Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Speculative Future

The UK just voted to leave the EU. The vote was not uniform, however, look at this map:

So really, England voted to leave the EU, Northern Ireland and Scotland voted to remain in the EU.

Maybe nothing bad will happen. Maybe the EU will negotiate some kind of free trade agreements with the UK, and there will be some talk of a united Ireland or an independent Scotland but no actual independence.

But maybe...

  • 2016: UK votes to leave the EU
  • 2017: Scotland votes for independence overwhelmingly. Northern Ireland votes to join the Republic of Ireland, but only just.
  • 2018: Negotiations for Scottish independence break down. Northern Ireland is granted independence and merges with the Republic. Sectarian violence breaks out in Northern Ireland.
  • 2019: Scotland declares independence without authorization by the UK. An election is held in England, and nationalists are elected with the promise of reuniting the UK. English troops start massing at the border with Scotland.
Now what happens? Do the Germans send troops in to Scotland to defend the territory? Does England conquer Scotland? Does the US get involved? Ireland isn't a full NATO member, but the new England would be, as the successor to the UK. Does NATO dissolve, or is there full blown war in Great Britain?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Dueling Mai Tais

There are two restaurateurs who claim to have invented the Mai Tai in the 30's or 40's - Vic of Trader Vic's, and Don the Beachcomber who is the undisputed father of the tiki bar.

The two are similar in that they include orgeat, lime juice, and light and dark rum, and orange curaçao or the equivalent. The difference is that the Beachcomber style recipe includes additional fruit juice (in the original version, grapefruit) and a mixer I hadn't heard of before, falernum, and something like an ouzo or raki.

Over time other establishments have added more and more fruit juices. A particular recommendation from my friend Othar was this fruity mix (modified slighty from that link):

  • 3 oz. light rum
  • 3 oz. dark rum
  • 2 oz. pineapple juice
  • 2 oz. guava juice
  • Fresh squeezed juice of one lime
  • 1 oz. orange curaçao
  • 2 oz. orgeat
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • Crushed mint leaves like you'd have in a mojito
Makes two.

This is very similar to my previous Mai Tai recipe I've tried but with the tropical juices and mint leaves added. Here's my Trader Vic's style recipe, slightly tweaked from my previous version:
  • 1 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier or some other orange liqueur like Cointreau or orange curaçao.
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (about half a lime.)
  • 1 oz. orgeat
  • 0-1/2 oz. simple syrup to taste
In both cases you shake or stir the ingredients and then pour over ice and crushed mint leaves if appropriate.

I find that both of these are quite good, but I think I prefer the simpler Trader Vic's style. My wife, though, prefers the fruitier style.

I think I'll be playing with both of these recipes for quite some time.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Orgeat syrup recipe & Mai Tai recipe

I've been experimenting with Mai Tais, and I felt I really had to make the orgeat from scratch to give it a fair shake, and boy was I right.

Here's the recipe I used for orgeat:

  • 2 1/4 cups raw, sprouted almonds
  • 1/4 tsp. orange blossom water
  • 1 oz. vodka
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Soak the almonds in a bowl in 3-4 cups water for 30 minutes, then drain - discard the water.
Coarsely chop the almonds in a food processor.
Return the almonds to the bowl and cover with 3 cups water.
Soak for 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
Strain through cheesecloth into a jar.
Add sugar, and shake occasionally for 15 minutes or until all sugar is dissolved.
Add orange blossom water and vodka.
Store in the fridge.

If you try making it, cut that in half at least, or you'll be up to your ears in orgeat.

Now, on to the Mai Tai! I'm pretty happy with this version, but I'm still experimenting.
  • 1 oz. light rum
  • 1 oz. dark rum
  • 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier or some other orange liqueur like Cointreau or orange curaçao.
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice (about half a lime.)
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup (heat equal parts sugar and water until all dissolved, store in fridge)
Combine all ingredients and stir or shake, in a glass with ice. If you like, float another 1/2 oz. dark rum on top.

Monday, May 25, 2015

25 questions that will (not likely) challenge your position on vaccines

Hi, my name is Doug, and I used to think that science supported the use of vaccines to prevent illnesses in children.  I still do, but I used to, too.

Yesterday I saw an article posted on facebook with "25 questions from a former pro-vaxxer."  As a former (and still current) pro-vaxxer, I took the bait and actually responded to each and every one of them.

Note that like many things, there are kernels of good ideas or truths in a (small) number of them.  The great thing about science is that we continue to stumble towards truth, and over time these things will get sorted out.  The parts involving the government, however, are a different matter.

Below I've reproduced the questions as well as my response, with links to supporting studies or articles.  But before that, I wanted to call out one more point from this article:

I used to be pro vaccine.  I know the feeling of thinking others were just plain crazy and wrong for not vaccinating their children and themselves.  ‘Irresponsible!’ I said when pointing my finger.  I’d use the same old arguments about polio and small pox and how vaccines saved us from all those horrible diseases and just swallowing and regurgitating the propaganda I was brought up with.  It was only recently, in 2009 that I started questioning my long held beliefs and began digging in to the history, efficacy and safety of vaccines.
I don't think people are crazy for wanting to do what's right for their family. The main problem I have is when people repeatedly bring up information that is not correct and refuse to look at more recent developments. If you cannot change your mind in response to new evidence, you're not doing your family a service.

Here's the list of questions and my responses.
  1. Why are newborn babies vaccinated on their first day of life against a disease that is primarily transmitted sexually and by needles in drug users?
    While Hep B is mostly transmitted sexually, it can also be passed on from mother to child at or near birth, or from other infected individuals through scratching or biting or other contact. Infection at birth has a much higher likelihood of developing into chronic disease that can lead to liver cancer, so the risk/reward profile is one consideration for immunizing younger for this.

    I was surprised at the recommendation of a dose at birth.  It turns out that apparently only a low level of antibodies are needed to prevent infection from Hep B, and that babies' systems are not useless, just weaker.  So the needed level of protection can be reached by 4 months of age with the current schedule.
    1. (Pregnant women are already tested for STD’s prior to birth so there’s no reason to give it to an infant).

      I would hesitate to say "no reason".  STD tests aren't perfect, and the most dangerous time for the mother to be infected would be while she is pregnant and the test could more easily miss the diagnosis in that case.
    2. Interesting to note, of the few vaccines that still are given to infants and STILL has thimerasol in it is Hep B and DipTet (and Flu shot recommended to pregnant women).I don't believe this is true.  This page has the list of vaccines that have thimerosal in it, and none of the hep b vaccines that I see there have any thimerosal any more ( though they may have in the past.  The source linked to that claims it is still in vaccines appears to date to 2007 and is no longer accurate. 

  2. Why are babies given vaccines to produce antibodies when they do not produce antibodies until after the age of 3 to 6 months?
    It looks like this is an over simplification.  Even the link given in the article shows that some on-board immunity (especially IgM) is present in babies at birth, and that other immunity is not at zero at birth (i.e. "do not produce antibodies until 3-6 months" is outright false.)  If that is combined with a virus that is more susceptible to antibodies it would allow babies to develop enough antibodies to confer immunity.
  3. Why does the government tell parents to delay breast feeding and get more vaccines when breast feeding babies produce higher levels of antibodies?
    This statement is very confusing given that it doesn't link to the government telling parents anything, it links to a study finding that breast feeding at the same time an oral vaccine is administered may reduce the efficacy of a particular vaccine.  The study concludes "These data should encourage clinical trials to investigate whether delaying breast-feeding for a short period before and after giving the vaccine could reasonably improve the immune response and protective efficacy."

    And yet, the other article linked ( appears to deliberately misunderstand this, appearing to say that breastfeeding should be "halted" and "...that the researchers seem to indicate mothers should instead choose to give their children synthetic formula."

  4. Why aren’t vaccine manufacturers held responsible when their product injures your child? Why would these companies need to be protected from the effects of such wonderful products?
    Yeah, this kinda sucks.  The original motivation seems to be that vaccine manufacturers would go bankrupt if they had to fight lawsuits all the time, and I guess that it depends on how much merit you think such lawsuits have.  People are legitimately injured by vaccines, and there needs to be some way to compensate them.  I suppose if your goal is to halt all vaccines it doesn't seem like a bad thing that lawsuits could lock up the industry, and then it gets down to the underlying question of if vaccines actually are worth it, or which ones are. If the current compensation system isn’t sufficient it should be overhauled.
  5. Why have no double blind, placebo, randomized controlled trials been done on any vaccines?
    I must not understand this question properly because if I Google search for "placebo vaccine studies" the internet is FULL of them.  Here are three that I found in a single quick search.

    There is a lot of worry about using placebos when an effective vaccine already exists, but that's different.  If you're studying a new vaccines, you do it using a placebo.
  6. Why are we following the US vaccination schedule? We are the most vaccinated population on the planet with the highest rates of infant deaths/SIDS in the western world?
    Why did SIDS decline by by 70% or so between 1990 and 2013?  Without any supporting links for me to follow on this point I can't evaluate it as anything other than just sensationalism.
  7. Why are disease outbreaks occurring in populations with 90%+ vaccination rates? What about that ‘Herd Immunity’ guys?
    Because math.
    Vaccination rate * effectiveness rate = overall immunity
    .9 * .9 = .81
    .95 * .95 = .9025

    You have to look at how often vaccinated people are infected vs. unvaccinated people are infected.  If everybody was unvaccinated, then vaccines would have a perfect record.  If everyone was vaccinated, non-vaccination would have a perfect record.
  8. Why are children vaccinated against these diseases still catching and spreading them?
    90% does not equal 100%. Also, the link shows that this goes back to the same false notion that somehow the Disneyland measles outbreak was caused by vaccinated people spreading vaccine viruses:

    I previously responded to this kind of stuff on Facebook, but now I've found this link that sums it up nicely with the exact links I used:

    The Disneyland measles viruses were wild viruses, not vaccine viruses. This is a known fact by analyzing the genes of the viruses involved. Stop trying to blame the Disneyland outbreak on anything other than a larger than previous population of unvaccinated guests.
  9. Why are we frightened of non-fatal illnesses that train a child’s immune system how to behave?
    Fatality is not the only negative outcome of diseases. Note though that pertussis and measles are fatal illnesses. You can make a legitimate argument about whether a disease is worth vaccinating against. There is a cost benefit analysis and you might disagree with someone else on this - that's fine.
  10. Why are vaccine manufacturers allowed to reduce antigens and insert cheap and toxic additives that aggravate the injection site?
    Without a link to something explaining this I have no way to judge its value as a question. Maybe this is the same as question 24?
  11. Why do we need multi-dose vaccines if the number ONE priority of vaccine manufacturers is your child’s safety?
    What?  When you are prescribed antibiotics, if the doctor says you need to take 5 pills over 5 days do you think that your health is not her priority since you can't just take 1 pill in 1 day? I really have no idea what sort of confusion of ideas could lead to such a question.
  12. Why will no physician sign a written guarantee for a child’s safety prior to vaccinating them with products they insist you take and that they say are completely safe?
    In your job, would you sign a written guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong with anything you do or you'll owe billions of dollars?  Especially when there are known side effects of that thing - which means the "completely safe" in your question is misplaced.
  13. Why is there no outrage about the 3.1 billion dollars paid out in vaccine injury/death claims and yet they claim there is no correlation and they are perfectly safe?
    It kind of sounds like there is outrage, or you'd have far fewer questions.

  14. Why don’t people recognize from history that the most widespread and lethal diseases in the last 200 years were reduced due to cleaner drinking water, improved sanitation, nutrition, less overcrowded areas and better living conditions?

I'm pretty sure everybody does recognize that from history.  The measles graph from that blog:
    shows this perfectly well.  Mortality can decline while cases are flat, and then when vaccination arrives, mortality declines even further while cases decline. You can reduce deaths by reducing cases, or by reducing the severity of the cases.  In this case, severity of measles was reducing steadily, but vaccination nearly eliminated the deaths altogether.
  15. Why do people keep parroting what they hear about ‘Herd Immunity?’ Herd immunity is a hilarious concept that assumes that 1) Vaccinated people are immune to the diseases for which they’ve been vaccinated, 2) Can not carry the diseases for which they are vaccinated/immune, 3) Because most of the people are vaccinated, other people around them can’t catch the disease. My favourite analogy for herd immunity is that if 95% of people in a building are wearing hard hats when the ceiling falls in, the 5% are protected.
    I don't get why this is a hard concept to understand. If fewer people carry the virus, fewer people can transmit the virus.  If you disagree with the assumption that vaccinated people are mostly immune, say that.  If you disagree with the assumption that they are mostly not carrying the virus, say that.  If those assumptions hold, then herd immunity is an obvious consequence.

    A ceiling falling in a building hits everyone at once so it's a poor analogy to a disease spreading through a population. A better way to illustrate this would be firebreaks in our forested community. If a neighborhood has enough fire breaks around houses, a fire would have a harder time hitting every house in that neighborhood. This is not even a tiny bit controversial. It's OK to disagree with the assumptions that vaccines work, but if they do work, then herd immunity is a logical consequence.  
  16. Why are almost all pro-vaxxer adults we talk to not up to date on their adult vaccinations/boosters?
    Thanks for the reminder, I'm probably due for Pneumovax, and maybe DTaP and a couple of others.  I'll make an appointment with my doctor this week.

    I assure you, I'm not behind because I'm scared, I'm behind because I'm lazy.
  17. Why do pro-vaxxers ignore .gov scientific studies?
    Two examples are given:

    I don't ignore them, and nobody should.  The second one is about a measles outbreak and illustrates the need for occasional booster shots.  I suspect you'll find the measles vaccine schedule is different today than it was in 1989 when that outbreak occurred. The first paper is pretty scary - there might be an autoimmune response triggered by an HPV vaccine that can result in sterility.  Given the benefits of not getting HPV vs this effect, I think it's definitely worth studying this to see if vaccination is worth it, and I'd be opposed to making HPV vaccines mandatory.
  18. Why didn’t our government health agencies ever safety test thimerasol (a mercury derivative and adjuvant) since Lilly developed it in the 1920’s?
    I don't know if that’s the case or why, but it's not in vaccines anymore (see 1b at the very top.)
  19. Why is it that only 40% of health professionals receive the flu shot each year?  They must not believe in it.
    The conclusion doesn't follow.  They may believe in it but find the rewards are not worth the drawbacks like having to pay $10 or having a sore shoulder. It's a good thing the flu shot isn't mandatory, so you can avoid it as well.
  20. Why? Instead of a mandatory vaccine law, why don’t they have a mandatory law passed to protect us from Iatrogenic Death? (Death by Doctor, 3rd leading cause of death!)

    Why not both? I mean, other than the fact that I don't know how you'd construct such a law.
  21. Why doesn’t the pro vaccination public admit that the vaccinated spread disease and stop blaming us?
    Please note that this question is right next to a picture of a warning label on a vaccine that says that vaccinated people can spread disease. We know it can spread a milder form of the disease, we just think that that is better than the alternative of getting the actual disease.

    What I really think is behind this question is more of the false assumption that ALL outbreaks are due to vaccinated people which most recently happened in response to the Disneyland outbreak.  See my answer to 8 above.
  22. Why do people still trust their government health agencies when they say vaccines are perfectly safe?
    This seems to get into anti-government sentiments which I don't care to engage with. There's plenty I don't trust about the goverenment.  But, I also don't think the government is saying vaccines are perfectly safe. See : "Any vaccine can cause side effects."  That's a government web page and it says right on it that vaccines are not perfectly safe.
  23. Why do they put aborted fetal cells in Vaccines?  Also DNA from monkeys, chickens, human tumour cells?
    It sounds like you're asking how vaccines are made. - this link has some good examples that could shed light on both chicken and mammal DNA. Since viruses can't grow on their own, and you need a virus (either weakened or killed) or part of a virus to trigger the immune response, you must grow the virus by using animal cells to host the viruses.  DNA from those cells will end up in the vaccine, just as iron ends up in your omelettes if you cook in a cast iron skillet.
  24. Why is Aluminum being used as an adjuvant in vaccines when there are many .gov studies against it’s use as Toxic?
    I fully support further studies to determine the safety of Aluminum or any other ingredient in vaccines. Given the long history of usage in vaccines I don't think the level of danger calls for something drastic like ceasing all vaccinations, but we should continue to research this and see if there are better alternatives.  
  25. Why do people think the government can’t get away with secret human testing of disease, drugs, and chemicals on us when they have done it and apologized for it numerous times?
    If they've apologized for it, it's not secret anymore, right?

    This example though really sticks out: though:
    " (government study admitting experimentation of large populaces with aerosol vaccines)"

    Did... we just go Chemtrails?  It sounds like you're talking about spraying vaccines over large areas. In reality, they're talking about administering individuals with aerosol doses using devices like inhalers.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Goodbye, Bevatron.

The Bevatron is being destroyed. It's been sitting idle for 16 years, so I suppose it's about time, but it still makes me a little sad.

I worked there in 1992 and had a grand old time playing with radioactive doohickies and programming computers to control enormous superconducting magnets. I can't imagine a cooler job for a college student. There were so many amazing things like the huge crane on rails that could go anywhere around the accelerator ring, enormous power supplies, and motor generators that looked like they could have powered an aircraft carrier.

Spend some time walking through the photos tagged with bevatron on flickr - there are some amazing shots there. Telstar Logistics has some nice ones, including this shot of the radiation safety key board. The notion is that they can't turn on the beam unless all the keys are in, so if you're going inside the accelerator you take a key with you.

Goodbye, Bevatron!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Strawberry Margaritas

4 oz pureed strawberries
2 oz tequila
2 oz Grand Marnier
1 tbsp fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1 tbsp sugar

Blend with ice.

This worked out a little sweeter than I'd like, but Laurie really appreciated it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kiwi Margaritas

These turned out OK, but I noticed as I blended the kiwis that at low speeds the seeds stayed intact, and at higher speeds they started to blend. So, it started off as a bright green mix with dark black seeds but ended up a light brown mix with darker brown flecks in it. I also think this gave the drink a slightly woody flavor. Next time I'll try just blending on low speed the entire time.

4 ounces pureed kiwis (about 2 kiwis)
2 ounces tequila
2 ounces grand marnier
2 tsp Rose's lime juice

Next time, try less lime juice. Zero is definitely the wrong amount, but I think maybe 1 tsp would be right.