Thursday, April 30, 2015

Am I Glowing Yet?

I started a new treatment today -- it's called Xofigo, and it consists of a microscopic amount of radium (RA-233) being infused via IV.

The strange moment came at the end, when the doctor held up a geiger counter in front of my chest.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Applying Data Analytics to the Supremes

538 has an interesting post about an attempt to apply data analytics to Supreme Court cases to predict how the court will rule.
CourtCast, a machine-learning model, relies only on PDF files of oral argument transcripts. There are three inputs: the number of words spoken by justices to each party, the sentiment of those words, and the number of times a justice interrupts an attorney. That’s really it — CourtCast doesn’t care about body language, it doesn’t care about justices’ ideologies, and it doesn’t care about who’s arguing the case in front of the court. It doesn’t know the law or the precedent or the political climate. The model trains itself on past cases, learning which justice tendencies are pertinent. It can then analyze the transcript from any fresh case and predict an outcome.
It's an interesting idea, though more as a starting point than as a finished product (the creator agrees that it needs refinement). The biggest problem I see is with the 'sentiment' parameter -- there's a big difference between Justice Ginsburg, for example, expressing mild skepticism concerning an argument and her shouting, "That's bullshit!"

OK, you're right -- she probably doesn't often do that.

An interesting sidelight to the article is the chart detailing how often each Justice interrupts attorneys and how many words they speak in the course of questioning or commenting. Sotomayor gets the title of Chief Interrupter by a narrow margin over Scalia and Breyer, while Thomas never interrupts and Alito and Kagan seldom do so. Breyer is Mr. Loquacious, by a good margin, and Thomas (this is not exactly news) is The Court Clam.

I thought the interruption stats were of interest, since the conventional wisdom is that men do  much more interrupting than women do. That doesn't seem to hold with the Court, where there seems, overall, to be little gender difference.

I'm afraid that if I were appointed to the Court (which seems unlikely) I would probably give Sotomayor a run for her money -- I have to admit that I fit the male stereotype in regard to interrupting people.

By the way, the model predicts a 61% likelihood that the King v. Burwell decision will uphold Obamacare.

Monday, April 27, 2015

I Admit to Being Peculiar

As far as I know, I am the only person on earth without an opinion on Bruce Jenner (or, for that matter, much interest in him, other than wishing him happiness).

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quito at Night

How I miss it.

Memories, Memories

Hillary Clinton hasn't been under this much fire since that time in Bosnia.

More Like Europe?

An ongoing theme among leftists in the US is that we need to become more like Europe.

I wonder how they will react to this, which is expected as an outcome of the EU summit meeting today:
The third message will be for migrants, whom the EU will try to discourage from coming to Europe. “Europe has its limits, the individual member states, the individual societies have their limits,” a diplomat said, adding that further arrivals of migrants are unsustainable economically and risk destroying the EU. 
The diplomat explained that discouraging migrants is “extremely sensitive” politically, that it is a “a challenge to present it”, and that its substance was that Europe is not ready to receive any more mass influxes of refugees, because then everyone who wants to have a better life will come to Europe. “This would destroy Europe at the end,” he said. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Milestone for AoB

That last post (about Chevron and Ecuador) was #500 for Adventures of Bob. I was considering doing something special for the occasion, but I think I'll let it pass with just this notice.

Chevron-Ecuador: Just Start All Over?

I've mentioned the Chevron-Ecuador legal battle several times in the past – most recently here. Now it seems possible the latest court hearing the arguments (the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals) may feel that the whole thing is such a mess that it's best just to return to square one and start over.
On Monday, Circuit Judge Richard Wesley called the case "unmanageable." [...] 
Wesley asked if a solution might be to rewind the clock to have the case tried in New York as the Ecuadorians originally wanted. 
"Why not order a retrial?" he asked. "Why not cleanse the question of fraud?"

Monday, April 20, 2015

Too Much, Too Soon

I've now seen three bumper stickers for 2016 presidential candidates. One for Hillary Clinton, in the parking lot at Brophy Prep in Phoenix; and two for Ben Carson, surprisingly.

As a double surprise, both Carson stickers were in Payson, one in the Walmart parking lot, the other on a car ahead of me today.

Even a politics junkie like me is likely to be very tired of this by next November.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

PBS Drops Their Pants for Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck, a Hollywood star big enough that even I have heard of him, was featured on a PBS TV show about genealogy called 'Finding Your Roots'. The idea of the show apparently is that some celebrity comes on the show, researchers find the celeb's ancestry, and the celeb comments on what they've found. I haven't watched it, but it sound no worse than most TV shows.

Anyway, Affleck was unhappy that the researchers found that one of his ancestors was a slave owner, so he demanded that that fact be deleted from the show.
In an email exchange posted by WikiLeaks, the genealogy program's host Henry Louis Gates Jr. nervously asked a top Sony executive for "advice" in handling Affleck's special request. 
". . . For the first time, one of our guests has asked us to edit out something about one of his ancestors — the fact that he owned slaves," the Harvard scholar told Sony chief Michael Lynton in the email chain dated July 22, 2014. 
Gates suggested that the censoring could tarnish their branding if word got out and would ultimately be a violation of PBS rules, "even for Batman."
What Affleck wants covered up about his past is his business, I guess. I certainly don't care who his ancestors were. I'm a bit surprised that he'd think it damaging to his public image that somebody in his family tree more than 150 years ago was involved in slavery.

However, Affleck, as is typical of most Hollywood folks, is heavy into left-wing politics; which leads to be real hypocrisy here, that PBS will roll over for big-name lefties. PBS, of course, denies that it did so, pretending that the decision to omit facts that Affleck was uncomfortable dealing with was an editing decision having nothing to do with Affleck.
In a statement responding to the hacked emails Friday, Gates defended their decision to edit out that chapter of Affleck's lineage, reasoning that it wasn't "interesting" enough."We focused on what we felt were the most interesting aspects of his ancestry — including a Revolutionary War ancestor, a 3rd great-grandfather who was an occult enthusiast, and his mother who marched for Civil Rights during the Freedom Summer of 1964," he stated in part. 
"We are very grateful to all of our guests for allowing us into their personal lives and have told hundreds of stories in this series including many about slave ancestors-never shying away from chapters of a family's past that might be unpleasant." 
PBS further stated that Gates made an "independent editorial judgment" when choosing what would go into the episode. It's a decision they stand by.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Security Pants

Here's an ad for an interesting new product from Thailand -- 'security pants'. You'll have to watch the video to the end to see what that means.

No statistics are yet available on its success rate.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Traffic-Clearing Made Simple

Who doesn't want a laser cannon mounted on top of their car? It's such a simple, elegant solution to annoying traffic problems.

While that appears to not be what this device is intended for, the reviewer notes that it could be mounted on the roof rack of his Volvo. My Kia is small and I don't have a roof rack, but I think it could be fitted with a few modifications.

The thing in this picture isn’t a photon torpedo. But, it’s close. It’s a photoncannon, currently under development by General Atomics. Small, versatile, and completely self-contained, it turns anything onto which you stick it into apowerful laser weapon. And at just two cubic meters in volume, you should have no trouble mounting it on the roof rack of your Volvo. 
General Atomics’ Tactical Laser Weapon Module is one of those pieces of futuristic technology that can show up out of nowhere at a military expo (in this case, the Navy’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition) and just sit there, attracting plenty of attention while also being almost entirely classified. 
What we were able to find out about this thing is that it’s a laser weapon with output energies (that's output, not total power in the system) ranging from 75 kilowatts all the way up to 300 kilowatts. To put that in perspective, about a year ago we wrote about how Lockheed was using a portable fiber laser to shoot down rockets at a range of 1.5 kilometers using just 10 kilowatts of power. Suffice it to say, 300 kilowatts is rather a lot.
The thing runs off lithium-ion batteries, so it wouldn't even drain my car battery, though I'd have only a limited number of shots.
You don't even need to connect the module to an outside power source; it’s packed with enough lithium-ion batteries to give you some number of shots (although, as with almost every question we asked, General Atomics won’t give us specific numbers, because it’s, well, classified). 
How many shots would I need to clear the road between Phoenix and Pine? I figure once I've turned two or three cars into smoldering heaps of liquified steel and plastic, word would spread and nobody would give me any further cause for annoyance.

Sun Devils-Wildcats Rivalry Rated #2

Economists at the University of Arkansas have done a study attempting to gauge the intensity of animosity between universities around the country. They found that the most intense rivalry is between … are you ready for it? Central Michigan and Western Michigan. ASU-UofA ranked second.
The researchers used data from a 2009 Sports Illustrated survey on fan devotion, looking mostly at the survey question, "Which school is your biggest conference rival?" Researchers noted how successful schools generate feelings of rivalry from many schools, such as the University of Southern California within its conference. They concluded Boise State was the most hated team in 2009. 
Within a conference, the most intense two-way rivalry was between Central Michigan and Western Michigan, according to researchers. Next was the rivalry between Arizona and Arizona State. 
"This does not mean that feelings are stronger in Michigan than they are in Arizona," Deck said in a statement. "It only means that the fan base's feelings about each other are more aligned. In other words, Central Michigan fans' dislike is concentrated on Western Michigan and vice versa, slightly more so than the mutual feelings of dislike between Arizona and Arizona State, because those fans also dislike USC."
Go Devils!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Unions Find Some Suckers

Another round of fast-food strikes (now known as 'Fight for Fifteen'):
In San Francisco, about 60 people stormed a McDonald’s in the Mission District with megaphones and posters Wednesday morning. 
The campaign is being spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union and began in late 2012. On Wednesday, organizers say protests for higher pay and union for low-wage workers are planned for more than 230 cities and college campuses.
I drove past a couple of McD's just now and saw no picketers or other signs of any unusual activity. I'm a little surprised (to put it politely) that a 'movement' involving 'more than 230 cities …' would not include Phoenix.

My guess is that the reality is that this involves only a few places like SF, NYC, LA, and some college towns. There might have been something going on out in Tempe.

I feel so sorry for these people who are being duped by the unions into thinking they're going to magically be transformed into employees who are at a productivity level justifying fifteen bucks an hour.

I've posted about this several times, most recently this one.

I imagine we'll hear no more about this after November 2016, but until then it serves a purpose for some people (though not the strikers, unfortunately).

The 550-HP Taurus

I love the opening line of this review:
This is the fastest couch I've ever driven. 
I drove a Ford Taurus for several years (a 2007, I think). It was the last car I owned before leaving the US – I gave it to my daughter when I left. Before that I had owned a Mercury Sable, which is the same car by a different name, for seven years or so – when I bought the Taurus, I gave the Sable to my son.

Both were very good cars, but I really can't imagine why someone would put a 550-HP engine in one.

Pearl Harbor Victims to Be Exhumed

More than seventy years later, several hundred US sailors will finally get their individual burials.
The remains of nearly 400 US servicemen killed at Pearl Harbor are to be exhumed so they may be identified and given individual burials, the US says. 
The sailors and Marines were aboard the battleship USS Oklahoma when it was struck by Japanese torpedoes in 1941. 
Their remains were buried together in Hawaii. The identification effort will use advances in forensic and DNA testing, US defence officials said.
It's good that scientific advances will allow the right thing to be done, even if belatedly. The article says that 429 bodies were recovered from the Oklahoma in 1942-44, but only 35 could be identified.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


This list, from Transparency International, attempts to list almost all the world's nations in terms of corruption. The US is tied for 19th with Uruguay (the highest-rated Latin American nation). We are just behind Japan and just ahead of Ireland.

Looking further down the list, I found the two countries I've lived in recently -- the Philippines (94th) and, just behind them, Ecuador at 102nd. I would have expected Ecuador to do a little bit better (at least relative to the Philippines).

Given that there are 177 countries on the list, these two would seem to have not terrible ratings -- lower middle. But the bottom of the list consists of some of the most horrible places on earth, and really, anything outside the top fifty or so is not a place most folks would like to live (or invest). Hell, Rwanda managed to make it to 49th.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Global Silliness

No, Barack, global warming did not cause your daughter's asthma.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure it's a good explanation for why I tripped coming down the stairs yesterday.

Friday, April 10, 2015


So how necessary is a law degree to practicing law? The lack of one does not seem to have prevented this woman from doing the job well.
A woman used forged documents to pose as an estate lawyer for a decade and made partner at her small firm before her fraud was discovered, according to charges announced yesterday. Kimberly Kitchen was charged Thursday with forgery, unauthorized practice of law, and felony records tampering. State prosecutors contend Kitchen fooled BMZ Law by forging a law license, bar exam results, an email showing she attended Duquesne University law school, and a check for a state attorney registration fee. The firm is based in Huntingdon, about 110 miles east of Pittsburgh. Kitchen, of nearby James Creek, handled estate planning for more than 30 clients "despite never having attended law school," the attorney general's office says. 
So, over a period of several years, she took care of dozens of clients sufficiently well that her firm made her a partner, and was also elected president of the county bar association – without a law degree.

Funniest Thing I've Seen Recently

Every TV news report on the economy summarized in one.

Since you will now never need to watch another such report, I have added hundreds of hours of time to your life, during which you can do something worthwhile (e.g., read Adventures of Bob).

I have done this out of the goodness of my heart with no expectation of payment; but contributions are always appreciated.

Hat tip: Coyote Blog (one of my favorites)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Would I Joke about Such a Thing?

In Quitman, Georgia it is illegal for a chicken to cross the road.

The Moroccan Candidate

I'm sure that there is some subtle way in which this differs from a bribe, but I doubt that the difference is enough to matter.
The Clinton Foundation is accepting a major donation from a Moroccan government-owned company to hold a high-profile conference next month in Marrakech with the king of Morocco — an event likely to reignite concerns about the foundation’s acceptance of foreign money just as Hillary Clinton prepares to announce her presidential candidacy. 
Clinton had been scheduled to appear at the meeting in Marrakech, dubbed the Clinton Global Initiative Middle East and Africa Meeting, on May 5-7. But an official with the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation told POLITICO it’s “unlikely” the former secretary of state will join her husband, Bill. He is still expected at the event, as is Moroccan King Mohammed VI. 
The event is being funded largely by a contribution of at least $1 million from OCP, a phosphate exporter owned by Morocco’s constitutional monarchy, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the event.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Enriching the Language

I've decided that 'eat' is a boring word. Henceforth, I intend to replace it with 'become enfooded'.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rolling Stone Emulates the Government

Nobody is going to get fired at Rolling Stone. Apparently, there is no degree of incompetence sufficient to lose one's job at that rag.
Now you would think after a scandal of this magnitude that heads would roll. But that’s not the case at all. It's business as usual at Rolling Stone. Managing Editor Will Dana is quoted in the report as saying, "It's not like I think we need to overhaul our process, and I don't think we need to necessarily institute a lot of new ways of doing things." 
The New York Times reports Sabrina Erdely, who wrote the story, will continue writing for the magazine. Miss Erdely penned an apology – sort of an “oopsie, my bad” - but failed to mention the men of Phi Kappa Psi. The fraternity's good name has been smeared, their reputations ruined by and act of journalistic malpractice.
If, for some reason, you ever read it again (which assumes you have read it semi-recently; I haven't in the past 30+ years), keep that fact in mind -- the writers and editors care not at all about accuracy and are not expected by the management to care.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Prediction: Rolling Stone and Erdely Will Use 'Fake but Accurate' Defense

In case you've been living in a cave, Rolling Stone printed one of the most egregious bits of fake journalism  in recent years a few months back. The writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, wrote a totally false account of a very, very brutal rape that never happened, (to a student identified only as 'Jackie') without doing the slightest bit of checking (because to do so might 'traumatize' the 'victim').

Rolling Stone's editors then printed the crapola Erdely wrote without doing any sort of checking of their own.

The story was celebrated among the social justice warrior crowd as proof (proof, mind you) of the 'rape culture' that they claim exists of American college campuses (contrary to massive amounts of evidence to the contrary).

The story didn't pass the most elementary of smell tests, of course, but it fitted the narrative that radical feminists and others on the left are selling, and also fitted the biases of the editors, so they all ignored the stink and printed it.

Once grown-ups began looking at it and checking out some of the more outrageous inconsistencies (she was raped on a floor covered with broken glass for several hours without any cuts -- really?) the whole thing began to fall apart, and once the falling-apart process began, it quickly became clear that there was pretty much not a word of truth to it (with, perhaps, the exception of an occasional 'the').

So now, four or five months late, come the retractions and 'apologies' (I'm putting a lot of words in quotes today, but that's what happens when you're discussing heavy-duty BS).
But now, according to CNN’s Brian Stelter, Erdely plans to make a public apology nearly four months after Rolling Stone’s retraction. Her apology appears to be timed to coincide with the release of a Columbia School of Journalism report on Rolling Stone’s journalistic failings. 
“Once the story began to unravel… Erdely disappeared. She has been invisible ever since,” Stetler said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “But my sources say that she will break her silence tonight, and she will be issuing a statement and will be formally apologizing for her errors.”
So now my prediction: Erdely and Rolling Stone will say that, while the story itself was 'inaccurate' and that they should have checked details better, none of that in any way invalidates the underlying truth that a rape culture pervades American campuses, etc, etc.

This is called 'fake but accurate' in honor of Dan Rather's lies about George Bush's Air National Guard service during the 2004 election campaign.

They will also continue to refer to 'Jackie' as a 'victim', though they will not specify what she might have been a victim of.

Why I'm White

There's a new study that details how Europeans evolved to have white skins. Apparently it happened relatively recently in evolutionary terms -- e.g., within the last 8000 years or so.
The modern humans who came out of Africa to originally settle Europe about 40,000 years are presumed to have had dark skin, which is advantageous in sunny latitudes. And the new data confirm that about 8500 years ago, early hunter-gatherers in Spain, Luxembourg, and Hungary also had darker skin: They lacked versions of two genes—SLC24A5 and SLC45A2—that lead to depigmentation and, therefore, pale skin in Europeans today. 
But in the far north—where low light levels would favor pale skin—the team found a different picture in hunter-gatherers: Seven people from the 7700-year-old Motala archaeological site in southern Sweden had both light skin gene variants, SLC24A5 and SLC45A2. They also had a third gene, HERC2/OCA2, which causes blue eyes and may also contribute to light skin and blond hair. Thus ancient hunter-gatherers of the far north were already pale and blue-eyed, but those of central and southern Europe had darker skin. 
Then, the first farmers from the Near East arrived in Europe; they carried both genes for light skin. As they interbred with the indigenous hunter-gatherers, one of their light-skin genes swept through Europe, so that central and southern Europeans also began to have lighter skin. The other gene variant, SLC45A2, was at low levels until about 5800 years ago when it swept up to high frequency.
Europeans being relatively tall happened about the same time.
The team also tracked complex traits, such as height, which are the result of the interaction of many genes. They found that selection strongly favored several gene variants for tallness in northern and central Europeans, starting 8000 years ago, with a boost coming from the Yamnaya migration, starting 4800 years ago. The Yamnaya have the greatest genetic potential for being tall of any of the populations, which is consistent with measurements of their ancient skeletons. In contrast, selection favored shorter people in Italy and Spain starting 8000 years ago, according to the paper now posted on the bioRxiv preprint server. Spaniards, in particular, shrank in stature 6000 years ago, perhaps as a result of adapting to colder temperatures and a poor diet.
Even for a non-science guy like me, this is interesting stuff.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why Not 'Very Good', 'Good', and 'Good Enough'?

