Friday, July 30, 2010

'tis the Season

Recent news on Donovan McNabb reminded TheRaven that there are few things more distasteful than rooting for the Redskins. Acknowledging the existence of the won-only-two-championships-in-the-modern-era Steelers tops the list. The possibly criminal petulance of Ben Roethlisberger is welcome news for haters of a team that donates its Terrible Towel profits to charity. Roethlisberger as Pittsburgh's incarnation of Kobe Bryant certainly shows that the steel halo isn't stainless.

Even if he committed no criminal offenses, walking out on bar tabs and poor tipping by any multi-millionaire is heinous. It's revealing that we haven't seen any press on Big-Ego revisiting all those bars and restaurants and making good - to the last dime - on every bill and tip. You'd think The Ego's agent and PR flack would - by this point - have thought to make amends out of their own pockets, if necessary, just to preserve their cash cow. Expectations for player deportment have degraded to the point where Thomas Jones' old-school values and rock-hard work ethic are considered exceptional. Chad Ochocinco has a flare for marketing, but really, can't he just shut up and play?

But I digress. Teams acquire character from owners as well as from players. One can hate the Patriots but few doubt that Robert Kraft is a class act. Hell, he let Vladimir Putin walk off with a Superbowl ring in the interests of harmonious international relations. The Rooney football dynasty runs a tight ship. Dan Rooney is credited with authorship of the NFL's policy regarding recruitment diversity for head coach and general manager positions. It's called the "Rooney Rule". The Steelers walked it and talked it straight to a championship by hiring Mike Tomlin. For the record, to keep this little diatribe full-disclosure, Tomlin is damn good and, yes, I hate to admit it, but I love his style.

One could argue that the Eagles lack the sort of character imbued by deeply involved, knowledgeable ownership. The Marra's stamp is unmistakable and the 49ers of old carried a similar imprint. I know very little about Jeff Lurie. His 1994 purchase of the Eagles has seen a 500% return, based on current estimated value. After 16 years it seems odd that he remains a non-entity, at least in the sense that he lacks the national standing and recognition of other team owners. One could also argue that there's something wrong with Philadelphia itself. Perhaps not as obvious as with Cleveland, or as insidious as in Cincinnati, but such argument would get little push-back from folks in New Jersey, New York or Baltimore.

Different as NFL owners might be, you can put them in two groups: (1) Daniel Snyder; (2) everyone else. Snyder is a lucky little punk, possessed with the arrogant fallacy that a measure of success (er, luck) in one endeavor magically, and automatically, carries over into any other. Snyder's hapless Redskins are the product of 100 pounds of ego stuffed into a 10 pound bag. He has Jerry Jones' arrogance without the associated knowledge and skill. Snyder has unwittingly created a team that's exactly what Washington deserves. The President must cringe when contemplating the unofficial duties of the the First Fan. At least the odds of a Redskins/Bears playoff contest are remote.

The sad truth is that McNabb is simply a victim of advancing age, or perceptions thereof. He reminds me of Jim Kelly, albeit with faster feet and a quicker arm, in that he lacks the last ounce of imagination needed to improvise when a season stands or falls on a handful of plays. Without the inspiration that lifted Joe Montana's otherwise ordinary skills to championship caliber, even slight physical decline can be a major detriment. Perhaps Andy Reid sees something in Kolb that is so subtle, it's undetectable in the stands, or by TV cameras. McNabb played well, with reasonable consistency, for a long time, against division rivals in larger markets and/or with superior ownership.

Meanwhile, up the MARC line, an unknown owner, a lesser known coach and a team of largely unheralded talent is once again motivated by the perennial slight accorded to all things Baltimore. No one anywhere else pays any attention.

'tis the season.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dreaming upwards

Higher education is central to upward mobility, which is in turn the core of the American Dream. There's been a fair amount of press coverage lately on threats to our collective dream. Many students, particularly minorities, do not complete their degrees. Student indebtedness is rising. The Ivy League doesn't merit serious consideration by 99+% of America's youth.

The debate often goes astray, even in the web's most enlightened community, where recent discussion of "white privilege" needed a reminder that the real issue is bigger, broader and deeper. This post repeats a comment added to that discussion, which you can read here.


The problem with a concept like white privilege is the word white. The question or issue is framed in context of a single, supposedly monolithic group. All white people are not created equal. Their ancestry differs as much as does the history of Europe. Their American experience is strongly influenced by varying degrees of temporal dislocation from immigrant forebears. The tough question is simply there privilege in America? Easy answer, the tough part is then what?

A look at Ivy League student demographics would show steady progress towards ethnic diversification. What about economic diversification? If race and ethnicity are tossed aside and "privilege" is defined along economic lines, the pattern of inherited advantage is clear. I'd argue the economic elites have sought cover under America's public obsession with race. From their perspective, dealing with a black girl from the south side of Chicago who had the temerity to instruct her French instructor (as a sophomore) is easier than combing West Virginia, Arkansas, Alabama or Mississippi to find a rare, white scholar.

Black affirmative action provided an unintentional diversion from a legacy of prejudice towards disadvantaged whites, not limited to obvious social and economic disadvantage found in the 12 States of Stupid. Higher education financing has been a rigged game from jump. Solidly middle-class families in New York and New Jersey with kids who are merely intelligent have also been locked out of the Ivy League.The issue really is about fairness, meritocracy and wealth redistribution.

"Not for profit" is a convenient misnomer. It means profits are not subject to income tax, as opposed to legislation that specifies an organization shouldn't make a profit. Rich, private universities not only turn a profit on education services, they also reap income from endowments provided by generations of rich alumni. The system is aided and abetted by our tax code to further concentrate wealth and power according to inherited privilege. Scholarships are simply the cost of good public relations. Do you know many impoverished or struggling Ivy League graduates over the age of 35?

Here's a blindingly simple fix that rebalances American higher education towards its greatest strengths. State colleges and universities are the true engines of upward mobility. State university systems are under tremendous, long-term financial strain. Instead of cutting back on the only education opportunity available to the American majority, why don't we boost funding to public higher education by killing off the not-for-tax status of private universities? This will work if such change also mandates payment of increased tax revenues into a trust fund that is disbursed solely to public colleges and universities.

The elites can continue to drop $200,000 for a Columbia undergraduate degree, Columbia will pay taxes on its income (including investment income from its endowments) to New York and the Federal government and Federal receipts will be apportioned back to state institutions based on relative full-time-equivalent enrollment (or some such). This solution would create a color-blind, elective wealth transfer that balances education, opportunity and heredity without need of commissions, investigations or recriminations.

Who votes for democracy in higher education?

Once upon a time, in America

America's sad immigration situation seems to make headlines every other day. Unfortunately, as mainstream media struggles to survive the early 21st century, it eschews thoughtful analysis for sensationalist headlines. This gives amoral idiots like Tom Tancredo too much ink.

This post repeats a comment  TheRaven added to an immigration discussion held by the web's most enlightened community. Click here to access.


Immigration is a central narrative in my life and it is a primary narrative in the American Experience. I am, therefore, enraged to the point of speechlessness when 19th century anti-Irish invective is recycled against Central & South Americans. Anti-immigrant rhetoric has been nothing more than simple pride in ignorance over the 85,489 days since America was born.

I'll try to put the legal status of undocumented residents in an appropriate macro context with a moral fable.

Once upon a time, in America...

...there were two towns named Whiteville and Brownville. The residents of Whiteville needed a new community center, however, they were hard-pressed to fund the project. Their tax rates were onerous and because Whiteville residents were obsessed with appearances, much of their disposable income went to essentials such as RVs, SUVs, John Deere lawnmowers, swimming pools, $50,000 bathrooms and $100,000 kitchens. Many Whiteville folks were heavily in debt, but they sure looked prosperous. A campaign to fund construction reached only 50% of its goal. Whiteville was shocked and appalled. In desperation, city fathers met to find a solution.

Prosperous Whiteville had a 5% unemployment rate. Brownville unemployment was the same - with an appended zero. Whiteville residents were largely educated and employed in white-collar professions. Brownville was full of carpenters, dry wall installers, roofers, landscapers and masons, with a sprinkling of electricians and plumbers. Brownville folks had provided construction labor to Whiteville for a long time. Whenever a Whiteville person would disparage the limited formal education found in Brownville, they'd usually end with "...but they sure do work hard! Brownville people were devoutly Christian (and largely Catholic), a fact which seemed oddly lost on Whiteville, which was devoutly Christian (but largely Protestant).

With families to feed, the Brownville tradesmen banded together and pitched Whiteville an offer that couldn't be refused. They'd build the community center at rock-bottom wages. Their skill, efficiency and willingness to work for a fraction of what Whiteville trades people were typically paid meant that the community center could be built for only 50% of budget. The offer was accepted. A project manager from Brownville was appointed because Whiteville people communicated only in business cliches, which trades people didn't quite grasp. The community center's architect was, of course, from Whiteville.

The project manager proved quite competent, with thorough knowledge of construction techniques and regulatory compliance. Permits were obtained for every phase of the work. Whiteville building inspectors were amazed at the quality of construction and found little wrong. All problems noted were immediately corrected, without argument. The Community center was completed ahead of schedule and slightly under budget. A grand unveiling was scheduled.

And then, there was a problem.

Whiteville's official motto was Progress through Conformity. City fathers had enacted thousands of small regulations over preceding decades aimed at furthering such goal. Each rule was well-intended but in a macro sense, largely frivolous. Bowing to the community's strongly expressed desire to maintain proper appearances, they expanded construction codes to include cosmetic items, with special attention given to window treatments.

The project manager was not aware of permit and inspection requirements for window treatments. While the community center's foundation was solid, its framing was sound and its mechanical systems perfect, its window dressing was completely non-compliant. An uproar ensued. Editorials were written excoriating the project manager's lack of knowledge regarding crucial regulations. Because few people in Whiteville had ever worked in the skilled trades, the essential qualities of the community center were never discussed, but its safety was repeatedly impugned.

The city council met in a special session to resolve the crisis. They debated the functional worth of the community center versus the importance of window dressing. Was it more important that Whiteville youth had a safe recreational environment or that Whiteville's code book be followed to the last letter?

The mayor stepped in after the council became hopelessly deadlocked. He was, by trade, a trial lawyer, well-versed in clever arguments that appealed to core values found in the average Whiteville jury. There was only one possible solution and his eloquence could easily sell it.

"Window dressing is the core of Whiteville's community identity" he intoned. "Window dressing is enshrined in our rule of law. It is, in fact, who we are!" The only solution, he explained, was that the community center would have to be torn down and rebuilt, with the new project funded by a bond issue; funded in turn by higher taxes. He viewed such wanton destruction as a fair price for preservation of window dressing.

By unanimous vote, the council agreed.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Only the British

Among the myths and superstitions associated with the Third Reich, none gets one's attention like purported genetic experiments. Not the blue-eyed, blond haired variety. Truth is, Hitler's crew learned early on that was a lost cause. No, the Nazis looked into developing a super weapon with another species. They cross-pollinated the Fuhrer's signature whiskers, applied super-sizing, but underestimated the native intelligence and alarmist nature of their selected species. They sought  a fearless weapon but were ultimately forced to settle for a pessimistic military adviser.

Is this post simply ridiculous? Absolutely! But not as much as a website devoted to cats that look like Hitler.

And what nationality could possibly conflate cats & Hitler into 4,870 images of "kitlers"?


Monday, July 26, 2010

Truth speaks

Isabella was a slave girl in New York who grew to be a preacher named Sojourner Truth. An interesting comparison between her travails and the mythology behind super-heroes is found here. She overcame illiteracy to become a bible scholar and in so doing asked questions that, nearly 150 years later, many  adherents still fear. Her brief address to a Woman's convention held in Akron speaks for itself.

December 1851
Ain't I A Woman?

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!

And ain't I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full? Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman!

Where did your Christ come from? 
Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.  

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.


Click here for source.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Heritage of the Old Servant

Of all the cheap labels, linguistic shortcuts and tired slogans that pervade American culture, none are more execrable than Heritage Not Hate. This three-word defense of the Confederate flag recodes a Jim Crow taunt. Southern heritage is defined first and foremost by slavery. The south went to war to defend slavery and lost. The Confederate flag is nothing more than our enduring symbol of oppression, enslavement, racism and ignorance.

And, as with so many other modern observations, it's been said before, more elequently, by those who knew best.


Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865
To My Old Master, Colonel P. H. Anderson,
Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdan, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin's to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday-School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, "Them colored people were slaves" down in Tennessee. The children feel
hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now,if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free-papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department at Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future. I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor's visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve and die if it comes to that than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood, the great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

P.S. Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

From your old servant,
Jourdan Anderson


"Letter from Jourdan Anderson to His Former Master," was originally published in The Freedmen's Book (L. Maria Child, Ticknor & Fields, 1866), which can be viewed in entirety at Google books. It was also published in Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (Leon F. Litwack, Knopf, 1979).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Internet access demographics

The prior post looked at Internet access by state. This post provides national Internet access demographics for 2007 and 2009, using the same data source, survey results published by the U.S. Census Bureau.

We begin with 2007:
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And conclude with 2009:
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  • Meaningful decline in dial-up
  • Significant growth in broadband access for all levels of education attainment

Internet access

Internet access has been in the news lately. The Federal government has a website dedicated to broadband programs. Actually, there's likely a ton of government sites. The FCC addresses broadband here and here while California state government covered it's broadband initiatives here and Seattle's site is here. Finland has made Internet access a legal right while France deems it a human right.

You can test the speed of your Internet connection with free tools like Speedtest (it works) or the FCC's free tool, located here. The FCC's tool works, too.

The Pew Research Center has a site devoted to Internet studies. Recent press coverage has excoriated America's low level of national access and slow transmission rates vs. Internet powerhouses like Korea. The idea that America isn't monolithic was lost in the hullabaloo. Census Bureau surveys documenting home Internet access by state were overlooked.

The Census Bureau conducted home Internet access surveys in 2001, 2003, 2007 and 2009. Published data is simple but difficult to use in tabular form. TheRaven converted data from the four surveys into a set of charts that report how Internet access improved between 2001 and 2009. These charts also enable comparison between the states.

First, the states in alphabetic order:
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Next, the same results are sorted from highest-to-lowest level of 2009 access:
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Internet access in the highest states compares decently with international ratios. This is not an excuse, but comparison to Korea, Finland, et al should bear in mind our 50-state system of resource allocation, which accrues from a document called the Constitution. Not to fear. Even Mississippi will catch up, some day.

5-year trend update

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This post updates a chart initially presented here with a few months more data. The same Muana Loa data set published by NOAA used for related posts on atmospheric CO2 is the basis for this chart. Muana Loa data is converted to different forms of visual information to provide alternative illustrations of the global CO2 trend.

In this case, 606 months of data have been compressed into average annual growth calculated over 5-year periods. This approach smooths out variation found in any particular year and creates a simple view of a 50-year trend. Each bar represents a 5-year average, except for the bar on the right, which reports the 6-months ending in June 2010. This bar is updated as new data is obtained.

The chart reports something so basic it might be missed: CO2 doesn't decline, it only increases. The last monthly decline was recorded in September 1974. There hasn't been a single annual reduction in CO2 since the Muana Loa data series was initiated in 1958. Two projections of future CO2 levels are presented here.

In another example of journalism practiced as the art of ignoring the obvious, the New York Times finally published an article which suggests that carbon consumption stimulated by explosive growth in the global consumer class will outrun implementation of clean energy policies and technologies. Since it's the Times, the article presents a narrow view, limited to China. While China's projected future carbon output is frightening, the issue is much broader. The global middle class is experiencing unprecedented, unstoppable growth across the developing world.

Stay tuned for future updates.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Slow computer? Two free tools can help

This post was updated 7.24.10
Is your computer getting a bit long in the tooth? Does it seem especially slow with visual applications like games and Photoshop? Perhaps it's also choking on Office2007 or Office 2010 graphics. The problem may lie with your graphics processing unit (GPU), otherwise known as a video card.

TheRaven found a free and easy tool you can download to benchmark GPU performance. This tool works equally well on desktops and laptops, although generally restrictive laptop designs greatly limit GPU upgrade options. Conversely, you have so many upgrade options in the desktop world it may be difficult to choose one. A slow desktop computer can be remedied for as little as $50 with the right GPU upgrade.

The first free tool is called FurMark and it's available here. Downloading and running FurMark takes no more than 5 minutes. It benchmarks your GPU's performance and provides a link to the most recent 400 benchmarks posted by other FurMark users. FurMark uses a (graphic representation of a) furry donut to test your GPU, which explains the FurMark logo:

The beauty of FurMark is that it boils down all factors affecting GPU performance to a single number.  FurMark data provides a basis for comparison of GPU upgrade options if you aggregate scores by GPU and compare results. provides a great tool but unfortunately you're on your own with analysis of FurMark data. That is, if you don't use a free data analysis tool developed by TheRaven.

