Saturday, March 27, 2010

Are you a Rockist?

I learned a new word today, "Rockist," which is an elite music fan or critic that thinks that rock music reached perfection at sometime, like when they were 23. They want all music to sound like that. Rockism is the 1980's notion that rock is the standard of popular music.

As Kelefa Sanneh wrote, "A rockist isn't just someone who loves rock 'n' roll, who goes on and on about Bruce Springsteen, who champions ragged-voiced singer-songwriters no one has ever heard of. A rockist is someone who reduces rock 'n' roll to a caricature, then uses that caricature as a weapon. [...] Countless critics assail pop stars for not being rock 'n' roll enough, without stopping to wonder why that should be everybody's goal. "

Rockism is an adjective that most people don't want applied to them. Jody Rosen says "that most rock critics would rather be accused of pedophilia as rockism." The implication is that they are close minded.

The other word is, Poptimism or Poptism, which is the esthetic of Pop culture, or in this case Pop music. There is a pun there with the word optimism, and the idea that Pop culture is an optimistic open culture that incorporates everything it finds without (much) critique. The more capitalist definition of Popism or Poptism is whatever sells is good.  It is whatever wins the People's Choice Award.

The opposition of Rockism and Poptism occurs because Rockism looks backward to an ideal past and Poptism does not care about the past -- it embraces the trendy present without much concern for the future. One might pair these like conservatism and liberalism, but it is also like conservatism and nihilism.

I want to tie Poptism to the philosophy of Natural Language, or the notion that language is what people speak, not what dictionaries and grammers say they speak. Natural Language got knocked when during the Ebonics movement, when people tried to teach Urban English in schools. It reminds me of American English in the sense that new words are accepted from whereever they come. Unlike French or Dutch where authorities decide what words are worthy enough to enter the language.

Poptism isn't really anything, but it is the name for whatever people do collectively.

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Look At Depth of Processing

 Behold the new look on my blog. I have thought for a while the site looked to generic. With a few new Blogger tools, I have made it more custom, though perhaps not more interesting or cooler.

At right is the old look as seen on my food and wine page. At right is the current look, which I reserve the right to change at any time.

I also have a new look on the movie site, which I think is best of the three.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

60 Minutes of Exercise a Day to Lose Weight

This week's JAMA article on exercise and weight gain was discouraging. It showed women needed to exercise over 60 minutes a day to lose weight. The rest of them gained weight. Worse it only worked for relatively thin women. Above a certain weight, exercise had no relationship to weight loss.

Of course, elite athletes exercise lots, and they are not very skinny -- except perhaps marathon runners. Most athletes are beefier than non-athletes. I know when I begin a weight lifting regime, that I gain weight  not lose weight.

Having said that, it was too bad that over eighty percent of subjects gained weight. It seem like weight control is too hard.

Nonetheless I will be up at 5:20 tomorrow to exercise.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Turbotax Online - Software Review

Turbotax Online is a competent website, and easier than downloading software on your PC -- if you count the constant updates from the company that are needed. I think that online tax software is the way to go.

The online service works well, and I am able to pull in data from last year's online return easily. The online product really does not work at all with the desktop product -- they are distinct. Also the Online Turbotax does not work with the Online Quicken. If you want to use Quicken with Turbotax -- you need the desktop versions.

It is a high priced service. I paid $78, and it still took me at least six hours. In previous years, I have tried free and cheap alternatives, and I think you get what you pay for. Turbotax tries a low "come-on" price, and then there are multiple adders until you get to a much higher price. You need to get used to that.

They pile on the high priced services . I certainly was not going to pay $29.95!!! so that they could deduct the $78 fee from my refund.

Consumer tax software does not tell you what it is doing, and that creates the potential for errors. That is, it does not educate about the tax law, it just asks questions, and then fills in forms for you.  [An exception is the HR Block Taxcut has educational videos, so it is better.] This means that you are subject to problems -- for example, I thought that it would automatically decide my son was no loner deductible and take him off-- but no, I had to take him off manually. That is the most serious problem. You can't really trust it; in the end you need to understand every line of your return.

There are a number of animations intended to make it look the computer is working. An animated bar will cross the screen with the script "Looking for additional deductions." That is not really happening while you wait -- it is like a little TV show to keep the client satisfied. The little animations provide a "fit-and-finish" to the product. In past years, I liked them, even though some were a little corny. I suppose it depends on your mood. This year it struck me as too slick.

My other issue is that the 2009 software goes away in 2010. If you get audited for 2009 in the future, you can't access the online software anymore -- unlike having a version on your PC. (They will let you download the desktop version however. But you need to type in your return from the pdf's -- no automated input.) You can download all the forms as pdf though.

Full disclosure: My wife has little business, and we don't use the Turbotax product for that, because it is too expensive and does not interface with her accounting software.  I actually file that using the fill-in pdf forms from the IRS, and mail in the paper.

Highpoints: Nice design. Almost all the odd tax details are addressed. Good question and answer FAQs. Good technical support. Fast response time.  Nice printed documents and lots of supporting pdf forms for your records; I could input forms from my bank.

Lowpoints:  You need to proof-read the return for errors; Always trying to extract another fee; Limited access to the software for prior year audits;

Bottom line:  For simple tax situations, it is easiest to file with the file-in forms from IRS. In my situation, that would take at least a whole weekend to prepare. I can compress the time to half that with this software. At $78, it is a luxury, but I have decided it is worth it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Carbon Capture on Peridotite - A Geo-engineering project that might actually work.

Peridotite is the name for a class of rock that contains silica, magnesium and iron. It can be used to absorb carbon dioxide efficiently, according to Peter Kelemen and Juerg Matter at Columbia University. Absorption into basalt was discussed in my previous post.

There are large deposits of peridotite in Oman as well as Papua New Guinea and Caledonia. It is the most common rock in the earth's mantle, but it is located below the earth's crust, for the most part.

Kelemen has ambitious plans. He says that the Oman deposits could absorb 12% of world wide carbon dioxide emissions every year. However, the gas would need to be transported to Oman, which is not that practical.

On the other hand, injection of ocean water into deep peridotite deposts would allow the peridotite to strip out dissolved CO2, and later the ocean water could be returned to the sea to absorb additional CO2.

This sounds like a geoengineering project that might actually work.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

You Know You Want This Keyboard

This keyboard is a mod from The site is  clever mix of industrial design and pop culture. I bookmarked it.

I got the link for this photo from Roger Ebert's twitter feed, which is surprisingly interesting.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Michigan Economy Turns The Corner

The economy in Michigan has turned the corner according to Comerica Bank. The econmy bottomed out in mid-2009, and has now recovered nearly 1/3 of the way.

Thanks to Mark Perry for pointing this out.

My own observations seem to agree with that I have actually seen help wanted signs in store fronts.

More good news, the Michigan unemployment rate dropped to 14.8%, which is the third monthly drop in a row. Although, looking at the graph, the improvement is vanishingly small. 

The bad news is that housing prices continue down.  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lego Brick Artist Nathan Sawaya

Nathan Sawaya is a lego artist, which means that making lego sculptures is his main medium.

His gallery is at

Nathan came to my attention when he was featured at the BASF booth at an agricultural show. See the video below.

As Lego art goes, I find Nathan's stuff to be about the best. Here is a lego art gallery.

Finally, there is the Han Solo in Carbonite, also by Nathan.  Link.

Nathan's stuff is better than many lego pieces primarily because the pieces are bigger, and the image is more sculpted. 

It is still a gimmick. I expect he could make something nicer by carving wood or wax. On the other hand, I have never done post on regular sculpture. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Carbon Capture in Volcanic Rock

Basalt, the rock formed from flowing lava, is porous, and it neutralizes acids. It is an excellent place to store carbon dioxide, so says Columbia University professor David Goldberg in PNAAS (Jan 4 2010).  The reason this is encouraging is that there is a lot of basalt in the world, and the carbon dioxide reacts to form limestone rock -- that will stay there forever.

Of course, carbon dioxide emissions are causing climate change, and pilot plants are being built to contain it. See this previous post from hometown Kenosha.

The volcanic basalt formed as the continents drifted apart over the millennia. Volcano's filled in the gap between the continents with lava from the earth's interior.

Basalt deposits are phenomenally big, that is why this represents the first practical carbon sequestration solution. It is estimated that one formation in the Pacific could hold the entire US carbon dioxide output for 120 years, or 210 gigatons or 2.1E14 kg. Don't forget that after a few hundred years, the fossil fuels will run out, so the carbon dioxide problem will eventually go away by itself.

Chemically this is what happens. Carbon dioxide is an acidic when it is in water. People call that carbonic acid. It can be neutralized by calcium, iron or magnesium that is present in basalt rock.

H_2O  + CO_2  =  H_2CO_3

2H_2CO_3 + Ca++   =   CaCO_3 (Limestone)  + 2H+

This is already being demonstrated in the Carbfix project in Iceland. To make this practical pipelines would need to be built from the power plants to the geological sites, but basalt is all over, and it should not be more difficult that extracting petroleum.

 Absorption of carbon dioxide on peridotite, another mineral, is also interesting. A new posting is pending.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

When Broken Glass Floats - Book Review

When Broken Glass Floats is an auto-biography and eye-witness account of the Cambodian revolution of Pol Pot in 1976. Author Chanrithy Him's sister told her that good times will come "when broken glass floats," and the story is about how they would have to endure for good times to return.

Pol Pot's Khmar Rouge government was idealist and Luddite. They depopulated the cities, killed educated people, and drove the country into panic. 21% of the population were killed or died of famine or disease.

Chanrithy Him's story tells of her evacuation from Phnem Penh, her relocation to a farm, death of her parents and some siblings, a series of child labor camps, and eventual escape.  I wanted to see what happened to her since she got to the US, and she did finish college. She is active in the local Cambodian community.

I read a lot of books that I don't recommend, but I really liked this one. I read it instead of my escapist novels.

The story is gripping and written with a mixture of detail and generality that I liked.

The Cambodian genocide is terrible episode. This site has pictures. 

I picked this book at Amazon, but looking for books with five star recommendations from the largest number of readers. This strategy worked great here.