Saturday, November 30, 2013

Polio, v2

A year ago, I wrote on this blog about my memories of the fear. The fear of polio. You could almost touch it, and with my grandmother in a wheelchair from her bout with it around the time of World War I, it was personal.

Today I ran into this on-line article about a woman who has been in an iron lung for 60 years.

The vaccination was such a relief to adults and children. Advice? Get your children vaccinated, because the Syrian outbreak could spread.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Righteous Indignation

So, I'm reading this "detective novel" titled The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks. Some of his writing is "clever" and "California" like the title. You see, the primary character is named Tenzing Norbu, formerly a Tibetan monk...his nickname is "Ten."

But this quote caught my eye: "...righteous indignation is the straightest route I know toward blind ignorance and away from any possibility of insight." Made me wonder how many times I had been righteously indignant...and wrong.

The author is evidently familiar with Buddhism and is full of these kinds of comments. I liked the first book, too. They are so reminiscent of the Travis McGee books.

GMO article retracted.

Wonder how many decisions were based on this study? Retracted, doesn't meet scientific standards.

Said GMO corn caused tumors in rats.

I am really tired of bad science. Can't wait to hear what the facts become...wait a minute, the facts should just be the facts, they shouldn't "become" anything.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Car doors locking

Recently, I have heard more than one black person mention that people lock their car doors when they approach. I also saw someone write that white people would lock their car doors when a group of eight black youths came at them in the middle of a street where they were parked. Racist.

Never thought much about it, and I don't know if this is germane, at all. We live in a suburban neighborhood, but it is somewhat transient due to the high number of military. But it is a nice neighborhood, well tended, etc., even though there are a lot of renters--rentals start at $1,500 per month. This is also a very homogeneous racial development, about 30% black? Lots of Asians, Hispanic, but in the eyes of the person looking for racism, "non-white" doesn't matter.

Another consequence of the transience is that neighbors don't really know each other. Last night, as is our custom for the last ten years, I took the dog for a walk. It wasn't late, maybe 6:30, but it was dark and a neighbor two houses down across the street had just pulled into her driveway when we approached. She saw us and I heard the locks engage. She waited until we were well past, got out of her car and went in.

Now, I am not the most intimidating guy on the street--old, white hair sticking out from under the ball cap and a nearly white beard, not in shape (evident although it was chilly and I had on a jacket), leading a golden retriever (not a pit bull) on a leash, wearing a hoodie (I said it was chilly!!) and carrying a doggie-poop bag. Plus, I limp.

It seemed like a prudent thing for her to do. She didn't know me. I guess I could have been an axe murderer. I didn't take it to be anything other than prudence, but then these comments about it being racist came to mind.

Not racially motivated that time. Maybe every other time, but not last night.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Scam

Everybody loves a good scam, and 'tis the season for them.

This one involves the gay waitress who alerted the media that she had been stiffed a tip because a customer had written a note complaining about her "lifestyle."

The media picked up the story immediately, showing the receipt with the blocked name of the "perpetrator" and the hand-written note. Money poured into the ex-Marine/waitress/gay person's PayPal account which had been established upon disclosure to the media.

She says all the money will go to the Wounded Warrior project.

Wow, what a story, especially this time of year.

Now comes forth a family who show the receipt with a 20% tip. Their copy of the receipt. They also disavow any homophobic opinions, "We just wouldn't do that." It also hits their credit card account with the tip included!

Now we wonder, what happened? The waitress/ex-Marine/gay person was confronted with these facts, and didn't seem to be very upset or surprised. Sort of a "Yeah, so what?" demeanor? The current setup is that she is now the villain rather than the victim.

A friend and co-worker, John Rasmussen, once told me: "When they say, 'It's not about the money,''s about the money." This has held true a number of times in my life.

But here is another theory--
  • What if her reluctance to be or appear to be contrite is because she doesn't want to give up the notoriety...and the money?
  • What if the store owner did it, to cut her out of a tip and to see if she would quit? Maybe there is a conflict here?
  • What if a co-worker wanted to set her up?
  • What if neither of the two last theories (owner/co-worker) ever thought this would go viral?
I am wagering that the truth has not yet surfaced. Especially, when the TV news and the social media sites tend to arrest, try and convict with very little information. Just a theory. But, hey, I probably have as much information as the "investigative" reporter.

Friday, November 22, 2013


A while ago, I mentioned that our family, specifically Grandma Carstenson's family, had been traced back to the 1500's. She was a remarkable woman, lived to be 109, was a widow for 72 years, longer than a lot of people are alive. Most of you have heard this, but it always gives me a bit of a goose-bump thing--I was thirteen when she died, I knew her, and she was 16 when President Lincoln was assassinated.

