Entries from blogs tagged with “Citizen Journalism Academy”
This is a plant picture I took last month at Disney World. At first I thought the plant was some sort of viburnum, but while catching up with Jenn Forman-Orth's wonderful Invasive Species Web log, found this post showing a plant called Brazilian pepper, considered to be a highly invasive introduced species in Florida. So I sent the picture off to several plant identification groups on flickr and the ID came back... Schinus terebinthifolius AKA Brazilian Pepper or Christmas Berry.According to the University of Florida's Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, this species is from South America and has been aggressively colonizing a wide range of habitats in South Florida, replacing native plants. As so many other plants, Brazilian Pepper was introduced as an ornamental. The orange berries are attractive to birds and mammals and this combined with a high germination rate under a range of conditions appears to be the main factor in it's spread.You might think that invasive species are just a major problem in places such as Florida but Kansas has it's own collection of problem introduced species. The USDA's list of Kansas invasive plants alone has 35 species on it and the list is very incomplete. Some of these species such as musk thistle are obvious pests, but others such as Russian Olive, Japanese Honeysuckle, Tree of Heaven and certain types of St. Johns wort are less well known invasives.An example of a potentially invasive ornamental, one that I have in my garden, is "Zebra grass", Miscanthus sinensis. This plant isn't in the same league as Kudzu but it is a plant to watch according to the Global Invasive Species Database.So think carefully before you buy that ornamental. Get the scientific name and find out if it is an invasive species-not all invasive species are officially banned so you can't rely on the plant being environmentally friendly just because it is at your local nursery.If you want a particular type of plant, often there are native or a least non invasive alternatives. One useful source for alternatives from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens also has tips on garden design and gardening for wildlife. Another useful site is the Global Invasive Species Database, mentioned earlier. This is a good site because it will clue you in to potential problems, such as zebra grass so you can do a little prevention. Also check out the Invasive Species Weblog for quick updates. Of course our local extension agents can help you as well.
Obama may look like the winning horse leading the pack at the beginning of this year's Presidential race, but he won't be able to keep up the pace all the way to the finish line. He isn't seasoned. He isn't experienced.
Neither he or Edwards have the lineage behind them that would be required to go the distance.
Still, Obama is working the track and has picked his way from the back of the pack and moved into a key position to make a run for the final stretch. It hasn't been an easy task. He has been hit by dirt and mud as much as any of his opponents. He seems to be gaining speed. He is a full length ahead of Edwards and Edwards is a nose in front of Clinton.
I am glad I have my bet on Clinton though. She is saving herself for the finish line. She has great stamina, loves to be pushed for a grand finish and is well seasoned and confident. She stands head and shoulders above the competition because of her previous experiences in other races such as these - some of which she watched from the sidelines.
Obama has blinders on; he won't be able to see the filly passing him on the inside track until he begins to taste the dust that is stirred up as she leaves him far behind.
And she hasn't even begun to work up a lather.
About a year ago, I read a newspaper article about a boy named Adam Thomas. Adam's story reminded me of the experiences of my son, Ben. Adam is a few years older than Ben but one thing they have in common is that they are both quite tall. Adam is 7'2"; Ben is 6'8". As I read the story about Adam, I couldn't help but notice the similarities to Ben. Adam worked in a grocery store. At the time, so did Ben. Adam felt that his unusual height made him feel shy and awkward. So does Ben. Even though he grew up as a tall kid, Adam had taken no interest in playing basketball. Neither did Ben. They both experienced the same comments from people. "How tall are you? Do you play basketball?" The reason for the article about Adam was that he walked into the coach's office at Penn Valley Community College (PVCC) and expressed an interest in being on their team. What?! He'd never played organized basketball. Just a few pick-up games here and there. The coaches at PVCC took him on. They taught him how to play basketball and accepted him on their team. At the end of his two years at PVCC Adam accepted a scholarship offer from a four year college in California, Cal State Fullerton. He now plays for them. After reading Adam's story, I showed it to Ben and asked him if he saw any similarities to himself. He did. I asked him if he wanted me to contact the PVCC coach to see if he would be interested in working with Ben. He did. I sent the coach an email thinking that mine would be one of hundreds from people with tall boys. The coach called the next day. Mine was the only email he had received. He invited us to a game that night. Ben, his dad, younger brother and I drove to Kansas City to go to the game. It was a hard-fought game but PVCC lost. Not a good night for the coach. But he met with us briefly afterward. He said that he would give us a call to see about setting up a time to start working with Ben. We never heard from him. Ben and I didn't talk about it but we were both disappointed. For a variety of reasons, without this opportunity, Ben probably would not attend college.After a chat with a friend recently, I decided to make another effort with the coach at PVCC. I had changed jobs since our last meeting. Maybe he'd tried to contact me at my old phone number. Maybe he just wasn't interested. I didn't know. I emailed him. He called the next day. He had lost my phone number. He was still interested in working with Ben. He would have his brother, an assistant coach, call to set up a time to start working with Ben. After an anxious week of waiting, the assistant coach called. Ben is now training with this coach twice a week. He has improved noticeably, not only in his basketball skills but also in his overall level of confidence.During a recent practice, the coach said that Adam planned to be there that day to practice with the team. His parents live in the Kansas City area and he was home for the holidays. Sure enough, Adam showed up. As he was shedding his sweat suit and changing into his basketball shoes, I took the opportunity to introduce myself and also introduced him to Ben. I told him that he had been an inspiration to us and that we were hoping that Ben could follow his lead. We chatted for a few minutes and then he went to practice with the team. When they were done practicing, Adam and another team member, Kyle, went over to where Ben was working with the coach. Adam and Kyle jumped right in and started giving Ben some pointers. No one asked them to help. They just took it upon themselves to give him the benefit of their experience. At the end of practice, Adam, Kyle and the coach came over to chat. They mentioned that it would be a good idea for Ben to have a gym bag and a pair of basketball shoes that he wears only on the court. I thought we would stop on the way home to buy a pair but at the end of the conversation, Adam asked what size shoe Ben wears. Ben wears a size sixteen. So does Adam. Adam handed me the brand new pair of shoes that he had in his hand. "I would like for Ben to have these shoes," he said, "I get free shoes all the time." I was speechless. Ben is literally following in Adam's footsteps.
Mitt Romney is probably my least favorite candidate for president this year. But even I had to feel sorry for the guy when he was used as a virtual punching bag by the other Republican candidates in New Hampshire last night. Even John McCain was cracking up at the one liners he delivered at Romney's expense. (My personal favorite was when he referred to Mitt's knack for flip flopping by calling him a "real candidate for change"). There was buzz on the cable news shows about Fred Thompson's performance, but I can't say I was blown away. I thought Ron Paul had some interesting points about the economy and wished he had more time to go into further detail. Overall, I thought McCain handled the attack on his immigration stance pretty well. This is one of the areas most Republicans differ with him, but I have to say it's one of the things that make me like the guy.On the democratic side, Hillary had the most to prove after coming in third place in Iowa. Unfortunately, although she did have some good points on foriegn policy, she was the first to attack and then quickly assumed the defensive. Edwards allied himself with Obama on the whole change notion, and when Clinton snapped back to defend herself she came off as a bit too angry. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite a Howard Dean moment, but it was close enough.I can't say Obama was as inspiring in this debate as he was in his speech following his win in Iowa, but at least he didn't make any bad moves. Edwards was on fire about his personal mission for attacking corporations, and his alliance with Obama seemed to hint at a possible President-VP pairing that would be pretty powerful. What did you think about these latest discussions on the future of our country?
The location of the piture posted in the previous installment was identified in the 5th comment. I was tempted to make this one impossibly hard, but I don't think I've done so.This time I won't give any hints except to say it is within the city limits of Lawrence.As before, I hope it causes you to be just a little more aware of the many interesting things there are to see here in town.Here is a small portion of the picture. Each day or so I'll post a version which shows a larger portion of the image.
This is visible from somewhere on the "T" route, so it is not in some hidden corner of town.
Here is the full image of one of the KU buildings on the south side of Bob Billings (15th St), west of Crestline. I'm not sure if this is the building with the pottery kiln.
Well, it's official. I am a political geek. While most of Lawrence cheered about the Jayhawks winning Virginia Tech, I cheered about Barack Obama winning the Iowa Democratic Caucus. How did this happen? When did a cynical 31 year old with no party affiliation start taking a genuine interest in the political process? Maybe it is the war.... or the economy... or the fact that motherhood has given me a vested interest in the future of our country. But whatever the reason, I was glued to MSNBC not ESPN last night. So, what do a couple of meetings in Iowa really mean in the grand scheme of things?Basically, it's about momentum. The Iowa Caucuses are the first chance candidates get to prove themselves. Obama showed that he can bring in the young people, Huckabee showed us he can carry that evangelical clout, Ron Paul proved that his supporters weren't accurately portrayed by polls, and McCain... well, McCain found out he really needs to win New Hampshire. From here, the campaigns realize who the real competition is and can stradegize about how to move forward. I think Obama will get a huge boost. In his post-caucus appearance, he spoke of change and unity with such passion analysts are comparing him to Bobby Kennedy. This probaby means it is time for the competition to attack him. It is easy to make predictions, but once the results from New Hampshire come in, everything can (and will) change. I think what's exciting about the Iowa Caucuses is the knowledge that election year has begun. Democracy is at work, things can be changed and this is the first step in the process.
A favorite online read is Edge which bills itself as representing the third culture. The third culture refers to those intellectuals who bridge the sciences and the humanities, what C.P. Snow referred to as the "Two Cultures". One feature of Edge is a series of contributed response to some important question of the year. This year's question is "What have you changed your mind about?" and the responses are quite fascinating. At least the scientist's responses should put to rest the notion often bandied about by non scientists that scientists are inflexible and dogmatic.Here are some mind changers worth checking out:Paul Davies used to be a committed Platonist. About time he came around to my type of thinking.Lera Boroditsky has decided that language can change our sensory perceptions after her experimental data contradicted her original and long held belief.William Calvin has changed his mind about global warming after visiting Greenland.Roger Bingham has given up evolutionary psychology..or at least what had been the prevailing notion of how the human mind worked.Finally on a pessimistic note but he may be right, Lee Silver concludes that in contrast with what intellectuals like to often believe:" While its mode of expression may change over cultures and time, irrationality and mysticism seem to be an integral part of normal human nature, even among highly educated people. No matter what scientific and technological advances are made in the future, I now doubt that supernatural beliefs will ever be eradicated from the human species."What have I changed my mind about? Over time I have gradually shifted my belief in the balance of nature, now believing that the biological world consists of populations opportunistically evolving and that the balance of nature, like design, is an illusion.What other mind changers are out there? How have your beliefs changed?
I was raised a Jayhawk. My parents met while attending the University of Kansas in the 70's and from the moment I was born, I bled crimson and blue. When I was younger I cheered for the Jayhawks because my family did. At the time it had little to no meaning to me. I cheered for them because my parents told me they were the best and I believed them:plain and simple. I wore that funny bird on t-shirts and hats and chanted Rock Chalk without even questioning what I was saying. Somewhere around seventh grade being a Jayhawk began to mean more to me. Instead of hearing my dad and brothers yell at players on the TV, I too would spend weeknights and weekends cheering on the basketball team. By my freshmen year of high school I was determined to somehow get inside Allen Fieldhouse for a game and I developed a big-time crush on Ryan Robertson. Good days came when KU was winning, bad days when they somehow lost. And one glorious day in February, my dad presented me with two general admission tickets to Robertson's final game in Allen Fieldhouse.The night was perfect in every way. Robertson's free throw led the Jayhawks over the visiting Cowboys whose guard, Doug Gottlieb was jeered early in the game by fans for mistakenly putting his basketball shorts on backwards. My dad bought me a Kansas jersey (#4 for Robertson of course) and I treasured it so much that I was photographed in it when it came time for my senior pictures a few years later. While my friends worried about college applications and essays I applied only to KU. It made since to me to attend a place I had grown up loving. If I had to move away from home, at least I was moving to a place that seemed so familiar. Freshmen year I planned my schedule so that I would be sure to not only available during basketball games, but also so that I would have sufficient time to camp out for good seats. I joined my older brother's campout group and watched my Jayhawks head to the National Championship only to have my heart broken twice, first by Syracuse and later by Roy Williams when he headed to North Carolina.Basketball was a major staple in my collegiate life, although I came to find that KU had other things to offer. I enjoyed going to football games and volleyball games and 25 cent hot dog night at Hoglund Ball Park. And by my final year of college I even came to enjoy going to (gasp) class. The success of this year's football team has reminded me once again why it is so great to be a Jayhawk. Though I will love my Jayhawks no matter what, games are always a little more enjoyable when you're coming out on top. And tonight, although I'm miles away from the Jayhawks in Miami, I'll be cheering loudly. And win or lose tomorrow I will proudly wear my crimson and blue. After all, being a Jayhawk is more than cheering for a great sports team, it's about being reminded of where I've come from. If I'm ever blessed with children, I will teach them all about that funny bird and how to wave the wheat. And if one day they decide they want to go to Missouri, I'll still love them. At least I think I will:.
President Bush gave us a New Years present with the signing of the SCHIP legislation (Health Wave in Kansas). This legislation extended government subsidized health insurance for children in families with limited income through March 2009. Without this extension Kansas would have serious problems maintaining the Health Wave program. President Bush twice vetoed this legislation because Congress, controlled by Democrats, wanted to extend the program to more children. But that is not the story here.Kansas Action for Children reports that there are 20,000 children living below the poverty line without health insurance (http://www.kac.org/ftp/File/Publications/KC_datanotes2007.pdf). This is 39% of Kansas children without health insurance.A White House statement dated December 19, 2007 praised Congress for passing SCHIP legislation that President Bush could sign. This statement said that this is an "important program for America's low income children." There seems to be a contradiction here. What was debated was not health insurance for children living in families below the federal poverty level. Medicaid is the health insurance program for these children. SCHIP is for children in families above the poverty line. The debate was where to draw the line for eligibility. Should it be at 150% of poverty, 185% of poverty, 200% of poverty or higher?Why isn't Medicaid working for the 20,000 Kansas uninsured children living in poor families? There are many answers. For one, consider a single mother with one child living on less than $13,690 a year. That is the current poverty line for this family ($17,170 if she has 2 children). Incidentally, the US Census reports that more poor children live in married couple families but their challenges are similar. So mom needs to get to her job (81% of women heading poor households work according to the US Census), keep food on the table, take care of child care and, by the way, get to the SRS office and take care of Medicaid applications and requirements. This includes the issue of proving that you are a US Citizen. When did we last see those birth certificates?She needs help. More attention, both individually and collectively, needs to be given to these families and you can help.1.Statewide advocacy organizations need to focus on getting children in poor families enrolled in Medicaid.2.Local social service organizations need to advocate for these families and remove whatever barriers exist to Medicaid enrollment. 3.What about a house to house survey in poor neighborhoods that identifies poor families and provides assistance with enrolling in Medicaid?4.Friends and neighbors can volunteer to help enroll poor families5.Friends and neighbors can question local social service providers on their efforts to help poor families enroll in Medicaid or Health Wave.By the way, think about the economic benefit to the local community if the medical expenses of all poor families were covered by Medicaid rather than the local community through donations to organizations like Health Care Access.
Except for sub freezing temperatures outside, 25 co-workers and their families might feel they are in South Carolina rather than gathered in rural Douglas County on New Years Day.What created the warm southern feeling on a cold Kansas day? Frogmore Stew.Named for Frogmore, the mailing address for the residents of St. Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina, the stew is a combination of ingredients readily available on this historical island. While their neighbors in the States might have a BBQ, St. Helena residents add shrimp, potatoes, corn, and spicy bratwurst together in a pot. Our first try at the Low Country specialty began with a round of home brewed beer. Created by our favorite brew master and co-worker, it was dark, smooth, and served at room temperature. While enjoying our ale, we heated water and seasoning packets in a big (very big) pan over a propane burner. While new potatoes are the best choice, we opted for a large, firm baking potatoes cut in large pieces and dropped in the pot after the water was hot. Following potatoes, in went the precooked and quartered hot and mild brats. Almost the same time frozen corn on the cob slid in. Setting the table consisted of spreading plastic and newspapers over the entire surface. In addition, we added shrimp sauce, homemade bread and butter, hot sauces to taste, and many napkins.When the shrimp went in the pot, everyone gathered around ready to eat. Five minutes later, two people carried the heavy hot pot outside and poured the hot liquid through a strainer held by the third. Finally, they dumped the steaming ingredients in the middle of the table.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... Stew6 quarts water
Â¾ cup Old Bay Seasoning
2 pounds new red potatoes
2 pounds hot smoked sausage links, cut into 2 inch pieces
12 ears corn, husked and quartered
4 pounds large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Bring water & seasoning to a boil in large stockpot.
Add potatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Add sausage and cook for five minutes more. Add corn and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink, about five minutes. Drain immediately and serve. Serves 12 depending on appetites.
The end of a year unavoidably brings various "top 10" or "Break through" lists and science is no exception. So much happens in science and technology that a single list may not be meaningful. So I decided instead to sample some of these science lists which you can look at for yourselves.Popular Science has a "Best of What's New" issue online. Their innovation of the year goes to a private company called Nanosolar which has found a way to cheaply produce a low cost coating that can convert solar energy to electricity. Popular Science is mainly oriented toward applied science and technology, so I am pleased to see that they also chose to recognize advances in detecting planets orbiting other stars. Some of their picks are potentially very disruptive technology. Take the Meraki Mini. This is a Wi Fi device with an important difference:"...add more Minis, and the network can blanket acres. So instead of all your neighbors paying an ISP, you could let them tap into your connection. To boost the whole network's bandwidth, just plug any of the Minis into another wired link."This could be very disruptive to local broadband companies. Heads up Sunflower!Science Magazine has a very different list in their Break Through Issue more oriented to basic science. The Break through of the year is not really a single break through per say but a recognition of how faster cheaper DNA sequencing methods are making it possible to really study genetic variation in humans. These methods have the potential to provide new insights into disease as well as human evolution, but also raise privacy and ethical concerns.Runners up include a new technique for reprogramming cells, new semi conductors and superconducting compounds, and strangely enough a brute force proof that checkers between players with perfect foresight leads to a draw. May seem almost intuitive but demonstrating this has involved new techniques in information processing and artificial intelligence that may be useful in other areas such as deciphering sequences of DNA.The Guardian has a biology laden list. The human genome is tops as it was in the Science list, but they also included the finding that skin cells and other sorts of cells in the body can be reprogrammed relatively easily to behave embryonic stem cells. If this discovery pans out, it could much of the ethical debate about harvesting stem cells from embryos to rest.Finally Scientific American has a "Top 25" list. Not presented in any particular order the list, has some overlap with the Guardian's list but also includes the spread of hospital infections caused by antibiotic resistant staph bacteria (Can you spell evolution?). Climate change received a lot of play on this list as it did on most of the other lists including a special report. One intriguing change that is often ignored in the popular press is the resurrection of nuclear power as a serious option including a proposal to build the first nuclear power plant in this country in 30 years. Nuclear technology has not stood still since the 1970's and reactor builders claim that today's designs are much more efficient and safe.As should be clear, many of the top stories of 2007 really are a recognition of technological or scientific trends that began before 2007. For instance, over at Space.com the big space events in their Top 10 list include planetary flybys, the successful Bigelow space station prototype, along with the privatization of space flight, and more space activity from Asian countries, especially China and Japan.It is hard to believe that the Space Age is 50 years old taking Sputnik as the starting point. Considering all the optimistic predictions made early in the Space Age, it may seem we haven't done much- remember the movie 2001. But given the cost of getting into space we have done pretty well. For instance, advances in robotics have taken us in directions and provided us with opportunities for exploration that we didn't envision in the late 1950's. Who would have thought that a pair of mechanical rovers would have allowed us to learn so much about Mars!I hope people enjoy looking at these lists...what is big in science in your mind? What trends are being ignored? What's coming up next?
I just read an article about NYC Mayor Bloomberg's upcoming meeting at the University of Oklahoma. The goal of the day long session will be to discuss ways to break down the barriers of party lines in an attempt to increase efficiency in the government. This novel idea (yes, any idea involving government and efficiency is pretty unheard of these days) is called unity politics. There are some heavy hitters on the guest list, including former presidential candidate Gary Hart, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, Senator Chuck Hagel and former senator John Danforth.I have to say, I am quite intrigued by this notion of bipartisan politics and independent candidates. What about a McCain-Lieberman ticket? And surely, Ralph Nader belongs on somebody's administration. How about Ron Paul and: okay, I'm not sure who Ron Paul would team with, but you get the picture. Hey, if Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda could team up on The West Wing, the idea must not be too outside the realm of public consumption.Seriously, though, I think most Americans agree it is time for change. Our two party system has stymied things for too long and most of us are ready to shake things up a bit. Bloomberg and friends may have just the political muscle and funds to make that happen. I am not saying they will necessarily back the best candidate, but it sure would stir the pot and allow for some more options out there. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting and can't wait to see what might come of it. Of course, there is always the possibility that nothing will materialize and this session will be gridlocked just as much as Washington. But political change begins with discussions and I say who better to start the discussion with your neighbors? So, let's hear from some Lawrencians: what are your dream teams for candidates- bipartisan, independent or otherwise? You can even throw in a few just for laughs if modern politics has gotten you really jaded.
Of course my wife is nothing like I portrayed her in my last post, and she got me a macro lens for Christmas so I can take even more pictures of critters only a biologist could love. After Church today I taken with this sedum in my garden peeking through the snow. By the way, I am addicted to flickr and clicking on the image will take you into my public photo stream.
http://worldonline.media.clients.elli... morning I received a call from my wife asking me if I had seen the footprints in the yard. She had noticed them when she was leaving for her job in Topeka."Definitely human footprints only the person was barefoot and my boss said that there could be a homeless person living in the woods.""Kay, that sounds really unlikely to me but this is Lawrence, and we've had other strange things happen such as the escaped cows in our backyard..so I will go look."So out I went and I did find some prints, but they were not very deep..."Hey Kay nope not human, I think rabbit""But they look like bare feet you can see the toes and everything.""Nope rabbit""Well how do you know? Were you there? After all you can't test anything that happened in the past""Kay, I have seen rabbit footprints before and these are rabbit.""Just because you are trained as a biologist doesn't mean I am wrong...you are just plain dogmatic. They looked human to me. You are being dogmatic.""This is just based on experience...Kay look at this picture. I wasn't about to freeze my toes off here but notice how much deeper my shoe print is than the the ones like you found."http://worldonline.media.clients.elli..."I still think they are human. Why do you always have to explain everything away as something ordinary? Just a rabbit...huh maybe they are that hobbit man or a gnome. A baby Sasquatch. There all kinds of strange sightings even in Kansas.""Kay I am a scientist and we look for the simplest explanations first.""That is silly, all you scientists think alike. It is some sort of liberal group think. You need to think outside the box. Maybe you should go work for the government.""What does that have to do with anything?""Well everyone knows those government scientists fake data..if you are told to think rabbit then you're going to think rabbit.""Besides that rabbit idea is just a theory and scientists deal with empirical facts-not interpretations."Sigh...fortunately at that point my cell phone died.Note: Any relationship to current public discussions about evolution or global warming is purely coincidental.http://worldonline.media.clients.elli...
I've only gone to KU basketball games for the last few years. Hearing Hank's announcing at the games seemed so natural that I thought nothing of it. I assumed he'd been doing it for years.The first time I remember hearing Hank Booth as announcer was at the Jaycee's fireworks display, back when it was held in Memorial Stadium.Recently I've written about some of the things that I remember about Lawrence and many have added their recollections. By training and by inclination I'm an engineer. I prefer facts to opinion...even when the opinion is my own.Hank Booth is every bit as much a part of Lawrence as is Dragstrip Road, the Sunset Drive-in, or Woolworth's. That's an opinion.College football and basketball are all about the money. That's an opinion, too.KU basketball games won't be the same without Hank Booth as announcer.That's a fact.Add him to the list of things we remember about Lawrence.
During the dark days of WWII it was a family ritual to have "Christmas Cheer" (a glass of clear liquid obtained from a quart jar purchased from a local vendor) prior to travelling through the ice and snow to Grandma's house for Christmas dinner. Grandmother's only son always provided the "bird" for the dinner and the daughters pitched in to provide the ambrosia, potatoes, vegetables, etc. Picture it, Oxford, Georgia, 1945. The table is set with the "good" silver and there is a fire in the dining room fireplace. The old German grandmother is seated in the power seat at the head of the table and being the only son, Uncle Tubby is at the other end. Grace is said and as everyone looked up, Uncle Tubby ripped a leg from the turkey, hurled it over the laden table, yelling "Anyone for dark meat?"! Time stood still as the missle slowly arched over the table and struck grandma in the chest! She screamed "Merciful fathers!" and fainted dead away. Uncle Tubby then went across the road to an old maid school teacher's front yard, removed all of his clothing (it was snowing at that particular time) and sitting on an old hay rack, pretended to be whipping alcohol inspired horses. Wasn't long until the local law enforcement arrived and escorted Uncle Tubby to the hoosgow. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
While traveling to Disney World the other week, I picked up a copy of Scientific American Mind to keep myself from being too bored on the flight. One by Sabine Miller called "Amputee Envy" concerns what she terms "Body Identity Disorder" (BID). People with this extremely rare disorder desire to have one or more of their appendages removed, and some actually have such discomfort that they request that the appendage be removed. A summary of the article is here.I had heard about this sort of thing and chalked it up to being a sexual fetish. The reality appears to be much more complex. Some appear to be seeking attention rather than any sort of sexual gratification. But most interesting to me is that at about two thirds of the disorder report that amputation will enable them to express their "true" identity. Thus, there may be a parallel between this disorder and Gender Identity Disorder (GID), which is of personal interest to me. Indeed there are some interesting parallels-both disorders arise early in life, and sometimes the discomfort (which can be extreme) is only resolved through surgery.One might think that these sorts of identity statements are merely part of our modern cultures preoccupation with identity or authenticity, but some cases of BID appear to arise from irregularities in how the body is mapped out in the cerebral cortex. Indeed, sometimes temporary cases of body image problems result from brain tumor, injury or disease. When the disease or injury is fixed, the body image problem goes away.The article also address the issue of surgery for BID cases. Some ethicists argue that, as in the case of certain types of GID, if the person is fully informed of the risks and is not psychotic then surgery ethical. Other ethicists consider this wrong headed and that the Doctor must protect the patient from his or her "irrational desires."Again this sort of debate parallels that about Gender Identity Disorder. Since Gender Identity Disorder is much more common, there is actually standard of care called the Benjamin Standard of Care to provide a way to select those most likely to benefit from sexual reassignment surgery. So lots of interesting things in this article to chew on. What makes our identity? Is it merely socially constructed as some would have us believe? How much is changeable about our identity? What are the boundaries of ethically acceptable medical intervention?There are lots of other interesting articles in this magazine...so you might look for it at your newsstand or for purchase online at www.SciAmMind.com.Citation: Sabine Miller(Dec 2007/Jan 2008) Amputee Envy Scientific American Mind 18(6) pp 60-65Other links:BIID-Info.orgWorld Professional Association for Transgender Health
An Associated Press article from Thursday December 27 brought attention to the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. The news was that 3 stores that specialized in serving WIC participants were going out of business. More than 30 people commented on the article in the Lawrence Journal World. It is clear from the comments that the program and its benefits are not well understood including the fact that there are many other stories that supply WIC products. Let's change the headline Children who participate in the WIC program at age 4 are at significantly lower risk of being overweight. This is according to a RAND Corporation study of 2004 (Rand Working Paper 172). This wasn't reported yesterday so it is not "real" news. Previous research has found that WIC reduces the risk of infant mortality, low birth weight and reduces the cost of maternal and neonatal care. While not news, many people do not know of these substantial benefits. WIC basics WIC is a program that was originally intended to prevent hunger by providing food assistance to pregnant, postpartum and lactating women. This is an overly simple description of the program. Complex rules and regulations make a concise description of who is eligible and what they receive impossible. To check out the details go to http://www.kdheks.gov/nws-wic/wic_nutrition_prog.htm. The Department of Health and Environment administers the program in Kansas under regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture that Congress charged with developing the program.The rules are not complex because KDHE or USDOA are large government bureaucracies. They certainly are. The rules are complex because we don't trust poor people to make good decisions. We don't want people that are not really poor to benefit and we don't want people buying caviar when they are suppose to buy milk. Of course some people make bad decisions but our paranoia probably adds more cost to program administration than fraud would. The Rand studyThe findings of the Rand study that children who participate in the WIC program are at reduced risk of being overweight are quite impressive. Childhood obesity is a problem with major future health care consequences. A program that reduces the likelihood of obesity may significantly reduce future health care costs. We already know that WIC participation reduces maternal and neonatal care costs. Are WICs benefits due to the food that the family receives or the nutrition education they receive? The study couldn't determine that. It is likely that it is some of each. Were the children in the study different in some way that would explain the results? The study found that the WIC children were less well off than others. In other words those most in need were participating in the program.This study demonstrates that WIC is a program that reaches children and families who need it and produces substantial benefits. We should all be supporters.Reaching out to poor women and childrenA disturbing finding in the RAND study is that only 38% of eligible children between ages one and four use WIC. More than twice as many poor children could be receiving these benefits and are not. Data for Kansas or Douglas county are not available but it is likely that there are local women and children who could benefit from the program but are not participating.If you know a struggling mother with young children, ask if they know about WIC. Volunteer to help determine if they are eligible. The KDHE website is useful for that and it identifies Gayle Sherman of the Lawrence Douglas County Health Department as the local contact.
Experience was the buzz word on the campaign trail today as Benazir Bhutto was assassinated after a political rally. It has all the stuff screenwriters dream of. A courageous woman with a tragic past: allegations of political corruption: a return to politics to restore order to a troubled land: and finally, a tragic ending. But what will the coda for this film be? Will Al Qaeda gain control of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, or will some other leader emerge out of Bhutto's shadow?With all these questions in the air, America felt the all too familiar twinges of concern over national security today. And who better to assuage these fears than the '08 presidential candidates. The future leader of our nation is out there- he or she will put us at ease:. right? Well, maybe. Let's see how they fared.McCain and Clinton seemed to take center stage as they were seen as the most "experienced." I bought McCain's grandfatherly assurance that he knew all the players in this game and could take on this challenge if given the reins. Clinton, I found to be smooth and confident, but does the word "experienced" fit her? I'm not so sure. As first lady, she did meet with foreign leaders, including Bhutto, but does this really translate to foreign policy experience? I say this in light of the recent information that has come out on her lack of involvement in the White House affairs during Bill's presidency (and I don't just mean Monica). Perhaps, we are supposed to accept Bill's experience as her experience, but this seems a bit condescending for our first female candidate. I liked the way Edwards stepped up and called Musharraf on the phone. Okay, maybe not much came from it, but I give the guy points for taking some action, not just putting out a press release.Giuliani made an attempt to connect the events in Pakistan to 9-11 in order to prove he had experience (there's that buzz word again). But, as McCain pointed out, Giuliani was involved in post-crisis problem solving, not necessarily anti-terrorist dealings.At the bottom end of the scale, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama seemed kind of awkward with their responses to the tragedy. At least Hillary seemed comfortable with her statement on the assassination. My guy, Obama, was a bit disappointing. He has strong opinions on Pakistan and Musharraf, so why did he seem so unprepared? You think someone on his campaign staff would have helped him get his act together before he picked up that microphone. If you are pitching yourself as an agent of change, use that to your advantage and turn the experience question on its head (i.e. the way we have been doing things has not been working, so let's try something new).Well, yesterday, it was immigration; today it is national security. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. But in politics, you should always be prepared.
The stark news ricocheted around the world today - Benazir Bhutto assassinated. Newspaper headlines will try to summarize the tragedy in tomorrow's editions and many columns will be written about her life and the impact of her death on the world's political scene. How can we ever hope to capture the life and courage of the first woman to become head of Government in an Islamic State? In the US, and even Ireland and the United Kingdom, we take it for granted that woman have the right to hold the highest offices in the land. Such rights are not automatic for women in Islamic countries. The achievements of Benezir Bhutto took the kind of courage that goes beyond words, and only those closest to her will know what it cost.She knew the risks she was taking as she tried to return to Goverment. She was willing to pay the price that sadly ended in her death today. Her husband has lost his wife, her children a mother - and women all over the world have lost a living symbol of the strength and courage of the feminine spirit.