Friday, March 30, 2012

Haiku Friday

A friend's defense, a
wedding invite, beers and a
happy hour today.


Boss on vacation
Easy day today, except
for all the writing.


Moving day creeping
closer, lots to do, lots to
sell. Ebay! Craigslist!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Plane Story

The finding of a man trying to board a plane at PHL today with a bag full of explosives prompted me to tell my plane story (I have several, but this is the one that came to mind). Alex and I were heading to CA, I can't really remember the reason. My favorite flight to take back to LAX is the 6 or 6:30pm one. It arrives into LAX at 9pm, and I don't have to miss a day of work. Anyways, we were waiting in the terminal, getting ready to board, and I see this "New Jersey Clown" is the only way to describe him. Oversized 76ers jersey, baggy shorts, hat slightly skewed, lots of gel in his hair (even tho it's covered by a hat). He's on the phone, and he's talking loudly. We could all hear him, but I generally tried to tune him out. We start boarding, getting in line, heading down the jetway. Apparently, this asshat decides to continue talking on his phone, saying things like, "This plane is going DOWN!" "No way we're making it to LA!", and more and more obnoxious things. I am unsure what his motive was for his grandstanding, but the flight attendants and the passengers certainly noticed. Once we were all on the plane and mostly seated, some burly Federal Marshalls (? actually not sure who came on the plane? cops?) hauled him and his friend off the plane. It all happened so fast, that I wasn't sure what had happened. Someone came on over the intercom to tell us we had to be re-screened through security. I was sure this guy was just being a tool, and he didn't really have anything that would cause the plane to go down, but I understand that rules are rules and we would rather be safe than sorry. They escorted us back through the terminal to the security line, where I had to quickly down my 1L of water I had filled up before the flight. Thankfully, we were fast-tracked through security, and we ended up taking off about an hour late. The pilot liked us, though, and got us into LAX only about 1/2 hour past our original arrival time. The whole incident was a non-incident, really. But I do recall seeing those signs saying, "Don't joke about bombs or anything!" around the airport, and apparently they take these things pretty seriously. Here's hoping that d-bag spent a good several days in Federal Prison for our little inconvenience.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Animal Instincts

Sorry, folks. I have a lot of opinions. This post was inspired by my good friend, Randi.

