Book of the Month

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I can see the Olympics from my couch

My daughter and I spent much of Friday and Saturday in cosplay at Otakon, but I got to watch some of NBC's Olympic coverage — which in some events seemed more obsessively focused on Americans than ever.

On Saturday morning, I did catch Alexander Vinokurov's surprising and crafty victory in the cycling road race. Vino followed the younger legs of Rigoberto Uran to get ahead of the pack, then the Kazakh sprinted for the line while the Colombian was still foolishly looking back at what had long ceased to be the main threat. Vino is another rider with a long history of doping scandals, banned in 2007 and associated with now-banned-for-life Dr Michel Ferrari.
 [Read more]

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The Agony of the Tweet


Athletes, especially Olympians, are to be seen and not heard, or even read. Remember when Crash Davis explains the perfect sports interview to Nuke Laloosh? [Read more]

Davis: You're gonna have to learn your clichés. You're gonna have to study them, you're gonna have to know them. They're your friends. Write this down: "We gotta play it one day at a time." 

LaLoosh: Got to play... it's pretty boring. 

Davis: 'Course it's boring, that's the point. Write it down.
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Closing Ranks


I used to work in Central Pennsylvania — just PA to anyone from there. I was there long enough to realize that Penn State was both a revered institution and an 800 lb gorilla. I suppose that's true of other schools, but I have lots of family and friends who attended or worked for PSU, and still do. 

Loyalty to Penn State and faith in JoePa continues to be very strong. On Saturday, in a stealthy 6 AM maneuver, PSU removed the Paterno sculpture, calling it a "distraction." The faithful are appalled. Even my liberal, union brother-in-law is resentful, claiming that the Freeh report is not the last word in the investigation. [Read more]

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Just a Mass Shooting

Shooting at Midnight Screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado Leaves 12 Dead, 50 Injured

Although initial stories reported 14 dead, WNYC's The Takeaway and ABC News are saying that the death toll has been revised down to 12, with at least 50 injured.

I was struck by how routine such stories have become on local news. WBAL spent a few minutes on the shooting, then went back to the "Big Story": a political fight over the Maryland Dream Act. One of my daughters lives in Colorado, not that close to Aurora, but not that far, either, so perhaps that makes it more personal. I'll feel better when I hear from her. [Read more]

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Good Grief


PBS is running a BBC show centered around an English town called Kibworth. History of England's host narrator Michael Woods flits between an archeological dig, nearby fields and local archives to illustrate stories about British history. It's informative, but also funny to watch, because when an archivist or archaeologist pulls out some old parchment or bit of bone, Woods' enthusiastic gushing sounds much like the appraisers on Antiques Roadshow. "That's a really nice tibia, dear." It is also clear that Brit reenactors have a lot more history, and costumes, to work with than Americans.

In Episode Four, Woods talked about Henry V putting down an insurrection of Lollards — heretic peasants led by Henry's old friend Sir John Oldcastle (a probable model for Falstaff). Henry's forces were alerted, dispersed and executed the insurgents forthwith, and years later Oldcastle was slowly burned at stake, but Woods blithely reassures the audience that the government eventually granted the religious freedoms they and their predecessors who followed Wat Tyler had wanted. So it was all good. [Read more]

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Bane for Dummies

 [Read more]

Have you heard, this new movie, the Batman movie -- what is it, the Dark Knight Lights Up or something? Whatever the name of it is. That's right, Dark Knight Rises, Lights Up, same thing. Do you know the name of the villain in this movie? Bane. The villain in the Dark Knight Rises is named Bane. B-A-N-E. What is the name of the venture capital firm that Romney ran, and around which there's now this make-believe controversy? Bain. The movie has been in the works for a long time, the release date's been known, summer 2012 for a long time. Do you think that it is accidental, that the name of the really vicious, fire-breathing, four-eyed, whatever-it-is villain in this movie is named Bane?" - Rush Limbaugh
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Piling on the Leaf

In between following sports and writing haikus, I've noticed that the Leaf can't catch a break. As if temperature management problems in Phoenix weren't enough, the NY Times' Wheels blog and Plugin Cars each report that for eleven Leaf owners, something has gone haywire between the Nissan Leaf and the GE Wattstation, leaving their batteries severely damaged.

