Thursday, April 30, 2015

Overpopulation: student sustainability video festival 32

By the time this entry posts, I'll have given two final exams and will be in the middle of the last night of listening to my students give their presentations (ETA: Looks like this entry posted early, so all that is in the future; it's still time to begin this series).  That means it's time to pick up where I left off at Bottled water: student sustainability video festival 31 and feature the videos my students have used to illustrate their talks.  I begin with Overpopulation: The More the Merrier?

An animation film about the issue of overpopulation. More of my work can be found on
This video harkens back to the first video in Student sustainability video festival 5: previous years' winners, which was also A video gift from a student.

My students have provided me a bumper crop this semester, so expect high-quality video entries all the way up to Tuesday.  These will be on top of posts for Nablopomo, Star Wars Day, Cinco De Mayo, and the Revenge of the Sixth along with Entertainment Sunday and Monthly Meta for April.  Oh, and correcting final exams and calculating grades.  Looks like I'll be busy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Gas prices move up on Yemen fear premium

Two weeks ago, my report read Despite hype, oil and gas prices actually down this week.
Last week, all the stations in my old neighborhood sold regular at $2.29.  When I drove though my old neighborhood on an errand yesterday, one of the three stations down the street was closed, but the other two had lowered their prices to $2.27.  Meanwhile, the corner station was again camped out in No Man's Land at $2.49.  Based on the Detroit average of $2.35 at GasBuddy, the two outlets down the street are properly priced, while the corner station is 15-20 cents too high.  I expect it to go down, although not necessarily matching the rest at $2.27.  As I wrote last time, "if the commodity prices continue to go up or hold steady, they will pull retail prices up.  The only question is how long."
It took two weeks, but the corner station lowered its price to match the rest, while other stations in my old neighborhood raised their prices.  The path to that outcome was not a direct one, however.  Last week, when I skipped the gas price report so I could focus on Earth Day, the corner station had advanced ever farther into No Man's Land at $2.59, while the two open stations down the street were at $2.29.  I filled up Ruby to catch those prices while I could.  Yesterday, all four stations (yes, the one closed for construction had reopened) were selling regular for $2.39.

That's a reasonable price compared to the Detroit average of $2.44 from GasBuddy, although it could be a bit lower.  I'm not optimistic that prices will drop to $3.35, as OilPrice.Net shows both crude oil futures have gone up over the past two weeks.  Last time, I reported WTI at $53.29 and Brent at $58.43.  Yesterday's close for WTI was $57.06, while Brent was even higher at $64.64.  In addition, RBOB has risen 16 cents from $1.84 to $2.00, so I expect retail prices to rise instead.  I was skeptical of the narrative and reasoning in the Reuters article Oil rises on U.S. production dips, Middle East tensions, which forecast a run-up in oil futures based on the 100-day moving average even though prices were down.  The article also cited tensions in Yemen.  It looks like the reporter was right after all, although I'm more inclined to credit the fear premium than the technical indicators.

This may be the last report about gas prices using the stations in my old neighborhood until September.  After tomorrow, my commuting pattern will change and I will not be in their vicinity on a regular basis for the next four months.  I'll have to find some other set of stations to monitor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Partisan divisions over Proposal 1 plus a visit from Freewheeling Franklin Freak

My latest at Washtenaw County politicians divided along party lines on Proposal 1.
Last year, ninety-five percent of Democrats and seventy percent of Republicans in Michigan's legislature voted to place Proposal 1 on the ballot.  Normally, that would indicate broad bipartisan support for the measure, which would increase the sales tax by one percent to fund improvements to the state's roads and trigger ten other laws if passed.  A survey of current Michigan legislators and the conflicting endorsements of Washtenaw County's Democratic and Republican parties suggest a strong partisan division instead.

As reported by WXYZ, only thirty one (21%) of Michigan lawmakers contacted by the Associated Press responded to a survey of their stands on Proposal 1.  Crain's Detroit Business calculated that twenty-three of them were Democrats, all but one of whom announced their support for the constitutional amendment, while only eight were Republicans, five of whom opposed the measure.

Washtenaw County's state legislators were more forthcoming in their responses than for their colleagues as a whole, but they still mirrored the partisan trends.  Four of the county's five Democratic legislators responded to the survey, all announcing their support.  The response of Adam Zemke, State Representative from Ann Arbor, was typical of the group.  WXYZ quoted Zemke as saying "I support Proposal 1 because it is a good solution to raise the funding needed to fix our infrastructure that simultaneously holds education, local government and the working poor harmless. It also constitutionally further protects transportation and education funding, both things that I continue to hear from constituents about."
More at the link in the headline, including the stands of the County's other State Representatives and State Senators along with the official positions of the county Democratic and Republican parties.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

More tales of two trailers: Jurassic World and Mad Max

In the first tales of two trailers, I posted the first theatrical trailers for the upcoming Star Wars and Jurassic World sequels.  I updated the progress of Star Wars twice since then, first in December, then in last week's Three Star Wars trailers: movie, television, and video game reviewed the latest trailer for Star Wars VII.  This week, it's Jurassic World's turn as its second theatrical trailer was released last week.

Like all the previous movies, this one serves as a cautionary tale about not being able to control the effects of our technologies.  I hope it's also as good a monster movie as the previous ones as well.  So far, I like the Mosasaurus, but I'm disappointed that the raptors are still scaly instead of feathery.  That's a change that was among those mentioned in Jurassic Park 20 years later and other paleontology news, so it should have been included.  I hope the movie justifies this omission.

Follow over the jump for another science fiction movie franchise being revived this summer, the post-apocalyptic Mad Max series.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Costa Rica and other green countries for Earth Day

On Earth Day, one of my students asked me which country was doing the best on renewable energy.  I answered Costa Rica, based on its using only renewable energy for electricity during the first 75 days of 2015, as Accuweather reported on Earth Day.
For the first 75 days of 2015, Costa Rica's 2.8 million citizens not only powered their homes and businesses with solely renewable energy sources, but cut costs as well.

