Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Success of Vaccines


Final March Weekend Links

Here are some stories to keep you informed and entertained this weekend:

Wrigley Field is Fucked - Deadspin.  The Ricketts are asshats.

Anatomy of an Upset - Grantland.  Inside the Providence locker room leading up to their loss to Dayton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

North Dakota Needs a Nickname (And No, 'Fighting Sioux' Won't Do) - Wall Street Journal

Take These Broken Wings - SBNation

America's Socialist Sports League: The NFL - The Atlantic.  Don't forget the Green Bay Packers are a community-owned "non-profit."

Stick To Sports: The Communist Sportswriter and the FBI plot to ruin him - Vice Sports

California Farmers Are Selling Water To The State Instead Of Growing Crops - Modern Farmer

Iowa agriculture survives off carcass of prairie soil - Des Moines Register

Proponents of Raw Milk Are No Better Than Anti-Vaccine Advocates - Pacific Standard.  I never really understood folks opposition to pasteurization.

Heinz and Kraft: Before They Were Food Giants, They Were Men - The Salt

The Scene of the Crime - Seymour Hersh goes to My Lai 46 years after breaking the story of one of the worst chapters in U.S. Army history.

What Lies Beneath - Foreign Policy.  Did Israel steal uranium from this Pennsylvania town to build a nuclear bomb?

The Father of the Digital Synthesizer - priceonomics

The Deadly Global War For Sand - Wired

Healing Fire in Derry: The Temple Was Meant to Burn - New York Times

Japanese Robot Maker Fanuc Reveals Some Of Its Secrets - Wall Street Journal

Midwest Town Braces For More Steel Layoffs - NPR

Fleece Force: How Police And Courts Around Ferguson Bully Residents And Collect Millions - Huffington Post.  It should say "Bully Black Residents."  The municipalities in St. Louis County were created by racists to maintain segregation, so it isn't a surprise that they still are racist.
How Chicago Has Used Financial Engineering to Paper over its Massive Budget Gap - Medium

Cornfields, Trees and Water: Mapping the Rest of America - CityLab

Friday, March 27, 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

China Used More Cement in 3 Years than the U.S. did in 100

There is a lot of crazy data here:

So how did China use so much cement? First, the country is urbanizing at a historic rate, much faster than the U.S. did in the 20th Century. More than 20 million Chinese relocate to cities each year, which is more people than live in downtown New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago combined. This massive change has taken place in less than 50 years. In 1978, less than a fifth of China’s population lived in cities. By 2020, that proportion will be 60 percent....
More stunning than Shanghai's transformation is the growth of the Pearl River Delta, a megalopolis on the Chinese mainland across from Hong Kong. The manufacturing hub had 42 million inhabitants in 2010, according to the World Bank. If considered a single urban area – which makes sense, since the cities there all run together -- the Pearl River Delta would be the world’s largest city by both area and population.
What’s almost more impressive than China’s biggest cities is the incredible number of “small” cities that no one has ever heard of. In 2009, China had 221 cities with more than a million people in them, compared with only 35 in Europe. Even relatively minor cities like Zhengzhou and Jinan are more populous than Los Angeles or Chicago.
Beyond China's incredible urbanization, there are a few more facts that make the cement stat even more believable. As Goldman Sachs pointed out in a note, China’s population today is only about four times as large as the U.S., but it is 15 times as large as the U.S. was in the early 20th Century, and nine times the size of the U.S. in 1950.
The world also experienced a shift in building materials over the 20th Century. In 1950, the world manufactured roughly as much steel as cement; by 2010, steel production had grown by a factor of eight, but cement had gone up by a factor of 25. And where many houses in the U.S. are made of wood, China suffers from a relative lack of lumber. Unlike in the U.S., many people in China live in high- or low-rise buildings made out of cement.
The scale of everything in China is just mind-boggling to me.  I'm pretty sure China's steel industry is as large as the rest of the world's combined.  The overproduction in every industry there is astounding.

The Reinvention of Normal

THE REINVENTION OF NORMAL from Liam Saint-Pierre on Vimeo.

How Much Rain Do You Get?

Natural News, via Ritholtz:

Stay east of the 98th meridian, and out of the southwest.  Unfortunately, people flock to where it is hot.

200 Years of Immigration in One Chart

At Insightful Interaction:
Look at that German horde.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

End of March Mid-Week Mini Links

 Tear Gas, Giant Vaginas and Tough Mudder - Vice Sports.  I'm sorry, I really don't care what the article is about, but the title makes me laugh.

Pennsylvanians No Longer Subject To (Quite As) Insane Draconian Alcohol Laws - Modern Farmer.  Fuck, there are so many bad liquor laws around this country.  If there ever should be federal law, it is here. Or in civil rights.

9 Billionaires Are About To Remake New York Public Schools-Here's Their Story - The Nation

Stephen King to Maine governor: "Man up and apologize" - Washington Post.  Lepage is a typical Republican asshole, and he was using King as an example of somebody who moved out-of-state to save on income taxes.  Except King still paid Maine state taxes.  Republicans are stupid fucking idiots.

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say - The Independent.  The funny thing is, if you search Gulf Stream, the first story is a bullshit article from Breitbart.  The thing is, if this story is even partially true, it is a very bad thing.

Agriculture: Increase water harvesting in Africa - Nature

The 2016 Republican presidential race. broken down into 5 'lanes' - Washington Post.  There should be an idiot category.  It would be the biggest.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Unicorns and Centaurs

Matt O'Brien dismantles the flat tax, which Ted Cruz promised to campaign on:
You may say Ted Cruz is a dreamer, but he's not the only one. He hopes some day—especially if you live in Iowa—you'll join him, and, well, he'll be president. That, at least, was the message during his announcement, oddly redolent of John Lennon, that he's officially seeking the highest office in the land. It was a conservative wish list to not only repeal the 21st century, but the 20th, too. About the only thing missing was a call to bring back the gold standard, although Cruz pretty much has that covered now that he's joined Rand Paul's crusade to curb the Federal Reserve.
Now it isn't easy to single any of this out as particularly unrealistic—that's like asking whether unicorns or centaurs are more real—but the flat tax might be it. That's the idea that everyone should pay the same tax rate. It's been the white whale for conservatives who not only want to go back to pre-New Deal levels of taxation, but also think this would super-charge the economy. Steve Forbes, for one, made this the centerpiece of his two presidential campaigns, and says that instead of the 2 to 2.5 percent growth we've gotten, a flat tax would make economic growth would explode up 6 percent the first few years and 3.5 percent thereafter.
But reality is a lot tougher than some tax models. A flat tax would just be a colossal giveaway to the rich—and maybe even take away for the poor—and that doesn't help the economy much. Just look, for example, at Rick Perry's version of this. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that, on average, it would have raised taxes on the bottom 40 percent between $150 and $450, at the same time as it slashed them for the top 0.1 percent by $1.5 million. Or, in percentage terms, that's a 1.5 percent tax hike on the bottom 40 and a 27 percent tax cut for the top 0.1. In all, 34.2 percent of the money would go to the top 0.1, 62.2 percent to the top 1, and 86.6 percent to the top 5 percent.
 Now, I know, I know, that the lower the top tax rate is, the more top earners should work and invest, and the more growth there should be to, yes, trickle down to everyone else. And if you believe that, then this is the plan for you, since it cuts taxes about as much as you can for the rich. But then you probably do believe in unicorns and centaurs—because the evidence says that this theory isn't true.
Well, if this is the kind of reaction a Ted Cruz candidacy is going to bring out, thank God he's running.  That is, as long as he (or any other Republican, for that matter) doesn't actually win.  That would be a disaster for the country.  But the flat tax just won't die amongst people who would get screwed under it.  I tried to explain to my neighbors (while I was fueled by numerous beers) why the flat tax would screw them and most everybody they knew, but they weren't having it.  They were sure it would be better for them.  Damn, math is hard to explain sometimes.

