Thursday, May 25, 2017

Ironing the ocean in the news again

Nature notes that there is talk again from a somewhat oddly secretive Canadian foundation of conducting an iron fertilising experiment in the ocean - but this time, the justification being to boost fisheries.

The situation with these experiments is summed up as follows:
Researchers worldwide have conducted 13 major iron-fertilization experiments in the open ocean since 1990. All have sought to test whether stimulating phytoplankton growth can increase the amount of carbon dioxide that the organisms pull out of the atmosphere and deposit in the deep ocean when they die. Determining how much carbon is sequestered during such experiments has proved difficult, however, and scientists have raised concerns about potential adverse effects, such as toxic algal blooms. In 2008, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity put in place a moratorium on all ocean-fertilization projects apart from small ones in coastal waters. Five years later, the London Convention on ocean pollution adopted rules for evaluating such studies.

Because Oceaneos’s planned experiment would take place in Chilean waters, it is allowed under those rules. Riedijk says that the foundation will voluntarily follow international protocols for such studies; it is unclear whether that will allay fears that the group is promoting an unproven technology, rather than conducting basic research....

Whether it would help fisheries is a very moot point:
In the meantime, scientists say that it will be difficult to get solid data from the Oceaneos foundation’s planned experiment. The geology off the Chilean coast, and the patterns of currents there, create a mosaic of low- and high-iron waters. Anchovies, horse mackerel and other fish move freely between these areas.

And adding iron could shift the location and timing of phytoplankton blooms to favour fast-growing species, says Adrian Marchetti, a biological oceanographer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One of those, the diatom Pseudo-nitzschia, produces domoic acid, a neurotoxin that can kill mammals and birds. Oceaneos’s experiment will probably increase plankton growth in low-iron waters, Marchetti says, “but it’s not to say that that is actually good for the higher levels of the food chain”.

Turmoil in Wingnut land

The Australian conservative/Right commentariat did find themselves in somewhat of a quandary yesterday when one of their members was so annoyed with a Q&A panel that he openly, implicitly, wished (it was hard to read it any other way) that they had been the ones killed by Muslim terrorists, not the people at Manchester.

Wishing death on people you disagree with in Australia is not considered by sensible folk to be within acceptable political commentary or discourse.   But Roger Franklin was attacking the ABC and all who sail within her, so it was too much of a temptation for the likes of Bolt, Blair and Sinclair Davidson to not endorse it, or go "ha, ha, that was witty satire, wasn't it."   

Yet, another group of the Right side commentariat had their misgivings from the start - Chris Kenny, to his credit, was (I think) first off the ranks.   But even Franklin, or someone at Quadrant, had a rethink and had edited it (with no acknowledgement) to remove the "if there was any justice" part aspect of it, so as to make sound less of a lament that Q&A wasn't bombed.  

By late in the day, and following universal condemnation from real journalists and commentators across the land,  there were more breaks in the ranks, so we ended up with Nick Cater criticising it, and Keith Windschuttle apologising "without reservation" to the ABC and saying that the article would be removed from the Quadrant website.  Paul Murray on Sky apparently attacked it too.   IBy the evening, Bolt had semi recanted, and today, he has even (again, silently) removed all reference to the Quadrant comment piece from his post. 

And despite Windschuttle's apology  and promise it would go from the site, some were saying that this morning it was still there.   Hey, Quadrant, who's running the place, anyway?  (Well, checking just now, I think it has gone.  Took their time.  Were Franklin and Windschuttle having fisticuffs in whose ever basement it operates from?)

And so here is my final wrap up of how it panned out:

*  kudos to the one old Catallaxy regular (well, apart from monty) who came out with a straight condemnation that it was a stupid thing for Franklin to have said - CL.    But any praise for a rare outburst of common sense has to tempered by the fact that he is one of the worst with hyperbole about how to deal with Islamic terrorism, as I am sure he has wished for the nuking of Mecca more than once.

*  I had been meaning to note yesterday that Franklin had made it very clear that he hates Krauss with a passion partly because he was a "warmist" who "dares call himself a man of science" (I think that were the exact words:  I can't check any more.)  As I ended my piece yesterday, wingnuts have no perspective of risk because they cannot conceive that they are wrong on the matter of the biggest environmental risk the entire planet faces.  Hence, any terrorist attack, no matter the number of victims and whether it was by a lone (Islamic inspired) mutter or not will be cause for saying that Western civilisation is about to collapse, yet the actual threat to long term civilisation is laughed at.   Is the problem with their anger that, at some level, they can perceive that they are wrong on climate change, as their movement is diminishing as their handful of ageing contrarian scientists die off and the world does, indeed, continue to warm? 

* Sinclair Davidson's rapidly diminishing circle of Right wingers he can trust diminished further when he complained that he probably wouldn't watch Paul Murray again after he also jumped ship and condemned Franklin.   I'm not sure - hasn't he mentioned avoiding watching the ABC before?  If this continues, he'll soon be down to just watching Bolt and reading comics the rest of the night. 

* For all of that, the fact that the ABC called in security to advise about it was a bit over the top in its own way.   Regardless of that, their hot anger at someone saying something as stupid and offensive as Franklin's original post was entirely justified.

Update:   now Catallaxy readers (average age - 85 - mentally if not chronologically) are perturbed that Andrew Bolt said this on the radio:
“I think a lot of people are making mileage out of this in order to get the ABC off the hook. I think the reaction, the ABC posting extra security. I mean, give me a break. As if the Quadrant audience would get their zimmer frames out of the cupboard and shuffle off and go and do … come on, give me a break.” – Andrew Bolt
 Ha ha.

Oh Look - The Addams Family meets the Pope

OK, the glowing Orb of Destiny, or whatever it was, was pretty hilarious, but at least it wasn't of Trump's own doing.

But isn't this just the weirdest photo ever of a political family meeting a Pontiff?

I mean, who the heck advised Ivanka that it was a good idea to look like she was going to her belated first communion, except in black?   What are she and Melania mourning?   The death of credibility of Donald?  (Actually, it died decades ago.)

And I also see that Melania again declined Donald's hand.   If this goes on, I'm half expecting her to give him a big shove in the back at the top of some staircase or other any day now.

The optics (and reality) of American politics has never been weirder....

Update:  it's being said that Melania, at least, is complying with Vatican protocol:
“Per Vatican protocol, women who have an audience with the Pope are required to wear long sleeves, formal black clothing, and a veil to cover the head,” Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswomen told CNN.

However, the Associated Press said it wasn’t necessarily a rule that was hard and fast and many women have met the Pope without a veil. But as a practising Catholic, Melania chose to wear one.

Some have also noted the striking similarity in her choice of garb at the Vatican to another first lady — style icon Jackie Kennedy.
 I still say Ivanka looks ridiculous.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Just a hemisphere away

It's taking a long time for Slate to notice that Australian breakfast TV is not English breakfast TV:
Tom Cruise told the hosts of U.K. TV show Sunrise on Tuesday that he was making a sequel to his 1986 fighter jet/beach volleyball extravaganza Top Gun, and expected filming to start “probably in the next year,” Deadline reports.
 David Koch will probably not be too impressed.

As for Top Gun:  as much as I have enjoyed Cruise's movies since then, that was really was one of his cheesiest, despite some cool flying.   It will be interesting to see what sort of tone would be brought to a new version.  

Body count doesn't matter

Well, we all know Trump loves a "hard man" politician, and is ill informed on virtually any topic, but seriously, he put it this puerile way to Duterte?:
"I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I wanted to tell you that."

Links for a Wednesday

*  I noted the other day how someone in comments at the NYT had made the point that Right wingers talking about "elite consensus" on social and economic policies were kidding themselves if they didn't recognize that the public in the US (and here, I bet) do actually lean Left on a range of issues.  Here's an article at Vox that makes the point in more detail: "What right-wing populism?  Polls reveal that its Liberalism that's surging"

*  With the departure of Ailes and O'Reilly, is Fox News morphing into something vaguely resembling a responsible news network?   They have retracted the despicable wingnut hand wave story about the murder of Seth Rich, but can they pull Hannity himself into line?  God knows the network could only be improved if he left, as well as those awful, awful breakfast hosts.

* I don't have a link for this, but on some clips on TV of Trump's latest day in the Middle East, I thought his face looked blank and very tired.   I also would love to know how he took the Melania hand swipe.  I wouldn't mind betting that his minders have tried to keep any internet item about it out of his field of view, because with his personality, it is hard to imagine he wouldn't be upset about the publicity it has achieved.

* What a surprise.  Sinclair Davidson has popped up in London to talk about the "failure" of plain packaging of tobacco.   For my sins, I've watched most of his little video at Catallaxy.   Some observations:   just as with climate change denial, he seeks to discredit anti tobacco campaigners as having their own "industry", and being in it for the money.  This is his very first line, in fact.   Well, would be good to know if anyone ever pays SD to travel somewhere for his talks.    Secondly, any actual valid criticism he may uncover about slippery use of stats and figures in assessments of plain packaging are somewhat undercut when he starts later uncritically quoting KPMG studies funded by tobacco and worthy of their own detail scrutiny.   Thirdly, I don't think he ever mentions the way many researchers thought plain packaging would have its best impact - by making buying cigarettes less attractive to youth.   (Because if you can stop young people starting, you have won half the battle.)  Nor does he address the common sense question that such an effect might take some years to turn up clearly in survey or other evidence.

I trust that he will next be parachuted into the Philippines to deal with Duterte's new laws.

* Roger Franklin's stupid and offensive rant against anyone on the ABC quoting figures about Muslim terrorism has gone down a treat is Sinclair's poisonous toilet of a blog, as you would expect.   Tim Blair urges his readers to read it too.   (Blair has become increasingly petty - especially when it comes to the ABC - and stupid over the years.)   Perhaps Right wingnuts would be better served by considering what you can actually do when, as I pretty much expected, the suicide bomber turns out to be a person born in the country.   Sure, they could argue for a complete ban on Muslim migrants, many of whom are escaping Middle East crises in which the West has played a role, but what do they want to do to current, native, children of migrants who are at risk of being radicalised by the internet or a local crazy imam?   Round them all up in detention camps for the next 40 years?   Or just nuke Saudi Arabia, the sources of modern radicalising schools of Islam?    (You do hear calls for that at Catallaxy after virtually every Islamic inspired attack.)    And if they do want to nuke the problem away, what do they think of Trump making nice with the Saudis again?

Come on wingnuts:  your cloud of rage at everything Muslim achieves nothing.   Make some serious proposals and think about their consequences instead of raging at politicians who actually have to deal with the problem in a serious, meaningful way.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

When anger overwhelms decency

Whatever credibility Quadrant used to have an outlet for thoughtful conservative intellectuals has long been gone, but Roger Franklin plummets into new depths of Right wing reactionary anger and, frankly, stupidity, today. 

While virtually no one is expecting the suicide bomber at Manchester to not have been motivated by radical Islam, Roger is beside himself with rage that last night, on the ABC, left leaning quasi intellectuals were opining that the risk of harm for the average citizen in countries like the US and Australia from Islamic terrorism, especially by foreign terrorists,  is actually very small.

Now, if these comments had been made after the Manchester bombing, Franklin might have had some emotional excuse, at least, for anger at insensitivity at what would have been seen as  downplaying the public distress at such a terrible terrorist attack.   [And by writing this post, I am certainly not trying to make any excuse either - this is surely the most unforgivable attack because of the age and innocence of the victims.  It is, by all standards, horrifying.]

But this is not what happened.   Roger can't  see through his anger that the comments remain essentially true, and were not made in any context where they could be taken as insensitive. 

Furthermore, everyone, Left or Right, understands that radical Islam is a terrible problem and causes great evil.   Fuming about it alone doesn't solve, in particular, the problem of self radicalised, Western born terrorists.  All nations already spend a lot of effort in trying to trace and prevent it.  No one on the Left thinks that is a wasted effort.

Franklin's disgust reaches absurd and offensive heights with his ending:
Life isn’t fair and death less so. Had there been a shred of justice, that blast would have detonated in an Ultimo TV studio. Unlike those young girls in Manchester, their lives snuffed out before they could begin, none of the panel’s likely casualties would have represented the slightest reduction in humanity’s intelligence, decency, empathy or honesty.

Mind you, as Krauss felt his body being penetrated by the Prophet’s shrapnel of nuts, bolts and nails, those goitered eyes might in their last glimmering have caught a glimpse of vindication.

Yeah, nice one Roger.   You're just another example why such a large part of the conservative Right has become so untrustworthy in thinking about risk.  

Update:    It took a day, and scores of real journalists and members of the public condemning Franklin,  but Quadrant (although not specifically Franklin) has apologised.  From the paywalled Australian:
Quadrant magazine today “unreservedly apologised” to ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie for an online article that suggested it would have been better off if the Manchester terrorist had bombed the public broadcaster’s Sydney headquarters. 

The magazine’s editor in chief, Keith Windshuttle, responded to Ms Guthrie late today in a letter agreeing the “intemperate wording” in the article was a “serious error of judgment and should not have been published”.

