Sunday, February 28, 2010

MLA is A-Comin'

I see exciting updates about the annual Medical Library Association meeting on the MLA Connections blog and the MLA 2010 blog (via the Krafty Librarian).

You can apply to be an MLA 2010 Official Blogger if you have a blog! I did that in 2008 and it was lots of fun.

I totally want to go, although we still have to wait and see how the travel budget and the scheduling works out. Fingers crossed!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tee Hee

I see on Our Bodies Our Blog that the American College of Nurse Midwives has released a position statement in support of nitrous oxide as an option for women in labor.

Rachel, the post's author, heroically refrains from making a horrible joke about how labor pain is no laughing matter. I am apparently not so strong.

The statement says that nitrous oxide is commonly used in other countries and offers a number of benefits to women, including safety, effectiveness, and ease of administration and discontinuation.

In general, having a variety of options available for pain relief sounds good to me, so I'll throw my massive armies of clout behind the proposal.

Laughing gas for the laboring masses!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spies! All Spies!

Ugh. I'm sure everyone's heard of the high school that provides students with laptops, equipped with cameras, which can be remotely activated and used to take pictures of the students without their (or their parents') knowledge or consent.

I wonder if this was in some fine print in a contract students/parents needed to sign to get the computer? "I the undersigned do hereby agree that you can spy on my kid at will"?

[Staring suspiciously at my own webcam. Because I bought this computer myself, but who knows who might have gotten to it? I'm inclined to stick masking tape over the camera eye right now.]

I saw this on Alas, A Blog.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Apple Seeds

A question asked on the NutritionData blog (is it dangerous to eat apple seeds?) is close to my heart, since I habitually eat the entire apple, including the core. Extra fiber, you know.

The answer given is that since apple seeds do contain small amounts of cyanide, it's not a great idea to eat them, but assuming one experiences no ill effects, one presumably is not getting more cyanide than ones system can safely process.

So it won't make you sick, unless it makes you sick!

Sounds good to me.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Drink Up! Very Carefully

Here's an interesting article on Slate about how, during Prohibition, industrial alcohol (frequently stolen, redistilled, and sold for consumption) was intentionally made lethally poisonous by government regulation in order to discourage people from drinking.

And how well did that work out?

"[B]y the time Prohibition ended in 1933, the federal poisoning program, by some estimates, had killed at least 10,000 people."

That's some effective federal poisoning. Nicely done! We like a government program that gets results, right?

Oh, wait. The goal was to discourage drinking of alcohol, not specifically to kill people.

Well, the article doesn't investigate whether or not there are estimates of how many people were discouraged from drinking, but someone probably was.

So I guess in the logic of the moment, it all worked out.

Prohibition is a weird thing. I mean, it was against the law to drink alcohol, so people shouldn't have been doing it. Did they deserve whatever they got?

But people really hated that law and felt that it interfered with personal freedoms and their right to do what they wanted. Did general dislike mean it was OK to ignore the law, and that people had a legitimate right to be annoyed when the government poisoned the alcohol on purpose?

As far as I'm concerned, you always have to think about the real world. In the real world, it was known that people were drinking, regardless of the law (and regardless of the poison!).

So if you know people are going to drink your poison and die from it, even if you tell them not to, you're basically killing them (even though it's technically their fault, so you can feel OK about yourself).

So yeah, the poisoning was still pretty bad.


Friday, February 19, 2010

SUBTLE!!!! Movie Review: Shutter Island

Shutter Island was the best free movie so far this year! Hmm...

It wasn't awful. I think there was actually a pretty good movie in there somewhere, being beaten senseless by the one we actually saw, which kept shouting its ominous portentousness at us every minute. I thought for a while that there was something wrong with the sound system in the theater, because honestly, would anyone intentionally make a soundtrack that over-the-top?

Also, directors everywhere? You cannot do that overhead scene where someone screams "noooooooooooooo!!!!!!" at the sky. Seriously, just don't.

No, not even if the character is in a situation where someone in real life might in fact scream "noooooooooooooo!!!!!!" at the sky. Unless you want to elicit a snicker from jaded members of your audience who've seen movies before, leave it alone.

