Sunday, March 13, 2016

City of Davis Fire Department fleet costs and Chief's statement

Upon a public records request I was given the following information regarding the cost of fuel, repair and maintenance of the Davis Fire Department's five fire engines and how many miles each was driven in 2015:


Vehicle
Miles
Gallons of fuel
Cost of Fuel
Repair/Maintenance
Total fuel + repair
330-E31
10,023
2,221
$6,721.12
$29,841.23
$36,562.35
330R-E231
2,908
470.28
$1,333.61
$39,052.26
$40,385.87
320-E32
7,793
1,923.09
$5,700.30
$17,227.08
$22,927.38
325-E33
13,962
2,260.07
$6,661.79
$13,788.76
$20,450.55
315R-E233
4,235
648.15
$1,887.23
$11,358.41
$13,245.64
Totals
38,921
7,522.59
$22,304.05
$111,267.74
$133,571.79


This second table includes all of the information above plus the cost and mileage figures for other large fire trucks. Note that the last two numbers indicate which station the vehicle is based at. Those ending 31 are from the downtown station. Those ending 32 are based in West Davis. Those ending 33 are South Davis vehicles. The vehicle called 334-W31 is most likely the Fire Rescue Truck, which is based downtown. The two vehicles, G32 and G33, are fire trucks designed to fight grass fires.


Vehicle
Miles
Gallons of fuel
Cost of Fuel
Repair/Maintenance
Total fuel + repair
330-E31
10,023
2,221
$6,721.12
$29,841.23
$36,562.35
330R-E231
2,908
470.28
$1,333.61
$39,052.26
$40,385.87
334-W31
487
144.54
$430.19
$8,425.07
$8,855.26
320-E32
7,793
1,923.09
$5,700.30
$17,227.08
$22,927.38
332-G33
1,918
246.67
$774.67
$7,358.60
$8,133.27
325-E33
13,962
2,260.07
$6,661.79
$13,788.76
$20,450.55
315R-E233
4,235
648.15
$1,887.23
$11,358.41
$13,245.64
336-G32
1,629
236.26
$748.48
$13,851.70
$14,600.18
Totals
42,955
8,150.06
$24,257.39
$140,903.11
$165,160.50

In my Davis Enterprise column, I was not able to include Chief Nathan Trauernicht's complete statement for reasons of space. Nonetheless, I accurately summarized what his view is. I reproduce every word he emailed to me here:

“The fire service nationally is evolving with new ideas and concepts surrounding resource deployment.  There are many pilot programs occurring looking at the use of smaller response units to lower acuity calls.

At this time our dispatch center isn’t able to provide ‘priority dispatching’ of fire units.  That means that we have to send the full tool box to calls in the event that there is more to the situation than what is initially reported by the caller.  Even with priority dispatch many places using quick response vehicles have not reduced the staffing or capabilities of other fire apparatus in their jurisdictions.  Instead they have implemented them as an additional secondary resource in areas with simultaneous call challenges or unique call for service demands.

The hallmark of the fire service is the ability to respond to all-risks, all hazards, with the tools necessary to complete the wide variety of tasks we encounter on a daily basis.  When the time comes that we look at alternate response units in this community it will be data driven, strategic, and in a way that doesn’t compromise our ability to respond appropriately to the needs of our customers.”

NATHAN J. TRAUERNICHT
FIRE CHIEF
CITY OF DAVIS & UC DAVIS FIRE DEPARTMENTS

OFFICE OF THE FIRE CHIEF
p: (530) 752-6399
Fire Headquarters
Fire/Police Building
1 Shields Ave.
Davis, CA 95616

Friday, March 4, 2016

"What Everyone Should Know About Bicycles for Fun and Safety"

Below are the front and back cover and a few interior pages from a booklet I found among her books called, "About Bicycles." My mom likely brought this home from an S&L in Davis then called Central California Federal Savings and Loan Association. I think this is the same institution that became Heart Federal and today is a branch of US Bank.



The copyright on this booklet is 1965, though it says this is the 1973 edition.


Most of "What's a bicycle good for?" still applies.


I'm never certain what the value in publishing obvious information like that in this booklet. Of course, maybe it is not obvious to everyone, and perhaps when I was 9-years-old in 1973 it was not so obvious to me.


Friday, February 12, 2016

How teachers are getting it wrong on climate change



There is, sadly, nothing surprising in the results of “a major new survey of U.S. middle school and high school science teachers” regarding the teaching of climate change.

While it is being taught, most teachers don’t understand that there is an overwhelming (greater than 95%) consensus that it is due to human activities, many are teaching it as if it is or might be “a natural process,” and some “science” teachers are teaching the line of the oil companies.

One of the most striking findings: 30 percent of teachers said in the survey that they tell students that the current warming “is likely due to natural causes” — contradicting major scientific assessments of the matter. Thirty-one percent of teachers also said that they include both the scientific consensus position — that global warming is human-caused — but then also a “natural causes” position that contradicts it, thus presenting “both sides,” in the study’s words.

…  The study also found that most teachers are unaware of the strength of the scientific consensus about the human causes of climate change. The survey asked them “what proportion of climate scientists think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities?” For middle school teachers, 30 percent chose the option “81 to 100%,” which the researchers identified as the correct answer. High school teachers were only a little better, at 45 percent.

In addition, many teachers seemed misinformed about the subject matter. When asked what they would include in their courses on climate change, almost half selected off-topic items like “pesticides, ozone layer, or impacts of rocket launches.”

A key problem, (lead author Eric) Plutzer emphasizes, is how many teachers are presenting climate change as something to be debated in class.

“I think the message that students take away is that this is unsettled, that this is a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled to their opinion, and the details of evidence are not being presented in a way that is consistent with the scientific record,” he says.

If we paid teachers to teach well, this problem would likely go away. The problem is that we pay teachers to just stick around, even if they never go in a classroom


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Relying on BMI as a health metric is a bad idea



While it may be generally true that an exceedingly high body-mass index score suggests poor health, it is not always true, and a UCLA study, according to an LA Times story, suggests relying on BMI as a health metric is a bad idea:

“A new study from UCLA finds that some 54 million Americans who are labeled as obese or overweight according to their body mass index are, when you take a closer look, actually healthy. The findings, published in the International Journal of Obesity, reveal that employers could potentially saddle people with unfairly high health insurance costs based on a deeply flawed measure of actual health.”

The article explains BMI:

“Body mass index is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the person’s height in meters. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a “healthy” BMI is 18.5-24.9, an overweight BMI is 25-29.9 and an obese BMI is 30 or higher.”

The problem with using that number for “health” is that it can mask serious ailments — like high blood pressure — in people with a low BMI and wrongly presume that individuals who are overweight or obese also have those sorts of ailments. They may be true in general, but wrong in a lot of specific cases. BMI is, the research suggests, too crude a measure to apply to any one individual.

“Researchers have begun to suspect that people with so-called “healthy” BMIs can be very unhealthy, and those with high BMIs can actually be in very good shape.”

The inaccuracy of BMI on an individual basis might have actual financial consequences:

“… the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently proposed rules that would allow employers to penalize employees for up to 30% of their health insurance costs if they don’t meet 24 health criteria — which include meeting a specific BMI. If body mass index doesn’t accurately reflect health, then those with high BMIs potentially could be overcharged for no reason.”

After examining data from more than 40,000 individuals, here is what was discovered:

“(The UCLA researchers) found that nearly half (47.4%) of overweight people and 29% of obese people were, from a metabolic standpoint, quite healthy. On the flip side, more than 30% of individuals with “normal” weights were metabolically unhealthy.” 

My own belief is that a better, or maybe just a less crude measure of body size is a person’s waist-to-height ratio. Generally, the number of inches around your waist (at its widest point) should be under half the number of inches you are tall. 

In my case, I weigh 200 pounds, my waist is 33.5 inches and I am 74 inches tall. So my waist-to-height ratio is .453. That is in the healthy category. A man who is my same height and weight, but has a 39 inch waist is overweight, because his waist-to-height ratio is .527. Yet the two of us would have the same BMI score, and that would be misleading.

The basic idea behind waist-to-height ratio is that it does not matter so much how much you weigh relative to your height. What matters is where you are carrying that weight, and to that extent whether your weight is muscular or lipidic. 

From WebMD: 

“This visceral fat in your middle makes toxins that affect the way your body works, says Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, president of the American Diabetes Association. Among them are chemicals called cytokines that boost your chances of heart disease and make your body less sensitive to insulin, which can bring on diabetes.

“Cytokines also cause inflammation, which can lead to certain cancers, says Eric Jacobs, PhD, a researcher at the American Cancer Society. In recent years, he says, scientists have uncovered links between belly fat and cancers of the colon, esophagus, and pancreas.”

If you are slim all over but fat in your gut, you are probably much less healthy than a person who is the same height and weight but carries his weight in thick, muscular legs, butt, back, chest and arms with a slim waist. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

We cannot “Take control of Davis’ mean streets,” if we don't “Take control of Davis’ mean labor costs”



Quin Denvir, a lawyer who lives in Davis and became nationally famous when he defended Ted Kaczynski, wrote a letter to The Davis Enterprise today titled, “Take control of Davis’ mean streets.”

After expressing outrage that “the streets of downtown Davis have become dangerous on weekend and holiday nights, including a murder, stabbings, beatings and sexual assaults,” Mr. Denvir makes two suggestions:

“First, impose a 10:30 last drink and 12:30 closing for drink establishments on those nights.”

I have no idea why anyone thinks closing earlier will make any difference. If the problem is the admixture of insobriety and a predisposition to violence, criminal mayhem can break out at any time. It’s not as if no one can get drunk by 10:30 pm; or that a propensity to misbehave does not start until 1 am.

“Second, the mayor should direct the police chief to increase patrols in those areas on those nights.”

This is a more sensible suggestion. However, there is a problem. The Davis City Councils that Davis residents have repeatedly elected have overpaid all city employees by so much that there is no money to “increase patrols.” 

Mr. Denvir needs to qualify his call for increased patrols by calling for a halt to increases in employee compensation.

The City is now operating with about 75% of a full staff, because employee compensation increases keep breaking the budget. And yet, every year the City Council keeps raising employee compensation more and more, always faster than tax revenues can grow.

Among the most overpaid employees are our police officers. They cost taxpayers around $200,000 to $250,000 a year. So it is no wonder that our police department is understaffed.

Yet Mr. Denvir ignores that crucial point in his suggestion. And oddly enough, he calls for “the mayor” to request more cops on this beat, when it is the current mayor (along with his hand-picked city manager) who has been so friendly to city workers, jacking up their compensation without any regard to how we can afford those hikes.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Stopping Lou Gehrig's Disease in its tracks?



Another day, another disease cured? Not quite. However, it sounds like researchers at Oregon State University, in a study of mice implanted with ALS, may have found something which will lead to a useful therapy for human patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The breakthrough is not a cure. Rather, it is, if it works in people, something which might stop the progression of this deadly disease.


Researchers at Oregon State University have announced that they have essentially stopped the progression of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, for nearly two years in one type of mouse model used to study the disease -- allowing the mice to approach their normal lifespan.

The findings, scientists indicate, are some of the most compelling ever produced in the search for a therapy for ALS, a debilitating and fatal disease, and were just published in Neurobiology of Disease.

"We are shocked at how well this treatment can stop the progression of ALS," said Joseph Beckman, lead author on this study, a distinguished professor of biochemistry and biophysics in the College of Science at Oregon State University, and principal investigator and holder of the Burgess and Elizabeth Jamieson Chair in OSU's Linus Pauling Institute.
In decades of work, no treatment has been discovered for ALS that can do anything but prolong human survival less than a month. The mouse model used in this study is one that scientists believe may more closely resemble the human reaction to this treatment, which consists of a compound called copper-ATSM.


It's not yet known if humans will have the same response, but researchers are moving as quickly as possible toward human clinical trials, testing first for safety and then efficacy of the new approach.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Why don't we kick out immigrants after they are convicted of felonies?



There is something I don’t get about the case of Hossein Nayeri, the alleged leader of a group of three brutal felons who escaped recently from the Orange County Jail: Why wasn’t he exiled from the United States after his first felony conviction?

