How Small Changes in Average Temperature = Big Change in Extremes

❝ Climate change is driving up summer temperatures across the country. We often talk about warming in terms average temperatures, which can be perceived as small to the public, but any rise in the average temperature leads to a rise in the the number of days that are extremely hot.

To understand what’s happening, we need to get a little geeky and take you back to Stats class. The classic bell curve represents the distribution of all temperatures at a location. The bulk of temperatures — those close to average — sit near the middle of the curve. Record temperatures, which are rare, sit on the fringes, with hot on right and cold on the left. As the world warms from the increase in greenhouse gases, the whole curve shifts to the warmer side, the right. This shift results in a large jump in the number of extremely hot days and a drop in the number of extremely cool days. It also means heat records are more likely to be set than cold records. And it is these extremes that impact our lives.

That’s what we are seeing across much of the country. Average summer temperature have risen a few degrees across the West and Southern Plains, leading to more days above 100°F in Austin, Dallas and El Paso all the way up to Oklahoma City, Salt Lake City, and Boise. It’s worth noting that this trend has been recorded across the entire Northern Hemisphere…

Science is a force for truth. Even for people who refuse to learn from examples as basic as this graphic. Or the research data behind it.

20% of Americans don’t know hamburger is beef. Ask them about chocolate milk!

❝ Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to a nationally representative online survey…

If you do the math, that works out to 16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people. The equivalent of the population of Pennsylvania…does not know that chocolate milk is milk, cocoa and sugar.

❝ But while the survey has attracted snorts and jeers from some corners…the most surprising thing about this figure may actually be that it isn’t higher.

❝ For decades, observers in agriculture, nutrition and education have griped that many Americans are basically agriculturally illiterate. They don’t know where food is grown, how it gets to stores — or even, in the case of chocolate milk, what’s in it.

One Department of Agriculture study, commissioned in the early ’90s, found that nearly 1 in 5 adults did not know that hamburgers are made from beef. Many more lacked familiarity with basic farming facts, like how big U.S. farms typically are and what food animals eat.

Experts in ag education aren’t convinced that much has changed in the intervening decades.

❝ …Studies have shown that people who live in agricultural communities tend to know a bit more about where their food comes from, as do people with higher education levels and household incomes.

But in some populations, confusion about basic food facts can skew pretty high. When one team of researchers interviewed fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders at an urban California school, they found that more than half of them didn’t know pickles were cucumbers, or that onions and lettuce were plants. Four in 10 didn’t know that hamburgers came from cows. And 3 in 10 didn’t know that cheese is made from milk…

❝ Today, many Americans only experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant: The USDA says orange juice is the most popular “fruit” in America, and processed potatoes — in the form of french fries and chips — rank among the top vegetables.

“Indifference about the origins and production of foods became a norm of urban culture, laying the groundwork for a modern food sensibility that would spread all across America in the decades that followed,” Vileisis wrote, of the 20th century. “Within a relatively brief period, the average distance from farm to kitchen had grown from a short walk down the garden path to a convoluted, 1,500-mile energy-guzzling journey by rail and truck.”

RTFA. Makes a few good points about understanding agriculture. Overall, it reinforces my perception of American education. We make ourselves look good – compared to the least educated 3rd World countries – on the basis of testing for what our children are taught. Both the testing and subject matter are lacking as far as I’m concerned. The tidy little curriculum that satisfies a Middle American education has little or nothing to do with a global economy, the needs and future of all of the humanity on this planet, citizens of Earth.

High school admin shut down this valedictorian graduation speech

❝ Wyoming Area Secondary Center’s high school valedictorian and class president, Peter Butera, did not mince words during his valedictory speech at his graduation ceremony June 16…Butera — who is due to attend Villanova University come fall — took the opportunity to thank his fellow students and the teachers and administrators who enriched his high school experience — and to stand up to those who had not.


Class president all 4 years of high schoolDave Scherbenco/AP

“Good evening, everyone. The past four years here at Wyoming Area have been very interesting to say the least. To give you an idea of what it was like, I’m going to take this time to tell you all a bit about what my Wyoming Area experience was like and the people who were a part of it.

I would like to start off by thanking my mom, my dad, and my baba, who have raised me since the day I was born and have helped me become the person I am today. Every one of us graduating have those special people in our lives that care for us every day, and love us unconditionally. And to all of you here today, we cannot thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us.

I would now like to recognize a few teachers who are extremely committed to their jobs as educators, and have worked to make me and many others, better students every day: Mr. Hizynski, Mr. Pizano, and Mr. Williams. In addition to these three, there are a number of other very good teachers at our school as well. It is dedicated teachers like these that truly help to develop students and prepare them to further their educations.

Not only does Wyoming Area have some great teachers, but a couple great administrators as well. Mr. Quaglia had been our principal for 3.5 years, and was as great a leader as they come, always extremely caring and reasonable. Over the summer, our school hired a new principal, Mr. Pacchioni, and despite the hesitancy that some students may have had about getting a new principal our senior year, he quickly put that to rest by coming in and always looking out for the students here since day 1.

Throughout my time at Wyoming Area, I have pursued every leadership opportunity available to me. In addition to being a member of Student Council since I was a freshman, my classmates have also elected me Class President the past 4 years, which has been my greatest honor, and I would like to thank you all for that one final time, it really means a lot. However, at our school, the title of Class President could more accurately be Class Party Planner, and Student Council’s main obligation is to paint signs every week. Despite some of the outstanding people in this school, a lack of real student government and the authoritative attitude that a few teachers, administrators, and board members have, prevents students from truly developing as leaders.

