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May 2009

Local Swine

Amy brought home a bright pink flyer from school Thursday saying that there is a diagnosed case of swine flu at her school. Joy. It seems it is one of the teachers.

Of course, despite reports of a 4th death in the last 24 hours, the US death rate has been hovering at about 1 in 1000 for most of the last week. Which if I read Wikipedia correctly is about the average for an regular old fashioned influenza epidemic.

But we still got the bright pink flyer reminding everybody that if their kid is sick they should KEEP THEM HOME. Which is of course what you are supposed to do ANYWAY. It isn’t swine flu specific. They did however add that if you DO send your kid to school, and they appear to be sick, they will call you to come get them ASAP.

Shoe Car for Brandy?

If Brandy’s car is totaled, perhaps we should get her this one?

Ripped Nissan

A week ago Tuesday while Brandy and Amy were somewhere and the Nissan was parked nicely in the parking lot a teenage boy in his pickup truck with a damaged bumper tried to park next to it, and in the process wedged their damaged bumper in the Nissan’s wheel well.

The kid did come into the place Brandy was and ask who owned the Nissan, which is good. Going back out, it became clear that the two cars were jammed together but nice. In the end they had to jack up Brandy’s car before the truck could pull away. But when all was said and done, there was the nice rip in the car that you see above.

At some point, the boy’s mom showed up. According to Brandy, one of the first things out of her mouth to her son was “You have GOT to stop hitting things!” Soon after was “I told you to get that bumper fixed!”

Insurance information was exchanged.

Brandy got one estimate last week, and a second estimate this week.

Problem. It is an old car with more than 200K miles on it. This is body work. Body work that requires replacing a large panel. The lower of the two estimates is close to the book value of the car. The other estimate is a decent bit more than the value of the car.

The conversation with the insurance company will be tomorrow most likely. There is a good chance they will just call the car totaled.

The car runs absolutely perfectly. But the stupid body damage is more than the value.

This sucks.

Plouffe Piece

Just finished listening to David Plouffe speak. Interesting, but nothing new I hadn’t heard talked about before, including things he has said before, but also others analyzing the campaign. Kind of like watching C-Span, but in person. Good overview of an inside look at the Obama campaign though.

Edit 20:41 UTC – This of course coming from someone who likes watching C-Span. :-)

Stan the Man

I have never met the General. I have however met two of his brothers.

Of the two brothers I met, one seemed to have integrity… although he once told me a story that disturbed me involving him shooting a neighbor’s dog and seemingly enjoying it. The other brother, in the end, seemed to have few redeeming features and no moral compass I could recognize other than doing whatever it took to get ahead. I guess over time we’ll see how General McChrystal, who to me is the “third brother”, fares. Now, I know that it is not proper to judge someone by their family, but overall I can tell you that if the General is anything at all like his siblings, the thought of him in charge of anything strikes fear into my heart. The bits below from and old Esquire story don’t inspire any additional confidence.

Acts of Conscience
(John H. Richardson, Esquire, 1 Jul 2006)

“Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. ‘Will

ever be allowed in here?’ And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in: “they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators.”

They could keep a prisoner on his feet for twenty hours, and although the rules required them to allow each prisoner four hours of sleep every twenty-four hours, nowhere did it say those four hours had to be consecutive–so sometimes they’d wake the prisoners up every half hour. Eventually they’d just collapse. “This was a very demanding method for the interrogators as well, because it required a lot of staff to monitor the prisoner, and we’d have to stay awake, too,” Jeff says. “And it’s just impossible to interrogate someone when he’s in that state, collapsed on the ground. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Within the unit, the interrogators got the feeling they were reporting to the highest levels. The colonel would tell an interrogator that his report “is on Rumsfeld’s desk this morning” or that it was “read by SecDef.” “That’s a big morale booster after a fourteen-hour day,” Jeff says with a tinge of irony. “Hey, we got to the White House.”

“Was the colonel ever actually there to observe this?” “Oh, yeah. He worked there. He had his desk there. They were working in a big room where the analysts, the report writers, the sergeant major, the colonel, some technical guys–they’re all in that room.”

