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User Journal

Journal Journal: Fairness and medicine 15

I was recently having a discussion with a friend about whether our "system" of medicine in the US is better than ones in Canada, the UK, the EU, etc. For sake of argument, I took the position that it arguably was (although I'm definitely not convinced of that). We came upon an interesting hypothetical example: assume that in system A, half the people get treated right away for disease X and half the people never get treated (because they can't afford to). In system B, everyone gets treated 6 months after being diagnosed with disease X. Now, it turns out that if you're treated for disease X right after first being diagnosed, your survival rate is 90%. If you wait 6 months, however, your survival rate is only 25%. In this hypothetical situation, 45% of the population under system A will survive and only 25% of the population under system B will survive.

My friend agreed that, for this case, system A was a better system—but only if the 50% were chosen randomly and not by whether or not they had more money. I argued (again, really just for the sake of arguing, although I think I have a valid point here) that what family you are born into is random and from there on making good choices (or possibly unscrupulous choices) will make you more likely to be rich, hence using money as a means to divine who gets treated isn't any worse than choosing at random.

I'm curious, what are your thoughts?


Journal Journal: Bush, Cheney accused of deceit in CIA leak scandal 5

That headline comes from CBC News. Other headlines used to break this story include Ex-White House aide: Bush, Cheney involved in misleading media, Bush 'involved' in CIA leak case, and (just to be "fair and balanced") Former Aide Blames Bush for Leak Deceit. The former aide for those interested is Scott McClellan. Basically, he's saying that when he gave the speech in 2003 saying that they didn't know that Libby had leaked the information about Valerie Plame, it wasn't true. Of course, McClellan is pure as the driven snow, as he didn't know it was a lie, although Rove, Libby, Cheney, Card and Bush knew it was a lie. For those who want to argue that it wasn't Libby who leaked the information because someone else leaked the information first, it is possible for a boat (or story) to have more than one leak. For those who want to argue that Libby was only convicted of obstruction of justice, it was that obstruction that made it hard to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed treason. Finally, for those who want to argue that Plame wasn't really undercover, I feel compelled to warn you that aluminum foil doesn't have the same benefits as tin foil in protecting your minds from CIA thought devices. (They're the ones trying to tell you that she really was undercover.)
User Journal

Journal Journal: Yet another Republican homosexuality scandal (II) 8

Per the police report, Washington State Representative Richard Curtis (Republican) (representing La Central) was having his sexual orientation used in an effort to black-mail him. In the House, he has acted against gay rights, making this another example of presumed hypocrisy. I'm a little ashamed to admit that I'm experiencing a some schadenfreude here. Of course, this is an excellent time to introduce people to this comic strip if they haven't already seen it.

Edit: <ignore>He's a State Representative for Louisiana, not Washington (as I originally wrote), per this source.</ignore> Strike that previous statement. He represents La Central in Washington State, not central Louisiana. I really need to read for comprehension better.


Journal Journal: Yet another Republican homosexuality scandal 24

From the no-longer-news dept of the Wonkette:

As the nation slips into a new "Not So Great Depression," Republicans are embracing a new kind of Compassionate Conservatism that should appeal to poverty-stricken people who've lost their homes, jobs and traditional abhorrence of homosexuality and pedophilia. Leading the new effort is Wisconsin Republican leader and Brown County GOP Chairman Donald Fleischman, currently facing charges of child enticement, contributing to the delinquency of a child and exposing himself to a child -- all because he (allegedly) wanted to show his love to a runaway boy!

Of course, this one is much worse than the Larry Craig one as it involves a teenager and an abuse of Fleischman's authority. What I don't know yet is to what degree hypocrisy is involved. Was this guy a log-cabin Republican, or one of the typical self-loathing closeted Republicans who push anti-homosexual agendas in an effort to hide their own sexuality?


Journal Journal: Jet-fuel powered lightbulb changer 4

I just finished listening to a podcast from Quirks & Quarks about a new prosthetic limb. It seems this limb will actually use jet fuel as a primary power source. This is meant to give it the power it needs to function as a regular limb without too much extra weight. During an interesting discussion on using jet fuel for tasks requiring dexterity the inventor (or one of them, anyway) mentioned a couple times about using it to change light bulbs. In case you're wondering about exhaust and waste heat, they also covered that. In the center of the arm it gets as hot as 450 degrees C, but that heat mostly dissipates by the time it gets to the exterior. The exhaust is warm steam (not too hot, however) that comes out of the elbow.
The Almighty Buck

Journal Journal: Civil disobedience 5

I'm sick of hearing people defend illegal activities as being civil disobedience. True civil disobedience means willing to go to jail for your actions. A modern-day example of this is spending 3 days in jail rather than pay 50 cents for a toll that you've already paid for. The world needs all types of heroes, and this man is one of those.
User Journal

Journal Journal: My very own "first post" 3

Not only did I score my first "first post", I managed to do it on an article containing the words "Microsoft", "Linux", and "ODF"! Some days, I even manage to impress myself. :)
User Journal

Journal Journal: Idaho "Skeptics" 17

Someone introduced me to this gem a while back, and I'm in a sharing mood, so, I give you The True Story of Idaho. I'd also like to point out that, per the text on the bottom, this was initially posted to rec.humor.d on December 14th, 1992. (Of course, global warming skeptics were already out in full force at this point - although most of them were still denying the very existence of global warming and not just whether it was natural or anthropogenic.)
User Journal

Journal Journal: My 2005 Civic Hybrid has already paid for itself 2

My 2005 Civic Hybrid has already paid for itself. By that, I mean that the additional cost of buying the hybrid vs. a similarly equipped Civic has already been recouped - sort of. By "sort of", I mean that according to the Kelley Blue Book value, my hybrid is worth $1600 more than a similarly equipped non-hybrid. Add that to the $400 I got back from Uncle Sam, and the approximately $400 less in gas that we've paid (based on actual driving mpg and about 18k miles, ymmv), and we've passed the approximately $2200 extra we paid for the privilege of owning a hybrid. Accuse me of contributing to the "smug" content in the air if you must, but I'll admit to being pleased with myself. :)

Just for the record, the decision was not made primarily for financial reasons, so the fact that it has already "paid off" is just icing on the cake.

For those wondering why I bought the Civic Hybrid (as opposed to the Prius, for example), it really had to do with my familiarity and satisfaction with the Civic. Our last car was a 1995 Civic that had about 140k miles on her (IIRC), and had at least another 140k miles in her if she hadn't been hit by a semi. Yes, I was driving at the time - at approximately 70 mph. For those who think bigger cars are safer, I suspect that in this case I would have been far more likely to have been injured if I had been in an SUV, for example. As it was, my wife and I walked away (or were towed away) without a scratch on us. That strongly contributed to us buying another Civic.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Who are the two groups? 6

I found this interesting quotation today, and I thought I'd poll you to see if you can guess which "two groups" are being talked about:

Both groups have similar misconceptions about the nature of explanation: they feel that unless you understand everything, you understand nothing.

Here's the source, but no fair looking until after you've made your guess.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Sorting intelligently 2

I've had this problem in an archeology database I've been working on. Simply, I want "Room 11" to come after "Room 2", "House 3" to come before "House 11", etc. Now, there are some simple ways to handle this problem, if those are the only types of entries. However, there's also "Room A", "Room 11A", and possibly even "Room 11A-2" and "Room 11A-11" (again, 2 < 11). So, how to solve this problem? Well, since this is a Ruby on Rails project, I've solved it like this:

def smartComp (x,y)
    digitRegex = /^\d+/
    if xMatch = digitRegex.match(x)
        if yMatch = digitRegex.match(y)
            xn = xMatch[0].to_i
            yn = yMatch[0].to_i
            if xn == yn
                # Recursive call on remainder
                smartComp(xMatch.post_match, yMatch.post_match)
                xn <=> yn
            1 # numbers are "greater than" letters
    elsif x.size > 0
        if digitRegex =~ y
            -1 # letters are "less than" numbers
        elsif y.size > 0
            charRegex = /^\D+/
            xMatch = charRegex.match(x)
            yMatch = charRegex.match(y)
            if xMatch[0] == yMatch[0]
                # Recursive call on remainder
                smartComp(xMatch.post_match, yMatch.post_match)
                x.upcase <=> y.upcase # Case insensitive
            x <=> y
        x <=> y

Thoughts, comments? Feel free to be brutal.

For those who don't know how sorting works in Ruby, you could sort using this routine by:
array.sort{ |x,y| smartComp(x,y) }
In case you're wondering why I didn't actually create a smartSort routine that surrounds this, it has to do with the fact that the actual sort I'm doing is somewhat more complex.

My main concern is that it feels like what I'm doing is intuitively simple, the "Ruby way" would seem to dictate a simple solution, and my solution feels somewhat inelegant to me.

User Journal

Journal Journal: A moderation I can agree with 4

Currently, this comment is moderated 50% Funny, 30% Insightful, and 20% Flamebait. I think that's fairly reasonable. Personally, if I could self-moderate, I'd probably call it 70% Funny, 20% Flamebait, and 10% Insightful, but we always think we're funnier than we actually are. I'm not sure exactly how many moderations it's received so far, but from what I can intuit, I think it's +4 Funny, +2 Insightful (rounded up to 30%), +2 Flamebait (rounded down to 20%). I'm not sure why the difference in rounding, though.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Drinking license 9

A coworker and I were talking about the problem of people learning to drive before they learn to drink. This is a major problem, in our opinion, because Americans "learn" to drink after becoming drivers. This friend had an interesting idea for solving this problem - drinking licenses, handed out at, say, 16. (Driving licenses could then be handed out at 17 or 18. The actual ages involved are not really part of this idea.) Maybe there'd even be a learner's permit for drinking. Anyways, there would be several side effects, including:
  • Regardless of how old you look, they would always need to ask you for your drinking license. (Granted, this might result in everyone getting ugly "bracelets" when they enter a club, or in non-licensed drinkers not being allowed into that club.)
  • Revoking your drinking license would be an excellent deterrent for a lot of crimes, thus freeing up jails, etc. Drunk & disorderly? 1 month suspension. Drunk driving? Not only do you lose your driver's license, you also lose your license to drink. Naturally, drinking without a license (meaning you never got one or had it revoked, not meaning you left it at home), would require stiffer penalties.

This same idea could be extended to other controlled substances. Do you think this would be a good idea? If not, why? Either way, what other side effects would you predict? (Note: I already know it'll never happen.)

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