Thursday, May 21, 2015

Not that federal police are having trouble with their jobs or anything,

......but it appears that Capitol police are being required to undergo potty training.

To be fair, what's actually at issue is how the Capitol police control their firearms while going to the bathroom--three have evidently left their weapons in the john in the past year--but to be a bit more blunt about this, uniformed police do not have the need to conceal their weapons while going to the bathroom, and hence they ought to be able to figure out a trouble free holster for their weapons that will not be problematic in this and other situations.

In other words, it's not quite as bad as police officers in diapers, but it's pretty close. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A wonderful chance that will probably be missed

It strikes me that the lawsuit that Al Sharpton's daughter Dominique has filed after allegedly spraining her ankle on a crack in the pavement--and then showing how badly her ankle was sprained by going mountain climbing--offers a wonderful chance to (a) prosecute Dominique Sharpton for perjury and (b) use the cover given by Dominique Sharpton's perjury trial (and probable conviction) to finally go after Al Sharpton for his tax evasion.

Of course, since "Reverend" Al has appeared with "Dear Leader" close to 100 times, I'm not holding my breath on this one, but it strikes me that if one wants to defuse a nasty bomb in the "race hustling poverty pimp" wing of the civil rights movement, you've got to put Sharpton on trial (and presumably in jail) for tax evasion.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Scratching my head on this one

Apparently, among a fairly big sample of Gotham high school students, those who identify as homosexual or bisexual are more likely to become pregnant.    Now to be sure, they only included students who had had heterosexual sex, so the study itself blurs the lines of what is meant by "homosexual", but it is very striking that even with this caveat, it indicates that sexual identity is rather fluid and not static.  And they found, apparently, a statistically significant sample in the upper grades of Gotham Public.

Food for thought, and it strikes me that this indicates that at least a good portion of homosexuality is not innate, but rather comes from one's environment.  Exactly what we would have predicted from that twins study from 20 years back that found only 52% correlation of identical genes to sexual preference, really. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


At least one person on Fox news has claimed that the recent tragic Amtrak accident, where a train was apparently going 106mph in a 50mph zone, was due to a lack of maintenance.  Let's take a look at this.

For starters, if a train was going twice the speed limit, we have to suggest "operator error" as a contributing factor, I'd hope.  That, in turn, will lead to the question of why the Acela (?) train's operators felt the need to do this--it will in turn have a lot to do with what incentives management puts before them.

But that said, here's a map of the Port Richmond area, and the curve in question is in the northernmost area of the neighborhood.  It appears to have a radius of about 1000 feet/300 meters.  The train's velocity, 106mph, is about 47m/s, and thus the centripetal acceleration (v^2/r) would be somewhere in the range of 7.5m/s^2--more than enough to knock a railroad car with center of mass at least 1.5m above the track off a standard gauge track, no matter how well maintained the tracks were.

Now the tilt of Acela--say 8 degrees--would increase the lateral force which can be endured to perhaps 6m/s^2, or a velocity of about 95mph, if it were used, but that leaves no room in play for other lateral forces.  Hence the 50mph speed limit.

So what would the maintenance issues be here?  Well, the track theoretically could have buckled and made things worse, but all in all, the major issues in play are not the track, but rather signaling and brake work--really things that don't require a lot of effort or money.

In other words, since no train in existence could navigate that curve at that speed, and since the operators run this route daily, I'd be very surprised if any honest investigation finds anything except that management set incentives to exceed speed limits and mis-allocated funds that ought to have been spent on signaling and brakes.

And since Amtrak is funded by government, I of course am not expecting an honest investigation.

One other note; if, instead of using a locomotive/carriage model, you used a doodlebug configuration where the engine, generator, and fuel were kept below the level of the passengers, this curve might have been navigable at 106mph if the overall center of mass had been reduced to 1.1m or less, plus or minus--and this is very achievable.  If passenger rail is to survive, some thinking outside the locomotive/carriage box needs to be done.

Update: Amtrak's union and others are arguing that management failed the public by failing to install "Positive Train Control" in that corridor, and they are probably correct that this system would have helped greatly.  But as one who has worked in electronics reliability....sorry, you can't ignore the engineer/operator in this equation, and his motivations!

Count me uneasy...... the FDA's proposed new rule allowing homosexual and bisexual men to donate blood, given that it appears that 20% of urban homosexual men have the virus.  The proposed rule says that if a man who has had sex with another man has abstained from that for at least a year, he is eligible, since blood tests are 99.97% likely to detect any infection he has.  However, an infection in the past three months may be undetected up to 5% of the time if this source is correct.