It seems to me, as an immigrant to the United States, once he killed his friend while driving drunk, he should have been stripped of all rights to reside in this country. After serving his jail time for that crime — which sadly was minimal — he should have been sent back to Iran and never again allowed back into the U.S.


Nayeri was born in Iran and as a child emigrated to the U.S. with his family. … Nayeri had no felony record in 2005 when he was charged in a drunken-driving accident that killed his high school friend, Ehsan Tousi. … While free on bail, Nayeri fled but eventually was arrested in Washington and extradited to California in 2009. … He was sentenced to less than a year in county jail and four years of probation, in part because of his lack of felony history. … Nayeri moved from Madera County to Orange County and violated probation several times, court records show.

That was our government’s first mistake in this case: he kills his friend, skips bail, flees out of state, gets a lenient sentence, violates his probation and nothing happens. It makes no sense. He should have gotten 5 years hard time in prison for killing his friend, and then he should have been put on a plane back to Iran and never allowed back in the U.S.

No one who immigrates to the United States has a right to remain in this country if they commit felonies while here. If they had been granted citizenship — it is not said if Nayeri is a U.S. citizen — that privilege needs to be stripped the day they go to prison as a felon.

In 2011, he was charged with domestic battery, false imprisonment and making criminal threats but the case was dismissed after he pleaded guilty to a lesser misdemeanor. That same year, a woman — one of the friends who wrote the judge on his behalf in 2005 — filed a request for a protective order against him, according to court records.

Clearly, Nayeri’s criminality did not stop after he killed his high school friend.

He was still on probation in 2012 when, prosecutors say, he fled during a traffic stop in Orange County and led police on a high-speed chase. Nayeri managed to get away on foot after ditching the car, which had surveillance devices, video footage and GPS trackers inside. About a week later, prosecutors say, Nayeri and three others kidnapped a medical marijuana distributor, bound him with zip ties and drove him to desert where they believed he had buried a large sum of cash. There, the man was tortured with a blow torch and his penis severed, according to court files.

That crime never would have happened if he had been exiled as he should have been a long time ago. Yet now he is running around free, because another Iranian immigrant who worked at the jail helped Nayeri and two other immigrant criminals escape. It is completely asinine that we don’t exile these “guests” who want to live in our country but don’t want to live by the law.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scientists open the ‘black box’ of schizophrenia with dramatic genetic discovery



Every few days, it seems like there is a story of a major scientific "breakthrough" in the news. Yet the reality of science is that most pathways which look promising at first eventually close up or peter out. However, if there are enough potential breakthroughs developed, one or more will eventually prove itself to be useful, either in solving a problem or leading to the right direction were the solution will eventually be found.

In the past few weeks I have read -- and posted to this blog -- stories regarding gene editing using the new CRISPR9 technology which I think portend well to solving a lot of serious genetic maladies. Today, the Washington Post reports that there has been a "dramatic genetic discovery" which might lead to solving schizophrenia:

For the first time, scientists have pinned down a molecular process in the brain that helps to trigger schizophrenia. The researchers involved in the landmark study, which was published Wednesday in the journal Nature, say the discovery of this new genetic pathway probably reveals what goes wrong neurologically in a young person diagnosed with the devastating disorder. ... The researchers, chiefly from the Broad Institute, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital, found that a person's risk of schizophrenia is dramatically increased if they inherit variants of a gene important to "synaptic pruning" -- the healthy reduction during adolescence of brain cell connections that are no longer needed. In patients with schizophrenia, a variation in a single position in the DNA sequence marks too many synapses for removal and that pruning goes out of control. The result is an abnormal loss of gray matter.

This seems to explain for the first time why autopsies of the brains of schizophrenics show a big loss in gray matter -- their DNA is ordering far too much "synaptic pruning."

There have been hundreds of theories about schizophrenia over the years, but one of the enduring mysteries has been how three prominent findings related to each other: the apparent involvement of immune molecules, the disorder's typical onset in late adolescence and early adulthood, and the thinning of gray matter seen in autopsies of patients. "The thing about this result," said McCarroll, the lead author, " it makes a lot of other things understandable. To have a result to connect to these observations and to have a molecule and strong level of genetic evidence from tens of thousands of research participants, I think that combination sets [this study] apart."

