Ebola by the numbers

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Shit is getting serious. From the New York Times:

Fresh Graves Point to Undercount of Ebola Toll
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — The gravedigger hacked at the cemetery’s dense undergrowth, clearing space for the day’s Ebola victims. A burial team, in protective suits torn with gaping holes, arrived with fresh bodies.

The backs of the battered secondhand vans carrying the dead were closed with twisted, rusting wire. Bodies were dumped in new graves, and a worker in a short-sleeve shirt carried away the stretcher, wearing only plastic bags over his hands as protection. The outlook for the day at King Tom Cemetery was busy.

“We will need much more space,” said James C. O. Hamilton, the chief gravedigger, as a colleague cleared the bush with his machete.

The Ebola epidemic is spreading rapidly in Sierra Leone’s densely packed capital — and it may already be far worse than the authorities acknowledge.

But the bodies pouring in to the graveyard tell a different story. In the last eight days alone, 110 Ebola victims have been buried at King Tom Cemetery, according to the supervisor, Abdul Rahman Parker, suggesting an outbreak that is much more deadly than either the government or international health officials have announced.

Yeah - there are official numbers and then there are real numbers. Wishful thinking is a hell of a way to run an outbreak. The more people know, the better they can take care of their own.

Overheard at market

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I did the shopping run into town today and my final stop was at a local grocery store for some personal items.

I got a coffee at their in-house espresso stand and overheard the manager of the produce section telling a friend of theirs that, a few hours previous, a full wedding party complete with photographer came into the store, the bride and groom donned life-sized horse head masks and they proceeded to feed each other carrots.

My guess is that this is where the happy couple first met - dang! Would have loved to have seen that. Wonder if any surveillance video will surface on YouTube...

Happy equinox

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A few minutes ago, the sun crossed the celestial equator heading south. The crossing marks the beginning of fall in the northern hemisphere--a.k.a. the autumnal equinox. Equinox means equal night. With the sun near the celestial equator, we experience equal amounts of daylight and darkness, 12 hours of each. Moment of demarcation was 02:29 UT - it is now 2:54 - 19:54 PDT.

It has been a full summer but not quite ready for it to end - are we ever...

"Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government."
--Milton Friedman

Rot at the top

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Could have figured this out - get a cadre of cronies running things and the administrative abilities fall apart.
From The Washington Post:

Top-level turnover makes it harder for DHS to stay on top of evolving threats
An exodus of top-level officials from the Department of Homeland Security is undercutting the agency’s ability to stay ahead of a range of emerging threats, including potential terrorist strikes and cyberattacks, according to interviews with current and former officials.

Over the past four years, employees have left DHS at a rate nearly twice as fast as in the federal government overall, and the trend is accelerating, according to a review of a federal database.

The departures are a result of what employees widely describe as a dysfunctional work environment, abysmal morale, and the lure of private security companies paying top dollar that have proliferated in Washington since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The department’s terrorism intelligence arm, for example, has cycled through six directors during the Obama administration, decimating morale and contributing to months-long delays in releasing intelligence reports, according to interviews and government reports.

Six directors in six years? I may not be a big-time CEO (and would refuse the job if it were offered with the exception of a few companies) but I know how to run a business and have a track record that backs me up. This is downright juvenile. We need some adults in the room STAT!

More:

With the country facing a crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the southwest border in recent months, the pair of DHS agencies responsible for tackling this problem have been hindered by turnover of top officials. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, for instance, has had six commissioners under President Obama, four of them in a caretaker role because they were not confirmed by the Senate.

And at the Transportation Security Administration, a DHS agency created after 9/11 to enhance airport security, the hemorrhaging of both senior and junior personnel has “had a tremendous effect,’’ said Kenneth Kasprisin, a former acting TSA head who left the agency in May.

And this was a crisis that this current administration fully manufactured and put into place. The problem started happening in spring. The Federal Government was publicly advertising for shoes, caretakers, housing, etc... in January.

Much more at the site and over 300+ comments.

Processing pickles

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Just finished a dozen pints of pickles. About 1/3 through today's picking. Making a big tupperware container of quick refrigerator pickles and processing the rest tomorrow.

Back to work outside and busy day tomorrow...

Back to work

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Taking a break from wiring to do some heavy landscaping. I had goats for a while and they were a lot of fun but 100% destructive to some trees. Girdled them and they died.

Using Buttercup the tractor to pull them out and transfer them to a burn pile. Lulu has some native shrubs ready to plant there so it will look really nice in a year or two.

Also going to be pickling a bunch of cucumbers in the next day or so - took a while to get going but we have a bumper crop. Been eating out of our garden for most of this summer.

And still no real work is being done. From Paul L. Caron writing at TaxProf Blog:

The IRS Scandal, Day 500
Wall Street Journal: Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He's Running Interference, by Kimberley A. Strassel:

Nine months have passed since President Obama installed John Koskinen as IRS Commissioner, charged with unearthing the agency's targeting scandal and restoring its credibility. It's about nine months past time to acknowledge that Mr. Koskinen is the problem, not the answer.

The 75-year-old former Fannie Mae executive on Wednesday put in another superficial appearance before House investigators, spent another two hours dodging questions, jabbing at investigators, and excusing the misdeeds of the least-trusted organization in America. This from the guy brought in to clean up the mess—a man presented in confirmation as a "turnaround artist" and "reformer."

The Koskinen fail is now becoming a central political focus, as Republicans and even some Democrats question his tenure. Mr. Obama had declared him someone who "knows how to lead in difficult times, whether that means ensuring new management or implementing new checks and balances." Where are the sweeping changes? Where's the accountability? When the best the IRS commissioner can promise America is that "whenever we can, we follow the law"—we're in worse shape than nine months ago.

The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency's ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn't engage in "targeting" and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen "three Pinocchios, " noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

 Dr. Caron has been faithfully reporting on this since it first became known:

 All the way back to his first article: IRS Admits to Targeting Conservative Groups in 2012 Election (May 10, 2013)
And our government?

 

. . . crickets . . .

Wonderful story

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From Australian Magazine:

The secret ingredient in Geoff Beattie’s rich dark fruit cake
He shuffles away from the living room table and for a moment it seems his secret ingredient must be in the ­pantry by the old farmhouse pots and pans that he uses to make his prize-winning jams, pickles and cakes. But his secret isn’t there.

He passes the kitchen and for a moment it seems the secret behind the slow-walking, crook-backed 68-year-old dairy farmer’s peculiar culinary genius must be locked away in the sky-blue 1960s trunk resting on his dining table, holding the 3082 blue and purple ribbons and gold medals awarded to him throughout 24 years of show cooking. But his secret isn’t there.

He moves to an antique dark brown hardwood chest of drawers, left to him in his late mother Lily’s will. There are pictures and ­messages and keepsakes adorning it: a black and white photograph of his dad, Robert, in his World War II uniform; a framed daily reminder to himself that reads, “Anyone can be a father but it takes a special person to be a dad.” But his secret isn’t there.

Then he looks up at the wall above the chest of drawers to a framed portrait of a woman in a wedding gown, clutching a bouquet of flowers. “My wife,” he says. It’s her. It’s always been her.

“E …” the farmer says. “El …”

His heart and his memory won’t let him voice her name. His lips tremble and he puts a fist to his mouth as tears fill his eyes, fixed on that beautiful face in the frame. Elaine.

Read the rest - a wonderful story.  It's getting a bit dusty here - got something in my eye...

More wiring

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In for a bite to eat - Lulu is in town for an art meeting.

Getting the shop wired up - about 50% done...

Light posting tonight

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Probably nothing more tonight - received a piece of test equipment from Amazon today and will be checking it out.

When testing audio gear, it is useful to be able to feed it with a controlled and reproducible signal. Normally, you would use an oscillator of some sort.

About 20 years ago, waveform generators started appearing where you could use not only the usual sine, square or pulse waveforms but also arbitrary ones that you could load into the unit. These were a lot better but priced accordingly in the $4K range ($4K in 1990 = $7K today).

Flash forward to today and sitting on my bench in the Radio Room is a Siglent SDG800 Function/Arbitrary Waveform Generator. Under $300 at Amazon. There is a USB port on the back that connects to a computer for control and data storage. There is another USB port on the front and you can use a thumb drive to store the waveforms you want to use for testing. The functions available are huge - all sorts of pulse and gating options, remote triggering - this puppy blows the 1990's technology out of the water for 1/20th the cost (and it only weighs six pounds).

Checking this puppy out...

A matter of self-defence

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Memo to self - when running an anti-gun group, check the victim out before holding a vigil.

From An NC Gun Blog:

Is North Carolinians Against Gun Violence holding a vigil for a convicted felon?
Check out this Facebook post on NCGV’s Facebook page.

FelonVigilNCGV

Seems pretty normal, until you do a search for the victim’s name in the Department of Corrections database.

Victim 1

Oh, dear.

It’s not like the victim’s name is a common one which would lead to some chance of mistaken identity. He’s been convicted of Assault with a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury. But wait, there’s more.

A fight nearly broke out between two families Thursday in Durham County Superior Court when a defense attorney claimed that her client killed a man and permanently wounded another in self defense.

Much more at the site. All of the people involved had records - it is downright stupid that the Bloomberg funded "North Carolinians Against Gun Violence" organization did not do their homework beforehand... 

Hat tip to Peter Grant at Bayou Renaissance Man for the link.

Signs of weakness

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Our nation is being gutted from within and other nations are smelling the blood. From The Washington Free Beacon:

Russian Nuclear Bombers Buzz Alaska, N. Europe
Russian strategic nuclear bombers carried out air defense zone incursions near Alaska and across Northern Europe this week in the latest nuclear saber rattling by Moscow.

Six Russian aircraft, including two Bear H nuclear bombers, two MiG-31 fighter jets and two IL-78 refueling tankers were intercepted by F-22 fighters on Wednesday west and north of Alaska in air defense identification zones, said Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. Two other Bears were intercepted by Canadian jets on Thursday.

“The group of Russian aircraft flew a loop south, returning westward toward Russia,” Davis told the Free Beacon.

A day later two more Bear bombers were intercepted by Canadian CF-18 jets in the western area of the Canadian air defense identification zone near the Beaufort Sea, north of Alaska, he said.

The Russian bombers did not enter U.S. airspace but flew within 63 miles of the Alaskan coast and 46 miles of the Canadian coastline, Davis said.

Seriously W.T.F. A real president would have been on the phone immediately. We should have sent long-range spy drones over some Russian military sites.

This should be front-page news, instead, the media is blathering on about the football scandals. These are bad but they pale in comparison to all the others - Benghazi, the IRS, Veterans Administration, etc...

There's a new boss in town

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Say hello to The Open Atmospheric Society:

From their About page:

Welcome to The Open Atmospheric Society, known as “The OAS”
The OAS is an international membership society for the purpose of studying, discussing, and publishing about topics in atmospheric related earth sciences, including but not limited to meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, and climatology. The OAS wss designed to be an alternative to organizations like the AGU, AMS, AIP, and ACS, NAS, and AAAS that have become more political than scientific in the publication of climate position statements, publication gatekeeping, and media editorializing .

    • Our motto: verum in luce means“truth in the light”.
    • Open science— a transparent online peer review process. Publishing peer reviewer comments (not names), will illuminate the process.
    • Open membership— Associate members, anyone who has an interest in atmospheric science, can join at a basic rate, providing interdisciplinary membership. Professional full voting members, will require a degree in atmospheric sciences or related earth disciplines, or three published papers in these subjects. Student members get a reduced rate, similar to associate members with option to full member elevation.
    • Open journal— The Journal of the OAS will be free to read by the public.
    • Author account—each author and co-author will have accounts for collaboration, submitting papers , making edits, and responding to reviewers.
    • No other journal asks this upfront: strict OAS Journal submission requirements—technical submissions to the Journal by members must include all source data, software/code, procedures, and documentation to ensure reproducibility of the paper’s experiment or analysis by external reviewers.
    • Emphasis on reasonable publication turnaround, 3 months or less.
    • Press releases will be sent with each publication.
    • Video production assistance for authors to explain papers and post to the journal page with your paper.
    • Organizational activity will be conducted entirely online – This means no costly brick and mortar infrastructure, no costly postal mailings journals, and no need for warehousing paper files and publications.
    • Online meetings conducted via Skype for organizational purposes.
    • Nomination/Voting for officers and other issues conducted online.
    • Monthly email newsletters and special online webcasts.

Signing up today - don't have a degree or published papers but I have a strong interest. 

Now this will be interesting to follow

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From The American Interest:

Pay Attention to this Gas Deal
Israel is fast becoming a serious regional energy player. If it wasn’t clear before, it became clear earlier this month with the announcement of a $15 billion gas deal with Jordan. According to the Times of Israel, the deal is the largest energy collaboration with Jordan to date, and it makes Israel Jordan’s chief supplier.

Over the past five years, Israel’s energy fortunes have transformed dramatically, a development that has the potential to shift the region’s geopolitical and geo-economic landscape. Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir once only half-joked that Moses led the Children of Israel to the one spot in the Middle East that had no oil. This turns out not to have been true: over the last decade, Israel has found major oil and gas reserves just off its coast.

The entire global landscape for energy is changing, and the Middle East is a key part of this change. Traditional producers in the Gulf are becoming consumers as their populations demand a lifestyle that is more energy intensive, and traditional consumers like Israel are emerging as new producers through scientific and technological innovation. Discovered offshore in deep water near Haifa in 2009, Israel’s Tamar field holds an estimated 8-9 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas. Israel began commercial production in 2013. The Leviathan deep-water gas field could hold as much 19 Tcf and is expected to begin producing in early 2017. Oil & Gas Journal estimated that, as of January 2014, Israel’s proven oil reserves are 11.5 million barrels, a fivefold increase from what was thought just a few years ago. The country’s potential reserves are likely substantially higher. In the last couple of years, Israel’s natural gas production more than doubled, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Although these numbers don’t put Israel into the top quartile of the world’s energy producing states, Prime Minister Netanyahu has estimated that $60 billion will accrue to Israeli coffers as a result and the new finds will dramatically improve Israel’s energy security for the next forty years, at least.

Israel is already the intellectual powerhouse of the middle-east. Now, it could become the financial powerhouse as well. The arabian fields are pretty much played out.

One of my employees is taking care of a family member so I took over their buying run today. Just got back in from town.

Do not forget that today is international talk like a pirate day.

 

What kind of beer do pirates drink?  P.B.Rrrrrrrrrrr

Tractor time

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Came home from work (busy day) and needed to move some things around. I used Buttercup the tractor for lifting and dragging some old wire fencing as well as moving a furnace from the back of my truck to the shop.

There is something so profoundly relaxing about rigging and driving a tractor. I could charge people to come out here and de-stress.

There is an old saying that you never see a Harley parked outside a Psychiatrists office - same goes for a tractor.

The furnace is for heat treating knives - I had been using a commercial toaster oven but it had its limitations so sprung the $$$ for a unit with an automated control.

Lulu is in town tonight so heating up some leftovers for dinner. I have a half-gallon of Sauerkraut bubbling away in the pantry and it is time (day four) to take it out and try it.

More later...

Bill Whittle talks about the tie-dyed tyrrany in our own Washington State:

 

Heh...

I am trying to get rid of 30 pounds (down 10 already) and am doing so by cutting carbohydrates - a difficult task as I love pasta and rice and beans - these are a staple of my diet.

I have also been following research in gut flora with great delight - proactivley maintaining a good culture and have seen marked improvements in my health and well-being. I used to suffer from Acid Reflux and that has gone away completely. I am also sleeping a lot better. What drove this point home is that I recently had to take a course of antibiotics for a wound on my foot and the reflux came right back.

Also, switched to diet sodas (Aspartame) and now it turns out that these can cause problems. From Ars Technica comes word of this new paper at Nature (paywalled):

Artificial sweeteners may leave their users glucose intolerant
People who are watching their weight will often opt for a diet soda, reasoning that the fewer calories, the better. But the availability of drinks and foods made with artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sucralose, and aspartame hasn't seemed to help much with our booming obesity levels. Now, some researchers might have identified a reason for this: the sweeteners leave their users with elevated blood glucose levels. But they don't seem to act directly on human metabolism. Instead, the effects come through alterations in the bacterial populations that live inside us.

The paper that describes this work, which was performed by a large collaboration of researchers from Israel, is being released by Nature today. The researchers note that epidemiological studies about the effects of artificial sweeteners have produced mixed results; some show a benefit, while others indicate that they're associated with weight gain and diabetes risk. Given that human populations haven't given us a clear answer, the researchers turned to mice, where they could do a carefully controlled study.

And the experiment and findings:

The authors wondered whether the gut bacteria might be acting as intermediaries between the artificial sweeteners and the glucose response. Their first test of this idea was simply to wipe out the bacteria with a heavy dose of antibiotics. When they did so, the difference between the animals getting glucose and the animals getting artificial sweeteners vanished. To really nail down the case, the authors obtained fecal material from the mice given artificial sweeteners and transferred it to mice that had been treated with antibiotics. The mice receiving the transplants showed reduced tolerance to glucose.

Could this really be relevant to human health? To get a hint, the team got seven healthy volunteers to start consuming high levels of saccharin (the FDA's recommended maximum daily dose). At the end of a week, four of them ended up with a reduced insulin response. Again, the researchers took stool samples and gave them to germ-free mice. Fecal transplants from those who had a poor insulin response transferred this response to the mice; fecal transplants from the ones who were unaffected by the saccharine had no effect.

There is a nice discussion in the 190+ comments - seems a lot of people are checking out this pathway.

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