Daily Comics Strips

Reading the daily comics is one of my routines.  I like comic strips because they’re allowed to be absurd but they can also say a lot about life, the universe and everything – often in one to four tiny squares of art and writing.  These two from Friday’s Star Tribune caught my eye (click to enlarge):



I’m going with Dad on this one – women don’t need to cut down men in the pursuit of equality!  But song can be a a form of emotional expression – the message doesn’t have to be fair.

But we do have the option of reaching over and changing the station if we don’t like the message!

Jump Start

Jump Start

Yay!  Thank you little dude in the white shirt and red tie.  There are always jobs out there, but they may not come to your front door to hand you a coffee and drive you to the office.  Hell, sometimes they may flip you the finger, make you jump through hoop after hoop and then graciously allow you to bust your ass as a temporary contractor (says I from multiple personal experiences).  There are tons of reasons why people who want to work are unemployed at one time or another, and in many cases it’s not the unemployed person’s fault.  But, it’s almost definitely (probably) not President Obama’s fault either.

Daily Comics Strips

Vaccines are pretty cool.

Forget cool, vaccines are awesome!  Sure, vaccines can help individuals protect themselves against preventable diseases, but even more importantly, vaccines can slow and sometime stop the spread of disease in populations

Some people cannot receive some vaccines due to allergies or conditions that counterindicate vaccination.  Some people choose to not get vaccinated out of fear and ignorance of the science and safety of vaccines.  Some people are outside of a vaccine’s intended use age range – i.e., they’re too young or too old to be vaccinated for a particular disease.  And some people don’t know (or remember) that booster shots are required for some vaccines, and that without these boosters they lose the protection conferred by the original vaccination over time.

By being vaccinated when you’re able, you are volunteering to be one brick in a wall that keeps disease away from those who are not – for whatever reason – vaccinated.  The taller the wall and the fewer holes that are in that wall means disease has less of a chance to get through to those unvaccinated individuals and groups who are hanging out behind our wall.

When there are chinks in the wall, there’s a a chance for infection to spread.  Healthy non-vaccinating people who are exposed to a preventable disease may suffer a minor illness, but in turn they might expose elderly, infant or immunocompromised people who may experience a much more severe reaction to the infection. 

I admit that this past winter was the first time I received the seasonal flu shot (I also received the H1N1 shot).  I was of the opinion that I’d rather take my chances of having a run-in with the flu “in the wild” than to knowingly put flu virus in my body and possibly get sick that way.  Also, the flu virus is constantly evolving, and I thought that the chances of being vaccinated for the particular strain I might be exposed to was a little like playing the lottery.  Well guess what?  It turns out virologists and people who make vaccines actually know a little something about virology and making vaccines.* 

This is the experience – The Moment! – that lead me to learning more about vaccination:  Around May of last year I had a friend tell me that she hadn’t immunized her children because vaccines weren’t safe.  I asked her how she’d feel if her kid got sick, or got sick and spread something around their school, and she told me something to the effect of  “Oh, she won’t get sick because everyone else in the school gets vaccinated; we claimed an ethical exemption.  And because everyone else is vaccinated, even if she were to get sick she couldn’t spread it to any of them.” 

To quote an internet meme:

Seriously?????  I asked her what if other parents also claimed an ethical exemption.  Her response was, “That’s really unlikely.”


It was around this time that I discovered Dr. Mark Crislip and the ScienceBasedMedicine blog, and I ran across Dr. Crislip’s A Budget of Dumb Asses, in which he describes 10 fallacious arguments for not getting the seasonal flu shot.  A Budget of Dumb Asses was a bit of a revelation and turning point for me; it blends sarcasm, mockery and critical thinking, and most importantly it influenced me to change my personal stance on the importance of getting vaccinated for the seasonal flu.

So in the past year I’ve become a big supporter and a bit of a nerd about vaccination.  I’d also consider myself an anti-anti-vaxer.  I try to keep my eyes and ears open for news about vaccine controversy and the anti-vaccination efforts here in the US and across the world.

Here are a couple of recent vaccine and flu stories that recently caught my eye:

Pertussis (whooping cough), is a prime example of a disease that requires booster doses – every 10 years for adults – to maintain immunization.  In this clip a reporter from CNN explains why.  There is a news article associated with the clip, and below is one of my favorite quotes, because I believe Dr. Shu captures the essence of why anti-vax movements prosper:

Young parents today have probably never seen illnesses such as whooping cough, so for them it’s “out of sight, out of mind,” Shu said.

