Saturday, May 4, 2013

Moon Over Parma

Just to see if anybody is paying attention:

They cut out the scene where he gets the hook.

Long Shot Bet Pays Off Big

Last spring, Conor Murphy was a hired hand who spent his days galloping racehorses, combing knotted manes and shoveling manure in a stable in Berkshire, England.
Mr. Murphy, 29, knew his horses well. He was able to tell which ones were on their toes and which ones needed a little more care. He also knew his way around a betting window. On a hunch, he bet $75 on five of his favorites. It was the sort of desperate stab that only a man who loves horses would make.
But he won — big. His $75 bet paid more than $1.5 million, enough for him to put down the shovel and become his own boss.
Now Mr. Murphy lives in Kentucky, training horses for some of the most prominent figures in racing. On Saturday, he will be at the Kentucky Derby, rooting for Lines of Battle, a horse owned by one of his clients.
“Pure luck,” Mr. Murphy said of his life-changing wager...
Trying not to let his fondness for the horses cloud his judgment, he played a five-horse accumulator through his online betting account.
Then he forgot about it.
The odds at the time of the bet were long on each horse: Sprinter Sacre (10-1), Simonsig (14-1), Bobs Worth (10-1), Finian’s Rainbow (8-1) and Riverside Theatre (9-1). That all five would win was, well, nearly impossible — about 163,350 to 1, said a spokesman for Paddy Power, an Irish bookmaking firm.
That is a great story. My derby picks: Verrazano, Overanalyze and Revolutionary, win, place and show.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Shaped on all Six Sides

Shaped on all Six Sides from New Canada on Vimeo.

The First Openly Gay Ballplayer

Glenn Burke?  Apparently:
This week's coming out by NBA player Jason Collins is momentous, but the Jackie Robinson of gay rights was Glenn Burke, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's from 1976 to 1979. He tried to change sports culture three decades ago—but back then, unlike now, sports culture wasn't ready for a change.
Burke made no secret of his sexual orientation to the Dodgers front office, his teammates, or friends in either league. He also talked freely with sportswriters, though all of them ended up shaking their heads and telling him they couldn't write that in their papers. Burke was so open about his sexuality that the Dodgers tried to talk him into participating in a sham marriage. (He wrote in his autobiography that the team offered him $75,000 to go along with the ruse.) He refused. In a bit of irony that would seem farcical if it wasn't so tragic, one of the Dodgers who tried to talk Burke into getting "married," was his manager, Tommy Lasorda, whose son Tom Jr. died from AIDS complications in 1991. To this day, Lasorda Sr. refuses to acknowledge his son's homosexuality.
Burke, who also died of AIDS-related causes in 1995, came out to the world outside baseball in a 1982 article for Inside Sports and even followed it up shortly after with an appearance on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel. But his story was greeted by the rest of the news media and the baseball establishment, including Burke's former teammates and baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, with silence. Even his superb autobiography, Out at Home, which published the year he died, failed to stir open conversation about homosexuality in sports. Practically no one in the sports-writing community would acknowledge that Burke was gay or report stories that followed up on his admission.
He told People magazine while promoting his book in 1995, "My mission as a gay ballplayer was the breaking of a stereotype ... I think it worked ... They can't ever say now that a gay man can't play in the majors, because I'm a gay man and I made it."
And yet Burke is remembered less today as a pioneer for gay rights and more as the man who, along with Dusty Baker, invented the "high five."
Wait, he and Dusty Baker invented the high five?  Wow, there is a whole lot of stuff I'd never heard of in this story.

