Friday, November 30, 2012

Over 9000!

Meme time!

My page views this month, that is.  As of Midnight GMT, this blog had 9,246 page views for November.  That's a record, so far, and it follows two other record-breaking months, October with 8,333 page views and September with 7,761 page views.  That's well ahead of where I was at the end of July 2011, the last time I wrote a weekly roundup with the month's stats, when I was thrilled to have more than 4,000 page views.  That level became a plateau that lasted until the end of September.  After that, the number of page views rose over the next three months to just over 6,000.  Page views oscillated at level for eight months until the current rise, which I credit to the election.

That's not the only milestone this blog passed.  By the end of the first week of November, Crazy Eddie's Motie News passed 100,000 page views and 50 followers.  The blog currently has 107,168 page views and 53 followers.  Considering that I had not passed 50,000 page views yet as of March 21st of this year, that means I have had more page views during the past eight months than all of the previous year.  I'm pleased.

As for whether this trend will last, I have my doubts.  I might have another month of growth or this might be the start of another plateau.  Since there will be no election to drive readership, I'm betting on another plateau.  I would love to be wrong about this.

My third anniversary as a writer for

As I mentioned in Social media stories: Tweeting the news, finding auto defects, and scientific outreach, I'm marking my third anniversary writing for this week.  In fact, I'm marking it today, as I published my first article for on November 30, 2009.  Today marks my third anniversary as a writer for  To celebrate the occasion, here's my inaugural article as Detroit Science News Examiner, along with the video from MSU that originally accompanied the article.*

Ian Gray, vice president for Research and Graduate Studies, helps lead a powerful research mission at Michigan State University. From curing diseases to improving the environment to promoting sustainability, the reach MSU researchers is far and wide. Gray explains how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will help MSU create jobs and stimulate the economy while addressing some of the worlds most pressing problems.
Stimulus awards nearly $274 million so far to scientists in Michigan
In his Inaugural Address, President Barack Obama promised to "restore science to its rightful place."  One of the ways President Obama and the 111th Congress have followed through with that promise has been the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), known as the Recovery Act or simply the stimulus package.  As part of the $787 billion stimulus measure, Congress allocated $21.5 billion for scientific research, the purchase of capital equipment, and science-related construction projects.  Although this amount constitutes less than 3 percent of the stimulus, it represents the largest investment in research activities since Sputnik and provided $5 billion more in funds during 2009 and 2010 to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) alone, according to Bill Andresen, the president of the Science Coalition and vice president for federal affairs for the University of Pennsylvania, as quoted in The Hill.

Stimulus grants for scientific research in Michigan

Thus far, 494 grants totaling nearly $274 million have been awarded to scientists at Michigan research universities, according to ScienceWorksForUS, a website unveiled on November 17th by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other members of Congress, and representatives of the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (A.P.L.U.), and The Science Coalition (TSC).

The University of Michigan has garnered the lion's share of both the grants and funds awarded to date with 342 awards totaling $206.4 million.  Michigan State University has received $32.2 million so far among 74 grants.  Wayne State University has been awarded 63 grants that sum to at least $25 million.  Michigan Technological University captured 17 grants for a total of more than $6.7 million.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Detroit's Science Center is reopening; Professor Farnsworth pleased

It's been 14 months since I wrote Detroit Science Center closed temporarily (I hope), which detailed what happened to Detroit's science museum.*  At the time, I had hoped that the institution would re-open the next month.  It turns out it's taking a lot longer, but it will reopen.  The Detroit Free Press has the news.

Detroit Science Center to reopen as Michigan Science Center; details to come next week
The former Detroit Science Center will announce its reopening date next week.

Renamed and reorganized as the Michigan Science Center, the long-dormant venue will open “sooner rather than later,” said Shelly Otenbaker, a board member who has been serving as a spokesperson for the museum, which closed amid financial problems in September 2011. Otenbaker would not discuss specifics.

The date will be revealed at a Tuesday news media event, and museum officials will also discuss issues related to staffing, fund-raising and programming, Otenbaker said.
That's for the permanent opening.  The Science Center will also be open this Saturday as part of Noel Night, as Crain's Detroit Business reported a week before Thanksgiving.
On its Facebook page Monday, the institution formerly known as the Detroit Science Center said Noel Night will give people the opportunity to get a "sneak peek" before it officially reopens.
The science center will be open 5-9 p.m. on Noel Night, offering access to hands-on exhibits, entertainment and other special activities.
The Michigan Science Center won't be alone in being open this Saturday.
Noel Night, scheduled for Dec. 1, will feature open houses at more than 60 venues in Midtown between Cass and John R and Kirby and Willis.

Among those opening their doors to the public that night are the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Detroit Public Library.

There also will be horse-drawn carriage rides, shopping, crafts, performances by more than 120 local music, theater and dance groups, and shuttle service between venues, all free.
So, who's responsible for the Michigan Science Center reopening?  Crain's Detroit Business has the answer to that, too.
The organization told Crain's in September that it had raised a little more than $2.5 million toward its $5 million goal. The DTE Energy Foundation's $250,000 commitment was publicly announced in mid-October, following gifts from others including the Ford Foundation, General Motors Foundation, ITC Holdings Corp., Lear Corp., Alex and Marie Manoogian Foundation and Penske Corp.

Additionally, the science center's white knight — Ron Weiser, founder of McKinley Associates Inc. in Ann Arbor, national finance chairman for the Republican National Committee and former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party —indicated that he and his wife, Eileen Lappin Weiser, a member of the Michigan Board of Education, planned to make an additional gift to the center.

Weiser, a former U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, this summer acquired the science center's debt from Citizens Bank of Flint for "significantly less" than the roughly $6.2 million owed, saving its building and assets from being sold to the highest bidder at a public auction. He said at the time that he planned to sell the building and its contents back to the science center board for less than the amount he acquired it for, minus legal fees and closing costs.
I wish more Republicans were like the Weisers.  If they were, I might still be one of them.

*Cranbrook out here in the suburbs is a good museum, but it's much more about natural history than it is about hard science.  Besides, there is no public transportation to it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Social media stories: Tweeting the news, finding auto defects, and scientific outreach

Over at Kunstler's blog, I left the following program note on Monday.
Today's post is about Cyber Monday, and tomorrow's is about the stink of retail desperation. As for the rest of the week, I know I'll be marking my third anniversary of writing for and starting another month on Saturday.
As you can read, that's only four posts for six days, which means I didn't know what I'd be writing about on two of them, although I had a few ideas.  Yesterday, my readers gave me a push, as Social media shaping policy was the most read post of the day with 39 views during the 24 hours before 8:30 PM yesterday.  It was also the third most viewed entry of the past seven days with 66 views.  Since I just happen to have some social media stories handy and was thinking of posting them anyway, that made my choice of topic tonight easy.

I'll begin with research on social media itself, starting with this study about how news spreads on Twitter.

University of Arizona: UA Study Examines How News Spreads on Twitter
A study of the Twitter activity of 12 major news agencies shows varying levels of success for the social network as a news-sharing tool, based on factors like article lifespan and number of retweets.
By Alexis Blue, University Communications
October 15, 2012
Nearly every major news organization has a Twitter account these days, but just how effective is the microblogging website at spreading news? That’s the question University of Arizona professor Sudha Ram set out to answer in a recent study of a dozen major news organizations that use the social media website as one tool for sharing their content.

The answer, according to Ram’s research, varies widely by news agency, and there may not be one universally applicable strategy for maximizing Twitter effectiveness. However, news agencies can learn a lot by looking at how their news diffuses once it is posted on Twitter, said Ram, McClelland Professor of Management Information Systems in the UA’s Eller College of Management.

Ram, who recently presented her findings at the International Workshop on Business Applications of Social Network Analysis in Istanbul, examined, over a six-month period, the Twitter activity of 12 major news organizations focused on U.S. news, global news, technology news or financial news.

All of the agencies selected – The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, NPR, Reuters, Guardian, Forbes, Financial Times, Mashable, Arstechnica, Wired and Bloomberg – regularly share news articles on Twitter, which allows users to post 140-character messages as well as links to online content.

Ram, working with Devi Bhattacharya, an MIS doctoral student at the UA, tracked what happened to a news article after it was tweeted by a news organization. Together, they looked at how many people retweeted, or reposted, the article on their own Twitter feeds, then how many times it was subsequently retweeted from those accounts and so forth.

They were then able to evaluate the volume and extend of spread of an article on Twitter, as well as its overall lifespan.

“The goal for a news agency is to have a lot of people reading and following your articles,” said Ram, who is also a professor of computer science at the UA. “What we’ve done is use network analysis, which is quite different from just looking at the total number of tweets or total number of retweets. You’re starting to see, over time, how information is spreading.”

Ram and Bhattacharya rendered the data they collected from each organization visually as images showing how the news is diffused. The network visualizations appear something like fireworks, with dots representing individual twitter users and cascade streams from those dots depicting retweets. The images reveal different diffusion patterns for the different agencies, which can provide clues to those organizations about how their news is spreading and what they might want to focus on to be successful, Ram said.

“This gives them good feedback, and it’s kind of a performance report for them,” Bhattacharya said. “It gives them an idea about the reading habits of people online and how they like to consume news.”
Here are three of her images showing the propagations of tweets from Forbes, the New York Times, and Reuters, along with the captions accompanying each image.

A study by UA professor Sudha Ram shows, through network visualizations, varying patterns of news diffusion on Twitter for a dozen different news agencies. Shown here is...the Twitter Activity Network for Forbes.

The Twitter Activity Network for The New York Times shows a high number of users participating in long chains of tweeting and retweeting.

The Twitter Activity Network for Reuters shows a high number of users posting direct retweets of news agencies' tweets.
Those are just three of the news organizations studied.  What about the rest?
Of the organizations analyzed, BBC had the maximum reach in terms of affected users and retweet levels. BBC articles also had the highest chance of survival on Twitter, with 0.1 percent of articles surviving, through continual retweets, for three or more days. The BBC’s high numbers were likely due in large part to the fact that the main "bbcnews" Twitter account also is supported by two other agency accounts – "bbcbreaking" and "bbcworld," Ram said. The New York Times and Mashable had the second highest reach. Articles from Forbes, Wired and Bloomberg had the shortest Twitter lifespans.
I suspect that the differences in the dispersal patterns of news tweets has as much or more to do with the nature of the readers/viewers of the respective news services and their attachment to the organization as it does with the reliability or reputation of the news services themselves or their use of Twitter.  The BBC and New York Times are held in generally high regard by their readers/viewers/listeners as among the most respected news sources in their countries and that might have as much to do with the longevity of their tweets as the evergreen nature of their stories.  On the other hand, the techies and financial people might find the news from Wired, Forbes, and Bloomberg to have a very limited shelf life, as well as the publications themselves being less established than the Beeb and Gray Lady.

Now, why that 72-hour benchmark used above?
Overall, Ram said the data showed that articles on Twitter dissipate fairly quickly, with retweeting typically ending between 10 and 72 hours after an article is originally shared.
I've seen that 72 hour lifespan before; it's the time limit for a story to be considered newsworthy on  Looks like Ram has found empirical evidence in support of that rule of thumb.

So, what's the point of all this, besides academic curiosity?
Ram says she hopes to do more extensive research on news sharing and develop partnerships with news agencies to help them answer specific questions about their social media practices and performance.

“The idea is really to see if we can make some predictions,” Ram said. “What are some attributes of these networks that will help us make predictions? Is it number of followers? Is it engagement of followers? Is it what time you tweet? Is it who else is tweeting at the same time? Which are the more useful attributes that will help us predict, and therefore will help us give organizations suggestions on how to be more effective in spreading their news? Because ultimately their goal is more people reading their articles and talking about them.”
Cool.  Since I use social media to share the articles I write for, I could use any tips from Ram's research.

Follow over the jump for more social media stories originally posted on Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keep calm and carry on despite the stink of retail desperation

I may have finished yesterday's entry with "Crazy Eddie the Motie says, "Welcome to 'Science Fiction Times.'  Do we ever have a deal for you!", but I'm not done with the subject. Since I fully believe in reusing and recycling, including my writing, I'm turning the leftovers into another meal.  Bon Appetit!

Michigan State University professor Patricia Huddleston commented on a trend I'd seen before.
One continuing trend that Huddleston noted this year is that the holiday season once again arrived earlier than last. For example, Target aired its first holiday commercials two weeks before Halloween.

“Many stores installed their holiday departments well before Halloween costumes were marked down,” Huddleston said. “This is evidence of the cutthroat competition for the $586 billion in holiday sales.”
This has been a continuing trend over the decades.  First, Christmas decorations and promotions didn't start until the day after Thanksgiving, which is why the Macy's Parade and its equivalents ended with Santa Claus.  Next, they moved up until the day after Halloween.  Now, the holiday shopping season starts even earlier than that, as I mentioned in my LiveJournal two years ago.
In the Green Oaks mall, there is a HomeGoods store, which was one of our favorite places to shop when we were living in the area--lots of bargains on things we enjoy having in our house. We returned to see if there any good buys. When we entered, one thing struck me immediately--how many items were already on sale for Halloween.

It's too soon--summer isn't even over yet! Labor Day is in a week! The kids aren't even back in school, so back to school sales aren't even over.

That wasn't all. Thanksgiving items were already out, too. Combined, the Halloween and Thanksgiving items covered 15-20% of the display space. I paced off the width and length of the store with the bulk of the items, estimated the dimensions of the store, computed the areas of both, and divided. I also managed to do this without anyone, including my wife, figuring out what I was doing. Yes, I'm a geek.

When I mentioned the Halloween items to the clerk, she said that she had seen stores with Christmas merchandise out already. Oh, brother. Looks like the retailers already think that Christmas will be the only thing that saves them this year, and it's only August.
As I wrote back then, I detected "the stink of retail desperation."  That wasn't the only thing that bothered me about my experience.
The holiday goods on sale earlier than I'd ever seen them before weren't the most unnerving things I saw. This was.

Reassuring slogan, right? Not if you know its origin.
Keep Calm and Carry On was a poster produced by the British government in 1939 during the beginning of World War II, to raise the morale of the British public in the case of invasion. It was little known and never used. The poster was rediscovered in 2000 and has been re-issued by a number of private sector companies, and used as the decorative theme for a range of other products.
Knowing that history unsettled me. That I'd never seen the slogan on a physical object before just reinforced my unease. That a Google Image search for "keep calm and carry on" found so many items for sale makes me wonder what kind of times would make such a statement fashionable. Interesting ones, no doubt.

Keep calm and carry on.
Two years later, I still think this is good advice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cyber Monday forecast and Black Friday wrap-up

After blogging about Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, I would be remiss if I didn't go for the trifecta and write about Cyber Monday.

I'll let Michigan State University lead off the predictions.

Holiday sales outlook ‘positive’; online sales booming
EAST LANSING, Mich. — A Michigan State University professor said this year’s holiday shopping outlook is “positive,” especially when it comes to online sales, which are expected to increase by about 12 percent compared to last year.

