Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Statistics or Fiction?

Another look at statistics. Or perhaps another look at fiction.
People keep going on about how gun control will make the public safer. I would like to know how.
In Canada the instance of gun violence with a legally owned firearm are almost non-existent. Even in the US the percentage of crimes committed with legally owned firearms are a very small percentage of total gun violence. This in a country where it is not too difficult, in some states at least, for anyone to purchase a firearm.
What I’m saying is that almost all crimes are committed with stolen or smuggled weapons. So how will gun control make it any safer?
It doesn’t make any sense at all.
“Firearms deaths are the third leading cause of death among young people aged 15-24.”
This is a direct quote from some of the sites that talk about the impact of firearms on society. However, a few pertinent facts have been left out.
Perhaps one or two of these deaths were the result of a lack of training for our youth. However almost all (if not all) of these deaths were the result of gang members shooting each other in some urban areas with weapons they stole or manufactured.
Another story I constantly hear is that handguns are only for shooting people.
Not so!
Handguns were invented to protect travellers from road agents. They were used for this purpose for several years before they were taken on by military officers as side arms. Following that they were used in duals.
It might be said that the .357 magnum cartridge was invented to shoot people since it was designed by a law officer for use by law officers.
The .44 magnum, on the other hand was designed for hunting Elk (Wapiti) and deer.
Another bit of fiction I continually hear (mostly because of a so called ‘historical’ TV add) is that men didn’t carry firearms during the building of Canada.
Completely untrue!
Prior to 1924 when new firearms legislation was passed most people traveling in the wilds carried a firearm. True, not many carried a handgun since they couldn’t afford it, but they did carry weapons. And those that could afford it did carry a handgun.
Travelling alone in the wilds without a firearm is foolish. Working with wild animals – including wild cattle or horses – is also foolish.
Its interesting to note that the disgusting death and injury of unemployed men in Vancouver, Regina and Winnipeg took place in the 1930s … after the passage of the 1924 legislation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Survey results

Does anyone still believe in unbiased survey results? Was there ever such a thing as unbiased results? Will there ever be?
I don’t know how it could be possible to believe that there are no forces bending the results one way or the other. The world runs on commerce and if that commerce is interrupted everyone suffers. Those directly involved with whatever the survey subject happens to be are affected more than anyone else.
Regardless of who does the survey, someone has to pay for it. The company actually doing the study may have every intention of being fair and unbiased. However, they are aware, even through supposition that someone is paying for that study. If the survey group wants future work they will be strongly motivated to make sure their customer is happy.
If the study concerns the effects of second-hand smoke, for example it’s logical to assume the study has been funded by a cancer group. If you want to do a study in the future for that same customer the results of your study will be positive for the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke.
Where did the study subjects live? Did they live down-wind (or up-wind) of a major chemical facility? Is there a large coal-fired generator in the area?
If there is a study done of the effects of exhaust from an industrial facility what are the parameters built in to the study? Do we test air both down-wind and up-wind? What type of equipment is used to collect samples?
Once we’ve taken air samples, for what will they be tested? Are we testing for compounds that are used by the industrial facility in question? During the manufacturing process – due to heat or other factors – perhaps there is another compound created that should be tested for? Perhaps something has been created that the study group has no way of knowing is present. Perhaps it’s an entirely new creation that no one is aware is dangerous.
In addition to air tests, perhaps indigenous wildlife should be tested?
Do any test subjects, wildlife or human, have a genetic dispensation to be affected by the chemicals in question? Do any subjects have a tendency to shake off the results of invasions by chemicals?
Several times studies have been done on the effects of wolves on the populations of both area livestock and wild prey. If the studies are paid for by ranchers one could come to believe that wolves will destroy the cattle industry. If the study is paid for by the World Wildlife Fund one might come to believe the foolishness that wolves eat only mice.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Turn On Your Headlights

Why is it that people can’t turn on their headlights? Did someone tell them they will burn out faster if they actually use them?
Do they think that without headlights they can hide and no one will hit them?
Immediately after starting your vehicle, turn your lights on. Not the parking lights, your headlights.
In many jurisdictions it is illegal to drive with only parking lights on, although it isn’t generally enforced.
You might say, “Why? I can see fine.”
Perhaps you can, but you aren’t the only one on the road. And if that’s your attitude – thinking only about your own problems – you probably shouldn’t be allowed on the road.
Perhaps you say, “I have daytime running lights, so I don’t need to turn on my headlights.”
Depending on the make and model of vehicle you drive your tail lights may not come on with your running lights. Therefore, if you are travelling in dust, fog or snow or during dawn or dusk you run the risk of being tail-ended.
Yes, according to the law the person who runs into your back end is responsible. However, their being ‘at fault’ won’t make your neck hurt less nor will it make a fatality any less dead.
Perhaps you might say, “The first thing I must do after starting my vehicle is fasten my seat belt.”
The fact that you do or don’t wear your seat belt is an argument to have with your immediate family and your insurance company. If you want to be there for your family, wear your seat belt. If you don’t wear your seat belt your insurance premiums should be higher than if you did.
Not having your headlights on effects everyone on the road. Without headlights some vehicles blend in with the road surface, primarily because of color. Not being able to see an oncoming vehicle someone may pull out to pass when there isn’t enough room. Or perhaps (particularly if the oncoming vehicle is traveling with parking lights) the passing vehicle thinks the oncoming vehicle is parked and pulls out to pass. In heavy multi-lane traffic a driver might not notice someone coming up behind (particularly if that oncoming vehicle is swapping lanes every few feet) and thus changes lanes ONTO the overtaking vehicle. In addition, it is usually much easier to judge distance when looking at a vehicle with lights on.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Back to Engineers

Why is it that we insist on listening to accountants? Not only do we listen to everything they say we go out of our way to get them to say something. We’ve done this since the late 1950s and it’s obviously cost us a great deal of money. Not only is it costing us financially but it’s creating inefficiency in our public programs.
I’m sure some of this is the result of an unfounded fear of engineers. “What’s the connection between engineers and accountants?”
I thought you’d never ask. Now that you have I can relate a little history.
During World War II the engineering fraternity more than any other single profession stepped forward to perform some absolute miracles. For instance they took several ideas that had been around for years and made them work even when they had been proven unworkable. They formed new ideas from whole cloth and made them work when many said they were impossible. Many of those ideas helped the Allies to win the war and most have been further developed and are still in use today.
As an example, for several years there was an idea that the way bats navigated could be used by humans. Several time this idea proved to be unworkable. However when the pressure was on, it became workable and known as radar and sonar.
That is only one example and there are literally hundreds of others.
The result of all this is that by the end of the war engineers were heroes and received some of the best jobs available. This faith in their ability was returned by the engineers in the form of increased productivity and reduced expenses.
Sounds great, right?
Well, it wasn’t.
By the end of the 1950s North America and most of Europe were close to bankruptcy. Why? Because production had far outdistanced consumption. We had lots of everything and were producing more but there was no one to buy it.
The problem might have been worse (and faster) if it hadn’t been for the consumption offered by Mid-East difficulties, the Korean War and war and medical emergencies in other parts of the worlds.
So, to recap, society asked a group to do a job and they did it. Not only did they do the job but performed far better than anyone anticipated.
When the trouble came, did society step forward to help? No. As we have done with our heroes through-out time we dumped them.
We called in the accountants.
The accountants didn’t make the same mistake. True to their training they concentrate on one particular item and ignore all others despite the fact that there may be many related parts to an item.
Put your focus in one place and promise to reduce costs by 10%, or 20 or 30 percent if you think your actual results will be greater than what you promised. Make a lot of noise when you do exceed the promised numbers so that no one notices that five or eight or ten related areas have increased by a far greater percentage than what you promised to decrease.
There is a long list of examples.
We have many busy highways that are far too narrow. The ministry (or whoever) that designs and builds the highway has an accountant. This accountant shows that by reducing the width of the shoulder area they can reduce construction cost by X dollars (pick a number). This is obviously true to anyone.
The accountant is a hero.
When people go off the highway and roll in the ditch, the ministry doesn’t pay for that. Some insurance company and ultimately the customer pay for that.
When transport takes longer and must be done with smaller vehicles, the ministry doesn’t pay for that. The shipper and receiver and ultimately the customer pay for that.
When a vehicle, large or small, breaks down (They do that; they’re man-made, you know) and sits on the narrow shoulder thus partially blocking the road everyone pays.
Medical services systems that require more lab-techs, nurses and doctors? Sorry, can’t hire them. The accounting department has explained we can’t afford them. Actually, the money we do have will be used to hire two more accountants so we can find out where the money is going.
There is an instance in Canada where much of the food being consumed by medical patients is produced in the centre of the country and shipped to all the hospitals and long term care facilities. This saves the medical services plans in several provinces a great deal of money.
No, it costs money.
The products used to make that food last for several days interferes with the medication those consuming it are often on. This will result in extra medical attention which would probably not otherwise be necessary.
What about the cooks and servers who would be otherwise employed and contributing to the economy? They deserve as much consideration (and probably more) than the new accountant that was hired with the money saved with the new food supply program.
Why was he hired? To figure out why the medical system as a whole is now costing more than before they saved so much money with the new food supplier.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Low or no meat diet?

Human beings are omnivorous and should have discretion.
Why do I say humans are omnivorous? Because all anthropological, archaeological and medical data supports the statement.
Omnivorous: 1. feeding on many kinds of food, especially on both plants and flesh. 2. making use of everything available.
Anecdotal data also supports this contention. Those in activities that require extreme effort such as hockey players are a perfect example. A player who relies entirely on plant protein can not work as long a shift as a player with a similar physic who eats both fish and vegetables. Those whose diet includes at least 30% red meat (again with similar physics) can play or work far long than those who eat only marine animals and vegetables. Those sports participants who were omnivorous and became vegetarians can do roughly two thirds of what they could accomplish after changing their diet.
Humans need meat!
As to the output of CO2 we are spraying into our atmosphere, can we stop using emotions and try using some common sense? The production and husbanding of animals is an insignificant producer of harmful emissions. In addition, most herdsmen are also husbanding trees which are scrubbing far more CO2 than their herds produce.
If you truly want to help the environment … if you TRULY think this has to be done … then support the construction of Nuclear Power Plants. Ban the destruction of efficient agriculture production by drowning the best soil behind Hydro Electric Dams. Support electrical power production by wind and tide. Ban coal and fuel powered generation facilities.
True, there is considerable opposition to nuclear power. However, this opposition has no support in logic. It is not as clean, theoretically speaking at least, as wind and tide generation, but is nevertheless comparatively friendly to the environment.
The most common argument against nuclear power is the resultant waste production and the need to store that production. However, all the waste produced by Ontario Hydro’s many nuclear plants since their inception in the late 1950s is stored in an unused bay at the Bruce generation station. This ‘large pile of waste’ can barely be distinguished from the door of the bay.
I believe the true reason for opposition to nuclear power is from the heart and not the mind. The first use of this technology was to construct military weapons of destruction. The resultant death of tens of thousands of people was devastating to the continuation of that technological development and its acceptance by the general public.
Is our fear for our environment and our world well founded? Is it greater than an illogical fear of nuclear waste?
Perhaps one should take a second look at the definitions for ‘omnivorous’ and make use of what we have available.
What’s that about discretion?
It’s your decision to turn off the lights you’re not using. Now get up and go do it.
You can choose to have nuclear power or coal dust and smog.
You can choose to be the star of the hockey team or you can sit on the bench.
You can help clean up the atmosphere or you can rail on about things that will make virtually no difference.
Go to and learn something.
It’s all at your discretion.