Archive for the ‘The New Yorker’ Category

I Learned Why I Am Not a Math Guy…and Lot’s More

March 7, 2008

Camellias just refuse to give up.

But I am glad, especially on cold, gray days like today. This picture was taken yesterday, and it is not a great picture, but I wanted to show how big and full of blooms this shrub is. It is about 15 feet tall and 15-18 feet across.


Close by, actually in its shadow, I discovered this pink camellia, which I did not even know was there until yesterday.

This white camellia is just beginning its bloom cycle. It was blooming in late March 2000, when I first looked at this house. It will bloom until sometime in April.

And this one is in front of the house, and has the most perfect blooms.


There was an article in last weeks New Yorker that explains in part why I am not a math person, and consequently why statistics is killing me this semester. Also it explains why Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris is so confusing to people. I often wondered.

Anyway, I feel better about my math challenges and the trouble I had with the division tables in elementary school (multiplication was not a problem). Numbers Guy

The new issue has a column about the Dream Team of Obama and Clinton or Clinton and Obama, but not as running mates. More about our dreams… McGrath.

And I have to disagree whole heartedly with my editor in this week’s Western Tribune. Sorry, but dissing global warming because we are having a cold winter is like thinking the economy is in good shape because the Dow Jones rose 41 points a couple of days ago. And it is not really science to recognize that it is cold this winter. It is just an observation. This winter’s data becomes science when it is added to the data collected in the past.

Remember three points.

  • All scientific work is incomplete
  • All scientific work is liable to be replaced
  • We have an obligation to use what we have at the time

I have no problem with someone not recognizing that climate change is a serious problem, but when they use that belief to encourage others to keep their “large SUV” and fill up their tanks and go for a spin, thus wasting precious oil (gasoline) and furthering our dependence on foreign energy sources. Not to mention creating more greenhouse gases (that they don’t believe in anyway).

Climate change will be the focus of a meeting at the Birmingham Zoo this weekend. Well, the meeting is actually at the Sheraton Birmingham, but will host about 350 members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Dr. James McClintock of UAB and Antarctica fame, will be the keynote speaker.

This may be hard for the non-believers to understand, but McClintock uses penguins as an example of how global warming is damaging nature. Because there is more snowfall, a species of penguin’s eggs are not hatching like they did years ago.

“More snow? But…”. Calm down. It is snowing more because the warmer air in Antarctica holds more moisture.

This story was in the Birmingham News, but as is often the case, no link.

And speaking of snow, they just changed the forecast and Birmingham can get as much as 1.5 inches of snow tonight. Enjoy!!!

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>I Learned Why I Am Not a Math Guy…and Lot’s More

March 7, 2008

>Camellias just refuse to give up.

But I am glad, especially on cold, gray days like today. This picture was taken yesterday, and it is not a great picture, but I wanted to show how big and full of blooms this shrub is. It is about 15 feet tall and 15-18 feet across.


Close by, actually in its shadow, I discovered this pink camellia, which I did not even know was there until yesterday.

This white camellia is just beginning its bloom cycle. It was blooming in late March 2000, when I first looked at this house. It will bloom until sometime in April.

And this one is in front of the house, and has the most perfect blooms.


There was an article in last weeks New Yorker that explains in part why I am not a math person, and consequently why statistics is killing me this semester. Also it explains why Terminal 2 at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris is so confusing to people. I often wondered.

Anyway, I feel better about my math challenges and the trouble I had with the division tables in elementary school (multiplication was not a problem). Numbers Guy

The new issue has a column about the Dream Team of Obama and Clinton or Clinton and Obama, but not as running mates. More about our dreams… McGrath.

And I have to disagree whole heartedly with my editor in this week’s Western Tribune. Sorry, but dissing global warming because we are having a cold winter is like thinking the economy is in good shape because the Dow Jones rose 41 points a couple of days ago. And it is not really science to recognize that it is cold this winter. It is just an observation. This winter’s data becomes science when it is added to the data collected in the past.

Remember three points.

  • All scientific work is incomplete
  • All scientific work is liable to be replaced
  • We have an obligation to use what we have at the time

I have no problem with someone not recognizing that climate change is a serious problem, but when they use that belief to encourage others to keep their “large SUV” and fill up their tanks and go for a spin, thus wasting precious oil (gasoline) and furthering our dependence on foreign energy sources. Not to mention creating more greenhouse gases (that they don’t believe in anyway).

Climate change will be the focus of a meeting at the Birmingham Zoo this weekend. Well, the meeting is actually at the Sheraton Birmingham, but will host about 350 members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Dr. James McClintock of UAB and Antarctica fame, will be the keynote speaker.

