Friday Linkage 8/29/2014

There are few good things to say about having your refrigerator stop working and losing a lot of food. If I look on the bright side I got to really clean the inside, disposed of some junk food that no one in my house needed to eat, and now have the opportunity to really think about what gets put back in. On second thought, maybe this should be a yearly thing.

On to the links…

As Americans Pig Out, Bacon sees Sizzling Price Hikes—Supply and demand baby! It’s good to see that people have let go of their fat phobia and are embracing the tasty meat. Granted, a lot of people go too far in their bacon love. It can be sort of disturbing.

Why Are We So Fat? The Multimillion-Dollar Scientific Quest to Find Out—This issue seems to boggle scientists and there is a lot of contradictory information that exists. All of it appears to have been conducted in the best interests of science, but it has confused the issue mightily.

Norway Whale Catch Reaches Highest Number since 1993—This was a total WTF moment for me when I read the article. Japan gets a whole boatload, pun sort of intended, regarding its whaling program but Norway is out there killing just as many whales. That’s right, Norway, which is usually thought of as being a fairly progressive and with it country. WTF.

Renewable Energy Capacity Grows at Fastest Ever Pace—The International Energy Agency estimates that 22% of the world’s power comes from renewables, including hydropower. Greater than $250 billion, yep that’s a billion, was invested worldwide in 2013. As good as this news seems this pace of introduction will not be enough to meet climate goals. Boo!

Renewable Energy Accounts for 100 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in July—Of all the new electrical generating capability brought on line in July all of it, let me repeat all of it, was generated via renewable sources.

Soon, Europe Might Not Need Any New Power Plants—At its core the economic argument for small scale generation will be feasible without government subsidies and have a payback of approximately 6 years, which means that demand destruction will take off to such a degree that large centralized power plants will be an endangered species. Dig it.

Hawaii’s Largest Utility Announces Plan To Triple Rooftop Solar By 2030—I am always a little hesitant to believe anything HECO says because they tend to seem to be incompetent when it comes to renewables. Here’s to hoping.

Lawmakers, Homeowners Fight Rules Saying Solar Is Too Ugly To Install—Homeowners Associations (HOAs) blow my mind. People will talk about freedom and property rights all day long, but willingly submit to the whims of neighbors with nothing better to do on a beautiful day save for figuring out who is in violation of some silly rules. I am sorry sir, but those plants are not on the approved list.

New Bill Could Make Residential Solar In California A Lot Cheaper—It used to be the panel costs that drove the price of a solar PV system. Now, as the price of solar panels continues its downward trend, the balance of systems costs are stubbornly high. Some lawmakers are trying to rectify this issue with streamlined permitting.

How A New Group Is Helping Nonprofits In West Virginia Get Solar Panels For Just $1—This is a great story about a community coming together and making solar happen.

Weed Blaster shows Promise as Alternative to Herbicides—When RoundUp finally fails in its ability to control superweeds like pigweed then it will be time for another solution. Here is something that does not depend on the chemical regime of the past to save us from weeds.

Moving Back Home Together: Rarest Native Animals Find Haven on Tribal Lands—Through neglect and downright abandonment, tribal lands have been saved from a lot of the ravages of modern development including the plow. Now, these lands are a bright spot in the effort to reintroduce species of animals long gone from the landscape.

Powerful Photos of the World Feeling the Impact of Climate Change—Global climate change as a result of human behavior is real and its effects are visible today. Climate deniers may line their pockets with Koch money to slow down effective mitigation, but it will not help when the waters rise.

More Sh*t the Candidates Say in Iowa

Joni Ernst, the Republican candidate for Senate, is the gift that keeps on giving. If you thought Michele Bachmann was a lot of fun then you are going to love Joni Ernst. I’ve already written about cutting the nuts of pigs as a qualification for Senate, but now Joni Ernst has taken it one step further in showing where her loyalties lie.

The candidate does not feel that there is a need for the federal government to set a floor on the wages that employers can pay their employees:

The minimum wage is a safety net. For the federal government to set the minimum wage for all 50 states is ridiculous. The standard of living in Iowa is different than it is in New York or California or Texas. One size does not fit all.

Well, that’s some flaccid logic. Here’s the deal Joni, employers would collude to pay the lowest possible wages. Don’t believe that employers would collude to depress wages? Shall we cite the recent examples of companies in Silicon Valley doing just that? Didn’t think we needed to go into the corrupt practices of American companies.

The real kicker came from a recent conference sponsored by everyone’s favorite billionaires the Koch Brothers—who are beginning to sound like the super villains from an episode of Scooby Doo. Some great journalists, most prominently Lauren Windsor, teased out information and transcripts from this closed door meeting of the GOP’s brain trust and money bags.

