Archive for June, 2007

Studies suggest headline discrepancies

June 28, 2007

Did the New York Times and LA Times headline writers actually read the same study about antidepressants and birth defects? The LA Times says, “Birth defect-antidepressant link found.” The actual article is relatively non-alarmist, about a recentstudy that found a very low risk of birth defects in infants born to women taking antidepressants.

The New York Times read it differently, and tells us “Antidepressants Rated Low Risk in Pregnancy.” Pretty similar article. Pretty different implications in that headline.

Also, the LA Times reports:

One of the reports, funded in part by Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline, associated Zoloft [a Pfizer product] with a nearly sixfold increase in cases of omphalocele, in which intestines or other abdominal organs protrude from the navel. The birth defect is very rare, occurring in one of every 5,000 births, according to federal statistics.

Is this really a fair study? Is the LA Times really justified in being so quick to jump to conclusions in its headlines?

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Arnold WTF?

June 28, 2007

Talk about a photo-op gone wrong. This photo appeared in the SF Chronicle website slideshow about the Angora fire at Tahoe. Just when you think he’s actually not that bad, something like this crops up.

Arnold Lifting Weights

She Can’t Be Serious

June 19, 2007

Hillary Clinton’s campaign song is a CELINE DION song! I was so prepared to give Hillary a chance – you know, first woman with a real chance to win the presidency, think of the possibilities for America’s place in the world, good Democrat, good feminist. But this is UNFORGIVABLE. It’s practically reason enough to support Obama.

Seriously, how does she expect to appeal to women of my generation, or any generation, or any man in his right mind anywhere, by promoting herself, even ASSOCIATING herself, with Celine Dion? It’s like she’s handing the youth vote to Obama like an unbelievably large sapphire on a golden chain that he doesn’t even have to swim down to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve.

This is not 1997. Unless she wants to star in Titanic II, Hillary better dump Celine.

—-

On mulling this over after my initial quick-response reaction, I’ve decided that there is one possible explanation for the faux-pas of Hillary’s marketing skills to young folks: someone with sabotage or cynicism in mind must have organized the write-in campaign. Maybe a rival campaign (Obama, perhaps?) or just a bunch of young, bored, ironic cynics who stare at useless information on the internetz all day and decided this would be HILLarious.

Repulsifying lyrics after the jump.

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map fetish

June 15, 2007

I love maps and geography and looking at history and information in visual and exciting ways. This morning I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time enjoying Radical Cartography and Strange Maps. I particularly like the malls feature on radical cartography contrasted with maps such as the Ninth Census maps of America

As a student, and then last summer at Yosemite, I worked with similar projects that worked to use maps as tools for understanding history. There is enormous power in this visual representation, whether it’s for train distances in 19th century America or income inequality, to convey more information than words alone. I hope to someday actually learn some real GIS, or at least master GoogleEarth.

Science is so cool!

Ode to Deprivation

June 12, 2007

When I was a kid, Sunday night was a special night. We watched The Wonderful World of Disney during dinner. We never watched tv during dinner except on Sundays. We never had cable. And if you don’t already think I led a deprived childhood, listen to this: we never ate ice cream after dinner either, except on Sundays. When we ate ice cream, we ate the kind that comes in half gallon containers: Dreyers French Silk or Breyer’s Mint Chip. On special occasions hot fudge sauce draped the ice cream in its buttery, creamy, chocolatey curtain of melted sugar. When it was on sale, my mother bought Bud’s, a San Francisco specialty.

My family’s habit of eating together almost every night was anomalous for my generation, as was our industrial consumption of ice cream. And my memories associated with the specialness of ice cream and television probably contribute to my guilt-free enjoyment of cable and ice cream now.

But the best part about ice cream, now that I live on my own, is being able to buy whatever I want. I am the adult in the frozen foods aisle who cannot decide between the Haagen Daz Coffee or Ben and Jerry’s Vermonty Python. I can buy Ben and Jerry’s every time I go to the store!

Seriously, deprivation in childhood is the best way to ensure indulgence later in life.

oh facebook, how you define a generation

June 9, 2007

I just stumbled across the Hot or Not application on Facebook. I know I shouldn’t be surprised; it was probably inevitable. Perhaps I’m just shocked by the blatant admittance that members of my generation actually DO judge each other based on Facebook pictures (or perhaps, for the deeper among us, entire profiles, especially quotes and music preferences).  Perhaps I’m just disappointed that the applications, while a brilliant business move and unending source of entertainment, are contributing to the myspace-ization of Facebook.

Facebook was supposed to be the classy alternative. The one that had some controls and boundaries. It still is classy. It still does have much more control and safety. But Hot or Not for Facebook? Where’s the comfort of knowing only your network can judge you superficially when everyone can rate your picture?

Biking in DC

June 7, 2007

Like many ideas I have for posts, this one has been a long time coming.

A couple months ago I bought a bike. I quickly discovered that DC is a great city for biking: it’s relatively flat, points of interest are relatively close together, and streets are mostly wide-ish. Best of all, it’s almost always faster to bike than take public transit anywhere in the district. Now that it’s hot and humid, I’ve been biking to work, showering at my gym, and never having to soak my clothes with the sweat that inevitably accumulates within three minutes of leaving air conditioning.