Willfully Stupid

Republicans really, really hate government surveys:
Rep. Jeff Duncan has a plan to help us cope with information overload. His H. R. 1638 would simply eliminate all the data collection that the U.S. Census Bureau does except for the decennial population count. In particular, it would do away with the American Community Survey that has been undertaken in some form since a guy named Thomas Jefferson was president. (And along with it the Economic Census, the Census of Governments, the Census of Agriculture, the mid-decade Census and other information-gathering not explicitly stated in the Constitution.) The House of Representatives voted last year 232-190 to dump the ACS, but the proposal failed to gain traction in the Senate. That probably will be its fate this year as well.
Together with the Census itself, the American Community Survey used to be done every 10 years, with one of out six Americans required to fill out the "long form." But, as a cost-saving measure, President George W. Bush switched it to a annual survey of one in 38 households. Advantages: cheaper and more up-to-date. The problem, according to Republicans like Duncan (as well Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Poe of Texas who want it to be optional), is that ACS is too invasive.
Not only does it ask 14 pages of questions about how many people in a household are working, details of their commuting habits and their ethnic ancestry, what fuels they use to heat their dwellings, and whether they have computers and internet access at home, but also, OMG, how many toilets they have. The latter seems particularly to perturb the survey's foes.
The ACS data, massive amounts of it, provide insight on a whole range of economic issues. Without it, publishing economic indicators simply isn't possible. Says Ken Prewitt, the former director of the U.S. Census who is now a professor of public affairs at Columbia University, there would be no unemployment rate and no report on the gross domestic product. There also wouldn't be information about how to distribute federal grants, 70 percent of which are now guided by ACS, according to the Brookings Institution.
This stuff takes very little time to fill out, and just doesn't affect citizens in a negative way, but when you hate government, you want it to do a really crappy job.  No better way to get that result than to give them no information to make things better.  It frustrates the hell out of me that the party I used to consider myself a member of is such a bunch of retarded assholes.

It's Almost Time

The honeysuckle is blooming.  We should be planting soon.  I'd guess we'll get a little bit done tomorrow and Saturday before the rain.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Food As Fuel

From Big Picture Agriculture:

Just. Plain. Stupid.  Enough food to feed every person in the United States, and then some.  And don't even think about how much potential beverage alcohol that is.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pete Rose and Dave Pallone

25 years ago tonight:

I was there that night, sitting in the right field seats, while trash rained down from above. It was straight A student night, and a bunch of folks from school were there in the same section. It is one baseball memory I will always remember.

Rick Ankiel's Crazy Swing For The Fences

Joe Posnanski:
In the end, the scouts were probably right about Rick Ankiel. He doesn’t really make enough contact to be of much value as a hitter in the Major Leagues. But that doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of his achievement. After the Cardinals gave up on him, the Kansas City Royals acquired him. After the Royals, it was Atlanta for a while. Then Washington. Now, Ankiel is in Houston. And while his career on-base percentage may be .305, he has hit 74 big league homers, and he has had more than 2,000 big league plate appearances, and it’s an inspiring story of a man who had it all, had it all taken in mysterious ways, and somehow found his way back.
Then there’s this year. This epic year. Rick Ankiel has become perhaps my favorite hitter to watch in baseball. This year, Rick Ankiel has decided to do what a friend of mine calls “The Full Rob Deer.” You will remember Deer as a guy who swung for the fences, who hit 25-plus homers five times and who led the league in strikeouts four times. And while there have been many other players who have swung for the fences, I would say that none of them have done it with the relish, the persistence or the sheer chutzpah of Rick Ankiel.
We are talking every ... single ... at-bat.
Look at his amazing numbers.
Ankiel has come to plate 38 times this year.
He has struck out 24 of those times. Yeah. Twenty-four of 38.
He has walked zero of those times.
He has hit five home runs and two doubles and two singles.
Yes, of course, we’re talking a tiny sample size. But he’s slugging .684. And as’s Matthew Leach, among others, have pointed out, Rick Ankiel has stopped at first base two times all year.
It’s utterly astonishing. You can get ridiculous playing the “on-pace” game, but how can you not do the math for Ankiel? If he could maintain this pace for 600 plate appearances, he would hit 79 home runs, and he would strike out 379 times. He would walk, if my math’s correct here, zero times.
That is utterly unbelievable.  24 of 38 at bats are strikeouts?  Wow.  Ankiel's comeback from completely losing control on the mound is amazing.  This last hurrah is amazing also.