“When you don’t see kids getting sick regularly because the vaccines are doing so well, then you kind of think that kids aren’t at risk for them,” Shu said. “But if we drop our guard, they are.”

Of course the most amusing and distressing part of any article about vaccination is the comments section, where the morons and the people arguing with the morons (sometimes mornons themselves!) duke it out.  Note how I didn’t assign “moron” to any particular viewpoint…there are definitely morons on both sides of this issue. 

A newsclip featuring Elyse Anders from Skepchick speaking about her one of her favorite topics:

And finally, an brief NPR story from this past Tuesday about the end of the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic as declared by the World Health Organization.  The end of the pandemic, people, not the end of H1N1.  From WHO:

Based on experience with past pandemics, we expect the H1N1 virus to take on the behaviour of a seasonal influenza virus and continue to circulate for some years to come.

So listen up this fall and winter and make sure to get vaccinated as recommended by your doctor, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization.

*Flu virus in vaccine is dead virus and can’t give one the flu.  Regarding strains and how “they” choose which strains to include in the annual vaccine, see these paragraphs from the CDC on antigenic drift and shift.

Vaccines are pretty cool.

VA Firearm Safety Classes

Yeah for Kindergarden!  Who doesn’t love kindergarden????

8am – Play Time!
9am – Snack Time!
10am – Sing the Bananaphone Song!
10:30am – Learn the Colors!
11am – Lunch Time!
11:30am – Play Time!
12:30pm – Nap time!
1:30pm – Gun Safety Class!
2:00pm – Play Time!
2:30pm – Snack Time
3:00pm – Go home with Mommy(ies) and/or Daddy(ies)!

Hey wait…what’s that at 1:30pm?

Virginia lawmakers have tasked the Virginia Board of Education to draft a firearm safety education class for elementary students.

I think it’s a great idea.

As long as we have guns all over the place, we might as well teach children to respect the damn things and to not be afraid of them.  We teach kids to not play with fire, not walk alone after dark, not hang around swimming pools without adult supervision, we might as well teach them not to look down the wrong end of Daddy and Mommy’s hunting rifles and/or pistols.  Gun safety, I’m all for.  I don’t know if teaching kids how to shoot guns should be under the educational system’s purview; I think I’d have to go with the family’s wishes – maybe it would be an extracurricular club or an elective class?  The VA board of education hasn’t yet released any details about whether they would offer training in the use or maintenance of guns.

VA Firearm Safety Classes

Dragons, Wrestling, Italian and iPad

All my friends are still talking about this damn “How to Train Your Dragon” movie, and it’s still holding strong at 98% on rottentomatoes.com.  Alright, I admit it…my curiosity is peaked.  And it’s still playing at the IMAX… 


Another thing that has aroused my interest is a new play that just opened at Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis called The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety.  It’s all about professional wrestling!  Well, and slightly heavier stuff like the concept of race in America.  From the press release:

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity examines America’s ideals and fears through a comic and provocative look at geopolitics and professional wrestling.  Told from the perspective of an unlikely underdog, Macedonio Guerra, a Puerto Rican wrestler who has made a career as a “professional loser”, Chad Deity tells the tale of an African-American champion pitted against a trash-talking Indian athlete from the streets.  Racial politics and wrestling make odd bedfellows everywhere but on Mixed Blood’s stage; political correctness and conventional expectations are thrown out of the ring in this theatrical event.


I bought a grammer workbook for Italian last night at the bookstore (McGraw-Hill Easy Italian Step-by-Step).  I wonder if anyone really thinks that they’re going to get along in a foreign country with “Language X for Travelers” books.  I mean, how much patience would you have for someone if they approached you on the street, gripping a book, mumbling to themselves, pointing frantically at the pages and speaking something that sounds somewhat like heavily-accented English?  I think a lot of us would find somewhere else to be pretty quickly.  Seriously, take a few minutes to learn the subject pronouns (I, you, he, she, we, you (plural), they) and how to conjugate the big three verbs (to be, to have, to do/to go), and you’re in a much better position to get your point across.


The Hubby and I have a Mac Date tonight.  We’re going to take my desktop Mac to the Genius Bar in an attempt to identify why I can’t upload my CD language programs.  We’re also going in order to pet the cute new iPads.  I think I’m out of the woods with my desire to have an iPad – an iPhone will be plenty for me, and for the price I think I’d have to go with a PC laptop before an iPad.  For those of you still struggling with the decision To Buy or Not To Buy, The Maniachi’s blog has provided this easy-to-follow flow chart:

Dragons, Wrestling, Italian and iPad

And the Scariest Book Award goes to:

The Bible Cure for Candida and Yeast Infections

Dr. Colbert is an Oral Roberts U alumnus and board-certified MD who peddles faith-based AND alternative medicine kookiness – it’s a two-fer!

First, he’s addressing the controversial issue of candidiasis.  Science-based medical doctors know from the evidence that there are genital and oral (thrush) yeast infections, and that there is also a systemic form of chronic candidiasis that can occur in immunocompromised patients, such as those suffering from AIDS, mono and cancer.

Then there are alternative health proponents who believe that candida overgrowth is common, even among apparently healthy people.  These practitioners believe that candidiasis might be at the root of many vague symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, mood swings, depression, anxiety, dizziness, unexpected weight gain, difficulty in concentrating, muscle and joint pain, cravings for sugar or alcoholic beverages, psoriasis, hives, respiratory and ear problems, menstrual problems, infertility, impotence, bladder infections, prostatitis, and “feeling bad all over.” (Quackwatch).

But I digress…the candidiasis issue has been torn into by people much smarter and more informed on the issue than I.  Along with the Quackwatch link above, Wikipedia appears to have  a decent write-up, including a list of references for anyone who has an interest in learning more about candidiasis.

Now back to the damned book, and to the heart of my ire (no, it’s not candida overgrowth).  I flipped through the thing, and do you know what I found inside?  Very common-sense diet and exercise advice that I imagine any doctor would give to almost anyone.  Yea for eating well and exercising!  It’s the miracle cure of the millennia (literally, according to Dr. Colbert).

But aside from the facepalm-worthy medical “cure”, the book caters to people who believe in God, and this is the religious message that it promotes: If you succeed in losing weight and feeling better it was God’s will, and you only succeeded in completely revising your shopping, eating and exercise habits because you relied on God.  And actually, God was the one who led you to The Bible Cure for Candida and Yeast Infections, which wasn’t really written by Dr. Colbert, but by God.

I know that there are people who would agree wholeheartedly with the paragraph above, and not find a single thing wrong with the idea that God controls all aspects of our lives.  But in that case, why bother with any kind of recognition of our fellow human beings?  Why don’t we all put on matching uniforms and call ourselves God Robot #1, God Robot #2, etc?  By this reasoning Dr. Colbert didn’t do anything remarkable by writing this book, he just happened to be a convenient vessel when God wanted to upload a new program to his Robot Army.  So no accolades for Dr. Colbert…I mean, God Robot #358454980.  He was just the equivalent of a plugged-in human battery from the Matrix who was transformed into an agent for that brief period of time it took to get the book written.

Humans rock!  Individuality rocks!  The choices that human beings make are precious!  If you’re feeling out of sorts and you make the decision to help yourself by buying a diet book, and then by busting your butt to avoid tempting, yummy foods, and to set your alarm clock an hour earlier so you can get to the gym before work…that’s all YOU!  You did that, and you should get to take pride in your efforts.  None of this damned “Yea, I feel better, God must have helped me!” and the dangerous flip side of that coin “Oh, man, I ate thirteen White Castles this weekend…God must have decided that I wasn’t worthy enough to succeed.  I guess I’ll go watch some TV until God makes me go to the gym”

We have control over our lives, we live and die, wither or thrive, because of the decisions we make.  I am my own personal demon and hero, and you are yours.  When you do something wonderful, I have nothing but awe and respect for your accomplishments, because even if you believe that you need your faith to succeed, I have faith that you don’t.

And the Scariest Book Award goes to:

Med school seems really far away today.

I’m following a Plan that is designed to get me into medical school (getting through medical school is an entirely different Plan).   I actually started this blog to document my journey from undergraduate and career gal to medical school candidate, and the closer I get, the more of an influence this journey will have on my blog entries.  But unfortunately, I’m in the earliest stage of The Plan, which is Getting Out of Commercial Debt and setting myself up financially to get into medical school (MCATs, supplementary classes, med school entry counsultants, researching med schools, med school application fees, traveling to visit schools – the list can go on and on depending on how one chooses to get there). 

So I am currently in the part of The Plan that involves a lot of money-making, making sure said money goes to the credit card companies or savings (not on new iPads), and staying very calm while I get more and more impatient to be studying medicine.

Hence, two jobs – one of which, thank goodness, is vaguely related to medicine.  Aside from adding to my science background (immuno- and biochemistry, cell culture, in vitro diagnostics, statistics), my work here is  strengthening my experience and knowledge of decision-making, setting priorities, multi-tasking, discovering and working with limitations, schedule planning, leading teams and assigning work, cross-functional diplomacy, business hierarchies and decisions, working with regulatory agencies and other big-picture issues that may prove useful when working in medicine.

This job experience also mean that I have acquired the ability to occasionally relate to Dilbert cartoons and Office Space.   For example, here are some excellent, and admittedly out-of-context, quotes that have recently come from various meetings:

That’s an unfair test because it sets us up for success, and we don’t want to set ourselves up for success.

Lean-Six Sigma is like communism: It works great in theory. – This one works great for any number of procedures and ideas that one doesn’t like.

It’s not a real vacation unless it inconveniences your co-workers.

We’re on target to get nothing done!

Boss: She’s mastered the science of getting SOPs approved. 
Worker: I’ve mastered the science of nagging.
Co-Worker: Yeah, she’s the Charles Dickens of the nasty-gram.

Yep, just like being a factory worker during undergrad helped me want to stay in college, this career – extraordinary work experience aside – is a wonderful motivation to stay on-track for medical school.

Med school seems really far away today.

Tiger, why are you apologizing?

Why do celebrities and politicians apologize after having extra-marital affairs?  Marriage is a private affair and often has nothing to do with what the offender is known for in the first place.  I was always in the “so what if Clinton cheated – let Hillary deal with that crap” camp.  Bill Clinton was a great president…up until the point when his leadership was sidetracked by having to defend his “integrity” to a gloating Republican caucus.  That was a shame.

Rachel Maddow – who is fast becoming one of my favorite female heroes since I started listening to the podcast of her daily show – even did a story on the Tiger Woods confession, and as she mentions in the clip, this isn’t the kind of story on which she usually reports.  She does point out though, that when a story becomes so big that it affects the stock market, it becomes necessary to give it a mention.

Actually, there are celebrities apologizing all over the place.  They’re sorry for cheating, for drinking and driving, for yelling at paparazzi, for offending their fans, ya, dah-dah, dah-dah.  Newsweek online has a pretty great slide show of their favorite celebrity screw-ups and the subsequent media-blitz apologies.  And I admit it…I scrolled through every one.  Is this all about gossip – we love the juicy trash talk?  That’s why Cops, Springer, etc are world-wide successes, right?  

I did a little googling and found newspaper articles, books, journal articles, blog posts and all sorts of information about gossip.  Gossip and rumor research is an entire subsection of the science of social psychology.  Trust me.  Haha – look, I’m starting a rumor about rumor research! 

Darn it though, I wanted to write a nice little rant about how much gossip sucks, and now I find out that all of my questions actually have answers (or at least theories) – now I have to go and research before I can justifiably rant.  Bummer, dude.

I found a great quick-reference on gossip at howstuffworks.com.  They discuss the characteristics, science, benefits and ethics of gossip.  And then they give me The Answer to my questions!  Here is the reason why I believe we really gossip:

A lot of the time, people could learn the same information about social rules and standards through observation. However, observing people’s behavior takes longer and requires more effort than gossip does.

Yup, we gossip because we’re lazy.  Passing on accurate information takes a lot longer and more concentration that just throwing out “he said, she-said” (as I’m re-discovering with this blog post).  And really, there’s so many things to do and learn in the meager 75-80 years we have here on Earth; is it any wonder that we like to take shortcuts?

But, I’ve really gotten off track here.  We’ve learned about gossip, yeah!  But why the APOLOGIES???  Do you care if Tiger is repentant?  He cheated – that doesn’t affect my life.  I don’t care if he’s sorry, or if he goes out and tries to beat Warren Beatty’s record.  I’ve guess that damage control is the major issue in Tiger’s case – he’s going to lose sponsors, but he may manage to hang on to a few if confesses, scourges his back with a flail…oh, oh wait!  It’s the Christian guilt thing, isn’t it!?  But wait, he’s Buddhist.  But his sponsors might be Christians…

Ack…my head hurts…blog post derailing…interest waning…

Funny gossip quotes:

“Honestly, I like to hear negative gossip about people I don’t know or don’t like. I like to hear positive gossip about people I know and like.” RA from a TiernyLab blog post on gossip.

From quotegarden.com

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit next to me.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth

“Nothing travels faster than light, with the possible exception of bad news, which follows its own rules.”  Douglas Adams

“It isn’t what they say about you, it’s what they whisper.” Errol Flynn

Tiger, why are you apologizing?