Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pre-Thanksgiving Weekend Links

Some stories for your reading pleasure:

Living an Upright Life, as a Nun and a Coach - New York Times.  This nun is an assistant coach at the College of St. Scholastica.  They will meet St. John's University in the first round of the Division III playoffs tomorrow.  Good luck to both teams.

Baseball's $325 Million Man is Underpaid - The Atlantic.  Sports owners do make way too much money for doing nothing but being rich.

Happy Valley Could Be Anywhere, And That's The Scariest Part - Deadspin

This Tiny Engine Could Make Leaf Blowers Sound Less Like Jets - Wired.  Cool new rotary engine.

Better Barley Let People Settle Tibetan Plateau - Scientific American.  Beer at altitude will really mess you up.

Coal Rush in India Could Tip Balance on Climate Change - New York Times

Inside Apple's Broken Sapphire Factory - Wall Street Journal.  Apple is a whale in the 80/20 world.  I'm not an 80/20 guy.

With Drought the New Normal, Calif. Farmers Find They Have to Change - The Salt

Map of the Agriculture-Dependent Counties In the United States & Future of  Rural Area Economies - Big Picture Agriculture

The Hummingbird Effect: How Galileo Invented Time and Gave Rise to the Modern Tyranny of the Clock - Brain Pickings

How Do You Memorialize a Mob? - Texas Observer.  The Great Hanging of Gainesville, Texas.

The Curious Case of Jesus's Wife - The Atlantic

For the Public Good: The Shameful History of Forced Sterilization in the U.S. - Longreads

Why Weren't Alarm Bells Ringing - NY Review of Books.  I'd go with hubris and a lack of common sense and connection with common people.

Five Ugly Decades of Middle Class Wages - Doug Short

GOP Governors' Meeting Showcases Potential Presidential Candidates - Morning Edition.  It is really a crowd of asshats, but I found this interesting:
In an apparent nod to 2016, the event was billed as the road ahead. It also featured Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, another presidential contender. Jindal talked about his opposition to Obama's immigration order, to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act and Common Core educational standards.
The governors on stage mostly shared his views except for one. Ohio governor John Kasich won re-election by a huge 30-point-plus margin. On immigration, Kasich said, he'd consider a path to citizenship. On Common Core, he said, it's working for Ohio and he defended his record of expanding Medicaid coverage.
GOVERNOR JOHN KASICH: I'm running a billion-and-a-half surplus in Ohio. Our credit rating is up. We've created a quarter-of-a-million jobs and we're helping a lot of people. Now, to me that's a pretty good formula for my state.
Kasich is also an asshat, but it is interesting that he's positioning himself against the Republican base.  An interesting strategy.  One that won't work, but interesting nonetheless.

Shale Boom Helps North Dakota Bank Earn Returns Goldman Would Envy - Wall Street Journal. 
Set up in 1919 under a socialist-oriented government that represented farmers frustrated with out-of-state commodity and railroad owners, the bank treads a fine line between the private and public sectors in what today is a solidly Republican state. It traditionally extends credit, or invests directly, in areas other lenders shun, such as rural housing loans.
It is amazing that today's average North Dakotan is as conservative as JP Morgan was back at the turn of the twentieth century.  They are nothing like their progressive great-grandparents who fought the monied interests tooth-and-nail.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Astronaut: A journey to space

Astronaut - A journey to space from Guillaume JUIN on Vimeo.

A Century of the Cooperative Extension Service

On May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act establishing the Cooperative Extension Service:
The roots of U.S. agricultural extension go back to the early years of our country. There were agricultural societies and clubs after the American Revolution, and in 1810 came the first Farm Journal. It survived for only 2 years, but in 1819 John Stuart Skinner of Baltimore began publishing the American Farmer. Farmers were encouraged to report on their achievements and their methods of solving problems. Some worthwhile ideas, along with some utterly useless ones, appeared on the pages of the publication.
The Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant universities to educate citizens in agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts, and other practical professions. Extension was formalized in 1914, with the Smith-Lever Act. It established the partnership between the agricultural colleges and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide for cooperative agricultural extension work. At the heart of agricultural extension work, according to the Act, was:
  • Developing practical applications of research knowledge.
  • Giving instruction and practical demonstrations of existing or improved practices or technologies in agriculture.
Smith-Lever mandated that the Federal Government (through USDA) provide each state with funds based on a population-related formula. Today, NIFA distributes these so-called formula grants annually.
The extension service's first big test came during World War I, when it helped the nation meet its wartime needs by:
  • Increasing wheat acreage significantly, from an average of 47 million acres annually in 1913 to 74 million in 1919.
  • Helping the USDA implement its new authority to encourage farm production, marketing, and conserving of perishable products by canning, drying, and preserving.
  • Helping to address war-related farm labor shortages at harvest time by organizing the Women's Land Army and the Boys' Working Reserve.
More generally, extension's role in WWI helped it expand its reputation as an educational entity to one that also emphasized service for individuals, organizations, and the Federal Government.
During the Great Depression, state colleges and the USDA emphasized farm management for individual farmers. Extension agents taught farmers about marketing and helped farm groups organize both buying and selling cooperatives. At the same time, extension home economists taught farm women—who traditionally maintained the household—good nutrition, canning surplus foods, house gardening, home poultry production, home nursing, furniture refinishing, and sewing—skills that helped many farm families survive the years of economic depression and drought.
During World War II, the extension service again worked with farmers and their families, along with 4-H club members, to secure the production increases essential to the war effort. Each year for 5 years, total food production increased. In 1944, food production was 38 percent above the 1935-1939 average.
The Victory Garden Program was one of the most popular programs in the war period, and extension agents developed programs to provide seed, fertilizer, and simple gardening tools for victory gardeners. An estimated 15 million families planted victory gardens in 1942, and in 1943 some 20 million victory gardens produced more than 40 percent of the vegetables grown for that year's fresh consumption....

