News from Soudan Minnesota

Some evidence pointing to the existence of dark matter was recently detected at the Soudan mine in Soudan Minnesota. I can't say much about this report. I am pretty sure this would have interested me when I was younger, but for whatever reason I really don't care one way or the other now that I am older. Shape of the universe? Fun to ponder, but what difference does it really make?

However, I have been to the Soudan mine. I went there once with a friend on a camping trip. It was a blast! The site is run by a the Minnesota State Park Service. We rode down into the mine using the elevator that the miners used. It was scary fun. Completely dark, loud and seemingly very fast, the elevator plunged us straight down into the mine.

Visitors are lowered in an 80-year-old electric mine hoist to level 27, the mine's lowest level at 2,341 feet (713.5 m) below ground.

It was like a ride at an amusement park. There we saw a gigantic cave where the miners had dug out the valuable hematite ore. Our tour guide was excellent, telling us fascinating stories about the history of the mine and the mining process.

If you are ever up there in northern Minnesota, be sure to visit. You won't be disappointed.

Obama is Right

President Obama is right:
Mr Obama met Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Prime Minister, tonight in attempt to repair relations after Mr Wen had taken offence at his insistence on the need for reliable monitoring of every country’s emissions. In his speech Mr Obama said: “Without any accountability, any agreement would be empty words on a page.”

Mr Wen apparently interpreted this as an attempt to subject China to external scrutiny, despite Mr Obama’s insistence that the monitoring system would respect national sovereignty.

Our president recognizes the obvious. China will cheat. Allow me to quote myself about how China would meet its emission targets:
No real actions to reduce emissions are taken. The day before the annual report is due, a bureaucrat somewhere within the Chinese government fills out a form showing that China not only met its goal, but exceeded the goal by 5%. Meanwhile, a statement by the propaganda minister is prepared for publication in China's government run newspapers heralding this great success and scolding the corrupt West for falling short.

Boo hoo if the Chinese official is offended. I fully expect the USA's leadership to cave on this point, but at least someone made it.

Steam Power

In a park near our home there is a steam engine on display. It was built in the 1940s, and so was one of the last of its kind. It's enormous



the wheels being as tall as I am. There is a sign nearby that says that the engine weighs 675000 pounds, and had 55000 pounds of pull. It's very impressive. Most amazing of all to me is the size of the piston that is positioned between the lead wheels. It seems so tiny! You can just make it out in the picture above (click to zoom). Here is a schematic of a steam engine in more detail:



which I obtained here. Amazingly, the entire 55000 pounds of thrust are generated by that piston (or half of that? Do the pistons on each side work together or in sequence?). The sign near the engine said that the steam pressure was 250 pounds per square inch, so a piston with a diameter of 17 inches might theoretically be big enough. Maybe you had to be there, but seeing the enormousness of the engine in comparison to size of the piston left me dumbfounded. The piston didn't even look like it was attached well enough to take that kind of force.

In any case, the power of steam is amazing.

Waiter Secrets

From a list of 20 secrets your waiter won't tell you:
12. My biggest pet peeve? When I walk up to a table of six or seven people and one person decides everyone needs water. I’m making a trip to deliver seven waters, and four or five of them never get touched.
—Judi Santana, a server for ten years


My pet peave? Waiters who don't bring water unless I ask for it.

Best product ever

Click here, and make sure you click on the user-added images.

Just click and look. It needs no further explanation.

Evidence?

I've been trying to find the evidence for the widely-accepted theory of anthropogenic global warming. This is the part of the climate change debate that is supposed to be really settled. Even skeptics admit that humans are having an effect, they only argue about the scale of that effect.

As far as I can tell the evidence amounts to co-incidence--that is, two things happening at the same time. Here is the argument in a nutshell:
  1. The greenhouse effect is real.
  2. Greenhouse gasses cause the greenhouse effect.
  3. Carbon Dioxide is a greenhouse gas.
  4. Humans produce carbon dioxide.
  5. Ergo, humans, by releasing CO2, are causing the warming.
I'd point out that coincidence does not mean causality.

The more that comes out about the science of global warming, the more convinced I am that climate science is at its heart non-rigorous, lazy, and sloppy. Or, that climate science relates to hard science about the way that brie relates to parmesan.
I've seen a number of posts out there referring to this bit of code in the CRU program
briffa_sep98_d.pro as a smoking gun, because of the comment within the code that says "Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!"

;
; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
;
yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,-0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,'Oooops!'
;
yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)
;
;filter_cru,5.,/nan,tsin=yyy+yearlyadj,tslow=tslow
;oplot,timey,tslow,thick=5,color=20
;


However, if you look closely at the code, this isn't really the case. You can see that there are 3 variables created: "yrloc," "valadj" and "yearlyadj." The first two are used only to calculate the third. However, the third variable is not used at all. You can see that the line
;filter_cru,5.,/nan,tsin=yyy+yearlyadj,tslow=tslow

begins with a semi-colon, and thus has been commented out, so is not an active part of the program.

There are no other references to these 3 variables in the code. So the bottom line is that this seems like much ado about nothing. The adjustment is calculated, but not applied anywhere.

Ann says: Isn't this a subroutine, though? Three variables get defined: yrloc, valadj and yearlyadj. Maybe they get used elsewhere.

Giving Thanks

Al Gore and David Blood have written an essay:

"the basic building blocks of commerce and markets: accounting, disclosure, incentives, regulation and responsibility."

This is an important Economic point that many people don't understand. Are supply and demand for products and services the basic building blocks of commerce and markets? No. The basic building blocks are accounting and regulation.

The farmer down the road knows how to produce corn. I want to eat corn. Is that what leads to the creation of a farmers' market? No, that is a common misconception. What creates that vegetable stand are things like government taxes and agriculture subsidies. Like paying the farmer not to plant corn, for example. And accounting, of course. Farmers benefit from accounting and filling out paperwork for government bureaucrats because it helps bring in the harvest. This Thanksgiving, let us all give thanks for the government incentives, regulations and disclosure requirements that put food on our table and make our lives worth living. Bless you Al!

I thought turkeys could fly!

If it's Thanksgiving, it's time for the WKRP Turkey Drop

Prepped and ready

Things are almost ready for tomorrow. The ham was picked up on Monday morning. Tuesday was for making the cranberry bread. Today, the turkeys (2!) got picked up, 2 pumpkin pies were made, cranberry sauce is ready, rosemary fingerling potatoes just need heating up, the stuffing is cooked and ready for reheating, and finally, both turkeys are sitting in brine for the night.

Tomorrow, we need to make the gravy, get one turkey in the oven and the other on the rotisserie grill, reheat everything, possibly make wild rice, and we're done!

All of that food (including Bahamian beans and rice and a pie that others are bringing), and we are only going to have 7 adults and 4 kids! Yikes!

I think we'll have leftovers until 3 years from now.

Fattitude

According to a recent report, Massachusetts is ranked 3rd in obesity, while Tennessee is ranked 49th among the states.

So is it noticeable to a person who lived in Massachusetts for many years and recently moved to Tennessee?

You bet. There are occasional times here when I look around and am taken aback by the number of people who are obese. I don't mean a bit of middle-age paunch, I mean really morbidly obese. I believe the report, and believe that it is a public health problem for Tennessee.

What can be done about it? I'm not confident that government awareness programs are going to help much. One thing that may help is increased levels of income. In the USA, the poorer people are the fatter they are. I predict that Tennessee's obesity problem will get better with time as living standards rise. Until then though, I don't expect much change.

Shorewood Football

This is pretty weird. At the high school from which I graduated:

At virtually every high school, the traditional recipe for homecoming is a Friday night, home football game and packed bleachers.

Not Shorewood.

Instead of varsity players battling it out on the football field, there was a powder-puff game between junior and senior girls that ended in a tie and a dance-off at the 50-yard line.


Football is dead. Killed off by soccer! Who'da thunk it.

Ann says: a couple years after I graduated, the school shut down its football program (probably in '87 or '88). I think that only lasted a year or two before they put it together again. For at least one year the "homecoming" game that Homecoming referred to was that of the boy's soccer team.

TKO for AGW! (III)

Here are a series of e-mails that show how this work was being done. They all come from a single e-mail written 10 years ago--has anything changed since?: # 926947295.txt. Since these e-mails have several layers of replies, the earliest messages start at the bottom in the link. I will unravel them here and remove the ">" forwarding marks and clean up some paragraphing. The only thing I've changed is the removal of some phone numbers. All bolding is mine:

Here's the start of the e-mails, which is a correction to a previously-sent e-mail:
;
Mike MacCracken [Ann - this might be him ]
Date: Friday, May 14, 1999 8:12 PM
Subject: Re: CO2


Please disregard the previous message and replace with this message (1st
paragraph is unchanged).

On Fri, 14 May 1999, Benjamin Felzer wrote: [Ann - This might be him ]

> Going back to some of the original radiative forcing values, it would
> appear that the 1% increase is true of RADIATIVE FORCING, whether of CO2,
> CH4, etc, or the total (to an approximation). However, once we convert
> back to CO2 concentration (using the exponential relationship), the
> actual
> increase in concentration is more along the order of 0.7% (all
> compounded). Is it possible that the original 1% assumption was
> mistakenly applied to CO2 concentrations for the modelers when it was
> actually meant for radiative forcing??
>
> Therefore for the ecological models we should use Dave's original
> suggestion, because the models really did use a 1% increase in equivalent
> CO2, which approximates a 1% increase in CO2 alone. The point here is
> that this 1% increase is much higher than IS92a, but that might be because
> of the confusion between radiative forcing increase and concentration
> increase discussed above. In fact a 0.7% increase in equivalent CO2 might
> have been a more realistic assumption for IS92a, but the 1% increase in
> concentration is what was actually used in these earlier models. The CO2
> concentrations used in the ecological model should correspond to those
> used in the GCMs, not to what we think they should be.
>
>
> Any other thoughts?
>
> Ben
>
---------------------

And now the reply to that one. I've tried to clean up the paragraphing:

-----Original Message-----
From: franci [mailto:franci@xxxxxxxxx.xxx]
Sent: Saturday, May 15, 1999 3:58 PM
To: Benjamin Felzer
Cc: Mike Hulme [Ann - This is probably him ]; schimel@xxxxxxxxx.xxx; wigley@xxxxxxxxx.xxx; kittel@xxxxxxxxx.xxx;
sjagtap@xxxxxxxxx.xxx; nanr@xxxxxxxxx.xxx; Mike MacCracken
Subject: Re: CO2


dear ben,

You just showed that the Hadley transient run we are supposed to use for the national assessment is too high, forcing-wise, because it assumes an overall 1.2% increase in total forcing.

My question is then the following:

-why are we using a 1% annual increase in GHG [Ann—I assume this is Green House Gas] forcing (corresponding to the 1.2% increase) as a criteria for GCM simulations to then be used for the national assessment? Is it because of the possible confusion you refer to below? If so, that criteria needs to be revised.

I still have a problem with the real CO2 calculations, in connections to hadley or CCCM. It seems to me it is still arbitrary to use one or another CO2 curve.

However, in this arbitrariness, two easy solutions are possible ( i am just summarizing previous e-mails, at the cost of being highly repetitive and obvious):

-one is dave's, i.e, assume no change i GHG forcing mix from today, and apply 1% compounded increase to the 1990 actual levels. That gives a concentration of real CO2 in 2100 that is >1050 ppm. THAT'S 50% higher than projected by IS92a, and even 17 % higher than the worst emission case devised in IS92f.

-the second is tom's. Just use the co2 in IS92a, and assume that all other further changes necessary to get the hadley forcing (whatever they are) happen in GHG other than CO2.

I will repeat that I like the latter solution.

Whatever the consideration of self-consistency and physics are when you make this decision, I do not think we should carry out the national assessment by using "unrealistic" CO2 numbers. I thought the numbers that come out of our exercises (from the impact side of things) were supposed to serve as some basis to be used in the process of decision making at the national and regional level. Am i out of line here? There are dozens of people right now, out there, including our group at giss, who are gathering data, fine-tuning models, making connections among physical and socio-economic variables, etc., at a very low "effort spent/retribution received", and then we are going to run things at 1000 ppm in 2100? As far as my specific contribution is concerned, it surely might make a big difference in crop yield changes under climate change whether I use 700 ppm in 2100 (the IS92a) curve, or >1000 ppm (the 1% compounded increase).

The problem is the same for the 2040's (the other decade we have decided to simulate), although possibly not as bad as the 2090's case.

Either solution we opt for, we have to make clear to whomever will receive our results that the climate forcing scenario is on the "high" side of things.

Ah! It was so nice and easy when we were working with doubled-CO2 equilibrium runs!

cheers,

francesco

PS what about the CCCM scenario?
Questions:

1) "supposed to use" according to who? or according to what scientific evidence? In general, this isn't the way science is supposed to happen. You do literature searches to back up your choices. If you choose one method of analysis or one value over another, you need to back up that decision with previous research. You aren't supposed to pull numbers out of the ether just because those are the ones you are "supposed to use". If you're a scientist, back up your choices with proof!

2) "It seems to me it is still arbitrary to use one or another CO2 curve." No kidding. And isn't this the crux of the problem? An arbitrariness in the selection of data and analysis techniques. In other sciences, this isn't a question. You can make an arbitrary decision, as long as you back up the reasoning behind your selection. Whether or not that was done is the heart of this whole matter.

3) "Just use the co2 in IS92a, and assume that all other further changes necessary to get the hadley forcing (whatever they are) happen in GHG other than CO2." Just pick something (whatever it is), make lots of unsubstantiated assumptions, and enjoy!

4) "Whatever the consideration of self-consistency and physics are when you make this decision, I do not think we should carry out the national assessment by using "unrealistic" CO2 numbers." What a novel idea! Our assessments should be based on realistic data! Shocking! Astonishing! What a breakthrough in scientific reasoning!

Next e-mail in the chain (I snipped out the telephone numbers on this one, no need to pass those along.):
On Sun, 16
May 1999, Shrikant Jagtap [ Ann - This is probably him, unless there are two Shrikant Jagtaps at UFl ] wrote:

Friends,

I'm enjoying the current debate about CO2 levels. I feel that we are using the GCM scenarios, and we MUST use exactly those CO2 levels for crop model runs, so all data is consistent. So if we are wrong, we are uniformly wrong and adjust our explanations accordingly whenever we agree on things. Now to use different data will be hard to explain.


