Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Massive Fall In Rochester

At its peak, in 1996, Kodak was rated the fourth-most-valuable global brand. That year, the company had about two-thirds of the global photo market, annual revenues of $16 billion, and a market capitalization of $31 billion. At the time of its peak local employment, in 1982, the company had over 60,000 workers in Rochester, most of whom worked in Kodak Park, as it’s known to employees and locals. The campus, a private city within the city, sprawled over 120 acres with its own power plant and fire department, once stood as a monument of imaging and innovation. Today it still stands, but vastly scaled back from the days when film production was at the core of Kodak’s work.
 With a bitter blizzard hammering down in upstate New York, a bankruptcy judge had just approved a proposal to resolve a big chunk of Kodak’s $6.8 billion in debt and pave the way for it to emerge from Chapter 11 after more than a year of insolvency. The company expects to finalize the process and exit bankruptcy protection in the third quarter of this year.
Why didn't they go whole-hog into digital?  Possibly because the film business was so profitable for so long they couldn't bring themselves to give it up.

A supercell near Booker, Texas

A supercell near Booker, Texas from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

What's Really Important in Washington

This sounds way too truthful to be said by a politician:
"How serious do we take this?" asked Rep. Dennis Ross, a conservative from Florida with warning-track power. "We're up at 5:30 [every] morning, practicing for an hour and a half, for one game."
He added, "You won't see a lot of these guys this serious in their other congressional duties."
Unfortunately, I believe that is true.  If it was a wrestling match, I bet you'd find Jim Jordan out there, but that may only be because he'd get to grope a guy in a singlet.

Reap What You Sow

FEMA denies funds to rebuilding West, Texas:
The Federal Emergency Management Agency will not provide money to help rebuild the town where a fertilizer plant explosion destroyed and damaged homes and schools and killed 15 people.
In a letter to Gov. Rick Perry, FEMA said it reviewed the state’s appeal to help West. But the agency decided the impact from the explosion “is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.” FEMA has, however, provided emergency funds to individual residents.
West Mayor Tommy Muska said Thursday he's disappointed with FEMA's decision.
"I just feel like they have kind of cast us to the side," he said.
Muska said the city's insurance will cover the two water tanks that were damaged in the blast. Still, he said the city faces about $17 million in damages to streets and pipes.
West school superintendent Marty Crawford says that the school district was insured for $59 million, but rebuilding damaged schools will cost $86-96 million.
In the two months after the blast, Muska said other area disasters, like the tornadoes in Granbury and Moore, Okla., have taken priority, pushing West into the shadow.
“We’re pretty much third page news," he said.
President Obama, during a visit to attend the memorial service for first responders after the blast, promised that the nation will help West rebuild.
Perry’s office on Thursday also expressed dismay with the FEMA determination, but indicated the state will continue to supply information to the federal agency in hopes of reconsideration. The state can appeal the denial within 30 days of the letter, dated Monday.
FEMA director Craig Fugate said in his letter that FEMA believed the remaining reconstruction work was within the capability of state and local government.
"This explosion has impacted everyone in West in some way, and we are very disappointed that the Administration is denying the people of West this important assistance," said Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Perry.
It's a shame that because of carelessness and happenstance, a lot of innocent victims have to turn to their private insurance to rebuild their community, and that the funds available might not meet the tremendous cost, but this is NOT a natural disaster.   And it is truly ironic that Rick "maybe Texas ought to secede from the United States" Perry is whining that the federal government isn't helping them out.  I think folks from Hurricane Sandy, and even more so, Hurricane Katrina might have heard folks from Texas saying almost the exact same thing Craig Fugate said. 

Hawaii Volcanoes

Hawaii Volcanoes from QT Luong on Vimeo.

An Original Six Final

The Stanley Cup Finals start tonight, and they pit two Original Six teams, the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins.  This is the first matchup in the finals between Original Six teams (Chicago, Boston, the New York Rangers, the Detroit Red Wings, the Montreal Canadiens, and the Toronto Maple Leafs for all you prototypical redneck Americans out there) since 1979.  It also guarantees that for the 20th straight year, the Stanley Cup will be held by a team based in the United States (I was tempted to say America just to get some Canadian blood boiling).

