Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Bumper Car Psychos

All Things Considered:
The "Bumper Car Psychos" are easy to spot. While the other bumper cars at New Jersey's Keansburg Amusement Park spin wildly from one collision to the next, the Psychos cruise gracefully around the track, grinning from ear to ear as they slam their targets into the wall.
That's not the only reason the Psychos stand out. Keith Van Brunt and Tom Mgerack both weigh upwards of 300 pounds, and both are heavily tattooed. They've been riding the old bumper cars here every Friday night since 1996. Someone started calling them "psycho" the following year, and the name just stuck.
"For me, it's kind of like an adrenaline rush," says Van Brunt. "You know, some people jump out of planes for adrenaline rushes? Bumper cars, that's like my adrenaline rush."
For Mgerack, the ride is an escape from mundane problems: "You're concentrating on what's going on in there, and you're looking to who you're going to go after next, or look to see who' s coming to get you," he says. "Keeps you out of trouble."
The Bumper Car Psychos always ride the same cars: Van Brunt likes the blue police car, while Mgerack prefers the red one with the Harley-Davidson logo. The men have learned to maneuver these classic cars with uncanny precision, even through the floor's coating of kerosene and graphite that keeps the ride slick.
Awesome.  I love driving around in a bumper car and just blindsiding people.  These guys do it all the time.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Washington State Agriculture Facts

Didn't know this, until I looked at Big Picture Agriculture (well, I did know about the apples):
Washington State ranks first for growing:
sweet cherries
Concord juice grapes
mint & spearmint oil
processing of carrots
processing of raspberries
It is number two in the nation for producing:
sweet corn
It also grows or produces:
(and much more…)
The Mid-Columbian region of the state grows most of the crops, and is highly reliant upon irrigation.

A Sensible Small Businessperson

All Things Considered:
CORNISH: New Belgium is a Colorado-based beer company. And it's doing well, $140 million in sales last year alone.
I asked Kim Jordan why she was in Charlotte, when so many of her fellow CEO's are supporting Mitt Romney.
JORDAN: For me, it's important to understand that, you know, my coworkers and I put our collective shoulders to the wheel to build equity; that I can't get all of the beer that we make out of the door by myself. It takes the effort of a lot of people who - I watch them, they're incredibly dedicated. So I'm comfortable with the notion that you pool your labor, you build equity. And for me, I want to share that.
And so, if you operate under a model that says that strangers who - granted, they have put money into your business to help it grow - if you believe that those people should have a higher return than the people that you work with, then I suppose you see the Republican mindset as being more aligned with what you think.
CORNISH: Now, going into the next year, there's question marks about tax policy and there's been so much, essentially, uncertainty for business owners. How are you feeling about that? Do you agree with that?
JORDAN: You know, anyone who has started a business knows that there's a lot of uncertainty in the world and you just kind of have to decide what's important to you and go forward always kind of keeping that in mind. I think certainly there will be tax implications. And while I can't sit here and say, oh, I love that, I also think, you know, to whom much is granted much is expected.
She built that, along with a lot of other people.  So humility actually exists among some entrepreneurs?  That's good to know, because it is a pretty good virtue.  Maybe some self-professed Christians might find some of that.  And labor deserves some credit in a successful business?  What a novel idea.

Speaking of the Ravens...

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wades into the Maryland gay marriage fight after a State rep got mad about the Ravens linebacker expressing himself (the whole thing is worth publishing from Deadspin, via Balloon Juice):

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has spoken out in favor of a Maryland ballot initiative that would legalize gay marriage. Yahoo has published a letter that Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote last week to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, urging him to "inhibit such expressions from your employee." This is Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe's response to Burns.
Dear Emmett C. Burns Jr.,
I find it inconceivable that you are an elected official of Maryland's state government. Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level. The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words):
1. As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should "inhibit such expressions from your employees," more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person's right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.
2. "Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment, and excitement." Holy fucking shitballs. Did you seriously just say that, as someone who's "deeply involved in government task forces on the legacy of slavery in Maryland"? Have you not heard of Kenny Washington? Jackie Robinson? As recently as 1962 the NFL still had segregation, which was only done away with by brave athletes and coaches daring to speak their mind and do the right thing, and you're going to say that political views have "no place in a sport"? I can't even begin to fathom the cognitive dissonance that must be coursing through your rapidly addled mind right now; the mental gymnastics your brain has to tortuously contort itself through to make such a preposterous statement are surely worthy of an Olympic gold medal (the Russian judge gives you a 10 for "beautiful oppressionism").
3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!" Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)
I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster. They won't even overthrow the government in an orgy of hedonistic debauchery because all of a sudden they have the same legal rights as the other 90 percent of our population—rights like Social Security benefits, child care tax credits, Family and Medical Leave to take care of loved ones, and COBRA healthcare for spouses and children. You know what having these rights will make gays? Full-fledged American citizens just like everyone else, with the freedom to pursue happiness and all that entails. Do the civil-rights struggles of the past 200 years mean absolutely nothing to you?
In closing, I would like to say that I hope this letter, in some small way, causes you to reflect upon the magnitude of the colossal foot in mouth clusterfuck you so brazenly unleashed on a man whose only crime was speaking out for something he believed in. Best of luck in the next election; I'm fairly certain you might need it.
Chris Kluwe
P.S. I've also been vocal as hell about the issue of gay marriage so you can take your "I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing" and shove it in your close-minded, totally lacking in empathy piehole and choke on it. Asshole.
That is great.  The conservatives have lost on this issue.  They haven't yet lost a statewide vote, and they may not this year, but I really think they will.  And when they do, they will be fighting a slow withdrawal, as gay marriage becomes the interracial marriage of the past.  I felt in 2004 when Ohio passed the anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution that they would get rid of it in 20 years and look back at how stupid everyone was.  I really think now that it will be sooner than that.  Congratulations to Chris Kluwe for calling this "representative" out.

