Book of the Month

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Is the Occupy Movement Over?


Based on an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll (right), the Guardian announces, Occupy Wall Street's people power loses popularity:

... the public's backing of Occupy has taken a hit. Nationally, most pollsters have not even bothered to survey Americans on their views of Occupy since the end of the Zuccotti Park sit-in. The only pollster who has reasonably consistently asked about Occupy has seen a decline in its support. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that the percentage of Americans who consider themselves a "supporter" of the Occupy movement has dropped by half since November.

I read this last week, and wondered, who of course, could be more impartial about Occupy Wall Street than the WSJ's pollsters? And who, I wonder are they asking? [Read more]

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Torture is not Missing from TV

Finale Spoiler! My wife insisted that I had to watch the ABC primetime show Missing, in which former spy Becca Winstone (Ashley Judd), married to supposedly dead spy, Paul Winstone (Sean Bean), is always searching for their kidnapped son Michael (Nick Eversman). She was sometimes hindered and sometimes assisted by Dax Miller (Cliff Curtis) at the CIA and Giancarlo Rossi (Adriano Giannini) at Interpol. There were lots of evil-looking Eastern European types wielding black semiautos, friendly but cutthroat double agent Martin Newman (Keith Carradine) and cute but deadly double agent Violet Heath (Laura Donnelly). And of course Paul was not really dead, or the walrus. [Read more]

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Blue Clay Disappoints


Tennis is in the middle of clay court season. Last year Novak Djokovic stunned everyone by continuing his winning streak on Rafael Nadal's best surface—beating Nadal on the red clay of Madrid and Rome. This year, Djokovic has been less dominant, losing to Nadal in Monte Carlo, and losing early in Madrid. So Djokovic should be motivated to defend his points this week at Rome—the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. [Read more]

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Solar & Wind Expo


On Saturday, I attended a Solar & Wind Expo, which was held about three stops away on light rail. At the Timonium Fair Grounds stop, there was no sign that anything was happening. I walked past the empty entrance kiosks, and saw a truck with a horse trailer backing up to the mostly empty livestock sheds. I continued past the empty cow palace, and eventually saw some balloons tied to two tiny cars in front of a nondescript concrete block building. The cars were Think City EVs. A small banner announced that the expo was inside.

I was a bit early and when I tried to pay the $10 entry fee with my debit card, one of the cashiers went to a table and pulled a cardswipe machine out of a box. She fiddled with it and asked, "Do you have any cash?" I had eight dollars, so she took that and let me in. That worked out about right because I was supposed to get two dollars off for arriving by light rail. [Read more]

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Luxury Electric Motor Bikes



Along with their hybrids and EVs, luxury automakers have been developing prototype e-bikes, like the Audi Wörthersee above. These aren't full-fledged motorcycles, like the Brammo or Zero, but they aren't just bicycles either: [Read more]

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Tesla and the Uncertain Middle Class

Tesla is about to release its Model S sedan. Despite operating at a loss, despite never having turned a profit, despite being the recipient of government loans (which the right wing hates about the Volt), despite its stock price dropping due to perceived competition from the Toyota RAV4 EV, some Wall Street pundits are still bullish on Tesla.

Why? Well it promises decent range:

Tesla: The Time Has Come [Read more]

The Tesla Model S will give you significantly more range than a Nissan LEAF or any other practical all-electric car to date. The Nissan is EPA-certified at 73 miles on average. Tesla claims 160 miles for the base version of the Model S. ...

Tesla will also sell you an alleged 230-mile and a 300-mile version of the Model S. Each step up is $10,000 more.
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Bilateral Breathing

I've always admired the grace, efficiency and symmetry of swimmers that breathe to both sides at any pace and distance. Laure Manadou, Rebecca Adlington, Federica Pellegrini and many other elite female swimmers breathe bilaterally while competing, as do many excellent masters swimmers. But, many other women and almost all of the elite male swimmers in the world breathe to one side, or unilaterally, in their races. 

