Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Presidential Town Hall Debate

I think the camera shots of the audience behind The Romney and Obama were telling. While Obama was speaking, they looked engaged; they were smiling and attentive. While The Romney was speaking, they were bored, looking elsewhere, and fidgeting. The audience voted for Obama last night, and it was due to the differences in style and content of the two.

Candy Crowley was a decent enough moderator; The Romney's bulldozer tried to run her over and she would have none of it; one funny tweet last night was "Candy clearly was a nanny for bratty, spoiled children. She's putting the smack down on @MittRomney." But her best moment was the stuff about the consulate in Libya. That questioner was clearly a The Romney plant.

In our embassies, marines have one duty - to destroy records if the embassy were to be overrun; they are there to protect the documents, not the staff. [ See Marine Security Guard "The primary mission of the MSG is to provide security, particularly the protection of classified information and equipment vital to the national security of the United States at American diplomatic posts. "] Consulates have no such collections of documents, ergo they have no marines guarding them. Obama clearly knew the name of the State department official but did not wish to implicate her - Christine Lamb - who had turned down the request for guards at dozens of consulates in the region, not just Benghazi.

I thought most of the questions were less than brilliant, but what does one expect of an undecided voter? These are, to some extent, the mouth-breathers, the intellectual carp, the lazy. Obviously there are exceptions. We saw a couple last night: the woman who asked The Romney what differentiated him from Bush, the young woman who asked about gender inequality in the workplace, the question about automatic weapons. These were great questions with telling responses.

How on earth did The Romney segue from AK47s to pregnancy? That was so bizarre, but not the weirdest The Romney moment in the debate. "Binders full of women" takes that prize. That was too silly for even Sean Hannity.

I think the press corp found it difficult to maintain its anti-Obama stance, but it will do its best to make the Villagers - as Krugman calls them - seem like seers, not bozos. The Post struggles to find good things to day about The Romney. I am sure "both sides were wrong" will emerge as their main argument. In the Times, Peter Baker is, for a change, a bit more realistic. Jeff Zeleny, also in the Times, is his usual hateful self. He needs to work for Fox full time instead of faking it at the NY Times. He reminds me of Elizabeth Bumiller - aka Bu"LLShit"miller - during Bush and Kerry. We will see the spin doctors emerge in the next week, trying to say The Romney actually won.

I admired the way Obama never let The Romney steal a march. Obama was funny, witty, and engaging. The Romney was bullying, intellectually sterile, and humorless. The Romney retreated to his talking points so often I wondered if Ms. Crowley would complain about his lack of responsiveness, and to her credit she did.

This was a clear victory for Obama, but the Villagers and their minions will try to turn this, just as they did with Gore's sighs - they never happened - Naomi Wolf's alleged 'brown tones' clothes advice to Gore - never happened - the Love Canal lies, the internet lies, the 'Love Story' lies.

The media is pro-Republican because they are getting paid $250k a year, and they are voting for their guy who will protect the 1%.

In the meantime, Obama whooped some serious ass, and the audience last night knew it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

A guest post by Chem Prof

Chem Prof wrote this; blame him for this shyte.

Over two months ago, a news article appeared in the Oregonian:

I wondered how look it would take for the complaints to appear. It took until June 30.

Chuck Weise wrote in Anthony Watts' blog, WattsUpWithThat a post called

I was surprised by the basic errors in chemistry made by the writer and those who commented on WUWT, so I wrote a few comments (they appear under the name Chem Prof). I was dismayed by the barrage that followed.

This is not about politics. It is about arithmetic and simple arithmetic functions.

Chuck Weise's WUWT post says
nothing about sources of error in measurements of pH,
nothing about sources or sinks of hydrogen ions in ocean brine,
nothing about complex equilibria,
nothing about the effects on hydrogen ion concentration due to other species,
nothing about non-ideal behavior of hydrogen ion in solution.

