A video taken during the recent terrible Japanese tsunami:

Just horrible.

h/t The Reference Frame

Homework Problem

Here is a figure from some notes I am reading:

My understanding of it is that we have a stiff cube-shaped frame, say made out of wooden dowels or thick wire, fixed in space. In the center of the frame we have a ball, attached to the corners of the frame with 8 rubber bands.

The claim is that if we rotate the ball 360 degrees around the vertical axis, and hold it there, we would be unable to untangle the bands without moving the ball. However, if we rotate the ball 720 degrees around the vertical axis and hold it there, then we could get the bands back how they were when we started.

Wow. Can you see in your head how this works? I'm tempted to build one. It seems weird to me. At what degree of rotation does this untangling become possible? Supposedly it's more than 360 and less than or equal to 720 degrees. How about 719 degrees? How does this magically jump from "not possible" to "possible" as we continuously rotate the ball?

One Way to Lose an Argument

Megan McCardle responds to this graph:

"The effect of the graph is to make it seem as if we could, by simply refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts on high earners, cover virtually all of the Social Security shortfall that is going to be putting immense pressure on the budget deficit over the next century."

Her explanation of why this is wrong is presented as a 2200 word essay. She may well be right. But her opponents in this debate apparently have so much leverage that the contest was over before the debate began.

All gone

According to this on the BizJournal site, the upper midwest lost tons of jobs. Adding up the losses from: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, the region lost 2,150,100 jobs in the last ten years.

Old Ways, New Ways

Reading a Kindle by kerosene lamp

From a 3-day power outage we had several weeks ago.

Cicada Update

Well, cicada time is in full swing down here. In the early evening, when it's hot, humid and still sunny, they are at their loudest. You don't want to be out on the front porch for long. It's so loud your ears start to bother you. Going inside you feel a relief and a slight ringing in your ears. The sound rises and falls as they sing out in unison, creating a wave-of-sound effect. It's pretty impressive.

If you shake a tree or bush, hundreds will take off into the air. There can be several thousand in a tree. Looking out across the street, you can see them flying around, as you might see bugs over a lake when the light is right. I have to shake myself off getting into our car, as it is quite likely that one or more will land on me on the walk from my door.

In general though, most of them seem to be pretty sedentary, and they are quite clumsy flyers and crawlers.

I wouldn't want it every year, but I am glad to have seen it.

I sucked!

I love the first lady interviewed in this Reason video from Los Angeles. The venue was a teachers' demonstration for more taxes to pay teachers more. As background, a Los Angeles Times project grabbed data on kids going in and coming out of teachers' classrooms. They calculated how much improvement kids made for each teacher. Uniquely, they named names. You could actually do a search for your kid's teacher.

The interview I love came about 30 seconds in.

Reason: How did you do on the Los Angeles Times value added rankings?

3rd Grade Teacher Murphy (with a smile): I sucked!

Reason: Really?

Murphy: Yeah!
Here's her ranking on the LA Times. She's below average in both math and reading for value added. And the charts for her ranking:

Great Southern Brood

No, not that large family down the street. Brood XIX of 13-year cicadas:
Brood XIX (also known as Brood 19 and The Great Southern Brood) is one of 15 separate broods of periodical cicadas that appear regularly throughout the southeastern United States. Every 13 years, Brood XIX tunnels en masse to the surface of the ground, lays eggs, and then dies off in several weeks.

We are in the midst of their emergence now. Every morning on the trees you can see them, having crawled up out of the ground during the night. They molt, then fly up into the trees later in the day.

So far, it doesn't really seem all that bad. I had visions of swarms of these things everywhere, but in reality I haven't noticed them very much. You see them on cars and sidewalks, but you could walk for miles without stepping on more than one or two. They aren't all that loud now either. Perhaps that will change. They should be around for six weeks or so.

(source Wikipedia)
Here is a nice video from Nashville that gives you the idea of what's going on:

Here is David Attenborough (always great!) talking about 17-year cicadas. These look very similar to the ones we have, but seem to have a creepier whooping sound.

Solar power eats up land

Twice before my brother has posted about the land use required to have an extensive solar energy option. It is enormous:

[ China and Nuclear Power ] [A modern solar plant in Portugal] occupies about 0.234 square miles of land, and is expected to produce about 20 gigawatt-hours per year. That works out to an average power output of about 2.28 megawatts. How much land would we have to cover with these panels to get 200 gigawatts?
200,000 / 2.28 x 0.234 = 20,526 square miles.
That's like covering all of Massachusetts 2.5 times over.
[ Solar powered reality ] [After a comment from me quoting Steven Den Beste on the land requirements to supply enough power to replace California's gas usage--which Den Beste pegged at 525 square miles ]

According to the CIA, the USA has 4,165,110 km of paved roadway. Let's assume that the average width of a roadway is 50 feet, just a guess. Suppose that instead of paving all those streets, roads, highways and expressways we paved a big square in the middle of the desert. How big on a side would that square be?

sqrt(4165110 * 5/8*5280*50)/5280 = 157.0078

That square would only be 157 miles on a side. Think how much effort it took to pave that much. Think about how much effort it would be to cover that area with solar panels.
Now today on Watts Up With That they point out that all of that land has property taxes levied on it:
Producing 225,592 kilowatt hours of electricity in its first year of operation, a solar farm in eastern Kalamazoo Coun­ty that went online in early 2010 has exceeded expectations.

Also exceeding expecta­tions is the property tax, said Sam Field, a Kalamazoo attor­ney and one of the owners of Kalamazoo Solar.

The $27,689 tax bill for the Charleston Township prop­erty means that the owners are losing money, even when being paid a premium price of 45 cents a kilowatt hour by Consumers Energy, he said.

“That Michigan property tax burden works out to a cost of 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour,” Field said. “That amount is more than the retail value of the electricity.”
For comparison, Field re­searched the property tax for the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Covert Township along Lake Michigan. He found that the annual real and personal property taxes for Palisades are just over $12 million or .2 cents per kilowatt hour.

Fearful Symmetry

Sometimes, after solving a problem, it seems to me there should be a symmetry argument that I missed.

You have a cup of coffee and a cup of cream. Put a teaspoon of the cream in the coffee and stir. Take a teaspoon of this mixture and put it in the cream. Is there now more cream in the coffee or coffee in the cream?

Neither. It turns out that they are equal. Should this have been obvious? Why? Is there a symmetry argument?

Ann says: Man! that took me a while to figure out. I forgot that the volume of the coffee before transferring back to the milk is (T + 1)/T. So in the end, each cup has 1/(T + 1) of the other?

I think that's right. If the spoon holds T cups, then in the end the coffee cup contains 1/(T+1) cups of coffee and T/(T+1) cups of cream. Vice versa for the cup of cream. You can stick in T=0 and T=1 and see that the formulas make sense. After doing the math though, it seems that there should be some way to see intuitively why the equality is there.


The original of this post disappeared in the Blogger Blackout.
[ Politifact ] Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisconsin.

Moore began her remarks by referring to the keynote speaker, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and his new memoir, A Reason to Believe.

"I was thinking: How in the world can you believe, what reason would you have to believe in anything, when you had just elected a governor who says that Wisconsin was open for business and therefore closed to every single human being in the state," Moore said to applause.
This is someone who flatly and openly hates business. The logical inference from her comment is that Wisconsin should not be open for business, because businesses hurt people.

This is the mindset of the loony left. Where is Pat Moynihan where you need him? I believe he once said that the Democrats had to come to terms with the fact that you can't be pro-employee without being pro-employer. Apparently, such thinking is dead and mouldering right along with the much-missed Moynihan.

Moore is undoubtedly someone who wants lots of public services and lots of taxes, but doesn't understand that it takes productive people and businesses to pay those taxes.

It's the therefore in Moore's comments that really gets me: you're pro business? Therefore you must, you simply MUST, be anti-human.

Too late

NPR is doing a series on financial literacy among young Americans. They started with two pieces on college loan debt today. In the introduction to one piece was this comment about college graduates:

For many of them, life's first big decision will be how to pay off college loans.

Ahem, their first big decision should have been whether to take the loans out in the first place!

No Money in Those Trust Funds

Again and again I see the contents of the Medicare and Social Security Trust Funds referred to as "money" or "cash." Here, for example. Another one here, for example:

Social Security, financed through payroll taxes, has enough money in its trust fund to pay full benefits through 2037, according to its 2010 trustees report.

Good grief. There is no money in these trust funds. There is no cash in these trust funds. The trust funds contain special government bonds, not money to pay out to beneficiaries. All the cash that has been collected through Social Security and Medicare taxes has been spent already. To get the money to pay beneficiaries, the government will need to use taxes, borrowing, or printing.

Arthur Treacher's Lives!

Who knew? Arthur Treacher's is still around. It seems it has been absorbed by Nathan's.
You can see one in NYC on google maps.

Groupon - Not Getting It

A while back I mentioned Groupon, saying among other things that I really didn't understand what the benefit was to retailers.

I am happy to report that I am not the only one.

Disclose this!

President Obama wants to make all companies seeking government contracts to disclose the political contributions from every single employee. Much has been said about how this would allow the government to pick political allies for contracts while shunning companies loaded with the other party.

Much less has been said about the chilling effect within each company.

How many people share the political views of their bosses and the owners of their company? How many people want their boss to have to compile a list of all of his employees' political contributions and have that sitting in front of him when it's time to decide on layoffs, promotions, and assignments?

I know I do not want my boss knowing my political persuasion, because it will automatically diminish me in his/her eyes. The thinking would be: How can you possibly believe and support that! I thought you were smart, like me!!! Now I find out your a stupid, idiotic, twit!

No thank you! Disclose is an abomination!

Pizza Man - Arson?!?

Charges of arson in the Pizza Man fire.
Feras Rahman, 27, of Milwaukee, was indicted on counts of arson resulting in injury, arson to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and lying, according to the indictment. The fire caused more than $3 million in damage.

Rahman was the owner of the Black and White Café, a counter-service restaurant, which opened next door to Pizza Man in January 2009.

If he's guilty, I hope they throw the book at him.

Ann says: I believe it was always known to be arson, they've just taken this long to figure out who to charge with the crime.

Food Deserts

Coming soon to a neighborhood near you... it's community organizers advocating on behalf of people living in "food deserts." These are urban regions where the nearest grocery store is a mile or more away, or rural regions ten miles from a grocer.

The idea here is that obesity, which strangely correlates with lower income, is due to the lack of healthy food choices in certain neighborhoods. Advocates call for zoning laws that will keep out fast food restaurants from such places. It seems rather paternalistic to me. It's hard for me to believe that people eat at McDonalds because no Whole Foods is nearby.

The USDA has an interactive map showing "food deserts" across our nation. It's pretty interesting. Vast swaths of Nashville are included.

I was particularly struck though by one large neighborhood in Milwaukee. It's centered along Capitol Drive between the Milwaukee River and I-43. It runs south to Keefe and up to Hampton.

Ummm... ok. So I guess Piggly Wiggly and Aldi don't count as grocery stores? Not wholesome enough perhaps?

Ok, but what is the explanation that accounts for Outpost Natural Foods not counting? It's a giant natural food store smack dab in the middle of this "food desert." This doesn't inspire confidence in the USDA's assessment of the problem.

(h/t wmbriggs.com)

Employment April, 2011 (corrected)

So, here's this month's employment graph (click to embiggen):

Just to review, the shaded areas represent the time between elections, so Obama was elected in November, 2008. The vertical red and blue lines represent the swearing-in of the president in January of 2001 and 2009. The red blue series is the Household data. This is created by a telephone survey of real people. The blue red series is the Employer data, created by polling large employers. The unemployment rate is determined from the Household data.

Analysis: As you can see the two lines went in opposite directions this month. According to Employers, we've added almost a quarter of a million jobs last month. According to Households, we lost 190,000 jobs.

The line on NPR this morning looked at the Employer's data and said: We have lots of new jobs! When asked why the unemployment rate, now standing at 9%, went up, they looked at the Household data and the number of people who have entered or reentered the job pool, and said: More people looking means more unemployed. However this seems to me to be mixing apples and oranges. If you look at the Household number for the number of people looking for jobs, it seems to me you should also look at the Household number that says we lost close to 200K jobs this month. That's how the unemployment rate is calculated.

However, looking at the numbers, it appears that NPR pretty much flat-out lied. Remember, the question was: Why did the unemployment rate go up when jobs increased? and the answer was: Because more people entered and reentered the labor force. They also specifically said that it was actually a good sign, because more people looking, means a good mood change.

So what are the real numbers--which NPR never mentions?

March April Change
Civilian Labor force: 153,406 153,421 15,000
Employed: 139,864 139,674 -190,000

So, looking at those numbers, what would you attribute the increase in the unemployment rate? The 15K increase in the number of people looking for work? Or the 190K decrease in the number of jobs?

Score One For Hillary! Redux...

A former aid of Hillary Clinton was on The Factor today, and reminded me of something that Hillary said about Pakistan back in November of 2009. Here is something I posted about it, from November of 2009:

Hillary Clinton, during her recent trip to Pakistan:

"Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she finally asserted when challenged about Washington’s tough prescriptions for Islamabad. "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to."

The US Secretary of State also took a swipe at the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies, telling the senior journalists, "If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together" then "there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military security establishment." She said she was "more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States'' but the relationship had to be a "two-way street."

At one point during the exchanges, when a journalist spoke about all the services rendered by Pakistan for the US, Mrs Clinton snapped, "We have also given you billions."

Well done Mrs. Clinton! How refreshing to hear an American diplomat dishing it out rather than just standing there and taking it. Finally, someone in power has the nerve to tell the truth.

Strange now that she is going out of her way now to tell us how useful Pakistan was in the capture of Bin Laden. It doesn't seem to me to ring true.

Got Him!

Sincere congratulations and thanks to President Obama, our SEALS, and everyone else involved!

Awesome pic from the White House. Watching the attack unfold.