Sunday, October 31, 2010

maybe it's just your 'culture'

Look, while it's all well and good to make a clear statement like, "If you think that everyone who is Mexican sucks, you're an asshat", it loses all meaning if you then go on to basically say "Mexicans suck because..." and then go and allow and even somewhat encourage others to say similar things in your comment thread.

See also: "I knew a Mexican once who did (something bad). It's therefore logical and totally non-racist that I now don't trust any Mexicans and feel the need to share this story anytime anything Mexican-related is brought up."

I'm sure it's fun to pick on the Amish and Native Americans, too, but can we maybe not do that anymore? Thanks. Glad we cleared that up.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Agility trial results

3rd place novice weavers

We qualified for three out of seven runs and ended up with 1st in Novice Regular, 3rd in Novice Weavers, and 4th in Novice Jumpers. This without practicing at all in three months. Yay, ribbons!

We would have had a 1st in the other Jumpers course, but we went off-course and didn't Q. Even taking an extra jump, Zelda had the fastest time of the entire Novice group for that course.

And, even better than ribbons, Zelda had a perfect down stay the whole weekend.


And this is a blurry but humorous photo of my dog in action. She loves the jumps almost as much as the tunnels.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sunday Links

~Humanely move a rattlesnake

~The Big Picture: Animals in the news

~Two historic photos for you today: one photo from 1905: "Bulldog" on the beach with children and one from 1927: Gas Menagerie

~The Pink Dinosaur Project

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Coloney Collapse Disorder: still inspiring anti-science tirades


This response to a recently published study on the causes of CCD is flat-out asinine.

The scientific study itself is pretty cool. They basically threw bees in a blender and then used a super-cool military analyzer-thingy to find out what all the viruses and microorganisms were mixed in with the bees. They had intriguing results: 100% of the CCD-affected bees they studied were infected by a specific virus-fungus combo.

Some ignorant snot, from Fortune magazine of all places, (which might make me forgive his ignorance about science and biology, but not about his lack of journalistic integrity), doesn't like these findings, however.

In his op-ed article-thingy, titled, "What a scientist didn't tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths", he complains that the NYT article that first reported about the new study didn't report that one of the authors of the study once got funding (for a different project) from a pesticide manufacturer. He claims this is cause for bias that effected the outcome of the study and that the study is therefore worthless, and also pesticides are evil and there's a giant conspiricy SOMEWHERE AAAAAGH PESTICIDES R SCCCERRRY!!!1!

OK, that last part was my interpretation.

So much mis-information it hurts. HURTS.

a) Scientists receive funding from industry. There I said it. The best-kept non-secret in science today! It doesn't mean the work they do with that funding is bad or biased. It's certainly something to keep a close eye on. Which is why there are safeguards in place, like GLP's and journals requiring some kind of statement of conflict of interest, university review boards, and, yanno, other scientists). An automatic assumption of crippling bias when the data is solid is ridiculous.

b) There were eighteen authors involved in this paper from multiple disciplines and funding sources, including the military, universities, and other corporations (all of which are clearly stated in the paper itself). One of the authors receiving a grant from Bayer once for a different project doesn't somehow taint everything he touches.

c) Mr. Op-Ed, like a few scientists and a whole lot more non-scientists, wants to blame CCD on pesticides with little evidence but the gut feeling that PESTICIDES R SCCEEERY.

NEWS FLASH: insecticides harm insects. Honey bees are very sensitive to them. It says so right on the label of the products that Bayer makes. This isn't a hidden fact. If you plop your bee hive in the middle of a tomato field after the farmer sprayed (which is unfortunately what many bee keeper do), then yes, your bees will probably get sick. However, there is very little evidence that chemicals are causing CCD. There is plenty of sound speculation that chemical exposure contributes to weakening a hive and making it more vulnerable to disease or other stressors. However, considering that there have been CCD-like die-offs reported before modern chemical pesticides were invented, blaming them now without any other evidence is poor science.

Implicit in these sorts of, dare I say, BIASED accusations, is that there is some kind of conspiracy to keep a dangerous chemical on the market. Imidicloprid (which, from what I could find, is the only neonicitinoid used in the US) has about the same LD50 as aspirin. It also doesn't take a lot to affect target insects, so application rates on crops tend to be low. By the time the food reaches our mouths, the residues are tiny or undetectable. A few European countries banned neonicitinoids because the people wanted them to, not because there's been some new, exciting finding about their safety. That's politics, not science.

d) Mr. Fortune Magazine complains that this current paper didn't study the effects of pesticides on bees. No shit Sherlock: they set out to study diseases. Scientific studies of this sort are supposed to be narrow in scope; too many variables and you don't get reliable results. Not to mention, the whole reason this study is so cool is because they methods they used are uniquely suited to finding viruses and microorganisms. Which, you may notice, are very different from pesticide chemicals, which would require a different process (actually, many different processes) to detect. Just because pesticides are your hobby horse, doesn't mean it is for everyone. You want to study pesticides? Get yer own funding (just not from Bayer, then your results would be ignored).

e) Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out to the anti-pesticide folks out there: honey bees aren't healthy, and they aren't treated very well by most bee-keepers. They're more inbred than an AKC bulldog, very disease-prone, and as stated above, there have been periodic die-offs reported as early as 1869.

CCD is scary, but bad press about good science, and emotional knee-jerk reactions, won't solve it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

an open letter

To the people who made this sign.


That was lying in a ditch.

Behind some bushes.

Twenty yards from the actual parking area where people would stop to let their dog swim in the river:




PS: I especially enjoy the extra effort you took to screw the paper to the wood. Looks very sturdy. Using staples would have made it look like you weren't even trying.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Things that make Suzanne sad

1) Somewhere in the move, I lost my Photoshop disk. I take photos in RAW format, so now I can't even LOOK at them until I find it. Since this blog is apparently mainly about pictures I take, this sorta puts a cramp in my style.

2) My new job makes me so tired and footsore in the evenings that I don't want to look for it. Also, I'm lazy. Also on weekends I just want to play Borderlands until my eyes drain out of my skull. Damn you, addicting computer games! (OK. Not always true, since last weekend we decided randomly to go to Seattle. I'd love to show you photos to prove I'm not a shut-in geek BUT THEY'RE IN RAW FORMAT GGRRAAGH!)

3) My first day on the job I was handed a dead dog in a bag and told to go put it in the dumpster. That same day also involved two emergency life-saving surgeries on other dogs, so it works out on balance. But. Still.