Saturday, March 14, 2015

A Pi Day Reflection

Mathematician Steven Strogatz, at The New Yorker:
What distinguishes pi from all other numbers is its connection to cycles. For those of us interested in the applications of mathematics to the real world, this makes pi indispensable. Whenever we think about rhythms—processes that repeat periodically, with a fixed tempo, like a pulsing heart or a planet orbiting the sun—we inevitably encounter pi. There it is in the formula for a Fourier series:
That series is an all-encompassing representation of any process, x(t), that repeats every T units of time. The building blocks of the formula are pi and the sine and cosine functions from trigonometry. Through the Fourier series, pi appears in the math that describes the gentle breathing of a baby and the circadian rhythms of sleep and wakefulness that govern our bodies. When structural engineers need to design buildings to withstand earthquakes, pi always shows up in their calculations. Pi is inescapable because cycles are the temporal cousins of circles; they are to time as circles are to space. Pi is at the heart of both.
For this reason, pi is intimately associated with waves, from the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides to the electromagnetic waves that let us communicate wirelessly. At a deeper level, pi appears in both the statement of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the Schrödinger wave equation, which capture the fundamental behavior of atoms and subatomic particles. In short, pi is woven into our descriptions of the innermost workings of the universe.
Even though I don't understand all that, I know it is really cool.

Pre-St. Patrick's Day Weekend Links

 Here are some stories to check out this weekend:

The Rocket Richard Riot - SBNation

Michigan's Jim Harbaugh: Wolverine on the Loose - Wall Street Journal.  Awesome.  OSU fans could hate Santa Claus if he was coaching at Michigan.  Harbaugh is a totally different animal.

Porntopia: A trip to the Adult Video News Awards - Grantland

A Cattle Heist of Epic Proportions - Texas Monthly.  Wow.

The secretive Cargill family has 14 billionaires, more than any other clan on earth - Business Insider

A Craft Beer Tax Battle Is Brewing On Capitol Hill - The Salt.  Also, see Cranley: Halt brewery crackdown - Cincinnati Enquirer.  Well, apparently, the craft brew industry has some decent pull.  Big Little Beer?

Whiskey Can't Hide It's Age Either - Nautilus

Pilots Duck Birds, Dodge Towers to Gauge New England Flood Risk - Bloomberg

A map of all the underwater cables that connect the internet - Vox

The Twisted History of Your Favorite Board Game - Longreads

Crude-Oil Price Collapse Takes Toll on Williston - Wall Street Journal

U.S. Producers Ready Next Oil Wave -Wall Street Journal.  Did these guys flunk Econ 101?  Or are they just trying to make debt payments?

Texas: From Shale Boom To Water Revolution - OilPrice.  Sounds like bullshit to me.  However, I can understand why people would like to believe it.  Read this.

Best State for Business/  Yes, California - Bloomberg View.  Yeah, fuck you, Texas.

Marco Rubio's Puppies-and-Rainbows Tax Plan - The Upshot.  This is why Republicans hate math and science.

Look at what our obsession with white meat has done to chickens - Wonkblog.  I think I may have already posted this image, but it's a good one:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Official Wild Bird Food of the B1G

And I hate B1G, and other stupidity.

Adventure Is Calling II

Adventure Is Calling II from Shane Black on Vimeo.

Tom Cotton: Foreign Policy Player and Loon

Washington Post:
On paper, Cotton looks like a dream politician with nowhere to go but up — Iraq veteran, Harvard Law School graduate, the youngest senator at 37. It’s only when you listen to him talk and hear what he believes that you come to realize he’s a complete crackpot. During the 2014 campaign he told voters that the Islamic State was working with Mexican drug cartels and would soon be coming to attack Arkansas. When he was still in the Army he wrote a letter to the New York Times saying that its editors should be “behind bars” because the paper published stories on the Bush administration’s program to disrupt terrorist groups’ finances (which George W. Bush himself had bragged about, but that’s another story).
While in the House in 2013, Cotton introduced an amendment to prosecute the relatives of those who violated sanctions on Iran, saying that his proposed penalties of up to 20 years in prison would “include a spouse and any relative to the third degree,” including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.” Forget about the fact that the Constitution expressly prohibits “corruption of blood” penalties — just consider that Cotton wanted to take someone who had violated sanctions and imprison their grandchildren. Needless to say, this deranged piece of legislation was too much even for Republicans to stomach, and it went nowhere.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

How Zambonis Work

How Zambonis work here.  Zamboni facts here.

Early March Midweek Links

 A few stories to check out:

Kentucky's Unbeaten Season Makes Vegas Squirm - Bloomberg.  Some sports books gave 50:1 odds against Kentucky going undefeated.

Farmers Put Down the Plow for More Productive Soil - New York Times

India's Beef Boom Threatened As Age-Old Tensions Flare - Bloomberg

More extreme weather could mean less wheat for Kansas - Wichita Eagle.  Also, less wheat for most of the midwest.

The Growing Risk of Suicide in Rural America - The Atlantic.  With the farm economy tanking, expect it to get worse before it gets better.

Maybe You've Been Tricked Into Liking Strawberries So Much - Pacific Standard.  Strawberry Shortcake and friends were a marketing trick?  I think my 10-year-old self thought so.

The Long, Strange Saga of the 180,000 Carat Emerald - Bloomberg

Don't Drink the Water - The Atlantic

Secede? Separatists Claim Texas Never Joined United States - New York Times.  Jackasses.

Some States Fight To Keep Their Wood Fires Burning - McClatchy.  Maybe the legislators ought to read the regulations so they understand them (or, being Republican, have somebody read the regulations to them).  They apply to manufacturers and newly purchased wood stoves.  And many stoves have met the requirements for years (and have been working with EPA).  But, hey, EPA is evil.

Selma, 50 years after march, remains a city divided - LA Times.  Holy shit, the south is an awful place.

Has The Snow Finally Stopped? - Fivethirtyeight

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A Taste of Austria

A Taste of Austria from FilmSpektakel on Vimeo.

The Most Misleading Article I've Ever Read

 At, no surprise, the Wall Street Journal:
The recession ended more than five years ago, but the financial squeeze left by the downturn lives on for a majority of states.
Government revenues have been slow to recover across the country as sales-tax collections fall prey to many of the same forces buffeting the broader economic expansion, from cautious consumers who have seen scant growth in wages to a downturn in home construction that has sapped sales of building materials and furnishings. At the same time, states are facing down a decades-long shift in the economy to services from goods, leaving them to collect taxes on a shrinking number of purchases.
Nationally, sales-tax receipts last year reclaimed levels—on an inflation-adjusted basis—seen in late 2007 as the recession arrived. So while a highly unequal national recovery has lifted federal tax revenues, thanks to an upswing in earnings among corporations and the rich, states—which rely not just on incomes, but also the spending of average citizens—continue to struggle.
There are 30 states still collecting less in taxes, adjusted for inflation, than when the recession hit, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study that examined the data through September. Income-tax collections grew on a real basis by 7.1% since late 2008, while sales-tax receipts rose by 1%, according to an analysis by Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York.
States are left debating how to pay for schools, health care and public safety, and whether belt-tightening measures sparked by the recession will remain even as the economy shows signs of growing strength.
Read the whole thing.  Amazingly, the fact that most states run by Republicans slashed state income tax rates (and often raised sales taxes) doesn't get mentioned anywhere in the article (although the graph notes: "Data affected by changes states have made to sales and income tax rates").  I'm sure an economist will take down this article more fully, but until then, this is my quick swing at it.  The article should be about how Republican tax ideas don't work.An honest analysis of this data would highlight Kansas and Wisconsin on the graph, and analyze how California has higher revenues compared to pre-Recession levels than Ohio, even though California was hit much harder by the bursting of the housing bubble than Ohio was.  Even better, when I first read the article, the comments babbled on about Obama failing and Socialism not working.  I didn't know people could be that stupid. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Gentrification of Over-The-Rhine

The Cincinnati Enquirer has an interesting piece about the views of the new and long-time residents on Republic Street, which was the location of the shooting of Timothy Thomas, which triggered the riots in 2001 and is now in the midst of the redevelopment of Over-The-Rhine.  It is a very good read.

