Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity

New Ben Franklin Letters

[My story in today's paper.]

A professor with his nose deep in a library archive in London has stumbled upon 47 previously unknown letters from, to and about Benjamin Franklin.

The sensational find, announced in the upcoming issue of the William & Mary Quarterly, centers on Franklin's interactions with Gen. Edward Braddock after he and his soldiers arrived on the banks of the Potomac and during their disastrous march to the Forks of the Ohio in 1755. The discovery not only adds texture to a key chapter in early American history, but it also raises the question of what else about the founding generation might be lurking out there, overlooked or miscategorized in a library, or perhaps stashed in an archive in some distant land.

The professor is Alan Houston, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego. In the spring of 2007, while researching a book on Franklin ("Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement"), he was poring over manuscripts in the British Library. Late in the afternoon of his last day in the country, he requested of the library staff a certain Volume 4478b, a collection of miscellaneous papers, including "Copies of Letters relating to the March of General Braddock."

He was shocked to see that the first such letter was a copy of one written by Benjamin Franklin to the secretary of the governor of Maryland. He had never seen this missive before. Houston believed he'd seen everything Franklin ever wrote, but he quickly checked his own files as well as the authoritative "Papers of Benjamin Franklin" and saw no mention of it. Riffling through the other letters in the volume -- of which 18 were written by Franklin -- he realized that they were all unknown to historians.

"I felt kind of a lump in my chest," Houston said. "I started to bounce. I wanted like a rocket to shoot out of my chair."

It being a library, he merely exited the room and called his wife with the news.

Click here to keep reading.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 24, 2009; 1:32 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 100 Years of Suckitude
Next: 'The Day We Found the Universe'


Fort Frederick in Western MD is having their settlers life reinactment this weekend. Not to far from the Dc area and the weather should be nice,bring the kids and the bikes cause the C& O canal and the western Maryland Rail trail in nearby!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 24, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Joel's article, complete with by-line, is on the front page of Our-little-tiny-almost-a-real-newspaper this morning!

Posted by: nellie4 | April 24, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Hey, how do you turn off the open comment box? I signed in, left the site and closed the browser --- when I came back the comment box was still open. That is not good.

I mean for me, it is o.k. because the dog can't type and he is the only one here with me, but others might get in real trouble.

Posted by: nellie4 | April 24, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I think those letters are actually pretty old.

Posted by: wiredog | April 24, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Ben's old Quoire Book is missing? How odd. Wonder what could have happened to it.

*whistling tunelessly as he casually pushes old book under couch*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

My folks (actually my Mom) did extensive geneology work on our families. I occasionally accompanied them on some of their visits to local courthouses (Fairfax, Loudoun, etc.). It was kind of neat having the land records staff dig out those ancient register books and see George Washington's signature on some land transfer back in the 1700's.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

ebtnut, ixnay on the eneology-gay.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse


Where were you last night when my wife and I were planning our impromptu Spring getaway weekend? We settled on Wellsboro in north central Pennsylvania near the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

If anyone is way out in Western Maryland, crossing the border and checking out Fort Necessity is also worth a visit. Another historic French and Indian War historic site. A long neglected part of our history.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I saw snow out in Western Maryland yesterday while flying home, so be careful, yello...

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

The predicted high for Wellsboro tomorrow is 81. Perfect cycling weather.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

I imagine someday someone's going to find my old letters - well, to be more precise yellow post-it notes in a variety of bic felt-tip pen colors and watercolored with coffee and tea and stuck in manilla folders, really - and realize that they're unknown by historians, too.

For good reason.

Though there will probably be a shopping list in there, like the blessed Saint Leibowitz.


Posted by: -bc- | April 24, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

The list's combination of EVOO and gladiator sandals will undoubtedly generate much discussion, bc. *nodding*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Hi Ebnut,

Looking at old handwriting is amazing. And, sometimes frustrating. I learned this along the way:

VIIIber = October; look at the numerals according to month. January = Iary, etc.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 24, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Scotty, I don't think the anthropologist or archeologist has been born who could quite make sense out of a list that included sandals, EVOO, carburator cleaner, references to Mianus, M&S [is that some sexual code thing?], the Higgs Ocean, a pirate eyepatch, a bag of frozen gnocchi, a bottle of port, a book about being captured by spacemen, a large box of feminine napkins (junior miss size; only fathers of three daughters would understand), and an old Error in 08 T-shirt.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse


"Pound pastrami, can kraut, six bagels--bring home for Emma."

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't October by "Xber," CP? (Yeah, I know is has "octo" in it, but if ya start with January at Iary... And would Decemeber by Xber or XIIber?)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

Geocities is closing up shop. I used to have a John D. MacDonald fan page hosted there. It was the first web presence of yellojkt back when I had a Netcom dial-up account.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

October was the eighth month (hence Oct.) until Julius Caesar (July) and Augustus Caesar (August) decided they merited having months named after them. Clearly Ben numbered the months old-skool.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I remember that debate, yello. I wanted 'em to name one of the months Mudgember, but they wouldn't go fo it. (They seemed to think a month with 9 weekends and seven federal holidays in it was excessive.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

The boodle is very quiet today. The govmit workers must getting ready for the weekend.

Posted by: bh72 | April 24, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

A 5-day work month, Mudge? I approve.

Posted by: -pj- | April 24, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Actually I have been getting the extended cab back seat ready to go pick up a rescue airedale. 3 years old and from the picture the North West Airedale Rescue sent he hasn't been groomed for more than a year.

So I will know what I will be doing later today. Good thing it's warm and the sun is shining. But what a welcome for
the pup. A cold bath in the backyard.

Posted by: bh72 | April 24, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Going up to the Comcast office today to see about trading in my old cable boxes for new digital boxes. This prompted by the sudden loss of Ch.22 on basic cable. Hope to be rid of Comcast someday, but for now we'll have to cozy up to the enemy.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

bc just called to note his extreme ire...

We forgot the "plans for a perpetual motion machine" on the list.


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 24, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I was gonna put that on the list, Scotty, but I wasn't sure if his patent application had been approved yet.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Goat cheese! There has to be goat cheese on the list!

Of course, it won't be available till the farmers market opens next weekend here in the high country.

Temperatures upon our arrival: 75 outside, 58 inside. We opened all the windows.

Posted by: slyness | April 24, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't duct tape be on the list?

Posted by: LostInThought | April 24, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Duct tape on the list? The list is *on* duct tape.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 24, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Very LOL, Tim.

Sneaking out early; everybody have a good weekend.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 24, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Verizon went all-digital a few months ago and you need a converter to get anything. I'm still wrestling with paying five bucks a month each for two TVs that rarely get watched in any given month. All the more reason to figure out how the tuner card in my computer works.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone with a firmer grasp of statistics wish to vet my math in the following comment, which related to the New Haven firefighters' lawsuit before the Supreme Court? I was accused of being a racist when I tried to make the same point in a pithier fashion, so I took care in this example to remove race as a debating issue.

- - -
"Forget possible test bias for a moment. It's not a factor in this particular case, because the folks who weren't selected for promotion aren't the folks who brought the lawsuit.

It's a simple statistical fact that if you have one small group of people and another large group of people, each of which exhibits the typical distribution of results on high-cognition tests, then the very highest scores (and the very lowest scores) will come disproportionally from the larger group, because that group has more tickets in the lottery, so to speak. In this case, because the promotions are drawn exclusively from the very highest scores, the practical effect is that promotions will go to non-minority candidates at a rate substantially higher than their (already large) percentage of the pool of eligibles.

Whether that's an acceptable outcome is a thorny political question, and what to do about it is an even thornier one. Hard questions have to be asked about whether it's necessary, or even desirable, for all of the promotions to come from the very highest scorers on a particular test. But the underlying mathematical considerations aren't open to debate.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 24, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

You know what amazes me about the New Haven case, Bob? As you surely know, there are validated tests available that account for this kind of bias. Why didn't the City of New Haven spring for one of them? It would have been a whole bunch cheaper than what they're spending now. I have ZERO sympathy.

Posted by: slyness | April 24, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Yello: We want to get FiOS, but need to finish up some interior housework before the guys can get in the door to do their thing. The Comcast boxes are an interim move. We still have one TV downstairs that isn't near a cable, and are using the converter box and a new HD antenna for that. Being in the lower level at the back of house means that the reception is a bit spotty on some of the channels.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 24, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful article Joel! But I must admit I am a bit biased towards good old Ben. He represents the kind of figure I find appealing. Intellectual, scientific, a bit of the rake, and with a biting sense of humor.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 24, 2009 4:47 PM | Report abuse

And, Bob, I think this applies too:

promotion positions are a limited resource, which means that the number of qualified applicants typically exceeds the number of higher berths.

Good people get passed over all the time. Look at the recent college acceptance letter season.

Now, this does not mean we have problems. This does not mean we do not have bias that must be addressed.

However, I want all of us to understand math patterns better. Let's begin with clear thinking and robust knowledge.

I do not know the details of the New Haven case.

However, I have not landed positions or clients based largely on the numbers, as in I am sure to be one of many fine applicants. Not all fine applicants land the job. And, not all information is transparent. I seldom know why or the details. This is part of life, which looks a great deal like a lottery we did not buy tickets for.

Off to the Friday

P.U's Pick ups
D.O's Drop offs

Another Mom's taxi evening, for which I am grateful to have a car, gas, driver's license, and the free windows of time for this.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 24, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

There is much that I don't know about the New Haven case. What are the things I need to know in order to analyze it?

