Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Oops, almost forgot. We have another classic cat photo from the archives. This week, it's the photo that made Nora famous on Cute Overload, inspiring a new category of cute photos, Matchinks:


I started classes on Wednesday. For those of you who are interested, here is my class schedule:

Monday: 10:00-115:50 Introduction to ArcGIS
Tuesday/Thursday :8:30-9:45 Immunology
Wednesday/Friday: 8:30-9:45 Epidemiology,
Wednesday/Friday: 12:00-1:50 and 3:30-5:00 Helminths or Protzoology-
(1/2 semester each)

ELECTIVES (one of these will be decided on)
Tuesday/Thursday: 10:30-11:45 Infectious Disease Outbreaks
Tuesday/Thursday: 10:00-11:50 Advanced Topics in Emerging Pathogens
Tuesday: 1:00-2:50 Microbial Diseases of the Tropics

Here is my department website, just for kicks.

Anyway, as you can see, I have class four days a week at 8:30 am. this has been lots of fun so far, since my classes are in downtown New Orleans and we live near Tulane's main campus in uptown. This means I have to wake up at about 6:30 Tuesday though Friday to get dressed, shower, and eat something before biking to campus to catch the 7:50 shuttle to downtown. When I finally get on the bus I am all hot and sweaty from the ride, but I usually dry off by the time I reach my building. After classes, I basically do the entire process in reverse to get home.

I was hopping to start going to the gym this week after classes, (I leave my bike at the athletic facilities to catch the shuttle anyway) but so far I have not gotten up the energy to do so. I plan on getting a locker and beginning workouts on Tuesday, since we get Labor day off. I am trying to convince myself that I am making a good start by biking three miles 5 days a week, but I still feel like an athletic slacker.

Monday, August 27, 2007


We made shrimp. Nora got to purchase shrimp that had eyes.

I got to peel and de-vein shrimp by hand.

Hodag got to eat raw shrimp.

The end result was delicious.

("Stewed Creole Tomatoes and Shrimp," Commander's Kitchen, p. 143)

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Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday cat blogging

Colin and I recently received a car-load of stuff from our parent's houses in California. We are still trying to unpack and organize this new infusion of goods, and as you can see, Hodag has been eager to help us. Classes start Monday, and we hope to have most of the boxes unpacked by this weekend so the house will be functional before the start of the academic year.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

life imitates art imitating life

Somehow or other (clearly I am not enough of a geek) I missed a major development in the computer game "the World of Warcraft"(henceforth referred to as WoW) Apparently the creators of WoW developed a monster called Hakkar which unleashes a "corrupted blood" infection which can kill weaker players. Supposedly, this infection was only to affect characters within close range, the problem is, it found a reservoir. The reservoir is an "in game virtual pet" which is responsible for spreading the virus more widely than intended. Amusingly, epidemiologists have begun studying the behavior of characters in relation to the infection, and have noted that players are presenting the same variety of reactions to the disease as real people would.

For more info see:

Monday, August 20, 2007

Invasion of the Lepers!

Sorry about the long pause in posts people, but I was in California visiting my parents. Every time I go home my mother presents to me all the articles she thought I would find interesting since I last saw her. Usually this means I have a large pile of New York Times and Science clippings to sort through, and this visit was no different. Today, I want to talk about an article my mom gave me last week on Lou Dobbs. The article is from the New York Times and is a couple of months old, so if this is a repeat for some of you, I apologize.

The article centers around a statement made by Lou Dobbs in 2005 on contagious diseases. In the report, a correspondent cited that there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in America in the past three years (2002-2005) a significant increase over the 900 cases seen in the 40 years previous to that. Mr Dobbs accompanies this report with a statement that claims the increase in leprosy is due to illegal immigration. "The invasion of illegal aliens is threatening the health of many Americans."

At this point in the article I did a serious double take. Firstly, a rise of that magnitude in leprosy would cause public health havoc, and result in an information campaign lead by the CDC. I also somewhat pompously assumed that I would have heard if leprosy was on the rise, since I carefully monitor the CDC and WHO infectious disease reports. Moreover, I was confused as to where all these illegal immigrants with leprosy cam from and how they had acquired the disease. L
eprosy is transmitted by contact between infected persons and healthy persons, but contact must be of a prolonged and intimate nature, such as between people living together. (NB: certain ethnic groups are more susceptible to leprosy than others) The bacteria that causes leprosy, Mycobacterium leprae, prefers warm humid climates, and can be killed with a combination of antibiotics. Therefore, these illegal immigrants would have to be from places which have leprosy, probably in warm climates, and where antibiotics are scarce. 7000 illegal immigrants from places which fit the description above seemed highly unlikely to me.

Luckily, I was not the only one who found this report hard to swallow. A general outcry from various media sources arose and asked Mr. Dobbs to verify the number of leprosy cases in America. Lou Dobbs continues to assert that the numbers presented on his program are correct, and to be fair , he is not all wrong. Indeed, according to the director of the Hansen's Disease Program,there have been 7,000 reported cases of leprosy in America, but that number is from the last 30 years, not the last three. Mr. Dobbs has yet to apologize for his error.