TTAC's Alex Dykes offers a clear explanation of charging an EV or plugin hybrid in the US. Briefly, the EV's onboard system manages the charging as long as the charging station meets the minimum Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) J1772 standard. What could go wrong? Dykes speculates: [Read more]

Assuming there is no design fault inherent in the Wattstation’s “control pilot” design (and we might assume this logically because the issues are limited to Nissan Leaf vehicles only), the most likely possibility is a problem with an underrated or faulty D1 diode in the Leaf’s charger that makes the control pilot circuit more susceptible to transient current and failure. While it does seem fishy that the problems are only reported with the Wattstation and not the popular Leviton and Nissan branded chargers, the issue likely comes down to surge suppression and bad luck. It is likely that Nissan uses a D1 diode with a lower rating (and therefore affording less protection) than the Volt and Prius plug-in. With so few EVs on the road, and little public information on the specifications of electrical components in the chargers it is hard to say for sure.
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Green Party Convenes in Baltimore



I biked home last night, took a quick swim, then turned on Democracy Now. As I sorted laundry, I listened to Amy Goodman interview the presumptive Green Party presidential nominee, Dr Jill Stein, and her veep nominee, Cheri Honkola. In the first interview Goodman asked Dr Stein what she would do after elected, and she spoke about a Green New Deal and Medicare for All. "But how's she going to get Congress to approve anything? That's what I'd ask her." I thought. She also felt that the ACA, "basically pits the very poor against the near poor."

At the end of the second interview, Goodman said, "We’ve been speaking with Jill Stein, who’s the Green Party’s 2012 presumptive presidential nominee. The vote will take place tomorrow here in Baltimore, where the Green Party convention is underway." "What?" I thought. While local news told me that a detective had resigned after being caught stealing groceries, and that more speed cameras were being placed near school zones, they hadn't mentioned that the Green Party's National Nominating Convention was being held at the Holiday Inn near the Convention Center. Sheesh. [Read more]

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Should MyCar be YourCar?

Last week in Mississippi, strange bedfellows former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, former RNC chair Haley Barbour and former President Bill Clinton grandly unveiled the MyCar — an EV made in America. [Read more]

"Too many people have given up on American manufacturing, saying manufacturing jobs are not coming back. But GTA set out to prove them wrong," said Terry McAuliffe, chairman of GreenTech. "For too long, America has been inventing products here and sending the production jobs overseas. But we're part of a rebirth for American manufacturing. We're proud to bring manufacturing jobs back and prove that the U.S. is still the world leader in technological innovation and manufacturing."
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Interesting times

We live in interesting times, but everyone seems to be watching TV. Actors Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine recently died. Each man proved himself in serious roles, Griffith in A Face in the Crowd and Borgnine in Marty, but they were far better known for long-running comedic roles on television. Don Grady died, too. He was only 68, and was known for playing Robbie on My Three Sons, but apparently he was a serious and devoted musician.

I wonder how many of us will be better-known for our long-running comedic lives?

With bike share programs blooming, and so many people biking to work and even enjoying it, articles about automobiles vs cyclists vs pedestrians abound right now. The basic problem is that people are just about as law-abiding on bikes as they are in cars or on foot, and the foolhardy ones get all the attention. In the comment sections are the usual crude threats against cyclists by territorial drivers. I just defriended someone after reading that sort of comment on Facebook. [Read more]

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At US Trials, Lochte, Phelps, Kalisz advance to 400IM Final

After Beijing, Michael Phelps swore that he was done, finished with the grueling 400 meter Individual Medley. A day or so ago, Phelps dodged speculation about whether he would swim the 400IM again, even refusing to answer when he would shave his fu manchu mustache so as not to give away the time of his first event in the US Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha.

