Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cassie Finishes The Birkie In Under Three Hours

Our daughter Cassandra skied in her second American Birkebeiner in northern Wisconsin this weekend...

The 50 kilometer (yes, 31 miles!) course stretched from Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin.  Her precise time was 2:57:13.1.  She placed 798 out of 3677 in Birkebeiner Skate.  Cassie was 83 out of 695 in Birkebeiner Skate Women. In her age group she was 21 out of 112.

It was a fine time...except for the cowbells.

Well done, Cassie!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What Islamist Terrorist Threat?

argues "Al Qaeda doesn't have what it takes to hurt America"

In her well-reasoned Op-Ed in The Daily, the world's first iPad newspaper, Dalmia asks if the $2 trillion dollar "Global War on Terror" has been a complete waste of treasure?  Have we expended the lives of 5000 American servicemen and women for little or no return?  She wonders aloud whether "post-9/11 security has made America invulnerable" or if "the Islamists never posed that a big threat to begin with?"  These are tough questions.  Shall we ignore them if they have unhappy answers?

Thanks for Bruce Schneier for the link to Dalmia's essay.

On a related note - strange and peripheral as it may be - the US Army ordered its PsyOps team in Afghanistan to apply its propaganda skills to influence to congressional delegations visiting Camp Eggers in Kabul.  That's illegal in case anyone cares...

Who is fighting who?

UPDATED TO ADD: Consider complimenting this quick read with this podcast of an excellent LSE panel titled The Changing Geostrategic Landscape in the Middle East.  We've got some thinking to do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Cultural Icon Bites the Dust in East Grand Forks, Minnesota

We note with some wistfulness that Whitey's Restaurant has been shuttered...

The real Whitey's in 1997, shortly after the end of its original run.

Actually, it's the post-flood Whitey's that has been closed.  The original bar and restaurant - "Whitey's Wonderbar" - which had operated since 1930 on the east bank of the Red River was destroyed by the flood in 1997.  That leaves Cabela's as the only reason to ever visit East Grand Forks, Minnesota (trust me on this).

But be of stout heart and good cheer, FxxxxxxG SxxxX fans!  At least the Red Pepper is still in operation.  Mmmn...nothing satisfies like a late night grinder - ham, double meat, double cheese, taco meat, and hot sauce.   Now there's fine dining!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Responding Thoughtfully to the Democratic Aspirations of the People

Bahrain..."Ur Doin' It Wrong!" 

Do the right thing.

Good luck!  Just do the right thing and you won't need luck.

UPDATED TO ADD: You too, Yemen.  Yo, Gaddafi, the entire world is tired of your BS; give some thought to retirement before it is forced upon you.  Fighter jet airstrikes on protesters?  And you wonder why you have protesters?  Too bad the rumor you'd fled to Venezuela was untrue.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Force of Bahrain, has found a way to respond to his people that does not involve gunning them down in the streets.  He has withdrawn the military from the streets and called for a national day of mourning.  The son succeeds where the father fails.  May we all have such good fortune in our lives.

Fundamentalism: A Swift Survey

It's a word that gets thrown around a lot, usually without much thought...

This lecture presented by Professor Zvi Ben-Dor Benite from New York University is a thoughtful introduction to the term fundamentalism, a study of its history, an examination of it dependence on the written word, and a thoughtful exegesis on its implications for ancient man and modern society.  Well worth a listen...

Gresham College was founded in 1597 for the express purpose of providing lectures to the public in the City of London.  Four centuries of public service; what a cool idea.  You can subscribe at their website or on iTunes.

What's That On His Facebook?

"I remember some horrible dream about smothering..."

Twice now the oh so helpful folks at Facebook offered to send invitations to persons in my email address book who were already Facebook members but with whom I was not yet befriended.  Twice they ransacked my entire address book and sent invitations to everyone, whether they had a Facebook account or not.  I hate it when that happens, but as they say:

"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Enough is enough.  Look for me here at the Eclectic Breakfast or at LinkedIn.  If you haven't tried LinkedIn yet you should; it's like Facebook for people with jobs.  If you want to cut back on your Facebook use here's a Nine Step Program.  If you want to delete your Facebook account here are some resources.