Joni Ernst stepped to the podium delivered this doozy:

The first time I was introduced to this group was a year ago, August, in New Mexico, and I was not known at that time. A little known state senator from a very rural part of Iowa, uh, known through my National Guard service and some circles in Iowa. But the exposure to this group and to this network and the opportunity to meet so many of you, that really started my trajectory.

In essence, Joni Ernst owes everything to the hard core right wing of the GOP and the money of the Koch Brothers. Any attempt to paint her candidacy as anything other than a referendum on what the radical right wants to do in America is misleading.

Just remember, Joni Ernst is not running to the dog catcher of Montgomery County. She is running to be one of two US Senators from the state of Iowa.

Cleaning up the Kitchen

For some reason I felt like conducting a purge this weekend. It rained for most of the day Saturday and when the rain stopped the humidity made it feel like someone was steam pressing your shirt while you wore it. So, I milled about the kitchen cooking a few things and just kind of staring at the accumulated detritus of various recipes and ideas gone wrong.

Why did I have so many packages of extra butter microwave popcorn when my family usually just eats a bowl of Tiny But Mighty from the Whirly-Pop? Never mind that the stuff might actually be hazardous to your health.

What were we doing with various containers of frosting and decorating items that had expiration dates as far back as three years prior? The mini M&Ms, chocolate stars, whipped fudge frosting, and strange confetti cake mix all went into the trash.

Before long I had discovered I had filled an entire tall kitchen bag with food that was long expired, potentially bad for me, or just plain mysterious. It felt good in the same vein as spring cleaning or taking all the stuff out of your garage to really get at the accumulated grime.

However, things took a decidedly unexpected turn this morning. We woke up to a refrigerator that had ceased to cool food sometime in the past twenty four hours. The freezer was okay, so it is likely just to be a problem with the defrost cycle or ice buildup near the ducts that blow cold air into the refrigerator. Regardless, we spent a good portion of the morning chucking room temperature yogurt because we had no clue how long it had been in that particular state.

Like the pantry I started to wonder why I had so many condiments and how old some of those sauces really were? What does one do with a quart of Panda Express orange sauce? I do not know nor do I care to discover an answer because that gloppy stuff went right into the trash. Ditto the various salad dressings that no one could remember purchasing. Really, when did I buy that Honey Dijon Wasabi salad dressing?

Looking at a completely bare refrigerator is an odd experience. One, it’s a great opportunity to clean all the drawers and shelves that rarely see a scrub brush. Two, it’s a great chance to really think about what food you keep around. Some social theorists believe that our refrigerators make us fat because we keep high calorie foods in easy to consume vehicles—think cheese sticks which should really be called little fat twigs—which would be impossible without huge refrigerators. As I restock my refrigerator over the next couple of weeks—assuming that it is as easy a fix as my friendly appliance repair person thinks it will be—I will be intrigued to see what makes the cut.

Friday Linkage 8/22/2014

Taking a different job within the same company is a surreal experience. I work at the same company, but due to the company’s size and building footprint it is a totally different experience in my new job. I do not want to make excuses for why I have not been posting lately, but I am too swamped to even come up with a better reason.

On to the links…

Pink Slime Is Making A Major Comeback—You knew it would happen. The furor would die down and industry would be waiting to swoop back in to offer their nasty products. This crap is nasty and we should not be feeding it to our children.

False Facts and the Conservative Distortion Machine: It’s Much More than just Fox News—There is a concerted effort, funded by big business, to muddy the waters on every important issue of the day. Books have been written, exposes aired, and no one seems to really care that one political party is making a conscious effort to use bad information in crafting policy.

Where We Came From and Where We Went, State by State—This series of interactive graphs showing how the populations of states evolved is a massively fun time waster.

Why the Scientific Case Against Fracking Keeps Getting Stronger—Is there a good story about fracking? Sure, our energy prices have remained low because of new domestic supplies, but doesn’t that just delay the inevitable price shocks that will come later?

This Is Where Your Electricity Comes From—I just love data visualization.

At Ford Headquarters, Electric Cars To Be Charged By Solar Canopy Parking Lot—The United States is covered in parking lots. Between roads and parking lots we have paved over an area the size of Georgia. Why isn’t more of this area covered in some type of solar canopy?

Power Surge in Minnesota’s Solar Industry—Minnesota, like Germany, does not strike me as a place where solar would be a big deal but the Land of 10,000 Lakes and Michele Bachmann is a surprising place sometimes. Now, will someone please explain hot dish to me?

