Monday, November 30, 2015

Cyber Monday is ten years old this month


Small Business Saturday has only been around since 2010.  That makes it half the age of Cyber Monday, which CNN explains is a decade old in How did 'Cyber Monday' begin?

CNN's Chris Welch explains how Cyber Monday got its name in 2005 in celebration of the big shopping day's 10th anniversary.
Welcome to a successful piece of corporate PR, right up there with Sweetest Day.

Whether shopping from home or work, keep calm and carry on despite the stink of retail desperation.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

J.J. Abrams and his mystery box


For Entertainment Sunday, I'm sharing a TED talk by J.J. Abrams,* one of my favorite directors, about the object that represents his philosophy of story telling: The Mystery Box.

J.J. Abrams traces his love for the unseen mystery - a passion thats evident in his films and TV shows, including Cloverfield, Lost and Alias -- back to its magical beginnings.
From his TED page:
Why you should listen

As the Emmy-winning creator of the smart, addictive TV dramas Lost, Alias and Felicity, J.J. Abrams' name looms large on the small screen. As the writer/director behind the blockbuster explode-a-thon Mission: Impossible III, Cloverfield and the new Star Trek movie, these days Abrams also rules the big screen -- bringing his eye for telling detail and emotional connection to larger-than-life stories.

Abrams' enthusiasm -- for the construction of Kleenex boxes, for the quiet moments between shark attacks in Jaws, for today's filmmaking technologies, and above all for the potent mystery of an unopened package -- is incredibly infectious.

What others say

“As a boy, JJ Abrams was fascinated with magic. As a television writer, director, and producer, he has beguiled audiences with a masterful use of suspense, plot reversals, and special effects.” — Wired
Abrams' interest in character explains what I observed in his "Star Trek" movie.
While J.J. Abrams went to great lengths to free his movies from the strictures of Star Trek canon by creating a new timeline that diverged just before Kirk's birth, he also went to great lengths to ensure that the characters would stay as intact as possible.
The characters were important to him, not the events, although the next movie had echoes of what occurred in the TV show and second movie.

So much for J.J. Abrams and Star Trek.  As for how he treats Star Wars, there is already an answer to the question "Will the lens flares on Tatooine be doubled?"  It's no.  Thank goodness!

*I've decided to use a J.J. Abrams label.  Took me long enough.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Small Business Saturday 2015


It's Small Business Saturday again, so it's time for me to report how well American Express's effort to promote local small business is going.  If nothing else, WXYZ in Detroit is doing its best to feature the day.  Yesterday, the station featured Michigan products sold at Abundant Living in Wyandotte in Small Business Saturday.

Pam Riley from Abundant Living talks about how you'll be supporting the local economy by shopping on Small Business Saturday.
Another Wyandotte business, Total Health Foods, was featured this morning in Shop small on Small Business Saturday.

The day after Black Friday is always Small Business Saturday, and you're encouraged to shop small today.
Both stores in Wyandotte feature a lot of Michigan foods, which cuts down on fossil fuel use and transportation costs.  Not only are the customers shopping locally, the business are, too.  Keep up the good work.

Friday, November 27, 2015

WXYZ on saving Detroit's Thanksgiving parade


While I've been blogging about the Macy's Parade, Detroit held its own Thanksgiving parade.  I've written about it and the fireworks show as examples of how "People want their entertainment, especially if it comes in the form of an annual civic ritual to celebrate the seasons" and that "the fireworks and parade will continue" as "the entertainment people demand will go on."  That's been true for as long as I've lived in Michigan.  WXYZ has the story of the parade being rescued in 1990 in Looking back at saving the Thanksgiving parade.

We're looking back at how the owner of Art Van Furniture saved the Thanksgiving Parade.
After 25 years, I'd forgotten that story.  It was worth hearing about it again.

Follow over the jump for WXYZ and WDIV on this year's parade.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Prehistoric creatures to float over New York on Thanksgiving

I'm not done with the Macy's Thanksgiving ParadeTwo balloons depicting prehistoric creatures will join today's parade.  First, Scrat the saber-toothed rodent from the "Ice Age" movies.


Next, Dino the Sinclair Oil dinosaur.


Dino has been in the parade before, as an earlier version flew in the parade during the 1960s and 1970s beginning in 1962 to promote the 1964-1965 Worlds Fair, which I attended as a child.  It's returned, as the image below shows, to celebrate Sinclair Oil's 100th anniversary.


Prehistoric animals and a holiday parade.  I couldn't resist.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Walled Lake Central Marching Band in Macy's Parade


I didn't get the results I was hoping for in Michigan marching band championships, both official and unofficial.  Walled Lake Central's marching band not only did not win (Sanford Meridian's band did), it came in eighth.  However, the band has something else to look forward to, marching in tomorrow's Macy's Parade.  Here's the announcement from May 2014: WL Central's Marching Band to march in 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy's Parade officials lead by Wesley Whatley, Creative Director of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade®and head of the Parade's Band selection committee made a special announcement inviting Michigan's Walled Lake Central High School Marching Band to the 2015 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy's Parade staff, worked secretly with school officials including band director David Rogers, to surprise members of the marching band with the news that they have been selected out of hundreds of nationwide applicants to be one of 10 marching bands in the 2015 Parade. The news was delivered at a special surprise gathering arranged by school staff.
I'll repeat what I said to Plymouth-Canton's band* four years ago: Have a great time in New York City. The world will be watching you.

