"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Alternative Usage: Pens 

You know those pharmaceutical pens that get given out to doctors offices and labs and anyone else by the truckload? The waiter rant has a good use for them: targeted passive aggression at annoying customers. This is possibly the first thing that has ever made me want to be a waiter.


I have no time to think about any of these, or even read them in full. I post so I can read later. I want to retire.

Married women have more sexual problems than single ones. This may be due to screaming children.

Habitual liars' brains are 'better wired' for lying. LuckyEvil bastards.

As if paramilitary dolphins weren't enough, gorillas are using tools. Dr. Zaius, I presume?

Dungeons and Dragons 

Strikes back. Via BoingBoing. Love. This.

Also, I am addicted to Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. I just downloaded the theme song, which is genius.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

HIV Weakening? 

A new study, which I utterly fail to understand, apparently indicates that contemporary strains of HIV are less virulent that early (1980's) ones. Not having access to the journal article or any serious background in virology, I can't comment on this study. Anyone understand this stuff well enough to do so?

Music and Beer 

Are two of my favorite things. Learning music may have stress-reducing effects, based on an Oxford study. The study was small and doesn't seem to have been as well controlled as I'd like, plus they are only measuring stress as heart rate, which is not a great measure. Still, I like anything that encourages people to learn music.

Beer and music, of course, go together. Another thing that goes with beer, is more beer. Thus, German researchers (of course they're German) have developed a beer mat - a coaster on this side of the pond - which senses when the mug is almost empty, and pages the barkeep for a refill. This is a brilliant concept, except for being a bit daft. What if you hold your beer aloft the whole time? If you're really just sitting at a bar (the only time you use a mat anyways), a decent bartender will see you're low and offer a refresh anyways. I really don't want anything that will make bad bartenders have an easier time of it!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bored with Beverly (Hills, that is) 

There are, of course, various ways to approach the Rich and Famous. You can worship at their feet, hoping they let you come play at their mansions. You can follow their antics in the tabloids or on TV, making fun. Alternatively, you can steal their hood ornaments.

Guess which one I think is the better option.

[UPDATE 7:45 AM]: There are some days when waking up to any song called "Farewell Blues" is just not a good idea.

Squid and Sadness 

I do love calamari. I wonder if giant calamari tastes different than regular?

New British treatment guidelines call for kids with depression to be treated with therapy before and in addition to being medicated. Not that this is actually any sort of change - everyone has always said that meds were supposed to be a last resort. People just can't be bothered to seek treatment, they just want a pill to make it better. Nevermind that these drugs have profound effects on kids, and that many times kids are just kids - emotionally labile, prone to tantrums, etc. - and it's just parents demanding that they act like they're not kids. I don't really have more to say, but it pisses me off that we medicate our kids out of their minds.

[UPDATE]: A leading SSRI, Paxil, may cause birth defects, according to a GlaxoSmithKline press release (PDF). Not that this should really surprise anyone, but still.

Calling LA 

Someone please go to this panel discussion on science journalism for me. Why is it so far away? Even if I wasn't too poor, it's such short notice I'd really have trouble ditching work. Bastards!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Follow-Up: Email not Worse than Pot 

Back in April, I commented that a report on research claiming that email lowered IQ more than smoking weed was a very stupid thing to say. A few months later, an enterprising blogger has found the full story, and guess what? It turns out that the culprit of this scandal was none other than our old friend, bad journalism.

The author calls for more science blogging, and I wholeheartedly agree. More Public Library of Science too.

Bureaucracy Gone Mad! 

English hospitals have banned people from cooing at other people's babies. The stated reasons for this move are (1) that cooing violates the babies' human rights; and (2) that it may spread infections. Reason 2 is sortof valid, although why babies are being left out in the open such that they are susceptible to this is mysterious to me. Reason number one is utter crap, for obvious reasons fairly well explored in the article.

