Treasures in the attic

After months of listening to the same music on my mp3 player, I decided to go through my dusty CD collection and see what’s new. Here’s a couple of good things that I forgot I had:

* ??Classic Yes??
* ??Landmarks?? by Clannad
* ??MCMXC A.D.?? and ??Screen Behind the Mirror?? by Enigma
* ??Welcome to the Future?? (a club music collection)
* ??Totally Rewired 2?? (an acid jazz collection)

Hitting the headlines

I haven’t been watching the political news as closely recently because I have much more important things (_i.e._ a newborn) to think about, and I don’t really need the constant drone of bad news and stupidity to string me out even further.

However, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about the recent developments in the Plame outing scandal. It looks like one person — Scooter Libby — is about to take the fall for the affair, and I’m wondering if that’s enough. Granted, he’s an important aide to Cheney, but still I wonder how far this has spread, and how much we’ll ever see. For a long time, the Bush administration has been harping on bringing integrity back to the government, but then we get the outing of undercover agents for political reasons. How is this an improvement over a stained dress or shady deals involving cows? And how does the Republican apologist drone of “Clinton! Clinton!” make any of this any better? Clinton isn’t president any more, Bush is. And his corruption is affecting this country right now.

At any rate, I’m glad Tim Russert showed clips of Bush in 2000 and 2004 talking about integrity in government.

Even bigger than mapping the human genome

Scientists have mapped out around 300,000 SNP(single-nucleotide polymorphism)s, which are differences in a single nucleotide in a position in the human genome. This is exciting work, and is already bearing fruit (the article mentions an advance in the study of age-related macular degeneration, for example). This work is even bigger than mapping the human genome (though probably useless without the map) because now we can start to understand why some people are more susceptible to diseases than others, or respond differently to drugs. In fact, if applied correctly, this research might be able to identify who would respond, for example, to particular types of blood pressure medication.

(Not quite) back in the saddle again

Well, I’ve been dealing with the first few days of life of my second-born, and the world has gone on around me. I’m half-time back at work, and I start back full-time next week. It oughtta get interesting.

In the meantime, I’ve found these points of interest:

* Derek Lowe addresses the “Herceptin news”: with guarded optimism. And I think Herceptin is going to be a good example of what cancer pharmaceutical therapy is going to look like for a while now. Herceptin only will affect a few types of breast cancer, namely ones that depend on the expression of the HER2 protein. All others will have to look elsewhere for relief. That’s the way the drug works. Period. Interesting enough, a “commentor”: builds a huge straw man, throws gasoline on it, and sets it alight. Lowe escapes unscathed from this one, since he was nowhere near the straw man.
* How cute! Two 13-year-old girls form the band “Prussian Blue”: to spread hate. Yeah, no coaching from the parents at all on this one. Nosiree.
* We’ve “run out of names”:, so now we look to the Greeks for help (specifically, we borrow their alphabet)
* The Cochrane Report on the “(lack of) connection”: between the MMR(Mumps-Measles-Rubella) vaccine and suspected adverse events, including Crohn’s disease and autism. I can only view the abstract, though. I’d like to see the whole thing, please, without the adverse event of removal of two limbs.

The teacher insanity epidemic has spread to Great Britain

Only they call it snogging. Or at least this one teacher did.

I’m disappointed in Mike

Mike Adams recommends a college _not_ to attend, and it isn’t UNC-Chapel Hill. Damn, I thought he’d go after my alma mater first.

It’s not just at Abu Gharib

One of the sad likelihoods of war is that we become the monsters we are supposedly fighting.

I mean, can you blame the soldiers? You fight a shadow enemy for four years, you get frustrated by day-in-day-out bullshit to save a country halfway around the world from a nasty dictator that does few people harm, you get sniped at by stubborn, radical, frenzied loyalists, and what do you do? You try to put them down. This is what war does to people. It screws up their thinking.

Herbal remedy vs. ARVs: Zambia edition

A clinical trial in Zambia pits ARVs against an herbal remedy.

Good show. I like to see more of this. The cost of ARVs are out of hand, and very toxic to boot. I personally would like to see alternatives tested.

Here’s what I see as the objections according to the article (assuming the article is appropriately quoting the speakers), and how I answer them:

bq. An Aids charity spokesperson was sceptical about the trials, saying the only known effective treatment was anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.

And ARVs were established as effective … how again? Oh yeah, through clinical trials. I see this quite often from anti-alternative medicine people (anti-alties?): “We can’t run a clinical trial for this because it hasn’t shown to be effective.” Let the trial run, and let the evidence speak for itself (keeping in mind the limitations of clinical trials).

Genevieve Clark, of the British charity Terence Higgins Trust:

“Anything that boosts the immune system helps… Anything you can do in terms of eating healthily and being healthy is to be welcomed.”

But she added: “Herbal remedies have not been proven to help… The only thing proven is anti-retroviral treatments.”

Let the trials speak as they may. Again, we’re talking about gathering evidence, not what’s “proven.”

Clark again:

bq. She also expressed concern that the test sample of 25 people was not large enough to be a “proper clinical trial”.

How about telling that to the PIs of the hundreds if not thousands of properly run small clinical trials. You have to start small and work up to large trials, at least in a drug development framework. I’ve seen cases where drug companies “shot the moon” (__i.e.__ ran a large trial before running the proper smaller trials) and lost millions of dollars on a drug that tanked. (A drug tanking in a large trial happens often enough even with the properly run smaller trials.) Not to mention that in this situation with a disease that is quickly fatal if improperly treated, I don’t think it’s terribly ethical to start big.

At any rate, I’m glad to see this type of trial being run. I don’t know if the trial is properly designed, or if the investigators will exaggerate or embellish the interpretations at the end, or if the limitations of clinical trials will be properly respected. However, I do wish people would bite their tongues on what’s proven and what’s not until the results are in.

Great waste of time

If you’ve never tried it, try the “Blades of Avernum”: game. It’s a role-playing game that’s not too big on graphics, but _very_ good on plot. This game, based on the Avernum series (which, in turn, is a remake of the Exile series), is broken up into different scenarios. The game itself comes with four good ones, and anyone can create new scenarios with a free scenario editor. Some third-party ones are pretty good.

At any rate, I’d like to ask any future scenario designer to refrain from making a character who has most of the following characteristics:

* is heavily clad
* says “mm mmmmmmm, mmmmm” a lot
* gets killed
* people respond by saying some variation of “you bastards!”

It’s getting old. Really old.


Web as medicine for chronic illness

Some websites are effective at helping manage chronic illness.