Category Archives: Uncategorized

Activists: Two books you should read

Spread the love

All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States by Meaghan Winter.

Democrats have largely ceded control of state governments to the GOP, allowing them to rig our political system and undermine democracy itself.

After the 2016 election, Republicans had their largest majority in the states since 1928, controlling legislative chambers in thirty-two states and governor offices in thirty-three. They also held both chambers of Congress and the presidency despite losing the popular vote. What happened?

Meaghan Winter shows how the Democratic Party and left-leaning political establishment have spent the past several decades betting it all on the very risky and increasingly foolhardy strategy of abandoning the states to focus on federal races.

For the American public, the fallout has been catastrophic. At the behest of their corporate patrons, Republican lawmakers have diminished employee protections and healthcare access and thwarted action on climate change. Voting rights are being dismantled, and even the mildest gun safety measures are being blocked.

Taking us to three key battlegrounds–in Missouri, Florida, and Colorado–Winter reveals that robust state and local politics are the lifeblood of democracy and the only lasting building block of political power.

American Resistance: From the Women’s March to the Blue Wave by Dana Fisher.

Since Donald Trump’s first day in office, a large and energetic grassroots “Resistance” has taken to the streets to protest his administration’s plans for the United States. Millions marched in pussy hats on the day after the inauguration; outraged citizens flocked to airports to declare that America must be open to immigrants; masses of demonstrators circled the White House to demand action on climate change; and that was only the beginning. Who are the millions of people marching against the Trump administration, how are they connected to the Blue Wave that washed over the U.S. Congress in 2018?and what does it all mean for the future of American democracy?

American Resistance traces activists from the streets back to the communities and congressional districts around the country where they live, work, and vote. Using innovative survey data and interviews with key players, Dana R. Fisher analyzes how Resistance groups have channeled outrage into activism, using distributed organizing to make activism possible by anyone from anywhere, whenever and wherever it is needed most. Beginning with the first Women’s March and following the movement through the 2018 midterms, Fisher demonstrates how the energy and enthusiasm of the Resistance paid off in a wave of Democratic victories. She reveals how the Left rebounded from the devastating 2016 election, the lessons for turning grassroots passion into electoral gains, and what comes next. American Resistance explains the organizing that is revitalizing democracy to counter Trump’s presidency.


Spread the love

Climate Change Science Resources

Spread the love

Books about climate change science and policy

Dire Predictions: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC by Michael Mann is a visually rich, detailed, but very accessible retelling of the IPCC scientific basis report. I recommend this volume (get the most current one) for use in classrooms as well as for general reading. Continue reading Climate Change Science Resources


Spread the love

Do Recycle. Don’t Relax

Spread the love

I have two quick things to say about recycling, and these are narrowly focused comments, but please feel free to discuss the issue more broadly in the comments, because I’m writing something more detailed and you can possibly influence that.

1) Do recycle. We have seen a handful of recent reports on authoritative (supposedly) media (like public radio) explaining how the entire recycling industry has collapsed and all the recycling goes into the trash, so YOU should therefore put your recycling in the trash as well. This is INCORRECT at several levels. More on that later. The short version: Let the recycling company decide what gets put in the trash. Your information will never be accurate or up to date compared to theirs.

2) Don’t feel too good about recycling, even if you do it all the time. It isn’t enough to save the planet. Do more. Now. More than that even.


Spread the love

Language: The mysterious magical murmuring that we do

Spread the love

Karen Stolznow is a well studied linguist and a spectacularly famous podcasting skeptic, who has published the following items:

God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States

Haunting America

Would You Believe It?: Mysterious Tales From People You’d Least Expect (in which I have a chapter!)

Language Myths, Mysteries and Magic (see my review here)

Hits & Mrs.

Karen was our most recent guest on Ikonokast Podcast. CHECK IT OUT


Spread the love

Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties

Spread the love

The newly published book, Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties, by Jim Spas, my one time brother in law, is worthy of a close look. Jim comes originally from New York State, but has lived in the west for most of his life. He has a strong sense of history and interconnections between things local and personal, like the development of a town or small city over time, the surrounding landscape, and broad historical events. To get a sense of this quality, have a look at Jim’s blog. Continue reading Junction City, Off the Record: Tales From Ogden, Utah’s Notorious Underworld in the Roaring ‘Twenties


Spread the love

Alicia Plerhoples for Fairfax County Board Chair

Spread the love

I know some of you are in Fairfax County, Virginia. If you are, please send this around to your climate-loving local people who are presumably voting in the upcoming primary election (June 11th).

From Adam Siegel, Virginia-based energy expert and climate hawk spotter:

Fairfax County Democratic voters face — for the first time in decades — a real choice as to their nominee for Chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. It isn’t just that there are four candidates seeking our support, but that a reasonable person paying even superficial attention to the race should be able to articulate reasons to vote for (or not vote for) each of the four. This is a good situation for voters, and a reason why I have thought long and hard before coming out with a public endorsement in this race. After consideration of many factors (see discussion below), the choice has become clear to me…

For the details, read: Alicia Plerhoples for Fairfax County Board Chair: Adam Siegel Explains His Choice

There is another endorsement of Alicia Plerhoples here.

Plerhoples herself is also covered here: Under my leadership, says Plerhoples, Fairfax will be a greener county

Also, look at Dick Saslaw’s race. I hear he is a fossil fuel favorer and it might be nice to have him not running in the election, so when the Democrats take back the Senate, their Majority Leader is not a Carbon-symp. This is Virginia State Senate district 35, where Yasmine Taeb and Karen Elena Torrent are primary-ing Dick Saslaw. I have nothing to provide in the way of guidance for choosing between those two candidates.


Spread the love

Biden, Sanders, Harris, Warren, Are All About The Same

Spread the love

How does this sound? In a two person race (among Democrats and LD’s),

Biden 43%
Sanders 41%

(statistical tie)

Biden 41%
Harris 38%

(statistical tie)

Sanders 42%
Harris 37%

(that may be statistically significant, but just barely)

Sanders 37%
Warren 40%

(statistical tie)

Conclusion: Among these front runners, they are all about the same, among Democrats, nationally. Note that recent polls showing Biden with a huge lead are all, as far as I know, among the First Four contests.

Source


Spread the love

Celestial Calculations: This Book Promises To Not Hurt You

Spread the love

To calculate the exact location of a star, planet, or satellite, read the appropriate chapter in this book, download the source code, data files, or binaries, as needed from the publisher, and off you go on a wild adventure that combines star gazing, mathematics, and coding.

I am especially attracted to science or technology books that contain something the reader can work with. A book about a programming language should walk the reader through developing a good example of useful code. A book about computational science should include templates for workflow in data analysis. It is rare, though, to find a book about a pure science (as opposed to technology) that does this. Celestial Calculations: A Gentle Introduction to Computational Astronomy (The MIT Press) by J. L. Lawrence is one of those pragmatic publications.

J.L. Lawrence comes from the world of technology. He is a CTO of a company that builds computer systems for satellite-launching customers including the government. So, one might imagine that he has an interest in pulling out the old slide rule and doing applied rocket science.

Consider the situation of a serious amateur astronomer. You can look at the stars and planets through a good set of binoculars, or an amateur telescope. After a while, you may want to upgrade to a telescope that can be linked to your laptop for positioning. Or you might build a star tracker to allow your camera to get a nice shot of a comet. And so on.

But eventually you may also want to get into the math of the heavens, combining that with some coding skills you can easily pick up, and figure out how to locate planets, find specific stars, track the moon’s behavior with great accuracy, and convert between all the values of time and space that happen when round objects of various sizes find themselves falling towards each other in great, seemingly infinite time, spirals. And so on.

Celestial Calculations is written for amateur astronomers who want to use accessible math combined with extensive ready to go code written manly in python, java, and visual basic.

The prose that discusses the math and astronomy is straightforward and accessible, and if you read the book just for that you will come away much better informed about the solar system and broader universe. If you do that, you will probably skip about 20% of the technical discussions and math (maybe a bit more). The math is very clear and you can work through the concepts in your head, more or less, to get the idea, and appreciate the dynamic relationships between things in space. The programming is all relegated (but with notes in the book) to a major on line archive that you can download and use on your own computer to make the calculations, and modify as you wish.

The software is developed with a Microsoft Windows user in mind. The software should run on any platform, but you may have to fiddle with paths and other environment issues if you are using a non-Windows machine.


Spread the love

Hawking’s Black Holes and Baby Universes Cheap

Spread the love

Black Holes and Baby Universes: And Other Essays in kindle form cheap right now.

In his phenomenal bestseller A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking literally transformed the way we think about physics, the universe, reality itself. In these thirteen essays and one remarkable extended interview, the man widely regarded as the most brilliant theoretical physicist since Einstein returns to reveal an amazing array of possibilities for understanding our universe.

Building on his earlier work, Hawking discusses imaginary time, how black holes can give birth to baby universes, and scientists’ efforts to find a complete unified theory that would predict everything in the universe. With his characteristic mastery of language, his sense of humor and commitment to plain speaking, Stephen Hawking invites us to know him better—and to share his passion for the voyage of intellect and imagination that has opened new ways to understanding the very nature of the cosmos.


Spread the love

Cheap early Carl Hiaasen book!

Spread the love

Fans of Carl Hiaasen who have not yet read his book Trap Line can get it right now cheap in Kindle form.

Though he is one of Key West’s most skilled fishing captains, Breeze Albury barely ekes out a living on the meager earnings of his trade. Meanwhile, Cuban and Colombian drug smugglers thrive all around—and they have their sights set on Albury and his fishing boat.

After the smugglers cut his three hundred trap lines and crush his livelihood, Albury is forced to run drugs to survive. But when he gets busted by the crooked chief of police and becomes a target of the drug machine’s brutal hit men, Albury becomes a vigilante on the seas of Florida, unleashing a fiery and relentless vengeance on the most dangerous criminals south of Miami.

Along with Powder Burn and A Death in China, this is one of the early suspense thrillers written by Carl Hiaasen and Bill Montalbano, a writing team praised for their “fine flair for characters and settings” (Library Journal). Perfect for fans of the Doc Ford novels by Randy Wayne White, Trap Line is an action-packed preview of Hiaasen’s stellar Florida-set crime novels including Sick Puppy, Tourist Season, and Razor Girl.

See THIS for more info on the author.


Spread the love