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'The Day We Found the Universe'

[A book review]


By Marcia Bartusiak

Knopf. Pantheon. 337 pp. $27.95

Famous astronomy anecdote: It's 1923, and astronomer Harlow Shapley, the leading proponent of the theory that the Milky Way is the one and only galaxy, gets a letter from Edwin Hubble. Shapley reads it, turns to a colleague and says, "Here is the letter that has destroyed my universe." Marcia Bartusiak's new book is the backstory of that anecdote.

At issue are faint wisps of light known as spiral nebulae. Astronomers first detected them in the 18th century. There were dozens of them -- no, hundreds. Their nature was furiously debated. One camp argued that they were within the Milky Way, solar systems in the making -- clouds of dust and gas with an embryonic star at the center. The other camp argued that they were agglomerations of stars -- "island universes" -- that were outside the Milky Way and were small and faint only because of their immense distance.

The debate took a couple of centuries to play out. In the meantime, under scrutiny by ever larger telescopes, the spiral nebulae proliferated. There were thousands, perhaps millions of them. (Billions, it turns out.) For a while the island-universe theory was ascendant. Then contradictory observations pointed to the baby-solar-systems theory. We get all the way to the 1920s with the nebulae still a mystery, and astronomers still trying to figure out the scale of the universe.

The story of the spiral nebulae is a familiar one to astronomy buffs, but Bartusiak's intelligent and engaging book may well become the standard popular account. Some of the early chapters could have benefited from a red pencil here and there to excise unneeded verbiage, but that problem fades as the author hits her stride.

More problematic is the comprehensiveness of the tale. There are moments when I found myself despairing at the arrival on the scene of yet another astronomer, yet another telescope, yet another set of photographic plates, yet another incremental teasing of the truth from the murky heavens. Bartusiak cannot be accused of leaving anyone important out of her story. Indeed, there are almost as many characters as there are stars in the sky. Some of them, such as Shapley and Hubble, are charismatic and quirky; some never quite seem as interesting as their telescopes. However, there is a fine set piece on Henrietta Leavitt, a Harvard assistant who, laboring in this rigidly patriarchal field, realizes that certain stars serve as standards for measuring cosmic distances (she might have won a Nobel Prize had she lived longer).

[More after the jump]

The astronomers practice heroic science. The telescopes get bigger. The mountaintops get higher and colder. The universe becomes clearer: The nebulae are, indeed, island universes -- separate galaxies outside the Milky Way. Shapley's "Big Universe" turns out to be but a meager portion of Hubble's galaxy-strewn cosmos.

Bartusiak's book is, ultimately, about how hard science is, how taxing, particularly when you are trying to excavate truth from a grudging universe. The astronomers get it wrong about as often as they get it right. Just when a consensus seems to be forming, it is obliterated by a new observation.

There was no single breakthrough, but many of them, as well as many mistakes and misapprehensions. Hubble famously gets the credit for solving the mystery -- a certain kind of variable star he found in the Andromeda nebula revealed that Andromeda is a separate galaxy at great distance -- but his discovery was built on the labor and insights of so many others. Let's throw some love to Vesto Slipher. And Heber Curtis. Oh, and one more thing: Those distant spiral nebulae are racing away from us. Hubble figured that out, too, and with it the most compelling evidence that we live in an expanding universe.

Modern astronomy uses magnificent tools to intensify our perception. The universe says, "Look at me." The astronomers oblige, and you know how it turns out: The universe gets much bigger and much more interesting than we ever could have imagined.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 25, 2009; 12:17 PM ET
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Next: Swine Flu and Pontiac


Let's not forget the Boodle's resident astronomer, SciTim. *applause* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 25, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

I forgot what sort of variable star Hubble pinned his data upon. I will go find out.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 25, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Howdy All
Warm and windy in west by god today.I think it is official,the redbuds are blooming,only 2 weeks late,but Hey!! they are gorgeous.

I am out to do some much needed yard and leaf work.And may venture down to the store to see if any fresh Canadian worms are in.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 25, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Another book for me to put on the endless list to read/buy. *Sigh* So many interesting things to read, so little time.

Geekdottir and I have done our shopping and now will chill till time to leave. We will pick up Mr. T at the airport, so we must leave here an hour and a half before his plane is due in...

Teehee, TBG. Yes, I'm fond of my ranch. Much to be said for having everything on one level. Makes for easy climate control, too.

I think I'll see about getting some dahlia bulbs/corms/tubers in the flower boxes...Geekdottir wishes to take a walk, she says it's too nice to stay inside. She's right about that.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Wow Joel - what a great book review. You really are one of those Renaissance-type men I have heard tell of.

I am always amazed how recent is our understanding of just how big, how absolutely huge, the universe really is. (Gosh we're all impressed down here I can tell you.)

Anyway, outside of being a very impressive bit of science, Hubble's work shows how science and philosophy interact. Science uncovers cool new facts, and philosophy has to figure out what it all, you know, really means. And the size of the universe is clearly one such fact that we are all still struggling with.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Cepheid variables.

I never took the time to read the technical explanations of these.

This morning, I read a rather sad local story of the death of a radio DJ, Calvin Walker, who felt that the Big Radio stations had ruined radio. In it, they mentioned he would play all of the 11-minute version of Steppenwolf's "Pusher" and man, that took me back. The long versions of songs never got picked up by radio much. Quickly searching the archives, I found a 21-minute version. Only the last 11 minutes are the actual music. Radio marginalized all the long forms. Granted, many of them really were too long. Some were not.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 25, 2009 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"The astronomers get it wrong about as often as they get it right."

I sometimes tell prospective paleontology students that if they have a problem with being wrong, vertebrate paleontology might not be the field for them. If they enjoy having to correct their own mistakes, it could be perfect for them.

Posted by: Hopeful_Monster | April 25, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

i do like your nom-de blog, Hopeful.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 25, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Help! Does anyone know how to delete a hotmail account, or permanently close it? There is a bit of harassment going on.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Geekdottir advises that you do a Google search for the answer to that question, Yoki. She says if you quit using it, they will eventually delete it.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, if you don't open it for 30 days, it's gone.

Posted by: LostInThought | April 25, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Thanks all.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Someone's been harrassing OUR Yoki???!!?? *Umbrag-o-mometer heading toward the red line* We can send a coupla guys 'round, have a little talk wid 'em, ya want.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

That would be great. Maybe Don could send a black helicopter or two!

I won't be using the email that I've had just for Boodle purposes, henceforth. The usual suspects know my 'real' email, if anybody wants to send me a message.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Interestingly, I didn't have to sign in. The box was open already when I scrolled down. Hmmmmmmmmmm.

Anyhow, I want to ask the scientific Boodlers among us, if they know or are interested in knowing, if there is any activity in the long-term capture and use of solar and wind power. That is to say, and in light of an Op-Ed piece in the WaPo a couple of days ago, during times of overcast skies or no wind (or winter months in Scandinavia -- especially in the above-the-Arctic-Circle areas), how will solar power and/or wind power be effective or efficient? Does that mean that we've still got to turn to fossil fuel? I wonder, really, how that can be remedied. My scientific skills, such as they might have been, are, like Mudge's, centuries old (and I can't fake it like Mudge can, 'cause I start giggling and that gives me away). My curiosity and entrepreneurial ideating, however, are still in fine form. It's just the implementation and execution that's beyond me.

I'm still looking at my "filing cabinets on the floor" and sighing. But the afternoon is still young and I might just putter around here. If I didn't get sun poisoning so quickly (sun block notwithstanding), I would be out in this weather. But I do, and so I'm not.

Hope all are enjoying.

Cya later.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

It is just downright hot outside today,been doing yardwork and I am a big ball of sweat. Time for a break.I can't believe I just had a fire 2 days ago!!!

I took a ride to the worm store and the redbuds and dogwoods are looking very nice.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 25, 2009 2:51 PM | Report abuse

It is a matter of economics, ftb. Since electricity cannot effectively be stored, you can theoretically get wind or solar-generated power onto a grid to move it to locations that aren't suited to generating it locally, but it would be prohibitively costly to run VHV lines all around the world. Therefore, the potential for those sources (and tidal, geothermal, etc.) is more or less limited to areas that have sufficient of the natural renewable resource locally. Wind power has become an increasingly large part of the mix in Alberta and parts of Quebec, but it can't replace conventional thermal generation or nuclear in cost/benefit balance. Because Quebec has a *huge* VHV transmission infrastructure in place, it moves windpower about as far as is possible, within this model, exporting a lot of it as well.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Wow... my car thermometer shows the outside temperature is 101°F.

Posted by: TBG- | April 25, 2009 2:59 PM | Report abuse

Perfect weather here in the banana belt. 63F slight breeze. Mowed four lawns without breaking a sweat.
The rescue airedale survived the night with the resident welsh terrier although the night's sleep was broken up with bouts of welsh barking every time the airedale changed positions.
He is a BIG boy.

Posted by: bh72 | April 25, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

TBG - Yep, it's like seriously hot out there.

Yoki - you awe me with your energy talk. And if you need back-up helicopters, well, you know.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

Joel writes:
Bartusiak's book is, ultimately, about how hard science is, how taxing, particularly when you are trying to excavate truth from a grudging universe.

'Tis writ, "In the beginning was the Word."
I Pause, to wonder what is here inferred.
The Word I cannot set supremely high:
A new translation I will try.
I read, if by the spirit I am taught,
This sense, "In the beginning was the Thought..."

From Goethe's Faust, from the prologue of writer John M. Barry's "The Great Influenza: The Deadliest Plague in History."

Barry, in his prologue and first chapter, deals with the same issues (as astronomers, according to Bartusiak) that medical men (and women!) of science faced when confronted with the new strain of inluenza responsible for the 1918 pandemic.

In the next graf, after the passage from Faust, Barry explains:

"Upon 'the Word' rested authority, stability, and law; 'the Thought' roiled and ripped apart and created--without knowledge or concern of what it would create."

I see that the CDC has already issued its first MMWR (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report) regarding this spring's swine flu outbreak:

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

I think that the general idea (eventually, you know?) for intermittent power sources like solar and wind is that you convert the energy into hydrogen for later use. There's lots of water available to be split into hydrogen & oxygen, even if the water isn't always where we want it when we want it.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Thank you RD_P, on both counts. Energy is one of those two or three things that I actually know something about.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Henrietta Leavitt, Rosalind Franklin, Anna Wessell Williams...the story of women engaged in early science endeavors usually turns out the same, doesn't it?

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

That's also (theoretically) how you use low-density power sources (like solar & wind) for high-density applications (like airplanes & cars).

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Theoretically indeed!

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Sadly so, Loomis. But Margaret Mead & Marie Curie did OK, and I think a couple of other broads are at least mentioned every now and then.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Very pleasant here this afternoon, about 75 degrees. I noticed that the inside temp and the outside temp are the same. This is the first time this year that I consider this to be a good thing. Just finished planting snap pea plants and pea pod and lettuce seeds. My back survived it but I think a small nap wouldn’t hurt.

Great Kit Joel. Your review makes me want to read the book which is a great compliment as I don’t do sciency things very well. The universe with all those distances and space overwhelm my small brain.

dmd, how are you feeling?

Posted by: badsneakers | April 25, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I like the idea of solar-powered air conditioning, because when the sun is fiercest, you have the best generating conditions. It ought to work on autos; I don't know how much it could contribute to total AC load requirements.

