Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Quiet City: Winter In Paris

The Quiet City: Winter in Paris from Andrew Julian on Vimeo.

Building A Mountain of Trash

Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley tour the largest active landfill in the United States, the Puenta Hills landfill, near the city of Whittier, California:
Hewitt, otherwise an extremely low-key and calm presence, became quite agitated as we tried to maneuver between dump trucks, compacting machines, and piles of shredded green waste. "This is not good!" was his repeated refrain, as heavy equipment backed up toward us without warning.
His alarm was justified: in Garbology, Hume notes that eight landfill workers nationwide died in 2010, and that the risk of "drop-off"--the chance that some of the twenty to thirty feet of uncompacted trash that builds up each day could start to slide, tipping them off the edge of the mountain altogether--is omnipresent.
On a normal day, Hewitt told us, the active dumping site at the top of Puente Hills is usually about an acre in area, and twenty feet deep. It's called a cell--not, as Edward Hume writes, "in the prison-block sense, but more akin to the tiny biological unit, many thousands of which are needed to create a single, whole organism." In other words, the garbage pile that the bulldozers and graders push, compact, and sculpt each day, is a landfill building block--a brick in the pyramid of trash that is Puente Hills.
The resulting "fill plan," designed by the Sanitation Districts's waste engineers and staked out afresh each day, informs the particular topography that the heavy machinery massaging the trash are trying to achieve. Down to its cell slopes and road patterns, the landfill is an entirely managed and manufactured terrain, a shape calculated in advance and then sculpted, incrementally, with every shift of every machine.
Hewitt's description of a mountain-building logic formed of "cells" could not help but remind us of historians Martin Bressani and Robert Jan van Pelt's discussion of 19th-century architect Eugène Viollet le Duc--designer of, among other things, the plinth or artificial hill upon which the Statue of Liberty now stands.
A friend's dad was a bulldozer operator at a landfill, and was considered one of the foremost experts at handling landfill fires.  The landfill is now as tall as a 40 story building, and since I was recently told that the Eiffel Tower weighs as much as 2000 female African elephants, I will mention that the landfill stores the equivalent weight in trash of 15 million dead elephants.

A Question

Would a truly benevolent God create Honey Locust trees?  I would answer no.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Tommy and the Big Dodger in the Sky

Bryan Curtis profiles the ambassador of Dodger baseball, Tommy Lasorda.  Here's a story of Tommy and the Dodgers at Mass in Cincinnati:
There's a story that so brilliantly captures the doctrine of the Big Dodger in the Sky that you almost can't believe it. The Votive Candle Incident is too perfect. Too pat.
"Four or five of us are in Cincinnati," says Johnstone. "It's Sunday morning. We can walk over to the Catholic church, which is a short walk over to the stadium. Steve Garvey is there. Bill Russell. Burt Hooton I think was there. And myself. We're in the Catholic church. We walk in and sit in the back."
"One of the guys notices that John McNamara, the Reds manager, was sitting in the front pew up there on the right-hand side. We're sitting back on the left. Before the Mass is over, Lasorda is watching him and says, 'Russell, go see what he's doing.'
"Russell says, 'He was down there lighting a candle, skip.'
"Lasorda says, 'Show me. Which one did he light?'
"Russell says, 'The top spot, upper right.'" He pointed at McNamara's chosen votive.
"Lasorda says, 'You sure?'
"'Yeah, skip!'
"Lasorda walks up and he blows it out."
Johnstone continues, "Now, we go to the ballpark. The dugouts are pretty close in Cincinnati. You could hear each other. And by the second inning, Lasorda's yelling at McNamara, 'It isn't going to work, John! It isn't going to work!'"
When we evaluate the veracity of the Votive Candle Incident, we have to note some inconsistencies. When Lasorda tells the story, he and McNamara are alone in the church. Johnstone's version has half the Dodgers starting lineup there, in the same way fans retroactively claimed to be at Dodger Stadium when Gibson hit the home run.
Hooton insists he was not in the church, and he doesn't think it even happened. "I wouldn't put it past him," Hooton says, "but I don't think he's that irreverent."
In fact, the only trustworthy source on the Votive Candle Incident is McNamara, Lasorda's alleged victim, who now lives outside Nashville. When I remind him of the story, McNamara sighs. "Oh my god. Every time I'm with him he tells that story."
McNamara doesn't know if Lasorda blew out the candle. But his complaint goes deeper than that. "If I went and lit a candle, it wasn't for a win on the baseball field. It was for something else." Which goes to show we don't all pray to the same Big Dodger.
Tommy has always been a good time, but nothing sums him up like these videos:

and this:

"Fucking Bevacqua..." I love it.