I can't really pick any favorites here, because I kind of dislike both teams.  However, considering that Boston has won championships in every sport in the last 10 years, I guess I'd feel better about the Blackhawks pulling off the win.  It sucks when you only have teams you hate left to root for.  It becomes a lesser evil deal.  Thanks to the Cubs amazing suckitutde, Chicago is a lesser evil:
Mike Leake combined with Aroldis Chapman on a three-hitter and Todd Frazier hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning against Travis Wood, leading the Cincinnati Reds over the Chicago Cubs 2-1 Wednesday for their record 12th straight win at Wrigley Field.
Leake (6-3) won for the fourth time in five decisions, allowing Nate Schierholtz's second-inning home run into the right-field bleachers, his eighth of the season. Chapman struck out two in a perfect ninth for his 17th save in 19 chances.
The previous record for consecutive wins by a visitor at Wrigley was 10, a mark set by the St. Louis Cardinals (1943-44) and matched by the New York Giants (1950-51) and Montreal (1982-83), according to STATS.
Cincinnati is 10-2 overall against the Cubs this season and 25-6 dating to Sept. 13, 2011. Leake improved to 6-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 13 career starts against Chicago.
Utter domination.  Ricketts tears make me a happy man.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

An Eerie Light

Sunset combines with "the devil beating his wife" to give the evening a unique look:

Why Does The Economy Suck?

Bruce Bartlett lays it out:
The most disturbing economic trend today is the falling share of national income—the total amount of money earned within the country—going to workers. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), only 61.8 percent of national income went to compensation of employees in 2012, compared with 65.1 percent in 2001. (Historically, about two-thirds of national income has gone to employee compensation, which includes wages and salaries as well as supplements such as pension contributions and health insurance.) Since the vast majority of workers are in the middle class, this means the middle class has been falling behind over the past decade at an alarming pace.
The flip side to this trend is the rising share of national income going to capital—interest, rent, dividends, and other forms of so-called unearned income. Corporate profits have risen to 14.1 percent of national income from 8.5 percent in 2001. (Historically, corporate profits have been about 9 percent of national income.)
For some time, this trend was thought to be temporary—as with all economic data, these numbers fluctuate from year to year based on the business cycle, changes in inflation, interest rates, and other factors. It takes time for economists to conclude that a structural shift has occurred that puts a historical trend onto a new trajectory.
The rich get richer, and everybody else becomes a serf.  That doesn't work too well in a consumer economy, as we can see.  Too bad the politicians are fighting with one another to give rich folks bigger and bigger tax cuts.  And when taxes go up slightly from modern era historic lows, you'd think marauders were robbing the robber barons.  We are screwed.

Wild Foie Gras

More here.

Pure Awesome

Barbershop is going to get me anyway, but this is classic:

That's up there with Amish Paradise, or The Alternative Polka.

Pop vs. Soda, and Other Things

Joshua Katz uses Bert Vaux's regional dialect survey to make maps of where people say pop and where they say soda, along with a number of other different pronunciations and word choices.  Here's one of my favorites:

77. What do you call the activity of driving around in circles in a car?
     a. doing donuts (80.71%)
     b. doing cookies (1.74%)
     c. whipping shitties (1.43%)
     d. other (16.12%)
     (10011 respondents)
All Results

Choice a: doing donuts

Choice b: doing cookies

Choice c: whipping shitties

Choice d: other

Whipping shitties?  Those crazy folks in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Another term I'd never heard of until Monday was referring to rain while the sun is shining as "The devil's beating his wife."  Apparently it's a southern thing.  The dinner/supper deal was all mixed up around here.  My family called the noon meal lunch and the evening meal supper.  A lot of farmers used dinner and supper, while a lot of the town folks used lunch and dinner.  I'd like to see a map with "couch, sofa, or may grandma's word, Davenport.  It didn't make this study, though.  I also didn't see a question about how you pronounce "wash" (which for me rhymes with Porsche).

Monday, June 10, 2013


Christian Moerlein's new hefeweizen isn't too bad.  It's a little on the Hoegaarden commercial side of things, but it is a local beer, and it will taste pretty good in the summer heat.  Try one out and see what you think.

