Saturday, February 9, 2013

An Interesting Renewble Energy Storage Concept

Stuart Staniford links to one concept:
Artificial islands for storing renewable energy?  The idea is to have a hollow center to the island and pump water out when there's excessive wind power, and then have it flow back in (powering turbines on the way) when the energy is needed later.  The basic idea of pumping water uphill as a storage mechanism is an old one - the Dinorwig power station in Wales was built in 1974 for example - but the island twist is new to me.  I haven't really thought about how far this idea scales - but that seems like a good future post.  How big a lake would we need to get a fully renewable US through the winter if we didn't trade renewable energy globally?
I was contemplating some sort of water pumping scheme to capture excess renewable energy production.  The islands are an interesting idea.  I think that if wind energy is really generated more at night, as many critics say, such stoarge makes for a very good idea.  You can utilize solar energy during the day, while converting stored water potential energy during peak times and try to balance the grid like we do today.  I was having a conversation with a really smart engineer last summer, and he made the wind blows at night argument.  My former employer had told me that he worked at a nuclear plant where they were constructing an upland reservoir where they could pump water during low demand times at night and then run the water through turbines during peak daylight demand, since they had to run the nuclear reactor at a constant rate.  As I pointed out to this engineer, this would be a potential, albeit somewhat inefficient solution, but it took advantage of the energy that was available when it was available.

Blizzard Reminiscences

With the blizzard hitting the east coast, The Gothamist looks back at the Blizzard of '78 with videos from the East Coast and Midwest.  One of the cooler ones features Connecticut, with a report of the week long party at UConn:

I'm Yours

Yes, I'm sure it will end in disaster like everything else, but let me enjoy it before reality hits me like a freight train.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Namibian Nights

Short, but sweet:

Namibian Nights from Squiver on Vimeo.

Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying

In case you need a little inspiration this evening:

The Drone War And Politics

I really don't understand why Republicans haven't been more forceful in attacking Barack Obama for carrying out drone attack assassinations on anyone, including U.S. citizens.  I guess that it is probably because they really don't have a problem with him killing foreigners, don't have a problem with him killing American citizens who are Muslim, and don't have a problem with him killing U.S. citizens who they perceive as threats to them or this nation.  However, since they could plausibly be targets, I would think they might take up a good bit of issue with the program.  It turns out that it isn't near as much opposition as I would expect.

I am disgusted by the whole program.  It is cowardly for us to hide behind the drones to attack our "enemies," who often just want the foreign invaders to get the fuck out of their country.  The fact that our military, CIA or government contractors act as judge and jury on folks half way around the world from us.  They are not a threat to this country, and are only a threat to the soldiers we have sent to invade these folks' countries.  Barack Obama has been a better president than any available Republican would have been, but he's fucked a lot of things up.  This is one of his biggest fuckups.  The fact that Republicans haven't been bigger critics of the program is one of the biggest failures of that continuously failing party.

Of Luck And Success

Alexis Madrigal relates a story about a couple of tech icons:
But let's look at an interesting complement to this plane story from the end of Noyce's life, the day Noyce took Steve Jobs out for a ride one day in 1979.
Noyce's wife, Ann Bowers, had taken to working with Apple. Jobs, for his part, had sought out Noyce as a mentor. He called their house late at night, dropped in at odd times, and generally made himself a scruffy presence in their lives. They took a liking to young Steve and so Noyce took Jobs flying in his Seabee, a World War II-era plane, which could land on land or water. Here's what happened:
After landing on a lake, Noyce pulled a wrong lever, inadvertently locking the wheels. It was not until he tried to land the plane on a runway that he realized there was a problem. Immediately upon hitting the ground, the Seabee leapt forward and nearly flipped. Jobs watched with mounting panic as Noyce furiously tried to bring the plane under control while sparks shot past the windows. "As this was happening," Jobs recalls, "I was picturing the headline: 'Bob Noyce and Steve Jobs Killed in Fiery Plane Crash.'
I thought about that moment while watching the American Experience film about Silicon Valley. What makes a good story are the characters, and so we focus on a Noyce or a Jobs. But the deeper you look at a given time and place, particularly the milieu associated with a series of technologies as powerful as the transistor, integrated circuit, microprocessor, and personal computer, the more the contingencies and luck crop up. Both were undeniably great entrepreneurs but there were so many near misses and near deaths and wrong turns. You can't help but ask, what if? Jobs' success was not accidental; but his death would have been.
Madrigal follows up with several other lucky breaks Noyce caught along the way during his life.  Luck is everywhere.  Some is good, some is bad.  Quite a number of successful people just have had a long run of good luck.  Some people struggling to survive just have had a long run of bad luck.  Most of us are somewhere in between.  I remember plenty of good luck and just a little bad luck.  I wish more successful people would remember some of their luck, good and bad.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Primer On Nuclear Enrichment

