In September 1963 [George] McGovern became the only senator who opposed U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the Kennedy administration. He came by his horror of war honorably in 35 B-23 missions over Germany, where half the B-24 crews did not survive—they suffered a higher rate of fatalities than did Marines storming Pacific islands. McGovern was awarded a Distinguished Flying Corss with three oak-leaf clusters. In his 70s he lost a 45-year old daughter to alcoholism. Losing a presidential election, he says softly, “was not the saddest thing in my life.” Time confers a comforting perspective, giving consolations to old age, which needs them. McGovern and the outcomes of the 1968 Democratic Convention are big news what with the current affairs. From the Last Word of Newsweek’s February 25, 2008 issue. I think that last sentence is unnecessary; or upon closer reading, is supposed to dismissive of McGovern (old people need to be comforted/coddled).

NY Times on Public Television

The average PBS show on prime time now scores about a 1.4 Nielsen rating, or roughly what the wrestling show “Friday Night Smackdown” gets. Probably the average reader of the NY Times doesn’t think much of Friday Night Smackdown (I don’t really), but it gets a pretty good following. So in my opinion, contrary to what I think this editorial is intending, that’s not a very damning statistic.

ORS amounts for a Nalgene bottle

For a 32oz Nalgene Bottle (the standard biggish one) of clean water, the Oral Rehydration Salt quantities are:

  • Slightly less than 1/2 teaspoon of Salt (0.43tsp. to be exact)

  • 7.5 teaspoons of Sugar

(Personal note: when you’ve made it correctly, it should taste like minusculey-sweet saliva)

Adapted from’s ORS Recipe based on 1 liter of water.

And the wikipedia entry on Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS)

To “decimate”

A good World Wide Words this week. I read it weekly, but of particular interest is language that has to do with numbers. Like decimate, which originally referred to the Roman military practice of preventing mutiny by killing one-tenth of the soldiers (drawn by lots).

World Wide Words takes on its misuse:

It feels right to me when it’s used, as H W Fowler wrote in 1926, of “the destruction in any way of a large proportion of anything reckoned by number”.

White’s criticism of “terribly decimated” seems fair, because it’s innumerate, as does “incredibly decimated”, from a recent US newspaper report quoting a librarian complaining about a 15% budget cut. It also seems incorrect to use decimate for indivisibles (“Some have set out to decimate the soul of this great country”), to imply complete destruction (“a totally decimated population”), the killing of an individual (“He protects his brother from the thugs intent on physically decimating him”), the destruction of a named fraction (“A single frosty night decimated the fruit by 80%”), or the part of a whole (“disease decimated most of the population”).

2007 in Review


Well, it’s the new year, which is always a great time for navel gazing. So, looking back, here’s some stuff from 2007:

Places I’ve Slept: California: Poway, Venice, Santa Barbara, Isla Vista, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sunnyvale;

Central: Minneapolis, MN; Austin, TX;

South-East-ish: Memphis, TN; Philadelphia, PN;

Northeast: Lowell, MA; Montpelier, VT; Kittery Point, ME; Narragansett, RI; Portsmouth, NH;

If-you-want-to-be-anal: Alston, Brighton, Medford;

Best Purchase: new belt

Best Gift: new scarf via my birthday scarf party

Best Book: Lay of the Land by Richard Ford

Best Movie: Hawaii, Oslo

Best Album: At Home with Owen

Best Object: Zebra F-301 Pen (blue ink)

Best Transportation: new bike

Best Meal: Sweet Potato Sandwich and Kukicha Tea from Ula Cafe

Best Social Space: Delux Cafe

Best Personal Space: Harborwalk at Dorchester Bay

Best Achievement: this mouse I caught


Interesting article from Ben Goldacre on homeopathy. In regard to medicine in general, he makes this point:

Prescribing a pill carries its own risks: it medicalises problems, it can promote the idea that a pill is an appropriate response to a social problem such as shyness or difficulties at work.

Understanding Beliefs (and how to change them)

It’s the holiday season which seems to make a lot of people think about beliefs. I’m thinking about this great book on my desk entitled Communication Planning: An Integrated Approach by Sherry Devereaux Ferguson and reading the section on understanding the psychology of audiences (Chapter 7).

Citing social psychologist Milton Rokeach the book outlines five belief types:

  • Type A - Worldview beliefs: These beliefs constitute basic truths: physical (“This is a cat”), social reality (“I live in Boston”), and nature of the self (“I am a man”). These beliefs are nearly impossible to change.

  • Type B - Personal beliefs: These are ego centered and internally formed. Usually self-evaluations (“I’m intelligent”), they can also be phobias or delusions (“I’m fat”).

  • Type C - Authority beliefs: These beliefs are formed because of an outside authority, or in opposition to that authority (“I’ll accept that because the president said it” or “I’ll disbelieve that because the president said it”).

  • Type D - Beliefs emanating from authority figures: These beliefs are formed indirectly by the actions of authority figures (People’s distrust of Richard Nixon led them to distrust the office of the President and of government and politics in general).

  • Type E - Matters of taste: These are arbitrary or essentially inconsequential opinions. While these beliefs may be defended just as strongly as more central beliefs, individuals will more readily relinquish them them. (“This is the best ice cream”). Examples are product preferences or brand allegiances.

So what? Most commercial messages concern Type E beliefs and most advertising takes the form of linking Type E beliefs with more core belief types. For example:

  • Linking Type E to Type B: These usually take the form of convincing the individual that use of a product or service will have a personal affect upon them (“Drinking this soda will make you popular” or “If you are athletic, you should use this deodorant”)

  • Linking Type E to Type C: Connecting matters of taste to an authority is usually the domain of the testimonial or endorsement.

Detective Nonsense

Mr. Geberth, the former homicide detective, said the problems with trying to trick murder suspects had more to do with a detective’s need to maintain credibility in the courtroom than with fending off a challenge by defense attorneys. Generally, he said, his advice to detectives is, “You don’t make a false claim of evidence.” Nonetheless, he said, ruses were often necessary during interrogations of murder suspects, who often cling to false accounts or alibis. “I believe in trickery and deceit unless you are making an innocent person confess,” he said. “Most people who are charged with homicide probably did it.” But Mr. Saltzburg said detectives and other police officials were sometimes swayed too much by the limited evidence that is available to them and by the belief that the person under suspicion must be guilty. “Even after cases are cleared by DNA, it is not uncommon for a detective to say, ‘I know he did it,’” Mr. Saltzburg said. “They are true believers.” So much for a presumption of innocence. Not to mention those statements are complete nonsense together. From a a NY Times article entitled Detectives’ Interrogation Tricks Under Scrutiny After Court Ruling

Bees and Biology

“We’re placing so many demands on bees we’re forgetting that they’re a living organism and that they have a seasonal life cycle,” Marla Spivak, a honeybee entomologist at the University of Minnesota, told The Chronicle. “We’re wanting them to function as a machine. . . . We’re expecting them to get off the truck and be fine.”

From a Michael Pollan article in the NY Times Magazine. Sounds very similar to these criticisms of a mobile workforce.