Explosive US Solar Power Growth & Jobs—So, despite a hostile regulatory environment and Congress that cannot get out of its own way solar is kicking ass. Yep, solar is kicking ass.

Rooftop Solar May Reach Grid Parity In 25+ States By 2017—I would not want to be a power industry exec imagining what the demand destruction will look like when more than half of the states can generate clean power on their roofs for the same cost as dirty coal power. I can’t wait to listen to those investor calls.

Wind Energy Prices at an All Time Low—Wind power is cheap and it is generating almost 5% of the total electricity in the U.S. Wow!

Spain Met More than a Third of July’s Electricity Demand with Wind and Solar Power—Sure, Spain’s economy is in the toilet but the country is a renewables leader. It’s not correlated by the way.

NYC Has More Food Waste-To-Energy Tricks Up Its Sleeve—It amazes me how much energy we just throw away each year. Think about all the waste, both from our kitchens and our bodies, that just gets thrown in the trash or down the sewer drain. What if we could harness that waste to create energy? Imagine…

How To Make Marinara Sauce—This is one of those skills that every child should be taught before leaving the house. It is a lifesaver when you need to make a meal.

Sh*t the Candidates Say in Iowa

We’ve got some real winners running for Congress in Iowa this year. The crème de la crème is Rep. Steve King, Republican blowhard from the 4th Congressional district which covers a broad swath of northwestern Iowa, who says things like:

This is real. We have people that are mules, that are drug mules, that are hauling drugs across the border and you can tell by their physical characteristics what they’ve been doing for months, going through the desert with 75 pounds of drugs on their back and if those who advocate for the DREAM Act, if they choose to characterize this about valedictorians, I gave them a different image that we need to be thinking about because we just simply can’t be passing legislation looking only at one component of what would be millions of people.

Granted, that is the most classic line but there are too many to list. Just check out Right Wing Watch’s sampling of the best of Steve King.

However, Rep. King is not the only one getting in one the action. Joni Ernst, who is running for the soon-to-be vacated seat of Sen. Tom Harkin, has had some classic lines herself. Do you know how someone will be good at cutting through government waste? Let Joni Ernst tell you herself:

Hi, I’m Joni Ernst. I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So when I get to Washington, I’ll know how to cut pork.

Somehow cutting the nuts off of a piglet qualifies someone to determine what government spending priorities are wasteful or not. Besides the metaphor of government waste being called pork for some reason I am missing the connection.

Somehow, Joni Ernst also thinks that President Obama has usurped power from the legislative branch and become a dictator:

They’re not speaking up against these actions. They’re not speaking out against the president when he oversteps his bounds, when he makes those appointments, when he’s appointing czars, when he is producing executive orders in a threat to a Congress that won’t do as he wishes. So he has become a dictator.

Wow, a President who has a hard time getting a simple budget through Congress, who cannot get judicial nominees confirmed, and who watches the lower chamber repeatedly pass repeals of his signature legislation is a dictator because he uses executive power in a way similar, but not as frequently, as the occupants of the office before him? Interesting, Joni, speak truth to power:

He is running amok. He is not following our Constitution, and unfortunately we have leaders who are not serving as leaders right now, they’re not defending the Constitution and they’re not defending you and me.

Really, in what way is he not following “our” Constitution? Did you even read past the Second Amendment? Then again after the horrible shooting incident at the University of California-Santa Barbara she said:

This unfortunate accident happened after the ad, but it does highlight that I want to get rid of, repeal, and replace Bruce Braley’s Obamacare and it also shows that I am a strong supporter of the second amendment. That is a fundamental right.

First off, when a whacko grabs a gun and kills 6 people it’s not an “unfortunate accident.” It’s murder. Plain and simple. But somehow relating the deaths of 6 people at the hands of a shooter to your desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act is stunning in its stupidity. There you have it, Joni Ernst for U.S. Senate because without Michele Bachmann we need some comic relief.

There are some real beauties from Rod Blum, running for the soon-to-be vacant 1st Congressional district seat occupied for Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley, about the EPA regulations costing upwards of $1.75 trillion dollars per year. Considering that the U.S GDP is estimated at ~$17 trillion this would mean that environmental regulations cost our economy nearly 10% of potential output. Wow, that seems pretty amazing and it’s probably untrue. Of course, he is also a climate change denier who uses a cover of Time Magazine from the 1970s as evidence that the scientific community is uncertain about the path of our climate.   That’s like using the cover of People Magazine as a proxy for why the U.S. Census is uncertain about its figures. Clown.

