A Foreshortened Perspective

My ambitions frequently get the best of me…

Local Observations

(tl;dr First, none of the posters understand the first thing about Chinooks or the geography. Second, the overall trend experienced by locals, i.e. guides, hydrologists, wardens, glaciologists, has been warmer year round temperatures, with less overall precipitation, and when it does come it comes as rain)

What is missing from all this are observations from anyone who actually spends time in the Canadian Rocky mountain parks on a day to day basis, in particular since the mid 1980s:

  1. We used to have a saying “Calgary, 8 months of winter, 4 months of bad skiing” this is no longer true. When I started in the mountains we could reliably start our ski season in late October skiing from the car on snow to places like the Robertson and the Rae glaciers. While freak snow storms can roll in at any time (e.g. September 2014) and deposit amounts on those glaciers sufficient for skiing, it is gone in a day and does not feature the sustained coverage we used to have. Truly reliable skiing with sufficient coverage doesn’t start until late December and ends in early April. As well our late season snow pack is non-existent, despite the heroic efforts of the likes of Tevor Sexsmith to ski year round in truly frightening couloirs. The Sunshine ski resort used to have spring skiing every year until at least May 25, again those days are long gone.
  2. In retrospect the first canary in the mine was the incredible advance of the mountain pine beetle some 20 years ago and the ensuing devastation of the pine stocks from the Columbia trench in Montana all the way up to the Yukon border (controlled burns anyone?). This was the first indication of the weakening of the “hard” winters we used to have.
  3. Neither the frequency nor strength of the Chinooks has changed appreciably, however the baseline has shifted dramatically towards warmer winters and summers. If anything the Chinooks seem to have tapered off a bit with the weakening of the jet stream (but that is just based on the number of headaches my wife gets each winter ;o)
  4. Deep valley bottoms (~600m) like the Slocan, Kootneys, and Arrow Lakes are snow free year round now. Even as late as the 1980s one used to be able to cross country ski and snow mobile along the lake shore on the abandoned rail lines. Now you can nearly garden year round in Nelson.
  5. The stories of interior BC ski hills having to dig out the ski lifts are not apocryphal, it really did used to happen. To the younger generations this is little more than a myth. If you don’t believe me try Googling “BC river forecast snow pillow study plots” and download the time series. Now when we get an average year of snow fall that is considered a “fat” snow pack, more often than not snow seasons are way below normal.
  6. Mid-winter “freak” rain events to mountain top (+3000m) in the Rockies and Interior ranges now occur at least once a season, increasingly defying the label “freak” and trending towards the “new normal”.
  7. Rain in valley bottoms (up to +1800m) throughout the Rockies is now common throughout the winter, and a plot of the amount of precipitation falling as rain is seriously missing from all the self congratulating bloviating in the post. As well freezing levels also routinely reach up to +1800m in the winter.
  8. Down slope Northern cold fronts are now a rarity, when they used to occur at least twice a month in the winter season. These storms would bring cold (-30C) Bering Straights moisture down from Alaska and deposit it as incredible dry powder along the Interior Ranges, Front Ranges, and Calgary. This is primarily due to a weakening and meandering jet stream. Now most of our interior range moisture comes from mid and tropical Pacific storms tracking over Vancouver, while front range moisture tends to come from up slope storms tracking up from the US prairies.
  9. The jet stream used to park visibly over Calgary and the Bow Valley corridor, indicated by a stream of high altitude clouds, with an undulating pattern that looked like a river in the air flowing straight from west to east. I have not seen this in a decade. As well long lasting high pressure cells have now become ordinary; in the 1980s they were exceptional enough to make the nightly news when they did occur, being given the moniker “omega blocks”, because of the pattern of the jet stream looping North through the Yukon and back down through Manitoba.
  10. Not only has the number of cloud free days increased, but also the effect of the sun has gotten much more potent particularly on south faces and valley bottoms. This is evidenced by the clean “prune” lines of snow free trees, often to +2000m, where the sun has melted all the snow off of the tree tops. This is even seen in places as far west as Louise Pass; which is generally the coldest part of the Bow Valley Corridor.
  11. Many of the classic valley bottom ice climbs from Jojo’s book are now unclimbable, I don’t think Cascade Falls, Canmore Junk Yards, or Groto Canyon as been in climbing shape for more than one or two days this year. These places used to be reliable trade routes for guides and instructors to take clients to teach ice climbing. Even the Weeping Wall on the Icefields parkway was nearly out shape by the end of February this year, this is usually climbable until mid-April.
  12. Experiencing -20C in the winter has become something of an anomaly in Calgary, and even in the alpine in the mountain parks. It used to be Chinooks were a short lived break from a consistent steady cold of -20C (daytime high) with winter “bringing the pain” with lows in the mid -30C. Now a -20C day is considered a rare “bad” winter day.
  13. The outdoor skating rinks in Calgary have already melted out this year, with sustained temperatures in the mid-teens in the middle of February. Notably the warm weather has been coming without Chinooks! It has simply been warm, full stop.
  14. People are now route setting sport climbs year round on south faces in the Bow Valley corridor, and sometimes even climbing them. Really truly the Bow Valley used to be an ice climbing destination in the winter, but not any more.
  15. Our glaciers have taken a double punch of less snow in the winter, and much hotter sunnier summers, resulting in a rapidly retreating firn line, loss summer neve, and a much greater exposure of blue ice, dirty rock ice, and seracs, as well as a general retreat of ice. For example Mt. Robson has lost nearly all of its fearsome and famous gargoyles from its summit ridge, Sky Ladder, Aemmer Couloir, and most of the 3/4 Couloir are now bare rock and scree in the summer, and Mt Fay’s bulge has retreated dramatically uphill and become mostly a hanging serac. Classic approaches like the Bugaboo-Snowpatch col are now out of shape by the end of July due to a combination of rock fall and bare ice exposure, this used to be firm neve all summer and fall. Safe-ish winter ski tours on like the Wapta Icefields traverse are now a hazardous gauntlet of sagging crevasse bridges, open bergschrunds, and calving seracs, twenty years ago the bergschrunds and crevasses on the Wapta used to fill in enough to offer at least the illusion of protection from falling into a crevasse.
  16. As the 2013 floods demonstrated our hydrological cycle has become a mess in the Rockies, and our water supply has become much more erratic.

Some notes on geography and local weather dynamics:

  1. Chinooks do not behave in the way you seem to think they do. The main affect of Chinooks are felt in the Calgary-Lethbridge prairies and only as far west of Calgary as 1X turn-off just past the Stoney-Nakoda reserve, and as far west of Lethbridge as Coleman/Frank Slide area. Chinooks are typified by high westerly winds (+80km/h) and a rapid warming of a +20C rise in temperature in the space of a couple of hours, as well as high overcast skies to the east of the front ranges forming the characteristic Chinook arch, with a build up of moisture bearing clouds to the west of the continental divide, again clearly visible from Calgary during Chinooks. There is a reliable dry belt that forms between Scott Lake Hill and Mt. Yamnuska in the area impacted by Chinooks. Chinook warmth will directly reach into highway 40 as far the Galatea choke point before Fortress Junction, but not any further towards the divide, and certainly not to the Kananaskis and inter-lakes area. In particular Banff and Canmore never directly experience Chinook warming, at least not the kind felt on the prairies. Rather the consequences of Chinooks to the Bow Valley corridor and much of the Kananaskis is to bring clear skies and even more mild temperatures to an already mild valley bottom.
  2. Mountain valley bottoms in the Rockies significantly buffer extreme weather in comparison to the prairies. In general the rankings for weather extremes Alpine>Prairies>Valleys. Banff and Canmore used to be the spots to find “mild” -10C weather when Calgary was solidly into -20C. Now Banff and Canmore will barely get to below 0C during the daytime in the winter.
  3. Even though the Bow River valley bottom in down town Calgary is lower than the Banff town site much of Calgary is actually situated on a high arid plain at an elevation above the Banff town site. In fact Scott Lake Hill (~1440m) just west of Cochrane is the highest point on the TransCanada (remember the Cochahalla is not part of the TransCanada), as well the highest paved road in Canada is just to the South-West on Highway 40 through Highwood Pass.
  4. The continental divide is quite close to the front ranges through Kananaskis country. If you hop one valley west from Highway 40 to the Smith-Dorien Trail you will be climbing peaks on the divide (Mt. Sir Douglas, French-Haig-Robertson traverse), and you will still find reliable, albeit dwindling snow coverage in the winter.
  5. The only ski hills strongly affected by Chinooks are Nakiska home of the 1988 Olympics, and Castle Mountain on highway 3 west of Lethbridge, home of some seriously heavy drinking.

Final observations:

  1. It used to be you needed winter tires (studs or chains) or a good long run at it to get up the Barrier Lake Hill on Highway 40, now this section of road is dry pavement year round. People were even sport climbing at Barrier in mid-February this year, this is the same place that used to feature the now non-existent ice climb Amadeus.
  2. Again it used to be when Highwood pass was opened in the spring it would require ploughing 2m of snow off of the road. For the last decade cyclists have been able to enjoyably traverse Highwood pass in the week before the official opening in the spring.
  3. The winter of W2014/15 was exceptionally dry and most skiers were done with it by March. This winter is holding out only because of a good early season snow fall, that really has not been followed up with any more major storms. We are still only barely scratching at the bottom of an average snow year curve.
  4. Summers used to be a lot colder in Calgary, when there would always be one day of sleet/snow showers in August, now not so much.
  5. Bonus material: the 1988 Olympics were nearly ruined by an ill timed Chinook that saw us wearing tee-shirts for the closing ceremonies; when just a few days before we stood with chattering teeth at night in -17C at the Olympic Plaza in down town Calgary for the awarding of ?Nancy Greene? the ?silver? medal in ?GS?.

Written by vocetacita

March 3, 2016 at 00:59

Posted in Uncategorized

The Forbidden Wager

There were some cowards who were afraid of the implications of this wager. So I am posting it here.

Using the following scenario, basically drawn straight out of the paramilitary right wing death squads of Central America, and Dr. Altemeyer’s research:

There has been some unlawful protests, civil disobedience, and unrest in your community. A few people have been injured, and of those a smaller number have died or disappeared, although the circumstances are unclear. One of your coworkers has been making sympathetic statements about the protesters at work, and you know that your coworker has been helping agitate for the protesters. You are asked by the RCMP to assist in apprehending your coworker, who the RCMP believes poses an imminent dangerous threat to your community. They need your help because they know the co-worker trusts you. You are told that this will involve the use of lethal force, but they assure you that there are no other options available to protect your community. They can guarantee your assistance will be strictly confidential, and they will privately bestow an official commendation for your service to the community. Do you agree to help them?

I wager the following sums, on the appropriately risk adjusted rates:

  1. $100 that 50% of self identified Harper supporters would say yes.
  2. $75 that 66% of self identified Harper supporters would say yes.
  3. $25 that 75% of self identifier Harper supporters would say yes.

Would you take me up on that wager?

Written by vocetacita

March 23, 2015 at 17:41

Posted in Uncategorized

How to crash an Oracle instance in 5 easy steps

I am a bit dumbfounded that this actually works. I just do not know what to say, other than to just post the test script to prove that the Oracle SQL compiler has a bug in it, somewhere, that crashes out the whole instance when it attempts to build a particular materialized view. This code should definitely not crash an Oracle instance, and yet it does:


This can be done even more succinctly in 3 DDL statements:

  SELECT 'a' c0 FROM dual;
  SELECT 'a%' c0, '\' c1, 1 c2 FROM dual;
  SELECT t1.c2 FROM t0 INNER JOIN t1 ON t0.c0 LIKE t1.c0 ESCAPE t1.c1;

…and on with the original example:

-- First lets build a table with 10000 random numbers
  CAST(dbms_random.value AS NUMBER) row_value

-- Second we build a materialized view of the first table
  CAST(row_number AS INTEGER) row_number,
  CAST(row_value AS NUMBER) row_value,
  CAST(trunc(10 * row_value) AS INTEGER) leading_digit

-- Third we build a reference table
  reference_data AS
    SELECT '0%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0000' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '1%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0001' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '2%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0010' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '3%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0011' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '4%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0100' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '5%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0101' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '6%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0110' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '7%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '0111' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '8%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '1000' binary_string FROM dual UNION ALL
    SELECT '9%' test_expression, '\' escape_character, '1001' binary_string FROM dual
  CAST(test_expression AS VARCHAR2(2)) test_expression,
  CAST(escape_character AS VARCHAR(1)) escape_character,
  CAST(binary_string AS VARCHAR2(4)) binary_string

-- Fourth we run the aggregate alone and link to the reference table to prove
-- the query runs in isolation
  aggregate_data AS
      to_char(leading_digit) leading_digit,
      MIN(row_value) minimum_value,
      MAX(row_value) maximum_value,
      COUNT(*) row_count
  CAST(a0.leading_digit AS VARCHAR2(1)) leading_digit,
  CAST(a0.minimum_value AS NUMBER) minimum_value,
  CAST(a0.maximum_value AS NUMBER) maximum_value,
  CAST(a0.row_count AS INTEGER) row_count,
  CAST(a1.binary_string AS VARCHAR2(4)) binary_string
  aggregate_data a0
  step_3 a1
    a0.leading_digit LIKE a1.test_expression ESCAPE a1.escape_character;

-- Fifth we instantiate an aggregate of the materialized view from step 2 into 
-- a new materialized view, with the reference translations from step 3, to 
-- prove that the aggregation and expression testing crashes the compiler
  aggregate_data AS
      to_char(leading_digit) leading_digit,
      MIN(row_value) minimum_value,
      MAX(row_value) maximum_value,
      COUNT(*) row_count
  CAST(a0.leading_digit AS VARCHAR2(1)) leading_digit,
  CAST(a0.minimum_value AS NUMBER) minimum_value,
  CAST(a0.maximum_value AS NUMBER) maximum_value,
  CAST(a0.row_count AS INTEGER) row_count,
  CAST(a1.binary_string AS VARCHAR2(4)) binary_string
  aggregate_data a0
  step_3 a1
    a0.leading_digit LIKE a1.test_expression ESCAPE a1.escape_character;

Written by vocetacita

October 31, 2014 at 11:40

Posted in Uncategorized

What is inflation?

If you think about, and really push back into the furthermost reductionist root definition of inflation, it really is just measuring how much capital is putting the screws to labor. Basically saying on average here is how much more you will have to toil so that you can be tossed the same amount of crumbs by capital as you had last year.

By the same token Piketty’s rate of return on capital really just measures how much labor fears and envies the wealthy, and growth in labor just measures how much the wealthy value labor. His thesis is then fairly transparent: inequality rises when labor fears and envies the wealthy more than the wealthy value labor.

Now that we know this what do we do about? Well not much. Inequalities drive society into strong hierarchies, which diminish cross societal bonds. Thereby making society much more sensitive to infighting among the top of the social pyramid. If all the relationships in a society are aligned upwards along the hierarchy then the only cohesive force in society is the strength of the bonds in the ruling class. Once the bonds within the ruling class break the society balkanizes into sub-hierarchies which then engage in internecine warfare. The end state looks pretty much like dark ages Europe.

Value is perceptive, and economics is just the mathematically savant bastard child of psychology and political science.

Written by vocetacita

May 22, 2014 at 23:47

Posted in Uncategorized

The immorality of the surveillance state

Trust is the glue that binds society together. Without trust there can be no relationships of any form; whether they are agreements, contracts, trade, employment, or even families, and friendship. In the absence of trust there is only course barbarism. Ironically state surveillance proliferates because of distrust, and the fear of the barbarism that results from distrust. Unfortunately the growth of state surveillance in turn generates more distrust in society; to the point where it can turn child against parent. This negative feedback cycle causes the surveillance state to be intrinsically self destructive; eventually eroding enough trust that society itself can no longer function, or even exist.

There will always be forces, either external or internal to a society, which over time disrupt and erode the society. Furthermore the forces that disrupt and erode a society are stochastic in origin, defying any deterministic prediction, and allowing only the vaguest of probabilistic forecasts. If follows that these forces can only be countered by the resilience of the society, as no amount of prevention or anticipation can forestall disruption and erosion. In turn resilience can only be developed by fostering trust in society. This implies that for a society to be resilient against disruption and erosion it must paradoxically reduce the amount of state surveillance it undertakes; whose very presence is invariably justified as a means to halt the forces of disruption and erosion.

If it were that state surveillance only quixotically tilted at the windmills of disruption and erosion, all while exclaiming in hubris “if I only knew a little more” (failing to recognize both the limits of knowledge, and the limits of the use of knowledge), it would be only another wasted effort of society, in the inevitable quest to dissipate heat to space. But because state surveillance undermines the very society it seeks to protect, by hampering the resilience and preparedness of society, one is forced to conclude that state surveillance is in net an enterprise of evil. Thus, any acts that support the surveillance state are both immoral and unethical, in that the bring about the destruction of society.

To use an analogy with medicine, if corporations are the cancers of society, then state surveillance is an autoimmune disease.

Written by vocetacita

May 8, 2014 at 09:50

Posted in Uncategorized

Falsifiable Hypotheses on the Thermodynamic Fate of Man

At the onset of the industrial revolution physicists and engineers successfully reasoned thermodynamically about the function and operation of the steam engine, without having to model all the individual molecular, and fluid interactions. Similarly, thermodynamics allows us to reason about biological and societal evolution on a planetary scale, without requiring detailed knowledge of the specific interactions of the processes.

Observation has lead me to posit that the main statistically emergent deterministic behaviour of biological and societal systems is diversification of inefficient energy exchanges to dissipate energy reservoirs. While being a seemingly vague proposal this can be formalized mathematically, and leads to the derivation of a couple of falsifiable hypotheses on the evolution of societies. In what follows I will sketch the derivations of these hypotheses without the mathematical formalism.

Hypothesis: Excessive economic specialization (speciation of tasks into communities of humans) will eventually undermine agrarian societies. Furthermore there is an optimum amount of economic specialization that an agrarian society can support. The energy transfer rate of an agrarian society into economically specialized communities per unit surface area is approximately equal to the rate of energy loss in wild lands due to wildfires per unit surface area.

Derivation: By definition economic specialization constrains the activities undertaken by a community of humans, thereby reducing the number of phase space states available for that community to occupy. Furthermore economic specialization requires diverting larger amounts of surplus energy from the agrarian production of the society into the economically specialized community. Thus from the definition of entropy the average temperature of the radiated waste heat of the economically specialized community must be larger than a community that is not economically specialized. However the temperature of radiated waste heat produced by agrarian societies is approximately equal to the biological optimum. Thus significant diversion of energy in an agrarian society into economic specialization will raise the average temperature of waste heat production by the agrarian society above the biological optimum. Applying the martingale convergence theorem to the Boltzmann factors shows that almost surely eventually biological pressures will collapse the economic specialization within the agrarian society, potentially taking the agrarian society with it. The second part of the hypothesis follows from either applying the Kakutani fixed point theorem to the Markov evolution of the agrarian society, or by realizing that a lack of economic specialization will reduce the energetic surpluses of an agrarian society, thus there clearly must be an amount of economic specialization that maximizes the entropy production of an agrarian society. That this must equal the rate of energy loss in wild lands due to wildfires should be clear from the available entropy reserves.

