Friday, May 31, 2013

Detroit Mayor's Race Poll

Last night, WXYZ posted this video about the latest Detroit Mayoral Race poll.

A new WXYZ-TV Detroit Free Press poll conducted by EPIC MRA has found that the race for Detroit Mayor is currently between Mike Duggan and Benny Napoleon.
It looks like the the election for Detroit's Mayor will be an interesting one.  I won't be covering it for, but I will here.  Stay tuned.

Storm damage and power outages in the suburbs

When I was ready to leave school today, it was 5:00 P.M. and I noticed a heavy downpour outside.  I decided to wait until it passed.  I didn't see any damage on the way home, even though I was following the storm to the east.  It turns out that the part of Oakland County I'm in was lucky.  It was much worse to the north and west, as WXYZ showed in these two videos.

First, WXYZ reported Power outages across metro Detroit.

That was for the dinner newscast.  Here is one from later in the evening that shows straight-line wind damage in Livonia and also follows up on the car that didn't survive an attempt to drive through a flooded intersection: Cleaning up downed trees and restoring power.

I can take comfort that no apparently no one was injured, despite the damage.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Let's celebrate with Grumpy Cat

This blog just earned 10,000 page views a month for the third month in a row.  Also, Julie Bass just stopped by to give me a Best Moment Award.  Unfortunately, I'm too sleepy to compose a proper acceptance speech according to the award's rules as reproduced by Julie Bass at Oak Park Hates Veggies.  I'll do that later.

Instead, I'll celebrate with Tardar Sauce the Grumpy Cat, who just got a movie deal.  Take it away, CNN!

Grumpy Cat goes from meme to the big screen

The world's grumpiest cat lands a movie deal. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports her feline frown is destined for the big screen.
I'm so happy I could just meow.

WXYZ on the Flint tornadoes

In WOOD-TV on the Flint tornadoes, I made a promise.
WXYZ also reported on the storms.  I'll have an entry featuring their coverage later.
It's later.  Time to follow through.

WXYZ began their coverage at dawn with Powerful storm causes damage in Goodrich.

Note that the reporter located Goodrich as being close to Grand Blanc, where the tornado our daughter alerted my wife and me to touched down.  It looks like this was the damage from that tornado.

Later in the day, WXYZ caught up with WOOD-TV's reporting that there were six tornadoes.  Here is the overview segment from what looks like the noon newscast: Damage in Fenton Township from tornado.

I'm glad Mrs. Smith was able to find her wedding ring on the Smiths' 33rd wedding anniversary.

Follow over the jump for more coverage from WXYZ.

WOOD-TV on the Flint tornadoes

Last night, our daughter called my wife and me to warn us of a tornado touching down in Grand Blanc, Michigan.  I told her that it was near Flint, a full county to the north, so as long as stayed there, we were OK.

I was right.  We were OK, but the people in Flint sure weren't.  It turned out there wasn't just one tornado, but six!  WOOD-TV has three reports on the storm damage, beginning with 6 tornadoes reported in Flint area.

Severe thunderstorms pushed across Michigan's Lower Peninsula Tuesday evening, producing six possible tornadoes.
That looked like it was a segment from the noon newscast, which promised updates from another reporter during the five o'clock report.  Here it is: Flint damaged by tornado.

A dark and stormy night in Michigan turned into a path of destruction on the east side of the state on Tuesday. (May 29, 2013)
The reporter on the scene promised yet another update for the six o'clock newscast.  Here's that one: Flint hit by tornadoes, West Michigan spared.

While the National Weather Service says six tornadoes touched down in the Flint area on Tuesday night, West Michigan was spared. But why? (May 29, 2013)
The answer to the question was luck.  Also, the worst tornado was confirmed as EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita scale.  At least I can take comfort that no one was injured.

WXYZ also reported on the storms.  I'll have an entry featuring their coverage later.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The corner station returns to form in the local gas war

In Corner station surprises in gas war plus bonus "big gas" commercial, I described how things were the reverse of normal in the local gas war.
Yesterday, I dr[o]ve by the corner station and they dropped their price to $3.75 from $3.84.  Even more surprising, it was selling gas for less than the three stations down the street, which were all at $3.79.  Usually it's the corner station that leads in raising prices, not lowering them.
That's where prices remained all weekend long.  This morning, prices finally moved, returning the situation to normal.

The corner station once again raised its price for regular to $3.99, just as it had a couple of weeks ago.  The three stations down the block also raised their prices to $3.85, just about where they were at the same time.  Once again, the corner station had charged out into No Man's Land and were going to have to retreat into the trenches.  By this evening, that happened with the corner station matching the other three stations' price of $3.85.

It's really comforting to watch price competition working to keep my transportation costs down.

Finally, Mark Schauer announces his candidacy

It's already time for a follow-up to Endorsements galore for Democratic candidates at

Mark Schauer declared his candidacy for Governor on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday.
Schauer declares 'he's in' the race for Michigan Governor
Former U.S. Representative Mark Schauer ended months of speculation Tuesday morning by declaring on Facebook and Twitter that he was running for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2014.

Schauer's announcement on both social media platforms read, "I’m in! Today I’m announcing my campaign for governor. I’m ready to run, I’m ready to work & I’m ready to win."
Schauer wasted no time in attacking Governor Snyder's record.   Within a half hour of declaring his candidacy, Schauer tweeted, "Rick Snyder has taken Michigan in the wrong direction - cutting schools & raising taxes on seniors."  A half hour later, he  continued the attack with "Snyder just doesn't get it. It's time to start protecting Michigan's middle class."

In contrast, Schauer tweeted that Michigan needed "an economy that works for everyone — not just the wealthy and not just the special interests."
Schauer's candidacy takes care of a situation Nate Silver pointed out in Which Governors Are Most Vulnerable in 2014?
Mr. Scott, Mr. Corbett, Mr. LePage and Mr. Snyder — lead states that were carried by President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. All were helped by favorable political winds in 2010 that no longer blow so hard.
Mr. Snyder is in a slightly less precarious position in Michigan. His net job approval rating is negative, but in the single digits. The Rothenberg report rates the race as a tossup, but Michigan is rated as leaning Republican by Sabato’s Crystal Ball and as likely Republican by the Cook report. Part of the reason for Mr. Snyder’s relative strength is the lack of significant opposition. No prominent Democrat has announced an intention to run, but if one did, Mr. Snyder’s chances could certainly diminish.
That's now changed.  Schauer counts as a "prominent Democrat" and promises to be "significant opposition."  In fact, his support on Facebook is growing rapidly.  From the article:
Schauer saw rapid growth in his support on his campaign's Facebook page.  By noon, about three hours after declaring his candidacy, his page had 1,000 likes.  At 3:26 P.M, his page hit 2,000 likes.   Between 10:00 P.M and 11:00 P.M. it passed 3,000 likes.  Just before midnight, it exceeded 3,500.
I'm excited already, and the election isn't for a year and a half.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CNN and Russia Today cover the March Against Monsanto

It looks like I'm not done with the March against Monsanto.  For starters, commenter Nebris retweeted Wizard Gynoid's tweet about CNN's lack of coverage of the event on Saturday.
I guess it should not be surprising that @CNN has no mention of the March Against Monsanto events currently going on all over the world.
Today, CNN finally got around to posting a video of the event on its YouTube channel.

Millions protest genetically modified food

Jake Tapper reports on the controversy that surrounds GMOs and one of the companies that makes them.
Better late than never and with complete statistics--two million protesters in 436 cities in 46 countries.  That partially makes up for not reporting about the event on Saturday, when it was breaking news.  As it is, it's enough for me to add a link to the video on the PowerPoint slide for environmental science that describes the reaction to GMOs as mixed, with mass acceptance on one hand and protests on the other.  This video will make the point far better than the photo of Greenpeace street theater against Frankenfood I have now, which I show below.

Nebris also reposted Wizard Gynoid's tweet to his Facebook timeline, where I responded "Nah, you'll have to watch Russia Today."  Sure enough, RT America, which I used as my primary source for Monsanto wins gene patent case, has been on Monsanto's case for years and hyped Saturday's protest the day before.  They posted a video report about the protest in Los Angeles an hour ahead of CNN.

Southern Californians keep up fight against GMO

A thousand people took over the streets of Los Angeles Saturday to March against Monsanto. The subject of genetically engineered food is especially important in California, where much of the world's fruits and vegetables are grown.
Finally, there is the other side, which the CNN report gave time to and which Bryan Walsh at Time Magazine takes in Modifying the Endless Debate Over Genetically Modified Crops
I’ll admit—I’ve never quite understood the obsession surrounding genetically modified (GM) crops. To environmentalist opponents, GM foods are simply evil, an understudied, possibly harmful tool used by big agribusiness to control global seed markets and crush local farmers. They argue that GM foods have never delivered on their supposed promise, that money spent on GM crops would be better funneled to organic farming and that consumers should be protected with warning labels on any products that contain genetically modified ingredients. To supporters, GM crops are a key part of the effort to sustainably provide food to meet a global population that is growing by the billions. But more than that, supporters see the knee-jerk GM opposition of many environmentalists as fundamentally anti-science, no different than the deniers on the other side of the political spectrum who question the basics of man-made climate change.

For both sides, GM foods seem to act as a symbol: you’re pro-agribusiness or anti-science. But science is exactly what we need more of when it comes to GM foods, which is why I was happy to see the venerable journal Nature devote a special series of articles to the GM food controversy. You can download most of them for free here, and they’re well worth reading. The upshot: while GM crops haven’t yet realized their initial promise and have been dominated by agribusiness, there is reason to continue to use and develop them to help meet the enormous challenge of sustainably feeding a growing planet.

That doesn’t mean GM crops are perfect, or a one sizes fits all solution to global agriculture woes. Nature points out that most of the benefit of GM technology so far has indeed gone to big agribusiness, much of it in the form of herbicide-resistant crops like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soybeans or cotton.
My take is that the scientific case against GMOs exists, but it's fairly weak.  On the other hand, the social and economic case against their being used by agribusiness to monopolize food is much stronger.

Stay tuned, as this is a story I've been following for years, even if the first time I mentioned Monsanto on this blog was in Food Day News from Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos, where I mention the research that produced the tumor-ridden mice shown in the CNN video.

ETA:  There is another part to CNN's coverage that I missed the first time.

Despite FDA approval, many distrustful of GMOs

New York Times investigative reporter Michael Moore says there are, as yet, no studies linking GMO to health problems.
As I wrote, CNN is making sure to get the other side, even when they have on a reporter who is critical of the food system.

Mood of Detroit survey

WXYZ has two reports.  The first explores the most important issues to Detroit, the appointment of the Emergency Financial Manager, and Governor Snyder's performance.

Note that the residents of Detroit care more about crime than the city's finances and really can't stand Snyder.  Defeating Snyder will depend heavily on getting Detroiters to the polls next year.  In 2010, Detroiters didn't turn out, allowing a sweep of statewide offices by Republicans, including Snyder.  For Schauer (or whoever is the Democratic nominee) to win, Detroiters must vote in 2014.

The second explores a number of other issues, including the importance of the mayor and performance of Detroit City Council.

Looks like city services, including police, will be a big issue in this November's municipal election, which could be a "throw the bums out" one if the residents' mood stays the same through November.  Also, note the reporter's comment that "eyes across the country are watching."  As I've been saying for more than two years, the solutions devised here for North America's problems will be exported, including the bad ones.  Looks like that's already coming true.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Weather and climate news for Memorial Day

I'll begin with Extreme Weather Conditions Plague Entire Nation from ABC News.  It's slightly old news, as it came from Friday's uploads, but it does demonstrate what's been happening lately.

Record breaking rainfall in the South, snowfall hits Northeast on Memorial weekend.
It looks like there will be more severe weather to come as NOAA via Science Daily forecasts an Active or 'Extremely Active' Atlantic Hurricane Season Predicted for 2013.
In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA's Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
The drought is also continuing.  Not only is the economy repeating the 1930s, so is the climate of the Great Plains.  Michael Wines of the N.Y. Times describes the situation in Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust
HASKELL COUNTY, Kan. — Forty-nine years ago, Ashley Yost’s grandfather sank a well deep into a half-mile square of rich Kansas farmland. He struck an artery of water so prodigious that he could pump 1,600 gallons to the surface every minute.

Last year, Mr. Yost was coaxing just 300 gallons from the earth, and pumping up sand in order to do it. By harvest time, the grit had robbed him of $20,000 worth of pumps and any hope of returning to the bumper harvests of years past.

“That’s prime land,” he said not long ago, gesturing from his pickup at the stubby remains of last year’s crop. “I’ve raised 294 bushels of corn an acre there before, with water and the Lord’s help.” Now, he said, “it’s over.”
Meteor Blades at Daily Kos has more weather, climate, and other environmental news in Green diary rescue: The redwoods, the High Plains Aquifer and fracking ourselves crazy.

Follow over the jump for additional weather and climate news.

President Obama at Arlington for Memorial Day

Following up on A moment of silence for Memorial Day, here are two video clips of President Obama at Arlington National Cemetary today. The first is from The White House YouTube account: President Obama Lays a Wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.

President Obama lays a wreath on Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery. May 27, 2013.
Next, PBS NewsHour invites the viewers of its YouTube channel to Watch President Obama's Memorial Day Speech at Arlington National Cemetery.

President Barack Obama spoke at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
Here's to the President using his office, empathy, and rhetorical skills to bring comfort to those remembering our fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen.

A moment of silence for Memorial Day

Sunday, May 26, 2013

March against Monsanto

Yesterday was a global "March against Monsanto," which was planned well in advance of Monsanto winning their gene patent case.  Al Jazeera English on YouTube has the global overview, pun fully intended, in Seeds of doubt prompt global anti-Monsanto protests.

Tens of thousands of people across the globe spent the day marching against biotechnology firm Monsanto.Protesters in more than 250 cities joined the co-ordinated marches. They say genetically-modified seeds sold by Monsanto have dire implications for the health of humans and animals alike. But Monsanto says its products are safe and help farmers produce more food. Al Jazeera's Tom Ackerman reports.
For local coverage of the protests in Michigan, WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids had Protests against Monsanto all over USA.

Marches and rallies against seed giant Monsanto were held across the U.S. and in dozens of other countries Saturday.

" March Against Monsanto " protesters say they want to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Marches are planned for more than 250 cities around the globe, according to organizers.

Hundreds of protesters showed up to voice their concerns at rallies in Grand Rapids at Ah-Nab-Awen Park
and in Kalamazoo.
My former house guest John Henry chimed in advance of the protest on Wednesday with Frankenfood: The REAL TRUTH About GMOs, Monsanto, and You.

