Thursday, 27 November 2008


  • Quyavikagka Steve-aq Kumaggaq-llu. Quyana elitnaurlua.
  • Quyavikanka ilanaaranka. Quyana ikayuristeńguluten.
  • Quyavikaqa Kavirliq. Assikamken assiilkellua-llu. Pinrirsaqunak!
  • Quyavikanka tuntut, tuntuviit, neqet, ȗgaseget-llu. Quyana tuquluci.
  • Quyavikanka ilanka. Pitsaqkenritamci assiillua.
  • Quyavikanka naaqistenka!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

More bears

I read a story about a zoo in Japan trying to breed two female P bears.

The hell? How do you miss a detail like that. They say they were young... okay. Maybe. Maybe really, really young. Just with a glandular disorder that made them the size of sub-adults. That it took them the time it took for the animal to go from a cub to... uugh. It blows my mind.

They didn't even notice when checking for ectos? They did check for ectos, right? Or are they just willy-nilly moving diseases around without a care in the world?

The Stupid. It Burns. Someone needs fired. Urgently.

This about says it all:
The official Xinhua News Agency reports the hospitalized student later said the panda was so cute and cuddly he never expected to be bitten.
No one expects the panda attack, until they maul you. It's a true fact. I read it in this totally true to life graphic novel.

Seriously. Didn't expect to be mauled by a panda bear? What, is the guy lobotomized or something? I could understand expecting Black and Brown Bears to be nothing but cuddlebugs in their den (and if they're not, they're talking about making it so you can shoot the black ones who snub you in their den). But Pandas are mean spirited, vicious attack animals who only crave your flesh.

One thing I never quite got, though. I accept the comic is 100% true - they'd never say it was a true story if it wasn't. But I don't remember many pandas in any boreal forests. Must be a gap in my education.


Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Call down the thunder...

I don't know if I ever shared this with you all, but this is very cool: A group in Florida uses sounding rockets to make lightning strikes. They have a video here on their webpage.

Science is awesome.

Beer Notes from this weekend

I opened a bottle of this with the neighbours, while watching TV and talking about fishing on the Russian River. I don't know too much about fish-guiding, and it showed. Luckily, they indulged my ignorance. Anyhow, we were all very pleased with the beer. I've yet to open a bottle of theirs that I didn't like (though, that's because I've avoided some of their weaker inventory). You can pick this one up from a couple places in Fairbanks, like the Oaken Keg, Gold Hill, and even Fred's. They've got a bit of a deal going, too!
La Fin Du Monde, by Unibroue, Quebec.

A tall, corked and caged 75cl glass bottle with the Eye of Quebec figuring prominently on the label. The bottle comes with a clear `best by` date, though no indication when it was brewed. The packaging is clear and stately.

Just opening the bottle releases a host of deep, fruit scents. The beer pours as a thin, opaque liquid, about the colour of honey. There's moderate carbonation that, even in my head-friendly glass, quickly fades to a ring of white. It warms quickly, releasing a thick, spicy odour. The yeast is evident in the scent, as are mildy fruity notes, just barely rising into perception.

The beer is peppery and sweet, thin to medium bodied and not syrupy. I has a distinct carbonation when drank, something not apparent from the head, that lends it a moderate bite. The fruit notes get little play in the taste, remaining just off to the side as glance of pear, or whisper apple, it's difficult to tell which. Warmth improves the character of the beer, bringing out the sweetness to compliment the initial exclamation point of allspice.

At 9% ABV, a single person could drink all 75cl by ones self, but it's definitely best shared with a friend on a cold winter night. This is a very good tripel by the good brewers at Unibroue.

4.4/5, A.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Update on the Sea Kittens.

Tundra Drums did a story about the PETA sea kitten campaign, and I noticed a lovely quote:
Any plans on visiting Dutch Harbor with your campaign?
We definitely want to come to Alaska. I don’t know exactly where we’ll be going, but I know that it’s on our list.
Try not to educate them too much, Alaska Steve. Their poor little brains might 'asplode.
Oh, I can see their trip to Dutch Harbor going just swimmingly.

Kendall et al.'s Grizzly work.

Well, it was a bit later than I expected, but Kendall's paper on the non-invasive sampling of Glacier National Park is finally out in this month's edition of the Journal of Wildlife Management. I've had some time to digest the actual paper now - I didn't blog about it right away because I wanted to pour over it - and I'm very satisfied with the resulting publication. This project cost American tax payers about 5 million dollars, and every penny of it was well spent.

As I discussed earlier, one of the biggest issues in managing threatened or endangered wildlife is getting an accurate count of just how many individuals remain. Some species are easier than others, for example, one of my graduate students just got back from helping moose count somewhere over 40 mile country. However, the same graduate student is involved in working on Sitka Blacktail Deer, where we can't do aerial surveys because of tree cover. How are we supposed to manage species if we don't even know this basic information? It can't be done truly effectively.

Not long ago, as genetic methods became more common, people began discussing using DNA to fingerprint individuals. From early on, we were using DNA to fingerprint species, using portions of DNA that were unique to species to identify them from others. This remains very successful, and we've used it to discover two species that we thought were just one species. We've also used it to find the opposite - that two different looking critters are just different ends of one species. But then, technology had come far enough that identifying individuals was possible and economical.

The trick was using hyper-variable regions of the genome I've talked about before, called `Microsatellites.` These bits of DNA don't do anything, they just waft to and fro, becoming common or uncommon; growing in length or shortening. They're actually copy-errors when DNA replicates, sort of like noise around a xerox, except this is a xerox of a xerox of a xerox to the nth degree. Because they're so random, the odds that two individuals would have the same group of microsatellites by chance can be low.

Let's move over to Glacier National Park, and set the scene there. In 1975, lower 48 Grizzly bears were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, amid concerns over their dwindling population. Around the Glacier NP area, there was a long history of harvesting Grizzlies for purposes of protecting livestock. Because of the listing, a hunting quota was set for these animals, and that quota was gradually decreased. Eventually, hunting was terminated in 1991.

There had been increased in sighting estimates in Glacier NP after the elimination of the harvest, but these estimates were sporadic, often lacked even internal consistency, and couldn't be used for estimates. Further, there wasn't any data from areas around the GNP they could use to infer even sweeping generalizations from. Kentall et al. wanted to use microsatellites to try and get a count of how many bears there are. She wanted to rely on the fact that bears tend to leave little bits of them where they go. They'll rub against trees, and hair can get snagged on fences as the bears meander about to do bear-like things.

Now when you're trying to do density estimates by trapping (this is a technique primarily for small animals), you need something that comes close to a random trapping pattern, so you don't bias your estimates by getting a whole bunch of 'captures' in some locations. For example, if I trapped exclusively by a water hole on the Serengeti, I would get a large number of unique animals a day. I would falsely assume that I had very high densities of animals, as I had many hits in a small area. Instead, you need to cast your net even over areas where you wouldn't get many individuals, expanding your area to get a more true approximation of natural densities.

Back to our bears, you can probably guess the problem: the fences are going to be concentrated in some areas, and non-existent in others. There'll be fences along the edges of the park, but very few inside. So the first step in doing a more rigourous analysis would be distributing the `traps` (in this case, hair snags) in a more random method over 8km square quadrants. They baited the traps with a variety of different scent baits, changing the composition often enough to keep the bears from becoming habituated to them.

On a rolling basis, they would go out to the field and collect hairs from the hair traps, and they would opportunistically collect hairs from tree rubs. The tree rubs were still non-randomly distributed - that means the data she gathered can only be used in a few ways, and you can't make any statements about habitat use by the bears. Similarly, it seems the baited hair snags were placed mostly in preferred habitat. So we still violate a number of the assumptions of random sampling, but Kendall et al. got around a number of the problems they had with capture efficiency - the rate at which they're detecting actual animals.

That's enough for now. Next time, I'll talk about what Kendall et al. actually found, and what the management implications are.

Kentall, K., Stetz, J., Roon, D., Waits, L., Boulanger, J., and Paetkau, D. (2008) Grizzly Bear Density in Glacier National Park, Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management, vol. 72(8), pp. 1693-1705

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Y-K fuel

I wasn't going to blog any this weekend (bit of a chore list to get through), but I saw this article in the Village Telegraph that had a really nice table of fuel prices in the Y-K in it. Kotlik was highlighted because I was doing a bit of math using it, and didn't notice I forgot to unhighlight it until just now.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Warm winter?

I'm not sure why I even read the news-story comments on ADN and Minor-News. I think its because I want to remember that there are idiots out there. Very, very vocal idiots. For example, whenever a weather related story comes up, you have people pop out of the wood work to go `Hey Al Gore, where's your global warming now, HMMMMMMM?!?` Like the fact that they put on a sweater that morning proves that carbon dioxide doesn't absorb the infrared wavelengths. Anyhow.

So, I mention this because the ADN did a story about `Can Alaska believe the forecast? NATIONAL OUTLOOK: Government predicts a warmer winter for us.` Actually, it was an AP story they picked up and put the title on. As normal, people are out talking about how the `gubmint dunno nothing 'bou nothin'. Even the title of the story suggests the newspaper thinks it knows better than a team of dedicated Alaska Climatologists.

So, to discuss this, I've put the 3 month outlook off to the side. The deepening areas of colour reflect the probability of deviations from statistical average temperatures. This is what prompted the story. They publish these on a regular basis, and most of the time updates don't seem to merit a story. I think the drought data is why AP wrote it, and ADN just picked it up to fill space.

On any normal given `average` day, the odds of below average, above average, or average might be something like 20%-20%-60% (numbers I've just invented, because I'm too lazy to look up the real numbers). The bars represent one event becoming more probable on average - such as 40% chance of above average, 10% chance of below, and 50% of average (Again, numbers I just invented. I do recall that the opposite category shrinks faster than N).

So when I read comments like Denseyler's
The rest of the states having equal chances of being warmer or cooler than normal??? Now there's a forecast!!!!!!
I have to roll my eyes a bit. Yes, it is a forecast. It's an important one, too. Climatically, it represents a normal distribution of above and below average temperatures, which is important to know.

People forget that NOAA doesn't just exist to tell them how warm it'll get on their way to work. It also informs farmers on what to expect from the following year, it informs the Navy and Coast Guard about important weather events and trends, it provides information for what might be happening with wildlife... the list goes on. It's easy to remember that one day the forecasters said it'd be sunny, and it was cloudy all day. It's easy to forget the other 360 days out of the year they were spot on.

So, sorry ADN, and sorry commentator. I'm going to listen more to the meteorologists on this one.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Beer Notes from Tuesday

I cracked open a bottle of Dark Force, which I bought from Gold Hill Liquor (along with a bottle of The Abyss that I shared with the neighbours as a `thank you.`) I think, after that, I'll be laying off the Russian Stouts for a while. I feel like I need to having something sweet, as a change. Perhaps it is time to sample some of the `Lambic` offerings. Not the old school, sour things. The new and modern krieks or framboises.

Dark Force, by Haandbryggeriet, Norway.
The bottle is a slender 50cl, with a dark, clear label, and a sticker showing the date it was brewed. The beer is an opaque, dark brown, with an easy pour and a light, tan head. The carbonation is light, and the head quickly turns to a ring 'round the glass. It has an intense, yeasty smell, with ready notes of apples and malts. The alcohol is totally undetectable. However, the taste is heavy, with a deep, bitter cocoa bite. Dark Force is a smoky beer that seems best as a digestive, with something to compliment how it covers the mouth in a syrupy fashion.

A-, 4.1 of 5

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


Dave's Lizards

I keep saying I'll write up the darn lizard paper, yet every time I start, it slips through the cracks. Tonight, no more! With a good half hour until House starts, I've sat down and given this a good discussion.

Evolution! If you don't think it's a trick by Satan, chances are you think that evolution takes place on a geologic timescale. Surely nothing we can witness, eh? Well, not so. By being clever naturalists, me and you can ferret out the signature of evolution, and catch it in the process of doing its thing.

Previously, I talked about speciation, and how we can catch it in the process with fish in Lake Victoria, but while there was some morphological change with that - the fish got a little different in their colour - it wasn't very flashy. When we think of evolution, even most scientists think of anatomical change. We want them to look really different, darn it!

That sort of evolution is much, much slower to come about. Adaptive evolution is a slow process of variation and selection. Sometimes it might take sudden leaps, but that's fairly rare (Sorry Gould). However, if selection is strong - meaning that some variants are much `better` than others - then evolution can occur rapidly.

We've previously seen examples, but few are very gee-wiz amazing. Channel Island deer mice showed rapid change of head characters and body size, Darwin's Finches showed rapid evolution of beak and body size, and Black Snakes showed rapid adaptation to an invasive toad, the Cane Toad. Harrel et. al 2008 are about to blow all their competitors socks off.

In 1971, a couple of scientists took 5 male lizards, and 5 female, and transplanted them on an island called Pod Mrcaru. They hadn't been there before, and where they were, before (Pod Kopiste), they were small bug-munchers, with males who kept territories. Thus far, a boring experiment. But then war broke out.

Said war went on for a bit, and prevented people from really heading back to the island to check on what's up with them. It took them about, oh, 36 years for them to get in on back and check, when all was said and done. And in that time, these lizards (Podarcis sicula) were in a novel environment, with new pressures to survive, and new food sources available. Natural selection did its thing.

When they did come back, they found that when it comes to shape, the lizards had signifigantly wider, taller and longer heads. Further, the lizards on the new island ate a large portion of vegetation, from 4-7% to about 34-61% (spring-summer). And the vegetation were things like leaves and stems.

Not so visible from the outside, the lizards underwent a rapid change in gut structure, with a whole new structure that wasn't really there before: They evolved caecal valves. This is huge. This is amazingly big. It would be like humans suddenly starting to grow articulated, functional tails again. In about 30 generations, they went from insectivorous to having plant-adapted digestive tracts.

Oh. And the males? Went from territoral to not. This seems to have changed the sprint speed, limb length, and god-knows-what-else-we-haven't-measured.

30 generations. To put that in context, 30 human generations would be about, oh, 900 years. So it'd be like if in the time since 1100CE, humans changed shape. It seems absurd, but under strong selective pressure, that's what happens.

Oh, I suppose that begs the question, `why don't you see that in other species? Why are all humans pretty much the same, when we've been separated for about 400 generations?`

Well, the selective pressure needs to be big - the difference in success between the lizard with the features and the one without needs to be pretty serious. Second, there needs to be not a lot of wiggle room - this actually goes to point A. Humans, for example, are amazingly plastic. We don't need many physiological changes, when we can accommodate so much by just changing our learned behaviour just slightly.

Third, the variation needs to happen - if no one gets the mutation giving them that third eye, third eyes aren't going to evolve, no matter how cool they are. This is actually a bigger deal than most people would guess. Finally, there can't be much geneflow. Remember whole thing about speciation? It lets groups adapt to their micro-enviroment without getting genes from individuals outside that environment. Geneflow carries information around, and makes groups more similar. So it has the tendency to wash out local adaptation.

These lizards had big selective pressure, not a lot of plasticity, the variation happened, and because they were on an island, the geneflow didn't happen. So what we saw was rapid divergence, and a really neat paper in PNAS. ;)

Herrel, A., Huyghe, K., Vanhooydonck, B., Backeljau, T., Breugelmans, K., Grbac, I., Damme, R., and Irschick�, D. (2008) Rapid large-scale evolutionary divergence in morphology and performance associated with exploitation of a different dietary resource. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, v.105(12), pp. 4792–4795.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

While I'm waiting for my home to get above freezing, I read the headlines of ADN: They're calling the election for Begich.

Now I wait for my home to heat.


I was going to write a science post thing, but I woke up this morning and saw this by my wall. For you not in the know, that's a horrible, horrible thing to see. It means `one way or another, you're about to lose a lot of money.`

I didn't mention it here, but there was a minor altercation near my home yesterday. And now I'm suddenly and shockingly out of oil. I can't help but think this is connected to them.

So I'm going to go into work early, so to avoid freezing my butt off. Why couldn't this have happened a few days ago, when it was tropical? It did not need to happen on a -20° high to -30°C forecasted low day.

Edit: Okay, I got some oil to tide me over. The tank is definitely getting a lock put on when I get home.

Monday, 17 November 2008

You're kidding me, right?

I promise to do some science posts soon. This is natural-resources related, so I feel it's kosher. ;)

My favourite moonbats, PETA, have engaged in another campaing more to show what absolute idiots they are compared to a ward full of decapitation victims. They're engaged in a campaign to rename Fish 'Sea Kittens.'

Pardon me, but were you born a flaming idiot, or did you have to work hard to become this stupid?

Peta writes,
Of course, if you look at it another way, what all this really means is that fish need to fire their PR guy—stat. Whoever was in charge of creating a positive image for fish needs to go right back to working on the Britney Spears account and leave our scaly little friends alone. You've done enough damage, buddy. We've got it from here. And we're going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it's time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?
The stupid. It burns.
Why stop there, I wonder? I mean, if you're goign to be absurd, go all out! Let's rename Cows `your daughter's puppies.` Who would possibly want to eat their daughter's puppies? And milking them, dear god, that just sounds wrong! But we can go further, folks! Let's rename asparagus `Human Babies!` No one in their right mind could eat a plate full of deep fried, beer battered Human Babies! We must stop the slaughter at once!

For the record? I don't advocate fishing for people's pet fish, just like I don't advocate killing people's kittens. If you release your fish into the stream out back, or let your kitten run free in the wild, all bets are off - it becomes an imparitive to capture that animal, to control an invasive species. But in your aquarium or livingroom floor, either are safe.

Well, actually, if you have a kitten in an aquarium, the cat has some breathing problems.

What's so ironic about this bit of bilge from these Domestic Terrorist jerkwads, is that PETA is for total animal liberation. They don't want you to own pets, period. They oppose the very institution of animal ownership. So, while we're talking about kittens, now might be a nice time to mention how PETA wants to prevent you from ever owning a Kitten in the first place.
I'll throw out the usual bit of PETA hypocracy here, about how PETA kills animals while lecturing us about how killing fish is wrong.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

More weekend photos

Two more. One I like, and one for vanity.
Here's one from thursday, that I caught while unloading my truck.
Your's truly, modeling his brand new boots while shooting the pictures on Friday. I had to stand still for a really long time to get that one to work. And I had to hold my breath, to keep the vapour from ruining the shot. It felt very olde-timee. This isn't untouched photo - I messed with the levels extensively to bring out the details on the footware.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Last night out and about

I got my new boots, and I figured I should start breaking them in. Grabbed my tripod, my camera, my batteries, and fistfull of hand warmers to shove in my coat pocket before I wandered on down to the lakes in the refuge. I still need to seal my boots, which is today's minor chore.

Anyhow. Picture thingies:

Friday, 14 November 2008

Geek fight!

Rarely do I see the intellectual equivalent of a fist fight in person. Today, at our department seminar, I got to see one. A gentleman we invited from Argentina to be a guest lecturer decided to talk about sustainable biofuels production in interior Alaska, and the crowd turned hostile. Some people got so upset they walked out - a big no-no in a seminar.

That... was interesting.


Happened Wed, as I was dropping off a Gradstudent to catch a flight.

*Person unloads a Rifle Case, and pauses*
"It's a science projector."

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Palin - not as stupid as Fox said.

The bit about Palin and Africa?
Apparently a hoax.
A lot of people get angry at hoaxers. I love them. They keep us on our toes, and remind us that we shouldn't just swallow everything that's put out by the media. That's a very valuable public service - if the Media can't catch people who are spinning things in good fun, how can they cut through people who are maliciously trying to dupe us?

'course, now the talking heads are going to accuse these people of Intellectual Terrorism.
I never had much use for talking heads.

Only Commy Pinko Traitors don't brave fallout.

Some of the old PSAs of yesteryear are fantastically funny in retrospect. Like this one, that talks about how if you leave the radioactive, blasted wasteland after a nuclear attack, you're a treasonous communist, and a coward:

Here's one for all of you who didn't know better. Remember, if you're on your period, for god's sake, square dance only in moderation!

You can see a great bunch of these old PSAs at The 6 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Old School PSAs.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008


PoliSci trivia for people outside.

Nationally, Rural areas tend to be more supportive of Republicans than Democrats. Nationally, Urban areas tend to be the opposite. So it blows the minds of quite a few people outside when they find out that AK, yet again, is a weird, different place. Here's the prelim results from Stevens/Begich. It's from the ADN's wonderful figure.
Most of those rural areas are not merely plurality blue, but fairly deep blue. You can also see this reflected in the make up of the state offices, when looking at the location of each district. - I'll hasten to add that it's not a perfect correspondence with this (E.g., Kodiak), and there's slightly more republican representation at the state level. Still, the averages remain: most of Alaska's Republican lean comes from urban areas, especially Anchorage and Mat-Su.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Outlawed learning

It's stories like this, from C&En, that make me leery about the future of science in the country. Sure, we talk about how important it is, but we sure don't act like it... Wired, two years back, ran a story about the same thing, and we've only got worse with time.

A lot of people'll say `But he had hazardous materials!` Well, from his rundown of what was seized, most selections of household cleansers are more dangerous. No, it's more due to overzealous laws, well-meaning legislators who don't actually know anything about what they're regulating, and the good old fashioned spill over from the war on drugs. In Texas, they're so hardlined on the war on drugs that it's illegal to purchace a number of types of glassware needed to teach kids even remedial chemistry. Never mind do any hobby chemistry at an adult level.

It's easy to get alarmed, when it comes to hobby or home chemistry. Sodium Hypochlorite, Aecetic Acid, and radioactive potassium all sound, well, frightening, if you don't have a grounding in the subject. But when you learn that these sorts of things are all around us, you start realizing that maybe, just maybe, some of the other things that DPS and the news rant off at us to prove `Danger!` are slightly, well, overstated.

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure that a lot of what my father bought for us, to learn science, is illegal or restricted these days. Go figure. For writing this post, I quickly googled some home chemistry kits, and they're pitiful. I think about all you could learn from them is how boring and stupid science is, when you do it like that.

Monday, 10 November 2008

So I finally bit the bullet, and bought a pair of those Steger boots that seem so popular around here. They're god awful expensive, but people say they last for years, so I'm looking for a good return on my investment. Importantly, people who don't just sit around all day. A couple folks around my work wear them, so they're definitely Work_OK.

I like how laidback we are: It's pretty common for faculty to show up in carharts, boots and a sweater. Wool socks are okay. You can tell I'm dressed up for the Monday because I'm wearing one of those oxford type shirts. This isn't true at other institutions, and other cities. But it should be!

I know it's winter, but I've been itching to get outside and bum around a bit on a weekend. Just 'cause. Go find some new places I haven't been before. Explore a bit. See what I can find.
While writing this post (actually, I was mostly writing emails to co-workers), I accidentally broke my F key. Don't ask. Anyhow, I got a new one put on there, and it's just plain weird. The rest of my KB is worn in, and then there's this one, shiny new key. I'm tempted to take a belt sander to it. :p

Friday, 7 November 2008

The Camera Battery Issue.

Alaska is a great place to take pictures, and I got many hundreds of keepers cluttering up both my laptop and my external harddrive. But taking pictures in Alaska is hard. You've got lots of issues with equipment alone, from camera grease coagulating, to brittle film in traditional cameras, to fragile plastic at low temperatures.

One of the biggest issues for me is batteries. Especially when I'm trying to get my camera to work at very low light, when the wind is blowing, it's not uncommon for me to only get 15 to 30 minutes of camera time before I get low charge warnings, and it kicks out. I usually use two Energizer 2450 mAh Li•Ion batteries in my camera (my camera is a CR-V3 compatible camera), while keeping two more batteries in my inner jacket pocket where they'll be pre-warmed. Yesterday (what prompted this whole blog post) I got 8 minutes of camera time. 8 minutes. That's not a lot. It's sort of `shoot fast!`

I think the biggest issue is they just shed heat too fast, especially in wind. What I'd really like is some sort of chord I could have, so that I could keep the batteries in my jacket where they wouldn't chill. Now, they make one for head lamps, for the musher crowd. I went down to Coldspot Feed to try and find something that connected to a dummy battery, but no dice - they were all D-Cell, and rigged to attach to special plugs on modded head lamps. You know, if someone made a jacket battery pack for things like GPSes, you could probably make a pretty penny.

But since no one in town carries anything remotely like that - probably because nothing like it exists (says the internet) - my new project is to make my own. What I need is some sort of dummy battery, or a plug that fits the 3 VDC port on the side. Three or four battery clips. Wire. A new soldering iron. A new hammer (not for the project, but because I broke my old one yesterday). Jumper wires.

Oh. And new boots. Not for the project, just it's *$&ing cold in my summer stuff. :p

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Beer Notes from Tuesday

I got enough time to scribble down some notes on a new beer, before becoming too intoxicated to properly review. I asked a friend to surprise me with something (he owed me a beer), and so he bought a Pitcher of Rainier Lager, by Pabst in Texas. It's good to get surprised with stuff. I just wish I got surprised with something else. ;)

It took me a few seconds to figure out what the beer aspired to be: a) cheap and b) easily drunk. It excels at both of these. The taste is watery, and inoffensive. There's a slight bite to the after taste, but nothing that remains for anymore than the most fleeting of instants. The beer is clear, straw coloured, and carries a high head long after its been poured. While I consider this above others that attempt the same qualities, such as `Miller Light,` neither its watery flavour nor its nondescript mouthfeel are much to brag about. It is definitely better when cold, so to lightly numb the mouth and prevent you from picking up on the corn taste.

Skip this, and try other macros. D+, 2.4/5.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

`Ii-i, piyugngaukut!`

@Wal was talking to his students, trying to be encouraging. I had to fight off less than helpful inclinations.

"What did Obama say yesterday?"
"Uh, `I'm president?`"
"Nuu. He said `Ii-i, piyugngaukut!`" *writes it down.*

I think to myself . o O( I think I would have noticed it, if he said that. )

The moral of the story is that sometimes, it's good to keep your mouth shut. :)

Also, I kinda like that. I tried to look around to see if someone translated `Yes we can!` in to a whole bunch of languages so I could toss that their way, but it looks like no one has, beyond `Sí se puede.` Even if you're not fond of the guy, or sceptical of his politics, it's a nice message. So here we go:

English -----Yes, We can!
Spanish ----Sí se puede!
Yugcetun---Ii-i, piyugnaukut!
German----Ja, wir können!
Latin-------Certe, possumus!
Russian----Да мы можем
Esperanto-Jes, ni povas!
Romanian-Da putem!
French-----Oui, on peut!
Swedish----Ja, vi kan!
Italian------Sí, possiamo!

Most of this is from other people, If you have any corrections to make, or one to add, leave a comment! :}


More wonton stat abuse.

Quick political bit: It probably got lost among the excitement (I know what way Fairbanks voted, judging from the number of people out drinking last night), but the Stevens/Young race isn't over. With about 1/3rd of the vote still out in the form of absentee or early votes, it's still anyone's game. I'll refrain from navel gazing just yet, except to say Stevens went home in a bit of a mood yesterday probably because he was thinking the same thing I am - those forty some thousand votes tend to be from registered Dems. It isn't over yet for anyone.

Hey, so, I wrote a post yesterday about the media abusing correlational statistics? They're not the only one. Some moonbats are using a study to claim that `rainfall causes autism,` a laughable hypothesis at best. One of my favourite medical quackery-debunkers writes a post where he spends some time mauling people putting out the many, many flaws in their reasoning.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

No need to shoot the TV to save the kids.

You see stories like this crop up every now and again: "TV Sex content linked to teen pregnancy rate!" NPR, BBC, Fox, etc, all covered various versions of this story this last week. Previous iterations have been violence on TV, whether you dream in black and white or colour, and so forth. It makes for good news for them, because just about everyone has a TV, and many people have children to be protective of. Also, it makes them feel sciency.

However, it's long been a complaint of mine that science reporting is crap. I mean, completely and utterly bum. Even in other countries. Their treatment of these studies only reinforces my worldview that they could properly report science to save their lives. Let me illustrate with an example:

Say we're measuring two variables, number of leaves and number of berries. We're doing an observational study, so we can't tinker with things. Instead, all we can do is copy down that plant a has so-many leaves, and so-many berries, plant b has blah, plant c blah blah etc. When we're done, we plug all our numbers into a big stats package, and we find out that the number of leaves can be used to predict the number of berries. This is to say that they're correlated, or linked.

Now. What the media would have us believe from their reporting that the factors share a causal link with eachother - leaves cause more berries to be produced. It might even make intuitive sense: "Oh, well, plants need leaves to photosythesize, so if we put more leaves on, we get more berries." But we haven't demonstrated causality. You can't demonstrate causality through corrolations, because of the `un-measured third factor.` The thing is, there could be a third factor that drives both berries and leaves. In our example, the third factor could be light. It migth be that you could add leaves to your hearts content, and you wouldn't get any more berries. Or, it could be soil nutrients that vary both the leaves and berries, and you could remove leaves and still get berries. These 3rd factors are impossible to exclude in corrolational studies.

Let's go back to Sex and the TV. The media is reporting this as if watching risqué content on the TV causes teenage promiscuity. However, they can't demonstrate this causality. There might be a third factor driving both - for example, consider the hypothesis that randy teens tend to watch more sexually explicit content. They're not randy because they watch TV, but rather they begin hormonal, and therefore could be drawn to more explicit content. This inherient predisposition could also causes them to be more promiscious. They cannot preclude this possibility with their study design.

We saw shades of this with violence on TV - who watches more violent TV? People with high stress hormone levels to begin with. But we're told that seeing a gun on TV is a driving factor in being violent ourselves - something that is clearly not `proven` by any use of the word. Without exceptionally clever design, I wouldn't go any further than saying they're suggestive of something, and only when there's previous, compelling evidence for a mechanism. The media, however, puts about as much time and effort into getting the details of science stories right as they do juggling chainsaws. I.e., not much.

Monday, 3 November 2008

What buying pizza has in common with voting, and the naturalistic fallacy.

Sick of politics? Economist Gordon Tullock explains not only why it's permissible to stick your head in the sand, but it's in our best interest not to vote! This little PBS video is a great little primer on cost/benefit ratios, and the economics of deciding to do something or not - examples in the video include buying a pizza and voting in national elections.

Of course, Gordon makes two mistakes in his analysis. First, he assumes that there are strictly primary-selfish reasons for voting, and neglects the possibility that altruism plays a role. What leads me to suspect that altruism might is those little stickers, which people love wearing, saying they voted - humans who contemplate an altruistic act (e.g., donating blood) are more likely to do so if they're given an advertisement that they did it.

Secondly, even assuming his analysis is spot on, he's committing the naturalistic fallacy. The naturalistic fallacy is often thought of as the `is, ought` fallacy, because it often comes in the form of `X is natural behaviour, ergo, we ought to engage in X.` Behavioural research, especially human behavioural research, is often abused in this way. For example, research might show that murderers live longer, and are richer (I'm making this up, see), and that murder is an entirely natural part of human behaviour. However, just because it's natural doesn't mean we've demonstrated that it's morally good, or an action we should engage in. So, just because he's (possibly) accurately described human activities, doesn't mean that the description is the correct thing to do.

And now, an arbitrary picture of thistles and bugs:

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Uitaukut Cauyarvigmi

Well, it's the first of November, and that means the start of most Furbearers' season in the Interior. I've been talking to various folks, getting an idea of who's where, and so forth, and I noticed there's a lot of new people in it right now. I think this has something to do with the incredible price of furs - I'm just flabbergasted that prices have managed to remain this high. Someone said it's all the people in SE Asia buying up furs like there's no tomorrow. Weird - I would have thought they'd be luxury goods, and the first to go.

Luckily, most of the new folks are trapping in weird places. Not very good places. For example, apparently there's two guys running lines through Murphey Dome, on the State Land side of it. Yeah, you can get there easily, but you can't get much more awful places to try and find anything. There's a few foxes, but that's it. Because of these `novel` lines, I'm not too worried about the prices going down due to a glut. Nor am I especially worried about over-harvesting the area.

By the by. October was Qaariitaarvik - place for Qaariitaaq, which is yugcetun for Halloween. Qaariitaaq predates the arrival of kass'at to AK, and very closely resembles how we practice Halloween now. Kinda one of those neat cosmic coincidences. It's part of why Halloween is such a thing in the YK.
Now, November is Cauyarvik. Waniwa cauyarviuguq - Now's the time of drumming.
Some people think that the Yup'ik calendar has 12 months, so does the Kass'at, is a big coincidence. But, they're forgetting that there are twelve lunar months in a solar year, so that's how so many people cameup with the same 12-month thing.

And now you know!

Click for Fairbanks, Alaska Forecast