Thursday, December 29, 2005

Congrats to Jack and Rachel

Heading to Paducah for the wedding of the Yaleys, Jack and Rachel. I was recently upgraded to groomsman as Rumsfeld personally stopped the French guy from getting into the country because of some wacky chip that wasn't in his passport. Here's to their genius babies who will cure cancer, AIDS, and Lyme disease, and reduce the Theory of Everything to no more than five variables.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Update: 1984: time to change your thesis topic

I posted this a few days ago, but in the spirit of proper disclosure, apparently the whole event was a big hoax, and the kid admitted it today:

So a senior at UMass Dartmouth got a visit by some federal agents at his home because he requested the Peking version of Mao's "Little Red Book" on interlibrary loan to finish his history thesis on communism.

So yeah, we believe you when you say that the NSA spying on Americans without warrants is all on the up and up, legal and constitutional and all that. Right.

Evil Empire: what a sweet company

What other kind of company would demand this sort of litigation:

A California jury on Thursday awarded $172 million to thousands of employees at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. who claimed they were illegally denied lunch breaks.

Politics: good things come in twelves

While most of the time I take Media Matters with a grain of salt since the overzealous interns seem to be the ones doing most of the work nowadays, their top 12 myths about the Bush administration spying scandal appears remarkably well-researched and seemingly pretty darn accurate, especially with regards to claims that Clinton and Carter were involved with similar methods against American citizens, which appears to be categorically untrue.

And as a holiday bonus, some dude has spent a zillion hours researching the Twelve Days of Christmas, and figured out that somewhere along the line, the Church probably changed the order of the pagan theme to reduce the degree to which it refers to the sexual life cycle:

To go through Ray's "real" order, he believes the gifts of a partridge, two turtle doves, and three French hens are increasingly extravagant romantic gifts exchanged between lovers.

The four calling birds have been changed from the original wording of Colly birds, a nickname for a Raven, which represents the passion of women and is also a symbol of both life and death.

Ray believes the five gold rings represent sexual union and the conception of the baby is represented by the six geese laying eggs.

He added the seven swimming swans were metaphors for the foetus swimming in its mother's womb.

"In medieval times, people only believed that you became human when you were born, that's why the animal metaphors are used, '' he explained.

"The maids milking is about breastfeeding and the 'drummers drumming' represents the heartbeat of the baby as it grows.''

The pipers are the voices of the gods awakening the young person to a sexual life, which leads to the 11 ladies dancing in an attempt to seduce the male.

"That's the seductive part, '' Ray said. "Then the final stage of the cycle is the 12 Lords leaping, which is the men after they have again enjoyed the act of love-making.''

He said the song was originally intended to have been sung at any time of the year, particularly at the changing of the seasons.
Gotta love them pagan carols.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Medicine/Politics: Zombie Claus attack documented by Maynard group in Ann Arbor

Dr. Yaroch of the Dept of Psych here at the U details the incredibly disturbing recent zombie attack and the string of worrisome activity as the NSA has followed and attempted to suppress information related to the event.But don't take my word for it. Read these post-of-the-decade worthy accounts at the Corpus Callosum and Mark Maynard (with many fabulous zombie pictures). Mark has a series of posts dated 12/13/05-12/18/05 which I will not link individually, but which are all worth viewing.

Like seriously, these guys are my new superheroes.

I explained my greatest worry on a comment at Corpus Callosum, as I explained to Dr. Joe my own zombie tracking experience:

Obviously the most concerning issue here is that a gene and a prion have been suggested as an etiology for zombie disease. Given that previous isolates of the virus Solarum have dominated prior zombie pathophysiology, I think we'll all have a lot to talk about at the 765th Zombie conference next fall (Atlanta, GA, Oct. 14-18 2006).

Of note, the past 21 zombie conferences have been conducted as seminars associated with the Society for Neuroscience annual meetings. I gave up my invertebrate neurophysiologic research in 2002 after attending the Orlando conference. I am spending next year studying zombie behavioral patterns under the guise of an MPH program in Behavior and Education dept of the SPH. While they claim to study race, class, and gender issues in health care, the race, class, and gender to which they refer are races of zombies, zombie classes, and zombie gender (which is a PARTICULARLY hot topic of debate).
This is the point where I point out that if you haven't read the Zombie Survival Guide, from which the "blades don't need reloading" tagline below our main title is derived, then you are not prepared for outbreaks such as the Maynard street incident. Preparation is everything.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Science and Religion: I Heart Doonesbury

I don't think I can really add anything to this one.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Literature: Slate's books of the year

The Sparky recs from the list:

Ian McEwan's Saturday
the first two Modern Library editions of Philip Roth's works (1 and 2)
Peter Green's new translation of The Poems of Catullus
Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go
Marilynn Robinson's Gilead

Several of the editors absolutely gush over Saturday, which surprises me. McEwan's weave of post 9/11 neurosurgical paranoia was so much less heavy than, say, Atonement. It was more readable, but somehow felt less important. But that's probably just because literary writing about history as it is happening is almost impossible to do. Unless you're Afghani, then you can write The Kite Runner and get away with it. Hosseni knew something about Afghanistan that I didn't, and he could teach me. But McEwan doesn't seem to know anything about being alive post 9/11 that the rest of us don't know. Luckily, he knows everything about his characters and their language; he even negotiates surgical vocabulary with amazing ease. In essence, the novel has limitations. But there's enough that's done brilliantly that you can ignore those limitations happily.

