Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mars: Not For My Goddaughter

Also, Buckyballs!

Groundhog Day Prediction

Based on the last few weeks, I'm guessing Phil, Buckeye Chuck and their ilk will see their shadows tomorrow and we'll be in for six more weeks of winter (plus it is the prediction most of the time, which makes sense because spring is a while off).  I always like to post about Groundhog Day because I love pictures of an old guy in his top hat holding a large rodent.

A Visit To the Middle of Nowhere

Actually, Milligan, Nebraska:

I would guess free beer would have been more popular. I'm sure folks in Milligan will be talking about this for a while. 

The Agonizing Job Recovery

Richard Florida:
A report [PDF] released at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors last week – though it was spun optimistically, with predictions of job growth in 357 of the country's 363 metropolitan areas – lends support to this view. Just a third of all metros (121) are projected to have job creation rates of 2 percent or more. And while 40 percent are predicted to have unemployment rates below 6 percent during 2014, a worryingly high proportion – 35 percent – will see their rates hover above 7 percent.
The map below, from the report, shows the geographic variations of the great metro reset. It charts the time frame for return to peak employment in metro areas across the U.S.

A report [PDF] released at the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors last week – though it was spun optimistically, with predictions of job growth in 357 of the country's 363 metropolitan areas – lends support to this view. Just a third of all metros (121) are projected to have job creation rates of 2 percent or more. And while 40 percent are predicted to have unemployment rates below 6 percent during 2014, a worryingly high proportion – 35 percent – will see their rates hover above 7 percent.
The map below, from the report, shows the geographic variations of the great metro reset. It charts the time frame for return to peak employment in metro areas across the U.S.
To me, this looks like a map of where young folks move to vs. where they move from.  In the Rust Belt, some of these areas have to be hurt by demographic effects, since the populations aren't growing, except in average age.  As for the Sunbelt, I would blame the overbuilding in the housing bubble.

Texas Legislature May Move On West Disaster

 Photo: CNN

Austin American-Statesman:
The West fertilizer blast that killed 15 people will face more scrutiny over the next year from lawmakers who could strengthen state regulations surrounding chemical facility safety and inspections, according to a list of House priorities released Friday.
Republican House Speaker Joe Straus also directed a review of first responders in rural areas dependent on volunteer units such as in West, where most of the victims who rushed toward the April 17 blast at West Fertilizer Co. were volunteer firefighters.
More permitting for chemical facilities, however, won't likely come in the aftermath of one of the deadliest U.S. plant explosions in recent years.
El Paso Democrat Joe Pickett, chairman of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, said his panel is instead focusing on giving more oversight authority to current agencies. State inspectors, for example, could be given more power to enter chemical plants.
Last fall, State Fire Marshal Chris Connealy testified that several large fertilizer chemical plants in Texas turned away inspectors following the West blast.
"'I'm not looking at a whole bunch of regulation, or raising money through permit fees or overburdening businesses," Pickett said. "But I think there definitely needs to be a few changes so we can hopefully avoid situations like this."
The explosion injured an additional 200 people and caused more than $100 million in damages. Investigators have not yet determined a single cause or ruled out criminal charges
Investigating the West blast is among dozens of issues Straus ordered lawmakers to study before returning to the Capitol next year. Known as interim charges, the list also includes monitoring the federal health care marketplace in Texas and reviewing how 17-year-olds are considered adults in the state criminal justice system.
"I am confident that we can continue to address these issues in a responsible, bipartisan way," Straus said in a statement.
Pickett's committee already held two meetings last year following the West explosion. Texas has no state fire code, and Connealy's office lacks the power to make unannounced inspections of businesses or compel facilities to open their doors.
It ain't much, but it is something.  That's pretty impressive for Texas.

