Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse Watching: can you read these warnings

No doubt there will be folks who look at the eclipse today without protecting their eyes.  And it won't because they didn't comprehend all the safety warnings.

Don't look at the sun directly. Ever           0.9th grade level      Age 5.9

Don’t look directly at the sun today.         4th grade   Age 9

Don’t look directly at the sun today during the eclipse.         7th grade   Age 12

Don't look up with your eyes uncovered. And no, sunglasses won't help you either, in fact they could be worse.     3rd grade    Age 8.1

Be Smart: A Partial Eclipse Can Fry Your Naked Eyes      3.7  grade    Age 8.7

Why you absolutely cannot stare at the sun without
eclipse glasses.       9.1 grade    age 14.

(I used the approximate Flesch Kincaid Score )

Friday, August 18, 2017

Confederate Monuments Through the Filter Bubble

Search engines, algorithms and simply selective reading essentially result in each of us consuming information that tells a consistent story with a consistent viewpoint.  We are seeing and consuming less and less information that disagrees or contradicts our viewpoints.

That’s the filter bubble we each live in and continues to make communicating with eachother possible.

Here’s a  24 hr. glimpse at the Confederate monument removal story through filter bubbles: 

Fox News

Friday, August 4, 2017

Trump the linguist

Does anyone else find President Trump’s new-found respect for language strange and ironic.  Overnight he finds himself quite comfortable with setting linguistic competencies for the nation!  This coming from someone who doesn’t complete most of his sentences and whose impoverished repertoire of descriptives is “beautiful,  "right” “tremendous” and “fake”.  

Thursday Pres. Trump declared that only people who speak English should be allowed into the US. 
And last night, at a Trump rally, the Governor of W. Va. was talking about the new White House Chief of Staff, General Kelly, and actually boasted that Kelly was, 

This from a Governor who’s last name is “Justice.”!!

Enough!  Who made these guys arbiters of literacy and the spoken word? It's not bad enough that Trump has lowered the bar for lucid, grammatical dialogue -  now this administration is implicating language and literacy in the service of overtly bigoted and xenophobic political statements?  OK.  That sentence was a mouthful, but seriously. 

Oh, and Governor, the former Chief of Staff’s name is,

                                  Reince Priebus

                                     Rīns  Prē - bus

Friday, July 28, 2017

Zika is Now Local in Texas: So What?

A story in the NYT today is interesting if you're following the public's understanding of Zika.
First the headline - 

Case of Zika Virus, Likely Spread by Mosquito, Is Reported in Texas

I can just hear someone saying :
"But what's the big deal?  We already know mosquitos spread Zika"

But it's the central message of the story that got me thinking. 
 It reads: 

Given the publics' understanding of medical/epi terms I'm certain the significance of this "local" transmission is either confusing or simply skipped over by the reader. 

The word "local" in this case signifies that this person in Texas didn't get infected elsewhere (outside of Texas/US) and then come home sick.  Rather, and very importantly,  the person got infected in Texas. Therefore there is a mosquito flying around Texas with the Zika virus. 
It would be so helpful (and quite simple)  if the media could explain this early and often. 

Reminds me of the ubiquitous use of "storm surge" in media weather reports and alerts before Hurricane Sandy in NYC.  Us city slickers don't necessarily know that storm surge is a dangerous, potentially catastrophic wall of water they're telling us about. 

Risk of losing health insurance: does this map help?

There's an article and a large map appearing in the NYT today that I'm having trouble interpreting.

The headline for the article reads:

How Many People Across America Are at 

Risk of Losing Their Health Insurance?

Then the map:

But is the number of people in red in each state the number of people who are at "risk of losing their health insurance" or the number of people in a certain age group who enrolled in a certain period? 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

New York Animal Mysteriously Dropped From Wildlife List

There's a new public awareness campaign in NYC - WILDLIFE NYC

Red-tail Hawks
Piping Plovers
        Piping Plovers!!! for pete's sake.

What's not to LOVE about the WildlifeNYC campaign sponsored by Department of Parks and Recreation -  to increase public awareness about the wildlife all around us in the city. Feel good photos, hyper-anthropomorphized descriptions of New Yorkers with fur and feathers.   
But what isn't part of the campaigns is so obvious. 
Specimen #1- the New Yorker known as the raccoon- the campaign presents raccoons as adorable, inventive, lil' rascals.  
Ha? I grew up in NY and raccoons have always been demonized. Public health officials have done quite a job in scaring us away for generations. Raccoons, one of the top three carriers of rabies in the state of New York! (More about this in a future post).

Specimen #2 -total silence about the most ubiquitous species of wildlife in NYC!  We're mystified how the campaign can neglect the most populous species of urban wildlife. So, just putting it out there. 


Describe New Yorkers 
Numbered in the millions? Always on the move? Resourceful. Good in crowds and used to tight spots.  How about  - highly adaptable and determined to withstand whatever the city dishes out?  Real estate junkies - housing is always on their minds and they grow very attached to their neighborhoods. And let’s not forget - lovers of nightlife, the outdoor café scene.  

Well that certainly does describe New York City brown and black rats to a t.  One of New York’s species of wildlife!

Talk about "give us your tired and poor..." NYC rats are immigrants extraordinaire! Experts believe that NYC's rats migrated from northern China. And they have travelled the world.  Except for Antarctica, these rats dominate the rat populations in Europe and North America.  It’s no surprise that our very own NYC rats are often called the most successful mammals on the planet!!   (Thank you Encyclopedia of Life

They make cute babies. 

Full gown they are brown or grey with a body up to 10 inches long.  Their hairless tails can be that long too. Males weigh about 12 oz and females a bit less 9 oz.  

Like so many of us, NYC rats are creatures of habit.  They stay close to their birthplace all of their lives and travel familiar paths as they make their way 'round town.  They can squeeze through holes or gaps the size of a quarter.  How do these remarkable animals do that? Evolution has made sure that their skulls are not plated together so their skull bones can easily move - perfect to squeeze through the city's tight spaces. 

They're super jumpers - they can leap about 4 ft.  And always handy in a city of tall buildings, they can fall five floors, get up dust themselves off and get on with things.  Great swimmers - they can tread water for days.   
Oh, and rats don't really practice birth control.  (Thanks Wikipedia -

To close let's point out, like so many New Yorkers, these rats are  always on the lookout for great food.