Friday, June 26, 2009

High Speed Rail Coming to a Station Near You? Only in the States

As an update to a previous post about high speed rail between cities, Scientific American has looked at this with their 60 second podcast found here;

To reread the previous post go here;

Aparently the Obama Administration has dedicated money towards the development of high speed rail linking multiple cities around the United States. I think this is a good sign... now only if the Canadian Government would look at this too....

Friday Ted Talks V

And speaking of cults from last week....

Diane Benscoter

Wiki Checklist on Cults
1. A movement that separates itself from society, either geographically or socially;
2. Adherents who become increasingly dependent on the movement for their view on reality;
3. Important decisions in the lives of the adherents are made by others;
4. Making sharp distinctions between us and them, divine and Satanic, good and evil, etc. that are not open for discussion;
5. Leaders who claim divine authority for their deeds and for their orders to their followers;
6. Leaders and movements who are unequivocally focused on achieving a certain goal.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Autism is NOT caused by Vaccinations - A Review

A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine-Autism Wars
Author: Lisa Gross
Researcher: Sharon Kaufman (Professor of Medical Anthropology @ UofCalifornia)

A paper published in PLoS Biology in May reviews the actions and reactions regarding the anti-vaccination movement. More important, the author, Lisa Gross, has documented research that shows the consequences of propaganda and half-truths have upon the health of the population as a whole. And the surprising fact that it continues…
Now, more than ten years after unfounded doubts about vaccine safety first emerged, scientists and public health officials are still struggling to set the record straight. But as climate scientists know all too well, simply relating the facts of science isn't enough. No matter that the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that climate change is real, or that vaccines don't cause autism. When scientists find themselves just one more voice in a sea of “opinions” about a complex scientific issue, misinformation takes on a life of its own.
Despite overwhelming evidence that vaccines don't cause autism, one in four Americans still think they do [7]. Not surprisingly, the first half of 2008 saw the largest US outbreak of measles—one of the first infectious diseases to reappear after vaccination rates drop—since 2000, when the native disease was declared eliminated(see Figure 2). Mumps and whooping cough (pertussis) have also made a comeback. Last year in Minesota, five children contracted Hib, the most common cause of meningitis in young children before the vaccine was developed in 1993. Three of the children, including a 7-month-old who died, hadn't received Hib vaccines because their parents either refused or delayed vaccination.
Does this reluctance to believe trained professionals indicate a widespread “conspiracy theory”, or is it a horrible meme that has taken on viral traits? The evidence overwhelmingly states that this information is dangerous to the well being of humans, but it still persists, not unlike a cold or the flu. Now when H1N1 Influenza is gaining notoriety for being a pandemic, and also of being a relatively mild flu; most parents (remember one in four in America) believe an idea that is hurting them. Should not the WHO confirm this meme as an epidemic? It is now in other parts of the world as well as Canada…
The same trends have played out in Britain, where one in four parents told pollsters in 2002 that they believed “the weight of scientific evidence supports a link between MMR and autism” [8].
Though state law in the US requires that children be vaccinated to enter school or daycare (although parents may cite philosophical and religious reasons to claim exemptions), vaccination is not compulsory in Britain, and vaccination rates for MMR there dropped from 92% in 1998 to 80% by 2003. Although rates climbed back to 85% in 2006, England and Wales last year saw 1,000 measles cases before winter, breaking a ten-year record [9]. (Immunization rates for other childhood vaccines in Britain were largely unaffected by the MMR scare.)
Not only does this misinformation hurt the parents’ own children, but risks the population as a whole as well.

Had the discovery about thimerosal come at a different time, it might have gone unnoticed, suggests Jeffrey Baker, a pediatrician and the director of the Program in the History of Medicine at Duke University. He argues that rising autism rates, an expanded vaccine schedule, and contemporary attitudes toward environmental risk combined to create what he terms “a perfect storm” [15]. ....
In January, Baker appeared on an Oregon radio call-in show that featured several parents who shunned vaccination. While over 95% of Oregon parents vaccinate their children, only 70% did so last year in Ashland, a small town known for its Shakespeare festival. Nearly 60% of Ashland residents polled told the CDC, in town to hear parents' concerns, they “would expect serious consequences” from vaccines. Such low vaccination rates worry public health officials because they could signal the next epicenter of an epidemic: when vaccination rates drop below a critical percentage, called the “herd immunity threshold,” infection can swiftly spread among unprotected individuals. This threshold varies depending on the vaccine and target disease; for example, the target for measles, one of the most contagious human diseases, is 90% [16].
Celebrities and other non-professional people including parents with unrelated (or nonexistent) education are giving information with an air of professionalism exhorting the public to believe them instead of trained doctors and researchers. (As if those scientists went to school for over 8 years just to get student loans and the letters behind their name….) Personally, I will not let a high-school graduate design or build a bridge that I would use just because “they know better than those engineers because it’s just a big conspiracy to get more money out of the public, and of course the design does not flow with the Chi so it causes cancer!!1!!11!”

