The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Happy Pi Day

In the U.S., today is 3.14. The rest of the world will celebrate Pi Day when we have 14 months in a year, because most places write dates "14/3". So we'll just have to wait until International Pi Month in March 2014.

Too bad most of us slept through 3.14 1:59:26...and then lost an hour of sleep 34 seconds later.

Yes, I'm a nerd.

Wind turbines generate superstition, nuttiness

The Chicago Tribune has a story this morning about the controversy blowing through DeKalb County (about 150 km west of Chicago) because of wind turbines:

Ben Michels' friends say he may have the worst of it. Five turbines stand in a line behind his home, the nearest 435 m away; the county restricts turbines from being any closer than that.

Michels, who has raised goats for 20 years and averaged one death per year, said nine have died since December. Autopsies didn't reveal anything physically wrong with them. But he said veterinarians told him the goats may have suffered from stress. "Common sense tells me, it's got to have something to do with the turbines," Michels said. Other farmers say the turbines have spooked their horses and other animals.

I don't think we've seen a better encapsulation of the public policy reasoning of many voters in a long time. First, a spike in something coinciding with something else. Then, an appeal to common sense. Finally, an anecdote about unnamed but similarly-situated people that reinforces the original opinion.

The Tribune doesn't make explicit a clear pattern that emerges from the people who they interviewed: the ones most opposed to the turbines don't own them. At least the article notes "each turbine, which takes up about 1.2 ha total, pays...about $9,000 per year.... That compares with the going rate of about $73 per hectare per year to lease farmland in DeKalb County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

Ah. Yes. Goats dying and migraine headaches caused by other people profiting from the goat-killing headache machines. (I commend to the reader the chapter in James Davidson and Mark Lytle's brilliant textbook After the Fact on the economic situation in Salem, Mass., in the 1680s.)

I especially enjoyed the top sour-grapes quote of the article:

Yet not everyone who could have profited from the turbines did so.

Ken and Lois Ehrhart originally agreed to allow NextEra to run a power line through their property in Shabbona but then changed their minds. Leasing part of their 320 acres would have provided money to pay off a large hospital bill.

"I says nothing doing," recalled Ken Ehrhart, who raises soybeans, wheat and corn. "We're not the highfliers for all the modern ideas."

In other words, "Get your damn turbines off my lawn, you young whippersnapper!"

Such is progress. Imagine the outcry if someone tried to put a nuclear plant in DeKalb County. Or a coal one.

Where was this guy six months ago?

Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has run out of patience:

Many Republicans now are demanding that we simply ignore the progress we've made, the extensive debate and negotiations we’ve held, the amendments we've added (including more than 100 from Republicans) and the votes of a supermajority in favor of a bill whose contents the American people unambiguously support. We will not. We will finish the job.

As you know, the vast majority of bills developed through reconciliation were passed by Republican Congresses and signed into law by Republican Presidents – including President Bush’s massive, budget-busting tax breaks for multi-millionaires. Given this history, one might conclude that Republicans believe a majority vote is sufficient to increase the deficit and benefit the super-rich, but not to reduce the deficit and benefit the middle class. Alternatively, perhaps Republicans believe a majority vote is appropriate only when Republicans are in the majority. Either way, we disagree.

At the end of the process, the bill can pass only if it wins a democratic, up-or-down majority vote. If Republicans want to vote against a bill that reduces health care costs, fills the prescription drug 'donut hole' for seniors and reduces the deficit, you will have every right to do so.

All right. Can we get health-care reform already?

Chickens in the news

NPR ran a story this morning on gender-bending chickens:

Michael Clinton of the University of Edinburgh studies these peculiar chickens, called "gynandromorphs." They're split down the middle: One side looks male; the other side, female. Clinton wanted to know how this happened.

When he started studying the half-and-half birds, Clinton figured there would have been some weird chromosomal abnormality so the gonads would send out scrambled hormonal signals.

But that turned out to be wrong. The chickens were a mix of male and female cells. And it was the cells, not the hormones, that seemed to be calling the shots.

What makes this doubly interesting for me is the Threadless T-Shirt Diane is wearing today:

Yet another rental check-out

After months of beautiful weather I finally arranged a flight check-out at a local flight school. I had to get an hour of additional training to learn how to use the Garmin G1000 flight instrument panel yesterday, but today's flight went just like any other check-out. (Google Earth track.)

My passport, unfortunately, is at the Chinese Consulate in Chicago getting a visa stuck in. So I'll have to wait until I get it back to rent planes. This is because the TSA believes, as would anyone, that only U.S. citizens (or aliens we really, really like) are to be trusted with small airplanes. This will prevent any non-citizens from doing bad things with them, of course.

Last video from Delhi

I mentioned that the traffic and chaos in Delhi just seems to work most of the time. Sometimes, however—as when 60 bicycle rickshaws try to make a right turn through traffic at the same time—it doesn't:

I'm curious what everyone is saying...though I can guess.