“You can get arrested for that”

Have you ever heard of “dumb laws”? They’re usually circulated via forwarded emails and include gems such as this one in Chicago that “forbids eating in a place that is on fire,” or the one in Baltimore that says its “illegal to take a lion to the movies.”

Apparently 2 young British men, on a trip to the US, wanted to see what would happen if they took some of these restrictions and intentionally disobeyed. Fortunately for us they’ve documented it along the way. (And in a very American entrepreneurial spirit, a book version is also available: “You Can Get Arrested For That: 2 Guys, 25 Dumb Laws, 1 Absurd American Crime Spree”)

Via SlickRicks

237 reasons to have sex

Or at least 237 reasons given by a survey of University of Texas students, as part of a research study conducted by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss (published in August’s issue of “Archives of Sexual Behavior”).  I don’t have access to the full article via my university yet, but you can read a summary of the findings via the NY Times here.

The responses range from burning calories to making babies, but what surprises me is that those 237 reasons are only from about 400 students.  Who would have thought there would be such diverse responses among such a small sample size?  Quite amusing to say the least.

“No Standards Left Behind”

That’s the title of an article a friend recently pointed out to me, published in the Wall Street Journal a few days ago.  A lot of people dislike the No Child Left Behind Act, and this author (Neil McCluskey) is no exception.  Here is my favorite part:

According to a report last month from the Institute of Education Sciences, a research branch of the U.S. Department of Education, while states are declaring success on their tests, almost none have standards even close to those of the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress — the so-called “Nation’s Report Card.” Almost all states have set their standards below NAEP’s “proficiency” level.

If it weren’t so sad it would be comical – states have standards set so low that they fail to even meet the national “proficiency” level.  What a waste of money, and yet politicians continue to throw tax dollars that direction.  How long will it take before they acknowledge the plan is a failure (or try to distance themselves from it as much as possible)?

 If you don’t have online access to the Wall Street Journal, the entire article can be found for free here.

Can you read this?

If you can, then congratulations…you will likely live longer than someone who cannot. Does the ability to read grant you some sort of magical healing powers over your own body? No, but it means you’re better at understanding that doctor and his/her high-falutin’ words.

More details over at the blog “I Love To Cheat Diet

It seems you can never underestimate the importance of a good education.

“McResistance” brewing in Berlin

Citizens of a Berlin are protesting the construction of a new McDonalds in their community.  In addition to their fear that it will take away from the unique fare their neighborhood offers, I’ll give you 3 guesses as to what another primary motive is.  Any takers?  From the local parliment representative:

“I fear McDonald’s, with all its media power, will tempt the students not to eat their sandwich and apple for lunch.”

Yes, you heard correctly.  They are afraid that people <gasp> will actually eat at the McDonalds.  For some reason this reminds me of the movie “Field of Dreams”, and I hear that whispery and kinda creepy voice saying “If you build it, they will come.”  Of course people will eat at the McDonalds if it is built – I’m sure the franchise did plenty of research to make sure there was indeed a demand in the area.  But why does a legislator or group of locals have the right to restrict the entry of such a restaurant into that market if there is clearly a demand – why do they get to decide what their fellow citizens can and cannot eat?  Crazy I say!

You may be thinking that local restaurant owners are also opposed to the new McDonalds.  Not necessarily:

Gritje Lomer, who runs the nearby Baretto coffee bar with her husband, also found no reason to get worked up; her baguettes with organic pecorino and provolone appeal to different tastes.

“I don’t have a lot of worries that it’s competition for us,” she said.

If there is clearly a demand, and local restaurant owners are not necessarily opposed, it seems silly not to allow the McDonalds to be built.  Methinks the uptight citizens doth protest too much.

Brevity of Life

Ever since I stumbled across his guest column on Anderson Cooper’s 360 blog a few months ago, I’ve subscribed to Miles Levin’s personal blog on carepages.com and have been following his journey.

Miles is a recent high school graduate who is facing a very deadly form of pediatric cancer, and it seems that, as of last week, he has run out of treatment options. He apparently only has 2-5 weeks left (unless some new treatment option appears, which seems unlikely), yet he faces it with a kind of calm that is both impressive and inspirational. From his July 26 post:

If I am nearing the end, I am trying to relax into it, to accept what is to be. I know that things are happening as they are supposed to happen, if not by divine destiny then by the overpowering forces of nature. I know this because I know that we have given this fight our all. We have left no stone unturned. I have fought my very hardest.

Now its up to the greater powers, whatever they may be. It seems a certainty that my path was not meant to be ordinary, but while everyone wants to feel special, I find myself alternating between feelings of gratitude for all that my life has been, with the feeling that it’s not asking too much to wish for more–to trade it all for a normal, obscure teenage existence in which I craved greater impact.

I’m getting quite a lesson in not getting what I want. Turns out it is one of the hardest we’ll ever have to learn. I’m not a child anymore; I can’t get away with throwing a tantrum. This is hard, and there’s no easy way around that.

It’s very humbling to read his words – every day many of us strive to get rewarded, to feel special, and he would trade it all just to buy back his life. I imagine many of us would share his feelings if we were in his position; and while we are fortunate to have our life and hopefully our health, we will likely continue to take it for granted until faced with a debilitating condition such as cancer. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with this approach, but perhaps every now and then we should stop, breathe, and remind ourselves to enjoy our life, even if only for a brief moment.

Koran thrown in toilet, man charged with hate-crime

23 year old Stanislav Shmulevich is in a boat-load of trouble after putting the Koran in a toilet (twice) on the Pace University campus. Amid pressure from Muslim groups, the school moved from charging the young man with vandalism to reporting him to NYPD’s hate-crimes unit where he is now being charged with 2 felonies. Yes, felonies.

Was he stupid to put a book in the toilet? Yes – there are better ways to express your disagreement with a particular group (debates and discussions usually work well). Should he be punished for putting a book in a toilet? Yes – it’s an act of vandalism, and some poor custodial worker had to fish it out (and plumbing may need to be repaired, depending on whether he tried to flush it or not). Should this toilet incident be considered a “hate-crime”? No. It was the destruction of a book and possibly property, but not an attack on an individual person. Where does freedom of speech end and hate-crime begin? The article mentions that this incident occurred amidst other acts of vandalism “with religious or racial overtones”, but the police don’t link Mr. Shmulevich to those.

I think hate-crimes are a rather dubious charge to begin with, because the person is always charged with whatever act they committed (vandalism, assault, etc) – the addition of “hate-crime” seems like overkill. I don’t support physically harming someone because of their race, religion, gender, orientation, etc, but it is unnecessary to add the “hate” portion to what is already considered a crime. I just wonder whether the school and police would have responded the same if the Bible had been put in toilet instead (or perhaps for atheists who have no “divine” text so to speak, a book such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”)?

On the specifics of the charges, see Hot Air

For more general opinion/discussion on the topic:

New English Review
PZ Myers at Pharyngula
Little Green Footballs

Which Office character are you?


Which Office Character Are You?

You are Ryan. You are extremely smart and perceptive, and it irritates you to no end when inferior people try to tell you what to do. Sometimes, though, your critical eye makes you come off as aloof and bitter to others, and it may take awhile for people to get to know you.
Find Your Character @ BrainFall.com

I suppose it’s better than Dwight Shrewt. 😉

Morning after pill is not the same as an abortion

Pharmacists in Washington are suing the state for requiring that they sell the morning-after pill, saying the pill is equivalent to an abortion and that the requirement violates their civil liberties.

First off, emergency contraception such as the “morning-after pill” is not the same as an abortion, chemical or otherwise.  Abortion implies the removal of an embryo after it has implanted on the wall of the uterus, while the morning-after pill prevents either ovulation (release of egg), fertilization, or implantation of the embryo.  Obviously if you believe life begins at fertilization, than you may still be opposed, but there is a distinction between the two that people often confuse.

Second, while no doubt it would be wrong to force pharmacists to dispense drugs of which they are fundamentally opposed, they have a choice as to whether they want to work in that particular field.  By refusing to fill a legal prescription for a customer, however, they are forcing their views onto that person – a person who, depending on location, may not have a choice as to where else to go and get their prescription filled (and in the case of emergency contraception, have only a small window of opportunity for the drug to be effective).  This is wrong.

When you assume the role of a health care professional – be it pharmacist, nurse, doctor, etc – you are explicitly agreeing to help provide care for that patient, and agreeing that the care provided should be in the best interest of the patient regardless of whether it is in your own best interest.  Do I think all doctors should be required to provide abortions if a patient asks?  No, but if they are unwilling they should direct the patient to someone who will serve their needs (this pharmacist requirement allows for this stipulation) .  Refusing to do so is selfish, and violates the patient-provider relationship.  If you don’t feel you are capable of directing them to someone who will provide the care they need/desire, than quite frankly I think you belong in a different field.  The medical profession should not be a place to force your moral views onto others, it is a place to provide care for those in need.

“Tripoli Six” freed

This is great news – the six medical workers being held in Libya have finally been released, just days after their death sentence was reduced to life in prison.

For anyone unfamiliar with the case, the Libyan government accused the 5 nurses and 1 doctor of intentionally injecting children with HIV-infected blood, a preposterous claim used by the government to redirect the blame of upset parents who found out their children had contracted HIV while staying at the hospital. Despite the fact that the home-countries were coerced into funding a large compensation package for the children (and probably must fund other programs within Libya), this case has been going on for so long and it’s great to finally see a resolution

Death by softball

A 12 year old girl died after being hit in the head by a softball. Certainly this is a rare occurrence, otherwise parents would never let their kids participate in the sport, but it does highlight the level of danger that is possible when large balls are flying through the air – a danger I have a new appreciation for after recently (Monday) getting hit in the head during a game of softball.

I was hit directly under my left eye on the orbital bone, probably much less dangerous than where this 12 year old was hit (I’m not sure where the ball specifically hit her, but the article implies the skull immediately surrounding the brain). Still, the area around my eye began to swell within 1 second, and after a minute it had swollen so much that I could barely see out of my left eye. I went to the ER and had a CT scan to check for broken bones, and to make sure that none of the fluid now pressing my eye shut was pushing on my optic nerve. Fortunately for me (and a bit to the surprise of the docs) nothing was broken and I was sent home with pain meds and instructions should my head take a turn for the worse (risk of concussion).

Just as I went to my softball game on Monday expecting only nice weather and good fun, the family of Maggie Hilbrands never imagined how that day could have turned so suddenly for the worst. My thoughts and condolences are with her family and teammates in this time of mourning.

Well…duh!

In what is sure to be a regular segment on this blog, I present to you: “Well…duh!” That is to say, research that is being funded and performed that reaches conclusions most average people could have told you for free. Today I give you 2 such examples:

1) Obese people are more likely to have obese family and friends

2) Experienced surgeons have better surgical outcomes

There’s no subject left to teach!

Via Aaron Kinney at Kill The Afterlife, a comic that describes what happens when the abstinence-only logic is applied to other school subjects: http://burntelectrons.org/media/Kansas%20Classrooms.gif

There are many things wrong with abstinence-only (i.e. tons of evidence to support it DOESN’T work), not the least of which is the assumption of its pushers that knowledge will suddenly turn people into sinners and criminals:  You can’t teach your kid to use a condom, because then they’ll have sex with everyone. 

I find this is also a similar approach taken by individuals and groups who wish to attack our personal liberties: We can’t trust ordinary people with guns, because then they’ll want to kill everyone.  Or: we must ban the sale and use of any drug, lest everyone become an addict. Or: we can’t allow gays to marry, because next people will want to marry their pets.  What’s interesting is that these arguments tend to come from both the left and the right, as they attempt to “protect” people from themselves (the right tends to protect us from sin, the left from crime), but in the process violate our rights and freedom.  This protectionism mentality must have been around awhile, for even Thomas Jefferson wrote:

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.”

I just don’t understand why people are afraid of information – as if having an extra piece of knowledge is the difference between a good or bad person.  I don’t understand why we think we know what’s best for our neighbors, and why we think its ok to go beyond telling them what we think is best to forcing them to live their life as only we deem acceptable.  This mentality is unacceptable, and harmful not only to the people on the outskirts of policy, but to the policymakers themselves, who are also citizens. 

We can’t expect that the political majority will always be representing our views, and thus they should not be allowed to restrict our individual liberties, regardless of whether it is the restriction on public school teachers, or the restriction on the citizens’ right to bear arms.

Placenta Pie Anyone? Part 2

Nancy VidQueen has provided a news clip of the Nevada woman who sued to get her placenta:

Edit – for some reason I can’t get the video to embed properly (the reason most likely that I’m only marginally computer literate).  Anyway, you can check out Nancy’s post containing the video here.

Do you think “abstinence-only” may be partially to blame?

New HIV Infections Outpace Treatment“, says the Associated Press.  The good news?  More Africans are receiving retroviral drugs.  The bad news?  Infection rates are still out of control.

I think part of the problem is that a significant portion of the money going to Africa, at least from the US government, is tagged to abstinence-only education.  This is ridiculous!  I resent the fact that my tax dollars are supporting a religious-based, rather than evidence-based method of fighting HIV.  I have no problem if someone wants to donate their own money to an abstinence-only campaign – go ahead – but I do not agree that only teaching abstinence is the best way to prevent the spread of STDs, and it is unfair to force me to support it financially. 

More people are becoming infected everyday, which means more people dying prematurely – many of these deaths can be prevented if we abandon the abstinence-only approach.  There is nothing wrong with teaching abstinence, and I don’t think you’ll find many people arguing that abstinence doesn’t help, but it must go hand in hand with promoting proper condom use for those who will inevitably choose to have sex.  Uganda was successful in its “ABC” campaign (Abstinence, Be faithful, and use Condoms), so why would we abandon this approach?

I file this one under religion, unnecessary regulation, and health care:  religion, because religious views are behind the approach; unnecessary regulation, because I am being forced to financially support a program where money is unfairly tied to these views instead of letting people choose which ABC option is best; and health care, because people are dying everyday because someone in Washington thinks they know what’s best for them.

/rant

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