Cats: a season saved

Rondo, Cats knock off No. 4 Cards.

And Crawford's dunk over two red shirts was strangely reminiscent of UNC's David Noel's similar move against the Cats two weeks ago at Rupp. Except for it was on them, instead of on us, this time.

WebService: Online DVD rental rankings

A concise review of the major rental services, ranking Netflix bar none #1, Blockbuster #2, and a bunch of weird ones I've never heard of behind those. Seems like some of the "plan" information isn't quite up to date, but it does claim to be "2006" rankings. I'm not really sure if there were "2005" or "2004" rankings, but so it goes.
So, I'm stealing a blogging strategy from the great ninja Ming over at WNLReason, who steals random pictures from Flickr that are just cool and generally unrelated to anything. Enjoy the meerkats!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Science: Wikipedia as accurate as Brittanica in peer-reviewed study of 42 scientific topics

As bashing Wikipedia has become fashionable lately, Nature observes:

Two weeks ago prominent journalist John Seigenthaler, the former publisher of the Tennessean newspaper and founding editorial director of USA Today, revealed that
a Wikipedia entry that ran for four months had incorrectly named him as a longtime suspect in the assassinations of president John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert.

Such errors appear to be the exception rather than the rule, Nature said in Wednesday's article, which the scientific journal said was the first to use peer review to compare Wikipedia to Britannica. Based on 42 articles reviewed by experts, the average scientific entry in Wikipedia contained four errors or omissions, while Britannica had three.

Of eight "serious errors" the reviewers found -- including misinterpretations of important concepts -- four came from each source, the journal reported.
"We're very pleased with the results and we're hoping it will focus people's attention on the overall level of our work, which is pretty good," said Jimmy Wales, who founded St. Petersburg, Florida-based Wikipedia in 2001.
If you're dumb enough to use Wikipedia as your primary source on a controversial topic about which the as-close-to-objective truth is essential, then you deserve to get duped by whatever jerk out there is manipulating articles for fun or bias. For an up-to-date quick reference to augment your cultural literacy (not your research paper or government intelligence report, mind you), there will probably never be a better resource.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cats: Morris reinstated Jan 10 against Vandy (SEC opener)

Whether that will make UK not suck or suck even more remains to be seen.

Politics: Boston Globe ripping Romney for decision not to seek reelection

Romney's justification, per the AP article announcing the news, is that he has accomplished everything in his almost-three years in office that he set out to do, and he could do no more in a second term.

To which we all scream a resounding BULLSHIT. Oh yes, so what happens in Massachussetts for the next four years isn't important, Mr. Romney? So the fact that decisions will need to be made is irrelevant, because you've left the state is such a ray of sunshine?


And the Globe thinks so too, and calls for the Mitt's resignation:

"By thumbing his nose at Massachusetts after less than three-quarters of one term as its chief executive, Mitt Romney Wednesday surrendered his clout and squandered his legitimacy. If, as it appears, his heart and mind are no longer in Massachusetts, he should resign," the paper writes.

The Globe blasts Romney's record: "Romney's claim Wednesday night that 'I've got the job done I set out to do' is not credible.' He touts his success in closing a large budget deficit without raising taxes. But the facts are that the economic recovery was largely national; that he has forced regressive fees and property taxes to skyrocket; and that many state functions, including higher education, environmental protection, housing, and human services, still operate below 2000 levels.

"Romney has every right to seek the presidency," the Globe says in conclusion. "But if his goal is the Potomac, let him swim in presidential waters if he can, and not linger on the Massachusetts stepping stone."

Strategically, Romney doesn't have to worry about losing his second term, or trying to be a governor with his attention divided as he runs in 2008, fueling criticism during a presidential run.

LGBT: BC students speak up for equality

Nearly 500 Boston College students, faculty and staff braved the cold and snow on Friday to rally in support of gay rights on campus and to protest the school's decision to nix a planned AIDS benefit gala that had been slated to take place that evening.
Good for them - teach the Catholic church to open it's eyes a little bit and recognize that people are people first and foremost and they ALL deserve love and respect!

LGTB: A third option?

One Brazilian city has decided a third options is necessary:

A bill passed by the Nova Iguacu city council on Tuesday would require night clubs, shopping malls, movie theaters and large restaurants to provide a third type of bathroom for transvestites. Mayor Lindberg Farias will decide whether to make it a law.
How convenient, not only for transvestives but also for those who may need a little privacy to get the stream going :)

Web: I can actually make out my house this time...

Google Earth is cool and all, but maybe Windows Live is even better!

