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October 30, 2014

"The Amish Farmers Reinventing Organic Agriculture"

Dang clever.

Kempf is the unlikely founder of Advancing Eco Agriculture, a consulting firm established in 2006 to promote science-intensive organic agriculture. The entrepreneur’s story is almost identical to Zook’s. A series of crop failures on his own farm drove the 8th grade-educated Kempf to school himself in the sciences. For two years, he pored over research in biology, chemistry, and agronomy in pursuit of a way to save his fields. The breakthrough came from the study of plant immune systems which, in healthy plants, produce an array of compounds that are toxic to intruders. “The immune response in plants is dependent on well-balanced nutrition,” Kempf concluded, “in much the same way as our own immune system.” Modern agriculture uses fertilizer specifically to increase yields, he added, with little awareness of the nutritional needs of other organic functions. Through plant sap analysis, Kempf has been able to discover deficiencies in important trace minerals which he can then introduce into the soil. With plants able to defend themselves, pesticides can be avoided, allowing the natural predators of pests to flourish.

"Yes, the Deficit Is Smaller. But That Wasn’t the Main Problem."

Absolutely. Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

What was needed then and is still needed now is a plan–not for short-term austerity but to address our medium- and long-term debt situation. Policies need to be phased in gradually and designed to support the country’s economic recovery. Unfortunately, we got the opposite: spending reductions that focused on the short term and cuts to discretionary spending instead of tax reforms and entitlement reforms to generate permanent and growing savings. 

See also Erskine Bowles:

I wish I could believe the recent decline in the deficit is sustainable. The temporary factors related to the recession — which caused the deficit to increase dramatically — are now receding, but the structural problems with our budget remain.

Two on teaching math

"How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math: Sorry, education reformers, it’s still memorization and repetition we need.

"The best way to teach kids math is not in a classroom".

Lists of independent facts without a network of connections are hard to follow and harder to retain. The problem reminds me of trying to dig a deep, narrow hole in dry sand. As the hole goes down, the sides collapse and fill it back in. It is possible to dig a deep hole, but only if it stretches out to the sides. 

I gave a graduation speech many years ago. When asked, “What is the biggest thing you learned after you left school and became a practicing engineer?” my response was that in school, when you have an exam, you at least know what subject you are taking the exam in. In real life, you don’t know if the solution of the day will come from math, physics, chemistry, or just as likely human behavior or the quality of product instructions.

 

"‘Good Poop’ Diet Is the Next Big Thing"

The "microbiome" continues to be the new hotness in things dietary.

See also "An apple a day could keep obesity away".

October 29, 2014

"Americans have no idea how the government spends money"

Americans, generally, apparently know the same amount about federal expenditures as my students did. Which is to say: not much.

See also Ilya Somin, "The persistence of public ignorance about federal spending".

". . . troubling, disturbing and shocking"

What NCAA President Mark Emmert said about the Wainstein report on the troubles at UNC-Chapel Hill.

And see "President of Macalester College Calls for University of North Carolina to Lose its Accreditation Over Academic Fraud Scandal".

I'm not convinced anything really bad will happen to UNC-CH. But it seems more likely than I first thought. 

And I agree with this: "Did Wainstein Report Whitewash High-Level Culprits In UNC Cheating Scandal?"

"21 Days: An expert in biological warfare warns against complacency in public measures against Ebola"

Interesting. Apparently, as has been the case in other instances recently--proper diet, climate change, among others--the science is not "settled"

For one objection, Hatfill wants it known that, while it must be emphasized that airborne droplet and particle transmission between humans has not been evident in this outbreak, aerosol droplet transmission of Ebola virus has been shown in animal studies. “It is therefore irresponsible for government health officials to emphatically state that aerosol transmission does not occur,” he writes. He also believes the argument against a national quarantine is “inexcusable in light of the size of the current West African epidemic.”

But the politics are the same as almost always: "Life-saving drugs and deadly delays".

Related: "Ten Ways The Public Sector Is Failing And The Private Sector Is Succeeding Against Ebola".

