Archive for May, 2008

Words

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Is it just me or is it getting almost impossible to register for anything on the web these days? I appreciate the need to stomp out spam, but the word recognition software is getting the point where I can’t read the heiroglyphics. And of course, if you screw up one field, you have to do it all over again. Ugh.

Life On The Streets

Friday, May 30th, 2008

One of the few indulgences I gave myself on my birthday was the third season of Homicide. I still think it’s the best cop show ever made. It avoids both the silliness of Law and Order/CSI and the over-the-top “grittiness” of The Shield. Case go unsolved. The cops are good but flawed. And I’m still shocked that Andre Braugher’s career never really took off. He’s the main reason to watch the show. That’s not to slight the awesome work of Yaphet Kotto, Mellissa Leo or Richard Belzer.

Strange to say — the show made me miss Baltimore. A little bit.

Good News, For Once

Friday, May 30th, 2008

That massive verdict against Vioxx on behalf of the cardiac patient who hadn’t even been taking the drug? Overturned.

Update: Just to show that stupidity is neither conservative nor liberal (just mostly liberal), the trial lawyers are bitching about “judicial activism”. Just because the court threw out a verdict that was based on … no scientific evidence.

Whistling Dixie

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

Poor Abby:

Earle H. Hagen, who co-wrote the jazz classic “Harlem Nocturne” and composed memorable themes for “The Andy Griffith Show,” “I Spy,” “The Mod Squad” and other TV shows, died Monday. He was 88.

“The music just flowed from him,” wife Laura said of composer Earle Hagen.

Hagen, who is heard whistling the folksy tune for “The Andy Griffith Show,” died at his home in Rancho Mirage, his wife, Laura, said Tuesday. He had been in ill health for several months.

When Abby was about a day old, I was holding her in the hospital room. The Braves were in a rain delay and they were showing the Andy Griffith Show. When the theme song came on, I whistled along with it. Abby’s eyes went wide open and she looked around for the sound. To this day, if I whistle the tune, she gets a great big grin on her face. The other day, the played it on The Simpsons and she started looking around for me.

Changing the Rules

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

A must-read post over at the science-based medicine website on how alternative medicine people try to change the rules in midstream:

Science is simply a set of rules of investigation. The biggest rule of science is that we have to test our ideas against reality. We can’t just make stuff up and then assume we are right – we have to subject our guesses to observations that have the potential of proving them wrong. Scientific observations must be recorded objectively so that we don’t have to rely upon flawed memories. Outcomes need to be specified ahead of time – we cannot decide at the end of an experiment which results prove our hypothesis. Outcomes should be quantified as much as possible, and as objectively and unambiguously as possible.

Today there is a political/ideological movement within medicine and health care to change the rules after the fact. The purveyors of many sectarian methods of treatment and unscientific belief systems of health and illness have not succeeded at the fair rules of science. So now they want to change those rules. They want anecdotes to not only count but to trump rigorously controlled observations (that is, when the anecdotes are in their favor). They was to reinterpret the placebo effect after the fact as if it were a real effect. They want to count only those experiments that confirm their beliefs and ignore or reject those studies that reject their beliefs.

Being educated adults they have much more sophisticated language to express their childish desire to alter the rules.

Andrew Weil wants to relabel anecdotes he favors as “uncontrolled clinical observations.” This is a way of getting to choose after the fact which observations count, rather than letting the rules of science decide.

Dr. David Katz from Yale’s “Integrative Medicine” Program wants to allow for “a more fluid concept of evidence.” This way modalities he favors, such as homeopathy, that have failed by the generally accepted rules of science can still win with his more “fluid” rules.

When studies of “alternative” modalities are negative, proponents want to change the rules after they see the results. They claim that the “sham” acupuncture was giving a real effect too, or that the numbers in the study were too small, or that homeopathy cannot be tested with the same methods as cookie cutter drugs, or that a statistically insignificant trend in their favor should count even though the rules say they shouldn’t. Of course, when the outcome is positive, then these same rules are just fine. Heads I win, tales you lose.

SUVs Down

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Good.

For the first four months of this year, truck and SUV sales are down a collective 24.8 percent. SUV sales plummeted 32.8 percent while pickups dipped 19.9 percent, he says.

“If gas prices stay where they are at or continue to rise, the body-on frame SUV is an endangered species and the pickup truck as a personal car is an endangered species,” Brown says.

The price of oil is never going to go down unless China or India undergo a major economic collapse — one that would probably take us down as well. We need oil to stay expensive so that the free market will conserve and find other ways of powering our magnificent civilization. And with demand rising and most factors (other than the US) at maximum capacity, oil is going to stay high.

Thursday Night Linkorama

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008
  • Giving police assault weapons in a city that bans handguns. What could possibly go wrong? Why are we treating our police forces more and more like military forces — especially as crime rates fall?
  • Let’s unnecessarily redesign our currency to accommodate the blind — an accommodation, incidentally, they claim they don’t need. Why not? It will only impose a few tens of billions in compliance costs.
  • Maybe this will stir the academic liberals to reconsider wealth envy. Mass wants to tax the hell out of universities with big endowments (i.e., Harvard). I wonder if all the people who support taxes that are targeted specifically at Walmart will get behind this.
  • Yet more data on how the “growing inequality” meme is bullshit. As Levitt notes, the liberals are really going to hate this one. Walmart an globalization are propping us up.
  • Jesus, this Atlanta thing is getting worse each day. Our glorious War on Drugs.
  • The N Word

    Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

    At long and blessed last.