This tool must be used with Excel2007 or Excel2010 and it can be downloaded (free) from Docstoc, here. It stores up to 5,000 benchmark scores and compares any three GPU's you select. Comparison selection is easy. The tool is currently loaded with 2,569 benchmark scores (obtained during July 2010) that correspond with 193 GPUs. The tool automatically generates a report of all GPUs, two sets of performance charts, Top-20 assessment and a comparative look at any three, user-selected GPUs. Here's an example of the latter:

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The analysis tool also contains instructions, explanations and user controls not shown in output. It's designed for use by people with minimal Excel skills. If you can copy data from, follow a few simple instructions and operate a mouse, the analysis tool will help you identify a GPU solution. It automatically updates charts & report when new data is copied in. Do not attempt use with Excel 2003, because your computer will explode and your house will burn down (OK, not really, but the tool won't work with Excel2003).

Here's a short case study in how the data analysis tool can help. Have a look at this Top-20 list:
Click image to see full size

The ATI Radeon HD 5870 (4th from top) has an average FurMark score of 6,269. This average is based on 157 user submissions. The analysis tool applied data filters to remove outliers from extreme ends of reported GPU performance. Therefore, the average benchmark is a fair representation of Radeon HD 5870 performance, which is at the high-end of all reported GPUs.

Same for the NVIDIA GeForce GTS 250, which appears in the last line. It's average benchmark, which is one-half of the Radeon HD 5870, is based on 121 submissions. The Radeon HD 5870 is the primary component of video cards priced above $400 while the GeForce GTS 250 is found in cards priced between $100-$150, with many priced around $100.

This means that the ATI Radeon HD 5870 offers twice the performance of the GeForce GTS 250 but costs roughly 4-times more. Depending on budget and need, either choice, or one of many others, might be appropriate. The analysis tool helps cut through clutter in a crowded marketplace by converting data into information.You are equipped with fair, simple comparisons to use in evaluating product performance and value.

There are two things you must know before ordering a new GPU:

1. The type of motherboard slot the GPU must plug into and how many available slots, of each type, are in your computer.

2. Output (in watts) from your computer's power supply.

New, high-end GPU's typically impose a 350 or 400 watt power requirement but many desktop computers purchased 2+ years ago only have 300 watt power supplies. You'll need to do some research to find GPUs that work with 300 watt power supply and provide an adequate processing improvement. First, visit the website of your computer manufacturer to obtain its specs. Second, don't order any GPU until you've visited the manufacturer's web site and confirmed power requirements. Video card retailers are generally consistent in disclosing interface requirements but they do a poor job with power requirements.

It costs roughly $50-$100 to upgrade a computer power supply, assuming you'll provide the labor.

CO2 trend map

This post provides an alternative presentation of Muana Loa CO2 data used to prepare analysis of April, May and June. In fact, the chart shown below was produced in the same Excel file used to generate monthly trend charts presented in earlier posts.

Year-over-year change in CO2 occurring each month, from January 1960 through June 2010, is presented below. That's 606 data points in one chart. The chart used color to parse data points between three levels of change in CO2, with the highest level (monthly increases greater than 2ppm) shown in red. This is a different view of the CO2 trend over the past 50 years, which was previously discussed here.

Click image to view full-size

No record in June

Mega ice melt enthusiasts were disappointed with June's Muana Loa CO2 reading. Atmospheric CO2 increased 2.61ppm over June 2009, representing 0.67% growth in the month. The June CO2 reading stood at 392.04ppm, almost 1 point lower than last month. Atmospheric CO2 typically peaks in May and bottoms in September or October, with an unbroken series of annual C02 increases dating back to initiation of Muana Loa data, in 1958. Muana Loa data is reported by NOAA.

