roundup two

September 5, 2006

some interesting things going on this bright tuesday morning.

autism incidence increases dramatically with father age.

from the article:

Those whose fathers were between ages 30 and 39 at birth were 64 percent more likely to be autistic than those whose fathers were 29 or younger.

Those whose fathers were 40 to 49 were 5.65 times as likely to be autistic.

those are huge numbers, and huge increases. another interesting finding was:

Typically, about six times as many boys as girls develop the disorder. When the fathers are over 40, however, the ratio is 1 to 1.

the worst parts of science is cute. i particularly enjoy the section on “the last experiment”:

About a quarter of all scientists at anytime are performing the famous “last experiment”. This elixir supposedly will solve all the researcher’s problems. … Often the desired result is needed to prove the “model” (see # 8) and so a negative result is greeted with a “just try it one more time, but this time why don’t you try …” Conversely if the experiment works, magically a NEW last experiments appears. Like a black hole, weeks and months disappear with nothing to show for it.

“i just need to try one last thing” is something you’ll often hear around the lab.

an article at CNN talks about how parents now need to talk to their pre-teen girls about the decision of whether or not to get the new HPV preventative vaccine and, oh gosh, how much should they tell their kids about sex and STDs and vaginas? and how this is sooooo worrying, esp for parents of girls!

HPV is a weighty topic that more parents are addressing with their daughters, since the Food and Drug Administration recently approved the vaccine for girls as young as age 9. Some parents, particularly those with preteen girls, are wondering just how much information to share.

Do they simply say it’s a vaccine against cancer and leave it at that? Or should they also explain that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that, among other symptoms, causes genital warts?

and the next section is entitled “growing up faster.” but then the article says:

Government surveys also have found that about 7 percent of children have had sexual intercourse before age 13, while about a quarter have done so by age 15.

so, the kids aren’t growing up faster–either way sex is present for many.

just talk to your kids about sex, people! it is NO BIG DEAL. i was probably six or seven when my mom brought out the “blue books” as i refer to them (a series she had about teaching children about their bodies and sex and i don’t remember what they were called but their covers were bright blue), to talk about penises and vaginas and how sex is when you put a penis in a vagina and if anyone tries to do that or touch my vagina without my permission i should run away and tell someone.

see, no big deal. but now your kid is informed and thus HAS POWER. but noone wants kids to have power for some reason. they want to keep it all for themselves.

and lastly, cuteness.

we celebrated the first anniversary of chaucer coming to live with us this labor day. in honor of that, dlamming kindly created this photo site to look at handsome pictures of my baby love.


roundup, catchup

August 28, 2006

Well, I figure I haven’t posted here in long enough (due to an abundance of overwork) that it’s time for a little something, so here’s a roundup of things I’ve been thinking about/up to.

first of all, i got a car. woah. granted, i presume most 26 year olds in the US who have the means to own one have a car since it is near impossible to live here without one, but i have been fortunate enough to live in one of the few metropolitan areas where it is not even close to a necessity. it’s been something i’ve been thinking of for about a year, planning out if i had the money and the initiative to drive all the time. last year i moved to a location a bit further from ‘everything’ and my friends have been consistently moving further from public transit (due to cost) and the cost of public transit has been going up up up, so that now it is not so much of a financial tradeoff to have a car versus using the train. which is sad.

but there you have it. to note, i got a little scion xA, which so far i like and it gets good gas mileage, as cars go.

I was among many others in my sadness to hear about the Pluto demotion.
I grew up with pluto as one of the nine, and in my heart it will always be a planet. I mean, who didn’t like plucky little pluto?

I’m on vacation this week, but not doing much besides relaxing and catching up on errands and household chores and duties. Plus hanging out with chaucer, who has been mommy deprived with all my working. We’re just about to celebrate his first birthday, and he got this as his present.

I also thought I’d start talking about what I’m reading.

Currently, I’m reading “collapse” by jared diamond. it’s not as good as “guns, germs and steel”, which i highly recommend, so it’s taking me awhile to get through it. he basically looks as societies which have succeeded or failed in the past so as to apply those lessons to today’s societies. i’m only about half way and he’s covered all the polynesian islands, the ‘american’ southwest, and the vikings (greenland, iceland, etc). academically his reasoning seems good, but it’s just not as compelling a read.

I’m also reading “reefer madness” by eric schlosser, the guy who wrote “fast food nation” (another really good one if you haven’t read it). “reefer madness” is also really good but depressing. it’s all about the black market and how it is a natural product of capitalism and it focuses on marijauna, strawberry harvesting (and thus “illegal” immigrant labor), and pornography. i’ve read the first two sections thus far which are really depressing because of how draconian our marijuana laws are and how miserable life is for people working to harvest the food that we all eat. i’m curious to read the final section because, while i am for the legalization of marijuana and against shutting people out of this country, i am also anti-porn which will be interesting.

i’m also reading “hungry planet”, which is a beautiful book which profiles families all over the world focusing on what they eat. each family is presented with the food they eat for the week. it’s very interesting and powerful to see how food intake varies across the world, considering food/water is probably the most important aspect of our life (closely tied with health and healthcare, imo, altho the two are obviously related in many ways).

finally, i’m reading the latest issue of bitch magazine. which is always great, and i just picked up bitchfest at my local bookstore to add to the queue. i encourage everyone to buy a copy to support this wonderful, feminist endeavor.

the allusion of safety

August 11, 2006

the things that aren’t allowed on planes starting yesterday:

No liquids or gels of any kind are allowed in carry-on baggage until further notice. This includes all beverages, cologne, hair gel, suntan lotion, contact lens formula, toothpaste, shampoo, and all items of “similar consistency.” The only exceptions are baby formula and juice — but just for those passengers traveling with children– and medicines, which must have the traveler’s name on the container.

so, they allow juice for kids as long as someone drinks it beforehand.

so why can’t i have my bottle of water as long as i drink from it beforehand?

secondly, what about folks who are insulin dependent? they have a liquid medication that you can’t verify is actually insulin–you can’t force a diabetic to take a jolt of insulin just whenever, you know.

and okay, folks can still hide things on their person: small vials in underwear…or even vaginas.

at least one cnn article addresses some of these concerns:

Boyd sees the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s ban as a knee-jerk reaction that leaves Americans no safer than they were before the 9/11 attacks.

“Remember Richard Reid, the guy who tried to light up his shoe on the airplane? After that we had to take off our shoes. Imagine what would have happened if he had hid that bomb in his pants,” Boyd said.

and not just pants: you could have a container within a container of baby formula that holds the thing you want. the padding liner of many women’s bras. people could eat small wrapped pellets of things, like they do to carry drugs across borders.

the intention here is not to make things actually safer–but to make people FEEL safer.

“Standing there looking to make sure no one has a tube of toothpaste is patently ridiculous, because now we’re looking for objects again — we’re not looking for threats” said Michael Boyd, president of the Boyd Group, an aviation consulting firm in Evergreen, Colorado.


Clark Kent Ervin, a former Department of Homeland Security inspector general, points to a recent Government Accountability Office report that revealed that congressional investigators were able to sneak bomb components past screeners at all 21 airports tested.

“And if bomb parts could get past then, obviously, things like liquid gel, which nobody would typically think of as a bomb component, could do so, too,” Ervin told CNN.


After Kristin Reinke of Champlin, Minnesota, dumped her bottle into a tub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, she complained to her husband, Mike Reinke, “I just threw out $34 worth of hand lotion.”

He was sympathetic, but accepted the Transportation Security Administration’s reasons for the ban. “What are you going to do?” he said. “I guess you have to be safe.”

(from a different article)

aww, look at the little sheeple, so accomodating. but where do you stop accomodating and say, enough is enough?
for some reason people have come to believe that inconvenience is equal to safety.

let’s be clear: you can never be one hundred percent safe. there is no such thing.

and, as the famous ben franklin quotation goes:

“They that would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary saftey deserve neither liberty nor safety.”


August 8, 2006

i saw a snippet of a bush speech about the proposed peace-keeping ‘force’ for lebanon. he said something along the lines of: to protect the border with syria?

wtf? with syria? what about the border with israel?

which reminded me of this nice post by maia at capitalism bad; tree pretty:

They want to put a peace-keeping force in Southern Lebanon. What the fuck? If you actually want to keep the peace you don’t put peace-keepers where the bombs are falling, you put peace-keepers in the place that is sending the bombs. That’s where the peace is being broken.

it’s Army World!

a theme park where you get to be a soldier.

You can command the latest M-1 tank, feel the rush of a paratrooper freefall, fly a Cobra Gunship or defend your B-17 as a waist gunner

and kill loads of people! oh boy, i can’t wait.

and i love that the towns’ folk’s objection to this was the traffic it would cause:

authorities in Fairfax County are objecting because of already traffic-clogged roads surrounding the proposed site.

getting older

August 2, 2006

People with lower socio-economic status appear to age faster than their better-off counterparts, British researchers said on Thursday.

i found this interesting. further,

“Not only does social class affect health and age-related diseases, it seems to have an impact on the aging process itself,” said Dr Tim Spector of St Thomas’s Hospital in London.

which isn’t surprising, given that dlamming would tell you that aging itself is the disease.

the study was carried out on twins and corrected for other factors:

Even after adjusting for factors such as obesity, smoking and exercise, which can also influence aging….

The average difference was equivalent to about seven years … which also could not be explained by education or income, according to the study.


August 1, 2006

“you’ll never have to worry,” my uncle said upon my responding to his question of what I might do once I finished my phd in biochemistry.