My apologies to any of you who received unwelcome solicitations from Facebook because I was so Zucking gullible.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Bruce is Working on a New Book!

He warned readers of Schneier on Security today that he'll be guinea-pigging some chapters on us over the coming months...

His precis begins as follows:

"Humans have a natural propensity to trust non-kin, even strangers. We do it so often, so naturally, that we don't even realize how remarkable it is. But except for a few simplistic counterexamples, it's unique among life on this planet. Because we are intelligently calculating and value reciprocity (that is, fairness), we know that humans will be honest and nice: not for any immediate personal gain, but because that's how they are. We also know that doesn't work perfectly; most people will be dishonest some of the time, and some people will be dishonest most of the time. How does society -- the honest majority -- prevent the dishonest minority from taking over, or ruining society for everyone? How is the dishonest minority kept in check? The answer is security -- in particular, something I'm calling societal security."

Not sure where he's going with this but it should be interesting.

If You Can’t Say Something Helpful Then Please Just Shut Up…

Stephen Hunter's ill-considered op-ed does the RKBA civil rights struggle no good at all.

The massacre in Tucson is not proof of the value of the 2nd Amendment. That tragedy, those perpetrated by Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech and Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood, and all the others, are examples of what our entire society must ultimately be prepared to tolerate in the interest of preserving the rights guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment.

Hunter's irrelevant utterances that gangland assassins have used extended magazines since forever, or that Cho and Hasan didn't use them (the standard magazine in Hasan's FN Five-Seven held only 20 cartridges after all), is of no comfort to anyone and marks Hunter as incredibly tone deaf to the emotions surrounding this issue.

Even those who take comfort in the mantra "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" understand that the specter of a mentally ill man intent on mayhem visiting a political gathering armed with a high capacity pistol, machine pistol magazines, and almost 100 cartridges hidden under his coat is a very bad thing.  It does not sell, not on either coast, not in the heartland, not among the faithful of any party, and not in the “court of public opinion.”  Nor should it.  Apart from the bravery demonstrated by those who jumped the shooter when he finally needed to change magazines, there is no upside in this story!

Hunter’s curious claim – that women and the elderly cannot be taught to shoot more effective rifles or shotguns and that a Glock 17 loaded with 33 round machine pistol magazines is a better defensive alternative – is testable. I predict Hunter would be proven wrong, but who cares? The gun is not the problem, remember?

When responsible gun ownership is described as bestowing some freedom from fear of violent attack many of our neighbors and countrymen “get it.”  Hunter is apparently sincere and is trying to be helpful, but his sermon is at best written to the choir of faithful fan boys who eagerly await his next sniper novel.  The vast majority of Americans who read the Washington Post are bound to look at this ill-advised and ill-timed essay and say “Who the hell is this guy?

I'll add, "Who is he trying to convince?"

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Faculty Development at Saint Mary's Rocks!

I can't believe we get all this marvelous training for free...

I love serving as an adjunct instructor at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota for many reasons - the wonderful students, the privilege of teaching topics I care deeply about, for the wisdom of my program director - Lora Setter, MA, and especially for the faculty development instruction offered to us on a regular basis.  Preparing effective instruction for adults calls for special techniques, tools, and mindset.  Sue Hines, EdD, is a master at showing us how to make use of these special methods.  She is gentle, generous, witty, and the model of the teacher I want to be.  Saint Mary's is making me a better instructor, a better student, and a better person, and paying me while they do it!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lead Poisoning Denialism?

Who on earth is in favor of lead poisoning?

Here's an email I sent to Marrett Grund, a MN DNR researcher who did a very interesting study of lead contamination of deer shot with a variety of different rifle, shotgun, and muzzleloader projectiles.  This work was an rapid response to a small study done in North Dakota (Cornatzer et al. 2007).  Grund and his team's work was originally posted at the MN DNR website in 2008 but their paper was finally published in the peer reviewed literature in 2010 (yes, peer reviewed science takes time).

Dear Dr. Grund,

A recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about eagles being treated for lead poisoning at the U of M Raptor Center (Klein, 2011) inspired me to do some more reading, first on the web, and now in the academic literature. In the course of my research I found your paper (Grund et al. 2010). As a sport hunter and a regular consumer of venison I found it very interesting. I am also a graduate student at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota where my study of leadership and problem solving has led me to examine the nature of strongly held belief and its consequences.

The Star Tribune article has led to a heated discussion on the rec.guns usenet group. I'd like to think of myself as a responsible hunter and a critical thinker, so I'm embarrassed by the amount of denialism being heaped by laypersons upon the scientific data. In the minds of "lead poisoning denialists" it is obvious to that every attempt to limit human introduction of lead into the environment during hunting and fishing is simply a thinly veiled attempt to ban hunting or firearms - therefore they can discredit the data, minimize its importance, or ignore it altogether. While I suppose anti-hunting and anti-gun groups are happy for any bump in our road I don't subscribe to this conspiracy theory. Still, there are some hunters who are interested in learning more about the issue and may be receptive to making voluntary changes.

Your 2010 paper was oriented primarily toward assessing the risk of lead contamination of deer and deer-sized animal as applies to human consumption of venison. In that regard I have a question. Your research demonstrates that rinsing the body cavity of deer can spread lead to sites where the rifle shot did not originally deposit it. In the absence of data demonstrating any health or meat quality benefit from doing so, it is a procedure I intend to dispense with immediately. But even without rinsing fragments are sometimes found a surprising distance from the wound path. Do you suppose these are transported by the movement of the viscera while the deer expires, by manipulation during field dressing, or both? I am wondering if using disposable paper towels to wipe the body cavity distal to the point of entry and exit wounds toward the wound path might remove some of these errant fragments?

While the lead poisoning of scavengers was outside the scope of your study it occurs to me that your methodology might be modified to examine this related issue in greater detail. Given that many hunters will not voluntarily abandon conventional cup and core bullets containing lead it seems to me that "gutpiles" deserve more attention. Hunt et al. (2006) suggests that viscera can contain a large quantity of lead bullet fragments. This make good sense as the destruction of internal organs by expanding bullets and their fragments is a significant element of the killing mechanism, except in the case of CNS hits.

It seems to me that radiographs of viscera removed during field dressing of deer shot with the eight bullet types tested in your study (though it seems a waste of time, money, and sheep to look for lead fragments in animals shot with copper bullets) would help determine whether scavenger access to lead fragments might be reduced by the voluntary removal of offal from the field and its subsequent sequestration.

Likewise, radiographs of boned deer carcasses and discarded trim might demonstrate that it is better to bury these leftovers instead of tossing them into the woods behind the barn.

Finally, is there any literature you can refer me to that will help demonstrate the neutrality or biases of wildlife biologists engaged in the study of lead poisoning?

I appreciate your taking the time to read this long email from a layperson. My interest is genuine and based on a deep appreciation for the natural world and our place in it, both as hunters and as responsible citizens. If you become aware of any way in which a volunteer might help further a reasoned response to this issue I look forward to hearing from you.


Grund, M., Cornicelli, L., Carson, L., and Butler, E., (2010). Bullet fragmentation and lead deposition in white-tailed deer and domestic sheep. Human Wildlife Interactions 4(2):257–265, Fall 2010 retrieved from

Hunt, W., Burnham, W., Parish, C., Burnham, K. Mutch, B., and Oaks, J. (2006). Bullet fragments in deer remains: implications for lead exposure in avian scavengers. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34(1): 167-170 retrieved from

Klein, B. (2011) Enraptured at the U. Minneapolis Star Tribune February 2, 2011 retrieved from

[Note: the link from the Star Tribune article to the University of Minnesota Raptor Center is broken.  Click here for the connection.]

