Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Farm subsidies and flooding

I'd like to build on my earlier post about how to build and retain topsoil for a bit here. If indeed the amount of organic matter in topsoil is primarily a function of how many dead plant roots are in there, and plowing the ground tends to reduce topsoil by allowing this organic matter to decay more quickly (plowing introduces oxygen), what then is the result of farm subsidies with regards to flooding?

Well, if, as Nixon's agricultural advisor noted, a goal of subsidies was to get farmers to plow "fencerow to fencerow," we would assume that subsidies would reduce the ability of soil to hold water by encouraging topsoil destruction, and would then result in flooding far worse than would otherwise be the case.

Is it possible that the reduction of Iowa topsoil from 14" thick on the average to 5" thick on the average was a significant contributor to the devastating flooding that state experienced this year? It would also be interesting to measure (if that's possible) the amount of carbon dioxide emitted as newly plowed fields have their topsoil literally rotting away.

Isn't that awesome? We get to pay tens of billions of dollars in subsidies each year to, in part, cause tens of billions of dollars of flood damage in agricultural states. What a deal.

I had been resisting....

....the urge to call Barack Obama the "Obamassiah", and then he up & pulls this stunt; he apparently is planning to use a "Greek Temple" facade for his acceptance speech in Mile High Stadium. No word yet on which pagan god he's planning on impersonating, or whether he's recruited the "Obama Girl" as a vestal virgin.

I think I'll be very happy to pull the lever for a candidate who doesn't think it's appropriate to do this kind of thing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Instead of something in my own words...

....why don't I send you over to visit the Bayly Brothers instead today?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Political speeches

Maybe it's just because I spend an hour or so each week in church listening to a sermon prepared by someone who really does understand public speaking. That conceded, whenever I listen to a politician talk, I have just one thing to say.

Swallow the mashed potatoes first, THEN start talking.

The only politician today that I could even begin to compare with the great orators of the past would be Mike Huckabee--and go figure, what did he do before he entered politics?

How to fix....

....the front derailleur on a 1979 LaTour III: remove the chain guard that Schwinn should never have put there in the first place.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Don't know much about history

Evidently, a sportscaster employed by Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez claimed that in the 1972 Olympic Games, Adolf Hitler (who died in 1945) snubbed American swimming phenom Michael Phelps (who was born in 1985). There is video; this is real.

If you ever wonder why a crucial part of the dialectic (logic) phase of the Trivium of classical education is "history," this is exhibit A for why the teaching of history is absolutely essential for giving your children (or you or I for that matter) a working "bovine excrement detector."

Thursday, August 21, 2008


This source notes that John Edwards, who has been asked "not to come" to the Democratic convention this year due to his affair and lying cover up of the same, has been replaced by none other than William Jefferson Clinton.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A damning critique of the Ivy League...

...from a man who taught there for a decade. It's a bit of a long read, but well worth it; more or less, it can be summed up as this; institutions set up around the liberal arts and real learning are now, sadly, degraded to institutions whose graduates are only fit to "be elite," incapable of learning the language that a plumber speaks.

Of course, one of the key points of the grammar stage of education is to be able to learn basics such as these.

Check this out

Gold medalist Usain Bolt crossing the finish line wearing not an ultratight spandex shirt, but an ordinary fitted tank top. Now look at the women's 100 meter run winners as well; at least one also has worn a standard tank top, and also got a medal.

Maybe one of these days, more track coaches will figure out that you can run just as fast in a tank top and shorts as you can in spandex, and millions of runners not entirely secure in their bodies will be eternally grateful.

Want a rain garden for nothing or less?

Stop using weed & feed each spring, and simply use fertilizer instead of you want a lush, green lawn. How so?

Well, pull a "lion's tooth" (dandelion) and check out how deep the roots are--a full foot is not uncommon. Then use a spade to take a look at how deep the roots are for your grass--even if you've got thick topsoil, it's probably 3" or less.

Now consider the fact that a big portion of that organic material in your soil is simply the decaying roots of dead annual plants, and it is this organic material that will capture and hold water that would otherwise go elsewhere--the same kind of principle that makes a rain garden work.

In other words, if one simply allows native plants to (within reason) rebuild the topsoil, one will find far fewer problems with runoff. I would tend to apply this concept to farming as well; it may be arguable that the big reductions in topsoil thickness in places like Iowa may be due more to decomposition of the organic material than to actual runoff. On a note I've written about before, maybe it's time to reconsider the practice of corn-feeding livestock. Alfalfa roots are said to be up to 30' deep in the ground.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who are you?

....was a question that came to my mind while my Sunday School group was discussing evangelism. How so? Well, we talk about the things that are precious to us; how then are we to explain why we do not talk about the One who lived, died, and rose again for us?


Along the same lines, check out NightWriter's comments about an experience he had recently; a conversation about the Gospel with someone who appeared to be intoxicated. Often, we take a look at the number of churches, and the number of cars in the parking lots, and we assume that certain areas (say the South, or urban minority areas, or whatever) are heavily evangelized.

Look closer, though. Does discipleship really look like that? Does it really look like your home, either?

Friday, August 15, 2008

What do you do?

After picking up a bite to eat one evening this week, I noticed a minivan stranded in the road. I thought about seeing what I could do to help, and then I noticed that in the minivan were two large, strong young men lounging around there, apparently just waiting. They could have pushed the minivan to the shoulder without breaking a sweat, even on a 90 degree day, but they were just sitting there waiting for whatever.

I don't know how to feel about it, but I didn't stop. Something about contemplating what might be up with two able bodied young men not taking responsibility for their own car made me think twice about whether it would be a good idea to help them.

If anybody's out there reading, let me know what you might do.

Researchers who aren't parents

OK, not a highly surprising thing, given that most research these days is done in universities by young people who have not yet married, but take a look at this. University of Minnesota researchers have found a link between ear infections and childhood/adult obesity. They claim that one mechanism might be damage to nerves that induces a child to desire unhealthy foods.

Had there been a few more parents, especially moms, involved in this research, they might have realized that mixed with the issue of nerve damage is the fact that smoking and bottle-feeding are also strongly linked with both unhealthy behaviors that lead to obesity, as well as ear infections. One wonders how the data would have looked had they corrected for smoking, breastfeeding vs. bottlefeeding, and other known factors involved with both ear infections and obesity.

While certainly it's not prudent to simply ignore what might be a secondary cause, it's just as certainly wise to make sure you've controlled for the two biggest issues involved before you suggest a third one. In other words, they need a few moms to remind them about little Billy who couldn't breastfeed and had 10 ear infections before age 1.

Or actually, as my wife would remind me, the kid's name is Jason.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Common sense abandoned, part...oh never mind

It appears that the Senate "Ethics" Committee is wanting to take action against Senator Coburn of Oklahoma for the "ethics problem" of delivering babies in a private, for profit hospital. Evidently, it would be OK for the Senator to do exactly the same thing in a government run or free, but if any investor ever makes a nickel from helping mothers deliver their babies safely, even if not due to Coburn's work, that is an ethics problem.

The reality that whether health care is government run or not is also a political issue seems to escape the "geniuses" in the "Ethics" committee, and more hilariously, it appears that all the deliberations of said committee are in secret--as if somehow a committee will be more ethical if they know that nobody's looking. (shouldn't the ethics committee know that they need sunshine more than anyone else?)

The article also mentions that Senators have left the practices of real estate, surgery, and even veterinary medicine to avoid conflicts of interest, which is bizaare to me. Yes, one wants to avoid occasions for bribery, but are we really under the impression that people are going to hire a veterinarian, surgeon, or obstetrician because that person has been a Senator? More or less, "ethics" regulations like this tell those who would enter politics that once they cross the threshold of the Capitol, their entire life will revolve around that building. It's a recipe for corruption.

Which is, IMO, the real reason for the threats to Coburn. It's not about ethics, but rather about payback to a thorn in the side of DC insiders.

Death of common sense, part 1, 128, 952, 324.36

Evidently a man has been arrested in Batavia, New York, for the crime of getting too close to his bride on their wedding day. "Say What?", you might ask. Isn't one purpose of getting married precisely to get close to one's bride in a legal and moral way?

Well, apparently the groom (got good and drunk and?) quarreled with a guest, and when police were called, they realized that not only did they have a disorderly groom, but also a man whose now-wife had a protective order against him. So disregarding the fact that the man's wife obviously wanted to be near him (why else would she say "I do"?), they arrested the man for violating the protective order.

Yet another reason why one might not want to have an upper limit for intelligence among officers, I dare suggest. Or, in the case where federal law might have required this kind of insanity, maybe we ought to have a minimum intelligence requirement for Congressmen.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shamelessly stolen from The Far Wright

Caption contest for this picture, starting with my contribution:
Guy on the left to guy on the right: "I'll thank you NOT to point that thing at the porta-potty at this range, corporal!"

A bit of gratitude

...on two fronts. First of all, took the family (minus 3 daughters with their grandparents for the week) to an excellent ice cream shop in Excelsior. It has the same super-dark chocolate ice cream as in Chaska, and if you should need to get a new ride, visit Excel Bike shop. Lots of super-premium ice cream and lots of super premium bicycles to be found in Excelsior, and a really nice downtown as well.

On the other front, I'm very grateful for the "global warming" coverage of IEEE Spectrum. Given that Spectrum tends to uncritically accept the hypothesis (and I don't), this might surprise you, but I am grateful. Why?

Because their uncriticality leads them to make basic mistakes in presenting the evidence, like showing a graph with the "effect" predating the "cause," letting slip that major calculations of historic "temperatures" are nearly tautological, and in "solving" the argument by appealing to authority of an IPCC member--ignoring the fact that Al Gore would not likely have appointed him to the IPCC had he not been a "true believer." It is as if Spectrum desires to prove its case by employing all of the fallacies of informal logic.

Their latest gift is in last month's issue, where they note that current climate models are incapable of modeling the effect of cloud cover. Given that this effect is said to be the major thing that keeps the planet Venus at 900F or so (instead of hundreds of degrees cooler), this is a fairly significant deficiency, to put it mildly.

The cure? Buy a dedicated computer for tens of millions of dollars (or perhaps even billions) to map out the planet in 1km size chunks and start running the models. In other words, one models the day by day interactions of clouds and other weather in just about the same way that your local weatherman does, just on a global scale.

In other words, their very plan reveals that yes, indeed, the cutting edge in climatology is depending on the same basic algorithms that enable your local weatherman's predictions to be slightly better than flipping a coin.

Friday, August 08, 2008

I'll understand this some day, I'm sure.

I realized while riding my bike home last night that the cast of characters who will be trying to stink up Pig's Eye (original name for St. Paul) during the GOP convention are a group adamantly in favor of gun control, trying to use violence to intimidate a group largely in favor of shall issue concealed carry.

Not the brightest bulbs in the chandelier, these far-left activists. They also hatched a plan to "arm" their people with Tasers for use in confrontations with the police, conveniently forgetting that the police are authorized to use lethal force when confronted with such tools.

If we had a border fence....

....this probably would not have happened. As the proverb states, good fences make good neighbors.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Confused about petroleum drilling?

Powerline has done us all a service by pointing out that when government makes a prediction about how much drilling in a particular area will yield, they start with a prediction of what price the oil will command. In the case of the "ANWR and offshore drilling will only produce 200,000 barrels annually" and "it won't reduce the price of gas much," they've deliberately assumed that the price of crude oil will plummet.