In my sixty-seventh year of life, I still haven't figured out the US Department of Agriculture's beef grading system. The problem is that the three grades that one finds in the supermarket – Prime, Choice, and Select – all sound top-of-the-line. I can never remember which is really the top grade.

I went to the USDA website and read this, though I will no doubt forget by the next time I'm sent to the store and told to buy something – with, no doubt, the final admonition, “And this time, don't screw up and buy some piece of crap.”
Prime beef is produced from young, well-fed beef cattle. It has abundant marbling (the amount of fat interspersed with lean meat), and is generally sold in restaurants and hotels. Prime roasts and steaks are excellent for dry-heat cooking such as broiling, roasting or grilling. 
Choice beef is high quality, but has less marbling than Prime. Choice roasts and steaks from the loin and rib will be very tender, juicy, and flavorful and are suited for dry-heat cooking. Many of the less tender cuts can also be cooked with dry heat if not overcooked. Such cuts will be most tender if braised, roasted or simmered with a small amount of liquid in a tightly covered pan. 
Select beef is very uniform in quality and normally leaner than the higher grades. It is fairly tender, but, because it has less marbling, it may lack some of the juiciness and flavor of the higher grades. Only the tender cuts should be cooked with dry heat. Other cuts should be marinated before cooking or braised to obtain maximum tenderness and flavor.
This reminds me of my time working in a department store, where I learned that one popular brand of pantyhose, to avoid the horror of telling any of their customers that they were large, sold their product in four sizes: Extra Petite, Petite, Medium, and Dutchess.

A similar case is England's soccer leagues, where the top level, as most folks know, is the Premier League. The second level, though, is the Championship League. Championship of what -- mediocrity?

And then there are the states (Arizona used to be one, but reformed recently) where the high school sports leagues are all variations of 'A': the lowest level is A, then AA, then AAA, etc. Illinois went to AAAAAA, as I recall it, or maybe AAAAAAA. God forbid that any kid be told he or she is playing in a B or C league. It might traumatize them for the rest of their lives.

Getting back to the USDA, there actually are some other grades:
Standard and Commercial grades of beef are frequently sold as ungraded or as store brand meat. Utility, Cutter, and Canner grades of beef are seldom, if ever, sold at retail but are used instead to make ground beef and processed products. 
Still, I think my suggestion would be much clearer.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Chevron-Ecuador Case

I've referred a few times to the legal battle between Chevron and Ecuador, which has been going on for a long time in many courts. The stakes are high ($9 billion), but the real fascination has been the maneuvering (some of which seems to have been fraudulent in nature).

I've been meaning to write a summary of it, but I've been scared off by its complexity. In lieu of that, here's a video summary.

Just bear in mind that this is Chevron's side of the story, so don't take it as gospel.

A Great Einstein Quote

From a newsletter I get (by Carl Cannon of RealClearPolitics):
… after his work in particle physics helped end World War II by reducing Nagasaki and Hiroshima to rubble, Einstein was asked why it was that human beings could discover the secrets of the atom, but not control them. 
"That is simple," he replied. "Because politics is more difficult than physics."

A Spot of Bad Luck for Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, was defeated in his bid for re-election. This is a tremendous blow to the world, since I cannot think of any other world leader who has anywhere near as good a name.

More importantly, when he lost, he conceded defeat and is turning power over to his successor. This is the first time this has ever happened in Nigeria, and thus a significant step forward for the country. Good on you, Goodluck.