Weekend Links

Sinners in the Hands-When is a Church a Cult? - Texas Monthly

The Great Plains Oil Rush - NPR, a series on the impact of the shale oil boom in the Bakken

The new Koch - Fortune (full story behind paywall)

The Day We Lost Atlanta - Politico

Stunning Bubbles Frozen Under Lake Abraham - Smithsonian

America's Shopping Malls Are Dying a Slow, Ugly Death - Business Insider

California Drought Could Force Key Water System To Cut Deliveries - LA Times

Cousin Sal's Super Bowl Prop Bets - Grantland

Sidelined by Brain Injury, Ex-NFL Player Copes With Desperation - NPR

Source: Slate

Friday, January 31, 2014

Friday Night Music

A Long Way Down

Colorado Congressman Wagers Mountain Oysters on Super Bowl

 From Modern Farmer:
In the spirit of sportsmanship, the congressional delegations of both Colorado and Washington bet local goods on the upcoming Super Bowl between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. But the wager from Colorado Representative Cory Gardner (CO-4) might put the stomach of Washington's politicians to the testes. Er, excuse us. Test.
Offers from the other representatives are about what you would expect. In the event of a Broncos win, the Washington representatives will offer apples, wine and salmon. If the Seahawks win, those same representatives can feast on delicacies from the Centennial State such as select micro-brews, local tea and thanks to Congressman Gardner, a plate of Rocky Mountain oysters fried up with a side of dipping sauce.
Other catchy euphemisms for the dish include “cowboy caviar,” “Montana tendergroins,” “dusted nuts,” “bull fries,” and “swinging beef.” In more direct words, Rep. Gardner has wagered cattle balls on his home team.
My neighbor loves making mountain oysters.  I remember in high school that he and the ag teacher cooked some up in study hall, and I was the only person other than them to eat any (I love fried foods.  It is the only way I've ever eaten cauliflower, and I'd rather eat bull testicles).  A few years ago,  he made them at my next door neighbor's New Year's Eve party.  Again, only a few of us were willing to eat them (it didn't help that he told them to watch out for soft "cum pockets").  So this year, on the afternoon of the Ohio State-Michigan game, he traveled around the neighborhood cutting bulls.  He cut our township trustee's calves, his dad's and then three of my calves, including one weighing in over half a ton.  He put them all in his "nut bucket" (I shit you not) and was planning on cooking them up at the trustee's shop, but his dog got into the bucket and ate half the nuts.  That made him decide to hoard the rest for himself.  Anyway, if you have the opportunity to try them, I recommend you do.  They're pretty good, and it is a story you can break out to freak out the city folks.  Think McNuggets (which are much better than McRib)  I don't see bull balls on this, but:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Happy Chinese New Year

Millions of Chinese are currently heading to their hometowns (yes, yes, mock away) for the Lunar New Year—the world’s largest annual human migration. Last year, a total of 3.4 billion trips were taken, 3.1 billion of them by road. In total, 35.5 million people traveled by air, 43 million by boat. To put that number in perspective, only a little more than 3 million people in total went on Hajj to Mecca in 2012.
Baidu, China’s largest search engine, created the stunning map above showing the migration for the 40-day festival. As Smart Planet describes it, the map was “created using data taken from users of its location-based applications to calculate and analyze the mass migration of the population during the Spring Festival. The map shows the travel routes and their popularity.” If you click into the interactive version, you can get data for specific cities (in Chinese only.)
And we think Thanksgiving is a huge travel holiday.  Now I want to set off some fireworks.

Dictatorial Tyrant?

Republican rhetoric rarely reflects reality (how about that alliterative treasure):

