Monday, March 31, 2014

Conversations with The Archdruid for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

Fat Cat goes Galt

I've promised four times to write an entry about how The Archdruid has helped my blogging develop.  It's now time to deliver on that promise.

The fifth most read entry of the past year is A conversation with The Archdruid about Objectivism, Satanism, and the GOP, posted December 30, 2013.  According to the secondary counter, it earned 693 page views and, according to the primary counter, it earned 638 page views, making it the second most read of the last year and the fifth most read of all time according to that measure.  It kicked U.S.-China EcoPartnerships: The CoDominion plans for sustainability out of the all-time top ten according to the primary counter for a time.  As I mentioned in Popular retrospectives for the second and third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, that wasn't the first time entry had fallen out of the top ten.  That entry later returned, but was again booted out on the last day of the blog, another story connected to The Archdruid that I'll tell over the jump.

As for how this became such a big deal, I promoted it in a comment on the last entry of 2013 on Kunstler's blog.  Within one day, I wrote the following about the reaction on Dreamwidth and LiveJournal.
I posted a link to the most recent entry about the Archdruid to Kunstler's blog this morning.  So far, I've pulled in 400+ page views to that post, moving it up to the third most read entry this calendar year and the ninth most read in the history of the Crazy Eddie's Motie News.  That only took 12 hours.
Kunstler himself responded to me, writing "Greer’s essay last week was really outstanding."  Obviously, that entry continued to gain readers and page views throughout the week.

As for what the entry was about, and what led up to my writing it, those same Dreamwidth and LiveJournal entries told the tale.
The Archdruid moved to a topic that he is uniquely suited to address, the role of belief systems in societies and how resource depletion would affect both societies and their beliefs.  It was enough that, after two years, I finally found something of Greer's that I could feature on my blog, the description of civil antireligions in  The Fate of Civil Religion that I excerpted and commented on to compose The Archdruid on Objectivism as civil antireligion.  Then, he wrote an essay that I actually had something to say in response to, An Old Kind of Science, which I turned into A conversation with The Archdruid for the Solstice.  The next week, he engaged in A Christmas Speculation, in which he called the GOP a bunch of closet Satanists who were hiding their true beliefs behind their devotion to Ayn Rand.  I commented on that and converted the result into A conversation with The Archdruid about Objectivism, Satanism, and the GOP.  I despise Objectivism, and couldn't resist a comparison between it and an unpopular religion.  After all, two years ago, I posted Objectivism and Scientology: a sublime to the ridiculous comparison.
My success with those entries prompted me to write "I think I'll keep reading and responding to The Archdruid after all."  Follow over the jump for how that has panned out for me.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spiderman promoted Earth Hour yesterday

It's Sunday, which means it's time for another collapse-and-decline-themed entertainment entry.  Today, it's Earth Hour, which happened yesterday.  That's not anything new for me, as I celebrated the event in 2011, 2012, and 2013.  What is new is the explicit entertainment angle, as the WWF, the organization behind Earth Hour, selected Spiderman as the event's Superhero Ambassador.  Here is the video in which the selection was announced.

Spider-Man will be the first superhero ambassador for Earth Hour, the global movement organised by WWF. This year Earth Hour launches Earth Hour Blue, a digital crowdfunding and crowdsourcing platform for the planet. The cast of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, and director Marc Webb, want you to be a superhero for the planet. Use Your Power at
That was the hype.  Here is what resulted.

Earth Hour 2014 Spider-Man Global Highlights

Earth Hour 2014 has completed a record journey across the planet, uniting people from 162 countries and territories in more than 7000 cities and towns. With your power, Earth Hour has become an ongoing movement creating massive impact around the world, so imagine what else we can do with Spider-Man by our side. Go beyond the hour and be a Superhero for the Planet.
Follow over the jump for more highlights of last night's turning off the lights for the planet.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Popular retrospectives for the second and third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

I know I promised three times to write an entry about how The Archdruid has helped my blogging develop.  Unfortunately, my promise to make it the next in the series was based on my not being consistent in which page counter I was using.  According to the secondary page counter, the headline entry of that retrospective ended up in fifth place, not fourth place, among the entries I posted during the third year of this blog.  Don't worry, that retrospective is already one-third written and I'll post it before the month is over.

The actual fourth most read entry of the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News is Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News:, posted on March 25, 2013.  According to the secondary counter, it has 1138 page views.  However, according to the primary counter, it has only 486, well behind the most read entry about The Archdruid with 638.  According to the primary counter, this puts the retrospective of my entries about my articles in third place for the year and ninth for the history of the blog, while the top Archdruid entry in second place for the year and fifth place overall.  That's the source of my confusion.

As for how this entry got so popular, it's another mystery to me.  I posted it during a time when I did not promote specific entries at Kunstler's blog, I don't recall posting the link anywhere besides my Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter accounts, and I don't see any search terms that would lead readers to that entry.  Just the same, it got as high as sixth on the all-time top ten list according to the primary counter.

It followed right behind the headline entry of the retrospective, article on Michigan Supreme Court nominees posted on September 12, 2012.  A year ago, it had 372 page views the primary counter and 814 according to the secondary counter.  As of March 21, 2013, it has 833 according to the primary counter, enough for fourth all-time, and 1913 views according to the secondary counter.  That's right behind the number two entry according to the primary counter, Dungeons and Dragons alignments for Game of Thrones characters with 1915 page views according to the secondary counter, and well ahead of the number one all-time entry according to the primary counter, Happy 4th of July from James Howard Kunstler's Tea Party! with 1277 page views according to the secondary counter.  Obviously, the entry has maintained its popularity over the past year.

Another entry I mentioned in Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: has also been on the move.  Follow over the jump for its story, plus one for popular retrospective from the second year of the blog and the entry it looked back on.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The corner station retreats again, but only two cents worth

I predicted very little movement in Good news, everyone--I was wrong.
As for what next week holds, I expect no or little change, with prices remaining between $3.49 and $3.59, except for a charge into No Man's Land by the corner station followed by an quick but orderly retreat.
The corner station stayed in its trench on Tuesday, so there was no charge into No Man's Land this week.  Instead, the three stations down the street dropped their prices slightly to $3.54, where they've remained since.  The corner station dropped a penny Wednesday to $3.55, then matched the rest of the outlets in the neighborhood Thursday at $3.54.  I predicted local prices would end the week between $3.49 and $3.59, and all four of them ended up exactly in the middle of the range.  Perfect.

As for what's next, Gas Buddy shows that metro Detroit prices hit a low for March of $3.59 last Friday, then shot up over the weekend to $3.65 before resuming their steep glide down to Thursday's $3.61.  I wouldn't be surprised if they continued to drop.  I would expect $3.52, but the low end of the range at $3.49 is still possible if Detroit area prices continue to drop.  However, there is upward price pressure from the national average, which ceased its brief decline on the 21st at $3.51 and has resumed its slow and steady rise to $3.52.  If that trend continues, then it will set a floor on local prices and possibly push them up to the top of the range I set last week, which is $3.59.  Unless something drastic happens in the next seven days, I don't expect prices to go any higher.

As I wrote last week, even if gas prices do go up next week to $3.59, they'll still be lower than at this time last year, when they fell from $3.79 to $3.69.  Lower prices year-over-year and a price drop--this week deserves Professor Farnsworth, again.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Daily Kos on 'Cosmos' and manufactured ignorance

Full-sized original here.

Also, last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Gravity Waves from the Big Bang) on Daily Kos included the following links that relate to this topic, showing that profit motive alone isn't the only producer of ignorance.

This week in science: The study of ignorance by DarkSyde

Creationists and Cosmos by LaFeminista

Science Versus Christianity – An Ancient Race by liberaldad2

I'll be back later with the promised entry on the most read posts inspired by The Archdruid.  How much later, I'm not saying right now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gravity waves from the Big Bang and other space and astronomy news

I concluded Floods in Colorado, the other top post for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, plus other climate news with a promise that I'm postponing keeping.
The next entry will document how another Peak Oil blogger, the Archdruid, has also been instrumental in improving my blogging.  Stay tuned.
That should have been the next entry in this series, as I'm not quite up to it tonight.  I'll probably post that one at 8 P.M. tomorrow night, just in time for Greer's next essay.  Tonight, I'm going to do something to honor Space News for the second and third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News by posting this week's summary of space and astronomy news from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Gravity Waves from the Big Bang) on Daily Kos.  Yes, I'm repeating the lead story.  What do you expect?  I'm an environmentalist, I recycle.

Under my "if it moves, it leads" policy, Discovery News goes first with How We Know The Big Bang Actually Happened?

Earlier this week, astronomers announced that they directly observed gravitational waves. These waves are evidence for quantum gravity. How does this prove the Big Bang actually happened? Trace is joined by Ian O'Neill to explain this new, groundbreaking finding.
For more, here's LiveScience with Scientists Report Evidence for Gravitational Waves in Early Universe by Ben P. Stein, ISNS Director on March 18, 2014 12:44am ET.
In what would represent the most direct evidence of Albert Einstein’s last major unconfirmed prediction, as well as a powerful confirmation of a violently fast expansion of the early cosmos, scientists using a cutting-edge South Pole telescope announced evidence for the first detection of gravitational waves in the initial moments of the universe.

Outside experts reacted enthusiastically to the results, but cautioned that the data has unusual characteristics that may ultimately conflict with earlier observations and could require more complicated models for the universe’s early expansion than previously expected.

The announcement was made by the brawny-sounding BICEP2 collaboration, which actually translates into the brainier name of "Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization." The BICEP2 team announced their results today in series of scientific presentations and a news conference at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. The collaboration posted a preprint of their paper which has been submitted for publication and will undergo scientific peer review.
Follow over the jump for more space and astronomy news, including some energy and entertainment news that involves space.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Floods in Colorado, the other top post for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, plus other climate news

According to the secondary counter, Floods in Colorado from ABC News and University of Colorado, posted September 15, 2013, is the third most viewed entry from the third year of this blog and the third most popular in the entire history of the blog with 1201 page views, behind both Space news for Apophis Day in second and first place Finally, a Ringworld movie!  However, according the the primary counter, it's not only the most viewed entry of last year, but the number one entry in the history of the blog with 1135 page views, an achievement I commemorated in My stats didn't fall in October.
Floods in Colorado from ABC News and University of Colorado, finished its climb from 841 page views in September through 939 page views to finish October with 1163 page views, making it the most read entry in the history of this blog, kicking The Buzz about Detroit for the week ending May 28, 2011 from Model D Media out of the top 10 on the way.  That one went to number one on its own, although I padded its lead by linking to it at Kunstler's blog.
I'm not sure what propelled that entry unless it got linked somewhere that used "no follow," but it attracted readers for weeks, pushing the blog's page views to a monthly record.
This month was the first in which the blog passed 12,000 page views.  I had an inkling it was going to happen during the week of October 15-22, when the rolling 30-day view counter passed 12,000 page views every day.  Even that is no guarantee, as readership could have still slowed down.  It did, but not enough to keep the blog from passing 10,000 page views early Saturday the 26th, 11,000 on Monday the 28th, and 12,000 on Halloween, ending up with 12,295 page views for the month.
Yes, the entry set one record and helped set another.  Too bad for it that I changed my procedure for ordering entries this year.  Still, it does deserve recognition as the other top post.

It was not the only entry about climate and weather to make this year's top twenty.  Follow over the jump for the rest.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Space News for the second and third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

The second most viewed entry of the third year of this blog is Space news for Apophis Day from April 13, 2013, with 1270 page views according to the secondary counter but no comments.  Like my entry about a Ringworld movie, it didn't register on the all-time list for the primary counter Blogspot uses.  However, it did show up on the top ten most viewed list for a couple of months.  Some of what drove traffic to that entry involved web search, as I recall "Apophis" being one of the top ten search terms those months.  However, there were fewer than 81 searches using any individual form of "Apophis" or "Apophis Day," as no term including "Apophis" made the top ten for the history of the blog.  I also don't recall promoting this entry beyond my usual posting the link to Google Plus, Facebook, and Twitter.  I certainly didn't promote it to Kunstler's blog, as at that time I was just posting links to the blog as a whole, not to individual entries.  So, as I wrote in reference to how U.S.-China EcoPartnerships: The CoDominion plans for sustainability became a popular entry, it's a  mystery to me.*

As for the entry itself, it was just one of my standard compendiums of space and astronomy news that I've been posting weekly for a couple of years.  The only thing special about it was the dedication to the day.
Happy Apophis Day, which I declared as a holiday on this blog last year.
There is an event in the more distant future that fits one of the themes of this blog, disasters with a science fiction flavor, perfectly--the first of two close approaches of the asteroid Apophis, which is predicted to happen on Friday, April 13, 2029. The second pass of the asteroid will also happen on April 13th of 2036. So, today's date, April 13th, will be day of the year when both approaches of Apophis happen. I christen it Apophis Day!
Here is the first of two entries to mark Apophis Day, a compendium of space news originally posted in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (BRAIN Initiative) on Daily Kos.
The next Apophis Day will be in three weeks.  I'll be sure to celebrate it as one of this blog's special holidays.

None of the rest of the past year's weekly space news compendiums made the 20 most viewed entries list for the third year of the blog.  However, three entries from the second year's top 20 list didn't get recognized in the series that I left uncompleted at Second Year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: Scary musical clowns from Detroit.  I know I promised in Nablopomo for March: Self to wrap up that suspended series before I would start reviewing the top posts from the third year of the blog, but that didn't happen.  It turns out that it's just as well.  There are connections among my most popular entries of the past two years that weren't apparent to me during the second year alone, but reveal themselves when I see both years' lists.  The popularity of space news is one of them.

