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[links] Link salad has a full life, if a trifle banal

A Non-Binary Person’s Guide to Invented Pronouns

This Movie Works Whether You Play It Backward or Forward — A visual palindrome. (Via David Goldman.)

Sartre & Peanuts — Huh. (Snurched from David Wilford.)

San Francisco’s Class War, By the Numbers

A Winter Olympics Venn Diagram — Hahahahah.

How to Design an Interstellar Communications System If we want to communicate with other civilisations, it turns out that the laws of physics, the nature of interstellar space and a little common sense place surprisingly strict bounds on how this communication can take place.

SETI at the Particle Level

Satellites Spot Whales From SpaceThis new method could help researchers remotely count and keep track of whale populations. Mmm, space whales.

Giant leap for nuclear fusion as scientists get more energy out than fuel put in150 picoseconds of scientific breakthrough, though “ignition” remains a distant goal.

Probe to use Prehistoric Pigment Shield for Solar PlungeEuropean scientists designing the upcoming Solar Orbiter — a mission that will swoop deep inside the sun’s atmosphere (the corona) to carry out an unprecedented solar observing campaign — didn’t turn to science fiction for help, however. They’re using a technology that was available during prehistoric times to protect the spacecraft from the sun.

This is why we have two nostrils, rather than a single, large hole in the middle

Ancient native boy’s genome reignites debate over first Americans — And then there’s Kennewick Man.

Southeast U.S. Battered by Another Winter StormThis storm doesn’t disprove global warming any more than it getting dark at night disproves the existence of the Sun.

Planet, Oceans Burning Up: There is no “Pause” in Global Warming

Dear Creation Museum, all science is “historical science.” Here’s whyThe sort of selective reasoning—miracles don’t happen when there’s lab equipment nearby, but they have made anything more than a few centuries old completely inaccessible to scientific analysis—quite reasonably raises questions about whether researchers who hold this view can be relied on to do solid science, as does their lack of self-awareness that keeps them from recognizing that they are doing historical science. Their apparent willingness to throw the scientific method under the bus as soon as it conflicts with their personal beliefs is concerning as well.

Christian School Faulted for Halting Abuse StudyFor decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners. Tell me again how atheists are immoral? Help me understand why this version of the Christian worldview is somehow better than simple, honest humanism? ‘Cause I’m really not seeing it here.

Kentucky must accept out-of-state gay unions“Assigning a religious or traditional rationale for a law does not make it constitutional when that law discriminates against a class of people without other reasons,” wrote Heyburn, an appointee of Republican President George H.W. Bush. The very same people who threaten to take up arms over every perceived possible slight to their freedoms ought to understand that. But they don’t. Even so, another bigotry domino falls, another step forward for freedom, justice and American values.

U.S. Takes a Sharp Drop in World Press Freedom RankingsThe United States took a nasty drop in the World Press Freedom rankings, released on Wednesday by the media group Reporters Without Borders, falling 14 spots to the 46th best country for journalist freedoms. Of the 180 countries ranked, the home of the First Amendment now sits snuggled between Romania and Haiti.

How Obama Officials Cried ‘Terrorism’ to Cover Up a Paperwork Error — A crazy story about everything that’s wrong with our National Security regime. Headline is a bit misleading, as the problem started in 2004 in the Bush administration, but the Obama administration continued to cover it up. (Via David Goldman.)

How a Purse Snatching Led to the Legal Justification for NSA Domestic Spying — Because security! (Via David Goldman.)

Senate passes debt-ceiling plan in blow to conservatives — The profoundly unpatriotic nihilists in the House GOP caucus take on on the chin. A very modest victory for good government and good sense.

Rand Paul v Barack Obama: A prelude to 2016 — As much as Rand Paul is a profoundly unpatriotic nihilist as well, he’s got a point about the surveillance state. Not that moderates and progressives haven’t been crying foul.

Is one of “the crazy ones” behind a threatening email sent to House Republicans? What makes “the crazy ones” crazy, in fact, is that they genuinely believe the cynical lies — about government debt, global warming, taxes, healthcare, immigration, Democratic Party fiscal policies and so on — that the non-crazy ones have been feeding the rubes for years. Mind you, “one of the crazy ones” is a description by a House Republican of other House Republicans.

?otD: Have any Cardassian laundry lists?


2/13/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 9.5 hours (mostly solid)
Body movement: 20 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad has got bananas, watermelons and peaches by the pound

Photographer Gets A-List Celebrities To Reenact Stunning Scenes From Disney Movies — Annie Leibovitz with some amazing stuff. (Via Lisa Costello.)

An open letter from a Death Star architect — Hahaha. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Agloe, the Paper Town Stronger than Fiction — An odd twist on a well-known story, for you map geeks.

Researchers Watch As Our Brains Turn Sounds Into Words — Ok. This is cool.

Seattle construction workers unearth mammoth tusk

Good luck trying to escape a hungry crocodile by climbing a treeResearchers discovered that four crocodile species climbed trees.

The Archaeology of the Stars — More on hunting for very ancient stars. (Thanks to Dad.)

4 Crazy Gay Marriage Predictions That Never Came TrueIt’s time to take a look at some of predictions and see if any have come to fruition. Guess what?

Nevada Officials Won’t Defend Gay Marriage Ban“After thoughtful review and analysis, the state has determined that its arguments grounded upon equal protection and due process are no longer sustainable.“ Another bigotry domino falls in the face of personal freedom and American values.

Now They’re Making the Homeless Freeze to Death in PensascolaPensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward has reversed positions on a city ordinance that makes it a crime for the homeless to sleep on public property with a blanket. I’m pretty sure the Bible has something to say about this in Matthew 25:36. I realize Jesus wasn’t up on current American conservative thinking when he talked about clothing the naked, but the principle seems clear. (Via David Goldman.)

GOP Report Acknowledges That The U.S. Military Couldn’t Have Changed Benghazi Outcome — Republicans formally acknowledging in writing that neither Hillary nor Obama did anything wrong in the Benghazi matter? Yeah, that will be all over Your Liberal Media.

?otD: More better than in town?


2/12/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 9.0 hours (multiply interrupted)
Body movement: 15 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad is a Melkotian object

Green, Book Review — Not so much with the liking of my novel.

It’s happening again! — My dear friend [info]garyomaha talks about the costs of segmentation in media and society.

Red Hong Yi renders Chinese scenes from makeup — Impressive. (Via Lisa Costello.)

Lego Hell — Oh, wow. Hahaha. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

Chandre Oraon, Man With Tail, Worshipped As God (But Not By His Wife)

33 Powerful And Creative Print Ads That’ll Make You Look Twice — Some of these are amazing. Some are questionable. They’re all worth looking at. (Via [info]willyumtx.)

Wildly detailed drawings that combine math and butterflies — Amazing stuff.

Photos by Mohammad Reza Domiri Ganji in Iran of mosque art — (Via Lisa Costello.)

Genome Surgery — Here comes the future.

NASA Mars Orbiters spots clues to possible water flows

Star Wars planets migrate into position around stellar pairsTatooine orbited two stars; now researchers believe planets like this actually exist.

Australian researchers say they have found the oldest star in the known universe, 6000 light years from Earth

Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex? — Wow are there a lot of unexamined cultural assumptions embedded in this article, especially around the supposed natural inviolability of monogamy.

NRA Board Member: Bullied Children Commit Suicide Because Young Boys Have Been “Neutered” — Ah, the magical sense of social responsibility that comes with gun ownership.

My Baby and AOL’s Bottom LineThat “distressed baby” who Tim Armstrong blamed for benefit cuts? She’s my daughter.

Greenland glacier sets glacial speed recordWater pressure greases the skids for Jakobshavn, clocked at 2 meters per hour.

Business as usual + sea level rise = losses of up to 9% of global GDPBut losses should be less if we’re not dumb enough to keep building on coasts.

Sowing Seeds: An Ex-Christian’s Thoughts on the Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debateee, there’s this stereotype in Christian culture (and elsewhere) that atheists are joyless, unhappy God-haters with hearts full of anger and lives devoid of purpose. That makes loss of faith a scary prospect, because who wants a life like that? Just by being himself, letting his love of science shine through, Nye demonstrated how joy, wonder, excitement, passion, and purpose — all things religious people tend to associate with service to God — can be a part of an atheist’s life. (To be fair, I don’t know for sure what Nye’s beliefs are, but Creationist fundamentalism does rather tend to lump together evolution belief and atheism, along with homosexuality, Communism, and baby-eating.) Yes, this. Atheists can be and often are moral, ethical, joyful people. Just as with any group of human beings. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

I’m a Member of the American ‘Used-to-Haves’Watching John Boehner and the Republican Congress during the past few years has been a stunning confirmation of their seeming disregard for the “Used-to-Haves.” As they pull down salaries of $174,000 a year, unparalleled benefits and the option of voting themselves a raise, their selfishness is unrivaled as they barricade health care reform, knowingly shut down the government, cut SNAP benefits and eliminate extended unemployment payments.