*Plymouth-Canton's band has their own televised holiday event to look forward to; they're marching in the 2016 Rose Parade.  This is a good year for Michigan's top high school marching bands.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The smart money is on Rubio to beat Trump


I opened Bye, Bobby! Jindal drops out with dueling observations on the state of the GOP field.
Kunstler remarked on the state of the campaign at his blog yesterday.
The cowardice in the college executive suites is mirrored in our national politics, where no persons of real standing will dare step forward to oppose the juggernaut of Hillery-the-Grifter, or take on the clowning Donald Trump on the grounds of his sheer mental unfittedness to lead a government.
I disagreed with him about the Republicans being unwilling to take on Trump.*
There are plenty of people with stature in the Republican Party trying to dislodge Trump and Carson from the top two spots.   Off the top of my head, I count four current senators, three current governors, a former senator, and four former governors, along with a former CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, all trying to beat that "immigrant-bashing carnival barker" and his competitor Doctor Pyramid.  They're just not succeeding at it.
That was only half of what I had to say on the topic of Republicans taking on Trump.  Here's the rest, which I promised to use in the comments to Record page views, comments, and 100th follower: Monthly meta for October 2015.
Right now, the smart money is on Rubio, as PredictWise's aggregate of betting markets gives him a 47% chance of winning the nomination.  Trump may be in second, but he's well behind at 19%.  Then comes Cruz at 13% and Bush at 10%.  The rest of the field, including Carson, is in single digits.  Let's see if the people putting their money where their mouths are end up being right or losing their shirts.
Since last Monday, those odds have moved.  Rubio is still at 47%, while Trump and Cruz have both gone up to 22% and 16% respectively.  Bush is still at 10%, while Christie is hanging on at 4% and Carson has fallen to 2%.  The "smart money" among gamblers may think that Rubio is the most likely to win the nomination, but they are taking both Trump and Cruz more seriously.  That last is not good news.

Follow over the jump for more.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Record page views, comments, and 100th follower: Monthly meta for October 2015


October 2015 was another record-setting month.  First, page views shattered the previous high of 14,981 page views during August 2015 by 7,500 with a new record of 22,491.  Second, last month exceeded last month's 74 comments with 89, another new record. Finally, the blog reached a milestone with its 100th follower, Robin of Your Daily Dose and TV Function Junction.  I'm  celebrating the record month by sharing the entries with the most comments, most likes, and most page views, beginning with the post that also got the most comments last month, "Science fiction speaks to our current anxieties."  Thanks to a battle with several persistent spammers, this post is now the most commented on entry in the history of the blog with 52 comments, half of them deleted.  Fourteen more came in October, beating out the next entry by eight.

"Hurricane Joaquin as viewed from Michigan," posted October 2, 2015, came in second with six comments thanks to Paul W. and I having a conversation.  It was the entry actually posted last month with the most comments.  All those comments only gained it 112 page views according to the raw counter, not enough to earn it a place on the top ten lists otherwise.  It also earned its page views by being shared at Kunstler's blog.

Follow over the jump for the most read and liked entries of October 2015.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Katniss Everdeen dethrones James Bond at the U.S. box office


Two weeks ago, "SPECTRE" knocked "The Martian" out of number one at the U.S. box office.  This week, it was Katniss Everdeen's turn to assassinate James Bond as "The Hunger Games" Mockingjay-Part 2" came in first, handily outpacing "SPECTRE."  Even in victory, the news was not all good as Daily Variety via Reuters reported earlier today that 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2' debuts to franchise-low $101 million.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" dominated the weekend box office with the final film in the science-fiction franchise debuting to $101 million.

That ranks as the year's fifth biggest opening, but it wasn't as big a sendoff for Katniss Everdeen and her fellow revolutionaries as some had predicted.

The massive bow falls short of tracking that projected the picture would top $120 million in its initial weekend in theaters. It also represents a low for the series, falling far short of the $158.1 million high-water mark established by 2013's "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire." It's a sign, perhaps, that interest in the dystopian world of Panem has crested.
The cresting of the youth dystopia wave is a topic I'll explore over the jump, along with other aspects of the series' legacy.  Those will come after the rest of the box office report.
The weakness of the new films allowed holdovers "Spectre" and "The Peanuts Movie" to pad their box office results. The latest Bond adventure added $14.6 million to its $153.7 million domestic haul, nabbing second place on the charts. "The Peanuts Movie" finished third, picking up $12.8 million to push its stated total to $98.9 million.
The "new films" mentioned were "The Night Before," which earned $10.1 million to come in fourth and "The Secret in Their Eyes," which grossed $6.6 million to eke out fifth place.  That last film may do better at the awards shows than the theaters, along with other films geared to an older audience.  Look for those to make their money on cable and streaming services.

Follow over the jump for reviews of the final installment of "The Hunger Games" from Vox and io9.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Examiner.com article on Winter Storm Bella

The National Weather Service predicted that six to ten inches of show could blanket the northern and western suburbs of Detroit on Saturday.
NOAA/National Weather Service (public domain)
Detroit's northern suburbs under winter storm warning
At 9:02 A.M. Saturday, the National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the northern part of the Detroit metropolitan area, including the counties of Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, St. Clair, and Washtenaw until 10 P.M. Saturday.  Also, Wayne and Monroe counties are under a winter weather advisory released Friday night and expiring Saturday night.

The storm, which the Weather Channel has dubbed Winter Storm Bella, is predicted to drop six to ten inches of snow in the counties under the winter storm warning.  Three to six inches could fall in the counties covered by the winter weather advisory by Sunday morning.

“The biggest thing we want to hit home is that we’re going to have decent snowfall,” Deb Elliott, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, told the Detroit News. “People need to be prepared for that. Make allowance to leave early if you have to go somewhere. There might be some icy conditions, reduced visibility.”
More at the link, including driving hazards, the forecast for the rest of the week, and a video from the Weather Channel about Winter Storm Bella.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Kunstler at TEDxAlbany on 'The Long Emergency' as of 2010


As I mentioned in Graphic shows U.S. oil production has increased dramatically under Obama, I'm showing my students "The End of Suburbia" again.  That reminded me of a promise I made in Discussing Kunstler for the fourth year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.
Kunstler himself posted a follow up to his TED talk at TEDxAlbany.  I plan on posting that in a future entry, too.  Stay tuned.
Today is as good an opportunity as any to share that video, so with no further ado, I present How Do You Like the Long Emergency So Far? Jim Kunstler at TEDxAlbany 2010.

James Howard Kunstler may be the world's most outspoken critic of suburban sprawl. He believes the end of the fossil fuels era will soon force a return to smaller-scale, agrarian communities -- and an overhaul of the most destructive features of postwar society.
Right now, with oil relatively cheap and abundant and times in the U.S. being relatively good, it's harder to listen to Kunstler's ideas, but oil is still a finite resource and the climate is still warming, both of which will threaten economy and society, climate now, energy (again) later.  As for banking imploding, that may happen (again) later rather than sooner.  The financial and energy crisis that made Kunstler salient has receded.  Just the same, the next crisis is coming, which will make him more relevant again.  Keep paying attention.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Regular falls below $2.00 in metro Detroit before Thanksgiving as predicted


I concluded Bye, Bobby! Jindal drops out with a program note.
Stay tuned for a gas price update.  Regular fell below $2.00 in my old neighborhood yesterday, just as I predicted it would do before Thanksgiving.
I made that prediction again in Limbo Kitty returns as prices fall to new post-summer lows, when I also noted that all the stations in my old neighborhood were selling regular for $2.19.  The price didn't fall over the next few weeks, as they inched up to $2.22 and then $2.25.  On Tuesday, a co-worker informed me that the price had fallen below $2.00.  Sure enough, regular was selling for $1.95 at all outlets.  I promptly filled up Pearl.

Limbo Kitty continues to dance, as GasBuddy shows that at least one of the two stations down the street from the old corner station has dropped its price for regular again to $1.88.  The station is merely tracking the Detroit average, which is currently $1.97.  Sub-two-dollar gas has arrived in my area by both criteria I use, the average in my old neighborhood and the GasBuddy average for Detroit.

Gas is cheap not only here, but across the state line in Indiana.  Yesterday, WSBT in South Bend posted Gas prices drop below two dollars to its YouTube channel.  Prices are even lower there.


Oil-Price.Net shows futures prices for oil and wholesale prices for gasoline are all down from last month, when WTI was at $45.55, Brent was at $48.71, and RBOB is selling for $1.28.  WTI closed yesterday at $40.75, Brent at $44.14, and RBOB at $1.27, all of which are actually slightly up from their closes on Tuesday.  Even so, watch for more Limbo Kitty between now and Christmas, as I expect gas to fall to $1.75 by then.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Bye, Bobby! Jindal drops out


Kunstler remarked on the state of the campaign at his blog yesterday.
The cowardice in the college executive suites is mirrored in our national politics, where no persons of real standing will dare step forward to oppose the juggernaut of Hillery-the-Grifter (sic), or take on the clowning Donald Trump on the grounds of his sheer mental unfittedness to lead a government.
I disagreed with him about the Republicans being unwilling to take on Trump.*
There are plenty of people with stature in the Republican Party trying to dislodge Trump and Carson from the top two spots.   Off the top of my head, I count four current senators, three current governors, a former senator, and four former governors, along with a former CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation, all trying to beat that "immigrant-bashing carnival barker" and his competitor Doctor Pyramid.  They're just not succeeding at it.
This morning, there is one less "person of real standing" among the Republicans taking on Trump.  Wochit News reports Bobby Jindal Ends Presidential Campaign.

Bobby Jindal ended his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on Tuesday. The Louisiana governor had been attempting to appeal to conservative voters who have embraced Donald Trump, and was gaining some ground in Iowa, polling in the top 10 in that crucial caucus state. But in the most recent national poll conducted by CNN, he was only supported by 1% of Republican primary voters. Jindal said in a interview with Fox News, "It has been a great honor for me to run for president of the United States. This is not my time. I’ve come here to announce that I’m suspending my campaign for the presidency.”
Don't just take Wochit's word for it.  Jindal himself explained his reasoning as well as what he'll do next to CNN.

Bobby Jindal announces he is ending his presidential campaign. "Sometimes it's better to live to fight another day," he told reporters.
On the one hand, the exasperation I expressed in A farewell drink for Larry Lessig over three Democratic candidates dropping out while none of the GOP candidates did has decreased.  On the other hand, I'm surprised it was Jindal.  His campaign has met all the filing deadlines so far including those for South Carolina, Alabama, and Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Pataki and Gilmore have missed the filing deadlines for Alabama and Arkansas, so they won't be on the ballots there.  That happened four years ago to Perry and Gingrich, while Bachmann, Santorum, and Huntsman didn't even submit petitions, leaving only Romney and Paul on the ballot there.  That's when I found out who was serious about continuing their campaigns, who had the organization, and who had already given up.  On those criteria, I expected either Pataki or Gilmore to be next.  Surprise!

Whatever.  It's time say good-bye to Bobby and drink a Flaming Volcano while you do.


Stay tuned for a gas price update.  Regular fell below $2.00 in my old neighborhood yesterday, just as I predicted it would do before Thanksgiving.

*I don't disagree with him about Hillary and the Democrats, but that's a comment for another day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Graphic shows U.S. oil production has increased dramatically under Obama

This week, I'm showing my students "The End of Suburbia" again.  That means it's time for another update answering some of the questions.

The most recent comment to Guide to entries that contain answers to 'The End of Suburbia' ended with the following promise.
The next updates will probably be more explicit answers to 21 and 22, which I quoted above, and a commentary on how fracking, tar sands, and deep sea drilling have affected the fossil fuel picture since the movie came out 11 years ago. My students this semester were having trouble with the former and have been asking about the latter. I'll see if I can get those done before I show the movie again in November.
Even though the effect of oil on U.S. foreign policy is timely, both because of terrorism in Paris and elsewhere and the rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, I'm going to save that topic for later.  Instead, I'm sharing this graphic from FiveThirtyEight, which Ben Casselman introduced in the context of the most recent Republican debate.
One more note on energy: Republicans love to criticize Obama on energy. And he has made some decisions that are unpopular with the oil and gas industry, most recently his decision last week to block the Keystone XL pipeline. But it's hard to argue that the industry has suffered too much under Obama. Just look at what's happened to oil production on his watch:

U.S. oil production has now increased to form a secondary peak higher than the 1987 peaking of Alaskan production.  It's second only to the 1970-1971 peak of overall U.S. production.

