Poem of the moment: William Cullen Bryant on the summer of 2011

July 31, 2011

He did not write specifically for this year, of course.

Here’s one more reason you should subscribe to the Academy of American PoetsPoem-A-Day:

Click banner to go to American Academy of Poets; you may subscribe to Poem a Day

Click banner to go to American Academy of Poets; you may subscribe to Poem-A-Day

Midsummer
by William Cullen Bryant

A power is on the earth and in the air,
From which the vital spirit shrinks afraid,
And shelters him in nooks of deepest shade,
From the hot steam and from the fiery glare.
Look forth upon the earth—her thousand plants
Are smitten; even the dark sun-loving maize
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze;
The herd beside the shaded fountain pants;
For life is driven from all the landscape brown;
The bird hath sought his tree, the snake his den,
The trout floats dead in the hot stream, and men
Drop by the sunstroke in the populous town:
As if the Day of Fire had dawned, and sent
Its deadly breath into the firmament.

July 31, 2011 – Today’s poem appears in Poems, published by University of Michigan.  Read more about this book.


Encore post: “Don’t play chicken with the debt ceiling!”

July 30, 2011

If only they had listened last April when I first posted this!

A blast from the past:

BusinessWeek cover, April 18-24, 2011 - Don't play chicken with debt ceiling

BusinessWeek cover, April 18-24, 2011 - Don't play chicken with debt ceiling; chicken image by Jan Hamus/Alamy

Not every one of the Bloomberg Businessweek covers has been a hit, but a lot of them are — vastly more entertaining since Bloomberg took over the old workhorse magazine.

This one packs a political punch along with visual excitement.

And it’s right. Do any Republicans pay attention to the finance and business worlds anymore?

Articles inside are informative, too — see Peter Coy’s article, and did you see the article on the debt ceiling issue and the views of past Treasury secretaries?

Hey! Republicans! Stop playing chicken with the nation’s credit, will you?

Graphic - dangerous game on debt ceiling -- Businessweek

Businessweek graphic from April 18-24, 2011 issue - click for larger view at Businessweek site; chicken image by Jan Hamus/Alamy


Wind power, more than just talk

July 30, 2011

I missed Global Wind Day on June 15 — too much static from the ironically long-winded anti-winders.

Voice of America claims wind power offers great potential.  Climate denialists, used to denying all facts especially if they are hopeful, will deny it any way they think they can.*

These posts are for examples only, and should not be interpreted to mean that the blogs sampled are composed entirely of denials, or that the blog authors and editors are themselves pure denialists — certainly they will deny that.  We will gladly post links to posts at those blogs that promote benefits of harnassing wind energy, if anyone can find them.


Somalia crisis partly caused by global warming?

July 30, 2011

Is the Somalia drought caused by global warming, even partly? Voice of America reports, with Rebecca Ward (can’t find the “non-autoplay” button in the HTML; see the thing below the fold):

Read the rest of this entry »


History and economics of energy use and conservation – a more accurate version

July 30, 2011

Our memorial to George Washington neared completion in the 1880s.  For an obelisk more than 550 feet tall to honor the Father of Our Country, planners decided to top it with a “capstone” made of the what was, then the most precious metal known on Earth.  The top is a pyramid, and the top of the pyramid is a one-pound block of this precious metal.

What was the most precious metal known to humans in 1880?  Gold?  Platinum?  Tungsten, perhaps, not yet chosen to be filaments in the yet-to-be-perfected Edison “A” lightbulb?

Washington’s Monument is topped with aluminum.

Yeah, aluminum.

“But,” you begin to sputter in protest, “aluminum is almost ubiquitous in soils, and it’s cheap — we use it in soda cans because it’s cheaper than steel or glass, for FSM’s sake!”

Today, yes.  In 1880, no.  Aluminum requires massive amounts of energy to refine the stuff from ore.  Aluminum is common in soils and rocks, but it couldn’t be refined out easily for use.

