Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Hold preconceptions that you know have worked.
People are dumb, except for those that aren’t.
Don't restrict civil liberties, except when people are dumb.
Things are never black-and-white, except when they are.
It’s okay to kill people, except when they were not meant to die.
Stereotype all the time.
Remember that I’m the victim here!"
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
So this morning I called university payroll. I spoke to a very nice woman there who politely informed me that I wasn't hired. Hm! "Well..." I told her, "I'm pretty sure that I put in hours, filled in a time-sheet, and handed it in to the appropriate person in my department." However, that attempt was only met with the same polite information that my bi-weekly payments authorization was not in the system, and suggest that I call my department's HR person.
So I call my department's HR person, who is a lovely individual. She informs me that, no, I couldn't be hired yet, as I had not completed the "student employment application" on the new and improved student interface. Shit. The university's upgrading their system, and they can't "remember":
- that I am eligible to work in the United States
- that I'm not a felon
- what my prior non-university employment was
- whether I have family employed at the university, and
- that I understand that I cannot profit privately from public research funds.
All because of four little questions that someone decided weren't important enough to 'port over from the previous databases did I not get my direct deposit, forcing me into negativity (financial and emotional). Why am I not surprised?
What really gets my goat, though, is that I had been working continuously for over one year! Yeah! I know. Apparently, the university's main HR database doesn't know that I'm working presently for it and getting paid. (Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing!) Sheesh!
Of course, I could be kvetching (hey! Firefox's spell-check includes the word 'kvetching'!) about nothing. These sorts of things may well be greater nightmares in other universities, in government, or in the private sector. Of course, not having worked through another system's overhaul, I'm in no place to say, and I'm merely disgruntled about the stupid shift over.
On the plus side, the interface is much cleaner, the graphics are nicer, and there are more pieces of information that can be accessed. (Previously, you might have to drill down through several different menus to find the one you were looking for.)
Therefore, this is the moral: When there's a system overhaul, immediately figure out how it affects you and seek to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
UPDATE 2008/06/25: I talked with the manager of my bank's local branch (where I set up my account). I showed him the university's pay calendar, explained the situation, and showed him the e-mail I received from my department's HR person stating that I can pick up my paycheck from payroll tomorrow. He kindly waived my overdraft fee. YAY!
UPDATE 2008/06/26: I went down to payroll myself to pick up a check they issued off-cycle. Although I had to take a 10-minute bus ride down there, wait 10 minutes for another bus after picking up my check, and ride the bus 10 minutes back to campus before cycling to my bank to make a deposit, it was very nice to spend almost an hour in order to get money in my account.
Monday, June 23, 2008
The pilot scheme to be tried in Dundee, north of Edinburgh, will see smokers offered 12.50 pounds (15.8 euros, 24.7 dollars) per week to quit. Health bosses hope that 900 smokers will give up as a result in the next two years.This program is based on an apparently successful previous program called: Give it up for baby. As of the end of September 2007 thirty-one women were recruited in the program, with a 95% pass rate based on weekly carbon monoxide breath tests. From the December 10, 2007 progress report for the program:
The scheme has paid £1,760 to the women as credits to be claimed against fresh food and groceries at ASDA. The first birth of an infant under the scheme has taken place, with both the mother and father having given up smoking.I've not found more recent results, but it seems that things are going well. However, a basic economic analysis of future cost-savings would be useful. However, I've not found any such analysis in the summary, so I decided to do really basic back-of-the-envelope calculations to see what sort of benefit the "Give it up for baby" scheme might have. First, I had to find out what sort of things the British press reports, viz health risks caused by smoking during pregnancy in the UK.
No significant operational issues have affected the provision of the scheme. No significant risk issues have been identified.
From The Independent (March 2, 2002):
Pregnant smokers are a further cause for concern, with higher risks of miscarriage, reduced birthweight, and perinatal death. For parents who continue to smoke after birth, there is an increased risk of cot death and the children themselves are more likely to take it up. The highest smoking rates found among expectant mothers are closely related to health inequalities.Areas of cost savings for the woman include cigarettes at roughly ~£490 (based on a median cigarette usage over a 280-day pregnancy of 7 cigarettes/day, 20 cigarettes/pack, and a cost of £5/pack*), for a low birth-weight baby £50,000 (based on a low value of $100,000 in the United States in 2000 dollars and exchange rate of £1=$2), and funeral costs due to perinatal death £2,048 (based on median British funeral cost) give an estimated (low) cost savings to the mother of £52,538. This doesn't even cover the costs of possible counseling and ancillary costs due to lost time at work, for example. Admittedly, I would imagine that the NHS would cover some (or a lot) of the £50,000 I'm listing as care for a low birth-weight baby, but even if it is covered by a negligible co-pay, the direct costs are still high.