Welsh distance swimmer Dave Davies is one of the few male swimmers I have seen consistently breathing bilaterally. World 1500m champion Sun Yang quickly breathes to both sides before and after turning, but mostly breathes to one side. Many male swimmers can sneak a breath to the opposite side to keep an eye on an opponent, but most opt for the additional air available when breathing every other stroke.

Despite the prevalence of unilateral breathing, some coaches recommend bilateral breathing to develop symmetrical body roll to each side and to avoid the lopsided stroke that often comes with same-side breathing. Michael Phelps breathes to one side, but in this training video, his coach, Bob Bowman, recommends learning bilateral breathing: [Read more]

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Three Articles

I found these three posts interesting, and rather than fill up the news section, I decided to put them here:

The Birth, Decline, and Re-Emergence of the Solid South: A Short History [Read more]

Since the Civil War, the American South has mostly been a one-party region.  However, by the turn of the 21st century, its political affiliation had actually swung from the Democrats to the Republicans.  Here’s how it happened.

It is not an oversimplification to say that slavery was the single most important issue leading to the Civil War.  For not only was slavery the most important on its own merits, but none of the other relevant issues, such as expansion into the western territories or states’ rights, would have mattered much at all if not for their indelible connection to slavery.

Initially, Northerners rallied around the issue of Free Soil: opposition to slavery on economic grounds.  Small farmers and new industrial workers did not want to compete with large slave plantations and unpaid slave labor.  This was the philosophy that bound together the new  Republican Party.
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Alexander Dale Oen


At the pool, you often see people swimming a very relaxed style of breaststroke—head out of the water, breathing freely, legs frog-kicking deep down—but swum properly, modern breaststroke is as physically grueling and technically demanding as butterfly, itself an evolution of breaststroke. One would expect a world breaststroke champion to be in fantastic physical condition. Norway's Alexander Dale Oen was 26, almost 27. In Beijing, he had won the Silver medal in 100m Breast behind Kitajima Kosuke, and was in training for the London Olympics.

Champion Swimmer Found Dead in Arizona [Read more]

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The Hydrogen Dog and the Quadrium Cat


The public reputation of nuclear power plummeted after the Fukushima meltdowns, but many in the energy sector still see nuclear fission as the only way to keep the lights on and stave off climate change. No private entities, and vanishingly few governments, though, want to spend billions to build new plants, so at least one manufacturer is offering smaller pre-packaged units. Will, The Stars Align for Small Nuclear Reactors? [Read more]

The Westinghouse Electric Company has lined up Ameren, a St. Louis-based electric company, as a partner for its small modular reactor project. Getting a strong indication of commercial interest is critical because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can review only a few of the many proposed reactor designs and gives priority in the licensing process to those with a stronger chance of getting built.

Some utility analysts have argued that small reactors would be good “drop-in replacements” for 1950s and 1960s-era coal plants that are now being retired, given that that their generating capacity would be about the same.
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Blood or the Volt


About a month ago, former GM vice-honcho Bob Lutz gave up on rational argument with Limbaugh, Hannity and the like:

I Give Up On Correcting The Wrong-Headed Right Over The Volt [Read more]


I am, sadly, coming to the conclusion that all the icons of conservatism are (shock, horror!) deliberately not telling the truth!

This saddens me, because, to this writer, conservatism IS fundamental truth. It only damages its inherent credibility with momentarily convenient fiction.

So, Mr. Krauthammer joins the list of right-wing pundits I no longer take seriously. After all, how do I know they’re telling the truth when the subject is one I’m not as familiar with as the Volt?
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The Future and Past of the American Empire

I've written before about energy depletion guru John Michael Greer, one of the presenters I saw at ASPO's conference in DC last year. I ran across his dystopian blog novel, Star's Reach, well over a year ago, and have thought about reading it from time to time, but never quite got around to it. But I read the first chapter this morning: [Read more]

One wet day as we walked north toward Sisnaddi, old Plummer told me that all stories are scraps of one story, one great and nameless tale that winds from world’s beginning to world’s end and catches up everything worth telling on the way. Everybody touches that tale one way or another, or so he said, if only by watching smoke from a distant battle or lending an ear to some rumor in the night. Other folk stray into the one story and then right back out of it again, after carrying a message or a load of firewood on which the fate of kings and dreams will presently depend. Now and then, though, someone no different from these others stumbles into the deep places of the story, and gets swept up and spun around like a leaf in a flood until finally the waters drown him or toss him up gasping and alive on the bank.

He said all this between one mouthful of cheap whiskey and the next, as we waited out a fall rainstorm under the crumbling gray overhang of an old ruin, and I rolled my eyes and thought he was drunk. Now, though, I am less sure. Yesterday, after I arrived at the one place on Earth I least expected ever to come, and nearly died in the process, the thought has occurred to me more than once that this journey of mine is part of something a good deal bigger than the travels of one stray ruinman from Shanuga, bigger than Shanuga or Meriga itself. That something bigger might be Plummer’s one story, for all I know, and if that is the way of it, I know to the day when it caught me up and set me on the road to Star’s Reach.
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Electric Vehicle: Positives and Negatives

In, Stop Bashing Electric Cars!, Brian Wynne, president of the Electric Drive Transportation Association, complains about adverse media coverage:  

It’s not often that you hear national elected officials and media pundits rooting against a growing American industry — especially when it’s reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil. It’s also unusual for them to argue against job creation, global competitiveness, even against innovation.

Strangely, that’s what’s happening to the U.S. electric vehicle industry.

Particularly striking is how far removed public debate on electric vehicles is from the facts. Our industry is growing fast, adding jobs throughout the supply chain and selling more vehicles and components than ever. The future is bright, but you’d never know it from some of the commentary.

There certainly have been right-wing attacks on the Chevrolet Volt and General Motors—ultimately intended to discredit President Obama. But there have also been straightforward discussions about unflattering facts, such as the still narrow market share of EVs and hybrids, the Tesla Roadster and Fisker Karma battery packs that failed and 'long tailpipes'—the actual environmental impact of manufacturing and driving electric and hybrid vehicles. Encouraging the media to accurately report the pros and cons makes more sense to me than Wynne's plea that the media do his job by promoting the industry. [Read more]

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Extinguishing Kinkade


My wife is a sometime painter. She's done a striking reinterpretation of a Georgia O'Keeffe flower, several flowers she photographed herself, and even a portrait of me (that never gets older). She works long and patiently on each canvas. Around 2002, maybe, we walked by a gallery, and she pointed and said, "Those are by Thomas Kinkade." "Who?" "The Painter of Light." "Oh." As I recall, they were very bright paintings of yellow flowers with sunlight streaming across them—helped by a few downlights. "So ... is it that all his paintings are brightly lit?" "Yeah, pretty much." They were good paintings—I've seen a lot worse in gallery windows—but I wondered about the pretentious nickname.

Kinkade was also known for his idyllic landscapes. Someone told me that there was some controversy because Kinkade didn't actually paint all the paintings he sold as "Kinkades." I love poster art—Mucha's Cigarette Paper Women, the Normandie, Klimt's Kiss, etc.—so reproductions don't bother me, but the Painter of Light seemed to be doing something else altogether: [Read more]

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Locked, Loaded and Guilt-Free


We were driving past the new location of East Coast Gun Sales a few weeks ago, and I told my wife I had been planning to check out the new store. They had been advertising their move to a larger location, with added facilities like a gun range, for over a year. I was thinking it would be interesting to fire off a few rounds with different caliber weapons and see what it felt like. "They went out of business," she said. She didn't know why.

