Friday, December 29, 2006


The most effective way I've found to get a lot of housecleaning done is to decide to do my taxes!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Maternal Diet During Pregnancy Can Impact Offspring For Generations, Study Shows
A new study by scientists at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) is the first to show that a mother's diet during pregnancy influences the health of her grandchildren by changing the behavior of a specific gene. ... The new research shows that the diet consumed by a pregnant Avy mouse affects the health of not only her pups, but also their pups -- her grandchildren.

I read a of a similar study several years ago. In that study, pregnant mice (or rats, I can't remember which), were fed a deficient diet. Their offspring had reduced IQs (no new results there), and so did their daughters' offspring, but not their sons' offspring. President Reagan tried to end the WIC (Women, Infants, and Chidrens nutrition) program, and was able to reduce it. His administration defined ketchup as a "vegetable" in order to save money on school lunch programs. There is no telling what harm this has caused our country. He also tried to eliminate Head Start. It boggles my mind when people claim the press was hard on Reagan, and now Bush. They treated both with blatant favoritism.

striking a balance
In a civilized society based on the rule of law, we live in a delicate balance between obeying those whose job it is to enforce the laws, and policing the police to make certain they do not abuse their special positions of authority.

This is an excellent discussion on this topic.

Rapist who preys on men sparks fear, interest
BAYTOWN, Texas - A rapist who has struck at least five times since April in and around Baytown has not only spread fear in this working-class community but also piqued the interest of those who study the criminal mind.
The reason: He preys on other men.
That makes him something of a rarity in the world of crime.

I worked on a crisis line many years ago. In one of our classes, rape was discussed. This caused the men to giggle, and at least one to comment they wouldn't mind being raped. When I commented that they were most likely to be raped by another man (men being far more likely to engage in violent acts than women), the giggling stopped. And this is not an isolated incidence of male insensitivity to rape - when it happens to women. As a result, I admit I don't feel the sympathy for these men that I would for a woman.

Combinations of over-the-counter drugs can cause serious side effects

However, overdoses of acetaminophen can cause serious liver damage, even death, the FDA said. For aspirin, ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, there is a risk of gastrointestinal bleeding and kidney injury even when patients take the correct dose. Those risks too are linked to deaths, in this case thousands each year. ... For acetaminophen, the labels also would warn of the risk of severe liver damage if patients take more than the recommended dose or consume three or more alcoholic drinks a day while on the drugs.

This is definitely not an over-reaction on the part of the FDA. This killed my brother, who suffered from chronic back and neck pains from injuries.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Designer’ babies with made-to-order defects?

Creating made-to-order babies with genetic defects would seem to be an ethical minefield, but to some parents with disabilities — say, deafness or dwarfism — it just means making babies like them.

And a recent survey of U.S. clinics that offer embryo screening suggests it’s already happening.
Three percent, or four clinics surveyed, said they have provided the costly, complicated procedure to help families create children with a disability.

As a fairly short person myself (5 feet), I have nothing against dwarfs, but as the article indicates, having a person with one such gene may need surgery for dwarfism-related bone deformities. A baby with two such genes dies. Unless/until we devastate the environment so badly that small people will have an advantage because we need less resources, it would be wrong to deliberately create people such disabilities. Since we know of widespread genes which are seriously harmful or fatal when two are present, but protective in some circumstances for those who have a single gene, we should be leary of trying to stamp out such genes, but it would be wrong to deliberately choose for them, at least when even the single gene causes problems.

I have progressive myopia, caused by a recessive gene. It is possible it is associated with increased IQ (there is still an open question, as far as I know). But I certainly wouldn't go out and deliberately try to have children with this condition.

Backpack generates its own electricity

A new backpack design may offer a way for first responders and disaster relief workers to generate their own electricity for communications devices, night vision goggles, water purifiers or other crucial, portable electronics.
All the person wearing the backpack has to do is walk — the backpack does the rest. The backpack captures energy from the up-and-down movements of its heavy contents and converts this energy to electricity.

This would be good for anybody. Batteries are horrible for the environment.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

help our troops

This site contains instructions for knitting or crocheting wool helmet liners for our troops. The ones supplied by the government are of synthetic fiber, and not as warm.

I have finished one (will send it in next week), and have started another.

Friday, December 15, 2006

results of voluntary standards

Pres. Bush must be happy at the results of the voluntary standards he is so enamored of.
Recent E. coli outbreaks have drawn attention to foodborne illnesses, and though officials say the overall number of cases is on the decline, produce — particularly leafy vegetables — is increasingly a carrier of germs once linked only to meat and dairy.
A type of salmonella found in eggs is turning up more often in chicken meat and needs to be reduced, according to the Agriculture Department.
From 2000 through 2005, there was a fourfold increase in positive test results for salmonella enteritidis on chicken carcasses.

inspirational words

I cried because I had no shoes,
until I met a man who had no hair.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jack Kevorkian to be paroled in June
After more than eight years in prison, a frail Dr. Jack Kevorkian will be paroled in June with a promise that he won’t assist in any more suicides, a prison spokesman said Wednesday.=

I never thought he should have been sent to prison, certainly not for so long. He wasn't killing people w/o their permission. He was giving them freedom to end their pain and suffering. The fear of not being able to make such a decision for myself would cause me to end my life earlier than otherwise in such a situation, before I became helpless to do so. If someone insists that people should be forced to endure agony, whether physical pain or severe depression, that person is a sadistic jerk.

I disagree with disabled people who said such actions devalue disabled people. Disabled people should be supported. And they should have the right to make decisions about their own lives that able-bodied people can do. If they are not in severe pain, it would be reasonable to not allow assisted suicide for a time after a person becomes unable to act on their own. Six months might be reasonable, because research has found that people tend to adjust to circumstances in that amount of time, and to end up about as happy or unhappy as they were before the disability.

I read once of a man who had been severely burned. He wanted to be allowed to die, but wasn't allowed to do so. After he recovered, he said that he should have been allowed to die, that even though he was recovered, he didn't want to have lived through such pain. I feel the same way for myself. If someone else makes a different decision, that's their choice.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

cooperative fish
The giant moray eel is normally a lone hunter in the dark. Now scientists find these eels may at times hunt in the daytime in the Red Sea, and surprisingly cooperate with another predatory fish, the grouper, which is also normally a solitary predator.

If two differenct species of fish cooperate for mutual benefit, why not Republicans and Democrats?

Friday, December 01, 2006

lucky female chimps
Researchers studying chimpanzee mating preferences have found that although male chimpanzees prefer some females over others, they prefer older, not younger, females as mates. The findings uncover a stark contrast between chimpanzee behavior and that of humans, their primate cousins.

passive smoking
Over time, inhaling environmental tobacco smoke (ETS)--a process often called "passive smoking"--can cause otherwise healthy adults to develop chronic respiratory symptoms.

I myself have noticed a large decrease in asthma and hayfever since smoking has been banned in work places and restaurants.

good news on global warming
Scientists at UC Irvine have determined that levels of atmospheric methane – an influential greenhouse gas – have stayed nearly flat for the past seven years, which follows a rise that spanned at least two decades....Methane has an atmospheric lifetime of about eight years. Carbon dioxide – the main greenhouse gas that is produced by burning fossil fuels for power generation and transportation – can last a century and has been accumulating steadily in the atmosphere.

Methane has a greater greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide, so this is good news, although methane is of lesser importance because of much smaller amounts in the atmosphere.

avoiding back pain
Researchers are using a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show that sitting in an upright position places unnecessary strain on your back, leading to potentially chronic pain problems if you spend long hours sitting. The study, conducted at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen, Scotland, was presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
"A 135-degree body-thigh sitting posture was demonstrated to be the best biomechanical sitting position, as opposed to a 90-degree posture, which most people consider normal," said Waseem Amir Bashir, M.B.Ch.B., F.R.C.R., author and clinical fellow in the Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital, Canada.

ecstasy not ecstatic to brain
Researchers have discovered that even a small amount of MDMA, better known as ecstasy, can be harmful to the brain, according to the first study to look at the neurotoxic effects of low doses of the recreational drug in new ecstasy users.

unexpected results
Cincinnati researchers, led by David Bernstein, MD, have found that infants living in homes with high levels of endotoxins (bacterial contaminants) and multiple dogs were more than two times less likely to wheeze than other infants.

is deafness a handicap
COULD the end of sign language for deaf children be in sight? A spate of new studies has shown that profoundly deaf babies who receive cochlear implants in their first year of life develop language and speech skills remarkably close to those of hearing children. Many of the children even learn to sing passably well and function almost flawlessly in the hearing world.
These findings may sound like a triumph to audiologists and the hearing parents of deaf babies. But they have done little to convince those in the deaf community who maintain that it is unethical to give deaf babies cochlear implants, which bypass damaged areas of the ear and stimulate the auditory nerve directly.

If deafness is not a handicap, then we can do away with tax deductions and other help, such as funding for special education.

It seems to me these parents are just selfish jerks.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

the role is not the person
A former pastor has been accused of murdering an 85-year-old California man in a scheme to inherit his trust fund.

Another example of why we cannot assume that a person in a respected position is a good person.
In regards to several police shootings of unarmed people, there have been letters to the editor and vent right after the event, defending the police, assuming that the police were right. They may or may not be. Being hired by a police department, church, the military, doesn't prove that a person is perfect, competent, or even half-way decent. People can be drawn to these roles for good reasons, and also for bad reasons.

I have noticed that police often take a righteous attitude toward the law, even for something trivial like not coming to a total stop at an intersection where there is nobody in sight from any direction. But they will protect co-workers who frame or kill innocent people. If they were really so committed to the law and order, it seems to me they would be outraged when a co-worker transgressed their proclaimed ethics.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

more of the same
The rate at which humans are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has more than doubled since the 1990s, according to Australian research, the latest report warning about the high rate of emissions accumulating in the atmosphere.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I heard a speaker say that global warming wasn't an individual responsibility; it was the responsibility of car makers, utility companies, etc.

Certainly, business can and should do a lot to reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases. But our individual actions share the blame. Business isn't creating pollution just for fun. They create gasoline and electricity because we buy it. They don't force us to buy SUVs. They don't yank our fingers away from the light switch when we turn out the lights.

Some people think that biofuels will be a magic solution. But if we continue to waste so much energy, surely we will burn more fuel faster than nature can regrow it. Even if we attained a break even situation, we will still be creating pollutants in addition to greenhouse gases.
In a study called “Going to the Extremes,” coming out in the December issue of the journal Climatic Change, researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and Texas Tech University found strong evidence that by the end of this century, there will be significant increases in what the authors call “extreme weather events”—deadly heat waves, heavy rainfall and prolonged droughts.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tarantula Venom And Chili Peppers Target Same Pain Sensor
Venom from a West Indian tarantula has been shown to cause pain by exciting the same nerve cells in mice that sense high temperatures and the hot, spicy ingredient in chili peppers, UCSF scientists have discovered.

No surprise to me. I have never understood why anybody would want to eat hot chilis in the first place, unless they are masochistic.

Social Exclusion Changes Brain Function And Can Lead To Poor Decision-making
In new research, reported in the current online issue of the journal Social Neuroscience, researchers from the University of Georgia and San Diego State University report for the first time that social exclusion actually causes changes in a person's brain function and can lead to poor decision-making and a diminished learning ability.

I read several years ago of research that found that school bullies were found to be of normal I.Q. when they entered school, but when they were older, they scored below average. Perhaps this new research is at least part of the reason. I suspect that it at least partly due to a dependence on bullying, rather than peaceful interaction, with others, resulting in less exercise of of the intellect. We know that using one's brain results in the growth of connections between brain cells, and possibly in the number of brain cells.

Secret Santa medical costs

More on the Secret Santa story:

It was mentioned in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story (Nov. 19, 2006), that his cancer treatment costs $16000 a month. "His insurance company won't cover the cost, which has left him concerned about his finances." didn't mention that. Not the first time I've noticed the appearance of possible conservative censoring on
This info was also missing on the report

Friday, November 17, 2006

on the one hand, on the other hand

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and Federal University of CearĂ¡ in Brazil have joined forces to study if the gene believed to contribute to Alzheimer's protects children from the developmental stresses of early childhood diarrhea.

In addition, Guerrant says the research will also shed further light on situations where negative genetic traits are found to have beneficial effects that likely help to explain their presence in human evolution. An example of this phenomenon, called a balanced polymorphism, is sickle cell anemia, a genetic disease in which a double "dose" of the sickle cell gene causes red blood cells to form odd shapes and results in pain and anemia. A single "dose" of the same gene, however, makes a person resistant to malaria, a deadly tropical disease.

results of piety

This article explains how religious extremism in the Essenes, causing faithfulness to teachings on cleanliness, led to illness and greatly decreased life expectance.
According to Tabor, however, poor health might have had its own place in the cultural thinking of Qumran.
"As a group the men of Qumran were very unhealthy, but I think this would have been likely to have actually fed the Essenes' religious enthusiasm," said Tabor. "They would have seen their infirmities as punishment from God for their lack of purity and then have tried even harder to purify themselves further."

I could not have been a successful Essene, becuase no way could I have adhered to the following practices:
Josephus, in talking about the Essenes, mentions it as a point of admiration or piety -- he says that these people are so holy, that on the Sabbath day they won't even use the toilet, because on the Sabbath one can't go outside the settlement," he said.

This is an example of the necessity of the scientific method. Pure reasoning often leads one to faulty conclusions, because of lack of knowledge.

happy countries

Results of a survey of happiness around the world.
(The U.S. is 23rd)


A dioxin toxin contained in the herbicide Agent Orange affects male reproductive health by limiting the growth of the prostate gland and lowering testosterone levels, researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found in a cohort study of more than 2,000 Air Force veterans who served during the Vietnam War.

... the urgency of further research is underlined by a rise in disorders of the male reproductive tract over the past several decades.
These include a decrease in sperm production by almost 50 percent, a three- to four-fold increase in testicular cancer, an increase in the incidence of cryptorchidism (undescended testes, a condition where the testes are not in their normal location in the scrotum) and hypospadias (abnormality of the urethra).
The reason for this increase is not known, but it is thought that these disorders might be caused by environmental chemicals that are estrogenic and have endocrine-disrupting effects, Dr. Gupta said.
Dioxins are among the most toxic substances known and are thought to be partially responsible for this increase in male reproductive tract disorders. They are formed as byproducts of processes such as incineration, smelting, paper and pulp manufacturing and pesticide and herbicide production.
Humans are exposed to these chemicals primarily through consumption of animal fat and dairy products. Babies are exposed to the highest levels of dioxins through breast milk. Dioxins are eliminated extremely slowly from the body and they tend to stay in the body for several years to several decades after exposure.

radical religious influence

These students are part of a large, well-organised movement that is empowering parents to teach their children creationist biology and other unorthodox versions of science at home, all centred on the idea that God created Earth in six days about 6000 years ago. Patrick Henry, near the town of Purcellville, about 60 kilometres north-west of Washington DC, is gearing up to groom home-schooled students for political office...

