Thursday, November 26, 2015

What's On The Side?

FiveThirtyEight looks at the regional differences in Thanksgiving meals:

Going deeper, the Southeast is the definitive home of canned cranberry sauce; respondents from the region are 50 percent more likely to pick that over the homemade variety. The Middle Atlantic states disproportionately have cauliflower as a side — 17 percent in the region versus 9 percent nationwide — while Texas and central Southern states see cornbread as far more necessary than the rest of the country, with 40 percent of respondents from those regions having it at dinner, compared with only 28 percent of the nation.
The Southeast prefers their carbs in the form of mac and cheese — 35 percent of respondents in that region include the dish on their Thanksgiving menu versus 20 percent of the country overall. Meanwhile, New England is losing its mind over squash, with 56 percent demanding it on their table, compared with only 18 percent of the nation as a whole. This is, by far, the most confusing finding of this whole pursuit. Did Gronk endorse squash or something?
What about dessert? Every region enjoys pumpkin pie. But beyond that, there are three Americas: The America that disproportionately has apple pie (New England and the Middle Atlantic), the America that has pecan pie and sweet potato pie (the assorted South), and the America that consumes cherry pie (the Midwest and West).
Wait, there are people who don't have rolls with Thanksgiving?  People eat squash?  I thought it was for decoration.  And don't get me started on salad.

Wisconsin Cranberry Harvest

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Finland - Timelapse

FINLAND | Timelapse from Riku Karjalainen on Vimeo.

Farm Bill Funnels Money to Overproducing Peanut Farmers


A mountain of peanuts is piling up in the U.S. south, threatening to hand American taxpayers a near $2-billion bailout bill over the next three years, and leaving the government with a big chunk of the crop on its books.Peanut growers in states including Georgia and Alabama boosted sowing acreage by a fifth this spring and now are wrapping up harvesting their 3.1-million-ton crop, the second-largest ever, even as prices plumb seven-year lows...
One way or another, U.S. farmers look set to keep producing more peanuts than Americans can consume, leaving taxpayers on the hook.
First, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is paying farmers most of the difference between the "reference price" of $535 per ton (26.75 cents per lb) and market prices, now below $400 per ton. A Nov. 18 report to Congress estimates such payments this year for peanuts exceed those for corn and soybeans by more than $100 per acre.
Secondly, government loan guarantees mean once prices fall below levels used to value their crops as collateral, farmers have an incentive to default on the loans and hand over the peanuts to the USDA rather than sell them to make the payments....
Through forfeitures, the USDA amassed 145,000 tons of peanuts from last year's crop, its largest stockpile in at least nine years, according to data compiled by Reuters.That stockpile is enough to satisfy the average annual consumption of over 20 million Americans - more than the population of Florida - and puts the administration in a bind.Storing the peanuts in shellers' and growers' warehouses comes at a cost. Selling them could depress the market further and in turn would add to the price subsidy bill.
Payments to peanut farmers could total between $960 million and $1.9 billion through fiscal 2018, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and USDA projections cited in the Congressional Research Service report.
The higher costs come as the 2014 Farm Bill set high peanut reference prices relative to historic averages and cut support for production of cotton, an alternative crop, encouraging growers to dedicate more acres to peanuts, the report and experts said.
The government spends far more on big cash crops such as corn, wheat and soybeans, with support for corn alone expected to cost $3.6 billion this year, according to CBO estimates. Yet relative to crops size and value, peanut crops are costlier, with payments worth more than a third of the crop's value.
I anticipate we are going to see a massive increase in government subsidies to farmers in all of the commodity programs.  Most corn and soybean farmers signed up for the program that guaranteed them payments in the next two years, but if prices continue to fall, I expect disaster payments or other program modifications to be made to ensure that farmers receive larger payments.  We had a massive commodity bubble, and the popping of that bubble will be extremely painful for rural areas which only had that bubble to keep them from being pummeled through the recession which mangled the manufacturing and construction sectors of the economy.  Farmers vote, and politicians know this.  There will be a multitude of articles similar to this in the next few years, although many will focus on other commodity crops.  We had our seven good years, you can expect we'll have seven or more bad ones.