In truth, the whole issue of the imperial presidency was baked in the cake by the Founding Fathers, many of whom were in favor of giving the president king-like powers. Others, of course, thought Congress should hold all power, with the president as a mere errand boy. Without a clear line between executive and legislative power, we have been engaging in trial-and-error since 1789, with power ebbing back and forth depending on circumstances, personalities, court cases and other factors.
Insofar as Obama is concerned, he has actually been among the least aggressive presidents in recent history to use executive orders to implement his agenda. As University of Chicago law professor Eric Posner points out, Obama has issued far fewer executive orders per year than Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, as shown in the chart.
Ironically, those who believe in congressional primacy and fear executive overreach are partially responsible for the latter. They have championed use of the filibuster in the Senate to block even the most routine legislation and executive branch appointments. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to it except the assumption that whatever Obama wants is per se bad or that Republicans deserve to get something in return for every vote.
The result has been implementation of the so-called “nuclear option” in the Senate, where majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, engineered a sharp limitation on all filibusters against executive branch nominations. In short, overuse of the filibuster led to its demise.
Similarly, Congress’s refusal to act on many Obama initiatives creates inevitable pressure on him to act unilaterally. It would be much harder for him to do so in the face of a vote in Congress explicitly rejecting one of the policies he has implemented by executive order.
Therefore, one way Congress can restraint the president is simply by doing its job.
It is pretty clear why Bruce Bartlett got excommunicated from the Republican cult.

Chevy's Super Bowl Romance

This is purportedly one of the Chevrolet ads that will air during Sunday's Super Bowl:

I say purportedly because I've seen several "preview ads," and I would think that as fiendishly clever as advertising jerks are, they'd be making a bunch of ads targeted toward various demographics, then releasing them on social media to get folks to share them and give the companies free exposure (yes, I'm doing what they want, but I'll have the last laugh since only about a dozen people read this thing, and anyway, it fits into the theme of this site, and Paul Harvey was featured here last year). Sort of like how the sleazy political groups post completely slanderous attack ads on their websites, then let the news media give them free airtime without ever making any ad buys. Anyway, I'm glad to see Herefords getting some publicity, but my recent run-in with my bull does take some of the charm out of it.

A New Land Grant University?

Sort of:
The House Wednesday morning approved a bill that would make Central State University a land grant university.
The provision, included in the five-year farm bill, passed by a 251-166 vote.
Central State has sought land-grant status since 1890, when the federal government named more than a dozen historically black colleges and universities as land grant colleges. The designation means that schools are tasked with teaching practical agriculture, science, military science and engineering, but also makes schools eligible for federal dollars. Central State President Cynthia Jackson-Hammond said it will also help encourage research and new partnerships with other land grand colleges.She also said it would help as a recruitment tool for the university. The only other land grant institution in Ohio is Ohio State University.
"We are ecstatic," she said.
Reps. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland and Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Township were among those who worked on the measure in the House, though other members of the Ohio delegation cosponsored an amendment to designate Central State as a land grant institution or signed a letter supporting the move. Beatty is a Central State alumni. In the Senate, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, spearheaded the effort. Fudge and Brown were members of the Senate-House committee that crafted the final legislation, which now goes to the Senate.
"As Ohio's only public Historically Black College and University, this designation is long overdue," Turner said. "When CSU first sought land grant status over 120 years ago, it was intense political wrangling that denied CSU this designation. It is fitting that my Ohio colleagues in both the House and the Senate worked on a bipartisan, bicameral basis to see this through."
This seems a little odd, but it does highlight a strange little bit of history.  The Morrill Act of 1862 set up the land grant universities,which have educated generations of rural residents.  It was followed up by the Morrill Act of 1890 (the Agricultural College Act of 1890), which was passed to address discrimination in the former Confederate states:
A second Morrill Act in 1890 was also aimed at the former Confederate states. This act required each state to show that race was not an admissions criterion, or else to designate a separate land-grant institution for persons of color. Among the seventy colleges and universities which eventually evolved from the Morrill Acts are several of today's historically Black colleges and universities. Though the 1890 Act granted cash instead of land, it granted colleges under that act the same legal standing as the 1862 Act colleges; hence the term "land-grant college" properly applies to both groups.
Later on, other colleges such as the University of the District of Columbia and the "1994 land-grant colleges" for Native Americans were also awarded cash by Congress in lieu of land to achieve "land-grant" status.
Ohio looks to be the only state that wasn't a slave state or formerly part of a slave state (West Virginia) that would have a historically black college as a land grant institution.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Aurora Borealis, Milky Way, thunderstorms and corn, what else could you want?

