To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

First Sunday in Advent

But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner's fire.

- Malachi 3:2. Listen here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It has been an interesting weekend for the science community. Also for anyone who thought that scientists were egoless, emotionless seekers after knowledge like Mr. Spock.

For anyone who hasn't been keeping up, here is an overview of the climate change controversy, with lots of links.

Anyone who asserts something, especially something that is to be used to make major changes in the economic structures of nations worldwide, needs to be prepared to back up what he's saying. The allegations of outright data manipulation, destruction of data subject to FOI requests, incredibly sloppy documentation of methods of calculating and using data, and exclusions of contrary papers from peer-reviewed journals are disappointing to me but not surprising. The contemptuous rhetoric from climate change proponents toward skeptics ran up a big flag for me. I never mind having my data questioned, ever. Am always ready to take a second look, recalculate, rerun, let someone else have a look, whatever. Especially when my results seem to show a problem in the plant - it's a lot easier to fix an analytical error than a problem with production, even though my pride would be hurt if I found that I had screwed up.

Another red flag was the tight relationship betw. climate change scientists and politicians. I never like to see that. James Hansen, head of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, is a political activist. That's fine, but when you engage that way then you give up the status of being an impartial and objective investigator. And yet he's considered to be a leading scientist on the subject of climate change.

Another flag was the unbelievable disconnect between Al Gore's crusade to fix global warming, for which he got a Nobel Prize for pete's sake, and his total lack of leadership in demonstrating responsible energy use. If he truly believed the things he's been saying, why isn't he showing us how to maintain a sustainable lifestyle? Instead of buying carbon credits through companies in which he has a financial stake, and pretending that that does anything.

Finally, another flag was the steady reporting of data problems documented on the excellent site Watts Up With That. To pick just one example - urban heat islands. Temperatures in urban areas are always higher than rural areas. And within urban areas, you can't put a temperature sensor on an asphalt roof next to an air conditioning unit, and expect to get a meaningful result. This is common sense, is it not?

So anyway, it's been fascinating to watch this unfold. Will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Note to Cat:

When you ask to go out the front door
and I get up and open the door
and you walk out and around to the back of the house and come in the pet door
and ask to go out the front door
and I get up and open the door
and you walk out and around to the back of the house and come in the pet door
and ask to go out the front door
and I get up and open the door
and you walk out and around to the back of the house and come in the pet door
and ask to go out the front door...

...that must be a very pleasant and fun game in catland, but for humans over the age of 4 years or so, it gets old.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ran across this yesterday.

At first I didn't know what I thought about it. It is not the usual thing. While the arrangement is very true to Gershwin's, the singers' style is different from the operatic style one is accustomed to. Smooth and bluesy and without a lot of emotional intensity. Also some ornaments that are very nice but again, not what one is used to. Maybe it's a bit jarring to hear the black English constructions like "I is" with a very non-black accent: for instance, "I" having the diphthong that people who talk that way don't put in there. ("Ieee", not what's usually written as "Ah" although that's not exactly right.) And the over-pronounced "r" in "Porgy".

But it's growing on me, definitely.

Here's a very nice, very sweet example of the usual thing, for comparison:

I suppose that the fact that these two very different expressions of this song each work so well shows the versatility and the - structural strength? - of Gershwin's work. Not a musicologist, don't know how to express this really.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Here is a thoughtful and interesting blog post. It's about what to do when people who you think should be on your side fail you - and who hasn't had that happen, on a national-politician scale, right on down to close family members - but also there is a list of ways to act when you've hurt someone's feelings through unthinking racism, sexism, whateverism. It's actually just a list of ways to act when you're having a conversation with someone whose experiences you don't share, starting with opening your ears and closing your mouth.

Frequently I read blogs written by people with whose politics I don't agree. I run across posts that have me rolling my eyes, of course, and I run across posts that cause me to think new thoughts, which is a major reason why I read those. I also run across posts that I think make excellent points, independently of any political content.

I think that in some ways white women make a bridge for privilege/non-privilege. Perhaps especially white women who were raised in the south and expected to be ladylike and not make waves. You can achieve, but you aren't supposed to make a big show or a spectacle of yourself. But in the workplace, achieving frequently isn't enough. You have to put yourself forward, even if it feels immodest or audacious or inappropriate or uncomfortable, and it's probably hard for certain segments of the population to understand that somebody could ever feel that way, let alone anticipate it, empathize, or know what to do about it.

I remember when we terminated the coworker I've written about before. He left a spot in the chemist rank, which we wanted to fill by promoting a black female technician named Libby. I'd worked with her while we were trying to save his job, and had discovered that she had chemist potential. Like most of our techs, she had a science degree, but more than that, she was very smart and curious and cared a lot about getting the job done right. But when I told Libby that the boss and I wanted her to apply for that job, she kept saying that she didn't want to do it. She didn't think she could do it, I thought, and I knew better. I kept encouraging her to put in for it, she kept not wanting to, and I finally told her - "you're doing the work, you might as well get the pay." That made sense, she applied, and we promoted her. (She turned out to be one of the most productive chemists we ever had, besides personality-wise being a pure delight to work with.)

All of the techs shared an office, sharing desks as people came and went on their shifts, but the chemists shared separate offices, two by two. The desk left by the man we terminated was in an office that he shared with another white male chemist, Randy. I told Libby to get her stuff and move into that desk, and once again, she held back. She would just stay with the techs - she would be more comfortable.

