a common sexually transmitted infection boost a man’s risk for prostate cancer?

In a new study, Patricia Johnson, a professor of microbiology, immunology and molecular genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, explored the connection between prostate cancer and the parasite that causes trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection in men and women.

Johnson’s team discovered that the parasite, Trichomonas vaginalis, secretes a protein that stimulates the growth of prostate cells and also induces an inflammatory response, which the researchers suspect enhances the cells’ progression to tumor cells.
This news hits close to home for me as it's not only about a topic that I teach (today!) and from the university where I got my first degree, but is about my health history.  As I described in Surgery as a fresh start, I am a prostate cancer survivor.  There is no history of the disease in my family, so other causes have to be suspected.  This at least offers an explanation, even if I never presented with symptoms.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Examiner.com article on Green Party candidates



Green Party Candidate for U.S. Senate Chris Wahmhoff.

Michigan Green Party nominates pipeline protester for U.S. Senate
This past weekend, the Green Party of Michigan held its convention in Detroit to nominate its nominees for federal, state, and local offices ranging from U.S. Senator and Governor down to Trustee for Washtenaw Community College and announced the candidates on its website Monday.

Among the nominees is one who is willing to stand up for his political and environmental convictions.  Chris Wahmhoff, who is the Green Party of Michigan nominee for U.S. Senate, spent his thirty-fifth birthday skating inside a pipeline under construction in Marshall to protest tar sands.  He faced trespassing charges that have since been dismissed.

Wahmhoff followed in the footsteps of 2012 Green Party nominee for President Jill Stein, who had been arrested for trespassing during a protest against the Keystone XL pipeline in the middle of her election campaign two years ago.

Wahmhoff, who will be facing Democrat Gary Peters, Republican Terri Lynn Land, and Libertarian Jim Fulner, along with likely nominees from the U.S. Taxpayers Party and Natural Law Party, joins ten other candidates who will appear on Washtenaw County ballots in November.
If Wahmhoff looks familiar, he should.  He was the star of Civil disobedience against tar sands in Marshall, Michigan, where I misspelled his name as Wahmoff (in my defense, so did WOOD-TV) and then had a cameo in Eleven charged in protests against tar sands pipeline, where I spelled his name properly.  In the first entry, I wrote "I hope Wahmoff has a good lawyer.  He'll need one."  It looks like he got one, as the charges were dismissed.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Fabius Maximus and I discuss Kunstler


I skipped part of a conversation in Fabius Maximus on 'Castle', noting that "Fabius and I went off on a tangent about Kunstler.  That deserves an entry of its own."  It's time for that entry.

I included my bringing up Kunstler at Fabius Maximus in a comment on Kunstler's blog in reference to something Kunstler himself wrote.
“In just about any realm of activity this nation does not know how to act. We don’t know what to do about our mounting crises of economy. We don’t know what to do about our relations with other nations in a strained global economy. We don’t know what to do about our own culture and its traditions, the useful and the outworn. We surely don’t know what to do about relations between men and women. And we’re baffled to the point of paralysis about our relations with the planetary ecosystem.”

I’ve been reading a fellow who calls himself “Fabius Maximus” lately. One of the points he’s been making is that Americans won’t defend America anymore because they don’t like what it has become and don’t see themselves in it anymore. This reminds me of the point you’ve made about suburbia is that you don’t think Americans will defend a place they don’t care about. I called his attention to that similarity in a post he wrote about gender roles. He responded skeptically. Too bad, he should take you more seriously.
Here's the interchange from the comments to “Castle” shows us a dark vision of Romance in America that I skipped over.
Me, quoting FM: “[P]erhaps we no longer defend America because we no longer like it.”

That’s the thesis of author James Howard Kunstler. He applies it mostly to our built environment, but he likes to make fun of the Kardashians and other sources of trashy entertainment as well. Here’s a link to a video of him giving a TED talk on the subject (It might actually embed–Wordpress does that from time to time) (P-S note: it did).



“In James Howard Kunstler’s view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about.”
Follow over the jump for the rest of both conversations with Fabius, first at his site, then at Kunstler's.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fabius Maximus on 'Castle'


The big entertainment event of the evening is The Tony Awards, but I took a look at the nominees and decided that there were too few nominees that were on topic for this blog that I passed.  Besides, musicals and plays work well for tourists and culture vultures, but they just aren't the mass entertainment that they used to be, especially in the days when musicals went from the stage to the screen.  Now, they're more likely to go the other way, as at least three of the nominees, Aladdin, Bridges of Madison County, and Bullets over Broadway, were films first and musicals second, while a quick pass through shows only two, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Les Miserables, that went from stage to screen.  I'm not counting the various revivals of Shakespeare; besides, they're not musicals.

For my Sunday entertainment-themed entry, I'm linking instead to Fabius Maximus, who posted a series on the show Castle.

 (1) Spoilers for “Castle”: explaining the finale & season 7. It’s a metaphor for America.
 (2) What we do here. Why it’s unpopular. And our new theme.
 (3) What the TV show “Castle” teaches us about America, and ourselves, — About our myths
 Intermission: Watching the weekly adventures of our fun stylish security police — Looking at NCIS: LA
 (4) The TV show “Castle” challenges us to see our changing values. Most fans decline, horrified.
 (5) “Castle” shows us marriage in America, a fault line between our past & future
 (6) “Castle” shows us a dark vision of Romance in America
 (7) Richard Castle shows us the dark reality of justice in 21st C America
 (8) “Castle” shows that many of us don’t defend New America because we don’t like it
 (9) The bitter fruits of our alienation from America
(10) How you can start the campaign to reform America

In keeping with this month's comment theme, I'm quoting the conversations Fabius and I had in comments on some of these entries.  Follow over the jump for them.

Cleaning Cleopatra's Needle and the Colosseum


The pyramids weren't the only monuments of ancient fallen civilizations I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Pyramids on Star Wars Day).  I also wrote about restoration efforts planned for Cleopatra's Needle and the Colosseum.  It turns out that the tale of Cleopatra's Needle in New York City is a story I tell my students about the relative power of moisture over heat as an agent of weathering.  Since I'm both lazy and a believer in the virtue of reusing and recycling, I present Wikipedia's version of the story.
The surface of the stone is heavily weathered, nearly masking the rows of Egyptian hieroglyphs engraved on all sides. Photographs taken near the time the obelisk was erected in the park show that the inscriptions or hieroglyphs, as depicted below with translation, were still quite legible and date first from Thutmosis III (1479–1425 BC) and then nearly 300 years later, Ramesses II the Great (1279–1213 BC). The stone had stood in the clear dry Egyptian desert air for nearly 3000 years and had undergone little weathering. In a little more than a century in the climate of New York City, pollution and acid rain have heavily pitted its surfaces. In 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass, sent an open letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City insisting on improved conservation efforts. If they are not able to properly care for the obelisk, he has threatened to "take the necessary steps to bring this precious artifact home and save it from ruin."
Four years later, Gothamist describes the latest effor to properly care for Cleopatra's Needle in Oldest Man-Made Object In NYC To Be Cleaned With Lasers.
The oldest man-made object in Central Park, and the only thing in this city using bronze crab claws as supports, is in need of a wash down. The Obelisk, also known as Cleopatra's Needle, will be cleaned during a conservation project, the Central Park Conservancy announced today.

Stabilization and cleaning of the 3,500-year-old Obelisk, situated right behind the Met, starts this week, and is part of an effort to "promote its long term preservation and enhance the public’s understanding of the ancient artifact." Working with the Met and the Parks Department, the Conservancy will kick things off with a cleaning... with LASERS, which they found to be "most sensitive to the stone’s surface and safest for the environment." The laser's infrared light will vaporize the dirt, which has been accumulating throughout the years.
Removing the dirt would only be a first step.  The obelisk would look better, but I don't know if it would reduce the weathering or restore the carvings.  Still, I'm glad to see something done to preserve New York's Cleopatra's Needle.  Also, it does make for a cool story to tell the students, as I found out when I incorporated this detail in my lecture about weather a couple of weeks ago.

