Monday, July 17, 2017

Peromyscus in the news again

And not for a nice reason, either. The little White Footed mouse is apparently "not fastidious" and doesn't mind ticks attached to its body. It also has a crap immune system. This means that the Borrelia burgdorferi it often carries gets into the ticks, which, when they are grown up, bite humans and give us Lyme Disease. They eat acorns, so a good acorn year is followed by a good mouse year, which is followed by a good (for B. burgdorferi) Lyme year.

Washington Post has the full story (text here).

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Important notice re: Earlier images on this blog are disappearing

Photobucket, the 3rd party serving photo-hosting service, has emailed me (and all others) to say they will no longer host 3rd party images.

To continue using Botophucket, all I have to do is pay $400 a year!

Needless to say, I'm not going to pay $400 a year (actually it's $399), but to help force the issue, Photofuckit are replacing all the hosted images with thumbnails containing their ransom demand. So those of you who read my blog here at are going to find it looking a little measly with many of the older pictures replaced by those thumbnails. 

My apologies, but it it will take some time - perhaps forever - to change all those links, especially as Photobucket's download button only downloads one picture at a time. One at a time!

If you are searching for a picture (e.g. one of the historical Led Zeppelin pictures) and think the image may be underneath the ransom demand email, leave a message here and I will attempt to find it on my hard disk and re-upload it or send it to you. Same deal for any postings in message boards or fora that you think may have been by me (e.g Elixir_Sue, Lyle Hopwood, Peromyscus). 


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Doctor Who's Oxygen: What would really happen to a human in a vacuum?

I know everyone who just watched Doctor Who will be thinking, "I wonder what would really happen if the human body was exposed to a vacuum?"

Good question. NASA used to have the answer on its pages, but it disappeared a couple of years ago. Luckily, nothing is truly gone from the Inner Tubes, and so I proudly present their answer, ripped from the Wayback Machine.  [Their answer is ripped from an even earlier page, referenced in the text.]

Ask an astrophysicist: What happens to a human body in the vacuum of space?

The Answer
From the now extinct page http://medlib/
How long can a human live unprotected in space?
If you don't try to hold your breath, exposure to space for half a minute or so is unlikely to produce permanent injury. Holding your breath is likely to damage your lungs, something scuba divers have to watch out for when ascending, and you'll have eardrum trouble if your Eustachian tubes are badly plugged up, but theory predicts -- and animal experiments confirm -- that otherwise, exposure to vacuum causes no immediate injury. You do not explode. Your blood does not boil. You do not freeze. You do not instantly lose consciousness.
Various minor problems (sunburn, possibly "the bends", certainly some [mild, reversible, painless] swelling of skin and underlying tissue) start after ten seconds or so. At some point you lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. Injuries accumulate. After perhaps one or two minutes, you're dying. The limits are not really known.
You do not explode and your blood does not boil because of the containing effect of your skin and circulatory system. You do not instantly freeze because, although the space environment is typically very cold, heat does not transfer away from a body quickly. Loss of consciousness occurs only after the body has depleted the supply of oxygen in the blood. If your skin is exposed to direct sunlight without any protection from its intense ultraviolet radiation, you can get a very bad sunburn.
At NASA's Manned Spacecraft Center (now renamed Johnson Space Center) we had a test subject accidentally exposed to a near vacuum (less than 1 psi) in an incident involving a leaking space suit in a vacuum chamber back in '65. He remained conscious for about 14 seconds, which is about the time it takes for O2 deprived blood to go from the lungs to the brain. The suit probably did not reach a hard vacuum, and we began repressurizing the chamber within 15 seconds. The subject regained consciousness at around 15,000 feet equivalent altitude. The subject later reported that he could feel and hear the air leaking out, and his last conscious memory was of the water on his tongue beginning to boil.
Aviation Week and Space Technology (02/13/95) printed a letter by Leonard Gordon which reported another vacuum-packed anecdote:
"The experiment of exposing an unpressurized hand to near vacuum for a significant time while the pilot went about his business occurred in real life on Aug. 16, 1960. Joe Kittinger, during his ascent to 102,800 ft (19.5 miles) in an open gondola, lost pressurization of his right hand. He decided to continue the mission, and the hand became painful and useless as you would expect. However, once back to lower altitudes following his record-breaking parachute jump, the hand returned to normal."

More info and references are at the link.

So I think Doctor Who got it right, don't you?

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Geoffrey Bayldon, RIP

RIP Geoffrey Bayldon, known to many people as Catweazle, but to those of us in the know as Marc Bolan's neighbor and his hamburger butler in Born To Boogie.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Knock Knock - the woodlice

Knock Knock!

Knock on wood!

Can you shoot an episode of a tv series about the relationship of these two unrelated sayings? Doctor Who can.

Do you think Doctor Who writers research whether English terms are used in the US? (Or Australia, or wherever, but I'm thinking of BBC America here.)

Doctor Who's bugs are clearly pillbugs.

Last night's episode was about alien pill millipedes, which they kept calling woodlice - often just lice - even though the pilling kind and the woodlice kind are entirely different. The pilling kind are Myriapods (millipedes), and the woodlice are Crustaceans (like crabs). And they're called sowbugs and pillbugs around here in the western US. They have lots of other names around the world - like roly-polys and wood pigs - and the woodlice name seems to be relatively uncommon. 

Pillbugs, unrolled and rolled.

Woodlouse. That's the way a woodlouse rolls, i.e. it doesn't roll at all.

I was especially revolted by a killer pillbugs plot as I have just started a farm (with both pillbugs and sowbugs, since my yard teems with both) because my chameleon ADORES eating them, but they're known to be parasitized in the wild. No, I'm not talking about the Isopods that ARE parasites like the famously off-putting fish-tongue-eating Isopod, Cymothoa exigua, that continues to live in the fish's mouth and perform tongue duties as the price of its meals; in their turn our garden Isopods can get a parasite that makes them walk above ground in the sunshine where they're easy prey for birds, who are in turn colonized by the parasites. (They're called Plagiorhynchus cylindraceus. Calling Charlie Stross!) I thought a farm would be a good idea as I can keep the birds away and hopefully raise a generation of healthy sowbugs and pillbugs. I did not expect to see cheap CGI of them eating people.

I suppose I shouldn't agonize too much over the comprehensibility of their common name since the characters in Doctor Who kept calling them insects, which is like calling humans a type of bird. (We do have two legs, like birds.) Since the young housemate characters were all students, I'm hoping none of them is a zoology student. 

Loved the pun about, "How do you feel? Rotten?" though. Hahaha.

Spoilers below.

The common name of the Isopod  wasn't the most confusing thing about the episode, however. They presumably went with 'woodlouse' because the wood of the house - the 'fabric' as the doctor called it - had something to do with the plot. As did the wood of the trees outside, since they also attacked a character. But it didn't really hang together - the woodnymphs, the dryads, the tree spirits, the tower, the wainscotting, the woodlice, OK. Eating someone's vital essence to preserve someone else's life as they turned to wood, OK. Yet, somehow the victims themselves being preserved forever - or so the landlord said? In what way was Pavel preserved as part of the house if he'd been used up? Aliens summoned by a tuning fork or a musical box, and yet halted from action by a stuck record? Seems a bit, well, rushed, to put it charitably.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Killing in the Name by the Wackids


That amazing solo instrument is an Otamatone, and I want one. There seems to be a plethora of YouTube vids of rockers making music with them and at least half the fun is the smile on the little guy's face as they do so. 

Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball

Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Jack White with Alison Mosshart: Love Interruption (Live video Dublin 26/6/14)

Thanks to uploader acquiescefc, Jack White's Love Interruption from his debut solo album Blunderbuss, performed with his male backing band The Buzzards - and Alison Mosshart.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Old Millennial vs. the Young Millennial

Jesse Singal, writing in NY Mag, argues that there is a difference between "old millennials" and "young millennials".

As someone who graduated directly into Thatcher's Britain and consequentially can't stand to be labeled a "Baby Boomer", I feel for him or her.

They argue that there's a split that occurred due to the introduction of the iPhone (2007) and the Great Recession (2008) that caused a major difference in young people's outlooks.  I can believe that; it seems more likely that cell-phone availability and job insecurity is a much likelier contributor to cautious vs. risk-taking personality than the arbitrary Arabic numeral group giving your birth cohort.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

It Might Get Loud, Revisited

When It Might Get Loud came out in 2009, I was just getting into Jack White’s music and at the peak of a rediscovered Led Zeppelin fanaticism. I loved the hell out of the idea of the film. Thesis: take three guitarists and examine the role of rock guitar in music, and what drives the players to learn and excel at it – starring Jimmy Page, Jack White and The Edge.

The premiere was in LA and when I phoned up for tickets, they said there were two premieres. I asked what the difference was, and she didn’t tell me the truth, which is how come I went to the second premiere that didn’t have Jimmy Page and Jack White in attendance. But never mind! I saw it another two or three times in the cinema, and then bought the DVD. I gushed about it several times on my blog, and other bloggers – cooler heads, one might say – did try to tell me it wasn’t very good, but I wasn’t having any of it.

I re-watched it just now. There’s things I still love about it. Jack’s laconic gunslinger outsider shtick, Jimmy’s palpable excitement at listening to Link Wray’s Rumble and his enthusiasm with the other players; Edge’s self-deprecation and brief Wanderer-of-the-Wasteland episode ending when the looming tangle of trees suddenly resolves into perfect rows with clear paths between them; the cows listening to Jack’s Diddly Bow; the slide guitar jam near the end; the White Stripes performing for a room full of puzzled Chelsea Pensioners. And although the three men seem to be mostly there because they were the three who answered the phone, rather than anyone’s idea of a broad selection, they settle into their roles as Jack (heart), Edge (head) and Jimmy (groin).

The cooler heads were right, however. The exercise was flawed in numerous ways. Neither producer Thomas Tull nor director Davis Guggenheim demonstrate an understanding of the guitar nor are they able to pull together a cohesive account of the electric guitar or its place in rock. The narrative used is a three-act drama, which means that at the top of the second act, someone had to have a crisis, reach rock bottom and be forced to develop new strengths to overcome adversity and ultimately triumph. This is a really strange thing to have in the middle of a factual film that is not a biography. It’s shoehorned in by bending poor old self-effacing Edge’s story, having him go into exile to learn songwriting skills. Which he does, but the sought-for emotional catharsis is blunted by its artificiality. As a more concrete example of a flaw, Jimmy’s first electric guitar is labeled onscreen a ‘Stratocaster’ even though it’s a Grazioso, and Jimmy was one of the least likely rock musicians to be seen with a Strat at any point in his career.

More obviously (and loudly) two of the three guitarists refuse to stick with the script. Jack’s first love is the drums, and he’s portrayed as switching to guitar mostly because his upholsterer boss Brian Muldoon already played drums and he wanted to jam. Apart from a fair amount of drumming, the bulk of Jack’s music in the film is thumped out on piano, so Guggenheim must have been overjoyed to get hold of the footage of him bleeding for his art all over a guitar pickguard. Jimmy loves guitars – literally – but spends a lot of time talking about producing music (mostly drum sounds) and plays a lovely mandolin bit. At least he can tell his spooky story about the guitar “intervention” when his first guitar turned up mysteriously in his house just as he became interested in music. Edge sticks to guitar, but his style – very simple riffs compounded into lacy ruffles by echo, delay and other effects – means that the film spends most of its time marveling at his equipment and following his guitar tech around.

The ’summit’, where all three guitarists meet for the first time, with their equipment set up around them, is evidently supposed to be a climax. In the event, all three seem a little shy, and you watch The Edge, ever eager to please, trying to keep the conversation going by asking Jimmy questions but aware that he needs to avoid the minefield of disallowed inquiries that have tripped up many a professional journalist and gotten them yelled at by an irate Page. (He steps in it with the Kinks question, but manages to get out with both feet intact.) They demonstrate one of their famous riffs each, teach it to the others, and then join in on the ultimate song of the movie. It’s… The Weight, that old chestnut, played on acoustic guitars, and there’s nothing about it that you wouldn’t see at any house party where three or more of your friends brought or found an acoustic instrument and downed sufficient beers to have a loose jam.

It’s worth watching, because we care about the people and what they have accomplished, but as a movie, alas, it’s strictly third-tier.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lawn Maintenance

Since the media still loves divide and conquer tactics - as both attacked and attackers will click on the content - Boomers vs. Millennials is one of today's big Let's-You-And-Him-Fight matches.  I'm not happy with being shown how to hate on a daily basis, but it is - as the annoying Gen X folks always used to say - what it is. 

Just this month I've seen the following headlines:

Sorry Millennials, Boomers May Be Better Drivers Than You

I found a couple of more recent articles about inter-generational sniping in my bookmarks. Anyone who's amused by the current Millennial/Baby Boomer social media battles might find them familiar.

The first one is from the New Statesman.

"The growing public approval of anti-culture is itself, I think, a reflection of the new cult of youth. Bewildered by a rapidly changing society, excessively fearful of becoming out of date, our leaders are increasingly turning to young people as guides and mentors. If youth likes the Bieb, then it must be good, and clever men must rationalize this preference in intellectually respectable language. Indeed, the supreme crime, in politics and culture alike, is not to be “off the hizzle”."

Actually, I changed four words there. The original is from Bill Deedes (b. 1913) throwing shade at the Beatles in 1964. It's a great piece of sniffy fuddy-duddyism. It's worth a glance at the whole thing.

And from a decade later, we get another Bill - this time it's Grundy - tipsily attempting to out-snark Siouxsie Sioux and the Sex Pistols (Rotten, Jones and Matlock) on his TV show in 1976. The show was a disaster for the Pistols, as most of the country weirdly sided with Grundy (b. 1923) and the Pistols subsequently found themselves persona non grata, but at the time it was hilarious.

"GRUNDY: It's what?
ROTTEN: Nothing. A rude word. Next question.
GRUNDY: No, no, what was the rude word?
GRUNDY: Was it really? Good heavens, you frighten me to death.
ROTTEN: Oh alright, Siegfried...
GRUNDY: [Turning to those standing behind the band] What about you girls behind?
MATLOCK: He's like yer dad, isn't 'e, this geezer?
GRUNDY: Are you, er...
MATLOCK: Or your granddad."
Transcript from The Guardian 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Black is black (I'm feeling blue)

Remember the blue and black (or, for some, white and gold) dress from two years ago?

At the time, I said on this blog,

The picture was 'obviously' light blue and gold - to me. I assumed the people who saw black and blue were somehow processing the white balance in their heads, which is pretty damned clever. It's as though they weren't seeing what color the picture was, but estimating what color the real dress is and reading it back without realizing that's not what was on the monitor. The real dress is, equally obviously, blue and black.
But apparently, I couldn't have said that, because nobody knew how color perception worked at that time, at least according to this Slate researcher.

Two Years Later, We Finally Know Why People Saw “The Dress” Differently
Remember “the dress”? It disrupted our understanding of color, and, yes, it took science two years to catch up.
No one had any idea why some people see “the dress” differently than others—we arguably still don’t fully understand it. It was like discovering a new continent.
Two years later we have a much better idea of what may have been a reason for the varied perceptions: People’s perceived color is also informed by their perception of lighting. And the image of the dress, taken on a cellphone, contained a lot of uncertainty in terms of lighting conditions. Was it taken inside or outside? This matters because it implies artificial or natural light. Was the dress illuminated from the front or the back? This matters because if it was back-lit, it would be in a shadow, otherwise not.
I'm glad they cleared that up. 


Friday, April 07, 2017

Dexter Romweber of the Flat Duo Jets

The Flat Duo Jets in a movie called Athens, GA: Inside/Out which is apparently from around 1987.

Wild Wild Lover from a 1990 Letterman show.

I may have posted this before, but here is an MTV video from the 80s, interviewing Dex Romweber in his little house, "The Maus".

It's sub five minutes of rock and roll background and a ramp to great tunes. It's the one I love the most.

I saw Dex in 2010 and he's touring now. Don't hesitate.

Monday, April 03, 2017


I joined . If you're my friend here and you want to be included, why not join and follow? I'm LyleHopwood there. :)

It promises to have fewer assholes and more granularity than Twitter, but I'm yet to experience that because I don't have any friends. Luckily there is a timeline that streams everything 'local' so if I want to respond to a stranger's post, I can. (And they can respond to mine.)

I haven't found a button to share these posts to Mastodon yet. It's kinda new.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Pictures from the Phoenix trip

More from the Phoenix trip. 

Phoenix's mountains are fossilized Sorting Hats. 

The aquarium has some nice jellyfish, among other things. (I went to the zoo too, but didn't take any photos.)

The Trump billboard went up the day I arrived and generated a lot of buzz. What the articles didn't show is the billboard is in an artist's community, not over a main highway. 

 The back of the billboard.

The billboard has since been vandalized, hey, it's the libs who always cause the property damage, son, the right wing people always respect property. 

A screen in Taliesin West. I assume the decoration is a representation of the property. I forgot to ask.

The legendary Sa Gyu Ro cactus of the S'Morean dessert.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Reduced Power Research

The Washington Post recently changed its motto to "Democracy Dies in Darkness". It's hard to tell whether that's a claim or a prophecy. The government is trying to make it literal, by reducing HHS grants for light.  Statnews reports that HHS Sec Tom Price wishes to reduce support for "indirect expenses" or "overheads" in research.

Price repeatedly suggested reducing the amount the NIH pays universities to cover “overhead” costs, like lab equipment and utilities. That would let the agency direct more of its funds to actual research, even if the overall budget were reduced, he said.
“I was struck by one thing at NIH,” Price said, “and that is that about 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses, which as you know means that that money goes for something other than the research that’s being done.”

"Indirect expenses" has a specific meaning to a businessman. They're things that cannot be directly linked to the product being manufactured. For example, they include electricity, rent, and telephone costs. His accountant will treat them differently from direct costs - for example, what accounting period the incurred cost hits the books, which affects spreadsheets and the bottom line. There are tax implications. I think indirect costs (unlike direct) are tax deductible. Usually a business will develop a costs rate. If indirect costs are normally say 30% of overall costs, then a change to 35% may need investigation to see if there is impending trouble.

If a researcher writes a paper, it's trivially true that institutional electricity and telephone costs can't be linked directly to the conclusion of the paper. However, it's also fucking trivially true that without them, the research can't be conducted and the paper can't be written. Every businessman knows this - that's why they keep an eye on the rate, not suddenly decide to defund indirect costs. What the hell are universities going to do if they lose support for rent because it's 'indirect'?

These people are as crazy as junebugs.

Never mind, we can all start using this: 

Drug costs, another one of my bugbears.

One of the reasons cited for high drug costs is the cost of developing a new drug. I've seen figures of up to $1.52.6 billion per marketed drug.  (Article here at Forbes.)

The New York Times reports on a new treatment for eczema, which costs $37,000 per year.

However, a paper by the London School of Economics provides ample evidence that this high cost of R&D is as they say, a "myth".  Or rather, creative accounting.  Warning: PDF. I'm not going to try to summarize it but if drug costs are of concern to you, it's worth reading in full. 

Book learnin', 45 style

A couple of presidential tweets that show it is possible for him to learn - if he's forced to read something out loud. 

Fungicidal mania

So I have a toenail...condition. To cure it you have to use a special nail polish with fungicide in it that you have to paint on every day for a year. It has a 17% cure rate. (No, I didn't mistype that. After a year, one in five or so people are cured.) I'm on month 7 (nothing so far!) and got a refill today.
The pharmacist handed it over to me and said, "That'll be $63.99." 

I gasped. "Didn't the insurance cover it? They've always covered it before."

He looked at it wonderingly and said, "It didn't go through insurance. That's the cash price." He then pressed the various buttons to get it to go through insurance. "Okay, that'll be five bucks."

"Ah, that's better," I said, paying up.

But that's not the whole story. Because he handed me the "cash price" invoice at first, it had different information on it to the Full Price/Copay slip I usually get. The cash price invoice said,

**Congratulations! By using a generic you've saved $1563.97! Cash price $63.99**

I take that to mean I gasped at the sixty dollar price of Cic******, the generic drug, but the brand name drug, Pe****, had been priced at $1627.96. Since they last about two months, a year's worth is $9767.76.

You have a 17% chance of curing toenail fungus if you spend ten thousand bucks. This is why generic drug manufacturers can jack up their prices - they know brand name drugs are even more expensive. (Though this manufacturer is asking a fair price at around $60.)

I may have missed out a couple of swears in my transcript of the conversation up there.

Stonehenge tunnel still a bad idea

Stonehenge tunnel: UNESCO doesn't like it either.

BBC News link.

Dumbo Octopus swimming

I think this may be a dumbo octopus. Aren't they cute?

Lyme Disease vaccines

I used to work with Lyme testing and it's a pleasure to read something in the news about Dr. Alan Steere again. it's less of a pleasure to read that his expertise has gone to waste in one area because people are easily led.

Why your dog can get vaccinated against Lyme Disease and you can't

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Phoenix, Arizona part II

Continued from part I

The other school mentioned in Alma Mater (the School's Out album track) is of course Cortez.

I always go to the really highbrow cultural places when I'm on me hols. 

The song lyrics say, "We got no principals", but Cortez nowadays has a principal, and a psychologist (probably necessary). 

After that, perhaps tiring of the hurly-burly of high culture, we went to Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West, the winter home of his architectural school. (Which, on contemplating some of the things the tour guide said, was as close to a cult as you could come and still be respected.) It's still a school and the students still spend summers in Wisconsin and then pick up and spend winters in Phoenix, in a house they design and build themselves as part of the course, which seems admirably grounded. 

Looking out of the front door of Taliesin West, you can see Camelback (the hump is behind the sa gyu ro cactus, head towards the right), where Alice Cooper's famous school lies. 

And facing the opposite way, the main building of Taliesin West. Among hundreds of other facts, the tour guide said that the stone and concrete foundations and translucent-blind covered roofs were put down first but it was years before the glass was put in. I find it really hard to imagine working with large pieces of architectural paper with the desert wind (and rain) howling through the four or five foot gap between the wall and roof, but that's what she said. 

It also took years to get a well drilled and get this pool filled. And don't even think about the students digging latrines for the first couple decades. 

The tour is completely fascinating and to be recommended. 

And last but not least, STB taking his oath of citizenship in Phoenix. Due to the odd logistics, I wasn't very close to him, but he's in there somewhere. 

Phoenix, Arizona

I spent the weekend of 17 March in Phoenix. I traveled to witness STB take his oath as an American citizen.

A bird's nest in a cactus in Phoenix. 


Disappointingly, Phoenix's mountains are mostly piles of decomposed granite with pebbles in. What gives?

The mighty Sa Gyu Ro. I first came to Phoenix in the nineties, when a Grateful Dead fan convinced me to come to Tempe to see the band.  At that point I'd lived in the states for about ten years (and of course had heard of some aspects before then), but she was in a good mood and wanted to point out all the authentically American things around.  "This," she said, pointing at one of these in the photo, "Is the Sonoran SA GYU RO cactus." Dead heads turned. One said, loudly, "SA HWA RO cactus."

It's a Saguaro. I knew it and vaguely how to pronounce it before then, but this really rubbed it in. 

Important stop in Phoenix. This is Camelback High School, made famous in Alice Cooper's songs. It's one of the two schools that were *out* in School's Out, and namechecked in another song on the album, Alma Mater. The mountain just visible behind it is...guess...Camelback Mountain. 

Bye, United Kingdom

It's beyond breathtaking to me to realize that British politicians still have no idea - none at all - what they've got themselves into with Brexit. 40 years of mutuality and common law-making to undo in two years, based on the passing wishes of 52% of the voting public (who were not informed of the technicalities beforehand.)

I guess it's irreversible now as Article 50 is to be invoked within hours, but shit, what a terrible way for a country to die. 

According to Alan Ferrier (@alanferrier)David Davis said on March 16th: 

I has walked a trail

I spent the March 11 weekend exploring a trail in Casper's Park, Orange County. I used to work there - yes, inside the park, as it wasn't always a park and canny businesses bought land while it was permitted.

It's been raining quite a bit, and so the creek needed a bit of creative jumping from rock to rock but once up the hill, there's an excellent view. 

My workplace was the glass building just under the two water storage units, in the center of this picture. Can't ask for a more peaceful and contemplative place to work. 

Always with the wild cucumber on these walks. Though this is the first time I've seen an actual cucumber on the vine. 

Gattaca, anyone?

A new bill in town, H.R.1313 - Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. These 'wellness' programs already let employers do "voluntary" health testing on employees or charge a penalty fee. With the new law, they would be allowed to test for genetic issues.
According to Stat,

“What this bill would do is completely take away the protections of existing laws,” said Jennifer Mathis, director of policy and legal advocacy at the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, a civil rights group. In particular, privacy and other protections for genetic and health information in GINA and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act “would be pretty much eviscerated,” she said.

Recite the names of the Wi Fi

Via Simon Coffey (@urbanautomaton) who said:

someone at the British Library is doing fine work 

The Kills: Impossible Tracks (Video Late Show February 2017)

Internet of shit

The internet of things.  All fun until the kid three doors down kills you with your garage door opener.

I stayed in a hotel with Android lightswitches and it was just as bad as you'd imagine

Trump tyke

See the kid apparently flash a "white power" sign (fingers making a W and a P) in front of the president towards his (all white) tour group. At 38 seconds in in this NYT video.

Alien organism injected into the body politic

Never heard a Right Winger use the alien/germ metaphor in a positive way before. Suspect a paradigm shift in memes is coming up. Chilling ten second video at link. 

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Video: The Kills,Eurockéennes, 2016.

The Kills play the Eurockéennes de Belfort in France, 2016.

One and three quarter hours of prime Kills.

You owe it to yourselves to listen to the Kills.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Peromyscus, not as cuddly as it sounds

This blog is named for the mice that carry Lyme disease, because I used to work in Lyme disease detection, from 1989 to 1995 or so. At the time, Lyme was quite mysterious and largely confined to a small area of the eastern US. Since then, it's exploded. Detection and treatment haven't gotten much better but the mouse that carries it - Peromyscus - has done very well for itself.

NPR just published an article on Lyme, its expansion, and how to protect yourself here.  (Photo by Stephen Reiss, from the article.)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Compulsive believers

Kept seeing this quote and finally found out where it came from. It's a Guardian article. 

"Compulsive liars shouldn’t frighten you. They can harm no one, if no one listens to them. Compulsive believers, on the other hand: they should terrify you. Believers are the liars’ enablers. Their votes give the demagogue his power. Their trust turns the charlatan into the president. Their credulity ensures that the propaganda of half-calculating and half-mad fanatics has the power to change the world."

What happened today?

Here's another 'what's happening' website.

One thing I've learned over the past couple of presidencies is that few people can remember what things were like 'before'. The flood of people saying 'this is not normal' as things happened over the first few days of 45's presidency was...not normal. It's worth memorializing these things so we can assess what has happened - even if it's become normal by then - for the midterms in 2018.

Monday, February 06, 2017

Two weeks in

I'm not seeing as many daily 'what's happening' posts on Facebook, or I'd post them. Jeff Mueller is posting them daily on his blog, but I can't work out how to contact him to copy them here.

For the time being, you can read them there

I may crack and just copy them all later.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Four days in...


Those who study authoritarian regimes suggest keeping a list of abnormal events after a demagogue is elected, as a way to remind yourself that this isn't normal and to keep from being overwhelmed into acceptance by the onslaught of attacks on our rights.

Here is a list below. We are 4 days in.

(Note to future historians, if there are any, "DT" is President Donald Trump.)

As the author says, "when you see all of this in one list, it is easy to get overwhelmed, at first-- it is also easy to see a pattern and to finally, finally recognize that none of this is normal, nor is it ok."

* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
* On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
* On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
* On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
* On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
* On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
* On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
* On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
* On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
* On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
* On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
* On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
* On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is of the 2009 inauguration of 44th President Barack Obama, and is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
* On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
* On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
* On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
* On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”
* On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
* On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources. (from a friend)

Please copy and pasting so that privacy settings don't hide the content from your friends. Keep the signal alive.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fatty the gecko, again

Fatty the Grandis day gecko has been sick. He was in with his new wife, Mrs. F, when he started to go dark and stressed. He was dehydrated and clearly hadn't been eating. He'd had something similar 18 months ago. This time the vet found Coccidia, though neither of us knew whether he'd gotten weak and that cause the Coccidia to increase in numbers, or he'd got Coccidia and that had made him weak. I decided to treat him anyway, and the vet gave me Albon, which he seemed to like and didn't knock him out as badly as I thought it would.

About a week after finishing the course, he started to catch his own mealworms, but I'm continuing to hand-feed him Repashy with a little calcium and occasional Bene Bac. By "hand-feed" I mean he'll literally only lick it off my finger. He won't eat out of a bowl.

Did I mention it's raining?

OC Register has a slide show, which inlcudes pictures of one of the big, showy eucalyptus trees in San Juan Capistrano city center, felled by the storm. This is on Del Obispo, by the Fire Station.

(Mark Edmondson's picture from the OC Register slideshow)

Friday, January 20, 2017

It's bloody raining. Has been for weeks on end.

San Juan Creek is usually just a trickle, a thin stream and some rock pools in a wide, rocky channel.

Not today. Here's a picture at Del Obispo Street bridge, about a mile from the sea.

It smelled powerfully of toilets and bore more than one condom. Tomorrow will not be a good day to surf. 

Come on the women's march instead.

In which I watch UK TV to take my mind off things

So this morning, to get away from it all, I watched the BBC (it was 7:30 pm in England) and they'd given up on the news for one of those cute-puppy-can-bark-national-anthem-underwater type shows. We've just had a man I don't recognize talking about catching fish and being asked to recognize celebrities with last names that recall fish -example: Nicola Sturgeon, an autobiographical film on Gilbert O'Sullivan's first piano, an extremely enthusiastic Sikh man with an impenetrable Scottish accent talking about star cooks and what might have been some kind of cooking competition, and suddenly we're listening to DJ Pete Tong, Jules Buckley (?) and the Heritage Orchestra, giant glockenspiel to the fore, accompanied by what appears to be a cast of a thousand ravers, belting out house music versions of Fat Boy Slim's Right Here, Right Now and Whosit's Insomnia.

Trump features not.

The BBC's London has never looked more European, that sort of Romanian ambiance of very white people[1] playing Chicago dance music with wild abandon, and celebrating fishermen and food.

Shame England's decided to leave Europe. One non-fish related politician a couple of days ago came back with assurances that Trump would look favorably on the tiny rudderless kingdom, but Trump's speech today rather emphasized he's not going to give an inch in trade deals - it's America first all the way. I suppose England could file to become a suburb of Chicago, or Detroit, I forget which type of House Music these two are. 

Then I watched Room 101 and it featured a horse playing a recorder with one nostril (fingering supplied by a handy human) which struck me as hilarious. There was also that guy with the floppy hair that's on all these things - David Mitchell(?) managing to sound British and indignant over things like being thought a lesser person because you couldn't remember the names of the people you were talking to. I read the reviews for Room 101 and they all said it was tired, and dire. I guess my laughter threshold is pretty low today. 

Mood wasn't helped by either episode of East Enders (there's two a day? and it's still going? and it still has Dot Cotton?) which was so unrelentingly grim I felt a compunction to put them all out of their misery, but I didn't have any anthrax handy. 

[1] The Sikh guy is the exception that proves the rule.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Erik Prince of darkness and his sister

The videos of Betsy De Vos equivocating and avoiding questions in her confirmation hearing are certainly worth watching if you care at all about public education. 

Meanwhile, her brother Erik Prince - a mercenary - is allegedly bombing Libya. It's like reading a fucking SF novel.

Motor Scooters of the Bad Kind

Found this album - Montrose, by Montrose - on my Zune. I can't remember buying it or even putting it on the machine, but since it was there...

It takes me back. I remember listening to Bad Motor Scooter in 1974. Quite a guilty pleasure as I was a total rock snob and Montrose were very much low-rent. Listening again, it's interesting how much they resemble the equally second-side-of-the-Monopoly board Guns 'n' Roses. Rock Candy in particular sounded like it could be on Spaghetti Incident. Maybe it was?
For everyone who thinks Michael Jackson invented bad-meaning-good and those who know better and think it was invented the previous year, in 1987, take a listen to Bad Motor Scooter. No idea why bad meant good in 1974, but it apparently did. Unfortunately for me, as a Brit, and innocent of slang, it really did conjure up getting on a spavined Vespa and trying to ride across the prairies with the ol' parka flapping in the breeze (or lack of breeze as you putter across the continental divide).
The first line is "If you get lonely on your daddy's farm just remember I don't live too far" (which he characterizes as less than a day away). Do rock bands still cater to people who get lonely on their daddy's farm? I don't think so. Maybe all those coffeehaus mandolin-plunkers failing to remember the people on their daddy's farm is the cause of all this Heartland Angst we've heard so much about during this election cycle?
Rock Candy's first line is "You're rock candy baby, you're hot sweet and sticky," one of rock's premier dental caries tracks. Like Bad Motor Scooter, it conjures up a vivid image, but in my case it's not of a horny woman dripping honey, but more like finding a lump in my school blazer pocket and drawing it out to find a clipped bus ticket stuck to a hard candy covered in lint. (Unlike Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar On Me, which takes me away to a dream place where I've staked the whole band spreadeagled on top of an anthill.)
Very much an American Bad Company, all in all, I think.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My State of the Onion Address

So, where are we today, then?

The American media has totally tripped over its feet on the ‘fake news’ thing, as I (and many others) predicted. It’s currently completely unable to tell fact from fiction from disinformation and all anyone has to do to send them to a corner sobbing is to point at an article and say ‘fake news!’. It works every time and they have no defense against it. They could try solidarity, but that’s like saying the left should try solidarity. It never happens.

Of course, the media is all over Trump’s tweets, or “Look, a squirrel!” as he could well call them. This weekend, Martin Luther King Day weekend, Trump tweeted something marginally ignorant about a Black lawmaker and former Civil Rights leader. The press yapped after it like hunt dogs after a red herring, while Rex Tillerson, the architect of a $500bn Exxon deal with Russia (currently in limbo, under Obama’s sanctions) was being questioned about his ability to act neutrally towards Russia as US Secretary of State. No time for probing articles on this dilemma – we have a tweet here belittling a nice person that requires dissecting at incredible length!

One piece of news we know isn’t fake is Christopher Steele’s “piss party” dossier. The European news sources know Steele, know his integrity and believe his story, or at least believe that Steele believes it. (And, remember, the bombshell inside is not that Trump may have been filmed with micturating prostitutes – there are another 34 ½ pages in the report and many of them document Trump’s ties with Putin.) The BBC reported that there is another source for this information – and other sex tapes. It’s possible that the Russians do not mind one of their kompromat tapes being disclosed to Trump as it alerts him they may have more. It still works as blackmail. Dismissing it in the press seems to have worked as the media is currently hopeless, but that’s not who this release of information was for.

One good thing about this all is that Trump is less likely to start WWIII with Russia. Obama was gearing up to do so – did you know the US just sent troops to Poland? – and Clinton would have followed suit. Unfortunately, Trump seems to want to start a war with China instead. Putin may reel him in – Russia has been trying to friend China recently – but if not, the US is in for at least a trade war with China.

Trump’s picks for major positions in goverment all seem to be based on picking a campaign donor who has the least experience and the greatest hatred for the system he (or in one case she) will be running. This is, I assume, designed to gut the various government offices. I’m not too sure that’ll happen as governments do not shrink in size and the minions will have plenty of stalling maneuvers ready to save their own jobs. All it’s likely to accomplish is each agency having an expensive, injurious inner struggle.

In most cases a PEOTUS would pick a Pharma lawyer to head FDA, and the Pharma lawyer would automatically run the administration to the benefit of his old colleagues, both because it’s what they know and because it raises huge barriers to entry by newcomers, reducing competition. (Which is why, for instance, pharma startups are bought out by Big Pharma as soon as they have a successful drug nearing market.) Trump is apparently favoring a man who cannot stand FDA, Balaji Srinivasan, and who appears to think that getting drugs from lab bench to market quickly so that the patients can trial the drug themselves is a better way of approving drugs than the traditional (8-12 year long, $1bn-costing) New Drug Application procedure. As a fellow lab testing person, I tend to agree with his assessment of FDA but I’m not convinced that Yelp et al is the best way to trial drugs. To give one reason out of a whole basket: the people who die are not going to be leaving reviews, a well-known statistical problem literally called Survivorship Bias. As for his ability to run FDA or run it into the ground, he’s a lab guy, I already mentioned that. Oh, and he appears from his now-deleted tweets, to be a Bitcoin bro and a pro-posthuman/singularitarian bro. (I didn’t see any fedoras or MRA stuff in his tweet… otherwise, definitely a bro.)

I think it’s quite likely that the GOP know they’ve unleashed a monster and are planning to impeach Trump soon after the inauguration. I’m sure they love Pence, a joy deficient religious extremist who feels healthcare and welfare are frills, while the ‘religious freedom’ to discriminate against LGBT people is a must-have. (He also consistently votes against environmental protection bills, believes that “smoking does not kill”, that the planet is “cooling”, and is a creationist.) They'll be much happier with him in charge. On the other hand, they seem genuinely afraid of Trump - authoritarians gotta authoritate, I guess. He's the alpha and they're all currently doing a great job of cringing and baring their necks. What a world.

It's going to be an interesting four years. (If we survive that long.)


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