Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What to do when your tap water contains tiny crustaceans and you keep kosher?

That's the conundrum among New York's observant Jews with the news that tiny crustaceans called copepods have been found in the City's water--crustaceans not being kosher.

Here is the OU [that's the Orthodox Union]'s statement for restaurants and caterers in the City.

You know, I used to work at a bagel shop that when it was originally founded, had New York City water trucked in to cure the bagels before baking. Hmmmm.....

Thanks to Joe.My.God. for this little bit of news.

[PS The illustration to the left is of copepods, but not the tiny ones in the water, which are mostly of the varieties: Diacyclops thomasi, Mesocyclops edax and Skistodiaptomus pygmaeus.]

Personally I'd be getting a filter on my faucet regardless of my religion. :)

Scary--the perils of being 'digitally dead'

Hey banks: This woman is alive!
Judy Rivers went to the bank with a simple request in April: She wanted to open a safe deposit box. The response, while equally simple, was a complete surprise. The bank turned her down. Why?

She was dead.

At least that's what the bank's security systems indicated. Sorry, a bank official said, we can't open an account for you. Rivers asked more questions but got only vague answers. An outside company indicated there was a problem with her Social Security number, she was told, but the bank wouldn't tell her the name of the firm.
Apparently someone can make a clerical error somewhere in an unverified database and poof! your life as you know it (access to your money, to credit, anything based off your social security number) can go down the tube, and everyone starts treating you like you're some identity thief who has stolen another person's life, when you're just trying to access your own. And it can be nearly impossible to track down all the errors that derive from that one and get your life back. Read the article. It's worse than any fictional horror story, and it could happen so easily. It's as bad as dealing with the many-headed hydra of identity theft, or worse.


San Jose lesbians and feminists mourn loss of Sisterspirit
In its heyday, Sisterspirit Books was the place for lesbians and feminists to go in San Jose.

It was the place to meet like minds, a place to buy books and videos they couldn't get anywhere else, or simply revel in the comfort of being together in a world that went out of its way to make them feel there was no place for such things -- or no place for such people.

"There were no places like this when we started," said Margie Struble of San Jose, who has been a volunteer and guiding force at Sisterspirit for 24 of the 26 years it's been open. "Many people met their partners here."

But now after a quarter of a century, Sisterspirit will be closing its doors for good, another victim of online sales and mainstream bookstores.
Another small, independent bookstore down the tubes, and one that found its niche among a community where it thrived.

I feel like going over to Sqecial Media. Its eclectic collection is probably the closest thing that we have in Lexington to this type of store; it has carried books on topics such as paganism and homosexuality long before the mainstream stores did, and they've been going since 1972, mixing books with interesting gifts. Unfortunately their hours don't line up with my work hours and bus riding very well. But I hope they survive the current crisis in bookselling. Thanks to RTeeter of LISNews for the link.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Okay, I had to subscribe to their channel

Joe.My.God. posted a video from Current's 'That's Gay Salutes' on his blog and I watched several of them. They're great.

On the subject of coming out:

On 'conversion therapy':

There's others, like Texas fighting to keep two married gays together and the woman who wanted her money back when her church started doing gay marriages. Joe put up the one on Focus on the Family. Each segment takes clips from shows and provide humourous commentary.

Okay, anti-gay types probably wouldn't find them humourous. But I don't care. I find them hilarious.

For some, the war lingers for a long, long time

US soldiers returning from Iraq face 'invisible wounds'
As troops return home from 12 months of deployment, experts warn of what many refer to as "the invisible wounds".

Depression, isolation, stress, anger, divorce and suicide are just part of the emotional challenges facing some of the troops.

Scott Swaim, a Gulf War veteran and a therapist at Spring Valleys in Washington DC, says when troops first come home they initially go through "the honeymoon period"

But the images of horror many of them have seen are not memories they can easily leave behind.

"The depression is huge and suicide rates are off the charts," says Mr Swaim.

"Because there's a lot of stigma with mental illness. A lot of people never understand it and in the military there's a double stigma - we're soldiers, not victims," he adds.

Just this month a US Department of Defense task force reported that between 2005 and 2009, more than 1,100 members of the Armed Forces committed suicide.
The military tends to let people fall through the cracks once they're back on US soil, living 'normal' lives after months or years of experiencing horrible things on a daily basis. I hope the brass is waking up to this problem, and that our government is appropriating more resources to help save our veterans' lives and sanity, both in country and back home.

It makes me happy to know

that words I wrote are in a published book that is not only in print, it's on the Kindle. Is that wrong?

A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science [Kindle Edition]

Of course, it's $32.08, and I own the book (they graciously gave the contributors a discount).

But somehow having my name on a chapter in a Kindle book makes me happy.

PS If you look for books for or about librarians for the Kindle, a good proportion are, well, smutty, or at least romance novels. Why is it librarians are either viewed as demure young uptight women to ravish or old ladies with cats? I'm afraid that I'm neither.

I feel more awake than usual for a Monday

Mainly because I got so much rest on Saturday, and then when I came home from the game last night, I changed clothes, took my contacts out, set my alarm, and went straight to bed. As a result, I feel rather refreshed.

Today should be busy at work (most Mondays are). Then I have some more to do around the house, including laundry (yes, still working on it). I have some cardboard boxes that need to go out, too, that I've been hanging on to (one for good reason, as the thing it came in had a return for 14 days, and that just passed on Friday. But now there's no reason to keep them, and they're fairly awkward for packing, kind of flat and wide, although sturdy. Oh, well, someone can swipe them from the Rosie container if they really want to use them.

Okay, that's all for now. Time to go to work. Hope you had a good weekend, and have a good day. I can't believe it's already the end of August. It seems like just last week that I was complaining about sub-zero temperatures, and yesterday it was scorching ones. I think time speeds up the older you get. When I was a kid, summers were almost endless. Now they go in a blink of an eye. It really should be the other way around, because you appreciate time as you get older.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

So weird to be off today

I took today off from the store to celebrate a friend's birthday, the first Saturday off I've had in, well, maybe a year. I got the game notes finished early this morning and then headed out to the restaurant by bus, but the other people got delayed and there I was, knowing that they weren't going to be there for an hour and very, very hungry. Since it was a buffet, I decided to go on in anyway, and it was wonderful. I eventually met up with my friends. I'd eaten very slowly and was absolutely stuffed. I usually eat until I'm comfortably full, but this time I was very uncomfortable and really could not eat another bite. We decided to come home by cab since the buses were being somewhat tricky, and then I think we all crashed at our respective homes in the bliss of Indian food goodness.

Now I'm up and I've caught up on the news and am considering doing some laundry, since I never managed to last night, and I'll probably get home too late tomorrow and be too tired to do so tomorrow (I have to get the early bus, so I'll be up at 5 am, at the latest.)

I have to admit, it was bliss to have a Saturday off. Granted, I slept a good deal of it, but this is how other people relax and renew. Sundays are normally my only day off, and I get things ready for the game by cleaning for 5-6 hours, so it's kind of like working a shift, although granted I get to spend the next 5-6 hours gaming. If I could just count on the data entry job being full-time and permanent, I would quit at the store just to have my Saturdays. But I can't, so for now, I'll keep schlepping along.

I haven't found an update on the Romanian babies

But I did find this...

Romania, Bulgaria have EU's sickest health systems
In a revelation sure to add to the controversy, Bucharest Mayor Sorin Oprescu told reporters Monday that only three of Bucharest's 21 hospitals have a fire alarm system. It was unclear whether any have sprinkler systems, but Giulesti hospital — one of the capital's best, where the tragedy occurred — did not.

A massive shortage of medical staff, bribes to doctors and nurses to ensure better treatment, and chronic underfunding or high debts run by hospitals are everyday obstacles that patients need to negotiate. Supply shortages mean that operations sometimes do not get performed if patients do not supply their own bandages, syringes, surgical thread and antibiotics.
Sad. Scary.

Okay, I'm putting off work. Good night.

But first a bit of blogging...

I admit it. Until the other day, I could not tell you who Ken Mehlman was. Although I am probably more political (being on the progressive left) than many people, I don't keep up with the Republicans as much as I ought, especially the chairs of their national committee.

But the other day I subscribe to Joe. My. God. And then Mehlman came out as gay, after denying it for years and working against gays in so many ways for years. And Joe Jervis has been extremely educational.

The good news is that, finally having come to terms with himself, apparently, he has come out as an advocate for gay marriage. The bad news, of course, is that given his past, it will be an uphill road in getting gay activists to forgive, and they're certainly not going to forget--nor should they. Here's a quote that Joe put up by Pam Spaulding, as quoted in the New York Times:
"While it’s nice that Ken has finally come out of the closet as an advocate, it’s really hard to forgive him for the damage he did to the community by working actively against it for pay for years. That he can coast on the gains for our community by supporting AFER’s stellar work on Prop 8 on the backs of many during his tenure at the RNC who bore the brunt of homophobia, those who died as a result of hate crimes, the activists who were assailed professionally is unbelievable. Yet here we are in 2010 watching it unfold. As a human being Mehlman owes the community a serious apology for fomenting homophobia for political gain.”
I wish we lived in a world where gay people would not feel like they had to keep their orientation--a basic aspect of their lives--secret. I also wish that they would not channel their self-loathing--bred by an intolerant society--into activities into hypocrisy and activities that hurt other gay people. In much of my adult lifetime, I have seen a lot of gays, especially men, who have not come out of the closet who were extremely homophobic, only to be surprised when they were not welcomed with open arms when finally making that step.

It also amazes me how much self-denial goes into one's sexuality if it isn't considered mainstream. I know one minister who married, raised children with his wife, and then one day announced they were gay. A lot of the lesbians I sang in the chorus with came out later in life. I knew one couple at church that announced that he was gay and she was a lesbian, leaving their teenage children to pick up the pieces. I've known someone who hid their sexuality in a supposed heterosexual relationship whilst cruising bathrooms and having anonymous sex with other men. I've been the third wheel in a supposed bisexual 'triunity' when really it should have been just a couple of gay men together.

In fact, in my amazingly broad acquaintance with gay men and lesbians (for a bisexual woman who isn't really part of the community, doesn't do the functions, and doesn't date), I only know one person who figured out at an early age that he was gay, approached his first partner with a list of things to try to make sure he was right, and never, ever was in the closet, being comfortable with his sexuality and never seeing it as some big obstacle. Ironically, though, since he never got into gay culture beyond a stint in a gay men's chorus, many people don't even realise he's gay (except for the fact that he's been in a relationship with a man for years). Most everyone else I've known has either tried to be heterosexual at some point in their lives, struggled with telling family, struggled to 'come out' to the people around them, and it's taken a terrible toll on them somewhere along the way.

And the fact of the matter is, the although the person is ultimately responsible for his or her actions and how they deal with their homosexuality (or bisexuality for that matter, since many of us 'pass'), our society makes it very hard to be comfortable at an early age, although that's getting better, I think, mainly because of the work of gays in the last thirty or so years to reassure heterosexuals that they're the same in most other ways except in the gender they choose to love.

And I write this knowing that I probably don't emphasise being bisexual enough in my life. It generally doesn't come up because I haven't dated in, well a long time, and the last time I was with anyone was 1994, and she and I weren't so much dating as having sex for a brief time, and it wasn't during the holiday season, so no taking her home to meet the family. But if I met someone of either gender whom I was serious about, I would take them home, even though my grandmother might have a heart attack on the spot. And I'd certainly take someone of either gender to the company Christmas party (in fact the only person I ever took was a woman, but we weren't dating at all). My mother and I have talked just a bit. The general consensus among my gay friends and my mom for that matter is that I'm confused about my sexuality. So be it. I just know I like both men and women fairly indiscriminately, and that's okay with me. I hope it's okay with others, but I don't really care if it is or not. And I think that's how it should be.

I came home and just crashed

I got home around 8 pm, put my purse down, and went straight to bed--do not pass Go, do not collect $200. The good news is the blower is out of the apartment. The bad news is that the smell of wet carpet and clothes still hits you the moment you walk through the door, despite an Airwick plug-in air freshener.

So this morning I went to the bank before work and picked up $30 in quarters for laundry, in case I can salvage anything in the closet. Only one box was soaked; the rest are dry but were in proximity in a closed space. So the idea was to wait until the laundry room was relatively deserted and do a lot at once. Hence the fact that I am now up. I took out the recyclables that were in the hamper that fits in my granny cart. Now I'm eating a couple of peanut butter and spreadable fruit sandwiches and drinking a Diet Coke to fuel my activity. I'm also about to work on game notes, since I'll be up for awhile. Wish me luck.

Tomorrow I'm actually off from the store, eating with friends at an Indian buffet. Of course, that means I can't wait until the last minute to do notes. So, here I am, awake, feeling a little overwhelmed by all I have to do.

Most importantly, I have to get the soaked clothes out of the house without having an asthma attack. I think a garbage bag and the granny cart are going to be pressed into service.

Okay, time to go get active.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I am somewhat miserable

This morning I discovered the floor in front of my walk-in closet was wet. My air conditioner is leaking badly. Now everything that was in the closet--fortunately, no books, just clothes and floor cleaners--has been distributed between my bathroom and bedroom. Most of it is actually dry or slightly damp and may be saved. One box is sodden and needs to go out to the dumpster, although I think I need hazard gear to do so (see below). They've got a horribly noisy blower on the carpet to try to dry it out, and it's obviously been wet for awhile, because my skin and nose are protesting terribly (I am extremely allergic to mould) and I finally had to break down and put the CPAP, which has filtered air, on. But that isn't helping the itching I'm having. The universe is definitely telling me to clean my apartment.

This morning I was taking out recyclables and knocked over the grocery cart. I didn't realise it at first but that, in turn, knocked over and broke an unopened bottle of laundry detergent, right in front of the door to the apartment hallway. So there's that, too.

I also have to have a tetanus shot tomorrow because on Wednesday I ran into one of those old-fashioned bulletin boards surrounded by glass and metal, scraping my arm. It's been 12 years since my last tetanus shot (that was when I stabbed my hand with the old-fashioned letter opener trying to open a staple cartridge for the copier. They took my letter opener away from me and gave me one of those new-fangled plastic ones with the enclosed safety blade). Of course, it couldn't be as simple as just taking a shot. We have a vaccine that's kept at work called TDaP (for Tetanus, Diptheria, and Pertussis). But as a child I reacted against the Pertussis version of the DPT shot (Pertussis being whooping cough.) My arm swelled and became red. So I can't take the TDaP. Fortunately they've ordered some non-pertussis vaccine for me. I love working in a hospital for these sorts of things. But I need to learn to watch where I'm going, too.

Tomorrow I'm going to try to get up early and take care of that sodden bit and work on the rest of the house and do some laundry. Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You think?

UN draft report calls DR Congo crimes genocide
The BBC has seen a draft UN report that says crimes by the Rwandan army and allied rebels in Democratic Republic of Congo could be classified as genocide.

The report details how they targeted Rwandan Hutu refugees and Congolese Hutus in DR Congo, from 1993-2003.

It lists human rights violations committed by security forces from all countries involved in what has been called an "African world war".

The final report should be made public in the next few days.

The draft sheds light on 10 years of atrocities committed against civilians on the Congolese territory. The country was known as Zaire until 1997.

But more importantly, it brings details to the unresolved debate over the question of alleged genocide of ethnic Hutus between 1996 and 1998.
I hate to think genocide can be contagious, but in this case it seems to have been. In Rwanda, the Tutsis were targeted; in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was the Hutus, and not just those fleeing Rwanda, but those indigenous to the Congo. The Rwandan government is not happy with the report, priding itself on halting the Rwandan genocide, but the fact of the matter is the victims could be Tutsis, Hutus, or Star-belly Sneetches, and as long as they are targeted consistently for death, rape, and other horrors because of their ethnicity, it's genocide.

Nor are things improving much. Just glance at this to see that the terrorisation of civilians by militias continues :

UN calls for urgent action over mass DR Congo rape
The UN has said everything possible must be done to prevent atrocities like the recent rape of more than 150 women and children in the DR Congo.

In an emergency session of the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Congolese authorities had to fully investigate what had happened.

The Council also said peacekeepers in the area should have done more to protect local people from rebels.

The peacekeepers say they were not told about the attacks until 10 days later.

The rapes happened after rebels occupied Luvungi town and surrounding villages, within miles of a UN peacekeeping base.

Some reports say nearly 200 women and some baby boys were attacked by the rebels over a four-day period, before they left. The UN has confirmed 154 cases.
I want everyone with a gun out of the pool, period. These people so need a break to live out their lives in the peace all humans crave.

