Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A Job Well Done in Honduras, Team Plans for Next Year

Lutheran HealthCare's volunteer team is back from their medical mission in Honduras. It was one of the most successful of all the New York Honduran Committee missions thanks to the dedicated volunteers who, in a matter of days, created a fully functional community health center and surgery clinic in one of the poorest regions in the hemisphere.

The numbers speak for themselves: 276 total patients seen, 62 surgeries, 85 patients evaluated for speech, language, hearing and swallowing issues, and 13 fitted with life-changing hearing devices.

Before they left Honduras, the staff at the Tela Hospital thanked the team for their support. They gave each volunteer a certificate of appreciation and with out delay, talked about plans for next year. As it's a small hospital by U.S. standards, 100 beds, there are many needs and the medical staff can use all the help they can get. Specifically, they are hoping we can bring additional gastroenterology, urology and dental support for next year. The New York Honduran Committee and the Lutheran staff will start making the necessary arrangements immediately, and begin planning for the next mission.

At the end of the day, as most of the team are now getting acclimated into their normal daily routines, they can look back and feel good about another successful medical mission in Honduras.

To learn more about the New York Honduran Committee and their work with Lutheran HealthCare in Honduras, please e-mail committee founders Jean and Ruperto Hemmans at or

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

James Hansen's "Tipping Point" piece from "State of the Wild" available

link (PDF)
via Grist
I'll read this later and see if I have any comments, but I wanted you to know it was available.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Justifications for Torture

I think this is really breathtaking every time I read something like it.
"The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act," said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general.
The Bush Administration is just cynically playing on their supporter's distrust of government, a distrust they keep reinforcing by being untrustworthy. How many acts are taken for the purpose of humiliation or abuse? Pick your favorite atrocity producer. Hitler, Pol Pot, anyone you like. I'll give you a minute.

Now, do you seriously think the stated goals of their atrocities were to cause humiliation or abuse? Don't you imagine they had some other stated goal? DAAG Benczkowski's implication is that one function of government is to just arbitrarily hurt people, and they're choosing not to do that. It's one again hard to pick out exactly where in the uninformed-dishonest-evil-crazy phase space this assertion lies.

Liquid Water

There's no link
I was just thinking about the persistent and chronic understatement of global anthropogenic climate change from those in a position to know, the inconvenient delay built into the exponential climate response, and all of our planet's positive feedback loops.

I'd been kind of assuming we could stick it out for millennia in HGWellsian underground caverns, but doesn't that kind of presuppose we'll have a planet with liquid water on the surface? For how long do you imagine we'll have liquid water?

Just a question. Don't get alarmed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Eating a good breakfast is the best way to... have a boy

Just to underscore the arbitrary nature of this blog, I'm now passing on advice on how to choose the sex of your children.
It may be that male embryos are less viable in women who regularly limit food intake, such as skipping breakfast, which is known to depress glucose levels. A low glucose level may be interpreted by the body as indicating poor environmental conditions and low food availability, the researchers said.
In the United States, for instance, the proportion of adults eating breakfast fell from 86 percent to 75 percent between 1965 and 1991. And although women may be eating more overall, a nutrient-poor diet could be less favorable to a male embryo. Glucose levels may also fluctuate in women who are dieting and trying to lose weight prior to pregnancy. In animals, more sons are produced when a mother ranks high in the group or has plentiful food resources.
For all of the yammering about how great the modern world is, our boy birth rate is going down because women's nutrition is poor. Put that in your smoke and pipe it.

It’s all About the Children in Honduras

Fourteenth post:
The volunteer medical mission in Honduras is winding down for photographer Michael Paras and writer Neal Gorman, but the brigade continues for the majority of the medical team still on site.

By Wednesday the medical team on the ground in Honduras had already seen and treated 230 patients and performed 40 surgeries. Although the team focuses mostly on children, they don’t turn anyone away that they can treat.

There are so many obstacles that each family has had to endure just to see the medical team in Tela. Some have traveled for hours on stifling hot school buses, the Telan version of a Greyhound coach. Others just walk.

They always arrive in their Sunday best (if they have them), and with no air conditioning and temperatures hovering in the high nineties, each patient waits patiently to receive care from the Lutheran HealthCare team.

In a country where the majority of its citizens have no access to basic health care, many of their stories highlight the lengths families in Honduras have to go to receive any type of medical help. Fortunately, the volunteers have done everything in their power to provide high quality care and, more importantly, compassion. Those that we can’t see this week will wait until next year to see us.

Exploding Permafrost

Ah, Dude. Grist's got some news posted from NOAA about rising levels of Carbon Dioxide and Methane. Methane's one of the positive feedback loops of Climate Change -- the warmer the tundra, the more the 'perma' frost melts, and the more Methane is released. But, check this out from Sean Casten in the comments section.
A good friend of mine does GIS work in Alaska, and his colleagues up there have told him that that the melting permafrost is the gigantic problem that no one's talking about, which explodes once it starts to melt.
Exploding permafrost sounds like it would mess with oil transport -- pipelines and roads -- but they'd be hosed simply by going from being on rock to being in a bog anyway. But, it's always interesting to hear about stuff blowing up.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

RealClimate lauds Ed Lorenz

Like a lot of people, I've done scientific work made possible by Professor Lorenz, say in EOFs or with Chaos. And it's a nice article to read if you want a character to think about in the evolution of modern thought, or get sciency things to say at cocktail parties.
But how can climate be predictable if weather is chaotic? The trick lies in the statistics. In those same models that demonstrate the extreme sensitivity to initial conditions, it turns out that the long term means and other moments are stable. This is equivalent to the 'butterfly' pattern seen in the figure above being statistically independent of how you started the calculation. The lobes and their relative position don't change if you run the model long enough. Climate change then is equivalent seeing how the structure changes, while not being too concerned about the specific trajectory you are on.
You might want to spend some time in the comments section as well.