This may be hard for the non-believers to understand, but McClintock uses penguins as an example of how global warming is damaging nature. Because there is more snowfall, a species of penguin’s eggs are not hatching like they did years ago.

“More snow? But…”. Calm down. It is snowing more because the warmer air in Antarctica holds more moisture.

This story was in the Birmingham News, but as is often the case, no link.

And speaking of snow, they just changed the forecast and Birmingham can get as much as 1.5 inches of snow tonight. Enjoy!!!

Camellias, a Bessemer video and a Quiz

February 11, 2008

I asked a couple of days ago if it is Spring? and I know it is not. The Camellias are blooming, and most don’t bloom in the Spring, they bloom in the Winter. How refreshing to walk out on a cold morning and find these (providing the temps haven’t dipped too far below freezing). I remember when growing up in Vestavia that on Comer Circle there was a yard where on occasion a bush (shrub, not a president) was wrapped in a sheet. Mom explained that it was a camellia. Of course, as I have reminded you before, it is our non native state flower.

And I said I would let you know when the camellia show is at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and I didn’t do it. The show was this past weekend. Sorry. To make up, just a little for it, I will provide a camellia show here, of the ones blooming in the yard.

After the pictures you will find a video about Bessemer and a quiz.





This video was posted by photographer Larry O. Gay, who many of us know.

This quiz was in The New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs.

It is great. Thanks Paul Slansky.

SHOUTS & MURMURS Changes A 2008 Campaign Quiz. by Paul Slansky

1
1. Who is Michael Palladino?

(a) One of two young men who interrupted a speech by Hillary Clinton by yelling, “Iron my shirt! Iron my shirt!”

(b) The aide to Barack Obama who was shoved by Bill O’Reilly at a rally.

(c) The adviser to Fred Thompson’s campaign who turned out to have been convicted of cocaine trafficking.

(d) The boxer who hosted a Nevada Obama event and who had been convicted of battery.

(e) The New York City police detective who scoffed at Rudolph Giuliani’s claim to have been “at Ground Zero as often as, if not more than, most of the workers.”

(f) The formerly gay gospel singer who advocates “curing” homosexuality with prayer, and whose performance at Obama-sponsored concerts upset gays and liberals.
2
2. What did Bill Clinton call a “fairy tale”?

(a) Mike Huckabee’s contention that gay marriage would lead to increased bestiality.

(b) Obama’s claim that he has consistently opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.

(c) Mitt Romney’s positive remarks about Hitler’s scientific achievement in creating “liquefied coal.”

(d) Chuck Norris’s endorsement of Huckabee on the ground that he is “not afraid to stand up for a Creator.”

(e) The report that Obama and Dick Cheney might be distant cousins, which prompted Obama to remark, “He’s the black sheep of the family.”

(f) The suggestion by David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, that Hillary Clinton bore some responsibility for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
3
3. True or false: When the Clinton camp was mocked for its efforts to turn a kindergarten essay written by Obama into a reason not to vote for him, campaign officials claimed that the press release had been intended as “a joke.”

(a) True.

(b) False.
4
4. Three of these statements refer to Fred Thompson. Choose the one that refers to Mitt Romney.

(a) He asked an unresponsive audience, “Can I have some applause?”

(b) He referred to Russia as the “Soviet Union,” which it stopped being seventeen years ago.

(c) He said, “Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is we ought to double Guantánamo.”

(d) He avoided a question about the Terri Schiavo controversy by saying, “That’s going back in history. I don’t remember the details of it.”
5
5. Wayne Dumond is to Mike Huckabee as ________ is to Mike Dukakis.

(a) Willie Horton

(b) John Kerry

(c) John Sasso
6
6. Who is Marianne Pernold Young?

(a) The Iowa college student planted in the audience by the Clinton campaign to ask the candidate a question that she was eager to answer.

(b) The CNN reporter whom Bill Clinton scolded by saying, “This is what you live for,” after she asked him to comment on a former supporter’s observation that the Clintons’ distortion of Obama’s record is “reprehensible.”

(c) The New Hampshire photographer who asked Hillary Clinton the question that made her choke up.

(d) The CBS newswoman who asked Elizabeth Kucinich, “Would you remove [your tongue stud] if you became First Lady, or leave it in?”

(e) The owner of the landscaping company that employed illegal immigrants to mow Romney’s lawn, prompting accusations that he lives in a “sanctuary mansion.”
7
7. Two of these statements refer to John McCain. Choose the one that refers to Ron Paul.

