Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Religious doctors not more likely to care for poor

That's no surprise, and not even the reason why I would draw attention to it. Here's the real reason this study is significant:

He and colleagues at Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut mailed surveys to 1,820 practicing doctors. Of those, 63 percent responded.
What is it about a study on religiosity that would inspire a 63% response rate? Physician survey studies typically consider themselves sterling successes if they achieve anything above a 20% response rate.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Sparky Harry Potter theories

31 hours until the Deathly Hallows are unleashed upon the Eastern time zone, so here's my last chance to divulge my newest theories before all such theories are useless. I haven't heard anything like this from anybody else, so if I'm right, I want mass love. If I'm wrong, well, I still want mass love, but ya know.

Why does Dumbledore trust Snape?

What experience do Dumbledore and Snape share that no others do? That's right, kids. Only they heard Trelawney's prophesy. Nobody else. Not Harry, not He-Who-Has-No-Nose-On-Screen, and not even Trelawney herself. So how do we know the contents of the prophesy? Dumbledore tells Harry what it said in book five. In book six he tells Harry that the only reason the prophecy applies to reality is because Voldy is obsessed with its contents. Voldy marked Harry by trying to kill him. If Snape never told Voldy its contents (or partial contents, as I propose), said prophecy would be just another blob in the bottom of a tea cup.

So, if Snape and Dumbledore are the only two to ever actually hear the prophecy, if the prophecy was broken in the final battle of OoTP, then who's to say that Dumbledore and Snape heard a version of the prophecy decidedly different than the one presented to Harry? Or, more complete than the one heard by Harry, at least.

When Malfoy attempts to fulfill Voldy's commands, he fails, and Dumbledore offers the Malfoys protection. Did Dumbledore make a similar offer to Snape, allowing Snape to maintain his cover with Voldemort while gaining a valuable mole into the Death Eater camp? Harry tries to explain to the others after Dumbledore's death in H-BP that Dumbly trusted Snape because Snape was sorry that James and Lily were the ones killed after he revealed the prophecy to Voldemort. Could it be that this is a regret that Dumbledore's plan to disseminate false information resulted in collateral deaths? Dumbledore and Snape would have shared this particular regret. So, Did Dumbledore kill James and Lily, in much the same way that Kreacher's self-serving deceptions resulted in Sirius' death? Odd justice, but the sort of twist Rowling does not seem incapable of.

For Vonnegut fans, Snape is the ultimate Howard W. Campbell, Jr. You either get the reference, or you don't. If you don't, Mother Night is a great place to start.

Is Dumbledore dead?

Why we're not obsessing about Dumbledore's relationship to his phoenix, Fawkes, I can't understand. Someone who shares an office with a loyal phoenix isn't gone for good. He's not even out of control. Much of the series has focused on Voldemort's attempts at immortality, while Dumbledore has smiled knowingly that 'love' his so much a greater power than Voldy's dark magic. Maybe 'love' isn't just 'love.' Maybe 'love' connects Dumbledore to Fawkes and to the magic of immortality that doesn't require murder and splitting your soul into destroyable objects. Book five contained two armies: the Order of the Phoenix, and Dumbledore's Army. But it wasn't the Order of Fawkes, it was the Order of Dumbledore, obviously. Dumbledore has achieved immortality, but a phoenix has to die ever so often in order to renew itself.

Snape didn't kill Dumbledore. Snape facilitated the rebirth of a phoenix. Think more Obi-Wan Kenobi than Gandalf, but a rebirth nonetheless. Snape's murder of Dumbledore seems intimately linked to some sort of over-arching plan developed between Snape and Dumbledore right about the same time that Harry's parents were killed. Conquering Voldemort may just require a 17-year plan, and a plan that depends so much on the willing participation of an unwitting kid. No wonder Dumbledore puts so much emphasis on supposed free will.

That's J.K. Rowling's form of destiny. Rowling is a pitcher that sticks a single finger into the air to signify to the batter that a fastball is coming, and you better hit it if you dare. If you don't, you'll strike out. You might need a little bit of luck, and the pitch may come in high and tight, but the swing is still yours to take. And that's why Dumbledore's Army will be lining up outside bookstores Friday night.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Turn Yourself Into a Simpsons Character

Go to simpsonizeme.com, upload a photo of yourself and the application analyzes your face, turning you into an honorary Springfield resident.
Can't wait to get home and try this thing out.

Update: hehehe...

My Quality Adjusted Life Year may be different than your Quality Adjustment Life Year

Slate's Darshak Sanghavi discusses some of the problems with the way health care economists judge the cost-effectiveness of various health treatments, within our culture and across cultures. Paul Farmer's Partners-in-Health group is used as anecdotal evidence (as Sanghavi's critique is almost verbatim the one that Paul Farmer gives in his lectures), and Farmer's infamous "before-HAART" picture is included in the article. Farmer hates the QALY (quality adjusted life year) metric, mainly because the QALY assumptions break down the more unlike the treatments are in their target population, and easily damns treating anyone in an impoverished nation with anything more expensive than penicillin and a mosquito net. Despite being an excellent primer in global cost-effectiveness, the article does a great job exploring the extent to which the assumptions of economics, like any statistical science, greatly limit our ability to generalize the results it produces to real policy decisions.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

James Holsinger, a simple prop to occupy our time

The American Public Health Association, founded in 1872 and made up of 50,000 U.S. public health professionals, said it is "very concerned with Dr. Holsinger's past writings regarding his views of homosexuality, which put his political and religious ideology before established medical science."

It was the second time ever, and the first in 26 years, that the group has opposed a U.S. surgeon general nominee.
Funny, the headline reads "Health group opposes Bush surgeon general pick." As if the APHA is just a 'health group.' That's like saying "Book opposes money lending," when said book is the Bible.

Corpus Callosum et al. document well the recent controversy stirred by Richard Carmona's obvious-but-gutsy admission that the Bush administration places politics above science, as well as Holsinger's own personal failings, i.e., being willing to write an article named "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality." I initially gave the guy a bit of slack, partially out of pure Kentucky hopeful nostalgia, and because I do earnestly believe that evangelicals could have particular insane political beliefs, and yet place them in proper context when formulating opinions about policy. Alas, James Holsinger will never be my insane-but-straight-shooting evangelical.

I'd be thrilled for this guy to prove us all wrong. But, if confirmed, Carmona's testimony suggests that Holsinger wouldn't have a shot at making any real decisions anyway.

I believe this post completes the R.E.M. trifecta, for those following along at home.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"By jingo, buy America"

Kyle on "Mindless, Anti-Christian Jingoism" deserves your attention.

Good to hear "R.E.M.," "guitar-heavy," and "new album" in the same paragraph

Apparently Michael Stipe was editing lyrics onstage during their "working rehearsal" show while finishing up studio album 14.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Doctor Terrorists

Howard Markel on NPR, exploring the Hippocratic Oath and the recent news of physician involvement with terrorism in Britain. Markel is one of a handful of history-of-medicine ninjas at the University of Michigan.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Samoas versus Caramel Delites

If you've ever had the Girl Scout Cookie Talk with friends who grew up in various parts of the country, you'll argue about some of the names. Samoas versus Caramel Delites. Tagalongs? That's my Peanut Butter Patties. Take your fancy Dosidos and shove them down your Peanut Butter Sandwich hole. Courtney and I have the debate often. She maligns my insistence on calling her Samoas the much less exciting Caramel Delites.

Apparently the different names are made at different bakeries, and actually have slightly different formulae. Not sure why certain areas get certain variations, but they're NOT the same. Happy 4th of July. Can't get much more patriotic than Girl Scout Cookies.

Maybe I'll blog about something that matters again sometime soon.