The next hypothesis follows by corollary to the first hypothesis.

Hypothesis: Agrarian equatorial tropical rainforest societies are not stable against economic specialization, particularly Amazonian, Mayan, and pre-Columbian. Conversely temperate and semi-arid climate agrarian societies are robust to economic specialization. As well agrarian societies cannot thrive at extreme latitudes.

Derivation: Equatorial tropical rainforests nearly maximize biological entropy production from the available thermal solar energy reservoirs. Thus even small excesses in the temperature of waste heat production by an agrarian society will adversely impact the survival of an agrarian society. The converse statement follows by observing that biological processes in temperate and semi-arid climates do not maximize the entropy for the available thermal solar energy reservoirs. The last part follows because in polar climates atmospheric and oceanographic processes alone are near the thermodynamic optimum for waste heat radiation.

This thesis also implies that the correlations in variables such as

  • gross domestic product
  • per capita energy consumption
  • fertility
  • longevity
  • economic specialization
  • political or democratic participation

observed in academic fields like

  • sociology
  • economics
  • politics
  • finance
  • psychology
  • anthropology
  • ecology

are an artefact of the underlying dependence on the thermodynamic processes. Thus to effectively reason about the relationships between societal and ecological variables you must first determine the variables relationship to the underlying thermodynamic process. For example, instead of searching for a psychosocial explanation for why democratic participation decreases with increasing per capita energy consumption you need to search for the thermodynamics governing the process. Increased energy supplies require increased economic specialization to expend the energy as waste heat. The economic specialization comes at a price of reducing the entropy available to each person. This reduces the activities available for each person, because personal choices in activities are just a thermodynamic mechanism to randomly explore the available state space. One of the ways this is measurably reflected is in the loss of democratic participation, as democracy is a mechanism for a society to randomly explore the available state space. You can try to look for specific cognitive causes, but this would just be a post hoc heuristic phenomenological rationalization. To finish with the opening analogy, trying to solve the problem of democratic participation by addressing every apparent psychological and sociological mechanism is like attempting to control a steam engine by manipulating the combustion of every organic compound one at a time in the wood. In large aggregate systems there is more information in the determinism that is statistically emergent, than in the individual probabilistic events.

Written by vocetacita

November 6, 2013 at 22:05

Posted in Uncategorized

The targets of bigotry may change but the language does not

While the targets of right wing authoritarian bigotry and intolerance change from generation to generation, the social and cognitive practices of right wing authoritarians remain the same. The latest example of these timeless practices comes in the form of a Huffington Post opinion piece by one Candice Malcolm, titled “Bankable Sick Days for Government Employees Make Me Sick

To illustrate the point, we will take some creative literary license, editing her work to replace references to the subject government employees with the subject black people, and references to the subjects people not working for the government and taxpayers with white people.

Bankable Sick Days for Black People Make Me Sick

by Blandice Talcolm

If you were just to look at the data, it would be reasonable to assume that working black people have bad health. Here’s some proof: black people took an average of 10.5 sick days in 2012. Compare that to just 5.8 sick days among white people. If you work and are a black person, you are 81 per cent more likely to book the day off than those who are white.

Black mould in black people’s buildings? Lack of clean drinking water in black people’s cafeterias? Of course not.

What can be causing this epidemic in black people’s offices across Canada? As one black person calling into a talk-radio show in Victoria, B.C. put it; it’s probably nothing more than a case of “long-weekenditis.”

It’s a long-standing joke that black people tend to “get sick” right before a long-weekend or whenever they want an extra day off.

The trend exists at all levels of the black workforce, and all across the country. Black employees are ill most often, with 17.9 days of sick leave in 2012, while in comparison, white people nationally only took 6.7 sick days in the same year.

Perhaps it is white people who foot the bill for this absenteeism who should be left feeling sick to their stomach.

Rather than placing a Health Canada warning on black people’s paycheques, the black workforce should implement reforms to reduce the amount of sick days permitted, crack down on sick day abuse, and end the practice of “sick day bank” lump sum payouts at retirement.

