Saturday, June 29, 2013

Rain Is A Good Thing

We took our combine up to the wheat field on Tuesday evening, even though the forecast was for the possibility of rain just about every day for a week.  For once, the weather man was pretty accurate.  So today, I was in the world's greatest burger joint and talked to another farmer about 10 miles away, who said that he'd run a load of wheat yesterday, and it was at 18% moisture, and he was going to try again after lunch.  So I decided I'd go ahead and try a little, just to see what it was.  Mine was at 26%.  That killed off that project for the day.  Right after that, it started drizzling again. That doesn't do anything good for the wheat, but it sure helps the corn, and I've got a lot more of that than wheat.  I guess this song is appropriate:

Well, I've got the rain, the corn and the whiskey, I'm just lacking in the girlfriend department. I guess 3 for 4 ain't bad. Last year I didn't have the rain, and the corn wasn't very impressive because of it. This is better.

Growing Kosher Wheat In Arizona

The New York Times reports on how an Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect is getting wheat for making their matzo from near Yuma, Arizona, and why:
For seven weeks, while the wheat grew in scorching heat under impossibly blue skies, two men clothed in the traditional black and white garments of the Hasidim stayed in a trailer overlooking the crop, to be able to attest that the wheat, once matured, had been untouched by rain or other moisture. Workers were prohibited from carrying water bottles in the field. Dust danced in the air as the wind blew, but unpaved roads could not be wet while the wheat was growing. The goal was to prevent any natural fermentation from taking place in the grains before they were milled into flour and the matzo was baked, sometime in the late fall.
Tradition calls for keeping watch over the matzo from the time the wheat is milled. Ultra-Orthodox Jews have carried that practice several steps further, guarding the grains before the wheat is harvested to ensure they are not overripe or wet from rainfall. That can be a challenging task on the rainy East Coast. Nonetheless, one segment of the Satmar sect, the largest Hasidic group in the United States, grows its wheat there, following seasonal weather forecasts to search for areas where rain is least likely to fall right before the wheat matures.
Five years ago, another Satmar group began shifting its wheat-growing operation here, where rain is rare at this time of year. That opened a new front line in the competition for the most rigorous standards in the production of matzo. (In a taste test, though, Vos Iz Neias?, a Jewish blog, chose neither, picking instead matzo made by the Pupa and Zehlem Matzoh Bakery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which is run by Hasidic Jews of the Puppa sect. It is said that they, too, have used Yuma wheat.)
Samuel Heilman, a professor of sociology at Queens College of the City University of New York, whose research focuses on the social ethnography of Jewish Orthodox movements, said the competition between the two Satmar groups — each led by one of two brothers — was about one-upmanship.
Good thing those guys aren't getting their wheat from here.  All we've gotten is rain. I'm glad that guy is growing it, I don't think I could deal with all that hassle.

Our Green Planet


For one year, from April 2012 to April 2013, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite (the satellite also made these “Black Marble” images of the Earth at night possible) collected data on the visible and near-infrared light being reflecting into space. In a press release, NOAA explains how these levels of reflected light help determine the “vegetation index,” a measure of plant life in any given region when viewed from space:
“Plants absorb visible light to undergo photosynthesis, so when vegetation is lush, nearly all of the visible light is absorbed by the photosynthetic leaves, and much more near-infrared light is reflected back into space. However for deserts and regions with sparse vegetation, the amount of reflected visible and near-infrared light are both relatively high.”
From this data came images of the Earth pared down to varying shades of green. ”The darkest green areas are the lushest in vegetation, while the pale colors are sparse in vegetation cover either due to snow, drought, rock, or urban areas,” NOAA reports. The video, above, even shows the changes in vegetation over the course of the year and its four seasons.
Here's a cool picture:

Here you can see the Mississippi River and its tributaries drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Image courtesy of NASA/NOAA.

 NOAA does all kind of cool stuff.  I really don't understand why that is always one of the first things Republicans want to cut.  Is it because of global warming?  Or are Republicans just really, really stupid?

