Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kilauea - The Fire Within

Kilauea - The Fire Within from Page Films on Vimeo.

First Weekend of Spring Links

Here are some stories to read as we say goodbye to winter:

Countdown to March: Life and Death with a Small Town Team - SBNation.  Valpo.

Pete Rose, the king of hits, keeps hustling - Cincinnati Enquirer

Theme jerseys score for charity, publicity -  Anything for some free publicity and a buck.

One of the Baltimore Ravens Just Published an Insanely Complex Study in a Math Journal - Bloomberg.  

Pain From The Grain: Farm Belt Town Languish As Prices Drop - The Salt.  Expect more of these stories going forward.  We are entering a multi-year downturn.

Crop Subsidies Soar Under 2014 Farm Bill "Reforms" - Environmental Working Group (via Big Picture Agriculture).  Expect more of these stories, too.

As drought worsens, LA water agency offers cash to Sacramento Valley farmers - Sacramento Bee.  California has one year of water in storage.  Expect more of these stories, too, if El Nino doesn't ride to the rescue (which is doubtful, considering how serious the drought is).  More drought news here.  Finally, This has been the warmest winter on record, except in the most politically important part of the world - Washington Post

Farmland Without Farmers - The Atlantic

Plant businesses have struggled since the recession - Marketplace.  Featuring a local business.

Donora Steels Itself for the Loss of Its Bridge - Wall Street Journal.  As I've said before, we can't even maintain the existing infrastructure we have, let alone the new infrastructure of sprawl we keep building.  This is a prime example of how we abandon the infrastructure in older, declining areas and rush to build infrastructure wherever the higher income folks are moving to.  It's crazy.

Inside Graphene City, Birthplace of a Wonder Material - Vice

Learning to Roughneck - Texas Monthly

Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe? - The Atlantic.  Admittedly, I am far from a Zionist, but the anti-Semitism in Europe is pretty shocking and intimidating.  However, I'd still say no, at least in the abstract, from the safe confines of Western Ohio.

A Friend of the Devil - The New Yorker

Letter From Berlin: Why Are the Germans So Hellbent on Austerity? - The Nation

The Coming China Crisis - naked capitalism.  Bad news for the world economy, and especially bad news for American agriculture and anything Australian.

Fallout From the GOP's Lack of Diversity - Wall Street Journal.  It isn't so much the lack of diversity as the lack of empathy.  The party just can't help coming off as hateful assholes towards anyone who isn't white or (actually more like and) successful.

Tax Cuts Still Don't Pay for Themselves - The Upshot.  No shit.  30 years of evidence put into use.  Next up in news of the obvious - Al Qaeda and ISIS are not existential threats to the United States.

Scott Walker and the Continuing Power of the Republican Cult of Reagan - New York Magazine. Also, in the I hate Scott Walker and everything he does category, Scott Walker Is the Worst Candidate for the Environment - Slate

All of America's folk heroes, in one map - Vox

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Texas Rangers Set Up All-Deep-Fried Food Booth

Sportress of Blogitude:
The Texas State Fair famously is known for its vendors’ penchant for dreaming up truly remarkable — and fattening — new forays into deep-frying. The Texas Rangers, inspired by the fried-in-fat prowess routinely on display at its home state’s annual fair, have come up with a way to pay homage to the legendary, artery-clogging showcase.
The team will open up a concession stand at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington that specifically and exclusively serves up deep-fried items made famous at the Texas State Fair. The new stand will be called “State Fare.” Get it?...
The stand will feature such iconic items such as brisket macaroni and cheese balls, chicken-fried corn on the cob with buttermilk batter, fried pickles and something called funnel cake fries, but the item that will get mouths a-watering and waistlines expanding and cholesterol counts increasing is the Fried S’mOreo.

Mercy. The Fried S’mOreo consists of marshmallows breaded in graham cracker crust then fried. That component, already a gutbomb of goodness, will be then joined by two deep-fried Oreos on a skewer. All of that is then topped with chocolate sauce and Cool Whip. The price? Eight bucks.
Mattox also revealed the Rangers will open up another stand surely to attract lines: Just Bacon.
As the name suggests, bacon-only items will be offered, including bacon cotton candy, candied bacon and … bacon beer.
The photo of the chicken-fried corn-on-the-cob alone is worth clicking through for.  Seriously, though, the State Fair and major league baseball games are two sides of the same coin.  It definitely makes sense to combine the culinary attractions of each.  I love me some deep-fried Oreos.  But $8?  Well, it is a ballgame.  Wash it down with an $8 beer.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


The Extension Service is counting grocery store workers, bartenders and busboys as agricultural workers:

That is just plain stupid.

Magna Carta: Legacy

Magna Carta: Legacy from Beakus on Vimeo.

The Disappearing Legacy of a Backyard Astronomer

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Demolition of a historic North Side factory began Tuesday morning after a wall partially collapsed onto an occupied apartment building the night before, a city director said.
The John A. Brashear Factory located at 2016 Perrysville Ave., Perry Hilltop, was built in the 1880s for the self-made Pittsburgh astronomer who was the world’s leading manufacturer of precision optical and scientific instruments....
The factory and a nearby mansion were built for Brashear, who died in 1920, and later produced Norden bombsights during World War II....
“[Brashear] didn’t have money to buy a telescope, so he made his own. That to me is a real Pittsburgh thing,” said Mr. Bonnet, 38, of Ohio Township. “That building could have helped keep that story fresh and alive for future generations.”
More on Brashear:
Brashear was born in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, a town 35 miles (56 km) south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River. His father, Basil Brown Brashear, was a saddler, and his mother, Julia Smith Brashear, was a school teacher. He was the oldest of seven children. As a boy, John Brashear was heavily influenced by his maternal grandfather, Nathanial Smith, a clock repairer. When he was nine, his grandfather took him to view through the telescope of 'Squire' Joseph P. Wampler, who set up his traveling telescope in Brownsville. That influential view of the moon and the planet Saturn stayed with Brashear for the rest of his life. After receiving a common school education until age 15, he became an apprentice to a machinist and had mastered his trade at age 20.
Beginning in 1861 Brashear worked as a millwright in a rolling steel mill in Pittsburgh. He pursued his love for astronomy at night, with the help of his wife Phoebe Stewart, a Sunday school teacher whom Brashear met in 1861 and married in 1862.[1] Of too little means to purchase a telescope, Brashear built his own workshop from a three-meter-square coal shed behind his house and proceeded to build his own refractor.
Starting in 1880, he dedicated his time to manufacture astronomical as well as scientific instruments, and performed various experiments. He developed an improved silvering method, which would become the standard for coating first surface mirrors (known as the "Brashear Process") until vacuum metalizing began replacing it in 1932.
Brashear patented few instruments and never patented his techniques. He founded "John A. Brashear Co." with his son-in-law and partner, James Brown McDowell (now a division of L-3 Communications, and still based in Pittsburgh). His instruments gained worldwide respect. Optical elements and instruments of precision produced by John Brashear were purchased for their quality by almost every important observatory in the world. Some are still in use today.
In 1892 Brashear made his second of three trips to Europe, this time providing a lecture tour. In 1898 he became director of the Allegheny Observatory in Pittsburgh, continuing in this post until 1900.
Wow, I didn't know that.

NCAA Bracket

Well, I've started out pretty ignobly (1 for 3, with UD just underway), but here are my brackets:

Kentucky, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Valparaiso, Butler, Notre Dame, Indiana, Kansas
Kentucky, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Kansas
Kentucky, Notre Dame

Wisconsin, Oklahoma St., Arkansas, North Carolina, Xavier, Baylor, Ohio State, Arizona
Wisconsin, North Carolina, Xavier, Arizona
Wisconsin, Arizona

Villanova, N.C. State, Northern Iowa, Louisville, Dayton, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia
Villanova, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan State
Villanova, Michigan State

Duke, St. John’s, Utah, Georgetown, UCLA, Iowa St., Iowa, Gonzaga
Duke, Utah, Iowa St., Gonzaga
Utah, Gonzaga

Final Four
Kentucky, Villanova

Champion: Kentucky

Also, if you want to know how the NCAA spreads the insane tournament dough, read this.

And here's a 20 minute explanation of most everything that's wrong with the NCAA:

A Final St. Patrick's Day Link

John Dolan, on how the Irish ended a WASP effort to enshrine Twelfth of July parades in New York City.  I thought this portion of the article was really fascinating:
“The average Catholic Irishman of the first generation, as represented in the [New York State] Assembly … [is a] low, venal, corrupt, and unintelligent brute.”
That was Teddy Roosevelt in 1885.
The stats are unbelievable, and would shut the mouths of America’s current crop of skin-color (as opposed to European-style tribal/sectarian) racists, if those morons could read. Here are some samples of what the Famine Irish got up to when they hit the streets of NYC:
55% of those arrested NYC in the 1850′s were Irish-born
35% of the prostitutes arrested in NYC in 1858 were Irish-born.
70% of all admissions to Bellevue Hospital (NYC’s public hospital) in the 1850s were Irish
85% of foreign-born admissions to Bellevue Hospital (NYC’s public hospital) in the 1850s were Irish
63% of foreign-born admissions to the NYC Alms House (Poor House) 1849-1858 were Irish
56% of all prison NYC Prison commitments in 1858 were Irish-born
74% of foreign-born prison NYC Prison commitments in 1858 were Irish-born
70% of persons convicted of disorderly conduct NYC Courts of Special Sessions, 1859,  were Irish-born
74% of persons convicted of drunk and disorderly conduct NYC Courts of Special Sessions, 1859, were Irish-born
All that horror bubbled over a few times, sometimes shamefully, as in the Draft Riots of 1863. Like a lot of populist rage, it started well enough, with resentment of buyable draft exemptions, but turned about as bad as it gets, with mobs of drunken Irish pigs chasing down African-Americans and beating them to death. Misery doesn’t ennoble, and oppression doesn’t fucking teach any-fucking-body any-fucking-thing.
The whole thing is worth reading, if, for nothing else, people remember how hated Catholics were in this country back in the day.  Keep that in mind when you hear Catholic politicians talking about other immigrants, whether Latin American Catholics or Middle Eastern Muslims.  Goddamn historically ignorant bigots.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

More St. Patrick's Day Links

Mostly about food and history:

Cabbage, the Irish, and St. Patrick's Day - Modern Farmer

To Eat Authentically Irish This St. Patrick's Day, Go For The Butter - The Salt.  I did do that, but with midwestern butter instead of Irish butter.

Feliz Dia de San Patricio - Wall Street Journal.  On Catholic schools and Hispanic assimilation. 

The bloody origins of Britain's St. Patrick's Day shamrock tradition - Vox.  More stupid British colonial bullshit.

On St. Patrick's Day, Mexico remembers the Irishmen who fought for Mexico against the United States - The World

First Four Predictions

Manhattan, BYU, Dayton and Robert Morris, with Dayton getting past Providence in the second round.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Here are a few stories for the day:

A St. Patrick's Day Q & A: the real saint, leprechaun lore and how to drown a shamrock - Cleveland Plain Dealer

Everything you know about St. Patrick's Day is wrong - Huffington Post

How America (Not Ireland) Made St. Patrick's Day As We Know It - National Geographic

Guinness Hopes Its Luck Lasts Longer Than A Day - Wall Street Journal

Irish PM Slams Tony Abbott For Offensive St. Patrick's Day Video - Time.  Conservative jackassery isn't limited by national borders.

Recite the Breastplate, reflect on Ireland and the diaspora, drink a Guinness (or Murphy's), and be safe.  Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Strike: The Greatest Bowling Story Ever Told

Is Farmland Partners a Good Investment?

Probably not:
Farmland Partners continues to grow its agricultural land portfolio.
The Colorado-based public company on Friday announced it planned to buy three row crop farms in Nebraska and Colorado, adding 2,592 acres to its growing land holdings.
The cost? $16.6 million in cash, $2.7 million of limited partnership interest, and more than 63,000 shares of stock (NYSE: FPI), which closed at $11.21 per share on Friday.
But here's the kicker:
Since its initial public offering in April 2014, it has made 33 acquisitions, including an 11-farm, 12,500-acre deal in Kansas for which it paid $24.5 million in cash.
According to company documents, Farmland Partners now owns more than 48,000 acres and 91 farms in seven states, with five more farms under contract.
But like many agribusiness companies, Farmland Partners is facing some economic headwinds. In 2014, it lost approximately $671,000 on $4.2 million in revenue.
Would you consider selling your land to Farmland Partners? Renting from them? Let us know on the AgWeb discussion boards. 
I like the questions at the end.  To answer them, "only if I'm paid cash up front."  No stock deal for this guy.  Expect a bankruptcy and/or numerous lawsuits in the future.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

NASA Photo of the Day

March 14:

Return at Sunrise
NASA, Bill Ingalls
Explanation: Thursday, shortly after local sunrise over central Asia, this Soyuz spacecraft floated over a sea of golden clouds during its descent by parachute through planet Earth's dense atmosphere. On board were Expedition 42 commander Barry Wilmore of NASA and Alexander Samokutyaev and Elena Serova of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos). Touch down was at approximately 10:07 p.m. EDT (8:07 a.m. March 12, Kazakh time) southeast of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. The three were returning from low Earth orbit, after almost six months on the International Space Station as members of the Expedition 41 and Expedition 42 crews.

A Different Definition of Fiscal Conservative

Republicans have a different understanding of the meaning of English words than I do.  Scott Walker in Wisconsin:
To help close the state’s $283 million budget shortfall this year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) plans to skip a $108 million debt payment scheduled for May.
Walker, a likely presidential candidate whose campaign message rooted in Wisconsin’s fiscal record, has been struggling to balance the budget in his home state before the June 30 deadline. Pushing off debt payments is one tactic that he and predecessors have used in the past.
By missing the May payment, Walker will incur about $1.1 million in additional interest fees between 2015 and 2017. The $108 million debt will continue to live on the books; Walker’s budget proposal for 2015-2017 will pay down no more than about $18 million of the principal...
Democrats have been pressuring Walker to address the estimated $283 million shortfall with an emergency budget bill, but he has resisted so far. Restructuring this kind of debt does not require legislative sign-off. Walker may also be forced to make emergency government spending cuts in the next four months to make ends meet.
In March last year, Walker signed a $541 million tax cut for both families and businesses. At that point, Wisconsin was facing a $1 billion budget surplus through June 2015, the Journal Sentinel reported.
By November last year, the administration was estimating a $132 million shortfall. In January, the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau pegged it at $283 million. The Bureau, which does research for the Wisconsin Legislature, explained that tax collections were $173 million worse than the administration’s own estimates in November.
Trickle-down economics is such bullshit. So is the belief that Republicans can govern responsibly.

Gerry Adams, The I.R.A., Jean McConville and the Next Irish Election

The New Yorker has a long article on the likely involvement of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in the disappearing of Jean McConville.  Mark Ames replies to the article here.  With a Dail election possible this fall, and Sinn Fein currently leading some polls, expect more similar stories ahead.  From spokesman for terrorists (and [almost certainly] brigade commander in the I.R.A.) in the 6 counties to Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland?  That would be one of the stranger consequences of the Great Recession/European Depression.

Living While Black

A Letter From Black America:
Most of the foot traffic was heading in one direction, but then two teenage girls came toward us, moving stiffly against the flow, both of them looking nervously to their right. “He’s got a gun,” one of them said in a low voice.
I turned my gaze to follow theirs, and was clasping my 4-year-old daughter’s hand when a young man extended his arm and fired off multiple shots along the busy street running parallel to the boardwalk. Snatching my daughter up into my arms, I joined the throng of screaming revelers running away from the gunfire and toward the water.
The shots stopped as quickly as they had started. The man disappeared between some buildings. Chest heaving, hands shaking, I tried to calm my crying daughter, while my husband, friends and I all looked at one another in breathless disbelief. I turned to check on Hunter, a high school intern from Oregon who was staying with my family for a few weeks, but she was on the phone.
“Someone was just shooting on the beach,” she said, between gulps of air, to the person on the line.
Unable to imagine whom she would be calling at that moment, I asked her, somewhat indignantly, if she couldn’t have waited until we got to safety before calling her mom.
“No,” she said. “I am talking to the police.”
My friends and I locked eyes in stunned silence. Between the four adults, we hold six degrees. Three of us are journalists. And not one of us had thought to call the police. We had not even considered it.
We also are all black. And without realizing it, in that moment, each of us had made a set of calculations, an instantaneous weighing of the pros and cons.
As far as we could tell, no one had been hurt. The shooter was long gone, and we had seen the back of him for only a second or two. On the other hand, calling the police posed considerable risks. It carried the very real possibility of inviting disrespect, even physical harm. We had seen witnesses treated like suspects, and knew how quickly black people calling the police for help could wind up cuffed in the back of a squad car. Some of us knew of black professionals who’d had guns drawn on them for no reason.
This was before Michael Brown.
I know tons of white people who would freak out on the cops if they were regularly treated as blacks are in New York City, St. Louis County and myriad other cities and towns throughout the United States.  Most of them would say otherwise, but they just can't imagine what it's like for black folks daily.  Reading this article might give them a little bit of insight into it.