Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A prezzie!

A local resident heard about the sun bear project, and contacted the PI to make a generous donation of a beautiful whole mount taxidermy specimen. I went to pick it up, and here we are:

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Particularly apropos

what with my Critical Informatics Systems for Infectious Diseases course and all...

What Disease Are You?

You Are Rabies!

Also known as Hydrophobia, you tend to be exciting and spontaneous. Energetic and daring, your friends value your ability to eat things after the five second rule has expired. While you are greatly appreciated for your ability to take chances, you have been known to "bite the hand that feeds you." You have a great sense of humor when you can manage to wipe the foam off of your mouth.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Some sad news, belatedly

This is somewhat old news, but I missed it when it happened. Dr. Milo Gibaldi, Dean Emeritus of the UW School of Pharmacy, passed away in January.

Dr. Gibaldi was an outstanding teacher, and a very kind man in addition. I'm very sorry to learn the news of his passing.

Here's to you, Milo.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Let's just hope they got the right bear

I was about to blog about this, when I saw that Hank Fox said it better than I could.

Still, something is strange about how that bear behaved--it's uncharacteristic of black bears to attack like that. I've heard speculation about rabies, but until the right bear is caught and tested, we can't know. As much as I'm against killing bears for their gall bladders, or "sport", or to get their cubs for the pet trade, I would--with sadness--support the euthanizing of a bear that acted this aggressively, killing a child and seriously wounding her mother and brother.

But killing a black bear in the hope that it's the right one--I just don't get that. Why it can't be caught, confined, and tested in order to make sure they have the right one before they euthanize it--that seems to me the sensible way to proceed.

The only reason I can think of for killing it so quickly is that they want to examine its brain right away for rabies, in case the mother and son have to undergo the immunization series. But even so, the information value from test results on the brain of a bear that may or may not have been the attacking bear is dubious. I still don't see the value of killing the bear before it was positively identified.

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Adrenaline is the cleanser

Nothing chases the blahs away like almost getting run over.

I'm ok, but my bike's rear wheel is kind of wobbly. I was a little tired this morning, because of just coming off the blur, and I got up early to run some errands, so I was also a little out of sorts. A bike ride's always good for curing that sort of mood, and it's turning out to be a nice day, so I saw Mr. Raven off at the bus stop, and then took off for a ride.

I biked down to Redmond, then caught the bus back up the hill, getting off a couple of steps early, because my tires needed air. As I was crossing the intersection to the gas station, a van ran a stop sign.

I saw just in time he wasn't going to stop, and sped up to get out of his way. I almost made it, too--he just hit my rear wheel and knocked me sideways.

I didn't fall over or anything; mostly, I was just scared and mad. I yelled at him, but he clearly felt terrible about the whole thing, so after I had vented a bit, I let it go and calmed down.

I feel more bad for him than for myself, actually--he had a spotless record until this happened, and I wasn't hurt. They're going to fix my bike, and I don't have any big plans to sue or anything--I was scared, but I got that out of my system, and my bike will be ok by the time they fix it up, so that's all I was interested in. But he's quite distraught, saying he's going to retire now from driving.

Yeah, I do think he ought to have been paying more attention--but the thing is, no one was hurt, so the message was delivered relatively painlessly, at least, as it seems to me. I'd hate to have him throw everything away over this relatively minor incident, although I trust him to know better what he needs to do than a stranger does. I hope he calms down, as he was quite distraught about it--it clearly made a vivid impression on him.

After all the paperwork was done, my bike was still rideable, if wobbly, and I rode to the bus stop to take it home. It's a cliché, but the sun did seem brighter, and the sky more intensely blue. Blahs all gone, courtesy of the short-term stress response.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

A worthy cause: supporting community radio

I'm going to turn this spot over to Mr. Raven for an announcement for a very worthy cause--community/public radio. I'd just like to add my support to his appeal--please do what you can to support your local public radio station, whether or not it's Seattle/Bellevue KBCS, which is Mr. Raven's particular focus. Here's what you can find at KBCS.

From his current newsletter:

The other item on the evening's agenda is the semiannual KBCS membership drive. I know I don't have to lecture you on the importance of supporting community radio--not only does it bring you me every week (!), but more importantly it opens spaces for a wide array of interesting programming that's not viable on commercial radio, brought to you by volunteers who do so simply because they care about it. Now, I know many of you are not a position to contribute even moderate amounts to the health of some place like KBCS--I've certainly not yet bounced back from my lengthy unemployment, so I'm sympathetic. But I would like to ask you to contribute whatever you can to help support the work of the station. I'd much rather see every listener (or mailing list member, or whomever) ante up $5 than to get one big contribution. So think it over, and do what you can--with my thanks. The station's website is

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Blogging by a jerk

When the Intelligent Design (ID) creationism proponents advocate "teaching the controversy", they're referring to a fake controversy, the one which they've attempted to manufacture through press releases and other PR, rather than through actual research.

But interesting controversies in evolution really do exist, which makes me wonder why the IDers settle for such an unsatisfying phony substitute controversy.

One past controversial proposal regarding evolution, which has since become much more established, is "punctuated equilibrium", or "punk-eek". In 1972, Niles Eldridge and Stephen Jay Gould published a seminal paper on the concept, which proposes that evolutionary change occurs anisotropically (is unevenly distributed) over time--in "fits and starts" over relatively short times, as opposed to gradually and evenly over the entire time the population existed, as the then-prevailing view of "phyletic gradualism" held.

One thing I always found funny--childish, but funny--was the terms some members of each opposing camp used against each other. Certain opponents of punctuated equilibrium referred to it as "evolution by jerks", while some proponents of punk-eek have deployed the term "evolution by creeps" to describe phyletic gradualism.

While there's clearly a lot more to say on the topic, and by people who know a lot more about it than I do, I'll just observe here that--given the written record--punctuated equilibrium is clearly a much better model to explain my blogging style than is gradualism. Rather than reproach myself for not being better at blogging everyday (like some bloggers I admire very much do), I'll just embrace my punk-eek blogging style. I'll blog as much and when I can, and there will probably be more times when I go underground and concentrate on projects, only to re-emerge and blog about them later.

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Enter the New Year, exit the blur

Friday, I finished the last of my most pressing deadlines, the business plan for Helarctos Press, which will be the distribution vehicle for the book that I am completing. When I look back on the last three months, I barely remember any of it! Still, in that time I got three papers and a business plan out, made progress on my dissertation, my book, and the informatics for infectious disease course I am developing, and traveled to Michigan to give a talk, as well as having some kind of super-cold that really kicked my ass.

The last time my schedule was jammed quite this tight was 1991-1992. I was working at Microsoft during the day, providing technical support for the documentation team producing the first sim-ship (simultaneous release to production) of the US, French, and German versions of WinWord 1.0. Two nights a week, I was in a 4-hour massage licensing class, and two other nights a week, I was taking the year-long sequence of organic chemistry. I finished everything more or less successfully, but I essentially have no memories of that year. This period was similar, but mercifully shorter. I hope it's a very long time before I have a stretch like that again.

(UPDATE: I forgot to explain the title of this post. Mr. Raven and I celebrated my return to the land of the living by attending the Cambodian New Year celebration at the university last night. Cambodian New Year is called "Choul Chnam Tmey", or "Enter(ing) the New Year"--so the entrance of the new year coincides with the exit of the latest blur.)

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