Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Leap second today

I made the following program note in the middle of A drink for Father's Day on the Summer Solstice.
Normally, today is called "the longest day of the year."  That isn't strictly true.
While we say longest “day” in regards to Sunday, the 24-hour period known as a day won’t be any longer.

The longest actual “day” or 24-hour period of the year will actually be June 30th, during the leap second.  A full second has to be added to clocks to keep everything (atomic clocks, etc.) in synch with earth’s slowing rotation.  That’s truly the longest “day” for a while.
I'll see if I remember that factoid for the final entry of June.
I remembered!  Now follow over the jump for videos from TomoNews US and HBO's Last Week Tonight about tonight's leap second.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Driving update for June: Dez, plus bonus gas prices

Dez turned over 47,000 miles on Saturday, which means it's time for another driving update.  The previous update was on April 11, 77 days earlier, so my wife and I drove Dez an average of 12.99 miles per day and 396.10 miles per standard month of 30.5 days.  That's much less than the 16.39 miles per day and exactly 500 miles per standard month of 30.5 days we drove the car last time, but more than the 11.63 miles/day or 354.7 miles/month between Dez turning over 45,000 miles and 46,000.  Some of the return trip from Mount Pleasant contributed, but the higher baseline since we moved to a more car-dependent neighborhood remains.  Speaking of which, Ruby should turn over 92,000 miles next month.  Stay tuned for an update on her.

While my wife and I drove Dez less than during the previous update, the higher baseline shows that we're still contributing to the increased driving by Americans that has occurred since gas prices fell.  Bill McBride at Calculated Risk shared the latest statistics last Thursday in DOT: Vehicle Miles Driven increased 3.9% year-over-year in April, Rolling 12 Months at All Time High.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:
Travel on all roads and streets changed by 3.9% (10.2 billion vehicle miles) for April 2015 as compared with April 2014.

Travel for the month is estimated to be 267.9 billion vehicle miles.

The seasonally adjusted vehicle miles traveled for April 2015 is 262.4 billion miles, a 3.7% (9.5 billion vehicle miles) increase over April 2014.
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven to remove the seasonal factors.

Both McBride and I attribute the increased driving to lower gas prices.
In April 2015, gasoline averaged of $2.56 per gallon according to the EIA.  That was down significantly from April 2014 when prices averaged $3.74 per gallon.
The increased miles driven will probably cause more traffic deaths, which will prevent the prediction in The Atlantic that 2015 will be the first year since statistics have been kept that gun deaths will exceed automobile deaths in the U.S.  That's a topic for another entry.  Follow over the jump for the latest on gas prices.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

'Falling Skies' vs. 'Defiance' for the final season premiere of 'Falling Skies'

I telegraphed the subject of today's post in the conclusion of 'The Last Ship' returns and other summer TV fare.
I'll do the same for "Falling Skies" and "Defiance" next week, when I'll elaborate on what I wrote in the footnote to Detroit fireworks show continues for yet another year.
The first season of "Defiance" reminded me of "Babylon 5," except on Earth.  The second season so far confirms that impression.  "Falling Skies" looks like "The Walking Dead" with aliens instead of zombies and other people as the antagonists and allies.  Given that I've mentioned "Babylon 5" only once until now, and that in passing, while I've mentioned "The Walking Dead" in at least nine entries so far, it should come as no surprise that I like "Falling Skies" more.
Stay tuned.
Despite the different inspirations for the two alien invasion series, the two shows followed common paths last season.  Both "Falling Skies" and "Defiance" introduced two tropes about controlling conquered populations, secular totalitarianism and religion in the form of a false Messiah.  In a further similarity, both shows had the daughter of the male lead as the false Messiah.  Furthermore, the fathers concluded the seasons by redeeming their daughters.  I think these are the kinds of coincidences that strike me as the result of something in the culture that both are responding to.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the essay along with a preview of the final season of "Falling Skies."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Good news from the Supreme Court this week

Yesterday's ruling to overturn bans on same-sex marriage was the culmination of a legal battle that began with A song for marriage equality in Michigan and continued through Another victory for marriage equality, Another good day for marriage equality in Michigan, and U.S. Supreme Court to hear Michigan marriage equality case.  It made one of the two predictions I made in Meanwhile, at the bottom of the ballot come true.
Two years ago, I told one of my students that there would be two changes in his lifetime propelled by his generation--marijuana legalization and marriage equality.
One down, one to go.

The other major decision this week was the final defeat of King vs. Burwell, which preserved the Affordable Care Act.  That's also good news, the likes of which hasn't been seen since I posted Reaction to the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act three years ago.

For those of my readers who like the decisions, I offer Professor Farnsworth saying Good News Everyone, which I first featured in Farnsworth video meme.

For those who don't, here's a Free E-Card.

More good news happened this week outside the Supreme Court, which Infidel753 summarized with pictures in It's been a good week.  I agree.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Univision to Trump: "You're Fired!"

I promised "an entire post of recycled comments about Trump as Penguin for President" at the end of Trump combs in second in New Hampshire poll; hilarity ensues.  Those will have to wait, as Univision Dumps Miss USA Over Trump Comments.  Wotchit News reports.

A Univision network is dropping the Miss USA pageant and the company says it will cut all business ties with Donald Trump in a spiraling controversy over comments the Republican presidential candidate made recently about Mexican immigrants. Univision said Thursday it would pull the plug on its Spanish-language coverage of the pageant July 12 by its UniMas network. It also has severed its business relationship with the Miss Universe Organization, which produces the Miss USA pageant, due to what it called "insulting remarks about Mexican immigrants" by Trump, a part owner of Miss Universe.
Shorter Univision, "Trump, you're fired!"

