car seats again – Infant car seats 2/07: Safety alert, European models, Ratings

bq. You’d think that in a car crash, infants in their cozy car seats would be the most protected passengers of all. But you’d be wrong, our tests reveal.

bq. Cars and car seats can’t be sold unless they can withstand a 30-mph frontal crash. But most cars are also tested in a 35-mph frontal crash and in a 38-mph side crash. Car seats aren’t.

bq. When we crash-tested infant car seats at the higher speeds vehicles routinely withstand, most failed disastrously. The car seats twisted violently or flew off their bases, in one case hurling a test dummy 30 feet across the lab.

I’ve been trying to write a rant on the topic, but can’t seem to get it organized. The fundamental issue for me is that:

– government officials don’t want to scare consumers, so publicly refuse to admit there are any problems.
– manufacturers slip through the cracks, doing the minimum possible to develop and sell products.
– both parties seem more interested in the appearance of safety than in actual risk analysis.

I do not believe that consumers are served by this process, but I’m at a loss to suggest alternatives…

Update 2007/01/21: The whole point is apparently moot:


bq. We withdrew the report immediately upon discovering a substantive issue that may have affected the original test results. The issue came to light based on new information received Tuesday night and Wednesday morning from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning the speed at which our side-impact tests were conducted.

posted at 9:54 am on Friday, January 12, 2007 in Current Events, Links | Comments (1)
  1. Nita says:

    At least part of the problem is that the vast majority of consumers don’t want to have those facts. They want to believe that they’re safe. Hence, the vast overuse of antibiotics and antibiotic soaps, as opposed to working on developing healthy immune systems. *shrug* Government officials give what they’re demanded of in the populous. If people want the illusion of safety, why wouldn’t they give them that? Until there’s enough groundswell to do something different, there’s no incentive *to the government* to change the way they behave.

5 years

“I’m tired of September 11th”: – me too.

posted at 8:16 pm on Monday, September 11, 2006 in Current Events, Politics | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever get “tired” of Sept. 11, 2001. What that person is tired of is propaganda. I am not tired of that since I don’t listen to it much in the first place. I think its a shame October 16, 1970 is not mentioned much any more.

    Within 48 hours of the proclamation of the War Measures Act, over 250 people were arrested. Among them were some of the better known labour leaders, entertainers and writers in the province. Thirty-six of those arrested were members of the Parti Québécois. By October 31, the number arrested passed 400. The police is [sic] reported to have carried out 1,628 raids by October 20. By the end of the year, 468 will have been arrested. Eventually 408 will be released without charges being laid; only two people were sentenced.

    Ah, the good old days. Oooooh, like the Trudeau quotes from that era “Just watch me”, “There can be no rule of law with a parallel power”(roughly) and “There can be no freedom without rule of law”.

    Tune in this October for a miniseries, I believe.

    The FLQ fell off the front pages in Nov. 1970, and the War Measures Act invocation ran out April 30, 1971.

Cape Breton joins space race – Cape Breton joins space race

They’re building a private launch facility in Cape Breton, launches planned by 2009 or 2010.

I wonder if they need any network security people? :-)

posted at 9:53 pm on Wednesday, August 16, 2006 in Current Events, Links, Personal | Comments Off on Cape Breton joins space race

Wait, Aren’t You Scared?

Kung Fu Monkey- “Wait, Aren’t You Scared?”

bq. Errr, no. And if you are, you frankly should be a little goddam embarrassed.

bq. marvel as cool, well-trained, ruthless law-enforcement professionals — who spent decades honing their craft chasing my IRA cousins — execute their job magnificently.

posted at 8:11 pm on Sunday, August 13, 2006 in Current Events, Links | Comments (1)
  1. Greg Wilson says:

    “…I’m sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.” OK, *now* I’m scared ;-)

Schneier on Security- Last Week’s Terrorism Arrests

Schneier on Security- Last Week’s Terrorism Arrests

bq. None of the airplane security measures implemented because of 9/11 — no-fly lists, secondary screening, prohibitions against pocket knives and corkscrews — had anything to do with last week’s arrests. And they wouldn’t have prevented the planned attacks, had the terrorists not been arrested. A national ID card wouldn’t have made a difference, either.

bq. Instead, the arrests are a victory for old-fashioned intelligence and investigation.

