Saturday, April 2, 2016

Final Four / Opening Day Weekend Links

It's time for a sporting change of seasons.  Here are some entertaining stories for your enjoyment:

Fight - New York Times.  A tragic story about a slowly-dying sport in a slowly-dying region.

Adrien Broner Is A Dick - Deadspin.  More from the slowly-dying sport.

A Modest Proposal For Replacing the USMNT With The Women's National Team - VICE Sports

Survey: Iowa farmland values decline nearly 9% - Des Moines Register.  Expect much more to come.

New Study Finds "Ag Gag" Laws Erode Trust In Farmers - Modern Farmer.  Um, no shit?

Pabst New Owner Digs Into Old Recipes as It Looks to the Future - New York Times.  I've always loved me some downscale beer brands.

Hitler Couldn't Defeat Chrurchill, But Champagne Almost Did - The Salt. "The taxman may have proved intractable, but others were more amenable. Rich friends bailed him out, and at one point, the government settled his liquor bills"

The heroes hidden in the archive - Irish Independent.  Very good piece on the Easter Rising.

Mother Angelica, EWTN Founder, had roots and early fame in Northeast Ohio - Cleveland Plain Dealer (h/t the nurse).  I didn't know she sold fishing lures back in the day.

Can an Outsider Ever Truly Become Amish? - Atlas Obscura

How New York Gets Its Water - New York Times.  Delivered entirely by gravity.  Wow.
Is India facing its worst ever water crisis? - BBC

Why didn't Flint treat its water? An answer, at last - Detroit Free Press.  No surprise there.  I didn't understand why a city would even have a treatment plant when it was buying treated water.  This makes the decision to switch to the Flint River all the more criminal.

Has BART's cutting-edge 1972 technology design come back to haunt it? - San Jose Mercury-News
Pain in the Permian - Petroleum Economist and The big bust in the oil fields - Washington Post

The Downside of Durham's Rebirth - The Atlantic

 Unaoil: The Company That Bribed the World - Fairfax Media / Huffington Post

Public and Private Sector Payroll Jobs: Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama - Calculated Risk.  I'd love for somebody who thinks Obama has increased government jobs and hurt the private sector economy compared to Bush to explain these numbers.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

If You've Lost Northwest Iowa...

This is the part of the state that elects Steve King as their Congressman:
Even in this most conservative corner of Iowa, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley on Monday faced tough and repeated questions over his refusal to hold hearings on a nominee to the Supreme Court.
Crowds at two town hall meetings here  Monday afternoon returned again and again to Grassley’s decision as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee not to consider the nomination of Appeals Court Judge Merrick Garland to the high court.
“It’s not fair for this man not to get a hearing,” said Randy Waagmeester, a Rock Rapids attorney who attended the town hall here. “It’s not right for this country to be short-staffed on the Supreme Court.”
Others objected that blocking the nomination elevated politics over functional government, continued a worrisome politicization of the courts and could even hurt Republicans’ reputations.
“There’s nothing in the U.S. Constitution that says we can’t have a hearing and then vote yea or nay, so that we don’t constantly have it thrown at us as Republicans that all we say is ‘no,’” said Glenda Schrick, 78, of George, Iowa.
But whether such criticism was reflective of the overall sentiment in the room or the feeling in this remote corner of Iowa is not clear.
The article goes on to say that a sizable portion of the crowd supported Grassley refusing to give Merrick Garland a hearing for the Supreme Court nomination, but it is still telling that people actually voice opposition to the decision in public in crazy red county America.