Theoretically, biking is great. But in reality, it’s stressful. There aren’t many bike lanes, which for a girl from the suburbs is a bit of a shock. And where they do exist, cars don’t heed them. Here is a running list of bike lanes in this city. If you know of more, tell me in the comments:
14th St. NW
11th St. NW
E St. NW
R St. NW
One of those avenues, maybe Rhode Island or New Hampshire
Logan Circle

I also have some biking related pet peeves, which are probably worthy of a Craigslist rant:
Cars that park in the bike lane. You can’t be serious. I mean, I know double parking is legal and all, but are you trying to kill us bikers by forcing us to obstruct other lanes of traffic?
People in parked cars who open their doors while you’re biking toward them.
Buses. They don’t care about bikes. They’ll play leapfrog until you leave them behind at a red light. And then they creep up on you again and cut into your lane to pull over for a stop. Leapfrog used to be fun, but now it’s just such an uneven match when you’re always trying to fight for supremacy with a bus. And for some reason, when you’re on a bike, it’s a lot easier to forget that cardinal rule of the road: the larger vehicle always wins.

Admittedly, us bikers are also partly at fault. Sometimes we run red lights to avoid having to stop and start again. And sometimes we swerve in front of cars to avoid potholes or car doors opening or other unexpected obstacles.

At my college, bikes ruled campus. When I drove there, I hated bicycles; when I biked, I hated cars. It’s a relationship that’s at best a rocky spatial co-existence, like sharing an apartment with a random stranger who doesn’t understand your living habits, can’t communicate effectively, and doesn’t obey the ground rules of cleaning the bathroom when it’s their turn.

Not that I’ve had that experience specifically.

At least in DC the cops have better things to do than bust you for running a stop sign or biking without a light at night. And there are gorgeous trails right inside and right outside the city — Beach Drive closes to cars on the weekends, the Capitol Crescent lolls along the Potomac, and the Mount Vernon trail, well, I could go on.

It’s not that bad. I just had to vent a little of my daily stress.

The Bowerbirds

June 4, 2007

I like this poem from the New Yorker this week. Maybe it’s my avian poetry fascination. Maybe it’s just the mosquito chandeliers. Anyway, it’s nice.

The Bowerbirds
by Dana Goodyear

As if we were leaving
the small forest tower that we built,
with a moss carpet and mosquito chandeliers,
and laughing at it.
I can’t believe you used that word—
in an argument, no less.
But we would never break this way,
loose, affectionate, wry.
You straighten,
add an ornament.
This is somehow part of our staying.
If you left, a black cape would flap
like a crow winging,
and I would make a hundred harried calls.

Altarcations

June 1, 2007

The Gawker feature that runs every Monday scores the New York Times weddings, which, let’s be honest, are the best argument for a subscription to the Sunday Times. The Altarcations section has quickly become one of my favorite items on the internet, second only these days to I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER and Dinosaur Comics.

This past Tuesday, the Times ran an article about the start-up company of Ann Wojcicki, Sergei Brin the Google co-founder’s new wife. The story ran half like the Tech section item it was supposed to be and half like a wedding announcement in the Sunday Styles.

Given that Gawker missed scoring their wedding, I thought I might tally it myself, so here it goes:

*Anne went to Yale: +2
*Sergei dropped out of Stanford grad school…: -2
*…to start Google: +3
*Google invested millions in bride’s biotech start-up: +2 for the biotect start-up, -1 for nepotism
*Bride attended Palo Alto High School: +1
*Bride’s father is chair of physics at Stanford: +1
*”The couple met after Ms. Wojcicki’s older sister, Susan, now a Google vice president, sublet the garage of her house in Menlo Park to Mr. Brin and his partner, Larry Page, 34, for their search-engine start-up.”: +5 (for a typically sickening Silicon Valley story of garage-living geeks who hit it big and get the girl)
*Bride played on ice hockey team at Yale:-1
*The couple live in a “quiet residential neighborhood” in Palo Alto: -1 for “spurning the usual trappings of great wealth” (what would the Vows column editor say??)
*Wedding guests were told only to show up for a plane ride on Google’s jet. The plane then flew to a private island in the Bahamas, where Mr. Brin and Ms. Wojcicki swam to their wedding on a sandbar, he in a black swimsuit, she in a white one: +10
*They didn’t announce their wedding in Sunday Styles: +100

Total: 119

Here’s a question: what would the Gawker points system look like tailored for Silicon Valley?

Of course you’d get extra points for founding a successful start-up, negative points if your start-up flopped. Points for working at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, or Apple. Points for meeting at Stanford or Berkeley, extra points for both being engineers/computer scientists. Points for being from the Peninsula or South Bay or having tech executive parents. Plus one if father is a tech executive and mother is a private school teacher. Points for having a creative, adventure, or destination wedding a la Mr. and Mrs. Brin. Points for getting married in Napa or Carmel.