How Far Can it Go?

May 25th, 2005

I learned this morning that the House of Reps. has passed two bills related to stem cell research. The first, which would ease restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research to allow the use of IVF leftovers, passed at 238-194 with the majority of supporters being Democrats, but a suprising number of Republicans crossed the line as well. Although supported by many, this bill did not have the votes to beat a presidental veto. It will next go to the Senate for a vote. The second bill was almost unanimously passed (only one crazy libertarian detractor!), and will increase funding for adult and umbilical cord stem cell research.

While both of these bills will be supremely beneficial to stem cell research, only the first is up for a fight. It lacks majority support because people are simplifying it to an abortion/right-to-life issue. It is sad to me that people can’t see past that over-simplification to the truth of the lives that embryonic stem cells have the potential to save.

I think that the use of the term embryo is unfortunate. Most people envision a fetus when they hear the word embryo; something that they can picture as having human characeristics. The stage of development during which stem cells are collected though, is a simple ball of cells about as far from having human traits as I am from becoming an eagle.

Let’s get things straight people. We need to figure out how to help the living live before we fight over the unborn.

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Hippo… er… Hipocracy

May 24th, 2005

I just don’t understand the difference. Could someone explain to me, please…

From the New York Times – Last week, Mr. Bush reiterated his position on the Castle bill. “I made it very clear to Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers’ money to promote science which destroys life in order to save life is – I’m against that,” he said. “And therefore, if the bill does that, I will veto it.”

From the A.P. – As of Monday, May 23, 2005, at least 1,634 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,248 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians.

Is one kind of death different from the other? Is oil and American emperialism that much more important than the health of American citizens? I think it must be to our leaders.

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General Consensus

May 23rd, 2005

In the world of the stem cell, the only consensus that may ever be reached is that its discovery opened a great big can of worms. On the christian right, we have George Bush our president threatening to veto any bill giving more federal funding to stem cell research. In the research sector we have South Koreans making amazing advances in the development of stem cell technologies. Will ever the twain they meet? Here’s a brief overview.

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Something to shout about

May 21st, 2005

Little do the people of Califonia know that there is a war going on under their noses. An equity war of the sexes that isn’t taking place in the impoverished areas of our state, but in our houses of higher learning. Reports have been released by the University of California Office of the President revealing the truth behind the hiring practices of the many departments within the statewide system. Women are not being hired for new faculty positions even though they represent nearly half of all Ph.Ds in the candidate pool.

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May 19th, 2005

Yes, I was one of the few who thought it necessary to see the first showing of Star Wars at the midnight showing at the local theatre. What can I say?

I stood in line over night to see Episode 1. Now, that was a let down. This time around, we only got to the theatre two hours ahead of launch. We were almost the last in line. Whatever. I got to see the movie with my friends. It was my husband’s birthday yesterday, and is my friend Anne’s today. So, what a birthday bunch we were. I bought an ice cream cake that we couldn’t finish. I was amazed at how much trouble I had giving it away to other people in line. I would have thought that people in line for Star Wars would have been a much more comraderic type of group. Eventually the cake was given to a very appreciative bunch of revelers.

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Making the comments.

May 17th, 2005

In order to make comments on any of my posts you must be Type Key registered. This is to avoid any of the spam that has been attacking bloggers everywhere around the internet. The registration is free, and you’ll be able to use your username and password to comment on any site protected by typekey.

That is all for now.

Attack of the Killer Super Extreme End of the World

May 16th, 2005

I teach a lab that gets out late some evenings, and last week happened to contain one of those evenings. I made my way home to a large glass of ice cold gin sometime around 11pm, and turned on the TV to decompress a bit before bed. Lo’ and behold the Discover channel was actually broadcasting something resembling science programming… I say resembling because the programs I proceeded to watch were more exaggerational sensationalism than science.

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Share and share alike…

May 12th, 2005

You’d think that science with its ethic of knowledge sharing would be more giving with its reseaources. But, no. Here I sit, a grad student with no funding of my own… that’s not to say that I haven’t tried… I’m trying to finish my dissertation, and get on with my life. All I need is a computer with a micrscope, and a program called Stereoinvestigator, and a couple of months to get the work done. You’d think that in a world class institution like Davis I would be able to find such a system. In fact, I have found many; however, they are all in use or simply not available to the likes of me. Every last one of them.

Anyway, not being able to complete my research is giving me the time to work on things like this blog, my radio show, my TA responsibilities, and other papers that I need to finish. I just know that I need to figure something out soon. This research needs to be completed before the end of the summer. I’ve go places to go!

Interesting science that I read recently in New Scientist magazine discussed the discovery of a separate class of T-cells in the immune system that may work to supress the immune system on a regular basis. It’s thought that when these cells go awry people are more likely to develop severe allergies and/or immune disorders. Additionally, it has been found that people raised near cows (able to come into close contact with them) during their youth are less likely to develop allergies as they age, and if they do the allergies are less severe than people raised in urban areas. Internal parasites are also thought to reduce the appearance of immune hyper-activity. This all seems to indicate that sensitization of the immune system is necessary to maintain the health of the regulator T-cells as people age. So, let your children eat dirt, forget about the anti-bacterial soaps. We need to get dirty to stay healthy.

Arrgh… thar’s the rub…

May 11th, 2005

I finished grading the first five of the twenty lab reports that I’ll receive this quarter today. Five papers on the autonomic control of the cardiovascular system. It took five days. That’s just one paper per day.

You wouldn’t think that five reports would take too much out of a person (especially one who has been grading the same papers for the last two years), but I feel compelled to belabour everything. I want to help them learn to write, to understand the science, to begin learning how to interpret something that is sitting right in front of them. Somehow in this, the last paper of their undergraduate careers, I’ve got to teach them everything that four years of college and high school never knocked into their heads. I want them to reach for something more than to just get by. I care so much that I end up hating all of it. So, the grading goes by… and by… and by. If I just didn’t care, it would be easy. Skim the paper, check for the major concepts, key points, assign a grade. Arrgh… I end up returning them a book of red ink. Probably a book that they will never look at again because they will be moving on to some other phase of life in about a month and a half.

That’s not to say that there aren’t a few gems. I do get the occassional paper that is well-written, organized, researched, and insightful. Those papers are like a breath of fresh air. I’m sure that I overlook mistakes in the good papers just because they are so well put together, and that the others I scrutinize all the more when I start to see an error or two.

I’m sure that it’s just as well. It all comes around in the end. The papers that I turn into my professor come back a jumble of comments. I almost don’t recognize my own ideas or words anymore for all of theirs. And, so, I learn. And pass it on.

Water, water everywhere…

May 10th, 2005

Today I had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Thomas Harter, Ph.D, a hydrologist from UC Davis, on my radio program. While he dropped a couple of “bombs” on us regarding the truth about water availability and quality in California, it was what he said after the program that I found really intriguing.

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