Glenn Beck Chloroplast

I…

I don’t know why…

But, it’s Glenn Beck as a chloroplast, and if that doesn’t meet the inclusion factors for a biodork blog (sarcastic liberal humor + plant biology = NERD WIN), I don’t know what else would.

Seen on Comments from Left Field

And just for fun, and comparison, a real chloroplast:

Pick out the image that depicts the more beneficial of the two things on this great green Earth. And…GO!

Anecdotes

Ben Goldacre of Bad Science wrote an excellent piece yesterday about anecdotal evidence.  He wrote about the media coverage of the British National Health Service’s (NHS) decision to not cover a very expensive stomach cancer drug.  The media all told the story of one woman who lived FOUR YEARS longer than expected, most likely due to taking this drug.  Unfortunately, the large randomized trial (1401 patients) of the drug’s efficacy showed that the average patient on the drug only lived an average 6 months longer than those who received the placebo.  The drug costs £21,000 (approx. $32,592 USD), and the patient is likely to only live an average of six months longer.  The one woman in the story is an anomaly, but it makes good press.

I love the saying:

The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not evidence.

(which may have come from Frank Kotsonis’ “The plural of anecdote is not data”)

Wikipedia has a nice couple of descriptions of anecdotal evidence:

  1. Evidence in the form of an anecdote or hearsay is called anecdotal if there is doubt about its veracity; the evidence itself is considered untrustworthy.
  2. Evidence, which may itself be true and verifiable, used to deduce a conclusion which does not follow from it, usually by generalizing from an insufficient amount of evidence.

We use anecdotal evidence in the form of personal experience all the time.  We bend rules when they don’t make sense to us or when we think they shouldn’t apply, we gamble in spite of the odds, we do dangerous things like ride motorcycles, go sky-diving and do back flips off of diving boards.  Some of us take herbal supplements because we swear we feel better or get over colds faster than if we don’t, even though all the evidence points to the contrary.

But if we want to make informed, evidence-based decisions, we have to stick to the…umm…evidence.  We have to ignore our gut feelings because homo sapiens is really bad at making good decisions based on instinct and emotion.

Brian Dunning recently did a Skeptoid episode about these fallacies, as well as a few others.  The link will take you to the podcast’s written transcript, but you can also download this episode on iTunes (episode #217).

MN State Fair

Yesterday I went to the Minnesota State Fair with my little sister, Ashley, from Big Brothers Big Sisters.  We marched in the parade with a bunch of bands and other local groups.  Ashley found one of her friends and the group of us ended up hanging out all day long.

Big Brothers, Big Sisters marches in the 2010 Minnesota State Fair!

Ashley and Gang with the Fresh French Fries mascot

We ate so much food!  Seriously, I could have bought theater tickets for what I spent on food yesterday. Here’s the list of things that the six of us ate throughout the 10-hour day:

  • French fries
  • Deep-fried alligator bites
  • Corn on the cob
  • Tacos
  • Nachos
  • Famous Dave’s BBQ pork sandwich
  • Lemonade, frozen lemonades, lemonade slushies
  • Kettle corn
  • Pretzel with nacho cheese sauce
  • Foot-long corn dog
  • Caramel apple
  • Cherry snow cone
  • Root beer
  • Cheddar cheese curds
  • Ocean Spray pomegranete-blueberry juice
  • Curly fries
  • Pizza

Man!  It was a snacky, nibbling sort of day, and we didn’t all eat everything on the list, but that’s still a lot of food!

The Minnesota State Fair is kind of huge, perhaps bordering on gigantic, and maybe – dare I say? – ginormous.  Click on the picture below for the full-size image.

We did our darndest to see as much as we could!  We visited the Miracle of Birth Center and the Sheep and Poultery barn.  We sat in on the live audience of the KSTP Channel 5 4:30pm newscast with Megan Newquist.  All six of us were on TV (in one of the panning camera shots), and Ashley got Megan’s signature.

Ashley and her friend with KSTP meteorologist Chikage Windler

We walked by the Midway, the Kidway and Adventure Park.  We walked through Machinery Hill and Heritage Square.  We saw the skaters and BMXers at the X-Zone, petted the dogs in the Pet Center and walked through the Grandstand vendors area.  We visited the Eco Experience building and the Fine Arts building.  We rode the open-air Sky Gliders.  And at the end of the night we ran across a cheering crowd singing along with Boyz to Men at the Leine’s stage.