That's not all, as Wotchit News also passed along NBC Mulls Whether to Air Miss USA Pageant.

A source tells The Hollywood Reporter that NBC is evaluating its commitment to the upcoming Miss USA pageant hours after Univision's decision to drop the program over comments made by Donald Trump. Preparation is already underway for the live event, which is set to broadcast from Baton Rouge, La., on July 12. NBC and Univision have aired the Miss USA pageant for the past 12 years. The Miss Universe Organization, which presents the Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe pageants, is a joint venture between Trump and NBCUniversal that dates back to 2002. NBCUniversal currently has a five-year, $13.5 million contract with Trump.
I doubt NBC will stop showing "Miss USA" but if they do, Trump might lose "Celebrity Apprentice," too.

Follow over the jump for Trump's response.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Trump combs in second in New Hampshire poll; hilarity ensues

It's been an interesting week since I wrote Trump is Penguin for President.   I linked to the entry over at We Hunted the Mammoth, where I compared trump to the equivalent candidate in 2012.
@Pandapool: Trump is running for president.
I am unsure if that is hilarious or frightening yet.

I'm on the side of hilarious.  For starters, my wife observed that Trump's announcement reminded her of Penguin running for Mayor of Gotham city.  I agree.  Both Trump and Penguin are cartoons of a poor person's idea of what a rich person is like.  It's just that Trump actually exists in real life.

As for future comic potential, I'm optimistic that Trump will provide as much material as Herman Cain and his Plan 999 from Outer Space did in 2011 and 2012.
So far, he has. Check out Trump in CNN's Trump's New Hampshire surprise.

John King, Nia-Malika Henderson and Robert Costa discuss the latest N.H. poll that puts Donald Trump as the runner-up for the Republican primary.
I doubt what Trump said about Jeb! is true, but it is funny.

For a more serious take, here's an analysis of the poll results from MSNBC: Donald Trump Ranks 2nd In NH Poll. Why?

Donald Trump is just behind Jeb Bush in New Hampshire, according to a new Suffolk University poll. The Morning Joe panel discusses.
The conventional wisdom is that Trump isn't winning the nomination, although he is having an effect, especially on Walker and Rubio.  Follow over the jump for more on Trump.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I missed World Giraffe Day on Sunday

In addition to Sunday being both Father's Day and the Summer Solstice, it was world Giraffe Day, as Michigan State University pointed out in yesterday's That's the spirit.
Speaking of giraffes, did you know last Sunday was not just Father’s Day but World Giraffe Day? Who knew there was such a thing? It was started by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to celebrate the longest-necked animal on the longest day of the year and to bring awareness to the challenges they face in the wild.
Mongabay has more in Happy World Giraffe Day 2015.
World Giraffe Day was started in 2014 by the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to raise awareness about the animal with the longest neck. June 21st was selected because it is the longest day (Northern Hemisphere) and longest night (Southern Hemisphere) of the year.

While the giraffe is instantly recognizable to most people, few know that wild giraffes are in dire straights: since 1999 Africa's giraffe population has plummeted from 140,000 to about 80,000. That's less than a sixth of the wild elephant population.
Those numbers remind me that humans causing a sixth mass extinction has been in the news this week.  I'll get to that later.  Right now, I'll leave my readers with Planet Experts Presents: World Giraffe Day 2015.

In this video produced by Planet Expert Social Media Manager Ben Ellenbecker, we present the fearsome, frolicsome and adorable features of the tallest mammal on Earth, the giraffe. Visit Planet Experts and the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to learn more.
A belated happy World Giraffe Day to all my readers while I'm in another "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tornadoes upstage fireworks in Michigan

The story I was expecting to write about today was another variation on Detroit fireworks show continues for yet another year.  It turns out nature had other plans, as WXYZ reported Detroit fireworks start time moved up one hour because of the approaching storm.

The start time for the Detroit fireworks has been moved up one hour because of incoming weather.
The show went on, as Detroit demands its entertainment, but the weather was worse than expected.  Follow over the jump for details.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pope Francis and Congressional Climate Message Day

The big news from last week that I held off on commenting until today was Pope Francis urges people to combat climate change.  WOOD-TV reports.

Carl Apple of the Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids talks about Pope Francis' recent stance on climate change.
I'm not surprised, as one of the answers to Where the Catholic Church stands on science and the environment, was that Francis's first act as Pope was to say that Catholics should protect the environment, the weak, and the poor.  I liked that message.  If you do, too, then today is your opportunity to do something about the environment, as it's Congressional Climate Message Day.  Here is a letter to the editor of the Fresno Bee describing today's action.
Are you concerned about climate change but don’t know what you can do about it?

On June 23, Citizens’ Climate Lobby will send almost 900 volunteers to Capitol Hill to lobby for legislation to put a price on carbon pollution. You can support them by letting your members of Congress know that you want them to take action on climate change.

On June 22, the day before CCL lobbies on the Hill, there will be a Congressional Climate Message Day (online link: citizensclimatelobby.org/ccmd/). Constituents will contact their members of Congress by phone and social media to register their support for legislation that will put a price on carbon. For information about this proposed legislation, go to citizensclimatelobby.org. A Regional Economic Models Inc. (online link: www.remi.com) study shows that pricing carbon would reduce carbon emissions, save lives, create jobs and increase the GDP.

Please mark your calendars for June 22 to take this action. To find your representatives and their contact information, go to congress.gov/members. The few minutes it takes to call, tweet or text your representatives will have a huge impact in our efforts to fight climate change.
Do it, even if the message will get the same response that Pope Francis received.  As the Associated Press reported, Republicans Shrug Off Pope's Climate Message.

