RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thank you, Froggy 98!

Well, I'm going to have to take the last two days of this week off, to finish protecting my property against the fans attending FrogFest 2013. A special thanks to the Lancaster County Commission, esp. Deb Schorr, Jane Raybould and Brett Smoyer, for approving an entirely inappropriate event that will end up costing me hundreds of dollars and days of wasted time. Thanks also to all those Nebraska country fans who think a few hours of drunken fun and mediocre music is worth making other people's lives miserable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Taking science seriously?

Remember how Obama came into office claiming he would take science seriously? This month, he appointed to the office of Senior Policy Advisor at the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy a 27 year old postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Stanford, one Maya U Shankar. Ms. Shankar's doctorate, awarded in 2010 from Oxford, concerned how the color of fruity drinks affects their perceived taste. If you have access to that last link, please look at it; there are pictures of plastic glasses containing differently colored liquid. The text was similarly impressive
In preliminary testing, each participant selected the one drink (from among a lineup of seven differently colored drinks) whose color inspired the strongest expectation of a specific flavor in his or her mind, because it would very unlikely be any other flavor but the one it first made them think of’ (this choice will be referred to as each participant’s “target color”).
There's some well-styled academic writing, eh? Had this been entered in a middle school science fair, I'd probably have awarded it a pretty high score. For a Ph. D. thesis, maybe not so much. And by all means weigh in on how that sentence can be parsed, because I got lost after the first comma. The next paragraph contains almost the same pseudo-sentence.
These participants were chosen based on the results of preliminary testing, in which they viewed a number of differently colored drinks and then chose the one drink from among the set that inspired the strongest expectation of a particular flavor, because it would very unlikely be any other flavor but the one it first made them think of (see Fig. 1).
Whatever. It's awful. I don't want to harp on what little there is of Ms. Shankar's academic career; suffice it to say she went on to do a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford, but seems to have zero papers in over two years. She has, however, been featured in Glamor magazine and on PBS three times. She has also been linked to the far left Center for American Progress and George Soros.

She is supposedly taking over the White House Behavior Modification team (a.k.a. the 'nudge team') from Cass Sunstein. This s based on the thesis that government can produce desirable behavior in its serfs by subtle behavioral cues. So Ms. Shankar's name is on a letter (given her prose above, I doubt she herself wrote the letter) asking for volunteers for a new nudge team.

If you are aware of individuals with strong analytic skills, experience designing, testing, and evaluating rigorous randomized control trials, and a strong research background in fields such as social psychology, cognitive psychology, or behavioral economics, please encourage them send a CV andcontact information to,which will be sent to the relevant parties for consideration.
(A bit ironic, since Ms Shankar surely does not meet these qualifications herself).

Anyway, that's science in the Obama administration; a barely literate postdoc as senior advisor on a team of behaviorists, who will be paid millions to try to get you to insulate your houses by paying to clean out your attics.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


Something personal, if you'll forgive me.

About a year ago, I was operated on to remove an ugly-looking mass from my intestines. It turned out to contain an adenocarcinoma, but fortunately only at stage 1; the carcinoma hadn't migrated to the lymph nodes, and possibly hadn't even made it through the mucosal wall. I contracted no fewer than two postoperative infections, and for the last year have been putting up with continual blood tests and colonoscopies and finally a CAT scan. It's been tedious as all hell. The good news is I got the CAT scan results today, and I'm apparently free of cancer. We seem to have got that sucker before it metastatized. Mostly it was just pure dumb luck, but if you're 50 or older, get a colonoscopy, folks. It probably saved my life.

The bad news is the building in which I work seems to have housed a large number of cancers in the last 20 years, including no fewer than 4 cases of almost-inevitably deadly pancreatic cancer. There is epidemiological evidence chemists are unusually susceptible to pancreatic cancer, but 4 cases is still awfully high. An epidemiological report is forthcoming, and I expect it to say there's nothing unusual (the state epidemiologist is not going to finger the state university), but one has to ask oneself, how badly does one want to continue working in a place that seems to kill people?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Hating Charlie Janssen

Charlie Janssen is a politician on the move. On the Fremont City Council, he stood for legislation barring illegal aliens from renting or working in the city; the rental portion of this ordinance have been upheld by the courts. As a legislator, he sponsored a voter ID law that was only defeated by a filibuster. In the last session, he stood firm against Medicaid expansion and various other leftist measures beloved of the nominal Democrat minority and their RINO fellow travellers. He’s now running for governor.

What is remarkable is the extent to which he’s become a figure of hatred for the Nebraska Left. By simply noting that the rapist/killer of a 93 year old woman in Omaha was an illegal alien, he created an uproar.

Dan Moser, ordinarily a witty and apparently sane individual, wrote to the Lincoln Journal Star claiming Janssen was using "such tragedies to gin up hatred for an entire class of people -- in this case, illegal immigrants". Of course, Janssen did no such thing. He drew attention to the immigration status of one criminal, and tied it to national immigration policy.

It is entirely reasonable to draw attention to the negative consequences of illegal immigration. One such consequence is the importation of violent criminals. Nobody really knows the level of violent crimes among illegal immigrants, and that is largely because the powers-that-be don’t want us to know. We don’t collect the data. ICE does not even normally disclose the immigration status of criminals. You would think, if we wanted citizens to rationally weigh the pros and cons of illegal immigration, reliable numbers on the rate of crime among illegal immigrants would be important. One can only assume that they’re suppressed because they are unfavorable to the cause of amnesty.

In fact, Janssen expanded on this in a letter to the Journal Star

This crime is undeniable evidence that our borders are not secure and we have no idea who is entering our country. The result of the federal government’s failure here — not only criminal violence but human trafficking and drug smuggling — has cost our state immeasurably.
The Journal Star Editorial Board mendaciously accused Janssen of "making a sweeping and damaging generalization". Of course, he did nothing of the sort. This is just a lie.

Most egregiously, Ari Kohen of UNL's political science department decided the Journals Star's lie simply wasn't big enough, and expanded it.

If there’s one thing we can learn about crime from this absolutely awful case, Janssen suggests, it’s that the real culprit is every single Mexican person who wants to come to the U.S.
Janssen suggested nothing even close to this. It's just a nasty fabrication on Kohen's part. Heck, I expect Janssen, if not Kohen, is educated enough to realize not all illegal immigrants are Mexican.

Called on this outrageous slander by Janssen, Kohen shifted to interrogative mode.

(I mean, really, how stupid a question is this?)

Janssen, wisely, told him to get lost, a policy I recommend to anyone who's tempted to get down in the mud with Kohen.