In what may pave the way for some really silly bureaucratic regulations, English researchers say that adding a tasteless, odorless seaweed extract, alginate, to junk foods would make them healthier. Alginate is essentially dietary fiber, and is added to many things already as a thickening or gelling agent. No one disputes the claim that most people (at least in the West) should be getting more fiber in their diets, and clearly it's easier to just add fiber to foods that people eat than to change their habits. I wonder, however, if the effects will be what people seem to expect: research indicates that people who eat high-fiber diets are healthier, but how much is due to the fiber itself and how much to the foods (fruits, veggies, etc.) from which they get it?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Crass (krăs): adj., 

Stating (or at best strongly implying) that improvements in healthcare just cost us more money, and that Medicare would be out of trouble if only people stopped living so long. A new Rand study examines the costs of various treatments for diseases of age, such as heart failure and cancer. The Boston Globe, which really should know better, reports with many mostly-out-of-context numbers that give the overall impression that (a) Medicare is in more trouble than it is; and (b) this is because people haphazardly use any and all treatments to extend their lives irregardless of quality.

I'm not saying there's nothing wrong with people living long periods on full-support, tubes coming out all over the place and taking millions of pills, with no hope of recovery, just because they (or in the case of many elders, their families) just don't want to let go. There is. There is, however, nothing wrong with making someone's last years as comfortable and dignified as possible, and keeping them going as long as they can really go.

Medicare doesn't pay for much of that. In my grandfather's last years, living with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and heart trouble and hip trouble and more, he used up his Medicare allotment in just the first few weeks of a year. Luckily, he had supplemental coverage, and family to help out, but Medicare did not bear the costs of keeping him going.

Trying to quantify how much it's worth paying to keep someone alive is as crass as it gets. Keeping Terri Schiavo plugged in was a disgrace, not because her life wasn't worth saving, but because it couldn't be, and prolonging her non-life was denigrating, as opposed to enriching her and those around her.

The great threat to Medicare's financial stability is the price gouging practiced by our pharmaceutical company overlords, and their brothers-in-extortion, the private insurance sector.


I want to go see Serenity with Tom, so I'm posting about it.

Serenity is a movie based on the ill-fated (but reportedly awesome) series called Firefly, about people who band together struggling to survive in space, amidst much mystery and secret-keeping. And probably some secret-revealing, but not too much.

I'm all for it. Yay movies.

[UPDATED]: I thought the preview was tomorrow, but it's tonight and tonight I volunteer. So I will not be previewing Serenity. Oh well. Hopefully those who do will like it and it will be worth my seeing in the future.

Caution: Killer Cetaceans 

As my good friend ALD said, "The division I once drew between fact and fiction has just been obliterated." In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the US navy's crack team of dolphin assassins have been let loose into the Gulf, and may be carrying poison dart guns.

Yeah. Dolphin assassins. With guns. Apparently they don't even need opposable thumbs.

Ongoing ID Idiocy 

New Scientist, you know better. "Intelligent Design" is neither an "alternative to evolution," nor is it controversial: it has no basis in any kind of science, it is a religious philosophy (apologies to philosophers, I'm using that term loosely). The few persons calling themselves scientists who support ID are not generally well represented in the literature. That means, in essence, that they don't do much credible work - if they do and choose not to have it published, then they may as well not have done it.

Shame, shame, shame on NS for giving any space at all to this crap, and double shame for them giving it any credence. Journalistic balance is nice, but it is not appropriate to science.

Friday, September 23, 2005

DOQRAPS Attacks!!! 

A study examining age of death versus monogram valence (positive monogram means your name is, say Frank Lyle Ynlaz, or FLY, and negative would be Farrah Amy Tate, or FAT), and negates previous claims that positive valence is related to increased longevity. The good side: large n, many age cohorts. Then, the rest.

Valence is a totally subjective, cultural phenomenon: "FLY" wasn't positive 50 years ago, "KKK" is unfortunately not negative to some. Then there's the homogeneous sample group - mostly white folks.

Check out the typos in the press release. "Then" does not equal "than." There's a stunning lack of definition of which data was from which study. But you should still not name your kids after the city in which they were conceived. That is tacky, Mr. and Mrs. Beckham.


I want to go to London. Now. And for only one completely silly reason. To see this. It's a scientific theater show - full to the brim with nerdiness. It got a good review too!

Thursday, September 22, 2005


...To Alexa (nsfw?), for providing me with a reason to be glad (NSFW) that I cannot read Japanese. Because I just don't want to know what the captions say. At. All.

