Evidence published for autism genetics link!

And what evidence it is.

In summary, we have performed a high resolution genome-wide analysis to characterize the genomic landscape of copy number variation in ASDs. Through comparison of structural variation in 1,771 ASD cases and 2,539 controls and prioritization of events encompassing exons we identified more than 150 loci harboring rare variants in multiple probands but no control individuals. For each class of structural variant interrogated, the recovery of known loci serves to validate the methods employed and results obtained. Greatest confidence should be placed in loci harboring variants in multiple unrelated cases but no controls and also recovered in both screening and replication cohorts. Amongst novel genes, best support was obtained for BZRAP1 and MDGA2, intriguing candidate genes for which additional study is warranted.

It’s a bit dry to read, given that I’m only an amateur at this stuff, but there you have it.

I don’t know how likely it is that Jenny McCarthy et al will now shut the hell up about vaccines, though, despite the facts that a) the guy who first postulated the idea was discredited for falsifying his data, b) all the actual evidence suggests there’s no link between vaccines and autism, and c) now there’s a paper with a good solid chunk of evidence that autism is genetic.

Actually, I do know how likely it is that Jenny et al will shut up. That likelihood is zero. To ten sig figs.

Hat tip Greg Laden for this wonderful news, not only for the fight against antivaxxers, but the search for better treatments of autistic individuals. Yeah!

Reading is FUN-damental

I need to get back into reading something other than the e-interweb tubes, so I just bought a bunch of books via Amazon.  To wit:

  • “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”
    Neil Gaiman; Mass Market Paperback; CDN$ 8.75
  • “Webmage”
    Kelly Mccullough; Paperback; CDN$ 9.99
  • “Cybermancy”
    Kelly Mccullough; Paperback; CDN$ 9.99
  • “Codespell”
    Kelly Mccullough; Paperback; CDN$ 7.50
  • “Mythos”
    Kelly Mccullough; Paperback; CDN$ 9.99
  • “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!”
    Jane Austen; Paperback; CDN$ 8.98
  • “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark”
    Carl Sagan; Hardcover; CDN$ 7.70 (used)
  • “Atlas Shrugged”
    Ayn Rand; Paperback; CDN$ 19.53

Guess which one I’m joking about buying. Here’s a hint — it’s fucking Ayn Rand, okay? And yeah, the price isn’t a joke. Even now, her emitic of a book costs twice as much as any other on my reading list. I honestly wish she’d “gone Galt” before she decided to write this execrable piece of self-lauding trash.*

4-7 days apparently, for the bulk of these books. Should be around the same time as we start getting some fucking idea when our bedroom set is going to arrive. Which is fun. Should also hopefully arrive sometime near when those damned Galileoscopes finally wend their way to our neck of the woods as well. Not that I’m complaining about the Galileoscopes — those at least have a good reason for the delay, and are for a good cause ultimately. The furniture, on the other hand, already has me a grand poorer and in debt of slightly over another grand to Wells Fargo (of all goddamn companies!!), and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of the damnable things.


*If you actually plan on reading this horrid little example of literary backwash, here’s the tl;dr: people, when you treat them nicely, will invariably become total shitheels and slack off leaving you to do all the work, so let’s all grind society to a halt by going on strike until the shitheels start doing their part to maintain society to our high standards too. Also, hooray for capitalism and boo to anything even remotely associated with the political left, or even slightly left of capitalist fatcat millionaire douchebag.

So the Sweden sign was fake. The real ad campaign is as bad.

A previous post I put up, with anti-atheist billboards, apparently had a photoshopped version of a real Answers In Genesis billboard, only with the words replaced. The revelation of such spawned an epic word-war (which I sadly missed) (which is apparently still ongoing! Put on some popcorn!) over at How Good Is That. The original ad campaign is honestly not much better. At least the Sweden one is more honest about its implications.

This is my way of saying, “sorry I got duped”. The point of the original post stands though. There’s a civility gulf, and it’s evident both in how atheists are willing to stand up for their beliefs against an oppressive majority with little care for how they are perceived, and in how that same majority is willing to paint the minority as incapable of morality (in other words, objectively evil).

Morality comes from wanting to do what’s right for a) yourself, and b) by extension society as well, since what’s right for yourself is to help maintain society. No man is an island, and all that. Without society to support us, we would fall, and that’s why atheists are capable of morals — just because people realize God is imaginary, doesn’t mean society is going to fall apart, because we all need society to keep living ourselves.

Yes, even you, you antisocial twerp. Unless you plan on raising livestock and tending a garden full of medical herbs (heh) someplace in the remote woods. And even then, good luck carrying out your particular genetic line if you’re living alone. Your genes die with you, and good riddance.

Fox News: both fair AND balanced! (now with 150% more balance)

fnc_20090624_sanford

Mark Sanford, one-time Republican Party saviour and the Anointed One for the next Republican candidate for the presidency, suddenly finds his star falling after thoroughly failing at having a clandestine affair with some woman in South America.

Then Fox News “accidentally” labels him a Democrat. WOOPSIE! It was just an accident, folks, nothing to see here!
[Read more...]

Fly Rapture Airlines

Okay. I normally don’t pay much attention to ridiculous religious spam (except maybe to skirmish with its posters), but this one is just off the charts crazy, especially once you realize what it’s actually peddling.

HEAVENLY SKYWAYS: The Underground Airline for Believers

If God gave Noah specific instructions for building the ark, you can best believe He has specific instructions for end time Believers to build an ark of safety for those in the household of faith.

Even the stork in the sky
knows her appointed seasons,
and the dove, the swift and the thrush
observe the time of their migration.
But my people do not know
the requirements of the LORD- Jeremiah 8:7.

The Book of Matthews, Chapter 24 States That During The End of The Age, There Will Be Wars, Rumors of Wars, Earthquakes, Famine and Persecution of the Saints, –

And it continues like that, on and on, with crazy initial-caps the whole way through, so I’ll spare you, though you can go check out the comment if you feel so inclined. Might I recommend instead a lobotomy?

The gist of it is that God has a plan for everyone, and for the really hardcore believers, he has a plan to build an ark so that they can live through the coming End Times. Leave aside for a moment that the End Times involves those who are True Believers being bodily swept up to heaven, while the armies of good (the angels) and evil (the unbelievers and demons) wage war on Earth, and as far as I know, there was nothing in that story about building an ark to save a chunk of humankind.

Surprisingly, this comment isn’t proselytizing for its own sake, as it usually is with this type of spammer. No, in this case, it’s actually a shameless bit of self-promotion for a book and “stage play” available at www.heavenlyskyways.com. I won’t link that, by the way, in a deliberate attempt to avoid accidentally giving “Dr” Jacqueline Lawrence, holding a Doctorate in Christian Counselling from the Sacramento Theological School and Bible College, any more page rank on Google than she deserves. Pardon me if I scoff at anyone being declared a doctor of anything unscientific, by the way. It just seems relatively ouroboros-like of religions to write a work of fiction, then teach it to others, then offer doctorates in being able to teach it the best. (If anyone compares that practice to, say, evolution, with its 150 years of scientific evidence to back it up, I will smack them.)

This is really on their page.  I swear.

This is really on their page. I swear.

I’m guessing the point of spamming this eye-crossingly bad “verse” is to hook the lambs and convince them to buy, and/or spread the word about, these works of fiction — one of which the author knows is fiction; the other, however, she probably earnestly believes. “Top Secret”, her book about (you guessed it) the secret code hidden in the Bible, apparently describes how the faithful can build an ark to save themselves from the impending End Times. It strikes me that this should be considered some special sort of blasphemy, suggesting that God isn’t just going to bodily spirit away the faithful and that these faithful have to actually build themselves some sort of freaky eagle-airplane hybrid. Or just photoshop one as amateurishly as you can manage, then upload it to your site in bitmap format — warning, bitmaps are huge and generally not meant for internet usage, so I’m thumbnailing it in jpeg format.

The scary thing about this is that she’s been previously published — search for this lady’s name on Amazon and you’ll find a number of self-help, religious-bent books, truly living up to the “Doctor of Christian Counselling” title. From a brief search, all I can find are three such books and her first foray into outright woo-peddling. It’s a shame that she can’t throw the stage play into that fiction category to help round her portfolio out some.

And what fiction it is! The play, if the website itself is any indication, will be replete with purple prose and tortured plot devices. To sum up: an Oprah Winfrey like character declares her undying love for Jeebus when the Mary Sue narrator character visits her show. Meanwhile, an evil black Vice President conspires to “gather false evidence of treason” about the President, so he can oust the guy and ascend to the Presidency, then summarily declare all blacks to be slaves once more. Only the Mary Sue and her Magic Holy Plane, backed by the power of the Oprah simulacrum, can unravel the plot and bring peace (and Jesus) back to the nation!

And all I can manage right now is to sit on this blog and snipe at this idiocy from afar. It’s frightening sometimes to know that a person like this has more money and influence than I’m probably ever going to have in my life. And followers — I can only hope for her sake that the website and spamming are resultant from an overzealous follower.

Jesus wept.

Remember, Fallout has no “bag of holding”

Absolutely genius. Ever wonder how the Lone Wanderer in Fallout can lug around enough supplies to outfit a small army, yet tweezers weigh as much as beer? Or have you ever contemplated jumping off a tower like Altaïr, into a haystack roughly big enough to turn a shattered-every-bone-in-your-body landing into a merely very-badly-broken-every-bone-in-your-body landing? Don’t worry, Owen at Kotaku has you covered.

Also, beer.

Assassin’s Creed 2 trailer

In case you haven’t seen it yet. The first one was gorgeous and surprisingly immersive (and most stealth-based games just don’t do it for me), but got repetitive pretty quickly. Climb a tower, find a citizen in distress or a minigame node, deal with it, repeat until you’ve cleared a city section so you can proceed with the assassination. I’m a completeness junkie, so I can’t just skip through the assassinations one after another.

I’ve not been feeling too hot the past few days, been spending all my energy on work and a little bit of commenting on other people’s blogs. There’s always lots of stuff I want to write about, but I haven’t the energy right now.

Protip: studying how to get men to wear jimmyhats is not wasteful

Citizens Against Government Waste, an American “government watchdog” group famous for its ties with Jack Abramoff, pro-tobacco-industry lobbying, and pro-Microsoft-lobbying, has apparently fed a story to Fox News regarding the National Institutes of Health having sponsored the Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute for a study about OMG SEX.

Specifically, the study is to figure out why men are not using condoms as much as they should, and how to encourage them to do so and/or fix condoms to eliminate any perceived sensitivity problems. This naturally raised Fox News’ ire and they duly parroted it as being an example of government waste, because obviously enough to any Fox News watching conservative, the real answer to this question is “don’t have sex unless you are married like God says and want teh babiez”.

OMG CONDOMS

OMG CONDOMS

The $423,500 USD price tag, at that, is probably about right for a study “conducted among 500 men aged 18-24, though only 120 subjects will be involved during the laboratory phase, when scientists will conduct neurological exams and “test an instructional method on the correct and consistent use of condoms.” “ I don’t know why I’m not surprised that, with the price tag on the War on Terra which was supposed to pay for itself with the oil reclaimed from Iraq (by the way: 0.8 trillion at last count), that a sum of half a million dollars aimed at preventing a whole lot of social problems is scoffed at, while pouring money into a sinkhole in the Middle East is a laudable and noble endeavour.

OMG SUGGESTIVE BANANA

OMG SUGGESTIVE BANANA

The obvious first impression you’re supposed to be left with is “they’re paying half a million dollars to find out that guys think it doesn’t feel as good with a condom on”, because that’s what all the conservatives hope you’ll think if they just keep repeating how wasteful it is over and over, but that’s honestly not the point of the study. Considering sex ed has been eroded in the States to the point where all you’re basically told is that sex is wrong and never do it, finding out why condom usage is far far lower than it should is not just important, it can provide immediate benefits to the public in STD reduction, reduction in unwanted pregnancies and thus fewer abortions (I thought conservatives WANTED fewer abortions!), and possibly even identifying mitigating factors that decrease pleasure in condoms so that condom manufacturers can improve their designs.

One of the common complaints is that in circumcised individuals, condoms seriously decrease sensitivity. One of the benefits of already having told you that I was brought up Catholic, is the fact that you probably already knew that I was circumcised, and therefore I don’t feel ashamed in bringing up this personal anecdote. Yeah, I’m cut, and I never even got a choice in the matter. Still a bit bitter about that. And I can say that while I’ve never experienced being UNcircumcised while sentient, to compare sensations, I do not feel much difference with a condom on or off. There’s a LITTLE difference, sure. Not enough to change the logistics of the act though.

PS: the trick is to put a drop of lubricant on the inside of the condom. Just a drop though. And make sure it’s water-based, unless you manage to get a hold of a polyurethane condom — oil and latex don’t mix.