Patricia Huddleston, a professor of advertising, public relations and retailing, said online sales should increase to about $96 billion this year.
I wonder if Huddleston was misquoted or confused, as comScore's press release includes both a higher percentage increase and lower sales numbers.
For the holiday season-to-date, $10.1 billion has been spent online, marking a 16-percent increase versus the corresponding days last year. Thursday, November 8 has been the heaviest online spending day of the season to date at $829 million.
The official comScore 2012 holiday season forecast is that online retail spending for the November – December period will reach $43.4 billion, representing a 17-percent gain versus year ago. This strong growth rate represents an improvement compared to last season’s 15-percent increase. It is also far ahead of the retail industry’s expectation for a 4.1-percent increase in consumers’ overall spending this holiday season.
For the week-by-week sales so far, along with a comparison to previous years, see the figure below, which shows year-to-year increases ever since 2009.

Those are for the shopping season as a whole.  What about Cyber Monday in particular?  Follow over the jump to find out.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ballot

Next Media Animation picks up on two trends in Marijuana legalization and same-sex marriage celebrate epic victories.

For the first time in the history of the U.S. voters had the option to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Gay rights advocates were able to add Maine, Maryland and Minnesota to the short list of same-sex marriage approved states.

Wisconsin also contributed to the monumental leap forward by electing Democrat Tammy Baldwin as the state's first female senator and first openly gay person elected to the chamber. Many individuals believe that victories such as these, demonstrate a shift in the public opinion.

Colorado and Washington state also made history by legalizing marijuana. Before you go and do a happy dance, there are some key factors complicating the issue. For one, marijuana is still considered illegal under federal law. Some are claiming that the federal government will fight these measures or threaten marijuana shops.

In the meantime residents in Colorado and Washington state must closely follow the rules, and make sure they have the appropriate paperwork to legally grow and consume marijuana.
This video came out right after the election. On the 19th, Michigan State University explained how the trend has been playing out for marriage equality in Support for gay marriage grows in Michigan.
Support for gay marriage is growing in Michigan, mirroring changing attitudes in many parts of the United States, according to Michigan State University’s State of the State Survey.

A recent survey found that 56 percent of the state’s residents support gay marriage while 39 percent oppose it. Two years ago, 48 percent supported gay marriage and 51 percent were opposed.

“Support for gay marriage has increased in recent years, in Michigan and across the country,” said Charles Ballard, MSU economics professor and director of the State of the State Survey.
The State of the State Survey, based on a June 12-Aug. 13 telephone survey of 1,015 Michigan adults, showed substantial differences among different groups:
  • Among those with at least some college education, 63 percent favored gay marriage, while it was favored by only 26 percent of those who had never been to college.
  • About 71 percent of those with household income over $100,000 favored gay marriage, compared with only 26 percent of those with household income below $20,000. Since income is strongly influenced by education, Ballard said, it is not surprising that there are major differences among Michigan residents of different income levels.
  • Some 57 percent of whites favored gay marriage, whereas only 30 percent of blacks did so.
  • Gay marriage was favored by 58 percent of Catholics, 48 percent of Protestants and 78 percent of those with no religious preference.
“Although a majority of Michigan residents favored gay marriage in this survey,” Ballard said, “there remain substantial differences among different groups.”
I'm not surprised by any of this except maybe the speed with which it's happening. Two years ago, I told one of my students that there would be two changes in his lifetime propelled by his generation--marijuana legalization and marriage equality. This past election confirmed my predictions--so far. He came by my office to express his amazement that I was right. It's not that amazing. All I had to do was pay attention to the trends and remember that society, like science, changes one funeral at a time.

Speaking of astonished students, another one emailed me to remind me that I had said recently that New Jersey would be underwater in two years and asked how I knew. I don't recall saying two years. I think I said twenty. I'll chalk that up to the student misremembering and a grand coincidence that Sandy hit when it did. Even so, it's better to be lucky than to be good!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Small Business Saturday

Yesterday, I suggested my readers celebrate Black Friday as Buy Nothing Day if they could and boycott WalMart. That's a negative sustainable action. Today, I have a positive sustainable action. Just like last year, I'm recommending that my readers shop at a local business as part of Small Business Saturday.

I'm not alone in urging this. Here is Marie Johns, Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration, writing in the Washington Post.

OP-ED: Small Business Saturday: Celebrating the ‘engines of our economy’
It’s the holiday season again, and between the Black Friday sales and the Cyber Monday deals is Small Business Saturday – a national initiative to support the small businesses that play a vital role in creating jobs and economic opportunities all across the country.
Small businesses are engines of our economy, creating two out of every three new jobs, and today, over half of all working Americans own or work for a small business. From the neighborhood barber shop to the IT companies that keep our nation on the cutting edge, small businesses are the anchors for our communities and the cornerstones of our Nation’s potential.

Last year, Small Business Saturday gave a boost to entrepreneurs all over the country, with more than 100 million Americans shopping at independently-owned small businesses. And this year we can do even better!
This Saturday, members of the Obama Administration will visit shops all over the country and do their part to support small businesses...

Shopping small helps small businesses do what they do best: create jobs, boost local economies and ensure that we create and sustain vibrant communities for years to come.

So as you consider your holiday shopping plans this week, let’s do our part to support America’s small businesses and our local communities.
The slogan may be "shop small" but this is a big deal when the Obama Adminstration and American Express are both promoting it. Here is the AmEx commericial supporting the day.

All over the country, small businesses are getting ready to welcome people into their stores on Small Business Saturday. Small businesses do so much good for our communities. It's time for us to do our part. On November 24th, let's get out and shop small.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Black Friday: Buy Nothing Day and Boycott WalMart

First, here's my general opinion of the day.

Black Friday Golden Calf

Second, watch Kalle Lasn, the founder of AdBusters, who came up with the idea of Buy Nothing Day (and Occupy Wall Street for that matter) on CNN last year explaining the rationale for his boycott of consumerism. Also note how much the CNN interviewer scoffs at him. Too bad for her that's he's more right than she'll let on.

Last year, I was able to comply with Lasn's request, but I don't think I'll be able to this year. However, there is one boycott I will do my absolute best to comply with. Gawker gives two reasons why.
Walmart, the ninth circle of Black Friday Hell, looks like it will be even more nightmarish than usual, and "usual" is that someone gets trampled to death.
The second reason is one of the reasons why last year's Black Friday was Buy Nothing Day for me, but the first reason is new. Gawker can explain that one, too.
Knick-knack monster Wal-Mart is facing an uncharacteristically well-organized worker strike this Friday, on what is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The company is scared enough to try to get the NLRB to tell the company's own employees they can't protest. Since we can't imagine that that long-shot attempt at crushing dissent will be successful, you should be ready for Wal-Mart Black Friday: Protest Edition.

Will you drive on over to your local Wal-Mart on Black Friday morning, only to find yourself confronted by capitalism's misdeeds, in the form of protesting Wal-Mart workers demanding something approaching a living wage?
No. I'm going to support the strikers by staying away.

Speaking of demanding a living wage...
Also, if you're interested in the economics of this issue, here is a study that Demos released yesterday that says that raising the salary of all full time workers at large retailers to $25,000 per year would lift more than 700,000 people out of poverty, at a cost of only a 1% price increase for customers...

We will also note that Wal-Mart has decided to pay its dividends early in order to minimize its taxes, in a move that could save members of the Walton family "as much as $180 million in federal income taxes." Please contrast this to the ostentatious displays of patriotic rhetoric generally associated with Wal-Mart.
Time for another book/movie poster.

As Gawker concluded their article, "have a black, black Friday."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Food news for Thanksgiving

Continuing with the food theme from yesterday's entry, here is a collection of food news for Thanksgiving. I'll start this linkspam off with this update on Hostess Cakes has gone Galt from Next Media Animation: Hostess Brand Inc., maker of Twinkies, might liquidate.

See, I told you all that the brands and products would survive, even if the parent company disappears.

Follow over the jump for the all the food news I've included in Overnight News Digest since my Food Day news entry last month.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

On Thanksgiving eve, I present "Food, Inc."

