Thursday, March 31, 2011

Meta: Nablopomo


April's theme for daily blogging: SPROUT. There's always the concrete route -- Brussels sprouts, bean sprouts, and alfalfa sprouts can make their way into cooking posts. But then there are the off-shoots: kids sprouting up and how that makes you feel; flowers sprouting in gardens and what you're noticing on your daily walks; ideas sprouting in your mind. Beyond that, the word "sprout" has ties to the words strew, scatter, and spread -- so what new ideas are you going plant this month? What images will sprout forth from your blog?
Yes, I've decided to make this my primary blog for April's National Blog Posting Month or NaBloPoMo. What is Nablopomo?

Essentially, it's a group of people who have committed to updating their blogs once a day for an entire month.

Normally, I'd be posting my Nablopomo entries over at my LiveJournal. However, since this month's theme lends itself to posts about food and renewal, which are just as much the themes of this blog as the politics and economics of overpopulation and collapse, I'll be making my daily posts here for next month.

I have other motives. First, I want to see how the other bloggers react to a politics of food blog among all their cooking blogs. I think the reaction will be morbidly entertaining.

Muahahahahaha! What are you looking at? Back to reading!

Also, with the tracking tools here, I'll finally see how useful having my blog on Nablopomo's blogroll really is. I already know how important posting at Clusterfuck Nation is--very!

Speaking of tracking tools, here's the most amusing search term used so far to find this blog:

humans vs zombies michigan state university

Looks like this blog has already been swept up in the fear of the zombie apocalypse. So, what's next in search terms--2012?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Water wars, Detroit style, plus a programming note

I grew up in California, where water wars between northern and southern California are so ingrained the the culture that my ex-girlfriend who grew up in Sunnyvale used to pick fights by razzing me about how people from southern California like me, who grew up in Los Angeles, were taking northern California's water. At the time she started doing this, neither one of us had lived in California for at least a decade. She had emigrated to Canada in 1983 and I had moved to Michigan in 1989. Yes, the conflict was that ingrained in us that she was acting on it years later and more than half a continent away. Fortunately, those weren't serious fights; she was just trying to get a rise out of me for fun.

You'd think that in Michigan, which lies in the middle of the largest supply of liquid surface freshwater on the face of the planet, we'd be immune to water wars. We're not. Ours, though, aren't conflicts between a rural area that has water and an urban area that needs it. Instead, it's exactly the reverse. Roll this WXYZ clip from last January.

A lot of heat but not much light, right? That's one of the reasons why I stopped watching local TV news regularly years ago. Let's see what an organization that doesn't have the profit motive has to say about the matter.

Now do you have a better grip (on the gripping hand :-) on the issues?  I hope so. They include a wide range of the concerns of this blog--environment, politics, economics, and culture, along with a fighting over control of a piece of the pie that is complicated by the collapse of the major player. While the Detroit water system isn't a cultural institution like the local libraries or the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which has its own major problems that I might get around to discussing, it is a powerful institution in its own right. Just look at the following map. The City of Detroit is the light blue wedge in the middle of the service area, which consists of all of the green and includes parts of eight counties and at least four million people.

Impressive, isn't it? Now you see what a big and important issue this is.

One final remark on Detroit's water.  Not only is it probably the City of Detroit's most valuable tangible resource, but it is of such good quality that both the Aquafina and Daisani bottled waters sold in Michigan are nothing but filtered Detroit city water.  If you live in the Detroit water service area, then the joke's on you; you've paid for that water twice.

Now, a programming note.  Those of you who live in Metro Detroit who are available tonight and interested in capitalism and how it has contributed to our current situation might want to check out this talk by Raj Patel (PDF).  I'll be there.  I'd better be; I'm driving him back to his hotel.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Joe Bageant is gone

As I wrote in the first post in this blog:

I'll also post reviews of other blogs about societal collapse and what to do about it. There are plenty of them out there, and they all deserve a good meta look.
That was going to be Kunstler's Clusterfuck Nation, but breaking news changed my mind. Instead, Joe Bageant's blog gets the honor. That's because Joe died this weekend.