A commentor responds to my post on the 1% and hard work — Worth the read, as he has personal experience at multiple levels of the economy, unlike myself. I’ve never held those hard, low-end jobs, not even in my student job days. My first paid jobs were as a government clerk, then as a bank courier.

Tree Lobsters on economic inequality — Be sure to read the mouseover text.

Chastened G.O.P. Tries to Foil Insurgents at Primary LevelOne of the biggest challenges for Republican leaders in the 2014 midterm elections will be how to hang on to the Tea Party support that has been so instrumental to the party’s growth, while winning back voters alienated by hard-right candidates. I dunno. Maybe by not taking hard-right positions? Confidential to GOP in America: Try the evidence-based worldview for a change. You’d be amazed how differently things look when you factor in facts, data and actual history instead of an “unskewed” ideological narrative.

Tea Party Ain’t Over Yet: How Conservatives Still Control Congress — It seems like not so long ago that people in my end of the blogosphere were angrily defending the Tea Party as an independent, non-partisan grass roots movement. How’d that work out?

Leave The Poets AloneTrey Gowdy is a member of the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives. As such, Trey Gowdy is dedicated to working the job of governing the country as little as possible. When you elect people who think government is a failure, is it any surprise when they work for the failure of government? That such nonsensical thinking has achieved such political prominence in America is one of the great shames of our time.

Welfare StateWashington’s Republican counties depend on Western Washington’s money. How can they survive the state budget cuts they demand? Welcome to conservative America, where evidence-based thinking is proudly rejected. And yes, this phenomenon of rural conservatives opposing the very tax structure that benefits them most based on counterfactual ideological beliefs about the direction in which the money flows repeats within many states across the US, as well as at the state/Federal level. As the article comments, The irony here is not that those who benefit most from state spending are paying the least; that’s kinda the way these things are supposed to work. No, the irony is that those rural communities that are most dependent on the state—whose roads and schools and other essential public services couldn’t possibly be maintained without generous state subsidies—are also those least likely to vote for the tax dollars necessary to sustain these services. (Via David Goldman.)

CBO: Guys, We Didn’t Say Obamacare Would Cost 2.5 Million Jobs — Hmm. Unthinkable that the GOP should substantially misrepresent an important ACA point in a way that casts an unfavorable light on the president. Conservative intellectual honesty and moral probity would never permit such a thing.

?otD: How many to beam up?


2/11/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: 15 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[cancer] Some science neepery on what we’re trying to do here at NIH

A week or two ago, my friend Chris Johnson asked me a question via email.

Did the NIH researchers describe how the hell they managed to count the number of distinct mutations among the cancer cells? I was amazed by that. I was at least as amazed by their ability to customize your T cells for each of those strains. How the hell do they do that stuff? In my ignorance, I’d’ve sworn the technology to do that either didn’t exist, or, at least, that it would be so slow and difficult that it couldn’t be employed in practice. I love being wrong, and finding the world is more amazing than I suspected, but if you’re able to shed any light on those processes in future postings, I’m all eyes.

My not-necessarily-scientifically accurate answer was sufficiently interesting to me that I’m reposting it here, as it may be of interest to some of you reading. If you’re a clinician or a researcher who can clear up some of my misconceptions, please feel free to comment.

The mutation count comes from comparing the Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) data on my tumor tissue to the WGS data on my germline tissue. In and of itself, that’s not terribly hard if you have the right data in hand in the first place, which we’ve possessed since last spring thanks to the crowd-funded process I went through then.

The part that is terribly hard is selecting for the appropriate TIL cells. They’re sensitizing my B cells (recovered through apheresis) to the known mutations through a process which I cannot even begin to describe. I’m not sure if they’re culturing all 100+ known mutations, or just a subset which is likely to be more key.

They will then have separate B cell cultures where each of those mutations is active, which would normally be detected through the presence of a specific protein. (In a very fundamental sense, that’s what any mutation does, it alters the production of some specific protein, which in turn can alter enzymes, cell structures, etc.)

At that point, they introduce my TIL cells, cultured from the tumor harvest, into each B cell culture, and note which B cell cultures stimulate the most TIL cell activity. They then retrieve the TIL cells from that culture and set them aside for the expansion growth, which is the 10^7 or 10^8 multiplication of TIL cells required before infusing them back into me.

The theory being that the subset of my own TIL cells used for the expansion growth and subsequent infusion will be the ones most likely to seek out tissue in my body harboring the tested-for mutations. That is to say, mutations found only in my tumor tissues.

This makes a couple of assumptions. One, that all my tumor tissues carry the same mutations. Since I have had at least five or six generations of tumors in my body, each of which may have experienced its own genetic drift through further mutation, this is not necessarily true, though it is likely enough. Generation 1 was the original presentation of my primary cancer, resected in 2008. Generation 2 was my initial metastatic presentation, resected in 2009. Et cetera, until the crop of tumors I have now which represent Generations 5/6 or 6/7, depending on how you count.

Two, this process assumes that those mutations can be found nowhere else in my body. The germline tissue which was typed was from my liver. However, there is increasing evidence suggesting that human DNA can be far more chimeric than we normally understand it to be. So, for example, what if my colon tissue, where the cancer originated, harbors some of those same mutations, even though the liver tissue from which my WGS assay was done did not? Would the sensitized TIL cells attack otherwise healthy colon tissue in that case, creating a permanent gastrointestinal autoimmune disorder for me?

Issues such as those I mention in the assumptions above are why this is a highly experimental procedure, rather than normal clinical medicine. That and the fact that the hard cost of this process is astronomical, and can probably not be duplicated at more than a handful of other institutions in the world, if that. On a purely procedural basis, much of what’s being done to me could be handled by any competent institutional oncology department, but the whole business with the genetic selection and managing the TIL cell growth requires a level of expertise and equipment that is incredibly expensive and vanishingly rare. Also, the holistic and theoretical basis for managing the treatment and evaluating the outcomes requires a similar level of expertise.

[links] Link salad yawns, mumbles

Dear lung cancer patient who smoked

Historically Accurate Disney Princess — This is depraved. And remember, this is me talking.

Verifying images: why seeing is not always believing — Sorting out the provenance of Internet photos. (Via David Goldman.)

How Science Turned a Struggling Pro Skier Into an Olympic Medal Contender — (Via David Goldman.)

Anybody who doesn’t support LIHEAP funding is a big ol’ jerkThat’s one of the weirder aspects of the bitter teavangelical politics of resentment: It’s constantly condemning what it calls “socialism” because it’s not socialistic enough. Once everybody gets something, regardless of need, then it’s fine (“Keep your government out of my Medicare!”). Yes, that’s dumb, but sitting in a corner nurturing every tiny molehill of resentment into a mountain of indignation isn’t a promising way to make yourself smarter.

Republican Jesus says… — They left out the adjective “smug”. Otherwise, this is awesome. (Via Lisa Costello.)

8 Unsustainable Delusions of the American Way of Life — An interesting list. The presentation is a bit more leftie and shrill than even I’m comfortable with, but the points are worth considering.

Top 10 Reasons Rand Paul’s Lewinsky Gambit Can’t Obscure GOP War on Women — Well, all that, and the fact that desperate nastiness doesn’t sell well outside those predisposed to the politics of resentment.

?otD: Got sleep?


2/10/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: 12 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad doesn’t know why they changed it, it cannot say

Come Support the Jay Lake Auction at RadCon, Sunday at 1pm! — That’s today, in Pasco, WA.

The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards — (Thanks to Lisa Costello.)

This goat simulator looks like maybe the best video game ever — Uh…

This Crow Is The Smartest Bird You’ve Ever Seen — (Thanks to Lisa Costello.)

How the vastly improbable has determined what animals got where — Personally, I’ve always wondered why the North American bird census is so different west of the Rockies.

Deep sea (mesopelagic) fish biomass 10 times more than previously thought

ICE/ISEE-3 to return to an Earth no longer capable of speaking to it — This is poetic and strange.

Young American adults abandon religion in record numbers

Understanding Polygamy — The comment thread on this Feminist Mormon Housewives post is very strange and difficult to read if you don’t share their Mormon faith framework.

Pat Robertson begs Ken Ham to shut up“Let’s be real,” Robertson begged, “let’s not make a joke of ourselves.” Uh, Pat, the reality-based community appreciates the sentiment, but you’re way too late for that.

Babylonian Tale of Round Ark Draws Ire From Christian Circles — Ah, literalism.

Three endangered whooping cranes shot in US — See guns make everything better! And everyone who carries deadly force is socially responsible, and so completely trustworthy.

Justice Department To Launch Push For Full Recognition Of Same-Sex Marriage — Another push on the row of bigotry dominoes. Just as with evolution denial, this is a one-sided “issue” without a credible argument against.

Republican Official Says Gays Should Be Purged From GOP, Blames Homosexuality On Satan

8 Former Republicans Who Ditched the Extremist GOP

?otD: Did people just like it better that way?


2/9/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.75 hours (fitful)
Body movement: 10 minutes stationary bike (resuming exercise post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad can’t sell you what you need

TOC: The Mammoth Book of Steampunk Adventures — In which I have a reprint novelette, “Benedice Te”.

Worst Day of the Year Ride Canceled Because of Bad Weather — Ah, Portland. (Via my sister.)

Put a monocle on anything and it looks classy — Mr. Peanut, is that you?

That’s “Heavy”: The Mind-Body-Metaphor Connection — This is fascinating. In English, and several other languages as well, weight is used as metaphor to signify importance. The authors hypothesized that this abstraction can be triggered by concrete experiences of weight, like holding something heavy. They call this “embodied cognition.”

Can tumors be transplanted? — Uh…

Why do Americans spend so much on pharmaceuticals?

The Evidence Piles Up: Antioxidant Supplements Are Bad For You — Ooops. (Via David Goldman.)

Crowdfunding’s Effect on Venerable Nonprofits Raises ConcernWebsites now let people ask for charitable support for their own causes, but some fear that such sites will drain donations from established nonprofits. (Via Dad.)

Plate tectonics set the thermostat for early animal lifeSwitch from snowball to hothouse conditions driven by continental collisions.

Mechanism Important for Photosynthesis was Present in Ancient Microbes 2.5 Billion Years Ago

Earth’s Oldest Land Predators Had ‘Steak Knife’ Teeth

Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies

What Noise Does the Electric Car Make? — I was nearly struck by an electric scooter in China, the rider moving fast at night with his headlight off, presumably to conserve battery. Fast and all but noiseless.

Hamline professor’s post on student loan debt goes viral — When I started at the University of Texas at Austin in 1982, tuition and fees for a full 18 semester hour load were about $360. When I graduated in 1986, thanks to conservative-driven cuts in subsidies for higher education, it was well over $2,000 per semester. Costs have soared many times over since then, because we as a society have explicitly chosen to make higher education less and less accessible to each succeeding cohort of youth.

(GOP) Rep. Has Cordial Chat About Whether Obama ‘Should Be Executed’ — This piece is just creepy. Now try imagining the firestorm in Your Liberal Media if a Democratic congressman had had this conversation about Bush or Reagan.

?otD: Did buy it off the shelf? Did you grow it from the seed?


2/8/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 7.5 hours (fitful)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad gazes across the frigid Atlantic at the sunrise

Come Support the Jay Lake Auction at RadCon, Sunday at 1pm! — Ah, my friends.

Photos: Time Capsule Mansion Opened After 100 Years — Wow… (Via Lisa Costello.)

A Venn diagram cartoon — Hahahah.

The Patient, the Provider, and Participatory Medicine—Are We a House Divided? — (Snurched from Casey Quinlan.)

A Creepy Medical Tour Of The Past — I’m not sure I’d describe all of these as creepy, but they are fascinating.

Apple fires up new furnaces for iPhone 6’s sapphire screenUnbreakable screen tech heading Apple’s way.

Young Salmon Born Knowing Migration Route Without any prior migration experience, juvenile Chinook salmon can find their way to ancestral feeding grounds by using the Earth’s magnetic field and an inherited internal map, according to a new study.

Earliest footprints outside Africa discovered in Norfolk

Nasa’s Mars Curiosity Rover’s First Photo Of EarthThe distance between Earth and Mars when Curiosity took the photo, which includes the moon, was about 99 million miles.

Night Hides the World — Another beautiful night sky image, with an interesting explanation, from APOD.

Thoughts on Planetary Migration

Seeing science: The year’s best visualizationsThe National Science Foundation and Science name 2013’s best.

Calvin & Muad’Dib on religion — I love this piece, and I love this series.

Answers for Creationists — Phil Plait answers the Creationist questionsposted after the Bill Nye-Ken Ham “debate”, with grace and patience.

Alabama Chief Justice Jumps Into Gay Marriage FightMoore said that “a great majority of the American people want to hold to the definition that a marriage is between a man and a woman. Uh, no. Not if you believe the polling or voting patterns. Of course, if you decide to believe that polls are skewed and elections are stolen, then I guess evidence doesn’t matter.

Stupid Irish Homophobes and Their Big Homophobic Fail — This is very similar to conservative dialectic in this country.

Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for TerrorismApril Sniper Attack Knocked Out Substation, Raises Concern for Country’s Power Grid. I have seen coverage on this before, but I’m amazed at how little. Perhaps because firearms were involved, rather than explosives. Somebody was out exercising their right to a theoretical defense of essential liberties. (Via [info]danjite.)

Dread Pirate Roberts 2.0: An interview with Silk Road’s new bossNew leader wants Silk Road to publish gov’t secrets; calls old DPR a “fraud.” This is very strange, as is everything to do with the Deep Web, which is incredibly science fictional while also being quite real.

Lobbying is a Lucrative Investment, Researchers Find Using CRP Data — Duh? (Via [info]danjite.)

Six Economic Benefits of the Affordable Care Act

Still don’t have health insurance? The Obama administration is trying to find you.

GOP Rep: Even Jesus Couldn’t Control House Republicans — Hahaha.

?otD: Did you get weathered out of work or school today?


2/7/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.25 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[science] Signal boost for Nerd Nite in the PDX area

My friend Amanda puts on a really terrific series of booze-and-brains events in the Portland area. I spoke at one of the first Portland Nerd Nites last spring, talking about Whole Genome Sequencing. She’s branching out into the wilds of Washington state, Vancouver to be specific. So here’s some signal boost to get some of y’all Portlandians and SW Washingtonians out to live and learn. As it happens, I’ve seen Dr. Sherman talk before, and he is freaking hilarious.

Nerd Nite Vancouver #1 – Lust, Chocolate and Prairie Voles: The Neuroscience of Pleasure and Love

When: Wednesday, February 12, 2014, doors at 6:00pm, event at 7:00pm
Where: Kiggins Theater, 1011 Main Street, Vancouver, WA
Cost: $8.00 suggested cover at the door
Come early if you want to order food and drinks and get a good seat!

Is the brain chemistry behind our love for chocolate equivalent to that which drives infatuation with a new lover, the love of a particular song, or addiction? How does the brain sort out pleasure and discomfort? What drives our decisions to stay with one person for life or go from one lover to another, never settling down? This Nerd Nite will focus on these and other questions that reveal much about how neurochemical changes can have major effects on our behaviors—how we love, what we love, and who we love.

Dr. Larry Sherman is a Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and Neuroscience at OHSU. He was identified as someone who is “Changing our World” by Portland Monthly Magazine and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and he was awarded OHSU Teacher of the Year in 2012.

[links] Link salad evolves, descending from the trees to gaze across the savanna

Someone has made fake London Underground signs, and whoever did it is a ruddy genius — (Via [info]garyomaha.)

Bionic hand feels real, says amputee

The Terraced Night — A wonderful APOD image of the night sky in China.

Questions of preservation after ancient village found in downtown Miami

Why the Promise of Cheap Fuel from Super Bugs Fell ShortThe sell-off of synthetic biology pioneer LS9 goes to show that making biofuels from genetically engineered microbes has yet to deliver economically.

Is there a way to exploit the metabolic quirk of cancer? — (Via Philip Brewer.)

Scientists have likely found Charlemagne’s skeleton

Camel Bones and Jerusalem: Archeology Shows Bible written Late, Full of Errors — Speaking as an atheist, I wouldn’t describe the Bible as full of errors. It’s a faith text. The errors arise from trying to interpret a faith text as having empirical reality, taking it literally, but those are errors of interpretation, not of the book itself.

22 Messages From Creationists To People Who Believe In EvolutionI asked 22 self-identifying creationists at the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate to write a message/question/note to the other side. Here’s what they wrote. Interesting piece, misleading headline. Evolution isn’t a “belief” in the sense that creationism is a “belief”. It exists, demonstrably and provably, independently of whatever your or I might understand or hold faith in. Believing in evolution is like believing in gravity or weather.

The Creation of DebateThe people who are attacking evolution are doing so because they think evolution is attacking their beliefs. But unless they are the narrowest of fundamentalists, this simply is not true. There is no greater proof of this than Pope John Paul II—who, one must admit, was a deeply religious man—saying that evolution was an established fact. Clearly, not all religion has a problem with evolution.

Google Earth Shows You a Warming PlanetThe facts are in, and the science is clear: The planet is getting hotter. The Google Earth app will help make that even more obvious. I urge folks to get it and play with it. Facts don’t speak for themselves, but this app helps give them a voice.

The Inefficiency of Long Hours — Having worked in fields heavily dependent on punishing amounts of white collar overtime (advertising, software consulting), I understand why individual managers and executives ask this of their teams, but I have never understood why the industries as a whole, not to mention their clients, tolerate the resulting errors and inefficiencies.

The day a Special Olympian stood up to Ann Coulter for calling Obama a “retard”

Vatican ‘Regrets’ Damning UN Report On Sex Abuse — Note that the Vatican does not regret the content of the report, only that it was issued. The games continue.

A Rash of Deaths and a Missing Reporter – With Ties to Wall Street Investigations

‘America The Beautiful’ Author Is Rush Limbaugh’s Favorite Lesbian Socialist

Paul Ryan Fact-Checks Republicans On Obamacare Job ‘Costs’ — I never thought I’d say this about Paul Ryan, but good for him. Of course, the usual walkback from reality to conservative talking points will start in 3… 2… 1…

Why Jeb Bush Isn’t Going To Be the Next Republican Nominee — A conservative analysis of a question that hasn’t much yet vexed me.

?otD: Monkey around much?


2/6/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block who aren’t descended from monkeys: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad for an achey Wednesday

What grocery stores can teach us about linguistics — Mmm, taxonomy and language.

The Best Response to Grammar Nazis, EverStephen Fry nails it. (Via [info]danjite.)

Lego Goes to Hollywood

Citizens seek cancer cure with “Genes in Space” smartphone game — (Via Dad.)

Most cancers in our world pandemic are preventable — here’s how

Remembrance or revision? Brain study shows memory misleads

Ethics Questions Arise as Genetic Testing of Embryos Increases

Habitability Around Ancient Stars

Cryptography Breakthrough Could Make Software Unhackable — I’m not sure I believe in “unhackable” as a concept, but this is interesting. (Via David Goldman.)

The Female Orgasm—Illustrated — Hahahah. Also: NSFW, in case that wasn’t obvious already.

Courtesy Stigma and the Consequences of Deviance — This is fascinating, and something with which I am familiar in real life.

Talking past each other: Bill Nye vs. creationist Ken Ham on evolutionArs reports on the debate over whether creation is viable as science. I really, really hate the fact that this Creationist tripe is even dignified with a debate, instead of laughed off the stage as it should be. You can believe anything you want about God and the universe, but to mistake your private faith for empirical truth is a grave intellectual and spiritual error.

U.N. Panel Assails Vatican Over Sex Abuse by PriestsA United Nations panel sharply criticized the Vatican on Wednesday for putting the reputation and interests of the Holy See above the interests of children who had been sexually abused by priests, effectively allowing priests to continue abuse and escape prosecution. In a series of hard-hitting observations, the Committee on the Rights of the Child said that “the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators.” Yeah, I can feel that moral authority from all the way over here.

California man points gun at Girl Scout at his door to sell cookies — Under the Stand Your Ground laws so beloved of conservatives, there is no test of reasonableness. Only the shooter’s own word that they felt threatened. If the victim is dead, that’s it. Who’s to say otherwise? This means that any person with a firearm in a “Stand Your Ground” state has the legal power of summary execution over any human being they encounter. Yup. Guns definitely make us all safer.

O’Reilly Tells Obama He Didn’t Need Student Loans: ‘That’s Who I Am’ — This is a common conservative meme. But when O’Reilly was young, college was much cheaper in both absolute and relative terms. Four decades of very deliberate conservative chipping away at higher education funding has made it impossible to work your way through college painting houses.

Broken Democracy: Republicans poised to take Senate, Americans Reject their PlatformThe Republican majority in the House of Representatives can already block most legislation, and in 2013 it dedicated itself the the proposition that the country must be punished for re-electing Barack Obama, by being denied virtually any new needed legislation at all.

Delusions of FailureThe truth is that the campaign against Obamacare relies on misleading stories at best, and often on outright deceit. Who pays the price for this deceit? In many cases, American families.

Arksansas Republicans hope to dump 85,000 out of Medicaid They’ll cut 85,000 people out of health care to spite President Obama.

?otD: Relax. I’ll need some information first. Just the basic facts. Can you show me where it hurts?


2/5/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block inventing polar vortices: 0
Currently reading: n/a

[links] Link salad watches the Atlantic

Intimate Portraits of BeesResearchers take advantage of photography technology developed by the U.S. Army to capture beautiful portraits of bees native to North America. (Via Marta Murvosh.)

A Valuable ReputationAfter Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.

New rule allows patients to get test results directly from labs, without doctors’ clearance

Fighting cancer isn’t all about personal lifestyle but the environment we live in

Cancer cases set to rise by half by 2030: UN — Yeah, well. Some days I know I’m just another statistic in a government chart.

Older than oldest of 7 Wonders: 4,600 year old step pyramid uncovered in Egypt

New laser-printed material is lighter than water, as strong as steelAn internal structure like that of bone keeps the material porous but tough. This article also includes an incredibly cool chart of material strength and density which ought to be of interest to anyone writing hard SF.

Soon, the Coldest Place in the Known Universe Will Be on … the International Space Station“We’re going to explore temperatures far below anything found naturally.”

Atlanta Storm Was a Government Conspiracy? Snow Way!Unless folks can learn from their mistaken ideas, this kind of thinking is dangerous. We know that political parties and ideologically based “think tanks” will spread disinformation that gets absorbed by the public through various media. That’s no tinfoil-hat theory, that’s fact—you only need to read about the history of the tobacco industry (and now the fossil fuel industry) to see this. I draw your attention to the Texas Republican Party platform in 2012, which explicitly opposed teaching critical thinking skills.

Winter Heat Swamps AlaskaIn January 2014, record-breaking heat left Alaskans dealing with unseasonable bouts of rain and avalanches.

‘In God We Trust—but We Have Put Our Faith in Our Guns’Florida teenager Jordan Davis was shot by Michael Dunn after an argument over music. His mother, Lucia McBath, talks about losing her son and her fight against Stand Your Ground laws. Read this, especially if you’re one of those people who believes guns make us all safer.

Everything Is Like Slavery, Except Slavery — If it wasn’t so grimly sad and offensive, this conservative fixation with comparing pretty much every political initiative they disapprove with slavery would be funny. (Via Slacktivist Fred Clark.)

Republicans, Democrats, and Trust in the Government

Coca-Cola’s Multicultural Super Bowl Ad Really Angered Conservatives — Stay classy, conservative America. It’s what you do best.

Coca-Cola Critics Have Never Heard of ‘E Pluribus Unum’The rage directed at the Super Bowl ad with “America the Beautiful” sung in foreign languages shows some people can’t get on board with the future.

Times Are A-Changin’: Republicans Now The Key To Gay Marriage Fight — I find this piece to be wildly optimistic, given the GOP’s core electoral strategy of generating angry white guys, but I hope I’m wrong.

Republicans Are Advancing Their War on Public Education — Old news here, but it never stops.

Trick Websites Dupe Democrats Into Donating To RepublicansWhen a crop of mock sites cropped up last month, the NRCC defended its actions as perfectly legal. Character counts, as some political party or another used to frequently remind us.

?otD: When you stare into the ocean, does the ocean stare back at you?


2/4/2014
Writing time yesterday: 0.0 hours (chemo brain)
Hours slept: 8.5 hours (solid)
Body movement: n/a (post-operative)
Weight: n/a (traveling)
Number of FEMA troops on my block inventing polar vortices: 0
Currently reading: n/a