According to the Altoona Mirror, back in 2007, East Coast's owner James Faith, and Michael Kurty, a police officer and firearms instructor, had been demonstrating a rebuilt mini-Gatling gun during a social event at a sportsmen's club. I'm not sure if this was before or after the chicken Kiev. The Gatling had an electrically-powered magazine, which soon jammed. So Faith unplugged the magazine, while Kurty, the firearms instructor, helpfully stood right in the path of the barrel. Because with no electricity, how could a weapon filled with bullets—which contain gunpowder—possibly fire? [Read more]

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Clothes Make the Victim


Among all the discussion of the Trayvon Martin case, at least two pundits felt compelled to remind us that how we dress does have an effect on how others perceive us. Chez Pazienza got hammered by his readers, while Scott Adams readers tended to agree with him. I'll leave you to guess between the two quotes below: [Read more]

Geraldo inadvertently created a controversy by stating the obvious: Our choice of clothes can influence how people treat us. That's a view that every living human agrees upon. Most of us act upon that belief once or twice a day. When I get dressed, the first two questions I ask myself are 1) "Who is going to see me?" and 2) "What do I want them to think of me?" You probably do the same thing.
But the way you choose to dress or otherwise adorn yourself is exactly that -- a choice. Your choice. And while in a perfect world no one would draw immediate conclusions about you based on your personal style, news flash: We don't live in a perfect world, and ignoring or defiantly thumbing your nose at the fact that there may be certain unintended consequences to the image you choose to project is both irresponsible and thick-headed.
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Hot and Cold Running Fusion


In, 500MW from half a gram of hydrogen: The hunt for fusion power heats up, ExtremeTech trumpets a potential efficiency breakthrough in magnetic confinement fusion, the type used at ITER: [Read more]

Basically, to keep fusion going you need to sustain a temperature of around 11 million degrees Celsius, which requires a huge amount of electricity. Fusion chambers are usually lined with heat-resistant carbon tiles in an attempt to reduce wastage, but the problem is that protons and neutrons escaping from the fusion reaction hit the wall, cool down, and then bounce back into the reaction, reducing the temperature. Electricity must then be used to increase the temperature back to 11 million Celsius.

The PPPL [Princeton Plasma Physics Lab], led by Bruce Koel, have found that a thin layer of lithium metal (the third element in the Periodic Table) absorbs these protons and neutrons, preventing them from bouncing back into the pot, and thus reducing the power requirement of keeping the fusion reaction going.
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A Thousand Hoodies + Video

Baltimore's rally for Trayvon Martin started with a lot of energy and promise. An enthusiastic crowd on both sides of Pratt Street was cheering for passing drivers that honked in solidarity. I'm not sure who planned the march, but the Southern Christian Leadership Council, All Peoples Congress and Occupy 4 Jobs were present. I saw two serious looking people, one black man and one white woman, with small, grey bullhorns. They initiated a few call and respond chants - "No Justice! No Peace!" - "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" - "A people, united, will never be defeated." [Read more]

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Losing Our Marbles

During the week between the Indian Wells and Key Biscayne Masters tournaments, the Tennis Channel showed their Greatest 100 Players of all time show. Rankings seem to be partially based on stats and partially on perception. For example, #13 John McEnroe is ranked higher than #18 Ivan Lendl, who was more durable and has one more major title than Mac. I think Mac at his best was slightly better than Lendl, but I also think Serena Williams at her best was better than Steffi Graf or Martina Navratilova. Yet Graf and Navratilova were ranked #3 and #4, while Serena was far behind at #12.

I already knew a little something about many of the players, but I learned that #51 Doris Hart won a career Grand Slam and six majors in singles, and twenty-nine major titles in doubles with a right leg that was impaired by childhood osteomyelitis. Even one side of her face looked impaired in the videos, though I don't see it in the still photo.
 [Read more]

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See Shell Sue by the Sea Shore


I often stop at a gas station/convenience store near Breezewood PA for their chicken tenders and potato wedges. Sometimes I buy gas, too. After the Macondo blowout and Deepwater Horizon spill, they covered up their BP signs with Shell tarps. They eventually got permanent signage, but I wonder what sign will go up next.

Shell’s Lawsuit Against Environmental Organizations Invites Disaster [Read more]

Shell is suing 12 environmental organizations to preempt legal challenges to exploration in the Arctic Ocean. The environmental groups include, among others, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Audubon Society, Oceana ... and the Sierra Club. Crazy isn’t it, Shell, a $378 billion company, attacking the National Audubon Society? It’s a bully image that can only hurt, and Shell should know better because it’s happened to them over and over again.

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