Monday, 12 December 2011

By on December 12th, 2011 in science kits

07:56 – As it turns out, the USPS doesn’t routinely pick up shipments on Sunday, although they will do so if you request it and are willing to pay them to do it. There are two types of pick-ups. The normal method, which they don’t charge for, is to notify them that you have a package waiting, which the carrier will then pick up the next time he visits you on his normal rounds. Alternatively, you can request a special pick-up, which they charge a pick-up fee for. The former is all I need.

I was confused because one of the steps in producing the label is to choose a ship date. When I generated the label/postage yesterday, it offered me ship dates of Sunday the 11th, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. I chose Sunday, thinking that would generate a notice to the USPS to pick up the package whenever. It doesn’t, so I’m not sure why they even ask for ship date. You have to request the pickup as a completely separate step on a different page. So I chose regular pick-up for today. When I did that, it asked me for pickup location, with various options such as front door, back door, side door, mail room, in/near mailbox, and so on. I chose “knock on door/ring bell” to give Colin an excuse to bark.

I’m still working heads-down on the biology book. I should finish the Plantae group in the next couple days, after which I dive into the final group, Animalia. Then I’ll go back and add some lab sessions throughout the book, that I’d stubbed out but wasn’t sure I’d have enough time to complete.

11 Comments and discussion on "Monday, 12 December 2011"

  1. Chad says:

    Is the APWU done killing the USPS yet?

  2. Dave B. says:

    Is the APWU done killing the USPS yet?

    No, they aren’t. They’ve been busy helping the other AFL-CIO unions drive all the private sector companies out of business.

  3. Jim Cooley says:

    Last night I watched a fascinating documentary called _Page One: Inside the New York Times_ (2011). It’s about how news organizations, the NYT in particular, are coping with the Interwebs; and the role of such in modern “society”. Raises all sorts of questions and doesn’t answer them.

    Highly recommended. It’s on Netflix Instant, too.

    ***I don’t think USPS really cares about the ship dates you choose. I’ve let things sit for days before letting the mailman pick them up, and they always seem to get there.

    ***Forensics question: IIRC, sperm morphology changes due to age. Has this ever been quantified and used to identify suspects?

  4. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Sperm morphology and other characteristics such as motility does indeed change with age, but it’s not a strong correlation and it varies even within individuals. Of course, DNA analysis renders the point moot.

  5. Jim Cooley says:

    If not a strong correlation, then I doubt it could lead to a search warrant. Point isn’t moot if results are for investigative purposes. Same applies to DNA analysis as to race (or the more PC “geographical”) origin. Thanks.

  6. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Biologically, “race” is a pretty slippery subject. Certainly there are some commonalities between certain ethnic groups, for example the adaptation in people of African origin that reduces the effects of malaria but at the expense of sickle-cell anemia or the Tay-Sachs mutation in French Canadiens, Cajuns, and Ashkenazi Jews. But it’s not a simple matter of analyzing a DNA specimen and knowing the “race” of the individual, which is actually a sociological construct rather than a scientific one.

    A few years ago, Nova or one of the similar science programs did DNA analysis on hundreds of people to find their origins. At the end of the program, they had those people move around on a field to make up a world map. One of them was *really* surprised, because from appearance anyone would have judged him to be African-American, but he turned out to be much more closely related genetically to the European group.

  7. Jim Cooley says:

    That’s well and good, but in investigative criminal analysis the usual pertinent question is whether the suspect is black or white — and whether DNA analysis has reached a sufficient degree of correlation to establish a basis for a warrant by such effect.

    Or a warrant based on morphology of sperm cells in a dried semen sample.

    I’m curious about the intersection of law and science here: Has enough quantifiable science been established to base a search warrant on the basis of race — or, as in my original question, the age of a suspect?

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    The answer to both questions (as pertains to DNA) is a qualified no. There is no “African gene” or “Caucasian gene” or “Asian gene”. As I said, in isolation the presence of the sickle-cell or Tay-Sachs gene (for example) may be strongly suggestive, but not conclusive. The value of DNA is not in locating suspects, but in matching a questioned specimen to a known specimen, where it is in fact individualized evidence and legally conclusive.

    In other words, there is no absolute marker. There are probabilities, which is to say that the presence or absence of certain markers make it more or less probable that the source of the DNA would be perceived as belonging to a particular racial group. It’s much the same as forensic anthropology, where a good forensic anthropologist with only a skull to examine may be able to state with a greater or lesser degree of probability that that skull belonged to someone who would generally be classified as belonging to a particular racial group.

    As to age, things are even squishier. Yes, there are changes to our DNA as we age, mostly damage from ionizing radiation and so on. Different genes express (activate) at different stages of the life cycle. But in general one can’t examine a DNA sample in isolation and determine the age of the donor.

  9. OFD says:

    I am sending an investigative team out to Jim’s place forthwith. He’s asking too many questions here. We’ll do the prints, get some hair samples, see what’s what.

  10. Jim Cooley says:

    Bob, I appreciate and agree with your commentary.

    My question is whether quantifiable scientific evidence has reached the point to which a judge might reasonably justify a search warrant for investigation of possible subjects based upon either DNA analysis of race; or age of suspect based on morphological analysis of sperm in dried semen sample. That’s all.

    I’m well aware there’s no particular “gene” for race, but like skeletal analysis a preponderance of evidence can infer many things. Is that even permissible evidence for issue of a search warrant?

    My original question was one step removed from even that: has analysis of sperm morphology established a reasonable, quantifiable basis for establishing the age of the donor?

    If you don’t know, that’s okay. I think sperm cell analysis is an avenue worthy of pursuit if it’s not already been covered. Just curious if you’ve ever heard of this argument.

    I’m also curious whether race or geographic analysis of DNA is allowed as a basis for search warrants. As you’ve already noted, evidence accumulated thus far seems to point to a fairly conclusive, yet inductive prediction of same. Science says one thing, but has LAW recognized this yet?

  11. Robert Bruce Thompson says:


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