Saturday, December 26, 2015

Boxing Day Weekend Links

Hopefully everyone had a very fine Christmas.  Here are some entertaining stories for your enjoyment this holiday weekend:

The Last Wrestler - SB Nation.  Looking at the decline of college wrestling and the Tea Party's concept of the decline of America through the athletic biography of Jim Jordan, who is my concept of the do-nothing government employee.  The article is very interesting, though.  I may have to revisit it in depth, if I get a chance.

Jerry Tarkanian and Walter Byers: Adversaries Who Left Mark On N.C.A.A. - New York Times

The Best Eleven Minutes In Sports in 2015 - The New Yorker

U.S. Bread Basket Shifts Thanks to Climate Change - Scientific American.  This is why farmers ought to be concerned about global warming.

Boxing Day, explained - Vox.  I could handle the drinking part.

America's Top Shale Gas Basin In Decline - OilPrice

The Siege of Miami  - The New Yorker

When  the KKK Was a Pyramid Scheme - PriceonomicsOne of many in the history of politics for conservative bigots.

The last time an American tycoon exploited terrorism - Pando

Manifest Injustice - St. Louis Magazine

The Koch-like Family You've Never Heard of Influencing State Legislatures - Political Research

Hey, Hipsters: Please Save Us From Ted Cruz - P.J. O'Rourke

Republican Poverty: 93 of the Poorest 100 Counties in America Are In Red States - Addicting Info

The State of Rural America in 2015 - Modern Farmer.  Remember, this is at the end of the biggest boom in agriculture in almost 40 years.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The County

The County from Guardian News & Media Ltd on Vimeo.

Where Did Your Christmas Tree Come From?

Christmas trees are grown commercially in 44 states. But in most places it's a tiny industry, and production hovers in the thousands and hundreds of thousands. Only four states produced more than a million Christmas trees in 2012. Oregon was the top Christmas tree–producing state, with more than 6.4 million trees produced in 2012.
The Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association — which is a real organization that exists — estimates that the Christmas tree industry generates $110 million annually in revenue for Oregon. Ninety-two percent of Christmas trees produced in the Pacific Northwest (both Oregon and Washington) are ultimately exported out of the state, with the biggest customer being California. Only 4 percent make it all the way to the East Coast.
North Carolina was the second-largest producer of Christmas trees (4.3 million), followed by Michigan (1.7 million) and Pennsylvania (1 million). Overall, 17.3 million Christmas trees were produced in 2012.
The three best-selling species of Christmas trees include the Fraser fir (7.6 million), noble fir (4.9 million), and Douglas fir (3.9 million). North Carolina is the leading producer of Fraser firs, and Oregon is the leading producer of both noble and Douglas firs. An estimated 60 million to 70 million Christmas tree seedlings are planted yearly, and the industry employs on average at least 100,000 people.
I think the last year I got a tree was 2007.  I'm pretty sure that one came from North Carolina, and it was a Scotch Pine.  I'm not surprised Scotch Pine isn't included amongst the most popular trees listed above.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015



How could the south be +8 Happy Holidays while the evil left coast be +3 Merry Christmas.  90% of the population in the west is in Washington, Oregon and California.  My world is turned upside-down.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

U.S. Ag Advantage: Genetics

Three hundred thirteen-five is a beauty and sure to have beautiful babes, too. Born on March 30, the fifth piglet in litter 313, she’s an elite sow, bred to produce several generations of breeding pigs that will ultimately produce delicious piglets—a lot of them. She’s a Yorkshire, a breed known for strong maternal traits, like the size of their litters, the birth weight of their piglets, and a relatively short interval between litters. The best ones grow up fast and produce lean meat, too.
Even among Yorkshires, though, 313-5 comes from exceptional stock. Her father, a boar with the romantic name BTI4 the Unit 30-6, was ranked, as of Dec. 15, sixth in the U.S. among Yorkshires on the “sow productivity index,” a measure of maternal traits, and fourth on the “maternal line index,” which combines maternal traits with edible traits, like stores of back fat and muscle. Her mother is a descendant of the late Wisconsin Steel, the champion boar at the 2009 Wisconsin State Fair; the name is a play on the relatively cheap price, $2,500, paid for the boar—a “steal” for such a productive stud. In short, 313-5, her children, and even her grandchildren will be bred to breed and enhance a widening gene pool. Her great-grandchildren, though, will be raised for slaughter. And though she doesn’t know it yet, she’s going global. She’s headed to the Philippines.
One evening in May, several men weighing 313-5’s fate gather in a conference room in rural Albion, Ind., for a sales presentation on a “customizable approach to genetic improvement.” The room is in the basement of Whiteshire Hamroc, a 20-year-old company that specializes in swine genetics, the porcine equivalent of rose breeders crossing hybrids to yield a singular flower. A map of China adorns one wall, and framed aerial photographs of Whiteshire Hamroc’s farm hang on the others.
Mark Brubaker, an applied geneticist, works through a PowerPoint presentation that rates the farm’s pigs with statistical precision—feed-conversion ratio, estimated breeding value, terminal sire index. He boasts that the data paint a picture of “pounds of pork through a system” and “how efficient that system is.” But don’t get the wrong idea. These are animals, not pounds of pork, adds Scott Lawrence, director of domestic sales and marketing. “Our philosophy is: How can we advocate for the pigs?”
Edwin Chen listens attentively, interrupting occasionally to parse the data. “The yield is with the head on or the head off?” he asks. (Head on.)
Chen is a slight 55-year-old with neatly parted black hair and wire-rim glasses. As president of Hypig Genetics, he oversees a 6,000-sow operation on several farms in the Filipino countryside. He wants to triple that number, in part by buying thoroughbred pigs from the U.S., where he says swine genetics is decades ahead of that in the Philippines. Chen says his family’s desire to expand quickly is based on potential as much as current demand. The gross domestic product per capita in the Philippines is about $2,900 a year. When it reaches $5,000, Chen predicts, demand for meat will explode. “We have to get ready,” he says.
Whether it is grain or livestock, the U.S. has a strong genetic focus.  However, I get the feeling our focus on productivity may hurt us down the road.