After a vibrant life, Joe Bageant died yesterday following a four-month struggle with cancer. He was 64. Joe is survived by his wife, Barbara, his three children, Timothy, Patrick and Elizabeth, and thousands of friends and admirers. He is also survived by his work and ideas.
A moment of silence, please.

In a perverse way, I think it's fitting that Joe gets the honor of first review over Jim. It turns out that I helped introduce the two. I'll let one of the first commenters on CN to bring up Joe begin telling the story.


When I read your contempt for your social inferiors, and hear it echoed by your fans, I can't help comparing it to Joe Bageant's rueful sympathy for his own benighted tribe of origin, which is also mine. (Go to Guess which of you comes off as the more admirable and mature person. But then, Bageant has a real class analysis, and you don't. He asks how these deluded right-wing populists got to be the way they are, and rightly blames the capitalist system itself. So does Chomsky, so did Howard Zinn and many others. Check out Theodor Adorno on the psychosocial roots of the original, non-cornpone Nazis. Be more serious, less glibly journalistic.
As Neon Vincent, one of my other noms de net, I responded:

I've been wondering when Joe Bageant's name would appear here in response to Jim's mocking of the rural working class. While both Joe and Jim think their response has been wrong-headed and not in their best interests, and that the system has been hollowed out (Joe calls it "The Hologram" while Jim calls it "The Consensus Trance"--same thing, really), Joe is much more understanding of their plight and explains how they got there, while Jim displays a visceral dislike of the same people that seems to border on a defense against fear of them.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I think dialog between Joe and Jim would be a good thing. At the very worst, it would degenerate into an entertaining display of verbal pyrotechnics. At best, it would be a fruitful exchange of ideas between two people who are feeling different parts of the same elephant. Either way, I'd enjoy the result.
I should be careful what I wish for. For the rest of the year, Kunstler's commenters brought him up. Believe it or not, Kunstler paid attention.

In his 2011 Forecast, which I really need to analyze, Kunstler wrote:

We're already looking like a nation of ax murderers and cannibals with our tattoo fetish, strange costumes (baby clothes for young men; hooker get-ups for the ladies, which should tell you that adulthood is the new final frontier of the American Dream), and our retarded patois of like-like-like and go-go-go speech - all set in a porn-saturated total immersion huckster hologram (thanks Joe Bageant) of visually incoherent, civically-impoverished, and economically spavined suburbia. I'm sorry, but we just look like a nation of goners. Surely the levels of clinical depression are high out there, and a lot of our fellow citizens are suffering profoundly inside - but is acting like killer-clowns the only option?
Looks like I got half my wish. Did I get the other half? Yes, I did.

Hi Joe,

Greetings from one of the attic dwellers in Canada.
Joe, many questions come to mind, but one of the most pressing is this: can you point readers to some kindred spirits of yours on the web who write in the same mold?

And, do you see any Hunter-esque gonzos coming down the pike? If he sensed a new rot creeping into the scene back in the early 80s, his ashes must be doing the funky chicken over Obama not even bothering to coat the horseshit with honey these days.
Writers in the gonzo-esque mold? I really don't know any more than you do on that matter. I'd say James Howard Kunstler for one. You may not think of Jim that way, but if he were writing his stuff in 1970, he would have been seen as gonzo. But I'm not sure just who is out there. I really don't cruise the web as much as you might think.

But Hunter was one of a kind. Realistically speaking, Matt Taibbi is probably as good as Hunter was in many respects. But Hunter was the first. Taibbi is better than Hunter in nailing down the facts, but strains too hard at times to be entertaining (who doesn't?) Still, I have a lot of respect for Taibbi. Also, Hunter's political position inasmuch as he had one other than personal freedom, might be called armed and drugged-out libertarian. It was a different era. If Hunter were starting out today, I doubt Hunter could get published by mainstream mags and book publishers. Publishers' legal fears and all.
In that same piece, Joe also showed that he wasn't a Crazy Eddie.

Like anyone else who has soberly observed this age of peak everything, and the avaricious clowns in charge of our future, I'm a doomer. Even if Abe Lincoln, FDR or Gandhi were in charge at this point, I'd be a doomer. But with enough booze, I can gut it out in relative cheer.
But I digress. Joe cited Jim favorably again.

