Saturday, January 12, 2013
With Lance Armstrong rumored to be ready to admit to doping (The biggest non-story ever. You're telling me that all the guys cheating couldn't beat the cancer survivor who didn't cheat? Ok, and how much are you asking for that Brooklyn Bridge thing you own?), Brian Phillips looks at 10 other potential apologies. My favorite:
Marge was terrible, but so truly cheap. She may have been an old racist German lady, but she kept hot dog prices at a dollar (made the trains run on time).
7. Marge Schott ("My love of Hitler blinded me.")The Setting: Oprah's studio. The former Cincinnati Reds owner is looking craggy and miserable in a team pullover she bought at T.J. Maxx for $8.99. It's a factory second, but it was heavily marked down. Actually, it reads "RDES." Can't argue with the price, though. She's smoking and absently petting her St. Bernard, Schottzie 06. Oprah is wearing jeans and a sweater and has just given each member of the audience their own Planet Hollywood franchise.
The Apology: "Was it wrong to use racial slurs when describing my own players? Maybe. Was it wrong to talk in a caricaturish 'me-so-solly' accent when describing my meeting with the prime minister of Japan? Again: maybe. Was it wrong to give a speech to the Ohio County Treasurers Association in which I declared, 'Only fruits wear earrings'? I'm not going to say it was or it wasn't. It's debatable. We could go around in circles all day on this.
"If I've done anything wrong, Oprah, it's not that I hated too much. It's that I loved too much. Only, in my case, I happened to love Adolf Hitler. In retrospect, that was unfortunate. It would have been easier if I'd loved, say, Jerry Stiller. Partly because we kind of look alike. But I didn't. I loved Hitler. Not a great move, emotionally. I get that. But I never, ever would have made repeated pro-Nazi comments to the media, on top of all the other racist and homophobic stuff I said, if I didn't love Hitler truly, purely, and with my whole heart. Don't condemn me for my love, America. Forgive me, I beg you. Obviously I'm only talking to white people here."
Oprah's Verdict: "Mrs. Schott, I don't think you know what love is."
Six Months Later: "Mrs. Schott, I don't think you know what love is" is regarded as one of the biggest TV moments of the decade. Schottzie 06 comes down with hip dysplasia, like so many representatives of her noble breed.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Suddenly, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum seem less out of the ordinary.
With no political experience and little knowledge of economics, performing arts professor Vladimir Franz was already an unlikely candidate for the Czech Republic presidential election.
The fact that 90 per cent of his body is covered in tattoos makes it even more surprising that not only is he standing for election - he currently stands third in the polls.
One in nine voters are believed to be planning on backing the 53-year-old opera composer and painter in this weekend's presidential elections after a £15,000 election campaign that didn't even include posters.
He's tipped to win around 11 per cent in the first round of votes on Friday and Saturday, which is not enough to go through, but may make him kingmaker.
Leading candidates Jan Fischer and Milos Zeman, both former prime ministers, ought to be keen to benefit from his following if the vote goes to a second round. And Mr Franz, a Professor at Prague's Academy of Performing Arts, is not short of admirers.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
This year, the Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York, had its first real opportunity to confront the implications of the game’s two-decade run of performance-enhancing drugs—and perhaps nudge the sport toward some kind of wider reëvaluation of its recent past. But a definitive answer to the questions raised by the steroid era will have to wait until at least next year: the sportswriters of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, who vote on the nominees, have elected no one for the class of 2013 from a ballot that included, for the first time, such statistical safe-bets as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa, and Craig Biggio. It’s the first time since 1996 that the writers have failed to enshrine a single player—to find another example, you have to go back to 1971. Biggio, who is well regarded, got votes from sixty-eight per cent of the writers (each of whom is allowed to tab up to ten players), missing the seventy-five per cent threshold for induction, but he seems likely to get in next year. Jack Morris (sixty-seven per cent) and Tim Raines (fifty-two per cent), who have been on the ballot for years, are heading in the right direction as well. As for the more high-profile stars, well, that might be harder. While each voter submits an independent ballot, the totals, taken together, do seem to represent a collective shrug from the writers, a desire to delay the reckoning about players who live on in the record books and remain in good standing in the eyes of Major League Baseball, but who’ve been tainted by what they did to their bodies, or what they are accused of doing, or what their peers did, or what those in charge of baseball failed to do.While I'm sure Barry Bonds used steroids, has anybody ever had a better string of four seasons in a row. And while Roger Clemens is both an asshole and a user of performance-enhancing drugs, he's still one of the best pitchers of all-time. So we don't have the all-time hit king (my guy Pete), the all-time home run king or a pitcher who is ranked 9th all-time in wins (and second by one win amongst pitchers who have been active in my lifetime) in the Baseball Hall of Fame? That seems to distract from the attraction of the place.