Big Money College Sports Get Bigger

Washington Post:
Big-time college sports departments are making more money than ever before, thanks to skyrocketing television contracts, endorsement and licensing deals, and big-spending donors. But many departments also are losing more money than ever, as athletic directors choose to outspend rising income to compete in an arms race that is costing many of the nation’s largest publicly funded universities and students millions of dollars. Rich departments such as Auburn have built lavish facilities, invented dozens of new administrative positions and bought new jets, while poorer departments such as Rutgers have taken millions in mandatory fees from students and siphoned money away from academic budgets to try to keep up.
To examine why so many big college athletic departments struggle to profit, The Washington Post reviewed thousands of pages of financial records from 48 public universities in the “Power Five,” the five wealthiest collegiate conferences. All 2004 figures are adjusted for inflation.
Among the findings:
●From 2004 to 2014, the combined income of the 48 departments nearly doubled, from $2.67 billion to $4.49 billion. The median department saw earnings jump from $52.9 million to $93.1 million.
●After a decade marked by surging income, 25 departments still ran a deficit in 2014. Twelve departments, including Auburn and Rutgers, actually lost more money in 2014 than in 2004.
● While some athletic programs have eliminated or reduced mandatory student fees earmarked for sports, other programs are charging more than ever. Students paid $114 million in required athletics fees in 2014, up from $95 million in 2004.
Athletic directors at money-losing departments defend their spending as essential to keeping pace with competition. Their programs benefit universities in ways that don’t show on athletics financial statements, they said, like media exposure that can cause increased applicants and help fundraising.
There are some great graphics and more details in the article (I'd have some of the graphics here, but the Post has gone all New York Times on screwing over free use of their graphics).  Just like in the rest of society, the rich get richer and the poor go broke trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Also much like the real economy, massive rewards go to some despite contributing little or nothing to the betterment of society. This is one of the better examples of how skewed our priorities are.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

NASA Photo of the Day

November 19:

Centaurus A
Processing & Copyright: Robert Gendler, Roberto Colombari
Image Data: Hubble Space Telescope, European Southern Observatory
Explanation: What's the closest active galaxy to planet Earth? That would be Centaurus A, only 11 million light-years distant. Spanning over 60,000 light-years, the peculiar elliptical galaxy is also known as NGC 5128. Forged in a collision of two otherwise normal galaxies, Centaurus A's fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, pinkish star forming regions, and imposing dark dust lanes are seen here in remarkable detail. The colorful galaxy portrait is a composite of image data from space- and ground-based telescopes large and small. Near the galaxy's center, left over cosmic debris is steadily being consumed by a central black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun. As in other active galaxies, that process generates the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A.

Oil Glut Crimps Activity in Shale Plays

Wall Street Journal:

More than 250,000 people world-wide have lost their jobs in the industry over the past year, according to Graves & Co., a Houston consulting firm. Many companies that were hoping to weather low energy prices without new rounds of layoffs and salary cuts may be forced to slash those costs yet again, said Eric Lee, an energy analyst with Citigroup.
“Who’s going to take the brunt of this? Shale has already cut back a lot,” Mr. Lee said, adding that new oil projects are being deferred around the world.
In a way, he added, oil companies are responsible for the current situation. During brief price rallies, they raced back into fields to drill new wells—adding to the global glut of crude and cutting off the price rebounds. Even as the number of rigs operating in the U.S. fell 60% so far this year, American oil production through August dipped just 3% from its April peak, federal data show.
What happened was a combination of declining costs for oil-field services and equipment and impressive feats of engineering. Companies doubled the amount of sand they pumped into wells, figuring out how to better prop open rock layers to draw out more oil and natural gas. Operators moved rigs into areas where crude flowed the most freely, cut the number of days it took to drill by nearly half and extended the length of horizontal oil wells to reach nearly 2 miles.
Costs for such big wells fell by as much as a third as oil explorers put extreme pressure on the suppliers that help them coax more fuel from the ground, including Halliburton Co. And producers became far more efficient. In the seven most prolific U.S. shale fields, they boosted oil production per rig by as much as 60% this year, according to federal estimates....
Earlier this month, EOG Resources Inc., a Houston-based shale driller, said some of its most prolific wells would yield a rate of return above 40%, even with U.S. oil prices at $50 a barrel.
But break-even prices don’t always give the whole picture of how much money a shale company must spend to pump oil and move it to market. They can exclude land costs, which for some companies amount to billions of dollars, and they don’t include the cost of using pipelines to transport crude, according to company financial statements and analyst reports.
In nearly all of its investor presentations this year, EOG has said it can turn a profit at prices at or below the prevailing oil price at the time of the presentation. Yet more than $6 billion in capital spending this year has produced nearly $4 billion in net losses over the past year for the company, which is an industry bellwether.
The company, which has said $40 oil is unsustainable, didn’t respond to requests for comment.
My understanding was that oil was cheaper to produce in the Permian, but that chart indicates that the Eagle Ford has a lower breakeven price.  So why is production increasing in the Permian and falling off precipitously in the Eagle Ford?  I love the line that in nearly all of its investor presentations EOG claims they can turn a profit at whatever the price of oil is at that time, all while losing their ass.  Nice.  I guess it is good Obama held back the shale oil boom, or oil companies would really be in trouble.  Thanks, Obama.  

Iowa Farmer Plows 'Bernie' in Field

Des Moines Register:

People driving by or flying over Mike Pattavina's farm in Clarinda will see one of the largest and unique political signs in the state. Pattavina plowed a quarter to a half-acre of his soybean field to spell "BERNIE," all free-hand, in support of the Democratic presidential candidate.
"I've never seen anything like this, so I thought I would do something different," Pattavina said. "I'm a huge supporter of Bernie's."
Pattavina said he came up with the idea after people stole his Bernie Sanders yard signs. He said it only took around 20 to 30 minutes to plow through the field with his tractor. This is his first time plowing a design in a field. The "B" in the field is nearly 60 feet tall.
"Of course, that can't be stolen," Pattavina said.
He plans on caucusing for Sanders and he will canvass for him in the winter.
"I think he's honest and he's working for the working-class people," Pattavina said. "He's sincere. When you go back and look at his past, he hasn't changed."
That's pretty cool.  I may spread manure to spell out "CRUZ."  That would best express my feelings for Tailgunner Ted.  If I did it, I would have to quickly incorporate it, lest somebody mistake me for a supporter of that jackass.  One thing is for sure, I'd never be quoted as saying Cruz was honest or working for the working class people because he is neither.  In case you haven't noticed I've settled on Cruz to replace Scott Walker as the candidate I most like to hate.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Clock of the Long Now

The Clock of the Long Now from Public Record on Vimeo.


Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend Links

Well, the holiday season is almost upon us.  Here are some interesting stories to check out before the relatives start showing up in town:

Why Him, Why Me? - ESPN the Magazine

Five Last Rounds In Louisville - SB Nation

The Best Offense in College Football is Also the Laziest - Wall Street Journal

Use of High-Tech Brooms Divides Low-Tech Sport of Curling - New York Times

Paddy-whacked - The Economist 

Say Hello to the Apple that Never Browns - Buzzfeed

Entrepreneurs Pitch Sustainable Seafood Ideas; Investors Take The Bait - The Salt

Heat Records Shatter as a Monster El Nino Gains Strength - Bloomberg, and Record-crushing October keeps Earth on track for hottest year in 2015 - Washington Post.  Check out the graph in the Post article, it is scary.

The History of Plaid - Pacific Standard

How to Be a Lawyer Without Going to Law School - Priceonomics 

Our Own Private Disaster - Boston Review and How To Decimate a City - The Atlantic
Unfollow - The New Yorker

'The Attacks Will Be Spectacular' - Politico.  On the CIA before and after September 11.

The GOP Clown Car Rolls On - Rolling Stone

Republicans still can't explain why their economic ideas keep failing - Washington Post

NFL Owner Stan Kroenke Wants to Take Over L.A. - Bloomberg