(a) When a supporter, referring to Hillary Clinton, asked, “How do we beat the bitch?” he replied, “That’s an excellent question.”

(b) He said that he would “prefer” a Christian president to a Muslim one.

(c) He voted against giving the Congressional Medal of Honor to Rosa Parks.
8
8. True or false: An hour after attacking Barack Obama’s voting record on “Meet the Press,” Hillary Clinton appeared at a black church and declared herself to be “so proud” of him.

(a) True.

(b) False.
9
9. Who said of MoveOn.org’s “General Betray Us” ad, “It passed a line that we should not allow American political organizations to pass”—Mike Huckabee or Rudy Giuliani?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
10
10. Who, when asked about financial disclosures, said, “I’m not doing more than what is absolutely required”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
11
11. Who asked, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers?”

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
12
12.Who said, “Most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantánamo”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
13
13. Who scoffed at the notion that sleep deprivation is torture, saying, “On that theory, I’m getting tortured running for President of the United States. That’s plain silly”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
14
14. Who turned up on Outdoor Life’s list of the twenty-five most influential people in hunting and fishing?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
15
15. Of whom was it written that “[His] Nixonian soul comes bearing the face of a particularly cruel Renaissance cardinal”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
16
16.Ten years ago, whose son was allegedly involved in the hanging of a dog while at Boy Scout camp?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
17
17. Who is James Clyburn?

(a) The Clinton campaign official who resigned after raising the issue of Obama’s youthful drug use.

(b) The Georgia congressman who said that Obama is “no Martin Luther King.”

(c) The Clinton adviser who said that Obama appeals to voters who want an “imaginary hip black friend.”

(d) The South Carolina congressman who told Bill Clinton to “chill a little bit” with the race-baiting.

(e) The Obama press secretary who took the blame for a memo cataloguing race-related verbal gaffes by the Clintons and their supporters.

(f) The indicted Chicago slumlord to whom Obama returned more than forty thousand dollars in contributions.
18
18. Who said, “Americans are looking for a change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Mitt Romney.

(d) John Edwards.
19
19. Who said, “Our time for change has come”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Mitt Romney.

(d) John Edwards.
20
20. Who said, “I believe deeply in change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) John McCain.

(c) Bill Richardson.

(d) John Edwards.
21
21. Who said, “Look, what we need is change, there’s no question”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) John McCain.

(c) Bill Richardson.

(d) John Edwards.
22
22. Who said, “I know that I have been an agent of change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) John McCain.

(c) Hillary Clinton.

(d) Mitt Romney.
23
23. Who said, “I want to make change but I’ve already made change. I will continue to make change. . . . I embody change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Hillary Clinton.

(d) Mitt Romney.
24
24. Who said, “Not only can I talk change with you, I’ve lived it”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Hillary Clinton.

(d) Mitt Romney.
25
25. Who said, “We don’t mention September 11th nearly as much as people think”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) John McCain.

(d) Rudy Giuliani.

For the answers you will either have to read the magazine like I did (I got most of them right) or go to the link and take the quiz and submit.

>Camellias, a Bessemer video and a Quiz

February 11, 2008

>I asked a couple of days ago if it is Spring? and I know it is not. The Camellias are blooming, and most don’t bloom in the Spring, they bloom in the Winter. How refreshing to walk out on a cold morning and find these (providing the temps haven’t dipped too far below freezing). I remember when growing up in Vestavia that on Comer Circle there was a yard where on occasion a bush (shrub, not a president) was wrapped in a sheet. Mom explained that it was a camellia. Of course, as I have reminded you before, it is our non native state flower.

And I said I would let you know when the camellia show is at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and I didn’t do it. The show was this past weekend. Sorry. To make up, just a little for it, I will provide a camellia show here, of the ones blooming in the yard.

After the pictures you will find a video about Bessemer and a quiz.





This video was posted by photographer Larry O. Gay, who many of us know.

This quiz was in The New Yorker Shouts and Murmurs.

It is great. Thanks Paul Slansky.

SHOUTS & MURMURS Changes A 2008 Campaign Quiz. by Paul Slansky

1
1. Who is Michael Palladino?

(a) One of two young men who interrupted a speech by Hillary Clinton by yelling, “Iron my shirt! Iron my shirt!”

(b) The aide to Barack Obama who was shoved by Bill O’Reilly at a rally.

(c) The adviser to Fred Thompson’s campaign who turned out to have been convicted of cocaine trafficking.

(d) The boxer who hosted a Nevada Obama event and who had been convicted of battery.

(e) The New York City police detective who scoffed at Rudolph Giuliani’s claim to have been “at Ground Zero as often as, if not more than, most of the workers.”

