Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well, I Had Big Plans

My perhaps over-optimistic 'to do' list for the evening:
  1. Wash my hair
  2. Get an afghan square underway
  3. Go grocery shopping
  4. Finish our state taxes
  5. Read this new Knights of the Dinner Table
  6. Catch up on my blog feeds
  7. Make some yogurt

Yeah, so it turns out I haven't done most of those things, and it's getting to the point where I'm probably not going to, because I must soon go to bed lest I fail to get a good night's sleep and arise in the morning a twisted, bitter creature seething with hatred for everyone and everything. More so than usual, I mean.*

But my hair is clean, we have some groceries, and the yogurt is a-culturin,' so it wasn't completely wasted time.

The happy news is that my yarn is here! I love it when I complain about something and it is promptly remedied.

Now where's that sack of chocolate-coated gold coins I wanted?! Why isn't it here right now?!

*Seriously, you cannot speak to me in the morning; I will turn on you like a viper.

Monday, March 30, 2009

More Bad Nut News

I've just learned of the recent recall of pistachios by Kroger. As with the recent peanut alarm, the concern is salmonella contamination.

Kroger is not a store that's found in my neck of the woods, so the effect on my own nut-consumption is limited (presumably other pistachios, not having been recalled, are still safe), but my heart goes out to anyone who has delicious, delicious pistachios on hand but cannot eat them.

Waiting for Wool

Where's my yarn?! I have knitting to be doing!

Postal service, bring me my yarn! 

I'm just pacing the floor, restlessly tapping my empty needles together. Lonely and sad, wondering why I don't have handfuls of colorful wool right now.

Why, oh why, didn't I place the order sooner? A classic lament.

Speaking of tapping, I like these bamboo needles I got for this project, but they just don't click like the metal ones I used when I was a kid. That old click-click sound of knitting is different with wood.

I guess I can adapt, talk therapy is helping, but it's a change, is all. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Speaking Further of Memory

Since I've run out of yarn for the afghan squares I'm supposed to be knitting, I had a chance to catch up on Wired. Wouldn't you know they have a story about unusually reliable memory?

It's about Jill Price, who has startlingly accurate recall of events in her life. The days and dates of news events, weather, and what was happening, are all clear in her memory. 

She doesn't remember absolutely everything that she's ever learned, however, so it's not a perfect record: her memory focuses on her own life, rather than incorporating historical information from before she was born, or even more recent events that maybe she just wasn't that interested in. 

The article concludes that the exceptionally good memory may be similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder; she remember things about her life incredibly well because she keeps excellent records and thinks about it all the time.

So there are certainly people whose memory is a lot better than average. Perhaps I would trust her recollection of the discussion at a book purchasing meeting.

It's not clear from the article whether she would be any better than the average person at correctly picking someone out of a police line-up, so I'm not sure about the implications for justice.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Speaking of Justice and Brains

Daylight Atheism has a post on the unreliability of eyewitness testimony.

As many of us have no doubt read previously, the average person's memory for events is actually not that great. We tend to add things, adjust things, assign pieces of memory to other personal storylines, make things up entirely. In short, our brains are filthy liars. I knew it!

I find this fascinating for some reason. How do we even know that we know something if our lying brains are all we have to go by?

And yet, clearly we know enough to get by, most of the time. We remember enough things accurately enough that we don't constantly mistake people we know for people we don't know, or misremember who we married. Mistaking the details of the story isn't, usually, that big a deal.

So I remember us mentioning The Complete Textbook of Awesome at the first book purchasing meeting, while you don't recall it coming up until the third. As long as we eventually got it on the shelves for our eager students, does it really matter?

Clearly it's a different matter if we're picking people out of a line up to be charged with a crime. Sadly, we're apparently just not that good at it.

Our memory for Simpsons quotes, on the other hand, is excellent.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Avoiding Spoilers in Justice

I've never been on a jury, but I have a general idea that you're supposed to keep your mind a willful blank slate about any information not presented in the course of the trial.

You're supposed to base your decision on only the admissible evidence presented and allowed, lest details outside that line prejudice your opinions. It's sort of like setting up double-blind experiments in science, trying to ensure that personal bias doesn't affect results.

Well, on second thought maybe it's not very much like that, but there's a similarity in the way an attempt is made to create a controlled environment in which only certain very specific things are considered, and to prevent the particular quirks of any participant from skewing the outcome. Right?

Staring at Empty Pages has some better-informed musing about why this control is important, while discussing an interesting NY Times story about the increasing risk of mistrials and overturned judgements due to jurors looking up outside information on the internet, Twittering about cases, etc. 

If the whole trial system is set up on the assumption that impartial juries without prejudicial outside information can make a just decision, than we pretty much have to try to uphold the rules, but I imagine it's hard to keep that blank slate blank when you've got access to the web in your pocket for any seemingly harmless question that might come up.

It's such a habit for a lot of us these days. If you have a question, look it up! Instantly! 

Once again, technology interacts in unexpected ways with old systems.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Perils of Distractedness

Know what I've just realized I hate?

I hate when I neglect to check my SLIS email account for, oh, about two and half months, because looking at Outlook is weird and poky and difficult on a Mac, and then I finally do check it and there's something I really wanted to have received and responded to, oh, about a month ago.


Serves me right for not being on top of my email accounts (or, I know, setting them to forward somewhere so I can check them all at once, but I kind of like having separate addresses for different things, if only I'd remember to look at them all).

Let that be a lesson to all my adoring followers: check your accounts on a regular basis whether you use them much or not!

This goes for social networking sites as well. I should really look at LinkedIn a little more often. Also, I suppose, ye olde Friendster. Second Life. Goodreads. And so on.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Birth in Ones Normal Habitat

I appreciated Navelgazing Midwife's review of a show on "Freebirthing" (unassisted childbirth) from the Discovery Health channel.

I'm interested in and sympathetic to the appeal of unconventional birth choices--I know several people who were born at home without professional assistance--but I definitely think it's important to be highly educated about the risks.

The review in this post turns a sharp, unromantic (rather bracingly sardonic, in fact) eye on freebirthing, at least as it is portrayed in the show, and the author's perspective as a midwife, presumably more sympathetic to the idea than many people would be, makes her thoughts especially interesting.

I think childbirth can be a subject on which heated opinions are easy to hold and defend. 

On the one hand, come on! People give birth without medical attention all the time, and clearly they usually survive, since the human race hasn't died out yet.

On the other hand, yeah, they usually survive, but in a not-insignificant number of cases they don't. Why take a chance on being one of the unusual ones who doesn't?

I love the middle ground, so I'm just going to say that it seems like it's probably a good idea to have a skilled attendant of some kind, wherever you are, and that backup medical care is a nice bonus. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ah, Brain...My Old Arch-Nemesis

Healthbolt posts this "brain teaser":

Count every ‘F’ in the following text:


Take a moment to review, if you like, before I give away the answer. I'm not sure if it has to be in all-caps for this to work, so I'll leave it that way, although it rather grates on the eyeballs.

Ahem. [Twiddling thumbs, humming to self.]

OK: it's six.

Apparently a lot of people count fewer, because they overlook the ones in the word 'of.' (I counted all six myself, but did have to make a point to be sure I wasn't missing any, so I could see myself skipping 'of' if I hadn't been paying attention).

Yet another instance of the brain leading us astray. I tell you, those things can't be trusted!

My other point here was that I read the explanation and immediately thought "well of course, 'of' is a stopword."

I do spend a fair amount of time with databases, yes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ah, Mosquitos...Our Old Arch-Nemesis

Here's some interesting health technology: lasers to shoot down mosquitos.

Obviously people at risk of malaria should have first dibs on this (and malaria prevention is the general aim of the project according to the description), but I have to note that I would also like a mosquito-laser for summer evenings in the backyard. 

Imagine how much it would improve cookouts!

If we can put these lasers on wandering machines, it will also go far toward rehabilitating the image of killer robots everywhere.

Healthbolt alerted me to this development.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book-Learnin': Yea or Nay?