An outbreak of a previously unknown virus that causes fatal brain cancer in raccoons has been detected in northern California and southern Oregon.Wow, that's pretty crazy. I'm not a fan of raccoons, but a virus caused cancer like this is creepy.
Tumors and the new virus were found in 10 raccoons autopsied between March 2010 and May 2012. Nothing like them had been seen before in raccoons, in which tumors are very rare.
There’s no reason to think the virus could be contagious to humans. Its emergence does, however, raise fascinating questions about how it evolved and whether patterns of suburban development actually fueled its rise.
“We need to understand how infectious pathogens are empowered by global changes,” said veterinary pathologist Patty Pesavento of the University of California, Davis, leader of the team studying the new disease, which was reported in the January issue of Emerging Infectious Disease. “If there’s a new niche, pathogens will find it.”
Nine of the raccoons came from around Marin County, just north of San Francisco, and the 10th was sent from southern Oregon. The raccoons had been spotted wandering in daylight, approaching humans, falling unconscious and generally displaying signs of neurological distress.
Tumors appeared to have formed in their olfactory tracts, spread to their frontal lobes and compressed their mid-brains (see picture below). Reviews of scientific literature and calls to veterinary pathologists across North America found no precedents.
In each of the tumors, but not in brain tissue from raccoons tested for comparison, Pesavento’s team found an unknown form of polyomavirus, one of a group of viruses known to cause a rare form of skin cancer in humans and tumors in other animals, including mice and birds. Pesavento’s team called it raccoon polyomavirus.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
All Things Considered:
Bulger's lawyer, J.W. Carney, says the case cannot be handled by U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns, who was a federal prosecutor at the same time other prosecutors were engaged in a corrupt relationship with Bulger.That is an interesting situation. Then again, what about the Whitey Bulger case isn't interesting?
"The trial must be overseen by a judge who is not connected to the most infamous period in federal law enforcement history in Boston," Carney says.
Stearns has twice refused to step aside, insisting that as former chief of the U.S. attorney's criminal division, he was separate from the organized-crime task force that was dealing with Bulger did not know anything about the case.
Carney says he doubts that, but he wants to call Stearns as a witness to bolster claims that Bulger had a deal with prosecutors who granted him immunity in exchange for being an informant.
Stearns calls Carney's demands for recusal "gratuitous and overheated." Carney concedes the judge has not actually shown any bias, but experts say the real issue is whether people think he might.
"As they say, there are times when you've got to be purer than Caesar's wife and this is one of those times," Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate says.
The Notre Dame hockey team fared about as successfully as the football team in a #1 versus #2 matchup:
Nate Condon scored on the first shot on goal of the game and later added an assist as No. 1 Minnesota beat No. 2 Notre Dame 4-1 on Tuesday.This wasn't nearly as damaging as the football version.
It was the first time in 11 games and in over 12 years that the higher ranked team won a game matching the top two teams in the USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.
Sam Warning and Zach Budish also had a goal and an assist each for the Golden Gophers (14-3-3), who finished the non-conference part of their schedule 8-0.
Adam Wilcox made 22 saves for Minnesota, which also got a second-period goal from Christian Isackson and improved to 7-1 this season against ranked teams.
Jeff Costello scored for the Fighting Irish (14-5), whose winning streak ended at six games.
The game was the first after a 24-day layoff for Notre Dame, which started a stretch of four games in eight days.
Conrad Black comments on how the political and economic struggles of the U.S. have benefited the Great White North:
The other good point is that Canada is now, for the first time in its history, receiving significantly more immigration from the United States than it is losing. There are rewards for having managed our affairs better, and having avoided federal and current account deficits.I've got to say that one emigrant I am glad to see in Canada is Conrad Black. We've got enough crooked businessmen already. Canada can have him all to themselves.
All Canadians will wish the United States as swift a recovery as possible from its self-inflicted misfortunes. But more than anything else, Canada needs people; and as always, including up to 60,000 Empire Loyalists during and after the Revolutionary War, and an about equal number of fugitive slaves in the decades before the Civil War, Americans will be welcome and valuable in Canada.
A good deal of previously reluctant European immigration is now available to Canada also. The United States had 30 times as many people as Canada at the time of the American Revolution, and has had about nine times as many since Confederation and the Civil War. A narrowing of that ratio would alleviate traditional Canadian self-consciousness about the correlation of influence between the two countries and would be good for everyone.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Here are a couple of ag pollution stories. First, Minnesotans Pay a Price for Crop Fertilizer at Faucet (h/t Big Picture Agriculture):
In Minnesota, three-fourths of people get their drinking water from groundwater. On average, 6 percent of private wells are contaminated with nitrates. About a dozen community water systems have "pretty severe nitrate problems," said Bruce Montgomery, manager of the Agriculture Department's fertilizer and pesticide division. Health officials say that once or twice a year another community hits the limit.Also, while not just an agriculture story, Harmful Algal Blooms Increase as Lake Water Warms:
The problem is concentrated in several regions: Dakota and Washington counties; the 14 counties that make up the Central Sands region in the middle of Minnesota; the southeastern "karst'' region, where the cracked limestone geology sends water straight down to the aquifers, and southwestern Minnesota, where a shortage of water in general aggravates the nitrate problem.
In Dakota County, the first place in Minnesota to trace nitrates directly to agriculture, the problem is partly an accident of geology. West of Hwy. 52 a thick layer of till -- clay, gravel and sediment left behind by the last glacier -- lies beneath the rich soil, so that water percolates slowly down from the surface.
But on the county's eastern side, the melting glaciers left behind sand on top of bedrock, and water rushes through it like a sieve -- down to the aquifers or into the Vermillion River and eventually the Mississippi River, said Tim Cowdery, a U.S. Geological Service hydrogeologist who has studied it. Carlson's husband, she said, describes it as "young water."
Geology wasn't as much of a problem back in the day when farmers planted more varieties of crops, many of which required less nitrogen. But in Dakota County, like much of Minnesota, corn and soybeans are now the primary crop. Soybeans pull nitrogen out of the air and fix it in soil, where it can leach into the water. And corn, more than most any other crop, demands fertilizer to produce the yields that have climbed steadily for decades.
A lake restoration program at Lake Zurich effectively eliminated phosphorus-rich pollution caused by sewage and fertilizer runoff from lakeside towns and tourist areas. Once phytoplankton and algae were deprived of a needed nutrient, scientists and hydrologists reasoned, the toxic blooms would be a thing of the past.This probably doesn't bode well for Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Mary's. It also doesn't bode well for agriculture.
For a while, it seemed the lakes were once again going to be clear, safe and attractive to vacationers. But researcher Thomas Posch, a scientist at Lake Zurich's Limnological Station, part of the Institute of Plant Biology at the University of Zurich, discovered that despite decades-long remediation efforts, certain toxic phytoplankton populations are once again on the rise.
Posch has been studying Lake Zurich for more than a decade. He found that increasing average air temperatures and ensuing changes in surface water temperature have provided P. rubescens the ideal conditions to live and bloom in near-epic proportions.
