Monday, 23 April 2012

07:38 – Back to heads-down work on the forensics book.


10:02 – Wow. The government’s bogus inflation numbers continue to surprise me. I originally wrote the text for this forensics book back in late 2008 and early 2009. I was just updating one of the lab sessions on soil analysis. It uses the Project Star Spectrometer, which was widely available for $25 or so back in 2009. (I know; I bought one and I still have the receipt.) Three years later, it’s still widely available, but now it sells for $37 to $45. That’s 50% to 80% inflation in only three years, or an annual inflation rate of roughly 14% to 22%.


13:25 – Derek Lowe has an interesting post up about self-medication: Making Their Own ALS Drug. As Bob Dylan wrote in his best track and probably the best rock-and-roll track ever, “When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose”. And these ALS patients definitely got nuthin’.

What was particularly interesting to me is that Derek, a pharmaceutical chemist, states publicly something that few scientists would admit to: that if he were diagnosed with such a disease, he’d go the Hail Mary route and happily start taking this stuff. And, although few scientists would admit something like this publicly, it’s something that nearly all would do privately. In short, some evidence, no matter how scanty, is sufficient to take desperate action rather than doing nothing. When you know what the certain outcome is, even a one in a million shot is better than nothing. And many of these proto-drugs have sufficient evidence suggesting possibly beneficial effects that taking them on spec is considerably better than a one-in-a-million shot.

When the Cancer Cell article about dichloroacetic acid came out, I immediately downloaded and read the full paper. My reaction then was, “this might not work in humans, but then again it very well might.” So, that very day, I ordered 250 mL of reagent-grade dichloroacetic acid from Fisher Scientific and put it on the shelf. I forwarded a link to the paper to Paul Jones, and in a follow-up conversation I mentioned with some hesitation that I’d ordered the DCA. Frankly, I was afraid he’d think I was ridiculous for giving in to woo, but his reaction was the same as mine: it might not work, but then again what’s to lose?

Paul and Mary are both organic chemists. Barbara is not a chemist, but she trusts the three of us. If the worst happened to any of us and traditional treatments held out no possibility of a cure, I think it’s very likely that we’d have a little get-together around the lab bench. We’d make up a big batch of sodium or potassium dichloroacetate and purify the shit out of it by repeated recrystallization, preparatory column chromatography, or whatever. So, yeah, I can understand why these ALS patients are willing to swallow a sodium chlorite solution and cross their fingers. When you got nothin’, you got nothin’ to lose. And the damned FDA and the rest of the government should just look the other way.

21 thoughts on “Monday, 23 April 2012”

  1. Yeah, the 1980 numbers are a lot more representative of reality, although I think even they are low.

    Non-economists think that inflation is quantifiable by looking at prices, which it’s not. In reality, inflation is simply the increase in the money supply. In an economy (like ours) where productivity is constantly increasing, we should see a corresponding deflationary effect on prices. So, actual inflation is not just a simple matter of calculating how much prices have gone up, but requires that you add in how much prices should have gone down.

    For example, if productivity doubled over a 20 year period, an item should cost half of what it cost 20 years ago. If in fact the price has increased by 50% in nominal dollars, that doesn’t translate to 50% inflation. An item that should now cost x dollars actually costs 3X dollars, so inflation over that period was in fact 200% rather than 50%.

  2. Unless the damned FDA (and probably 75% of the rest of the federal government) can show specifically where their existence, budget, and authority is granted in the US Constitution, they are criminal organizations. If they come after you, there is no moral reason not to kill them where they stand.

  3. The more I read SteveF, the more I like the way he thinks. Of course this may get him shot by a SWAT gunner leaning out of a chopper with whatever the modern variant of my old M60 is…itself stolen from the Wehrmacht, of course.

    He’s absolutely right, though; most of Leviathan is mos’ def un-Constitutional. It grew, and grows, like the Borg. How does Star Fleet oppose the Borg?

  4. Thanks for the link on dichloroacetic acid. I have uncurable esophageal cancer, and I am willing to try something that makes scientific sense.

    –Jerry

  5. Unless you have a compelling reason, I repeat: DO NOT upgrade Firefox out of the v3 to 4 range. I only had 3 windows open, each with about 15 tabs open, and was reading some industry news in a 4th window, where–for convenience–I opened a new tab for each headline story I wanted to read. Had about 30 tabs open, when all of a sudden, it crashed. Now, 15 minutes later, I am still waiting for the hard drive to stop thrashing as it slows the computer to pre-1990 speeds. As I type this, the display is about a sentence behind where I am really typing.

    Just being updated to the latest version is NOT a compelling reason. I am at v11.0. Just stay away from it.

    Now at 20 minutes past the crash, and the hard drive is still thrashing.

  6. Damn, Chuck. At this rate I may just pull Firefox clean off my boxes. I have 10.0.3 on the RH box behind me here and it hasn’t been a problem so far, but it gets little use. At work none of the boxes have it beyond 3.6 and when I had CentOS and Scientific Linux here, ditto. On this Windows 7 box I always use Chrome anyway, with nary a problem, ever.

  7. The housing price collapse seems to be masking inflation. I’ve seen increases in gasoline, food, etc. Natural gas seem to be cheaper or the same.

  8. The more I read SteveF, the more I like the way he thinks. Of course this may get him shot by a SWAT gunner leaning out of a chopper with whatever the modern variant of my old M60 is…itself stolen from the Wehrmacht, of course.

    I’ve actually shot the MG-42, which is the machine gun the M60 was based on. The original kit for the MG-42 had different bolts that could be switched in and out to change the cyclic rate. The standard bolt yields 1,200 RPM, 20 rounds a second. You can’t really hear the individual rounds, just a continuous roar. With the anti-aircraft bolt, the cyclic rate jumps to 1,500 to 1,800 RPM, 25 to 30 rounds a second. It’s purely incredible to shoot. With tracer every fifth round, there’s what appears to be a constant red line going down range. You just put the red line on the target and shred it.

    During WWII, the MG-42 was so feared by US troops that the Army produced a “training” film to convince our infantry that the MG-42 was nothing to worry about. Yeah, right. Reminds me of the propaganda poster my dad told me about. Boeing put it out to convince flight crew that the FW-190 fighter wasn’t a big threat to the B-17. The caption on the poster said, “Who’s afraid of the big, bad Wulf?” My dad said lots of 8th AF crew rooms had the poster up on the wall, and invariably someone wrote at the bottom “WE ARE!” and all the aircrews signed the poster.

  9. Thanks for the link on dichloroacetic acid. I have uncurable esophageal cancer, and I am willing to try something that makes scientific sense.

    I’m sorry to hear that.

    I’m not a physician, so I can’t offer medical advice, but I can say that if I were in your situation I’d certainly be seriously considering trying DCA. One good thing is that DCA is and has been for many years an FDA-approved drug, although not for cancer treatment. But any physician can prescribe it off-label, if you can find one willing to do it.

  10. The housing price collapse seems to be masking inflation. I’ve seen increases in gasoline, food, etc. Natural gas seem to be cheaper or the same.

    Natural gas is really, really cheap right now because of all the new production coming on line, mostly a result of fracking. They used to say that the US was the Saudi Arabia of coal, which is actually an understatement. We have a lot more coal than Saudi Arabia has oil. But the US really is not just the Saudi Arabia of natural gas, but the whole Middle East of natural gas. Now if the government will just get out of the way, we can become completely energy-independent and in fact a large net exporter of energy.

  11. Your dad was 8th AF? Me too, for a while, 25 years later, the other side of the planet.

    I fired the M60 from the shoulder, on the usual tripod and from various aircraft, many times until the barrel got nearly white-hot. During training back in Texas they showed us what happens when the bolt comes flying out when you weren’t paying attention. It drove a hole through the wall. Another fun thing was when rounds started cooking off in the belt as it got fed into the chamber, due to the intense heat. The assistant gunner had an asbestos glove to change the barrel when it got too hot, but we usually only had one spare barrel. Tracers were a kick.

  12. Yeah, my dad flew a bunch of missions over Germany as a navigator in B-17’s. He wouldn’t talk about it, but one day he finally told me a little bit about what it was like. I had never before or since heard such a horrifying story. I finally understood why he’d refused for so long to say anything.

    I wrote about at http://www.ttgnet.com/daynotes/1999/1108RTDN.html#Thursday. I did it from a long-ago memory, and I didn’t do a very good job of conveying what my dad had told me.

    My dad always hated to fly on airliners. Once, when I was maybe 11, my mom and dad and I were on an airliner. My dad was obviously nervous, and kept looking out the window. I said something and my mother shushed me, telling me that my dad couldn’t help it. He was watching for Messerschmidts.

  13. My wife’s stepfather flew in the Pacific theater as a very young guy. He lied about his age to get into the Navy, as they wanted men so badly back then, that there was no checking done. Not sure what all he flew (all multi-engine), but he reluctantly told us of a couple episodes (not just 1, and we all have wondered if there were not more than 2) when he had to land the plane with an engine on fire. Broken hydraulics were an occasional occurrence.

    The day he was discharged was the last day he ever flew for the rest of his life, and that was a troop plane ferrying a bunch of men back to the States, which he piloted. He was always very curious about what modern-day cockpits were like, and Jeri’s mom got a couple pilots to show him the cockpits over the years, but he never went up again. One time, Jeri’s mom flew out to visit us in Boston, but he drove out in their RV for the visit.

  14. I’ll do the Firefox upgrade—as I have nothing to lose,—and report back on whether it makes a difference. More than a dozen upgrades since the incredible memory-hog problems appeared have made no difference, so I doubt this one will, either.

  15. I’d be interested to know Chuck. I think I’ll install the latest Thunderbird but will stick with FF 3.6.28 for the time being.

    My father was in the RAAF in WWII, he was a trainee wireless operator stationed in the UK. Hie graduated the day after the war in Europe ended (he said the Nazis heard he was coming and gave up) and fortunately wasn’t shipped out to the Pacific. He had stories to tell but 99% of them were about civilian life there, he didn’t formally see action, for which I’m grateful.

  16. Thanks for that memorable story, Bob; it means a lot. I don’t think I’ve seen it before here. Some of that has been documented but not in that kind of personal detail (that I know of) and of course there have been recent books condemning us and the Brits for our bombing of German cities. That is another possible discussion.

    My own dad signed up for the Coasties at 17 at the end of the war and did convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic against der unterseebooten and shore patrol crap in Manhattan and Baltimore. His FIL spent three years in North Africa against Rommel & Co. after signing up at 39 with five kids at home. His own dad was in the Great War, and his BIL was a ‘Nam vet. I also signed up at 17 near the end of the latter, and both parents had to sign for me, which they did with what I recall as unseemly haste and big grins. I had joined the AF apparently still hallucinating from all the acid trips in the badly mistaken belief that I would miss ‘Nam and spend my four years in Germany mit der frauleinen who wear those nice low-cut blouses, sitting on my lap and serving me those giant steins of wunderbar German beer.

    This was not to be, naturally, and after months in the heat and dust of east Texas I got sent to north-central Maine in the dead of winter so I could enjoy those swell breezes coming in from the aforementioned North Atlantic. Then off to ‘Nam, after more training in the great Lone Star State, mainly with air base defense (against rocket and mortar and sapper attacks) and occasional town patrol with the White Mice. From there to sunny northern Kalifornia, at a mountaintop NORAD radar site near San Francisco for a year and a half, nice duty.

    But…still apparently under the influence of long-ago acid trips and other substances, I turned down a two-year assignment in northern Italy (because it would have extended my enlistment for ten months, (dumb, dumb, dumkopf) and then other orders for Formosa/Taiwan also got cancelled and the very next day I got sent back to wunnerful east Texas for the exact same combat training I’d already had, with the same lifer instructors, who laughed at me and made me their adjunct. From there to the Philippines and aircrew survival school, which kind of sucked, and then to Thailand’s northeast provinces, Laos and Cambodia, with the 56th Special Operations Wing, intermittently the miltary air arm of the CIA/Air America.

    And after catching a bit of bad joss from our little Khmer Rouge buddies near the end of my tour, I got hospitalized, five-month-early discharge, and sent home to freezing, snowy Maffachufetts in March. The months after that saw my little buddies surround and take the capital (when I was there all we had left was the Presidential houses and the air base) and turn the country into the infamous killing fields.

    Home again, home again, jiggety-jog…and coming off the plane I was the last dude and I could see my whole family lined up outside the windows. They didn’t recognize me. I’d lost fifty pounds, skin had kind of yellowed, still bandaged up some, and so forth. But by jiminy, I gained that weight back lickety-split and began swilling down a case of beer a NIGHT, along with other stuff.

    Lotsa stories after that…could serve as a nice warning to youngsters, maybe…

  17. Oooh, it pains me to hear about turning down the northern Italy gig.

  18. Woulda been two years at Aviano AFB in northern Italy, near the Swiss and Austrian borders. They said I’d have to extend my enlistment for ten months to be able to take it, and I’d had enough of Uncle by then. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    And this was not to be the end of my stupidity, either; plenty more where that came from in the next forty years.

  19. I feel your pain, OFD. I’ve made stupid decision on top of stupid decision over the years. My stubbornness, native talent, and sheer awesomeness almost makes up for my stupidity, but not quite.

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