Kansas City Board of Trade Closes

Bronze Grain Sculpture at Kansas City Board of Trade (photo credit marnox1)

Friday was the last day of wheat trading in Kansas City, where the hard red variety used to make bread has been bought and sold for 137 years near the banks of the Missouri River. Futures exchange giant CME Group Inc., which bought the Kansas City exchange in December, has already migrated the wheat contracts to its electronic platform and on Monday will move the remaining open-outcry business to its Chicago pits.
A handful of traders who work for big firms are making the move north. Most, though, will stick it out in Kansas City, grappling with the technology reshaping the Midwestern city's role as an agricultural and financial hub.
"Over the last few years, things have gravitated towards the computer," says Mr. Gibson, 67 years old, who plans to set up a brokerage business across the river from the exchange.
After hard red winter wheat was introduced to the region in the 1870s by Russian Mennonite immigrants, Kansas City's railroad lines carried the grain into the city's flour mills and out to the rest of the country and beyond. The exchange became a global destination for farmers and grain buyers to hedge the price of wheat, with trade fueled by a Russian grain crisis in the early 1970s and the Carter administration's 1980 grain embargo.
Consolidation among rail lines and mills has shrunk the city's agricultural profile and set the stage for its attempted revamp as a technology center. Google Inc.  chose Kansas City two years ago as the test site for a high-speed Internet service, luring software designers to so-called hacker hotels—hardwired houses set up near the border of Missouri and Kansas splitting the city.
The open outcry system of bidding is now really only for show.  Computers are doing all the real trading.  The part of that piece about the immigrants bringing the Turkey Red wheat is what really interests me.  Here's a little more about the Volga Germans and Turkey Red wheat:
Many Kansans believe German Mennonites arriving from Russia brought Turkey Red wheat to the state.  German Mennonites, known to be pacifists, had been lured to Russia in the late 1700s with promises of military exemption.  When Russian policy grew hostile in the 1870s, large numbers of this ethnic group left for more fertile lands.
Kansas was the destination of choice for many German-Russians.  Western railroad companies hoped to develop communities along their lines to increase profits through the transport of products and grains.  To populate these communities, they hired German recruiters to facilitate the immigration of skilled farmers from European countries with similar climates.  They recruited not only among the German Mennonites, but also Roman Catholic Germans farming along Russia’s Volga River.  German-Russian immigrants began arriving en masse on the central Great Plains during the 1870s; Mennonites settled in Marion County and Roman Catholics in Ellis County, Kansas.
These immigrants did not come empty-handed.  Family lore states that Mennonite families loaded kitchen crocks and traveling trunks with Turkey Red wheat seed before leaving Russia.  Arriving in Kansas in 1874, they planted their first crop in the rich farm lands around Goessel.  Although corn was the primary grain grown in Kansas at the time, Turkey Red wheat proved well-suited to the Great Plains.  The wheat berry contained more protein (producing the best flour), demonstrated more resistance to disease, and survived the harsh winter conditions following fall planting....But some experts have argued the Turkey Red story is only a myth. They claim it is highly unlikely that immigrants transported enough wheat to plant a significant first crop. In addition, Turkey Red was not the typical wheat variety grown by Mennonites in Russia, casting further doubt on the legend. Though it is difficult to determine who first introduced Turkey Red to Kansas, it is undeniable that German Mennonite communities like Goessel embraced the plant. Today, a vast number of modern wheat varieties grown in Kansas can be genetically traced to Turkey Red.
It may not be true, but it is a good story.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I didn't realize that Mercedes introduced crumple zones on cars to the market in 1959, but that's what this says:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Farmers Vote

