Basenji Blogging Monday - Better Living Through Chemicals Edition

Monday, February 9, 2015
I'm going to be traveling for the next two weeks on business, but I thought I'd give everyone an update on the fuzzy head case before I leave.

Miss Jackson Pi is slowly making progress in a "two steps forward, one step back" kind of way. At the end of December and the first part of January I was out of town, and the Smart Man tells me she started to act out in my absence. She's pretty much a Mama's girl, so this was not very surprising, but we don't want her to escalate every time I have to leave town.

However, now that I've been home for a few weeks, she's pretty darn relaxed again, to the point where it's no longer MANDATORY that she be in the same room with me when I'm home. Part of that is the recent installation of new doggie bed to the upstairs hall, where she can sleep at night while still being close to us. Of course now we can't get her out of it, so there's that.

Is it bedtime, yet? Of course it is.


Her doggie day care provider tells us that she's now a model doggie day care member who minds well, comes when called, and looks to the humans for direction. This is a far cry from the out-of-control mutt who first started going there last Spring.

The only recent challenge we had was around the holidays when we had a number of people visiting all on the same day, two of whom were men. Based on her reactions to female versus male strangers, it seems evident that she was abused at some point by a man. When the Incomparable Anne™ and her fabulous family came to visit. Jax was so afraid the Smart Man had to remove her from the situation and hold her until she stopped shaking. She eventually warmed up to the visitors (thanks to some well-timed snacks and the fact that Anne's family is comprised of dog people who are highly competent with rescues), but we're now managing through that. She appears to be more afraid if the men come into the home rather than meeting her on neutral ground. Poor Jackson Pi - she's a little broken inside, but we hope she'll continue to get better as she gets older and we continue to work with her.

Overall, I think the Prozac is giving her a better quality of life, as she's not spending so much time being anxious, and appears to be slowly calming down even in her most stressful situations (such as seeing other dogs while on-leash). So onward with the doggie therapy. She's a good, good girl - she just needs a little help.

Link Me Up, Scotty - Texas Smells of Hypocrisy and Death Edition

Thursday, February 5, 2015
State Representative Dan Riggs (R) of Texas has introduced a Bill that allows teachers to use deadly force. With firearms. In the classroom. Without repercussion. No, I'm not making that up. To my abject horror. H/T Nathan
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Ah, science, how I love the way you take unsubstantiated, anecdotal evidence and knock it on its ass. Political correctness isn't some mamby-pamby liberal conspiracy, or even just rules for being polite. It's a way for people to communicate in a non-threatening environment, a cornerstone of high functioning teams. Please note that the very best high performance teams are also the most diverse teams. Coincidence? I think not.
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A Christian whackadoodle at the Texas Muslim Capital Day disrupted activities by grabbing the microphone, shouting insulting and bigoted comments, and insisting that Texas will always follow Christ. Or something - I stopped listening after the "false prophet Mohammed" part. Seriously, people - the 1st Amendment, the selfsame Amendment that guarantees your right to be an ass in public, is very clear on this topic. America (and by definition, Texas) is not a "Christian Nation." In fact, it's strictly prohibited, for everyone's sake. Please return to high school civics for a refresher. H/T Chris
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I spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings. In person meetings. Phone meetings (also known as the dreaded "conference call"). Meetings to plan meetings. It's gotten so bad that I now block out time on my calendar each day with the word "engineering" in the subject line so I have time to do the work for which I'm actually paid. Which is why this article on the prevalence of badly run meetings hit a chord with me. I don't mind attending productive, well run meetings. I have a project manager on several of my accounts who has elevated running a meeting to an art form, and her calls usually get done early. Too bad the rest of my meeting organizers lack a similar skill.
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And another gem from the Texas Muslim Capital Day. State Representative Molly White (R) stated:
I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws. We will see how long they stay in my office.
I assume, then, that every Christian who visits her office is also required to renounce Christian terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to the U.S.? Especially those right-wing, Christian insurrectionist asshats who advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government? No? Doesn't that make you a gigantic raging, bigoted hypocrite? Yes. Yes, it does. H/T Natalie
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And let's celebrate mid week with a video that made me happy, since I've been foaming at the mouth since Friday. Here's Bassm Tariq speaking about the beauty and diversity of Muslim life.


Vaccination and the Social Contract

Monday, February 2, 2015

There's been a flurry of Internet activity the last several weeks over the resurgence of Measles, herd immunity. and vaccinations. I've written on this subject more than once, and my feelings on this topic are pretty clear (and backed up by actual science, to boot).

But I feel the need to speak to this topic once again, inspired by a reprobate named Dr. Jack Wolfson, whom you should consider the new (now no longer a doctor) Andrew Wakefield, except with less morals.

