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Clearing the Instapaper Queue

Not my garage, but it could be.

The Instapaper queue is getting full, sort of like my garage.  Time to clean it out.

By the way, is it only here in New Jersey where it’s almost impossible to throw things away?  We have to get a permit from the township to get rid of things, they’re very limited in number and the number of dump days is also very limited.  So, even if you manage to snag a permit, you may have to wait months to use it. Since I’m not a senior citizen and live in a townhouse development, I can’t put old stuff on the curb for the trash guys to pick up.  I can put stuff out there for a Craigslist curb alert but if it’s not gone by sundown, I have to schlepp it back into my garage or pay a fine.  I just noticed the other weekend that all of my neighbors have garages piled high with stuff that they can’t take to the dumpster, can’t take to the town dump and have to pay the mafia a fortune to take away.  Ahhh, privatization.  These are not your typical garbage men, noooo.  These garbage people want the garbage to be prepackaged for them.  The cardboard must be broken down into regulation size pieces, no piece longer than 2 feet.  These are classy garbage men.  they have standards.

Anyway, enough of that.  Here’s what’s in the queue:

You’re probably already aware of the tragic and senseless murder of Autumn Pasquale in Clayton, NJ.  That town is nowhere near here and my township is pretty safe (although there was an armed robbery in Princeton the other day.  Well, some would say that just living in Princeton is armed robbery, but I digress.)

Autumn was strangled by a couple of boys who were a few years older than her.  They lured her into their house with promises of bike parts and then killed her, presumably because she wouldn’t give up her own bike.  Predictably, the whole state is in a panic, locking up their children.  That reminded me that Lenore Skenazy of FreeRangeKids has a page on crime statistics for every person who’s ever said, “Times are different now.  It’s more dangerous.”  Well, the data says otherwise and Lenore has consulted FBI records and other crimes statistics to prove it.

So, to all you nervous nellies out there, chill a little.  You might to a lot of harm by locking your daughter up in a tower when she could be out playing games and riding her bike.  No matter how fearful the local news programs make you feel, your kid is probably not in any danger.  And that brings me to the second article from the Instapaper queue…

Several years ago, there was a study about what factors make a population turn to conservative politicians.  (I think it might have been this one:Pyszczynski, T., Solomon, S., & Greenberg, J. (2003). In the wake of 9/11: The psychology of terror. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association but I can’t find the copy of the paper I printed) One of the biggest factors that makes people choose the hardass conservative over the peace loving liberal is the fear of one’s imminent death.  The more afraid people are of dying from attacks on them or their children from, oh, say, child predators or Muslims, for example, the more likely they are to vote for a warmongering idiot like George W. Bush.  It’s the whole reason Fox News exists.  Don’t believe me?  Go ahead and watch an hour of Fox News, I’ll wait.  Come back and tell me what the body count is.  Fox pushes fear like nobody’s business.  If you watch nothing but Fox all day (and I know people who do), you’d get the impression that the world was a Clockwork Orange ultraviolent horrorshow, chaotic and insanely dangerous.   There’s a whole field of study on the politics of mortality.  I feel for the researchers who have to watch a lot of Fox news but hey, it’s all for the benefit of science, right?  Someone’s gotta do it.

Well, it turns out that there may be a biological component to whether we will be more or less vulnerable to conservative fearmongering and disgust induction.  Here’s a blurb from a new Nature article, Biology and Ideology: The anatomy of politics:

An increasing number of studies suggest that biology can exert a significant influence on political beliefs and behaviours. Biological factors including genes, hormone levels and neurotransmitter systems may partly shape people’s attitudes on political issues such as welfare, immigration, same-sex marriage and war. And shrewd politicians might be able to take advantage of those biological levers through clever advertisements aimed at voters’ primal emotions.

Many of the studies linking biology to politics remain controversial and unreplicated. But the overall body of evidence is growing and might alter how people think about their own and others’ political attitudes.

“People are proud of their political beliefs,” says John Hibbing, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “We tend to think they’re the result of some rational responses to the world around us.” But in fact, a combination of genes and early experiences may predispose people to perceive and respond to political issues in certain ways. Recognizing that could help the public and politicians to develop more respect for those with opposing viewpoints.

“I’d like to see people have a little less chutzpah about their political beliefs, and understand that some people experience the world differently,” says Hibbing.

Yes, indeed, it would be nice if other people understood that some people experience the world differently and *don’t* get freaked out by the child predators and bloodthirsty Muslims that are supposedly lurking behind every door.  It would be nice but I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Speaking of biology, I saw this article at The Onion (H/T Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline) about incorrigible cancer cells titled, “Latest Study Finds Cancer Cells Now Cruelly Mocking Researchers“.  Only The Onion could make cancer funny but what’s really funny is that the piece has more than a ring of truth to it.  If you’ve ever worked on a oncology project, this looks way too familiar:

The findings—published this week in a rambling, expletive-laden 8,000-word article in The Journal Of The American Medical Association—provides the strongest evidence yet that abnormal cells targeted with cutting-edge cancer treatments are basically flipping off scientists left and right, and get a huge kick out of making oncologists feel like a bunch of bumbling dipshit chumps.

“By mounting comprehensive and systematic attacks on malignancies with emerging technologies such as low-cost genetic sequencing, artificial intelligence, and monoclonal antibody treatments, what we’ve discovered is that cancer cells are little pricks that think they’re the king of the fucking world,” lead author Dr. Charles Sepkowitz said of the study, which found that most leading cancers are pretty goddamn proud of themselves, especially when exasperated oncologists feel like their research is going nowhere. “Our data indicate that while it’s frustrating that cancer cells metastasize so fast, they don’t have to be such huge assholes about it.”

“You can almost hear them cackling at us while they spread to the lymph nodes,” he added.

According to the study, researchers now have a much better sense of the molecular and cellular basis of tumor growth, including the ingrained sense of entitlement that reportedly drives cancer cells to grow irregularly until they become one big fuck-you to scientists.

The report confirmed that while all types of carcinomas are beginning to make researchers feel like garbage, myeloma cancer cells in particular think they’re God’s gift just because they’re resistant to the frontline drug Velcade.

Researchers found that in addition to those toxic cells, basal cell carcinomas also get a “certain sick joy out of smacking researchers around like a bunch of little bitches.”

Go read the whole thing.  It’s hilarious in a “just shoot me” kind of way.  The minute you think you’ve inhibited one kinase, the one immediately upstream decides to up regulate itself without even a by-your-leave.  They really are little pricks.

In the meantime, there are more shortages of drugs and more manufacturing problems with the ones we have.  Says the New York Times piece, Lapses at Big Drug Factories Add to Shortages and Danger:

In the last three years, six of the major manufacturers of sterile injectable drugs — which are subject to rigorous inspections by the federal government, as opposed to compounding pharmacies, which are generally overseen by the states — have been warned by the Food and Drug Administration about serious violations of manufacturing rules. Four of them have closed factories or significantly slowed production to fix the problems. Nearly a third of the industry’s manufacturing capacity is off line because of quality issues, according to a Congressional report.

The shutdowns have contributed to a shortage of critical drugs, and compounding pharmacies have stepped into the gap as medical professionals scramble for alternative sources. But several serious health scares have been traced to compounding pharmacies in recent years. Authorities said 19 people had died from meningitis in an outbreak traced to a contaminated steroid made by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. Supplies of the steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, became short earlier this year after two generic manufacturers, Teva and Sandoz, stopped making it.

“In the industry, everyone knows that all of the factories are in terrible shape,” said Erin Fox, manager of the Drug Information Service at the University of Utah, which tracks drug shortages. But the public, she said, is still in the dark. “I think people think this is a foreign outsourcing problem, but these factories are in our own country.”