Hopefully in the future, this will change. Hopefully for the sake of future students, more people of power within this school, who do not do so already, will begin to prioritize education itself as well as the empowering of students. Because at the end of the day, it is not what we have done as Wyoming Area students or athletes that will define our lives, but what we will go on to do as Wyoming Area Alumni. And I hope that every one of my fellow classmates today, as well as myself, will go on to do great things in this world, and find true happiness and success. Thank you all for coming out to this great celebration today.”

I’m hard-pressed to understand why the drones in charge of education in Wyoming, Pennsylvania, felt they had to shut this lad’s speech down. When I graduated high school – a couple centuries ago in the bowels of McCarthyism – I think there were plenty of schools with sufficient gumption and commitment to traditional American ideals to support a speech like this one.

More than ever, I fear for the future of American education if this pretty moderate challenge to obedience is considered dangerous enough to pull the plug on the sound system.

Wyoming’s fossil fuel workforce can walk straight into growing wind industry jobs

❝ It’s no secret that Wyoming has recently faced a downturn in energy prices and that workers have lost jobs. The state is filled with people who have a specific skill set, such as facing potential hazards, working at great heights and handling electrical equipment. But when oil and gas production slows or coal mines cut back on production, the opportunity to utilize those skills goes down too.

Now, an international wind manufacturing company is hoping to convince the roughnecks, mechanics and coal miners of Wyoming to join its industry, betting on the growth of wind generation in the country and a number of wind projects slated to go up in the state.

❝ Goldwind Americas, in partnership with wind developer Viridis Eolia, will offer free training to Wyoming’s workforce starting with three introductory sessions in mid-July in Rawlins, Casper and Gillette. The company also plans an upcoming tour of its wind farm near Shamut, Montana.

“We believe that folks that come from certain industries, fossil fuels, oil and gas, coal, they have skills that are transferrable to the wind industry,” said David Halligan, CEO of Goldwind Americas. “That’s why we’re offering the training and specifically why we are offering it in Wyoming.”

They are training people who could maintain a wind farm, technicians who respond to mechanical problems, install replacement parts and run the day-to-day operations at a large wind site.

Wind technician is the fastest growing occupation in the U.S.

And the jobs ain’t going away just because today’s version of Republican is trying to claw their way back to the 19th Century.

Um, eating potatoes won’t actually kill you

❝ There are plenty of reasons not to eat potatoes, and only one reason to eat them: they’re freaking delicious. That’s the only reason you need. No one is eating fries because they think they’re healthy. But the next time you eat some delicious, oil-crisped taters and someone blurts out “hey, you know fries double your risk of mortality, right?” because they read a clicky headline, you can rest easy knowing that they are wrong. And superiority is the ultimate reward, right?

❝ You could pretty much sum up the whole problem with the recent study on taters in one sentence: correlation doesn’t imply causation. Let’s all say it together. Correlation doesn’t imply causation…At the end of the day, people who eat fries three-plus times a week are almost certainly going to have other habits that make them more likely to die.

❝ For starters, it’s likely that people who choose to eat that many taters are exercising less than the people who care enough about healthy dining to avoid that starchy temptation. And they probably consume more sugar generally as well. Or maybe they take in less fiber. You can’t eliminate the confounding effect of these other habits — that’s the real problem with nutritional studies like this. It appeared in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently and it’s showing up all over the web.

❝ Nearly every article based on the study claims that fries doubled the mortality risk of the subjects, and media outlets aren’t technically wrong about the results. But first things first: it wasn’t potato intake generally, it was only fried potato consumption that the authors linked to higher death rates. Non-fried potato consumption didn’t lead to any increased mortality risk. Here’s a nice quote from the actual study that summarizes their findings: “After adjustment for 14 potential baseline confounders, and taking those with the lowest consumption of potatoes as the reference group, participants with the highest consumption of potatoes did not show an increased risk of overall mortality.”…

❝ Listen: fried potatoes aren’t good for you…Fries are full of starch and fat, and you should probably limit your consumption of both of those things — especially the starch. Starch is a simple sugar, and those cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to rise and prompt your body to store fat…But in moderation — and in combination with a healthy diet and exercise — you’ll be just fine. Enjoy your fries.

Couldn’t agree more. I love good fries, Belgian preferred; though I’ve had great Brit food truck fare. Rare enough to find myself in one of the few local bistros where they reign that I probably have them like once every five years. But, then, even-handed moderation in what I consume covers all the do’s and don’t’s of my nutrition.

Fun with math: What Ten Million Simulations Tell Us about Trump’s Chances of Achieving 3-Percent Economic Growth

❝ President Donald Trump’s budget is premised on the projection that the United States will be able to raise its long-run economic growth rate to 3 percent a year. This rate allows the budget to assume large tax cuts and still project a balanced budget after ten years. This long-run forecast represents the largest divergence between an administration forecast and that of either the consensus forecast of the Blue Chip survey of private forecasters (2.0 percent) or that of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO, 1.9 percent) in many decades…

❝ To assess how likely the United States is to experience 3-percent growth over the next decade, I estimated the likely range of future potential GDP growth by taking random draws from the history of productivity growth rates, changes in the labor force participation rate, and changes in average hours worked… In running 10,000,000 simulations, the estimated median annual growth rate over the next decade was 1.8 percent, while the 90-percent confidence interval ran from 0.7 percent to 3.0 percent… The odds of the growth rate being at or above 3 percent are only 4 percent — essentially requiring the economy to repeat some of the fastest productivity growth it has seen over the past seven decades.

Not that our so-called president or most of his so-called advisors are likely to consider any of these scenarios in their ideology. Even those few individuals accustomed to this level of arithmetic will challenge the boss on facts. He doesn’t want facts. He wants answers which fit his 6th grade-level semantics, economics understanding and a demographic base even more ignorant.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz