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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Time and Date

  timeanddate.com is an interesting site that is the world's number one site on, well...time and date. World clocks, time zone information, calendars, weather, the sun and moon, timers, calculators and more are available. They also have a section On This Date In History. For example, where I live it's 6:30am, foggy and 63 degrees. In Riyadh it's 1:30pm, hazy and 102 degrees. VISIT SITE

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

High Fructose Corn Syrup Consumption and Pedestrians Killed

     High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener which is processed from corn. Similar to regular table sugar (sucrose), it’s composed of both fructose and glucose. It became a popular sweetener in the late 1970s when the price of regular sugar was high, while corn prices were low due to government subsidies It’s used to sweeten processed foods and soft drinks — primarily in the United States. Naturally, there are those who hate the stuff because: 
1. It adds an unnatural amount of fructose to your diet which can cause health issues if eaten in excessive amounts. 
2. It increases your risk of fatty liver disease. One study in men and women with excess weight showed that drinking sucrose-sweetened soda for 6 months significantly increased liver fat, compared to drinking milk, diet soda, or water. 
3. It increases your risk of obesity and weight gain. One study had healthy adults drink beverages containing either glucose or fructose. When comparing the two groups, the fructose drink did not stimulate regions of the brain that control appetite to the same extent as the glucose drink. 
4. Excessive intake is linked to diabetes. In healthy people, insulin increases in response to the consumption of carbs, transporting them out of the bloodstream and into cells. However, regularly consuming excess fructose can make your body resistant to insulin’s effects. This decreases your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels. 
5. It can increase the risk of other serious diseases. Many serious diseases have been linked to the over consumption of fructose: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, gout and cancer. 
6. It contains no essential nutrients. High fructose corn syrup is “empty” calories. Avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and added sugar in general may be one of the most effective ways to improve your health and lower your risk of disease. 
     Now there is another reason to avoid the consumption of high fructose corn syrup...there is a correlation between its consumption and pedestrians killed by getting hit by a car, pickup or van! 

     As can be seen from this chart based on data between 2000 and 2009, the correlation coefficient is 0.98. Correlation can be described as a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things. Note that the number of pedestrians killed per capita closely follows the consumption of corn syrup per capita.
    The correlation coefficient has no rule for determining what size of correlation is considered strong, moderate or weak and its interpretation depends, in part, on the topic of study. When we are studying things that are difficult to measure, such as the contents of someone's mental life. When we are studying things that are more easily countable, we expect higher correlations. For example, it's generally considered that correlations above 0.75 are relatively strong; correlations between 0.45 and 0.75 are moderate and those below 0.45 are considered weak. 
     As is very clear from the chart, the correlation coefficient of 0.98 means that there is a direct connection between the consumption of high fructose corn syrup and the number of pedestrians killed by getting run over by a vehicle. 
     Here's a little secret...this statistical information is phony because it's a spurious correlation! In statistics a spurious correlation is a relationship in which two or more events or variables are not causally related to each other, yet it may be wrongly inferred that they are, due to either coincidence or the presence of an unseen factor. Biases and conditions alone may create statistical errors, errors from interpretation, false reporting, wrong assumptions, improper samples, false relationships and even bad math. Bottom line: you can prove or disprove just about anything.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Just A Thought


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum, a Lady With Insight

     Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum (1905 – March 6, 1982) was a writer and philosopher. Born and educated in Russia, she moved to the United States in 1926 where she became known for her fiction and for developing a philosophical system she named Objectivism. She is better known by her pen name Ayn Rand. 
     She had a play that opened on Broadway in 1935. After two early novels that were initially unsuccessful, she achieved fame with her 1943 novel, The Fountainhead. In 1957, Rand published her best-known work, the novel Atlas Shrugged. Afterward, she turned to non-fiction to promote her philosophy, publishing her own periodicals and releasing several collections of essays until her death in 1982. 
     Atlas Shrugged has been decribed as "an apocalyptic vision of the last stages of conflict between two classes of humanity—the looters and the non-looters. The looters are proponents of high taxation, big labor, government ownership, government spending, government planning, regulation, and redistribution."
     This quote from Atlas Shrugged is even more true today than it was when she wrote it in 1957:


Friday, June 4, 2021

Lake Erie Shipwrecks

     The Great Lakes have about 8,000 shipwrecks and about 2,000 are in Lake Erie placing it among the highest concentration of wrecks in the world. Only about 375 of Lake Erie’s wrecks (schooners, freighters, steamships, tugs and fishing boats) have been found and because of the cold, fresh water, many of them are perfectly preserved. 
     Lake Erie used to be a boat super highway for passengers and goods alike and there are about 12 wrecks within 2 miles of Cleveland. One of the oddest wrecks is an intact schooner off the shore of Euclid, Ohio which carried gravestones. 
     In the eastern section of Lake Erie you can sometimes see 100 feet down without a light. In the central and western basin you can see only 10 to 15 feet. Regardless, the water is cold, down to 40 degrees in the deepest waters, even in August. 
     Ships in shallow water generally were blown apart by dynamite, so they didn’t harm other ships. Some of these wrecks are now just a pile of boards while others are undisturbed. It’s illegal to remove anything from the wrecks. 

Underwater Archaeologists May Have Discovered the Oldest Shipwreck in Lake Erie...read more 
Lake Erie Shipwrecks Home

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Mark Twain On Congress

     King Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes 1:9 which reads, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Some things never change...speaking of Congress in his day, Mark Twain wrote the following gems. 
* Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can. 
* (Congressmen are) the smallest minds and the selfishest souls and the cowardliest hearts that God makes. 
* Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself. 
* Congressman is the trivialist distinction for a full grown man. 
* All Congresses and Parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity. 
* It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. 
* It is the foreign element that commits our crimes. There is no native criminal class except Congress. 
*...I never can think of Judas Iscariot without losing my temper. To my mind Judas Iscariot was nothing but a low, mean, premature, Congressman.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Pandemics and Setting Precedents

     In 1957 it appears that political correctness was not a "thing" because in February that year the world was hit with a new influenza that emerged in East Asia and triggered a pandemic called Asian Flu. 
     The estimated number of worldwide deaths was one to two million and it is generally considered to have been the least severe of the three influenza pandemics of the 20th century. 
     By mid-summer it had reached the United States where it initially infected relatively few people, but several months later numerous cases were reported, especially in young children, the elderly and pregnant women. This upsurge was the result of a second pandemic wave that struck the Northern Hemisphere in November 1957. This second wave was particularly devastating, but the rapid development of a vaccine and the availability of antibiotics to treat secondary infections limited the spread and mortality. 
    In the U.S. Dr. Maurice Hilleman, an American microbiologist then running influenza monitoring efforts at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, saw the problem coming and prepared the country ahead of time. “This is the pandemic,” he said, adding “It’s here.” 
     He arranged for the U.S. military to ship samples of the virus from Hong Kong to his lab in Washington, D.C. where for five days and nights his team tested it against blood from thousands of Americans. They found that this strain was unlike any flu that humans were known to have encountered, so when it reached the United States no one would be immune. 
     The estimated one to two million worldwide deaths in 1957-58 pale in comparison to estimated 171 million worldwide Covid-19 cases that resulted in an estimated 3.55 million deaths, but it's interesting to note that there was also a rapid development of a vaccine in 1957. Hilleman quickly alerted the government and sent samples of the virus to the six biggest pharmaceutical companies, directing them to produce a vaccine for this new flu...and they did. 
     Some 20 million Americans were infected and 116,000 died, but researchers estimated that a million more Americans would have died if not for the pharmaceutical companies that distributed Hilleman’s vaccine and inoculated about 30 million people. 
     Hilleman went on to join Merck where he developed vaccines for more than 40 diseases, including measles, mumps and meningitis. As these illnesses faded from public memory, so did Hilleman, who died in 2005 at age 85. 
     In spite of the evidence many are still claiming Covid-19 is a hoax and now some are claiming the vaccine is a sinister government plot and it's the vaccine that is the real threat. But, as just noted there is a precedent for the rapid development of flu vaccines! 
     Psychologists and experts on misinformation are trying to figure out why the pandemic spawned so many conspiracy theories which have led people to eschew masks, social distancing and the vaccine. 
     What they’re seeing is a link between beliefs in the falsehoods surrounding Covid-19 and those who rely on social media and alternative news sources to get their information.
     These conspiracy theories give some people a sense of empowerment and the belief that they possess secret information that others don't have. This gives them a feeling of control in a situation that seems random or frightening.
     According to a Pew Research Center survey about 1 in 4 Americans believe the pandemic was “definitely” or “probably” intentionally created. In Europe, dozens of cell towers were destroyed because of bizarre claims that 5G wireless signals were triggering Covid-19. There were also reports of many who died after consuming poisons like fish tank cleaners, that were touted as a cure. Read more

Monday, May 17, 2021

Digital Manure

     There is a Facebook meme that claims that back in 2019 Vice President Kamala Harris said Joe Biden was "trash to me." Is that true? 
     The international news organization Reuters employs around 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists in about 200 locations worldwide and is one of the largest news agencies in the world. They investigated the claim made in the meme and did not find any instances of Harris saying this about Biden online. 
     Facebook and other social media sites are notorious for spreading false and misleading claims that are intended to sow division. Why are so many vulnerable to misinformation? 
     With social media, there are no editors reviewing what's published and there is no confirmation. When something is published or re-published many people accept it as fact. especially if it is something that falls in line with their biases. 
     It can be hard to spot fake news on social media because nowadays a surprisingly large number of Americans get their news from social media. According to a Pew Research Center report 55 percent of US adults now get their news from social media either often or sometimes. Americans seem to be getting more gullible as it becomes harder to trust what is or is not true on Facebook and other social media platforms. 
     A study from McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin found that social media isn't viewed as more trustworthy, but it is different than TV news or news websites because users do not choose the source of all the articles they see on social media. The report noted that on social media articles come from a wide variety of sources and this can include sponsored articles, which are really paid advertisements. 
     Often this (mis)information is readily shared with friends which simply means that fake news spreads easily. The study found that almost a quarter of social media users shared what turned out to be fake news. What's worse, 60 percent of users said that fake news leaves them confused about what to believe! 
     A lot of fake news comes from advertisements and social media users who create news for financial gain. Look at Yahoo headlines. At least a lot of what appears to be headlines of a news story carries the caveat that it's an ad. 
     The sharing of stories can actually boost the credibility with readers because people may think differently when using social media from how they might think when watching the evening news simply because the story is coming from a friend or family member. 
     One problem is that social media users are looking for pleasure or entertainment and that can make it easier to believe fake news. Research shows the hedonic mindset that comes into play when using social media makes it more difficult for us to think critically and we are less likely to fact-check the information we see.
     Detecting fake news on social media may not be as easy as spotting an outlandish headlines in the tabloids in the grocery store checkout, but it shouldn't be difficult either. The best way to avoid fake news is to not use social media as your primary news source and anything on social media sites should be checked out. Also, did you know that research has found that the mere exposure to headlines makes you believe them more? 
     Even if the headline seems to confirm something you already believe (confirmation bias) it is still advisable to research it. The best thing to avoid being duped is a large dose of skepticism.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Patent Leather

     It used to be that in the Marine Corps the standard for shoes and boots was the spit shine. To achieve the spit shine you needed a can of Kiwi shoe polish, a brush, spit (or water), a cloth (or small bottle) and a ton of elbow grease. Today patent leather has taken the place of the spit shine...sad. But wait! Patent leather is not new...it's history spans thousands of years! 
     Patent leather has its roots in rubber which was first used thousands of years ago in Mexico. In 1736, Charles Marie de La Condamine brought samples to France’s Scientific Society and eventually the knowledge of rubber began to spread around Europe and England. In 1770, Joseph Priestley in England observed that the material worked very well for rubbing pencil marks off of paper, hence the nickname of rubber. 
     Patent leather is is water resistant and has a high shine and some consider it "classy." It originated in the late 1700s when layers of oils were applied to dyed leather and dried. The resulting surface was durable and water resistant. Oils have since been replaced with synthetic materials and patent leather is commonly used in shoes, wallets, bags and accessories. 
     One of the first inventors to produce a leather that was waterproof also obtained a patent covering the method of production. Thus, because it was made through a patented process, it was commonly referred to as patent leather. 
     Patent leather is characterized by having a very clear, shiny, polished surface that is generally water resistant which helps provide durability by protecting the leather underneath. On the down side, the glossy surface is prone to scratches and must be cared for well. 
     Originally, patent leather was made from natural leather, but over time it has become much more common for it to be made from faux leather with synthetic coatings. The lower (read cheap) production costs of synthetic materials allowed patent leather to surge in popularity in the 1960s. 
     After World War II many advancements had been made in materials technology, and there was increased demand for consumer goods. On result was that patent leather quickly became popular. This included fake leather with its synthetic clear coatings that looked like real patent leather. This faux leather looks similar and is much less expensive which makes it popular. 
     Over the years, some materials have been produced that are similar in appearance and properties to patent leather...faux faux leather so to speak! One of the most popular was Corfam. 
     In 1963 at the Chicago Shoe Show, DuPont introduced a type of leather substitute. It’s goal was, to by 1984, have Corfam comprise about a quarter of the United States shoe market. While Corfam was shiny and water repellent, it was not breathable or as flexible as real leather. Nevertheless, the low cost and durability of PVC (plastic) leather made it appealing. By 1971, DuPont stopped selling Corfam because their hopes and goals for the product didn't materialize. 
     Due to the outer coating being plastic, it will degrade over years and it, so while it may look great, it's not extremely durable. The coating is usually a polyurethane or acrylic coating (plastic). They can be clear, result in a high shine, and remain flexible once dried. Pigment can also be added to the resin coatings to add color. Additionally, additives can be put into the coatings to increase desirable performance factors such as scratch resistance, abrasion resistance, and UV resistance. 
     Patent leather cracks because it is made of a plastic and over time the plastic begins to weaken and degrade. Due to the flexing the plastic will begin to crack over time. Also, due to the high-gloss finish, patent leather is very prone to scuffing. Additionally, patent leather is covered with a clear plastic layer that over time, as the plastic begins to degrade, it takes on a yellow tint.

     Bottom line: a spit shine on real leather beats the shiny fake-looking patent leather hands down.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Why do we have an appendix?

     Knowledge of the appendix dates back to the 1500s when anatomists identified it, but could only guess at its purpose. However, they did know that it could become inflamed and cause serious disease. 
     In 1735, Dr. Claudius Amyand performed the world’s first successful appendectomy, at St. George’s Hospital in London. The patient was an 11-year old boy whose appendix had become perforated by a pin he had swallowed. General anesthesia was not available until 1846, so it required a lot of assistants to restrain patients during what must have been very painful. 
     Surgical treatment for appendicitis began in earnest during the 1880s. However, doctors were not sure who should be operated on because some patients recovered without surgery. Even today the causes of acute appendicitis have not been identified and nobody knows why the appendix will rupture in some patients and others recover. 
     In 2007 researchers offered a compelling case for the function of the appendix (sort of)...it appears to play a role in both the digestive and immune systems by acting as a storehouse for good bacteria. These bacteria come into play when the gastrointestinal tract loses its beneficial gut flora. 
     Recently researchers are revisiting the question of whether antibiotics are just as effective as surgery. In the 1940s and 1950s, doctors in England began treating patients with antibiotics with excellent results. In the Navy men on submarines received antibiotics and patients reportedly did well. 
     What does the appendix do? Is it really redundant and useless, a remnant from eons ago that human development? Now, scientists know that your appendix actually has a purpose. 
     Many bacterial microorganisms are found in the stomach and intestines. These are good bacteria that help to break down food and stave off the growth of bad bacteria and the good bacteria also play a critical role in producing vitamins and hormones needed by the body. 
     Before modern medicine and public health, people suffered from cholera or dysentery. One of the symptoms is severe diarrhea in which literally everything, including the good bacteria, gets empties out of the gut. 
     The new theory (theory, not fact) is that the appendix acts as a safe haven for good bacteria. After intense diarrhea, the appendix repopulates the intestine with the good bacteria before harmful bacteria finds a home there. 
     When it comes to the appendix, we are not alone; humans aren't the only ones with an appendix...about 533 mammal species have one. 
     The theory is that in this hygienic society we live in immune system isn't constantly being challenged by parasites or disease-causing organisms. With no need to function regularly, the appendix may become blocked or overreact when it is required to function which causes it to become inflamed. Removing the appendix has no known negative effects, but without an appendix people may take longer to recover from an intestinal infection, but we have antibiotics. 
     Circumstantial evidence makes a strong case for the role of the appendix, but the bottom line is nobody REALLY knows what the purpose of the appendix is.