Because it's still a cliche even if the movie is set in a time before it was a cliche.

Anyway, the movie. We have Leonardo DiCaprio looking frowny and tormented, and Mark Ruffalo looking sturdy and charming, and they're U.S. Marshals investigating the escape of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane on an island off the coast of Boston.

Or are they? (Ominous music.)

Because DiCaprio's character seems to have some other issues in mind.

Something sinister is going on, and there is, naturally, no escape from said island. And there's a storm. And there are lots of dramatic atmospheric shots and strange occurrences. Hallucinations and memories.

I didn't hate it. There were bits that I liked, and the puzzle comes together in a fairly interesting way at the end.

But man, did it ever feel like being whacked on the head with the movie's Ideas and Plot. I just felt a little worn out by the end. I felt that if it had been just a bit more subtle, it might have been awesome.

I read in other reviews that this movie is heavily influenced by classic film noir, which does rather whack one on the head, I suppose, so perhaps approaching it with that in mind would yield better results.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Advance of Bare Feet

I see another in the line of exciting stories about barefootedness! This one, from New York Magazine, is crisply titled "You Walk Wrong."

It suggests that wearing shoes throws off one's whole stride, such that we bring all manner of foot and joint problems upon ourselves by tromping gracelessly (or even gracefully) about.

It seems that when you put more padding between your foot and the ground, you tend to step harder, as if something about our sense of balance requires a certain amount of impact in order to maintain equilibrium. (There's an interesting tidbit about gymnasts, who apparently, if given softer mats, land harder on them.)

So, the more we try to protect our feet, the more we tend to abuse them in order to make up for that missing contact with the trod-upon surface. We might all be a lot better off if we never wore shoes at all.

This is interesting, and I'm all for more barefootedness in general, the ickiness of walking around on city streets notwithstanding, except for one thing that springs instantly to mind:

What about the snow and the bitter, bitter cold? What about the ice-slicked streets that freeze your little toes right off? Surely we need some protection from the weather, if not the hard and filthy ground!

Nevertheless, I'm intrigued by some shoes described in the article, that try to put no more than a thin coating between foot and street...something to keep the dirt off, but still let you feel the ground, and let the foot move more naturally.

I have a dislike/hate relationship with shoes for the most part (they never fit!), so I can't help but wonder if next to no shoes could be the answer. If I get around to trying some (although I bet they won't fit!), I'll be sure to keep my legions of followers updated.

The article was pointed out to me by Sheril Kirshenbaum at The Intersection, though more for its clever illustrations than its content.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Horrific Photos!

I heard from some friends that they have a digital camera with a 'food mode,' so that food will look as appetizing in pictures as it does on the table.

I think I need a 'bruise mode,' so that these interesting marks would look as impressive in pictures as they do on the flesh.

Lacking that, however, I'll just toss up these health-related images of my poor old shoulder and knee about a week post-accident.

Getting some nice shades of purple and yellow in there, aren't we? There are also some lovely subtle greenish tones on my wrist and hand that I didn't even bother trying to photograph since it wouldn't have come out.

The abrasion on my forehead (a bit Harry Potter-ish, though not zig-zagged) is already fading. It was just a little airbag burn, nothing major. I probably will not scar noticeably from any of this, although I do hear that broken clavicles often heal with a bump.

I was always wickedly vain about my lovely collar bones, so this will be a hard blow, but if I had any pictures of the car for comparison it would be clear that this is a pretty decent result.

Charred to a cinder, it was! At least on the inside. It was hard to tell it even had front seats.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

King Me

In more time-travel-related musing (after last month's speculation on how well one might do if dumped 300-500 years into the past), Erich Vieth at Dangerous Intersection wonders whether a king from the Middle Ages would take the opportunity to live a middle class life in the modern day U.S., with our health care and casual luxuries, or would prefer the personal power of kingship in his own time.

Not being a king from the Middle Ages, or having much insight into the time, I can't say much about that, but I certainly wouldn't want to try it the other way.

Even if I could be a king, I'm not going back to then! I imagine the social conventions would be nearly incomprehensible, and often practically intolerable to me. (Plus I don't really want to be a man, thanks. Although I guess I might be better suited to manhood if I did have to live in the time period, what with all my thinking I have a right to opinions and what-not.)

Thinking about the differences in societies does make me wonder if, even if he felt himself objectively better off today with all the cool stuff we have to offer, an old-timey king might prefer to stick with the world and the society he understood.

I guess that would depend on his personal adaptability and tolerance for change. Which just goes to show that when we invite a king to make that choice, we'd better think carefully about which one.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Google Pulls Back the Curtains

Rather than provide updates about my personal travel-whining situation, which has just become a ghastly failure in every way, I will note that there seem to be some fairly serious privacy concerns about Google Buzz, the latest hot thing from our technological overlords.

Apparently it links all your info from various Google accounts (Picasa, Reader, Gmail, etc.) and shows bits of that to everyone you're linked with.

Clearly a potential problem if you maintain an pseudonymous blog, like Dr. Isis at On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess, or have an abusive ex-husband like Harriet Jacobs at Fugitivus, or if there's any other circumstance in which you might not want every person on your frequent-contact list to see what blogs you read, etc.

Say, you have different contacts in different contexts and don't especially need to merge them all into one big social network soup.

Apparently you don't even have to sign up for Buzz for certain aspects of this to kick in, which means that even though I do not have a Buzz account, I need to worry about this because of my Picasa, Reader, Blogger and Gmail accounts (I have Docs, too--can other people see what documents I'm working on?).

Not cool, Google.

You should fix that.


Some hours later:
Update from Harriet Jacobs at Fugitivus about how Google is working on it.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Follow-Up Whining

I'm particularly peeved because Boston got approximately no more snow than in any usual winter storm, and today was clear and nice, and sure maybe they needed to cancel flights along the East Coast but we were headed for Kansas City and points west which are not currently buried in ice, and we could have left on time this morning.

Instead, we can't leave until tomorrow, for nearly twice the price of the original tickets.

Thanks a lot for the panic, everyone who hyped the story of this storm in Boston.

Sigh. Well, what can you do? Whine to the internet and then finish packing, that's my answer.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Boring Personal Whining Post

I was supposed to fly to NM tomorrow, but of course a large storm has shut down the East Coast. There's no getting out of Boston in the near future.

So I had a car accident Sunday and now I can't get out west to attend a funeral. It ain't been a great week. And only Wednesday, too!

Meh. It could be worse. I could be stranded in an airport halfway there. With two broken collarbones.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Things I Have Recently Learned

After a car crash: 
a) Turn off engine
b) Get out of car
c) Get off road

If you remember b) and c) but forget a), there may be an increased chance that the car will catch fire. 

Cars don't catch fire nearly as often as you'd think from TV, but it does occasionally happen. This will nicely complete the totalizing of a totaled car.

If the car does catch fire, your favorite bag in the backseat will have completely disappeared by the time you see the car again in a non-burning state, since it turns out canvas does not have a high resistance to flames hot enough to fuse keys with steering columns.

If the EMTs cut your shirt off in the ambulance, the ER nurses will let you wear a hospital gown home. Those things are super stylish.

Broken collarbones don't actually hurt that much unless you move.

Sadly, at some point you sort of have to move.

It pretty much sucks when someone veers into your lane and hits you head-on.

Seat belts and air bags are good.

Car accidents are dreadful, but we got out and walked away, so it could have been way more dreadful. Let's party! Carefully, and without moving the arm under the broken collarbone.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Updates on Blog Death

Nicholas Carr at Rough Type nicely sums up how utterly uncool it has become to admit that you have a blog, now that only old fogeys do it.

You punk kids stay off my servers, that's all I have to say.


Friday, February 5, 2010


This is something I, with the vast information resources available to me, ought to just look up, but my lunch break is almost over, so I don't have time to get really into it: how bad is nicotine/tobacco for you if you're not smoking it or holding it in your mouth for long periods of time?

I ask because of this Healthbolt post on a new nicotine-delivery method that's being developed: dissolvable, flavored tobacco in the form of strips or tablets. Yum!

The post raises the question of whether this would appeal to children, and certainly something that's a bit like candy or those dissolvable breath freshener strips seems intuitively to be a lot more kid-friendly than a cigarette. I could see it working for grown-ups too, though, since one could unobtrusively use such a product in a way that you can't just unobtrusively light up in public places in the U.S.

So I wondered, is it really super terrible if it does attract users who might not be able to use cigarettes? I mean, I'm not saying "run out and imbibe substances, kids!" but how bad for you is the nicotine/tobacco itself? Isn't it inhaling smoke or holding chewing tobacco in your mouth all day that's really awful?

Maybe getting people interested in this non-smoking, non-spitting product will be better for them! Maybe we should be cheering this new health triumph! Go R.J. Reynolds!

This is when we must turn to research. Doing a quick and dirty PubMed search for ("Nicotine/adverse effects"[Mesh] NOT "Smoking"[Mesh]), one finds interesting references to SIDS, "neuroprotective and neurotoxic effects," effects on renal function and bone repair, and plenty more...

Plus of course from the MeSH definition: "Nicotine is highly toxic alkaloid." Yum?

So there's definitely a lot going on with nicotine in addition to the smoking and chewing, and it may well be that it's a terrible idea to make it available to young people in a tasty candy.

Nevertheless, I'm not convinced flavored tobacco is the worst idea anyone's ever had, if only because I don't enjoy smelling smoke or getting tobacco juice on me (not that this happens often), and if people are going to do nicotine as their drug of choice, they might as well do it in a way that inconveniences me personally as little as possible.

Yeah, it is all about me, thanks.

Seriously, though, I'm curious about this product, and could see its ultimate health effects, if it were brought to market and made widely available, being potentially either good (if it were associated with decreased use of smoked tobacco) or bad (if it were toxic to the body in the way that cigarettes are).


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Listen With Your Mouth

ScienceRoll has a post about a hearing aid currently in development that hooks onto to your back teeth and transmits sound waves through them.

It says this might work for people with conductive and mixed hearing loss, where sound isn't reaching the inner ear--the sound is picked up by a microphone near the ear, and then bounced through the teeth and bone of the skull to the cochlea.

I keep thinking of how cool I thought it was, when I was little, that you could put your head down on the table and hear a tiny tapping from the other end, even if you couldn't hear it at all without putting your ear down. Since I was wild about that, obviously I'm fascinated at the thought of using your own teeth to conduct sound into your head.

Now please excuse me while I put my head on my desk and remind myself how fun I thought sound transmission was when I was a kid.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I find that since I got a laptop, I don't just watch stuff anymore. I used to sit down on purpose to watch TV or a movie, and I'd just sit and watch it, but now I've always got something else going on.

Reading blogs, usually, in an attempt to keep up with the relentless deluge of my feed reader.

As I write this, for example, I'm watching Supernatural on DVD. It's the latest show we're giving a shot to, on account of someone told us it was good.

I love TV on DVD. Also streamed from online, of course, depending on the particular situation.

Basically, just give me TV in some asynchronous fashion that doesn't require me to be paying attention to when things are showing and on what channel.

Anyway, that doesn't address the issue of my fractured attention. Am I really even watching this show, given that I'm also musing about delivery methods for other TV shows I've seen in the past?

Did I really watch any of them either? It's a mystery.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Advice: So Hard to Follow

As both a cataloger and a reference librarian, I am intrigued, yet also troubled, by this advice from A Librarian's Guide to Etiquette:

At least once per year, one of your library's catalogers should walk up to the reference desk and shank a reference librarian with a letter opener. These public shows of aggression will earn you the respect of your colleagues and help maintain the social order in your library.

I'm definitely all for ensuring the prominent place of cataloging in the social hierarchy. And since I'm the sole librarian representing technical services at work, I theoretically don't need to worry about getting shanked with a letter opener at the reference desk myself.

On the other hand, I might get shunned. It's lonely at the top of the social ladder, and I can accept that, but then who'd share chocolate with me?

Besides, it sounds like a lot of work (stabbing? I'd have to raise my arm and stuff) and I don't have a letter opener.

You can see where this is a bit of a dilemma for me.