The Life of Roger Ebert

I feel kind of bad, because my sister passed on a number of Roger Ebert links to me, and yet I never really read him consistently.  There were an interesting bunch of quotes from his autobiography at The Atlantic that are worth reading, and I also found this tribute from NPR and LA Times movie critic Kenneth Turan to be interesting:
In the more than 10 years since he was diagnosed with cancer, Roger Ebert refused to give up as much as an inch to the disease that had ravaged his body but left his mind more nimble and ready to rumble. Last year, despite his continuing problems, Roger reviewed 306 films - the most of his career. I first got to know Roger when I started going, as he did, to the film festivals at Sundance and Cannes. Roger puckishly claimed I had changed his life for the better when I introduced him to the Timex Indiglo watch, which lights up in the dark and tells you how much time is left in particularly worrisome films. Roger promptly called it a critic's friend and often pulled his out when he saw me to prove that he was still keeping the faith. On a more public level, Roger was the best-known film critic in America. The more I got to know Roger, the more I thought that his TV work did a real disservice to his deep critical gifts. Roger was not a thumbs-up, thumbs-down kind of guy, but a dedicated scholar of film who could talk for hours about the camera work in "Citizen Kane" or the newest wrinkles in emerging Romanian cinema. Roger's father had been an electrician and general handyman at the University of Illinois. He could fix anything and everything, but he steadfastly refused to teach Roger any of his skills. He'd come home at night, Roger said, after spending the day in the offices of these professors and he'd say to me, almost in awe, Roger, they just sit there and think. That's the life he wanted for me. He didn't want me fixing things like he did. Roger Ebert's dad got what he wanted and we all have been the richer for it.
The whole idea of his immensely talented father not wanting him to follow in his footsteps is very fascinating.  Sometimes, I have a hard time deciding who I find more interesting, the practical genius, or the abstract genius.  It sounds like Roger Ebert could very well have been either one. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

There is a Salt Institute?

A study recommends cutting back on sodium and getting more potassium:
Among the findings:
1. A modest reduction in salt intake for four or more weeks lowered systolic pressure (the top number) by an average of 5mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). Blood pressure reductions from reduced salt intake were greater in people with hypertension.
2. Reduced salt intake did not have adverse effects on cholesterol or renal function.
3. Increased potassium intake also helped lower blood pressure.
But wait:
Morton Satin, vice president of science and research for the Salt Institute, an industry group, says, "There is no evidence that salt reduction improves overall health outcomes."
Salt reduction reduces blood pressure by a couple of points in people with high blood pressure, he says. If your systolic blood pressure is at 160 and drops a few points, that's no great benefit, nowhere near a comparable benefit from standard blood pressure medication, he says.
"On the other hand, there is a large body of clinical evidence linking negative health outcomes, such as insulin resistance, with salt reduction.
"I cannot understand how our entire public health establishment can go on talking about salt reduction and ignoring every single peer-reviewed publication that counters the salt-restriction agenda," Satin says. (emphasis mine)
That is fucking awesome.  I thought only Big Tobacco and Big Oil  said crazy shit like that.  Why on earth does Big Salt need hack researchers bad mouthing actual science.  Salt is awesome.  Sure it may kill you, but shit, you are going to die anyway.  May as well enjoy yourself while you are here.  If today was April 1, I would swear the Salt Institute was part of an elaborate joke:
 The Salt Institute is a North American based non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing the many benefits of salt, particularly to ensure winter roadway safety, quality water and healthy nutrition.
I'll have to peruse the Salt Institute archives for the "Myths about salt and automobile corrosion" story.  I'm sure there are  peer-reviewed publications that salt doesn't cause corrosion, moisture does.  Oh wait, this site is a gold mine:
The Salt Institute is dedicated to helping consumers enjoy the myriad benefits of salt while balancing those benefits against potential harm to health and the environment. Our advocacy for salt is science-based and consumer-centered. Typical of our advocacy approach has been our development and promotion of “Sensible Salting” for roadways. In North America, use of salt to clear snow and ice from roadways to make them safe and passable began in the 1940s. By the 1960s, enthusiastic but ill-informed use of salt on roads had created water contamination of many roadside wells and damaged or destroyed noticeable amounts of vegetation in roadway rights-of-way and along urban arterial streets. The Institute recognized the problem and created a pro-active program to train its customers, primarily state/provincial and local transportation agencies, on techniques to store salt in a way to prevent it from leaching into groundwater and to apply it in the minimum amounts necessary to complement plowing to restore safe driving conditions. The program won a public service award in 1972.
Of course, the Institute has not rested on its laurels, but rather applied the same strategy as other issues arise: identifying the public concern and pro-actively working with concerned parties to develop industry practices, customer salt use guidelines or government regulatory controls to protect our workers from harmful occupational exposures, guard against environmental discharges or environmentally unsound practices at our production plants, encourage economical all-weather roadway operations, increase the salt efficiency of ion-exchange water softeners, expand the use of iodized salt as the most economical measure to combat mental retardation and provide consumer guidance on dietary salt intake levels to ensure optimal health. The list could go on.
Use salt, you don't want to be retarded.  Wow.(I know, iodine is important, but really?)