Now, I will certainly be glad to have lower fuel bills, but the fact of the matter is that this is a classic example of "garbage in, garbage out." As long as estimates of fuel costs vary wildly from what actually happens, we need to ignore these prognostications and fall back on what we should know from Econ 101: when supply increases, the market price decreases, all else the same.

I'll be expecting the left side of the aisle to figure this one out about the same time they figure out that "controlling the supply of petroleum" is NOT among the enumerated powers of Article 1 of the Constitution.

Here's why you might want a few intelligent police officers

In Prince George's County, Maryland, a SWAT team was apparently dispatched to the mayor's home and killed the family dogs en route to intercepting a drug package the family evidently didn't know about. One would figure that people might run an "address check", or figure out that hiding 32 lbs of marijuana would take a little bit of time (and thus no SWAT raid was necessary), but....

....if they're actively discouraging highly intelligent people from applying, maybe those working the case were not in fact capable of figuring this out. At any rate, I bet it's going to be really rough at City Council meetings for a while.

You may leave now, Holmes

The "Northern Muckraker" has alerted me to yet another embarassing episode from New London, Connecticut, home of the "Kelo" case and ensuing eminent domain debacle (costing the taxpayers millions, but no new jobs). Evidently, their police department has some of the same high standards as their "urban redevelopment" department, and actually prohibits the police department from even interviewing individuals who score too well on an intelligence test.

Worse yet, a court upheld these bizaare hiring standards, claiming that a set of standards designed to discriminate against the intelligent did not in fact discriminate. Apparently the hiring standards for the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are (amazing coincidence) identical to those of the New London Police Department.

How all of this benefits the taxpayer is beyond me. Apparently in the minds of this department, it's actually a liability to have the problem solving ability of a "Sherlock Holmes". Or maybe, more realistically, highly intelligent officers have the nasty habit of figuring out that higher-ups really don't have a clue about the job they claim to be doing.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bike Bubba's Visitor's Guide for GOP Delegates

You know, after a long day conventioneering, a convention delegate has a bit of relaxation to do. contrary to Pentamom's claim, there is a lot to do in and around Pig's Eye Landing. Here's the "Big Ten" list.

1. Watch the barges go by on the Mississippi.

2. Visit the MOA. Just be careful; it's a posted "no carry" (welcome criminals--your victims are disarmed for your convenience!) zone.

3. Go to the Minneapolis City Hall and ask to mow the roof.

4. Visit the Twine Ball in Darwin, just one hour west on highway 12.

5. Visit Keegan's and meet some real MOB-sters.

6. Watch the Twinkies play the Tiggers at the Homer-dome on the 5th and 6th.

7. Dodge "bombs" of human waste thrown by protesters. It's not entirely clear whether this is "imminent fear of death or grievous bodily harm," though. Respond with pepper spray instead of lead, please.

8. Hand out those little hotel bars of soap to protesters. They need them more than you do. (unless you've failed at #7, of course)

9. Ask one of the 3500 police officers there where their favorite fishing spot is, and follow their advice.

10. Go to the Fabulous Thunderbird (right by the MOA!) and say hi to Hugh Hewitt, who will be staying there, I'm told.

11. Watch the Goofers play (lose to) perennial powerhouse Northern Illinois August 30. Sorry, you won't be in town for their battle vs. BCS favorite Montana State, but you might be able to take in a scrimmage vs. Chaska's Pop Warner champions.

Oh, and Chad has some more serious suggestions.

Here's one for the Kool Aid Report

Evidently, Congressman Frank Pallone has introduced a bill to produce a commemorative stamp for inflammatory bowel disease. I'm sure Foot will have an, um, "appropriate" design ready very soon.

I think I'll take the "American Wildflowers" or "Liberty Bell" stamps instead, thank you very much.

H/T SayAnythingBlog.

Not a good sign for our republic

It's being reported that over three thousand peace officers will be required to cover the GOP Convention this year in St. Paul, and that the overall bill for convention security will come to about fifty million dollars, or about $25,000 per delegate, if I remember correctly the number of delegates that will be attending.

Now as one who has attended his share of GOP events, let me assure you that this isn't an ordinary expenditure for Republicans, but rather the kind of thing that you need to do when you have thousands of people who think that it is somehow their right to disrupt meetings held by those with whom they disagree.

Even worse, these protesters generally advocate a form of government in which those who protest were thrown into the gulags without trial. You would think that they'd catch on to this, but evidently not.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A new Jimmy Carter

Apparently, the Democratic nominee for President is endorsing a windfall profits tax (and H/T JP) that would take $50 billion from the oil companies and distribute it as $500 and $1000 tax credits to help consumers pay for gas. Now apart from the fact that fifty billion bucks doesn't give a $1000 tax credit to over 100 million families, here's this humble site's attempt to help you understand how this will work.

For starters, it appears that even in this day and age of sky-high petroleum prices, this tax would take the vast majority of after-tax profits out of the hands of oil companies. Sounds great to "stick it to 'em," but keep in mind that the money allocated for drilling new supplies also comes out of this pile of cash. So you can say "good bye" to the chance of new domestic supplies if Mr. Carter's--oops, Senator Obama's--plan goes through.

But wait, it gets "better." Due to decreased supply, you could expect gas prices to go the same way they did in the 1970s--up--probably to a greater amount than the tax credit would pay for. So we start off more or less with the consumer in the hole.

Not done yet. Consider the fact that stock prices are calculated more or less by profits, and you've taken most of them--the possible stock value drop (assuming P/E of 10 to 15) could be 500 to 750 billion dollars, or even more. Now contemplate that these assets would be subject to capital gains tax + state income tax of 15-20%, and we can conclude that this move could inflict a lot of damage on retirement accounts while reducing tax collections by 75 to 150 billion dollars.

It seems as if Senator Obama has forgotten what happened when President Carter more or less did exactly what he's proposing. Hopefully he'll have plenty of spare time soon to read up on the subject.

A beautiful picture of penny wise, pound foolish

My family went this weekend to Duluth to see the replica sailing ships that came to that fair port for Minnesota's celebration of 150 years of statehood. As the lines to see the sailing ships were four to six hours long, our family took a look at the old ones from a balcony and then proceeded to visit the William A. Irvin, an old ore boat (even if 1000 feet long, it's a "boat" if it stays on fresh water) that has been decommissioned and turned into a museum and ice cream parlor.

While on tour, I saw a couple of things which illustrate brilliantly why U.S. Steel had trouble making profits in the 1980s, specifically a pair of 1938 vintage steam turbines that were used in that ship until 1986, and a control panel that desperately needed some help from the company my dad worked for.

Why so? Well, two main reasons the ship was decommissioned were its slowness (about 25% less speed than modern boats) and number of people needed to run it. For not that much money, this boat could have been retrofitted with modern steam turbines to get a lot more power (hence more speed), and the instrumentation could have been placed on a single panel instead of occupying a whole wall (hence fewer engineers needed).

Now I don't know that this "boat" would still be running today if it had been retrofitted, or even if its hull speed was higher than the 12 mph (not knots, this is the lakes again) it went. However, I do suspect that the same kind of thinking that left 1930s steam turbines in the Irvin was involved in leaving 1930s era Bessemer furnaces in Gary instead of the BOFs that were actually cost-effective.

Penny-wise, pound foolish, and thousands of current and former steelworkers and investors have paid the price.

Friday, August 01, 2008

How about a nonsmoking break?

The bike rack is right next to the smoker's break area where I work (cough cough), and one thing I've noticed is that when you get past the smoke is that smokers are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet, right up there with firearms enthusiasts.

I have to wonder if nonsmokers might do well, socially speaking (and maybe also in things like evangelism) if we took a "nonsmoking break" mid-morning or mid-afternoon with some friends. I think I'll give it a try.