Dangerous Intersection interestingly compares the state of the US educational system to architectural ruins, noting that first a structure will be neglected or abandoned, then actively vandalized (scavenged for parts, wrecked for the fun of it), before becoming a ruin that may be of historical interest but does not serve a practical use.

I don't honestly know that much about the educational system, but one certainly hears a lot of talk from one perspective or another. 

It's worthless! Teachers are lazy scum! It's the best in the world! Teachers are saints! 

My feeling is, although I personally was homeschooled, not all (or even most) parents can manage this, and public education is crucial. 

I'll pay taxes all day long ('cause I'm on salary, so I'm earning and paying taxes on bits of money every minute!) to support the school system. At a very fundamental level, a healthy nation should have a citizenry equipped with the grounding of a basic education, and as a people it makes sense to me that we should pay for that.

But also, some of this anti-scientific nonsense one hears about in classrooms is pretty infuriating, and I can see getting pretty peeved if my tax dollars are paying for that. 

Someone with the opposite sort of regard for science from my own probably feels that way too, but from the other side of the mirror, so I can certainly understand that it's one of those big topics

I vote we not settle it with arm-wrestling, because I don't have very big arms.

Anyway, I guess the main point is, this was an interesting post, and I really hope the educational system isn't as close to ruin as all that, but I don't have any actual deep insights about it. 

Just, you know, be aware that I am in favor of education rather than vandalism. 

This blog says, "Book-learnin': Yea."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Mmm, Food

Did Restaurant Week at Stella last night with my awesome DC uncles. It was excellent.

I enjoyed a lovely crispy pizza with four kinds of mushrooms. I cannot resist the mushrooms. This is one of only a few ways in which I resemble a hobbit. 

There's no very clear library tie-in here, except that Stella is quite near my work; it's not exactly budget dining, so I doubt I'll be dropping by for post-work snacks with any frequency (or ever), but for a festive evening it was very nice.

Good food, nice service--fabulous conversation, but we brought that with us--and a walkable distance from downtown and my uncles' hotel. Good times.

I recommend spending time with awesome family members. It's got to be good for the health.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Things That Get You

I like this post from The Kitchen Table on how strange it is that being called ugly (especially fat, in our culture) has such power to wound us.

The author (Melissa Harris-Lacewell) describes her reaction to a comment on a website:

I was crushed. I have had a week of affirmation from my best friend. I was just offered a contract on my new book. I have been appearing on national television and delivering well-received public lectures. I take criticism of my intellect, my politics, and my scholarship in stride, but the minute somebody called me fat I was devastated.

I'm pretty sure I'd be crushed too, if people started saying mean things about my appearance on the internet. Actually, I'd be pretty crushed if they were saying mean things about my intellect, politics and scholarship as well. 

Good thing I have only adoring followers, and also that my stunning beauty is widely acknowledged.

I wonder why it is that "well, you're ugly!" can get you that way. Rationally, it just means someone can't come up with any meaningful criticism of you. It should be easy to brush off, right?

I guess maybe the very meaninglessness of it is part of it. We could have a argument about whether or not my scholarship is poor--I could point out that I did thus and such work, while you argue that I was drawing unwarranted conclusions, etc., etc. And eventually one or the other of us might have to conclude, based on the evidence, that the other was right.

But if you just say, "well, you're ugly!" I sort of can't argue, for at least two reasons I can think of off the top of my head. 

First because saying "I'm not either ugly!" sounds like I think I'm gorgeous, and then it seems like vanity, which is generally frowned upon.

Second, because beauty is subjective, so where I might convincingly argue, to the satisfaction of some objective onlooker, that my scholarship is sound, I can't really argue that I'm not ugly to you.

The very vagueness and childishness of the insult makes it hard to refute. 

Also, of course, we have lots of advertising and media and so forth stressing to us that we're at the very least not as attractive as we could be if we bought such and such a product, so insults directed at appearance probably strike close to personal insecurities for a lot of people.

Hmm...it makes me think.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Feel So Validated

Unshelved is talking about a homeschooled kid in the library this week, starting Monday, March 16.

As a former homeschooled kid who used to hang out in the library, I salute this recognition of my tiny demographic. Woohoo!

