Saturday, October 8, 2011

Don Larsen's Perfect Game

October 8, 1956.  55 years ago today.  Note that today is the first game of the ALCS.  How things change.

The Journey Of Archimedes' Codex C

Scientific American, via Mark Thoma:
At one point in history, all of Archimedes’ works that survived through the Dark Ages were contained in just three tomes made by 10th-century copyists in Constantinople. One, called Codex C, disappeared some time after Western European armies sacked the Byzantine capital in 1204. Then, in 1906, Danish philologist Johan Ludvig Heiberg found a book of prayers at a monastery in the city and noticed that it was a palimpsest—meaning that the parchment had been recycled by cutting up the pages of older books and scraping them clean. Among those older books, Heiberg realized, was Codex C. Armed with a magnifying lens, Heiberg painstakingly transcribed what he could read of the older text, including parts of two treatises that no other eyes had seen in modern times. One was the “Method of Mechanical Theorems,” which describes the law of the lever and a technique to calculate a body’s center of gravity—essentially the one still used today. Another, called the “Stomachion,” appeared to be about a tangramlike game. Soon, the book disappeared again before resurfacing in 1998 at an auction in New York City. There an anonymous collector bought it for $2 million and lent it to the Walters museum. When the palimpsest reemerged, says Will Noel, who is its curator, “it was in appalling condition.”
It is a fascinating story.

Today's Big-time College Football Goings On

It must be Texas State Fair time, because Oklahoma and Texas are playing in the Cotton Bowl at the state fairgrounds.  So fans can take in some deep-fried bubblegum prior to the big game.

Clemson plays Boston College for the O'Rourke-McFadden trophy.  Ohio State tries to avoid losing two in a row at Nebraska, while Michigan tries to remain undefeated at Northwestern.

On the Division III side, St. John's faces Bethel in a game with much less significance this year than the last several.

O'Rourke-McFadden Trophy

The Unlikely NLCS

What odds could a guy have gotten back on Labor Day, if he wanted to bet that the Brewers would meet the Cardinals in the NLCS, creating a rematch of the 1982 World Series?  They had to have been pretty damn high.  So the big money Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies are all out of the picture, leaving the Brewers, the Cardinals, the Tigers and the Rangers.  I would love to see the Tigers playing either NL team in the World Series, it would make a nice fall story for the Rust Belt.  I'm sure Fox is cringing at that possibility, though.

Amish-on-Amish Crime?

Sheriff's deputies are closing in on suspects from a troublemaking Amish splinter group in Ohio who have broken into homes and cut off the beards and hair of other Amish men.
Authorities tell HuffPost Crime they are planning to arrest at least four men who are followers of Sam Mullet, a bishop who Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla said has clashed with other Amish leaders for years.
At least three attacks in rural eastern Ohio since September prompted the victims -- all Amish -- to look outside their traditionalist community to seek help from local police.
In one nighttime raid in Carroll County, a group of men knocked on a door, pulled a man out by the beard and tried to chop off his facial hair, the Wheeling Intelligencer reports.
In Holmes County, a posse allegedly broke into a home, lopping off the hair and whiskers of everyone inside, including a 13-year-old-girl and 74-year-old man. There were no serious injuries, according to police.
Wow, that is just strange.  Breaking and entering, assault, criminal menacing, etc.  That is some serious crime.  I can't imagine that those 4 men, if guilty, are ready for time in the penitentiary.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tonight's Trophy Game

Boise State and Fresno State play for the Milk Can:
With a Western Athletic Conference title no longer on the line against Boise State, the Fresno State football team still has something to play for on Friday night in Idaho: the Milk Can Trophy.
In 2005, a group of local dairymen from both the Fresno and Boise areas came together to establish a traveling trophy that was awarded each year to the victors of the game.
Visalia dairyman and donor Roger Fluegel and his group of followers wanted to add a sense of substance and uniqueness to the newly formed Western Athletic Conference rivalry by awarding a trophy that related well to both areas.
“Its kind of a combination with Pat Hill because the team represents the Valley and agriculture by having a ‘V’ on the back their helmets,” Fluegel said. “So we wanted to add to that by creating the Milk Can.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California is the nation’s leading dairy state while Idaho is the third largest milk producing state in the country.
Fluegel said that they decided on the Milk Can as a trophy because it defines the region where each school resides.
“The Milk Can is a symbol of Fresno and Boise because the dairy industry is one of the biggest industries in both states,” Fluegel said.
Idaho is the third largest dairy state in the nation?  Didn't know that.

Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images

Harvest Music

What Would Reagan Do?

Bruce Bartlett takes a look at the Post-Depression history of Republicans and taxes.  I really liked this part:
Republican Ronald Reagan supported taxing capital gains as ordinary income – they are now taxed much less – and supported higher taxes on corporations. Defending his tax reform proposal in 1985, Reagan said:
We're going to close the unproductive tax loopholes that have allowed some of the truly wealthy to avoid paying their fair share. In theory, some of those loopholes were understandable, but in practice they sometimes made it possible for millionaires to pay nothing, while a bus driver was paying 10 percent of his salary, and that's crazy. It's time we stopped it….
What we're trying to move against is institutionalized unfairness. We want to see that everyone pays their fair share, and no one gets a free ride. Our reasons? It's good for society when we all know that no one is manipulating the system to their advantage because they're rich and powerful. But it's also good for society when everyone pays something, that everyone makes a contribution.
It’s hard to imagine a Republican speaking those words today. Conservatives insist that the rich are, in fact, overtaxed and have suffered more from the recession than any other group. In an October 6 blog post, Tax Foundation president Scott Hodge lamented that the overall income of millionaires has fallen 50 percent since 2007. I’m sure the unemployed will find this comforting.
That reminded me of this interview a few days ago:
NEARY: All right, so we have two political parties using this whole idea of job creation in two very different ways. We have the Republicans talking about don't hurt the businesses; don't hurt the job creators. Is that also a fallacy?
FREZZA: Well, notice the grammar. They're worried about job creators. They're not worried about job creation. Let's think about job creators. What are those people's lives like right now? Well, they're all making more than $250,000 a year, whether they're running a small business or they're an executive in a company, and they've been declared public enemy number one.
They've been told their taxes have to go up. They're the one that bear the brunt of the regulatory compliance costs. So they've been whipping boy, now, for a couple years - lumped in, by the way, with the hedge fund moguls and the criminals on Wall Street. All have been put in one, big pie and told that they're the problem. Why would those people run out and try to risk their businesses by hiring more?
NEARY: You really think of business owners as whipping boys, and even those who are making big profits, as whipping boys?
FREZZA: Yeah, I would absolutely say that the businessmen in the culture today have become whipping boys. We've seen this before. It happened during the Great Depression, and we had the same result last time.
I'm tired of businesspeople whining about being picked on.  They are doing better than anybody else, they ought to quit pouting.  The man says it clearly, businesses only hire because they have to.  Any government policies ought to be targeted at consumers who create demand, not giving tax cuts to businessmen.

10 Years

Yes, we've been at war in Afghanistan for 10 years.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say very few Americans have been at war in Afghanistan for 10 years.  The Bush administration neglected this war for so long while they concentrated on Iraq, until the attention had to be turned back to Afghanistan.  What a waste of men and resources.  I'd like to think that we will not be involved there for much longer, but I don't really believe that.  Unfortunately, we'll probably be there for most of the rest of my life.  Hopefully we can end the fighting before then, but I doubt that.

The Apple Cult

Man, I knew people freaked out about Apple products, but yesterday's coverage of Steve Jobs' death was just completely over the top.  You would think he invented some amazing product which made the world a much better place, not that they developed an MP3 player and a smart phone.  The last Apple product I used was a Macintosh computer in the computer lab in college.  Yet, somehow I've been able to lead a reasonably satisfactory life since then.  From what I can tell, the discussion of Apple products falls along the same lines as engineer vs. architect debates.  I'm definitely a function over form person, and I think that makes me somewhat immune to Apple's draw.