Both Randi and I grew up together and we both grew up with animals. Randi had Mammy kitty, Cuddles the bunny, and Hippie-Lou the dog. I had Brownie the absolute terror of a dog, and then we got the absolute love of my life, Phillie, the cocker spaniel with the littlest brain but the biggest heart. We also had Snottie boogers, the odd-looking dog, JJ the parakeet (among many) and a newt named Norton. I grew up loving animals and wanting to have them in my life. When I graduated college, I got two cats, Moue and Shadow, from the local LA County Shelter. Moo was a little kitten, and Shadow had been knocked up, wandering the streets. I had Shadow (or Sister) for nearly 10 years before she succumbed to several health problems, among them diabetes, a brain tumor, and colon problems. I have loved all my animals, and I have taken care of them, to an extreme in some cases. Phillie was my pride and joy, my first best friend, and will always by my favorite. He was just a dog that came into my life at the right time and the right place. I had just turned 12, was quite smart and motivated, but had a hard time being my own person at such a young age. Phillie was my bud, not caring what I looked like, or how I dressed. Phillie actually did me a favor. He was sick and dying, but I was in Philadelphia. I flew home and he hung on. I knew it was time for him to go, and he let me hold him in my lap in the car ride and at the vets. He was such a cool pup, I still miss him to this day.
Shadow came down with the diabeetus, and we ended up having to check her sugar twice daily, give her insulin shots twice daily. I actually would test my cat's blood sugar prior to my morning coffee. If you know me, this is a big deal, trust me. But, we got into a good habit, and things worked out for the most part. I don't think Shadow suffered too much with her diseases. We kept her comfortable until the end, when her health was failing, her lungs were filling up with fluid, we decided it was the humane thing to euthanize her. I'm not sure if she was grateful for the relief or not, but I know that both Alex and I felt a sense of release. We missed her terribly, but knew she was at least not suffering anymore.
Are other people's stories about their pets the same? Hardly. I had a friend who had to put a young kitten to sleep, it was so sick. All of these experiences shape our lives, and it's lovely and wonderful to be responsible for another life, to have an animal contribute to our rich experiences. I think I will always have animals in my life, even when I'm old and gray. I think they're wonderful.
However, I do think things have gotten out of control. Randi tried to adopt a puppy, but was denied because she has a child under 5 years of age. Nearly all my friends with kids under 5 have dogs. How can you make such a ridiculous requirement? I have another friend who adopted a dog from a "rescue" organization. In the paperwork, the rescue organization requires this person to constantly update them on the dogs whereabouts, implores this person that if they ever don't want the dog, to give him back to the rescue, and insists that the organization can take the dog away at any time, any place. Although the majority of these stipulations seem to have the dogs best intentions at heart, I just have to wonder when we became so nuts. Randi was asked what food she will feed the dog. What the hell difference does it make? I will feed him food. Likely what's on sale, and probably some table scraps to boot. And you know what? The dog will be fine. Or he won't. Sometimes animals die. It's OK. It's not great, but it's OK. Shit happens.
Look, I can see where some of these organizations are coming from. My mom got her dog, Valentine, from the Humane Society. They recognized that Valley-Girl was just about the sweetest thing ever, and they matched her up with my Mom perfectly. They came out, looked at my Mom's backyard, and handed her over. My Mom walks her every day, takes her to the vet yearly and keeps up on her health and grooming. Valentine is a perfectly happy dog, and she fits right in with the family. I think this is a reasonable situation. They want to make sure you have an area for the dog to hang out in. If you rent, they want to make sure your landlord is OK with pets. Fine. I get that. But three references, including a vet reference? You have got to be shitting me.
My kitty Moo gets to go to the vet when she's sick, and I sometimes keep up on her shots. She's an indoor cat, doesn't get into too much trouble, and we treat most of her ailments at home (we are scientists after all). She is currently up to date on all her shots because we will be traveling with her this summer, so she needs to be. Otherwise, I might have held off another few months to pay off the wedding. Realistically, people are doing the best they can. Are dogs better off in a house, rather than a shelter? Yes, absolutely. Should you screen people to make sure they're able to have animals, and have a reasonable area to take to pets? Sure (however, in the city? c'mon now! We don't have backyards and plenty of people have pets! Get over this "must have a backyard" thing!). And premium dog food, multiple vet visits for any and all ailments, no kids, age restrictions (as in, no one under 25 can adopt an animal?), can't be college students, must own a home? C'mon now, folks. You're now eliminating at least 50% of the population, who might be perfectly OK to take care of an animal. There are thousands of animals in shelters around the country. These animals need homes, or they are euthanized. Yes, make some reasonable rules. Hell, do a house check, or a vet check if they have one. But, realistically, you are only hurting those animals that you want to help. Some of us are perfectly capable of taking care of an animal. Will we go into debt to care for the animal? Maybe. Will we feed it better food that we eat? Probably not. Will the dog or cat notice? Nope, not a chance. Dogs evolved to eat our table scraps (and likely to help us hunt) and cats came along for the ride because of the abundance of rodents associated with human life. Pets have evolved alongside humans, and many of us feel empty without a pet by our side.
To these bullshit "rescue" organizations, get over your pompous, ridiculous ideas. Realize that some people want to have pets, and let them. It will be a huge improvement over your animal hoarding tendencies. Maybe you should rethink your actual goals in these organizations. It seems like your goals may be to become a non-profit to feed into your dog and cat hoarding tendencies? Until then, I will be supporting my local Humane Society shelters, as well as the City and County animal control shelters. Their policies are reasonable, and they are looking to place animals in forever homes. Not looking to repossess your dog when you decide to move across the country, or need to feed them non-premium dog food. It floors me that organizations make these types of demands on people. Are you trying to prevent poor people from having pets? It sure seems that way.
Why don't you spend your money educating people about animal abuse? Trying to stop the ridiculous amount of dog-fighting and cock-fighting that goes on around the Philly area? Why don't you spend your money on giving coupons to struggling families so they can keep feeding their pets? Why don't you actually make it easy to give a pet away if you can no longer take care of it? Why don't you help people with their vet bills? All of these things are reasonable, the right thing to do. Buying premium dog food? Keeping an perfectly good animal in a shitty shelter because of your stupid rules? Not helping anyone, and actually harming the animals you are claiming to want to help.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Twofer Tuesday

