Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bring on the smelly water!

2006 update: this wasn't a sincere request, really. Please bring the good water back.
On Eurekalert yesterday, Natural compound from 'pond scum' shows potential activity against Alzheimer's:
A compound isolated from a cyanobacterium, a type of blue-green algae known as Nostoc, shows promise of becoming a natural drug candidate for fighting Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases...

Cyanobacteria being the blue-green algae, which are the ones in your energy pills and the ones responsible for hepatotoxins* and neurotoxins in drinking water.

So, is the glass half empty or half full*?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

water project status update, temp. post

Dec. 23 update:
Finally put up the interview with Chris over at NCDocuments, apologies for the delay. And you might want to put the eye back in for now, since the below-mentioned bit of interest doesn't seem to have morphed into anything substantive.

But the story's not over yet.


Just to let you know, there's been a bit of interest in the story so keep an eye out...

Big thanks to Chris for long phone interview this morning (and for recent water quality, which has been great, at my place at least) and to Mark for the "high priority" designation that made Chris's time available.

No bombshells; still digesting the Q&A, and need to do some research, and hear back from Mark on some quick questions; don't expect a post on it until Friday at the very earliest.

According to Chris, the smell is from Volvox and Chlamydomonas algae.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

'Fishy water' collaborative journalism project update - 2 days later

[Early a.m. update: edited, with removal of some gratuitous commentary.]

Well, the experiment is not off to a roaring start. Right after publishing the original 'fishy water' post, I emailed Yubanet, The Union, NCTV(I think) and KVMR about it and about my suggestion/plea that they contribute some reporting energy to the subject; and while KVMR might possibly have done something,* the entire deluge of email-and-website replies I've received is reprinted here:

I did get one phone call from a friend pondering who at NCTV might be interested. And the water treatment plant manager and I managed to make phone contact this morning; he said he still had not received the questions which I emailed to the city manager* two weeks ago.

Fellow citizens have been forthcoming, offering information and additional questions, and generally passing the word along.

One of the most sorely afflicted by the fishy water - living further "upstream" than me - has shared what he knows in a comment on the original post.
(His neighbors don't have any problem with the water though. When asked why not, they explained* "we have a whole-house water filter.")

For reference, here's a scanned copy (PDF, big - 1.5MB) of an article on the Thanksgiving 2001 "fishy water" incident; also the Feb 2002 (pre- and post-City Council meeting) articles.

Monday, December 05, 2005

In-depth reporting on Nevada City's fishy water - an experiment in open source journalism

During at least the last 15 years, Nevada City has repeatedly suffered from poor drinking water quality. When our new city manager came onboard several years ago, he seemed to have gotten the problem under control somehow, but in the last year or so the water has reverted to its previous occasional foulness. The yearly water quality reports sent to all city residents typically report excellent water quality, and do not mention or explain the recurrent problem.*

So far, efforts to obtain a satisfactory explanation have not yielded satisfactory results. (partly due to my not following through, partly due to general busy-ness of city staff, partly due to the general entropy of communications...the point isn't to assign blame, it's to get answers.)

Hence - and in a general spirit of inquiry - I offer an open source journalism experiment and invite your participation:

Below I've laid out what I think I know and what I'd like to know. Do you have further questions? Perhaps a local weblog or newspaper or other news outlet could help to flesh out this information?

If you have questions or investigative/reporting skills to contribute, please, get to work...

Occasionally, Nevada City's drinking water develops a problem - a "fishy" smell, an odd/bitter taste, discoloration, and (it seems to me) a strange "greasy" texture.

The problem is worst in the neighborhood around Pioneer Park (served by the water tank nearest the drinking water treatment plant?), and typically worst after a dry spell following the first rains, e.g. around Thanksgiving.

The contamination is said
(by whom? )
(and with what level of confidence? from 0% to 100%)

to be due to "cold water algae", that grow primarily in
our reservoir? the water tanks? Little Deer Creek? somewhere else enroute?
(what is the name of our reservoir?)

Has the alga responsible been identified?
(if so, when and by whom, and what's the species?)

if not -
  • What attempts have been made, when and by whom?
  • What would it cost, roughly, to get an identification?
  • if cost unknown, how could we get a rough estimate of the cost?

Other questions:
  • Are growths of the algae more visible, at the times when the water has this problem?
  • On the phone, I've been told that the water treatment process gets rid of the odor by "oxidizing the compound" that causes it.
    By what means is this done?
  • Is the problem addressed in other ways as well?
  • if not, are there other ways that it could it be addressed? (eg. by increasing the reservoir inflow/outflow?)
  • Is there any documentation on the web that you'd recommend, that covers the "cold water alga" issue?
  • Have other communities encountered the problem, and if so, have they solved it or does it periodically come back to haunt them too?
  • Would it be possible for a citizen journalist or paid reporter (and perhaps Alan Stahler,* if he's in town) to be shown the reservoir, (drinking) water treatment plant, etc?
  • Where is the water intake location in the reservoir - does it vary, in distance from top, in different seasons?
  • Has the raw water (when foul) been measured for microcystins?
  • What other questions should we be asking, if we want to acquire a full understanding of the problem?

If you can help to get answers, we who drink and bathe in the problem will thank you.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Manna from Heaven, if you're starved for epistemology

Updated Jan. 10 (at end)

OK, so some of us have bizarre dietary needs...

In a comment recently I'd lamented:
We need an online course in practical epistemology.*

And lo, within the week one shows up on my radar screen, and you'll never guess who teaches* it: The CIA.
I've just skimmed the surface but here's the flavor - from Chapter 1:
Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But like many other skills, such as riding a bike, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. ...
The disadvantage of a mind-set is that it can color and control our perception to the extent that an experienced specialist may be among the last to see what is really happening when events take a new and unexpected turn...[since those] who know the most about a subject have the most to unlearn...

And it came to light in comments on another beyond-outrageously-good-and-topical book, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?.
Psychologist Philip Tetlock did the research to find out, and what he found was fascinating and not altogether expected.
[Tetlock] picked two hundred and eighty-four people who made their living "commenting or offering advice on political and economic trends," and he started asking them to assess the probability that various things would or would not come to pass, both in the areas of the world in which they specialized and in areas about which they were not expert.
Among the observations:
people who make prediction their business - people who appear as experts on television, get quoted in newspaper articles, advise governments and businesses, and participate in punditry roundtables - are no better than the rest of us. When they’re wrong, they're rarely held accountable, and they rarely admit it, either. ... the better known and more frequently quoted they are, the less reliable their guesses about the future are likely to be.
When television pundits make predictions, the more ingenious their forecasts the greater their cachet.
...both their status as experts and their appeal as performers require them to predict futures that are not obvious to the viewer.
[as a result, those who watch them are not well informed]
We are not natural falsificationists: we would rather find more reasons for believing what we already believe than look for reasons that we might be wrong.
why some people make better forecasters than other people...has to do not with what [they] believe but with the way they think:
...Low scorers look like hedgehogs: thinkers who "know one big thing," aggressively extend the explanatory reach of that one big thing into new domains, display bristly impatience with those who “do not get it,” and express considerable confidence that they are already pretty proficient forecasters, at least in the long term. High scorers look like foxes: thinkers who know many small things (tricks of their trade), are skeptical of grand schemes, see explanation and prediction not as deductive exercises but rather as exercises in flexible “ad hocery” that require stitching together diverse sources of information, and are rather diffident about their own forecasting prowess.
"we as a society would be better off if participants in policy debates stated their beliefs in testable forms"-that is, as probabilities-"monitored their forecasting performance, and honored their reputational bets."
... we're suffering from our primitive attraction to deterministic, overconfident hedgehogs.
... the only thing the electronic media like better than a hedgehog is two hedgehogs who don't agree...
...[Most "public intellectual" hedgehogs] are dealing in "solidarity" goods, not "credence" goods. Their analyses and predictions are tailored to make their ideological brethren feel good - more white swans for the white-swan camp.

Bonus link: Daniel Conover proposes
The Intelligence Briefing model of journalism (Jay Rosen's response: "what's hard to convey to people is how different the transaction between "journalist" and "public" (readers, users) could actually be."*)
(Here's how it is now)

Jan 10 update:
in the comments to this post I'd said
Also - the review ended with reviewer suggesting a take-home message of "think for yourself" - but AIRC provided no empirical evidence that this actually would work better. I'd love to see someone do the research to find what method works best for ordinary people - and suspect the optimum would involve a lot of outsourcing.

And lo, we have corroboration from Tetlock himself, via Carl Bialik in the Wall Street Journal Jan. 6:
The New Yorker's review of [Tetlock's] book surveyed the grim state of expert political predictions and concluded by advising readers, "Think for yourself." Prof. Tetlock isn't sure he agrees with that advice. He pointed out an exercise he conducted in the course of his research, in which he gave Berkeley undergraduates brief reports from Facts on File about political hot spots, then asked them to make forecasts. Their predictions -- based on far less background knowledge than his pundits called upon -- were the worst he encountered, even less accurate than the worst hedgehogs. "Unassisted human intuition is a bomb here," Prof. Tetlock told me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

what to do

Suppose you have a blog, and plenty of material at hand in the form of a local newspaper with Issues. Suppose the paper exhibits variation over time, and during the ups you think "well, maybe it's a new dawn and things are getting better" and during the downs you think "Nevada County needs to get a restraining order against this paper" and finally, after mishap after mishap after mishap, you come to accept that the paper is just uncouth by nature* and can't help itself.

But then they reprint this LA Times piece reporting John and Julia Doolittle's entanglement in the Abramoff corruption scandal, on the front page no less; and the publisher comes out with this column observing that maybe the Iraq war isn't worth the deaths of any more of our county's young men, and they print one of the best-written letters ever, on a proposed solution for maintaining the surfaces of Nevada City's so-called paved roads...

So what do you do? Do you hand out public accolades, hoping - yet again - that they're turning over a new leaf and things will be better now? Or do you gently close the door on the flowers-and-remorse and move on to new subject matter?*

Beats me.


Here's an excerpt from the pavement letter:
[Adams St. in Nevada City]Nevada City streets have deteriorated to the point of being non-streets...Probably the most cost-effective fix is to rip up what’s left of the asphalt and contact the Department of Public Works in Lovelock, Nev....experts at building and maintaining gravel roads...wonderful gravel roads, the kind that would add historic ambiance and make driving Boulder or Nevada streets feel like riding on a cushion of air...
The anonymice in comments are not sympathetic; leads you to suspect that they don't travel Boulder or Adams St often. And something tells me they've never tried weaving a 10-speed bike around the craters either; I have, and it's almost enough to drive you to driving.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Don't be disintermediated; become a blogger

The Union's editor Pat Butler recently described a problem the paper's having with an official who won't talk:
...A person who was appointed to fill an elected official's position insists that all questions be submitted in writing or that person refuses to talk to the media. We, of course, like to do live interviews so we can do follow-up questions and then quickly write our stories... What do you think?...

In comments, a pair of anonymice believed the official should be 'shamed' into talking to the paper, and Russ and I said s/he could have valid concerns about being misrepresented.

The win-win solution, of course, is for said official to get a weblog, get the paper to commit to printing its URL, and use the blog to explain any comments or misquotes at length. And then keep on using it, to inform readers as to what's going on; when you blog, you control whether your positions can be found online, vs helplessly watching them creep behind a "registration-required" wall or - for whatever reason - not get posted at all.

None; a blog on is free.

None; I'd be happy to create the blog and get you started.

Greensboro city council member Sandy Carmany.

A constituent's view of Carmany:
Politicians are famous for being these distant, vague figures who supposedly represent the rest of us.

But most of us don't really ever get to know these public servants as fellow human beings.

Carmany has removed the curtain and provided us a glimpse at the wizard. ...

Value to populace:
Allen Johnson, editorial page editor for the News and Record, calls out by name other Greensboro public officials and figures who ought to be be blogging, and, for each, explains why. Take a look, and apply to Nevada County.

So? Get in touch; email's on the sidebar, I'm in the phone book, or you can leave a comment below.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Draw your own inferences

Sunday update:
According to Wikipedia, Abramoff's troubles involve his dealings with four tribes, which do not include the Viejas. So whatever inferences you wish to draw from the following are completely up to you; I'll draw mine later, when I actually know something.


I just ran across these two pieces; the conjunction looks interesting.

From Raw Story, another Mormon serves Mammon*:
A friend and former colleague of fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff who rose swiftly through the ranks of the conservative establishment quietly advanced the interests of former clients under the cloak of a vocally anti-gambling Utah congressman
David Safavian, appointed in 2004 by President Bush to oversee $300 billion of annual federal purchasing as director of the Office of Management and Budget, has largely flown below the radar in his relationship to a massive lobbying scandal surrounding a lobbyist [Abramoff] who siphoned millions of dollars from Indian tribes and gambling interests into conservative coffers.
...[Congressman] Cannon received a $1,000 donation from the California-based Viejas Tribal Government. In December of the following year, he cashed a check for another two grand.

Though pennies in the Washington lobbying landscape, the donations bought face time in Congress. Cannon took the tribe’s side during a hearing over the location of a casino—for a tribe that wasn’t even in his state.

The Viejas kicked in another $2,000 in 2004.

The Nevada County angle - from last fall, Is local GOP laundering money or just supporting fellow Republicans?
In the past month, the Nevada County Republican Central Committee has twice funneled large amounts of cash - including one donation from a casino-operating American Indian tribe - to Republican candidates outside the county.
The second check [for $26,600* ] came in on Oct. 19 and was from the Viejas Tribal Government, which owns two lucrative casinos outside San Diego. It then left the coffers of the Nevada County GOP two days later as a donation for Paul Betancourt....

Betancourt and Podesto were chosen by the local party from a list Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico*....

John Doolittle on the hot seat?

Nov. 30 updates:
The apparent attempted murder of the chief investigator for Finance Committee chairman Chuck Grassley earlier this month:
Grassley is known for his aggressive oversight of the public and private sector. Over the past year, he has scrutinized healthcare fraud, organ-donation procedures used by hospitals, drug-safety matters and the use of nonprofit groups related to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
(although there are allegations...)

From today's Sacramento Bee article on Doolittle:
Doolittle's office has described Abramoff as a "close friend" of the congressman.

This could get interesting.

Via Washington Monthly:

From yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
Prosecutors in the department's public integrity and fraud divisions...are looking into Mr. Abramoff's interactions with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, Rep. Bob Ney (R., Ohio), Rep. John Doolittle (R., Calif.) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R., Mont.), according to several people close to the investigation.
[unlike DeLay and Ney] Spokespeople for Messrs. Doolittle and Burns said they haven't hired lawyers.
Mr. Doolittle's spokeswoman said the lawmaker hasn't been contacted by the Justice Department. Prosecutors often contact the subjects of investigations only after gathering significant information from others. The spokeswoman added that any suggestion that Mr. Doolittle "may have had some improper involvement in matters recently disclosed about Mr. Abramoff and others comes as a complete surprise and is simply ridiculous."
It isn't clear what involvement, if any, Mr. Doolittle had with Mr. Abramoff. The Justice Department subpoenaed documents more than a year ago from Mr. Doolittle's wife, a Republican fund-raiser. Mr. Abramoff also hired Kevin Ring, a top Doolittle aide. Mr. Ring declined to comment. It is unclear whether he or Mr. Doolittle are targets of the investigation.

In today's LA Times:
His onetime friendship with super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff has come back to haunt Rep. John T. Doolittle of Northern California, a member of the House Republican leadership, as the Justice Department continues its probe into Abramoff's dealings with lawmakers.

...the Washington Post reported late last year that the eight-term congressman from Roseville — a Mormon and staunch opponent of casino gambling — used Abramoff's luxury sports box in a Washington arena to host a fundraiser and then failed to report its value, as required by law.
Doolittle subsequently paid back Abramoff's firm for the use of the skybox and reported it on federal disclosure records.
...[The Justice Department did] subpoena documents from Doolittle's wife, Julia Doolittle, who hosted a fundraising event for an Abramoff charity, the Capital Athletic Foundation.
Doolittle has served in the House since 1990, after 10 years in the California state Senate.

Here's some background on Abramoff, including his days with the College Republicans. And here's background on the murder of the previous owner of the company Abramoff co-owned.

Previous post on Doolittle.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Events and Commemorations

Yesterday was both Thanksgiving and World Peak Oil Day, maybe, more or less, according to a prediction by Kenneth Deffeyes from back in Jan. 2004.

Today (or yesterday, or tomorrow; lots of variation on the internets) was International Buy Nothing Day.

  1. Gave thanks and gluttonized
  2. Tried out Bruce's E-Bike (product review available upon request)
  3. Bought a food and a beverage

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Testing The Union's error-correction process

Wed. Nov 30 update: received reply from Kady[The Union's web editor] explaining how corrections are supposed to work.[in this case, they didn't]

April 2006 update: 5 months later, the column remains uncorrected.


In a recent post The Union's web editor, Kady Guyton, gives instructions on how to report errors in the paper:
If you - the reader -see something in the paper that you believe is false, picking up the phone and calling the reporter or Editor... will go a lot further to getting the the right information out there [than sending anonymous, hyperbolic and utterly nonspecific rants]. Email will also work...

Here's a test case, with emphases added. The error I reported is clear-cut, but not major; I reported it as much to test the process as to see the error corrected.

So far, the results have been interesting.

A recent column contained a misstatement:
...remember the Spanish Flu of 1918?
In case you missed that class, one of every five humans on Earth died during that pandemic.

This didn't sound right, and didn't match what I found with a quick check on Wikipedia, so I emailed the columnist that same day:
[some other questions which seem to have caused high blood pressure*, then:] said that it was estimated[oops,no-was presented as fact, not as estimate] that 1 in 5 people died in the 1918 pandemic - is there a source for this? Wikipedia and other sources typically estimate that 5% died, i.e. 1 in 20.

The columnist's response:
[responses to the other questions indicating raised blood pressure*, then:]
... There's a great book on the 1918 pandemic called The Great Influenza.
If you are interested.
[nothing else related to the pandemic mortality numbers]

So if I ask "is there a source for these numbers?" and am told "The Great Influenza is an excellent book on the topic", this is saying that the numbers came from the book, right?

Apparently not: from p. 397 of The Great Influenza* (which is a great book on the 1918 pandemic; I've read it):
... the upper estimate [of mortality] would mean that [during the pandemic] excess of 5% of the people in the world died.

I emailed him back, asking straight out:

I [had] asked
> > ... you said that it was estimated that 1 in 5 people died in the 1918 pandemic - is there a source for this? ...

you [had]replied:
> There's a great book on the 1918 pandemic called The Great Influenza.

was this in answer to my question, or was it just a tangential comment?

He backtracked:
They really don't know how many people died from the 1918 pandemic. I think it's sufficient to suggest that the numbers were more than significant.
I suggested the book by John Barry because you seem to be interested...

The columnist is The Union's publisher; the rhetorical maneuver* is a dishonest implicature; it's not the first (and not the second).

To quote Jay Rosen out of context: "It's a small thing, but it's a small thing that speaks to an attitude". And to an M.O.

Resolution of error: as yet unknownNone. I next reported the error to the editor, which was somewhat cruel/unfair given that his boss had committed/excused it; the editor suggested that its being within a black-humorous column might make it less significant, and said I should take it up with the writer/publisher, which* I had already done, as recounted above.

So far, I've seen no correction. Tonight I've emailed Kady the web editor, whose "how to report errors" post led her unwittingly into the fray, to ask how corrections are typically handled, but this too is unfair as I'm putting her in a position where she'll be implicitly criticizing her manager(s) if she were to answer*.
(her reply)

there comes a point when to continue is just being brutal...Sorry, all.


(What is it about fives and correction-resistance, anyway?)

Another thing that struck me was the possessive pronoun the publisher used in email: it's his paper, not Nevada County's paper. Which, when combined with a fairly absolutist conception of property rights, explains a great deal.

What the Nevada Press Association was told last year:
Based on conversations across the country...people believed newspapers were unfair when they get even the smallest facts wrong such as age and name spelling, refuse to admit errors, use anonymous sources who criticize or attack ....
Shelby Coffey, Freedom Forum senior fellow and former editor of the Los Angeles Times, discussed how leadership qualities could bring positive changes in the newsroom....
"Management is about doing things right," Coffey said. "Leadership* is about doing the right thing."

Bonus link - former NY Times reporter Doug McGill has questions for and recollections of its publisher.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Awards ceremony - halos and dunce caps

Halo to Reinette Senum and the folks at APPLE for putting together the Heinberg event this week. Get a blog, APPLErs!

Dunce cap to the veritable genius who got all three vaccinations (in two arms) from the visiting nurse, when planning to paint the garage the next day.
(Corroborating evidence for the suitability of this award: if you were to read
Screw trigger firmly onto the [expanding foam] can valve. Be careful not to activate valve.
you'd probably notice that the first word was not "Push"; results using the latter approach are impressive, though perhaps more suited to the 4th of July.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Synchronicity, meet Littlewood's Law of Miracles

Great minds think alike...*
The most recent Xark post features xarker and Janet addressing the human tendency to seek pattern. Strange, since I was about to post on my own recent trompe l'cerveau* experience - a few days ago, after learning that the SR-71-sweatshirt clad neighbor was a Beale buddy of blogger Britt Blaser from back in his SR-71 refueling days, this bedside table sight suddenly registered:
[still entropic life on bedside table; note 'SR-71' mug holding pens (also note rolodex)]
Miraculous, no? SR-71s popping up all over - it's enough to make you a little nervous about what Santa might try to land on your roof.

Except that the neighbors have been there for years, as has Britt, and the mug has been there for months...the only change was in my attentional focus.

oh, and the address rolodex? it was open, through no conscious intent, to Grizzly Woman.*

It's starting to look like Littlewood's Law of Miracles in action...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Richard Heinberg in Grass Valley tonight

[blurry photo of Heinberg speaking]

A good presentation to a full house at the Center For The Arts in Grass Valley; I'd also say "a convincing presentation" had there been anyone present who'd been unconvinced at the start.

Take-home messages:

(Reality is that which, when you refuse to look at it, doesn't go away; we are in trouble.)

