Saturday, March 29, 2014

Start of Baseball Season Weekend Reads

 Due to work on the planter this morning (before the snow started falling), I don't have much yet, but I'll add to it as I come across stuff.

Engineer's Eureka Moment With G.M. Flaw - New York Times

The Hidden Value of the NBA Steal - FiveThirtyEight

Let The Good Times Roll: The Incredible Bowling Bubble of the 1960s - The Atlantic 
"All of this ebullience was reflected in the stock prices of bowling companies such as Brunswick Corporation, which according to the Wall Street Journal (paywall) increased 1,590% between 1957 and its 1961 peak."  Holy shit.

U.S. swimming in oil - Futures  Enjoy it while it lasts.  It won't for long

Ideology & behavioral economics - Pieria

Renewables Aren't the Answer. Clean Coal is the Future - Wired   I'd say that like now, dirty coal is the future, and since I don't have kids, your grandkids are fucked.  Sorry, not much of an optimist.

Braving Stings and Insane Heights with the Honey Hunters of Nepal - Wired   Check this out, it IS insane.  The ironworkers of Nepal?

Researchers mixed on future of farming in High Plains - Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Northwestern Football Players Win Union Ruling.....So What Now? - Pacific Standard

Friday, March 28, 2014

Missing Winter?

I haven't had a chance to yet, but just in case you are getting sentimental, here is a time lapse video of daily images from the NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites showing each storm sweeping the country since New Year's Day. Enjoy:

How Do You Say Hello?

Howdy, for me. I usually follow up by asking, "where are you from?" If I ask what school you went to, I usually mean high school. How about you?

Using Horseshoe Crabs For Fertilizer

Photo:Delaware Public Archives
Modern Farmer saw the same story I did last month about scientists harvesting horseshoe crab blood for medical testing, and they were also surprised that the crabs were used as fertilizer back in the day.  Unlike me, they were motivated enough to write a post about it:
Way back in 1603, French explorer Samuel De Champlain noticed Native Americans in Maine planting dead horseshoe crabs within fields of corn, marking one of the earliest observations of apparent fertilization in the New World.
According to Horseshoe Crab: A Biography of a Survivor, colonists picked up on the idea. When the U.S. industrialized near the end of the 19th century, a few coastal companies decided to turn the practice into a big business.
Rather than wading off marshy beaches to collect the crabs as earlier harvesters had, they built a series of horseshoe crab “pounds” on the shorelines of New Jersey and Delaware. When the tide ebbed, a network of nets, wire poles and wooden platforms forced spawning horseshoe crabs into holding pens. In most cases, workers would then collect the crabs and stack them neatly along the shoreline to rot and dry.
Once finished stinking up the beaches, they’d be sent to a processing plant, ground to a powder and packaged as a fertilizer called “cancerine.” Millions of crabs died before artificial fertilizers phased out the practice in the 1970s.
 I guess pictures of horseshoe crabs stacked like cordwood are much better than pictures of human skulls and bones in Cambodia, but they still look a bit ghoulish.  Of course, piles of dead cows wouldn't be very pretty either, but those got turned into fertilizer, too.

Historic California Drought in Pictures

At The Atlantic.  There are some crazy pictures, but his one caught me off guard on the agriculture side:

A tractor moves an uprooted almond tree into a shredder at Baker Farming in Firebaugh, California, on February 25, 2014. Almond farmer Barry Baker had 1,000 acres, 20 percent, of his almond trees removed because he doesn't have access to enough water to keep them watered as the California drought continues. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) #
I'd read in stories where they were tearing out trees, but this picture really brought that detail home to me.  Check the pictures out.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


The Milan Miracle - 60 Years On

The Indianapolis Star looks back at the most famous high school basketball state championship team in Indiana history:
Bobby Plump doesn't spend a lot of time on "what-ifs." The shot went in after all, didn't it? Why worry about what would have happened if the ball clanked off the back of the rim that night in Hinkle Fieldhouse?
"I think the correct answer is this," Plump says, standing in the exact spot where he took the shot. "If I hadn't made the shot, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you about it 60 years later."
There is a twinkle in his eye. He laughs. Plump hit that shot – maybe the most famous of all shots – 60 years ago this March. The clock ticked down in the 1954 championship with underdog Milan and traditional state power Muncie Central tied, 30-30. From the top of the key, Plump faked left and drove right, stopping on a dime as defender Jimmy Barnes rushed to stop him from getting to the basket, his momentum carrying him away from his man.
Plump rose up and flicked his right wrist. The ball sailed through.
Milan 32, Muncie Central 30.
That, they thought, was the end of the story. But Milan's tale of David vs. Goliath carries on as strong as ever 60 years later, helped in part by the release of the movie "Hoosiers" in 1986, which introduced the story – a Hollywood version – to a new generation of basketball fans. 
The article covers the tournament run in 1952-53, when the team lost in the state semifinals, and then the championship season of 1953-54.  One of the most interesting parts of the story is when the team ran into sophomore sensation Oscar Robertson and his Crispus Attucks teammates in the semistate:
The semistate championship game that night would mark an incredible intersection in Indiana high school basketball history. Crispus Attucks, led by a sophomore named Oscar Robertson, defeated Columbus 68-67 in the afternoon game. It meant Attucks and its young star would meet veteran Milan.
Plump: We stayed at the Pennsylvania Hotel because Woody wanted to keep us away from the fans telling us how good we were. When we walked out of our hotel before we were going to play Attucks, people were rolling down their windows and yelling, 'Beat those n-words! Get them the hell out of here!' It shocked us. Things were really prejudice back then. But the players couldn't have been better to play against.
White: Our scouting report on Oscar Robertson listed him last. But once the game started, it was obvious how good he was. He'd drive in off the wing and once he got in there just pull the ball away when you tried to block it. I'd never run up against a guy who could do that.
Schroder: Thank goodness he was only a sophomore.
Crispus Attucks was the segregated black school in Indianapolis, and they went on to win the state championship in Robertson's junior and senior seasons:

 Team photo of the 1954-55 Crispus Attucks basketball team that won the Indiana State championship in 1955 under coach Ray Crowe (upper left).
Not many realize the nation's first black high school champions came from a school that was the brainchild of the Ku Klux Klan. And few are aware that even after the Tigers won the state championship, they were given a celebration different from the one the white champions who came before them had.
Yet from 1950 to 1957, the Crispus Attucks Tigers were the most invincible team this basketball-crazed state had seen. Their high-scoring, high-flying, ultra-athletic ways led them to six regional championships, four semi-state championships and back-to-back state titles in 1955 and '56. The Tigers went 179-20 in that span, won what was then a record 45 games in a row, and in '56 completed the state's first undefeated season. The group included not only Robertson, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, but Hallie Bryant and Willie Gardner, two of the 28 members of the Harlem Globetrotters' prestigious Legends Ring... Back then, Indianapolis was a ferociously segregated city, traced back to the days of D.C. Stephenson, the Ku Klux Klan grand dragon who lived in the city in the early 1920s.
It was Stephenson and several Klan-supporting politicians who proposed a segregated high school for black students. Crispus Attucks High, named after the runaway slave who was believed to be the first American killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre, opened in 1927. But because the school had no white students, the Indiana High School Athletic Association ruled that Attucks was not a public school and thus that the association would not grant Attucks membership. Not until 1933 were member schools even allowed to play against Attucks. And not until 1942 was Attucks granted membership and welcomed into the state basketball tournament.
Even then, Attucks' home gym was too small to host games, so the Tigers always played on the road. And because many of the all-white Indianapolis schools refused to play Attucks, many of those games were played in small towns outside the city. There, the Tigers were the high school version of the Harlem Globetrotters, an entertaining curiosity that filled gyms and amazed fans but who struggled to find a place they were welcome to eat after the game.
"It was a very prejudiced town and a very prejudiced time," said Betty Crowe, an Attucks graduate and the widow of coach Ray Crowe. "You couldn't eat in certain restaurants; you couldn't sit in certain movies. But you learned to overcome it. You learned not to use that as an excuse. You knew you just had to do better."
Many of Attucks' students, including Robertson, lived in Lockefield Gardens, a government-subsidized housing complex a couple of blocks from the school. Others weren't as lucky and lived in homes without electricity or running water. The school was the beacon of hope. Because blacks weren't welcome to teach in most white schools, Attucks had arguably the most decorated faculty in the state, with every teacher carrying a master's or doctorate. The school produced doctors, lawyers, judges, professors, politicians and award-winning musicians.
"I never had a teacher who said a single word to me about basketball," Robertson said. "That wasn't what they cared about."
But most everyone else did. And in those tiny gyms across the state, the lines of color were easy to see. Blacks on one side, whites on the other, a brown leather ball bouncing between them. In the face of segregation, nothing brought more pride for the city's black population than an Attucks basketball victory.
It's been said that the back-to-back Attucks state championships are what led to Indianapolis schools to desegregate.  I'd say Brown v. Board of Education had more to do with it, but it does make for a good story.  Even today, though, Indiana is a pretty bigoted place.  I am not a fan.  It is ironic that the charming tale of little Milan High School was directly followed by the less charming but arguably much more impressive tale of Crispus Attucks overcoming ridiculous bigotry on their way to victory.  It is also notable which story got made into a movie.

Obama's Catholic Ties

The former Holy Rosary Church on Chicago's South Side, where President Obama worked as a community organizer

Prior to the President's meeting today with Pope Francis, the New York Times took a look back at the President's relationship with the Church over the years, and the Church's influence on his views of social welfare:
American Catholic bishops responded to the call of the Second Vatican Council to focus on the poor by creating what is now known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, an antipoverty and social justice program that became one of the country’s most influential supporters of grass-roots groups.
By the early 1980s, when Mr. Obama was an undergraduate at Columbia University, the campaign was financing a project to help neighborhoods after the collapse of the steel mills near Chicago. The program’s leaders, eager to expand beyond Catholic parishes to the black Protestant churches where more of the affected community worshiped, sought an African-American for the task. In 1985, they found one in Mr. Obama, a fledgling community organizer in New York who answered a want ad for a job with the Developing Communities Project. The faith-based program aimed to unify South Side residents against unsafe streets, poor living conditions and political neglect. Mr. Obama’s salary was less than $10,000 a year.
The future president arrived in Chicago with little knowledge of Catholicism other than the Graham Greene novels and “Confessions” of St. Augustine he had read during a period of spiritual exploration at Columbia. But he fit seamlessly into a 1980s Catholic cityscape forged by the spirit of Vatican II, the influence of liberation theology and the progressivism of Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, the archbishop of Chicago, who called for a “consistent ethic of life” that wove life and social justice into a “seamless garment.”
On one of his first days on the job, Mr. Obama heard Cardinal Bernardin speak at an economic development meeting. He felt like a Catholic novice there, he wrote in his memoir, and later decided “not to ask what a catechism was.” But he was a quick study.
“He had to do a power analysis of each Catholic church,” said one of his mentors at the time, Gregory Galluzzo, a former Jesuit priest and disciple of the organizer Saul Alinsky. Mr. Obama, Mr. Galluzzo said, soon understood the chain of command and who had influence in individual parishes.

