Saturday, May 10, 2008

That Hōkūle'a story I love...

Over at archy, the term "haole", came up in discussion, reminding me of my favorite story around the building and launching of the Hōkūle'a. Talking about jettisoning things from my almost-accepted journal paper reminded me of that story.

From my comment there (which I can't find at the moment :( ):

Back in 1975-6, efforts were underway in Hawai'i to build a traditional Polynesian canoe to recreate the voyage of the ancient Tahitians to discover Hawai'i: the "Hōkūle'a", or "star of joy" (Arcturus).

Naturally, in addition to the scientific, historical, and anthropological concerns, political, racial, and other human social frictions developed--there were efforts, like Heyerdahl's, that were perceived as denigrating though implying the Polynesians couldn't or wouldn't have made the journey; it was the Bicentennial, so a lot of self-congratulatory Anglo patriotic fervor was in the air--lots and lots of things like that led to cumnulative friction between the (mostly white) scientists and the native Hawai'ians on the project, and relations were at a nadir by the time they
set sail [typo in original corrected].

They ran into some bad weather partway out, and had to jettison some extra weight to stabilize the ship. One of the things they threw overboard were some of the shelters on the deck, modeled after traditional housing, or "hales" (pronounced hah-lehs). They radioed back to base that they were "throwing the hales overboard".

Bad transmission quality due to weather, plus the history of the relations among the crew through the course of the project, caused the crew at the base to hear that they were "throwing the haoles [white people] overboard". Much excitement ensued, until that particular misunderstanding was straightened out.

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(Conditionally) accepted

I am (conditionally) very proud and excited!

My journal paper based on my dissertation has been conditionally accepted, so I probably shouldn't name the journal until all systems are definitely go--as the saying goes, there's many a slip, and anything could happen in the meantime.

But it looks good. I actually suspected this might happen; Mr. thalarctos and I were running errands by bus Thursday, and with plenty of time to talk about things while in transit, this pending paper submission was one of the things that came up. My position, which he basically agreed with, was that, while they technically *could* turn it down, I really didn't think they would, given that the rewrites they requested the first time around were so extensive that I basically did to the first draft what an Ichneumon wasp does to a caterpillar*. I couldn't imagine that, after I did all that work, they'd flat out reject it--but they could object to the part where I didn't incorporate their suggestions, and send it back for more work on that basis--and the next day, that's exactly what they did. (Hey, I must be psychic! </confirmation-bias>)

They want it shortened 20%-30%--that's not surprising; as has been observed more than once, the secret of my and Dorothy's writing partnership is that I over-write, and she under-writes, so we cancel out each other's worst excesses. In my first quarter of my grad program, we were assigned a 5-page paper; I delivered 25 pages on the topic. So yeah, they're right, and I'm a repeat offender on this score--no biggie, I'll fix that. As the first reviewer observes:

To be honest, this is probably more than what a fairly motivated researcher cares to read. A possible consequence is that this paper will not be cited much, which is detrimental to both the authors and the journal.

Oh, I *want* this paper cited, often and extensively, and to that end, I'll find 30% to jettison (heh--reminds me of the Hokulea story, which I'll tell later).

There is another change in response to the reviewers that I'll make, but I'm not giving up on it, just taking another tack:

The summary of the contribution seems a bit grandiose to this reviewer. (CAIS [Comparative Anatomy Information System] has "a wide array of important implications")

I'll change it in the article, but I'll keep it here: yes, I believe whole-heartedly that CAIS has a wide array of important implications. The thing is, it's easy to talk big, and there's no qualitative difference between my saying that here, and mouthing off in a bar about it. It's not science until I actually do it. My upcoming job, therefore, is to substantively deliver on this statement--stay tuned!

* no, I *didn't* literally lay my eggs inside, and paralyze it, so that my larvae could eat it alive.

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Isadora update

Isadora's bloodwork is in, and the results are mostly good. The only exceptions are in the complete blood count (CBC): slightly-elevated white blood cells, and slight anemia (low red blood cell [RBC] count).

She tested negative on all the viruses she was tested for--feline leukemia, feline infectious peritonitis, and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Ruling out those viruses ruled out some of the potential causes behind the elevated WBCs--there still may be some inflammatory or infectious process going on that was not tested for, however. One thing that could have happened is that the ear infection has burst through the ear drum, and is now in the middle and inner ear. So we'll continue to treat her with systemic antibiotics, as well as topical, to address that--the cauliflower ear is so deformed and full of cysts that the vet cannot see down into it, and I can't get the eardrops in very far at all.

But even if that explains the elevated WBCs, it does not explain the anemia. The vet explained that anemias can be classified as regenerative or non-regenerative, referring to the presence of immature RBCs, indicating that the body is making up the anemia by creating new RBCs. Regenerative anemia causes include such things as acute blood loss, for example, which the body responds to by upping the production of new blood cells.

Isadora's anemia is non-regenerative, and for the moment, we do not know what's causing it. We hope that the X-rays Tuesday shed more light on what's going on in her abdomen--for example, is the liver behind both the anemia and suspected fluid in her abdomen?

I hope we have some info soon, but in the meantime, she is definitely feeling better after the antibiotic injection, the lysine for the weepy eyes, and the ear drops. She's talkier and more active, pretty much as soon as we got back from the vet. However, I dread the battle of wills that the twice-daily ear drops became last time, and now doubt will develop into again. Oh, well, as the human, I get to suck it up, because it clearly helps her feel better.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Radical equations

Just finished it.

It's a great book, and I'll be blogging more about it later. It took a while to get through, because it was bus reading, and bus trips these days are pretty short ones. But Robert Moses has a lot of stories to tell*, and he has a great concept of making algebra meaningful to learners**. I'll definitely get back to this.

* as I observed to Morris Dees when I had the honor of meeting him at one of his talks, I appreciate his staying to fight the good fight, when that was more than I could do.

** and comparative anatomy informaticists as well. I am so going to cite his work in my anatomical algebra as I develop it.

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Isadora's ear

Isadora's cauliflower ear is causing such problems with chronic ear infections that it looks like the best path is going to be total amputation. Not just the pinna, but all the way down into the middle and inner ear as well.

First of all, Isadora needs to be in shape for surgery, and at the moment, that's not a given at all. She has chronic upper respiratory infections; she's lost a lot of weight since the "Isadora the Hutt" days, and she has a potbelly that is disturbingly suggestive of fluid in the abdomen, a non-specific symptom, but not a good one in any case. So the first thing is a major work-up for her.

If she checks out ok for four systems on that work-up--heart, respiratory, kidney, and liver--then she's going to get major surgery to remove her outer, middle, and inner ear. It sounds as drastic as it is--the thing is, her cauliflower ear is so obstructed that the vet can't even see down into it to determine how extensive the infection is. It really needs to come out, if possible. So if she has the surgery, she'll stay at the vet's for a day or two of intensive care, and then she'll come home, looking like a total bad-ass, with an amputated ear and an Elizabethan collar.

I expect that will have an effect on the balance of power in our little cat society, too, as cats--like primates--seem to like to pick on anyone who appears vulnerable, and Isadora is one of the warring queens vying for dominance in our little world.

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Monday, May 05, 2008

Hurricane Nargis hits Burma with devastating results

Over at ScienceBlogs, Nargis is getting some coverage at the Intersection and Pharyngula.

The US Campaign for Burma is taking donations for hurricane relief, and more information as is develops is available at and

The New York Times has also covered it.

Here's a message about the effects of Nargis from someone still in Burma, with some info redacted.

Sorry to convey you the unpleasant news.

According to experts, it will take years to reconstruct Rgn and other towns as all infrastructures are collapsed now. It will take at least 40 days to reinstall electrical lines. Main water supply system is damaged and the whole city cannot get any water now. A bottle of watter cost 800 kts and there is no more stock now. Fuel price is 10,000 kts per gal tonight. Bus fare from downtown to Insein is 2000 kts. An egg cost 300 kts, and all food and commodities cannot be bought easily.

About half of housings are damaged in Rgn. Hlaingtharyar, Shwepyithar and Dagon are most hard hit. Some quarters were blown away completely. But there are very few information available, as people cannot move around even in your own quarter.

In Phyarpone, Pyinsi village out of 3000 villagers, only 700 left behind. They lost the rest. In Hainegyi, there are 95,000 homeless on the town alone. No relief assistance is available. I think hundreds of thousands of people's life are at stake, if no rescue program start in time. Kyaiklatt and Lapputta are the hardest hit, it is said. Many villages are still under flood and no food or water is available.

In Rgn, all the roads are still blocked with fallen trees. There is no public conveyance system. Almost all phone systems are dead, except very few CDMA lines which are reconnected this evening. All trees from U Wisarra road are uprooted. All big pagodas are damaged.

Only Kabaaye road is cleaned today. Prome road is still closed. No news from Daw Suu [Aung San Suu Kyi] compound yet. NLD signboard [Aung San Suu Kyi's coalition] is blown away. All advertisement signboards were fallen and all satellite antennas fall down from roofs.

There are news that hall no 1, Insein jail was burnt down to ground during the storm. Cannot confirm yet, as everyone is still busy repairing their own house and try to make their way out. The whole city is totally paralyzed and people are panic of extensive looting in the coming days.

There is no hope to get food for majority of the population. There is not even enough candles to buy. All hospitals are hit hard too and medical personnel cannot attend the patients.

I heard SPDC [the government's State Peace and Development Council] refuse some aid offers. They will not rebuilt Rgn but encourage people to move to Naypyidaw.

It is unthinkable to survive with no food, no water, no medecine, no roof, no electricity, no phones, no transport, no fuel or candle, (No job, no money, no hope) and no help.

I will update you more soon.




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Sweet little scene

So I was returning the car I rented over the weekend to the rental agency in the mall, and while I was waiting for the clerk, I looked across the street. Three white guys in suits, strolling down the sidewalk, sipping coffee and chatting. Nothing unusual there--until they got to the break between two parked cars, and there was a mother goose and 4 half-grown goslings, walking along between them.

I was concerned that the guys would turn at the corner, going to wherever they were headed, leaving the goose and her goslings to proceed straight across the busy street to a large field, where nothing business-related was located where they could be on the way to. I was just getting ready to run out the door to stop oncoming traffic, but no worries.

Wherever the guys in suits were headed, it wasn't so urgent that they couldn't walk the family across the street. One guy flagged down cars, and then they all walked across the street together, as cars in both directions stopped until they were past. They helped the goslings up over the curb, before parting ways, and the family waddled safely into the field. Last I saw them, they were heading toward the creek.

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

The big one

Today's Vappu, Beltane, Labor Day (in the rest of the world at least), and my 50th birthday. I spent it doing neuroanatomy. I can't think of any way to go into my next half-century that I'd prefer.

It is, however, gratifying to see the looks on people's faces who didn't know exactly how old I was. I always say, if I can't be young, immature's the next best thing, and it seems to be working so far!


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