Follow over the jump for two entries from the second year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News that are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

The Deep State spies on itself and others

Kunstler has spent the past week talking about the "Deep State," first in Deep State Descending and again in Deep State Blues.  In both of them, he's complaining about the U.S. role in Ukraine and how Americans are (not) dealing with it.  However, he really doesn't go into the idea of the "Deep State" much beyond using it in the title except for mentioning how the U.S. was involved in destabilizing Ukraine in the first place.*  That meant that he ignored a really good example of the Deep State, a Turkish term for what is otherwise called a "'state within the state'...a political situation in a country when an internal organ ("Deep State"), generally from the armed forces, intelligence agencies, or police, does not respond to the civilian leadership," the alleged spying by the CIA on staff of the Senate Intelligence Agency.  I came across a story about that two Saturdays ago that I included under "Science Crime Scenes" in Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Happy Pi Day) on Daily Kos.  Take it away, Temple University!

Temple student exposes alleged spy activities in U.S. Senate
March 12, 2014
A senior journalism student has broken a major, national news story she believes exposes an example of government officials operating secretly, away from the accountability of the public eye.

Ali Watkins, 22, of Fleetwood, Pa., co-wrote a March 4 article for McClatchy DC News that details an apparent feud between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over a congressional report on the CIA’s “secret detention and interrogation program.” The article cites sources who say the CIA monitored computers Senate aides used to prepare the report.

That story (and several more to come) was the result of tips Watkins received from unnamed sources with whom she has developed trusting relationships since she began reporting for McClatchy’s Washington bureau as an intern in May 2013. Watkins currently freelances for the bureau and hopes to work as a reporter in Washington, D.C., after graduating from the School of Media and Communication in May.
Welcome to the Deep State, Senators.

Follow over the jump for more in this vein, including another example of Green is the New Red and how the Deep State was fought the last time it became an issue.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Norman Reedus AKA Daryl Dixon of 'The Walking Dead' on the Tonight Show and Late Night

I'm a little burned out from writing Top post for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News--Ringworld, so don't expect anything serious like 'Divergent' and other teen dystopias, Crime and injustice among the Oscar nominees, or The Archdruid and his readers on zombies.  Instead, for my Sunday night collapse as entertainment entry, I present something lighter--Norman Reedus AKA Daryl Dixon of "The Walking Dead" on the Tonight Show and Late Night.  That works for tonight, as the next-to-last episode of the season is on and it looks like one that features Daryl heavily.

First, the Tonight Show clip proclaiming Norman Reedus Was the Mardi Gras Grand Marshal.

Jimmy asks Norman about his experience as Grand Marshal at the Mardi Gras parade, and the two talk about his hit show, The Walking Dead.
That was even more fun watching it the second time.

Follow over the jump for another clip from the Tonight Show plus a hilarious bit involving an "audience zombie" from Late Night with Seth Myers.

Top post for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News--Ringworld

As I promised yesterday,* I'm beginning the reverse countdown of most viewed posts from the past year.  I'm departing from the procedure I used the past two years, in which I ordered entries according to what I call the primary counter as the first resort, then used the secondary counter for the remainder of the top 20 entries not listed in the primary counter's top ten, as I did first in The first year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News: last of nine parts, where I called it "the alternative counter."  Instead, I'm ordering them strictly according to the secondary counter, which I find much more complete, as well as more useful for an annual retrospective.

The primary counter is what I see on the blog dashboard for top posts by past two hours, day, week, month, and history of the blog, while the secondary counter is what I see when I look under all posts.  It does not give a listing for the past year, which would be very convenient.  The primary counter's page view statistics also tend to reach a maximum and decrease over time as duplicate page views from the same IP address and page views generated by "referrer spam" and other bots gets culled.  The secondary counter tallies all page views regardless of source or duplicate views.  That one does not decrease over time.  It also gives stats on all entries, not merely those that make it into the top ten during one of the time frames listed above.

That explanation out of the way, the most viewed entry of the third full year of the blog is Finally, a Ringworld movie!  That entry from May 23, 2013 had 1317 page views according to the secondary counter and four comments.**  It was not among the all time top ten according to the primary counter, even though it has more   That's the one in which I repeated my twenty-year-old grousing about how I wrote an adventure for Chaosium's Ringworld table-top RPG, but lost all that effort because the movie rights to the book were sold and the movie production company asserted that they had the game rights, too.  To add insult to injury, there was no movie.  Apparently, that will change, as SyFy announced that they will develop the book into a four-hour miniseries.  If so, good news, but no Farnsworth until it reaches the little screen.  According to this video review, that might be this fall, but I have my doubts, as IMDB lists it as 2015 and beyond.

Status: In-Development
Based on the 70s Space Science Fiction Novel "Ringworld"

Notes: Announced as a 4 Hour mini-series in development in the spring 2013...Writer "Michael R. Perry" will adapt the 1970 Science Fiction Novel for a TV show by SyFy.
As for how this entry became so frequently viewed, that's easy--the power of search terms.  The phrase "ringworld movie" currently has 129 results, tying it for seventh with the URL of the blog itself among all search terms for the entire history of the blog and making it the most searched new term for the past year.  In this way, the entry is similar to Detroit "what people think" meme and Dungeons and Dragons alignments for Game of Thrones characters from 2012, both of which became top entries through web searches.

As for how I feel about this, at least hundreds, if not thousands, of people have read about my misadventures with the Ringworld game and my disappoinment that there hasn't been a movie--yet.  Knowing that people have heard my complaints and that something is being done about them, even if I had nothing to do with the action, will generally get me to shut up about them.  It may also be enough to get me to buy a Larry Niven book again, too.

Follow over the jump for the footnotes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A song for marriage equality in Michigan

PoliticusUSA reports Michigan Is Latest State To Have Same-Sex Marriage Ban Ruled Unconstitutional.
On Friday, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Much like other recent rulings in states with similar bans, US District Judge Bernard Friedman cited the Supreme Court’s rejection last June of parts of the Defense of Marriage Act while also pointing to the 14th Amendment.
That's the good news.  The bad news is that the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay until Wednesday late this afternoon, hours after four counties, including Washtenaw and Oakland, issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  I won't let that temporary setback get me down.  Instead, I'm going to dedicate the song sung in the following video to the occasion: New Zealand Parliament passes gay marriage bill -- and a love song.

As the votes are announced in the New Zealand Parliament that affirm the Definition of Marriage Amendment (allowing equal marriage rights for the gay community), spectators in the gallery break into a Maori love song which most of the Members of Parliament then join in with. Quite touching.

For my American chums who want to know more about the song being sung: "Pokarekare ana." Unofficially it is New Zealand's second national anthem. It is believed to have been communally written by Maori soldiers in training camp during World War I.

Statistics for the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News

As I wrote in Happy Nowruz and happy birthday to the blog, "I'll have the past year's statistics tomorrow.  Stay tuned."  It's tomorrow, so it's time to start the cycle all over again, just as I did last year and two years ago.

