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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.

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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

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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Clean Car Calculator

I ran across UCSB's Clean Car Calculator in a comment, and while it seems fairly slick, it could be better: grew out of a homework assignment for Energy and Resource Productivity, a graduate course at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management taught by Professor Sangwon Suh. Initially, the assignment asked students to compare two vehicles—one conventional gas engine and one high-efficiency—in terms of their total lifetime costs. This net present value (NPV) calculation unearthed surprising results. Most of the students had anticipated that purchasing a high-efficiency vehicle, such as a Toyota Prius or Chevrolet Volt, would cost more over the lifetime of the vehicle (i.e. that savings from the higher fuel efficiency would not be enough to offset the higher upfront cost of the vehicle). Instead, we were surprised to not only find that established hybrids paid themselves back in fuel savings, but that newly released vehicles, such as the Volt and Leaf, were also extremely affordable.
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EV Politics and Promotion

First, the San Francisco Chronicle sheds light on the Republicans anti-GM, anti-Tesla, anti-anything Obama strategy:

GM, Tesla fight politicization of electric cars

GM Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson has complained about the political atmosphere that surrounds the Volt.

"Sometimes I feel bad for President Obama," he said this month after an appearance at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "This car was designed and committed to well before he was president, and it's called the 'Obamacar.' It's not the Obama car. I'm proud and I'm pleased that he thinks highly of it, but it's all on us. It's not a political issue."

The automaker accused Republicans and the media of hyping claims that the car caught fire during testing, which forced temporary layoffs at the Volt plant in Detroit.

Tesla, which received a $465 million Department of Energy loan, has dropped pursuit of new federal loans, raised private cash and plans in July to start deliveries of its $50,000 S car, claiming it is on its way to the mass car market.

"We applied during the Bush administration, and we were approved under the Obama administration, so as far as we're concerned, we at least had a bipartisan relationship for the loan," said Tesla spokesman Ricardo Reyes. "We got one of first loans and we used it to build the car that is now going into production in a U.S.-based facility. ... I'd like to think we're pretty much a case study on what the loan program was designed to do."
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Fix When Fail

The Infrastructurist blog shut down in January—but not because we have been paying more attention to our aging infrastructure.

Rivers and canals carry an enormous amount of goods through the hinterlands—coal, grain, fuel oil. Water transport is cheaper than railroads, and far cheaper than trucking. Monongahela or "falling banks," was the native American name for one such river, and we have built a series of manmade structures intended to keep it navigable by large vessels. At what is now Pittsburgh, the Mon joins with the Allegheny River to form the Ohio River, which is in turn the largest tributary of the Mississippi. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has posted two parts of a four part series on the locks and dams along nearby rivers.

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Between Forehands

In Spring are two American tennis tournaments, each of which likes to be known as the fifth major. Both include both the men's and women's tours at the same time, which does give them the feel of a major, but they have 96 player fields instead of 128, and offer 1000 ranking points to the winners instead of 2000. Still, they're big tournaments.

The Indian Wells Masters, now officially called the BNP Paribas Open, was the Pacific Life Open (with lots of whale ads) from 2002 to 2008, and has had almost a dozen names over the last 38 years. I associate Banque Nationale de Paris and BNP Paribas with the French Open at Roland Garros, but BNP Paribas is now the largest bank in the world, so I guess they can sponsor a tournament anywhere. The Miami Masters, or Sony Ericsson Open, started out many names ago as the Lipton, and is often just called Key Biscayne. Larry Ellis of Oracle now owns the Indian Wells event, and former top ten player Butch Buchholz started the Key Biscayne event.

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HP and the Methods of Rationality

Yes, I enjoyed the original Harry Potter novels, and the films, and watching Emma Watson grow up, but a fanfic called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality has really caught my interest. Author Eliezer Yudkowsky (aka Less Wrong) has not only reacted to some of the common complaints about Rowling's plot, such as Harry being an indifferent student, he has written a story that makes science and reason seem magical and powerful. Yudkowsky's Harry does occasionally sound more like Encyclopedia Brown than Tom Brown:

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Your ticket, sir

For an example of profits trumping fair traffic policing, The Consumerist blog cited a Canadian Yahoo article, Cellphone ticket baffles senior with no phone:

A Winnipeg couple is shaking their heads, wondering why they got a ticket for talking on a cellphone while driving — when they don't own a cellphone.

Laszlo Piszker and his wife, Margaret, were pulled over by two city police officers in the 2500 block of Portage Avenue on Friday.

Piszker was handed a $199.80 ticket, even after he urged the officers to search him and the car for any sign of a cellphone.

"I told them, 'Do whatever it takes. There's no phone in here; never has been. I don't know anything about the phone.' But they won't have it," ...

Immediately after getting the ticket, the couple went to a nearby police station to complain.

Piszker said the officer there laughed and suggested the ticket was likely issued to fill a quota.

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Updated - Just when you thought it was safe ...

Yesterday, local news reported that a 13 year old NE Baltimore girl was missing. She had gone off to a skating barn, but hadn't come back. Her family turned out to search the neighborhood, and her older brother found her body under some trash in an alley. That sounded fishy, and I wondered to myself if he knew where to look, but today the case took another turn.

The headline Police: Girl Found Dead Was Playing With Gun makes it sound like she shot herself, but her family said she was afraid of guns:

A 13-year-old girl reported missing in northeast Baltimore over the weekend was playing with a gun with a friend when it fired, killing her, police said Monday afternoon.

Family members identified the victim as Monae Turnage. Police said the teenager was accidentally shot by a .22-caliber rifle that she and her friends were playing with.

Two boys, ages 12 and 13, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. ...

The family said the juveniles pretended to be upset over Monae's disappearance, joining in the search for her and eventually guiding her 16-year-old brother to her body, which was found under some plastic trash bags on Sunday in the 1600 block of Cliftview Avenue.
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Absolutely Fabless

During his keynote speech at the Energy Innovation Summit, Dr Steven Chu cited an ARPA-E grant recipient, Envia Systems, which has announced, "a more energy-dense lithium ion battery that it says will be cheaper than today's batteries and allow for an electric car with a 300-mile range."



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