Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here Comes the Rain Again

I got a call last night from Walleye Pete asking if I was interested in a free morning of fishing, as he had no trip scheduled, and some of his commercial hook and line quota left to fill.  The weather prediction was NW at 10-15 early, rising later as a nor'easter moved in. We expected to fish Cedar Point, on the southern end of the Patuxent River.
When we met at his boat this morning, the wind was 22-26 and rising, and with intermittent rain. We tried Cedar Point rocks (above) just in time to see a bit of the sunset.  However, we couldn't safely anchor in the swell, and bailed rather quickly, retreating back to try a few locations around Drum Point, and then Solomons. At right, Solomons Island from the water.
The waves were much less back around in the river, and we tried several different areas without even a tap.
 The Patuxent River oyster tonging fleet was out. There were at least six boat scattered about, pulling up piles of shell and oyster with their patent tongs.
 We gave up after a little while and headed in.  Just inside the harbor, at the CBL dock, I spotted this ship, and persuaded Pete to swing around for a picture:
Sultana was built in the yard of renowned Boston Shipwright Benjamin Hallowell in 1767, probably as a yacht. She made one voyage from Boston to England before the Royal Navy purchased her for £292 9s 0d, named HMS Sultana, and sent back to the colonies as a coast guard vessel. At the time of purchase, her lines were taken off and a draught of the hull filed at the Admiralty. She was one of six Marblehead schooners that the Royal Navy bought.
£292! Heck I'd pay that for a nice blowboat! Well, that's 250 or so years worth of inflation for you.
. . . Sultana's first assignment once she reached Halifax was to proceed to Boston to help land General Gage’s troops in Boston for the protection of customs officials. Following that, she sailed up and down the coast of the Colonies, visiting Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia and many spots in the lower Chesapeake tidewater region. On 10 October 1772 Sultana set off to England.
Sultana was sold at auction in Portsmouth on 11 August 1773 to John Hook Jr. for £85.
A new Sultana, launched in Chestertown, Maryland, in 2001, serves as an educational vessel for schoolchildren as it travels around the Chesapeake Bay. Each year there are public excursions out of Chestertown and other ports. "Downrigging Weekend" in Chestertown is always the first weekend in November. Replica sailing ships from all around the mid-Atlantic participate in sailing excursions and allow the public on board.

The replica vessel is not an exact reconstruction. It has a diesel auxiliary engine and otherwise conforms to Coast Guard regulations in order to carry passengers. The modern version is framed with osage orange and planked with oak; there is a lead ballast keel which the original did not have. She has only four guns, rather than the original eight. All work and can be fired. Within modern safety requirements, however, she was built following traditional methods as much as possible.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Pretty soon you'll get it right 100% of the time:

Wombat's Wednesday Tip

From Wombat-socho's "In The Mailbox: 10.21.14"

Top Scientist: This Version Of Ebola Looks Like ‘A Very Different Bug’
Now U.S. scientist Peter Jahrling of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease believes the current Ebola outbreak may be caused by an infection that spreads more easily than it did before.
Dr Jahrling explained that his team, who are working in the epicentre of the crisis in the Liberian capital of Monrovia, are seeing that the viral loads in Ebola patients are much higher than they are used to seeing.
He told ‘We are using tests now that weren’t using in the past, but there seems to be a belief that the virus load is higher in these patients [today] than what we have seen before. If true, that’s a very different bug.
‘I have a field team in Monrovia. They are running [tests]. They are telling me that viral loads are coming up very quickly and really high, higher than they are used to seeing.
‘It may be that the virus burns hotter and quicker.’
Other top scientists are making similar observations.
The following comes from a recent article posted on Washington’s Blog

The head of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota – Dr. Michael Osterholm – is a prominent public health scientist and a nationally recognized biosecurity expert.
Dr. Osterholm just gave a talk shown on C-Span explaining that a top Ebola virologist – the Head of Special Pathogens at Canada’s health agency, Gary Kobinger – has found that the current strain of Ebola appears to be much worse than any strain seen before … and that the current virus may be more likely to spread through aerosols than strains which scientists have previously encountered.
and worse:
When news broke that the Ebola virus had resurfaced in Uganda, investigators in Canada were making headlines of their own with research indicating the deadly virus may spread between species, through the air.

The team, comprised of researchers from the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease, the University of Manitoba, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, observed transmission of Ebola from pigs to monkeys. They first inoculated a number of piglets with the Zaire strain of the Ebola virus. Ebola-Zaire is the deadliest strain, with mortality rates up to 90 percent. The piglets were then placed in a room with four cynomolgus macaques, a species of monkey commonly used in laboratories. The animals were separated by wire cages to prevent direct contact between the species.

Within a few days, the inoculated piglets showed clinical signs of infection indicative of Ebola infection. In pigs, Ebola generally causes respiratory illness and increased temperature. Nine days after infection, all piglets appeared to have recovered from the disease.
Airborne infection.  The experiment was set up to make the chances good.  Hopefully most of use would not be confined that close to an Ebola patient for days on end. At least not now that I don't go to an office.

Oh goody. At this point I think the chances of further Ebola cases from Duncan's initial case are down to about 10%. Small, but not negligible. The chance of future infections from a similar occurrence seem pretty high, though, although a travel ban could lessen if not eliminate the threat. Heaven forbid that the virus become established south of our southern border, because, rationally, everyone in south of the Rio Grande would try to enter the US to get away from it, and to get treated if infected.  We already know we can't even begin to stop that flux.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Science and Ebola

An article in the Free Beacon deals with the issue of claims that we would have  a vaccine/cure for ebola except for Republican budget cutting (not true, the President's request for NIH/CDC was lower than the eventual appropriations), and Republican counter charges that there's plenty of money there, if only the NIH wouldn't waste its appropriation on studies like "Why Do Lesbians Get Fat" (that's easy, because men are lookist pigs, women who aren't expecting to be judged by men are, in the aggregate, more apt to allow their other appetite to get the better of them. There, I just saved 3 million bucks or so). In doing so, it gets down into the weeds into some basic issues about how science is funded in the United States:

Ebola v. Obesity: The Politicized NIH
. . .Stein’s piece provides insight into thus-far failed efforts by the NIH to produce a vaccine, and is particularly interesting when he quotes the director of public affairs at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology saying he is worried Francis Collins has “opened up the NIH budget process to politics in a way I truly wish he had not.”
Moreover, Stein’s own defense of the NIH’s budget process is worth taking seriously for the insight it offers into both the progressive view of government and the politicization of theoretically apolitical federal bureaucracies.
Says Stein:
These attacks may produce guffaws. But they gloss over the basic structure of the NIH grant process. For starters, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to predict what the big biomedical need will be five years down the road. NIH prioritizes certain subjects. But it also tries to spread resources to many fields.
Second, it’s scientists, not bureaucrats, who are doling out the money. Every year, experts in specific fields volunteer to be on an NIH study section. They sit in a room, review grant proposals, and score them based on scientific merit. Those scores are sent to NIH, which establishes the pay lines for what gets funded and what doesn’t. Sometimes, it’s the odd-sounding project that’s judged to be meritorious. Sometimes, that project produces the most promising medical advance.
“One of the biggest issues we face in Congress is the idea that federal research agencies should fund only science with a specific practical purpose,” Barry Toiv, vice president for public affairs at the Association of American Universities, said in an email. “That is not how science works. If this had been the practice … the list of lost or delayed technologies and medical advances would be staggering. For example, we’ve reduced deaths from heart disease and stroke by more than 60 percent and transformed HIV/AIDS into a manageable illness in good part through the serendipitous results of unrelated research. … Rather than worrying about what sounds funny or obscure, we need to let the world’s greatest research enterprise do its job.”
So the budgeting process works just fine, thank you very much, because scientists, and not politicians, are in charge. These scientists are noble and impartial stewards of the public good, unlike the hacks in Congress, who are vulnerable to shifting political circumstances and all too accountable to a voting public that doesn’t understand “how science works.” It is too bad that there is, as yet, no Ebola vaccine, but this is not the fault of the sort of ridiculous funding Harrington highlights.
Stein, in effect, mounts a defense of the way peer review funds science. For those not in the loop, in per review funded science, proposals are written to address a particular issue, usually written out in an RFP (request for proposals), which may be rather general, or very specific. A fixed pot of money is generally divided up among the proposals ranked highly by a dual level review process (first, anonymous mail reviews, and then a panel of scientists meet to review both the proposals and the reviews, rank them for funding and hand the list to the agency for a little final fiddling. Thus, ideally, only proposals that meet the objectives of RFP, meet all other requirements for funding, and have their methods approved by a panel of fellow scientists for funding will get funded. Ideally. It isn't perfect, but it is one way to sort through a giant mass of scientific ore for the best gems.

