Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Noticed while on the NYT weddings site

1. She looks like she's playing dress-up in her mother's clothes.

2. Therefore for her to be trying to look alluring is slightly Jon-Benet Ramsey.

3. Also, there is such a thing as being over-matched.

That is all.

A bit of veiled conceit: Chaudhary-Warren*

Sometimes, an announcement appears to be written in English, but needs a little translation to actually make sense. Witness the mild hipster** love of Dimple Chaudhary and Previn Warren.

I don't have the energy to lay this out properly, and these two don't really deserve any filleting. It's not like they cheated on their previous spouses together then ran off to Italy. Instead, I'll just reprint sections of the vows, along with my asides and translation.

In November 2005, Dimple Chaudhary was happily single, but wasn’t against getting her feet wet, that is, leaving before breakfast.

“I’m always struck by her vivaciousness and good humor,” (her friend) Ms. Larson said, "I also plan on remaining her friend, so what else would I say?"

The next morning, while going for coffee in Park Slope, Ms. Larson saw a good-looking fellow across the street. They made eye contact, but he wasn't into her and so they kept walking. Next thing she knew, she was running toward him. “Sir! Excuse me! I have this friend. ... ”

This section is the reason I wanted to write about this announcement:
Mr. Warren, who was living in Park Slope, gave his number to Ms. Larson, who immediately called Ms. Chaudhary, who also lived in the neighborhood.

Her first thought? “Ax murderer,” Ms. Chaudhary said of her friend’s catch. “It was adorable that she ran after him, but you never know. He was just some guy!”

Her second thought? He said he was 23 — three years her junior. “In New York there’s this idea of prolonged youth,” she said, noting that most men of that age “want to date lots of girls, and I felt I wanted to build something with someone.”

Ms. Chaudhary spent days weighing the pros and cons of calling. “I finally decided it was one of those neighborhood-y things,” she said. “I mean, it’s not like something that would happen in Midtown.”

The reason I wanted to blog this vows was because this part of the announcement doesn't make any sense.

1. Ax[e] murderer, who lives in Park Slope? I'm not a New Yorker, but my impression is that Park Slope is basically the nicest neighborhood in New York, if not the U.S. People on the street there are liable to be quality, not axe murderers. There is also somewhat of a man-woman thing here. Guy approaches a girl on the street - could be weird (but it happens in NYTWCA fairly often***). Girl approaches guy on the street, he's liable to be receptive. Girl's friend approached a guy on the street, has spoken to him, so he's pre-vetted as a non-obvious axe murderer (and is there any other kind).

2.Prolonged youth nonsense... eh. One can figure that out.

3. Days deciding? Maybe.

4. Neighborhoody thing? I suppose 34th and Park isn't quite midtown. This seems over-determined. Read on:

“I’m glad you called,” he said when he answered. They arranged to meet at a Prospect Heights dive bar of her choosing.

Here's what I'm thinking. She decided to blow him off completely. Then, she got drunk, started complaining to Ms. Larson, and Ms. Larson called the groom on the bride's cell phone and put the phone in her hand. That would explain the delay, and the preposterous post-facto reasons. It also puts this in a much more interesting context:
She dialed, praying it would go to voice mail.

*: Veiled Conceit concept, or at least blogging, originated by Zach of

**: "But, p.e.", you say, "how do you know they're hipsters?" I'll tell you. I induce it from the following. 1. They live in Brooklyn, capital of American Hipsterdom. 2. Unnatural fascination with dive bars. 3. Explicit disowning of 'tatooed 30 year olds who've spent the decade perfecting being 21,' i.e. hipsters (as hipsters will always disavow being hipsters, often on preposterous and narrow grounds). 4. Pizza as an after-proposal meal. 5. For that matter proposing in LAX terminal 5. 6. Vintage Checker cab instead of limo. 6 1/2. Wrote own stupid vows. (does not really count, everyone does it). 7. Guy with whiskers, girl who likes guys with whiskers (may not really count - cultural thing? am _I_ racially profiling?). 8. Two 'funny' mentions of racial profiling within a single short entry (Is this really a hipster behavior? It's extraordinarily preening and annoying, so, YES). 9. The bride makes pottery.

***: Since I'm trying to not infringe, I didn't quote the bit from the begining about flagging down a mate like you flag down a cab, but the choice seems unfortunate given the cab-flagging-driven romance featured 3 weeks previous.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A bit of Veiled Conceit* Darria Long- Bryce Gillespie

[Caption: The only time in the last three years that this power couple have been motionless in the same room]
They met in medical school, which is common enough. But how?

"He saw her sing a spoof of 'He Had it Coming,' from 'Chicago.'"** Just so we're clear on what he's implying, she probably looked like this:

[Caption: Her mouth is singing an in joke about some professor. The rest of her is communicating more universally]
He thought she was unattainable since, as a 4th year, she was going to end up working in a hospital far from where he was, and that her having an extra degree would make it difficult for them to relate.

Like the other 4th years, she did vanish, but instead of going to a residency, she showed up two years later with a different extra degree.***

They formally met in an anatomy refresher course, though one hopes that memories of the Cell Block Tango kept Bryce warm in the cold Rochester night. Like all medical students, she had apparently forgotten anatomy immediately after leaving it. There was a cadaver lab that they could go to, but she thought it was 'cold' and 'creepy,' so she wanted backup. Really? A 27 year old with a bachelors and an advanced degree that's already been through anatomy is scared of cadaver lab / doesn't own a sweater? Cynics in the audience will say she was fishing for someone more handsome than Bryce to show up, but other cynics (and me) will say that, like all medical students, she wanted to avoid doing real work in her 4th year, so Darria sent an e-mail out asking if people actually wanted to do this lab thing.

"I always joke that he had me at the shoulder joint dissection." She says. In reality he just kept offering to show her his bones until she fell for it. There's also a cute story about him pumping gas for her because it was too cold for her to do it herself. That's cute, but it misses a key point - that was 4th year medical school He's now a 4th year resident in Boston, and she's a 3rd year resident in New Haven****. What happened in the last 4 years? Why aren't they in the same schools? Did distance keep them together, or apart? In the heat of residency, is it better to be 'dating' someone in another state where they can't trouble your sleep? Who kept the "Cell Block Tango" outfit?

I'm swooning... must be the formaldehyde!

*: In immitation of Zach at the now defunct

**: Technically "The Cell Block Tango," but these people don't have to be precise, right?

***: Though not one that tends to socially separate possessors from non-possessors the way the MD does.

****: I'm not trying to conceal that the one is at Harvard and the other at Yale, I'm just trying to reveal distances.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A bit of veiled conceit, 3AM edition

"A glimpse into that haven of superficial, pretentious, pseudo-aristocratic vanity: The NY Times' Wedding & Celebration Announcements "*

Cailin O'Connor and James Weatherall

"Hello! We might be as upset that you are that our picture wasn't online and you were forced to take a picture of your own newspaper, then remember how to use the rotate tool in GIMP.** Or maybe we just like teeth."

The bride! Likes teeth, not T's. Look at her first name more closely and feel the shame of a hundred substitutes while the rest of the class snickers on.

The bridegroom! Getting a PhD in philosophy, ATM machine FAIL! He already has a PhD in physics from here - never heard of it, won't make fun of it, guess he didn't like the program at his undergrad. He's appears to have been an experimentalist. Now, he's pursuing both that doctorate of philosophy in philosophy, and an MFA in creative writing - something terrible happened. The boson is a lie.

Mary Ziegler and John Roberts III

"I knew that I was seeing a very beautiful woman at her frumpiest"

When they first met, she was wearing her 'beater glasses.' I, too, have beater glasses. Coincidentally, they are also my nice glasses.

This would be a perfectly ordinary couple were it not for the couch. Actually, an "uncomfortable," "ugly," "stain-spotted" love seat. Very romantic. She was sick of it, and New York, so she sold it to him so that his female visitors wouldn't have to sit on the bed.

Then she laid beater-glasses-corrected eyesight on him and it was she that ended up back on the couch and back in New York.

As for the couch itself, it makes a cameo on the couple's wedding cake:

It's smaller than I expected. Also, fewer stains. Just let me run the blacklight over it before I hand over the cash.

*This quote and concept are stolen from 'Zach's' original Veiled Conceit

**GIMP - Photoshop for people that haven't got $1000 lying around and think they might be getting a little old to steal everything. Really, when was the last time you used it for anything but crop and autocontrast (don't answer Hippity, Westy, or Milensomthingsomthing).

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Primary care - good and good for you!

Abraham Verghese thinks there aren't enough primary care doctors. Perhaps he's right.

Primary care doctors - internists, pediatricians, and family practice docs - are patients' first point of contact. There are two ways to think about primary care. I would argue that because primary care doctors need to be able to distinguish between tension headaches and brain cancer (for instance) that primary care physicians should be The Best doctors, while people working in a specialty need less diagnostic expertise due to the smaller disease spectrum they see. Curmudgeons, like V, would argue that because you have virtually no way to distinguish between tension headaches and brain cancer without an MRI (or similar) that primary care should be done by flowchart wielding nurse practitioners.*

Verghese wants more primary care physicians because:
Real patients want someone whose examining skills, when combined with common sense and sound judgment, can spare us the costly, blind, shotgun, ‘tick-all-the-boxes” kind of testing and imaging that has come to be the American brand of medicine. We want a doctor who orders tests judiciously, who calls in specialists sparingly, and who rides herd on them and weighs and translates what they say. What we want, in other words, is a primary-care physician.

Now, I agree with this entirely.** However, if V were to read this, he would point out patients, with the exception of Abraham Verghese (note the they -> we switch mid-paragraph), do not know and are not particularly interested in the formal status of the person caring for them. An M.D. does not increase, and likely decreases compassion. Becoming a primary care physician does not make one conscientious, similarly specialization does not remove that characteristic.

Since I agree with Verghese entirely, though, let's look at why there aren't enough primary care physicians. Verghese lists several reasons, summarized as: Primary care doesn't pay enough relative to the degree of training and the debt level most M.D.s graduate with.*** That's it. Secondarily to this, because primary care physicians are paid on a per-patient basis, they have to work long hours and don't get to spend much time with patients, so the work-style isn't much fun.

The above paragraph carries three completely plausible suggestions in it. Verghese clips one of them and misses the others completely. Instead he suggests an Peace Corps style program in which recent med school grads would be forced**** to work for a year doing primary care in an underserved area, in exchange for lowered student debt. Students exposed to the joys of primary care would abandon their future plans and switch to primary care in droves.

Students are already exposed to the joys of primary care, in the form of (at Dupont) 12 weeks of medicine (1/3 outpatient), 6 weeks of pediatrics (1/2 outpatient), and 4 weeks of family practice (all outpatient). One might argue for adding more to the curriculum, but if a student is offered primary care in at least 3 different flavors and likes none of them, what are the chances that a fourth will change their mind? Treating the students like grunts to be worn down in the toughest areas is also likely to leave a sour taste in the mouth.

Verghese does hit one nail on the head - debt forgiveness. Unfortunately, his program is begging to be ripped off. What's that you say, it will help me get a dermatology residency, and it will decrease my debt? A more straightforward plan would be to pay off the debt of students that go into primary care and practice in it for at least 5 years after their residency is over.

Consider the two other problems Verghese identifies - excessive training times, and reimbursement. Adding a year to training will only exacerbate the problem. Conversely, switching to a more nurse practitioner-based system (i.e. fewer years of training) could increase the number of primary care providers without provoking bitterness. Finally, why not suggest a tweak in the reimbursement system?

Funny conclusion goes here.

Is the headache new or old?
New -> Consider headache characteristics
Thunderclap headache -> Head CT / LP
Signs of infection -> Consider meningitis
Headache with neurologic signs -> Neuroimaging
Morning headache -> Consider broad differential (including brain cancer)
Else -> New onset primary headache (give up)

Stern SDC, Cifu AS, Altkorn D.

**: See answer #9 here, except replace "NBME" with "Abraham Verghese"

***: Note that the difficulty of acquiring a residency 'slot' in a given specialty directly proportional to the future compensation of that residency. Surprise, M.D.'s are human!

****: He says it is voluntary, but says that competitive specialties (particularly dermatology) would use it as a criterion for entering physicians. Let me translate that into med studentese: Unless you want to end up as a [least favorite specialty] practicing in [a state you hate], you WILL do this program.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Roger Cohen meet Stanley Kubrick

So there's an Op-ed where some guy went to Iran and discovered:
Iran's inner America

I'll hold my tongue, except for one quote from Full Metal Jacket

We are here to help the Vietnamese,

because inside every

gook there is an

American trying to get out.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What's in _The Atlantic_'s library?

Red Arrow - Harrison's Internal Medicine, 14th Edition. Next to it, Physician's Desk Reference. Should come in handy if healthcare ever comes up.

Image: The Table.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


People need to stop talking about the stimulus as being this many Bbbbbbbbillion or that many bbbbbbbbillion dollars. To the government, a billion dollars is like 100 dollars to you or me. In order to get anything done, a billion is the right amount of money to spend. I understand you all went to diction school and have to ENunCiAte so people don't get confused about billion versus million, but there's a difference between, "Obama plans to add 3 Billion to the NIH budget" and "Obama plans to add... B-b-b-b-billion dollars..."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bruce Ivins is still getting published

In the Journal of Infectious Disease.
But also in the NY Times.
Basically, the evidence against Ivins is that he was a mentally troubled guy that drank too much. Also, he had the technology and expertise available to produce the anthrax spores sent out. Also, he really creeped out one woman when she was in grad school. Seriously.
Nancy Haigwood knew Bruce Ivins when she was in grad school and decided he was creepy. Then her house was vandalized, and a letter was written to the local newspaper in her name defending a campus sorority. She decided that Ivins had done both those things. There's no evidence, as it was 30 years ago, but because she was creeped out by Ivins, she assumed that he did these things. Later, in e-mail conversations, Ivins mentioned things to Haigwood about her children that she hadn't told him. This is rendered as evidence of stalking, but it seems to me like evidence of gossip.**
Flash forward to after the anthrax attacks. She receives an e-mail from Ivins with a picture of him in an anthrax lab working without gloves. She decides that this demonstrates an unnerving hubris - a very odd conclusion to make from a single photograph.*

o.k. o.k. some of the defenses that I've thrown up of Ivins in the past - that he may not have known how to make dried spores, that he was just a bit eccentric. Obviously, Ivins was in an excellent position to make the anthrax, and he was in some way mentally outside the normal range. You might argue that alcoholism and psychiatric hospitalization, even voluntary, should disqualify someone from working with anthrax. That seems a bit harsh.

But the evidence actually linking Ivins to the anthrax attacks is nonexistant. He worked late prior to the attacks, but on what? The FBI must have asked him, but I don't have his answer. They couldn't match him to the envelopes, the stamps, or the post office in New Jersey. The fact that he takes long drives does not, in fact, mean that he was in Princeton lo that mailing morning.

Remember Steven Hatfill. The FBI's positioning of him as Mr. Anthrax was very convincing for a while.*** As the NYT says, "Dr. Hatfill, too, was eccentric. He, too, had begun drinking heavily as he came under scrutiny. He, too, had grown depressed and erratic under the FBI's relentless gaze. What if Dr. Hatfill had committed suicide in 2002, as friends feared he might? Would the investigators have released their evidence and announced that the perpetrator was dead?"

The reporter is too polite to provide an answer. I'm too worried about a future FBI investigation into me to be honest.**** But you aren't. And you know the same answer applies to Bruce Ivins.

*: There is definitely bacteria growing on some of the plates, and they are definitely blood agar or similar, invalidating any suggestion that he was just looking at media or working with a non-anthrax bug (like E. coli). On the other hand, the initial investigation of anthrax was done by Robert Koch working in an upstairs bedroom of his house with zero protective gear - caution and a lifetime of working with the bug might be protection enough.

**: BTW, if I can find your home address or details about your kids with a single search on Google or Facebook, it's not stalking. It's hardly even research.

***I particularly like that the 'damning evidence' brought over to this article was that Hatfill bragged about having a "working knowledge" of biowarfare pathogens. Imagine, someone actually bragging on their resume. That's amazing. Also, if I can have working knowledge of Drosophila genetics and vector construction, why can't someone else have working knowledge of biowarfare pathogens {presumably he enumerated them, NY Times said biowarfare pathogens}

****: Dressed up in a fly costume. Drank tea from a mason jar (repeatedly!). Liked Iowa. Secretly devout. A momma's boy. History of binge drinking. Once messaged a woman on facebook mere hours after meeting her at a party and knowing only her first name and major. Worked late hours. Worked odd hours. Occasionally handled hazardous materials without gloves. Struck some people as weird. Laughed at odd times in medical school classes. Once came to medical school class with a mowhawk hair cut. Longstanding interest in synthesis of methamphetamine from commercially available products. Previous interest in synthesis of chemical warfare agents from commercially available products. Interest in home microbiology. Interest in home distillation. Reputation for attempting techniques merely to see if they work. Occasionally angry. Hubristic. Questions medical hierarchy. Questions findings of the FBI...

Also, 'working knowledge' of multiple (2) human pathogens (E. coli and a 5 week stint of Hepititis C work).

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sent to Andrew Sullivan

Glenn Greenwald asks:

Is there any other significant issue in American political life, besides Israel, where (a) citizens split almost evenly in their views, yet (b) the leaders of both parties adopt identical lockstep positions which leave half of the citizenry with no real voice? More notably still, is there any other position, besides Israel, where (a) a party's voters overwhelmingly embrace one position (Israel should not have attacked Gaza) but (b) that party's leadership unanimously embraces the exact opposite position (Israel was absolutely right to attack Gaza and the U.S. must support Israel unequivocally)? Does that happen with any other issue?

The answer: Immigration. The Republicans. 2005. oh crap.

via Andrewsullivan

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Lay off Barack Obama's Birth Certificate

In re:
I’m sure the comments section will fill with various conspiracy theories over Indonesian school records, Kenyan births, and so on. None of it — absolutely none — has any real, solid evidence showing that Obama was born anywhere else than Hawaii apart from sheer speculation and hearsay, and even less evidence that Obama’s stepfather renounced Obama’s birthright citizenship, which he didn’t have the power to do anyway. It’s a conspiracy theory spun by conspiracy theorists (Philip Berg is a 9/11 truther) who use their normal thresholds of evidence for this meme.

Ed Morrisey via Andrew Sullivan

There are two ways to be a native born American citizen.
1. Be born within the United States (14th Amendment, *1)
2. Have a parents that was a U.S. dwelling U.S. citizens (U.S.C. Title 8 thingy 1402-g *2)

1. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, therefore he is a native born citizen.
2. Barack Obama's mother was a U.S. citizen, therefore he is a native born citizen.

Hardly anyone belives #1, but even if they did, they still run up against #2.

*1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside

*2: The following shall be nationals and citizens of the United States at birth:
(g) a person born outside the geographical limits of the United States and its outlying possessions of parents one of whom is an alien, and the other a citizen of the United States who, prior to the birth of such person, was physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for a period or periods totaling not less than five years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of fourteen years: Provided, That any periods of honorable service in the Armed Forces of the United States, or periods of employment with the United States Government or with an international organization as that term is defined in section 288 of title 22 by such citizen parent, or any periods during which such citizen parent is physically present abroad as the dependent unmarried son or daughter and a member of the household of a person
(A) honorably serving with the Armed Forces of the United States, or
(B) employed by the United States Government or an international organization as defined in section 288 of title 22, may be included in order to satisfy the physical-presence requirement of this paragraph. This proviso shall be applicable to persons born on or after December 24, 1952, to the same extent as if it had become effective in its present form on that date; and

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Submitted to UrbanDictionary

1. When you try to bail someone out, and fail.

2. A level of failure more severe than an epic fail.

use 1. After David got picked up for public drunkenness, I tried to get him out of jail, but didn't have enough money, that was a real failout.

use 2. Henry Paulson - failout.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Notch, updated

2008 Primary results
Democratic Primary: (10 voters)

* Barack Obama - 7
* John Edwards - 2
* Bill Richardson - 1

Republican Primary: (7 voters)

* John McCain - 4
* Mitt Romney - 2
* Rudy Giuliani - 1

Therefore, Obama got all the independents and 1 of the Republicans to switch to him. DN went 19-7 for Bush over Kerry. Obviously Obama will win the national popular vote 70-30.

Note that Hillary got 0 votes in the primary, so DN may not be all that representative... small n, damn!

Edit: Silver!

Dixville Notch

The New Hampshire township where the polls open at 12:01 November 4.

General Election: (21 voters)

* Barack Obama - 15
* John McCain - 6

This is the first time Dixville Notch chose a Democrat since 1968.

Meh meh meh meh.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Latest outrage

The Economist has set up a mock electoral college where people from around the world can 'vote' to determine who America's next president should be. Of course, Barack Obama is winning. It's practically an indictment of him! After all, what kind of elitist Francophile, wine snob, Democrat would think we should show, "a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Meta voting for the nigger

From 538:
Last week, Julie Hensley made one of her thousands of phone calls on behalf of Barack Obama. A woman answered. As Hensley ran through her short script, the husband impatiently broke in.

"Ma'am, we're voting for the n***er." And hung up.

Hensley wasn't having it. "I went and made a couple other calls but chafed over this absurdity," she told us, "so I called them back, as I still had a couple questions for the wife." This time the man answered, asked pointedly who she was, and when she replied he hung up again.

If I were a journalist, I would put this in the 'too good to check' category. I'm not, so I went looking for evidence. Surely in 2008, some Western PA canvasser with a cell phone camera caught the evidence and posted it... right? So, I check on the YouTube and got the image above. I guess YouTube is worried about the racism, but should I be forced to guess which letters of nigger to star out? Also, what does it say about latent racism in the U.S. that YouTube seems to have replaced "nigger" with "devil?"

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fruitfly v. Palin

D.M. and Olbermann both reference Sarah Palin's attack on frivolous fruit fly research.

There's been a major pushback. I note this is the third time biology research grants have come up in the campaign. First McCain attacked earmarks for studying those undeserving grizzly bears. Then, Democrats shot back with Palin's earmarks to study harbor seals.

One of the many P.R. problems of science is that virtually all research topics can be made to sound silly - who cares about glowing jellyfish, and who wrote that grant for counting the number of cells in a worm, anyway?

Perhaps the real reason Palin hates the fruit fly isn't about wasting money, it's about the culture wars. The fruit fly looms in this arena, even to a greater extent than it is loomed over in everyday life. Think you can pray away the gay? Meet fruitless. Some mutations make male flies try to mate with other males, others remove gender preference, or create flies with no interest in mating.

There isn't a gene in mammals that seems directly related to fruitless (a homolog, in the parlance). However, such genes do exist for other diseases, for instance myc, a determinant of cell growth, and thus cancer. Our ability to productively apply research from Drosophila myc to our understanding of human cancer blows a huge practical hole in Genesis Creationism, or the 'Orchard Model' of several special creations. If everything was created separately, why are they so similar? And if they were intelligently made similar enough to be studied, why not make them identical?

If you just want to ignite the culture wars, any attack on science will do, but an attack on the fruit fly covers so many more bases.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why I don't care about Sarah Palin's clothes

A few months ago, I was trying to mock John McCain's $520 loafers, and a friend pointed out that as a politician, he can probably write off his suits as a business expense, which means we get to pay for them (sort of).

If the RNC wants to spend that money on Sarah Palin, more power to them, it's money they can't spend on ads or turnout. As a non-RNC donor, I don't care. If I were an RNC donor, I would think I got my money's worth. Other than isolated comments about one Tarkin-esque outfit, Palin's atire has never been a source of embarrasment, which compares quite favorably to Hillary Clinton's Sisterhood of the Travelling Pantsuits.

Ballot folding: Official reply

Dear p.e.
Thank you for your questions...and no these are not dumb questions although my answer may seem a bit...never mind. We prefer as you stated that the ballot be folded as received. We would like them in the order received, i.e.., page with President first but any order you send (folded any way that allows you to put them back in the envelope) will suffice. We request they are in order to make our lives easier at tabulation where they must be in the correct order and sequence to tabulate properly. We have a team of assistant that will review all ballots prior to scanning to insure proper order and tabulation with minimal interruptions and thereby deflect any problems to sort. We are pleased at the interest in this year's election and I am grateful for your query. If you have other questions, please contact me personally. Thanks again for your questions.

Small Town Values and Real America

One reads about the idea of "Real America" - small town, rural. This is explicitly Republican leaning. Because it is also implicitly not black, it has been interpreted as racist. But, this kind of appeal is not solely directed against blacks, but also against Catholics - Irish(1)/Italians, recent immigrants, Jews, asians, Hispanics... A little something to convince your touchy, fence-sitting Irish friends.

Arguing for small town values seems like a loser - just over 20% of the population lives there. Insofar as arguing for small town values is a dig at city- and suburb-slickers, it seems likely to piss off big parts of the electorate.

It doesn't seem that most people take my zero sum urban/rural view. Perhaps urbanites just see it as part of the dumb pander that politicians have to do, a source of cynicism, but not outrage. Since every state has both urban and rural areas, urban voters will have been conditioned by a lifetime of watching big city politicians pitchforking hay.

The 20% also misses a large group. One aspect of modern small towns is that the young are constantly moving away. There will always be a cohort, then, which can be guilted into voting for the party identified with the values of the parents they 'abandoned.'

So, no negatives, diffuse positives, pander me up!

1. I think there was one Irish kid in my high school class

Monday, October 20, 2008

The youth vote

From an interview by Ken Silverstein of Tom Edmonds in Harper's
The other big thing is the youth vote. There’s been a lot of hype about it, but it’s not going to materialize on Election Day. Roughly 33 million people voted in the 2004 primaries, and 58 million people voted in this year’s primaries. The youth vote was up, but not nearly as much as voting by middle-aged people and old fogies. The polls are capturing the enthusiasm for Obama, but college students are not going to turn out.
There are two possible arguments that this piece is actually making:
A. A technical argument, about whether polls are properly projecting turnout. Note that all polls weight their numbers for turnout based on their model. The appropriate thing to do, then, would be to weight polls based on their previous ability to do this and average them. See here.

B. A pre-game Mad Libs style of prognostication along the lines of:
If (local sports team) can (active verb) (vague accomplishment), (conjunction) (preventing / avoiding / derailing / keeping ) (opposing team) from (another vague accomplishment) they will (statement of probability) (synonym for win).

e.g. "If the Panthers can effectively deploy Riggins, while shutting down Arnette Mead's running game, Coach Taylor's gettin' some free ribblets at the Applebee's on Saturday- if you know what I mean"

Often self satirizing as in: "If the Tigers can get at least 14 points, while holding the Browns below 14 points, they very well may win this ballgame."

The self satirization makes a point - of necessity, the only prognostication that is always true is also trivial - If Barack Obama can ammass majorities in states, the District of Columbia, or the congressional districts of Maine or Nebraska sufficient to give him a majority in the electoral college, or if neither he, nor anyone else can reach a majority, and he receives a majority of votes on a state-delegation bases in the House of Representatives, he will almost certainly be the next president of the United States.1

Consider a statement such as "If Barack Obama cannot connect with white, working class males, he cannot win this election." It is meaningless. First: white, working class males are not modems. They cannot be connected with. Second: Every white, working class male could vote against Barack Obama and he could still win, since wwcm's do not make up a majority of voters in states, the District of Columbia, or the congressional districts of... Third, if Barack Obama wins 35% of the wwcm vote and becomes the next president, he will have connected sufficiently. If Barack Obama wins 35% of the wwcm vote and does not become president, he will have connected insufficiently, even if he has received the same number of votes. The wwcm vote is not only part of a larger system, it is interconnected with, say, the wwcw vote, or the bwcch vote.2,3

The short of what I'm saying is that Barack Obama won the nomination of his party primarily due to votes from the young, the middle aged and old fogies. If he continues to do well in these age groups, he could be getting a very good night's sleep this November 4th.

1. And that statement still requires caveats!
2. black working class cracker hatin' vote
3. This is a variant of Matt Yglesias's 'these people's votes don't count' argument.

Ballot update

I called the Obama office in Boulder, and they said just fold it up so it fits and send it in.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Sent to the Boulder County Clerk's Office

From: p.e.
Subject: Ballot folding

Let me begin by apologizing. I know this is a really, really dumb question, and if you want to pass this around and make fun of me, I understand. The voting instructions say "refold ballot exactly as you received it." Now, does that mean "we sent you your ballot folded in quarters, you should send it back folded in quarters," or is it more precise? If it's just the folded in quarters (along the folds that it came with), don't read the next paragraph and just send back o.k.. Otherwise, I'm sorry.

Here's what I've done:
I have two pages. Page 1 has the U.S. presidential election on the top left of the front side. Page 2 has amendment 57 on the top left of the front side. I have put the pages in order. Next, I folded the two pages together along the short fold, giving me something with the dimensions of a piece of paper, still with the U.S. presidential election on the top left of the front page. Next I folded that along its long fold. This gave me something eight pieces of paper thick, and of the right dimensions to fit perfectly in the secrecy sleeve. I oriented the secrecy sleeve so that I could read the instructions, and the opening was on the right. I then held open the sleeve and inserted my folded ballot, again with the U.S. presidential election on the top left. I then inserted the secrecy sleeve into the return envelope closed edge down, with the instructions facing the front (addressed) side of the envelope.

Again, I apologize for the question, but this election seems rather important, and I'd rather people didn't start to think of us as the Florida of 2008.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Epic Fail

An article on Slate asks, "When did fail become a noun?" It then talks about the emergence of fail in modern culture, along with epic fail. Then the author attributes it to the proliferation of Engrish (bad translations from Japanese).

It's from D&D. I've been saying fail and crit fail (critical) since third edition, and from critical, the next logical step is Epic.

Sorry slate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Liveblogging II

I'm not sure I can go any further.
8:25 Schieffer - take the shot.
8:25 Mc - lack of town halls made me so angry! Mc regrets that John Lewis said he was a bad person. Mc "every time a republican has said something out of bounds" O manages not to smirk. Mc goes after O for opting out of public financing.
8:28 O - dirty campaigning doesn't matter, issues matter.
8:31 O - 'kill him' 'that's out of line'
8:32 major mc snort
8:33 - mccain repeatedly tries to interrupt. obama keeps going over him. finally with s' help, mc cuts in. mc says that obama is getting fake offended at mil vets going to palin rallys
8:34 is Schieffer napping, or what?
8:35 O keeps trying to move on, but can't help but take a shot. would have done better if he skipped off.
8:36 Mc - "AYERS." equates Ayers with ACORN O keeps chucking and shaking his head
8:38 O gets a long time to rebut the charge
8:39 Mc gets the foundation name wrong
8:39 Mc "my campaign is about getting hte country on track" O giggles
8:41 Obama has a red tie. McCain has a blue tie. Discuss
8:44 Mom despises Palin's exploitation/mistreatment of her autistic kid, so she's probably hopping right now.
8:44 Obama punts on Palin's qualification, pivots to go after spending freeze.
8:45 Mc - Biden is wrong about national security. "Why do we always have to spend more?" All those Federal employees shoudl work for fluffernutter!
8:46 Mc corrects Shieffer.
8:47 Mc - canadian oil is fine
8:47 Mc thinks he's gonna get 47 nuke plants built in 4 years. Oh, no, 7-8 10 years. Well, why not manhattan project if we're looking at that much.
8:48 Obama goes after the 10 year number. Gore's number.

Screw it, I'm going for the highlights.

Third debate liveblog 1

8:02 Schieffer's tie is awesome. I love the reading of the opening rules. All debate sets small, easy to replicate on SNL. They were so close to hugging!

8:07 S. "would you like to ask him a question?" Mc. "no" then attacks O.

8:09 O's new economic plan sounds a lot like a package oh his old position.

8:10 How long are we gonna argue about Joe the plummer? Seriously.

8:12 I reiterate my question as to why small businesses cannot be taxed under their own rate.

8:13 McCain did not just interrupt Obama. OH YES HE DID.

8:14 Deficit questions. beware neo-hooverism. I note that FDR attacked hoover for an unbalanced budget, then started the new deal.

8:18 McCain just lost the corn vote. And the boeing vote. And the astronomy vote.

8:19 Unbelievably painful. I could have written this by mashing up debates #1 and #2.

8:21 Mc: If senator Obama wanted to run against President Bush, he should have fun four years ago. - oh snap.

8:24 long long long list of disagreements.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

re: The bailout

"Something must be done.
This is something,
therefore we must do it." - Bernard Woolley, Yes Prime Minister

Monday, September 29, 2008

Old Joke

FDR used to tell a joke about a Wall Street plutocrat. Everyday, this fellow would go up to a newsstand, buy a copy of the paper, look at the front page, then throw it away in disgust. Finally, the newsboy gets up the courage and says, "Hey mister, what are you lookin' for?"
The plutocrat says, "an obituary."
"But the obituaries are in the back" the newsboy says.
And the plutocrat says, "Not the obituary that I'm looking for!"

Unless we can update this joke to be about Bush or Paulson, or Henry Reid or Nancy Pelosi, they're not doing their jobs.

Bailout with me oh yeah

It seems that from a practical standpoint, the two people that most need to approve of the bailout are Barack Obama and John McCain because one of them will end up implementing most of it. Of course that makes it hard to dodge responsibility. Perhaps it's best to just hope the Bushies don't spend all the 'blank check' money before you get your mits on it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If I overpay you for the box, then that makes the sawdust inside taste better!

In the most truthful and honest and non-snide way, I don't understand how buying assets backed by mortgages makes the mortgages less likely to foreclose. I can't get my head wrapped around it.

This came up in the comments I last posted about. One of the other commenters posted this link to a Jim Cramer column. Cramer says,
It doesn’t address the real problems of people losing their homes.
Wrong. Declining home prices are the reason owners are either walking away or being forced out. Paulson’s plan puts a stop to the root cause of this: foreclosures. Other housing-related problems, from making mortgage money available to shrinking inventories, are being solved. This plan takes care of the last one.
I just don't see the linkage. It seems like the value of the mortgage should be driving the value of the security, not the other way around.

The p.e. bailout:

At heart, the problem is that people can't pay their mortgages, and no one can be found to come in and buy the houses when they foreclose, which means the securities can't get paid off.

One of the problems with buying those securities as a market stablization strategy is that no one knows what they're worth or what the risk involved in them is. Indeed, that's how we got to where we are right now.

My solution: Buy foreclosed or foreclosing houses. Houses are still being sold, so you can calculate a price, and there's a concrete asset that you get. The banks get some of their money, so that should get the securities moving.

The best part: you can remortgage the house to the previous owner on a different set of terms (i.e. the fixed rate, long term, variable payment model I saw and can't find the link to).

Note that my plan is basically ripped-off from the Center for American Progress's plan, except that they call for the financial companies to undo the securitization and put the mortgages back together before the government will buy them. I think that step will be 1. Hard and 2. Invites manipulations because it is hard. Also, houses are easier to price than mortgages (i think).
Paraphrased as a comment at mDubious

The theodicy of the Paulson Bailout

A. You must give us our money by Friday
B. We didn't know before last Friday that we needed the money this Friday.
C. You can trust* us.

One of these premises is false.

*: in the sense of both wise and honest.
theodicy: the philosophy of why G-d is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, yet bad things still happen.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stop the presses

"Half the teens that died in car crashes in 2005 were killed between 3 p.m. and midnight. Check your local teen driving curfews."

So, half the people were killed in a third of the day, and another third of the day is when everyone is asleep. Wow.

This is from one of those Allstate adds trying to get the driving age raised. Blech.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Why I don't read National Review

National Review is one of the key intellectual havens of the right, founded by William F. Buckley. Their group blog, The Corner, is a good place to go if you want to know what The Right is up to (insofar as it is monolithically 'up to' anything).

National Review is the kind of place where you would hear the intriguingly counter-logical, yet somehow plausible facts that can really change how you view things. e.g.:
House Democrats on June 11 blocked Rep. John E. Peterson’s (R., Penn.) legislation to allow oil drilling 50 miles from America’s shores. Obstructionist Democrats could not fathom such activity, even 38 miles past where the horizon gobbles everything. Nor is the Just Say No crowd impressed that Hurricane Katrina slammed Gulf oil platforms with nary a spill.

Of course, then we read things like this, from a Reuters article on Hurricane Ike:
Ike plowed a destructive path through the state after slamming into the Texas coast early on Saturday and moving inland to Houston, the heart of the U.S. oil industry, forcing many refineries to shut down as a precaution.

President George W. Bush, who will visit his home state on Tuesday, said it was too early to determine the damage to U.S. energy infrastructure. The storm also halted crude oil production in the Gulf of Mexico, representing a quarter of U.S. output.

The U.S. Coast Guard said the storm damaged some offshore oil production facilities but did not yet know the extent.

But, just because an oil facility is destroyed, will it necessarily leak? This answer comes from a Guardian (UK) article in the aftermath of Katrina.

Initial aerial reconnaissance by the environmental protection agency suggests no serious chemical damage but has revealed several large oil spills.

About 85,000 barrels of crude is now known to have escaped from a Murphy Oil plant in Chalmette, Louisiana, and a further 68,000 barrels were spilled by a damaged storage tank at the Bass Enterprises site in Venice.

So, why don't I read National Review? I'm too logical. Bad facts have a way of overcoming my innate emotional sympathies and giving me bad, yet persuasive views. See: We should invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein tried to buy some high-speed switches.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


I know I should be pointing out that JOHN MCCAIN WANTS TO RAISE YOUR TAXES AND SIMULTANEOUSLY CUT OFF YOUR EMPLOYER HEALTHCARE but I can't stop looking at the shiny distraction.

In her first serious interview, Sarah Palin talked to Charlie Gibson. Someone pointed out that she said his name instead of "um," to some ridicule.

Personally, I couldn't stop thinking of the absolutely awesome "Charlie the Unicorn" series. So, watch the interview, watch Charlie the Unicorn, and then watch the Mashup. Go web go.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Kerry Error

It turns out, the SURGE is not over. If the 8000 troops that Bush promised to pull out of Iraq do leave (an if, considering he won't be Commander in Chief anymore), we will still have more troops in Iraq than we did before the SURGE started.

This despite widespread support for getting the hell out. When Rachel Maddow asked Matthew Continetti which presidential candidate was going to get the troops out and he said, more or less, both of them, then proceeded to equate Obama's reactionl force idea with McCain's slow, milestone based withdrawl. The quote is about 2:30 in.

Coincidentally, Continetti happens to have changed his assesment in the last 12 days.*

More significantly, people understand (by which I mean I'm trying to persuade you, people) that Obama and the Dems very much want to get troops out of Iraq, and that McCain and Bush don't so much want to get troops out of Iraq. What that wanting leads to is that in a case where Iraq is a mixed bag of good and not so good news, Barack Obama is going to be more likely to withdraw troops, and McCain will be more likely to not withdraw troops, or even to add more troops.*2

The reason I call this the Kerry Error is that in 2004, Kerry tried to sound exactly as hawkish as George W. Bush on Iraq. Because Kerry had previously been critical of the war, people didn't believe him.*3

I guess this means character counts, but not in the way that you think.

*: Washington Post, August 31, 2008 Sounds Nice, But Will It Get Votes?
BYLINE: Matthew Continetti

Relevant quote in context, bold italics mine:
The converts whom Obama has attracted to his cause? He has been endorsed by Jim Leach, a former liberal Republican congressman from Iowa; Lincoln Chafee, a former liberal Republican senator from Rhode Island; and Jim Whitaker, the mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska. Not exactly the Rat Pack.

But that doesn't matter. Postpartisanship makes for good headlines. It heightens the self-esteem of goo-goo sophisticates who want to be above disagreement. But the truth is that you can't have democratic politics without disagreement. The sharp differences between the two parties are there for a reason. Folks think differently about how much income you should take home, what sort of judges should sit on the bench, what type of light bulb you ought to use, how and when the troops should come home from Iraq, how great a role religion ought to play in public life, who was the greatest Beatle, etc. In this evenly divided nation, political success depends on motivating the groups that agree with you to go to the polls in greater numbers than the groups that don't.

And that is the postpartisan's dilemma. Partisans will happily pull the lever for one of their own. But how many will turn out for a maverick?

*2: Add more troops? Why not? The Army is constantly cycling brigades in and cycling them out. It would be simple to keep the cycling-out brigades a few weeks longer and bring in the cycling-in brigades a few weeks earlier. After all - that's how they pulled off the surge. And who would notice? When was the last time you checked the number of U.S. troops in Iraq?

*3: And with good reason. Would Kerry have done the SURGE, or would he have followed the Iraq Study Group recommendations? Obviously the latter, which is less hawkish, but arguably would have been better for the country.

Monday, September 08, 2008


Obviously the 'skeletons' being 'dug up' by the media in Alaska were put there by Satan to fool those with weak beliefs.

Bananapoint: Sarah Palin is a young earth creationist who thinks creationism should be taught in schools.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Vogelstein is smarter than I thought

A.K.A. an argument for reading the actual article.

A couple of days ago, I wrote about whole genome studies of human tumours. My post whined about the difficulty of digging anything out of such studies, and used the popular press reports to back that up.
As promised, I went back and read one of the original articles - the one about pancreatic cancer. These articles are significantly more successful than advertised. Methodologically, they didn't just look at the less than 1% of the genome that directly codes genes, they also looked at expression levels of those genes, which gets at mutations in the other 99%.
Aggregating those two pieces of information gave them the ~60 mutations in each of the pancreatic cancers. As expected, few genes came up consistently. At this point, the authors took advantage of what we know about cell biology: few genes act independently, they work in networks, or pathways.
Consider how I'm typing this paragraph now - ideas enter my mind, I pass the signal to my fingers to type, the keyboard converts the mechanical movement of the keys into electricity, the computer reads the signal from the keyboard, the wireless card transmits the data to the internet, a server stores the data, etc. etc. You might simplify it as:
Brain->Fingers->CPU->Network card->Server->Your Network Card->Your CPU->Your Monitor->Your Eye->Your Brain
Two things to notice. 1: A breakdown at any step of the process will cause the same end effect - you perceive nothing. 2: The exact physical thing is not being transmitted. Now, consider a molecular pathway, the Insulin-like Growth Factor pathway:
Pure poetry, I know. It's known that Ras is mutated in about 25% of cancers. Perhaps Ras is particularly succeptible to mutation, but there's little reason why Ras has to be the point of mutation. And, indeed, while Vogelstein's group failed to find specific genes that were universally mutated, they found several pathways that were very frequently or always mutated.

This brings us to why this is good news. 100% of patients with pancreatic cancer had a mutation in this pathway (they refer to it as KRAS). This means A: You don't need to alter specific members of the pathway, you just need to change the output toward normal and B: If you find something that does affect the IGF pathway, you can give it to all your pancreatic cancer patients.

C: Read the actual article before you go off.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

More evidence that Sarah ain't ready

email sent to AndrewSullivan
Sarah Palin (literally) not ready for prime time.
Or Sunday morning, or late night, or the View

Questions and answers

In re: Palin not taking interviews

Isn't not being ready to answer questions on day 7 an admission that you're won't have answers on day 1?