Thursday, April 30, 2009


From Scientists dig for lessons from past pandemics

Markel and colleagues examined 43 cities and found that so-called nonpharmaceutical interventions -- steps such as quarantines and school closings -- were remarkably successful in tamping down the outbreak. "They don't make the population immune, but they buy you time, either by preventing influenza from getting into the community or slowing down the spread," Markel told CNN

If it seems odd to base medical strategy on 90-year-old newspapers, the approach is increasingly popular. "There's a big case for looking at history," says Simonson. "We call it archaeo-epidemiology. You go to libraries and places like that, dig around, collaborate with people like John Barry and try to quantify what really worked."

Barry is the author of "The Great Influenza," perhaps the signature history of the devastating 1918 pandemic. He says the historical record shows that isolating patients worked to slow the spread of flu in 1918, but that attempted quarantines -- preventing movement in and out of cities -- was "worthless."

Fashion accessories for pandemics

One of my colleagues has sent me this link:


Monday, April 27, 2009

Stumbled upon

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More errors

And this one is serious - the Four Corners marker is in the wrong place!

According to readings by the National Geodetic Survey, the Four Corners marker showing the intersection of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah is about 2.5 miles west of where it should be.

Update from ABC:
Four Corners marker off by only 1,807 feet

Doyle said some confusion over how far off the monument is from the "true" Four Corners has stemmed from how it's measured.

The measurement should be taken as 32 degrees longitude west of the Washington Meridian, which passes through the old Naval Observatory in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington, D.C. That calculation yields the 1,800 foot disparity.

Measuring instead to the 109th meridian west of Greenwich would suggest a much larger difference of about 2.5 miles.

* snip*

Besides, the measurement differences don't matter anymore, Doyle said, because "the monument controls."

"Where the marker is now is accepted," Doyle said. "Even if it's 10 miles off, once it's adopted by the states, which it has been, the numerical errors are irrelevant. It becomes the legal definition" of the Four Corners.

Thanks to the Maps-L listserv

Close enough for government work?

Error on Longest Place Name to be Fixed

You gotta wonder how anyone could be so careless as to misspell Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg. Not once, but twice.

Thanks to the Maps-L listserv

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life is unfair

So here's my little blog that almost no one reads, full of earnest pontifications for which I receive (almost certainly deservedly) not a penny.

Then here's George Will,
who gets paid megabucks for complaining that blue jeans epitomize the essential immaturity of the American public.

I guess it makes George feel all grown up, in a mother-of-teenagers sort of way, to complain about what other people are wearing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is internet access a right?

Eric Pfanner at the New York Times asks, "Should Online Scofflaws Be Denied Web Access?" You see, some folks* believe that people who pirate copyrighted media should be denied their own internet connections.** A bill to do just that was defeated in France last week and European consumers are reported as being strongly against any such thing. In fact, according to Pfanner,

Last month, in a pre-emptive strike, the European Parliament adopted a nonbinding resolution calling Internet access a fundamental freedom that could not be restricted except by a court of law.

At first blush, that sounds a little far-fetched, calling internet access a fundamental freedom. What's next, a fundamental right to quarter-pound hamburgers? Plus a constitutional right to fries?

At second blush, though, maybe not entirely far-fetched. The internet has now become the most basic informational, organizational, and administrative infrastructure we have. It's how I get the news, it's how I write to people, it's how I access my bank account and pay many of my bills, it's how I do much of my work at home, and it's almost the only way to hunt for a job nowadays (and often the only way they want you to apply for one). Would losing all that be proportional to the crime of sharing music files?

How often do we punish a person by depriving them of access to fundamental infrastucture? I mean, aside from actually tossing them into the pokey? The nearest equivalent I can think of is taking away their driver's license. But here's an illustrative point about traffic laws: we make this big distinction between moving and non-moving violations. You can have your car impounded for not paying parking tickets, but they don't permanently confiscate the car or prevent you from driving someone else's because of it.