Containing the Fukushima Mess And Preventing Future Disasters

More than four years after the catastrophic tsunami that crippled several nuclear reactors in Fukushima, the Japanese utility that owns the site is struggling to deal with a continuous flood of radioactive water.
The tsunami knocked off power at the nuclear plant, which led to the meltdown of three of the six reactors, with a fourth severely damaged. The ongoing release of radioactive material has prevented anyone from entering parts of the complex.
But getting a handle on the mess, let alone permanently cleaning up the site, has been extraordinarily difficult. The problem is the daily flood of rainwater that flows downhill towards the sea, rushing into the mangled radioactive site. An estimated 300 tons of water reaches the building each day, and then becomes contaminated. TEPCO, the utility that owns the site, has been furiously building above ground storage tanks for radioactive water. Storing the water prevents it from being discharged into the sea, but this Sisyphean task does nothing to ultimately solve the problem as the torrent of water never ends. TEPCO has already put more than 500,000 tons of radioactive water in storage tanks.
To reduce the 300 tons of newly created radioactive water each day, TEPCO must cut off the flow of groundwater into the nuclear complex. To do that, it plans on building an ice wall that will surround the four reactors. TEPCO plans on building an intricate array of coolant pipes underneath the reactors, freezing the soil into a hardened ice wall that will block the flow of water. The ice wall will stretch one and a half kilometers around the reactors.
Great plan, except that it has never been done before. TEPCO may be able to freeze the soil, but there is no telling if it can build an ice wall without any holes that could allow water to seep into the reactor building. Questions surrounding the viability of the ice wall, and with it the prospects for halting the flow of radioactive water, heightened after TEPCO announced in mid-March that it was postponing the project.....
The Japanese government hopes to prevent future nuclear meltdowns by constructing “The Great Wall of Japan,” a controversial $6.8 billion campaign to build around 440 sea walls along the coast to fend off tsunamis.
 Hmmm...why is it again that nuclear power is so expensive?  Geez, what a unmitigated disaster.


Supersymmetry from Trent Jaklitsch on Vimeo.

Louisville Slugger Brand To Be Sold To Wilson

USA Today:
The company that made bats for a who's who of baseball greats, including Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, announced a deal Monday to sell its Louisville Slugger brand to rival Wilson Sporting Goods for $70 million.
The deal is expected to close this summer.
Hillerich & Bradsby is best known for making its Louisville Slugger baseball bats.
But the 130-year-old batmaker also makes baseball gloves, golf clubs and other sports equipment. It has faced headwinds in recent years, starting with a threat to its source of ash wood for its professional and amateur wooden bats.
About 60% of Major League Baseball players use Louisville Slugger bats, and the company has sold more than 100 million, according to H&B's website.
Wilson's deal to acquire the global brand, sales and innovation rights of Louisville Slugger still requires approval from H&B shareholders, according to the companies' joint announcement.
That seems like the end of H & B to me.

Update: A little more explanation:
Hillerich will continue to manufacture bats as it has for more than a century, but it will be up to glove maker Wilson, a unit of Helsinki-based Amer Sports Corp., to sell them.
The move is aimed at spurring growth for the languishing brand. Louisville Slugger has signed a long roster of professional players, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, to endorsement deals over the years, but its market share has been waning. The company has struggled in recent times after series of missteps, including a costly bat recall.
Several years ago, some of its peers went on an investment-fueled expansion drive. Hillerich, meanwhile, remained family-owned, which limited its ability to invest.
Translation:  The family didn't want to risk putting more money into the company.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hockey Sounds

Hockey Sounds from Scott Duffy on Vimeo.

NASA Photo of the Day

March 18:

Earth During a Total Eclipse of the Sun
Image Credit: Expedition 12 Crew, NASA
Explanation: What does the Earth look like during a total solar eclipse? It appears dark in the region where people see the eclipse, because that's where the shadow of the Moon falls. The shadow spot actually shoots across the Earth at nearly 2,000 kilometers per hour, darkening locations in its path for only a few minutes before moving on. The featured image shows the Earth during the total solar eclipse of 2006 March, as seen from the International Space Station. On Friday the Moon will move in front of the Sun once again, casting another distorted circular shadow that, this time, will zip over part of the north Atlantic Ocean.

Wood Bison Returned To Alaska Habitat After 100 Year Absence

The first of 100 wood bison aimed at re-establishing a species that went extinct more than a century ago in Alaska were flown Sunday to a rural village.
Thirty 30 juveniles age 2 or younger were loaded into specially designed "bison boxes," and trucked from the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage to Anchorage. They made a one-hour flight to Shageluk and arrived at about 1 p.m.
In several weeks, after 70 more wood bison reach Shageluk, and after they've become acclimated, they will be released as a group into the Inoko Flats, one of the areas of Alaska where wood bison once roamed.
Mike Miller, director of the conservation center, which has housed animals imported from Canada since 2008, said restoring an animal to its native habitat is an opportunity that doesn't come often.
"It's such an opportunity to go back in time and right a wrong. We as people never get a chance to do that, but in this case, they did. And today's the day we correct that mistake," he said.
Twenty bulls will be barged to the area this summer.
Wood bison are native to Alaska and Canada. They're North America's largest land mammal and bigger than the plains bison that roamed in Lower 48 states.
Wood bison bulls can weigh more than 2,000 pounds. Cows weigh 800 to 1,200 pounds and the juveniles moved Sunday weigh 280 to 490 pounds.
Staff from the Fish and Game Department and the conservation center spent much of last week practicing for the big moving day. Bison are skittish around people, and with horns and massive weight, are dangerous to people and themselves.
From a pen, the animals were funneled a few at a time into a plywood chute that did not allow them to see humans they passed.
"A human face scares the animals," said biologist Cathie Harms said.
They moved from the wooden chute to an enclosed metal chute, where biologists opened doors for final blood samples and de-worming shots. They were then herded into the bison boxes in groups of five, crowded but separated by doors.
The close conditions were by design. Takeoff from Anchorage, and landing on the short village runway, could bounce the animals around.
"They don't have a lot of room to jostle," Harms said.
The bison in Shageluk will be kept in pens several acres large before release in two or three weeks. They've been eating hay since arriving at the conservation center, but in the wild will eat grasses, sedges and forbs. Bison move to a foraging spot, stay a day or so and move to a new one, Harms said.
I'd never heard of wood bison before.  Boy, today is quite the learning experience.

North Dakota Farmers Plant Carinata

The oil seed, which is a mustard variant, is to be refined to make jet fuel for the Navy:
This season, western North Dakota farmers have agreed to plant 6,000 acres of an alternate crop – jet fuel.
Canadian seed producer Agrisoma Biosciences sought farmers this winter to plant carinata, a variety of mustard seed that can be made into a biofuel indistinguishable from petroleum products. One potential consumer, the U.S. Navy, is targeting carinata to help reach its goal of serving half of its energy needs with non-oil sources by 2020.
Agrisoma had a goal to have 4,000 acres planted. It filled that in three days then exceeded it, getting farmers to commit to 6,000 acres stretching from the southwest to the Canadian border, said Agrisoma representative Garret Groves.
“We’ve had pretty good success,” said Groves, adding that many of the farmers were looking for a new oil seed to add to their rotation.
Carinata looks similar to canola, only a little bushier. Many driving past fields where its being grown near Mott, Carson, Tioga, Ray, Williston, Noonan and Flasher probably won’t notice the difference.
John Rickertsen, research agronomist at the Hettinger Research Extension Center, said he planted his first test plot of carinata this past year and the harvest was good.
Plant times are about the same as canola, going in the ground between April 20 and May 5, and carinata is supposed to be more drought resistant. It also grows well on marginal lands.
The benefit of jet fuel made from carinata is it has lower carbon emissions. It can be used as a direct replacement for jet fuel, with no blending or engine changes required, Bliss said.
Carinata also works better than canola and similar crops as a biofuel because it produces more and better quality oil with high amino acid content, said Christine Bliss of the University of Florida when Agrisoma introduced the crop to farmers during the North Dakota State University Hettinger Research Extension Center’s annual Western Dakota Crops Day. In Florida, 3,500 acres of carinata are were planted as a winter crop.
Carinata also has the benefit of not being a food crop.
The carinata planted is expected to yield between 1,800 pounds and one ton per acre, according to Groves, who said Agrisoma’s success will be measured by whether or not the farmers who plant it this year agree to plant it again in following years and on more acres. Agrisoma aims for North Dakota farmers to contribute acres to its goal of 50,000 acres planted next year.
That's a new one on me.