That reminds me of this question: "11. Who originally described Peak Oil? When? What was his prediction for Peak Oil in the U.S.?"  The answers are M. King Hubbert and the early 1970s, specifically 1970.  See, I did answer one of the questions after all.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Space visitors gave scary close calls on Halloween and Friday the 13th


I admonished my readers to avoid "get[ing] hit by any space junk" at the end of A zombie drink for Friday the 13th.  It looks like no one was, as CNN reported Mystery object falls to Earth.

Astronomers captured video and images of a mysterious piece of space junk entering the Earth's atmosphere.
As I wrote last month, "this will provide a good opportunity for scientists to observe how spacecraft break up in the atmosphere and it will also remove one more piece of space junk.  Good viewing and good riddance!"

Speaking of preparing for future asteroid strikes, the planet had what I expected to be a near miss on Halloween.  It was even more exiciting that I expected, as Wochit reported Skull-Faced Asteroid Gives Spooky Halloween Scare.

A renegade asteroid, officially named 2015 TB145, looked like the face of death as it was approaching Earth last night. It was observed by the Planetary Radar Group at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico on Halloween eve, October 30. The animation of it posted by the observatory, shows that the skull face is really just an optical illusion, not a chilling portent of impending doom. Earlier this week, NASA explained how it planned to study the asteroid, which they have nicknamed, "The Great Pumpkin."
NASA was less sensationalistic, but still entertaining enough.
Scientists observing asteroid 2015 TB145 with NASA's Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, have determined that the celestial object is more than likely a dead comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the sun.
...
The first radar images of the dead comet were generated by the National Science Foundation's 305-meter (1,000-foot) Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. The radar images from Arecibo indicate the object is spherical in shape and approximately 2,000 feet (600 meters) in diameter and completes a rotation about once every five hours.

"The IRTF data may indicate that the object might be a dead comet, but in the Arecibo images it appears to have donned a skull costume for its Halloween flyby," said Kelly Fast, IRTF program scientist at NASA Headquarters and acting program manager for NASA's NEO Observations Program.
I'm glad that's all that happened.  I can wait until Apophis Day.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Best dressed in the apocalypse: '12 Monkeys' vs. 'The Last Man on Earth'

After writing French soccer fans sing their defiance in the face of terror and then watching the second Democratic debate, I'm in another "I can't be all DOOM all the time" mood.  Then again, that's why Entertainment Sunday exists on my blog.

For today's collapse-and-decline entertainment entry, I'm going to indirectly salute the French by looking at the fashion in two shows about the apocalypse with the help of Worn on TV, "12 Monkeys" and "The Last Man on Earth."*  Haute couture in the time of The Red Death, anyone?

I'll work up from the character wearing the cheapest clothes and to one with the most expensive, beginning with Phil "Tandy" Miller from "The Last Man on Earth."  Phil has cheap tastes and likes to wear T-shirts from all the tourist destinations he visited on his journeys looking for other survivors, including the Columbus Zoo and Mount Rushmore.  In his own way, he's trying to preserve the culture of the old world while taking advantage of not having to pay admission.  As I wrote, he has cheap tastes.  He could have taken any item of clothing and he selected ones costing $32-$36.  The T-shirt I most approve of his this one, which is also the least expensive at $30.


As someone who loved the national parks enough to become a Park Ranger, I agree.  Visit our national parks.

Follow over the jump for the clothes of three more characters from "The Last Man on Earth" and two characters from "12 Monkeys."

Saturday, November 14, 2015

French soccer fans sing their defiance in the face of terror



Jean Jullien's "Peace for Paris" from Banksy via You Might Notice a Trend.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting rampage, I reacted by posting Musical responses to terror, updated.  In the wake of yesterday's coordinated terror attack in Paris, I'll let the French themselves give their own musical reply to the Sith Jihad* via the New York Times: Soccer Fans Sing ‘La Marseillaise’ .

Soccer fans responded to a series of explosions and shootings in Paris by singing the French national anthem as they were evacuated from the stadium.
Vive la France!

*That's right, as Reuters via The Huffington Post reported today "Islamic State Claims Responsibility For Deadly Paris Attacks."  First the Russians, now the French.  Keep making enemies by the boatloads, assholes.  As Infidel753 quoted Comrade Misfit today: "Other than the Americans, there aren't many nations capable of projecting military force at a considerable distance beyond their own borders. The terrorists have, in the last two weeks, seriously pissed off two of them."

Friday, November 13, 2015

A zombie drink for Friday the 13th


Happy Friday the 13th!  In the spirit of History lesson and drink recipe for Friday the 13th and It's Friday the 13th, drink up!, I bring my readers Tipsy Bartender's recipe for The Zombie.

THE ZOMBIE is one of the strongest drinks on the market!
...
THE ZOMBIE
1 oz. (30ml) White Rum
1 oz. (30ml) Gold Rum
1 oz. (30ml) Apricot Brandy
1 1/2 oz. (45ml) Passion Fruit Juice
1 1/2 oz. (45ml) Pine apple Juice
Splash of Grenadine
1 oz. (30ml) Dark Rum
1/2 (15ml) Bacardi 151
Pineapple Slice
Cherry
Umbrella
For more zombie-themed drink recipes, I recommend Drink and drive with "The Walking Dead", The Archdruid and his readers on zombies, and Drinks for "The Walking Dead" from Tipsy Bartender.  Drink responsibly and don't become a zombie today; it's unlucky!  Don't get hit by any space junk, either!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November storm threatens power outages in Michigan


November is notorious for strong and windy storms here in Michigan.  This month is no exception as WOOD-TV reports a Powerful November storm headed for Great Lakes.

Storm Team 8 is tracking a powerful November storm into West Michigan. (Nov. 12, 2015)
That's impressive, and not in a good way.

All that is on the west side of the state.  Over on the east side, WXYZ is already reporting Downed power lines in Macomb.


It's early, so it's only going to get worse today in metro Detroit as the storm passes overhead.  To all my readers in the Great Lakes region, stay safe and be prepared.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

WXYZ shows how Detroit honors its veterans


Happy Veterans Day!  To celebrate the holiday, I'm sharing clips from WXYZ showing how Detroit honors its veterans.

First, Veterans Day events around metro Detroit.


Next, no holiday in the U.S. lacks a commercial angle.  Veterans Day is no different, as Veterans Day deals for local vets demonstrates.


Yes, red, white, and blue pancakes from IHOP for veterans.

Finally, an event that's taking place as I write this involves Caring for Homeless Veterans.

The Law Offices of Goodman Acker invite you out to a 5k run/walk and backpack distribution for homeless veterans on Veterans Day.
Hurry, the run/walk is over at noon.

Once again, happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SeaWorld phasing out its current Orca shows in San Diego


"Blackfish" may have been snubbed by the Oscars and endured push back from SeaWorld, but it's having an effect just the same.  CBS Nightly News reported yesterday SeaWorld to phase out killer whale shows.

SeaWorld San Diego said Monday it would end the theatrical whale shows the park has become known for. Ben Tracy has more on how the park came to the decision.
I think this is a great development, although I'd prefer it be implemented at all their parks, not just the one in San Diego.  If nothing else, SeaWorld wants to greenwash what it does in the name of education (and the bottom line).  If so, I have the same opinion of the action that I have of Republicans on climate change and energy at the CNBC debate--a step in the right direction, however inadequate.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure about Representative Schiff's bill.  I'd rather have more orcas, even captive-bred ones in captivity to safeguard against the species becoming endangered in the wild.  Consequently, I think his proposal is well-meaning but wrong-headed.  Would he also ban the breeding of elephants in captivity to stop circuses from using them?  Better to ban that practice and allow zoos to breed elephants, I say.

Stay tuned.  I'm sure I'm not done with this subject, if for no other reason than PETA might pull one of its legal stunts again.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Michigan marching band championships, both official and unofficial


I told my readers to "stay tuned for continued entertainment coverage tomorrow, as I have two articles about the state marching band championship to share" at the end of 'SPECTRE' knocks 'The Martian' out of number one at the U.S. box office.  The first link comes from the Detroit Free Press: Bands bring music, drama to Ford Field competition.
How do Neil deGrasse Tyson, 21,000 square feet of black fabric and music from the "2001: A Space Odyssey" film fit into a high school band competition? With a lot of planning and some elaborate storytelling.

Music is at the core of the annual state high school band competition that kicks off Saturday morning at Ford Field, featuring 48 bands from across much of Michigan.

But this competition put on by the Michigan Competing Band Association is also about telling stories — and capturing the attention and emotions of the audience.

And as the band from Walled Lake Central High School closes out its morning performance Saturday, the only music will come from a single piano player, and the football field will be transformed into a night sky — thanks to all that black fabric that will be draped over students holding flashlights.

It's part of a "When I Look Up" theme that's based off an interview in which Tyson, the famed astrophysicist, talks about the universe. His voice is interspersed a few times during the show and the tempo of the music changes based on what he's saying.

"I think that this program really connects," said Emma Akouri, a senior who's part of the color guard. "It's exploring what the universe means to us and how we connect with everything, not just in society but up into space."
A marching band show that features Neil DeGrasse Tyson--how could I resist?   Of course I couldn't.

The band's effort paid off, as they came in second at the MCBA championship behind Plymouth-Canton Educational Park.  That band got a big mention in Examiner.com's Michigan competitive marching bands and politics out of tune.
Last year, the Michigan Competing Band Association (MCBA) held the 2014 state finals to judge which participating Michigan high school had the best marching band. The 180 member Plymouth-Canton Marching Band, led by Dave Armbruster and Jon Thomann, took the top honor with a show called “Don’t Bother, They’re Here.”

About five years ago Armbruster suffered a heart attack. Last year he told this writer, "My health became an issue in 2010 just because the show was so elaborate. It took a toll on my health. Unfortunately, two years later it took a toll on my marriage.” Mr. Armbruster is now divorced, but says he has a great relationship with his ex-wife, whom he called “wonderful.”

Mr. Armbruster says his health is better now and handles the stress by not sweating the small stuff. But funding the marching arts is expensive. Each student’s family is asked to contribute financially to fund the band’s activities, including going to the 2016 Rose Bowl. Mr. Armbruster emphasized no student is excluded for lack of financial resources.
I'm not the least bit surprised by the level of sacrifice required of the band director.  Think "Mr. Holland's Opus" on steroids for a program like Plymouth Canton's. 

The band's performance itself is not the main point of the article.  This is:
Michigan schools do not consider marching band a “sport” and do not get the same relative funding as some high school sports. High school sports’ budgets make up “approximately 1 to 3 percent of the district's education budget,” according to the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

According to Paul Lichau, Michigan State Band and Orchestra Association executive director, 71 percent of the member schools reported receiving less than $5,000 from their school districts. Marching bands struggle to cover the financial shortfall with the help of parent booster groups and outside donations.
...
Now, back to Michigan’s local politics. Why would Michigan’s Lansing politicians allow an activity that takes skill, stamina, intelligence, talent, teamwork and dedication to be underfunded? Only one obvious answer, many of Michigan’s elected representatives have never seen a marching band show.
I agree with the author that politicians need to watch a marching band competition. However, it's not Lansing's politicians who have to be persuaded; they don't allocate funds to particular school programs.  They merely set levels of per-pupil funding.  Instead, it's the school board members that approve the budgets; they're the ones who have to be convinced.  Taking your local school board members to a show might just be a good idea.  In Michigan, that will have to wait until next year.

