Sunday, 29 July 2012

08:51 – We finished watching series two of Downton Abbey the other night. It’s essentially a remake of the superb Upstairs, Downstairs, and is just as good. The series is set during WWI, and they obviously took great pains to get the details right. The only striking anomaly was in the trench scenes in France, where the trenches were so shallow that the men’s heads protruded above grade. In reality, unless bedrock prevented it, trenches were dug deep, often eight feet or more, with a firing step for the men to stand on while repelling assaults.

We’ve also started watching Parenthood on Netflix streaming. It’s well-written and has an excellent cast. And there are lots of women worth watching, particularly the beautiful and charming Joy Bryant. The really annoying thing about this series is that one of the characters, a young boy, is diagnosed with Asperger’s, and all of the characters, including the doctor and therapist who are “treating” him, constantly act and talk as though there is something “wrong with him”. The reality, of course, is that people with Asperger’s are disproportionately represented among scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs.

32 thoughts on “Sunday, 29 July 2012”

  1. The other reality is that “Autism Spectrum Disorder”, which includes Aspergers, is one of those ill-defined grab-bag-of-symptoms “disorders” which allow a sufficiently-motivated case worker to diagnose anyone as “showing symptoms”. It’s like ADHD in that respect. It also helps that every living human falls somewhere on the “spectrum”, and so the decision whether to treat depends more on available money than on need.

    Somewhat related: .

  2. And the Germans had the far better trench systems and fortifications, naturally. What a country!

    Saw the first episode of “Downtown Abby” fairly recently and will continue at some point here when we have something that used to be known as ‘free time.’ Looked good.

  3. Well, I’d say society at large thinks there is something wrong with scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs. So, it’s fairly realistic.

  4. Yes, my teacher wife has been saying since they found a fancy name for it that we used to call those people engineers.

  5. I guess I must now have to join those sorry ranks after all, what a bringdown, man. My dad was a mechanical engineer, specializing in boilers and turbines, some of it dating from the steam age of Ye Olde New England industrial might. I myself was a systems engineer until January of last year and have since been, since June of last year, only a mere systems administrator. But messing around with computers since 1979, firearms since 1971, model airplanes/tanks/ships until 1971, and explosives since 1967, probably qualifies me.

    But it has all been somewhat tempered by my highly dangerous yet somehow wonderfully rewarding forays into the world of English literature, almost ruined by neo-Marxist practioners of Theory, most of whom I would now nominate for the role previously assigned to many of us as ‘geeks’ and figures of fun and frolic for Biff and Ted and Jessica and Heather.

    In other matters, OFD is in the market for any kind of device, electronic or otherwise, that stops vehicle engines dead instantly. He would like to deploy said device in his travels on our wonderful interstate here from now on. Especially, but not limited to, motor vehicle operators from Quebec and Connecticut, the absolute worst.

  6. My daughter was at one time diagnosed as ADHD. After flailing around with some drugs and talk therapy, she nearly flunked out of high school (despite being a National Merit Semifinalist). We went to a clinic that specializes in ADHD and had her examined. They found she had a panic disorder, and told us that there are lots of panic disorders diagnosed as ADHD. With some temporary help from drugs and biofeedback therapy, she’s gotten her life on track. (She’s now a Registered Veterinary Tech and works in the large animal ICU at the Texas Heart Institute.) The MD that runs the clinic uses drugs for treating ADHD patients, but sees them as a temporary measure until they can do biofeedback therapy and other methods of self-modifying behavior.

  7. OFD:

    At one time, Texas A&M University was experimenting with a miniature EMP device that could stop vehicles fleeing from the police; deployable from the pursuing car.

  8. Nuclear weapons are great EMP devices. Most people think that they are fairly extreme though.

  9. I like Robert’s intel; the nuke and the Barrett are cool but why hunt rabbits with a bazooka?

    I believe there is some kind of small and concealable device for shutting off the damn tee-vees at airport terminals and suchlike, so I would like something like that. Perhaps the technical wizards here can build me one this week? Would have liked it today for the series of les Quebecois and Connecticut and Masshole drivers I saw engaging in reckless endangerment motor vehicle operation.

  10. but why hunt rabbits with a bazooka?

    Because it’s fuckin’ awesome! Why else?

  11. True, that, but not much left to throw on the grill.

    Minor t-storm rolled through here and knocked out the internet once again for hours. A cloud appears on the distant horizon and that’s it, I guess, until the storm has moved out finally over Maine and the north Atlantic.

    Money down a rat-hole for that AND our health insurance, evidently. Don’t even get me started on taxes….which the libruls never tire of reminding us pay for all our wonderful roads, bridges and dams and our wonderful Social Security and Medicare and our heroic troops (this more from the so-called Right) who tirelessly protect liberty and freedom and democracy around the world, etc., etc.

  12. Lynn wrote:

    “Nuclear weapons are great EMP devices.”

    Also might have been good for spacecraft propulsion. I knew that conventional explosives could be shaped, but didn’t realise nukes could be to until I read about Project Orion. The idea was to drop one out of the business end of a spacecraft, close the door, detonate the nuke against a highly resistant pusher plate and we have liftoff. The atmospheric test ban treaty put an end to that.

  13. That would probably suck pretty bad for the little guys taking away the staging, wheeling away the various carts and making notations on their little clipboards.

  14. The City of Darwin use to claim they had the highest rate of beer consumption of any place in the world. This likely was a contributing factor to the case of the “Exploding Butt Cheeks”! 🙂


  15. I don’t know if Darwin had the highest consumption in the world but I do know that they know how to drink. 3-4 cans of beer per day is enough for me, but people up there can go through a slab (24x 375 ml) or more per day easily. I guess it’s what you’re used to. Formal business attire there explicitly permits shorts, it’s just too hot and humid for normal suits.

    I used to know a woman who’d worked in the Kimberly (the top of Western Australia, west of Darwin) where guys could easily drink a slab of beer and a bottle (750 ml) of whiskey per day. Day in and day out. I’d be comatose with half that much alcohol.

  16. Maybe it’s what you can do when you’re young? I find my tolerance for alcohol has dropped a lot over the years. Anything over about 5cl of alcohol is too much. I’m supposing a “slab” must contain about 35cl – definitely comatose.

  17. slab = 24*375ml = 9 litres I think of 5% alcohol by volume.

    That’s quite a nightcap. I take a month or more to get through a slab in summer.

  18. Alcohol could never overcome my prohibition against stuffing explosives in my ass. I would make some snarky comment about Aussies now, but I saw a video last week of an American teen who INSERTED a bottle rocket firework in his anus and lit it, to the obvious outcome.

  19. I’m not a doctor, but there are a couple in the family. One of them I have always felt, thought like me—basically a contrarian, because both of us believe the world works differently in many ways than accepted wisdom, which often ignores scientific research. Anyway, she maintains that all alcohol is poison to the system. The first thing the body does when imbibing, is to increase the heart rate, to try and get rid of it. If the intake does not stop, the system eventually passes out, so consumption definitely stops.

    The unfortunate long-term consequence is that the body calcifies its innards in an effort to protect itself. That process cannot be reversed, and she has seen it close-up many times. When that happens, organs stop functioning and death results. That point varies with the genetics of different individuals, but my family has experienced that difficult outcome more than once.

    If she is correct—and I have no reason to believe she is not,—then any consumption is self-destructive, it is just a matter of degree.

  20. Of course ethanol is a poison. But the maxim among toxicologists is “the dose makes the poison”. There’s no evidence that ethanol in reasonable doses does any damage to people, including pregnant women. In fact, there is a large and growing body of evidence that suggests that moderate ethanol intake is good for you.

    And, as with many things, there may be a trade-off. Moderate intake of ethanol, caffeine, and so on may be associated with both good and bad effects on someone’s health. For example, something may reduce the incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and so on but increase the likelihood of, say, cancer. And different substances may have differing effects in different populations, for example men versus women or people of one race versus those of another. Genetic predisposition also may play a major part. We don’t really know the answers to a lot of the questions, and we may never know. Long-term studies of large populations may provide some useful information, but the last time anyone did controlled studies on humans, we had a doctors’ trial and hanged a bunch of them. I think the best course is everything in moderation.

  21. My wife is in a clinical study at MD Anderson Cancer Center here in Houston. She has all 4 breast cancer DNA tags (2 major, 2 minor) and has lost a first cousin at age 49 to BC. She is now a 7 year survivor at age 54 having survived stage 2B breast cancer with her major tumor being 3 cm diameter and 2 cm deep.

    When she was asked to join the clinical study, they randomized her right there when she accepted. She knew within an hour if she was going to get the Herceptin path or the watching path. She got the Herceptin path. There were over 3,000 women in the study. Within 3 months, they put all the women being watched on Herceptin because the study was indicating that the reduction of recurrence was over 60%. That was over 5 years ago and the treatment with Herceptin is now “the standard of care” for people with her genes.

  22. Bob asked: “Which end did he insert?”

    It was the type of firework that requires a stick that is stuck into the ground to hold the firework long enough for the propellent to fire it into the air. He stuck the appropriate part, but in an inappropriate manner. Oh hell, just watch it:

  23. Geez, the number of people willing to burn their ass but good, is astounding. There are several others in the suggestion list. In all of the ones I watched, some genius on the scene, insisted that the rockets had to be positioned vertically, directly over the ass. Um, ever heard of gravity? It applies to burning cinders.

  24. Ethanol and Caffeine. I like them. I consume both in extreme moderation. I am not giving them up. Everything is bad for you in excess, even dihydrogen monoxide.

  25. Friend of mine, age 47, just lost her battle with breast cancer. She’s been living with it for about 10 years, had chemo, the cancer went away but came back later and spread. About two years ago she was told she had less than a year to live, so she lasted a lot longer than expected. She left behind a very nice husband and a couple of tweens.

  26. Sorry to hear that. As far as I know, if you get Breast Cancer in your 20s or 30s, it is usually the inflammatory type that spreads like wildfire before you notice it.

    And guys get it too. When my wife has having her second lymph node surgery, there was a 75 yr old guy in there having a double mastectomy. He was really sore!

  27. OFD is in the market for any kind of device, electronic or otherwise, that stops vehicle engines dead instantly.Sounds like you need lojack. Assuming (or hoping) they’re fitted with it, blast them with a super-powerful override pulse to activate it.

    Hey, they’re trying to lojack kids as well. They try to tell us it’s for the kid’s security, but we know, don’t we? Override the deactivation circuit, and how much would we pay to power-down teenagers? Except California and New Hampshire have outlawed it. Party poopers!

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