Monday, December 05, 2022

Circulation Nation...

ThatBarringtonThingy
InActionVille


C. needs the car today and it is still too icy to ride my bicycle.

So.

I bit the bullet and rode the bus into work this morning.

It's been a few weeks since I used public transit given that, for the most part, the weather has cooperated (and my new rain gear is great!) this fall.

Thus, I was not prepared the almost complete lack of masking.

I can understand it from the hardened construction workers on the way to the Condo Corridor on Cambie who have been dealing with this thing since the beginning.

But as for those young kids going to a certain professional-type school that I spend some of my time teaching in?

That I don't get at all.


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Sunday, December 04, 2022

The Advent Jukebox, Day 4...Vincent.
























Vincent Van Gogh painted 'Starry Night', above, based on what he saw when he looked east out his monastery/asylum window on an early June night in 1889.

And Don McLean wrote the song 'Vincent' that starts with lyric 'Starry, starry night...' in the autumn of 1970.

As such, neither the painting nor the song really have anything to do with the Solstice or Christmas or any of the other Winter Holidays.

But the night sky is clear here this evening and the stars are out.

Which means that it's going to be cold in Lotusland.

Which also means that I sure hope that the very organized lady I saw in the coffee shop early this morning, who had what appeared be most, if not all, of her earthly possessions neatly stowed away in a backpack and four shopping bags, is doing OK tonight...

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_____
The album of Mr. McLean's
that has this tune and that song about the book of love takes me immediately back to grade seven and a school playground ringed by redbrick walls...Music is like that, no?

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Saturday, December 03, 2022

The Advent Jukebox, Day 3...The Parting Glass


WhatWouldBrotherLiamSayAbout
UncleNeil'sSingingVille


Surprisingly, or perhaps not, this tune is not on The Clancy Brothers Christmas album.

I'm including it in the Advent Jukebox because it's all about visiting, either for real or in your mind's eye, and the leaving that, in the end, always follows...


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Subheader?....This.


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Sometimes A Punking Is Just A Punking...


ThereAreAlwaysMoreCigars
InTheBeachHouseVille


Sometimes a punking is just a punking.

And sometimes it is much, much more.

Or, at the very least, can be exploited as such.

****

Few griftxtremists flood the zone with more crap than Milo Yiannopoulis.

Thankfully, of late, Yiannopoulis seemed to be swimming deep beneath the surface of his own brown sludge-filled pool where he could neither be seen nor heard.

But then, unfortunately, last week the griftxtremist broke the surface braying in the wake of a Florida man's dinner with racists.

And, of course, the media took notice:

...Yiannopoulos, a former Breitbart editor who was banned from Twitter in 2016 for inciting a racist campaign against the comedian Leslie Jones, told NBC News that he was “the architect” of the plan to have Fuentes travel with Ye in the hopes of slipping him into the dinner with Trump. The intent, according to Yiannopoulos, was for Fuentes to give Trump an unvarnished view of how a portion of his base views his candidacy...

{snip}

....(Yiannopoulos) told NBC he also arranged the meeting “just to make Trump’s life miserable”, because he was aware news of the dinner would leak...


It is not entirely clear if the griftxtremist actually had anything to do with anything, although he has, at least for the moment, attached himself like a leach to the racist formerly known as Mr. West

However, it is clear that the press is playing the punking as an embarrassment for the Florida man, writ large.

And that same press gang is also feverishly cataloguing the few US'ian Republican party functionaries who have taken baby steps towards condemning Mr. Trump.

But here's what I'm wondering...

Will all those operatives who pretended to leave Republican party, some of whom have milked the system to launch their own 'pro-democracy' media empire, now work hand-in-glove with their PAC men and their buddies still burrowed deep within the party machinery to crank-up the Trump-Off machine in earnest?

And if they do, what will they call their new and improved, fully cleansed and stain-free 'movement'?

After all, 'The Tea Party' is already taken.



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Friday, December 02, 2022

The Advent Jukebox, Day 2....A Christmas Card From Minneapolis.




He, or at least is persona, is still out there.

Getting weirder and more Bukowskian all the time.

See, for example, the snippet from Paul Thomas Anderson's latest movie, above.