That's what I've always said when explaining why we still have direct payments in the farm program, and apparently, that's what researchers have found out:
To measure what influences lawmakers’ farm policy votes, Carnes and Bellemare tracked down sets of data that they thought could indicate important motivators, such as a legislator’s personal policy preferences (the researchers looked up which officials had once managed, or owned, a farm), the number of voters in a district that would benefit from the policy, and the size of the campaign contributions that legislators had received from agriculture industry groups. The researchers write that, of course, the longer a legislator had been a farmer, the more farmers a legislator represented, and the more money a legislator received from farm groups, the more he or she supported legislation trumpeted by organizations such as the American Farm Bureau Federation.
But Bellemare and Carnes went a step further—they looked at the relative importance of each factor to figure out which one held the most sway over legislators. They found that the relationship between the three factors—a lawmaker’s background, the electorate, and industry group—is where things get interesting. For every control case, the number of farm worker constituents within a congressperson’s electorate outweighed the influence of interest group spending and lawmaker background. To be sure, the amount of money a legislator received from political action groups, and the years he or she spent corralling pigs and the like, did correlate with more support for bills that protected agriculture interests. But the number of farmers in a representative’s district was tied the closest to a representative’s farm policy votes.
Media and food activists like Bill McKibben have been known to blame tendentious lobbying efforts for a heady farm bill. But it turns out voters in farm states or districts could be the most important drivers of legislators’ decision-making.
I was telling a guy that last week, and he was getting really pissed at me.  He didn't get that I was mocking the system, but he'd also had a few.

Really? Farmland is Overvalued?

Jeff Kleintop says it is:
"Ten years ago you could buy an acre of Iowa farmland from around $1,000," Kleintop says in the attached video. "Last year, that went for $8,000," he says, pointing out that some recent sales fetched as much as $15,000 per acre.
While he's the first to acknowledge that farmland is in no way comparable to the size and scope of the housing crisis, he says there's more going on than just rising rates.
"It has to do with Emerging Market demand for more food," he says. "Very, very low interest rates have allowed these prices to soar." Add in a wet planting season and the fact that grain prices have actually moved lower over the past year, and Kleintop says "farmers are in the position where finances are a little bit tight."
In as much as mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are dependent upon steady employment, he says the U.S. Farm Credit System is dependent upon a good harvest.
Kleintop adds, "If we see these rates continue to rise a little bit in an environment where farmers simply don't have the income to make payments, you could see a minor financial problem develop, particularly amongst Midwestern lenders with ties to farmland."
You know things aren't looking good when the story starts to shift in the mainstream media.  I agree with Kleintop that ground is way too pricy, and due for a fall.  However, I'd like to know how shitty the land was that was selling for $1000 an acre ten years ago.  Ground around here was selling for $2400 to $3000 an acre back then, and this isn't Iowa.  As investors rotate to stocks, and the commodity "supercycle" winds down, we'll see who's swimming without trunks, as Mr. Buffett is wont to say.

A Real Life Crash Davis

As this is the 25th anniversary of the release of Bull Durham, I think it is appropriate that Bryan Curtis profiles a career minor leaguer, Mike Cervenak, who has spent 15 years in the minors, with only a short stint in the bigs:
After his junior year, Cervenak was drafted in the 43rd round by Oakland. He thought — naively, he realizes now — he would have plenty of chances to play pro ball. The next season, Cervenak wasn't drafted at all.
Cervenak got work with the only team that would take him: the independent Chillicothe Paints. It was like an Ohio club dreamed up by Sherwood Anderson. There was a woman in the stands who would toss Cervenak a caramel every time he got a hit and a plate umpire with one eye. In 2000, Cervenak's OPS had climbed to 1.035 when his manager, Roger Hanners, told him he was leaving. He'd been signed by the Yankees.
"I'll always remember going to the airport that morning," Cervenak said. "They said on the radio, 'Kind of a bittersweet day for Chillicothe. They win the game, but Mike Cervenak ends up getting signed, getting an opportunity with the Yankees.' I'm on the radio in Southern Ohio. I'm excited. I've made it!" In lieu of a signing bonus, the Yankees sent a plane ticket.
By 2001, Cervenak was rolling. He was 24 years old, which wasn't an awful age for Double-A Norwich. He hit pretty well that year — he had 37 doubles in 128 games. But he couldn't get out of Norwich. The Connecticut town had colonial homes and a river that boaters could ride to Long Island Sound for lunch. A nice older couple called the Hinsches rented Cervenak a room. It was the kind of place a minor leaguer can't wait to get out of.
Cervenak didn't get called to Triple-A in '01. In spring training the next year, he figured he'd get a promotion. But some Yankees major leaguers accepted assignment in Columbus, and Cervenak was sent back to Norwich. In 2002, he nearly doubled his home run total and added almost 50 points to his slugging percentage. Columbus didn't call. The Hinsches fussed over Cervenak; the local paper began to write articles about him. He was still in Norwich.
At the end of 2002, the Yankees announced they were moving their Double-A team to Trenton, New Jersey. Cervenak, who was depreciating as a prospect, was happy to toil somewhere else. "I said to someone at the gym, 'I tell you what: That's the last time this town will see my shadow!'
As you can guess, he got traded, and ended up back in Norwich.  I've got to say, I can think of a lot worse ways to make a living.  It may be frustrating, but I bet he made more money than most people, and only worked about 8 months a year, playing the greatest game on Earth.  Not too bad.

Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act are Dead

Monday, June 24, 2013

Making The Leadenhall Building

Making The Leadenhall Building from Paul Raftery and Dan Lowe on Vimeo.

What's Coming in Commodity Markets?

I don't know, but I found this thought interesting:
Yanis Varoufakis presents another theory from one of his correesondents:
What had happened was that interbank lending rates were rising in China. Unlike other credit crunches (e.g. that in Italy now), this particular credit crunch was effected by the Chinese government for the purpose of pricking the gigantic speculative bubble in China before it inflates further with devastating potential. This same bubble is intimately linked to the US economy: both US finance and the midwest mining areas of the US are fully involved. Shortly afterwards Chairman Bernanke started talking about relaxing QE3. If the Chinese government no longer wants to provide unlimited liquidity then the whole burden of sustaining the bubble would fall on the Fed. Mr Bernanke considers this to be far too dangerous and for this reason he may have brought forward the Fed’s exit from QE. In this reading, the Fed’s signal that it is exiting QE has nothingto do with the actual health of the US economy and everything to do with China’s economic situation and government intentions.
If I understand the concept of bubbles, I would assume that agriculture is part of the "midwest mining areas of the US."  If this interpretation is right, farmers might get pummeled.  An if anybody doubts the "end of the commodity supercycle" story, there sure have been a lot of mention about commodity prices with the Chinese slowdown:

Caterpillar is high on the list of American companies that could suffer in a Chinese credit crunch. If big Chinese firms can’t get easy money, there will be less mining and construction, which is bad for CAT and ultimately, the nearby Italian joint. 
But the fuller picture is bigger and more complex. Tighter credit could mean Chinese firms have much less to spend on raw materials that power their businesses. “It also means cheaper commodities and long-run, that might not be such a bad thing,” says FTN Financial chief economist Chris Low, who has spent time in China. 
That could mean lower energy costs for American consumers and businesses. Tighter lending in China will hurt banks there, but not necessarily Chinese consumers. A credit crunch could accelerate China’s transition to an economy relying less on big projects funded with cheap money, and more on Chinese consumers buying things, including American stuff. 
I think it will take some tremendous weather setbacks to overcome the mindset, if not even the reality of the commodity markets.  Even if China can pull through the credit crunch without major pain, the storyline underlying the commodities markets for the past five years is dead.

Smell of the Irish

This is fucking stupid:
The market for college branded products is worth $4.6 billion every year. That’s sales of college-branded T-shirts, baby clothes, bumper stickers and shot glasses.

But none of those products have allowed people to smell like their alma mater.

Enter college-licensed perfumes.

Notre Dame has announced it will be coming out with its scent: ND Gold Eau de Toilette for men. And for women? Lady Irish.

“As people buy their merchandise and their shirts they’re going to buy everything with the brand on it,” says Eric Smallwood, a vice president with sports marketing firm Frontrow Marketing. “You want to live breathe and smell like the brand day in and day out.”

Smallwood says no other group of sports fans is as devoted as fans of college teams.