A boom heard 'round a good portion of the world

Aug. 26, 1883: Krakatau Erupts, Changes World … Again
Krakatau (aka Krakatoa) had been rumbling and sending up puffs of ash since May 1883. The eruption turned deadly on the afternoon of Aug. 26, with the first explosion coming at 1 p.m. A column of black ash soon rose 17 miles into the sky above the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra.

The earth around and under the volcano continued to move, sending a tsunami out around 5 p.m. Others would follow.

Explosions continued at night, and lightning jumped between the ash column and the island. St. Elmo’s Fire played on a ship’s yardarms and rigging 25 miles away, ash fell on its deck, and explosions deafened its crew.

Just after 10 a.m. on the morning of Aug. 27 came the final, cataclysmic explosion with 26 times the power of the biggest H-bomb test. As Krakatau’s underground magma chamber emptied, the sea rushed in, at first sucking ships toward it in an inbound current. Then the 2,600-foot-high volcanic cone collapsed into the center, leaving little of the island above water and sending out a truly colossal tsunami.

Good eye

Ahmadinejad Classification System

Remember 'One of these things is not like the other?' Brian Herzog, the Swiss Army Librarian has posted a picture of books in the library that are shelved correctly by Dewey, but don't make sense. Can you spot the problem?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Alone--truly alone

Sole survivor of Amazon tribe is most isolated man on Earth
He's the last of his kind.

Nobody knows his name, nobody knows his tribe's name, and nobody knows what happened to the rest of his people. The last man of an uncontacted tribe in the Amazon is now being protected from the outside world by the Brazilian government.

Officials have created a 31 square-mile exclusion zone in his patch of rain forest to keep out loggers, something local logging companies aren't too happy about. In fact, nobody is allowed inside.
The Most Isolated Man on the Planet: He's alone in the Brazilian Amazon, but for how long?
The most isolated man on the planet will spend tonight inside a leafy palm-thatch hut in the Brazilian Amazon. As always, insects will darn the air. Spider monkeys will patrol the treetops. Wild pigs will root in the undergrowth. And the man will remain a quietly anonymous fixture of the landscape, camouflaged to the point of near invisibility.

That description relies on a few unknowable assumptions, obviously, but they're relatively safe. The man's isolation has been so well-established—and is so mind-bendingly extreme—that portraying him silently enduring another moment of utter solitude is a practical guarantee of reportorial accuracy.

He's an Indian, and Brazilian officials have concluded that he's the last survivor of an uncontacted tribe. They first became aware of his existence nearly 15 years ago and for a decade launched numerous expeditions to track him, to ensure his safety, and to try to establish peaceful contact with him. In 2007, with ranching and logging closing in quickly on all sides, government officials declared a 31-square-mile area around him off-limits to trespassing and development.
I hope he lives out his life however he likes. But I can't imagine be so utterly alone; it would drive me mad.

A nice article (and I wish I could follow in his footsteps)

20 Things I've Learned From Traveling Around the World for Three Years

It's not easy being green... :)

Henson donates original Kermit to Smithsonian
The original Kermit the Frog, his body created with an old dull-green coat and his eyes made of pingpong balls, has returned home to the nation's capital, where the puppet got his start.

The first Kermit creation from Jim Henson's Muppet's collection appeared in 1955 on the early TV show "Sam and Friends," produced at Washington's WRC-TV. Henson's widow Jane Henson on Wednesday donated 10 characters from the show to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Cops: NYC cabbie is asked if he's Muslim, stabbed: Violence comes amid tensions over plans for a mosque near ground zero
A college student who did volunteer work in Afghanistan was charged Wednesday with using a folding tool to slash the neck and face of a New York City taxi driver after the driver said he is Muslim.

A criminal complaint alleged that Michael Enright uttered an Arabic greeting and told the victim, "Consider this a checkpoint," before the brutal bias attack occurred Tuesday night inside the yellow cab on Manhattan's East Side. Police say Enright was drunk at the time.
I hope the driver recovers fully. The defence attorney argued that his client was an honours student who lived with his parents, and did not believe bail should have been denied. I do. I don't care who you are or what your background, if you go slashing people up with Leatherman tools because you don't like their religion, you don't belong on the street (drunk or sober) with the rest of us, thank you very much.

Amazing that they can do this...and it works

Doctors tweet rare double hand transplant: Kentucky surgeons used Twitter to post updates on 20-hour surgery
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Doctors performed a rare double hand transplant on a burn victim who is recovering Wednesday after the nearly 18-hour surgery.

The transplant at a Louisville hospital was only the third in the nation. Jewish Hospital also performed the world's first successful single hand transplant in 1999.

Doctors started the operation at 7 p.m. Tuesday and finished 17½ hours later on Wednesday afternoon. A doctor outside the operating room posted updates on Twitter.

"We have a long way to go to know ... but it looks good at this point," said Dr. Joseph Kutz, a member of the surgery team. The patient was identified only as a man whose hands had been severely burned.
The surgeons who performed this transplant (and also the ones who performed the first successful single hand transplant in the world itself) are from the same practice that performed my carpal tunnel surgery (mine was done through their Lexington office, although my surgeon, Dr William O'Neill, has since moved to another practice).

I wish the patient well, and I hope it will be a wonderful success.

Ah, the Garden State

Middlesex County attempts to neutralize landfill odors using fragrant spray trucks
EAST BRUNSWICK — Deep within the countless mounds of trash at the Middlesex County Landfill, a special truck is waging a desperate battle for the hearts and minds — and noses — of nearby residents.

On one side — well, every side, really — are piles and piles of trash, with more than 1,000 tons arriving each day at the East Brunswick site. Atop one of the largest active dumps in the country, the garbage oozes methane gas, the stench of which has tested neighbors’ olfactory nerves for years.

But an unorthodox solution has entered the ring: A flatbed truck equipped with special nozzles now winds clumsily through the garbage, releasing a secret weapon: hundreds of gallons of a fragrant, soapy, slightly citrus-scented spray.

"It has a pleasant, showery smell," said Richard Fitamant, executive director of the Middlesex County Utilities Authority, which runs the landfill. "It’s not offensive and it’s not overpowering. It’s a light scent."
It does make you rather wonder what sort of chemicals are being sprayed in the attempt to 'solve' the problem. In my opinion, they're covering up the odour, but not really dealing with the cause. There must be better ways to run a landfill than this.

And sorry about the potshot of a title, but an old friend of mine from New Jersey used to make fun of Kentuckians all the time, nevermind that he went to college classes barefoot, so I couldn't resist.

And so, began the end

24 August 410: the date it all went wrong for Rome?
Tuesday marks the 1,600th anniversary of one of the turning points of European history - the first sack of Imperial Rome by an army of Visigoths, northern European barbarian tribesmen, led by a general called Alaric.

It was the first time in 800 years that Rome had been successfully invaded. The event had reverberations around the Mediterranean.

Jerome, an early Christian Church Father, in a letter to a friend from Bethlehem - where he happened to be living - wrote that he burst into tears upon hearing the news.

"My voice sticks in my throat, and, as I dictate, sobs choke me. The city which had taken the whole world was itself taken," he said.

Although Alaric was a Christian ransacking a Christian city, there was an ominous feeling that the world structure built by pagan Rome was disintegrating.

The Roman Empire survived for a few more decades, and later other armies sacked the city again, but this was the date which marked the beginning of the end of Rome's grandeur.

Centuries later, the city which had at the height of its power boasted a population of more than a million people, was reduced to a lawless, ruined village of no more than 30,000 residents
It's a grim reminder that even superpowers have their weaknesses, and a limit to their glory. [But don't tell that to the Tea Party.]

Disaster strains the physical and cultural needs of women in Pakistan

Pakistan floods: 'Cultural shock' for women in camps
Health and sanitation is a big issue. One camp set up in a government building had no bathing facility. Whereas the men and young children can take baths outside on the school lawn, women don't have that option. Many people didn't have a chance to pick up their belongings when the floods hit their village so they have no change of clothes. Many are wearing what they left home in and without being able to wash and women's hygiene in particular has deteriorated. The situation is even worse for menstruating and pregnant women.

The camps are also culturally shocking for women and girls. Many have never been around a man who isn't a member of their family. Now they are amongst hundreds of men who are complete strangers.
It's not just a matter of physical health and saftely, either:
In some sectors of Pakistan society, apart from the religious notions of covering up and not mingling with males outside one's family, women are considered to be the custodians of male and family honour.

This notion of honour is linked with women's sexual behaviour so their sexuality is considered to be a potential threat to the honour of family. Therefore, the systems of sex segregation known as purdah are used by the society to protect the honour of the family.
Let us hope aid and recovery come sooner than later. The scope of this disaster is immense, and the health and safety of everyone, especially women and children, are precarious.

Medication errors are deadly--but so are look-alike tubes

U.S. Inaction Lets Look-Alike Tubes Kill Patients
Thirty-five weeks pregnant, Robin Rodgers was vomiting and losing weight, so her doctor hospitalized her and ordered that she be fed through a tube until the birth of her daughter.

But in a mistake that stemmed from years of lax federal oversight of medical devices, the hospital mixed up the tubes. Instead of snaking a tube through Ms. Rodgers’s nose and into her stomach, the nurse instead coupled the liquid-food bag to a tube that entered a vein.

Putting such food directly into the bloodstream is like pouring concrete down a drain. Ms. Rodgers was soon in agony.
First the baby and then the Rodgers herself died. With so many tubes connected to a body that look alike, and the chronic overwork seen in nursing, it is so easy to make a deadly mistake.
Hospitalized patients often have an array of clear plastic tubing sticking out of their bodies to deliver or extract medicine, nutrition, fluids, gases or blood to veins, arteries, stomachs, skin, lungs or bladders.

Much of the tubing is interchangeable, and with nurses connecting and disconnecting dozens each day, mix-ups happen — sometimes with deadly consequences.

“Nurses should not have to work in an environment where it is even possible to make that kind of mistake,” said Nancy Pratt, a senior vice president at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego who is a vocal advocate for changing the system. “The nuclear power and airline industries would never tolerate a situation where a simple misconnection could lead to a death.”
Performance improvement principles in hospitals these days, in my experience, focus on trying to change the system to make it difficult for mistakes to happen, rather than lay the blame on the person making a mistake (this does not mean that willful acts, however, are treated the same...that's a whole other kettle of fish). But both the Joint Commission, a major accrediting agency, and the hospitals that follow their standards, try to come up with ways to prevent injuries or deaths. You can label the tubes, educate personnel, etc. till you're blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is as long as 1) they look alike and 2) fit together interchangeably there will be problems. The FDA and manufacturers really need to get on the ball about changing that.

You don't see that everyday, thank goodness

Rare ‘fire tornado’ filmed in Brazil

The video's quite impressive. Drought and high winds have been fanning brush fires, and a whirlwind of fire was caught on video stretching up into the sky.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Ultraviolet light reveals how ancient Greek statues really looked
Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Find out how shining a light on the statues can be all that's required to see them as they were thousands of years ago.

Although it seems impossible to think that anything could be left to discover after thousands of years of wind, sun, sand, and art students, finding the long lost patterns on a piece of ancient Greek sculpture can be as easy as shining a lamp on it. A technique called ‘raking light' has been used to analyze art for a long time. A lamp is positioned carefully enough that the path of the light is almost parallel to the surface of the object. When used on paintings, this makes brushstrokes, grit, and dust obvious. On statues, the effect is more subtle. Brush-strokes are impossible to see, but because different paints wear off at different rates, the stone is raised in some places – protected from erosion by its cap of paint – and lowered in others. Elaborate patterns become visible.

Ultraviolet is also used to discern patterns. UV light makes many organic compounds fluoresce. Art dealers use UV lights to check if art has been touched up, since older paints have a lot of organic compounds and modern paints have relatively little. On ancient Greek statues, tiny fragments of pigment still left on the surface glow bright, illuminating more detailed patterns.
Read the article to find out more. The illustrations/reconstructions are very interesting.

Only in Britain...

Shopkeeper throws cup of tea at robbers in Wythenshawe
Armed robbers ran off empty handed after a shopkeeper in a grocery store in Manchester threw a cup of tea at them.

Wielding a kitchen knife and a pin-hammer, they burst into the Superfreeze store on Hollyhedge Road in Benchill and demanded cash on Friday.

The 58-year-old threw her tea at them and they ran off.
Gun laws in England being what they are, it's a little hard for thugs to find decent implements to rob with. Granted, these were quite deadly, but up close and personal. Congrats to the pluckiness of the clerk. However, since guns are rampant here in the US, and I don't drink tea, I don't think I'll be using this manoeuvre any time soon. (I don't think a cold Diet Pepsi's going to do a thing.)

Please pray to whatever God that you hold dear to ease the suffering of these small children

Little hope for babies burned in Romanian fire
Israeli doctors who rushed to Romania on Wednesday said they feared there was not much they could do to help seven premature infants who were critically burned in a hospital fire that left four other babies dead.

Romanian doctors at Bucharest's Grigore Alexandrescu children's hospital where the injured babies are being treated said the infants weigh just 1 to 2.5 kilograms (2.2 to 5.5 pounds) and are burned on up to 80 per cent of their bodies and respiratory tracts.

Monday's blaze at Giulesti maternity hospital forced the evacuation of dozens of babies and women -- some in labour. The accident provoked a wave of public indignation, throwing light on Romania's poorly funded and understaffed health system.

Romanian health official Marius Savu said there had been one nurse on duty at the intensive care unit instead of the mandatory four because of staffing cuts, Mediafax news agency reported.

Doctor Josef Haik, part of a team from Tel Aviv University, told reporters that "I don't think we can do any more here."

Nurse charged with murder in Romanian hospital fire
Iacob said last week that medical staff at the hospital were in another room, apparently having a celebration, when the blaze broke out.

The fire started in an electrical cable attached to the air-conditioning unit of the intensive care room, according to prosecutors' preliminary conclusions. It quickly swept through the room, burning incubators and melting medical equipment.

Another member of the medical staff, not Cirstea, was the one who called for help when the blaze was discovered, Iacob said.

Surveillance camera footage released by the government last week showed medical staff and parents frantically trying to enter the burning intensive care unit, using a chair to break down automatic doors. The doors could only be opened with an access card, which no one had at the time. Seconds later, the hallway filled with smoke.
The fire broke out on August 16th. The temperature in the room had reached 400 degrees Fahrenheit, according to authorities. These are babies that are premature, with immature airways that have been burnt as well as their skin. Please keep them and their families in your thoughts. I had not heard of this story until YKWIA told me about it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

:( It was a valiant effort, and nine were saved

Stranded whales buried in New Zealand

But the video is just heartbreaking. Best wishes to the survivors, and to those people who desperately tried to save the other forty-nine beached whales but who, in the end, could not. It must have been very difficult to make the decision to euthanise them. And the Maori ceremony was a lovely thing.

This is great

Thanks, Brenda, for sharing this with us before the Cthulhu game...

Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added To Curriculum
ARKHAM, MA—Arguing that students should return to the fundamentals taught in the Pnakotic Manuscripts and the Necronomicon in order to develop the skills they need to be driven to the very edge of sanity, Arkham school board member Charles West continued to advance his pro-madness agenda at the district's monthly meeting Tuesday.

"Fools!" said West, his clenched fist striking the lectern before him. "We must prepare today's youth for a world whose terrors are etched upon ancient clay tablets recounting the fever-dreams of the other gods—not fill their heads with such trivia as math and English. Our graduates need to know about those who lie beneath the earth, waiting until the stars align so they can return to their rightful place as our masters and wage war against the Elder Things and the shoggoths!"
That's just a snippet. Be sure to read the whole piece if you like Lovecraft. It's from The Onion. :) I particularly like:
"I'm not totally sold on his plan to let gibbering, half-formed creatures dripping with ichor feed off the flesh and fear of our students. But he is always on time to help set up for our spaghetti suppers, and his bake sale goods are among the most popular."
And like every Lovecraft story I've ever read, the moment of full horror appears in Italics. They did a great job.

I will resist, I will resist

Brandon told me earlier today that I need a dog or cat because I've just been blogging like mad lately; I obviously need something else in my life. Which I laughed at, but I have to admit--it's been three years, almost, since Cerys died. I miss having company at home, after years of pets. I've thought about getting a kitten from time to time. And so tonight, although I shouldn't have, I went to the Lexington Humane Society's website and found:

Bobble, a male grey kitten, 2 months old

You can also see him on Petfinder. The Humane Society is running a special on cat adoptions through the end of the summer.

I've told myself not to get a cat until I can drive myself to Dr Vice's at Gainesway Animal Clinic (an excellent vet office), since LexTran won't let pets other than service animals aboard (although I did once see a woman disembark with two cats in carriers; I've always had cats that howl on the way to the vet, so I don't think that will happen). I do have two vet clinics within walking distance (one without even having to cross a major road, that I've gone to once upon a time and they were fine). But still....


No. Must. Resist. The. Cuteness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poor thing

Following the 2008 earthquake in China, this terrified giant panda grabs the leg of a policeman

Two weeks after the earthquake, the panda still needs some comforting. Follow the link for the picture.

Some of these gay protest signs are really, really witty

I particularly like 'Jesus had two dads, and he turned out alright' or something to that effect.

Hah hah hah hah

Rush likens NYC Islamic center to building a Hindu temple next to Pearl Harbor
Of course, as oppositeofprogress points out:
Limbaugh sarcastically suggests that we build a Hindu Temple next to Pearl Harbor and a Mosque next to the Pentagon... without realizing that Shinto, not Hinduism, is the most common religion in Japan, and there is already a Mosque inside the Pentagon and a Shinto temple next to Pearl Harbor.
Okay, I don't think there is really a mosque inside the Pentagon, but they're dead right as to Shintoism, not Hinduism being Japan's main religion (and India did not bomb Pearl Harbour). [What there is in the Pentagon is a chapel, just like any other military installation, that is non-denominational.
"We have a wide variety of services," says Wright. "Protestant, Catholic Jewish, Hindu, Mormon, Episcopalian and Muslim. It is not unlike any other military chapel in any other military instillation around the world."]
The mosque-in-the-Pentagon thing was the result of comments made by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who represents the Ground Zero neighbourhood, on CNN. But still...Rush Limbaugh is a loud-mouth, hate-spewing idiot, in my humble opinion.

I know a dog that is terrified of butterflies

But these Humboldt penguins really, really want one...

No butterflies were harmed in the making of this picture.

Interesting trivia regarding Humboldt penguins, from Wikipedia:
In 2009 at a zoo in Bremerhaven, Germany, two adult male Humboldt penguins adopted an egg that had been abandoned by its biological parents. After the egg hatched, the two male penguins raised, protected, cared for, and fed the chick in the same manner that regular penguin couples raise their own biological offspring.

I'm not a photographer--but I'm fascinated by the art

Which is why I like National Geographic so much. Steve McCurry's photograph of a young Afghan girl with green eyes that was the cover of the June 1985 issue has been called 'the most recognized photograph" in the history of the National Geographic magazine'. Here is some of his other work, which is also breathtaking.

22 Incredible Photos of Faraway Places

Relaxing bubbles

and not the type in the bath, either.

Giant bubbles, a beach, children, and relaxing music--what's not to like. :)

I want to see this

(but the episode isn't on YouTube) that I can find, phooey.

Jacob Two-Two and the Bookworm Brouhaha
When it comes to his nearby public library, Jacob Two-Two has a perfect record and a record as well for using it the most. When he goes the extra distance to return a book on time, the librarians notice his dedication and ask him to volunteer at the library. Jacob happily excepts and after sticking out some tough duties, is inducted into a secret society of Library Ninjas. He immediately proves himself a competent agent and is given a special assignment --- The Bookworm. The Bookworm has the world's most overdue library book, last seen thirty years ago. This book is titled Ace Hambly, Boy Detective: Adventure of the Jade Scorpion and The Bookworm has repeatedly managed to keep it hidden, despite attempts at capture. Jacob dives head-first into the assignment, but makes a surprising and disturbing discovery that stops in his tracks. He worries that foiling The Bookworm may get someone very close to him in deep trouble.
I want to be a Library Ninja! Thanks to Tammy for telling me about it!

Great tweet :)

Via Joe.My.God, a great blog I discovered today.


And yes, you can follow @AlmightyGod on Twitter.

Discovering history

Undisturbed artifacts will detail lives of Civil War prisoners
Nearly 150 years after it was left behind at a Civil War prison camp, the 3-inch clay pipestem still shows a Union soldier's teeth marks.

The pipe, whose stem features the name of its manufacturer, proves the resourcefulness of a prisoner who really wanted his tobacco. He fashioned the bowl from lead, possibly by melting rifle bullets.

No one knows what became of the unknown soldier at Camp Lawton, which during its short existence in south Georgia was the Confederacy's largest prison camp.

"His name his been lost to history but his story has not," said Kevin Chapman, who led a group of college students that found the exact location of the camp's slave-built stockade and, in the soil beneath tall pine trees, nearly 200 artifacts.

Those are the first of what is expected to be a treasure of artifacts that will bear witness to the lives of prisoners and the horrors they endured.
The site is remote and is on federal land, jutting into a state park as well, so it is largely undisturbed. It provides a wonderful opportunity to see into the lives of the people involved.

Sometimes computer viruses/malware aren't just annoying, or destructive--they're deadly

Malware Implicated in Fatal Spanair Plane Crash
Authorities investigating the 2008 crash of Spanair flight 5022 have discovered a central computer system used to monitor technical problems in the aircraft was infected with malware.

An internal report issued by the airline revealed the infected computer failed to detect three technical problems with the aircraft, which if detected, may have prevented the plane from taking off, according to reports in the Spanish newspaper, El Pais.

Flight 5022 crashed just after takeoff from Madrid-Barajas International Airport two years ago today, killing 154 and leaving only 18 survivors.
Someone wrote the code that killed 154 people. To be honest, it's unlikely that the person will ever be tracked, but the simple fact of the matter is that he/she is a murderer.

But it's pretty scary how the computers that monitor planes can be infected so easily. Makes you wonder what other systems could fail because of malware--medical equipment, for example, or virtually any sort of thing that relies on a computer. Even cars, maybe, if the diagnostic systems that hook into them were infected. If they have any sort of input or connectivity means, they're vulnerable. We are so dependent upon technology these days.

Today marks a milestone in my own life, too

44 years ago, my parents got married.

I'm not sure that was the best thing, and I can say that without any fear of 'well, if they hadn't, I wouldn't be here.' I was already on the way at the time. My parents had just turned 19--my father the day before. It was the late 60s. Abortion was not yet legal, and I can't imagine my mother aborting a foetus anyway, given what she's said over the years. Her own parents took the news remarkably well, and they offered to bring her home and help raise the child. My father's mother pushed for the marriage, and she won out. My mother wore an off-white dress, and the two of them look very young and very nervous in the pictures. I think my father always felt trapped and somewhat bitter over having a family to take care of; because I was on the way and he suddenly had a wife, he enlisted in the US Air Force and spent the next six years in and out of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

The marriage almost fell apart two years in, but my mother wouldn't divorce him long distance. Of course, he just did what he wanted; he boasted to my aunt--my mother's sister--of the women he'd bedded both overseas and in the US, and my mother once found letters sent to him by a Thai woman he'd been involved with. I've always wondered if I had any siblings.

It lasted until I was fifteen, when he took my mom for a ride to ask for a divorce after moving us two states away from our home and while we were in the motel waiting to settle into our new one. I guess he thought he'd have his cake and eat it too, since he was already living with a woman, but my mother moved me up to Kentucky to live with her parents instead. I can still remember my father telling me that I didn't need him anymore, that I was old enough. Well, in truth, I'd probably have gotten along better being raised by my mom and grandparents (who'd had a good hand in my early years. I actually thought of my grandfather as a strong father figure in my life more so than my dad, whom I thought of as the person who yelled at me when I cried, had no patience for me, wrested my third-grade science project away from me and did it, and then was upset it only got third place, and was annoyed when my IQ came back two points higher than his. He never really had time for me (well, neither did my mother, really, but we at least had more time together than my father and I)).

