Biography

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.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Outrage number 1: Irish Car-Bomb Stout.

So the Blue Blood Brewing Company, a usually reliable producer of drinkable beer, have decided to honor the feast day of our holy St. Patrick with a substance abhorrently named Irish Car Bomb Stout. You bastards. Do you know how many of my fellow countrymen were killed or maimed by car bombs in my lifetime? I myself was close enough to one to be knocked over -- I was a minute away from being killed -- and saw bodies lying in the street after the explosion. Why don't you, for February, concoct a Slavery Stout, or for May, a Drug-cartel Jalapeno Weizen?

Heck, if you love terrorism so much, how about a Tsarnaev Brothers' Boston Ale? I have a slogan for you. "The Dzhokhar's wild!" Hilarious, huh?

Because you wouldn't dare, that's why! But sure, let's make fun of other people's misfortune. You rotten bastards.

Announcing the 2015 St. Patrick's Day whinefest

It's just a fact of American life that every ethnic, racial and other identity group whines incessantly, even about stuff that is entirely unoffensive and well-intentioned. For example, African Americans at Wright State just got all bent out of shape by a Black History Month menu that featured fried chicken, collard greens, cornbread and mashed potatoes. Meanwhile, a black frat at UNL just put on a similar menu. The hypersensitivity is such there is no way of predicting whether any well-intentioned action will cause delight or offense.

And in this case we won't be discussing well-intentioned actions. St. Patrick's Day in the US paints the Irish as a bunch of drunken, crud-eating aggressive louts. It's an excuse for binge-drinking foul fluorescent-green-colored American faux-beer, Budweiser or worse, while singing cretinous Irish American ditties like Toora-loora-loora, consuming stinking overcooked corned beef and cabbage, assuming fake 'brogues' (the word means 'shoe', morons) and generally associating my fair native land of mists with the most brutish of behavior.

On my first St. Patrick's Day in America, I naively travelled to South Boston, the Irish area of the city, with a pal from Ireland and a Yank hanger-on, in the expectation that when they heard we hailed from the old sod (or ⅔ of us did), we wouldn't have to buy a beer for ourselves the whole night. So we all ordered pints and settled down at what looked like one of the cleaner bars. About halfway through the first round, the bartender sidled over to us and asked where we were from.

"I'm from Dublin, John's from Wicklow, and this guy's from some place called Vermont." I said beaming, expecting the next phrase would be "Drinks on the house lads!"

"Well, I hate to do this, but I think it would be better if you would leave. It's St Paddy's Day (grrrrr) and there's a bunch of local guys who'll be down here later on, and they won't want anyone who isn't Irish at the bar"

"But we are Irish. We're from Ireland"

"No, you're not Irish. You're not from South Boston."

So I was thrown out of a bar in the most Irish precinct in America, on St. Patrick's Day, for being Irish. So fuck the Yanks and drink their wives, I say.

On this blog, for the next three weeks or so, I will be collecting miscellaneous offense, grievance and obnoxiousness associated with the locals' befouling of St. Patrick's Day, which after all, is a religious holiday and holy day of obligation in Ireland. You sacriligious bastards.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Unwarranted faith in science

I'm as happy to bash antivaxers as the next guy. But we should not promote childhood vaccination by urging the public to have Faith in Science. Science screws up, often, and the public should know that. Scientists working in biomedical fields, where often they don't have a research Ph.D., and scientists working for the government, are particularly prone to screw up. The Federal Government is a cumbersome bureaucracy within which no one really excels.

Latest instance; the flu vaccine people my age are urged to get doesn't work against the major strains of influenza around this winter. I've heard numbers of 30% effectiveness in the US, though I'm not sure I believe them. In the UK, it's more like 3%. The BBC says, with classic understatement:

This is a poor result
No shit, Sherlock.

The vaccine mix used for the current season was based on a recommendation made by the World Health Organization last February, based on the breakdown of strains in the population of each country even earlier than that. It's a guess at the current flu season, in other words. The FDA appreoved the mix on February 28, 2014. Dozens of generations of flu viruses have lived, multiplied, died, and been subject to natural selection since then. Six companies make the vaccines March through August, before switching to the Southern Hemisphere.

In actual fact, it really only takes a few days to make the vaccine by the conventional route, and less using a recently approved cell-free system. The rest of the delay is regulatory; each batch has to be approved by the FDA. Shipping of some lots began in July.

It is not clear how long the FDA lot approval process takes, but it's clear the entire process is taking too long.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Conservative bashing in the London Times

The London Times, though it be a Murdoch newspaper, has given voice to succession of rabidly anti-American and specifically anti-Republican correspondents. The latest is Justin Webb, whose real job is to present the Today program on BBC Channel 4 (natch), and begins a Times editorial on the antivax movement today with...

Right-wing Americans have finally exposed the true extent of their scientifically and socially illiterate barminess.

...which is radically at odds with the fact that opposition to vaccination is heavily concentrated in liberal areas. As a CDC official said a couple of days ago, if you want to find unvaccinated children, put a pin in each Whole Foods store on a map and draw a one-mile radius around each of them. The state with the highest rate of kindergartner vaccination in the US is not California or Massachusetts but Mississippi. I can only begin to list all the Democrat politicians and liberal celebrities who are either antivax or have flirted with antivax pseudoscience, starting with Obama and Hillary Clinton, we have Bill Maher, Kristin Cavalieri, Jim Carrey, Mayim Bialik, Charlie Sheen and Robert F Kennedy Jr. (to whom John Stewart gave a sympathetic Daily Show interview in 2005).

Republicans, being these days largely of a libertarian bent, often support in principle parents' right not to vaccinate their kids, but statistics show they tend to vaccinate their own kids. A map of of non-medical vaccine exemptions, produced by the far-left Mother Jones, shows an excellent correlation with those states that vote left, particularly granola states (those inhabited by 'flakes fruits and nuts') such as Oregon and Vermont. Meanwhile, the non-blue state parts of the Midwest, and the South, vaccinate religiously, so to speak.

I may well follow my sister's advice and move my subscription to the Telegraph. My general policy is that if a news organ lies about something you know well, you shouldn't trust them on things you don't know so well.