Sunday Train: In Worrying News, Non-Petroleum in Transport Hits 60-year High

The US Energy Information Administration released a story last week which sounded like good news: Nonpetroleum Share of Transportation Energy at Highest Level Since 1954. "Since 1954" means, since before I was born or, as hard as it is to wrap my brain around, a period spanning six decades.

So, surely this is good news? Well, if you have glanced at their accompanying chart, no, not so much. A more descriptive headline would be, "US transport continues to be addicted to petroleum as its primary energy source". And digging into the US EIA numbers reveals that the situation is even more grave than the chart to the right would make you think.

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The Breakfast Club (Love Minus Zero)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We're a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we're not too hungover  we've been bailed out we're not too exhausted from last night's (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it's PhilJD's fault.

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The Breakfast Club (Instrumental Innovations)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgPeople
who are not really familiar with Art Music (and even some who are) have
a tendency to think that modern orchestral instrumentation sprang fully
formed from the head of Zeus like Athena.  The truth is that composers
often look for novel sounds and instruments and players instruments that
are easier to play. 

Consider the valved Brass instruments I'm most familiar with.  Until the late 18th, early
19th century there was no such thing.  Instead you were limited to major
harmonics controlled by your embouchure (basically the tightness of your lips and facial muscles).  Sure you
could flatten or sharp it a little, but if you wanted to play in a
different key, you had to use a different instrument.

Even an unvalved French Horn (the oldest of the modern brass instruments) was invented as recently as 1725.

During the Baroque and Classical periods instrumentation changed quite a bit, so much so that there is now an Early Music movement dedicated to Renaissance and Medieval instruments and performance styles.
 Concert strings switched from fretted to unfretted (which makes
certain obvious and non-obvious changes to the harmonics that are too
difficult to get into here).  Flat backs were replaced by shaped ones
that sound louder.  Lutes are replaced by guitars.

The Woodwind instruments (flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon) owe their modern shape to Theobald Boehm who in 1847 introduced a simplified (Hah!  Too many for me.) fingering
system that used a complicated set of levers and pads to control the
airflow, and thus the harmonics.

You may be somewhat aware of the development of the Pianoforte (means Soft/Loud) from the earlier Harpsichord by replacing a plucked
string system with a percussive hammer action.  Well, that happened in
1700, 400 years ago but not, you know, in the dim dark mists of some
pre-historic time.  New York City had over 7,000 inhabitants and was to
publish it's very first newspaper in a mere 25 years (same time as the
French Horn).

The Saxophone, the newest of what is generally considered a "classic" orchestra instrument was patented in 1840 by Adolphe Sax.  The Tuba in 1835.

So what occasions this discussion of the history of musical instruments?  The 81st birthday of Robert Moog.

There is an unfortunate prejudice against electronic instruments
in Art Music.  Because they are programmable (with the right kind of
controls) they are derided as mere recordings and, because they can
replace many imperfect musicians with one that always does what you tell
it to (which may not be what you want), are rightly viewed as an
employment threat.

In their earliest forms though a considerable amount of skill and
practice was required, just as with any instrument.  One of the first
electronic instruments was the Theremin.  It was patented by Léon Theremin in 1928.  You don't physically touch the instrument, it senses the
capacitance between your hands and the sensors to control pitch and
volume.  While it did gain some novelty attraction in Art Music world it
is best known for lending its 87 year old "futuristic" sound to movie
sound tracks and TV theme songs.

 

 

Recognize that?  It's the Dr. Who theme commonly credited to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that was really composed by Ron Grainer and performed by Delia Derbyshire.

Robert Moog built one himself and later put together a fairly popular (among electronics geeks) kit.

A really popular electronic instrument is the Hammond electric organ from 1935.  It was intended as a low cost, lighter, semi-portable
alternative to a traditional pipe organ and quickly saturated the
ecclesiastical market.  The sound is produced "by creating an electric
current from rotating a metal tonewheel near an electromagnetic pickup."
 While it has many buttons and sliders that can produce different
sounds none of them actually sound like an organ and the greatest
similarity is the stop switches and keyboard controls.

What Moog did that was different with his synthesizer is that he
didn't try to duplicate anything.  I had an opportunity to work with an
early model and it was basically a wave form generator patched through
an amplifier.

There are 3 basic types, Sine, Square, and Sawtooth, so named
because that's what they look like on an oscilloscope which is your main
output device (other than your speakers).  You can control amplitude
and frequency and (in the case of Sawtooth) rate of attack and decline.
 Using these fundamental tools it is theoretically possible to reproduce
any sound at all.

Theoretically.  Most of my efforts sounded like that annoying hum
you get when you haven't plugged your components together properly, but
I am decidedly unmusical and only had a couple of hours to play with
it.

Modern practice is to sample the sound you want to duplicate,
analyze it to its components, and tweak the output until it sounds the
way you like.  Computer generated sound is capable of things human
musicians can not duplicate any more than John Henry, on the other hand
you still have to imagine it and tell them what to do.  60 Hz AC is
perfectly acceptable noise, but it's hardly a symphony.

 

 

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

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And the Weak Suffer What They Must ~ Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis, the fiery new Greek Finance Minister, is a Greek Economist and prominent critic of modern Global Bankster Capitalism. His new book, And The Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future, is now available for pre-order at Powell's (and also at Amazon).

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Tough Times in the Hate Business

I guess when you run a hate organization, you have to keep the perceived horrors involving what you hate in the news in order to keep those donations rolling in. I mean, the hate down't pay for itself!

It must be really painful when this sort of stuff backfires.

Case in point. People have noticed the recent stories about the Girl Scouts' policy on transgender girls. That's not really news. The policy goes back to 2011 when Colorado trans kid Bobby Montoya wanted to join. After Bobby was first humiliated by he local troop leader, the Girl Scouts of Colorado announced,

Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members.

If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.

--Girl Scouts

As I reported back then, girls all over the country expressed their support.

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The Breakfast Club (The Only Thing I'll Ever Ask Of You)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We're a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we're not too hungover  we've been bailed out we're not too exhausted from last night's (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and
weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our
boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late,
it's PhilJD's fault.

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The Breakfast Club (Ahab)

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpgIt's been a bad week for Marine Mammals. 

Icelandic plan to ship whale meat to Japan angers environmentalists
AFP

Tuesday 19 May 2015 13.41 EDT

The Icelandic whaling company Hvalur HF plans to
ship 1,700 tonnes of whale meat via Luanda in Angola, repeating a
similar controversial delivery of 2,000 tonnes last year which sparked
protests along its route.

...

Iceland and Norway are the only nations which openly defy the International Whaling Commission's (IWC's) 1986 ban on hunting whales.

Icelandic whalers caught 137 fin whales and 24 minkes in 2014, according to Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), an anti-whaling group - compared with 134 fin whales and 35 minkes in 2013.

Japan has used a legal loophole in the ban that allows it to continue hunting the animals in order to gather scientific data.

But it has never made a secret of the fact that the whale meat from these hunts often ends up on dining tables.

Consumption of whale meat in Japan has fallen sharply in recent years while polls indicate that few Icelanders regularly eat it.

Yup, Japan has warehouses full of whale meat nobody
wants to eat and they can't sell.  Now there may be a very thin and
specious argument about the necessity of keeping a domestic whaling
industry for the financial benefit of the whalers (though simply paying
them off would be cheaper and easier), but what the heck is the reason to import it?

Dolphin-hunting Japanese town may start farming them on the side
Reuters

Thu May 21, 2015 12:47pm IST

A Japanese town notorious for killing dolphins
may set up a dolphin breeding farm after zoos and aquariums decided to
stop buying their animals caught in the wild, but it has no plans to
halt the controversial hunt, its mayor said on Thursday.

The western port town of Taiji, the location of an annual hunt
featured in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary "The Cove", may suffer a
loss of income because of the Wednesday decision, which Japanese
officials said came in response to foreign pressure.

The decision by Japan's zoos and aquariums came after the World
Association of Zoos and Aquariums threatened Japan with expulsion unless
it stopped buying dolphins from Taiji. That would have meant Japan
might lose access to zoo animals such as elephants and giraffes from
overseas.

In 2013, 1,239 dolphins were caught in the Taiji hunt, according
to the Fisheries Agency. Most of them were killed for their meat but 172
were sold alive, mainly overseas, at a price of at least $8,200 each.

...

"We plan to protect our fishermen, who have authority from both the
nation and the local government," Sangen said, emphasising the tradition
of the hunt.

"We believe it can become the world's main provider. I believe in 10 years our town will have changed its role in all this."

Despite the bid to develop the live-animal business, the hunt would still go on, he said.

Like the legal market in ivory, this is simply another way to enable poaching.

Study Links Dolphin Deaths to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
By NICHOLAS ST. FLEUR, The New York Times

MAY 20, 2015

The findings are the latest results from the
Deepwater Horizon National Resource Damage Assessment, an ongoing
investigation by NOAA into the spill, the largest offshore oil spill in
United States history. Combined with previous studies by the agency,
this paper provides additional support to a link between the Deepwater
Horizon oil spill in 2010 and mass dolphin deaths in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.

"The evidence to date indicates that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused the adrenal and lung lesions that contributed to the deaths of
this unusual mortality event," said Stephanie Venn-Watson, a researcher
with the National Marine Mammal Foundation who was the lead author of
the report. "We reached that conclusion based on the accumulation of our
studies including this paper," she added.

...

A third of the Gulf Coast dolphins had a thinned or damaged adrenal
gland cortex compared with only 7 percent of the so-called reference
dolphins, the researchers said.

...

The researchers also found that about a fifth of the Gulf Coast
dolphins had lung lesions caused by bacterial pneumonia, and that 70
percent of that group died because of that condition. Only 2 percent of
the reference dolphins had any trace of bacterial pneumonia.

The researchers said that the dolphins most likely inhaled the
fumes from the petroleum products on the ocean surface. They added that
exposure to oil fumes is one of the most common causes of chemical
inhalation injury in other animals.

"These dolphins had some of the most severe lung lesions I have
ever seen in wild dolphins throughout the United States," Dr. Colegrove
said.

Below you will find a report from The Guardian on the close ties between the British government and BP and Shell.

Science Oriented Video

 

 

The law that entropy always increases holds, I think,
the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to
you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with
Maxwell's equations - then so much the worse for Maxwell's equations. If
it is found to be contradicted by observation - well, these
experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found
to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope;
there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

-Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)

Science News and Blogs

Obligatories, News and Blogs below.

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Boulder mom steps up for her kids

Kai Mackenzie has two children. Both were assigned male at birth...but that didn't take.

As a parent, Kai McKenzie admits it took years to understand what it meant to raise a transgender child. Kai’s oldest, Elsa, was assigned male at birth but began rejecting that identity at just two years old.

When I told her she was a boy she just screamed, ’No!’” Kai said. “I still didn’t get it.

--Kai

From age two until age 8, Kai's oldest child would draw pictures of herself as a girl...and chose to dress as a girl when she could.

Kai says Elsa eventually refused to go to the bathroom and, at 8 years old, began showing signs of physical sickness when gender conversations came up.

She started increasingly just breaking down any time anyone called her a boy. I mean, just collapsing and sobbing. She came to me and said, ‘If I’m a boy, why is there no one like me? There must be something wrong with me. I wish I didn’t exist.’ And those words. Those words are a wake-up call to any parent.

--Kai

So last year the Mackenzie family embraced Elsa as a girl.

But there was also Sky.

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The Breakfast Club (With A Little Help From My Friends)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We're a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we're not too hungover  we've been bailed out we're not too exhausted from last night's (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and
weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our
boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late,
it's PhilJD's fault.

 photo 807561379_e6771a7c8e_zps7668d00e.jpg
   

This Day in History

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

Charles Lindbergh begins his trans-Atlantic flight;
Amelia Earhart starts her trek across the Atlantic; Freedom Riders
attacked in the South; Explorer Christopher Columbus, comedienne Gilda
Radner die.

Breakfast Tunes

 

 

 

  

 

 

   

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

 

Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking
the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to
happen next.

Gilda Radner

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