With so much hype and paranoia about GMOs, Monsanto, etc., how do we sort the facts from the fantasies? JH is here to help out with an overview of the issues and a link to more quality resources.
To read the references for the video, they're at

Follow up to "Big Gas" commercial

There was more from WCPO than the commercial featured in Corner station surprises in gas war plus bonus "big gas" commercial.  First, Helping you find the cheapest gas over the Memorial Day weekend.

A look at gas prices around the Tri-State and an app that will help you find the cheapest gas in your area.
Finally, here's the commercial itself.

Enjoy your Memorial Day travels!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Endorsements galore for Democratic candidates at

I got the writing bug today and was faced with two good stories that would cease to be newsworthy within 24 hours.  First, the story about the Democratic nomination and likely nominee for U.S. Senate.

U.S. Representative Gary Peters earned the endorsements of U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow Thursday.
Peters endorsed by Stabenow and Levin for U.S. Senate
In an email to supporters sent Thursday, U.S. Representative Gary Peters announced that he had earned the endorsement of both of Michigan's sitting U.S. Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.

In a press release, Levin said, "It's of course important to me that the person who is elected to represent Michigan in the Senate next year be a fighter for Michigan's families and communities.  That's why I'm pleased to announce today that I am endorsing Gary Peters for the U.S. Senate."

Stabenow also issued a press release in which she affirmed her support for Peters by saying, "Today, I am extremely pleased to announce my endorsement and whole-hearted support of Rep. Gary Peters for the job."

In his email, Peters responded by saying that he was "honored and humbled to have earned the support and endorsement of our two great Senators from Michigan, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow."
Now, the one about the likely Democratic nominee for Governor, should he ever get around to announcing.

Former U.S. Representative Mark Schauer earned endorsements from the Democrats in Michigan's congressional delegation and another potential rival for Governor.
More Democratic politicians call on Mark Schauer to run for Governor
Former U.S. Representative Mark Schauer is racking up the endorsements from fellow Democrats for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and he hasn't even declared his candidacy yet.  On Friday, he gained more from both his former colleagues in Congress and a potential rival, State Representative Vicki Barnett.

Friday afternoon, the Macomb Daily published a report from the Associated Press that all of Democratic members of Michigan's congressional delegation had signed a letter endorsing Schauer.

The letter signed by Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Representatives John Conyers, John Dingell, Dan Kildee, Sander Levin, and Gary Peters said, “We support you and strongly encourage your candidacy for governor of our state, and we write to let you know we will be proud to support you."
Earlier that morning, Crain's Detroit Business political reporter tweeted that Barnett, who represents Farmington Hills and had been considering running for Governor herself, called former U.S. Representative Mark Schauer to encourage him to run for Governor and pledged her support.
Both of these gentlemen have been my U.S. Representatives in the past, Schauer when I lived in Washtenaw County, and Peters here in Oakland County before I was moved to Sander Levin's district this year.  I was happy to support them then and will be happy to support them both next year for Senator and Governor.

WXYZ follows up on DIA

In Detroit's Emergency Financial Manager asks for appraisal of DIA's collection, I promised to follow this story.  WXYZ has made it easy for me by summarizing the major points in Can the DIA be protected?

In addition to the DIA, the report mentions Belle Isle, the water system, and Manoogian Mansion.  Of those, the one that would have the greatest impact would be the water system, which I pointed out during the first month of this blog in Water wars, Detroit style, plus a programming note.  Privatization of the water system could lead to a situation much like that I described in Greenfinger.
Suez, a Vivendi affiliate, actually took over the water supply in a city in Bolivia, then lost control as a result of massive protests.
That would affect not just the 700,000+ people of Detroit, but the 4,000,000 people in the service area, which covers nearly all of Metro Detroit and then some, as parts of Washtenaw and Genesee counties get water from Detroit.  It's one of the reasons why I expressed interest in Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner; whoever occupies that position would be on the front lines of dealing with the issue, particularly if the solution is a regional board, not privatization.  Here's to hoping that Jim Nash, the new Commissioner, is up to the task.*

The report concluded by mentioning the millage to support the DIA.  I voted in favor of that and said that I was in favor of it last August.  The millage passed and, as WXYZ reported, it's having the intended effects of secure funding and increased attendance.  Selling off major parts of the collection would be a betrayal of voters like me from all three counties.

I'll conclude by repeating something from the very first post I wrote for this blog, which I quoted in Save the libraries, save civilization,the first fight over saving local cultural institutions I covered, then following up with how that applies to cultural institutions in general.
[S]aving the libraries might strike some people as frivolous, but remember that the way the humans in the book [The Mote in God's Eye] discovered the truth about [M]oties 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.
I continued in that spirit while spreading some Christmas cheer last year, and repeated it while recounting how I warned the Glassmen these times were coming.
I may be wishing you all a happy holiday, but this is still a blog about collapse.  Be prepared for a lot of your favorite things, especially cultural institutions to go away, or to fight very hard to keep them.
Here's to the DIA successfully fighting off Detroit's creditors.

Follow over the jump for the footnote about a future entry.

Corner station surprises in gas war plus bonus "big gas" commercial

In the previous installment, I predicted that gas prices would generally go up, reaching $4.00 by July 4th.  I didn't make a prediction about this weekend, but if I had, I would have forecast prices going up.  So far, just the opposite has happened.

Yesterday, I drive by the corner station and they dropped their price to $3.75 from $3.84.  Even more surprising, it was selling gas for less than the three stations down the street, which were all at $3.79.  Usually it's the corner station that leads in raising prices, not lowering them.

Speaking of lower gas prices, WCPO posted this segment on K-Mart's "big gas savings" commercial.  Enjoy the pun!

The video promoting the offer is controversial.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Detroit's Emergency Financial Manager asks for appraisal of DIA's collection

As the Detroit Free Press article began, "The once unthinkable is suddenly thinkable."  WXYZ gives a video executive summary.

Kim Russell reports on Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr asking for an appraisal of the DIA's collection.
That's the overview.  Follow over the jump for the details from the Detroit Free Press.

Explosion on Moon and other space and astronomy news

In WXYZ previews a coming attraction: Meteor impact on Moon, I made a promise.
One of the stories that I will be using in this week's space and astronomy news will be the largest lunar impact ever recorded by NASA.
Here's the video from NASA Television on YouTube: ScienceCasts: Bright Explosion on the Moon.

NASA researchers who monitor the Moon for meteoroid impacts have detected the brightest explosion in the history of their program.
More stories over the jump.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Finally, a Ringworld movie!

I've been a huge fan of Larry Niven's Known Space ever since I watched The Slaver Weapon.  I thought the Kzinti were really cool and promptly checked out a copy of Ringworld from the library.  I read through all the Known Space stories I could lay my hands on during the years since, right up to Ringworld Engineers and The Patchwork Girl.  After those books, no new Known Space stories appeared for a decade.

All was not lost, as Chaosium Games, the publishers of Runequest and Call of Cthulhu, purchased the game rights to Ringworld.  I convinced Chaosium that I knew enough about Known Space and tabletop role-playing games to let me develop a scenario for an adventure module.  I wrote the scenario, playtested it, submitted it, and was about to revise it when Chaosium told me to stop.  It wasn't because what I wrote was bad; in fact, it had nothing to do with me.  It turns out that Niven had sold the movie rights to Ringworld and the movie company asserted that it now held the game rights, not Chaosium.  Chaosium was too small to take on the movie company and its lawyers, so it gave up.