Social Smoker 

I'm a social smoker. I used to be a proper smoker, but quit after about 6 months ten years ago. I quit, but just never stopped, you see. The good news is that smoking less is...err...less bad for you than smoking more, but, new research indicates, maybe not much. A fairly large longitudinal study indicates that even light smoking - 1 to 4 cigarettes a day - increases cancer risk three to five fold.

Not seeing the paper, I can't say for sure that the results aren't as famously biased as many tobacco and other drug studies, but it does make sense. Drat.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Don't F*** with the Formics 

Ants apparently discovered agriculture long before humans. Studies of one Amazonian species found that they use a natural herbicide to selectively kill off trees they don't like, and even 'herd' aphids. I think that's pretty cool.

ADHD and Cell Phones 

US Department of Transportation officials have called for a ban on teenagers driving with cell phones. While I'm all for people not talking and driving, this is an example of really bad easy-out policy making. It's not just teenagers who've been shown to be more dangerous while talking on the phone and driving: it's just that you can't make rules like that on adults, because they would vote you out of office. You go after kids, so that when they turn 18, 21, 25 or whatever, they not only fail to magically become safe and responsible drivers, they also have to essentially re-learn how to drive - at night, with passengers, on the cell, whatever.

Wholly unrelated, but also interesting: Israeli researchers claim that many kids diagnosed with ADHD are, in fact, just tired. The team says that when kids are sleepy, they tend to be cranky, impulsive, and may be overactive in attempting to compensate and keep themselves awake, and that giving them stimulants (like Ritalin) is effective because it reduces tiredness.

Now, I would love to believe that ADHD could be cured by letting kids get more/better sleep - I have a long series of thoughts about how kids today are pressured by over-achieving parents to do everything - but I seriously doubt this is the case.

First of all. Stimulants' work against ADHD is fairly well explained by the reaction curve,* and while the tiredness hypothesis makes intuitive sense, intuitive sense is not always a good bet in biology. Secondly, I'd have to see the data to be sure, but there is little doubt that improving sleep quality will improve school performance, so that could easily be an artifact.

* Imagine your state of arousal like a curve or half-circle. If non-ADHD people are naturally at about 30 degrees on that curve, taking stimulants pushes them 'forward' 60 degrees to 90 - the top, so they get hyper. Similarly, if ADHD people are naturally at 80 degrees, taking stimulants pushes them 60 degree 'forward' to 140 - which is lower on the arousal scale than where they started.

Hanging Baskets of Sex and Death 

Sounds like the title of something in your DVD collection you don't want your mom to find, but it's actually a novel and interesting new method of pest control. University of Warwick scientists have designed these baskets to house a pest-specific virus and a source of said pest's sex pheromones, so that instead of farmers having to spray their crops, the pests infect and eliminate themselves. I wonder how long it'll take for either (a) the pest to react to this new selection pressure and evolve, (b) the virus to mutate and start killing other things, or (c) both.

Any bukkake fans out there will really enjoy this news: scientists have found a way to make hamster sperm glow green. The point is to better study sperm development and gene expression, but there's so much more potential for entertainment here. On literally the other end of the hamster-amusement lifespan, BoingBoing points us to Hamster Death Match.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Perfect Gift... 

...For certain local bloggers? Click here.

Compliments of non-blogger b. and wherever she found it on Shanghaiist.

Now Playing 

Someday I'll get around to trying one of those podcast things. Not today.

The Future Bible Heroes last album, Eternal Youth has been on my playlist since it came out over a year ago. On shuffle today, the song "Kiss Me Only With Your Eyes" is playing. A prime example of Stephin Merrit's lyrics, the story in this song could almost seem quaint and funny - a woman who coyly refuses to be kissed, and corrects anyone who tries by 'rapping his knuckles with her fan' - but the sounds, both the gorgeously atmospheric instrumentation and Claudia Gonson's airy swoon, convey a compelling sadness and loneliness.

It's probably not good for my mental health to listen to too much music like this, but it's so good, how can I not? Plus, Tuscadero and Ace of Base are coming up.