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello was getting ready to leave the school for a job at South Florida, but his resume enhancement blew that opportunity, and may cost him the Manhattan job, too:
Talks broke down between Manhattan Coach Steve Masiello and South Florida late Tuesday after South Florida officials discovered an inaccuracy on his résumé, which lists him as having graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2000.
A spokesman at Kentucky said Masiello attended the college from 1996 to 2000 but did not receive a degree. His biography on Manhattan’s website said he held a degree in communications from Kentucky. The website was updated Wednesday to delete the reference to his degree.
In a statement, South Florida said that it had reached an “agreement in principle” with Masiello, but that his “credentials could not be substantiated.” University policy requires a head coach to have at least a bachelor’s degree.
Manhattan officials said in a written statement that Masiello had been put on leave while “reviewing his degree status with the University of Kentucky.”
As at South Florida, a bachelor’s degree is required of Manhattan’s coach, said the Manhattan spokesman Peter McHugh. It was not immediately clear what it would mean for Masiello’s future in the Bronx if the college confirms he has no degree.
“That is for our administration to determine,” McHugh said.
South Florida said the consulting firm Eastman & Beaudine of Plano, Tex., was hired to conduct the coaching search and their background check on Masiello picked up on his résumé gaffe.
I wouldn't be surprised if Manhattan finds a way to work out a deal where he finishes his degree and continues to coach at the school. NCAA appearances, and upset wins, bring a lot of attention and interest to schools with small national profiles. They also lead to more applications from prospective students and larger donations from alumni. Working out such an arrangement would prevent the administration from having to replace an extremely successful coach, and would also distract attention from the fact that they never did a thorough background check when they hired him. That allows him to repair the damage from his exaggeration and give the school a couple more years of good basketball before he makes that jump to the next level. Win-win as far as could be expected from this mess. Sure it doesn't look good from an ethical perspective, but we're talking about college sports here. Ethics takes a back seat to wins, losses and money.

Moving to the City

Wall Street Journal:
New data, taken from a Census report on population trends released Thursday, offer a snapshot of the challenges America's rural counties face as they struggle with aging populations and a stream of younger residents heading elsewhere for work.
Nearly 60% of rural counties shrank in population last year, up from 50% in 2009 and around 40% in the late 1990s. In all, almost eight in 10 of the counties that lost population over the past three years were outside of metropolitan areas, according to an analysis of Census data by William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. Over half of those counties were heavily dependent on farming, manufacturing or mining, he said.
Rural America—which encompasses roughly three-quarters of the nation's landmass—has seen slower population growth for a decade, as more young people move to urban and suburban areas for jobs and even aging retirees seek out more-populated places to live.
The population decline from pockets of Midwestern states such as Iowa, Illinois and Kansas comes at a time of rapid expansion elsewhere on the Great Plains. North Dakota, now in the midst of an oil-drilling boom, has become the country's fastest-growing state after more than half a century of stagnation. As of last summer, six of America's 10 fastest-growing metro areas were in or near the Great Plains, including Fargo, N.D., and Odessa, Texas, the Census data shows.
By contrast, population losses are now gathering steam in areas of the industrial Midwest, including northern Pennsylvania and western New York.
Greenwood County, in eastern Kansas, is among those struggling with a falling population. The county, whose seat is in the small town of Eureka, has seen its population decline about 4% between 2010 and 2013, following even bigger declines in the 2000s.
The declines have reduced its tax base, prompting the county to raise land taxes on the mostly agricultural businesses in the area. It also makes providing services harder. Cole Conard, a businessman and one of the county's three commissioners, said one of the area's school districts had 1,050 students in 1970—a figure that has since dwindled to less than 400. "You can't draw businesses in because we don't have people," he said.
Aging remains a big driver of population declines across much of rural America.
The number of births in the U.S. last year exceeded deaths by the smallest margin in 35 years, according to Kenneth Johnson, a demographer at the University of New Hampshire. All told, in roughly a third of America's counties, more people died than were born. This "natural decline" was most acute in rural counties, about 40% of which tallied more deaths than births last year—a rate more than twice what was seen in metro counties, Mr. Johnson said.

It is interesting that the story refers to Kansas. Of all the plains states, Kansas has been most aggressive in trying to fulfill the conservative dream of doing away with income taxes and slashing revenue sharing from suburban areas to rural and inner-city urban areas. That plan has pummeled school funding and led the Kansas Supreme Court to order a change in the funding system. That conservative dream is a nightmare for the rural areas which are the backbone of support for conservatives. Tax policy and spending policy in the Kansas style will devestate rural areas and do more to drive young people to the cities. Once they get there, they will probably be more likely to vote for Democrats. Republicans don't just face a demographic death spiral, they face a policy-driven one, too.