"A Theory for Tattoos"

Mark Bauerlein:

Beneath the variety, though, is the same call: “Look at me.” The bearer may think it’s cool or lovely or poignant, a certification of membership, a work of art, or a testimonial, but a selfish demand accompanies each message, not because of what they say but where they say it. Tattoos go on a person’s skin, and so they can’t be separated from the ego of that person. It’s always there as part of one’s being, and others must register it as much as they do one’s face and speech. A tattoo has form and color and meaning, but it also solicits a social recognition, a “This is me, check me out.”

October 28, 2014

"Defining 'Lack of Institutional Control'"

Here's the Door's prediction for what the NCAA will do regarding the recent revelations of awful malfeasance at UNC-CH: they'll find that Chapel Hill guilty not of "lack of institutional control" but of a "failure to monitor". That will probably cost them a few scholarships for a couple of years, but will preserve the 2005 national championship, their accreditation, and everything else they really care about

Not saying that that's right--it isn't--but that's what will probably happen.

(In this I'm in accord with Dennis Dodd's blistering column, "UNC should get death penalty in academic fraud case, but it won't".)

Oh, and note this choice bit from the AP report:

The AFAM department escaped external reviews required every five years because it lacked a graduate program. Nyang'oro was also exempt from peer reviews for tenured faculty because he was a department chairman.

You can't make stuff like this up.

"The Optimistic GOP Story Everyone Is Missing"

Larry Kudlow:

The idea that nothing much will change if the GOP captures the whole Congress is just plain wrong. The politics and policies in Washington are about to change in a major way.

Obama may still be president. But he is going to be immediately confronted with a flood of new bills that will change the debate on tax reform, energy, health care, education, international trade, and regulations.

Obama will no longer be able to hide behind Harry Reid, who has stopped all voting on these matters. And Mitch McConnell, as Senate majority leader, will be able to move forward the reform ideas of his caucus and House policy leaders like Paul Ryan, Jeb Hensarling, Kevin Brady, and many others.

I sure hope he's right. But I wouldn't bet the house.

"The Real Reason the Poor Go Without Bank Accounts"

Guess what? The "unbanked" are a heck of a lot more rational than Liberals assume.

"Her Wasserhood"

I like the label: Debbie Wasserman Schultz is promulgating a "domestic Brezhnev Doctrine". 

"What Is The Most Powerful Thing In The Universe?"

I guessed "human ignorance" but that was wrong. It's gamma-ray bursts.

"Study: Non-citizens are voting in federal elections — and probably tipped at least one Senate race to Democrats"

Bad news. Really bad.

Obama winning a state illegally in a presidential election is bad but will be dismissed on grounds that it didn’t affect the overall result. Flip North Carolina to McCain’s column and it’s still a giant blowout. Franken winning a Minnesota seat illegally is a different ballgame. He was the 60th vote for ObamaCare. Replace him in the Senate with Norm Coleman and the law probably never passes. The authors are arguing overtly that health-care reform was made possible only by illegal votes. There are a bunch of races this year that could end up with whisper-thin margins of victory as well — Perdue versus Nunn in Georgia, Cassidy versus Landrieu in Louisiana, Tillis versus Hagan in North Carolina, even Gardner versus Udall in Colorado. If Democrats eke out victories in a few of those by a few thousand or even a few hundred votes, why would you believe after reading this study that those victories were fairly earned? And remember, as a Twitter pal points out, the numbers in the study are based on non-citizens who admitted to voting when asked. How many voted and were smart enough not to cop to it?

October 27, 2014

". . . Republicans might want to lose the governor's race in Illinois so it can go on illustrating the dangers of untrammeled Democratic rule"

I'd support that. As Shelley wrote:

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. 
 
 

"A Mystery Bidder Offers $3 Million for 6,000 of Detroit's Worst Homes"

We can only wish the bidder the best of luck

He or she will need it.

"America's Missing Wealth"

The cost of U.S. regulation, compounded over 65 years, is quite large

(The paper referenced in the article is by one of my former colleagues and one of his Ph.D. students. A publicly accessible version of the paper is here.)

"The Real Story on How Much Obamacare Increased Coverage"

Bottom line: basically a huge amount of money and energy spent to expand Medicaid a little.

"Politicians Want You To Depend On Them For Birth Control"

David Payne at The Federalist:

This is political clarity in all its uncomfortable glory: Progressives, so long the self-appointed champions of women’s advancement, have now pledged themselves to hold women back in order to advance their own shallow goals. It is both awkward and immensely helpful, from time to time, to see certain people for who they really are, and to divine their true motivations.

We can head into election season expecting the Progressive elite to adopt an altogether baffling set of talking points: Republicans wish to hold women back by trusting them to make their own medical decisions, while Democrats want to set women free by forcing them to see a doctor in order to obtain a widely-used pharmaceutical. 

"Despite Obama's billionaire bashing, Democrats lay equal claim to 'party of rich'"

Tim Carney

While the people of Northern Virginia get rich off of stimulus, and the people of Greenwich bank their bailouts and government loan guarantees, they can sleep well at night knowing they contributed to Obama. They may still be rich, but they’re different rich.

This thought can comfort Obama, too.

See also Fred Barnes, "The Real Party of the Rich" and "The Hunter Biden Chronicles".

"The Cosby Show 30th Anniversary: 7 Great Pieces of Advice From The Huxtables"

Seven of the most terrific scenes from The Cosby Show (with clips).

The last one, "On challenging children to be the their best," is from one of the greatest TV episodes in my lifetime.

October 26, 2014

"From a Rwandan Dump to the Halls of Harvard"

Lovely story.

Nine years old and orphaned by ethnic genocide, he was living in a burned-out car in a Rwandan garbage dump where he scavenged for food and clothes. Daytimes, he was a street beggar. He had not bathed in more than a year.

When an American charity worker, Clare Effiong, visited the dump one Sunday, other children scattered. Filthy and hungry, Justus Uwayesu stayed put, and she asked him why.

“I want to go to school,” he replied.

Well, he got his wish.

This autumn, Mr. Uwayesu enrolled as a freshman at Harvard University on a full-scholarship, studying math, economics and human rights, and aiming for an advanced science degree. Now about 22 — his birthday is unknown — he could be, in jeans, a sweater and sneakers, just another of the 1,667 first-year students here.

"The Biggest Flaw With The New College Football Playoff Is Already A Huge Problem"

As I knew they would, the bellyaching about the new playoff are already starting in earnest.

I'd like to think that people will eventually realize that with the necessarily limited number of games college football teams can play, there never will be a perfect playoff system. 

But I won't hold my breath. 

"Marauders of the Lost Sciences"

A blog presenting excerpts from great papers in economics, math, physics and statistics.

October 25, 2014

"What Makes Chip . . . *Chip*?

Long but very interesting profile of the Eagles's coach.

"Adorable Children Fiercely Debate Whether It Is Raining or Sprinkling Outside"

Future politicians or university professors, only cuter.

October 24, 2014

"U.N.C. Boosters Outraged That Some Athletes Took Real Classes"

Andy Borowitz, not trying to satirize conservatives for once:

An organization of University of North Carolina athletic boosters expressed shock and outrage today over a report that a few members of U.N.C. sports teams may have taken real classes, despite the widespread availability of fake ones.

"The Best NBA Doppelgängers"

"You’ll never be able to unsee these."

"Old Masters After 80, some people don’t retire. They reign."

The New York Times argues that 80 can be the new 50.

Long may it wave.

UPDATE: link fixed now. Thanks, Elliott.

"The Best Bass Riffs In The History Of Music"

"I'm gonna add some bottom so that the dancers just won't hide."

Too much Red Hot Chili Pepper and Jamiroquai but otherwise, reasonable selections

October 23, 2014

The president's press secretary gets creative. *Very* creative.

"The White House Says This Scientific Theory Explains Why It Isn't More Open To The Press".

The White House has a scientific explanation for why reporters aren't allowed to view President Barack Obama's interactions with campaign donors: The very act of observing an event can change the event's outcome. . . . 

"The goal of those q-and-a sessions is to foster a more candid and open dialogue where you have donors who are expressing their views," Earnest said. "I think it's the Heidenberg principle?"

Once again, I'm not making this up.

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