Pregnant women who smoke are a key focus of action as smoking cessation services are developed. The Government's latest infant feeding survey figures show a 5 per cent drop in the number of pregnant women smoking since 1995, and pounds 3m has been invested in training and appointing midwives to co-ordinate antenatal and postnatal smoking cessation services, giving specialist advice. A new national NHS helpline for pregnant smokers wishing to quit has also been set up.
In 1998, the British government released a report stating that smoking costs the NHS £1.4 billion each year. If we assume that the NHS picks up the majority of the bill for the estimated £50,000 listed above, then even for the small sample size of this program (31 women), the NHS saves a possible £1.55 million at the expenditure of only a few thousand pounds. If this was expanded to the rest of Scotland, the NHS may well see large-scale results.
The figure of £1.4 billion provides a scale of how much cost-savings the NHS would see if the Scottish scheme a) worked, and b) was used throughout the country. Already, the UK has mandated a smoking ban in all public buildings throughout the country (including pubs, mind). Of course, after the UK gains the benefits of cost-abatement due to a more healthy society, it will inevitably have to deal with the costs of a society that has lived longer than previously would have - increased costs for senior living...
* The NHS has a nifty little Flash applet on personal costs of cigarettes.
Although I could post some of his stand-up here, I'm not going to do so, because any one stand-up routine that I post might be pulled for various reasons (copyright, obscenity, etc.). However, I'll link to YouTube's search results for 'George Carlin'.
The world will be a paler place until the next social commentator steps into the breach. George, you'll be missed, since you never seemed to sink into the intolerant form of vitriol that those who support religio-dogmatism and censored speech.
Friday, June 13, 2008
With an eight percent national increase, China's carbon dioxide emissions contributed the bulk of last year's 3.1 percent global rise in CO2 emissions, according to a statement released on the last day of a United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany.This might not be such a great time to harp on about this (again), but one wonders how this will impact the Olympic games (since much of China's energy production is via coal).
"With this, China tops the list of CO2 emitting countries, having about a quarter share in global CO2 emissions (24 percent)," it said.
The United States was second with 21 percent, while the European Union was at 12 percent, India eight percent and Russia six percent, said the statement.
Cement clinker production was a major cause of the emissions, and with an increase of 10 percent in 2007 China now accounted for about 51 percent of global cement production, said the PBL.
"After the earthquake which recently hit the Sichuan province, it may be expected that the rebuilding of houses and roads for over five million people will cause the cement demand to soar even further," it said.
Warmer winter weather and high fuel prices contributed to a two percent drop in CO2 emissions in Europe last year, it added.
But in the US, a cold winter and warm summer contributed to rising carbon emissions from heating and cooling functions. Overall in the US last year, CO2 emissions rose by 1.8 percent.
"Since population size and level of economic development differ considerably between countries, the emissions expressed per person show a largely different ranking," added the agency.
The US topped the list of C02 emissions per person measured in metric tonnes with 19.4, followed by Russia with 11.8, the EU with 8.6, China with 5.1 and India with 1.8.
The figures were compiled from recently published British Petroleum energy data and cement production data for 2007.
In the current global warming talks, the US and other Western nations have balked at making mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases as developing nations like China are not required to slash emissions under the UN climate change framework.
Sunday, June 08, 2008
However, on one of the latest (not the greatest, but rather humorous) rebuttals posted by Thunderf00t (which apparently got pulled sometime between 12:15pm and 1:15pm), I saw this humorous message (complete with mis-spellings) posted by ooglebydoogleby:
ime convinced where do i sign up to have my brain removed and a blomonge inseted with a jelly crusifix internal moulding. venom= the snake in the garden. fang= for another negative god. and the x= the the cross of christianity turned 1/8 at 45 degrees 8x45=360 which added to the five days of satanic festivals that the pagans marked the begining of the new year with = one year, 5 representing the devils dominium over the four spacial direction nth sth east and wst the fifth being time. ooohhh.."Ooohhh.." indeed. The context within which the statement was written makes it even more funny:
VenomFangX "proves" the existence of God (once again) by showing that God knew the "exact diameter of the moon" in miles, as evidenced in the Gospel of Joshua, chapter 6. His "logic" in the video goes something like this:
2160 miles = "the exact diameter of moon" in miles
VenomFangX's argument is - of course - a false one, since it is an argument the begs the question. (i.e., God is omniscient and omnipotent. There is evidence that God knew something before man did. Therefore I can prove God's existence through his omniscience.) However, regardless of the fact that this is a false argument, VenomFangX makes several mistakes.
1. The passage of Joshua 6 is actually:
6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, "Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it."There is a mention of seven priests, and no mention of circling the city, nor of the number of times these priests were to circle it. Looking back at Joshua 1-5, though, one sees:
1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.VenomFangX obviously needs to look at his Bible reference again, since it isn't Joshua 6, but Joshua 3 where the statement of marching around the city six times comes into play.
2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
2. VenomFangX appears to place a lot of emphasis on his Bible Coding on Joshua 3, leading up to the what happens on the seventh day (remember that the number "7" has mystical significance in Judaism and Christianity). On the seventh day, the seven priests are supposed to march around the city seven times. This is significant. This is what the whole thing is leading up to. Not including this would be tantamount to heresy! If VenomFangX took this into account as well - as opposed to doing Bible Code searching - then you get the following:
= 7 (2160 + 2520)
= 7 (4860)
Okay, okay, that's a stretch. Maybe I shouldn't have included the 7 priests in the above equation. If I don't include them, then the resulting number is 4860. Consulting the Oracle at Google, one can find that this is the NIH code for the human gene nucleoside phosphorylase, which:
Encodes "an enzyme which reversibly catalyzes the phosphorolysis of purine nucleosides. The enzyme is trimeric, containing three identical subunits. Mutations which result in nucleoside phosphorylase deficiency result in defective T-cell (cell-mediated) immunity but can also affect B-cell immunity and antibody responses. Neurologic disorders may also be apparent in patients with immune defects. A known polymorphism at aa position 51 that does not affect enzyme activity has been described. A pseudogene has been identified on chromosome 2.This proves God's existence because only through his omniscience would he have known about the creation of the National Institutes of Health and the funding of the Human Genome Project. Only he - in his eternal wisdom - would have encoded such a message in the form of a Bible dictum with no clue as to the means of mathematically extracting the information that would lead people to understand his true meaning. I see, however, that by hiding the number 4860 within his devising of a scheme by which Joshua could knock down the walls of Jericho, God was seeing a greater picture because he correlates the knocking down of the walls of Jericho with the knocking down of the mystery of the human genome! Wow!
Oh, wait. Maybe not. Maybe I've got the whole mathematical operation wrong. Maybe I'm supposed to add the values together (7 priests + 7 days + 13 times around the city = 27). And everyone knows that 27 is the product of 3 * 9, and when you add 3 + 9, you get 12, the number of Disciples! That is what the story of Jericho was really foretelling - the coming of Jesus Christ!
3. The diameter of the moon is not "exactly" 2160 miles. It's approximately that amount at the moon's equator. Between the moon's poles, the diameter is approximately 2157 miles. The average diameter of the moon is approximately 2159 miles. I'm sure that if one looked at the infinite number of different diameters one could draw through the moon, one might find something that was "exactly" 2160.0 miles. If God was omniscient and omnipotent, then wouldn't he have created a moon that was an exact sphere of 2160 miles? (Or is polar flattening and meteor impacts the work of the devil?)
4. The "mile" was not fully standardized until 1959! Below are some conversions of the equitorial lunar diameter into different miles (conversions done using onlineconversion.com, with the value of 3476.28 km):
- 2497.32 Spanish miles
- 2287.03 Ancient Roman miles
- 2160.52 Ancient British miles
- 2160.05 US survey miles
- 1916.36 Scottish miles
- 1875.84 UK nautical miles
- 1877.04 International nautical miles
- 1783.62 French miles
- 1697.40 Irish miles
- 1665.44 Portuguese miles
- 463.50 Danish miles
- 325.28 Ancient Swedish miles
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
Of course, with the wonders of the internets, I find "SensibleUnits" - a place where you can convert standard units to "sensible" units.
UPDATE (2010-03-29): The "SensibleUnits" website is no longer functional. Kinda sad, since I was just wondering how many Great Walls of China long the Mississippi River is.