Shrikant

Dr. Shrikant Jagtap
104 Rogers Hall, Ag & Biol. Engineering
University Of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611
This one gets a dramatic response:

Final e-mail:
From: Dave Schimel [Ann - this is probably him ]
To: Shrikant Jagtap
Subject: RE: CO2
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 09:21:35 -0600 (MDT)
Cc: franci , Benjamin Felzer , Mike Hulme , schimel@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, wigley@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, kittel@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, nanr@xxxxxxxxx.xxx, Mike MacCracken

I want to make one thing really clear. We ARE NOT supposed to be working with the assumption that these scenarios are realistic. They are scenarios-internally consistent (or so we thought) what-if storylines. You are in fact out of line to assume that these are in some sense realistic-this is in direct contradiction to the guidance on scenarios provided by the synthesis team.

If you want to do 'realistic CO2 effects studies, you must do sensitivity analyses bracketing possible trajectories. We do not and cannot not and must not prejudge what realistic CO2 trajectories are, as they are ultimatley a political decision (except in the sense that reserves and resources provide an upper bound).

'Advice' will be based on a mix of different approaches that must reflect the fact that we do not have high coinfidence in GHG projections nor full confidence in climate ystem model projections of consequences.

Dave
That one seems to speak for itself. Read it a couple times, because it looks quite important: don't use realistic scenarios because that's a political decision. If you do use realistic scenarios you "are out of line." That last paragraph is a whopper too: "we do not have high confidence in GHG (again, I think that's green house gas) projections, nor full confidence in the system model projections.

In other words: we're talking out of our ass, so don't start doing realistic data analysis and screwing everything up! Keep it fake, keep it inline with what we need.

Again, this doesn't exactly look like science, does it?

TKO for AGW? (II)

Here is a very important post on Watts Up With That. Much of the buzz over the hacked/whistleblower-released data from the CRU climate agency in Britain has focused on the e-mails, but there was actual data and computer code released as well. Now, people are beginning to focus on that. Here is some of the comments from one computer code:

; THIS WORKS WITH REMTS BEING A 2D ARRAY (nseries,ntime)
; OF MULTIPLE TIMESERIES
; WHOSE INFLUENCE IS TO BE REMOVED.
; UNFORTUNATELY THE IDL5.4 p_correlate
; FAILS WITH >1 SERIES TO HOLD CONSTANT,
; SO I HAVE TO REMOVE THEIR INFLUENCE
; FROM BOTH INDTS AND DEPTS USING MULTIPLE
; LINEAR REGRESSION AND THEN USE THE
; USUAL correlate FUNCTION ON THE RESIDUALS.
;
pro maps12,yrstart,doinfill=doinfill
;
; Plots 24 yearly maps of calibrated (PCR-infilled
; or not) MXD reconstructions
; of growing season temperatures. Uses
; “corrected” MXD – but shouldn’t usually
; plot past 1960 because these will be
; artificially adjusted to look closer to
; the real temperatures
.
(Ann-Extra paragraphing added for readability.)
The first paragraph shows the level of tweaking that happens to get the program and the data to fit. If you have to do this, it's a good sign that your equations are crap.

The second paragraph holds the first bombshell, though: "these will be artificially adjusted to look closer to the real temperatures". In other words, the coder will massage the results later to make the model look more accurate for the more-recent time period. In other, other words: The objections people have had for years that these models can not accurately predict the past, were far more true than they even knew.

Here's another stunner from another code, which might be talking about the same 1960+ problem; a distinct echo of the "hide the decline" e-mail:
From documents\harris-tree\recon_esper.pro:

; Computes regressions on full, high and
; low pass Esper et al. (2002) series,
; anomalies against full NH temperatures
; and other series.
; CALIBRATES IT AGAINST THE LAND-ONLY
; TEMPERATURES NORTH OF 20 N
;
; Specify period over which to compute
; the regressions (stop in 1960 to avoid
; the decline
;
(Ann-Extra paragraphing added for readability)
The ultimate question has to be: is this really science? Because it sure looks like they were making it up as they went along.

Default is a four letter word

Here's a scary statistic:
[ NYTimes ] With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year, even if annual budget deficits shrink drastically.
Keeping in mind that these things always turn out worse than expected, and that it assumes "budget deficits shrink drastically", this is shocking. 700 Bil was the size of the entire federal government budget the year I was born. In 40 years, we've gone from that, to that merely being our mortgage payment.

Let the fledglings fly!

I've heard of over-parenting in college, but this is stunning, pathetic, ridiculous, and so many more adjectives I can't think of right now (just had some tequilla).
[ Time ] Overparenting had been around long before Douglas MacArthur's mom Pinky moved with him to West Point in 1899 and took an apartment near the campus, [...] But in the 1990s something dramatic happened, and the needle went way past the red line. From peace and prosperity, there arose fear and anxiety; crime went down, yet parents stopped letting kids out of their sight; [...] By the time the frenzy had reached its peak, colleges were installing "Hi, Mom!" webcams in common areas, and employers like Ernst & Young were creating "parent packs" for recruits to give Mom and Dad, since they were involved in negotiating salary and benefits.
These should be fully-fledged adults, pioneering their way through the first-real-job jungle, machete in hand and and just enough rations in their ruck sack to get them to Wednesday. Instead their parents are acting like their kids are 3-year-olds on the first day of preschool!

And, I must say, what's wrong with the kids-cum-adults?! Isn't this what the teenage years are all about? Isn't that when you distance yourself from your parents, assert your independence and demand to be treated like an adult (...one who still has mom do their laundry and the rents pay for tuition, of course.) How can any self-respecting 21-year-old stand to have this kind of oversight? It's one thing to consult with parents when dealing with such a brand new world as employment contracts, but the extent of the dependency this article suggests is deplorable.

Read the whole thing. I'm generally in favor of the Free Range movement, I have Leonore Skenazy's book and I'm a regular follower of her blog (See just to the right here for the link permanently installed on our links list -->). Our only problem around here is the plethora of bums. When you have a strung-out guy living at the bus stop on your corner, you're a little wary about letting the kids out the front door (especially the 9-year-old girl).

(As a completely non-sequitur aside: I knew the Time magazine had a cover story on over-parenting, so I went to their website to try to find it. It took me a while to do so. You would think that the story that they decided would sell the most magazines this week would be prominently displayed on their website. Instead, it was third on a list on the bottom half of the page, and took me half a minute and a double-check that it wasn't last week's cover story to find it.)

(As a second completely non-sequitur aside, this is a quote from a little later in the same Time article:

"Eleven parents are sitting in a circle in an airy, glass-walled living room in south Austin, Texas, eating organic, gluten-free, nondairy coconut ice cream."

You know, I'm pretty darn sure that all ice cream is gluten-free. At least, I've never seen a recipe that calls for flour!

So, my question is, is it the parents who are dorks for insisting on gluten-free ice cream, or the reporter for writing such stupidity?)

Parody or not parody?

I can't quite tell if this is a real video by an environmental group, or a parody of what sort of videos environmental groups put out:



The website listed on the video: Plane Stupid could also either be real or parody. The subhead on the website is: "Bringing the aviation industry back down to earth." This is their logo:



I'm leaning toward parody...it must be a parody, right?

