Friday, November 26, 2021

Crawling Through The Bloggodome...



Tyler Olsen, Fraser Valley Current guy, has produced an excellent series on what's really been driving the flooding in the Fraser Valley...One of his insightful pieces explains the (easily predicted) hows and whys of the Sumas dike failure....Postmedia's Dean of the Legislative Press Gallery, Mr. Palmer of VSun Harbour, has come out of hibernation and produced a solid historical treatise on who's responsible for what and what needs to be done both north and south of the border to mitigate future Fraser Valley flooding.

Bob Mackin, FOIA man about town, has been digging into what the heckfire is going on out in Surrey re: the putative police force's PR push and the pushback attempts by some of the citizenry.

The fine folks at City Duo, who really do a spectacular job at following the development planning process in Lotusland Central, report on what's (potentially) in the works for the Jericho lands.

Data modelling and visualization guy Jens von Bergman crunches the numbers and critiques the graphs on three years of (available) speculation and vacancy tax data.

Andrew McLeod, reporting in the Tyee, explains the politics (of the possible?) behind the provincial Dippers' five day paid sick leave plan that starts on New Year's day.....Also in the Tyee, Katie Hyslop reports on First Call's latest report on local child poverty and concludes that the income gap between parents is growing, which of course filters directly down to kids.

Alexandra Morton explains why, after showing receipts, she has concluded that the BC Salmon Farmers' Ass'n is attempting to discredit her research. 

Norm! (Farrell) asks if we can prevent capitalism from destroying the world we live in and suggests that pro-journos can help us do just that by heeding the words of Albert Camus.

Other Stuffing...

David Climenhaga wonders if Alberta taxpayers will be on the hook for Mr. Kenney's legal costs in the wake of his alleged (look, Ma, no air qoutes!) defamation of eight Canadian environmental groups.

Digby wonders if Mr. Trump even knows that Bernie Kerik is not his lawyer given that the good Mr. Kerik is not, you know, an actual lawyer.....Also over at Ms. Parton's 'Hullabaloo', Dennis Hartley runs down his top 10 foodie films for USian Thanksgiving weekend eye gorging...Diner is #4! (I think)...

Josh Marshall, writing at TPM, explains why he has concluded that some of the biggest of the big Tech Bros are maximum force neo-reactionaries.

Emptywheel explains how the uber alleish folks at Project Veritas are trying to Special Master their way out of revealing what was found by an FBI search of the home of PV founder man James O'Keefe.

Pharma guy Derek Lowe, who has proven his bonafides around here many times over, gives us his take on the latest experimental (in mice) Alzheimer's vaccine research and concludes that it is reasonable to cautiously proceed to clinical trials on two fronts.... I'm not so sure given the antigens/targets involved.

Musical Musings...

The folks over at Cover Me list all of their favourite covers of of songs from Uncle Neil's 'Harvest'...Me, I'm a sucker for Motorjesus' build-to-a-crescendo power metal ballad version of 'Old Man'.

And, what do you know.... Irglova and Hansard are going out on tour in the spring...They won't come anywhere near Lotusland but, at the very least, their will be a whole lot of footage on the down the Tubez I reckon.

What I'm Listening To...

A fantastic podcast called Fun City Cinema about movies made in and/or about New York City...If you like depth and research and both familiar and surprising stuff you will like this - It's also really well done...My favourite episode so far is about the No Wave Women scene that sprang from the Lower Eastside in the mid/late '70's (and we're not just talking about the film makers that we're making it happen in $350 per month, 2500 sq. foot loft spaces at the time - all the usual musical suspects and more were part of the mix). 

Image at the top of the post is from Susan Seidelman's 1982 seminal No Wave film 'Smithereens'...


Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Hybrid Life


Late last week I was getting ready to deliver a lecture that I hoped would be a multi-media masterpiece in which the glycosaminoglycan hyaluronic acid (HA) would be at the center.

HA is the goopy snot of the extracellular matrix that all cells are either surrounded by or grab on to. It is also critical in many tissues because it contributes to hydration, fills space, and helps steer migrating cells, including immune cells, to their destination.

HA is also the principal component of the first, new provisional matrix in many wound situations and thus has lots of medical uses.


Once I had last week's lecture all set up and was ready to start discussing things with the students in front of me, each of us behind our masks, I fired up the Zoom machine so that the young folks from far away and/or those that might have been ill that day, and/or didn't have enough gas to fill their tanks, etc., could participate as well. 

These hybrid teaching days I run the Zoom presentation through my box and use my phone to monitor the chat - even kids present in the class use that and I've actually found that this facilitates discussion, especially in large enrolment undergraduate classes where it can be intimidating to ask a question out loud. 

Anyway, with all that going on I forgot to hit the 'Record' button so that the lecture could be downloaded afterward from the cloud and archived on the course website.

Which meant that, when I got back to my office,  I had to shut the door and do the darned thing all over again.

So, to make sure that my absent-mindedness would not lead to such a (mini-minor) calamity again in the future, I asked my young colleague, the course teaching assistant, to take control of the Zoom as she is one of the most tech-savvy people I know.

Unfortunately, today something went wrong and the transfer from the cloud back to the course website and we lost yet another lecture recording.

As a result, I had to skip my current, assigned task in the lab later in the day, which is to cull the no-longer needed cell stocks in the liquid nitrogen tanks (because the kids in the lab don't want me getting in the way of their actual experiments), so that I could repeat record yet another lecture.


Image at the top of the post is the core disaccharide (double sugar)  that gets repeated over and over and over and over again in HA.


Monday, November 22, 2021

The Freelon Unit


In my opinion, there is no public intellectual who gets things wrong more often, based apparently on conversations he has with cabbies, than NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman*.

Perhaps Mr. Friedman's most notorious codswallop was his repeated insistence that the successful end of the Bush Administration's misadventure in Iraq was just around the corner, in six months, tops.

This led to the birth of the 'Friedman Unit':
The Friedman (Unit) is approximately six months, specifically six months in the future, and named after columnist Thomas Friedman who repeatedly used the span in reference to when a determination of Iraq's future could be surmised...


It would appear that, in his column last week on how to deal with climate change under the headline "Want to Save the Earth? We Need a Lot More Elon Musks", Mr. Friedman may have come up with a brand new unit to once again call his kinda/sorta own:
If I am brutally honest, there is only one motto I would give to the movement to stem climate change after the Glasgow summit: “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.”...


...We will get there only when Father Profit and risk-taking entrepreneurs produce transformative technologies that enable ordinary people to have extraordinary impacts on our climate without sacrificing much — by just being good consumers of these new technologies.

In short: we need a few more Greta Thunbergs and a lot more Elon Musks. That is, more risk-taking innovators converting basic science into tools yet to be imagined to protect the planet for a generation yet to be born...

Because, of course, rocket boosters and (gasp!) massive subsidies.

Not to mention Theranos, Pied Piper Hubs and/or Bigheads Galore. 


Those Silicon Valley uber-drivers must really salivate, hard, every time they see Mr. Friedman coming...

*Unless, as Driftglass would tell you, it is the Moustache's stable mate, David  F. Brooks.


Sunday, November 21, 2021

This Is The End...Of The 'Blog Crawl'


Today, as much as I know it is going to upset some regular readers, I decided to pull the plug on the 'Blog Crawl' that used to run over on the left sidebar. 

The crawl was a widget in the Blogger toolbox that pulled up and posted the latest from a list of self-curated blog sites in a running, daily tally.

Personally, it's what I used to look at first when I would log on to this site in the morning. Then  I would go through a cycle of pro/media news before finishing up at my own private Idaho of Twittmachine feeds.


Why end the Blog Crawl then?

Well, recently, I've been worried about two aspects of the thing.

First, Google/Blogger has wrecked/disabled (either on purpose or through neglect) the ability to edit the Crawl widget which means that you can't add new sites, correct sites that have changed their feed addresses, or remove sites you decide you no longer want to promote.

And it's that's last bit that led to my second, and biggest reason, for removing the Crawl.

Which is that, unlike, say, the Book of Faces, met or un-met(a), I do not consider this site to be just a platform. Instead, I consider myself, in my own very small way, to be an algorithmic decider and, therefore, a publisher.

Which means that I hold myself responsible for the choices I make about what shows up here, including the writings on a couple of sites on the Crawl that became increasingly reactionary over the last year or so (you can probably guess which ones).

Thus, because I can't control it, I've shut the thing down.

I've also culled and updated the 'Bloggodome' blog list.

In doing so, I've brought two sites up the top of the list - Accidental Deliberations (more Canuckistanian) and Mike the Mad Biologist (more American), both of which do an excellent job of providing interesting, newsworthy and reliable links pretty much daily.

And on that 'link' worthy note...
Norm Farrell explains how big money is (still) killing democracy around here...Here.

Laila Yuile demonstrates that the Ministry of Transport knew that one really big rain, coupled with a rapid snowmelt, would spell trouble for the Lotuslandian highway system...Here.

And, our old friend and rabble rouser, the Reverend Paperboy is back blogging - this time about how the Moe government in Saskatchewan is doing its darndest to damage the citizenry in that fair province...Here.

The revised 'Bloggodome' list still contains some 'dead' sites in the bottom half...I've kept these for historical and/or personal reasons...


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

What I'm Listening To....Jay Rosen (Not) Talking To Ezra Klein.


Jay Rosen is an American academic and media critic who has a fantastic blog called 'Press Think'.

Recently, Rosen was on Ezra Klein's legacy media-motored podcast to talk about why the said media, writ large, has lost it's mojo when it comes to reporting and commenting on US politics.

And, in addition to the wise words from Mr. Rosen, another great thing about this particular episode is that you won't have to listen to Mr. Klein's sartorially savvy mushification of those same wise words.

And that's because the guest host, media historian Nicole Hemmer, is excellent.


A direct, legacy media - (mostly) free, link to the podcast is....Here. 

Tip 'O The Toque to Mr. Glass of Drift Harbour who makes a fantastic weekly podcast of his own, totally legacy media-free, with the indomitable Bluegal.


Can The Latest European Resurgence Of COVID Cases Be Explained?


Covid cases are surging in Europe again.

And that includes Western Europe where vaccination numbers, over all, have been strong.


Can this latest European surge this be explained?

Eric Topol of the Scripps Institute, who has demonstrated his bonafides around here before, thinks that there is (at least) a three part explanation which he wrote about in a recent piece for The Guardian.

Number one is the issue of vaccination rates:
...(T)here (is still) a large proportion of unvaccinated individuals (including children and teenagers) in each country, and only countries such as Spain at 80% and Portugal at 88% that fully vaccinated their total populations have set a high bar and have thus far withstood the continental trend of rise in cases. Noteworthy is Belgium with 74% fully vaccinated and one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, now at 79/100,000, currently 10th highest caseload globally. That alone tells us 74% isn’t enough, and that prior Covid (without vaccination, what some refer to as “natural immunity”) is unreliable for representing a solid immunity wall against the Delta variant. In fact, it has been projected for Delta that any country needs to achieve 90-95% of its total population fully vaccinated (or with recent Covid) in order to have population-level immunity that covers, providing relative protection, for the others...

Number two is the issue of waning immunity, post vaccination (and why in BC that switch to mix and match post AZ vaccine dose #1 was likely a very good thing, population-wise). Topol also makes the case that boosters should roll out for everyone based on the Israeli data that we have discussed here before (this is also the plan in BC):
...(T)here is evidence of waning of immunity on top of the hyper-contagious Delta strain. Even though much of Europe got a later start in vaccination, a recent study showed that with the Astra Zeneca vaccine the decline in anti-spike antibody occurred quite early and there was a clear relationship between antibody levels and breakthrough infections. Decline below the anti-spike antibody threshold of 500 U/ml was reached at 96 days for AstraZeneca’s vaccine compared with 257 days for Pfizer’s. The impact of waning, and the opportunity to restore very high (~95%) effectiveness of mRNA vaccines (specifically Pfizer/BioNtech) with booster (third) shots has been unequivocally proven from the Israeli data. Yet the adoption of boosters, even in the highest-risk groups such as age 60 plus, has been very slow...

Number three is the issue the issue of the relaxation of mitigation measures (and it is here that I worry about most in both present, full house event BC as well as in future,  household small gathering BC):
... (T)here has been relaxation or abandonment of mitigation measures. Countries such as Denmark and Norway completely reopened and have seen resurgence of cases since that occurred. Throughout the world, the profound pandemic fatigue has led to the irresistible notion that the pandemic end is nigh, that masks, distancing, and other measures have run their course, essentially that enough is enough. It is hard to imagine fighting a foe as formidable as Delta that a vaccine-only strategy can be effective. We’ve seen a dramatic improvement in Japan, with full return to baseline after their worst outbreak, by the combination of high level of vaccination and the continued use of masks and mitigation measures...

The other thing that Topol points out is how we in (North) America previously ignored or, at the very least, reacted slowly to what happened in Europe when the first big viral outbreaks occurred in March of 2020, the alpha variant emerged in late 2020, and the delta variant emerged in the summer of 2021.


Will we ignore/react slowly to what is happening in Europe this time as well?

Dr. Topol is, in my opinion, the best Twittmachine follow when it comes to COVID public health and research updates.


Friday, November 12, 2021

Cop26 - One Word....'Insufficient'


There will still likely be changes, but the 'second draft' of the Cop26 manifesto was released today and some of the changes from the first draft have some folks, especially activists that are pushing for significant global change, upset.

Writing in the Energy Mix, which clearly has an activist bent, Mitchell Beer summarized things thusly:
Fossil fuel subsidies got a new lease on life, vulnerable countries saw only limited progress on climate finance, and the push for faster, deeper carbon cuts was still being slow-walked in the latest draft decision documents published by COP 26 President Alok Sharma at 7:13 AM GMT today....

A little too strident for you?

Well how about we have a look at the following from Alexandra Ellerbuck in the Washington Post:
...The draft keeps in place a call for phasing out coal power and fossil fuel subsidies. It's the first direct reference to the need to phase out fossil fuels in such an agreement in decades, and some environmentalists had worried it might be cut due to lobbying from Saudi Arabia and other fossil fuel producers. But the devil is in the details, and critics have noted that a few additional words may weaken the text and provide wiggle room for fossil fuel backers: The draft now says countries should stop burning “unabated” coal and halt “insufficient” fossil fuel subsidies...


Now just who might have pushed for the watering down that led to the insertion of 'insufficient' in front of 'subsidies'?

Well, perhaps it was the largest contingent of 'delegates' who were, most definitely not acolytes of a young Scandinavian woman named Greta.

Matt McGrath had that story for the BBC News earlier in the week:
There are more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country, analysis shared with the BBC shows.

Campaigners led by Global Witness assessed the participant list published by the UN at the start of this meeting.

They found that 503 people with links to fossil fuel interests had been accredited for the climate summit.

These delegates are said to lobby for oil and gas industries, and campaigners say they should be banned...

Imagine that!


Thursday, November 11, 2021

And Then There Were Eight.


From Charlie Savage's piece in yesterday's New York Times:
On the surface, a judge’s ruling on Tuesday night that Congress can obtain Trump White House files related to the Jan. 6 riot seemed to echo another high-profile ruling in November 2019. In the earlier matter, a judge said a former White House counsel must testify about then-President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to obstruct the Russia investigation...


...The case, which raises novel issues about the scope of executive privilege when asserted by a former president, is not over: Mr. Trump is asking an appeals court to overturn Judge Chutkan’s ruling and, in the interim, to block the National Archives from giving Congress the first set of files on Friday. The litigation appears destined to reach the Supreme Court, which Mr. Trump reshaped with three appointments...


Back in 1974 the Warren Burger-led Supremes voted unanimously, 8-0, that Richard Nixon had to give up the Watergate tapes.

From the Wikiplex:
United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that resulted in a unanimous decision against President Richard Nixon, ordering him to deliver tape recordings and other subpoenaed materials to a federal district court. Issued on July 24, 1974, the decision was important to the late stages of the Watergate scandal, when there was an ongoing impeachment process against Richard Nixon. United States v. Nixon is considered a crucial precedent limiting the power of any U.S. president to claim executive privilege...

Of course, the current U.S. Supreme court of John Roberts is very different than the one from 47 years ago, what with three of the members having been appointed by Donald Trump.

But here's the thing.

Back in the day Mr. Burger himself, as well as two other members of his court who also voted against Nixon, Harry Blackmum and Lewis Powell, were appointed by...

You got it - Richard Milhous Nixon. 

And why only eight and not nine in 1974?....Well, the ninth member of the court, William Rehnquist, recused himself because he had served as an Assistant Attorney General under Nixon...
From the doubly historical subheader...Ray Schalk was the Chicago White Sox catcher who was most definitely not part of the 'Eight Men Out' who were a part of the scheme to fix the World Series back in 1919.
Update Thurs pm....As you might have predicted given past performance, Mr. Trump is attempting to play out the clock.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

What I'm Listening To...The Anthropocene Reviewed.

The Anthropocene Reviewed is a WNYC podcast by the now fully grown-up writer, John Green, telling explanatory stories of the human condition to his now pretty much fully grown-up audience.

In the episode embedded below, Green tells the story of how the song 'You'll Never Walk Alone', which was written in the early 1940's by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein for the musical 'Carousel', which itself was an adaptation Frederic Molnar's 1909 play 'Liliom', later became the favourite refrain of Liverpool soccer fans after Gerry and the Pacemakers covered it in 1963.

Green then follows this with the story of Liverpool goalie Jerzy Dudek's amazing redemption song during the 2005 Champions league final.

Even if you have no interest in musicals and/or soccer whatsoever, you will dig this, I promise...

Mr. Greene is best known for messing around with his brother Hank online and his YA fiction, some of which has been turned into movies.
For hardcore, old-timey Vancouver Whitecaps fans there is even a bit of Bruce Grobbelaar in Greene's Liveprudlian-centric tale.


Monday, November 08, 2021

Pine City, Minnesota


One of the things that most amazed me about living in the United States in the age of Clinton was the 'can do' attitude of just about everyone I ran into, regardless their political stripe.

Thus, I find the current gridlock that prevents meaningful things that people actually want from getting done to be a real problem.

Of course, the true obstructionists here are the Republicans but there is no ignoring the fact that the Democrats currently control all three branches of the Federal Government.


How to get things done?

Well, in the case of free community college tuition for everyone at least, the small town of Pine City Minnesota, located on what remains of Highway 61 North of Minneapolis, has just buckled down and made it happen.

Ryan Faircloth had the story recently in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Here is his lede:
A rural Minnesota college and its community have found a way to send every local high school graduate to college tuition-free, boosting enrollment and creating a model other state higher education institutions could follow.

Pine Technical and Community College in Pine City has seen its enrollment jump 63% since fall 2016, from 1,035 students to 1,682 this fall, thanks in part to a community-driven effort to send local kids to school tuition-free. It started with a scholarship fund launched by a local entrepreneur and expanded this year when Pine County officials invested nearly half a million dollars of federal COVID-19 stimulus funds to increase scholarship opportunities at the college.

As a result, Pine County is now the only county in Minnesota where every high school graduate can attend college free. Pine Technical and Community College's growth comes as other colleges and universities in the Minnesota State system have seen their enrollments decline an average of 15% since 2016.

"These school districts and the businesspeople and the county commissioners, everybody just said we've got to get more people engaged in this economy to be more competitive," said Pine Technical and Community College President Joe Mulford. "We are not a wealthy region. Our region has kind of come together around the purpose of higher ed and the need for it."...


And here I thought Bedford Falls was in New York.

And, what's more, I had no idea that Sam Wainright has been reincarnated as a fellow named Dennis Frandsen:
...Entrepreneur Dennis Frandsen created the blueprint, establishing a scholarship fund in 2018 that covers two years of tuition at Pine Tech for graduates from five area high schools, three of them in Minnesota (Braham, Pine City and Rush City) and two in Wisconsin (Luck and Frederic)...

Imagine that!

You can hear the story...Here.
Reader Mike recently pointed out that the Blog Crawl over on the left sidebar has gone a little squiffy lately...It seems to be a bug in the creaky dinosaur that is the old Blogger platform used here...Thus, I'll try to start providing bloggy links of interest directly once in awhile (just like the old days!)...Today's recommendation is a site called 'You Can Know Things' by a young clinician scientist who knows a thing or two about data analysis and visualization. Recently she took on the question: 'Is there really no correlation between vaccination rate and the spread of COVID?'


Sunday, November 07, 2021

What I'm Listening To...Ti Jean And Mr. Allen.


These days the slanting pink light that is generated by a blustery blanket of autumnal afternoon clouds directly overhead and a clear sky to the West always reminds me of Jack Kerouac's bit of prose bopsedy that is 'October In The Railroad Earth'

And, because we have a new puppy-dog in the house that loves late-in-the-day ball throws at the park, I've seen a lot of those afternoons this fall, just like I did many (many, many) falls ago while running madly up and down the red brick school house walled-in road hockey rinks of my youth.

Kerouac's prose poem about his time as a junior railway brakeman in San Francisco starts like this:
There was a little alley in San Francisco back of the Southern Pacific station at Third and Townsend in redbrick of drowsy lazy afternoons with everybody at work in offices in the air you feel the impending rush of their commuter frenzy as soon they’ll be charging en masse from Market and Sansome buildings on foot and in buses and all well-dressed thru workingman Frisco of walkup truck drivers and even the poor grime-bemarked Third Street of lost bums even Negros so hopeless and long left East and meanings of responsibility and try that now all they do is stand there spitting in the broken glass sometimes fifty in one afternoon against one wall at Third and Howard...

When C. and I first moved to the Bay Area thirty years ago the area around Third and Howard was still shrouded in a shadow of the skiddy, operatic row that was Kerouac's South of Market San Franciso during the early '50's.

Now, whenever I return to that intersection it is to attend science geek conferences at the massive Moscone Convention Center right next door.  Of course, these days the skids, at least on the surface, are all gone, chromed over and gleaming, fueled by, presumably, prose-free ones and zeroes.

Or some such thing.

If you want to both hear and see Kerouac and Allen doing their thing over a passage from the road book it's...Here.


Monday, November 01, 2021

What I'm Listening To....'Jazz On The Autobahn'.


It's a new tune from the Felice Brothers' new album.

And it's almost as if young Ian was sitting in the corner taking copious notes while, say, Lou Reed, Mr. Zimmerman and Bukowski huddled at the bar and argued endlessly about the ghosts in Ralf Hutter's many machines.

Or some such thing.

And, for the record, it was Paul Willcocks, not me, who came up with the idea of finally ditching our day jobs and forming a Felice Brothers tribute (not cover) band....