Saturday, March 2, 2013

Robot Dog Can Throw Cinder Blocks

From Wired:

Boston Dynamics’ BigDog started life as a headless four-legged robot capable of hauling soldiers’ gear along rough and uneven terrain. The BigDog’s upgrades and follow-on robots are expanding the boundaries of robotic motion, initially with cash from Darpa’s Tactical Technology Office. Its quadruped packmate the Cheetah can outrun Usain Bolt. Its cousin the Legged Squad Support System can follow voice commands. Its big brother the AlphaDog can stand up from a prone position.
But the BigDog has some new tricks: like, um, throwing a cinderblock, as shown in the video above that Boston Dynamics released Thursday. And the robot also a head. Kind of.

Whereas once the BigDog disturbingly lacked anything topping off its torso, Boston Dynamics has attached a fifth appendage where a humanoid robot’s head should be. It’s not really a head: It’s an arm-like limb, almost as long as the robotic legs on the ‘Dog, and terminating in a gripping mechanism. But that grip serves as an ersatz jaw, and a strong one: This upgraded BigDog can pick up a hunk of concrete and toss it like a shotput. Darpa, it should be noted, is done funding the BigDog, so it didn’t add the arm/head/limb/whatever to the machine.
It is cool seeing how it struggles to balance as it picks up the block, and as it throws it, but it impressive how quickly it gets back to equilibrium. 

Sometime, I need to take a trip to northern Indiana and see what projects my friend The Professor is working on.  

The Optimism of Warren Buffett

And, a little bit of the politics, as well:
A thought for my fellow CEOs: Of course, the immediate future is uncertain; America has faced the unknown since 1776. It's just that sometimes people focus on the myriad of uncertainties that always exist while at other times they ignore them (usually because the recent past has been uneventful).
American business will do fine over time. And stocks will do well just as certainly, since their fate is tied to business performance. Periodic setbacks will occur, yes, but investors and managers are in a game that is heavily stacked in their favor. (The Dow Jones Industrials advanced from 66 to 11,497 in the 20th Century, a staggering 17,320% increase that materialized despite four costly wars, a Great Depression and many recessions. And don't forget that shareholders received substantial dividends throughout the century as well.)
Since the basic game is so favorable, Charlie and I believe it's a terrible mistake to try to dance in and out of it based upon the turn of tarot cards, the predictions of "experts," or the ebb and flow of business activity. The risks of being out of the game are huge compared to the risks of being in it.
My own history provides a dramatic example: I made my first stock purchase in the spring of 1942 when the U.S. was suffering major losses throughout the Pacific war zone. Each day's headlines told of more setbacks. Even so, there was no talk about uncertainty; every American I knew believed we would prevail.
The country's success since that perilous time boggles the mind: On an inflation-adjusted basis, GDP per capita more than quadrupled between 1941 and 2012. Throughout that period, every tomorrow has been uncertain. America's destiny, however, has always been clear: ever-increasing abundance.
It is good to hear Buffett's cheerleading for America, because I am way more apt to focus on looming challenges than all the positives out there. 

Florida Sinkholes Explained

map of active karst topography: USGS
No, it is not just that Florida is a really weird place (Dave Barry has plenty of stories about that):
 Here's what's going on underground: The entirety of Florida sits on a bed of limestone, covered in varying degrees by composites of sand, clay, and soil. Limestone is soluble and porous, and over millions of years, acids in water have sculpted out a network of subsurface voids beneath the Floridian ground (think: Swiss cheese). Depending on how strong that top layer of clay and sand is, and how close to the surface any one of those voids is, the land can bear its own weight and that of the infrastructure we build on top of it. But as the holes grow, that surface layer can suddenly give way.
Both drought and rain can herald collapses. During long periods of drought, groundwater tables will drop, and caves that were once supported by the pools they had collected become weaker. (Tapping into groundwater for agriculture can have much the same effect.) When rain eventually comes, the additional weight of a soaked-through top layer can become too much for a cave to bear. Florida sees different sinkhole patterns across the state depending on the thickness of that upper strata. In areas where it is thin and sandy, sinkholes are rare and small, as the ground is not strong enough to provide cover for a massive hole below. Where the top layer is thicker and made of clay, the ground can hold its own for millions of years as giant caves form below. Until one day when it can't.  Geologists call such a landscape karst topography, any place shaped by dissolving bedrock, typically limestone but also other soluble rocks such as dolomite, rock salt, and gypsum. And it's not just Florida: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, karst landscapes account for 10 percent of the Earth's surface. Around the world, some of the most beautiful and strange natural features are the result of this process, the not-so-solid Earth slowly, slowly dissolving away, leaving us with the caves of Slovenia, the hills of Ireland's western coast, and the pillars of Guilin, China.
Karst formations are also a concern with the application of manure, fertilizer and pesticides, as big holes in the limestone can lead to pollution spreading a long way very quickly.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fish Fry!

Hopefully we can pull off our first fish fry without a bloodbath:

I've Got a Long Future Ahead of Me

A study indicates pessimistic folks may live longer than the optimists:
Older people blighted by pessimism and fear for the future are more likely to live longer, according to scientists.
A study, into 40,000 adults across ten years, has found those with low expectations for a “satisfying future” actually led healthier lives.
In contrast, people who were “overly optimistic” about the days ahead had a greater risk of disability or death within ten years.
The extraordinary research, published by the American Psychological Association, will not doubt prove comfort to anyone with a tendency to grumpiness.
Frieder R. Lang, lead author of the study from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, said: “Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade.
That sounds like a giant dose of irony.  People who enjoy life are more likely to die, and those that don't end up living longer.  I always figured that'd be my luck.  

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Holy Grail: The T206 Honus Wagner

The latest 30 for 30 short film:

Another Chinese Environmental Disaster

Soil pollution:
Soil pollution has thus far received fairly limited public attention in China. “You can see with your own eyes when the air is smoggy, or see when the color of a river is wrong, but for soil pollution you need special equipment to check the levels of various elements,” says Chen Nengchang, a scientist at the Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental and Soil Sciences. Yet, he cautions, the rampant overuse of fertilizer and pesticides in cropland and the seeping of heavy metals—such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium—from factories, smelters, and mines into the ground threaten the safety of China’s food supply.
Chen estimates that at least 15 of China’s 33 provinces and administrative zones have areas of severely contaminated soil. The problem is worst near the southeastern industrial zones, including parts of Guangdong province. Crops grown in or near polluted soils can absorb some chemicals and trace heavy metals. “If we eat contaminated foods, it can cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and other organs. In children, there can be developmental problems,” Chen says. “The health problems are caused by chronic exposure, not a sudden acute sickness.”
Scientists at his institute and others in China are trying to learn from Japan’s experience of restoring soils that were heavily polluted during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. In the 1960s, Japan’s Jinzu River basin gained infamy for the high occurrence of an unusual disease that softened the bones. The disease was later linked to the consumption of rice polluted with cadmium from local mining operations.
For all the folks bitching about the EPA, keep this in mind.  We've been there and done that. 

Why I Love Wisconsin

Guido, the Racing Italian Sausage, is on his way home to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Missing for nearly two weeks, the 7-foot sausage costume was dropped off at TJ Ryan's bar in Cedarburg, Wis. on Wednesday night by two men — "one wearing a hoodie pulled tight over his face," reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the paper of record on this case:
[They] lugged the larger-than-life link into the bar just before 8 p.m. Wednesday, plopped him on a bar stool and warned staff, "You did not see anything," said bartender Jen Mohney.
"Like I didn't just see two guys plop a sausage on a bar stool," Mohney said.
Mohney said the two left in less than a minute and she immediately called police.
Hey, beertender: "You did not see anything" is a figure of speech!
Anyway, on Wednesday, The Stew reported that Guido, one of the Brewers' mascots and member of a troupe of five Racing Sausages, was taken from a store room inside a Wisconsin curling club Feb. 16. After a night of barhopping and picture-taking with local residents, the costume went missing.

A reward was issued by a local mustard company for Guido, estimated to be worth $3,000. It does not appear whoever returned the costume wants the reward, possibly because a police investigation continues.
I love several things about this:

1.  Stolen from the curling club.  What is it doing there?  I can just see some curlers putting away their stones and saying, "Holy shit, check this out."

2.  Obviously, the idea of going out drinking in the costume and taking pictures with people.

3.  Treating a bar as some kind of sanctuary where you show up and return the thing.  

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

To This Day

You know, I only ever remember getting bullied a couple of times (and they were minor), and I really don't remember bullying anybody (although I'm sure that if I didn't seriously bully them, I criticized some folks a little too much), but watching this definitely makes me feel guilty that I didn't do more to stop other people from bullying folks I knew.