Now evangelical home-schoolers can also opt for a college like PHC. The school was founded in 2000 to "prepare leaders who will fight for the principles of liberty and our home-school freedoms through careers of public service and cultural influence".
It worked. By 2004, PHC students held seven out of 100 internships in the White House, a number even more striking when one considers that only 240 students were enrolled in the entire college. Last year, two PHC graduates worked in the White House, six worked for members of Congress and eight for federal agencies, including two for the FBI. "Patrick Henry is something to worry about because these kids end up in the administration," says Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which campaigns against the teaching of creationism as science.

Home-schoolers are drawn to PHC partly because of its political connections and partly because, unlike most Christian colleges, it boasts high academic standards. Besides the focus on creationism, much of the curriculum is dedicated to rhetoric and debate, preparing students to fight political and legal battles on issues such as abortion, stem cell research and evolution. The technique is effective. For the past two years, the college has won the moot court national championship, in which students prepare legal briefs and deliver oral arguments to a hypothetical court, and has twice defeated the UK's University of Oxford in debating competitions.

Biology is not the only science being rewritten in home-schooling textbooks. Other sciences are also being modified to suit the creationist perspective that God created Earth about 6000 years ago. Take for instance this advice on climate change in the book Science Order and Reality published by A Beka Book: "Because most environmental scientists see the universe and even life itself as mere products of chance, it is easy for them to visualise potentially catastrophic changes occurring on the Earth. As Christians we must remember that God provided certain 'checks and balances' in creation to prevent many of the global upsets that have been predicted by environmentalists." For those who still worry about global warming, another A Beka book, Science of the Physical Creation, flatly denies it is happening: "All of the scientific evidence gathered indicates that there is no danger of a global warming disaster."
Chemistry textbooks argue that radiometric dating is unreliable and therefore not a concern for those who believe in a 6000-year-old Earth. And geology books claim that the Grand Canyon in Arizona - a gorge carved by the Colorado river, exposing 2 billion years of Earth's history - was formed rapidly during the worldwide Biblical flood, and all the sedimentary strata visible in the canyon walls were deposited then.
Even astronomy is being rethought to address what many creationists consider their most difficult challenge: explaining how starlight from billions of light years away has reached the Earth in only a few thousand years. Books like Taking Back Astronomy by Jason Lisle suggest possible explanations: maybe God created the light already en route; or maybe the Milky Way sits in a large gravitational well where the time-stretching effects of general relativity can explain the anomaly; or - the creationists' favourite - maybe the speed of light was much, much greater in the past.

This would, of course, be a return to the dark ages. I guess one could argue that it might have been better if we had stayed there. Then the population would not have increased as quickly as it has, so we wouldn't be having as much environmental destruction yet. But, since the population was increasing even then, we would have had many of the same problems eventually.

We are a vampire clan

Polar bear cubs in Alaska’s Beaufort Sea are much less likely to survive compared to 20 years ago, probably due to melting sea ice caused by global warming, according to a new federal government study.

Signs of warming continue in the Arctic with a decline in sea ice, an increase in shrubs growing on the tundra and rising concerns about the Greenland ice sheet.

If the sun warms the Earth too dangerously, the time may come to draw the shade. The "shade" would be a layer of pollution deliberately spewed into the atmosphere to help cool the planet.

Hindus in India’s West Bengal state began burning wood and herbs in over a 1,000 deep pits on Friday in a ceremony they said will heal the ozone layer and cure disease, drawing anger from green campaigners.
These Hindus may be misguided, but at least they understand there is a problem.
The famous flamingos of Nakuru are fading away.
The spindly, exquisite birds, clouds of pink rising on a million wings in generations of tourist photographs, are dying, flying off, fleeing a seemingly fatal brew of environmental threats in a shrinking Lake Nakuru, the home that has sheltered them for uncounted centuries.
Fishermen who rake giant nets across the ocean floor to maximize their catch are destroying unique and unexplored ecological systems, according to a U.N. draft environmental report made public Wednesday.
Global warming could stoke ferocious wildfires that will be more difficult and costly to fight and might drastically alter the environment in parts of the world, some scientists warn.
A warmer world already seems to be producing a sicker world, health experts reported Tuesday, citing surges in Kenya, China and Europe of such diseases as malaria, heart ailments and dengue fever.

FW: chutzpa

"About 1,000 nonunion workers, mostly Hispanics upset with the recent firing
of immigrants for allegedly providing false documents, walked off their jobs
at a Smithfield Foods Inc. slaughtering plant, a union spokeswoman said. ...
Smithfield Foods also has failed to address problems of sexual harassment
and denial of workers compensation claims, said Gene Bruskin, a
representative of the union who serves as the Smithfield campaign director."

I'm all for unions protecting legitimate worker's rights, but if it is true
that the unions are demanding that the company re-hire workers who provided
false documentation, that is outrageous. As noted in the article, it also
against federal law.

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consistantly unwise

The Bush administration has appointed a new chief of family-planning programs at the Department of Health and Human Services who worked at a Christian pregnancy-counseling organization that regards the distribution of contraceptives as "demeaning to women."

Weird. How is the use of condoms, which besides acting as a contraceptive, protects women (and men) from disease, demeaning to women? Is it demeaning to women to think they will willing have sex for reasons other than procreation? Is it demeaning to women to think they might be of use as other than breeders?

A friend of mine complained that Bush doesn't pick good advisors. I told her, to know that you need advisors more knowledgable than oneself, and to recognize them, requires a sufficient level of wisdom and emotional maturity that Bush does not have.

exception to rule

People who own vicious dogs such as pit bulls have significantly more criminal convictions — including crimes against children — than owners of licensed, gentler dogs such as beagles, researchers reported on Thursday.

There are always exceptions to such generalities. I owned a rottweiler, or rottweiler mix, one time. I found him as a stray, and never found the owner. He was a very sweet dog, but he scared people because he barked at them and was so big, although at 90 pounds, he was small for the breed. So I guess I could be considered a technical exception, because I didn't go out and choose this dog.

anti-Santa hospitals

A Los Angeles hospital accused of dumping homeless patients on downtown’s Skid Row is facing the first criminal charges in the city’s campaign to crack down on the practice and clean up the area.
Kaiser Permanente is among 10 hospitals under investigation by city prosecutors for allegedly discharging homeless patients to the streets of Skid Row rather than to a relative or shelter.

There should be more than fines. There should be jail time for the people responsible, but of course, that won't happen.

secret Santa needs prayers

A man who has given away millions of dollars and become known as Secret Santa for handing out Christmas cash to the needy is allowing his name to be publicized after 26 years.
But the reason for the revelation is an unhappy one. Secret Santa has cancer. He wants to start speaking to community groups about his belief in random acts of kindness, but he can't do that without telling people who he is.

Let's send loving, healing thoughts to this wonderful man, and thank him for being a ray of light.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

danger to babies brains

Exposure to industrial chemicals in the womb or early in life can impair brain development but only a handful are controlled to protect children, researchers said on Wednesday.

Some parents with children who have autism remain fixated on mercury in vaccines, despite studies that have found no effects, but they seem unconcerned about other sources of mercury, such as power plants, and the effects of other pollutants. Considering the way the Bush administration has suppressed so many scientific findings in order to benefit big business, it's rational to be skeptical, but not to totally ignore all the other environmental toxins we are exposing our babies to.

people are waking

Americans now rank climate change as the country’s most pressing environmental concern, a new survey reveals. This is a dramatic shift from just three years ago, when climate change ranked only sixth out of 10 environmental problems.

This is really encouraging news. At this point, I still doubt that we will act in time to prevent total catastrophe, but at least I feel there is a chance that we will choose to act before it is too late. Of course, it is already too late to avoid some effects, and for those who are already victims of catastrophes possibly/probably caused by global warming, it is already too late.

Monday, November 06, 2006

roots of politics

From this article:
"Genetic researchers are trying to prove that social attitudes can be
inherited, and have discovered strong correlations between the two.

So far, the political connection has relied on studies by Lindon Eaves,
professor of human genetics and psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth
University. About 8,000 sets of identical and fraternal twins answered a
series of questions on topics such as school prayer, nuclear power, women's
liberation and the death penalty.

Identical twins, who share their entire genetic code, answered more
similarly than fraternal twins, who are no more similar than non-twin

"Some scientists, however, are not ready to embrace the theory.

"The very idea that something like a political ideology could be heritable
is incoherent," said Evan Charney, assistant professor of public policy and
political science at Duke University. "It doesn't make any sense, and it's
historically inaccurate."

Any similarities found in twins' political beliefs can be attributed to
environment, not genetics, Charney said."

But it seems to me that Charney's arguments are the one that are
"incoherent". The claim that "Any similarities found in twins' political
beliefs can be attributed to environment, not genetics," doesn't explain why
identical twins political beliefs are more similar than fraternal twins.

We know that genes influence such emotional attributes as the amount of
fearfulness toward new people and circumstances. I am sure the ability to
empathize with others is influenced by genes. Eg., a susceptibility to
autism is apparently caused by genes, and is characterized by an inability
to empathize.

Our politics are obviously influenced by such emotional factors. In fact,
there have been studies showing links between an adults political leanings
and their personality as children.

A couple of years ago there was an article in "Scientific American" about
why highly intelligent people sometimes have irrational beliefs. The answer
is that they form their beliefs on the basis of emotion; in other words,
they are perfectly normal. Their high intelligence then enables them to
rationalize their beliefs by sophisticated arguments that sound plausible.
It appears to me that Professor Charney is an example of this phenomenon.

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Stay in touch with old friends and meet new ones with Windows Live Spaces

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Friday, October 13, 2006

Smoking Ban Associated With Rapid Improvement In Health Of Bar Workers

Bar workers in Scotland showed significant improvements in respiratory symptoms and lung function within 2 months following a ban on smoking in confined public places, according to a study in the October 11 issue of JAMA.

This is no surprise to me. When I started working in a restaurant several years ago that allowed smoking, I started getting chest pains. When the state passed a ban against smoking in most public places, my chest pains ceased.

depression : nature vs nurture

Among children from supportive, nurturing families, those with the short form of the serotonin transporter gene (known as 5-HTTLPR) had a significantly reduced risk for depression, found the UCLA team, under the direction of Shelley E. Taylor, UCLA distinguished professor of psychology and an expert in the field of stress and health. The research team also found that among children from emotionally cold, unsupportive homes marked by conflict and anger, those with the short form of the 5-HTTLPR gene were at greater risk for depression, as some previous research has also shown.

This may explain at least some of the reason for the high rates of depression in the U.S. compared with some other countries, since a large percentage of American families are far from supportive and nurturing.

Of course, nurturing behaviour is not the same as permissiveness.

the law of unintended consequences

A new book,“Follies of Science: 20th Century Visions of Our Fantastic Future”, by two brothers : Eric and Jonathan Dregni, chronicles predictions of the future, most of which turned out quite wrong.

In the words of this article:
"Probably the scariest parts of the book involve glowing testimonials for materials that have turned out to be public health disasters. A big mid-century magazine advertisement extols the use of lead (“the answer to the old alchemist’s dream”) throughout homes, noting that “interior walls are beautified with white-lead paint” and that “lead is in the glaze of the chinaware and that of the bathtub and sink.” "


"A federally funded study, published in the October issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, found for the first time that low-level, everyday exposures to perchlorate in drinking water can reduce thyroid function in women, particularly those with low levels of iodine. "

An article about this appeared last Sunday in the AJC (Atlanta Journal-Constition). The Parade magazine in the same of the AJC contained an article about reasons why many women are tired all the time! All of the possible causes were legitimate. Certainly, inadequate sleep is pervasive in our society. One of the causes listed was low thyroid problems. However, there was no mention in the article of the possibility of adverse effects of environmental pollutants such as perchlorate.

The surprising thing about this study is that it wasn't censored by the Bush administration, as so many other scientific findings that might adversely affect big financial interests have been censored, with wording the Bushies didn't like changed or eliminated.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

more good news/bad news for global warming

Dust storms swirling out of Africa's Sahara Desert may help reduce hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, a new study suggests. The findings aren't conclusive, but researchers led by Amato T. Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that years with more African dust had fewer tropical storms and years with less dust had more storms.

Another good news/bad news item. Global warming leads to hurricanes and to drought in Africa. Drought in Africa leads to more dust storms, which may lessen the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean. And of course, drought in Africa leads to large numbers of people dying of starvation.

Recruits said to be better in boot camp now that they're not being yelled at

In today’s Army, shouting is out and a calmer approach to molding young minds is in, says the head of Pentagon personnel.

Maybe this will result in fewer incidents of horrific behaviour during war.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

first the good news, then the bad

Sept. 28, 2006 — Scientists have been trying to figure out for years why a buildup of atmospheric methane, the second most abundant greenhouse gas, slowed dramatically in the last decade after levels had nearly tripled since preindustrial times. Now, an international team of scientists, including two at the NOAA Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, Colo., attributes the 15-year lull to a temporary decline in industrial emissions during the 1990s, along with a slowdown in wetland emissions during prolonged droughts.

The good news is that we have finally found a negative feedback effect on global warming. The bad news is that it's caused by drought, which leads to starvation for humans and other animals.
A negative feedback effect is when an increase in one variable causes an effect that causes the variable to decrease. Since global warming causes an increase in droughts, this would be a negative feedback effect.
Likewise, a positive feedback effect is when an increase in a variable has an effect that causes the variable to increase even more. Eg., global warming thaws permafrost, which causes it to release methane that has been captured in the ice; since methane is a greenhouse gas, it adds even more to global warming. So in this case, we have both kinds, both involving methane. Kinda neat, if you forget about the effects on our planet and its inhabitants.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

quesioning a president during a war

If questioning a president during a was is not allowed, that doesn't provide much incentive for a president to avoid or end wars.

a Katrina for the Philippine Islands

Typhoon Xangsane, potentially the most dangerous tropical cyclone to affect the world this year, is battering the Philippine Islands today with Category 4 winds. Xangsane was a mere tropical storm yesterday, and was expected to hit the Philippines as a tropical storm or weak Category 1 typhoon at worst. Xangsane confounded the experts and put on a remarkable intensification spurt that brought it from tropical storm strength to a Category 4 typhoon in just 24 hours. The intensification was not expected, since the typhoon's circulation hugged the coast for much of this period
We're lucky the El Nina is decreasing the number and strength of hurricanes in the Atlantic. Unfortunately for Pacific nations, and for Mexico, the El Nina has been causing an increase there. Although there was the weird phenonmenon a few weeks ago of the super typhoon that traveled across the Pacific and circles around to pound Alaska>;_ylt=ApckR92pfPjNpK6AxmokzS0PLBIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

The Bush administration has blocked release of a report that suggests global warming is contributing to the frequency and strength of hurricanes, the journal Nature reported Tuesday.