Based on the coverage, I would anticipate that Apple stock will fall precipitously in the next couple of years.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Planet Money Podcast: Farmland Bubble?

At Planet Money (via Yglesias):
On today's show, we visit a place where global economic forces converge: Colo, Iowa.
The price of farmland in Iowa has doubled in the past few years. People rush to outbid each other at real-estate auctions, and land owners become millionaires in a matter of minutes.
We visit an auction, look at the broader economic picture, and ask an unavoidable question: Is it a bubble?
I''ll guess yes.

Started Harvest

So far, we've combined 40 acres of corn and 40 acres of beans.  All of it is on pretty thin, gravelly dirt.  The corn was averaging 19% moisture and about 100 bu/acre, while the beans were running about 24 bu/acre.  The corn was better than I anticipated, while the beans were a little worse.

So far with the cows, I've gotten 6 calves from 5 cows.  4 heifer calves and 2 bull calves.  All seem to be doing well.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The World's Best Grammar Lesson

This is a classic (h/t The Dish).  I remember my friend had this on cassette tape, and we used to listen to it all the time in high school.  Definitely not safe for work.

Some Statistics Geek Reading

I sometimes have my troubles with statistical probability.  This post at MacroBusiness (h/t nc links) delves into some of that:
 Leonard Mlodinow’s terrific book The Drunkard’s Walk is an historical narrative on the philosophy of randomness and probability intertwined with modern statistical anecdotes. If the inner nerd in you enjoys a little mathematical philosophy like mine does it is definitely be worth the read.
The anecdotes in the book provide lessons on the cautious interpretation of statistics which are as relevant today as ever. This is especially the case given that econometrics, the statistical other half of economics, is often used in practice simply as an ‘economic trick’. In fact, I have my own criticisms of Mlodinow’s interpretation of the experimental outcomes that show people are poor at intuiting probability (which I cover below).
The final two chapters are by far the most interesting, covering human propensity to see patterns where there are none (including confirmation bias and the need to perceive control), how experts are routinely fooled by randomness, how success is often chance rather than the result of hard work, and how the butterfly effect was accidently discovered by Edward Lorenz in the 1960s (a random event itself).
An important lesson is found in Mlodinow’s analysis of the chances of a single fund manager’s success at beating the market for 15 consecutive years.  It was simple down to chance.
He goes on to give some details about the fund performance of Legg Mason's Bill Miller.  Calculating such probabilities always throws me off, but if you are a statistics and probability geek, you might enjoy the whole post.  The book sounds interesting, I better track it down.

Chart of the Day

From Bruce Bartlett:

Bartlett calls Republicans on their claims that cutting taxes and reducing regulations will create jobs:
In my opinion, regulatory uncertainty is a canard invented by Republicans that allows them to use current economic problems to pursue an agenda supported by the business community year in and year out. In other words, it is a simple case of political opportunism, not a serious effort to deal with high unemployment.
I think that is entirely too kind.  The business community needs to get over bitching about regulations all the time.  It comes with the territory.  It wouldn't be so bad if Republicans made these stupid claims once in a while, but they can't say jobs without saying taxes and regulations as well.  They are worse than useless.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Three Buckeyes Suspended

Hee hee:
 Ohio State is in trouble with the NCAA again, this time because three Buckeyes players -- including two who have already been sitting out for taking cash and free tattoos -- accepted too much money for too little work in their summer jobs. Last year's leading rusher, Dan Herron, and the top returning receiver, DeVier Posey, along with offensive lineman Marcus Hall will not be permitted to play when the Buckeyes play at No. 14 Nebraska on Saturday.
Sorry, I can't help but laugh.

