Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Prognostications: How did I do?

Last December I listed a number of things that I thought had a high probability of happening in 2011, which is a mealy-mouth way of saying predictions.  So let's see how I did: 

There is a 25-30% that the teams in a certain American city run the table. You know, win the championship in all 4 major North American sports league. 
Yeah I meant Boston and it didn't happen. What did though was the Bruins winng the Cup, which means for the first time a city had all four of it's teams win their championship in less than 7 years. So I was greedy.
The oil peak begins to be felt again, as $4/gallon gas has been forecast and some have suggested $5/ gallon by 2012. Energy supplies will become a real topic, but many will blame price gouging, environmentalists and deliberate under-production rather than accept that we've hit a limit.
We remain on a production plateau and prices have dropped close to $3/gallon

I will go out on a limb and say that the wild patterns we have been experiencing will continue to be the new norm. There will be some more unprecedented events.
Let's see, record floods and droughts, heavy snows and warm winters, near record low arctic sea ice, wild shifts in airmasses in North America which, even at this late date in the year, are producing record tornado outbreaks.

American Higher Ed.
There will be an orchestrated push-back against those blaming the cancerous growth of administration for financial woes. There will be some troubling developments in enrollments. Institutions and those in them will still deny that cronyism in faculty hiring, grade inflation, declining standards, coverup of criminal activity, and retribution towards critics and whistleblowers exist within the ivy-covered halls.  But look out, I sense a few high profile scandals.
While not directly related to academics, the Penn State pedophile scandal counts as does the other ones coming out.  The UC crackdowns on Occupy Berkeley and Davis can be considered pushback as the students are pointing out the very rot that many academic administration thrive on.
The science of geology, dominated by academic geologists as it is, will continue its stupid, self-inflicted downward spiral. Departments will close or morph into more ridiculous entities and no one will do a damn thing about it.
Nailed that one.

Woe will be the Tea Party. Their vaunted fiscal conservatism will be revealed as nothing more than BAU tax cuts for the rich and using the local, state and national treasuries to enrich the wealthy private good, while cutting the public good taxes pay for. Most of the TP will show their true colors as nothing more than the ol' paranoid hate-filled "social conservatives"...Palin will devolve into further into a tabloid characiture, Beck will implode, Limbaugh will abide (unless outed).
 I think I did pretty good on this one, all though it is more woe be us, the TP is still in denial about their own shortcomings.  The American right is disintegrating.
A new, diffuse but real change will occur, populism of what used to be called the liberal or progressive kind. But since it will not be new-jerk anti-American and have a more working base, the established and inept liberals will at first ignore it, then attack it, then try to co-opt it.
Can you say Occupy movement?

One word - stagnation. Neither party in Congress will benefit, the GOP will look obstructionist and more fixated on what you're doing in your bedroom, while the Democrats will squander the opportunity to make a coherent statement on what to do. Naturally the pundits will miss this and then try wildly to spin a narrative. Colbert and Stewart will have a field day (or many). On the state level, the GOP will begin to regret their November success.
GOP was simply obstructionist, didn't even bother much with the social conservativism as I thought they would.

World Events
Electoral shocker in Ireland. Afghanistan will grind on, but the U.S. pullback will begin. The secret war against al-Qaeda will continue. Said organization will try some major attacks in Europe.
Korea: hopefully no war, but it's possible. Expect some surprises, an early NK success and use of chemical weapons, SK doing most of the ground fighting and the U.S. introducing the use of converted Ohio class subs to launch devastating cruise missile attacks.
Ireland? What was I thinking? Thankfully war did not break out in the Korean pennisula. Big stories were Arab Spring, civil wars in Syria and Libya, death of Qaddafi/khadafy/K-daffy whatever, and of course Osam bin Lade.

Local (SE Penn and environs)
Philly will continue to have crime problems.
Yeah, sigh...
By the end of the year, people statewide will begin to become angry that no economic benefit is coming from the gas boom.
Not yet, but there are stirrings....
Teabaggers will have some nasty infighting. Why? Farm subsidies. 
The solvency of a prominent institution in Newark, DE may not be as good as the institutional leaders have been saying, revelations of this will be considered a scandal.
They haven't yet opened UD Inc.'s books.

Monday, December 19, 2011

MLB Realignment: A modest..nay..crazy proposal

Those who follow baseball know that Bud Selig and the owners have worked their magic again, moving the Astros to the AL (necessitating season-long interleague play) and adding an additional wild card spot to the post-season.  Now the wild card has been good to my Sox and I've grudgingly come to accept inter-league games, but I think that because baseball has so many regular games too much post-season play will make the long season less relevant.  Baseball will start to resemble the NHL.