Global Warming Calculator - II

A few days ago, there was an interesting post at "Watt's Up With That?" called "The Steel Greenhouse." The subject of the post was a two-layer atmospheric variation of the standard Kiehl & Trenberth energy transfer accounting that describes the greenhouse effect. I had previously created a "Global Warming Calculator" for the original K&T model, so I decided to do a similar thing for this new two-layer model. You can see the results here: "Global Warming Calculator - II." The only tricky part was coming up with closed form formulas for the steady-state levels of radiation from the various levels. If you use the "view source" feature of your browser, you can see that the formulas within the java script are pretty long.

It was just for fun. See here and here for previous related posts.

It's on!

The Large Hadron Collider has been turned on.

Which necessitates the posting of this link: Has the Large Hadron Collider destroyed the world yet?

TKO for AGW?

I've spent quite a bit of time today going around the web looking into the hacked data coming out of a major British climate research agency. Someone broke into their computer system and downloaded more than 61MB of zipped emails, data and computer programs. The University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) is one of the premier pro-warming climate research agencies in the world, with much of their research showing up in places like the IPCC reports. It has also long been the target of skeptics who have been using the British equivalent of Freedom of Information requests to try to get a look at the underlying data they use in their research. That's a fundamental tenet of science--that data should be shared so that others can verify your research--the CRU isn't a big fan of that idea.

So far, most people have focused on things like the head of CRU seeming to describe in an e-mail how he massages data to get the right result. In one memorable e-mail he talks how to overlay different data sets to "hide the decline" in temperatures. Another e-mail, I believe by the same guy, talks about how inconvenient a blip of warming was in the 1940's and how they have to massage it downwards a bit in order to hide it better.

Other bloggers are focusing on the efforts the e-mails show to hide data and to do an end-run around freedom of information requests--including sitting down with the government officials in order to show them why it is important to understand that the requests are coming from skeptics and should therefore be blocked. If these allegations can be proved, then there is actually a possibility of criminal prosecution, because interfering with an FOIA is actually a criminal offense.

Still other bloggers are looking into what appears to be pressure being exerted on peer-reviewed journals to make sure that skeptics don't get published and don't get a voice in the IPCC reports.

Lot of people are following this.

Gateway Pundit (also here) has a good overview post with lots of links.

Climate Depot is tracking links. (Also here).

As always, Watts Up With That is tracking it with a number of blog posts.

This post over on The Air Vent has a list of MSM reports on the hack. Including Fox, UK's Guardian, NPR, UK's Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Nature, the New Scientist and NRO.

People are going to be pouring over the information from this hack for a long time, and the next few days should continue to be entertaining, and hopefully enlightening.

Update: A great list of links is available here.

Indian Summer

It was a beautiful Autumn day here in Nashville. We took advantage of it with a trip to the park. Living in the South is starting to pay off, weather-wise.


Health Care Bill Scare

Interesting post from one of the guys at JammieWearingFool: "Congress Voted To Fire Me Last Night"

Their vote in essence caused me, and just about everybody else who works for a health insurance company, onto the unemployment rolls. It doesn't matter whether you are a claims adjuster, work a call center, sell the policies or some other job and you work for a private health insurance company or you are one of the evil heads of the corporation, your shelf life for having a job if the Pelosicare bill becomes fact is about five years.

...
If you currently have a private insurance policy, starting in 2011 your premiums will double if you are lucky, and in most cases triple. It is unavoidable.

...
My advice to anyone who works for a private insurance company is to dig out the resume, update it and try like hell to land one of the government jobs.


Read it all if you dare! Another, related view here: "PelosiCare's price controls will bankrupt health insurers in one year"
The blog points to text that in the bill that sets the minimum allowable loss ratio at 85%

An 85% loss ratio, as mandated by PelosiCare, would bankrupt insurers within a year. No mandated loss ratio has ever come close to 85%.




Graph taken from Here.

Yipe! Is he right? The issue seems complicated. Here is an interesting paper (pdf)

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the use and abuse of the medical loss ratio in the contemporary health care system and health policy debate. It begins with a survey of the ways in which the medical loss ratio has been interpreted to be something it is not, such as a measure of quality or efficiency. It then analyzes key organizational features of the emerging health care system that complicate measures of financial performance, including integration between payers and providers, diversification of payers across multiple products and distribution channels, and geographic expansion across metropolitan and state lines. These issues are illustrated using medical loss ratios from a range of nonprofit and for-profit health plans. The paper then sketches a strategy for improving the public's understanding of health plan performance as an alternative to continued reliance on the flawed medical loss ratio. This strategy incorporates data on structure and process, service quality, and financial performance.

Green idiocy

I was watching a home improvement show which just happened to be on the Planet Green cable channel. On came a commercial where Steve Thomas, former host of This Old House, said a truly idiotic thing.

The commercial was quick, but while he appeared to be looking at either a furnace or a water heater he said of the no-doubt magnificent heater: "And this really does have a measurable impact on global warming."

Measurable impact?! Those were his words. "Measurable impact." I burst out laughing.

Utter and complete scientific illiteracy being presented as profound scientific truth.

A perfect portrait

This seems to me to be a perfect portrait of ousted Honduran president Zelaya:



That's him in a room in the Brazilian embassy, complete with two aero beds and tin-foil covered windows!!

Stargate

I hated the original Stargate movie, but when I gave the SG-1 series a try, I liked it. Around home it's referred to as "Auntie's bad movie." I haven't been a fan of Atlantis, and watching a tiny bit of Universe, I don't think I'll be a fan of this one either.

You see, it seems to have a holodeck problem. The main plot of the show is that a bunch of people, military, science, and civilian, are stuck on a space ship umpteen light years from Earth. Plenty of possibilities for danger and dramatic tension as they struggle to survive. However, in the earlier SG-1 series they established an alien technology that allowed people from one place to inhabit the bodies of people far far away, to walk and talk from inside other people, all instantaneously--over thousands of light years. So right now, the people who are supposed to be stranded on a ship which is running out of fuel, air, water and food, are partying in a night club back on Earth. Blah!

Square Dots

I have a new post up on Square Dots.

First Friday Employment Post

Here's the latest employment graph:



It looks like within a couple of months, the number of people employed will be less than at the depths of the post-911 recession--this despite an increase in population of about 11 million since 2003.

It also does not look like discouraged workers are beginning to look for work again. The numbers of long-term unemployed remained about the same, and the number out of the workforce has increased since last month.

If there is any bright side, it looks like the slope of the establishment survey line is beginning to shallow out slightly, though the household survey has not done the same. And both lines are still on a steep downward trajectory. A rough calculation of the average of the establishment line from October 2008 to July 2009 shows a monthly decline of about 0.593 million jobs lost per month. The same calculation over the last three months, July 2009 to October 2009, yields an average of about 0.136 million jobs lost per month--still a decline, but the slope is leveling off. The household data shows almost no change, if not a slight uptick in unemployment. The earlier period saw an average loss of 0.51 jobs per month, the most recent 3 months show a 0.59 jobs lost per month.

Do you Hulu?

I admit to being a fan of the website Hulu, where you can watch TV with limited interruptions (sometimes none) and watch at your own time and pace.

It seems to me that TV programming execs should be scared out of their wits by this and the Tivo phenomenon. The simple reason is this: if you don't have to watch something at a specific time, you tend to find other, better things to do, and, unless a show is really good (a rarity,) you begin to watch it less and less often.

I stopped watching Heroes because of that phenomenon (that and the fact that they didn't learn the correct lesson from Joss Whedon's Buffy: since the villain is almost always the most-interesting character on the show, you should change the villian every year to keep the show interesting.) And, now I feel myself slipping away from "Glee" (though the Kristin Chenowyth episode was great! as was the dancing football team!)

NY-23 Results

I was right about what would happen in NY-23. The Republican who lost support and dropped out still got 6 percent of the vote, and that was enough to give the win to the Democrat over the Conservative Party candidate.

Today of course, you will have endless talk from pundits about the "deeper meaning" of this race, most of it nonsense.

Truth to Power

Student criticizes Khamenei at official gathering:
A lone student at a gathering of the country's academic elite took the unprecedented step of criticizing Leader Ali Khamenei in his presence on Wednesday morning, according to the Office for the Preservation and Publication of the Works of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei and opposition news sites.

Read the whole article. I am astounded by this student's bravery. I wish him well.

Economic recovery

I'd be very surprised if we were actually seeing the beginning of real growth in the economy, unless, of course, we are talking about a brief uptick followed by a second retreat. The reason is very simple:

Why would any employer of any size hire one additional worker in this climate?

Similarly, why would any prospective entrepreneur go out on a limb to start a new business in this climate?

Why would anyone take the risk of such things with so much uncertainty about the economic future and government mandates, regulations, and stupidity?

American Wins the 2009 NYC Marathon

Meb Keflezighi became the first American man to win the New York City Marathon since 1982 on Sunday.
"The USA gave me all the opportunities there is in education, sports and lifestyle," he said. "To be able to represent the USA is a big thing for me."

Congratulations!

Score One for Hillary!

Hillary Clinton, during her recent trip to Pakistan:

"Al-Qaida has had safe haven in Pakistan since 2002," she finally asserted when challenged about Washington’s tough prescriptions for Islamabad. "I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are and couldn't get them if they really wanted to."

The US Secretary of State also took a swipe at the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies, telling the senior journalists, "If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together" then "there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military security establishment." She said she was "more than willing to hear every complaint about the United States'' but the relationship had to be a "two-way street."

At one point during the exchanges, when a journalist spoke about all the services rendered by Pakistan for the US, Mrs Clinton snapped, "We have also given you billions."


Well done Mrs. Clinton! How refreshing to hear an American diplomat dishing it out rather than just standing there and taking it. Finally, someone in power has the nerve to tell the truth.

Bayes, Laplace and the Sun

William M Briggs mentions Laplace's Rule of Succession in a recent blog post. Briggs' is a blog about statistics and related matters that I highly recommend. Laplace used the rule, which relies on Bayes' Theorem, to calculate the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow. It is an elegant and fascinating bit of analysis. According to Wikipedia, Laplace's method give odds 1826250:1 in favour of the sun rising tomorrow.

But I beg to differ! Using Bayesian analysis, I calculate that the probability that the sun will rise tomorrow is 1/2!

Here is my argument. Let N+1 be the number of days from the start of history through tomorrow. Suppose at first that we know nothing about the sun, neither the related physics nor the past history of its rising. This was Laplace's assumption as well. Suppose we only know that the sun rises on some subset of the N+1 days in question. With only this knowledge, we assume a uniform prior probability distribution on this subset. Thus we assume that all 2^(N+1) possible subsets of the N+1 days are equally likely to be the sun-rising subset, each having probability 2^(-N-1). Now suppose we are given additional knowledge, specifically that the sun rose on the first N days. There are then only two possibilities for the sun-rising subset: the set of all N+1 days, and the set that contains only the first N days. By our prior assumption, and a trivial application of Bayes Rule, we see that each of these possibilities now has the posterior probability of 1/2. Thus the probability of the sun rising tomorrow is 1/2.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it! Related post here.

Amazing Pumpkin

This is the most amazing carved pumpkin I have ever seen

Check out the rest at the artist's web site. You can see several shots of the process he goes through in making one of these. This man has serious skills!

Horror Film List

Just for fun, I reordered this list of horror films to my liking. Click to zoom. The first column is my rating (10 being best). The second column is the ranking from the website, from 1 to 100. Some things I would add, like the original Dracula. Some of these aren't really horror. If we are not strict about the genre, why not add Delieverance for example? I'm impressed with how many I have seen. It seems I haven't been keeping up though, much of the new stuff I have missed. The modern movies like Hostel and Saw are just too disgusting, and un-enjoyable.


Happy Halloween 2009

Happy Halloween everyone!

NY-23

I was going to write a post about NY-23, the upcoming election for a Congressional representative from New York's upstate 23rd district. The title of the post was going to be "Who Cares." Really, I thought, what is all the hub-bub bub? It's about one seat in the House for goodness sake.

But today it got interesting. The Republican candidate has dropped out!

The Conservative Party candidate, Doug Hoffman, remains. The question I have is can he win? Despite the Republican dropping, I suspect she will still get a substantial amount of votes. It depends on how the ballot is structured, but I suspect that many people will just vote the party.

It would be a shame if the conservative vote were split. This Hoffman chap seems to be pretty good. I disagree with him on gay marriage, and am not so interested in the abortion issue. But his fiscal stance is right on. Good luck Mr Hoffman.

Health Insurance Facts

Here is a very enlightening essay on Health Insurance.
It turns out that claims about too little competition are based on a misinterpretation of the data and that non-profit insurers are so abundant that the largest insurer in virtually every state is a non-profit.

I recommend it. Despite a year-long debate on health insurance, I have not heard much about these points before.

I think that the politicians now pushing for massive health insurance reforms have no idea what they are doing. They have no knowledge of insurance. The current proposals are more about a government power grab than a serious attempt to address problems in our current system. Our current leadership sees corporations as inherently evil, and government heroic.

I expect the result to be a disaster.

Arnold's Memo

I wasn't going to comment on Arnold's naughty memo, but then I saw this post at The Corner.
Schwarzenegger deliberately etched an obscene word into the official public record, where it will stay forever.

It probably took his staff a good deal of effort to devise the acrostic. So think about it: Amid a fiscal crisis requiring severe cutbacks, a public employee had to use government time and resources to carry out the governor’s potty-mouth prank. This incident sends the message that he does not take the crisis very seriously. And one hopes that he did not assign a female aide to the task: Such is the stuff of sexual-harassment lawsuits.

Nobody should expect elected officials to be perfect in their private lives. But we can expect them to behave like adults in their public lives. By pulling a stunt that would land a junior-high-school kid in detention, the governor has flunked this standard.


I say good for Arnold. I thought the memo was amusing and appropriate.

As for the post at The Corner, I think John J. Pitney Jr., the Roy P. Crocker professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, is in serious need of lightening up.

