Sunday, August 28, 2016

NASA Photo of the Day

August 26:

The Milky Way Sets
Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN, Earth and Stars)
Explanation: Under dark skies the setting of the Milky Way can be a dramatic sight. Stretching nearly parallel to the horizon, this rich, edge-on vista of our galaxy above the dusty Namibian desert stretches from bright, southern Centaurus (left) to Cepheus in the north (right). From early August, the digitally stitched, panoramic night skyscape captures the Milky Way's congeries of stars and rivers of cosmic dust, along with colors of nebulae not readily seen with the eye. Mars, Saturn, and Antares, visible even in more luminous night skies, form the the bright celestial triangle just touching the trees below the galaxy's central bulge. Of course, our own galaxy is not the only galaxy in the scene. Two other major members of our local group, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Triangulum Galaxy, lie near the right edge of the frame, beyond the arc of the setting Milky Way.

End of August Mini-links

Here are a handful of stories I've seen recently:

This College Football Team Doesn't Want To Join The Big Leagues - Bloomberg.  North Dakota State.  I wouldn't if I were them.

After 75 years, baseball in Bakersfield has struck out - LA Times

The Rise and Fall of Gerd Bonk, the World Champion of Doping - Vice Sports

The Start-up That Watches Corn Grow, From Orbit - The Atlantic

Minnesota Farmers Turn To Bankruptcy As Low Prices Continue - AgWeb

America's Real Mountain Of Cheese Is On Our Plates - The Salt

The Biggest Distillery You've Never Heard of is in Lawrenceburg, Indiana - Cincinnati Magazine

The Feudal Origins of America's Most Hated Tax - The Atlantic

Where the Confederacy is Rising Again - Politico

Trouble Signs for Donald Trump: Ambivalence in Exurbs - Wall Street Journal.  I'd be embarrassed if rural areas showed up on this chart.


Six Years of Chicago Police Shootings

Chicago Tribune:

Every five days, on average, a Chicago police officer fired a gun at someone.
In 435 shootings over a recent six-year span, officers killed 92 people and wounded 170 others.
While a few of those incidents captured widespread attention, they occurred with such brutal regularity — and with scant information provided by police — that most have escaped public scrutiny.
Now, after months of struggles with Chicago police to get information through the Freedom of Information Act, the Chicago Tribune has compiled an unprecedented database of details of every time police fired a weapon from 2010 through 2015.
Analysis of that data revealed startling patterns about the officers who fired and the people they shot at.
Among the findings:
•At least 2,623 bullets were fired by police in 435 shootings. In 235 of those incidents, officers struck at least one person; in another 200 shootings, officers missed entirely.
•About four out of every five people shot by police were African-American males.
•About half of the officers involved in shootings were African-American or Hispanic.
•The officers who fired weren't rookies but, on average, had almost a decade of experience.
•Of the 520 officers who fired their weapons, more than 60 of them did so in more than one incident.
•The number of shootings by police — hits and misses — declined over the six years, from more than 100 in 2011 to 44 in 2015.
For years, examining the full scale of the problem in Chicago was impossible because the city refused to release most details about police-involved shootings.
That is quite a few shots fired.And quite a few misses.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

An Aerial Perspective of Nordland

An Aerial Perspective of Nordland from Michael Fletcher on Vimeo.

Trying To Reduce Methane Emissions From Cattle

Bloomberg:

Isolating the impact of direct livestock emissions versus indirect emissions such as fertilizer, crop production, and transport for animal feed is also a challenge, companies and investors say. "The issue for agriculture is identifying the actors and creating levers for change,” Cynthia Simon, senior manager of investor initiatives at CDP, a not-for profit focused on corporate carbon and water measurement, said in an e-mail.
Some big producers are banding together to try to tackle the issue. The U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which includes companies such as McDonald's Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods Inc., JBS USA Holdings Inc. and Cargill, launched in 2015 with the aim of finding better ways to measure the environmental impact of cattle. Greenhouse gas emissions is one of its six "high priority" indicators for sustainability, but “it is a challenge to align the entire value chain,” to get emissions measurements, said John Butler, chair of the roundtable, in an interview.
Some companies are also taking matters into their own hands, getting creative when it comes to cutting emissions from their herds. Cargill, for example, uses domed lagoons to capture some of the methane released from biodegrading cow manure. Yogurt maker Danone found through its research that adding Omega-3 fatty acids to a cow’s diet — largely through infused flax seed — can reduce methane emissions from cows by up to 30 percent. Further research, however, found that while the flax additive reduced methane, it also reduced milk production, pushing Danone to focus on other ways to cut farm emissions.
"We’re really actively engaged in supporting research in this area," said Britt Lundgren, Director of Organic and Sustainable Agriculture at Danone-owned Stonyfield Farm Inc.
The article also has a picture of a cow donning a methane collection system in a research project in Argentina.  Why do I get the feeling that that picture will appear in some conservative fundraising letter claiming EPA is requiring farmers to equip their cows with these in California?  Anyway, this issue is down the list of concerns for farmers below overuse of antibiotics and resistance to GMO traits in corn and soybeans, but it still should be on the list.  Concerns about greenhouse emissions will eventually turn to contributions by livestock.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quebec - The Saudi Arabia of the Maple Syrup Market

I love that there is a maple syrup cartel.  Of course it is in Canada:

After eight years of tightly limiting output to keep prices high, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers next year will boost its quota by 12 percent for 13,500 sap farmers who operate in the Canadian province. The goal is twofold: Reclaim the 10 percent of market share lost to the U.S. over the last decade, and quell a rebellion by producers increasingly turning to black market sales for growth.
Boosting the quota now is “almost perfect timing” as farmers are seeing record output, according to Alan Bryson, 41, who drains sap from 45,000 taps on trees in Notre-Dame-de-la-Merci, Quebec. The prospect of more sales “outweighs the frustration” felt by farmers in the past, he said....
The unanswered question is where all this additional product is going to go. Tappers this year will be paid C$2.88 ($2.20) a pound, based on a weighted average, federation data show. That’s up a penny from the previous two years...
U.S. production this year totaled 4.2 million gallons, a 23 percent boost from a year earlier, with Vermont accounting for 47 percent of the total, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in June. The number of taps rose 5 percent this year, to 12.55 million, after increasing 45 percent from 2007 and 2015, according to the USDA.
That growth frustrated Quebec farmers, who have been urging an end to quotas. While the government-sanctioned cartel kept prices stable by limiting output and maintaining strategic stockpiles, tappers complained that the system imposed a “heavy, inflexible handicap to the province’s performance,” according to a 70-page report commissioned by Quebec Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis, released earlier this year.
That frustration was leading some farmers to sell on the black market, and some said they felt harassed by the federation, according to the report.
Nothing like a cartel to cost itself market share.  Previous story on the Great Maple Syrup Heist here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Final Touches Being Made on Iowa State Fair Butter Cow



Des Moines Register:
T-minus six days until the gates swing open for the Iowa State Fair and Sarah Pratt puts some final touches on the face of the iconic butter cow, a tradition still going strong after 105 years. The hooves still need some detail work and she needs to finish the tail.
Five-gallon buckets of butter await in a cooler while giant blocks that just arrived need to be cut and kneaded to release water and make her medium more pliable.
But by the time Aug. 11 rolls around, Pratt will finalize her 11th version of Summer, the butter cow, as the official butter sculptor of the Iowa State Fair.
Pratt took over the sculpting duties in 2006 after 45-year veteran Norma “Duffy” Lyon retired. Pratt spent 15 years apprenticing under the first woman butter sculptor in the country, learning to use clay sculpting tools, even a dentist’s pick and mainly her own hands to take 1,000 pounds of butter and turn it into a cow...
Pratt, a former special education teacher, sketches out her sculptures in advance and welds together a metal and wire form on wood that gives her the basic structure of the piece. Already she completed a replica of the Starship Enterprise as well as Nyota Uhura and Spock, part of the butter cow companion exhibit. Capt. James T. Kirk’s metal frame already leans on his elbow in the commander’s seat and Dr. Leonard McCoy awaits his coating of butter.
I love me some butter sculptures and massive amounts of fried foods, with some creepy carnies thrown in for laughs.  Our county fair starts on Friday, and we've got the food and carnies, but lack the butter art.