Do you pay the local, tourist, or rude-tourist price?

Merchants in Venice (hey, wouldn’t that be a good title for a play?) have a system, according to this article from the UK’s Telegraph[*1] (via BoingBoing[*2] ):

Tourists who do not want to be ripped off in Venice were advised yesterday to drop their brutish behaviour and try to learn a bit of the local lingo.

A “significant proportion” of the city’s bars and restaurants are now operating two or even three price lists: one for tourists, another for locals, and a third for “sympathetic” tourists who make more effort than the usual grunted demands.

“There are different pricing levels,” said Franco Conte, the head of the Venetian branch of Codacons, the Italian consumer rights group.

“If you are Italian, a croissant and a cappuccino costs €3.50 (£2.40),” he said. “If you speak another language, it costs €7.

“In restaurants, a pizza and a drink for two people costs between €20 to €25 for locals, perhaps cheaper for Venetians – but €50 to €60 if you are forestieri.” In Italy, the word forestieri applies to all strangers, who are said to be “from the forest”.

Maria Tosi, who runs a tobacconist, said tourists could do simple things to try to get a better price such as saying hello when entering a shop or restaurant, or learning a few words of Venetian dialect.

“It really offends us when they walk in, make their demands and walk out,” she said. “We Venetians spend all our time being polite to each other.”

But the Telegraph article notes that the shopkeepers don’t have it all their own way:

(Venice tourist authority head) Mr Renato observed that many tourists now bought their sandwiches and drinks in local supermarkets.

Buon giorno, y’all . . .

West Nile in KC

Second case reported in Kansas City[*1] .

West Nile in Wikipedia[*2] :

WNV has three different effects on humans. The first is an asymptomatic[*3] infection; the second is a mild febrile[*4] syndrome termed West Nile Fever;[1][*5] the third is a neuroinvasive disease termed West Nile meningitis[*6] or encephalitis[*7] .[2][*8] In infected individuals the ratio between the three states is roughly 110:30:1.[3][*9]

The second, febrile stage has an incubation period of 3-8 days followed by fever, headache, chills, diaphoresis[*10] , weakness, lymphadenopathy[*11] , and drowsiness. Occasionally there is a short-lived truncal rash and some patients experience gastrointestinal symptoms including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, or diarrhea. All symptoms are resolved within 7-10 days, although fatigue can last for some weeks and lymphadenopathy can take up to two months to resolve.

The more dangerous encephalitis is characterized by similar early symptoms but also a decreased level of consciousness, sometimes approaching near-coma. Deep tendon reflexes are hyperactive at first, later diminished. There are also extrapyramidal disorders[*12] . Recovery is marked by a long convalescence with fatigue.

More recent outbreaks have resulted in a deeper study of the disease and other, rarer, outcomes have been identified.The spinal cord may be infected, marked by anterior myelitis[*13] with or without encephalitis.[4][*14] WNV-associated Guillain-Barré syndrome[*15] has been identified[5][*16] and other rare effects include multifocal chorioretinitis[*17] (which has 100% specificity for identifying WNV infection in patients with possible WNV encephalitis)[6][*18] hepatitis[*19] , myocarditis[*20] , nephritis[*21] , pancreatitis[*22] , and splenomegaly[*23] .[7][*24] [8][*25] [9][*26]

The virus is transmitted through mosquito vectors, which bite and infect birds. The birds are amplifying hosts, developing sufficient viral levels to transmit the infection to other biting mosquitoes which go on to infect other birds (in the Western hemisphere[*27] the American Robin[*28] and the American Crow[*29] are the most common carriers) and also humans. The infected mosquito species vary according to geographical area; in the US Culex pipiens (Eastern US), Culex tarsalis (Midwest and West), and Culex quinquefasciatus (Southeast) are the main sources.[10][*30]

In mammals the virus does not multiply as readily, and it is believed that mosquitoes biting infected mammals do not further transmit the virus,[11][*31] making mammals so-called dead-end infections.

A 2004 paper in Science found that Culex pipiens mosquitoes existed in two populations in Europe[*32] , one which bites birds and one which bites humans. In North America 40% of Culex pipiens were found to be hybrids of the two types which bite both birds and humans, providing a vector for West Nile virus. This is thought to provide an explanation of why the West Nile disease has spread more quickly in North America than Europe.

It was initially believed that direct human-to-human transmission was only caused by occupational exposure,[12][*33] or conjunctival exposure to infected blood.[13][*34] The US outbreak revealed novel transmission methods, through blood transfusion,[14][*35] organ transplant,[15][*36] intrauterine exposure,[16][*37] and breast feeding.[17][*38] Since 2003 blood banks in the US routinely screen for the virus amongst their donors.[18][*39] As a precautionary measure, the UK’s National Blood Service[*40] runs a test for this disease in donors who donate within 28 days of a visit to the United States or Canada[*41] .

The more severe outcomes of WNV infection are clearly associated with advancing age[19][*42] and a patient history of organ transplantation.[20][*43] A genetic factor also appears to increase susceptibility to West Nile disease. A mutation of the gene CCR5 gives some protection against HIV[*44] but leads to more serious complications of WNV infection. Carriers of two mutated copies of CCR5 made up 4 to 4.5% of a sample of West Nile disease sufferers while the incidence of the gene in the general population is only 1%.[21][*45] [22][*46]

There is no vaccine[*47] for humans. A vaccine for horses based on killed viruses exists; some zoos[*48] have given this vaccine to their birds, although its effectiveness there is unknown. Dogs and cats show few if any signs of infection. There have been no cases of direct canine-human or feline-human transmission, but these common pets may incubate the virus and pass it along through mosquitoes.[1][*49]

For humans to escape infection the avoidance of mosquito is key[23][*50] – remaining indoors at dawn and dusk, wearing light-colored clothing which protects arms and legs as well as trunk, using insect repellents on both skin and clothing (such as DEET[*51] , picaradin[*52] , or oil of lemon eucalyptus[*53] for skin and permethrin[*54] for clothes)[24][*55] Treatment is purely supportive: analgesia for the pain of neurologic diseases; rehydration for nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea; encephalitis may also require airway protection and seizure management.

On August 19[*56] , 2006[*57] , the LA Times[*58] reported that the expected incidence rate of West Nile was dropping as the local population becomes exposed to the virus. In countries like Egypt and Uganda, where West Nile was first detected, people became fully immune to the virus by the time they reached adulthood, federal health officials said.[2][*59] However days later the CDC said that West Nile cases could reach a 3-year high because hot temperatures had allowed a larger brood of mosquitoes. [3][*60] Reported cases in the U.S. in 2005 exceeded those in 2004 and cases in 2006 exceeded 2005s totals.

Is ‘global warming’ just a Y2K bug?

From Daily Tech[*1] :

My earlier column[*2] this week detailed the work of a volunteer team to assess problems with US temperature data used for climate modeling. One of these people is Steve McIntyre, who operates the site[*3] . While inspecting historical temperature graphs, he noticed a strange discontinuity, or “jump” in many locations, all occurring around the time of January, 2000.

These graphs were created by NASA’s Reto Ruedy and James Hansen (who shot to fame when he accused the administration of trying to censor his views on climate change). Hansen refused to provide McKintyre with the algorithm used to generate graph data, so McKintyre reverse-engineered it. The result appeared to be a Y2K bug in the handling of the raw data.

McKintyre notified the pair of the bug; Ruedy replied[*4] and acknowledged the problem as an “oversight” that would be fixed in the next data refresh.

NASA has now silently released corrected figures[*5] , and the changes are truly astounding. The warmest year on record is now 1934. 1998 (long trumpeted by the media as record-breaking) moves to second place.  1921 takes third. In fact, 5 of the 10 warmest years on record now all occur before World War II.  Anthony Watts has put the new data in chart form, along with a more detailed summary[*6] of the events.

The effect of the correction on global temperatures is minor (some 1-2% less warming than originally thought), but the effect on the US global warming propaganda machine could be huge.

Then again– maybe not. I strongly suspect this story will receive little to no attention from the mainstream media.

Oopsie.  Paging Emily Latella[*7] .

via TigerHawk[*8] .

News, Sports, Fun, Life

That’s been the slogan of since . . . well, since the very early days of the blog.  I’ve decided to take it a bit more seriously, by moving all of my previous posts into one of those four topics.  Since there have been over 1200 postings since the beginning, this will take a while.  But, here’s the categories:

News:  Current events, politics, and stuff that happens that interests me enough to post it and/or comment upon it.

Sports:  Fairly obvious, I would think.  You know.  Sports?

Fun:  Oddities and curiosities, mostly.  Things I come across which bring a smile (perhaps twisted) to my face, and, I hope, yours too.

Life:  My personal adventures through this world of ours.  Travel stories (good and bad), close encounters with Real Life, bureaucracies, and other alien life forms, told in the first person.

Implants fight epilepsy, glaucoma

At Science Blog[*1] :
Brain implants predict and prevent epileptic seizures:

One research project focuses on a tiny transmitter three times the width of a human hair to be implanted below the scalp to detect the signs of an epileptic seizure before it occurs. The system will record neural signals relayed by electrodes in various points in the brain, said Pedro Irazoqui (pronounced Ear-a-THOkee), an assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

“When epileptics have a seizure, a particular part of the brain starts firing in a way that is abnormal,” Irazoqui said. “Being able to record signals from several parts of the brain at the same time enables you to predict when a seizure is about to start, and then you can take steps to prevent it.”