I left the following program note over at Kunstler's blog Monday.
As for what the rest of the week brings, that's already programmed in. Just after Midnight tonight, I mark yet another week of showing my class "The End of Suburbia" featuring our host with a post in which I leave answers for my students as links and Easter Eggs while discussing "Dispatches from the FEMA camps" by Metro Detroit's own Jeff Wattrick, who writes for Wonkette. Wednesday and Thursday, I have food posts planned for Thanksgiving. On Black Friday, I have Buy Nothing Day and Boycott Walmart combined. The week ends with Small Business Saturday, which promotes the kinds of local retail outlets needed for a resilient, post-peak-oil future.
I already took care of the first promised entry with Sustainability through the looking glass with Jeff Wattrick of Wonkette. It's time to continue in the same spirit with another post featuring a worksheet my students fill out for a movie. In keeping with the food theme, it's for Food, Inc., the book of which I blogged about in Food Fight! Thoughts on liberalism and conservatism inspired by the Preface to Food, Inc.*

As I wrote in Showing my students "End of Suburbia" again tonight:
Over the fold is the worksheet I've been using for the past three years. See how many of my questions about the movie you can answer.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sustainability through the looking glass with Jeff Wattrick of Wonkette

I'm showing "The End of Suburbia" to my students this week. They would probably love it if I posted the answers to the worksheet they have to fill out. I won't, not for all of them. Instead, I will point out I have answers to a few of the questions scattered throughout my blog.

For example, part of the answer to #8, "include how peak usage contributed to the crisis" is mentioned in the introduction to the worksheet post. I comment on the answer to #9 "What are the issues involved with the various modes of generating electricity, concentrating on the problems with natural gas?" in Portland is watching "The End of Suburbia", where I note things aren't as bad now as they were nine years ago when the film was shot. I mention part of the answer to #18 "How do the people interviewed think the American people will react to energy shortages? Include the political effects" in several entries. All one has to do is search for 'maniacs.' I used it first in a post about Michele Bachmann demagoguing the price of gas. Finally, one of the possible answers to #29 and #30 (it will work for either) is in Kunstler in a Big Yellow Taxi and some more are in the introduction to the worksheet entry among the student reactions.

So, what am I going to do instead? I'm going to excerpt Metro Detroit's own Jeff Wattrick's Dispatches from the FEMA camps, his satire of corn pone fascist thinking about sustainability.
Between now and Obama’s second inauguration, Wonkette will be your source for exclusive details about our shining path to a new America that will be like Greece crossed with Cuba but only more Muslim-y. Also gay.
Follow over the jump for Jeff's fantasized solutions to suburbia, a way of life that became the new American Dream and promised space, convenience, affordability, family life, and upward mobility, but instead ended up decanting cities into the countryside and becoming the greatest waste of resources in the history of the world and a living arrangement that has no future.*

Monday, November 19, 2012

Twilight over, next up, The Hunger Games!

It's been almost two months since Science Fiction, Double Feature, Part 1, when I concluded with a promise.
That's it for the first part of the science fiction double feature. The next installment will be about The Hunger Games.
As you can tell by the title not being Part 2, this isn't it. Instead, I'm being a good environmentalist and recycling.

First, here's the item from Overnight News Digest (Fast fill-in edition) that prompted this post.

Hollywood thirsts for young adult films as "Twilight" ends
By Lisa Richwine
LOS ANGELES | Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:46pm EST
(Reuters) - As vampires Bella and Edward take their last bites on the big screen, Hollywood studios are on the hunt for the next "Twilight," a movie that plays on teenage angst and, more importantly, lights up the movie box office.

The first four "Twilight" movies earned $2.5 billion at theaters worldwide, propelled by passionate fans of a book series about a vampire-and-werewolf teen love triangle. Box office watchers project "Breaking Dawn - Part 2" will haul in $150 million at U.S. and Canadian theaters this weekend, one of the year's biggest film debuts.

Eager to replicate that performance, studios executives have been trolling through young adult novels with the dream of uncovering the next big blockbuster franchise, paying as much as $1 million to secure the film rights to the hottest books.
As I wrote over at JournalFen, the next big thing has already begun, and it's The Hunger Games.
Executives hope they can uncover a story that excites tech-savvy teens, who supercharged the buzz mill for "The Hunger Games" and other hits by spreading the word to friends through social media posts.

"It's a very enthusiastic and deep passion that young people feel for a book they love," said Nina Jacobson, executive producer of "The Hunger Games," which spawned a blockbuster film franchise with $687 million in worldwide ticket sales this spring.

"When they love something, they share it," Jacobson said.

The four-year "Twilight" movie saga lifted tiny studio Summit Entertainment into Hollywood's big leagues and paved the way for its $412 million acquisition in January by Lions Gate Entertainment, the studio behind "The Hunger Games."

The coming young adult films incorporate paranormal themes like those in the "Twilight" movies or dark dystopian futures and battles for survival reminiscent of "The Hunger Games," and do it through the drama of young love.
They will battle the latest installments of existing young adult franchises such as the "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire" that comes out November 2013.
Just in time for Christmas, and possible Oscar consideration. Speaking of which, Jennifer Lawrence is being touted as an Oscar favorite, although for "Silver Linings Playbook" not "The Hunger Games."

There are other dystopias that the movie studios think will be the next big thing after that franchise plays out.
Lions Gate's Summit studio scooped up the rights before publication for "Divergent," a novel set in a futuristic Chicago where people are divided into factions based on personality traits. The studio is producing a movie for 2014 that features young Hollywood star Shailene Woodley, who played George Clooney's troubled daughter in the movie "The Descendants" last year.

The "Divergent" book series has sold more than 2 million copies, pacing ahead of both "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games" at the same point in their histories, Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer told industry analysts on a November 9 conference call.

"We are putting out to our fans right now we think that this is the next big franchise," Feltheimer said.
Looks like Hollywood believes that worrying about collapse is good business. I wish segments other than entertainment had that same attitude.

Follow over the jump for more examples of reuse and recycle while I reduce the amount of original writing I do and refuse to write a real Part 2--for now.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sandy bumps the gas price rollercoaster

Since the previous update the first week of this month, gas prices here bumped up, then down, although they haven't returned to where they started November. Calculated Risk took a snapshot of the situation in Gasoline Prices down 30 cents over last month, where Bill McBride quoted the Sacramento Bee.
"Gas prices at the end of October were dropping at the fastest speeds in nearly four years," said Beth Mosher, director of public affairs for AAA Chicago. "If this trend continues, motorists could be paying less than last year to fill up their cars."

Assuming a smooth restart to production following Hurricane Sandy, AAA predicts that gas prices will continue to drop through the end of the year. ... The Northeast is a significant gasoline consumer and not a major producer, so it is expected that the decline in demand from people not driving will outweigh any disruption in gasoline production.
That was on November 5th, when the corner station was selling gas at $3.37. Then came Election Day, when the price jumped up to $3.45. Shortly after that, it bounced again to $3.49. The stations down the street bracketed the price, selling unleaded regular for anywhere from $3.45 to $3.55. Shortly after that, all of them including the one at the corner, returned to $3.45. Last week, all of their prices shot up to 3.59. The Detroit Free Press reported that rise in Gas prices in Michigan up 6 cents from last week. The average price in the state last Sunday was $3.47. The good news is that was a penny less that it was a year ago. Hey, year-over-year, gas price is down!

That passed, and gas is now selling between $3.45 and $3.49 again. That was part of a nationwide trend, as Average retail gas prices fall seven cents on trend: survey. Here's the relevant excerpt from the Reuters story.
The average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States fell during the past two weeks as demand took a hit from supply disruption after Hurricane Sandy and the loss of daylight savings time, according to a widely followed survey released on Sunday.
"U.S. crude oil prices actually rose a little in the past two weeks but the weak gasoline demand has helped pull down prices and contributed to the down trend (in gasoline prices)," Lundberg said.