Congressional Republicans are shrugging off Pope Francis' call for urgent action on climate change and dismissing his attempt to frame global warming as a moral issue.
I remember when the liberals in the church were the ones being called "Cafeteria Catholics."  The conservatives are now just as guilty, if not more so.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

'The Last Ship' returns and other summer TV fare

If my readers have been counting, I promised three times that I would blog about the season premiere of "The Last Ship" tonight.  I'm making good on that promise, which I first made in the footnote to Razzies and Robocop this past February.
My wife and I are watching "The Last Ship." When I heard it was a Michael Bay show, I knew to expect a lot of action and things being blown up. I have not [been] disappointed.
Some Sunday this summer, I'm going to have to write about "The Last Ship," which is an OK post-apocalyptic drama that probably will seem more relevant and urgent after last year's Ebola epidemic.  For example, in a case of life imitating art, one of the Ebola treatments looked very similar to a treatment for the disease in the TV show.  That's not something I expect out of a Michael Bay production.
In the TV show, the ship's doctor transfuses blood from an immune person picked up during the voyage to the ship's crew who were infected in hopes of transferring her immunity to them.  That's what Scientific American described last summer in Blood Transfusions from Survivors Best Way to Fight Ebola.
Treating Ebola patients with blood transfusions from survivors of the disease should be the immediate priority among all the experimental therapies under consideration for this outbreak, World Health Organization (WHO) experts said Friday after reviewing the status of all the potential experimental therapies and vaccines. “We agreed that whole-blood therapies and convalescent serum may be used to treat Ebola virus disease and that all efforts must be invested into helping affected countries use them safely,” Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general for health systems and innovation at WHO told reporters. “This is something that would be ready near term.” None of the considered Ebola regimes have yet been adequately tested in humans.

Because survivors of an Ebola infection would typically have produced effective antibodies against the virus (otherwise they wouldn't have survived), transfusions of their blood into a newly infected individual may help that person survive the often fatal disease. Such blood preparations, drawn from volunteers, could be ready before the end of 2014, according to preliminary WHO estimates put out earlier this week. “We have to change the sense that there is no hope in this situation to a realistic hope,” Kieny said during a press conference Friday. She has called for other countries to help affected west African nations to build their capacity to safely do the blood drawing and preparation for what needs to be reinfused into the patients.
A Google search found that this treatment had been proposed back in 1999.  In that case, it looks less like a case of life imitating art, which it would seem to the uninformed, and more an example of a scriptwriter doing his or her homework.  Given how many examples TV Tropes lists of the show's various kinds of artistic license, I'm pleasantly surprised.  Here's to the show providing more victories of sense over sensation, although given that Michael Bay prefers sensation, I'm only guardedly optimistic.  Given the two trailers below, that's probably the right expectation to have.

When a global pandemic wipes out eighty percent of the planet's population, the crew of a lone naval destroyer must find a way to pull humanity from the brink of extinction.
Follow over the jump for more on this show and the rest of this summer's post-apocalyptic TV offerings, including the surprising addition of "Wayward Pines" to the genre.

A drink for Father's Day on the Summer Solstice

Today is both Father's Day and the Summer Solstice.  CBS in San Francisco reports on the coincidence of the two events in Summer Solstice, Father’s Day 2015 Align To Give Dads Sunniest Day Of Year.
The sunniest day of the year happens to fall on Father’s Day 2015, as the summer solstice occurs Sunday, June 21st, marking the astronomical and meteorological beginning of summer.
Various cultures from Swedish, Norse, Finnish, French, Spanish, Pagan, ancient British, and to even Catholics celebrating  St. John the Baptist’s day all mark the solstice in various ways, but key to many is appreciating the sun as its final direct rays blink out at the horizon around 8:30 p.m.
It will be more like 10 P.M. here in Michigan, but I digress.

Normally, today is called "the longest day of the year."  That isn't strictly true.
While we say longest “day” in regards to Sunday, the 24-hour period known as a day won’t be any longer.

The longest actual “day” or 24-hour period of the year will actually be June 30th, during the leap second.  A full second has to be added to clocks to keep everything (atomic clocks, etc.) in synch with earth’s slowing rotation.  That’s truly the longest “day” for a while.
I'll see if I remember that factoid for the final entry of June.

Enough science.  Follow over the jump as Dad gets a drink.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The full meme about cougars and Twinkies includes bacon

Two years ago, I posted A macro about Twinkies and cougars.  In the process of finding a new source for the image, I discovered the one I used was only half of the meme.  Here's all of it with a better punch line and a proposal for action.

I'm not sure this counts as the "something more serious" I mused about attempting today in Professor Farnsworth and Grumpy Cat agree about yesterday, but it will have to do.  Stay tuned for entries about the summer solstice, Fathers Day, and "The Last Ship" for the Sunday entertainment feature.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Professor Farnsworth and Grumpy Cat agree about yesterday

After Sandy Hook, all I could muster that day was This week deserves Grumpy Cat.  Yesterday's mass shooting is provoking a similar reaction from me, one that I'm outsourcing to Professor Farnsworth.

See more on Know Your Meme

For good measure, here's Grumpy Cat's score for the week.

I'll see if I can rouse myself out of my "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood to post something more serious. Don't count on it tomorrow or Sunday, as this weekend features the summer solstice, Fathers Day, and the Sunday entertainment entry, which will be on the return of "The Last Ship," among other things.  Maybe Monday, in time to share with Kunstler's readers.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Vladimir Putin, Macho Man

There must be something in the air the past two weeks.  First, I write about real paid government disinformation agents, and they're Putin's hackers and trolls.  Then, Kunstler posts My comment on Enter Jeb and Hil on Monday in which Putin and Ukraine make a cameo.  Yesterday, Greer published An Affirming Flame in which Putin and Russia play a major supporting part.  This morning, a friend of mine shared the image below with me on Facebook.  Who am I to ignore what the universe is telling me?

In the spirit of Putin the brony on his little pony and Vladimir Putin, the Most Interesting Man in the World, I present Vladimir Putin as every member of The Village People.

I have just the song for this occasion, The Village People singing Macho Man.

Vladimir Putin, Macho Man.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An 'Out of This World' drum corps show

The competitive junior drum corps season begins tonight in Indianapolis.  To mark the occasion, I'm sharing the show from last year with the strongest science-fiction theme, Carolina Crown, who performed "Out of this World."  If the group looks familiar, it's because they were the stars of Carolina Crown wins with Einstein on the Beach, which I posted after they won the DCI Championship in 2013.

First, here's a full show from a rehearsal early in the season, Carolina Crown 2014 - Out of This World - Full Show.

This video is a full run-through of Carolina Crown's 2014 show, Out of This World. This was recorded June 26, 2014 in Muncie, Indiana at Scheumann Stadium at Ball State University.
Next, the official promo clip from Drum Corps International, 2014 Carolina Crown - Out of This World.

This show reminds me that the end of spaceflight is a sign of the end of progress, but at least we're still dreaming about it in our art.

Enough looking back.  Follow over the jump for this year's music.

Trump is Penguin for President

My wife watched Donald Trump's announcement that he was running for the Republican nomination for President yesterday and remarked that he reminded her of The Penguin running for Mayor of Gotham City.  Don't just take my word for it.  See for yourself.  First, watch Batman vs. The Penguin: The Debate.

Obviously, the Penguin is a Republican.

Now, Donald Trump's best lines during his 2016 speech from CNN.

Donald Trump announced he is running for president; here are some of the best lines from his speech.
I agree with my wife.  Trump is indeed a cartoonish figure.  One of the guests on "Hardball" called him a working stiff's idea of how a rich man should look and act.  That's right up there with Ezra Klein and Paul Krugman calling Newt Gingrich "a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like."

And, yes, The Penguin is a Republican.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Drinks to celebrate 'Jurassic World's box office records

I promised an update in passing in 'Jurassic World' devours competition at the box office.
Deadline Hollywood shared this bit of gossip: "Some B.O. pundits say that by the time Sunday is called, JW could actually rip Avengers‘ leotards off and become the reigning all-time U.S. opening champ."  I'll check back in a couple of days to see if that comes true.
I didn't even have to wait that long, as Reuters reported yesterday 'Jurassic World' scores biggest box office opening in history.
Dinosaurs stomped to a box office record over the weekend as "Jurassic World" notched the biggest movie debut in history, with a global total of $524.1 million, Universal Pictures said on Monday.

"Jurassic World," which reboots the dormant "Jurassic Park" franchise nearly 15 years after the first trilogy ended, grossed $208.8 million at the North American box office, topping the $207.4 million record set by "Avengers" in 2012.

At the international box office, "Jurassic World" opened to $315.3 million, exceeding the previous $314 million record set by "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" in 2011.
Time to combine this update with my promise to post "drink recipes for two of the weekend's top five at the box office."  Follow over the jump for "Jurassic World" drink recipes from Tipsy Bartender and elsewhere.

Monday, June 15, 2015

'Jurassic World' devours competition at the box office

I concluded Presenting the colors for Flag Day by telling my readers "Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry, which will be about how 'Jurassic World' dominated the weekend box office."  Dominate it did, as Variety reported via Reuters in 'Jurassic World' Rumbles to Record Setting $204.6 Million Opening.
Dinosaurs rule the earth again after "Jurassic World" debuted to a dominant $204.6 million at the domestic box office this weekend.
Going into the weekend, it was clear that "Jurassic World" was shaping up to be a box office colossus, but no one was even close to predicting the scale of the opening. Most projections were in the $125 million to $135 million range.

Instead, "Jurassic World" scored the year's biggest bow, just ahead of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" and its formidable $191.3 million opening last May. It ranks behind 2012's "Marvel's The Avengers" and its $207.4 million debut on the all-time list of openings. From there, "Jurassic World" stomped across the record books, scoring the third biggest opening day ever, with $82.8 million and shattering all June high-water marks for opening weekend, biggest opening day and all-time biggest PG-13 launch.
That's the the U.S. box office.  Business Insider reported "In China, the four-day total for the film is at $73.6 million."  That's just China.  When the rest of the world was added in, Entertainment Weekly's headlead screamed Jurassic World roars to biggest global opening of all time.
Back in 1993, Jurassic Park became the first film ever to open to more than $50 million. Now, Jurassic World has brought us back to Isla Nublar and broken a few box office records of its own: Chris Pratt and the leaping lizards earned $511.8 million worldwide, becoming the first movie ever to make more than $500 million in a weekend.
Furthermore, Deadline Hollywood shared this bit of gossip: "Some B.O. pundits say that by the time Sunday is called, JW could actually rip Avengers‘ leotards off and become the reigning all-time U.S. opening champ."  I'll check back in a couple of days to see if that comes true.

Back to Variety, which noted an important segment of the box office.
"Jurassic World" was a juggernaut when it came to premium formats. The sequel did 48% of its domestic opening weekend gross on 3D screens, and set an Imax record with a stateside debut of $20.6 million.
All of this makes me optimistic that the upcoming Star Wars movie will do this well when it opens the week before Christmas.

Follow over the jump for how the rest of the major movies performed along with more on "Jurassic World."

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Presenting the colors for Flag Day

A spammer left a comment on A drum corps 4th of July this morning, which prompted me to wish him a Happy Flag Day.  That reminded me that I should celebrate this patriotic holiday as well.  Since I like giving a drum corps spin on holidays, I should do it for this one as well.

On that note, I give my readers American Drum and Bugle Corps Flag Presentations Old School Style by Roy Perez.

The Drum and Bugle Corps of the early years sponsored and judged by the American Legion or VFW had to present the American Flag in a special "Color-Pre" in the marching field show. Watch and listen to the roar of applause of the crowds as the Anaheim Kingsmen 2007 Alumni and Chicago Royal Airs 2002 Alumni present the Color Pre of years past Drum Corps Old School Style, along with the Casper Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps, Stockton Commodores Drum and Bugle Corps, Argonne Rebels Drum and Bugle Corps, Garfield Cadets Drum and Bugle Corps of the 1960's and 1970's.
Also the 1970 27th Lancers.

For those of my readers who like a more modern corps, I'm sharing Troopers 2014 Closer - "America The Beautiful" while it lasts.  It may not be here for July 4th.  If it is, I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle.

Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps from Casper, Wyoming (2014)
"A People's House"
Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry, which will be about how "Jurassic World" dominated the weekend box office.

Monthly meta for May 2015

It's long past time for the monthly meta.  Let's begin by reviewing my goals for May 2015.
The blog received 11,820 page views during May 2014.  To beat that, I've set a minimum goal of 382 page views per day for 11,842 page views during May.  I've also set a medium goal of 387 views per day to get to 12,000 and 400 per day for a five percent increase over last year.
I exceeded all my goals for last month, as May 2015 had 13,752 page views.  Not only was this a record for May. It's also the highest number of page views for a 31-day month and the second highest page views for any month behind only April 2015, which saw 14,278.  That translated into 443.61 page views per day.  I managed to achieve the high number of page views while posting 39 entries, less than my self-imposed goal of 44.  That translated into 352.62 page views per entry.  While down from April's 374.74 page views per entry, it's still a lot more than the average of 276.28 page views per post during the fourth year of this blog.  The pace of readership is still up over last year.

Speaking of which, the blog passed 450,000 total page views on May 29, 2015.  This means it's been 116 days since it passed 400,000 page views on February 2, 2015.  If the rate of page views maintains this pace, the blog will pass 500,000 by the last week of September.  That's a month ahead of my prediction that this milestone would be reached by the last week of October.  I'm not betting on the earlier date, but at least I'm more confident I won't overshoot the expected time frame of no later than the week after Halloween.

On another note, the previous monthly meta entry attracted a comment mocking me for both not mentioning comments as part of my monthly summary and not getting a lot of comments in the first place.  Ironically enough, last month had the most comments per month this year so far with 24.  That was the most since last November, which had 32.  I'll celebrate by posting the two entries with the most comments last month.  The first was "Grilling over lava for Memorial Day," which earned 4 comments with only 79 page views.  The second was "'Tomorrowland'--optimism isn't selling as well as dystopia at the box office," also with 4 comments.  It briefly popped into the default top ten for the month with 107 page views, 109 according to the raw counter.

Follow over the jump for the top fifteen, which consists of the top ten for the month as of 11:59 PM EDT on May 31st plus five honorable mentions, as well as my goals for June.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Second Meijer opens in Detroit

Two years ago, I marked the opening of the first Meijer in Detroit and posted videos of its opening.  Thursday, a second Meijer opened in the city in the Brightmoor-Redford neighborhood on the site of the former Redford High School.  WXYZ reports in Meijer's second supercenter opens in Detroit.

It's time to be a good environmentalist and recycle.
Not only will Meijer take care of the residents of the neighborhoods of Detroit, it has the potential to bring in people from the near suburbs as well as catch people on their way out of the city.  Not only will it bring jobs and food, it has the potential to bring money into the city from outside.  Time to break out Professor Farnsworth.

I haven't used him since November.  It's been too long.

Stay tuned for the monthly meta and the Sunday entertainment entry, along with updates on the regional water authority and oil development in Detroit's suburbs.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gas prices jump as summer driving season begins in earnest

Before I relate my observations, I'm letting WOOD-TV set the stage in Summer gas spike: Gas prices up 30 cents or more.

Gas prices have gone up at least 30 cents around West Michigan over the past few days-- in some locations, it went up as much as 50 cents.
The same price spike hit Metro Detroit yesterday.  On Wednesday, the station I pass on my way to work was selling regular for $2.88, just as I had reported in Gas up in some neighborhoods as OPEC decides to keep pumping.  Yesterday, it had raised its price to $2.98.  When I drove to the old neighborhood for what might be the last time until September, the corner station, which had been at $2.77, was selling regular for $2.99, while the two open stations down the street had raised their prices from $2.69 to $2.76.

Maybe I should have bought gas yesterday, as Gas Buddy shows that the Detroit average has risen from $2.76 to $2.93 over the past week, making the two stations down the street underpriced relative to the market.  They would be right on target for the U.S. average of $2.80.  Recent commodity prices support this spike weakly, as Oil-Price.Net lists yesterday's closing prices for WTI at $60.77, Brent at $65.11, and RBOB at $2.13.  All are up from last week, when WTI sold for $59.13, Brent closed at $63.31, and RBOB was at $2.03.  However, all of these futures closed down today with WTI at $59.96, Brent at $63.87, and RBOB at $2.12.  Oil is near where it was last week and still lower than it was a month ago, but the wholesale price of gasoline is up a dime.  So long as RBOB is up, then the price at the pump will be, too.

Putin's hackers and agents

I left off my examination of cyberwar by America's competitors and adversaries at WXYZ finds local angle on data breach.
I promised reports on cyberwarfare as waged by ISIS AKA The Sith Jihad, China, and Russia in the footnote to National Donut Day 2015.  I took care of the first in Sith Jihad's use of social media a double-edged sword.  Now it's time to see how the junior partner in The CoDominion treats its senior partner.
I should also examine American cyber-snooping in the wake of the passing of the USA Freedom Act--after I write about the Russians.
It's time to follow through with that promise.

Following my preference for "if it move, it leads," I begin with this story from Wotchit News, Experts Say Russians May Have Posed As ISIS To Hack French TV Channel.

Cybersecurity experts now believe that the attack on France’s TV5Monde, which shut down all television broadcasts for 18 hours, was likely carried out by Russian hackers. According to cybersecurity experts who have examined the attack, the Russian hacker group known as AT28 posing as the ISIS “Cyber Caliphate” were likely behind the hack of France’s TV5Monde television channel.
U.S.-based security firm FireEye observed similarities in the infrastructure used by the Russian group and the one involved in the TV5Monde attack.
I could stop here, as this video closed a circle by tying Russia to The Sith Jihad.  I won't.  Follow over the jump for a story about the largest nest of Agents I've ever read about.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Road funding bill passes Michigan House

I told my readers to expect "updates on this story as they develop" at the end of Road funding bill passes Michigan House committee.  It's time for an update from WXYZ, which reported State House approves package of bills to increase road funding.

The Michigan House of Representatives approved a package of bills that aims to put more than $1 billion toward repairing the roads. The package consists of House Bills 4505-4616.
MLive has more in Michigan House approves $1.1B roads plan, votes to eliminate Earned Income Tax Credit.
Michigan roads would see an influx of cash, but low-income workers would lose a popular tax credit, under a plan approved Wednesday in the Republican-led state House.

The 12-bill package, advanced to the Senate in a series of mostly-narrow votes, is projected to pump $1.1 billion a year into roads by 2019 without a major hike in sales or gas taxes.

The plan is largely reliant on existing state revenue, eventually dedicating $792 million a year in general fund money to roads while diverting $134 million in funding for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
All of that made it into the WXYZ report, but I seem to have missed this next part.
The plan would also generate some new revenue, in part, by eliminating the Michigan version of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low and middle-income workers, saving the state upwards of $115 million a year.

Democrats blasted several parts of the plan, saving their harshest criticism for the EITC elimination bill, which was narrowly approved in a 57-52 vote, with a handful of Republicans joining them in opposition.
Avoiding this is one of the reasons why I voted for Proposal 1 last month.  That it happened in the wake of its failure shows that I was still right to do so, even if I was on the losing side of the largest defeat of a state ballot measure in Michigan history.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Bird flu in Michigan

I'm going to continue the coverage of epidemics that started with yesterday's MERS outbreak in South Korea by examining another outbreak in the news, bird flu.  That arrived in Michigan this week as Wotchit News reported in U.S. Bird Flu Outbreak Reaches Michigan.

Michigan on Monday said Canadian geese in the state tested positive for a lethal strain of bird flu, bringing the worst outbreak of the disease in U.S. history to a 21st state. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, three young geese collected in Sterling Heights, Michigan, about 20 miles north of Detroit, were infected with the highly pathogenic H5N2 flu strain. Director Keith Creagh said the state is now focusing on preventing the spread of the disease to poultry. According to the department, Michigan is the 21st state to confirm a case of bird flu since late 2014 and the sixth to detect it only in wild or free-ranging birds.
Another Wotchit News clip on the same story included these chilling details.
Nationwide, more than 46 million chickens and turkeys have been killed by the disease or culled to prevent its spread. Most are in Iowa, the top U.S. egg-producing state, and Minnesota, the nation's top turkey-producing state.
Follow over the jump for the responses to this discovery.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

MERS outbreak in South Korea

As I have done every summer for the past four years, I'm teaching Biology II (Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ecology).  I began the biodiversity part last week with the origin of life and then launched into viruses yesterday.  Since I know my audience (the class is full of people who want to work in the medical field as doctors, dentists, and veterinarians), I emphasized disease-causing viruses, especially those in the news.  At the end of the lecture, I offered my students a choice between watching a video about either Ebola or MERS as examples of emerging diseases.  They voted for MERS and got this video from DNews added last week: Should You Be Worried About MERS?

There is currently a MERS outbreak in South Korea that has quarantined thousands. What is MERS?
That video was posted on Saturday.  Since then, the number of deaths has doubled.  TomoNewsUS has the story in MERS outbreak in South Korea: 6 dead, 87 infected, 2,300 under quarantine- TomoNews.

SEOUL — Some 2,300 people have been quarantined in South Korea to prevent the further spread of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, which has already killed six people and infected at least 87.
My students were suitably impressed.  Just the same, Ebola, this isn't.  Instead, MERS acts like a really nasty flu.  That's enough to warrant coverage here, as I followed the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 flu seasons pretty closely.  Here's to South Korea getting the outbreak under control before it spreads out of the country.

Monday, June 8, 2015

World Oceans Day 2015

Today is World Oceans Day, which I apparently last observed in 2013.  To celebrate the day this year, I'm sharing Science Photo Library's World Oceans Day 2015.

8th June is World Oceans Day, an annual event recognised by the United Nations. The theme for 2015 is “Healthy Oceans, Healthy Planet”, and to mark the occasion we’ve produced this reel highlighting the beauty and diversity of healthy oceans around the world, from the poles to the tropical reefs. Sit back and enjoy the amazing variety of life on our blue planet.
Happy World Oceans Day!

WXYZ finds local angle on data breach

I promised reports on cyberwarfare as waged by ISIS AKA The Sith Jihad, China, and Russia in the footnote to National Donut Day 2015.  I took care of the first in Sith Jihad's use of social media a double-edged sword.  Now it's time to see how the junior partner in The CoDominion treats its senior partner.  WXYZ found the local angle to the story, beginning with Hackers target US government.

Hackers reportedly from China have targeted nearly every branch of the US government.
Follow over the jump for China's response as well as what you can do about cybercrime.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Critics' Choice TV Awards winners for speculative fiction

For this Sunday entertainment entry, I'm ignoring both the box office receipts for the weekend and the top entertainment story of the day, the Tony Awards,* to look at the winners of 2015 Critics' Choice Awards for speculative fiction.

Of the speculative fiction shows that I mentioned, the only one that won was the one I totally dissed.
Last and probably least, the reality competition shows.
• The Amazing Race (CBS)
• America’s Got Talent (NBC)
• Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
• Face Off (Syfy)
• Master Chef Junior (FOX)
• The Voice (NBC)
The defending winner, Shark Tank, didn't get renominated.  The Amazing Race and The Voice are returning nominees, but I wouldn't be surprised if Dancing With the Stars wins.  As for Face Off, it should just be happy it was nominated.
Much to the surprise of myself and a lot of others, Face Off won.

Executive producer Dwight Smith accepts the award for Best Reality Competition Series for "Face Off," presented by Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, at the 5th Annual Critics' Choice TV Awards, May 2015.
Was I ever wrong.  That's OK, I'm glad to have missed this prediction.

It turns out there were two categories that I didn't list because they weren't listed in the press release I quoted, Most Bingeworthy and Most Exciting New Series.  Follow over the jump for the nominees and winners in each; speculative fiction did well in both.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sith Jihad's use of social media a double-edged sword

In the footnote to National Donut Day 2015, I told my readers to stay tuned for "my weekly gas price post with bonus coverage of the OPEC meeting, a special cyberwar report covering China, Russia, and The Sith Jihad, and the monthly meta."  While I took care of the first with Gas up in some neighborhoods as OPEC decides to keep pumping, I have so much material for the second that I decided to split it up into three parts, beginning with the online operations of ISIS AKA The Sith Jihad.  I begin with a 21st Century example of "loose lips sink ships" as CNN reports 'Moron' posts selfie, gives away ISIS location.

Social media revealed the location of an ISIS compound. Gen. Hawk Carlisle explains what happened next.
As Rick Perry would say, "Oops."

Follow over the jump for two more videos from CNN on The Sith Jihad's use of social media.

Gas up in some neighborhoods as OPEC decides to keep pumping

The big energy news today is that OPEC agrees to keep pumping as oil glut fears persist.  I'll get to that news over the jump.  In the meantime, indulge me as I bury the lede to concentrate on the local price at the pump.

Near the end of Gas prices up after Memorial Day weekend, I wrote "for my near-term predictions, I'm not forecasting any major price increases based on the retail price environment and the commodity futures."  The answer to that was both yes and no.  It was yes for the stations in my old neighborhood.  Last week, "the old corner station was selling regular for $2.73, while the two open stations down the street were undercutting it at $2.69."  Yesterday, the corner station was at $2.77, while the two open stations down the street were still at $2.69.  It was no for the most convenient station on the way into work, which was advertising regular at $2.78 last week.  Earlier this week, the same grade of gasoline was $2.88.  Meanwhile, stations that are on my way home because of construction are selling regular at $2.75.  I'll be sure to buy my gas at one of them from now on if I'm not in my old neighborhood.

Gas Buddy shows that the Detroit average has risen from $2.70 to $2.76 over the past week, so the stations in my old neighborhood are now priced correctly according to their historical patterns, something that happened because they stayed put.  They have three more cents of rise in the Detroit average until they become underpriced.  As for the commodity prices, Oil-Price.Net lists yesterday's closing prices for WTI at $59.13, Brent at $63.31, and RBOB at $2.03.  All are up from last week, when WTI sold for $57.68, Brent closed at $62.58, and RBOB was at $1.99.  Still, all three are cheaper than three weeks ago, when the comparable prices were $60.75 for WTI, $66.86 for Brent, and $2.04 for RBOB.  That last comparison suggests that the fundamentals are not supporting any more than the usual seasonal rise in prices, and the news supports that.  Follow over the jump for stories from Reuters.

Friday, June 5, 2015

National Donut Day 2015

As I wrote in Detroit celebrates National Pancake Day 2015, I'm a sucker for holidays, even fake ones, especially if they involve food.  I'm even more of a pushover when I'm in an "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood.  I'm in one of those moods, and today is one of those fake food holidays, so I'm putting off three serious entries I'm working on* and letting ABC News explain National Donut Day.

For National Donut Day, ABC’s Tina Trinh visits Underwest Donuts for some gourmet desserts.
That was fun, but there is a serious purpose to the holiday as shown in WOOD TV8 & National Donut Day.

WOOD TV8 Recognized on National Donut Day from the Salvation Army.
On a different serious note, I have a family connection to the invention of the donut, even if it's more legendary than historical.  Follow over the jump for the story.

Road funding bill passes Michigan House committee

I updated my readers on one of the topics from Michigan transportation news from WXYZ in WXYZ follows up on public transit.  Now it's time to examine the latest in the other subject from that entry, road funding.  Both WOOD-TV and WXYZ posted videos on the story earlier this week and both display the strengths and weaknesses of each station's style of coverage.

WOOD-TV was heavy on analysis in the studio and interviews of lawmakers in House committee OKs state road funding package.

A legislative committee has approved a Republican-sponsored package that would shift hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for roads.
WXYZ had a lot more location shots, both file footage and man-on-the-street interviews, in State house committee approves new road funding plan.

The second video is a lot more lively, even if it isn't as informative or thoughtful as the first.  On the other hand, the first video didn't feature the voice of the people or highlight the problem using appropriate file footage.  As I wrote, both stations have their strengths and weaknesses.  At least WXYZ wasn't behind the curve on this story, the way they can be when it comes to gas prices.

As for the story itself, this news reminds me that two entries about Proposal 1 made the top ten for the entries posted during May, Proposal 1 lost: Examiner.com article, which was the tenth most viewed entry posted last month, and Examiner.com article on Proposal 1 polling, which came in seventh for page views among entries posted in May.  I'll have complete rankings later.  Stay tuned for them in the monthly meta, as well as updates on this story as they develop.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Eating bugs in Wales

It's been almost a year and a half since I last blogged about eating bugs, so when I saw ODN post a video on the topic, I thought "Why not?  It's time."  With that, I present Hungry? A pop-up resturant sells bugs and insects for lunch.

A pop-up restaurant in Cardiff sells bugs and insects for lunch.  Report by Asana Greenstreet.
I'll be sure to add this to my list of stories to gross out edify my students about the future of food.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

'San Andreas'--popular movie, bad science

I examined speculative fiction, politics, crime, and history at the 2015 Critics' Choice Awards this past Sunday not only because I enjoy awards shows and wanted to direct some attention to the genres I watch, but also because I didn't want to devote any more attention than necessary to the movie I knew would come out on top of the box office, "San Andreas."  From the trailers alone, I could tell that the movie would be full of bad science in the service of action and special effects.  If I could have gotten away with ignoring the film entirely, I would have.

Then my students started asking me about it.  I told them that the level of destruction wouldn't be that high and that the San Andreas is the wrong kind of fault with the wrong kind of motion to produce tidal waves.  I also told them to watch an ABC News video that debunked the movie.  Here it is so they can find it more easily--'San Andreas' Debunked: What the Earthquake Film Got Wrong.

Unlike in the movie, an 8.3-magnitude quake is likely the worst California could expect, a seismologist said.
There, everything I said and then some.  Thank you ABC News.

For the news about the weekend box office, follow over the jump.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Solar Impulse 2 lands in Nagoya, Japan

It's time for an update on Solar Impulse 2's round-the-world flight.  The last time I checked in, Solar Impulse 2 landed in China on Earth Day.  Yesterday, it left China, originally headed to Hawaii.  That didn't happen.  The Wall Street Journal reported last night that Solar Impulse to Land in Japan Due to Poor Weather.

A solar-powered plane attempting to fly around the world without a drop of fuel plans to make an unscheduled stop due to bad weather. Solar Impulse 2 is expected to land in Nagoya, Japan, on Monday night.
The plane arrived safely.

As for what the plane's future holds, Extreme Tech has the story.
This isn’t the end of the line for Solar Impulse 2, of course. The team is watching for another takeoff window that will allow the craft to reach Hawaii. They already waited several weeks for the last launch that didn’t work out, so it might be a while before the perfect forecast prompts a second try. After the plane successfully lands in Hawaii, it has another leg to fly that’s almost as long. The trip from Hawaii to Phoenix, New Mexico will take four days and is almost 3,000 miles.

The total journey will be over 20,000 miles when Solar Impulse 2 eventually reaches its destination in the United Arab Emirates, where the trip started several months ago. The team hopes to raise awareness of how far solar power has come with Solar Impulse 2. As long as it can complete the trip without more unscheduled stops, it might make a good case.
Good luck to the pilots and their crew.  I'll be reporting on the trip again when the plane departs for Hawaii.

Lasers and drones vs. planes, a 21st crime scene

This past weekend, I saw two stories on ABC News that the network thought made a good pairing, drones and lasers both interfering with commercial aviation over New York City.  Here's the first report, Air Scare: Lasers Pose a Safety Threat to Pilots.

3,000 laser incidents last year; Homeland Security voices concern over pointing lasers at cockpits.
That story from Friday gave a brief mention of a near-collision with a drone and made it look like it might be an isolated incident.  It turns out it wasn't, as  was made clear in Saturday morning's Drone Crosses Path of Passenger Jet Over New York City.

FAA investigates what a drone was doing so close to the LaGuardia Airport-bound flight.
It's bad enough that one of these is happening, but both at the same time is a connection New Yorkers don't need.

In other drone news, Ferndale's possible drone ban didn't happen.  The Detroit Free Press reported on April 27th, Ferndale drops proposal to make drone flying a crime.
Ferndale officials passed up the chance Monday night to keep hobbyists, professional photographers and at least one chimney sweep from flying drones in the city.

After hearing from nearly two dozen polite but incensed users of the small plastic unmanned flying machines at a City Council meeting, Ferndale officials made it clear: Their plan to make a misdemeanor out of flying a drone anywhere but in your own backyard wasn't getting off the ground.
Ferndale will wait for the FAA to set regulations.  I think that's wise.

Monday, June 1, 2015


After skipping a Nablopomo entry last month (the monthly meta didn't count), Nablopomo as the first post of the month returns.  To celebrate, here's the blurb from the email for the first time since January.
The moment between having a great idea and executing the first steps is maybe even more exciting than completing the project.

Take, for instance, a book idea. That moment when the idea comes to me, and I can't write fast enough to get it all down to when I actually sit down and write the first page is the best feeling. I'm walking around with a secret world or situation inside my head, and I love it.

And then I have to actually write the book. And that takes work. A lot of work. And then I have to sell the book and edit the book and... well... there are about 3000 steps before I get to hold my book in my hands. And while that part rocks, too, that moment when I'm readying my mind for the journey is what keeps me going so I can get to that finish line. I mean, how else do you keep sitting down at the computer to write unless you can channel into how excited you were back before you started?

That getting started period? That's what we're focusing on with this month's NaBloPoMo.

You can read more about the new NaBloPoMo theme on our opening post.
Follow over the jump for the relevant parts of that post.