Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Ineqality Chart of the Day

From Jared Bernstein:

Planting Lull Links

Yeah, I should have posted these over the weekend, but I was feeling lazy.  Here are a few good stories I came across:

The Rise and Fall of Ultimate Fighter Conor McGregor - The Atlantic

GMOs Are Safe, But Don't Always Deliver On Promises, Scientists Say - The Salt.  That's because making money off of lazy farmers is much more of a motivator than actually helping humanity.  See Roundup Ready soybeans.

Why Did the FSA Damage These Incredible Depression-Era Photos? - Slate

Inside the Country's Most Controversial Company - Mother Jones.  Tom Philpott inside the belly of the beast, Monsanto.

Quality Farms to establish firstSoutheast presence in Marion County - South Carolina Department of Commerce.  Old, but what a weird and interesting business.  The mention was in this story about a beer distributorship in Indianapolis.

How Bad Biology is Killing the Economy - Evonomics

How Typography Can Save Your Life - ProPublica

America's Shrinking Middle Class: A Close Look at Changes Within Metropolitan Areas - Pew Research Center

How Do You Put Out A Subterranean Fire Beneath a Mountain of Trash? - FiveThirtyEight.  A friend's dad was a landfill fire extinguishing expert, but I think that was the near surface fires.

From belief to outrage: The decline of the middle class reaches the next American town - Washington Post

Unnecessariat - More Crows Than Eagles

Portland gave its minimum wage workers a raise.  Here's what happened next - Christian Science Monitor

Austin, Indiana: the HIV Capital of small-town America - Mosaic

Burying the White Working Class - Jacobin

The alt-right's demographic nightmare - Scott Sumner.  Kind of funny, but my idea of a dystopian future IS the United States being like Texas.  Not because of the Hispanics, mind you.

Editorial: Lessons from West explosion, forgotten so soon - Dallas Morning News.  Honestly, I think urea would work just fine.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

NASA Photo of the Day

May 13:

ISS and Mercury Too
Image Credit & Copyright: Thierry Legault
Explanation: Transits of Mercury are relatively rare. Monday's leisurely 7.5 hour long event was only the 2nd of 14 Mercury transits in the 21st century. If you're willing to travel, transits of the International Space Station can be more frequent though, and much quicker. This sharp video frame composite was taken from a well-chosen location in Philadelphia, USA. It follows the space station, moving from upper right to lower left, as it crossed the Sun's disk in 0.6 seconds. Mercury too is included as the small, round, almost stationary silhouette just below center. In apparent size, the International Space Station looms larger from low Earth orbit, about 450 kilometers from Philadelphia. Mercury was about 84 million kilometers away. (Editor's note: The stunning video includes another double transit, Mercury and a Pilatus PC12 aircraft. Even quicker than the ISS to cross the Sun, the aircraft was about 1 kilometer away.)

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Comeuppance

I had one of those humbling moments today at work.  One of the shop supervisors had been asking me for a procedure for how to puncture aerosol cans for proper disposal with our can piercing device.  I knew we'd had some kind of written directions, but I couldn't find them in the computer system.  Then, the safety consultant sent me a picture showing some aerosol cans in a scrap hopper that hadn't been punctured.  I was kind of ticked off that the guys in the shop hadn't been puncturing the cans with the can piercer, and decided to head out that way, figure out the process, and then write up a procedure so it would get done correctly. 

I headed over to where the scrap hopper was, found a few cans that hadn't been punctured, and hauled them over to the can piercer.  I punctured the first couple, then loaded in one can that was about half-full.  I pulled down the lever, and nothing happened.  I slowly backed off the handle, and suddenly the can flew up, struck the top of the cabinet the waste barrel was in, and bounced around, all while spewing paint everywhere.  My arms were covered, my glasses had spatter on them, and the buttons of my shirt were noticeably blue.  I'd forgotten to put the covering lid over the end of the can before I punctured it.  I pretended nothing had happened, and didn't even look around to see if anybody had noticed.  I quickly went to clean up and tried to not let on that I'd been so dumb.  After getting the mess under control, I headed back to my cubicle. 