I was pissed.  Not only did it stop publication of a game that I really believed in, it meant that all my effort, about $300 worth in 1984 dollars, went right down the drain.  I decided to never buy another Niven book new ever again.  To add insult to injury, Niven used the game guide as source material for the Man-Kzin Wars series.  Worst of all, there never was any movie.  All that loss was for nothing.

That may all change, as Entertainment Weekly reports.

Ringworld' miniseries in the works at Syfy -- EXCLUSIVE
Michael Perry (The River, Paranormal Activity 2) is adapting Ringworld as a four-hour miniseries. The story follows a team of explorers that travel to the farthest reaches of space to investigate an alien artifact called Ringworld – an artificial habitat the size of one million Earths. As they crash land on this enormous structure, they discover the remnants of ancient civilizations, technology beyond their wildest dreams, mysteries that shed light on the very origins of man and, most importantly, a possible salvation for a doomed Earth.

For Ringworld fans, this news might cause some deja vu. Syfy previously considered making a Ringworld miniseries under a different production team nine years ago.
I might finally get a Ringworld movie--30 years later.  Maybe I can get some comfort from that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dying to look good?

One of my favorite recurring student presentation topics is the health effects of beauty products, whether they be cosmetics, hair care products, nail care products, or whatever.  One year, a high school teacher brought in easily twenty samples of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, and cosmetics of all kinds as visual aids for a presentation titled "Are you dying to look good?"  I've had other presentations on the topic, but that's that one I remember most vividly.  As you can see, I found where she likely got the title, the book Dying to Look Good, the cover of which I used to illustrate this entry.

The next time a student picks that topic, I have a reference for her.

University of California, Berkeley, via MedicalXpress: Troubling levels of toxic metals found in lipstick
May 2, 2013
A new analysis of the contents of lipstick and lip gloss may cause you to pause before puckering. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health tested 32 different lipsticks and lip glosses commonly found in drugstores and department stores. They detected lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum and five other metals, some of which were found at levels that could raise potential health concerns. Their findings will be published online Thursday, May 2, in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Prior studies also have found metals in cosmetics, but the UC Berkeley researchers estimated risk by analyzing the concentration of the metals detected and consumers' potential daily intake of the metals, and then comparing this intake with existing health guidelines. "Just finding these metals isn't the issue; it's the levels that matter," said study principal investigator S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health sciences. "Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term."
So, are you dying to look good?

I warned the Glassmen these times were coming

I left the following gloomy footnote at the end of spreading some Christmas cheer last year.
Enjoy this while it lasts.
There is a double meaning to "this." Not only does it refer to the video, but the drum corps activity as well. I fully expect Peak Oil, economic decline, and social upheaval to end the national touring model, which has been around since 1971, by 2020. I started mourning in 2008, when I quit writing for Drum Corps World and stopped going to shows. This will be the fourth year I haven't seen a corps live.
I may be wishing you all a happy holiday, but this is still a blog about collapse.  Be prepared for a lot of your favorite things, especially cultural institutions to go away, or to fight very hard to keep them.

As for drum corps' hopes, they rest on the one thing that makes Americans act, messing with their entertainment.  Americans want their entertainment, and will do just about anything to keep it going.
Here is an example of what I began to mourn in advance five years ago.

Toledo Glassmen Sidelined for 2013 DCI Summer Season

The Glassmen Drum and Bugle Corps need to fill a $300,000 gap in their $1M annual budget. They cancelled the 2013 Summer Tour, but will hold an "All Star Review" featuring other Drum Corps June 23, 2013 at the Doyt Perry Stadium at BGSU in Bowling Green, OH.
Ironically, the first corps I warned about what was coming was the Glassmen, so this hits me especially hard.

During Thanksgiving weekend 2002, my daughter and I visited Glassmen's first audition camp for a Drum Corps World story.  During part of the visit, I interviewed their director.  He complained about how the recession was hurting the corps' finances and hoped that things would get better.  I told him that this was only the beginning and that things would get worse.  He looked at me in disbelief.

When I last saw him in June 2008, the current crisis was just getting underway.  I reminded him of what I had said.  "Remember, I told you it was going to get worse."  He shook his head and said, "You were right."  I had hoped that I wouldn't be, at least in his corps' case.  Glassmen is one of my personal favorites and has been ever since I began marching in corps in 1978.

I wish the Glassmen and their supporters all the luck in the world.  They'll need it.

Corner station advances to $4.00, then immediately retreats

Welcome to another installment of the ride on the gas price rollercoaster!  I hope you all enjoy the image I found for this series, which came from here.

In Refinery issues change battlefield in gas price war, I predicted that gas would briefly hit $4.00/gallon by July 4th.  Yesterday morning, the corner station tried to get there before Memorial Day, by raising its price for regular to $3.99 and for premium to $4.09.  The three stations down the block held steady at $3.84 for regular.  As soon as I saw that, I knew that the corner station was once again charging No Man's Land and would retreat back into its trench.  It took less time that I thought.  This evening, the corner station once again matched its neighbors at $3.84.

I still think gas will get to $4.00 by July 4th at all stations and stay there for about a week, but I don't have say that gas will reach that price level this summer.  It already has.  I can take perverse comfort in my prediction of gas reaching $4.00 this year coming true, if a bit prematurely.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WXYZ previews a coming attraction: Meteor impact on Moon

One of the stories that I will be using in this week's space and astronomy news will be the largest lunar impact ever recorded by NASA.  WXYZ covered that news and their video Meteor crashes into moon's surface serves as a good preview of the NASA video I will include later this week.

Take comfort in the rock hitting the Moon instead of Earth and also that the Earth's atmosphere would have protected us from the full force of impact, although it would have made for a spectacular fireball.

Pandemics and collapse

Although the author of Peak Civilization, the article at The Oil Drum about the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, might disagree, it looks like disease might have contributed to the end of the expansion of the Eastern Roman Empire under Justinian.  Charles Choi of LiveScience explains in Plague Helped Bring Down Roman Empire, Graveyard Suggests.
Plague may have helped finish off the Roman Empire, researchers now reveal.
The bacterium that causes plague, Yersinia pestis, has been linked with at least two of the most devastating pandemics in recorded history. One, the Great Plague, which lasted from the 14th to 17th centuries, included the infamous epidemic known as the Black Death, which may have killed nearly two-thirds of Europe in the mid-1300s. Another, the Modern Plague, struck around the world in the 19th and 20th centuries, beginning in China in the mid-1800s and spreading to Africa, the Americas, Australia, Europe and other parts of Asia.

Although past studies confirmed this germ was linked with both of these catastrophes, much controversy existed as to whether it also caused the Justinianic Plague of the sixth to eighth centuries. This pandemic, named after the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, killed more than 100 million people. Some historians have suggested it contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire.

To help solve this mystery, scientists investigated ancient DNA from the teeth of 19 different sixth-century skeletons from a medieval graveyard in Bavaria, Germany, of people who apparently succumbed to the Justinianic Plague.

They unambiguously found the plague bacterium Y. pestis there.
The same source who sent me the above article also sent me the next, which I placed together in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Carbon Dioxide 400 ppm) on Daily Kos as a reminder that, to paraphrase Samuel Clemens, history may not repeat, but it certainly does rhyme and also that resource depletion and environmental degradation aren't the only threats to civilization.

Discover Magazine: Pandemic Chatter
By Keith Kloor
May 10, 2013 12:22 pm
I’m not on the pandemic beat, but some of the best science journalists are, and they are busy these days. Today, David Quammen, author of the recently published and critically acclaimed book, Spillover: Animal infections and the next human pandemic, has an op-ed in the New York Times. It begins:
Terrible new forms of infectious disease make headlines, but not at the start. Every pandemic begins small. Early indicators can be subtle and ambiguous. When the Next Big One arrives, spreading across oceans and continents like the sweep of nightfall, causing illness and fear, killing thousands or maybe millions of people, it will be signaled first by quiet, puzzling reports from faraway places — reports to which disease scientists and public health officials, but few of the rest of us, pay close attention. Such reports have been coming in recent months from two countries, China and Saudi Arabia.
The worrisome Chinese bird flu strain that has gotten a lot of attention is not, in its present form, going to cause a pandemic, says Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers of Disease Control (CDC). But if you want to learn about the potential for its lethal mutation, and why you should be worried about it, read this piece in Foreign Policy by veteran science journalist Laurie Garrett.
Follow over the jump for the latest on the other pandemic threat coming out of Saudi Arabia.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Time Magazine on peak oil and climate change

For the most recent Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday on Daily Kos, I decided to look at Time Magazine, which I've used in past years' lectures on science and the scientific method as a good example of how science is misrepresented in the mainstream media.  Media outlets change with the times, some for the worse and some for the better.  Reuters, for example, has become a lot less user friendly for readers looking for environmental coverage.  It's still there, but it's much harder to locate.  I was hoping that Time's science coverage had improved since I last looked at it a few years ago.  To my surprise, it had, featuring three articles by Bryan Walsh about the causes and effects of climate change.

The first, The IEA Says Peak Oil Is Dead. That’s Bad News for Climate Policy, explains how the development of unconventional oil will, as I wrote in Carbon Dioxide at Miocene levels, allow us to 'burn it until we reach Jurassic levels of carbon dioxide and global warm temperatures.'
No one—aside maybe from survivalists who’d stocked up on MREs and assault rifles—was really looking forward to a peak-oil world. Read this 2007 GQ piece by Benjamin Kunkel—while we’re discussing topics from the mid-2000s—that imagines what a world without oil would really be like. Think uncomfortable and violent. Oil is in nearly every modern product we use, and it’s still what gets us from point A to point B—especially if you need to get from A to B in a plane. If we were really to see the global oil supply peak and decline sharply, even as demand continued to go up, well, apocalyptic might not be too large a word. And for several years in the middle of the last decade, as oil prices climbed past $100 a barrel and analysts were betting it would break $200, that scenario seemed entirely plausible.

But there was an upside to peak oil. Crude oil was responsible for a significant chunk of global carbon emissions, second only to coal. Only the shock of being severed from the main fuel of modernity would be enough to make us get serious about tackling climate change and shifting to an economy powered by renewable energy and efficiency. We’d have to because we’d have no other choice, save a future that might look something like Mad Max. We’d lose oil but save the world.

Increasingly, though, that doesn’t seem likely to happen.
Here's the graphic from the IEA.

It shows that peak conventional oil happened right on schedule in 2006 and even the optimists at the IEA don't think conventional oil production will ever return to its highs of the last decade.  The doomers were right about that one.  What they didn't foresee was that technology would finally catch up with demand to deliver new sources of fossil fuel to the market.  That took nearly a decade to happen and the delay resulted in all of the energy supply reasons for the wrenching economic contraction of the past five years.  Now that a combination of reduced demand and increased unconventional oil has managed to loosen what New Deal Democrat at The Bonddad Blog calls the oil choke collar.  That would be good for the current economy and allow more time to develop non-fossil fuel sources of energy, but terrible for the climate and the rest of the planet's natural environment in the medium and long range.

Follow over the jump for what Bryan Walsh of Time Magazine thinks climate change will do to biodiversity, including some wild animals we depend on for food.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Refinery issues change battlefield in gas price war

Friday, the corner station raised its regular price to $3.85.  At the time, I thought that they were once again charging into No Man's Land and that they would retreat back into the $3.68 trench, just as they did last time.  I realized differently yesterday, when I saw that the three stations down the street were all at $3.84.  The best that would happen would be that the corner station would match their prices, which it did today.

So, what's happening?  It's not the flooding, as that was a month ago.  It is oil prices?  According to Stuart Saniford at Early Warning, it shouldn't be.
Brent has dropped to the low end of the range of $100-$120 that it's traded in for the last couple of years.  At this level it strikes me as cheap...
Here's the graphical update Stuart provided.

That's the big picture, but what does the situation look like now?  Time to ask Reuters, which reported Oil rallies for third day, shrugging off firm dollar.
Oil rose for a third straight session on Friday, supported by a raft of strong economic data from top oil consumer the United States that also boosted U.S. equities, even as the dollar hit a multi-year high.
Brent crude settled up 86 cents at $104.64 a barrel, after an earlier rise of more than $1.

U.S. oil rose 86 cents to settle at $96.02, its third straight rise. U.S. crude has swung between $97 a barrel on May 6 and $92 a barrel on May 15.
According to the calculator at Econobrowser, gasoline should be at $3.45 when Brent is at $104.64.  So it's not the oil.

It turns out that it's the refineries again, as USA Today reprinted in the Detroit Free Press reported Friday: Refinery woes cause nationwide gas price spike.
Troubles at several oil refineries are driving gasoline prices sharply higher in the Midwest, and the regional shortages are expected to boost pump prices nationwide.

While the USA may be dripping in new found crude oil deposits and early May supplies were at their highest levels since the early 1930s, issues at a handful of refineries that turn crude into gasoline and diesel fuel underscore how kinks in the supply chain can cause quick surges in what consumers pay at the pump.

Gas prices in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin have spiked up to 27 cents a gallon the past week alone. Behind the rise: outages and extended maintenance has curbed output at refineries in Joliet, Ill., Whiting, Ind; Tulsa, Okla, and Eldorado, Kansas.
I don't expect this to go away soon and neither does USA Today...
Nationally, prices average $3.60 a gallon after beginning 2013 at $3.29. Some industry observers thought this year's prices had peaked at $3.78 in February after sliding to $3.50 April 29. But the Midwest's refinery issues are now expected to keep propel prices for several weeks, perhaps to $3.85 a gallon nationwide.
...Or Stuart Saniford, after noting that Brent is cheap.
Saudi Arabia isn't going to let it go much lower (at least not for any length of time), and any number of things in the world could go wrong to make it go higher.  In particular, I continue to have more faith in the future appetite of Chinese and Middle Eastern motorists to consume oil than US frackers to find it.
The commodities traders think that gas prices will go up, too, as Reuters mentioned.
U.S. gasoline has risen for nine out of 12 sessions, including the last three, despite a Wednesday report showing an unexpected year-on-year build in gasoline inventories ahead of the summer driving season.
On top of both the refining situation and oil price fundamentals, summer driving season has begun.  I expect gas to briefly hit $4.00 right around July 4th.  Good thing I'll finally get that bike I've been thinking about.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Climate science choking on the latest serving of Satan Sandwich

In More science and the Satan Sandwich, SciShow on sequestration's effects on science, and Space and astronomy news: Satan Sandwich edition #1, I described the effects of sequestration on science research in general and NASA in particular, as well as efforts to reverse them.  Now, it's time to show how the latest serving of Satan Sandwich is hurting climate research, which might be more of a feature than a bug.

