21125

The lights are out at Effect Measure. It is closed and locked. No one is there any more. So consider this a note tacked on the door. I had always intended to leave it as a way to connect you with The Pump Handle and that's still its purpose. But now I feel compelled to add a thank you note as well. Shortly after publishing the final post I went off to my university's commencement. Of all the duties of a university faculty member, this is one of the nicest and happiest, the moment where we send our intellectual offspring into the world to do good on their own. The students who receive their…
It's been a long time coming but the time has come. Effect Measure is closing up shop, after 5 and a half years, 3 million visits and 5.1 million page views of some 3500. You commented on them some 37,000 times. It's been a grand ride but to all things there is a season. It's time to simplify my life and while my family has had me all along, at times science got short shrift. Now my time is getting short and I want to turn my attention to my research, the other polar star of my life. "Revere" will continue to post occasionally on Effect Measure's successor site, The Pump Handle (TPH), which…
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death. I hear him leading his horse out of the stall; I hear the clatter on the barn-floor. He is in haste; he has business in Cuba, business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning. But I will not hold the bridle while he clinches the girth. And he may mount by himself: I will not give him a leg up. Though he flick my shoulders with his whip, I will not tell him which way the fox ran. With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where the black boy hides in the swamp. I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death; I am not…
The person who taps the keys here over the signature "revere" (or sometimes "Revere"; it's at most one at a time) is not Paul Revere. The real Paul Revere died in 1818. If you want to know the name or names of any of the key tappers here I'm going to disappoint you right away. This post doesn't reveal how many people do the tapping or who they are. If you are a regular reader you already know quite a bit about us -- in fact much more than about many people whose names you know (or think you know; if you read a news by-line do you really know who wrote the article?). While sometimes there is…
When I was young (high school, college) I had a variety of jobs, including golf caddy (cured me of golf for the rest of my life; there were no carts, just an 11 year old lugging two bags with 16 clubs over 18 holes) and paper boy (4 am on Sundays hauling 80 huge Sunday papers in a wagon; took about 2 hours. Weekdays were smaller papers but the same wagon, and after school. I know, I know. Soon you'll expect me to talk about how I had to walk 5 miles to school, barefoot in the winter, but it wouldn't be true. It was only 4 miles). Then I started working in hospitals and basically I've been…
BP has this great reputation for being an environmentally friendly and responsible company. I know it because their incessant television ads tell me it's true. The ones that flank the national news stories about their horrendous safety record of explosions and worker deaths or their catastrophic oil spills. Those ads. When something happens they start the noise machine and appear to be the innocent party let down by their lessee. BP ("British Petroleum") is a British Company operating in the US. A US company operating in Britain is called Innospec. You probably never heard of them because…
In the sixties one of the suggested exist strategies for the War in Vietnam was "to declare victory and get out." Alas, it was the road not taken, increasing the length and depth of the tragedy for all concerned. For the War on Drugs, there is an even simpler solution: stop calling it a war. According to Obama's drug chief, that's the attitude of his administration and it's about time: President Barack Obama’s plan to fight drug abuse and trafficking proposes spending $15.5 billion next year and shifting the emphasis from fighting a war on drugs to treating the problem as a national health…
Salmonella is an enteric pathogen that causes quite a lot of foodborne illness. I learned there were several species of Salmonella bacteria of which the cause of typhoid fever was called Salmonella typi. Spread via food and water it used to kill a lot of people in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Nowadays all Salmonella bacteria are considered to be different subspecies (serovars) of just one species, Salmonella enterica. There are more than 2500 of them, of which several routinely infect humans. Salmonella enteritidis is the most common form of foodborne bacterial infection (NB: many…
As the flu pandemic ramped up with no vaccine in sight, attention turned to more prosaic things people might do to avoid infection. At the top of most lists was hand washing. I think hand washing is a good thing to do, although the evidence it does much against influenza specifically is weak or non-existent. Hand washing has been shown effective in some studies involving other respiratory viruses and intestinal pathogens, so even it doesn't work for flu you gain something. And now it appears there are other effects of hand washing. Long a metaphor for having done with something, new research…
I just started reading an interesting book, "How Mathematicians Think," written (naturally enough) by a mathematician (William Byers). It got me thinking not only about mathematics but also science, what it is and why I do it. Here's the paragraph that triggered it: The most pervasive myth about mathematics is that the logical structure of mathematics is definitive--that logic captures the essence of the subject. This is the fallback position of many mathematicians when they are asked to justify what it is that they do: "I just prove theorems." That is, when pressed, many mathematicians…
There seem to be two demographic groups that have more than their share of sensible attitudes to religion. The young and the old. To the young its irrelevant. To the old it's laughable (or as my Uncle Nate said as he was dying, "I still think it's a load of crap"). Here's another boatload of commonsense from my end of the age distribution:
I don't write about mental health here, but not because I don't think it is of public health importance. It may be one of the most consequential and expensive maladies we have. It's not because I don't know anyone whose life it has touched. I know many. And it isn't because it is without intellectual interest. It may be one of the most difficult, entangled and ambiguous topics in public health. It is mainly because of lack of expertise on my part coupled with my attention being directed elsewhere. You can't write about everything and can't get up to speed on everything. Life is too short. But…
President Obama got some advice yesterday from a special Presidential Cancer Panel. The Panel was mandated under the National Cancer Act of 1971 and included a strong staff and leading cancer specialists. The focus was on cancers we get from environmental exposures. It is strong stuff, but it is also stuff experts in cancer epidemiology have known for a long time. Unfortunately the environmental cancer prevention message too often gets submerged in the "you gave cancer to yourself because of how you live" message or triumphant news about the latest therapy for cancer you've already got (the…
As an academic researcher I don't write grant proposals for a living, although sometimes it feels like I do. I need grants to do my work, but I also need to get to work and I don't consider myself to be commuting for a living. Although sometimes it feels like I do. Having said that, low on my list of favorite things would be anything that required even more compliance paperwork for a grant proposal, but the National Science Foundation (NSF) is now about to spell out a new compliance paperwork requirement, and frankly I approve of it. In principle, at least, although I won't like doing it if…
Just because a company got it right once doesn't mean they'll get it right all the time. Back in the day, one of the great crisis management success stories was was Johnson & Johnson's handling of a case where someone intentionally introduced cynanide into on the shelf bottles of Tylenol in the fall of 1982 in the Chicago area. Seven people died. If you ever have trouble opening your over the counter or prescription drug bottles, you can thank the creep who did it -- whoever that is. No one was ever caught. Here's a concise summary of the 1982 poisonings, courtesy Wikipedia: Wednesday…
Regular readers know I don't have strong feelings about nutritional supplements and herbal medicine, unlike some of my medical blogger colleagues. I don't recommend or use them but for the most part it's not a subject that really gets me going, probably because I don't know enough about abuses. A lot of regular medical practice is not that soundly based, either, and some of it is pretty harmful. That's also not a subject that gets me going. The one prejudice I do have I got from my physician and surgeon father. His diet advice was "everything in moderation." That goes for nutritional…
Everybody (including us) is talking about people crossing US borders illegally, but lots of things cross borders (pollution, wildlife, pathogens). Services cross borders whenever we reach a call center in Bangladore and of course so do commodities. Commodities like foodstuffs or medicines or toys may or may not be subject to regulations for safety and many are subject to tariffs to protect domestic industries. It turns out that a lot of these commodities are also in this country "illegally." Take honey: The tariffs were attached to the import of Chinese honey about two years ago because…
I'm sitting here in the dark and freezing. No, not really. It's not dark yet and it's hot and humid. But I have no power, except what's left in this laptop. Can't connect to the net because I use wifi at home and the router is electrical (if I get really desperate I'll crawl up to the study and huddle in back of my desk and connect with ethernet but I don't think even I am that much of a slave to being online. Actually I am, but I'm too tired). So what happened? Mrs. R. and I are sitting here together, each of us reading, on a very warm, sort of sunny Sunday afternoon and we hear a tremendous…
Everyone has heard by now that there is a catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm not an oil expert, so I won't discuss this much here. There is a lot of information already in the media. I am quite familiar with drinking water issues, however, and over the weekend we received news of another catastrophic leak, this one affecting the Boston Metropolitan area. Several million people there are now under a "boil water" order because a section of steel pipe bringing water from its main surface supplies tens of miles to the west of Boston and surrounding communities blew out and the main…
Here's Marcus Brigstocke again, because hearing this once, twice or many times is never enough: