Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Don't complain about the oatmeal!

This is what passes for enlightened conversation between my fiance and I at Sunday brunch.

Me: Did you change the way you made this? This oatmeal is too runny.
Her: Runny like your stool!

Dance Dance Revolution "evolves" to teach kids about DNA

This photo from Flickr is from the Scripps Aquarium in San Diego. I have to go there and play DNA DDR! With this game the distopia in the movie Gattaca would have been a lot more fun because the genetic have-nots in the movie could have danced out the genetic code that would have brought them acceptance and good jobs. Give me an A! Give me a C! Give me a T! Give me a G!

My favorite is this quote from the caption -
The best part was when one of the 20 amino acids were built, it would say the name. So you'd see A T T G C and so on... and then it would shout "Cysteine!"

Blog Name in Lights

TH - Högertrafik, Swedish decalE 003

HO 0nLetter ELetter Sbusride / / 5.2.12 / / 10

H - gate detailYParkingo\"C\" FossilRiT-timeA

Found at Spell with Flickr

Monday, January 30, 2006

The sky is not falling - orbital debris threatens satellites

Last January, a 30 year old discarded booster from a US satellite collided with a piece of a Chinese launch vehicle from 2000. The accident released even more debris into orbit. According to a recent article in Science last week (Risks in Space from Orbiting Debris by Liou and Johnson) this type of incident will be more and more likely in the coming decades as the space near earth fills up with more an more orbiting junk and the debris that sheds off of it.

Data from a 1992 survey shows a large peak around 900km and 1500km (plot created from data in this report, caution .pdf) The LEGEND model of orbiting debris shows the amount of stuff in low earth orbit increasing three times over the next two hundred years, which the article states will result in a 10-fold increase in collisions. Ironically, these catastrophic collisions produce even more debris. The biggest increase is at the peak at 900km altitude.

What does this mean for current and future satellites? Many commercially important satellites orbit in the ranges discussed here. They are both the source of debris and the source of concern. The Iridium satellites orbit at about 800km, NOAA polar orbiting satellites orbit around 850km, the International Space Station orbits at 380km, Hubble around 600km, while this discussion is not relevant for geostationary satellites which orbit far out of the range discussed here at 35,800km.

Besides the postmission disposal of orbital vehicles advocated by the major space faring nations the authors outline several approaches to actually remediating low earth orbit. The schemes involve attachment of electrodynamic tethers or drag enhancement structures to increase orbital decay to dispose of large pieces of orbital debris. Ion rockets are mentioned to actively deorbit the debris and even ground based lasers to affect the orbits are proposed. The laser idea seems to verge on science fiction, and I wouldn't want to be in its path when it fires.

Finally Liou and Johnson caution that unless there is some plan to address the debris buildup the risks to space system operations will climb.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Can antibiotic resistance in soil bacteria jump to human pathogens?

An article in the Jan 20th Science (Sampling the Antibiotic Resistome by Vanessa M. D'Costa, Katherine M. McGrann, Donald W. Hughes, and Gerard D. Wright, Science 20 January 2006: 374-377 requires subscription) explores the many antibiotic resistant strains of microbes found in soil. These microbes are constantly producing both antibiotic agents and developing mechanisms to disable antibiotics in chemical warfare competition with each other. Pharmaceutical researchers have used these soil microbes as sources for new antimicrobial agents. In some cases that means there is resistance to the antibiotic to be found in other soil microbes.

The authors isolated 480 microbes from the soil and found that the isolated microbes were resistant to at least 6 to 8 different antibiotics and some to as many as 20. Further investigation showed that the different strains also had multiple mechanisms of resistance. Since several studies show that antibiotics used for both humans and livestock are excreted and appear in groundwater (and here), these soil bacteria may be exposed to antibiotics currently in use to treat humans and could evolve further resistance.

Probably the most concerning aspect of the article was the suggestion that this resistance could move from the soil bacteria to bacteria known to cause pathology in humans. All that has to happen is for the genes encoding the resistance to be packaged in a plasmid or phage for potential transfer to a new bacterial strain. These sources of potential antibiotic resistance bear continued monitoring for that very reason.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

West Virginia has a Dance Dance Revolution

This is the continuing story of Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) sweeping over the world and into my life. Now West Virginia schools are getting DDR because apparently West Virginia has one highest level of obesity in the nation. Yet another example of Dance Dance Revolution being used to fight sloth, just as I reported earlier(Of course, I should be moving my feet in this picture to capture the full benefits of DDR) . Also, you can get more exercise with this big version than with the little one.

But remember it is not just about increasing activity, you can even just have fun with Dance Dance revolution at your birthday party.

I am sure my friend from West Virginia wishes they had DDR when she was in school.

Both BoingBoing and Fark seemed excited about the possibility of video game excercise in school.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The American Idol Effect 2

Since American Idol is on two nights in a row, I can comment on it two days in a row. Earlier I spoke of the American Idol Effect as an inability to judge oneself. I would like to add a new phenomena to the effect.

Did you see the guy with the ventriloquist dummy "audition" on Tuesday's show? Do the contestant for the show get a list of rules? Perhaps there is a sheet of instructions handed out at the auditions describing them. Have any of the contestants ever seen the show? I think that it is a show where people sing and try and get through the auditions to make it to be a singing star. So why did the guy bring a ventriloquist dummy into the audition? Why was that guy dressed like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz? Why do they rap or dance or do anything but sing? Why do people bring in props?

As I said before, I guess some people just want their 15 minutes of fame, as opposed to actually having some talent and maybe making it to the next round.

The other piece of the American Idol Effect is that people don't follow instructions. Or they don't care about instructions, or they lack an ability to understand the reality around them. Maybe this is just another symptom of narcissism.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Stretching Global Warming to cover bourbon

I am not a big Kentucky bourbon fan but stretching the consequences of global warming to cover ruining the aging of Kentucky bourbon might be going a bit too far.

In aging the bourbon -

The whisky is aged in treated barrels made of white oak which are then carefully stored to take advantage of seasonal temperature fluctuations. "When the temperature rises in the summer, the bourbon expands," Jones says, "and with lower temperatures in the winter, it contracts. This movement gives the bourbon its amber color and oak flavor.

Producers consider these temperature variations so critical that during the course of their storage, barrels are shifted from the lower racks in the warehouse to the upper racks. However, the 3-degree Fahrenheit average temperature increase predicted for the state over the next 100 years will mean less variation between winter and summer temperatures. The study's sorry conclusion: "In the future, global warming may affect the weather patterns which are essential in Kentucky for the aging process."
First you have to believe the temperature rise, then you have to believe the effect on the aging and that if anything changes that the whisky brewers won't change their tactics to continue to produce good whiskey in the event of any change. If you are worried about global warming let's focus on something that could have a real and lasting detrimental effect, like rising sea levels wiping out coastal cities.

From OnEarth magazine via Treehugger.

Beware the America Idol Effect

For five seasons now, around this time of the year, I am reacquainted with the American Idol Effect. The American Idol Effect is a total inability to judge oneself. The show serves as an object lesson for us all. It is a perfect example of the complete inability of many people to critically self-evaluate. The people on this show actually, honestly think that they can sing and that they are great singers. Unfortunately, only a small fraction actually are. A few audition, I am sure, just to get their fifteen minutes of fame. Even considering that the makers of the show choose the worst singers to highlight so as to entertain us, there are a surprising number of bad, bad singers that think they are good.

A study in Scientific American in April of 2001 (Violent Pride) showed that criminals did not suffer from a lack of self esteem. Low self image did not drive them to crime. From the article -
"Several years ago a youth counselor told me about the dilemma he faced when dealing with violent young men. His direct impressions simply didn't match what he had been taught. He saw his violent clients as egotists with a grandiose sense of personal superiority and entitlement, but his textbooks told him that these young toughs actually suffered from low self-esteem."
The study showed that many of the criminals had narcissistic tendencies and were unable to take any criticism. When it was demonstrated that they didn't have the ability they claimed or believed they had, that is when they became violent and angry. A behavior that any viewer of American Idol would recognize when Simon Cowell rightly critiques a horrible singer on the show.

I do sometimes worry that I am just like the rest of the public and that I am unable to accurately judge my abilities. Please shoot me if I suddenly think I am proficient at something that I actually stink at! The American Idol Effect does not just apply to singing. Many a school evaluation, job interview, or pick up line has suffered from the same effect. Try to objectively realize that you failed the class on your own, you won't get the job, and that you are not as attractive to women as you think you are.

Thinking subjectively, and even sometimes imagining you are the hero of your own story is alright just so long as it doesn't get in the way of actually functioning in reality. Let's watch American Idol Tuesday night and let it be a cautionary tale for us all.

Monday, January 23, 2006

For the extremely lazy Dance Dance Revolution dancer

Aren't these the cutest things! I saw them on BoingBoing via Wonderland. Now you can exercise your dancing fingers instead of your feet! This, of course, continues this week's line of Dance Dance Revolution references.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Birthday partying with Dance Dance Revolution!

Happy Birthday to me (and my twin sister) today! See the fantasy football playoff genetic algorithm post for my salute to her fantasy football commissionership prowess.

Yesterday I had the planned Dance Dance Revolution party! Everybody had a great time dancing, especially once we set the skill level to beginner so that we could actually win a few times. The competition was heady. Here is a picture of a danceoff between me and an especially skilled opponent.

The Gnostic Knowledge of Fantasy Football and a suggested attack using genetic algorithms

The only way for me to have interest in the end of the football season is to involve myself in a playoff fantasy football pool. It combines some of the excitement of picking your own team from fantasy football, but doesn't last 17 weeks and only involves picking the team once at the beginning of the playoffs, so it is doable. My twin sister put together a very nice spreadsheet with the list of positions that the fantasy team "owner" must fill in. Each entry had a easy to use drop down menu for each player, but for the completely clueless like me it was difficult because I don't have every players team memorized and so I had to hunt for some more resources.

It is this gnostic wisdom, or hidden knowledge (gnosis) that frustrates newbies everywhere. Economists and sociologists call it a barrier to entry. What kind of club would you have if everyone could join it. Let's set up a secret handshake, or use incomprehensible jargon to keep out people who we don't want to join. The free masons have 33 degrees for goodness sake. In scattering experiments the scattering vector is called q, h, s or any number of different symbols just so the physicists, engineers, colloid scientists, and chemists don't have to talk to each other. Woe to the student trying to read papers in the different disciplines. Lawyers have to take the bar to practice, engineers a professional engineering exam. It is all about exclusion.

The funny thing is it always seems to the uninitiated that there is this hidden knowledge about how to actually be successful at fantasy football. It may also be that you have to be slightly interested. I think that football is a complicated game, that is what makes it so interesting to those that like it. The game is essentially a series of set piece battles, down after down, drive after drive. What I did to prepare myself for the playoffs was to get some good advice from coworkers and my sister and then go to my favorite resources, the NFL Sagarin Ratings, to try to predict who would win the games each week and my sister helped me with some info from TheHuddle.com to learn something about the players. What I most wanted to do was explore all of the combinations to find the best fantasy football playoff lineup to try to actually win the contest.

Genetic Algorithm Approach:

I think one cool way to generate the winning lineup would be to use a genetic algorithm to "breed" the best lineup (look here for a tutorial on genetic algorithms). The whole idea behind a genetic algorithm is that we will evolve an optimized playoff fantasy football lineup. Out of the many combinations we generate some combinations, subject them to a Darwinian fitness test, keep the winners, breed the winners and start the process over again. After a few generations I would have the winning, most fit, playoff fantasy football lineup.

The combinations:

One approach would be to just randomly generate lineups from the lookup table of players. It turns out there are over 55 trillion possible combinations in the rkbfanstasyfootball playoff setup. We would need to be sure that we included enough combinations to randomly hit upon lineups that would eventually evolve to be winners. Another approach could be to use some rules to generate lineups. Perhaps there could be a "follow a single team" rule, or a "load up on wild card" players rule, or a "spread your players across the teams" rule. All would be valid selections, but they would have to face the fitness gauntlet later on in the process, which we hope would generate winners for use after enough generations of breeding and culling.

The fitness test:

This particular fantasy playoff pool uses points scored (see here for the rules). We need to simulate the playoff season and calculate the final score for the hundreds of lineups. It would be great if we could play millions of games of Madden 2006 to simulate the playoff weeks of the season, add up the scores and compile individual player statistics, but I don't have the time or ability to do that. Some other suggestions I have are to use the seasonal averages for each player and use the Sagarin ratings or other ratings to simulate the wins and losses. One could also run a Monte Carlo simulation using the win/loss ratios of the teams over the past few seasons combined with the individual player stats. Each of these approaches will be better or worse predictors. The better we can do with this, the better our evolved playoff picks will be.