If somebody can figure out how to save a screen shot on this thing, I'd be very interested in knowing. I figure Firefox can probably pull it off, but I'm on an IE computer in the 5th floor VA call room waiting to go vampire up a patient here in a few minutes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

2005 Golden Globe Nominations

So no nominations for Jake Gyllenhaal despite Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain? I guess he didn't eat enough pudding while he was playing the gay cowboy.

Medicine: Doctors denied artificial insemination because of religion

The latest in the saga. Fundamentally, the question arises about whether a doctor can treat based on his or her own religious beliefs. Which is sticky.

The biggest crock of shit is that these docs waste eleven months and who knows how much out-of-pocket cash, only to say, "Woops! We can't inseminate you, because you're a piece of shit lesbian and we think you having a child is evil. Sorry we didn't mention this back before you cashed in your life's savings, but ya know, the church needed a new charter bus to take old people to craft festivals. I'm sure you understand."

Not that I particularly think that a doc should have to treat someone against their religious beliefs. But the way of dealing with the issue is not to discriminate against patients, or to deny standard of care procedures and medications. The way to deal with this issue is to tell doctors that if they can't do a job because of their religious beliefs, they should go do something else. If you're a fertility doc, and you can't do your job because Pastor Bob says you're bad if you do what medically you're obligated to do, then you better not be a fertility doc.

If that means that there aren't any Christian or Islamic or Jewish fertility docs, then tough shit. I'm sure the pagans and feminists can hold down the fort just fine.

FireFox: extension wet dreams

CNET's top ten list of Firefox extensions, for nerds like me who like to be able to make duplicate tabs and find dictionary definitions without switching windows.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Medicine: Prejudice an Illness?

Mental health practitioners say they regularly confront extreme forms of racism, homophobia and other prejudice in the course of therapy, and that some patients are disabled by these beliefs. As doctors increasingly weigh the effects of race and culture on mental illness, some are asking whether pathological bias ought to be an official psychiatric diagnosis.
The bold text is the key, as it is the disability that separates psychiatric illness from just normal variation among rational individuals. The article demonstrates the point through illustrations of patients who were so racist or homophobic that they were unable to hold jobs or unable to leave their houses.

The article addresses quite a few issues surrounding the pathologizing of bias, most notably that an addition to the next DSM would inevitably lead to conseques with regards to litigation. Now the redneck who ran over the queer with his pick-up truck could get off for just being sick.

Hate crime could be made immune to prosecution.

So the bottomline seems to be that clinicians already know about disorders in which people rigidly hold onto false beliefs. If post-partum depression doesn't have a separate DSM code from plain ole depression, then I can't see why prejudice and hate should be distinguished from other forms of paranoia.

But simply recognizing that hate is paranoia, that hate is fundamentally pathologic, seems like a step forward. Now to just avoid letting loopholes eradicate the small amount of protection that hate-crime laws afford minorities.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

DS: As if Mario Kart wasn't enough to get you off

Lapis the cartoon bunny teaches how to reach orgasm by simulating the affect of pleasurable sensation.

Medicine: England freaking out over the fact that they've never heard of Vanco

So a gentamicin-resistant MRSA has popped up in a few British ICUs, prompting a big "so-what" from me. The article notes that gent is one of the first line MRSA drugs in England. So if anybody can explain to me why the British use a gram-negative ototoxic drug to treat a gram-positive resistant strain still sensitive to vanco and, heaven forbid, linezolid, I'd appreciate the ID lesson.

Medicine: second-hand cancer

Those crazy Canadians and their anti-smoking propaganda, I mean, er, rigorous statistical analysis.

Long-term regular exposure to passive smoking was associated with an overall 27-percent increased risk of breast cancer among women who had never smoked.

"More importantly, among the studies that collected the most complete measures of passive smoking, the observed breast cancer risk was increased by 90 percent," Johnson said in an interview with Reuters Health. "Studies with less complete second-hand smoke measures only observed an eight-percent increase in risk."

"The relationship with premenopausal breast cancer risk was stronger -- elevated 68 percent with long-term regular passive smoking exposure among life-long non-smokers based on 14 studies," Dr. Johnson explained. "The premenopausal risk was up 119 percent for the five studies with more complete second-hand smoke measures."

Compared with women with neither active nor regular passive smoke exposure, those who smoked had a 46-percent increased risk of breast cancer. The risk was raised 108 percent in studies with more complete passive exposure assessment. For studies with less complete passive exposure assessment, the risk was increased by 15 percent.
No studies yet assessing second hand smoke exposure while yelling that you have a bomb on an airplane.

Gag?: Coca Mocha

Coke introducing Coca Cola Blak. Since alterring the spelling of black makes it cool and not gag you.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Computing: New ways to sort inbox e-mail

Microsoft has released a tool to help you sort your e-mails based on how often you correspond with them, which they think will help rank e-mails in your box based on how socially important the e-mail is. I wonder if Microsoft built in spyware to check on who you talk to, sort of like Sony. But the concept sounds cool. I wonder, though, if you get a lot of spam from the same source, will it sort those to the top?