During the third year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News, from March 21, 2013 to March 20, 2014, I posted 785 entries, the readers and I posted 304 comments, and the blog received 127,945 page views.*  In comparison, during the second year of this blog I posted 493 entries, readers posted 129 comments, and the blog received 97,535 page views while during the first full year I made 483 posts, readers and I posted 204 comments, and the blog received 47,808 page views.  The total page views increased by 30,410 (31.18% more) from last year but required 292 more entries (59.2% more) to get that increase.  The higher effort required to increase readership is reflected in the numbers of page views per entry (162.99) for this year, which is less than the same ratio last year (197.84).  I'm starting to reach the point of diminishing returns.  However, I am able to point to the average page views per month with pride.  The first year saw 3984 views/month, the second 8127.92 views/month, and this year 10,662.08 page views per month.  When I told Chris Savage of Eclectablog last year that my blog was starting to get 10,000 page views/month, he appeared impressed.  I'm glad I've been able to maintain that level.  Here's to building on it.

The one statistic I found disappointing last year has dramatically improved this year--comments.  This is what I wrote about the lack of reader participation in last year's report.
Like last year, the only stat I find disappointing is the number of comments.  More people are reading, but fewer of them are commenting.  Readers left 75 fewer comments this year than last year.   That's 0.26 comments/post, 10.75 comments/month, and 0.0013 comments per page view.  Those are all striking declines from last year's 0.42 comments per post, 17 comments per month, and 0.0043 comments per page view.  I enjoy the increased readership, but wouldn't mind more reader participation, even if it means arguing with denialists.  That would be a step up from spammers.
I can say that reader participation, even if a lot of them are still spammers, is way up.  This year, the blog received 304 comments, nearly double the 333 from the first two years combined.  Running comparable numbers to last year, that translates to 0.39 comments/entry, 25.33 comments per month, and 0.0285 comments per page view.  That last was such a huge jump that I double-checked the previous year's calculations; they were correct.  Keep those comments coming.  I have and will respond to the best ones in entries of their own.

One final statistical note that I haven't mentioned before--it looks like the Chinese have discovered the blog.  During the entire three years, readers from China have contributed 3107 page views, 1423 of them during the 30 days before March 20th alone.  That's 46.0% of the total for China.  That surge catapulted China ahead of Australia and Ukraine into seventh place among countries in my audience.  Maybe I should write more entries about China.

That's it for general statistics.  The next installment will begin the reverse countdown of most viewed posts from the past year.  Given the topic of this blog, it should come as no surprise that one of those most viewed entries is about this structure.

*I am recording these stats from Midnight EDT to Midnight EDT on March 21 of successive years.  It would be easier to record using Midnight GMT, as that is the default time zone of the stats recorder, but I want to count full days here, not London.

Previous entries in this series.

Happy Nowruz and happy birthday to the blog

Friday, March 21, 2014

Good news, everyone--I was wrong

But I was right first.

In last week's Corner station charged into No Man's Land then retreated, I pulled back on the third thing I expected to happen in latest engagement in the gas war went as expected.
As for the final prediction, that "the next price move that will stick will be a drop to $3.55 or $3.49 in a week or two," I'm not so sure.  Gas Buddy shows that the national average has resumed its climb after stalling out just short of $3.48 last week and is now at a plateau of $3.50.  As for the metro Detroit mean, it hit a low of $3.61 a few days ago then shot up to $3.69 before falling to $3.68 today.  Based on that and today's increases in crude oil and RBOB gasoline, a price drop next week is not in the cards.
I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong in doing so, as the prediction I made two weeks ago came true.  On Wednesday, the three stations down the street dropped their price to $3.56, which prompted me to fill up at one of them.  Thursday, the corner station followed.  The next price change that stuck was indeed a drop to about $3.55.  I should have stuck to my guns on that prediction, although the data a week ago was casting doubt on it.

So, what happened?  It turns out that the Detroit average peaked last week at $3.69 and has declined to $3.60, the price it rose through on February 26th.  Also, the national average's increase slowed at the same time, rising barely half a cent about $3.51 to its peak midweek, then dropping back to $3.51, its first multiday decline since the second week of February.  The neighborhood stations dropped their prices just in time to catch the national trend and to exactly the level they needed to maintain their price advantage.

As for what next week holds, I expect no or little change, with prices remaining between $3.49 and $3.59, except for a charge into No Man's Land by the corner station followed by an quick but orderly retreat.  This is despite today's increase in crude oil futures over the Russia/Crimea crisis.  The trend the past month has been down.  As Reuters reported, Crude oil futures rise on fears over sanctions against Russia.
Brent rose 47 [cents] to settle at $106.92 per barrel, having earlier spiked $1.32 to a session high of $107.77 per barrel. The European benchmark still fell for a fourth week in a row.

A seasonal slump in demand has led to a near 5 percent price slide since the beginning of March, when Brent briefly jumped to a three-month high above $112 as Russia took control of Ukraine's Crimea region.

U.S. crude for May delivery, which became the front-month contract on Friday, settled 56 cents higher at $99.46 per barrel, rising modestly after falling for the week prior.

"This move is an example of headline risk, and so it will be fairly short term," said Chris Nelder, an independent energy analyst and author of Profit from the Peak oil investment book.
Even if gas prices do go up next week to $3.59, they'll still be lower than at this time last year, when they shot up to $3.79.  Lower prices year-over-year and a price drop--this week does deserve Professor Farnsworth.

Happy Nowruz and happy birthday to the blog

Last year I wished Happy birthday to the blog and Happy Nowruz to all of you.  Since I'm an environmentalist, I'll recycle.
Today marks the second anniversary of the first post to this blog.  I already wished the blog a happy birthday last year, so I decided to do something different this year--appropriate Nowruz, the new year of Iran and its neighbors as an official celebration on this blog.

Although the holiday actually coincides with the Vernal Equinox, the United Nations has conveniently declared March 21st as the International Day of Nowruz.
International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253 of 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition observed by numerous peoples, Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighbourliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.
I celebrated Nowruz with my now ex-girlfriend once.  We went with one of her co-workers, a Baha'i woman, to what she called a "Persian New Year" celebration in Canada about ten years ago.  We had a great time.  In memory of that occasion and the remarkable coincidence that the blog's birthday just happens to fall on the day the U.N. declared for the holiday, I wish all of my readers a Happy Nowruz!
I do so again for the third anniversary of the first post to this blog.  Happy New Blog Year and Happy Persian New Year!

I'll have the past year's statistics tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Space news for the Vernal Equinox

Today is the Vernal or Spring Equinox.  To mark the occasion, I'm promoting a news item that doesn't move into the featured spot.

University of Massachusetts: UMass Amherst Sunwheel and Sky-Watching Events Mark the Spring Equinox on March 20
March 12, 2014
AMHERST, Mass. – The public is invited to witness sunrise and sunset associated with the spring equinox among the standing stones of the UMass Amherst Sunwheel on Thursday, March 20 at 6:45 a.m. and 6 p.m. These Sunwheel events mark the astronomical change of seasons when days and nights are nearly equal in length.

At the gatherings, which have attracted more than 10,000 visitors over the past 17 years, local Sunwheel enthusiasts Michelle and Andy Morris-Friedman will discuss the astronomical cause of the sun’s changing position during the hour-long gatherings. They will also explain the seasonal positions of Earth, the sun and moon, phases of the moon, building the Sunwheel, and answer questions about astronomy.

The exact time of the vernal equinox this year is 12:57 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. This ushers in the beginning of spring and is also the day the sun rises into the sky to be visible for six months as seen from the North Pole, and the day it sets for six months as seen from the South Pole.
Happy Equinox!

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Christie gets a Detroit welcome and other election news

I posted a comment over at Daily Kos that I liked so much I decided to use it for a blog post here.  After all, I'm an environmentalist; I recycle.

At the top of the ballot, Chris Christie flew in for a closed-door fundraiser for GOP Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land.  Protesters showed up, along with a team from WXYZ (ABC 7 in Detroit).  Here's the station's report: Protests over Chris Christie visit.

Crowd gathers in protest of Chris Christie visit in Bloomfield Hills.
Welcome to Michigan, Fat Bastard!

For what it's worth, I've participated in a protest like this two years ago when Paul Ryan headlined a fundraiser for Pete Hoekstra, who ran against Debbie Stabenow.  I wrote about my experience in I was one of "about a dozen" yesterday.  This demonstration looks like it was better organized and attended, as well as more favorably and accurately covered.  Good.

Follow over the jump for more from Michigan's 14th and 11th Congressional Districts. article on record snow cover

Since this photo was taken on February 19th, Lake Michigan set a record of 93.29 percent ice cover on March 8th.
Photo by NASA/Getty Images
Detroit sets record for longest snow cover
New winter weather records continue to be set for Detroit.

The latest weather statistic went into the record books Tuesday, when the Detroit Office of the National Weather Service announced that the streak of consecutive days with snow cover of 1 inch or greater ended on March 17th at 77 days.  The new record exceeds the previous streak of 73 days that ended on March 15, 1978.

This record joins others that have been set this winter, including snowiest month and second snowiest season for Detroit so far, snowiest winter ever for Ann Arbor, longest consecutive snow cover and snowiest January for Flint, and most ice cover for Lake Michigan.
Details on all those records at the link.

I can tell you that I found Monday's weather exciting in a weird way.  I could finally see the grass in the back yard.  I also heard birds singing.  It looks like spring really is coming.

Of course, it's still Michigan, which means that anything can happen, and probably will.  For example...
As for Detroit breaking its previous record for total snowfall accumulation, that's still within reach.  Two storms will pass through the area Wednesday night into Thursday morning and again Friday night into Saturday.  The National Weather Service is currently predicting one-half inch of accumulation for the first storm and two to four inches for the second.  Only three inches are required to set a new record.
After a winter like this, I'd like to have the record to go along with it.  Snow!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Morning after--risks of drinking for seniors

After two entries celebrating drinking, it's time to acknowledge the health risks of alcohol.  Here are two news items from Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Another possible HIV cure) on Daily Kos that explain why drinking is probably a young person's game.

First, the University of Texas reports Binge Drinking May Double Older People’s Risk of Dying, Study Shows.
AUSTIN, Texas — Studies have shown that moderate drinking, such as sipping a relaxing glass of wine with dinner, may be beneficial to your health. Yet a new psychology study from The University of Texas at Austin shows that binge drinking may shorten lifespan, even for those who are overall moderate drinkers.

The study, to be published in the May online-only issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that older adults who engage in binge drinking have double the odds of dying within the next 20 years in comparison with moderate drinkers in the same age bracket who don’t engage in binge drinking. Results are currently available at Early View.

“Binge drinking is increasingly being recognized as a significant public health concern,” says Charles Holahan, professor of psychology and lead author of the study. “In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control recently concluded that binge drinking is ‘a bigger problem than previously thought.’ Ours is one of the first studies to focus explicitly on an older population in examining binge drinking among, on average, moderate drinkers.”
Heavy drinking, probably expressed as binge drinking, was one of the reasons why the life expectency dropped more than a decade for men in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Next, the University of Florida explores For older drivers, study finds, one drink may be one too many.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You may have only had one glass of wine with dinner, but if you’re 55 or older, that single serving may hit you hard enough to make you a dangerous driver.

So, baby boomers, what you suspected is true: you can’t party like you used to.

Sara Jo Nixon, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Florida and doctoral candidate Alfredo Sklar tested how drinking legally non-intoxicating levels of alcohol affect the driving skills of two age groups: 36 people ages 25 to 35 and 36 people ages 55 to 70. They found that although neither age group imbibed enough alcohol to put them over the legal driving limit, a blood alcohol level of 0.08, just one drink can affect the driving abilities of older drivers.

Based on the study findings published in the journal Psychopharmacology in February, the researchers say it could be time to reassess legal blood alcohol levels for all drivers.
In other words, because older people become impared more easily, the blood alcohol limits for everyone may have to be lowered.

I read both of these after my wife and I watched "Nebraska," which features Bruce Dern playing an elderly alcoholic.  That film showed the effects of drinking in fiction, while the research demonstrated something even worse in reality.  After seeing the film and reading the articles, I'm glad I haven't had much to drink this year.

Monday, March 17, 2014

More on St. Patrick's Day from Tipsy Bartender

I'm not done with Tipsy Bartender drinks for St. Patrick's Day.  First, here's Sky and Inna talking about the holiday in Outakes Sugar Marijuana Goblet.

LOL. "Every day is a big drinking day in Russia."  Yeah, I'll bet.

This is the second interesting outtake Inna has made that I've featured here.  The first prompted me to post Blackfish: unexpected sustainability at Tipsy Bartender.  This one isn't anywhere near as serious, but it's still fun.

Also, it turns out there is one more recipe for today: Swamp Water.

It is the ultimate green drink...SWAMP WATER. It's loaded with booze and perfect for St. Patrick's Day or any day you are looking for a potent green drink.

4 1/2 oz. (135ml) White Tequila
3 oz. (90ml) Midori Melon Liqueur
3 oz. (90ml) Sour Apple
4 oz. (120ml) Sweet Sour
4 oz. (120ml) Lemon Lime Soda
1 oz. (30ml) Blue Curacao
Disgusting name, good looking drink.

And that's it for today's drinking holiday.  Hope you've all had a fun St. Patrick's Day.

Tipsy Bartender drinks for St. Patrick's Day

Last year, I posted the science of drinking for St. Patrick's Day.  This year, I skip the science and go straight for the drinking, courtesy of The Tipsy Bartender. So far he's posted one recipe for the day, but it really isn't that Irish even if it is green: Sugar Marijuana Goblet.

The SUGAR MARIJUANA GOBLET is a foaming drink based on the liquid marijuana shot. It's green, delicious and loaded with booze...and it fogs up too!
2 1/2 oz. (75ml) Everclear
1 1/2 oz. (45ml) Midori Melon Liqueur
1 1/2 oz. (45ml) Spiced Rum
1 1/2 oz. (45ml) Coconut Rum
3 oz. (90ml) Blue Curacao
3 oz. (90ml) Sweet & Sour
3 oz. (90ml) Pineapple Juice
Dry Ice
No series of posts made when I'm in "I can't be all DOOM all the time" would be complete without an appearance by The Tipsy Bartender.

Follow over the jump for three more recipes posted last year that actually can make a case for being Irish.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

'Divergent' and other teen dystopias

At the end of Farnsworth video meme, I promised "No zombies tonight.  Instead, I have something planned for the opening of "Divergent" this Friday."