Notre Dame isn’t alone in taking advantage -- schools like Penn State, Auburn and the University of North Carolina also have plans to license aromas.

But what do the scents actually, you know, smell like?

“Geranium, lavender, iced juniper, white pepper,” according to Katie Masik is the CEO of, that’s what the perfume of the University of North Carolina smells like. Masik’s company created and sells many of the college scents. “We say ok, where is the school located geographically? Is it in the North, is it in the South? Is it near the beach?”

The college-licensed perfumes sell for about $60 per bottle.
When I was there,  Notre Dame smelled like stale beer and yeast (from the ethanol plant), and, in my case, desperation.  I'd say I could recreate the smell for about $6 a 12-pack.  Something like Meister Brau or Ranier Draft Light or Busch Light or Milwaukee's Best Light.  Nothing too fancy.

Trapped in an Air Bubble For 60 Hours

This is crazy:
The story began on May 26 at about 4:30 a.m., when Okene got up to use the restroom. His vessel, a Chevron oil service tugboat called the AHT Jascon-4, swayed in the choppy Atlantic waters just off the coast of Nigeria. What caused the tugboat to capsize remains a mystery, though a Chevron official later blamed a “sudden ocean swell.”
Okene was thrown from the crew restroom as the ship turned over. Water streamed in and swept him through the vessel’s bowels until he found himself in the toilet of an officer’s cabin. As the ship settled on the ocean floor, the water stopped rising. For the next 60 hours, Okene—who was without food, water, or light—listened to the sounds of ocean creatures scavenging through the ship on his dead crewmates. Like a living Phlebas the Phoenician, he recounted his life’s events while growing more resigned to his fate.....
How did it work?

Getting With the Program

Robert Krulwich:

But why? How does it work, you may be asking. I wondered too, and simply stated, what we have here is the transfer of momentum resulting in the alignment of motion. (Don't be afraid. Keep reading.)
Even more simply stated: As the metronomes tick back and forth, they affect the table, and because the table is designed to absorb the motion of the metronomes, the table itself starts to move. Now that the table is rocking ever so slightly, it begins to affect the metronomes on top. Metronomes that are moving with the table keep doing that. Metronomes not in sync with the table have their motions dampened, then countered, until they do it "the table's way." Eventually all the metronomes come into alignment.
That's what you saw in our small, chamber music version. Now we're going symphonic.
This time, we'll have a much bigger table with 32 brightly colored metronomes — a Mormon Tabernacle Choir of metronomes — all misaligned. It will take two minutes for most of them to fall into line. But there's one gloriously stubborn metronome in the second row on the extreme right that fights the mob and won't conform. In fact, it cleverly chooses to follow the beat but in exactly the wrong direction. I thought maybe it would be allowed to stay that way, a Minority Of One ... persisting against the tide, but ... well ... you'll see ...
Pretty cool.

I Feel No More Pain

Gawker features an extremely sad letter from an Iraq war veteran to his family explaining his suicide (via nc links).  The long term costs of our recent wars are just starting to be felt.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wider Is Better

Nik Wallenda is trying to cross a gorge near the Grand Canyon on a tight rope right now:
Daredevil Nik Wallenda is using the Navajo Nation as a backdrop to one of his most ambitious feats yet — crossing a tightrope 1,500 feet above the Little Colorado River Gorge near the Grand Canyon.  The 34-year-old Sarasota, Fla., resident will set out Sunday on a quarter-mile cable stretched over the gorge that was eyed by another high-wire performer decades ago. The stunt comes a year after he traversed Niagara Falls earning a seventh Guinness world record. He'll be using the same 2-inch-thick cable he used to cross the falls, only this time he won't be wearing a safety harness.
His family history is different than most:
 Wallendas have been falling, and dying, for generations. In 1962, while performing their token seven-person pyramid ("the Seven") at Detroit's State Fair Coliseum, Nik's cousin Deiter lost his footing and the pyramid collapsed, killing two Wallendas, paralyzing another, and sending Karl to the hospital with a broken pelvis. The very next year, Rietta Wallenda, Karl's sister-in-law, died after falling off of a swaying pole in Omaha. A decade later Chico Guzman, another of Nik's uncles, fell to his death after brushing up against an electric clamp while handing Karl a balance pole in preparation for a 480-foot skywalk.
The patriarch himself died in 1978, a year before Nik was born. By then he was 73 years old and round in the middle. "He was God in our family. There was no questioning him," remembers Nik's dad, Terry Troffer, a retired wire walker who married into the Wallenda clan and who now works as Nik's safety coordinator. "He had no intention of dying in a nursing home. He wanted to die on the wire."
Anytime I hear the name mentioned, I think of the Pontiac Grand Prix "Wider is Better" ad campaign.  Then I think of the eskimo with the snow shoes.  I couldn't find the high wire ad, but this one made me laugh:

