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Week of 27 July 2009


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Monday, 27 July 2009
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08:39 - Three weeks left until the Maker Shed Science Room launch, and I have more than three weeks' worth of work left to do. No surprise there. But the critical-path stuff is well in hand, enough so that I'm going to start today on cranking out lab session articles and general articles. Those aren't critical, in the sense that it's not make-or-break if I have only, say, 50 articles posted and available for readers at launch rather than 75 of them.

We want a substantial body of articles available at launch, but "substantial" is a pretty flexible word. If we have 50 up, fine. If we have 75, that's better. And 100 would be better still. Whatever articles aren't available at launch will follow as soon as possible. That'll be pretty quickly for the chemistry and forensics articles, because the raw material for them is already complete. Of course I'll eventually be adding a lot more articles on different topics such as biology, earth science, physics, and so on. Those I'll have to write from scratch, so they'll be appearing over the coming months and years.

Then, of course, there are the videos. I spent yesterday writing outline scripts for several of those. We want to have at least a few of those shot and edited in time for launch. We'd like to have scores of them up in the next few months, and perhaps eventually hundreds of them.

Yesterday, I was thinking back to a test we all took in high school. I think it was called the Kuder test, and it was intended to determine which careers we'd be best suited for. As I recall, the results listed the top three recommended career choices. Two of the top three recommendations for me were something like "High School Chemistry Teacher" and "University Science Professor". So I suppose it's no surprise that I love what I'm working on now.



09:54 - Here's the story of Bonnie & Clyde, two Border Collies, one blind and one what James Herriot called a nurse dog. Some scientists claim that dogs have no emotions, and that humans who perceive canine emotions are anthropomorphizing. Anyone who lives with dogs knows that's false. Dogs exhibit a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to fear and dislike. And Bonnie pretty clearly exhibits caring and concern for others of her species. What possible other explanation is there for her helping her blind companion?


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Tuesday, 28 July 2009
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Wednesday, 29 July 2009
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10:00 - A moron being criticized by an imbecile.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Vice President Biden commented in passing:

"I can see Putin sitting in Moscow saying, 'Jesus Christ, Iran gets the nuclear weapon, who goes first?' Moscow, not Washington."

So, if you're a fundamentalist Christian nutter, this apparently qualifies as hate speech, whatever "hate speech" may be when it's at home.

In a way, one has to feel sorry for these lunatics. They've had it all their way for a long time, but the world is waking up to the absurdity of their beliefs, laughing at them for the nutjobs that they are. It's this kind of public comment that digs them in even deeper, and that's all to the good.

The more people who laugh at and ridicule these nutters and their beliefs, the better. They're doing their best to kill science. Given the choice between a world with no science and a lot of Christian nutters or a world with lots of science and no Christian nutters, I know which I'd choose. The same as any rational person would choose. We have them on the run now, but don't stop piling on. Nothing succeeds like excess, and there is no more effective weapon than ridicule.


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Thursday, 30 July 2009
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08:42 - We had a bad scare yesterday. Barbara called me on her cell phone about 1:30 to say she was in the parking deck getting ready to leave for her parents' house. She'd just returned to work from lunch and had two voicemails waiting from her mother, saying that her dad was in bad shape and needed to go to the hospital. Barbara's mother doesn't drive, and her father refused to call 911. So Barbara drove over there, picked them up, and headed for the emergency room.

Apparently, whatever the problem was, it wasn't serious enough to merit immediate attention, so they sat there in the emergency room for several hours, waiting their turn and watching many people who appeared to be uninsured illegal aliens being treated ahead of her dad, including quite a few who had no apparent real problem. This while her 87-year-old dad was dizzy, disoriented, and suffering chest pains. After several hours, they did finally treat him. They did a CAT scan and concluded that he was suffering from severe dehydration, probably a result of him doing yardwork the previous day. They administered IV fluids and sent him home. Barbara finally got home after 9:00, completely exhausted.

Oh, and the 911 thing. Barbara's dad refused to call 911 because there's a new policy here. If you call 911 and aren't admitted to the hospital (and, apparently, sometimes even if you are admitted), the county sends you a bill for the cost. IIRC, the standard charge is something like $700. Barbara's dad didn't want to risk being charged for calling 911, so instead of getting a skilled response to his medical emergency in two to five minutes, he ended up waiting for Barbara to transport him to the hospital. That meant it was more than an hour before he got any medical attention at all, even disregarding the hours he spent sitting in the ER waiting room. This for a man who is 87 years old and was suffering chest pains.

Now, I understand why the emergency services implemented this $700 charge. People were treating 911 like a free taxi service, calling them out for any reason or no reason at all, and the idea of the charge was to reduce the number of unjustified 911 calls. The problem is, the only calls they've eliminated are those from people who are afraid they'll have to pay that $700 out of their own pockets, and they weren't the problem in the first place. The problem calls were (and are) almost exclusively from the dregs of society, people who don't care about that $700 charge because they'll never have to pay it. They're what lawyers call judgment-proof.

It seems to me that there's a more reasonable solution to the problem. If you live in public housing or a slum area and you call 911, the EMTs simply don't respond. And while I'm at it, I have a solution to overcrowding in ERs. The triage nurse evaluates each person as they arrive in the ER. If they're conscious and don't appear to have an immediately life-threatening problem, they must present evidence of insurance or otherwise establish their ability to pay. If they don't, they get booted out the door. And the immigration folks should have a strong presence at every ER. They should eyeball every person who arrives. If they suspect for whatever reason that that person is an illegal immigrant, they should examine that person's documents and verify them. Anyone who is not a citizen or otherwise in the country legally should be deported immediately. That should pretty much eliminate the problem of illegal immigrants swamping our emergency rooms.

Do those things, and our ER waiting rooms will soon start looking less like third-world medical clinics and more like what they're supposed to be.


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Friday, 31 July 2009
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Saturday, 1 August 2009
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11:45 - Although the Make: Science Room doesn't launch until 17 August, there's a preview up on the MAKE Blog. We decided to give visitors a taste of what we'll be doing when we launch the Science Room, and microscopes seemed like a good place to start.

There are product pages up for all of the microscopes we'll offer, at least initially. Some of the stuff, like the Microscope Comparison Chart, isn't up yet, nor are items like the Microscope Starter Kit (slides, cover slips, mounting fluids, etc.) or the Microscope Staining Kit (a broad selection of the most useful stains). But all the microscopes are there, and priced competitively.

In case you're wondering, my own personal microscope is a Model 161 with the ASC objectives upgrade option. And, yes, I paid for it with my own money, and you can be sure I researched the market very thoroughly before I plunked down my own cash.

If you have a need for a microscope, or even if you've just always wanted one, check these out. They're also excellent back-to-school gifts.

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Sunday, 2 August 2009
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