Here are things that he actually wrote:

(1) "As you also know, there are 14 orders of magnitude that define the pH scale from zero to fourteen units as per this equation. "

This is incorrect. The pH scale is open-ended.

(2) So if we moved .1 units towards acidity from the alkaline 8.2 to 8.1 oceans and compared the change, we have [delta H+] = 8 E-9/6 E-9 = 1.33 or a 33% increase in the hydrogen ion concentration, not an increase of 33% in the pH. None the less, that is how the story was reported and it is wrong.

In fact, the story does not mention pH at all. Lori Tobias quotes Alan Barton (hatchery research manager at Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery on Netarts Bay), ' "Over the last 100 years we've made the ocean a little more acidic than it used to be," he said. "There is a 30 percent increase in the acidity of the ocean. If you are an oyster lover, that little bit more acid is a big problem. Eventually it will put our hatchery out of business." '

No mention of pH.

Here is a list of every reference to acids, acidification, or acidity in the article:

"Rising levels of carbon dioxide -- which lead to increased acidity in the ocean water, or ocean acidification -- were making it difficult, if not impossible, for the larvae to grow."

"The shell [of oyster larvae] is easy to dissolve and sensitive to acidic conditions, Barton said, unlike the hard adult oyster shell that's made of calcite."

"Some say it is impossible for the larvae to grow the shell; some say they can, but it is really hard to do.They use a lot of energy and don't grow. Whether it is impossible or just difficult, they are still dead. We know that the ocean acidification is causing our problem."

"The impact of ocean acidification is heightened by upwelling, which occurs when winds blowing from the north push the ocean surface waters away from the coastline, allowing deeper waters to move to the top. The deeper waters are already higher in carbon dioxide from all the decomposition below. Water that upwells is always higher in acidity, but our use of fossil fuels has added to the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, in turn increasing ocean acidity, Barton said. "

"Over the last 100 years we've made the ocean a little more acidic than it used to be," he said. "There is a 30 percent increase in the acidity of the ocean. If you are an oyster lover, that little bit more acid is a big problem. Eventually it will put our hatchery out of business."

That is it. No mention of pH.

(3) "You agreed with me in my premise that hydrogen ion concentration makes up the pH but it is not defined by that number because the number of ions in an aqueous solution of water are very large. "

This is incorrect. Chuck Weise is correct earlier when he says that pH is defined by the equation pH = - Log[H+], where [H+] is the hydrogen ion concentration. Now he says it isn't defined 'by that number.' This is just wrong. In fact, pOH and pK, and for that matter, pAnything are defined in a similar manner:
            pAnything = -Log(Anything)
with the corresponding unique inverse relationship
            Anything=10^(-pAnything) .

This is done in chemistry all the time because the scale of chemical quantities such as concentration varies by many orders of magnitude.

How do chemists describe how much of a given substance is present in a solution? There are a number of ways, but every single one of them can be related to the molar concentration of a substance, that is, moles of substance per liter of solution, which is usually written as [X], where X is the substance in solution; it links two quantities: (a) the moles of a given material - a specific way of counting the molecules or ions of a given type and (b) the volume of the solution measured in liters.

For example, hydrogen ion concentration, written [H+], represents the moles of hydrogen ion in a liter of solution. 0.00010 mole of hydrogen ion in each liter of solution is written as 0.00010 moles/Liter or 0.00010 M when abbreviated. The quantity 'moles per liter' is also called 'molar' for short; so a 0.50 molar NaCl solution has 0.50 moles of NaCl per liter of solution.

What does Chuck Weise mean by "the number of ions in an aqueous solution of water are very large" ? I have no idea and it is irrelevant.

Comments that argue that "It’s even more complicated than that, because there are buffers involved" or something like that are missing the whole point of the acid-base chemistry of a buffered solution. The presence of a buffer (another weak acid or base) in significant quantity makes it more difficult to change the pH of a solution, not easier. So a significant decrease in the pH of a buffered solution is a clear indication that a significant source of acid has been added.

