Friday, March 20, 2009

Mr thalarctos finds out the truth

I'm only faking it, because I love him.

End of a long week; he took his final exams, and I had a ton of deadlines this week as well. We finally get home after all the running around, and settle in for "Battlestar Galactica: The Last Frakkin' Special", and we find out we've run out of just about everything this week, including stuff for dinner, and those Mexican Cokes, the ones with the real sugar rather than the high-fructose corn syrup, that he likes to drink while watching BSG.

I offer to run up to the store which has the Cokes and get stuff for dinner as well, and that's when the truth came out.

He said, "But I don't want you to miss 'The Last Frakkin Special'! I know you really want to watch it."

Nope, not really. I just haven't really gotten into BSG, and I barely know who anyone is, or what their story consists of. I know I'm throwing away my geek cred by admitting it, but I don't think there's anything wrong with it; I've just been hoarding my time for other things. I think once the entire series is out on DVD, I'll probably get it and do a BSG-a-thon. And that will be the time when I get hooked, and I go online to follow the discussions, and debate the intricacies of plot and character. But usually now, when Mr thalarctos has it on, I fall asleep halfway through, anyway, because I just don't have the bandwidth at the moment.

He barely notices, as rapt as he is. But the truth will out, eventually, and it did this evening. I'm saving BSG for a near future in which I have time to get involved in a quality show, but--for now--it's just background noise for me.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Candle in the wind

Image source:

From the blog post here.

The New York Times is reporting that the Lucy exhibition was a bust.

I'm sorry that is true. Among other factors, the days of snowfall that brought a large part of the region to a halt, and the expense--almost $21.00 for an adult ticket--at a time when the economy was crashing are two things that are blamed. There may be other things as well; I don't know.

It is a shame, though. It was absolutely amazing; I had tears streaming down my face as I saw her bones, and I'm not normally a particularly sentimental person. The concept of our shared humanity reaching across almost 3.5 million years was much more moving than I had intellectually expected it to be.

I did have an idea for encouraging people in the local massage community to go see her in the final weeks. Having worked with Ethiopian clients at the Refugee Clinic years ago, I developed a continuing education class--I prepared a couple of massage case reports, and supplemented them with information on Ethiopian medicinal plants, comparative anatomy and its import for conditions such as low back pain, foot pain, and sciatica in modern humans.

I agreed to waive the CE class fee if participants could show their ticket stubs from Lucy, and we met at a local Ethiopian restaurant near Seattle University, Kokeb. We had a delicious dinner, the owner was extremely attentive and shared facts about Ethiopian culture with us, and all in all, it was a very nice time. We had the doro tibs (chicken sauteed with homemade awaze [spice paste, including peppers, garlic, ginger], peppers, and onions), bueg alecha (mild lamb stew), timatim firfir (injera [Ethiopian flatbread, very soft, light, and spongy] chopped with tomato and onions), and yetekemem ergo (yogurt), and lots of injera on the side. We ate Ethiopian-style, scooping up the food onto the injera with our fingers, although logistically, that made taking notes just a little bit harder.

I would whole-heartedly recommend Kokeb to anyone in the Seattle area looking for tasty Ethiopian food. We had a very nice time, we learned from each other, and four more people saw Lucy while she was here.

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I'll keep the list, just in case...

Well, it's been over two weeks since Isadora bit me, and subsequently died. The vet invoked the rabies protocol, as she should have. However, King County did not feel it necessary to test Izzy for rabies, since she was current on her shots, had no signs of rabies, and there was a perfectly plausible explanation for her unexpected death. So we proceeded on the assumption that the risk did not justify the extreme measures, and so far, that operating assumption appears to be borne out.

I'm not showing any sign of rabies, and this far out from the bite, I probably will never do so, but--just in case--I'll won't recycle that list of people to bite quite yet</oldjoke-again>.

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A thing of beauty

As a friend observed, "Shocking that this is new policy? The transparency part I can see as new, but shocking that the rest needed to be said."

Yup. And yet, it did.

I'm going to reprint the memorandum in full here, just because it's so beautiful.


Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release March 9, 2009


SUBJECT: Scientific Integrity

Science and the scientific process must inform and guide decisions of my Administration on a wide range of issues, including improvement of public health, protection of the environment, increased efficiency in the use of energy and other resources, mitigation of the threat of climate change, and protection of national security.

The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions. Political officials should not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings and conclusions. If scientific and technological information is developed and used by the Federal Government, it should ordinarily be made available to the public. To the extent permitted by law, there should be transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking. The selection of scientists and technology professionals for positions in the executive branch should be based on their scientific and technological knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity.

By this memorandum, I assign to the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Director) the responsibility for ensuring the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch's involvement with scientific and technological processes. The Director shall confer, as appropriate, with the heads of executive departments and agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget and offices and agencies within the Executive Office of the President (collectively, the "agencies"), and recommend a plan to achieve that goal throughout the executive branch.

Specifically, I direct the following:

1. Within 120 days from the date of this memorandum, the Director shall develop recommendations for Presidential action designed to guarantee scientific integrity throughout the executive branch, based on the following principles:

(a) The selection and retention of candidates for science and technology positions in the executive branch should be based on the candidate's knowledge, credentials, experience, and integrity;

(b) Each agency should have appropriate rules and procedures to ensure the integrity of the scientific process within the agency;

(c) When scientific or technological information is considered in policy decisions, the information should be subject to well-established scientific processes, including peer review where appropriate, and each agency should appropriately and accurately reflect that information in complying with and applying relevant statutory standards;

(d) Except for information that is properly restricted from disclosure under procedures established in accordance with statute, regulation, Executive Order, or Presidential Memorandum, each agency should make available to the public the scientific or technological findings or conclusions considered or relied on in policy decisions;

(e) Each agency should have in place procedures to identify and address instances in which the scientific process or the integrity of scientific and technological information may be compromised; and

(f) Each agency should adopt such additional procedures, including any appropriate whistleblower protections, as are necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific and technological information and processes on which the agency relies in its decisionmaking or otherwise uses or prepares.

2. Each agency shall make available any and all information deemed by the Director to be necessary to inform the Director in making recommendations to the President as requested by this memorandum. Each agency shall coordinate with the Director in the development of any interim procedures deemed necessary to ensure the integrity of scientific decisionmaking pending the Director's recommendations called for by this memorandum.

3. (a) Executive departments and agencies shall carry out the provisions of this memorandum to the extent permitted by law and consistent with their statutory and regulatory authorities and their enforcement mechanisms.

(b) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity, by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

4. The Director is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.


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This sounds promising

I've been working on something lately that I deliberately haven't blogged about, because the rules about public disclosure are not clear in this case--they haven't caught up to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.--and so I'm in contact with the state of Washington about what's ok to talk about on the blog and what's not. It's still in flux, to put it mildly, and since I have no interest in being the test case in my own Scopes monkey trial, I'm not going to push the limits on this. Let someone else be the guinea pig is my motto in this situation.

It is a simple fact, however, that I am currently working on putting together a Small Corporate Offering Registration (SCOR) to capitalize an organization in development, the Massage Informatics and Research Institute (MIRI). I am merely stating that fact, and that is all I am saying about it now; I am most definitely not trying to solicit funds here. The federal government and the state of Washington are very clear on what kinds of solicitations are permitted under the law; until Washington state tells me it's ok to solicit investors through blogs, I will absolutely not be doing so. There are other ways that it will be ok to approach investors to discuss it, and I will be pursuing those avenues whole-heartedly.

I mention that fact here in passing, only so you see the context in which I listened to Barack Obama's SBA speech this morning. He referred to the economic stimulus cutting capital gains taxes for investors who purchase stock in small businesses. Naturally, I support this initiative.

According to Yahoo, Geithner has ordered the Internal Revenue Service to issue new rules for tax breaks for small businesses, including 75 percent of capital gains excluded for those who invest in small businesses.

CNN Money explains it accordingly:

Capital gains: Individuals who invest in small businesses over the next few years will get a nice break on their capital-gains taxes. If you buy stock in a small business, hold it for at least five years, and then sell it, current tax law allows you to exclude 50% of your gains (within certain limits). The stimulus bill increases that exclusion to 75% - but only for stock issued after the bill is enacted.

Another reason why I'm glad I voted for Obama. I think he genuinely takes the concerns of small businesses seriously.

Of course, he's not perfect--I've got some issues with him, and I don't mind saying so publicly. But it's certainly welcome to have substantive debates over principled issues, instead of the perverse stupidity/anti-human-rights feedback loop of the last 8 years! And this initiative, after all of the huge corporate breaks which went before is, to me, a very promising sign that small business is invited to the table to help participate in our civic and economic rebuilding.

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