For Browns Fans

RIP Art Modell:

Yeah, he had to get out of Cleveland to win again.  I always hated him until the day he beat Mike Brown to the punch and moved the Browns to Baltimore.  I walked into a bar my senior year in college for a Monday Night Football drink and food special, and got that wonderful news.  I then fully took advantage of the cheap drinks celebrating. 

The Cy-Hawk Trophy

Tomorrow at 3:30, Iowa and Iowa State will battle for maybe the most frequently redesigned trophy amongst all of the storied college football rivalry trophies, the Cy-Hawk Trophy. In the past, the trophy was kind of boring:

But last year, the Iowa Corn Growers unveiled one of the greatest bits of corporate propaganda ever:

"I think they can do better," Gov. Terry Branstad chuckled Monday when asked about the trophy. "I'm sure they're going to take another look at that."
Critics seem to find the trophy of a farm family around a bushel of corn and a corn stalk a little bit, well, corny. Since its unveiling Friday at the Iowa State Fair, the trophy has been widely panned and compared to a garage sale leftover or a fireplace mantel centerpiece.
Newspaper and television websites have been filled with people unhappy about the new trophy, which was sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association. Former coach and Hawkeyes legend Hayden Fry said the trophy is "nice-looking," but it doesn't relate to football.
"The farmer, family and corn is all wonderful, but I don't really get the relationship to a football game," he told The Des Moines Register.
Others were less diplomatic.
"Gosh, you don't suppose it's advertising?" asked Bob Uetz, an Ames High School teacher who helped renew the football series in 1977. "That thing is awful, my God."
Mike Ellis, who makes trophies for American Awards in Des Moines, said the new Cy-Hawk trophy was "a little weird for a sports trophy."
"Seems like something you'd see at the state fair," he said.
So this year we have something looking like this:

 Seriously, if I were an Iowan, I'd bring back the original.  I do love the ridiculousness of last year's trophy.  Maybe people would have appreciated it more if somebody from the government was featured giving the farmer a direct payment. 

And if you missed it last night, Cincinnati beat Pitt for the also awful Paddlewheel trophy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curvy Glasses Mean Faster Drinking?

The Scientist:
Different glass shapes can give the same volume of liquid the appearance of varying volumes, reasoned experimental psychologist Angela Attwood of the University of Bristol. So she and her colleagues set out to test how much glass shape affected beer drinkers’ intake. They tested 160 healthy young people, who were categorized as “social beer drinks,” not alcoholics, according to the standard WHO test for hazardous drinking. The researchers then asked each participant to drink one of two volumes of lager or soft drink—either 177 milliliters or 354 milliliters—from either a straight or curved glasses, while watching a nature documentary. At the end of each session, the participants performed a word search task, the purpose of which was merely to throw them off the true purpose of the study.
Reviewing the data, the researchers found that people drinking a full glass of beer from a curved glass drank significantly faster—in about 8 minutes, compared to the average 13 minutes it took people drinking from a straight glass. They found no differences in drinking time, however, between curved and straight glasses of half a beer.
According to Attwood, social beer drinkers naturally pace their drinking by judging how quickly they reach the halfway point. Because a curved glass holds more beer in the top half, it unconsciously motivates drinkers to speed up, reasons Attwood, who suggests a solution of marking beer glasses with a half-full line.
I guess I could tell that it took a while longer to drink the top part of the curved 22 oz beers, and that once you got to the bottom half it would go a lot quicker.   It didn't take a long time to figure that one out.  It is really noticeable if you buy a glass when you have to leave soon, then try to finish it quickly.  The top part takes a lot out of you.

