Peanuts Creep
Posted on January 22nd, 2012 at 1:12 pm by Steve

Earlier, we posted a children’s choir singing Radiohead’s “Creep”. Today, we came across (via Dangerous Minds) a different children’s choir version of “Creep,” this time, with video from the life of Charlie Brown.

Occupied! New mix from DJ Pussywillow
Posted on November 29th, 2011 at 10:10 pm by Steve

Just concluded cleaning up and annotating the DJ mix I did from 12-1 this morning on WZBC, 90.3 FM in Newton. You can listen on the ZBC site, but this mix is trimmed to just my set, has had some volume tweaks made, and also includes artwork and a complete track listing!

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The 1% Simply “Shed” Their Obligations
Posted on November 29th, 2011 at 2:18 pm by Steve

Corporations are legal “persons,” and, like you and me, enter into binding legal contracts. One difference is, when they go bankrupt, they just “shed” their obligations and move on. You and I aren’t usually so lucky.

A case in point is extreme financial distress. For a person, this might be caused by a loss of employment, or sudden illness; for a corporation, it could be a drop in business, excessive operational costs, or bad planning. In either case: revenue is down, costs are up, and the balance sheet is negative.

If you’re a person, this kind of crisis means that you’ll suffer direct hardships: the things you own get taken away, and if you actually still earn money, your future earnings are pledged to your creditors. If you have a mortgage, you’re typically foreclosed and lose your home. Your car gets repossessed. Your belongings are sold off to pay your debts.

Ah, but if you’re a corporation, things are different! You can simply “shed” those expensive obligations and soldier on! Well, you can’t shed all your contracts – just the ones you made with your employees:

AMR [American Airlines’ parent company] was determined to avoid Chapter 11 as air travel fell and losses mounted after the 2001 terrorist attacks, even as peers used bankruptcy to shed costly pension and retiree benefit plans and restructure debt.

(Source: Bloomberg Business Week, November 29, 2011)

Of course, the obligations you made to your peers (i.e., other corporations) must still be honored. These debts will be “restructured.” But your contractual promises to pay for the doctor visits and medicine for the thousands of people who gave you 30 of the best years of their lives? Those you can “shed” like a tired skin you’ve outgrown.

“You would expect a leaner, stronger company to emerge from bankruptcy,” Chris Logan, an analyst at Echelon Research & Advisory LLP in London, said today by telephone. “As they are in Chapter 11, it will be more easy to demand concessions from the labor force.”

Ah yes, “concessions from the labor force!” In other words, the executives hold a gun to the heads of the employee unions and offer them a choice: either some of you lose your jobs and the rest lose your benefits and even more of your salary, or all of you lose your jobs and your benefits and all of your salary. Some choice.

It’s not like we haven’t been down this road before, with this very company. American’s pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, gate agents, baggage handlers – you know, the people who actually make the planes fly and keep the passengers safe – these very employees took a 30% pay cut back in 2003 in hopes of avoiding a bankruptcy proceeding. Those poor saps! Now, instead of regaining the $1,600,000,000 that they gave up eight years ago, they’re being told that they’re still earning too much, and that if they don’t make further sacrifices, they’ll all lose their jobs.

While the workers have already taken huge pay cuts, given up their pensions, and paid more in health insurance premiums, American’s executives have somehow managed to escape harm. In 2008, the same year his airline lost more than $2 BILLION the boss’s compensation package topped $5 million. But, pity poor Gerald Arpey: that $5 mil was a 22% drop over his 2007 compensation.

A quick glance at the headlines will tell you that, even through huge losses and now bankruptcy, The 1% at AMR are doing just fine: “Despite losses, American Airlines CEO’s compensation climbs” – Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Apr. 21, 2011; “Executive compensation at American Airlines raises eyebrows” – Tulsa World, April 19, 2010; “AP says Arpey earned $6.6 million in 2007” – Dallas Morning News, April 19, 2008.

Thus do the executives of the corporate entity continue to prosper and thrive, continuing to do their “jobs” of running the business, while thousands of employees are laid off, and tens of thousands more lose the only hope they had of actually being able to, you know, survive their retirement years on something other than handouts and cat food.

Although all of that can change.

Yo Dawg, I Heard You Like Xzibit Jokes…
Posted on November 17th, 2011 at 4:39 pm by Steve

It’s funny ‘cuz it’s a quine!

Or, is it?

Like, “Like, Unlike”
Posted on September 15th, 2011 at 10:16 pm by Steve

like, 'like, unlike'
Like, totally.

Like, Unlike
Posted on September 15th, 2011 at 10:13 pm by Steve

Unlike -1

The Drum Major Instinct
Posted on September 15th, 2011 at 9:55 pm by Steve

God didn’t call America to do what she’s doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in _________________. And we are criminals in that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I’m going to continue to say it. And we won’t stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation.

— The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

February 4, 1968

In 1996, MBTA Promised Green Line to Somerville by 2011
Posted on August 2nd, 2011 at 7:21 pm by Steve

In 1996, the MBTA planned to have the Green Line extended to Somerville by 2011.

Today, in 2011, the Patrick administration announced that they will be delaying – until at least 2018 – construction and operation of the Green Line into Somerville and Medford.

Long-time watchers of Somerville’s transit woes (such as this author) are unsurprised by this latest development.

Courtesy of those pesky “archives” that libraries seem to love, here’s a Boston Globe article from January 28, 1996 (more than FIFTEEN years ago!):

Slater, the T’s planning director, contends, “Somerville probably has more bus service than any comparable area. It’s got a lot of service going into both Lechmere and Sullivan, where people can make connections. Part of the long range plan is to extend the Green Line into Somerville. The deadline on that is the year 2011, and we’re trying to meet earlier deadlines now on other projects.”

I guess the good news is that the planning horizon today is half what it was in 1996. Maybe in 2018, they’ll announce service in 2022. And, in 2022, they’ll announce service in 2024. And, in 2024, they’ll announce service in 2025, and maybe by then it will actually be built.

I’m not holding my breath.

What Could *Possibly* Go Wrong?
Posted on June 21st, 2011 at 1:24 pm by Steve

So, rising floodwaters in Nebraska have completely surrounded two nuclear power plants. But, hey, don’t worry! The plant at Fort Calhoun Station (a full 19 miles from Omaha – stay put, Warren Buffet!) has been in “cold shutdown” since April. The plant’s managers decided not to restart the nuclear chain reaction, given the impending floods.

Of course, they did have a “small fire” that…well, actually, it only knocked out the cooling water pumps in the “spent fuel” storage pool for 90 minutes, during which time the temperature in the pool rose “a few degrees.” But, hey, at that rate of temperature increase, it would’ve taken days (well, 88 hours) for the water in the pool to start boiling away. What happens then? The fuel melts… it oxidizes… it can catch fire and spread radioactive materials over a large area.

But, don’t panic! How could a nuclear plant possibly lose all of its power? I mean, they have grid power and backup generators, right? How could the grid connection fail? (Certainly not due to a massive regional flood!) How could the diesel generators fail? (Certainly not due to being submerged by the aforementioned flood!) After all, the operators of Fort Calhoun have planned ahead! They installed a giant rubber innertube around the plant to hold back the waters:

[Plant spokesman] Gates said an Aqua Dam currently protects the switchyard and substation at Fort Calhoun, tall enough to withstand floodwaters at a 1,010 elevation (the river level is currently at an elevation of 1,005 feet, 7 inches).

[Source: OPPD: Nuclear station “safe and will continue to be safe”, The Washington County Pilot-Tribune and Enterprise, June 17, 2011]

How could the river rise another four feet, five inches? I mean, it’s not like the levees and dams upstream are stressed and starting to breach? It’s not like it might rain any more than it already has…

Perhaps the most significant impact of the [June 20] storm was the large area of 1 – 4 inches of rain it dropped on Nebraska and South Dakota. This rain will run off into the Missouri River, further aggravating the flooding that has breached two levees and overtopped two other levees in the past week. The large, slow-moving low pressure system responsible for the rains and severe weather will bring additional heavy rains of 1 – 3 inches over portions of the Missouri River watershed today [June 21], and will touch off a new round of severe weather today and Wednesday as the storm progresses slowly eastwards.

[Source: Jeff Masters, Ph.D., founder and chief meteorologist of the Weather Underground, Inc.]

Well, the good thing is that nuclear plants in the United States are designed with extremely conservative assumptions, so there’s a very high margin of safety! Oh, and also… even for plants that were built 37 years ago, like the Cooper Nuclear Station, just downstream from Fort Calhoun (and also inundated with floodwaters), they’re subject to constant inspections and tough regulations!

Failed cables. Busted seals. Broken nozzles, clogged screens, cracked concrete, dented containers, corroded metals and rusty underground pipes — all of these and thousands of other problems linked to aging were uncovered in the AP’s yearlong investigation. And all of them could escalate dangers in the event of an accident.

Yet despite the many problems linked to aging, not a single official body in government or industry has studied the overall frequency and potential impact on safety of such breakdowns in recent years, even as the NRC has extended the licenses of dozens of reactors.


Records show a recurring pattern: Reactor parts or systems fall out of compliance with the rules. Studies are conducted by the industry and government, and all agree that existing standards are “unnecessarily conservative.”

Regulations are loosened, and the reactors are back in compliance.

[Source: “U.S. nuke regulators weaken safety rules,” by the Associated Press, June 20, 2011]

As Harry Shearer says, “Safe! Clean! Too cheap to meter! Our friend, the atom.”

The Uncanny Valley
Posted on June 15th, 2011 at 12:17 am by Steve

Oscilloscope Laboratories? Nitrous canisters? Liquid LSD in a breath mint bottle?

Why does this new Beastie Boys short film seem strangely familiar…?

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