succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, January 07, 2006

I don't even know what to say, so I'll just let this article speak for itself.

A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.

Last September the marines finally ordered 28,800 sets of additional armor. And that's just the marines. The army has 130,000 soldiers currently in Iraq. It just...I'm just...dumbfounded. Everytime I think this administration has broken my heart, has committed some new, inexcusable act of stupidity and carelessness, I am reminded that there are no depths to their incompetence. To be fair, the army initially chose the set of armor currently on most soldiers as a compromise between protection and weight and movability. I understand that we aren't sending knights into combat. But when the individual soldiers themselves start requested more armor, start fashioning their own additional armor out of scraps, start "hanging their crotch protectors under their arms," as they did two years ago, maybe it's fucking time to listen to the men and women on the ground and protect their asses.

Interestingly, although this article appeared on the front page, above the fold, of this morning's paper edition, as of right now, the article is not even linked on the front page of the website. I'm not saying conspiracy or anything. Just...interesting.

I have copped to some mighty nerdy things in the past (um...sci-fi marathons, anyone?), but my desire for this book, despite its exhorbitant price tag, may be a new level for me. (but I bet it's so pretty)

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Flu

The Bad News - Between December '03 and January 4, '06 there have been 142 documented cases of the H5N1 flu strain, 74 of whom died. That's a case-fatality rate of over 50%. During the 1918 flu pandemic (which killed millions) that rate was 2.5%. The Good News - the current case-fatality rate is likely wildly overestimated, because there's no systematic monitoring of mild and asymptomatic cases. Still, it hardly bodes well. More bad news - 900 million is the estimated worldwide capacity for vaccine production. Which is a far cry from the 6.5 billion world population. Also, if/when the pandemic strikes, it's expected to last 2 years. Meanwhile companies figure it will take 6 months from the first declaration of pandemic to the first available vaccine dose. Also, 70% of all flu vaccines are currently produced in Europe. And we haven't exactly been making nice in a way that makes them likely to share.

What I, in my humble opinion, think we (the government and public health community) need to do:
1) promise to purchase x doses of flu vaccine, regardless of whether the public actually ends up using them (one of the reasons we don't currently have a reliable vaccine supply is that we've refused to do this, so companies aren't exactly lining up to produce a product we won't promise to pay for in case the pandemic doesn't actually occur)
2) start a serious PR campaign. Separate from freaking out the public about impending doom, we need to actually lay out what may happen - specifically, the need for quarantining and the closing of airports and other borders. It's the only way to control the spread, and we need to prepare people for that. It won't work, but people might freak out slightly less if they've been given a heads up and provided with an explanation of why quarantine is so critical.

I'm sure there are lots of other things, but those are the two foremost in my mind, and which I haven't heard much about.

trying to see if template changes worked...

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

"He made comments on methods and materials! He made comments on METHODS AND MATERIALS!!!!"

Went out tonight with an old friend, and, coincidentally, fellow grad student. Two pitchers later and we were having the sort of conversation that another friend says only occurs in the middle of the night. It was nice. We started out reminiscing (I went home for the holidays, he did not) and ended up covering all sorts of things frankly - sex and relationships and a little politics and religion and abortion. But, perhaps, not so serious. I don't know. It was just nice. Also, this is the first time in several weeks that I've been drunk (excluding the Christmas Day wine-a-thon thanks to Mom and Dad) so cut me some slack.

Stay tuned for a re-cap of the highly disturbing talk I attended earlier this evening regarding bird flu. Now, back to Hackers.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Good News! (mostly)

"Twelve miners who have been trapped underground for more than 36 hours are alive, a friend of one of the men told CNN late Tuesday."

Update: Now CNN is reporting the opposite - 12 dead, one alive. No further explanations.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I have tried to articulate in the past how I feel wandering around the monuments in DC (particularly the Lincoln), and I think Tim comes close to how I feel in his post about Independence Hall in Philly. But it's his commenter with whom I agree the most:

I continue to wish that Our Prexy had used his substantial single-mindedness, political capital, and all of that to push the “no fear” meme. I used to think that FDR’s “nothing to fear but fear itself” was catchy, but it didn’t really mean anything in particular to me. For the last four years, I’ve seen most of our mistakes being driven by our fears…a fear that is disproportionate with the risks, as is often the case.

Being committed to living in an open society is the real macho.

Yes, of course, it's easier said than done. And I realized long ago that I hold ideals which are nearly impossible to put into practice. But why not aspire to them anyway?

The Epiphany

So I've been sort of talking around this thing for several weeks, vaguely referencing my latest therapy session but not really talking about it...and obviously I've been working up to it, hence the rambling postings I think I'm finally ready to take a stab at articulating this thing. Here goes:

I've been aware of the 'symptoms' (for lack of a better term) for a while - I rarely cry, it's practically physically impossible for me to cry in front of anyone else, I was pretty much taylor made to withstand the border-line emotional abuse of gymnstics (I'm not about to confess to any sort of emotional abuse during my childhood; I'm just saying that the defense mechanisms were already in place long before I ever met my coach Billy), and I don't like myself very much whenever I feel like I need something from someone else or otherwise feel vulnerable or weak. It was this last statement that made my therapist say, whoa. Let's unpack that a little bit. And in the process of unpacking, we got to this - Despite outward appearances of being there, my Mom wasn't really there emotionally. (which makes sense, considering that she grew up with an emotionally abusive alcoholic father. her defense mechanisms are way more honed than mine will ever be.) She stayed at home to raise us, made my lunch everyday, tucked me in every night, bordered on the saintly with her devotion to my interests...but wasn't really able to make herself available enough to really offer comfort to me. And I was afraid of a lot of things as a child (hell, I'm afraid of a lot of things as a pseudo-grown-up). Sure, she'd wake up in the middle of the night and turn the light on, since I was afraid of the dark...but she couldn't really make me feel better about being afraid. And I learned really early on to...I don't know, not stop needing that, but I guess stop expecting it, or asking for it, or thinking it was ok to need it, or something. And to hate those parts of me and those interactions and events that reminded me that I did need to be taken care of and comforted.

And yes, I realize none of this is particularly unique, we all hate feeling vulnarable, or at least find it to be scary... but it's been a big deal for me to fit this piece in, it's made a lot of other things in my life make there it is.

There's nothing like a good yoga warm-up, especially when your body tends to be as old and creaky as mine occasionally is*. Feeling your joints settle into more comfortable positions, letting your body tell you which way it needs to move and stretch, feeling muscles's a good thing.

More Stuff from Home

One of my tasks while home was to start archiving all the videos my parents made of my various gymnastics competitions. I'm really glad we have them, but watching them at this point is a little weird, a little like watching a stranger. Also, I forget just how tiny I was. I mean, I remember that there was a long stretch of time when I was barely over four feet tall, and that people were constantly commenting about how little I was and picking me to demonstrate my tininess, but I never felt that small. But there's this moment in one of the videos, when my coach hugs me after a routine, and he's on his knees and he's about the same size as me on my feet.

It was also especially interesting to watch my interactions with my coaches, because I remember just how intense and sometimes complicated our relationships and my feelings for them were. I mean, these were men** whom I absolutely, literally, trusted with my life...and with whom I often spent more time than with my own family. And of course gymnastics is an intense and often frightening sport, so my relationship with these men also ties in with this whole comforting thing that we unearthed in therapy just before Christmas...I'll have to think about this some more...

*people who know me give me a hard time whenever I say this, because I'm technically very young, but 14 years of competitive gymnastics has a tendency to age certain parts of your body faster than straight chronology would imply.
**my coaches were predominantly male for mostly physiological reasons - even as tiny as most gymnasts are, once they build up speed and start flying through the air, they generate more force than the average woman can harness.

I'm a little bit in love with Nathan Fillion

but then, I always was a sucker for the hero. The good, noble type - gets me every time. I pretty much always end up with celebrity crushes based solely on the quality of the character they play.

And that deleted scene from the pilot, where Zoe talks about leaving hope and trust and forgiveness behind and how once you've been to a place like Serenity you never leave, you just learn to live there...So Good.

Things I jotted down my last night in town

I set up my computer next to Granddad’s typewriter – the one he wrote his dissertation on, with keys for math symbols and the super-adjustable barrel for sub- and super-scripts. And suddenly I’m overwhelmed with the desire to bring the typewriter back to Atlanta with me, set it up on my desk, and glance over the top of my laptop screen at it, and gain inspiration while working on my dissertation. Then again, maybe it would just end up feeling like more familial pressure.

There’s a thing about old friends, your chosen family – they really are like your blood relations – they piss you off, get on your nerves, hurt your feelings…but they’re there. In this way that other people aren’t. Or can’t be. I’m not sure. But Jess and I had this moment driving home last night…she’d had a crappy evening (involving an ex-boyfriend and a canceled trip and harsh words) and we’d gone into safe mode, which meant drinking beer and chain smoking. And it’s funny, because Jess and I have known each other for ages, were really close in high school, are among the few people either of us stay in touch with, but I felt like we drifted apart through most of college…but now I keep finding ways in which we’re similar. And one of those ways is our bravado. We put on this front, well, it’s partially real and partially an act, about how we’re all in control and tough and unemotional…but there was this second in the car last night, around 1 am, when we both just cut the crap and admitted some things. And it was nice because it was so matter-of-fact, and not really a moment, in the sense that neither of us made a big deal about it. We were just there, and having this conversation, and laying it all out.

Misc. wrap-up

Yeah, so, like I've said a dozen times already, home was good. And in a lot of ways, new and interesting (therapy has that affect). It was reassuring to discover that I don't go completely back into my box, that I was able to push and change a bit, even in such familiar surroundings.

And it was also good, as usual, to be so happy to be back in this home. To wake up in my bed with the sun cascading in the bay window and the cat curled up beside have my own space again.