Jim Kunstler, never at a loss to describe a ludicrous situation, sums up the paper economy's engineering of our collapse nicely:

"Wall Street -- in particular the biggest 'banks' -- packaged up and sold enough swindles to unwind 2500 years of western civilization. You simply cannot imagine the amount of bad financial paper out there right now in every vault and portfolio on the planet … the people fabricating things like synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) had no idea what the fuck they were doing -- besides deliberately creating documents that nobody would ever understand, that would never be unraveled by teams of law clerks ... and were guaranteed to place in jeopardy every operation of the world economy above the barter level."

Not only did I get my wish before I died, I got my wish before either one of them did as well.

As for a review, Joe was a keen observer of politics, culture, and economy, especially as it related to the modern American condition and how that condition is contributing to economic and social collapse. He wasn't strong on the science, but he didn't need to be. It's not for lack of science that we are both in the fix were in, know what kind of fix were in, and know how to get out. It's because of all the human factors that Americans are in the mess there're in and only now have the barest glimmer of how big a mess it really is. Joe was also a masterful writer. His prose was gripping and his subject matter was and still is compelling.

He thought he'd escape the ultimate fate of our society by either living abroad or dying first. He got his wish; he did both.

Joe had many memorable posts, but I especially recommend this one: Escape from the Zombie Food Court. It's the one where he best explains "The Hologram"--the corporate-controlled media projection of reality that substitutes for the real thing and which has Americans in its thrall. Happy Reading.

Goodbye, Joe. You'll be missed.

ETA: Jim Kunstler provided the capstone to their interaction in his post today.
I was just informed this morning about the death of Joe Bageant, author of Deer Hunting With Jesus and the soon-to-be published Rainbow Pie. Joe was a brave and funny soul and we will miss him very much.
Remember this moment; it isn't often that Jim says something nice about another person in his blog.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Late Night Motie News Linkspam

The inaugural Late Night Motie News Linkspam proved to be more popular than the post about the census figures for Detroit before that, bucking the trend of lower pageviews throughout the week. Since it seems to have worked, I'll do it again, this time with relevant stories that I posted earlier tonight to Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos. Hey, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.


Purdue University: Purdue center to seek solutions to enhance global food security
March 24, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University has established the Center for Global Food Security to take up one of the world's most pressing challenges: getting enough food to people who need it the most today and producing enough to meet even greater demand in years to come.

The center, a year in the making, has begun operations at the university's Discovery Park, a $500 million complex of organizations leading large-scale collaborative research efforts on campus.

"We are looking not only at food, agriculture and natural resource solutions for today but also for future generations," said the center's executive director, Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Agronomy and a 2009 World Food Prize laureate. "We must define what our legacy will be."

The issue of food security is a deepening global concern as the need for more food continues to increase with a rapidly growing world population. About 1 billion of the world's nearly 7 billion people suffer from chronic hunger because of economic, social, political and environmental conditions. Scientists project that agriculture will need to double plant and animal production by 2050, producing it more efficiently and safely on less farmland, to meet the needs of a population expected to reach 9 billion people.
This is the second article I've posted on this subject from Purdue University. I'm going to have to pay more attention to their work on the subject.

As for the population figures, I tell my students that we're going to reach that 9 billion if we're lucky. If we're really lucky, we'll hit 9 billion and have a slow controlled decline. If we're not so lucky, we'll hit 9 billion and start to crash. If we're unlucky, we won't get to 9 billion. Somewhere between 7 and 8 billion, we'll stall out and crash. That's the future I'm trying to avoid.

Purdue University: Purdue students create new products from corn and soybeans
March 23, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Teams of Purdue University students who developed a soy-based denture adhesive and a liquid bandage out of corn have won the top prizes in the annual Student Soybean and Corn Innovation Contests.

The awards were announced at a banquet Wednesday night (March 23) at the Indiana Roof Ballroom in Indianapolis.

The competition, sponsored by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and the Indiana Corn Marketing Council, teaches students how to be innovative entrepreneurs with corn and soybeans.

