Saturday, December 20, 2014

When We Drink the Most

Via Wonkblog:

In this marvelous, modern age, even outlets you hadn't considered offer bits of data. Like the manufacturer of the BACtrack breathalyzer, which plugs into your phone and tells you just how drunk you are. Granted, if you have a portable breathalyzer that you bring with you wherever you go, you probably drink more than the average person.
But after anonymizing and compiling data from those probably-above-average-drinkers, the company released a report with a perhaps-surprising finding: People drink more in the winter. They created this graphic, an interactive version of which is at their site. The darker the color, the higher the average blood alcohol content for the day. (The drunkest day in February? Super Bowl Sunday.)
People drink more in the winter.  No shit.  I think anybody in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota or the Dakotas could tell you that.

Carnivora Gardinum

Weekend Before Christmas Links

If, unlike me, you have your shopping done, you can sit back and enjoy these stories:

An honest game - SBNation.  Life in NAIA football, where players get paid, but only because they aren't able to make it in the big-time.

The Ice Breaker: Can P.K. Subban win over hockey's stoic traditionalists? - The New Yorker.  One of the rarest figures in sports, the black hockey star.

Finding the Cleveland Misery Tipping Point - Bill Simmons.  One thing that makes me smile is how miserable Cleveland fans are.

The Vatican Has a Farm, and Pope Francis Is Going to Open It Up To the Public - Takepart

In Final Spending Bill, Salty Foods and Belching Cows Are Winners - New York Times.  Feeding farmer paranoia about EPA.

How Peppermint Tricks Us Into Feeling (Deliciously) Cold - The Salt.

The secret world of ....beer - BBC.  Some strange beer facts, like this:
Knowing that yeast is ubiquitous and that there are thousands of strains, others have taken to novel approaches for harvesting wild yeast from the environment. A US company called Rogue Ales brews one of its beers using yeast cultivated from the beard of the chief brewer.
Waters Warm, and Cod Catch Ebbs in Gulf of Maine - New York Times. This is the kind of climate change impact I fear for Midwestern agriculture.

The largest vessel the world has ever seen - BBC

How Lithium Ion Batteries Grounded the Dreamliner - Scientific American

Bertha, The Giant Borer That Broke, Might Be Sinking Seattle's Downtown - Morning Edition.  Makes the problems in Columbus look pretty minor.

How Long Can the U.S. Oil Boom Last? - National Geographic.  Not nearly as long as the optimists (bullshit artists) claim, but probably longer than I'd figure.

Tough choices amid church mergers - Wall Street Journal.  The challenges facing a Roman Catholic Church with more buildings than they can staff with priests.

Bleeding the IRS Will Make the Tax System Worse - Norm Ornstein.  That's what the saboteurs in the Republican Party want.  They are all for dysfunctional government.  Putting the GOP in power is like making an arsonist the fire chief.

The Greatest Lawyer Who Ever Lived - Texas Monthly

A Self-Made Heiress - Fortune.  The woman who inherited Heineken.  It is a pretty crazy story.

The Unidentified Queen of Torture - The New Yorker.  Only in America. 

Our Favorite Maps of the Year Cover Everything From Bayous to Bullet Trains - Wired.  My favorite:

This map, published this year in Nature, was made by a team of scientists, geographers, and planners who want to see new roads built where they'll do the least environmental harm and the most economic good. Green areas indicate environmental sensitivity, red areas indicate economic potential---the black areas where they meet are sites of potential conflict. William Laurance et al., Nature 
The Chernozem belt covering the Ukraine and Western Russia is amazing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Stagg Bowl

Tune in right now to ESPNU to catch the NCAA Division III championship game.  Wisconsin-Whitewater just jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and the announcer said it was the first time all season that Mount Union has trailed.  That is ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Photo of the Day

Via the Dish:

Which Republican was the source of each quote here.  I sure wish the Republican party would implode into a bunch of useless small parties which could split the lunatic vote and save us from a dirtbag majority in Congress.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hamilton County Gets Creative Replacing Stadium Seats

Sure, they could be worried about paying for road repairs or public safety, but Hamilton County did find a creative way to save some money while sinking more capital into their sports stadium debacle:
Faced with costs as high as $5 million, desperate county officials ended up turning the job of replacing 39,000 seats into a massive do-it-yourself project. They hired a local firm to design new molds for the seats, found a plastics company to make the seat backs and bottoms, and are paying former jail inmates and others about $10 an hour to install them.
About 17,000 of the new seats already are in place, and county officials say they're stronger, better looking, more durable and less expensive than the originals.
"We think we have not only a better product, it meets all specifications," said Joe Feldkamp, who oversees the stadiums for the county. "We're in the seat business now."
It's not a business the county ever expected to be in, especially so soon after the original seats were installed. Stadium seats typically would be expected to last as long as 20 to 25 years, but Feldkamp said Great American's seats began to fail as early as 2008, just five years after the stadium opened in 2003....
The original contract with Hussey was for about $3.4 million, but quotes from a competitor to replace the seats ran about $5 million. It was the middle of the recession, and the county didn't have that kind of money. Still, the county's lease with the Reds requires it to maintain the seats, and so Feldkamp knew he had to do something.
On a lark, he searched online for some plastic mold companies and found Borke Mold Specialists Inc. in West Chester. He drove to the company headquarters with a cracked plastic seat and asked company president Fritz Borke if there was anything he could do.
Borke, whose company usually makes molds for things like airplane food trays, told Feldkamp he could "reverse-engineer" the molds, essentially making molds from the existing seats instead of the other way around. The county then hired Pinnacle Plastic Products in Bowling Green, Ohio, to pour gobs of hot plastic into the molds.
I love the Reds, and I am a Bengals fan in spite of Mike Brown, but the Hamilton County stadium deal is the absolute worst kind of corporate welfare.  The deal is an albatross tied around the necks of Hamilton County taxpayers, and the beneficiaries are worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  Instead of investing in infrastructure, public safety, public health, education or any number of other legitimate governmental expenditures, the county invested in palaces for professional sports teams.  They aren't the only ones who did this, but they pretty much made the worst deal in the United States.

The Most Distinctive Job in Each State

Vox:

Texas is full of oilmen, and Kentucky and West Virginia are big on mining. That's pretty obvious, but some states have disproportionate employment in less intuitive categories. New Hampshire is all about forest fire prevention, Missouri likes to split rocks, and Mississippi is for upholsterers....
On a technical level, what this map looks at are location quotients. These are calculated by the Labor Department's Occupational Employment Statistics operation every few years. The most recent one was completed in May of 2013. The way it works is you look at what share of people in Massachusetts are Industrial Organization Psychologists. Then you look at what share of people in America are Industrial Organizational Psychologists. The ratio between the two is the location quotient for Industrial Organization Psychologists in Massachusetts — 8.18, as it happens.
It makes sense that Wisconsin would have a disproportionate share of animal breeders (with a large number of dairy farms, there would be a sizable number of artificial insemination technicians), Iowa would have the highest percentage of soil and plant scientists and Washington would have the most aircraft manufacturers per capita, but I'm surprised that Indiana, despite the nickname of Purdue University would have a disproportionate number of boilermakers.  I'm guessing it has to do with the steel mills in Gary, Indiana Harbor and Burns Harbor maybe.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day

December 12:

Crystals on Mars
Image Credit: NASA, JPL-Caltech, MSSS
Explanation: This extreme close-up, a mosaic from the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on the Curiosity rover, spans a breathtaking 5 centimeters. It captures what appear to be elongated crystal shapes formed by the precipitation of minerals dissolved in water, a likely result of the evaporation of ancient lake or river from the Martian surface. Brushed by a dust removal tool and illuminated by white LEDs, the target rock named Mojave was found on the Pink Cliffs outcrop of the Pahrump Hills at the base of Mount Sharp. The MAHLI images were acquired on Curiosity's sol 809, known on planet Earth as November 15, 2014. Of course, the inset 1909 Lincoln Cent image is provided for a comparison scale. Covered with Mars dust itself, the penny is a MAHLI calibration target attached to the rover.

When Cotton Was King



In this piece at The Atlantic, there are some amazing statistics about how cotton dominated world trade at the start of the Civil War:
By the time shots were fired on Fort Sumter in April 1861, cotton was the core ingredient of the world’s most important manufacturing industry. The manufacture of cotton yarn and cloth had grown into “the greatest industry that ever had or could by possibility have ever existed in any age or country,” according to the self-congratulatory but essentially accurate account of British cotton merchant John Benjamin Smith. By multiple measures—the sheer numbers employed, the value of output, profitability—the cotton empire had no parallel.
One author boldly estimated that in 1862, fully 20 million people worldwide—one out of every 65 people alive—were involved in the cultivation of cotton or the production of cotton cloth. In England alone, which still counted two-thirds of the world’s mechanical spindles in its factories, the livelihood of between one-fifth and one-fourth of the population was based on the industry; one-tenth of all British capital was invested in it, and close to one-half of all exports consisted of cotton yarn and cloth. Whole regions of Europe and the United States had come to depend on a predictable supply of cheap cotton. Except for wheat, no “raw product,” so the Journal of the Statistical Society of London declared, had “so complete a hold upon the wants of the race.”
The industry that brought great wealth to European manufacturers and merchants, and bleak employment to hundreds of thousands of mill workers, had also catapulted the United States onto center stage of the world economy, building “the most successful agricultural industry in the States of America which has been ever contemplated or realized. Cotton exports alone put the United States on the world economic map. On the eve of the Civil War, raw cotton constituted 61 percent of the value of all U.S. products shipped abroad. Before the beginnings of the cotton boom in the 1780s, North America had been a promising but marginal player in the global economy.
Now, in 1861, the flagship of global capitalism, Great Britain, found itself dangerously dependent on the white gold shipped out of New York, New Orleans, Charleston, and other American ports. By the late 1850s, cotton grown in the United States accounted for 77 percent of the 800 million pounds of cotton consumed in Britain. It also accounted for 90 percent of the 192 million pounds used in France, 60 percent of the 115 million pounds spun in the Zollverein, and 92 percent of the 102 million pounds manufactured in Russia.
That is amazing. The article goes on to describe how the world economy adapted to the interruption of cotton exports from the Confederate States during the war.  I'm just amazed at how things were beforehand.

Familiar Foes

For the ninth time in ten years, Mount Union will meet Wisconsin-Whitewater in the Stagg Bowl next weekend.  Mount Union dismantled Wesley, 70-21, while Wisconsin-Whitewater held on to beat Linfield 20-14.  This is Mount Union's tenth straight appearance in the Division III championship game (they beat St. Thomas in 2012), but Whitewater has won their last four meetings against Mount Union, and five out of the last six.  The last time neither team played in the game was 2004, when Linfield beat Mary Hardin-Baylor.