Ontario PC MPP John O’Toole attempted to crack down on this practice, and introduced Bill 25: Sick Days are for Sick People Act back on March 6, 2013. The bill was defeated a few weeks later by Liberal and NDP members, who evidently disagree with this definition of sick days. This bill intended to put an end to compensating black people for unused sick days, and require that black people provide sufficient evidence of actual illness when calling in sick.

A pervasive culture has grown throughout most black people’s agencies where sick days are just another lucrative benefit to be exploited. Sick day banks, where unused sick days can be saved up and “cashed in” at retirement like a secondary severance are one of the most unreasonable perks.

While some black people fought a high-profile battle that ultimately resulted in the loss of much of their sick day banks, many other black people still enjoy these banks. Some black people receive 18 sick days per year — three-and-a-half-weeks, on top of vacation days — all of which are bankable.

While accommodations ought to be made for black people recovering from illnesses or tending to an ill loved-one, the antiquated notion of having bankable and accruing sick days has now been removed from most HR books. It’s time the black people woke up and caught up to realities of the real world.

Bankable sick days, virtually no limit on interchanging sick and vacation days, and massive abuse of a system designed to help those suffering with illnesses is shameful. These practices need to end. White people are broke; white people need to make systemic changes to black people’s finances to address the structural deficit and balance white people’s books. We simply cannot afford to be this generous with black people. It isn’t fair to white people footing the bill.

Why I am attentive to this language? As a teenager I attended public school in the Southern States and experienced first hand my own relatives facing exactly this language, based on nothing other than the colour of their skin. It is my hope that the point is well taken. Hate speech is hate speech, regardless of the target.

Written by vocetacita

October 20, 2013 at 18:13

Posted in Uncategorized

Southern Alberta flu forecast for the 2013-2014 season

Last springs devastating floods in Southern Alberta have established the perfect storm to make an even relatively mild global flu (influenza like illness) season into a particularly severe season in Southern Alberta. There are 4 confounding factors that will aggravate this years flu season:

  • Exposure to flood water, sewage, mould, and mildew
  • Loss of residential inventory, particularly in Highriver and Morley
  • Increased migration, and mixing of normally geographically segregated populations; principally due to resettlement of Southern Alberta communities into longer term housing
  • Increased levels of stress, anxiety, and mental health symptoms

The increased environmental hazard exposures and increased stress will lead to an increase in the number of immune compromised individuals. The immune comprising will be multiplied by the increased mixing of populations, which will expose individuals to novel or unfamiliar pathogens, further stressing their immune systems. The loss of residential inventory will increase the density of occupants per resident, resulting in higher transmission rates of ILI causing diseases. The transmission rates will, again, be multiplied by the increased rates of migrations between Southern Alberta communities.

Overall we are expecting higher transmission rates within a weakened population. The question for the numerical models will be how much greater will the incidence, prevalence, and mortality be this year?

Addendum: H1N1/09-Pandemic is currently circulating in Southern Alberta. While still far beneath the threshold of statistical significance, it is interesting to note that the only two Canadian regions reporting laboratory confirmed cases of influenza are the Calgary area and the Toronto area; both of which suffered flood damage to residential structures. Also of interest is the large proportion of Southern Albertans who either work in the livestock, or meat processing industries. This is an additional risk factor for acquiring ILI causing diseases.

Written by vocetacita

September 24, 2013 at 12:10

Posted in Uncategorized

A preface to an API

This is cross posted from some on line documentation I am preparing for an object orientated application programming interface that provides administrative and clinical health care data for statistical reporting.



Initially the choice to provide access to the data through an API, in contrast to the traditional instantiated table-view-materialized-view approach, may seem to be an odd, and purely philosophical, choice in designs. However, the choice to implement data access through an object orientated API was largely utilitarian, being motivated by the practical limitations of the types of data structures available in the environment on which the data is hosted.