Rest in peace. The alternative being zombie meteorologists, I guess.

Elizabeth Warren on the FHA Expansion

I seem to be receding into puberty as I approach middle age, tomorrow now. I pick out a couple of personalities that I crush on -- Elizabeth Warren, Nouriel Roubini, Al Gore, Bruce Schneier -- and just repeat whatever they say. It's appalling to watch this, but I don't seem to be able to help myself. I'm just going to let it happen. It's probably just a phase.

Anyway, the point of the linked post by Dr. Warren is that what's happening now is that mortgage industry nogoodnicks are leaning on the same lawmakers that brought you the depredations of the 2005 Bankruptcy Bill, in order to Bear Sterns the mortgage meltdown into taxpayer pockets by expanding the Federal Housing Authority. I just now coined that use of 'Bear Sterns' as a verb -- let me know what you think.

Well, that may not be the point. But, it was my takeaway.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

One way a lack of self worth plays out in application development

there's no link
This is a little funny. The online support facility of some website requires that I turn off my spam filter, and if I can't, that I talk with someone who can. Now, I think two-thirds of the email I get at the address I gave them gets marked and quarantined as spam, with an amazing hit rate. I'm not going to turn that off.

But, I was tickled by the assumption that they'd probably be marked as spam. This is probably due to the support staff's loathing of the marketing staff -- they figure the latter'll get everything sent from their domain marked as spam. I'm not taking any of their steps, so we'll see how they do.

Your request has been received and will be reviewed.

Our response will be sent to the E-mail
address entered on your support request.
You can also view our responses by clicking the
"Messages" link on the right side of the screen.

Attention: To ensure that you receive important e-mails, please do one of the following:

  1. Add (I've elided the email address) to your e-mail address book, contact list or safe list.

  2. Disable your e-mail filtering "SPAM" or "Junk" software.

  3. Look in your "SPAM", "Revoked", "Junk Mail" or "Bulk Mail" folders for our e-mails.

  4. If you are not able to do one of the above items, use your Help section or contact your e-mail/internet provider's Customer Support to find out other options.

The Right People and Tools

Thirteenth post:

Dr. Annabell Zaratzian is an anesthesiologist at Lutheran. She's on her first trip to Honduras with the medical mission. The group tries to be as self sufficient as possible, bringing each key component needed, including an anesthesiologist. From operating room supplies, to all kinds of
medications, to the right people, they are a fully functioning mobile medic unit in Honduras.

Lutheran Volunteer Takes the Medical Mission to Another Level at Para Iso de Lutheran Volunteer Takes the Medical Mission to Another Level

Twelfth post*:
We make another off-site visit to see new patients at Para Iso de Los Ninos, a special rehabilitation center for developmentally disabled children. It's located on a dirt road on the outskirts of town in a mainly agricultural area. Most of the children have severe developmental issues. Some suffer from attention deficit disorder, cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome. The
center cares for more than 80 kids and relies only on private donations.

Our ear nose and throat expert Dr. Melissa Inniss intends to see as many of them as possible, 13 of which the center knows for sure are hard of hearing. She wants to try to see at least 40. Borris Del Arca, 5, is sitting on his Aunt Cindy's lap as Dr. Inniss runs through a variety of procedures. One of them tests for middle ear fluid (pictured). The fluid alone can be the cause
of long-term language delays. She'll establish with the series of exams some recommendations for the boy's family. Each patient's exam, along with other tests, takes 15-30 minutes so Dr. Inniss will be there awhile. Her commitment and dedication to making a difference in Honduras is unparalleled.

* -- The title here is truncated, and should read "Lutheran Volunteer Takes the Medical Mission to Another Level at Para Iso de Los Ninos"

Trauma Surgeon and Lutheran Team Leader Mohan Kilaru

Eleventh post:

Dr. Mohan Kilaru is the team leader for Lutheran HealthCare's medical mission in Honduras. He's also a senior trauma surgeon in the hospital's level 1 trauma center so he's used to a hectic schedule.

This is is sixth trip to Honduras, a place perfectly suited to his skills since each day and year is different. In the OR Dr. Kilaru has performed a number of general surgeries like hernias and assisting the plastic surgeon with keloids and other disfigurements. During the clinic days, when patients are identified for surgery, Dr Kilaru can be found examining and discussing options with patients the team can't operate on. We may not be able to operate, but we can use our resources and contacts here to help them find an alternative means of support. Unfortunately, the main source of health care for most Telans is the medical brigade.

On Tuesday, Dr. Kilaru is checking on patients in the hospital's recovery area. Two young boys Ronnie and Rodin Caballero, both 2, had hernias repaired. They are now sitting comfortably and ready to go home. Dr. Kilaru provides their mom, Gina, with instructions. A relative who accompanied the boys and their mom is so surprised how smooth everything went.

A Surgery Scrub Tech and Two Physician Assistants

Tenth post:

Experience a Whole New World in Honduras Donald Gibbs is a surgery scrub tech at Lutheran who travels on many missions abroad. This is his second with the Lutheran Honduran team. The operating room isn't as fully supplied like back in the states so Donald does a lot of improvising here.

Sue Farrell is a physician assistant in her day job back at Lutheran but here she's performing a number of different duties. This is her third mission with the crew. She can be found each day assisting and circulating in surgery and providing pre- and post-op.

Victoria Stoyanovsky is also a physician assistant at Lutheran. She spends most of her time helping during minor and major operating room procedures. From scrubbing in on a serious hernia surgery to making rounds after, she's a vital part of the medical team.

Lillian Chavez and Plastic Surgeon Ahmad Nawaz

Ninth post:
Like any other year, patients come to the medical brigade's clinic seeking all kinds of medial relief. Some are suffering life-threatening illnesses and diseases, some are dealing with major and minor quality of life issues.

Dr. Ahmad Nawaz, a plastic surgeon at Lutheran Medical Center, has already operated on 20 patients with a variety of issues. He has seven cases already scheduled for today. Many are congenital lesions and disfigurements, cysts, moles, kiloids and burn scars. A serious car accident left one 12-year-old boy unable to move his right hand.

Others, like Lillian Chavez, 12, had a large cyst on her forehead. She and her mom, also named Lillian, traveled from a nearby neighborhood called Barrio Retirro where she is tormented by her schoolmates every day. For this young girl, the cyst was not threatening to her physical health but its removal has made a huge difference in her emotional health. The first thing
she said was how the other kids at school and in her neighborhood won't tease her anymore.

They waste so much time with legislation

via TPMMuckRaker
You know that the president occasionally calls for Congress to get off of its duff and pass legislation that he wants, while we the American people say, "Dude, let them do some investigations. They only have so much time to impeach you." But, historically we have perceived Congress as a legislative body, empowered by the Constitution to make and pass laws.

There's apparently another view.
Mr. Diamond, for his part, said Mr. McCain had only done his job. “I think that is what Congress people are supposed to do for constituents,” he said. “When you have a big, significant businessman like myself, why wouldn’t you want to help move things along? What else would they do? They waste so much time with legislation.”
Interfering with the Judicial and Executive branches is why Congress is there. That's why Senators and Representatives and tied to states, so that they can peddle influence locally. I've got to say I don't think I ever thought of them as having this express purpose, but I can see the perspective.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pollan's Question

[T]he most upsetting moment in “An Inconvenient Truth” came long after Al Gore scared the hell out of me, constructing an utterly convincing case that the very survival of life on earth as we know it is threatened by climate change... when we are asked to . . . change our light bulbs. That’s when it got really depressing.
Scientists’ projections that seemed dire a decade ago turn out to have been unduly optimistic: the warming and the melting is occurring much faster than the models predicted. Now truly terrifying feedback loops threaten to boost the rate of change exponentially, as the shift from white ice to blue water in the Arctic absorbs more sunlight and warming soils everywhere become more biologically active, causing them to release their vast stores of carbon into the air. Have you looked into the eyes of a climate scientist recently? They look really scared.
Whatever we can do as individuals to change the way we live at this suddenly very late date does seem utterly inadequate to the challenge. It’s hard to argue with Michael Specter, in a recent New Yorker piece on carbon footprints, when he says: “Personal choices, no matter how virtuous [N.B.!], cannot do enough. It will also take laws and money.”
Going personally green is a bet, nothing more or less, though it’s one we probably all should make, even if the odds of it paying off aren’t great. Sometimes you have to act as if acting will make a difference, even when you can’t prove that it will.

The question -- Today's "Going Green" issues of the New York Times central organizing question -- is "Why bother?" It's an impressive struggle for him to try to answer it. I was talking to a woman recently who really believed that we should reduce emissions of CO2 just out of tidiness, while she refused to accept global anthropogenic climate change as a real thing. This is stupid -- there'd be nothing wrong with greenhouse gases if they weren't going to kill us -- but apparently had been a socially acceptable stance for her.

I don't really believe we have the eight years Jim Hansen gives us, and I don't think that returning to 1988 levels of CO2 -- the '350' of -- is going to fix the problem, as temperature lags greenhouse gas concentration by decades. While regulation has to change most of the problems, adopting green lifestyles and encouraging others to do the same is an important component of reducing emissions. But, it's unlikely we'll save this civilization. All I believe we can hope for is to keep some of humanity alive; we'll do better the earlier we start, and we'll do better with more commitment.

Some Behind the Scenes Teamwork

Eighth post:
It's really a team effort required to make each medical mission a success. From members of the New York Honduran Committee to the crew from Lutheran HealthCare to those already on the ground in Honduras, each plays an important role in getting things done.

There's Jean and Ruperto Hemmans, who as founding members of the New York Honduran Committee get things ready for the team each year. They are responsible for everything, from fundraising to all the nuts and bolts like coordinating travel and lodging.

Harold Burke, a trial lawyer from Connecticut has provided vital support registering the bulk of the patients, coordinating tracking efforts, and scheduling.

Jeannette Rivers and Edwardo Cameron (also president of the committee) serve as jacks of al trades helping anywhere and everywhere they are needed.

Rosa Garcia, who's in risk management at Lehman Brothers, is helping translate (she's fluent in Spanish), coordinating intake and general customer service.

Sasha Kurumety is only 12 but is playing a large role each day greeting patients, passing out toys and candy to waiting kids and providing support during exams and procedures.

Students Julio Ariel and Vanesa Benites, both 12, attend a bilingual English/Spanish school in Tela and are providing immeasurable support by translating for the team.

The group of volunteers from ATAN (Agrupacion Telena de Ayuda a Los Ninos) take care of much of the local Honduran work like coordinating with the hospital, arranging translators to most importantly, letting the community know we'll be in town.

Ann Robinson has been volunteering for the New York Honduran Committee since 2002. She helps the team with translation, registration and paper work.

Photographer Michael Paras is on his second trip to Honduras for the Lutheran HealthCare team. In tandem with Neal Gorman, VP of Public Relations at Lutheran, (who is on his fourth trip to Honduras) he helps to document and build awareness for the team and its cause.

Ear Nose, and Throat Expert Examines One Day Operates the Next

Seventh post:

A critical member of the Lutheran HealthCare team in Honduras is otolaryngologist Ramez Habib, M.D. The New York Honduran Committee, the group that Lutheran partners with each year, informed the Telan community that an ENT expert would be accompanying the team.

It was quickly evident when we arrived that there we many Telans suffering from a variety of ear nose and throat issues. After examining dozens of young children on Sunday, Dr. Habib was able to schedule six surgeries for Monday.

One of them, 8-year-old Christopher Flowers, who lives in the nearby town called Barrio Way, was having tonsils issues. After a visit with Dr. Habib Sunday morning, he was admitted to the hospital and by 9 a.m. the next day, his tonsils were removed.

A Nurses Provides Comfort, Care and Crowd Control

Sixth post:

Mary Haeney, a registered nurse at Lutheran has accompanied the medical brigade to Honduras for three years now. She's always level headed and calm. And that ability to deliver comfort and support was evident in two very different situations.

As is usually the case, patients -- after waiting a full year -- are very anxious to see the health team.

Besides comforting nervous patients one-on-one during an exam, she has had to switch gears and perform crowd control. Nurses everywhere have to be both tough and kind, and like Mary, be calm and compassionate in a wide variety of situations.

Going the Extra Mile by Making Home Visits in Honduras

Fifth post:

Our ear nose and throat expert Dr. Melissa Inniss works full-time for Lutheran's community health center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She works mostly with children at the health network's Center for Child Development, but on this trip she's not only seeing patients of all ages, she's reaching out to them too by making home visits. She was bombarded with patients at the clinic all day Sunday but by 7 p.m. was able to break away and examine two patients at home.

Eugenio Garcia, 63, has significant hearing loss and to date, no one in Honduras has been able to help. At home in his crowded dining room, Dr. Inniss gets his basic history and we learn he used to work in a factory in Charlotte, North Carolina. Years of noise exposure could have something to do with his hearing loss. She fits him with a hearing device called a pocket talker. She asks him to go about his normal routine to see, and get used, to how it works.

Ferdinando Maradiago, 78, has had ear and hearing problems for some years now. After a thorough exam Dr. Inniss, found fluid and general hearing loss and recommended he see Dr. Habib, the Lutheran ENT specialist on the trip.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lutheran HealthCare Becomes The Town's Family Doctor

Fourth post from Micheal Paras:
With an extremely poor economy and little or no access to health care services, we are in fact the "family doctor" for most Telans.

Like Dania Aguilar, age 11. She was seen by our team last year and says we are the only nurses and doctors she's ever seen. She has been given medication to deal with severe sinus pain last year, which helped, but her meds have run out and she's hoping the team can do more.

Oympia Savion, 65, lives in a town one hour east of Tela called Progresso. She's the legal guardian for Maria Eugenia, 12, who's profoundly deaf. After a number of tests and examinations, Maria's smile is as big as ever, but the doctor thinks the only thing that might help is a cochlear implant, a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to those who are severely hard of hearing.

Virginia Viera is 48 and sees no other health professional in Honduras. She saw on TV and a flyer on the bus that we would be back in town this April. She'll be seen by our ear nose and throat expert for some coughing and airway issues. She says she can't afford to see any other providers, but also admits, she trusts the American practitioners much more.

Each Case is Different

Third post from Michael Paras:

The day before the Lutheran team landed in Honduras, Julian Acosta, age 5, was playing outside and had gotten a stone lodged in his right ear. He was in great pain and his mom, Miriam, age 22, brought him to the hospital's emergency room. The hospital staff suggested she wait and see the volunteers the next day. This was an easy one for the group, and after a thorough flushing, the pebble was removed.

The team can't treat everyone though, as was the case with Mariana Casellanos, 41. Mariana who had sought help before from other doctors with little success was excited to see the team. She has been in severe pain and discomfort for years with some type of sinus issue. She was at her wits end but was sure the American health crew could solve her problems. After an exam by otolaryngologist Ramez Habib, M.D., the team knew they couldn't help. She had a polyp, too large for them to operate. Mariana was crushed, and so was the team.

Patient Snapshots

Second post from Michael Paras:

Lutheran's team of doctors and medical staff performed 162 examinations in Honduras the first day. Here are just a few patient snapshots. Elsa Romero, 77, experiencing periodic but serious painful ear aches. She heard about us on a little transistor radio she always keeps with her to catch up on the news. Odalia Flores, 30, and 4-month old son Avner and 7-year old daughter Claudia live in a nearby town called Colonia January 4th. They were here for Claudia, who had been experiencing serious stomach pains for the past 6 months.

Angeli Idalmir Arzu Palacios, 19, lives in a neighborhood in Tela called Barrio San Jose. She heard about the medical team and hoped someone could remove a mole from her daughter's chest. Although it's probably not too serious, young Shelsea Diana Arzu, 2, is traumatized by the whole experience so far. Iladia Figueroa, 76, Martina Diego Guzman, 63, and Simona Diego Mejia, 66, visited the clinic together. The trio of best friends all had eye problems, high blood pressure and a variety of hearing related issues.

Lutheran Honduran team arrives in Tela, Honduras

First post from Michael Paras:

Because of scheduling difficulties the team members arrive on three separate fights into Honduras. Regardless, the bulk of the crew is anxious to get settled and begin their work. They had pre arranged to have the word spread through town that they would host their first clinic early in the morning on Sunday. Even though some of the crew had only arrived a few hours earlier.

They arrive at 'La Hospital Tela' at 7 a.m. Sunday. Already, there are around 60 people waiting to be seen. By 8:30 a.m. there are hundreds waiting.

Inside, as the groups of people get bigger, the team immediately starts to triage and treat patients. They travel from all over Honduras to see the medical group. Some are seriously ill and we are their last resort, others have minor pains and issues we can remedy quickly. The nurses doctor's and support staff are looking out mostly for kids who need operations they can handle in the time they have in Tela.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blogging Lutheran Health Care's Medical Mission to Honduras

There's no link.
I'm lending my blog out as a platform for the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn's annual medical mission trip to Honduras. So, watch this space.

Friday, April 11, 2008

More Stuff I Don't Understand

There's no link.

I'm flying round trip. And I have to say that I don't understand online check-in. Isn't check-in the positive statement that you've arrived at the airport and are a short series of TSA-based humiliations away from being ready to board?

But, I've come to accept it. I guess now it's the weaker statement that I'm aware I should fly somewhere in the next 24 hours. And, if you don't do it, all the good available seats will be gone. OK. But, now there's this.

I can ask that I get checked in automatically 24 hours before my return flight. So, doing it online dropped the 'in' part of 'check in.' Doing it automatically drops the 'check' part. So, I'd be blank blanking.

This is too much for me! I'm checking in manually, although probably online, for my return trip. It's time to take a stand against this nonsense.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines

You've just got to love the title of this book. And the cover art.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What is up with this guy?


In both 2006 and 2007, the researchers believed 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes would form. Instead, the actual 2006 tallies were nine named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes. The 2007 counts: 14, six and two, respectively.

The researchers will release an updated forecast June 3, the third day of the hurricane season.

[Climate Change Denier William] Gray said the Atlantic basin is in the midst of a natural active hurricane cycle that will likely last another 15 to 20 years.

"So we don't attribute this to anything humans are doing. These are natural circulations," Gray said.
Maybe President Obama should send his predecessor to Colorado to explain to William Gray that human activity has derailed the climate.

New Hurricane Forecast Out

So, I went digging through NOAA press releases to try to find the current hurricane forecast, as the first one will be any day now. They're really depressing, "if we were going to talk about hurricanes, we certainly wouldn't attribute them to anthropogenic climate change." It's not an exercise I'd recommend.

Anyway, I gave up and went to Wikipedia, which said there was a new one today!

Forecasts of hurricane activity are issued before each hurricane season by noted hurricane experts Dr. Philip J. Klotzbach, Dr. William M. Gray, and their associates at Colorado State University; and separately by NOAA forecasters.

Dr. Klotzbach's team (formerly led by Dr. Gray) defined the average number of storms per season (1950 to 2000) as 9.6 tropical storms, 5.9 hurricanes, and 2.3 major hurricanes (storms exceeding Category 3 strength in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). A normal season, as defined by NOAA, has 9 to 12 named storms, with 5 to 7 of those reaching hurricane strength, and 1 to 3 major hurricanes.[1][2]

On December 7, 2007, Klotzbach's team issued its first extended-range forecast for the 2008 season, predicting above-average activity (13 named storms, 7 hurricanes, 3 of Category 3 or higher).[1] On April 9th a new forecast was issued, calling for a well above average hurricane season of 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes.[3][4]
You'd think NOAA'd've mentioned.

The risk of a decade-long economic stagnation is quite limited so far

You'll have to tolerate more of my Nouriel Roubini fanboyness.
[C]ould the US experience an L-shaped recession, i.e. a protracted period of economic stagnation like the one experienced by Japan in the 1990s after the bursting of its housing and equity bubble? My view is that a protracted economic stagnation – bordering on an economic depression – is unlikely in the case of the US as the policy response of the US is already more aggressive than the one of Japan. Japan waited almost two years after the bursting of its bubble to ease monetary policy; and it waited two years before providing fiscal stimulus. In the US, instead, both monetary and fiscal stimulus have started in earnest early on. Also Japanese postponed the necessary corporate and banking restructuring for years keeping alive zombie firms and zombie banks via inappropriate forms of forbearance. In the US both private and especially public efforts to restructure the impaired assets and firms will start faster and more aggressively. Thus the risk of a decade-long economic stagnation is quite limited so far.
Which I take to mean that he figures if the Fed keeps trying to restore the credit markets, eventually something they do will succeed. But, they're trying to restore them to a temporary and artificial state created by low interest rates -- if we keep kicking the can down the road, eventually we'll reduce interest rates to 0 and having nothing to show for it, like Japan.

The point is that to a large extent since 1997, and moreso since 2001, our economy has been a lie. We've had a Republican or a Clinton in office for 36 out of the last 40 years -- only Jimmy Carter tried things like getting us to use less energy (remember 72 degrees?) and he was whacked because the economy wasn't fixable in 4 years. And the Iranians didn't like his stand on energy.

The same thing will happen to President Obama. Maybe we should lengthen presidential terms.

Obfuscation by Email Subject Length

More on the Federal Reserve Email List. If you're the sort of person who subscribes to the Fed's email list, you might care to comment on the Bank of America's acquisition of Countrywide Financial. To all appearances, it was driven entirely by the need to conceal the (lack of) value of Countrywide's assets, as there were many banks (including B0A) with assets of the same sort. And Countrywide has been engaging in questionable business practices that might concern you if you don't want BoA to fail.

But, of those people, how many even have mailers capable of rendering the subject line "Federal Reserve extends deadline for the submission of requests to testify at public meetings on the notice by Bank of America to acquire Countrywide Financial?" Don't you think there's some way to structure than sentence which moves the nut a little to the left? Like, say, "Bank of America's Countrywide Financial acquisition public meeting testimony requests submission deadline extended." Well, OK, that's opaque. But, you see my point.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Did you know NASA's no longer protecting the Earth?

via Grist
Shouldn't it be possible to find something about our government out without its making me want to cry? I'm a grown man!
[A] stealth budgeting maneuver, a 20 percent reduction in Earth Science R&A funding retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year, inserted at the time NASA delivered a mid-fiscal year operating plan to Congress [, massacred the Earth Science Research and Analysis budget in February 2006]. By making the reduction retroactive, the about-to-be-released budget for the next year, the one that Congress pays attention to, appeared to show nearly flat funding for Earth Science R&A.

In the same document, the NASA Mission Statement was revised to drop the first line: “to understand and protect the home planet”. The Mission Statement had been developed by a committee with representation from NASA Centers and communication with the NASA troops. In contrast, the changes appeared with the submission of the operating plan, which is a joint product of the Administrator and the White House OMB, to Congress, without consulting or even informing lower levels in the agency.
James Hansen really has emerged as the leader in the scientific community's outreach on global climate change. So, I should mention him more as a policy.

We tried but weren't able to fully vet the story

So, again, I'd prefer to have a Luo in office, and I think Hillary Clinton is running for president largely because she was driven by the narrative logic of right wing attack machine (led by her now buddy Richard Mellon Scaife!) bogeyman fanatasies about her, but I think either of the Democrats is fine. However, not commenting on the "political horserace" does seem about as credible as hanging out in Spain and not talking about couples walking around making out. And Senator Clinton does seem to have a startling number of retractions.

But, this sounds like an excuse to a political operative:
''Candidates are told stories by people all the time, and it's common for candidates to retell those stories,'' said campaign spokesman Mo Elleithee. ''In this case, we tried but weren't able to fully vet the story.''
To me, it sounds a lot like "Oopsie! We really believed Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction." When people complain about bullshit, this is what they're complaining about. The story was good, it fit with the campaign's message, and the truth of it was not so important to check.

It's really angering.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Looking to the Youth for leadership in the Climate Crisis?

via Grist
Natasha Chart neatly digests a Xyleme Learning post:
The advantage of the young isn’t really that they’re less cynical or jaded. The well-meaning person who wrote the editorial I started off linking to isn’t even actually without hope, he thinks there’s some solution available. But when he looks at his peers, he sees their constraints and restrictions more than he sees their power. He looks at politicians, people who’ve become masters at popularity contests, and clearly understands that they’re unsuited to the task of upsetting all the people whose approval they’ve spent their whole adult lives seeking. He looks at younger people and sees, not really an attitude, but that they’ve got nothing to lose by bucking a system that hasn’t rewarded them yet.
When it comes to climate politics, delay is as deadly as denial. The vast mailing lists, media access, public respectability and political clout of the older generation can’t be allowed to sit on the shelf gathering dust as the ‘youth’ wait for these bequests to be passed on to them. They have to be mobilized now.
So, you know, slipping into middle age, it's nice to hear someone still feels I should play a role.

New Data From the Fed -- Apparently, we're borrowing more

I've got nothing to say about this, I just like making plots, and I felt bad about being dismissive toward my Federal Reserve Email Notifications.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Vista More Poorly Received than Windows ME?

I was just reading SQL Server Central, and Steve Jones claimed that Vista was the most poorly received version Windows ever! That shocked me. ME set the gold standard! I thought any other version of Microsoft Windows would have to be better received!

Well, there you have it. Steve Jones' shocking assertion.

Saturday, April 05, 2008


I like the word 'catastrophe.' I like hearing it, I like reading it, I like saying it, I like writing it. Catastrophe, catastrophe, catastrophe. It always makes me giggle inside, and this is due to Piers Anthony, who at one point in his Xanth series, has a character find a trophy made out of a cat's ass.

Reality in Xanth is constantly skewed by the magical power of puns; every part of every story is driven by some sort of word play. I think we fail to appreciate them -- I don't hear people refer to "good puns" a lot. "Bad pun" is a construction like "killed him dead" or "corrupt and incompetent Bush Administration official," in which the modifiers are totally optional.

If you're over 12, it's probably too late for you to fully appreciate Xanth. But, try to make some puns!

Again with the LIHOP view

It's easy to get sort of excited about this kind of thing when it happens. As Salon's Glenn Greenwald says in the link
One of two things almost certainly happened here, each of which is of great importance. Either Mukasey is lying about the 9/11 attacks in order to manipulate Americans into believing that FISA's warrant requirements are what prevented discovery of the 9/11 attacks and caused 3,000 American deaths -- a completely disgusting act by the Attorney General which obviously cannot be ignored. Or, Mukasey has just revealed the most damning fact yet about the Bush's administration's ability and failure to have prevented the attacks -- facts that, until now, were apparently concealed from the 9/11 Commission and the public.

Rachel Maddow -- who brings into sharp focus my unfortunate attraction to lesbians -- and Keith Olberman say what you're thinking.
KO: Does it sound like this is simply guilt coming out at this point? That there is at long last some acknowledgment that these people "mailed it in" in the Summer of 2001, ignored the true crisis, and have been inventing fake crises ever since to try to rationalize? "OK, we're going to get the next one."
RM: And the mentions of it are slipping out in unscripted moments at emotional crisis points for people who joined the administration after all of that, but are now in a position to know what had happened?
I know this sort of thing is an emotional roller coaster. We seem to have clear evidence that the Bush Administration should easily have been able to stop 9/11, and let it go forward either out of participating in the conspiracy or out of their complete lack of interest in governance. In a few weeks, the Attorney General will refuse to execute a warrant on himself, and that will be that. I really think Congress is going to have to cowboy up and use their constitutional authority to raise an army of their own to get these people out.

Section 8. The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States... [t]o raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

Another Unexpected Consequence Of the BACMAE

There's no link.
I was just talking to Manhattan to a friend about how nice the scarcity of single adult heterosexual men on the island was. Now, you know I resist talking about 'subprime,' because of its implication that extending credit to the poor is the root issue. I'm not so taken with 'credit crisis,' because it implies that if we just fixed the credit mechanism itself, we'd be okeh. 'Mortgage Meltdown' is good, but fails to imply anything about the existence of a property bubble or the pervasiveness of the problems. 'BACMAE' is a new acronym I'm testing for 'Bush Administration's Catastropic Mismanagement of the American Economy.' Let me know what you think. This'll let me double attribute by using "NEWCAG's BACMAE."
But, it's not simply that the other single heterosexual men don't exist, it's that they've been working 16 hour days destroying our economy. Now that their work is done and they're being laid off in droves, they're going to be all over the streets, in the clubs, parks and cafes. They may even show up in supermarkets. It'll be rough -- I didn't see this coming.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Something I missed

via The Housing Bubble Blog:
Don't worry, it's not good news.

“The foreclosure problems in small-town America may be even more widespread than in cities. Mobile and prefab homes make up at least 15 percent of the nation’s rural housing, and three-quarters of them were financed with installment or personal property loans rather than mortgage loans, according to the Housing Assistance Council.”

“When the owners default, it leads to repossession rather than foreclosure, and these defaults are not included in the foreclosure data, said Moises Loza, HAC executive director. ‘It’s happening all over,’ Loza said.”

The HBB post also has this question that I ask myself all the time.

“‘I want to know – how many people are going to jail?’ asked Yevette Boutall, director of a community development fund that works in lower-income neighborhoods of Cook County.”

“‘That’s how angry people are in communities,’ said Boutall. ‘They want to know how many people are going to go to jail, people who misled them and got away with it and earned money on their misery.’”

Once we've imprisoned NEWCAG and his enablers, who goes next? Do we need a Truth and Reconciliation commission?

Hydrogen Peroxide and Tang

via Schneier on Security:

There were also rambling references to bomb ingredients and how to mix them.

Jury members were shown pages from the diary in which Ali apparently wrote about disguising hydrogen peroxide ('HP') with food dye to make it look like Lucozade.

He wrote: "Lucozade red 1.5 drops", and "Check time taken to dilute in HP".

In an apparent reference to a detonator, Ali allegedly wrote in his diary: "Decide on which battery to use for D, small is best", and "Keys and chewing gum on the D in the electronic device."

If you'd like some information, read the story and Bruce Schneier's post. If you'd just like to get angry that you haven't been able to take bottled water or shampoo with you, or that you've lost hundreds of dollars in cologne at various checkpoints, or that our security resources have been squandered in another boneheaded fashion because would be terrorists with evil intent but no credible possibility of carrying out their attack had a stupid idea, now's a good time.

I said something nice about Carol Lay

I've dumped on Carol Lay a lot. Not because I know she can do better, but because so Salon comics has This Modern World and Tom the Dancing Bug, which I think are great, and the K Chronicles, which I enjoy. Having a day when I didn't go to Salon comics would just be too disruptive to my patterns, as I've mentioned on their site. So, I was dumping on her largely to get rid of her. But, as with Dahlia Lithwick, I'm sort of coming around.

Is this new? Because in the past when I've liked Carol Lay's work, I've found that it's been from the archives. This seems new, though.

Take it as given that we'll have a climate-driven civilization-ending cataclysm. For no good reason, I think of it as losing 999 in every thousand people.

Whatever we want to preserve of civilization will have to leapfrog the time of fast climate changes to a time of slow climate changes, which will allow us to do things like plant crops, predict the movement of animals and define sea lanes. So, we'll do something like this seed store.

And Carol Lay brings up a point which bothers me sometimes. How do we design a store that a nascent hunter gatherer civilization can access, but only when they're developed enough to learn from it and not destroy it? And I think she dramatizes it well; this is great work.

Not to sound Nietzschean, but I love that it's the man's sentimentality that assaults the future. It seems more moral to consume poorly secured seed stores than children. But, he's damaging the future of the entire species with his archaic mortality. I find that poignant.

Obviously, you're going to have to read the comic. It's this dude walking the barren Earth amidst an aeolian barrage of little flakes of mud or ash, wisdom of using 'barren' and 'barrage' in the same sentence aside for the moment. He passes a fire with the bones of a human child, and feels smugly superior, then enters the seed store for the future and chows down. Pretty clever.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Month Dropdowns

There's no link. I'm just getting whiny about web forms again.
I'm a big keystroke user, specifically when I fill in web forms. I always tab from field to field, and expect to be able to complete drop downs by typing in the first character repetitively until I get where I want to be. Often, I'm filling in my date of birth - six strokes of the '2' gets me to '25.'
So why on God's green Earth would somebody prepend '0' to all the month indices before October? You get to a month dropdown, you know it's a month dropdown because it's so labeled, but you don't know if they're numeric, textual or some third inexplicable design choice beyond the scope of this post. You would think that you'd get to April by either typing an 'A' or a '4'; neither works, forcing you to retrieve your mouse pointer from whatever far corner of the screen its enjoying and actually drop the drop down down! And it's because some joker decided to prepend a zero!
I feel like I'm being forced to confront something I can't hope to control when I'm forced to use a mouse. It's really unpleasant. I hope the typographic symmetry was worth it. Asshole.
OK. Back to filling out my marathon application.
Update: Isn't it bad enough that all the years in a millenium start with the same digit?

I wonder if Amendment Three still applies?

via TalkingPointsMemo
We should probably get an email each time an article in the Bill of Rights is canceled.
"Our office recently concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations," the footnote states, referring to a document titled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States."
The October memo was written just days before Bush administration officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, briefed four House and Senate leaders on the NSA's secret wiretapping program for the first time.
Suzanne Spaulding, a national security law expert and former assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency, said she found the Fourth Amendment reference in the footnote troubling, but added: "To know (the Justice Department) no longer thinks this is a legitimate statement is reassuring."

So... the Fourth Amendment -- the unreasonable search and seizure one -- was held by the Bush Administration, at least for a time, as not applying in war time. Clearly, the founding fathers had no idea that the government might want to execute domestic military operations. Which suggests you might want to leave a spare room. Remember the Third Amendment? It's probably why you know the word 'billeting.'
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Really, tell me when the Army starts demanding you house it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Watching Television Destroys your Chance of Happiness

You can think of your happiness as... [partly dependent on] how you spend your time -- something you have a fair amount of control over. This is the subject of a major new study... [which]grouped activities into six clusters, based on the emotions associated with each.

The standout cluster was what the authors label "engaging leisure and spiritual activities," things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party. When we spend time on our favorite of these activities, we're typically happy, engrossed and not especially stressed.
[T]here's been a significant increase in... watching television... which may help explain why Americans are little or no happier than they were four decades ago.
Watching TV may be low-stress and moderately enjoyable.... But people aren't mentally engaged the way they are when they're, say, exercising or socializing.

Upshot: We can make ourselves happier simply by being engaged in what we're doing. Passivity -- watching television -- has an opportunity cost, robbing us of that opportunity.

Manhattan Housing Slump

So, not to alarm you, ah, who'm I kidding? In the interest of alarming you, I'll point out that the last bastion of high home prices is slipping...
Sales volume of condos and cooperatives in Manhattan dropped 34%, to 2,282 units, in the first quarter from a year ago, an unusually sharp decline, according to Miller Samuel Inc., an appraisal-and-research firm that tracks New York real estate. But a separate report issued Wednesday by Halstead Property LLC, a Manhattan-based real-estate firm, showed a 1% decline in sales in Manhattan when compared with a year ago.
Not all the news is bad. Miller Samuel and Halstead agree prices are rising. The median price for Manhattan homes rose 13%, to $945,276, in the first quarter, according to Miller Samuel. Halstead said the price increase was partly driven by sales at the ultrahigh end of the market, including two homes that sold for more than $40 million each.
Agents aren't anticipating the sharp drops in prices that hammered New York real estate during the Wall Street collapse in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when about 100,000 people lost their jobs, according to Moody's The research firm estimates about 33,000 people will lose their jobs amid the current financial stress.

Several factors may save the city's real-estate market from distress. For one, there has been far less speculative building than before the last crash. Secondly, Manhattan has largely skirted the subprime-mortgage debacle that sank markets in Florida and California. That is partly because many co-op boards require sizable personal assets and an average down payment of 35%, says Mr. Miller.

Also helping New York sales are wealthy buyers from Europe, Asia and the Middle East who are taking advantage of the weak dollar to snap up multimillion-dollar condos and townhomes as second and even third homes.

Yeah, again, I don't buy the "wealthy foreigners just want Manhattan homes" argument, because it's stupid. I'm not saying that you're stupid if you believe it, but that's because I'm too polite to connect the dots for you. The foreigners will dump as soon as they see it's not working out -- if they were that committed to having housing here, we'd call them 'immigrants.'

That's a heartwarming point about the co-op boards. There was a lot of whining about how they restrained price growth with their archaic rationalist rules, but it turns out there's a silver lining to intentionally mitigating volatility.

I don't have an opinion about how many people are going to get laid off in the financial sector, but I would expect real estate forecasters to vastly underestimate it. Which, by the logic of the article, would mean that 'New York real estate' would be 'hammered' by 'sharp drops in prices.'

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Subprime & Alt-A Maps from the Fed!

I subscribe to the Fed's email list; once a quarter they tell me about a rate cut, and most days I get a story on how they've decided not to act against some ne'er-do-well. It's a pretty bleak parade of regulatory inaction. However! I got a day-brightening notice today!
The Federal Reserve System on Tuesday announced the availability of a set of dynamic maps and data that illustrate subprime and alt-A mortgage loan conditions across the United States.
• Loans per 1,000 housing units
• Loans in foreclosure per 1,000 housing units
• Loans real estate owned (REO) per 1,000 housing units
• Share of loans that are adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs)
• Share of loans for which payments are current
• Share of loans that are 90-plus days delinquent
• Share of loans in foreclosure
• Median combined loan-to-value ratio (LTV) at origination
• Share of loans with low credit score (FICO) and high LTV at origination
• Share of loans with low- or no documentation
• Share of ARMs with initial reset in the next 12 months
• Share of loans with a late payment in the past 12 months

Now, the only thing this administration hates more than collecting data is releasing it. And it is April Fool's Day. But, I'm hopeful. It's non-responsive now, but I imagine that's because the notice just went out.

Here's a little snark. The Board of Governors has a mortgage data website at
Get it? Default? I mean, somebody's got a sense of humor.

Somebody read my blog

Honestly? I was going to put a YouTube of "The Magic Store" from "The Muppet Movie" here. But, this blog was one of two hits on Google when I searched for the lyrics "You've got a home at the Magic Store." Either
  1. I'm the only one who thinks of popular success in terms of that song first, or
  2. I have the lyrics wrong.

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Flattering, but
  • I suspect that Google would prefer that if I run any ads, it would be through them -- I suspect this would violate my user agreement,
  • None of you have really asked for more ads,
  • I'm more of a disaster blogger than a financial blogger. We just incidentally happen to be in a financial disaster.
I'm not saying no? But, I probably will once I reflect on it.

Unconscious People Are Icky

One barrier to learning CPR has always been that it's hard to imagine a situation where you want to put your lips against someone who's in cardiac arrest. Maybe if a model mistakenly thinks her swimsuit is for swimming, but really her heart's unlikely to stop. A coke party, maybe? I'm not sure how large the overlap of population is between people who study CPR and people who go to coke parties, but there has to be some.
"You only have to do two things. Call 911 and push hard and fast on the middle of the person's chest," said Michael Sayre, an emergency medicine professor at Ohio State University who headed the committee that made the recommendation.
Phew. And your model hypothetical?
[M]outh-to-mouth breathing should be used... [with] adults who suffer lack of oxygen from a near-drowning, drug overdose, or carbon monoxide poisoning.
So, it's all good. Although I think if your heart's stopped, it counts as a full drowning.