We've been watching a bit of Netflix recently, and we took in two sports-related movies. The first was The Flying Scotsman, about Graeme Obree, a Scottish guy who custom built a bike and ended up setting the world record in velodrome bike racing (the kind where you go around and around and around a track). I think we both really liked this movie because Alex is a cyclist, so we could really identify with the training schedule, the bike rides in the rain, the pieces of the bikes falling off, and the pain of building a bike to fit you and make you go fast. It was a "feel good" movie, about a guy chasing a dream, and mostly attaining it. However, there were some dark spots. Apparently Obree has battled depression (and ended up coming out of the closet recently), so he was not always happy in his achievements. The movie also shows just how ridiculous the sport of cycling is, with the stupid rules the UCI comes up with to make cyclists conform to their standards. I thought it was a well done movie, and I really enjoyed it.
The other movie we took in was The Spirit of the Marathon, a documentary movie that followed several runners (including the elite runner Deena Kastor) in the months and weeks leading up to the Chicago Marathon (in 2005 methinks). The movie was really interesting, showing how families and individuals coped with the rigorous training, how emotional the runs can be, and how cool the support from running groups is. It really made me want to go for a run, and I'm itching to head to Stanford to get involved in the running community there. I have no doubt it will be a million times better than here, since there are way more trails and interesting places to go. I was also really glad that it showcased the running of an elite woman (women tend to get so little attention in any sport). Kastor is an inspiration, and a wonderful role model for women of all levels of sport. Her dogged determination, her stubbornness, and her great attitude just shone through this movie through and through. There were also several other women featured in the movie, so it was a great Rah! Rah! women! all around :) I think these were two movies that were inspirational, they really were a great time to watch them, and they really made me want to hit the pavement!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • This past weekend was pretty chill. Just hung out, ran a bunch of errands and tried to play some catch up. Things are getting a little crazy around here, as we're moving in, like 3 months! Eek!
  • On Saturday night, we went out to a bar to say goodbye to our good friend and dance teacher, A. She is headed back to France after living in Philly for nearly 8 years.
  • We stayed out until 11pm on Saturday night - I know, I know we are party animals!
  • My boss is out of town for the next two weeks. Time to get some writing and organizing done. Lots and lots and lots to do, folks!
  • We are in the process of planning Alex's defense, planning the visits of our parents, buying a car, making sure that car can be registered in CA, figuring out car insurance, car loans, moving expenses and a road trip across the country. I've also been selling things on Ebay, mostly shoes. You would be surprised to know how many pairs of shoes I have bought and never worn. I'm actually a little ashamed of it. But, I have made about $250, so that's good, right? Sad that it's all gone to groceries, tho!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Opinion Thursday

As I'm sure you know, I am a scientist. I have worked on a number of different projects, but I am first and foremost a developmental biologist. I think development (as in, the development of an embryo from the joining of a sperm and an egg) is just about the coolest thing on the planet. It's fascinating to try to figure out what is going on, how tissues develop from a small ball of cells and I love to see the different stages of development as an embryo matures. I've had this fascination since college, which goes back at least 15 years, if not more. I do science because I love it. I'm fascinated by the way that bodies work, the organs that have evolved to give us life, and the way all of these form. My research will likely never lead to any gigantic breakthroughs. I will likely never work on a "miracle drug" and I will probably not even touch a piece of human tissue in my career. What I will do is try to figure out what happens in animal models, so that we can apply that knowledge to treating human disease and injury. Animal models are not perfect, by any stretch. Often, they are cumbersome, difficult to work with, and expensive to keep. However, research is necessary, and can often lead to treatments or cures for many diseases.
For example, my lab works on diabetes research. In the most basic sense, diabetes is the loss of beta cells. Beta cells produce insulin which regulates the amount of glucose (sugar) in our blood. Without insulin, blood becomes quite toxic to all our tissues (instead of providing nutrients). Tissues start to break down (including the delicate blood vessels that carry the blood in them), which is why diabetes can lead to effects all over the body, like blindness, poor circulation, and impaired wound healing.  Diabetes is extremely common, and the disease is affecting tens of millions of people in the US alone (and growing). In my lab, we are trying to understand how these beta cells develop in the embryo. How are they formed? Is there a set number of them in the body? What kinds of changes occur in the DNA of these specific cells to give them the identity they have? Can we make more? We have lots and lots of questions, but few answers. Answers come incrementally, and slowly. But they come nonetheless.
These answers come because we have made a lot of tools. We have made animal models with diabetes. We have made mice that lack a pancreas. We have made animals that don't have any beta cells. And on and on and on. These animals provide us some clues as to what could be going on in the human body, and how to treat these diseases once they manifest themselves. To date, the best therapy for diabetics remains insulin therapy. Generally administered with injections. Diabetics also have to keep track of the glucose levels in their blood, and dose insulin accordingly. It's a manageable, but tedious disease. A slight increase in insulin dosage can reduce the glucose levels in the blood to dangerously low levels, essentially leading to fainting, or worse, a coma or death. Too high glucose levels can lead to permanent tissue damage, the loss of limbs, neuropathy, and more. It's a fine balance and each individual patient generally needs to find their own course of treatment, their own way of treating the disease.
All of this knowledge has been gleaned through the use of animal models. We are slowly, but surely, learning how this disease can manifest, and how we can treat the disease. We are learning this through the use of animal models. Animals that mimic (to our best ability) diabetes, animals that have impaired beta cell development, animals that receive drug treatments to potentially treat this disease. The list goes on and on. We use these animals not because we are "crazy scientists" who just can't wait to kill things, but because they provide us with the best glimpse of how the body works. We are not blood thirsty mad scientists. We are reasonable, logical people. We don't love killing things. In fact, most of us find it quite unpleasant. We treat our animals with respect, and give them the best life possible. I have never witnessed animal abuse, and I hopefully never will.
I am concerned about this for a number of different reasons. Firstly, I recently read this article in Nature, which talks about animal activists protesting the movement of research animals via airlines. They have nearly shut down animal transport by nearly every airline. This could be disastrous to research, as we are a community that will often share resources (including animals) with other labs around the world. That's a vital part of science. And, look, I agree, research on non-human primates is a little crazy in my book. I understand that people might feel uncomfortable about research on animals that look so much like us. I think the best thing, however, is to keep non-human primate research in countries like the US, where regulations on animal welfare and care are strict, instead of farming research out to other countries where animal welfare is not a concern.
Animal research is necessary, and trust me, you have benefited greatly from it. All modern drugs have been tested on animals, as have all modern therapies for cancer, or even for the common cold. I understand the concern about animals, but I feel that the ends justify the means. When I see a kid at Children's Hospital, clearly battling some form of cancer, I am glad we have the checks in place to test drugs and therapies on animals before it's ever brought to the child's bedside. Drugs can be given to babies on the first day of their birth (especially if they are born with a genetic defect, like hemophilia)- are you willing to administer untested drugs to a newborn? Of course not.
My favorite story in all of this comes from a joint endeavor between Children's Hospital and UPenn. There is a rare genetic disorder that causes blindness. It's caused by a mutation or loss of a specific gene. Children with this disease often lose their sight by the time they are teenagers. This disease also exists in dogs (gold retrievers, I think?). They tested some therapies on the blind dogs, and one therapy seemed to work. Just recently, they tried out this therapy on one eye in a number of patients. The therapy worked, and a number of previously blind (or nearly blind) people can now see. The truth is, this research has been going on for years in the dogs. And yes, some of the dogs had to be sacrificed. However, they were sacrificed humanely and in a respectful manner. The dogs were not mistreated, and they were cared for daily by a dedicated group of technicians, vets, and researchers. And now some kids can see. As improvements are made in this therapy, it will hopefully become a standard treatment for this rare disease, and also may provide a model for how to treat some genetic diseases in the future. I know some work is already focused on hemophilia, a genetic disease in which the blood cannot clot. I say this because it's vital that biomedical research is carried out. It means improved quality of life, a better understanding of the world at large, and a better grasp of the causes of disease and their potential treatments. Computer models or cell culture systems just cannot recapitulate the precise, delicate, and complex situations of disease or metabolism. For this we need our purpose bred animals in the lab, and we will hopefully be better able to treat disease in the future.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Twofer Tuesday (AKA confessions)

