Thursday, December 31, 2015 article on MSU science stories of 2015

MSU's top science stories in 2015 ranged from the global to the individual and comprised research and outreach in medicine, materials science, physics, science education, and biodiversity.
Medical research, physics, and materials science top MSU science stories of 2015
When most people think of Michigan State University this time of year, it is about the Spartans playing Alabama's Crimson Tide in the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day with the possibility of playing for the national championship afterwards.  But MSU has more to be proud of this year than football.  Michigan's Land Grant University produces a lot of research that yields practical results for residents of the Great Lakes State, the nation, and the world.

Following are the top ten science stores from MSU as chosen by Layne Cameron, Spartan Science Storyteller.  They comprise a diverse list ranging from human and animal medicine and materials science to biodiversity, physics, and science education. 

In addition to spanning a wide range of disciplines, the stories display the range of scales at which MSU research helps to improve the world.  The studies and results listed range from the global down to the local, even to the level of the individual student.
Details about each of the ten top stories at the link along with the slideshow Michigan State University's top science stories for 2015.  There is no video, but I could have included 2015 Year in Review - Michigan State University.

Take a look back at the top Michigan State University social media posts and comments of 2015.
I'll get around to posting a roundup of University of Michigan's top science stories--next year.  That's it for 2015!  I'll see my readers in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pataki packs it in

The pattern of another debate, another dropout from the GOP contest that I pointed out when Lindsey Graham suspended his campaign has finally been broken.  The Associated Press reports Pataki Announces He's Dropping White House Bid.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki is telling supporters he's ready to drop his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Yeah, George, I have faith that the American people will elect the right person, too, but it won't be any of your fellow Republicans.

That's the unfiltered farewell, which is an ad for the other establishment-oriented candidates.  ABC News has some of the story behind he announcement in George Pataki Drops Out of 2016 Presidential Race.
Pataki announced his candidacy this past May. "Our system is broken," he said in his announcement video. "Washington has grown too big, too powerful, too expensive and too intrusive. This is exactly what the founding fathers feared."

But he failed to gain traction in the polls, averaging 1 percent. He did not make it onto the main stage for any of the GOP debates, and was eliminated from the Fox Business Network undercard debate.

Financially, Pataki's campaign was struggling, spending more than he was taking in. The most recent financial disclosure showed him raising $134,000, but spending $348,000.
So, he had essentially no support, he was going to be cut off from free exposure, and he was out of money.*  All three of those are good reasons to get out of the contest.  Honestly, he lasted longer than a lot of people thought.  I expected him to drop out when Bobby Jindal left.  He managed to last an extra two months past that.

So, who benefits from Pataki leaving and who drops out next?  The answer to the first question is the most moderate GOP candidate left, which is Chris Christie.  It won't be much, but it might bring him third place and another delegate in New Hampshire.

As for who is dropping out next, look at this photo from the second debate.

All of them are now gone except Santorum.  I've said farewell, Frothy before.  I'll be happy to say it again.

*Pataki was so broke that he used up his equal time from NBC for Trump appearing on Saturday Night Live to air his departure announcement.  Well, it was use it or lose it, so he used it on his way out.  Speaking of using things, Pataki's drink selections can be reused for Trump and Clinton, who are both New Yorkers.  Yes, I'm a good environmentalist; I recycle.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015 article on Trump as top local election story

Four of the five most popular election stories in Washtenaw County on Facebook this year either featured or mentioned Donald Trump.  The most popular described the possibility that Trump, shown here at a rally in Grand Rapids, might be kept off Michigan's ballot if he ran as an independent.
Credit: Getty Images.
Donald Trump is Facebook's most popular Washtenaw County election story of 2015
With 2015 days away from ending, it is time to look at the top Washtenaw County election stories of 2015 before moving on to the coming year's election news. Based on the number of Facebook shares and likes, five stories stood out, four of which shared two common themes, looking forward to next year's presidential election and Donald Trump, not necessarily in that order.  Trump dominated the most popular articles that much.

The difficulties Trump might face running in Michigan as an independent candidate for President came in first.  The New York real estate mogul and former reality television star also made cameo appearances in two articles about Michigan polls in which he came in second.  Trump's name even appeared in a story about a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate.

Only one of the top five articles neither looked ahead nor mentioned Trump.  Instead, it was about the defeat of Proposal 1, the result of the only statewide election in Michigan that happened this year.
Details about the top five stories at the link, along with the slideshow Top five Washtenaw County election stories on Facebook for 2015 and a video of protesters at the Trump rally in Grand Rapids last week.  Unfortuately, it's not this one from WOOD-TV: Donald Trump gets mixed reviews during rally.

While Trump earned cheers inside the DeltaPlex, the reviews outside were mixed.
Welcome to Weimar America.

Monday, December 28, 2015 article on Winter Storm Goliath

The National Weather Service predicted that up to an inch of sleet followed by freezing rain would fall on Detroit Monday.
NOAA/National Weather Service (public domain)
Detroit under winter weather advisory as Goliath brings sleet and freezing rain
At 10:37 A.M. Monday, the National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for the entire Detroit metropolitan area.  The advisory, which will last until 1 A.M. Tuesday, replaced an earlier winter storm watch issued on Monday.

The storm, which the Weather Channel has dubbed Winter Storm Goliath, is moving from south to north across the region.  It is bringing light snow at first, followed by up to an inch of sleet and then between one-tenth and one-quarter of an inch of freezing rain.  The sleet and ice are predicted to arrive by 2 P.M and peak between 4 P.M and 10 P.M., just in time for the afternoon commute.

"We're going to be dealing with frozen precipitation during rush hour commute," National Weather Service Meteorologist Dave Kook told the Detroit Free Press. "Any untreated roads are going to be slick and we have to advise travelers to be cautious when out on roads."
More at the link in the headline, including a Weather Channel video of the area affected by the storm, which is indeed huge as befits the name Goliath.

It could be worse.  Detroit could be having a full-blown winter ice storm like Grand Rapids, as WOOD-TV reports.

Winter Storm Warning in effect until 6 am Tuesday for freezing rain and strong winds.
Stay tuned for more blog entries about year-end stories this week.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' added to Critics' Choice Awards, some critics object

Paul Krugman and the awards shows on 'The Big Short' ended with me noting that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" got added to the Best Movie category at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards in a special vote.  Wochit has the story in The Force Awakens Receives Late Nomination For Critics' Choice Award For Best Picture.

