The San Diego Fire Rescue Department bomb squad investigated a suspicious package in Mission Beach on Thursday. Crews used a robot equipped with an x-ray device to examine the package, which was found at 3447 Bayside Walk near Lido Court.

Upon entering the home, officers saw something they said looked like sticks of dynamite taped together with wires leading to a clock face. The officers exited and called the fire department who deployed the bomb squad. The bomb squad determined there was no power source to the package and that there was a sticker on the device that marked it as a novelty item.

A suspicious package was found Friday morning at a Kanawha County bank. A robot was used, and it was determined the package was a newspaper that had been placed against the door.

A suspicious package was found in Hayes Valley neighborhood Sunday afternoon. The package turned out to be someone’s suitcase.

A suspicious package was reported Friday outside of the Woodburn Premium Outlet Max Studio store. A bomb squad from the Oregon State Police x-rayed the package and determined around 8:45 p.m. it was not an explosive device.

A suspicious package was found on a Weir High School bus Wednesday morning. School officials say a student found a box under a bus seat which appeared to contain electrical wires. After further investigation, including using K-9s, police determined it was not a threat and the all clear was given shortly after 9 a.m. Officials say the box was part of a school project.

The discovery of a suspicious package shut down a San Francisco Public Health Department building in the city’s South of Market neighborhood this morning. At about 10:40 a.m. a loud blast shook the neighborhood, setting off car alarms and prompting one man standing on 10th Street to exclaim, “Damn!”

A suspicious package left in front of the Chula Vista courthouse Friday turned out to be a backpack containing old Playboy magazines. Authorities, including the sheriff’s department Bomb/Arson Unit, were summoned to the courthouse at 500 Third Avenue after the abandoned backpack was found at about 8:45 a.m. Investigators at the scene used robots to inspect the backpack, which had an antenna from a radio coming from the top.

Police officers evacuated a city block after a suspicious package was reported in 500 block of Tulare Ave. in Parlier. Officers are now trying to figure out who duct taped a suspicious device to the bottom of a vehicle. Police did not want to elaborate on what the device was under the car, except to emphasize it was not a bomb.

Authorities in Henry County responded to a report of a suspicious package at an Abbeville law office Thursday. According to the sheriff’s office, employees at the law office of Samuel Christopher Money thought the addressing on a package seemed “peculiar.” It was also very heavy. Abbeville police, the Henry County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Investigative Task Force and the Dothan Police Department Bomb Unit responded. The area was evacuated, and the bomb squad x-rayed the package. The package was determined to not be dangerous.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was called out to Royal Palm Beach Elementary School after a suspicious package was found near the school’s marquee on Wednesday afternoon. The suspicious package turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes, according to investigators.

A suspicious package was found in the 1600 block of Barrington Street (Halifax) around 9:30 a.m. The owner of the backpack approached police a short time later and explained that he had forgotten his backpack, which contained his lunch, at the location.

Elmhurst police were alerted to a suspicious package at the Elmhurst Post Office on Sunday. The postal inspectors x-rayed the package and determined it posed no immediate hazard. Police said it was filled with “electronic media bundles.” A note was included in the package that said, “Mary has passed on—thanks for all that you have done to keep her listening.” The box had no mailing or return address.

A couple found a bag full of cylinders and wire next to a dumpster Wednesday that looked suspicious, so they brought it to the northeast substation where police determined it was a battery pack used in large toys. The bomb unit was called out, and the unit found that the package was not harmful.

After hours of evacuation, the Detroit Lakes Walmart is reopened. The Crow Wing County bomb squad investigated the store because of a suspicious package found on Friday. The “suspicious package” turned out to be a zipped-up coat with several other store items inside of it. Authorities suspect the shopper was planning to steal the merchandise-filled coat, but decided against it; hiding it in the store where coats don’t usually belong.

Witnesses say the [suspicious package] drama unfolded when a man walked into the food court area here, dropped luggage on the ground, made the sign of the cross, then walked away. The Chicago Police Bomb and Arson unit, the Chicago Fire Department Hazardous Incident team and State Police dogs were used to investigate the luggage. “It was pretty scary at first, because the first thing you think about is 9-11. So it was really scary for a minute there,” said Curcuz. In the end, it was determined, the luggage was harmless.

A package filled with newspapers caused quite a scare at a bank in Elkview. The package was found at the front door of the Poca Valley Bank about 10 a.m. Friday. The Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department’s bomb squad was called to the scene to check it out. A robot looked inside the package and found bags of newspapers inside.

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December 8, 2012. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported that Loughrey told police he had emptied the magazine of his 9-millimeter Taurus handgun, and he didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber. The gun discharged and his son was struck in the chest.

February 13, 2012. Authorities in St. Petersburg, Fla. say the daughter of a pastor was accidentally killed at church Sunday when a gun went off. Investigators say a man was showing his gun to another church member interested in buying it, but didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber. The gun went off and fired through a wall at Grace Connection Church, striking 20-year-old Hannah Kelley in the head.

December 11, 2009. Asked by the judge why he pulled the trigger, Airman Hernandez said, "I trusted him; I’d seen him doing it earlier that night, and I trusted him. Even though I saw him load (the gun), I didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber."

December 31, 2006. He didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber of his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun when investigators say he pointed the weapon at his friend’s head.

September 8, 2006. “It was my fault,” Robert Christie told the neighbors, according to a sheriff’s report. “I didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber.”

October 16, 1998. “She was chiding him in her discussion with a friend,” Givens told Wagner. “He didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber and pulled the trigger.”

September 9, 1994. Steinberg said Cruz recklessly pointed the gun at his brother after ejecting the clip and didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber.

February 15, 1988. Defense lawyers claim that Matthews didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber of the .380-caliber handgun.

March 10, 1971. He told police he had removed the ammunition clip from the pistol and didn’t know there was a bullet in the chamber when he pointed the gun at the girl.

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David Petraeus. A Brilliant Career With a Meteoric Rise and an Abrupt Fall

Tony Watt, Scottish footballer. Dream night against Barca caps meteoric rise for Watt

Justin Welby. New Archbishop of Canterbury: Justin Welby, the meteoric rise of an ‘astonished’ former oil trader

Eben Etzebeth. Young Etzebeth’s meteoric rise

* See “METEORIC RISE” at Michael Quinion’s excellent site, World Wide Words.

One Response to “Meteoric Rises* in This Week’s Headlines”

  1. terri Says:

    Wonder if the meteoric rise in rhetoric corresponds to the Leonids meteor shower peaking 11-17-2012 with about 12 meteors per hour……better check if anyone rises or falls during the Gemenids December 13th 2012 with 100 shooting stars per hour.

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[This will be brief and sloppy, since I should be packing, not blogging. With luck, there will be an update later this month/year/decade, but don’t hold your breath.]

Today went like this:

5:00 a.m. Wake up a good four hours before my usual wakey-uppy time, because in order to get to the Marvin Hamlisch Memorial Choir rehearsal, I had to catch the 6:21 train.

7:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Rehearse for and sing at Marvin’s funeral. While it isn’t the subject of this post, highlights of the event were a) President Bill Clinton, b) John Updike’s Perfection Wasted, a sucker punch if there ever was one, and c) Terre Blair Hamlisch’s heartbreakingly stunning eulogy to her late husband.

12:45 – 2:30 p.m. Lunch at Serafina on 61st (a martini and a plate of paglia e fieno) with fellow singers Andy, Darcy, and the just-married Baninos. Disappointingly, although we were all dressed in black, no one asked “Who died?” Only in New York.

3:45 – 8:03 p.m. Procrastinate.

8:04 p.m. See Dr. Rubidium’s provocative and pithy tweet,

People, eggs are bad for you AGAIN.… … via @Jezebel #untiltheyrenot


“Your Breakfast Is Trying to Murder You: Eggs Are Almost as Bad for You as Cigarettes,” Jezebel crowed.

Well, I love me my eggs, and egg slander is up there with salt slander and sugar slander as a high crime against food. Eggs give Cheez-Its a run for the money as the perfect food, and this had to be wrong.

Here’s the hard-boiled truth. The latest research on eggs and heart disease is flawed. Eggs are not going to kill you.

Jezebel and other news outlets have jumped on Egg yolk consumption and carotid plaque, a paper recently published in the journal Atherosclerosis, which claims that a person’s carotid plaque increases exponentially with their egg yolk consumption. (This paper is referred to below as EWKY, for Eggs Will Kill You.)

Most likely there is no exponential relationship at all. But if you believe the authors’ statistics, perhaps you will believe what I can prove by an identical analysis:

The length of objects, measured in centimeters, grows exponentially with length measured in inches.

Of course, this is ridiculous. The length of an object in centimeters is exactly 2.54 times its length in inches. The relationship is linear, not exponential. After you finish reading this post, I hope you’ll realize that the egg slander in Atherosclerosis is also ridiculous.

The “exponential” dependence of plaque on egg yolk consumption is an artifact of skewed data.

I created a data set with the same distribution as the EWKY data to investigate a hypothetical relationship between inches and centimeters, using the same flawed way the authors of EWKY analyzed the relationship between egg yolk consumption and plaque.

Briefly, the authors of EWKY treated “quintile”  as a scale variable, which it is not.

Here are the histograms of my data and the EWKY data. Pretty much the same.


And here are error bar charts of my data and the EWKY data. Both appear to show a clearly non-linear relationship.

The error bar chart from EWKY is the sole justification for the claim of an exponential cigarette-like relationship to plaque:


(My error bars are much shorter because the correlation between inches and centimeters is perfect. While the relationship between egg-yolk years and plaque is not, it’s nevertheless not exponential.)

There are other statistical gaffes in EWKY, but I don’t have time to delve into them. I’ll mention the worst very quickly.

First, most of the EWKY analysis compares lifetime egg yolk consumption to plaque. Lifetime anything consumption is a proxy for age, and atherosclerosis is strongly age-dependent. Nowhere do the authors of EWKY provide convincing evidence that the relationship between egg yolk consumption and plaque is anything but an artifact of the proxy for age.

Furthermore, the authors pay no heed to the always-important question of effect size. They provide a single analysis that shows a statistically significant relationship between the non-age-proxy measurement of egg yolk consumption per week (as opposed to over a lifetime) and plaque that’s independent of age:

Screen shot 2012-08-15 at 0.02.39

The difference in plaque area between the <2 eggs/week group and the 3 or more eggs group (an arbitrary split, and ignoring the several hundred subjects who ate from 2 to 2.99 eggs/week) is about 1/20 of a standard deviation, otherwise known as squat. The fact that p < 0.0001 after adjustment for age is irrelevant, because with such a large sample, significance might appear for an even smaller effect (micro-squat).

Gotta run, gotta pack. Thanks for listening.

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Updated June 5, 2012. (Scroll to the end for the update.)

This week’s Numberplay is about a locker room full of, well, lockers – 100 of them, to be exact. The lockers are closed until a janitor (let’s call her Portia) visits the room and opens them all. Then Portia visits the room again and closes every other locker. Later on, she visits the room a third time, opening or closing every third one. And so on, for 100 visits in all.

Head over to the Times, then come back here and enjoy the pictures.

Picture #1. The 100 lockers of the puzzle are represented as a row of tiny squares – red squares for closed doors, green for open. The squares in the top row (all green) show the lockers all open after Portia’s first visit to the locker room.

The second row of squares, alternating green and red, show the lockers after her second visit, and so on.


If you squint at the patterns across the top, I think you can see Portia’s face.

Picture #2. After Portia’s first visit to the locker room, all 100 lockers are open. After her second visit, 50 are open and 50 are closed. Ninety-eight visits later, ten lockers are open. (Just which of the lockers are open in the end is the beautiful result of the puzzle, which you’ll find more easily in the comments to this week’s puzzle than you will by trying to count the tiny squares in the picture here.)

You might wonder – I did anyway – how the number of open lockers changes between Portia’s second and hundredth visit. Here’s a graph.


What a delightfully curious graph! The number of open lockers wanders seemingly aimlessly about the low 50s for a while. It briefly threatens to stay put at 54, then glides down with a few small bumps to a final value of 10.

Intrepid readers can find the Excel spreadsheet I created these pictures from here.

Thanks to Gary Antonick for sharing this great puzzle, which was suggested by Volodymyr Ivanchenko.

Updated June 5, 2012. Back at Numberplay, Gary suggested looking for the number of open lockers sequence at the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. I didn’t find anything, and I suspect that’s because this puzzle gives different sequences for each initial number of lockers.

So, I put together a SQL Server 2012 script (and posted it at SQL Fiddle here) to generate data for this “number of open lockers” graph for locker rooms with other than 100 lockers.

The graph gets even more interesting when there are more lockers.




One Response to “Numberplay: A Picture is Worth 100 Doors”

  1. Giovanni Ciriani Says:

    Lovely. Seems worthy of publishing in Wolfram’s NKS. Extending the graph ad infinitum, I guess we should see something like an inverted parabola?

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In today’s New York Times, Ross Douthat opines that

a lack of contraceptive access simply doesn’t seem to be a significant factor in unplanned pregnancy in the United States. When the Alan Guttmacher Institute¹ surveyed more than 10,000 women who had procured abortions in 2000 and 2001, it found that only 12 percent cited problems obtaining birth control as a reason for their pregnancies. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study of teenage mothers found similar results: Only 13 percent of the teens reported having had trouble getting contraception.

If this makes any sense to you at all, imagine the same argument against requiring seat belts in cars as a way to reduce the number of highway fatalities:

Unavailability of seat belts simply doesn’t seem to be a significant factor in highway fatalities in the United States. When the XYZ Institute examined more than 10,000 highway fatalities, it found that in only 12 percent of the cases was no seat belt available to the deceased. A recent Centers for Accident Prevention study of highway fatalities found similar results: Only 13 percent of passengers killed in traffic accidents were in seats not equipped with a working seat belt.

Or the same argument against just about anything useful that should be readily available:

Unavailability of public waste bins simply doesn’t seem to be a significant factor in the litter problem in the United States. When the XYZ Institute interviewed more than 10,000 people who threw trash on the streets, it found that in only 12 percent of them did so because they couldn’t find a waste bin. A recent Centers for a Cleaner America study of littering found similar results: Only 13 percent of people who littered did so more than 20 yards from a public waste bin.

¹ According to the latest Guttmacher survey, released this month, and based on 2008 data, the rates of pregnancy, abortion, and births among teens in the United States are all at historic lows. According to the report, “A large body of research has shown that the long-term decline in teen pregnancy, birth and abortion rates was driven primarily by improved use of contraception among teens.”

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1937: The budget which President Roosevelt submitted 60 days ago is already becoming obsolete.

1949: A Senate Commerce subcommittee said today the nation’s war-built merchant fleet already is becoming obsolete and “a replacement program of new ship construction may be in order.”

1949: The FCC chief devoted most of the address to the current public discussion over the possibility of television sets now in the hands of the public becoming obsolete in the event new video channels are opened in the so-called “ultrahigh frequencies.”

1958: The premier also pointed out that the Moose Jaw plant was fast becoming obsolete and that there was a possibility in the near future of nuclear power being more universally used.

1960: Old fashioned bomb-throwing assassins are becoming obsolete in an age where computing machines and electronic devices are essential tools of day-to-day existence.

1960: The giant Intercontinental ballistic missiles already may be well on the way to becoming obsolete.

1966: Is your front door becoming obsolete? Studies show that in suburban homes 90 per cent of the traffic is between the garage and a side or  a back door. [In “SURBURBAN BYPASS,” a column of potpourri that incidentally fails to mention spelling.]

1973: New letter sorting equipment being used by the Postal Service at Cincinnati is “becoming obsolete as it is being developed,” according to a report by a House subcommittee staff.

1975: The [Education Commission of the States], which conducts periodic student assessments for the U.S. Office of Education, said experts are suggesting that the written word is becoming obsolete as students lean more on the spoken word.

1984: Building in New Hanover County is becoming so concentrated that our present method of sewage disposal is rapidly becoming obsolete.

1985: Science buildings and laboratories at many universities are becoming obsolete, and their condition threatens to cripple important research in health, engineering and other fields in which the United States now leads, a University of Illinois official told a congressional panel Wednesday.

1986: Rotary-dial telephones are becoming obsolete.

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News this week of an Adderall shortage, and this report, which draws into question the widely-held belief that methamphetamines cause brain damage and cognitive impairment, prompt me to rescue an old statistical parody I wrote (and posted on my now-moribund Drew web page) in 2003, a few years before I had this soapbox. The news links above are also well worth visiting.

Cocaine’s brain effects might be long term [“news”]

Insulin’s metabolic effects might be long term [parody]

BOSTON, March 10, 2003 (UPI) — Cocaine and amphetamines
might cause slight mental impairments in abusers that
persist for at least one year after discontinuing the
drugs, research released Monday reveals.

MADISON (NJ), March 16, 2003 — Insulin might cause metabolic
disorders in abusers that persist for at least one year after
discontinuing the drug, research released Monday reveals.

However, experts outside the study said the findings were inconclusive
and pointed out although cocaine has been widely abused for decades,
impaired cognitive function is not seen routinely or even known to exist in
former abusers.

"Overall, the abusers were impaired compared to non-abusers on the function of attention and motor skills," Rosemary Toomey, a psychologist at Harvard
Medical School and the study’s lead investigator, told United Press International.

“Overall, the abusers were impaired compared to non-abusers
on tests of sugar metabolism,” Rosemary Toomey, a psychologist
at Harvard Medical School and the study’s lead investigator,
told United Press International.

Previous studies have yielded inconsistent findings on whether
cocaine abuse led to long-term mental deficits. Some studies found
deficits in attention, concentration, learning and memory six months
after quitting. But a study of former abusers who were now in prison
and had abstained from cocaine for three years found no deficit.

Few studies have looked at the long term effects of insulin
abuse, although doctors and scientists generally believe
the drug is harmful. One study of former abusers who
were now in prison and had abstained from insulin for
three years found a higher than normal death rate.

To help clarify these seemingly conflicting results, Toomey’s team,
in a study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, identified
50 sets of male twins, in which only one had abused cocaine or
amphetamines for at least one year. Amphetamine abusers were
included because the drug is similar to cocaine and could have the
same long-term effects on the body.

To address the lack of careful studies, Toomey’s team, funded by
the National Institute on Drug Abuse, identified 50 sets of male
twins, in which only one had abused insulin for at least one year.

Most of the pairs were identical twins, meaning they share the exact
same genetic pattern. This helps minimize the role biological
differences could play in the findings and gives stronger support to the
mental impairments being due to drug abuse.

Most of the pairs were identical twins, meaning they
share the exact same genetic pattern. This helps minimize
the role genetic differences could play in the findings and gives
stronger support to the impairments being due to insulin abuse.

The abusers, who averaged age 46 and had not used drugs for at least
one year, scored significantly worse on tests of motor skills and
attention, Toomey’s team reports in the March issue of The Archives
of General Psychiatry.

