Dittoheads and Socialists

I have to say, it’s been a long time since I felt like the Democrats did anything politically savvy, but I think running with the recent re-branding of Rush Limbaugh as the head of the GOP qualifies.  Incredibly both Fox and the Huffington Post seem almost to agree on the substance of the story: the GOP is currently in disarray, and searching for leadership.  The dittohead masses that follow Limbaugh are a big enough voting bloc that the party’s current nominal spokesmen cannot be seen to oppose him too much outright, lest he savage them from his bully pulpit.

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Not All Capital is Fungible

There are only two real pools of capital: alternatively natural or human, external or internal, material or informational.

Natural (external, material) capital is the pre-existing wealth of the world, which was not dependent on our organization or existence: the metals we mine, the trees, the fresh water, the fisheries, solar energy, the fossil fuels, the potential for agricultural produce (as a co-location of soil, water, and climate).  Human (internal, informational) capital is the value inherent in technology, skill, organization, understanding, and knowledge.

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Notes on Biking in Pasadena

Here’s what I sent to Ryan Snyder, regarding my routes and destinations.  Send him your routes too!  (update 2009-02-26: my emails to this address have been bouncing, others have not had problems, but another address for Ryan Snyder is: ryansnyder [at] ca (dot) rr (dot) com.)

As several other people also pointed out, a big problem with Pasadena’s bikeways currently is that they pay very little heed to which roads are actually pleasant and safe to ride on.  Here are some notes on the routes I use, and avoid.  I’m an experienced cyclist, and have always used a bike as my exclusive mode of transportation (didn’t get a driver’s license until I was 25…).  I live at 200 S. Parkwood Ave. (near the intersection of Del Mar and Allen).

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Pasadena Bicycle Master Plan Workshop Notes

Update August 4th, 2009: The BMP revision is taking longer than initially planned. See this post and the comments from Rich Dilluvio for more information.

Pasadena is starting the process of revising its Bicycle Master Plan, so that it can continue to be eligible for funding from the Caltrans Bicycle Transportation Account.  I went to the first public workshop last night to find out what the revision process was going to be like, and what kinds of things the City is considering.  Overall, it was a very positive experience.  About 75 people showed up, many more than I (or, I think, the organizers) expected, including a bunch of folks from Caltech and JPL.  The consultant who’s actually writing the plan, Ryan Snyder, has worked on a lot of other bike and pedestrian plans, and was familiar with the kinds of infrastructure you see in northern Europe, and the bike boulevard projects in Berkeley, Portland, and Vancouver.  To his credit Rich Dilluvio, the Pasadena Dept. of Transportation guy in charge of bike and pedestrian projects, chose to put together an advisory committee composed of people who actually bike, to represent the interested citizenry, see below for names.

This initial meeting was mostly just to introduce the people who are going to be involved, and outline the schedule and process.  There will be at least four other workshops, and most of the participants can be contacted electronically if you prefer.  A signup for the Bicycle Master Plan e-mail list was passed around.  If you want to be notified of developments and future workshops, e-mail Rich (see below) and he can add you.  If you can’t make it to the workshops, or would just prefer to do something else with your evenings, please still feel free to contact Ryan Snyder, Rich, or the members of the Advisory Committee with your concerns, needs, questions, or any other kind of input.  In particular, Ryan specifically requested that people who ride in Pasadena, give him a list of the roads that are actually good for biking on – regardless of whether they are currently designated bike routes.

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I Was the Victim of a Series of Accidents

Kurt Klein “wonders how liberals rationalize a Secretary of the Treasury who cheated on his taxes ($34,000–oops! rounding error)”.  Well, here’s how I would do it.  Not that I’d necessarily want to be called a liberal:

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Francis Collins has no evidence for God

I can’t say that I’m surprised, but what Francis Collins presented in his talk last night at Caltech as constituting evidence for God’s existence was utterly unconvincing.  However, what he said and the questions which followed were vastly better framed, less offensive, and in some important respects much closer to the truth than the talk that Richard Dawkins gave at Caltech in 2006 when he was touring for his book The God Delusion (which was ultimately so unpleasant and ill conceived that even I, an atheist who basically agrees with Dawkins’ criticisms of religion, am unable to recommend it).  You can watch or listen to an earlier version of Collins’ talk on the Veritas Forum website.  It’s in support of his own book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

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Francis Collins at Caltech and the future of genomic medicine

Went to Francis Collins’ afternoon talk “fireside chat” with David Baltimore on the future of medicine, as illuminated by genomic work.  Too much introduction and rambling biographical information, but some good discussion anyway.  I thought his best comments had to do with the positive effects of the open data model that the Human Genome project initiated – it’s had a long lasting impact on the entire field of genomics, and thank goodness!  Also, he mentioned that as of now, there aren’t any major studies seeking to correlate and analyze the relationships between genotypes, phenotypes, and environment in the human population, and that such a study is really what’s needed to truly understand what’s actually heritable, what our real low frequency (rare allele) genetic variation is like, and what kinds of effects environmental factors play.  He pointed out, interestingly, that we don’t need to wait until thousand dollar genomes are available to start this study – what we need to do is get people signed up, and start tracking their health history and environmental factors, and we can sequence them when it becomes cheap enough.  He suggested that we ought to do this for roughly 500,000 people, and that it would likely cost on the order of half a billion dollars a year, and need to run for a few decades.  And then we’d know, and medicine would be forever changed.  He also suggested that those $1000 genomes are likely on the order of 5 years away.  Really, once we’ve got fast, cheap sequencing – this study will almost do itself, so long as we can at some point get access to the medical histories and genomes of people.  The real value add is in starting it now, so we have the information as soon as possible, and in getting all the environmental/lifestyle data, in addition to the healthcare records.

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Denver RTD: ditch Amtrak people at Union Station

Dear Denver RTD,

I had the pleasure yesterday of riding my bike 19 miles from Lakewood to downtown Denver almost exclusively on cycling paths, all the way to Union Station, where I intended to catch a BX up to Boulder. I understand you are in the process of re-developing the old rail station to be a major multi-modal transit hub for the city, with a great deal of high density mixed use transit oriented development in the vicinity.  So far, it looks absolutely great, and I applaud you for working with the city and developers to continue central Denver’s urbanization in an intelligent way, and make long term investments in non-automotive transportation infrastructure for the region.  I am considering re-locating to the Denver area from Southern California when I finish my PhD, to work at the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, and the region’s excellent transit system is one of the reasons.  I prefer not to own a car or drive, for economic, fitness, and environmental reasons, and having high density mixed use developments and effective multi-modal transit options makes living without a car much more pleasant and convenient.

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