After an unprecedented vote by members, the Broadcast Film Critics Association had added Star Wars: The Force Awakens to the list of nominees for the 2015 Critics' Choice Award for Best Picture. When Critic's Choice Awards nominations came out last Monday, most of the critics in the association had not seen the latest Star Wars movie, since Disney had refused to release copies for early screenings. However, the strong positive reaction to the film led the BFCA to take a vote on whether it should be allowed in as a late inclusion, and apparently the BFCA voted in the Force Awakens' favor.
The film was absent from the Golden Globes nomination list as well because advance screenings for critics weren't available in time for the nomination deadline.  The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, who run the "drinky Oscars" didn't accomodate the film, but the Critics' Choice Awards did.  Considering that the American Film Institute honored "The Force Awakens" as one of its top ten films of the year and this decision follows the precedent of adding 'Castaway' to the list in 2000, the BFCA probably made the right call.

Not all members of the BFCA agreed.  Follow over the jump for their reactions.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Paul Krugman and the awards shows on 'The Big Short'

I concluded Music for moving pictures at the 58th Grammy Awards by telling my readers "Stay tuned for at least one more entry about entertainment, this time about the Golden Globes."  After being distracted by 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' among other things, I'm making a down payment on that promise with a movie nominated for several Golden Globe Awards, "The Big Short."  May I not end up undewater at the end of the entry.

Unlike most of the collapse-and-decline-related entertainment I cover here, this film is not science fiction but historical fact.  As for how well it told that recent history, I turn to Paul Krugman and his review in the New York Times, ‘The Big Short,’ Housing Bubbles and Retold Lies.
“The Big Short” is based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name, one of the few real best-sellers to emerge from the financial crisis. I saw an early screening, and I think it does a terrific job of making Wall Street skulduggery entertaining, of exploiting the inherent black humor of how it went down.

The film achieves this feat mainly by personalizing the tale, focusing not on abstractions but on colorful individuals who saw the rot in the system and tried to make money off that realization. Of course, this still requires explaining what it was all about. Yet even the necessary expository set pieces work amazingly well. For example, we learn how dubious loans were repackaged into supposedly safe “collateralized debt obligations” via a segment in which the chef Anthony Bourdain explains how last week’s fish can be disguised as seafood stew.

But you don’t want me to play film critic; you want to know whether the movie got the underlying economic, financial and political story right. And the answer is yes, in all the ways that matter.

I could quibble over a few points: The group of people who recognized that we were experiencing the mother of all housing bubbles, and that this posed big dangers to the real economy, was bigger than the film might lead you to believe. It even included a few (cough) mainstream economists. But it is true that many influential, seemingly authoritative players, from Alan Greenspan on down, insisted not only that there was no bubble but that no bubble was even possible.

And the bubble whose existence they denied really was inflated largely via opaque financial schemes that in many cases amounted to outright fraud — and it is an outrage that basically nobody ended up being punished for those sins aside from innocent bystanders, namely the millions of workers who lost their jobs and the millions of families that lost their homes.
Krugman was one of those economists and so was Robert Schiller, who won a Nobel Prize for his work.  I learned to trust their opinions because they were right.  That's one of the reasons that I sold at the top and was not one of the poor souls who lost his house to foreclosure or was stuck with it when it went underwater.  But enough about me.  What about the movie?
While the movie gets the essentials of the financial crisis right, the true story of what happened is deeply inconvenient to some very rich and powerful people.
Sure enough, “The Big Short” has already been the subject of vitriolic attacks in Murdoch-controlled newspapers; if the movie is a commercial success and/or wins awards, expect to see much more.
The movie has earned nominations for not just the Golden Globes, but also the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards and the Critics Choice awards.  Follow over the jump for those.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Full moon for Christmas and greetings from NASA

Merry Christmas!  In keeping with my most common theme for the holiday, I present a space story for Christmas.  From Rare Christmas Full Moon a Cosmic Gift for the Holidays: What to Expect.
If you live anywhere east of the Mississippi River this year, you likely will not have snow on the ground on Christmas morning, but you will have a full moon. The moon will officially reach peak fullness at 6:11 a.m. EST (1111 GMT). A full moon coinciding with Christmas does not happen often — usually, once every 19 years. But this time, it is different, because a full moon on Christmas hasn't happened in nearly four decades. The last one was in 1977, and that's because of the vagaries of our calendar and a lunar cycle known for almost 2,500 years.
The Metonic cycle is the lunar cycle in question. After 19 years, the lunar phases are repeated on nearly the same calendar dates. It was discovered around 432 B.C. by the Greek astronomer Meton (although some believe that the Babylonians knew about it before he did). After 19 years, the lunar phases are usually repeated on the same calendar dates.

According to the cycle, a Christmas Day full moon should have happened 19 years ago, in 1996, but it didn't because the Metonic cycle is only approximate and the number of leap days (four or five) in a period of 19 years can give rise to a discrepancy of one day. 

In 1996, the full moon fell not on Christmas Day, but Christmas Eve. And in this particular case, adding 19 years to 1996 saw a jump of one day, moving the full moon to Christmas Day in 2015.

Interestingly, if we use the Metonic cycle going backward from 1996, we also jump forward one day to Christmas Day in 1977, which was the last time we had a full moon on Christmas Day.

Now, if we add 19 years to 2015, we find that the Metonic cycle will work perfectly with no one-day jumps — so the next time a full moon will occur on Christmas Day will be in 2034.
More science, history, and culture at the link, including full moons on Christmas in literature and popular culture.

Finally, I'm sharing Season’s Greetings from NASA.

Mars is not the only place to explore during holidays. Follow our little Robot as he surveys his new surroundings. This holiday house is full of NASA treats… see if you can spot them all.
Once again, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The smart money is moving from Rubio to Cruz but the endorsements aren't

In a footnote to Ben Carson sings "One Wittle Wee Wee," I wrote that "The smart money is still on Rubio to beat Trump."  That started changing a couple of weeks ago, when Rubio's chances fell below 40% and Cruz passed Trump.  A month ago, PredictWise's aggregate of betting markets gave Rubio a 47% chance of winning the nomination.  Trump was second and well behind at 19% with Cruz at 13% and Bush at 10%.  Monday, Paul Krugman included the above chart in Where’s The Rubiomentum?  As of Wednesday, Cruz continued to gain on Rubio, rising to 27% while Rubio remained at 35% and Trump actually dropped a bit to 23%.  Meanwhile, Bush is still stuck at 10% and Christie has replaced Carson in the top five, improving to 5%.