Now that scientists seem to know what is going on for the first time, they will need to develop a cure, a way to fix the DNA sequencing in these patients. That might be a long way off:

The study offers a new approach to schizophrenia research, which has been largely stagnant for decades.  ... "We now have a strong molecular handle, a pathway and a gene, to develop better models," he said. Which isn't to say a cure is right around the corner. "This is the first exciting clue, maybe even the most important we’ll ever have, but it will be decades" before a true cure is found," Hyman said. "Hope is a wonderful thing. False promise is not."





Saturday, January 23, 2016

Is a hole opening up in the center of American politics?



Although Hillary Clinton (51.2%) still leads Bernie Sanders (38%) in the most recent national polls among Democratic primary voters, according to Real Clear Politics, Sen. Sanders is now well ahead in New Hampshire (51.6% to 36.8%), closing the gap in Iowa (41.5% to 47.9%) and ripe with momentum just about everywhere. 

In mid-November, Sanders had trailed Clinton in Iowa by 25%. He has narrowed that to just 6.4%. In early December, Sanders was ahead by just 2% in New Hampshire. That lead has now grown to 14.8%. And Mrs. Clinton was ahead nationally by 27.4%. She now leads by half that, 13.2%. 

If Sanders could keep up this momentum and win the Democratic nomination, a great void would open up in the middle of the political spectrum. 

Sanders is far to the left of the American center on most issues. The Republicans will likely nominate someone who is either far right and unlikeable (Cruz) or simply too extreme (Trump) for the comfort of centrist voters.

That suggests that we may have a serious independent challenger who will run as a middle-of-the-road centrist. Normally, that’s a losing proposition for the person who tries. He won’t have a party backing him, helping get out the votes. And the two major party nominees normally moderate their views in order to draw as much as they can from the center in the general election.

But, if it is Sanders and Cruz, they each have very little appeal to the center. Each has always been on the extremist fringe. They have long records of not compromising their views. They are ideologues. No matter how much they might try, they will never win over the American mainstream.

Trump is a slightly different story than Cruz. His problem in the general election is less about him being too conservative. He does not seem to have a fixed point of view. Some times he is pro-choice, other times pro-life. He has been against guns and for the NRA. He has been in favor of single-payer healthcare and completely against it. His flip-floppy ideology has made him unpopular among dyed-in-the-wool conservative intellectuals, who see Trump as a philosophical fraud, not one of their own.

Insofar as Trump is just seen as an egomaniacal oddball, Trump will probably have trouble winning votes in the center in the general election.  Most middle-of-the-road Americans don’t agree with Trump on kicking out all 12 million illegal aliens; they don’t like his prejudicial views toward all Muslims; and Trump will very likely not be able to win the votes of the largest growing bloc of American voters, Latinos. 

Additionally, in trying to win the votes of Republicans, Trump has adopted a very right-wing view on all social policies, including a strong opposition to abortion, gay marriage and gun control. Those positions are not popular in the American center. Trump may or may not change those positions after he wins the GOP nod. However, if he does, it will only alienate him from the right-wing. A last-minute conversion is unlikely to win him votes from the center.

So if it is Trump or Cruz against Sanders, look for someone to fill the middle. A possibility for that spot is Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor.


“Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire and former New York mayor, is considering making an independent bid for the presidency, a move that could mark yet another wild turn in a 2016 race that has already seen more than its share of them.

Three associates said that several factors have convinced him that a run outside of the Republican and Democratic party process is worth another look.

One is the possibility that the Republican ticket may be headed by a polarizing figure, such as his fellow New York billionaire Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), the two leaders of the race at this stage.

The other is that the Democratic front-runner, Hillary Clinton, may turn out to be a far weaker candidate than was once expected — and might even lose the nomination to Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), a self-described democratic socialist whose mainstream appeal is in question.

If the right combination of those possibilities begins to look likely — something Bloomberg thinks could be clear in March, after the first big round of state primaries — it is possible they could create an opening for him to make a credible run as an independent.  …

In addition to his considerable financial resources, Bloomberg has a reputation as a skilled manager and political bridge builder. The onetime Republican has moderate views on social issues.