To place things in perspective, the current rate of HIV infection via blood is 1 per 1.5 million transfusions--about 10 per year if this is correct.  Given the relative rates of detection, this means that there are somewhere between 200 and 35000 people per year who either do not know they are at risk (infected partner who lies to them), or otherwise willfully lie about their risk category--IV drug use, prostitution, or having sex with a homosexual or bisexual man.  The CDC data indicate that most infected people know their risk status, so I am guessing "lying" is the cause for almost all of these tragedies.

So what the FDA is saying, in effect, is that there is a significant population of homosexual and bisexual men who have been abstinent for over a year, and moreover that eliminating the overall ban would not encourage the non-abstinent portion of the population from lying to give blood.  Let's approach the first first; if heterosexual behavior is indicative, something around 10-20% of adults are abstinent non-virgins.  That would be 3-600,000 men, of whom maybe 5% might be expected to donate.  They're probably also less likely to be infected with HIV for obvious reasons--say < 5% instead of 20% --so we would expect less than one additional infection per year with this policy.  If we're losing people that could be saved with a timely blood transfusion, this might be an acceptable tradeoff.

If, of course, a portion of the other 80-90% of adult homosexuals don't make a "little white lie" to do the same.   I do not know what portion would, but count me very uneasy about this.  The current situation requires close to a dozen lies during the blood donation process for someone in a risk group (MSM, IV drug use, prostitution, etc..) to be allowed to donate.  However if an updated donation process requires only one, and those in that group decide they can make one lie where they couldn't make 12, things could get really, really ugly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My position on "deflate-gate" with the Patriots

Fishing season is upon us, the birds are singing in the trees, the Twins and the Cubs are both having decent seasons so far, the Stanley Cup playoffs are playing out, and the NBA playoffs are being played, and.....'re all worried about some guy who can't throw a properly inflated football?  Time to get some perspective, folks, you've been had.  Time to get out to Wrigley or Target, time to drown some worms, time to throw an octopus on the ice, time to get the old velocipede out and cremate some animal remains on the barbie.  But not time to think about the criminal syndicate based on Park Avenue in New York City.  Let's get a grip, people. 

Of course, if you're in Massachusetts, following that syndicate makes a little more sense than chasing a bear with a hatchet while drunk, which is apparently another favorite activity of people in that state.  Well, I guess when the Bruins didn't make the playoffs and the Celtics are bombing against the Cavaliers, what is there to do?  Besides getting the velocipede ready, of course.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Theft prevention and truck review

Had my pickup in for some work, and when it came time to drive it back to me from the depths of the lot, the young gentleman begged off because he didn't want to practice driving a manual on a customer's vehicle.  Appreciated, and yes, a "clutch" is one of the greatest antitheft devices out there--right up there with rust, I guess.

Along the same lines, I was willing to leave my vehicle in the parking lot overnight, but I made sure I brought my bicycle into my office. You can tell a true bicyclist by the fact that the value of his vehicle doubles or more when he puts his bike on the bike rack or into the pickup bed.  I'll be there when I get that carbon fiber bike, I'm sure.   Or maybe something like this wooden bike.  I notice that the artisan notes that in his view, carbon fiber is....almost as good as steel, which is almost as nice as wood. my age, I'm getting over speed, but not beauty. 

Back to the subjects.  Due to the amount of work done on my pickup, I had what I call a "very expensive car rental."  Previously, it's been an Acadia and a Terrain, and this time it was a 3/4 ton crew cab.  First the positives; my kids loved the doors and the legroom.  Controls were very intuitive, steering was nice and tight, plenty of power.  Brakes were very responsive, but not excessively so.

Downsides?  Well, not needing the towing or carrying capacity of a 3/4 ton pickup, the 3/4 ton ride didn't exactly appeal to me.  You feel every bump--not like you did back in the 1980s, but you still feel every bump.  Also of interest was that you need to press the throttle fairly hard to get it to accelerate--I am guessing this allows GMC to get a little bit better mileage, but a little bit of a turn-off versus my 1997, where I've got the "feel" that is (despite 100 less horsepower) really nice and responsive.

Biggest turnoff came about half a mile before turning it back in when I refueled it; about 12mpg.  I'm used to 15-16, but somehow I draw a line somewhere in between.  So until my career or camping trips require something bigger than a 31 foot Airstream, I'm thinking a half ton pickup will be just fine for me.  To be honest, I'm not quite sure how a lot of older people with worse backs than mine handle the ride of a 3/4 ton or 1 ton vehicle while towing their monster campers.

And for my part, a man would (to paraphrase one of John Wayne's friends from "The Quiet Man") have to be nimble to find his wife in a camper that big.  And again, I'm over speed, but not over beauty. 

Banning images of Muhammad....

....reminds me of nothing so much as how East German soldiers tried to get me to stop taking pictures when I visited there in 1989.  When you've got to keep people from showing what you're about, you've got to assume there's something wrong with what you're doing.

Come to think of it, I seem to remember that the left--especially those in universities--got Communism wrong in the same way they're getting Islamic radicalism wrong today.  And, come to think of it--President Obama normalizing relations with Cuba despite the Cubans harboring known terrorists qualifies as well.  Don't worry, Mr. Obama, I won't be taking photos of East Berlin as I come in on the train.

Mr. Obama, the 1980s called.  You've got their foreign policy priorities back, plus a huge issue with nuclear weapons in the hands of people who aren't particularly afraid to die.  Good luck, America.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

People who belong in a convent......

Now this might come as something of a surprise to you, because I am a Baptist, and ordinarily, I think that cloistering is an un-Biblical way of interacting with the world.  But in some cases, I will make exceptions, and here is one of them

More or less, National Review has located a young lady who is doing Antioch College one better by not only insisting on verbal permission before going to the next stage in romance, but is also saying that sometimes when she says "yes", she really means "no", and any man who proceeds on her yes that really means no ought to be liable to rape charges.  Apparently a lack of ESP is not a defense in such a situation.

Now if they go for written permission, you could have the fascinating spectacle of a young lady being tried for perjury while her lover is tried for rape, but I thing the best cure is prevention; young lady, if you're so confused over romance that you're not quite sure what you mean when you say "yes", then maybe convent life is for you.

Or, speaking a little more charitably, the writer is a Yugoslav-American who apparently not only has problems with how to give consent in intimate matters, but even has trouble with traditional Mediterranean-area family greetings.  I'd have to suggest that some time with a competent counselor might be just the ticket, whether her name is "Mother Superior" or not.

Friday, May 01, 2015

The science on HPV vaccination

First of all, a disclaimer; my children--the oldest 16--have not had the HPV vaccination yet for a simple reason; they are at low risk for sexual activity, and I'd like to wait until (a) they're more at risk for having sex and (b) even more data is in on the safety of the vaccine.  It's interesting to note that the vaccine has also been improved since the doctors first started offering it, and it now covers about 90% of HPV virii known to cause cervical cancer.  Not to gloat, but it's a good move. 

That said, here is an article about the study that finds, allegedly, that HPV vaccination is not linked to risky sexual behavior or promiscuity.  Summarized, they found that 4 of 1000 recipients of the vaccine had had an STD in the year before receiving the vaccine, and 6 of 1000 recipients had an STD in the year afterwards.  In contrast, those not receiving the vaccine had suffered an STD in the year before 3 of 1000 times, and after vaccination suffered an infection 4 of 1000 times.

The researchers do an interesting trick; instead of processing the overall numbers (say 600 vs. 400 infections among 100,000 teens in each group), they contrast the increases in STD infection as a % increase (50% vs. 35%, and we're not accounting for the second significant digit yet) instead of a comparison of the raw rates.

Now this makes some sense, as the incoming difference--.4% vs. .3%--is also statistically significant. Most likely, parents who felt their children might be promiscuous are getting their kids vaccinated.  That leads to a number of interesting questions, like what is the Pareto of diseases?  I would assume far fewer vaccinated children get HPV--does that mean a large portion of infections are bigger deals like herpes or (God forbid) HIV?

But the gorilla in the room is actually the overall rate.  CDC data indicate that most become sexually active in their late teens and contract 4 STIs over the next 20 years or so, --which would be a 20% annualized infection rate, not a .4-.6% infection rate.  In other words, the study is most likely of kids in their early teens or before, and thus had little chance of measuring the real risk of higher sexual experimentation after Gardasil was administered. 

In other words, yet another study that almost seems designed to come up with the standard narrative.  Your tax dollars at work, I guess.  Sexual behavior studies on kids who still think the opposite sex has cooties.