Prayer and Medicine

The largest study of its kind has found that praying for a patient does not have any effect on their recovery. The study focused on heart bypass surgery and followed 1800 patients from six medical centers. Interestingly, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a slightly higher rate of complications, although there is no real way to determine what can be attributed to this. The study will be published in the American Heart Journal.

It will be interesting to see the reaction to this study. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, but I'm sure there are going to be some whacky responses in the next few days. Should make interesting reading.


This Is Comforting

From CNN:

Two teams of government investigators using fake documents were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs, according to a federal report made available Monday.

The investigators purchased a "small quantity" of radioactive materials from a commercial source, according to a Government Accountability Office report prepared for Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Chairman Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican.

The investigators posed as employees of a fictitious company and brought the materials into the United States through checkpoints on the northern and southern borders, the report stated.

Mediaeval WMD's

Ever want to build your own trebuchet? This site will give you some ideas, as well as history and different types of siege engines. No potato cannons though.


Who To Give To

I recently found a cool site that allows you to examine the quality of a particular organization before you donate money to them - Charity Navigator. You can type in a charity group and it will tell you what percentage of its revenue is spent on its mission statement, administration, and fund raising. I've read in the past that a good charity spends at a minimum 60% on its primary function. So, CN is a useful tool to determine whether this is happening.


The New Asylums

I watched a program the other night about the growing number of mentally ill inmates in our prisons. Of the 2,000,000 people currently incarcerated, 500,000 have some type of mental illness. Sixteen-percent (283,000) are diagnosed with severe mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or major depression. Staff at city and county jails report and incidence of 25% severe mental illness, although when combined with anti-social personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression and substance abuse, this could be over 50%.

The program had some really distressing stories about a number of inmates. It is obvious that their crimes were directly related to their mental illness. This does not excuse the crime, but since we have such inadequate mental health resources in this country, it is not surprising that so much of our crime is being committed by individuals who do not have a firm grasp on reality. The sad fact is, these people are getting much better treatment in jail than they would out in society. If this seems perverse, it is.

There are several problems with our current system. First, not much is being done to help these people before they start committing crimes. We are a reactionary society; crime, health, environment. We don't deal with issues until after they become a problem. Not a particularly bright strategy.

Second, not much help is given to these individuals once they serve their time. The vast majority will end up committing another crime and serving more time. Standard procedure is to give ex-inmates two weeks of their prescription to start them off back in the community. This ignores the fact that is can take more than two weeks to get an appointment with a mental health professional to get a new prescription. The result is men and women off their meds, afflicted with the illness and falling back on their previous behaviors. Again, not a smart system.

There has been some progress. Increasing awareness is being paid to this problem and there are groups actively trying to help solve the problem. What is needed, however, is a broader recognition of the issue within communities and at the national level.

Incidentally, if there was ever a better example of the importance of education, I don't know what it is.



I finally sat down and worked through the problems I was having with my template. It wasn't really that difficult to fix, it just required some time for searching, which I haven't had lately. Anyway, I've got several new links in my sidebar which some of you may find interesting. The best new one, I think, is Good Math, Bad Math. Excellent site.

Tomorrow is the Kitsap County Water Festival with my fourth graders. Our group name is the Sea Lions. My group (though I love them to death) would be better described as a bunch of ferrets on crystal meth (to steal a line from Domino). Should be an interesting day....

The Great White Hope

If you have a few minutes and want a chuckle, check out this new site for the Got Milk? campaign.

(Via Bad Astronomy)

Rampant Stupidity

This is the sort of thing that makes teachers want to quit.


A Boy's Life: Part 1

I've been reading a couple of books about the development and learning of boys. The author in question is Michael Gurian, founder of the Gurian Institute. He is an expert in the field of child and family development, and also provides professional development for educators. I've learned quite a bit so far and wanted to summarize some of the major points that can be helpful to both teachers and parents. I'll be writing a number of posts, in multiple parts, about what I've learned. This first part concerns the range of normal behavior we should expect to see from 9-10 year old boys.

1. It's normal for the boy to engage in little pulls toward independence- small experiments with backtalk, or "forgetting" to follow an instruction, or even a hint of disdain for the parents' way of doing things. These will often be couched in humor or sarcasm.

2. It's normal for him to have or be seeking one best friend.

3. It's normal for the boy to be a little curious about sex (this curiosity may be enhanced if he has older male siblings or has been sexualized early by media or another influence).

4. It's normal for the boy to develop one or more strong academic or athletic focuses.

5. It's normal for the boy at nine or ten to start channeling primary fellings - like fear, pain, shame, and guilt - through anger, thus letting us know he's hurting or scared by these feelings.

6. It's normal for the boy to experiment with cheating at board games or other activities.

7. It's normal for the boy to begin have a "public" and "private" life - he hugs mom at home but sometimes wants to be a "free agent" in public, acting as if she's not a huge authority over him.

8. It's normal for the boy to develop dinstinct interests in other peers' lives, habits, and acquisitions.

9. It's normal for the boy to begin to notice in startling ways how imperfect his parents really are.

10. It's normal for the boy to become immensely moral - even surprising us with his truth telling - yet simultaneously he may start experimenting with boundaries.

11. It's normal for the boy to look toward manhood but still be very much a boy. It's even normal for some boys to wet the bed once in a while at nine.

12. It's normal for the boy to become very conscious of how he receives respect, and to feel humiliated easily but to cover up those feelings.

It's worth noting that I've observed most of these behaviors in my fourth and fifth graders. I'm continually surprised at how a certain negative behavior (e.g. name calling) is a means by which many boys draw attention to other underlying problems. The key for me has been to maintain patience (even if you're really feeling frustrated) and find out what is causing the behavior you are seeing. There is always a reason.

Gurian points out a strategy that I've employed and is quite successful: calmly asking questions rather than interrogate. Most kids will elicit a truthful response if you maintain your patience and cool. Interrogation usually comes off as hostile and that's what the boy will focus on, not the subject of your questioning. As Love & Logic will tell you, empathy with compassion will take you a lot farther than demands for absolute compliance and obedience.

The last point I want to make, which reinforces the above, is the level of praise and criticism a boy receives. Gurian recommends a 7 to 1 ration of praise/criticism. Much of the self-esteem of pre-adolescents comes from the one-to-one interactions with his closest social groups: parents, family, peers, teachers. Excessive criticism can be harmful.

Gurian, Michael. 1999. The Good Son: A Complete Parenting Plan. Tarcher Publishing.

An Honest Perspective

Paul Eaton, a retired Army major general, has written a scathing review of Donald Rumsfeld's performance as Secretary of Defense. Eaton was in charge of training Iraqi forces from 2003-2204. He retired due to his frustration in dealing with the military Rumsfeld has created. Click here to read his editorial from the New York Times.


Universal Questions

Have you ever asked yourself the question, "If the universe is expanding, what is it expanding into?" It's a mind boggling question and the answer is no less so. Rob Knop, at Galactic Interactions, provides an explanation (which really just leads to more questions).

George Carlin's New Rules

This is funny stuff:

George Carlin's new rules for 2006

New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for Classmates.com! There's a reason
you don't talk to people for 25 years. Because you don't particularly like
them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing
these days: mowing my lawn.

New Rule: Don't eat anything that's served to you out a window unless you're
a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was found in a
bowl of Wendy's chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect
it to contain? Trout?

New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde
teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these
kids: lucky bastards.

New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you're
gay. If you're a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you're a
grown man, they're pictures of men.

New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here's how much men care about
your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we're done.

New Rule: There's no such thing as flavored water. There's a whole aisle of
this crap at the supermarket ? water, but without that watery taste. Sorry,
but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour
some scotch over ice and let it melt. That's your flavored water.

New Rule: Stop f***ing with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned
pill bottle that's square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the
bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be
in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security

New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole.
If you walk into a Starbucks and order a "decaf grande half-soy, half-low
fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light
ice, with one Sweet-n'-Low and one NutraSweet," ooh, you're a huge asshole.

New Rule: I'm not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card,
entering my PIN number, pressing "Enter," verifying the amount, deciding,
no, I don't want cash back, and pressing "Enter" again, the kid who is
supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn't make
you spiritual. It's right above the crack of your ass. And it translates to
"beef with broccoli." The last time you did anything spiritual, you were
praying to God you weren't pregnant. You're not spiritual. You're just high.

New Rule: Competitive eating isn't a sport. It's one of the seven deadly
sins. ESPN recently televised the US Open of Competitive Eating, because
watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting.
What's next, competitive farting? Oh wait. They're already doing that. It's
called "The Howard Stern Show."

New Rule: I don't need a bigger mega M&M. If I'm extra hungry for M&Ms, I'll
go nuts and eat two.

New Rule: If you're going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old
television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so
we can see what's playing on the other screens. Let's remember the reason
something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn't
good enough to be a movie.

New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for
weddings. Now it's for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab.
Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn't
gift giving, it's the white people version of looting.

New Rule: and this one is long overdue: No more bathroom attendants. After I
zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with
George Michael. I can't even tell if he's supposed to be there, or just some
freak with a fetish. don't want to be on your webcam, dude. I just want to
wash my hands.

New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don't need to know in
months. "27 Months." "He's two," will do just fine. He's not a cheese. And I
didn't really care in the first place.

Great Line

On Wednesday, March 1st, 2006, in Annapolis at a hearing on the proposed Constitutional Amendment to prohibit gay marriage, Jamie Raskin, professor of law at AU, was requested to testify.

At the end of his testimony, Republican Senator Nancy Jacobs said: "Mr. Raskin, my Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman. What do you have to say about that?"

Raskin replied: "Senator, when you took your oath of office, you placed your hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. You did not place your hand on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."

The room erupted into applause.

(Via Pharyngula)


Kind of Creepy

Carl Zimmer has an interesting post about work being done to identify virus families that further demonstrate the relatedness between different groups of species (humans and other primates, for example). It's fascinating research and probably only the tip of the iceberg.

Censure Resolution

Russ Feingold introduced a censure resolution in reaction to President Bush's unlawful domestic spy program. While it certainly won't pass, do your part and contact your senator today and encourage them to co-sponsor this measure. Senator information can be found here. It will be interesting to see who stands up for this and who doesn't (especially from the Democratic side, as I don't imagine any Republicans will vote yea).

Climate Skeptic?

Despite the fact that anthropogenic influences on current global warming are well established, there are still many people who would claim that humans have nothing to do with current climate change, or that any changes would actually be a good thing (and in some places they might). A new blog has created an index to common questions regarding climate change (or objections based on faulty reasoning) and provides straight forward, fact-based answers. Click here for a look.


Abramoff Talks

Vanity Fair has an extensive article on Abramoff and his work on behalf of Republicans. It looks like he really sings for this and it should prove quite an embarassment for Republicans. Here's the pdf of the article. How many Republican's are going to be backpedalling from this?

(Via Daily Kos)



I just spent a considerable portion of my evening revamping the sidebar of my blog, updating and organizing the links. Now I seem to have hit something I shouldn't have and a total mess has resulted. It's getting late so I'm not going to try to fix it now but if anyone has any advice about how to go about with virtual renovation, I'd appreciate it.

(The links are up though, which is something.)

Tree of Life

Carl Zimmer has a nice post cocerning a recent paper published that provides the most rigorous evidence yet of the phylogenetic relationships between the three domains of life (eukaryotes, eubacteria, archaea). It includes a very cool diagram for you visual types.

Government Stupidity (Again)

Orac points out that the National Cancer Institute (part of the NIH) is losing 40 million in its budget for fiscal 2007. But, we're still shelling out 122.7 million for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. We even have a NCCAM? The mind reels.....


Goram Right!

You scored as Serenity (Firefly). You like to live your own way and donĂ¢��t enjoy when anyone but a friend tries to tell you should do different. Now if only the Reavers would quit trying to skin you.

Serenity (Firefly)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Moya (Farscape)


Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com