 Today, extension works in six major areas:
  • 4-H Youth Development —cultivates important life skills in youth that build character and assist them in making appropriate life and career choices. At-risk youth participate in school retention and enrichment programs. Youth learn science, math, social skills, and much more, through hands-on projects and activities.
  • Agriculture —research and educational programs help individuals learn new ways to produce income through alternative enterprises, improved marketing strategies, and management skills and help farmers and ranchers improve productivity through resource management, controlling crop pests, soil testing, livestock production practices, and marketing.
  • Leadership Development —trains extension professionals and volunteers to deliver programs in gardening, health and safety, family and consumer issues, and 4-H youth development and serve in leadership roles in the community.
  • Natural Resources —teaches landowners and homeowners how to use natural resources wisely and protect the environment with educational programs in water quality, timber management, composting, lawn waste management, and recycling.
  • Family and Consumer Sciences —helps families become resilient and healthy by teaching nutrition, food preparation skills, positive child care, family communication, financial management, and health care strategies.
  • Community and Economic Development —helps local governments investigate and create viable options for economic and community development, such as improved job creation and retention, small and medium-sized business development, effective and coordinated emergency response, solid waste disposal, tourism development, workforce education, and land use planning.
Regardless of the program, extension expertise meets public needs at the local level. Although the number of local extension offices has declined over the years, and some county offices have consolidated into regional extension centers, there remain approximately 2,900 extension offices nationwide. Increasingly, extension serves a growing, increasingly diverse constituency with fewer and fewer resources.
The Morrill Act and the Smith-Lever Act, along with the Hatch Act of 1887, which established agricultural research stations to work with land-grant universities, created a comprehensive system of agricultural research and educational facilities which promoted the improvement of agricultural science throughout the country.  In today's climate, where government is belittled and politicians are guilty of dereliction of duty, I can't think of any recent initiatives with a similar impact on citizens' lives.  That is unfortunate.

Thanks to my former boss for suggesting the subject of this post. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Building a Corn Pile

Resistance? Whodathunkit?

A map of glyphosate usage:

Starting when it was first released in 1974, the herbicide Roundup became a great labor saver for us. Dad loved to spray it around the farm, killing all those weeds and grasses without ever once shaking out a root ball.
He thought Roundup was the best thing ever.
I also remember the time Dad sprayed too close to the corn east of the house on a windy day, killing off about half an acre. That's when he said if we could ever develop crops immune to Roundup, the farmer would have it made.
He died a year before Roundup Ready soybeans were released in 1994.
Dad always read the label, even if he didn't take it to heart. He used to say Roundup was so benign, you could eat it on your breakfast cereal. He also pointed out it made a great hand cleaner. That’s true, it did. Grease comes right off with Roundup. That may have been at least in part due to soapy chemicals that help the product coat plants evenly. But it’s also a characteristic of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.
According to my grandfather (so it has to be true), Roundup was developed as a soap which was intended for washing cars.   Monsanto washed some cars on a football field (why they would do that, I have no idea), and the wash water killed the grass.  Thus, Roundup as a herbicide. Yeah, I don't believe that, but I was reminded of it by the reference to Roundup as hand cleaner. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Charlie Chicken, Canine Artist

Charlie Chicken, Canine Artist - [Short Documentary] from Ed David on Vimeo.

NASA Photo of the Day

November 14:
Welcome to a Comet
Image Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/CIVA
Explanation: The Rosetta Mission lander is safely on a comet. One of Philae's feet appears at the bottom left of this spectacular image of the surface of C67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Still a happy lander, Philae bounced twice before settling and returning images from the surface, traveling a kilometer or so after initially touching at the targeted site Agilkia. A surface panorama suggests that the lander has come to rest tilted and near a shadowing wall, with its solar panels getting less illumination that hoped. Philae's science instruments are working as planned and data is being relayed during communications windows, when the Rosetta spacecraft is above the lander's new horizon.

Sunday, November 16, 2014