Always A Fire

Always A Fire from Union HZ on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Dickey Wins His 18th

R.A. Dickey had more than enough to hold off the St. Louis Cardinals and become the first pitcher in the majors to reach 18 wins this season.
He didn't have his best stuff, but still managed to strengthen his case in the NL Cy Young Award race.Dickey was backed by Ike Davis' three-run homer that powered the New York Mets to a 6-2 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday.The knuckleballer allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings en route to his 18th win, the first Mets pitcher to reach the mark since Frank Viola (20-12) and Dwight Gooden (19-7) both did it in 1990. Dickey (18-4) gave up eight hits and struck out five to help New York salvage a win to close out the three-game series."It was a battle for me," Dickey said. "I didn't really have a great feel for (the knuckleball) early on. I threw a couple of more fastballs than I ordinarily would have."I'm pleased with the results, but obviously I have a little bit of work to do."Dickey should have five more starts as he tries to become a 20-game winner, which would further bolster his Cy Young resume. Considering where Dickey was just a few years ago -- in the minors trying to refine his knuckleball -- Mets manager Terry Collins said it has been an incredible journey.
The guy has an amazing case for the Cy Young.  Johnny Cueto also has a good case, and as a Reds fan, I'd love to see somebody from Cincinnati win it for the first time ever, but I'm pulling for Dickey.

World Records Fall

At a fair where cabbage is king, Steve Hubacek is the undisputed king of them all.
Hubacek broke his own world record Friday when his enormous cabbage "The Beast" weighed in at 127 pounds at the Alaska State Fair's annual Giant Cabbage Weigh-Off.
That's more than a pound heavier than another world-record-breaking cabbage Hubacek also grew this summer. He entered the smaller one in the "green cabbage" category Wednesday in the fair's general crop exhibits contest, where it weighed in at 125.9 pounds. That green behemoth broke a 20-year-old record set by a cabbage grower from Wales in the United Kingdom. State fair officials said that prior to the 1989 mark, the cabbage record had stood for more than a century.
Hubacek, who lives south of Wasilla, said he had hardly taken time to appreciate crashing the international record Wednesday before he immediately turned his attention to readying "The Beast" for its fair journey.
Before Friday's weigh-off began, several fair-goers posed with the cruciferous giant. While Hubacek kept an eye on his contender, he discussed his passion for growing big cabbage, a 14-year hobby. He wouldn't give up any growing secrets or reveal the variety of seed he uses. But he said he had nearly given up hope that his secret cabbage seed would ever produce a world-record holder.
Over the weekend Minnesota's Black Bear Casino broke the Guinness record for world's biggest hamburger. Local publication the Duluth News Tribune reported yesterday that the burger clocks in at just over one ton (2,014 pounds), has a diamater of ten feet, and contains "60 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of lettuce, 50 pounds of sliced onions, 40 pounds of pickles and 40 pounds of cheese."
It took four hours to cook the burger and the patty was flipped using a crane. It took seven hours to bake the bun. The casino flew in a Guinness official, Philip Robertson, who said of the stunt, "What I saw today was a feat of remarkable teamwork that resulted in a world record burger that actually tastes really good." The previous record was at 881 pounds. Is there video? Yes, there's video:

Over the weekend Minnesota's Black Bear Casino broke the Guinness record for world's biggest hamburger. Local publication the Duluth News Tribune reported yesterday that the burger clocks in at just over one ton (2,014 pounds), has a diamater of ten feet, and contains "60 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of lettuce, 50 pounds of sliced onions, 40 pounds of pickles and 40 pounds of cheese."
It took four hours to cook the burger and the patty was flipped using a crane. It took seven hours to bake the bun. The casino flew in a Guinness official, Philip Robertson, who said of the stunt, "What I saw today was a feat of remarkable teamwork that resulted in a world record burger that actually tastes really good." The previous record was at 881 pounds. Is there video? Yes, there's video:

Read more here:

Read more here:

Bonus points for corny local news guy joke at the end.

Stay Classy, Settlers

Chicago Tribune:
Vandals set fire to the doors of a Christian monastery in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Tuesday and daubed pro-settler graffiti on its walls in a possible retaliation for the eviction of families from an unauthorized outpost.

The name of the unauthorized Migron outpost, cleared of Israeli settlers following a court order on Sunday, was scrawled on the well-known 19th century Latrun Monastery, alongside the words "Jesus is a monkey" in Hebrew, police said.
Israeli security officials had said they were worried Sunday's eviction of 50 families from Migron, in another part of the West Bank near Ramallah, might provoke more attacks by a vigilante settler group known as "Price Tag".

The "Price Tag" name refers to retribution some Israeli settlers say they will exact for any attempt by their government to curb settlement in the West Bank, an area Palestinians want as part of a future state.