    I love my powerbook. For a scientist, having a computer that can blog, browse, play movies/music and run unix scripts is a dream come true. But after five years it is increasingly becoming a pain in the ass. I’ve replaced the power cord and battery God knows how many times. The memory is starting to creak under the increasing load of OS X. I can’t afford to replace it as my grants are dead. (Right now, I’m testing out a macbook for my in-laws. Sweeeet. I hate being poor.)

    For the last few months, my keyboard has become increasingly erratic. In fact, almost all of the n’s you’ve read in my posts — here, at Moorewatch or at Right-Thinking — have been cut-and-pasted since that key has been dead since March. I finally got a replacement part, replaced the keyboard and I’m happily typing on a working board. Bliss. The only problem is that I’ve become used to the pasting. It’s hard to write “nincompoops” without spelling it “control-v-i-control-v-c-etc.”

    Ugh.

    Incidentally, don’t ever look under a keyboard. I mean ever. I’ve seen bone tumors cut out. I’ve seen skin grafts made. I’ve removed a toilet drainpipe. I have a one-year old baby. I’ve seen my share of gross stuff. But good God Almighty is keyboard fluff disgusting. We type in that stuff.

    Floating Ducks

    Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

    How cool.

    Update: It just occurred to me that I read about this when it happened and how scientists were hoping to use the duckies to study ocean currents. Fifteen years….

    Galactica Observations

    Monday, May 19th, 2008

    I’m only a few episodes into the season — I’m catching up on my DVR — but it looks like this season is going pretty much like the last three. Lots of noise; little revelation. Watching BSG make me appreciate Babylon 5 all the more. Like BSG, B5 was a show that has many mysteries and secrets. Unlike BSG, B5 was written so that a smart and attentive viewer could see what was coming.

    Developments on BSG tend to be random. The big “reveal” last year was the identity of four of the remaining five cylons. But how much indication had been given before that these four were cylons? None. It was like their names were drawn out of a hat. The status of Tigh, in particular, is a big problem as he’s been around for decades — meaning the Cylons had humanoid version during the First War. Sure. Fine. Whatever.

    What’s really laughable about the identities of the four is that their survival of the destruction of Caprica was completely random. Less than 50,000 people survived that holocaust but somehow four (probably all five) of the cylon models managed to make it, including one who was rescued from Caprica at random.

    The cylons are the ultimate plot device. They can always have hidden programming to make them do whatever the writers want. We want to shock audiences by killing off Cally? Hidden programming. Shooting Adama? Hidden programming? Surviving the seemingly hopeless attack at the end of Season 3? Hidden programming.

    I still watch the show because it’s entertaining. I’m enjoying the ride, even though I expect the final destination will make no sense. But the attempts to forecast what will happen are laughable. It’s clear that the writers are making it up as they go along.

    Final thought. Is it just me or is Tricia Helfer looking slightly less anorexic this season? She almost looks hot. Still, I’d take the healthy-looking Katee Sackhoff or Grace Park over her any day.

    I’m Sorry

    Sunday, May 18th, 2008

    Personally, I am completely unsurprised that admitting and apologizing for medical mistakes is dramatically lowering the number of malpractice lawsuits. In any business, nothing compounds an injury more than the insult of “lawyering up”. A couple of years ago, we bought a water softener. The RO filter on our sink flooded the cabinet. Rather than dispute, the company (Ecowater) apologized, sent out a plumber to repair the damage free of charge and cut us a check to repair the cabinets. We probably wouldn’t have sued anyway, but their quick decision to make things right guaranteed we wouldn’t and kept us as loyal customers.

    Yeah, customer service. Who’da thunk it?

    Update: Thinking about this, I’ve watched first hand the evolution of malpractice defense. There was a time when the mantra was “settle settle settle” and malpractice lawsuits were always settled out of court because of the fear of a big verdict. But then the lawyers figured out that — surprise! — this encouraged lawsuits. Additionally, juries weren’t quite as dumb as everyone thought. So the strategy changed to “settle when you’ve clearly screwed up”.

    The mantra of “deny and defend” has been in place for a while but it really made no sense. I’m glad to see someone finally realized it. It only took thirty years.

    Teaching The Faith

    Saturday, May 17th, 2008

    The Arizona Appellate Court struck down the school voucher program, buying the argument of the union that because parents can used vouchers at religious schools, this violates the separation of church and state.

    The ruling hinged on whether the vouchers in question can be considered aid to private and religious schools, because Article IX, paragraph 10 of the Arizona Constitution forbids the use of public money for that purpose. Choice advocates argued that the aid is being given to families and that the schools only benefit indirectly. The court found that while families are indeed aided, so too are the schools. However much I want all children to have access to a choice of independent schools competing to serve them, I find it hard to disagree with the court’s conclusion.

    I find it quite easy to dispute this particular brand of child-destroying propaganda from the teachers’ unions. Let’s just extend this nonsense to its logical conclusion. People receiving welfare can not donate to a church. People in Section 8 housing can’t have services in their homes. People on Medicare and Medicaid can not go to religious hospitals.

    It’s just so easy.

    Weekend Linkorama

    Friday, May 16th, 2008
  • Mayor Bloomberg wants a gag order on the Constitution. Tell me again why this idiot is bruted about as a Presidential Candidate?
  • A lovely inspiring personal story from Ed Morrissey.
  • No one is going to question the evil of apartheid. But a $400 billion lawsuit against companies that did business in South Africa? I smell a fat contingency fee.
  • Is there hope for education freedom? I’m optimistic.
  • Eye Fooled You

    Friday, May 16th, 2008

    I love optical illusions. That dancer drove me nuts.

    More here.