WIP #4 – Sustainability Articles

Option 1 – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-cohen/effective-regulation-and_b_1810282.html

This articles written by Steven Cohen, the executive director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, outlines how the federal government can effectively regulate business to ensure sustainability without negatively impacting these businesses.  Though Cohen does admit that regulation can slow growth, he says that the growth that does occur is more solid and dependable.

Option 3 – http://blogs.worldwatch.org/transformingcultures/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Ecovillages-and-the-Transformation-of-Values-Dawson.pdf

This article is about the ways in which people can live as a community in order to promote sustainability.  It outlines the ways people can live cooperatively in order to mitigate their ecological impact on the earth, while being more economically efficient and building strong local communities.

WIP #3 – Online Deliberation

The focus of my ‘Online Deliberation’ project/paper will be on http://www.reddit.com/r/worldnews. This site is of particular interest to me because  it is one of the main places I get my news and the deliberation that goes on in the comments often plays an important part in shaping my opinion on different stories.  It will be interesting to critically analyze the quality of deliberation on the site and see what I am truly exposing myself to.

/r/news is an appropriate site because reddit is focused on creating discussions and deliberation.  Its comment sections typically have lively debates, fact checking, and suggestions on how to solve various problems.  There is no better comment section than on reddit, which makes it a great site to use for this project.

I have a very good impression of the quality of deliberation that goes on in the reddit.com/r/news comment section.  Every comment section is filled with people making thoughtful comments on the stories which lead to very productive discussions.  People on reddit value backing up their points with sources and keeping debate civil.  This culture leads to a fantastic quality of deliberation.  However, there seem to be less viewpoints represented than would be on a mainstream news outlet, so the deliberation taking place on reddit often may not include every point of view.

PAS #3 – Stock Quotes

If you read last week’s passion blog you’ll recall that I wrote about screen scraping and how I planned to use it in order to pull stock quotes off of Google.  Well, I have some good news to share with everyone, it works!


Pictured above is a screen shot of my program so far.  It prompts the user for the ticker symbol of the stock they would like to look up and then tells the user various information about the stock. Note that this is not how the program will run in the final version, this version of the program was made merely to test pulling stock quotes off of Google.

The next part of the program will be easier to code, but harder to design.  I must design an algorithm that will decide when to buy and sell stocks based on all of the numbers I pull off of Google.  I have barely any idea where to begin.  The stock market has so many variables, numbers, and figures that it makes my math textbooks look like bedtime stories.  This week I’m going to continue researching the stock market and see if I can’t get a very basic, and probably bad, algorithm running.  If you have any suggestions or ideas, please let me know.  I can use all the help I can get.

CIV #2 – Nuclear Energy in the US

Nuclear energy has never had the best reputation in the United States.  Incidents like the Chernobyl disaster, the Three Mile Island accident, and the latest happenings at Fukushima have all reinforced the idea that nuclear energy is an accident waiting to happen.  The fact that the citizens of the United States hold some of these ideas is quite a shame, considering how clean and safe nuclear energy truly is.  According to the World Nuclear Association, out of the fifteen thousand cumulative reactor-years ( the time individual reactors have been running) the three incidents I cited earlier have been the only mishaps.

The US Energy Information Administration states that there are 104 commercial reactors in the United States, which together, produce 806 TWh of electricity a year.  That is 19.6% of the United State’s electricity generation.  Since that start of the ‘nuclear renaissance’ in 2001, which was kicked up due to fossil fuel prices and concern about the environment, nuclear energy has grown much more popular in the United States.  In fact, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has just approved the construction of two new nuclear reactors at the Vogtle energy plant in Georgia.  These will be the first nuclear reactors built in the United States since 1970.

Also, support for nuclear energy is growing.  The Pew Research Center found that 44 percent of Americans favor increased use of Nuclear power while 49 percent of Americans oppose it.  I believe this trend will continue as more and more people discover the facts behind nuclear energy and realize that it is nothing to fear.

United States policy makers should find an effective way to educate the public on matters concerning nuclear power.  Perhaps if nuclear power gained wider support due to increased understanding of its properties, the Untied States could build more nuclear reactors and produce more clean energy.  One way to accomplish this would be to teach students about nuclear reactors in middle and high school science classes.