That problem’s solution was electricity, generated from coal or especially falling water.  For a while, our nation’s biggest aluminum refining plants resided in the state of Washington, not because they were close to aluminum ore deposits, but because there was a lot of cheap electricity available from the Grand Coulee and other dams on the mighty Columbia River.  It was cheaper to transport the ore long distances for refining than to transport the electricity.

This history reveals a lot about science, history, energy use, resource conservation and economics — areas in which most climate denialists appear to me to lack knowledge and productive experience.

Peter Sinclair more often explains why climate denialists get things wrong.  In this video, the first of what could be a significant series, Sinclair explains how we got to where we are today in energy use and conservation — or energy overuse and lack of conservation, if the Tea Party and Rand Paul get their way.  (Notice the ingots of aluminum shown in the historic film footage.)

This is history which has been largely covered up, partly because so much critical stuff happened in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, a time the internet doesn’t cover well.

5,842

Tribute to the Space Shuttle — video of every mission

July 29, 2011

From the good folks at Nature:

Nature said:

NASA’s 30-year Space Transportation System (STS) program came to an end on 21st July 2011. The Space Shuttle fleet delivered the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station, and dozens of satellites, space probes, crew and supplies. Two Shuttles were lost: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. The touchdown of Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center marked the end of an era, after 135 missions. This video shows all of them in chronological order. http://www.nature.com/spaceshuttle

Soundtrack: ‘PX3′ and ‘Retreat! Retreat!’ by 65daysofstatic.

Frank Swain at Sciencepunk added:

No sooner than the smell of low Earth orbit had worn off the space shuttle Atlantis, Nature editor Adam Rutherford was stitching together footage of its final mission into this wonderful tribute to the golden age of manned spaceflight.

So long, Space Shuttle.  We miss you already.

(75,535)


Poisoning the children: Study shows mothers give DDT to their children from breastmilk

July 29, 2011

Too many in the U.S. bury their heads in the sands about the issues, but researchers in Spain and Mozambique wondered whether indoor residual spraying (IRS) with DDT, to fight malaria-carrying mosquitoes, might produce harms to children in those homes.  They studied the issue in homes sprayed with DDT in Mozambique.

It turns out that young mothers ingest DDT and pass a significant amount of it to their children when the children breast feed.

The study itself is behind Elsevier’s mighty paywall, but the abstract from Chemosphere is available at no cost:

Concentration of DDT compounds in breast milk from African women (Manhiça, Mozambique) at the early stages of domestic indoor spraying with this insecticide

Maria N. Manacaa, b, c, Joan O. Grimaltb, Corresponding Author Contact Information, E-mail The Corresponding Author, Jordi Sunyerd, e, Inacio Mandomandoa, f, Raquel Gonzaleza, c, e, Jahit Sacarlala, Carlota Dobañoa, c, e, Pedro L. Alonsoa, c, e and Clara Menendeza, c, e

a Centro de Investigação em Saúde da Manhiça (CISM), Maputo, Mozambique

b Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research (IDÆA-CSIC), Jordi Girona 18, 08034 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

c Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB), Hospital Clínic, Universitat de Barcelona, Rosselló 132, 4a, 08036 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

d Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Doctor Aiguader 88, 08003 Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

e Ciber Epidemiología y Salud Pública, Spain

f Instituto Nacional de Saúde, Ministerio de Saúde, Maputo, Mozambique

Received 6 November 2010;

revised 19 March 2011;

accepted 1 June 2011.

Available online 20 July 2011.

Abstract

Breast milk concentrations of 4,4′-DDT and its related compounds were studied in samples collected in 2002 and 2006 from two populations of mothers in Manhiça, Mozambique. The 2006 samples were obtained several months after implementation of indoor residual spraying (IRS) with DDT for malaria vector control in dwellings and those from 2002 were taken as reference prior to DDT use. A significant increase in 4,4′-DDT and its main metabolite, 4,4′-DDE, was observed between the 2002 (median values 2.4 and 0.9 ng/ml, respectively) and the 2006 samples (7.3 and 2.6 ng/ml, respectively, p < 0.001 and 0.019, respectively). This observation identifies higher body burden intakes of these compounds in pregnant women already in these initial stages of the IRS program. The increase in both 4,4′-DDT and 4,4′-DDE suggest a rapid transformation of DDT into DDE after incorporation of the insecticide residues. The median baseline concentrations in breast milk in 2002 were low, and the median concentrations in 2006 (280 ng/g lipid) were still lower than in other world populations. However, the observed increases were not uniform and in some individuals high values (5100 ng/g lipid) were determined. Significant differences were found between the concentrations of DDT and related compounds in breast milk according to parity, with higher concentrations in primiparae than multiparae women. These differences overcome the age effect in DDT accumulation between the two groups and evidence that women transfer a significant proportion of their body burden of DDT and its metabolites to their infants.

Highlights

► DDT increases in pregnant women at the start of indoor spraying with this compound. ► Rapid transformation of DDT into DDE occurs in women after intake of this insecticide. ► The DDT increases in breast milk of women due to indoor spraying are not uniform. ► Breast milk DDT content in primiparae women is higher than in multiparae women. ► Women transfer a high proportion of their DDT and DDE body burden to their infants.

“Primiparae” women are those with one child, their first; “multiparae” women are those who have delivered more than one child.

Without having read the study, I suggest there are a few key points this research makes:

  1. Claims that DDT has been “banned” from Africa and is not in use, are patently false.
  2. Spraying poisons in homes cannot be considered to have no consequences; poisons in in very small concentrations get into the bodies of the people who live in those homes.
  3. We should not cavalierly dismiss fears of harms to humans from DDT, because it appears that use of even tiny amounts of the stuff exposes our youngest and most vulnerable children.
  4. Beating malaria has no easy, simple formula.

Women, even poor women in malaria-endemic areas, should not have to worry about passing poisonous DDT or its breakdown products to their children, through breastfeeding.  The national Academy of Sciences was right in 1970:  DDT use should be stopped, and work should be hurried to find alternatives to DDT.

Resources: 


Save Our Schools: Teachers march on Washington, no pitchforks, torches, tar or feathers

July 29, 2011

Save Our Schools and other teacher groups organized a march on Washington, a four-day affair to get attention to problems in schools and gain support for education-favorable solutions.

Will their voices be heard over the debt ceiling hostage crisis?  Is it more than coincidence that many of the politicians attacking education lead the effort to ruin the nation’s credit and sink our economy?

Here’s an explanation from EDWeek’s  Politics K-12 blog:

Teachers Converging on Washington for 4-Day Schools Rally

By Michele McNeil on July 28, 2011 5:54 AM
By guest blogger Nirvi Shah

UPDATED

Today kicks off the four-day Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action, a gathering and rally in Washington, D.C., organized by teachers who say they are fed up with test-driven accountability for public schools—and, increasingly, for teachers.

The group, which maintains that it is a grassroots, from-the-ground-up organization, hopes to send a message to national and state policymakers about their displeasure, as well as highlight a variety of principles for improving public education. The group has developed a series of position papers outlining its views on high-stakes testing, equitable funding for all schools, unions and collective bargaining, and changes to curriculum, among other issues. For the most part, the position papers aren’t yet at the level of detail of formal policy prescriptions, and it remains to be seen whether such proposals will emerge from the gathering.

March organizer Sabrina Stevens Shupe said however that policy proposals aren’t necessarily the goal of the events. “What we’re talking about is creating the right conditions, not prescriptive policies,” she said.sosrally-tmb.gif “There’s no one silver bullet that’s going to save anything,” she added, referring to attempts to craft education reforms for the last 30 years.

The big event happens Saturday, when thousands of teachers and supporters of the cause are expected to rally and march at The Ellipse, near the White House. (About 1,000 people have indicated they’ll attend via the movement’s website, but registration is not required, and organizers believe 5,000 to 10,000 marchers will turn out.) The group will wrap up with a closed-door meeting Sunday at which participants will try to determine how to keep the momentum from the rally going. (Movement organizers haven’t disclosed the meeting’s location, and it is not open to press.)

Watch this blog and our issues page for developments from the movement’s events today and through the weekend.

The movement began with a small group of teachers, including Jesse Turner, who walked from Connecticut to the District of Columbia last August to protest the No Child Left Behind Act and Race to the Top. Their efforts predated actions by state legislatures across the country this spring to curb teachers’ collective bargaining powers and tenure, noted Bess Altwerger, a member of the movement’s organizing committee, who hosted a reception for Mr. Turner last summer. She said the shortcomings of the American public education system do not lie with teachers.

“This has been framed as somebody’s fault—either the parents’ fault or the teachers’ fault,” Ms. Altwerger said. “The fault lies with an education policy that does not work.”

Eventually, both of the nation’s largest teachers unions threw their financial and philosophical support behind the movement.

The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association have donated about $25,000 each to the effort. The bulk of the rest of the donations have come from one-time gifts provided through the Save Our Schools website. Conference organizers estimated that they’d raised over $125,000. After this weekend, they will have to begin fundraising efforts anew to keep their work going.

Taking Message to Obama Administration

Three organizers of the SOS March met Wednesday for an hour with senior-level Education Department officials, including two press officers and the deputy chief of staff. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was in attendance for about 10 minutes, and described the meeting as a “good conversation.” He added that “there is a lot of common ground out there.”

(Read the rest of the story from Politics K-12.)

With some luck, a few thousand teachers will show up.  With greater luck, a few thousand other people, concerned parents, perhaps, will join them.

In much of the nation teachers are still stuck fighting for jobs.  Here in Texas, for example, the Texas Lege didn’t get a budget out until June, including dramatically slashed funding for this coming school year.  In some Texas districts we still face layoffs before school starts in just over two weeks.  Many of us don’t have clear assignments, and many more of us will lose basics of teaching, like preparation time, breaks, classrooms, paper, books, and pencils.

Considering the trouble created by political attacks on education in state legislatures this year, much of the attacks wholly unnecessary, it’s a wonder the teachers don’t show up with pitchforks, torches, and tar and feathers.

It’s a crazy world out there.  Help make some sense somewhere, will you?


Teaching with original documents, at the 6th Floor Museum

July 29, 2011

6th Floor Museum Seminar - teachers in the Dallas Police Station, at Oswald's interrogation room

Teachers inspect the Dallas Police station, where accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was held. The door at left opens on the room where Oswald was interrogated by police. Panorama photo by Ed Darrell, use encouraged, with attribution; click for larger version

It’s been a good week of finding sources, for history issues across the spectrum, not just about the Kennedy assassination in Dallas.

Certainly one of the highlights was a bus tour that carried us from Dallas’s Love Field airport, along the route of Kennedy’s motorcade, to Parkland Hospital, and then through Oak Cliff along the route accused assassin Lee Oswald is believed to have traveled after the assassination to his capture at the much restored Texas Theatre on Jefferson Boulevard.

In the photo above we discuss the actions of Dallas Police after Oswald’s capture.  This room is in the old homicide division of the old Dallas Police Station, a building still in use for municipal offices and being renovated after the police department moved to a newer building a few years ago.  The door at the left leads to the room where Oswald was questioned about his actions and his knowledge of the day’s events.

Oswald's interrogation room in the old Dallas Police Department - photo by Ed Darrell, 6th Floor Museum teachers seminar

Cops and their desks departed years ago, but Oswald's interrogation room holds a fascinating, film noir atmosphere; view from inside the room, as teachers discuss events of November 22, 1963, in the larger office outside. Photo by Ed Darrell; click for larger view


Getting to the Guns of August: July 28, 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia

July 28, 2011

Troops in World War I - National Archives

Troops in World War I - National Archives

According to the Associated Press, today is the anniversary of the declaration of war that really got World War I started:  Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914.

Serbian nationalists assassinated Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sofie in Sarajevo, the traditional Serbian capital then held by Austria, the previous June.  After a summer of demands on Serbia by Austria, which Serbia could not or would not meet, Austria declared war.

More: 


Republicans running (down!) government sorta like a business

July 28, 2011

Ben Sargent, the retired genius cartoonist for the Austin American-Statesman got  it just about right, I figure:

Ben Sargent, running government like a business

Ben Sargent, in the Austin American-Statesman, Sunday April 3, 2011


Bagley on the Last Crusade

July 28, 2011

Pat Bagley, the future Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Salt Lake Tribune, can be so brilliant sometimes you can’t see him.

