les archives de beefwad
Indigo pulls newest Harper's because of Muhammad cartoons. Gavin picked up a copy of the newest edition for me and I was really excited about the article that featured the cartoons, mainly because it's written by Art Speigelman, who's an institution in the cartoon world (and by that I mean in the "serious" cartoon world where the cartoons are all very solemn and take themselves very seriously). Speigelman wrote "Maus," a two book series on his father's experience in Auschwitz. The Jews are all drawn as mice and the Nazis as cats. For the most part, I really think its the story his father tells rather than the art that gives the books their impact, although there's an interlude in one of the books where Speigelman narrates his mother's suicide that still floats around in my head - the art on those three or four pages being powerful and devastating.
Anyhow, I had high hopes because I haven't read any new work by Speigelman in a while and I can't afford to buy his newest book ("In the Shadow of No Towers", about the World Trade Center) and then the article just ended up being really disappointing. He discusses the power of cartoons, the decline of editorial cartoons, and then actually rates how offensive he finds each of the Muhammad cartoons (using little bombs instead of stars - so the most offensive cartoon rated 5 bombs - tasteful, hey?), despite his admission that he's a secular Jew rather than a devout Muslim. I'm sure the Muslim community takes great comfort that a secular Jew doesn't find depicting their Prophet offensive. I also can't believe they didn't mention Doonsbury or Bloom County as examples of comics being effective political commentary.
Everyone in the world is sick of everyone else's opinions about whether or not the cartoons should have been published in the first place, as well as whether or not they should have been subsequently reprinted in other publications. That being said, I'm still going to give you mine. I think Harper's is coming into this game way too late and I think that their article was underwhelming and I thought that attempting to rate the offensiveness of the cartoons was of no value to their commentary on political cartoons. But pulling the issue was a weiner move. WE'RE SUPPOSED TO BE BETTER THAN THE AMERICANS. (No offense to my dearly beloved relations in the USA who read my blog). Most of the major media outlets in the States pussied out of publishing the cartoons, and it's becoming increasingly clear that American citizens are seeing limits imposed on some of their fundamental freedoms and rights. We're not. We can express concern over our government without being accused of aiding terrorists or trying to undermine democracy. No-one's looking at who we make phone calls to. We do not, thank heavens, have a Canadian equivalent to Bill O'Reilley (I suppose John Gormley's close but no-one outside Saskatchewan knows who he is). These are things to cherish and cling tightly to, especially now that we're seeing what's happening to our neighbors to the south. A big fat Boo-urns to Indigo for pussying out. Props to Harper's, even though the article kind of sucked.
Actually, one thing I have to say in Speigelman's defence is that he pointed out that it's baffling that the violent demonstrations seen around the world were seemingly focused on a set of cartoons rather than on the torture photos from Abu Ghraib.
Harry Potter makes me violent. Ok, not really, but that's what this guy argues. He ventures that overexposure to media is resulting in an increase in violence among young girls - and I suppose this is possible, although I watched lots of violent/horrific movies as a kid and teenager and I still can't even squish a bug. However, he uses Hermione - the nerdy litle do-gooder from the Harry Potter series - as an example of the media inspiring girls to be violent, because in the most recent Harry Potter movie she punches Draco Malfoy. I think that the Christian Science Monitor's attempts to convince us that the Harry Potter series leads to an interest in the occult among young children has more substance than this argument.
If Harry Potter really was brainwashing me to become more violent, I'd go track this guy down and punch him. But instead I'm happy to smirk at him from behind my keyboard.
Annie and I just came back from a walk. I'm going to try and not wax too poetic about how perceptive dogs are and How We Could Learn So Much More About Ourselves If We Just Listened To Animals And Nature and all that. I think most of the qualities we attribute to dogs are just anthropomorphizing and wishful thinking, except in the case of my dog, who really is psychic or something.
There's this path that runs just behind my place along the rail line - it's really pretty, lots of overhanging trees and it doesn't feel like you're in the middle of a city. Lots of grass, too, which is important given that Annie won't "do her business" on cement or ashphalt. There's no lights along the path, and while this isn't a dangerous neighborhood it's still maybe not where I should be at night. So I know better, I do, I just use the path anyhow because its nicer than the streets. Annie and I were moseying down the path taking lots of time to smell every interesting clump of grass when all of a sudden Annie freaked out and would not stop barking. I couldn't get her to shut up and then I realized there was a guy in the bushes. I don't know what he was doing, and I suspect it was probably innocent (if a little bit wierd - who just hangs out in the bushes in the middle of the night?) but it was nice to have her with me. Not that she'd be capable of scaring off anyone with malicious intent given that some of the rabbits I've around here could probably beat her up, but she notices things for me that I'm too oblivious to notice myself.
Right before we got back to my apartment Annie found a spot in the middle of the road and wouldn't stop sniffing it. A couple months ago back in Saskatoon, a dog got hit by a car in front of my house. Annie was obsessed with the spot where the dog sat on the sidewalk - you literally had to drag her away from it because she just wanted to sit there and smell it. Last night when we went out for our night walk there was an ambulance in front of my place and a couple people milling around. I didn't want to be rude so I didn't look at what was going on, but I wonder if the spot she wouldn't stop sniffing tonight is where whatever bad thing that required an ambulance occurred. I wonder if animals give off stress pheromones when they're scared or in pain or something.
I just got the link from Aubyn to Andrea's wedding photos. They're beautiful, and Andrea and Mike both look so happy. I got a little goopy - mainly because I know it will exasperate Andrea to have me getting misty-eyed over her wedding, but also because I'm so happy to see her happy and so sad that I wasn't there.
Linkies - Inky Circus is standard daily blog reading (along with The Superficial, but I probably shouldn't admit to that one in public) and is one of the few science blogs written by women. And not in any sort of political or feminista way, but in a friendly, accessible, "science is for everyone not just people with degrees" kind of way. Props.
My Science Project - so cool that it has to go on the sidebar too. Explores important questions including, "How many condoms can you wear at once?" and "What is it like to be shot with a 28-gauge shotgun? (The Dick Cheney Experiment)". Good stuff.
And, finally, Pimp My Snack. Baking for men.
More avian flu stuff. I didn't write this, but it's very clever and a good overview of how we think flu pandemics propagate. Also good to keep in mind since it looks like Indonesia has H5N1 cases going H2H2H (human to human to human - not requiring contact with poultry to become infected.)
The Avian Flu Game
You have just acquired the latest action game, 'human pandemic'. You are the virus. The goal of the game is to generate more cumulative viable progeny in humans at the game's end than any of your competing virus players of the same type.
You start off optimized to live in a bird, with a reservoir of yourself in the bird population, from which you can make forays into the human population. The rules of the game are:
1. You have to get your progeny into the human-as a flu virus, you can use droplet, airborne, and contact means to do this. As H5N1, you get a bonus power of fecal-oral or fecal-contact transmission. You begin the game using these weapons from your bird base. Direct human-human power and fomite power must be earned during the game, in which case infected humans (also called 'hosts') and fomites (contaminated surfaces) may be used as a base.
Note that fomite bases do not allow for an increase in progeny while the fomite base is in use, and you spontaneously lose progeny over time during fomite use.
2. You have to get your progeny inside human cells. This may require some jiggling of your genetic structure until you get your hemagglutinin tuned in. Watch out! too much jiggling may mean your progeny may lose their ability to infect birds-or maybe to infect anything at all. All progeny with this defect suffer 'game over' and do not contribute to your score.
Progeny unable to infect birds may no longer use birds as a vector; those not having human-human capability thus also do not count in your final score.
3. You must replicate in human cells; only virus capable of doing so count in your final score. You may also replicate in bird cells. More gene-jiggling may be required, with the same caveats.
4. Your competitors will be attempting the same tricks.
5. Humans have an adaptive countermeasures system (the "immune system") which upon attack will learn to thwart your efforts at reproduction. Any human already infected by a competitor's progeny that are similar to yours, may already have such countermeasures in place and will not be available for you to make more progeny or will be of lower efficiency in making progeny. These humans are called 'immune' or 'partially immune', respectively.
6. Non-immune humans are 'vulnerable'. To infect an additional human and create more progeny requires that a vulnerable human come within range of one of your bases, (bird, human, or fomite) from which you can launch an attack using one of your transmission powers (droplet, airborne, etc.).
7. Each human will have an individualized rate of encountering other possible bases which you may occupy or infect.
8. Vulnerable humans may become 'sick' when infected, which reduces their contact rate with other humans and bird bases, or 'die', which converts the human base to a 'fomite' type. Rapid replication may increase the likelyhood of these adverse phenomena.
I'm hungry because Ottawa takes holidays (like Victoria Day) seriously the way Saskatoon takes Sundays seriously - and nothing's open and I have no food. I do think it's cool that people aren't forced to work holidays so they can spend time with their family, but I don't have any family out here, and so I miss Victoria where the only thing we took seriously was ourselves (except to be honest, I have to admit that in Victoria we took ourselves a bit too seriously).
I'm hungry because I was going to buy groceries on Sunday (when grocery stores are open, because Sunday is evidently not highly regarded in Ottawa) but I couldn't get to the grocery store in time. I couldn't get to the grocery store in time because I rode my bike down to the National Gallery and when I was ready to leave I came out to find my bike secured to the bike rack with a lock I hadn't put there. I went to talk to the people working the front desk in the gallery, who referred me to security, who referred me to the head of security, a hulking French-Canadian with a snazzy purple shirt named Luc. Luc explained to me that the bike racks actually belong to the city and as such he didn't have the authority to the lock on my bike. He also gave me a shifty eyed look and asked if I could prove the bike was really mine, which, of course, I couldn't. (Who carries around proof that they own the bike they're riding?) I can understand why it looked suspicious - I could have just picked a random bike that was locked up and said, "This bike is mine, but someone else locked it up!" But it really was mine.
Luc called the relevant city department, and got a guy who said that because it was a Sunday, he was the only person working and didn't have the authority to let Luc cut the lock. He said that he would call his supervisor at home and try and get permission and call back as soon as possible. Half an hour of sitting on the sidewalk staring folornly at my bike resulted in no call back. Luc then called the police who said that they'd send someone over when they got around to it.
In the meantime, another big guy shows up holding a pair of bolt cutters. I'm not sure what caused him to materialize, but he sat down on the bench with me and started chatting about his work, which is maintaining the ideal light, temperature and humidity for all the paintings. About half an hour into our conversation he said, "You aren't from around here, are you?" and when I confirmed this he said, "I can always tell, because Ottawa people are so stuck up and you're talking to me." Eventually a cop showed up who was very skeptical of my story, especially since I couldn't prove that the bike was mine or that I even lived in Ottawa. I'm still carrying around my Saskatchewan driver's license with my now-defunct 12th st address, and don't have any proof of address in Ottawa. He then asked, "Is there anyone here who can vouch for you?" I tried to explain, "Well, there's three other people who work in my office but they're all in Paris right now for the OIE General Session and so you could try and reach my boss on his Blackberry but I don't know if he's awake right now with the time change and all, and I also have a friend Ariel here but she's only living in her place for a month because she's housesitting in June so she doesn't have a phone." Cop: "So you don't have proof of owning the bike and you don't have proof of where you live and there's no-one here who can vouch for you?" Me: "Yeah, that's pretty much it, but the bike really is mine."
Eventually, I think due in no small part to the fact I'd been hanging around for around two hours trying to liberate a bike that wasn't even the nicest one on the rack, the cop said, "Ok," and gave permission for Luc to cut the lock, who nodded at art-guy-with-the-boltcutters, who used said boltcutters to set me free. And then it started pouring rain, and I got soaked and filthy and by the time I got home all the grocery stores were closed.
So I'm hungry. And I have no idea why someone would do that to my bike.
I've been reading the FluWikie in my ongoing avian influenza research. Being in vet med gives you a very narrow scope on the issue, as I only talk to vets or other health care professionals and don't really get a feel for how people outside of animal and human health care view the issue. I spent around an hour perusing the FluWikie forums and if I could come away with one word to describe it, it would be SCARY. There are people hoarding Tamiflu, bribing or otherwise coercing their physicians to write out prescriptions for Tamiflu, buying Tamiflu from overseas online pharmacies (I can just imagine what Dr. Dowling would think of that one), buying fish antibiotics from pet stores to give to their children (I don't even know where to start with that one), hoarding weapons and ammunition, and brainstorming ways to boobytrap their houses to prevent home invasions (presumably to keep out the people who would steal their fish antibiotics). There was also a post from a psychic who said that they could predict impending disasters and since they weren't picking up any bird flu vibes, there was no need to worry about a pandemic. I'm torn between two perspectives on this. The first, which is more comforting to adopt, is that they're crazy and you can't argue with crazy. The second is that our government and other governments have done so much to let people down that there is no faith left that the government will protect them. Most of the posters on the FluWikie forums are American and the prevailing opinion seems to be that since FEMA completely dropped the ball on Katrina, they're likely to do so again with an avian flu pandemic. I don't really have a feel for whether or not Canadians trust the government to see them through avian flu. It does, however, emphasize the need to formulate disaster planning from the ground up. Some of the vets I worked with last summer warned me that the brains in Ottawa were smart but disconnected from the realities of working in the field, and I'm starting to see that. I hope we don't blow it.
Back from Guelph. Guelph was good. I'm excessively proud of the fact that I navigated Toronto all by myself. On my way out of Toronto, I couldn't help but noticed that traffic into Toronto was backed up something like 30 km. It was ridiculous. And terrifying, and I was so paranoid I'd be late for my flight back to Ottawa the next day I left four hours early, only to arrive at the airport 3 hours too early. I felt a little sheepish, but it was better than missing the flight. Navigating into the Toronto airport is a three-dimensional maze with ramps going up and down and curving in all directions. I became so engrossed in admiring the aesthetic of all the intertwining ramps above and below me that I almost crashed into a barricade. I probably shouldn't be allowed in cities anymore.
I enjoyed Guelph and meeting people there, especially Jennifer, my main OVC contact - I felt like we really connected quickly and were on the same page for most of the issues we were discussing. I met some other faculty members as well and they were all generous with their time and insights. Part of me is sad that I'm not an Ontario student and that I didn't get the chance to go to Guelph - they have a stronger empahsis than WCVM on international vet work and more opportunities, they recycle with the joyful abandon of a Saltspring Island hippy, and they sell fair-trade coffee in their cafeteria. It's a hippy paradise. In Saskatoon's defense, however, the main student area at OVC is called "The Life Long Learning Area" or something ridiculously cheesy like that. And I suppose another issue is that the people I've met at WCVM and through USC are amazing and I would be less if I hadn't spent these past three years getting to know them and Saskatchewan.
Lunchtime = blogging without guilt. I am eating a spinach salad and beginning to realize just how indifferent I am towards spinach.
My uneventful weekend consisted of bonding with the dog, taking the dog to visit the kennel she'll be staying at while I'm in Guelph (and other places), getting the dog its Bordatella vaccine (and shelling out $80! I had forgotten how expensive it is to visit the vet when you're not a student), learning to drive in traffic, learning to despise and fear Quebecois drivers, and having dinner with my long lost friend Robin and his fiancee.
I want to post more pictures but it's been raining almost continuously for a week so it's not very pretty outside.
My job's been pretty slow so far (I know it's only been a week) but I can't help but be jealous when I get super-excited emails from Kent who is already enucleating cows' eyes, posting pigs and cows, castrating bulls, helping out on c-sections, preg checking and semen testing (ok, I'm not jealous of the last one. Sorry, Kent. Sperm just don't do it for me). I'm heading down to Guelph tommorow to meet with a grad student who did an internship with the OIE to try and develop some ideas for integrating the international aspects of vet med into the curriculum. I'm hoping I can get some practical experience in this summer - the vet who did Annie's Bordatella vaccine was super nice and suggested I contact the practice owner about coming into the clinic and hanging out, which would be cool, because I don't have a lot of small animal experience.
Ok, my boss just walked into my cube just as I dumped my salad on my lap. Why is there never a hole to curl up and die in when you need one?
I also may have just joined a dragon boating team as the drummer. This scares me because I have a unique sense of rythym (read: no rythym) and I'm scared they'll toss me off the boat if I suck, and I think the Rideau canal is pretty polluted, so I'd probably have like 5 tumors by the time I surfaced (you think I'm joking but you should read the papers on the beluga carcasses they pull out of the St. Lawrence).
New linky - Bryan Crosby is a friend of mine from UVIC who's currently living it up in the PRC. Bryan is a stunning combination of being a better writer than I am and doing more interesting things than I am (see what I mean? Who says "more interesting things?") so he's worth checking out.
I would like to take this moment to repeat just how awesome my boss is. My supervisor last year was the district vet for our region, and as such was a fairly busy guy. We didn't talk much and I'm not confident that he actually knew where I sat in the building. My supervisor this year is much higher up in the hierarchy and is an extremely busy guy, but he still stops by my cube to see how I'm doing and what I'm working on. Because he's awesome. And he keeps talking about me going to Buenos Aires as a when rather than an if, which is encouraging.
There's a lot of cool stuff that they're letting me get involved with - I love the international and political aspects of it. It makes me want to wet my pants with glee. I want to share all of this with you, but a lot of the information is kind of sensitive and probably not appropriate for publishing on the blogsphere. I'm trying not to be too paranoid about all the people who lost their jobs after posting inappropriate work-related information on their blogs, but I probably should show some prudence.
One thing that's unfortunate is that this job is focused solely on the animal aspects of these diseases - which is to be expected, as I'm a vet student, not a med student, but some of the most challenging aspects of these diseases are the human ones. Human cases of H5N1 are just starting to pop up in Africa right now, which is frightening given that around 70% of AIDS infections are in Africa. It'd be fascinating to be able to look at these issues in greater depth, but I suppose the animal-related issues are going to be more than enough to keep me (and the rest of the world) busy.
In the meantime, there's a links sidebar now with only one lonely link - Effect Measure is a public health blog, the first I've ever come across, and the commentary is pretty good. I don't agree with all of it, and the commentators tend to dismiss anyone who doesn't agree with their point of view as ignorant of the facts, but it's neat to get an unapologetically polarized view of these issues.
Also - I read this in a Nature article (March 8, 2006) on avian flu crossing into other species (specifically on whether or not the disease is established in cat populations): "...scientists may just be learning what is already common knowledge among Indonesian villagers. Peter Roeder, a consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, says locals have an onomatopoeic name for bird flu "that sounds like 'plop', the sound of a chicken hitting the ground when it falls out of a tree. They also have a name for the cat form of avian flu ― 'aaargh plop' ― because cats make a screaming noise before they fall out of the tree."
I think "aaargh plop" is the hands-down best name for a disease ever.
Second day of work. I got to meet my supervisor today. He was great - really cheerful and jokey, and very fast paced and intelligent. He outlined a couple of projects for me - one of which is finding ways to connect the OIE to veterinary students and the veterinary profession at large and make vet students realize that there are super cool internship opportunities available and blah blah blah...ok, obviously this is a neat project and I'm looking forward to it, but what I'm looking forward to more is going to Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks to talk with the regional office there about avian influenza in the Americas and aquaculture issues. Buenos Aires! I have no idea why they want to send me. It's crazy. So I'm trying to get all prepared for that...
Gavin left this morning. This is not meant to be a sulky blog, and I know that I am ridiculously lucky and spoiled that he was my companion for the trip out and spent the weekend here with me showing me around the city and giving me an excuse to go out for sushi. But...but now he's gone and all I have left is my dog and the shower which I have already broken because the gods of plumbing hate me (you didn't think that there were plumbing gods but I think my hideous luck with all forms of plumbing proves that they exist and that I have angered them) and a broken shower and a sassy dog aren't enough to keep me from being a little bit sniffly and teary.
But that's boring to read about, so I'm going to buck up and the next post will be more cheerful, I promise. And more coherent.
First day of work. I'm here...I signed a couple forms and now I'm doing that thing where you sit in your cubicle and try and look busy even though they haven't given you anything to do. The person who I think is my supervisor isn't here today, so I'm reading OIE material on reportable diseases. Whee. My monitor keeps flickering in a wierd way and may induce a seizure at some point, which I suppose would break up the monotony of doing nothing.
Also, I need clothes. I have one nice(ish) pair of pants and one nice(ish) shirt (which I even ironed this morning!) that I am currently wearing and Dr. Evans isn't even here to see it! I have no idea what I'm going to do tommorow. Everyone else here is at least 3x better dressed than I am. I miss Saskatchewan where I could have shown up wearing a paper bag and someone would say that I was looking good.
Addenum - 2.11 pm - I should probably also mention that I haven't had to watch anything die or cut off any heads yet, which is a definite step up from last year. Also, I'm currently reading an OIE publication entitled "Animal Welfare: global issues, trends and challenges." An excerpt from "Global perspectives on animal welfare: Africa" - "To perform an open castration, the testicle is exteriorized and subsequently twisted and stretched until it tears off. To perform a closed castration, the spermatic cords from both testicles are hammered with a mallet or a club to block the vas deferens." Owww oww oww.
3.27 pm – So I’m still pouring through the OIE’s animal welfare publication and came to the Middle East’s report on animal welfare issues in their region. The article is interesting in that it lists several of the conditions in the Quran that pertain to animal welfare, including being kind to animals, not mutilating living creatures, not preventing animals from accessing food or water, and not beating animals, all of which I would concede to be sound principles. However, the article also lays out the procedure and conditions for Halal slaughter, which involves severing the esophagus, trachea and jugular vein in one cut without removing the head from the body. The report quotes a study done comparing Halal slaughter to more conventional captive bolt stunning by using electrodes surgically implanted in the test animals brains and states, “during the first 3s of Islamic slaughter the EEG did not show any change in brain activity, thus indicating that the animal did not feel any pain during or immediately after the incision,” and “The swift cutting of the vessels of the neck during Halal slaughter causes ischemia to the brain and makes the animal insensitive to pain.” I object to both of these statements – I refuse to believe that even with a very sharp knife and a very fast cut you can cut open an animal’s neck, jugular, trachea and esophagus and not have them register pain, and I don’t believe that the cut as described is sufficient to cause cerebral ischemia, given the extensive collateral circulation to the brain. The point, though, isn’t to criticize the science or contest the results (although I do)…it just re-emphasized to me how closely intertwined religion, politics and science remain, despite our attempts to hold science free from both of these confounding factors. I’m looking forward to seeing how well I can navigate through the influence of religion and politics (especially politics, I guess) with this job.
So I am now safely in the embrace of Ottawa City, or as I think it now ought to be called – “The OC.” It was a bit scary coming in – just because it’s so darn BIG and I am used to small. I miss Saskatoon already, although it’s currently raining here and I love and miss the rain from back home.
I love my place. Love love love it. I come from an admittedly extremely sheltered existence, and this place seems so cool. I'm in the middle of the small Italian district and there's about 10 pubs/restaurants just a block over. My apartment is one of 6 in a red and white building that looks like it was originally trying to be a rectangle and then started sprouting rectangular tumors everywhere. That's not a very good description, so I'll try to take some pictures later.
I still have mixed feelings towards this whole gig.
Why it's good to live in Ottawa...I mean the OC:
Why I don't want to be in the OC:
I'm sure that I'll be updating frequently until I make some friends. Or get hit by the mob. Here's some shots of my digs:
my curtains look like rotten towels