Tuesday, November 28, 2006

People I would like to meet

A very incomplete list (fallible memory, narrow mind, some names removed to protect the innocent)
* Press bloggers - DeLong, Rosen, Alexander, Cline, Conovers, and others
* Dave Mitchell
* Gary Webb*
* K.C. Meadows
* Margaret Wade
* Lisa Williams
* the one true b!x
* Chris Cobler
* Arne Hoel
* Fred Sacher
* Howard Ahmanson

Monday, November 27, 2006

Deep thoughts

re the title- it's relative.

Thought #1: Recently ran across an exceedingly apt Aristotelian aphorism*, which I'm trying to wear out from overuse:
It is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain an idea without accepting it.

Thought #2: An open question -
I was talking with an old friend yesterday, trying to entice her onto the citizen journalism bandwagon. From a goal-oriented perspective, it did not go well. She said (echoing this MJ article but more pessimistically) -
"Why bother gathering facts? it's abundantly clear that people don't make up their minds based on facts, they just believe whatever they feel like believing, and keep on voting for corrupt candidates - look, even 'cold-cash Jefferson' got re-elected."

I placed the blame for this on the mores of the media (which, were she to join said bandwagon, she'd be helping to reform) -
"The standard he-said-she-said reporting is what's gotten us into this mess - if the press did its job and informed us, and didn't use false balance to maintain the postmodern pretense that all "realities" were equally valid, people would think and act and vote more rationally...and that's a delusion that I'm not ready to give up."

My question for you, dear thoughtful, reflective, not reflexively hostile reader*:

Is there any good, empirical evidence that it's not a delusion? or do we just take on faith, with no awareness of irony, that evidence-based "discipline-of-verification" journalism makes for a (substantially) more rational populace?

Related: Scott Atran's
... no convincing evidence presented that [scientists] know how to deal with the basic irrationality of human life and society other than to insist against all reason and evidence that things ought to be rational and evidence based.

And if you wanted to collect data bearing on this assertion, where would you look, and how would you tease apart causation from [other reasons for] correlation?

Apologies in advance to Jerry Maguire, but: Show me the data. please.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Followup on the early November power outages

Nov. 27 update at end of post (and in italics within).
Russ Steele's comment on my Nov. 13 "power outages" post exposed the inadequacy of my "dust on the transformers*" attempt at explanation.
Rather than remaining true to blogger nature and quietly changing the subject, I emailed* PG&E spokeswoman Lisa Randle asking for more information.
(which she promptly and extensively provided; either she's extremely generous, or I was lucky and caught her on a slow afternoon, or both.)

However, I think we're still left with a mystery:

In early November, during a one-week period during calm weather, Nevada County experienced three power outages with three different reported causes (one unambiguous, 2 ultimately ambiguous), and Red Bluff had [at least] one with yet a fourth cause. In Nevada County at least, these outages were unusual on several fronts: the mere fact of their occurrence (the power has been extremely reliable the last few years; thank you PG&E), their clustering, and their association with relatively calm weather.

The Nevada County outages and their reported causes:

  1. Sat Nov. 4, about 6pm, the Cascade Shores area east of Nevada City, on a quiet, rain-free night
    L.R.: A sectionalizer had opened causing the outage but the cause was not definitive. The weather at the time was - Strong Winds,Clear;32-90 F. Not having found a specific item like a branch or animal in the line or a vehicle accident, it was most likely weather related due to the wind.

    I don't recall windy weather that evening, and apparently nor does the National Weather Service: on this page, for Nov. 4 for Sacto (are there wind records for Nevada County?):
    426 PM PST SAT NOV 4 2006
    WIND (MPH)

  2. Wed Nov. 8, 4:30 and 4:45pm, in town; an article in The Union reports that it may have been caused by lightning.
    L.R.: This outage was caused by a tree through the line, but at the time I provided information to the reporter this was not known and reports at the time had indicated possibly lightning.

  3. Later that same evening of 11/8, about 11pm, in-town Nevada City, during 'quiet' weather
    L.R.: The Cause was equipment...a fuse had blown. A fuse is a safety device that activate when fault current is detected on the line. It works just like a fuse in your circuit box at your home. It serves to protect other equipment. A line-to-ground fault was noted, but again no specific cause for the equipment action.

I don't know what if anything to make of this cluster of outages (and the seemingly contrafactual report of causal weather conditions for the first one), but it does seem curious.

Ms. Randle also shared some more general info, which will appear on NCDocuments in the next day or so.
Nov 27 update, one week later:
As with creation, a "day" is not always best understood literally.
Asked two more people, so two more data points:
1. According to an anonymous source, Petaluma also experienced an uncharacteristic power outage, back in October.
2. An Alta Sierra source informs us that power was not lost there.

Two relevant quotes (or one relevant and one red herring):
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny..."
- Isaac Asimov

Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.
- Robert Park

Monday, November 13, 2006

Likely cause of our recent power outages

Last Wednesday's power outages were tentatively attributed in The Union (here) to lightning.
(was there lightning?)

The two comments on the article asked if anything was known about the causes of two other recent unexplained outages, which occurred when there was no weather to speak of.

Nobody responded to us.

My guess is that Nevada County's power outages stem from the same problem reported in Red Bluff recently:
North Valley PG&E spokesperson Lisa Randle said dust and other material from the summer collects in the air and rests on insulators.

Usually, quick, heavy rains are able to remove those contaminants without incident.

But this year, the rainy season started with a drizzle, not with a bang, which gave time for the dust to create a pathway for the electricity.

"Most likely, it was weather-related," she said.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Election 2006 aftermath - Relief, kitchen lessons, and ethics

Updated Mon Nov 13.


I wasn't expecting the Dems to take the House and Senate - felt sure the Republican 'false flag' robocall dirty tricks - and the press's late, false-balanced, or absent coverage of them - would let the dirty tricksters walk off with the preponderance of the races in this election too.

Not so. (but it apparently did tip the balance in some races)
Welcome [oops - Ed.], and thank you. There's a lot of work to do.

Another incident of Republican lying and cheating, and some appalling press 'coverage' of the smorgasbord of dirty tricks

Sauce for the gander?

I don't pay enough attention to political maneuverings to do anything more than pass this (from Markos of Daily Kos) along -
[during the Bush administration] Republicans in the Senate and House -- secure in their perpetual majorities -- instituted a long list of policies that dramatically discriminate against the minority party in both chambers. In the House, the minority is all but invisible. And in the Senate, the filibuster is all that's left keeping the minority party from utter irrelevance (and they tried to get rid of that).

Kos is - for the moment at least - relishing the idea of keeping these policies intact and giving the new minority party a taste of its own medicine. The commenters are all over the map* - some agree, some take the "Congressional Dems should do the Right Thing, shouldn't stoop to [existing Repub.] practice" high road.
A couple good points, e.g. this-
Political civility in the halls of Congress ... is self-executing. That means there's no judge to complain to. Good behavior is enforced by making sure that what goes around comes around. In this ['game'] the moral position is to make sure that someone who abuses the process gets punished by having done to them what they did to you. Otherwise they have absolutely no incentive ever to be civil to you because they know they'll pay no penalty if they're not.

and this -
what I really want... is for significant change, for positive things to get done, and that means removing a lot of the bad, bad legislation that has been foisted on the land under this Congress, as well as passing all those things that have been so needed and so brutally repressed.

And the fact is, those anti-minority rules the republicans put in place could make it easier to get things done off the bat - as well as teach the right a much needed lesson.

So...Serve them with a dose of their own medicine while getting the top things on the agenda DONE. Then think about magnanimously changing the rules back to the way that worked all those years. And think about it publicly, transparently, with plenty of examination of what went wrong. The American people could use a few civics lessons.

Sounds good, but all the same it makes me nervous. We've seen how one-party rule does corrupt*; so how, once the Dems had experienced the ease of 'getting things done' without effective Republican opposition, would they decide that it was time to give up that power?
it feels too much like Bush et al saying "we'll give you your civil liberties back a few decades from now, when the War on Terrorism is over".

On the other hand, the press could serve here; a press to whom Lewinsky was major news would likely pay much closer attention to anti-minority-party tactics if used by Dems, so would likely serve as a Fourth Estate check on the Dem majority much better than they did on the Republican one.
(yea press - better a good ump half the time than not at all.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

why I'm not here

Russ Steele asked wtf is up here at NCFocus, besides, well, nothing.
("Tomorrow is 30 day of silence. Lets hear about what is being discussed at Java John's."*)

answer: I'm pretty much in overwhelm mode. The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and there comes a point when even I can see that I'm preaching to exactly two congregations - the converted, and the unreachable.

via Xark (and former Republican Kos), "still think of myself as a Republican" conservative blogger John Cole:
...I think the whole party has been hijacked by frauds and religionists and crooks and liars and corporate shills, and it frustrates me to no end to see my former friends enabling them, and I wonder 'Why can't they see what I see?" I don't think I am crazy, I don't think my beliefs have changed radically...

I hate getting up in the morning, surfing the news, and finding more and more evidence that my party is nothing but a bunch of frauds. ...
Bush has been a terrible President. The past Congresses have been horrible- spending excessively, engaging in widespread corruption, butting in to things they should have no say in ..., refusing to hold this administration accountable for ANYTHING, and using wedge issues to keep themselves in power at the expense of gays, etc. And I don't know why my friends on the right still keep fighting for these guys to stay in power.

I don't know either. But they're still doing it.


Russ, here's what you missed today at Java John's - one blogger, holding newspaper* up in front of face for privacy while fishing in pocket for kleenex, reading Tom Engelhardt's SF Chron article about Riverbend's blog in Iraq.


The Republican "Hello, I'm calling with information about [Democratic candidate]" dirty-trick robocall scam is being perpetrated nationwide ("The calls are designed to appear to be coming from Democratic candidates and seem to be targeted at Democratic and independent households across the nation...")

Pathetic, desperate sleazebags.

extremely illuminating graph (from this post) showing overwhelming predominance of negative Republican robocall spending

And do not miss this piece from Lex, on what's behind the anger against Bush. (no, it's not personal animosity, nor "politics as usual".)