Ok, let me take a stab at what might be happening here.  The “geniuses” on Wall Street and like-minded corporate CEOs, (you know, the ones that have merging our companies like there’s no tomorrow, restructuring constantly and laying off all the researchers in New Jersey?), have done a cost benefit analysis on the aging production facilities.  They know that the facilities have problems but to fix those problems would cost in the tens of millions of dollars.  That’s tens of millions of dollars in shareholder value.  Do the shareholders really want to spend all that money on some stupid little generic that they can’t make a shitload of money on or a drug that’s about to go off patent?  Fuck no.  It’s much better to just shut the sucker down.  End of problem.  Unless, of course, you’re a patient or the entire United States of America who relies on a functioning research and production infrastructure.

It will be all fun and games until some rich banker dies of a superbug staph infection. That’s the point at which even the Libertarians will want government intervention and you know what?  It won’t be possible.  You can’t crank up research and production facilities like you can rejigger the bezel of a new iPad mini on-the-fly at Foxcomm.

Speaking of iPad minis, I really need one.  Ok, I don’t really need an iPad mini.  I can wait until I have more money in the bank.  But what I do need is a bigger display monitor and a couple terabytes of disk space.  {{sob}}  Looking at proteins on a small laptop screen is a suboptimal, eye tiring experience, especially when it doesn’t have retina display.  Damn, I just need new hardware.

Poverty sucks.

An apple 27″ Thunderbolt display monitor. Sigh. A girl can dream

21 Responses

  1. When I was a kid, on Saturdays, we got on our bikes and took off until dinner time. Nobody thought anything about it.
    Yes, children got abducted and murdered, but it was rare, then, as now and such dreadful events made the local news, not national.
    Maybe, parents are hyper aware of danger because they have fewer children.
    I’m not saying that parents of boomers felt like they could spare a kid or two, on the other hand…

    • Did you see the actual number of children who are murdered by strangers in Skenazy’s statistics? It’s like 115 per year. There are millions of children and only 115 per year are abducted and murdered by strangers and pedophiles.
      The reason why parents are scared is because we hear about every single one of those 115 cases in grisly detail. We get WAAAY too much information and that’s not how it was 50 years ago. You want to know how I know? It’s because my aunt was abducted when she was 9 years old. She managed to get away after some pretty dreadful things happened to her. But she was reported missing to the police. It was a news worthy event at the time. And yet, I can’t find any newspaper articles or police records of the event and I’ve googled it every way I can. I have a feeling that the news media took more efforts to protect the victims and didn’t sensationalize it. Now, there’s no limit to what we know and no end to the speculation about the perpetrators. It does make you think there are creeps and serial killers around every corner.

  2. The climate of fear, it’s how you control people.
    She’s not all of the problem-not by a long shot-but Nancy Grace and her blithe disregard of American jurisprudence is a national menace.

    • Oh, Jeez, Nancy Grace. That woman has no credibility. I can’t understand what people see in her.

  3. I’m very sorry for your Aunt’s ordeal.
    I’m not forgetting that one out of four women have been sexually molested, but I do think that the chances of your child being abducted from your yard/ street/home and murdered are slim, thank God.
    Does it happen? Tragically, yes. Is it likely, no, no,no.
    And if it does happen it’s not because you did something wrong.

  4. A comment on the book mentioned above, political “science” is not really a science in the same sense as the physical and social sciences (i.e., those recognized by AAAS – the American Association for the Advancement of Science.) I’d take with a grain of salt any so-called research study that deals with ideological issues until I reviewed the research design, and data collection and analysis strategies. Generally, these things are absent in political science.

  5. The main reason IIRC that George W. Bush defeated Ann Richards for Governor of Texas was that TV coverage of crime in Texas had grown tremendously even though actual crime while Richards was Governor had decreased by 19%.

    Putting W on the road to the White House? Now there was a crime.

    • I did not know that. Veddy interesting.

    • I never saw Michael Moore’s “Bowling For Columbine” movie, but I heard that he offered in it a hypothesis that may have been developed by others; called Mean World. The media are soaking every media watcher in wall to wall 24/7 Maximum SenSurround images and stories of crime, violence, and danger. The goal is to reduce millions of people to a state of permanent diffuse terror and quivering
      below-the-surface fear to be brought to the surface and heightened at
      any instant deemed politically useful.
      Might that rising media coverage of (falling) crime in Texas be a case of that, designed to create a fear vacuum in the minds of millions of Texas voters such that they would fill it with any regressive officeseeker the establishment threw up?

      • I am learning a lot today. I’d never heard of Mean World but it makes a lot of sense. And the targets of the wall to wall coverage are frequently unaware of how pervasive it is.

        • As much as I have been learning here, I feel partially “repayful” if I am able to offer something worth learning in return. I decided to search the google to see if I correctly remembered the existence of a phrase and concept called “Mean World”. And it seems there really is . . . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mean_World_Syndrome

  6. RD,

    OT, but I thought these might be of interest to you in case you have not come across them before.
    http://www.ime.unicamp.br/~martinez/packmol/
    http://www.compchemhighlights.org/

    • Yowser! That second link is very synthetic heavy. There’s a lot of molecular orbitals stuff with Diels-Alder reactions. I’m going to have to dig into the archives before I find the topics that are most relevant to me like induced fit molecular dynamics and oligomerization of antibodies. Thanks for the links!

  7. You said: These are classy garbage men. they have standards.

    All garbage men are classy. They are working stifs, just like you.

    • This is absolutely true. Maybe what I should have said is “discriminating”. Some garbage men just want to get the job done while others are more selective about the garbage they choose to collect. It’s just a pain in the ass for the other working stiffs who end up paying for concierge garbage service at !% prices and we STILL have way too much garbage in our garages we can’t get rid of.

  8. Garbage collection in NJ has gotten more selective in the part I live in also. When we first moved here,(1999) bulk collection/junk was done twice a month. Basically, the garbage collectors had formal limits but picked up everything that did not look lethal. Recycling was not enforced.

    Maybe five or six years later the town switched to a cheaper or more politically connected vendor. The new garbage service enforced limits.on bulk vigorously. What that means is that, for example, disposing of old kitchen cabinets took three bulk cycles (a month and a half) and the extra work of dismantling old stuff. The one exception, of course, is that following floods the town took anything. By the time we got to Irene, the old stuff had been pretty much disposed of in previous flood clean ups and the massive flood damage was really all flood damage.

    Recycling is not frequent enough and we often have to take the official recycling can (smallish) down to the town dump and to the recyclng area.

    Even under the old system, the previous residents couldn’t cope. Since this was a single family house he buried the old bulk rather than placing it on the front curb for pick up. I found a house full of old windows, a broken wall air conditioner, jumbo plastic bags with empty beer cans, and other assorted debris. I think he cut the price by about $5,000 for me getting rid of his junk.

    I’ve ;iived in a lot of states and nobody seems to have such discriminating garbage collection as NJ. Not NY, MA. PA, WI, IL or FL.

    • Ahhh, so it’s not my imagination. We have been turned into a state full of involuntary hoarders.
      At least you have bulk disposal. In spite of the outrageous property taxes and association fees I pay, I *still* have to pay a fortune for someone to come pick up my bulk disposal. There’s a dryer in my basement that I can’t figure out how to get rid of and two tube style Sony TVs that I haven’t used in 2 years that I have no idea what to do with. I guess I could freecycle them but I have a feeling that not even these things are recyclable.

  9. Is NJ running out of physical space to put more garbage? Could “picky pickup” be a veiled stealth-plan to limit garbage output
    and control/ration the rate of “dump-fill”?

    • I’m sure that has something to do with it but its got to go somewhere. We’re running out of space in our garages.

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