It is such a routine thing for the Bush administration to block or alter scientific findings it doesn't like, I almost didn't bother to put this in my blog.

Fight Hunger


The lyrics to my Hunger Walk song are posted there.
click on the Walk Music box, and scroll down.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Heart Attacks Decline after Smoking Ban;_ylt=AvQD37gpotN9G5CmHCTr8CzVJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

In the 18 months after a no-smoking ordinance took effect in Pueblo in 2003, hospital admissions for heart attacks for city residents dropped 27 percent, according to the study led by Dr. Carl Bartecchi, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver.

This should be no surprise, after the results of numerous other studies that show even brief periods of second-hand smoke can harm our health.

Monday, September 25, 2006

understating global warming

The headline in reads "Global temperature highest in millennia", and starts out : "The planet's temperature has climbed to levels not seen in thousands of years". (Note: a millennium is one thousand years, which can be misleading).

.But I would say that is very much of an understatement.Later in the article, it gets more specific : "That brings the overall temperature to the warmest in the current interglacial period, which began about 12,000 years ago."

Near the end of the article, we finally see the statement : "The study said the recent warming has brought global temperature to a level within about one degree Celsius — 1.8 degree Fahrenheit — of the maximum temperature of the past million years.

Maybe the person who edited this article is a Republican.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Some eye candy. Screens from the Psychedelic screen saver from
The real thing is much better, since it is always moving and changing, and can create many different patterns and colors combinations.

golden rule helps us all

Drug-resistant TB on the rise in U.S.
Often those with drug-resistant strains stop taking their medicine when they feel better but aren’t cured.That’s what happened with Pich Chhieng, 61, a teacher who was infected in his native Cambodia and carried it with him to this country. He took medication for eight months but abruptly stopped because he ran out of money and was feeling much better.
He didn’t know until he was hospitalized while visiting family in Los Angeles that by neglecting his treatment he had allowed the disease to mutate, and the drug-resistant bacteria had overwhelmed his lungs.

Many conservatives don't care about the poor. They don't care that 15,000 people in the U.S. die each year because they can't afford needed medical care. They don't care if elderly people starve to death because they weren't able to save enough when they were younger; I'm not kidding, they have told me so themselves, w/o any sign of guilt. But it is in our self-interest to help the poor. As in this example, if people stop taking antibiotics early, because they can't afford them, it leads to resistant strains of bacteria that threaten all of us. People who can't afford to get new glasses or a cataract operation endanger others on the road. People w/o hope can be a danger to society.
People who cannot or will not feel our connections to others are pitiful, and don't realize what they are missing.

a businessman to admire

British business mogul Richard Branson on Thursday pledged to commit all profits from his transportation businesses over 10 years to combat global warming — profits that he estimated would reach $3 billion.
Branson, the billionaire behind Virgin Atlantic Airways and the multi-platform Virgin brand ...

Makes me very happy that when I finally got a cell phone recently, I chose Virgin.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How many hurricanes

I keep reading and hearing references to the 2nd (now 3rd) hurricane of the season.

What they should say is the 3rd (or whatever) Pacific hurricane of the season.
There have already been 7 in the eastern Pacific, several of which were confined to the ocean w/o making landfall.
Then there have been a bunch in the middle and western Pacific, which have battered Japan and China. A couple of weeks ago, there were 4 tropical storms and hurricanes over there in one week, at least three at the same time. I think three of them were hurricanes (not sure now).

Super Typhoon Ioke, which lasted for two weeks, and reached category 5 strength, plowed across the Pacific, circled up the Asian coast and around the Artic, finally pounding Alaska! If there was any mention of this on or, I missed it. The reason I know it hit Alaska was that when it disappeared from, when it got too far north, I found it on a Japanese weather site:
When it disappeared from there, I did a search and found it had ended up in Alaska

Our news media can surely be parochial, but how they ignored something as fascinating as Ioke's path, ending in Alaska, I just don't understand.

Throwing out baby with bath water

Air traffic controllers on late-night shifts at Indianapolis International Airport have been warned they face suspension if they sleep during rest periods.

This does not make sense. Personal experience and scientific research have shown that a nap of 15 to 20 minutes can greatly improve your alerness. It can help you go from unsuccessfully fighting off episodes of micro-sleep, to being refreshed and alert. Naps longer than that can cause drowsiness. How long are the air controller breaks? Not allowing them short naps in the middle of the night will increase the risk of accidents.


Prozac endangers mussels;_ylt=AgsTlh20PeWjzQBsYhDGAdnVJRIF;_ylu=X3oDMTA0cDJlYmhvBHNlYwM-

The antidepressant drug Prozac (fluoxetine) can disrupt the reproductive cycle of freshwater mussels and increase their risk of extinction, says a U.S. study presented Monday at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, in San Francisco.

What is surprising to me is that they discovered this problem. With all the chemicals that end up in the environment from various sources, including those that have passed through our bodies, and all the possible interactions of these chemicals, who knows what damage we are doing that we may never even be aware of.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Oneness of Life

Researchers Discover That Sheep Need Retroviruses For Reproduction. ... Studies in cultured cells have shown that a protein of a human endogenous retrovirus might have a role in development of the human placenta.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


my favorite screensaver

will global warming make Europe hotter or colder?

Two articles from the Sept 2 issue of New Scientist.
From page 9 of the hard copy

Air conditioning boom threatens Kyoto protocol

The units may keep people cool, but they also churn out carbon dioxide which could wreck European attempts to meet emissions targets

This may be a problem, but to be sure, we would need to look at whether warmer winters would counteract the warmer summers in respect to the generation of greenhouse gases.

From page 16 of the hard copy

As a result of global warming, the Arctic Ocean has been getting less salty over the past half century and the trend looks set to continue.
... Disrupting this current could cause temperatures to plunge across northern Europe.

It will be interesting to see which scenario wins out. The possibilities are really scary.

evolution of cystic fibrosis

The gene that causes cystic fibrosis may persist in human populations because, although two copies of it kill, having just one copy protects against tuberculosis, researchers say.

If anti-TB drugs are going to lose their effectiveness, maybe it's better in the long run that it's happening before we lose this genetic protection. Hopefully, they will discover more effective treatment, but of course, since microbes reproduce much faster than we do, they have an advantage.

still another tessellation/quilt pattern variation

For those who like to try to make their own patterns, this one will be easy to create after looking at the first two, but some people aren't interested in that, or don't want to spend the time, so here it is. Of course, all three could be combined in various ways.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

thank you, Steven Hawking

Bruno Maddox says : Let me begin by assuring you I have nothing but respect for Dr. Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist and raconteur.
... Which is why I was perplexed this past June when Stephen went public with his view that humanity is doomed to extinction unless it finds another planet to live on. "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," he told an audience in China. "Life on Earth is at an ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus, or other dangers we have not yet thought of."
... What bothered me was that Stephen should be troubling himself with such low-hanging fruit in the first place. Anyone blessed with even basic cable knows there are very real threats to the future of human life on this planet: mega-tsunamis, supervolcanoes, Ultimate Fighting Championships. Saying that the long-term future of life on Earth is uncertain is like saying that the future of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance? is uncertain. It's rather obvious. And once you have your brain around that rather straightforward premise, it doesn't take much intellectual heavy lifting to figure out that if we were able to establish an extraterrestrial outpost or two, our odds would improve dramatically.

I expect that Steven Hawking made this pronouncement for the same reason I write many of my own blogs. To the well-informed, they may be obvious. However, there is much ignorance about science in our society. Having information available on cable TV doesn't mean people watch it. Just a few years ago, when tests showed that our children and adults have poor knowledge and understanding of science, some people were asking, with a straight face, why does it matter whether most of our citizens understand science. Even for those who may be interested, there is only so much time in the day. Eg., many people have full-time jobs and also families and yards to take care of. Many are working more than one job, or long hours. Also, many people get their "news" from sources which give false information on scientific matters. It may be hard for many to conceive of, but there are many people who have never heard of the greenhouse effect and global warming. Few people read my blogs, but when Steven Hawking makes a pronouncement, it gets a lot of press and people pay attention, and may learn about issues they would not hear of otherwise.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Children are not computers

Kids as young as 6 are tested, and tested again, to ensure they're making sufficient progress. Then there's homework, more workbooks and tutoring.

Some scholars and policymakers see clear downsides to all this pressure. Around third grade, Hultgren says, some of the most highly pressured learners sometimes "burn out. They began to resist. They didn't want to go along with the program anymore." In Britain, which adopted high-stakes testing about six years before the United States did, parents and school boards are trying to dial back the pressure. In Wales, standardized testing of young children has been banned. Andrew Hargreaves, an expert on international education reform and professor at Boston College, says middle-class parents there saw that "too much testing too early was sucking the soul and spirit out of their children's early school experiences."

This is truly misguided. Reading and math skills are important, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Eg., many children are not getting sufficient sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep damages children's (and adults) health, and decreases learning. Recess is being eliminated in many places. Lack of sleep and lack of exercise both increase a person's chances of being overweight, which is an increasing problem for children - our children are likely to show a decrease in life expectancy because of diseases caused by overweight. During recess, children have a chance to interact with each other, and learn social skills, which are important to success in life, at both the material and personal level. Many people with high IQs do poorly in the real world, because of social deficits.
It seems that some parents and school systems are doing their best to turn children into autistic savants or little computers.

I feel safe in predicting that many of these children are learning a sure way to rebel against their parents, and will end up becoming failures, usually w/o themselves realizing why they are so self-destructive.

greenhouse gas highest ever

Air bubbles show CO2 in 'scary' range well above previous 800,000 years

“It is from air bubbles that we know for sure that carbon dioxide has increased by about 35 percent in the last 200 years,” said Dr Eric Wolff of the British Antarctic Survey and the leader of the science team for the 10-nation European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica.“Before the last 200 years, which man has been influencing, it was pretty steady,” he added.
The natural level of CO2 over most of the past 800,000 years has been 180-300 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of air. But today it is at 380 ppmv.

I suppose the people who have been attributing the high levels of CO2 to "natural cycles" will now start claiming these supposed natural cycles are greater than 800,000 years in length.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Good intentions

This is an article about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It's heartwarming to know about the good they are doing.

However, there is the following piece of information:

In its 2007 budget proposal, for example, the Bush administration eliminated a $93.5 million program to underwrite the development of smaller schools, specifically citing the increase in support for those schools from "nonfederal funds" from the Gates Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York

So, their good intentions to help our country's children ended up instead helping reduce taxes for other super-rich people who were greedier than they, through no fault of their own.. I wonder how they felt about this.

Judge not

One of the things I've learned from creating this blog is to be less judgemental of other people's typos. When I look back at entries and see misspellings that I overlooked at the time, and weird stuff which happened when I made a change and overlooked some things that should have been changed also, I now understand how other people's blogs/letters to the editor, etc. sometimes sound like they were written by someone for whom English is a foreign language.

Modification of earlier Tesselation/ quilt pattern

A variation of the previous tessalation.
I had to use the Drawing toolbar to add some of the lines.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Attacking homeless for thrills

In cases where the perpetrator of attacks on homeless people is known, 76 percent are people 25 or younger, Stoops said. About 80 percent of attackers are white, he said.

The increase in violence may be loosely linked to the increasing popularity of so-called “Bumfights” videos and imitation videos which show homeless people fighting one another and performing dangerous stunts

This may be an example of the what I was talking about in an earlier blog, that when people have it everything easy when they are children and youths, it can cause boredom that leads, in some, to degrading behaviours. But we don't have nearly enough information to really make a good guess about what is causing this problem, other than the way right-wing politicians and talk show jerks have been expressing uncaring and negative attitudes towards the homeless and other poor people will inevitably lead to an increase in violence towards the unfortunate. Also, videos such as those noted in the article can be expected to have a negative effect. Those who think that young people are not affected by such things are either not around young people much, or don't pay attention to what they are doing. (Within a few days of the publicity about the baseball pitcher who spit on an umpire, I saw children playing in my neighborhood spitting on each other, which I had not seen before.)

Also, children who are abused are much more likely to be violent towards others; not inevitably. There are other factors, but the risk is much higher. About 95% of violent criminals were physically abused as children. Being economically well-off does not ensure that a child is not abused. I've noticed in articles about children from "good" families, where the children committed some horrific crime, at least one of the parents tend to be in law enforcement or the military. I do not at all think that is a coincidence. I'm certainly not saying that all people in law enforcement or the military abuse their children; but the nature of these occupations will inevitably attract a larger than average proportion of people who are inclined to violence, and the macho culture of these occupations is not the most conducive to nurturing skills. (I would not mention this if I were planning on running for public office, because my opponent would take my statements out of context. The media would report them widely. Even if the media reported my less interesting clarifications as widely, pretty unlikely, research and experience show that voters would be affected most by negative press, even when it is later shown to be false.)

Bias in the eye of the beholder

A study of perceptions of bias in the media, which finds that the same news article can be seen as slanted in opposite ways by partisans on different sides of the issue (no surprise to neutral observers).

The article comments:

the hostile media effect seems to apply only to news sources that strive for balance. News reports from obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias. Partisans, it turns out, find it easier to countenance obvious propaganda than news accounts that explore both sides.

My view on this is that "obviously biased sources usually draw fewer charges of bias" because (1) one feels that something so obviously biased is likely to be seen as biased by neutral observers (unfortunately, this is often not true, because many people may not know enough about the subject to realized it's biased), and (2) complaining about obviously biased sources seems a waste of time; you know you have little chance of changing the minds of people like that.

Fishing for trash

Bankrupt Northwest Airlines published a booklet "101 ways to save money", for which they have gotten a lot of criticism, esp. because of a tip which the writer of the above article describes thus in his lead paragraph :

Bankrupt Northwest Airlines advised workers to fish in the trash for things they like

The quoted wording, which he gives down aways is:

not being “shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.”

Now, I would not interpret that as "fishing" in the trash, which would suggest to me digging around in people's trash, when you can't see anything useful at first glance. Actually, I don't see anything wrong with it. It's a way of recycling. Some people throw out perfectly good things. But I can see that for people stressed out with the possibility of losing their jobs, it may not be taken well.

Monday, August 21, 2006

administration cuts anti-terrorist research

While the British terror suspects allegedly were hatching their plot, the Bush administration was quietly seeking permission to divert $6 million that was supposed to be spent this year developing new homeland explosives-detection technology.

The administration's most recent budget request also mystified lawmakers. It asked to take $6 million from Homeland S&T's 2006 budget that was supposed to be used to develop explosives detection technology and instead divert it to cover a budget shortfall in the Federal Protective Service, which provides security around government buildings.

