Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Last Calf on Earth

Today when I went over to feed, several of the calves were sprawled out on the ground out in the pasture, laying amongst their mothers and the rest of the herd.  Once the cows saw me, they started heading up to the barn.  I went in and threw them a few bales of hay, and when I came back out to check the water, I noticed that one calf must have remained asleep while the rest of the herd headed to the barn.  He was just then approaching the feedlot area from the pasture, and he was bellowing in that questioning, "where are you mom" kind of way.  Everyone else was up in the barn eating, and didn't bother to answer him, so when he saw me, he bolted toward the front pasture, and continued calling out for everyone else.  This went on for a few minutes as he kept going back and forth between the front lot and the main pasture.  I can only imagine him feeling like the rapture had hit while he was asleep, and he was left behind.  Finally, he wandered up to the barn and found everyone else, but the whole thing made me chuckle.


BHUTAN from Clemens Purner on Vimeo.

NFL Opening Weekend Links

Some interesting stories to check out this weekend:

The Michigan-Notre Dame rivalry's ending, but there's a bright spot for fans - SBNation.  Great line:
"I took a business trip to Knoxville, where I walked to Neyland Stadium. I meandered through campus, eventually finding that massive structure. Standing on the edge of the Tennessee River, looking up at the imposing stadium on a bluff, I was struck by an overpowering thought: my favorite sport is stupid."

America Without the Makeup: Artez Hurston's Ferguson - The Intercept.
In the minds of some Ferguson residents, the hours that Brown’s corpse lay in the street read like a direct communication from the police.
“They were sending a message,” said 21-year-old Stevon Statom, who moved into Canfield the night before the shooting and awoke to find Brown in the road outside his home. “’We don’t give a fuck about y’all.’”
How Ferguson's Rotting Suburbia Helped Create a Powder Keg - Buzzfeed.

The Rising - 5280 Magazine.  The story of some of the folks in the path of the worst of the flooding in Colorado last September.

Is There Any Rational Case for Banning Same-Sex Marriage? - The Atlantic Garrett Epps delves into Richard Posner's opinion overturning the same-sex marriage bans in Indiana and Wisconsin. When a formerly reliable conservative judge tells the bigots to fuck off, I think it is game over for the gay marriage bans.  I see a 6-3 decision overturning the bans in the Supreme Court by June 2016, which will take the issue out of play before the Presidential election.

The Non-Wave Election - National Journal

How America Made ISIS - Tom Engelhardt.  I don't understand all this bed-wetting about ISIS.  They decapitate two Americans, and now we have to spend billions and billions of dollars killing Muslims?  How many Mexicans did the drug cartels decapitate just across that very porous border the conservatives keep saying ISIS is going to sneak across into this country?  And while you can never underestimate how hard it is for white folks to differentiate between brown people (to the eternal harm of Sikhs wearing their turbans), I think it would be much easier for a Mexican drug kingpin to blend in amongst the millions of other Mexicans in this country, than it would for some ISIS bad guy to blend in.  But hey, I'm not going to shit my drawers because some loons who are busy killing each other don't like this nation of 315 million, with the highest gun ownership rate in the world.  Just count me as not worried about those jackasses.

The War Nerd: The long, twisted history of beheadings as propaganda - Pando

North Carolina Men Are Released After Convictions Are Overturned - New York Times.  See also, Just Making Shit Up To Kill People - John Cole

This Pope Means Business - Fortune

FAO Numbers In Agriculture Infographic - Big Picture Agriculture

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tesla's Giant Corporate Welfare Grant