Some comments represent serious scientific ignorance:
"It is being assumed by these people that the ocean obeys the second law of thermodynamics, it does not because of surface tension."
"The oceans are infinitely buffered."
"A pH change of .1 corresponds to a change in hydrogen ion concentration of ..007%."
"A pH change from 8.2 to 8.1 cannot be truthfully described as ‘becoming ‘more acidic’. "
"the acidity isn’t increasing; the alkalinity is decreasing."
"pH is (negative) log because that is how organisms perceive acidity. They don’t perceive it in a linear scale, so it shouldn’t be quoted in one. No-one, but no-one talks about acidity other than via pH."
"The reason the change in pH is meaningless in this situation is that in a pure system where only H+ is considered to be driving pH, the change is one gram of hydrogen ions in one billion liters of water."
"Weren’t they lucky to have chosen the H+ ion concentration as reference, and not the OH- (OH minus) ion concentration?"
"Chem Prof seems to have misunderstood the nature of the complaint. The ion concentration is not the acidity (or alkalinity) as munderstood in pH. It is not used to derive the pH from -log10 of H+ ions...The measurements of the ocean are of pH...The ion concentration is derived from the pH. Not the other way round."
"As a Chemical Professor – cough! – you will be aware that there is a p[OH] measure too. So why not quote the alarming story that – oh noes! – hydroxide concentration in the oceans has fallen by 80%. I would hope you would see how stupid it was to use it, regardless of being technically true."
NOTE: That isn't true; a 0.1 decrease in pH corresponds to a 0.1 increase in pOH, with a corresponding decrease in [OH-] of 26.0%. If you are mystified by this, please note this arithemetic: 1.26 x 0.794 = 1.00 . 

On additional note: "I’ve copied a discussion from Wikipedia..." is not the strongest line of argument one might take.

Quite a few comments indicate there is confusion between the ideas of variability in a measurement and an error in a measurement. There is a large variability in the height of a human, varying from 0.55 m tall Chandra Bahadur Dangi of Nepal to 2.45 m tall Zeng Jinlian of the People's Republic of China. This natural variation does not preclude us from measuring individual height to a precision of 0.001 m or better. And variations in human height are worthy of study:

Chao-Qiang Lai, of the Jean Mayer Institute wrote
' ..."How much variation (difference between individuals) in height is attributable to genetic effects and how much to nutritional effects?" The short answer to this question is that about 60 to 80 percent of the difference in height between individuals is determined by genetic factors, whereas 20 to 40 percent can be attributed to environmental effects, mainly nutrition.'

He adds,
“Heritability allows us to examine how genetics directly impact an individual's height. For example, a population of white men has a heritability of 80 percent and an average height of 178 centimeters (roughly five feet, 10 inches). If we meet a white man in the street who is 183 cm (six feet) tall, the heritability tells us what fraction of his extra height is caused by genetic variants and what fraction is due to his environment (dietary habit and lifestyle). The man is five centimeters taller than the average. Thus, 80 percent of the extra five centimeters, or four centimeters, is due to genetic variants, whereas one centimeter is due to environmental effects, such as nutrition.”

Notice that one is still able to make a strong scientific statement about a 1 cm height difference in spite of a 200 cm wide variation in human height.

Some comments were made by those hanging their hats on the high ionic strength of sea water (it is significant, about 0.73 mole/liter) or the difference between the activity of hydrogen ions and [H+], but forgetting entirely that the activity of a 10^(-8) molar solution is ---- 10^(-8) molar ! Debye-Hückel theory plays no role in this whatsoever.

Chuck Weise adds, "In all of the work- ups and computations I have seen NOAA and others do when talking about ocean acidity, the units have always been referenced in units of pH. I have never seen work- ups in ion concentration" and misses the point again.

Some comments are rich with irony:
"Does anyone know how much CO2 it would take to change 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of [buffered - my clarification] salt water from pH 8.2 to 8.1?"
"Because even though the numbers do calculate to roughly 30%, it’s incredibly inappropriate to apply percentages with pH."
"To many non-scientific readers this implies a hugely significant increase in environmental impacts – 30% more acidic ! NOAA compound the misleading nature of this statement by not making it clear that this is a reference to a percentage change in hydrogen ion concentrations."
Willis Eschenbach: ..."applying percentages to logarithmic scales doesn’t work."


Thursday, June 28, 2012

David Firestone was unimpressed

Here are some excerpts from David Firestone's peppery analysis of the Mittster today.

"Mitt Romney looked a little shaken when he faced the cameras this morning to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the Affordable Care Act...

To start off by saying the court only found the law constitutional, and didn’t proclaim it a good law, was almost laughable...

Much of what he [Romney] said, and what he has said all along, is factually untrue. 
-The law doesn’t add “trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” It actually lowers the deficit, as the Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly noted. 
-There is no evidence that it is keeping businesses from hiring. 
-It won’t force 20 million Americans to lose their insurance – not just a made-up number but also a made-up concept. 
-People who have insurance now will be able to keep it, as the president said today.

What it will do, and what Mr. Romney never mentions, is provide coverage for nearly 30 million Americans who lack it...

Mr. Romney was certainly correct in saying that “this is a time of choice for the American people,” but apparently he does not want it to be an informed choice."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Graduation music blues

I should have named this post "Graduation music blows."

I used to like Elgar's marches. In fact, I liked them quite a bit. Now I not only detest them, I dread them. Here is why.

Graduation is almost upon us and I shudder. I know I will hear "Pomp and Circumstance" quite a few times. It will be terrible. An electric organ, maybe a trumpet; probably not. Dreadful speakers blasting an over-amplified signal at the helpless faculty only a few yards away, louder than a siren, louder than a 747 at take-off, so loud that the trustees' false teeth and implanted knees rattle, louder than the sound of Armageddon so that the most distant rows of attendees will hear what is alleged to be a musical tradition. Pitches will wobble, tempi will  vary like the appearance of buboes in the plague, rhythm will be dashed, ictus will be lost, terribly lost, and those cursed listeners will be bent under the weight of a horror that seems to have come from a banshee's wail, not a musical instrument.

Why is  "Pomp and Circumstance" - actually, it is the first of the "Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches", Op. 39 - played every fucking year? Well, if you believe Wikipedia - a source cited repeatedly by 99.47% of our senior class - then it was that notorious pig-fucker Sanford who did it.

 It was first played at such a ceremony on 28 June 1905, at Yale University, where the Professor of Music Samuel Sanford had invited his friend Elgar to attend commencement and receive an honorary Doctorate of Music. Elgar accepted, and Sanford made certain he was the star of the proceedings, engaging the New Haven Symphony Orchestra, the College Choir, the Glee Club, the music faculty members, and New York musicians to perform two parts from Elgar's oratorio The Light of Life and, as the graduates and officials marched out, "Pomp and Circumstance" March No. 1. Elgar repaid the compliment by dedicating the Introduction and Allegro to Sanford later that year. The tune soon became de rigueur at American graduations, used primarily as a processional at the opening of the ceremony (although it is still used now only as a recessional at Yale).

In Italy it is known as a liturgical song called "Santa Chiesa di Dio" (transl. Holy Church of God).

In my church - the Church of Too Much Religion When I Was Young - it is known as a liturgical song called "Holy Mary Mother of God, Here It Comes the Fuck Again."

I am not jaded. Most of Elgar's music retains its charms for me. I still have a deep love of the cello concerto. The violin concerto is thrilling. "Enigma" can still move me to tears. And I was very fortunate to have been able to sing in a performance of "The Music Makers" with the Beijing International Festival Chorus. It was a wonderful experience. But any love I had for the marches has been ground under the coarse heel of the boot of graduation.