A person named Lis Birgit Jensen in Denmark did remarkable genealogical sleuthing and found several ancestors born in the 1500's who eventually are connected to Anne Marie (Grandma) Jensen Carstenson. Since our ancestry is governed by the power of two, she had 512 direct ancestors in that generation, the "seventh great-grandparents." For that same group of folks, I have an additional four generations, making them the fourteenth generation back, the "eleventh great-grandparents" and, again, considering the power of two, there would be 8,192 potential direct ancestors for me and others in my generation at that level. By the way, the names of some of those people often did not include a surname--their names were Niels (b. 1528) and his wife, Fru Niels (b. 1532), their son Jens Nielsen Moller (b. 1560) and Rasmus (b. 1560) and Mrs Rasmus (b 1560?) and their daughter, Maren Rasmusdatter (b. 1592).

Jens Nielsen Moller's son, Hemming Jensen (b. 1590?) and Maren Rasmusdatter were important people in this whole family-origin thing as they married and away we go.

This all goes back to a claim that people are not living longer today than they did "2,000 years ago" made by a woman who is touting natural foods, and particular foods that would be common on the Paleo Diets. It is understandable to conclude that people were not dying at early ages as the "average age" comparisons would indicate.

The average age back at the turn of the 19th century was, and apparently had been for some time, in the mid-40's and now, the average age is in the late 60's. These numbers are skewed by a high degree of infant deaths, child-bearing mortality and deaths from infections. That is not her point. She maintained that healthy adults were living as long as healthy adults do today, and something about that just didn't sound right. After all, we have such advances in medicine that prolong life, right? So, extract the effects of infant, child-bearing and infection mortality and we should still see longer lives in today's humans. Right?

I went back through this family to find out how long they lived. Granted, not all were located, dates were sometimes not available and the whole thing is complicated by the tendency of the Danes to name everybody the same names. There are a whole load of guys named Jens and Peder, Niels, and a few named Ole. Then some that are kind of cool--Hemming and Bent for the guys, Maren for the girls. Lots of girls named Ane, Anna, Anne, and especially Kirsten. The Danish tradition gave their sons a last name comprised of their father's first name plus "-sen" and their daughters a last name comprised of their father's first name plus "-datter." Whoa, that gets confusing, and around 1900, the Danish government apparently stepped in and told them to quit it, and come up with some unique surnames.

Of the ones located, I found thirty-eight ancestors whose age at death could be reasonably ascertained and put them on a scatter graph. I am going to try to insert that graph in here, but it may not work. Suffice it to say, that despite the really long lives of Grandma Carstenson and some of her sons and daughters, the graph did not plainly show the upward incline I expected. Sort of flat.

Add to that the diets that I know from Grandma and her children: high in dairy (her primary food as a girl was clabbered milk, something like cottage cheese), high in fat, high in meat and low in sugar. High in exercise, low in obesity. Wait, that applied to those ancestors for a lot of years back.

Now, think of our generations alive today--high in "diet" stuff, high in obesity, low in exercise, high in sugar, low in fat, high in the stuff they substitute for fat. High in cancer, knee problems, heart issues. Maybe the food of our ancestors wasn't so bad? Maybe McDonalds and Proctor and Gamble stuff isn't so good?

Here is the graph, sorry for the quality:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sarah Palin and the Filibuster

Just covering two topics in one post, they aren't connected...and it's my blog, after all (he whined). This may not be my most well-received post, BTW. Note: there is a third topic!

Sarah Palin and some jerk on MSNBC

The comment that someone should "defecate in her mouth" was out of line, the apology from the person who said it seemed sincere, but it says so much that is wrong about the news:

  1. I can find no coverage on the typical sources that you would think might cover it, like NBC News on-line. Apparently, NBC News has said (to the AP?) that they are trying to distance themselves from the "liberal-leaning" network that is owned by the same entity.
  2. The comment has received no acknowledgement from the people off-camera who, it would seem, edited the story. This was not an off-the-cuff statement, but a well-developed sequence that was read off a teleprompter. Editors, and senior editors customarily "edit" this stuff. That is why they are called "editors?" But no one is criticizing them?
  3. I would assume that Fox is covering it, but Yahoo! and CNN are having a field day, calling for this guy's head on a platter, talking about the "culture" of "vile and malicious" comments. As if they were not guilty??
  4. It signifies the lack of real news--first, Sarah Palin's comments need not be covered in detail, it just feeds on itself. Second, covering the "story" of the comment and the apology is just blatant self-aggrandizement. Sort of like the Academy Awards.
  5. Wish there were a place to go where we could just get news. But I'm too lazy to read "The Economist" any more. Ah, the old days, when I did.
  6. The increase in "vile and disgusting" is, well, vile and disgusting. Almost makes you yearn for the days when the motto was "If it bleeds, it leads." And now we have Miley Cyrus as "news."
OK, now the filibuster.

