23 September 2008

Lamb Burgers

Crystal and I decided to try something a bit different last night. For obvious reasons, lamb is a lot less expensive in New Zealand than beef. Given our need to live on a budget, we decided to try making some burgers using lamb mince. They turned out really nice. I grilled some mushrooms to put on them as well. All in all, a culinary success, which is good considering that we bought enough mince to make burgers two nights.

My research is going alright. I spent a good portion of the day checking on my last shearing test. The test was finally finished near the end of the day. So, that's that. I'm not able to use the lab again for a few weeks. But I have some other stuff planned, including a field day next week and preping some samples for the Scanning Electron Microscope. I'm really eager to have a look at things in the SEM. It's really a huge part of my PhD work that I've mostly put off because I know it will be difficult. Nonetheless, I'm sure that it will be scientifically rewarding.

In my free time, I've been playing through Warcraft 3 again. Not sure why, just seems like a fun thing to do. I've been putting in 20-30 minutes per day on the Wii Fit, though I'm don't really seem to be losing weight yet. We'll have to see what happens after a week or two. I definitely feel like I'm getting a workout by doing the yoga, strength training, and aerobic activities. The balance games feel a lot more like fun and less like excersize, so I'm not sure how much they help, but I do a few of them anyways.

I've also started reading The Once and Futute King, which is a really good book. When I picked it up from the library, I had no idea that Disney's The Sword in the Stone had been based on it, but it became clear rather quick, and a check at Wikipedia confirmed it. A really good book so far. I've one more chapter to get through The Sword in the Stone and then I'm on into the later parts of Arthurian ledgends.

08 September 2008

Why the choice of Palin pushes me firmly into the Democratic Camp

A lot of my relatives are probably looking on in horror as I espouse my political opinions. Most of them are Republicans in the traditional sense. They believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and social conservitism. I've been an Obama supporter for most of this election. With the way his campaign worked, I heard a lot more news about him than any of the other candidates (except Ron Paul, but most of the things I heard about him were how crazy his policies were). For the entirety of the primary season, I was willing to concede to McCain that he represented some sort of reform (at least within the Republican party). He was generally more moderate than the neocons, and had tried to push for smaller government and less spending. However, his choice of Palin as his running mate throws all of that out the window.

Things I don't like about Palin

  • She is branded as a reformer who moved Alaska politics away from "the Good Old Boys".

I might think this was the case if it wasn't for the blatant cronyism she demonstrated during her time as mayor and governor. She tended to completely clean house of all appointees and put new people in place who would be completely loyal to her. Many people that spoke up against her were fired.

  • She is also branded as a fiscal conservative.

In a state with budget surpluses and a huge tendancy towards earmarking, she managed to move a city from low debt, to enourmous debt during her term. The only congressional earmark that we heard of her turning down was the famous "Bridge to Nowhere" which was only turned down after much public outcry.

  • She is a blatantly cynical choice which is attempting at once to appeal to both the conservative base and women who supported Hillary Clinton.

I'm sorry McCain, the women who supported Clinton were mostly pro-choice, pro-equal pay, and pro-women's rights. As a social conservative, Palin is against all of those. That makes this aspect of her appointment hugely insulting to the intelligence of Clinton's supporters.

Otherwise, I found the speeches, especially Palin's and McCain's, hugely lacking in policy. For the most part, Palin bashed Obama, including his work as a Community Organizer. I'm sure there are many social workers and such that were offended by that. Meanwhile, McCain spent most of his speech, discussing his experience as a P.O.W. The thing is, we've all heard that story many times. Yes, its moving. John McCain wouldn't sell out to his Vietnemese captors. I wanted to know what you would do to help the country now and in the future.

There is also this weird thing with the Republicans trying to brand themselves as the party of change, ignoring the fact that they controlled both Congress and the Whitehouse for six of the last eight years. I'm sorry, you can't rally against the Man. You are the Man.

I'm not going to go into any of the other two-faced talking that has been done by people in the McCain campaign, I'll leave Jon Stewart to do that.

03 September 2008

The Science Debate 08

One of the reporters at Wired Magazine's blog site is being criticized by the internet masses for reporting on Obama's answers to the science debate question. I would say critisizm would be due for biased journalism if the story wasn't already so biased. Obama's campaign is the only one that has issued a clear science and technology platform. McCain has refused to respond to Science Debate 08 and has tended to change his position on a number of issues. I'm somewhat skeptical that Obama will be able to deliver all the funding he has promised, while cutting taxes, the fact that he has a clear platform speaks volumes.

So far, the McCain campaign seems to be for drilling and continued use of fossil fuels, and denies global warming. Not very good there.

Obama seems to have changed his mind about NASA funding, which is good.

In terms of money for all the funding that Obama proposes, most that is supposed to go towards clean energy would be derived from a Carbon Cap and Trade system. Urging companies to clean up and using money generated from that the invest in energy technologies is a pretty clever plan.

02 September 2008

HPV vaccine

I was just reminded of the outrage response to an attempted mandate of the Human Papaloma Virus vaccination for pre-teen girls. This is a vaccine that has been shown to have a huge success rate in reducing the instance of cervical cancer in women and it is most effective when adminstered before a woman is sexually active. Some right-wing people have claimed that it promotes promescuity in women. These people have a fundamentally different view of the purpose of government I think. I see the separation of church and state as an important thing. I'm certainly a Christian and have my beliefs, but I do not feel that it is the responsibility of the government to create laws that force everyone to follow these beliefs. I ussually try to avoid double posting like this, but I thought this was important enough to bring up.

I think part of the reason that this has been coming up is because of the forthcoming election. I have a gut reaction that decided my initial feelings about the election, and sense that point in time I have been slowly unravelling my feelings and beliefs to figure out why that reaction occured. The fact is, the Republican party no longer fights for the things that I believe in: small government, fiscal responsibility, and less interference in citizens' lives. This comes back to my belief on legislating morality. I do not share the view on many social issues with the Democratic party platform, but their general tendancy to provide equal protection for all citizens is important to me. Their stance on investment in alternative energy technologies is also important. Drilling any of the US oil reserves is only a stop-gap measure and will not provide the consumers with any real relief. It also doesn't help any with concerns of global warming. I used to take the view that there have been huge swings in temperature in the ancient past of the earth. More recently I saw the comparison between ancient and present day CO2 levels, and that was enough to convince me that something is going to happen.


I just listened to a woman on NPR state that she does not trust the numerous studies funded by pharmeceutical companies related to possible side effects of the standard infant vaccination schedule. I really can't understand people like this. There is a very strange anti-science faction developing in the US and it worries me. These are people who feel that the results published by scientists are simply opinions within a cloud of many opinions. This simply is not the case. Scientists are ussually very good at self-regulation, meaning that, if someone publishes results that are BS, they will quickly get called on it. We ought to listen to the experts because they are exactly that. Experts. Most of them have spent their entire lives studying the topics on which the publish, so they really do know what they are talking about.

The other part of this argument that worries me, is that measles cases are on the rise. I remember getting some of my last booster shots when I was in elementary school. I'm sure that as an infant I did not find them comfortable. However, I'm glad that I have been vaccinated against these diseases. Some people argue that some of the vaccines increase the risk of autism in children, but there is no scientific evidence for an increased risk of any disorder associated with the vaccines that most children receive. There is also a very small contingent of people who espouse a religious belief that prohibits vaccines. I cannot fathom this argument. Holding oneself to the tenants of their faith is one thing, but forcing that faith onto an infant is quite another.

I'm not sure what else I can say about this. I just wish that scientists got the respect that they once did. I don't think people should blindly follow them, but they shouldn't refuse their advice as "elitist" or anything of that sort.

01 September 2008

Science and the Candidates

Scientists and Engineers for America, a non-profit, non-partisan group sent out a questionaire to the presidential candidates asking them about their stances on science and technology related issues. So far, only Obama has responded.