Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Nora Ephron

She lived a long and full life, but she would have found lots to do with a little more time. I’ll miss her.

Two things I remember her for. One is that, thanks to her, no one will be able to think of award-winning investigative journalist, Carl Bernstein, without recalling the phrase ‘capable of having sex with a venetian blind.’ If a man is foolhardy enough to marry a writer and break her heart, he can end up with a bad case of ‘Heartburn’.

Another thing, about ten seconds of the movie, ‘Michael’. William Hurt, playing a reporter, is walking through the streets of NYC in the wee hours. A couple of guys with Spanish accents walk up to him. They ask him if he needs help with his car. He says no thanks. And that’s all that happens.

In a Hollywood that has trouble making a movie without gratuitous wrenching emotion– of the violent or sentimental kind, that small moment struck me as original and even kind of brave.

I’ll miss Nora Ephron, but she really lived, and that’s the best anyone can do.

Kiersten Marek:

Rhode Island made the list. I’m not proud.

Originally posted on Diane Ravitch's blog:

Which states lead the nation is fiscal unfairness to poor children and their public schools?

Bruce Baker, the invaluable social scientist from Rutgers, the one who has actually taught in schools, has figured it out by analyzing Census data.

Bruce has a terrific blog, where he asks important questions and has the data to support his answers. I wish that every corporate reformer would read him. You should too.

These are the states that are most unfair to poor children and their public schools:

View original

Nuclear Risk in Japan

Japan is on track to re-start two nuclear plants despite warnings…

Seismic modeling by Japan’s nuclear regulator did not properly take into account active fault lines near the Ohi plant, Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist at Kobe University, told reporters.

“The stress tests and new safety guidelines for restarting nuclear power plants both allow for accidents at plants to occur,” Ishibashi told reporters. “Instead of making standards more strict, they both represent a severe setback in safety standards.”

Experts advising Japan’s nuclear industry had underestimated the seismic threat, Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphology professor at Tokyo University, said at the same news conference.

“The expertise and neutrality of experts advising Japan’s Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency are highly questionable,” Watanabe said.

After an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks at reactors north of Tokyo, Ishibashi said Japan was at risk of a nuclear disaster following a large earthquake, a warning that proved prescient after Fukushima.

The neutrality of nuclear industry experts is highly questionable everywhere. The damaged nuclear plants at Fukushima are still hot, and the danger continues. As Germany moves to other energy sources, Japan has a chance to change course. In the best case, the world will move beyond large, centralized polluting power sources and wasteful consumption before the next inevitable tectonic shift.

The Right to Peaceably Assemble

I grew up in the Sixties, era of assassinations. Even before the people’s choice of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was undone in 2011 by a madman’s bullet, I always respected the courage our politicians show when they make themselves available to their constituency.

Newly elected interim congressman Ron Barber is starting his service with a courageous stand for the constitutional right of the people peacefully to assemble. The citizens who came out to meet their representative were are saying ‘no’ to the culture of fear and pre-emptive violence that drives and divides us. This simple act of meeting freely in public is a powerful nonviolent testimony of faith in the American people and the democratic process. From the AZ Central…

TUCSON — Newly sworn-in congressman Rep. Ron Barber, who was injured in a mass shooting last year along with then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, held his first “Congress on Your Corner” event with southern Arizona constituents on Saturday.

Giffords conducted 21 of the informal meet-and-greet events during her more than four years in office, including one on the day of the shooting — Jan. 8, 2011. The rampage left six dead and 13 wounded, including Giffords and Barber, her then-district director.

Giffords relinquished the seat in January to concentrate on her recovery from a gunshot wound to the head. Barber, a Democrat, won a special election to replace her earlier this month. He was sworn in Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

About 300 people showed up at Saturday’s event outside a Tucson grocery store as temperatures topped 100 degrees, Barber spokesman Mark Kimble said. Visitors ranged from other survivors of the mass shooting and well-wishers to people who had concerns about their federal student loans or veteran’s benefits, he said.

The democratic process was violated by the murderous attack that took the lives of six innocent people and wounded thirteen. Ron Barber is showing physical and moral courage by refusing to let the gun rule our politics.