The group has targeted mosques and, less commonly, Christian churches, regarding any non-Jewish religious sites as an intrusion on the land.
Boy, the Chirstian Zionists can pick some really good "friends."  Illegal West Bank settlements are just that, Biblical claims or not.  Vandalism is also just that.  It would be better if the loony Christians, Jews and Muslims just fought amongst themselves and left the rest of us alone.

Small Businessmen And Local Government Employees

Rachael Larimore discusses the "You didn't build that" "controversy":
Quite apart from whatever taxes they pay, small-business owners are part of the very fabric of their communities. Someone has to run the pharmacy. Someone has to run the gas stations. Local businesses don’t send their profits back to Bentonville, Ark.; Minneapolis, Minn.; or Cupertino, Calif., but rather put them back into the community. The restaurant owner gets his produce and meat from local stores, the mechanic hires a local painter to spruce up his shop. They are the ones who not only give money to the athletic booster club and the PTA, but show up to help out at fundraisers.  And if that teacher who helped them with their math homework stops by, the owner gives her a free oil change or an extra slice of pie for dessert.
The president’s comment implies that business owners are ignorant of all the benefits they get from government. And it makes Obama’s supporters look unaware of all that government gets out of businesses and how political decisions affect entrepreneurs. Ask a business owner if they feel like they get more out of the government than they give. Sure, it helps that the city paves the road that was there for 20 years before they opened their business, and maybe they are grateful for that new traffic light. They understand that the local police protect their livelihoods. On the other hand, do politicians not appreciate that business owners match every dollar their employees contribute to Social Security and Medicare? Do politicians not understand when they are patting themselves on the back for raising minimum wage that somewhere, some shop owner is reaching for the ulcer medication while he weighs whether to raise prices, cut back employee hours, or rethink his hours of operation?
When the Republicans in state governments were slashing payments to local governments and criticizing public workers, was she pointing out that those folks also get their produce and meat from local stores, give money to athletic booster clubs and PTA, and show up to help out at fundraisers?  I've met very few rich public employees, but I've met a hell of a lot of rich small business owners.  Yet who gets criticized more for the wages they make or the benefits they are awarded?  Local is local, and school teachers, firemen, policemen and sewer workers are as much a part of making the community work as the businessmen.  I understand that some small businessmen feel like they are under attack, but you know what, so do a lot of local government employees.  We've completely overdone the government is always evil storyline, Republicans need to go back to the playbook and see what their party was saying pre-Ronald Reagan.  You know, when Republicans were communitarians. As it goes, I'm not losing sleep for businessmen "under attack."

More Gold Standard Pummeling

Look, let’s acknowledge what adopting a gold standard would do:
• It would guard against inflation by linking currency to something in fixed supply.
• In doing so, it would lessen government’s ability, through the Fed, to manage wealth. That’s because inflation effectively shifts wealth from citizens, who can’t print money, to the government, which can.
• It would effectively fix international exchange rates — something that could potentially help us in our imbalance with China and other countries that have gamed the foreign exchange system to their advantage. (China would suffer inflation, U.S. deflation making our goods more competitive.)
It all sounds wonderful, of course, until you consider the downside:
• Deflation is a necessary part of a currency on the gold standard. It absolutely crushes debtors. That’s why politicians talked about the standard nailing people to a “cross of gold.” When you owe money and your wages fall, you may be able to buy the same things at lower prices and maintain a quality of life, but your debt gets bigger.
• As a result, it would have a dampening effect on the credit markets.
• The government would have little power to do any managing of the economy. It couldn’t set the price of gold, or pump money into the economy by expanding the money supply as the Fed does today.
Now, I don’t want to entirely discount the benefits of the gold standard. The system would do much to solve the problem of debt bubbles and trade imbalances. Nor is the current fiat system perfect. We all know its limitations. If you think all of this so called “managed economy” stuff is working then you probably think we have full employment, a balanced budget and a chicken, or iPhone or its Samsung copy, in every home.
A big problem is that the gold standard never works. It’s like getting back together with that old girlfriend. Your memories of how good it used to be are tainted by your current pain of loneliness. I get it. The pull is very, very tempting. But haven’t we gone down that road enough already? See related commentary on gold as an investment .
Yes, it's not going to happen, whatever the freaks in the Republican platform committee do.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Is Allen Pinkett A Bengals Fan?