Here is what the good Mr. Waits had to say about this advent tune quite a few years ago now:

"I was in Minneapolis – it was 200 degrees below zero,” he told a disbelieving New York crowd. “I know, you think I’m bullshitting, no, I swear to God, I was wearing just a bra and a slip and a kind of dead squirrel around my neck – he was colder than I was. The police cars would go by and they’d wave… merry Xmas, merry Xmas, merry Xmas."

"Anyway, I got caught in the middle of a pimp war between two kids in Chinchilla coats, they couldn’t have been more than 13 years old. They’re throwing knives and forks and spoons out into the street – it was deep – so I grabbed a ladle, and Dinah Washington was singing ‘Our Day Will Come’ and I knew that was it."

Here's the advent cover, with a whole lotta mimicry shakin' going on...Sorry about that.

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Thursday, December 01, 2022

The Advent Jukebox, Day 1....Murder By Mistletoe.

TwentyFive
DaysVille


The idea of a homemade 'song a day'-type advent calendar/juke box came to me in late November a few years ago.

And when the holiday(ish)-themed tunes began they were, essentially, lullabies for our oldest kid who was half a continent away cramming for final exams at the time.

This year, our youngest kid is across the Salish Sea doing her own cramming and final paper writing.

So, here comes this year's first offering...

****


From a piece over at the popculturish 'Live Science' by Lily Norton:

...The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started in ancient Greece, during the festival of Saturnalia and later in marriage ceremonies, because of the plant's association with fertility...

{snip}

...In Victorian England, kissing under the mistletoe was serious business. If a girl refused a kiss, she shouldn't expect any marriage proposals for at least the next year, and many people would snub their noses at her, remarking that she would most likely end up an old maid...


Yes, but can you actually commit murder by mistletoe?

Almost, maybe...

...(T)he plant contains toxic amines , and eating its berries can cause vomiting and stomach pain. In the past, mistletoe had been thought to be a cure for epilepsy and other ailments, but was proved false. In fact, mistletoe is probably more harmful than helpful: deaths have even been reported from drinking too much tea made from its berries.


All of which brings us to our Day 1 tune by Mr. Ian Felice...

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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

One Dollar Each.

ThisIsTheModernWorld
We'reLivingInVille


Last week we mentioned the following Tweet, posted by someone who bought one of Mr. Musk's blue checkmarks (since removed) for their PharmaCo parody site:



This spawned first joy and then an angry backlash against the real PharmaCo when folks learned it wasn't true.

As a result the real company apologized:


















What the real company did not do was apologize for the exorbitant price it charges patients, especially American patients, for its insulin-based products:

...A 2018 study from BMJ Global Health estimates the cost to produce a vial of insulin from between $2 for regular human insulin to less than $7 for newer analogs, like the Lispro analog Eli Lily produces. The list price for that analog is $274.70 per 10 mL vial...

{snip}

...The RAND Corporation 2018 study demonstrated that the cost of insulin to diabetics in the U.S. is generally five to 10 times higher than in the other OECD countries (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development). Where the 2018 average price per vial was less than $10 for other OECD patients, it was just under $100 for U.S. patients...


However, in the wake of the false parody tweet the CEO of the real company, Mr. David Ricks, did say that they were doing their best to make things better:

“It probably highlights that we have more work to do to bring down the cost of insulin for more people...{snip}...We’ve done tons of things, but it obviously hasn’t penetrated the clutter. We’re obviously not the only insulin company. But the tropes go on."


Tons of things?

How about trying to emulate one really big thing that happened almost one hundred years ago:

...On January 23, 1923, an American patent on both insulin and Toronto’s method of making it was awarded to Banting, Collip, and Best. For $1.00 to each, the three discoverers assigned their patent rights to the Board of Governors of the University of Toronto. The application had stressed that none of the other researchers in the past had been able to produce a nontoxic antidiabetic extract. A patent was necessary to restrict manufacture of insulin to reputable pharmaceutical houses who could guarantee the purity and potency of their products...


You read that correctly.

The discoverers of insulin sold off their patent for one dollar, each, to make sure things were done properly for patients.

In other words...

No need for 'tons' of anything whatsoever.



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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Phone-A-Fy!

ItsAllInYourHead
MrTweedyVille


Apparently, everyone is out to get the gazillionare:

Elon Musk has accused Apple of threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store without giving a reason to the social media platform.

Twitter’s new owner also said the iPhone maker had stopped advertising on Twitter, prompting him to ask if the tech group hated free speech.


Musk revealed the potential App Store ban in a series of tweets on Monday. He tweeted: “Apple has also threatened to withhold Twitter from its App Store, but won’t tell us why.”...


So.

What will the leader of the Muskian Free World do if what he, himself, has prophesied comes to pass?

Why,  just like he once did with flame throwers and tunnel borers, the good Mr. Musk says he will make his own phone for the truly devoted:

















But here's the thing.

That has been tried before by those herding the flocks of the freedom aggrieved that Mr. Musk is now courting and it did not turn out so well:

The 22 year-old self-proclaimed "Bitcoin millionaire" Erik Finman in an interview with The New York Times described smartphones as "the ultimate political tools. Everyone has one in their pocket." His brand new Freedom Phone promises to prioritize "free speech and privacy"above anything else. You might assume that the Freedom Phone follows the trend of phone-makers like Apple that use software updates to make it harder for companies to track you. Finman's initial announcement for the Freedom Phone was followed swiftly by security concerns raised by numerous publications and privacy experts...

{snip}

...If you're looking for a phone that protects your privacy, look elsewhere. The Freedom Phone raises a lot of red flags. Initially the phone was supposed to run software called Freedom OS, which Finman claimed protects your privacy. It had an "uncensorable" app store called the PatriApp store that claims to feature apps banned by Big Tech. In the announcement video, Finman shows off a phone that is powered off and looks similar to a budget Chinese phone that sells for one-quarter of the Freedom Phone's $500 price...


Imagine that.


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Sunday, November 27, 2022

Road Regrets (D. Mangan Cover)


BricksOn
BricksVille



It's not just what Mr. Mangan makes, it's also the way he makes it.

He also has a great Substack too.




__________
Image at the top of the post and subheader?...See a recent post from Mangan in response to a question about one of his recent lyrical phrases.
This is one of those 'when in doubt Capo VI'  'wedge' songs for me...Bigger E. who should have no regrets, road or otherwise, will understand...As for littler e....Who knew she would turn me, the old guy, onto a pretty brilliant re-do of an old Nick Hornby (musically-adjacent) saw set where bricks are.

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Saturday, November 26, 2022

Speechify!


HollowedOutBeThy
NamePartDeuxVille



It appears that a whole bunch of Mr. Musk's top revenue generators in birdland have flown the coop, as reported by Halisia Hubbard of NPR:

Half of Twitter's top 100 advertisers appear to no longer be advertising on the website. A report from Media Matters for America states that these 50 advertisers have spent almost $2 billion on Twitter ads since 2020 and more than $750 million just in 2022. 

Seven additional advertisers have slowed their advertising to almost nothing, according to the report, which was published on Tuesday. These companies have paid Twitter more than $255 million since 2020...


And why have the advertisers done this?

Fear of a massive backlash from the howling bowels of Wokeistan?

Perhaps.

Fear of their money vaporizing without a trace as the entire coop goes up in flames?

Maybe.

But it looks like the whole 'freedom-to-buy-blue-checks-and-say-whatever-you-want' within the coop's algorithm amplification machinery can have real world consequences:

...Eli Lilly and Co. stopped showing ads on Twitter the day after an account impersonating the pharmaceutical company — complete with a purchased blue check mark — posted, "We are excited to announce insulin is free now."

Eli Lilly asked Twitter to take it down, but the tweet remained up for hours, because the platform's staff was stretched thin due to recent layoffs and resignations. The tweet garnered hundreds of retweets and thousands of likes, and Eli Lilly's stock soon took a dive...


Imagine that!



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Image at the top of the post....Best and Banting...True innovators whose story is really something.


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Friday, November 25, 2022

Projectify!

HollowedOutBe
ThyNameVille


From that very fine fellow who seems to induce a quasi-religious fervour in a goodly portion of his (alleged) one hundred and eighteen million followers:


Sure thing.

Except for, you know...

...We provide quantitative evidence from a long-running, massive-scale randomized experiment on the Twitter platform that committed a randomized control group including nearly 2 million daily active accounts to a reverse-chronological content feed free of algorithmic personalization...

{snip}

...Our results reveal a remarkably consistent trend: In six out of seven countries studied, the mainstream political right enjoys higher algorithmic amplification than the mainstream political left. Consistent with this overall trend, our second set of findings studying the US media landscape revealed that algorithmic amplification favors right-leaning news sources...


And who wrote the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December of 2021, quoted from above?

Woke academics hiding high atop a social science tower made of pressed ivory soap suds?

No...

Mercenary trolls housed in a Soros-funded bunker deep beneath Left Blogistan?

Not them either...

Because, actually...

It was researched and written by folks from Twitter itself (mostly):



Imagine that!


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Voting For The Bluest Of Programs In A Deep Red State.


We'reNotInKansasAnymore
ThomasFrankTurnedInsideOutVille


The voters of South Dakota might never elect a Democrat to a state-wide office ever again.

However they will happily ignore the blather of the Republican officials they have elected and vote for a big government democratic program that helps them and theirs:

South Dakota voters on Tuesday approved a measure to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

The program, which takes effect in July and is expected to cover more than 40,000 people, passed with about 56 percent support.

The Republican-controlled state, where lawmakers have long resisted Medicaid expansion, is the seventh in the last five years to do so at the ballot box...


Imagine that!



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Thomas Frank wrote
the book 'What's the Matter With Kansas' awhile back in which he asked why folks in that fair state appeared to keep voting against their own best interests over and over and over again.




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Thursday, November 24, 2022

Of Mice And (Not) Men.


NeitherLenny
NorGeorgeVille



There is tag line that is often used derisively to comment on over-hyped biomedical research reports of a pre-clinical nature.

That line is:

"...In mice."



The point being that early stage biomedical research has not yet been demonstrated in humans where the ultimate result is often very different or, most often, not as impressive in real world conditions where all extraneous variables cannot be tightly controlled for.

Which, of course (institutional PR machinations aside), is actually the way things should work in that first you must demonstrate proof-of-principle with pre-clinical experiments, many of which are often carried out in mice, before you can even start to think about moving on to clinical testing where the first hurdle is safety followed by accuracy and efficacy.

In the case of the Theranos debacle, the details of the pre-clinical work are, to put it charitably, fuzzy. More importantly, the folks running the place never demonstrated any clinical safety, accuracy or efficacy, whatsoever.

In fact, when it came right down to it the Theranos braintrust, as the courageous whistleblower Erica Cheung detailed, deliberately masked safety concerns, inaccuracies and lack of efficacy by removing and/or ignoring data generated by their 'technology' that they did not like (or did not match that produced by proven machines).

Ultimately, the result was the following:

...“There were over a million (blood) tests that patients had which were fraudulent”, said Eric Topol, a cardiologist and founder and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute (La Jolla, CA, USA), where he is a professor of molecular medicine. “That is the most egregious part.”...


These fraudulent tests led to real world/real patient consequences, a small sample of which were detailed at the trial of Elizabeth Holmes:

...During the 15 week trial, 29 witnesses took the stand, but only three were patients or doctors. Two witnesses testified about getting Theranos tests that incorrectly detected HIV/AIDS and prostate cancer. A third person testified that a Theranos blood test she took at an Arizona Walgreens pharmacy showed a high level of a hormone indicating she was having a miscarriage. When the test was repeated twice by a different laboratory, the results showed that her pregnancy was still viable...


Now.

It is important to understand that Ms. Holmes', who this week was sentenced to serious jail time, was not officially convicted of defrauding or harming patients.

Instead, she was officially convicted of defrauding a bunch of rich people that she bamboozled into investing shovels full of money in her fraudulent company with its fraudulent technology that should have never been used for real world patient diagnostic purposes in the first place.

Personally, I choose to recognize the 'unofficial' verdict based on the defrauding of the real world patients.


________
Personally, I also found all the media reports
 that pegged this as a 'Silicon Valley story' where it was common to 'fake it till you make it' extremely egregious. This was not first faking and then ultimately making  a better way to stream a movie or book a vacation home. This was about patient diagnosis where fakery cannot ever be tolerated.
Ms. Cheung's story is a truly amazing and even more truly courageous one...Tyler Shultz, who was the grandson of one of the rich investors, also did the right thing. However, given his family situation Mr. Shultz was never left hanging over the edge like Ms. Cheung was, especially when the Theranos-hired lawyers and PI's started to come after them for speaking the truth.


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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

(Not So) OK, Boomer (Anymore).


Traps'RUs
HobbesianVille


In my opinion, one of the more insightful columnists writing about the passing parade in greater Lotuslandia is Jody Paterson.

A couple of weeks ago Ms. Paterson's blog came back to life and, most recently, she wrote about how her generation, which is also mine, has no stories about how bad things were in their youth.

