Wednesday, January 17, 2007

COM: Blogarithmic #201

In my goofy 2006 (near-death, job change, residence change, total lack of free time), blogging was the biggest loser for me. Despite the fact that i still manage to manage the Circus of the Spineless, i myself have had precious little time to devote to either my research or to blogging about it or the natural world i cherish so much. So, my great gunghoedness for this in 2005 kind of suffered in 2006. I'm not here to tell you that i would like to better that for 2007 because my schedule looks as intense as ever -- even if i would like to spend more time at it -- but that all that to say that a new book has been published "The Best of Science Blogging 2006" and is being put out by, and includes many of, the friends i developed over the last couple of years of doing this sort of thing. And further, the announcement post even includes mention of Circus of the Spineless as a monitored blog for appropriate posts. My webfriend Bora appears to have done a fine thing in putting this together and i can't wait to see the end result. More info here at A Blog Around the Clock.

All of that leading to this -- the Inaugural Science Blogging Conference.

Was stuck in the pit until noon today. The cabin where i live is in a deep depression at the back of the ranch. to get out, anywhere, even to work, requires a drive up a steep hill. There are two ways out, and one of them climbs to the top of a hill, so leaving also means coming back down a steep hill. It's completely impassable. No one has driven it since Monday. The other option requires someone smashing the ice on the gravel road so that a grip can be maintained. Yesterday someone tried climbing that hill about 30 times, sliding back down each time, beforethe road was grippable. Today, no such luck. I had to wait until the temp warmed to the freezing range, enough to melt some and weaken the ice layer before i could climb out, and even then had to do it in 4-wheel low in the jeep.

Returned to the office to feeders loaded with birds: American and Lesser Goldfinches, Chipping and House Sparrows, Northern Cardinals, a Bewick's Wren, a Myrtle Warbler, Slate-colored Juncos, a pair of Golden-fronted Woodpeckers, Carolina Chickadees, Black-crested Titmice, and in the surrounding field, a herd of White-tailed Deer, a Common Raven, a Norhtern Flicker, an Eastern Phoebe, and lots of American Robins, with a couple of Hermit Thrushes thrown in. On the pond beyond were four Ring-necked Ducks. Lots of good film of these guys up close.

Everything in town is closed, shut down. No school for the second straight day, even the banks are closed. We just don't have the collective memory to handle ice storms.


A few things at the feeders, including Northern Cardinal and American Goldfinches.



This is the storm squarely overhead. Funny how it even looks cold on radar.


Among the things we don't know how to do here: walk on icy sidewalks, stock up on food, drive, get to town.

Having said that i was able to get to town for a short wihle this afternoon. There were 48 semis parked at Wal-Mart. That's a huge number, but likely only a fraction of the trucks in town considering that Wal-Mart is deep into town. I suspect the old Wal-Mart lot, the mall lot, and perhaps a few other places were loaded as well. This is all because I-10 is closed down for 300 miles, from just east of us well out into west Texas. Kerrville is about the last sizable town on the highway for about 600 miles (that would be El Paso), and that makes it a convenient shutdown spot for the highway department. So it's been closed for a couple days now, suspect it'll repoen tomorrow about noon, if the forecast is right. Speaking of forecasts, at noon today they said there'd be a gradual warming trend after this afternoon, and the last band of precipitation would pass through this afternoon also. Right now though (6:20 pm CST) the forecast has changed to include rain through Sunday. Yippeee! It'll be wreck city here for the next few days.

A paraphrased little note i sent to ABC Newsw today. I complain pretty regularly about errors in their P1 stories.

In a single article and its captions here:
http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=2801827&page=1
you state that the 1918 Flu Pandemic killed "at least 20 million" "upward of 40 milllion" and "roughly 50 million". I grant that the actual number is likely unknown -- but a range of 250%? I suppose some arrogant writer might say that each of these is technically correct and non-contradictory, and so be it, but they make you look mathematically stupid.

And this statement within the article is simply ludicrous: "Just like the Jurassic Park DNA slipped out of science's control" -- nothing escaped science, it escaped actors in a fictional film. Puhlease.

here are the paragraphs in question:
"In this 1918 photograph, influenza victims crowd into an emergency hospital at Camp Funston, a subdivision of Fort Riley in Kansas. The flu, which is believed to have originated in Kansas, killed at least 20 million people worldwide."

"The flu virus that killed roughly 50 million people worldwide in 1918 is alive and still very deadly. New research sheds light on how the 1918 Spanish flu virus might have killed so many people so quickly — and opens new horizons for researchers who hope to avoid a flu pandemic today."

"The 1918 Spanish flu was the deadliest human plague of the 20th century. The pandemic was unusually severe, causing upward of 40 million deaths worldwide — including 675,000 Americans. Most of the victims were healthy people in the prime of life.


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