Over the next few years I tried to maintain some relationship with my father, but it crumbled in 1993 (I was 26) when my grandmother died and he lied to me about something to do with the finances, saying that the insurance money due me was actually part of the estate and that he needed it for funeral expenses. If he'd just asked me to help, that would be one thing. But he lied to me about it in order to manipulate me into giving him the money. This was at a time when 1) I was a graduate student, eating every other day because I was barely making my rent and utilities, living in a rat-infested house, and 2) he was an electrical engineer who had a big house on a small farm and had moved to Minnesota for an extra $30,000 a year. I'm not saying he wasn't strapped for money--there are lots of people that live beyond their means, and maybe his company that he worked for was not doing so well or something. But his name had also been on my grandmother's accounts when she sold a 180-acre farm, etc., just months before. I can believe her cancer took a lot of the money. But he was supposed to have a policy he was beneficiary to as well for $10,000, and I honestly can't believe that things were so bad (without some mismanagement or greed somewhere) that he felt he had to lie to me to get $5,000. When I told him I wasn't giving him the money, he hung up on me and we haven't talked since--no attempt to explain on his part, he just reacted like an angry child and there you go.

That was the last straw. I guess my grandmother was the only thing really holding us together at that point. About two weeks later I filed papers to change my name, and broke connexions with his surname entirely, going through a bit of 'reinvention' symbolically to match the one I was going through after my divorce.

Family are complicated. I don't consider my father family any more. He's some theoretical person raising horses in another state and probably being a good old boy to boot. My best friend is closer to me than a brother. He's the only person, I think, who's ever really loved me unconditionally, and that says a lot. My actual family have gotten very small--my mother, my grandmother mainly, although there are aunts, uncles, and cousins in other states. There's no one on my father's side--I'm an only child of an only child, and most of the ones I knew have died out. I know more about my father's family than my mother's genealogy-wise, but not in real life. And because I haven't had a truly dependable car since that time, I haven't been back to Owenton (the home of that side of the family) to check on graves or otherwise see how it's changed) since.

Anyway, I've had a lot of time to push my dad to the background in my thoughts. I never think of him at Father's Day (I'm hard pressed to even remember it's in June), but the feelings and thoughts come back in August, because his birthday and their wedding anniversary are right next to one another. But I don't think I'd like things to be different between us, at least as we both are. I wish I'd had a father I could really love, have great memories of, that sort of thing. But that never happened. For years everyone told me I was a daddy's girl and I bought into some fantasy of my father as I wished him to be. That got trampled that day in 1993, and it's been dust for years. All in all, I think I'm better without a father, at least if the person isn't going to be the things a father should be. My dad once said that neither he nor my mother should have had children; I have to agree--they weren't prepared for it, and they didn't do a great job, since I had to virtually raise myself. So he knows he sucked as a father. I wonder if he ever thinks about that day? No doubt he has a totally different perspective. I think we tend to look at things in a way that we come out looking like the one in the right, no matter what the truth is, anyway, don't you?

Milestone in the history of spaceflight

Aug. 20, 1960: Back From Space, With Tails Wagging
1960: Belka and Strelka, a couple of stray mutts impressed into the Soviet space program, become the first living creatures to return alive from an orbital flight.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A very complex issue, but one that seems primarily politically motivated for now

Expulsion of Roma Raises Questions in France
About 100 French riot police officers swooped down on an encampment of Roma here at 7 a.m. Thursday, taking names and filling out expulsion orders. Fully padded, but without helmets, the officers were aggressive but polite, accompanied by a Romanian policeman and three interpreters.

Mihai Lingurar, 37, and his wife, Rada-Soma Rostach, were ordered to leave France within a month for overstaying their three-month allowance as Romanian citizens and being unable to prove that they had full-time work. Their fourth child, however, Marc, 5 months old, is in intensive care at a hospital here, on the northeastern edge of Paris. Marc weighs about 8 pounds and has been in and out of a coma.

The police were not interested in hearing about Marc this morning, Mr. Lingurar said, through an interpreter. But he will get help to challenge the family’s expulsion, citing medical grounds, from Doctors of the World, said Livia Otal, 29, a Romanian who works with the Roma for the nonprofit organization.
The thing about the Roma (also known as Gypsies, although the term is not favoured by them) is that they are, unlike in our own immigrant issues, entering France completely legally, but in many cases are overstaying the three-month window to find a full-time job. On the other hand, there is discrimination against them, making it difficult to find such a job, although life is often preferable in France than from where they have come. As citizens of countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, they are completely free to enter the country, but are subject to special rules since those countries have only recently come into the European Union. These rules are largely set to expire in 2014. But for now, people are being thrown out largely because of pressure on the government to remove a minority seen as foreign and distasteful.
Mass expulsions based on ethnicity violate European Union law, Mr. Kushen said, and the failure of France to do individual assessments of each case — as opposed to cursory examinations of papers by the police — also violates European Union rules.
Another problem is that there are plenty of Roma who are French citizens, and it's easy to confuse them with their foreign brethren. And the government has vowed to break up camps used by the citizen Roma as well, targeting their transient existence.

European countries have always struggled with Roma in their areas, attempting to regulate, expel, or in the case of Nazi Germany, annihilate the Roma there.

It is one thing to expel people who have over-stayed their regulated time. It is another to do mass expulsion of people because of their ethnicity, especially because you want to be re-elected.

The article examines a lot of the factors contributing to this, and certainly, because of living on the fringes for centuries and their transient existence, the Roma's reputation has not totally been baseless, as it's hard for them to hold down a normal 9-5 job, given the prejudice and the travelling, but overall I think they should be left in peace, and certainly each case should be handled individually, such as the couple whose son is ill who are mentioned in the article.

Of course, I'm not French, so I don't think my opinion matters much to the Sarkozy government.

I think nine years is a bit lenient for abducting and trying to sell someone so they can be killed, dismembered, and put in potions

Human trafficker jailed for trying to sell albino man: Kenyan sentenced to 9 years in prison for trying to make deal with Tanzanian witchdoctors

But at least he is going to jail. There are 170,000 albino people living in Tanzania. Dozens of people there and in neighbouring Burundi have been killed since 2007.

In a related story:

Albinos in East Africa fear for lives after killings: 10,000 displaced or in hiding due to demand for body parts, Red Cross says
The mistaken belief that albino body parts have magical powers has driven thousands of Africa's albinos into hiding, fearful of losing their lives and limbs to unscrupulous dealers who can make up to $75,000 selling a complete dismembered set.

Good thinking on a nurse's part

Boy, 10, survives impalement with stingray barb: Quentin Tokar avoided Crocodile Hunter’s fate: ‘Don’t pull it out!’
Quentin Tokar appeared on TODAY Thursday wearing a T-shirt with the slogan “Just take your best shot.” And a stingray did just that to the plucky 10-year-old while he was on a family vacation, nearly killing him when its 4-inch barb pierced Quentin’s belly.

But unlike famed “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, Quentin survived the attack, and he joined his parents Peter and Candace Tokar to tell Meredith Vieira how good fortune — and a Good Samaritan in the form of a nurse on the scene — smiled upon the family that day.

Quentin and three of his siblings had traveled with their parents from their Maryland home to the tourist destination of Outer Banks, N.C., and on the evening of Aug. 4, they ventured out onto a pier for some moonlight fishing. The family was intrigued when a group of fishermen pulled a stingray out of the water, and watched as one of the men tried to wrest the barb out of the creature with a pliers.

Instead, the barb went shooting eight feet across the pier, directly into Quentin.

“The barb was sticking out of his stomach, and of course my initial reaction was to yank it out,” Peter Tokar told Vieira.

“But fortunately, there was a nurse on the pier and another gentleman who was with us, and they both screamed at me, ‘No, don’t pull it out!’ ”

Boy, his 'What I did over summer vacation" report should trump the rest of the kids'.

I'm a little bummed, even though I know it's going to get better

I'm home by five, meaning there wasn't enough work to keep me there the whole time again. Monday was the first time in awhile. I figure I'll have to use 10-12 hours of vacation time just to get the 70 hours for the pay period (it's supposed to be 80). The good news is I talk to the director of another department about helping them out to make up my time tomorrow, so I might be working on that come Monday, or at least training for it.

Our payroll clerk called me today to let me know that there was a mistake entering my vacation time last pay period, so that I was paid at the library rate rather than the data entry one. That means $30 will come out of my cheque. I'm not really annoyed with it or anything, I'm just trying to make my rent. I think I'll enough for that and some left over, if I use the vacation time, but I had hoped to make a payment on my taxes, and that may need to wait until the middle of September instead. I just hope I'm working the full 40 hours a week by then.

I came home and channeled some of my frustration into gathering up some recyclables to take out. I have enough for my old laundry hamper and a copy paper box, easily. I need to go through some of it to see what needs to be shredded. I'm just happy we have recycling containers at my apartment now. I'll take them out later tonight.

