Saturday, August 8, 2015

Golf Outing Weekend Links

Every year, I golf in one outing and cook for another. This year, both took place this weekend.  Even with those going on, I've got a few stories for you to check out:

The Bat Doctor is In - SBNation.  On illegal slow-pitch softball bats.

The Changeup: How baseball's tech team built the future of television - The Verge

A Minor League Home Run King Without Major Fanfare - New York Times.  A real life Crash Davis.

The End of the Hoop Dream: A Journey to the Extreme Fringe of International Basketball - Grantland

What's in a name? Everything for OSU walk-on from Troy - Dayton Daily News.  Local kid.

How New Jersey Tamed The Wild Blueberry For Global Production - The Salt

Exodus: After 90 Years in Manhattan, Can Streit's Matzo Reinvent Itself Upstate - The Village Voice

Sioux City farm celebrates 100 years - Sioux City Journal.  My college roommate's grandparents' farm is honored as a Century Farm.

Man vs. Bugs: Who's Winning - Wall Street Journal

Leo Szilard: A Forgotten Father of the Atomic Bomb - Priceonomics

What Made This Man Betray His Country - The Atlantic 

The Cop - The New Yorker 

Inside Shell's Extreme Plan To Drill For Oil in the Arctic - Bloomberg

The Seventh-Largest Economy In The World Spirals Down - Wolf Richter.  Brazil, China, Canada, Australia, Europe, the corn's getting ugly out there.

Top Cringe Worthy Foreign Policy Moments in GOP Debate - Juan Cole.  I would nominate all of them. It seemed like all they tried to do was be more unhinged than anyone else on stage.

American Democracy Has to Do Better Than This - The Nation 

Tea Party Lawmaker Faked Gay Sex Scandal To Hide Affair With Female Rep  - TPM

How corn made its way into just about everything we eat - Wonkblog

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

WSJ: Farmland Investments Take Root

Me-Fools and their money will soon part:
Farmland is attracting growing interest from pension plans, hedge funds and even mom-and-pop investors as they seek to diversify assets and capitalize on an agriculture-industry slump that has pushed down land prices in some regions.
Financial-services giant TIAA-CREF announced Tuesday that it has raised $3 billion for its second global farmland-investment partnership, exceeding its initial target of $2.5 billion. The fund, which will invest in North and South America and Australia, has lined up commitments from institutional investors, including the New Mexico State Investment Council and the U.K.’s Greater Manchester Pension Fund.
TIAA-CREF’s fund marks one of the biggest in a recent wave of cropland investments by institutional investors. Meanwhile, several U.S. public-stock offerings by farmland owners who have packaged their property as real-estate investment trusts, or REITs, are enabling retail investors to place bets on the sector as well.
Investors are betting farmland will yield good long-term returns as global food demand rises with growing populations and wealth in Asia, Africa and elsewhere. The amount of arable land is expected to increase only modestly, at best, due to urbanization and a lack of acreage suitable for crops.
Seriously, with other commodities swirling around the proverbial market drain, why would people expect farmland to hold value?  The explanations in this article sound more like marketing pitches.  I would wager a thousand bucks that the farmland market will be worse off in three years than it is right now.  The Wall Street Journal story can argue that things will improve, but I don't believe it.  My recommendation: don't buy farmland for five to seven years.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


PATAGONIA 8K from Martin Heck | Timestorm Films on Vimeo.

How Many Clowns Can You Fit On A Stage?

Ten, apparently:


22 years ago today:

Sometimes it is best to respect your elders.

The Reign of Idiots

Kansas, conservative paradise:
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal,  the Kansas Board of Education decided in July to allow six school systems — including two of the largest in the state — to hire unlicensed teachers to ease the shortage. (Let the irony sink in for a minute.)  Specifically, the newspaper reported:
The measure will waive the state’s licensure regulations for a group of districts called the Coalition of Innovative Districts, a program that the Legislature established in 2013 based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
(Yes, ALEC, an organization that writes “model legislation” on a variety of topics that conservative legislators use in states  to make new laws that promote privatization, strikes again.  Under this legislation, districts can ignore most laws and regulations — including union contracts — that other public schools in a state must follow.)
Why would a state do that?  Because Fox News ideology (or idiotology) rules there:
According to new data released by the Kansas Department of Education, at least 3,720 teachers left their jobs either by going to other states to teach, retiring or leaving the profession altogether, the Associated Press reported. That, the AP said, was substantially higher than in previous years.  KCUR reported in this story by Sam Zeff that Kansas is becoming such a hard place for teachers that many are crossing into Missouri to find jobs. The story says in part:
A billboard along the Kansas Turnpike eight miles east of Lawrence reads: Independence Missouri School District. Hiring teachers for 2015-2016…. In 2011, before huge tax cuts were enacted, only 85 applications for Missouri teaching licenses were filed with a Kansas address. In the next three years, as school budgets were slashed, those applications doubled. During that same period, applications for Missouri teaching licenses from Arkansas and Iowa remained steady.
How did all of this happen?
A 2014 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in part:
Tax cuts enacted in Kansas in 2012 were among the largest ever enacted by any state, and have since been held up by tax-cut proponents in other states as a model worth replicating.  In truth, Kansas is a cautionary tale, not a model.  As other states recover from the recent recession and turn toward the future, Kansas’ huge tax cuts have left that state’s schools and other public services stuck in the recession, and declining further — a serious threat to the state’s long-term economic vitality. Meanwhile, promises of immediate economic improvement have utterly failed to materialize….
*The large revenue losses extended and deepened the recession’s damage to schools and other state services.  Most states are restoring funding for schools after years of significant cuts, but in Kansas the cuts continue.  Governor Sam Brownback recently proposed another reduction in per-pupil general school aid for next year, which would leave funding 17 percent below pre-recession levels.  Funding for other services — colleges and universities, libraries, and local health departments, among others — also is way down, and declining.
But don't worry.  Tax cuts can't fail, they can only be failed.  Just ask any politician who mentions Ronald Reagan's name.  Any person with half a brain could see this failure coming on after State Executive Moron Sam Brownback was elected. Kansas faces a number of challenges, including slow population growth, an aging population, dying rural areas, job losses in the aviation sector, lower groundwater levels and climate change bringing drier weather.  Throw political saboteurs into the mix and you've got the makings of a disaster.  Wherever I look, I see rural folks voting for the gutting of their own communities.  It really makes me angry and sad, but I hope that examples like this will be enough to convince them to change their approach to politics. But hope isn't much to hang your hat on.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

NASA Photo of the Day

July 27:

Milky Way and Aurora over Antarctica
Image Credit & Copyright: LI Hang
Explanation: It has been one of the better skies of this long night. In parts of Antarctica, not only is it winter, but the Sun can spend weeks below the horizon. At China's Zhongshan Station, people sometimes venture out into the cold to photograph a spectacular night sky. The featured image from one such outing was taken in mid-July, just before the end of this polar night. Pointing up, the wide angle lens captured not only the ground at the bottom, but at the top as well. In the foreground is a colleague also taking pictures. In the distance, a spherical satellite receiver and several windmills are visible. Numerous stars dot the night sky, including Sirius and Canopus. Far in the background, stretching overhead from horizon to horizon, is the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. Even further in the distance, visible as extended smudges near the top, are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, satellite galaxies near our huge Milky Way Galaxy.

Dysfunctional Family Polka

Not sure why Facebook promoted this to me, but I do like the video:

First of August Weekend Links

Well, we're in the dog days of summer (and the craft breweries are already turning out Marzenbier and Pumpkin Ales) and here are some interesting stories to check out this weekend:

How 2 Iowa Reporters in 1973 accidentally started the world's largest bike tour - Vox

This Kentucky Distillery Is Blasting David Bowie Songs to Flavor Its Brandy - Vice

The complex mix that makes bacon taste so good - BBC

Hay for cheese? Barter booms in cash-squeezed rural Greece - Reuters and With Greek banks still shuttered, unsold eggs point to deeper woes - Washington Post

Out of the Box - Texas Monthly.  Charles Goodnight and the original food truck.

Sam Adams Could Turn Benedict Arnold Because of Taxes - Bloomberg

TPP pressure on Canada, but U.S. is super-star in agriculture subsidies - Financial Post

Ohio State Fair for the win:

Who wears a size-40 shoe and weighs a ton? Ohio State Fair's new Smokey - Columbus Dispatch

See Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Brutus Buckeye honored with butter sculpture: photos - Cleveland Plain Dealer

Butter sculptures through the years - Columbus Dispatch

Deep-fried pie? Donut ice cream bar? The State Fair offers it all - Columbus Dispatch

A Dream Undone - New York Times.  On the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. I remember wondering years back why the Farm Bureau opposed the Voting Rights Act.  As I watch the importance of the rural vote in Republican power dynamics, I understand the origin of that opposition a little more.

Consider the Can - The Big Roundtable.  From Roughly 100 Fantastic Magazine Articles from 2014 - Conor Friedersdorf

The Candidates - London Review of Books.  Sad but true.  What a fucking clown show.

What militarism means - The American Conservative.  About the F-35.

FBI enlisting public help to uncover corruption in Kentucky - WYMT.  Two words: Richie Farmer. Also see Kasich's Assets Valued at $9.2 to $22.1 Million - Bloomberg.  Remember, the guy grew up in a working-class family and had a grand total of two non-government jobs in his life: Fox News host and managing director at Lehman Brothers.  That's called cashing in on government service.

Iran calls for Israel's nuclear disarmament - Christian Science Monitor.  Calling out the ultimate double standard.

What Happens One Hour After Drinking A Can Of Coke - The Renegade Pharmacist