As part of a nationwide clean energy campaign, Costa Rica challenged itself to run the entire country by using natural energy sources such as water, sunlight and wind.

Backed by the country's inhabitants, government agencies only stopped when resources diminished to the point that it was hurting the economy. Without any domestic oil or natural gas sources, importing such fuel supplies is costly, but necessary at the present time to keep up with import and export demands.
ODN has more in Costa Rica goes 75 days powering itself using only renewable energy.

Costa Rica manages to achieve a clean energy milestone by using only renewable energy for the first 75 days of the year - a record for any country. Report by Claire Lomas.
The student was impressed.  Of course, Costa Rica was still burning lots of gasoline and diesel in its cars, trucks, planes, and motorcycles, but at least it was completely renewable when it came to electricity.

Even so, Costa Rica may not have been the best answer, as Discovery News reported in Which Countries Are The Most Eco-Friendly?

As the world moves to become more environmentally friendly, some countries outshine others. Which country is the most eco-friendly?
In terms of renewable energy now, the answer may still be Costa Rica, but other countries, notably Switzerland and Sweden, may be better for the environment overall.  In addition, the image from EcoWatch at the top of the entry shows Norway ahead of Costa Rica as well.  Maybe I should follow up with that student about this information.

Friday, April 24, 2015

25 years of the Hubble Space Telescope

I interrupt the celebration of Earth Week on this blog to turn my attention skyward to mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope.

I begin with Hubble Space Telescope itself, which posted Hubble at 25 on New Year's Eve.

This is a preview of the 13-part video series that will showcase the Hubble Space Telescope as it's never been seen before. For the past 25 years Hubble has transformed our view of the universe, become a cultural icon, and even contributed to medical technology, among its many other accomplishments.
Click here for the playlists that the video promises.  Follow over the jump for videos from Reuters and TomoNews US about today's anniversary.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Solar Impulse 2 lands in China on Earth Day

Last month, I reported Solar Impulse 2 begins round-the-world flight.  For what's left of Earth Day, it's time for an update, as On Demand News (formerly ITN) reports Solar plane arrives in eastern China's Nanjing.

The Solar Impulse 2 has arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, finishing the sixth leg of its voyage around the world. Report by Gabriella Darlington.
I promise to keep my readers posted on the future legs of the flight.  That should be easy since the plane is flying to Hawaii and then on to other cities in the U.S. afterwards.

I'm not done with Earth Day, as I have videos from CNN, WOOD-TV, and DNews still to come.  When I wrote "stay tuned for the final installment about posts from the back catalog that made big moves on the leaderboard last year after a celebration of Earth Day," I didn't say how long that celebration would be.  It could last for almost a week!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Michigan wind turbines for Earth Day

I included the family travels in my last driving update.
[M]y wife and I will have driven our car to Mount Pleasant and back to drop off a pair of dogs we rescued yesterday from a shelter in Flint.  That's a round trip of 280 miles, so Dez's odometer will have rolled over 46,000 miles by the end of the day...[T]hat's what happens when my wife and I take special trips of first 110 miles round trip to Flint and back and then 280 miles to Mount Pleasant and back.  Rescuing abandoned pets is a cause as dear to us as the environment, so it became a matter of priorities.
One county south of Mt. Pleasant, we passed by the largest wind farm I've ever seen.  Still photographs don't do the turbines justice.  For that, I have to use (someone else's) video.   Take it away, LadyB!

On my drive to Michigan, I spotted these wind turbines. A wind farm is what it was. I was told that these farmers earn a lot of money for allowing these on their land. I was amazed at the size and the number of them. They just seemed to go on forever. This video was taken with my vivitar camcorder and windows movie maker.
That's exactly the same reaction we had.  I told my wife that it felt like we were driving through a zone filled with wind turbines in an MMO.  It was that surreal and awe-inspiring.

LadyB and her subscribers had a lot of questions about the wind farm.  A lot of them are answered in Gratiot Wind posted nearly four years ago by Ben VanDerVeen.

Michigan's largest wind farm is currently under construction in Gratiot County. The development brings hundreds of new jobs, clean energy and opportunity for this farming community.
That answered my questions and gave me more information to pass along to my students just in time for Earth Day.  On that note, Happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reactionary movements for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I concluded Holidays for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News with another program note.
I plan two more entries in this series, the next about movements I really detest and the last about winners from the back catalog.  Stay tuned.
Leading off tonight's retrospective about detestable reactionary movements is last year's 14th most read entry, What the Sith Jihad wants includes science crime scenes with 443 page views.  It earned its readership through promotion at first Greer's then Kunstler's blogs.  I shared the link at The Archdruid Report on June 25, 2014, the same day I posted it at my blog.
As for an "age of charismatic warlords," you're right; the U.S. isn't there yet, although I doubt it's a coincidence that one of our cultural icons is a tormented fictional mobster named after the high female voice in a choir, one that the real Governor of New Jersey is [nick]named after. On the other hand, one can look at two states in collapse, Iraq and Syria, and see what an organized band of would be 21st Century feudal warlords is doing over there.
I opened my comment a little differently at Clusterfuck Nation.
“ISIS is behaving in a psychopathic manner.”

No kidding, and they’re following the same playbook that the Taliban did in Afghanistan and Ansar Dine in Mali.
Even though I started the two comments differently I ended both the same way.
They seem to be intent on starting a Dark Age on fast forward by destroying the cultural artifacts of rival traditions, among their other violent acts...Yes, I call ISIS "The Sith Jihad." That's because I was twitting another blogger, Elaine Meinel Supkis, who thought they looked like Jedi. I told her that they looked more like Sith. My readers liked the comparison, so the name stuck.
Readers at both sites liked the Sith reference.  Here are the ones I got in the comments to Greer's post.
@Nathaniel Ott wrote: "@ Pinku-Sensei if it's alright with you I am totally stealing 'The Sith Jihad' for conversation with my fellow Star Wars nerd buddy who I'm sure is going to get drunk with the darkside and go absolutely bonkers over the term!"

Be my guest. It's a meme and memes are meant to be spread through imitation.