Has The Commodities-As-Inflation-Hedge Play Run It's Course?

Mark Dow thinks so (h/t Ritholtz):
Many may have forgotten by now that the first massive wave in commodities was in 2007-2008, back before we knew what QE was. The story then was China and the Emerging Markets were rapidly plugging into the grid, set to consume our finite reserves with their vertiginous growth trajectories.
Subsequent boomlets in commodity prices, the ones that came post-crisis, were linked mainly to monetary stimuli and the flight into hard assets.
Together, this imprinting led us to reach for emerging markets and commodities any time we had a risk-on phase. In this last phase people have again reached for commodities and emerging markets to express their bullishness, but I’m suggesting this time they are setting themselves up for disappointment.
The first reason is that the emerging markets have downshifted their rate of growth. Some even have their own processes of credit digestion to contend with. Moreover, before the downshift we feared EM could grow to the sky, leaving many of us guessing at how intense the competition for scarce resources would become. We now have a better handle on “how high is high”.
Second, we have been coming around to a better understanding of monetary policy. We now increasingly get that the effects of monetary policy will be largely psychological and transitory until the deleveraging process approaches completion. At least, I hope we do. Otherwise, the fall in commodity prices will be deeper and the pain trade will last longer.
The main problem right now is that the folks with all the money are the ones who don't need it.  They've been driving the commodities investment wave.  If they find out it's a fool's game and pile back out, things may get really ugly.  As the commodity prices have increased, the real demand for commodities has diminished.  If speculators are the main buyers, then something bad is going to happen.  If we get a record, or even an average crop this year, things could get really ugly.

Celestine and Benedict

A curious story about the only two popes to voluntarily resign the papacy:
Back outside the basilica, Angelo Micheri arrives to pray, as he does every day. He reveres Celestine.
"He's important because he helps people in need," Micheri says.
Times are tough in Italy these days. Micheri is a carpenter who can't get a job. To survive, he begs.
Micheri is confident Celestine will answer his prayers for work.
"Yes, I think he will. I asked him before, and I found work," he says.
Some construction laborers who do have jobs are working on the basilica. It's still being repaired after part of the roof caved in during a big earthquake that struck L'Aquila four years ago.
After the quake, Pope Benedict came to console victims. He prayed before Celestine's coffin. In a highly symbolic gesture, Benedict laid upon it a most sacred vestment — his pallium, or a kind of scarf.
Shortly after that, Celestine's coffin was moved for a while. It was paraded slowly though the narrow streets, on the back of a small truck, to the nearby town of Sulmona.
Benedict went to pray before Celestine's remains there, too.
The significance of the two visits is "quite staggering," says Ferzoco. To him, it's amazing no one saw the message behind Benedict's actions.
"He was showing that it is permissible, licit, and in some cases spiritually beneficial that a pope may resign for the good of his soul and for the benefit of his flock," Ferzoco says.
The whole article is interesting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kinky Members Of The Animal Kingdom

BBC, via nc links:
Romantic relationships are complicated, and so is sex. Relationships can be fraught with the potential for miscommunication or misunderstanding at the best of times, so imagine how troublesome it is to admit, out loud, to your partner, that you've got a sexual interest or fantasy that sits far outside the cultural norms.
But here’s a secret. For just about any fantasy between consenting adults that might be thought of as beyond conventional sexual practices or decency as dictated by society, you can bet that there's a non-human species for whom that particular behaviour is commonplace. Sure, there are plenty of examples of creative role-playing, food in the bedroom, or unusual places to do the deed, but even when you push the boundaries much further the chances are you’ll find it happening in the animal world.
Take giraffes, for instance. Males, called bulls, make casual visits to various groups over time in search of a cow who might mate with him. In order to select the mating partner the bull literally finds the one that best suits his taste – by sampling their urine. Females co-operate in this "urine-testing" ritual, according to researchers David M. Pratt and Virginia H. Anderson. “When the bull nuzzles her rump, she must produce a stream of urine if he is to catch some in his mouth and savour it," they write. If a cow is particularly attracted to a visiting bull, she may simply decide to urinate as he walks past her, no prodding required. Urolagnia, or "golden showers" as it is more commonly known, is not a human invention, it seems.
While giraffes' social decisions are ruled by urine, hippos appear to rely on dung.
I don't know exactly how it works with cattle, but I've definitely seen the bull stick his head into a big stream of piss from a cow who's coming into heat, then he breathes in to get a big whiff and may take a little taste.  It's kind of gross, but it appears to mean he's getting ready to get busy.  More power to him, I guess, but I'll avoid that move.  Then again, I'm not very good at the relationship thing, so I probably shouldn't criticize.

