Entries from blogs tagged with “The Arts”
A month or so ago, I happened to notice
the highway construction for the new 59 highway the path for utility lines south of Lawrence. Recently, I drove around the area east of "old" 59 between N650 and N1100 Rd. Based on my travels, I did this ROUGH map of what the path into town appears to be. Note that this map only shows the highway starting from N600/650 Rd (1.5 miles east of Zarco south of town).Well, it appears this is actually the path for utility lines into town. Well, it was fun creating the map and taking the pictures. I recently posted on the subject of making mistakes and tolerance. In light of that, this is an interesting turn of events.
View Larger Map
The blue balloon is near where E1450 connects to N600/650. This following image shows the road north (towards Lawrence).
The yellow balloon marks where the highway crosses N800 Rd. The image below looks north towards town.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/12/DSC_0685a.JPGThe red balloon identifies where the highway crosses N1000 Rd (Wells Overlook Rd). The next image looks north.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/12/DSC_0691b.JPGAnd finally, this image looks the other way, back south across Wells Overlook Rd.http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2008/Jan/12/DSC_0694a.JPG
The road continues on past N1100 Rd, but sorry, no pictures yet.
In the last few days, past copies of The Ron Paul Newsletter revealed ethnically biased political rants and the Clintons made comments that many find disrespectful toward African Americans. But do these incidents represent real evidence of racial bigotry, or are they trumped up allegations intended to sway voters as the focus turns on the South Carolina primary?Personally, I think it's pretty hard to let Ron Paul off the hook for the racial biases in his newsletter. He denies writing the inflammatory passages in question, but is it believable that he had no knowledge of their contents? Some of the statements about whites fearing blacks were so extreme I have a hard time believing he did not get a reaction from the readers. The only way a readership would not react to comments like these would be if they were in agreement with these sentiments. Then, you have to wonder, who are his readers?The Clintons have been under fire for Bill's use of the term "fairy tale" in regards to Barack Obama, and Hillary's statement that "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took a president to get it done." In Bill's defense, when you look at the context of the "fairy tale" analogy, it seems clear he meant it to refer to Obama's stance on the war, not his rise up to becoming presidential candidate.Now, Hillary's statement, on the other hand, can't be dismissed so easily. Overshadowing MLK's heroic actions by giving the credit to Johnson seems pretty condescending. Isn't she basically saying the black man had the dream, but it took the white man to get it done? And perhaps even more disturbing than Hillary's remarks are the comments made by Clinton supporter, NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, that you just can't "shuck and jive" your way through a press conference. So, they made some insensitive comments, does that mean they're racists? Who knows. I just think it is only fair to expect the future president of our country to have an intrinsic respect for the cultures and ethnicities he or she is representing. Maybe someday the word "race" in an election will only refer to the competitive nature of democracy and ethnic biases won't be an inevitable part of presidential discourse.
There is a wonderful article in the NY Times science section reporting on some work by Todd Palmer, an ecologist at the University of Florida. Dr. Palmer's work is good illustration of how very different groups of organisms can be connected in very subtle and counter intuitive ways. Dr. Palmer studies the role of certain species of aggressive ants which in part protect Acacia trees from large herbivores including elephants. Acacia trees are one of the dominant types of trees in many parts of Africa so this is a very important study.Dr. Palmer and his associates tested the hypothesis that the trees would grow better long term in the absence of elephants and other large herbivores. For 10 years they followed the fate of Acacias in control plots and experimental plots which excluded the herbivores.They found something quite unexpected. Over time, in the absence of the elephants, the Acacias produced less sap for the ants, and other species of insects, harmful to the Acacias, invaded the trees. The net result was that over time the Acacias actually did worse when there were no elephants to feed on them.Given the threat that large mammals in Africa are under, this study should remind us of the complex and subtle interdependencies that have evolved in natural systems. Removing certain keystone species such from an ecosystem can have, what Palmer terms, a cascading effect on the rest of the ecosystem.The other thing is that when we focus on conserving a single species, say in a zoo or greenhouse, we lose the context in which the species evolved. This diminishes our understanding of that species and the sorts of adaptations it evolved to its original environment. For instance many orchids produce lots of extra sap. In some orchids, the sap is actually secreted from the leaves. I have tasted the sap produced by some of my orchids and it is very sweet. If you grow certain species of orchid at home the leaves get sticky an often will get a fungus. So why the sap?At least part of the answer again, is perhaps to attract certain species of aggressive ants for protection. So what might the implication be? Consider that orchid species. We take that species out the community in which it evolved, grow it in a green house. Over a number of generations it becomes just another domesticated species. A pretty flower perhaps but one that has lost its context, like an artifact in a museum.By the way, there is a Kansas connection to this story since much of the now classic work on ant - Acacia interactions was done by Dr. Dan Janzen who taught at KU from 1965-68.