The vote apparently passed that the filibuster cannot be used when considering appointments by the President. This was particularly aimed at ending the Republican filibuster of attempts to bring judicial appointments to a vote in the Senate during the Obama presidency. As a point of reference, there have been 168 filibusters in the Senate on appointments, about half during the Obama years.

I am going to go on record as approving the action. Not that it matters, but I am casting my meager vote out there on the wind. The old joke, "I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is Congress knows what the problem is. The bad news? They are going to do something about it," has been the only platform of the Republicans recently. They need to adopt a different approach, perhaps representing some of us in the middle?

Now, here is a surprise! The AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club have come out in favor of this action, as well. Scary, but I'm going to stick with my thought that the filibuster is a useful tool if used sparingly. The current Republican philosophy is akin to the little boy with a hammer--everything looks like a nail.

Heed my words on this, however: the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and the Democrats will rue this day when, as Senator McConnell observed, "when the political tides change." Supreme Court nominees would be exempted, thank goodness!!

As with so many things, both sides deserve criticism here. Unfortunately, neither side deserves applaud. The Republicans overused the useful tool; the Democrats are comfortable with the use of blunt force. Folks, we need a big-time housecleaning.

Third, unplanned, topic

I was just about to hit the button to post this when the power went off. We live in an area that has underground service, so power outages are rare. Then I look out my window and see that my neighbor is putting up Christmas decorations. Am I living inside the movie, "Christmas Vacation?"
My neighbor, who I don't know, may very well be named Clark W. Griswold.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Health care

Health care, education, infant mortality, you name it and somebody is going to say that the US is deficient. That is statistically true, no mistake.

Articles will be written like this:

The writer who "discovers" the truth about some of these things is revered by her peers, a real sleuth, an investigative reporter. But you know what they tend to miss? They tend to miss the diversity of the US versus the ones under comparison--Japan, Sweden, for instance, have homogeneous populations with shared cultural mores. We don't.

The writer contends that medicine in the US is not the best and is, in fact terrible. How can you look at anything with open eyes and say that? Why do people from all over the world come here for treatment? When I had heart surgery, I didn't go to India. Or Costa Rica. But, you know, it may come to that.

Medicare now pays so little and denies the physician the right to ask for more from other insurance or the patient that it is often 10% of the asked-for fee. I looked at the fees for recent knee surgery, and it was appallingly low. How can they keep the doors open? Especially the orthopedic surgeons are heading to Costa Rica.

But stating in the article that there is a difference between Mississippi and New York/Colorado but not connecting the dots to show a picture is just negligent...and worrisome.

Yes, China and India have lots of smart people. Think of it, if intelligence is measured by IQ, and you assume that the top quartile must be the smart ones, it is kind of overwhelming to realize that the top quartile in China outnumber the whole population of the US. Same for India. But where do things like Facebook, Microsoft, etc. come from?

Education--it is apples and oranges to compare the Brits or the Germans with the US. Yes, they do a lot of things better, but when you are only measuring their best and brightest against our total student population, it isn't a correct measurement. That isn't to say that US education is without problems, because it is. Why else do people send their kids to private schools? Because educating only to the lowest common denominator isn't fair to the brighter kids.

When someone badmouths the US, remember to analyze the data points and the political slant of the author.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time Relationship

You all know how fascinated I am with the relationship between events and time as viewed from different perspectives, but this was interesting:

March 21st 2010 to October 1 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, 10 days.

December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months, 1 day.

What this means is that in the time between the attack on Pearl Harbor to the day Germany surrendered is not enough time for this federal government to build a working website.

Mobilization of millions, building tens of thousands of tanks, planes, jeeps, subs, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, millions upon millions of guns, bombs, ammo, etc. Turning the tide in North Africa, Invading Italy, D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, Race to Berlin - all the while also fighting the Japanese in the Pacific!

Fascinating. Another thing you hear little about is that the contractor is a Canadian company. Evidently, the country that gave us Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc. is not adequate to create a website, so they had to go to a foreign contractor.

In addition, they violate the privacy rules that are the law of the land for everyone else in the fundamental design of the website.

It is so indicative of what you get when you rely on political hacks instead of experienced, bright people.

Oh, and another thing...the US ranks 3rd in the world in murders. If you remove Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C. and New Orleans, the US is 4th from the bottom. Those cities have two things in common: the toughest gun laws in the country, and governance by Democrats for 50 years or more.

