Friday, November 25, 2005


The government has been making plans to deal with the potential outbreak of bird flu if (or when) it mutates to become easily contagious to and between humans, or other killer flus. On of the strategies for dealing with it is quarantines of areas with outbreaks of it. However, they say they can't keep illegal immigrants out of the country. If we are not capable of preventing illegal immigration, how can we expect to enforce a quarantine? And of course, the illegal immigrants may bring in the flu, esp. because much of the immigration is from areas where many people keep chickens in their back yards.

Also, the CDC is making plans to quarantine sick airplane and ship passengers, for both interstate and international travel. There might be some merit in this as far as preventing the spread of diseases such as ebola from outside the Americas. But of course, it doesn't prevent illegal immigrants from bringing in diseases the Americas. Also, the proposals for tracking disease for interstate travelers seem rather pointless and uselessly expensive, as most people travel by car, so most sick people in interstate travel would not be detected anyway.

"FBI" e-mail scam

The FBI has warned of an e-mail scheme where unsolicited e-mails falsely claim to be from the FBI. If you follow the instructions, your computer gets infected with a computer virus. Some people where I work have already gotten this e-mail.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

what is torture

There has been discussion about what constitutes torture. If we would consider it torture if it were done to us or our troops, how could it not be torture if we did it to someone else? Some acts would be inhumane depending on the person's culture. Insulting someone's religion might not be torture, but it is likely to be counterproductive.
A recent letter to the AJC maintained that if a pr ocedure does not leave physical effects lasting more than two weeks, it shouldn't be classed as torture. This person is either lucky never to have felt extreme amounts of pain or other intense sources of physical stimulation, or he is has a low ability to learn to avoid pain/danger.

1918 flu, corrected

People have wondered why there have been no further outbreaks of the 1918 flu.
Of course, one reason would be that all flu viruses are always changing.
But I wonder if another reason could be that so many people who had a genetic susceptibility to this strain of flu died from it that the population is less susceptible to it now.
It appears that the reason cystic fibosis is so prevalent among people of northern European ancestry is that having a single gene for it makes people more resistant to cholera (not tuberculosis like the original said). And of course, a single gene for sickle cell disease confers resistance to malaria, which is why it is prevalent in people of African and Mediterranean descent.

Anybody can do it

A letter or vent to the AJC withing the last couple of days said that since it only took him/her a week to find a place to live when they got a job in town, that means it should be possible for all the FEMA people in hotel rooms to do the same. Of course, the letter writer was presumbably able to afford a deposit. We should not pay for hotel rooms for the hurricane victims forever, but surely two weeks notice just before Thanksgiving is not reasonable, given the number of people.
People frequently say that since they or somebody else was able to do something, that proves that everybody can do the same thing.
That's ridulous. Some people can run a mile in four minutes. Einstein discovered the theary of relativity by thinking about it. That doesn't mean that everybody can.
Even in cases where most people are capable of a certain feat, the fact that anybody can do something doesn't mean that everybody can do it. Eg., anybody who can afford to buy a lottery ticket can win. But of course, everybody can't win, or there would be no reason to have a lottery in the first place, because it's purpose is to raise money, which means it cannot pay out as much as it takes in. This may seem obvious to you, but I have had a person deny this, and get really mad at me! If there are fewer job openings than there are qualified people, some people can get a job, but it is impossible that they all get these jobs, at least at the same time. If this seems obvious, I guarantee there are many people who don't seem to be able to understand that simple fact.

Brave or dumb

When researchers removed a certain gene in mice, they discovered that it reduced their ability to learn to avoid danger. The newspaper title called it a "bravery gene". The scientists referred to possible positive effects that this discovery might lead to, such as treating people who are troubled by disabling memories of traumatic events. But no mention was made of obvious problematic uses of this knowledge. People who are naturally high in fear are less likely to break the law. People who are naturally low in fear often become violent adults if they are treated harshly by their parents. And the thought of armies chemically treated to be w/o fear is really frightening.

FEMA hotel cutoff

FEMA officials have said they will stop paying hotel bills Dec. 1. They can still receive housing aid,but have to call a toll-free number. Does anybody doubt that this phone line will be very hard to get through to?

Blog update schedule

I won't be likely to be posting anything during the week for awhile, because of my long commute, and I don't want to use the computer at the company I work for for this, even if I had time. So if you're looking for new entries, they'll be on the weekends.
I'm enjoying my new job. It's really nice to be working in a professional atmosphere. The only problem is my commute, 15 miles each way in heavy traffic. My thighs are hurting from operating my car foot pedals, including the clutch!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

pox virus

In reporting on the new pox virus infecting cows and humans, scientists found it to be 95% identical to the vaccinia virus, which is used to vaccinate against smallpox, does not cause disease, and is not normally found in nature. Anybody who is familiar with the history of the fight against smallpox will wonder how close this virus is to cowpox, which was used in the first vaccinations against smallpox.

Warm weather and God

I haven't heard anybody attribute the warm weather recently, which is holding down the predicted high heating bills, to God. Do people thing God is only responsible for bad things?

In the land of the blind

Here is my take on a well-known aphorism.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is ruler.
The two-eyed person is:
- regarded as a fool
- stoned as a heretic
- burned at the stake as a witch
- confined in an insane asylum

Studies of leadership found that people will not follow someone more than one level higher than themselves in intelligence or morality; they consider such people crazy.

fertility prediction

I predict that eventually many women will have to take birth control pills in order to conceive. Since some women become pregnant even while taking the pill, they will be more likely to pass on their genes that allow this.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Children's nutrition

The current administration/congress proposed to cut funding for food stamps to help balance the budget. They also say they want to improve education. When children are undernourished before birth and when they are young, their intellect can be permanently damaged. In an experiment with mice or rats several years ago, when a pregnant mother was malnutritioned, not only were her children intellectually impaired, but also her daughter's children. School-aged children who are hungry are less able to learn. When we harm our children, we are harming the future of our country.

personal job news

In case anybody who reads this is interested, I got a short-term job as a technical writer, starting tomorrow (Monday, Nov. 7) through the end of the year. So I'll be able to get a new pair of glasses, get an oil change for my car, and get my cats their rabies shots.

Anythiing is possible

A great version:

Anything is possible if you do not know what you are talking about.

I saw this on the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Vent column, so I regret I can't give the author credit.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Choosing judges - What's good for the goose

Choosing Judges
copyright Patricia M. Shannon 2005

"How mean you are", Republicans said to the Democrats,
"to threaten filibusters of Bush's chosen judge";
"Oh, come on", said the Democrats, "have you so soon forgot,
you were the ones who did it first to Johnson's Abe Fortas.
You say the Senate must have it's vote, it's constitutional,
but Clinton's judges in committee you did mostly stall."
Morality is relative, at least it seems that way,
for might is right, but only when it's right-wing's turn to have the might!

Working longer

The minimum age for early social security payments is going up. Some argue that since the average life expectancy has increased, people should work longer. We are told that we are not aging as fast. But where are we older workers supposed to find jobs that pay a decent wage? Congress helps employers continue to discrimate against older workers by making big raises in number of H1-B visa issued to high-tech foreigners. If we are not aging as fast, then there is no reason to help businesses discriminate against us.

Does money motivate or not?

Why is it that the same people who argue that sky-high salaries are necessary to motivate CEO's, but will expect excellent service from people making minimum wage?