"During the 1940s through the 1950s, all of the lakes in western Europe were affected by raw sewage," Posch said. "Then in the 1970s, we started to treat wastewater. Problem solved." Or, he added, so we thought. His measurements have shown that since 1990, despite the drastic decrease in phosphorus, the whole lake biomass of P. rubescens has been rising. One reason is that P. rubescens doesn't need a lot of phosphorus. It thrives on nitrogen.
"Nitrogen concentrations haven't dwindled much," Posch added. "The chemical mix of the lake now favors P. rubescens."
Wayne Curtis writes about the regulatory hoops small distillers have to jump through:
On a related note, a local distillery just got its ducks in a row and started operations.
The Ernest Scarano Distillery is located in a 120-year-old barn outside Fremont, Ohio, a town of about 17,000 that’s home to several cutlery companies and a ketchup factory. When I visited in the fall, I noticed that the open barn door had a chain hung across it with a sign reading Bonded Area. Ernest Scarano, the owner and sole employee, told me that he needed to see my ID before I could come in. “The bonded area is for the feds,” he explained, as if the web of state and federal regulations governing liquor production were the most natural thing in the world. “The permitted area for the state of Ohio is the entire barn.” I fished out my driver’s license, and while he logged my information into a notebook, I admired the quiet emptiness of the surrounding cornfields. I felt like a bit player in a film about some rural bureaucratic dystopia.
In the early 19th century, some 14,000 distilleries across America were merrily operating, sending up little dogwood-blossom puffs of smoke in the hills and imbuing cities with the aroma of fermenting grain. Then came Prohibition. Nearly everyone shuttered in 1920, and few returned after Repeal in 1933—a generation of skilled distillers had been skipped, and the new distribution channels established by Congress favored large producers. Big Liquor elbowed its way up to the bar, and smaller distillers couldn’t find a seat.Eight decades later, micro-distilling is making a comeback: dozens of new small-scale producers fire up every year, fueled by a do-it-yourself culture, their hopes in many cases hitched to the “locovore” movement. At the end of last year, some 860 distillers held federal licenses.I’d sought out the Ernest Scarano Distillery because it was the smallest commercial distillery I’d heard of, and I was curious about the mechanics and economics of such micro production.
Scarano’s business plan calls for producing about 100 gallons of rye whiskey every year, or roughly what a large liquor producer spills in an afternoon. Scarano, a 60-year-old with a neatly trimmed gray beard, has studied theology, worked for the Detroit diocese, and owned a telephone-installation business. When he decided he was getting too old for 40-foot ladders, he opened a small shop called Mantiques. (“Classic guy stuff,” he said, such as antique tools, vintage chain-gang outfits, and old well pumps. “No teacups or anything.”) Inspired by a rye he’d tasted a few years earlier, he took up distilling on the side. “I’ve had four or five careers in my life,” he told me, “and I wanted one more.”
Craft distillers not only need to be knowledgeable in such arcane matters as the esoteric habits of yeast and the miraculous properties of copper; they also must be deft in navigating the complex regulatory geography. (As I once heard a tour guide at the Wild Turkey distillery explain: “How do you make bourbon? You take some moonshine, put it in a barrel, and add a bunch of federal regulations.”)
Monday, January 7, 2013
Bill Bishop, via the Dish:
George Will takes time away from using big words to fluff Tea Party morons and say Democrats do dumb things to write a rambling column using big words and name dropping to say Notre Dame can care about athletics and excel on the field. But this half of the column seems like useless filler to get to 600 words:
Anyway, it is a better column than usual for old George, but if I were the owners of the Washington Post, I'd wonder what I was paying those big bucks for when he's just mailing columns like this in.
Before the late Myles Brand was president of Indiana University, he was a philosophy professor, and when he left Indiana to become head of the NCAA, he waxed philosophical about entangling a huge entertainment business with higher education. It is, he said, “essentially malfeasance” for university administrators not to make the most of the money-making opportunities that sports present: “Athletics, like the university as a whole, seeks to maximize revenues.” In doing so, college football teams have abandoned old conferences and embraced new ones with more lucrative television and other payouts.What? Karl Marx and beer-drinking rednecks who drive pickup trucks? Men may not be able to fast-forward through commercials during live sports telecasts, but they can get up and take a piss and get another beer during those commercials. Will goes on to give the history of Notre Dame during the Hesburgh era, when he tried for a while to de-emphasize football. Regardless, Will doesn't give any indication of how likely it will be for ND to upset Alabama, or what the likelihood of the Irish reverting to the struggles of the past 18 years on the gridiron.