All Things Considered:
Most uranium is useless for nuclear fuel or weapons. Less than 1 percent of it is the light, radioactive isotope uranium-235 that's used for power plants and bombs.
But if you gasify uranium with fluorine and put it in a rapidly spinning centrifuge, you can separate the nuclear wheat from the chaff. As the centrifuge spins, the heavier, nonradioactive U-238 moves to the centrifuge wall, while the U-235 moves toward the center, explains Houston Wood, a University of Virginia engineering professor who worked on gas centrifuges at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Ultimately, two streams are removed: one of enriched U-235, the second depleted in U-235. And when you take the material that has more 235 and conduct the process over and over again, you eventually get uranium that is 90 percent U-235: weapons-grade uranium.
Getting that weapons-grade product takes thousands of centrifuges, spinning as quickly as possible and arranged in what's called a cascade.
How fast they can go depends on what they're made of. An aluminum centrifuge can only spin at about 350 meters per second before it bursts, explains Wood. Another material, maraging steel, can spin at 450 meters per second.
Even more appealing is carbon fiber, used to make products like golf club shafts and bicycle frames. Centrifuges made of carbon fiber can reach speeds of 1,000 meters per second.
That's where the game of nuclear "keep away" comes in. Much of the global effort is aimed at blocking Iran from getting the highly specialized materials needed to make those fast-spinning centrifuges.
I had never heard of maranging steel.  Pretty cool stuff.

Short Circuit Found In Fire Damaged 787 Battery

The National Transportation Safety Board believes an internal short circuit within a single cell inside a lithium-ion battery led to a fire aboard a Boeing 787, shedding new light on the battery problem that has grounded every one of the 50 Dreamliners in service worldwide.
The agency said Wednesday that it has completed disassembling the 32-volt battery that caught fire on a Japan Airlines 787 after passengers had disembarked in Boston on January 7. Investigators found evidence that the fire — called “thermal runaway” — started with a short circuit in cell no 6. There are eight cells in the 63-pound lithium-ion battery, and the NTSB said it found evidence that cell no. 6 sustained multiple short circuits. Investigators have ruled out mechanical damage as a cause of the short, as well as the possibility that the short circuit occurred between the cell and the battery case. Rather, the damage to the case containing the battery was caused by the fire that resulted from the short.
“The short circuit came first, the thermal runaway followed in cell no. 6 and it propagated to the other cells,” NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman told reporters in a press conference this morning. Hersman said they have yet to find the cause of the short circuit but are looking at several possibilities.
“We are looking at the state of charge of the battery cells, we are looking at manufacturing processes and we are looking at the design of the battery,” she said.
The new information came the same day that Boeing flew a 787 from its paint facility in Texas back to its factory north of Seattle. The flight was a one-time-only ferry flight approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and only the pilots were allowed aboard. They closely monitored the battery during the flight to Paine Field and experienced no problems during the three-and-a-half-hour trip. It was the first flight of a 787 since the entire fleet of Dreamliners was grounded pending an investigation by the FAA.
At least they have something now.  Paraphrasing Donald Rumsfeld, a known unknown is better than an unknown unknown. 

So God Made A Banker

This is a brilliant piece of art:
To be read in the voice of Paul Harvey.
And on the eighth day God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need someone who can flip this for a quick buck.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone who doesn’t grow anything or make anything but who will borrow money from the public at 0% interest and then lend it back to the public at 2% or 5% or 10% and pay himself a bonus for doing so.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone who will take money from the people who work and save, and use that money to create a dotcom bubble and a housing bubble and a stock bubble and an oil bubble and a commodities bubble and a bond bubble and another stock bubble, and then sell it to people in Poughkeepsie and Spokane and Bakersfield, and pay himself another bonus.”
So God made a banker.
God said, “I need someone to build homes in the swamps and deserts using shoddy materials and other people’s money, and then use these homes as collateral for a Ponzi scheme he can sell to pensioners in California and Michigan and Sweden. I need someone who will then foreclose on those homes, kick out the occupants, and switch off the air conditioning and the plumbing, and watch the houses turn back into dirt. And then pay himself another bonus.”
God said, “I need someone to lend money to people with bad credit at 30% interest in order to get his stock price up, and then, just before the loans turn bad, cash out his stock and walk away. And who, when asked later, will, with a tearful eye, say the government made him do it.”
God said, “And I need somebody who will tell everyone else to stand on their own two feet, but who will then run to the government for a bailout as soon as he gets into trouble — and who will then use that bailout money to help elect a Congress that will look the other way. And then pay himself another bonus.”
That is hilarious.  The model for this work is here. Somebody has to be doing "So God Made a Lawyer."  Although I thought bankers and lawyers were the spawn of Satan.

Microbrewers Worry Fracking Will Ruin Water Supply

Oil Price, via nc links:
US brewers have now taken up their case against fracking, worried that any potential contamination of ground water supplies would ruin their business. The process of brewing beer requires clean water, with many breweries being built at the sites they are specifically for the mineral composition of the water.
Simon Thorpe, the CEO of the Ommegang Brewery explained to NBC that “it’s all about the quality of the water. The technology surrounding fracking is still not fully developed. Accidents are happening. Places are getting polluted.” His brewery was built in Cooperstown, NY, due to the ready access to fresh water, but “if that water supply is threatened by pollution, it makes it very difficult for us to produce world-class beer here.”
The article says Brooklyn Brewery is also raising concerns.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Is A Water War Brewing Out West?

All Things Considered:
In Clifton, Kan., on the short end of the river, farmer Mark Taddiken is worried about having a short supply of water. He wears heavy canvas overalls on a cold, gray morning as he stands in his field with black cattle chewing yellow cornstalks. He's measuring the charge of the electric fence that keeps the cattle from roaming away.
Like the nearby Republican River, the fence isn't worth much if there's no current.
Three-quarters of Taddiken's farmland in north-central Kansas is irrigated with center pivots — tall sprinkler systems that irrigate in circles in fields of corn and soybeans. If the river stays low, like it is now, Kansas law limits Taddiken to a third of his normal irrigation plan, limiting what he can grow. He estimates he could lose $500 per acre from reduced yields.
"We're standing out here under this pivot right now that covers 120 acres," he says. "That restriction on that one well alone would be around $60,000."
Multiply Taddiken's loss up and down the river and you can see just how important water is here. Irrigated fields raise more valuable crops. Local businesses sell more seed and fertilizer. The price of land goes up. Take water away, and that's all reversed.
Kansas officials say farmers upstream in Nebraska are pumping too much river water, leaving less for farmers like Taddiken.
David Aiken studies water policy at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He says Nebraska did indeed use more than its share of water during a period of drought in the mid-2000s.
"In the past, Kansas has not gotten the water that it was entitled to in those dry years," Aiken says. "and that's one of the reasons that Kansas and Nebraska are back in court."
The question for the Supreme Court is how to keep thirsty Nebraska farmers in check. Kansas wants the court to order Nebraska to ban irrigation on thousands of acres of farmland.
While that may sound reasonable on the Kansas side of the border, in Nebraska it's viewed as draconian.
Jasper Fanning, manager of the Upper Republican Natural Resources District in southwestern Nebraska, says that plan, which he calls a "just shut it down" approach, doesn't make sense.
Expect a lot more stories like this.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I'll be surprised if large scale agriculture west of the 98th meridian lasts through my lifetime.  I wouldn't be surprised if the Texas Panhandle and southwestern Kansas hit the wall in the next 20 years.  Actually, that could very well be through my lifetime, considering the age I'm getting.  And the "healthy" lifestyle I'm living.  Dust Bowl 2.0 is something we could do without.

The Ice Man Cometh

Reid Mittenbuler highlights the man who pioneered the ice cutting and delivery business, and revolutionized life in the 1800s:
We can thank technology for the trickle down of many luxuries, but the transformation of ice from luxury to necessity largely occurred before the widespread availability of refrigeration. One man in particular, the Boston businessman Frederic "The Ice King" Tudor, engineered the change during the first half of the 1800s. Known for his pigheadedness as much as his marketing savvy, he revolutionized both the ice trade and the way we live.
Tudor wasn't the first to notice the value of ice, of course. The ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Chinese all harvested and stored ice during winter to chill their food and drinks in summer. But with few exceptions, ice was reserved for the rich, and the ancient markets were relatively regional. Tudor's ice trade stood apart because of its sheer ambition: He believed that cutting ice from Massachusetts lakes and shipping it across the world to the tropics would make him "inevitably and unavoidably rich."
Most potential investors saw nothing inevitable or unavoidable about Tudor's vision. Instead, with their flinty New England gazes, they saw what historian Daniel Boorstin described as Tudor's "flamboyant, defiant, energetic, and sometimes reckless spirit." Yes, the market for ice was growing in the U.S., but wouldn't it just melt during a long voyage to the tropics? Their understanding of the science was accurate, and much of the ice Tudor shipped to Martinique and Cuba from 1806-1810 melted into large financial losses.
During each successive trip, however, Tudor learned to minimize melting by packing the ice tighter and insulating it with sawdust instead of straw. He made his first profits by 1810, only to be swindled by a business partner and land in debtor's prison. After Tudor was released, he secured a loan enabling him to continue with his obsession, but significant profits were still another 15 years away.
Tudor first sold his ice to scientists and physicians in the tropics who saw its potential for preserving food and for medical uses. He later expanded the market to cafes and wealthy private households for chilling drinks. Like a drug dealer, Tudor at first gave away his ice for free, then charged once people were hooked. After people tried their drinks cold, they could "never be presented with them warm again," Tudor wrote.
Having busted a lot of ice off of water troughs the last few weeks, I still have a hard time imagining sawing and hauling all those blocks of ice off of ponds and lakes, then hauling those blocks around the world to the tropics with no refrigeration.  What a crazy amount of work.

More Pay For Service Workers

That's what "creative class" expert Richard Florida says American cities need:
FLORIDA: The first thing you have to do is figure out a way to engage the service companies, to call them together in a summit and say we're going to work together to boost the wages and productivity of service workers. At the same time, begin to work on more affordable housing options, begin to work on how to increase density. If you're in a city like Chicago or New York, where there is transit, encourage the development of more knowledge-intensive and creative work around transit nodes and connections. It's a whole complex of things that's going to make our cities more competitive and boost the wages, not only of the people at the talented one-third, but boost the wages of everyone.
INSKEEP: How do you encourage an upward pressure on wages in service jobs? Yes, there are some companies where they say that fits their business model, they want to treat their workers a certain way, but there are others companies that will constantly feel competitive pressure.
FLORIDA: Well, it's the same problem we faced in manufacturing. In the early 20th century we treated our manufacturing workers like crap. Workers worked maybe five, six, seven days a week, 12, 16, 18 hours a day and could barely put food on the table. And then during the Great Depression, some industrialists like Henry Ford or Lincoln Filene, and of course the great FDR, said hold on a second. If we're going to create demand that John Maynard King says stimulates the economy, how can we do that? Government can only fund so much. We're going to have to boost the wages of the workers who make the cars so they could buy the cars. Well, the same thing. If we want to boost demand in the United States, if we want a real stimulus today that's lasting, we have to boost the wages of nearly half of our workers who work in the service industry. The way to do that is not to falsely do it by just imposing minimum standards, although that may be worth doing in some big cities, by the way. The way to do that is to make their work more productive, to engage them in innovation, just like we did in our factories. When we began to organize workers in team, organize them in quality circles, engage them in continuous improvement, the factories got more productive and the wages of the workers went up.
INSKEEP: To listen to the workers - that's what you're telling me.
FLORIDA: The workers know best how to do their jobs. Whether it's in a manufacturing facility, you know, figuring out how to put that door panel on a car, or we found in our studies backed by the National Science Foundation a couple of decades ago, even when it came to environmental cleanliness, the workers knew best where to put the drip pans, how to stop the spills, how to keep the emissions in check. Listening to the workers and making them part of the solution, not just in factories, not just in Silicon Valley high-tech work, but in all sorts of work - that's the path to prosperity in the future.
This is basic common sense.  When people aren't making enough money to actually buy what they need, they need more pay.  When a lot of people make way more money than they will ever spend, they need to pay more money in taxes.  It isn't fucking rocket science.  Yet, I hear Republicans saying they need to cut state and federal income taxes and raise sales taxes because taxes on consumption are much better than taxes on income.  Not when people are only consuming what they have to to live.  Fuck.  And when folks are bringing in 300 million dollars a year and paying a lower percentage of their income in taxes than somebody making $60,000 a year, something is absolutely retarded.

What A Fucking Moron

An Idaho State Senator wants to make high school students read Atlas Shrugged:
Idaho state Sen. John Goedde (R), chairman of the Education Committee, introduced legislation to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and pass a test on it to graduate from high school, the Spokane Spokesman-Review reports.

Said Goedde: "That book made my son a Republican."
WORST. BOOK. EVER.   Some Republicans want the Bible in school.  Some want Ayn Rand.  Some want both.  What the fuck?  The two don't go together.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Brooklyn Brew Kids

Brooklyn Brew Kids from Dark Rye on Vimeo.

The Landfills of Boston

The Boston Harbor Association commissioned a study to look at the potential impact of sea level rise on potential storm surge, a la Sandy.  Here is the result for a 7.5 foot surge, reflecting the current 100 year storm flood of 5 feet with 2.5 feet thrown in for sea level increase:

The story points out an interesting similarity:

Now Boston must begin to contend with the reality that it could be even more vulnerable than New York to rising sea levels. Much of Boston was historically built on land filled in and created out of estuaries and wetlands, and the ocean itself. Logan International Airport was built on man-made land. So were many of the high-end residences in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood.
"It’s interesting when we actually look at the maps," says Vivien Li, the president of The Boston Harbor Association. "Where it would be flooded is where we filled in."
This historic map of Boston, from 1640, shows a peninsular city with a dramatically different shape, inside the outlines of Boston as we know it today (as Boston College professor Jeffrey Howe writes, the ensuing sequence of landfill projects "also helps explain some of the peculiarities of the modern urban landscape. Boston streets, laid out in the 17th and 18th century, followed a coastline which has moved and avoided hills which are no longer there.")
Boston in 1640, with the current land area outlined:

 I think this is pretty obvious.  These areas were only filled enough to get them far enough out of the water so they wouldn't flood very frequently.  This took a hell of a lot of work, and nobody can blame them for not building them even higher.  However, that probably won't be good enough for the medium-range future.

Detroit in Charts

From the National Post (via nc links):

There's some fascinating stuff in there.  But if you don't believe racism is alive and well, click through and read the comments.

The Explosion of Government Regulation

A little history of the beginning of the regulatory state (h/t Ritholtz):
On April 25, 1838, the Moselle shot upstream from the Cincinnati wharf to pick up two families of German immigrants. While the new passengers ambled aboard the craft, the engineer kept the steam pressure high so that the boat could dart away from the shore with great speed. This was a common, but dangerous, practice: When the engineer engaged the paddlewheels, a sudden influx of steam pushed against the boiler walls and could be so intense that if it exploited a crack, weak spot or seam in the boiler wall, the boiler could detonate.
The Moselle’s paddlewheels turned twice before an explosion shredded the boat. All four boilers burst simultaneously in a deafening roar that one witness thought sounded like a “mine of gunpowder.” Chunks of flesh, splintered wood and twisted metal shot into the air, then splashed into the river. One of the boilers instantly decapitated the engineer while the explosion’s force threw the captain against the prow of another steamer, his body a bloody pulp that slid into the water.
The macabre scene almost defied description. One man had a huge splinter shoved through his head, from ear to ear. Another flew 100 yards in the air and crashed into the roof of a house. When one of the immigrants tried to remove his clothes, he peeled the skin off his body. At least 80 people perished that day and an additional 35 went missing, probably blown to bits.
Although exceptionally gruesome, the Moselle’s demise was hardly the only such tragedy. From 1816 to 1848, a total of 1,433 people died in steamboat accidents along the western rivers, then defined as any waterway in the Mississippi Valley....But after the Moselle and other notable explosions, Congress felt compelled to act.
The result was the 1838 Steamboat Act, the first federal regulation of a private industry. Under the new law, all steamboats had to be licensed and agree to regular inspections of their hulls, boilers and machinery. When boats were stopped, engineers had to open the safety valve and keep the steam pressure low. Tiller ropes were replaced with chains or rods. Captains and crew could be fined or imprisoned for disobeying the law while owners could be sued for negligence.
Other legislation went even further. Most notable was the creation of the Steamboat Inspection Service, the first federal regulatory agency. It granted and revoked boat licenses; required that all boilers be checked regularly; and licensed pilots and engineers. When combined with industry self- correction, such as the “doctor” (a small pump that brought water into boilers when the paddlewheels weren’t turning), nighttime running lights, life preservers and fire hoses, steamboat travel became reasonably safe by the mid-1850s.
The explosion of the Moselle and other steamboats forced Americans to consider the degree to which unregulated private industry could endanger lives and property.
That is a little history I wasn't familiar with.  The whole story is interesting.


Morning Edition:
The entire reactor — the core, the cooling system, everything — is self-contained in this rocket-shaped steel cylinder. The industry says that makes it safer. And the reactors will be small enough to build in a factory and ship on trucks, like prefabricated houses. They'll generate about one-tenth the power of a typical nuclear power plant.
Assistant Energy Secretary Pete Lyons sees promise that goes beyond a new energy gadget. He sees jobs.
"One of the features of these small reactors is that they can be entirely manufactured here in the United States," Lyons said. "They can literally be made in the USA. With the large plants, that's simply physically impossible."
Lyons pictures churning reactors out in factories, shipping them to utilities to replace aging coal plants or selling them to developing countries — which can't afford a full-scale $15 billion nuclear plant.
"We are trying to jump-start a new U.S. industry," he says. "That's my goal: a U.S. industry, U.S. jobs, clean energy."
In November, the Energy Department invested in Babcock & Wilcox mPower, the nuclear company that built the prototype in Virginia. In total, the government plans to invest more than $400 million. Industry officials like B&W mPower President Chris Mowry say the launch funding is to get off the ground, but ultimately the reactors need to be mass-produced.
"MPower is not going to be measured in terms of success in terms of building tens of these things, but in terms of hundreds of these things," Mowry says. "We're not trying to build a Rolls Royce; we're trying to build a Ford."
I'm kind of torn on this.  I like the idea of smaller, more decentralized power plants, but mini-nuclear plants definitely have their downsides.  If you've got hundreds or thousands of these, you are nearly bound to have a meltdown somewhere.  However, I would think you could do something along the lines of a Navy reactor, which would  be fairly safe and manageable.  I don't know if thorium or some other technology would be feasible, but considering how screwed we are going to be with the climate, we may have to go somewhere down this road.

A Surprising Hero

Just watch this, but not at work:


Monday, February 4, 2013

Bock Is Back

I picked up some Christian Moerlein Emancipator Doppelbock yesterday, so I'm sure spring is on the way.  The days are getting longer, the national groundhog predicted spring is coming, spring training and Lent start next week, and now the doppelbock is in stores.  At this time of year, even I get optimistic.  That is one powerful season.

One of my favorite stories from my old neighbor Woodie was about how he would help out a plumber in the winter to make some extra money during the downtime on the farm.  His boss did a lot of work for the Lange brewery in Piqua, but he tried to time it so that it mainly occured during the time the brewery was making bock beer.  They would just walk through the brewery with tin cups, and there were kegs tapped in almost every room.  Sounds like a pretty good job.

Shining Light Into The Darkness

HBO has a new documentary on the priest sex abuse epidemic:


No outside force has been able to do as much damage to the Church as the hierarchy itself. Because of this scandal and coverup, the Church has lost almost any shred of moral authority. The thing is, though, that I feel like after the first round of charges coming to light in the late 80s and early 90s, I just assumed that there were priests working in the Church who had abused children. I remember being puzzled that so many people were shocked when the new scandal broke in Boston in 2002.  The thing is, the unveiling of so much prior coverup accelerated a secularization which was almost inevitable to begin with.  I don't think this massing of forces will ever let the Church recover.  There is just no way to rebuild the trust.