The 400IM was the first event today. You start with 100m Butterfly, and it is nice to get that over with because swimming Fly when you're tired is no fun at all. Then you swim 100m Backstroke. Back lets you breathe a lot more, but isn't quite as restful as it seems in Esther Williams flicks because you have to kick like blazes. Then comes 100m Breaststroke, which to my mind is even more grueling than Fly, and your legs are already burning. And finally you can open up with 100m crawl, the fastest stroke, if your arms aren't already full of lead lactic acid. I have swum a 200IM, but I've never even attempted the 400.

Phelps, Chase Kalisz and Kevin Webster represented the North Baltimore Aquatics Club, where I swim, so it was fun to track them on the Omega Timing site. Webster looks to be about 23, and Kalisz is 18. I wondered if Kalisz was one of those kids zooming by in the afternoon practices, but apparently he swims in the mornings. [Read more]

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The 1500m Freestyle in London


Competitive Swimming is one of the obscure sports I follow. Swimmer's Daily posted this video dedicated to the Korean swimmer Park Tae-Hwan. I instantly recognized the tune from the Marine Boy anime I watched as a child, and indeed the song is titled Marine Boy, though with quite different lyrics than I recall:

Hi, flip over that London town
The marine boy yo is coming out
Everyone move out of the way, new record
Set a record, a glorious venture
Higher, faster, further, let’s go
Marine Boy is a brave hero
Conquest a victory, the best in the world is going
Let’s go Marine Boy
 [Read more]

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Is Arizona's Heat Wilting the Leaf?


In response to a The Truth About Cars article on the Volt, one commenter, then two, claimed that Leaf sales have fallen flat while the Volt is selling comparatively well. To my eyes, the Leaf is as sound a car as the Volt, so I wondered if range anxiety was keeping buyers away from the EV.

On Father's Day, a Bloomberg headline read, Nissan Sees Leaf Sales Doubling as Factory Begins Production, which would seem to contradict the TTAC commenters, but once past the headline, I read: [Read more]

Leaf sales have dropped the past two months, trailing General Motors Co. (GM)’s rechargeable Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s plug-in Prius in May. Volt deliveries more than tripled to 1,680 units in May, while Leaf sales fell 55 percent to 510. The Leaf is made in a single plant in Japan.

“We’ve had to fulfill demand from one plant globally,” Krueger said. “Once we localize it in December, the second half of the fiscal year is when we’ll see most of the supply, demand be available.”
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Romney Won't Force You To Drive An EV

With the same quote as Detroit News, HybridCars also suspects that Mitt Romney would be no friend to EVs: [Read more]

The Obama administration has also been a major champion for plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids. It has pushed for even higher plug-in vehicle subsidies and incentives on the supply side and consumer demand side of the equation to get the fledgling industry flying on its own. Those plus CAFE requirements – not to mention European legislation beyond the purview of the American president – are expected to be key motivation in developing more electrified automotive solutions in coming years, but Romney said he sees failure written on the EV wall already.

The Obama-led government is, Romney said, trying to "to force a market to adopt a technology that people aren't interested in."
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Livin' Large

With my plantar muscles feeling better, I've been running a two mile route past a few apartment complexes and through a new development of 3,000 SF single family houses—perhaps 300 of them. A sign indicates that they sell in the $500,000s, but asking prices actually range from $544,990 to $619,990. There are no full-grown trees yet, but down in the hollows are hundreds of saplings tied to stakes and protected from deer with plastic netting. Once grown they should buffer the community from the main thoroughfare. There are a few more houses complete every time I run through, a few more families settled in, a few more kids riding bikes and scooters on the sidewalks. One owner has added, or opted for, a full complement of photovoltaic panels on his South-facing roof.

Back at home I read articles like Real Homes: Small, frugal, and green, in which, "Recent college graduate Ella Jenkins lives with her parents while she builds her 103-square-foot home in their yard." [Read more]

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The Unrestricted Warriors


You may be familiar with the theories of military historian and conservative political adviser William S Lind, that warfare has undergone several major transformations, or generations, since the formation of nation-states.

Very briefly, First Generation, or Formation Warfare (1GW) is where armies line up in formation and fire at each other. Second Generation, or Trench Warfare (2GW) is where armies use trenches as cover from massed firepower. Third Generation, or Maneuver Warfare (3GW) is where armies exploit machinery to maneuver much more quickly than the opponent. And Fourth Generation or, Insurgent Warfare (4GW) applies asymmetrical strategy and tactics against a superior conventional military force, intending to sap the opponent nation's political will to fight. [Read more]

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Will BF Skinner Make You Skinnier?

My wife packed a chef salad for lunch—two cups—and I've eaten most of it. With the leftover chicken and lettuce, she included little cherry tomatoes that giggle as they dodge my fork. I eat them just before chasing the garbanzo beans around the bottom of the bowl. Also called chickpeas, they look like tiny brains and taste about like I'd expect brains to taste after soaking in two tablespoons of oil and vinegar. Then I get a peach Stonyfield Farm yogurt, a half cup of red grapes and a 3 1/4" apple. I eat much better when she's in town.

I'm measuring what I eat so I can enter it on LoseIt, a website designed as a sort of group hug for dieters. In, The Perfected Self, David Freedman discusses his brother Dan's diet, BF Skinner, behavior modification, people that don't like Skinner and prefer cognitive therapy, fat farms, Weight Watchers and eventually sites like LoseIt. I never took Intro to Psychology, but my roommates did, so I at least heard about Skinner and his boxes while they were studying. [Read more]

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What is the 99% Declaration Working Group?

A post on Occupy Baltimore led me to a Daily Pennsylvanian report that both the Occupy movement and something called the 99% Declaration Working Group plan summer conventions in Philadelphia over Fourth of July weekend. [Read more]

... The 99% Declaration group and the Occupy movement are both planning national conventions this summer, but the groups differ in their philosophies toward governmental change.

The 99% Declaration, or 99D, is hosting a conference called “Continental Congress 2.0” in Philadelphia beginning on July 2. One man and woman will be elected from each Congressional district to attend the event. The 878 representatives will be elected through an online ballot open from June 1 to 3.

Each delegation will submit a list of grievances, which will be voted on from July 2 to 4. The petition of grievances will be finalized by July 4.

“The idea is to get the list down to about ten key grievances and give it to Congress, the president and the Supreme Court,” founder of 99D Michael Pollock said.
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Arguing Double Standards

While the Trayvon Martin case slowly unfolds in Florida, supporters of shooter George Zimmerman feel compelled to play up any sort of black-on-white violence to prove that it's all good. On local Baltimore TV, over the last month or so, we've seen endless replays of a white man getting punched to the ground by a group of black people at supposedly safe Inner Harbor.

Last week, Republican Delegate Patrick McDonough, whose district includes parts of Baltimore County and Harford County, but not Baltimore City, issued a press release, "Black Youth Mobs Terrorize Baltimore on Holidays." Claiming that state investments were at risk, he called for Gov. Martin O'Malley to declare the Inner Harbor a "no-travel zone." Despite accusations of racism, McDonough now has called for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to resign because she is soft on black-on-white street violence. It's all red meat for his district.

For conservative website WorldNetDaily, Colin Flaherty author of “White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How The Media Ignore It,”  writes Call for crackdown on black-on-white terror. Yeah, terror. [Read more]

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Diesels: So Bad?

My mama didn't hate them, but I never knew much about diesels. During the late 70s fuel scare, one of my many bosses bought an Olds diesel, probably with the 350cc engine, to try to get better economy without buying a small car. He complained about it constantly, and the 350 is now considered one of the worst engines of all time. I drove my aunt's big Mercedes turbo-diesel a few times, but never, ever considered buying a diesel myself. But diesel keeps cropping up in articles, and clean diesels regularly figure in green car competitions. If you've got a pile of cash, you can buy the world green car of 2012, the Mercedes Benz S 250 CDI Blue Efficiency (below) for under $70,000, except that it doesn't seem to be sold in the US. [Read more]

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