Why must we ruin a fine piece of classical music with such dreadful performances? Aside from that fuck Sanford's rather self-serving interests in getting Elgar to Yale's graduation, there was no reason to wreck a perfectly fine ceremony with the commotion surrounding the performance of the piece. We have suffered long enough. Let us find a new tradition. I suggest that we use popular music from the decades of the attendees.

Every decade offers music that will not only remind the audience of their own precious youth, it will stir that odd mixing of hope and fear at graduation, anticipation blended with regret.

For the most ancient of the audience, why not play something from the 1930's such as  Leadbelly's "The Bourgeois Blues"? [ "The home of the Brave / The land of the Free / I don't wanna be mistreated by no bourgeoisie."]

From the 1940's, of course we could get the entire audience to sing the forgotten verses of "This Land Is Your Land" ["In the squares of the city / In the shadow of a steeple / By the relief office, I'd seen my people. / As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking, / Is this land made for you and me?"]

From the 1950's, one would HAVE to choose "Get A Job", by The Silhouettes, mostly because of the compelling lyrics. ["Yip, yip, yip, yip /  mum, mum, mum, mum / get a job"]

From the 1960's, how could one go wrong with Country Joe and the Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag", with lyrics that still resonate with contemporary meaning?  ["Come on Wall Street, don't be slow /  Why man, this is war au-go-go / There's plenty good money to be made /  By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,...]

From the 1970's, we could use Gil Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"; it would certainly stimulate serious political discussion! ["The revolution will not be televised / The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox / In 4 parts without commercial interruptions. / The revolution will not show you pictures of / Nixon blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams and  / Spiro Agnew to eat hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary. / The revolution will not be televised."]

From the 1980's, I would be very tempted to use  Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." [Down in the shadow of the penitentiary / Out by the gas fires of the refinery / I'm ten years burning down the road /  Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go." I am torn between that and The Ramones "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)", because of its explicit anti-Reaganism. ["Bonzo goes to bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea / As I watched it on TV somehow it really bothered me / Drank in all the bars in town for an extended foreign policy / Pick up the pieces / My brain is hanging upside down / I need something to slow me down"].

From the 1990's, Jack Off Jill's "Horrible" might inject the right amount of pessimism into the ceremony. ["Horrible / Now everything's horrible / Horrible"]

From the 2000's, Neil Young's "Let's Impeach the President" would stir an entire generation! ["Let's impeach the President for lying / And misleading our country into war / Abusing all the power that we gave him / And shipping all our money out the door"]

From the contemporary decade, there are fewer choices - this is a generational issue - but the film "Ted Is Real" does offer up "The Thunder Buddy Song" as a possibility. ["Fuck you, thunder! / You can suck my dick"]

As you see, the use of contemporary music would lay poor Elgar's soul to rest, provide ample basis for extended social discourse, and deliver a stirring and finely tuned message to the graduates. Let's ditch the pomp, find better circumstances, and save the classical  music performances for a better audience.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Lucky us

Lucky Strike 
3862 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland , OR 97214
(503) 206-8292
( )

Last Friday night, the gang went to Lucky Strike in search of delicious Chinese food. This was my second time, but the first for the rest of the group. The entrance, at the SW corner of SW 39th and Hawthorne, is not obvious; only a menu under glass indicates the presence of the restaurant. One of us was lost outside and had to be rescued. A good thing, too, because the evening turned out well.

My first time, I had been willing to try some more Americanized food on the menu. The less said about that, the better. This time, I was adamant about sticking to the more traditional menu. And we were in luck – our waiter was the young woman from Chengdu , so I got to chat with her in Mandarin a bit. Her accent sounded like someone from the South, but it became quite obvious she was Sichuan ; I had given a scientific lecture at the nuclear lab in
绵阳 (Miányáng), about 60 km NE of Chengdu; she knew the lab and had been there for a high school science fair!

Our dishes arrived promptly and were presented with a little flourish. We started out with
鍋貼 (guōtiē - potstickers). They were freshly made, with wrappers that were not too thick but still substantial, brimming with juicy morsels of pork, green onions, and white cabbage. 
We followed that with another appetizer, a plate of 炸春卷 (zhàchūnjuǎn - fried spring rolls). These were light in texture, crispy, flavorful, served with a flavorful sauce. Just a little on the small side for four people. There are also 紅油餃子 (hóngyóu jiǎozi - red oil dumplings) on the menu, but they will have to wait for another visit.

The main dishes quickly followed. 擔擔麵 (dàndanmiàn - dan dan noodles), The name refers to a type of carrying pole (a dan dan) that was used by walking vendors who sold the dish on the streets. The noodle sauce was quite delicious, with a little aged rice vinegar in it. Everyone in our party enjoyed this dish, even the more cautious among us. I asked our waiter about the vinegar and she said it was not 山西老陈醋 ( shānxī lǎochéncù - Shanxi mature vinegar), but bǎolìngcù. I looked this up later and found the correct name, 保宁醋 (bǎonìngcù - Sichuan special vinegar made from rice, corn, and bran); but I was not mistaken – she had said bǎolìngcù as clear as a bell. I later remembered this curiosity about Sichuanese – they often mispronounce the “L” sound as “N”. I had a couple of Sichuan friends in Beijing; one always complained about her “loisy leighbors”, another asked for liúlǎi whenever she wanted to order 牛奶 (niúnǎi - cow's milk). So our waiter really was Sichuanese!

Our next dish was
四川涼麵 (Sìchuān liángmiàn - Sichuan cold noodle), noodles laced with a spicy sesame sauce. The level of heat was more than a couple of the group could take, but the rest thought it was quite exquisite. The cool creamy texture of the noodle was a great complement to the spice in the sauce.

We entered serious meat territory with our next dish,
土豆烧排骨 (tǔdòu shāo páigǔ - potato rib stew). This was so much like Beijing food I was as overcome by nostalgia as I was by the wonderful flavors of pork ribs, a little oil, and a thick sauce redolent of 五香粉 (wǔxiāngfěn - five spice powder, a mixture of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, 花椒(huājiāo - Sichuan pepper), and ground fennel). We all sucked the pieces of rib off the bone, getting every last morsel of sauce. 

Our next dish satisfied the tastes of those seeking a refuge from the heat - 糖醋脆皮鸡 (tángcù cuìpí jī - sweet and sour crispy skin chicken), which was unlike most sweet and sour chicken one finds in the USA . No cloying oversweet and mucous-like sauce and soggy chicken; this was crunchy chicken, hot, well-coated with sauce but delicately seasoned with a sweet and sour sauce (糖醋 - tángcù - means “sweet vinegar”) that was complex and interesting. The texture of the chicken was delightful; the 脆皮(cuìpí – crispy skin) was crunchy but not hard, and the flesh underneath was tender and moist.

Our last dish was
尖椒肥肠 (jiānjiāo féicháng - spicy pig's large intestine), pieces of stewed meat buried under a mountain of three different kinds of red peppers. This was as hot as anything I had in Beijing , and approached the level of heat I had tasted in Chengdu , but to taste it here in this country made my heart ache for China . My first approach to the dish almost took my breath away. I was the only one of our party to try it, and it was magnificent – it was hot, even overwhelmingly hot, but a complex mix of peppers and spices underneath gave this dish its appeal. I think I ate half of it before reaching the boiling point. 

Eating very spicy food has health benefits – including a reduction in blood pressure (capsaicin is a vaso-dilator). A lesser known effect is the overwhelming sense of well-being one gets from the rush of endorphins produced, similar to runner's high. Twenty minutes after our food arrived, we were all euphoric. By the end of the meal, we were delighted and stuffed; somehow almost two hours had slipped away. We will be going back. There is more to explore. And I was delighted to exchange pleasantries in Mandarin with our waiter.

Excellent food, excellent service, and a pleasant atmosphere.
很好吃 (hěn hǎochī - delicious to eat)!