Speaking of which, the NHL is probably realigning into a four conference format that I kinda like. Right now it is divided into East and West Conferences with geography based divisions. But when I was kid the NHL had these crazy conferences and divisions labeled with the names of historic figures in the game.  This was because the divisions and conferences were not based on geography.  The playoff system was crazy too and teams in the same conference could face-off in the Stanley Cup final, as Boston and Montreal did in the '70s.  I was going to say they were in the same division at the time, but that was later in the '80s and I misremembered.  I always thought this was kinda cool because I believed at the time it was some old and different Canadian tradition, but the setup only began in 1974.

Anyway, all this nostalgia made me think to myself, "Self, if baseball is going to re-align, why not go all out,  chuck geography and do a radical makeover?"  So I did a bit of brainstorming and came up with a plan I could implement if I was king of the world. Note I said could, not sure I would.  I divided the leagues into conferences named after important management figures and divisions named after Hall of Famers associated with teams in each division, I am a bit stumped for one.  Since I'm assuming I would have North Korean style dictatorial powers I added an expansion team to each league. I'm open to suggestions as to where they would be located.

Look over the format and see if you can figure out the method I used to assign teams to respective conferences and divisions.

Oh yeah, as Dear Maximum Leader Commissioner I would institute salary caps and revenue sharing, so fear not A's fans.

American League
National League
Ban Jonhson Conference
J. McGraw Conference
Babe Ruth Div.
Jackie Robinson Div.

Nap  Lajoie Div. 
Honus Wagner Div.

Bart Giamatti Conference
K.M. Landis Conference
Nolan Ryan Div.
Tom Seaver Div.

Roberto Alomar Div.
to-be-named later Div.

First of all don't get too worked up, it ain't gonna happen.  You'll notice that there would be no need for a wild-card, to reach the post-season a team would need to win its division.  Yeah, in order to maximize games within a division travel would be a hassle.  Still, the more I look at it, the more I like it.

OK, if you haven't figured it out, the conferences are divided into pre-expansion and post-war expansion teams.  In the old team conferences the divisions are based on the original geographic groupings that existed before franchises moved. For example the A's started in Philly and the Twins were the original Washington Senators, so they are grouped with other northeast teams.  In the expansion conferences the divisions are based on when teams where added, or pre- and post-Bicentennial.

Monday Marcellus Highlights, Dec. 19, 2011

Wow, another lost week there!  Busy catch-up week for me after my part-time semester was finished.  On a side-note, many faculty and state survey people are demanding I be hired full-time so they have a "real" geology department. Being resisted by a non-geoscience dean who's concerned that anything but surface geology (on a freshman-level) hurts the "brand" and few faculty with pull who go along with this model....anyway here are the highlights from the Marcellus news I've tweeted during the past week.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's pipeline series continued, focusing on concerns of both environmentalists and sportsmen, eminent domain issues, and conflicts among local citizens over pipelines.

Remember the case where the contractor for the state's Homeland Security department spied on anti-fracking activists?  A judge is allowing the 1st Amendment case to proceed:
The Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition sufficiently pleaded First Amendment violations in its lawsuit against an American-Israeli anti-terror think tank that contracted with Pennsylvania's Office of Homeland Security to keep tabs on environmentalists' protests against natural gas drillers, a federal judge ruled.
 According to the Coalition's September 2010 lawsuit, the group was swept up "in a prolonged and secret campaign of domestic surveillance" after Powers gave the green light to a $125,000 contract for the Institute to "regularly surveil and report on potential terrorist threats against ... [Pennsylvania's] critical infrastructure."
Another example of citizens' institutions being turned against citizens engaged in legal civic activity on behalf of wealthy entities. And more outsourcing of public duties to private for profit companies.

Questions are being raised (on an environmental site mind you) over whether fracking will have the economic benefits that proponents claim it will:
Our shale gas resources, however, while much ballyhooed in the press, are far less certain. We may now have a 100-year supply of gas in America, as suggested by recent reports. . . or we may not. The U.S. consumes 24 tcf of gas per year. Currently, we only have an 11-year supply on the books: 273 tcf classified as “proved reserves,” meaning gas that is commercially producible at a 10 percent discount rate. Beyond that, there are only “probable,” “possible,” and “speculative” resources, where the gas has not yet actually been discovered, or proved to be economically recoverable. Even where we are sure that the resources exist, we do not know how much of is technically recoverable until we produce it. And as I noted two weeks ago, in the EIA’s Low Case shale gas estimate, the U.S. could become a net gas importer by 2035.
For me this is one of the biggest questions.  Although the fracking process has been around awhile, the application of fracking to liberate gas in tight reservoir shales has only been developed in the past decade or so and the data on the long-term productivity of these wells is still an open question.

The battle over how much local governments will be allowed to regulate drilling continues, particularly in Pennsylvania where surrender of local control is a pre-requisite in the proposed "impact fee" legislation:

The fight, which pits towns and cities against energy companies and states eager for growth, has raised a fundamental question about the role of local government: How much authority should communities have over the use of their land?
The battle is playing out in Pennsylvania as the Republican-controlled legislature considers bills that would in their current form sharply limit a community’s right to control where gas companies can operate on private property. Critics say the final bill could vastly weaken local zoning powers and give industry the upper hand in exchange for a new tax, which municipalities badly need.
The legislation has struck a nerve in a state where land control has long been considered quintessentially local.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Marcellus Highlights, Dec. 12, 2011

Now that I can tweet daily Marcellus news, I will only post weekly highlights here at the Old Schoolhouse.  Three main themes were in the news this past week, the endless saga of will we or won't we have an "impact fee" in PA, the continuing drama over contaminated water in Dimock and the growing pipeline infrastructure.

Pennsylvania towns contend with gas pipeline proposals
A number of municipalities in Washington County have spent the past few months crafting regulations for Marcellus Shale gas well drilling pads, compressor stations, processing plants and even employee work trailers. But pipelines? Not so much.

Two of those municipalities in the northern portion of the county, Peters and Union, now find themselves scrambling to brace for proposed pipeline projects on their doorsteps.

"I don't think we thought of it," said Peters Manager Michael Silvestri about why township officials failed to consider pipelines when council approved a gas well drilling ordinance in August.
 'Gas gold rush' prompts pipeline
A Wisconsin construction company is ready to dig under the Monongahela River to complete a major Marcellus Shale natural gas pipeline.
Michels Corp. of Brownsville, Wis., will cause partial navigation channel closures as it completes the project this month between Carroll and Rostraver townships near Donora and Webster, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Pittsburgh announced Thursday.
Dominion Resources of Richmond, Va., is developing the pipeline in response to what is "tantamount to a gas gold rush" in Washington County and outlying areas, company spokesman Charles Penn said. Dominion has contracted with Michels to lay the pipe at the bottom of the Mon, the corps said.
Powerful Pipes, Weak Oversight

There was trouble on the job. Far too many of the welds that tied the pipe sections together were failing inspection and had to be done over.
A veteran welder, now an organizer for a national pipeline union, happened upon the line and tried to blow the whistle on what he considered substandard work.
But there was no one to call.
Pennsylvania's regulators don't handle those pipelines, and acknowledge they don't even know where they are. And when he reported what he saw to a federal oversight agency, an inspector told him there was nothing he could do, either.
Business leaders ask Corbett, Pa. lawmakers for resolution of Marcellus shale legislation
The state's leading business organizations asked Gov. Tom Corbett and legislative leaders to reach agreement on natural gas drilling legislation that would create uniform standards for zoning and impose an impact fee that's competitive with other states.
Activist Group Tries to Deliver Water to Dimock

Anti-natural gas drilling activists travelled from New York City this week to deliver fresh water to residents of Dimock, Pennsylvania.  The trip was as much of an effort to help the residents, as it was an effort to raise awareness of potential health hazards associated with Marcellus Shale drilling.
Dimock has become known as the town where residents can set their tap water on fire. Cabot Oil and Gas had been supplying affected residents with clean water. But the company ended their deliveries a week ago, after the Department of Environmental Protection said that the water was safe to drink.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Santorum: the Return of the Rickster

I've not done the Saturday wrap-up of all the great things the former Sen from Penn has done in quite awhile.  Honestly there wasn't much material.  But this past week....

The Rickster is back and better than ever.  He's knows he's going to surge and has none of the electability issues of Gingrich and Romney.

First of all he understands that politics has been blinded by with science:
Discussing controversial classroom subjects such as evolution and global warming, Santorum said he has suggested that “science should get out of politics” and he is opposed to teaching that provides a “politically correct perspective.”
and from the same source, Santorum-rama  gives his thoughts on ed-a-mucation:
...he favors an education system designed around the fact that most parents love their children and want to give their child the best opportunity for success.
Enough of that there schooling designed by parents who hate their kids!

As The Donald would tell you (if you were worthy of his magnificence), Santorum is the epitome of loyalty and integrity. And he's not going to let those lesser candidates get away with skipping the King of the Birthers/Newsmax/Ion(!?) debate:
“Many of my opponents jockeyed to be the first to fly up to New York and use Donald Trump for a photo op and no doubt try and secure an endorsement. But when Donald wants to moderate a debate – they refuse to attend. That’s what’s so wrong with politics today – hypocrisy," Santorum said in a statement released Thursday.
He's not letting up on teh gayz either.  When it was suggested that same-sex marriage hurts no one Santorum let 'em have it:
Clearly agitated, Santorum seemed astounded when Kornelis said he couldn’t contemplate how this would “be a hit to faith and family in America.”
“You can’t think of any consequence?” Santorum asked.
Kornelis answered that he did not.
Santorum then said that if same sex marriage was legalized then “their sexual activity” would be seen as “equal” to heterosexual relationships and it would be taught in schools.
“Really- wow- um okay, well let’s see if we can have a discussion. We can flesh out some, well, let’s look at what’s going to be taught in our schools because now we have same sex couples being the same and their sexual activity being seen as equal and being affirmed by society as heterosexual couples and their activity,” Santorum said.
See, Ricky knows the agenda of those gays, those dirty sexy bad boys, the ones he just can't stop talking about, thinking about, dreaming about...

And don't try to tell him that being a Christian is about helping others. Rick Nasty-mixture also knows that no one dies in America from lack of health insurance:
“People die in America because people die in America (he loves those tautologies). And people make poor decisions with respect to their health and their healthcare. And they don’t go to the emergency room or they don’t go to the doctor when they need to,” he said. “And it’s not the fault of the government for not providing some sort of universal benefit.
He's also not happy that Obama let us know bin Laden was dead.  Well, as McCain aide Mark Salter posted on Facebook, "For pure, blind stupidity, nobody beats Santorum. In my 20 years in the Senate, I never met a dumber member, which he reminded me of today,"

Ahh the Rickster, truly a stellar representative of the people of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor: 70 Years On

We're reaching the point where soon there will be no living veterans of the attack, a melancholy development reflected in this Atlantic story:
The Pearl Harbor Survivors Association will commemorate their last Pearl Harbor anniversary today, the group sadly lacks the number of able-bodied members to keep on going. Citing the tolls of age and their dwindling numbers, the group voted unanimously to disband at the end of this month.
For those under 30 this probably doesn't resonate, but I am old enough to remember when there were plenty of people around who fought in World War II.  I also remember seeing a program in 1979 marking the 35th anniversary of D-Day, which to someone in junior high like I was seemed like impossibly ancient history. Now that memory itself is 32 years old.  Time marches on.

The Pacific War is not a distant event for me though.  I've been to Pearl Harbor, Guam and Saipan but more importantly my father named me after my uncle who was lost in a TBF Avenger in 1944 near the Philippines.  So in a way I carry a direct personal legacy of what happened seventy years ago today.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Now with Twitter.

You'll notice a twitter feed to the right. This is where I'll post daily Marcellus news updates. I'll still try to do a weekly wrap-up of the news from that front.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What are denialists worried about?

The denialists continue to scream that any discussion, let alone actual policy, to do something about climate change is nothing less than the road to some marxist stone age.  Why? At moment nothing at all has been accomplished in curbing emmisions:
Emissions rose 5.9 percent in 2010, according to an analysis released Sunday by the Global Carbon Project, an international collaboration of scientists tracking the numbers. Scientists with the group said the increase, a half-billion extra tons of carbon pumped into the air, was almost certainly the largest absolute jump in any year since the Industrial Revolution, and the largest percentage increase since 2003.
Well if that doesn't bother you, an article in Nature (behind paywall) indicates that there is a high risk that arctic permafrost will thaw, which could lead to a larger amount of methane being added to the atmosphere.  Paraphrased in Sciencedaily:

Permafrost thaw will release approximately the same amount of carbon as deforestation, say the authors, but the effect on climate will be 2.5 times bigger because emissions include methane, which has a greater effect on warming than carbon dioxide
The survey, led by University of Florida researcher Edward Schuur and University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student Benjamin Abbott, asked climate experts what percentage of the surface permafrost is likely to thaw, how much carbon will be released and how much of that carbon will be methane. The authors estimate that the amount of carbon released by 2100 will be 1.7 to 5.2 times larger than reported in recent modeling studies, which used a similar warming scenario.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lost Week

It happens. Too much to do and a sick kid to boot. I'll try to get back up to speed this week.

You'll notice I've added my Twitter feed, I'll  be RT a lot of Marcellus news I receive.