Monday, November 11, 2013


We see these types of articles all the time, the guy who thwarts a robbery loses his job, a hero remains anonymous because he drew down on a gunman who was killing in the Portland area shopping center and stopped him, etc.

The statistics bear out that owners of guns who own them legally do not commit gun crimes. I think I posted here one time that people with CCW permits have less incidence of gun crimes than police officers.

Oh, well, here it is again...and there are three takeaways for me:

1. The Jesuits decided to think about it. Apparently smarter than the anti-gun folks.
2. The six-time felon was out of jail in no time!
3. Without a gun, this could have turned out really badly for those nice young men.

Two Gonzaga University students could face expulsion after having a gun in a campus apartment, which they used to repel a pushy homeless man who came to their door.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University has agreed to review its weapons policy as two students who used a pistol to drive an intruder from their apartment appeal their probation for having guns in their university-owned accommodation.
"As a Jesuit institution dedicated to thoughtful evaluation of complex social issues," Gonzaga will use the incident to re-examine its policy, President Thayne McCulloh said in a weekend statement.
The university informed the students, Erik Fagan, 21, and Daniel McIntosh, 23, over the weekend they were on probation and could be suspended or expelled for any more violations of the Spokane university's code of conduct, The Spokesman-Review reported.
Gonzaga should consider student safety above all else, said their lawyer, Dean Chuang.
"We're glad that it didn't have to end in tragedy for them to consider changing the policy there," Chuang said. "Our boys were armed and stopped a home invasion here."
A homeless man came to their door Oct. 24 demanding money and trying to force his way inside.
Fagan offered the man a blanket and a can of food but refused to hand over any cash, he said. The man became agitated and combative.
Fagan shouted for McIntosh, who came downstairs holding a loaded 10 mm Glock pistol.
"I draw on him," McIntosh said. "As soon as he sees me, he decides he doesn't want to deal with me. So he takes off."
The men called police and campus security. Fagan has a concealed weapons permit, he said.
Campus security returned the next day and confiscated McIntosh's Glock and Fagan's shotgun, which he uses for hunting and sport shooting.
The men say their guns were seized illegally and are seeking to have them returned.
They say they are glad they weren't expelled, but they are appealing their probation because they don't want the sanction on their school records.
Students are not allowed to have guns in their homes if they live on campus or in a university-owned apartment. The university discipline board on Friday found Fagan and McIntosh responsible for two violations: possessing weapons on school grounds and putting others in danger by the use of weapons.
The man who went to their door, John M. Taylor, 29, is a six-time felon, said police spokeswoman Monique Cotton. His crimes have included riot with a deadly weapon, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful imprisonment.
Officers responding to an initial report of a residential burglary, found him in the area, Cotton said. He was jailed on an arrest warrant from the state Department of Corrections, she said. Typically that means a person under department supervision has violated terms of release. Taylor was no longer on the jail roster Monday.
Calls to the Department of Corrections were not immediately returned on Monday and there was no answer at the Spokane County Public Defender office, which might represent Taylor.

Monday, November 4, 2013

GOP Contenders

Just a bit of advice to the GOP contenders like Chris Christie--why listen to advice from way left sources like this?

"As he pivots toward a possible bid for the presidency, Christie will have to decide: Should he firmly embrace the relatively-centrist persona he worked so hard to burnish during his first term, or move toward the right in hopes of winning over conservative activists who weigh heavily upon presidential nominating contests?" from MSNBC, November 4, 2013

Yes, it important in the nominating process, but look what is happening in the Virginia gubernatorial race. The GOP nominee, Cuccinelli, has been set back in the race due to the ultra-conservative positions of the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. The opponent, McAuliffe, with help from the master campaigner, Obama, is making the election about the Tea Party. McAuliffe is in the anti-gun camp, and other issues, a California Democrat all the way through. Oh, great, Nancy Pelosi becomes the de-facto governor of Virginia.

Let's put the extremist positions on the back burner for a bit and see if we can't deal with issues affecting the majority of Americans, like the number of people who are not working.

Chris Christie is being urged by a liberal media source to consider moving further to the ultra-right. A message from some of us--we would like to have a candidate that represents the middle, the ones that are not on welfare and are not simply attending Tea Party meetings. Those candidates are getting more rare, and it is a problem.

Meanwhile, the master campaigner makes another major error, but picked up by the media as a wonderful success--the phone call from Iran. The Saudis are ticked off, and in the diplomatic world, they have a right to their ire. After all, you are supposed to consult with your friends on this stuff. They are also worked up about the blundering around in Syria. But, as one Saudi put it, “When you rear a pet snake, the least that you can expect is that you will eventually be bitten. I just don’t understand why we had allowed ourselves to become so dependent."

Interesting choice of metaphor--hmmmmm, a pet snake.