The Robot Dairy

Probability of El Nino Weather Impacts

Based on historical trends, we could see prime planting conditions in the Midwest this spring:

 I would expect that would put more bearish pressure on grain prices.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Secret of Trees

The Secret of Trees | Albert Maysles from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

The more we learn from nature, the better off we'll be.

King of the Clowns

The Republican Study Committee/Tea Party Caucus/Clown Car has a new name but an old leader, local Congressman/grifter/do-nothing public employee Jim Jordan:
A familiar problem for House Speaker John Boehner has a new name: the House Freedom Caucus.
Little more than a month ago, nine House Republicans formed the latest group dedicated to pulling policy to the right. One funding fight with GOP leaders later, the Freedom Caucus is expanding, according to lawmakers.
As the group has grown, so, too, has frustration among fellow Republicans that the conservative faction’s strategy is undercutting GOP efforts to demonstrate it can govern competently, now that the party controls both chambers of Congress. “I totally reject the premise that there’s anything conservative about what they’re doing,” said Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), noting that GOP fissions only strengthen Democrats’ hand in negotiations over passing critical bills.
For Mr. Boehner, the Ohio Republican now in his third term as speaker, wrangling recalcitrant House Republicans has long been part of the job description. Many in the Freedom Caucus have resisted his plans in previous fights, including in the 2013 standoff over Affordable Care Act funding that led to a partial government shutdown....
Last Friday, a group of 52 Republicans, including eight of the Freedom Caucus’s nine founding members, sank GOP leaders’ plan to pass a three-week extension of Homeland Security funding to buy time to search for a way to block President Barack Obama ’s executive action on immigration. Though opponents of the three-week bill included plenty outside the group, including some usually reliable leadership allies, the new caucus helped foment resistance to the funding measure...
While the group’s membership isn’t public, both Mr. Salmon and the group’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio), have estimated its roster includes more than 30 lawmakers. Rep. Gary Palmer (R., Ala.) joined the group last Thursday, even though he supported the three-week DHS spending bill the caucus helped torpedo, saying he was drawn to its policy focus and intention to remain a smaller group.
Not all of the Freedom Caucus’s members approve of the group’s recent tactics. Caucus member Rep. Tom McClintock (R., Calif.) said derailing the three-week bill led to “total defeat” on the effort to use Homeland Security funding as leverage to demand a White House reversal on immigration. “They’re off to a very bad start,” said Mr. McClintock, who said he planned to remain in the caucus, but hoped it would switch tactics and “apply conservative principles wherever they can be practically advanced.”...
 The Freedom Caucus’s next target is likely to be the budget, passage of which is one of the GOP leaders’ top priorities. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R., Ga.) initiated a meeting with members of the caucus, Mr. Garrett said. Mr. Salmon said the group would be lobbying for a “very, very conservative budget.” Because few, if any, Democrats will vote for a GOP budget, the Freedom Caucus’s position on the budget will help determine whether it can pass, said John Feehery, president of QGA Public Affairs and a former House GOP leadership aide.
“If they decide to take their marbles and go home, there will not be a budget,” he said.
Yeah, the budget.  So far as I know, Jim Jordan, in all his years going through the motions in his do-nothing role on the public payroll in the Ohio House and Senate, and now in the U.S. House of Representatives, has never voted for a budget that ever went into effect.  The only budget I know he's voted for is the arithmetic-averse Ryan budget that had no chance in Hell of passing the Senate, let alone being signed into law.  Every practical budget that would lead to a mildly functional government didn't cut taxes enough or slash programs enough for his liking.  But if you drum up a random group of loons from the backbench of the Republican caucus around any idiot conspiracy theory, you'll find Jim Jordan in the middle of it.  The Benghazi investigation? Yup.  The IRS "scandal"?  Yup.  Have they found anything incriminating?  No.  But they've wasted millions of dollars investigating anyway, and Jordan's made dozens of appearances on Fox News trumpeting the nothing burgers the investigators' latest hearing "uncovered." 

The "freedom caucus" gives due representation to the clueless rural folks who think that only "brown people" get help from the government, and don't notice the myriad forms in which their way of life is subsidized by their state and federal governments.  They believe they would be better off if they had a flat tax and the government only funded national defense and border security, when in fact, they are generally net recipients of tax dollars.  Likewise, after enough years of doing nothing in office, Jim Jordan will retire to receive a cushy Congressional pension.  Unfortunately, that won't be soon enough for me.  Congressman Jordan, and the 4th district voters who continue to elect him, are an embarrassment to Ohio, and detrimental to a functioning nation.

Largest Three Religions in Each State


Catholic doesn't make the top three in Indiana?  Yeah, that's one reason not to like that place.

Renewable Fuel Standard Focus of Iowa Summit

Des Moines Register:
The Republicans' stances differed little except on the Renewable Fuel Standard, a federal mandate that outlines how much ethanol and biodiesel must be blended annually into the country's fuel supply. Most said they understand and accept the need for the mandate, at least until it can be phased out. Santorum and Huckabee in particular passionately defended it.
But Pataki expressed vocal opposition to the RFS, as did Cruz, whose answers were met with applause.
Ryan Hoover, a 28-year-old who farms in northern Iowa and sells real estate, said he'd always liked Christie and Huckabee, and on Saturday, Cruz caught his attention.
"I gained some respect for Ted Cruz — his ability to answer questions head-on and not sidestep," Hoover said.
Perry's answer on the RFS was hard to pin down, some Iowans said.
"I don't know what (Perry) said. I'm not sure he knows what he said," Monte Shaw, executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, told the Register in an interview. "I was so confused with his RFS answer, I couldn't concentrate on the rest of his speech."
Perry said he tried to get a waiver for all or part of the mandate in 2012, given drought conditions that drove the price of corn to record highs for livestock ranchers in Texas and elsewhere.
"I was doing what was right for producers at the time," Perry said. But he also said he opposes mandating use of biofuels.
"I don't think Washington, D.C., (should decide), whether it's what our children's curriculum should be or health care needs to be, or picking winners or losers on agricultural products," he said.
Walker said he doesn't like "a whole lot of government interference" and thinks the Renewable Fuel Standard could be reduced in the future.
"But I do believe — and we've talked about this before — it's an access issue, and so it's something I'm willing to go forward on continuing the Renewable Fuel Standard and pressing the EPA to make sure there's certainty in terms of the blend levels set."
Bush, too, foresees eventually eliminating the RFS. For now, though, Bush said he thought the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should create a more certain playing field. "The uncertainty makes it hard to make investment decisions. … Ultimately, whether it's ethanol or any other alternative fuel, the markets ultimately will have to decide this."
Bush added: "The law that passed in 2007 has worked. Look at the increase in production. It's been a benefit to us as we've reduced dependency on foreign oil. But as we move forward, over the long haul, there should be certainty to invest, and we ought to continue to innovate the lowest-cost energy sources in the world so we can grow economically."
In other words, Republican candidates hate the RFS, but only a few are willing to say that to Iowa farmers less than a year before the Iowa caucuses. Sounds like the days of the ethanol mandate are numbered.  The policy was misguided from the start, and led to a bubble in farmland and commodity prices, putting marginal land in production and higher food prices for consumers.  If the mandate is discarded, I am not sure what impact that will have on the ethanol industry itself, but I expect it will add further pressure on crop and land prices at a time when they will already be under stress.

Ferguson in Numbers

From the NYT:

Also, a brief history of St. Louis suburban segregation.