Krugman expressed his skepticism of Rubio's odds, writing "I’m not a huge believer in prediction markets, which seem more to reflect conventional wisdom than to offer profound insights."*  Just the same, he mentioned that "it’s noteworthy that they are less and less convinced that Rubio is really a front-runner, and now take both Trump and Cruz seriously."  I saw that last month as well and I opined that it's not a good thing.

The bettors may be losing confidence in Rubio, but elected Republican officials aren't.  During the most recent debate, FiveThirtyEight posted this graph showing how many endorsements GOP candidates had earned by debate time.

Rubio has earned even more since then and is within 10 points of Bush.  Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has only been inching up.  The people making wagers may think that Rubio is losing steam, but the party establishment is still boarding the Rubio bandwagon faster than any other candidate.  If one is a fan of "The Party Decides," like the writers at FiveThirtyEight, then this is a good thing for Marco Rubio.  Of course, the party may decide on Cruz.  If so, Krugman is looking forward to the outcome.  As he wrote, "it will be fun watching supposedly moderate Republicans explain why Trump or Cruz are, in the end, better than Hillary."

*Krugman's comment mirrors what Infidel 753 wrote in a response to a comment of mine at his blog.
I don't have the slightest interest in online betting markets on elections. The fact that people are willing to put up money based on their opinions doesn't mean they have any more knowledge or expertise than anyone else -- only that they're probably as dumb as most gamblers are.
I have more confidence in the usefulness of prediction markets, but that's because of my experience with the Iowa Electronic Market, which goes back to 1992.  I've found it very reliable.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Feats of animal strength for Festivus

Happy Festivus!  Last year, I shared Dr. Evil airing his grievances for Festivus.  This year, I'm going with another tradition, feats of strength.  Enjoy Animal Planet's The Most Extreme - Strength.

Get pumped, because we're raising the bar on the strongest animals on the planet. Which animal will make it to the top spot? Will it be the gorilla that lifts the equivalent of two cars, or perhaps the bird that can carry four times its own weight?
Looks like next year I'll be doing something with the aluminum pole.  A drum corps Festivus, perhaps?  I wouldn't put it past me.

ETA: The video is now unavailable.  That didn't take long at all!  Found another copy, just in time for Festivus 2016. ETA 2: The replacement was taken down, too. I had to find a second replacement video for Festivus 2018 after I linked to this entry in Feats of animal strength for a Blue Norther on Festivus. At least the SciShow video is likely to stay up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Farewell, Lindsey Graham!

Another debate, another dropout from the GOP contest--that's been the pattern so far and it held after last week's debate with the suspension of Lindsey Graham's campaign yesterday.  CNN has the story in Lindsey Graham quits; GOP establishment wonders who's next.
In suspending his bid for the White House on Monday, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham acknowledged two stark realities: attacking billionaire businessman Donald Trump doesn't work and the establishment lane is still too full.

"We're going to have to start consolidating as Republicans," he said in an exclusive interview with CNN's Kate Bolduan on his decision to leave the 2016 GOP presidential nominating race.

Graham's parting plea echoes what prominent Republicans and conservatives have been saying for months as Trump's dominance and that of other outsiders have left the GOP establishment rattled and split among several candidates.

Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin put it bluntly in a column: "Lindsey Graham is out, others should follow."
That may be the sane reaction, but it's not what's happening, as Wochit shows in GOP Candidates Vie For Lindsey Graham Supporters.

Lindsey Graham's withdrawal from the race for Republican presidential nominee is only hours old, but his former rivals are already jockeying to pick up the support of the South Carolina senator. Graham's endorsement is strategically important due to the early timing of the South Carolina primary, the first in the Republican-dominated South. Graham, who told CNN on Monday that he has "no intention of endorsing anyone right now," has already seen the various campaigns lining up to heap praise upon him: from Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, to Jeb Bush, all now seeking the backing of Graham and his supporters.
Graham's supporters may be useful in South Carolina for endorsements and money, but as far as making a difference in actual voters, I'll let this graphic from P.M. Carpenter show how much that will really mean. 

Good luck going after that one percent, Establishment candidates.  They might get one of you into third place.

As for the rest of us, drink a South Carolina Swizzle for Lindsey: South Carolina Swizzle Cocktail - The Proper Pour with Charlotte Voisey - Small Screen.

Inspired by the delicious produce of South Carolina and Georgia, Charlotte created the South Carolina Swizzle Cocktail to celebrate one of her favorite regions of the United States. Served in a julep style, this refreshing libation is perfect as a summer sipper.

Remember, great cocktails start with measuring responsibly.
1 1/2 parts Hendrick's Gin - Watch The Unusual Times:
1/2 part Bitter Truth Apricot Liqueur
3/4 part fresh lime juice
3/4 part simple syrup
1/4 part Yellow Chartreuse

Shake ingredients with ice.
Strain over crushed ice into hurricane or tall glass.
Garnish with a mint sprig.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Winter Solstice 2015!

Happy winter solstice!  USA Today has the details of today's changing of the seasons in Monday's winter solstice marks the longest night.
Here comes the dark. The winter solstice — marking the longest night and shortest day of the year — is Monday night.

The solstice occurs at the same instant everywhere on Earth. In the United States, it happens at 11:48 p.m. ET Monday (or 10:48 p.m. CT, 9:48 p.m. MT and 8:48 p.m. PT).
The winter solstice is the precise moment the Northern Hemisphere is tilted its farthest from the sun all year, and usually occurs near the day when there is the least amount of daylight and the most darkness.
The Earth's tilted axis causes the seasons. During the Northern Hemisphere's winter, the land north of the equator is tilted away from the sun, which lowers the amount of the sun's energy warming the Northern Hemisphere.

And why is the Earth tilted? It's probably the result of collisions with various proto-planets and other massive objects during the formation of the solar system billions of years ago, according to NASA. Just a bit unsettling to realize that the reason the Earth has the perfect temperature for life to form is a few random collisions with other space rocks a few eons ago.
That's the science of the solstice.  It also has religious significance.
One of the most famous solstice celebrations occurs at the ancient Stonehenge ruins in Wiltshire, England, where druids, pagans and other revelers gather each year to celebrate the event.
Coincidentally (or maybe not), TestTube News talks about these very religious movements in today's What Is Paganism?