College football has proved Karl Marx right about how capitalism dissolves old social arrangements: “uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation . . . all fixed, fast-frozen relations . . . are swept away . . . all that is solid melts into air.” Blame college football’s turmoil on male beer-drinking truck drivers, and technology.
Young men are, in television-speak, a coveted demographic. Why? They buy beer and pickup trucks. But like everyone else nowadays, they tape TV programs and watch them later, fast-forwarding through commercials. The technology that makes this possible has caused the explosive growth of lucrative TV contracts for sports broadcasting rights: Men cannot fast-forward through live sports telecasts.
Anyway, it is a better column than usual for old George, but if I were the owners of the Washington Post, I'd wonder what I was paying those big bucks for when he's just mailing columns like this in.
The Washington Post highlights some of the most ridiculous loopholes and giveaways. One of my favorites:
The so-called NASCAR loophole, in place since 2004, allows anyone who builds a racetrack to receive a small tax benefit through accelerated depreciation. This tax break cost roughly $43 million the past two years and will get extended for another year. Sounds tawdry, right? And yet, supporters claim the break is necessary so that NASCAR can compete on a level playing field with other theme parks. Looks like they got their wish.I'm sure folks building race tracks need those breaks.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
The Dark Tower in Scorpius
In silhouette against a crowded star field
toward the constellation
this dusty cosmic cloud evokes for some the image of an
In fact, clumps of dust and molecular gas
to form stars may well lurk within the dark nebula,
a structure that spans almost 40 light-years across this
gorgeous telescopic portrait.
Known as a
cometary globule, the swept-back cloud,
extending from the lower right to the head (top of the tower) left and
above center, is shaped by intense ultraviolet radiation from
the OB association of very hot
6231, off the upper edge of the scene.
That energetic ultraviolet light also powers the globule's bordering
reddish glow of hydrogen gas.
Hot stars embedded in the dust
can be seen as bluish
This dark tower,
NGC 6231, and
associated nebulae are about 5,000 light-years away.
Image Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman
Image Credit & Copyright: Don Goldman
All Things Considered interviews Mark Binelli, the author of Detroit City Is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American City. Here he talks about a vast tract of emptiness in the city:
"It's a huge swath of land — 190 acres — that had been a residential neighborhood once upon a time. It was raised by the city, and was supposed to become an industrial park. The idea was lots of factories would move in, and nothing happened. So, it's hard to really convey what it is like. You're basically five minutes from downtown of a major American city, but you are standing in these fields, that, I mean you could be in rural Arkansas, and you can still see traces of the old neighborhood. The sidewalks are so overgrown, they are almost invisible, but if you look carefully you can see the sidewalks ... You will notice a glimpse of red, and it turns out to be an old fire hydrant that is covered with grass that is 3 feet high. It's a surreal place."...."One of the problems with Detroit is, you know, it was a city that at its peak, population was 2 million. Now with this last census, in 2010, it's down to just over 700,000, so you have all this vacant land, all of these abandoned buildings, what do you do with it? I mean, one of the more intriguing things that's been talked about, not much progress has been made so far, has been this sort of right-sizing initiative. That's the euphemistic term they have been using. Basically the idea is to convince people, incentivize people somehow, to move to denser urban cores, so then you would have the vacant land concentrated, and you could turn that into parks, possibility into farms.When I was in Detroit a couple of summers ago, I was impressed with some of the efforts to bounce back. I saw this book at the book store last week, and if it was a paperback, I'd have picked it up.
John Brandon previews tomorrow's BCS championship game:
For Notre Dame, a win means everything. A victory against Alabama would knock the SEC from its pedestal, grease the recruiting gears, crank the Irish hype machine back up to the obnoxious levels it's capable of, bring the faithful to a fever pitch. A close loss for Notre Dame will be disappointing because they may not get back to this level for a while. It's not outlandish to think they'll be back in the next few years, but it's also not outlandish to think that it could be a long, long time before stars align for them again. Now if the Tide beats Notre Dame handily, which I don't believe they will, that would be very damaging indeed. It will seem then that the Irish never belonged in the game. The gap between SEC and Other will seem as real as ever.Go Irish. A victory would be good if just for the fact of giving the ND haters a reason to care once again. Plus, I hate the SEC. The only things it is good for are hot girls in sundresses and shutting up Ohio State fans.
For Alabama, this is another notch on the old goalpost. They'll play well and they'll either win or they'll lose close and they'll be right back in the hunt next year, hosting LSU, exacting revenge on A&M. A win, they say, cements the dynasty. A loss will be a chance for Saban to refine his procedures and policies.
Yesterday, I brought up the Marco Rubio statement on why he voted against the tax compromise from last week, and said a little bit about how many irrational actions people take to avoid taxes. Then I came across this:
A move by Shell to avoid millions in Alaska state taxes may have backfired when the oil rig Kulluk ran aground Monday on Kodiak Island. The rig initially went adrift while it was being towed to a shipyard and tax shelter in Seattle. Instead, the vessel found itself literally stuck inside Alaska at the start of the new year.What a bunch of assholes. $7 million to Shell is like a $20 bill to normal folks. Way to screw that one up guys.
The Kulluk grounded off Kodiak Island Monday night, prompting a 500-plus person response. According to Shell Operations Manager Sean Churchfield, the grounding occurred during a fierce storm that produced near-hurricane-force seas with waves exceeding 40 feet at times and wind gusts of 50 knots and higher.
“The conditions last night were very poor,” Churchfield said. “It was a really unpleasant night to be out on the sea.”
A Shell spokesman last week confirmed an Unalaska elected official’s claim that the Dec. 21 departure of the Kulluk from Unalaska/Dutch Harbor involved taxation.
City councilor David Gregory said Shell would pay between $6 million and $7 million in state taxes if the Kulluk was still in Alaska on Jan. 1.
Shell’s Curtis Smith said in an email last week that the decision involved financial considerations. The rig had been moored in the Aleutian Islands port following several months on an oil exploration project in the Arctic Ocean.
The Atlantic features photos of various celebrations of Epiphany around the world:
January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, going by the Gregorian calendar. That's the day the Magi -- or the Three Kings, or the Three Wise Men -- arrived in Bethlehem to visit Jesus, according to Christian tradition. Though Epiphany is certainly marked in America by Catholics and Protestants alike (many, but not all, Orthodox Christians in the U.S. go by the Julian calendar, which places Epiphany on January 19), the festivities are nothing compared to those in predominantly Catholic countries, with rich traditions of Epiphany cakes, processions for the Three Kings, and more. Below are some photos from January 6 Epiphany celebrations in France, Mexico, Peru, Poland, and Romania. We'll be back with Epiphany photos from areas following the Julian calendar on January 19, which include midnight plunges into frozen lakes.One example:
I'm assuming that is Balthazar on the camel.
Bettman did not have details on a timeline for ratification or a potential schedule for the opening of the regular season. It is believed the sides are aiming for either a 48- or 50-game season depending on how quickly things get done. Sources told ESPN.com that a 50-game season would start Jan. 15, while a 48-game season would start Jan. 19.Just what the world needs, hockey after the summer solstice. They pissed away half of the shitty weather of the year, do they really expect anybody but Canucks to care about hockey in late June? Gary Bettman is a clown. Oh well, maybe I'll go to a Blue Jackets game. I should be able to get a good deal on tickets.
Fehr said he hoped the next steps could be accomplished "fairly rapidly" and with "dispatch."
"We'll get back to what we used to call business as usual just as fast as we can," he said.
Both sides are committed to playing as many games as possible, even if it requires starting the season midweek, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
The 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs are expected to stretch into the end of June to account for the delayed start and compressed season.