How To Become Pope

I'll pass.

Judges and Knowledge

The Supreme Court held oral arguments in Bowman v. Monsanto.  Here is one of the questions asked by Chief Justice Roberts:
Out of the gate, a plurality of justices appeared concerned about the policy implications of a decision in favor of Bowman.
Chief Justice Roberts: Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?
There are several ways to answer this question: (1) an innovator could use contract law to ensure a better market structure; (2) patent rights are rarely sufficient alone to ensure profit; and (3) that soybeans are not really fungible in the way that you might think. The Court already knew the first two answers wanted to explore the third.
One of the things that amazes me about the court system is how judges rule on all sorts of things they really know nothing about.  I'd point out to Chief Justice Roberts that before 1995 or so, every seed company spent money to try to improve the seed, even though anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want.  Monsanto was the first company to patent seed technology.  Farmers could always save the seed before that, and yet companies still spent money to develop better seeds.  Why?  Because selective genetics will gradually increase the potential yield of the seed, and everybody wanted to make the seed better and better.  Sure, you could save the seed from the year before, but it was identical to what you grew last year.  Meanwhile, your competitors were busy developing newer varieties which should be better than what you have.  If you improve the seed, farmers will buy it because it is better than what they had.

The question by Roberts is just plumb full of conservative bullshit as to why nobody would ever develop new drugs if they couldn't get windfall profits because of patent protection.  Unfortunately, those companies spend way more time trying to get those patents extended as opposed to developing better breakthroughs.  Conservatives sure understand perverse incentives when it comes to the welfare state, but they never seem to see them when it comes to business practices.

I don't believe Bowman will win the case, and I don't really think that he definitely should, but it would be nice if the justices had any idea of what the world was like before Monsanto patented GMO seed.

Monday, February 25, 2013

TimeLAX 01

TimeLAX 01 from iVideoMaking on Vimeo.

Papal Odds

Paddy Power gives them:
Singles Only. Applies to the next permanently appointed Pope after Benedict XVI. Others on request.
Cardinal Peter Turkson (Ghana) 11/4
Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera (Mexico) 66/1
Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe (Italy) 100/1
Archbishop Angelo Scola (Italy) 3/1
Archbishop Vincent Nichols (England) 66/1
Cardinal Ivan Dias (India) 100/1
Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone (Italy) 4/1
CardinalGiovanni Battista Re (Italy) 66/1
Archbishop Pietro Parolin (Italy) 100/1
Cardinal Marc Ouellet (Canada) 6/1
Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz (Brazil) 66/1
Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino (Cuba) 100/1
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco (Italy) 12/1
Cardinal Agnostino Vallini (Italy) 66/1
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier (South Africa) 100/1
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri (Argentina) 12/1
Archbishop Pier Luiga Celata(Italy) 66/1
Cardinal Geraldo Majella Agnelo (Brazil) 125/1
Cardinal Christoph Schonborn (Austria) 16/1
Archbishop Piero Marini (Italy) 66/1
Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli (Italy) 125/1
Cardinal Peter Erdo (Hungary) 16/1
Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera (Spain) 66/1
Cardinal Donald Wuerl (United States) 125/1
Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi (Italy) 20/1
Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois (France) 66/1
Cardinal Julian Herranz Casado (Spain) 125/1
Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga (Honduras) 20/1
Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi (Italy) 66/1
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo (USA) 125/1
Cardinal Odilo Scherer (Brazil) 20/1
Cardinal Attilio Nicora (Italy) 80/1
Archbishop Nicolas de Jesus Lopez Rodriguez (Dominican Republic) 150/1
Cardinal Francis Arinze (Nigeria) 25/1
Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani Thorne (Peru) 80/1
Cardinal John Njue (Kenya) 150/1
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Argentina) 25/1
Cardinal Angelo Amato (Italy) 80/1
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor (UK) 150/1
Cardinal Timothy Dolan (United States) 33/1
Cardinal George Pell (Australia) 80/1
Cardinal Giacomo Biffi (Italy) 150/1
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (Philippines) 33/1
Cardinal William Levada (United States) 80/1
Cardinal Walter Kasper (Germany) 150/1
Cardinal Sean O'Malley (United States) 40/1
Cardinal Raymond Burke (United States) 80/1
Cardinal Angelo Sodano (Italy) 200/1
Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai (Lebanon) 40/1
Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela (Spain) 100/1
Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller (Germany) 200/1
Cardinal Paolo Sardi(Italy) 50/1
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin 100/1
Cardinal Francis George (USA) 200/1
Cardinal Claudio Hummes (Brazil) 50/1
Cardinal Karl Lehmann (Germany) 100/1
Cardinal Keith O'Brien (Scotland) 400/1
Cardinal Mauro Piacenza (Italy) 50/1
Cardinal Thomas Collins (Canada) 100/1
Richard Dawkins (UK) 666/1
Cardinal Albert Malcolm Ranjith (Sri Lanka) 50/1
Cardinal Jose Da Cruz Policarpo (Portugal) 100/1
Bono (Ireland) 1000/1
Cardinal Robert Sarah (French Guinea) 50/1
Cardinal Philippe Barbarin (France) 100/1
Father Dougal Maguire (Craggy Island) 1000/1
Archbishop Pier Luiga Celata (Italy) 66/1

I'd probably bet on Ouellet or Schonborn.  I do like that they give odds on Richard Dawkins, Bono and Father Maguire.  Some people will waste money on anything.

Rainbow 6 Winner Pays 3.5 Million

From Gulfstream:
Gulfstream Park's elusive 10-cent Rainbow 6 was hit Friday afternoon for a record $3,591,245.44.
The ticket was purchased at The Meadowlands in New Jersey. The winning ticket cost $3,118.50.
The previous record for a winning ticket on the Rainbow 6 was $791,364 on April 1, 2012. The previous record carryover was $5.1 million on April 23, 2011.
The Rainbow 6 is paid out when there is only one unique ticket with all six winners on the last six races of the day. Going into Friday's last race, there were five live tickets. The winner in the last race, Feline Forum, returned $23.
The Rainbow 6 has produced several large payoffs, including $414,166.52 (Jan. 2, 2012) and $327,110.71 (Dec. 23, 2012). The last time the Rainbow 6 was hit was Dec. 28 for $41,813.78.
Friday's 10-cent Rainbow 6 started with Keyner Veloz winning the fifth race and paying $114. The rest of the winners were Original Cast ($11.40) in the sixth, Odalys Halo ($36.80) in the seventh, Artie's Jasper ($17.20) in the eighth, Mays Treasuretrove ($23.60) in the ninth and Feline Forum in the 10th.
Wow.  That is crazy luck.  You pretty much throw away $3100 bucks and somehow end up with $3.5 million?

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Overcast from James Lancett on Vimeo.

The part where he is jumping around and yelling in the parking garage definitely reminds me of myself on days like this.

NASA Photo of the Day

February 19:

Mercury on the Horizon
Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado
Explanation: Have you ever seen the planet Mercury? Because Mercury orbits so close to the Sun, it never wanders far from the Sun in Earth's sky. If trailing the Sun, Mercury will be visible low on the horizon for only a short while after sunset. If leading the Sun, Mercury will be visible only shortly before sunrise. So at certain times of the year an informed skygazer with a little determination can usually pick Mercury out from a site with an unobscured horizon. Above, a lot of determination has been combined with a little digital manipulation to show Mercury's successive positions during March of 2000. Each picture was taken from the same location in Spain when the Sun itself was 10 degrees below the horizon and superposed on the single most photogenic sunset. Currently, Mercury is visible in the western sky after sunset, but will disappear in the Sun's glare after a few days.