Schneier can be a bit heavy-handed with his analyses, but I don’t think he’s wrong…

posted at 9:26 am on Sunday, August 13, 2006 in Current Events, Links | Comments Off on Schneier on Security- Last Week’s Terrorism Arrests

the $2-million comma – The $2-million comma

bq. This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party.

From a contract between Rogers Communications Inc. and Aliant Inc. for the placement of cable lines in Eastern Canada. Aliant cancelled the initial 5 year term in 2005 after only 3 years. The cancellation will force Rogers to pay an extra $2.13 million to use utility poles. The placement of the second comma in the sentence above permitted the contract’s cancellation, to the surprise of Rogers.

(via the “Quotation of the Day”: mailing list)

posted at 7:44 am on Sunday, August 13, 2006 in Current Events, Links, Personal | Comments Off on the $2-million comma


I love thunderstorms…

| Date & Hour | Conditions | Temp (°C) | Humidity (%) | Dew Point (°C) | Wind (km/h) | Pressure (kPa) | Vis (km) | Humidex |
| 2 Aug 2006 22:00 EDT | Thunderstorm with Rain | 22 | 90 | 20 | W 30 gust 55 | 100.8 | 24 | 30 |
| 2 Aug 2006 21:00 EDT | Cloudy | 30 | 71 | 24 | WSW 30 gust 39 | 100.6 | 24 | 41 |

posted at 9:22 pm on Wednesday, August 02, 2006 in Current Events, Personal | Comments Off on freefall


In case anyone is wondering, my brain has left for vacation in Greenland, or Iceland, or somewhere else not-as-damned-hot-as-Toronto.

It turns out that we didn’t _quite_ set a temperature record yesterday; we missed by 1/10th of a degree. But as they’ve been commenting on the news, we may have set a new record for the highest low temperature; on Monday night the temperature dropped to 27°C at about midnight and then stayed there until morning, never dropping further. Last night we had the same thing; the low temperature was 27°C, but again it stayed that temperature most of the night.

It was ~30°C in the house. We all slept (fitfully) in the basement last night.

I’ll be one of the many happy people when the cold front comes through tonight/tomorrow (update: now? the temperature just dropped 4°C between 3PM and 4PM…).

posted at 3:49 pm on Wednesday, August 02, 2006 in Current Events, Personal | Comments Off on heat

south toronto? : Alienation at home, criticism from abroad

I don’t think John Hostettler’s comments have anything to do with terrorism.

What I don’t understand is the actual reason he and his buddies want to close the Canada – U.S. border.

Can either of my readers enlighten me?

*Update:* There is one simple explanation floating around. Some factions within the US want to close the southern borders (both Mexico and Carribean), without creating the perception that they are singling out those borders for special treatment. For that to work, they have to close the Canadian border too.

Also, this is an election year, and politicians are experts at playing on irrational fears…

posted at 8:44 am on Saturday, June 10, 2006 in Current Events | Comments (2)
  1. Reid says:

    He’s a convicted terrorist felon. (He tried to bring a loaded handgun onto a plane) Why do you care? :-)

    I would be curious to see intelligence numbers on known terrorist cell members in the US vs Canada, and whather the US is a “terrorist threat” to Canadian borders. Fsck ya. (Um, how do you feel about profanity in blog comments? Feel free to edit those last two words and this question)

  2. Jeff K says:

    A border is just a good place to filter for lawbreakers.

stand up and be counted

I got the long census form! I got the long census form!

(I love filling out forms; it’s a weakness :-)

posted at 9:27 pm on Thursday, May 04, 2006 in Current Events, Personal | Comments Off on stand up and be counted

modern info warfare

feint and attack; move and countermove. The escalation is constant.

Steel armor meant the end of bows and crossbows. Firearms that could punch through armour made it useless as a defense, since armor only made the soldier slow and uncoordinated; a sitting duck. A close formation of infantry firing volleys by the numbers was unstoppable, until the devasation of the machine gun spelled their demise. Kevlar armor influenced the development of armor-piercing rounds (which, incidentally, are *less* deadly because they tend to go through their targets).

Technology is no different:

* Many modern computer viruses and trojans are capable of automatically disabling anti-virus software.

* Carjackings are on the rise, not because criminals necessarily like violent crime, but because with modern auto security systems it’s the only way to steal the car.

* In Denmark, criminals are breaking into stores and ransacking them; not because they like trashing stores, but because they can install ATM card-skimming hardware while everyone is distracted.

* In the Netherlands, they’re less subtle; they simply blow up the ATM and scoop the cash as it flutters down. (Kind of reminds me of the back-hoe technique of driving up and scooping the ATM out of the wall :).

Plus ca change, plus le meme chose.

posted at 9:46 pm on Friday, March 10, 2006 in Current Events, Security | Comments Off on modern info warfare


What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Or, as catspaw puts it, “Why do we love to hate”:

posted at 7:19 pm on Friday, February 10, 2006 in Current Events, Links | Comments Off on wayne

going up?

Apparently it will be 12 years, 74 days until we have a functioning “Space Elevator”: Once it’s economical to get to earth orbit, any number of things are possible!

posted at 5:28 pm on Monday, January 30, 2006 in Current Events, Science and Technology | Comments (3)
  1. Brian says:

    Thanks for noticing the countdown clock. I hope the signifigance of the date didn’t escape you ..

    It’s both the neatest thing about, and the bane of, the job at Liftport. We’ve got a firm deadline, great. And a ton of work in front of us. This will not happen but some days I do wish D.D. Harriman could stop by open up his bank account ..

  2. Harald Koch says:

    I wasn’t sure, because the 2018 wasn’t exactly 50 or 60 years later, but checking “the forums”: confirmed my original guess…

  3. Brian says:

    Michael picked the year based on the projected work to be done, but the date was done for the reason noted. That would make an awesome Yuri’s Night Party …

that was strange…

There were three party representatives at my polling station. Two Conservative, and one Communist.

There was no Communist Candidate on the _ballot_, mind you…

posted at 8:38 pm on Monday, January 23, 2006 in Current Events, Personal | Comments (2)
  1. Jeff K says:

    You sure about that? Have you asked either of the left-leaning parties about their true adgenda? (That’s a joke — Its too bad the NDP doesn’t have the balance of power, the communists living in Toronto might have been able to look past their selfishness and prevented a Bloc-balance-of-power situation). Um, that was another joke, um, I hope. I’m happy for Alberta. They’ll get a few good policies for a couple of years. I hope they realize not everyone in Toronto is against them, and know that Harper has a whole country to run for a short while.

  2. Greg says:

    You mean, there were none that were *openly* Communist… ;-)


The Globe and Mail: They’d take Halifax (then we’d kill Kenny)

bq. First approved in 1930, Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan – Red was drawn up to defend the United States in the event of war with Britain.

bq. It was one of a series of such contingency plans produced in the late 1920s. Canada, identified as Crimson, would be invaded to prevent the Britons from using it as a staging ground to attack the United States.

posted at 9:32 am on Tuesday, January 03, 2006 in Current Events, Links | Comments (1)
  1. David Brake says:

    We were going to grab Buffalo if invaded? What if it worked? Would we have to keep it after the war?

life imitates art

In a wonderful parody of art, an expert conman has disappeared with more than €5 million by persuading banks that he was a secret service agent investigating terrorist money-laundering:

Banks caught by €5m spy sting

posted at 3:09 pm on Friday, October 14, 2005 in Current Events | Comments Off on life imitates art

Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

October 2001 – “Scientific American : Drowning New Orleans”:

October, 2004 – “National Geographic : Gone With the Water”:

September 1, 2005 – “George Bush says”: “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees.” (Worse, his bluff wasn’t called; see “mediamatters”: for one dissection).

This one detail sums up the entire US Government’s response to the disaster; the same bold-faced lies that they’ve been spouting for years.

Of course, one wonders how Canada would react to an equivalent disaster… *sigh.

posted at 10:54 am on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 in Current Events | Comments Off on Lies, Damned Lies, and Politics

more on car seats

Since I mentioned it last week, I should also mention documentation *for* child restraint use. The news page references a recent paper proving that child booster seats are 59% safer than seatbelts alone…

Keeping kids safe during car crashes: every child a safe ride | Partners for Child Passenger Safety – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

I guess as a parent the bottom line is: for $80, why take chances?

posted at 8:42 pm on Monday, July 25, 2005 in Current Events, Health, Links, Science and Technology | Comments Off on more on car seats

car seats vs. seatbelts

So it may not be as cut and dried as everyone thinks; car seats (over age 2) may not actually make any difference. Good luck finding a politician who is _against_ car seat and booster seat legislation, though; that would be political suicide. Proving once again that government often doesn’t work in our best interests? (There have been other examples of dumb gov’t safety laws recently, based on zero _real_ deaths or injuries; I’ll see if I can dig some of them out of my memory).

The Seat-Belt Solution – New York Times

bq. Perhaps the single most compelling statistic about car seats in the NHTSA manual was this one: ”They are 54 percent effective in reducing deaths for children ages 1 to 4 in passenger cars.”

bq. But 54 percent effective compared with what? The answer, it turns out, is this: Compared with a child’s riding completely unrestrained. There is another mode of restraint, meanwhile, that doesn’t cost $200 or require a four-day course to master: seat belts.

bq. Even a quick look at the FARS data reveals a striking result: among children 2 and older, the death rate is no lower for those traveling in any kind of car seat than for those wearing seat belts. There are many reasons, of course, that this raw data might be misleading. Perhaps kids in car seats are, on average, in worse wrecks. Or maybe their parents drive smaller cars, which might provide less protection.

bq. But no matter what you control for in the FARS data, the results don’t change. In recent crashes and old ones, in big vehicles and small, in one-car crashes and multiple-vehicle crashes, there is no evidence that car seats do a better job than seat belts in saving the lives of children older than 2. (In certain kinds of crashes — rear-enders, for instance — car seats actually perform worse.) The real answer to why child auto fatalities have been falling seems to be that more and more children are restrained in some way. Many of them happen to be restrained in car seats, since that is what the government mandates, but if the government instead mandated proper seat-belt use for children, they would likely do just as well / without the layers of expense, regulation and anxiety associated with car seats.

Followup material can be found at “Freakonomics”:

posted at 8:41 pm on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 in Current Events, Health, Links, Science and Technology | Comments (4)
  1. Heather says:

    As a certified child restraint technician I am offended by your comments but at the same time I understand what u mean. First off if someone knows what they are doing it only takes a second to teach how to use the child seat properly. And the price of seats are outragious yes, that is why I work on donations so that I can buy them at discount and I sell them for even less then I pay for them. If you need help or know anyone who does they can email me at please try not to down carseats they save lives. The only reason they only reduce is because there is no way to stop car crashes from happening unless you just dont drive.

  2. Harald Koch says:

    First of all, we’re talking about child seats and booster seats, not *infant* seats (as you mention on your weblog). Second, it appears you didn’t read “more on car seats”: , or you would have been less offended, I think.

    It’s true that statistical data is often biased; see “How to Understand Statistics”: for a discussion. It’s also extremely difficult to be unemotional about this particular subject. My emotional response is “for $80, why take chances?”; my seven year old has two booster seats, one in each car.

    But I do trust that Steven Levitt has actually done his homework on this one. We cannot for sure explain *why* the statistics are as they are, but we cannot dispute the numbers themselves…

  3. Mike Hickman says:

    AS a child restraint TECH info like you are printing and saying does not help us who are tring to keep kids safe. There are a lot of programs that sell low cost car seats also the program that i’m has free car seats for parant’s who can’t afford them.

  4. Harald Koch says:

    You’re a little late to the discussion, Mike. More uselessly, you haven’t actually argued for or against any of the data.

    I know “TECH”s aren’t scientists, but you’re still in a better position than your average joe to at least attempt to argue for or against.

it’s hurricane season

I can tell, because we’re in another 10-day long heat wave, as Dennis pushes hot wet air out of the United States up into Southern Ontario. Or so the weather guys say. This is late August weather, not early July weather! And here I sit with a dead air-conditioner…

And then there’s Emily:

bq. Emily’s formation late Monday was the earliest date on record for five named storms to develop, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.


posted at 10:37 am on Tuesday, July 12, 2005 in Current Events, Personal | Comments (1)
  1. Jeff K says:

    I recall some time ago you linked to the New Orleans doomsday hurricane scenario… Well as of a few hours ago, 80% of New Orleans was under water. Check out the Associated Press photos of the downtown highways and such. Yahoo News is another reasonable source for photo coverage.

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