In Spite of Slide History, Homes Built In Path of Slope

As more news comes out, it becomes clear that the slope that gave way in Washington was known to be at risk, and yet homes were permitted to be built in risky areas:
It's now five days into the search for survivors of the massive landslide in Oso in Washington's Snohomish County. National Guard Troops are combing the area with emergency extraction teams. The unofficial death toll so far is now 24, and authorities are promising more clarity tomorrow on the list of missing people. Some 176 persons are unaccounted for but the real number is thought to be lower than that.
This area was not new to landslides. They've happened repeatedly on this hill over the decades. And in fact, the slope was once referred to as Slide Hill. Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington said on Monday the area had been considered very safe. Today he said this.
JOHN PENNINGTON: People knew that this is a landslide-prone area. Sometimes big events just happen, sometimes large events that nobody sees happens.
SIEGEL: So, should the people who live in Oso have known this might happen? And if so, who should have told them?
Well, we're going to ask Ken Armstrong. He's an investigative reporter for The Seattle Times and he's written about the history of this slope. Welcome to the program.
KEN ARMSTRONG: Thank you, Robert. Thanks for having me on.
SIEGEL: And first, give us some more detail on how many times this particular hill has given way and did it destroy homes before?
ARMSTRONG: It has given away so many times that it is referred to as Slide Hill, as you mentioned before. It gave away in 1949, in '51, in '67, in '88, in 2006. There have been reports written over the years from geologists, hydrologists who have said that this hill is constantly moving. And that whatever measures are taken to minimize the risks posed by it, they're likely to fail in the long run.
SIEGEL: Which raises the question, pretty important and obvious one: Why were people building homes on this hill?
ARMSTRONG: It's the same question I suppose that can be posed to why do people build on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, or in areas of Southern California hit by wildfires. I think there is a certain assumption of risk. One of the most jarring images here was provided by a geologist. In 2006, there was a large slide. And even before the debris had been removed, he went out and visited and saw carpenters building new homes.
It's up to the county to decide whether to issue building permits. And here, the county has continued to issue them even after these slides.
SIEGEL: As you say, the county was issuing building permits. People still presumably would need insurance. People who were real estate agents involved in selling properties would have to come clean about the history of the property. I mean other people might have been accountable, don't you think?
Sure, this slide was bigger than the others, but geologists warned people that a slide like this was possible.  While somewhat unexpected, this disaster could have been mitigated to some extent with decent planning and land use restrictions.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This is a Generic Brand Video

This is fucking brilliant:

Flying Coffins

Restored Waco CG-4A

Since I mentioned them yesterday, I figured I would put together a post on WACO gliders. The Waco CG-4A was probably one of the worst ideas the U.S. Army Air Force had in World War II, but they were designed, and some were built, by the WACO Aircraft Company in Troy, Ohio, so they are a part of local lore.  A little information on the gliders:
The CG-4A fuselage was 48 feet long and constructed of steel tubing and canvas skin. Its honeycombed plywood floor could support more than 4,000 pounds, approximately the glider's own empty weight. It could carry two pilots and up to 13 troops, or a combination of heavy equipment and small crews to operate it. The nose section could swing up to create a 5 x 6-foot cargo door of Jeeps, 75-mm howitzers, or similarly sized vehicles.
With a wingspan of 83.5 feet, the Waco maxed out at 150 mph when connected to its tow plane. Once the 300-ft length of 1-inch nylon rope was cut, typical gliding speed was 72 mph.
The Waco Aircraft Company of Troy, OH, a niche manufacturer of civilian airplanes, won the contract to design and build America's first combat glider. Big names like Ford, along with a dozen or so smaller firms, also won glider contracts, but only if they weren't already producing powered aircraft for the war effort. With more than 70,000 parts to assemble and with little or no standardization, some manufacturers produced a few duds, with sometimes tragic results.
The wide range of expertise among these contractors, as well as an early lack of standardization of the 70,000-plus individual parts, caused pilots and mechanics no shortage of headaches and more than a few tragedies.
MacRae recalls an incident that nearly scrapped the glider program less than a year before its D-Day triumph. In August 1943, a Saint Louis-based contractor invited the city's mayor and other dignitaries to experience the excitement of a glider flight before an airshow audience of 5,000. Aghast spectators watched as a glider abruptly lost a wing at 2,000 feet and crashed in front of the grandstand, killing all onboard. After ruling out sabotage, investigators traced the cause of the crash to a faulty bolt provided by a subcontractor in the coffin business.
That story about the St. Louis airshow is pretty apt.  Many soldiers also perished in the terrible-to-fly glorified boxes. In spite of this, they were somewhat successfully used for several missions in World War II:
Glider pilots who participated in the Normandy landings were awarded the Air Medal for their role in the Allies' early successes on D-Day. Their role in Operation Market Garden was lauded, even though it was overshadowed by the mission's overall failure to take the key bridge at Arnhem. Gliders were also central to Allied invasions of Sicily, Burma, Southern France, Bastogne, and the crossing of the Rhine into Germany in March 1945.
Design Drawings of Waco CG-4A