(1) Were there a limited number of promotion slots available, or was promotion available to anyone who scored above some level?

(2) Was the dividing level pre-selected, or selected after the fact?

(3) What is the demographic distribution of the test-taking population?

Knowing the demographics, and knowing the selection criteria for promotion, I could predict the probability of an outcome like what New Haven had, which was to have no minorities in the promotion group. We need to know -- is the lack of any minorities in the promotion group a simple fluke of statistics (the argument that you were making), or is it a meaningful indicator? If it's a meaningful indicator, then there are two possible things it could be indicating:

(1) Minorities are not good leaders of firefighters. This is not psychologically acceptable to me, but one could argue that I am biased. To test the bias, one would need to investigate success criteria for firefighting outcomes in areas that have a high proportion of hispanic firefighters (say, Spain) vs. areas that do not (say, New Haven, CT), using similar technologies. A difficult prospect. Regardless of whether I am in actuality biased, I would not choose biologically-based variation in abilities as my first hypothesis to test -- variation within groups is so obviously wide that it masks variation between groups except for large samples. Which would tend to argue that the probability must be low for such a lopsided outcome as in New Haven.

(2) The test is biased. I am hard put to understand how any legitimate test given to firefighters could have a race-bias component. However, because tests and behavior are highly governed by culture, which is highly variable, this still strikes me as a more likely hypothesis than differing abilities based on race and/or ethnicity. NPR coverage included somebody (I didn't get who) describing the test as antiquated and testing material that is no longer relevant -- if true, such circumstances would favor an old-boys' network (which can feed specific knowledge to preselected candidates) and could feature material that is unique to an ethnically-homogeneous enclave that existed in an earlier time, favoring that ethnic group.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 24, 2009 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Tim (or anyone who's interested) - The original judge's decision in favor of the defendants' motion for summary dismissal, which gave a reasonably good outline of the evidence presented (or not presented) is available here:

The test scores for both the lieutenant & captain tests (identified by race, broken out by oral, written, & combined scores - I pasted them into an Excel spreadsheet as text, and it worked fine) are available here, about a third of the way down the page:

Since I work for a competitor of the company which prepared the New Haven test (although I personally am not particularly involved in test development), it was a case which showed up bright on my radar.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 24, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

howdy, all. tgif and happy weekend to everyone!

have been busy and will be boodling less for the foreseeable future, but just wanted to check in and say hello.

the discovery of new letters related to ben franklin is very cool.

Posted by: LALurker | April 24, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Bob, I would say it depends on what you're using as the "very highest scores" - top 10%? Top 1%? Pardon me while a do a little math...

Say you're picking randomly (you'd expect this to give the same results if the test has no bias). Let's say there are n=1000 people, b=100 of whom are black, and the rest w=(n-b)=900 are white.

The odds that there are no black folks chosen in p picks? That's the same as asking, how many ways can you choose only white folks, and how many possible combos are there? Divide those numbers, and you've got your odds. In math notation, that's C(w,p)/C(n,p), where C is the Combination function. I could go farther, but it involves factorials...Probably best to just skip to the answer.

So, with 1000 people including 100 blacks, if you pick 1 (the top 0.1%), you've got a 90% chance that none are black. If you pick 2, there's an 80% chance. Even if you pick 10 (the top 1%), there's a 35% chance that you'll have all white folks. You've got to pick 22 people before your odds fall below 10%, and 43 before you get down to 1%. If you're picking 100 (the top 10%), now your odds of all white people get very small - 0.001%.

So, the upshot is, it depends on what the sample size is, how many were black, and how many they actually took for promotion, which I don't think I've seen reported.

Posted by: tomsing | April 24, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

On a related note, I don't think I've actually had a chance to see the test. Anybody have a link?

Posted by: tomsing | April 24, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Interesting breakdown, thanks tomsing.

For a population of 100, distributions are bound to be more variable, but that can be calculated for as well.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 24, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Bob, saw your links after I posted...

For the captains exam, there were 41 takers, 8 of whom were black, and they had 7 vacancies. If they were choosing randomly, there's a 19% chance that there'd be no blacks.

For the lieutenants exam, there were 77 takers, 19 of whom were black, and 8 vacancies. 9% chance of no blacks.

Overall, the probability of both events occurring together is about 2%.

Of course, the test might be "biased" in a way that reflects a legitimate shortcoming of the black applicants. As Tim said, that's probably not a result of any inherent quality of the race, but it might be a result of socioeconomic factors. That should be addressed - whether you think it should be by government or privately. The question then becomes what to do in the meantime. And that is a very sensitive issue.

Posted by: tomsing | April 24, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Give us the inside scoop on the Flaming Lips brouhaha.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 24, 2009 7:58 PM | Report abuse

My new job has me waaay to freakin' busy to keep up here, anymore.


Yes, I miss the Boodle, but employment is the bomb!

So ... responding to SciTim two kits back: I hate killing snakes. I always feel bad. They are God's creatures, just trying to get by. Like me.

For ten years I let the snakes alone ... I rarely saw them. But last year, I was inundated with them. Killed 9 ... all right around my house. I frequently found them on my doorstep or by the water spigots. Or by nearly stepping on them when I was out moving water hoses around to keep my trees alive thru this damn drought.

What to do? I can't have dozens of poisonous snakes all around my house. (Or *in* it ... one did come into my bedroom last fall!)

I have anywhere from five to seven dogs at my house at any given time, some of them ancient. My foster dogs are often recovering from something awful. Snake-bite, while not terribly damaging to a young, healthy dog, would be difficult for an aged or ailing canine to overcome.

And then there are my own arms and legs to consider.

One or two poisonous snakes I can tolerate. I just don't think it's smart to have 9 around. Maybe I'm wrong! I don't know! But I've made the decision to kill them, and it makes me feel bad.

Posted by: KBoom | April 24, 2009 8:27 PM | Report abuse

I find myself in a weird position vis a vis the boodle. I've been 110% immersed in real world projects and activities and so have barely stopped by in the past few days. That's unusual. But what is really strange is that I'm forcing myself into comment mode at the behest of my husband, who usually tries to discourage me from spending time here. Here's why: he's in DC this weekend visiting the grandchildren and will be *appearing* at a public event with his artwork. So he asked that I put an announcement online for it. Here goes:

What: Lab School Spring Fair
When: April 26, 11 AM - 3 PM
Where: Lab School of Washington / 4759 Reservoir Road NW / Washington DC 20007

"The LSW Spring Fair is a nonprofit, community event that draws between 800-1,000 people each year!

"In addition to incredible rides, games, vendors, and food concessions, our stage will rock our first with our very own Lab School Musicians, followed by Downtown Fiction, Crash Boom Bang and The Hint will close the show!"

**End of Public Service Announcement**

Posted by: kbertocci | April 24, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

Way to go, Mackenzie brown!!!!

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 24, 2009 8:40 PM | Report abuse

I saw that earlier today Mudge. I hope she doesn't see any of the negative comments.

DC has her first baseball game this week. I told her that she should do her best, but it's only a game, she should have fun, and there's a really famous saying she should remember..."There's no crying in baseball." She said "I know. You have to run to your mommy first."

Posted by: LostInThought | April 24, 2009 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Our "slight chance of snow" turned into an accumulation of about half an inch of potato chip sized flakes. Just when yesterday's high 70s tricked me into unpacking some summer clothes.

Has Sci Tim revealed what he is constructing?

KBoom-we had similar copperhead issues in our NoVA house until we made the space under our concrete porch inhospitable-backfilled with gravel then sprayed with insulating foam that hardens as it dries. I was prepared to live and let live until they started hanging out just under the door jamb, where dogs and children could be caught unawares.

JA-thanks for a good read tonight. Very interesting after a day spent on city gummint.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 24, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

Hi boodle... Big milestone in the G house today... Daughter got her learner's permit. I can't even imagine where the past 15.5 years went.

And now, as my sister says... Stay off the sidewalks!!!

Posted by: TBG- | April 24, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Peanuts' creator's wife gives $1 million to the cartoon school at Ohio State with a promise of $2.5 million more if matched.

Posted by: bh72 | April 24, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci, I would be there if I could. Drat long distances. I wonder if I could just fax myself?

Posted by: --dr-- | April 24, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

tomsing - It occurs to me that your math assumes a flat (truly random) distribution of test scores, which isn't how it works out on cognitive tests. Obviously, without access to the actual test, there's no way to determine the degree to which this is a factor, but my company has years of data to show that promotional tests for the ranks in question tend to show a fairly typical bell-shaped distribution.

So a better random simulation for a non-biased test would probably involve substituting the total of four dice (+50), or something similar. That would more accurately represent the expected distribution of scores among the groups, yes?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 24, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

By the way - I'm not as obsessed with the test thingie as I must seem. It's just that I haven't figured out a simple way to make this point to some folks who ARE obsessed.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 24, 2009 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I meant: (Total of 4 dice) (times 2) + 50.

I'm off on one of my fixations, obviously. Just ignore me.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 24, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Yay, Capitals! Still alive.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 24, 2009 11:05 PM | Report abuse

That's ok, Bob, nice to see you. I'm no help with stats, though, or probability, and I haven't read anything in depth about the case.

Interesting bear story:

There was a bear living in the median strip of I-5 north of here (closer to tulip country) that they trapped with doughnuts. Mmmm, doughnuts...

Posted by: seasea1 | April 24, 2009 11:28 PM | Report abuse

Hodwy all
So happy it is friday and the long work week is over,not much to report on the roads tonight.I am so happy the Capitals won,can they win 2 more? I hope so.

Neat bear story, and doughnuts you say.It must have been hanging out with the cops.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 25, 2009 12:37 AM | Report abuse

Good evening (really, morning), all.

Just getting home from a night out with friends, I'm drenched with sweat and decorated with a bruise or two from too much time in the mosh pit. Honestly!

Saw the extended 'bc Lost Letters' files above, thanks to Scottynuke for registering my ironic umbrage about the Perpetual Motion Machine...

And of course there's duct tape and Sharpies along with the Post-It notes.

I was going to mention duct tape a couple of kits back when I suggested that *Tim was making a rodent rocket sled, but thought better of it.


Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 12:55 AM | Report abuse

This is very distressing. I have everything completed and working, except. Except, except, except. Except that the box car with the model planet on top of a shaft above it, keeps tipping over. I have drilled a hole in the boxcar and dumped in some wire brads, and glued 6 more to the undercarriage. Right now, I'm waiting for the epoxy to harden (it's taking a long time -- this might be why you shouldn't use 10-year-old epoxy). Until the epoxy on the undercarriage is hard, I don't want to put it back on the track. I am clamping everything together with cellophane tape -- here's hoping that epoxy fails to stick to the tape, so I can pull it off tomorrow.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 25, 2009 1:00 AM | Report abuse

seasea - That's a very fine bear story. An ursine explorer sets off to find his proper place in the world!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 1:03 AM | Report abuse

Being a statistical non-expert...

tomsing, wouldn't those distributions hold only if EVERYONE passed the test?

And YAY for the Caps and double YAY for the Sawx, who came back from 2 runs down in the 9th with a Jason Bay HR to tie the Yanks (mo!) and then win in the 11th with a walk-off Youkilis HR!! *Snoopy dances* :-)

SciTim's project would seem to involve some planetary conjunctions...

*humming-"hooking-up-words-and-phrases-and-clauses"-from-that-great-Schoolhouse-Rock-hit-while-preparing-for-the-weekly-shopping Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 25, 2009 6:06 AM | Report abuse

I know enough statistics to be dangerous and tomsing's general point is valid. You can take the scores of a sample sub-population (non-white test takers) and perform a chi-square or other test and say with a 95% or better confidence level that the distribution of their results is not statistically random and is the result of some other factor.

Looking at the bottom scores is just as illustrative as looking at the top scores. 7 or 8 of the bottom 10 scorers for each test are non-white.

One hypothesis would be that people unqualified for promotion were encouraged to take the test anyway and that unqualified non-white firefighters were encouraged more than non-qualified whites. To test this, you would have to administer the test to a bigger sample of the entire firefighting force to see what the pass rate is for entire population, not just those that applied for promotion.

This effect is seen in college admissions where highly competitive colleges attempting to maintain a diverse student body go deeper into their applicant pool among some groups than others. Even if they don't lower their standards, if they take higher proportion of applicants in that pool, it leaves fewer qualified candidates for the next tier of schools to choose from.

For example, MIT has a student body that is 50% female. In general, only about 20-30% of engineering students are female. By overselecting from the pool of qualified female applicants, they are stealing students from other schools, making it that much harder for those schools to decrease their male:female ratio. Case in point:

Posted by: yellojkt | April 25, 2009 6:52 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Steeling myself for the start of the weekend's honey-dos.

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

April 25, 1507: German mapmaker George Martin Waldseemuller publishes his Cosmographiae Introducto, a map book which mistakenly credits Amerigo Vespucci with discovering the New World. It is the first time the New World is called “America,” a trend which will inexplicably catch on.
1914: Navy Lt. P.N.L. Bellinger is the first American pilot ever to fly a combat mission, when his Curtiss AB-3 flying boat is the first of five such aircraft catapulted from battleship USS Mississippi and cruiser USS Birmingham during operations at Vera Cruz, Mexico. Bellinger’s mission was to scout the harbor for mines. On May 6, his plane is hit but not seriously damaged by ground fire, making it the first American aircraft to receive combat damage.
1922: A Stout Engineering Laboratory ST-1 twin-engine torpedo bomber is first test-flown on this day by the legendary Eddie Stinson; the plane becomes the Navy’s first all-metal aircraft.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse


You know we are going to demand photos and video if moving parts are involved.

Are your work benches as organized as Jamie Hyneman's?

He comes as a bit of a jerk.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 25, 2009 7:04 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle!

Here is your weekly Bonus. Sergeant Bonus and his tanker trucks:


Posted by: Braguine | April 25, 2009 7:14 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. We have achieved hellebores and daffodils. What's not to like.
The Caps have done well, congrats all around.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 25, 2009 7:39 AM | Report abuse


I smell 70s caper movie.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 25, 2009 7:41 AM | Report abuse

yellojkt, re statistics class:

Posted by: kbertocci | April 25, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle. 'mudge, your first bit of nautical history is very good indeed.