You know, those stories about playing hockey with frozen hunks of dung and/or going to school in a shoebox.

And why is that?

Because, as Ms. Paterson points out, we who grew up on the tail end of the post-war boom actually had it really, really good back in the days of yore:

"...It struck me the other day that the Boomer generation that I'm part of just might be the first generation in Canada whose own stories will instead be of how good they had it compared to their grandkids. 

Let me tell ya, kid, back in my day we had houses for people. We didn't even have a word for homelessness, and you camped for fun, not because it was that or nothing. We burned through natural resources like there was no tomorrow. (Turns out that last part was true.) 

Back in my day, we made real money, and if we hit a bad spell, could fall back on employment insurance that actually covered most of a person's bills. We had doctors. Weather was just weather, not an ominous portent of end of days..."


I would add that we of a certain age also had a good post-secondary education available to us at a cost of almost nothing at all.*

The larger point?

There really was a concerted class levelling that went on in these here parts back in the '60's and '70's that expanded possibilities for everyone.

Which brings me to a recent piece in Jacobin by David Moscrop, whose stuff I also have a lot of time for, about how the majority of Canadians these days don't trust, essentially, anyone:

"...Beyond political and media institutions, social cohesion is also thin in Canada — and trending downward. In March, Ipsos found that “only 30% of adults say most people can be trusted against 70% who believe that you can’t be too careful dealing with people.” Once again, the data is conditioned by education and income level — those with more education and income trust one another more..."

So.

Why is that (part deux)?

Well, Mr. Moscrop, who is a young guy, thinks that in large part this is because folks today have lost or will never see any of those nice, and truly important, things that we Boomers had when we were young:

"...Polite Canadian society encourages the wringing of one’s hands about low trust. It makes for good columns and think pieces, fascinating TV and radio, and endless polls and reports. Evidently, all of this fretting is for nothing, because the arc of trust is bending toward its antithesis despite the consternation of elites. It’s not surprising. The market economy and class are rarely discussed when trust is the topic of conversation, even if everyone will skirt around the issue that plainly sits right in the middle of the room. Come on, people. It’s a class issue. It’s an economic issue. And the origin of low trust, and thus its deleterious manifestations, is a political failure by those who run government and shape the economy. The origin of low trust is decades of capitalist depredation and the thinning out of the state in such a way that working people have been left to fend for themselves in a Hobbesian state of struggle..."


I, for one, think he just might be right.


______
*Longtime reader EG and I have discussed this point before...My first year as an undergraduate student cost me $540. As a result, those of us who went to school at that time could quite easily finance university with summer jobs alone or, at worst, with small student loans that didn't cripple us financially until we reached middle age or beyond (the latter was C.'s situation).


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Monday, November 21, 2022

COP-27...Look Under The (5th) Big W.


It'sAMadMadMad
MadWorldVille


From George Monbiot's lede, in the Guardian, on the failure of the recent COP-27 meeting to do anything whatsoever:

...So how have heads of government chosen to use this miracle (of life on earth)? ...

{snip}

...They have chosen to do nothing. Nothing that has a realistic chance, in this contest of probabilities, of changing our trajectory. They had a choice at the Cop27 meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh of defending the habitable planet or appeasing their sponsors. 

They went with the sponsors...


So.

Given all that.

And given that, as Mr. Monbiot points out, it has been going on like that for the last fifty years straight, it's pretty hard not to ask yourself why.

As in...

Why does this keep happening?

There are more than 600 fossil fuel lobbyists at the Cop27 climate conference, a rise of more than 25% from last year and outnumbering any one frontline community affected by the climate crisis.

There are 636 lobbyists from the oil and gas industries registered to attend the UN event in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. At Glasgow, the figure was 503, which outnumbered the delegation of any single country. This year the only country with a larger delegation is the United Arab Emirates, hosts of Cop28 next year, which has 1,070 registered delegates, up from 176 last year...


In other words the lunatics, errrr, 'sponsors' are running the asylum.

And, of course, it is in their best interests that the quo stays status as long as carbonly possible.


______
Re: Header...The five 'W's' of journalism are who, what, when, where and why...
As for the image at the top of the post...That's the gang looking for the pot of gold under the 'Big W' in 'It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World'
And, while Canada may not quite be the UAE when it comes to rolling around in petro dollars 24/7, we, too, took our share of 'sponsors' along for the ride.


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