Lottery Company Official Accused of Rigging Lottery Drawings

I knew lottery games were rigged, but jeez:
The former security chief for a national group that operates state lotteries personally bought two prize-winning tickets in Kansas worth $44,000, investigators said Monday, bringing to five the number of states where he may have fixed games to enrich himself and associates.
Investigators recently linked the winning 2010 Kansas tickets to Eddie Tipton, former security director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, Iowa assistant attorney general Rob Sand disclosed in court documents. The evidence will show that Tipton associates who claimed the prizes returned half of the money in cash directly to him in early 2011, he wrote.
Tipton allegedly purchased two winning tickets to the "2by2" game at separate locations while traveling through Kansas on business in December 2010, the Kansas Lottery said. Each was worth $22,000, the prize for any player with the day's winning numbers, and were allegedly passed on from Tipton to individuals from Iowa and Texas who claimed them, the lottery's statement said.
In his job at the association managing lotteries for 37 states and territories, Tipton managed random number generators that pick winning numbers for some national games such as Hot Lotto and games played in individual lotteries.
Kansas Lottery officials said they were asked to look into the 2010 tickets by Iowa investigators earlier this month. Any alleged fixing happened at the association headquarters in Urbandale, Iowa, where "2by2" is administered and drawn, they said.
Wow, that would be a pretty crooked operation.

Don't Miss the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

One of the more ridiculous college football bowl games kicks off at 3:30 PM EST today.  At least it doesn't take itself too seriously:

Monday, December 21, 2015

Development Waste Leads To Massive Chinese Landslide

A massive landslide rocked an industrial park in China’s southern city Shenzhen on Sunday (Dec. 20), burying 33 buildings and leaving at least 85 people missing by Monday. Authorities said the collapse of a huge mound of soil and construction waste caused the disaster. The landslide might have also led to an explosion along a nearby stretch of natural gas pipeline, state news agency Xinhua reported...
The landslide occurred at around 11:40am on Sunday (local time) in the Hengtaiyu industrial park in northwestern Shenzhen’s Guangming New District. It deposited more than 100,000 square meters (1.1 million square feet) of debris at the site, Xinhua reported. A sea of brown soil—with an average thickness of six meters (20 feet)—has covered an area of more than 60,000 square meters, geological experts told Xinhua.
The mound of construction waste that collapsed had become too large and its angles too steep, the ministry of land and resources said Sunday evening on its Sina Weibo account (link in Chinese, registration required)....
Shenzhen, a mainland manufacturing hub near Hong Kong, has been aggressively building new housing estates, subway lines, and other projects. The amount of the municipality’s waste mud has increased significantly in recent years, expanding to 30 million cubic meters (1.1 billion cubic feet) last year from 9.5 million cubic meters in 2007.
The nine dumping areas currently licensed by the city—which includes the one that burst yesterday—have a combined capacity of about 50 million cubic meters, local media report (link in Chinese). Many companies have reportedly been dumping waste mud at roadsides and illegal sites.
That is a massive landslide.  Why in the hell would they be stockpiling that much soil in giant waste piles?  That doesn't make any sense to me.

Madeline the Robot Tamer

Madeline the Robot Tamer from Pier 9 on Vimeo.

NASA Photo of the Day

December 18:

Herbig-Haro 24
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage (STScI / AURA) / Hubble-Europe Collaboration
Acknowledgment: D. Padgett (GSFC), T. Megeath (University of Toledo), B. Reipurth (University of Hawaii)
Explanation: This might look like a double-bladed lightsaber, but these two cosmic jets actually beam outward from a newborn star in a galaxy near you. Constructed from Hubble Space Telescope image data, the stunning scene spans about half a light-year across Herbig-Haro 24 (HH 24), some 1,300 light-years or 400 parsecs away in the stellar nurseries of the Orion B molecular cloud complex. Hidden from direct view, HH 24's central protostar is surrounded by cold dust and gas flattened into a rotating accretion disk. As material from the disk falls toward the young stellar object it heats up. Opposing jets are blasted out along the system's rotation axis. Cutting through the region's interstellar matter, the narrow, energetic jets produce a series of glowing shock fronts along their path.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Odds Against a White Christmas

We're not going to have a White Christmas here, but here's the historic probability of one: