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June 2014 Archives

I dare you to watch this entire video.

via kottke

Paulson on Climate Change and the Price of Inaction

Henry M. Paulson, writing in the NYT:

In a future with more severe storms, deeper droughts, longer fire seasons and rising seas that imperil coastal cities, public funding to pay for adaptations and disaster relief will add significantly to our fiscal deficit and threaten our long-term economic security. So it is perverse that those who want limited government and rail against bailouts would put the economy at risk by ignoring climate change.

This is short-termism. There is a tendency, particularly in government and politics, to avoid focusing on difficult problems until they balloon into crisis. We would be fools to wait for that to happen to our climate.

When you run a company, you want to hand it off in better shape than you found it. In the same way, just as we shouldn’t leave our children or grandchildren with mountains of national debt and unsustainable entitlement programs, we shouldn’t leave them with the economic and environmental costs of climate change. Republicans must not shrink from this issue. Risk management is a conservative principle, as is preserving our natural environment for future generations. We are, after all, the party of Teddy Roosevelt.

Science Friday | Beer Science: Crafting the Perfect Pint

Oregon has 171 breweries operating out of 70 different cities, and Portland boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the country. Two Oregon brew experts—Leon Fyfe, a microbiologist with the Craft Brew Alliance, and Ben Tilley, owner of Agrarian Ales—pour over the science of craft brewing, discussing how yeast, hops, malt, and water come together to create the perfect pint.

Audio’s not live yet… but looking forward to it.

Shots in the Dark: The aftermath of Bruce's defenestration

A couple days after our encounter with Bruce, Beth noticed two little marks — seemingly a bite — on her hand. We were in Wisconsin, visiting Vargo, Lauren, Benton, and Leo and attending Pat and Brittany’s (beautiful) wedding. After landing at SFO Sunday night, we took BART home, packed up a little bag, and went to the emergency room at Alta Bates around 11:30 pm.

Rabies is a pretty scary disease. Left untreated, it almost inevitably leads to death. There are very few survivors post-exposure (A google search yielded four. Ever. Anywhere.). Onset of the disease occurs, on average, one to three months after exposure. The initial symptoms are flu-like: fever, tingling, aches. As the virus spreads, two contrasting forms of disease can manifest — ‘furious’ and ‘paralytic’ rabies. In furious rabies, people exhibit hyperactivity, biting-behavior (sometimes), and fear of water. Paralytic rabies leads to gradual, systemic paralysis.

Why all this gloomy talk of rabies? In the US, bats are the source of most human rabies cases.

We learned at Alta Bates that any contact with a bat should be considered a potential rabies exposure unless it can be proven otherwise. Acquitting the bat is no simple task. It involves capturing the bat, bringing it to a local hospital or animal control location, euthanizing it, and confirming via laboratory assay whether the bat was indeed rabid. I can’t speak for others, but my first thought wasn’t to grab some tupperware and snag the lil’bugger. Far from it.

Barring capture (or acquittal within 48 hours), rabies postexposure prophylaxis (RPEP) is recommended. The regimen varies depending on immunization status. If you’re previously immunized, you get two 1 mL shots of rabies vaccine intramuscularly. One on day 0 — the day of the exposure / the day you report to the hospital — and one at day 3. Beth was immunized; this was her RPEP.

I wasn’t immunized, and I paid for it. Non-immunized individuals must receive human rabies immune globulin (HRIG) at a dose of 20 IU / kg bodyweight, and a 1 mL dose of the vaccine on days 0, 3, 7, and 14. HRIG (basically) provides antibodies to protect against rabies during the period in which the vaccine isn’t yet effective. I received 8 mL of HRIG in three locations - 4 mL in my right arm and 2 of the remaining 4 mL in each of my butt cheeks. The vaccine was given to me in my left arm.

No doubt this is a vast improvement from the old method (you know, the one we grew up hearing about) of ~15 shots in the abdomen (this stopped being common practice in the late 70s). It’s still no walk in the park. The shots themselves, while uncomfortable, were not all that painful (save the 4 mL one). The 1 mL vaccination is painless. But vaccines are vaccines and immune responses are immune responses. I’ve felt far from great this week.

Some lessons and recommendations:

Tolkien’s Boromir summed it up nicely: “Is it not a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt for so small a thing? So small a thing.”

The Defenestration of Bruce

As best as I can tell, Bruce broke into our apartment well after midnight Wednesday morning.

I should clarify. Bruce is a bat. A small bat. He is of the night, of the outdoors. He broached the boundary between inside and outside through a barely open window.

I turned in around 1:00a after a night of writing; Beth had been asleep for hours. The blinds were closed and the windows were open - a normal night for us in California. I imagine that Bruce flew in, collided with the shutters, and, little claws flailing, grabbed ahold. After catching his breath, he began to explore, to poke around his new environs.

I woke up to that: the rambunctious and clattering aftermath of Bruce’s entrance. He made his way over to the other open window, which had a screen in place. It is unclear whether he perceived this as a way out or was just seeking a cool breeze on his furry belly and wings. Regardless, this is where I found Bruce.

In the gauzy moments before adrenaline kicked in, my mind cycled through possible origins of the racket: “Moth. Rat. Bird.” It wouldn’t be the first time a winged intruder entered our home. A few years ago, a small sparrow got caught in the blinds, creating a lot more ruckus and pooping all over the place before leaving our home / exiting his toilet.

I woke Beth up, had her turn the lights on (and, in doing so, moved her away from the blinds), and took a look. My glasses were off, so all I could make out was a small black blob, the size of a small child’s fist. My first thought was large spider. But then, the blob moved in mysterious ways. Furry, winged ways.

“Bat,” I said, still half asleep.

“Bat? buhbuhBAT! BAT! BATBATBATbatbatbatbatbat!”, Beth shrieked, her voice a fading echo as she fled the room and shut the door.

I grabbed my glasses and took a closer look. Bruce came into focus, a wee bat, moving a bit and holding tightly to the aforementioned screen. A screen installed to keep pests out… and decidedly keeping Bruce in.

Beth peeked her head in and suggested we leave the room, close the door, and call maintenance. She was now fully clothed in multiple layers, scarves wrapped around her neck, head, and face. Bite protection.

I was keen on a more proactive approach and assumed we could knock the screen out the window, rid the apartment of Bruce, and not kill him. A late night defenestration.

After a few minutes of vacillating between amusement and sheer terror, I got a broom, aimed for the corner of the window shade…. and missed, putting a big hole in the screen. Bruce bobbled around a bit, spreading one wing, but not taking flight. He slowly slinked his way to the opposite corner of the screen. His wings were taut and leathery, his ears tiny, his demeanor fearless and frightening.

I slowly inserted the broom in the hole I made and decreased the width of the screen an inch. I then knocked it - and Bruce - out the window.

We heard the screen hit the ground an eternity later, closed all the windows, and took showers. We escaped unscathed… or so we thought.

"Yesterday" by Haruki Murakami in the New Yorker

A short story from Murakami in the New Yorker:

Erika stared at the candle flame flickering in the breeze from the A.C. “I often have the same dream,” she said. “Aki-kun and I are on a ship. A long journey on a large ship. We’re together in a small cabin, it’s late at night, and through the porthole we can see the full moon. But that moon is made of pure, transparent ice. And the bottom half of it is sunk in the sea. ‘That looks like the moon,’ Aki-kun tells me, ‘but it’s really made of ice and is only about eight inches thick. So when the sun comes out in the morning it all melts. You should get a good look at it now, while you have the chance.’ I’ve had this dream so many times. It’s a beautiful dream. Always the same moon. Always eight inches thick. I’m leaning against Aki-kun, it’s just the two of us, the waves lapping gently outside. But every time I wake up I feel unbearably sad.”

Erika Kuritani was silent for a time. Then she spoke again. “I think how wonderful it would be if Aki-kun and I could continue on that voyage forever. Every night we’d snuggle close and gaze out the porthole at that moon made of ice. Come morning the moon would melt away, and at night it would reappear. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe one night the moon wouldn’t be there. It scares me to think that. I get so frightened it’s like I can actually feel my body shrinking.”

We maaaaaaa-aade it! Fox News goes after cookstove research.

“First, they came for your lightbulbs… Now the EPA, using taxpayer money to target kitchen stoves… Soon they’re coming… not just here, in third world countries. Why? Because climate change.”