A while back a friend was researching storing compressed air - power - in huge man-made cavities in salt domes. This was out of Houston, where salt domes are a dime-a-dozen. Dunno how the numbers came out. There's always hydrogen generation for power capture. Geothermal heat pumps, if configured right, can store energy from summer to winter peaks. That's tricky to understand but deeply neat to me.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 25, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Bea Arthur is dead. This makes me very sad, but I'm not sure I know why.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Any experienced asparagus growers? I have two plants in a pot, and ready to plant. The net says around June, stop harvesting and let a bush grow. Is that about right?

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 25, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Rachel Carson comes to mind as a scientist who made great contributions.

Yes, sad about Bea Arthur, RD. I was amazed to see that she was 86.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2009 4:29 PM | Report abuse

CNN moving rapidly on swine flu story...

Prelimary test results from students with respiratory illness at a high school in Queens, New York, look like swine flu. Seven of eight tests came back positive, but it must be stressed, as CNN pointed out, that results are preliminary.

Samples from students stricken at Queensborough High School on Long Island are on their way to CDC in Atlanta for more rigorous testing. CDC to issue its test results tomorrow. All New York state doctors now advised to be on the alert for symptoms of swine flu.

Two confirmed cases of swine flu in Kansas.

Local CNN affiliate KABB moved quickly on the Schertz swine flu story involving the Henshaw family-- airing on the 3 p.m. CNN broadcast. A few parents withdrew their kids from the high school in Cibolo, northeast of San Antonio, at the end of this week, CNN reported. More social distancing. Important local segment airing nationally.

Hats off to Fredericka Whitfield, Susan Candiotti, and the CNN team.

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

California is probably one of the places (sunny climate, mountains near the coast) that will eventually get into solar/wind-powered hydroelectric storage. When the snowpack melt is no longer sufficient to provide provide water for drinking/agricultural irrigation/power generation needs, we may see vast wind/solar energy farms which power the distillation and then pumping of water into reservoir lakes for storage. It's even less energy efficient than hydrogen storage, but it's cheaper, and the water flow will probably be critical.

Now - What to do with all of the leftover salt? Dammit! There's no end to these problems, is there?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Leftover salt? Ship it to Wisconsin for the winter.

bh72, how well I know the 1st night with a new rescue! Make that the first week. Will you put before and after pictures on flickr for us?

Posted by: -dbG- | April 25, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

We briefly tried growing asparagus. What I remember is that you weren't supposed to harvest it till the 3rd year, and it's a very heavy feeder (need to add lots of organic fertilizer). I still have a stalk or 2 that comes up in the bed where we planted it 15 years ago. We didn't have much success with it. We've also got horseradish still coming up, despite trying to discourage it.

All my outside crops are up - sugar pod peas, lettuce, spinach, radishes. Here's hoping the slugs don't get to them before I do.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 25, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Could the salt be purified and packaged for human consumption, Bob? I realize that too would take energy.

This morning, the Geekdottir and I installed a mat made of shredded tires on the slope from the house down to the back yard. I like the recycling of the rubber.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

laloomis - The flu story really is riveting, isn't it? As soon as I saw the initial reports that mentioned identical (and unusual) strains in geographically-separated individuals with no obvious mutual contacts, I thought, "Hang on for the ride. Here we go!"

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yes, terribly sad about Bea Arthur. She was really something.

And, Yoki, my dear, I am sooooo impressed (and not at all surprised) by your energy chops. So, let's get cracking on creating some technology to do what we want and need it to do. After all, if "they" can put a man on the moon (*why can't they put them all there?*), "they" oughta be able to collect and store solar and wind power energy, eh?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

bad sneaks I am great, been running errands most of the day. Compared to previous surgeries this was so easy to recover from I would say pretty much pain free from the start - and I can eat what I want - Yea.

Hope you are taking care of your back.

TBG congrats to your daughter.

Hot day here but an afternoon storm is just moving through, black skies and windy dropping maple flowers everywhere, magnolias where bursting forth in bloom all over today - close to eighty here.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 25, 2009 5:26 PM | Report abuse

ftb - Are you *sure* that you want all of the men to be on the moon?

They are resilient and troublesome creatures. I foresee a horrific mess that you will eventually have to clean up, because they're not quite self-destructive enough to wipe themselves out and save you the trouble.

Probably better to keep them near enough to keep an eye on them.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 5:35 PM | Report abuse

Withdrawing rah-rah for weekend/daytime anchor Fredericka Whitfield of CNN. She had John M. Barry, author of "The Great Influenza" on later in the hour and cut him off when he was discussing the flu pandemics of the 20th century. Barry was responding to a question Whitfield had asked him. There were pandemics in 1918, 1968--and Whitfield cut him off. And in 19xx and 19xx? (Yeah, I could Google it.)

If CNN is going to get Barry in New Orleans to go on air, CNN ought to at least have the courtesy to let him answer the question posed to him or give him a longer segment of airtime. Barry's most important utterance: The virus itself will determine the outcome of the spread, the government mostly playing catch-up.

Reporting in the 4 p.m. hour, CNN reports that that Steele High School in Cibolo will be closed for the coming week. The high school is in the county adjacent to us--Guadalupe, less populated and more rural than our Bexar County. CNN reported that residnets of Guadalupe County are being asked to avoid gathering in large crowds.

This is so laughable!!! We're at the end of winding down from two weeks of citywide Fiesta events, the biggest crowd-congregators happening this weekend. Yesterday's Battle of the Flowers Parade, the King William Parade and Street Fair today, and the Battle of the Flowers Parade tonight. Thousands attend these culminating events, including lots of folks from Guadalupe County.

There's something to be said for knowing the local lay of the land--and events.

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

SCC: Fiesta Flambeau Parade is tonight.

I can barely read what you posted. One or two lines is barely doable. Longer than that, and comments from Boodlers look like long rows of tightly packed, gray toothpicks.

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse


I think someone's pants may be on fire, Bob.

Joel, now I have to buy the book just to take a look a any verbiage that may need excising.

Why do my kids want to learn to ride their bikes on the hottest of the spring?

Posted by: abeac1 | April 25, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

S'Okay! I hardly read (or think about) what I post.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 5:50 PM | Report abuse

Well, Bob, you do have a point. Truth be told, I have a vast, worldwide, group of men whom I absolutely adore and would hate to see them sent to the moon (unless, of course, I would be able to go with them).

That being said, the line is pretty funny.

*clearing throat from pollen and being called on the line*

Loomis, I increased the size of the font by hitting Ctrl+ a couple of times. That's apparently for Firefox, which I use most of the time. It works fine, and I can see the font comfortably. Try it, and it may help you.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 25, 2009 5:51 PM | Report abuse

Scientific knowledge is indeed incredibly work-intensive. My own pet example is a book in the "Monographs in population biology" series from Princeton: "Evolutionary ecology across three trophic levels: goldenrods, gallmakers, and natural enemies" by Warren Abrahamson and Arthur Weis. The book is based on some 25 years of meticulous field work, much of which must have been numbingly boring. What they found out is, however, impressive.

Busy weekend here. Spectacular orchid show and sale here in town, big art show in Melbourne, Palm and Cycad Society meeting at a spectacular creekside yard, London Symphony continuing its every-other-year stays in Daytona Beach, of all places.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 25, 2009 5:56 PM | Report abuse

Dave - I'll certainly order it today. But feel free to spoil the ending for me... What ARE the natural enemies of goldenrods?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 6:11 PM | Report abuse

bobs, hereabouts the natural enemies of goldenrods include allergic people, who viciously uproot them at the first sign of foliage or flower. In fact, they may be the most dangerous and potent natural enemies around because they are absolutely unstoppable, and their wrath knows no bounds.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 25, 2009 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I saw the headline "Spiritual Mentor of Young Hillary Rodham Dies" on the front page and immediately thought, "Bea Arthur?"

Posted by: TBG- | April 25, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

TBG - I saw the same headline, and didn't read the article because I immediately assumed that it was just another "Maude" appreciation. You mean it's not?!?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 6:34 PM | Report abuse

I definitely hope that today's temperatures in the DC area are an aberration and that it might be slightly cooler on, say, May 9.

Of course, I'd like to think that tonight's snowfall here is an aberration too!

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 6:46 PM | Report abuse

Yoki - Maybe, maybe not. All our weather comes from Canada, you know?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Except for the hurricanes, which come from Africa. Any glance at the Wall Street Journal (owned by Australians, I'm told) will confirm that we USA'ians are net importers of 'most ev'rything.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, isn't it Ragweed that causes all the allergies not Goldenrod (Soldage?). Goldenrod is a native plant here quite lovely.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 25, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

Boodling from my deck in the sun of an 80+ deg. F. day, with a nice cool glass of Cava at my side, and my laptop, well, in my lap. No shirt, no shoes, no problem. Hey, it' my flippin' place.

I can remember several times in my life when I experienced those tunnel-vision moments when my perception of the depth and breadth of spacetime and everything in it -- shifts. That feeling of looking at myself through a telescope backwards - the perspective of the universe as I imagine it - and then seeing myself recede into the distance by several powers of (de?)maginfication.

History goes on all around us; the history of Everything, of the Milky Way, of the Sun and the Solar System, of Earth itself, of life on this planet, of human history of which each we are a small part, but nonetheless, I think, a part.

And we may never even know about the parts we play, consciously or unconsciously, as the vibrations and waves we cause in the Higgs ocean interact with all the other waves of events and possibilities, rendering to each of us our individual perceptions of reality.

Theories of Quantum Mechanics suggest that our very measurements on the tiniest scales - our Observations, if you will - determine our perceptable reality, even as we have the barest understanding of how that happens, how possibility collapses into events. Can this also be true on cosmological scales?

Life millions of years ago was decomposed by bacteria and rendered into petroleum that was refined into gasoline that powers our cars. I bet those plants never saw that coming.

The Butterfly Effect of our being in the Universe, Observing it and attempting to understand it may change Everything for all I know.

Or, simply being a gnat on the Creator's windshield is more than we could ever possibly aspire to be. Again, I don't know.

We live in a big old house of a universe, with lots of really cool stuff in these horsehair plaster walls and hand-blown glass windows (you folks who live in cool old houses - what a great perspective on history). Maybe one day we'll be able to read the measurement marks on the universal joists and the graffiti on the back sides of the spacetime wallboard, if there is any.

Or maybe we'll have to write some ourselves. Perhaps we sort of did that with the Voyager and Pioneer space probes -- sending little gold records and a "For a good time call Earth" plaques.


Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

This Kit makes me realize that I am only two degrees of separation from Edwin Herbert Hubble -- I got to be on good terms with his student, Allan Sandage, when Sandage was in an office down the hall and my office had the nearest coffee pot.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 25, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Plus, I aced Sandage's final exam on measuring intergalactic distance scales and distinguishing different interpretations for the apparent recessional velocity of galaxies. Not that I remember any of that stuff now.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 25, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Couple of additional comments:

Like the Men in the Moon thread - Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" starts with the idea that the Moon is a penal colony, like Eastern Austrailia was.

[Note that I resisted the temptation to misspell "penal" by adding and removing vowels. Thank you.]

And if any aliens do end up finding Earth, chances are all that will remain are the detritus of a great big party (still steaming, most likely). The place will be a *serious* fixer-upper and the Cosmic Homeowner's Insurance isn't likely to pay off the mortgage.


Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

I am back from Maryland Day at the UMd campus. My throat is extremely raw and sore and feeling worse all the time -- more beer may be required. We were in a very loud tent, but with poor feedback on one's own voice, causing one (me) to speak louder and louder and at the high end of my register. Practical upshot: pain.

My construction project was very successful with the audience. Its identity now can be revealed: a model for a planet orbiting a small star at close range, demonstrating the transiting-planet method of detection and characterization used in exploring exoplanets for the EPOXI mission. The star was a 25W incandescent globe. The planet was a paper disc on the end of an aluminum shaft stuck into a boxcar from an N-gauge train on a circular track centered on the star. My original plan was to have a spherical planet made of Sculpey, but it had too much mass and caused to the box car to tip over. My plans for an advanced version include a flatbed rail car, ballasted with lead, and a small spherical planet on the end of a wire mast. Or, maybe, strong magnets on the car's undercarriage to hold it to the rails. We got a visit from a high mucky-muck at the local NASA facility, and from the President of the University -- unfortunately, during the time that I was off wandering around the event to take a break.

Had a visit from CollegequaParkian, appearing virtually incognito in her sunny-day cycling togs. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate her during my break, later in the day.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 25, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

I thought that this was a silly comment from an article about the current flu outbreak: "But unlike with regular flu, humans don't have natural immunity to a virus that includes animal genes — and new vaccines can take months to bring into use."

Well, yeah, until humans *do* have that immunity. We are not humans, we are DEVO! If it matters, and if it's widespread, and if we survive [until the year 2525] then, by gum, humans WILL have that natural immunity.

But of course, once humans have the immunity, it would no longer be an "animal gene" flu, right?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

That's ok Science Tim. Just tell your students/employees you have forgotten more about intergalactic distances than they ever knew.
Science teaches humility, something that political science seems to fail to do.

The weather is changing. After this lovely afternoon the wind came and brought some rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be bad but Monday looks good. of course.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 25, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the tip about increasing font size. It works perfectly for IE also. I'm sad to hear about Bea Arthur; seems like she was doing a one person show last I heard.

Posted by: chloebug | April 25, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, that's a pretty cool extrasolar planet detection demo you set up.

Still, the Sculpey planet config might be useful for demonstrating a new "wobble and fall over" detection method.

On a seemingly related note, please have another beer to soothe that throat, sir.

I don't have anything to say about Bea Arthur, so I won't.


Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Whatsa panele?

Posted by: Boko999 | April 25, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

BC -- lovely thoughts. Thanks for expressing them so well.

SciTim is kind: I wore oddiments, left over from a play I costumed. The effect is eccentric English garden lady on a wicked cool and nimble bike....and, yes, I am nearly albino and become sick, sick, sick in the first suns of summer. My helmet and sunglasses happen to be YellowJacket sunny side up yolk-tone. TBG and RickoShea have seen this effect.

Off to walk in the heat of the evening and then to watch the Circumlocutory Pants movie that is a chick-flick-o-lay that apparently I. Must. See.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 25, 2009 8:06 PM | Report abuse

Evening all and it is actually has cooled down some,sitting on the deck with a glass of Chardonay,grilling a roast and just chillin.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 25, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

This here Hubble guy -- he sounds pretty smart. They ought to commemorate him somehow. Maybe name a telescope after him or something.

*faxing Tim a Smith Brothers Wild Cherry Yuengling."

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

I feel very blessed (by God) to live in a time and place in which the wonders of the universe are being revealed as something other than random manifestations of the whims of an unknowable Creator.

Yay, God! Much thanks.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Amen, bob!

Posted by: TBG- | April 25, 2009 8:42 PM | Report abuse

They have those sort-of-like-styrofoam balls at the craft stores...

Listen up: all these new ways to zoom the text size are recent innovations many don't know about. They came as news to me in the last 6 months or so. Like "control +" (or minus) the mouse wheel also enlarges text if you hold down "control" key while turning the mouse wheel.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 25, 2009 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Those "sort-of-like-styrofoam balls at the craft stores" can be an important component of fusion bombs. Keep it quiet, eh?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 8:54 PM | Report abuse

Control + doesn't do anything on my 'puter to increase font size. I'll speak to my husband about this "challenge" once he gets off after working two stints--today and late tonigh--from our home office. Thanks, folks.

More reporting needed here...

"The newspaper Reforma reported that President Obama, who recently visited Mexico, was escorted around Mexico’s City’s national anthropology museum on April 16 by Felipe Solis, an archaeologist who died the next day from flu-like symptoms. Mexican officials have not confirmed the cause of death."

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 9:00 PM | Report abuse

Not to worry... President Biden promises to stay in bed and take plenty of liquids...

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 9:08 PM | Report abuse

laloomis - let me make sure I understand you clearly here:

Do you believe this report from Reforma, and are you suggesting that President Obama might be a carrier of the Swine Flu virus from Mexico to the United States?


Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

+ works with FireFox. With Internet Explorer you have to go into a pull-down menu and change the "text size" option.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Muy mucho thunder and lightning overhead at the moment, and a bit of spitting. Expect monsoon momentarily. Don't know which way it is moving.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 9:18 PM | Report abuse

Both control +, and scrolling with the mouse and holding control work to increase the font size on my computer - IE7.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 25, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

That is, the ctrl button and + together works with FireFox. In IE you go to the "Page" pull down and find Text Size.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

I think, with IE, it depends on your specific version. Of course, this is why Google is so useful.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Yes Mudge, the rain gods are clearly angry. As one who rarely heard thunder growing up, I still find it kind of cool.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 25, 2009 9:24 PM | Report abuse

bc - Not Obama himself, obviously. Just out of curiosity, what nefarious activities do you think the "SECRET SERVICE" uses to occupy itself all day?

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 9:32 PM | Report abuse

I looked at east central radar. Best I can tell, the only rain on the east coast is over you, Mudge. What have you done to make the rain gods give it all to you? The rest of us need some too, yanno.

Posted by: slyness | April 25, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

The Boy just very dramatically rendered a few of Pyramus's lines from the infamous death scene in "Midsummer". Ah, the joys of living in a theatrical family.

ScienceTim, that is exactly what I thought you were going to do. I just didn't want to spoil it by guessing too soon.

Thanks, bc. That was fun.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 25, 2009 9:51 PM | Report abuse

GWE, Canadian worms? Wouldn't be Dirt Willy's Worms, would it? Cause that would be just to freaky. I pass by Dirt Willy's every single day. (though he is much more famous as a bird hatchery.)

BC, you read the kit and write eloquently. I read the kit and wonder if earth should maybe use a stronger deodorant so those nice young universes wouldn't have to move so far away.

Posted by: --dr-- | April 25, 2009 9:52 PM | Report abuse

And, thanks Joel, I loved the review. Have you noticed how a good review can make you want to read the book?

I tried to do that with "The Grand Idea" last weekend. I hope it worked.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 25, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

If you're bored and out mousing around, take a look at a charming article about twittered recipes and another on proseco (the official drink of the Calgary BPH).

In the proseco video, I liked how they recommended keeping some in the fridge for emergencies, like when you get home tired.

I cut (push mower) about 2/3 of the backyard tonight, it was getting dark, but I got all the tallest parts (roughly 1 ft. high). Tomorrow I'll rake and redo the whole thing shorter. Nothing like the travails of Ivansmom, though.

My yard isn't large, but when I was growing up I cut ~ 10 acres belonging to my aunts and us on a weekly basis. About 2 acres of it had to be done by hand, which didn't bother me at the time, but now I realize why everyone was happy to turn over the garage and lawn tractor keys to a 10 year old. IIRC, my aunts paid me $7.50 a week and bought batteries for the little transistor radio I listened to while I worked.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 25, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

I've known thunder and lightning my whole life (900-plus years), Padouk, and still find it fascinating. Love rain, storms, T & L, the whole Ma Nature thing. Always have. Probably part of the whole Romanticism gestalt I got going.

slyness, I haven't offended the rain gods; they have just learned to seek out an appreciative audience. I'll fax you some rain as soon as it starts. (Still hasn't, so far.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 25, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Well we have had heavy downpours here, lightning, thunder and wind gusts to 100 km in some areas - fortunately started later in the day so it did not spoil the lovely hot day - so nice when it is hot even when windy - a first this year around here, we even had a humidex reading today.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 25, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

Gosh, 'mudge, I just love you to death. I like thunderstorms and the rage of the heavens, too. Very Brontean, Heathciffian.

And, since my mother was afraid of thunderstorms and *her* mother comforted her with popcorn, every thunderstorm is an excuse for popcorn, the hotter and butterier and (no longer) saltier the better.

Posted by: Yoki | April 25, 2009 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Growing up I associated thunderstorms with tornadoes (bad). When I moved to the East Coast, and then to California, I learned to enjoy them. After moving back here I was pleased to discover that although once again we must associate them with tornadoes (bad), there are two mitigating factors. One, weather technology has improved enough that often we know when we need to worry about tornadoes. Two, I can still take a deep breath and enjoy the show for its own sake, unless the tornado is projected to actually be over my house.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 25, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

I've mentioned this before, but back when I was a half of a married couple, we received a black Lab pup as a wedding present. She (Kelly, the dog) grew up in Sacramento (CA) where a thunderstorm was essentially nonexistent. Maybe two, 1985-1989. She then moved with us to southeastern England where they're equally rare. Maybe two, 1989-1992.

Then came Del Rio, Texas. During at least four months of the year, two or three per week. A very, very unhappy & freaked out dog. I had never considered the possibility that a 60+ pound dog might actually want to try to climb on top of my head!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 10:58 PM | Report abuse

Gripe Porcina Mexico...

Reforma didn't confirm whether Solis had swine flu or not. That lack of reporting--or science--doesn't stop Wonkette from having fun with the story...:

Here is the obituary for Felipe Solís, in Spanish.

The famous museum is now closed to the public, like most public attractions in Mexico City.

As for Obama, after meeting Solís on the same night he met and praised the works of Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he headed off to the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago. And that’s where, among other things, Obama shook hands with Venezualan President Hugo Chavez — which was, of course, an OUTRAGE against Democracy, according to U.S. wingnuts. (He was supposed to give Chavez a wedgie.)

But this can now be seen in a whole new crazy light, if you are crazy. Maybe Obama secretly assassinated Chavez with the swine flu!

Posted by: laloomis | April 25, 2009 11:07 PM | Report abuse

Hubble? Didn't they name those little broom closets where impromptu office meetings are constantly held by people who are supposed to do some sort of indirect management of projects with an ever-expanding scope?

And isn't that's what's meant by the term, "Hubble Constant?"




Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

I was wondering when this would come out. It's well-known that Arkansas (home of the husband of the person fourth in the presidential succession line) and Illinois (home of the person fourth in the presidential succession line) are among the top twenty hog producers in the USA.

Coincidence? Hogwash, I say!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 25, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

SCCs: the second "bc" and "Hubble _Room_ Constant."



Posted by: -bc- | April 25, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

J,M&J. What happened to self-exile?

Posted by: -jack- | April 25, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

bc at 9:17.

Some people will believe anything.

For instance, I wholeheartedly believe that Newt Gingrich infected a few giraffes at zoos with foot-and-mouth disease. And that he recently rented himself out as an incubator for this swine flu, just because he's such a warhawk, he doesn't care about international bioterror law anymore.

This is what I believe as a brainwashed, Newt-hating, feminist liberal, especially after consuming a few too many mind-altering drugs.

(Mmm, psychogenic mushroom strongoff. It's what's for your dinner trip.)

Yet, those outrageous libels against Newt are not what I actually think, though, as a sane, conscious semi-informed citizen.

Since I prefer to be thought of as sane, sort of, I try to think before I post.

I'd invite everybody else to do the same, as always.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 25, 2009 11:36 PM | Report abuse

Um, that business of natural enemies. Goldenrods suffer from gall-forming insects, whose larvae live in neat little houses built by the plants themselves, thanks to genetic instructions provided by the insects. In turn, birds long since figured out that galls contain nutritious, delicious larvae. From a gall insect's point of view, the birds are natural enemies. For an ecologist, it's easy (if tedious) to inspect galls to see how many were opened up and how many produced adult insects. With a bit of effort, it's possible to estimate how much of the goldenrods' energy was diverted into building galls and feeding larvae. And what proportion of the larvae became bird food. It's the economy of nature.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 25, 2009 11:59 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, jack. I nearly wore out that video a couple of years ago.