(f) The formerly gay gospel singer who advocates “curing” homosexuality with prayer, and whose performance at Obama-sponsored concerts upset gays and liberals.
2
2. What did Bill Clinton call a “fairy tale”?

(a) Mike Huckabee’s contention that gay marriage would lead to increased bestiality.

(b) Obama’s claim that he has consistently opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.

(c) Mitt Romney’s positive remarks about Hitler’s scientific achievement in creating “liquefied coal.”

(d) Chuck Norris’s endorsement of Huckabee on the ground that he is “not afraid to stand up for a Creator.”

(e) The report that Obama and Dick Cheney might be distant cousins, which prompted Obama to remark, “He’s the black sheep of the family.”

(f) The suggestion by David Axelrod, Obama’s chief strategist, that Hillary Clinton bore some responsibility for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
3
3. True or false: When the Clinton camp was mocked for its efforts to turn a kindergarten essay written by Obama into a reason not to vote for him, campaign officials claimed that the press release had been intended as “a joke.”

(a) True.

(b) False.
4
4. Three of these statements refer to Fred Thompson. Choose the one that refers to Mitt Romney.

(a) He asked an unresponsive audience, “Can I have some applause?”

(b) He referred to Russia as the “Soviet Union,” which it stopped being seventeen years ago.

(c) He said, “Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is we ought to double Guantánamo.”

(d) He avoided a question about the Terri Schiavo controversy by saying, “That’s going back in history. I don’t remember the details of it.”
5
5. Wayne Dumond is to Mike Huckabee as ________ is to Mike Dukakis.

(a) Willie Horton

(b) John Kerry

(c) John Sasso
6
6. Who is Marianne Pernold Young?

(a) The Iowa college student planted in the audience by the Clinton campaign to ask the candidate a question that she was eager to answer.

(b) The CNN reporter whom Bill Clinton scolded by saying, “This is what you live for,” after she asked him to comment on a former supporter’s observation that the Clintons’ distortion of Obama’s record is “reprehensible.”

(c) The New Hampshire photographer who asked Hillary Clinton the question that made her choke up.

(d) The CBS newswoman who asked Elizabeth Kucinich, “Would you remove [your tongue stud] if you became First Lady, or leave it in?”

(e) The owner of the landscaping company that employed illegal immigrants to mow Romney’s lawn, prompting accusations that he lives in a “sanctuary mansion.”
7
7. Two of these statements refer to John McCain. Choose the one that refers to Ron Paul.

(a) When a supporter, referring to Hillary Clinton, asked, “How do we beat the bitch?” he replied, “That’s an excellent question.”

(b) He said that he would “prefer” a Christian president to a Muslim one.

(c) He voted against giving the Congressional Medal of Honor to Rosa Parks.
8
8. True or false: An hour after attacking Barack Obama’s voting record on “Meet the Press,” Hillary Clinton appeared at a black church and declared herself to be “so proud” of him.

(a) True.

(b) False.
9
9. Who said of MoveOn.org’s “General Betray Us” ad, “It passed a line that we should not allow American political organizations to pass”—Mike Huckabee or Rudy Giuliani?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
10
10. Who, when asked about financial disclosures, said, “I’m not doing more than what is absolutely required”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
11
11. Who asked, “Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the Devil are brothers?”

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
12
12.Who said, “Most of our prisoners would love to be in a facility more like Guantánamo”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
13
13. Who scoffed at the notion that sleep deprivation is torture, saying, “On that theory, I’m getting tortured running for President of the United States. That’s plain silly”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
14
14. Who turned up on Outdoor Life’s list of the twenty-five most influential people in hunting and fishing?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
15
15. Of whom was it written that “[His] Nixonian soul comes bearing the face of a particularly cruel Renaissance cardinal”?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
16
16.Ten years ago, whose son was allegedly involved in the hanging of a dog while at Boy Scout camp?

(a) Rudy Giuliani.

(b) Mike Huckabee.
17
17. Who is James Clyburn?

(a) The Clinton campaign official who resigned after raising the issue of Obama’s youthful drug use.

(b) The Georgia congressman who said that Obama is “no Martin Luther King.”

(c) The Clinton adviser who said that Obama appeals to voters who want an “imaginary hip black friend.”

(d) The South Carolina congressman who told Bill Clinton to “chill a little bit” with the race-baiting.

(e) The Obama press secretary who took the blame for a memo cataloguing race-related verbal gaffes by the Clintons and their supporters.

(f) The indicted Chicago slumlord to whom Obama returned more than forty thousand dollars in contributions.
18
18. Who said, “Americans are looking for a change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Mitt Romney.