Now let me stop here and say that in a situation like this you have to be really almost a mind-reader. You can't bully people into leaving their comfort zone so far that they are stressed out and actually fail at what you're pushing them to do. On the other hand, some people have been trained to hold themselves back and if you care about them, you have to bust them out of that. One clue that I had was that Libby had told me that her mother had said she must major in education or social work - that "they" would never let her get anywhere with a degree in biology. She was surprised when we hired Libby on as a tech, and very surprised when we promoted her. "You be nice to those white folks," she told Libby, "they've been good to you." We aren't being nice, I told her, we promoted you because we thought you could do the job.

So I told her: "You have a chemist job. You get a chemist paycheck. You go to chemist meetings. You sit at a chemist desk. Get your stuff." She still didn't want to.

"Why not, for pete's sake?"

"Because Randy won't want me in there," she finally said.

"Why don't you think Randy will want you in there?" I asked.


"Is it because Randy's white? You're prejudiced against Randy because he's white?"

"I'm not prejudiced!" Libby protested.

"Then get your stuff!"

So Libby moved into that office, and of course she and Randy got on like a house afire. He's a very nice person, easy to get along with. I wouldn't have put her in an office where anyone would have been ugly to her.

Was I bullying her? Probably. I don't know what to do in situations like that except to think with my head, and feel with my heart, and act, and hope for the best. And, as the writer of the linked blog post says, educate myself as much as possible as to how other people's experiences affect them, not expecting other people to be like me. Ignore the buzzwords that tell me I've left my comfort zone of political thought that I agree with, and have an open mind about stuff. It's not easy but you have to do it to be a righteous person, I reckon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So what do we think about the new breast cancer screening guidelines?

I've had a few false positives. In 2005, when we were in Memphis, I had to get a diagnostic mammogram b/c the screen appeared to show "something" in both breasts. The report from the diagnostic mammogram + ultrasound was that there were "somethings" but that they were not cancer.

(BTW, there's normally a lot of stuff in there, so they do have to be read by experienced radiologists. And the tech told me that the reason women don't get mammograms before 40 is that the tissue typically isn't fatty enough to get a good picture before then. She said that mine hadn't turned to fat yet, but give them time, ha ha.)

The next year the screen was positive again, but this time when I went for the diagnostic, the radiologist said that she didn't see the need; she saw the stuff but it hadn't changed in the years I'd been having mammograms.

After we moved to Florida I delayed getting a mammogram, which was stupid given my mom's history of breast cancer, b/c I didn't want to deal with that again. I did have a screen last month, and of course, had to follow up with more views. Got the films from Memphis to compare but had to do it anyway. Once again, a clear report.

It's a pain in the butt (well, not the butt,) to have to repeat these things, but a screen needs to err on the false-positive side if it's to do any good at all. If the concern is that women are made anxious when they have a positive screen, then that concern is easily addressed if they are told at the time of the screening mammogram that X% have to get a second look, most of these don't turn up anything, so if it happens to be you, don't freak out. If the concern is that women are being irradiated and the data show that lives aren't being saved, that's probably a valid argument. If the concern is that it would save money to not do the mammograms, that ticks me off. And no one need argue with me that delaying mammograms until age 50 is only a guideline - it's a guideline today, a mandate tomorrow.

They don't start pap smears in the UK until age 25. Here, it's 21 or at onset of sexual activity, whichever is earlier. So is it that pap smears don't save the lives of young women under 25, or is it that the NHS can't afford to spend the money? Hello, government-run healthcare.

Monday, November 09, 2009

John F. Kennedy, 1963:

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum [I am a Roman citizen]. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is Ich bin ein Berliner... All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner!

Ronald Reagan, 1987:

We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

George H.W. Bush, 1989:

Just as the barriers are coming down in Hungary, so must they fall throughout all of Eastern Europe. Let Berlin be next—let Berlin be next!

Bill Clinton 1999:

We are here today to celebrate the ideal we cherish above all others - human freedom - and to celebrate the day that ideal triumphed in one city in the heart of Europe. We must remember the role America played in the victory of freedom in Europe, and all we've done since to help realize its promise. Most important, we must reaffirm our determination to finish the job.

George H.W. Bush, 2009:

The point needs to be made that the historic events we are gathered to celebrate were set in motion not in Bonn, or Moscow or Washington but rather in the hearts and minds of the people who had too long been deprived of their God-given rights.

The Wall could never erase your dream, our dream of one Germany, a free Germany, a proud Germany.

Barack Obama, 2009:

Doody doody doo.

***Edited to add:

In a surpise video appearance yesterday, Obama did address the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall:

Few would have foreseen ... that a united Germany would be led by a woman from Brandenburg or that their American ally would be led by a man of African descent.

(Because it's about him, isn't it?)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

It seemed to us that we had a very warm October, and I wondered if global warming was finally upon us. But it turns out that Florida appeared to be an exception.

Cooled down today, plus lots of wind (from Ida, somehow?) and we hung out a bit, ending up as usual at Lake Morton.

You can feed some of the birds by hand but I always draw back quickly because I'm afraid they'll bite me. Some of the birds are a bit jumpy too.

The pelicans are back.

Ibises like to hang out with them. They look like they must be related, but the pelicans look a lot calmer. The ibises are a bit frenetic. Maybe that goes with being smaller.

Sometimes when the pelicans are resting they turn their heads all the way around and nestle their beaks between their wings. It is the strangest looking thing.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

I get spam.

Am Juliet,a tall good looking young girl,so lovely
and caring with good understanding.fair in complexion,care with good
sharing,honesty.I saw your ad at which interested me much
and i decided to contact you.I really want to have a good friendship with you
even if you have married we can be friend ok ,i have a reason of
selecting you as my friend,pls if you wish to know more.Pls contact me
through this my id We need to talk and
know ourself more and equally share pictures to each other.hope to hear
from you.

Bye with a warmly

Who among us doesn't need/wouldn't like a warmly huggs? Still, I think I'll pass.