One WordI don't know Kelly Tilghman except that she is a sports broadcaster and she is friends with Tiger Woods.During coverage last week, she inadvertently used the word "lynch" when jokingly suggesting that the only way other players could beat him was by removing him from the competition. It was unfortunate, and she apologized to the audience and to Tiger. Tiger released a statement that he understood that there was no ill intent.But that was not enough. Al Sharpton has called for her dismissal. The Golf Channel, who initially supported her, has suspended her for two weeks and her future is unclear.People make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are careless and intolerable. Sometimes the consequences are serious and we should do something about it. That is the case here.The mistake, however, is being made by those who are looking for publicity at the expense of others. Racism still exists in this country, but this episode is not really about that problem.The problem is that there are some who spread fear to increase their own power and influence. The fear that they spread makes me concerned that I might say something that people construe differently than I'd intended. It happened to her. It could happen to me and, no matter what your color or religion, it might even happen to you. That is the fear that I am left with. And to be honest, the thought that speaking out against this will cause me to be labeled a racist leaves me just a touch nervous.There are a lot of words that bring back memories of troubled times. One single word can have tremendous consequences.Sometimes, when people make mistakes, we should consider one word as our response:Tolerance.
In response to my last post on grandparents raising their grandchildren a comment was made that SRS pays the grandparents as they would anyone else.We, the citizens of Kansas through SRS, do not assist all grandparents equally. This gets very technical and there are many different types of assistance but I will briefly identify the major types of available financial help. The information below is the latest that I have and may not be current.There are at least 4 different ways that grandparents can obtain financial assistance for raising grandchildren. Each has different rules and reimbursement rates. Then there are those grandparents who may be struggling financially and are asked to assume care of a grandchild but not told of available financial assistance. But that is another story.Grandparents raising grandchildren can obtain financial assistance through:1.Temporary Assistance for Families (TAF) typically provides assistance of about $175 month and medical insurance through Medicaid. The last data I had was that about 500 grandparents in Kansas are receiving this assistance.2.Grandparent caregivers have access to adoption assistance as any other family who adopts through the state child welfare system. Yes, when asked, many grandparents are ready and willing to adopt their grandchildren. SRS reports that nearly 200 children per year are adopted by relatives. We can assume that most of these are grandparents. Not all of these receive financial help.There is a maximum of $400 per month allowed for subsidized adoption. There are also provisions for up to $1000 per child for one time purchases for such items as bedroom furniture, special equipment for handicaps, home modifications, lifts for vans, or respite care. There is an additional $2000 for non-recurring adoption expenses. SSI eligible children may receive up to $500 per month. If the child is eligible for Home and Community Based Services the adoption subsidize maximum is $500 per month plus a $200 special needs payment. 3.Subsidized permanent guardianship - In 1999 the Kansas Legislature allocated $1,000,000 of TAF funds to subsidize permanent guardianship. The maximum subsidy is $225 per month, which supplements child only TAF benefits including a medical card, if the child qualifies for child only TAF. The allocated amount was never used. In recent years about $170,000 of these funds were expended. SRS reports nearly 200 children per year receiving this type of assistance.4.Grandparents are eligible to be licensed foster parents and receive the same reimbursement as any other licensed foster parent. That is about $550 per month. All of this is very complicated and it is unreasonable to expect grandparents who simply want to step up and help the family understand all of this. Certainly we can design a less complex system that provides needed help and honors those grandparents willing to help raise the next generation.
Darnell is receiving a lot of press due to the start of a stellar senior year on the basketball court. Part of this press is being reminded of how important his grandmother was to him and her sad death.Being part of a much older generation I had fewer grandparents and was only somewhat close to a grandmother who took care of me for a short time when my mother was hospitalized.Grandmothers may be more important today that ever before. The US Census reports that 32,582 Kansas children were living with a grandparent in 2006. For 21,278 of these children their grandparents are responsible for them. That is Census speak for they are raising their grandchildren.There are a host of reasons that children are being raised by their grandparents and the Census Bureau does not list them. Situations that I have been aware of include poverty, parental drug abuse and incarceration. These grandparents are providing a wonderful service for their children, grandchildren and the state regardless of the reason. The Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) is the parent for many children needing an alternative home. During the last fiscal year SRS reports that there were 10,025 children in out of home placement. This is less than half as many children as the grandparents in Kansas are taking care of. SRS also places about 25% of children with relatives and it is likely that many of these relatives are grandparents. As taxpayers we pay for the care of the children in SRS custody. That is another reason to be grateful to those grandparents who have accepted the responsibility to raise their grandchildren. As anyone who has raised children knows it is not always easy juggling child care, jobs and other responsibilities and these grandparents face the same challenges. The more than 21,000 Kansas children in grandparent households were cared for by 19,000 grandparents. Most are relatively young with 17,000 between the ages of 30 and 59 and 13,000 are in the labor force. In other words these are grandparents with lots of other responsibilities and they still took on the task of taking care of the next generation of their family.If you know of a grandparent raising a child, thank her or him.
According to a study cited in Science Daily, roughly 45% of internists responding to a survey about the use of placebos said that they had given placebos to their patients at least on occasion. Placebos are sometimes used to determine if the symptoms exhibited by a patient are in the mind or physical and controlling for the placebo effect is an important design issue in drug tests.The therapeutic use of placebos is controversial and given the notion of informed consent in medicine, perhaps unethical. But there is no doubt that the placebo effect is real and perhaps behind why many alternative therapies of dubious scientific standing such as "energy work" or homeopathy appear to work.Many of the physicians put a more benign spin on placebos. The physicians often defined placebos as being interventions "not expected to work" through any sort of known mechanism. Personally I would not want my physician to give me a placebo and strangely enough for the very reason that I believe in the mind body connection that alternative therapists often times misuse to justify their treatments. For instance, I got dragged to a workshop on "energy work" and "auras" last year and as you might guess I had to bite my tongue repeatedly to maintain some level of politeness at the drivel the speaker was feeding us. And yet the exercises did work. When asked to feel the boundaries of someone else's energy field, indeed I could feel SOMETHING.Of course the hard headed side of my was designing little experiments that could test whether or not there was any objective reality to this feeling. After all I ought to be able to measure some sort of energy and manipulate it experimentally. My suspicion is that what I felt was due to the power of suggestibility.I also do Yoga and when the instructor tells me to visualize my chakras, I know that chakras don't have any serious anatomical basis. I don't really have a third eye for instance- unless it is the imagination. I am suspending belief and harnessing that suspension to bring about physiological changes.Physician's use of placebos may well be justified in spite of the notion of informed consent. But wouldn't it be better if people could learn to harness their own powers of suggestion rather than be tricked into it either by well meaning physicians or by snake oil sellers of alternative therapies?
Sure it's a generalization, but I am just looking for a reason behind Obama's loss in New Hampshire. Technically, it was not that much of a loss if you look at the number of delegates, but after the polls put Obama around 12 points in the lead, I think Hillary's victory took everyone by surprise. Looking into the demographics of who voted for which candidates shows some interesting dynamics. More than half of the registered voters in New Hampshire are over 50, so that puts Clinton's win in perspective. She does particularly well with the over 62 folks, while Obama scored 61% of the voters between 18-24. So for the Obama campaign to remain competitive, at this point they should either focus on getting the young people to "rock the vote" or try to woo the older demographic (or heck, why not do both- aren't they putting Wii's in retirement homes these days?).The good news is that enthusiasm is spreading out there for this election and more people than ever are turning out to vote. Both Obama and Republican candidate Ron Paul have strong online support to reach the youth, but the question is, will that be enough?
Today's Lawrence Journal World carried a report of a California study the says that autism is not related to mercury exposure from childhood vaccines. This study from my way of thinking is pretty convincing especially in light of independent studies that come to the same conclusion.For a number of years, some scientists and advocacy groups have been concerned that a mercury containing compound called thimerosal might be the cause of an increase in autism and perhaps other neurological disorders. What I found interesting in the Journal World's report was this comment by Geraldine Dawson from a group called Autism Speaks which advocates for autism research:"The bulk of the evidence thus far suggests that mercury is not involved, but I think parents still have many questions ... I think until parents are satisfied, we need to continue to examine the question."Now granted parents are generally the prime advocates for their children, as well they should be, but in terms of research Dawson's comments leads to a big question. Given the limits on research dollars, should we keep chasing after a hypothesized association between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism which the available epidemiological evidence says is weak at best given current vaccine protocols?How many parents do we have to satisfy? All of them? Some people will simply persist in not believing any amount of scientific research. Now don't get me wrong-mercury in the environment is an important issue and the effects of mercury on health are clear-but why should autism researchers be distracted because a few parents choose to discredit the science?Related Links:EPA mercury fact sheetCDC Mercury and Vaccine Fact SheetMercury Exposure and Child Development OutcomesMercury and Autism: A damaging delusionWhat parents should know about Thimersol and Vaccines
Cal Thomas' column (last week) on Benazir Bhutto took me by surprise. It wasn't just the fact that he had sipped tea with her, an experience he said he would never forget, but that he called her a "strong woman" and pointed out that "leadership is more than biology. It takes a well-crafted ideology and goals beyond one's self." He believed Bhutto had them in abundance. He also stated that:"Women who are strong in the things that matter most - courage and character - are a threat to weak men without such traits. Some men will go to any length to oppress such women, even invoking the "will of God" as the ultimate justification, when God wants to liberate women (and men), not subjugate them to self-righteous sinners."Hmm. I agree with Thomas. One doesn't have to go outside the United States, or even Kansas, to find rantings when strong women are appointed to or seek positions of leadership in national life. It wasn't too long ago that Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church were attacked in some sections of the media simply because they were women. Do you remember any previous Speakers being ridiculed for the ties they wore, or the size of their biceps for that matter? The topic of Pelosi's pearls drew nearly as much attention as her appointment and, at one point, Hilary Clinton's cleavage was inflated to grab pretty large headlines.The US touts itself as the land of freedom, equality and opportunity but one wonders why a woman has not yet been elected to its highest office? England AND Ireland, small countries who could well fit into the state of Texas with plenty of room left over, have already had females in the top posts. England had its first woman Prime Minister nearly 30 years ago until she was ousted by the "Big Boys," and Ireland has experienced two female Presidents. And then there is Benazier Bhutto, the focus of Thomas' column, who became Prime Minister in a Muslim country. She balanced family life (with a husband and children ) with her political duties, and managed to retain her femininity. I know that comparisons are odious, but, in this case, they should give food for thought, even though some may choke in the process.I'm not saying that Hilary Clinton should be elected President simply because she's a woman; I'm saying that she shouldn't be ridiculed and dismissed just because she is. If she is the only women to emerge as a potential Presidential candidate, what is this saying about the women in America? Or what is it saying about the men?
There is anger between factionsThere is no understanding Differences not always celebrated There is sadness across a countryPakistan has been hit, as Israel once wasGreat leaders of Peace fallThey are remembered and mournedBenazir Bhutto led a fightMade things different for the womenPushed for a change that was resistantBut never gave in, never lost her footingExiled and loss of powerDid not stop her from her fightThis is a great womanA loss for PakistanA loss for the Middle EastFor women everywhereThe loss will be feltjust as Rabin and othersThe fight for peace is often violentA single tear flows downSadness at this lossFollowed her since middle schoolI pray this day that her death Will not be in vain But that when others remember herThey will keep her spirit aliveAnd strive toward peace and understanding
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 picture 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?
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.
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?