Update: Also this.  One Bland Week on a Low-sodium diet. I'm with you, man, but even I tried to cut back to one of the twin tubes of snowy white awesomeness from the salt packet on my fast food fries.

Aerial San Francisco

Politics And Social Conservatism

Daniel Larison points out an entertaining fact about Mark Sanford's Republican primary victory in South Carolina:
Sanford’s victory doesn’t tell us much about social conservatism in South Carolina one way or the other. Let’s recall that Newt Gingrich of all people won the South Carolina primary last year, and he ran strongest among those that identified as “very conservative”, took 45% of the evangelical vote, and received 46% of those that said the religious beliefs of a candidate were very or somewhat important. Evidently, there are a lot of “very conservative” South Carolinian Republicans that don’t judge candidates on their record of marital fidelity. According to the same CNN exit poll, evangelicals made up 64% of the 2012 primary electorate, and 64% was the same figure of voters that said that abortion should be mostly or always illegal. This is not a Republican state electorate that is likely to stop holding socially conservative views anytime soon.
Good point.  Newt Gingrich is not the poster child for "'til death do us part."  As the John Avalon quote he highlights points out, at least Sanford has been humbled by his infidelity.  Newt, not so much.  Newt's never been humbled by any of the awful things he's done.

Corporatized Concrete and Metal

In a tribute to Dodger Stadium, Jay Caspian Kang goes on a beautiful rant about the modern, "nostalgic" ballparks:
Since 1992, when Camden Yards in Baltimore ushered in a new era of stadium design, nearly every ballpark in America has been built under the same principle — old-timey knickknacks like manual scoreboards get stapled onto a gleaming hulk of scalable, corporatized concrete and metal because nostalgia is a powerful purchasing device and drives fans to buy all sorts of useless stuff, from miniature bats to the now-$8 hot dogs they ate when they were kids. This is not to say that every ballpark built in the past 20 years is some horrific monstrosity that callously manipulates our most tender memories, but I do think we pay a psychic toll whenever we access nostalgia through a modern, corporatized avenue. I still remember little details from nearly every Red Sox game my father took me to when I was a child. I remember the smell of the bathrooms, the color of the cement that held up the grandstands, and, of course, the dirty shade of green that has welcomed generations of fans to Fenway Park. If they built a new Fenway with a new Citgo sign that looked exactly like the old one and they sprayed old piss scent all over the bathrooms, I would most likely still recall those same childhood details, but they would have to travel a longer, more wearying distance. And part of me would always hate the new Citgo sign and the manufactured piss scent and the fake green on the outfield walls.
When I lived in New York, my friend Eric and I went to dozens of Mets day games at Shea Stadium.The Mets were unreasonably bad back then, trotting out some combination of Cliff Floyd, Mike Piazza, and a bunch of Triple-A players. But Shea Stadium was a comfy old heap that fit the team's personality. Citi Field, which opened in 2009, is a different sort of dump: the most cynical ballpark in the major leagues, complete with a Jackie Robinson rotunda (Robinson, of course, never played for the Mets), silly constructions like "the Great Wall of Flushing" and the Shea Bridge, a faux-industrial walkway modeled off the Hell Gate Bridge that connects Astoria and Randall's Island. There is a history of New York in Citi Field, but the same could be said about the New York-New York Casino in Las Vegas. When you go to a Mets game now, you're not so much reminded of the past or Shea Stadium as much as you're reminded of corporate strategy. It's a horrible place.
I love the part about a part of me would always hate the new Citgo sign and the manufactured piss scent and the fake green on the outfield walls.  Irrational hate is one of my favorite emotions.  Especially irrational hate about new things.  As far as the worst feature of any new ball parks, I vote for the stupid mound (which is supposed to pay tribute to the terrace in Crosley Field) in centerfield at, what is it now, Minute Maid Park ?  That and the new slide for Bernie Brewer that doesn't end in a stein of fake beer.  Does anybody have any other suggestions?