@Cherokee Organics wrote: "Hi Pinku. Haha! Liked the sith reference. Tidy work."

Thank you. If it weren't for Elaine Meinel Supkis providing the inspiration, I probably wouldn't have thought of it.
At Kunstler's blog, the quote I responded to and included attracted the attention.
Seawolf77: I disagree. They are wholly calculating. They are goading America and the West to come back in; in fact they are begging. To tell you the truth I am surprised they haven’t found some babies in incubators and … well you get the picture.

Me: The two claims, that ISIS AKA the Sith Jihad is psychopathic and that it is acting in a calculated manner, are not mutually exclusive. Psychopaths can be quite calculating. As for the American response, give it time.
The Sith Jihad has continued with their science and culture crime scenes, but I only managed to post once more about them, wishing May Pazuzu curse the Sith Jihad.  As for the U.S. response, that took only a couple of months, with the fear premium returning as U.S. bombed the Sith Jihad in August.

Follow over the jump for other entry about detestable reactionary movements that made last year's top 20.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gulf oil spill five years later

Today is the fifth anniversary of the oil rig explosion that led to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  CNN summarizes the effects of the disaster in Revisit the BP oil spill, 5 years later.

Remnants remain five years after a BP oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 people.
Follow over the jump for more videos from MSNBC and National Geographic.

My Serious Kitten nominations

I opened Three Star Wars trailers: movie, television, and video game by writing that it was the first to two Sunday entertainment entries and concluded the entry by telling my readers to "Stay tuned for a follow-up to 2015 Hugo nominees for movies and television."  I left some business unfinished in that post.
That brings me to the controversy.  Neither snubbed movie was on the slate put forth by Sad Puppies, which is loosely affiliated with GamerGate, but three of the five nominees were.  In fact, a lot of the nominees for other categories were on that slate, which led to a lot of gnashing of teeth among fans.  I might return to this later, but I have to cut this entry short to go to work.  Until then, read A.V. Club's This year's Hugo Award nominees are a messy political controversy for an explanation.
Follow over the jump for the response to the ballot stuffing scandal from We Hunted the Mammoth, which was to start their own awards, along with my nominations for the awards.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Three Star Wars trailers: movie, television, and video game

Last week, not one, not two, but three trailers for new Star Wars products were released, one each teasing the movie, a new season of a TV show, and a video game.  For the first of two Sunday entertainment entries, I take a break from DOOM to present all three, along with reactions to the movie trailer.

I begin with the trailer generating the most buzz, the one for the upcoming movie.

Follow over the jump for reactions along with the two other trailers.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Holidays for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I concluded DOOM for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News with a preview of coming attractions.
Stay tuned for another recurring theme in the next entry in this series, holidays.  I love holidays!
The most read entry that celebrated a special day during the blogging year that ended on March 20th was Evolution humor for Darwin Day posted on February 12, 2015.  It earned 487 page views to land in 11th place on the most read list.  I explained how it earned those page views in Montly meta: top ten entries for February 2015.
I intended Evolution humor for Darwin Day as a throwaway humor entry for the first of a string of holidays.  It ended up being a runaway success, as Infidel 753 on Blogspot placed it first in a series of links, resulting in more than 50 visits, then I promoted it at Greer's blog, where it got at least 33 referrals.  It earned 439 page views by Noon Monday, good enough for second place.
Here's what I posted at The Archdruid Report.
Greer: The popular notion of progress presupposes that there’s an inherent dynamic to history, that things change, or tend to change, or at the very least ought to change, from worse to better over time.  That presupposition then gets flipped around into the even more dubious claim that just because something’s new, it must be better than whatever it replaced."

Me: That observation doesn't just apply to technology.  It also applies to biological evolution and cultural practices as well.  When I observed Darwin Day last week, I posted two cartoons showing how dinosaurs evolving into birds may have been a winner in terms of surviving the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, but it was a loser in terms of being the dominant group of land animals, at least in terms of size and position in the food web.  The result was that the genes benefitted, but the individual suffered.  Progress?  Not if you started off as one of the raptor dinosaurs and ended up as a chicken.
Greer thanked me for the cartoons.  He's quite welcome.

Follow over the jump for another holiday entry from this past year plus one posted near the end of the third year that earned most of its page views during the fourth year.

Friday, April 17, 2015

DOOM for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

It's time for some bad news delivered through two of last year's top 20.

The eighth most read entry during the previous blogging year was NASA warns about the collapse of industrial civilization, which earned 519 page views.  I got the news from the comments at The Archdruid Report, then saw a Discovery News video and ran with it.  I mentioned part of that at Kunstler's blog.
Speaking of collapses of civilizations, if someone here mentioned the NASA report that got published in “Ecological Economics” about how we are on a path to crash Western Industrial Civilization, I missed it. It certainly made a splash in the comments over at The Archdruid Report a couple of weeks ago.
K-Dog, who comments here from time to time, chimed in that he had beaten me to it.
You missed it. I linked to it two weeks ago. Now it looks like TPTB strings have been pulled and ignorance once again triumphs.

NASA Clarifies Its Role in Civilization-Collapse Study
Thank you, K-Dog!
I should have figured you would have posted it, as you are both a regular over at The Archdruid Report and a good dog. 3:-P I also should have expected this kind of reaction from NASA. When I posted the link to my entry at my Facebook page, two of my more conservative friends were outraged by it. One said it had nothing to do with NASA’s mission and the other suggested that NASA’s funding should be cut. Of course, without the NASA connection, the study would probably not have gotten the attention that it did (and deserved). It’s quite a shock to have the U.S. agency most associated with a better future from technological progress deliver the message that we, too, are no better than the Romans. American Exceptionalism? What American Exceptionalism?
K-Dog wasn't done.
Breaking Devel[o]pments:

Ugo has this to say. He links to Nafeez Ahmed’s article about the study right away.

What can you say, it’s science!
I have two reactions to K-Dog's comment.  First, he reminded me that I should read more Ugo Bardi.  The second is that he is a dirty dog.  Just look at the image he linked to.

Now I wonder if he's a furry.

Follow over the jump for the second entry, one that connects this entry to retrospectives from previous years.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

On BlogTalkRadio for Earth Day today

I'm on BlogTalkRadio today, demonstrating that I'm pseudonymous, not anonymous: Earth Day Discussion with Dr. Vince Lamb on Lunch with Louden!
Guest host John Henry welcomes professor and multidisciplinary earth scientist Dr. Vince Lamb ( to Lunch With Louden on Coffee Party Radio Thursday April 16th at 3pm Eastern/Noon Pacific.  With Earth Day 2015 coming next week, we'll be discussing some current events related to the environment and sustainability including the drought in California and whether ongoing efforts to mitigate it by limiting water usage by average citizens is effective, the ongoing debate about fracking, the potential effect on the environment from the proposed sale of federally owned national parks to private corporations, and what we the people can do about any of it.  Join us for all this and more including your calls Thursday at 3pm eastern, noon pacific, on Lunch with Louden at Coffee Party Radio!
To listen, click on the link embedded in the headline.  If you are reading this between 3 and 4 PM EDT (7 and 8 PM GMT and Noon and 1 PM PDT), you have the choice of clicking on the link or calling (646) 929-2495 to listen.  If you call in, you can talk to me and my friend John Henry and wish us an early happy Earth Day--oh, and ask me questions, too.

DNews and Test Tube explain where we get our oil

The next lecture I present to my students in environmental science will be about energy.  That will be on Tuesday of next week.  I'll give a nearly identical lecture to my geology students beginning on Thursday of next week.  Here are two videos I might show to those classes, most likely to geology, if I have time.

First, Discovery News answers its own question Where Does All Our Oil Come From?

We rely on oil to power our lives, but how do we go about getting it? How does oil even form?
This video covers all the ways oil can be extracted, including fracking, tar sands, and oil shale, along with coal production, all of which I cover in my classes.  In contrast, TestTube takes a much more focused view of oil and the economic and political aspects of its production and use in Where Does Our Oil Come From?

The majority of U.S. oil does not come from the Middle East. So, where exactly do we get it? TestTube Daily gives us a glimpse at the countries that supply America with the largest amounts of “black gold."
After I test drive these videos, I'll decide which one, if any, I'll continue using in my lectures.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Despite hype, oil and gas prices actually down this week

Last week, all the stations in my old neighborhood sold regular at $2.29.  When I drove though my old neighborhood on an errand yesterday, one of the three stations down the street was closed, but the other two had lowered their prices to $2.27.  Meanwhile, the corner station was again camped out in No Man's Land at $2.49.  Based on the Detroit average of $2.35 at GasBuddy, the two outlets down the street are properly priced, while the corner station is 15-20 cents too high.  I expect it to go down, although not necessarily matching the rest at $2.27.  As I wrote last time, "if the commodity prices continue to go up or hold steady, they will pull retail prices up.  The only question is how long."

On that note, it appears that oil prices are actually slightly down.  Last week's report had, WTI closing at $53.98 and Brent at $59.10.  OilPrice.Net shows that prices are actually down since then with WTI closing yesterday at $53.29 and Brent at $58.43.  That's not the way Reuters reported it.  Follow over the jump for their attempt to hype today's price movements in an article that is currently the third most read on the site.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Obituaries for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I concluded Discussing Kunstler for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News on a ghoulish note.
Note that I called one of Kunstler's fellow panelists the late Michael Ruppert.  He will be the subject of the next retrospective, along with another popular obituary from the previous posting year.
Yesterday, at least in the time zone where I live, was the first anniversary of the death of Michael Ruppert.*  It took me a week to write my obituary, My thoughts on Michael Ruppert posted on April 21, 2014.  It ended up being the seventh most read entry of the past blogging year with 535 page views, earning most of its page views through my sharing the link at Kunstler's blog.
While I’m here, Peak Oiler and conspiracy theorist Michael Ruppert committed suicide last week. I left a comment commemorating him at The Archdruid Report, which I recycled at my blog.
I could have included this entry in Conversations with The Archdruid for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, but there was no conversation, just my comment.**  Besides, I have another obituary that earned its way into the top 20 to group with Ruppert's.  Follow over the jump for that.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Garfield disapproves of Monday the 13th

Not only is today Apophis Day, it's also Monday the 13th.  The previous Monday the 13th also happened to be Canadian Thanksgiving, so that holiday got first billing, but Garfield the Cat's classic reaction to the date also made an appearance.  Since I'm an environmentalist, I've decided to recycle.

That's not all.  Here's one I could have used in 2012, when there was a Monday the 13th in February.

Finally, here's a reference to Friday the 13th that fits well with Alice Cooper for Friday the 13th.

That's supposed to be Garfield as a Samurai Pizza Cat.  I still think it looks like Garfield as Jason.

In any event, Happy Monday the 13th, or at least be happy the next Monday the 13th isn't until July!

Asteroid redirect for Apophis Day

Happy Apophis Day!  Frequent readers know that April 13th is the day I declared to be Apophis Day in honor of the two predicted fly-byes of Earth by the asteroid Apophis on future April 13ths.  Therefore, it's the date I dedicate to the possibility of an asteroid collision with our planet.

For today's celebration, I present TomoNewsUS reporting Asteroid hitting Earth: NASA Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) will use Enhanced Gravity Tractor.

If that mission looks familiar, it's because I included it as one of the headline stories in Asteroids--near miss and capture plans--in this week's space and astronomy news.  It's also another reason to root for the success of Orion.  Either way, it's definitely a Crazy Eddie scheme.  I approve.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Game of Thrones drinking game, drink, and music

I telegraphed the subject of tonight's entertainment entry in the opening of 'Mad Men' drinks from Tipsy Bartender.
Last week, it was the season finale of "The Walking Dead."  Next Sunday it will be "Game of Thrones."
It's "next Sunday," so it's time to mark the season premiere of "Game of Thrones."  I begin with the drinking game illustrated above.  Follow over the jump for a drink recipe inspired by the show to accompany the game as well as the appropriate music.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Driving update for April 2015: Dez

I posted Driving update for February 2015: Dez on February 9th, 61 days ago.  That was when the new car turned over 45,000 miles.  As I type this, her odometer reads 45,885, which would normally suggest that the next update would be a few weeks away.  However, by the time this entry posts, my wife and I will have driven our car to Mount Pleasant and back to drop off a pair of dogs we rescued yesterday from a shelter in Flint.  That's a round trip of 280 miles, so Dez's odometer will have rolled over 46,000 miles by the end of the day.

Based on the projected mileage for today, driving 1,000 miles in 61 days translates to 16.39 miles per day and exactly 500 miles per standard month of 30.5 days.  That's quite a lot more than the average of 11.63 miles/day or 354.7 miles/month for the previous update for Dez.  Then again, that's what happens when my wife and I take special trips of first 110 miles round trip to Flint and back and then 280 miles to Mount Pleasant and back.  Rescuing abandoned pets is a cause as dear to us as the environment, so it became a matter of priorities.

Because of the special circumstances, I'll pass on calculating the cumulative mileage right now.  I'll just say that the trend of increased driving has been confirmed because of our change in circumstances has been confirmed, although the effects of living where where we do know have been overwhelmed by other factors.

Our behavior fits in a larger trend of increased driving by Americans.  I concluded the previous update for Dez by noting "at this rate, Bill McBride of Calculated Risk thinks the U.S. might set a new high this year."  That happened, as his most recent report on March 25, 2015 read Vehicle Miles Driven increased 4.9% year-over-year in January, Rolling 12 Months at All Time High.  Here's the graph.

It took seven years for Americans to drive as much in 12 months as they did during all of 2007.  That's a record.

Bill McBride credits lower gas prices, as do I along with increased prosperity.  Here's what I had to say about the situation in Driving update for March 2015: Ruby.
[I]t looks like the second half of 2014 show[s] a distinct reversal of the long-term trend.  The miles driven per driving-age person are starting to go up.  I'm sure that's because of the much cheaper gas year-over-year I've been documenting since July of 2014 and sort of predicted in December 2013.  If so, that should go away once gas becomes more expensive.
Gas is still relatively cheap, so I don't expect the trend to let up any time soon.  As I'm fond of writing, stay tuned.

Discussing Kunstler for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I opened Comments and likes for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News by noting "that I'm showing End of Suburbia convinced me to change the subject of my next retrospective to entries that got the most comments and likes this year, regardless of page views."  It's time to post the retrospective that I originally planned to succeed Conversations with The Archdruid for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.

Like most of the previous recaps of the blogging year just past, this one fits the pattern of recurring topics from previous years.  In this case, it's discussing James Howard Kunstler, which links two entries among last year's top twenty.

The sixth most read entry of the past blogging year was Fabius Maximus and I discuss Kunstler posted June 9, 2014, which earned 543 page views.  It earned many of its page views through my sharing the link at Kunstler's blog.  Most of that comment and the responses to it became Great Lakes cities and their roles in the regional economy, but one paragraph promoted my conversation with Fabius Maximus.
Right now, the most on-topic item I have for this week is an entry documenting the conversations Fabius Maximus and I had about Kunstler’s and FM’s shared contention that Americans don’t like what America has become and are less likely to defend it.
Eldorado had the one comment at Kunstler's blog in response to that sentiment.
The idea about people not being willing to defend the place … that may be OK, because by then, who’s going to want it, anyway?
I got a much better response at my own blog in the comments to The Archdruid on Fascism, part 2.
Bukko Boomeranger: Heya Crazy/Neon -- just a generalised comment to give you kudos for the blog and your intelligent observations on Jim Kunstler's website.
Anyway, what prompted me to write is to thank you for posting that link last week to JHK's TED talk that touched upon the notion of "Is this country worth defending?" I think that has a lot to dow with the disintegration of the Iraqi government's army in the past fortnight. I can also see it happening in the U.S., as polarised people on the Teabagging Right, some on the alienated Left (like me) and the mass of morons who don't have any opinion at all except for "I'll have another beer and some Cheetos" won't give enough of a crap to do whatever work is needed to keep the States United. My (now-ex) wife and I reached that point the night that realPresident Cheney and his little dog Bush got another four years of misrule in November 2004 and decided to bail. For those who can't flee like me, I foresee a Yugoslavian/Ukranian-style future (unfortunately, not Czechoslovakian) as they retreat into their ideological/ethnic enclaves.

Keep up your good work! Those who you teach are fortunate to have someone who will lead them to open their eyes, at least the ones who choose not to keep them glued shut.
And P.S. -- Larry Niven was my favourite "hard-science" sci-fi guy once I graduated from the 1950s classic writers such as Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein. Him and Joe Haldemann. "Ringworld," yah sure!

Me: That's a great comment for a month devoted to comments. In fact, it's the comment of the month so far.

Thank you for your praise. I'd like to think that I'm an eye-opening inspiration to my students, although sometimes I feel like I'm telling them ghost stories--scary and entertaining, but not very real.
There's more to Bukko Boomeranger's comment, which I alluded to when I mentioned "an Islamophobic thread that spilled over into the comments for this entry on my blog, one that I'll convert into an entry of its own later."  The rest of Bukko's comment will appear then.  In addition, Kunstler himself posted a follow up to his TED talk at TEDxAlbany.  I plan on posting that in a future entry, too.  Stay tuned.

Follow over the jump for a discussion of the other top twenty entry discussing Kunstler.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Marijuana legalization may be on the Michigan ballot next year

Michigan roads are terrible but Proposal 1 still in trouble told the tale of a ballot measure that appears likely to fail.  Thanks to Michigan Liberal, I bring a story from the Detroit News about a possible ballot measure next year that will probably succeed, that is, if there aren't three of them that crowd each other off the ballot: 3 Michigan groups seek legal recreational pot use.
The race is on to get legalization of recreational marijuana use in Michigan on the November 2016 ballot — or through the Legislature before then.

Three different groups are considering voter-initiated laws to legalize the cultivation, distribution, sale and personal consumption of cannabis for Michiganians age 21 and older. A state lawmaker from Ann Arbor plans to introduce a marijuana legalization bill this month.
WXYZ has the story about the last effort in Bill pending in state legislature to legalize marijuana.

A new bill from State Representative Jeff Irwin aims to legalize marijuana
Five years ago, I told one of my students that his generation would succeed in doing two things, if nothing else--legalizing both same-sex marriage and marijuana.  So far, events have been proving me right.  The first is sort-of legal in Michigan now and probably will be fully legal by the end of summer.  The second might just happen in Michigan by next year.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Michigan roads are terrible but Proposal 1 still in trouble

There was more to my comment to The Burden of Denial at The Archdruid Report than the passage that became Mutate now and avoid the rush.
Greer: Today, a nation that once put human bootprints on the Moon can’t afford to maintain its roads and bridges or keep its cities from falling into ruin.

Me: I don't know if the nation can't afford to prevent those signs of decline, but it certainly thinks it can't.  Michigan's Governor proposed a tax increase to fund road maintenance two years ago.  Next month, that measure will be on the ballot.  It's likely to lose, as no one likes it and would rather use its failure to beat up on the other political faction.
WXYZ had two reports on the problem along with the initiative and its lack of support the day before yesterday.  First, Many Michigan roads and bridges are structurally deficient.

It looks like I-75 needs a lot of work. In particular, the overpasses listed 6th through 10th are ones I drive over regularly, so I'm concerned.

Despite the problem, Forum on roads bill finds little support.

A forum on the road funding bill hosted by the Oakland County Republican Party found little support for the measure.
Democrats will have to pass this initiative and a lot of them resent having to carry the Republicans' water, as the comments over at Michigan Liberal show.  I'm not one of them.  I re-registered at my new address Monday, the deadline for the May election, so I could vote yes.  Even so, I'm not optimistic.

For what it's worth, I promised to blog about this topic back in November, but haven't taken the opportunity until now.  Once again, I thank Greer for prompting me.

Mutate now and avoid the rush

I decided to open my response to tonight's The Burden of Denial at The Archdruid Report with a little levity--with a point.
Greer: Readers of classic science fiction may find all this weirdly reminiscent of a scene from some edgily updated version of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau: “Not to doubt Progress: that is the Law. Are we not Men?”

Me: We are Devo!  Sorry, couldn't resist.  Just the same, my smart-aleck outburst serves a purpose, which is to point out that the idea that the U.S. had reached a zenith in the 1960s and has be in decline (de-evolving) ever since has been around since the late 1970s, even the response to it at the time was "mutate now and avoid the rush," which was meant as a joke, instead of "collapse now and avoid the rush," which our host means seriously.
It turns out that the resemblance in Devo's call and response in "Jocko Homo" to the passage from H.G. Wells was not a coincidence; it was a deliberate tribute, as a review of the song on All Music points out.
This twisted new wave classic was Devo’s first single and quickly became an anthem for the group’s fans. The lyrics hinge upon the group’s humorous theory that mankind is devolving instead of evolving, a theme that is stated plainly on the rousing "Are we not men/We are Devo!" chorus ( note: this question was lifted from the classic novel The Island of Dr. Moreau). Elsewhere, the lyrics take potshots at ‘civilized’ society with lines like "Monkey men all/In business suit/Teachers and critics/All dance the poot" before going into a reworking of Charles Darwin’s evolution theories that closes with the statement "God made man/But a monkey supplied the glue." It’s a heady array of ideas for just one song but "Jocko Homo" works like a charm thanks to a tight melody that packs plenty of punch into its slender frame by interspersing its hypnotic rising-and-falling verse melody with an exciting call-and-response chorus. Devo’s original recording of "Jocko Homo" combined garage-rock guitar with primitive synthesizer burbles over a stomping midtempo beat to create a deliciously lo-fi backing for their de-evolution lesson. It was released by the group on their own Booji Boy label and became an underground favorite with the growing new-wave moment. The group later re-recorded it in a slicker, faster version for their Warner debut Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo. Both are energetic and witty, but most hardcore Devo fans prefer the rougher original. "Jocko Homo" also became a permanent part of Devo’s live repertoire and was occasionally reworked, the most notable alternate version being the mock-solemn acoustic version that appears on the live album Now It Can Be Told.
I've been a fan of Devo for 35 years,* and I had no idea that the lyrics included a reference to H.G. Wells novel of vivisection and animal uplift gone wrong.  Thanks to Greer for inspiring me to find that out.

On that note, pun intended, here's the original video of Jocko Homo.

*That makes it even more amazing that I've never mentioned the band here before.  I guess the occasion never presented itself until now.  That's twice now that Greer has given me one of those.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gas falls as I expected while oil inches up

The previous report told the story Gas stabilizes as oil bounces around.
[T]he corner station lowered its price to $2.39, matching the rest of the neighborhood outlets.  That written, all of them are priced too high, as GasBuddy shows the Detroit average at $2.36.  Based on historical patterns, the stations should be a dime lower than that at $2.26.  That would be an odd price, so I expect $2.29, a dime less than their current price, within the week as long as there is no jump in local average prices.
That was exactly the price of gas at all four stations in my old neighborhood when I drove through yesterday, including the corner station.  I called it.  I also filled up Ruby to take advantage of the lower price.

As for oil, the day after the previous gas price report, which reported WTI at $50.09 and Brent at $57.10, Iran nuclear deal eases fear premium listed both indexes falling, WTI at $49.14 and Brent at $54.95 a barrel.  Prices went back up, as OilPrice.Net shows that both have regained all of their losses from last week and then some, with WTI closing today at $53.98 and Brent ending the session at $59.10.  The fear premium may be gone, but there are plenty of other reasons for oil to increase in price.