The 'gigafactory' could receive $1.3 billion in tax breaks from Nevada:
Gov. Brian Sandoval will ask state lawmakers next week to approve a deal to bring a Tesla battery plant to Nevada that will result in essentially no taxes being collected from the electric car manufacturer for nearly a decade.
In exchange for a package of tax breaks and credits that could reach $1.3 billion, the company would build itsGigafactory in Storey County east of Reno, bringing 6,500 high-paying jobs and a $5 billion near-term investment. Total investment is expected to reach $10 billion over time.
The state and local tax breaks could ultimately total $1.1 billion over 20 years, and tax credits $195 million.
The proposed incentives include sales and use and property tax breaks along with hiring and investment tax credits.
But Elon Musk, chairman and CEO of California-based Tesla Motors, said the incentive package offered by Nevada was not the most lucrative, nor was it the only reason to pick the state for the Gigafactory.
“What the people of Nevada created is a state where you can; where you are very agile, where you can do things quickly and get things done,” he said. “It’s a real get-things-done state. That was a very important part of the decision.”
Musk said the Gigafactory is a vital piece of the company’s plans to build a mass-market affordable electric car, which he said is projected for release in about three years.
“We’re going to build this awesome factory; it’s going to be something that is truly a wonder to behold,” he said. “The state is going to benefit to a huge degree. I don’t think there is anyone in Nevada who would regret this incentive package.”
Sandoval called the announcement a monumental decision that will change Nevada forever.
“Is this agreement good for us?” Sandoval asked. “I can answer that question today, without hesitation, and say emphatically that yes, this agreement meets the test.”
Information provided by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to the Review-Journal on Thursday suggests the 5 million-square-foot battery plant will lead to the creation of another 16,000 indirect jobs in support of the project. The Wall Street Journal quoted the company as saying that the plant could someday be as large as 10 million square feet in size, bigger than any single factory in the U.S.
It'll be interesting to see how this pans out.  I would guess the state will never see the 6500 jobs or the $10 billion in investment.  It is nice for the "innovative" Mr. Musk to get to operate tax-free, while other businesses, regular citizens and, eventually, Musk's employees pay the taxes that fund services benefiting the "gigafactory".  I guess if you sell it well enough, you can take advantage of the rest of society.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Arcus Cloud Kansas City

ARCUS CLOUD KANSAS CITY from Stephen Locke on Vimeo.

Fracking Doubters Get Some Press

There have been a couple of fracking pessimists in the news the last few days.  First, David Hughes makes an appearance in this piece at the Financial Times, even though he appears to be in there for the "world is flat" perspective.  Then we get the story of Andrew John Hall, who has a history of scoring big in crude oil trading, who's betting big that shale oil will peak and crude prices will skyrocket:
“When you believe something, facts become inconvenient obstacles,” Hall wrote in April, taking issue with an analyst who predicted a shale renaissance could result in $75-a-barrel oil over the next five years.
Hall is going all in on a bet that the shale-oil boom will play out far sooner than many analysts expect, resulting in a steady increase in prices to as much as $150 a barrel in five years or less.
Investing ever-larger sums of his own money, he’s buying contracts for so-called long-dated oil, to be delivered as far out as 2019, according to interviews with two dozen current and former employees and advisers who are familiar with Hall’s trading but aren’t authorized to speak on the record. To attract buyers, the sellers of these long-dated contracts -- typically shale companies that have financed the boom with mounds of debt -- need to offer them at a discount to existing prices.....
The U.S. Energy Information Administration is now predicting domestic production will reach an all-time high by 2016. Such projections don’t move Hall, a man who owns most of a town in Vermont and a castle in Germany and is featured nude with his wife, Christine, in a painting by American artist Eric Fischl, whose work the Halls collect.
In his counterarguments, he digs deep, delving into the minutiae of how Texas discloses oil production, the tendency of some shale wells to play out quickly and the degree to which the boom has relied on debt. The simplest of his reasons, though, is that producers have already drilled in many of the best areas, or sweet spots. Hall predicts that growth in shale output will begin to moderate this year and U.S. production will peak as soon as 2016.
“Once those areas have been drilled out, operators will have to move to more-marginal locations and well productivity will fall,” Hall wrote in March. “Far from continuing to grow, production will start to decline.”
So far this year, there are signs that he may be on the right track. In North Dakota’s Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford formations, which have accounted for almost all of the jump in U.S. output, the combined year-over-year growth in production in July fell below 30 percent for the first time since February 2010.
Two central questions about technology and shale will likely determine the outcome for Hall: how many wells producers will be able to drill in a finite amount of land that sits atop oil-bearing layers of rock and whether the U.S. renaissance will be repeatable abroad. Hall is betting no on both counts. Morse, and many in the energy world, are betting yes.
Hughes also predicts a peak in the current shale plays in the next two years.  Even though these guys are portrayed as crackpots, I tend to agree with them.  There is so much work involved in developing the shale wells, and the production levels are so low, with such rapid depletion, that I think a peak in production isn't too far off, especially considering drillers always concentrate on the sweet spots first.  But the fact the optimists don't want to address is that all resource plays peak out eventually, and the time to peak, at least in the United States seems to decrease as new fields decrease in quality and greater resources are poured into each new play.  These guys may be off by a couple of years, but the optimists will be wrong soon enough.  Expect the peak.