Huelux from Randy Halverson on Vimeo.

Monarch Butterfly Migration Smallest Ever Recorded

Feeding on a weed seems like a good evolutionary bet. And for a long time, it worked well for the monarch butterfly.
The butterfly’s life cycle is exquisitely synchronized to the seasonal growth of milkweed, the only plant its larvae will eat. In a game of hopscotch, successive generations of monarchs follow the springtime emergence of milkweed from Mexico as far north as Canada. The hardy plant once flourished in grasslands, roadsides, abandoned lots, and cornfields across much of the continent. It fueled a mass migration that ended each winter with more than 60 million butterflies converging on pine forests in the Sierra Madres.
Then came Roundup.
The number of monarchs reaching Mexico has been falling for years, and it has now reached the lowest level on record. The World Wildlife Fund announced Wednesday that butterflies this winter were found in 1.7 acres across 11 sanctuaries, down from a high of 45 acres in 1996. If you want to know a main reason why, look no further than your corn chips and ethanol-spiked gasoline.
It's pretty ironic that 1996 was the largest migration recorded.  I'm pretty sure that 1997 was the first year that Roundup Ready beans were publicly available.  Or at least the first year we grew them.  As I've said before, I remember seeing milkweed everywhere as a kid, but I haven't seen any in a long time.

Where Wind Power is Generated

From Scientific American:

Texas. We’re known for big hats, presidents, and oil and gas. So it might suprise you that when the Energy Information Administration asks “how much #windpower is produced in each state?” the Lone Star State comes out on top.
Earlier this week, ERCOT, the grid operator for most of Texas, announced that wind supplied nearly 10 percent of the state’s energy in 2013, up from 9 percent in 2012 and 5 percent in 2008.

Considering how much electricity is generated in Texas, 10% is pretty impressive.  And here this is all I thought came from Texas:

What's In the Farm Bill?

SNAP and a little bit of spending on ag programs:

A little bit of detail on the farm side of things:
Commodity programs, $44.4 billion over 10 years ($14 billion less than existing law). This section includes a variety of programs to shield farmers against sharp fluctuations in prices, particularly corn, wheat, soybean, cotton, rice, peanut, and dairy producers.
In past years, this was an even bigger chunk of various farm bills, which often provided “direct payments” to farmers regardless of how much they actually planted or how much they would sell their crops for. This latest farm bill would cut most of these direct payments, saving about $19 billion over 10 years.
Those cuts are arguably the biggest policy change in the farm bill — and they're controversial among farmers. Many of the savings have been channeled into other types of farm aid, including billions of dollars in disaster assistance for livestock producers and subsidized loans for farmers. Meanwhile, the crop insurance program has been expanded (see below).
Notably, the bill would also abandon the 70-year-old practice of setting minimum prices for milk, cheese, and butter. Instead, the bill would offer insurance to dairy farmers to protect themselves against falling milk prices or rising feed costs.
Crop insurance, $90 billion over 10 years ($7 billion more than existing law). For decades, farmers have been able to buy federally-subsidized crop insurance in case their crops fail or prices decline. But under the new farm bill, the government would also spend an additional $7 billion over 10 years covering the deductibles that farmers have to pay before the insurance kicks in. This is supposed to help cushion the blow from the loss of direct payments.
This is one of the more contentious parts of the farm bill. Some critics have warned that this insurance program could cost far more than expected, depending on how crop prices shift. And the Environmental Working Group has argued that a disproportionate amount of these subsidies go to the wealthiest farm operators.
Conservation, $57.6 billion over 10 years ($4 billion less than existing law). This includes programs to help farmers protect against soil erosion and to use ecologically friendly methods like drop irrigation. It also includes programs that pay farmers to grow on less land.
This part of the farm bill was cut by about $4 billion (compared with previous bills) — in part because the government will be supervising a smaller total area. There's also a fair bit of consolidation here: 23 different conservation programs will be shrunk into 13 programs.
That's about 90% of the ag spending in the bill.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is RNA Interference the Next Crop Biotech Weapon?

