Children's Miracle Network contest for my children's hospital (Blog Post)

The CMN is offering a fun oppertunity for three children's hospitals who can scrounge up the most votes on the CMN website.  Sounds like another annoying "vote for us" thing, but the prize for the three winning hospitals is a room in which there will be a good pile of gaming and electronic entertainment equipment for the kids... TV's, X-boxes, PCs, Zunes, games, etc. (yes it's all Microsoft; they're the sponsors).

 Our Children's Hospital here at Hershey is one of the best and is therefore loaded with kids.  In fact, once the US economic crisis abates, we have plans for a massive new facility entirely dedicated to pediatrics.  It's exciting.

 Anyway, the link below will take you there and if you have half a minute, it'd be great if you can give us a little boost.  You get ten votes a day for the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, every vote gets you a shot an x-box.

Here's the link, if you feel generous and want to vote for our hospital, when it asks for a zipcode to find the hospital you wish to vote for, enter 17033 and we'll be right there.  Or, our name is "Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital at Penn State Hershey Medical Center".  We're currently ranked 5th, and need to be 3rd or better to get the reward.

Calling out for a very little support (Blog Post)

Dear sifters and readers,

This is a little odd, but I feel led to ask you all for a moment of time to consider your free resources and what they might acomplish despite your normal usage.

Several years ago, my parents and those with their similar passion founded an organization whose goal is to help deliquent minors to eventually help them and to educate and develope these children to be productive and loving members of society.  Since then, this organization has treated children who need personal counseling and care beyond that which is required by government law.

In recent years, the governement stance on these children is to institutionalize them in MASS programs that are cheap.  Infortunately for the kids, these treatments are not effective personally and amount to a sort of temporary prison that will not help them in any way in the long run.


I'm asking a simple thing.

Use "" instead of

Use "" instead of newegg directly, or amazon, or whatever.

Enter "Hermitage House Youth Services" as your "who do you goodsearch for" and you will be giving to a worthy and sift-user-related charity that can directy contribute to the wellfare of minor offenders who need help.


If you don't find what you want on goodsearch, you always have the option of using google, but even if you do, you'll have helped us anyway.

Can you spare 10 seconds for a lost child?!

This 47 million uninsured business is getting old fast. (Blog Post)

   Say what you want about socialized healthcare; I don't pretend to have the economic expertise to say it is a great or terrible move.  I have my doubts based on the track record of similar systems, but America has shown itself to be resilient and experimental when it comes to this sort of thing so I'll reserve my judgement.

However, those in bed with the current form this bill (read, "liberal left" and "1000+ page monstrosity that no one has read" respectively) have been shoving this 47 million number down our throats for ages... even though they know it is misleading at best.

... more inside ...

KIVA - The poor man's charity to the poor man (Blog Post)

I know that there have been videos posted about KIVA in the past, but I thought I'd blog this charity just to re-promote it and encourage us to use it.

It is a very easy charity to donate to in that even someone who isn't making much money can do it.  You don't actually GIVE away your money.  You LEND it to people who need it at rates that are far below those available to them outside of this sort of program.  It works by enlisting a vast network of small lending organizations that work on a consept of charity and a mission of growth of economies in impoverished areas.... more inside ...

The joys of online Scrabble (Blog Post)

Scrabble is one seriously fun game if you've got some time and a bit of patience and humility.  About 250 games ago, I discovered The Internet Scrabble Club and have really, really liked it.  I felt like writing about it on account of just having had one of my highest scores ever to the shagrin of my opponent.  There are thousands of players in this club that regular the game, including some champions many of whose games you can watch live if you're into that.  The app layout is simple and there's a chat window on the side.  Choosing an opponent is as simple as either picking them off a graph or putting yourself on it and waiting for a challenger.... more inside ...

Atlas Shrugged (Blog Post)

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged
So I'm finally getting around to reading (read "listening to") Ayn (Pronounced "Ine") Rand's Atlas Shrugged.  I'm only about a couple hundred pages into the 1,100 page opus and I can already say that it is fantastically written.  I love the characters, their stories, and their conflict.  Rand really has a talent for putting you into the heads of even the characters that you loathe and bringing you to an understanding of their lives and their motivations.  At this point in the novel, I find it exquisitly attractive that I can't really decide who I'm "supposed to" like or admire.  If anything, this level of confusion really tells you something about yourself.  Who do you admire the most?  Whose philosophy is closest to your own?  Whose motivations are "pure" and what is a "pure motivation" in the first place?  Excellent.
Though the scenes are extremely drawn out in most cases, they are never tedious and always so eloquently put to pen that even those moments when you lose interest are enjoyable simply for her mastery of the language.
Though I've only grazed the surface, I already recommend it.  I'll post again when I've finished it.
Side note:  There has been a film adaptation "in production" for more than two years--at least--though I don't expect to see it any time soon.  Chances are it was or will be temporarily scrapped.  The story seems far more suited for stage than screen if you ask me, like say "Death of a Salesman."

Wolfram Alpha has been released. (Blog Post)

And apparently it's got at least one answer right so far:


In other news however, it is a tad more disappointing than I had hoped, but imagine it will improve with time. Here are a few more fun ones:

and for the sake of irony, I "wolframmed" "google"

By the way, I claim the coinage of "wolframmed" or perhaps just "wolfed"? "Rammed"?

Myths about H1N1 swine flu and reasons people should chill out about it. (Blog Post)


CDC's EM of H1N1 Swine Flu



Ok, so I'll give it to you, there's a slim chance it could...

slim... very slim.  Generally, in developed countries, medical care can get you through just about any flu if you are not immune deficient.  Mexico is unfortunately not prime when it comes to healthcare.  The fear mostly arose due to the fact that, similar to the 1918 flu, this one tends to kill healthy adults more than youth and elderly.  It does this due to the fact that what kills you is not the virus, but your immune system's response to the virus itself.  The infection leads to such a large immune response that fever, major inflamation, and fluid in the lungs tends to be the killer.


2: The 1918 H1N1 killed 50,000,000 people so this one will too.

See above.  That was 1918.  This is 2009.  We've kinda had a few advances since then. -.-


3:  It's a hybrid of many different flu virus strains and therefore more deadly.

The DNA sequence of the virus which was completed a few weeks ago shows that it is very dominantly a pig influenza.  There are similarities to avian flus, but none of this really matters anyway since being a hybrid doesn't have anything to do with its "strength."


4:  This surgical mask will protect me from the flu.

Buzzzz.  It might be marginally helpful in minimizing the arisol from an infected person's cough, but if you breath in, you will force a good bit of virus right through the cloth and down your throat.  The masks people wear have a pore size much to large to stop a flu virus.  The virus would see one of those pores as we see the Arc de Triomphe.  There are masks out there that would do the job, but think "gas mask" but just over the mouth and nose.  That'll give you an idea.


5:  I should suspend all my travel, not go to work, not ride the subway, and in general become a recluse for a few weeks because Joe Biden said so.

Joe don't know squat.  Listen to the CDC and the WHO and just go about business as usual, but if you get sick, get better before you spread it... just like you would with any other illness.  Common sence wins here.  If there's an outbreak in your area, think of it as a bad local winter flu "going around."


6:  (biggie)  If I have a flu symptom, I should go to the Emergency Room immediately.

NO.  If you feel a symptom, you should just call your family doctor first and visit.  If he/she thinks things are serious, then he/she can guide you.  The virus simply does not work fast enough to skip this step and clog up the ER.  However, if your fever is over 104 or 105, get thee to the ER if you ask me.  That's approaching brain-cooking temperatures.  BTW. Symptoms include major fatigue, fever, nausia, dizziness, vomiting, aches, thick cough, etc.  Just like any other flu.


7:  I shouldn't eat pork or I'll get the virus.

No you won't.  The flu virus will not survive the cooking/smoking/curing process.


8:  Major news networks are reliable sources of information for this.

This is a no brainer.  Get info from the CDC, the WHO, and Science or Nature.  They don't always agree, but the truth is probably somewhere in the middle.



Bottom line:  Just be aware.  Panic is ironically self-defeating since stress weakens the immune system, lol.  The "normal" yearly, winter influenza outbreak infects as high as 5,000,000 people and kills as high as 500,000 EVERY YEAR!  The swine flu has infected 1500 so far and killed 25.  So long as we can keep this out of crouded poor countries and excessively crouded countries in general, it will fade into the normal influenza haze.

Most of this goes without saying, but I'm a little sick of everyone all over the place getting their panties in a bunch about this thing.  It's not that scary.

10 Tips for People Attempting to Understand Christianity (Blog Post)

Most people who ask hard questions about Christian belief and about God don't actually want to hear the answer.  They want to ask it as a hypothetical so they can be comfortable believing that there is not good answer.  Well, for those of you who actually want an answer, I'm supplying not only links to some decent answers but also a place to ask your own questions as well should you wish. 

A couple more tips for those who are truly seeking or just truly curious:

1: Get a study bible.  Get NASB or NIV.  The former is the most exact translation to english.  The latter is more modern and comfortable english. King James will most likely be of no use to you.  People who misquote scripture or misinterpret it almost always use King James.  It is easy to get confused by archaic language. Study bibles are vital  Their footnotes, cross-references. and translation notes are absolutey essential to a proper understanding. Also, absolutely avoid "The Message" bible at all costs.  It is a paraphrase and a dubious one at that.  Bibles are tools for understanding, not propaganda posters.  A good bible will point out irregularities and translation issues.  NASB does this well.  It will tell you not only when it is not sure about a particular word, but it will also tell you where words were added/subtracted and when and why they were.  Study bibles also have maps, historical information, and authorship information.

2: Don't pay too much heed to theologians who are not believers.  They claim objectivity, but it is a falacy of logic.  Christian theology is almost impossible to understand without belief... or at least a broad imagination.  If one believes that miracles and prophecy are impossible, he will naturally assume the entire of scripture is false, assuming he has any sense of logic.

3: Don't assume that the Apocraphal texts are somehow some secret, hidden truth that no one wants you to know about.  They were excluded from the canon for logical, thought out reasons.  If you want to know why they were excluded, that information is available.

4: Know where your answers are coming from.  MANY internet sites blatantly misquote and misinterpret scripture.  Be skeptical and know motives.

5: Don't watch "Christian" TV networks or televangalists.  Many of them are so corrupt they don't even know that they are.  Also, you'll likely be turned off by the sheer weirdness of them.  It'll remove and objectivity you attempted to have.

6: Ask people questions.  If you know someone you respect who is a believer, ask them questions.  

7: Don't assume that organized "religion" and belief are the same thing.  Do not judge a religion based on those who follow it.  This is especially true with Christianity since Christians themselves believe that people are inherently sinful and will turn anything holy and righteous into something else.  Christians will inevitably sin.  Christians are all hypocrits by nature.  We want to be righteous, but we know that we cannot be.  Repentence is not halting sin, it is changing your mind about sin.  It is recognizing sin, knowing that it is wrong, and attempting to not do it.

8: Don't assume that you will like everything you hear.  Disliking something doesn't justify denying its truth.

9: In order to understand Christianity, you MUST first at least assume that God is perfect, omnicient, and omnipotent.  Attempting to judge God based on human moral relativity is a pointless and completely illogical action.  It is foolish for anyone to attempt to understand a belief system while simultaneously assuming they are greater and smarter than the deity he is attempting to understand.

10: Want to know.  Seriously want to know.  Don't just go looking for more reasons to justify your unbelief.  If you're bitter and adversarial going in, you'll be so going out as well.  That makes it a pointless excersise in self-justification.  Seekers WILL find.




Free online bible (all translations)

Obama will be our president. Now is the time for support. (Blog Post)

Daniel 2:21 - "It is He [the God of heaven]…who removes kings and establishes kings."
Job 42:2 - "I know that You [the God of Israel] can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted."

Even if you didn't support the man at the get go, now is time to change the tune.  We are called to support our leaders and pray for their wisdom.  Support Barack.  Pray and Hope for his wisdom, faith, decisions, and their results.

Things you don't want to see when coming into work in the morning. #1 (Blog Post)


So I'm coming into work this morning (I work at a hospital/university) and some security guard tells me "You can't go this way; you'll have to go around the parking lot to get in the front doors." so I'm like "OOOOOK" and I walk around.  Meanwhile I'm looking at the "area I'm not allowed to walk in" and I see a bunch of guys in Biosafety Level 4 "space suits" ushering patients in and out of a newly [and quickly] assembled tent-tunnel (see E.T.) to the emergency room entrance.  I've emailed our boss's boss to see if he knows anything, I'll update if I find anything.  In the meanwhile, I hope today is not the day that I spill acid on myself or something in the lab.


Update:  It's a drill.  fweeew.  ...State-wide drill to test emergency outbreak preparedness.  Various patients are "decontaminated" and quarantine excersises are in effect for the day to test just how prepared the hopitals are for outbreaks.

So you thought your hands were clean? (Blog Post)


So today whilst checking our water supplies in the lab for sterility, I decided to perform a little experiment on myself.  Shown above is the result.

X= Thumbprint after ordinary hand usage while at work.

1= Thumbprint after a 15 second wash with hand-soap.

2= Thumbprint after 15 second Soap wash followed by a douse with 70% ethanol (allowed to dry)


The "spots" are bacterial colonies.  As you can see, the difference is staggering <.<

WTF, so much for "clean hands".

As a side note, it turns out the ultra ultra pure water we pay buckets to have is in fact sterile, as is the tap water from the sink.  Nice to know.

What can I say, it's been a boring day.

A day in the life of a virologist... (Blog Post)

Soooo I'm a virologist graduate student presently quite close to Piling it Higher and Deeper as they say, and I thought I might share a bit of that with you all just to give a glimpse into what we do and how we do it. Soooo, I should first mention that our lab studies the herpes simplex virus 1 (or the Herp if you would), consentrating on a few proteins in the virus whose functions are unknown.  The virus is HUGE, 150,000 Base-pair DNA genome, almost 90 proteins, and it is a genius in that it infects the vast majority of humanity and doesn't do much other than be a nuisance to a few of them.  Many people don't even know they have it and you get it often at a very early age, even just by kissing you mother.  OK, don't cringe, I'm talking about the HSV that gives you "cold sores/fever blisters" on your lips,  not the other type.  We avoid using that one for obvious reasons.  Still, it is a Bio-safety level 2 virus, so we take precautions, some of which you'll see below.  When I get out of this school, I expect to either teach or go off on the crazy adventure that is CDC field work.


Excuse the picture quality, they were taken with my phone.  I should also mention that this is Hershey Medical Center (PSU), no stalking please .

... more inside ...

Politicians Don't Understand Research, Period. (Blog Post)

Politician DO NOT understand the process of research.

 This is a subject that infuriates me on a daily basis.  In brief rant, I will cover a few of those infuriations.


 Most people don't understand where most research is actually done.  Well, let me inform you:  most research is done in universities by graduate students and post-doctoral fellows (that is, people who have a Ph.D. but seek experience in order to enter the elite "Principle Investigator" status job).  Long lived Ph.D. principle investigators (PIs) lead groups of said folks in discovering whatever it is that they are interested in.  Graduate students and post-docs are typically expected to learn what is known in the field and what is known in the lab and build a project to further the knowledge of said field.


 Funding of academic research is based on a panel of peer scientists chosen yearly for their prowess in the field of choise and their understanding of the studies in question.  NO overseeing gov't body has anything to do with it for NIH.  The DoD grants however, are overseen by the DoD.  Anyway, most biomedical grants are NIH or a similar group.  The review process of grants for research are reviewed by peers in the field of question, people who are deemed exceptional in the field of question.  There is no Bush administration party present, ever.


 Topics of research vary so much that I could not express it in words.  Academic research covers just about everything that could ever go wrong or right with your body.  I study a virus, so I'll focus on the "wrong" side of it.  Again, there is NO such thing as pork spending in biomedical sience.  How many times can I say that in one essay?

 There can be any number of topics of research.  I've seen studies of pig viruses that have down-right changed everything we think about a certain human virus.  In fact, my personal competitor studies a pig virus instead of the human virus that we study in an effort to discover similar things in a BL1 environment while we are struggling to show a similar thing in a BL2 environment.

 The Media will say "So-and-so is spending millions to study a virus that only infects chickens."  Meanwhile, the virus is Rous Sarcoma Virus (RSV) which is so close to HIV that researchers have called them homologues.  They are studying  RSV because HIV requies a Biosafety Level 3 lab (BL3) to study and RSV is a BL1 SIMILAR virus.  They value the lives of their researchers, but the media says they are pork??  BS.

 The same goes for vaccines.  People seem to think that vaccines are made by "Big Pharma" companies.  This is not often the case.  Most vaccines are developed or at least envisioned by basic scientists with no material benefit from the discovery.  Don't get me wrong, some are defintitely made by companies, but they still base their research on academioc recourses.  

BTW, Vaccines have risks.  For sure.  BUT, they are FAR fewer than the risks of not getting vaccinated.  FAR fewer.   Get your kids vaccinated or get ready to face several viruses that will eigther kill or destroy the funtioning of your child. The risk outwieghs the danger by 98%.

Florida Sammich Incoming? Oy Gevalt! (Blog Post)

Two [future] hurricanes are now being tracked bound for the south eastern US.  Gustav's Cone of Death shows it likely bound for the Mid-Gulf coast on Tuesday.  Hannah's Cone shows it just off the coast of Florida Tuesday.  Given the enormous size of hurricanes and their surrounding storms and such, Florida may be looking at some freaking weird and crazy weather.  Think of two Cat 2/3 hurricanes close enough to interact at least on the fringe.

Floridians should be praying that the eyes of these storms wind up  on the far edges of these probability cones.  If they wind up on the inside, we could be seeing some really unique weather.  Of course I don't know much about mereorology so it could wind up being just rainy, but it looks like it could be interesting at least.

Track and observe them here:

National Hurricane Center

or here:


Wait, What? (Blog Post)

Today, an ABC reporter on a public street was arrested while taking video and pictures of elected public officials.

The story goes like this:

ABC news was working on a story about the funding of the events surrounding the DNC.  Reporter Asa Eslocker was taking video and pictures of senators and lobbyists outside of the Brown Palace Hotel.  He was on the sidewalk of a public street.  He was first informed (falsely perhaps?) that the sidewalk was owned by the hotel and that he had to vacate it.  "The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.(1)"  Soon, a Denver police officer arrived, arrested him, and haulled him off in handcuffs...  Police on the scene refused (legally) to tell ABC lawyers the cause of the arrest.  Later they informed them that the charges were tresspassing, Interferance, and Refusal to obey a lawful order.

ABC is naturally upset.  I'm not sure what to think seeing as how it seems that the hotel may have owned the property and had ordered him off of it.  He seemed to disobey this order, thus tresspassing.  But, it all seems eerily dubious, and I thought the sidewalks in cities were the property of the city and hence, the public.  They are in my town and in the last town I lived in.

Any thoughts?

I couldn't find video and I have a feeling we would only get to see the parts that look to exhonerate the reporter anyway.

Edit, Thanks NordlichReiter:

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