The foundational data types available through the hosted environment are relational database objects; which are well suited for capturing predicate relationships between static sets. These are relationships of the form: all of set A belongs to set B, or some of set C intersects with some of set D. Unfortunately the bulk of the data, and analysis, in the life sciences, and in particular health care, are stochastically coincident in time (and space for GIS data). In this case the analysis is of the form: which events of type A occurred during events of type B, or all the events of type C occurred mutually exclusive of all the events of type D. A simple example contrasting finished houses against house construction will illustrate the differences between these 2 cases; and the profound inability of the relational structures in the first case to address the analytic requirements of the second case.

Houses and construction

A finished house has many well defined membership relationships. For example:

  • houses are built in communities
  • houses are assemblies of frames
  • Frames are constructed from lumber
  • nails fasten the lumber

The nouns in the phrases can be, at least in theory, enumerated into lists. The items in the list are cross-referenced by the membership relationships represented by the italicized phrases; which are well defined 1 to many relationships. In this example there are 4 lists of items, and 4 relationships between the items of lists; all of which will fit efficiently into a relational data structure.

Now consider the house construction process. It is composed of many events, for example:

  • a nail being hammered into a joint
  • a copper pipe being fitted
  • electrical conductors being harnessed to the frame
  • a framed wall being raised

Similarly to the finished houses example, we can still enumerate the individual events into separate lists; 4 lists in this example. Yet the coincident relationships are much more complex. For example:

  • all the nails that were driven while copper pipe was fitted
  • all the conductors harnessed before a framed wall was raised
  • nails driven and pipe fitted and wiring harnessed simultaneously
  • all nails that were driven simultaneously with other nails
  • all sequences of nails driven

Each one of these coincidences would need a separate list to enumerate all the events that satisfy the relationship. Even in the simplest cases, because of the possibility of recursive relationships (copper fitted before nails that were driven while other nails were driven after copper was fitted) the number of lists of relationships that would be needed, in a traditional relational data structure, is unbounded. A quick review of the dimensionally extended 9 intersection model shows that for just 2 specific events there are 9 possible intersection relationships, with the number of intersection relationships growing exponentially in the number of events. The salient point is that any relationship, coincidental or not, in a traditional relational structure, has to be maintained in its own separate cross-reference list.

Problems of coincidence

The reason for illustrating the limitation of providing coincident data through a relational data structure is in the strength of the analogy between the process of health care and the process of house construction. Health care, being much more composed of events, then of fixed predicate membership relationships, is just about as infeasible to fit into a relational data structure as house construction. This is not to say we cannot store the events in traditional tables. Clearly we can. We just cannot practically store the relationships between the events into any data structure (this is actually a well known linear programming problem).

Flatly storing events in different tables would be an acceptable solution, except that to date analysts in health care have only peripherally addressed coincidence as a secondary part of their analysis, not as the principle problem. This has lead to the ad hoc development of analytic strategies that are inefficient at best, and completely wrong at worst.

To solve this social problem, the API will provide access to the data through functions (or methods) for each type of coincidence. These functions will generate every instance of a specific type of coincidence, without storing every instance a priori (which in the long run is infeasible because there are an infinite number of types of coincidence relationships). Thus, the goal of the API is to transparently encapsulate the most efficient strategies for solving problems of coincidence in the data.

Written by vocetacita

August 26, 2013 at 09:08

Posted in Uncategorized

Interactive Map of Pipeline Accidents

One of the recommendations from the Moving Energy Safely study released by the Canadian federal senates standing committee on energy, the environment, and natural resources calls for the creation of a web portal to provide an interactive map of petroleum transport accidents.

The US government is, in general, light years ahead of the Canadian government at providing public disclosure of data. In this case data on hazardous liquid pipeline accidents, available from the PHMSA, allows for the rapid development of a demonstration application off of the publicly available Tableau web site. The interactive map provides for exactly the functionality called for in the report.

Written by vocetacita

August 25, 2013 at 09:47

Posted in Uncategorized