In ancient, times before Christianity ruled, paganism was the primary faith of ancient Europe. So what is this old religion?
Whatever my readers believe, or don't believe, for that matter, Happy Solstice!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' blasts to new U.S. box office records

Since this blog has been all Star Wars all the time since Thursday, it should come as no surprise that the Entertainment Sunday entry is about "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."  Wochit Entertainment kicks off the coverage with 'Star Wars' Global Sales Hit $250 Million.

LOS ANGELES — "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" pulled in an estimated $250 million at worldwide box offices through Friday. The seventh "Star Wars" movie was also on track to finish its opening weekend with record U.S. and Canadian sales, the Walt Disney Co. said on Saturday. The film is projected to sell close to $220 million worth to tickets in the United States and Canada through Sunday, beating the record $208.8 million for "Jurassic World" in June, Disney said. Critics have hailed it as a fan-friendly return to form for the franchise; the American Film Institute listed it among its top 10 films of the year.
Reuters reported that the movie brought in $120.5 million from U.S. screens on Friday alone.  Not only was that enough to knock "Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2" out of the top spot at U.S. theaters, but advance sales broke the record set by "The Hunger Games" according to  The odds may have been in Katniss Everdeen's favor for four weeks on top, but The Force wasn't with her.

All that was just opening day.  Follow over the jump for the latest, along with a drink to celebrate the film's commercial success.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Darth Trump strikes back as The Farce awakens

I'm not done with Darth Trump.  Here are three cartoons that feature him as evil Star Wars characters.

First, here he is as one of a rogue's gallery of Republican candidates as Star Wars characters.

Seeing this lineup is enough to make one drink.*

Next, Chris Christie isn't the only candidate who reminds cartoonists of Jabba The Hutt.

Just remember what Princess Leia did to her captor.  I'm sure the GOP would like to make life imitate art.

Finally, The Penguin Donald returns as the Dark Lord of the Sith.

Yes, The Farce is strong with this one.

*That reminds me that there is a Democratic Debate tonight.  Here are the drinks and drinking game rules for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley.  Happy debate watching, especially in the middle of a data breach scandal.

Friday, December 18, 2015

A capella 'Star Wars' medley to awaken The Force

"Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens" opens today--in fact, as this entries posts at midnight.  To celebrate, I present Jimmy Fallon, The Roots & "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Cast Sing "Star Wars" Medley (A Cappella).

Jimmy and The Roots join Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong'o, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford for an a cappella tribute to "Star Wars."
May The Force be with you, even if you're Darth Trump.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Obi-Wan Kenobi for President and Darth Vader beats Trump but not Clinton

Continuing on in the spirit of Darth Trump, I present the following from Ipsos-Reuters: Ipsos Calls 2016 Election for Obi Wan Kenobi.
New Poll Indicates that Star Wars Heroes and Villains Poll Closely to Actual Candidates
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Washington, DC – In a new poll pitting characters from the Star Wars franchise against actual presidential candidates, Ipsos finds that the American public would prefer to elect the iconic Jedi Obi Wan Kenobi than any other challenger. Outside of the political realm, the Ipsos poll established that America’s favorite Star Wars character is Luke Skywalker, who captured 21% of respondents, followed closely by Han Solo, Yoda and Obi Wan Kenobi. The remainder of the poll pitted main Star Wars characters in hypothetical matchups with the frontrunners in the actual Presidential race, yielding some surprising results.

"Whether it's because of this week's release of Episode 7, or general disdain among Americans with their political system, this data suggests that the Jedi Order is vastly more popular than either the Republican or Democratic Party,” said Chris Jackson, Vice President at Ipsos Public Affairs. “As we have seen in much of the political data this year, our Republic is more fractured than in recent history. However, it seems that the force could ‘surround us and bind the universe together’.”

Other key highlights from the data:
  • In a head-to-head matchup among Millennials: Darth Vader (27%) would beat Donald Trump (18%)
  • In a head-to-head matchup among Millennials: Yoda (50%) would beat Hillary Clinton (26%) handily. Even among the general public, the margin is 41% for the candidate from Dagobah and 25% for Clinton
  • Minorities would prefer to elect the Sith Lord Darth Vader (26%) before Trump who captured only 13% of the minority vote
  • Clinton would fare better against Vader, winning this hypothetical matchup by 32% to 16% to the individual formerly known as Anakin Skywalker
  • Among the general public, Jedi Master Yoda would soundly beat the actual human Trump 42% to 24%
  • The well-quaffed Chewbacca would fall into a statistical dead heat with his hirsute counterpart Trump
  • Awareness of the force is quite strong with the US public given that 70% identified a favorite character. The remaining 30% of the population had no awareness or opinion
Luckily for the Presidential hopefuls, Star Wars took place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away and none of the characters meet the Constitutional requirement of being born in the United States of America, potentially highlighting a weakness in the “birther” argument.
Here are Trump's head-to-head numbers in graphic form, courtesy of The Daily Mail.

At least Hillary Clinton can beat the Dark Lord of the Sith, even if she can't best the remaining members of the Jedi Order.

May The Force be with you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Driving update for December 2015: Pearl

Prius the Pearl's odometer currently reads 23,994 miles as the car sits in my driveway.  I'll drive more than that on my way into work, so it's time for a driving update for my car to go along with the one earlier this month for Dez.

Pearl rolled over 23,000 miles on Tuesday, October 20th, 57 days ago, so I've driven her an average of 17.54 miles/day and 535.09 miles/standard month during that time.  That's only slightly more than the 17.24 miles/day and 525.86 miles/standard month I drove her between August and October.  I attribute turning over the odometer a day earlier to a shopping trip to the Detroit Whole Foods.  That excursion was so much fun and the selection so good, my wife and I did it again in her car earlier this week, but that's a story for another day.  Otherwise, my driving was pretty much the same as the last reporting period.

Of course, the important stat is not how much I drive by myself, but how much my wife and I drive together.  Adding my miles to my wife's average of 16.67 miles/day and 508.33 miles/standard month for Dez yields a combined average of 34.21 miles/day and 1043.42 miles/month, well over August's 26.95 miles/day and 822.0 miles/month, which I'm using as the baseline for our driving in our more car-dependent neighborhood.  Good thing I'm bucking the trend of Americans buying less fuel-efficient cars even as my wife and I are following along with everyone else and driving more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Colbert explains the climate deal and says goodbye to oil

The nations at the Paris Climate Conference reached an agreement this week.  Stephen Colbert explains its significance in Whoo! The World Will Stay Hospitable For Human Life!