Compare and contrast:

Growing Number of Farm Schools In UK

Increasing numbers of UK schools are starting up their own farms. The 100th opened last month, with at least 100 more planned, according to the School Farms Network. At Reddish Vale Technology College in Stockport, which has had a farm since 1986, pupils face the dilemmas of caring for animals raised for their meat.
Jack, Molly and Jordan, all 12, are shovelling pig dung into a pile and loving it.
Luke, 11, is making sure that Arthur the pig does not escape while they have the gate open "and smash up the rabbit hutches".
The others are busy at work with brooms so that the poo and dirty straw are ready to be transferred to the muck heap where they will rot down and be used to make compost for the school farm's gardens.
They are here every schoolday morning at 7.15 sharp....
It allows the school to focus on issues crucial to the modern food industry, such as where food comes from, animal welfare, poor diet and waste.
Pupils help grow vegetables, fruit and flowers, which they sell through the farm shop. They also help raise livestock that is ultimately sold for slaughter.
Soon a decision must be made about whether a pair of sows that have failed to produce piglets should go for slaughter. Last year the school sold sausages made from its own pigs.
"The future of the pigs is a tough question. We will make the decision but will discuss the options with pupils. I would like them to understand how traditional farming works. The animals are fed and looked after well but ultimately they are sold for slaughter. We have to be strong here and say what this is really about," says Mr Murphy.
There are a hell of a lot of programs more schools could get into to help teach kids about real world stuff.  This is a really good example of what kids can learn.  Kids could do work rehabbing a house or working on vehicles.  Actually, kids on the vocational track get to do a lot of that stuff.  It's the kids in the college track who end up missing out on a lot of that stuff.  That was one of the fun things of growing up on a farm, there are always projects to work on.  Want to learn to weld?  Here's some scrap metal, try it out.  It took me a while to really get into that, but it was damn fun once I did.  Some of the kids who aren't as lucky could use some of the same opportunities.

Defense Expenditure Lunacy

Spencer Ackerman:
In March 2012, the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative agency, took a look at the 96 highest-priority defense programs in the Pentagon acquisitions system. The watchdog organization found that the acquisition programs represented an estimated total cost of $1.58 trillion, and had actually “grown by over $74 billion or 5 percent in the past year.” (.PDF) The sources of that increase were everything from changes in the per-unit costs of all the planes, guns, trucks and ships; upticks in R&D expenses; or plain “production inefficiencies.”
$74 billion is a lot of money. To put it in context, if all that hardware cost growth were a sovereign nation, it would spend more money on its defense sector in a year than Russia does. ($64 billion in 2012, although in Putin’s Russia, defense money spends you.) It would laugh at India’s $44 billion effort in 2012 at becoming a rising military power. It would pen op-eds in British newspapers about the paltry $57.8 billion that once-imperial London spent on defense last year. The only countries’ defense sectors that would eclipse it are China and the U.S. itself.

And remember, $74 billion is not the cost of the gear itself. It’s just the growth in the cost of the hardware. In Washington, the rising prices of defense programs happens so routinely that it seems normal, like a natural cost of doing business, rather than an indicator of money being mismanaged.
On a much smaller scale, Jonathan Rue and Caitlin Fitz Gerald recently contextualized what it meant for the Army to suddenly discover $900 million in parts for Stryker armored vehicles sitting unused in storage. The U.S. could have bought 600 Tomahawk missiles for that money, or two entire Littoral Combat Ships, or outspent Serbia’s defense sector. It could have funded the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services for 23 years.
It turns out there’s a happy coda to this story — somewhat.
I discovered today that the GAO recently updated its assessment. Its 2013 look into the previous year’s defense acquisitions tells a sunnier story. Hardware costs dropped by $44 billion (.PDF), since ten of those 96 programs came out of the acquisition pipeline. Those included big-ticket items like the F-22 Raptor stealth jet, the Marines’ canceled Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and the C-27J transport plane.
Those numbers are crazy.  $74 billion is almost the total cost of the food stamp program (SNAP), even with all of the increases under our "food stamp President."  What's more worthwhile, feeding people, or having tons of unnecessary stuff in case we have to go blow up some brown people who may or may not hate us (before we kill members of their families)?  Personally, I'd go with feeding people.  However, opinions differ.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Chemistry of Cadbury Eggs

God's Greatest Abomination


Prairie Fire

Dad got us lined up to help the neighbor burn his patch of prairie grass tonight.  That was a good bit of fun, and we got a free meal out of it, too.  I can't argue with that.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rice Farmers Find An Easier Way

With prices where they are at, rice farmers find out how much less work they have growing corn and soybeans:
Rice is more labor-intensive and requires more farm equipment per acre than corn and soybeans, agricultural experts say.
"It's just a lot more management in rice than it is in corn and beans, which takes me away from the house and my family more," says Mr. Waller, the Louisiana farmer. "To be able to grow rice, it has to be a good bit more profitable than the other crops."
The cutback in U.S. rice plantings already is crimping supplies in the South, and prompting rice companies to adapt. American Rice Inc., a rice miller with brands including Blue Ribbon and Comet, ordered rice from Vietnam last month for use at its mill in Freeport, Texas, because local supplies are tight after recent state droughts. "There simply isn't enough rice in Texas to run that plant," said Paul Galvani, vice president of marketing at American Rice's parent company, Riviana Foods Inc., declining to disclose the size of the rice purchase.
In Arkansas, Jason Smith said he has sharply cut back his rice plantings in the past few years in favor of corn. Corn, in addition to being more profitable lately than rice, is much easier to grow, Mr. Smith said. He has sold more than a dozen pieces of specialty equipment that he used to need for rice, and has needed fewer seasonal laborers since he began planting corn three years ago.
"Nobody that's farming rice is ever going to want to go back after farming corn," Mr. Smith said.
Well, they'll probably switch back if corn is selling for $3.50 a bushel and rice prices go up.  I just hope all those non-farmers who think farmers work really hard don't find out how easy Midwestern grain farming is.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Frozen Four Gets New Faces

It has been a long time since the doors to the NCAA hockey champions club have been this wide open entering the Frozen Four.
For the first time since 1958 — and only the second time since the tournament’s inaugural event — the Frozen Four will be made up of four teams all looking for their first national championship.
Yale, Massachusetts-Lowell, St. Cloud State and Quinnipiac earned trips to Pittsburgh for the 2013 Frozen Four by winning NCAA regional championships this weekend.
It’s a new-look group, to be sure.
Only Yale has ever been to the Frozen Four before, and that was a third-place finish in 1952.
Three teams will make their Frozen Four debuts at Consol Energy Center for the national semifinals on April 11. It’s the first time that’s happened in tournament history, excluding the inaugural event in 1948.
Both semifinals will be matchups of No. 1 regional seeds against No. 4s.
Massachusetts-Lowell, the top seed in the Northeast Regional, will play Yale out of the West Regional at 4:30 p.m. EDT in one semifinal; top overall seed Quinnipiac will face St. Cloud State at 8 p.m. EDT in the other.
Quinnipiac has to be the favorite, but anything can happen in a one and done playoff, just ask Yale and St. Cloud State.

Water Wars May Break Out In New Mexico

Via Big Picture Agriculture, New Mexico farmers push fight for water:
A priority call, an exceedingly rare maneuver, is the nuclear option in the world of water. Such a call would try to force the state to return to what had been the basic principle of water distribution in the West: the lands whose owners first used the water — in most cases farmland — get first call on it in times of scarcity. Big industries can be losers; small farmers winners.
The threat of such a move reflects the political impact of the droughts that are becoming the new normal in the West. “A call on the river is a call for a shakeout,” explained Daniel McCool, a University of Utah political scientist and author of “River Republic: The Fall and Rise of America’s Rivers.”
“It’s not going to be farmers versus environmentalists or liberals versus conservatives,” he said. “It’s going to be the people who have water versus the people who don’t.” And, he said, the have-nots will outnumber the haves.
Dudley Jones, the manager for the Carlsbad Irrigation District said that water law and allocation practice have long diverged. “We have it in the state Constitution: First in time, first in right. But that’s not how it’s practiced.” In New Mexico’s political pecking order, his alfalfa farmers, despite senior priority rights dating back 100 years, have little clout. The state water authorities, he said, “are not going to cut out the city.”
“They’re not going to cut out the dairy industry,” he added. “They’re not going to cut off the oil and gas industry, because that’s economic development. So we’re left with a dilemma — the New Mexico water dilemma.”
Things may get very interesting in the near future west of the 98th meridian.  Climate change may be most brutal out there.

It's Opening Day

There won't be a lot of activity here, as I am traveling down to Cincinnati to welcome in baseball season.  No, I won't be at the game, but if you are in a bar and hear a bunch of old guys laughing really hard at inane things, you may have found me and my teammates from our church league softball team.  If that is the case, the safe thing to do would be to quietly leave, but you are welcome to come up and say hello.  Anyway, thank God baseball season is back, and Go Reds!

Some April Fools' Highlights

The Daily Currant - Paul Ryan Thrown Out of Easter Mass For Views On Poverty

Simon Johnson - Go for Gold

Balloon Juice - The New Website Model - A Declaration of Independence

and youtube's prank

Cubs Cancel Season

After listening to the radio on Sunday, and taking a look at the standings, Cubs President Tom Ricketts cancelled plans for his team to play this season.

"I was listening to a guy talking about how terrible the Astros were going to be, and all of a sudden he mentioned that they are going to be in the American League West this year.  I pulled up and took a look at the standings and realized that it was this year the Astros were moving to the AL, not next year.  I thought, 'Holy shit, we're guaranteed to be in last place in the NL Central with the Lastros gone.'  We can't be having that.  Geez, dad lost a fortune last year contributing to the Chicago Cubs of politics, a.k.a. Mitt Romney.  I sure as hell don't want to throw away millions more playing the shittiest baseball in the National League Central.  And even worse, Obama's White Sox are bound to have a better season than dad's Cubs.  He'll lose his shit over that.  If I let that happen, you'll probably see pictures of me in the tabloids pumping my own gas or shopping at Costco, and I'm not going there.  We're certain to lose the opener, and from then on, it's going to be a challenge to get up to .500."

"So I thought this over and decided we'll just cancel the season, layoff the players, look for some new undocumented immigrant players who will work for next-to-nothing for next year, and get the campaign contributions flowing to our friends in the Republican caucus of the House to get a clause put into the budget deal to change the rules of the game to award the win to the Cubs if they finish the game within 3 runs of the opposing team.  We should have that accomplished by the start of spring training next year, when I'll have to pay off Sheriff Arpaio so that he and Steven Seagal won't harass or arrest my new players.  Come next year at this time, with the rule change,we'll be ready to end our streak of, well, counting this year, 105 seasons without a World Series championship.  One year off isn't as bad as the almost four years dad has to wait to buy a new president."