Inside Climate News: Sequester Hits Nation's Climate Change Research Capability
Eight regional centers dedicated to expanding climate research at the local level lose millions in budget cuts.
By Rachel Nuwer, InsideClimate News   
May 1, 2013
When Renee McPherson took on the role of director of research at the South Central Climate Science Center last year, she had no idea that she’d soon be grappling with budget cuts that threatened her ability to support regional climate research or hire new graduate students and faculty—the premise of hosting the center in the first place.

The facility McPherson runs out of the University of Oklahoma is among eight centers created between 2010 and 2012 by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The goal was to bring together federal, academic and on-the-ground experts who could pursue climate change research at the local level.

But then came the sequester, the Congressional mandate that slashed federal budgets across the board.
The irony, at least if one assumes that denialists might think this is a good idea, is that the weather itself is convincing people of the severity of the situation.

Postmedia News via Extreme weather is making Americans climate-change believers, study finds
By William Marsden, Postmedia News
May 3, 2013
A year of strange and often devastating weather that included extreme hurricanes, drought and wildfires appears to have increased the number of Americans who want government action on climate change, a new study shows.

Unfortunately, researchers say, this higher level of global-warming awareness is not translating into political action.

“Mother Nature has been pretty busy teaching Americans and Canadians and people from round the world about climate change through extreme weather over the past couple of years,” said Prof. Ed Maibach, one of the authors of the survey. “Since 2011 we see a fairly strong increase in belief that climate change is real and human caused and people are worried about it.”

The survey shows that 58 per cent of Americans believe “global warming is affecting weather in the United States” and 85 per cent of Americans claimed they experienced extreme weather during the last year.
Also, scientific research on climate change is making headlines again.

Reuters: Carbon dioxide level crosses milestone at Hawaii site
By Environment Correspondent Deborah Zabarenko
WASHINGTON | Sat May 11, 2013 5:32am EDT
The amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million at a key observing station in Hawaii for the first time since measurement began in 1958, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Friday.

To many scientists, crossing the 400 ppm threshold, which means that there are 400 molecules of carbon dioxide for every million molecules in the air, is a bit like the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising above 15,000 points.

"It's important mainly as a milestone that marks a steady progress of increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere," said James Butler of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory.
Being able to figure out what happens when carbon dioxide is at Miocene levels might be a good idea and worthy of funding.

Robots are coming for our jobs

The idea of robots taking our jobs, which bloggers like Chad/escapefromwisconsin at The Hipcrime Vocab and Stuart Saniford at Early Warning have been writing about for years, has popped its head up in mainstream science reporting.  While Chad and Stuart have been pessimistic about the prospects, Discovery News on YouTube takes a more optimistic view in Robots Are Stealing Your Job.

Robots are awesome, but beware: they're after your jobs! Trace looks at the work robots are doing today, that once required a human touch.
I don't think either Chad or Stuart would be so comfortable with the situation.  Instead, they might agree more with Seth Fletcher of Scientific American.

Yes, Robots Are Coming for Our Jobs—Now What?
M.I.T. economist Erik Brynjolfsson explains how technology has affected economic growth and productivity, and how human workers can adapt
Fifteen years ago Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in a game of chess, marking the beginning of what Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Erik Brynjolfsson calls the new machine age—an era driven by exponential growth in computing power. Lately, though, people have been feeling uneasy about the machine age. Pundits and experts seem to agree that the robots are definitely taking our jobs. At last week’s TED conference, Brynjolfsson argued that the new machine age is great for economic growth, but we still have to find a way to coexist with the machines. We asked him to expand on a few points.
Throughout most of modern history, productivity and employment have grown side by side. But starting about 15 years ago they started becoming decoupled. Productivity continued to grow, even accelerate, but employment stagnated and even fell, as did median wages for the people who were still working. This was an important milestone, because most economists, including me, used to be of the mind-set that if you just keep increasing productivity, everything else kind of takes care of itself.

But there’s no economic law that says everyone has to benefit equally from increased productivity. It’s entirely possible that some people benefit a lot more than others or that some people are made worse off. And as it turns out, for the past 10 to 15 years it’s gone that way. The pie has gotten bigger but most of the increase in income has gone to less than 1 percent of the population. Those at the 50th percentile or lower have actually done worse in absolute terms.
Chad at The Hipcrime Vocab came to the same conclusion beginning very early in his examination of robots and automation, beginning with What Are People Good For?  As for Stuart, he thinks the loss of jobs to robots will be the major effect of the Singularity, not everyone becoming cyborgs or the machines enslaving or killing off humanity.  Just the same, this is yet another piece of evidence demonstrating that we live in science fiction times.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Annular Solar Eclipse and other space and astronomy news

NTDTV on YouTube has this week's top story in Annular Solar Eclipse Seen from Australia's Outback.

Scientists and astronomers from around the world gathered at Tennant Creek In Australia's outback to view an annular Solar eclipse on Friday, beginning just before 7 a.m.
The next total solar eclipse will be visible from Africa, Southern Europe and Eastern Americas in November 2013.
Follow over the jump for the rest of this past week's space and science news.

Rescuing the Star Trek past, continued

In Rescuing the Star Trek past, I quoted Original 'Star Trek' Galileo Shuttlecraft Restored by Loving Fans and embedded the accompanying video. on YouTube has followed up on this story with Star Trek Galileo Shuttlecraft To Land At Space Center Houston.

Star Trek's original prop shuttlecraft will be heading to the Johnson Space Center's visitors attraction, once its restoration team is done. found project leader Adam Schneider and crew in the ship's Atlantic Highlands, NJ "space-dock."
I'm sure that their efforts bring them satisfaction, and will bring comfort to the fans who will be happy to see the history of their favorite franchise preserved.

Speaking of the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek Into Darkness opened yesterday.  I'll have more about that in a future installment, when I revisit my opinion that the franchise is in good hands.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jello shots for Narb

Narb had the following to say in a comment to ABC News and Democracy Now on comfort food.
Narb loves Michael Pollan (in a detached, intellectual way).

He also loves jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello jello.
In the spirit of This one's for Narb and Narb asked for more posts about Jell-O,* here are some videos about Jello shots.

First, Simple Cooking Channel explains how to make Marshmallow Jello shots.

Welcome to the SimpleCookingChannel. Things might get pretty simple sometimes but sometimes that's just what a person needs. I hope you like my recipe for marshmallow jello shots.

85 Grams of jello
Half a cup of vodka
Next, BuzzFeedFood describes their Blood Orange Mimosa Jello Shots recipe.

Blood Orange Mimosa Jello Shots

These are inspired by Jaymee Sire, the brilliant blogger behind e is for eat. See her post. We used tangerines because they are easier to find than real blood oranges, and made the prettiest cups. But you could also use navel oranges or actual blood oranges with great results. The cups will just be slightly more difficult to clean out. Adjust food coloring amount accordingly.
Finally, the Tipsy Bartender shows how to make Guinness Jello Shots.

Possibly the most badass jello shots we've made...GUINNESS JELLO SHOTS! An awesome beer taste with a hint of chocolate, covered with a tasty Bailey's foam head!

The Tipsy Bartender has an entire playlist of jello shots, so if Narb wants more Jello, I can just pull one or more of them out.  That's a comforting thought.

*As you can see, I post one of these a year. This is the one for 2013--so far.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gas mileage down but so are emissions, plus bonus gas price rollercoaster

Early this month, the University of Michigan reported Fuel economy in the U.S. drops from recent high.   Here's the complete press release.
ANN ARBOR—Fuel economy of new vehicles sold in the U.S. slipped last month for the first time this year, say researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Average fuel economy (window-sticker values) of cars, light trucks, minivans and SUVs purchased in April was 24.5 mpg, according to UMTRI researchers Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle.

"This value is down 0.1 mpg from the record high reached in March, likely reflecting the recent decrease in the price of gasoline," Sivak said. "Despite this small drop, the fuel economy is up 4.4 mpg since October 2007—the first month of our monitoring."

In addition to average fuel economy, Sivak and Schoettle issued their monthly update of their national Eco-Driving Index, which estimates the average monthly emissions generated by an individual U.S. driver. The EDI takes into account both the fuel used per distance driven and the amount of driving—the latter relying on data that are published with a two-month lag.

During February, the EDI improved to 0.82 from 0.83 the month before (the lower the value, the better). The index currently shows that emissions of greenhouse gases per driver of newly purchased vehicles are down 18 percent, overall, since October 2007.
While the average MPG of a new car is up slightly because of lower gas prices, the replacement of less fuel-efficient older vehicles with newer ones plus the fewer miles driven per person have reduced individual emissions.  That's good news, especially in the face of carbon dioxide at levels not seen since the Tertiary.

In related news, the corner station lost another skirmish in the ongoing price war.  As I reported last time:
Since then, the prices have gone up and down twice.  First, the corner station started another round of price raising and failed, as they posted prices of $3.89 two weeks ago.  The other stations didn't bite, and by the end of the week, everyone was selling for $3.65.  This week, the corner station charged out into No Man's Land again and managed to hold it until today.   On Monday, they were selling regular for $3.79 while the three stations down the street had prices of $3.75.  That lasted until this afternoon, when the three stations dropped regular down to $3.70.  By this evening, the corner station matched their price.  I can take comfort in competition working to keep prices down.
The next week, all the stations dropped their prices to $3.68.  Wednesday of last week, the corner station again charged out of their trench to do battle in No Man's Land, raising their price for regular to $3.89.  The stations down the block again held steady, so when I filled up, I did so at one of them.  By Friday, the corner station retreated back into their trench, lowering their price to $3.68.  I can again take comfort in competition working to keep my costs down.

Discovery News and PhysOrg on colony collapse disorder

Yesterday, I began my lecture on economics and the environment.  One of the main topics was natural capital, including the ecosystem services nature provides.  One of these is pollination, or at least, it used to be.  During the past decade, growers have had to pay more and more for beehive rentals to the point where beekeepers have been earning more from rentals than from honey.  This means that what used to be a beneficial externality is now an internalized cost.  This is one of the factors making the prices of food that requires bee pollination go up.

This topic led to a lively discussion and a lot of questions.  Fortunately, I had answers to nearly all of them.  However, it would have been really useful to have shown my class this video, which came out the day before.  It had the answers to all of them.

Why All The Bees Are Dying

Bee population around the world have collapsed. Now scientists are scrambling to find out why. Anthony has a list of the possible causes, and the threat this poses to food supplies worldwide.
I had seen the preview of this the night before last and was thinking of adding the link to it in the Powerpoint for the lecture, but ran out of time that morning because of other duties.  Too bad, it would have been really helpful.  Maybe I'll show it to the class tomorrow.

Also, I just happen to have article about one of the factors hypothesized to be contributing to colony collapse disorder, feeding high-fructose corn syrup to bees.

PhysOrg: Researchers find high-fructose corn syrup may be tied to worldwide collapse of bee colonies
by Bob Yirka
Apr 30, 2013
A team of entomologists from the University of Illinois has found a possible link between the practice of feeding commercial honeybees high-fructose corn syrup and the collapse of honeybee colonies around the world. The team outlines their research and findings in a paper they've had published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Since approximately 2006, groups that manage commercial honeybee colonies have been reporting what has become known as colony collapse disorder—whole colonies of bees simply died, of no apparent cause. As time has passed, the disorder has been reported at sites all across the world, even as scientists have been racing to find the cause, and a possible cure. To date, most evidence has implicated pesticides used to kill other insects such as mites. In this new effort, the researchers have found evidence to suggest the real culprit might be high-fructose corn syrup, which beekeepers have been feeding bees as their natural staple, honey, has been taken away from them.
I'll remind students about how HFCS may be unhealthy for bees when I show "Food, Inc."  If it's not good for bees, why would it be good for people?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Monsanto wins gene patent case

Russia Today has two video clips on the unanimous decision in favor of Monsanto enforcing its patent on RoundUp-Ready soybeans.

First, Monsanto wins landmark case in Supreme Court gives the overview.

On Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the bio-tech giant Monsanto. In the case, Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman was being accused of seed infringement after he allegedly planted soybean seed without the company's permission. RT's Liz Wahl brings us more on the landmark case and how the 75 year-old man violated Monsanto's patent.
I had no idea about the inflation in seed prices until I watched this video.

Next, RT America offers one of its trademark opinion and analysis pieces with inflammatory titles in Monsanto taking over America's agriculture: New victory in Supreme Court.

A battle between Monsanto and an Indiana farmer ended on Monday after the Supreme Court found Vernon Bowman guilty of patent infringement. The 75-year-old farmer is expected to pay approximately $85,000 in damages. Many see this as a major blow against smaller farmers across the country and fear this ruling can threaten the livelihood of thousands of farmers. Patent attorney Mark Walters, who represented the defendant, joins us to discuss the details of the case and what this means for America's agriculture future.
This case is important because it shows that Monsanto will continue to be as dominant in the nation's food supply as Microsoft was in PC operating systems, as characterized in the movie "Food, Inc."  That makes this case relevant to my class, especially the following questions from the worksheet I included in On Thanksgiving eve, I present "Food, Inc."
26. What has Monsanto done to promote use of their soybeans and stop seed saving?  List at least three examples.

27. List at least five government officials who were connected to Monsanto and other food producers.  What effect does the narrator think this has had on regulation of food production?
Part of the answer to 26 is sue people who violate Monsanto's patents.  One of the people who traveled through the revolving door between Monsanto and the government is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the decision allowing Monsanto to patent GMOs.  It looks like the rest of the court went along with his precedent.

This won't be the only Supreme Court case involving biotechnology.  Discovery News on YouTube discusses another in Gene Patents: 5 Things You Should Know.

The debate over whether we can patent genes has come to a head with the US Supreme Court weighing in on two human genes linked to cancer. Laci has all the details on what you need to know about this colossal decision and the impact it could have on medicine.
Based on the Monsanto decision, I expect the court to rule in favor of patenting human genes, too.  Either way, it's more evidence that we live in science fiction times.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Las Vegas Sprawl: videos for my class

In Detroit blight and renewal, I promised a post showing videos of sprawl.  Here they are, two timelapse views from space of Las Vegas sprawling into the desert that I was insprired to look for when last Saturday's This Week @NASA included a segment on Landsat's Vegas Time-Lapse available on Google's Earth Engine.