Cyborg Name 

Mechanical Intelligent Construct Hardwired for Assassination and Efficient Learning

(Via Jenn)


From Josh Marshall:

"House-Senate Katrina probe
dies as Dems refuse to participate in GOP-controlled probe. Mammalian biologists cite development as new evidence for late-stage testiculogenesis."

Bad News for Kids 

To all the parents who are refusing to have their children vaccinated against chicken pox, instead believing that getting them 'naturally' infected by exposing them to other kids with the (potentially fatal) disease: you are fucking stupid, and you deserve not only to end up with a deforming case of shingles, but also to have your kids taken away from you. To all the children of said parents: I am sorry for you.

Also, as if it wasn't already bad enough to be a bit pudgy in elementary and middle school, it appears that kids who are not really overweight but just a but, err, soft around the edges, have warning signs of later cardiovascular problems. The thing is, I almost wonder if the traits they see in these kids don't mean something entirely different in kids than in adults. It wouldn't be so shocking - kids bodies react in different ways to lots of things. And I am still against putting kids who don't really need it through the stress and humiliation of being on a diet.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Religion and Science 

Brother Guy Consolmagno, Vatican astronomer, has some opinions about "Intelligent Design." I'm not fully sure what I think about them, but if we're asking for religious counsel for science (which I pray hope emphasize we are not), I'll take this guy over the American theocracy.

WMATA Sucks 

I waited about 70 minutes for the 90 bus on Sunday afternoon to get from Adams Morgan to the Cathedral. NM provides the WMATA tragicomedy.

More Pseudo-Moralist Bioterrorism 

A number of new vaccines for STI's are in the pipeline, but, like youth, they my be wasted on the young: most will be optimally effective only in kids as young as 11.

They may also not make it to market in the US, due to political interference. The idiot brigade opposing these vaccines is not the one I'’d expect: it'’s the 'moral conservatives,'” who believe that protecting their kids from debilitating and often lethal diseases will encourage them to have more sex, and thus isn't worthwhile.

I cannot even begin to find words to express how angry this makes me. People who are so caught up in their own self-righteousness that they would put their own children at risk. Granted that they have already demonstrated this in their relentless push for abstinence-only '‘sex ed,'’ but still; this is even more direct. If you get cervical cancer, you will probably die. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, while curable, are nasty and can be debilitating and disfiguring. If you are willing to refuse to vaccinate your kid for any reason, you should not have kids, but especially for shots like this. 'Culture of life'’ my ass.

Upside: people with STI's that their parents could have prevented them getting will (I hope and pray) be less likely to adopt said parents' psychotic viewpoints.

Tobacco Selection 

Ahoy! Iin what may turn out t' be a beautiful example o' natural selection, it appears that chewin' tobacco lowers squabs' fertility. Avast ye rednecks, keep on chawin'!

Arrrr! Shiver me timbers! I've been touched by his noodly appendage! It's talk like a pirate day!

More Art 

I've done some more futzing since the last few. Lemmie know what you think.






Friday, September 16, 2005

iPodAudio Jukebox 

I went and took my shiny new baby on it first tour. This is what we played:

1. Shakira - Escondito Ingles
2. Serge Gainsbourg - Comic Strip
3. Self - While the Gangsters Sleep
4. Yoko Kanno - (Live in) Baghdad (audio)

Perfect Conditions 

(via Dave Barry)
A Sydney, Australia man very nearly spontaneously combusted on Thursday, due to the 40,000 volts of static electricity he'd built up in wool-and-nylon outfit. Now, this story has hoax written all over it, but if it's even a little bit true, I'm happy. Because now we know a good reason to wear nylon and wool together.

Wake-Up Slush 

Staying awake all day can be tough, whether you must suffer through tedious meetings and conference calls or dull professors teaching the minutiae of contract law. If you're like me, you're at the point where you need regular doses of caffeine to function at all, but can't shake the feeling that it's not. quite. enough. Some people turn to stronger stimulants, accepting the high risk of heart failure, incarceration, and inclusion in Marion Barry jokes. There has to be a better way (other than marrying rich), right?

Perhaps. University of Michigan researchers claim to have found that self-applied accupressure, applied at mid-day, helps students be more alert. The n is tiny, the control is abysmal, and it screams placebo effect, but hey, I'd give it a shot. Hopefully the authors can come up with a good follow-up study before the DOQRAPS squad arrives.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Magical Fruit 

Beans, beans the magical fruit -
The more you eat, the more you....don't get cancer?

Best Beer Ad EVAR! 

Niq'ed from Making Light.

I don't like Carlton, but anything that abuses the Carmina Burana in way not yet achieved by a Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie makes me happy. Here.

For the Good Guys 

As much as I bitch about Starbucks - crappy, overpriced coffee driving good local shops into the ground, etc. - they really are one of the better companies out there, socio-politically speaking. They offer health insurance for all employees working more than 20 hours a week, well below the over-30-hours standard for most coverage.

Alas, with today's spiraling healthcare costs, even the fabulously successful coffee giant is feeling the burn of its generosityresponsible policies: "Starbucks will spend more on health insurance for its employees this year than on raw materials needed to brew its coffee."

We need a solution ASAP, or even the good guys will have to stop giving benefits, or go out of business.

Dead Cats and Crybabies 

An ingenious inventor has figured out a way to make diesel fuel out of dead cats. No big shock that he's German. Also not a big shock is the reaction of animal rights activists: they are complaining about it and decrying his work.

Crybabies may be annoying, but they may also remember things better than the more stoic among us.

I am, unsurprisingly, all for the efficient disposal of dead cats.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Staking a Claim 

I hereby copyright, patent, and claim whole and total ownership of the brand names Tungstat, Tungslim, Tungstimax, et cetera. Because Tungstate seems to be good at inducing weight loss in rats, my ownership of all these names means that pharmaceutical companies will have to pay me ridiculous amounts of money to market their next probably-not-as-effective-or-safe-as-claimed diet fad.

Also, I declare obiang to be Word of The Day.
"Dude, Atkins is so obiang - I just take Tungslim!"

Child Caregivers 

A study reported in today’s USA Today indicates that more than one million US kids, aged 8-18, are significant caregivers for their adult relatives. The article presents this as a bit of a shock: "We know that children have always played a role in assisting their families…Yet this report reveals that a significant percentage of these children are providing much more personal and complex tasks.”

I was unaware that there was ever a time when kids didn’t help take care of their older relatives. My dad’s grandparents lived with him and his parents, and he certainly helped take care for them as necessary, and I’ve always helped with my grandparents when needed. It’s what family is supposed to do.

The article suggests that tasks, such as helping their relatives with bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, shopping, and household tasks, are more suited to adults and that the kids performing them are “vulnerable” and victims of a health system failure. Now, I will be the first to say that we have a failing health care system, but that’s due to stuff like lack of insurance, quality controls, and decent patient education, not kids helping around the house.

I did a lot of shopping, cooking, ‘household tasks,’ and even helping older relatives with other stuff when I was younger, and it wasn’t a burden, it was what you did. Because that’s what family does. And frankly, making kids help around the house is hardly an abuse or exploitation, like, say, keeping them in cages.

'Infallible' Is A Dangerous Word 

For quite some time, finding fingerprints at the scene of a crime has been a kind of gold standard for identifying a culprit. Cops and criminologists, not to mention DA's and public defenders, view finger print evidence as pretty much infallible.

The trouble is that believing something is infallible is dangerous: new evidence suggests that there could be as many as 2000 fingerprint ID errors in the US each year, leading perhaps to wrongful convictions or worse. Beyond the simple problem of believing that something which is not infallible is infallible, there is the problem that, in believing fingerprints infallible, investigators could be sloppy about them, leading to more errors.

This revelation does not bode well for biometric ID systems, for which I will shed na'ry a tear.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


This blog needs a new look. In attempting to make myself new header/banner art, I am stuck for ideas.

I've come up with a bunch of basic ideas and some variations, and would love feedback. Thanks!

See the stuff....

Fatty McOversized AgRP 

Yale researchers have found a set of neurons, the agouti-related peptide-expressing (AgRP) ones, are critical to eating behavior and weight regulation. When they killed these neurons in adult mice, they became acutely anorexic. Probably not a viable alternative to good old diet and exercise, or even to Atkins and crankiness, but perhaps it will lead to some good therapies for people with real eating disorders.

Nuclear Preemption: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

Providing even more evidence that the dubya administration is gleefully eager to bring about their own little apocalypse*, The Pentagon is refining a new set of guidelines that would, if enacted as they currently stand, authorize preemptive use of nuclear weapons against an enemy that is using "or intending to use WMD." I remember the good old days, when it was only super villains in comic books and movies who actively plotted to destroy the world.

Also, since the White House has recently proven so good at determining who intends to do what with WMDs, how is the Pentagon even vaguely considering this? Oh yeah, people who say 'no' to dubya don't stick around.

* Any preemptive nuclear strike will, it's probably safe to assume, trigger other preemptive nuclear strikes by any number of countries, probably heralding in a nuclear winter**.

**Of course, dubya et al. may view this as a solution to the global warming in which they do not believe.

History: Crystal Clear 

Extracting useful DNA samples from fossils has so far proved almost impossible - degradation, contamination, and other challenges impede this important part of biological research. Examining the DNA of, say, prehistoric humans and hominids and other ancient animals would shed great light on how we humans (and other animals) evolved, and when it happened.

In a new issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers say they may have found a solution: DNA enclosed in crystalline bone matrix fossils. It's a long way from Jurassic Park, which hopefully no one will actually decide might be a good idea (I'm looking at you, Heber C. Jentzsch), but it has great potential for better understanding not only on evolution of modern species, but also perhaps on why many failed to survive.

Monday, September 12, 2005


After much agony in waiting, I found out my calculus grade today. I have never been so happy for a 'B' ever in my life - I have always shot for A's, and even got them in unbelievable things like organic chem - but it means I can, in fact, apply to grad school this fall. Now all I need is the willpower to actually write the damn applications.


Two immunologic posts in one day, you'd think I hadn't been conflicted out of taking the class!

New research suggests that our immune systems are evolved to not work as swiftly as they might, in order to reduce autoimmune diseases. It's a fascinating idea, and such an elegant one too; perhaps all that 'balance' crap the New Agers talk about turns out to be a bit useful. The point, aside from a better understanding of how the system works, is that perhaps the controls can be tweaked, to reduce autoimmune disease symptoms and/or to improve immune responses to diseases. A few of my close relatives and friends have Addison's, and a professor's daughter has lupus, so I'm fairly tuned to autoimmune disease research.

Hookworms: What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 

UK researchers are infecting allergy and asthma sufferers with the human hookworm, Necator americanus, in a trial to see if these parasites can reduce the immune hyperactivity associated with those conditions. Now, I'm all for alternative therapies and bizarre experiments, but infecting patients with parasites seems a bit nasty.

The concept seems sound, but I would think it'd be better to figure out how the hookworms stimulate regulatory T-cell production, and see about inducing it pharmacologically. I mean, do they expect to have patients permanently trade their asthma for anemia?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Weekend Music 

Since it's a weekend of musical events for me, with the DCist Katrina Benefit last night and Bluestate tonight, plus playing with my new toy all last week (and far into the future!), I decided to mention some stuff I've been digging, and hopefully introduce some sciencey types out there to some really good stuff (yes, I'm a musical evangelist. Deal with it.):

If you've not heard any of these three, I strongly suggest you do so. Now.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Good Morning Stress! 

A study released today in the British Medical Journal indicates that for women, being stressed out on a daily basis reduces the risk of breast cancer. Due largely to my own stress levels, I don't have time (or energy) to really pick apart the study right now, but on the surface it seems pretty good. The proposed mechanism - that stress reduces estrogen which increases breast cancer rates - seems sound, but you gotta wonder if the reduction in breast cancer risk is worth all the bad side effects of stress.

For a whole different kind of stress, try going into a coma. It's loads of fun, I swear*. The Mayo Clinic has developed a replacement for the 30-something-year-old Glasgow Coma Scale, which has a number of serious limitations, particularly in severe trauma cases. The new system, called FOUR (Full Outline of UnResponsiveness), takes into account new data that were uncollectable when Glasgow was developed. Progress is good.