After the outbreak of Measles at Disneyland, Dr. Wolfson felt the need to speak publicly about his opinion regarding vaccines and how they should be eliminated. At first I just considered his commentary to be the normal bleating of anti-vaxxers everywhere, but I was wrong.

In my opinion, Dr. Jack Wilson is a sociopath, with all that implies.

When contacted by CNN about the need to vaccinate healthy children in order to provide herd immunity to children who cannot be vaccinated due to health concerns, he responded:
"It's not my responsibility to inject my child with chemicals in order for [a child like Maggie] to be supposedly healthy," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, it's very likely that her leukemia is from vaccinations in the first place." 

"I'm not going to sacrifice the well-being of my child. My child is pure," he added. "It's not my responsibility to be protecting their child." 

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill. 

"I could live with myself easily," he said. "It's an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child." 
Wow. Just.....wow.

Who thinks like this? My friend BrainDoc explains the real risk associated with vaccinating otherwise healthy children:
[Physicians] weigh benefit vs. risk when making a decision how to treat a patient, and vaccines are no different. Vaccines are comprised of chemicals, and, yes, they carry risk. They are injected into the body, so adverse events (side effects) may occur. These generally range from fairly common but mild (low-grade fever, muscle soreness) to really rare and can be severe (e.g., encephalitis, anaphylaxis, development of the disease the vaccine is intended to prevent). These are measured in events per 1,000,000 or million doses (e.g., anaphylaxis occurs in measles at a rate of 3.5 to 10 per million doses).
So basically, Dr. Wolfson is unwilling to have his children take a .0000035% chance of a severe reaction in order to protect the lives of children whose mortality rate would be quite high if they contracted Measles.

Again - who thinks like this? Vaccination for herd immunity is an aspect of the social contract, as well as a public health issue. The social contract demands that members of society give up some small amount of self-determination for the common good. In some cases, that means paying taxes so you can enjoy the services of the fire department and police. In other cases, it means you can't steal other people's shit. And in this case, it means you don't get to wantonly put other people's children in danger because doing so "isn't my responsibility."

It IS your responsibility, you sociopathic. self-important, non-critical thinking mother-fucker. You live in our society, you take advantage of the benefits of doing so - the reciprocal aspect of that is you need to get your children vaccinated, not only for their benefit, but for all our benefit.

Unless, of course, the social contract doesn't apply to you, Dr. Wolfson. If that's the case, I fully support your decision and will immediately notify public institutions that you no longer need their services. No more roads, police, firefighters, public schools, clean water, safe food and drugs for YOU.

After all, it's a small price to pay to keep your kids "pure," right?

Link Me Up, Scotty - People are Stupid (But Also Awesome) Edition

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
I have a dear friend who is undergoing treatment for cancer. When she was called for Federal Jury Duty, she asked for a waiver and provided a letter from her oncologist to verify the situation. The Feds are apparently dumber than a box of hammers.
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Parents who shun vaccines tend to cluster, boosting children's risk. This one's dumbassery is especially egregious, since it puts other little kids' health in jeopardy because these stupid motherfuckers think the greatest medical achievement in the history of the world is actually a vast conspiracy to line the pockets of Big Pharma and secretly give their special little snowflakes autism. Or something.
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And from that bastion of honest and true reporting, The Onion takes a stab at those self-same parents by proclaiming "I don't vaccinate my child because it's my right to decide what eliminated diseases come roaring back."  Written in irony, but painfully, horrifyingly true.
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This is actually the opposite of stupid: MIT researchers have found that when it comes to "general intelligence," women are where it's at if you want a high rate of collective intelligence in a group. Not because women are inherently smarter than men, but because women statistically have higher social sensitivity. Color me surprised.
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Turns out that the Big Tobacco and the Koch brothers' involvement in the creation and maintenance of the Tea Party (i.e., Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks and more) is far deeper than previously admitted. Grass roots movement my liberal white ass. H/T Steve
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Some thoughts on "getting over" the death of a loved one. The short answer: You never will, because as long as you still love the person you lost, you will grieve for them. Love and grief are conjoined.
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Video of the Week: A. Maceo New Tech High School in Dallas, TX decided to do a one-shot video of the student body and one of their teachers dancing to "Uptown Funk." This makes my heart sing. Stay in school, kids. H/T Emily


Link Me Up, Scotty - STEM for the Win Edition

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
A charitable organization called "E-Nable" engaged a prosthetic designer named John Peterson to help construct a prosthetic arm for a 7 year old boy. The work was done on a 3-D printer, and was designed to look like the arm of a Clone Trooper from Star Wars. It cost $300.00 to manufacture, and Peterson gave his design hours for free. Awesome.
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Service dogs are getting a technical boost from the FIDO Project, who's new vests contain GPS trackers, ways for dogs to call 9-1-1, and more. Service dogs are the bee's knees.
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If I ever feel a need to move to a reclusive town, I would seriously consider Whittier, AK, where everyone lives in an old Army barracks, along with their basic necessities such as a laundromat, grocery store, and school. As long as there was high-speed Internet, I think I'd do just fine.
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From the "math is beautiful" files: Sculptures created on 3D printers based on the Fibonacci sequence, the mathematical formula expressed in nature with pine cones, sunflowers and sea shells. Breathtaking. H/T Pete
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18 Ways Working in a Call Centre Changes Your Life. This explains so very, very much about me. H/T Kimby
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Because I apparently live under a rock, I missed this essay by Kameron Hurley entitled We Have Always Fought when it came out in 2013. And again when it won the Hugo. Because I apparently live under a rock. This is an excellent read for both men and women, and sheds some light on things that should be obvious (but aren't). H/T Smart Man
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Video of the Week: The Dover Delaware Police Department provides some "DashCam" footage of one of their officers who apparently has a thing about Taylor Swift. My favorite part? When he waves another car through at a four way stop, acting all serious between his chair dancing and head bobbing. H/T Laurie


Home Sweet Home(s)

Monday, January 19, 2015
So things have been a bit hectic for me the last four weeks.

First, Sister Stacey and the Incomparable JR came to visit for a week at Christmas time. I wasn't sure how I was going to react this year to Christmas, and I was pleasantly surprised. Their presence here in the Big Yellow House made the holiday not only something I could bear, but a laugh-fest, as well. Thanks, guys - your friendship means the world to me.

Then it was off to San Diego for two weeks to help hold down the fort while the Mechanicky Gal had her hip replaced. As it turned out, we were the ones who needed adult supervision, but we made it through without too much damage to hearth, home and body. (Mechanicky's doing fabulously, by the way. I understand she's been cleared to drive, and is currently training for her inevitable job with the circus.)

I was then home for about 40 hours, then off for business travel Monday - Friday of last week.

Now I'm home, and Miss Jackson Pi will not let me out of her sight. I'm barely allowed to go to the bathroom independently, and the Smart Man tells me she was acting out during my long absence. I'm going to be home for a couple of weeks now, so we hope to get her back to normal before I have to travel again. I'm back to running, and will resume tracking my food today. I gained no weight over the holidays or during my travels, so I'm satisfied with THAT outcome, at least.

In the meantime, we don't anticipate any more house-guests in the next few months, and the Big Brown House has shingles on it. They're working on electrical and such, and we anticipate closing in about three or four months (subject to change without notice).

Which brings us to the Big Yellow House.

Now that the holidays are over and we can see that the new house will be complete in 3-4 months, it's time to get the Big Yellow House ready to sell, and I am dreading it. We have a real estate agent who helped us when we bought this place, and he's agreed to help us again. We have an appointment for him to come out and take a look at the place, so that we might get a better idea about what needs to be done. We already know a carpet allowance and some paint are on the list, and we can manage that just fine - it's the other things, the things we don't know about, that I dread. This is our first home, and so we've never had to prepare a house for sale.

And of course, my brain is an asshole, which means my insomnia now consists of me obsessing not only about how we want to decorate the new house, but what needs to be done to this place.

I'm sure it will be easier than I'm making it out to be. Maybe. I hope.

Link Me Up, Scotty -

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Friend and fellow UCFer David, a university history professor, takes on the challenges of teaching modern history in this country. When the documented facts directly contradict the PR of dog-whistle politics, how do you teach students to not necessarily agree with the professor, but to think critically? For the record, I still really want to take one of his classes.
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Bill Donahue, President of the so-called Catholic League, once again opens his mouth and removes all doubt about his status as a mouth-breathing dick by blaming the publisher of Charlie Hebdo for his own death at the hands of Muslim extremists. According the Donahue,
Stephane Charbonnier, the paper’s publisher, was killed today in the slaughter. It is too bad that he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death. In 2012, when asked why he insults Muslims, he said, “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me.” Had he not been so narcissistic, he may still be alive.
Could you miss the point just a little bit more, there, Phil? I don't think every heir to the enlightenment has vomited in their mouth just yet.
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Eleven badass women who gave zero fucks about what other people thought of them, their behavior and their goals. Get on with your bad selves, ladies.

H/T Skepchick
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An examination of the word "privilege," and how its use can give us an opportunity to more deeply examine our biases and help determine intersectionality. Such exercises can only help us be more compassionate with our fellow humans.