Britain Has Lost It

Is it just me, or has Britain gone nuts? It seems like every couple of days there is some bizarre story coming from there. Sure, there are bizarre stories coming out of the USA. But the US stories are usually about individual people who act in bizarre ways. Britain's nuttery is more institutional, a result of government, and often the product of Political Correctness run amok. The latest:

Parents banned from watching their children in playgrounds... in case they are paedophiles


Read it and believe it.

India's Preemptive Surrender?


This public statement seems like a bad idea to me. Why would you declare to an adversary, who has a history of belligerence against you, that you are weak and wary of a fight? What is the expected response? Found via the Elephant Bar.

Update: A partial backtrack?

It's a Zombie Invasion!

What's up with all the zombie movies?



Data source. Has this weird phenomenon peaked?

Balloon Boy

I read about Balloon Boy on the net, without seeing any video. But once I saw the video, it was clear to me that there was no way a 45 pound 6 year old boy was inside that balloon

In the video you can see the balloon isn't even bottom heavy:

Googling around, I see others thought the same. Another good point
Aside from the lack of sufficient lift, just look at the photo! It is obvious from the shape of the balloon that it is not carrying much weight; else it would be pulled into a classic teardrop shape.

Seriously, it's not even convex. The media, I suppose, was more interested in drama than bursting everyone's bubble here. Odd though that there wasn't someone pointing out how ridiculous this hoax was while it was happening.

A slight defense of Shepard Fairey

Several commentators in recent days have decried the lack of celebration of the falling of the Berlin Wall. Obama has decided to send Clinton to the festivities in Germany instead of going himself. Others have pointed out that to properly celebrate the end of the Eastern Bloc you must explain just what the Eastern Bloc was and why we spent decades fighting it. And to properly celebrate the fall, you have to mention such names as Thatcher, Reagan and Bush I.

Yesterday afternoon, while driving past LACMA museum on Wilshire in West Los Angeles, I noticed about 8 sections of the Wall have been erected across the street from the museum (interestingly, not on the museum grounds at all.)

A little research showed that Los Angeles is actually holding one of the biggest celebrations around. There are the sections of the wall on display, there is a contest to make your own wall graffiti, and they will actually be building a wall across the very-busy Wilshire Boulevard--this to give people a taste of what it was like to have your city and country cut into two.
[ The Independent (UK) ] The Wall Project, the largest commemoration in the US of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, will be staged in Los Angeles with segments of the real Berlin Wall along Wilshire Boulevard for public viewing, October 17-November 14.

A two-part initiative, ‘The Wall Along Wilshire" part consists of 10 original 11-foot-by-three-foot segments of the Berlin Wall with an original border tower, to be installed on Wilshire Boulevard as an outdoor gallery. These real sections were donated by Berlin resident, Thomas Goerner, who owns the property on which the segments stood.

The other component, "The Wall Across Wilshire," will stretch over one of the busiest streets in LA, near the Los Angeles County Art Museum, blocking traffic.
So what does this have to do with the title of this blog? And who is Shepard Fairy? He's the artist responsible for this:



He's also being sued by AP, because it was one of their pictures that he used as starting point of his picture, and they want some of those juicy royalties.

He's been in the news the last day or two, because he has admitted to lying in his documentation in the lawsuit. Blogs are blasting him as a liar.

However...Shepard Fairey also happens to be the leading artist in the Los Angeles Wall commemorations.
"The Wall Across Wilshire," will stretch over one of the busiest streets in LA, near the Los Angeles County Art Museum, blocking traffic. Panels will be painted by Shepard Fairey, the graphic artist who created the iconic "Hope" poster for Barack Obama's presidential campaign.


So, I'm more than willing to give Fairey quite a pass on this one.

Watching O'Reilly

Speaking of O'Reilly... why do I tune in? I usually end up watching very little of it. Basically, I listen to his intro bit, then tune out unless there is Bernie Goldberg or a few other segments like "Is it Legal?" which I enjoy. Perhaps it's just force of habit. There isn't anything else worth watching at that time slot either.

Ann says: His body-language segment is idiotic. I can't stand watching him, and usually go do something else...in fact, I haven't been able to stand him since his summer of the shark a couple years ago, when he overhyped shark attacks.

Firing at Fox News

Seems that Marc Lamont Hill has been fired by Fox News:
Mediaite has confirmed Marc Lamont Hill has been fired from Fox News Channel. The liberal commentator was a regular on the network, most recently appearing as a guest on The O’Reilly Factor one week ago, according to TV Eyes.

I've seen him many times on O'Reilly. I don't remember ever agreeing with him, and usually found his arguments to be eye-roll inducing. Still, this firing seems rather odd. Fox should have some lefties on board. I'm not sure that Mr Hill was the best available, but he was willing to go on O'Reilly. I bet a guy like that is not easy to find.

Credit Card Companies

I just got this letter from my credit card company:

Dear So and So:

We are making changes to your account terms.

To continue to provide our customers with access to credit, we have had to adjust our pricing. The terms of your account will be changing. These changes include an increase in the variable APR for purchases to 29.99% and will take effect November 30, 2009. As always, you have the right to opt out and pay down your balance under your current terms. If you opt out, you may use your account under the current terms until the end of your current membership year or the expiration date on your card, whichever is later. At that time, we will close your account.

[Note I scanned in the text using my newly found OCR ability!]

I'm sorry dear free-market readers, but this is wrong. Thirty percent interest? The fine print says the rate is the US Prime Rate plus 26.74% In other words, the Prime Rate is 3.25%. So they are going to charge over 9 times the Prime Rate. It's absurd.

Credit card companies make money by getting people on the hook and then charging them outrageous interest. This trap used to be called loan-sharking or usury. I am generally a pretty free-market supporter. But there are limits and these people cross it. They give out easy credit to people who shouldn't be given it, then expect the government to act as their enforcer.

Turkey is Lost

Must read article "How Turkey Was Lost to the West"
Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis.

Very depressing.

If Turkey can be lost so, what chance is there that Iraq will become something resembling a stable, human rights respecting democracy?

Zero chance.

Happy Diwali!

To my sister-in-law, niece and brother:

Happy Diwali!!

Steve Says: Thank you very much from all of us! Happy Diwali to you too.

Shared Knowledge

I bought an HP combination printer, scanner and photocopier back in August. When I installed the associated software, I found that there was no program for Optical Character Recognition (OCR), even though the box gave some indication that the scanner had such a facility. The OCR program allows one to scan a document and have the text pulled out for use in a word processor. It also allows for the creation of a scanned PDF that has searchable text. So I was feeling rather ripped off by HP, having bought a piece of hardware that didn't do what they said it did.

Fortunately, I decided to post my problem on an HP users' forum. It took two months, but I got a suggestion from another user. I tried out the suggestion, and was pleased to find out that it worked. The suggestion was to install some software that was for another printer series, as it might work anyway.

This is another instance of how having the internet around has changed how we get things done. In this case, I was able to post a question on a world-wide message board and find a person perhaps thousands of miles away who knew the answer. It is really quite remarkable.

I remember having a conversation 20 years ago or so with my dad about fax machines. What we thought remarkable was how quickly an invention that didn't exist such a short time before was now nearly indispensable when doing business. Now, even more quickly, that invention itself has been all but replaced by an even more effective and valuable technology.

What's next? Bring it on!

