Community

You Need to Check the Experts’ Math

This offers a perspective on covid survival rates, but screws up some simple statistics:

0-1920-4950-6970+
100.000%100.000%100.000%100.000%
-99.997%-99.98%-99.5%-94.6%
0.003%0.02%0.5%5.4%
100% – Survival Rate= Infection Fatality Rate.

It’s official data.  It purports to be from CDC.  The author implies possession of a MD.

The math is screwed up.  By a factor of 100.  I learned the difference between decimals and percentages in the fifth or sixth grade – this isn’t a mistake at a graduate stats level, or even freshman stats. It appears someone releasing official data screwed up.  We need to check the math even on official data.

This site https://lincolnmtcovid.com/ has local numbers – and you can contrast them against the CDC statistics:

The local numbers show some anomalies when we compare and contrast them with CDC statistics.  The Libby area shows a cumulative 1,190 cases (in a population of 9,772  that’s 12.2%).  North County shows 467 cases (in a population of 6,470 that’s 7.2%) and Troy shows 258 cases (in a population of 3,435 that’s 7.5%). 

Lincoln County death rates can’t be contrasted with the CDC percentages – the tyranny of small numbers makes it impossible.  That said, in the 70+ age range that the CDC figures identify as a (corrected) 5.4% infection fatality rate, Lincoln County’s charts show 24 deaths in 311 cases – 7.8% – 44% more fatalities than national statistics.  The 3 deaths in the 50-69 age range, with 557 total cases work out amazingly close to the national 0.5% infection fatality rate.

There’s not enough data for me to infer causality.  It is good to have local data available – and I do wonder why the infection rate is higher in Libby.  Checking the math when you can is a good idea.

Community

County Fair

This year’s fair was fun, with activities for young and old alike. Vendors were present, and the food (sold by many local organizations and churches) was excellent. Plenty of raffle tickets were sold (not all for firearms), and folks seemed to be in good spirits.

The exhibits were neat, and some of the produce very impressive. The sunflowers were especially remarkable, with substantial height, thick stems, and enormous heads. Neat wood working and a creative chandelier of hummingbird feeders. The cakes and sundry baked goods in the youth section were quite impressive as well. We have some talented decorators!

As remarkable as the exhibits was the number of names that weren’t present. Perhaps we’ve simply gotten out of the habit of putting things into the fair, but while the talent displayed was impressive, much of our region’s talent was missing. I’d like for next year’s fair to feature more from the many gifted gardeners, crafters, and creatives we have in the community.

Community

Thursday Held Shakespeare in the Park

Thursday marked another season’s Shakespeare in the Park at the Historical Village.

This year’s visit offered Cymbeline. Cymbeline isn’t the only play available- which play is offered varies by location- the better known play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will be occurring in Libby this week.

While Shakespeare in the Park makes due with a much smaller cast than the original plays seem to call for, it stays true to the original spirit. Some adjustments are made; minor characters are consolidated, and names are changed to account for actresses stepping into traditionally male parts.

But the spirit remains, the jokes are made accessible despite the language barrier that Shakespeare presents, and the plays are as enjoyable by the general public as ever.

We’d like to thank Montana Shakespeare in the Parks for the lovely performance, and Sunburst Arts & Education for their part in making it possible.

Community, Meteorology

Lightning Strikes and Power Outages

Can lightning cause power outages?

As it turns out, lightning doesn’t even have to strike a power pole or knock over a tree to cause a power outage. The build up of charge nearby can actually cause power surges -no contact necessary.

Additionally, lightning gives off electromagnetic radiation. The phenomenon itself is called “sferic“, and it means you might notice static on the AM radio frequencies around the time of a strike.

That said, outages are more likely to be due to tree branches hitting power-lines than an actual lightening strike; Power-lines are often in the position of being the most attractive thing around for a lightening strike, and that is considered in their design.

What brought all this to mind?

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, it was a bit after midnight on what had just become Saturday morning. Heavy Rain. A flash. A house-shaking kaboom. The power suddenly out. It seems to have been the start of an outage on the section of power-line that goes up along Griffin Road. Lincoln Electric had everything back up and running later on Saturday.

Speaking of outages, though- there’s a planned one this week (11 PM Wednesday ’til 5AM Thursday) for everyone served by Lincoln Electric. Another overnight maintenance outage, courtesy of Bonneville Power Administration, since they need to replace structures damaged by gunshots (They’d love to have more information about that- call the BPA Hotline if you have any).

Community, Demography

4% Growth for County 57

The 2020 Census numbers have been released, and we’re looking at data we can begin to use.  I’m hoping to get the data at a school district level later on – but for now, we have county level data, CCD level data, and Census tract level data.

First – Lincoln County’s population dropped by a tenth of a percent.  Second, the population in the Libby CCD dropped by 1.2% (now 9,772), population in the Troy CCD dropped by 3.9% now 3,435), and population in the Eureka CCD increased by 4.0% (now 6,470).   North County is now officially 89 residents less than a third of the county’s population.  3,435 of the people represented by the Troy Commissioner reside in the Troy CCD, while 3,124 reside in the Libby CCD.  This is a trend worth watching.

Housing data is available at the county level – and it may give us some insight on rentals in the area.  Housing units in Lincoln County decreased by 4.0% – occupied housing units increased by 0.5%, and unoccupied housing units decreased by 19.6%. 

In County 57 – the Eureka CCD – housing unit numbers are:

 2020 #2020 %2010 #2010 %Change
Total Housing Units3,716 3,771 -1.5%
Occupied2,79675.2%2,69271.4%3.9%
Vacant92024.8%1,07928.6%-14.7%

All these statistics are in comparison with the 2010 Census. 

It’s going to be fun as future releases will show even more usable data.

Community

50 Caliber Artifact

Most of the artifacts I find on the place are historical instead of archaeological.  Two, found about a half-century apart were cartridge cases from the Sharps “Big Fifty.”  Both were probably not just ejected, but rather discarded.  Each had a split along the sidewall, suggesting that they had been reloaded and re-used at least once past their “best-used before” date.

It is hard to figure out the story behind this brass.  The “Big Fifty” was introduced in 1872 as the 50-90, but with differing bullets these old empties could have been 50-100 or 50-110 cartridges.  Sharps Rifle Company folded its tent in 1881, the last of the great buffalo herds was slaughtered in 1884 (Standing Rock, North Dakota) and, by 1890 the rifle and cartridge were obsolete.  Both were found in wooded areas that overlooked spots where long shots -a bit over 200 yards- might have been possible – but the only solid inference I can make is that each was discarded after the shooter noticed the split.

Another empty from a “buffalo gun” showed up maybe 25 yards from one of the big fiftie empties.  This one could probably still be reloaded safely.  The 45-75 Winchester was the original chambering for Winchester’s 1876 rifle.  It was found in a spot that was unwooded, and coming from a lever gun, might well have been ejected for a fast second shot.  The rifle was produced until 1897, and the cartridge until 1935.  I suspect there were two different hunters using buffalo rifles long after the herds were gone. 

I have never encountered a 32 special empty – despite it being the only centerfire rifle my Grandparents used here.  I suspect they carefully hoarded each piece of brass – but on the other hand, the empty case is small, and every acre has 43,560 square feet for the years to conceal all evidence.

I still encounter haywire artifacts in the woods.  I started moving bales in 1960, and worked with twine-tied square bales.  The first incarnation wire-tie bailer was developed in 1879, so it’s hard to pin a date on that.  Occasionally tangling a foot in haywire along an old logging trail suggests that bales were brought in for a lunch for horses that were skidding logs out.  I haven’t ran across much haywire in the fields – but my explanation could be out to lunch.  Still, I think the baling wire came after the cartridge cases.

The orange artifacts are Dad’s – it’s amazing how long orange baler twine can last when it becomes one with the ground.  It’s equally amazing how long I have had to lie on the ground with a Kabar cutting it out of the rototiller.  I had to sharpen the knife 6 times before I got the last of the bailer twine cut out of the tines.

Community

Fireworks and Fires

When we risk fire, we do not just choose that risk for ourselves. Rather, we choose that risk for our neighbors as well.

As we approach the fourth of July, it’s time to start considering the fire danger. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there were 19,500 fires started by fireworks in 2018 (not bad for a whole year- but also unlikely to be all of the fires started by fireworks- just the ones where people admitted to it).

Where do we learn about fire restrictions and fire danger? weather.gov actually has a national map that includes all warnings, including red flag warnings. At the moment, we’re showing an “excessive heat warning” from noon Monday (6/28) to 8 PM Thursday.

If we’re not at red-flag level, it’s still important to know how close we are to reaching it. For that, we want to look at the fire potential map put out by the forest service and accompanying agencies. At the moment, we’re placed in high risk, coded orange. The area coded red moves closer as the forecast date moves further out into the week.

If you don’t feel like wandering out by one of the Smokey the Bear signs, you can get an update on the fire danger on the upper right of this page.

Given the (very) warm weather, and the lack of recent rain, the fire risk is worth watching. Fireworks and other flammable fun definitely requires some caution and consideration. Choose your risks carefully and keep watching the warnings/fire restrictions/etc.

As ever- we appreciate our local volunteer fire department– and hope not to need them! Thank you!

Community

Lowering Academic Expectations

A few weeks back, a request came in for thoughts on grade inflation – basically lowered academic expectations.  Grade inflation is easiest observed in the Spring – high school graduation time.  The more students that share valedictorian status, the greater the statistical improbability.  It is possible to have the Lake Wobegon situation, where everyone is above average – but that is not the way to bet.

We can glance at the ACT scores – Schooldigger  ranks Montana high schools based on their students ACT performance.  It’s worth a glance – Whitefish is rated third in state.  Troy was 99th in 2018, and rose to 88th in 2019.  Lincoln County High School in Eureka was rated 78th in 2018 and went to 96th for 2019.  Libby was 58th in 2018 and 103 in 2019.   119 high schools were ranked. 

The ACT was a test to evaluate a student’s potential for college – now, with all Montana high school students taking it during their junior year, it has morphed beyond the individual student  application into a tool for evaluating each school.  The ratings were an unpleasant surprise when I looked at our high school.  This link shows the ranking data over the decade. In 2013, LCHS was in the top half.  Follow the link.  Look at the data.  I started writing this, and the data led me into a spot I didn’t want to see.

I recall taking placement tests in the fieldhouse at MSU back in 1967.  Sitting on a folding chair, with a chunk of particleboard there was a single memorable statistic shared: “42.8 percent of you will be here next Fall.”  George Bush had definitely not sold the concept of “No Child Left Behind.”  A lot rides on class rank and test scores for college selection . . . yet as I write this, I remember 2 academic full rides that I dismissed because travel costs were too high.  My freshman year travel was carpooling in Grant’s Mercury, with high school classmates, back from the cow college. 

I was pretty shocked in 2010 when I saw that 71.8% of South Dakota high school graduates were going directly to college.  Some of those new freshmen had to be below average.  Still, there are spots where kids learn a lot more in today’s high schools.  Now, high school algebra is often an 8th grade class – I had classmates back in 1967 who had taken algebra as their final math class as sophomores.  Today the kids in 8th grade learn about electron orbital configurations – that was my Junior year. 

We have to look at online education.  I can’t say I hated teaching online, but even large lecture halls gave me a chance to catch students who were having problems – I remember the girl who showed up regularly, took notes, and was flunking the class . . . and a few minutes visiting showed that she was a first-semester freshman from a small rural school and didn’t realize that ANTH 412/512 meant the class was intended for seniors and grad students.  As a teacher, I liked the opportunity to save a student who was off-course.  Online, my best students looked at the grade rubric, finished their work by mid-term, and were gone.  The advice I got to improve the class was to add busywork to keep them through the semester.  Online is a great option for the self-motivated learner who doesn’t need a teacher.