The article will be withdraw from the magazine’s website, he said.

“Even though I do not share all of the interpretations expressed in your letter, I accept your assurance about the offence it caused you and your staff. You have my unreserved apology for any concerns it might have given you,” Mr Windshuttle wrote.

Earlier, Communications Minister Mitch Fifield blasted Quadrant for its “sick and unhinged” comments about the ABC after contained in the article.
 The now amusing thing about this, if one reads the Catallaxy threads, is that the many wingnutters ecstatic with Franklin's offensiveness have been pledging subscriptions to Quadrant all day, and now have had the rug pulled out from under them. 

Sinclair Davidson - who pathetically joined in with the defence of Franklin, suggests its because the magazine couldn't afford a legal fight with the government funded ABC.   What tosh.

No, simple decency required the apology, but ageing, angry ant culture warriors are too blind to see that.

Pirates noted, again

It feels like I shouldn't be talking entertainment trivia, with news of what sounds like one of those entirely pointless home grown Islamic terrorist attacks in Manchester (at least with the IRA attacks, you could see the aim they were trying to achieve), but I will anyway.

I am a very soft touch when it comes to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.   I re-watched the last one on TV last weekend for the first time since I saw it at the cinema, and found myself laughing and enjoying it more than expected.  I did give it a decent enough review when it came out, and now I see that No 5 - Dead Men Tell No Tales is getting a similar bag of not so great reviews as did Stranger Tides.

No matter.  I will be off to see it, perhaps with both (now well into teenage) kids in tow again (maybe even my wife),  and I have the feeling I will enjoy it.   This guy, who (like me) defends the original trilogy against the increasingly poor reviews it gathered, gave it a positive enough review.

Monday, May 22, 2017

But unemployment is really worse

I see that Adam Creighton continues his quest for contrarianism (just for the sake of contrarianism, I suspect) by bringing up that golden oldie that unemployment is really much worse than official statistics claim.

Now, I'm going to make hell freeze over by quoting her in rebuttal, but didn't Judith Sloan, of all people, adequately deal this never ending populist claim 6 years ago?

Let's play "spin the policy wheel"

Seriously, that's what it's like under Trump, isn't it?    No one really has any idea where any American policy is going to end up, because Trump is genuinely a blank intellectual slate with wildly conflicting, politically amateur, advisers surrounding him and vying for policy supremacy.

Hence with his Middle East tour, surely Bannon can't be entirely happy with the way Trump appears to be trying (hypocritically, of course) to tone down the "clash of civilisations" rhetoric that he was happy to exploit at rallies in middle America?   Yet who did write the speech?  Who has sway over him at the moment?    Why didn't it make the obvious point, and tell the Arab nations that if they want moderation of extremism, they have to stop governmental extremism of their own - holding out the threat and practice executing their own citizens for blasphemy and apostasy.?

Yet the only thing certain is the high functioning idiot commentators of the American Right wingnut arena will defend Trump no matter how many times he rewrites his rhetoric or changes his policies.  And just wait for Scott Adams' take on it - it'll be hilariously self serving and disingenuous.  (I am also somewhat amused at the Nissim Taleb tweets on this - apparently, it's all good because the Saudis will spend so much money on American arms it will bankrupt them - and that "the main accomplishment of 's trip is to rally his detractors against Saudi Barbaria."   Oh please - as Nichols says on his twitter feed says 'Oh, I'm aware of Taleb's imitation of Homer Simpson saying "everyone is stupid but me"'

Meanwhile, Ross Douthat has a pretty well argued column up in which he attacks the ridiculous "dark state" meme that is the wingnutty explanation as to why Trump is getting so much grief from the media.  Here's how he finishes:
So he’s not being dogged by leaks and accusations because he’s trying to turn the Republican Party into a “worker’s party” (he isn’t), or because he’s throwing the money-changers out of the republic’s temples (don’t make me laugh), or because he’s taking steps to reduce America’s role as policeman of the world (none are evident).

No, he’s at war with the institutions that surround him because he behaves consistently erratically and inappropriately and dangerously, and perhaps criminally as well.

Or perhaps not: All of this may still not rise to the level of impeachable offenses. But the conservatives rising to his defense need to recognize that there is no elite “counterrevolution” here for them to resist, because there is no Trump revolution in the first place.

You don’t want to sell him out to the establishment; I get it. But open your eyes: He’s already been doing that to you.

Update:   Take a look at Peter Beinart's comparison of Trump's speech with Obama's Egypt speech in The Atlantic  - he makes a convincing case that it was Obama who told "hard truths" to the Muslim world, and Trump who went all "politically correct".  But again, in the inverted reality of TrumpWorld, it will be read as the exact opposite.   Look at this conspiracy obsessed  twit at Catallaxy this morning, for example:

She's a nut, but that's an advantage when supporting Trump.

Meanwhile, I like the blunt way Beinart ends his piece:
None of this should be a surprise. Trump is a coward. He says wildly offensive things when the objects of his derision aren’t around, but crumples when he actually meets them. In his presidential announcement speech, Trump called Mexican immigrants “rapists.” But when he sat down with his Hispanic Advisory Council, he proved “humble” and “conciliatory” and called mass deportations “neither possible nor humane.” During the campaign, he endlessly trashed Mexico’s government. But when he actually arrived in Mexico City last August, he declared the trip a “great, great, honor” and when President Enrique Peña Nieto asked him about his famous pledge to make Mexico pay for a wall between the two countries, Trump refused to discuss the subject. During the campaign, Trump accused Black Lives Matter of being responsible for the murder of police, and described African American living conditions as hellish. But when he actually showed up at a black church in Detroit last September, he spent most of his time flattering his hosts. Trump’s speech, noted The Washington Post, constituted a “jarring shift in tone and message.” During the campaign, Trump repeatedly claimed that China was manipulating its currency. But after meeting with China’s president, he acknowledged that was not true.

The Saudis appear thrilled that Trump was so conciliatory on his visit. They should enjoy themselves while they can. Americans have learned this about Trump: What he says to your face often bears no relationship to what he says behind your back.

And one other thing:

I did think it worth noting one of the comments to Douthat's piece.  Douthat had written:
But they aren’t getting anything but symbolism on religious liberty, because Trump doesn’t want to pick a fight with the elite consensus on gay and transgender rights.
Which prompted the comment:

She has a point...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A red light is flashing on the BAT phone at the IPA...

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte, who has overseen a deadly campaign to eradicate drug use in the Philippines, has now ordered a strict public ban on smoking and called on citizens to help the local authorities apprehend smokers.

The executive order, signed this week and made public on Thursday, forbids the use of tobacco, including electronic cigarettes, in all public spaces, even sidewalks. It also prohibits anyone under 18 from “using, selling or buying cigarettes or tobacco products.”

More than a quarter of Filipinos smoke, according to a 2015 World Health Organization report, including 11 percent of minors.

The nationwide measure, known as Executive Order 26, is similar to the near universal smoking ban Mr. Duterte put in place in Davao City in 2002, when he was the city’s mayor. A former smoker, Mr. Duterte quit cigarettes and drinking decades ago, when he was found to have two rare conditions, Barrett’s esophagus and Buerger’s disease.
Of course, I'm not entirely sure that it's a good idea if it means that smokers can smoke in their houses, with the kids around.  I'm also not sure whether it has worked well in Davao City.  But one paper (which seem to concentrate more on tobacco taxes in that country) does note that there are a quite a lot of smokers there:

Mind you, I "only" have to go back to my teenage years to find near equivalent male rates here, and women smoking much more than the Filipinos:

I see from another table at this page that it took Australia until 1989 to get the total adult smoking rate down to 28%, which is where the Philippines is now.

We have done very well to get to the approximately 13% rate of daily smokers today.

Goldblum good

Gee, Jeff Goldblum is great at funny ads.  (I see he has done them overseas before, but these ones turning up here, they really are short, sharp, and funny.)

Flushed with success

Well, I read around a fair bit on medical topics, but I had never heard before of a fallopian tube flush as a fertility aid.  Not only that, it appears that using an oil based flush helps those eggs slip right through.  Sounds very mechanical!:
A technique that effectively “unblocks” a woman’s fallopian tubes by flushing them with liquid to help her conceive has been used for decades, with varying levels of success. Now a study has confirmed that the method significantly improves fertility, and that a certain type of fluid – one that is oil-based rather than water-based – shows strong results.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, our H2Oil study involved 1,119 women in 27 medical centres in The Netherlands. All women were younger than 38 and had been trying to conceive for 18 months on average.

The women were randomly allocated to receive either an oil- or water-based substance. Of those whose tubes were flushed with the oil-based substance, 40% achieved successful pregnancies within six months, compared to 29% among women receiving the water-based substance. This is a significant statistical difference.

Our results are an important gain for couples facing the diagnosis of infertility.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Worrying about Ben

I had been meaning to write that Ben Pobjie worries me.   I first noticed him, as many people probably have, through his funny, satirical pieces on My Kitchen Rules at Fairfax.   He still writes them, now at that website, although I do think he has probably taken it as far as he can, and they are getting a bit repetitious now.  

But I also notice his tweets, and this year there have been lots of them about promoting his stand up comedy work, but seemingly with more than the occasional touch of desperation about the number of tickets being sold, and the lack of (as far as I could see) enthusiastic endorsements.   He will then sometimes tweet about how he feels a failure.   I see from one short Youtube clip from it, that he talks about feeling suicidal as part of the show.  (Another Youtube clip, at a different venue, and he seems to be struggling for laughs from the audience.)

Today, I see that he has written at length in Fairfax about his ongoing struggles with mental health issues, and being taken by the police to hospital when he was, presumably, threatening suicide - it sounds like his wife called the police.  He doesn't say when this happened - it could have been years ago.

But in any event, well, talk about your comedians who try comedy as a form of public self therapy. 

I find it difficult to understand this - I'm in whatever you would call the group of people (introverts?) who can't imagine that if  they developed serious mental health issue, it could possibly help to stand up in public and talk to strangers about it.   But it is such a common thing, it seems, that comedians want to talk about their unhappiness, to strangers,  and are often very troubled and unhappy people away from the stage anyway. 

I have a great deal of sympathy for people like Ben who do have ongoing issues, but I'm sorely tempted to suggest to them something like "mate, perhaps if you stop talking to every one about it all the time, you might improve.  Find just the one person who helps you when you talk to him or her about it, but stop talking to everyone about it."  This doesn't exactly align with Ben's approach, I think!

I could well be telling him to suck eggs here, but my guess would be that cognitive behaviour therapy would be the best style of therapy for someone like him to try.  

Apart from that, I would suggest he give up stand up comedy if he's not selling tickets.  There is no shame in that - and its record as a form of therapy, or a way to earn a steady dollar, is very, very poor, anyway.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Taleb re-tweets

I know that a re-tweet doesn't necessarily mean an endorsement, but most of the time it probably does.   And with his general very aggro attitude to anyone who disagrees or annoys him, I suspect that he is on board with the wingnutty use of "beta male" as an insult.  Still, I am somewhat surprised that Nassim Taleb would be retweeting Mike Cernovich:

Something's not quite right about Taleb's very peculiar range of views, I say...

Wood, weed and phones: a No Trump Friday

Yeah, posting about the decrepitude of POTUS and the Republicans gets a bit boring, so let's try to avoid that today and instead note:

*   Hey, did you know wood was actually a pretty good material with which to construct big buildings?  An article at Nature, about a revival of wood for large construction, notes this:

....wood has developed a bad reputation over the centuries, because of catastrophic blazes that levelled cities such as London, New York and Chicago before modern fire-suppression strategies emerged. In fact, in case of fire wood maintains its structurally integrity much better than the non-flammable alternatives favoured by modern building codes. It chars at a predictable rate, and doesn't melt like steel or weaken like concrete. “The fact that it actually can withstand fire better than steel took a long time for people to realize,” says Guido Wimmers, who chairs a master's programme in wood engineering at UNBC....

The science of safety and engineering has also advanced. Douglas fir — the exposed layer at the UNBC centre — chars at 39 millimetres per hour. The provincial building code requires that the structure be able to endure at least one hour of fire on any given storey, so Green's team opted for floors made of a 5-layer panel that could afford to sacrifice a portion without losing its structural integrity.
And it is pretty good in earthquake prone regions:
Asif Iqbal, a civil engineer who is working on the project, came to UNBC from New Zealand, where he saw the damage from the 2011 earthquake in Christchurch at first hand. Most of the steel-reinforced concrete buildings in the city remained standing, but around 1,800 were irreparably damaged owing to cracked concrete and warped steel. Iqbal says that many of the replacement buildings are being constructed from wood, precisely because it is more likely to survive another major earthquake and the steel connectors can be replaced relatively easily if damaged.
 Some large wood buildings have been built recently:
 Norway set a world height record in late 2015 with a 52.8-metre tower block; that was edged out in September 2016 by a 53-metre student dormitory at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. This year, Austria will take the lead with the 84-metre HoHo building in Vienna, comprising a hotel, apartments and offices. The United States saw its first tall wooden building go up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2016, and others are in the works in Portland, Oregon, and in New York City.
 And I had been meaning to post about this months ago - a tall wood office building is to be built in Brisbane - on the showgrounds which I hang around most Saturdays:
Standing at more than 52 metres, the 14,000 square metres of nine storeys of engineered timber on the A-grade site, with retail space at ground level, is targeting a 6 Green Star Design & As Built rating:


*   Dementia wards might soon smell of marijuana?   (Well, probably not, but still, it's a funny idea):
Memory performance decreases with increasing age. Cannabis can reverse these ageing processes in the brain. This was shown in mice by scientists at the University of Bonn with their colleagues at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel). Old animals were able to regress to the state of two-month-old mice with a prolonged low-dose treatment with a cannabis active ingredient. This opens up new options, for instance, when it comes to treating dementia.

*  The Samsung S8, the phone I would love to own, is selling very well, it seems:
It's been less than a month since the Galaxy S8 hit store shelves, but the curved flagship phone is apparently already a huge success. Samsung has already sold over 5 million units of the phones worldwide, according to the Korean site The Investor....

And the sales could keep on rolling in. The phone is expected to come to 120 countries by the end of the month including China, says The Investor.

According to the report, some analysts predict the S8 to reach 50 to 60 million in annual sales. Not bad at all for a comeback phone.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Douthat has had enough

I see that Ross Douthat has had enough of Trump and calls for his removal using the 25th Amendment.  In doing so, he makes a point which is crucial:
Read the things that these people, members of his inner circle, his personally selected appointees, say daily through anonymous quotations to the press. (And I assure you they say worse off the record.) They have no respect for him, indeed they seem to palpitate with contempt for him, and to regard their mission as equivalent to being stewards for a syphilitic emperor.

It is not squishy New York Times conservatives who regard the president as a child, an intellectual void, a hopeless case, a threat to national security; it is people who are self-selected loyalists, who supported him in the campaign, who daily go to work for him. And all this, in the fourth month of his administration.
Yes, since virtually Day 1, the extraordinary level of leaks to the press has indicated something was very wrong.   Trump, and his gullible defenders, claim the leaks are invented.   It is an inversion of reality, coming from the man who rose on the back of internet fake news and years of birtherism and other stupid conspiracy theories.  

The real problem, though, may be the gutlessness of the anonymous sources.  If they really think he should be gone, all it might take is a good handful of close aides to resign, and then speak freely to the press about their doubts, from observing him close at hand, as to his intellectual suitability for the job. 

As for his defenders:   they fall into two main categories - the culture warriors who are quite stupidly blinded by the partisanship of Right wingnut media and will never be convinced he's unsuited to the task; and the culture warriors who know he's a joke but take the view "he may be an incompetent idiot,  but he's our incompetent idiot.  We'll just get what we want by leaving him in place and working around him."  

Both upset me, but perhaps the later are morally the worse of the two groups.

*  OK, to be more accurate, it's probably more like a spectrum with those at either end, and some crossover in the middle.

Another day, another recording in the news

From the Washington Post:
A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“There’s two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,” McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, according to a recording of the June 15, 2016 exchange, which was listened to and verified by The Washington Post. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is a Californian Republican known in Congress as a fervent defender of Putin and Russia.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) immediately interjected, stopping the conversation from further exploring McCarthy’s assertion, and swore the Republicans present to secrecy.....

Some of the lawmakers laughed at McCarthy’s comment. Then McCarthy quickly added: “Swear to God.”

Ryan instructed his Republican lieutenants to keep the conversation private, saying: “No leaks...This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

The remarks remained secret for nearly a year.

It was all just a joke, they say now.   Yes - a joke that had to be kept within "the family".

The Putin mystery

OK, so someone else on the net will be musing about this already, but was Putin's intervention in the Trump leakgate [sorry] matter intended to help or hurt Trump?

Because surely Putin would realise that coming out to defend him, and by saying he has a transcript of the meeting, could create more harm than assistance for Trump.  And it is at least possible that the Russians have decided that Trump is just too unreliable for them - sure he looked easily manipulated before the election, but now they see the turmoil that surrounds him, maybe they want someone more predictable in the seat?

Or is Putin not as savvy to American political dynamics as we assume?  It's not as if he has to worry about handling hostile press in his country.

Update:   I see Andrew Bolt, one of the Australian Right wing media culture warriors who seems to have an exceptionally low interest in commenting on the patent turmoil in, and incompetence of, the Trump Whitehouse, briefly notes today that the Putin intervention will not help.   He then ends with this bit of blind stupidity:
 There is an unmistakable whiff of McCarthyism - mixed, of course, with an entirely insincere and self-interested outrage - to the anti-Russian hysteria now.
Yes, of course, Andrew.  If a Democrat President was refusing to disclose tax returns and financial information relevant to his or her ties to Russia, and had campaigners making suspicious trips to the country and later Russian sourced leaks were used to campaign advantage, you'd just shrug your shoulders about it and say "stop being hysterical".

Update 2:  Homer in comments refers me to a post about Putin at Econospeak.  It is interesting.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The dumb will rise up

Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fan, exemplifies the sad, ideologically driven dumbing down of the American Right, such that they can't believe not only [climate] science, but also that Trump is the most dangerously inept, and patently unsuited by both character and intellect, person handed the task of being POTUS in living memory.   Here he is opining in a recent post (before the Comey memo news broke this morning):
Well, I’m still not sure exactly what’s going on — see Stephen’s post below for more — but what is clear is that they hope that if they gin up enough controversy, baseless or not, maybe it’ll give cover to an impeachment or 25 Amendment removal, or something. I don’t think it will happen and if it does — barring something a lot bigger and more uncontrovertible than anything they’ve come up with so far — you will have literal riots in the streets if Trump’s removed, far beyond anything you’ve seen from Democrat constituency groups like Black Lives Matter. Trump supporters have had it with the establishment, and are unlikely to go along quietly with a system they regard as deeply corrupt and devoted to their destruction. To the extent it’s interested in impeachment, the anti-Trump establishment, which likes to present itself as responsible and sensible, is playing with fire here, in a room full of gasoline that the establishment itself has pumped.
The wingnut Right used to muse about how they would rise up and "take back their country" under Obama.  They can't give up that fantasy, it seems.

Hey monty...

You need to talk to poor old Tom.   I really enjoy the way he has taken to running around crying "Take down their names! Take down their names!" whenever someone in comments does not toe the Kates line that Trump Is Magnificent And If You Disagree You Are a Socialist Enemy of the State; but it really does make him seem more of a paranoid loser operating from his backyard shed than he might actually be...

Trumpalooza continues...

I have a theory about Trump and what he told the Russians - McMaster might be right, that Trump wasn't even briefed that the source of the intel was the Israelis in this particular case, but Trump being vaguely aware that the US gets a lot of Middle East intel from there made the claim anyway.    Thereby causing panicky telephone calls to US intel agencies saying "we can't trust him to not stuff it up even if we don't tell him!"

Someone else on the internet has probably already come up with this, but it seems to me to fit the claims and counterclaims quite well....

Meanwhile, this morning's news that Comey wrote that Trump tried to call him off the Flynn investigation may help to explain Trump's tweet about how Comey had better hope that the meeting was not taped.   Because what may have happened here is that someone sitting in on the meeting may have said to Trump afterwards "you know, you can't really tell the FBI to call off investigations as a favour to a friend" and Trump may have said "I didn't say that...I didn't say that.  The tape will show me right."   Of course, being an idiot, the tape will probably show him wrong...

Here's what the NYT is reporting:
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

I really get the feeling that this may be the beginning of the end for President T.


Further to my prediction, found this via Hot Air:

They need to get on the phone to Steve Kates. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The accelerating expansion explained?

Seems to me that a lot of Chinese are doing interesting physics now.   This sounds interesting:

A group of physicists believe they may have cracked one of nature’s codes and finally explained what causes the accelerating expansion of the universe.
Qingdi Wang, a Ph.D. student at the University of British Columbia (UBC), has comprised a theory to bridge some of the incompatibility issues between the theory of quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of general relativity—two of the most successful theories that explain how the universe works.
Wang suggested that the universe is made of constantly fluctuating space and time.

“Space-time is not as static as it appears, it's constantly moving,” Wang said in a statement.
Astronomers discovered in 1998 that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, which implies that space is not empty but rather filled with dark energy—likely from vacuum energy—that pushes matter away.

However, when the theory of quantum mechanics is applied to vacuum energy, it would predict that there is an extremely large density of vacuum energy, more than the total energy of all the particles in the universe. Also, Einstein’s theory of general relativity suggests that the energy would have a strong gravitational effect, which would likely cause the universe to explode.

However, physicists agree that the universe is expanding very slowly and the UBC team have made calculations that show that space is fluctuating wildly and at each point it oscillates between expansion and contraction.

As the universe swings from expansion to contraction, the two actions nearly cancel each other out, resulting in a small net effect that drives the universe to expand slowly at an accelerating rate.

“This happens at very tiny scales, billions and billions times smaller even than an electron,” Wang said.
The abstract to the paper is here, and it puts it rather more technically:
We investigate the gravitational property of the quantum vacuum by treating its large energy density predicted by quantum field theory seriously and assuming that it does gravitate to obey the equivalence principle of general relativity. We find that the quantum vacuum would gravitate differently from what people previously thought. The consequence of this difference is an accelerating universe with a small Hubble expansion rate HΛeβGΛ0 instead of the previous prediction H=8πGρvac/3GΛ2 which was unbounded, as the high energy cutoff Λ is taken to infinity. In this sense, at least the “old” cosmological constant problem would be resolved. Moreover, it gives the observed slow rate of the accelerating expansion as Λ is taken to be some large value of the order of Planck energy or higher. This result suggests that there is no necessity to introduce the cosmological constant, which is required to be fine tuned to an accuracy of 10120, or other forms of dark energy, which are required to have peculiar negative pressure, to explain the observed accelerating expansion of the Universe.

Would not be surprising

Given his boastful character and inept regard for details, it would not be very surprising at all if Trump did disclose details he shouldn't have to Russians (or anyone he is trying to impress).   The only surprise would be that he had paid enough attention to recall the detail he shouldn't be sharing.  From Axios:
President Trump revealed highly classified information in an Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Secretary Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, potentially damaging relations with a key source of intelligence on ISIS, according to the Washington Post.
  • A source told the Post Trump discussed material with the highest level of classification, and "revealed more information to the Russian ambassador than we have shared with our own allies."
  • Trump seemed to be "boasting about his inside knowledge of the looming threat" before describing a specific ISIS plot and where it was detected, per the report. The intelligence-sharing system through which the U.S. learned of the plot is incredibly sensitive.
Update:  despite McMaster trying to throw cold water on the story, this detail at the end of the Wapo report seems to indicate there's something to it:
Senior White House officials appeared to recognize quickly that Trump had overstepped and moved to contain the potential fallout. Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.

Update 2:   just another shouty evening in the White House:
7:24PM: Chief strategist Steve Bannon and top communications officials Mike Dubke, Sarah Sanders, and Sean Spicer walk into cabinet room, per reporters on Twitter who then hear yelling from the meeting.
 Update 3:  more on the shouting:

Twitter (and much of the media) is going berserk over this:   Trump is going to be very, very upset about it all....

XP rules the waves?

Would be hard to believe, if true:
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has refused to deny that Britain’s nuclear submarines use the outdated Windows XP program amid the ongoing WannaCry ransomware attack.

Instead he simply insisted the subs were “safe”, adding that they operated “in isolation” when out on patrol, which possibly suggests the vessels at sea were unaffected only because they were not connected to the internet.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Japanese thoughtfulness

Nice story at the BBC saying that the Japanese started "mindfulness", as part of Zen Bhuddism.  The opening paragraphs: 
As the sleek shinkansen bullet train glided noiselessly into the station, I watched a strange ritual begin. During the brief stop, the conductor in the last carriage began talking to himself. He proceeded to perform a series of tasks, commenting aloud on each one and vigorously gesticulating at various bits of the train all the while.
So what was he up to? You could say he’s practicing mindfulness. The Japanese call it shisa kanko (literally ‘checking and calling’), an error-prevention drill that railway employees here have been using for more than 100 years. Conductors point at the things they need to check and then name them out loud as they do them, a dialogue with themselves to ensure nothing gets overlooked.
And it seems to work. A 1994 study by Japan’s Railway Technical Research Institute, cited in The Japan Times, showed that when asked to perform a simple task workers typically make 2.38 mistakes per 100 actions. When using shisa kanko, this number reduced to just 0.38% – a massive 85% drop.

Backing up

Am I the only person who finds computer data backup a confusing issue?   I mean, I never quite seem to understand what exactly the software is doing, and whether, once I used one company's particular software, it means I'm dependent on that particular software still working in future if I were to do a recovery.  I know there's a Windows back up built in as well, but it seems particularly unclear as to what it is doing (and I think all tech people recommend using other software.)

I've had some improvement on my understanding of how back ups can be set up from this site, but after trying a freeware version of one company's software, I still feel a bit confused...

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Straight to the point

It's hard to imagine a more damning take on Trump's personality than this article by David Roberts at Vox.  The key paragraph:
In short, what if Trump is exactly as he appears: a hopeless narcissist with the attention span of a fruit fly, unable to maintain consistent beliefs or commitments from moment to moment, acting on base instinct, entirely situationally, to bolster his terrifyingly fragile ego.

We’re not really prepared to deal with that.
Also at Vox, Matther Yglesias notes that Trump is still avoiding the key question about his connection with Russian money, and the lawyer's letter last week does not answer it.

At Axios, Mike Allen says there is talk of Trump sweeping a huge broom through his White House and Cabinet - but whether he will or not remains unclear.

And yet, despite the obvious turmoil of last week (a President openly taunting a sacked FBI director that he might have been taped being the ultimate low-light), it is stunning that the culture war grip remains as tight as ever on the judgement of those on the Right who supported him, so that they still cannot find significant fault with this patently awful and hopeless President. 

Look, Trump is no Hitler - but the wilful blindness and excuse making with which a scarily significant slab of people treat him gives at least a taste of how many Germans could engage in a similar exercise in self delusion.

Cary and LSD

It's not news that Cary Grant tried using LSD therapeutically to overcome some ongoing psychological issues that pursued him throughout his life, but still there are some details in this Guardian article that are surprising.   This for one:
Turned on to the treatment by his third wife, Betsy Drake, Grant submitted himself to weekly sessions with Dr Mortimer Hartman at the Psychiatric Institute of Beverly Hills. The effects were startling. “In one LSD dream I imagined myself as a giant penis launching off from Earth like a spaceship.”
Well, hard to know what to say about that without any impropriety.

Yet, despite the silliness of that hallucination, Grant was terribly enthusiastic about the drug as a psychological elixir, at least initially:
“He claimed he was saved by LSD,” explains Mark Kidel, the film’s director. “You have to remember that Cary was a private man. He rarely gave interviews. And yet, after taking acid, he personally contacted Good Housekeeping magazine and said: ‘I want to tell the world about this. It has changed my life. Everyone’s got to take it.’ I’ve also heard that Timothy Leary read this interview, or was told about it, and that his own interest in acid was essentially sparked by Cary Grant.”
The article says that his enthusiasm later dampened (after perhaps 100 sessions!), but that early reaction does sound typical of the false promise of mind altering drugs generally,  doesn't it?  Specifically, it reminds me of the enthusiasm for tripping on mescaline that was the basis of Huxley's The Doors of Perception.  (As I have explained before, I actually read that book as a teenager - I think from the high school library, of all places - and found it quite an exciting idea, that a drug could let you see a numinous world as it really is.  I was never tempted to actually seek out any hallucinogen, however, realising soon enough that the theory the book promoted was itself a hallucination.)

Anyway, it does seem that Grant was relatively happier late in life, which is pleasing to know for a person who gave so much enjoyment to the world.

Movie upgraded

I watched Inception with my son last night, the first time I have viewed it since seeing it at the cinema in 2010. I enjoyed rewatching it more than I expected, then decided to go back to read what I had said about it first time around.

Boy, I feel I was a bit harsh, in retrospect.   The film still looks great - really great, actually; and I found myself  enjoying its level of complexity and generally "cool" vibe.   I felt more admiration for DiCaprio's acting this time around, too.  In my earlier review, was I reacting a bit too much against some very high praise it received?   Possibly - I see it got 86% on Rottentomatoes - it's good but not that good. 

Furthermore, I still think it is indisputable that the final level of dream "inception" - the meant-to-be climatic snowy fortress sequence - was a really major mistake.   The movie just starts looking  like a complete James Bond rip off, and despite the (I still say rather poorly directed or edited) action happening around the mountains, it actually loses narrative momentum within a few minutes of them popping up in that location.    

A good, basically clever, movie, but one that could have been great, with some modifications.

Does this mean I would like Interstellar if I watch it again in 6 years time?

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

PS:  my son - now 17 - liked it a lot; but then again, he knew it was by Christopher Nolan, and he knows he can annoy me by overpraising his work.  Especially Interstellar.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Maybe I am a Russian pawn

Hey this is a bit of a surprise.  Based on a computer tech's recommendation, I use Kaspersky anti virus on my computers, but NPR reports that the US government won't.   Not only that, it apparently paid money to sacked Flynn!  Read this:

The Kaspersky Conundrum

The cyber-frustrations of members of Congress and their witnesses are a frequent feature of Intelligence and Armed Services Committee hearings and other national security hearings on the Hill. They seldom, however, get more specific than broad statements and almost never involve the name of a specific problem or company. On Thursday, however, two senators mentioned one in particular: Kaspersky Labs.
The Russian company — which supports NPR and is a provider of security services for its IT systems — has been linked to work for Russia's intelligence agencies. The leaders of the House Oversight Committee released documents showing payments by Kaspersky to Flynn. Even so, millions of Americans use Kaspersky software, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., pointed out to the witnesses — but, he asked, would they run it on their systems?
Here's how they answered:
McCabe, of the FBI: "A resounding no from me."
Pompeo, of the CIA: "No."
Coats, the director of national intelligence: "No, senator."
Rogers, of the NSA: "No, sir."
Stewart, of the Pentagon's DIA: "No, senator."
Cardillo, of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency: "No, sir."
Later, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., asked the intelligence bosses about Kaspersky again. They repeated their own government systems were safe from any danger, but the DIA's Stewart said he couldn't be sure about all of his contractors. Intelligence and defense contractors have been the sources for huge leaks of secrets from the NSA, CIA and other agencies.

Update:   one of the reasons I wonder about this is because of the mysterious level of activity from Russia (or, sometimes other odd countries) that can appear when you check "stats" on Blogger.   The hits Blogger shows must include heaps of 'bot hits, or something, because if you have a separate company's hit counter embedded on the blog, you  get a much more realistic number.  For example, today Blogger stats says I got 2,800 hits yesterday, and by far mostly from Russia!:

My embedded statcounter shows a much more realistic 96 hits.

It makes me feel my blog is somehow being used, but I don't know how...

Friday, May 12, 2017

The inflation fight (cosmology, not economics)

I've always been a bit leery of post Big Bang inflation as an explanation - because the mechanism of how it happened had just been left hanging for decades, but everyone seemed to just accept it must have happened, anyway.   (Here I was, commenting briefly on it back in 2006.)

Well, I see from The Altantic that there has been a bit of a recent skirmish going on between cosmologists about whether it is really good science if it is not really testable:
In January, Steinhardt, and fellow Princeton physicist Anna Ijjas, and Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb published a feature in Scientific American criticizing inflation. They concluded by characterizing it as an idea outside of empirical science altogether. The myriad ways inflation could have played out would lead to so many possible outcomes that no astronomical observation can ever rule the general idea out, they say—and moreover, some advocates for inflation know it. This would go against a basic, popular framing of science suggested by philosopher Karl Popper, in which a theory becomes scientific when it takes the risk of making predictions that nature could then uphold or disprove.
“They really made the accusation that the inflationary community understands that the theory is not testable,” Guth, one of the idea’s founding fathers, says. “Those words angered me.” In response, Guth and his colleagues have taken the unusual step of replying with their own letter in Scientific American that insists they are doing science. They even went to the trouble of circulating their response, in order to collect signatures from many of the world’s most prominent cosmologists. “What’s the point of just making it look like it’s three people disagreeing with three people?” says David Kaiser, another author of the letter.
The 29-person list of other experts who signed on includes four Nobel Prize winners, a Fields Medal winner, Steven Hawking, and leading figures from the  cosmology experiments COBE, WMAP, and Planck. (Also, twenty-five members of the list are men.) In turn, Ijjas, Steinhardt, and Loeb have published their own response-to-the-response.
For both sides, the core of the issue is whether inflation as a general approach makes specific predictions that can be checked against the sky, and the extent to which these comparisons count as empirical tests. If the universe did inflate, some kind of mysterious, short-lived field must have pushed everything apart. But theorists have wiggle room as to how exactly that field behaved, with a wide array of consequences that can both match and contradict reality, the critics note.
I still feel more-or-less vindicated in my suspicions about inflation being accepted too quickly.

Governors creeped out

The Govenor's Mansion in New York apparently creeps out governors who stay there.  (They worry it is haunted.)

Worth noting

It would seem that the ignorance highlighting interview that Trump gave with The Economist has been swamped for media attention somewhat by the Comey sacking.  But it really was a doozy.

Just to show I'm not a complete "lefty"...

...I will link with approval (it rarely happens these days) to a post at Tim Blair's, about a truly ridiculous case of "cultural appropriation" hysteria from Canada.

Is there possibly any more humilitating job than being "White House Spokesperson for PresidentTrump"?

Vox headline:

Trump himself just confirmed his White House’s story about Comey’s firing was a lie; 
It took less than 48 hours.

Update:   I like this last paragraph in a Slate article about Trump's anger problem:
The problem with a doctrine of wrath—in the presidency as in other walks of life—is that the rationale so clear to the boiling brain can appear ridiculous to the outside observer. The administration’s babbling excuses have a knee-jerk quality; it’s as if the president so desired to disappear his Putin problem that he was willing to embrace whatever absurd explanation came to hand (and then became surprised—and angry all over again—when we didn’t fall for it). Don’t look at Russia! our commander in chief shouts in fury, and of course our gaze stays fixed on Moscow. Such transparent terror is contagious: Republican senators this week tried to make the Trump–Russia hearings about the travel ban, leaks, and Clinton’s emails—anything but Trump and Russia. After a certain point, this is no longer strategy. It is reflex. It is a child covering his eyes to make the loathsome object in front of him vanish. Trump may be a politician, but he is also a man consumed with desperate, narcissistic rage. Easing that pain will always be his primary goal. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Too stupid to understand how it would look

From the Washington Post, there's a recurring theme of "anger" in this story.  (These are various extracts from the report):
Trump was angry that Comey would not support his baseless claim that President Barack Obama had his campaign offices wiretapped. Trump was frustrated when Comey revealed in Senate testimony the breadth of the counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s effort to sway the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And he fumed that Comey was giving too much attention to the Russia probe and not enough to investigating leaks to journalists....

In his Tuesday letter dismissing Comey, Trump wrote: “I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation.” People familiar with the matter said that statement is not accurate, although they would not say how it was inaccurate. FBI officials declined to comment on the statement, and a White House official refused to discuss conversations between Trump and Comey....

The media explosion was immediate and the political backlash was swift, with criticism pouring in not only from Democrats, but also from some Republicans. Trump and some of his advisers did not fully anticipate the ferocious reaction — in fact, some wrongly assumed many Democrats would support the move because they had been critical of Comey in the past — and were unprepared to contain the fallout.  ...

Trump’s team did not have a full-fledged communications strategy for how to announce and then explain the decision. As Trump, who had retired to the residence to eat dinner, sat in front of a television watching cable news coverage of Comey’s firing, he noticed another flaw: Nobody was defending him.

The president was irate, according to White House officials. Trump pinned much of the blame on Spicer and Dubke’s communications operation, wondering how there could be so many press staffers yet such negative coverage on cable news — although he, Priebus and others had afforded them almost no time to prepare.
 And yes, I see there is a twitterstorm coming from Trump, which confirms that he is indeed indignant that he is copping so much criticism.

Am I missing something here?

I'm no medical researcher, but I've previously questioned how these studies of how long HIV positive patients can expect to live if they are being treated can be all that accurate.  Don't you have to wait 'til the (say) 20 year olds who have started on antiviral treatments in the last decade have lived on the drugs for 40 years before you can know of any long term consequences of such intense medication?

Here's news of another such statistical study, saying that if they get onto treatment early, they can expect to live near normal life expectancy.  The article says:
The researchers looked at 88,500 people with HIV from Europe and North America who had been involved in 18 studies.

They based their life-expectancy predictions on death rates during the first three years of follow-up after drug treatment was started.

They found that fewer people who started treatment between 2008 and 2010 died during this period compared with those who began treatment between 1996 and 2007.

The expected age at death of a 20-year-old patient starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) after 2008, with a low viral load and after the first year of treatment, was 78 years - similar to the general population.

Furthermore, publicity about this type of finding surely is (the major?) part of the reason for complacency in the at risk community about catching it in the first place.?  

Socks in space

Here's a thought:  when you wish upon a shooting star, it might turn out to be a load of astronauts' dirty socks and jocks* burning up:
Astronaut Don Pettit, a University of Arizona College of Engineering alumnus, wore the same pair of shorts for months at a time while living on the International Space Station. Doing laundry was not an option. When clothes got too dirty, he and his crewmates stored them onboard until they could be thrown out—launched with other debris on a spacecraft and incinerated upon entering Earth's atmosphere.
Anyway, you can read about attempts to work out a clothes cleaning system that would let them clean their pants occasionally, instead of throwing them out.  Silver embedded socks (I had written about silver space underwear before) washed in low concentration hydrogen peroxide looks promising.

*  Sexism alert - there's been a lot of female astronauts up there too.   In fact, only last week I noticed that Peggy Whitson had set the record for total hours in space.  I wonder how many change of clothes she's had in that time...