"The versatility of corn and soybeans is limitless, and these competitions serve as a showcase not only for the potential new uses of crops grown here in Indiana but also for the students who put their time, effort and talent into their projects," said Jane Ade Stevens, executive director for both the corn and soybean checkoff organizations.
The flip side of Purdue's concern with food is that it's very much in the pocket of industrial agriculture, and this article shows that relationship in unapologetic detail. Honestly, I find Michigan State University, where there is a program in organic agriculture that was created by student demand, to have a more progressive perspective, and MSU is also a land-grant agricultural college.


University of Michigan: Unemployment rate and cost of gas predict fuel economy of purchased vehicles
March 23, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Average fuel economy of purchased new vehicles has increased by more than 12 percent since late 2007, due mainly to high unemployment and gas prices, according to a University of Michigan study.

The average fuel economy of purchased new light-duty vehicles (cars, pickup trucks, minivans and SUVs) improved from 20.1 mpg in October 2007 to 22.6 mpg in February 2011—the highest it has ever been.

A new report by Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle of the U-M Transportation Research Institute found that the national unemployment rate (currently just below 9 percent) and the price of gasoline (currently above $3.50 a gallon) together account for 83 percent of the variance in the average fuel economy of new cars purchased.
See, people really are responding to price signals!

Speaking of buying cars, it's time to tell another story I tell my students.

Back in 2002, my previous car was getting long in the tooth, so I started thinking about replacing it. My son suggested I buy an Aztek. At first, I liked the idea, as it was a rugged, outdoorsy car, which fit my self-image. Then I looked at the car. I could see all kinds of places for food and drink, storage for camping gear and coolers, and rear seats that folded down to make a bed. I then realized that my son was trying to convince me to buy a party-mobile that he could borrow! I might have actually gone along with this idea, but then I looked at the car's gas mileage--24 highway and 16 city. While gas was cheap then, I knew that, within the lifetime of the next car I would buy, it wouldn't be. I also was living 70 miles from my work. I didn't like the idea of trading in a car that got 40 miles to the gallon on the highway for one that was about half as efficient, especially when I knew I'd be paying a lot more for gas. So, I didn't buy an Aztek.

When I needed to buy a car, I got a Kia instead. It got 32 miles to the gallon, but it was an automatic. I was willing to sacrifice a few miles to the gallon so that my left foot and right hand could rest. Yeah, I'm a sucker for convenience, too.

Purdue University: Purdue, General Atomics team develops lightweight, portable power using hydrogen fuel pellets
March 21, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue University researchers have collaborated with scientists at General Atomics to create safe and efficient pellets to power hydrogen fuel cells that can run an array of portable electronic devices.

The technology will be on display in Indianapolis as part of Purdue Day at the Statehouse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday (March 22) in the Statehouse Rotunda.

The marble-sized fuel pellets, which contain a solid compound that gives off hydrogen when heated, overcome the historic challenges in using hydrogen as a fuel, said P.V. Ramachandran, the Purdue professor of chemistry who led the research.

"Hydrogen gas takes up a lot of space, is unstable and unsafe to transport," Ramachandran said. "We've developed a way to use a very stable and safe compound that can release pure hydrogen gas on demand without any toxic or corrosive byproducts."
Anyone who thinks this is a way to have "hydrogen powered cars" is fooling themselves. Hydrogen is a net energy loser.


University of Wisconsin: New software will help Wisconsin communities redraw their electoral maps
by Bob Mitchell
March 21, 2011

With a few quick, deft movements of mouse and keyboard, Jim Beaudoin reorganized voting in Columbia County.

He collapsed 31 supervisory districts into two big ones, then grabbed a city block here, a rural block there, dragging them from one district to the other to balance the populations. Finally, he zoomed in to do similar surgery on wards and aldermanic districts. With that, he was done.

"I now have the perfect redistricting plan," he says with a smile.

This isn't exactly how things will go next month when Wisconsin's local officials begin the once-a-decade chore of adjusting voting districts. Local staff won't work this fast, or with such a heavy hand. But most of them will be using the same point-and-click, drag-and-drop technology, which Beaudoin, an applications developer with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Applied Population Laboratory and UW-Extension, has spent more than two years creating.
What is this article doing here? It isn't about collapse!