My search made me realize that the Google Earth montage was not the first timelapse of Las Vegas's expansion.  To celebrate Landsat's 40th anniversary in 2012, NASA released a timelapse of false-color Landsat images of Las Vegas showing its growth beginning in 1972 and ending in 2010.

What Doesn't Stay in Vegas? Sprawl.

The companion news release explains what the video shows.
The city of Las Vegas, Nevada has undergone a massive growth spurt. An image series, created in honor of Landsat 5's twenty-eighth birthday, shows the city sprawling across the desert over time.

Data from the expansion of Las Vegas was compiled from the fleet of Landsat satellites, and is shown as a false-color time-lapse from years of data.

The large red areas are actually green space, mostly golf courses and city parks. The images become a lot sharper around 1984, when new instrument designs improved the ability to resolve smaller parcels of land.
That's pretty amazing, but it only shows Las Vegas reaching out to the west and south.  For a true-color version in which one can see the City of Sin growing in all directions, along with the shrinking of Lake Mead, here's a video explaining a montage from 1999 to 2011 that contains the last thirteen years of the images on the Google Earth Engine page.

Las Vegas Urban Expansion: Timelapse

Explore a global timelapse of our planet, constructed from Landsat satellite imagery. This timelapse from 1999 to 2011 captures the rapid growth of Las Vegas, Nevada, the fastest growing city in the United States over the past two decades. Each frame of the timelapse map is constructed from a year of Landsat satellite data, constituting annual 1.7-terapixel snapshot of the Earth at 30-meter resolution. The Landsat program, managed by the USGS, has been acquiring images of the Earth's surface since 1972. Landsat provides critical scientific information about our changing planet.
That the growth of Las Vegas coincides with the shrinking of Lake Mead is just that, a coincidence, but a striking one nonetheless.  What is not a coincidence is that Las Vegas stops expanding about 2008 with the start of the housing bust and recession.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Detroit blight and renewal

Here is the first of three video clips in tabs I am about to close that would work well as supplements to my lecture on the problems of sprawl and blight, where I juxtapose the two topics as examples of urban environmental issues.  This one is a snapshot of blight and renewal in Detroit that WXYZ produced as part of its Detroit 2020 series called Driving the Two Detroits.

This video makes for a good companion to those in GooBing Detroit and I'm hosting a BlogTalkRadio program on Detroit tonight,* which show both blight and renewal in the Motor City.

As for the videos showing sprawl, stick around.  I'll have them up after midnight.

*Don't let the lack of a preview for the video in the second entry deter you from playing it; it's still up.

Video tributes to Mothers

Unlike the past two years, there aren't a lot of calls for conspicuous consumption to celebrate the holiday on my YouTube feed today.  Even ABC News promoted non-material gifts for mom in Last Minute Mother's Day Gift Ideas.

A look at ideas that require commitment instead of a trip to the store.
Ah, how sweet--and sustainable, too!

Follow over the jump for the other distinctive ways that news organizations are giving tribute to moms.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Space and astronomy news for Mothers Day weekend

Time for last week's space and astronomy news.

NASA Television on YouTube: Garver Tours Gulf Region NASA Facilities on This Week @ NASA

During a recent visit to the Gulf Coast region, Deputy Administrator Lori Garver toured two NASA facilities that are key to development of the new Space Launch System and the agency's commercial crew partnerships with private industry. At the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, Garver was briefed on progress being made in support of the SLS and the Orion spacecraft programs. Garver later traveled to Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi for a tour of testing facilities there, including the B-2 test stand. Once used to test Apollo era engines, the structure is being restored to prepare it for testing of the SLS core stage. Also, Training in Star City, Back to Work for the rovers on Mars, Ice Sheet Rover, Asteroids -- Coming to Earth!, Saturn's Big Hurricane, Herschel Completes Cool Journey, Three Years of the Sun, Seeking Quiet Supersonic Flight and more!
More news over the jump.

Discovery News on the science of beards

I grew a beard after my surgery because I just didn't have the energy or inclination to shave for the first two weeks.  Once I felt up to shaving, my wife told me that she liked it and to keep it.  I have and I'm glad I did.  I like the way I look with it, too, and so do must other people.  In fact, I'm surprised about how comfortable I am with it. 

I'm even happier after watching Discovery News on YouTube explaining the science behind my decision to listen to my wife in Ladies Love Beards.

For optimal sexiness, scientists say keep that 5'oclock shadow going! Anthony talks to Cristen Conger, host of "Stuff Mom Never Told You" to find out why beards are back and driving women crazy!
Also read Study finds men most attractive with heavy-stubble on MedicalXpress.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Whole Foods opening in Detroit next month

WXYZ gives its viewers a sneak peek.

I first wrote about this two years ago in Whole Foods to be an oasis in Detroit's Food Desert.  Here's what I thought of it then.
If you had asked me last week which major supermarket chain would have been the first to come into Detroit, the last chain I would have expected would have been Whole Foods. Instead, I was expecting it to be Meijer, which is slated to open a store in the old State Fairgrounds area on Woodward and 8 Mile. Looks like I was wrong.

Honestly, this entire thing doesn't look like an effort to bring produce to the people in the neighborhoods, which is desperately needed, and something a chain like Meijer or Kroger could do. Instead, it looks like a plan to spur on the revitalization of one of Detroit's existing bright spots and make it more attractive to investors and people moving in from outside the area.  That's not a bad idea at all, and it might make for a good start, but it would only be a good start.

It's also a good PR move.  Right now, this article is the most read on the site... It also has 719 likes on Facebook.  One of them is mine.
I still think it's a good start, as it is part of the gentrification of Midtown, which is also a good start, but not the only thing that needs to happen to revitalize Detroit.

Here's to Whole Foods living up to its promise of bringing hope and comfort to the residents of Detroit.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rocking the boat down the Los Angeles River

As much as I love my adopted city, I still follow the town where I grew up enough to have a label for it, even if I tell my students, "there is a reason the place is called La La Land and it's not just because the initials are L.A."  I'm also interested enough in water for it to have a label, also.  Before this entry, the two categories never intersected.*  With this clip from LinkTV, now they do.

Kayaking the LA: Revitalizing an Urban River

Earth Focus features the film Rock the Boat which follows a controversial kayaking expedition down the partially cemented Los Angeles River, an act of civil disobedience led by satirical writer George Wolfe, whose goal was to have the Environmental Protection Agency declare the river navigable so that it could gain protection under the Clean Water Act. Boating down the LA River became a political movement which lead to changes in federal policy and opened up public access to a long-neglected waterway. With George Wolfe and Thea Mercouffer, film director. Produced in collaboration with the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital.
This would be a great video to show my students, as it connects federal environmental policy, the built environment, water conservation, outdoor recreation, and an environmental movie together.  As I point out to my students repeatedly, everything is connected to everything else, and this video demonstrates that.  Now, the clip is a little on the long side, but I might be able to pull it off next week as an example of how individuals matter.  I'll keep you all posted.

*They could have in Water wars, Detroit style, plus a programming note, as I compared and contrasted Detroit's water wars with California's, but I don't think I had a "Los Angeles" label at the time.  I'm not going to add one to that entry's labels, either.