Demand will be exceeding supply of oil sometime soon; maybe next year, likely 5-7 years from now, possibly not until 20 years from now.

We are highly dependent on oil (almost 100% of our energy use is now fuel-based, compared with maybe 20% 150 yrs ago, much of which was wood); 1 gallon of gas is the energy equivalent of 6 weeks of human labor; the energy I use in a year is equivalent to having 300 people working for me around the clock

countries' "proven reserves" are clearly fradulent

the industrial revolution was like winning the energy lottery; the resultant "population bloom" has done to the human population what a 10% sugar solution does for the yeast population, in winemaking (before said population poisons itself and crashes)

"Are humans smarter than yeast?"

Economists (and those from other disciplines equally unfamiliar with actual physical limits) in government aren't suited to recognize the magnitude (and implacability) of the problem. Much of the solution will need to come from community organizations like APPLE ("we need to move forward with lifeboats"*).

We need to reduce both world population and per-capita consumption

The "solution" won't just be renewables; it has to involve demand reduction.

Solar is currently 1% of renewables, which are themselves a small fraction (?%) of total energy use

Economists' knee-jerk response is "price signals will save us" (high prices will spur conservation, and development of alternatives) - but the timing's wrong, the signals will come too late.

Authoritative sources - the Hirsch (SAIC) report (peak oil, wars, destabilization...), Chevron's; U.S. legislator most actively speaking out on Peak Oil is a Republican.

Comparing the U.S. economic condition in 1950 vs. 2005 (from foremost creditor and oil exporter, to foremost debtor and oil importer) is sobering, and perhaps the inevitable result of our oil "balance of trade".

Solutions (or steps toward) -

Heinberg's Oil Depletion Protocol (countries agree to reduce their oil imports, exports to match the world depletion rate)

Community re-localization - support local agriculture, try various strategies to increase energy efficiency (car pooling,sharing, "community-supported hitchhiking"...), communicate with other communities on how to make this work...

Best question: "How many County Supervisors, City Council members and Planners are in the audience?
Answer: No supervisors, 3 city council members (out of 15?)

(If the people lead, the leaders will follow...eventually)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Property rights

[hawk photo]
Owner of the airspace over No Man's Land. The ground-level owners have no respect for the neighbors' property rights; am told (by neighbors) that one of the cats killed a deer on their deck.

Large cats. I've seen deer carcasses in the past, but hadn't made the connection; would love to see the consumer, just once, though preferably not preparatory to becoming dinner.

Speaking of dinner, if you get a chance to go see Grizzly Man, take it (but not your children). No visual gore, no audio gore, although the story itself is, well, grisly. Best overheard summing-up: "I walked out of that movie feeling perfectly sane."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Blog-related ethical quandary - what do you think?

Suppose you were a regular contributor to the discussion on a local institution's weblog, and in your own weblog you linked to their posts - and to your and others' comments on their posts - frequently.

Suppose the institution - and some individuals - behaved badly, in part toward you, and that their blog made this obvious.

Suppose that - framing the change as a move to be more reader-friendly - they took the weblog offline altogether, redirecting all the old "perma"links to the front page of a new, reader-and-commenter-unfriendly pseudoblog (discarding the old blog's posts and comments).

Suppose that, although you emailed the publisher and (twice) web editor asking if they'd archived the old WordPress blog and if so was there any chance they could put it back online, your questions were never answered*.

Suppose you had access to an archive of the old posts and comments.

Would it be a breach of ethics for you to put it up online somewhere else?

with proper attribution, of course

Monday, November 07, 2005

That "push poll" you got from FEC Research?

Post-election update:
Thank you, fellow California voters.
Arnold, you oughta be in movies.

It's even worse [than being a 'push poll']; it seems it's not anonymous, they're storing your answers.

(What were the questions? I reflexively hung up after the first automated sentence; funny how you can recognize the voice of sleaze...)

In any case, it appears (from Daily Kos piece today) that "drown it in the bathtub" Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform is behind it; the 'poll' was conducted by FEC Research which is the same as ccAdvertising which is the same as; they do push polling for Republicans and Republican propositions in several states (here are October accounts from Oregon's Portland Communique and from the Daily Kos).
From ccAdvertising's "about" page:
ccAdvertising utilizes its patented (patents pending) Interactive Voice Response- Speech Recognition (IVRSR) method to ensure that our political, public policy and service organization clients have their messages reach the households they have targeted.

From today's Daily Kos piece:
Sources have confirmed that these push polls are being paid for (at least in part) by the Grover Norquist related "issues" group Americans for Tax Reform.
[contains this quote:]
As the computer gathered the answers, it stored each one individually, making it possible to retrieve them later by phone number, household name or address for other purposes.
[end contained quote; if correct, this is very sleazy]

when you say you're doing a poll, people assume they are anonymous. And if you're giving a poll that is not going to be anonymous, then the person taking the poll must be told their answers are being record in any sort of way before any question is asked.

But Grover isn't doing that...

Friday, November 04, 2005

As the world shrinks

In a post from last November, I linked to New York City blogger Britt Blaser's view of conservatives and liberals as conformity enforcers and diversity enhancers; to which Britt emailed this reply*:
...It was nice to visit your blog, since I have warm memories of Nevada County.

I flew tankers out of Beale AFB 1968-71, refueling the SR-71 [*]. My kids
were born there and we have happy memories of the many great towns between Smartville, where we lived, up to the Snow Bowl, where we had a great military discount.

At that time, my address was midway between Timbuktu and Rough and Ready:

Captain Britt Blaser
Star Route
Smartville CA 95903

You wouldn't make this stuff up!

This afternoon I was out on No Man's Land communing with nature* when a neighbor approached the barbed wire to see what was up. Pat's sweatshirt said "SR-71"...we got to talking...and, curious, I asked her if she'd known a pilot named Britt Blaser, at Beale...

So Britt, which of your children did you weigh on the scale at the Smart(s)ville post office?

and it seems your BMW made quite an impression...

Real life intervened, but Octobers of Avian Flu (1918 and 2005) may get filled in at some later point. Apologies for the appearance of having abandoned the series on a cliffhanger, although it's actually a ploy to get you to stop by the historical library (on North Pine St in Nevada City, open 10-4 weekdays) and dig for yourself.*

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

87 years ago today - October 19, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1 (just added caveats) ). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding and other Northern California towns, and is about to make its appearance in Nevada County.


Influenza spreading in every state

p.2, Man who fled from Grass Valley earlier in week (who slipped away when reported) now ill in Reno

editorial/features page,
David Starr Jordan on prewar and peace(?)

Influenza worry is bad for anyone
keep influenza out of mind as much as possible
stay away from crowds

(there's more, if you care to go and look*)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

87 years ago today - October 18, 1918

California now has 17,000 cases of influenza

The former Miss Edith Wales is ill with influenza in Massachusetts

Hospital Services Superb in the War Zone

The funeral for Mrs. Dow will be held today

Crystallize your thoughts into deeds, not words

If you crave material prosperity, shorten your way to it through the medium of Union advertisements.

Yellow pine is not good for plane work.

WH Englebright in Camp Kierney has influenza; formerly at Fort McDowell, being tranferred to Kierney, he was taken sick when enroute.

Frank Wehe at Camp Taylor, who was previously at Camp Kierney, is now a Second Lieutenant.

Monday, October 17, 2005

87 years ago today - October 17, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding and other Northern California towns, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

Influenza has passed high point in all army camps
New cases 5668 today; was 6488 yesterday
New pneumonia cases 1895 today, vs. 1916 yesterday
710 deaths today, a decrease of 159 from yesterday
(presumably these #s are all from the army camps?)

p.3, the name "kindergarten" should be changed; it's German.

p.5, Caroline J. Dow, 57, stricken suddenly; she died at her Broad St. home.

More measles cases among children and older people

Ray Davis was ill at Camp Fremont

p. 8, Personal friend accompanies body of dead soldier Frandy, returning to Nevada County. (Bauer says influenza at Camp Humphrey is abating.)

Contemporaneous news from Palo Alto, Iowa and Snohomish, Washington. Complete text of stories rather than just notes.

And according to this timeline, actress Rita Hayworth was born today.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

87 years ago today - October 16, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding and other Northern California towns, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.


Influenza Precautions
...when using a public telephone, put a cloth over the transmitter...

Influenza through whole U.S. subsiding in Army camps, but civilian population is sorely afflicted.

Cure for influenza is made public
The concoction is made by Homeopathic Hospital staff member George Baer...contains iodine, creosote and guaiacol ... prevented illness and made sick ones well within a few days...

Dr. Baxter made Health Officer of Grass Valley
meeting of the Board of Health...members being called by the Mayor to discuss matters concerning the public health ... methods of dealing with a possible invasion of influenza were discussed briefly.

Rapid spread of measles in the past week, and whooping cough

Red Cross to fight disease if need be

The Brand of Satan plays at the Nevada Theater tonight

Pape's Cold Compound Relieves All Grippe Misery

Germ of Influenza Too Small for Sight, according to Nicolle and Lebailly at the Pasteur Institute of Tunis

JB Stroud, 47, dies in Alaska

Friday, October 14, 2005

87 years ago today - October 14, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding and other Northern California towns, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

notes for today are also brief.


German in lumber camp tarred and feathered ("by his fellow workers") for not buying [war] bond

on p. 3, a Public Health Service bulletin on how to guard against influenza

Mario Maresi was buried in Pine Grove Cemetary

Mable Rowe, age 38, died in Alameda



via Crofsblog, Tamiflu-resistant virus found in Vietnamese girl - here on

Tamiflu is made from Shikimic acid, produced by the Chinese star anise plant*

Thursday, October 13, 2005

87 years ago today - October 13, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding and other Northern California towns, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

notes for today are brief.

Big fires in Minnesota and Wisconsin

p.6, William Hegarty died August 18 (no details)

Colfax Boy* Dies of Flu
Leonard Murley, railway tunnel guard in the canyon above Redding, has died (in Redding area).


bird flu has reached Europe (in birds). Washington Post report on the Capitol Hill Flu Briefing:
"We and the entire world remain unprepared for what could arguably be the most horrific disaster in modern history,"
"Let me paint you a little picture. Twenty to 30 percent of your employees don't show up to work . . . schools are closed . . . transportation systems are curtailed or shut down . . . Critical infrastructure will or may fail: food, water, power, gas, electricity."...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

87 years ago today - October 12, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding and other Northern California towns, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

No Abatement of Influenza Noticeable
...slight decline in number of new army camp influenza cases, but pneumonia is up.
Total camp cases 223,000; pneumonia 28,000; deaths 8,000

From Auburn, government to look into Tony Cottopassi case. A soldier at Camp Fremont, he was home on furlough trying to sell his hotel...


The War Exhibit train was in Colfax yesterday

Saurin King buried at Greenwood Cemetary

Editorial/Features page:
Avoid Spreading Germs of Colds

Other editors' views:
"Land for returning soldiers" has now been taken up by public welfare cranks...[They shouldn't;] Uncle Sam will look after his boys when the Huns have been sufficiently punished, and don't you forget it.

p. 5
Seven are headed for Fort Rosencrans, including John E. Lewis and William H. Kneebone
Another Home Guard Dance this evening

p. 6, another Flu Bulletin, from Surgeon General Rupert Blue, on how to check influenza's spread.



Xarker on Why a pandemic will kill newspapers, to which I parrot another observation from Peter Sandman:
the media cover a story in proportion to how interesting it is, not in proportion to how significant it is. ...
...journalistic sensationalism goes into remission when facing a story that is legitimately terrifying... reporters and editors instead find themselves allied with official sources in over-reassuring the public.

In other words, the media's not optimized for informing its readers.

..which ties back to other Xark posts...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

87 years ago today - October 11, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has hit Redding (and, we learn today, other Northern California towns), but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet. But it is killing our enlisted men...

(three paragraphs at bottom of the front page:)
Dunsmuir has 300 cases
effect: the further crippling of train service, already felt at Gerber in Tehama County where there are a large number of cases.

p. 3, Saurin King will be buried in Greenwood Cemetary.

(nothing on flu on the editorial page)

p. 5, Precautions Taken to Stop Measles
State Health Officer is paying attention to the present outbreak of measles in Nevada City.

pp. 6 and 7 have a long Bulletin on Spanish Flu from the Surgeon General of the U.S. Health Service.

p. 8, Melvin L J Frandy dies in Virginia Camp
Age 21, born March 26 1897; graduated from the University of California in Mechanical [and?] Electrical Engineering; died of influenza at Camp Humphrey. Few young men of Nevada County had a more promising future...his death is a severe blow.

Esther Hartung is here from Colfax for her cousin Saurin King's funeral.


October 11, 2005

Actually published Oct 10, a beyond excellent* piece by Sandman, The Flu Pandemic Preparedness Snowball (although his his criticism of the Reveres of Effect Measure does seem off the mark; nicely expressed here.). Read (or at least wander through) this and also Dr. Grattan Woodson's pandemic preparedness handbook (PDF, via) before you read anything else on bird flu. It's time well spent.

Monday, October 10, 2005

87 years ago today - October 10, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has reached Redding, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

Influenza Is Holding Grip on Entire Nation now epidemic in virtually every state and shows no abatement in army camps

Motion Picture Industry to discontinue releases after October 15

Reaches Camp Lewis ... prevalent in Cape Town, Australia, Pernambuco, South America


Community singing last night - large audience at the Auditorium. M. Henry Argall was the Four Minute Man*.

An apple tree at Spenceville is in full bloom.

Mrs JF Towle of San Francisco is visiting her son CW Towle and family.

Placer County cattle are dying of unknown cause. "They stagger around a while, then plunge forward, dead."

Only two lightless nights a weeks soon.

War Relic train to be at Colfax Friday morning.

[the editorial page is silent on flu today]

Charles Salmon (of the Salmon mine at Tyler) has secured the Eastin bungalow on Nevada St. for the winter.

Richard Phillips of Spring St, who has been down with Malarial Fever for a couple of weeks, is out again.

Cecil Brophy has had measles for the past 10 days; it is a mild case and he is out of bed.

There was a large attendance at the Kieffer funeral yesterday.

Frank Crase at Camp Hancock* has been promoted to First Lieutenant.



Get your insights here:
via Laura, some excellent (Paul Graham caliber) articles on communicating risk to the public -
  • Adjustment Reactions: The Teachable Moment in Crisis Communication
  • What makes an excellent pandemic communication speech.
  • Communicating worst case scenarios and how communicators cheat -
    One common approach is to mention the worst case scenario once or twice in a low-circulation technical report, or even in a news release, so it’s on the record -- and then stop talking about it. With a little luck maybe nobody will pick up on it much. Repetition is a key signal to journalists and stakeholders that something is important. If you don’t repeat it, they may not notice it, or may not realize its importance.
    Another strategy is to say it, even to say it often, but without much drama. If you phrase the worst case technically enough, maybe reporters and the public won’t know what you mean; if you phrase it boringly enough, maybe it won’t quite register.
    Virtually every unauthorized precaution people decide to take is called panic by those in authority...

  • The myth of panic

and lots more. If you're partial to scoffing at the stupidity of others, you won't enjoy this reading.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

87 years ago today - October 9, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has reached Redding, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

Decrease of Influenza in Army Camps

(subhead: "Throughout country it is on increase and is spreading rapidly; California cases light")
Total # army camp influenza cases since it started last month: 182,000; pneumonia 19,283; deaths 5761

No Alarm in California

PHS said 71 cases in San Francisco; said to be not of the virulent type and strict isolation was proving effective.

Strange Child Malady Epidemic in Argentina

In Catamarca province (population 10,000), 100 children are dead in one month ... resembles dysentery ... highly contagious

Barracks Liked by Girl Workers

["like boarding school", we are told; this is a "glorious moment" in their lives]

25 Years Ago Today

A fine deposit of asbestos was discovered near Colfax

American Forces Going Overseas Rapidly

[Despite influenza in the camps] All these men sent abroad are in excellent health. They take care not to send anyone with influenza or who has been exposed.*


Mass for Clifford Murray, first Nevada City boy killed in action (in France) ... Mario Maresi's body is coming home ... M. McBride and family returned from brother's funeral in Oakland ... Clifford Williams slowly improving from a recent illness ... County Recorder SJ Clark has been sick at home with a bad head cold for the past few days.


October 9, 2005

Scientists: Pandemic flu unlikely this year
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a bird flu pandemic was unlikely this year.
"How unlikely, I can't quantitate it," Fauci said. But, he added, "You must prepare for the worst-case scenario. To do anything less would be irresponsible."

"I would not say it's imminent or inevitable," said Dr. Jeffery Taubenberger, chief of the molecular pathology department at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.
"I think in the future there will be a pandemic." But, he added, whether that pandemic will be bird flu or another type, no one can say.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

87 years ago today - October 8, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has reached Redding, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

(No October 7, 1918 paper - it was a Monday, and The Union didn't publish on Mondays.)


October 8, 1918

Henry J. Widenman, head of the State Highway Commission, killed himself accidentally while hunting with a shotgun. He was an active Republican and Progressive in politics.

Red Cross called to fight influenza

Secretary of the Interior collapses while making speech* - Acute indigestion given as cause

Influenza kills Brigadier
Brigadier General Charles A. Doyen, commandant of Marine Corp Training [?] at Quantico

High Vitality of People is Influenza's Foe
Vitality of the American people is high. This is robbing the influenza of much of its terrors. ... Science is arrayed strongly against the disease. And soon climatic conditions over the greater part of the country should be such as to check its ravages.

Influenza should not make people hysterical
Prevalence of influenza in several army camps and among civilians in a good many states has become somewhat serious...(but preventive measures and prompt treatment help) and there is a notable decrease in new cases in several localities.

The Pacific Coast has thus far been virtually immune to the disease in virulent form. It may come...but climatic conditions are such that it will probably be less severe than in the Northeastern States.

It is well that wise precautions be taken. But there is no reason for Californians to become hysterical about the malady. It can be and will be conquered and there is no present menace to the state.
...Coolness and caution and due attention to preventive methods should prove effectual. In any event, giving way to exaggerated alarm will do no good and might do harm.
Carefulness rather than consternation should be the rule.


There's community singing at the Auditorium tonight.

Edward J White funeral well attended
... The large [Elks] hall was filled with friends and acquaintances of the dead soldier.

The funeral of Joseph Kieffer will be at 2pm Wednesday.

Maril Mresi has died of pneumonia in Aberdeen MD

Mary Huy, who came to Nevada County in 1859, has died in Redding at age 68. Cause is said to be valvular heart trouble; it came suddenly but was not unexpected.
Her son is head clerk at the National Hotel.

Raymond Paull at Camp Lewis has pneumonia, but is recovering slowly.

Small boy bitten by Ferocious Dog
Little Irvin Hays was badly bitten by a vicious bulldog on Temby St.
The dog owner was ordered to confine the dog for 10 days, to watch for rabies.


October 8, 2005

Bird flu (in birds) in Europe; cases reported in Romania and Turkey. Not yet clear if it's H5N1 or a "normal" strain.

In Forbes:
The United States is unprepared for a global flu pandemic, according to a draft of a federal report, which predicts a worst-case scenario that could lead to the deaths of 1.9 million Americans and the hospitalization of 8.5 million more people with costs exceeding $450 billion. ..."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

87 years ago today - October 6, 1918

1918 pandemic, war, and small town life, as reported by the local paper (beginning Oct 1). The virus is in San Francisco, and has reached Redding, but hasn't arrived in Nevada County yet.

Legal Battle in Nevada over Hearst Papers

...the suit was brought to restrain the [State council of Defense] from interfering with the sale of Hearst publications in Nevada on the grounds that the Hearst publications were unpatriotic in the past.(*)

Grass Valley residents go wild last night on German peace news*

hundreds of people...immense parade...immense demonstration...The crowd continued to increase until midnight


Military dance big success (at the Armory); lucky couple Miss Alvetta(?) Wasley and Ray Perrin of Grass Valley received the thrift cards.

Mrs Huy ill at Redding
Joseph Huy of the National Hotel was called to Redding by telegraph Friday...mother had taken ill and is in a serious condition. He left to attend upon her.

Use Tanlac - gain much weight fast.

75% of war bonds now subscribed - willful slackers not forgotten

Rough and Ready is planning big patriotic meeting

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

87 years ago today - October 5, 1918

Liberated Flemings from Ledegham say the Germans "forced the civilians to sleep on the floor while husky Germans occupied their beds". 28 villagers were killed by the Germans.

There were 9 Grand Jury indictments for seditious utterances in Sacramento; bail is $1000 each (for 4 male residents of Stockton and for Mrs. Johanna May Powell of Chico)

Influenza is Sweeping Over Whole Nation

- Public Health Service statement recommending suspension of gatherings
(Washington DC, Oct 4)
Continues its rapid spread - become an epidemic in many more cities - 12,975 new cases reported among soldiers training in the U.S. - Public Health Service officials say the best way to combat it is to prohibit public gatherings; Head of the Treasury Secretary McAdoo has asked newspaper editors to give publicity to the suggestions.


The J. Warren Kerrigan film "One Dollar Bid" is playing at the Auditorium Theater - Fatty Arbuckle in his funniest 2-reel comedy, "Oh Doctor" shows at the Nevada Theater - tonight's the weekly dance of the Home Guard - and there'll be a general patriotic program at the Rough and Ready schoolhouse.

The Naffziger and Fischer residences on Nevada St are for rent.


Influenza Don'ts

  • indulge in promiscuous coughing or sneezing in public if possible - if you do, cover or smother...
  • use common drinking glasses or towels
  • visit a person who is suffering from or is suspected to be suffering from "grippe"
  • neglect a "cold", but seek proper medical advice
  • visit places of crowded assemblage
  • sleep in overcrowded or unheated rooms
  • indulge in excesses of any kind.


Darrel Coughlan promoted - has written to his parents from Camp Lewis[*] that he now wears the stripes of Corporal. He was promoted after only 12 days in the camp.

RJ Ronchi's Red Front Store in Nevada City offers Local Mountain Potatoes:
We now have a new lot of fine large local potatoes. They are the best we have been able to offer this year and are very fine.


A society piece on the wife and daughter of John W. Davis, the new U.S. Ambassador to England - "Miss Davis is a college student and one of the most popular girls of her set"


Influenza at Redding
dated Oct 4 - 16 cases reported up to last evening; no case is serious as yet (and no pneumonia)


October 5, 2005

From CIDRAP (pandemic page here), Scientists recreate 1918 flu virus, see parallels with H5N1
The 1918 flu pandemic, regarded as the worst in history, killed as many as 100 million people.
Mice infected with [the reconstructed virus] died in as little as 3 days, and mice that survived as long as 4 days had 39,000 times as many virus particles in their lungs as did mice infected with a control flu virus
Within 24 hours, [infected human] lung cells released at least 50 times as much virus as did lung cells infected with the [normal flu] strain.
...Only 10 amino-acid changes in the polymerase genes consistently distinguish the 1918 virus and subsequent human flu viruses from the same genes in avian viruses. It adds, "A number of the same changes have been found in recently circulating, highly pathogenic H5N1 viruses that have caused illness and death in humans and are feared to be the precursors of a new influenza pandemic."

From the Dallas Morning News, U.S. unprepared for influenza pandemic
The United States is woefully unprepared if - and it's a big if - an influenza pandemic erupts, public health experts say.
"The people of the country ought to rest assured that we're doing everything we can," President Bush said this week.
The avian virus...has caused only 60 human deaths out of 116 confirmed cases reported since 2003

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

87 years ago today - October 4, 1918

Influenza's Spread Cause for Concern

Further spread over the country of Spanish Influenza with an increasing death rate was indicated today in reports received by the Public Health Service and the office of the surgeon general of the army. # cases at 113,737 with death rate increasing... Pneumonia takes 2479 ...

Local news -

Bert Austin is sick in hospital in Sacramento -
Mrs Ella M. Austin has been in Sacramento the last week to be at the bedside of ther son Bert Austin, who is confined in the Sisters hospital with typhoid fever.

FL Hunt arrived home yesterday with his sheep from the mountain range....Max and John Solaro made Savory Ford's 3rd grade honor roll in Nevada City, as did Frank Silva in 5th grade and Roy Silva in 8th. Herbert Nile and his wife motored to this city from their home near Smartsville yesterday. Mr. Nile is not in his usual good health.

The Fettered Woman is playing at the Nevada Theatre...Harry Grover will give the Four Minute Talk, on Liberty Bonds.


Something About Spanish Influenza

(a Welfare League Bulletin)
Is this new disease which has already killed hundreds and stricken thousands of our soldiers and civilians a new German War Offensive? [No, since it's not likely that] if Germany undertook an offensive of this kind, she would choose such a mild and inoffensive sort of disease. A much more plausible explanation...the recent cold...large numbers...contracted colds...developed...into pneumonia and resulted in an unusual number of deaths. Colds...often result fatally...

In any event there seems to be no occasion for special alarm or panic about the matter for the disease is evidently one which the American medical profession is perfectly able to handle, and moreover, effective measures are being taken, wherever it appears, to check and destroy its power.


Dr. Howard Nafziger (born in Nevada City, graduated from Nevada City High in 1900) now in France as head consulting surgeon of one of the leading Base Hospitals of the US Army) has distinguished himself in his surgical work... been [named?] to the high position of Lieutenant Colonel. This is an unusual preferment showing the high regard he is held by army heads and staff.

Saurin King, about 26, a native of Grass Valley, has died in Ft. Monroe, Virginia. It is presumed that he fell victim to the epidemic of Spanish Influenza. of the hundreds of splendid young men who have gone forth for the service of their country during the last few months.

Monday, October 03, 2005

87 years ago today - October 3, 1918


October 3, 1918

[According to the PBS 1918 timeline, Boston registered 202 influenza deaths on Oct 2.]

Brother of Resident Here Dies Suddenly

CR Williams, 32, the youngest brother of Mrs. M. McBride...on the streets of Oakland ... was known to be in good health a short time before ...Mr. and Mrs McBride will leave on the train for Oakland today where they will attend the funeral.

The body of Soldier Edward J. White (who died at Edgewood Arsenal) is expected to arrive Saturday or Sunday ... the funeral will be held immediately


From Ch. 9 of Barry's The Great Influenza:
[Woodrow Wilson's] Sedition Act made it punishable by twenty years in jail to "utter, print, write or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive Language about the government of the United States." One could go to jail for cursing the government, or criticizing it, even if what one said was true.
To enforce that law, the head of what became the Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed to make a volunteer group called the American Protective League an adjunct to the Justice Department... ... Within a year, two hundred thousand APL members were operating in a thousand communities.
... the league's American Vigilance Patrol targeted "seditious street oratory," sometimes calling upon the police to arrest speakers for disorder conduct, sometimes acting more ... directly. And everywhere the league spied on neighbors...

...government...urged people to report...anyone "who spreads pessimistic stories, divulges - or seeks - confidential military information, cries for peace, or belittles our effort to win the war."

the forging of all the nation into a weapon... would jam millions of young men into extraordinarily tight quarters... they not only shared beds but shared beds in shifts, where one shift of workers ... climbed into a bed just vacated by others leaving to go to work, where they breathed the same air, drank from the same cups, used the same knives and forks.

[and] through both intimidation and voluntary cooperation, despite a stated disregard for truth, the government controlled the flow of information...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

87 years ago today - October 2, 1918



October 2, 1918

Smallest story (of 12) on the front page:

Spanish Influenza Sweeps Gantonments(sic)

...continues to spread in army camps ... over 14,000 new cases in 24 hours ... increase over yesterday's 3666 cases


The Great Nazimova is at the Strand tomorrow, in Toys of Fate.

The latest Salisbury film, The Eagle (a superb Western drama), plays at the Auditorium [theater] tonight.


Mothers - give candy Cascarets to work the nasty bile, souring food and constipation poison from the little liver and bowels


Local war news:

Registrants (#1331-1544) include Harold William Paynter, George Thomas Wasley, Arthur Burling Foote, Fred Orzalli

Theodore H. Tobiasson is among those called up for examination on Oct. 7

Raemah Arbogast and William Englebright are headed for Fort McDowell.


Nationalism First

... The man who puts internationalism above nationalism is as much to be suspected as the man who puts promiscuous affection for his neighbors above devotion to his own family. ...


The Case of Eugene Debs

(reprinted from the Kansas City Star)
The honest man who is hopelessly wrong may be an even greater menace to society than the consciousless crook. Debs is a man who lives by formula - a dangerous principle to follow.
It is this inability to make distinctions... that distinguishes the fanatic from the real reformer.


October 2, 2005

Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, Oct 3-9

Helen Branswell interviews Dr. David Nabarro of WHO, whose "150 million dead" estimate (*) was followed by yesterday's frantic WHO backtracking:
The official WHO estimate (of 2 to 7.4 million deaths) was calculated using a mathematical model based largely on the Hong Kong flu of 1968, the mildest pandemic of the last century.

"It would really disturb many, many systems and our capacity to cope in many countries would not be that great," he says, predicting food supplies in the developed world - where diets are comprised almost exclusively of purchased (not home-grown) food - "would be particularly badly hit."

A leading advocate for pandemic preparedness, Dr. Michael Osterholm, has warned a pandemic would have a substantial and highly disruptive impact on the production and movement of goods, leading to shortages of many products critical to daily life.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

87 years ago today - Oct 1, 1918

What did newspapers' coverage of the 1918 inflenza pandemic look like?
John Barry's book covers this, making the point that a cowed and propagandist press (during WW I) was not an informative press. Here's how The Union covered and editorialized on the events in October 1918.*

1. This is from notes, so complete accuracy is even less likely than usual.
(Any chance The Union will be one of the papers in the National Digital Newspaper Program?)

2. Other standards for this series are also lax. If the post isn't ready until after midnight, I'll turn the "post time" clock back an hour or so, so it appears to be published on the correct day; I'll go back and fix spelling and expand/append notes without explicitly saying so; or perhaps laziness will reign and spelling etc will go unfixed.


October 1, 1918

Edward White added to roll call of dead

Edward John White, age 25, Nevada City Elks member, at Edgewood Arsenal, MD, of pneumonia. ...the remains will be shipped to this city for interment...


Influenza Epidemic Is Not Alarming Nation disastrous general epidemic of the disease is probable.

Essentially a crowd disease
While only a few sporadic cases have developed on the Pacific coast, there is the possibility, of course, that it might become prevalent in some measure, in this section, for a time. Precautions are not amiss...


Put the Propagandists out of Business Here

Pro-Germanism employs many diverse schemes to fortify its ends. Smite mercilessly enemy propaganda whenever and wherever found, and whoever may be responsible for it. Disloyal, seditious remarks overheard should be reported promptly to the proper federal authorities or to local patriotic organizations. Your name will not be used...

Deny any alarmist rumors that may be retailed in your hearing...
Puncture such lies as that American transport ships are being sunk and soldiers drowned, but that the Washington authorities are keeping the truth hidden. This is a monstrous untruth and should be excoriated whenever heard.

[ed. note:
U. S. Navy troop transports sunk or damaged by enemy torpedo, bombs, or gunfire (from
  • May 31, 1918:
    U. S. S. President Lincoln (troop transport), gross 18,167 tons; torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-90, 600 miles off the French coast; 26 killed, 1 taken prisoner.

  • July 1, 1918:
    U. S. S. Covington (troop transport), gross 16,339 tons; torpedoed by German submarine U-86 off Brest, France; sank July 2; 6 killed.

  • September 5, 1918:
    U. S. S. Mount Vernon (troop transport), gross 18,372 tons; torpedoed by German submarine U-57 about 200 miles off Ushant, France; made port; 36 killed, 12 wounded.

  • September 30, 1918:
    U. S. S. Ticonderoga (N. O. T. S.* cargo(?) vessel), gross 5,130 tons; torpedoed, shelled and sunk after two hours battle by German submarine U-152, in North Atlantic.; 213 killed: 112 Navy, 101 Army, 2 taken prisoners.

Other headlines:

Cholera has made appearance in Berlin
Germans too dazed to counter attack
Wounded men well cared for


October 1, 2005

In the SF Chronicle:
Every day, headlines squawk about avian flu and mosquito-borne West Nile virus... But are birds really a threat?

"We're a country of fear," said avian expert Dr. Greg Harrison of Lake Worth, Fla. ... Harrison pointed out avian flu has been around for at least five years, "and worldwide, fewer than 100 people have died from it." "...panic is not the answer" ...the risk of an avian flu pandemic remains low at this time due to the current genetic makeup of H5N1, although this could change...
and in NY Times ( World Health Agency Tones Down Alarm on Possible Flu Pandemic (AP story)):
The World Health Organization moved Friday to drastically revise downward what it considered alarming predictions that a possible pandemic from the avian influenza virus ravaging parts of Asia could kill as many as 150 million people.
..."We're not going to know how lethal the next pandemic is going to be until the pandemic begins," [WHO influenza spokesman] Dick Thompson, said Friday. "You could pick almost any number" until then, he said, adding that the organization "can't be dragged into further scare-mongering."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Interview questions

adding more...

Pat Butler is a brave man, to submit to a face to face interview.

I am not a brave man. On the other hand, I do readily answer questions from my readers.*

  • Others have said:
    The goal of objectivity is not fairness or balance: it is reliability and credibility. Objective information actually upsets rote "fairness" when one side of an argument is based on an obvious distortion.
    Neutrality requires that you give equal billing to people who say the earth is flat and those who say it is round. Objectivity allows you to point out the evidence that the flat-earth folks are wrong.
    Do you aim for objectivity, or for neutrality and 'fairness', in The Union's reporting?
  • The Union started a weblog last spring that contained some interesting posts and comments, which I had linked to from mine. In your switch to the new, less reader-friendly format, the old (WordPress) blog's posts and comments were taken offline, thus blocking community access to a unique source of local information. Were the posts and comments archived? if so, will they be put back online?
  • The long-broken pre-2002 Archive Search, that used to be on The Union's website, has been taken offline. Are there plans to restore it?
  • Why is the current Archive Search still broken? It hasn't been fully functional for over a year. Why is there no warning on the page, to inform the users? (there used to be one, then it disappeared, and, despite repeated requests, hasn't returned)

More questions are in the old list here.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

progressive blogging at The Union

Thurs update: I'm trying to get an answer from an editor (of web or paper) at The Union as to whether the posts and comments from their previous blog a) were archived and b) will be put back online. One days-old email query not answered, now switching to asking in blog comments (which, according to Kady, are working now - "Our servers in Reno had some problems...a few things were lost before I got a chance to save them to our own system."(*)).

If 'conservative' can mean 'ok with treating the planet as disposable since Armageddon will be right with us' then a 'progressive newspaper' can be one that engages in gratuitous linkrot, deleting all old posts and comments from their WordPress blog and replacing it with redirecting visitors to a through-the-looking-straw pseudoblog.

So if and until it gets resurrected, my past links to their blog's posts and comments are kaput.

from the dead blog, "We also hope to revamp the look of our blog soon and make it easier to read and skip from entry to entry.*"

My response (in comment to that post):
"Easier to read and skip from entry to entry"? Pat, could you explain what you mean by this?

Please to excuse my unwarranted suspicions, but I fear you mean that you'll be regressing to Swift's [sub]standard blog format, as manifested by the Greeley Tribune's Editor's blog; note that comments (and commenters) are effectively throttled. It's the antithesis of progressive newspaper blogging.

Please Pat, tell me I'm wrong. Tell me you want to encourage participation, not smother it.

if such is true.

(and will old blog posts and comments be migrated - thereby breaking the permalinks, a web offense - or will you keep them in their current format and at their current URLs?)

Their reply? None, AFAIK*, except to do pretty much as I foresaw - although it was a surprise to find that the old posts and comments had been blown away altogether.

Advice for progressive newspapers: Cover news, not tracks.

Friday, September 23, 2005

blog hiatus, belated explanation

Edited 2010-06-16 (toned down wording)
Still alive, still conscious, busy elsewhere in life for now, plus the usual tone of this blog is wholly inappropriate in a time of natural and other disasters.

One thing I have to say though -

I've worked in the broadcast industry - writing software to configure and control equipment that's used in television stations and post-production houses - for over 15 years. It's been great to be paid (well) to work out puzzles all day, but, up until recently, I've had doubts about the social utility of my work.

The television coverage of New Orleans post-Katrina changed that.

It's a wonderful thing to feel proud of what we do.

Added Thursday, found in TPM Cafe:
Our nation's hope lies at the bottom, with our National Guardsmen, our volunteers, and disaster relief teams tasked with cleaning up the consequences of the elite's greed and negligence. It lies with the people who, God willing, still don't have access to TVs, and have not yet realized the humanity they experienced is not shared by all. (*)