I know you guys know that I am a big rom-com lover. I realize how terrible these movies are, but I just can't help it. I just love a little romance. So, a couple weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday morning, I decided on a double feature, Morning Glory, starring Rachel McAdams, Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton, and Friends with Benefits, starring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. OK, seriously, I understand these are not stunning masterpieces of movies. I was not really looking for anything mind-bending. I was just looking for some entertainment on a cold, rainy Saturday morning when my husband was away at a bike race. What I got, well, ugh....just ugh.
Firstly, Morning Glory. The premise seemed cute: McAdams plays a small time producer on a morning show in NJ, and gets fired. She lands a sorta dream job at a national morning TV show that's down in the ratings. She hires a hard-hitting journalist (Ford) to revitalize the show, but the journalist refuses to do anything on the show, and just ends up being curmudgeonly and difficult to work with. All the time, McAdams is trying to up the ratings, and she's also sorta falling for this other producer (hence, the rom part). I think this movie could have been much better. Ford was not believable as a hard hitting journalist. His speech was too slow and deliberate, and he just didn't have the screen presence I would imagine that type of a journalist to have. Keaton, on the other hand, nailed it. She was an amazing co-anchor, and she really carried the film in a lot of ways. McAdams was fine. I actually like her as an actress, but her physical comedy seemed forced, and I don't think the screenplay played to her talents. And the story line? Oh, man, what an insufferable plot. It's the age old adage that a girl can have it all, but she doesn't have anything unless she has a man in her life. Some of the movie was OK. It showed McAdams bringing home her work, and not being able to disengage, something I'm all too familiar with. It even gets to the point where the guy demands her attention, doesn't get it, and then dumps her. I'm sorry, but this is just ridiculous. While she seems to be working incessantly, he's just relaxing all the time, is able to take off any time of the day or night and seems to keep a fairly normal schedule. Well, I guess that part might be more true to life than I realized :) In the end, of course, she ends up staying at her job, having a lovely relationship with her boyfriend and all is fine in the world. This movie had some potential, and it just killed it. It really could have explored relationships between two hard working people, it could have shown an empowered woman decide that she didn't need a man in her lie to be successful and happy. Hell, it could have shown her, instead, having a relationship with a woman, which would have made this movie more interesting. Instead, this movie left me feeling flat and unsatisfied. And bored.
On to Friends with Benefits. I think that, in general, Hollywood is trying to figure out movies from the woman's point of view, but they just can't figure it out. Maybe they should hire more women to let them know. This movie starts off with Portman and Kutcher meeting at a frat party in college. She, somewhat oddly, brings him to her father's funeral. Several years later, they run into each other in LA (of course) and they sleep together. This goes on for a while, until they each realize they have feelings for one another, screw everything up, and end up together eventually at the end. This movie just rubbed me the wrong way. I tend to like Portman, but I think she plays the same character over and over again. I just couldn't believe she was an MD in this movie to begin with. She's the high powered character who insists on keeping things "friends with benefits" instead of anything more. You see, her Dad's death affected her more than she thought, so she just doesn't want to get close to anyone. Yeah. ANYways, this horrible, train wreck of a movie continues with Kutcher being a not-so believable nice guy. He makes her a mix CD so she can deal with her period. You see, women in positions of power have a really hard time dealing with menses, so they need a man to bring them cupcakes and make them a CD. Kutcher also manages to introduce two of his friends, who end up together. But of course, they turn out to be hot lesbians, who make out on his couch. Of course. Am I right? I think the best part of this whole movie was the end, where she's driving up the coast on the 101. Brought me back home and made me homesick. And the scenes at the The Biltmore in Montecito. I can't believe I actually lived in that vicinity for four years. Bottom line? This movie is crap. It should have never been made. I think I might just start writing screenplays in my spare time. I am pretty sure I could come up with something more interesting than this drivel.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Numbers

This weekend was awesome! The weather was stunning - in the 60s and 70s.

Joe was here for a bit. We had a great visit, catching up. We ate more than ever should be eaten, drank more than we should have, and watched a lot of basketball. We also took some lovely walks, enjoying the weather. It was so nice to not work for almost two days!

I sold my guitar for $100! Woot! But it's gone now. Spent on a big lunch on Saturday.

Today, Joe left at 5am. What did I do? Went back to bed!

I think it's officially spring. The dehumidifier is back on after a winter hiatus. Heading above 55% humidity in the basement means we may skip spring and head to summer directly. Ugh.

I have turned into an old woman, taking three pills, eye drops and nose spray before bed. Allergies suck.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Haiku from my phone Friday

Big week, warm sun, talk
A little brain fried. Hoping
The weekend helps that.

Misty morning, Joe
Comes in tonight. Philly bike
Race tomorrow.

Getting my life back
After so much work. I can't
Remember what fun.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring has sprung!

Dude, you guys? This weather is incredible. The trees are blooming, the sun is out. It's warm. I'm one happy camper. It's amazing what some vitamin D can do for you! My talk went well, except for the guy that accused me of fraud. Yeah. That was fun. Joe comes tomorrow, should be fun. OK, I'm off to enjoy the weather! Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Recipe Tuesday

The recipe for one of the winning chilis from this past weekend: Texas Jerky Chili, adapted slightly from a recipe in the Marlboro Country Cookbook. It was super good, you should try it!

1 cup chopped bacon
1 onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chili peppers, chopped (can add up to 4-5 to increase burn factor)
5 cups canned diced tomatoes (about 8 fresh peeled tomatoes)
1 3/4 cups beef broth
1 tbsp. chili powder (can add up to 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2-3 cups chopped beef jerky, original flavor
1 can kidney beans
1 can pinto beans

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven until fat is rendered but not crisp.  Add onion and garlic, cook until tender. 
Add chili peppers, tomatoes, and beef broth.  Cook about 20 min. 
Combine chili pepper, cumin, brown sugar, black pepper and add with beef jerky to Dutch oven.  Cook at a slow boil, stirring occasionally, for about 45 min. 
Add beans and bring to a boil, cook 5 min.

Makes 6 servings.  Top with cheese if desired.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • You guys, this whole "spring ahead" thing has really messed me up. Why is losing just one hour so hard?
  • This weekend, we had a trip to Baltimore for the Second Annual Chili Cook-off. There were about 14 different chilis to taste, including several veggie ones with sweet potatoes in them. There was also my favorite, Buffalo Turkey Chili, and, of course my husband made a really good sweet and hot BBQ-like chili with real hobos in it. Just kidding. There weren't any hobos in it at all. 
  • We may have found a car to buy! A friend of ours is selling a 20 year old BMW 5 series wagon, which is super sweet. He's souped it up, made it pretty nice. We can hopefully make it work!
  • Alex has finally set a defense date - May 29th. Set your calendars for the arrival of Doc Brown :)
  • I have to give a talk tomorrow, my first in front of a group of doctors. I mean, real doctors, like people with MDs. Should be interesting, and hopefully fun. Right?
  • We are looking forward to the arrival of our good friend Joe on Friday. He's coming in from jolly old London and he'll be staying with us for the weekend. It will be nice to catch up!
  • Alex shaved his beard off. He now looks like Colonel Sanders, with 11 different herbs and spices. I will try to get a pic soon.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Haiku Janetwood Drive Friday

Dark wood, green carpet
squishy linoleum floors
stairs with a landing.


Room of pink and blue
wallpaper, furniture with
flowers, lots of toys.


Bright sunshine, swimming
pool, patio swing, palm tree.
My childhood home.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Opinion Thursday: Kony 2012

I've seen the posts all over for the Kony 2012 campaign and I've watched the video put out by Invisible Children. I think this whole thing has been so interesting to watch play out across the interwebs. Firstly, to think that this group posted a video (literally) two days ago, and it was on the nightly news last night goes to show you how powerful social media is. It honestly makes me glad I didn't have this stuff when I was in high school. Could you imagine how quickly rumors spread now? Ugh.
Anyways, I just thought I would put my opinion up here because, well, it's my blog. I guess I'm in the minority when I say that I know who Joseph Kony is, as well as the Lord's Resistance Army. I read the New York Times, and I guess I try to stay educated on what is going on in the world. I agree that Joseph Kony is absolutely a terrible person, but I'm unsure that this way of "stopping him" is the right way at all. I think the problem I have is that this whole campaign just reeks of colonialism. I don't think that any rich American white guy should go into another country and tell people how to live. I also think that we, as Americans, tend to think of our life as the best way of life, when that is not necessarily true. If the world lived the way we live, this planet would be cooked, like, yesterday, and our resources would be gone. I think the situation in Uganda and Sudan is much more complex that a short 30 min video can ever convey. I am also unsure that military intervention is the right approach. And I'm thirdly quite uneasy with the thought that eliminating Joseph Kony will entirely solve the problem. The problem, it seems, stems from either a strict dictatorship government in Uganda, or lack of a government at all in Sudan. In both of these situations, the military is out of control, and, instead of protecting the people, is instead following its own interests. I don't think that arming these militaries even further is the answer either. To be honest, I've never been that good at foreign policy. But something about this video just seems so wrong to me. I'm not sure whether it's the use of the name "Invisible Children", as if, unless those children are known by the rich Americans, they are invisible? Or the fact that the filmmaker uses his young son as propaganda, trying to explain that Kony is a "bad guy" and "we've got to get him".
Of course, please don't get me wrong. I think it's amazing that a viral video can turn up one day and lead people to talk about Africa in the next. I think that's a good thing. I think Americans should be more aware of what's going on in the world outside the US. And, I think the sad fact of the matter is, this is not just occurring in Uganda and Africa. This happens all over the world, especially in Asia, where the sex slave industry is apparently booming. Hell, they even find some of these girls and boys here in the US. The problem is there are hugely corrupt governments all over the world. Exposing their wrong-doing, supporting the people in poorer countries, and donating or contributing to charities you believe in are all good places to start. However, I think we also need to support good, strong, independent journalism. We need to know what is actually happening in these countries, by journalists who have pledged to be unbiased and to get both (or however many) sides of the story. I just don't think we can rely on random guys with a superman complex to give us the details of a complex situation in a straight manner, especially when they have an agenda to promote. Personally, I will donate my money to Doctors without Borders. They operate in a wide number of countries all over the world and dispense needed medical aid. I'm all for that. I'm just not for arming a military complex that is notorious for raping women and killing citizens. It's just not right.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Opinion Wednesday: Contraception

I'm a scientist, so my thoughts on sex and contraception are fairly straightforward. People will have sex because we are animals with the desire to procreate and further the species. Plus it feels good. Therefore, women should be able to choose when and how they want to have children, so everyone (yes, including teenagers) should have access to safe birth control options. This whole debate on contraception and whether it should be covered for everyone in the country is just such ludicrous banter. I just don't understand the Republican rhetoric on government because most of the time it says, "Stay off my lawn and out of my life", but here's a case where they are trying to be in every woman's vagina. Honestly, I don't care what you do in your life. Of course, I care about my family and friends, but honestly, what you do with your life, your family and your health is YOUR concern, not mine. If you want to take birth control, like nearly 90% of women will at some point in their lives, then I believe that should be covered by your insurance. And, you know what? I don't CARE what you take contraception for, or what form of contraception you take. Know why? Because it's your personal business what you take and why you take it. I hate the argument that "some women need to take bc for reasons other than birth control". I don't care. I don't care if you take it because you have sex with 100 guys a day. Or if you have sex with a guy 100 times a day. I don't care if you take it for your PCOS, or to prevent having another baby with your husband. I also don't care if you take it for acne, for uterine fibroids, or for lighter periods. I just don't care. And really? That's the way health care should work. It should be personalized to you and your situation and your life. It has absolutely nothing to do with churches, governments, Congress, Sandra Fluke, or Rush Limbaugh. It has nothing to do with women being sluts, whores, or any other misogynist, derogatory term you can think of. It has to do with women living their own lives and deciding when (or even if) to have a family. When women have the power to control their own fertility, families do better, financially and emotionally. When women can delay starting a family to get educated or start their own business or pursue their own goals, families are happier, there are fewer mouths to feed, which means more attention, more resources for the children in the family. Birth control and contraception are a basic human right and every woman, no matter their religion, color, creed, nationality or age should have access to contraception. It's just the right thing to do. And calling Congressional committees on contraception that do not include any women is a farce and a waste of time. Calling women who would testify (but were denied the right) a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she was brave enough to stand up for women all over the country is shameless and cowardly. How about we start having a real conversation about women's rights to healthcare and contraception? How about we work towards the goal of increasing sex education, increasing access to free, safe contraception for both women and men, and how about we get rid of these puritanical, outdated visions of how women should or should not act. I'm pretty sure that went up in smoke when my Mom burned her bra in the '60s.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Movie Review: Two for Tuesday

Look, you guys, I am really, really behind on my movie watching, so I hope you'll bear with me. I couldn't really bear to watch the Oscars last weekend because I haven't been to a movie theatre since the release of the last Harry Potter movie last July, so I'm a little behind. The last two weekends, we watched The Wrestler (2010?) and The Italian Job (2003). And you know what? I really, really liked them both. The Wrestler was fascinating because I had no idea there was this whole "world of wrestling" and that it was more of a performance than anything. I thought Mickey Rourke did a phenomenal job acting, and I love, love, love Marisa Tomei. I thought the movie was really interesting and entertaining, although there were a few scenes I just couldn't watch because they were so violent. The movie was also sad, but so well done that it was almost not noticeable? Does that even make sense? I'm not sure how the filmmakers did this one because there was not one particular character I really liked or identified with, it was more a window into another life I never knew about that was so fascinating to me. If you haven't seen this one, it's worth it, I think,
The Italian Job is one of those heist movies. A group of people get together to pull of a big robbery in Venice. This is one of those great movies with a whole ensemble cast (Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg, Donald Sutherland, Ed Norton, Seth Green) who travel around the world to pull of exciting heists. The plot begins in Venice with the group pulling off the robbery of a bunch of gold bricks. Things go wrong and one of the group turns out to be a rat. The plot then turns to revenge, with the group trying to get back at the one that turned on them. Overall, I loved this movie. Everyone, even the smaller characters, were phenomenal actors. The storyline was a little slow, but the chase scenes were fun and the action was good. The movie wasn't too violent and the one female lead was a really strong, capable woman, not a damsel in distress. If you haven't seen this one, I'd recommend it for one of those nights you just want some mindless entertainment. It was a good show.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Numbers

  • Alex had his first bike race of the season this past weekend. It was at Rutgers in NJ, so he left at 4:30am on Saturday morning to head up there with his friend, Mike. I think they had a good time, but Alex had some bike problems which prevented him from finishing his last race. Continuing on the theme of bike problems, I set out Sunday morning for a trip to TJs when, lo and behold, the whole damn pedal came off my bike! Yeah, so Alex subsequently spent the day in the basement, fixing bikes. It's kinda hard when that's your sole mode of transportation, so it looks like we might be running errands this week after work instead!

  • I also watched about 3 movies, one of which I may review later this week. I actually like having something on in the background when I'm working on mindless stuff. Seems to make the mindless stuff a little bit easier.
  • I made meatloaf for the first time in a loooong time. I forgot how good that stuff is!
  • Alex is trying to set a thesis defense date for sometime in the 5th or 6th month!
  • I have about ten billion things to do and I marked one of those things of my list on Saturday.
  • Why are weekends never three days instead of two?