Tuesday, November 25, 2008

[def.] Coccidioidomycosis

a.k.a. San Joachin Valley fever

No wonder they came up with a longer name ... that one looks like some of the keys on my keyboard got stuck while typing.

Hell if I know what it actually is, but in 2005, there were 15 cases of it in Minnesota, 2,885 in California, 2 in Maryland, and 0 in New Jersey.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fraternal Interpreter

Micha: "mama, mama, Gregor wants you to hang the pictures."

Mama (while lying in bed reading): "In 10 minutes, when I'm done."

But Gregor want you to do it now!



No, I'll do it in 10 minutes when I'm done.

But Gregor wants it now!

Gregor is going to have to wait, then.

Gregor wants to have both of his pictures hung up.

Not right now. In a few minutes.

Micha leaves the room and walks back into the boys' room, where they were having the afternoon 'quiet time'. I then hear him explaining to Gregor:

"Gregor, mama says not right now. You need to wait. She'll come in a few minutes to hang them up. All of them."

So, despite all evidence to the contrary, it is now adequately demonstrated that yes, indeed, he is listening when I say 'no'. And, yes, the pictures are now hung in the boys' bedroom. Since their favorite stuff toys are a giraffe, llama, and ferret, I got copies of pictures of these animals for decoration. They're thrilled.

Friday, November 21, 2008

North Star State Makes the Big Time: the Daily Show

Minnesota: Crazier than You Think

2 Jews battle it out for power in ... the Land of Lutherans ?

(Link for funny clip won't load here)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Images of Idiocy

The Calculation of Failure:

Under the arch there ... that's the remains of a 4-lane interstate sitting in the Mississippi River. NTSB finally decided what actually happened on that fateful morning we were watching this on CNN-Germany in the Munich International Airport.

Some of the 35W bridge's gusset plates were too small for the weight of the bridge. Where they should have been an inch thick, they were half an inch.
In 1962, when the bridge was designed, the size of the gusset plates likely weren't calculated.
1977: MnDOT added two inches of pavement to the bridge deck.
1998: added a de-icing system and barriers.
Summer 2007: re-decking the bridge began
August 1, 2007, 3:30 p.m.: Nearly 300 tons of equipment and rock and concrete were placed on the bridge deck, weighing as much as a 747 aircraft.
August 1, 2007, 6:00 p.m.: whole damn thing falls into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour.

"Somebody missed the whole idea that we're going to put 287 tons of weight on the bridge and maybe somebody should look at that,"
Chealander said.

Every year the American Society of Civil Engineers create a report card for and a cost estimate of fixing the country's infrastructure.

In 2008? $1.6 trillion strike you?

Put it in perspective, Ballarini says. "We have a $700 billion (financial) bailout and we have a $700, $800 billion war, so it's not that we can't generate that money," he says.
A growing number of federal and state lawmakers appear to favor spending more in infrastructure both to address years of deferred maintenance and putting people back to work.

Ballarini's advice?

Don't bank on the leaders following through.

"I'm convinced through education and grass roots movements that we could get these things done. One of the things I'll talk about is that we can't rely on people at the very top to lead us.

click on little picture at top of story for bigger version of photo @ top

New Math

2.9 Million + 87 = 1

The recount has begun. Both candidates have lost votes. ... wtf ...?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Health = Luxury

Marshall, W.Va., 1950:
Obesity was not a worry then. Workplace injuries were.

Marshall, W.Va., 2008:
no other metro area in the United States comes close to Huntington's adult obesity rate (from CDC), an astonishing 50%

... nearly half the people age 65 and older have lost all their natural teeth
... getting heart attacks in their 30s
... highest rates in the country of heart attacks and diabetes

The psychological problem behind it all is described by one person: The economy needs to pick up "so people can afford to get healthy,"

many people think of exercise and healthy eating as luxuries.
200 pizza joints
149 health gyms

What about little lovely Big Isaac?
Some doctors, on hearing the statistics, noted the Huntington area is not in such bad shape by West Virginia standards. A recent state study found that health problems are significantly worse in the more rural coal counties to the south. But those places didn't show up in the CDC report, because they were too small.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Plan A

I'm sitting in the student lounge (public health has our own). It's 10:14 p.m. CST. No one else is here (at least in this part of the place). The Plan for the next 15 minutes

play computer games
read the news on-line
eat Cheetos

then ...

take my epidemiology exam. sigh ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

[movie review] TBA

Movies I want to review:

Still out there in the T.C.
City of Ember
Body of Lies

Coming Soon to a Theater Near Me:
Quantum of Solace (dorky name for a Bond flick)
The Road
Revolutionary Road
Tale of Despereaux
The Betrayal
Cadillac Records

Already gone, but not forgotten - this is why DVDs exist
Burn Before Reading
The Lucky Ones
Pride & Glory
Fear of the Dark

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sheep dip

It’s good to be Catholic.

Tonight our parish held a dinner/fund-raiser. The $12,000 remaining on the new air-conditioning bill was the goal for the auction. Dinner was nice. The auction was successful (with no help from the Tobias house hold, despite the temptation).

A few jokes were made about Fr. Joe & the sheep dip. By the end of the evening, after he ‘went to go get the sheep dip’, we realized it was a brand name for a blended whiskey.

ooooh. smoooooth.

I got home in a pleasant mood. Good food; good wine; good company; great scotch. Peter drove the sitter home. I put on my pyjamas and crawled into bed to read the next chapter in a book that has nothing to do with public health or industrial hygiene. I then remember: oh, yeah, I wanted to come home early so that I could finish my epidemiology homework, which is due before 11:59 p.m.

Sigh ...

ethanol might be of interest to epidemiology in the study of the distribution and prevalence of diseases ... but it does zilch for one’s grade point average.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Δvote = 206

1,211,565 vs. 1,211,359

The Never Ending Saga of our state's senate race: Franken(DFL) is trying to get Hennepin County (where Minneapolis is) to re-assess absentee ballots. County says "it's not our problem, it's the state's problem". Coleman(R) is claiming:
Matt Haapoja, an attorney with the Minnesota Republican Party, accused the Democrats of trying to create votes. "This was clearly an example of the Franken campaign trying to find more votes where there aren't votes," Haapoja said.

Let me guess - the Republicans will graciously decline any 'made-up' votes for Coleman?

Where are those 207 votes Franken hopes to find? There is no state standard for storing votes, so he'll have to look:

St.Louis County: "They've (Rep.) had representatives [in front of the elections office] since Election Day," Tynjala said. "There's three of them. Apparently, they had them out in the car over the weekend." 400 ballots are locked in a safe in Hibbing ... The rest of the ballots are all up in our attic"

Douglas County: "They're locked in a secure room in the courthouse. There are only two keys to the room, and I'm not going to tell you where that room is."

McLeod County: "... in effect, incarcerated her ballots in the county jail. "They're in a cell, and the jail correctional officers have given me both of the keys to the cell, so no one can go in there...".

Chisago County: locked in next door office

Polk County: locked in county jail

Other popular locations: closets, secure safes, vaults

I must admit this seems much less of a C.F. than Florida 8 years ago. Although the accusations of voter fraud and legal charges are already making lawyers rich.

There are other opinions, of course. "I have no reason to think at all that the four judges and the Secretary of State who sit on the canvassing board are going to be affected by all of this bitching and moaning that the two campaigns are engaged in right now," Smith said.

My favorite suggestion, so far is:

The MN Statutes website is down, so I can't make a direct citation. But what I remember is that in the event of a tie, the election is to be decided by "chance", not necessarily a coin flip. For example, some ties have been decided by drawing cards and the high card wins.

I propose that the "chance" be the purchase of 10 Powerball tickets for every drawing (2 per week) until one of them wins the jackpot. That way, we can draw out the suspense AND keep either of these Bozos from occupying the Senate for quite some time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

[movie review] The Mummy

and sometimes I was unreasonably pleased. There is a little immaturity stuck away in the crannies of even the most judicious of us, and we should treasure it. (Roger Ebert)

If so, I treasured every moment of this. It's up there with Army of Darkness & Tremors. And sooooo much better than Bubba Ho-Tep. It's Indiana Jones on a "we can't afford Harrison Ford's salary so we spent it on CGI" budget. This wasn't Fraser's first foray into B-grade movies, and I haven't seen Journey to the Center of the Earth yet, but he seems to have turned into a character actor. Not an inherently bad thing, but I wish he'd try something different, to see if he really can do something different. I write this only to discover there's a G.I.Joe movie w/ him coming out next year.

1920's archaeologist messes around with ancient mummy, unleashes plagues and living dead mummy, gets girl, nearly gets girl killed, kills ancient mummy, rescues the damsel, saves the world, lives happily ever after.

The mummy was great (the character). O'Connell, the hero, was exactly what I would expect, excessively well armed with panache. The flesh-eating scarab, when it got an on-camera close-up was really cute. The cat was pretty pathetic, and I think the first one was fake. The slimy assistant evil-doer was waaaay to much of a stereotype. The undead mummy's undead priests were so pathetically 1930s quality. The heroine looked elegantly helpless while waiting to be cannibalized for parts. And of course, the kiss at the end is romantically lit by a setting sun.

This was just fun.

3 - Buy your own on video.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Under-age Voting Results

Kids Vote! held elections concurrent with ours. The results came in - apparently they were even more impressed with Obama, which says a great deal about name recognition for the younger children. (I'm pretty sure Jr.Gopher 1 doesn't actually know who he is.)

Love their logo: Vote Young! Vote Forever!

and the winner is ...?


we're down to 211 vote difference. Needless to say, both sides are screaming. Great Screaming Shades of Florida, Batman!

Sec.State is anticipating they'll come up with a winner by December 18. And, to balance my fair opinion of my new home-state's political system,

Six years ago, an election judge in Austin, Minn., burned a handful of ballots in her fireplace at home after an apparent misunderstanding on election night.-MPR Now that is an amazing amount of stupidity accumulating in one place.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

[def.] Conservative

con·ser·va·tive adj
1. in favor of preserving the status quo and traditional values and customs, and against abrupt change
con·ser·va·tive n
1. somebody who is reluctant to consider new ideas or accept change
2. somebody who supports the doctrine or beliefs of conservatism
con·ser·va·tive - synonyms
traditional, conventional, unadventurous, old-fashioned
con·ser·va·tive ≠ conservation
One might have thought (incorrectly) that 'conservative' had something to do with conservation. Nope, unless one counts the conservation of the status-quo.

Afterall, what do the Conservatives want to conserve?

the environment? sure, as long as it doesn't require acknowledging the possibility that the crap dumped from my factory could possibly hurt anything outdoors

our natural resources? as long as I can go deer hunting with an AK-47, who the hell cares about barn owls?

the global environment? as long as it doesn't involve requiring operators of coal-fired power plants to do anything about their greenhouse gas emissions

our limited domestic petroleum resources? drill, baby, just fuckin' drill!

our individual liberties? sure, except if you ...
criticize my government, in which case, you deserve to have your phone wire-tapped

our ability to provide enough scientists to fuel our technology industry? as long as I don't have to actually pay for any federal research budget ... or a world-class education system. Hell, even a half-baked education system is too damn much.

our national reputation as a decent place to live? as long as you aren't queer, Muslim, from some god-awful country no one's ever heard of, or can't afford health care, you're welcome to stay

our GDP? hey, Joe, out-source that to India.

our national productivity? sure, as long as I don't have to pay for my employees to be healthy

our fiscal future? as long as my mega-business doesn't have to pay taxes in the U.S.

our ability to "spend our way out of a recession"? as long as I won't have to pay a living wage to all of them damned wetbacks doing shit-labor, and never need to learn the definition of usury.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

[movie review] Shoot 'Em Up

Mom said this was awesome. Well, it's staring Clive Owen, which means her opinion is rather suspect. After watching the preview, I hesitated to suggest watching it with Mr.Gopher, who doesn't care for really violent movies. I took the chance. After putting it on pause for something, he went on to other things, commenting in a nice way that 'I don't really need to see the end of it, it will be just as over the top as the first part has been'. He liked it, which quite surprised me.

This was awesome. This was over the top. This was so over the top, it makes James Bond look like 8mm home movies. Holy Cow. If they'd been using real ammuntion, they would have needed to file an Environmental Impact Statement before discharging that much lead into the atmosphere from the sheer volume of bullets. Holy Cow.

What can I say that isn't equally over the top? Paul Giamatti was amazing as the hen-pecked cell-phone wielding hit man; Clive Owen was amazing as the messed up special ops vet who's too dangerous to let loose. Well, they let him loose, and see what happened? Chasing each other around the town over a new-born hours old baby. Two weeks after watching the movie, all I can recall are the action scenes, not why there was a baby.

This will definitely keep you on the edge - action non-stop through 90% of the movie. The 1st and last 5% were sedate. Well, relatively. Well, sort of. Am torn, since I didn't see this in the theater, I'm not sure if some of the chase seens would be better if bigger. A compromise:

4 - Definitely see it on video. (on a big screen/HD TV)

and the winner is .....


We're having an automatic re-count. Required if the difference is less than 0.5% We're currently at 0.05%. Stay tuned for more adventures of the Minnesota Senate election.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Was at Powderhorn Park at 8:45 a.m. There are 2 different wards(?) voting in the same building. The line was gone by 9:10 when I left.

25 minutes for no line?

Jr.Gopher#1 was with me; I wanted him to see the election experience. I figured I could show him my ballot & what I do with it.

Much to my surprise, there was a "Kids Vote!" sign, complete with ballots and a miniature voting booth. This is the coooooolest thing. The kids could get a kiddie ballot with the choices for the president and federal senate/house. It also had the 3 ballot options (for Mpls/state) and it had the choices for the Minneapolis school board. The candidates all had pictures next to their name. After turning in his ballot, he got his own "I voted" sticker which looks different than mine. The ballots are on bubble paper, and I was informed that, yes, they really are going to be counted. The results will get posted on-line & (they hope) published in the newspaper.

I didn't tell him who to vote for, but apparently he recognized Barak Obama and decided that the Constitution Party candidate ought to be elected to the senate and the DFL candidate for the house.

Minnesota the Voting Capital: I just can't get over the huge number of people who turn out here.

Minnesota uses optical scanners: fill out the paper ballot, put it in the machine, and it gets instantly counted. I was voter #231, according to the machine.

Already messed up ...

... and we haven't really started yet.

What's already wrong?

long lines & stupid bureaucratic activity don't surprise me, or even get much beyond raised eyebrows. Malfeasance, however:

# Common Cause of Colorado and two other groups sued Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman after he purged 20,000 voters from the state's registration list within 90 days of the general election. After the two parties reached an agreement last Wednesday, Coffman purged 146 more names from the list—a violation of federal law.

# The Americans for Limited Government Foundation, a group committed to "rolling back government" at the national, state, and local levels, sent a threatening letter to approximately 11,000 donors to left-wing causes. (Thanks to James Horwitz for the tip.) The letter reads, in part: "Your name has been put in our database. We are monitoring reports of a wide variety of leftist organizations. … Should any of these organizations be found to be engaged in illegal or questionable activity, it is our intent to publicize your involvement."

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Our first Halloween on 16th Avenue has been a success. Both boys came home with quite a haul. They went trick-or-treating with the neighbors' kids and a few of the grown up men. The women stayed at home as the Trick-or-Treater-Greeters.

Next year we're going to install a sign like those as amusement parks: "You must be this tall to get on this ride", and make it a bracket 48" tall and 24" low. Anyone that old should have their own job and buy their own cheap candy. Besides, they tended to be the really scary costumes terrifying the little kids (at least Gregor). And anyone young enough that they can't really walk up the sidewalk under their own power shouldn't be eating that much sugar & artificial food colorings.

The Sahaydaks (the neighbors) had a concurrent party for the grown-ups, to which we were invited. Over half of the attendees were from Michigan. I finally got to try a mojito. Yummm ... gotta get me some of them. A fizzy Caribbean version of a mint julep.

From the Halloween party @ Michael's preschool/Kinderstube:

Quite surprisingly, we discovered at the neighbor's party that this boy's father works with our landlord.

Michael & buddies

Olivia & Lisa (in pink) - Lisa & Michael are inseparable @ school.

Michael (clothes dryer) & Gregor (washing machine). Gregor only managed to wear his costume around the yard, and as far as the corner (we're the 2nd house from it). Peter said that the dryer was a smash hit with all of the adults. They're both front-loaders so that the doors open and the candy went inside. This constitutes my entire creativity allotment for the year. I think next year with go with a toaster & microwave oven. Then a side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Stove & dishwasher. I've got it made for cardboard box costumes for the next 3 years. :)

Neighbor kids Justice (Farmer Girl), Jarod (Mad Scientist) & Michael (Clothes Dryer)

rear view of washing machine, just cute

From the BBC World News

Hello, this is Claire Bolderson with the BBC World Service ...

The BBC's Claire Bolderson and Minnesotta Public Radio's Kerri Miller co-hosted a debate on the challengest ahead for America's next president. The debate took place in front of a live audience.

Yes, that live audience would include Peter & Elizabeth - both of whom can be heard on the broadcast.

It was a fairly interesting event. We got to see the upper level of the Gutherie, which I'd not seen before. A stunning view over the Mississippi. There was socialization time before & after the show. The refreshment option was moved to after the show; since it was a co-production with the BBC, high tea was offered. One of the fellows we chatted with is an election official, and was quite informative of the inner workings of the Minnesota election system.

One of the panelists was my US congressman. It was interesting to hear him speak. It was far more interesting to watch his non-verbal response to the questions and other panelists' answers (particularly the rabid mindless businessman). His facial expressions and body language were a very clear commentary on the other speaker's words.

I got a chance to speak with him afterwards. I also got a chance to speak to both Kerri Miller (whose show I listened to practically every day until I started grad school) and Claire Bolderson (whose show I listen to whenever I'm in the car late enough in the day to catch the BBC World Service News Hour). It's odd seeing someone one normally only hears. I often wonder if the radio personalities at somewhere more professional (like the BBC) show up at work in their cut-offs and t-shirts (e.g. Mr. STFU) or in the professional attire they wore today.

One of the BBC producers said the show here was fairly similar to the other stops in their cross-country tour of the US. We're the last one before D.C. on Monday. He did mention ours was the first group which didn't mention Sarah Palin. He sounded sort of relieved.

When I said "sure, that sounds great, I'll come" to the invitation from MPR, I didn't realize it was going to be a live broadcast over the BBC. Taped for MPR or PRI, sure but the BBC?.= Wow - Kenya to Kalamazoo got to hear how offended I am.

World Record

U. Minnesota decided to break the Guinness Book of World Records for ... the number of flu shots given out in one day, that being more than 3,721 as a goal. I just got mine (3:45 p.m.), and was informed that they passed their goal at noon.

After getting the flu in March, and having forgotten how sick you could be and still live ... I couldn't pass up a free one. Jr.Gopher#2 is the only remaining member who needs his. And since he got the flu last year, and didn't wind up in the hospital (as quite a few little kids were, with post-flu pneumonia) - his pediatrician ascribed his relatively short recovery time to having gotten vaccinated.

The U did, indeed, pass the previous record, reaching 11,538.