Remember what I wrote in my first post on this blog:

One of the common themes of this blog will be explaining how global, national, and local events and politics are about various factions fighting to maintain their shares of a shrinking pie--one they openly deny is shrinking. Once you recognize that's what's going on, a lot of mystifying events become much more understandable.
Redistricting is one of the prime examples of what I'm talking about, and the most obvious. It's going to be especially true here in Michigan. Expect a lot of posts about redistricting in the near future, some of them as part of my series on the 2010 Census.

That's it for tonight's news.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Earth Hour

From MSNBC: Cities are going dark for Earth Hour
By John Roach

Cities around the world are going dark on Saturday night for the annual Earth Hour event, which aims to raise awareness about actions people can take for the environment's sake.

The campaign, now in its fourth year, boasting participation of more than 4,000 cities in 131 countries and territories around the world. Hundreds of millions of people are expected to turn off their lights and other non-essential appliances for an hour beginning at 8:30 p.m. local time.

The symbolic act is expected to darken major landmarks around the world, including the Sydney Opera House in Australia, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.
I personally think this is a fun publicity stunt, and I'm going along with it, but by itself, it's just a publicity stunt.

This year, though, the organizers of Earth Hour have added another feature, Beyond the Hour. There, the organizers tell readers, "This Earth Hour, go beyond the hour. Take action to make our world a better place and share your act with the world." A search function allows you to see which actions readers have rated as most popular, such as going meat-free, going trash-free, going on a plastic diet, and turning off lights when going out. The MSNBC article includes some more.

•Cut down on the use of plastics
•Convert your lawn to a vegetable garden
•Conserve water
•Ride a bike, take the bus, or walk instead of driving
I've already started on the second, as my wife and I planted a garden last year and plan on doing it again this year, and the fourth, as I walk everywhere I can. It helps that I love walking and live in a relatively walkable neighborhood. I'm going to add one more--keep writing this blog. It's the least a Crazy Eddie can do.

On a TANJit (another Niven reference), I present you with this meme.

Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are an Eco-Avenger, also known as an environmentalist or tree hugger. You believe in saving the planet from the clutches of air-fouling, oil-drilling, earth-raping conservative fossil fools.
Take the quiz at Political Humor

This works for me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Late Night Motie News Linkspam

While Detroit makes for a great locale to watch collapse and people's efforts to prevent, reverse, or survive it at point blank range, places all around the nation and world are facing the same issues to a greater or lesser extent, therefore this linkspam. While I doubt I can ever compete with either The Automatic Earth or The Oil Drum, two collapse-related sites that put out great collections of news links every day, I can at least share with you the news stories I've found each day on the subject.

Discovery News: High Gas Prices May Turn Suburbs Into Slums
The provocative conclusion of an Australian study suggests that the 'burbs are doomed.
Mon Mar 21, 2011 02:38 PM ET
Content provided by John Voelker, GreenCarReports

A study conducted by the Planning Institute of Australia suggests that the suburbs are too far away from the places where we work and play. As gas prices rise, people will move out of the suburbs and closer to urban centers.
Suburbs will be the slums of the future--this is one of the major theses of James H. Kunstler. Should this come true, it will be a very unpleasant surprise to the people who currently live in the McMansions of outer suburbia.

The other part of the prediction, that people are moving closer to public transportation, is already starting to come true.

Marketplace on American Public Media: Home buyers are moving closer to public transit
Even though a nice house out in the suburbs with a white picket fence is the prototypical American dream, a lot of home buyers are voting with their feet and choosing to live within walking distance of public transit.
This makes me glad that I did my part to help out Los Angeles with light rail; the last two years I lived in L.A., I worked on the construction of the first leg of the city's subway system.

And now, something near and dear to my heart--food. First, a bridge between urban design and food availability from Michigan State University:

Mapping food deserts

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Maps are great for showing where things are. They're also good for showing where things aren't.

Two Michigan State University professors have developed interactive maps that offer a visual perspective of urban food deserts. By using GIS (geographic information systems) technology, they are showing, rather than simply telling, how urban residents are losing access to fresh produce and balanced nutrition.

Phil Howard, assistant professor of community, agriculture, recreation and resource studies, and Kirk Goldsberry, assistant professor of geography, conducted their research in Lansing. They found that many supermarkets have closed their stores that serve urban areas and have moved to the suburbs. They also showed that Michigan's state capital is a model for what's happening to food environments around the country.

"The change in food environments is recurring all over the nation," said Howard, whose research is supported by MSU's AgBioResearch. "The best selection of produce and the lowest prices have moved to the suburbs. So if you want lettuce in Lansing, or in most U.S. cities, you're going to have to drive to get it."
This is going to have to change if people will be moving to be less car dependent.

MSN Money: What will food cost in 4 years?

Big-time inflation is headed for the grocery aisles, and whatever your diet, you'll feel the hit. Compare the prices of common foods today with what they're likely to cost in 2015.
The average annual inflation is 4-5%, with meats and dairy on the high side at 7-8% and fresh fruits and vegetables on the low side at 3%. As someone who remembers the inflationary 1970s, I normally wouldn't be impressed. Back then, an inflation rate of 5% was considered normal. The difference was that salaries also increased at about the rate of inflation. That won't happen this time. Instead, most people will experience inflation of food and energy, but stagnation or deflation of almost everything else from housing and clothing to services and labor. That's a combination that will really suck.

Speaking of food prices, here is a press release from Purdue University explaining what is behind the coming rise in prices:

Trio of factors pushing food prices higher, economist says
March 11, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Grain shortages, Middle East turmoil and extreme weather in critical crop-producing regions have combined to send retail food prices higher this year, said a Purdue University agricultural economist. Prices could climb further if commodities markets continue their upward march.

American consumers can expect to spend about 4 percent more for food this year than in 2010, said Corinne Alexander. Beef, pork and poultry products likely will see even greater price hikes, she said.

U.S. food price inflation reached 7.5 percent in September 2008 before falling 10.5 percent by November 2009. It's been moving back up ever since.

"We're returning to a period of food price inflation after coming off a period where we saw food price deflation," Alexander said. "We don't expect this to be a long-term, permanent higher food price period. We'll see these higher food prices until we rebuild global stocks of the primary crops."
This report sounds more optimistic than I am about prices. It also doesn't take into account converting corn into ethanol, which is a big energy loser. Fortunately, it may be less of a loser if ethanol comes from cellulose in the stalks and leaves instead of the grain, as cellulosic ethanol requires less fertilizer than grain ethanol.

Michigan State University: Overfertilizing corn undermines ethanol

EAST LANSING, Mich. - When growing corn crops for ethanol, more means less.

A team of researchers from Michigan State University and Rice University shows how farmers can save money on fertilizer while they improve their production of feedstock for ethanol and alleviate damage to the environment. The results are featured in the current issue of American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The research has implications for an industry that has grown dramatically in recent years to satisfy America's need for energy while trying to cut the nation's reliance on fossil fuels, according to Sieglinde Snapp, a crop and soil scientist at MSU's Kellogg Biological Station.
The team discovered that corn grain, one source of ethanol, and the stalks and leaves, the source of cellulosic ethanol, respond differently to nitrogen fertilization. The researchers found that liberal use of nitrogen fertilizer to maximize grain yields from corn crops results in only marginally more usable cellulose from leaves and stems. And when the grain is used for food and the cellulose is processed for biofuel, pumping up the rate of nitrogen fertilization actually makes it more difficult to extract ethanol from corn leaves and stems.
What about other forms of "Crazy Eddie" alternative energy, such as solar?

Purdue University: Ultrafast laser 'scribing' technique to cut cost, hike efficiency of solar cells
March 8, 2011 Print Version

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers are developing a technology that aims to help make solar cells more affordable and efficient by using a new manufacturing method that employs an ultrafast pulsing laser.

The innovation may help to overcome two major obstacles that hinder widespread adoption of solar cells: the need to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the efficiency of converting sunlight into an electric current, said Yung Shin, a professor of mechanical engineering and director of Purdue University's Center for Laser-Based Manufacturing.

