Saturday, August 22, 2015

Where The Money Goes

An interesting look at the Texas budget from Texas Monthly:

End of Church League Weekend Links

Well, last night the scrappy team of papists fell to the thugs of P-Hill to end our quest for a trophy and the greater glory of God, which means that in upcoming weeks I might actually get the links ready to publish on Saturday morning.  While defeat at the hands of the forces of evil takes a little bit of joy out of the week, I did find a few stories for your enjoyment:

Last Breaths in a Spanish Bullring - SBNation

This Is Our Youth: The Olympic-Industrial Complex and Katie Ledecky - Charles Pierce

European Soccer's Poor Little Rich Clubs - Wall Street Journal.  I'd like to see the Big Ten and the MAC promote and demote teams from one conference to the other.  B-G beats Indiana?  The next year, B-G is in the Big Ten while Indiana battles Ball State for conference superiority. That would be fun.

In Search Of A Drought Strategy, California Looks Down Under - The Salt

Eight Reasons Why the Iowa State Fair is The Best - Modern Farmer and Eating Healthy At The Iowa State Fair Means Salad On A Stick - The Salt.  Not for this guy.

When the Great Alpaca Bubble Burst - Priceonomics

Deere Profit Tumbles Amid Glut of Used Farm Equipment at Dealers - Wall Street Journal.  The next few years are going to be pretty rough in rural areas.

A River Runs Yellow - The Atlantic

Will the Pope Change the Vatican? Or Will the Vatican Change the Pope? - National Geographic 

Earth on Track for Back-to-Back  Records for Highest Temperatures - Bloomberg

What We Don't Know About Canada Might Hurt Us - FiveThirtyEight.  About the damage caused by conservatives' disdain for government statistics-gathering.  A major pet peeve of mine.

21 Questions for Donald Trump - National Memo.  About a month old, but gaining attention.

Donald Trump Just Stopped Being Funny - Matt Taibbi.  Reminiscent of the late days of Campaign 2008.  The ugliness of dumb, white America (or 'Merica) is never far below the surface.

Presidential Sensation Deez Nuts Is a 15-Year-Old Iowa Farm Boy - The Daily Beast

Are You an Angry Voter? Take a Deep Breath - Bloomberg View

Where the population of Europe is growing - and where it is declining - Berliner Morgenpost

This is the most common job held by immigrants in each state - Vox

The Lost Chief: Remembering Joe Delaney

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Pinball Wizard

Crumbling Roads Cost Drivers


We've seen peak road quality.  The roads continue to deteriorate, and deferred maintenance will never be caught up.  We are beyond the point where we can afford to repair all of the roads.  We'll see more gravel and unimproved roads in the future.

Monday, August 17, 2015

State Population Rank Over the Last Century


  • The center of population is moving to the Southwest. That's clear when you see it mapped, but this chart shows that, as well — there's no other way to explain the meteoric rise of Arizona.
  • The Midwest lost its dominance during the 20th century — a lot of the most significant losses in ranking occur in that region, whether it's Iowa (which sank from 15th to 30th) or Nebraska (from 29th to 38th).
  • The Northwest flourished. Though it's easy to characterize the 20th century as one of Southwestern dominance, the Northwest is often lost in the shuffle. But the ascendancies of Washington and Oregon show that it was a Western century, as well.
Arizona, what a bad idea.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Los Angeles

Los Angeles from Ian Wood on Vimeo.

NASA Photo of the Day

August 13:

Moonless Meteors and the Milky Way
Image Credit & Copyright: Petr Horálek
Explanation: Have you watched the Perseid meteor shower? Though the annual shower's predicted peak was last night, meteor activity should continue tonight (August 13/14), best enjoyed by just looking up in clear, dark skies after midnight. Of course, this year's Perseid shower has the advantage of being active near the August 14 New Moon. Since the nearly New Moon doesn't rise before the morning twilight many fainter meteors are easier to spot until then, with no interference from bright moonlight. The Perseid meteor shower last occurred near a New Moon in 2013. That's when the exposures used to construct this image were made, under dark, moonless skies from Hvar Island off the coast of Croatia. The widefield composite includes 67 meteors streaming from the heroic constellation Perseus, the shower's radiant, captured during 2013 August 8-14 against a background of faint zodiacal light and the Milky Way. The next moonless Perseid meteor shower will be in August 2018.

Game Theory and Knuckleballs

FiveThirtyEight does some pitcher analysis:
Of all the strategic elements of baseball, few are more fascinating than the poker game between pitcher and hitter. Each participant knows his strengths and those of his adversary, and that knowledge informs both players’ tactics in a complex entanglement of actions and counteractions.
If the best pitch in a hurler’s repertoire is his fastball, for instance, he might be inclined to use it really frequently. But batters will pick up on that proclivity, and in time, the fastball will lose its effectiveness if it’s not balanced against, say, a change-up — even if the fastball is a far better pitch on paper.
Eventually, we would expect this pitcher’s arsenal to settle into the optimal mix for retiring opposing hitters: a mix of fastballs and change-ups that’s impossible for a batter to exploit.1 In game theory terms (and assuming the batter adapts accordingly), this is a version of the famous Nash equilibrium, which describes a situation in which neither party in a game has anything to gain by changing his or her strategy.
That’s all, well, theory. But how can we detect which real-life pitchers are closest to their equilibria? One idea is to look for hurlers whose effectiveness is relatively equal on every kind of pitch he throws. And fortunately, Fangraphs tracks not only the frequency with which each pitch type is employed, but also its potency, estimated in terms of runs added or subtracted per 100 pitches. Using that data to find out how balanced a pitcher’s performance is across his entire repertoire, I computed a metric that I’m dubbing the “Nash Score.”....
Here’s how it works: Start by measuring for each pitch type the difference2 between its effectiveness and that of all the pitcher’s other pitches combined. Then weight those differences according to the frequency with which each pitch is thrown. The resulting average is the Nash Score, a sort of variance that measures whether a pitcher is close to his equilibrium (lower score) or could conceivably benefit from varying the distribution of his pitches (higher score).
Take R.A. Dickey as an example. The Blue Jays starter, known for his mesmerizing knuckleball, throws the pitch 87 percent of the time — about as much as any pitcher in baseball uses his No. 1 pitch. Yet Dickey’s Nash Score isn’t especially low, so under the concept of equilibria outlined above, he should be using the knuckler even more. Dickey’s fastball — his No. 2 (and essentially only other3 pitch) — is far less effective than his knuckler, even in its limited use as a complementary, change-of-pace pitch. According to game theory, Dickey could conceivably boost his overall effectiveness by throwing the knuckleball on an even greater proportion of his pitches.
That's one thing about the knukleball.  It is so unpredictable on its own that a good knuckleball pitcher should throw it every chance he gets.  As opposed to Dickey's 88 to 90 mph fastball, I was bringing a 55 mph fastball, so after the first two innings I pitched, I threw one fastball the rest of the season (about 29 more innings).  And that was thrown only because the catcher messed up the sign. Sure, a knuckleball pitcher may get pounded some days, but, generally,  the more non-knuckleballs he throws, the harder he gets hit.  Anyway, I only highlighted the article because of the Dickey shoutout.  

Ag-grivated Assault

The Onion:

I like the 4-H joke.