That's it for the official championship.  There is an unofficial championship being run by MLive, Top 10 decided: Vote now for coolest high school marching band in Michigan.  The only bands that made both the official state championship and the MLive top ten are Walled Lake Central and Northview of Grand Rapids.  Of course, I'm voting for Walled Lake Central.  They're the best band according to the experts, of which I used to be one, and they're doing a space show.  I hope you vote for them, too, and soon.  The deadline is tomorrow November 10th at 10 A.M. EST.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

'SPECTRE' knocks 'The Martian' out of number one at the U.S. box office


I expressed my intention to skip reviewing last weekend's new releases in 'The Martian' returns to number one as most Halloween films bomb based on my expecting that they wouldn't be that good.  I was right, as New York Magazine's Vulture blog reported This Was the Worst Domestic Box Office Weekend of 2015.  The only new release to break the top five was the cooking film "Burnt," which came in fifth with only $5 million.  Against such weak competition, "The Martian" held on to the top spot.

Meanwhile, "Spectre" was setting records in the U.K.


Yes, James Bond beat Harry Potter for opening weekend.  How very British.

The expectation was that the latest Bond film would revive the U.S. box office when it opened.  It did, as Daily Variety reported in Box Office: ‘Spectre’ Tops ‘The Peanuts Movie’ With $73 Million.
James Bond and Charlie Brown brought the box office roaring back to life, as “Spectre” and “The Peanuts Movie” attracted big crowds over their opening weekends.

“Spectre,” the latest 007 adventure, took first place, debuting to $73 million from 3,929 theaters — a hefty figure and the second-highest debut in series history, but one that nevertheless trails the launch of “Skyfall.” The previous film in the long-running franchise bowed to $88.4 million, but enjoyed better reviews and benefited from being the only new wide release in its opening weekend. Going into the weekend, tracking suggested that the film would debut to $80 million, but the strength of “The Peanuts Movie” and some critical grousing about plot holes wide enough to drive an Aston Martin through may have depressed ticket sales.
One of the critics grousing about the movie was Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal.

"Spectre" is the newest James Bond film, starring Daniel Craig in his fourth turn as the famed spy. But can "Spectre" live up to expectations set by "Skyfall"? WSJ's Joe Morgenstern reviews. Photo: Sony Pictures
Oh, my, the answer to the question appears to be no.  Peter Suderman of Vox was even more scathing, declaring Spectre is the worst James Bond movie in years.  He damned the movie with faint praise before pulling out the knife with his thesis sentence: "Indeed, while the stunning opening sequence offers a succinct demonstration of all the ways a Bond movie can go right, what follows mostly serves to illustrate all the ways Bond movies can — and do — go wrong."  It's a long list.

I could find more poor reviews, but I'll move on after speculating that Sam Mendes may be using up all his best material on Penny Dreadful, which I jokingly call "James Bond, Vampire Hunter."  If so, that would be a shame.

Follow over the jump for the rest of the report and my commentary, including two Bond-related drink recipes from Tipsy Bartender.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Keystone XL pipeline rejected


One shoe dropped when President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline.  The other shoe finally fell yesterday.  CNN has the story in Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline.

President Obama says he agrees with the State Department's decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.
I agree with just about everything Obama said about the pipeline.  So did Christie Aschwanden of FiveThirtyEight, who wrote Keystone XL Wasn’t About Jobs Or The Climate — It Was All Politics.  In the end, it was.

I'm also surprised that it was stopped.  I thought it would eventually be approved, even though I was hoping it wouldn't be.  After all, I called the project "a dumb idea that's going to hurt Americans."  I'm glad it won't.

I'm not the only one.  CNN reports on Frostpaw, the anti-keystone 'polar bear', react...

On Friday President Obama announced he would not approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. CNN talked with Frostpaw the mascot for the Center for Biological Diversity. The group says polar bears will become extinct if action is not taken against global warming.
This is a victory, but there is still a lot to do.  In the meantime, I'll let Professor Farnsworth have the last word.  It's about time he did!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Examiner.com article on Carson leading Clinton and Sanders in Michigan

Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson, seen here on a book tour in Florida, led both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders among Michigan voters in a poll released Thursday.
Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
I wrote that I'd post "the latest news about Doctor Pyramid from Michigan" at the end of Doctor Carson and his Amazing Technicolor Labcoat.  Here it is from Examiner.com: Poll shows Carson leads Clinton and Sanders in Michigan while Trump trails.
EPIC-MRA released a poll Thursday commissioned for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ television showing that Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson leads former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton among likely voters in Michigan, 46 percent to 40 percent.  The poll also found Carson ahead of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, 45 percent to 36 percent.

Real estate tycoon and former reality television star Donald Trump of New York fared less well in the poll.  The survey said that both Clinton and Sanders would beat Trump in Michigan if the election were held today.  Clinton led Trump 46 percent to 38 percent, while Sanders was ahead 48 percent to 36 percent.

“Clearly, this shows that what’s happening nationally with the surge for Ben Carson is happening in Michigan as well,” said Bernie Porn, president of EPIC-MRA, to the Detroit Free Press. “That quiet manner of his compared to the bombastic approach of Donald Trump is paying off right now.”  Porn elaborated on Carson's appeal for WXYZ, telling the station that “Voters like his style and it has resulted in a 42 percent favorability rate and only 30 percent unfavorable rate.”
More at the link, including a comparison with two national polls released Wednesday asking about the same or similar match-ups, a history of the polling for the candidates in Michigan, and reaction to the results.  There is also a video at the link.  I was hoping that this video from WXYZ was available, but I couldn't find it: Exclusive Presidential Poll.

Exclusive Presidential Poll on who would win for president if vote held today
Instead, it's this one from Wochit: Carson, Trump Get OK for Secret Service Detail.

Donald Trump and Ben Carson could soon have more company on the campaign trail -- in the form of a Secret Service detail. A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security said Thursday, "Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson has authorized United States Secret Service protection for both Donald Trump and Ben Carson." The spokesperson said, That authorization came after consultation with an advisory committee in Congress made up of the Speaker of the House, the House Minority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader, the Senate Majority Leader, and an additional member selected by the Committee.
The latter is still on-topic and newsworthy, but not ideal.

