Archive for: October, 2009

"Daddy, why is it only mens?"

Oct 24 2009 Published by under Fatherhood

For some reason, me and the PalKid were watching Apollo 13 this morning. She was fascinated by the story, especially because it's a true story. During the lift off, the camera panned around the control room, and she said, "Daddy, how come there's only mens? Are girls not allowed in space?"
Those of us who advocate diversity in science are often asked, "how could it matter what faces are in the crowd?"
Here's your answer.

28 responses so far

Isis and Pal on

Oct 24 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

7 responses so far

Donors Choose---home stretch

Oct 23 2009 Published by under Donors Choose

Technically, the Donors Choose challenge to help out needy kids doesn't end until the end of the month. But donations given by Sunday are going to be matched by Hewlett-Packard. There are two great projects I'd love to get funded by Sunday, and I can't see any reason why we can't do it. If enough of us give a couple of bucks, we can get there in no time. Some donors have been freakishly generous, but a whole lot of 2 dollar donations can add up quickly.
A Story to Tell will purchase a computer and printer to help kids print up memoirs, helping them learn to construct stories and write. Being able to write coherently can make the difference between a good job and none at all. Right now, there's about $220 left to go, and the Gates Foundation is matching!
Tools of the Trade will help kids who are learning English buy a printer. They will use it to construct stories and create comic books, a very cleaver way to help kids learn English. There's $272 left to go.
This blog gets around 2500 hits per day. That's a lot fewer unique visitors, but if even fifty people gave two bucks, we can make a big dent.

4 responses so far

Dispatch from the flu front

Oct 23 2009 Published by under Medicine

I got home pretty late last night. The last week or two has seen a huge rise in influenza-like illness (ILI). Late in the evening, I began to get a scratchy throat and chills, but sometimes fatigue can feel like flu. I went home and had a nice dinner and a shower and felt a bit better.
At about 3 a.m., a little knock on the bedroom door woke me from a deep sleep. My daughter walked in crying, "my throat hurts!" She never gets up in the middle of the night. My wife sent me to the other room to sleep, gave her some motrin, and lay back down. Within a half an hour, the kiddo broke into a sweat and started demanding french toast sticks. In another hour or so my wife woke me up begging for mercy. I crawled into bed with the little one and we both fell back to sleep.

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18 responses so far

Get your flu shot---no, the other flu shot

Oct 22 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine

As many of my readers are aware, most of us are going to need two flu shots this year: one for the seasonal flu, and one for the pandemic (swine) flu. I got my seasonal flu shot two weeks ago, and I'm taking the family to the community college up the street this weekend for our pandemic shots. It's not going to be a lot of fun holding my daughter down, but she's been hospitalized in the past with breathing problems so we're not taking any chances.
There's yet a third flu shot out this year. It's called the "Emergen-C Shot". I saw it on TV advertised homonymically as "emergency shot", clearly meaning, in context, "emergency flu shot". At a time when flu rates are rising, and flu shots may be in short supply (temporarily, in some locations), this is horribly irresponsible. Along with the obligatory Quack Miranda Warning, the product claims:

When you need a quick boost to your immune system and energy level,*
Emergen-C concentrated liquid Shot to the rescue. Just twist the cap, and
gulp it down...what could be quicker?

The ingredients list various vitamins and minerals. That's it. But the use magic woo-woo words, like "boost immune system". This medically meaningless language is deceptive and immoral, and just another reminder that when you see, "These statements have not been evaluated..." you should run away. The flu is the real deal. Anything that pushes people away from real prevention and treatment is a bad thing.

11 responses so far

Donors Choose: Break's over

Oct 22 2009 Published by under Donors Choose

I've let you guys alone for a couple of days, but now it's crunch time. Hewlitt-Packard is going to match donation based on how much we are able to raise in the next few days. They have 200K to distribute, and who gets it will be based on how much we raise before Sunday. There are a couple of projects that look interesting, and all of them help kids in poor Michigan schools.

