Monday, August 31, 2015

Child's Bucket List?

For the 2nd time in a week, I have heard about my neighbors' kids having "bucket lists", to go someplace during the summer, or to run a lemonade stand before going back to school, or whatever.  And I'm sorry...  I don't get it.  A "bucket list", as I've always known it, is something you write up during A LIFETIME, that you then accomplish Before you die.  Things you want to get done on this mortal coil before leaving it, named after "kick the bucket".

I do not understand how a 5 year old boy, or an 8 year old boy, can or should have a "bucket list", or even be aware of what a bucket list is / might be.  These kids are Not on the "Make A Wish" Foundation's radar.  They're normal healthy kids.  Do elementary and pre-schoolers know what a living will is?  A DNR?  (and not the "Department of Natural Resources") Do they have any concept of Medicare?  Social Security? Osteoarthritis? Atherosclerosis? A colostomy? (if none of their older relatives have one) A PSA test result? Hypertension? Saving for retirement?  No.  Five and 8 year old's long term memory is not much better than the average puppy who thinks that 5 minutes after it's owner leaves the house, that she's NEVER coming back again (so begin howling, or chew through a wall, or a couch, or < insert coping mechanism here > )... unless their middle name is Wolfgang and their last name is Mozart.  So if an elementary school aged child doesn't understand the good along with the bad, the pain it takes to achieve the rest & relaxation later, why fill their little heads with the notion of "a bucket list"?

To me, it is just wrong.  Wrong intended, wrongly emphasized, misplaced and premature.  That which is gained easily (or inherited, or lottery winnings), is not usually appreciated.  That which is gained through hard work, effort, focus & determination, is much more appreciated, highly valued, and usually not squandered.  Save the "bucket list" for those who are approaching their sunset years, and have worked the majority of their lives to be able to afford to indulge in such a list.  A 5 or 8 year old has no such sense of sustained endurance, decades of delayed gratification, and long term achievement, unless that 5 or 8 year old has a TARDIS, can repair their own telomeres, and has chosen to remain an age where they can't drive, vote, rent a car, see a R rated movie, or have a mature conversation with their peers.  Wait another 60 or 70 years to begin to check items off your "bucket list", kids.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

No, Vaccines STILL Do Not Cause Autism!!!

Recently, on "" where I am a subscriber to get to know my new neighbors in Carlsbad, hear about recent neighborhood developments, and get recommendations on local bathroom contractors to repair the MORE THAN 6 MONTH OLD water leak on the house I bought less than 3 months ago (thanks, deceptive & dishonest former marine colonel, from whom we bought the house! your lack of disclosure cost me a $1000 insurance deductible!  Semper Fi, my ass) ... there was a vociferous and fear fueled debate about California SB277 Referendum to allow parents with superstitious and fear based objections to exempt their precious darlings from receiving vaccines before attending public school.   It seems one of the neighborhood moms (we'll call her "Nikki" to defend her identity) with more fear than facts on hand is leading a drive to collect signatures in support of passing SB277.

Now, I had thought that was a nice place to get recommendations, help out neighbors (with lost dogs, rat problems, anyone who needed to borrow a ladder, etc) and have a rational dialogue.  Apparently, that Does Not extend to the soccer mom with no scientific background who has an internet connection and the inability to differentiate between FACT and popular (and irrational) fiction.  I posted the following, last Thursday night:
"Jonas Salk ( ) world renowned scientist, and vaccine pioneer, or Jenny McCarthy ( playboy bunny and celebrity; who would you trust? As an engineer, and the spouse of a medical researcher scientist, who is the head of R&D at her company, my choice is clear. You can choose to do whatever you like with your children's future, but your choice endangers the community at large when you choose to intentionally not vaccinate your children against diseases that used to kill and main millions of humans. Deafened by meningitis, blinded by rubella, crippled by polio, deafened and made sterile by mumps (but only your boys), and endangering other classmate school children with cancer, HIV, or other immune system disorders. If you don't vaccinate, and support this proposition, please homeschool and leave your children isolated at home when you go shopping, to the beach, on a plane, or to the movies, so the rest of us don't catch what you've chosen to expose your family to intentionally."
I had hoped that this would help to re-center the conversation on scientific fact and not hysteria or misinformation.  Several of my older neighbors had cited living with Polio, iron lungs, FDR, and the devastation a pre-vaccine world had wrecked upon the global community.  Instead, it drew this criticism (from "Justin" and "Shannon"" no less):
"Why do provaxxers always think we use Jenny McCarthy as our reference? So lame and so obvious that they've never researched on their own. They are on repeat and puppets for the pharm companies and CDC. Real families with real experience and real damage just don't count if Merck says its so."
Yeah, I am in the pocket of big pharma.  Give me a break!!  Wait, there's not a single Merck pharmaceutical in my medicine cabinet.   But that's a fact...

I am a "provaxxer" because yes, I am pro science.  I am anti hysteria.  I am anti witch-craft.  I am anti rumor, anti herd mentality, anti fear mongering.  

In my futile "" posting I should have referenced NCBI, but I figured that would be above the heads of most of my neighbors.  I was woefully over-estimating even their limited ability of comprehension.  Just to help those who don't know what NCBI is, it is the National Center for Biotechnology information.  The link is here:
It is, as my wife, my informed friend Ron, and anyone else who cares about Science and Facts, the Central Aggregator of ALL TRUTH about science and publications and what is happening in the scientific community, not just in the United States, but internationally as well.  For my parents' generation, it is akin to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, if the Encyclopedia Brittanica were printed everyday, updated every hour, and included peer reviewed and verified references from around the world, focused upon Biotechnology and Science.

Granted, NCBI is not as detailed in it's criticism of vaccinations as Jenny McCarthy, or "Autism Now" who pins nearly all of the cause of autism upon the shoulders of vaccination manufacturers... since childhood vaccinations are given at 15 months, roughly the same age that early on-set autism and other developmental disorders begin to be diagnosed.

After being accused by my neighbors of being in the pocket of Big Pharma and "not doing my research" I decided that this Sunday Night, I would "do my research" and see if I was missing something.  I wasn't missing anything.  Instead, what I found was a plethora or pseudo-science that tries ineptly and clumsily to criticize vaccinations, and willfully ignores the facts.

First, let's look at the withdrawn Wakefield Study:
Andrew Wakefield will never work again in a reputable Scientific organization.  Yet anti-vaccine hysterics continue to cite his falsified work.

Then, look at the rational voice offered by the Union Of Concerned Scientists:
"Vaccinating Ourselves Against Misinformation"
It becomes clearer.  The introductory paragraph says it clearly:
"It is dismaying that fears and misinformation about vaccines have led the scourge of measles to return in the United States some fifteen years after it had been officially eradicated here. And it’s especially discouraging to see some early 2016 presidential hopefuls such as Chris Christie and Rand Paul pander on the issue rather than taking a strong evidence-based stance because the facts could not be more clear: Vaccines are safe and they save lives."

My passionate neighbors sited the PBS Frontline story:
Where businessman J.B. Handley tries to cite vaccines as the cause of his child's autism.  Problem is, J.B., there's no credited study that Proves It, either.  Correlation is Not Causation.

And if you believe EVERYTHING you hear on PBS, then believe this 2014 Nova:
Which talks about the discredited Wakefield study.

But I am not one to do shoddy or abbreviated research, so I kept looking.  I found this:

I looked at Science Based Medicine:
It's introductory paragraph is beautiful:
"If there’s one thing that purveyors of pseudoscientific medical modalities crave, probably above all else, it’s legitimacy. They want to be taken seriously as Real Scientists. Of course, my usual reaction to this desire is to point out that anyone can be take seriously as a real scientist if he is able to do science and that science actually shows that there is something to his claims. In other words, do his hypotheses make testable predictions, and does testing these predictions fail to falsify his hypotheses? That’s what it takes, but advocates of so-called “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM) or “integrative medicine” (IM, or, as I like to refer to it: “integrating” quackery with scientific medicine) want their woo to be considered science without actually doing the hard work of science."

And the Jenny McCarthy reference I noted...  yeah..  it's baseless:
"And, of course, Jenny McCarthy was the keynote speaker in 2008 and then again in 2009. Any one want to make any bets against her being the keynote speaker for Autism One 2010? I don’t."
LOL!  Yes, my paranoid neighbor moms, I made that up...  out of thin air.  I didn't quote it from reputable scientists.

Brian Deer sums up Wakefeild's pathetic work nicely, here:
He holds no punches in his scathing review.

Scieneblogs has a great headline:
"The clueless cite the ignorant to argue against vaccines"

And then this story:  "

More bad science in the service of the discredited idea that vaccines cause autism"

Agreed, wholeheartedly.

For a more light hearted, and less scientific account, read Vermont Public Radio's piece here:
Granted, Seth Mnookin is the author's brother, and he has received death threats from angry anti-vaccine devotees...  but it is still a nice piece.

If you want to go hard-core Science Fact, without ANY belief whatsoever, read Richard Dawkin's scathing account here:
I often think Dawkins is more like this South Park depiction...  and sometimes too snooty, but he is rarely wrong.

The "Just the Vax" website used to have 75 cited studies why vaccines are safe. Now they have 107:
Thank you Catherina & Science Mom.

The website for new parents "What to Expect" (int he first year) has this very logical piece:

Even mainstream media NBC states the obvious:
... but that just fuels the anti-vaccine moms even more, apparently.

An informed and informative Slate article on it:
"How sane parents got paranoid about vaccines" ... a review of Mnookin's work.

Public, a site that has no affiliations to pharmaceutical companies has this insightful piece around the 8 biggest myths about vaccines:
(note the lack of ads or links on their website to ANY commercial organization)

And here's a nice study, cited on NCBI, that shows California Pertussis (whopping couch) skyrocketed in 2010, to 1947 levels, when parents refused to immunize their children:
Oh, but that's facts... not hysteria.

I welcome ALL READERS to submit some peer reviewed journal, scientifically accurate & corroborated study, that proves that vaccinations cause more health problems than they prevent.  Or, as one completely clueless mother stated on "": "The risks are 100%".  No dear Nikki, only if you drink the Kool-aid.

No one is saying that a vaccine NEVER has caused ANY health effect, to ANY child, EVER.  Sometimes allergic reactions can results.  Sometimes children with compromised immune systems can have severe reactions.  But over-all, 999,999 times out of a million, the vaccine IS safe & effective and helps Not Only your child, but the community at large, the state as a whole, and the health & strength of the nation.

While eating dinner tonight, I hypothesized with Dr Desert Flower, what if: a VERY disgruntled, Very disenfranchised, Very angry native American whose family & livelihood was severely impacted from poverty, disease, alcoholism, and geographical isolation on un-aerable land were to "gift" a bunch of blankets or toys to a school full of protected suburban children of "progressive" parents who have not vaccinated their precious darlings, and those toys or placemats or blankies were full of measles, mumps, or whooping cough.  Would that person be declared a bio-terrorist, or, would it be more-or-less pay-back for what the U.S. government did to his ancestors?  If the kids were vaccinated, it wouldn't matter.

Our child was vaccinated, and grew up to become a productive member of society, just as 999,999 out of a million other vaccinated children would.

In many ways, I am glad that the internet was not around when I was a young parent to spread dis-information and hysteria based upon hunch & rumor.  We didn't even have dial-up when our child was a toddler, and I really believe, it made us better parents.

Best of luck to future generations.  The intelligent ones will learn how to filter out fear & obfuscation from facts.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

First NFL Season Without My Familiar

For those who used to play D&D when they were kids you know that a Familiar is a cat, or bird, or monkey, lizard, rat, or little demon or other creature who keeps you company, hangs around, warns you of danger, can even help fight off anyone who is attacking you, or at least prevent the attacker from surprising or ambushing you.  Our cat who succumbed to cancer last May was my familiar for more than 2 decades.  Dr Desert Flower's familiar was our charcoal gray cat that died of pancreatic cancer in 2013.  She often slept in the bed with DDF when I was traveling, snuggled up to her on the couch, and hung out with her.  Her older sister, our home's very first pet in our very first FHA starter house in Bloomington after renting in apartments for 7 years, was my familiar.  She'd sleep on my chest when she was younger.  And as she got older, she'd sit on the chaise lounge part of the sofa, reserved for her, at my feet, so she could demand petting and be close to her alpha male as it pleased her to do so.

During NFL games, when Da Bears were losing and Grossman, or Cutler, Orton, Chandler, Miller, Krieg, Kramer (man, the Bears have had some terrible quarterbacks who perform remarkably erratic & inconsistently) were spiking the ball because they don't know how to call a play-action pass, or throwing interceptions, or calling time outs because they are not made of the same material that a Manning, Rodgers, Marino, Staubach, or Elway were made out of... I would sometimes (frequently) shout loudly (and often in a disgruntled manner) at the TV, making a comment about my dissatisfaction at the terrible play I had just witnessed.  Meanwhile, Robbie Gould would consistently kick points up on the board, no questions asked.

When I would make a vociferously indignant comment, my familiar would LOOK at me, with a "WTF?" look... "can't you see I was lounging peacefully here at your feet? Do that again...  and I'm leaving, so you won't be able to pet me or bask in my glorious presence."  Invariably, another QB sack later, I'd let out another exclamation, and sure enough, my cat would get up and leave the room, finding a quiet resting spot.  This is the first season in 21 seasons, that she's not here.  We have a little box of her ashes with a sweet little cast paw print of her front paw - the one she'd hold up and out-stretch to you if you were not petting her enough - on the lid.  But her physical presence is missed.

I actually found a posting here, back in 2009, about this same subject:
Funny...  I used to drink cheap beer back then....  huh?

I try not to think about it...  and if I do think about it, to focus on the positives, and what a long and comfortable life she had being part of our family for more than 2 decades.  Writing this post, I think, is an attempt at catharsis... so that I can perhaps make it though the Fall and Winter without going into another severe melancholy... I don't know.  It's not just as simple as "get another cat", since I've found out I am terribly allergic to cats (9 months of allergy shots in 2008 didn't work) and there's no such thing as an entirely hypoallergenic feline.  And I don't have the time or patience for a dog, to have to constantly walk them and pick up their waste after them and keep them safe from coyotes and raptors.  You can't keep a dog exclusively inside, it is cruel & difficult, and it is against a dog's nature to remain completely inside.  And picking up the fresh warm fecal matter of a mammal is incredibly repulsive to me. "You get used to it" ... no, I don't think I would, just as "2 girls one cup", Mr Garrison's "glass bottom boat", and finding all of my neglegent neighbors' dogs' excrement on the corner of my yard near the side walk have proven to me that mammalian fecal matter thoroughly nauseates me.  Cleaning a litter box, every other day, when the litter has masked the odor...  that's easy.  It never involved me having to pick up warm poop with a bag over my hand.

Thanks, sweet kitten, for all of the happy memories.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Veracity - Women Over 40

I heard this today... and found it to be uncannily accurate.  The quote was misattributed to Andy Rooney, when it is actually Frank Kaiser...  but it is still very true:

Women Over 40

As I grow in age, I value women who are over 40 most of all. Here are just a few reasons why:
An older woman will never wake you in the middle of the night to ask,"What are you thinking?" She doesn't care what you think.
If an older woman doesn't want to watch the game, she doesn't sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And it's usually something more interesting.
An older woman knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is,what she is, what she wants and from whom.
Few women past the age of 40 give a damn what you might think about her or what she's doing.
Older women are dignified. They seldom have a screaming match with you at the opera or in the middle of an expensive restaurant. Of course, if you deserve it, they won't hesitate to shoot you if they think they can getaway with it.
Older women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it's like to be unappreciated.
An older woman has the self-assurance to introduce you to her women friends. A younger woman with a man will often ignore even her best friend because she doesn't trust the guy with other women.
An older woman couldn't care less if you're attracted to her friends because she knows her friends won't betray her.
Women get psychic as they age. You never have to confess your sins to an older woman. They always know.
An older woman looks good wearing bright red lipstick. This is not true of younger women or drag queens.
Once you get past a wrinkle or two, an older woman is far sexier than her younger counterpart.
Older women are forthright and honest. They'll tell you right off you are a jerk if you are acting like one. You don't ever have to wonder where you stand with her.
Yes, we praise older women for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it's not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed hot woman of 40+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himselfwith some 22-year-old waitress.

(Note: I own no yellow pants, and I leave my waiters and waitresses tips unmolested & without flirtation.  Also, note, I've never been shot)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Dappled Sunlit Anna's

Outside of our kitchen window, I have hung a nectar feeder.  One old Anna's hummingbird has taken to roosting in the adjacent pygmy date palm whose fronds cover the feeder.  The sunlight that filters down through the fronds leaves a dappled effect over him.

Each of these photos is the exact same Anna's male hummingbird.   He's not afraid of me as I shoot his photo through he window.
He takes REALLY long blinks as well... in the middle of the afternoon
He's often itching - I suspect mites, and many birds get - and he's only 1/2 heartedly chasing away challengers who are smaller, younger, and more vigorous than he is.  (yes, I can relate, at this point in my life)

If he passes from this mortal coil (many hummingbirds live only 2 years) I will bury him in my back yard...  making sure not to catch any of the mites he might have.  That's all I need...  to add to my own itch.

The Holy Grail of images or videos, would be one like this...  if I could ever get the perfect angle:
(this link was shared with me by a close friend who loves hummingbirds as much as I do; merci)

Sunday, August 9, 2015

No egrets, No tears, No one else

While I was doing yoga the other day above Batiquitos Lagoon, I spotted a cluster of white dots in a far away tree.
The bench in front of which I do yoga above the lagoon, as seen from across El Camino Real in front of the Omni Resort, taken with a 40X zoom on my Panasonic Lumix
After completing 90 minutes of yoga, I drove closer to the white dots to investigate... they were snowy egrets.  More than a dozen of them, roosting near the Eastern edge of the lagoon.

No one else got this picture, because no one else walked the 3 blocks from the parking lot of the grocery store and bank, to the front of The Omni resort's entrance, and had a 40X zoom lens as I did last week.  Today, on the way back from the beach, Dr Desert Flower and I drove past the lagoon and there were no egrets (no, no... no tears) on the same tree in the lagoon.

I was lucky enough to catch one of them coming in for a landing.  I need more practice in photographing moving birds.  I often practice on military air craft (no shortage of them off the San Diego county coast)...  but they fly in predictable straight lines... so it's not as effective in taking their pictures.

Part of the 1%

At the end of July, almost 2 weeks ago, Nathan Jr came to visit Dr Desert Flower and I for part of a week (4 days).  On his last day here, we took him whale watching at the Dana Wharf Whale Watching and Sport Fishing cruise provider up in Orange County.  DDF and I had gone there back at Mother's Day, and we saw no whales, so they gave us 2 free passes to come back.  This trip did not disappoint.

We first saw a swarm of dolphins.  This were probably about 1000 individual common dolphins, but our son had never seen more than 1/2 a dozen together on the East Coast, so it was a treat.

Then, we saw the first blue whale.  It was impressive.  Larger than a greyhound bus, and actually the largest animal to ever swim, or live, on this blue marble - even bigger than any dinosaur, Brachiosaurus, Siesomosaurus, or even Ichthyosaur.  Our boat's captain tried to get closer without spooking the massive cetacean...  but it dove to feed.  Once they dive, it is a good 7 to 10 minutes before they come back up again.  

When they submerge, they leave a signature "flat spot" on the surface, large enough to park a Winnebago on.

So we moved over to a 2nd blue whale who was cruising along the surface.  Again, very impressive.  Awe inspiring.  We had seen gray whales before, but these blue whales dwarfed their gray cousins.  Our boat was a 65 footer...  about 2/3rds the size of a full grown blue whale adult.

After we saw these impressive creatures and we were heading back to Dana Point Harbor, our captain announced that we were all part of "the 1% now", since less than 1% of all humans have ever seen a living Blue Whale.  And we got to see 2 separate individuals, about a 1/2 mile apart, 7 miles SW of Dana Point.  = )