The final film in a series on summer:

AUGUST from Mark Mazur on Vimeo.

This summer sure seemed to go fast. In a few weeks, we'll have the combine out.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Iowa Fish Farmers Raising Barramundi in Hog Barns

Des Moines Register:
The Nelsons are cousins whose fathers began farming with the assortment of critters and crops common to mid-20th century farms — hogs, chickens, cattle, corn, dairy. That's what the cousins knew and that's what they did, too. You wouldn't think that working a booth at the annual Pork Congress would change that, but it did.
"I was set up next to a company called Cablevey," Mark, 57, said. "They had a photo of a fish-feeding system and when they showed it to me, it just sort of clicked.
"We already had a hog barn that was sitting empty; it's really too small for today's standard hog operation, but the size and dimensions were just right for fish. I told Jeff I had an idea." Jeff, 54, said he was game.
That was in 2009. The duo spent nearly three years doing research on the industry, traveling to fish farms all over the country and looking at different systems; learning about fish species; and going to aquaculture shows. They settled on a fish — hybrid striped bass — and a low-maintenance recirculating system.
"We really liked the simplicity of it," Jeff said. "And it's sturdy; we saw some tanks that were still in use after 20 years." They sold their first fish in March of 2012.....
Over the course of the last year or so, the Nelsons have decided, again, to head in a new direction. Within a few months, the last of their hybrid striped bass will be sold and eaten. All the facility's tanks will be full of barramundi, a favorite eating fish in Australia and Southeast Asia, but fairly uncommon in the United States. Most of the fish species that are farmed for consumer consumption here (as opposed to pond stocking and sport fishing) are catfish and tilapia.
But after raising the hybrid striped bass, and doing more research, Brent Nelson said they are making the change (and expanding the facility) for several reasons — that all go back to one.
"Barramundi is just a better fish," he said. "It's better to eat, it's better genetically. Bass are very stress intolerant, too."
Another advantage of the Nelson's barramundi system, said Clarken (the future son-in-law) is that the "bio-security risks are zero."
While the bass came from pond hatcheries, the barramundi are hatched by an Australian company in tanks.
There you go, Pete.  Another aquaculture strategy for you to investigate.  I wonder how well barramundi fry up, as that is the only way I care to eat fish.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day

August 27:

Milky Way over Yellowstone
Image Credit & Copyright: Dave Lane
Explanation: The Milky Way was not created by an evaporating lake. The colorful pool of water, about 10 meters across, is known as Silex Spring and is located in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA. Illuminated artificially, the colors are caused by layers of bacteria that grow in the hot spring. Steam rises off the spring, heated by a magma chamber deep underneath known as the Yellowstone hotspot. Unrelated and far in the distance, the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy arches high overhead, a band lit by billions of stars. The above picture is a 16-image panorama taken late last month. If the Yellowstone hotspot causes another supervolcanic eruption as it did 640,000 years ago, a large part of North America would be affected.

Twinx a Hit at New York State Fair

In an era of kale chips and green-vegetable smoothies, a Twinkie might be seen as sinful enough.
But stuff the spongy snack cake with a Twix candy bar, wrap it in bacon, then coat it in batter and drop it into a deep fryer, and the sugar-sprinkled confection becomes an exercise in caloric excess—and a standout among the many fried and fatty treats at this year's Great New York State Fair....
We still can't make them fast enough," said Mr. Hasbrouck, estimating that during busy periods his staff will fry up around 150 an hour inside the truck, where the menu of fried delicacies also includes cheese curd, Oreos and pumpkin pie.
The Twinx concept came about by accident, said Mr. Hasbrouck, a Marion, N.Y., resident who launched his business at the fair in 2009 and has returned each year since.
In 2013, an employee mistakenly kept calling out "Twinx" when customers ordered a deep-fried Twinkie or Twix bar, which combines a cookie bar, caramel and chocolate.
"We were slow one day, so we decided to try it out and see what happens," said Mr. Hasbrouck, who expanded his operations at the fair this year to a second location.
Those game enough to try the Twinx offered mixed feedback. Some said the bacon was "too much" while others felt the combination worked.
"I didn't know what to expect, but I think it's good," said Alyssa Neider, 33, from Syracuse.
Almost everything is better deep-fried.  I'd maybe even try kale, if it was breaded and fried.  It makes me laugh that the Wall Street Journal explains what a Twix bar is.  I grew up on those things.