Of course young people in America should be able to see this vital documentary

Mystery surrounding documentary film set inside Warsaw Ghetto
Almost seventy years ago a Nazi propaganda film was shot inside the Warsaw Ghetto. It depicted the lives of Jews, most of whom went on to perish in a German concentration camp. Much of the film has been shrouded in mystery. The Nazis never completed it and it is not clear why they made it.

One Israeli filmmaker was determined to explore the origins of the film and this week her documentary investigation is being released in American cinemas.
Restrictions have been placed on the film in the United States for disturbing images, including emaciated corpses, hindering it as a tool of education of the Nazi treatment of the Jews and how film can be used as propaganda. I hope this is reconsidered.

The original footage was unfinished, its purpose not completely understood. The Israeli documentary director has put together not only the film, as well as outtakes later discovered, but the testimony of Germans involved in filming and Warsaw Ghetto survivors' reactions to the film. It sounds like a very powerful combination. The Nazis apparently wanted to show the disparate worlds between the Jewish rich and poor of Warsaw, and to perhaps to record this for posterity of a people only known of in Europe in the past, should their annihilation programme succeed.

Alright, I embrace social networking all the way

But even I don't get why any prudent person would want to broadcast their coordinates to web sites such as Foursquare, Twitter, or Facebook. It just seems, well, stupid to do so.
Facebook launches Places location based service
Social networking behemoth Facebook has added a feature that allows members to share where they are while on the move.

Places, as it is known, marks the company's first foray into the "location-based services" space, which has become popular with users who want to share where they shop, eat or play.

Sites such as Foursquare and Gowalla already offer similar features.

Places will initially only be available in the US through Facebook's iPhone app or by logging onto its smartphone site.

The company plans to extend the feature to all its 500 million members as soon as it can.

"This is meaningful because you can stay connected with your friends around you," said company founder Mark Zuckerberg.

A window into a harsh life

Lives of Victorian poor go online at National Archives
Records detailing the lives of the Victorian poor, including those in workhouses, have been published online.

The National Archives project involves letters and reports passed between poor law authorities in England and Wales.

Project director Dr Paul Carter said the records were "unrivalled" as an important source for examining the lives of the Victorian poor.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 centralised the way poverty was managed and relieved, and set up workhouses.

"Able-bodied paupers" were offered a place in the workhouse as a last resort.

Conditions were intentionally harsh because workhouses were designed as a deterrent. Dr Carter said the newly published records showed people often felt they would "rather starve than go to the workhouse".
History often emphasises the elite, because there were more records of their lives in the past. However, the last two hundred years or so have seen a wealth of information on the lower classes, although it hasn't always been easily available. Now anyone can research the conditions the Victorian poor lived in and even find their own ancestors if they wish. It's a boon to both history and genealogy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Still in desperate need

Reports of looting, violence surface in flood-ravaged Pakistan
Desperation erupted into violence Tuesday in flood-ravaged Pakistan, as survivors who have yet to receive aid scrambled to put food in their empty bellies.

People in Sindh province blocked a highway to protest the slowness of aid delivery and clashed with police, the United Nations said. In a hard-hit district of Punjab, hungry mobs unloaded two aid trucks headed to a warehouse. Local aid agencies reported other incidents of looting.

An aid agency worker said distributions were hampered because of the crowds stopping the convoys and because large numbers of people were living along the road.

About 20 million people have been affected by the relentless monsoon rains that began falling three weeks ago, leading to massive flooding from the mountainous regions in the north to the river plains of the south.

About one-fifth of Pakistan is submerged, and entire families waded through filthy water, pleading for help.

More than 1,400 people have died. Health officials fear a second wave of fatalities from waterborne diseases, including cholera, which is endemic in Pakistan and now threatening to become a major outbreak.

UNICEF is reporting a shortfall in their water and sanitation programme that is threatening to hamper aid to the millions of children and their families at risk for disease. The aid organisation is delivering safe drinking water, critical medical supplies, food and family hygiene kits to more than a million people a day. But so many more need help. Please see UNICEF USA for more information about how you can help and to donate, if you can.

What few stances I tried were hard on my knees

I do better with yoga. But it's good news to see that tai chi can be useful in treating fibromyalgia....

Tai Chi Reported to Ease Fibromyalgia
The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be effective as a therapy for fibromyalgia, according to a study published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.

I remember reading about this in 'National Geographic'

But this New York Times slideshow is very, very good at showing what happens to First World's castoff computers when they reach Africa...


PS to the New York Times: Putting an ad in the middle of of slideshow is just tacky and annoying.

(Thanks to @JoelJohnson for re-tweeting the link from @dylan20)

For more, here's that National Geographic piece on hi-tech trash:


Oh, I just laughed myself silly

Thanks to Marie Kennedy of Organization Monkey for sharing this one:

I would be so claustrophobic

Of course, I'm paying 10 times as much for 35 times the space. But at at least I can breathe.
China's rise creates a moment of introspection, too
Huang Rixin, a spritely 78-year-old former engineer turned Beijing landlord, has made a name for himself in recent months producing cage-like, 21.5-square-foot living spaces dubbed “capsule apartments” for the capital’s burgeoning class of jobless and underemployed college graduates.

Taking Japan’s famous capsule hotels for inspiration, Huang has improved on previous iterations of his pod houses by doubling the size of the rooms and including more shelf space. Huang views his pods, with rent of about $51 a month, as a cost-effective way to house the estimated 3 million recent university graduates seeking employment or earning less than the average starting salary of approximately $400 a month.

You've got to love the names these things have...

I get an RSS feed of FDA recall announcements. Normally they're pretty sedate, either salmonella or undeclared allergens, etc.

Here's one from today, which, given it has an undeclared, unapproved drug subject to regulation in it, it's rather serious, but I couldn't help but laughing. Do guys really take this stuff?
Glow Industries, Inc., Perrysburg, OH, announced today that it is initiating a voluntary nationwide recall of the company's product sold under the name of Mr. Magic Male Enhancer from Don Wands. Glow Industries, Inc. is conducting this voluntary recall after being informed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that lab analysis has found the Mr. Magic Male Enhancer from Don Wands capsules to contain Hydroxythiohomosildenafil and Sulfoaildenafil, an analogue of Sildenafil, an FDA-approved drug used in the treatment of male Erectile Dysfunction (ED), making Mr. Magic Male Enhancer an unapproved new drug. These active ingredients are not listed on the product label. Product manufactured containing lot numbers 9041401, 251209 and 8121904 are included in this recall...

We sell a product at the store (not this one) and I guy once asked me if it worked. Do I look like I have dangly bits that need enhancing? Hello, I have boobies. How would I know?

Brandon pointed me to this one

Ground Zero Mosque: Digging a Hole in the Soul of America
It is not insensitive to put a cultural center of any sort, that has a place of worship, anywhere in our city. This is what makes our country and our city great. As a nation that was founded by men and women who were being persecuted for their particular faith, we should know that the best path to finding freedom is finding freedom for others. We were formed as a pluralistic society and this means we welcome all religions. Islam did not attack the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, sick and twisted men did, who not only hijacked four airplanes but also hijacked a religion. Let us not stereotype the over one billion Muslims around the world because of the evil acts of a few. A decision like this one, to support or not support the construction of this center, defines who we are as a nation. It's at the essence of our values, our freedom of expression, freedom of religion and religious tolerance.
What he said...

I can't believe this is even a debate. Oh, wait, yeah, I forget, there are lots of paranoid yahoos out there.


In related news...

New York's Mayor Suggests To a Reporter That He Visit the Library (to read the Bill of Rights, that is). Birdie of LISNews.org included a great comment on the story in the New York Times City Blog: "As someone who lives and works in lower Manhattan, I’ve noticed that one’s hysteria over Park51 seems to be inversely proportional to one’s proximity to it."


Diagnosed because you're not quite ready for primetime

ADHD Could Be Misdiagnosed In Nearly 1 Million US Kids Say Researchers
Two studies published recently suggest there could be something wrong with the way ADHD is diagnosed in young children in the US, one found that nearly 1 million kids are potentially misdiagnosed just because they are the youngest in their kindergarten year, with the youngest in class twice as likely to be on stimulant medication, while the other study confirmed that whether children were born just before or just after the kindergarten cutoff date significantly affected their chances of being diagnosed with ADHD.