Kasich Looks To Lower Income Tax

Tax rate history

Ohio's income tax rates have gradually been falling since 2005. Here's a look at the rates before the 2005 reform, currently and as proposed.
Taxable income 2004 2012 2015
0 – $5,150 0.74% 0.59% 0.47%
$5,150 - $10,300 1.49% 1.17% 0.94%
$10,300 - $15,500 2.97% 2.35% 1.88%
$15,500 - $20,650 3.72% 2.94% 2.35%
$20,650 - $11,250 4.46% 3.52% 2.82%
$41,250 - $82,450 5.20% 4.11% 3.29%
$82,450 - $103,100 5.94% 4.70% 3.76%
$103,100 - $206,250 6.90% 5.45% 4.36%
$206,250 and up 7.50% 5.93% 4.74%
Source: State of Ohio. Note: bracket dollar figures adjusted slighted over the years.

Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Kasich's sweeping tax reform plan calls for a 50 percent income tax reduction for almost every small business over the next two years, and a 20 percent cut for individuals.
The 5.5 percent sales tax rate would drop to 5 percent, but more services would be subjected to the tax, helping to make up for the lost revenue. Service transactions would be taxable unless specifically exempt. Examples of services that would be exempt include health care, education, construction, rental of residential property, social assistance, day care, insurance premiums and residential trash removal.
Other revenue would come from revamping the tax on oil and gas drillers. The new system would eliminate the tax for small, conventional producers, who represent 90 percent of all wells, and convert the current 20-cents-per-barrel tax to a flat 4 percent rate. The administration said the tax still would be the lowest among neighboring states.
The budget contains the first rewrite of Ohio's tax structure since Gov. Bob Taft and Ohio lawmakers approved a 21 percent cut in the state income tax in 2005.
The expansion of Medicaid under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, will secure coverage for people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line -- about $32,000 per year for a family of four.
The move will likely spur contention among Statehouse Republicans who rebuke Obamacare for ballooning government.
Kasich is buying into the Republican war on income taxes and war on the budgets of  working class people.  What is entertaining, though, is how far Kasich has swung from the far right.  His acceptance of the expansion of Medicaid, while maybe an attempt to let the right-wing nut jobs in the Ohio House do his dirty work, shows that he learned a valuable lesson from his defeat on Senate bill 5.  He is positioning himself for re-election and a potential presidential run in 2016 by trying to appear as the moderate centrist.  I think his continued tax cuts are a very bad idea, just like plans in states like Kansas are a bad idea, but at least he learned something from the past two years.

Guns and Suicide

One of the data points I had overlooked prior to Newtown was that the preponderence of deaths linked to guns are suicides.  I hadn't really given that fact much thought, but it makes sense.  The statistics regarding the lethality of firearms in suicides are amazing (h/t Balloon Juice):
In the public-health community, researchers have widely come to regard it as a basic truth that access to a gun makes it more likely that someone who wants to commit suicide actually manages to do so. A big part of the reason is simply the lethality of guns: Studies show that between 85 and 90 percent of people who shoot themselves die as a result, while the percentage of people who die using other means is vastly lower. Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, points out that guns, unlike other methods, leave people no time to change their minds. They also require less preparation and planning, provided they’re accessible.
“To some people, it’s just totally counterintuitive, because it’s so obvious that if you want to kill yourself, you can always find something else to kill yourself with,” said Barber. “What they assume is that once you’re suicidal, you remain suicidal.” But a preponderance of evidence, including interviews with suicide survivors, indicates that most suicidal acts come during a surprisingly short period during which the person is suffering an acute crisis.
“When you ask people who’ve made attempts and survived,” Miller said, “even attempts that are life threatening and would have proved lethal [without emergency medical care], what they say is, ‘It was an impulsive act, and I’m glad that I’m alive.’”
The central insight for public health researchers is that a lot of lives could be saved simply by making sure that people don’t have access to an extremely lethal weapon during that high-risk period. One striking illustration of this principle can be seen in the experience of the Israeli Defense Forces, which saw a 40 percent drop in suicides after a new rule was introduced forbidding soldiers from taking their guns home with them over the weekend. Though some soldiers may have tried to kill themselves using some less lethal method instead, it appears that scores of lives were saved.
40% drop in suicides for the IDF by disallowing soldiers to take their weapons home on the weekend?  That is mind-boggling.  Considering the number of suicides among veterans, that is something to keep in mind. 