The Shot Heard Round the World

October 3, 1951.  Sixty years ago today.  Here is Ernie Harwell describing how his radio broadcast partner Russ Hodges became famous for his call of the game:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Art of Fielding

All Things Considered interviews author Chad Harbach about his novel, The Art of Fielding:
Skrimshander ascends to NCAA stardom at Westish with the help of Mike Schwartz, a team captain for the Westish baseball team. Where college recruiters see a skinny, sunken-chested benchwarmer, Shwartz sees something else.
"Schwartz is a person who feels that he doesn't possess a kind of transcendent genius," Harbach says. "That's what he sees when Henry is out on the field."
Skrimshander, a student of the game, carries around a worn paperback by a fictional shortstop, also called The Art Of Fielding. He's memorized the book's numbered mantras, guidance like:
3. There are three stages: Thoughtless being. Thought. Return to thoughtless being.
33. Do not confuse the first and third stages. Thoughtless being is attained by everyone, the return to thoughtless being by a very few.
The book follows Skrimshander as he loses the ability to field the ball without thought, he can no longer field the ball and throw cleanly.  The author mentions in the interview that Chuck Knoblauch struggled with the same thing, but it is also much like what happened to Rick Ankiel and Steve Blass on the pitcher's mound.  It sounds like a book I'll have to pick up sometime.

NASA Photo of the Day

September 30:

Cloudy Night of the Northern Lights
Image Credit & Copyright: Fredrick Broms (Northern Lights Photography)
Explanation: On September 26, a large solar coronal mass ejection smacked into planet Earth's magnetosphere producing a severe geomagnetic storm and wide spread auroras. Captured here near local midnight from Kvaløya island outside Tromsø in northern Norway, the intense auroral glow was framed by parting rain clouds. Tinted orange, the clouds are also in silhouette as the tops of the colorful shimmering curtains of northern lights extend well over 100 kilometers above the ground. Though the auroral rays are parallel, perspective makes them appear to radiate from a vanishing point at the zenith. Near the bottom of the scene, an even more distant Pleiades star cluster and bright planet Jupiter shine on this cloudy northern night.

The Crisis of Bigness

Paul Kingsnorth makes the case that today's economic collapse follows the beliefs of Leopold Kohr (via nc links):
Kohr's claim was that society's problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but by their size. Socialism, anarchism, capitalism, democracy, monarchy – all could work well on what he called "the human scale": a scale at which people could play a part in the systems that governed their lives. But once scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression – as any number of revolutions have shown – because "the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself".
Drawing from history, Kohr demonstrated that when people have too much power, under any system or none, they abuse it. The task, therefore, was to limit the amount of power that any individual, organisation or government could get its hands on. The solution to the world's problems was not more unity but more division. The world should be broken up into small states, roughly equivalent in size and power, which would be able to limit the growth and thus domination of any one unit. Small states and small economies were more flexible, more able to weather economic storms, less capable of waging serious wars, and more accountable to their people. Not only that, but they were more creative. On a whistlestop tour of medieval and early modern Europe, The Breakdown of Nations does a brilliant job of persuading the reader that many of the glories of western culture, from cathedrals to great art to scientific innovations, were the product of small states.
To me this sounds like allowing lots of small, contained problems as opposed to risking the chance of one or two giant, uncontrollable problems.  There are pluses and minuses to each side, but I would anticipate a lot of hating on minorities in smaller states, with the relocations that would encompass.  In eastern Europe and Russia, we've seen this actually take place.  While some things have gotten bigger, others have fragmented, and I anticipate that will continue to be the case.

Chart of the Day

Via Ritholtz, Mother Jones has the following chart:

Division III Roundup

#2 Mount Union beat #24 Ohio Northern, 14-6
#3 St. Thomas thrashed St. John's to win the Holy Grail, 63-7
St. Olaf upset #5 Bethel, 30-28
#8 Thomas More defeated Thiel, 50-7
St. John Fisher upset #14 Alfred, 17-3
#16 Wittenberg beat Oberlin 41-19
Worcester State stopped Maine Maritime, 39-22
Franklin won versus Mt. St. Joseph, 35-23

The rest of the scores here.

In trophy games, Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame won easily, while Illinois squeaked out a win over Northwestern.