We can pick a fraction of the top of the population, preserve the best one (elitism) so we don't lose it, and cull the rest.

The breeding step:

Breed the resulting strains together. I suggest we take each position and have a 50/50 chance that the resultant offspring will have a player from one parent or another. Be sure to use players only once. We should also try to perform all of the combinations that we can. Some genetic algorithms include the possibility of a mutation. Perhaps we should allow that every so often a position comes from random from the starting list rather than from either parent. We can adjust this rate as appropriate.

These offspring go back into the fitness test for more testing and then culling. We will know to stop the evolution of the playoff fantasy lineups when we see the system settle down to an equilibrium with what I would hope would be a single high scoring lineup.

Results Pending:
My main problem with these clever ideas I come up with is that I am so far out of grad school that I have run out of programmable computers to do that actual work. The last computer language I knew was Fortran, because it was the mid-90's and I was an engineer. I don't even have a compiler and computer to run it on anyway. I have gotten adept at using Microsoft Excell to run Monte Carlo simulations, but the process still remains too manual, with me cutting and pasting my results to other sheets and letting the program chug through the random number generator again. I will probably simulate the season using the scores thus far just to test the concept. Maybe next year I will have found a fitness test I can use and test this proposal in real use.

I will have to satisfy myself with setting up the problem for now, and save looking for execution resources for later. Please offer useful comments on the scheme outlined above, or even point me to places where I could actually get it done.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Hit and Run? Escape into the marsh in Delaware

Last night on Interstate 95 in Delaware two teenagers got into a traffic accident. Then it got really weird. When one of them, a young lady, got out to examine the damage she was (allegedly) struck by a third driver who then took off. That hit and run driver's car broke down and the driver ran off into the marsh on the side of the road to avoid capture. Then she made a cell phone call!

Zebley said she is not sure if Cruz immediately jumped over the guardrail and into the marsh, but at some point she called family from a cell phone.

"She called my uncle and she explained that she was in the bushes," said Cruz's nephew, Milton Albino. "Then the phone cut off."

Linda Rodriguez, Cruz's niece, said Cruz was using a prepaid cell phone that ran out of minutes when she called.

They found the woman unconscious in a parking lot near the marsh this morning. She is being treated for hypothermia. In Delaware we don't have to make up wacky traffic accident stories. I couldn't top this crazy one anyway. All we need to add is another prisoner chained to her and it can be like the chain gang escape in "O Brother, Where Art Thou".

I am to jiggly toilet seats what Johnny Appleseed is to apples.

Even men need to sit down to go to the bathroom sometimes. I will leave the details of the reasons for this up to the astute reader (think #2). Proper installation of the required toilet seat is critical.

How is it that the nuts on the bolts that hold the toilet seat onto the bowl always seem to come loose or be loose? Is it because they are upside down so they just "fall" loose ever so slowly as the unscrew downhill? When you sit on one of these really loose, jiggly toilet seats you risk the thing sliding out from underneath you and dumping you in the toilet or on the floor with your pants around your ankles. How pleasant.

Is it the same in the ladies' room? Is anybody making sure the toilet seats are not loose for them? I often wonder if the bathrooms are nicer on the other side of the gender divide. Have any of my readers encountered this problem and actually done anything about it? Is this very Type A personality? ( I often fix the toilet paper to be overhand as well) Please guys and girls leave your comments on your experiences with loose toilet seats.

So I have made it a point to tighten these loose nuts on the bolts that hold on the toilet seat wherever I find them, except where the toilet is so nasty that I don't touch anything. It is first for self-preservation, because I don't want to fall in or fall off, and then it is a service to my fellow toilet visitors. If we all tighten the screws then all of the toilet seats will be ready for the next person. The nuts are under the bowl under the toilet seat hinge. Please consider this public service the next time you encounter a jiggly toilet seat.

update: I failed to include a link to this article about a man whose "manhood" was crushed when his toilet seat shifted unexpectedly at a New York Starbucks back in Dec 1999. eek!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Viva la Dance Dance Revolution

For Christmas I asked for and got Dance Dance Revolution for the Xbox. I wanted it because I thought it would be fun and might be some good exercise during the long winter months. I was looking for a video game that even I could play since I have long since determine that I am at about the level of a modern 5 year old in video gaming skills.

I am not alone in thinking that there could be a fun fitness aspect to the game. SFgate.com writes about a bunch of kids who have even lost weight while playing the game. Early this year, the interest in the game had crossed the Atlantic. (or it may be that some reporter woke up, looked around and saw an already established trend).

I am happy to hop on the band wagon and I expect to have loads of fun with my friends on Saturday when I am having (at their request, which is funny in and of itself) a Dance Dance Revolution birthday party so that everyone can try it out.

Weather data - up close and personal

A while ago I read the Michael Crichton novel "State of Fear". The story centers around a conspiracy to make the world believe that global warming and environmental catastrophe are real and immanent. Believe what you like, but one of the good parts about the book is an appendix with internet references to some weather data so that the reader can decide for himself. Mostly the book inspired me to find all of this great climate and weather data for myself. Here is a hundred years of data for Porter Reservoir in Wilmington.

Now that I have the data I may use it to plan when to plant my garden and other weather critical tasks for Wilmington, Delaware. A good example is the table of the first and last frost dates for the years from 1948 to 2000.

Here is the real time stream data for the Brandywine Creek at Wilmington, DE. It is interesting to watch when there are rainstorms because you can watch the peak and then watch the floodwaters recede. Here is a site with all kinds of real time weather data for many sites across Delaware, click on the map when you get there.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Yellow Ribbon Magnet Meme cross-pollinates with yellow Livestrong wristband

Careful readers will note that I have followed the yellow ribbon magnet meme development for some time now. My interests began with cars with ridiculous numbers of ribbons, empty sentiment ribbon magnets, my own "support our pants" answer to the sometimes hypocritical use of ribbons, ribbons which use the negative space inside the loop, or blow out of the loop, and have gone on to the exploration of the different "strains" and "mutations" of ribbons that I have seen in the wild. I think it is important to document the ribbons on cars, because not every ribbon for sale on the internet is actually sold. I have even gone so far as to declare the death of the yellow ribbon magnet meme.

I stand corrected. Today I saw this "LIVESTRONG" wristband as a magnet on the back of a car, in the wild. I am sure the occupants of the car were wondering why the people behind them were taking so many pictures of the back of there car while in traffic. None of those pictures turned out, but luckily they went to the same store as us, and I waited for them to go inside to get this closeup for my research studies. I think one must be a little obsessed with ones research subject to really do it justice.

Rejoice! Today I have found my Dream Chocolate Dessert!

When I was younger, my favorite desserts were chocolate. Even now chocolate is my first choice. When I order a chocolate sundae I ask for chocolate ice cream, and chocolate syrup (or hot fudge). I am so crazy for chocolate that I would ask for a chocolate dish and chocolate spoon if I could.

Today I got my wish. At brunch today at the DuPont Country Club, the desserts were tiny chocolate mousses in chocolate bowls with chocolate spoons. Unfortunately I bit off the spoon end on my first bite and had to resort to more traditional utensils for the rest of the course. I am sorry I can only share the picture with you instead of digitally transmitting the dessert, because it was delicious. Maybe on the next version of the internet.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Charbucks succeeds against Starbucks

A U.S. District Court ruled against Starbucks last week. Starbucks' trademark infringement and dilution suit was unsuccessful in shutting down Black Bear Micro Roastery's use of "Mr. Charbucks" to describe a coffee bean blend. As the CourtTV blog quotes from the opinion
"The court finds, based on the distinctive packaging and the separate retailing channels of the parties' respective products, that an ordinary purchaser is very unlikely to mistake defendant's 'Mr. Charbucks Blend' ... for one offered by Starbucks,"
This is in contrast to the Starbucks trademark litigation recently mentioned on BoingBoing. Again from CourtTV,
"Known for its aggressive 'policing of its trademark,' Starbucks has prevailed in several similar disputes. In December, a federal judge in Oregon sided with Starbucks' demand that a coffee shop named Sambucks change its name."
These poor companies don't have enough money to defend against the monster of a large corporation whether their defense is defendable or not. How do we even the playing field in the courts so that plaintiffs and defendants of different means still have a fair outcome.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Travel to Exotic Locales

The best part about traveling to a smaller airport is that you often take a smaller plane and there is no jetway. (The worst part is that you often take a smaller plane and there is no jetway.) Then you can walk down the stairs to the tarmac just like they do in the old movies. It is very romantic. I imagined that I was boarding my own private jet to fly away to an exotic location. Unfortunately my business must be failing because I had to subsidize my trip with all of those strangers on my plane. It made it very hard to maintain the illusion.

Having the stairs allows you to take the classic picture with steps going up to the airplane, ready to whisk you away to a new adventure. It is even more mysterious at night.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Free Speech, Vandalism or Art on Traffic Signs - you make the call.

This one is not for the kids due to the strong language used.

Saw this clever modification of a traffic sign on my travels today. We pulled over to take a picture. Certainly the use of the profane language makes a bold statement that grabs the eye of a potential audience. What is the author trying to communicate? It looks like someone printed out the word on a printer and then taped it on the sign using clear tape. They should have used a slightly larger font to match or even spent more money and used a sticky printable label for durability.

On the whole it is a bold statement on how this person feels about the traffic. Maybe we shouldn't be turning, we should be doing something else, perhaps the suggested act. Do you think this is free speech, vandalism or art on this traffic sign? Post your opinions and criticisms in the comments.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hey, this post isn't going to hypocriticize itself.

From Overheard at the Office:

Boss: Take me as a critic, but then also look at it with a hypocritical eye yourself.

25 Broadway,
New York, NY
That is exactly how I do it.


Print newspapers get the miner story wrong! - Where was the fact checking?

The Wilmington Delaware News Journal wasn't the only newspaper to get the headline wrong yesterday when they misreported that twelve miners were found alive in the West Virginia mine - because they didn't check their facts. I am glad I posted a picture of the newspaper with the incorrect headline, because the electronic media has a nasty habit of updating itself and erasing all evidence.

The mistake gives the national press a chance to do a story on themselves ( a story on the story, or meta-story) and they certainly love to do that. At least the Gainesville Sun Online attempts to figure out how it occurred.
Miscommunication among rescue workers reportedly led to families being told the miners were alive, leading to a celebration with the West Virginia governor and newspapers going to press with reports they had been saved.

Journalism experts differed on whether the error was an honest mistake or evidence of reporters failing to properly check their facts.
Gal Beckerman of CJRDaily, a media critic, brokes no excuses for the reporters who failed to check the sources of information for the incorrect reports that the miners had survived their ordeal. I love his criticism of an incorrect Washington Post article about the situation:
...The article continues in full speculation mode, adding in the fourth paragraph that "the miners had apparently done what they had been taught to do: barricaded themselves in a pocket with breathable air and awaited rescue."

All untrue -- but written with stunning confidence.
There is a lot of overblown hype these days surrounding blogging and its perceived competition with the "professional" press. Sometimes there is the suggestion that blogs are the quick good source for news and there is applause for the speed with which a large group of unconnected people can dig up facts and break a story. Often there is just the opposite, that bloggers don't have to check their sources and can publish innuendo and rumors that the regular press can't. The "voting" process of blogger checking blogger is actually a good mechanism to pull the facts out of a breaking story, on the other hand, the press are supposed to check the facts themselves. Even the flap about some wrong information in Wikipedia fails against the overwhelming evidence that Wikipedia usually gets it right.

If an incorrect story like this goes out to soon without the proper checks in place, what is the advantage of the press vs. a reliable weblog?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

You may be an Alien Abductee!

I love these articles with lists of question to help you determine if you are something. In this case, 58 signs that you might be an alien abductee. (found at fark.com, these guys copied from here) Aside from the essential creepiness of the idea, and the ridiculousness of the premise (there are no aliens abducting people), if you read through the whole list you will get a hit no matter what. Too many hits and I would be concerned that you have a serious phsychological problem.

How about these "unusual" items:
Have been paralyzed in bed with a being in your room.
Sleep paralysis is a well known syndrome which is getting better attention all the time. There was an excellent article about sleep paralysis in Science News in July. I have personally experienced the sleep paralysis symptoms, but sorry, no being in my room.
Have a memory of flying through the air which could not be a dream, or many dreams involving flying.

Have a cosmic awareness, an interest in ecology, environment, vegetarianism, or are very socially conscious.
Never having a dream about flying sounds more unusual than having one to me. And I always knew those environmentalists were from another planet. Why do they care so much about this one then?

and my two favorites:
Have the feeling that you are going crazy for even thinking about these sorts of things.

Have many of these traits but can't remember anything about an abduction or alien encounter.
I don't remember being abducted by aliens, eek!

This list reminds me of other list of questions or characteristics I see for diagnosing oneself with alcoholism, depression, or schizophrenia. I always seem to pass these test with flying colors, which is to say I have every disease these tests test for. I was always a good test taker. Perhaps a few questions on the web are not the best diagnostic tool. I am guessing that these tests cast a wide net and that everybody feels different from normal at some time in their lives.

Unfortunate headline not true - only one miner survives

The News Journal went to print before the full story broke about the miners. There was sadly only one survivor of the mine explosion, though rumors of twelve survivors had surfaced and lasted long enough to make it into the print new outlets.

The press coverage of this news has been excrutiating. I feel for the families of these coal miners, coal mining is a dangerous occupation, but it is a choice. Every interview where the families said that they had asked their loved one to stop the job, or the loved one talked about the safety risks, was followed by an admission that the miner chose to stay in the job. Most said it was because it is a high paying though dangerous occupation. If other industries are any indication, the danger of the job probably means that there is heightened focus on safety rather than less. The investigation of this accident should let is determine if more stress needs to be placed on safety in this industry. I myself would like to know what the statistics on death rates of coal miners in on the job accidents. The Christian Science Monitor has some statistics on mine safety...
...For an industry that endured at least 1,000 fatalities a year through the 1930s and '40s, the death toll of 28 in 2004, the latest figure available, underscores the achievement of stricter government oversight and corporate compliance, experts and officials say...

In 2003, 16 mining fatalities occurred in underground mining work with a fatality rate of 35.7 per 100,000 workers, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Of those, 11 occurred in coal operator mines. Coal contractors had the highest fatality rate, at 212.8 per 100,000 operator employees, the institute reports....

The notion that mining ranks among the most dangerous occupations, in terms of on-the-job fatalities and injuries, may be misguided. "Of the 5,559 total work-related fatalities that occurred in 2003, only 56 (about 1 percent) occurred in coal and mineral mining," according to the National Mining Association website, which used data from the MSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to calculate the number. Mining, the website notes, appears far down the list, behind trade, transportation, and public utilities (25 percent), construction (20 percent), and farming, forestry, and fishing (13 percent)...
The press also keeps harping on the 46 violations the mine received this year but there is no indication of whether this is a high or a low number for similar mines. How can we determine if this mine was really less safe than other mines. It is always frustrating that the press doesn't report that type of information, but merely parrots what the other media outlets say. Maybe then we can determine if an action needs to be taken. (latest update at Yahoo News)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Icarus Falling

Clever whirdly noted the other day that -

Icarus didn't crash and burn...

Icarus burned and crashed.

Image by Frank Wright

Monday, January 02, 2006

Happy 10,000th page view with data analysis.

Not too long ago I welcomed my 1000th view on this blog, It had taken a long time to get there and I thought it would take forever to get to the next postmarker (2000). However I suggested a link to BoingBoing which got picked up by them and that generated a lot of new traffic. Welcome everyone. The new traffic has blasted me through to the 10,000 mark in about two weeks.

Using the data from the counter at the bottom of the page, I calculated an initial spike of 3200 unique visitors, an exponential decay with a half life of about a day. By now most of the big excitement is gone, but I have 20 more unique visitors a day (39 average vs. 9 before Dec 14th) than I used to. See the graph for more details. The red dots are the number of unique page views for each day, the blue line is the simple exponential plus averages fit to the data as described above.

The other useful result of the new visits is that some folks have actually linked to my blog, and I hope to keep the new audience interested enough to continue to do so. The Business Opportunities weblog was inspired by some work done by Tristan Louis to use the number of links to a blog at Technorati to calculate the cost of a blog, presumably to advertisers. Mine is worth $6,209.94, which is $6,209.94 more that it was worth a few weeks ago. I doubt I could use this "asset" as collateral though.

My blog is worth $6,209.94.
How much is your blog worth?

I do try to keep the meta-posts to a minimum here because I am trying to add some new stuff to the internet, rather than parroting others. So there are posts, then posts about posting (meta-posts), then posts about posting about posting (which is really a post about posting, so only posts and meta-posts). Thanks for your patience.