The climate change agreement makes history by setting the bar as low as it can possibly go, and Stephen sets another member of his staff free.
Looks like he shares my opinion that the agreement is not good enough, but it's still better than nothing.  As for saying goodbye to "Crudey," maybe America (and the world) can end its continuing addiction to oil.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Darth Trump

I promised "at least one more entry about entertainment, this time about the Golden Globes" Music for moving pictures at the 58th Grammy Awards.  They're coming, but first this shiny object: DARTH TRUMP - Auralnauts.

Made with 100% all natural Trump sound bites.

Thanks to Oregon Live.  Stay tuned for the posts about the Golden Globes nominees I promised.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Music for moving pictures at the 58th Grammy Awards

I concluded Best November ever and other monthly meta with "I have two entries planned, both about awards show nominations."  I may end up having more, so follow along.

For the first post, I repeat the theme of Zombies and Grammys and write about the Grammy nominees honoring music for visual media and visual media about music at the 58th Grammy Awards.  Here are the nominees in these categories from Billboard along with my comments.

Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media
• Empire: Season 1
      (Various Artists)

• Fifty Shades Of Grey
      (Various Artists)
      [Republic Records]

• Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me
      (Various Artists)
      [Big Machine Records]

• Pitch Perfect 2
      (Various Artists)
      [Universal Music Enterprises/Republic Records]

• Selma
      (Various Artists)
      [Paramount Pictures/Pathé Productions]
None of these comes from media that fit the primary entertainment theme here of collapse and decline in the context of speculative fiction.  The closest is "Fifty Shades Of Grey," which is glorified "Twilight" fanfiction, making it a derivative of urban fantasy with much more sex and none of the supernatural elements.  Sorry, not good enough, in more ways than one.  I suspect the music is the best thing about the movie, a point I'll return to later.  Instead, I'll have to look at this list from the perspectives of politics and crime.

For politics, I pick "Selma.  It's not about collapse and decline, but about progress through struggle.  I'm OK with that.  I can't be all DOOM all the time, and leavening the bad news with some hope fits the theme of this blog, too.

For crime, I'll stretch and consider "Empire."  That was a big hit at the Teen Choice Awards and got some nominations at the Critics Choice Awards.  The show itself is about the music business, but the previews for this season keep mentioning an FBI investigation, so I'm shoehorning it into crime and injustice.  As for its prospects of winning, I'm not optimistic.  It's the only TV show nominated and movies usually win in these categories.

Speaking of movies, the nominee I'd pick as the favorite would be "Selma" based on the strength of "Glory," which won the award for best song at the Golden Globes and Oscars, it should be the favorite for the hat trick at the Grammys.  That would put it in the same league as "Skyfall," which also pulled off the trifecta.

Follow over the jump for more about the music from "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Glory," along with other movies.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Best November ever and other monthly meta

November 2015 was the best November in the history of the blog.  The month's 13,649 page views exceeded the previous year's count by more than 3,000.  As I wrote in Record page views, comments, and 100th follower: Monthly meta for October 2015, all but one of November's page view goals had been achieved by the 23rd.  The blog managed to get the last goal, 13,000 page views, with two days to spare.  That performance finally dispelled my opinion of November as being a poor month for readership on the blog, after two disappointing performances.

The 45 comments were also a high for November, beating last year's 31.  While they didn't set a record, it was also higher than the high water mark for last year, 42 during February 2014, which I mentioned in Monthly Meta for June 2015.  To celebrate both achievements, I'm sharing the most liked, commented on, and read entries of the last month.

I begin with a new category, the most liked and shared on Pinterest.  That honor goes to "Final 'Star Wars VII' trailer and reaction" posted on October 25, 2015.  Over the past five weeks, it was liked 13 times and shared 88 times on Pinterest.  During that span, it earned 140 page views and received two comments.

Two entries tied for the most commented on for the month with seven comments.  The first was "NABLOPOMO for November 2015: HUGE" posted November 2, 2015.  Its comments came from conversations with Paul W. and Ashley Nguyn Newell.  It had more page views than the other entry, with 77 according to the raw counter.  The second entry was "Record page views, comments, and 100th follower: Monthly meta for October 2015" posted November 23, 2015.  It also garnered 7 comments thanks to conversations with Robin and Bukko Boomeranger.  It had fewer page views than the first entry, with 65.

Follow over the jump for the most read entries of November 2015.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Carson and Rubio campaign on national security in Michigan

There was more to Ben Carson's visit Wednesday than I could cover in the article on his health care proposalsDoctor Pyramid also responded directly and indirectly to Donald Trump on the topics of national security and immigration, particularly The Donald's comments on Muslims.  WXYZ focused on those in Dr. Ben Carson stops in Detroit area.

Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson stopped in Ypsilanti for a campaign stop.
Carson was more direct with the Detroit Free Press in the newspaper's interview.
The proposal from fellow GOP candidate Donald Trump to shut the nation’s doors to Muslims, was a violation of the United States constitution which prohibits discrimination based on religion, he said.

Instead, “We need to monitor the Internet to a much greater extent for early warnings and put out different messages to show people there is a very different way. We need to attack their servers and use cyber warfare against them,” Carson said in an interview with the Free Press. “I’d also be working with Imams and clerics and say you’ve got to help us to identify people who are radicalize and encourage the moderate Muslim population to recognize that they play an important role.”
I agree with Carson, which I take as another example of a stuck clock being right twice a day.

Carson wasn't the only Republican candidate to visit Michigan Wednesday.  Marco Rubio made a stop in Oakland County, which WXYZ covered in Rubio campaigns in Waterford.

Senator Marco Rubio is campaigning in Waterford as he visits Michigan.
Between Carson and Rubio, it looks like the Republicans have decided to make national security and the threat from the Sith Jihad a major campaign issue.  After the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, I shouldn't be surprised.

Thursday, December 10, 2015 article on Ben Carson's health care proposals

Ben Carson, seen here speaking in Washington D.C., talked about health care in Ypsilanti Wednesday.
Getty Images.
The doctor was in Washtenaw County as Ben Carson talked health care
Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson returned to his home state on Wednesday, December 9, making three stops in Washtenaw County.  He began his day by touring the University of Michigan Medical School.  Carson then attended a fund-raising luncheon in Ypsilanti.  He finished his day speaking at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center for the “We the People Town Hall.”

As befitting one of the two doctors campaigning for the Republican nomination for President, the other being Rand Paul, Carson spoke about his ideas for health care.  Those include replacing the Affordable Care Act with what he called "Health Empowerment Accounts," overhauling Medicaid, and raising the age of eligiblity for Medicare to 70.

"We spend, in this country, twice as much per capita on health care than many other countries in the world, and we have terrible access problems. This is meant to really get rid of that. These empowerment accounts will be funded by the same dollars we use to fund everything today," Carson said to the town hall at EMU as quoted by MLive.
Details at the link.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A song for The Golden Gun

I'm not done with Americans love of guns.  I saw the above cartoon at Jobsanger and left the following comment in response.
I have just the song for this cartoon: The Man with the Golden Gun Opening Title Sequence. The visuals are appropriately phallic.
Here's the video.

The Man With The Golden Gun performed by Lulu.
Scaramanga approves.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Americans are buying more guns in response to terror and mass shootings

My response to the mass shooting in San Bernardino was to join doctors asking Congress to fund gun violence research at the CDC and NIH.  I even told that message to a local TV station when I was interviewed on the street that day.*  That's not the response that's making news.  WXYZ reports Gun sales spike in metro Detroit.

Gun sales are on the rise in metro Detroit.
It's not just here.  The day of the shootings, USA Today's headline read Black Friday breaks record with 185K gun background checks.
More Americans had their backgrounds checked purchasing guns on Black Friday than any day on record, according to data released by the FBI this week.

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System processed 185,345 requests on Nov. 27, one of the largest retail sales days in the country.

"This was an approximate 5% increase over the 175,754 received on Black Friday 2014," wrote Stephen Fischer, the FBI's chief of multimedia productions. "The previous high for receipts were the 177,170 received on 12/21/2012."

Previous spikes for background checks, conducted before a gun buyer can obtain a firearm, occurred after prominent mass shootings, like in December 2012 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Sure enough, the response to another mass shooting was for Americans to buy more guns.  Follow over the jump for that part of the story.

Driving update for December: Dez

My wife and I rolled Dez's odometer over 49,000 miles on Sunday, so it's time for the driving update I promised in the final footnote of Fiat Chrysler uses the power of The Force to sell cars.

Dez the VW rolled over 48,000 miles on October 8th, exactly 60 days earlier.  That means she drove an average of 16.67 miles per day or 508.33 miles per standard month.  That's more than both the 9.71 miles/day and 296.1 miles/standard month my wife and I drove the car between June and October and the 12.99 miles per day and 396.10 miles per standard month we did between April to June.  It's even slightly more than the 16.39 miles per day and exactly 500 miles per standard month from February to April when we drove to Mount Pleasant.  What changed?

My wife drove to Chicago and back to visit our daughter.  That will probably happen at least once every report, so expect our miles driven to stay high from now on.  Sustainability is a priority, but so is family, and driving while gas is cheap makes keeping in touch more practical.

We are in good company in driving more.  Bill McBride of Calculated Risk reported last month that Vehicle Miles Driven increased 2.3% year-over-year in August, Rolling 12 Months at All Time High.
The Department of Transportation (DOT) reported:
Travel on all roads and streets changed by 2.3% (6.3 billion vehicle miles) for August 2015 as compared with August 2014.

Travel for the month is estimated to be 277.3 billion vehicle miles.

?The seasonally adjusted vehicle miles traveled for August 2015 is 263.3 billion miles, a 3.6% (9.1 billion vehicle miles) increase over August 2014. It also represents a -0.4% change (-1.2 billion vehicle miles) compared with July 2015.
The following graph shows the rolling 12 month total vehicle miles driven to remove the seasonal factors.

As for Pearl's next driving update, that could happen later this month or early next month.  Stay tuned.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Last night's "Menorah in the D" for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah!  To celebrate the holiday, I'm repeating what I did last year with WXYZ's Fifth annual "Menorah in the D" lighting event.

The fifth annual Menorah in the D lighting event is happening on Sunday in Campus Martius Park.
Here's what the Detroit Free Press wrote about the event.
A shoulder-to-shoulder crowd packed Campus Martius Park tonight to witness the ceremonial lighting of downtown Detroit's giant menorah and to celebrate the first night of Hanukkah.

Jewish community leaders, Mayor Mike Duggan and others stood on a mechanical lift that carried them to the top of the 26-foot-tall menorah, made of steel and glass. A torch lit the candle as onlookers said blessings.

Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, of the Shul in West Bloomfield, said the lighting of the menorah symbolizes the light of godliness and goodness that is within us all. The celebration of Hanukkah recalls the miracle of a small jug of oil lasting eight days during a time when the Jewish people were oppressed by the ancient Greeks.

"That pure oil that we have inside of us cannot be defiled," Shemtov said during an address to the crowd before the lighting. "Let us illuminate the heart  of a friend. Let us illuminate the community and the world."
Looked like it was a lot of fun.  Speaking of fun, also look at Geeky and nerdy menorahs for Hanukkah, which has been getting some views from web search today.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Fiat Chrysler uses the power of The Force to sell cars

For today's Sunday Entertainment entry, I'm presenting what passes for a local angle on the marketing blitz for "Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens."  The Detroit Free Press had the story back in August: Fiat Chrysler to be part of Star Wars marketing force.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be part of the marketing force behind the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" movie that opens in December.

The automaker, known for partnering with movie studios, stars and musicians, is one of seven global companies that will be part of "an expansive, historic promotional campaign," to support the movie.

Lucasfilm identified the partners Thursday. Others include Covergirl & Max Factor, Duracell, General Mills, Hewlett Packard, Subway and Verizon...

"Our partners have all delivered original, stand-out campaigns that capture the familiar fun and excitement of our galaxy far, far away that we hope will delight fans as they get ready to experience "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Lucasfilm said in a release..."All of the partnerships strategically complement the tempo and tone of the film's overall marketing campaign."
I was very tempted to write that Fiat Chrysler was harnessing the power of the Schwartz to sell cars, but anyone who has seen "Spaceballs" knows that merchandising is the power of the The Schwartz, not marketing.  Watch Yogurt explain.

Yogurt (Mel Brooks) explains where the real money from the movie is made: merchandising!
The cars being advertised are not themselves merchandising, so the power of The Schartz is not with Fiat Chrysler.*

Follow over the jump for more from the Detroit Free Press along with five video ads from the campaign.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Paris Climate Conference explained by Climate Reality, Grist, and Wochit

One of the phenomena listed as a threat to biodiversity in "Racing Extinction" is climate change.  Right now, governments from all over the planet are meeting in Paris to reach an agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate and adapt to climate change.  Climate Reality explains the importance of the conference along with outlining the stakes in What Is COP21?

What is COP21? Why are the UN climate talks happening in December 2015 in Paris, France, so important? And what can you do about it? Morgan Freeman gives you the details on why this meeting is really your meeting.
Yes, the voice of God Himself is telling viewers about this.  That's how important this issue is.

That's the hope.  What about the reality of what will actually be achieved?  Grist elaborates on those in The Paris climate negotiations, explained.

Has anyone ever tried to convince you to order something off a menu that you couldn’t afford? Or had a friend buy an expensive appetizer and assume you’ll help split the bill? The dynamic isn’t too far from what’s happening in climate policy right now, with hypocritical, richer countries trying to convince poorer countries that green energy is the way forward. At the end of November, diplomats will gather in Paris for the most high-stakes dinner party yet: Their orders are likely to affect our collective climate future. Check out our video above for all the savory details.
So, how is the conference working out so far?  Wochit reports in A First Draft Of Climate Resolution In Paris.

[A]fter four years' work as the basis for ministers to try to resolve hundreds of points of disagreement next week, senior officials from almost 200 nations approved a draft text of a U.N. climate deal on Saturday. The idea is that the text lays out options, ranging from a long-term goal for slowing climate change to rising climate finance for developing nations, that can be resolved by ministers next week at talks lasting until Friday. Many nations said the draft left too many issues unresolved. The draft is the result of four years of work since the process was launched in Durban in 2011.
Looks like the not good enough but better than nothing solution that Grist predicted will be ratified.  I'm enough of a realist that I'll take better than nothing now in the hope of getting good enough later.  That's what I did when it came to the Keystone XL Pipeline and I got not only good enough, but much better than I expected.  May we all be so fortunate when it comes to climate change.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Ben Carson sings "One Wittle Wee Wee"

The scrutiny of Ben Carson that included my razzing him in Doctor Carson and his Amazing Technicolor Labcoat looks likes it's taking its toll, as Politico reported Wednesday Ben Carson tumbles in national poll.  That survey had him tied for third place with Ted Cruz behind Donald Trump in first and Marco Rubio in second.*  Looks like the next article on Carson's polls won't show him leading Clinton and Sanders in Michigan.

It also means that jokes about the candidate, other than ones about his leaving the nomination contest, are approaching their sell by dates.  Since my wife found a good one, I'd better share it before it goes bad.  So in the spirit of Donald Trump dance remix, I present One Wittle Wee-Wee In America (Ben Carson).

One of the greatest Presidential Campaign songs of all time. Dr Ben Carson (Neurosurgeon) and his contribution "One Wittle Wee-Wee". For 'murica.

If you like this, please check out "Bad Lip Reading" on YouTube. This is a snippet from their original video, with some extra patriotism thrown in for my own entertainment.
Here's the full video, in which Doctor Pyramid gets the last song: "FIRST REPUBLICAN DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS: 2015" — A Bad Lip Reading of The Republican Debate.

If only these candidates were this funny in real life.

*The smart money is still on Rubio to beat Trump.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Doctors to Congress: Fund gun violence research at the CDC and NIH

Previous mass shootings in Sandy Hook, Connecticut and Charlestown, South Carolina merely elicted visual statements of sadness and disgust from me.  Yesterday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, California has finally prompted me to do more than post images of Grumpy Cat and Professor Farnsworth.  I'm calling attention to an act of scientific censorship and joining others in asking for it to end.  Sam Seder explains the situation in The CDC Can't Study Gun Violence and Here's Why...

How Republicans destroyed studies on the effects on public health of gun ownership...
There's more on the history of this action in a press release from Doctors For America: Over 2,000 Physicians Urge Congress to End the Ban on CDC and NIH Gun Violence Research.
In 1996, under intense pressure from the gun lobby, Congress added an amendment to an appropriations bill that effectively blocked the CDC from carrying out the necessary research to better understand how to prevent gun violence. In addition to the ban, Congress also cut funding for gun violence research and, in 2011, extended the research restriction to the NIH. The result of these actions has had a chilling effect on gun violence research.

Representative Jay Dickey (R-AR), the author, has stated repeatedly that he regrets offering the amendment and thinks it should be repealed. Despite Rep. Dickey’s comments and President Obama’s executive action in 2013 directing the CDC to resume gun violence research, Congress has provided no funding, and the restrictive language remains in place.
As a scientist who believes in finding the facts and acting upon them for the common good, this ban offends me.  I'm joining with Doctors for America and other medical associations in saying “It's time to lift the effective ban and fund the research needed to save lives.”

Follow over the jump for the rest of the press release.

Farewell, NaBloPoMo, a tradition on this blog

Normally, I would post this month's Nablopomo theme, as I've done ever since March 2011, when I posted April 2011's theme of Sprout.   That's not going to happen this month or any month until next November, not as a Nablopomo theme.  I'll let Melissa Ford of BlogHer explain in What's Next After #NaBloPoMo? Introducing the BlogHer Writing Lab.
Big changes are underway for lovers of #NaBloPoMo! Like NaNoWriMo, #NaBloPoMo will now own November and only November. But that doesn't mean NaBloPoMo is disappearing during the other eleven months of the year. Oh, no. It's only getting better.

What's Staying the Same

We will still create a monthly theme for you to take or leave as you wish. Each month, I'll post about the theme and give you ideas on ways you can embrace it. December's theme post will go up on December 1st.

There will still be daily prompts on weekdays, and I will be posting those prompts on BlogHer at the beginning of the month so you can work ahead if you choose.

There will still be a monthly newsletter sending along links and important information.

What's Changing

We're getting rid of the blogroll, except for the month of November. "But how will I join along, Melissa?" you ask. Keep reading below. We hope this new system has made it easier to drop in and out as time permits.

We'll only have monthly badges during November's #NaBloPoMo.

Brand New

First and foremost, the name. While we'll retain the name #NaBloPoMo for the November challenge, daily prompts during the other eleven months now exist as the BlogHer Writing Lab.

The name embodies everything we hope this project will be. We're excited to build up the community aspect of the #NaBloPoMo you know and love, making this experience ten times more interactive.
So, no more blogroll or monthly badges.  There will still be writing prompts, but they'll be on Facebook.  Since I've been ignoring most of them, that will probably continue.  Instead, I'm more enamored with a particular paragraph about what Melissa wants participants to do.
We want you to write about current events and figure out how to record the world around you. In other words, process the things happening in your world with words and images.
That's what I do here every day anyway.  It's about time that I participate in a program that encourages exactly that.

The ironic thing about the BlogHer Writing Lab is the first theme: December 2015 BlogHer Writing Lab Theme Is Tradition.
Listen, we get it. NaBloPoMo was your monthly tradition. But once you get over the name change for months other than November, you'll see that the best parts of NaBloPoMo are still here on a monthly basis. It's only gotten better!
We hope that BlogHer Writing Lab becomes your new monthly tradition, or really, your new daily tradition. Because blog post ideas pop up daily, but you need to be around to catch them.

This month, the set daily prompts concern traditions: starting new ones, celebrating old ones, and figuring out why you do what you do, year after year after year. In addition, we'll be throwing out extra prompt ideas over in the Facebook group, both about traditions and life in general.
Farewell NaBloPoMo, hello BlogHer Writing Lab!  As the description says, "Let's start a new tradition!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

'Racing Extinction' on Discovery Channel tonight

Discovery Channel is showing "Racing Extinction" tonight.  That may make it, as Vanity Fair reported yesterday, "the Most-Watched Documentary in History."
The film from director Louie Psihoyos and producer Fisher Stevens, who made the Oscar-winner The Cove, debuts Wednesday on the The Discovery Channel and with its partners worldwide. John Hoffman, Discovery’s executive vice president for documentaries and specials, estimates a potential audience of 2.4 billion—and at least 500 million expected to watch.

“I’m trying to blow this up and get it to the widest possible audience, ever,” says Psihoyos, which looks at global warming as a potential extinction-level event, and particularly at its impact on ocean life.
With this level of exposure as well as the buzz from the Sundance Festival described in Vanity Fair, "Racing Extinction" is now my favorite to be win the Best Feature Length Documentary award at the Oscars next year.  Of course, I thought the same of "Blackfish," and it was snubbed.  The movie still did some good, as SeaWorld phasing out its current Orca shows in San Diego.

To see what the hype is about, watch the theatrical trailer.

Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment, Oscar®-winner Louie Psihoyos (The Cove) assembles a team of artists and activists intent on showing the world never-before-seen images that expose issues of endangered species and mass extinction.

Whether infiltrating notorious black markets with guerilla-style tactics or exploring the scientific causes affecting changes to the environment, "Racing Extinction" will change the way we see the world and our role within it.
Speaking of "guerilla-style tactics," Vanity Fair mentioned them in its preview.
Just as The Cove took the form of a heist movie, Racing Extinction has its own share of spycraft, with women bringing hidden cameras into sushi restaurants that are serving contraband meat and activists infiltrating a Hong Kong factory that sells illegal shark fins.
The results of "women bringing hidden cameras into sushi restaurants that are serving contraband meat" show up in Discovery Channel's Extended Sneak Peek.

Humans are causing the mass extinction of animal species all across the globe and not enough is being done to stop it. In RACING EXTINCTION, a team of artists and activists look to expose the hidden world of extinction with never-before-seen images that will change the way we see the planet.

RACING EXTINCTION premieres in more than 220 countries and territories around the world December 2 at 9PM ET/PT on Discovery.
In case the restaurant serving whale looks familiar, it's the same one featured in Whale meat sushi chefs plead guilty last year.  Yes, viewers get to see the sting operation that led to those convictions.  That's worth watching the film all by itself.

Michigan has the cheapest gas in the U.S.

I concluded Regular falls below $2.00 in metro Detroit before Thanksgiving as predicted by forecasting that gas would fall to $1.75 by Christmas, either as the average price in my old neighborhood as as the Detroit average from GasBuddy.  The first happened this weekend as the price in my old neighborhood was $1.69 at all three stations on Tuesday.  The second nearly happened, as the average was $1.79 Tuesday morning and is $1.78 now.  I'll claim credit for being right 23 days early.

Prices were even lower in other parts of the state, as WOOD-TV reported in GasBuddy: Michigan’s gas cheapest in U.S.

Michigan’s gas prices dipped Sunday to become the lowest in the country — but it won’t be long until they go back up.
The Detroit Free Press explains why the price has fallen.
Reasons for the cheap gas include: Crude oil prices have been low compared to previous years as inventories build. Russia and Saudi Arabia continue to produce oil, while China's economic growth has been slower than projected, and domestic inventories are nearing record levels.

In addition, Midwest refinery production has recovered, improving supply and prices; and financial markets have been resilient despite terrorist attacks in Paris.
Oil-Price.Net shows futures prices for oil and wholesale prices for gasoline are all up from last month, when WTI was at $40.75, Brent was at $44.14, and RBOB is selling for $1.27.  WTI closed yesterday at $41.85, Brent at $44.44, and RBOB at $1.36.  These are still very low prices and can support Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy's prediction of low prices through the winter.
"I think prices should spend more time under $2 than over $2 through Valentine's Day," he said. "Once the sweetness of that milk chocolate and all those roses dies down, then we'll be talking about higher gas prices -- and that's just going to be the seasonal change."
Limbo Kitty might be getting quite a workout this winter.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tony the cyclist repeats the story of Detroit's Walking Man

A familiar looking story came out of Winter Storm Bella, but it wasn't one about blankets of snow covering the area, although that happened.  Instead, it was a near-repeat of James Robertson ABC's Person of the Week, the top post for the fourth year of the blog.  This time, it was a man cycling to his job in the suburbs instead of one walking there.  WXYZ tells the tale in Local man who bikes to work daily gets a new car thanks to the kindness of strangers.*

It's a story 7 Action News first brought you less than a week ago, a young man stopped to help a man riding his bike to work in the snow.
I'll be a good environmentalist and recycle for my response.  As I wrote on this blog, "I found this a heartwarming story of human persistence and empathy leading to a success of charity, but I also found it illustrated the failure of mass transit in metro Detroit, where more than half of the jobs are beyond the reach of public transit, including Robertson's."  Substitute Tony Berard's name for James Robertson's, and the story is exactly the same.

Follow over the jump for more of my reaction.