I spent a fair amount of time in the public library in my youth, reading magazines, working my way through the shelves, looking up whatever topic had my attention at the time. I took books home too, of course, but reading in the library was always good. It was this space that was for reading, so sometimes you just have to have a seat and peruse a book.

This was back in the mists of time before computers in libraries, or I probably would have been on the internet. I wonder what I would have made of the internet when I was a kid? Probably trouble.

I never had any run-ins with concerned adult patrons who wanted to call the truant officer, happily. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Future Can Wait

I consistently admire Caveat Lector, and today am struck by the post titled "Not the future," which argues clearly and convincingly that calling something "the wave of the future" often indicates that it does not have to be dealt with now.

It concludes with the ringing phrase, "I am not the future. I am the now."


This is such a good point; we can't be pushing our handling of data storage and other technical issues off on the future, to be addressed when we get there. We're there. Those issues are here. 

Something is certainly the future, but things we already have right here to hand are the present, and need to be understood and dealt with accordingly.

Embrace the now. 

Monday, March 16, 2009

More on Unreliable Brains

I am once again reminded of the mutability of memory (previously here) by a post from Cutting Through the Crap, which talks about a football player's detailed false memory:

Asked by the interviewer if there was any chance it was someone else who made hit, the man went on to recall the feeling of it, the joy of it, in detail. At which point the play was shown again (the movie was a mixture of footage from the game, with recollections of players all these years later.) The man was nowhere near the play; rather, he was at the bottom of a pile well across the the field.

Clearly, the mind is bizarre and cannot be trusted. I am casting doubtful glances at everything I thought I knew about my life. 

Of course, there's documentation for a lot of things. Photos of me under a pile at the other end of the field, journal entries, paperwork I've done, blogs, etc. 

Also I figure probably the boring parts are fairly reliable, because why bother to falsify that for myself? I wouldn't misremember having gone downtown and browsed around a bookstore but not bought anything, right?

Fortunately, there are a lot of boring parts. 

Or are there?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Scene: A quiet suburban street on a beautiful spring day. Two children tossing a big rubber ball shout and laugh in the sunshine. 

Me: Ah, the laughter of little children.

My spouse and me [in unscripted unison, in hoarse villain voices]: How I hate it.

The secret to a strong union: A shared love of Simpsons-esque jokes.

Also a shared hatred of child-esque merriment. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tips for a Tidy Home

The management at my apartment complex puts out a quarterly newsletter with requests for referrals, news about building maintenance, calls to refrain from leaving items in the hallway, and helpful tips about apartment living, such as:

"Once a week is fine for most of the carpet, but for high-use areas, you may want to vacuum once a day."*

Hmm. Daily vacuuming, eh? I suppose I may want to do that. 

Doesn't seem terribly likely, though.

*Rough transcription: I seem to have already thrown away the publication so cannot vouch for the exact wording. 

Friday, March 13, 2009

Not Good News

The Distant Librarian points out this sad news from Cologne, Germany, where the Historical Archive building collapsed.

Two people are missing and feared dead, which is bad enough, but over 1,000 years worth of historical documents are also probably lost.

Even before I became a librarian, I would have found this horrifying. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Everyone into PubMed Central!


The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC, of course) sends word via email update that the NIH Public Access Policy has been made permanent through the 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act signed yesterday by the President.

As a fan of PubMed Central, and of healthcare folks being able to get at the biomedical literature, I'm all for this.

Articles! Research! Evidence!

Love it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Holding the Wine Line

The ND Blog (from NutritionData, to which I turn for all my nutrient-identifying needs), presents "More on alcohol," including a lovely little graphic showing how much one should drink in a day or week to remain at low-risk of negative health effects.

This turns out to be three or four drinks per day, depending on one's biological (I assume) sex, or 7 to 14 drinks per week, likewise.

The graphic is courtesy of the National Institutes of Health's new program, Rethinking Drinking. This NIH site has all kinds of useful stuff: information on how much counts as a 'drink' (not half a bottle, alas), tips for cutting down on drinking, calculators to see how much alcohol is in a beverage, tools for self-evaluation, and more. 

I do not have a drinking problem myself (I declare grandly, while upending a bottle to catch those last precious drops), but this definitely looks like something that needs to be linked on our 'web resources' pages at work. 

I'm on it!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Social Networking Not Working?

Flee the madding virtual crowds and retire to some offline amusement! Horseshoes, or jousting, or whatever people who aren't online do for fun.

It can be done: PC Magazine tells you how. 

Included in this fine article are instructions on how to close out your account with 23 web-based life-enhancers, including Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google and plenty more. iLibrarian, from whom I received this tip, has the full list if you want to make a quick check to see if yours is on there.

I think this is great information to have. These services can be useful and fun, but if they aren't, or if they were but have ceased to be, it's important to be able to get out without leaving bits of outdated information floating around. 

You know what they say about controlling your profiles and the information about you online! (Pst: they say it's a good idea.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Animal Type: Eat/Not Eat

4&20 Blackbirds has news about a proposal to allow facilities for slaughter and processing of horses for meat in Montana.

I remember we had a proposal to ban slaughter of horses for human consumption in Massachusetts back in 2002. I honestly don't remember how I voted on it, because I couldn't really figure out what I thought about it. Also, I thought, is consumption of horses really a big issue in Massachusetts right now?

It turns out most horses killed for meat are destined for consumption overseas, so, no, it's not a big issue in Massachusetts, specifically, but it happens elsewhere.

The ban failed here (likely in part due to voter fraud allegations around an unrelated bill), so technically I could buy a horse, kill it in my backyard, and eat it anytime I wanted! OK, probably not. I'm pretty sure there are still all kinds of regulations around the slaughter of animals in general. Also, the management of my apartment complex would certainly have a problem with it.

Now, I'm pretty much with 4&20 on the concerns around the Montana bill. The post raises good points about regulation, responsibilities of animal ownership, and more; it goes well beyond the "ew, this is gross and wrong!" reaction that a lot of the anti-horse-eating arguments seem to come down to.

But this is a weird question, I think. I mean, I'm not rah-rah for eating horses.* I like horses. We had horses on and off when I was a kid. Horses are cool, and they look gorgeous with their tresses blowing in the wind. But...

A lot of the sites opposing horse slaughter stress how cruel the slaughter process is, and how noble horses are, and so forth. The "ew gross wrong!" argument.

And I don't doubt the slaughter process is brutal, but the arguments seem a little hypocritical to me, unless they're also made in opposition to the brutal slaughter of cows, pigs, sheep, etc. It's not as if the facilities that handle those slaughters are renowned for their super kind and gentle treatment of the animals, or as if cows just mind death less.

Yes, I know horses aren't among the animals we typically eat in this country, but that's really all you can say about it: it's not typical. And yes, horses are beautiful, cool, admirable animals--but they're animals. If you eat animals, especially large four-legged grazing animals, well...they're all kin, aren't they?

If you're OK with the slaughter of cows (which can also be strong, beautiful animals) and pigs (which are smart and sociable animals, if not what I personally consider beautiful), your arguments against the cruel slaughter of horses are kind of just backed up by personal preference. Or so it seems to me.

Of course, I'm sure some of the people opposed to horse slaughter are firmly opposed to animal cruelty in other forms, and don't eat any animals from slaughterhouses, and I salute the consistency of that position.

But I bet some people are (truly and sincerely) horrified by the thought of horses being slaughtered and eaten, but don't see anything wrong with having a hamburger or a pork roast.

Again, I'm not saying we should all start eating horses tomorrow. I don't plan to, certainly. I'm not saying I'm all for slaughtering horses and shipping the meat overseas.

I'm just saying there's something about getting upset about eating one kind of animal and merrily chowing down on another that makes me start to think we have some sort of mental disconnect at work. 

*Although I should perhaps note that I have actually eaten horse, long ago. It was...meat.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Oh, Hey, Daylight Saving Time

Hello, Eastern Daylight Time. 

Wish I could say it was a pleasure to see you, but I know I'm going to be unhappy tomorrow when I have to wake up in the dimness that was 5:30 am yesterday, so my enthusiasm is tempered with preemptive grouchiness.

On the plus side, I know that I will, on the other end of the day, be pleased to get home while the sun is still up. As it gets brighter and brighter in the early mornings, it also makes sense to be up and seeing the sunlight instead of sleeping through it.

I'm not really a DST-hater: I see some personal advantages to the system in that the "still light when I get home from work" time happens earlier in the year. (See here for an overview of possible benefits/disadvantages presented in an interesting 'node' format that's kind of fun--click on a series of labeled clouds to see information on various subtopics.) 

But those first few hits of getting up at the new 6:30 are always tough. 

Hang in there, adoring followers: we'll get through this. Think of the sunny summer evenings that await!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Hail the Bookshop!

I'm going to officially declare that nothing interesting has happened to me today, and I am going to turn off my computer (which is starting to do that screen-flickering thing) and try to catch up on my reading of some variety of printed material.

I leave my adoring fans with recent news from IndieBound, a site that helps people locate independent bookstores where one might procure such printed material. 

They feature handy book information pages, and suggest that when people discuss books online--say, in a blog--they link to this info, which will allow readers to click through to learn more about the book and perhaps purchase it from a local establishment.

I don't talk about books that much, but should I do so, will try to remember this feature. I love Amazon with a consuming passion, I won't deny it (they're so easy, and they have everything!), but I do also like to support independent local businesses. 

To demonstrate how it works, I'll just mention that I want to read this book, The Steel Remains. Now my adoring followers can click that link and see more information on the book, including a cover image (although oddly not full citation information since there's no publication date listed, so this is not necessarily a good source for your bibliographic details for RefWorks or whatnot).

They can then click to search the websites of bookstores near a given ZIP code that offer the book online, or to find a nearby bookstore if they prefer to go buy it in person.

Pretty handy. 

I got this from flip flopping joy.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Music!--the Heart Soars

Ah, the Bearded Pigs are going to be at MLA again this year.

I am not (alas), so this information does me little good, other than that sort of abstract good that it does any of us, anywhere, to know that music, art, flowers, sunshine, adorable kittens and the joyous laughter of little medical librarians exist somewhere in the world. 

Perhaps not all in the same room. 

I was fortunate to observe the world's only international library rock band last year in Chicago, and they give a good show.  This year, I guess I'll sit home and play the soundtrack to Babe at top volume.

It's...not at all the same thing, no. 

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Law of the Blog

Have you recently been threatened with a lawsuit because of something you posted on your blog?

I haven't. Obviously I am failing to be properly provocative here, and am just going to have to get to work and libel more powerful, litigious figures. People aren't going to slander themselves, you know!

Once I get on that project, I will be pleased to be acquainted with the Electronic Frontier Foundation's overview of online defamation law.

As crudely summarized by me, it holds that in order for legal defamation to have occurred: 
  • I need to publish my statements to an audience beyond the person defamed (calling someone names to their face with no one else around doesn't count); 
  • I need to have made up (or copied from the untruths of another) the defamatory statements -- that is, facts about the person, however unflattering, are not defamatory; 
  • the statements must be broadly understood to be about the person (a claim of "I wasn't talking about you" must be unpersuasive), and to actually damage his or her reputation ("so-and-so seems to have been dressed by half-trained monkeys" is not defamatory).
Also, if the person is a public figure, he or she must prove I was acting maliciously, rather than just trying to be funny or something. Public figures have to deal with people saying obnoxious stuff about them. 

Which, from my point of view, means it might be more work to actually defame a public figure, so I'd better go after my relatively unknown next door neighbor instead. 

It's on my 'to do' list. 

In the meantime, I am indebted to Feminist SF - The Blog! for the introduction to EFF, which has all sorts of other handy tidbits about law and blogs in their Blogger's Legal Guide. As they say,

Like all journalists and publishers, bloggers sometimes publish information that other people don't want published. You might, for example, publish something that someone considers defamatory, republish an AP news story that's under copyright, or write a lengthy piece detailing the alleged crimes of a candidate for public office.