But again, stress can be a useful thing, even in avoiding stress. How much does it suck to be out for a nice hike, only to have your cell phone ringrun out power? A new backpack uses the up-and-down movement of walking to generate up to 7 watts of power - plenty to power your wifi-enabled-cellphone-PDA-MP3-player-crackberry-thing. Which I would find just stressful to have anyways.

*This may be how I deal with daily crappy-job stress: "I've had worse."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Smokey Treats 

This could be a very interesting study from the California HHS: GLBT folks, Marines, and Korean men smoke more; Chinese women and Asian Indians smoke less. Hmmm.

Rules of the Wretch 

I hate commercials. Other people hate watching TV with me because I simply cannot stand to watch the commercials during a show, and so spend those 150 seconds flipping channels, usually alternating back to the one I want to watch to make sure I'm not missing something. My ex claimed it made him seasick (so we just ... err ... watched movies instead). I have never understood how so large a portion of the population could be so swayed by ads. The majority would insult a retardedevelopmentally delayed spaniel's intelligence, and an increasing number just don't make any sense at all.

I'm not sure who this John Camm character is, but I like him. He's come up with a list of the Modern Rules of Advertising, which is a fairly good start to a list of things I never want to see again. I do have to add one though:
This, of course, is one that really pisses me off.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina Post 

NM has guilted me in to posting. I will not spout my various and sundry opinions on the situation, others have stated them better elsewhere, so I'll just point to some of the really cool stuff going on in the world of those trying to help (aka "Not The Bush Administration"):

For those with family, friends, homes in New Orleans: Kathryn Cramer's mapping activities.
For everyone in DC: DCist's Katrina benefit.

Not very insightful or anything, just what I got.

Nascent Singularity? 

Computer researchers at UT Austin report development of a computer algorithm which outperforms human programmers. Could this set the stage for computers smarter than humans? Could we be approaching a singularity?

I think that'd be neat.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Brilliance Type 1 

Vanderbilt researchers have, essentially, diagnosed brilliant and creative people as schizotypal personalities. In brain-scan tests, they found that schizoptypes had displayed greater right-hemisphere activation than did both control and schizophrenic subjects.

It is entirely possible that these results are good; they do come from a reputable institution and a good journal, though those things have become less and less convincing in recent years. It just seems that the definition of what is a 'creative' response is fairly subjective, and that there are many other factors involved. Schizophrenics, as I recall, tend to have lower brain activation overall for almost any task than do controls, so it might follow that they would have lower activation than schizotypes.

But I do like saying that you have to be a bit crazy to be brilliant. Makes me feel better.

Hypochondriacs Strike Back 

A new study from Children's Hospital Boston has found that regular home use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers reduces reported GI and respiratory infections in kids. Part of me says 'no duh, you got the parents to be cleaner than they were before,' but then it's also encouraging to learn that these things are in fact effective. Some hospitals already have dispensers on their walls, and encouraging more to do so could reduce hospital infections and cross-contaminations, which would be great.

GABA: Hey! 

An interesting looking piece of research comes from Yale today: scientists there have found that GABAergic transmission from neuronal precursor cells inhibits stem cell development. This discovery could prove useful in fighting brain cancer (which is thought to result from overproduction of stem cells) and perhaps also in fighting neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimers and Parkinsons.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The 7 Things Meme 

So nobody actually tagged me for this, but I'm bored and up too early, so here it is.

7 things I plan to do before I die:
1) Learn at least two more languages
2) Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro
3) Live at least six months on each continent
4) Fall in love
5) Do photography more than just now and again
6) Fly to the moon
7) Learn how to Salsa

7 things I can do:
1) Make almost anyone look good in a photo
2) Forget that we already discussed this ten minutes (or days) ago
3) Make a tasty meal out of whatever's in the cupboard
4) Pretend convincingly to be happier than I am
5) Convert between farenheight and centigrade in my head
6) Drink massively and still walk home unaided.
7) Overanalyze anything

7 things I cannot do:
1) Stay focused on one thing at a time
2) Tolerate willfully ignorant people
3) Get used to digital photography
4) Figure out what is so great about Sex and the City
5) Restrain myself
6) Give myself a proper manicure
7) Find pants that fit properly without alterations