Critical to both are tiny "microchannels" needed to interconnect a series of solar panels into an array capable of generating useable amounts of power, he said. Conventional "scribing" methods, which create the channels mechanically with a stylus, are slow and expensive and produce imperfect channels, impeding solar cells' performance.
I told you I love food. That gives me an idea about how to compete with other blogs that have great news link features--specialize in something else. The Oil Drum specializes in energy news, and The Automatic Earth concentrates on economic news. I don't know of any blog that features news links about food. Do any of you?

While you consider that question, I leave you all with these two articles from the University of Michigan about the psychology of climate change.

University of Michigan: Reframing climate change: It's as much cultural as scientific
March 14, 2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—While debate on climate change often strikes a caustic tone, the real impediment to meaningful dialogue is that the two sides often talk past each other in what amounts to a "logic schism," says a University of Michigan researcher.

"In a logic schism, a contest emerges in which opposing sides are debating different issues, seeking only information that supports their position and disconfirms their opponents' arguments," said Andy Hoffman, the Holcim (U.S.) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at U-M's Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment. "Each side views the other with suspicion, even demonizing the other, leading to a strong resistance to any form of engagement, much less negotiation and concession."

In a new study in this month's issue of the journal Organization & Environment, Hoffman provides a descriptive analysis of the cultural and social landscape of the climate change debate in the United States, examining the presence of ideological and cultural influences on both the definition of the problem and consideration of solutions.
This is a follow up to last week's It's all in a name: 'Global warming' versus 'climate change' from the University of Michigan.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.-Many Americans are skeptical about whether the world's weather is changing, but apparently the degree of skepticism varies systematically depending on what that change is called.

According to a University of Michigan study published in the forthcoming issue of Public Opinion Quarterly, more people believe in "climate change" than in "global warming."

"Wording matters," said Jonathon Schuldt, the lead author of the article about the study and a doctoral candidate in the U-M Department of Psychology.
If we "Crazy Eddies" want to save civilization, we'll have to learn how to reach the normal people. If we don't, we're doomed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Today's Motie News from Detroit: Video report on Census

Detroit Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten

I know I promised you all an update on the Census last night; instead, I decided to play a game of Civilization with my wife. (I can't be all SRS BZNS all the time).  I achieved a space race victory in 1983.  If humans had done that in real life, we'd have already reached Alpha Centauri by now.   For my troubles, I received a ranking of "Ivan the Terrible"--probably the worst of the competent leaders listed in the game.  That's what I get for playing on Chieftain.

Enough about losing myself in fantasy.  Time to snap back to reality.  Oh there goes gravity...

The Detroit Free Press has a series of articles on the subject (scroll down and look at all the latest links; even I find the number amazing), that I'll get around to analyzing all the rest of this week. Right now, I don't have the time to do even one of them justice.  I'll be lazy and let the WXYZ do the talking for me.  This is also a test of how video embeding works here.  Here goes nothing.

Looks like I managed to kill two birds with that stone.  Time to go to work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today's Motie News from Detroit--Early Edition

Detroit Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten

Earlier today, the Detroit Free Press asked Michigan Census due today: Will Detroit drop under 800,000?

Key questions in the data include:

• Will Detroit’s population slip below 800,000 residents for the first time in 100 years?
• Which local communities managed to buck the trend and grow?
• How has the diversity of the suburbs and the city changed?
• What percentage of Michigan houses are still occupied?
They just got their answer.

Census 2010: Detroit population plummets to 713,000, lowest since 1910

Census figures were released to the Free Press by a government source who asked not be identified because the data has not been released publicly. The figures also show Wayne County’s population stands at 1,820,584. Oakland County stands at 1,202,362 and Macomb stands at 840,978.
This is a breaking story. I'll have an update overnight tonight when the official figures come in.

On another note, greetings to all of you coming here from Clusterfuck Nation! I had no idea so many of you would drop on by from a single link in his comments. You managed to overwhelm all of my friends from Livejournal.  I know I promised all of you a review of Kunstler's site in my comments, but today isn't the day for that review. It's not that I don't have a lot to say about him; I do, but I can always repackage my opinions on a slow news day.  Today is not a slow news day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

First post: Why this blog?

