Saturday, June 7, 2014

Belmont Stakes Weekend Reads

Maybe we'll see history made today.  Go California Chrome.  Here are some stories that caught my eye this week:

Photos: Land Use Destruction to Grow Biofuels - Big Picture Agriculture

On the Anniversary of D-Day: Making World War II Personal - John Tierney.  See also, The Profound Contradiction of Saving Private Ryan - John Biguenet

How to live without air conditioning - Boston Globe, via Katie Baker's twitter feed.  That article covers practical ways in which we could re-adapt to life without air conditioning.  One of her followers posted a link to Arthur Miller's wonderful reminiscence of the sights, sounds and smells of New York in summer in the late Twenties.

Why Freakonomics Freaks Me Out - Bloomberg View

Your Vanilla Ice Cream Is About To Get Weirder - Tom Philpott.  I don't know, using synthetic yeast to produce vanillin seems no more weird than using beaver anal secretions (castoreum)  in your vanilla ice cream or schnapps.

Monarch Butterflies under Threat from Rising Herbicide Use - Scientific American.  I've mentioned it before, but you just don't see milkweed anymore.

A Theory of Jerks - Aeon

A Horse Owner's Biggest Gamble - Wall Street Journal.  The owners of California Chrome have already gambled more than I probably would.  I like that the worst-case scenario below is $6.8 million.

Non-Triple Crown winners of the Kentucky Derby and Preakness:

YearHorseBelmont Result (Winner)
1932Burgoo King(Did not start)
1936Bold Venture(Did not start)
1944Pensive2nd (Bounding Home)
1958Tim Tam2nd (Cavan)
1961Carry Back7th (Sherluck)
1964Northern Dancer3rd (Quadrangle)
1966Kauai King4th (Amberoid)
1968**Forward Pass2nd (Stage Door Johnny)
1969Majestic Prince2nd (Arts and Letters)
1971Canonero II4th (Pass Catcher)
1979Spectacular Bid3rd (Coastal)
1981Pleasant Colony3rd (Summing)
1987Alysheba4th (Bet Twice)
1989Sunday Silence2nd (Easy Goer)
1997Silver Charm2nd (Touch Gold)
1998Real Quiet2nd (Victory Gallop)
1999Charismatic3rd (Lemon Drop Kid)
2002War Emblem8th (Sarava)
2003Funny Cide3rd (Empire Maker)
2004Smarty Jones2nd (Birdstone)
2008Big BrownDNF (Da'Tara)
2012I'll Have AnotherDid Not Start (Union Rags)
2014California Chrome???

Friday, June 6, 2014


Employment tops the pre-Great Recession peak and sets an all-time high:

source: Calculated Risk.

The length and depth of that trough is just amazing when compared to the rest of the post-Depression recessions.

Remembering D-Day

70 years ago today, Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy, establishing a beachhead from which the liberation of France and the western invasion of Germany would take place.  The war in Europe would end less than a year from that day.  It is amazing that even the youngest soldiers who took part in that historic battle are in their late eighties.  More about that tremendous undertaking here and here.  A description of Operation Tiger, a disaster which occurred in a practice run for D-Day, is here.  A former soldier discusses how volunteering at the National D-Day World War II Museum helped him exorcise ghosts of that war here.  Finally, a bit of perspective on the relative size of the struggle on the Western front when compared to the epic events on the Eastern front here. (Moon of Alabama has more on that here)

Also, even though it will still be circulating in the future, the email referenced here should be put to rest (even though Obama is in France, and not Bedford, Virginia).

Update: D-Day in photos, then and now.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Solar Power May Disrupt the Utility Industry

Bloomberg View:
Deregulated electricity generators make most of their profits on hot summer afternoons, when air conditioners and offices force grid operators to call up their most expensive electricity: natural gas “peaker” plants. Cheap to build but expensive to operate, these plants are essentially jet engines, producing power on demand for a few hours at a time. However, the entire industry benefits when peaker plants kick in, because every other generator, including the cheapest hydropower operator, receives the same top dollar during those peak hours.
Solar panels -- whether utility scale or residential rooftop -- generate maximum power on exactly those hot afternoons when demand peaks. What's more, they do so at no marginal cost; the sun is free. This reduces reliance on peakers, causing prices to fall across the board, including for customers without solar power.
This is what terrifies power companies. In California, the afternoon peak has effectively collapsed. CAISO, the state’s grid manager, projects that the peak will become an afternoon chasm, so low that even power plants designed to operate 24 hours a day as “baseload power” (nuclear energy is a good example) may face difficult decisions about when to operate.
The first victims among utilities will be generators that sell electricity from peakers and other plants in the open market. Soon, their plants will be needed only for the few hours around dusk when the sun is weak but demand is still relatively high.
The monopoly utilities will be hit next. Edison Electric Institute warns of “irreparable damages to revenues and growth prospects” due to the spread of distributed power generation from renewable energy sources.
Why is solar growing so fast? Because in the past three years, the cost of panels has been halved.
The move from a highly controlled and generally predictable grid to a more decentralized and less predictable system will be a huge challenge, but a challenge worth dealing with.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain

A former McKinsey consultant informs us mere mortals of  ten things he learned on the job.  Number 1 is pretty important:
 1. There are no “experts” in business.
It was my first grown up job, and this was the biggest surprise. Before I joined I had assumed that people in the upper echelons of the business world really knew what they were doing – that they were imbued with great wisdom, and knowledge, and insights, and secret data that the rest of the world didn’t know about. Turns out they are pretty much guessing, much like the rest of us. That’s why they hired a bunch of smart young people to tell them what was going on in their own companies. And we were able to tell them.
Number 10 is even better, and number 9, Everyone is in sales, is the one that gives me fits every dayIf I would admit that it is true, I'd probably have a better chance of getting married.  Some things I'd add:

No matter how smart you are, always assume the person you are talking to can teach you something.

Listen.  Not just to what people tell you, but how they tell you and why you think they tell you it.

If it seems like a good idea, ask yourself why somebody else isn't already doing it.

Think for yourself.  If the consensus has formed around an idea, think about why it may be a good idea, then think about why it may be a bad idea.  

There are a lot of other suggestions I can give out, but these are some of the more important ones, in my opinion.

RIP Don Zimmer

NY Daily News:
Baseball is forever poorer with the passing of Don Zimmer, one of the game’s all-time good will ambassadors, humorists and raconteurs who began his travelogue career as a Dodger in Brooklyn, surviving two near-fatal beanings, and went on to be an original ’62 Met, a Washington Senator, manager of two storied franchises, the Red Sox and Cubs, and finally Joe Torre’s bench coach for four Yankee world championship teams.
Zimmer, 83, died early Wednesday evening at Day Care Alliance Hospital in Dunedin, Fla. where he had been for the past few weeks after first undergoing a heart valve surgery and then being diagnosed with fibrosis on his lungs. He had also been having dialysis treatments for the last couple of years.
“He was my best friend in life,” said Jim Leyland, former Tigers manager. “I called him three or four times a day. He took a liking to me years ago when he was a coach with the Yankees and we became fast friends.
“There is no better person in life than Don Zimmer was.”
Zimmer leaves behind his wife Soot, whom he married at home plate Aug. 16, 1951 before a minor league game in Elmira, N.Y., a son Tom, a daughter, Donna, four grandchildren, thousands of baseball friends and millions of racetrack tickets, cashed or otherwise.
One of the finest people from Cincinnati's West Side, and one of Western Hills High School's most famous alums (with his best friend Jim Frey and Peter Edward Rose).

If I have half of that obituary when I leave this mundane sphere, I would consider myself pretty damn lucky.  God bless you, Zimmy.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Our Lagging Infrastructure Spending

From Fivethirtyeight:

It probably doesn't help that Obama pushed for the stimulus back in '09.  Just one more sensible thing Obama's support made Republicans shun.  The only way for Republicans to oppose tax cuts is for Obama to be for them.

I would really like to see this chart further back through history.  I would assume infrastructure spending was even higher from the '30s until the early '90s.  Except for WWII, when a lot of that spending went for blowing up infrastructure.


MATT from Diesel Films on Vimeo.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Yes, I've Been A Lousy Blogger

Between the daily beatdowns at work and trying to get things done on the farm, I've really been doing a poor job of posting things here. Most days, I'd try to sneak a little research time in on the clock at the job, but the last several days haven't given me an opportunity to check anything out online. Maybe things will let up sometime soon, but I really don't know. Anyway, keep on keeping on.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"Four Wheel Steering is why I get up in the morning"


There are people who like mowing the grass? There has to be some medication that can help these folks.

First of June Weekend Links

These are late because we were finishing up planting, but I did come across some interesting stuff:

Physicists Prove Surprising Rule of Threes - Wired

100-Year-Old Negatives Discovered in Block of Ice in Antarctica - My Modern Met (h/t Kaye)

7 Million People Earn America's Other Minimum Wage: $23,660 - Wall Street Journal.  That's the least somebody can make and be legally allowed to be on salary and exempt from overtime.  It was lowered to that under the Bush administration, and Obama recently proposed increasing that amount.

Fire on the Mountain - The Atlantic. On the Yarnell fire.  See more here.

How the VA developed its culture of coverups - Washington Post

Climate Change Meets Kitchen Table as Issue Gets Personal - Bloomberg

Via Ritholtz.