7 things that attract me to the [opposite of my] opposite sex:
1) Eyes
2) Arms
3) Twisted humor
4) Ecclecticism
5) Subtle toughness
6) Impulsiveness
7) Hands

7 things that I say most often:
1) Yo
2) Ciao
3) Whats up?
4) Cool beans
5) Ay-ya
6) To be fair
7) @#!!$@#&*

7 celebrity crushes:
1) Jake Gyllenhaal
2) Phil Turner (from House Invaders)
3) Colin Farrel
4) Jared Leto
5) Matthew Fox
6) Gavin Henson
7) Zach Braff

7 people I want to do this
Well, since nobody asked me, and I did it anyways, I'm setting this meme free upon the internet! If you feel like doing it, do it, and lemmie know in comments!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Vitamin E Again 

Taking vitamin E may help your hearing, taking too much might be bad for you, or, alternatively, too much might extend your lifespan 40% and improve you athleticism.

All this of course highlights not only how little we know about things as basic to our nutrition as vitamins, but also the critical importance of reproducibility in science. An interesting finding is only that until it happens again. And again. And again. And (generally) doesn't stop.

Politicizing Everything 

Xeni Jardin gives us yet more evidence that nothing is sacred for the Bush administration. They've even found a way to line their supporters' pockets with aid for Katrina's victims. FEMA is apparently directing aid donations to Pat Robertson's group. Second only to the Red Cross. This almost manages to truly shock me (something which becomes more difficult every day of this administration). Oy.

UPDATE: Not the same exact topic, but the Sardonic Bomb is pissed, and has some excellent points. This is an absolute disgrace. If only those in power knew that (or cared).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Not Butterstick 

Sadly, Mrs. Kevitney Spederline has decided not to follow Chrisafer's sage advice, will apparently be naming her first-spawnedborn child either London Preston or Addison Shye. Poor kid: your mom's a skank, dad's a mouth-breather, but while no one will remember who either of them are in five years, you'll still be named 'London' or "Addison."

BushCo's War on Science Continues 

I'm sure everyone's heard by now that Susan F. Wood stepped down from her position as Director of the Office of Womens Health at the FDA, due to the body's continued refusal to approve Plan B for over the counter sales, despite all scientific recommendations.

I'm incredibly annoyed about this situation: the FDA is supposed to regulate based on science and safety issues, not political gamesplaying. The only reason Plan B is not approved is because the dubya administration (the parts not on perpetual vacation, that is) claim to view it as an "abortion drug" - which it plainly is not. They really view it as an advancement of womens' rights, something neoconservatives really abhor, and is the true raison d'être behind all this "culture of life" bullshit.

I do understand Dr. Wood's frustrations with the FDA - a good friend of mine also tired of the political atmosphere there and resigned under the Clinton administration - but in her case, stepping down was the most counter-productive thing to do. Her successor will no doubt be someone who follows the Party Line, and we will have lost another voice for reason in our government.

Regenerating Mice! 

(Via Slashdot)
Until I see a real publication, I am withholding belief: Wistar Institute researchers claim to have produced mice with Wolverine-like regenerative abilities. That's Wolverine the superhero, not the vicious weasel. If it does turn out to be true, the implications for medicine (not to mention agriculture!) are stunning.

Fruit is Good, Smoke is Bad 

Everyone knows that olive oil is good for you (and tasty with spinach, eh Popeye?), but exactly how it has its beneficial effects remains a mystery. Well, less so now: researchers have found that a compound in olives, oleocanthal, has a similar anti-inflammatory effect to ibuprofen, which has itself been found beneficial against heart disease and other problems.

We all know that cigarettes are bad for us, but they are so much fun to smoke! The thing is, they're also bad for people around us, particularly kids. A new Singaporean study indicates that children from smokers' households suffer more respiratory problems later in life than do kids from non-smoking households (the effect is dose-dependent: kids with 2 smoking parents had more trouble than those with one smoking parent). Most interestingly, the study also found that higher daily fiber intake as adults helped reduce these symptoms: as little as two apples a day!

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