I haven’t kept on topic well.  The moment of reading the LCHS state rankings stays in my mind as I write. 

Community

Does Each Solution Create a New Problem?

It’s not a happy situation when a problem’s solution creates a new problem that is equal or greater than the original problem.  In Elementary school civics, I learned that the Secret Ballot was developed to solve the problem of political bosses ability to tell people how to vote, and punish people who voted against their candidates.  I was about 10 or 12, and I bought the idea – if someone was buying votes, you could take their money, go into the voting booth and vote against them, and nobody would ever know the difference.

Later, I learned that the secret ballot had its own weakness – it depended on the honesty of the folks who count the ballots.  Before the secret ballot, everyone knew how I voted.  It made it harder to rig the election with a fake count.  I’m pretty sure that Stalin didn’t say “Those who cast the votes decide nothing.  Those who count the votes decide everything.”  But it’s a solid description of a problem resulting from the secret ballot.

Easy absentee voting removes my need for a ten-mile round trip to vote – it’s a solution to that problem.  Still, in the past 6 months, we’ve seen two fubars here in the north end of Lincoln County.  The first fubar was the loss, misplacement, whatever of a box full of ballots that were left, lost, abandoned, whatever, in Eureka instead of being delivered to Libby for the count.  I use the term fubar – the official news release included the descriptor “impeccable” and pardoned the error with the thought that his heart was in the right place.  The obvious question is whether or not the hiring process is stringent enough.  A less obvious question is whether or not the county functions to provide fair and competent services – Koocanusa did a good job of cutting the middle from the county.

The most recent problem with absentee voting was two-fold.  First unsolicited absentee ballots were sent out to protect folks from disease.  Second, a simple blunder included two districts in the mailing that didn’t include eligible voters.  The initial response to my question about it was credited to the election administrator and reads “All I can tell you is that their address is in both the Eureka School District 13 and the Trego district 53. They can legally vote for District 13.”

The official release, when the blunder was recognized, is a bit different – but, hell, I was there to bring the problem in the open. 

I didn’t bother looking at the possibility of fraudulent counts being enhanced by loose absentee ballot controls.  Jimmy Carter already made that determination – and I did cast my secret ballot for him back in 1976.  Still like the man – though I thought that only Buchanan kept him from being the worst president ever.  But that was back in the 20th century – in the 21st both Carter and Buchanan have had some stiff competition.

Community

Lincoln Electric Held Annual Meeting

Saturday, Lincoln Electric Coop held their annual meeting as a drive-in meeting at Lincoln County High School.

As with last year’s meeting, it was drive-in, with attendees tuning their radios to listen in. Unlike last year’s smoke, this year’s meeting was cold, wet, and windy.

View from one of the registration checkpoints (before the weather really started to worsen)

At 9 am when the meeting started, there were 97 members registered. With last meeting‘s bylaw change, a quorum only required 2% of coop members, so the meeting was able to continue.

To say the meeting was uneventful might actually be an understatement. Members did vote by mail -over 200 of them, in fact- but it made little difference since there were no more people running than open seats. In fact, each incumbent was reappointed.

Capital credit checks were mailed, we heard a few California jokes, and a bit about the state legislature.

What’s the difference between California and the Titanic? The Titanic had its lights on when it sank.

(I’m paraphrasing the joke, but it was something along those lines)

The discussion on legislation was informative; We learned about House Bill 475 which proposes to classify hydroelectric power as a renewable resource. The representative of the Montana Electric Coop Association was optimistic that the bill will be signed.

As renewable energy sources become increasingly required, having a reliable energy source that qualifies (such as hydroelectric) becomes important in avoiding blackouts and brownouts.

Other news: Rural Propane Services had a rough year but “is on the rebound”, expect to see a rate adjustment (but most residential members won’t see much of a change)

The meeting closed in under 45 minutes.