Stay tuned for a busy weekend of posts.  I have entries on the rejection of the Keystone XL, the state marching band championship, and the first weekend of "Spectre" in the U.S. planned.

Crossposted to Michigan Liberal as EPIC-MRA poll: Carson leads Clinton and Sanders in Michigan while Trump trails.

Doctor Carson and his Amazing Technicolor Labcoat


Dr. Ben Carson has finally said something outlandish enough that it induced me to remark on it.  I'll let Wonkette have the honors of explaining: Surprise, Dr. Ben Carson’s Latest Pyramid Scheme Involves Actual Pyramids.*
My own personal theory is that Joseph built the pyramids to store grain. Now all the archeologists think that they were made for the pharaohs’ graves. But, you know, it would have to be something awfully big if you stop and think about it. And I don’t think it’d just disappear over the course of time to store that much grain.
Carson, of course, is referring to the well-known biblical account of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, in which a dream warns Joseph, held as a slave by the Pharaoh, to stockpile grain during a period of plenty to tide Egypt over during a seven-year famine, saving the grateful nation and inspiring a musical treatment by Andrew Lloyd Webber, which is why the Egyptians worshipped Cats. And to Carson, it’s obvious the huge granaries for that project would still have to be around, since everything in the Bible actually happened, like Noah’s Ark.
I guess Dr. Carson accepts the following advice, whether it comes from the Bible, folklore, or Andrew Lloyd Webber.


After all, it made the character of Potiphar from the Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat film rich.

Starring Maria Friedman as the Narrator, Joan Collins as Potiphar's wife and Donny Osmond as Joseph. From the 'film version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.'
Follow over the jump for more.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Finally, both houses of Michigan's legislature pass a road bill


When the Michigan Senate passed a road funding bill, I wrote "Looks like it will be a long summer before this issue is resolved."  That was back in July.  A bill didn't finally pass both houses until after Election Day.  WXYZ has the story in State legislature approves road funding fix.


WXYZ followed up with the bureaucracy's reaction in MDOT responds to road funding plan.

Officials at the Michigan Department of Transportation are responding to Lansing's plan to fund road fixes.
That looks like good news, although it will come at a price. I'm not concerned about the direct costs of the bill, including the higher fuel taxes and registration fees.  I'm not even upset about the surcharge for electric and hybrid vehicles like mine; I've been expecting that for years.  Instead, I'm worried about the transfer of money from the general fund, which will impact other state services, like education.  That's why I wrote in June I was right to vote for Proposal 1, even if I was on the losing side of the largest defeat of a state ballot measure in Michigan history.  I'd rather have had that deal, as unwieldy as it was.  Oh, well, at least the roads will be better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Courser and Gamrat lose primaries for lost seats


Examiner.com articles on city council and millage elections concluded with a programming note.
I'm not done with 2015 elections.  I have a little dancing on political graves to do before I return to coverage of the 2016 presidential contest.
I begin with the news.  WXYZ has the honors of going first with Former Reps. Todd Courser, Cindy Gamrat lose bids for re-election.

They made national headlines when they tried to cover up their affair at the state capitol, and now, former State Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat will not be heading back to Lansing.
WOOD-TV has a more detailed report in Courser, Gamrat lose bids for old House seats.

Two Michigan lawmakers who were forced from office over an extramarital affair and a convoluted cover-up scheme lost longshot bids Tuesday to win back their seats (Nov. 3, 2015).
After all that, I actually feel sorry for Gamrat.  I wish her well in whatever she does as long as it isn't politics.  Courser, on the hand, I have no sympathy for at all.  God may have a plan for him, but it may come as an unpleasant surprise.

Finally, I'd like to say that it looks like the story that I began with Quatloos for "dinghy lovebirds" Gamrat and Courser and continued through First Courser and Gamrat, now Kelly and Mack, which is getting a lot of attention in the wake of last night's results, John Oliver on Courser and Gamrat, and Gamrat expelled, Courser resigns has come to a close, but that would be premature.  There is still the ABC 20/20 report to come as well as an investigation by the Michigan State Police and Attorney General.  Those might be worth following up on.  Stay tuned. 

Examiner.com articles on city council and millage elections


I wrote "Stay tuned for election coverage from Examiner.com" at the conclusion of A farewell drink for Larry Lessig.  I delivered.

First, Lumm defeats Petersen and Smith overwhelms Leeser for Ann Arbor City Council.
Independent Jane Lumm defended her seat against her former colleague Democrat Sally Jane Petersen in the only Ann Arbor City Council contest with both candidates on the ballot.  Lumm, who represents Ward 2, is currently the only sitting member of City Council who is not a Democrat. Petersen represented Ward 2 alongside Lumm from 2012-2014.

Chip Smith, the Democratic nominee for the Ward 5 City Council seat, handily defeated write-in candidate Kevin Leeser.  Smith unseated incumbent council member Mike Anglin to earn his party's nomination.  Leeser had failed to get on the ballot as an independent, then successfully filed the paperwork to become a write-in candidate.
Next, Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, and Saline elect city council members.
Four Washtenaw County cities in addition to Ann Arbor elected city council members Tuesday.  Chelsea, Dexter, Milan, and Saline held non-partisan general elections that generally returned incumbents to office.  Milan also elected its Mayor and a member of the library board.
Finally, some good news and bad news as Millages for transit, roads, and local schools pass in Washtenaw County.
Millage and bond proposals for public transportation, road construction, and education were on the ballot in Washtenaw County Tuesday.  All but one, a millage increase for Schoolcraft College, passed.

The voters of Scio Township approved a ten-year millage of 0.3627 mill by a vote of 1131 (66.88%) to 560 (33.12%) with a turnout of 13.17 percent, according to the Washtenaw County Clerk's website.  The proposal would raise an estimated $403,000 in the first year to expand Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus service to Scio Township.  The Ann Arbor News reported this would include routes along Jackson Road, Liberty Road, and Scio Church Road.
That's the good news.  I'm always on the side of expanding public transportation and I'm glad the voters of Scio Township agreed with me.