First, since I like to lead with things that move, here is the most recent official theatrical trailer.

Cool, although I've seen some of this before.  The whole idea of factions reminds me of Vonnegut's "Slapstick," in which everyone in the U.S. is randomly assigned numbers for middle names.  That gave everyone an immediate social group to belong to, like a giant club.  Of course, that was played for laughs, not for the high stakes that are being played for here.  Also, the assigning teens into factions is much more deliberate, like a high-tech version of the Sorting Hat in Hogwarts.  That last might be part of the appeal of the books--a familiar element to the readers.  Finally, there are all the similarities to "The Hunger Games."

Enough analysis of corporate PR.  Follow over the jump for some analysis of "Divergent" and other teen dystopias from Illinois State University and The New Yorker.

Farnsworth video meme

As you can probably guess from my posts about Pi Day and the Ides of March, I'm in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood today.  I'm not likely to get any gloomier, as tonight is Sunday, when I write my entertainment-themed posts*, tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, Thursday is the Vernal Equinox, and Friday is both Persian New Year and the third birthday of this blog.  In other words, this week is an oxymoron--celebration season at a doomer blog.

On that note, here is yet another meme to add to the two new Farnsworth memes--a video montage of Farnsworth and others saying "Good news, everyone!"

*No zombies tonight.  Instead, I have something planned for the opening of "Divergent" this Friday.

Update to Pi Day 2014

First, I posted A drum corps Pi Day.  Now it's time for science to take its turn with updates from Discovery News, LiveScience, and Texas Tech.

Is Tau Better Than Pi?

Pi Day is the annual celebration of the mathematical constant pi! It happens every year on March 14, since the numbers match the first three digits of pi. Is there anything better than pi? Tara joins Trace to discuss whether or not tau is better than pi.
Happy Pi Day! Fun Facts About Our Favorite Irrational Number
by Tanya Lewis, LiveScience Staff Writer
March 14, 2014 07:49am ET
Math lovers celebrate today (3/14) as Pi Day, in honor of the irrational number pi.

Pi, or ?, is defined as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. Pi is an irrational number, meaning it cannot be written as a simple fraction. Instead, it can be expressed as an infinite, nonrepeating decimal (3.14159…) or approximated as the fraction 22/7.

Here are some nerdy facts about the irrational number, to impress your friends as you celebrate Pi Day (which is also Albert Einstein's birthday).
Easy as Pi: Alum Hopes Pie Pan Leads to Sweet Success
When Garrett Heath realized such a product didn't exist, he took matters into his own hands.
Written by Megan Ketterer
March 14, 2014
Pi or pie? With today (March 14) being celebrated around the nation as Pi Day, these homophones can be confusing, especially when baking pies is a popular way to celebrate the famous mathematical constant.

A Texas Tech University alumnus decided to combine these words and create something for everyone to enjoy on Pi Day: a Pi Pie Pan, a pan in the shape of the pi symbol designed for baking pies.

“It’s a fun way for people to show off being a little geeky while enjoying to cook,” said Garrett Heath, creator of the pan. “There’s no better way to make a pie on Pi Day than to have a pi-shaped pan.”
I can't have just one slice of pie--or Pi Day, for that matter.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Returning without Russia and other space and astronomy news for the Ides of March

I alluded to the current crisis in in the opening to Death and destruction in the Roman world for the Ides of March.*
There is plenty to beware of in the modern world today, beginning with the referendum in Crimea, which will begin while it's still the Ides of March in much of the Western Hemisphere.  I'm sure I'll get to that and other factors leading to and resulting from collapse and decline in future posts.
One of the risks from the tensions over Russia's response to the revolution in the Ukraine and the U.S. reaction to Russia's actions is that Americans and others from NATO countries on the ISS may not have a way home without Russian cooperation.  Discovery News explores the options in Can Astronauts Return to Earth Without Russia?

The crisis in Ukraine is causing some tension between the United States and Russia. If Russia decided that they don't want to bring American astronauts on the International Space Station back to Earth, are they stranded? Trace breaks down a few alternate ways we could bring astronauts back home.
That's not likely, as NASA and Roscosmos will continue to cooperate even when their parent governments are at odds, but it is a possibility worth considering.

Follow over the jump for more of last week's space and astronomy news, including reassuring news on Russo-American cooperation in space.

Death and destruction in the Roman world for the Ides of March

There is plenty to beware of in the modern world today, beginning with the referendum in Crimea, which will begin while it's still the Ides of March in much of the Western Hemisphere.  I'm sure I'll get to that and other factors leading to and resulting from collapse and decline in future posts.  Instead, I'm going to feature items from and about the Roman Republic and Roman Empire that deal with death and destruction that I orginally featured in various Overnight News Digests this year so far.  I begin with the problems of Pompeii, which is being destroyed a second time.

First, The Guardian (UK): Down Pompeii: emergency meeting called after collapses in ancient city.
Collapse of tomb wall and supporting arch prompts Italy's culture minister to summon officials

Italy's culture minister demanded explanations on Sunday after more collapses this weekend in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii raised concerns about the state of one of the world's most treasured archaeological sites.

Pompeii, preserved under ash from a volcanic eruption in 79AD and rediscovered in the 18th century, has been hit by a series of collapses in recent months and years which have sparked international outcry over the neglect of the site.
The BBC has more in Damaged Pompeii to receive Italy rescue fund.
Italy says it will unblock 2m euros (£1.6m) in emergency funding to save the ancient city of Pompeii, after flooding caused walls to collapse.

A number of structures, including the Temple of Venus and Roma, were damaged by heavy rainfall on Sunday and Monday.

The decay prompted calls for action from the European Union and the United Nations.
Here's to hoping Pompeii can be saved again.

Tia Ghose of LiveScience reminds her readers that Pompeii is still a rich source of data in Elite of Ancient Pompeii Dined on Sea Urchin, Giraffe.
The commoners of the ancient city of Pompeii may have eaten a varied diet, with the wealthier even dining on giraffe, new research suggests.

Remains of food scraps found in the drains of Pompeii, Italy, a Roman city wiped out by a volcano, revealed that the middle- and lower-class residents dined on cheap but healthy foods, while slightly wealthier citizens dined on delicacies.

The new findings belie the common belief that the Roman elite dined on exotic delicacies while poor Romans starved on birdseed.
Follow over the jump for more on gladiators, plagues, Roman-era remains threatened by development, and the power of Pompeii as metaphor.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Corner station charged into No Man's Land then retreated

Last week, I described how the latest engagement in the gas war went as expected.
Early Friday morning, the corner station had already lowered its price to $3.75.  By noon, it had dropped it again to $3.69.  Yesterday, it had matched the rest at $3.59.  It only took four days.
I then made another prediction.
Based on this pattern, I'd be surprised if the three stations down the block increased prices this week, although the corner station might still charge into No Man's Land.
That's exactly what happened.  Wednesday morning, the corner station jacked up its price to $3.85, while the three stations down the street held firm at $3.59.   By yesterday morning, the corner station had dropped all the way to $3.63.  By this afternoon, it had finally matched the rest at $3.59.  Charge into No Man's Land over.