While the Republicans are trying, as usual, to paint themselves as strong on defense, the Bush administration cuts back on research on anti-terror technologies. With friends like these, who needs enemies? Of course, Bush doesn't ride in commercial airplanes, and does live and work in government buildings, so maybe his priorities are not surprising.

tessellation, quilt pattern

I saw a pattern on a chair in a business, and plotted it out on triangular graph paper, which I found on the web. The graph paper was created by using Borders on an Excel spreadsheet. So then I was able to use the graph paper and create the pattern and making the borders of the pattern heavier.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Big Tobacco lied but need not pay, judge rules


federal district court judge ruled on Thursday that cigarette makers conspired for years to hide smoking dangers but declined to impose major monetary penalties.... in Thursday’s opinion, Kessler said that remedy was also out of step with the appeals court ruling, which dictated that civil racketeering remedies focus on the prevention of future misconduct, not punishment of past misdeeds.

This is crazy. But maybe the to-be-expected result of so many years of Republicans choosing federal judges. Even when Clinton was president, the Republican Congress blocked him from appointing many appeals judges.

Non-violent drug users are punished for past actions; the law doesn't "focus on the prevention of future misconduct" in these cases, where it would make sense. The leaders of the tobacco industry suppressed evidence that tobacco kills people, in order to make big profits. I would say that puts them morally in the same category as contract killers.

Self-serve lines backfire

Last Saturday morning, NPR news reported that self-serve lines in grocery stores are having the unexpected effect of causing a drop in impulse buying.

Is suffering necessary?

In an article on the possibility of human biological enhancement, Henry T. Greely, professor of law and director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University says

The idea that any plausible enhancements could end human suffering outstrips the wildest transhumanist fantasy. But what if it really happened? While it seems possible this may not be an unalloyed blessing, surely it is not clear that it would be a bad thing.

I am certainly not for unnecessary suffering, but I do not think it would be desirable to eliminate all suffering. As far as I have observed, people are usually (?always) unable to empathize with problems they have not themselves experienced. People would be likely to be even less inhibited about inflicting suffering on other creatures, human or otherwise, than they already are. Prolonged problem-free periods can lead to boredom, reducing the enjoyment of living. For some, this leads to depravities of various kinds. Of course, for some people, too much suffering deadens their capacity to empathize, and causes them to delight in tormenting others. As usual, a balance is needed.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

how to keep down the unemployment rate

A post on the above blog for 08/11 mentions a homeless man who had been to prison because of drugs, and because of the prison term, is having a problem finding a job. There is the danger that eventually he will become desparate and do something that lands him back in prison. Is this really in the best interest of our country? When will our country choose our common good over the satisfaction of punishing others?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

mercury in light bulbs

One of my kitchen light bulbs went out the other day, the main one, over the sink. When I went to buy a new one, I wanted to be environmentally friendly, so I started to get one of the compact flourescent spiral bulbs that fit in a regular light socket. I was reading the back label before I bought it, and what did I see. It contained mercury, and when it was worn out, needed to be disposed of properly. Now, how is that to be done? And how many consumers will even read the label, or worry about how to dispose of it if they do. It's safe to say very few. They've stopped making mercury thermometers, because it's such a dangerous substance. So now they are putting it in light bulbs that are marketed as being environmentally friendly. I bought a different type of light bulb which is supposedly more energy efficient than normal ones, but didn't have a warning label. Since both were made by the same company, hopefully that means the one I bought is indeed less dangerous.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Teens and the cancer vaccine

Teens Unaware Of Sexually Transmitted Diseases Until They Catch One, Carnegie Mellon Study Finds

Some radical right-wing Christians oppose the newly released vaccine that helps protect against most cervical cancer. They think it will encourage pre-marital sex. This just doesn't compute. For one thing, most people of any age, and especially young people, have no idea that a virus is responsible for most cervical cancer. For another, teenagers are even less likely to feel themselves at risk than adults. To risk your child's life because of wishful thinking seems pretty warped and unloving to me.

When positive thinking is not positive

Los Angeles officials never expected electricity demand would reach the levels it did during the recent heat wave, the Los Angeles Times says....Interviews and documents show the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power overestimated the quality of its equipment while underestimating how much power would be needed

Friday, August 04, 2006

Second Chinese city orders mass dog slaughter

misleading weather statistics

I heard on the radio a couple of weeks ago that the hottest part of the year is usually the third week in July. Then I saw a graph on the internet, or maybe it was the Atlanta newspaper, of average highs and lows for each month, and the bars for July and August looked the same, which would go along with the turning point being near the end of July or beginning of August.

But it didn't seem right to me. It seemed to me that the hottest time was usually in August. Well, now August is here, and I see what the situation is. The highs and lows may be similar (although the lows still seem to be getting a warmer). But the big difference is that it is staying warmer much later at night. So while the average of the highs, and the average of the lows, might be similar for the two months, if you take an average of hourly temperatures, I bet August would be clearly hotter.

And it's getting worse:

America in recent years has been sweltering through three times more than its normal share of extra-hot summer nights, government weather records show.

But it is not surprising because climate models, used to forecast global warming, have been predicting this trend for more than 20 years, said Jerry Mahlman, a climate scientist at National Center for Atmospheric Research and a top federal climate modeler.

One reason global warming is suspected in summer-night temperatures is that daytime air pollution slightly counteracts warming but is not as prevalent at night, said Bill Chameides, a climate scientist for the advocacy group Environmental Defense.


what effect does war have on unemployment rate?
Weekly U.S. jobless claims climb
The report also showed that the number of people continuing to collect unemployment benefits rose by 11,000 to 2.480 million for the week ending July 22
Unemployment rate hits five-month high
For the last 12 months, wages have gone up 3.8 percent. But those wage gains are still trailing inflation, economists said.

Of course, many are still saying everything is really fine.
What I have not seen is what the unemployment rate would be if so we didn't have a bunch of reservists and national guards in Iraq. Of course, w/o the war in Iraq, there would be less government spending, so that would also affect the economy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

afraid to get a flag

Last year, I worked at a booth at the Gwinnett County (Georgia) fair. We were giving out small American flags for free. One lady said she would like a flag, but was afraid to get one because of not knowing what to do when it wore out!

How pitiful, that conservatives have intimidated people from getting a flag.

Conservatives are trying to get an constitutional amendment passed against desecrating the American flag. Suppose it passes. Does that mean that when my t-shirt with a picture of the flag gets worn out, I'll have worry about how to dispose of it. Will that mean the end of U.S. postage stamps with a picture of the flag. After all, they get stamped. If we get a letter with a flag stamp, will we get in trouble if we throw it away?

whence Chris

Since my nephew lives in south Florida, I'm glad to see Chris is weakening, rather than increasing to a hurricane by the time it reaches Florida.
I hope the warm water south of the west half of Cuba doesn't strengthen it again. (See infrared photos at ) What I hope is that it brings us some much-needed rain in Atlanta w/o devasting other places first.

Aug. 4
I read that Chris is breaking down because of wind shears. I hope it will be weak enough when it hits that warm water off Cuba that it won't revive to a dangerous state.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Massachusetts health insurance

The law, enacted in April after the Massachusetts Legislature overrode vetoes by Gov. Mitt Romney (R), requires all state residents to purchase health insurance by July 1, 2007. In addition, among other provisions, the law will require employers in the state with 11 or more employees to provide coverage for workers or pay an annual fee of $295 per worker; establish a low-cost, state subsidized health insurance program for residents with annual incomes less than 300% of the federal poverty level; and expand Medicaid coverage for state residents

The state’s poorest — single adults making $9,500 or less a year — will have access to health coverage with no premiums or deductibles.
Those living at up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $48,000 for a family of three, will be able to get health coverage on a sliding scale, also with no deductibles....Individuals deemed able but unwilling to purchase health care could face fines of more than $1,000 a year by the state if they don’t get insurance.

I wonder if the lawmakers passed this bill because they wanted to help their citizens, or to save taxpayer money on emergency medical care. Apparently, if someone has a large expense, like a large car or house repair bill, and can't pay their medical insurance, they will be fined. What happens if they can't pay the fine? The news articles on this bill really leave a lot of questions.

Human hubris

This is about an article about cooperation between chimpanzees, by Alicia Melis and co-authors from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany . Near the end, there is the following quote by Melis.

"Hopefully, future studies can show us what it is that makes human cooperation so unique."

This is typical of us humans. The researchers assume that we are unique, and attempt to find ways to prove it. Is this a sign of insecurity or arrogance?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Hunger Walk song

I started writing this song when I was walking in an Atlanta Hunger Walk. It just started coming into my mind, and turned out to be to the tune of the Thanksgiving song "Come, Ye Thankful People Come". I thought it was neat that this song about the hungry is to a tune of thanksgiving for those who have enough.
I give permission for it to be used on behalf of non-sectarian community food banks. If you print the words, please include the copyright information.
I have inserted a "~" to indicate a syllable that is slurred over more than one note. I have included alternative wording so it can be used at events other than walks.

Hunger Walk
copyright 1994 Patricia M. Shannon
Join us on the Hunger Walk/Drive,
share the love and joy we feel,
as we walk/work together for
those who are in present need.
We can make a difference,
when we work toge~ther;
as you help us reach our goal,
you will also feed your soul.
Let's give thanks to all our friends,
who give of their time and pay,
in the groups that work so hard
to make sure no one does starve.
We can never know just when
we will need a helping hand,
our support will help ensure,
community food banks will endure.
Many children in our land
often suffer hunger pains;
it can stunt the healthy growth
of their body and their brains.
Children are the fu~ture;
they need more than just a song;
when we help to nourish them,
we help to keep our country strong.

Chinese county clubs to death 50,000 dogs

The killings prompted calls for a boycott of Chinese products from the activist group People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

I've already been avoiding buying items from China because of human rights abuses, when possible. This outrageousness will strengthen my efforts.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sulfur to slow down global warming?
Injecting sulfur into the atmosphere to slow down global warming is worthy of serious consideration, according to Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego.
...He adds that his experiment should only be used as an emergency measure: “the possibility of the albedo enhancement scheme should not be used to justify inadequate climate policies but merely to create a possibility to combat potentially drastic climate heating.”

But it is easy to predict that some people will use it to justify inadequate climate policies. And what are the side effects? Eg., will this sulfur end up as acid rain when it falls back to earth on forest fires?

Digital TV coming

Legislation passed by the Senate ... would require broadcasters to end their traditional analog transmissions by Feb. 17, 2009, and send their signals digitally.
...Under the converter box program, consumers with analog sets would be able to request two, $40 coupons to help buy the set-top boxes, which are expected to cost $50 to $60 each.Democratic lawmakers and consumer groups say that the $1.5 billion would fall far short of helping pay for every set eligible for a converter box.
...There is no income cap for those who may request the coupons. GOP supporters such as the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, have said that lawmakers do not expect to subsidize wealthier homes.

There are several things easy to predict:

1) If an income cap is not instituted, wealthier homes will grab up the converter coupons, resulting in not enough for the poor. Even if Congress decides to allocate enough funds and safegurads to provide for a converter for every poor family, they will probably not institute an effective information system, and many of the poor will not know about the program, or will not know have the means to get the coupons.

2) Crime will go up. The poor depend heavily on TV for their entertainment. They can watch it in the relative safety of their homes. It costs less to buy and operate than a car, which many poor people don't have. In many parts of the country, they don't even have access to public transportation. Once they have paid for a used TV, or paid off the layaway cost, has negligible costs.
For a minority, this will lead directly to crime, to steal a converter or digital TV or acquire the money to do so. Mostly, crime will increase because a few will steal large numbers of converters to sell cheaply to the more honest poor people.

Let the punishment fit the crime

In regards to the Boston Big Dig tunnel that is falling apart because of poor construction and materials, which came to light when part of the ceiling fell down on a car and killed a passenger:

Attorney General Tom Reilly has also launched a criminal investigation into the construction to determine if involuntary manslaughter charges are warranted.

It seems to me that involuntary manslaughter is too light a charge if it is found that inferior materials were knowingly used in order to improve profits.

economic results corrected downward

updated 10:18 a.m. ET, Fri., July. 28, 2006

Along with the latest GDP report, the government issued annual revisions that showed economic growth was slightly less than previously estimated for 2003, 2004 and 2005.
As a result, the economy last year grew by 3.2 percent, rather than 3.5 percent. In 2004, economic activity expanded by 3.9 percent, instead of 4.2 percent. And in 2003, the economy’s growth was 2.5 percent, versus 2.7 percent.

Wealthy Republican politicians and financial people keep saying they don't understand why the public pessimistic in spite of all the reports of a rosy economy. As has been noted, much of this is due to the fact that the rosy economy has benefitted only a small percentage of the super-rich.
Now we find that the economy was not really as rosy as some thought; so the public was right.

childhood roots of conservatism

A study published late last year in the Journal of Research in Personality reported a link between certain childhood personality traits and adult political orientation in a test group followed over two decades. As nursery schoolers, the future conservatives were described as easily victimized, indecisive, rigid, fearful and inhibited. The budding liberals were described as self-reliant, prone to developing close relationships, energetic and somewhat dominating.

I read a study several years ago of adopted children that found evidence of a inherited component to conservatism.
I have a disagreement with some comments on the research study in the second link I gave. They talked about left-wingers in totalitarian regimes. I would say that if a regime is totalitarian, it is not liberal, regardless of what it calls itself. President Lincoln is said to have commented "How many legs does a horse have if you call a tail a leg? Four, calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

welfare by any other name;_ylt=Am7hwTW27f4bDfhw7V2DOUes0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3OTB1amhuBHNlYwNtdHM-

Shortsighted planning and faulty computer equipment led to long delays by the Small Business Administration in approving loans to companies that were slammed by Gulf Coast hurricanes last year, congressional investigators say.

In my experience, small business owners are usually Republican. The Federal government is currently dominated by Republicans. These people don't believe government should help the disadvantaged - unless, of course, they are the ones who become disadvantaged.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

? lowest bidder

I wonder if the Massachusetts Turnpike that is falling apart was built by the lowest bidder? In such projects, if the lowest bidder is chosen, it may result in unacceptable work. On the other hand, if the project is not required to choose the lowest bidder, it increases the possibility of graft and/or favoritism. I would expect this would be the case whether it be a government or private project.

our government hides cancer risk

Growing scientific evidence suggests the most widespread industrial contaminant in drinking water — a solvent used in adhesives, paint and spot removers — can cause cancer in people....TCE, which is also widely used to remove grease from metal parts in airplanes and to clean fuel lines at missile sites, is known to cause cancer in some laboratory animals. EPA was blocked from elevating its assessment of the chemical's risks in people by the Defense Department, Energy Department and NASA, all of which have sites polluted with it.