Now the bad news.
Schoolcraft College asked for a millage increase of 0.6 percent over ten years to be used for operating expenses.  The voters in its district turned them down by a narrow margin.  The Wayne County Clerk's website reported that 21,051 (51.28 percent) voted no while 19,998 (48.72 percent) voted yes.  The margin was even more lopsided in the Washtenaw County portion of the district, as 92 (75.41 percent) voted against the measure but only 30 (24.59 percent) voted in favor.
I taught for Schoolcraft for four years from 2003 to 2007, so this hits home for me.  About the only good news is that the voters turned down an increase, not a renewal.  It still hurts, both personally and as a blow to public higher education.

I'm not done with 2015 elections.  I have a little dancing on political graves to do before I return to coverage of the 2016 presidential contest.  Stay tuned.

Crossposted to Michigan Liberal as City council members elected and millages passed in Washtenaw County.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A farewell drink for Larry Lessig


I concluded Drinks for Republican candidates: Graham, Pataki, and Gilmore with "I'll have one more drink recipe entry for Larry Lessig.  Expect to see it in November."  It's November, but Lessig has already dropped out.  Vox reports Lawrence Lessig quits Democratic race, says party changed rules to exclude him from debate.
On Monday, campaign finance reform activist and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig announced he was ending his long-shot campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Lessig blamed the national Democratic Party for, he said, changing the rules in a way that made it impossible for him to qualify for the party's next debate. "It is now clear that the party won't let me be a candidate," he said. "I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination."
Farewell, Larry!  Here's a drink in your honor, the Harvard Cocktail.

1 oz brandy
1 oz sweet vermouth
4 dashes bitters
1/4 oz simple syrup
I'm now done with the project that started with recipes for Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley.  My drink orders for Paul W.'s Democratic Debate Drinking Game for October 2015 are now complete.

Follow over the jump for Lessig's account of what led him to drop out and my brief rant about how Democratic and Republican candidates have behaved very differently in response to their likelihood of getting the nomination.

Monday, November 2, 2015

NABLOPOMO for November 2015: HUGE


First, the email:
Pour yourself a cup of coffee, open the bag of Twizzlers, crack your knuckles... because it's time for November's NaBloPoMo. While NaBloPoMo happens every month, November is always the biggest crowd, and we pull out all the stops: from blogging advice to Twitter chats to prizes.
Next, the website:
Every November, thousands of bloggers commit to posting daily. But it's about much more than getting that post up — it's about community and connection. It's also about honing your craft, challenging yourself, and taking your blog to the next level. And we're going to help you do that.
...
NaBloPoMo was started in 2006 by Eden Kennedy, as a response to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and BlogHer began leading the charge in 2011. We now run NaBloPoMo writing challenges every month … but November still tends to be the "official" month, and it is unofficially HUGE.
This is why I say the theme is "Huge" even though there is officially no theme other than blogging ones heart out.
Think of it as one big blogging party meant to give you enough energy, ideas and inspiration to supercharge your blogging mojo and carry you through the next 12 months. We do our part to keep the energy going by celebrating the big crowd by featuring great posts, sharing prompts, cheering you on, and handing out prizes.
I'll ignore the prompts this month; I have enough to blog about.
NaBloPoMo is also a fantastic time to catapult your blog toward greater visibility and online opportunities. You'll likely build readers, both through your frequent posts and through people exploring the NabBloPoMo blogroll.
I'm second on the blogroll, right after Alphabet Salad, who lives right across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.  This is the second month we've signed up one after the other.  I've already told her hello.
So grab a cup of coffee, crack your knuckles, and let's get writing!
Looking forward to posting an entry every day this month, just as I have every month for the four and one half years since I started this blog.

Finally, a meme for this month's theme.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Zombie Apocalypse Index for Day of the (Walking) Dead

It's All Souls Day, AKA Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) as well as a day "The Walking Dead" airs.  To mark the occasion, I've found an appropriate story that fits in with this blog's original mission of explaining how to survive collapse, the Zombie Apocalypse Index, which ranks U.S. cities according to their potential to survive the fictional civilization-ending plague based on "ability to protect self against the virus, ability to curb the virus, ability to come up with a cure and the ability to survive the epidemic with sufficient amount of food."

I begin with the bad news from Wochit about which cities to avoid in If the Zombie Apocalypse Happens, New York is Doomed!

If the zombie apocalypse were to ever happen, New York City is apparently doomed. CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International recently conducted a “totally necessary and 100 percent practical survey” of the 53 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to see which metro region would be most, and least, likely to survive a zombie apocalypse. In the survey, the New York-Newark-New Jersey metropolitan area landed at the very bottom of the resulting Zombie Apocalypse Index, beating out Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, and a whole bunch of other cities not found in Florida. To add insult to New Yorkers’ injury, the survey listed Boston as the no. 1 most zombie-ready city in the country.
The following table from Fortune names nine metropolitan areas to avoid during the Zombie Apocalypse.


Los Angeles and Riverside-San Bernardino were third and fourth least able to survive.  That helps explain why L.A. fared so poorly in "Fear the Walking Dead."  Las Vegas would be almost as bad off, as Tech Times listed it as tenth least likely to survive.

Not all of southern California is doomed, as San Diego landed in the top ten best places.  Follow over the jump for stories about the best major cities to live in during the zombie apocalypse as well as how Michigan fared.

Fall back as Daylight Saving Time ends for 2015


National Geographic reminds its viewers not only about the end of Daylight Saving Time, but also about its costs and advantages in Daylight Saving Time 101.

Daylight saving time is the practice of setting the clocks forward one hour during the spring and back again in the fall in order to take advantage of natural daylight. It has both benefits and negative consequences. This video helps you understand all of them.
Remember to set back your clocks, including the ones for insulin pumps tonight.

Stay tuned for the Sunday entertainment entry.