  • A story to tell: teaching kids how to write is pretty important. $219.00 left to fully fund.
  • Tools of the trade: kids making comic books to help learn English. How cool is that? All they need is a printer, and they'll do the rest. Something like a printer will go a long way. $323.00 left to go.

It seems perfectly reasonable to fund these two projects in the next 48 hours. This will help us get more funds from HP to the projects of our choice---in fact, HP will send out giving cards to donors to allow them to put the money where they want it. That's pretty cool.
If you can't give a couple of bucks, at least pass the message on via facebook or twitter. I've already given to my project of choice, so now the kids need your help.

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Just what do you think you're paying me for?

Oct 21 2009 Published by under Medicine

I get a lot of comments hostile to doctors, and I'm OK with that. Going to a doctor can be comforting, painful, humiliating, frightening, or all of the above. Doctors can be saints, assholes, and everything in between. But there are two phenomena I find puzzling. One is the act of "punishing" the doctor by not taking care of yourself, the other the idea that the doctor should take care of you for free.

We pay doctors for their professional expertise. We hope that they will behave as compassionate professionals, but as human beings, we often fail. I strive to be compassionate, and teach that to my residents and students, but we all have our bad days. 

Compassion does not mean doing whatever the patient asks. Being a doctor means telling people every day things they don't want to hear. I frequently see patients who refuse to take medications, won't follow a diet, or avoid vaccines because (they say) they are mad at their doctor. I have news for these people: doctor's don't lose a lot of sleep over patients who choose to go their own way. While I certainly prefer that you take good care of yourself, if you choose not to, there is a danger that my focus may shift to people who want to get better. 

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45 responses so far

Crank convergence on flu vaccination

Oct 21 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Vaccination inanity

How may topics are there on which Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Arianna Huffington, Bill Maher, and now Louis Farrakhan can agree?
One, and one only: flu vaccination.
Let's give a run down of the "reasoning":

  • Glenn Beck: the safest option is doing the exact opposite of what the government recommends.
  • Limbaugh won't get one because HHS Secretary Sibelius recommends it
  • HuffPo: need i say more?
  • Maher: too bat-shit insane to think properly about it
  • Farrakahn thinks it's a plot to reduce the Malthusian crush of minorities

Anything that unites these folks just has to be wrong.

8 responses so far

Swine flu in my home state--grim news

Oct 20 2009 Published by under Absurd medical claims, Medicine, Vaccination inanity

Michigan has suffered enough. We've been devastated by economic and manufacturing changes, leading to mass unemployment, poverty, and poor education. That last one is really killing us.
According to news reports, more than half of Michiganders plan to forgo vaccination, mostly for reasons that betray a lack of education. This is at a time when schools across the state are closing their doors because of the flu. They aren't closing their doors out of irrational fears, or for quarantine or isolation purposes, but because so many people are sick that it's not worth it to keep the doors open. The economic impact of school closures and parents needing to stay home is likely to be significant.

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27 responses so far

Donors Choose: good news!

Oct 20 2009 Published by under Donors Choose

Hewlett-Packard, the folks who made the computer I'm using at this very moment, are going to kick in more money to our project, and they're doing it on some sort of pro rated matching system that I don't understand. What I do understand is that as of today, HP is tracking how much we give, and based on how much we raise by Sunday, they will kick in some serious dough.
Also, as a special bonus to those who have given, HP is going to send out giving cards which will let you decide where more of HP's money goes.
The details are not clear, but it boils down to this: the more we give by Sunday, the more HP will kick in, and HP will give each donor the opportunity to help disburse the dough.
So now is the time. You're tax-deductible donations are worth even more if you get them in now. And there are a couple of projects that are almost fully funded: for example,Show and tell: building mathematical literacy, has only $55 more to go before kids can start improving their math skills.
Thanks to everyone who has helped out. So far, we have reached over 800 students in impoverished Michigan classrooms. Every dollar helps.

One response so far

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