Because this problem is widespread, and not just in the United States it cannot only be a symptom of the education system or government as some people have stated. We have popular TV shows dedicated to Mythbusting* common Urban Myths, and they often find them not true. Is the anti-vaccination movement the same as these urban myths, but only because it causes deaths and widespread illness does it garner so much public attention? I believe people need to start their own experiments, collect information and think logically about the information. We need to trust people to do what they are trained to do… however some skepticism is needed as the public has been mislead before (DDT, BisphenolA, etc). So the reasonable solution would take into account both benefits and drawbacks and see which is better and provide research results to the public at no cost.

*among my favorite!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thanks for the wonderful evening...

I just wanted to tell Flynn FX and ms. Flynn FX that I had a wonderful time at their "fire pit" on Sat. :)
I'll let you know when I'm gonna take the bar exam...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday TED Talks IV

More great Friday TED Talks... even one from a Mythbuster!
Adam Savage on his obsessions

And one on plants in the workplace although I think this guy is crazier than me!
Kamal Meattle

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And they wonder why I'll never get married...

First of all, I will give you a brief history of what had occurred this past week. I attended a wedding of a [female] cousin, with whom I do not speak with often. I assume it’s because when she found “god”, I was not worthy of her esteem, or maybe I just got into too much trouble as a teen. Anyways, at the ceremony & reception the priest had quoted Carle Zimmerman, and I am not sure if it was in the intended way or not. Apparently C.C. Zimmerman was a ‘celebrated’ sociologist that specialized in family patterning and the specific quote was from his book Family and Civilization (1947) in their wedding ceremony. Zimmerman supposedly states in the book, the following are the reasons of societal break-down in past civilizations were always preceded by the following familial patterning:

“Marriage lost its sacredness [and] is frequently broken by divorce;
Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost;
There is increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general;
An acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity and rebellion occur;
There is refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities;
A growing desire for, and acceptance of adultery, is evident;
There is increasing interest in, and spread of sexual perversions
and sex-related crimes.

Not only did the preacher quote these general guidelines, he told the congregation, ahem, I mean those gathered to celebrate the joyous occasion what Zimmerman REALLY meant by those words and in fact went through each section and described what he had meant and what god had intended for his ‘children’. (I have doubt if that is really what Zimmerman said, but I refuse to buy the book).

He meant those people who divorce; those that don’t believe in the bonds of marriage, and who do not marry; wives who do not listen to their husbands; those that fornicate outside of the bounds of marriage, whether married or not; children who do not respect or follow what parents or authority say; people who rebel against morality; homosexuals and people that practice other sexual perversions are the cause of societal decay and this has been shown time after time in multiple civilizations and it all starts within the family.

Then in the course of 30 minutes there were 4 separate prayers, further preaching, etc, etc, etc. In which I think all of our family was offended by something or other (I have a couple of lesbian aunts, an aunt who refuses to get married to her boyfriend, half the family is atheist or agnostic and me who can't listen to authority if it bit me on the @$$). If we weren't offended over the whole judgemental nature of the wedding, it was by the reception and dinner where the family was so far back that we were almost outside the tent.
Anyways, I have been doing some research on the venerable CC Zimmerman, and I will report if I find anything of value.
I know what some of you are thinking “it was your COUSIN’S wedding after all, its up to her”, & I was prepared for the whole god & church thing (she is a missionary after all), but this was being talked at for 1 hour about how we all are going to hell, and we will take all of civilization down with us! That was going a bit far in my estimation & no way to win new converts. Other than praying that this marriage works out 4 times in less than an hour & not even counting the reception & dinner (Maybe the preacher doesn’t think it will, LOL).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

To Papa Bill...

If had a flower everytime I thought of you, I could walk forever in my garden.

- Claudia Ghandi

I'll miss you Papa...

To my Leo (June 4, 2009)...

The House Dog's Grave (for Haig, an English Bulldog)
-Robinson Jeffers, 1941

I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you,
If you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no,
All the nights through I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read,
And I fear often grieving for me,
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying.
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope that when you are lying
Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.

No, dears, that's too much hope:
You are not so well cared for as I have been.
And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided...
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.