Friday, May 31, 2013

Poor vs Broke

I heard a man talking to his kids on day.  The snip of conversation went like this:

Kid:  "Dad, are we poor?"

Dad:  "Nope, we're not poor.  We're just broke."

And this started me thinking.  Every month it seems I set down in a budget council with my boss (wife) and we discuss where all the money is going to go for the next few paychecks.  Most of these council sessions end up with us selecting some priorities that get pushed off of the budget.  (This means we don't spend money on them for those of you in Washington D.C. Try it some time.)

Spending all of the money, or allocating it to things like food, and rent and car repairs doesn't mean I am poor. Poor is when there is no money. Broke just means we have reactively spend money on what must be spent on. (Being in debt is a form of broke.) The spending items become prioritized and sometimes some priorities don't get any money on them in a paycheck. (This doesn't mean I don't want to spend money on them.)

But I look around the community of America, and I see people that think like this child.  They think they are poor.  They think this because they think whenever they can't afford what they want, that it is a form of poverty. This is false understanding of the world.

As an American, I live in a truly rich nation.  And if you have the time and they ability to read this blog, chances are that you do too. Why? Because as much as I like this blog, it is not an essential.  It is not, food, shelter and clothing.

Missing essentials is poverty.

If you live in a place where there are no shoes to buy, or no houses, or no food.  This is a poor place.  The essentials are missing. No matter how much money you have, you can't buy something that is not on the shelves of the store.

How much you like something does not determine if it is an essential. Food to sustain life is an essential. (Chocolate is not an essential, sorry.) Clothing and Shelter to protect yourself from the environment and keep you healthy is an essential. (Clothing from Abercrombie and Fitch is not an essential.) Drinkable water is essential. (A 2 liter of your favorite soda is not an essential)

Entertainment is not an essential  The internet is not an essential. Almost everything you spend money on is not an essential.

We live in such a rich nation, our homeless have cell phones.

We live in such a rich nation that we don't worry about starvation, we just worry about hunger.

There are no poor here, only the misinformed. (And those bad at budgeting.) And that is most of us.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Prescription Lenses

Let me start by saying that I think we have the best healthcare system in the world here in the US, and that includes those in the optometry field. But I have a slight issue with the way we treat prescriptions for contact lenses. Here is my story.

I began wearing glasses when I was 11 years old. When I was 19, I spent two years in South Korea. While I was there, I decided to get contact lenses. So I went down to a place where they could be purchased cheaply, the open market. (Open Market is not like a free market, it is a street or field where people setup carts and sell stuff off of them to customers. If you go back the next day because you were not satisfied with your product, the seller might not be there.)

At the open market, I found a seller of contacts. He looked at my glasses to get the prescription, and then asked me if I could read with them. He then sold me two contacts and some saline. I wore these for two years.

But back in the states when I tell this story to eye doctors, (which I do to get their reaction) they react with something akin to horror. As if I were buying Viagra off the internet. (To which no one seems to react with horror these days.) And here in the states I have to get a new prescription each year, even though the one from last year is the same, so that I can continue to legally by contacts. And each time they look at my eyes and do tests to tell me that my eyes are still fine, I still don't have glaucoma, or cataracts, or any other eye disease or damage.

Of course I know this because unlike my blood pressure I literally have to look my self in the eye every day to get my contacts in. (except for some that I can wear for a whole week, but then it is still every week.) And I will know before anyone else if my eyes start to worsen, feel bad, or give me pain. But I still can't get more than a years worth of contacts, (some states let me go 2 years, thank you! (sarc)) without a doctor telling me that my eyes don't hurt.

Really people. They are my eyes. I pay good money to be able to see out of them. Do you really think that would do that and then not care if my vision blurs or my eyes start to have pain?

Yes, eye health is important. But so is foot health. Lots of people wear shoes that contribute to back pain and other problems. Some women wear shoes that produce long term damage to their feet and legs. Why don't they have to get a prescription for shoes?

To be clear, I am not advocating prescription shoes.

Glasses and contacts are not something that I put inside my body. They are something that I wear on the outside. And the eye is a sensitive organ that will let me know when there is a problem. I think that I should be able to buy glasses and contact of any prescription, size, color, etc that I want to just like I can buy shoes. I will know if they don't fit or are not comfortable as soon as I put them on and try to use them.

And I am not advocating that we don't need eye doctors.

Having eye doctors allow me to see and I am very grateful that they exist. I like to see. I plan on using my eyes the rest of my life. But I don't think that I should be held to a yearly visit if I can still see. It just seem like a waste of time and money. (Time may be money, but they are not interchangeable  Try buying more time and see what happens.)