For example, what’s he talking about here?  Mass murder in Norway?  Debt ceiling?  The Texas State Board of Education’s assault on evolution?  The Texas Lege’s attack on education?  Congress’s attacks on the poor and aged?

Pat Bagley Cartoon, 7-27-2011 - Last Crusade -- Salt Lake Tribune

The Last Crusade - Pat Bagley for the Salt Lake Tribune

Pass the lithium:  The cartoon applies to any of those issues, and all of them.


Lesson for Congress: Sometimes an eagle has to drift a while just to survive

July 28, 2011

Maybe Ben Franklin got it wrong, and the bald eagle is the best candidate for our national bird.

Cousin Amanda, last year with the condors in California, spends this summer with the bears, salmon, whales and other spectacular wildlife in Alaska.  (Internships are great, for the interns, no?)

Comes this photo of our national symbol, the bald eagle:

Eagle in the water near Hoonah, Alaska; photo by Amanda Holland (rights reserved)

Yeah, it’s a bit of a flyspeck on the horizon photo, but it’s still instructive.  Probably looking for fish, this bird waded too far out into the estuary.  Once it realized it was wet, and in the water, it tried to swim to shore.  Eagle wings are made to soar, however, not swim.  Swimming didn’t work.  At this point, the bird could have continued to struggle to do the impossible, and probably drown; or it could just give up, and drown.

Or, it might sit tight and wait to see if another opportunity presents itself.  After about an hour in the water, the bird drifted into shallow water where it could walk out.

Ms. Holland posted this photo on her Facebook site.  A friend there observed, “The symbol of our nation floating aimlessly with the tide because it is too bogged down to do anything else… How much irony can exist in one single photograph?”

Sometimes we get in “too deep.”  We may want to soar, but that’s not possible.  But if we’re patient, if we don’t do stupid stuff, we might just drift into safer waters, and survive, and thrive.

Yeah, we know, Tea Partiers: You think the nation spends too much money.  That’s a debate worth having.

But that’s not worth failing to raise the debt ceiling.  Failing to raise the debt ceiling will cost the nation, by conservative estimates, a half-trillion dollars in increased interest rates, with no gain of any program or paying of any debt.

It’s time to drift with the flow of events.  Raise the debt ceiling now, and survive without doing something stupid.  We can discuss solutions later, rationally, once we prevent the waste of a half trillion dollars, eh?  Time to stop fighting and stay alive, Congress.

We can learn a lot from the bald eagle.  I think even Ben Franklin would agree.

What’s that, Ben?  Our follies tax us more than taxes?

“Friends,” says he [Father Abraham], “and Neighbours, the Taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the Government were the only Ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our Idleness, three times as much by our Pride, and four times as much by our Folly; and from these Taxes the Commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an Abatement. However let us hearken to good Advice, and something may be done for us; God helps them that help themselves, as Poor Richard says, in his Almanack of 1733.

– Ben Franklin, The Way to Wealth, 1758


On the 7th floor of the 6th Floor Museum

July 27, 2011

Posting is slow this week, some of you have noted.

I’m on the 7th floor of the old Texas School Book Depository building.  Teacher training, you know.  A great series of sessions put together by the 6th Floor Museum, with the Library of Congress and Texas Bar, on teaching with original documents using the resources of the 6th Floor Museum, a unique Dallas resource.

I’ll have pictures, and probably more . . . eventually.

Please feel free to comment away.


Happy birthday, Bugs Bunny! 71 today

July 27, 2011

On July 27, 1940, Bugs Bunny burst onto screens across the nation in his first Warner Bros. cartoon, “A Wild Hare.”

Lobby card for "A Wild Hare," Warner Bros, via Wikimedia

Lobby card for "A Wild Hare," Warner Bros, via Wikimedia

Who was it said this?

Bugs Bunny is who we hope to be, but Daffy Duck is who we secretly fear we are.

Happy birthday, Bugs!

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