(d) John Edwards.
19
19. Who said, “Our time for change has come”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Mitt Romney.

(d) John Edwards.
20
20. Who said, “I believe deeply in change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) John McCain.

(c) Bill Richardson.

(d) John Edwards.
21
21. Who said, “Look, what we need is change, there’s no question”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) John McCain.

(c) Bill Richardson.

(d) John Edwards.
22
22. Who said, “I know that I have been an agent of change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) John McCain.

(c) Hillary Clinton.

(d) Mitt Romney.
23
23. Who said, “I want to make change but I’ve already made change. I will continue to make change. . . . I embody change”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Hillary Clinton.

(d) Mitt Romney.
24
24. Who said, “Not only can I talk change with you, I’ve lived it”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) Hillary Clinton.

(d) Mitt Romney.
25
25. Who said, “We don’t mention September 11th nearly as much as people think”?

(a) Barack Obama.

(b) Mike Huckabee.

(c) John McCain.

(d) Rudy Giuliani.

For the answers you will either have to read the magazine like I did (I got most of them right) or go to the link and take the quiz and submit.

Back on Track

January 23, 2008

One more day like yesterday and I will…well, I guess I will miss another day of blogging. but school is pretty much a priority these days, and biostatistics…

There are in fact two things: science and opinion. One begats knowledge, the latter ignorance.
– Hippocrates

I wonder where I fall in there, since I often write opinions about science. Hmmm.

Barack Obama was critical during Monday’s debate of Hillary Clinton for sitting on the board of directors of Walmart back when the company really did sell products “Made in America” and before Walmart came under fire for things like mis-treating employees and mis-labeling food as being organic when it is not.

Of course he didn’t bring up that his wife Michelle resigned less than a year ago from the board of directors of Treehouse Foods, Inc., whose largest customer is Walmart which accounts for over 16% of its sales. She resigned immediately after Senator Obama made a speech critical of Walmart and its anti-union policies. I guess she felt the heat since Treehouse doesn’t have the best reputation regarding pickle plants and low paid Hispanic workers.

But in defense of both women, maybe sitting on the board of a corporation is one way to bring positive change to a company. I mean, blaming directors is not unlike faulting progressive democrats in congress who can’t get legislation passed because of the neocons in power, which was especially the case before the 2006 elections.

I guess that the Romney campaign is desperate to show some humor, so that their candidate can be proven not to be robot, but does this do it? Here son Matt Romeny plays a little jokle on his dad.

Are you laughing? Will candiate Mitt be laughing after the Republican primary in Florida where recent polls show him neck in neck with John McCain? (Leaving poor Rudy out)

In today’s Birmingham News is a political cartoon by Walt Handelsman of Newsday.

But I wonder…somewhere between the Hillary Haters and the Independents and Moderates, should there be a cut of racists? Or are they distributed throughout all the divisions of the party? Regardless, we have heard for years about the differing factions of the democratic party, gays here, African Americans there, Hollywood liberals way over there, northern elitists running the party, progressive evangelicals not being heard, working class being squeezed…so our ass, uh, donkey could be cut up in a similar manner. But when it comes down to it, all indications are that in spite of the expected bickering between candidates, after the convention the Democrats and progressive independents and moderate republicans will come together to support whoever the Democratic candidate is.

There is an interesting story in the New Yorker that starts out:

Who, speaking last week, made the following statement: “Enough is enough. More people need to be willing to step up and say, ‘Let’s do something about this.’ That’s how change will be made.”

Think you know the answer? Wrong, It wasn’t Barack or Hillary. It was April White, a massage therapist from Clermont Florida who in 2003 purchased a set of 800 count sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond in Birmingham, AL, and making a long story short, had them examined by a forensic textile lab (who knew?) only to find they “were, in facts, mere 408s.”

To make a longer story even shorter, if the judge approves, April will recieve $2500, and her attorneys $290,000. In addition, ” all purchasers between August 1, 2000 and November 9, 2007 of multi-ply sheet sets, pillowcases, down comforters, bedskirts, shams, duvets, and down pillows from Bed Bath and Beyond that were labelled as ‘plied,’ ‘two-ply,’ or ‘2-ply’ “ are eligible for refunds and discount certificates.

While $2500 seems like enough to compensate someone for having to sleep on scratchy sheets for a day or two, a quarter of a million dollars for attorney’s fees seems a little steep. A good chunk of that money should have gone to buy sheets or blankets for the poor, and I’m sure they wouldn’t have demanded 800 count linens. Such a donation would be the philanthropic thing to do.