"Unless we have a significant reason for crude oil prices to rise, such as escalating conflicts in the Middle East, I do expect retail gasoline prices to continue to edge down in the near future," she added.
About those "significant reasons," a Reuters article from last Friday read Oil rises on Middle East conflict, Gulf of Mexico fire.
Oil rose on Friday as a fire on a Gulf of Mexico platform and the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinians stoked supply concerns.

News of the fire at a Black Elk platform in morning U.S. activity helped crude extend early gains, although the Coast Guard later said it had not been producing oil at the time of the fire, which helped calm market jitters. Two workers were missing and four others injured by the fire.
The market was already on edge after Iraq's envoy to the Arab League said in Cairo it would invite Arab states to use oil as a weapon to press for a halt to Israeli attacks on Gaza. He later appeared to withdraw the remark, saying Baghdad would make no particular proposal to a League meeting.
The conflict has gripped oil markets, which have been looking for any signs it could impact Middle East supplies.
Trading was volatile with the U.S. December crude contract expiring at the end of Friday's session, following the Brent December contract's expiry the day before.

Expiring U.S. December crude traded up $1.22 to settle at $86.67 a barrel. The more heavily traded U.S. January crude gained $1.05 to settle at $86.92 a barrel. Front-month January Brent crude rose 94 cents to settle at $108.95 a barrel.
According to the gas price calculator at Econobrowser, a Brent price of $108.95/barrel translates to a price at the pump of $3.56. In that case, $3.45-$3.49 looks pretty good. Time for Professor Farnsworth.

NMA asked "Does Sandoval deserve to win MVP?"

Giants-Tigers: San Francisco sweep Detroit to win World Series

Giants-Tigers: San Francisco sweep Detroit to win the 2012 World Series. San Francisco defeated Detroit, 4-3, in 10 innings on Sunday night to win their second World Series title in three years. The Giants have won seven championships overall. San Francisco beat the Texas Rangers in five games in 2010.
The Giants relied on strong pitching to knock down opponents in their path to a World Series victory. Ryan Vogelsong was arguably the strongest pitcher for the Giants in the postseason.

The Tigers never led until Game 4, when Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera provided a glimmer of hope with a two-run drive. But in the end, Cabrera stared down a fastball straight down the middle from relief pitcher Sergio Romo. The strikeout ended Detroit's hopes.

The Giants have now won two championships in three years. Has a new era of San Francisco dominance begun?
No, Cabrera and Posey do.

Detroit's Cabrera wins AL MVP award
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK | Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:23am EST
(Reuters) - Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, the first player to win the Triple Crown in 45 years, added the American League's Most Valuable Player award on Thursday for the 2012 Major League Baseball season.

Cabrera became the first player since Carl Yastrzemski of the Boston Red Sox in 1967 to lead the league in the three top traditional offensive categories with a .330 batting average, 44 home runs, and 139 runs batted in.

He also became the first Venezuelan to win the coveted MVP award, getting the nod over Rookie of the Year winner Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, whose brilliant all-around play had made him a serious challenger to Cabrera.
Nate S. thought Trout deserved it, but he didn't get his way.

Giants' Buster Posey wins NL MVP award
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK | Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:48am EST
(Reuters) - Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants added to a career's worth of accomplishments by winning the National League Most Valuable Player award on Thursday in just his third season.

Yet the humble, 25-year-old catcher said what he took away from the 2012 season was a heartfelt appreciation just to be able to play.

Posey had the highest batting average in the major leagues at .336 and pounded 24 homers while driving in 103 to win MLB's top individual award following a 2011 season that ended for him after only 45 games in a devastating collision at home plate.
Sorry, Sandoval.

Both stories from Overnight News Digest (Fast fill-in edition) on Daily Kos.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Hostess Cakes has gone Galt

WOOD-TV has the story.

Locals stock up on Twinkies, Ho Ho's

Hostess is going out of business.

I doubt this will be the end of Twinkies. As I said in January:
As for Twinkies and the rest of the baked goods put out by Hostess Cakes going away, advocates of healthy eating could only wish.
The products are too valuable and someone will make them. Until then, enjoy this.

Total solar eclipse and more space and astronomy news

It's that time of the week again, time for the space and astronomy stories from last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obama re-elected edition) on Daily Kos. Tonight's top story is the total solar eclipse that was visible from Australia.

NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Total Eclipse of the Sun

Scientists and sky watchers are converging on the northeast coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, for a total eclipse of the sun.
Even without the Arizona schools, one of the universities I used came through. To my surprise, it was one of the smallest.

University of North Dakota: Astrophysicist Tim Young, computer scientist Ron Marsh team up again to deliver Solar event video
November 6, 2012
Once again, the University of North Dakota's popular team of scientists is taking its show on the global road to astronomical adventure.

UND professors Timothy Young, Physics and Astrophysics, and Ronald Marsh, chair, Computer Science, will travel with their team to Cairns, Australia, to share a live webcast of a total solar eclipse. In addition to the video webcast, the UND team will acquire and post high-resolution digital photographs of the corona.

The eclipse begins at 2 p.m. U.S. Central Standard Time, Tuesday, Nov. 13. The webcast can be viewed at or on Facebook. The live webcast is also available on mobile devices.
More space and astronomy stories over the jump.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Last night's sustainability-related news from Reuters


The top sustainability story last night on my favorite news service was the plea agreement involving the criminal charges against BP for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

BP agrees to record criminal penalties for U.S. oil spill
By Kathy Finn and David Ingram
NEW ORLEANS/WASHINGTON | Fri Nov 16, 2012 4:09am EST
(Reuters) - BP Plc will pay $4.5 billion in penalties and plead guilty to criminal misconduct in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused the worst U.S. offshore oil spill ever.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the deal a "critical step forward" but was adamant that it did not end the criminal investigation of the 2010 spill.

The settlement announced on Thursday includes a $1.256 billion criminal fine, the largest such levy in U.S. history. It was not, however, the "global" settlement some had hoped for, which would have also resolved the considerable federal civil claims against the company at the same time.
The government also indicted the two highest-ranking BP supervisors aboard the Deepwater Horizon during the disaster, charging them with 23 criminal counts including manslaughter. One man's lawyer said his client was being turned into a scapegoat for the disaster.

The April 2010 explosion on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 workers. The mile-deep Macondo oil well then spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf over 87 days, fouling shorelines from Texas to Florida and eclipsing in severity the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
The spill was the teachable moment that lasted all summer semester two years ago. It makes for a good general sustainability story, as it includes all three Ps--people, planet, profit (or lack thereof in this case).

Follow over the jump for the sustainability-related news from last night's Overnight News Digest (Fast fill-in edition) on Daily Kos.

A plate full of post-election leftovers

I concluded the yesterday's post with this promise.
I'll return with more post-election analysis later. Whether it's recycling something from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obama re-elected edition) or something more original, such as following up on the campaigns I either volunteered for or observed closely, I don't know yet. I'll see how I feel tomorrow.
I've been dragging most of the week, so I'm going to just heat up the leftovers.

I'll begin with an item about all the money spent on all the campaigns this year.

University of Virginia: U.Va. Law Professors: Role of Money in Elections Will Continue to Raise Questions November 8, 2012
In the wake of this week’s elections – which the Center for Responsive Politics estimates featured $5.8 billion in spending on the presidential and congressional races combined – two University of Virginia law professors reflected on the relationship between money, free speech and campaign finance.
Both are dismayed by both the amount of money and the lack of transparency.

Where did most of that money go? Television advertising. MSU is on the case.

$4 billion in advertising

Robert Kolt, instructor of advertising at Michigan State University, says more money has been spent on campaign advertising in 2012 than ever before.
I'm beyond dismayed; I'm astounded! Then again, this was not a good year for a lot of the big-money SuperPACs when it came to bang for the buck, but that's a subject for a future post.

More post-election news over the jump.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

U of M and MSU on the proposals

Still more post-election wrap-up, this time featuring videos from Michigan's top two research universities. First up is the most recent, which is an analysis of what happened to the state's proposals, which were all voted down.

Looking at the Michigan ballot proposals
Elisabeth R. Gerber, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, explains the campaign strategies of the proponents and opponents of the recent Michigan ballot initiatives.
I might be able to turn this into a newsworthy article for, but I'm not going to wait until I do to post the video. If I do, I might be able to include information from all the rest of the videos.

Follow over the jump for more videos.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Educating journalists using the election

I have a lot of articles about the election and its aftermath from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obama re-elected edition) on Daily Kos, so I'll be posting them for another couple of days. Tonight's installment features a pair of articles about how universities used the election as an opportunity to educate their journalism students.

First up, the University of Cincinnati on YouTube: UC Journalism Students Tweet the Elections

UC journalism students helped The Cincinnati Enquirer monitor Hamilton County voting precincts and covered the events of Nov. 6 via social media. Their election work day started at 5:30 a.m. at a local eatery and went late into the night, and included election monitoring, tweeting, interviews with and photos of voters, poll workers and others. Photo credit: UC students and faculty. Video by Elissa Yancey.
Next, the University of Nevada, Reno: Journalism students enjoy ‘unforgettable experience’ providing election coverage
Students report from University of Nevada, Reno and various Washoe County locations throughout election night
By Claudene Wharton
November 7, 2012
With the eyes of the nation on Nevada, one of the nation's "battleground" states in the 2012 presidential election, journalism students at the University of Nevada, Reno, with their professors, provided a barrage of election-related news and real-time updates Tuesday. Text, video, photos, audio, packages, articles and updates on a wide variety of relevant election-related topics are posted at, where other media throughout the country are also invited to download and use the material free of charge, with proper attribution.

About 50 students of the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism and Center for Advanced Media Studies participated in the election-night coverage, filing stories beginning a couple of days before the election and continuing beyond midnight on Tuesday. They explored topics such as the state's pivotal Hispanic vote and what happens in the event of an electoral tie, getting perspective from national subject experts at the University, including Emma Sepulveda, Latino Research Center director and Eric Herzik, political science department chairman and often-quoted political pundit. They produced a live-streamed Wolf Pack Week telecast 7 - 8 p.m. on Tuesday, as well as provided updates throughout the evening for NPR station KUNR located on campus.
The atmosphere in the School's newsrooms had all the buzz and excitement of a typical media newsroom on election night, and it was difficult to ascertain who was enjoying the experience more - the faculty members or the students.
The two universities I quoted above weren't the only ones to take advantage of the opportunity. Michigan State did as well.

MSU students cover election in state’s ‘biggest newsroom’
October 31, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. — On election night, newsrooms around the state will be shoulder-to-shoulder with writers, reporters and editors, all striving to get the stories quickly and accurately.

But nowhere in Michigan will there be a larger, more fully staffed newsroom than at Michigan State University, where as many as 200 student-journalists will gather to cover the big story.

Forming the state’s largest election-coverage team, the students are part of “MI First Election,” a group of students from more than a dozen MSU journalism classes that have been covering nearly every aspect of the election, from township board contests all the way to the presidential race.
Here's to all these students learing the lessons of their lifetimes covering the election of their lives--so far. Also, here's to better journalists in the future.

Also, like the videos I included in yesterday's entry, this is a story I should have used when it was still newsworthy, but I think I can still turn into an evergreen article. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Diversity strikes back, a post-election wrap-up

A few weeks ago, two videos accompanying news releases, posed the challenges facing the major parties, especially the Republicans this year.* Here is the first, which asked the question, Does race matter in this election?

University of Michigan department of political science expert Vincent Hutchings explains how race will play an important role this election.
The answer, of course, was yes. However, let this press release from the University of Virginia, which I included in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Obama re-elected edition) on Daily Kos, expand on it with data from Virginia.

University of Virginia: U.Va. Experts: 2012 Election Shows Virginia Is Demographic Bellwether For Nation H. Brevy Cannon
November 7, 2012
In the 2012 election, Virginia found itself in a new role – as one of the most hotly contested battleground states, a bellwether for the nation.

Once reliably red, the commonwealth voted Republican in every presidential election from 1968 through 2004. But Virginians backed Barack Obama in 2008 and re-elected him Tuesday, due largely to demographic shifts that Democrats have skillfully exploited, according to several University of Virginia experts.

Those demographic shifts – the growing relative importance of non-white and women voters – are here to stay, and must be addressed by Republicans if they hope to reverse Democratic gains. But there is no reason Republicans can’t put themselves on the winning side of those shifts, U.Va. experts argue.

We asked a sampling of U.Va. experts for their thoughts hours after the conclusion of the 2012 election.
Ah, yes, women voters. The University of Michigan mentioned their role, too, in Women voters will play a key role in the presidential election, says U-Mich expert.

University of Michigan professor Susan Douglas explains the issues women are interested in and why they play a critical role in this presidential election.
Here's another press release I included in the same Overnight News Digest that addresses how that played out, this time in Massachusetts.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst: Massachusetts Exit Poll Shows Women Played a Major Role in U.S. Senate Race and Ballot Question 2
November 7, 2012
AMHERST, Mass. – UMass Poll’s exit poll from the Nov. 6 Massachusetts election shows that the gender gap helped propel Elizabeth Warren to victory in a competitive race against incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. The poll shows that women voters preferred Warren to Brown by a margin of 20 percent, while men split evenly between the two candidates. Brown was also faced with an electorate that looked much different than the one that elected him to office in 2010.

The election was clearly influenced by a campaign that focused significantly on women’s issues. “The female vote was an important one this election,” says Maryann Barakso, associate professor of political science and associate director of UMass Poll. “Despite Brown’s substantial efforts to appeal to women voters during the campaign, Warren enjoyed a significant advantage among women, which proved decisive for her victory.”

While the economy was rated as a very important issue by 84 percent of voters, 51 percent said that the issue of abortion was very important for their vote, while 61 percent reported that equal pay was very important. “Voters who saw these women’s issues as very important voted for Warren by a large margin over Brown,” noted Barakso. Moreover, the electorate in general felt that Warren would represent women very well in office when compared to Brown (49 percent to 26 percent). “In the final months of the campaign, we saw increasingly more attention to women’s issues, and this only served to benefit the challenger,” says Barakso.
That 20% gender gap persisted and helped Elizabeth Warren as well as Barack Obama. Now I know what kind of Force was with her.

What about the youth vote? It turns out I have something for that, too. It also works as a proxy to show which of the two candidates people overseas preferred.
U.Va. International Students Picked Obama, Too
H. Brevy Cannon
November 8, 2012
International students and students of politics at the University of Virginia heavily favored President Obama over Mitt Romney in a hypothetical vote for president, according to an informal online poll of U.Va. students conducted Tuesday by the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics of the College of Arts & Sciences.

The poll was emailed to 2,000 international students (undergraduate and graduate) and roughly 850 undergraduate politics majors. It had 777 respondents in the four hours it was open, including 443 self-identified non-U.S. citizens, said politics Ph.D. student Adam Hughes, who created the poll under the supervision of politics professors Nick Winter and Lynn Sanders.

Obama was the favorite by a wide margin among students from every continent. While students from the United States preferred the Democratic candidate by a 3-to-2 margin, students from other countries favored Obama by even larger margins.

Students from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia all favored Obama by at least 78 percent to 18 percent for Romney (see graph). The trend was strongest among European students, 87 percent of whom preferred Obama to 11 percent for Romney.
Yes, the youth vote is still for Obama, and people beyond our borders seem to like him, too.