Posted by: seasea1 | April 26, 2009 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Gall wasps. Yes.

Posted by: Yoki | April 26, 2009 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Just watched Frost/Nixon and it was very good.I can see why it was nominated for the oscars.

Dr,no it didn't say Dirt Willies on the worms,just Canadian night crawlers.But I don't think these will be around as long as the last batch.I think they will go swimming tomorrow,maybe me too if it is as hot as it was today.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 26, 2009 12:41 AM | Report abuse

GWE, I'd never seen Night Crawlers till we moved to Calgary. They have them there aplenty. We'd go out in the evenings and after rains, just to see them on the lawn (we entertained ourselves small and cheap in those days).

I'm sure those wee worms will enjoy the cool swim after the heat, GWE.

All this fishing talk makes me want to go read the Compleat Angler. But it shall have to await when the fishing season opens up in the mountains.

Posted by: --dr-- | April 26, 2009 6:12 AM | Report abuse

Well, it would seem to be time to switch out the space heaters and the air conditioners... *SIGH*

I'm seeing hopeful signs in the preview coverage of "Star Trek," so I'm wondering what people think about the STBPH idea for May 9. I really hate to say it, but the Uptown in Cleveland Park doesn't appear in the online showtime listings... *SIGH* There's plenty of time to find an alternate, of course, unless someone can do some in-person recon.

*off-to-an-early-jog-before-the-real-work-begins Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 26, 2009 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Shriek, just reading about storm damage in your area - all OK?

Morning all - we are opening the pool today so naturally it has cooled off from yesterday.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 26, 2009 7:29 AM | Report abuse

Nah dmd. A few broken branches here and there and we lost power intermittently. But it was quite a change of pace, from 27C to about 10C in 15 minutes...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 26, 2009 7:38 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. Well, I had a busy weekend, and now getting ready to go out the door for church. I hope your weekend was good.

Do we need to be worried about the swine flu? And why did so many of those with it in Mexico die, yet we don't have death here?

Yoki, Mudge, Scotty, Martooni, and all, it is hot, hot, here, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. *waving*

Slyness, we do have the smoke, in fact, plenty of it yesterday in the little town I visited near the South Carolina line.

Haven't read the kit and all the comments, will try to do that later.

Posted by: cmyth4u | April 26, 2009 8:05 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

I did some checking and seemed to have found some info that ST would indeed be playing at the Uptown theater, only I think I left it in my other pants.

Along with that Universe I've been looking for.

I'm pretty sure that it's playing at some of the local IMAX theaters, though except for the Air & Space museum downtown, they tend to be off the beaten track for out of towners and public transportation.

I don't know much about the swine flu situation, though a very smart friend pointed out to me that there may be small behavioral modifications or public works that may help slow the spread of the virus, such as frequent hand washing and cleaning of public surfaces such as door handles.


Posted by: -bc- | April 26, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. We are having thunderstorm weather here. That means there is not a thunderstorm right now, but there probably will be. There were storms west and north of here last night. I get to sit in a tent at the Arts Festival and answer questions all afternoon (where are the bathrooms? where is face painting?) but at least I'll be sitting in an enclosed space when the storms break.

OKC is in the news again - the FBI caught & arrested a nut (pretty old guy, too, as armed crimes go) for making Twitter threats connected with our recent Tea Party. An enthusiastic Tea Party supporter, he planned to come to the Capitol steps fully armed and "let the bloodbath begin". They got him that day (not at the Capitol, not armed). I don't know whether to be comforted by the swiftness of the FBI response, or alarmed at the thoroughty of their surveillance.

I must admit, I am charmed at the idea that Obama might have secretly passed swine flu to Chavez with the Infamous Handshake. Obama and the Nats, secretly acting as agents of the State. This would be a nice change for Obama, of course, since usually he's a pretty overt agent of the State.

I almost wonder if that odd debilitating flu-like illness I had in March was swine flu. We all like to personalize the news, after all.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 26, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

The little voices keep telling me to be a fan of this duo:

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 26, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. About to head out to go to the boat to power-wash it and do some spring cleaning. (I'm not klooking forward to it.)

A rather glum one today:

Today in Naval and Aviation History

April 26, 1937: For more than three hours German-built aircraft bomb a small town in Spain, then strafe civilians fleeing to the countryside during the Spanish Civil War. No responsibility for the massacre is ever established, and the nationality of the pro-Franco pilots remains officially unknown (but everybody has a real good guess). The incident inspires artist Pablo Picasso to paint the horror of war in one of his greatest masterpieces, named after the town: Guernica.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 26, 2009 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Interesting what gets scrubbed from the Web version of articles versus what goes to print.

Yesterday, our local paper reported that the samples taken from the two teen boys in Cibolo-Schertz diagnosed with swine flu were sent from Randolph AFB in town to a military medical post in town for further testing, not directly to the CDC. IIRC (emphasis here), the samples or swabs went to Brooke Army Medical Center, although less likely, they potentially could have been forwarded to Brook City-Base. Not a peep about this in today's paper. I should have nabbed the relevant graf last night.

More interesting is the scrub of info from early reporting about swine flu at the NYT. The reporter had gotten to two officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity--a government official and a flu expert. They said that the people handling this crisis were "newbies." A graf explained how people/leaders are not in place at the CDC, Surgeon General, in the new administration. I should have nabbed these grafs last night.

There will be a press conference about swine flu from the White House at 12:30 Eastern time. Who'll appear? Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the acting director of the CDC, and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. Of these three individuals, whom will you most trust at the podium to speak about swine flu? Would it be the CDC?

More news this morning of cases of suspected swine flu overseas. And didn't Robert Bazell on MSNBC say this a.m. that there is now a suspected case in Connecticut?

Dumb reporting in our own paper this morning, a reporter sent to our local airport to interview Mexican nationals flying home. One fellow who was not vaccinated said he was not worried. His wife and kids had been vaccinated earlier this year. Ummm, what does the term "new strain" mean, fella?

Note that author Barry in "The Great Influenza" calls out that there were three waves comprising the pandemic that broke out in 1918. The first wave was pretty benign, the others? Well, you read the story...

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 10:51 AM | Report abuse

There is Loomis history in Barry's "The Great Influenza." Shall I call it out for you?

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Obama administration officials including U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano are scheduled to hold a briefing on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time to provide an update on the outbreak of swine flu, reports said. Napolitano will be joined by Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and John Brenna, assistant to the president for Homeland Security.

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

CAFOs, (KAY-fohs), you might want to add this to your vocabulary...

In the last several years, U.S. hog conglomerates have opened giant swine CAFOs south of the border, including dozens around Mexico City in the neighboring states of Mexico and Puebla. Smithfield Foods also reportedly operates a huge swine facility in the State of Veracruz, where the current outbreak may have originated. Many of these CAFOs raise tens of thousands of pigs at a time. Cheaper labor costs and a desire to enter the Latin American market are drawing more industrialized agriculture to Mexico all the time, wiping out smaller, traditional farms, which now account for only a small portion of swine production in Mexico.

LL: Hope you've had your Sunday brunch before reading the following:

But these are not hermetically sealed environments, and pathogens can enter and exit a CAFO in a number of ways other than via swine workers (or flies, another proven vector of CAFO diseases).

To begin with, some swine CAFO's recover water from their waste lagoons and recycle it back into the animal housing, in order to wash out the barns while also cutting down on dwindling groundwater supplies (a particular concern in parts of Mexico, to be sure). But wildfowl routinely land in CAFO lagoons, where they can easily shed influenza virus into the water. This can also happen at facilities that use water from nearby ponds or rivers.

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Good afternoon boodle! Gray, windy, and perhaps snowy day here, but all is well at Chez Frostbitten. Won a shotgun at the banquet last night. (Perhaps the first time that sentence has appeared in the boodle.)

Mr. F has already departed for St. Paul, hoping to get ahead of a storm that appears might hit the Ivansclan rather hard before heading northeast.

Have a request for info from our congressman to complete today. Probably won't yield any stimulus $, not directly anyway, but at least he's asking. In talking to our city council members no one can remember ever before being asked about anything from such a personage.

Have to scoot. Lots to do before the conclusion to Little Dorrit tonight on PBS.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 26, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Son of G and I were completely grossed out by the huge cattle places we saw in southern California and Arizona. The only word to describe what the cattle looked like is "teeming." They were crawling over each other in huge, but very cramped, fenced-in areas. And the smell... ew.

If the pig CAFOs are anything like that I wouldn't be surprised if disease is spreading easily from there.

Posted by: TBG- | April 26, 2009 1:17 PM | Report abuse

You would see nothing of large scale hog operations but large barns, usually white (I don't know why), normally very, very clean places. You'd only know they were there by the smell.

And even that would only be on days when the sewage was being pumped, spread or otherwise disposed of.

My dad raised hogs, and it sure wasn't a big money maker. He called it cash flow and the smell of money.

Pigs are a very clean animal.

Posted by: --dr-- | April 26, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

FYI-CSPAN 2 is covering panels at the LA Times Festival of Books live.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 26, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen reported four mild cases of swine flu in Canada, following the press briefing from the White House. Articles about the cases of swine flu in Nova Scotia now coming on the web.

At the press briefing, mention of a confirmed case in Ohio--not Connecticut, as MSNBC's Robert Bazell asserted earlier during the morning.

Most interesting facet, for me at least, about the press briefing is how unprepared some of the media reps are to handle the topic of science/biology/emergency preparedness. Makes a case for big media outlets to have someone--such as Lawrence Altman, a physician who reports for the NYT--on staff. Who was that older woman with the short red hair who asked such ridiculous questions? You'd think the reporters would do a little prep or web searching or phone calling before entering the briefing room. But, hey, it's Sunday? Viruses don't take the day off, but apparently most of the press does!

Former "peed" Dr. Richard Besser did well enough at the presser. Too bad some in the media got his title and first name wrong. He's got experience with Hurricanes Katrina (hopefully a learning experience--wonder if this careerist knows Brownie?) and Rita, and last year co-authored research, available on PubMed, about "Improving cross-sectoral and cross-jurisdictional coordination for public health emergency legal preparedness.” Always handy if any quarantines should be imposed at state/local levels. Think he'll be named new CDC honcho?

And why did Mexico send its pig/bird/human flu samples for testing to Canada? How much paperwork *exactly* does the U.S. require to test foreign samples here, this the cause of Mexican samples to be airlifted beyond our northern border?

Hope Obama enjoyed his golf game.

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Is it true that swine flu is also in British Columbia and Ontario?

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Personally, what interests me most about the swine flu is if people are going to die.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 26, 2009 3:15 PM | Report abuse

People in Mexico have died from the swine flu. It seems to be young adults who are getting sick, too, which is different from most flu, I think. I suppose we'll have to wait and see what happens and what the medical folks find out. It would be nice to have all the answers instantaneously, but...

Posted by: seasea1 | April 26, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Well, with what appears to be about a 5% mortality rate in Mexico, I'd say it qualifies as interesting indeed!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

That's my point bobsewell. People are dying. This is a horrifying situation. I don't really want to fixate on anything associated with this except the nature of the actual disease.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 26, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I see that a "public health emergency" has been declared.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Ah come on RD, don't you know potential national emergencies are best viewed through a conspiracy theory prism.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 26, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

after 3 hours of leaf blowing and a short lunch break.I caught the 2 period of the caps game.With them up 5-1,i deem it safe to go on the river and not worry about the score.Looks like there will be a game 7 after all.

Hope i didn't just jinx them.

I will report on the Candian night crawlers in a bit.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 26, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Loomis the testing facility is Winnipeg works closely with the CDC, at times samples will go to both facilities to be tested by each.

Yes, Swine flu confirmed in NS and BC.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 26, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

gwe, in the process of starting up the pool pump, I seem to have gathered a small collection of nice Canadian worms, do not know the type but am willing to fax them down, the large one stuck in the pump basket would probably be great as bait if I can figure out how to get it out of the basket without actually touching it - this might be where my eight year old will come in handy.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 26, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Caps got it done. Five goals is tough to beat.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I caught that bad news on tv a little while ago, dmd, as well as a few suspected cases in NYC.

The next 10 days are going to be interesting as the scope of this thing pans out. I pray the days are just interesting, not sad and tragic.

Posted by: --dr-- | April 26, 2009 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, you were doing pretty good till the politics came into it particularly your last line. Now is not the time to be making political digs. It lessens the message you are trying to send.

Save it for when this is over.

Posted by: --dr-- | April 26, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

TV news is actually most on top of the local swine flu story here late this Sunday...

There is more illness (seven cases, but don't know if this includes the two confirmed and one suspected case or these are seven new cases) among children at various grade levels in the Schertz-area school district--though unconfirmed as of yet as swine flu.

Out of an abundance of caution, the 14 schools in the district will close for a week, the closure impacting about 1100 students and 1400 staff. Janitorial crews will continue to work, scrubbing down schools. Many large churches in the Schertz-Cibolo area closed their doors to worshipers today. Large public gatherings have been discouraged.

Gov. Rick Perry also increasing his request to the feds for 25 percent more doses of anti-viral medication. Guess we won't be seceding any time soon.

Airlines waiving change fees for near-future flights to Mexico:

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

I just got in from an afternoon sitting in a tent dispensing information at the Arts Festival. The weather was cool and cloudy with a nasty, vicious wind, easily 30 mph or more. The tent didn't blow away but it was open in the back so not much shelter. I was glad to be finished. We're awaiting what look like some very nasty storms coming up from the southwest; there apparently have already been tornadoes west of us. At least I'm inside.

I agree with RD and the others who focus on the real point of the swine flu - the apparently fairly high mortality rate, the prevalence among young healthy adults, and the potential for a pandemic. In that light, I think the federal government and neighboring countries have acted with relative swiftness. Remember, this became more than just a local story on Thursday and Friday. By Sunday we have a public health emergency.

Frosti, you won a shotgun? At a banquet? Was there a wedding?

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 26, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

No, dr, may I suggest that you save it for when this is over.

I truly hoped that Obama enjoyed his golf game. All the cases here in the U.S. have been mild, with only one hospitalization thus far.

If the flu virus mutates to become more virulent, then it's a different ballgame. The $64 million dollar question is why were--or are--the cases of swine flu in Mexico more dangerous, causing more deaths and serious illness?

That said, I do hope the administration is working on getting people in the following important positions, as the NYT points out:

The outbreak in the United States comes before President Obama has his full health team in place. His nominee for health secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, nor has the woman he selected to Food and Drug Administration, Margaret Hamburg, a former New York City health commissioner. Mr. Obama has not yet named anyone to run the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health.

Isn't it a shame that the Republicans are politicizing Sebelius' appointment over her stand on abortion? So, I suppose you wouldn't want me to poke fun at Perry wanting to secede from the union, either? Is it naive to think that politics are not involved in public health issues? Why, let's look at former CDC boss Julie Gerberding...

Posted by: laloomis | April 26, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I won a shotgun once at a Ducks Unlimited banquet. A buddy of mine had an extra ticket, it was plenty o' fun. Open bar, good steak dinner, pleasant folks.

I donated the shotgun back to them to be auctioned off later in the evening. It sold for over $1200!

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I was kinda pissed off when I drove by the golf course earlier today. I thought to myself, "Why aren't all of those golfers out curing influenza or something?"

Then I stopped at the store & picked up a couple of fat pork chops (THAT'LL teach those damned swine!) and some beer.

Beer's chilled, grill's warming up.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom-wondered if the storm would hit you. Mr. F was caught on the eastern edge of what seems to be a nasty system stretching all the way to your neck of the woods.

Like bob, I won my shotgun at Ducks Unlimited-the dinner was on a free ticket then we sank a bit into the raffles. This win pushes my lifetime game of chance prize take up considerably. Until last night my two memorable prizes included a fudgesicle in second grade circa '67 and a calculator won at a big do in Lawton OK in '90.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 26, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Yep RD Padouk, the mortality rate is pretty low, which is an excellent thing. We do not need another SARS epidemic. I only have to complain about unpaid overtime over the SARS in Canada but I don't want a repeat. It killed quite a number of health professionals and the old folks they were taking care of. That wasn't fun. Still I'm sure the world of bio-safety will be running in high gear this week. They are excitable people.

The Winnipeg facility of Health Canada was called in early. A DA from Cornwall got back from vacation in Mexico about three weeks ago and fell sick to a mysterious flue. HC's Winnipeg people were called in. The guy is doing fine now but he suffered complications from the flue.

The 15 minutes storm of last night caused more damage than I thought. There is not much damage on my lot but quite a number of trees fell elsewhere in the street, a neighbour lost a small section of roof, there was a port-a-potty laying in the middle of somebody's lawn...
The people on the other side of the street are still without power, a big old pine fell on their line. There are 15 houses on each side of the street so we ain't exactly high priority on the repair-to-do list of the power utility. So tonight is spent with the drone of gen-sets in the background.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 26, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

I understand that those of you who eschew the consumption of pork (or meat generally) and/or alcohol won't be able to adopt my particular tactics for battling the flu.

All I ask is that you do what you can, even if it's only that you refrain from kissing other golfers on the course.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Yawn. It's easier to ask questions than answer them, but it's really boring too when it just goes on and on and on.

At about 1 PM today I thought perhaps the Boodle had died from swine flu.

Posted by: -larkin | April 26, 2009 7:50 PM | Report abuse

If that 5% figure holds up, then it's not even close to being "low". That's a big, hairy, scary deal in a disease that is looking like it spreads easily.

Posted by: bobsewell | April 26, 2009 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Wow. larkin, hopeful monster, tomsing, chloebug, and I know I'm missing someone from yesterday - it is wonderful to see all these lurkers and new posters jump in. Howdy y'all! Talk some more!

Yes, we have at least two "supercells" working in the state now, frosti, and one of them seems to be headed this general direction. In local parlance, "supercell" is Bad. We can also talk about mesocyclones and hook echoes - small children who cannot read can decipher a radar hook echo image - but I really hope that tonight I don't have to do so.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 26, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Please get in the basement, Ivansmom.

Posted by: TBG- | April 26, 2009 8:13 PM | Report abuse

laloomis, I'm confused. What difference does it make if the Pres played a round of golf at Andrews? Considering the foursome, it doesn't sound like it was just a bunch of guys out there telling dirty jokes between holes.

Also, how do you go about choosing which journalists shouldn't ever get a day off? Only those who use styling products and therefore don't have fly-away hair?

And of course they're working on getting those positions filled. But it's not like Obama is the one doing the vetting. He has people for that. And law firms. He's not standing at a xerox machine dancing to the beat of the copier drum. Sounds like WHO, CDC, and like organizations have their hands full. Don't see what that has to do with the price of pine tar in Cooperstown.

Funny how Texas is asking for more vaccines. One minute they don't need the US of A, the next they do. I hope that is seen by his constituents the way it's viewed from the outside.

Wanna sink your teeth into something White House related? Why not turn that laser-like focus of yours toward the Saudi Kingdom. Seems they've had a busy weekend.

dr, good advice. I've always been amazed at those who don't realize that
taking unwarranted jabs lessens the impact of their message. You'd think they'd figure it out....

Posted by: LostInThought | April 26, 2009 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Exactly, TBG! Get safe, Ivansmom, and thanks. Once a tornado passed within 20 feet of my house and we never heard it.

When I was moving to Wisconsin the real estate agent touted the little bathroom in the basement and we wondered why we needed that. We found out.

Posted by: -larkin | April 26, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, y'all. We are good so far. If we had a basement it would be too early to get into it, and it is too early to go share my cousin's basement. We reserve that for real scares (like that time one missed us by half a mile). Right now everything coming our way is still up in the air, so to speak, and with any luck will stay there. I just hope we don't lose power: I am trying vainly and for the last week to catch up to my class. I have enough, in a pinch, to get through tomorrow but I'm trying to finish as much as I can.

Besides, I still have to clean the rabbit cage. Though I suppose I could do that by candlelight. It would be romantic.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 26, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

I am hoping my good storm news will revive the Boodle. All the storm cells seem to have lost their super powers. We may see some severe thunderstorms, but apparently we can all relax and go to sleep.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 26, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Glad to hear the most threatening weather passed you by.

John just told Andrew that Amy loves him. This has to be the finest adaptation of Little Dorrit ever.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 26, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

I like this too, Frosti, however, I think that the punny ironic delishness of Dickens is some times lost in the PPB Masterness seriousness.

Costumes are good and interesting, as in the show several ranges of styles/subperiods. This is realistic because clothes were extremely expensive those days....relatively speaking. I am about the switch to the Soprano's repeat conclusion. I am a bit addicted but I do not own the dvds. I can repeat entire swaths of Godfather....
Ivansmom, I guess the bathroom is best, sans basement, right? We went into a earthen cellar ala Dorothy's family, in Leavenworth, as it happened. I still remember the smell of that pocket as the sound of a freight train storm kathump-whacked over us.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 26, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I've been watching "Love, Actually." I forgot what a great movie it is. Fun, funny, romantic... what more could you want?

Posted by: TBG- | April 26, 2009 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Good to know that you're all okay, Ivansmom.

I suppose I should get back into the habit of watching decent TV. Going to night classes in grad school got me away from the TV, but that was thirty years ago, for heavens sake. I loved Poldark (was that his name?) and of course The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Elizabeth R.

Bedtime, so off I go. Sleep tight, everybody!

Posted by: slyness | April 26, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

I will be able to see the PBS conclusion on line in the morning. Frosti, aren't all the Brit actor faces lovely and interesting and ordinary? We present the same nose on the young set of androgynous stars....I guess the studios get a volume discount....

About flu alert: cousins in MN who are immune compromised have been alerted to some pre-cautions. About domestic animal reservoirs: I was stunned moving from the land of range cattle -- including dairy bessies -- to the feed lot factory farms. Cows in many spreads stand knee high in liquified cowpatty. We need to rethink everthing these days, including appropriate scale. Who knew that BiG-AG would be a zoonotic disease experiment for us all?

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 26, 2009 10:03 PM | Report abuse

I watched Love Actually (again) last night - thoroughly enjoyed it.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 26, 2009 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Oh.. I guess you could want Dickens. :-)

G'night boodle. Glad you're safe, Ivansmom. Stay warm, Frosti... to everyone else: toodles!

Posted by: TBG- | April 26, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Saw some pictures of Emma Watson of Harry Potter at the msn web yesterday. She is so pretty.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 26, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

Glad you said it, rainforest. If I said it, it would be creepy.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 26, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Slyness-The Six Wives of Henry the VIII turned me into a Masterpiece addict at an early age. Somehow missed Poldark until '99 when Hawaii Public TV showed the series every afternoon-like a soap. Great stuff!

Annette Crosbie (Catherine of Aragon in Six Wives, and later Victoria) is in Little Dorrit. Those Brits have staying power.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 26, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Got back from the river a couple of hours ago(the river was higher then last week) and the final was 18 fish,none as big as last week's but a lot of fun.I think i caught the same fish twice and could have sworn the 2nd time he said "eat me",but i didn't.

It was really pretty too,bluebells still blooming and mostly everything else had buds on them.The water was still too cold for swimming,but refreshing when I stuck my feet in.

I heard a Murder of Crows,really going on about something,then a shot was fired and they all stopped.Lotsa river wildlife,turtles and birds and Oh Yes the bugs are back. It was a nice float.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 26, 2009 10:30 PM | Report abuse

I hope all is well with those enduring storms this evening.

Having had a few supercells and tornadoes pass close by - and even overhead - in my time, I, too, have heard the classic 'freight train' sound, and have seen that weird sickly-green sky and yawned and swallowed trying to fight the crazy pressure changes that made my eardrums pop repeatedly like a screen door slamming open and shut in the wind...

Lastly - for the moment, anyway - I imagine President Obama was simply playing golf while the CDC set up spectrmeters, genetic sequencing equipment, centrifuges and bunsen burners in the Oval Office. That's the kind of thing President Bush used to do with all that vacation time he took during his terms, wasn't it?

I, for one, think the Administration is addressing the Swine Flu situatuon appropriately for this country and for our neighbors to this point. President Obama and his team don't need the likes of me critiquing every move they make, especially as my test tube centrifuge and spectrometer operational skills are rusty and somewhat out of date at best. Bunsen burners, on the other hand...


Posted by: -bc- | April 26, 2009 10:35 PM | Report abuse

bc: hear about our barn find?

Posted by: -jack- | April 26, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, as long as your house still has enough connecting wires that you can post, I'm glad you're okay.


Posted by: Jim19 | April 26, 2009 11:15 PM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

I defy any of you to read Michael Sheuer's op-ed piece on torturing bin Laden and not come away flaming outraged. (This from the guy who was in charge of finding OBL, and couldn't do it.)

Why the Post prints this trash is beyond me.

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

April 27, 1521: Explorer Ferdinand Magellan is killed at Mactan, in the Philippines, during his famous first circumnavigation of the world.
1865: America’s worst steamship disaster occurs as the sternwheeler Sultana’s boiler explodes on the Mississippi River north of Memphis while en route to Cairo, Ill. She is carrying some 2,300 passengers, most of whom are former Union Army prisoners-of-war who were being sent home; 1,547 were killed.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | April 27, 2009 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boodle. To give slyness a break I've set up breakfast this morning. We've got a chafing dish with lovely hot pancakes and a pitcher of maple syrup, a platter of mixed fruit, a bread basket and a vast cauldron of coffee. So let's get in to the ready room, and get ready to launch this Monday.

Have a great day, everyone.

Posted by: Yoki | April 27, 2009 6:16 AM | Report abuse

Yoki, how kind of you! Breakfast will be simply divine, thanks! Yum...

Mudge, I don't recall ever reading about the Sultana. How terrible.

So we have gone from heavy jacket weather to shorts weather in 24 hours. That seems to be normal around here, although it's disconcerting. We turned on the A/C Saturday and it's definitely time to take the down comforter off the bed. No complaints from me about warm weather!

Best wishes to all for a pleasant day!

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2009 6:59 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all. I hope everyone is doing well and that there is nothing swine-ish about.

Mudge, that piece by Sheuer made my Latin blood boil. Of all people, he should be in a position to understand that you cannot make policy according to who can tell the scariest stories.

I can make up some pretty scary stories as well that directly contradict his. This kind of thinking is what, in my opinion, leads to horrible decisions.

Thankfully, Sheuer and his ilk are not calling the shots.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 27, 2009 7:30 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Boiler explosions are nasty. The oldest technical code that I know of in the US and Canada, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Boiler & Pressure Vessel Code was enacted to tame a rash of boiler explosions. the rapid industrialization of the mid-late 19th century wasn't without risk. Small towns were built around manufacturing plants powered by boilers. When the boiler went crack-boom the small town could be obliterated as well. So the blowing-up of the steamer was just another, very deadly, industrial accident. Locomotives were also known to take to the sky on occasion.
"Boiler explosions were the scourge of American life from the mid-19th century through the early 20th. Some 50,000 Americans died every year in these accidents, which, during the 1850s, occurred on average once every four days."

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 27, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

This is the kind of information about the Swine Flu that people need to understand:

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 27, 2009 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning, Boodle!

I find Sheur's article astonishing. I wonder what was he drinking.

Posted by: Braguine | April 27, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I was only able to read the first paragraph or two of Sheuer's aritcle before the childish "what-if's" were just too much for me -- "What if Osama Bin Laden were bragging to you that he actually had nuclear weapons, and he knew where they were and when they would go off? Boy, you'd really wish you were allowed to use highly effective "enhanced" techniques to extract information *then*, wouldn't you?" Similar to "What if a huge elephant escaped from the circus, and it got bitten by a rabid bat and got rabies and wandered 50 miles along streambeds from the nearest train station, so nobody would know where to look for it, and then the rabies took hold while it was behind your house and it started a mad rampage -- *then*, you'd realy wish that every private citizen had the right to own a tripod-mounted Gatling gun, wouldn't you?"

From this, you may deduce that Castle Science is near a stream.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 27, 2009 7:54 AM | Report abuse

*happy-to-see-the-Sawx-swept-and-somewhat-dreading-a-short-staffed-Monday Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Sheuer's piece is not only repugnant, it shows an astonishing lack of contact with reality . First you have to believe that some "techniques" are not torture, then come to the conclusion that the reason they are now banned is so that "people will like us." I'd call it tripe, if it weren't an insult to that putative food product.

As John McCain said, "this isn't about them, it's about us." It pains me to think Sheuer held a position of high responsibility in the CIA. Doesn't he know "never get involved in a land war in Asia" and it's asymmetric warfare correlate "the real danger in terrorism lies in your reaction to it?" You know, things like turning people into torturers, holding prisoners indefinitely without trial, warrantless wiretapping... With Sheuer's kind of thinking OBL might as well retire, we'll destroy ourselves from the inside out.

Good morning boodle. Cold and yucky here today. It would be nice if winter would end before Mothers Day. I am not particularly hopeful.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 27, 2009 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Tim's 7:54 has said it all.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 27, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

Someone here pointed out that Texas is asking for more vaccines. Another error, the third that I have caught this morning in a comment, the other two made by female broadcasters.

NOT. Texas/Gov. Rick Perry is asking for more anti-viral medications. There is no vaccine against swine flu once it has erupted. Vaccine manufacturers are wondering if it's even possible to add a swine flu component to the three strains of flu planned for NEXT season's flu vaccine--to make it a total of four strains. You might want to Google "Baxter."

MSNBC's flibbertigibbet Erin Burnett during the Morning Joe program stuck her foot in her mouth at the close of her segment by saying the U.S. is prepared with lots of antibiotics to treat swine flu. Well, I suggest that Erin pick up a basic science text to learn the difference a bacterium and a virus. This is the same mistake that former CNN reporter (now with ABC) Jonathan Karl made when he was reporting about the smallpox (Karl called it a bacteria) threat a handful of years ago, an error that prompted me to send a correction.

Leslie Bohl Jones of our local NBC affiliate station said that it's uncertain how the two teens in Schertz, military dependents, came down with swine flu, since they didn't have contact with pigs. Whaaa? The species jump from swine to human happened some time ago, most likely in Mexico, but that hasn't been determined--yet. What makes the swine flu a threat now (if any doubt, follow the coverage from Mexico) is the human-to-human transmission, plus the fact that swine flu is basically quite infectious--and is not your everyday coronavirus.

Please get some basic science ed, gals, especially you two in front of a television camera.

Reported last night, a team of CDC disease cowboys (I didn't invent the expression) to arrive in Schertz this morning.

Re: the Sultana--today's sea lesson. A book was published March 24 and author Alan Huffman recently did a great hour on the Diane Rehm show talking about the story, his research.

Posted by: laloomis | April 27, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Been away for the achen-habitat for a while and gave myself 5 minutes to read. How ExCITING!!!!

I have no clue.

(never do)

But, after reading the noted 7:54 from Tim, I am reminded of the old joke, "How do you know that two elephants have been making love in your backyard?"


Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

*Faxing a Southern comfortable day, with high of 86, to Frosti*

I'm back from the walk, now must confront the housework I've put off for a couple of weeks.

This morning there were earthworms on the pavement the whole way. I used to stop and move them back into the grass, but it occurred to me that my action was an unwarranted intrusion into nature's way. If the worms are visible, they are fair game for the birds, who also need to eat. So I don't feel bad about leaving the worms to wiggle across the road or make a meal for another creature. Besides, if I moved every last one, my back would kill me and it would take all day.

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2009 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, I would think all of Texas would just pull out their guns and shoot the Swine Flu.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 9:21 AM | Report abuse

slyness, did you ever think that worms seek out sidewalks as their own version of the "elephant's graveyard?"

Do you think that worms have their own PBS specials about crossing the great sidewalks of the world?

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I tol' youse guys that Sheuer piece was inflammatory.

slyness and shriek, one of America's foremost unpublished historians (OK, it was just me), in vol. 1 of his majestic four-volume history of the Elco Company, goes to some pains to compare steam technology vis-a-vis steamboats and steamship versus railroads, and noted the following:

Whereas steamboat disasters such as the Sultana and others tended to kill people in the hundreds (and sometimes over a thousand) at a single time, railroad accidents and disasters tended to kill people only in groups of 10, or 20, or whatever, say a dozen or two, at a time. However, all during the late 19th century, there were many more more railroad accidents, such that when you look at the death statistics, railroads beat out steamboats as the leading killers of people and by a significant margin.

The end result of this was that during the late 19th century Americans had a real love-hate feeling about railroads. They liked the "romance" of trains, as well as the (relatively) new gee-whiz technology, plus the way railroads really opened up the west to development.

The negative side had to do with a couple of things. One was the way railroads killed people in small but regular numbers, a fair portion of it from negligence or bad engineering (trestle collapses). The other part of it had to do with how the many various and sundry railroads were manipulated by the various and sundry robber barons who owned them.

While trains did indeed suffer the occasional boiler explosion, it tended to be ships that had them more often, and it was the shipping industry that began to develop both better safeguards and better engineering standards, so that by the time of WWI, boiler explosions in ships were pretty much rare-to-non-existent.

And just about the time when western civilization got steam under control, along came gasoline and the infernal combustion engine.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Do you think that worms have their own Rick Steves?

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, I can't wait to take a Maglev from Disneyland to Las Vegas, baby! I am wondering if you can ride that train with one of the "allday" passes?

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

Google seems to be celebrating telegraph operators today...


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Re: yesterday's swine flu presser.

John Brennan, homeland security advisor, is so old--and the only credible job he did during the briefing was to read the information he was holding in his hands. He took no questions. Good thing he didn't veer into harsh CIA investigation techniques, about which is probably knows more than most.

Janet Napolitano had a lot of pressure on her yesterday to look credible at the podium, especially after her huge gaffe--and subsequent calls for her resignation--that returning vets are saps who don't know any better than to fall into the hands of extremists.

Besser shone. He should be the public face for any pronouncements about swine flu. He's an actual physician with a credible resume.

And what does a Kansas governor know about health and human services? Sebelius is just as much a bureacrat as former inept SecHHS Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania. The Peter Principle applies to government as well as the private sector.

Big expose of sorts about Geither--seven jumps--about his extremely close ties to Wall Street at today's NYT. The article I've been drumming my fingers waiting for.

Posted by: laloomis | April 27, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Influenza victims often suffer from secondary bacterial infections, so a healthy supply of antibiotics is still important.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 27, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

NPR ran a piece on the Sultana the other day. The crew and some folks below decks that heard the banging caused by installing patches knew something was wrong. Unfortunately the voyage went ahead, as the ship needed to meet it's schedule.

Posted by: -jack- | April 27, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, addenda to your discussion about railroads: the workers, particularly the westward expansion crews after the Civil War, felt little love for their harsh and rapacious employers. This explains in part the worship via folk song of people like Jesse James and Cole Younger. Pretty Boy Floyd, too.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

CqP, Don't forget that the folks living around the railroads detested the fact that almost everyone getting off railroads looked like Lee Van Cleef.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Body temperature scanners in airports for flu ID?

I don't know if I ever heard of this before.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 27, 2009 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Slyness, you could always pick them up,put them in a maxwell house coffee can with some dirt and bring them to the next BPH.I am sure someone would love to use them.I'm sorry to say(or not) we don't have any sidewalks here in west by god.

nothing better then to Bob away your Blues!!!

Posted by: greenwithenvy | April 27, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

If you chew gum during a math test, you're likely to score better compared to non-chewers. Interesting.,0,1650005.story

Posted by: -jack- | April 27, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

laloomis, you ask what does a former governor knows about health and human services? Okay...let's see...the job doesn't mean treat patients, it means run an agency. Think about it. Someone who has run a state government effectively probably fits the bill.

And certainly, don't compare the TX governor to the KS one (she wins hands down), or the former PA one. Tom Ridge is well liked by many on both sides of the aisle, and has held quite a few positions in public service. Not sure what he did to earn your label of 'inept', but I'm sure you'll tell us. In exhaustive detail.

It doesn't matter if it's anti-viral medications or vaccines...the fact is TX Gov asked for more than his fair share. Taking into consideration his words of late, this takes some stones.

This virus isn't going after it's usual targets (those young, old, and/or weakened immune systems) but seems to affect those who are least vigilent about personal hygiene...teenage boys/young men. Maybe Perry should remind them to wash their hands more often, use a tissue every now and again, cover their mouth when the cough.

Sorry to feed the beast and run, but I'm due in DC this afternoon. Time to get on the road. Again. Have a happy day all.

Posted by: LostInThought | April 27, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Andrey Alexandrovich Popov invented the first boiler safety valve, the "Popov valve" in 1900. It comprised a large cork and a chain of known breaking strength. Only roughly calibrateable, it was replaced by the Vulcanized rubber and brass fixture in later years.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 27, 2009 10:11 AM | Report abuse

LiT -- yes time three to the washing of hands. By all, but also especially the fungi among us we know and love and tolerate. I believe that Sd coined this term for the ripening of the lovable blue children.

Here is a public health video about coughing and sneezing into our elbows!!!! It is the

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Yes, CP, that was also part of the "hate" part of the love/hate relationship. A great many people in the 19th century really despised railroads for one reason or another. You can almost take your pick of atrocity, from stock swindles of little old ladies, to using "imported" Chinese as virtual slave labor.

And yet through all that, the railroads STILL managed to create some sort of romantic and exciting image, heaven knows how or why. Even unto this day, I am hard-pressed to think of a single pop culture reference to 19th century railraods that isn't "positive" rather than negative. Even in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," even though one loves Butch and Sundance, you still can't work up too much hatred of E.L. Harriman and his Union Pacific railroad for hiring the Super Posse.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Exceptional breakfast, Yoki.

Pulled pork for lunch with anti-virals on the side?

Posted by: -dbG- | April 27, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Yes please!

Jumper, there was much talk about those scanners in Canada at the time of the SARS outbreak.

Posted by: Yoki | April 27, 2009 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, it's uncanny how not being able to practice the normal response to fire or runaway boilers (Run, Timmy! Run!) precipitated the development of fire suppression and steam boiler technology abord ship.

Jumper, snort. Heve you seen the myth busters show on exploding water heaters? It's one of my favourite. They plug the opening where the Popov valve is supposed to go with a solid plug. (Some people apparently do that becouse Popov valves are more expensive than solid plugs)
They also disabled the thermal cut-off on the thermostat. Them water heaters are made pretty tough, one of them busted at 300psi or so; destroying the house structure built around it. Myth confirmed.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 27, 2009 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, in 1882 five related families bought passage on two box cars to travel from St. Jo. MO to South Dakota. The plan was to homestead and secure quarter sections of "free" farmland. In that group were two "ruint" men who likely ruptured discs while working for the railroad. One was rather young when he was hurt. As a teen, he worked as a farmhand for Cole Younger's family (the outlaws were not at home much; traveling for biz, ya know). Cole Younger gave money to that family sporadically for a number of years. Other members of that family traveled to Stillwater Prison in MN, to see Cole Younger on more than one occasion. There was a RobinHood aspect to these games. However, they were also very "rough" men, as Cole Younger said close to the time of his trial: "We tried a desperate game and lost. But we are rough men used to rough ways, and we will abide by the consequences."

I love the sound of CSX trains in my neighborhood at night. I like seeing the old Chessie cat on aging box cars....I still see in my mind's eye the Rocky Mountain Goat logo of the Great Northern Rail; that RR had a grainery spur about two blocks from my house growing up. We knew hobos, among the last of that picaresque crew.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Done. I'll stop at Sweet Lucy's, right outside Tacony, after I drop off a carload of *stuff* to the Salvation Army. Good brisket, pulled pork, chicken and cornbread.

Their baked beans, potato salad and desserts are just okay, however. Volunteers?

Posted by: -dbG- | April 27, 2009 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Lost in Thought

I've always thought of you as lost, but never, never, ever in much thought. Your recent post aonly confirms the opinion I hold of you.

Posted by: laloomis | April 27, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

It is SO much easier to Boodle when one is not working!

I'm off (mainly) until Wednesday to Spring Clean, I think the air conditioners may go in today.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 27, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

dbG, I will bring homemade vanilla ice cream and these sweet sammiches:

two thin mints lathed with a wisp of lemon curd.

Next week, I will bring same cream with rhubarb sauce, when some of the Northern boodlios send those magic stalks.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

LOL, Weed!

I never cease to be amazed at the knowledge held in the boodle. Steam boilers, who knew?

The fire department has an 1895 steamer that was used for several decades. It was traded back to the manufacturer for a newer model of fire apparatus, the manufacturer then presented it back to the City as a gift. It has been restored and is gorgeous. I understand the boiler still works.

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

FWIW, I was present at the last steam locomotive boiler failure in the U.S., which occurred near Gettysburg, PA in June of 1995. This was on a tourist excursion. Like most locomotive boiler failures, this was due to low water in the boiler, a result of the engine crew not checking that the water level glass was functioning properly. The good news was that the failure did not launch the boiler off the frame, and that none of the engine crew were killed on the spot. The engineer, though, suffered severe scalding burns and was left permanently disabled and died about 10 years later.

Posted by: ebtnut | April 27, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

SCC aboard, cripes.

People love cheap transportation for their coal/electricity, grain, liquid fuels, LPG and other commodities but try to build a new line these days, ouch, then people hate trains...

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 27, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Breakfast was yummy, now you all are talking a fabulous lunch. At the club, of course? I'm gonna be virtually fat, to go along with the real fat, if you folks keep this up!

Loomis, LostinThought is correct about the running of agencies. Technical knowledge does not generally translate to good management skills; in fact, it is often a deterrence and obstacle to leading people and managing organizations.

Posted by: slyness | April 27, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

LiT, Tom Ridge deserves a bit of thanks for his willingness to speak his mind about what he thought of the Bush Administration's phony Orange Alerts whenever their popularity would take a hit.

I guess one could say that he should have quit, but I would rather have someone working on "the team" and being a skeptic from the inside.

It will be folks like Tom Ridge who will make bipartisanship possible. AND, as pointed out about most Governors, they have to work with folks from all parts of the political spectrum.

Ridge, like several folks from the military, stepped up and spoke their mind when it wasn't considered "the thing to do."

I was lucky enough to be able to thank him for that in person last year. While what we have learned has gone so far beyond the point where Ridge had been when he "let the cat out of the bag," it was a critical signal to our nation that we had been taken for a bit of a PR ride.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I *heart* that MythBusters episode, Shriek... *L*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 27, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Generally, the 9:38 is correct, one need only read "The Great Influenza"to learn that bacterial pneumonia sometimes complicates swine flu. But all too often, antibiotics are prescribed when unnecessary or are overprescribed, causing bacteria to mutate, creating very prolematic drug-resistant forms of bacteria.

When I had (viral vaccinia) eczema vaccinatum, Dr. Levin also was giving me shots of penicillin to prevent secondary bacterial infection, given my weakened immune system.

Posted by: laloomis | April 27, 2009 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I was flu ID-ed passing through Singapore’s Changi airport during the SARS outbreak. I was also flu ID-ed passing through Brunei immigration after getting off a ferry.

Okay, I’m gone. It’s past my bed time. See you guys tomorrow.

Posted by: rainforest1 | April 27, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Probably, at the same time, you had your Google implant.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Psychic. I'm psychic. What shall I predict next? :-)

Sounds delicious, CqP.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 27, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

RF1, over and out.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse


Is there a record for "que" words that can be placed into a standard sentence?

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse


And, all I can do is bend spoons, but I can't tell you why!

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Lost: It doesn't matter if it's anti-viral medications or vaccines...the fact is TX Gov asked for more than his fair share. Taking into consideration his words of late, this takes some stones.

LL:Wrong. It does matter what Perry's asking for. You miss the whole issue of flu if you think that Perry is asking for a vaccine. What's a fair share? We're a border state. For a border state the issue is different, since thousands of Mexicans travel here, and the border is very open and porous. Perhaps you missed the ABC broadcast on Sunday, Bill Weir anchoring and interviewing, with the quarantined Henshaws of Cibilo. The father and sis now have flu, caught from the son, waiting for a CDC confirmation of swine flu. THe Henshaws believe that the teen son caught the flu from people from Mexico coming up for Fiesta events.

Lost: This virus isn't going after it's usual targets (those young, old, and/or weakened immune systems) but seems to affect those who are least vigilent about personal hygiene...teenage boys/young men. Maybe Perry should remind them to wash their hands more often, use a tissue every now and again, cover their mouth when the cough.

LL: This is ludicrous! That the virus has "a target" of teen boys and young men? How does this explain the 23-year-old mother in Mexico City fighting this morning for her life? The woman in Imperial Valley in California who came down with the swine flu? The wife of the man from Kansas who came home from a business trip to Mexico and passed the swine flu virus to his spouse.

You need to do a massive amount of reading, dearie.

Posted by: laloomis | April 27, 2009 10:53 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Cibolo

Posted by: laloomis | April 27, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I will think on in RT. Que is very like:

cue AND queue and the letter Q

I am 'qua' as in:
as; as being; in the character or capacity of

Two pronouciations are equally good:


My mother like the kwah as in ha ha sound.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

Jeezy peezy

on the

Jabby stabby

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

CquaP, what's in a letter? It was just a spelling approximation.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Wow that "dearie" translates so awfully. It's like something out of a snarkwar.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 27, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

slyness and shriek, where boiler technology starts to enter my area of specialization comes at the very end of the 19th century, and the development of something you likely never heard of: naptha launches.

Toward the end of the 29th c., builders of smaller boats and launches began putting smaller steam boiler systems in launches (say, 25 to 30 feet and larger) (think Bogie in the "African Queen"). The problem was the very extreme weight of a boiler system, which meant it had to be placed in the approximate center of the boat, which was the "best" part (where the most cargo could be carried). Compounded with the heavy weight of the system was the problem of fuel: you had to carry large (and heavy) amounts of coal or firewood, or whatever, to feed the boiler. Hence, you were "spending" quite a lot of effort in carrying fuel AND sacrificing the best part of your boat to the propulsion system. It wasn't critical in a 200-foot ship/paddlewheeler, but it WAS critical in a 30-foot launch.

The "solution" such as it was, was the naptha launch. This was a boat with a boiler system that used naptha (back then, "naptha" was, effectively, ordinary gasoline) both as the liquid inside the boiler, as well as the fuel lighting up the boiler. Because naptha (gasoline) boiled so much lower than water, and condensed so much easier, a nathpha boiler could be made much lighter than a comparable water boiler system. And because they used naptha (gasoline) as both fuel AND boiler liquid, a boat didn't need to carry large bunkers of coal or firewood; it could use a common tank for both fuel as well as boiler replenishment.

So the upshot was a propulsion system that burned gasoline to heat a boiler containing gasoline. This was much lighter in weight, and consequently naptha boilers were much smaller and could even be placed near the stern of a launch, allowing the middle/best part of the launch to carry cargo. Very efficient, very neat solution. A guy named Ofeldt was the principle designer/creator of this system.

There was only one teensy-tiny thing wrong. Turns out that burning gasoline to boil gasoline has one flaw: when the system failed, it failed spectacularly.

Naptha launches had a vogue from about 1890 to about 1905, when the infernal combustion engine came on line. IC engines tended to confine the gasoline explosion to the interior of the combustion chamber.

Naptha launches not so much. Which is why you may never have heard of them.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:02 AM | Report abuse

And, RT, the Kew Gardens!

Jane Q. carried her lucky cue stick, ready to queue up for tickets to the Kew Gardens celebration of plants qua medicinal concoctions.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Three days to boodle with dbG in real time, Joy, Joy, Joy. It is lovely here today so I am popping in and out - so nice to have you around dbG.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 27, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Fells Naptha Soup, Mudge! Dollar a bar.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 11:05 AM | Report abuse

SCC: 19th c., not 29th. I'm not THAT far ahead of my time.

Oh, and yes, Yoki, excellent breakfast. Thanks.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I am so impressed, sine qua non of the boodle.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, I am so impressed! This along with the fact that you are the world's most noted authority on the make of "The Red Balloon."

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Yup, they still make it, CkwahP. Here's the Wiki write=up, somewhat condensed. I love the last line:

"Fels-Naptha is a brand of bar laundry soap used for pre-treating stains on clothing and as a home remedy for exposure to poison ivy and other skin-irritants. Fels-Naptha is manufactured by and is a trademark of the Dial Corporation.
...The soap comes packaged in paper similar to bar body soap and is most often found in the laundry section of a supermarket or grocery store. It is used in the pre-treatment of stains by rubbing the dampened product on a soiled area prior to laundering, and is claimed by the manufacturer to be most effective in removing chocolate, baby formula, perspiration, and make-up...

Fels-Naptha is also used as a home remedy in the treatment of contact dermatitis caused by exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, and other oil-transmitted organic skin-irritants. Washing the skin directly with the soap helps break up the oils that carry the toxin. Grated and added to a wash cycle, about 1/16th a bar's worth the Fels-Naptha per load, will eliminate residual resins that can remain in clothes up to a year according to the manufacturer

Health Considerations

While sometimes also sold next to personal-care body soaps it should not be used as an overall body soap or regular laundry additive since it contains Stoddard solvent, a skin and eye irritant.

According to the "Chronic Health Effects" section of the National Institutes of Health's MSDS for Fels Naptha:

Chronic toxicity testing has not been conducted on this product. However, the following effects have been reported on one of the product's components. Stoddard solvent: Repeated or prolonged exposure to high concentrations has resulted in upper respiratory tract irritation, central and peripheral nervous system effects, and possibly hematopoetic, liver and kidney effects.

Stoddard solvent is another name for mineral spirits, which are, like petroleum distillates, a mixture of multiple chemicals made from petroleum. Exposure to Stoddard solvent in the air can affect your nervous system and cause dizziness, headaches, or a prolonged reaction time. It can also cause eye, skin, or throat irritation.

"It should be noted that using Fels-Naptha as a punishment for foul language is considered highly dangerous."

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

FN Soup is part of the theater world as a stain remover. I did not know about the PIvy angle.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | April 27, 2009 11:17 AM | Report abuse

My grandmother always had a couple bars of F-N soap around, and I remember being washed with it when I was a wee lad and had some poison ivy, which I did fairly regularly as a youth, running around loose in the wilderness behind our house. Musta had p-ivy two or three times a year every year. Ivy, p-oak, p-sumac, you name it, I got it. Hate that stuff.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, dmd, I'm really just popping in and out when I take breaks.

How are you feeling?

Posted by: -dbG- | April 27, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, is that also dangerous to otherwise healthy pre-teen and teenaged boys?

Maybe it is naptha flu?

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

There are about a million people in the air right now, traveling hither and yon. We are all in a "border state." If Gov. Perry, and his constituents want to continue to believe in the most exceptionalness of Texas in the spectrum of American Exceptionalism they may. It doesn't make them deserving of more than their share of treatments for the current flu. What does make Texas more deserving is needing it more, based on current rates of infection. But, providing more according to need is rather a tad socialistic and therefore not in keeping with Perry's stated aims and vision for Texans.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 27, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Did you know there was a Vladimir Popov in "The Red Balloon," weed? Don't know if he was related to Jumper's Andrei Popov of valve fame. But in the Boodle, all knowledge circles around and folds back in on itself like a Moebius strip.

(Actually, I think K-guy is probably the "Red Balloon" expert, not me. Or maybe shriek. I'm the "Un homme et une femme" expert.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

As far as I can know, Tom Ridge was never Sec'y of HHS, inept or not.

Posted by: -TBG- | April 27, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Geez, Loomis, you did it again. You spoil an otherwise interesting and informative (if inclined to your idiosyncracies) series of posts with a wholly unnecessary and nasty personal attack. You raised some points. LiT responded to some. Before replying to her substantive comments, you wholly needlessly say something unkind and, to more objective and less opinionated observers, untrue. This merely undercuts any validity your comments may have and encourages people to skip your posts. You do post because you want people to read you, right? You're not content to talk to an empty room? Sometimes I wonder.

By the way, you missed one of LiT's main points, which was correct, and which you yourself buttressed. One alarming feature of this swine flu is that it is targeting, not the usual suspects, but healthy younger adults - like those women you mentioned.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 27, 2009 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the naphtha boiler info. I can see the problem.
A water boiler only BLE (Boiling Liquid Expansion) a naphta boiler would BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expansion Vapour Explosion). A colleague of mine was making people BLEVE propane tanks for a living for a while a few years back. Thanks to the Common Look And Feel (no moving bits, no flashing, visuals as boring as possible they removed the BLEVE films from the publicly available reports. I'm sure there are some on YouTube).

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 27, 2009 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, and I was reading about the importance of cleaning your Miss Moka stove top espresso maker...

btw, thanks for letting me play!

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom! isn't that all part of the fun?

I am a stick poker by trade.

Seriously, I apologize for my bad behavior.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 27, 2009 11:41 AM | Report abuse

New Kit!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | April 27, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Regarding anti-viral medications vs. vaccines. I think this can be chalked up to simple aphasia, laloomis, or even assigned to the fact that in a nontechnical discussion the distinction is not particularly important. As to whether Perry asked for "more than his fair share", I think that the central issue in the comment is the irony inherent in the contrast between Perry's braggadocio about how Texas might go its own way rather than pay taxes vs. his demands for help with exactly the kind of thing (public health policy) that Republicans claim they shouldn't be supporting with their taxes.

As to whether the virus has a target: of course a virus has targets. Viruses tend to be species-specific, which is a clear example of targeting. The relative lack of species preference in influenza is one of the things that makes it so dangerous as it hops between reservoir populations and acquires additional genetic material from them. I believe LiT was making reference to who is most likely to get the virus and to suffer the worst symptoms -- I think this was fairly clear from context. One possibility is that the worst effect (i.e., death) is found among the young and otherwise healthy because they practice poor hygiene and fail to seek expensive medical care until too late. An example of human perfidy and inequity, not a trait of the virus. The other, and much more worrisome possibility (as you should well know from your own reading), is that the flu symptomology is worst among the young and otherwise healthy for the same reason as the 1918 epidemic tended to hit that population, because it provoked an excessive immune response within those with the healthiest immune systems. Essentially, influenza-provoked suicide.

In matters of public health, the demographics of the most-severely affected (alternatively, "targeted") population are extraordinarily important. The fact that one of the influenza mortalities was a young pregnant woman does not disprove the demographic point that the primary afflicted population may be young men -- not that I know this for a fact, I am merely pointing out that a single counter-example does not demonstrate an alternative demographics. The demographics define where the most effective first-order countermeasures must be imposed.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 27, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

I feel like I'm Boodlehogging here, but I feel the need to inject a few factoids into a discussion I've been trying to stay out of. But it may shed some light.

The idea that this particular swine flue is targeting teens/young adults (male or female) is both unusual and scary for this reason"

(1) There is a difference between the cohort of people that a flu or other virus tends to attack, versus who is likely to die from it. Viruses tend to attack "all" kinds of people about equally; that isn't the problem. It is that once attacked, some kinds of people are more susceptible to the let5hality than others.

The relevance here is that most flus and virus tend to be most lethal to the groups you'd expect: the "weakest," i.e. infants and old people, and anyone else with weakened immune systems. Thus in most flu epidemics it is young children and us old farts who are most at risk.

Now, here's what's scary: in the great Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918, the subject of the John Barry book Loomis mentioned, it was pointed out that the Spanish Flu was different from almost all others, because it "targeted" younger people, teens to people in their 20s, 30, and 40s, and killed them, much more so than infants and old folks. This is entirely counter-intuitive, and it took a helluva long time to figure this out and explain it. The upshot is that the Spanish Flu of 1918, which quite properly still scares the bejaysus out of everyone, specifically attacked the immune system, and it appears that's where it replicated. Hence, the Spanish flu tended to kill people with *strong* immune systems (people in their teens, 20s, 30s) and tended to let babies and old folks recover more or less like "ordinary" flu.


Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse


Insofar as the early reports seem to show, *this* swine flu seems to be doing the same thing as the 1918 Spanish flu: targeting (or at least killing) people with strong immune systems (i.e. teens, people in their 20s, etc.). So it is no wonder this thing is scaring the crap out of people.

(2) There is -- or ought to be -- a gigunda proviso in all of this, which is that so far, we have very limited numbers on this swine flu, and I don't think the numbers are yet anywhere near high enough to start drawing conclusions about whom it is targeting or how and why. 10 cases here and 20 cases there and 50 more over yonder is NOT statistically enough to start making conclusions with. All the "vectors" seem to be pointing to Mexico, just as the SARS vectors pointed to China, and the 1918 Spanish flu vectors pointed to Ft. Riley, Kansas. But the actual location means nothing in and of itself. This one appears to be Mexico, SARS was China, 1918 was Kansas (maybe), the Legionnaires Disease (a bacteria, not a virus) came from the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philly, etc.

The specific location, in and of itself, doesn't mean much. These things can break out pretty much anywhere.

(3) This thing is still *very* new, and I doubt we have anything even close to sufficient knowledge about its origins, causation (whether swine or avian), etc. All we know right now is a bunch of people in Mexico got it first and worst.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 27, 2009 11:57 AM | Report abuse

New Kit! New Kit! (replicating)

Posted by: -dbG- | April 27, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

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