Wasted Time At Work

Morning Edition:
Even when people think they're buckling down, studies show the average office worker wastes over a third of the day. There's Facebook, of course, and the email from a friend with a YouTube link. After all that, is it time to go get coffee?
Worker pay is the most expensive line item in the budget for most businesses, which means billions of dollars are going to waste.
But here's the silver lining: It turns out lack of productivity presents a big business opportunity.
Joe Hruska is pretty blunt about how much work anyone does in a typical day.
"You're not getting 8 hours of productivity out of an employee, even though you may have blinders on and that's what you expect," he says.
Hruska is founder and CEO of , a software firm that allows users to sign up to see where they're spending their computer time. The data he collects shows — at best — a worker is productive about five of those hours.
No shit.  I would really like to have a job where I actually work the hours where I am getting things done.  The 40 hour workweek is stupid, and on top of that, most people are stuck working 45 to 55 hours.  Really, a lot of that time they just aren't getting anything done.  I would love to come in at 6 and leave at 11 or 12.  I bet I would get almost as much stuff done as I do being there from 6 to 4:30, and I would be a hell of a lot happier.  Some days I would be better off working about 3 hours and going home.  But that's not how the charade we call employment works.  It really is a waste of a good portion of one's life.

The Toll of World War II

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates:

The sheer number of casualties on the Eastern Front is just amazing.  What a horrible, evil abomination.

China's Disappearing Rivers

The Atlantic:
As recently as 20 years ago, there were an estimated 50,000 rivers in China, each covering a flow area of at least 60 square miles. But now, according to China's First National Census of Water, more than 28,000 of these rivers are missing. To put this number into context, China's lost rivers are almost equivalent, in terms of basin area, to the United States losing the entire Mississippi River.
Why have these rivers "vanished" from the maps and national records?
Official explanations from the Chinese government have attributed the significant reduction to statistical discrepancies, water and soil loss, and climate change...
The past 30 years in which these rivers vanished have coincided with a phase of rapid industrialization and urban growth in China. From 1990 to 2000, urban areas expanded by more than 5,000 square miles, an area the size of Puerto Rico, and the expanding economy has correspondingly strained water and energy resources. In Yale University's 2012 Environmental Performance Index, China is one of the worst performers (ranked 116 out of 132 countries) with respect to its performance on changes in water quantity due to consumption, including industrial, agricultural, and household uses.
Poor management of water resources has also exacerbated the situation. The main water resource law in China only requires permits for groundwater extractions for "large-scale" projects. The lack of specificity in this language has led to what Gleick says is substantial overdraft of groundwater throughout the country. Weak water governance also caused last September's red water flow in to the Yangtze River, an occurrence that left even Chinese officials perplexed.
What about the statistical discrepancies that the government says could have factored in to the rivers' disappearance? While some updates to river classification are plausible, cartography and mapping techniques have been very sophisticated in China for many years. One user on Sina Weibo tweeted an old map of waterways for Qingdao, showing abundant waterways in considerable detail. The maps are accurate and Qingdao's rivers have not been wiped away by "improved surveying methods" -- they have simply been converted into Qingdao's sprawling roadways, said one of the city's urban historians.
China is an ecological train wreck.  Its economy is going to crash down under its own weight.

Monday, April 29, 2013

You Aren't Going To Be Killed In A Terrorist Attack

From Ritholtz:

If the risk of being killed by a terrorist were added to the list, the dot would be so small that it would be hard to see. Specifically, the risk of being killed by terrorism in 2008 was 14 times smaller than being killed by fireworks.
Reason provides some more examples:
[The risk of being killed by terrorism] compares annual risk of dying in a car accident of 1 in 19,000; drowning in a bathtub at 1 in 800,000; dying in a building fire at 1 in 99,000; or being struck by lightning at 1 in 5,500,000. In other words, in the last five years you were four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.
The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has just published, Background Report: 9/11, Ten Years Later [PDF]. The report notes, excluding the 9/11 atrocities, that fewer than 500 people died in the U.S. from terrorist attacks between 1970 and 2010.
Terrorism will not be an issue in my death.  Alcohol is approximately 100,000 times more likely to kill me than terrorism.

A Boil on the Ass of the Body Politic

Jim Jordan makes the news:
Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there's a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.
"If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.
Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.
Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank's many suppliers are located.
If there's a home of the Abrams, it's politically important Ohio. The nation's only tank plant is in Lima. So it's no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol's Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.
"The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country," said Jordan, whose district in the northwest part of the state includes the tank plant.
The Abrams dilemma underscores the challenge that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces as he seeks to purge programs that the military considers unnecessary or too expensive in order to ensure there's enough money for essential operations, training and equipment....
The Lima plant is a study in how federal dollars affect local communities, which in turn hold tight to the federal dollars. The facility is owned by the federal government but operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor that spent close to $11 million last year on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The plant is Lima's fifth-largest employer with close to 700 employees, down from about 1,100 just a few years ago, according to Mayor David Berger. But the facility is still crucial to the local economy. "All of those jobs and their spending activity in the community and the company's spending probably have about a $100 million impact annually," Berger said.
Jordan, a House conservative leader who has pushed for deep reductions in federal spending, supported the automatic cuts known as the sequester that require $42 billion to be shaved from the Pentagon's budget by the end of September. The military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years, as required by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.
Still, said Jordan, it would be a big mistake to stop producing tanks.
"Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that," he said. "But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do."
There is no federal spending more wasteful than Jim Jordan's salary.   The guy is against any pork barrel spending that isn't in his district.  Back when he voted against the state budget because the sales tax went up, he threw a fit when the state closed the jail in Lima.  I love how he makes sure to spend money the Army doesn't want to spend, but doesn't give a damn about all the poor folks in his district.  And there are a hell of a lot of them.  The worst part is that the sane people of Northwest Ohio are stuck with him until he retires or dies, because every idiot in that part of the state is going to vote for him, and like the poor folks, there are a hell of a lot of them.

Cattle vs. Coal

LA Times:
Out in these windy stretches of cottonwood and prairie grass, not far from where Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer ran into problems at Little Bighorn, a new battle is unfolding over what future energy development in the West will look like.
Here, rancher Wallace McRae and his son, Clint, run cattle on 31,000 acres along Rosebud Creek, land their family has patrolled with horses and tamed with fences for 125 years.
They could probably go on undisturbed for 100 years more if the earth under the pastures weren't laced with coal. A consortium led by BNSF Railway Co. wants to build a rail line to carry some of that coal to market. Nine miles of it would run through the McRae ranch.
The McRaes and some of their neighbors say the Tongue River Railroad, and a proposed coal mine at Otter Creek, puts southeast Montana and ranchers like them at risk for an energy plan that mainly benefits Asia.
"It's going to cross our land, wreak havoc with our water, go through our towns," Clint McRae said recently, sitting in the rustic wood house his father built, its hearth hewn from local stone.
The Montana ranchers are in the minority. For many others, coal has been one of the few good things to come out of a region so barren it sent many early homesteaders fleeing to greener lands farther west.
The Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming already is producing 42% of the nation's coal, and with diminishing U.S. markets, producers are mounting a push to serve booming Asian industrial centers. Authorities are reviewing permits for four coal export terminals in Washington and Oregon that would ship up to 150 million tons of coal a year — including coal from Otter Creek — across the Pacific.
The issue has quickly become the hottest environmental debate in the Pacific Northwest. Nearly 9,000 people showed up at recent hearings on the export terminal proposed near Bellingham, Wash. More than 14,000 comments were collected, pitting those hoping for a new U.S. energy bonanza against citizens concerned about coal dust pollution and increased rail traffic.
Since the 1970s, coal has earned Montana $2.6 billion in tax revenues, and the Otter Creek Mine would bring more, along with 2,000 construction jobs and 350 mining jobs.
Two powerful interest groups butting heads.  That should be interesting.  I'd lay my bets with King Coal, though.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Miniature Melbourne

Miniature Melbourne from Nathan Kaso on Vimeo.

NASA Photo of the Day

Actually, it is a video:

Wringing a Wet Towel in Orbit
Video Credit: CSA, ASC, Expedition 35
Explanation: What happens if you wring out a wet towel while floating in space? The water shouldn't fall toward the floor because while orbiting the Earth, free falling objects will appear to float. But will the water fly out from the towel, or what? The answer may surprise you. To find out and to further exhibit how strange being in orbit can be, Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield did just this experiment last week in the microgravity of the Earth orbiting International Space Station. As demonstrated in the above video, although a few drops do go flying off, most of the water sticks together and forms a unusual-looking cylindrical sheath in and around the towel. The self-sticking surface tension of water is well known on Earth, for example being used to create artistic water cascades and, more generally, raindrops.

The Summer of Beer and Whiskey

Jacki Lyden interviews Edward Achorn, author of The Summer of Beer And Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America's Game:
The summer of 1883 proved to be a pivotal time for American baseball.
A brash German immigrant and beer garden owner, Chris Von der Ahe strode onto the scene to found a new franchise, the St. Louis Browns — a team that would later become the St. Louis Cardinals.
His motivation? To sell more beer. And while he made a fortune, he also changed the sport forever.
Von der Ahe would go on to help found a new league called the American Association, providing a stark contrast to the buttoned-up National League. Tickets were cheaper, games were held on Sunday and the booze flowed freely.
"This greatly expanded the reach of baseball and made it a much more popular game," Edward Achorn tells weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden.
For the first time, baseball was opened up to "people who traditionally couldn't go to ball games, including immigrants and working people," Achorn says.
Achorn tells the story of baseball's early days in his new book, The Summer of Beer And Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America's Game.
On Chris Von der Ahe
"He's just a wonderfully colorful character. He would go into the clubhouse after games and sort of yell at players, 'Vy did you drop dat ball?' — You know, as if they did it on purpose. He didn't really understand all the finer points of the game. But he was a brilliant man. And he just made baseball honest, he made it fun, and he just made the game boom."
The Beer and Whiskey League fascinates me.  The Reds dropped out of the National League and became founding members of the American Association because the German immigrants wanted to drink their beer at the baseball game and watch games on Sundays, and the National League was too prim and proper for Sunday beer sales.  Same deal in St.Louis and other towns heavy with Germans:
The American Association distinguished itself in several ways from what it considered to be the puritanical National League. The new league established teams in what the NL leaders pejoratively called "river cities", including Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville and St. Louis, with the inherent implication of lower morality or social standards in those cities. Living "down" to the NL's Victorian prejudices, the AA offered cheaper ticket prices, Sunday games and alcoholic beverages to its patrons. As such, the American Association was the world's first professional sports league designed to out-compete another by better accommodating blue-collar tendencies and attitudes toward spectator sport.
On November 8, 1881, at the Gibson House in Cincinnati, it was decided that individual teams in the league-to-be would operate their own affairs and set their own admission prices, under an agreement called the "guarantee system". The NL at that time prohibited the sale of alcohol on its grounds, while the AA had no such restrictions, especially as several of its teams were backed by breweries and distilleries. The AA became known as "The Beer and Whiskey League", another pejorative term applied by NL owners, and which did not seem to bother the fans of the Association's clubs.
Beginning in 1884 and continuing through 1890, the champion of the AA met the champion of the NL in an early version of the World Series. These early Series were less organized than the modern version, with as few as three games played and as many as fifteen, and the contests of 1885 and 1890 ending in disputed ties. The NL won four of these Series, while the AA won only one, in 1886 when the St. Louis Browns (now Cardinals) defeated the Chicago White Stockings (now Cubs).
Over its lifetime, the AA was weakened by several factors. One was the tendency of some of its teams to jump to the NL. The consistently stronger NL was in better position to survive adverse conditions. Some owners of AA teams also owned a NL team.The most significant blow to the AA was dealt by the Players' League, a third major league formed in 1890, which siphoned off talent and gate receipts. In a rare historical oddity, the Brooklyn Bridegrooms (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) won the league's championship and represented the AA in the 1889 World's Series, switched to the NL during the off-season, and then repeated the same feat.
No player who spent the majority of his career in the AA is in the Hall of Fame. The living legacy of the old Association is the group of teams that came over to the National League to stay. The Pirates moved to the NL after the 1886 season, the Bridegrooms/Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds after the 1889 season, and the Browns/Cardinals after the American Association folded following the 1891 season. Following the reorganization and contraction of the NL from 12 teams down to 8 in 1900, half of the eight surviving teams were former members of the AA. Several of the AA's home-field venues survived into the 1960s: The ballpark used by the 1891 Washington club evolved into Griffith Stadium; the home of the St. Louis Browns, Sportsman's Park; and the city block occupied by the Reds, which evolved into Crosley Field. Crosley was the last physical remnant of the AA to go, other than the clubs themselves, when it was replaced by Riverfront Stadium in mid-1970.
That is why you sometimes see the Reds' history listed at starting in 1882 or 1890, even though there was a Cincinnati team in the original National League in 1876.   I think I'll pick this book up sometime.

9 Letters From Young Salinger Come To Light

On Nov. 18, 1941, a struggling Manhattan author wrote to a young woman in Toronto to tell her to look for a new piece of his in a coming issue of The New Yorker. This short story, he said, about “a prep school kid on his Christmas vacation,” had inspired his editor to ask for an entire series on the character, but the author himself was having misgivings. “I’ll try a couple more, anyway,” he wrote, “and if I begin to miss my mark I’ll quit.”
He ended the letter by asking for her reaction to “the first Holden story,” which he said was called “Slight Rebellion Off Madison,” and signing, simply, “Jerry S.”
The writer was J. D. Salinger, then just 22, with works like “The Catcher in the Rye” still ahead of him and his literary success hardly assured. When Salinger died in seclusion in 2010, at the age of 91, he remained a mystery to his millions of readers, having shared little of himself with the world beyond the few fictional works he had published.
But this elusive author comes vividly to life in a series of letters he wrote from 1941 to 1943, which few people have seen in the 70 years since.
In this correspondence, which has been acquired by the Morgan Library & Museum and shared with The New York Times, the unsettled young Salinger reveals himself to be as playful, passionate and caustic as Holden Caulfield, the self-questioning adolescent who would become his most enduring creation.
I wonder what this lady thought over the years, as Salinger became a recluse and these letters seemed so much more unique.  Salinger's long distance flirting is entertaining.  Apparently, her family sold the letters to the museum to help pay for her nursing home care.  More about the origins of Holden Caulfield here.  More on Salinger here, here and here.

Commodity Traders Reap Quarter Trillion Dollar Windfall

A Financial Times expose (behind paywall) finds large commodity traders like Glencore, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus made a $250 billion profit over the past 10 years in the so-called commodity supercycle:

That is not good for the world.

Oregon Considers Brewer's Yeast As Official State Microbe

WAMU, via nc links:
A humble creature that has long toiled in obscurity for the benefit of humankind is poised to win a small measure of the distinction it deserves: designation as Oregon's official state microbe.
It looks to be the first microbe to gain official state recognition.
The microbe in question, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, plays a key role in the state's economy. Without it, sugar would not become alcohol, and Oregon would not have a craft beer industry worth $2.4 billion.
That's a lot of yeast.
The man behind the yeast's pending glamour moment is Mark Johnson, a Republican state legislator from Hood River, Ore. The idea, he says, came from a home-brewing constituent, who suggested that the legislature — which has already designated a state nut (hazelnut) and a state fruit (pear) — do the right thing by another living embodiment of Oregon's contribution to quality foodstuffs.
"It seemed like a good thing to proclaim Saccharomyces cerevisiae the state microbe," Johnson told The Salt.
The microbe's name came trippingly off his tongue. How long did it take him to memorize it? The lawmaker laughs. "You know, I have to keep a cheat sheet in front of me with the phonetics written out...."
Oregon ranks third in the nation in the number of craft brewers, according to the Oregon Brewer's Guild, which claims that Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world.
Not only that. Brewer's yeast is indispensable not just in brewing beer, but in making bread, cheese, and craft distilled spirits, all popular Oregon items. "It's the bedrock of a lot of fun and enjoyable products," Johnson says....
We at The Salt are longtime fans of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our resident bard, Adam Cole, sang the praises of this humblest of all beasts in a St. Patrick's Day tribute, which is definitely worth a view.
And Lydia Zuraw chronicled how brewers strive to make those finicky beasties happy. Because when the Saccharomyces cerevisiae is happy, we're all happy.
Way to go, yeast.