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet, Able To Stop A Massey-Ferguson Dead

Since Man of Steel is in theaters and it is almost time for wheat harvest, I thought I'd play  my all-time favorite scene from a Superman movie:

I don't know that it tops the game of chicken on tractors in Footloose, but this scene is plumb full of stupid. So the kid's head is bleeding when the dog is there licking him, then Superman flies in and instead of scooping up the kid and flying away, he stops the combine in its tracks and stalls it out (not good on the machine). Now, where did the dog go? Oh wait, he got back to the road faster than Superman, and is hiding in the culvert. But the flight heals the kid's head somehow. No cut, no blood.

I liked the ComicsAlliance review of this scene:
 Matt: Here's a question: How is Ricky even still alive at this point?

Chris: Is there any reason given for him to pass out in front of a wheat thresher in this scene?

Matt: His head is bleeding. Clearly he hit it. I just don't think he cares. Back in the bowling scene, he'd just throw it into the gutter and saunter on. Maybe the kid's really got some stuff going on.

David: He is a remarkably dumb kid, and being socially isolated as much as he apparently is can't help.

Chris: Needless to say, Superman shows up to stop natural selection from taking its course, and giving Ricky a story of the most exciting thing that could possibly happen to a person in this world, which still doesn't impress his classmates. What is the deal with these kids?!

Matt: Jaded Gen-Xers, man.

Chris: Like, if you were ten and you saw a kid you know shatter bowling pins one day and then you saw him the next and he was like "oh, I also met Superman," would that not be enough without him having to add "and he's coming to my birthday party?" That kid would've dethroned the fifth grader with a Game Genie and Super Mario 3 in a heartbeat. Uh... Maybe got a little too personal with those memories there.

David: Ricky should become pen pals with the kid from Niagara Falls.

Chris: If there's not a fanfic out there where that has happened, I will be sorely disappointed. As I tend to be in fanfics anyway.

Matt: Maybe they grew up and started a grunge band together.

David: That band was 3 Doors Down.

Chris: Or a Morning Zoo Crew. Thresher and the Falls, on WGBS in the AM!
There are a lot of funny comments in the review.

In The Middle

Odds are, if there is a skivvies party, I'd be the guy in jeans and a plaid shirt. Actually, if there is any party, odds are I'd be the guy in jeans and a plaid shirt. Apparently (based on my listening to public radio), these guys have a new album. And while I might be the only person in the world who didn't know where the band's name came from, the story made me laugh:
"It comes from our other guitar player, Tom's, family. Quite a long time ago, his brother Jim was picking on his younger brother Ed — I think they were like 6 and 8, or something — and sort of beat him up. And in retaliation, Ed drew this picture of Jim with a globe in his mouth, saying that he was so fat that he could eat the world, and wrote 'Jimmy Eat World' on it, and put it on his door for him to see when he got home from school one day."

Endangered Rivers

Topping the list is the Colorado River:
American Rivers, a leading non-profit dedicated to the conservation of rivers and riparian corridors across the U.S., recently unveiled its annual list of the nation’s most endangered rivers. The mighty Colorado earned the #1 spot, thanks mostly to outdated water management practices in the face of growing demand and persistent drought. “This year’s America’s Most Endangered Rivers report underscores the problems that arise for communities and the environment when we drain too much water out of rivers,” says American Rivers’ president Bob Irvin. “The Colorado so over-tapped that it dries up to a trickle before reaching the sea.”
Indeed, 36 million of us drink water from the Colorado. The river responsible for cutting the Grand Canyon irrigates nearly four million acres of farmland where some 15 percent of the nation’s crops are grown. But according to American Rivers, over-allocation and drought have placed significant stress on water supplies and river health—and another summer drought is on the way. A 2013 study by the federal Bureau of Reclamation finds that there isn’t enough water in the Colorado to meet current demands and that the flow will be as much as 30 percent less by 2050 due to climate change. That reduced flow threatens not only endangered fish and wildlife but also the river system’s $26 billion recreation economy....The Colorado is far from the only U.S. river in trouble. The runner-up on American Rivers’ 2013 list is Georgia’s Flint River, where excessive agricultural and municipal demands are taking too much water out. The story is similar for several other rivers on the list: Texas’ San Saba, Wisconsin’s Little Plover, and the Catawba in North and South Carolina.
It would probably help if alfalfa and cotton weren't major crops in Arizona.   Teddy Roosevelt has a legacy as an early environmentalist, but water resources development in the American West is not a tremendous achievement in the environmental field.

NASA Photo of the Day


Perigee's Full Moon
Image Credit & Copyright: Anthony Ayiomamitis (TWAN)
Explanation: A big, bright, beautiful Full Moon will rise at sunset on Sunday. Its exact full phase (June 23, 11:32 UT) will occur shortly before it reaches perigee, the closest point to Earth in the Moon's orbit, and make it the largest Full Moon of 2013. But such circumstances are not very rare. The full lunar phase falls near the Moon's orbit perigee about every 14 lunar months. That means the following Full Perigee Moon will be on August 10, 2014, the 14th Full Moon after June 23. On May 5, 2012, 14 Full Moons ago, this inspired telescopic night skyscape captured the Full Perigee Moon rising over Cape Sounion, Greece and the ancient Temple of Poseidon.
I had just seen a bunch of "supermoon" headlines, and was wondering how often we got that, since it seemed like they were talking about it just a few months ago.  There's the answer.

The Irish "Recovery"

This is the best case the Austerians can make for their policies?  Yikes:

 Unemployment was continuing to rise, and domestic demand — the total purchases by people and companies in Ireland — was continuing to fall. But the fact that Ireland’s current-account surplus had turned around when nothing similar had happened in such countries as Portugal, Spain and Greece was viewed as a clear sign of success for the country’s economic policies.
Well, maybe not..
John FitzGerald, an economist with the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, pointed out last month that a quirk in the way the statistics are computed, coupled with fears of a tax law change in Britain, had produced unrealistic increases in both the balance of payments and G.N.P. figures beginning in 2009.
The reasons are complicated, but the quirk is retained profits of multinational companies that chose to relocate their nation of incorporation to Ireland, even though they were, in fact, based in Britain. The G.N.P. and balance of payments data allocate those profits to Ireland, he said in a paper, even though “there is no profit to the Irish economy.”
The G.N.P. figure is similar to the more widely known G.D.P. — gross domestic product — but it includes profits only of Irish citizens and companies, regardless of where they were earned instead of profits of companies operating in Ireland. In an interview, Mr. FitzGerald said the Irish statistics office understands why the numbers are misleading, but feels it cannot change them under European rules. He said that European Union taxes on its member countries were based on G.N.P. numbers.
The accompanying charts show the official figures, alongside Mr. FitzGerald’s estimates of the proper ones after adjusting for the foreign-owned profits. By his estimates, the balance of payments did not turn positive until 2012, when the surplus was much smaller than the official figure. Similarly, the G.N.P. did not begin rising until last year.
So the main thing that has sustained the Irish statistics is corporations using it as a tax haven?  Great.  I'm sure folks will be pointing that out as we "reform" the corporate income tax here in the U.S.