Scientists and biotechnology companies are developing what could become the next powerful weapon in the war on pests — one that harnesses a Nobel Prize-winning discovery to kill insects and pathogens by disabling their genes.
By zeroing in on a genetic sequence unique to one species, the technique has the potential to kill a pest without harming beneficial insects. That would be a big advance over chemical pesticides.
“If you use a neuro-poison, it kills everything,” said Subba Reddy Palli, an entomologist at the University of Kentucky who is researching the technology, which is called RNA interference. “But this one is very target-specific.”
But some specialists fear that releasing gene-silencing agents into fields could harm beneficial insects, especially among organisms that have a common genetic makeup, and possibly even human health. The controversy echoes the larger debate over genetic modification of crops that has been raging for years. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticides, will hold a meeting of scientific advisers on Tuesday to discuss the potential risks of RNA interference.
“To attempt to use this technology at this current stage of understanding would be more na├»ve than our use of DDT in the 1950s,” the National Honey Bee Advisory Board said in comments submitted to the E.P.A. before the meeting, at the agency’s conference center in Arlington, Va.
There has already been a mishap: 
One laboratory study by scientists at the University of Kentucky and the University of Nebraska, for instance, found that a double-stranded RNA intended to silence a rootworm gene also affected a gene in the ladybug, killing that beneficial insect.
Concerns about possible human health effects were ignited by a 2011 paper by researchers at Nanjing University in China. They reported that snippets of RNA produced naturally by rice could be detected in the blood of people and mice who consumed the rice and could even affect a gene that regulates cholesterol. Such a “cross kingdom” effect would be extraordinary and was met with skepticism. At least three studies subsequently challenged the findings.
As if ladybugs haven't already had a hard time recently.  I'm open to new science in pest control, but I don't want to see us rush into a major cockup.  Monsanto has enough enemies already.

Running Out the Clock

Yesterday's amendment of Indiana HJR 3 is a big deal because it may put off the statewide vote on a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage:
Revising Indiana’s constitution is a long, multi-step process.
If the Senate approves the House version of the resolution, a statewide referendum on the gay marriage ban likely would be delayed until 2016, because a new General Assembly probably would have to approve it again next year.
Supporters of the ban, including Gov. Mike Pence, wanted it on the ballot this November. That could still happen if the Senate restores the second sentence and the House goes along with the change.
The General Assembly passed the amendment, including the civil union ban, in 2011. State law is generally interpreted to require the approval of an identical amendment by separately elected General Assembly before the issue can be put on the statewide ballot for a final decision by the public.
Some, though, have argued the altered version of the ban may still be able to go to a referendum this November.
“Without any case law directly on point, differences of legal opinions undoubtedly will result among private outside lawyers advocating for certain positions,” said Bryan Corbin, press secretary for Attorney General Greg Zoeller.
He said the attorney general will be prepared to “defend the legal authority and decisions” of the legislature.
Clearly, sane Republicans in Indiana can feel the ground shifting under their feet.  If that amendment postpones the statewide vote until 2016, it allows more time for gay marriage opponents to die, and for supporters to turn 18. It would also guarantee a much larger turnout, which would tend to benefit the opponents of the amendment.  It blows me away that the "pro-business" party will go out of its way to ignore the positions of the Fortune 500 companies in their state just to hate on gay folks, supposedly in the name of Jesus.  And like in most other things, Indiana comes to this issue 10 years late.  To be honest, I don't really care what those stupid Hoosiers do, but it is interesting to watch.  The Republican Party-standing athwart history yelling "God hates fags."  That doesn't seem like the path to future electoral success, in my humble opinion.

