about a boob

Check this out:

A Harvard student must be given extra break time during a medical licensing exam to pump breast milk, a Massachusetts appeals court judge ruled yesterday.

The student, Sophie C. Currier, 33, of Brookline, Mass., had sued the National Board of Medical Examiners after it denied her request for more than the standard 45 minutes of allotted breaks during the nine-hour exam, which she will take over two days. [emphasis added]

She said she risked medical complications if she did not nurse her 4-month-old daughter, Lea, or pump breast milk every two or three hours.

In a word...WTF???

First of all, I want to express vocalize my sincerest appreciation to all of my female colleagues who, in the process of balancing their working lives with their maternal obligations, have had the common decency to not impose this disgusting spectacle on the their coworkers, and particularly, on me. (Because seriously, this is disgusting. I'm sure that for you, breastfeeding is a life-affirming process of mother-child bonding. To the rest of us, it's you squirting milk out of your tits. Gross.)

OK, all of that aside...Ms. Currier is taking the nine-hour exam over two days (more on that in a minute), which presumably means that there will be roughly two, 4.5 hour sessions. So if she...you know, gets pumped or whatever...immediately before the exam, takes a 22.5 minute break in the middle to do it again, and then again after the exam, that's two periods of 2.25 hours each that she's managed to go without doing her best impression of a Holstein. Did I miss something?

Was a lawsuit really necessary here, is what I'm asking?

It gets better. At the end of the article, we learn that:

Ms. Currier has already received some accommodation from the board for dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. She can take the test over two days instead of one, for example.

Thank goodness she isn't going into a profession that requires long hours, sustained attention, rapid decision-making, and clear judgment in the face of high-pressure situations.

A bit of advice, Ms. Currier. People google their physicians these days (at least I do). When I do, I'm not really looking at whether they went to Harvard, or how experienced they are, or whether they've published anything. What I am looking for are obvious red flags like...did they sue the medical board for special accommodations for their licensing exam?

You should really think about the impact of this kind of publicity on your career.

(Though, I suppose you could always just sue.)


the oslo primary


Maybe it's just the campaign fatigue talking, but I don't see how Al Gore would be objectively worse than any of the front runners in either party. And he would, quite frankly, be very good for (publicly-funded) science in this country.


score another one for the dark prophet

I'm so sick of arming the world, then sending troops over to destroy the fucking arms, you know what I mean? We keep arming these little countries, then we go and blow the shit out of them. We're like the bullies of the world, y'know. We're like Jack Palance in the movie Shane, throwing the pistol at the sheepherder's feet.
'Pick it up.'
'I don't wanna pick it up, Mister, you'll shoot me.'
'Pick up the gun.'
'Mister, I don't want no trouble. I just came downtown here to get some hard rock candy for my kids, some gingham for my wife. I don't even know what gingham is, but she goes through about ten rolls a week of that stuff. I ain't looking for no trouble, Mister.'
'Pick up the gun.'
(He picks it up. Three shots ring out.)
'You all saw him - he had a gun.'

--Bill Hicks, c. 1992

Metaphorically true then. Literally true now.



the state of the union is "overrated"

Beneath the fold this week comes news that Belgium may soon cease to exist.

“We are two different nations, an artificial state created as a buffer between big powers, and we have nothing in common except a king, chocolate and beer,” said Filip Dewinter, the leader of Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Bloc, the extreme-right, xenophobic Flemish party, in an interview. “It’s ‘bye-bye, Belgium’ time.”

Personally, I think Mr. Dewinter vastly underestimates the ability of chocolate and beer to bring people together.

Anyway, Megan McArdle at Atlantic raises an interesting point:

The problem of disentangling financial assets and currency is one of the major forces mitigating against separatism...Now that the European Union has taken over the currency, as well as many of the trade and customs functions of traditional federal governments, Belgium as a state suddenly looks a lot less necessary. One wonders if the current era of economic integration (assuming it continues) might not bring increasing political balkanization.

For me, this is a compelling argument for a North American economic (not political) union (now would be a good a time as any to make one, since the USD and Loonie are now trading at 1:1.) This would be a much happier continent if we split into several more countries. California is already the world's 6th largest economy, Vermont actually has a (relatively) active secessionist movement, and Texas feels as foreign to me as Canada (which itself has a much more likely chance of balkanizing than the US.)

There would, of course, be the added benefit of no longer having an imperial government in DC (which itself could be returned to the Republic of Maryland and perhaps turned into some sort of super-awesome paintball park) getting us involved in wars on the other side of the world and attempting to impose similar top-down arrangements on other "artificial states" that might be better off broken into a two or three smaller entities. But I digress...

It's hard for me to get excited about being American these days. But I would relish the chance to be a founding citizen of Cascadia or Baja Arizona.

giant douche vs. turd sandwich 2008 preview

Rudy Giuliani was kissing up to the NRA on Friday, trying to gloss over his record on gun control with this little gem:

"You should know I understand that the right to bear arms is just as important a right in that Constitution as the right of free speech..."

Some are are understandably skeptical; however, I actually think this is a pretty accurate statement of his position on the Second Amendment. After all, later in the same freaking speech, he stated that, "We passed a line that we should not allow any American political organization to pass," in reference to MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad last week.

So-called "libertarians" that are drawn towards Giuliani just because he's more sanguine about abortion and gay rights than the typical Republican really need to take a closer look at this guy. If he is the GOP nominee next year, the general election will be a race between an authoritarian from New York...and Rudy Giuliani.

(headline explanation here, if you need it, though if you do you're probably reading the wrong blog anyway..)


postdoc life

Between November of 2005 and June of 2006 I gave four public talks, two of which were one-hour "job talks" and two were 20-minute conference talks. I could do it in my sleep by the end of it all.

Tomorrow I am giving my first quasi-public talk since June of '06, which suddenly seems like a really long time ago. I'm rusty, and my project is very, very different both conceptually and technically than what I was doing before.

Even though I was working on slides into the wee hours of last night (a pretty rare event for me since graduating) and pretty much every second of today that I wasn't walking down the hall for more coffee and/or to go to the bathroom--I never really got nervous. I just ran through the talk for the benefit of my dog and the dining room wall for the second time, after cutting a few slides out, and still ran 3 minutes over. I'm still not nervous.

Here's why:

2 things have happened every time I've given a talk, going all the way back to my first year of grad school:

1) Everyone tells me I did a good job.
2) I am never satisfied with the job I did.

Now...I have no doubt that plenty of people have found my talks boring, others have found them disorganized and awkward, and even a few may have found them to be simply and laughably naive. I have no doubt about this, because these are my top three reactions to most of the talks I've heard. "Pretty good" comes in fourth, followed by "I really, genuinely enjoyed that" in a--very--distant fifth.

What I'm saying here is that the source of any pre-talk anxiety I might feel is the thought that I'm talking to a room full of people just like me.

So why don't I worry?

What's the point? I know most people will say nothing to me at all about it, a few will give me a compliment, my boss--whose job it is to critique me--will couch any criticism in the most positive light, but more than likely just tell me I did a good job, and I won't be happy with it regardless.

Just once, I would love it if one of my colleagues would come up to me and say something like, "yeah, you had me at the beginning when you were talking about general stuff, but once you got into data I just kind of checked out and thought about what I was going to have for lunch...your slides had a nicely balanced color scheme, though, and it sounded like you didn't say 'um' too much. So I guess you did OK. But I really don't care."

Anyway, check this space tomorrow to see if I am writing about being careful about what you wish for.


psa/rumor mill

Though there is as of yet no mention of it on their webpage, a flyer I picked up at the Carolina Theatre last week had this Friday, September 21 listed as the return of the always-awesome Retrofantasma Film Festival.

I, for one, will be there regardless of what they show...

UPDATE--There's a new page up. This week is Friday the 13th part IV (the one with Corey Feldman and Crispin Glover) and a Linda Blair piece called "Hell Night".

Good stuff coming up the next few months...I can't wait for Christmas...



Been sprucing up the blogroll this morning, mostly because the extremely awesome Jaden's Steamy Kitchen was brought to my attention.


a brush with (in)fam[e](y)

This morning, I was driving through downtown on Mangum street at just the right time to see Mike Nifong doing the perp walk into the Durham County lockup.

I don't have anything to add to that, really, except that I'm amazed at how easy it is to pick someone out of a crowd when they are the focal point.