To Garlasco, this is significant. This means that a full-bird colonel and all his support staff knew exactly what was going on at Camp Nama. “Do you know where the colonel was getting his orders from?” he asks. Jeff answers quickly, perhaps a little defiantly. “I believe it was a two-star general. I believe his name was General McChrystal. I saw him there a couple of times.” Back when he was an intelligence analyst, Garlasco had briefed Stanley McChrystal once. He remembers him as a tall Irishman with a gentle manner. He was head of the Joint Special Operations Command, the logical person to oversee Task Force 121, and vice-director for operations for the Joint Chiefs.

(via Andrew Sullivan)

I have mentioned General McChrystal before on this blog here and here.

DVD: Blue Planet: Seas of Life (Discovery Channel Version): Disk 1

So, I think it was last weekend, but I do get confused, it was time for another DVD we own but have not watched yet. In this case it was Blue Planet which Brandy had given me for Christmas. Now, one thing that is interesting here is that there appear to be multiple versions of this out there. Brandy gave me the Discovery Channel version. There is also a BBC version. They seem to be basically the same thing, but with the episodes in a different order, and on some disks a different narrator. I think extras are different too. Wikipedia has more info.

Anyway, both Brandy and Amy had other things to do that night, so I watched the first disk on my own. On the version I have, the first two episodes were “Frozen Seas” and “Coral Seas”. As usual for this kind of documentary, both episodes were full of absolutely stunning photography and amazing views of the wildlife. I watched on the big projector screen, so it was all very immersive.

Two particular scenes really stood out for me though.

First, penguins swimming… rocketing… underwater at high speed, leaving cavitation trails behind them, and then shooting up out of the water onto the ice.

Second, coral… usually perceived as static and unmoving background to the other wildlife, plantlike at best, and more often rock like, shown in time lapse exhibiting its animal nature, moving and surging and reacting… and even fighting!

I do like this kind of documentary, and I liked these two episodes. More to come later down the road, as this is a five disk set.

Curmudgeon’s Corner: Dribbles of News

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Missing Mail
  • Swine Flu
  • Stressed Ivan
  • Arlen Specter

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Note: For those using the “View in iTunes” link, it often takes iTunes quite a few hours to show a new episode after the episode is posted here. So if you are looking for the podcast very soon after I post this, use one of the other methods to find the new episode. For those who are subscribed, your Podcast software should pick up the new episode next time it checks for new episodes on its own, or you can always force a refresh. For those using the XML feed directly, the new episode is now there.

Last Swine Flu Dashboard Enhancements

Well, last for tonight anyway, it is way past my bedtime.

I switched things around so the main page of the Swine Flu Dashboard is a “Summary View” with only the “all data so far” graphs of the six things being tracked (deaths, cases and death rate worldwide and US only). For these I changed the trend line to be based off of a one week time period. There isn’t yet a full week of data, so that means the entire trend line may still shift. Parts of it will turn red once those parts are “fixed”.

I have then moved off onto a separate “time frame view” looks at each of those six numbers on a “previous week”, “previous month” and “previous year” basis. Obviously these will be more interesting once there is data over a longer time period. For this view I’ve made the trend lines dependent on which time frame you are looking at. They are based on 2 days for the weekly view, 2 weeks for the monthly view and 2 months for the yearly view.

Anyway… that’s it for tonight.

Swine Flu Dashboard Adjustment

After watching the updates over the past day, it became clear that the CDC was only updating once per day, while Wikipedia was updating constantly as new information came in. When there was a CDC update, that data would get reflected in Wikipedia very quickly. So overall for responsiveness, Wikipedia was a better source. So I changed the data source for the US numbers on the Swine Flu Dashboard to be Wikipedia, just as with my world numbers. (Links to the specific Wikipedia data sources on the Swine Flu Dashboard itself.)

Also, using the magic of wiki history, I went back and backfilled my data to include at least one data point per six hour interval going back to April 30th (UTC). Before that in the wiki history it seems like the standard for what was a “confirmed” case was not yet clear, and so numbers had been reported differently and were higher.

Anyway, now the four times a day update for the US numbers will actually catch changes more than once a day, and the historical numbers are just as nicely filled out as the new numbers.

Oh, and the curves are actually starting to look a bit exponential now, whereas they had previously been looking more linear.


Feeling Blue

About an hour ago we got out of the latest ultrasound… It’s a boy!

And everything else looked normal and as expected for this stage as well.

So all is well! September here we come…