Big Power in a Small Package

Anyone can build a small engine. Hell, Ford’s tiniest Ecoboost engine has the displacement of a soda bottle. And now Nissan’s managed to build a wee little engine that puts out a stunning 400 horsepower with just three cylinders. And at 88 pounds, you could use it as part of your CrossFit regimen.
The tiny turbocharged engine will propel Nissan’s Batmobilesque ZEOD RC, due to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans later this year. With a displacement of just 1.5 liters, the lil’ mill has a better power-to-weight ratio than the high-revving V6 engines that power this year’s Formula 1 racers.
Nissan calls it the DIG-T R, and it’s as compact as it is light. The engine is just under 20 inches tall and a little over seven inches wide — small enough to fit in a plane’s overhead bin — before you bolt on the turbo, induction system and exhaust.
The smaller engine comes as Nissan strives to boost efficiency at Le Mans, where greater fuel economy on the track means less time in the pits. The ZEOD RC is the successor to the wild DeltaWing that ran the 24-hour race in 2012, and the tiny engine is part of a cool gas-electric hybrid drivetrain.
That is pretty kickass.  More on the newest F1 engine here.

Why Are Corporate Profits So High?

Because wage growth is so miniscule:

U.S. businesses have never had it so good.
Corporate cash piles have never been bigger, either in dollar terms or as a share of the economy.
The labor market, meanwhile, is still millions of jobs short of where it was before the global financial crisis first erupted over six years ago.
Not in the slightest, according to Jan Hatzius, chief U.S. economist at Goldman Sachs:
“The strength (in profits) is directly related to the weakness in hourly wages, which are still growing at just a 2% nominal pace. The weakness of wages and the resulting strength of profits are telling signs that the US labor market is still far from full employment.
Want to know when the stock market will go way down?  When that profits as a percent of GDP chart reverts to the mean.  But that may be a while:
So, corporate profits are their highest ever and wage growth is near its lowest in half a century. But don’t expect the transfer of that cash from businesses to workers to start any time soon, says Hatzius:
“The bottom line is that the favorable environment for corporate profits should persist for some time yet, and the case for an acceleration in the near term is strong. Hourly labor costs would need to grow more than 4% to eat into margins on a systematic basis. Such a strong acceleration still seems to be at least a couple of years off.”
However, it will happen at some point.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Constitutional Amendment Banning Gay Marriage May Fail in Indiana

Indianapolis Star:
In an atmosphere of rapidly shifting opinions on gay marriage, nearly two dozen Indiana House Republicans bucked their leadership to strip a same-sex marriage ban of the clause opponents find most objectionable.
The House voted 52-43 to remove the proposed constitutional amendment's second sentence, which would have banned civil unions and similar arrangements. That leaves only the first sentence, which would still ban gay marriages.
If the altered version is adopted by both chambers of the General Assembly, the measure would not go to voters this November as supporters — including Gov. Mike Pence — would like. The full House is expected to vote on the altered resolution Tuesday.
This morning, the Star had a map showing supporters and opponents of the Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  Of course, rural legislators supported the ban, while urban legislators opposed it.  If the reactionaries in Indiana can't pass this, it will highlight the huge shift on this issue in the past 3 years.  The Indiana House passed the bill 70-26 in 2011.  Regardless, the state already has a state law banning gay marriage, but gay marriage foes feel obliged to enshrine discrimination in the state constitution.  You know, freedom. 

House, Senate Reach Farm Bill Agreement

Des Moines Register:
Lawmakers completed work on a new five-year $500 billion farm bill proposal on Monday, bringing closer to an end more than two years of struggles and tense negotiations over the much-delayed legislation.
The farm bill drafted by a team of House and Senate negotiators would save an estimated $24 billion over 10 years, with about a third of the spending cuts coming from the popular food stamp program. The proposed legislation also would mark the end of $5 billion in annual direct payments, increase the number of crop insurance programs available to farmers and require farmers to follow conservation compliance measures to receive subsidies.
The 41 House and Senate lawmakers on the conference committee completed the legislation that is expected to advance to a vote in the full House Wednesday. The Senate could act as soon as next week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday the farm bill is one of his top priorities.
Hey, only a year or so late.  Not bad for these clowns.