Follow over the jump for news about the restoration of the Colosseum in Rome along with one of the indignities the monument has suffered.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Hurricane names show that sexism harms the sexists


In yesterday's Recycled comments about the men's rights movement, I described my online encounter with a den of rabid sexists and how their "inflammatory, paranoid, rigidly doctrinaire, and downright hostile" behavior got in the way of accepting something that would help them.  Today, I present evidence that sexism harms the sexists themselves from Laci and Tara of Discovery News, who explain Why Female-Named Hurricanes Are More Deadly.

A groundbreaking new study revealed that hurricanes that are named after a women are more deadly than hurricanes with male names! What's the reasoning for this? Tara and Laci discuss how people don't take hurricanes with female names as seriously as those with male names!
Actually, I'd find Bertha more threatening than Reginald, but that's probably just me, as the former sounds tougher than the latter.

Follow over the jump for my reflections on the utility of naming storms and a meta observation on the comments to this video.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Recycled comments about the men's rights movement


Eric B. described his experience with the men's rights movement in America's least necessary political movement mansplains humor to Nancy Kaffer at Michigan Liberal.
A few years ago, I took an objective look at the men's rights movement. I'm mostly a single dad, so I thought maybe there was something in it for me. There wasn't, and I wrote a column saying so and that I was happy that Mike Cox was aggressively pursuing deadbeats ... and was deluged with e-mails from members of the men's rights movement. They all basically followed the same format: My crazy bitch ex-girlfriend/wife gets all my money and I don't even get to fuck her anymore ... which I wouldn't do because she was lousy in the sack. One correspondent in particular lamented the idea that if he earned a salary of $1 million that he be expected to fork over half of it for the care of the child he helped create. It was revealing and disturbing at the same time.
I had a similar experience eight years ago with with the men's rights movement, which has managed to get into the news lately for all the wrong reasons.*  It was with the regular posters of soc.men when I was a regular of alt.usenet.kooks (AUK) from 2005-2009.  I quickly came to the same conclusion about soc.men that most of the rest of the regulars of AUK had already arrived at; the posters were a bunch of fruits and nuts (one of our nicknames for the group was soc.fr00ts) and their group was an outpost of macho posing that the regulars of AUK called Fort Machismo.  We didn't think very highly of them or their cause.  In fact, we thought they were both repugnant and ridiculous.

A year after I started posting to AUK, I got recruited into a proposal to create a moderated version of soc.men.  It was intended to be a troll, but it had an ostensibly serious purpose--to contain the men's rights movement in a controlled environment where the ideas could be discussed civilly without external disruption.  On the one hand, the effort succeeded; the moderated group was created.  On the other hand, it was a dismal failure; the men's rights advocates didn't want a moderated group.  They much preferred an environment where they could continue to be disruptive bullies.  I was even less favorably impressed with soc.men after that.

Since I am a good environmentalist who recycles, I'm reposting my comments at the time about the experience and how it cemented my opinion of soc.men as a representative of the online men's rights movement, along with an update of my thoughts about the men's rights movement in light of recent events.  Follow over the jump.

My comment section


I've decided to tackle some of the prompts for this month's Comment theme.

First, Do I have commenting guidelines for my readers?

Not really, although I detest spam and will generally delete it after mocking it.  However, I do have a comment that is the current gold standard at this blog, the first one left at The collapse of cursive by Kate.  It prompted me to respond rapturously.
This is the kind of comment I dream about--on-topic, well written, informative, and with a clear point of view. I wish all those who left comments were as good as you.

And, yes, I know this is really very high quality spam. If all spam were like this, I would enjoy it, just like the Vikings!
The last comment that entry received was more garden variety unpaid advertising, which elicited my scorn.
Spammer, I'm keeping your comment up so that stands in sad contrast with Kate's. Yours is typical spam. Hers is a thing of beauty. May traffic to your site suffer in comparison with hers.
Next, Who owns the comment section: the blog writer or the blog readers?  Actually, Blogspot owns this space, not me or the commenters; I merely possess it.  That written, it depends on the blog.  At my blog, the readers have a weak presence in comments, so I own it.  Other places, the readers have taken over.  This has long been the case over at Kunstler's blog, although the quality of comments has improved since Kunstler started throwing people out for flagrant bigotry, blatant flamebaiting, excessive stupidy, and posting "First!"  Welcome to Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking.  In contrast, Greer owns his comment section.  Nothing gets posted without his approval.

Finally, Have I ever deleted a comment? What would make me delete a comment?  Yes, dozens of them over the past three years.  All of them have been spam of one kind or another.  Most of them are off-topic and poorly-written.  One that I canned wasn't either, but I found it in extremely bad taste--it was an add for a casual sex site left as a comment to an entry about revenge porn.  I didn't care how on-topic it was, I was too offended by the juxtaposition to let it stay.  Here's my response to it.
You're advertising this service via a comment on an entry about revenge porn? I think you have terrible marketing sense, or you think your target demographic are fools who are gluttons for punishment. Either way, I'm not letting your ad remain here, as much as I think it hurts you.
On the other hand, sometimes I'll leave spam comments just to make an example of them.  This is what I thought of an ad for a Detroit taxi service.
You want to advertise on an entry making fun of Detroit's Bankruptcy? HAHAHAHAHA! Be my guest!
So, that's what passes for what I like and dislike in comments.  My advice to all of you who want to write comments, strive to be like Kate.  Otherwise, no spammers!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

NASA mid-year report and other space and astronomy news


Time for a review of the year so far in 2014 Mid Year Report on This Week @NASA.

The This Week At NASA crew is on a short mid-year hiatus -- but we thought we'd leave you with a quick look back at some of the big and exciting news featured so far in 2014 on This Week at NASA. We're back on June 13 with a fresh, new This Week At NASA.
Follow over the jump for news from distant galaxies to deep in the heart of Texas, where the stars at night are big and bright.

Paulson's Mini-Me nominated for California Governor

When I read a week or so ago that Neel Kashkari was one of the candidates for California Governor, I thought I recognized the name.  It turns out that I read about him at Hysterical Raisins in 2008.  He was former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's Interim Assistant Secretary for Financial Stability, which means he ran the $700 billion mortgage rescue effort during the last year of the Bush Administration.

My friend Nonnie noted his resemblance to both Paulson and Mini-Me, so she created one of her movie poster parodies.  Here's what she and I had to say in comments at the time.
Nonnie: For some reason, kids, the appointment of Neel Kashkari makes me very uneasy. I can’t put my finger on quite why. Is it that his name looks like Cash & Carry? No, that’s not it. OMG!! I remember now!! It’s that company picture that they took together before Paulson left to be Treasury Secretary!!

Nonnie: as soon as i saw cash & carry, the first thing i thought was that he looked like a young clone of paulson. tell you a secret–i only saw the first austin powers movie, but mini me immediately came to mind.
...
Me: Kashkari=looks scary!

Seriously, those piercing black eyes are absolutely unnerving. His nose is also crooked, as if it had been broken in a fight.

However, I think turning Paulson and Kashkari into Dr. Evil and Mini-Me is brilliant! Of course, Bernanke is Number Two, but who would you have playing the rest of the cast?

Nonnie: the title is just a line from the movie that i found when i googled (i didn’t see the film). i thought it fit the theme, so i went with it. i’m like princess sarah and capt underpants–i go with the sound byte, even if it doesn’t hold up to scrutiny

Me: Oh, the sound byte stands up to scrutiny just fine.

BTW, if things go really bad economically, I have a movie suggestion for you–Fight Club.