Data from the implanted transmitter will be picked up by an external receiver, also being developed by the Purdue researchers.

The most critical aspect of the research is creating a device that transmits a large amount of data at low power. The transmitter consumes 8.8 milliwatts, or about one-third as much power as other implantable transmitters while transmitting 10 times more data. Another key advantage is that the transmitter has the capacity to collect data specifically related to epileptic seizures from 1,000 channels, or locations in the brain, Irazoqui said.

“The fact that this circuit can deliver such a vast amount of data and, at the same time, be less power hungry than anything else that’s out there is what makes this important,” he said.

Another implant project seeks to monitor eye pressure in order to prevent onset of glaucoma:

“Glaucoma is one of the big two irreversible, but preventable, causes of blindness,” Irazoqui said.

The disease causes blindness from a buildup of fluid pressure in the interior chamber of the eye, killing fibers in the optic nerve. Glaucoma patients go to the doctor periodically to have their eye pressure checked. If it is high, the doctor prescribes medication or performs surgery.

“The problem is that your interocular pressure spikes over hours, sometimes minutes,” Irazoqui said. “So you can be fine today and fine in six months and spend three months in the middle where it’s very high, killing your optic nerve. What you really need to do is check it often, every couple of minutes, but you can’t go to the doctor every couple of minutes for the rest or your life. So what you need is a device that measures your eye pressure continuously.”

KC’s light rail system will cost half a billion more

Gosharootie, folks, guess what happens when some electrical engineer with delusions of grandeur tries to design a multibillion dollar transportation system?

He gets it wrong.

Color me surprised.

From the Kansas City Star[*1] :

A new report says Kansas City’s voter-approved light rail plan faces a funding shortfall of $433 million to $545 million — even if the federal government pays half of the construction costs.

Officials with HNTB discussed the estimate with the city council’s Transportation Committee this morning and copies were provided to reporters,

“The money is not sufficient to do what was voted on in November, 2006,” said Mark Huffer, general manager of the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.

Clay Chastain, who proposed the November 2006 ballot measure, did not attend the meeting this morning and was not immediately available for comment.

. . .

Engineers also estimated operating costs at $11 million in the first year, with fares and other revenue paying for $6.2 million of that. The total operating shortfall, the report says, would total $73.7 million, in 2007 dollars, through 2034.

Total shortfall considering construction and operating costs: $489 million, assuming the midpoint construction estimate.

It remains less than obvious to me why Kansas City, one of the least densely populated major metropolitan areas in the country, needs a light rail system.

(The Kansas City metro area’s population density in 2000 was 328 people per square mile.  The average for all metro areas in the U.S. is about 320.  New York’s metropolitan population density is 2,028 per square mile.)

Kansas City DOES NOT HAVE THE POPULATION DENSITY to support a light rail system.  Nor do most cities in the U.S–even those where a light rail system has been rammed down the throats of ambitious or ignorant taxpayers.  It WILL LOSE MONEY if you’re stupid enough to actually build the damn thing.  That’s why people are starting to ask for another vote on this manifestly dreadful idea of light rail in Kansas City.

Red Cross sued over . . . red cross

The Johnson & Johnson red cross, that is.  Seems that the Red Cross (organization) doesn’t own the red cross (logo).  Johnson & Johnson does.  All well and good, except the Red Cross (organization) has been selling rights to the red cross (logo) to other health care product manufacturerers.

Johnson & Johnson doesn’t like that.  One little bit.  So, of course . . . LAWSUIT!

From the Wall Street Journal article[*1] (subscription required, fair use excerpt below):

J&J said it has been using the symbol of a Greek red cross since 1887, predating the chartering of the Red Cross. J&J trademarked the design — two intersecting red lines of equal length — at least as early as 1906, the suit says.

According to J&J, the Red Cross only has the right to use the trademark in connection with nonprofit relief services. J&J says in 1905, Congress prohibited “the emblem of the Greek red cross on a white ground” by organizations other than the Red Cross; J&J’s suit says since it used the cross before that date, it was exempt.

Buick ties Lexus

The Wall Street Journal story[*1] (subscription required, fair use excerpt below):

J.D. Power and Associates on Thursday released its annual Vehicle Dependability Study, which tracks quality over the first three years of ownership of a vehicle.

Lexus has been the perennial king of the survey. But domestic auto makers have scrambled to catch up in recent years, and their efforts continue to pay off as Detroit brands crowd the podium, leaving less of a gap between the U.S. and Japan than traditionally has been the case.

Three of the top five brands in the study were domestic players, with GM’s Cadillac and Ford Motor[*2] Co.’s Mercury finishing behind Buick and Lexus. GM’s Hummer brand was the most improved, but it still is a below-average performer.