Thursday, January 25, 2007

My Bunny

Ice Palace II

It's looking good for an ice palace. The night time temps have been well below zero and daytime temps in the single digits or teens. More cold weather to come. The ice has got to be getting thicker. Today the village workers cleared the building site and once again cleard Pontiac Bay of snow. I'm guessing the cutting of ice might start on Sunday.

Vaccination and Herd Immunity

Herd (population?) immunity occurs when a large number of individuals within a population are immunized against a particular disease. This results in a lower probablility of un-immunized individuals becoming infected. For example, susceptible elderly individuals are less likely to become infected with the flu if the people that care and visit them are vaccinated against flu. Have you heard of a case of smallpox, polio or diptheria lately? No, because those diseases are either non-existent or extremely rare today due to vaccination and herd immunity.

There is a good discussion of this concept in todays NYT by Arthur Allen, author of Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine's Greatest Lifesaver.

The theoretical basis of the phenomenon of "herd immunity" can be expressed mathmatically thusly:

Ct+1 = St Ct r

Where C is the number of infected cases
S is the number of susceptible individuals
t is a given time period
t+1 is the next time period
r is a transmission parameter

The Basic Reproductive Rate (R0) is the mean number of secondary cases a typical infected indivdual will cause in an unimmunized population.

Still don't get it? Don't worry, go here to the NHS UK website and view the animation on herd immunity.

So if you love your elderly mom, dad, granny or gramps.....get vaccinated against flu.

Want to read the wingnut, scientifically illiterate views on vaccination go here or here.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Ice Palace - I

The first evidence of hopes for an Ice Palace. The picture above is of Pontiac Bay on Lake Flower. The snow has been plowed off the surface of the ice so that thicker ice can form more rapidly. Some 1000-1500 blocks of ice will be cut out of this area.

Like Father, Like Daughter

Liz Cheney writes an editorial in todays Washington Post. Here are her points:

We are at war. Ok, we are at war. So how do we determine when the war is won? With whom do we negotiate a possible peace settlement? If this so-called 'war' is so important, why aren't the American people called upon to fund it with taxes? Is this like the war on drugs, poverty and cancer?

Quitting helps the terrorists. Possibly. I might concede that point if you will concede that the Iraq War itself has helped the terrorists. How many young men an women hate the USA now because of the Iraq War? Not only in Iraq but in all middle east countries.

Beware the polls. You claim the American people do not want to lose this war. But the polls clearly show the American people no longer support the war. How can you win the war (and please define how we will know we won it) without the support of the people?

Retreat from Iraq hurts us from the broader war. I guess your Dad should have thought of that before lying us into the Iraq War. BTW, do you actually believe that Pervez Musharraf is an ally of the USA? You must be as ignorant as your father.

Our soldiers will win if we let them. "American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield." You mean the courage of war supporters to join the military and help out? Or do you mean the courage to make financial sacrifices to fund the war? Prove to me that "global terrorism" can be defeated by military force.

I have a couple of questions for you Ms. Cheney. Has your father been right on one single thing concerning the Iraq War? Why should we continue to take his advice?

Oh yeah, one more. Do you ever go bird hunting with your dad?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Winter Carnival Saranac Lake

Looks like it will be seasonably cold at least for the next week in the Tri-Lakes area. That means thicker ice and the hope of an ice palace being built for Winter Carnival. The ice in Pontiac Bay was only 6 inches thick about a week ago. We need at least 12 inches of ice to obtain blocks of ice sufficient for building a decent ice palace. It normally takes two weeks to build an ice palace and Winter Carnival starts on Feb 2. But ice palaces have a way of getting built so stay tuned because I am going to present how an ice palace is built in detail complete with photos and maybe even movies.

Liberal Professors

The vast majority of college and university professors are unabashed liberals that present only the liberal point of view...right? We know that due to several published studies. Conservatives love to use the results of these studies to bash professors in the press. But a new recently published study says not so fast. They examine the results of 8 studies that "prove" professors are liberal and show that they all come up short in adhering to research standards. The research standards that should be adhered to include:
  1. Replicable results
  2. Establishing clear definitions
  3. Accounting for alternative explanations
  4. Drawing logical conclusions
  5. Eliminating bias
The most serious theme being questioned is that students are prevented from expressing conservative ideas in the classroom.

For example, “How Many Ward Churchills?” was based on a review of online materials at various colleges. Lee notes that the researchers for the study appeared to focus on syllabuses or courses that had certain key words: activism, discrimination, gay issues, Marxism, oppression, pornography, radical, women’s studies, among others. Lee writes that selecting 65 courses at 48 colleges “does not allow for the sweeping generalizations the authors make.”
[My emphasis] None of the classes were actually observed. Also, none of the studies appear to demonstrate causal relationships.
While Lee finds flaws in all of the studies, he says that they have had influence, and notes that the studies have been widely cited by conservative pundits. Looking at the studies together, he says that it is clear that the authors “have a clear agenda” of charging professors with unprofessional conduct, and yet lack the evidence to make their case. Not a single study, he says, shows political bias in the classroom or hiring decisions.
Unfortunately, the study was funded by the American Federation of Teachers which for all purposes makes the conclusions of the study wrong in the eyes of conservatives. Just read the comments in the linked article.

In my opinion it is likely that a majority of college professors are liberal. Especially in the social science and humanities fields of study. It is also claimed that more open-minded individuals and people that do not tend to see things in black and white tend to be more liberal. But I don't think it has been proved that this means the academic freedom of students in the classroom has been impaired.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Talking to Each Other

Here is a link to a scholarly essay entitled "Why Can't Liberals Talk to Conservatives"? If you like it, go to the home page and read many, many other thoughtful essays.

Note: the essay makes reference to this study summary.
There is, a relatively stable ideological core of conservatism comprised of resistance to change and acceptance of inequality (e.g., Giddens, 1998; Huntington, 1957; Mannheim, 1927/1986; Rossiter, 1968)
[My emphasis]