"I love this school as much as I love my kids and would never want to compromise the ethics and morals of my alma mater, Notre Dame," Pinkett said in a statement. "I would again like to offer my most sincere and heartfelt apology to all those affected by my inappropriate comments, particularly the university, the school's hard-working and courageous student athletes, all Fighting Irish fans and team supporters, our friends at The Ohio State University, and my colleagues at IMG Notre Dame Radio Network.
"This offering of forgiveness is an extremely humbling life lesson. I will work very hard to make the most of this second chance in representing the high standards and proud tradition of Notre Dame football."
No announcement has been made on who will work as play-by-play man Don Criqui's partner for the next two games. Jeff Jeffers filled in for Pinkett for the Navy game.
Pinkett included Ohio State in his apology because he mentioned the Buckeyes by comparison in his "bad citizens" analogy.
"That's how Ohio State used to win all the time. They would have two or three guys that were criminals and that just adds to the chemistry of the team," Pinkett told WSCR-AM 670 last week. "I think Notre Dame is growing because maybe they have some guys that are doing something worthy of a suspension, which creates edge on the football team. You can't have a football team full of choirboys."
It's funny Pinkett mentions Ohio State, but the Bengals would be the best analogy around here.  I'm not one to get extremely particular about the citizenship of my athletes.  Sure, it'd be nice if they were good guys, but we're really only interested in their football skills.

Timelapsed San Diego

America's Finest Timelapse from XOXO Wedding Studio on Vimeo.

The Ultimate Breakup Film?

Bryan Curtis on the back story to "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom":

"Oh, I'm not renouncing it," Lucas said. Which is fair enough. Lucas mostly sounds sad when he talks about Temple of Doom. It's Spielberg who recoils from its heart extraction, its human sacrifice, its monkey-brain buffet. He once told a journalist that Temple of Doom was "too dark, too subterranean, and much too horrific."
"People say, 'Why's it so dark?'" Lucas said. Then he began to explain.
"I was going through a divorce," Lucas said, "and I was in a really bad mood. So I really wanted to do dark. And Steve then broke up with his girlfriend, and so he was sort of into it, too. That's where we were at that point in time."
That's the reason Temple of Doom, which comes out as a part of the Blu-ray boxed set September 18, is difficult for its creators — and lots of Indy fans — to love. It's a breakup movie. It's a record of gloomy images that were scrolling through its creators' heads. "Sometimes," Lucas told me, "you go to the dark side." For two bummed-out guys, Temple of Doom was a catalog of what it's like to get your heart ripped out.
Another strange note about the actor who played the guy getting his heart ripped out:
 Nizwar Karanj hadn't been given the rest of the script, so he had to see Temple of Doom in the theater to find out what happened after he met his maker. "After seeing the film," he says, "I went to the restaurant opposite the cinema, in Leicester Square. There were quite a few people in there who'd seen the film. I got these glances … It was in the typical British way. They won't come up and say, 'Were you in the film?" Karanj says he still gets fan mail, much of which comes from the Midwest.
I'm just wondering why much of his fan mail comes from the Midwest.  That seems really weird.

Oil Cooled Servers?

Wired says Intel has been looking at the technology for a while:

You want to know a fast way to cool down a computer? Dunk it in a big tank of mineral oil.
That’s a technique that Intel has been testing out over the past year, running servers in little oil-filled boxes built by an Austin, Texas, company called Green Revolution Cooling. As Gigaom reported on Friday, it turns out that once you take out the PC’s fans and seal up the hard drives, oil-cooling a server works out pretty well.
In its tests, Green Revolution’s CarnotJet cooling system used a lot less energy than their air-cooled counterparts, Dr. Mike Patterson, a power and thermal engineer with Intel, tells Wired. Intel found that oil-cooled systems only needed another 2 or 3 percent of their power for cooling. That’s far less than your typical server, which has a 50 or 60 percent overhead. The world’s most efficient data centers — those run by Google or Facebook, for example — can get that number down to 10 or 20 percent.
Intel’s research is part of a much larger effort to significantly reduce power consumption in the data center. Power is one of the most costly aspects of data center operation, particularly if you’re running the sort of massive computing facilities that underpin web services as popular as Google or Facebook.
Although it’s still considered a cutting-edge technology, Green Revolution Cooling hopes to have a big effect on data centers. As Green Revolution’s director of marketing David Banys sees it, an oil-cooled data center could be set up just about anywhere, cheaply. “There’s no need for chillers; there’s no need for raised floors,” he says. “You can put our servers in a barn that’s 110 degrees.”
Air cooling servers, then having giant cooling systems for the server farms never made much sense to me. 