*I should have written stories about them for when they were newsworthy. Who knows, I might still. Afterall, I'm finding them useful almost a month later.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Former Mayor Janice Daniels should have recycled those signs

A week ago, this photo hit Facebook and went viral.

As Troy Patch explains, it shows now former Mayor of Troy Janice Daniels and her ally Minesh Baxi accompanying a Kroger employee who is disposing of some lawn signs urging yes on her recall. That was a mistake on multiple counts on her part. While the person who is actually disposing of the signs is an agent of the property owner, who is the person who actually has the right to remove campaign signs from the property, this photo makes it look like Daniels herself is getting rid of them. That makes her appear no better than the Plymouth Township Supervisor in this video.*

Township supervisor caught removing campaign signs

As the video quotes the Plymouth Township Clerk, only the property owner or the candidate (or an agent acting on their behalf) are allowed to remove the signs. That Daniels herself got involved indicated bad judgment.

The other thing wrong was that the signs probably went into the dumpster. Instead, they should have been recycled--in Troy! WXYZ has the good news.

Sign-A-Rama in Troy is offering to recycle any old campaign yard signs. All you have to do is drop them off.
Good. I have 14 lawn signs from this election, plus one from 2010, and only one of them will be used in two years. I know where I'm taking them.

As for Daniels, the same day the photo above appeared, Jeff Wattrick over at Deadline Detroit declared her to be Metro Detroit's worst politician. Given the competition, that's saying something!

The next day, she faced the recall.

She lost. The preliminary results read Troy Mayor Janice Daniels was recalled by a 52 percent vote. The final results came with more detail.

RECALLED: Troy Mayor Janice Daniels Voted Out of Office
A majority of Troy residents voted to remove embattled Troy Mayor Janice Daniels from office Tuesday.
By Jen Anesi
The people of Troy voted 52 percent to 48 percent to recall Mayor Janice Daniels on Tuesday.

The votes were 20,763 to 18,993, according to unofficial results from the Oakland County Clerk, with all precincts reporting.
"I'm elated, over the moon," Recall Janice Daniels co-founder John Kulesz said as recall volunteers celebrated into the night at Joe Kool's in Troy. "It's amazing to do something that the majority of the people of Troy responded to in such a positive way."

“We’re so happy that the people of Troy have realized that Janice is not the best person to represent them, and that Troy can and will do better," Recall Janice Daniels co-founder Matt Binkowski said.
I'm thrilled, too. That should come as no suprise, as I thought that she might be trouble when she was elected, pointed out that she had made herself a textbook example of someone vulnerable to a scandal, and cheered on the recall, twice. With Daniels' political career in the trash, it's crab won ton time for the rest of us!

*Despite this incident, Reaume won re-election, while White lost.

Reposted with slightly different conclusion over at Daily Kos.

ETA: My cat opened this entry for editing, so I'll add his contribution: 3

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month...

...The Band Played Waltzing Matilda.

Reposted from here.

Pizza Man Cain wants a third party for conservatives, never mind three already exist

I thought I'd said goodbye to Herman Cain, but it turns out that he's in the news again. Here's the relevant passage from Salon's GOP civil war: Herman Cain calls for third party.
Appearing on Bryan Fischer’s radio program this afternoon, Cain called for a large faction of Republican Party leaders to desert the party and form a third, more conservative party.

“I never thought that I would say this, and this is the first time publicly that I’ve said it: We need a third party to save this country. Not Ron Paul and the Ron Paulites. No. We need a legitimate third party to challenge the current system that we have, because I don’t believe that the Republican Party … has the ability to rebrand itself,” Cain said.
“It is more viable today than it has ever been,” Cain told Fischer today of a third party.
I first heard about this a couple of days ago, so when Hunter at Daily Kos gave me an opportunity to express myself this afternoon, I jumped on it.
Conservatives have *three* third parties already, the Libertarians, the Constitution Party, and the Reform Party (or what's left of it). They don't need another. The dissidents can go pile into one of them and take it over. Cain would probably feel most at home in the Reform Party. After all, it already has a history of being run by an eccentric egomaniac with lots of money and being a haven for ambitious conservatives who don't feel at home in the Republican Party.

If that doesn't work, they can continue to run out the moderates and keep the GOP for themselves. The refugees who won't become Democrats can hijack the revived Whig Party or what's left of Americans Elect.

Either way, they lose power and we win.

G-d, that felt to good to type. I've been waiting to say this since I first heard Cain's foolish remarks.
I mentioned the positives for Cain in joining the Reform Party. I covered the negatives involved in joining the Constitution Party in another comment.
I cover politics here in Michigan and have spoken to Bill Mohr, the head of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, Michigan's state affiliate of the Constitution Party, about their nominees. He told me about how Alan Keyes tried to become their nominee in 2008 and the party rejected him. According to Mohr, they figured out that Keyes was a Trojan Horse for a GOP takeover, or something like that, and rejected him in favor of Chuck Baldwin. I figured something like that would happen to Cain, which is why I recommended he take over the Reform Party. It would be much more to his liking.

As for which Republican politician I would like to see go to the Constitution Party, it would be Sarah Palin. She'd fit right in with their wrapped in a flag and carrying a Bible theocratic vision. Also, she's already familiar with one of its state affiliates, the Alaska Independence Party. She and Todd can be in the same party again.
Someone else mentioned the American Independent Party, to which I replied:
I had to check that one. I counted the American Independent Party as part of the Constitution Party, as they were California's state affiliate of that organization until 2008. They split because of Alan Keyes' failed attempt to become the Constitution Party candidate...So, that means that there are three nationwide, but a fourth one with ballot access in California. Ask Roseanne Barr how being on the ballot only in California worked out for her.
As if that wasn't snarky enough, someone mentioned Cain "going Splitter." That deserved a video.

Reposted at Daily Kos.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Space photographs as art and other space and astronomy news

It's that time of the week again. This week, the stories I'm featuring aren't about scientific discoveries or space flights, at least night directly. Instead, they're about how the photos that document scientific discoveries and space flight make for great art, as well as educational opportunities.

University of Arizona: Adam Block and the Cosmic Canvas
Adam Block, astrophotographer and astronomy educator with the UA's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, has been selected to receive the Advanced Imaging Conference Hubble Award to honor his work in "bringing the cosmos to the people."
By Daniel Stolte, University Communications
October 29, 2012
Adam Block, astrophotographer and astronomy educator with the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter, has been selected to receive the Advanced Imaging Conference Hubble Award to honor his work in "bringing the cosmos to the people." Block received the award at the annual Advanced Imaging Conference held Oct. 26-28 in San Jose, Calif.
NASA regularly features his images on its "Astronomy Picture of the Day" website, such as this image of Reflection Nebula vdB1 (used as the illustration above--P.S.). Hundreds of Block's photos have appeared in magazines such as National Geographic, Scientific American, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Arizona Highways, Coelum, Astronomie and The Practical Astronomer. has featured a score of his images as its image of the day.

"Adam's pictures draw people in and facilitate their thinking about science," said Alan Strauss, director of the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter. "One of the things that distinguishes our outreach efforts from similar public programs is that Adam's photographs are used so widely. The images are beautiful, and they awaken a curiosity and an appreciation of science in general, and astronomy specifically."

Arizona State University: Moon and art go hand in hand
October 29, 2012
To patrons of fine art, space might seem like a foreign frontier but the monOrchid art gallery in downtown Phoenix will bring the two together when it hosts dozens of images taken from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC).

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA mission that is a precursor to the return of humans to the Moon. LROC, which is one of seven instruments aboard the orbiter, is run from the Tempe campus by principal investigator Mark Robinson.

This unusual exhibit will feature LROC images of the Moon depicting impact craters, ancient lava flows and the Apollo landing site where astronauts first stepped onto the lunar surface. The exhibit will premiere Nov. 2, during the First Friday art walk in downtown Phoenix, and remain open from 5 to 10 p.m. every Friday in November. MonOrchid is located at 214 E. Roosevelt St., in downtown Phoenix.

“The Moon is a really beautiful place,” said Robinson, creator of the exhibit. “These are like Ansel Adams images of the Moon.”
For the rest of last week's space news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Sandy's aftermath edition) on Daily Kos, follow over the jump.

Friday, November 9, 2012 articles on the election results, part 4

In part 3, I promised an article on the state educational governing boards. Here it is.

Mark Berstein thanked his supporters for his election to the University of Michigan Board of Regents with this photo taken inside one of U of M's libraries.
Credit: Mark Berstein's campaign's Facebook page, MGoBernstein.
Democrats sweep State Board of Education, university governing board elections
In 2010, the Republicans were elected to all statewide offices in Michigan. This past Tuesday, the Democrats returned the favor, sweeping all offices on the statewide partisan ballot from the President on down.

This sweep included the eight seats being contested for the State Board of Education and the governing boards for the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University.

Washtenaw County provided the victorious Democrats an even larger margin of victory than they received statewide, with their vote shares ranging between five and six percent more than elsewhere in Michigan.

The winners were:
  • Michelle Fecteau of Detroit and Lupe Ramos-Montigny of Grand Rapids for the State Board of Education
  • Mark Bernstein of Ann Arbor and Shauna Ryder Diggs of Detroit for the University of Michigan Board of Regents.
  • Joel Ferguson of Lansing and Brian Mosallam of Dearborn for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.
  • Kim Trent of Detroit and Sandra Hughes O'Brien of Northville for the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
Lots of numbers and quotes from the winning candidates at the article itself.

As for the rest of my promises, I think I'll pass on the community college governing boards, even that's of interest to me personally. Besides, I think I've done all the writing I have in me for today.

As for the evergreen articles--an analysis of minor party candidates and the effects of redistricting on the relative effectiveness of Democrats and Republicans getting elected--they can wait. It will be Sunday at the earliest before I even think of tackling them. articles on the election results, part 3

I made this program note in the conclusion to part 2 of the series.
As for what's still left to write, I think I'll work on the Michigan Supreme Court and the educational governing boards next.
Here's the first of the articles I wanted to work on last night.

University of Michigan law professor Bridget Mary McCormack won a term on the Michigan Supreme Court Tuesday.
Credit: McCormack's campaign website
McCormack, Markman, Zahra elected to Michigan Supreme Court
Ann Arbor's own candidate for Michigan Supreme Court, University of Michigan professor Bridget Mary McCormack, led all candidates in a crowded field to earn a seat on the bench for the next eight years.

Michigan's voters were not as kind to the rest of the women running for Michigan's highest court. All four lost as incumbents Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra won re-election.

The election of McCormack and the return of Markman and Zahra mean that Republican appointees and nominees will retain their 4-3 advantage on the court for at least the next two years.
Lots of numbers, including a comparison of the statewide vote vs. that in Washtenaw County, plus the acceptance announcements of McCormack and Zahra, at the link in the headline.

I'm still planning on writing about the state educational boards tonight. I also have material for the local community college boards. Those will be the ones I'll count as "newsworthy" for After that, I'll see about a comparison between Washtenaw County and the rest of the state. Half of my work has already been done for me over at Thank you, Ryan Stanton. Other projects will include an analysis of minor party candidates and the effects of redistricting on the relative effectiveness of Democrats and Republicans getting elected. All of those will count as "evergreen." They should be just as interesting until the next election as they are today. articles on the election results, part 2

Continuing from where I left off yesterday.

Adam Zemke cruised to victory in Michigan's 55th State House district.
Credit: Adam Zemke's campaign website
Democrats sweep Washtenaw County's Michigan House contests
Washtenaw County's delegation to the Michigan House of Representatives will look very different in 2013 than it has for the past two years.

Before Tuesday's election, two Democrats, Jeff Irwin and David Rutledge, represented the county's two largest cities, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, along with some of the area outside and to the east of Ypsilanti, in the 53rd and 54th districts. Two Republicans, Mark Ouimet and Rick Olson, represented the rest of the county in the 52nd and 55th districts.

After Tuesday's election, all four State House districts will be represented by Democrats. The two Democratic incumbents won re-election, while Olson retired and was replaced by Adam Zemke and Ouimet lost to Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell.

The two new State Representatives formed part of a five-seat swing in the Michigan House in favor of the Democrats. Even so, Republicans still hold a 59-51 majority in the chamber.
This was another good news for Democrats article. As for what's still left to write, I think I'll work on the Michigan Supreme Court and the educational governing boards next. After that, I'll have to see how much time I have and what has done, as I don't need to duplicate their articles. I only have until 72 hours after the information becomes available to write a story consided newsworthy. I'm taking that as 4 AM Saturday, as the all the votes in Washtenaw County were counted by 4 AM Wednesday.

Thursday, November 8, 2012 articles on the election results, part 1

Time for the first pair of articles recapping the election results.

Saline Mayor Gretchen Driskell has beaten incumbent Representative Mark Driskell for State House.
Credit: Gretchen Driskell for State Representative Facebook page.
Driskell wins close election to Michigan House
At 9:01 on the morning of election day, Representative Mark Ouimet exhorted the fans of his campaign's Facebook page to do their civic duty.

"Election Day is here! Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this campaign! I now only ask one more thing from you- vote!"

Vote they did, but not enough for Ouimet to be re-elected.
I'm very pleased by this result. It makes up for the bad taste in my mouth after Ouimet won in 2010. Also, with the election of Driskell and Adam Zemke, Washtenaw County is now represented by only Democrats in the Michigan House.

John Dingell has been elected to Congress for a record 30th term.
U.S. Congress (Wikipedia/Public Domain)
Dingell, Walberg earn easy wins
Last night, the two U.S. Representatives whose districts include Washtenaw County cruised to victory.

John Dingell, whose new 12th Congressional District represents Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and Willow Run in addition to the southwestern and downriver portions of Wayne County, handily defeated challenger Cynthia Kallgren to return to Washington, D.C., for his 30th term.

Tim Walberg, whose 7th Congressional District encompasses the rural northern, western, and southern parts of Washtenaw County, beat back a challenge from Kurt Haskell to return for a third term.
Dingell will now become the longest serving U.S. Representative ever.

As for Walberg, maybe next time. I have already been thinking ahead until then, as I posted over at Michigan Liberal.
"I don't think she was a good candidate, but Haskell is far, far worse than Sharon Reiner."

That's saying something. We'll see how that turns out tomorrow night. I'm looking forward to writing his political obituary, and I mean that literally. I'm the Washtenaw County Elections 2010 Examiner and his race is one I'm covering. As soon as he won the primary, I wrote him off.

"For this district, I'm not sure of the exact politician that should be ran, but the archetype has to be a Dem based out of Jackson, if only because it gives them a fundraising base."

That's what Ruben Marquez is, and he lost the primary to Haskell. What about Jackson Mayor Martin Griffin?

Also, there are other places for a fundraising base, such as Monroe (although that's where Haskell's from), the Washtenaw County cities of Saline (Gretchen Driskell, anyone?) and Chelsea (the current Mayor looks like a Republican, but former State House Rep. Pam Byrnes lives nearby), Adrian (the Lenawee County Commissioner who represents the east side of the city, Karol "KZ" Bolton, is a Democrat), and Eaton County (State Representative Theresa Abed).

And you're right; this district is competitive. The Democrats just need the right candidate.
Here's to recruiting a better candidate in 2014. If the Democrats can't, I might just run. You read it here first.