Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recreation Bond Craters at the Polls

According to the Daily Post, the Rec Bond crashed and burned. But its not like we don't have options up here. Just walk out the door and find them. Its hard to live in a house in Los Alamos that doesn't let you trip and fall over a trail as soon as you walk out the door. Plus, there are ball fields, tennis courts, multiple swimming pools, mountains to hike, a wonderful equestrian facility, and other stuff.

That doesn't mean we can't still develop more recreational resources and those are good things as long as we have the means to take care of what we have. It just means we need to do so in a normal budgetary manner based on normal revenue streams, rather than borrowing twenty million bucks for non-essential projects.  Stay tuned.

Back when Richard Hannemann had an active political blog, he often said that some in Los Alamos always want us to be something we are not rather than something we are. I think he was right. We are so goddamn spoiled up here.  We gotta keep up with (or more likely, we have to out-do in honor of our Uncle Sam generated wealth) the Joneses and every other Tom, Dick, and Harry community as far as recreational facilities even though most or all of those communities can't hold a candle to our natural recreational resources.

As far as one of those trails one can trip over, here, below, is one of my favorites: The trail out to the end of Kwage Mesa, which I can get to by riding out the front door and enduring a couple minutes of Mr. Pavement as I struggle mightily to get to singletrack.

So, go ride your bike.

End of Kwage Mesa Trail. Pic taken recently, once I got my arm (and ass) out of their respective slings. Life is pretty darn good up here on The Hill.

Friday, May 19, 2017

County Bike To Work Day - POSTPONED

Bike to Snow Day....


Due to the weather the event is cancelled for today and Postponed for a future date TBD.  We’ll get together in the next week to discuss.  Thanks for everyone’s help today.


Dianne M. Marquez, CPRE, CIRM
Los Alamos County Parks, Recreation & Open Space Division
Recreation Programs Manager / Ice Rink Manager

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Elderly Los Alamos Woman Beaten And Robbed

Where is Detective Mick Belker when you need him?
Credit: Getty Images/NBC
 In an incredibly pissed off state, I'm taking the liberty to post this off of Carol's newsblog in its entirety to give it more exposure. If anyone has information on the two fucktard thugs in question, please contact LAPD. And if you are on your bicycle (or not), keep an eye on the well being of our older folks.

And, watch out for each other out there.

A Los Alamos woman in her 80s was followed home from Smith’s Marketplace Saturday afternoon, May 13, by two women and beaten and robbed outside her garage. She has asked to remain anonymous.

In an interview with the Los Alamos Daily Post, the victim said that while she was getting ready to put her purchases into the trunk of her car in the Smith’s parking lot, a young woman asked if she could help her. The victim said she declined the help but the young woman insisted.

After the young woman left, the victim said got into her car, stowed her cane and placed her purse on the passenger’s seat. Soon after, she said the young woman tapped on the passenger side window and asked if she could have 50 cents. The victim opened her purse in full view of the young woman, took out her billfold and gave the young woman 50 cents from the coin pocket.

The victim drove home and parked in her driveway. As she began to unload her purchases, a different woman appeared beside her and asked for help in finding Taos Street. The victim said she tried to explain how to get to Taos Street and the woman left. Shortly thereafter the victim said she saw a reflection in her glasses of a woman lunging toward her. When she turned around, she said the woman slammed her head against the lid of the trunk. The victim said she screamed and kicked her attacker repeatedly in the crotch area.
“Then she hauled off and slugged me in the face with her fist,” the victim said. “This weakened me and allowed her to get my large heavy purse off my arm. Then she ran off down my driveway.”

The victim said she slid to the ground and was unable to get up, so she screamed for about 20 minutes until a teenage girl who was walking a dog in the area heard her and ran to render assistance. The teen helped the victim up and took her inside her home. The teen had found the victim’s billfold on the sidewalk near the victim’s home. None of her bank cards were missing, but some $300 in cash was missing along with her social security card. Police and medical personnel arrived at her home, attended to her and began an investigation.

The next morning, a woman walking on Venado Street found the victim’s purse and some items from the purse and returned them to her. The victim said she has extensive bruising on her face and that the inside of her mouth is cut.

“There are lots of nice people in this town,” she said. “Two people who didn’t know me helped me. The police officer who investigated the situation came back to check on me later with his wife and family and they had baked cookies for me.”

Los Alamos Police Det. Sgt. James Rodriguez said today that the case is still under investigation. He said he believes there were two suspects who followed the victim to her home, because the woman who struck her, got into the passenger side of the vehicle on the street and that she called out to someone, “I got it, I got it,” as she moved away from the victim. Rodriguez said he is working with the Smith’s loss prevention department and viewing video of people of interest.

Rodriguez recommends that senior make friends with neighbors who can watch out for them as they come and go. He said seniors allow Smith’s employees to accompany them to their vehicles and assist them with loading their purchases. He said everyone should look around before exiting their vehicle and be aware of their surroundings. 
Anyone with any information on this incident should call the Los Alamos Police Department at 505.662.8222.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bike To Work Day Is On In Los Alamos County

 As noted on the flyer the County plans on having Coffee and other refreshments at the Municipal Building for the commute to work. LANL is also on board and will have an event at the Oppenheimer Study Center. See the flyer below for details.

Over lunch the County staff supporting this are gathering at Ashley Pond for a community bike ride and will  have tables set-up for the local bike shop to hand out information, one regarding the proposed flow trail and Urban Bike paths, as well as bike safety literature.  County will be serving lunch after the ride.

If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to contact Parks and Open Space Division 662-8170
Here you go if you want a flyer to print out. Click to enlarge.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Checks Out

"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig

Robert Pirsig is off to his next long ride over the horizon, as reported in the New York Times.

I was finishing up a master's thesis and writing my Ph.D. proposals when a colleague, Dr. Marty Fisk, also working in Don Lindsley's Experimental Petrology Lab, suggested I read Pirsig's book as a great explanation of the scientific method. It was a great description, as was Pirsig's description of the inner struggles he had with finding himself after electroshock therapy and his single-minded passion of understanding Quality.

“The Buddha, the Godhead,” Pirsig writes, “resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower.”

 I had my own brain dysfunction back then, in part due to being launched over a Volkswagen Beetle, sans bicycle helmet, by a wayward motorist and finding myself unable to know whether I was looking at equations upside down or right-side up. There were preexisting conditions as well. So perhaps reading Pirsig's novel was therapy for me as I rewired my mental facilities and started a new dissertation topic. All the while noting, as I do now, that the scientific method is present as Pretty Damn Good Guidance whether one is studying rocks, thinking about transportation planning, unraveling the secrets driving one's own mental demons, or tearing down a motorcycle engine.  I still have Pirsig's book and am sorry to see him check out. Way smarter than me and a great role model.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

March for Science, a Short Sequel

Somewhat blurry as I tried to zoom too much
Gah. Get back home and find out that Michele Scarponi was put six feet under by an inattentive van driver while riding his bike near his home in Italy a day after the Tour de Alps. One of the nicest guys in the pro peloton.

As far as the March? It was well attended and from the show of hands, a lot of scientists were there. One would hope that science was detached from partisanship but given that the pols who attended and spoke were Democrats, its hard to escape the idea that the politicization of science will be with us for a while. Indeed, Mayor Gonzales started out on the right foot bringing attention to all the scientific organizations near and dear to Santa Fe, but then went off on a monologue on how we should all vote for the sugar tax. My wife reminded me that this was an excellent opportunity for a stump speech. I suppose...

 Certainly there is plenty to be said about overindulgence in sugar, corn syrup, and the like. There are plenty of papers out there on Type II diabetes and its drivers, which include some things we can't control (genetics) and some we can (diet and exercise). An excellent use of the rally in discussing the question of why we want to influence people's dietary habits would have been to discuss the nutritional science behind the hazards of eating too much junk food and drink laced with processed sugar. I think we should have left the politics to speak for itself. How to influence people, whether by carrots or sticks or appealing to enlightened self-interest (or a combination) is a policy decision and often a messy one.  I would prefer to do it with continuing education rather than a blunt instrument like another sin tax but if the public is paying for health care, the public has an interest in healthier people. But that is not a science problem.

"Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty: some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.” R. Feynman

A few people got it. Hint.
The purpose of an event like this should be to make connections with the general public to show how science helps solve problems and identifies the way the world works from the standpoint of the scientific method. It is not a guarantee of always finding answers to problems, i.e. TV science, or of finding answers without significant uncertainties (see Judith Curry's "uncertainty monster" essays) but of using the scientific method to try to understand problems as well as we can. Without some care, rallies turn into advocacy for positions on public policy rather than discussions of the way that science illustrates the reasons we need to address problems and make policy decisions. That's where it becomes partisan. Todd Ringler said it better than I can in his speech at the March in Santa Fe:

"...As climate scientists our job is to provide — to the best of our ability — a clear description of how the Earth will change with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. Now I kind of thought that we had an understanding between climate scientists and policy makers. We study the problem, we build theories, we gather observations, we produce projections — you know, we do what scientists do. Then, policy makers — our politicians — would act on this information to craft legislation in the best interest of all of us. Scientists and politicians — hand in hand — each serving society in their own way..." --Dr. Todd Ringler

More from Todd here, if you are a science geek.

Oh, and I did see some people who bicycled to the rally but it was too crowded to get a picture. We parked by the house in Casa Solana and got there via shoe leather express.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

In Honor of Upcoming Earth Day: Are Science and Politics Immiscible Quantities?

 “Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” the scholar Tom Nichols writes in his timely new book, “The Death of Expertise.” “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: No longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every opinion on any subject is as good as any other.”  --"The Death of Expertise Explores How Ignorance Became a Virtue", book review by Michiko Kaukutani in the NY Times.

Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty—some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.” --Richard Feynman, 1988

A couple things made me want to write a short essay on science v politics in light of the upcoming March for Science. One topic came up in the Legislature and one in the Santa Fe New Mexican. Here are the two issues. Both involved mixing science and politics in a way that was not honest to the science. For science to be representing itself as objective, it has to be safely insulated from politically driven outcomes. One has to be willing to gore one's own ox.

I worked quite a bit with Stephanie Garcia-Richard on HB-50 this term. As anyone who has followed the North Mesa Mutts blog knows, I was critical of the bill she pre-filed and worked to craft a bill that would not be so polarizing. By the time a less onerous bill was introduced, it was too late to make any difference. But the science issue was the skewing of discussion by making invalid comparisons. Everytown for Gun Safety and to some degree our representative claimed that states with universal background check laws have a roughly 50% lower rate of domestic violence homicides and shootings of police.  But even the sympathetic Politifact only gave that a rating of "half-true" and glossed over critical issues.

Politifact considered "background checks" in 14 states, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania. But this comparison is false on its face.  These fourteen states differ in sociology, gun ownership rates, and in having quite different sets of gun laws (for a review of state gun laws, go here). All but two have extremely restrictive gun laws. For example, permits to purchase and heavy restrictions on handgun ownership are present in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York, most of which have "may issue" handgun permitting laws (i.e., a law enforcement official can deny a permit application not on the basis of an applicant's qualifications but on a poorly defined law enforcement opinion of your suitability). A Firearms Owner Identification Card is required in Illinois. Etc. Finally, the before/after study of  gun laws v gun crime in Connecticut involved the imposition of both a background check and permit to purchase system.

So the idea that gun violence in these states only differed because of having or not having universal background check laws is inaccurate and the resulting assumption that background checks are the only state to state differences falsely insinuates that any differences in homicide rates are due to background checks.  Even a partial reading of the literature (which is all I had time for this year) suggests that a background check law like suggested by HB50 may have a small but measurable effect on gun violence by putting one more roadblock between prohibited persons and guns. It would be a roadblock, not a wall.

The ‘March for Science’ is a good reminder not to take for granted the interactions between science, society and public policy, and that ignoring them or not investing in them can have significant consequences. But it also emphatically reminds the science community that it too must respect and engage with the ever-evolving contract between science and society. Marching may be seen as one way of engaging, but it cannot replace the harder work of making ourselves available, making our work relevant and making science difficult to ignore – not just on April 22.
Prof. Sir Peter Gluckman, Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, New Zealand, 

Another bit of political science was played by former Los Alamos resident Tony Heller in a recent New Mexican article. But his article is weak. After disputing the value of using polls of scientists to decide topics regarding climate change, Tony tells us that "...There are tens of thousands of scientists who agree with (EPA Secretary Scott) Pruitt’s questions about human impact...". So really. Do we decide these things on poll v poll? Do we even know the credentials of who was polled?

The real issue where we can likely get consensus in the geophysical and geochemical community is that massively increasing CO2 in the atmosphere over pre-industrial (but post-Pleistocene) levels will affect climate sufficiently to impact human activities. The question is how much, and at what cost to adapt or mitigate. On that topic, in a recent paper discussing the uncertainty of climate calculations and the resulting effects on mitigation, Yoichi Kava, Mitsutsune Yamaguchi, and Keigo Akimoto review the present state of uncertainty on climate sensitivity to CO2 and note that in going from AR4 to AR5 (i.e., the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 4th and 5th assessments of climate change)  the consensus value for equilibrium (not transient) climate sensitivity ("ECS") to CO2 went from an estimated range of 2.0-4.5 deg C per atmospheric CO2 doubling to 1.5-4.5 deg C. Lewis and Curry put the range considerably lower (see discussion in their link). But its the uncertainty that kills planning. The authors show a graph of their estimated abatement costs to keep the equilibrium temperature from rising more than 2 deg C (i.e., the Paris accords) for a climate sensitivity value of 3 deg v 2.5 deg per doubling. The cost estimates for the two sensitivities differ by roughly an order of magnitude when run out to the half-century. There are undoubtedly other calculations out there as well; I'm not trying to cherry-pick. This is a blog, not a research paper.

Figure 2 from Kava et al.

Imagine wanting to buy a house and not knowing if the total costs of home ownership were $250,000 or 2.5 million dollars. Now, imagine yourself a politician trying to decide on a path forward on climate policy using those same economic uncertainties. Small wonder that folks want to believe the version of science that fits their own interests.

The problem is, underestimating climate sensitivity could be a disaster. If climate sensitivity is on the low side, then even if we overshoot emissions the results could  be quite manageable in terms of sea level rise and other modelled changes. As Judith Curry has said on her blog, if reality conforms to the high sensitivity tail of the various climate model's uncertainties (and note these are all forward projecting models) the resulting costs would likely be very high.  For a recent, real world example of underestimating Ma Nature, one has to only look at the Fukushima disaster. TEPCO built a 20 foot seawall because it underestimated the highest likely tsunami. Ma Nature handed the company a 45 foot tsunami. The rest is history. Imagine a disaster like that on a global scale. So it is prudent for the industrialized and industrializing nations to be light on the carbon emissions throttle as we think are way through this research. We can't run climate in reverse.

"The truth knocks on the door and you say, ‘Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling." -- Robert M. Pirsig 

There was an excellent article in a recent New York Times about the Death of Expertise. We need to know the difference between "facts" (i.e., careful observations and well grounded, properly qualified interpretations) and fiction. We may not like the reality that "facts" tell us, but its the real facts that matter, not the fiction. Plus, we may often have to make decisions on facts that are not known very well but nonetheless contain useful, factual information. But in so doing, science needs to be science, not politics while policy makers need to act on the basis of trust in what scientists are telling them, fully realizing that we can't know everything.  Kava et al say it best in closing:

"It is clear...that the impact of a mere 0.5 °C difference in climate sensitivity is of critical significance for policy objectives, which is especially significant given the large uncertainties over climate sensitivity. It is scientific community’s vital role to narrow the uncertainty range of ECS. At the same time it is critically important for policymakers in Paris to know that they are in a position to make decisions under large uncertainty of ECS."