Effects Of Melting Sea Ice

Arctic Sea Ice Blog, via Early Warning:
But what happens in the Arctic doesn't stay in the Arctic. When sea ice cover disappears, the changing interaction between sea and atmosphere can shift atmospheric patterns. The results may be felt all over the Northern Hemisphere. As we have seen, a smaller ice pack, combined with an ever earlier melting season, means more and more sunlight is soaked up by dark ocean waters. These warmer waters then release heat and moisture to the atmosphere during fall and winter—an effect already being observed and measured.
3-jetstreamThis change in turn may already be disturbing the jet stream, the high-altitude wind that separates southern warm air from cold Polar air. A destabilized jet stream becomes more 'wavy', allowing frigid air to plunge farther south, a possible factor in the extreme winters that were experienced all around the Northern Hemisphere in recent years.
Another side-effect is that as the jet stream waves become larger, they slow down or even stall at times, leading to a significant increase in so-called blocking events. These cause extreme weather simply because they lead to unusually prolonged conditions of one type or another. The recent prolonged heatwave, drought and wildfires in the USA are one example of what can happen; another is the cool, dull and extremely wet first half of summer 2012 in the UK and other parts of Eurasia.
These changes will likely impact agriculture in the Midwest.  Considering that the Midwest is one of the largest, richest rain-fed agricultural regions in the world, and one of the contributing factors to the great wealth and productivity of the United States, this impact could be major.  And the part of the story about the potential climate change impact of thawing permafrost is also pretty scary.

Bakken Field Fail of the Day

Alaska Dispatch:
A Facebook page called "Bakken Oilfield, Fail of the Day" has sprung up to document the madness from the front lines of an Internet-age resource rush going full bore. As of this writing, the page has more than 14,000 fans.
The page is oriented toward locals and people connected tightly (or by shift-work every few weeks) to the North Dakota boom, but anyone who has had to work on tight deadlines around big equipment will appreciate what users post. As will anyone who enjoys laughing at other people's misfortune, narrow escapes, kludges and/or rookie mistakes.
Many of the images show tractor-trailers in various states of "stuck," but there are plenty of other gems. One recently posted image shows a workman trying to fill a water-spraying tanker truck ... while the top valve is wide open. A short video post shows surveillance camera footage of a semi truck completely erasing a fuel pump island.
The page features images of all sorts of smashed rigs, cracked drill pipes, smoke plumes, gas flares gone wrong, and local news links reporting things like mancamp shootings, rig blowouts and train wrecks. But members also post questions about how bad the traffic is and complain about things like boom-time outsiders and how outrageous it is for a hotel to ask $699 for a week's stay.
One photo from the site:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Minnesota Candidate Challenges Incumbent

After being refused for the opportunity of having a debate, a Congressional candidate offers to meet for other competitions:
Brian Barnes really wants to share a stage with Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen. Barnes, who's the DFL nominee to challenge Paulsen in the 3rd District, has been trying unsuccessfully to schedule a debate with the two-term incumbent.
Now, Barnes is offering Paulsen a less political, State Fair-themed option although Paulsen would have to act fast, since the Fair ends Monday.
"I challenge him to a contest of cow milking, butter carving or corndog eating - he can take his pick," said Barnes in a statement. "If I had a voting record like his, I would be afraid to debate also."
Barnes, a businessman, is considered by political handicappers to be a long-shot candidate to oust Paulsen. The Republican has more than a 30-to-1 cash advantage over Barnes.
I would recommend against the corn dog eating (bad optics).  Make it cheese curds or poutine instead.

Maple Syrup Thieves Hit Quebec Syrup Reserve

Jordan Weissmann:
On Friday, news broke that thieves had stolen $30 million dollars worth of Quebec's strategic maple syrup reserves. Much as the United States keeps a stock of extra oil buried in underground salt caverns to use in case of a geopolitical emergency, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has been managing warehouses full of surplus sweetener since 2000. The crooks seem to have made off with more than a quarter of the province's backup supply. (I personally suspect these guys.)
Why exactly does Canada need to stockpile syrup? To find out, I called up Michael Farrell, an extension associate at Cornell University's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and an expert in all things maple.
"We think of it as a little cottage industry here in the states," he told me. "But up there [syrup is] a big industry that's responsible for a lot of people's livelihoods."
Canada took over from the United States as the world's leader in syrup in the 1940s, as shown in this graph from a paper Farrell co-authored last year. Today, Quebec taps 75 percent of the world's supply, and its producers have been attempting to grow their market abroad. Shipments to Japan, for instance, rose 252 percent between 2000 and 2005.
But harvesting maple is a fickle business, and that makes expanding the industry tricky. The trees need cold nights and mildly warm days to yield sap, meaning production can vary greatly year to year based on the weather. That's a potential problem for the big syrup buyers, whether they're bottlers or large food companies that make cookies or cereal. Quaker can't pour a bunch of time and money into developing a maple-and-brown-sugar-flavored version of Life, only to find out it won't be able to get enough of its ingredients, or that they'll have to pay through the nose for each liter of syrup.
"If you are trying to develop a market for something, you don't want to create a demand and not be able to supply it," Farrell said.
I did not know that the Quebec Maple Syrup Producers have been stockpiling maple syrup. If you are going to store it, you better provide some security.  However, how could our politicians let us fall behind Canada in something other than niceness, health care availability or hockey players?