Predicting the future of gas prices may be difficult, as the local retail environment and the commodities market are going in different directions.  The Detroit average sat yesterday at $2.34, so the stations could drop as much as a nickel.  On the other hand, the national average seems to have hit bottom at $2.39, so prices may be preparing to go up.  In addition, the spot price of RBOB went up yesterday along with crude oil, rising nearly 1% to close at $1.86.  If the commodity prices continue to go up or hold steady, they will pull retail prices up.  The only question is how long.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

2015 Hugo nominees for movies and television

While I mailed in my Sunday entertainment entry by posting 'Mad Men' drinks from Tipsy Bartender,* something more worthy of my readers' attention was happening, the announcement of the nominees for the Hugo Awards.  Much like the Grammy Awards, the categories I care about are the ones for movies and television.  Here are this year's nominees for movies (Dramatic Presentation, Long Form) and television (Dramatic Presentation, Short Form).
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier screenplay by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, concept and story by Ed Brubaker, directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo ((Marvel Entertainment, Perception, Sony Pictures Imageworks)
  • Edge of Tomorrow screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, and John-Henry Butterworth, directed by Doug Liman (Village Roadshow; RatPac-Dune Entertainment; 3 Arts Entertainment; Viz Productions)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy written by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman, directed by James Gunn (Marvel Studios, Moving Picture Company)
  • Interstellar screenplay by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, directed by Christopher Nolan (Paramount Pictures, as Warner Bros. Pictures, Legendary Pictures, Lynda Obst Productions, Syncopy)
  • The Lego Movie written by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, LEGO System A/S, Vertigo Entertainment, Lin Pictures, Warner Bros. Animation (as Warner Animation Group))
  • Doctor Who: “Listen” written by Steven Moffat directed by Douglas Mackinnon (BBC Television)
  • The Flash: “Pilot” teleplay by Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, story by Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg & Geoff Johns, directed by David Nutter (The CW; Berlanti Productions, DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television)
  • Game of Thrones: “The Mountain and the Viper” written by David Benioff & D. B. Weiss, directed by Alex Graves ((HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)
  • Grimm: “Once We Were Gods” written by Alan DiFiore, directed by Steven DePaul (NBC; GK Productions, Hazy Mills Productions, Universal TV)
  • Orphan Black: “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried” written by Graham Manson, directed by John Fawcett (Temple Street Productions, Space/BBC America)
Follow over the jump for my opinions of the nominees along with the controversy around this year's nominees.

Monday, April 6, 2015

21st Century crime: Revenge porn site operator convicted and sentenced

In December of 2013, I reported on the case of Kevin Bollaert in SciFi is now: Revenge porn, a 21st Century crime.  I followed up the next month in SciFi is now: follow-ups on 21st Century crimes when Bollaert pled not guilty.  The trial is now over and Bollaert has been convicted and sentenced, as ABC New reports in Man Behind Bars After Being Convicted of Running a Revenge Porn Website.

The California man was the first person ever to be convicted of this crime.
For a text version of this story, read the San Diego Union-Tribune's 'Revenge porn' site operator gets 18 yrs, which reiterates the cases significance.
Attorney General Kamala Harris has said Bollaert’s case is the first prosecution in the country for an operator of this type of website.

“Sitting behind a computer, committing what is essentially a cowardly and criminal act will not shield predators from the law or jail,” Harris said in a news release. “We will continue to be vigilant and investigate and prosecute those who commit these deplorable acts.”

Because he is a nonviolent offender, Bollaert will be allowed to serve his prison term in county jail, which is allowed for certain offenders under California’s public safety realignment law. He will have to serve half that time before he is eligible for release.
Bollaert was convicted of identity theft and extortion.  I had my doubts about the identity theft, but hoped the extortion counts would stick.  Obviously, both did.  He could be out in 10 years after time off for good behavior.

I will be on the lookout for more examples of SciFi is Now and 21st Century crime.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

'Mad Men' drinks from Tipsy Bartender

I had something else planned for tonight's entertainment entry, but I'm not feeling it.*  Last week, it was the season finale of "The Walking Dead."  Next Sunday it will be "Game of Thrones."  So I decided to go with the big television event of the night along with my "I can't be all DOOM all the time and present drink recipes from Tipsy Bartender inspired by "Mad Men."

Follow over the jump for two recipes from three years ago.

Easter drinks from Tipsy Bartender

To celebrate Easter in a manner befitting an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood, I present three drink recipes for the holiday from Tipsy Bartender.*

This year's contribution to having too much fun today is Adult Easter Eggs.

An awesome adult treat for Easter.... ADULT EASTER EGGS! It's an extremely simple, creative, delicious recipe anyone can make and enjoy!
EGGSHELLS : clean and wash out with warm/hot water. Make sure to remove the inner skin of the eggshell. Color with food coloring and sugar.

Whipped Cream Vodka
1 can Sweetened Condensed milk

Garnish with shredded coconut.

In separate cups, mix the following and allow to set in freezer for 1 hour prior to scooping into eggshell.
Green -Midori
Pink - Frozen Strawberries or Cherry Juice
Yellow -Pineapple juice & Pineapple chunks
Purple - Creme de Cassis or Grape KoolAid
That looks easy.  The hardest part is cracking and coloring the eggs.  As for Nikki, if you think she's theologically unsound in this video, you should watch the outtakes!

Follow over the jump for two drinks from previous years.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Shortest lunar eclipse in a century on Passover

Fifteen days ago, I posted Equinox, eclipse, and supermoon.  Solar eclipses are always accompanied by a lunar eclipse and last month's event was no exception.  On Demand News reports in Blood Moon rising: Incredible timelapse video captures lunar eclipse.

Los Angeles' Griffith Observatory captured stunning timelapse footage of a total lunar eclipse that took place in the early hours of Saturday. Report by Laurie Blake.
This was the third of four consecutive total lunar eclipsesI missed the first one in the sequence last year because it snowed.  At least, I got a record season snowfall for Detroit to compensate.  I was able to see the second.  I should be able to see the fourth this September, at least if the sky is clear.  If so, it should be spectacular, as it will take place during a supermoon, so the moon will be large and totality long.  I'm looking forward to it.

Monthly meta: page views and posts for March 2015 and goals for April 2015

The month is already several days old, so it's time for me to recap the ten most viewed entries of the previous month that I've already posted at this blog's Facebook page, as well as to examine any of the rest of March's stats worth repeating.

Like February, March was a good month for recent entries, with six of the ten most read posted during the month.  In addition, it was the March with the most page views in the history of the blog, 13,194, enough for the second highest number of page views of any month behind only December 2014 with 13,251.  All this happened with 43 entries for an average of 306.84 page views per post.  This is an improvement over the average of 276.28 page views per post during the fourth year of this blog.  In addition, it was well over the 12,376 page views for March 2014 as well as the minimum goal of 400 page view per day for a total of 12,400 I set for the month.  Instead, the blog earned 425.61 page views per day.  I'm encouraged already that I'm on the path to be up year-over-year I set myself on in Monthly meta: 400,000 page views.

To celebrate this successful month, I present the ten most read entries of the month, beginning with "Saint Patrick's Day drinks from Tipsy Bartender for 2015," which earned 109 page views from social media promotion and web search, good enough for number ten overall as well as the sixth most read among entries posted during March.

Follow over the jump for the rest of last month's top ten, plus my goals for April.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jerry Brown announces water restrictions for California

The last time Jerry Brown was mentioned on this blog, he was calling Agenda 21 paranoid Ted Cruz "unfit for office" based on the Cruz's climate change denial.  That was last week.  This week, he let the other shoe drop after last year's 100% of California in drought and Hottest year ever in California.  Since I'd rather laugh than cry, I'll let TomoNewsUS (formerly Next Media Animation) tell the story in California drought: Jerry Brown wants Californians to stop wasting water for 9 months.

Governor Jerry Brown held a press conference on the snowless slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains yesterday to announce the first ever mandatory statewide water reductions for Californians.
Yes, things have gotten that bad.  Still, it will probably work better than Lady Gaga doing a water conservation PSA, even though that was more fun to write about.

Iran nuclear deal eases fear premium

It looks like President Obama's Nowruz greetings to the people of Iran, among other initiatives, paid off, as the big news today was the announcement of a preliminary nuclear deal with Iran.
Iran and six world powers agreed to a path that would block Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, but key points left unresolved in the marathon negotiations and fierce regional and U.S. political opposition suggested major hurdles remain to reaching a final deal.

Officials laid out on Thursday what amounted to goals for a deal by the end of June that would place constraints and controls on Iran’s nuclear work for up to 25 years, with severe limits for the first decade.
That's good news, although the work is nowhere near done.  However, it's already having an effect on the oil markets, something I'm more concerned about than national security, as important as that is.  Follow over the jump for two reports from today about the effects of both the announcement and a possible final deal on world oil

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gas stabilizes as oil bounces around

I drove through my old neighborhood the day before yesterday, so it's time for a gas price update.  Last week's subject line read Gas and oil move up, but still relatively low.
The corner station had dropped its price, but only five cents to $2.44 for regular.  Meanwhile, the three stations down the street raised theirs to $2.39 for regular.  According to GasBuddy, these prices are just a touch higher than usual for the neighborhood, as they were only three cents below the Detroit average of $2.42 instead of a dime lower.  Prices may or may not drop, but they shouldn't increase over the next week unless oil moves up sharply.
They didn't increase.  In fact, the corner station lowered its price to $2.39, matching the rest of the neighborhood outlets.  That written, all of them are priced too high, as GasBuddy shows the Detroit average at $2.36.  Based on historical patterns, the stations should be a dime lower than that at $2.26.  That would be an odd price, so I expect $2.29, a dime less than their current price within the week as long as there is no jump in local average prices.

What about oil?  Last week, there was some movement up.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI) closed up today $1.70 to $49.21, while Brent jumped up $1.37 to $56.48.  That's five dollars higher than last week but still nowhere near as high as they were this time last week.
OilPrice.Net shows a little movement up over the past week, but the price has generally been bouncing around.  Yesterday, WTI rose $2.49 to close at $50.09, while Brent increased $1.99 to end trading at $57.10.  That wasn't enough to push gas up at the pump.  Quite to the contrary, average retail prices have declined over the past week.  In addition to Detroit falling from $2.42 to $2.36, the U.S. average declined from $2.43 to $2.41 and the Michigan average sank from $2.52 on March 23rd to $2.33 yesterday.

Finally, it's time to revisit the predictions I repeated last week.
I'll repeat what I wrote last month week: "As long as oil stays at these levels, Detroit and Michigan averages over $2.50 by the end of the month seem unlikely."
Instead, a different prediction looks more likely, one I made in December: "Expect prices at the pump to remain below $3.00 until at least March, if not later."  That one is almost a lock.
Michigan barely had average prices over $2.50 for a grand total of two days, then fell; Detroit's average never made it there.  On the other hand, prices are still below $3.00.  No April Fools there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


This month's theme is GROW.
It's spring! Sort of. At least it is on the calendar even if it's still snowing in your neck of the woods. Since the warm temperatures are going to continue to grow, we're going to think spring with our theme.

Spring is a time to think about your own growth and take steps to make it happen. Of course you know the saying that if you want flowers, you need to make your garden grow; meaning, you need to put in the effort to see the growth. So what do you want to learn this spring?

For me, it's all about the writing. And by writing, I usually mean blogging. Writing is what I wanted to do when I grew up, and it's still what I want to do now. So this month is about setting new goals. How can I grow my blog or my writing skills? How can I take steps to go into the summer feeling as if there has been growth in the spring?
This month's theme reminds me a lot of themes during Aprils of previous odd-numbered years, 2013's Fresh and especially 2011's Sprout, which was the first Nablopomo theme I blogged about here.  That's a good thing, as it means I can write about food, agriculture, and especially urban farming, as well as the good and bad side of growth, whether it's personal, social, or economic.  I can tell I'm getting excited about the possibilities already.  Why, I might even use some of this month's prompts.
Sign up for April's NaBloPoMo and let's grow together.
I did that a couple of days ago and am number 33 on the blogroll.  Some of the other participants look interesting.  I'll read some of them and, should they live up to expectations based on their blog titles, report back about them.  Stay tuned.