Thursday, October 08, 2015

Mom's on a Roll

First, earlier this year the government said that eggs were good for you, as my now-departed mother had always said.

Now they're in the process of saying that whole milk is also good for you, that the fat doesn't matter.

So the wisdom of my parents in running a dairy-poultry farm has now been vindicated; their products were and are good for you.

The Importance of Role Models: Carson

" Black medical students are about five times as likely as their non-black classmates to choose neurological surgery as their specialty."

That's from a Post piece on Dr. Ben Carson

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Farm Constitution Rears Its Ugly Head

The question of what a "farm" seems simple.  It's actually complex.  From a bureaucratic standpoint it depends on the purpose of the farm program.

Back in the day, Farmers' Home Administration would not talk of a farm, but a farming operation, which as I understand it included all the land, animals and equipment belonging to or operated by the "farmer".  Essentially when FmHA made a loan to a "farmer", they wanted to consider everything which could impact the viability of the loan.  They didn't care about location.

Soil Conservation Service cared only about location.  They worked with the conservation practices on a plot of land, their offices served soil and water conservation districts (usually but not always a county) so what a farmer did in county B was irrelevant to conservation in county A.

ASCS was ambivalent, having to deal with both people and land, both landowners and operators/producers. In the days when disaster programs were uppermost, we wanted to combine land to spread losses and production over the widest area.  In the days when production adjustment was foremost, we wanted to divide land, so the operator had the least ability to designate less-productive land as her set-aside/conservation acreage. When programs shifted (as in the early 80's, our rules were often out-of-date.

Apparently today's programs may have impacted FSA's rules on farm constitution.  DTN has pieces from Marcia Zarley Taylor and Chris Clayton on the issue.  Because some payments under the new farm bill are now determined using county-level data,  whether land located in more than one county is administratively consider to be one farm and located in one county can make a difference.  The articles point out the possibility of losses (farm is located in county B when county A has a higher payment rate).  As usual, they don't point out the possibility of what one might call "windfalls", the farm is located in county A even though much of the land is in the lower rate county B.

The LImits of Progress: Lynching in Brazil

From a Post piece on Brazil:
Every day, according to sociologist José de Souza Martins, at least one person is lynched in Brazil. Since 2011, he’s tallied over 2,500 cases.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Dust in the Hen House

Extension has a post on poultry housing options.  From personal experience I can testify to the dusty conditions in a hen house (what they categorize as a barn).

Air quality is often poorer in alternative housing systems, and this can affect health and hygiene, which is relevant not only for hen welfare but also for food safety.
The large amount of litter and the greater bird movement in alternative systems result in greater concentrations of bacteria and fungi in the air and in greater dust concentrations compared with conventional and furnished cage systems. Greater dust concentrations have been associated with more serious pulmonary lesions, typical of chronic bronchitis, in cage-free birds (Michel and Huonnic, 2003).
As you might expect they've reservations about cage systems.  Whether or not they properly weigh the tradeoffs I won't judge, but there are tradeoffs.

Good for Secret Service

Homeland Security secretary Johnson gave the Secret Service plaudits for getting the pope, the Chinese president, and the heads of state at the UN in and out of the country safely, with no bad press. 

It's nice to see big shots recognizing the work  people do.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Historical Errors

Thinkprogress has a piece where a mother who's also a historian challenges a Texas schoolbook used by her child.  From the piece:

"A Texas mother spoke out against part of McGraw-Hill’s textbook, “World Geography,” when she noticed that the language erased slavery by calling slaves “workers” and including them in the section “Patterns of Immigration.” One example of the text:
The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations."
The challenge is to "workers" instead of "slaves", a challenge with which I agree.

But there's another error which passes unnoticed: "millions".

From Gilderlehrman:
 Approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas.
About 500,000 Africans were imported into what is now the U.S. between 1619 and 1807--or about 6 percent of all Africans forcibly imported into the Americas. About 70 percent arrived directly from Africa.

"Butt Dials"

I really don't understand this, perhaps because I don't use a cell phone/smart phone.

"Butt dials"

Peter Moskos links to a BBC piece on the problem of accidental 911 calls.  Judging from the article, the UK has had the same problem, except their emergency number is "999".

I understand that making an emergency call is easier than a regular one, but what I don't understand is how the butt knows to dial 911 in one country and 999 in the other?  Do people have smart butts, smart enough to know the different numbers? Never knew that.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

CRISPR and Pets--Micro-pigs

Chinese scientists have used gene editing techniques to modify a small breed of pigs into "micro-pigs" according to this report.  The intent was to make the pigs smaller, therefore cheaper to raise as models for human disease.  They didn't foresee that a nice small pig would have potential as a pet.

IMHO genetic modification is like a horror movie, or Fantasia, where you see the water or other liquid coming under the door, the hero tries to keep it out, or clean it up, succeeding momentarily but ultimately failing.   (Not that I think genetic modification is a threat, per se, but it is change and some changes are mostly irresistable.)

Are Children More Civilized Than Adults?

The question of how social norms change has always fascinated me.  I've previously mentioned a book by Prof. Appiah on the subject: how duels in the West or foot-binding in China became unapproved.  He doesn't discuss, nor had I thought of this factor: children.

Children can point out hypocrisy, and lots of our norms are hypocritical.

This is triggered by a brief post on, where Jason writes, in partial explanation of a decrease in soda consumption in the US:
I've been a dedicated soda drinker1 since at least high school. But this summer, I started cutting back. The big reason is that my kids are getting old enough to read labels and wonder why I'm consuming so much sugar, the little blighters. "All that sugar is not good for you, right Daddy?" they would say. And they're completely right of course and I couldn't argue with them on that point, so I've been drinking a lot less of the stuff. I haven't cut it completely out of my diet but I treat it more or less like every other food or beverage I consume: everything in moderation.