Anyone surprised? And that's coming from an adult with ADD. I have an aunt who kept her son, born in September, back from joining kindergarten until the next year, and that may have been a sound decision. I don't think you can go on cut-off dates to know when children are intellectually and socially ready for a grade. There are times I wish that I had not skipped first grade, because as the youngest and yet one of the smartest, I was picked on throughout my school career. Fortunately I don't have hyperactive-type attention issues. I'd have probably done better with medication. But a lot of kids are way overmedicated. The trick is figuring out which ones benefit themselves, and which ones are being medicated because teachers or parents simply don't want to put in the effort or make decisions like waiting to send them to school. Of course, I don't know if that's still an option these days.

Texting while driving is dumb--and deadly

Dr. Frank Ryan Died After Tweeting About Dog: Heidi Montag's plastic surgeon was reportedly texting before his car plunged off a cliff on Monday

Perhaps because he was famous, Dr Ryan's death will cause some to pause before texting or tweeting during driving, and that will be part of his legacy. We all do stupid things in life. Fortunately we survive most of them. But even intelligent, talented people can do things that kill them. Don't let a tweet about your dog be your epitaph.

PS The dog did survive, with injuries. I guess that's good. Bur a man's life has ended, and that is unfortunate.

Fossil evidence for mind-controlling parasites from 48 million years ago

Mind-controlling parasites date back millions of years: Unnerving variety of creatures evolved ability to control brains
Mind control by parasite sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but not only have scientists revealed that it is real across a range of animals including perhaps humans they now even have fossil evidence suggesting it has taken place for millions of years.

An unnerving variety of parasites have evolved the ability to control the brains of victims to help the parasites spread. For instance, the protozoan known as Toxoplasma gondi imakes rats love cat urine so that it can spread among its feline hosts and it may influence human culture as well, making people more prone to certain forms of neuroticism.

Another case of parasite mind control involves the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which essentially turns ants into zombies. It maneuvers the insects into biting down on the major veins of the undersides of leaves just before they die the fungus then rapidly grows a stalk from their victims' heads, releasing spores to infect more ants.
I've heard of the ant fungous before (thanks to YKWIA). Here's a video of what happens to them. It's unnerving...

Ask any self-aware woman and she could have told you this stuff

But it's kind of interesting...

Ovulation Changes Women's Behavior: Knowing how ovulation affects them could help women make smarter choices about dating, shopping and more

There's another reason to track ovulation as well as menstruation.

Sounds fun (although I don't have an iPhone and don't plan on having one)

'Choose Your Own Adventure' Gets An iMakeover
The classic children's book series, Choose Your Own Adventure, puts you, the reader, in charge of your own fate: Will you emerge king of the dominion? Or meet your end in a duel with a sea monster?

Now, a new iPhone application aims to revive the series for a digital generation of readers.

Edward Packard, one of the authors of the interactive Choose Your Own Adventure series, has helped create U-Ventures, an application for the iPhone and iPad. It incorporates sounds, lights and special effects into the traditional Choose Your Own Adventure format.

The first U-Venture is a sort of a sequel to a classic title, The Cave of Time. In "Return to the Cave of Time," the U-Venture, "you go back in the cave — you don't have a choice on that," Packard tells NPR's Neal Conan. But from that point on, the reader chooses her own course.

But beware — "you can't always be sure of everything coming out all right, even if you make the right choice," warns Packard. "The idea in writing one of these is to try to mirror a daring adventure," one that would be too dangerous to undertake in real life.

Ultimately, the goal is escape, says Packard. Lost in worlds too treacherous for your typical day, "you can really let yourself go."
I enjoyed these books, which were a sort of solo adventure game (not roleplaying, as they didn't involve that, nor dice-based, but similar in some ways to the types of adventures the classic roleplaying games got you).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My people!

Big eyes, blubber, clumsy on land, graceful in water...I sometimes wonder if I'm part Selkie.

Anyway, here are some lovely Waddell seals in Antarctica.

Maybes that probably can't be proven are still tantalising

Such as:

Lou Gehrig May Not Have Had Lou Gehrig’s Disease
Yankees legend Lou Gehrig died 69 years ago from what was believed to be amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, where is when various cells in the brain and spinal column become slowly diseased and voluntary motor function becomes increasingly impaired. In fact, Gehrig was the first truly public face put on the ailment, hence how it came to be known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Turns out, there’s a good chance Lou Gehrig didn’t die of Lou Gehrig’s disease, according to a group of Boston researchers that will publish their findings Wednesday in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology. While Gehrig is not mentioned specifically in the study [pdf], the findings highlight three cases, physiologically akin to Gehrig, in which people were diagnosed as having ALS but actually suffered from similar neurotrauma brought on by the long-term effects of concussions and other brain damage. It was the discovery of a higher concentration of “toxic proteins” in the spinal cord that signified a neurological condition similar in symptoms to ALS. As the study’s authors put it, “This is the first pathological evidence that repetitive head trauma experienced in collision sports might be associated with the development of a motor neuron disease.”

Lou Gehrig may not have really had Lou Gehrig's disease: Study shows concussions, brain trauma can mimic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
In the 71 years since the Yankees slugger Lou Gehrig declared himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” despite dying from a disease that would soon bear his name, he has stood as America’s leading icon of athletic valor struck down by random, inexplicable fate.

A peer-reviewed paper to be published Wednesday in a leading journal of neuropathology, however, suggests that Gehrig’s demise — and that of some other athletes and soldiers given a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — might have been catalyzed by injuries only now becoming understood: concussions and other brain trauma.

Although the paper does not discuss Gehrig specifically, its authors in interviews acknowledged the clear implication: Lou Gehrig might not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease.
The important thing about all this is recognising that vocations such as athlete and soldier, which have a higher rate of concussions, can add to the likelihood that someone could develop an ALS-like neuron disorder, and that, given that this is possible, more study should be given to how to prevent and treat it.

See, Star Trek was right....

Remember the one Next Generation episode with the planet of clones stealing genetic material from the crew of the Enterprise because after so many copies, the genetic integrity broke down, and they needed an influx? This is somewhat similar.

Trees can't live forever without sex, study shows
Certain trees are able to clone themselves, which raises the tantalising possibility that they could effectively "live forever".

But a study published in the journal PLoS Biology has dashed that hope.

Dr Dilara Ally and her team at the University of British Columbia, Canada, found that the fertility of clones declines with age.

This means that a tree cannot clone itself indefinitely; it must eventually sexually reproduce, or it will die.

The secret of eternal life has been sought by human alchemists for centuries, but certain trees were thought to have evolved the knack, through cloning.

Sounds interesting

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

From the book's description:
Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison.

The prison library counter, his new post, attracts con men, minor prophets, ghosts, and an assortment of quirky regulars searching for the perfect book and a connection to the outside world. There’s an anxious pimp who solicits Steinberg’s help in writing a memoir. A passionate gangster who dreams of hosting a cooking show titled Thug Sizzle. A disgruntled officer who instigates a major feud over a Post-it note. A doomed ex-stripper who asks Steinberg to orchestrate a reunion with her estranged son, himself an inmate. Over time, Steinberg is drawn into the accidental community of outcasts that has formed among his bookshelves — a drama he recounts with heartbreak and humor. But when the struggles of the prison library — between life and death, love and loyalty — become personal, Steinberg is forced to take sides.

Running the Books is a trenchant exploration of prison culture and an entertaining tale of one young man’s earnest attempt to find his place in the world while trying not to get fired in the process.
And yes, it's available for pre-order for the Kindle. Thanks to Bibliofuture from LISNews.org for the head's up.

The annual Beloit College Mindset List is out...and once again, I feel old

Wear a wristwatch? Use e-mail? Not for Class of '14: Annual list of 75 items that shape incoming freshmen's cultural references released

The Beloit College Mindset List collects various aspects of popular culture and other items that incoming college freshmen simply have never experienced or won't remember. The purpose is to be more mindful when connecting with this young people when teaching. The unintended effect is to make the rest of us feel old. Here's some doozies from the latest list:

  • Few in the class know how to write in cursive.
  • Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High.
  • A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority…unless it involves “real” aliens from another planet.
  • Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.
  • Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.
  • They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.
  • Pizza jockeys from Domino’s have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.
  • Nirvana is on the classic oldies station. [Which isn't all that surprising, as Kurt Cobain was born the same year I was--1967.]
There are 75 items on the list. Check them out and see how old you feel.