deirdre: (Default)

vintage poster encouraging polio vaccination for children

I’m going to talk about vaccinations from the point of view of a person who’s older than most of the current vaccines, and what the changes have been like in my life.

My Age, In Practical Terms

If you read up on all of those, a handful of vaccination shots mean we miss the opportunity to suffer a whole lot of misery, and a bunch of truly smart and amazing people have been working hard ensuring that you, me, and that other person over there have the best chances at health possible.

I still remember spending a week absolutely miserable with chicken pox. A few years ago, I had a reoccurrence in the form of shingles. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

One of My Earliest Childhood Memories

I remember going to CalTech’s park areas where I got my Salk vaccination for polio around about 1963. I was three or four years old.

You don’t see a lot of people with polio any more, for two good reasons: 1) thanks to Salk, it was eradicated in 1968, 2) the people who did have visible polio symptoms are less numerous as a percentage of the population.

Polio’s a horrific disease that not only killed and crippled people in droves, it has the unfortunate habit of cropping up again decades later. It was not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to polio back when I was a kid. (Granted, it was also not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to injuries in WW2, the Korean War, or Vietnam. Or even WW1.)

I Hated Shots As a Child

Despite being a child of scientists, I absolutely hated getting shots. They terrified me.

I remember hiding under my doctor’s desk in his office, and there were many tears associated with getting shots. But you know what? My parents had not only my best interests at heart, but those of the rest of society, too. Apart from fear, there was no good reason not to get my vaccinations.

When I was in early adulthood, it changed. I was okay getting shots if I saw the shot. Now I can look or not look, it doesn’t bother me either way, because I know the purpose of a shot is to kick the ass of something.

I’ve generally stayed on top of my boosters since then.

Have There Been Problems?

There is in fact a rather horrifying article about the Salk vaccine and SV40 over on SFGate.

Some of the early attempts at vaccines were like trying to tune a car engine with a plastic fork. There wasn’t any real way to ensure non-contamination until we got modern tools for sequencing, replicating, and analyzing DNA.

Penn and Teller on Vaccinations

Short but to the point, this is an awesome pro-vaccination video that neatly addresses the “vaccines cause autism” hype.

Vaccination Schedules

Here is a list of vaccination schedules by country.

Note that there are vaccines other than the flu vaccine that you should get, or get a booster of, as an adult.

If it’s helpful, the CDC has some tips on keeping (and locating) adult vaccination records.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

VaticanFlagOnMoon

As we were wandering through the Vatican museums the other day, Rick saw this small display. It has the Vatican flag, a small sphere with a few specks of rock, and the following inscription:

Presented to the people of the
Vatican City
by
Richard Nixon
President of the United States of America

This flag of your state was carried to the Moon and back by Apollo 11, and this fragment of the Moon’s surface was brought to the Earth by the crew of that first manned lunar landing.

I think that’s the first time I’ve seen anything Moon-mission-related outside a science museum.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)
Wheat field, photo by Viktor Hanacek.

Wheat field, photo by Viktor Hanacek.

Over the last two months, half a dozen people that I’d spoken with for about fifteen minutes total decided to recommend a book to me: Wheat Belly. They recommended it for two reasons, I’m sure: one, they each knew I was celiac or on a gluten-free diet. Two, they knew I was fat.

The first time someone mentioned it, I downloaded and skimmed the sample of the book. To me, it looked like the typical diet book, full of pseudoscientific claims in addition to some genuine ones.

On Recommending This Book to a Celicac

Here’s what I’ve wanted to say to everyone who’s recommended this book to a celiac:

Dude.

Do you think a celiac, of all people, has no clue how dangerous wheat can be?

Did you know that my intestines bleed when I accidentally eat a sandwich made with regular bread? That a smaller dose can land me in bed with three days of diarrhea and misery? Or that about half a crouton’s worth can cause me to run a fever for a couple of days? That my thyroid’s mostly shut down (a common co-morbidity) and is now sixteen times normal size? That my supposed “wheat belly” is actually a medication and thyroid side effect?

Did you know that I know people who’ve needed 16 to 26 units of blood (over a course of one to two years) after their diagnosis? That I know people who’ve wound up in the ICU because of celiac-induced anemia?

That I know people who were losing so much weight they could have died?

That I know someone who was being evaluated for a heart transplant before they figured out she had a wheat allergy? (Not celiac, a true allergy.)

Did you know that I have met people who get seizures from small amounts of wheat?

It dissolves our intestines. How much worse could it be, really? I don’t really know of any other analogous food issue.

On Recommending it as a Diet Book

Look, there are some things I agree with: less sugar, more traditional foods, there are good fats. Except, of course, this diet cuts out swaths of foods that aren’t bad for you. Buckwheat, to take an example, isn’t a grain, and is one of the best vegetarian complete proteins. Why limit it?

But I’m not open to villifying wheat for the 95% of you for whom it does no apparent damage. I do sincerely thank all of you gluten free people for making more food options available to me, but I’ve always stated: if it doesn’t make you feel better or doesn’t improve your medical numbers, I’m not convinced it’s worth the bother.

I’m not convinced that the increase in celiac disease expression is related to eating newer forms of wheat, as claimed in the book. If that increase is related to a single food, it may also be corn or soy. Or, you know, the shift from butter to margarine around WWII. It could be canola oil. It could be that we’re no longer eating much liver. Or lamb. It could be a different answer for different populations.

Other people have done takedowns of the book.

The Only Diet Advice I’ve Ever Heard That’s Worth Following

The first is from Michael Pollan:

Eat food.
Not too much.
Mostly plants.

The second is one I heard from a friend who’s Japanese, though I’ve never heard it from another Japanese person:

Thirty different foods a day.
One hundred different foods a week.

No, I don’t mean ingredients. I mean foods. Spices count.

It’s an interesting goal.

But avoiding buckwheat, which isn’t a grain, because industrial wheat may be bad for you? That’s crazy talk.

Also, because I apparently have to say this: recommending a diet book to a fat person you have just met and barely know is a dick move.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

I’ve collected some of Xeni Jardin’s tweets over the last couple of weeks about Pinktober and breast cancer. Everything below this sentence are her words. I thought they needed a more findable home.

I might write about why Pinktober is dumb, a bummer, and insulting, but I might not. It’s the job of people who don’t have the disease. (link)

Because they’re the ones marketing, exploiting, cashing in, rolling around in all the maudlin pinkness. Not us. (link)

Pinktober is gross & dehumanizing for breast cancer patients. I’m not Jewish, but think of it this way: sticking a smiley face on Auschwitz. (link)

Pinktober doesn’t even square with science. Breast Cancer isn’t “boobies disease,” it’s mutant cells that happen to amass in that area. (link)

Breast cancer isn’t even one disease. Ask an oncologist. 16? 17? 20? Dozens of diseases? Hundreds? And it metastasizes, travels far. (link)

Reject Pinktober. Use the month to learn about people living with metastatic breast cancer, and find ways to help them. Fund more science. (link)

Use Pinktober to figure why quacks like Burzynski legally allowed to continue to kill breast cancer pts. Confront non-science-based frauds. (link)

Use Pinktober to figure out why poor breast (& other) cancer pts must choose between food & chemo in America. Demand a more humane system. (link)

Many women with breast cancer go bankrupt in America, due to cost of treatment or job loss. Not one dime of Pink profit until that stops. (link)


The correct answer to “Did you beat it?” is, “breast cancer is not a Michael Jackson song.” (link)


Just FYI, I know women w/& without insurance too broke to afford breast cancer screening, care after diagnosis, or food/shelter during tx. (link)


Spent some time with a childhood friend this week who, like me, had/has breast cancer. She was/is uninsured. Is she in remission? Who knows. (link)

How often do you go for checkups, blood tests, scans with your oncologist, I asked. “I kind of don’t,” she said. “I don’t have insurance.” (link)

She is single, a creative freelancer type, a long respected career. But no insurance, and lots of medical debt, so poor/no monitoring. (link)

She could have mets, or a new secondary cancer, and not know it. Lack of insurance means more of us die, or live lives you would not want. (link)

Odds of this fellow breast cancer survivor finding an insurance policy she can afford, with her “pre-existing,” grim now. This must change. (link)


A thing I love about Pinktober: listicles/PSAs implying you can prevent breast cancer by doing “the right things.” The Great Kale Swindle. (link)

This “people who are obese/sedentary/smokers/meat eaters/whatever-ers get it” myth made me believe I couldn’t possibly have breast cancer. (link)

I love most that we’re able to take a horrible, disfiguring, lethal disease and turn it into shopping. Because Yay shoppings. Pinktober! (link)


It’s time people knew the truth. I got breast cancer from reading Internet comments. Plz RT 2 save lives! #BreastCancerAwareness #pinktober (link)

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

Great music (I recommend headphones), and if you have the bandwidth, do it high def and full screen.

Link to BoingBoing notes.

Only place I could definitively identify from this video without slowing it down was the Sea of Cortez, with Baja California closer to the center.

Sea of Cortez from teh ISS

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

It’s not about that female thing, or at least rarely so.

86% of the time when it was diagnosed as menstrual bleeding, the cause of the anemia was actually gastrointestinal bleeding.

Note that taking iron supplements doesn’t cure your gastrointestinal lining; it’s a bandaid for the wrong problem.

Also, if you’re low on ferritin (iron transport protein), you can actually directly supplement it, which is what I do. (For vegetarians and vegans, sorry, it’s an animal protein, so there is no animal-free option for that particular supplement.)

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)
This is going to be a rambly post, and I can't help it.

It's about why I think Thor is the best of the summer superhero movies (though I haven't seen Captain America yet), why Kij Johnson's story "Ponies" is incredibly awesome (and, given that it's been nominated for a Hugo, a Nebula, and now a World Fantasy award, apparently others agree with me), and why I felt so emotionally raw after reading the story of Kyrax2's Batgirl at San Diego Comic Con.

Oh, and why I think Harry Potter resonates with so many people. Read the opening of HP1. It's all about the need to belong.

That's probably not everyone's core issue, but it certainly was mine. My nickname was Weirdre. I was always "the weird kid." Eventually, I learned to embrace that, but for many years, I didn't like the othering phrases used to describe me. Then, in high school, I dated someone who read science fiction. His name was Lynn, so he was quite used to othering. Anyhow, that's how I got into SF.

It's not so easy for me to identify why I stopped reading comics. I read comics until I was about 30. My best friend, Dino (may he rest in peace), read a lot of comics, so it was an activity we shared. When I moved away, I sold my collection and was never tempted to pick any up again. Honestly, though, I never thought the art was all that. I never thought the writing was all that. I stuck with it long past the point where I'd have done it on my own, and I did it partly out of loyalty to a friend. I'm kind of sad that I didn't continue that tradition when he was dying of AIDS, but I'd lost my ability to relate to the genre.

Kyrax2's interview made me realize: I didn't lose my ability to relate to the genre -- the genre was never for me nor about me. As I grew up and out, there was nothing really for me to grow into. Instead, I really lost my love of not just comics, but all cartoons. People can say, "Oh, you should see this cartoon, it's hilarious!" I go look, and invariably I ask myself, "Srsly? Hilarious?" My ability to relate to cartoons or comics at all completely broke -- except, apparently, for Randall Munroe and the occasional w00t t-shirt.

That I dedicated so much of my energy throughout my life to a genre that, well, thinks women are unimportant -- that hit me hard last night.

Which brings me to Thor. Yes, I know, a lot of you who saw the movie or read the review probably wondered if I lost my mind up there in the second sentence, but I'm absolutely serious.

In the opening of the movie, Natalie Portman's character is a scientist. She has a hypothesis about the occurrences she's recording. Men tell her she's idiotic for believing said hypothesis (throughout the movie), but she remains steadfast, and she is right. Yes, the science is preposterous, but I totally get why Natalie Portman, who has an Erdös number (and an Erdös-Bacon number of six, the same as Richard Feynman) found that role appealing to do. She's a geek. I'm a geek. The movie has more than one female geek. We relate to the movie in that way.

How else am I supposed to relate? I never had a pony.
deirdre: (Default)
This is going to be a rambly post, and I can't help it.

It's about why I think Thor is the best of the summer superhero movies (though I haven't seen Captain America yet), why Kij Johnson's story "Ponies" is incredibly awesome [note: may be very disturbing to people who've been bullied] (and, given that it's been nominated for a Hugo, a Nebula, and now a World Fantasy award, apparently others agree with me), and why I felt so emotionally raw after reading the story of Kyrax2's Batgirl at San Diego Comic Con.

Oh, and why I think Harry Potter resonates with so many people. Read the opening of HP1. It's all about the need to belong.

That's probably not everyone's core issue, but it certainly was mine. My nickname was Weirdre. I was always "the weird kid." Eventually, I learned to embrace that, but for many years, I didn't like the othering phrases used to describe me. Then, in high school, I dated someone who read science fiction. His name was Lynn, so he was quite used to othering. Anyhow, that's how I got into SF.

It's not so easy for me to identify why I stopped reading comics. I read comics until I was about 30. My best friend, Dino (may he rest in peace), read a lot of comics, so it was an activity we shared. When I moved away, I sold my collection and was never tempted to pick any up again. Honestly, though, I never thought the art was all that. I never thought the writing was all that. I stuck with it long past the point where I'd have done it on my own, and I did it partly out of loyalty to a friend. I'm kind of sad that I didn't continue that tradition when he was dying of AIDS, but I'd lost my ability to relate to the genre.

Kyrax2's interview made me realize: I didn't lose my ability to relate to the genre -- the genre was never for me nor about me. As I grew up and out, there was nothing really for me to grow into. Instead, I really lost my love of not just comics, but all cartoons. People can say, "Oh, you should see this cartoon, it's hilarious!" I go look, and invariably I ask myself, "Srsly? Hilarious?" My ability to relate to cartoons or comics at all completely broke -- except, apparently, for Randall Munroe and the occasional w00t t-shirt.

That I dedicated so much of my energy throughout my life to a genre that, well, thinks women are unimportant -- that hit me hard last night.

Which brings me to Thor. Yes, I know, a lot of you who saw the movie or read the review probably wondered if I lost my mind up there in the second sentence, but I'm absolutely serious.

In the opening of the movie, Natalie Portman's character is a scientist. She has a hypothesis about the occurrences she's recording. Men tell her she's idiotic for believing said hypothesis (throughout the movie), but she remains steadfast, and she is right. Yes, the science is preposterous, but I totally get why Natalie Portman, who has an Erdös number (and an Erdös-Bacon number of six, the same as Richard Feynman) found that role appealing to do. She's a geek. I'm a geek. The movie has more than one female geek. We relate to the movie in that way.

How else am I supposed to relate? I never had a pony.
deirdre: (cancer)
Been collecting these, so here they are. Short version: exercise, eat broccoli, and take acetaminophen.


Prostate cancer link roundup

Acetominophen linked to lower prostate risk
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110523161203.htm

Exercise lowers risk of death
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110105102727.htm

Genetic variations tied to prostate cancer
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110712094158.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/08/100802080151.htm

Men, eat your broccoli
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100712191208.htm

PSA test for women (for breast cancer detection)
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713101950.htm

How Prostate Cancer can evade hormone therapy
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110614154544.htm

Short-term hormone therapy + radiation improves survival odds
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110713182212.htm

Prostate vaccine cures tumors in mice
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110619133456.htm

Some metabolic shift possibilities for early detection
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110705123344.htm
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110627123040.htm
deirdre: (Default)
Many of you who go to conventions, especially on the east coast, will know Ben Yalow.

His mother, Rosalyn Yalow, was a Nobel-prize-winning scientist, one of 15 women who've wone said prize in the sciences (Physics, Chemistry, or Physiology/Medicine).

Here's her NY Times obit. Inspiring, especially for women.

If you are, or if you know, a type 2 diabetic, you should give particular thanks as received her Nobel prize for her work in that field.

My favorite part of the obit:

"Their early work met with resistance. Scientific journals initially refused to publish their discovery of insulin antibodies, a finding fundamental to radioimmunoassay. The discovery, in 1956, challenged the accepted understanding of the immune system; few scientists believed antibodies could recognize a molecule as small as insulin. Dr. Yalow and Dr. Berson had to delete a reference to antibodies before The Journal of Clinical Investigation accepted their paper, and Dr. Yalow did not forget the incident; she included the rejection letter as an exhibit in her Nobel lecture."
deirdre: (Default)
I mean, seriously, Brian May has been one of the people I've always envied. I may have to learn to love badgers now.

"The shrubbery rustles and shakes, then Brian May falls out of the rhododendrons, dusts himself down and stumbles towards five fox cubs at play in a clearing. In the landscaped gardens of his historic home in the Surrey hills, the Queen guitarist looks every inch the semi-retired rock star: huge curly hair on gangly frame, black trousers, immaculate white Pumas and a dangerously unbuttoned white shirt."
deirdre: (Default)
Great article about Natalie Portman's geek cred. Pity if failed to mention her Erdős–Bacon number. I know at least one person on my f-list has an Erdős number, but if there's more of you out there, I don't know that.

Article also covers other extraordinary women actor/scientists, including Hedy Lamarr, Danica McKellar, and Mayim Bialik.
deirdre: (Default)
Epidemiological research has demonstrated a positive correlation between tofu consumption and brain atrophy in men. Note: it is difficult to show positive correlations across an epidemiological study as generally an epidemiological study is against a large unfocused population. Thus, I'd tend to consider this huge, much like the epidemiological studies about smokers led to more targeted studies about the effects of smoking. Here's a link with more info about epidemiological studies and their issues; it's fairly short.

[Researchers] show that women who drink at least four cups of coffee a day are less than half as likely to develop diabetes as non-coffee drinkers.

I've excerpted out the money shot line in each case; the links give more context.
deirdre: (Default)
Hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] rosefox.

Why yes, if someone had taken my anemia seriously, I might have less intestinal and nerve damage because my celiac disease might actually have been discovered.

Money shot (emphases are in original):

"They found a whopping eighty-six percent of these women had a gastrointestinal disease that was likely causing their IDA [iron-deficiency anemia]. Therefore, menses likely had nothing to do with their IDA, and the assumption that menses made them pathological actually obstructed a correct diagnosis.

The majority of the women in that study were bleeding internally, and no one had figured it out until then because they had periods."

Random Bits

Feb. 9th, 2011 01:16 am
deirdre: (Default)
1. Mom points out that given that we (among other people) have possible Neanderthal genes, one should no longer use it as an ethnic slur.

2. I was jonesing for ice cream tonight and found a container in the fridge, homemade by a friend. As some of his stuff has Splenda (which will give me a migraine), I tasted just a teeny bit.

Bacon ice cream.

Who knew?

3. Did I mention I had fun at the Science museum Thursday night?

Rawr.

I saw no cuttlefish. Sniff.

4. Been working on the book. I need a revision metric, and I have none, especially for spaghetti writing like this.

5. Just heard about another "I survived Scientology" book, only this one's marketed as fiction. Hawaii, surfing, guy named Leif. Sign me up! Written by a guy who's already a successful regional indie filmmaker, btw.

6. Tonight, for the first time, Tanner jumped up on the couch uninvited. We're finally seeing her open up. She sat with me until I started sneezing. (I'm allergic to cats but I do love them.)

7. Our plums are blooming.

Plum Blossoms
deirdre: (Default)
Last night, I was sitting in the small room, where sometimes I have interesting random thoughts.

I was thinking about our old house and how the owners had planted three redwood trees facing south, cutting off any ability to use satellite for TV. Then I thought about our current house and its tree locations, and it hit me that both houses were older than satellites.

This place is just barely older than [livejournal.com profile] rinolj is.
deirdre: (Default)
Razib Khan talks about the genetics (and history) of his family's genes and the current limitations (and Euro-centrism) of understanding DNA.

I found some of the family comparisons really interesting.

"If you’ve read up to this point, you may be wondering how it is that my father is 38% Asian and my mother is 40% Asian, and I’m 43% Asian."

(I am, fwiw, 100% European.)
deirdre: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] wtf_nature is a community that has, well, a lot of WTF? And it's all horribly real.

Today's entry was about 10 Creepy Plants that Shouldn't Exist.
deirdre: (Default)
Intro two paragraphs from NY Times article found here.

"Vladimir Nabokov may be known to most people as the author of classic novels like “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” But even as he was writing those books, Nabokov had a parallel existence as a self-taught expert on butterflies.

He was the curator of lepidoptera at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University, and collected the insects across the United States. He published detailed descriptions of hundreds of species. And in a speculative moment in 1945, he came up with a sweeping hypothesis for the evolution of the butterflies he studied, a group known as the Polyommatus blues. He envisioned them coming to the New World from Asia over millions of years in a series of waves."

Apparently, they finally figured out he was right.

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