And do we really have to keep every little receipt for everything we buy, just in case a class action lawsuit is brought up a few years later?

>Back on Track

January 23, 2008

>One more day like yesterday and I will…well, I guess I will miss another day of blogging. but school is pretty much a priority these days, and biostatistics…

There are in fact two things: science and opinion. One begats knowledge, the latter ignorance.
– Hippocrates

I wonder where I fall in there, since I often write opinions about science. Hmmm.

Barack Obama was critical during Monday’s debate of Hillary Clinton for sitting on the board of directors of Walmart back when the company really did sell products “Made in America” and before Walmart came under fire for things like mis-treating employees and mis-labeling food as being organic when it is not.

Of course he didn’t bring up that his wife Michelle resigned less than a year ago from the board of directors of Treehouse Foods, Inc., whose largest customer is Walmart which accounts for over 16% of its sales. She resigned immediately after Senator Obama made a speech critical of Walmart and its anti-union policies. I guess she felt the heat since Treehouse doesn’t have the best reputation regarding pickle plants and low paid Hispanic workers.

But in defense of both women, maybe sitting on the board of a corporation is one way to bring positive change to a company. I mean, blaming directors is not unlike faulting progressive democrats in congress who can’t get legislation passed because of the neocons in power, which was especially the case before the 2006 elections.

I guess that the Romney campaign is desperate to show some humor, so that their candidate can be proven not to be robot, but does this do it? Here son Matt Romeny plays a little jokle on his dad.

Are you laughing? Will candiate Mitt be laughing after the Republican primary in Florida where recent polls show him neck in neck with John McCain? (Leaving poor Rudy out)

In today’s Birmingham News is a political cartoon by Walt Handelsman of Newsday.

But I wonder…somewhere between the Hillary Haters and the Independents and Moderates, should there be a cut of racists? Or are they distributed throughout all the divisions of the party? Regardless, we have heard for years about the differing factions of the democratic party, gays here, African Americans there, Hollywood liberals way over there, northern elitists running the party, progressive evangelicals not being heard, working class being squeezed…so our ass, uh, donkey could be cut up in a similar manner. But when it comes down to it, all indications are that in spite of the expected bickering between candidates, after the convention the Democrats and progressive independents and moderate republicans will come together to support whoever the Democratic candidate is.

There is an interesting story in the New Yorker that starts out:

Who, speaking last week, made the following statement: “Enough is enough. More people need to be willing to step up and say, ‘Let’s do something about this.’ That’s how change will be made.”

Think you know the answer? Wrong, It wasn’t Barack or Hillary. It was April White, a massage therapist from Clermont Florida who in 2003 purchased a set of 800 count sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond in Birmingham, AL, and making a long story short, had them examined by a forensic textile lab (who knew?) only to find they “were, in facts, mere 408s.”

To make a longer story even shorter, if the judge approves, April will recieve $2500, and her attorneys $290,000. In addition, ” all purchasers between August 1, 2000 and November 9, 2007 of multi-ply sheet sets, pillowcases, down comforters, bedskirts, shams, duvets, and down pillows from Bed Bath and Beyond that were labelled as ‘plied,’ ‘two-ply,’ or ‘2-ply’ “ are eligible for refunds and discount certificates.

While $2500 seems like enough to compensate someone for having to sleep on scratchy sheets for a day or two, a quarter of a million dollars for attorney’s fees seems a little steep. A good chunk of that money should have gone to buy sheets or blankets for the poor, and I’m sure they wouldn’t have demanded 800 count linens. Such a donation would be the philanthropic thing to do.

And do we really have to keep every little receipt for everything we buy, just in case a class action lawsuit is brought up a few years later?

>Clinton Rising, Bessemer’s News and Local Marine Killed

October 3, 2007

>After the last Democratic presidential candidate debate I predicted Hillary Clinton would rise in the polls, even though most new people said she did poorly. A USA Today/Gallup poll taken over the weekend shows just that, with Clinton increasing her lead from three weeks ago by 8 points to 48%.

People are seeing her as the one ready to be president,” says Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist. Well of course he would say that. I really think it is that, but also people realizing that they want to support a winner, so they are moving into the camp of the most likely victor. Better get used to it.

Let’s hope the killing has stopped in Bessemer, but one more and 2007 will have seen as many murders as we saw during the previous two years combined. There have been 14 this year, 10 last year and 5 the year before. This is reported in the Birmingham News West News, but again, trying to find a link to it (or the following stories) is near impossible. Just take my word…or buy a paper.