Ann says: Actually, the first fax machine dates to the mid 18-hundreds. It worked on a telegraph line and was extremely primitive. Almost like Monty Python's sketch of Wuthering Heights on an Aldis lamp.

Penn Gets Scolded

Penn gets scolded by Tommy Smothers:

It appears that it hurt him rather deeply. Penn is right though, and is pretty courageous to do the right thing and appear on shows such as Glenn Beck's. I hope this episode doesn't discourage him.

As for the hypothetical "if Hitler had a show you'd go on that too!" it seems to me that that would in fact be the right thing to do. Imagine if at the end of every speech by Hitler you had Albert Schweitzer there to give a rebuttal! Wouldn't that a be a good thing?

Tom Smothers has always seemed like a bit of an ass to me. This episode certainly doesn't change my opinion.

Why Bother Blogging?

Why bother blogging when Charles Krauthammer is around?
About the only thing more comical than Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize was the reaction of those who deemed the award “premature,” as if the brilliance of Obama’s foreign policy is so self-evident and its success so assured that if only the Norway Five had waited a few years, his Nobel worthiness would have been universally acknowledged.

Exactly.

I might as well stick to personal blog posts about baby and life in Nashville.

Did no one see the last Die Hard movie?!

Popular Mechanics: A recent proposal to link the eastern, western and Texas grids together to create a national, alt-energy-friendly supergrid has sparked the interest of utilities and energy insiders, such as former energy secretary Bill Richardson. Can a high-tech substation in New Mexico create a smarter, unified grid? Not if Texas doesn't cooperate.

Buying More Votes

This is obnoxious

President Barack Obama called on Congress Wednesday to approve $250 payments to more than 50 million seniors to make up for no increase in Social Security next year. The Social Security Administration is scheduled to announce Thursday that there will be no cost of living increase next year. By law, increases are pegged to inflation, which has been negative this year.

"Even as we seek to bring about recovery, we must act on behalf of those hardest hit by this recession," Obama said in a statement. "This additional assistance will be especially important in the coming months, as countless seniors and others have seen their retirement accounts and home values decline as a result of this economic crisis."

... A senior administration official said Obama was open to borrowing the money, increasing the federal budget deficit. The official, who requested anonymity, was not authorized to speak on the record.

The fact that inflation is negative means that the social security payments seniors receive are already buying more than they did last year. Thus, there is no need to "make up for" a lack of cost of living increase. Does it need to be pointed out again that on average the elderly are in fact much richer than the young? This idea, like many of President Obama's, taxes the poor and gives to the rich. If Obama wants to help people who have been hurt by the recession, than it is not clear to me how this will do it. This seems more like borrowing money to buy votes.

Still Not Crazy

Again I have had one of those "Thank goodness someone else remembers this. It means I haven't lost my mind" moments. Gateway pundit has a post with a clip of Madeleine Albright admitting the harm caused by sanctions against Iraq prior to the second war.
Lesley Stahl on U.S. sanctions against Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.

For some time now, I have felt that I was the only person who remembers the position of the Left prior to the second war:

It was that sanctions on Iraq should be lifted.

When it looked like war was imminent, and after the war had begun, the Left's position suddenly changed to "we should have let the sanctions work." But the fact is that before the war, they wanted those sanctions lifted. There were student protests for the lifting of sanctions. There were billboards up around town telling us that we had killed 500,000+ children with the sanctions, and so our actions were nothing short of criminal.

I'm not posting this to debate the sanctions issue. I just think it is bizarre how that whole phase of the previous debate over our Iraq policy has been washed down the memory hole.

Most under-reported story of the day

This is my nomination for the most underreported story of the day:
Christian Science Monitor

The USS New York?

Many New Yorkers profess ignorance. Is it a cruise ship? What do we need it for? Will it be a target?

Those are just some of the questions a handful of New Yorkers asked about the Navy warship which was launched Tuesday at Northrup Grumman's shipyard in Avondale, La.

The amphibious assault vessel was built with 7.5 tons of steel salvaged from the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. The ship, which can carry up to 800 Marines, is on its way to New York where it will be formally commissioned in early November.

While holding a door at a New York apartment building, doorman Christopher Elter admitted he had not heard of the ship.
A Google search lists USA Today and the CSM reporting the story, then moves out of the country for the Guardian, AFP and Canada's National Post. The AP had a story, and some papers ran it, but for the most part, it went unmentioned.

I read about it in the Daily Telegraph from the UK.

Save Halloween

A little Halloween common sense from Leonore Skenazy's book and blog "Free Range Kids":
Was there ever really a rash of candy killings? Joel Best, a professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, took it upon himself to find out. He studied crime reports from Halloween dating back as far as 1958, and guess exactly how many kids he found poisoned by a stranger’s candy?

A hundred and five? A dozen? Well, one, at least?

“The bottom line is that I cannot find any evidence that any child has ever been killed or seriously hurt by a contaminated treat picked up in the course of trick-or-treating,” says the professor. The fear is completely unfounded.

Now, one time, in 1974, a Texas dad did kill his own son with a poisoned Pixie Stix. “He had taken out an insurance policy on his son’s life shortly before Halloween, and I think he probably did this on the theory that there were so many poison candy deaths, no one would ever suspect him,” says Best. “In fact, he was very quickly tried and put to death long ago.” That’s Texas for you.

A little perspective

From an article on Pajamas Media, written by Soeren Kern, here's some European reaction to the US health care debate:
[A]nother Independent article titled “Republicans, religion and the triumph of unreason” says: “Here’s what’s actually happening. The U.S. is the only major industrialized country that does not provide regular health care to all its citizens. Instead, they are required to provide for themselves — and 50 million people can’t afford the insurance. As a result, 18,000 U.S. citizens die every year needlessly, because they can’t access the care they require. That’s equivalent to six 9/11s, every year, year on year.”
Shall we put those numbers in a little perspective?

(First of all, my guess is that they are playing fast and loose with the word "citizen", considering a large number of the uninsured are illegal aliens.)

In a nation of 300 million people, that amounts to 6 of 100,000 people.

In 2003, a heat wave struck Europe. It resulted in more than 37,000 deaths across a comparable population--meaning more than 12 in every 100,000 people died. US heat-wave mortality for the years 1999-2003 was 3,442, for an annual average of 688.

The UK had 2,139 deaths due to the heat-wave. In a population of about 60 million, that's every 3.5 out of 100,000 people died.

In 2007 hospital-acquired c-diff infections in the UK claimed the lives of 8,324, or more than 13 of every 100,000 people. (The numbers fell by 29% in 2008.)

This last statistic I have is rather shocking. Looking at cancer deaths in the US, we had 559,303 in 2005, for an death rate of 186 per 100,000. In the UK in 2007, they had 155,484 cancer deaths, for a death rate of 259 per 100,000. A death rate nearly 40% higher than in the US. That means an excess of 43,800 Britons are dying each year due to sub-standard health care.

So, where exactly is there a triumph of unreason, and whose religion is clouding their judgement?

Kids today

I took my niece to the bookstore on Saturday. As we were heading up the elevator, she started talking about Amelia Earhart. She went into this story of how she and her siblings built a makeshift roller coaster in their yard, and how the other kids were too chicken to ride it, but Amelia jumped right on.

I made a comment that it was amazing how much she knew about minor people in history, and how little she knew about major people in history. You learn about Earhart, I said, because she was a minority, but you don't learn about the founding fathers or American history.

You're right, she said, we don't learn about that stuff.

At school, she's a 4th grader. For the second year in a row their social studies curriculum centers on California history with an emphasis on Native Americans. They don't learn about the Spanish Conquest, Puritans yearning for religious freedom, the Stamp Act, or the Revolution or Constitution. None of the major movements of history.

I've purchased the "Liberty's Kids" series on disk, but I haven't had her watch them yet. I think it's time to start.

Steve Says: Well, I remember when you brought home a grade school textbook that had articles on several Great Americans, including Chief Dan George. Now, I happen to think that Chief Dan George was pretty great (especially in The Outlaw Josey Wales), but mom's opinion was different. Perhaps she didn't think he was at the same level as Washington, Lincoln, King, etc.

Ann says: I think that was my 5th grade textbook, which would have made it from 1978. Imagine how much worse it is 30 years later. The teachers and textbook writers have all grown up in this climate. They've never learned this kind of thing either. It's being completely lost, and is yet another thing you have to teach your kids at home.

Weekend Retreat

My lovely wife had a conference to attend at Fall Creek Falls State Park. Our toddler and I went along as well, just to get away. It's quite a nice park. They have a large number of cabins and campsites that would be fun to stay in some time. Perhaps when our kid is a bit older. The weather this weekend was a little rainy, but this afternoon it turned very nice, and we were able to get to see some of the park. It was beautiful, with fall colors showing, though perhaps a bit before their peak.








Cleveland Show

I'm watching The Cleveland Show for the first time now. So far, not bad, and not nearly as offensive as Family Guy. It's not really clicking, but it's probably too early to decide if the show is going to be any good or not. However, they did play "I Can't Wait" by Nu Shooz in one scene. So I did have the satisfaction of identifying a rather obscure 80s song. I'll watch the show again.

Hey what do you know. Nu Shooz is still around, sort of. I only know that one song of theirs.

How's that for a redesign!

Yes, this is Saltzafrazz, but I redesigned it. I found a free template website (Blogger Templates) and liked this one. Lots of them there were very girly, obviously, this one is not.

I hope you like it!

We've been waiting for this

This is what we have been working on at work for the last couple of weeks:



The LA Times has since put up their main article. Of course, they also had to mention the heparin incident as well.

Update (Saturday): The Independent newspaper in Britain has it on their front page: "Brain scans disaster at celebrity hospital". They really play up the celebrity hospital thing, even mentioning Heidi Klum's baby was just born there.

We've been waiting for this story to break. Kinda/sorta hoping it wouldn't, even though we knew it would.

Luckily, I haven't had to do much on this problem. My sis wasn't as lucky, and neither were my co-workers. Rumor has it that the NYTimes will have the story in the next couple of days as well.

Here's Cedars' official press release. Unfortunately, it's a Word document.

The 2010 Nobel

My prediction for next year...
..."It is with tremendous pride and pleasure that the Nobel Peace Prize committee hereby awards the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize to the two hundred and ninety-nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine people in the United States of America who are not George Walker Bush or the horse he rode in on."

Nope

Is the Nobel peace prize committee capable of not being a laughing stock?

Obama just won for "bringing hope." He's the first guy to win the prize because of a (bad) campaign slogan.

I think I'll wear my NOPE t-shirt today. (That's not quite the shirt I have. I picked up mine at the D.C. airport.)


Update:
Times of London: Headline: absurd decision on Obama makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize.

"Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace. "

Detroit

Yesterday in the lovely city of Detroit:
Detroit [Detroit Free Press] -- A throng pushing to get into Cobo Center today to get applications for federal help on rent and utility bills has turned chaotic, resulting in at least five injuries.

[...]The city received nearly $15.2 million in federal dollars under the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which is for temporary financial assistance and housing services to individuals and families who are homeless, or who would be homeless without this help.
I'm confused. How can anyone have trouble paying rent or with homelessness, when you can buy a house in Detroit for $20?



And there are hundreds listed on Coldwell Banker for under $5,000? Which means it would take a little over 4 months for a person working minimum wage 40 hours a week to be able to buy a house in Detroit.

Scene from a Movie?

If this were a scene from a movie, you would call it hackneyed and contrived:
DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (AP) -- A wanted felon wanted to get lost in a corn maze, but Jefferson County authorities had other ideas. [...] Authorities were not to be deterred by the labyrinth of corn stalks. [...] Although it did take officers -- and their dogs -- two hours to find the couple.

They say life is stranger than fiction.

Obama's China Policy

Good grief:
The U.S. decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedaling criticism of China's human rights and financial policies as well as backing efforts to elevate China's position in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund. Obama administration officials have termed the new policy "strategic reassurance," which entails the U.S. government taking steps to convince China that it is not out to contain the emerging Asian power.

Previous administrations' appeasements of China were bad enough. I referred to it before as "never miss a chance to kiss China's butt." Is this administration out to set a whole new standard? It's disturbing.

Widows

I believe I have now killed 3 male black widow spiders in the last 3 weeks, and one definite female black widow (lurking in the folds of our grill cover). Then there is the brown widow spider that I also killed today (more-potent venom than the black, but they inject less of it--yay! Click on the link, though to see the egg sacks of the brown widow. They are quite cool. The one I killed today had made 4-5 of them.)

Apparently, this is a banner year for the evil little critters. I brought both of our kids as well as one of their friends out to see the dead lady black and her dessicated male, just so they would know what one looks like and to know what to do if they see one--back away, scream like hell, but keep an eye on it so we can find it and kill it. I actually lost track of one of the males when I went in to get a can of Raid. Very fun to try to intentionally go looking for a widow spider! Along the way I found a second one near the first.

Yuck! Now we're all creeped out...and we figure there are a whole bunch of them in our basement. Bwahahaha!!!

In Defense of Jimmy Carter

I have to side with Jimmy Carter over the recent comment he had about the role of racism in the criticism of President Obama. Again, the right of the blogosphere has been all over this. Here is Carter's original comment, starting at about 43 seconds in
I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity towards President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man


This was interpreted by critics of Carter as a statement that the majority of opposition to President Obama is based on racism.

That is not how I interpreted his statement when it first broke into the news. Here is what I thought he meant. There is a lot of opposition to President Obama. Out of all of that opposition, some of it may be characterized as "intensely demonstrated animosity." Carter is saying that within that subset of "intensely demonstrated animosity," an overwhelming portion is based on racism. This is very different from saying a majority of opposition to Obama is based on racism. Indeed, I don't think you can characterize a significant portion of the opposition to Obama as "intensely demonstrated animosity."

I don't doubt that some portion of the "intensely demonstrated animosity" is based on racism. I am not sure if I would say "a majority." Certainly some people have a strong animosity to members of opposite political parties, regardless of race.

Carter has since addressed the criticism, clarifying his position:



This of course resulted in more blog attacks, with writers saying that Carter was changing his story. Sorry, but I have to side with Carter on this one. His clarification just makes it clear to me that my initial interpretation of his original statement was correct.

It doesn't give me any pleasure to agree with Carter, but I think if you are going to have a blog, you should try to be up front and honest.