With that, Ricketts, passed out a mix tape he made for reporters featuring the following Cubs-related material:

Happy Opening Day and Happy April Fools' Day.  And have fun in last place, Chicago Cubs.  you are right where you belong.  To 105 seasons and more.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

NASA Photo of the Day

March 27:

A Horizon Rainbow in Paris
Image Credit & Copyright: Bertrand Kulik
Explanation: Why is this horizon so colorful? Because, opposite the Sun, it is raining. What is pictured above is actually just a common rainbow. It's uncommon appearance is caused by the Sun being unusually high in the sky during the rainbow's creation. Since every rainbow's center must be exactly opposite the Sun, a high Sun reflecting off of a distant rain will produce a low rainbow where only the very top is visible -- because the rest of the rainbow is below the horizon. Furthermore, no two observers can see exactly the same rainbow -- every person finds themselves exactly between the Sun and rainbow's center, and every observer sees the colorful circular band precisely 42 degrees from rainbow's center. The above image featuring the Eiffel Tower was taken in Paris, France last week. Although the intermittent thunderstorms lasted for much of the day, the horizon rainbow lasted for only a few minutes.

What Makes Charcoal Grilling Better?

I just like getting a redder color to the meat on the outside. This is easier with the charcoal in a bigger grill. With the gas grill, I usually end up with darker color.

Moral Cowardice At Supreme Court?

David Sirota sees a theory of ruling to match the public will as opposed to upholding the Constitution in the questioning on gay marriage this week:
In adjudicating such cases, judges are supposed to prevent a tyranny of the majority from trampling the constitutional rights of minorities. As they did in the Loving vs. Virginia case overturning bans on interracial marriage, justices are supposed to uphold the Constitution even if public opinion doesn’t support them doing so. That can only happen if judges are ruling exclusively on the constitutionality of discrimination - and not on whether such discrimination happens to be supported by the majority of citizens.
Sotomayor and her fellow justices seem to be saying the opposite—they seem to be making the radical claim that the public might not be ready for a sweeping ruling on same-sex marriage bans. That is a radical notion because those judges are insinuating that constitutional questions about equal protection should be less important than subjective questions about the current public mood.
But that’s the thing—while politics and the public shift, the right to equal protection under the law is supposed to be immutable. That right is either being protected or being violated. Indeed, the whole genius of the Founders’ creation of an independent judiciary is the recognition of that fundamental truth—and the corollary recognition that there is never a “right time” or a “wrong time” to uphold the Constitution.
I, too think that the position of the Court on social issues seems to be not to rock the boat. They have accepted the conventional wisdom that the sweeping nature of Roe v. Wade made the anti-abortion backlash inevitable, and that it is better to let the public gradually shift on the issue. Luckily for the gay marriage crowd, the popular mood seems to be rapidly changing. It will be interesting how many states will have to be left with gay marriage bans before the Court finally rules that it is a fundamental right. I would guess it will be around 20. Wait, how many states went for Romney?

Grain Bin Safety

NPR did a nice series of stories on deaths in grain bins this week:
We continue our series now on a dangerous and illegal practice that kills, on average, 16 people in the U.S. each year. It's called Walking Down the Grain. Employers at farms and grain elevators send untrained and ill-equipped workers into bins to break up wet or clustered grain. In the last four decades, more than 660 people (emphasis mine) have died because of the quicksand effect of grain.
The stories included an in-depth description of one accident which killed 2 teenagers in Illinois in 2010, a story on how OSHA fines were routinely lowered from what they could have been, and the story above, on available safety equipment to prevent such deaths.  This tidbit blew me away:
The condition of the grain is also a factor. Three years ago, a record corn crop was harvested all across the Midwest. It was wet and it clogged up in bins. Workers were sent in to walk down the grain, or unclog it, which is also against the law. Twenty-six people died, a record year for grain entrapment. This corn is in great condition. It's really dry. It's no clumping at all on the sides or in the center.
26 people?  I realize that in a country of 300 million people, 26 is few enough to be nothing.  But this is entirely preventable.  It doesn't seem possible that employers haven't been charged with crimes in these accidents.  I don't really want people to go to jail, but I also don't want the neighbor kid to die because an elevator manager was stupid.  Then again, a number of those deaths are probably farmers in grain bins at home who just got in a hurry, and didn't actually have the safety equipment, and just figured that as long as he was careful he'd be fine.  But, it appears it is often kids who end up dying:
Rigsby is one of eight teens ages 17 and younger who were killed at OSHA-regulated grain facilities since 1987, according to the records analyzed by NPR and CPI. Another 15 victims were 18 to 20 years old.
The teen death rate is much higher when incidents at farms are included. Farms are generally exempt from OSHA regulation. More than 220 teens 18 and younger have died in grain incidents since 1964, says Field, the Purdue professor.
That is ridiculous.