George Brett Hasn't Fixed The Royals

So says Sam Mellinger:
Look: the Royals were 21-29 overall and 4-19 over the previous 3 1/2 weeks before Brett was hired.
And look: they are now 28-32 overall and 7-3 since he was hired.
Brett fixed the team!
His aura and his awesomeness have fixed the Royals, turned them (back?) into something resembling a playoff team!
Except not really. I referenced this in Sunday’s column, but …
Look: the Royals were hitting .261 with a .314 on-base and .375 slugging percentage while averaging 4.0 runs before Brett was hired.
And look: the Royals are hitting .236 with a .303 on-base and .325 slugging percentage while averaging 3.5 runs in 10 games with Brett.
The one major improvement — and this is reaching — is that the Royals have scored four or more runs in six of 10 games with Brett. Before Brett, they scored that many in 19 of 50 games. Four runs seems to be the Royals’ magic number^, so this is a big deal if they can keep it up....There is one major stat that’s improved with Brett’s arrival. The Royals had a 3.82 team ERA before he was hired, and an absurd 2.02 team ERA since. Maybe Brett’s awesomeness is rubbing off on the pitchers. Makes as much sense as crediting Billy Butler’s barbecue sauce.
I don't know.  Anybody who would tell this story to other people has to be pretty awesome (NSFW, but hilarious):


Everest -A time lapse short film from Elia Saikaly on Vimeo.

Why is Ancient Cement Better than Ours?

The Atlantic Cities:

But if the dazzling concrete curves and cantilevers of modern architecture have matched the Romans' for style and structure, today's standard recipe, 2,000 years later, remains in some ways inferior.
New research into Pozzolanic cement, so named for the corner of the Bay of Naples where the ash of Mount Vesuvius facilitated its creation, shows the advantages of the Roman method. Their mixture for hydraulic concrete, a blend of volcanic ash and lime, has a tougher molecular structure than its modern equivalent. It's unusually resistant to fragmenting and nearly immune to the corrosion caused by salt water. That's why Roman jetties and port structures have weathered two salty millennia, while our maritime concrete creations degrade within a matter of decades.
So why aren't we doing as the Romans did?...One problem with ordinary Portland cement, which is used, along with pebbles and sand, to make most of the modern world's concrete, is that it requires an enormous amount of energy. The lime and clay mixture must be heated at over 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, making the manufacture of cement the third-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., and responsible for 5 to 10 percent of carbon dioxide production worldwide  .In contrast the Roman method, recorded by Vitruvius, requires 10 percent less lime by weight and two-thirds the baking temperature, greatly reducing its environmental impact. It also has a molecular structure that ensures strength and longevity, meaning that, like the piers of the great Roman harbors, it seldom requires replacement. Aluminum-rich ash, reacting with lime and seawater, forms a highly stable mineral called tobormorite, which modern cement can only imitate.
Now, I'm not a geologist, nor am I a chemist, nor am I a process engineer.  But it would seem to me that one reason the cement the Romans used required less energy to make than today's Portland  cement does is because the Earth did a lot of the cooking already before it got blown out of the volcano.  Anyway, the mystery of the tobormorite is intriguing.

The NSA and Big Data

With all the news about the government surveillance programs, maybe we'll get a real discussion about how dangerous these databases are, and how utterly pointless they generally will be.  How on earth can anybody put all that data to some good use when it comes to the supposed goal of stopping terrorists?  Does anyone think that having hundreds of billions of phone call records will really do anything to stop terrorist attacks?  To really root out any terrorists, you first almost have to have somebody blow something up so you know who's calls to trace back through.  That is something we could do after the fact anyway, without the gargantuan database. 

I think there is no doubt that somebody will tap into this data to try to stop some other more pedestrian crimes.  Insider trading, maybe?  Who's to say whether somebody was helped along by these databases in deciding who to ask for a warrant for, a whistle blower?

Speaking of the whistle blower in this case, here's a little data on his most recent employer:
Edward J. Snowden’s employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, has become one of the largest and most profitable corporations in the United States almost exclusively by serving a single client: the government of the United States.
Over the last decade, much of the company’s growth has come from selling expertise, technology and manpower to the National Security Agency and other federal intelligence agencies. Booz Allen earned $1.3 billion, 23 percent of the company’s total revenue, from intelligence work during its most recent fiscal year.
The government has sharply increased spending on high-tech intelligence gathering since 2001, and both the Bush and Obama administrations have chosen to rely on private contractors like Booz Allen for much of the resulting work.
Thousands of people formerly employed by the government, and still approved to deal with classified information, now do essentially the same work for private companies. Mr. Snowden, who revealed on Sunday that he provided the recent leak of national security documents, is among them.....
The company, based in Virginia, is primarily a technology contractor. It reported revenues of $5.76 billion for the fiscal year ended in March and was No. 436 on Fortune’s list of the 500 largest public companies. The government provided 98 percent of that revenue, the company said.
Its rapid growth, fueled by government investment after the Sept. 11 attacks, led to a 2008 buyout by the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, followed by a public offering in 2010.
Ah, the Carlisle Group.  It pays to put former big-time government officials into no-work positions that make them tons of money.  But seriously, $5.76 billion in revenue, 98% from the government?  I'm really impressed with the titans of the private sector.  And what do we get?  Enough information to determine who I have a crush on.  Please, end this shit now.  A few idiots in some God-forsaken country, are not worth the time, effort, talent and treasure we've put into wetting ourselves for.

Bale The Whirlwind

I forgot to mention that when I was baling last week, dad yelled at me and pointed off to the side.  I looked over, and the biggest whirlwind I'd ever seen was blowing in my hay field.  It was about 30 or 40 feet wide and 80 to 100 feet tall.  It threw hay all over out of three or four windrows, and lifted hay clear up over the trees that edged the field.  It was kind of neat to see.  If I'd have been a little closer, I'd have tried to run through it just to see how strong the winds were.  Back when I was in college, my roommate and I were heading out to Iowa City to meet up with his folks and one of his buddies, and as we were coming across I-80, I saw what I thought were some birds circling around above the road in front of us.  Instead, it was debris in a whirlwind, and when his car hit it, it moved us several feet across the lane.  It was pretty amazing.

Here's a video of a hay field whirlwind in England which is a little bigger and longer lasting than the one I saw:

More On Soil Erosion

Big Picture Agriculture highlighted the Soil Erosion Project, which tries to estimate the rate of soil erosion in Iowa.  Here's the map for May:

Now see the area of high erosion in the upper left hand part of the state.  The second county down on the left hand edge is Sioux County, home of at least two farms which sold for over $20,000 an acre.  Here is a map of county farm price averages in Iowa from ISU:

Now maybe I'm just a little more frugal than some folks, but I would get very ill thinking about the rich topsoil I just shelled out ridiculous amounts of money for washing or blowing away (and I'd probably cry).  Here in Ohio, there is a lot of variation in soil types, and I think that is one reason why we see a lot of variation in tillage practices here.  On our thinner and better drained soils (with lots of rocks), no-till makes a lot of sense.  However, a lot of folks practice conventional tillage on many of the high clay content, poorly-drained soils.  Now I'm not familiar with northwestern Iowa, but I was around outside of Ames a couple of years ago for the Farm Progress Show, and while we were there, they got about 3 inches of rain overnight.  And yet, the grass parking lot where all the visitors to the show parked didn't turn into a muddy mess.  That soil, besides being very friable, was extremely well-drained.  I really don't understand why anybody would have to till much of that soil.  I sure as heck wouldn't do it if it was going to wash away. 

A lot of farming practices come down to what the neighbors are doing.  If you get into a very conservative culture like the Dutch folks in Sioux County, I bet the mindset is that we've done things this way forever, and there is no reason to change.  I would posit that they are incorrect in that thought process.  Of course, I also think continuous corn is also a bad idea, so I'd probably get laughed right out of Iowa (however, I'm not this crazy). 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

NASA Photo of the Day

June 4:

Orion Nebula in Oxygen, Hydrogen, and Sulfur
Image Credit & Copyright: César Blanco González
Explanation: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. The Nebula's glowing gas surrounds hot young stars at the edge of an immense interstellar molecular cloud. Many of the filamentary structures visible in the above image are actually shock waves - fronts where fast moving material encounters slow moving gas. The Orion Nebula spans about 40 light years and is located about 1500 light years away in the same spiral arm of our Galaxy as the Sun. The Great Nebula in Orion can be found with the unaided eye just below and to the left of the easily identifiable belt of three stars in the popular constellation Orion. The above image shows the nebula in three colors specifically emitted by hydrogen, oxygen, and sulfur gas. The whole Orion Nebula cloud complex, which includes the Horsehead Nebula, will slowly disperse over the next 100,000 years.

All Done, at Least for a Bit

It was a fairly busy week.  Got the first cutting of hay made in the first half of the week and got the sidedressing done.  Now we're good until the wheat's ready to run.  Maybe I can get a few things posted in the next couple of days.