Basketball Legend Tom Gola Dies

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Tom Gola, 81, a giant from Philadelphia basketball's greatest generation who parlayed his fame as perhaps the most honored player in college history into a career in the NBA, politics, and business, died Sunday at St. Joseph's Manor in Meadowbrook.....
The square-jawed son of a Philadelphia policeman, Mr. Gola had led a life so charmed it seemed to have been scripted for a fictional hero.
He won championships at every level, from elementary school to the NBA, coached a college team many consider to be the best in Big Five history, was elected to state and citywide offices as well as the basketball Hall of Fame, became a successful businessman, and saw his alma mater's arena named in his honor.
Not bad for someone who grew up in an Olney rowhouse, just around the corner from the Incarnation of Our Lord parish gym, where he learned the game that would make him a local legend.
Mr. Gola transformed Incarnation's team into national schoolboy champions; paced La Salle College High to a city title; and then, at La Salle College, enjoyed astounding success.
With Mr. Gola as their do-everything star, the Explorers won the 1952 National Invitation Tournament title and 1954 NCAA title and, in his senior season of 1955, were NCAA runners-up. In his four years there, La Salle won 102 of 121 games.
He was an MVP in those NCAA and NIT titles, the college player of the year in 1955, and the first player named a first-team all-American four consecutive seasons.
He scored more than 20 points a game, although he probably could have averaged 30. And though he frequently brought the ball up court for coach Ken Loeffler's La Salle teams, Mr. Gola managed to collect an astounding 2,201 rebounds, an NCAA career record that has stood for more than half a century.
Then, in his rookie season with the hometown Warriors, who had made him a territorial pick, Mr. Gola helped Philadelphia win the 1956 NBA championship.
He was a five-time NBA all-star during his 10 pro seasons, but Mr. Gola became primarily a defensive specialist. He averaged 11 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists a game before retiring in 1966 after a stint with the New York Knicks. Mr. Gola coached two seasons at his alma mater, most notably guiding the Explorers to a 23-1 record and a No. 2 national ranking in 1968-69. But because of NCAA violations during the tenure of his predecessor, Jim Harding, those Explorers were ineligible for postseason play. He coached one more season at La Salle and then concentrated on politics.
Wow, that's quite a career.

Legitimate Sex, or Sin?

A flowchart based on a Medieval penitential:

Penitentials were handbooks carried by some priests in the Middle Ages that delineated various sins for private confession and their penances. They were full of strict limitations as to what constituted pious behavior. They went on and on. To digest it all, James A Brundage, a scholar of the Crusades, aggregated the complex rules about sex into this excellent flowchart.
Brundage originally published the chart in his book Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe, which is now a standard text in Medieval history, lauded on several sites like The History Blog. The book's publisher, upon learning of my appreciation for this chart, allowed me to share it here as well.
Penitentials were condemned by the Catholic church in 829, but some were still around centuries later.
Wait, so you could only have sex on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays that weren't feast days, or in Lent, Advent or Easter week?  Wow, that is pretty amazing.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Population Distribution of U.S. in Units of Canada

From Stephen's Lighthouse, via Ritholtz:

Canadian popultaion is nearly 35 million, compared to 317 million for the U.S. so U.S population would be about 9.2 Canadas.

NASA Photo of the Day

January 22:

The Upper Michigan Blizzard of 1938
Image Credit: Bill Brinkman; Courtesy: Paula Rocco
Explanation: Yes, but can your blizzard do this? In Upper Michigan's Storm of the Century in 1938, some snow drifts reached the level of utility poles. Nearly a meter of new and unexpected snow fell over two days in a storm that started 76 years ago tomorrow. As snow fell and gale-force winds piled snow to surreal heights; many roads became not only impassable but unplowable; people became stranded; cars, school buses and a train became mired; and even a dangerous fire raged. Fortunately only two people were killed, although some students were forced to spend several consecutive days at school. The above image was taken by a local resident soon after the storm. Although all of this snow eventually melted, repeated snow storms like this help build lasting glaciers in snowy regions of our planet Earth.
Ok, so maybe this winter hasn't been too rough around here.  A little bit on the blizzard of 1978, the biggest one in this area, here and here.  The record setting blizzard of 1888 is recounted here.