Other Resources

Ingestion of Lead from Spent Ammunition: Implications for Wildlife and Humans

Lead Bullet Risks - Wildlife and Humans

A Global Update of Lead Poisoning in Terrestrial Birds from Ammunition Sources

Qualitative and Quantitative Detection of Lead Bullet Fragments in Random Venison Packages Donated to the Community Action Food Centers of North Dakota

Non-Lead Rifle Ammunition

Evidence demonstrating the problem is overstated or the result of anti-hunting and anti-gun conspiracies...let me know.


Here's a statement from the National Shooting Sports Foundation about the hazards of lead in firearms ammunition.  Their bias is clearly stated in the opening paragraph.

Lead or Traditional Ammunition

The NSSF is fond of referring to the 2008 CDC North Dakota study which they say proves lead in wild game is not a health hazard.  If you read the study carefully you'll note that it suggests that consumption of wild game shot with lead projectiles accounts for as much as a third of the tested North Dakota residents' subclinical blood lead levels.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Let's Give it an A for Effort

B for execution...

Christine Lahti's 2001 My First Mister is a nice little film, filled with all the right ingredients - quirky characters protrayed by talented actors, interesting visuals, sharp writing, and a splash of magical realism - but it isn't quite as great as it might have been.  I can't tell if it tried too hard or not quite hard enough.  Leelee Sobieski does a very nice job with her role as a disaffected teenage Goth prone to cutting.  Albert Brooks plays his usual schmoo but gets his share of good lines.  Pauley Perrette of NCIS fame apparently had a small part, but I don't remember seeing her.  My First Mister is not consistently excellent, but it's gentleness and patience with its characters makes it worth a look.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Woo Woo Dome?

ARCO Arena To Become Power Balance Pavilion...

I admit I'd never heard of the Maloof Sports & Entertainment Arco Arena - home court of the Sacramento Kings - before today, but now we are informed that Power Balance* has purchased the naming rights for something on the high side of $800,000 a year for five years.  I imagine selling $0.05 rubber bracelets to an amazingly gullible public for $29.95 a pop probably leaves them with piles of cash just lying around looking for something to do.

I wrote about this fraud last month.  Power Balance* relies on an old parlor trick called "applied kinesiology" to fool consumers into imagining that wearing a rubber bracelet containing a reflective hologram somehow increases their balance and flexibility.

They've already been called out by consumer watch dogs in Australia, but the rich - and rapidly growing richer - people at Power Balance USA* are "shocked, shocked I tell you!" to hear some people are skeptical of their claims.

The Power Balance USA* website says this: 

"Contrary to recent assertions in the Australian press, Power Balance has made no claims that our product does not perform. This is simply untrue. Apparently, some previous claims in our marketing ads in Australia were not up to ACCC standards. Changes were voluntarily made immediately, approved and the issues were believed to have been resolved. We were obviously surprised to see the recent press coming out of Australia followed by a class action law suit here in the United States." 

But the Corrective Advertisement on the Power Balance Australia* website says this: 

"In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility.

We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974." 

Hmmn, their PR flack must have missed that year in grade school when the phrase "this is simply untrue" was explained.  Or maybe the attorney who approved the message got an A+ with a smiley face for his brilliant 5th grade essay titled "That Depends." 

You know, at first I cut the PB fraudsters some slack because they don't have a bodycount like the antivaxers, but now I'm not so sure.  The influence of the "Magic Rubber Bracelet Dome" will have on Sacramento area sports fans, young and old, is bound to add up. Entering this 17,000 seat monument to pseudoscience will be like a little holographic innoculation of woo into the minds of our young people, enticing them toward a lifetime of magical thinking. Imagine how many healthy meals will be skipped because mom or dad bought everyone magic bracelets? How many useful or inspiring books might have been purchased for California households at the rate of $30.00 per person?  How many registration fees for actually improving ones balance and flexibility by participating in school or club sports will have to be found somewhere else.