As for the final prediction, that "the next price move that will stick will be a drop to $3.55 or $3.49 in a week or two," I'm not so sure.  Gas Buddy shows that the national average has resumed its climb after stalling out just short of $3.48 last week and is now at a plateau of $3.50.  As for the metro Detroit mean, it hit a low of $3.61 a few days ago then shot up to $3.69 before falling to $3.68 today.  Based on that and today's increases in crude oil and RBOB gasoline, a price drop next week is not in the cards.

A drum corps Pi Day

I often write that I'm an environmentalist, I recycle.  In that spirit, I'm re-using a video I first used in last year's Follow-up to Pi Day.

Happy Pi(e) Day! - '78 North Star Drum & Bugle Corps

[T]here is also an endearing and enduring ritual enjoyed by drum corps fans that cannot make the journey to downtown Indianapolis for Pi Day. By the tens of thousands, they cyber-unite with fellow fans and watch a famed video clip of the now defunct North Shore Massachusetts-based corps North Star at the 1978 World Championship Finals in Denver.

In this clip, you will see contra player Joey "Moose" Interbartolo get hit in the face by a pie launched by percussionist Bruce Wallas. And because we at DCI appreciate conceptual high art, as evidenced by our recent "Harlem Shake -- Drum Corps Style" video, you will see Joey get hit in the face not once, but multiple times during Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," the anthem Wonder wrote to commemorate the Hawaiian musical influence of famed surfer and Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku.

I believe you'll agree that we can refer to this singular act of loony silliness internationally as the most glorious 3.14 seconds in the history of drum corps.

Enjoy your (3.14) day!
As I wrote in my follow-up to Star Wars Day in 2012, I have a personal connection to the performers and the performance.
I wasn't marching in North Star that year, but I was in the stands for this performance and I marched with them in 1979 and 1981.
First Star Wars Day and now Pi Day--I had no idea 36 years ago that this show would become so good for geeks!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

WXYZ on the snow day

I had a serious personal take on a snow day from Winter Storm Vulcan, but WXYZ took a more light-hearted tack in Sense of humor about snow.

There was an even funnier segment showing teenagers sledding down the hill at Veterans Park on the west side of Ann Arbor and kids reading books at the Ann Arbor Public Library, but that wasn't loaded up on the station's YouTube channel.  Too bad.  That was a hoot.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Severe winter causing salt shortage

While I quoted the parts of the Detroit Free Press's Snowfall tapers across metro Detroit, but high winds, blowing snow still a problem in A snow day from Winter Storm Vulcan that bore on my day today, I skipped an entire passage about the salt shortage that has hit because of the severe winter.  I did that in part because I had already quoted enough and didn't want to exceed what fair use allowed, but also because this is actually old news and I had a different source.  It also follows my preference for "if it moves, it leads."  Take it away WXYZ with Contractors hit by salt shortage.

Looks like we've make up for all that salt we didn't use during the mild winter of 2011-2012 and then some.

A snow day from Winter Storm Vulcan

Last night, I was hoping the college would declare a snow day.  This morning, that hadn't yet happened, so I dug my car out and drove to work.  I got there just in time for the college to close.  It wasn't a complete waste of a drive, as I needed to get my materials out of my office for tomorrow's classes at a different location.  Still, I'd rather have stayed home the entire time.  The roads were terrible and many students were unable to get to class.  Also, I needed the rest.

Follow over the jump for what the Detroit Free Press and Ann Arbor News had to write about the storm.

Frozen great lakes

Here was the story I included in last Saturday's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Another possible HIV cure) on Daily Kos.

LiveScience: Almost Completely Frozen, Great Lakes Near Record
By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer
March 05, 2014 05:32pm ET
Overall, winters may become milder as the planet warms, but this season has been a stunningly cold outlier for eastern North America. Case in point? The frozen Great Lakes.

Yesterday (March 4), the Great Lakes hit 91 percent ice cover, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. That's the most ice since the record of 94.7 percent was set in 1979, the lab said in a statement.

Except for Lake Ontario, nearly all the Great Lakes are frozen stiff, just like everyone on the East Coast. In fact, if the months of below-normal temperatures and freezing winds persist, the Great Lakes could meet or break their 1979 record, the lab said. The ice hasn't been this widespread since 1994, when 90.4 percent of the Great Lakes were under ice. The average ice cover is usually just above 50 percent, and only occasionally passes 80 percent, according to the lab.
By Saturday, Lake Michigan set a new record.
Lake Michigan's ice cover has set a record.

The federal government's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor reports that ice spread across 93.29 percent of the lake's surface area on Saturday. That eclipsed the previous high of 93.1 percent in 1977.
And that's as frozen as it will likely get, as the Free Press story reported that Lake Michigan is now only 77% ice covered.

Just the same, it's still winter and the ships have to go through, as WXYZ reports in Breaking the ice.

BTW, today is not a snow day for me.  It's time for me to dig out and go to work.

Winter Storm Vulcan about to hit Detroit

Yes, I actually am using this cheesy graphic.  Just the same, this storm is no laughing matter, as WXYZ reports in Winter storm headed toward metro Detroit.

What does the National Weather Service say about the storm?

I've already cancelled my morning meeting.  As for my classes, I'm hoping the college declares a snow day.  Six inches will be just enough to do it.  If the storm reaches nine, Detroit will hit a record for snowfall during a season.  I don't know whether to root for that outcome or not.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fukushima three years after from Reuters

I mentioned the third anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami, and meltdown last month in Fukushima radiation being monitored in U.S. kelp beds, but now the occasion is upon us.  Reuters has covered the event with three videos so far.  First, Candlelight vigil and protest ahead of Fukushima three-year anniversary.

People in Japan hold a candlelight vigil and protest ahead of the three-year anniversary of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis. Gavino Garay reports.
Follow over the jump for raw video of two anti-nuclear protests plus links to previous posts on the anniversary.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Astronauts congratulate 'Gravity' on its Oscars

I'm not done with either "Gravity" or the Oscar winners thanks to NASA.  The U.S. space agency has two videos of astronauts congratulating "Gravity" on its seven Academy Awards.

First, NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino on "Gravity" Award Win.

NASA Astronaut Mike Massimino congratulates the filmmakers and actors of the Academy Award-winning film "Gravity" on their achievement.
Next, NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman on 'Gravity' Oscar Win.

NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman congratulates the cast and crew of the Academy Award-winning film "Gravity" on their achievement. Coleman lived aboard the International Space Station during Expedition 27, while "Gravity" was being filmed, and spoke with the film's star, Sandra Bullock, from space. Coleman thanks the filmmakers for "sharing that world and that view with everyone."
Now I think I'm done with last years nominated and winning films.

Crime and injustice among the Oscar nominees

I concluded Politics, science fiction, and fantasy at the Golden Globes by noticing a trend.
Looking through the films, there are a lot that involve crime in one form or another.  That might be worth commenting on if the same trend appears among the Oscar nominees.
I repeated that over at Kunstler's blog a few weeks later.
As for your point that criminality is part of “who we are,” it’s not just in television. It shows up in our movies, too. When I looked over the list of nominees for the Golden Globes, I saw that a lot of them had to do with crime and its consequences. Most of those same movies ended up nominated for the Academy Awards. Not only is it “who we are,” the entertainment industry insiders think its good art, too.
Since it's Sunday, yet I'm not writing about zombies tonight, it must be time for another collapse-and-decline-themed entertainment entry.

Follow over the jump to read me make good on my promise and see if Kunstler and I were right.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Latest engagement in the gas war went as expected

Here's how the situation stood last week as the corner station escalated the gas war.
The corner station raised its price today, but not to $3.59.  Oh, no, it was not content to see the rest of the neighborhood outlets.  It had to raise the stakes by increasing its price to $3.79.  That matched its high from a little over a year ago and actually put its price higher than a year ago for the first time this year, if not for the past four months.  Good thing I filled up last night!

As for what I expect, it will be that the stations down the street will hold firm and the corner station will eventually retreat to the $3.59 I forecast.
That's exactly what ended up happening.  Early Friday morning, the corner station had already lowered its price to $3.75.  By noon, it had dropped it again to $3.69.  Yesterday, it had matched the rest at $3.59.  It only took four days.

Gas Buddy shows that the national average stalled out just short of $3.48 three days ago and looks like it's starting to glide down from there.  According to the chart, it's the first time the price has actually decreased during the past month.  The Detroit average is showing even more softness, as it has floated down from just below $3.65 four days ago to $3.62 and still falling today.  Based on this pattern, I'd be surprised if the three stations down the block increased prices this week, although the corner station might still charge into No Man's Land.  In fact, I think the next price move that will stick will be a drop to $3.55 or $3.49 in a week or two.

Fracking hazards--earthquakes and contamination

Once again, my news sources are telling me to pay attention to a topic again, as I'm reading stories on it from two sources on consecutive weeks.  This time, it's fracking.  I'll violate my "if it moves, it leads" policy by presenting the text story first.

LiveScience: Wastewater Injection Triggered Oklahoma's Earthquake Cascade
By Becky Oskin, Senior Writer
March 07, 2014 01:58pm ET
One of Oklahoma's biggest man-made earthquakes, caused by fracking-linked wastewater injection, triggered an earthquake cascade that led to the damaging magnitude-5.7 Prague quake that struck on Nov. 6, 2011, a new study confirms.

The findings suggest that even small man-made earthquakes, such as those of just a magnitude 1 or magnitude 2, can trigger damaging quakes, said study co-author Elizabeth Cochran, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Even if wastewater injection only directly affects a low-hazard fault, those smaller events could trigger an event on a larger fault nearby," she told Live Science.
Not all hazards are direct.  In this case, it's the disposal of the used fracking fluids that is causing the problem.  It's a good example of "everything is connected to everything else," "there is no away; everything must go somewhere," and "there is no free lunch."

Next, Virginia Tech posted two videos on groundwater contamination research from fracking last week. The first is Hydraulic Fracturing Research - Virginia Tech.

John Chermak, associate professor of practice in geosciences, investigates the potential effects of hydraulic fracturing on the environment. By analyzing shale samples drawn from miles below the Earth's surface, his research team can examine if and how trace elements are released in the energy production process commonly known as fracking.
Next, a video about contamination that may occur because of fracking, but is even more likely to happen naturally: Groundwater/Rock Interactions - Virginia Tech.

Arsenic can be found in many minerals contained in aquifers but this harmful element does not always contaminate groundwater within the aquifer. Madeline Schreiber, associate professor of hydrogeosciences, investigates the complex relationship between groundwater and the aquifers they flow through.
This concludes the most recent demonstration of Commoner's Laws in fracking and how Fracking as a bad T in I=P*A*T.

Remember to spring ahead in the U.S.

It's time for a reminder which is a blast from the past: "Discovery News on YouTube reminds us of the event and describes its history in Why We Have Daylight Saving Time."

Daylight savings is back! But why do we do it exactly? We've all heard different explanations, so Anthony hit the books in search of a definitive reason why we change our clocks.
Spring ahead, everyone!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

DNews on mammoth de-extinction

It's time for another installment of the de-extinction saga.  This time, it's Discovery News asking Are We Finally Ready To Clone A Mammoth?

Everyone keeps asking scientists when they're going to clone a woolly mammoth. It's not the easiest thing to do, but they are working on it! Trace is here to discuss with you how we're planning on bringing back extinct animals, and how recent discoveries are helping this process.
As I noted in a comment over on DNews's YouTube channel, there are three inaccuracies in both the text and visuals.  First, the extinct animals shown look more like mastodons than mammoths.  Second, mammalian red blood cells have no nuclei or mitochondria, so they have no DNA to clone.  However, the white blood cells do, which is where DNA could be found.  Third, the preponderance of evidence supports mammoths being more closely related to Asian elephants than African elephants, so an Asian elephant would make for a better surrogate mother.  Besides, Asian elephants are easier to handle, which makes them more convenient to use even in the case when African and Asian elephants are equally closely related to mammoths.

Other than that, good video.

Weather and the economy for February 2014

Yesterday's job report was the best this winter, with 175,000 added to nonfarm payrolls in February.  However the unemployment rate increased slightly to 6.7% from 6.6% as participation in the labor force increased.  The usual suspect for the slow increase in employment was the weather.  Bill McBride on Calculated Risk blamed it twice, first in the announcement of the news--"This was a decent employment report considering the recent harsh weather"--then in the next entry commenting on the report--"Hopefully the severe weather is behind us, and the pace of employment growth will pick up."

McBride was not alone in blaming the weather.  The University of Michigan did as well, reporting on the last day of last month that Weather freezes consumer confidence in place in February.
ANN ARBOR—Despite the harsh winter, consumer confidence has remained essentially unchanged since December, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.
"While the weather has kept consumers away from retail outlets, it has not had a detrimental impact on their outlook for future economic conditions," said U-M economist Richard Curtin, director of the surveys. "Consumers have displayed remarkable resilience in the face of the polar vortex as well as higher utility bills and minimal employment gains.

"This reaction stands in sharp contrast to the instability in confidence associated with the government shutdown and policy stalemates in the past few years. Without another self-inflicted (Washington, D.C.) shock in the off-year election, consumers are prepared to renew the pace of spending in the months ahead, with an overall gain of 2.6 percent in 2014."
At least the weather didn't cause confidence to drop.

Speaking of weather at the end of February, JPL/NASA posted the video NASA's AIRS Sees Rivers of Rain for California.

Wet weather is again hitting drought-stricken California as the second and larger of two back-to-back storms makes its way ashore. The storms are part of an atmospheric river, a narrow channel of concentrated moisture in the atmosphere connecting tropical air with colder, drier regions around Earth's middle latitudes. The storm that arrived on Feb. 26, 2014, and the one about to hit, are contained within the "Pineapple Express," an atmospheric river that extends from the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii to the Pacific coast of North America, where it often brings heavy precipitation. This next storm is expect to be the largest rain producer in Southern California in three years.
Count this as the California drought update for the week.