Nonnie: fight club, starring john mccain and barack obama with one hand tied behind his back to make it more even.
Nonnie missed the point about Fight Club (I was thinking of the final scene, which at the time made for a good metaphor for the financial collapse.), but she did call what has going to happen in the election the next month pretty accurately.  As for my opinion of Kashkari's looks, that still holds.  Here's to Jerry Brown, who is not only married (I never thought I'd see that happen) but married to a woman from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, wiping the floor with Cash And Carry this November.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Discovery News on Global Warming vs. Climate Change


The internet at home has been having technical problems for the past two days, which is one of the reasons why I reblogged the Hipcrime Vocab: Why Slowing Population Growth is a Problem yesterday.  It was what I could manage to post given the time and resources available.  Those problems now seem to be resolved, but they don't leave me with much time today.  So, I'm posting this video from Discovery News about the different connotations of the phrases "global warming" and "climate change" along with the emotional responses they do (or do not) elicit and why people use them to exploit those reactions.

The Difference Between Global Warming & Climate Change

Ever wonder what the difference between "global warming" and "climate change" is? The terms are used interchangeably, yet people interpret the terms in different ways. Trace breaks down what the difference is, and talks about how we perceive the terms differently.
My comment--I wish science were not so politicized, but it is.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

the Hipcrime Vocab: Why Slowing Population Growth is a Problem





Last month, escapefromwisconsin wrote about a Krugman blog post.  Here's the comment I left at his blog:

I just read the blog entry of  Krugman's [you] quoted and was thinking of writing a very similar post with comments from his readers responding to him, much as I did with Blast from the past: Pathology on the Right, a commentary on Krugman's "Two speeches and an editorial" and A Day in Exquisite Insults of Objectivists . Now that you've done it for me, I don't have to. Now I can just direct my readers to you.


Here's the link to his entry:


the Hipcrime Vocab: Why Slowing Population Growth is a Problem: Why is slowing population growth, which we so desperately need, a problem? It's entirely due to the way in which we've set up our e...


Happy reading!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Greenland melt and drought from the University of California


The week after NASA on West Antarctic ice sheet collapsing, more bad climate news came out from the University of California system.  I missed it until I compiled Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Greenland melting, too) for Daily Kos last week, when I featured the research news from the UC system campuses in advance of Tuesday's primary in California.

First, as if West Antarctica collapsing into the Southern Ocean wasn't enough, University of California at Irvine reported on May 19, 2014, that Greenland will be far greater contributor to sea rise than expected.
Major UCI-NASA work reveals long, deep valleys connecting ice cap to the ocean

Greenland’s icy reaches are far more vulnerable to warm ocean waters from climate change than had been thought, according to new research by UC Irvine and NASA glaciologists. The work, published today in Nature Geoscience, shows previously uncharted deep valleys stretching for dozens of miles under the Greenland Ice Sheet.

The bedrock canyons sit well below sea level, meaning that as subtropical Atlantic waters hit the fronts of hundreds of glaciers, those edges will erode much further than had been assumed and release far greater amounts of water.

Ice melt from the subcontinent has already accelerated as warmer marine currents have migrated north, but older models predicted that once higher ground was reached in a few years, the ocean-induced melting would halt. Greenland’s frozen mass would stop shrinking, and its effect on higher sea waters would be curtailed.
Looks like twenty feet of sea level rise when global warming takes its course in a couple of centuries is not out of the question.

The very same day the above news was announced, the University of California at Davis published Scientists forecast economic impacts of the drought on Central Valley agriculture.
California’s drought will deal a severe blow to Central Valley irrigated agriculture and farm communities this year, and could cost the industry $1.7 billion and cause more than 14,500 workers to lose their jobs, according to preliminary results of a new study by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Researchers estimated that Central Valley irrigators would receive only two-thirds of their normal river water deliveries this year because of the drought.

