Thursday, January 12, 2023

US Government Finances

Mostly recovered since the depth of the pandemic, but still not great. 

Here's the federal deficit at any point in time for the prior 12 months:



 

Saturday, January 07, 2023

This and That

 Items I found interesting:

  • songbirds reach 90% of their adult weight 10 days after they're born. (Via The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman, which I'm currently reading.)
  • "US renewables generated more power than coal and nuclear: More than one-fifth of all electricity in the US now comes from hydropower, wind, and solar, meaning that renewables have narrowly overtaken coal and nuclear, which make up 20 percent and 19 percent of the energy mix respectively. The only other year this was the case was 2020—but back then overall power generation was reduced due to the pandemic." (Wired
  • Dana Milbank on the spectacle of the Republicans being unable to elect a House speaker:
    "This is what happens when a political party, year after year, systematically destroys the norms and institutions of democracy. This is what happens when those expert at tearing things down are put in charge of governing. The dysfunction has been building over years of government shutdowns, debt-default showdowns and other fabricated crises, and now anti-government Republicans have used their new majority to bring the House itself to a halt.

    "This is insurrection by other means: Two years to the day since the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol, Republicans are still attacking the functioning of government. McCarthy opened the door to the chaos by excusing Donald Trump’s fomenting of the attack and welcoming a new class of election deniers to his caucus. Now he’s trying to save his own political ambitions by agreeing to institutionalize the chaos — not just for the next two years but for future congresses as well." (Washington Post)
  • Scientific American, on the heart injury to a Buffalo Bills football player Damin Hamlin:
    "This ordinary violence has always riddled the sport and it affects all players. But Black players are disproportionately affected. While Black men are severely underrepresented in positions of power across football organizations, such as coaching and management, they are overrepresented on the gridiron. Non-white players account for 70 percent of the NFL; nearly half of all Division I college football players are Black. Further, through a process called racial stacking, coaches racially segregate athletes by playing position. These demographic discrepancies place Black athletes at a higher risk during play."
    Personally I think this incident has been dramatically over-covered -- even NPR is giving updates about it -- when about 1,000 Americans a day have heart attacks. But it was on TV! That's present day America for you. But I believe the racial consequences the article points out.
  • US per capita consumption of cheese is 40 pounds/year. I like cheese but I'm sure I'm way below that.
  • But no doubt higher on per capita consumption of wine. Red. It's good for your heart, yeah, right, huh.
  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023

    Faulkner Quote and Book


    I've been avoiding Faulkner for a few decades, ever since I struggled through the first section of The Sound of the Fury, which is told as a stream-of-consciousness thinking of a very mentally disabled young man. I never did finish the section or read the three others than came after that. 

    But the other day I decided it was time to try Faulkner again, as I've had As I Lay Dying on my bookshelf since (checks inside cover) April 1994, when I bought the book in (checks inside cover again) Albuquerque, New Mexico. What a fabulous book. It's also told in a stream-of-consciousness style, this time from the points of view of about a dozen different characters. It's set in Mississippi in the 1920s, and the main characters are poor, rural people, so their streams can be a little hard to grasp. To get started it helps to have a look at the character list and, gradually, the plot synopsis.

    Still, the characters are, with only a couple exceptions, uneducated, so their diction and thinking can be lean, subtle and sometimes confusing. You have to pay close attention, and when you think you are missing something (like one woman's shy visit to a pharmacy seeking medication for an abortion, in a time and place where that issue wasn't talked about except in very general terms that beat way around the bush), it helps to glance quickly at the plot summary. But Faulkner also puts noble thoughts in their presentations, like the quote above, words that sometimes seem above them and are really Faulkner putting his own ideas and philosophies into their stream.

    But soon the book starts to make sense as you get the characters straight in your mind, and their mission, which revolves around the trials and tribulations of transporting their dead mother 40 miles away by mule-and-wagon for her burial with her people. The story was gripping and, to my surprise, I couldn't put the book down once I was about a third of the way into it.

    I highly recommend this book, if only to see what all the acclaim about Faulkner is about (though he didn't always write in a stream-of-consciousness style). You just have to read carefully and look outside the book when you need a little help. 

    The best books I've read this year! 

    Central England Warmest in 364 Years

    The Hadley Central England Temperature (HadCET) set a record high in 2022.

    The record -- the longest instrumental record in the world -- consists of monthly temperatures (absolute) since the year 1659 -- though the data for 1659 - Oct 1722 are much less accurate. If you ignore that period, it's still the warmest in 300 years! 2022's annual average was 11.1°C (52.0°F).

    (click picture for a clearer version)

    Here is the Hadley Centre's page about the data and the record.