Michael Moore Loves Capitalism

Submitted by cvining on

Michael Moore has a new movie coming out Friday called "Capitalism: A Love Story."  NPR's Neal Conan interviews Moore on "Talk of the Nation."


Moore has a definite point of view and usually makes some points that catch my attention.  I'll pull two quotes from this interview.

First, Moore suggests things in the US started getting difficult "around the time of Ronald Reagan."  Here's one piece of supporting evidence.  A 2005 UCLA study titled "Income and Wealth Concentration in Switzerland over the 20th Century" includes this figure illustrating that around the time of Ronald Reagan the share of income of the top 0.1% income earners in the US more than tripled. The very rich suddenly got very richer:

France, US, Switzerland


Hamburger Junction

Submitted by cvining on

Drawn by Kirby Vining for TM Vining for his 72 birthday in 1986, Hamburger Junction was in Carney, MD

This watercolor  by Kirby Vining was one of six childhood memories presented to Theron M. Vining on the occasion of Theron's 72 birthday in 1986.

The scene is a now defunct burger joint, Hamburger Junction, then in Carney, MD.  Four years younger than Kirby, my own memories of Hamburger Junction in the very early 1960's are less vivid than my brother's.  But I do recall the wonder of a burger delivered to your table by electric train.

This may partly explain my affection for a good burger to this day.


Family Planning 5x more effective at reducing CO2

WHAT’S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 11 Sep 09 Washington, DC


While the United States is focusing on reduction of greenhouse emissions by
technological means, the Optimum Population Trust in the UK issued a press
release this week comparing the cost of reducing CO2 emissions by
technological means to the cost of an equivalent CO2 reduction by investing
in family planning. It concluded that family planning is five times more


Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at http://www.bobpark.org


English, Please

Submitted by cvining on

A friend in Saskatchewan recently bought a computer and called me for help. "How do I change the language of this thing to English?  Everything's in French on this new machine!"

Helpful as any tech support guy I reply without hesitation: "haven't a clue."

"Then why did I call you?"

After a bit of googling and some back and forth we determine several things.

First, it's easy enough to change the keyboard to another language.  This way you can type umlauts (ü) or accent marks (à) too your hearts delight.  But the menus and help messages are still in French.  Not what we want.

Finally we learn that with his operating system, Vista Home Premium, comes in a wide variety of languages, but only one at a time.  And you can't change it once installed.   There is a caveat here: hackware seems to exist that will allow you to void your warrentee, but it looked like a pain to boot (sic).

My friend opted to return his computer.

The most helpful fellow at the store explained "third time this month" and exchanged the thing.

Here comes the good part, if you've read this far.  It seems the fisrt time you boot up the machine, the operating system isn't even installed yet.  You are asked to choose from one of maybe 50 languages.

"English" is my friends choice.  Well enough.

Next screen: choose operating system.  He's presented a drop-down menu with two choices, something like this:

  • Windows Vista Home Premium - E
  • Windows Vista Home Premium - F

Mind you, no manual.  No other instructions.  You figure you've already chosen the language, so this must be different versions of Vista.  Right?

My friend is a mighty bright fellow.  He figures, well, versions A, B, C and D aren't there.  Must not be supporting those old versions.  He'd like the latest version, so he picks "F".


It's All In The Mind

Submitted by cvining on

True story.

In college I had a crush on a very beautiful woman who, at that time,
was having difficulty with her marriage. A mutual friend told this
joke to her to illustrate that sex is all in the mind.

Q: What's a four letter word for intercourse, ending in "k"?

My beautiful friend, petite and fair, instantly turned a very becoming
shade of crimson, but said nothing.

"Why are you blushing?" says our mutual friend. "The answer is
'talk', obviously!"

My beautiful friend was delighted and said she must try the joke on
her husband. Next day she tells this sad story.

Fear of Dictatorship Greets Alabama Congressman Over Health Care Reform

Submitted by cvining on

Fear of government control and dictatorship greeted local U.S. Representative Mike Rogers when he held a town hall style meeting yesterday at Monarch Estates, a retirement living community here in Auburn, Alabama.  The Opelika-Auburn News, the local paper here, sent reporter Brittany Whitley.  Click here for her full story, including some reader comments.

Not everyone shared these fears and a scuffle broke out.  Apparently no one was injured.

Quotes reported from the attendees:

  • "I didn’t come here to make nice."
  • "It’s not about health care. It’s about the federal government being out of control … Is everyone entitled to free health care from the cradle to the grave? Who’s going to pay for it?"
  • "It’s a basic human right."
  • A man in the audience said the U.S. was on its way to becoming a dictatorship.
  • A man from the back of the room disputed the notion, saying the U.S. would not become a dictatorship.

The fears expressed by these attendees are real.  Stupid, but they really are afraid.

An Inconvenient Truth About Thermoelectrics

From Nature Materials, February 2009, Volume 8 No 2


An inconvenient truth about thermoelectrics pp83 - 85

Cronin B. Vining


Despite recent advances, thermoelectric energy conversion will never be as efficient as steam engines. That means thermoelectrics will remain limited to applications served poorly or not at all by existing technology. Bad news for thermoelectricians, but the climate crisis requires that we face bad news head on.

Full Text  |   PDF (345 KB)


Solar Power

Submitted by cvining on

Science Newssn-solar-2007 has a nice introduction to the role solar power may play in fighting global climate change.  Some telling statistics:

  • Total World Energy Consumption (2001): 13 Terawatts (TW)
  • Total World Energy Consumption (2050): 26 Terawatts (TW)
  • Total World Energy Consumption (2100): 39 Terawatts (TW)
  • Derived from coal, oil & natural gas (2001): 86%
  • 1 gigawatt (GW) power plants needed to generate 10 TW: 10,000
  • Time to build 10 TW of power plants: one new 1 GW plant/day for 27 years
  • Exploitable hydroelectric power worldwide: 0.5 TW
  • Extractable wind power worldwide: 2-4 TW
  • Solar energy arriving at earth: 120,000 TW

Nathan Lewis of CalTech is a prominent proponent of the argument that solar may be the only primary power source sufficient to fight global climate change.  He has written some excellent, technically detailed articles on the subject [bib]lewis2006[/bib],[bib]lewis2007[/bib] and a nice overview-style article with George Crabtree of Argonne [bib]crabtree2007[/bib]