Wednesday, May 26, 2010

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means

This hit the news last week: Study: A Link Between Pesticides and ADHD

Within days, parents were asking how to get their children's urine tested for OP metabolites.

Major Annoyance #1: One of the researchers interviewed in the above article tells the media, "I was quite surprised to see an effect at lower levels of exposure."

Effect? Effect?! What we have here folks is a correlation (which, to be fair, is the language used in the actual publication. But who reads the actual study?) Enough of this talk of effects, and causes, and the wringing of hands, and oh, what shall we do about it?!

Major Annoyance #2: The confounding of all "pesticides" (a huge, diverse group of chemicals) with organophosphates (one type pesticide). OPs have been in the process of being phased out since the 1990's. A few of the OPs (mainly malathion and chlorpyrifos) are still being used on food, but as a group, OPs aren't that common anymore. Unfortunately, there's a trend among researchers who want to study "pesticides" to pick OPs as a representative for all. There are several reasons for this - OPs are well-studied and well-known and they actually produce nice, recognizable metabolites in the urine as a biomarker of exposure (surprisingly few chemicals do this). As OPs are used less and less in the real world, it makes research like this, which is supposed to represent all "pesticides", less and less relevant.

Huge Study Weakness #1: The residues of pesticides on fruits and vegetables varies a lot. Even if a child's diet remains the same, they could have zero metabolites in the urine one week, and higher levels the next, depending on the batch of food. For example, look at the residues of malathion in corn in 2008. Two thirds of the samples had zero detectable residues. This is one thing that is true for all pesticides: most of the time, there are no residues at all on food crops in the US.

Huge Study Weakness #2: OPs break down so quickly in the human body, you will only find metabolites in the urine for a day or two after exposure (sometimes longer, often even shorter).

Everyone seems to be making the assumption that these kids a) have had the same diet their entire lives and b) have been getting the same, consistant OP exposure. It's inappropriate to make those assumptions.

Is there a significant correlation that warrants further investigation? Yes.

Should parents get their kids urine tested or switch to an all organic diet (or really, take any action at all)? No.

The majority of research still tells us only this: that it's far more important for human health to eat as many, and as varied a selection, of fruits and vegetables as you can than it is to avoid low levels of pesticide residues that MAY be on food. Again, most of the time, non-organic food doesn't even have detectable pesticide residues. Switching to an all-organic diet MAY reduce exposure to an OP, (or may not, if there was no exposure in the first place), and even if it does, clear health effects from such a reduction in exposures are unclear. But what that will likely do, because of higher expense, is result in eating fewer or less varied selection of fruits and vegetables, which is a clear and well-known detriment to short and long-term health.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flyball is exhausting


We went to our first tournament last weekend. It was a whirlwind tour. I carpooled up to Seattle Friday, had just-for-fun singles racing that night, regular team racing all the next day, and drove back home Saturday night. We were home by midnight, and I was completely wiped out Sunday.

I've learned many things.

1) Flyball tournaments are sort of like sitting inside an idling jet engine.

2) My dog could fall asleep inside an idling jet engine.

3) After all the careful, restrained work in agility class to keep my dog calm and quiet while other dogs are working, there is something cathartic about allowing her to get completely hysterical while lined up during a race.

4) Zelda can be a complete hysterical lunging barking monster one second, and focused and calm the moment she realizes it's her turn to run

5) Zelda is biased against light-colored border collies. It's something I've suspected for a while now, but it's finally confirmed: she takes an instant dislike to merles of her own breed.

5) We finally got her timed: 4.6 seconds. I'm told that's pretty fast.

6) It is stressful to try to drive to the Seattle waterfront during rush hour.

7) Flyball is fun, but I like agility better.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What. The. Hell.

Came home yesterday to a dog lying quietly in her crate, next to this:


My dog, whose number of complaints about being a crate I can count on one hand; who spends almost every day in her crate while we're at work without so much as a peep (according to multiple accounts from the neighbors). Whose routine changed a little two weeks ago, but who hasn't shown many (if any) signs of stress from it. She does this.

This wasn't a brief "whoops my foot got stuck in the bars" moment of panic. This was a major, out of character freak-out. How long would it have taken her to dig through the carpet down to the floor boards with only the leverage of stretching her paws through the bars? She bent all the bars on that one side. She came at it from multiple angles.

Yikes 2

I stood there in shock for at least a minute (while she just lay there calming waiting ) before letting her out and checking her for damage. A small cut on one paw and a small chip on a premolar. That's it.

I want a logical explanation so badly. I'm wracking my brain for how I could have prevented this, but coming up short. Her routine wasn't any different from the last 10 days we've been in this living situation. Except for it being a bit stormy. There's a slight chance that there was a small thunder storm during the day that the weather reports missed. I hope so, because that explanation would be simple and logical.

Whatever demon possessed her appears to be gone. She acted completely normal the rest of the night (she was a bit subdued, but no more than in the past when I've been in a bad mood that she picks up on). I guess we'll find out when I go home today (straight home, no errands for me today).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Bullfrog tadpoles


They're easy to identify because they're freakin' huge. You know those small, cute chicken eggs you get from your neighbor? The ones from their new chickens that they couldn't sell at the farmer's market? This one's body was the size of those small chicken eggs.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A sad story

This is the story of a dog who loved her rubber disk oh so very much. She rarely got to play with it in the winter time, because the grass was so wet and slippery that her mom was afraid she'd slip and hurt herself while leaping and contorting to catch it out of the air.

So, mostly the dog got to play with a tennis ball during the winter (this becomes important later in the story).

When sunny weather finally came and the disk came out, the dog was so happy. It was so much fun to chase and catch the rubber disk!


Soon the dog got tired. The warm sun made her hot and thirsty. She decided to run to the nearby pond to cool off. She always did this when they went to this park. She took the rubber disk with her. She always took her toy with her when she went to the pond. Toys always float! Right? You can carry a toy with you when you get a drink, that way other stupid dogs won't steal it.

After she got a drink, she realized she couldn't find her disk. She was sure she left it right here! Where could it have gone!


She looked...


And looked...


And looked some more.


She got more frantic. How could they play with the disk if there was no disk to play with?

Finally she ran back to her mom and lead her to the pond. She stood in the water and stared at her pointedly. The dog stared, then looked at the water, then stared at her again. Finally, her mom let out a huge sigh, grabbed a stick, and slid her way down the muddy slope, clinging the rickety foot bridge. She managed to pull the disk out of the water. It was slimy and covered with mud, and mom nearly fell into the pond herself where she likely would have been set upon by the hundreds of bullfrog tadpoles and her bones would lie under the mud and turn into fossils and the dog would find someone else to play fetch with her.

But everything worked out! The dog had her disk back and everyone lived happily ever after.


The End.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wildlife Weekend

Visited mom and dad yesterday. Kept running into wildlife all over the place.

First it was the turkeys in the road:

Turkeys by the highway

Then the giant moth (fairly certain he's a Ceanothus silkmoth) that took up residence by the front door:

Giant butterfly

I know scale is impossible in this photo. His (I think male because of those huge antenna) body is about the size of my thumb. He landed there at 10 am and stayed until dark. I have more pictures of him on the good camera which I'll put up when I can upload them.

Then there was the humming bird that flew in the house. Thanks to quick ninja-action from dad, she was saved from a heart attack and only spent about 30-45 seconds inside.

Hummingbird in the house

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flyball in the living room

We've only gone to about 6 flyball classes, so I'm not sure, but I think that's a pretty good box turn.

Looked at the calender and realized, yikes, our first tournament is in less than three weeks. Time to borrow a box and take it home for extra practice.

I also like how the frame of this video makes it look like my living room is clean and uncluttered. I'm clever like that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Northwest Equine Expo




I try to go to this event every year. It's jam-packed full of interesting equine things. Including the cutest, pinkest princess on the tiniest pony EVAR:


And agility burros:

This was the first year I watched part of the 'Mustang Challenge' and I'm glad I did. Horse trainers have 90 days to do whatever they can with an untouched mustang. They show off the results at the expo and the winner gets a big prize and the mustangs are auctioned off at the end. The normal adoption price for a mustang is $125. Some of these were going for much higher. One went for $8,000.



A lot of the trainers focused on tricks, which were impressive:



But my favorite presentation of the day was a woman who kept it simple. She let the horse loose in the strange, noisy arena, then approached him with a saddle and tacked him up while he stood still on his own before mounting and riding him around. She didn't have the flashiest presentation, but it spoke volumes about her training technique and the how much she got the horse to trust her in such a short time.