Thursday, September 29, 2011

What do you want, and when do you want it?

It's too bad I'm not the only one who is befuddled about Occupy Wall Street.  I'm pretty darn politically aware, and don't need a lot of hand-holding in approaching social issues, but I'm noticing that I lose interest when it comes to insubstantial ideas.  Yes, I want it to be possible to get by in this country.  I'm very interested in how exactly that can be made to happen, but stuff that is literally impossible is lucky if it gets a shrug from me.  Also, anything with a "Step 2. ?? Step 3. Profit!"

Step 1.  Occupy Wall Street.  Right on.
Step 2. This is what I am missing
Step 3. Thank God it's over.

I don't think that there are too many people unaware of our huge recession.  So it's starting to look like:

Step 1: Underestimate the intelligence of everyone
Step 2: Hey, wtf
Step 3: everyone is mad

What we need awareness of is what we need to do.  The problem is pretty damned obvious.  Though, I do look forward to Reimagine Work, the upcoming conference that seeks a roadmap to an economy that people can live with.  As far as I know, the basic premise is to uncouple income from work.  Now that's interesting.  It's a bit radical for my blood, but something's gotta give.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

It Happened to Me

Farhad Manjoo has a column discussing the white-collar job functions that may soon be automated.  I worked in a molecular biology lab from 2004-2008 and during that time, saw a lot of my duties partially automated.

Extracting DNA and RNA from samples that I had to process is something best done by a robot.  It will treat each sample exactly the same, which is almost impossible for a human to do.  These robots had some pretty clever mechanisms (sometimes mashing up different methods, like PCR and ELISA), and took some work that had the potential to be dangerous out of human hands.

In the short run, these automation systems have the potential to drive costs up, since you're using some patented materials. Still, as it is, using kits with pre-mixed chemical solutions takes advantage of the economy of scale for quality assurance, where you can farm that work out to the manufacturer of the kit.  It often works out to be more cost-efficient and reliable than paying an undergrad to do that work in your lab.

Any of this automation requires a person's judgment call during part of the process, especially with things like medicine.  The auto-radiologist may be able to detect subtler patterns than the human one, but I'd still want my MRI results double-checked.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

Undue Burden

Florida passed a law prohibiting a pediatrician from asking a parent if they own a gun.  It was later struck down on the basis of it violating a doctor's right to free speech.  Supporters of the law said it was a violation of second and fourth amendment rights.  You know what actually does violate fourth amendment rights?  Restricting abortion.  Conservatives will stretch the meaning of the Constitution to embiggen the second amendment, but it's still fine to force women to give up personal information if they want to have an abortion.  I almost wish there were actually a wealthy abortion industry which could afford to lobby like the NRA does.  We'd be freer.

This is an interesting case of lawmakers saying that people are able to decide when collateral damage is okay (e.g. gun accidents), but women surely can't be trusted to make a similar decision for their own interests or safety.  This is assuming equality between already-born people and those on their way to becoming people.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Excuses, excuses

Andrew Sullivan has been facilitating a discussion on the reasons people don't want women to serve in military combat, and almost all of them have been about their sexuality.  Depleted uranium poses a risk of teratogenic effects on a woman's subsequent children* (but apparently this doesn't count for men who make babies after a day of learning how to use the weapons), men will not get over their desire to do the ladies, etc.  Now it's getting to the issue of rape.

Read the post - I keep starting to write something and finding that what I wanted to say has already been said there.  And anything else I've come up with have just been half-assed theories about male psychology.

*This is a problem when it comes to American women, but civilians in Iraq just have to deal.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Looking at the right things

I was really impressed by this study that showed that laws requiring guided driving practice to get a license have reduced car crash fatalities amongst the people who actually participated, but the number of people who waited to apply for a license until they aged out of the requirement (usually at 18) almost cancel out the number of lives saved by introducing the program.  Interestingly, in New Jersey, where the requirement applies to all people under 21, there's a consistent reduction in traffic deaths.

I like this study because it has a broad perspective on what we can say actually "works."  It's hard to get excited about the effects of the program in its current form if basically the same number of people are dying before they get to drinking age.  Dying when you're 19 in't much worse than dying when you're 16. (I have to imagine; I've never died.)

So, the upshot is that guided practice improves the safety of drivers.  I would not have expected such clear-cut results, but then I don't know any teenaged car accident victims.  Thinking about this made me wonder how much it affects fatality rates that young drivers tend to inherit older and less-safe cars.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sacrifice for Beauty

I like pretty shoes, but being mostly a pedestrian leaves me with few viable options in that regard. I went to a wedding this weekend, and wore a new pair of promising-looking heels. I try to go with old-lady brands, and these were Rockports, so you'd think I'd be doing pretty good. You'd be wrong. I walked about a total of two miles in the shoes, and my heels are torn up like you wouldn't believe. Here's a picture of the carnage that I discovered when I got to my destination. Double that, and you'll be able to imagine what it looked like after I got home.

