Seeing how it is December, it is time for a year in review. There is no better bloggy way than this meme.

The rules for this blog meme are quite simple.
-Post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year.


For your browsing pleasure, I’ll round up…
Twelve Months of

On HomeBirthers

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!!!!)

Update:
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.

Update 2:

Go Read The Tragic Deathtoll of Homebirth.

The rules for this blog meme are quite simple.
-Post the link and first sentence from the first blog entry for each month of the past year.
I originally did this meme, after seeing similar posted by Janet Stemwedel and John Lynch. Last year’s edition is here and the 2008 edition is here. Read the rest of this entry »

An announcement from the National Institute on General Medical Sciences today indicates that Jeremy Berg, Ph.D., will step down as Director of the NIGMS

to become associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. He will also be a faculty member in the department of computational and systems biology at the university’s School of Medicine. Berg anticipates leaving NIGMS at the end of June 2011, at which point an acting director will be named if the search for a new director is still under way.

A loss for the NIGMS ($2B annual budget, about 10% of all NIH awards) and a loss for their extramural scientists, I have little doubt. Our readers here at the blog know that Director Berg has been a proponent of communicating grant review outcome data via blog entries and the NIGMS website page on funding trends. We grant geeks appreciate this tremendously. We also appreciate the promise that his efforts hold for expanding this type of openness into the other ICs.

My readers will also appreciate the reason given by Director Berg for stepping down at this point of his career. After all, the Directorship of one of the NIH ICs is a pretty lofty appointment.

“I had no intention of leaving NIGMS at this point, but am doing so in support of the career of my wife, a leading breast imaging clinical researcher. After a change in her situation earlier this year, she was recruited by many institutions around the country, and the University of Pittsburgh offered tremendous opportunities for each of us,” Berg added.

Many of us are in dual-professional and even dual-academic partnerships these days. There are struggles and compromises that are almost as varied as the number of couples involved. Here’s a member of a partnership taking what looks, to all appearances, like a bit of a downgrade in support of professional opportunities for his spouse. No matter what the variety of reasons in their household, this has good optics. Another classy bit of legacy that Berg brings to the table.

Best wishes to Director Berg in his new position.

You can leave a note on his own blog announcement here.

Crossposting from Scientopia.
Additional comment from: Cackle of Rad, Chris Mooney, PZ Myers, joetotheizzoe


There is a long tradition of Congressional members trying to whip up a little support from their base by going after federally funded extramural research projects of the NIH. I have described some of this here and here.
You will note the trend, this has by and large been an effort of socially conservative Republican Congress Critters to attack projects that focus on issues of sexual behavior, drug taking, gender identity, homosexuality, etc. We know this is their focus because despite talking about “waste” of federal money they make no effort to realistically grapple with cost/benefit. No doubt because in their view the only necessary solution to behavioral health issues is “Stop it! If you can’t then you must be morally inferior and do not deserve any public concern”.
You will also note that they don’t really mean it in many cases. You’ll see this blather when they know they have no chance of getting the votes. In a prior case I reviewed, the complainers identified cancer as being a “real” concern worthy of funding, and then picked on a cancer-related project. A long while back when I first got interested (and I can’t remember the specific details- it was a psychology type grant on beautifying dorm rooms or something), the Congress Critter’s amendment specified an existing specific grant year- there was no way that I could see that the funds can be retrieved in such a situation. So you could see where much of this is just naked political posturing with no intent of actually doing anything. But still…it continues the anti-science environment and political memery. So we should address it.
Cackle of Rad has tipped us to a new effort by Rep Eric Cantor (R; VA) and Adrian Smith (R; NE) to invite you, the public, to identify NSF projects that irritate you. One assumes they think the public should be allowed to vote the projects out of funding.
Now, admittedly, I find the specific examples to be refreshing and new

Read the rest of this entry »

About a year ago I took up the topic of the putative December 1 start date for NIH grant applications submitted in Feb/Mar and reviewed in Jun/Jul. In “Never, ever, ever, nuh-uh, no way, ever trust a Dec 1 start date!“, I discussed the fact that Congress’ failure to pass an appropriation bill on time for the start of a new fiscal year (October 1) means that the NIH operates under a continuing resolution until such time as Congress gets off its duff.

My perception has been that this means that no new grants would be funded. Perhaps competing continuation applications (a subsequent interval of funding for a project which has already been funded for period of time), but not new grants.

Well, I thought today I would step on over to RePORTER and do a wild card search for new R01 grants (1R01%) that had a start date of Dec 1, 2010 or later.

Huh. 66 new grants on the books already. Looks like NIMH, NIGMS, NEI, NHLBI, NIDCR, NIDCD, NIAID are on the ball with multiple new awards each. Interesting.

Now, of course we are only in the third day of the month and very frequently the ICs trickle their starts out from the first to the fifteenth of the earliest possible starting month. So I’m going to need to revisit this in a couple of weeks. Ultimately it is going to be fascinating to see which ICs go ahead and fund new grants under continuing resolutions and which do not.

27 new R21s and 12 new R03s are on the books for Dec 1 or later…again from this same list of ICs.

There is a long tradition of Congressional members trying to whip up a little support from their base by going after federally funded extramural research projects of the NIH. I have described some of this here and here.

You will note the trend, this has by and large been an effort of socially conservative Republican Congress Critters to attack projects that focus on issues of sexual behavior, drug taking, gender identity, homosexuality, etc. We know this is their focus because despite talking about “waste” of federal money they make no effort to realistically grapple with cost/benefit. No doubt because in their view the only necessary solution to behavioral health issues is “Stop it! If you can’t then you must be morally inferior and do not deserve any public concern”.

You will also note that they don’t really mean it in many cases. You’ll see this blather when they know they have no chance of getting the votes. In a prior case I reviewed, the complainers identified cancer as being a “real” concern worthy of funding, and then picked on a cancer-related project. A long while back when I first got interested (and I can’t remember the specific details- it was a psychology type grant on beautifying dorm rooms or something), the Congress Critter’s amendment specified an existing specific grant year- there was no way that I could see that the funds can be retrieved in such a situation. So you could see where much of this is just naked political posturing with no intent of actually doing anything. But still…it continues the anti-science environment and political memery. So we should address it.

Cackle of Rad has tipped us to a new effort by Rep Eric Cantor (R; VA) and Adrian Smith (R; NE) to invite you, the public, to identify NSF projects that irritate you. One assumes they think the public should be allowed to vote the projects out of funding.

Now, admittedly, I find the specific examples to be refreshing and new

Recently, however NSF has funded some more questionable projects – $750,000 to develop computer models to analyze the on-field contributions of soccer players and $1.2 million to model the sound of objects breaking for use by the video game industry.

Not a sign of a social issue and, gasp, are they really criticizing corporate pork? Admittedly the video game industry is not traditionally an ally of social conservatives (Grand Theft Auto anyone? hmm, maybe this requires some additional thought) but still.

Okay, so what are my two biggest objections to this practice.

First, the basic-science issue. It has been discussed before extensively on blogs. All clinical applications, medical devices, drugs, etc, are rooted in prior basic science that stretches back for decades and in cases centuries. We cannot get to new treatments in the future without laying the groundwork of basic understanding of healthy and diseased function of the human, the mammal, the vertebrate, the animal, the alive, the Earth-ian. Therefore the application of much of the present basic science work cannot be confidently asserted at the time it is being conducted. Sure, we pursue a general idea and can make some predictions about where it might apply but the history suggests that it is often a fortuitous inference, surprising connection or unlooked-for application of existing knowledge that creates a new therapy.

Non-biological research and design differs very little in this regard. Many new products and applications are built on the discoveries and innovations that came from basic (and applied, admittedly) science that came before.

It is a big mistake to allow persons who do not understand this to make the tactical decisions on what should and should not be funded. By tactical, of course, I mean the specific projects. I have less problem with Congress weighing in on general priorities, such as swings from focus on breast cancer to AIDS to Alzheimer’s to diabetes or whatever. We have to accept, in the sciences, that there will be some degree of this prioritization that will not respect each of our own parochial research interests.

Just so long as we don’t have wholesale prevention of research into major categories of health concern, that is…

My second objection to the democratic approach is the cost/benefit analysis objection. Not that it is my role to do such cost/benefit but the system as a whole should be sensitive to this. To a rational knowledge that, for example, if we create a new drug which lets an Alzheimer’s patient live at home for 9 mo longer, stave off the need for in-home professional help for 12 mo and/or transition to low-intensity hospice later..well this is going to save a lot of money on a population basis. Not least because then they might, statistically, die of a stroke or heart attack or some other normal condition more frequently before they go into the intensive phase of managing end stage Alzheimer’s.

The argument for corporate welfare for new products of a non-health nature is really no different. Spend money now to reap bigger savings later.

It’s called “investment”, yo!

And I don’t really see where little ‘d’ democracy at a tactical level helps out with deciding what to invest in for the future.

What’s cookin’?

December 1, 2010

Since we’re in the holiday season between Thanksgiving to Christmas, I’m thinking a little more than usual about cooking. So I posted a couple of recipes for people that don’t have time for recipe war extravaganzas like Dr. Isis* and PhysioProf** did. Thought you all that haven’t made it over to Scientopia yet might want a look.
If I have any talents in the kitchen, I describe them as being a cook. I’m not a gourmet chef like MarkCC of Good Math, Bad Math (I mean seriously? get out!) and the two aforementioned recipe warriors. I mean, I can handle a complicated recipe and all and I do like that style of food smithing now and again. But where I really come alive is in opening the fridge, finding whatever is in there and trying to make something tasty based around the basic starches. Pasta. Rice. Potatoes. Or from a hunk of insert-meat-here. Or even from “There’s nothing to eat in here honeee!”
My spouse bakes. Oh, this is fantastic because if there is one thing I really don’t do in the kitchen it is bake. I can manage to not screw up a cheesecake too badly but… yeah, the oven and I do not get along. The range is my friend.
My spouse, OTOH, isn’t much of a cook. Recipe’d meals, no problem, and it all comes out tasty. Some of the signature work from that part of the household is awesome. But there just isn’t the same love there that I have for cooking. For having a basic knowledge of how you cook particular ingredients and throwing them together as variations on the basic themes for decidedly unfancy meal preparation.
I wonder how many of you all have this division of talent when it comes to food preparation? It isn’t like we did this by design but for the most part this balance of preferences works out well.
Hey, how ’bout a little poll? Select all that apply…

In the kitchen, I describe myself asonline surveys

Whoa, that was a diversion. Anyway, back to the point. Recipes for the rest of us.
Cranberry-orange bread
Slow cooker split pea soup
__
*mmmmm, carnitas. another recipe from Namnezia.
**credit where due, this recipe single handedly put me back on brussel sprouts. I hadn’t eaten them in probably two decades or more.

Another quick and easy recipe for those of us who don’t have a whole lot of time in the kitchen anymore. If you put it in mini-loaf pans you can even use it as a holiday gift for your neighbors, kids’ teachers, lab staff or local Tenured Deadwood F***s.

Combine:

1 1/2 C white or brown sugar
1/2 C melted butter
1 3/4 C orange juice
2 eggs, beaten

Sift (although in fact I never sift):
5 C flour
1 tsp salt
1 Tblsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda

Stir dry and liquid mixtures together until blended.

Fold in:
3-4 C chopped cranberries (this amounts to ~one of the usual packages, picked over. I just slice them in half, I don’t really chop ’em)
2 Tbsp orange zest (grated rind in case this doesn’t translate to non-USiAns)

Pour into 2 buttered loaf pans* and let stand for 20 minutes (hmm, think I forgot that part last time)

Bake in 350 deg F oven until browned and a knife in the center comes out clean, ~60 minutes

*or mini loaves for neighbors/teachers/TDFs, or probably would work as muffins but I haven’t ever tried that, oddly enough.

Cooking conversion calculator for non-US readers. Which seems to suck. Maybe this Conversion Table for Cooking is better.