The day promises to bring much good.

Have a lovely day, everybody.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all and Al. A lovely sunny day in the high country. Geekdottir is still asleep. I will dress in a little while and go out to do a little work in the yard.

It has been over thirty years since I took statistics, but I've enjoyed the discussion. Having spent my career close to fire service promotional processes, I still don't understand why New Haven didn't purchase a validated test. They are justly paying for their stupidity.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all temp already 63f when I got out of bed this am - yesterday was lovely but breezes off the still very cold lake kept the temps cooler than areas just a little further from the water - not unusual around here in spring. The lake gives us more frost free days but cooler daytime temps in spring when the east/southeast winds move in.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 25, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

yello, I haven't looked at Jamie's benches yet, though I will say that they are organized *enough* - not perfect, but I can find what I need without having to think about it. This, of course, reduces my dependency on one of my known weaknesses.

Speaking of which, I'm off to a friend's to do some race car work this morning, involving plasma cutters and large hunks of metal being removed, based on the philosophy "if it isn't part of a race car, take it off."

*Tim I hope your science project came off well last night.

Enjoy MD day (and any other state you may be in), all of you -- it looks to be a beautiful one here.


Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

I understand that the scores themselves should be normally distributed instead of flat, but it seems to me that the *order* of the scores should be essentially random if there was no difference between the two groups.

But then, like yello, I also know just enough to be dangerous. I don't recall ever seeing a discussion of the Monty Hall problem here, but it's a classic that sort of illustrates the problem most people have with statistics.

(Also, note that the numbers I posted lumped Hispanics in with whites.)

Posted by: tomsing | April 25, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I can't read your comments very well, the Kit is more tolerable. Not all sans serifs fonts are the same. More on that later, based on a site I found for the visually impaired. But the comments box type is easy to read, so perhaps I comment, not knowing what you are saying?

There is interesting Texas news this morning. The two Texas cases of swine flu are here in town, sort of. Some news reports say Schewrtz is an hour south of Austin, but truly Schertz is San Antonio--located at our far northest corner, near the Retama Park (horse race track--not sure if they're still running the ponies).

Now that location is established, the news, according to CNN is that a third teenager from the high school in Schertz has been diagnosed with swine flu. Just days ago, two 16-year-old boys from that same school were diagnosed with swine flu, their strain of flu confirmed as the same strain of swine flu impacting a far larger number of people in Mexico, with a larger number of both illness and fatalities south of the border. No one has died from swine flu yet in the U.S.

According to CNN, the family of this latest teen to have swine flu in Schertz has been quarantined.

According to this website below, the father of the latest striken teen, Patrick Henshaw, is involved with a group that investigates paranormal activity. The group's slogan is "Fear Nothing."

Is swine flu something the United States should fear? The media certainly was hammering the story yesterday. I find the combination of viruses in this latest outbreak fascinating--a mixture of human, bird, and pig flus. How did these strains come to be combined? And how in the heck did it end up landing in and infecting teen boys in Schertz?

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I can no longer locate the webpage for Lighthouse (International?) that provides numerous examples of type for the visually impaired. The one that I saw and that I hoped to show and link to here was Example 7, that provided two examples of interlinear spacing for sans serif font--one readable and manageable, the other not.

Here's another webpage that refers to the Lighthouse guidelines:

Leave reasonable space between lines of type. RNIB suggests interlinear space should be at least +2pt for type sizes between 14pt and 20pt eg. 14pt type with 16pt leading. This of course depends on line length and on the x-height of the type you are using. Lighthouse recommends adding 25 to 30 per cent of the text point size between lines. We're with Lighthouse on this one. Text set in longer lines needs more interlinear space than text set with a narrow measure (see 8).

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle! A light dusting of snow still on the ground this morning, but otherwise not too miserable. This time last year we were in the midst of an ice-snow-ice storm that left only after dumping 14" on us.

Ducks Unlimited "banquet" tonight. It's one of those annual community rituals I've avoided until now, but a specific invitation from a good friend and colleague demands participation. I hope to graciously underbid on a couple silent auction items and pray their is potable wine. (I don't mean to criticize the mission of Ducks Unlimited, and their big events in other cities are quite the thing, but the place they use to cater ours pretty much deep fries everything to the same golden brown.)

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 25, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Interesting tidbit from our local paper's front-page reporting about the local cases of swine flu:

"Air Force officials said the two 16-year-old boys were military dependents who attend Steele High School in Cibolo and were treated at a clinic at Randolph AFB for flulike illness they suffered roughly from April 10-14. ...Neither boy had any travel history to California or Mexico, health officials say."

There is the one instance, however, of a child who had had the swine flu who flew from California to Dallas. No further flu found in Dallas.

The one local case involved a 10-year-old from San Diego who flew to Dallas on April 3 and is still here. The boy had been ill before traveling, but the analysis of his virus was not completed until April 17, said Dr. John Carlo, the county health department's medical director.

At that point he became one of what are now eight known U.S. cases of the new flu strain.

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Here's the problem with Saturdays: it's only a little past 10 and already we've been to Chik-fil-a, the landfill, Lowe's and Safeway (salmon on sale for $4 a pount!!).

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Why, thank you, Yoki.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Is Franklin living under someone else's stairs?

Posted by: Boko999 | April 25, 2009 10:23 AM | Report abuse

I live in a very old house (my guess is the oldest boodle house) and while we do have some occupants, I don't think it's Benny (even though I am in a county named for the old coot).

Posted by: LostInThought | April 25, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I tried to respond to yello's inquiry and kilt it. Here it is in two parts:
Yellojkt, why must you parade our shame before the Boodle? A handful of our local legislators, intoxicated with the idea that they finally have control of the legislature, have been putting ideology over policy all week - all term, really, but this week was pretty bad. As someone of their own party remarked, they've been in the minority for 100 years and are still learning to govern.

The big thing this week was a bill which would ban all stem cell research in Oklahoma. Now, the State Chamber, business, health care industry, higher education and policy makers have worked hard for years and thrown a lot of state resources into making this a biotech destination. It is starting to work, too. They all vehemently opposed this bill. The sponsors recast it as a "pro-life" bill and compared stem cell research to killing babies. That was enough to cow legislators who knew better, and the bill passed by large margins. This was partly because they knew the governor would veto it, which he did. They almost overrode the veto.


Posted by: Ivansmom | April 25, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

So, with that background, the Flaming Lips are still a "local" group, big Oklahoma supporters, and have recently been honored by both the city and the state. Our History Center had a contest, and the Flaming Lips song "Do You Realize" (a truly lovely, sweet song) was voted best for State Rock Song (we also have state tree, state flower, state soil. . .). A resolution was introduced and passed in the Senate, and sent to the House, so proclaiming. There is a big to-do set for next week where the Governor, at the History Center, would sign the resolution. This is in conjunction with a rock n roll and Oklahoma exhibit opening there. National media and all. Well, flash back to that ceremony honoring the Lips in the House earlier this year. One band member wore a suit. However, his shirt was a T-shirt (okay so far, most people don't even bother with the suit). His T-shirt was red, with a yellow hammer & sickle. One legislator this week got all worked up about the band member wearing a communist symbol to the House chamber. [questioning reveals many young people here don't know that is a communist symbol.] Another upright member remarked that that Wayne Coyne, leader of the Lips, habitually uses the "F" word in speech and occasionally in song, stating we should not honor people with such filthy mouths (you'd have to follow our legislature closely to know how really funny this is). Upshot: the House refused to pass the resolution.

Governor saves the day: he will issue and sign an executive order proclaiming the song and the party will go on. The Flaming Lips, taking the high road as always, stated that despite the views of a minority of legislators (true, mathematically overall) they love Oklahoma, are honored, and will continue to be ambassadors for the state. Whew.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 25, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Interesting, LiT. According to the State of SC, our home was constructed in 1895. Interestingly, we found some graffiti on a wall where a mantle was missing: 1906 was the tag. thus our house is somewhere between 103 and 114 years old. The girders and framing isn't hand hewn, and I assume that they were milled using steam powered saws. I don't think that hand held electric hand tools were around as early as 1906. Our house originally had knob and tube wiring. It's likely that construction started in 1895 and the finish work was completed by 1906. therefore, I have no idea how old our home is. Just old.

Posted by: -jack- | April 25, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, it's always nice when at least one side of a debate acts like adults. Helps if both sides do, but that might be asking a bit much in the political world.

The argument about them cursing...kind of lame, considering Cheney swore on the Senate floor (the f word), McCain said horsepoop during a debate, and Dub wasn't exactly using choirboy language when he said "F Saddam, we're taking him out."

Yet Geo. Carlin's Seven Dirty Words were bleeped when he was posthumously awarded the Mark Twain Prize at the Kennedy Center.

It would be so much easier if there was some consistency. That way, I'd know when the F I was being offensive.

Posted by: LostInThought | April 25, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

To answer my own rhetorical question about how three 16-year-old boys from Schertz could end up with the same strain of swine flu as that erupting in Mexico.

One must be aware of the local patterns of influx and movement--especially if one is an epidemiological CDC cowboy coming to town from Atlanta to investigate.

Hundreds--if not thousands--of Mexican nationals cross the border and come to town before Easter to vacation and shop. Call it "reverse spring break." I saw many of them at various spots around town several weeks ago. They clog the highways (license plates are a giveaway) and especially the check-out lines at local retailers--they fill carts with their purchases.

I think it would be a fair guess that just as many bypass San Antonio and drive north to Austin for their pre-Easter frolic and spending sprees.

Schertz is on Interstate 35 heading to Austin. Cibolo, where the boys attended high school, is the next small town, a handful of miles north of Schertz, also on Interstate 35 heading to Austin. I wonder of any of these three flu-striken teens had stopped at, say, a 7-11, or another convenience store, during the time of the great influx from Mexico? Perhaps they were hanging out at the Forum shopping center, on our far northeast fringe, where many Mexican nationals shop during the days leading up to Easter? If I were from the CDC, I'd examine these transportation connections first.

Cable news--CNN and MSNBC--this morning are broadcasting that the mayor of Mexico is cancelling all public activities, as well as closing schools, in the capital city for the next 10 days. Cable news is teasing the question of whether administrators will shut down the U.S.-Mexico border. WHO is considering raising the threat level of the flu from a 3 to a 4, an effort that was not taken when bird flu was breaking out in Asia.

I'm not at all encouraged that the local spokesman for the flu outbreak locally is Dr. Bryan Alsip, who made grand remarks during the mulch fire, but whose local health department did darned little for the suffering citizens.

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Well... *My* house was built in either 1978 or 1979, using materials that were clearly purchased in bulk and in most cases probably at a discount because they were a nonstandard size.

There are five different models on our cul de sac of 22 houses. It's fun to visit the models similar to mine after all these years to see how they've been renovated and remodeled. Mine is a typical 3-story center-hall colonial whose kitchen was remodeled by the folks we bought the house from.

My sister's is four houses down the street and hers is the split-level model. Boy... does her house go on and on... four finished levels when you finish counting 'em up.

Now I'm starting to desire a one-floor ranch house (like Slyness has); I suppose before we get too old we'll trade down to one. Even though the housing market has fallen around here, our house is still worth about 2.5 times what we paid for it.

Posted by: TBG- | April 25, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I just want to say that I'm so happy to be looking at the sun filtering through the new leaves onto my back deck. Beautiful.

Posted by: TBG- | April 25, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Jack, cool living in an old home, isn't it? My house had exposed *working* knob and tube wiring when I bought it 2 1/2 years ago (construction was finished on the house in 1790). Before adding new wallpaper, I wrote on the walls (in pencil...inks will bleed through). Someday, someone will find my notes.

I'm still restoring the house, and keep finding odd things (a gun, something I think was used for surveying land, lots of spoons and shoes, among other things). The walls are plaster with wooded laths and horsehair (and maybe some cow hair?). The chair rails are laid into the brick wall sideways, not onto the brick, so when I had to remove one it had to be sliced off of the wall. The bricks were made on-site at a time when there wasn't anything along the lines of an industry standard, so repair work can be tricky. (And I'm wondering why this project is taking so long).

Posted by: LostInThought | April 25, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Of to Maryland, to "person" an English Dept. booth. Our passersby take a flyer out of pity. Will seek out the way cool SciTim at his wonders of the universe, etc. booth. Will report on his contraption. Will wear a vest to honor his Inspector Gadget persona.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 25, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

TBG, I envy you having your sister so close.

Posted by: LostInThought | April 25, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I can appreciate your appreciation, TBG. We had a glorious week but today is overcast and misty at times. But I planted all my potted flowers yesterday and can take them in if need be. Around here it isn't 100% safe until after Mother's Day but I just couldn't wait any longer and the weather dictated it. Plus, the prettiest and most unusual annual flowers are always on sale early since they know diehards like me will buy them despite a possible frost.

Enjoyed the kit, Joel. An unexpected treasure-find.

Posted by: Windy3 | April 25, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I've already done my errands (mostly) for the day. AND my farmers market down the road had *strawberries* !!!!!! They're from North Carolina, so I must pay homage to slyness and Cassandra. They smell luscious, and I might grab a few for lunch. Yumsers! Today there was a bit of a line to check out -- that's the way we know the season is starting to give forth all its bounty. One at a time. . . . .

I'm so pleased that the Caps won last night. They've got to get their feet under themselves and understand that the playoffs present a whole 'nother puck game. Ya really gotta play up several notches from your regular game. The Red Wings sure know how to do that. I read where Nicklas Lidström is turning 39 in a day or so. That's getting up there for a hockey player (although I think Chris Chelios is pushing 50 soon). But the Wings are getting and grooming younger players all the time. It'll be tough to retire Lidström, though. But I'm happy for the Caps nonetheless. They certainly deserve to be in the playoffs, and now they just have to win three in a row. I'll be thrilled if they do.

Time for lunch. I'll try to keep up with you guys later.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!!! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 25, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company