Having listened to much of the gun debate in the last couple of months, I think that one fact is significant.  The presence of a gun greatly increases the likelihood of someone getting injured or killed in almost any situation.  This would tend to undermine the NRA's position that the solution for bad guys with guns is more good guys with guns.  However, that doesn't seem to be the effect.  What can you do to turn that tide?

So God Made A Farmer

This Super Bowl ad was enjoyable, although it was ridiculously nostalgic for days which are long gone from the farm:

I didn't realize that Paul Harvey gave this speech at the 1978 FFA Convention. Listening to what he said from the next room over, I thought is was some preacher from the 1940s. I don't think there were almost any non-Amish farmers in 1978 shoeing horses with part of a tire (or just plain shoeing horses.  Those days ended right after WWII). The days of farms with milk cows and pigs and lambs and chickens and horses were pretty well gone by then. And today, it is almost unheard of. Where Paul mentions a farmer working 40 hours by Tuesday, and 72 more after that, we could get almost all of our spring planting done in that amount of time.  And when did school board meetings ever run past midnight?  I would guess that those were the meetings when those dairy farmers he's talking about (along with all the other farmers) were in bitching about their property taxes in spite of the giant CAUV exemptions they got that none of the non-farmers received.

The piece reminds me of how back in my days of nostalgia for the past, I loved to listen to Paul Harvey. However, I ended up losing a lot of respect for him when he denied that one of his major sponsors, Archer Daniels Midland (the supermarket to the world) fixed the price of lysine (and citirc acid) with their "competitors." ADM was ripping off the very farmers Harvey lionized in this piece. When the informant who recorded the actual price fixing meetings was charged with embezzlement, he claimed that this proved that ADM had never engaged in price fixing. This was entirely untrue. Paul would often feature stories of stupid criminals who filled out job applications with their actual names, and then came right back in and robbed the place for a few hundred bucks. However, he didn't think that guys who lined his pockets were guilty of fraudulently taking tens of millions of dollars from middle class Americans, even when there was tape recorded evidence. Eventually, I found his reactionary commentary to be too out of touch and even silly. I remember him railing on about how terrible the Dixie Chicks song "Sin Wagon" was, with its reference to "mattress dancing." I also remember how he unloaded on the same group when the lead singer had the temerity to criticize George W. Bush for his push for war in Iraq. Who was on the right side of history there?'

I the past couple of years, Chrysler has fallen back on the old Republican plan of flattering everyday Americans. I've got to admit, it makes for some enjoyable little speeches. However, playing toward peoples' pride and vanity is really just a tried and true form of manipulation. It may be comforting to hear how great we all are, but it just isn't as true as we'd like to think

Sunday, February 3, 2013

NASA Photo of the Day

Actually, video posted January 30:

Full Moon Silhouettes Video Credit & Copyright: Mark Gee; Music: Tenderness (Dan Phillipson) Explanation: Have you ever watched the Moon rise? The slow rise of a nearly full moon over a clear horizon can be an impressive sight. One impressive moonrise was imaged two nights ago over Mount Victoria Lookout in Wellington, New Zealand. With detailed planning, an industrious astrophotographer placed a camera about two kilometers away and pointed it across the lookout to where the Moon would surely soon be making its nightly debut. The above single shot sequence is unedited and shown in real time -- it is not a time lapse. People on Mount Victoria Lookout can be seen in silhouette themselves admiring the dawn of Earth's largest satellite. Seeing a moonrise yourself is not difficult: it happens every day, although only half the time at night. Each day the Moon rises about fifty minutes later than the previous day, with a full moon always rising at sunset.

Census of Agriculture

I've been working this afternoon to pull together the data for both my livestock "operation" and our grain farming partnership to fill out the 2012 Census of Agriculture.  Since I have been a firm proponent of government data collection and a critic of people who say that the government doesn't need to know who lives at my house, how much money I make, what my business does, what crops I'm growing, etc., it would be hypocritical of me not to fill it out.  As I was pulling the data together, I realized that I probably should have started this before dad left to go to Hawaii.  But, you know, if it is due tomorrow, why would I start working on it before today?  Procrastination, one of my best honed skills.