Chart of the Day

Via Ritholtz:

Republicans will try to tell you that most of the difference is going to the lowest 20%, while Democrats will point at the upper 20%.  I'd lean Democratic on that.  Anyway, Happy Labor Day?

My Neighbor's Truck

The latest issue of Fortune Magazine features a picture of Mitt Romney giving a campaign speech on the bed of my neighbor's truck:

Too bad it didn't make Slate's gallery of photos of Mitt standing on things.  I wouldn't want that guy giving a speech from my truck bed, but at least my neighbor got free K's hamburgers out of the deal.

Brewing Beer At The White House

Via Balloon Juice:

The Boston Globe seems to have scooped the story: “... Aficionados will note that it is a fairly standard concoction of light malt extract, amber crystal malt, honey, gypsum, yeast, and corn sugar.” Via NYMag, which added: “And, just in case any enterprising opposition researchers are on the hunt for government waste: all the equipment and ingredients are paid for by the Obamas. So, file White House craft beer under ‘things we wouldn’t have under President Romney’”
Note, the Obama's are paying for the ingredients and equipment.  I like that the President enjoys a nice home brew on occasion.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

NASA Photo of the Day

August 29:

A Dark Earth with a Red Sprite
Image Credit: ISS Expedition 31 Crew, NASA
Explanation: There is something very unusual in this picture of the Earth -- can you find it? A fleeting phenomenon once thought to be only a legend has been newly caught if you know just where to look. The above image was taken from the orbiting International Space Station (ISS) in late April and shows familiar ISS solar panels on the far left and part of a robotic arm to the far right. The rarely imaged phenomenon is known as a red sprite and it can be seen, albeit faintly, just over the bright area on the image right. This bright area and the red sprite are different types of lightning, with the white flash the more typical type. Although sprites have been reported anecdotally for as long as 300 years, they were first caught on film in 1989 -- by accident. Much remains unknown about sprites including how they occur, their effect on the atmospheric global electric circuit, and if they are somehow related to other upper atmospheric lightning phenomena such as blue jets or terrestrial gamma flashes.

The Cult of Hayek, Rand and Ryan

Timothy Snyder, via Ritholtz:
Though he now prefers discussing Hayek, Ryan seems to have been more deeply affected by Rand, whom he credits for inspiring his political career. It is likely the combination of the two—the theory of everything and the glorification of inequality—that gives him his cheery, and eerie, confidence. Hayek and Rand are comfortable intellectual company not because they explain reality, but because, like all effective ideologists, they remove the need for any actual contact with it. They were reacting to real historical experience, Hayek with National Socialism and Rand with Soviet communism. But precisely because they were reacting, they flew to extreme interpretations. Just as untethered capitalism did not bring proletarian utopia, as the Marxists thought, intervention and redistribution did not bring totalitarianism, as anti-Marxists such as Hayek claimed.
Hayek’s native Austria was vulnerable to radicalism from the right in the 1930s precisely because it followed the very policies that he recommended. It was one of the least interventionist states in Europe, which left its population hugely vulnerable to the Great Depression—and to Hitler. Austria became a prosperous democracy after World War II because its governments ignored Hayek’s advice and created a welfare state. As Americans at the time understood, making provisions for citizens in need was an effective way to defend democracy from the extreme right and left.

Rich Republicans such as Romney are of course a small minority of the party. Not much of the Republican electorate has any economic interest in voting for a ticket whose platform is to show that government does not work. As Ryan understands, they must be instructed that their troubles are not simply a pointless contrast to the gilded pleasures of the man at the top of the Republican ticket, but rather part of the same story, a historical drama in which good will triumph and evil will be vanquished. Hayek provides the rules of the game: anything the government does to interfere in the economy will just make matters worse; therefore the market, left to its own devices, must give us the best of all possible worlds. Rand supplies the discrete but titillating elitism: this distribution of pleasure and pain is good in and of itself, because (and this will not be said aloud) people like Romney are bright and people who will vote for him are not. Rand understood that her ideology can only work as sadomasochism. In her novels, the suffering of ordinary Americans (“parasites,” as they are called in Atlas Shrugged) provides the counterpoint to the extraordinary pleasures of the heroic captains of industry (which she describes in weird sexual terms). A bridge between the pain of the people and the pleasure of the elite which mollifies the former and empowers the latter is the achievement of an effective ideology. In the Romney/Ryan presidential campaign, Americans who are vulnerable and isolated are told that they are independent and strong, so that they will vote for policies that will leave them more vulnerable and more isolated.
That last part to me is the saddest.  People who have been hit hard by the loss of manufacturing jobs in this country blame the government for their woes, when most of the issues is the actions of the corporate bosses and flim flam LBO and private equity guys like Romney.  I hear so many people who don't have health insurance rail about Obamacare, even though it might mean they'll be able to get coverage.  Conservatives talk of fear of government death panels deciding whether old people get treatment, but are instead suggesting that the elderly should be carrying private health insurance, where people will be in the position of making a profit if they decide not to cover some treatment for the policy holder.  That has worked so well for people under 65, I'm sure it will work great for the old and infirm.  I sometimes feel like I'm living in Republican Bizarro world.