The abusers, who averaged age 46 and had not used
insulin for at least one year, scored significantly worse
on tests of sugar metabolism, Toomey’s team reports in
the March issue of The Archives of General Metabolism.

The tests all were timed, which indicates the abusers have
"a motor slowing, which is consistent with what other investigators
have found in other studies," Toomey said.

The tests all were performed after fasting, which indicates the abusers
have “an impaired metabolism unrelated to diet, which is consistent
with the consensus in the medical community,” Toomey said.

Still, the abusers’ scores were within normal limits and they actually
performed better on one cognitive test, called visual vigilance, which
is an indication of the ability to sustain attention over time. This
indicates the mental impairment is minor, Toomey said. "In real life,
it wouldn’t be a big impact on (the abusers’) day-to-day functioning
but there is a difference between them and their brothers," she said.

The finding is significant, she added, because given that the study subjects
are twins and share the same biological make-up, they would be expected
to have about the same mental status. This implicates the drug abuse
as the cause of the mental impairment.

The finding is significant, she added, because given that the study
subjects are twins and share the same biological make-up, they would
be expected to have about the same metabolic status. This
implicates the drug abuse as the cause of the impairment.

Among the abusers, the mental test scores largely did not vary in
relation to the amount of cocaine or amphetamine used. However,
on a few tests the abusers did score better with more stimulant use.

Among the abusers, poorer test scores were consistently associated
with increased levels of insulin abuse. Among the heaviest abusers,
not one scored better than his non-abusing twin.

"The results seem to me to be inconclusive," Greg Thompson,
a pharmacist at the University of Southern California’s
School of Pharmacy in Los Angeles, told UPI.

“The results seem to me to be conclusive,” Greg Thompson,
a pharmacist at the University of Southern California’s
School of Pharmacy in Los Angeles, told UPI.

This is "because both twins are within a normal range
(and) sometimes the cocaine-abusing twin did better than the
non-abusing twin and sometimes not," Thompson said.

This is “because almost without exception, only the non-abusing
twin is within a normal range (and) the insulin-abusing twin did
worse than the non-abusing twin,” Thompson said.

In addition, cocaine has been abused by millions of people, going
back as far as the 1930s and before, he said. "You’d think you’d be
seeing this as a significant clinical problem and we are not," he said.

In addition, insulin has been abused by millions of people,
and poor sugar metabolism among former insulin abusers
has been reported by physicians going back as far as the 1930s
and before, he said. “This is a significant clinical problem,” he said.

Of more concern to Thompson is the effect stimulants such as Ritalin,
which are used to treat attention deficit disorder, are having on
children. "This would be a much bigger problem I would think if
it’s true stimulants impair cognitive function," he said.

Of more concern to Thompson is the effect daily insulin injections
are having on children. Insulin is commonly prescribed to control
diabetes (frequent urination, weight gain, and fatigue syndrome).
“Many of these children will become former insulin abusers, and
poor sugar metabolism will be a major healthcare issue for
them in the years to come,” he said.

"Before I’d worry about the 46 year-old abuser, I’d want to know about the
3 year old being treated for ADD (attention-deficit disorder)," Thompson said.

“Before I’d worry about the 46 year-old abuser, I’d want to
know about the 3 year old being treated for diabetes,” Thompson said.

One Response to “Maybe That Wasn’t Your Brain on Meth”

  1. Terri Says:

    Yea I just realized I can read your blog in 75 degree sunshine! Happy me thanks you!

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It is utterly ridiculous. I have a home in Los Angeles and Palm Springs, and California is famous for high taxes, yet we don’t pay anything close to what I will be paying.

So says Tod Abrams, in a peevish, petulant portrayal of his property tax plight from yesterday’s New York Times.

Toddfoolery, I say. Or, because it can apparently now be spelled with one d, todfoolery. Toddfoolery or todfoolery is foolish nonsense from someone named Tod(d).