Farmers Just Don't Know What Else To Do


Illinois farmer David Erickson admits that what he and many U.S. farmers are about to do doesn’t seem to make much sense. With bulging stockpiles of corn and soybeans left over from last year’s harvest, they’re planting more in 2016 -- even though the crops probably won’t be profitable.
“It’s hard to get your head around the idea of doing something that you know will lose money, but I don’t have much choice,” said Erickson, who plans to sow 1,740 acres of soybeans on his farm near Galesburg, up from 1,590 last year. He can’t afford to leave land fallow and needs revenue to pay bills.
After record prices in 2012 sparked a boom in output, corn and soybeans in the Midwest now fetch less than the cost to produce them, and U.S. farm income is headed for a 14-year low. While the market has improved in recent months, researcher AgResource Co. still estimates a $50 loss for every acre sown on average. As they seed more, growers have cut spending and hope better-than-normal yields will help them at least break even.
Farmers in the U.S., the world’s biggest grower, will expand corn planting to 89.998 million acres, up 2.3 percent from a six-year low in 2015, and soybeans will be sown on 83.07 million acres, the second-most ever, a Bloomberg survey of 33 analysts showed. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will disclose its planting and stockpile estimates on Thursday...
Bigger harvests may compound a global surplus that sent prices plunging during the previous three years. Domestic corn inventories on March 1 were at 7.798 billion bushels, the highest for that date in 29 years, while soybean stockpiles touched 1.557 billion, up 17 percent from a year earlier and the most since 2007, according to a separate survey.
7.798 billion bushels? Holy fuck! So what are farmers thinking?  Well:
With few appealing options, David Seil chose to expand corn planting on his 1,300-acre farm near Gowrie, Iowa. Rather than sacrifice productive land by using it as pasture for his cattle, he’s cutting back on spending for seed and fertilizer and hoping that weather damages crops somewhere else so that prices go up. The arrival of La Nina weather patterns may increase the drought risk in the Midwest, and the government is forecasting higher temperatures this year.
Even the most crazy optimist farmer is hoping somebody else has a weather disaster.  We're screwed.

Monday, March 28, 2016

A Sociology Paper I Might Enjoy

"Fuck Nuance."

Fast-growing Broilers Lead to Quality Issues

Wall Street Journal:

In its quest to grow ever-bigger chickens to meet growing demand for white meat, the food industry has hit an unexpected problem.
The trouble isn't raising large-enough birds. A growing share of broiler chickens—bred for meat, not to lay eggs—now can yield a pair of breast fillets that are heavier than an entire bird was a few decades ago. A rising number of those fillets are laced with hard fibers in a condition the industry calls woody breast. It poses no threat to human health, but it degrades the texture of the meat....
The effects of woody breast can be so subtle as to go unnoticed by home cooks. Its cause isn’t known, but Dr. Petracci and other researchers say several decades of breeding in favor of heavier, faster-growing birds could be a factor....
If found, affected meat is pulled from the line, sold at a discount and then further processed or ground for products like chicken sausage, Mr. Cockrell said. Woody breast now is found in less than 5% of the supply of boneless breast meat at its plants, he added...
Woody breast is similar to other disorders the industry has struggled to contain, including “white striping,” which appears in pale parallel lines of fat across fillets. Green muscle disease, which causes discoloration due to hemorrhages in the muscle, is also showing up in turkey and chicken breasts more often...
Poultry processors world-wide primarily use lines of birds from just three breeding firms—Aviagen Inc., Cobb-Vantress Inc. and Hubbard, a unit of France’s Groupe Grimaud—that emphasize similar traits, like high breast-meat yield.
I didn't know that three companies produced most chickens for meat production.  I would think we may be reaching a point where selective breeding and lack of genetic diversity produce more defects which weigh on the massive gains in productivity that have been achieved in the last 50 or 60 years.  Kind of like the way Moore's Law has tapered off from previous increases in computing power due to massive amounts of heat being generated by ever smaller transistors.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

NASA Photo of the Day

March 21:

Alaskan Moondogs
Image Credit & Copyright: Sebastian Saarloos
Explanation: What's happened to the sky? Moonlight illuminates a snowy scene in this night land and skyscape made on 2013 January from Lower Miller Creek, Alaska, USA. Overexposed near the mountainous western horizon is the first quarter Moon itself, surrounded by an icy halo and flanked left and right by moondogs. Sometimes called mock moons, a more scientific name for the luminous apparitions is paraselenae (plural). Analogous to a sundog or parhelion, a paraselene is produced by moonlight refracted through thin, hexagonal, plate-shaped ice crystals. As determined by the crystal geometry, paraselenae are seen at an angle of 22 degrees or more from the Moon. Compared to the bright lunar disk, paraselenae are faint and easier to spot when the Moon is low.