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Sat, Jun. 25th, 2011, 03:46 pm

We usually attribute news blackouts about protests to totalitarian regimes with censorship cadres.

This especially applies to incidents like suicide by self-immolation. Yet a man self-immolated in New Hampshire on June 16, 2011 in protest about treatment by the courts in a divorce, and there is NO coverage of the incident on a mainstream news site as I write according to Google news.

The only non-local site mention is this Boston Herald article where he variously described as "a man" and "the man". Quality reporting, huh?

You can't read about him on Wikipedia, either. This is where his page was, briefly. I quote:

23:16, 23 June 2011 Master of Puppets (talk | contribs) deleted "Thomas James Ball" ‎ (G6: Housekeeping and routine (non-controversial) cleanup: AFD resulted in delete.)

Something is wrong, someone is unhappy, but the evidence is hidden, and everything is ... nice ... again.

Tue, Jun. 1st, 2010, 03:40 pm
Metaphor fail

British soccer fan talking about threat of liquidation for Crystal Palace:

This is a club with a living heart and a beating soul.

Ah, you got so close to eloquence.

Sun, May. 30th, 2010, 11:02 pm
Stereotypical Idiot

The NYT writes about this woman in reference to US student loan debt.

Our heroine has a degree in religion and women's studies. And after getting it, she has "nearly $100,000 in student loan debt". Not clear how much she borrowed exactly, because, following graduation, she spent 5 years deferring payments by enrolling in night school.

In case that doesn't sound insane enough, she got her Mum to co-sign to the loans with Sallie Mae, then, after two years, she had to go commercial because she'd screwed up her credit rating.

So now, she wants to get an idiot's exception from the debt she incurred. The costs should fall on anyone except her.

Thu, May. 27th, 2010, 02:17 pm
Drugs Policy is an Existential Threat

There's a classic quote that goes something like "You can ignore economics, but economics won't ignore you."

That's what I see subjectively when I look at the world. Had a look at Afghanistan? Suggestion that a highly powerful military coalition is in danger of losing to a bunch of opium farmers.

Cast an eye on Mexico? Drugs shippers are taking on a national army from a mid-level state, and not clearly losing. And that piece is spilling over into the US border states.

Now, Jamaica has three days (and counting) of firefights between police and a drugs army according to the WSJ. And that doesn't even touch on Columbia. I haven't tracked how many drugs armies are active there currently. Jamaica is disturbing to a resident of Britain because there are close links between British and Jamaica. The same concern should be felt in NYC, from what I've heard.

Can you see the link here? We have nations in danger of overthrow by forces funded by drugs income. Of course, that drugs income is inflated by prohibition. The markets for those drugs are protected from competition from legitimate businesses. The only "legitimate business expenses" for a drugs business (apart from capital and supplier trust) is fuel for shipping and security. Those businesses are generally not excessively affected by tax demands.

Seems to me that drugs armies are like a movie super-villain with an off-switch. Legalise the drugs, and you eliminate the economic base of the enemy almost instantly. A la Sun Tzu, the acme of strategy is not to defeat these guys in detail, with better comms, better tactics, better training or whatever. The acme of strategy is to gently deflate their balloon.

Otherwise, one of these days, a drugs army is going to conquer their first country.

Wed, May. 19th, 2010, 10:33 pm
A milestone whizzing by

Among the many things that Patrissimo has to answer for, he got me interested in Crossfit. (In brief, workout mixing weightlifting, gymnastics movements and running/rowing, where the workout is usually scored, either by time to complete a task, number of reps managed or weight lifted.

One of the lifts which features large is the deadlift, which involves picking a bar from the floor to waist height. And the threshold between ok and good is often placed (arbitrarily) at 2xbodyweight. Weighing in a 97kg, that would be deadlifting 194kg.

Anyway, early last year, my deadlift marched steadily towards the 2x bodyweight point at a rate of about 5kg a fortnight. Not trying too hard, I simply aimed to exceed my previous score each time I lifted. That got me to 190kg. But when I went for 192.5kg, it wouldn't move for me. It was the first deadlift I'd ever failed at, and this week shows how much of a mental game lifting is.

These past two months I've been building up my deadlift again. Starting at sets of 3 x 160kg, I've been adding 5kg a week. Last friday, I had to go that step beyond 190kg. Intimidated, I chose 192.5kg, and genuinely didn't expect to make it. Actually, I knocked out 3x192.5. 2xBW up next.

Fast forward five days to tonight at the Crossfit London gym. For the first time since I'd joined, they programmed heavy deadlifts for a day I attended. (Slightly unusually, they programmed a 1 rep test rather than the more usual 3rep or 5rep.

The outlook didn't look great from the beginning. In a break from normal practice, they decided to do the "workout of the day" (WOD) before the lift. The WOD was 5 rounds of (10 front squats, 500m run). Without going into detail, running in a WOD just fries my back. So we have me lying on the floor on a foam roller trying to massage the lactic acid out of the lower back muscles which are spasming, in between deadlift sets, while my training partner, a much younger stud called Warren, lifts.

Anyway, I decided to jump straight from 160 to 195, simply to take a shot at a PB while my back held out. No pressure, first heavy lift at the gym, lower back still aching, first lift over the 2xBW milestone. Didn't help that the coach suggests that I should aiming towards 210kg. Anyway, 195kg comes up (reasonably) easy. Next lift, I decided to go for bust, and loaded 205kg. It was certainly my last lift of the night, and it was by far the heaviest weight attempted that day. It was actually a bit of a Hail Mary.

And, to my utter shock, I lifted it reasonably easily. Shows the power of the mental game.