Glider production data:
From 1942-1945, the Ford Motor Company's Kingsford plant built 4,190 Model CG-4A gliders for use in combat operations during World War II. The Kingsford plant built more CG-4A gliders than any other company in the nation at much less cost than other manufacturers. The primary builders of the Model CG-4A gliders were located in Troy, Ohio; Greenville, Michigan; Astoria, New York; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Kingsford, Michigan.
The 16 companies that were prime contractors for manufacturing the CG-4A were:
Babcock Aircraft Company of Deland, Florida (60)
Cessna Aircraft Company of Wichita, Kansas (750) The entire order was subcontracted to Boeing Aircraft Company's new Wichita plant.
Commonwealth Aircraft of Kansas City (1,470)
Ford Motor Company of Kingsford, Michigan (4,190 units at $14,891 each)
G&A Aircraft of Willow Grove, PA (627)
General Aircraft Corporation of Astoria, L.I.,NY (1,112)
Gibson Refrigerator of Greenville, Michigan (1,078)
Laister-Kauffman Corporation of St. Louis, Missouri (310)
National Aircraft Corp. of Elwood, IN (one at an astronomical $1,741,809)
Northwestern Aeronautical Corporation of Minneapolis (1,510)
Pratt-Read of Deep River, Connecticut (956)
Ridgefield Manufacturing Company of Ridgeville, New Jersey (156)
Robertson Aircraft Corporation of St. Louis (170)
Timm Aircraft Company of Van Nuys, California (434)
Waco Aircraft Company of Troy (999 units at $19,367 each).
Ward Furniture Company of Fort Smith, Arkansas (7)
The factories ran 24-hour shifts to build the gliders.
At my previous job, I frequently met with a supplier who was a paratrooper on D-Day, and jumped from a WACO glider.  He hated the things.  His comment was that we lost a lot of good men in those "damn flying coffins."

WTC Ironworker Among Trade Center BASE Jumpers

Daily Beast:
The daredevil who made the helmet-cam video of himself parachuting with two buddies from atop 1 World Trade Center is a legendarily skilled ironworker who helped build that very same tower.
In fact, 32-year-old James Brady was one of the ironworkers who set in place the beam on the 104th floor that had been signed by President Obama and the First Lady.

The video is pretty cool, but the most intriguing part of the story is how they got caught:
And they might have gotten away with it had a security guard at the Goldman Sachs building across from the World Trade Center not seen one of them hurriedly packing up something out front on West Street.
The guard called 911 to report what a police official would later describe as “something suspicious.” Police responded and a check of the Goldman Sachs surveillance cameras showed three parachutists alighting on the pavement.
What the camera did not show was where the jump had begun. They conceivably could have leapt from a number of tall buildings and then drifted over to where they landed.....
Detectives checked out cameras in the surrounding area and saw that a car had been circling, slowing down at times, pulling over, then moving, then pulling over again just within view, a figure in dark clothes getting out.
But the images were too dim and indistinct to make out a face or a license plate number. The detectives were only able to establish the car’s make and model.
The detectives expanded the search, checking cameras in a widening area along with license plate readers at bridges and tunnels for cars of that description. They narrowed the possibilities to a small list and began background checks on the owners.
One of the cars proved to be registered to a well known family of ironworkers. The detectives determined that one of them, James Brady, had worked on the tower. A records check showed that he had been arrested along with three other people in December of 2012 for attempting to jump off a 33-storey tower in Co-Op City in the Bronx.
The next step was to subpoena Brady’s cell phone records. Police say they show that he was in the vicinity of the World Trade Center at the time of the jump.
A check of Brady’s calls in that time frame led detectives to 33-year-old Andrew Rossig, who had been arrested with him in the Bronx. Two other persons of interest, 27-year-old Marco Markovich and 29-year-old Kyle Hartwell, had not been among the earlier four, but detectives were convinced that they had been there for the World Trade Center jump.
In January, detectives executed search warrants on the homes of the four suspects. They discovered helmet camera footage that established the jump had indeed been from the top of 1 World Trade Center.
"and I would have gotten away with it if not for the security cameras and cell phone records."

I'll stick with my assessment that I don't think it is a good idea to fuck with ironworkers.  They be crazy.  I don't think this story undermines that belief.

Ironworkers James Brady, left, and Billy Geoghan release the cables from a steel beam after connecting it on the 104th floor of One World Trade Center, on August 2, 2012 in New York. The beam was signed by President Barack Obama with the note: “We remember, We rebuild, We come back stronger!” during a ceremony at the construction site June 14. Since then the beam has been adorned with the autographs of workers and police officers at the site. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Washington State Mudslide in Pictures

The Atlantic features a series of photographs of the damage inflicted in the fatal mudslide.  Here is a photo of the site at present on top, and before the incident below:

It is amazing how far the debris flowed, and how far back the river backed up.  I can't tell, but it looks like there might be evidence of a previous slide on the slope in the bottom photo.  Here is a closer image of the present site:

Piketty and The Forces of Divergence

John Cassidy reviews French economist Thomas Piketty's book, Capital in the Twenty-first Century. It investigates income and wealth inequality in Europe and the United States, and suggests the causes and potential solutions to address the situation.  I think this accurately addresses the driving forces creating the "good ol' days" of the mid-20th century for the middle class and then mutating them to today's much more perilous situation: 
Piketty is certainly right to emphasize that there was nothing natural or inevitable about the income compression that occurred in the middle of the twentieth century. It was the product of global conflict and domestic political struggles. In Europe, two World Wars and the progressive tax policies that were needed to finance them did enormous damage to the old estates and great fortunes: many rich people, after paying their income and inheritance taxes, didn’t have enough money left to replenish their capital. During the postwar era, inflation ate away at their savings. Meanwhile, labor-friendly laws enabled workers to bargain for higher wages, which raised the proportion of income that labor received. And the task of rebuilding after the wartime destruction made for the rapid expansion of G.D.P. This helped to keep the growth rate above the rate of return on capital, fending off the forces of divergence.
In the United States, the story was less dramatic but broadly similar. The Great Depression wiped out a lot of dynastic wealth, and it also led to a policy revolution. During the nineteen-thirties and forties, Piketty reminds us, Roosevelt raised the top rate of income tax to more than ninety per cent and the tax on large estates to more than seventy per cent. The federal government set minimum wages in many industries, and it encouraged the growth of trade unions. In the decades after the war, it spent heavily on infrastructure, such as interstate highways, which boosted G.D.P. growth. Fearful of spurring public outrage, firms kept the pay of their senior executives in check. Inequality started to rise again only when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan led a conservative counter-revolution that slashed tax rates on the rich, decimated the unions, and sought to restrain the growth of government expenditures. Politics and income distribution are two sides of the same coin.
Piketty takes some well-aimed shots at economists who seek to obfuscate this reality. “In studying the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it is possible to think that the evolution of prices and wages, or incomes and wealth, obeys an autonomous economic logic having little or nothing to do with the logic of politics or culture,” he writes. “When one studies the twentieth century, however, such an illusion falls apart immediately. A quick glance at the curves describing income and wealth inequality or the capital/income ratio is enough to show that politics is ubiquitous and that economic and political changes are inextricably intertwined and must be studied together.”
That’s more than mere rhetoric. By insisting that economic laws always take shape through social norms, values, and political choices, Piketty would rescue his discipline from the aridity of abstraction and return it to the richer model of political economy that its best nineteenth-century practitioners pursued. Certainly, it’s hard not to be impressed by his history and his methodological assault on theorists who believe that economics can be reduced to a pure science.
Piketty's suggested solutions closely match what I think would be required-a much more progressive tax system, targeting income or wealth.  The main criticism Cassidy has with Piketty's book is that it doesn't address the convergence of living standards between developing economies and developed ones, which Cassidy suggests in a great benefit that may justify the rising inequality in the Western economies.  I think this overlooks a significant issue, which is that the inequality in developed economies is driven by the managerial and financial class using arbitrage to profit from the convergence.  In other words, they are profiting massively by shifting wealth from the U.S. and European middle classes to China, India and other countries. Why do they profit from it? Because they can.  Do they work for it?  Hell no.  We're caught in a rigged game.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


I'll give her points for creativity, but does castrating pigs qualify one for a seat in the U.S. Senate? If so, there are a lot of potential senators in Iowa. Then again, the Democratic candidate for the same seat ridiculed the idea of Senator Charles Grassley as chairman of the Judiciary committee because Grassley is a farmer and not an attorney:

Oops.  Not sure how that'll play in Waterloo.

The Eggbeater

Charles K. Hyde, private collection. 
The “multibank engine” designed by Chrysler for the M3, and used in the M4 as well. A modification of an automobile engine, the multibank engine combined five six-cylinder engines by linking them to a single driveshaft. Hyde notes that critics called the engine “the eggbeater”; it was only used in the M3 during the spring and summer of 1942, before the M3 was superseded by the M4.
Via The Vault:
These photos come from a new book of photographs from Detroit’s wartime factories,Images from the Arsenal of Democracy, by historian Charles K. Hyde. The book takes its title from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Dec. 29, 1940 fireside chat, in which the president called upon Americans to support the new industrial effort to arm American allies: “We must be the great arsenal of democracy. … We must apply ourselves to our task with the same resolution, the same sense of urgency, the same spirit of patriotism and sacrifice, as we would show were we at war.”
There are some other cool pictures.  The M3 tank looks like it had to be the world's shittiest tank.  If the WACO gliders were flying coffins, these had to be tracked coffins.

The ESPN Cash Cow


JP Morgan analysts look at these numbers and come to a succinct conclusion: “We see little threat to disrupting ESPN’s advertising and affiliate revenue streams or leverage in the market.”
If there is a threat, it may come from ESPN’s current business partners. Large US sports leagues have shown increasing interest in their own video streaming services.
But even large scale disruptions to the US television business—such as the possible alliance of Apple with Comcast to create a new live streaming service—won’t be enough to dislodge ESPN. That’s because to gain traction with US consumers, such services will also have to have access to the live-sporting events that ESPN offers. ESPN will simply start collecting affiliate fees from those new streaming services.
ESPN, which by some estimates accounts for about 40% of operating income of its megalith parent Disney, will continue to be a cash cow for some time. In other words, score.
$5 per subscriber per month?  40% of Disney's operating income?  That is amazing.  I guess I'm partly to blame.  The only reason I have satellite TV is for the sports.

U.S.-Mexico Experiment Sends Water Down Colorado River

The mighty Colorado River, which over millenniums has carved the Grand Canyon, does an unusual thing when it gets south of the Arizona-Mexico border. It dies.
The Morelos Dam — sitting on the international boundary — serves as its headstone, diverting nearly all of the river water into an aqueduct that serves agriculture as well as homes in Tijuana.
South of the dam, the river channel travels about 75 miles to the Gulf of California. Except when filled by rains, the channel is bone dry. But starting Sunday, the river will flow again, part of an unprecedented experiment by U.S. and Mexican officials.
A few days ago, the International Boundary Water Commission, made up of Mexican and U.S. officials, released water from Lake Mead in Nevada to send it toward the Colorado River delta, a region cut off from most of the river's flow by the dams and diversions constructed in the 20th century.
Although there have been experimental high-flow water releases in the Colorado River, such as one last year from Lake Powell designed to spread sediment in the Grand Canyon, this is the first "pulse" for the delta.....
The pulse will start slowly Sunday, when officials lift the gates at the Morelos Dam, west of Yuma, Ariz., releasing about 700 cubic feet of water per second. It will peak Thursday when about 4,200 cubic feet per second will rush through the dam. Over eight weeks, an estimated 105,000 acre-feet will be released. (An acre-foot is the amount water required to cover an acre a foot deep, or about 326,000 gallons — enough to supply two average homes for one year.)
Experts from both countries will study the effects of the release. It's unlikely the water will reach the Gulf of California and unclear whether it will all soak into the soil or be left standing in parts of the channel.
We have some decent-sized creeks that go dry during droughts, especially in gravel soils near their mouths.  I can't imagine a giant river like the Colorado completely disappearing because all the water is diverted hundreds of miles away.  The fact that the southwest U.S. steals all the water from Mexico is an absolute crime.

Background On Washington State Mudslide

This aerial photo of the mudslide near Oso, Washington, was taken Saturday, March 23, 2014. The debris flow was up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) deep in some areas.

National Geographic:
On Saturday morning, a mudslide moved down the Stillaguamish Rivernear the small former fishing village of Oso, Washington. Authorities have confirmed eight dead, eight injured, and as many as 108 people missing or unaccounted for as of Monday morning. The one-square-mile (2.6-square-kilometer) track of the mudslide also destroyed about 30 homes.
Jim O'Connor, a research hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Portland, Oregon, told National Geographic that the mudslide, which was up to 15 feet (4.5 meters) deep in some areas, was caused by ground made unstable by heavy rainfall.
"This area has had slides in small increments over the last several years, but this took a huge bite of the hillslope this time," says O'Connor.
Not only has there been a lot of precipitation in the area over the past few months, but the Stillaguamish River also has been eroding away the base of the hillside, or "undercutting it," making it less stable, says O'Connor.
"A whole section of a hillside, about 700 feet [213 meters] high above the river, collapsed all at once," says O'Connor. "It's amazing how much terrain it ended up covering."
There isn't a whole lot that can be done to prevent slides:
Strategies to decrease the risk of mudslides include draining water off hillsides, armoring the bases of hills so they are not undercut by rivers, and "loading the toe," says O'Connor. In the case of "loading the toe," engineers put heavy mass, such as large rocks, at the base of a hill to try to anchor the slope and prevent it from coming loose.
O'Connor says the piles of rock that are often seen at the base of roadcuts are the most visible example of that strategy.
O'Connor adds that when it comes to the Stillaguamish River area, the valley is scalloped with the evidence of many past slides.
"This isn't a situation where [the authorities] should have done something [to prevent it] because there is so much terrain there that this could have happened to," he says.
The failure slope in the picture looks like a diagram straight out of a soil mechanics textbook.  It is hard to imagine that much material moving at one time.

Another photo here:

The size of the landslide became evident from aerial photographs

Monday, March 24, 2014

How Big is the Universe?

Ridiculously big:

How Big Is The Universe? from Beakus on Vimeo.

U.S. Strawberry Production

90% of the strawberries raised in the U.S. are grown on family-owned farms in California:
Strawberries may be a delightful addition to just about any meal, but they’re a staple in California’s economy and a key element of Santa Barbara County’s vital agriculture industry.
A report released Tuesday by the California Strawberry Commission based in Watsonville, explains just how large a role this fruit plays in the local and statewide economy.
California’s 400 family-owned strawberry farms grow 90 percent of the United States’ strawberries, with the industry directly and indirectly contributing $3.4 billion to the state’s economy. In Northern California alone, nearly 2 billion strawberry plants grow in open fields from October to February, according to the report, called Sustaining California Communities: Economic Contributions of Strawberry Farming.
Strawberries are the state’s number one crop in value per acre, with California farmers growing the bulk of the nation’s strawberries on less than one percent of the state’s total farmland. Strawberries are also the fourth highest value crop and the sixth overall agriculture commodity in the state.
In Santa Barbara County, strawberries comprised $367 million of county’s fruit and nut crop in 2011, which was worth a total of $520 million. In 2012, strawberries headlined the county’s agriculture sector, which was worth nearly $1.3 billion in total production value.
The strawberry industry also provides 70,000 jobs around the state, mainly in the North and along the coast, including Santa Barbara County.
 That is amazing to me.  2 billion strawberry plants? Wow.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day

March 20:

Solargraphy Analemmas
Image Credit & Copyright: Maciej Zapiór and Łukasz Fajfrowski
Explanation: Today is the equinox. The Sun crosses the celestial equator heading north at 16:57 UT, marking the northern hemisphere's first day of spring. To celebrate, consider this remarkable image following the Sun's yearly trek through planet Earth's sky, the first analemmas exposed every day through the technique of solargraphy. In fact, three analemma curves were captured using a cylindrical pinhole camera by daily making three, separate, one minute long exposures for a year, from March 1, 2013 to March 1, 2014, on a single piece of black and white photographic paper. The well-planned daily exposures began at 10:30, 12:00, and 13:30, CET from a balcony looking south from the Kozanów district in Wrocław, Poland. That year's two equinoxes on March 20 and September 22 correspond to the mid-points, not the cross-over points, along the figure-8 shaped curves. Apparent gaps in the curves are due to cloudy days. Two solid lines at the lower left were both caused by a timer switch failure that left the pinhole shutter open.

Bishop's Suggestion for Bachelor Farmer's Estate Draws Criticism

Des Moines Register:
The Bishop’s initial letter dated March 7 begins with the line, “Some gifts unexpectedly fall from heaven.”
In the fifth paragraph he writes, “As Bishop, I assure you that the diocesan family to which you belong does not want to ‘appropriate’ the money left by Bud. But as your spiritual father I regard it as my responsibility to offer guidance in your stewardship responsibilities as so many of you requested.”
But then the letter outlines how half of the money could be pooled in the Catholic Foundation of Southwest Iowa, with only 5 percent withdrawn annually by parishes for designated projects.
The other half “could be invested in endowment funds of the diocese which provide for always growing needs related to our priests,” such as retirement, housing and medical insurance.....
Initial estimates of Skalla’s fortune hovered around $10 million. But a land auction in February at the parish hall in Portsmouth drew some 400 bidders and reaped more than $7.8 million for the five farms on the auction block – with the riches farmland drawing more than $12,000 per acre. The worth of the total estate soared past $13 million.
Portsmouth retains its own 282.72-acre farm and will receive the largest share of Skalla’s estate. The rest of the parishes should split considerably more than the initial estimate of $500,000 apiece.
“There’s all kinds of rumors flying around,” said Ray Chipman of Harlan, co-executor of Skalla’s will. But he downplayed the alarm over control of Skalla’s fortune as “just chatter.”
Bishops have a hard time seeing large amounts of money they can't control.  Also, $12,000 an acre? Wow.

Damn you, Kentucky Wildcats

There went my bracket.  Now we get UK-Louisville in the Sweet Sixteen.  Is there such a thing as a basketball murder-suicide?  If so, I'll be rooting for it there.

We Miss Artie Wins In Photo Finish in Spiral

Charging hard down the center of the track at Turfway Park, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's We Miss Artie had his sights set on dueling Coastline and Harry's Holiday in the $518,950 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Racing Spiral Stakes.
A jump past the wire and no one knew who got it, but the Ramseys were well-represented railside at the Florence oval, and when the "official" sign put up his number, the gang went wild.
"Oh, 'he's not going to get up there for it,' that's what I was thinking," remarked Jeff Ramsey, son of the Kentucky couple. "And actually, I didn't think we had it. It was very, very close. It was exciting."
We Miss Artie, the 2013 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity winner, returned to his beloved Polytrack. He gave the Ramseys at least one guaranteed starter in the May 3 Kentucky Derby when edging his way to win the 1 ⅛-mile Spiral by a nose; Coastline was third, just a head farther back.
The couple also has Vicar's in Trouble pointing to the Louisiana Derby March 29 at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, and Bobby's Kitten likely for the April 12 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
"I'd like to have three in the Derby; then you only have to beat 17," Ramsey said when reached via phone in at his winter home in Florida. "We have three potentials and now this one is in, of course if the horse stays healthy. We won't need any more prep races for him; I think [trainer] Todd [Pletcher] wants to bring him back to Florida within the next couple days."
Slightly wide going into the first turn from post 11 in a field of 12 sophomores, the son of Artie Schiller settled seventh in hand for Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. John Battaglia Memorial winner Solitary Ranger went out for a quarter in :22.78 seconds, but Almost Famous contested the pace to get a half in :47.21 seconds before stopping. Longshot Harry's Holiday put in a prolonged drive to take over after three-quarters in 1:12.43, with Coastline drawing even for a ding-dong battle heading down the stretch through a mile in 1:38.59.
Only 41 days until the Kentucky Derby.

The Other NCAA Tournament

The bracket is out for the NCAA hockey tournament.  Minnesota, Boston College, Union College and Wisconsin are the top seeds.  My Notre Dame Fighting Irish made the cut in their first year in Hockey East.  The first round fires up on Friday.  I'll make my picks later in the week.

Tax Day

I spent most of the morning entering in my tax data for last year.  Considering the different things I have going on, my taxes aren't extremely complicated.  It helps to have a relative who is a CPA and has top-of-the-line tax software available for use, along with the knowledge for how to handle depreciation and stuff like that.  I was amazed that my 1.75% city income taxes and 1.50% school district income taxes withheld from my check were higher than the state income taxes withheld.  I think the city and school district taxes are taken out before the 401k contribution, while the state income taxes are taken out after, but still, that is kind of crazy.  I've got about a half hour more work to do on them, but I'm always glad to get that done.  All I know is that Uncle Sam has a pretty good sized check coming his way.