The idea is to encourage many ideas, and allow fellow scientists to choose the best for funding (with the oversight of the agency management).

The major alternative, of course, would be for the agency to determine what it wants studied, and the to find the best group of scientists to address the question. This is done too, of course, but scientists tend to frown on it because it smacks of favoritism and tends to breed dependence (but also, expertise).

Peer-review, as they sometimes say about democracy, is the worst system for spending government money, except possibly for all the others.

Why do silly questions like fat lesbians get funded? Ask a silly question (RFP) and you get silly answer. It might be amusing the see the RFP that resulted in the fat lesbian study.  Be assured, only the most highly ranked fat lesbian proposals got funded. Or at least the ones the panel liked. But they still had to work within the responses to the specific RFP.

Be honest; presumably more lesbians have died of being fat in America than Americans have died of Ebola.  It's not a non-problem, it's just a fairly small problem with an easy, but unacceptable solution: make lesbians eat less and exercise more.

If they want an Ebola vaccine, they should ask for one, and not simply hope that the best group will propose an Ebola vaccine in response to a general RFP. And don't be shocked when only a few groups apply, because working with that stuff could get you killed. It's more fun to find out why lesbians are fat.

Ospreys Avoid Pharmaceutical Pollution

Tracking pharmaceutical pollutants up the food chain
Pharmaceutical compounds from makeup and drugs are turning up in streams and rivers all over the world, even in remote Yucatan cenotes, but for now, they don’t seem to be working their way up the food chain.

The chemicals have been finding their way into the environment, primarily through wastewater, urban runoff and even biosolids applied to agricultural lands, but he impact on wildlife is unknown, so researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Baylor University teamed up to try and track the pollutants through the food chain by testing ospreys.

The birds do not carry significant amounts of human pharmaceutical chemicals, despite widespread occurrence of these chemicals in water, according to their findings. Ospreys occupy the top of the food web, often nest in highly industrialized or urban areas, and eat only fish, making them an ideal sentinel for monitoring localized contaminants.

Rebecca Lazarus and her colleagues at the USGS conducted water analyses from 12 sites in the Chesapeake Bay area, and drew blood samples from fish and osprey nestlings living along surrounding waterways.
. . .
Only one compound was found at detectable levels in osprey blood plasma, which indicates these compounds are not generally being transferred up the food web.

“Only the antihypertensive drug diltiazem was detected in the blood of all sampled osprey nestlings, and was present at very low concentrations,” said Lazarus. “The thresholds for this drug are unknown in ospreys at this time, and there is no overt evidence to suggest adverse effects.”
One feature of most pharmaceutical drugs is that they have a fairly short life span in the body, so I guess it's not much of a surprise that relatively little makes it up the food chain.  Still, it's good

Maybe the diltiazem will help the young Ospreys keep their blood pressure down when they are subjected to acts of piracy from the Bald Eagles

