Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I've Measured Out My Life in Coffee Pots

Fellow Caffeine Addicts, this is a note for you. I'd like propose an quasi-experiment based purely on information gleaned from a Futurama episode . We will be utilizing qualitative methods so if you want to participate, I will expect serious field notes of experiences and observations. Here's a rundown of the procedure:
Step 1: Drink 100 cups of coffee in a 24 hour period. (YouTube user incrediblydownfallen recommends you accomplish this to the tune of a Dethklok song and I am inclined to agree)

Step 2: Observe and document the phenomenological effects on time perception. You don't have to set your house/workplace on fire, but hey let's just face facts, it can only make things more interesting.

Allright, who's down? I've already started supersaturating my bloodstream with delicious Colombian-Dark-Roast goodness ...FOR SCIENCE! *twitch*

edit: Oh wait, just in case I'm legally obligated to write this somewhere, "Seriously though guys, I'm not actually advocating you drink yourself to death by means of heart explosion. Be responsible. No more than 63...64 cups a day. Anything more is just reckless."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Surprise! Scientists lie too.

As you may have heard, the British Medical Journal is publishing an investigative series looking into the 1998 study that originally connected vaccines with autism. On top of the first author Andrew Wakefield being concurrently involved in a lawsuit against vaccine companies (helloooo conflict of interest) there is also evidence of his team completely misrepresenting data in the results. Despite this and the fact that the original publisher retracted the paper last May, the National Autism Association has issued a press release stating that the BMJ investigation is "Yet Another Attempt to Thwart Vaccine Safety Research." So there's that.

Even though I empathize with the confused public (and worried parents), my first reaction is to point out Hey, maybe this is what happens when you listen to A PLAYBOY BUNNY ON OPRAH over SCIENTISTS. But don't worry, my second reaction kicks in quickly enough: if it weren't for certain scientists lying in the first place, this wouldn't even be an issue. Ugh. Moral of the story, kids: Trust no one.
In the immortal words of Michael Crichton:

"Fraud in science is not rare, and it's not limited to fringe players. The most respected researchers and institutions have been caught with faked data. Even Francis Collins, the head of NIH's Human Genome Project, was listed as co-author on five faked papers that had to be withdrawn.

The ultimate lesson is that science isn't special- at least not anymore. Maybe back when Einstein talked to Niels Bohr, and there were only a few dozen important workers in every field. But there are now three million researchers in America. It's no longer a calling, it's a career. Science is as corruptible a human activity as any other. Its practitioners aren't saints, they're human beings, and they do what human beings do- lie, cheat, steal from one another, sue, hide data, fake data, overstate their own importance, and denigrate opposing views unfairly. That's human nature. It isn't going to change."

Well said, my love.
So what can we learn from this ongoing scandal? Every perspective deserves a healthy dose of skepticism. Not to say that conspiracy theories are the only answer. I still wholeheartedly believe that following the standardized procedure of the scientific method is an effective way to observe and speculate on environmental truth. But it's not perfect and never will be.
... womp womp.

Post-script siderant:
Call it a side-effect of too much academia, Wikipedia or I don't know, the pursuit of truth, but I'm getting increasingly frustrated with all these Major. News. Outlets. not including an easy access to references (links go to relevant articles from CNN, USAToday and NPR.org, respectively). Example: How can USA Today even be allowed to write the sentence "The study has long since been debunked and dismissed by the scientific community, which points to 14 independent studies that have failed to find any link between vaccines and autism." without actually citing these 14 studies?! Seriously? Come on, guys. You don't even have to go through the immeasurable trouble it must take you to find a link, just give me plaintext citation--information you should already have-- so that I, the eager-to-be-informed reader can look it up myself. Thanks.

[Top image from here]
[Crichton excerpt lifted from his novel Next / borrowed from an old xanga post,  emphasis mine.]
[GodDAMN I rock at citations. Seriously, every one of these links is useful (except this one). Take that, NEWS]

Come with me if you want to live

The Super n00b Guide to Fixing Your Computer or: Safe Mode is No Way to Live, My Friend

It's no secret that I live life on the edge *wink* . When it comes to the great, dark expanses of the internet I tend to pass my time stomping along the thin line separating safe-but-foolish and well-now-you're-just-being-reckless. Of course given my risky life choices, I've come to terms with the fact that I have to put up with the occasional infection *doublewink*. I don't get them often, and usually the symptoms are easily treated with good ol' system restore back to a safe point. However, for some reason, the last two great meltdowns of my computer have refused me that option. So, I thought I'd put together a little guide for Future Me (and Potential Readers) so that I can remember what to do when the first line of attack fails. Note to all of my computer savvy friends: PLEASE don't hesitate to correct me if (...when) I say something stupid.