Update: Here is the video of the last lift:

Wed, May. 5th, 2010, 06:00 pm
Imagine the Shock

An ambitious lawyer/politician from Virginia (as I write, the state attorney-general) has tried to climb the greasy pole of politics with a witch hunt investigation in Michael Mann, the scientist behind the temperature reconstruction graph widely known as the Hockey Stick.

Stealing from the Eliot Spitzer playbook, Ken Cuccinelli appears to me to have thought that he could achieve a national profile and advance his career by using the powers of his office against a convenient target. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for one, you could attract fire from some of those you might be trying to impress. Stephen McIntyre, for example. Or Ryan O and Jeff Id, two level two climate skeptic bloggers. The McIntyre piece is particularly striking and powerful if you are a long-term reader and have a feel for the way he usually avoids personalising issues.

From a personal POV, I feel happy. The objections to the this out-of-control and dangerous self-publicist are important. He represents a clear and present danger to science and to democracy. Hopefully this will release some of the wind from his sails. The climate science debate needs to be conducted at a lower temperature, and become less of a political plaything, rather than more. Perhaps these principled statements can help start down the path to that.

Wed, Mar. 24th, 2010, 12:11 pm
It's the Cover-up that Gets You

The official response to the Climategate emails affair has been split into two "Independent" inquiries. The first was charged with investigating data release issues, and now the second has been announced, which will look at any issues related to the scientific output of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Did you notice the scare quotes around the word "independent"?

The first inquiry (led by a man named Muir Russell) contains a man who had worked at UEA in the School of Environmental Science for 16 years (1970-1986), and supervised at least one PhD student within CRU. This was airbrushed out of the first CV released by the inquiry. Then, when this was brought up, he claimed that he'd left UEA 30 years ago.

The second was announced this week. It is to be led by a man named Lord Oxburgh. This man has many interests. On the first day, it emerged that he has the following roles:

  • President of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association
  • Chairman of wind energy firm Falck Renewables
  • A member of the Green Fiscal Commission

    Now, thanks to the Register, we know that in addition, he has (among others) the following roles:

  • Director of of GLOBE, the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment.
  • Chairman of Blue NG, a renewable power company.
  • An advisor to Climate Change Capital
  • An advisor to the Low Carbon Initiative.

That should be a story, right? Read the FT and <a href="http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2010/03/new_climategate_inquiry_head_a.html>Nature blogs</a>. The story is "nasty sceptics attack noble peer", rather than "multiple conflicts of interest for inquiry head". But check out the comments on both those stories. For almost all the commenters, the story is that the beat reporters are partisan hacks. Of course, commenters aren't representative of the whole readership, but the overwhelming consensus among them does suggest that the readership MAY think the reporting of a poor quality. They say that in a crisis, it's the coverup that gets you. It now appears that both Nature and the FT are among the parties who will lose credibility due to this scandal.

Mon, Mar. 15th, 2010, 01:20 pm
Looking at the IPCC and Climate Science

A commenter suggested that I should read on the criticisms of Karl Popper, and that IPCC reports were a good place to look at for reliable climate science.

The Popper stuff is still on my todo list. I looked at the IPCC.

So far, it provides an interesting use of "reliable".

From the latest IPCC document, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), in no particular order:

  • Himalayan Glaciers.

    The IPCC AR4 suggested that all Himalayan glaciers would be gone by 2035. This comes from an NGO report (from the WWF), apparently based on a telephone interview in New Scientist.

    The IPCC has actually accepted this is wrong, and has launched an inquiry.

  • Death in the Sahara

    The AR4 suggested that agricultural yields in north Africa could drop by 50% by 2020, based on one paper in Morocco. (see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7017907.ece). This was a report by an NGO (the International Institute for Sustainable Development. AND the wording is ambiguous, so it isn't clear how much of Africa is affected.

  • Sea level and the Netherlands

    The AR4 claimed that more than 55% of the Netherlands was under sea level. Apparently, the correct figure is around 20%. (See http://climateaudit.org/2010/02/03/latest-ipcc-exaggeration/.)

  • The Amazon Rainforest

    The AR4 claims that 40% of the Amazon rainforest was at risk from even a small reduction in rainfall. Again, this was based on an NGO report (by the WWF and International Union for Conservation of Nature.) written by a journalist and an NGO coordinator.

    Amusingly, no peer reviewed papers includes rainfall data since 2005 (which saw the worst drought in the Amazon for a generation). However, the drought may have abated somewhat since then.

    All this is all aside from the controversy related to dodgy temperature adjustments or paleoclimatology related to the hockey stick.

Wed, Mar. 10th, 2010, 02:14 pm

Sometimes I despair.

Check out http://www.wave3.com/Global/story.asp?S=12047295. Summary: kid handed drugs, kid hands drugs back, kid gets suspended.

So, let history show, Martin Bell of Greater Clark County Schools in Indiana is a first class idiot. I also like the fact that the assistant principal manages to keep his/her name out of the article.

However, with Google, all things are possible. This page suggests that a certain Nathan Freed missed his fifteen minutes of fame.

Sun, Feb. 28th, 2010, 06:30 pm
Skepticism and Pathology

I proudly wear my adherance to skepticism as a badge of honour. Which means that I take a personal interest in a report of a discussion panel staffed by environmental journalists from major British newpapers.

One of the correspondents is reported to have said the following:

It’s someone who knows better and
takes a contrary view for pathological
reasons. No journalists believe
that climate science was undermined
by the emails.

So now, I have an illness requiring treatment? Nice.

The same guy from the Guardian:

We couldn’t pretend it wasn’t happening
but there was a danger in concentrating
on only some of emails as this would
create the illusion of controversy.
I used to think sceptics were bad and
mad but now the bad people (lobbyists
for fossil fuel industries) had gone,
leaving only the mad.

Anyway, the report is worth looking at, since the journalists definitely show their biases and hopes. Apparently, anyone who questions climate science is mad.

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