Friday, May 17, 2013

Testing the Science of Global Warming

Once upon a time, I studied physics and chemistry (chemistry was my original major in college). As aspiring scientists, we did more than just read facts written by experienced and learned scientists, we made our own observations, and formed hypothesis, designed and conducted experiments, recorded our results and concluded whether our hypothesis was true or not.

There was another thing that we did in our lab reports. We recorded areas where our experiments may have had errors. Some of these were routine.  Things like test tubes might not have been sterile, variances in room temperature and so forth.  Some were very specific to what we were doing.  Not being able to reuse a sample for our tests was always frustrating. And if you looked hard enough on any experiment, you could find areas where measurements or results could have been influenced by an outside factor. If you couldn't find these, then you weren't looking hard enough. And we lost points if we didn't list these in our report.

Here is how this works. If we designed an experiment to study the average speed of marathon runners.  And we decide to do this, starting two thirds of the way through the race.  Can we get data to do this?

Lets see, we can pick a runner, and retrieve his check in time at the various check points along the course.  This will give us the historical time and distance references.  Then we can graph the results and show a nice flat line with little change in speed between the checkpoints.

Now the race isn't over yet.  We have miles left to go. And the University has given us another tool other than a calculator and a stop watch. We have a radar gun so that we can get the exact speed of a runner at a given moment in time.  This is great for us because we can get more samples of speed instead of having to rely on check point time records.

So we start to setup at a variety of places.  They just happen to be next to water stations along the route.  And we find an alarming trend. All of the runners are slowing down in all of our new reading.  Even the fast runners are slowing and it looks like that if this trend continues all of the runners will be finishing the marathon at a walk.

We even graph our data and show it to people with a nice downward hockey stick shape.  We have a slowing trend across the entire set of competitors.

But is there something wrong with this method?  Aren't getting more samples of speed making our experiment more accurate?

Obviously two things are wrong.  First, we have changed our method of reading speed. Changing this method makes our readings uncomparable and my professors would have thrown out my results and made be go back and do the test again.  Second, there is a bit of lazyness in everyone, and setting up next to the water stations may have seemed like a smart move for the speed taker, but it adds an environmental factor that is negatively influencing runners speed.  That is slowing down to get water, or being slowed by others that are getting water.

I was curious.  So I looked about and found that to get an atmospheric C02 level for times in the past, we go to ice core samples.  We then crush them and use gas chromatography to find the composition of the atmosphere.  Okay, stay with me.

I then looked up how to get CO2 readings from the atmosphere today.  Guess what.  They don't involve getting ice cores.  They are taking direct measurements.  Yes, this gives us more samples, and can give us better results of the CO2 concentration, but the comparative measures should not be related. (stopwatch and radar gun comparison)

Why does this matter?  Aren't we still talking about how much CO2 is in the atmosphere?  Shouldn't testing the air trapped in the ice give you a good enough reading?  Nope, remember the Marathon checkpoints and the radar gun measurements, where we put the guys with the radar right next to the water.  Our ice core samples come from areas of the world with ice.  (I know that sounds obvious.)  So it stands to reason that the air trapped in them comes from those areas.

But where are we getting our current temperatures?  Why from all over the world, replies NOAA, NASA, and other organizations.  And this sounds good until you realize that "all over the world" includes the observatory on Mauna Loa, a volcano in Hawaii.  (No ice, and volcanoes have a habit of emitting lots of CO2.)

This is why we examine our experiments and see what could skew our results.  Changing the method of collecting measurements, and the locations of the measurements can skew the results. It makes the data hard to understand. And it gives us reasons to doubt the results and conclusions based on looking at this mixed method data.

When we are looking at something important like our climate change, it is necessary to stick to like data, and like methods and not mix and match apples and oranges. The failure to do this casts dirt on the claims of the scientists that present them. Its why I keep giving the global warming predictions a failing grade.

In fairness, climate is something that we should seriously study. And it matters if there is a warming trend. But before we start making claims that we can prove something, we need to get our science in order.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

To Mothers

Sometimes I go to say something simple like, "Happy Mother's Day" and instead a poem comes out.  So I thought I would share with y'all the poem that came out today.

Mothers are a special gift
They bring the world such joy
They are the first friends that we know
And love each girl and boy.

Mothers are a special strength
They guide us as we grow
They hold are hands and kiss our pain
The first love that we know.

Mothers are a special light
They help us really see
They don't just show us who we are
But who we all might be.
by roy hayward. 
May 12th 2013