Back in the office, I quickly found the can piercing company's website and downloaded the operating instructions.  I sent them in an email to the supervisor, along with a message that we needed to get all the cans in the scrap hopper punctured.  I was a little sheepish about talking to him, since I still had some paint showing that I couldn't get removed.  A couple of hours later, I had to go to the shop, so I stopped in to make sure he knew what needed to be done.  He hadn't gotten the email yet, so I explained to him what had to be done.  Then I told him I had a story to tell.  I explained all about how ticked off I had been, and how the can piercer I thought was self-explanatory had shown me up.  He told me that the same thing had happened to him.  I guess this is a good example of why safety instructions have to be well-written, even when they seem to be basic common sense.

Will Gerrymandering Turn the 2016 Election?

Probably not. Gerrymandering has its largest effects in off-year elections (see massive Republican majorities at the state level). But I'll leave it to the political wonks to discuss it:

Another Farm Merger

Bayer AG’s possible takeover of Monsanto Co. isn’t likely to raise significant antitrust hurdles by itself, but it could intensify global scrutiny of the handful of companies striking megadeals that would consolidate the crop-chemicals industry.
Even if Bayer could win approval to purchase Monsanto, regulators may slow down all the deals as they assess how they would affect the overall market. Competition authorities are already investigating the proposed $130 billion merger between Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co., while national security officials in the U.S. weigh China National Chemical Corp.’s bid to acquire Syngenta AG of Switzerland for $43 billion. Lawmakers in the U.S. were quick to raise concerns about both the Dow-Dupont and ChemChina-Syngenta tie-ups....
A Bayer-Monsanto tie-up would create the world’s biggest supplier of seeds and farm chemicals. Monsanto, which has a market value of almost $40 billion, is the world’s largest seed maker and also makes Roundup, its blockbuster herbicide. Bayer, which invented aspirin, makes herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. The combined firm would control about 32 percent of the global crop-chemicals market.
As the farm economy gets tighter, we'll probably see the seed and chemical field brought down to three major players.  It won't be good for farmers, but what generally is.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Tale of Two Zip Codes

A Tale of Two Zip Codes from BLACKMATH on Vimeo.

Feds Say West, Texas Fire Was Intentionally Set

Dallas Morning News:
Someone deliberately started the fire that triggered the fatal explosion in West three years ago, government investigators announced Wednesday.
They did not identify any suspects at the West Fertilizer Co. Their conclusion was partly based on a re-enactment of the fire performed at a research lab in Maryland, according to officials from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Texas fire marshal’s office. An ATF official said investigators had also conducted more than 400 interviews and analyzed evidence at the site, photos and videos....
Elder offered few details, saying he didn’t want to jeopardize the integrity of the continuing investigation. He said investigators eliminated natural and accidental causes and proved the fire started in a portion of the fertilizer plant used to store seed.
Elder said he didn’t know why the fire was set.
“We don’t know what they were thinking, because we haven’t talked to them,” he said.
Elder said that the owner of the plant has cooperated with the investigation.
I doubted from the start that the fire was intentionally set.  I guess maybe I was wrong.  It still doesn't make any sense, though.  Why would somebody torch a fertilizer plant?

Crazy Idea From the 1950s - Part 173

From an old Vox feature of maps and plans that never came about:

North American Water and Power Alliance

Alaska is too cold to be of much use to farmers, and much of America's warm, sunny landscape is on the dry side. In the 1950s, the US Army Corps of Engineers devised the only sensible solution — use "peaceful" nuclear explosions to divert several Alaskan rivers through the Rocky Mountain Trench into the Colorado and Yellowstone rivers, whence the extra water flow could be used to further bolster irrigation projects in the American southwest. The cost of the project was thought to be comparable in scope to the original construction of the Interstate Highway System, with the complicating factor that it would also require the cooperation of the Canadian government.
Geez, nuclear weapons caused scientists and engineers to dream up some pretty crazy ideas.  Thank God they didn't follow through on this lunatic shit.