You're still allowed to drive after offenses like that. We only take away your license when you're just too damned dangerous to be allowed on the road.*** It's the crimes that are likely to lead to mayhem and death that justify barring a person from the road. Not property crimes; just threats to life and limb. And internet piracy doesn't offer any equivalent to drunk drivers or street racers. Property crimes don't justify cutting someone off from the virtual world, because that's where everyone is doing real business nowadays.

* Often spelled R-I-A-A.

** Presumably, they could still go online at a library or coffee shop, but not have their own ISP. This gets trickey, because many household connections are shared by several family members and some wireless connections are shared by multiple households. Then there's the possiblity of someone hacking into your wireless account, and ... it's just not as easy as saying "Here's the ISP, so we have the guilty party."

*** And often not even then. It's so crippling to be barred from the road in our culture that we're reluctant to impose that penalty even on maniacs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stumbled upon

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stranger thoughts yet

Notre Dame football player Sam Young was asked who he would like to be, if he couldn't be himself. His first answer was Tiger Woods. His second answer:

"And then Jesus. Jesus would be nice. It's Easter. Why not? I want to know the big answers. Heck, why not, right."

Uh, here's why not, Sam. It's Easter. Before you get around to that resurrection, sitting at the right hand of God stuff, there is: betrayal, beating, flogging, crown of thorns, nails through the hands, nails through the feet, with a spear through the side just for luck. Plus, according to some theologians, the whole redemption thing required a business-only trip to Hell with no inflight movie. Sure you're up for that?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Strange thoughts

The chiropractic office down the street from one of my workplaces has some strange ideas. Last week it was "Today's crazy idea is tomorrow's accepted truth," to which I reply, Only very rarely. The week before that it was "Don't let the media crush your dreams." Okay, I shouldn't let my dreams be crushed but -- the media? Why the media, unless the writer is some kind of wing nut who thinks everyone else is the extremist?

If you're a chiropractor trying to fight the stereotype of your profession as pseudoscience and quackery, is this the way to present yourself to the world?

I believe these folks are goofy and I must be right.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Springtime in Michigan ...

... is not so different from springtime in Wyoming, as it turns out.

Don't worry, the UPS truck is only parked there to make a delivery.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We just won't look

FP Passport points to this Washington Post article:

Newspapers aimed at ultra-Orthodox Jewish readers tampered with the inaugural photograph of the Cabinet, erasing ministers Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver.

Ultra-Orthodox newspapers consider it immodest to print images of women.

They actually photoshopped* the picture to remove the two women and replace them with two other male officials. Keep in mind that the women were as provocatively dressed as cabinet members usually are - about as shocking as the men in business suits surrounding them. "Modesty," right.

* Btw, I keep waiting to hear Adobe put on a campaign to stop using Photoshop as a verb, for fear of losing their trademark, much as Xerox often does.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I had no idea ...

... until I saw this on a map of St. Croix:

Sonofa Beach, Virgin Islands

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Those independent Westerners

The NPS doesn't want to keep spending money to clear snow off Sylvan Pass during the winter. Why is that? Here's why:

Only 97 snowmobiles used the east entrance this past winter, and no snow coach tours passed through the east gate. The park spends $325,000 each winter to keep Sylvan Pass open to snowmobiles and snow coaches.

Got that? That's over $3000 for every 'bile that enters the park from the east, essentially a federal subsidy for the town of Cody, Wyoming, and money the park could have used on its failing infrastructure.* The park would long ago have quit wasting all that money, except Cody businessmen make a lot of noise to their Senators. Their livelihood, they claim, depends on those visitors! Yes, the town of Cody will collapse if they lose - what? less than one hundred! - visitors during the course of the year. Just goes to show, any business is profitable when someone else is covering your expenses.

* Although, truth be told, they'd probably just spend it on a kennel full of drug-sniffing dogs or some such.