Todd Frazier And The Amazing Reds

Jonah Keri:
Todd Frazier has reached base in 22 straight games. He's hitting .294/.354/.554, making him a top-25 hitter in his rookie season. In the past 30 days, only Buster Posey, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and teammate Ryan Ludwick have put up bigger numbers. In that same 30-day stretch, the Reds have gone 19-11, blazing to the best record in baseball and giving themselves a shot at their first World Series in 22 years.
So what does the best team in baseball do with the guy who's been its best hitter for the past two months? Bat him cleanup? Give him a long-term deal? Throw him a parade?
Not quite. When Joey Votto comes off the disabled list on Saturday, Dusty Baker plans to look Frazier square in the eye, and give him the good news. Congratulations, you've just been benched.
This season, no team has been more exhilarating, and more maddening, than the Reds. The good news starts with one of baseball's most productive farm systems. Other teams get more credit for their scouting and player development, but the Reds have graduated a mother lode of talent to the big leagues over the past years, and those players are now hitting their stride. Five members of the current starting lineup — Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce, Frazier, and Ryan Hanigan — were homegrown. So's three-fifths of the starting rotation — Cy Young candidate Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake — as well as the team's nuclear bomb of a closer Aroldis Chapman, and Votto, the most valuable player in baseball over the past three seasons. That young core has delivered big results, in a very different way than Adam Dunn's Reds teams once did.
The Reds season has been amazing thus far.  Especially considering how well they've done while Joey Votto was out.  I don't want to get too fired up, but maybe the Reds could make a run for their first World Series title since 1990.  Ah, 1990.

MIT Researchers Make Alcohol Producing Plant

MIT News, via Big Picture Agriculture:
A humble soil bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha has a natural tendency, whenever it is stressed, to stop growing and put all its energy into making complex carbon compounds. Now scientists at MIT have taught this microbe a new trick: They’ve tinkered with its genes to persuade it to make fuel — specifically, a kind of alcohol called isobutanol that can be directly substituted for, or blended with, gasoline.

Christopher Brigham, a research scientist in MIT’s biology department who has been working to develop this bioengineered bacterium, is currently trying to get the organism to use a stream of carbon dioxide as its source of carbon, so that it could be used to make fuel out of emissions. Brigham is co-author of a paper on this research published this month in the journal Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology.

Brigham explains that in the microbe’s natural state, when its source of essential nutrients such as nitrate or phosphate is restricted, “it will go into carbon-storage mode,” essentially storing away food for later use when it senses that resources are limited.

“What it does is take whatever carbon is available, and stores it in the form of a polymer, which is similar in its properties to a lot of petroleum-based plastics,” Brigham says. By knocking out a few genes, inserting a gene from another organism and tinkering with the expression of other genes, Brigham and his colleagues were able to redirect the microbe to make fuel instead of plastic.
This fits in with the DuPont/BP biobutanol strategy.  Interesting.

Buying Votes With Alcohol

Mental Floss (via the Dish):

In Washington’s day, elections were largely an excuse to party. Voting presented a rare opportunity for people to gather from miles around, catch up with their neighbors, and imbibe liberally. Crafty politicians capitalized on the festive climate to rack up votes. In fact, it was difficult for anyone to win an election without wining and dining his constituents. Though it was technically illegal to explicitly purchase gifts for voters, it was perfectly appropriate for a politician to buy a round for two hundred of his closest friends on Election Day.
But when 23-year-old George Washington made a bid for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1755, he made little effort to court the drunk vote. In fact, he believed that there were too many taverns in town. Washington even wrote the governor a letter complaining that local bars were a “nuisance” to his soldiers because they were “incessantly drunk and unfit for service.”
Washington’s beef with saloons, combined with his refusal to treat his fellow townsmen on Election Day, angered a lot of voters. Washington lost in a landslide – winning only 40 votes to his opponent’s 271.
Washington learned his lesson. When he ran again in 1758, he rolled out the booze: 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider royal — nearly enough for a half-gallon per voter.
But as Washington awaited the results of the election, he was plagued by guilt and anxiety. It wasn’t that he regretted openly bribing voters with liberal libations. To the contrary, he worried that people hadn’t gotten enough to drink.
Ah, the good old days.  Why can't  politicians today buy beer instead of TV ads?