In Next 20 Years, Many Iowa Acres Will Change Hands

Des Moines Register:
Iowa could see nearly 60 percent of the state’s farmland change hands over the next 20 years, a speaker at the Land Investment Expo in West Des Moines said Friday.
That represents nearly $150 billion in value, Ron Beach, a Peoples Co. broker, told a packed room of farmers, landowners and others. Peoples, a Clive-based land management and real estate company, organized the event.
Beach said demographics are driving the changes. Nearly 30 percent of the state’s farmland is owned by farmers 65 to 74 years old, and 30 percent is owned by farmers who are 75 years or older.
Of those owners, about 70 percent will give their land to their children, Beach said. And 50 to 60 percent of those inheriting the land will sell it.....
Altogether, Iowa’s farmland is valued at $267.6 billion.
Beach told the group that Iowa land values should remain relatively steady, although declining commodity prices have caused the market to “top out” and likely plateau.
He sketched out a scenario where Iowa farmland could push down to about $6,000 an acre, with corn prices hovering around $4.25 a bushel. An Iowa State University land survey in December showed farmland values averaged $8,716 an acre in 2013.
Beach said he wasn’t making a prediction, but offering an example of how changing commodity prices and interest rates can shift the fundamentals of farmland values.
I think those age brackets and percentages probably look fairly similar over much of the corn belt.  I would expect increased supply on the market to also push land values downward.

The Art of Complexity

Rube Goldberg Machine Contest:

Some of Rube Goldberg's work can be found here.

Exporting Water From the Desert Southwest

National Geographic (via Sowing Agricultural Seeds Daily):
In July in Yuma County, Arizona, Dave Sharp's alfalfa crops, like every other living thing in the 105°F (40°C), dry desert heat, get thirsty.
All that keeps them alive, and indeed keeps these fields and the hundreds of thousands of acres surrounding them in Yuma County from going fallow, is the Colorado River, diverted one last time through the Yuma Project before flowing across the border into Mexico.
The same can be said of California's Imperial Valley, across the river and about 60 miles (97 kilometers) to the west, which was essentially uninhabitable before the Imperial Canal first drew Colorado River water there in 1901, and then the All-American Canal brought more in 1940.....
Alfalfa grows fast, so every month or so, a harvester will cut the crop, which will then be packed into tight bales; trucked to Long Beach, California; and loaded on a tanker bound for China or Japan or the United Arab Emirates.
All across the lower Colorado River Basin—and especially in Yuma County, the Imperial Valley, and the Green River area in Utah—scenes like this are playing out with increasing regularity. What was once a reliable and local, if relatively low-value, crop has become a global commodity. But the fact that the Colorado River is fueling the export boom has some western water advocates worried......
On top of the demand spike, a staggering trade imbalance between China and the U.S. creates an incredible advantage for any American producer to ship anything at all to China, even bulky, heavy bales of hay. For every two container ships that bring those iPods and T-shirts to California ports from China, one goes back empty.
As a result, "it costs less today to ship a ton of alfalfa from Long Beach to Beijing than it does to ship it from the Imperial Valley in California to the Central Valley," explains Glennon.
All of this leads to alfalfa and hay exports that have more than doubled since 1999 and increased by 60 percent since 2007, with the biggest increases by far being in shipments to China and the United Arab Emirates. For instance, in 2007, China imported just 2,400 metric tons of hay. By 2012, that had increased over 200 times to more than 485,000 metric tons. And in a paper Putnam presented earlier this month, he predicts another 50 percent growth over the previous year's volume in 2013.
The situation is complicated by the fact that farmers get the water for massively under-market value prices, so the hay exports are massively subsidized by other water users.  What gets me about western alfalfa production is that they get up to 8 cuttings a year.