This Tod, eerily paralleling last year’s plaintive Todd, is perturbed that “his monthly real estate taxes are poised to surge by more than 400 percent over the next several years.”¹ In 2018, the “unbelievable deal” Tod’s been getting on property taxes will have run its course.

Todfoolery the first. “Unbelievable,” as opposed to “utterly ridiculous,” is no exaggeration.

When he bought a condo at the Orion for $1,575,000 in 2007, Tod’s property taxes were $35.26 [sic] a month. He now pays $373.73/month. In 2018, the estimated tax bill will be $1,629/month (tax-deductible).

None of this was unknown to Tod. The Times discreetly hinted as much by titling its article “421a Tax Exemption: Don’t Say You Didn’t Know.” To be fair, Tod didn’t say he didn’t know about all this. He just said it was utterly ridiculous.

Todfoolery the second. “California is famous for high taxes”

Granted, I’m from New Jersey, where property taxes are high, but $1,629/month doesn’t seem like a lot of property tax for a $1.5M condo. Not that I own a $1.5M condo. Maybe it seems like more to someone from California.

California may be “famous for high taxes,” but any such fame has to do with personal income taxes, not property taxes. Property taxes in California are famous, though. They’re famous for Proposition 13, which keeps them low compared to many other states.

Todfoolery the third and fourth. “don’t pay anything close to what I will be paying”

Q: What does Tod pay in California property tax, anyway, and is it “anything close” to the $1,629/month he won’t be paying in New York in 2018 (because he’s selling his place), which he says it’s not?

A: On his Los Angeles home alone, Tod pays $13,500/year, or $1,125/month in property taxes, and yes, this isanything close” to $1.629/month.

Todfoolery the fifth. “over 400 percent”

The anticipated New York property tax increase is 336%, which is definitely not “over 400 percent.”²

Todfoolery the sixth. “slashed”

Poor Tod, as we learn from Times reporter Julie Satow, is selling his Orion condo (at left).

Tod, “who has relocated to Los Angeles³ to be closer to his son and for work, has already slashed the price three times…”

He’s “slashed the price three times.” The quotation marks indicate that this is a real quote from the Times article, but scare quotes are also in order for “slashed,” or perhaps “three.”

Tod initially listed his place for $1,950,000. After three weeks, he shockingly abandoned hope for a 24 percent-in-four-years profit — despite the recent housing boom — and he (Slash #1) relisted his condo for $1,695,000. Slash #2  saw the listing price plummet from $1,695,000 to $1,645,000, or almost three percent. Three percent! Slash #3 saw the price plunge nearly 4.3 percent further, to $1,575,000.

Shower scene music from Psycho, from

As much as I love the Times, which is a lot, its Real Estate section, and especially the “let’s feel sorry for people who might not make a six-figure profit on that third residence they bought a very few years ago” articles, especially those that use wrong and misleading numbers in a bid to garner (whose?) sympathies, gets on my nerves. Sometimes it makes me spitting mad.

¹ Where several is seven. This may be a new Times record for the length of time over which something is reported to surge. The previous record appears to have been set in 2006 when the Times reported a “43.1 percent surge over six years.”

² The anticipated increase is $1,629 – $373.73 = $1,255.27, which can easily be seen to be less than four times $373.73.

Note also that if gasoline prices were to fall from $4/gallon to $3/gallon, it would be wrong to report that they had “surged by 75%,” whether the price drop happened in a day or took place over seven years.

The New York Times Manual of Usage and Style ought to explain how to calculate percentages if it doesn’t already. It does, after all, explain the similar problem with the phrase “times smaller.”

³ Tod “relocated” to the Los Angeles home he’s owned continuously since 2002.

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Clay man charged with illegal tattooing of teen girls
      — Florida Times-Union, October 6, 2011

Clay man charged in hit-and-run death of Joseph J. Ozimek III
     —, October 6, 2011

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