NPR also did a fabulous series on Social Security Disability, too.  It is definitely worth listening to or reading about.  Note to cable news: This is what a news network looks like.

Impulse Buys

I'm not usually the best mark for stores trying to get people to make impulse buys, but last night I went to Tipp City and, while I was in the vicinity, I stopped by the Menards store.  I usually intend to just buy myself a 5 pound bag of salted peanuts-in-the-shell.  But as I was headed by, I picked up a couple bags of soynuts (which were a previous impulse buy there, and are kind of addicting).  Then I couldn't find the bag of peanuts near the checkout lines, so I had to go back to the food section.  Before I found the aisle with the peanuts in it, I saw this:
My first reaction as I passed by was, "How big of a redneck do you have to be to buy a bag of potato chips from Larry the Cable Guy?"  After grabbing the peanuts and heading back by, I began to think, "Heck, cheeseburgers are my all-time favorite food, and potato chips are in the top 5 or 10.  I wonder how they would be together?"  So I stopped and picked up a bag. 

Now it would seem like that was plenty of impulse buying for a person who claims to not usually give in to such things, but I wasn't done yet.  One the way back out, I passed by a stand with DVDs and CDs.  Now I've had a DVD player for 3 or 4 years, and only have like three movies at home.  I stopped to see if there were any I might be interested in, and ended up picking up the Ron Howard Spotlight Series, with A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, and Backdraft.  I've seen and enjoyed all of these but Cinderella Man, and I've wanted to see it because I love the sport of boxing, and sappy movies aren't bad either.  So I ended up buying it, too. 

So in the impulsive mood I was in, I cracked open the bag of potato chips and tried one to see if they tasted like a juicy burger just off of the grill.  Holy shit, they tasted just like the crap on a McDonalds cheeseburger if they don't remember to give me a plain burger.  It was the exact taste of what I associate with McDonalds' mustard, pickle and onions.  Apparently, that is what they are going for:
This flavor from Larry the Cable Guy looked like ordinary potato chips, as there wasn't any seasoning powder on the surfaces, a sharp contrast to the Buffalo Wing flavor, which was overloaded with powder. The lack of powder didn't seem to matter as far as taste, as I crunched in to find that there was a decent crispness and just the slightest crunch, but lots of tasty flavor. It didn't really taste like an actual cheeseburger, with nothing resembling beef, but it did taste precisely like the mix of condiments on your typical fast-food cheeseburger (i.e. McDonald's), with pickles, mustard and cheese dominating. A very good taste.
Well, to me, they taste like a fucked up order at McDonald's.  I can't imagine that there are people who consider that the taste of a cheeseburger.  It was a quick and brutal reminder that I should know better than to give in to buying something that almost certainly sucks.  Lesson learned. Looks like I'll find out if cows will eat 99% of a bag of Larry the Cable Guy Cheese Burger Tater Chips.

Happy Easter

Typical Easter Sunday.  I get to church a minute or two earlier than normal, but it doesn't matter, because the place is stuffed to the gills with people I've never seen before.  Instead of getting a seat on the center aisle in the second-to-last row (which is what I consider MY seat), I had to go two-thirds of the way up on the outside aisle to find a spot where nobody had to scoot over.  This put me in a not-so-joyous, not-so-Christian mood (not that that takes very much).  It is amazing how Easter and Christmas bring everybody out of the woodwork.  Normally there is tons of room to stretch out.  Not today.  Hopefully, they loaded up the collection basket, though.

On the way back to the car, I saw this note laying on the ground beside the fence which surrounds the parking lot/playground of the parish school.  I picked it up and opened it.  It said:

Hey, What's your name? :)


Your adorable!


Ah, the memory of being a kid.  Unfortunately, I realize that my skills in the romantic department haven't evolved much from those days.  Well, maybe a girl will realize I don't bring many skills in the romance department and take pity on me.  Anyway, the note made me think of this:

Also, too, on the awkward romances front, I saw this SNL rerun last night, and it really made me laugh: