Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

These Things I Assume To Be True   3 comments

Household work is not the sole responsibility of either the male or female partner in a relationship.  Any gender linkage to job roles should be cosmetic, not causal.

More generally, it’s not the sole responsibility of either partner in a relationship.  Sorry for the assumed bias in the previous statement.  Down with 8!

If someone is a stay-at home person, household work (including child care, if relevant) will be a major part of your time contribution to your relationship’s underlying logistics.

It is commonly the case that people assume the previous statement, but not the ones immediately prior.

There exist gender-linked preferences to certain types of housework.

The jury is still out on the correlation vs. causation aspect of the previous statement, however, it is staggeringly likely IMO that the relationship is one of nurture, not nature, with the obvious exception of breastfeeding.

In other words, two X chromosomes don’t automatically prejudice you to dislike taking out the garbage or mowing the lawn.  An X and a Y chromosome don’t automatically prejudice you to being bad at doing laundry or the dishes.  However, the fact that the male adult saw the previous generation’s male adult mow the lawn while the female adult did the dishes may factor into the current generational male getting some level of satisfaction out of mowing the lawn that he doesn’t get out of doing the dishes.  This is because people (self included) are generally creatures of habit, or they’re stupid, and in either case they’re riddled with biases and self-examination is an ongoing job, no matter how hard you work at it… and really, who’s going to be thinking about self-examination when it’s time to mow the lawn?

If you avoid some household chore out of some belief that you are bad at it or don’t like it, pretend for a few minutes that you’re not a 5 year old and try it with an open mind.  Eat your vegetables, you might like them.  If you still don’t like it, tough.

Men ought to change diapers, when they’re full of crap.

Men ought to clean a toilet, if it hasn’t been cleaned recently.

Men ought to vacuum the house roughly half the time, if both adults work.

Oh, and women, by the way, ought to take out the garbage, if it’s full.  Really.  You get a pass if it’s the only chore your dumb husband will do, of course.

Women ought to mow the lawn, if it needs to be cut.  Ditto previous qualifier.

Unless, of course, you’ve decided to divvy up those chores ahead of time.  Even then, you should be careful the distribution is fair, given your other responsibilities.

Generally, if you’re both working… dividing up the household logistics, from who pays the bills, arranges for service for the cars, does the routine chores, deals with the children’s education and social demands, and so on, is a joint duty.  You’re going to have to work hard at this guys, since you probably don’t see all of these duties going on unless you really pay attention to them.

Corporations need to stop making advertisements that suggest that men, as a class, are incapable of any of the above, or that women, as a class, have some magical inborn competency, or vice-versa.  You’re part of the problem.  You’re also deeply, gravely insulting.  My wife can use a monkey wrench and isn’t afraid of a spray bottle full of Roundup.  I can mop a freaking floor.  I don’t even use a mop, I do it the old fashioned way, hands and knees and scrub until it’s actually really clean.  All you commercial women with perfect teeth and faux dirty floors that you turn sparkly with one sweep of a mop, I’d kick your ass in a “clean the floor” competition.  Twice on Sunday.

Yes, I realize you need to advertise to your market to get the biggest return on your dollar.  I also realize that in a practical sense, many of these gender-linked chores mean that your target market for your cleaning supplies is going to also be gender-linked, suggesting you should market the way you do.  Stop anyway.  You can do it.

Seriously, cut it out.  Feel free to trumpet your own horn while you do it.

There are men who are like me.  My wife will attest that I do at least a halfway decent job of helping out around the house; while we currently live in a state that we both regard as little better than squalor, we’re both willing to admit it’s a time-limited problem, not a gender-based one.

I delude myself into thinking that my wife spends more time on the school-related functions because she works part time and thus knows the kids’ teachers better than I do.  The truth probably is more along the lines that she does it (at least partially) because she’s facing a lot of societal pressure to be a perfect mother in addition to the previous factor.  Acknowledging that this is at least possibly the case is something that we all need to do.

I freely admit that I have a difficulty with this whole gender-bias thing, and I’ll claim that I actually actively try to deal with it.  My father was a stay-at-home dad for periods of time that exceeded the periods when my mother was a stay-at-home mother.  Dad cooked, Mom baked.  Dad cleaned the house.  Dad did watch sports on Sundays, but both parents were disciplinarians when they needed to be.  I don’t come from the same world from which most of my peers do.  I don’t even recognize some of the pressures that people talk about having to deal with in their lives.

Hell, if I was a Stay-at-Home Dad and somebody started giving me a ribbing because my wife brought home the bacon, I’d probably look at them like they grew a second head.  I certainly wouldn’t be feeling any sort of shame, in the slightest (except maybe a little sympathetic shame for the moron with two heads).  It sometimes requires me to stop and think about people who do have to deal with this sort of situation simply because it does bother them.  My family and upbringing isn’t like theirs, I have no right to wave my hands and say, “Well, gee, just get over it.”  Yes, they probably should get over it, just like everybody should get over external validation as a mechanism by which they judge their worth.  That’s a human problem, I’m not thinking it’s going away anytime soon.

I have friends who have reversed “traditional” roles, I ought to ask them how they feel about these situations, as they certainly have occurred.

Thus, there’s undoubtedly plenty of occasions when my wife does do stuff because of socially-imposed gender roles, or I wind up doing them without noticing it, and since I’m preconditioned not to see those influences, I might miss ’em.  Yes, we all need to be alert to this sort of thing.

And we probably ought to be careful to preface commentary about gender roles with a nice, solid statement about the way we think things ought to be, before we start talking about how people might cope with things the way they are.  Leastwise, unless we want to come across like some boneheaded advertiser, assuming that the context that is is also the context that should be.

Post sponsored by solidarity with some of the feelings expressed at the above-linked blogs, plus this one.  For the most part, commentary worth reading.

(edited to add) – so tempted to remove a link in that last paragraph (“plus this one”).  The blog owner locked the comment thread and ate a bunch of my time when the lock burned my last comment.

Very irritated at the moment.

Posted June 16, 2010 by padraic2112 in parenting

I Think Someone Watches Too Many Movie Previews   2 comments

Interesting side note to the “balloon boy” story: apparently, Richard Heene (father of Falcon) is an end-of-the-worlder.

The lawyer for Robert Thomas, an associate of Richard Heene who says he helped the latter develop various ideas for a TV show, said she thought Heene had become obsessed with a quest for TV fame.  Maybe not for its own sake, she said, but so that he could make a lot of money in a hurry in order to prepare for the upcoming end of the world.  Heene “believes the world is going to end in 2012,” said Thomas’s attorney, Linda Lee.  “Because of that, he wanted to make money quickly, become rich enough to build a bunker or something underground, where he can be safe from the sun exploding.”

Mr. Heene, a quick note: if the sun explodes, burying yourself in the crust of the earth is going to protect you precisely not in the slightest.  This guy had the wrong idea, trying to get on “reality TV”.  He’s a natural Internet Nut.

Posted October 27, 2009 by padraic2112 in noise, parenting

What Is The Law?   1 comment

The Oingo Boingo fan immediately responds, “NO SPILL BLOOD!”

That’s not what I’m going to talk about today, though.  I’m going to be talking about some other laws.

First, The Law of The Instrument.  In the book, “The Psychology of Science”, written back in 1962, Abraham Maslow famously said, “When the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

Second, The Law of Unintended Consequences.  Often times in complex systems, an action has unforseen reactions, due to the layering of dependent variables.

If you ever run across one of those silly internet tests that attempts to tell you what your political affiliation is, you may be surprised with the results.  I’m still looking for a good one, because whenever I take those tests it invariably tells me that I’m a Liberal, and yet I find myself arguing with Liberals at least as often as I find myself arguing with Conservatives.  This recent discussion over at Phil’s blog is a perfect example of the sort of proposition that is usually supported by liberals with which I disagree.

The question at hand, for those who don’t want to read the entire screed is, “Should vaccinations be mandatory?”

(I’m really verbose on that particular thread, which is one reason why I haven’t been blogging recently on my own blog)

Now of course, you’re getting the standard votes of “no” for the standard reasons.  The Slippery Slope (“Nanny State!”)  The Religious Freedom argument, and so on.  Of course, you’re also getting the standard “yes” votes, for the standard reasons.  Nobody’s actually interested in the *first* question anyone should be asking, which is, “is this practical?”

From a philosophical standpoint, the question of individual freedom vs responsibility to the community is a question that is never going to go away.  It’s certainly well advised to have these discussions, I’ll grant you .  [edited to add]  For the record, I agree with Janet; people who don’t get vaccinated are rightly categorized as free riders.  [/edit].  However, if we’re going to be discussing one of the central, weighty issues concerning human societal structure, perhaps we ought to start with those questions that actually have a reasonable chance of being worthwhile.

As I argue over at Phil’s place (and also at Janet’s and at Jimmy’s), a government-enforced mandatory vaccination program is going to be expensive.  More importantly, most of that money goes directly to overhead.

See, audit is by its very nature very inefficient.  What you are attempting to do, in any audit process, is verify that something has happened.  This has several design considerations.  For starters, you need to recognize that if you’re auditing a process that is infrequently bypassed, *most* of the time you’re pouring money down a hole.  For the parents out there, here’s a humorous example: when you’re potty training, your toddler is somewhat likely to have accidents.  Therefore, when you take off the diaper and go with underpants, you’re going to spend a certain amount of time checking with your toddler fairly frequently.  “Did you go to the bathroom?”  “Do you need to go to the bathroom?”  “I think you need to go to the bathroom.”  “Honey, before we leave, I want you to try and go potty.”  In frustration alone (if you have a headstrong child), this can be a taxing process… your payback comes because you avoid cleaning up a mess in public.

However, once the child gets the gist, you don’t bother auditing them anymore.  They voluntarily go potty on their own.  You might have an occasional accident, but the occasional accident happens so infrequently that it’s simply no longer worth your while to constantly badger your toddler to go to the bathroom (unless of course you’re a control freak, but then you’re going to have slightly messed up children, and that’s a topic for another post altogether).

Enforcing government mandated vaccinations is a very costly proposal.  Some of the questions you need to consider (dragged from my commentary over at Phil’s) include:

  • What behavior are we trying to enforce?
    * A full vaccination schedule? Partial?
  • Who decides what’s on the list?
    * The CDC? How often to they revisit the list?
  • Who are we covering?
    * Just school-age children? Infants? Adults?
  • How many of them are already doing what we want anyway?
    * In which coverage windows?
  • How do you propose that they prove their compliance?
    * Required to… enter public school? What about private schools? Daycare? Drive a car? Register to vote? What are your avenues for authorization?
  • How do you propose that we trust the authorization mechanism?
    * Who can sign off? Doctors? EMTs? Nickel clinic workers? How do the people who *check* the authorization actually check it? Do they check a doctor’s signature against an authoritative database? Is there a physician ID number? Who has access to this information? How do you secure it? How do you ensure that FERPA, HIPAA, and other privacy regulations (in the case of the U.S.) are followed and enforced?
  • How do you have a reasonable audit?
    * You must assume that in the above there are going to be people who attempt to circumvent the process. Your audit design must therefore incorporate every weak part in the chain to a suitable degree, and in the above there are thousands of venues. How do you make sure that doctors are legitimately signing the forms? How do you make sure that school clerks who don’t believe in vaccination aren’t just rubber-stamping forms out of a sense of political freedom? How do you prevent fraud? How do you prevent forgery?
  • How do you enforce the audit?
    * What is your penalty system when people circumvent the process? Do doctors lose their license? Do you expel children, so they’re now uneducated and unvaccinated? Do you revoke driver’s licenses, so drivers now can’t get insurance? Revoke licenses for professionals?

