Sunday, September 23, 2012

Music on a Sunday evening

Mull of Kintyre.

Susan Boyle's masterpiece cover of Paul McCartney's classic.

This and a wee dram will round the evening out nicely...
(check out the mountie...)

And while you are at it, this heartwarming little vignette

All together now, say  "aaaaaawwwwwww".

Friday, September 21, 2012

Swine flu

In 1976, I, among several million others, received a swine flue vaccine.  Because I was in the military at the time, MY swine flue was one of the "experimental" vaccines.  So I can personally attest that human experiments WERE carried out before this vaccine was released upon the general public.  This was controvercial because at that point, only one person had actually died from the swine flue, but when you consider that experts were worried that the swine flue was identical to the 1918 virus which killed three percent of the world's population you can see why they would be concerned.  In Canada, for instance, fifty thousand people died from that flue.   I think that was significant enough of a risk that I was willing to be the human guinea pig they needed to test the vaccine.  Lots of people have suggested that the vaccine created some dreaded side effects....though even this is controvercial since the side effects seem to be much the same as in the unvaccinated population in general, so there might not be a cut and dried correlation.   Subsequent research has proven that in fact the 1976 swine flue vaccine was NOT the deadly virus, it was an H1N1 virus, which continues to kill. (nine deaths in Ireland in 2009 for instance, down from 14 the year before.)   and the question of the creation of side effects (including Gillian Barre syndrom) of the vaccine seems like a false correlational link.  (As I said, there is still controversy...)  The studies done in 1976 have been able to break down the flu straines into type A, B and C, and they are just as deadly as they ever were...swine flu kills pigs and can be transmitted to humans but not easily, avian flu kills chickens and birds, and it too can cross the species barrier but again, not easily.  The latest pandemic occured only a couple of years ago, and it has been determined to be the same strain and just as deadly as the 1918 flu....though people that had ANY flu shots always got it less severely than others.  As deadly as H1N5 is (remember, 3% of the entire world's population!  That's serious!), it can be slowed down and stopped...once you have it for instance and if you don't die from it, you will never get it again. If you get vaccinated against it, you will never get it.   If you DO get it, you have a quarter of one percent chance of dying from it, a one percent chance of being bed ridden and missing work, and a ninety seven percent chance of having it without any worse symptoms than a snotty nose. And you have a hundred percent chance of passing it along to somebody who may not have your natural immunity.   So, because I am a teacher, I always figured that I had a civic duty to at least not pass it on, even if I am taking a one in a million risk of a deady side effect.
      (oh, a false correlational link is one which seems to be there, but is actually not.  The correlation between eating pickles and car accidents is a false link, but the correlation between being in a car accident and driving on the road would be real link.  False correlational links are the noise which obscures the signal.  Andy Wakefield's study of a link between autism and MMR vaccines has been proven to be a false correlation, just as a for instance.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


                                      crime fighter.....

I was watching one of my favorite TV shows t'other day, "criminal minds".  It follows a group of experienced FBI agents who belong to an elite team of "profilers".

There actuall IS such a team...established by President Reagan back in 1984 called the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime.  (NCAVC) It really does not look like the TV show though....for one thing, everybody there wears glasses.  And everybody has at least 7 or 8 years experience as a special agent, so most of them are also bald and overweight.  In other words, experienced and dangerous, if easily winded.
The only good thing that came out of the NCAVC of course is that paperwork bane of policemen everywhere...the Crime Classification Manual's 22 page classification system (VICLASS) which is entered onto computer.  Not universally used, which is not surprising since it adds an extra hour and half to a very long day, it has its successes.

 I wish the whole science of "profiling" was a science, not the "shot in the dark" which it actually is.  Like TV psychics, they record their hits (sometimes spectacular) and ignore their misses (the vast majority).  Trouble is, of course, is the loss of time and waste of scarce resources which profiling results in, and which has resulted in a general distrust of the whole art.  Too bad.  Unfortunately, profiling is not the scientific silver bullet, cops  still have to fall back on old fashioned police work, (gathering evidence to support info from interviewees,) to get the perps.  Its not like "Silence of the Lambs".

           But who knows...It may be getting better.  I hope so.  A lady friend of mine who was taking forensic science at the University of Manitoba told me that profiling is considered to be VERY suspect.  Not the fancy profiling like in the TV show, but the rather low level profiling used to track down people who don't know each other and yet assault each other.  Robert Picton was glossed over because he was not a "young white male with no job and anti-social".  In fact, he was an older, very gregarious party animal who owned a successful farm.  A fixture on Berrard Street, he was glossed over by the profiling detectives for years.  She notes that there is a highway of tears in British Columbia which has lost at last count 11 young aboriginal girls...vanished without a trace.  She suggests that perhaps rather than looking for the guy who did it, she would extend the pool to look for the gal who did it.
     (Oh, and don't follow any of the above links if you have a weak stomach...unlike the TV show, this stuff is real.

What prompted this little essay?  Well, I was watching "criminal minds", and wondered if this stuff actually worked, and remembered my policeman friend bitching about having to do all that "damned VICLAS" paperwork.    Which led to a quiet half hour this morning doing some research!
      Ah the joy of the internet!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

War of 1812

The war of 1812 is rather seminal to the creation of the "Canadian Character".
    This book, written some fifty years after the fact by William F. Coffin, a participant, is a well researched study on the PEOPLE who participated in this exercise.  In it, one is struck by some interesting facts which were glossed over in the history books...facts like the US president had intentionally NOT ratified the treaty signed by most of the rest of the world regarding neutrality, thereby setting up the subsequent events in which British ships boarded American flagged vessels in search of deserters.  I also had never known that the British government profusely apologised for the Chesepeak incident, and had in fact, payed reparations.   The incident of the British ship "Little Belt" was also glossed over in my school books.  Oh heck, read chapter two.  You will see what I mean.

So, when you THINK you know what had happened, it turns out that it was all smoke and mirrors by politicians who wanted to go to war.  This seems to be a common theme.  It worked in 1812, and of course you Remember the Maine, Pearl Harbour,  the Gulf of Tonkin, the Lucitania, and of course The Twin Towers.
1.  The Maine was blown up, but NOT by the Spanish.  Made a good excuse to go to war with Spain though.
2. The Lucitania was carrying war material, and the British government, with the approval of the US government, told the Germans that.  The Germans fired a torpedo, and the Lucitania sunk in 3 minutes flat.  The subsequent war lasted a bit longer.
3.  The Gulf of Tonkin was the sordid story of the sinking of a pair of gunboats which never should have been there in the first place, but in fact, didn't happen at all the way it played out in the press.  Oh well, a good excuse to delare war against North Vietnam.
4.  Pearl Harbour was known about a week in advance, the Japanese ambassador was kept waiting on purpose until it was way too late.  The "sneak attack" was anything but sneaky, the fleet that was capable of sailing got the hell out of the harbour, and they loaded up the ships that could not sail with enough ammo to destroy the invading air force, which by the way, they pretty much did.  The result...war in the Pacific.
5.  Twin, it was not orchestrated by the governement, regardless of what the conspiracy blogs all say.  However, the spin on this unfortunate event led to war against Iraq, "America's Friend" instead of on the real perpetrators.  It took three more years before they could no longer hide the fact that the took on the "wrong" terrorists.

And it all started back in 1812.

Or did it?  Anybody know who treacherously killed a patrol of French soldiers minding their own business back in western Pennsylvania?  And started a world war by his actions?