The last three or so problems I've had with my computer have been the sudden appearance of "Antivirus" applications insisting that I use them cure my computer of its contracted afflictions. Obviously, do not click or in any way acknowledge these programs. How do you know if it's fake? You should know what security programs you have installed and hopefully a) They know how to properly spell words and b) you can recognize the application on sight (is it bad that I won't trust something completely written in Verdana?) Again, assuming you can't system restore, boot in Safe mode (with networking) and get ready to strike.

First, GOOGLE THAT SHIT. Chances are, there are other people in the world that have been affected by this same virus/spyware/adware/whathaveyou. Which means someone smarter and more capable may have already fixed it. Word. This should go unsaid, but be cautious whose advice you listen to- people telling you to download suspicious software to fix something probably don't have your best interest in mind.

Second, go into msconfig and look through the programs that are starting up with your computer. Disable anything that looks sketchy (within reason). Unfortunately, this became very frustrating for me since the location listed for said sketchtastic files didn't actually exist in my computer (searching with windows explorer OR command prompt). But hey, disable away.

Third, gather your battalions. The champion of this round was Malwarebytes. It was the final, deadly blow to those sneaky trojans. But before that, I used Spybot-Search and Destroy, which also found infected files (possibly other latent problems. You're welcome, Future Me). For whatever reason, this most recent infection rendered Trend Micro, Avast! and AVG completely useless. But multiple lines of attack are always a good idea. So see whatever works for you (Ooo Frittata, that's cure-a-licious!) Though, do note that if you have a lot of pirated software *cough* don't use Microsoft's Malicious Software Removal Tool because uhm... I've heard it does bad things to your entire workflow. And life in general.

Fourth, pester your IT friends. I put this one last because no one likes being "THAT GUY/gal" that everyone turns to for help. But you never know, sometimes they have the human insight that Google lacks (...for now). Start off with "Yes, I have tried turning it on and off again , and here is a detailed explanation of what I have done so far." Then, no matter the result, buy them a beer (I owe you a keg, Mister Kyle, mostly for listening to me complain so much. But also for helping a sistah out.)

There. Hooray for regaining sound! and a resolution better than 800x600! Plus now Me-in-6-Months will have a compilation of fun links to turn to when the self-aware Skynet sends another brigade of trojans to infect my innocent system. That's how you get viruses, right? Definitely not through porn or pirated software. Nope.

Monday, January 3, 2011

It's way too late to be this locked inside ourselves

Something that has always boggled my mind is the concept of revenge. Not that I don't understand why it exists, it's probably just as much biologically hardwired as love or fear. Retaliation is a reflex, an instinct. And hey, sometimes it's justified. People can suck. We have the potential to be stupendously awful to each other. But what I don't get is how we can let vengeance completely overrun our lives, or how people can think it's an effective method for dealing with social conflicts. If movie subplots are any indication of the human condition, it's a pretty serious issue (that or I watch too much Tarantino). Maybe I should be more specific, I'm not talking war-crimes proportions, I mean day-to-day interactions with friends, significant others and coworkers. I don't think I'm alone in saying that I can hold a mad grudge. But why? Since when do grudges ever change anything? They just make you angry and bitter and that doesn't solve shit. Ever.

"Forgive and forget" is an aphorism for the lazy, life and relationships are definitely more complicated than that. Yet, time and experience have only shown me that whether or not it's right, it's the healthiest option. We all deal with getting hurt in different ways, but at least for me, I'm starting realizing that just letting go is the only way to actually move on. Holding grudges makes you sufferVengeance continues the cycle of hurt and christ, it's not like we need any more of that in the mix. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves to be happy. No exceptions.  

Whew. That's my cheesy/preachy realization of the day. Parents and elementary school teachers should be proud, it only took 20-some-odd years** for all those lessons to sink in. 

On the flipside, sometimes I wonder if this laid-back attitude is what makes people feel they can get away with hurting me in the first place. Valid question. Luckily for me, I'm armed with the delusion of perpetual optimism. So bring it on, world!

**plus a fun day in the park, plus Interpol on repeat. Recipe for maturity?