The year-over-year increase recorded in June was another data point towards the inevitability of climate change, however, the pick-up in global economic growth hasn't yet translated to new monthly records for CO2 growth, except for April.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Photo by TheRaven

Chicago, Il., Botanic Gardens - July 2007

Low country

Photo by TheRaven

South Carolina - Aug. 2007


Photo by TheRaven

Barcelona, Spain - Dec. 2006


Photo by TheRaven

Barcelona, Spain - Dec. 2006


Photo by The Raven

Seattle, Wa., Seattle Central Library - Sept. 2007


Photo by TheRaven

Seattle, Wa. - Sept. 2007


Photo by TheRaven

Seattle, Wa. - Sept. 2007


Photo by TheRaven

Baltimore, Md. - Jan. 2009


Photo by TheRaven

Baltimore, Md. - Jan. 2009

Water park


Photos by TheRaven

Cincinnati, Oh., Sawyer Point Park - Jan. 2005

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Photo by TheRaven

East Nashville, Tn. - Nov. 2009

South Bound

Photo by TheRaven

Somewhere on Rt. 65, between Louisville & Nashville - Oct. 2009


Photo by TheRaven

Dayton, Oh., National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Oct. 2009


Photo by TheRaven

Dayton, Oh., National Museum of the U.S. Air Force - Oct. 2009


Photo by TheRaven

Dayton, Oh., National Museum of the U.S. Airforce - Oct. 2009


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Maysville, Ky. - Oct. 2008

God & County

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Maysville, Ky. - Oct. 2008


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Maysville, Ky - Oct. 2008


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San Francisco, Market Street - Sept. 2008


Click image to view full-size

Photo by TheRaven

San Francisco - Sept. 2008

Confused at 89?

Photo by TheRaven

San Francisco - Sept, 2008.

Fairly ironic

Photo by TheRaven

Nashville National Cemetery

Animal cruelty II

Friday, July 2, 2010

Web sites to see

Though limited by hunt-and-peck typing, TheRaven flies fast in the digital realm. I've found a few websites worthy of interest. There's no theme here other than user interaction. This post covers blogs, movies, games and the most interesting automotive start-up company you've never heard of.

BLOGS - there's a bazillion blogs out there, including this one. Some of the more intelligent and thoughtful blogs seem to attract the biggest groups of nitwits. The New York Times climate blog a case in point. TheAtlantic's culture editor, Ta-Nehisi Coates, maintains a blog noteworthy for: (1) highly educated audience; (2) frequent discussion of history; (3) skill, background and interests of Mr. Coates; (4) thorough nitwit thrashing when they dare show up . Click here for the best blog TheRaven has found thus far.

GAMES - Armorgames is the best of many sites offering free Flash games. Flash games fall into well-defined categories, such as tower defense and shooter. When the inherent limitations of Flash games lose their charm, check out Steam, a site that sells computer games and hosts multi-player interaction. Advances in game technology made 3-5 years ago created highly regarded games that Steam now sells for cheap, as well as more current titles sold at higher, but generally discounted, prices.

Three noteworthy games for $10 or less:
  • Silent Hunter III - this submarine warfare simulation is extraordinary. Developed by Unisoft (in Romania!), Silent Hunter III may be the best of its kind, perhaps eclipsing versions IV and V. A review of Silent Hunter III at explains why. Pilot one of dozens of U-boat variants in several possible missions or participate with other players. Realistic to a fault, Silent Hunter III is an example of the worth of excellent games, for example, by providing a hands-on demonstration of why the model XXI U-boat was a super-weapon. You just can't get such understanding from a book. Camera functionality allows you to fly around the battle space in real time. For only $6.69 (current sale price), it simply can't be beat.
  • Company of Heroes - one of the best in the strategy genre, this WW2 era game has a Metascore of 92. Excellent graphics and a well-developed tutorial get novices up to speed quickly. Only $9.99.
  • Rome: Total War - this game, like Silent Hunter III and Company of Heros, appears on some "best ever" lists. It's a strategy game with similar functionality to Company of Heroes, but a bit more dependent on keyboard commands. It also has a Metascore of 92 and costs $9.99, which makes it a no-brainer. Company of Heroes has a cleaner interface. Silent Hunter III's interface borrows directly from the real McCoy.
MOVIES - we all like movies, how'd you like to make a cartoon? This funny clip (language NSFW) makes fun of the iPhone and was made using Xtranormal, a website that provides "text-to-movie" functionality. Ever wanted to script the Northern Nitwit's true "thoughts"? Now you can.

