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Buying Scientific Cover?

In this Age of Bad Information, we are surrounded by peddlers of bunk. Some decorate their nonsense in scientific jargon. Others work for institutions that sound more reputable than they actually are. They may sound utterly objective even while pushing a specific agenda. In some cases, industries fund institutes that, in turn, produce studies that support the aims and goals of the industries. You have to follow the money.

This mimicks the political process, in which politicians take dollars from the industries they are supposed to regulate, and, lo and behold, somehow conclude that those industries don't need so much regulation after all.

Of course, just because information comes from a questionable source doesn't make it wrong. You don't have to be pure of heart and free from any conceivable conflict of interest to arrive at the truth.

But it's just tough these days, as a citizen, to navigate the information bazaar. How are we supposed to know what's right and wrong, for example, with health-care reform when we hear so many competing arguments and can't always discern the hidden biases and special interests?

Moreover, sometimes the special interests know best, because they're the ones who are, by definition, specialists about a subject.

I got to thinking about this after reading Neely Tucker's story on this fella who wrote the book "Shop Class as Soulcraft." He used to be with a Washington think tank, the George Marshall Institute. And I assume the folks who follow the global warming debate will be citing this rather provocative passage in the Post piece:

He hated working as a law clerk, hated writing abstracts of articles in scientific journals and really hated his time on K Street, as executive director of the Marshall Institute, an energy-policy think tank, about seven years ago. He doesn't name the institute in the book, but here was his assessment:

"The trappings of scholarship were used to put a scientific cover on positions arrived at otherwise. . . . [P]art of my job consisted of making arguments about global warming that just happened to coincide with the positions taken by the oil companies that funded the think tank," he writes.

He quit after five months.

(Jeff Kueter, president of the Marshall Institute, politely says that Crawford's assessment is "completely incorrect.")

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 27, 2009; 8:47 AM ET
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Next: Health Care 101



Good points. The standard model of lying and obfuscation as used as definition of "capitalism" shouldn't fool us. It's not necessarily included in the definition, and when the marketplace of ideas is closed, no good will come of it.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 9:23 AM | Report abuse

The use of astro-turf organizations and captive think tanks is nothing new. Read 'Thank You For Smoking' for perhaps the funniest look at all this.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 27, 2009 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I always assumed that these "institutes" were like that. The amazing thing is that (a) they can keep a straight face when calling a lie tank a think tank, and (b) there is anyone left who is so innocent as to be surprised. The real problem is that these obviously bogus institutes devalue the meaning of the word "institute" so that serious scholarly institutions are rendered questionable, as well.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 27, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Well, before Joel gets too far down the road with this, I will point out that THE Post has used the phrase "some economists say" or "some scientists say" a couple of times recently.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 27, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Somewhat similar sentiments from Michael Tomasky at the Guardian. The Republicans are barmy. "We have a party that lives in an alternate universe."

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 27, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse


I am a "scholar" at the Armchair Institute.

We have Tshirts and the whole deal.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 27, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, I forgot to Cap the "T" in the ... sort of like we were istructed to do at GWU. "it's not just any the."

Posted by: russianthistle | July 27, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

That was a great story, I think I'll buy the book. We really do need to rethink this elevation of knowledge work as the be-all and end-all of life. I can say that since I'm dealing with a clogged pipe and just hope that our measures will be effective so I don't have to call a plumber.

Mr. T came through the colonscopy fine, the doctor excised two polyps. This is why we do these things. He's gone to work, and I've had the walk, so onto a normal day. I treasure the normal days.

Posted by: slyness | July 27, 2009 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Following Dave's link led me into the smarmy world of the Foreign Birthers or whatever you call them. I found this hilarious audio/video... thing.

This gives new meaning to the word "flailure."

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

The funny thing is that the reason that it makes NO DIFFERENCE where Obama was born is the reason why his counterpart could run for President.

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

Yes, the Man from Panama With a Plan has been completely dropped from that dialogue.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 27, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

"This mimicks the political process, in which politicians take dollars from the industries they are supposed to regulate, and, lo and behold, somehow conclude that those industries don't need so much regulation after all."

The Post's recent "salons" incident with the health care industry doesn't really help its own credibility in this regard either.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 27, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

This kit reminded me of the biggest science news of the weekend. A reversal of conventional wisdom happened this weekend placed somewhere on the continuum between "Earth revolves around Sun" and "Margarine is actually worse for you than butter".

The news: throwing curveballs is not harmful to kids' arms, and may, in fact be easier on the arm than throwing fastballs.

There is always the possibility that the study was bought and paid for by the pediatric orthopedic surgery industry, however.

Even still, I think the youngsters and I should probably spend the rest of the summer working on their 12-6 curveball and slurve so we get the leg up on the other 8 year olds next spring.

Posted by: Awal | July 27, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. - Benjamin Disraeli

It has long recognized by public men of all kinds ... that statistics come under the head of lying, and that no lie is so false or inconclusive as that which is based on statistics. - Hillaire Belloc

Figures don't lie, but liars figure. - Mark Twain

If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment - Ernest Rutherford

There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact- Twain again

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler-
Albert Einstein

Posted by: kguy1 | July 27, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

tomtildrum writes: The Post's recent "salons" incident with the health care industry doesn't really help its own credibility in this regard either.

True, except I will remind you that the salons never actually happened. It was a very bad idea that shouldn't have made it out of the very first brainstorming session. We have always had a "firewall" between news and advertising and the salon fiasco was a reminder of why such firewalls are so important.

Posted by: joelache | July 27, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Just a quick drive-by. Haven't backboodled or nuthin'. Thought the Boodle would want to read Bill Moyers on Robt. Wright's book at

Been swimmin', not eaten by sharks. Went to Atl. City yesterday, found terrific hideaway restaurant.

Gotta run.

(Somebody please check on Scotty, in case you've duct-taped him to his chair.)

Adios, muchachos

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 27, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Entering the slightly daunting world of Ebay today. It would be a lot simpler if yellojkt would just buy my spare HVAC blower motor. (like new!)Then again, they are devilishly difficult for the home repairman to get hold of (I know!) so maybe Ebay is best. In any case, it was a LOT of navigation and I have the uncertainty and reticence of a newbie. I hope it gets easier. I have a ton of stuff to sell.

Internet cable guy due soon. So of course it works perfectly now. Not yesterday.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Civil litigation has these issues in spades. Come on down the rabbit hole (watch your head) and take a look.

First, there is an understanding among experienced lawyers about where the “usual” experts fit on a spectrum of bias. The outliers may provide a reliable product, whether pro-plaintiff or pro-defence, but that’s about it. They are the ultimate in “bad information” since (1) they tend to reinforce the opinion of that side’s client about the righteousness of their cause; and (2) they are occasionally accepted by the courts despite their flaws.

A second point of note is that one area of law in flux right now is the degree to which privilege applies to communications between instructing lawyer and experts.

One theory is that only the end report, to be entered at trial, has privilege waived. The opposite theory is that once an expert is going to be put on the stand, the expert’s entire file including the letters to and from counsel are producible (ie no longer privileged). There is an in-between ground in which the expert’s “work product” is producible, but not the instructing letter. Also contentious are any “draft reports” since they have the potential to be cross-examination gold mines (since changed opinions are often tainted with the possibility of a preferred outcome having been suggested).

Locally, we’re at that middle ground, but the trend is towards disclosing instructing letters. My understanding is that most US states require such disclosure.

However, the desire to control information is a strong one, and will not be so easily forced into the light of day.

One manifestation is that you see minimal information being put into instruction letters (“here’s a bunch of stuff; tell us what you think”). Another is the “clean” file. Rather than produce a draft report, a verbal conversation takes place to discuss findings. The questions to be asked are then committed to paper. The fact that opinions were only given on issues A, C, and D may or may not be noticed. Is issue B’s omission important or not? The decision whether to cross-examine on that issue can be critical. As a matter of advocacy, you may be better off just making the point in argument that there was no opinion made on B instead of venturing into the unknown and potentially having issue B blow up in your face. But if your gut is right, and the expert does agree with you on B, that may be decisive.

Writing reports for experts is clearly a no-no. A grayer area is helping inexperienced experts with the KISS principle. Even raising the issue creates risk of the “draft report” issue noted above.

I’m reminded of Bismarck’s saying that those who like sausages or laws should not watch either being made.

Posted by: engelmann | July 27, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Right, engelmann, and a tip o'the hat to Joel. As engelmann says, the problem of experts and studies funded by persons with an interest in the outcome is acute in law.

Many states in the US do require the questions asked the expert to be disclosed, as well as the report. Also disclosable (and ok for cross-examination) are any studies, etc. on which the expert may base her opinion. The big trend here, since reports must be shared, is not to ask the expert to write a report. Then, when you call the expert at trial and the opposing side objects because they don't have the report, you blink and smile sweetly and say so sorry but she didn't write one. This is viewed as something of a low-down trick.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 27, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Joel touches on some good points about weighing the value of information from various sources.

However, I don't think it is quite fair to call, say, industry, a "special interest" since it will have a legitimate seat at any policy table. Industry is a legitimate stakeholder in many conversations, as are various research institutions, levels of government, etc.

The relative weight to be given to any voice is what needs determining, and this is, once again, where strong reporting and analysis in the media is critical to an informed public discourse.

Goodness, how exceptionally pompous I sound, even for me!

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

News organizations could do the public a service if they would stop using the term "think tank," with its connotations of ivory-tower objectivity. These organizations should be referred to as what they are: public relations firms for their corporate clients -- I mean, "sponsors."

Posted by: rashomon | July 27, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

The no-report expert wouldn't work here. Any expert evidence has to be in a report, disclosed 120 days prior to trial, to be advanced at trial.

Two weeks ago I was in an examination and had to ask for a copy of the instruction letter to an expert. The report included something to the effect of "in response to question 10, the answer is no". I have no idea was question 10 was. A scenario like that obviously has the potential to make a precedent for disclosing instruction letters.

Posted by: engelmann | July 27, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse


I saw question 10 and it was, "Can you swallow a shop power jack even if provided with a screw driver, wrench, large sledge hammer and some sea salt.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 27, 2009 12:57 PM | Report abuse

As Alex would suggest, "In the form of a question, please."

Posted by: russianthistle | July 27, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

My own guess was that it was "Sir, have you no shame?"

Posted by: engelmann | July 27, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I guess that they couldn't come up with anything but the stock Frank Luntz "talking point" answer to that one.

Posted by: russianthistle | July 27, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

"True, except I will remind you that the salons never actually happened. It was a very bad idea that shouldn't have made it out of the very first brainstorming session. We have always had a 'firewall' between news and advertising and the salon fiasco was a reminder of why such firewalls are so important."

I hear you, and I know how important that principle is. Still, the reason the salons didn't happen was because of public embarrassment, not because of objections from the newsroom. I don't recall hearing of anyone at the Post who knew about the salons, on either the news or the business side, having said "this is a bad idea" before the story became public.

Besides, the salon was only a few days away when it was leaked; maybe something else would have stopped it if it hadn't been leaked, but we don't know that.

Posted by: tomtildrum | July 27, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I am saddened to see that Merce Cunningham has died. Not many artists are revolutionary in their late 80s.

My own surprise at the news surprises me. I mean, the man was 90 years old. I guess when somebody has *always* been there, you expect him always to be there.

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, kids.

Read Tucker's piece and all I can say is, Welcome to My World, Kids.

It's pretty satsifying to see a car rolling down the road that was once a collection of steel tubes and hunks of metal on the floor of your garage. Even better when you win trophies with it.

I deplore the death of the dipstick, too; new BMWs don't have them either.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't one of the local Institutes/Think Tanks offering a substatial sum for scientists or others to write a convincing paper refuting human influence on global warming?

Intelligence and specialized knowledge is marketable to the right buyer and to that buyer's ends, just as any traits, education, or experience.

s_d, I watched Hungarian GP last night, and Renault's tire came off because it was not secured properly to the car when Alonso pitted for a tire change and fuel earlier in the lap. You're right, no tether can stop a tire/wheel assembly from bouncing away if there are no wheel nuts holding it on to the hub.

Me, I use torque wrenches and hand tighten lugnuts/bolts (to the factory spec) on street cars, mainly because I want to be able to change them on the side of the road if I have to. Wheel/tire shops using air tools typically hammer them on with enough torque that it could take a certifiable miracle to get them off by hand with a tire cross or tire iron - without a 6 ft. breaker bar, that is.

Watched Bob Wright on Moyers week before last (thanks to pj's Boodle heads-up), thanks for the transcript, though. Good stuff.


Posted by: -bc- | July 27, 2009 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Poke. Poke.

Another area in which expert advice should be viewed with extreme caution: the Internet. We constantly emphasize to the Boy the importance of vetting sources and taking statements with a grain, or shaker, of salt. Wikipekia, in particular, is never allowed as a first reference for any substantive knowledge. After all, I could post an expert opinion on Wikipedia. That just shows you they'll take anything.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 27, 2009 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Wiki tries, it really does, but it's so much fun to read the discussion pages...

It's not dead yet! I think the Boodle's going for a walk! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 27, 2009 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Didn't someone recently have some problems on Etsy with a fraudulent seller. Here's a story that made Consumerist:

Posted by: yellojkt | July 27, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Yup, yello. I'm pretty sure that's the same person.

Posted by: bobsewell | July 27, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

yoki - i was sad to hear about merce cunningham as well. he was one of my fav choreographers and i was lucky to have seen him and his dancers perform a cpl of times in NYC in the early 90's. he was truly a visionary!


Posted by: mortii | July 27, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

At 12:02 I noted my internet was working. At 12:03 it died for 4 hours. At least the repairman was able to see it not working. Not that he fixed the intermittent problem.

Alas, the internet has no answers to some of my deepest questions. Such as why does the guy, and Shatner, refer to the wife as "hottie" not "honey" on the commercials? "Hottie, I just got a great deal" What next? "Hottie, I shrunk the kids", "Hottie Don't", etc...

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Back in the days I did a bit of work for an "expert"; my thesis advisor. He was hired by someone to "prove" that poor materials selection for the heads of that particular vehicle was the cause of the extensive corrosion that was threatening the structural integrity of the conveyance. Unfortunately it turned out that the plaintiff’s maintenance crew was causing the problem with a cleaning fluid that was labelled and marketed as a Stable Cleaner and Disinfectant. A stupid young engineer at the plaintiff shop supplied the stupid young expert engineer (me) with the cleaner and I made a convincing case that IT was the problem. The report wasn’t used or filed in the case. I learned a couple of things from the case, including that ASTM has a standard for synthetic piss for testing materials and medical devices. Strangely, it doesn’t really smell like piss but it’s close.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 27, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe "Hottie" is short for Hortense, Jumper.

That'll be the next hottie in girl's names, just you watch.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 27, 2009 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Maybe he has a cold.

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Not sure about Shatner, but the Boodle seems to be taking a siesta.

Which ain't a bad idea, really.

The Universe is full of Bad Information - the problem is that it's up to each of us to decide what "bad" is.

Some people might think that photos and data of the Apollo 11/Eagle landing at the Sea of Tranquiltiy is bad information, or that Saddam Hussein had real, usable WMDs.

And for those that are just interested in making money, let's see - how much money did Milli Vanilli make again?


Posted by: -bc- | July 27, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

(Internet just back on) Yes, I thought Shatner had a cold too, but that's not it. All I know is, next time I call someone "honey" that's not exactly what I'm going to say. I hesitate to imitate Shatner, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, you've got me laughing. Go for it!

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

What! a sleeping boodle with no fatuous garden comments?

Self seeding and direct sewn plants just beginning to flower-poppies, nasturtiums (a giant variety with leaves the size of dessert plates)and cosmos. Zinnias won't be far behind. Snow peas have slowed a bit, but I'll still have enough to go with dinner on Saturday. Hope the carrots are doing as well as their tops. Beans planted in a spot without enough sun, but the spot was chosen so they'd shade a shade loving plant so being in what has turned out to be too much shade is fine. If I can find seeds I'll plant some more and hope for light and heat. Not looking too promising, tomorrow's high is supposed to be 67.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 27, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

All my gardening comments are sugar-free and low-fatuous.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | July 27, 2009 7:24 PM | Report abuse

Wonder what think tank Judith Miller belonged to? (after totally off-topic posts I feel a bit guilty)

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Did someone say 'garden?' We just stuffed a 2 1/2 gallon bag full of green beans from todays picking. The sad part is that there are more out there. Our garden is doing better than it has any right to be doing considering the awful weather we’ve had up to now. The corn is taller than I am ( I know, that’s not saying much), the peppers are almost ready to pick, we’ve had zucchini and summer squash and the lettuce is still going strong. The pea pods are a lost cause due to our vacation absence but the tomatoes plants are pulling over their cages. I feel I should be out there with a machete or a whip or something. This is what happens when the bunnies don’t get everything first.

We are finally enjoying hot and humid weather here. It is tough to take only because we have not been acclimated - we were in fleece two weeks ago. I am not complaining, it is wonderful to be hot, run fans and the a/c in the bedroom.

Posted by: badsneakers | July 27, 2009 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Major hottie dog arrest

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Fax us some green beans, badsneakers. Ours never came up due to frost and hungry birds.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | July 27, 2009 8:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm really loving these fatuous gardening comments.

I looked today at a condo with a 600 sq/ft slate terrace; I envisioned a sort of Italian-villa pergola with a dining table, canopy, potted plants (both flowers and herbs) on varied levels (with a little path running down the middle); and then shook my head. I never actually go outside, you know? So it would be wasted space.


Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Green beans on the way Wilbrod. I'll be sending them daily so keep a basket under the fax.

Posted by: badsneakers | July 27, 2009 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Too hot to Boodle. Actually, I was away at a knitting class most of the day. Thankfully the shop was air conditioned.

I don't have blossoms on my green beans yet. The scarlet runner beans, which I grow for the flowers, are forming beans now. They're like Jack in the Beanstalk beans.

Yoki, maybe if you had a lovely terrace, you'd go outside more. Just a thought, not a judgment. I visited my brother years ago in a suburb of Chicago. He had a beautiful, spacious house which opened onto a greenspace in the back, and there was a small deck. No furniture there, though - they never used it. Later, he had a house which had a "zero" yard - just a small patio. I, on the other hand, would rather be outside than in.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 27, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Love outside, hate bugs therefore adore my sunroom/porch. But there is something about being outside tending the flowers or vegetables and feeling the sun and the breeze that makes me feel more alive. When we walk, we go by the beach and I love the smell of low tide, even tho’ it’s a bit ‘ripe’ it is among my favorite summer smells.

It has cooled off a bit, there is a nice breeze coming through the front door. I am tired. My decision to work through the end of the month is good for wrapping up things but it feels like a slow death in some ways. They keep telling me that I’ll be back, and I truly hope that is the case, but I have to think like I won’t be back. I am emotionally drained and I wish I could have a good cry and get on with things. I should watch a sad movie or something to get the flow started but I probably won’t as I’m not much of a crier. ;-)

Posted by: badsneakers | July 27, 2009 9:54 PM | Report abuse

Like seasea I too would rather be outside than in, I am currently persuade dmdspouse that we really need new outdoor furniture, a nice lounging couch -oddly he is not seeing the 'necessity of it'.

Yoki with a round daybed like this I would think that terrace would be a place you would love to go outside to - of course a patio heater may be handy in your local, or electric fireplace - my local garden centre has some nice ones as well.

Posted by: dmd3 | July 27, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

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

Evening, friends. Just thought I would stop by and say hello. Today, I was alone. It was quiet. I got a chance to do what I wanted to do. It was heaven. I did absolutely nothing.

We are bombarded with information on the internet, and everywhere else. It is indeed confusing trying to figure out what is correct, and what is simply "made up" to suit someone's fancy. My dad watches Fox News all the time. He calls conservatives the enemy, so he's staying abreast of what they're up to. I told him he doesn't need to watch Fox to know that, just take the regular news and flip it, you got Fox. I'm not sure I trust any of them(television news) because they depend on ratings, and what is it they would not do to improve their rating? I mean they want people to look at their product, so they have to do something and promise something in order to get the customers' attention, all the while being committed to the truth. I don't think so.

Slyness, glad your husband's procedure went well. And what, oh what, Slyness, did Charlotte do with Gloria Pace King? Is she the most "disliked" person in Charlotte?

Time to go. Too sleepy for words. Have a good evening, folks. Night, boodle. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: cmyth4u | July 27, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, your wit and sharp tongue is priceless! Good night.

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Friends of mine have a fire pit like this one:

It's really nice to sit around a fire in the backyard. I think we may have to get one ourselves. But first we need other patio furniture. Table, chairs, lounging possibilities... dmd, that round daybed is great.

Oh, and a grill, of course. Gas or charcoal? I grew up with charcoal, but gas seems so much easier, though of course more expensive. Hm.

Posted by: -bia- | July 27, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Because I worked for a very large corporation, they gave me a 60 day notice of layoff, then a 2 week notice. It was very hard to deal with, because I still had tons of work to do, and didn't want to burn bridges or let my colleagues down. But it was very hard emotionally - I was glad that I worked from home most of the time, so I had some privacy when I needed it. At the end, when I was cleaning out my desk at the office and people would say goodbye, it was very hard for me to keep from crying. I've heard of other large companies that continue paying you for the 60 days, but don't have you work. I think I would have preferred that. So, it's a tough time, Sneaks, that's for sure.

Posted by: seasea1 | July 27, 2009 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Poblanos growing bigger every day. Morning glories cut down at infancy by careless person have regrown and are now blooming. My plan to have flowers that I do absolutely nothing for, succeeds again.

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 27, 2009 10:12 PM | Report abuse

Gonna smoke those poblanos? Or, at least, some of them?

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 10:16 PM | Report abuse

You don't need to do anything with flowers Jumper, they are.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 27, 2009 10:24 PM | Report abuse

Yoki-don't discount the value of a little outdoor space. The Hip Urban Loft has a wee balcony, just enough space to sit outside with a cup of coffee and the paper, a little table top gas grill, and some pots of basil, gerbera daisies, and nasturtiums.

Had two raccoons raiding the bird feeder for sunflower seeds about 30 minutes ago. I heard them last night, screeching and messing around. They better leave my tomatoes alone!

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 27, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

*Rethinking the terraced condo*

Posted by: Yoki | July 27, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Spent the day in the attic and *finally* finished the wiring. Found a cap from and Orange Crush bottle that had a cork seal. That and a lot of coal dust. Anyway, five rooms, six circuits. Nobody will be overloaded. The inspector will be by for a walk through tomorrow, and hopefully, we'll have power within a week.

Posted by: -jack- | July 28, 2009 12:14 AM | Report abuse

Love the Crush cap, jack. And the Dead.

Posted by: Yoki | July 28, 2009 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Glad to read you're reconsidering the terrace. Just the place for a grill, fresh herbs, some comfortable lounge chairs, and I like dmd's firepit idea. The perfect outdoor cook's kitchen. Put a retractable canopy over part of it, great space for, um, entertaining. Especially with a hammock!

Posted by: -dbG- | July 28, 2009 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Entertaining! Quite so. Yes.

Posted by: Yoki | July 28, 2009 1:32 AM | Report abuse

There’s hope for people with spinal cord injuries. A blue nose, ears, paws and tail rat looks cute, but I’m not sure about a blue person though. The good news is it’s only temporary.

Posted by: rainforest1 | July 28, 2009 4:05 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, you all. The pictures of the little mouse are cute, rainforest, and for someone like myself who like to think pretty pink & blue thoughts, pink and blue people aren't so far out.

Dawn patrol and today's breakfast menu: coffee, tea, fresh peaches and blueberries, english muffins with orange marmalade, western omelets, help yourself............

Posted by: VintageLady | July 28, 2009 5:31 AM | Report abuse

Symptoms of BPH??? Does it happen before, during or after Boodle Porching Hour?

Posted by: rainforest1 | July 28, 2009 5:57 AM | Report abuse

It is not a porching disease, (thinking pink & blue thoughts in the early morn)

Posted by: VintageLady | July 28, 2009 6:05 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, everyone! We had a little rain in the night, not enough, but we'll take it.

Cassandra, Gloria Scott King really made a mess of everything. (She was head of the local United Way who was paid waayy too much and charged lots of inappropriate stuff to her employer.) The sad part is the damage done to United Way. Contributions were down significantly, even more than we would expect, given the economy. It's a real crisis for the organizations that depend on United Way funding. This was a place where an active board of directors could have made a critical difference.

Onward into the day! I've got to write on my chapter today; I hope I can finish it.

Posted by: slyness | July 28, 2009 6:57 AM | Report abuse

Porches and decks and patios, oh my! :-)

The Nats' offense seems to have woken up (particularly Josh "Mr. Slam" Willingham!), I just hope the rest of the team finishes its siesta...

frosti, I believe you'd agree with me that it's about time the research has caught up with the truth on the ground:

I seem to have caught up on my sleep from the weekend, which is a good thing. I just have to remember to send 'Mudge a reminder not to leave his historial research on the bunker's coffee table... *wiping a blotch of guacamole off today's edition*

Today in Nautical and Aviation History

July 28, 1943: In about an hour, two Japanese cruisers and six destroyers evacuate some 5,200 Japanese troops from the island of Kiska, Alaska. The operation is conducted so smoothly and quietly U.S. Forces were unaware of the event for three weeks.
1945: A twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber crashes into the 96th floor of the Empire State Building in New York City, killing 14.

*still-waiting-for-the-back-to-return-to-normal-before-resuming-full-Grover-activities morions* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 28, 2009 7:48 AM | Report abuse

SCC: Could have sworn I typed "motions" correctly...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 28, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Boodle mojo's worked brilliantly so far, so if anyone has a spare thought for me @ 4:30-5:00 PM today, I'd appreciate it.

Breakfast was delicious, thanks!

Posted by: -dbG- | July 28, 2009 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Greetings Everyone!

'tis been a busy week and it will just get busier. Weird hours and strange goings-on. Which brings me to The Corn.

My wife and daughter just returned from visiting relatives in Pennsylvania. But they did not return alone. They brought with them… The Corn. (Man, this stuff seems way more exciting when described with sufficient drama.)

Anyway, as is our custom, my wife purchased about five dozen ears of scary-fresh sweet corn from a roadside vendor in Lancaster County. These ears were so fresh they were still wiggling. Which means, in order to preserve the sweetness implied by their name, they needed to be processed quickly.

So last night we engaged in the annual ritual known as Corn Night. This begins with me shucking the ears and removing all the silk. (While I am quite good at the former the latter sometimes fails to meet the approval of Quality Control.) Further on down the production line my wife removes the kernels with a sharp knife and an angel food pan. (Please reference Figure 1 below:)

Next we cook the kernels down with water and salt, pack them up in cubical storage containers, and fill the freezer. Then we can then relax, for the Corn has been Secured.

This can be a messy process, although the wee little dog helps keep the floor clean, but I do think we have it worked out pretty well.

Indeed, one could claim that we have it down to a Science.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 28, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Thinking of possible spinal damage, a photo gallery of this weekend's surf in southern California, especially at the infamous Newport Wedge is enough to make you marvel at the human spine's survivability.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 28, 2009 8:27 AM | Report abuse

mucho mojo headed dbG's way.

S'nuke-thanks for that link. Hard to quantify some things you just "know" and "recalling only the times you are right" doesn't explain why some friends are still alive.

Off to another hectic day. The summer marathon will slow down next week. Whew, just in time to have some major dental work done. The fun never ends around here.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | July 28, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

DotC, did you HAVE to mention spines??? *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 28, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Congrats on the successful dressing and butchering of that wild corn. The angel food pan set up looks like something destined to send me to the emergency room (One of my last visits prompted the purchase of a bagel guillotine).

I had a hard enough time last night slicing up the summer sausage we had bought in Wall, South Dakota (bonus points to anybody that guess exactly where in Wall we bought it). We had bought small packs of elk, antelope and jackelope flavored sausage. And then we threw in a few links of the wild boar sausage we had smuggled back from Assisi (it was only when we reached the airport that we learned that all meat products, no matter how well vacuum packed, were verbotten).

Despite our parsimony in purchasing our eyes were still bigger than our stomachs. There was so much that we had to call some friends over to finish it off. That inspired me to break out the blueberry Mirtillo from the fridge for a few after dinner shots.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 28, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Any spare mojo I got is yours, dbG.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 28, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Also, I really like the kit. Joel describes one of those fundamental conundrums: getting information that is both unbiased and credible.

Actually, it isn't the information that is valuable, it is the inferences drawn from this information. And this is where things can get dicey, because inferences are influenced by both information and interpretation, which is itself easily influenced by bias.

People who are both ignorant and biased are easy (usually) to discount. (Evidence your typical pajama clad conspiracy theorist.)

On the other hand, people who are experts, as has been pointed out, can sometimes (although certainly not always) have subtle biases that are hard to discount.

Interestingly, those who are both ignorant and truly unbiased often are given an unusually powerful voice. This is the so-called "Person of the Street" whose views on Nuclear Proliferation and Genome Manipulation are oddly influential.

Ideally, of course, you want someone who is both informed and unbiased. But this Platonic Ideal of Ultimate Trust is tricky.

The solution, of course, is to verify an inference by examining not only multiple examples of things that confirm a hypothesis, but also things that do not. You have to go all Bayesian.

Unfortunately, this is usually a lot of work. And it often doesn't pay well.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | July 28, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

Sittin' on the dock o' the Bayes
Watchin' the inferences roll aways...


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 28, 2009 9:03 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. My pasty white skin was irradiated by dangerous UV rays from a strange celestial body this morning. Thankfully things will be back to normal later today.

You are quite the cornograph Padouk. I'm suffering cornographic visions now. The corn peddlers at the farmers market were saying last week that they "should" have some fresh local corn this week. We shall see. Or I'll break down and buy the imported stuff.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 28, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

You've set off an interesting chain of thought, RD. (Two, actually, one involving corn: white corn, yellow, or blue? And will blue corn help spinal injuries? Or mice? And can people discern blue corn in blindfold taste tests?) No, it's about subtle biases in expert psychiatrists who come up with the questions on personality evaluation tests. Every question on those tests makes me think "Hmm. Whoever came up with THIS question is a real weirdo. There is no sane answer." And then I start thinking, well, all the psychiatrists are insane. Or at least the ones who write the test questions. So I leave them blank. Then, unlike Feynman, I get no security clearance...

Posted by: Jumper1 | July 28, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Amazing how Bayesian statistics have gone from providing a way to make limited use of bad data, to being Serious Stuff, possibly the epitome of how science works.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 28, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Just check out the "Center for Science in the Public Interest."

Posted by: GaryEMasters | July 28, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

"considering the awful weather we’ve had up to now."

And I have been so happy with it in Rockville.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | July 28, 2009 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Too bright!!

Posted by: Boko999 | July 28, 2009 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Jumper, you know the proper answer to those questions is always either:

"I know you are, but what am I?"


"With a melon?"

You're welcome.

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 28, 2009 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Hi Al, could be the hottest day today here since 2003. forecast 105 - 110. Maybe it will make the tomatoes ripen.

Posted by: bh72 | July 28, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

new kit

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | July 28, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I know boko. Take cover 'til it passes. It shouldn't be too long.

The next opportunity to go into a collective conniption for the wingnuts: Obama will take some vacation in a luxury resort on Martha's Vineyard.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | July 28, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

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