Now keep in mind that most people vaccinate already (of course, there are communities of non-vaxxers, but we’re talking about universal policy here, not fixing the outliers)… so all of the above checking, auditing, authorizing, with all of the attendant red tape, paperwork, and frustration is being borne by all those people who vaccinate voluntarily to no benefit.  We’re not even considering legal costs, legislative costs, etc. involved with getting such an initiative on a ballot and past the inevitable court challenges.

Whatever you believe that is going to cost per capita (and keep in mind, there’s 80 million children under the age of 19 in the U.S. – thanks to Jimmy for checking my numbers there – and 306 million people), that’s going to wind up being a pretty big chunk of change.  The NIH funds cancer research at the National Cancer Institute to the sum of $660 million dollars (in 2007).  Cancer kills a half a million people every year.  If you’re going to convince me that this audit process is going to be worthwhile, you’re going to have to convince me that spending all that money is a better idea than just taking the lump sum and transferring it wholesale to the NCI.

Or better yet, give the money to the NIH or the CDC and ask *them* how they think it ought to be spent.  I bet dollars to donuts anyone who works at the CDC would recommend spending that red tape money on buying vaccinations for those that can’t afford ’em before funding red tape.

[edited to add]

Dr. Paul Offit, director, Vaccine Education Center, and chief, Division of Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) penned an editorial in 2007 in the WSJ that indicates that it’s likely he’d disagree with my last paragraph.  Then again, perhaps not; I don’t know that anyone has ever offered him a few hundred million dollars and asked him to choose between research or enforcement.  It would be an interesting data point in the argument, though.  The existing mandatory vaccination laws in the U.S. (for public school or daycare entry) do have a demonstrated reinforcement value, which is not considered above (that is, many people might otherwise vaccinate but forget or are lazy or what have you… and the existence of these laws reminds them that they need to get their vaccinations) – thanks to Jimmy for those links.

Now, that may or may not indicate that the existing laws are an effective mechanism, but I’ll grant that point – the reinforcement value alone appears to be pretty significant.  I’m not suggesting we change the status quo.  I don’t think this is necessarily compelling evidence that major changes to the existing laws (covering home schoolers, or extending mandatory vaccination requirements to adults) are going to be effective, however.  The low hanging fruit aspect means that every additional person you want to compel is going to require that much more in the way of audit and enforcement, so the existing mechanisms are not likely to scale in a linear fashion.

[editing done]

The law is a good venue for fixing a lot of societal problems.  It is generally, however, very bad at efficiently auditing any behavior… if you can find a good counterexample feel free to leave it in the comments, but on the whole government audit processes of public behavior tend to spend lots of money and not substantially alter citizen behavior… the “War on Drugs” is the poster child for this.

Don’t think the law is your only tool.  Then your only response to behaviors you don’t like is to criminalize it.  This usually doesn’t fix your problem.

Posted June 10, 2009 by padraic2112 in parenting, philosophy, politics, science

A Note About Choice, An Observation About Fear, and Parental Decisions   5 comments

It’s a great scene, but you can skip to 2:45 for the purposes of this post.

The scene is from 2007’s No Country For Old Men.  For anyone not into contemporary American cinema, Javier Bardem (the guy with the haircut) won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Anton Chigurh, “an emotionless, compassionless killing machine. His inability to comprehend human life is matched only by his ability to take it, as he does with ruthless abandon throughout the running of No Country For Old Men… As for the victims who don’t have some sort of reason to be dead behind them, he flips a coin to decide their fate.”

Here’s the question.  What do you think he’s going to do if the gas station owner doesn’t call that coin?

You see, the character of Anton considers himself some sort of instrument of fate, almost a force of nature.  Once he decides to pull out that coin, there are two possible results; you call the toss correctly and you live, or you call it incorrectly and you die.  You could refuse to call the coin toss.  Nobody does this in the movie, but my guess is that Anton would probably start torturing you until you make a call; since he doesn’t believe that it’s fair for him to call the toss, he’d force you to do it.

I’m writing this to illustrate a point.  In some ways, your environment is like Anton.  Your environment will occasionally force you to make a choice, and many people refuse to acknowledge this.

When you wake up in the morning, sitting next to your bed on the nightstand is a metaphorical revolver with 1 “bullet” and somewhere around 100,000 empty chambers.  When you decide to get out of bed and walk to the bathroom, you spin the chamber in a game of Russian Roulette and pull the trigger.  If you’ve picked the chamber with the bullet in it, somewhere between your bed and the bathroom you trip and fall and give yourself a fatal head injury.  When you get to the bathroom, there’s another metaphorical revolver with 1 bullet and about 100,000 empty chambers, you get to play again.  If you fail, you drown in the bathtub (note: for the morbidly statistically inclined, the chamber is about half that size if you’re a woman). Of course, some days you don’t even get to choose to get out of bed.  The alarm clock itself is a revolver and if you have a weak heart, there’s a small but statistically present chance that your clock will give you a heart attack.  Bang.  You’re dead.

It’s a game we all play, every day.  You can’t opt-out of making these choices, there is no way to not play the game. Oh, and sooner or later you’re going to lose.  Happy Friday!

I’ve been reading a lot of the “vaccination” posts out on the Internet over the last few days and an observation has bubbled up into my forebrain.  Many people don’t understand that there really is no difference between making some of these choices yourself, and allowing them to be made for you by the environment.  I’ve seen posts on more than one comment thread that boils down to, “I’m just not comfortable taking the risk of injecting my child, I think the risk of the disease is less.”  Many, many of these people have offered this observation *after* being shown that no, actually, the quantifiable risk of vaccinations is not only less than the risk of disease, but they’re not even on the same scale.  Some people have commented that this is plainly irrational (I’ve been thinking it myself, but I’m trying to stay smooth in these hot-button “debates”).

The problem is that for these people, the thought that they might harm their child is so mindnumbingly horrifying that they are including that in their analysis, but only on one side.  The line of thinking, I’m imagining, goes something like this… “If I choose to give my child a shot, and something happens, it will be my fault, because I decided to okay the shot.”  Conversely, however, if they choose *not* to give their child a shot, and the child gets the disease and suffers, it’s something else’s fault… random chance, the will of God, some grand conspiracy, etc… “I can pretend like they my child got the measles and died because fate decided that my child was going to get the measles, instead of acknowledging the fact that my child got the measles because I refused to vaccinate them.”  Consciously or subconsciously, they’re punting.  They’re assigning *more* pejorative value to their action than they are to the pejorative value of their inaction.  They’re pretending like they can ignore old Anton.

While this might give you the opportunity to retain your sanity if (God forbid) something should happen to your child, let’s be honest about what’s going on here.  You’re afraid.  You realize that the world is unsafe, and you’re assigned the responsibility of making decisions for this little person that you love more than your own life, and the cold reality that they are mortal scares the beejesus out of you.  It scares you so much that you’re allowing a sense of time to overcome your ability to think clearly: “If I vaccinate my child and something happens, it’s my fault because it happened right after the decision.  If I don’t vaccinate my child and they get a disesase three years from now, that’s three years from now and it’s so far away and I just don’t want to think about it that’s so morbid and oh God I’ll just stick my head over here in the corner and decide later.”

Bruce talks about this on his site.  The part on Prospect Theory details exactly what I’m talking about here:

The authors of this study explained this difference by developing something called “prospect theory.” Unlike utility theory, prospect theory recognizes that people have subjective values for gains and losses. In fact, humans have evolved a pair of heuristics that they apply in these sorts of trade-offs. The first is that a sure gain is better than a chance at a greater gain. (“A bird in the hand is better than two in the bush.”) And the second is that a sure loss is worse than a chance at a greater loss. Of course, these are not rigid rules–given a choice between a sure $100 and a 50% chance at $1,000,000, only a fool would take the $100–but all things being equal, they do affect how we make trade-offs.

You can see how this applies to the thought process I’m talking about above.  For someone who discounts their own “choice” as being relevant to the risk, a vaccination is a sure gain (reduced susceptibility to disease) and therefore better than a chance at a greater gain (passing on the vaccination and avoiding any possible risk *and* getting lucky and not getting sick anyway).  For someone who includes their own “choice” as being relevant to the risk, a vacciantion is a sure loss (a chance to directly inflict harm upon my child) which is worse than a chance at a greater loss (passing on the vaccination and having my child get sick and dying).

Is it still irrational?  Well, from the view of utility theory, absolutely.  But humans aren’t necessarily wired that way, and consequences are measured not just in death and horrible side effects, but in the emotional damage those consequences do to the participants involved.  Five years ago I’d be calling people who refused to vaccinate their child criminally negligent and horrible people.  Now I just see them as humans.  Scared humans making bad decisions, but humans nonetheless.

Recognize your fear, and overcome it, everybody.  Here’s one time where “do it for the children” actually applies.  It’s not about you and your fear, it’s about doing what’s best for them.  Unfortunately, that’s not always so clear-cut, and sometimes you’ll do the right thing and your child will suffer for it.  Kids get trapped in burning cars and die because of their car seats.  Far, far, far more children are saved because of them.  Even if vaccinations were as dangerous as some people (erroneously) claim they are, they’re still better than disease.

Posted April 24, 2009 by padraic2112 in parenting, security

In Which I Take Jim Carrey To Task   3 comments

Jim Carrey has a commentary up over at Huffington Post that requires some deconstructive analysis.

Recently, I was amazed to hear a commentary by CNN’s Campbell Brown on the controversial vaccine issue. After a ruling by the ‘special vaccine court’ saying the Measles, Mumps, Rubella shot wasn’t found to be responsible for the plaintiffs’ autism, she and others in the media began making assertions that the judgment was in, and vaccines had been proven safe. No one would be more relieved than Jenny and I if that were true. But with all due respect to Ms. Brown, a ruling against causation in three cases out of more than 5000 hardly proves that other children won’t be adversely affected by the MMR, let alone that all vaccines are safe.

You’re misrepresenting this, Mr. Carrey.  While you’re certainly correct that court cases aren’t scientific evidence in and of themselves in any way, you’re pulling a bait and switch here; watch the commentary.  Ms. Brown clearly frames her commentary based upon claims made by scientists, not by the courts.  She does not even mention the court case in this commentary.

Not everyone gets cancer from smoking, but cigarettes do cause cancer. After 100 years and many rulings in favor of the tobacco companies, we finally figured that out.

There always was a credible, biological, *foundational theory* to explain that cigarettes are bad for you.  Breathing smoke is sort of contraindicated as a healthy lifestyle choice.  Building studies upon that makes sense.  There are no current foundational theories to explain why injecting an inert virus into your body in a neutral suspension might be in any way harmful.  Comparing the two isn’t even like comparing apples and oranges, it’s like comparing apples to the space shuttle.

The truth is that no one without a vested interest in the profitability of vaccines has studied all 36 of them in depth. There are more than 100 vaccines in development, and no tests for cumulative effect or vaccine interaction of all 36 vaccines in the current schedule have ever been done. If I’m mistaken, I challenge those who are making such grand pronouncements about vaccine safety to produce those studies.

Er, I’m afraid I have to call you out on this.  Please define what vaccinations are included in your list of 36, and define what you mean by “in depth”, in rigorous detail.  Is a 5 year epidemiological study sufficient?  10 year?  50 year?  How do we perform long term studies on something that hasn’t been around that long?  More to the point, why should we spend any time and resources investigating something that we currently have no basis for assuming *might* be dangerous, when we have millions of people dying every year from things that we *know* are dangerous?  Again, we’re not talking about cigarette smoking here… if I design a vaccine, following certain design prinicples that have been shown to produce safe, viable medicines and my designed vaccine reduces the impact of a fatal or crippling disease, how much testing would you agree is enough to call it safe?  You have a proposal: “Vaccines are dangerous”.  Establishing a falsification standard is job number one, tell me what I need to do to prove to you that they are safe, otherwise you’re just engaging in a perfect solution fallacy.

Oh, and your “vested interest in the profitiability of vaccines” is a thinly veiled ad hominem attack.  Just come out and say, “I think all medical researchers are in the pocket of Big Pharma”, why don’t you?

If we are to believe that the ruling of the ‘vaccine court’ in these cases mean that all vaccines are safe, then we must also consider the rulings of that same court in the Hannah Polling and Bailey Banks cases, which ruled vaccines were the cause of autism and therefore assume that all vaccines are unsafe. Clearly both are irresponsible assumptions, and neither option is prudent.

Well, no.  Again… the issue of whether or not the court is a viable source of authoritative information on this issue is your strawman here, not mine (edited to add: Phil Plait’s commentary on this bit).  In spite of that, however, it’s certainly possible for one court case to reach a bad conclusion and another court case to reach a good one.  If you’re going to critique one judgment, you need to critique it directly, not lump it into a class and throw the baby out with the bathwater.  For all we know, “Hannah Polling” and “Bailey Banks” could have been decided entirely on procedural grounds.  Pony up some evidence, here, good man.  (edited to add)  Here’s why the two are not equivalent.

In this growing crisis, we cannot afford to blindly trumpet the agenda of the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) or vaccine makers. Now more than ever, we must resist the urge to close this book before it’s been written. The anecdotal evidence of millions of parents who’ve seen their totally normal kids regress into sickness and mental isolation after a trip to the pediatrician’s office must be seriously considered. The legitimate concern they and many in the scientific community have that environmental toxins, including those found in vaccines, may be causing autism and other disorders (Aspergers, ADD, ADHD), cannot be dissuaded by a show of sympathy and a friendly invitation to look for the ‘real’ cause of autism anywhere but within the lucrative vaccine program.

Ah, so many examples of horribleness here!  We’ve got an implied categorical syllogism (lumping the CDC together with vaccine makers, vaccine makers are obviously for profit greedy capitalists).  We have an appeal to emotion (think of the children!), we have a post hoc ergo propter hoc (the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”), petitio principii (how do we know their concerns are “legitimate”?).  “Hey, Jim… how long has it been since you stopped beating your wife?”

With vaccines being the fastest growing division of the pharmaceutical industry, isn’t it possible that profits may play a part in the decision-making? That the vaccine program is becoming more of a profit engine than a means of prevention?

Certainly, profits may play a part in decision-making.  This is not an unreasonable question.  However, please provide me some credible evidence that profit-driven motives of companies can bypass the FDA, the CDC, and the medical research community in a systemic manner.  I am not looking for one or two or three cases of malfeasance here; you are asserting a massive, pervasive conspiracy across several different organizations.  Where’s the whistleblowers?  If the NSA cannot keep a wiretapping program secret, why should I assume that several companies can somehow manage to implement such a wide-reaching conspiracy without dozens of leaks?  Moreover, you’ve got a false dichotomy here… if the vaccine program *has* become more of a profit engine than a means of prevention, how is that evidence that it’s not also a means of prevention?  If I can make money by making you healthier, is that somehow less valid than making you healthier out of the goodness of my heart?

In a world left reeling from the catastrophic effects of greed, mismanagement and corporate insensitivity, is it so absurd for us to wonder why American children are being given twice as many vaccines on average, compared to the top 30 first world countries?

Whoo!  Hasty generalization!  The financial industry blew up because of greed, ergo all industries must blow up because of greed.  Mr. Carrey, in case you haven’t been reading the news, the finanical industry blew up because the lack of regulatory oversight enabled companies to incorrectly and fradulently mis-attribute risk to financial products.  If you’re going to draw a reference to the Economic End Times, you need to show how the CDC, FDA, etc. are negligent in a manner similar to the SEC and Fed… not compare Pfizer to AIG.  Oh, and we may be getting twice as many vaccines on average than other countries, but there are an entire slew of completely non-conspiracy-related, non-evil, non-monetizing explanations why this might be the case (some countries might not recommend Gardasil because they have a lower teen sex rate and it’s not a good use of money, for example).

Paul Offit, the vaccine advocate and profiteer, who helped invent a Rotavirus vaccine is said to have paved the way for his own multi-million dollar windfall while serving on the very council that eventually voted his Rotavirus vaccine onto our children’s schedule.

Paul Offit has a pretty impressive track record as a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases.  I suspect that you may be irritated at Dr. Offit (note, Jim, you should call him by his title in public discourse) for campaigning against the anti-vaccination movement.  It stands to reason that anyone working a lifetime in infectious disease research may have invented a vaccine or two, and thus probably has profited somewhat from it.  While this of course have resulted in a conflict of interest, that doesn’t mean outright that anything unethical or untoward has occurred.  Conflicts of interest are everywhere in public policy debates, if they are disclosed properly they are evidence of a *lack* of conspiracy, not the other way around.  [edited to add] Liz Ditz explains how the timeline doesn’t quite match Mr. Carrey’s characterization of Dr. Offit.

With many states like Minnesota now reporting the number at 1 in 80 children affected with autism, can we afford to trust those who serve two masters or their logic that tells us “one size fits all” when it comes to vaccines?

If you give a large group of people a schedule, most will follow it.  If you give a large group of people a tenuous list of recommendations, lots of things won’t get done.  It’s human nature.  Defending a vaccination schedule is defending a consise set of instructions on the grounds that it’s most likely to produce consistent results.  By the way, what does Minnesota’s autism rate have to do with the second half of this sentence?

Can we afford to ignore vaccines as a possible cause of these rising numbers when they are one of the fastest growing elements in our children’s environment?

Er, that was the entire point of the study that is so widely quoted as refuting your entire premise.  The rate of vaccination has no correlation with the rate of autism diagnosis.  That means that the answer to your question is, “Yes.”

With all the doubt that’s left hanging on this topic, how can anyone in the media or medical profession, boldly demand that all parents march out and give their kids 36 of these shots, six at a time in dosage levels equal to that given a 200 pound man? This is a bias of the most dangerous kind.

The doubt seems to be in the mind of the beholder.  Oh, and I give my daughter maybe eight 8oz doses of milk a day; quite a bit more than almost any 200 lb man.  She seems to be doing just fine.  The size of dosage is only related to the risk equation if you can show that there is a risk to begin with, and the risk is compounded by magnitude.  Neither has been shown to be the case.

I’ve also heard it said that no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism has ever been found. That statement is only true for the CDC, the AAP and the vaccine makers who’ve been ignoring mountains of scientific information and testimony… But if you care to look, it’s really quite impressive. For a sample of vaccine injury evidence go to

I don’t “care to look”.  I care to have it presented to me in a method that addresses a rational, composed, logical structure that supports an overall argument.  Address the counter-arguments, provide reasonable evidence for your claims, and go an entire editorial without relying on multiple fallacies and perhaps I’ll assume you might have something of consequence to say. [edited to add] – Commenter Dan, who may have more patience than I do, has blogged about the “vaccine injury evidence” here.

We have never argued that people shouldn’t be immunized for the most serious threats including measles and polio, but surely there’s a limit as to how many viruses and toxins can be introduced into the body of a small child.

Surely there isn’t.  Maybe there is.  Perhaps there isn’t.  Again, you have a hypothesis.  Where is your evidence?

Veterinarians found out years ago that in many cases they were over-immunizing our pets, a syndrome they call Vaccinosis. It overwhelmed the immune system of the animals, causing myriad physical and neurological disorders. Sound familiar? If you can over-immunize a dog, is it so far out to assume that you can over-immunize a child? These forward thinking vets also decided to remove thimerosal from animal vaccines in 1992, and yet this substance, which is 49% mercury, is still in human vaccines. Don’t our children deserve as much consideration as our pets?

There’s no reference to “vaccinoisis” in Wikipedia, and the first six pages of references I find to the term in Google Scholar all point to homeopathy literature.  I found one article that seems to be referenced quite heavily by people using the term “vaccinoisis”, “Vaccination and Autoimmunity—‘vaccinosis: A Dangerous Liason” by Shoenfeld and Aron-Maor, published in volume 14, issue 1 of the Journal of Immunology.  From the abstract:

So far only one controlled study of an experimental animal model has been published, in which the possible causal relation between vaccines and autoimmune findings has been examined: in healthy puppies immunized with a variety of commonly given vaccines, a variety of autoantibodies have been documented but no frank autoimmune illness was recorded. The findings could also represent a polyclonal activation (adjuvant reaction). The mechanism (or mechanisms) of autoimmune reactions following immunization has not yet been elucidated. One of the possibilities is molecular mimicry; when a structural similarity exists between some viral antigen (or other component of the vaccine) and a self-antigen. This similarity may be the trigger to the autoimmune reaction. Other possible mechanisms are discussed.

Even though the data regarding the relation between vaccination and autoimmune disease is conflicting, it seems that some autoimmune phenomena are clearly related to immunization (e.g. Guillain–Barre syndrome).

The issue of the risk of vaccination remains a philosophical one, since to date the advantages of this policy have not been refuted (editors note: emphasis mine), while the risk for autoimmune disease has not been irrevocably proved. We discuss the pros and cons of this issue (although the temporal relationship (i.e. always 2–3 months following immunization) is impressive).

You seem to place an awfully large chunk of weight in a concept that has merited precisely one controlled study.  Why?  (let’s discount the fact that the actual study doesn’t conclude what you think it does).

In all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that they are both good and bad. While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may help preserve and enhance vaccines, they can be toxic as well.

Actually, in all likelihood the truth about vaccines is that their goodness so vastly overwhelms any potential badness that any reasonably coherent risk analysis would lead you to recommend the sudden and immediate deployment of them in as broad a population as is practical.  While ingredients like aluminum, mercury, ether, formaldehyde and anti-freeze may be toxic, they certainly ought to be present in levels greater than what the body has naturally before we jump off the deep end of fear, and of course actually be part of the vaccine to begin with.  Metal toxicity is a vanishingly tiny danger.  If any of these ingredients had any sort of measurable incidence, there would be a huge number of associated cases.

[edited to add] A more thorough analysis of the science (I concentrated on the fallacies) in Mr. Carrey’s editorial over here at Orac’s place and over here at Autism News.

Posted April 23, 2009 by padraic2112 in parenting, rants, science

Imagine Waking Up To A Day With No Sun   3 comments

Every once in a while, something that you’ve always taken for granted in your life disappears.  Usually these are pretty small things, and you don’t notice them because they’re part of a particular phase of your life.  They stop showing your favorite cartoon on television… but you’re getting older and don’t watch that show any more anyway.  They stop making one of your favorite toys… but you’re now in college and you still have your old Go-Bot collection in a box at your parents’ house… and even if something happened to that box, you can always find it on eBay, right?  These little “social landmarks” can usually disappear and you just don’t quite notice them.

Sometimes, they are somewhat major things that you notice when you go back to the old neighborhood.  A church has been torn down, an iconic mural has been painted over.  Unlike social landmarks, actual physical landmarks are usually more jarring when they disappear, since their disappearance has an actual immediate impact on your perception of physical reality, as opposed to your social one.

Today I found out about a “social landmark” that has disappeared that seems utterly unbelievable.  The best way I can describe it would be if I visited San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge was just gone.

Mother’s Cookies has gone out of business.

The big bag of pink and white animal cookies has been erased from the world.  Once the current supply is gone (and believe you me, I’m going to be looking for them now)… there are no more.  Jack and Hannah will never experience that same ecstatic joy I had as a child when I reached into a bag and came up with three cookies fused together by that horribly unhealthy frosting… and I could actually say, “But Mom… it IS just one cookie!”

And there will likely never be another horrible, pretty low grade oatmeal cookie.  I’ve only bought them a few times myself, but every time I had one it made me think of my grandmother, because she always had some in the cupboard.


(image found here)

Posted November 10, 2008 by padraic2112 in family, noise, parenting

Big Sky   3 comments

We’re in Montana.

Kitty and I packed the chillin’s in the car and drove 1,500 miles (yes, with gas prices being what they are) to visit her Dad’s childhood home in Polson, MT.

The house sits near the top of a rise just at the edge of town, which is shaped somewhat like a crescent moon, cupping the south end of Flathead Lake, right where the lake dumps into the river. Since it’s on a rise, pretty much the entire town spills out below us. If it weren’t for some impressive trees (including a gigantic cottonwood), we’d have a heck of a panorama of the lake and the town.

I don’t mind the trees, though… especially that giant cottonwood. When the wind picks up, it rustles just like what you’d expect to hear on some CD that you buy in a New Age store for $20 that’s designed to give you calming ambient sounds. Except the tree works.

Driving here is always something of an adventure. The first time we came up, Jack was still breastfeeding, so the car stops were many. He was young enough to be pretty much a stationary object, though… so sitting in a car seat wasn’t a big deal for the most part. There were moments, but he fared pretty well. We’ve had some crazy times in the car, though (including our most recent trip). Two kids under five and a dog are much more stressful now than they were when I was a kid… we could throw blankets in the way back and crawl all around the van, something that would get both parents thrown in the hoosegow nowadays. My dad will probably read that last couple of sentences and laugh under his breath, but 1,500 miles in two days is suitable boot camp for parental suitability, if you ask me.

Something about crossing the Idaho border into Montana makes my blood pressure drop 15 points, though. I love it up here. Admittedly, I’ve only ever been here in the summer, so my perspective is rather skewed. The sun goes down around 9:30 pm, and it stays light until after 10:00 in July… which means that in the dead of winter it’s dark around 4:30 pm, I’d imagine. This could lead to cabin fever, especially for someone who’s been spoiled by California weather his entire life. Still, I can’t imagine having a better two or three weeks in July or August than you can have up here.

The advantage of coming slightly later in the year is that the cherries and apples on the property are in, which means Jack’s Grandpa John is making apple crumbles and cherry syrup and preserves and you can pick apples right off the tree… something the neighbor’s horses are highly appreciative of even when eating one more of them yourself makes you feel like you’re going to turn into an apple.

The advantage of coming here a bit earlier in the year (like now) is twofold. First, the heat hasn’t come in high yet, and early summer storms still rip through occasionally, so you get a lightning storm once in a while and the air isn’t smoky (one year when we were here later pretty much the entire state of Idaho was on fire, and the air quality here seemed like a bad day back in L.A.)

The second advantage is that Polson is on the Flathead Reservation. There are lots of cultural implications to this (all of which are cool in and of their own right – we went to the Arlee Powwow a couple of days ago)… but, when coupled with “early July”, this means that you can buy just about anything short of a 6″ artillery shell at the local fireworks trailer. You can buy fireworks here that kids in California only know about if they live close to the border and have a crazy relative who is willing to violate a couple dozen federal statutes and risk personal incarceration. People here spend hundreds of dollars on fireworks – heck, you can spend over a hundred bucks on *one* giant mother of a firework here (basically an entire fireworks show with a single fuse). More than one person within a mile of the house must have spent thousands. You get a smattering of small shows in the days leading up to the Fourth and immediately thereafter, but on the actual holiday it starts at around 8:30 pm with firecrackers and whistlers (what were marketed as Piccolo Pete’s when I was a kid) and goes until after 1:00 am.  With the previously mentioned view from the house, a fireworks nut can have a great time without spending any money.

Of course, I bought a few.  Not too many, we’re on a budget this year.  Next year I think I’m going to see if I can get my hands on some additional fuse, so that I can try and synchronize a show to a Sousa march.

Posted July 7, 2008 by padraic2112 in family, noise, parenting

To the Moon, Alice!   2 comments

Actually, I’m sending Jack and Hannah to the moon. Really. You can send someone too.

Posted May 5, 2008 by padraic2112 in astronomy, parenting, science

Parenting is Hard   1 comment

… and the “fun” part is, it’s hard in different ways as time goes by.

When they’re really young, it’s hard because they don’t sleep like adults.  For both of my children, this lasted from birth to around 12 months -> forget sleeping through the night, we’re talking about the children sleeping long enough for the adult to get into stage 3 or 4.  11+ months of mental exhaustion is hard.

When they get sick, it’s hard because they don’t understand why they feel like crap.  Understanding is key to lessening anxiety, so sick kids are not only physically unwell, they’re mentally off balance and completely stressed out.  Since you can’t explain to them why they feel like crap, you’re unable to lessen your anxiety, either.

When they learn how to walk, it’s hard because they want to explore everything, and they get frustrated when they’re not allowed to do so.  When they finally get old enough to have enough manual dexterity and self-directed imagination to entertain themselves (about 26 months), you start to think, “Whew!  Hard part over!  Now it’s cruising time until they get old enough to be sullen.”


Jack has pink eye.  In addition to this, he’s been unable to shake a cough, and has a bit of a temperature, and generally feels wretched.  He’s almost four, so he’s handling this with pretty good grace (he’s certainly much less cranky than Hannah was when she was going through this combo).  The problem is that it turns out that Jack has a thing about his eyes.

Some people have eye things.  You probably know what I’m talking about, even if you’re not one of these people.  “Eye thing” people will never wear contacts.  “Eye thing” people freak out if something comes close to touching their eyes.  It’s not just the natural reaction that evolution has provided us to defend your ocular sensing mechanism, it’s a bit more than that.  And Jack has it.  Which was a total surprise, because he’s a tough cookie – he takes shots at the doctor without being fazed, really.

This means that putting eye drops into his eyes requires a real amount of physical force.  It’s the first time in his life that I haven’t been able to use reason, or just a calming voice, or a neat trick, or cajoling, or bribing with something to get him to go along with something that he doesn’t want to do.  I can put drops in my own eyes, doesn’t help.  Offer a cookie, doesn’t help.  Try the command voice, no good.  I’m not going to claim that I’m the greatest parent in the world, but I’ve been exposed to an awful lot of children in my life and I flatter myself that I know a ton of ways that you can get them to go along with something.  One of them has always worked in the past, now I’m just stumped.

He just can’t help himself -> the minute I tilt his head back to try and put in the drops, no matter how calm he is up to that point and how much groundwork I’ve laid, he FREAKS out.  Struggling, kicking, squeezing his eyes shut, screaming like he’s being murdered.  I literally had to sit on him last night to get his eyedrops in.
This is the first time that I’ve actually felt like I’m doing something to my child that he’s interpreting as literal torture, and man… it’s the pits.

Sure, he gets over it quickly after the drops are done (he’s young enough to have that astonishing mental recovery that small kids have).  Sure, it’s something that has to be done, and whether I like it or not isn’t really relevant -> time to cowboy up, soldier, and give that young man his medicine.

… but even though he recovers pretty fast, *I* don’t have that astonishing mental recovery that small kids have, and that’s hard.  Harder than getting no sleep, or losing out on free time, or having less disposable income, or any of the other things that people might think are hard *before* they have kids.

Posted April 25, 2008 by padraic2112 in parenting

Let there be music, Part II   3 comments

I grew up in a house that was frequently filled with music. Dad had a decided leaning towards classical music and Irish folk music, while Mom preferred The Beatles and Motown. Every once in a while they’d come home after a party and put on Bob Dylan, which was always the sign that you could go ask for just about anything and at least be spared an automatic “no”.

When my sister and I were very small, we spent a lot of time visiting a friend who introduced us to Kiss and Rush. We played a lot of tennis-racket air guitar to the Beatles. I don’t remember where I was when John Lennon died, but I do remember that we were crushed when we couldn’t keep talking about a potential reunion.

When my sister got a bit closer to high school age, I started getting *real* exposure to popular music. Journey, Huey Lewis and the News, Def Leppard, and then Duran Duran. My KTEL albums (“Full Tilt” and “High Voltage”) moved to the back of the playlist. Megan started branching out into the rapidly “cool” import scene, picking up on Siouxie and the Banshees, Depeche Mode, INXS, Howard Jones, Love and Rockets, Gene Loves Jezebel, Violent Femmes, and a ton of other bands that didn’t “make it” (because their top hit capped out at #17) always before they became popular with the people that thought they were cool.

My own friends were diverging chaotically. Greg went the rocker route: Mötley Crue, Ratt, Van Halen, and Metallica. Marc sucked off his brother’s music (Jean was close to Megan in taste), but put his own spin on it. Marc was unashamedly a fan of George Michael, Tears for Fears, OMD… but also listened to Shriekback and Queen and Prince (one of the main differences between Marc and I is that from 7th grade through high school, Marc could listen to A-ha and nobody would say he was a wuss).

Me, I absorbed it all. I listened to everything. Some things drifted into niches, but I still own a large variety of music and almost all of it gets play every once in a while. Some of it because it evokes memories of certain people, certain places, certain activities, or certain times. Some of it because it stands on its own power, or its own beauty. Some for all of the above (I also confess a soft spot for some goofy music that really has no artistic merit whatsoever).

Now that I’m a parent, I wonder what sort of musical legacy I’m going to pass along to my children. Jack and Hannah of course aren’t old enough to understand the anger behind Metallica, or the outrage behind Tribe Called Quest. I find myself editing my playlist a lot when I’m at home, simply because a good chunk of what I listen to is inaccessible to kids their age. But I remember hearing “Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35” when I was a child. I wasn’t a teenager. Excessive editing is probably a bad idea, right? The reasons I listen to these songs are all good reasons, and sooner or later they’re going to be age-appropriate for my kids. Probably well before I realize that they’re growing up.

For now, we’ll stick with the Funk.

Posted April 21, 2008 by padraic2112 in music, noise, parenting