Detective Perry Hurst said there is very little police can do to prevent homicides. Sounds like an excuse, but the sad fact is, it’s the truth. While I still say better police protection is needed, what we need are broader changes in attitudes and to develop a respect for ourselves and others and their property. Those are things that will not happen overnight, but improvements in neighborhoods, and possible changes coming up in downtown, are the types of things that will increase pride and consequently respect in our communities.

Something must be right, because while everyone says Bessemer is being held back by their school system, those who pay close attention say that improvements are taking place. Enrollment is up, with 166 more students in school this year over last year. That is a 4 % increase. More parents would not be enrolling their kids if they didn’t think the schools were getting better. Most of the increase is among the elementary schools, with Abrams showing an increase from around 450 to 499, and Jonesboro increasing from 750 to 830.

When is the last time you heard of an urban school system increasing enrollement?

And local school are doing great in football, with Jess Lanier, MacAdory, Bessemer Academy and Hueytown boasting undefeated records.

Stephen is 15, Daniel is 12 and Kristina is 8 years old. They will live the rest of their lives with only memories of their father, Marine Corps gunnery sergeant Herman Murkerson, killed yesterday in Iraq. He was from Adger, and that counts as a local guy. He also leaves behind his wife Wendy.

He is the 90th service member from Alabama to die in the “war on terror,” which I assume refers to the former war on terror in Afghanistan combined with the war for oil in Iraq. Regardless of the mismanagement of the wars and the validity of the one in Iraq, men like sergeant Murkerson who serve our country are to be respected and are the heroes. But his death is one more indication that we need to get out of Iraq, and soon.

I think after that we need something just for entertainment. If you like Hollywood Movie Stars of old, watch this. 80 Years of Women in Film . Thanks Robert for sending this.

Last, The New Yorker arrived yesterday, and the cover was great.

The cover is titled “Narrow Stance” and is by Barry Blitt. Ahmadinejad discovering the existance of homosexuals.

Here is their site: The New Yorker

Clinton Rising, Bessemer’s News and Local Marine Killed

October 3, 2007

After the last Democratic presidential candidate debate I predicted Hillary Clinton would rise in the polls, even though most new people said she did poorly. A USA Today/Gallup poll taken over the weekend shows just that, with Clinton increasing her lead from three weeks ago by 8 points to 48%.

People are seeing her as the one ready to be president,” says Mark Penn, Clinton’s chief strategist. Well of course he would say that. I really think it is that, but also people realizing that they want to support a winner, so they are moving into the camp of the most likely victor. Better get used to it.

Let’s hope the killing has stopped in Bessemer, but one more and 2007 will have seen as many murders as we saw during the previous two years combined. There have been 14 this year, 10 last year and 5 the year before. This is reported in the Birmingham News West News, but again, trying to find a link to it (or the following stories) is near impossible. Just take my word…or buy a paper.

Detective Perry Hurst said there is very little police can do to prevent homicides. Sounds like an excuse, but the sad fact is, it’s the truth. While I still say better police protection is needed, what we need are broader changes in attitudes and to develop a respect for ourselves and others and their property. Those are things that will not happen overnight, but improvements in neighborhoods, and possible changes coming up in downtown, are the types of things that will increase pride and consequently respect in our communities.

Something must be right, because while everyone says Bessemer is being held back by their school system, those who pay close attention say that improvements are taking place. Enrollment is up, with 166 more students in school this year over last year. That is a 4 % increase. More parents would not be enrolling their kids if they didn’t think the schools were getting better. Most of the increase is among the elementary schools, with Abrams showing an increase from around 450 to 499, and Jonesboro increasing from 750 to 830.

When is the last time you heard of an urban school system increasing enrollement?

And local school are doing great in football, with Jess Lanier, MacAdory, Bessemer Academy and Hueytown boasting undefeated records.

Stephen is 15, Daniel is 12 and Kristina is 8 years old. They will live the rest of their lives with only memories of their father, Marine Corps gunnery sergeant Herman Murkerson, killed yesterday in Iraq. He was from Adger, and that counts as a local guy. He also leaves behind his wife Wendy.

He is the 90th service member from Alabama to die in the “war on terror,” which I assume refers to the former war on terror in Afghanistan combined with the war for oil in Iraq. Regardless of the mismanagement of the wars and the validity of the one in Iraq, men like sergeant Murkerson who serve our country are to be respected and are the heroes. But his death is one more indication that we need to get out of Iraq, and soon.

I think after that we need something just for entertainment. If you like Hollywood Movie Stars of old, watch this. 80 Years of Women in Film . Thanks Robert for sending this.

Last, The New Yorker arrived yesterday, and the cover was great.

