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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