Striped Bass Break Even in 2014

Striped Bass Survey Reveals Healthy 2014 Reproduction

If by healthy you mean slightly below average:
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources today announced that the 2014 juvenile index ─ a measure of striped bass spawning success in Chesapeake Bay ─ is 11.0, nearly equal to the 61-year average of 11.7. The results indicate a healthy level of reproduction for Maryland’s state fish.
My mom always wanted me to grow up to be slightly below average; how about yours?
“These findings reinforce that, although the coastal striped bass population has recently decreased from historically high levels, the spawning stock in the Chesapeake Bay is capable of producing healthy year-classes as defined in the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) Striped Bass Management Plan,” said DNR Fisheries Service Director Tom O’Connell. “We will continue to work with our partners along the Atlantic Coast to conservatively manage the striped bass population.”
 Well, yes, that's your job.
Striped bass, also called rockfish in Maryland, spawn in Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries each spring when individual females produce millions of eggs. The ASMFC’s management framework includes measures to conserve spawning-aged female striped bass to ensure adequate reproduction over time. Because the survival of striped bass eggs and larvae is largely influenced by environmental factors such as water temperature, salinity and flow rates, the annual juvenile index naturally varies with occasional strong year classes, as observed in 2011, intermixed with average and below average indices.
That's plenty of lipstick on that pig. Sure, it's better than the last two years, and the management really has little to do with the reproductive success; a few females in a really good year can produce a good year class, and those good years form the bulk of the population.

Does This Pass the Sniff Test?

Tokyo cops bust school-girl sniff parlor in Takadanobaba
Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Thursday announced the bust of a parlor in Shinjuku Ward that allows male customers to sniff odors of school girls in private rooms, reports TBS News (Oct. 16).

Officers took Keiten Izuchi, the 33-year-old manager of parlor Pure Doll JK Community, and one other employee into custody for allegedly employing minors in violation of the Labor Standards Act by allowing a male customer smell the body of a 17-year-old girl employee attired in her underwear on October 2.

Pure Doll JK Community, located near JR Takadanobaba Station, is a so-called joshi kosei, or high-school girl (abbreviated as “JK“), parlor in which the female employees change clothing in what is termed “costume play,” or cosplay.

In recent years, police have been cracking down on such parlors in the Akihabara district of Chiyoda Ward.

Izuchi has reportedly admitted to the allegations. “With the police and media making noise (about Akihabara), I thought I’d try Takadanobaba,” the suspect is quoted by police.

The menu for the establishment indicates that conversation is the basic service provided. However, options allow customers to select costumes, sniff the odor of the attendant’s hair and receive a slap in the face.

Fees at the parlor are priced at 1,000 yen for every five minutes.
1,000 yen! Why, that's (google pause) almost $10 American! I wouldn't pay more than five! I mean, how good can a girl smell? But remember, these are the same people who think that raw fish should sell for up to $3600 a lb!

But they seem to have the time about right.  Five minutes should be enough for olfactory fatigue to set in. Maybe they could use the coffee bean trick to stimulate repeat sales. Or combine the business with a Starbucks franchise.

There Ought to be a Law . . .

forbidding this: Meet the Woman Who Can See 100 Times the Colors You Can
If you're a tetrachromat—which, odds are, you aren't—you can see more colors than the rest of us, thanks to an extra structure in your eyes. The structure, known as a cone, detects certain light wavelengths. With three cones, most of us can see about a million colors, while tetrachromats, who have four, can see 100 million, Popular Science reports.
 I'll bet it gets tedious trying to name them all.
One such person is an artist named Concetta Antico, who explains her experience gazing at a leaf: "Around the edge I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue ... It's like a mosaic of color."
I remember when people would pay good money for a little piece of paper or a pill that would help them with that.
Only about 1% of humans are tetrachromats, and it would appear that the condition is limited to women—though, the Huffington Post reports, researchers aren't certain about that. Women have two X chromosomes, and theories have suggested that the condition depends on mutations in both. Researchers have been studying Antico to learn more about tetrachromatism. Meanwhile, the rest of us can perhaps benefit from looking at her artwork: As the Huffington Post notes, her "canvases seem to burst with extra, vivid color as only she can depict." For others, the BBC reports, the condition may be a nuisance at times: One woman describes seeing major clashing in clothes others believe match. (Someone else whose vision might make you jealous: your cat.)
This is really unfair. Something that women can experience but men can't? (Aside from the whole sex and childbirth thing, of course). That's unfair! In Honor of Harrison Bergeron, we need a national program to  identify these women, and tattoo their corneas with a dye that selectively absorbs the wavelengths of light that the "fourth" type of cone responds to, to reduce their vision to the standard "trichromatic" version that most of us men (except for the "dichromats) have.