AUTOS - battery-dependent vehicles are getting all the press in yet another example of media myopia. The same lithium-based battery technology which has worked poorly in generations of laptop computers is now hyped as the salvation of planet Earth. A new report from the UK suggests that battery-powered cars will depreciate to only 10% of their new value after just five years. Limited battery longevity and high replacement cost are the unsurprising issues here. Considering the comparatively high cost of electric vehicles (roughly 2x of a comparatively-equipped gas engine model) depreciation issues will restrict appeal to eco-vanity buyers. This suggests that Tesla may be well-positioned in the short-term but fast-depreciating products will forestall development of next-gen electric power. Chrysler provides a telling lesson. The high depreciation rates of its vehicles fed a vicious cycle of diminishing sales and R&D curtailment. There are two other problems: (1) focus on electric propulsion distracts support from bio-diesel development; (2) increasing consumption of lithium creates growing dependence on Boliva and potentially Afghanistan.

An obscure start-up with a fascinating product waits to be discovered. This company relies on crowd-sourced design. Buyers pony up $50,000 and must participate in vehicle assembly. Sounds crazy! Have a look at the finished product before we examine its specs...
Welcome to Local Motors, home of the Rally fighter, a fully off-road capable, road-legal, emissions-compliant car. At first blush, Local Motors seems like one of many, niche auto builders, perhaps a step above a pure custom shop. And who really needs a $50,000, 2-seat car with 18" wheel travel?
The Rally Fighter features tubular steel construction with carbon fiber panels. It has a 6.2 liter V8, so fuel economy isn't a selling point. The Rally Fighter uses a vinyl skin in lieu of body paint. Most people don't need such a vehicle, but Local Motors' open business model creates intriguing possibilities for variants with wider appeal:
  • Price vs. volume -$50,000 is a product of very low production volume. As of this writing, Local Motors has taken only 105 orders for the Rally Fighter. This means that even a modest sale to a government agency or two would jack production volumes into a declining price curve. The Rally Fighter looks tailor-made for border patrol work and its use of vinyl skin means that it could be specialized for law enforcement, e.g., in desert cammo.
  • Design vs. fuel efficiency - the 6.2 liter V8 is a recent change. Local Motors featured an inline-6 from BMW several months ago. That engine produced impressive fuel economy. The point here is that design flexibility begets efficiency options. The Rally Fighter and the Jetta TDI both weigh about 3,200 pounds. This suggests that a non-competition, much higher-efficiency version could be accomplished using Volkswagon's new-generation, 4-cylinder diesel. This version would appeal to government agencies that need both off-road capability and fuel economy, such as the Park Service, perhaps the Postal Service and private industry customers such as oil-field service, surveying, engineering and construction firms.
  • Fixed vs. variable labor - the owner participation aspect of Local Motor's model is cute but it won't scale. The Border Patrol isn't about to detail a bunch of its agents to assemble a few hundred Rally Fighters. This may explain why Local Motor's site doesn't report any venture capital investors (despite having an innovative product, good management team and advisory boards). The site mentions "18 investors" in passing, a sure sign Local Motors is funded by angel investors. The owner-assembly model is a clever tactic for lowering fixed labor costs in a cash-poor start-up but it must be supplemented by contractual relationships with automotive manufacturers that can handle final assembly tasks in volume. This would leverage Local Motor's inherent strength, design innovation coupled with component flexibility, to enable multi-unit sales that will in turn enable wider market appeal.
  • No dealer network - Local Motors has wisely avoided a big chunk of overhead by skipping the middle-man and selling direct. The site makes decent use of an online community but in the early going, Local Motors remains obscure.
  • Open source design - Local Motors runs car design competitions but misses a trick by ignoring a design community of graphic artists. A vinyl body skin is a graphic design canvas. Local Motors should create another design competition just for skin graphics. This would create publicity and increase the odds of viral awareness by attracting a much bigger group than auto body designers.
Local motors needs publicity, the kind that only Hollywood can bestow. Adam Aircraft's innovative designs were certainly better known after its A500 appeared in Miami Vice.
Unfortunately for Adam, it needed investment funds just as air transport industries entered a multi-year retrenchment period. Adam subsequently filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2009. Local Motors needs its own version of Michael Mann before the next auto industry convulsion. It's vinyl body skins are a big selling point here, tailor-made for Hollywood adaptation.