Watch Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, shrink

The water level in Lake Mead — the United States’ largest reservoir that serves as a source of water for over 20 million people — has dropped to an all-time low, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which manages the reservoir and the Hoover Dam…Water level in the reservoir dropped to 1,074.34 feet Friday — bringing it to its lowest level since the dam was built in 1936…

Lake Mead, whose high-water capacity is about 1,225 feet, is currently only 37 percent full. At 900 feet, Lake Mead becomes a “dead pool,” which means that nothing would flow downstream from the Hoover Dam…

The reservoir has not reached full capacity since 1983, and, over the past 16 years, as the Colorado River basin reels under a historic drought, its water levels have fallen consistently.

❝ “This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds,” Brad Udall, a climate research scientist at Colorado State University, told the Desert Sun. “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline. The good news is that we have time and the smarts to manage this, if all the states work together.”

Officials from California, Nevada and Arizona — the three states that would face crippling water shortages if the reservoir’s water levels drop further — are believed to be working on a deal to temporarily reduce water withdrawal from Lake Mead.

Just, please, don’t tell the conservative anti-science nutballs in Congress that states are working to solve problems that include the words “climate change” in any portion of the question. They’ll go into action faster than any speed-trap sheriff in West Texas.

They may be incapable of passing a budget which doesn’t support the Republican War on Women or filling vacancies in any portion of our judiciary above the rank of suburban family court – but, boy, can they roll into hearings, conferences, lawsuits faster than you can say, Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi – all guaranteed to stop up the works of useful projects.

The “New American Home” loses size, gains efficiency

The “biggest and the bestest” diminishes in size

The “New American Home” is shrinking.

Every year at its convention, the National Association of Home Builders highlights the New American Home, a high-end model designed and built to capture emerging trends in residential building and the shifting lifestyles of Americans.

This year’s showpiece, which measures 4,181 square feet and is one of the smallest in the popular program’s 29-year history, shows that the love affair with McMansions seems to be waning.

Indeed, last year’s featured home sprawled over 6,800 square feet. The nation’s average home size, which peaked just above 2,500 square feet in 2007, is expected to shrink to 2,152 square feet by 2015…

The showpiece, described as a modern take on the classic “boxes” of the 1960s and ’70s, has two bedrooms, and features additional rooms that could house parents or boomerang kids — those moving back home because of the weak economy. It also boasts energy-efficient features such solar panels to run the HVAC system and to heat hot water.

This year’s builder decided to keep the house as a showcase for clients…instead of offering it for sale. And it is great to see sizes starting to come down to match good sense instead of market agitprop.

The “New American Home” has to be larger than life because the intent is to show off the best of everything. Cripes, the last NAHB Show I attended the house on display was up over 8,000 sq.ft.. And that year I worked on a couple houses – including a vacation “cottage” – that were in the 24,000 sq.ft. range!

I’m retired, now – my wife will be, sooner or later – and we live in <1400 sq.ft. with room for dogs as companions and 1 room leftover as a spare.

Walking may keep brain from shrinking in old age

Walking at least six miles a week may be one thing people can do to keep their brains from shrinking and fight off dementia, say U.S. researchers.

A study of nearly 300 people in Pittsburgh who kept track of how much they walked each week showed that those who walked at least six miles had less age-related brain shrinkage than people who walked less.

“Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh, whose study appears in the journal Neurology…

Erickson and colleagues tested to see if people who walk a lot might be better positioned to fight off the disease.

They studied 299 volunteers who were free of dementia and who kept track of how much they walked.

Nine years later, scientists took brain scans to measure their brain volume. After four more years, they tested to see if anyone in the study had cognitive impairment or dementia.

They found that people who walked roughly six to nine miles a week halved their risk of developing memory problems.

“Our results are in line with data that aerobic activity induces a host of cellular cascades that could conceivably increase gray matter volume,” the team wrote.

They said more studies need to be done on the effects of exercise on dementia, but in the absence of any effective treatments for Alzheimer’s, walking may be one thing people can do that may help down the road.

Phew. I made it into the parameters.

Church of England has clergy crisis – of quantity

The Church of England is facing the loss of as many as one in ten paid clergy in the next five years and internal documents seen by The Times admit that the traditional model of a vicar in every parish is over.

The credit crunch and a pension funding crisis have left dioceses facing massive restructuring programmes. Church statistics show that between 2000 and 2013 stipendiary or paid clergy numbers will have fallen by nearly a quarter…

Jobs will instead be filled by unpaid part-timers, giving rise to fears about the quality of parish ministry. Combined with a big reduction in churchgoing, the figures will add weight to the campaign for disestablishment…

About one in sixty people worships with the Church of England on an average Sunday. This is projected to drop to less than one in 600 by 2050. The average age of a British Anglican worshipper was 37 in 1980, but is expected to rise to 67 by 2050.

Terry Sanderson, of the National Secular Society, said: “Such numbers remove the last vestige of justification for the Church’s establishment. It is no longer representative of the nation and will become progressively less able to fulfil its claimed nationwide service.

“Establishment gives bishops significant power and this is simply illegitimate and undemocratic. It is quite clear that the Church of England is, to all extents and purposes, finished.”

I hope churches in the United States catch up to their role model across the pond. I’d hate to see a crumbling church-gap for the whole world to see.