I'm not a sports guy so maybe someone can tell me if there's any other sports facility in the entire world named after a fraudulent product?

*Yes, I know I have not linked to the Power Balance sites in the US or Australia.  I don't want to contribute to their Google ranking, so if you visit them it will not be by clicking through the Eclectic Breakfast. 

UPDATED TO ADD:  I'm in a pissy mood today so I sent another message to PB 

"On your Power Balance USA website you have made the following statement: 

'Contrary to recent assertions in the Australian press, Power Balance has made no claims that our product does not perform. This is simply untrue. Apparently, some previous claims in our marketing ads in Australia were not up to ACCC standards. Changes were voluntarily made immediately, approved and the issues were believed to have been resolved. We were obviously surprised to see the recent press coming out of Australia followed by a class action law suit here in the United States.' 

From the Corrective Advertisement on your Power Balance Australian website: 

'In our advertising we stated that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility. 

We admit that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct in breach of s52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.' 

Are you incapable of reading or comprehending your own websites? Do you expect people not to check both sites? What is going on?"

As of 8 February 2011 I am patiently waiting to hear back from them...tick tock, tick tock...five cents for you, $29.90 for them. 


Today, 9 February 2011, I received not one but two replies from Power Balance USA.  The first was in response to my inquiry submitted a week or so ago.  The second was responding to yesterday's message.  Both replies were precisely the same form email containing a juicy mix of fallacies, lies, and obfuscation. I especially relished their complaint that the ACCC insisted on the "narrow criteria of randomized, double-blind scientific studies."  I'm pretty sure complaining to them or ranting about them accomplishes little, but their business model is based on fraud even more than woo and watching them drain the wallets of the gullible really grates on my nerves.  Anyway, here's what they had to say... 

"Hello Michael,

Thank you for writing us.

We understand your concerns regarding the ruling in Australia, and the articles circulating the different medias.

Here is our statement regarding the situation: 

Power Balance products work. The existing reports out there are fundamentally incorrect. Power Balance did not make any claims that our product does not perform.

We are committed to bringing our performance technologies to every athlete in the world from professional to amateur to recreational. Our community of believers continues to grow each week. While our previous claims in marketing ads are not up to Australia’s ACCC standards – we stand behind our products. The belief of thousands of consumers and athletes who wear our products are not wrong.

A preliminary study recently conducted on the product’s performance variables was commissioned and the findings have determined that the product does in fact provide a “statistically significant” result on the wearer’s performance. We are committed to further evaluating the product’s performance parameters so that we can continue to provide products that enhance the wearer’s lifestyle.

Numerous actual consumer testimonies supporting the wristbands’ performance were provided to the ACCC by Power Balance. Despite that, they requested Power Balance remove marketing claims until it could provide them with their narrow criteria of randomized, double-blind scientific studies that supports the use of those marketing phrases.

Power Balance voluntarily agreed to stop using those phrases. Power Balance believes and wants users to believe that we will do whatever it takes to appropriately, and with honor and integrity make our products available to every consumer in every market in the world.

In summary, we absolutely stand behind our products. There is no doubt in our minds, as well as thousands of consumers (be they professional athletes, trainers, weekend warriors, etc.), that our products work. To be clear, we did not make any statements referencing that we were a fraudulent company; a “scam”; the product is ineffective; or anything else similar to such statements in the media.

If you are not a US customer, please let us know the country from which you are inquiring, so we may direct you to the appropriate parties.

In regards to your request for a refund (US customers), we are happy to address your request in a timely manner. In order to complete this request we will need a receipt dated within 6 months from the date of purchase, from an authorized dealer, along with the product in order to process your refund.

If you would like to proceed with your request, please visit. After filling out the form located there, please use the click to print button in order to print out the form correctly. Along with the form you will need to send the product back to Power Balance for which you are requesting the refund for, as well as a copy of your proof of purchase dated within 6 months. These items are required to process the refund. Please send the requested items to:

Attn: Returns
20512 Crescent Bay
Suite 108
Lake Forest, CA 92630

We will process your request as quickly as possible on a first come, first serve basis.

Warmest regards."

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Pandering and Posturing

What's up with the National Prayer Breakfast?

image from

Our republic was founded upon a constitution which explicitly specifies we be governed by secular institutions.  Since 1935 the (Christian) National Prayer Breakfast is organized each year by The Fellowship Foundation (variously known as The Foundation, The Fellowship, or The Family), a secretive evangelical organization with strong political ties and notorious influence inside the Beltway.  This is not an ecumenical gathering; it is not about prayer unless it is a Christian prayer.  This is not a government-sponsored event; it is a private gathering, but one our public servants dare not miss.  Jeff Sharlet has written extensively on the shadowy organization that organizes this gathering.  If his article "Jesus Plus Nothing: Undercover Among America's Secret Theocrats" doesn't scare the hell out of you I'm not sure what will.  If his early reporting makes you want to pray for the future of our republic then his recent book, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, comes highly recommended.  Other than that articles about the The Family are scarce.  Much as I'd like to refer you to a source of information published by the Fellowship Foundation, the Foundation, the Fellowship, the Family does not seem to operate a website.

The Family always invites a surprise speaker to the breakfast.  Mark Kelly, shuttle astronaut and husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was the special guest today.  Discussing his wife's horrible injury at hands of a deranged gunman he said "maybe this event, this terrible event, maybe it was fate."  Maybe he should have admitted he was a fish out of water, a military officer and scientist summoned to a politically-charged Christian influence peddling session and evangelical litmus test.  President Obama, who by his own accounts was not a religious man until he became involved in politics, said "We are with them for the long haul and God is with them for the long haul."  Too bad their almighty God couldn't have reflected his long term interest in Ms. Gifford by arranging a mental health intervention for the shooter Jared Loughner, or even for Loughner to be struck by truck in a crosswalk, or for his pistol to jam, or for him simply to miss.  Nope, God's mysterious ways in Tucson required six dead, 14 wounded, and bullet shot through Gabrielle Gifford's head for the Lord almighty to forward His agenda.  The bigger mystery is why Christians think this way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Revolution Will Be Televised

And Tweeted and YouTubed in real time...

I'm old enough to remember when typewriters were licensed, printing presses were seized, and newspapers shuttered by despotic regimes because that was how unauthorized information was distributed, from one person to another, on sheets of paper.

Then came telephones, fax machines, dial up bulletin boards, internet, satellite television, web, cellphones, text messaging, blogs, and other tech I'm too much a Baby Boomer to have even heard of yet, let alone appreciate the power of.

Where repressive regimes once clung to power with cavalry, secret police, fire hoses, dogs, tear gas, rubber bullets, rifle bullets, or tanks, now they also monitor Facebook pages, shut down the internet, hack their opponents' servers, and turn off cell phone service. 

Tweets from teenagers while they're being beaten by government-sponsored goons.  Cellphone video of despotic thuggery as it happens.  These evocative stories and brutal images are delivered to the world by sophisticated yet affordable technology that is even more powerful because it is ubiquitous, uncensored, unedited, and unfiltered.

One hopes the popular revolution in Egypt is allowed to become peaceful again.  Mubarek's sad tactics were old when telephones had dials and computer screens were green.  Time for Hosni to retire in undeserved luxury and let the people he was supposed to serve have their shot at liberty.  Yes, liberty - the special freedom to act that stops where another person's rights begin.  Where people are free to express themselves without fear of brutality, because the rule of law has been preserved and protected.  Where hospitals, merchants, and museums need not fear looting because order is maintained by benevolent actors.  Unless Mubarek calls off his goons, and their camels, and their Molotovs, the Army will be faced with a choice - protect their countrymen or prop up Mubarek.  They have shown great restraint so far.  Now is the time for the Egyptian Army to demonstrate professional resolve, a love of liberty, and a commitment to human dignity.