The cover is titled “Narrow Stance” and is by Barry Blitt. Ahmadinejad discovering the existance of homosexuals.

Here is their site: The New Yorker

>To Vote or Not To Vote

July 16, 2007

>In The New Yorker there is a review of Bryan Caplan’s book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Politics,” and while I doubt I will read the book, I think I learned enough from the review. Caplan is an economist, so there. The last book I read by an economist was “Freakonomics” and I haven’t recovered from that reading yet.

But Caplan’s premise is that people shouldn’t be voting, or at least not the one’s who are. First is the argument that there is no reason for any one person to vote. Especially in the presidential election, which will never be decided by a single vote. Spending time and effort educating oneself about different candidates and then driving to the polls and waiting in line (like that really happens) to cast a vote that will not influence the election is not a good investment of one’s time.
And like the author, if I had voted for the other candidate in every presidential election since I started voting in 1972, it would not have affected me or anyone else in the nation one bit (other than the guilt I might have felt…).

He has a point there, and while I know people who adhere to that policy for that reason, I still think people should educate themselves about issues and candidates and take all the time necessary to cast their ballots.

But even more important than the single vote, I think, is the influence an educated (or uneducated) person exerts over other potential voters. Even if I don’t vote, if I convince 23 others to vote for candidate B, and lots of other influencers do the same, then candidate B might win.

That’s boring, isn’t it? But here is what I wanted to say. In the review is a paragraph about the political knowledge of the average (supposedly educated) voter (as opposed to the average supposedly uneducated non-voter). Read this as if it is a test. I hope you feel good about yourself afterwards.

“The political knowledge of the average voter has been tested repeatedly, and the scores are impressively low. In polls taken since 1945, a majority of Americans have been unable to name a single branch of government, define the terms “liberal” and “conservative,” and explain what the Bill of Rights is. More than two-thirds have reported that they do not know the substance of Roe v. Wade and what the Food and Drug Administration does. Nearly half do not know that states have two senators and three-quarters do not know the length of a Senate term. More than fifty per cent of Americans cannot name their congressman; forty per cent cannot name either of their senators. Voters’ notions of government spending are wildly distorted: the public believes that foreign aid consumes twenty-four per cent of the federal budget, for example, though it actually consumes about one per cent.”

And these are the people who choose our leaders. But I guess you really don’t need to know any of the above to know which candidate you prefer. At least that’s what the candidates want you believe.

To Vote or Not To Vote

July 16, 2007

In The New Yorker there is a review of Bryan Caplan’s book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Politics,” and while I doubt I will read the book, I think I learned enough from the review. Caplan is an economist, so there. The last book I read by an economist was “Freakonomics” and I haven’t recovered from that reading yet.

But Caplan’s premise is that people shouldn’t be voting, or at least not the one’s who are. First is the argument that there is no reason for any one person to vote. Especially in the presidential election, which will never be decided by a single vote. Spending time and effort educating oneself about different candidates and then driving to the polls and waiting in line (like that really happens) to cast a vote that will not influence the election is not a good investment of one’s time.
And like the author, if I had voted for the other candidate in every presidential election since I started voting in 1972, it would not have affected me or anyone else in the nation one bit (other than the guilt I might have felt…).

He has a point there, and while I know people who adhere to that policy for that reason, I still think people should educate themselves about issues and candidates and take all the time necessary to cast their ballots.

But even more important than the single vote, I think, is the influence an educated (or uneducated) person exerts over other potential voters. Even if I don’t vote, if I convince 23 others to vote for candidate B, and lots of other influencers do the same, then candidate B might win.

That’s boring, isn’t it? But here is what I wanted to say. In the review is a paragraph about the political knowledge of the average (supposedly educated) voter (as opposed to the average supposedly uneducated non-voter). Read this as if it is a test. I hope you feel good about yourself afterwards.

“The political knowledge of the average voter has been tested repeatedly, and the scores are impressively low. In polls taken since 1945, a majority of Americans have been unable to name a single branch of government, define the terms “liberal” and “conservative,” and explain what the Bill of Rights is. More than two-thirds have reported that they do not know the substance of Roe v. Wade and what the Food and Drug Administration does. Nearly half do not know that states have two senators and three-quarters do not know the length of a Senate term. More than fifty per cent of Americans cannot name their congressman; forty per cent cannot name either of their senators. Voters’ notions of government spending are wildly distorted: the public believes that foreign aid consumes twenty-four per cent of the federal budget, for example, though it actually consumes about one per cent.”

And these are the people who choose our leaders. But I guess you really don’t need to know any of the above to know which candidate you prefer. At least that’s what the candidates want you believe.