Worry about rent money, about buying enough food for the week, gas money, car payment, bus change, electricity, diapers, taxes, phone, heat, shoes. Worry about how do I get the money for this thing I need when I already don’t have the money for these other things I need.

But I do worry. What if I got sick? What if I couldn’t work for a little while? How would I make it?

Not to mention… so many things. Not to mention my family. And the world. And that worry.

That worry that never goes away.

Seeing that worry in my mother’s face as she calculated up our cartload of groceries before getting to the register so she would never have to put something back that we couldn’t afford with the food stamps she had.

That worry as the bills lay spread out on the kitchen table, her checkbook by her side, her notepad scratched with 10 for this, 20 for this.

Consternation at the idea of another field trip at school: could she afford to send me? Should I ask, dare I ask when there is so much we already don’t have? When I already take so much?

Worrying at school about my second hand clothes, my salvation army clothes, my lack of toys and stuff to list off as christmas presents. How do I get money to go to the movies or mcdonald’s with my friends? How do I pretend I’m not poor?

Worrying about getting into a college we could “afford”. Worrying about affording the colleges I got into. Worrying about what to do with my life, picking a career that would be financially stable but that I could get to being poor. You dismiss the idea of med school because being $150,000 in debt is unimaginable. How do you think about going to a school which costs more than your mother makes in a year? Calculating how many hours I need to work to pay for school books, phone, bus tickets home, and everything else one needs for college life?

But I made it through. I made it up. I made it out. Supposedly. According to people still on the inside, I have nothing to worry about. and they’re right. i can’t dismiss that they are right.

Being a grad student is certainly not a wealthy lifestyle, by any means. But I am stable and I don’t struggle to pay my bills. I don’t have to think about every dollar I spend on groceries, and if it’s going to come from somewhere else. And, moreover, I’ve learned very well how to “pretend I’m not poor”—how to interact and dress in ways that belie my origins. In those things, I do not have to worry.

After grad school I should be able to get a job which will be able to more than supply the necessities. In that, I do not have to worry. And yet I will. I will feel that, carry that anxiety with me. I will always struggle over whether I really need something before spending my money. Agonize and then regret the purchase if I think I could have done without it.

Despite my uncle’s assurances, I will worry, even if I don’t have to.

sweet little poem

July 20, 2006


Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.
All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows’ ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.
Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There’s rest for the weary.
There’s turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

Some days i know
I am long for this world.
I can go home again.
And when i go
I can
take it with me.

~ronald wallace

scientific methods

July 19, 2006

there is this whole ongoing debate in science circles about how to present science to non-scientists. how much science should non scientists know? what should be our role as scientists and what should be their role as ‘regular’ people?

dlamming, over at saccharomyces, describes something that i want to get more into by offering my solution to the problem.

a lot of folks have suggested that more, or better, science education in high school level education is the solution.

well, i certainly disagree with the premise that the general public needs to know more science (at least in terms of scientific details, which is what classes generally are). what i do think, is that the general public should know better how to think.

dlamming talks about how science and the scientific method is not necessarily intuitive and took much learning for it to become intuitive for him:

First, at this point in my life, I consider the scientific method rather intuitive… but is it? Over four years of college, I took numerous courses in which I was taught how to figure out how to solve a problem instead of simply regurgitating answers. A lot of these classes were really hard… at least until I started to figure things out.

it’s not that folks don’t get enough science education, it’s that they don’t get the right kind.

generally, your first few (required) years of science are: memorize and regurgitate. first off, this is worthless if you’re not going on in science. why the hell do you need to know how many chromosomes a mouse has? secondly, it’s worthless even if you are going on because you’re not going to remember anything you’ve memorized and regurgitated anyway.

as dlamming says, it took several (many?) upper level classes to learn to THINK the right way.

those classes that taught him, and all scientists, to think should be the introductory classes. the first thing you should do when you approach science (which is just the modern day incarnation of early philosophy) is learning to think about the problem, the solution and how to get from the former to the latter.

after those introductory classes, after you’ve learned to think and problem solve, then you get into the general knowledge stuff.

further, i think when teaching general science knowledge classes it should always be in the context of science history. how did we learn this? what was the problem people saw and what did they do to solve it? again, couching it all in the method of: how do you think about problems? how do you go from first principles? how do you problem solve?

once people know how to think through issues it is infinitely easier to feed them information that they will be able to process on their own, while coming to more intelligent conclusions.

the legendary

July 19, 2006

so i clicked on an article on cnn about rep. cynthia mckinney.

most of the article is not about her tho, but about the republican primary, and thus the opponent whom she will be facing in the election in the fall.

one of the repubs battling it out for the nom was george wallace, jr. son, of course, of that george wallace. here’s how cnn describes him:

In Alabama, George Wallace Jr. — son of the legendary Alabama governor and presidential candidate — lost his bid…

legendary? doesn’t that have a somewhat positive connotation? wouldn’t infamous be a better term? perhaps notorious? or even more neutral, just “well known”?