August 20, 2012
Is it just me or does the average “free thought”, skeptical / atheist blog comment thread resemble 20 Jack Russell sized dogs simultaneously attempting to ineffectually hump the same person’s leg?
August 24, 2011
Riddle me this.
For background, Isis the Scientist started some shit by posting
which sounds totally noncontroversial right from the start. But since it reviewed some data on home birth suggesting up to 37% of planned home births result in emergency hospital visits and noting as much as a 0.3% uptick in the neonatal death rate, well, the home birth fans went shitnutz.
One can only hope that this homebirth person who had one kid die, one need resuscitation and still can’t understand why anyone would think she’s high risk is rare. Very rare.
Kate Clancy, for whom I have a great deal of respect on most issues, has a somewhat reasonable post up on the motivations for home birther fanaticism.
And these motivations are key, I agree. Because these motivations are driving otherwise reasonable people into a frenzy of woo based illogic that is really something to see.
There is one particular bit of thinking that I cannot for the life of me grasp. I’m going to pick on this post from homebirthercurious Dr.B
Hospitals are clearly equipped for dealing with the worst case scenarios. But it also seems that they are big fans of unnecessary interventions.
but really it pops up everywhere. Such as on the Twitts:
Given that it’s kinda a one way trip, how does one determine this? RT @DrSnit: @drisis I don’t see your blog about unnecessary c-sections
absent evidence of convenience scheduling, you simply have no idea what the “unnecessary” rate actually IS. No way to tell. @DrSnit
In birthing, the only way to know if a procedure was “unnecessary” or “necessary” is to either do it or not do it and figure out if the bad consequence is prevented, ameliorated or unaffected. And unfortunately you only get one try for each case study. Which means that you cannot actually know for sure for any particular case whether the procedures were in fact “necessary”.
Please explain to me, homebirther fans who wield the “unnecessary intervention” cudgel, exactly how you can determine which procedures were and were not necessary in advance. Because I am missing your logic here.
Look, science-based and/or evidence-based medicine recognizes that in the cases that are interesting*, there is rarely such a thing as a clear cut 100% accurate prediction of the future. What there is are probability distributions. If the kid’s heart rate slows down by such and such, the damn cord is wrapped around it’s neck X% of the time. Or, when the kid is in breech, Y% of the time the delivery ain’t going well.
Which always leaves some percentage of the time that everything is going to be fine and dandy.
Between fine-and-dandy land and 100% of births, however, you are playing with the health, well-being and even viability of a new human being. And this, mind you, is just for the stuff we can actually detect with high confidence is an adverse effect on the child. Dying is a pretty good one there, also hypoxia induced brain damage.
We do not know, however, if there are more subtle effects. Maybe you knock 5 pts off the kid’s IQ because you insist on laboring too long for “the experience”. Maybe you bathe that little wackaloon in hormonal responses that produce a raft of a subtle effects on development? Or maybe the child’s innate stress responses set a different stage. Who knows? Me, I’m betting on the side of smooth deliveries. Relatively rapid appearance of the kid once the laboring commences is my preference.
This last part is MY version of birth woo. I’d rather not take chances.
April 20, 2011
The notion that 30 minutes of sustained writing is “madwriting” as if it is some sort of miracle of concentration and productivity is fascinating.
If you had asked me before a day or two ago what I considered highly focused and concentrated writing, I would have said something around about 3-4 hour blocks. If I can get those in, I see some serious progress made on manuscripts or grant applications. Or animal use protocols, or biohazards protocols, or chemical hazards protocols.
And when I’m trying to hit a grant deadline, I’m going to need to put in several of these, anywhere from 5 to 10….and that’s when the writing is going well. Plus, I’ve been doing this for awhile so it isn’t exactly novel behavior…
Writing my dissertation? I was putting in 3-4 hour blocks of time one to two times per day for weeks. That was #madwriting*.
30 minute writing sprints?
Well, I suppose it is very good practice for 4pm on a grant deadline day when the admin says “Where’s the Abstract, Statement of Public Health Relevance and did you update the personal statement on your Biosketch?”
*there were circumstances. there usually are…
The Twitter Phenomenon of #madwriting
March 6, 2011
You know when you have some large group email debate for a couple of hours? And some passive aggressive douchcanoes just can’t wait to tell you how their precious time is being wasted and how you MUST remove their email address RIGHT NOW!!!?
Those fuckers who send this whinging complaint a couple of days after the last message crack me the fuck up.
January 24, 2011
after a whopping 4 months on the job, Engineering Professor says:
I think my lab is finally running out of things that can go wrong.
[ wipes eyes ]
[ clasps stomach ]
January 14, 2011
There are certain things I have recently been informed that it is improper to discuss in mixed company.
So I’ll put the rest of the discussion after the jump.
December 7, 2010
dying of a compound fractured leg- totes natural
assorted infections and pathogens- the human species has survived them for millenia, they are TOTES natural!
Black Plague death of millyuns- NATURAL!
Myopia is motherfucking NATURE talking to your ass!
I am not truly ALIVE as a motherfucking MAN of the Homo sapiens (hear me fucking ROAR) unless I make it without any fucking sissy ass trappings of modern life that make it less risky to be…ALIVE!!!!!!
YES! Natural F. T. M. H. W!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Oh, and if you need a motherfucking “doula” to assist with the birth you’ve crossed that bescumbered rubicon of the uNnatUral already—-GET THEE TO YON THICKET, O GRAVID-PERSON!!!!)
the current argument seems to be that if you get some perfectly manicured “low risk” pregnancy and you have a “birth center” (with well trained staff*) right across the street from an emergency room than everything comes up roses in the data. And nevermind at all that this carefully constructed argument is going to be used to extend to homebirthing and high-risk or medium-risk pregnancies. nevermind low incidence “we didn’t see THAT one coming” emergencies, etc. and then they have the the chutzpah to compare to average or worst-case in-hospital situations as far as I can tell. Or point to anecdotes about fuckups as a triumphant argument.
You have to be kidding me.
*and I am certainly more about the specific training then I am about a MD.
Go Read The Tragic Deathtoll of Homebirth.
October 13, 2010
Some cancer researcher named Scott E. Kern, M.D. published one of those grouchfestos about how scientific trainees these days are lazy and don’t work enough at the bench. Of course normally these types just content themselves with a letter to their lab which occasionally, hilariously hits the Intertoobs for everyone’s enjoyment. Of course, these screeds are almost always dripping with the privilege of having been a trainee at a time far removed from the present. A time when a single scientist’s salary supported a family life and the American Dream, when female spouses were much more likely to pick up the slack on the homefront, when it was acceptable to be an out-of-touch Dad because PraiseTheLord this science stuff was….important!
There is another angle to this story and it has to do with worker protections. I’ll direct you to this excellent reminder of why we have labor laws that protect all of us from the completely obvious logic that we should work 80 hrs a week at our jobs, whatever they may be.
Let us return to the days before May of 1918. Young children can be trained to run gels and staff the centrifuges of our nation’s cancer research centers. Piecework and child labor made this nation strong once before. Let them be wielded once more as mighty weapons in the War on Cancer. A beneficial side effect is that many children, like the slate pickers, will likely be exposed to carcinogenic and mutagenic substances, since the little dickens just aren’t always so careful and clever as they think they are. So they can work for us while simultaneously serving as de facto research subjects, and think of the cost savings with that kind of vertical integration!
This brings me back to the fact that a couple of commenters have been going at it in the comments here this week over whether Americans are lazy and deserve to be outpaced by eager beaver immigrants.
Well, turns out the idea of being overworked is as American as apple pie.
According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”
Using data by the U.S. BLS, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950. One way to look at that is that it should only take one-quarter the work hours, or 11 hours per week, to afford the same standard of living as a worker in 1950 (or our standard of living should be 4 times higher). Is that the case? Obviously not. Someone is profiting, it’s just not the average American worker.
This analysis couldn’t possible apply to St. Kern’s screed, could it?
Someone is profiting, it just isn’t the average postdoctoral trainee in American labs.
Is it the cancer victim that is profiting? or is it the PI who heads a large lab group that is profiting from the overworked scientific trainee?
September 28, 2010
If you are in a position that Journal of Neuroscience is to be sneered at for an insufficiently high IF, you are a GlamourMag scientist. Topic is irrelevant at that point.
August 29, 2010
Ethan Siegel has a highly topical observation up over at his blog, Starts with a Bang. It is as simple as this:
But we do not let fear dictate what we are free to do. Syed, Atiyah, Freida, and all the other Muslims I grew up with are no more or less American than any of us, and it is the right of every Muslim-American to expect the exact same freedoms that we have.
Glenn Beck’s little #Whitestock rally for racist #teabaggers at the Lincoln Memorial may have fizzled in terms of numbers but it really should be a wake up call for RealAmericans. You know, the ones who actually believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the ensuing body of Constitutional jurisprudence. The ones who actually believe in what has always made the United States special, democratic and progressive, rather than longing for the worst of our past.
The theme of the idiots from Glennbeckistan was “Restoring Honor”. What, you might wonder, in the hell is that supposed to mean?
There’s a nice explanation over here at Balloon Juice.
July 25, 2010
This pretty much tells it as it is.
July 22, 2010
..the world’s only drink guaranteed to make you feel great! Our all natural blend of herbs and aminos is Dr. formulated and proven to promote relaxation, improve mental focus and even boost your mood!
Dirk made some crack about this being an alcohol enhancer and, fascinatingly, the website for this product has a whole page for cocktail recipes. Mood enhancing, healthy…and a mixer! Oh joy…
At any rate, I was searching for the Quack Miranda Warning when I clicked on the “Lab” page and I immediately noticed something funny. An icon right in the middle of the page is linked to the ingredients page which says the product contains:
four primary ingredients found in nature, all of which have been subjected to molecular research and clinical studies. These components are Valerian Root, Aminobutyric acid (GABA), Theanine and 5-HTP.
Oh this is a classic of misdirection and insinuation isn’t it? “Molecular research” and “clinical studies” eh? Yet I bet not one single clinical study showing that this product has the benefits that they claim. Just guessin there. Anyway I’d best leave the quack busting to the real experts like PalMD and Abel Pharmboy, so let’s return to the iconography.
That icon, linked to their supposed evidence mind you, reminded me of this ResearchBlogging.org icon. When you put them together like this it is obvious that the Mini Chill icon is not an exact duplicate. But still. It evokes the ResearchBlogging icon, does it not? Surely this is not just me?
If you will recall the ResearchBlogging icon is the descendant of a prior icon. The goal of this icon was, of course, to evoke rapid identification with the intent of ResearchBlogging.org itself. I.e., to form a sort of Good Housekeeping seal of approval that the post you were reading met certain basic standards.
If this is not simply a coincidence, I find it really interesting that some quack product would try to coopt the authority of ResearchBlogging.org. Among other things it would seem that marketing donks think that the ResearchBlogging.org is actually meaningful to people. That’s good at least.
I never did find the Quack Miranda Warning.
July 13, 2010
There’s a quote that will show up on the rotator over there on the left that I found at Ed Brayton’s place. It reflects the confusion that the reasonable heterosexual man typically feels over the (US) right-wing idealogue talking points about “making” people gay. You know, by extending them rights, admitting that they exist, refusing to bash them, etc, the social fabric is apparently constructing gay people out of heterosexual cloth. This rejoinder is pitch perfect.
I’m not going to say that all homophobes are closeted homosexuals. I just want to point out that anyone who thinks social pressure is all that keeps straight men from forsaking women to pursue other men has no idea what it’s like to be a straight man.
I have a similar response to people like Psi Wavefunction who write:
That is, your results should probably be of a kind that would encourage further funding in your field. Presumably, if you get funding for environmental topics, you’d be better off with results stating your Cute Fluffy Animal is on the brink of extinction rather than ‘oh it’s doing fine’. In that particular case, who the hell is going to dump more money into Cute Fluffy Animal research if it’s not under some sort of threat? Conflict of interests much?
What? Okay, beyond the point of whether scientists might actually believe that Cute Fluffy Animals are on the brink of extinction based on their research and that of their subfield, we have the usual bullshit allegation that scientists just go out and “prove” what their funding agencies want to hear.
It makes me wonder, if a person really believes this, whether they have any idea what it actually means to be a scientist. Now in the case of my usual opponents from the legalize-eet perspective, agreed, they don’t know what it means to be a scientist because they are not scientists. No worries, we should probably shoulder the task of explaining to them how our lives work. For someone who appears to fancy themselves a science blogger though? hmm.
Even blogging about research papers is sensitive, especially within your own field. You have to balance opinion, factual accuracy and style without offending the authors. Some bloggers find it perfectly sensible to unleash a tirade against some paper they don’t like, but I’d prefer not to sever potential relationships with people I’ve never met, even if I do think their paper is a piece of crap. Primarily for selfish reasons: at this point, I’m in no position to start collecting enemies in academia. Or anywhere, really.
If I were a truly independent blogger, that wouldn’t fucking matter, and I’d probably make a point of devouring every crappy paper I come across for shits and giggles.
So 1) speak for yourself and 2) what is UP with these people who assert what nasty nefarious behavior they would get up to if only they had some cover? Seriously?
This ties into the usual allegations from out-bloggers about pseud-bloggers. This unproven assertion that all this nasty id-based behavior is almost impossible to resist, save the social embarrassment of providing one’s own name.
If this is what you really believe then you have no idea what it means to have an intrinsic professional, moral and ethical center.
June 21, 2010
BikeMonkey Guest PostWe all know about the struggles young and even not-so-young women professors go through to gain the respect of their students and peers. A youthful appearance can in some cases be a bit of a handicap. Men are not immune as has been described by Prof-like Substance.
I was asked to give a 5 minute
dog and pony showresearch explanation to a political candidate for some district somethingorother. She brought along a contingent of people, including two interns who appeared to think their job of making sure the schedule was adhered to was a life or death posting, and toured the lab. I talked about what we do, including how our science is both good for the state from a job and application perspective. She took this all in as I described the cool equipment we use and how state infrastructure is blah blah blah. A few questions were asked, suggesting the candidate had at least listened. And then… “So, are you a student here?”
Well, some of Prof-like’s peers have been adopting a little protective camouflage to fit in.
Young assistant professors in Ivy League towns have stormed the salons with an interesting request: to add a little gray to their perfectly-colored heads of hair.
P. Nus-Whimple of the Crimson Locks, a men’s salon and spa in Cambridge, MA explained that grayness adds gravitas.
“We’ve had that request quite a bit,” Nus-Whimple said. “Assistant professors are under tenure stress and need be taken more seriously in their field. At a conference they look around the audience at all the gray manes and wonder how they are being perceived. Twenty years ago, only 2 percent of our business was hair colour, now it’s 22-23 per cent. And of the colouring we do, 80 percent is gray blending.”