The Emptying of Rural America

Richard Doak looks at the demographics of rural Iowa:
The Census Bureau estimates that Iowa’s total population grew from 3,046,857 in 2010 to 3,074,186 in 2012, a gain of 0.9 percent.
As always, the overall population gain masked the decline in most of the state. Sixty-eight of Iowa’s 99 counties lost population between 2010 and 2012, according to the census estimates.
That has been the pattern since about the year 1900, due to out-migration — people moving away from farms and small towns to find better opportunities in cities and suburbs in and outside of Iowa.
Lately, this out-migration has been re­inforced by another trend. Demographers call it “natural change.” A natural population decrease occurs when there are more deaths than births in a given area.
More than half of Iowa’s counties suffered a natural decrease in population between 2010 and 2012, according to the census estimates. Natural decrease has occurred in some parts of Iowa in the past, but apparently never so endemically as now.
When more people are dying than being born, a community will lose population even if no one moves away. The only hope is to attract newcomers to move in, but, with few exceptions, small towns and rural counties haven’t had any luck getting that to happen....
Today, most Iowa children are born and will grow up in cities and suburbs. In 2011, the last year for which the Iowa Department of Public Health has full statistics, more babies were born in the 10 most populous counties than in all the other 89 counties combined.
Of the roughly 900 towns in Iowa, more than 300 had three or fewer births among their residents in the whole year. More than 50 towns had zero births among their residents.
In Iowa’s least populous county, Adams, there were 39 births in 2011 (and 52 deaths). That’s just one birth every nine days. In Polk County, 162 babies would be born in those same nine days.
You don’t need the statistics to know rural Iowa isn’t the kid-producing machine it used to be. Drive through any hamlet, and you’ll rarely see children. Mostly you’ll see old people. The few working-age adults you see might be living in a trailer or a once-abandoned farmhouse where the rent is cheap.
Those realities point to another change. Economic inequality might be especially acute in rural America. Some rural school districts in Iowa have poverty rates, measured by free and reduced-price lunches, as high as those in inner-city schools. While agriculture is enjoying an extended boom, most rural people are not farmers. They often live in towns where being a convenience-story clerk is the best, and perhaps only, job in town.
The late journalist Hugh Sidey, who grew up in Greenfield in the 1930s and ’40s, wrote that Iowa’s towns were one of God’s best works. Youngsters in a small town, he recalled, could roam in total freedom, yet never be out of sight of someone who cared.
Those ideal places to raise children must still exist, but not in the numbers they did. They no longer account for the typical childhood experience of being an Iowan.
As farms have gotten bigger, there are fewer farmers, and fewer businesses in small towns serving farmers, and fewer opportunities for kids to get jobs and stay in the community.  The non-farmers get poorer, folks move to the cities for jobs, and towns die off.  It is bad for the rural areas, bad for rural residents, and bad for the country as a whole.  Politically, it is one more example of the existential dead end the Republican party finds itself in.  It's main stronghold gets smaller and weaker every year, and yet the party continues to alienate folks in the cities and suburbs while becoming ever more conservative to suit their rural, elderly base.  Maybe that makes sense to you, but it sure as hell doesn't make sense to this guy.