Nuclear energy has the potential to be a fantastic source of power for the United States, but concerns about its safety are impeding its usage.  Nuclear energy is both clean and safe.  Other countries recognize the potential the nuclear power has the change the patter of energy usage.  China plans to increase their production of nuclear power by 200% by 2030 according to The Economist.  It is important for the United States to realize what other countries already have, nuclear energy is both clean and safe and is part of the solution to the world’s energy problems.

PAS #2 – Web Scraping

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks learning how to code using Python.  I learned about lists, dictionaries, functions, libraries, and modules.  A couple of days ago I decided I knew enough to try and start writing my stock trading program.  The first part I decided to implement is a way to pull stock quotes off of the internet.

Pulling stock quotes off the internet turned out to be more of a pain that I had prepared for. When I was learning Python I studied this thing called an API, which stands for application programming interface.  APIs are used by websites to allow programmers to use their services in the applications they develop.  I planned to use Google to search all the stock prices, pulling the information from pages like this: http://www.google.com/finance?q=NASDAQ:GOOG.

So far my program is able to pull the HTML code from that website and save it to a document on my computer.  That was the easy part.  Now I must figure out a way to parse through the html code and pull out all of the numbers I am interested in.  I think this is going to be pretty difficult and Google’s source code is pretty difficult. You can see for yourself by going to the link I posted above, right clicking on the background of the site, and selective ‘view source code’ or your browser’s equivalent.  If you were able to get that to work you should understand why this next part is going to be difficult.  Read my blog next week to see what solution I came up with (hopefully I find one!).

WIP#2 – Online Deliberations

Obama takes key battlegrounds to win re-election (CNN) : http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/06/politics/election-2012/index.html

The comments section in the article I’ve linked is full of people discussing which candidate in the 2012 election would have made the better president after finding out Obama had won.  The discussions are moderately deliberative.  Arguments begin logically and the first few responses are generally reasonable.  Inevitably, someone decides to post an aggressive comment and the entire argument derails.  The people who commented recognize each other’s viewpoints, but often do not respect them.  Instead they attack other people’s beliefs.  This discussion won’t do much for furthering understanding.  Though some people to post thoughtful comments and consider other point of view, the two sides seem to polarized to hold a meaningful deliberation.  Neither side will hear criticism of their opinion or is willing to compromise of important topics.


CIV 1 – Which Countries Use The Most Alternative Energy

Countries all over the world are investing in their renewable energy infrastructures, but which countries are setting the best examples for clean energy use of the future?

In 2002 the nations of the G20 summit decided to start an initiative to increase renewable energy production in each of their countries. In June of 2012 the nations reconvened and produced a report detailing which nations derive most of their power from renewable sources and which nations have improved the most since the 2002 resolution.

According to the G20 nations, Germany produces the highest percent of renewable energy, an impressive 10.7%.  In second is Italy which get 6.2% of its energy from renewable resources.  Third is Indonesia where renewable energy makes up 5.7% of their energy consumption. The United States came in seventh on that list as we get only 2.7% of our power from renewable resources.

However, what percent renewable energy is of overall energy production is not the only factor that defines how renewable energy friendly a country is.  For example, South Korea has increased their production of renewable energy by 19584% since 2002, making them the country that has improved the most in this time period. China has increased their renewable energy production by 7605%, meaning they improved the second most.  The United States has only increased its renewable energy production by 341% since 2002.

Hopefully other countries can use South Korea as a model and make similar improvements to their renewable energy production, but investment into renewable energy is highly dependent on specific governments and economic conditions in a country.

The Obama-Biden administration plans to put $150 billion over the next ten years into renewable energy, put 1 million plug-in cars on the rode, and significantly increase the amount of renewable energy the US produces.  I plan to write another blog post going into more detail on how countries plan to increase their use of renewable energy.

This I belive

My This I Believe Podcast

    In elementary and middle school I worried about my grades way too much.  I remember studying hours upon hours for each of my tests.  I would memorize word for word study guides my teachers used to hand out the week before. Looking back on it, I easily could have passed without looking over any of my worksheets or study guides. I had this idea that each test was extremely important and if I didn’t get an A something terrible would happen.  I spent so much time making sure I that I would score extremely well on every test that I never did get to find out what horrors would await me if I was to get a B.

    One time, in what I remember to be seventh grade, I was being too distracting during class which caused my teacher to give me a lunch detention.  My mind instantly turned to the myth of the ‘permanent record’, which teachers in my district used to scare children into behaving.  I imagined going to a job interview after graduating college and having the interviewer ask me to explain why I misbehaved in Ms. Knox’s seventh grade class.  I was extremely nervous that future colleges or employers were going to see this blemish on my ‘permanent record’ and never accept me.

When I became a highschooler I began to think less about grades and more about social standing.  It’s the ugly truth that high school culture is dominated by cliques. Most kids in highschool are primarily concerned with who is friends with who, who has a crush on who, who is angry at who, and who is cool and who isn’t.  It’s easy to get caught up in these details when it’s all you’re surrounded by every day and I don’t think anyone has gone through high school unaffected.  High School is a difficult time in many people’s lives, but it really shouldn’t have to be.

    Looking back at my life before college I have come to realize that I shouldn’t have worried myself so much about the things in life that weren’t truly important.  No bad grade grade I’ve ever gotten or opinion one of my peers has had of me will ever impact my life. Also, I am now sure the ‘permanent record’ as my teachers described it is a complete lie.  If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is truth to the saying, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  However, I believe in the revised version of that same saying, which goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.  It’s all small stuff.”

PAS #1 – Plans for This Semester

Last semester my passion blog focused entirely on my tests and experiments with the Arduino.  This semester I will continue along that path, but I also plan to add another similar topic to my blog.  Recently I’ve begun to learn a second programming language outside of class called Python.  Python is a much higher-level language than C++, meaning the programmer has to be less concerned with how the computer physically interprets their programs and can focus on using more contemporary logic.  I’ve been discussing a program with my father that would monitor certain stocks on the NYSE and automatically buy and sell them based on certain financial constants.  My father works for DuPont and a finance manager and is an avid trader on the stock market, so his expertise will come in handy when figuring out how I want my program to go about deciding when to buy and sell.

Both these topics are very technology oriented, but this topic is what I am most interested in currently.  I’m excited to learn a lot by working on these projects and hopefully I’ll have something really cool to show for it before the end of the semester.  Who knows, maybe I’ll even strike it rich with my stock market program!

WIP #1 – Civic Issues Blog Topic

I will pursue the energy topic this semester.  Humans are as power hungry as ever and we are consuming more energy per day that we have ever in history. Currents trends lend no hope to the idea that the planet will start to use less energy or even slow down its growth in the rate of energy consumption, especially with the development of economies like Brazil and China. Fossil fuel is a limited, non-renewable resource and there will need to be something in the future to take its place when we run out.

The search for the be-all and end-all source of energy isn’t over, but there have been a variety of successful ideas. Wind power, geo-thermal energy, nuclear, and water power are all popular alternative sources. I believe the US government should be trying to integrate more and more of these energy sources into our nation and begin to ween us off of oil.  It was just recently that Google invested 200 million into a wind farm in Texas (http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/09/technology/google-wind-farm/index.html).  Obviously companies are starting to recognize that our addiction can’t continue and that other plans must be made.  I think it will be interesting to see how different organizations are planning for an oil free future.

When people think sources of energy consumption, they think cars. Cars that run on electricity are becoming increasingly popular, but they’re too inconvenient and shot-ranged to be a permanent solution. Not many communities have charging stations for electric cars, so owners are limited to trips only half the range the car has the capability to travel in order to reserve energy for the return trip.  Furthermore, electric cars take hours and hours to charge which would hinder someone from traveling for hours if their car in low on battery. As it stands, hybrid cars, which have gasoline powered motors along with electric motors, are the only viable choice in alternately powered cars.

Obviously there is a lot of room from improvement in the country’s and the world’s energy situation and I’d like to see where it goes.