It seems that every year the candidates get increasingly more whack, but this is going to be nothing compared to the circus that will surround Iowa prior to the caucuses in 2016. From the summer of 2015 until what will undoubtedly be a cold January night in 2016 candidates will be crisscrossing the state trying to outdo each other in a vain attempt to curry favor with the small portion of the electorate that actually goes to the caucus. I might change my party affiliation to Republican just to get in on the show. Okay, maybe not.

Friday Linkage 8/15/2014

Moving to a new job is interesting. I have not had a job change in six years, so it kind of feels like a milestone but it is odd at the same time. Who knows what next week will bring?

On to the links…

Sales of Shark Fin in China Drop by up to 70%–I hope that international pressure and the realization that the soup really tastes like warm snot is starting to make people reconsider this outdated practice. Again, it could be just some spin from China’s PR machine.

China Will Install More Solar This Year Than The U.S. Ever Has—Is solar taking off? Well, here is one little stat to make you think about the volume of deployed solar. Remember, solar PV destroys demand.

Stacked Solar Cells could make Solar Power Cheaper than Natural Gas—Even cheaper solar power would be sweet. It’s already cost competitive, but if it were cheaper that makes the adoption curve go crazy.

Wind Farm Powering A Million Homes Nears Approval Deep In Coal Country—Considering that Wyoming is coal country this is a big deal.   3,000 megawatts of power would put this single wind farm on par with all but a few states total wind generation capacity. Damn.

Carbon Dioxide ‘Sponge’ could Ease Transition to Cleaner Energy—Here is the thing that climate deniers and opponents of the new EPA regulations forget, their vaunted market will come up with cost effective solutions because the demand is present.

When Did Republicans Start Hating the Environment?—When did Republicans start hating everything? Seriously, what does the party stand for as opposed to what it stands against? It’s a party devoid of big ideas.

20 Big Profitable US Companies Paid No Taxes—As you read this list, remember that Republicans want corporations to pay even lower taxes. The thing that kills me is that if corporations are people why don’t they pay taxes like people?

Absurd Creature of the Week: This Goofy Fish Poops Out White-Sand Beaches—A parrotfish is an amazing thing to watch when you are snorkeling. You can watch little puffs of white sand come out from their rear ends. Cool and gross at the same time.

Judge Refuses To Throw Out Challenge To Utah’s ‘Ag-Gag’ Law—This is important and should be followed by anyone with an interest in activism and free speech. If “ag gag” laws are allowed to stand there will be a chilling effect on speech and it will encourage industry to promote even more restrictions on our rights.

America Now Has Over 3,000 Craft Breweries—and That’s Not Necessarily Great for Beer Drinkers—The beer aisle is crazy now. How many IPAs and amber ales and bocks and sour ales and whatever else can a beer drinker choose from effectively? As I read more and more articles I believe a shakeout in the industry is coming.

Fermenting Beer Time Lapse Shows one Beautiful Breathing Sludge Monster— These open fermentation tanks are crazy mad scientist stuff:

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Upslope Brewing Company India Pale Ale

I recently wrote about Upslope Brewing’s Pale Ale and today I am going to regurgitate some thoughts on the same brewery’s India Pale Ale:

Upslope India Pale Ale

What? A pale ale and an India pale ale? What the heck is going on here in the world of generously hopped ales?

The general difference between the two beers is that an IPA will be hopped to a higher degree and contain more alcohol relative to volume, e.g. the IBU and ABV ratings will be higher. This is not true in all cases as the style guides for beer have been blown apart in the past few years.

Upslope’s IPA actually tastes like a breed of beer I am going to refer to as Colorado pale ale. Why restrict ourselves to monikers created during a time when there were not 3,000 breweries in the United States? The beer has a little more body than a traditional pale ale, but it’s also hopped more and comes in with a greater boozy punch than a lighter pale ale. Colorado pale ales have a bigger hop bouquet than a traditional IPA, which is the result of using newer varieties of hops like Citra, Amarillo, and so on. It’s a distinct beer, in my opinion, that is typified by Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale.

Upslope’s IPA falls short of the benchmark set by Dale’s Pale Ale in one primary area: the hop aromas and flavors are kind of muddled, which when you think about it is the sole reason for an IPA to exist. It’s about the hops, man! There is some resin and some citrus, but nothing really shines through as the signature note of the beer. Honestly, it’s the same problem I have been struggling with recently when it comes to my homebrew recipes for a House Pale Ale. The hop profile is either over the top—usually from a single hop recipe—or muddled—the rest of my recipes using a blend of hops.

That is not say that Upslope’s IPA is a bad beer in any way shape or form. Quite the contrary, but the bar for this particular “family” of beers is pretty high in the U.S. right now when you consider how much effort is being expended to brew varying pale ales. Overall, it’s a middle of the road result:

Two Mug Purchase