2012 Storm Season Breaks Record

I saw a tweet from Bill McKibben, author of the climate change book, Eaarth and speaker at Netroots 2012, that we were about to make weather history with the first-ever fourth named storm before July…

Here’s the news from Pennsacola,

Tropical Storm Debby formed on June 23rd about 220 miles SSE of the mouth of the Mississippi River in the Central Gulf of Mexico. Debby was the 4th named storm to form…making history. It was the first time in recorded history that a 4th named storm has ever formed before July 1st.

There are many in the Sunshine State who see these kinds of things as signs of The End Times, so it might be a good time to sell them Rapture Pet Insurance.

Kmareka’s readers know that anomalies happen. And anyway, what is meant by ‘recorded history’? NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is studying records from the mid-1800′s, which is piddling in geographic time.

NOAA is predicting a relatively mild hurricane season. Whether this early start is an outlier or a result of climate change will take a few decades to evaluate.

A Heartbeat Away

Early guess at who Mitt Romney will choose for a running mate from The Daily Beast…

The Bachelor, Republican vice-presidential edition? Mitt Romney is meeting with several top vice-presidential favorites this weekend while on a private retreat with top fundraisers in Utah. At the retreat: former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Senator Rob Portman, Congressman Paul Ryan, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal—and they will be joined by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Is Marco Rubio totally out of the picture?

Fun With Science

With a popular press that is, as far as science reporting, dumber than a bag of hammers– concerned citizens need critical thinking tools. Lifehacker has a toolkit…

How to Determine If A Controversial Statement Is Scientifically True

Every day, we’re confronted with claims that others present as fact. Some are easily debunked, some are clearly true, and some are particularly difficult to get to the bottom of. So how do you determine if a controversial statement is scientifically true? It can be tricky, but it’s not too difficult to get to the truth.

Go here for the rest.

That article links to this one about ‘confirmation bias’.

Punditry is a whole industry built on confirmation bias.

Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann, Glenn Beck and Arianna Huffington, Rachel Maddow and Ann Coulter – these people provide fuel for beliefs, they pre-filter the world to match existing world-views.

If their filter is like your filter, you love them. If it isn’t, you hate them.

Whether or not pundits are telling the truth, or vetting their opinions, or thoroughly researching their topics is all beside the point. You watch them not for information, but for confirmation.

It’s contrary to human nature to approach life with a blank slate, but it never hurts to air out your assumptions and apply some scientific method now and then.

Jerry Sandusky Guilty

So the alternate reality that Jerry Sandusky constructed for himself, the one where he was a nice guy helping troubled boys, has collapsed. The justifications of his defense lawyer failed to convince a jury of his peers.

I find Jerry Sandusky less interesting than the communal culture of Penn State. There’s no place on earth that is safe from bad individuals doing bad things. There are places where bad individuals would not be able to hide in plain sight and continue to commit crimes for decades.

Penn State is not on trial, but there needs to be an examination of that institution, and all the forces in society that work against safety and justice for vulnerable people.

Wind Power 2.0

All that free energy flowing over the seas, it’s time to re-visit ancient technology…

Yes, this “futuristic” vessel, as CleanTechnica describes it, would sport giant vertical beams outfitted with humongous cloth wind-catching devices, known as “sails.” It must be said that these elaborate mechanisms look rather ungainly, and skeptics might wonder whether an energy source as unreliable as the breeze could ever actually power something as bulky as a seafaring craft.

But just imagine if it worked! “If it proves successful,” the blog enthuses, “the new B9 cargo ship could usher in a new era of fossil fuel-free technology at a critical time for the shipping industry.”

The whole notion sounded almost too ingenious to be true. So I called up the good folks at B9 Energy Group to make sure this wasn’t some kind of a hoax.

Not at all, managing director David Surplus assured me. Applying wind power to ships might sound far-fetched today, but if oil prices keep rising, it might well make economic sense in the not-too-distant future.

The cargo is biowaste pellets, a green fuel that can be used for heat and power electric turbines.

To generate electrical power sustainably and environmentally friendly, we can no longer rely on fossil fuels alone as their supply is diminishing. An interesting alternative to coal, oil and natural gas – which in principle are biomass resources with an origin dating far back millions of years – is the use of self-replenishing biomass as a source of renewable energy.

Maniwa, Japan, is already putting energy back into the grid by using lumber industry by-products in its generators. They used to just burn the stuff as waste.

What makes economic sense is to start with that politically incorrect word, ‘conservation’. Add smarter use and multiple, local power sources and we might someday have a few ‘small oil’ corporations running honest business instead of Big Oil trying to run our country.

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