OK, yeah, I'm not doing any of those things. That's probably why I have yet to be sued. Some helpful tips for those who plan to be, though.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Careful with the Drugs

Our Bodies Our Blog, discussing a NY Times article about the extent to which the drug industry influences medical education (specifically Harvard), pointed me to this nifty PharmFree Scorecard from the American Medical Student Association.*

The scorecard site, conveniently searchable by state and city, grades U.S. medical schools based on several components of Gifts/Industry Relations (gifts, consulting, speaking, disclosure) and Education (on campus, off campus, industry support, curriculum). 

Naturally I had to look up my own place of work, which received a B. There are a few As, a bunch of Bs, not many Cs, and a whole lot of Ds, Fs, and Incompletes. So a B is pretty good--woo hoo! 

I'd like to personally take credit for the university's good policies with regard to drug industry influence, but it would be immodest of me to claim any responsibility. 

Not to mention that it would be an insupportable assertion leaning right into a blatant lie. See, there are a lot of things I'd like to do that I refrain from; remember that if you ever hear anyone talking about how self-indulgent I am.

*I think that was a reasonably impressive number of links to put into a single sentence, right?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Teetery High Heels = Exercise?

The past week or so I've been going around with a pedometer I borrowed out of curiosity. I wanted to see if I was getting those recommended 10,000 steps in.

It turns out that on weekdays I am, mostly because I walk about three miles just getting to and from work. On weekends, I'm a slug who not infrequently doesn't even leave the house, so we see that, if for no other reason than my health, I must continue to work.

Interestingly, I noticed that last week, when the sidewalks were clear and my stride was unimpeded, I got just about 10,000 steps, and not much more.

We had a good snowfall over the weekend, and the sidewalks are once more the treacherous ice-covered surfaces I grew to know so well before the recent thaw. I find myself taking a lot of tiny mincing steps to traverse them without falling down--and I wind up with 12-13,000 steps on the pedometer.

I wondered if that actually means I'm working harder to cover the same distance, and I suppose it does. Most of the energy used to take a step must be in lifting the foot and moving the leg and body forward, and the difference between moving it forward four inches and moving it forward eight inches is probably minimal compared to the effort of taking a step at all. 

Which leads me to propose my new Tiny Mincing Steps (TMS) Exercise Program. Double the number of steps taken daily by the simple expedient of imposing a risk of dangerous falls!*

I'm all set as long as the streets and sidewalks stay icy, but I'm clearly going to have to get some wobbly platform shoes for when the weather warms up. Anything that will make long strides hazardous is fine, I expect, but I may need to test several footwear styles.

I'll get to work on a research study proposal. The world needs to know about this.

*The necessity of going somewhere must be maintained, otherwise, to avoid the risk of dangerous falls, potential users might simply not leave the house. To be successful the TMS program must be fully integrated into the practitioner's routine daily interactions with the environment.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snowstorm? Whatever

I boldly went to work despite the falling snow. If the trains are running, I reckon I've got no excuse.

The library was actually pretty well populated with studying students, so it was nice that we were open to provide the space.

Since we were shorthanded, I also got to try out some new skills at the circulation desk, which was fun. I think I correctly checked out at least one book, and I'm pretty sure I answered two phone calls to the callers' satisfaction ("are you open?" -- "yes").

I really like having the chance to work on different things. I'm getting to where I feel reasonably comfortable with the day-to-day responsibilities of my own job, but sitting at the circulation desk, reading the manual trying to figure out how to locate and check out a reserve book, instantly made me feel all lively and doubtful again.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Scuffling with Taxes

I'm using Free File Fillable Forms this year. 

It requires some math, unlike the super easy software programs that do it all for you, but I couldn't find a version that will do our return for free (we have 'additional income'), so this is the best I could do.

At least it adds up a few things for you (basically, you have to enter all the main numbers from your tax forms, but it will add the various lines), and you can e-file. 

That saves a precious, precious stamp, as well as some paper, but one of the main benefits is being able to type into the form instead of write it in by hand. I'm sure the IRS will appreciate the improved legibility.

I'll be sure to post an update if we wind up getting audited for bad math.