I've never figured out what to do about this.  It's too bad the world has decided you can't wear socks with a skirt any more.  Until this heals, I'll be wearing sandals every day.  I noticed that Band-Aid makes a foot lubricant to put on your feet so the shoes won't rub.  I wonder if that just means your shoes fall off all the time.  People talk about uncomfortable shoes, but don't really mention that they are out for your blood.  How in the world are people supposed to stand this?  

Monday, September 12, 2011


I saw Contagion over the weekend, and there were a lot of things that were 100% right about the movie, and a few that were questionable.

Who doesn't like a movie that glamorizes their stinky and nerdy profession?  I really appreciated how the cinematography saw the world through the eyes of an epidemiologist or microbiologist.  That menacing doorknob is just covered in deadly germs!  Why won't you people stop touching your faces all the time*?  It was jarring in the places where the movie slipped out of assuming that you know most of what's going on to explain some basic stuff to the audience (I'll admit that I didn't know what fomites meant).  And as someone who's done public health work outside of the CDC, I was a little insulted when the state health departments were portrayed as full of idiots.  Still, I appreciate that it was a detour that allowed the movie to talk to the audience like it's not watching the movie as part of a college course.

Speaking of the movie's respect for its audience, there was a strong undercurrent in the writing of someone who thinks people who haven't studied his specialty are dangerously stupid.  Still, the bad guy profiting off of a bogus homeopathic remedy (but I repeat myself) had educated himself just enough to lie well by the time he was able to influence the public.  In the beginning, he was just lucky to have guessed that the first few deaths were the beginning of a major outbreak, and still pretty paranoid.  His conspiratorial thinking wasn't entirely wrong, even if it was corrupt.

I also had a hard time believing that none of the health professionals read blogs about their area of work.  If you're charged with keeping the public healthy, it's a good idea to know how they're thinking.  And of course, there are those written by professionals for each other.  There was an absolute divide between the crazies who don't have degrees and certification but do read blogs and the trained professionals who only talk to each other.  For an attempt to humanize health professionals, there was quite a lot of paternalistic ivory-tower moralizing.

*As a feminist who rarely gets excited about makeup, I recently decided that the "don't touch your face so you don't ruin your makeup" thing is probably a force against the spread of disease.  On the one hand, it seems like you're sacrificing your freedom to rub sleepy eyes to the patriarchy, but on the other hand, don't touch your face so much.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

These tampons will accommodate your fattie vag

Playtex has an ad campaign for a new design of tampon that uses a few silhouettes to illustrate the differing body types that may want to look in to their new tampon, including "empowered," "bubbly," and "chill."  The current iteration of the ad has the fattest of the ladies labeled as empowered, but I swear to god I saw an earlier one where she was labeled as "laid-back."  Of course that caused me to do a wtf and look for their website to catch a screenshot, but I couldn't find it.  Looking at the ad now, the labeling makes more sense, since the fat lady's posture is a lot more active than anyone else's.  Plus, it doesn't imply that your lazy, fat vagina needs a super-special tampon.

I have to add that the horizontal expansion model has been the principle behind o.b. tampons since forever.  I can't help but be an o.b. cheerleader, even if I kind of have given up menstruation*.  They make a superior product whose design all the other companies are finally catching up to.  And may I say, their startling redesign was an improvement on the previous product.  

*Yes, I do in fact think I am too cool for it.  

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Some one-liners, since Reublican debates don't make me feel very serious

I just had a minor brainstorm: Republicans only favor fewer government restrictions on some people.  You're thinking, "Duh."  Somehow, this is a new way of thinking about it for me.  A single, disabled, low-income transwoman in America sure has some liberties at stake under a President Perry.  

Also, if property is theft, how do you have theft without the concept of property?  I assume that the point of the "property is theft" idea is to abolish/question the idea of private property.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Not again

I got my first notification of the immature innuendo being used to raise breast cancer "awareness" on Facebook today.  I had to respond with a link to Barbara Ehrenrich's essay about the saccharine and insulting world of breast cancer advocacy.   This year, it's also a "try to make boys think you're talking about something sexy" thing that makes absolutely no sense.  You post your shoe size and the amount of time it takes you to do your hair.  By the way, it's 6.5, 15-20 minutes.  And my bra is cream-colored.  

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Idaho can't seem to write laws regarding abortion

I've only read about this from national wire reports (and blogs who picked it up), but apparently a Pocatello woman is challenging Idaho's new ban on abortion past 20 weeks, as well as a law that's been on the books for decades.  You'd think a state with a budget shortfall would learn its lesson after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars defending laws they're told are unconstitutional upon writing.

I'll give them the fact that it's hard to ban things which are found to be constitutionally-protected.  Lots of other states have been successful in regulating abortion out of accessibility, but Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest appears to have a crack team of attorneys that outmaneuvers that.