On the Sky Glider – not too bad for two girls who claim to not like heights!

And we had to stop to take pictures at every. One. Of the plywood cutouts we found.

The State Fair continues for the next 12 days.  I’d like to visit at least once more this season in order to see some of the “less exciting” buildings that I missed on account of visiting with a 13 year-old with a short attention span.  Exhibits like the arts and crafts building, the Agriculture and Horticulture building (Arg!  We missed the crop art!  How could we miss crop art?  It’s “Dedicated to the beauty of seeds pasted on a board to make a picture.One doesn’t just miss seeds pasted on a board to make a picture!), the DNR building, the cattle and swine barns and the International Bazaar.

Ah, you ridiculous food, fun and farm-focused festival.  I love ya.

All work = All play

I was productive yesterday.  Really I was!

  • I worked a full day at the office.
  • I did my mentoring thing for two hours after work.
  • I walked the dog and fed the pets.
  • I watched an episode of Warehouse 13.
  • I read a couple chapters of my Med School Confidential “homework”.
  • I worked on my draft post about my trip to Rome

So you see, I was actually quite busy last night.  It was a nice combination of work and play.

But alas, for the second day in a row, I have no real blog post for the biodork blog today.

Dear readers – all three of you – I ask your forgiveness.  In place of thoughtful writing I offer up to you this fabulously humiliating picture of me being an idiot in our apartment.  Bon appetit.

Self-inflicted self-punishment picture for the loyal biodork readers.  Trust me…this hurts you more than it hurts me.

P&T Vaccination Clip

It’s a very busy day, so meh-be a leettle video from the interwebs today?  This is Penn & Teller applying a their usual tools of wit, sarcasm, shouting and bright shiny objects in order to get a point across.  In this case, the point that vaccines can save lots and lots of lives. 

If you’re at work, watch yer volume: Penn does shout a lot and he drops the F-bomb once. 

Enjoy!

Of Alarm Clocks and the GZ Mosque

Darn alarm clock – how dare it go off and let me sleep through it this morning!  Darn work – how dare you be so…here?  (J/K – I love you job, and I hope we have a long and meaningful relationship). 

So, in light of my slackerness let’s talk about someone else’s blogpost today!

Jen McCreight from Blag Hag has a couple of interesting posts up about her visit to New York City’s “Ground Zero Mosque”.  The first post is about her rather uneventful visit; there were no wild protests going on while she was there.  The second post is called Defending the rights of theists does not equal agreeing with their beliefs, which was in response to some blog commenters’ criticisms of Jen’s original post, the building of the “mosque” and of Islam in general.  Jen’s response is kind of a beautiful thing.

I’ll bet you’re aware of the “non-troversy” surrounding the building of the GZM.  Ground Zero Mosque isn’t actually a mosque, but an Islamic community center being built two blocks away from Ground Zero.  From the NYTimes:

The proposed center, called the Cordoba House, would rise as many as 15 stories two blocks north of where the twin towers stood. It would include a prayer space, as well as a 500-seat performing arts center, a culinary school, a swimming pool, a restaurant and other amenities.

I think this is factually important, but irrelevant to the controversy – mosque, Islamic community center, it doesn’t matter.  

Some people (Glenn, you twit) on both sides of the political spectrum are saying that building the Islamic community center so close to the site of the 9/11 Twin Towers attacks (“Ground Zero) is an affront to the families of those who lost their lives at the hands of Islamic extremists.  Even my old favorite, Howard Dean, sided with the anti-GZM gang (sob!).  But there are also people who are calling this dispute out for the fluffy, junk story and fake controversy that it is.

I think that living, working and building buildings in a country with a constitution that guarantees religious freedom means that you get to build your Islamic community center or a mosque or a temple to pink unicorns.  People died in the 9/11 attacks because Islamic extremists chose to committ violence against Americans.  Islamic extremists are not your typical Muslim, just as David Koresh is not your typical Protestant.  Why should we discriminate against Muslims for crimes committed by Islamic extremists?  Do we not allow Muslims to even visit Ground Zero because a victim’s visiting family member might see a man or woman with a covered head and be offended that a Muslim is walking on the hallowed ground where their loved one died at the hands of an extemist Muslim?

The Islamic community center shouldn’t even be seen as a moment to tolerance, as some proponents are calling it.  Tolerance implies that we’re graciously allowing this building to go up.  There’s nothing to tolerate.  It’s just another building in Manhattan.

MN Renaissance Festival

Weekend Adventures!

This week was the opening of the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.  For those of you who may have never been, there are Renaissance fairs all over the United States and each one has its own flavor.  The MN Ren Fest (or Fair) always takes place in in  Shakopee, MN.  The location has permanent buildings that are used by the same vendors every year.

The front gates of the MN Renaissance Festival

Going to the Ren Fest is like volunteering to be part of a play – you can dress up in costumes, you can speak with a lot of “thees”, “thous” and “thys”, and there is a good chance that you will interact with belly dancers, pirates, royalty, handmaidens and guardsmen, pickle sellers, fairies, peasants, minstrels and troubadours, explorers, merchants, sorcerers and many other types of characters.  Some of them are paid actors, others are just visitors who are getting into the spirit of the fair.

I’ve been to the Fair before, but I’d never gone on opening day.  I couldn’t find anyone to go with me, so I decided to head out by myself.  I drove out to Shakopee, parked and arrived at the gate at about 8:30am.  At about 8:50 actors started climbing up onto the gates.  I knew from past experience that there would be a gate show, usually with the king, queen and their attendants, as well as few rabble-rousers to taunt the royalty and visitors alike.  After the gate show they shoot a cannon to announce the start of the day’s fair and the gates open.   The gate show actually kind of stunk this year; the actors wove and dove through the relatively simple (and cheesy) script, but eventually they reached the end, the gates opened and the fairgoers streamed inside.

Visitors coming into the Ren Fest through the front gates.

Immediately inside the gates felt a lot like that scene from Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Eddie Valiant enters Toon Town for the first time in the movie – it was noisy, crowded and there were actors on all sides singing songs of welcome to the fair.  It was kind of neat, but chaotic.

The Royal Court – Queen and King, center

The fairgrounds are actually quite large, and after the initial rush at the gate people ambled off in different directions and we ended up spread pretty thin.  For the first hour of the fair I had the place largely to myself.  It was very odd because I knew that in an hour, these paths would be packed with people.

At Ren Fest there are comedy shows, magic shows, belly dancing, juggling, wine tastings, cursing exhibitions, jousting, snakes, tortoises, dogs, ferrets, elephants, camels, goats, and usually at least one alligator.

A fairy blows bubbles for the cutest little girl that I saw at the fair all day.

Kick ass giant suits of armor outside of an artisan’s shop

Belly dancers entertaining in one of the festival’s open areas

What can you do with two sticks, some rope, and a bucket of soap?  This woman can make GIGANTIC bubbles.  I also caught one of the roaming flower girl in the back of the photo.

At Ren Fest you can pay to have someone thrown in the stocks, or you can purchase a ticket to have dinner with the queen and king (or both!).  There are approximately eighty billion and elebenty types of food to eat.  A common sight at Ren Fest is people of all stripes ambling along holding a gigantic cooked turkey leg, nibbling at the meat and watching the crowds.

I left fairly early in the morning – 10:30am!  That’s less than two hours inside and I’d bet a personal record for me.  The spaces were so empty that I was able to walk around the fairgrounds twice, and none of the shows I wanted to see started until after noon.  Also, the sun came out and burned off the early morning fog and it started to get really very muggy.  I’ll be headed back to the fair again later in the seven-weekend run with the Hubby and friends and that’s usually an entire day’s trip.  But this trip was unique and I’m glad that I went.

Doctorate in Cryptozoological Sciences

Don’t you hate when the scienticians make fun of your well-thought out theories and the undeniable evidence you provide of cryptozoological specimens?  And isn’t it frustrating how these “well-educated” men and women look down their noses at you because you don’t have a specialized degree in your field?

Well, look no further and get ready to turn those doubters into True Believers!

The American Institute of Metaphysical Studies can bestow you with the honor and accolades that are needed to impress even the most stuck-up academician!

Because for all their big talk about “repeatable, verifiable evidence”, you and I know that all these decorated peacocks want are credentials.

So, get your BS ($1965), your MS ($2340) or your Doctorate ($2690) in cryptozoology* today!

*Additional degree programs in ufology and the paranormal sciences