The Man In Black At The County Fair

Don Gonyea reflects on his opportunity to interview Johnny Cash at his local county fair:
I started out in radio more than 30 years ago. My first job right out of college was as a country-western DJ at WVMO, my hometown radio station in Monroe, Mich.
I have many boxes of cassette tapes stashed in my basement, including one that has a recording from the Monroe County Fair in the summer of 1981. I remember standing there with my microphone. To my right were the grandstands where they do the demolition derby. To my left was this big, silver tour bus. I was about to meet one of my musical heroes: Johnny Cash.
When I found out Johnny Cash was coming to the county fair, I tried to line up an interview, but I didn't receive any response. I tried again. Nothing. Finally, a guy who worked at the fair said, "If you stand here at this railing, his tour bus is there, the stage is there. Maybe as he walks past, he'll stop and talk to you." And he did....Five, six, seven minutes passed and I was out of questions. So I asked him, "How'd you get to be The Man in Black?" I cringe a little bit when I hear myself ask that question, but you've got to love his answer.
"For one reason, it's a little more slimming," Cash said. "I wrote a song called 'Man in Black' in about 1970. In the song, you see where I pointed out some of the problems and the ills that we have in this country. But I point to myself as being one of those people responsible for correcting some of those problems and unfortunate things that happen to people here."
Being a member of the local media might not pay very well, but it does appear to have a few fringe benefits.

Agriculture and Oil

In an interesting article about the influence of banks speculating in commodities, there was this little bit about oil and agriculture:
Farming is a complicated calculation, an intricate system of inputs to reach a single, universally desired goal: Good, healthy eating at a price that people can afford. It doesn’t happen in cyberspace—food flows from the ground. But the bigger that “Big Ag” grows and the more involved the financial institutions’ become in the price of food, the further we get from realizing just what it takes to feed the planet.
Carlson argues that for way too long oil has been  our saving grace. Oil, he says, is the only way that American farmers, who account for just one to two percent of the national population, can feed the other 98 percent of us. But the oil used to sew, reap and ship food, “is finite and as oil goes away we are going to be at a loss for how to feed ourselves,” he says with a not altogether unfamiliar urgency. Carlson suggests that now is the time to start figuring out how to cut back on our agricultural reliance on oil.  The idea seems at first simple, but it requires rethinking the agricultural system from the ground up—forgetting about government subsidies and the corporate farms  entities that grow nearly eighty percent of our food supply and truck it around in eighteen wheelers.
I've often wondered what the total demand for oil is per acre for our current agriculture practices are.  As far as equipment we operate goes, it is pretty low, around 4 gallons per acre.  But we also have the local fertilizer plant applying our herbicide and dry fertilizer, the oil and gas use in the production of the herbicide and fertilizer, and all the fuel used in transporting the raw materials to the farm and then transporting the crops to the commodity users, and their products to consumers.  Getting millions of tons of dry fertilizer from mines to farms, and millions of tons of grain shipped around the world has to take a lot of fuel.  In some ways, I expect some kind of tug-of-war between the production efficiency of larger, more concentrated operations and smaller, less concentrated ones.  To me, having livestock as grain consumers producing manure for fertilizer makes sense, but with water quality concerns, we need animals spread over many more farms than they are now. Meanwhile, smaller operations won't make food prices much cheaper until the transportation costs from rising oil prices get much higher.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out down the road.

Yankees Win Rights To Evil Empire Title

A panel of trademark judges in Washington, D.C., earlier this month denied a request from a private entrepreneur, known as Evil Enterprises, Inc., to register the trademark for the phrase "Baseballs Evil Empire."
Evil Enterprises wanted the exclusive right to market merchandise using that phrase, which was coined in regard to the Yankees by Larry Lucchino, the president and chief executive of the Boston Red Sox, back in 2002. Upon learning that the Yankees had signed sought-after Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras, Lucchino was widely reported as saying: "The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America."
Evil Enterprises initially applied for a trademark back in July of 2008.
But the Yankees objected, arguing that they had the rights to the phrase—at least when used in connection with baseball.
Part of the Yankees' argument: a concession that in the baseball world, they are, in fact, the "Evil Empire." In its legal papers, the team referenced a number of articles from the past decade using the term in connection with the Yankees, and conceded that the team has "implicitly embraced" the "Evil Empire" theme by playing music from Star Wars during their home games.
The panel of judges sided with the Yankees, ruling that the Yankees are strongly associated with the phrase. Allowing anyone else to use the phrase exclusively would likely cause confusion, ruled the judges.
It is amazing what folks at places like The Onion can do with fictional satire considering how self-satirical the real world so often is.  How exactly do the Yankees make money on the Evil Empire concept?  Star Wars stormtroopers in Yankee Pinstripes?  Darth Vader masks with the Yankees logo on them?  They'd have to split that money with the Disney Evil Empire.  I hate the Yankees.  Every time the Yankees win, a puppy dies somewhere.