The preliminary analysis represents the first socio-economic forecast of this year’s drought, said lead author Richard Howitt, a UC Davis professor emeritus of agricultural and resource economics.
Welcome to the 400 ppm world.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Everyone retreats in the gas price war


Last Friday morning, I posted
Prices shoot up for summer driving season.
That ended up being a wise decision, as the stations did not raise their prices on Tuesday or Wednesday, as I would have expected.  Instead, all four of them jacked up the price for regular to $3.95 on Thursday.  I would not have predicted that.
...
Looking at the national average at GasBuddy wouldn't have helped.  That price composite has not yet reached $3.65, so it is still at the $3.64 I reported last time.  Neither would the Detroit average.  That slid slowly from $3.83 a week ago to $3.82 Wednesday before going up to $3.85 Thursday.  There is nothing there to indicate neighborhood prices shooting up 20 cents, 10 cents above the metro average.
As I pointed out, last Thursday's price move was really unusual.  Everyone moved up together to a level a dime too high for the local price environment.  The neighborhood stations have since recognized that.  Within an hour after I posted that entry, I passed by the three stations down the street and all of them had dropped their price to $3.85.  Today, the corner station joined them.

That's one piece of good news. Another is that prices are at or below where they were last year.  Right now, they exactly match the price a year ago last Thursday, $3.85.  Better yet, a year ago today I reported Corner station crosses $4.00 line, then retreats to it.
On Friday, the corner station hiked its price for regular to $4.09.  (ETA: one of my friends on Facebook added that the price got as high as $4.15 on Saturday; I missed that.)  Today, its price dropped to $3.99.  I have no idea what the three stations down the block are selling gas for, but I bet when I see them tomorrow, they'll be at or near $3.99, too.
In WXYZ notices high gas prices, I confirmed my prediction.
This morning, I drove past them on the way to work and they were all at $3.99.  I'd have won the bet.
Prices have now returned to being below last year's at this time.  That's good news, but no Professor Farnsworth, as they are at the highest multi-day level of the year.

As for the price trend, the national average has dropped slightly from $3.65 to $3.64 and the Detroit average has leveled off at $3.91.  The neighborhood prices are exactly where they are supposed to be given the local price environment, so they should hold relatively steady except for the corner station making its weekly charge into No Man's Land.

Follow over the jump for the comments from my Google Plus posting of the previous entry in the series.

Nablopomo for June: Comment


This month's theme is COMMENT and the blubs for it are appropriately loquacious.  For example, here the one from the website:
Uh... I'm kinda sorta super into commenting as an art form. Let's face it; it gets short shrift. People delete comments or moderate comments or make you jump through hoops to leave a comment. Some people -- GASP! -- close their comment box.

But writing a good comment is akin to writing a good letter. It reaches out, it connects two people, it closes the circuit that flows between blog writer and blog reader. A blog is a conversation; not a one-way flow of communication. So this month, NaBloPoMo is celebrating the comment.

Okay, so did I mean by that title that you're going to increase the number of comments you leave or the number of comments you receive. Yes. I mean, both. Commenting on other people's blogs tends to increase the number of people who comment on your blog. Sort of in the same way that inviting people to do things with you increases the number of invitations you receive in return. Is it a perfect system: no. But in general, the best way to increase the number of comments you receive is to go leave them for other people. And be patient.

We're going to look at why we comment, or why we don't comment. We'll discuss who owns the comment section, setting a commenting policy, and what to do with hurtful comments. Best of all, we'll look back at old comments, celebrating the really good ones, and in turn, people will start thinking about what makes a good, lasting comment.

If you're looking for a challenge this month, consider joining IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week). It's a monthly practice akin to NaBloPoMo except the focus is on honing your commenting skills. All you have to do is leave five comments per day during the week of June 21st to June 28th, and additionally, return the commenting favour for one of your commenters by clicking on their top post and leaving a comment. Six comments per day for seven days -- that's it. What you'll get is a brand new way of looking at the blogosphere. And yes, IComLeavWe is open to any and every blogger.
Follow over the jump for the comment that was sent out by email and more on IComLeavWe.