Late yesterday local time (but still today according to the time setting I have on this blog), I wrote the following on my Dreamwidth and LiveJournal accounts:
There are times when I feel like we're all Moties, the aliens in Pournelle and Niven's The Mote in God's Eye. Here's what one of them looks like:

And here's what Wikipedia says about how their civilizations end and begin again:

Each war typically ends in the complete destruction of the current civilization on Mote Prime. However, due to their high birth rates, enough Moties always survive to eventually repopulate the planet. A faster rise to civilization leads to a longer period between Collapses, since productivity increases more quickly than the population. The museums exist to accelerate this process after a collapse. They are located in unpopulated areas to avoid their destruction during the inevitable wars. Once the surviving population is advanced enough to solve the puzzle at the door, they have access to a literal catalogue of civilizations, and the weapons to put them into effect. Population is controlled by disease and injury between collapses and reconstructions, but the cycles have thus far never been stopped completely.

The Cycles of civilization, war, and collapse have apparently been repeating for hundreds of thousands of years. In some cases, Mote Prime was completely sterilized and then repopulated by those living in hollowed-out asteroids within the system. The current asymmetrical form is probably a mutation resulting from nuclear weaponry prior to a collapse.

Presumably, each civilization arises, unlocks the museums, and discovers that unless they can solve a problem that had plagued countless others, they are doomed. Thus, the Moties have become fatalistically resigned to the never-ending Cycles.
When I think of Moties being a metaphor for humans, then I think of myself as a Crazy Eddie. As the passage above concludes, "Only a mythical character called "Crazy Eddie" believes there is a way to change this, and any Motie who comes to believe a solution is possible is labeled as a "Crazy Eddie" and deemed insane." The term is also "a translation of the term the Moties use for any exercise in futility, or any attempt to do, or even think about doing, anything to try to stop the inevitable collapse of their current civilization which is war driven by overpopulation."

Consequently, all my environmental and political activism seems like an exercise in being a "Crazy Eddie." I'm half tempted to start a blog about civilizational collapse (as if there aren't enough of them already) and how to try to stave it off or at least survive it (not enough of those, IMHO), then name it "Crazy Eddie's Motie News." A Google search shows no uses of this term. The field's wide open for me.
Thus, this blog.

The feedback, such as it was, was quite positive. On my Facebook page (no, I'm not linking to it; I don't want to make life any easier for my stalkers than it already is), one of my treehugger friends wrote, "Do it. I have a feeling this would be a good thing for you." On my Livejournal, one person said that as long as I didn't monetize my blog, I'd be OK. I have no intention of doing such a thing, as Niven and Pournelle's lawyers would probably crush me for copyright infringement. Another gave some suggestions.

"First thing is to eat the clowns who spend money on bombs not books, with organic BBQ sauce of course.

Saving civilization is about preventing libraries falling into ruin while we build sports arenas and military bases.

Oh, and using climate change deniers as building material for flood prevention levies."
Actually, saving the libraries might strike some people as frivolous, but remember that the way the humans in the book discovered the truth about moties was by stumbling into a museum designed to speed the rise of Motie civilization after the next collapse.  Another example involves Canticle for Leibowitz, the plot of which revolves around a monastery that includes a library the mission of which is to help revive civilization after its collapse.  So, it's not as stupid an idea as it seems.  Thanks to that suggestion, you can expect posts on saving cultural institutions during collapse, not just for how to keep yourself fed and safe.

You should also expect to read posts about politics.  One of the common themes of this blog will be explaining how global, national, and local events and politics are about various factions fighting to maintain their shares of a shrinking pie--one they openly deny is shrinking.  Once you recognize that's what's going on, a lot of mystifying events become much more understandable.

I'll also post reviews of other blogs about societal collapse and what to do about it.  There are plenty of them out there, and they all deserve a good meta look.  The ones who receive favorable reviews, or that demonstrate that they are worth paying attention to even if they are bad, will end up on my blogroll.  The first one up is likely to be Clusterfuck Nation.  I have lots of opinions about James Howard Kunstler, and I now have a forum to post them.  Besides, he updates in a few hours.  How convenient! /Church Lady

Finally, expect digressions about post-apocalyptic science fiction.  After all, this is a blog named after a legendary character from a legendary science fiction novel!