So, what is the real story on leprosy in America? Although it is true that most leprosy cases are found in immigrants from Asia and Latin America, there is no indication that these cases arise form illegal immigrants. Also, it is patently false that "many Americans" are threatened by leprosy. Even if you managed to spend enough time with a leprous person to catch leprosy, antibiotics are easy to obtain in America. Lou Dobbs is falsifying evidence to cause Americans to fear the illegal immigrant menace, and I, as a public health student, find fear mongering using disease to be particularly evil.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

While looking for good photos of Hodag, I found this old photo of Igor playing with Miss Cleo. It was taken in the Moomers dining room in mid-October, 2005.

We miss you, Miss Cleo!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Congratulations, Dean!

Dean is now a Tropical Storm.

I should point out that the LX in the Gulf of Mexico in that graphic is now called Tropical Depression Five (Dean was previously Tropical Depression Four). Five appears to be heading for the Texas/Mexico border. I know that there has been a high pressure system on top of us the last few days (and I'm led to believe that's part of what's been driving the temperature here to record highs, and the heat index to 120). My understanding is that that high pressure system is helping to drive Five away from New Orleans, though I'm not sure how much of a difference it actually makes.

I really like the National Hurricane Center's Graphical Tropical Weather Outooks. They circle the storm systems on the map before they organize even into Tropcal Lows. They also offer basin-wide news feeds for the Atlantic and the eastern Pacific basins, as well as individual feeds for each storm.

I just got off the phone with Nora in California, and she wonders if the Baby Name Voyager (which Dean has called "...the only good use of Java I've ever seen.") has anything interesting to tell us about Hurricane names and their popularity as baby names. So far, I've only tried Katrina and Andrew. The name peaked in 80s as the 101st most popular girls' name, then started falling. It bottomed out in 2003 at 277, and was starting to come back. It got back up to 246 in 2005. In 2006, Katrina was the 382nd most popular girls' name. There doesn't seem to be any such effect for Andrew. Andrew peaked in frequency in the 1990s, and has been dropping since. But it hasn't lost any ranking in that time; it's been between 5 and 8 since hurricane Andrew.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

This is for Sam

Since I went to Chile, Sam has been quite amused by the fact that the Libertador of Chile was an Irishman. Bernardo himself wasn't born in Ireland, but his father was born in Sligo:

Ambrosio O'Higgins left Ireland just after Cromwell began opressing the island. Because he was a Catholic, the Spanish allowed him to emigrate to Spanish America. Bernardo was the illegitimate son of Ambrosio and a Spanish noblewoman. He was educated in London before he returned to Chile to lead the revolt against Spain.

Bernardo and Ambrosio may or may not be related to the family of Irish politicians. The most famous member of that family is Kevin, who was a member of the newly created Irish government after the revolt from England, and was ultimate assasinated by the IRA for his support for the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

The person most famously associated with Sligo is William Yeats.

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

The world is so magic!

Hodag likes his new porch. He likes to sit on the support column, stare at the bugs in the tree, and try to figure out how to climb into the tree to catch them. Sometimes a bird will land on the power line. Hodag will lie very still, hoping that the bird will forget that he's there, and land on the porch next to him. Then he will be ready to pounce and eat the bird. I think a bird or a bug just flew by over his head.

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

New Orleans Population

The Times-Picayune reports that there is a new estimate of New Orleans's population: 273,598, approximately 60% the population reported in the 2000 census. This is after a similar study in June used postal data to claim that the current population is 66% the pre-Katrina population. The current study used "utility records" to establish its estimate, but the article doesn't really explain further. It mostly concentrates on explaining major trends. The most obvious trend is that the areas that were barely flooded are all at 90% or more of their 2000 population (French Quarter, Garden District, Audubon Park and the Universities). The vast majority of the remaining population decline is due to the pockets of heavy flooding: the Lower 9th Ward, Broadmoor, Gentilly, etc.

I find these studies interesting, because population is one simple (though incomplete) metric of the city's recovery. One thing about today's article bothered me: one of the study's authors claimed that their figure disagreed with the earlier figure because this isn't an exact science. I would point out that the two figures are within 10% of each other, which I consider to mean that these studies confirm each other, rather than dispute each other.

Now, if I knew more about mapping technologies, it would be very interesting to overlay the population recovery maps over the crime rate maps (post to come shortly)...

Further information: Greater New Orleans Community Data Center

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Friday, August 3, 2007

Friday Cat Blogging

Friday cat blogging is a bit early this week. Nora and I are going out of town for the weekend. Nora is going to Time and Jean's wedding in Virginia, and I am going to Jas and Thomas's wedding in San Jose. Then we are meeting at LAX to go to my parents house for a second wedding reception for family and friends that couldn't make it to Chicago for the wedding. We're leaving super early tomorrow, so we have to post this tonight before bed.

Nora painted a portrait of Hodag in the style of Blue Dog. Seriously, follow the link. George Rodrigue is awesome. This is Nora's tribute to Rodrigue, and her expression of love for Hodag. She finished the painting last weekend, and we were finally able to capture Hodag sitting in front of his portrait earlier tonight.

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Thursday, August 2, 2007

New Orleans, lost cause

Ok, I was gonna write a post mentioning how different the process of getting a haircut in New Orleans is compared to getting one in Chicago, but on my way home from said haircut I stopped at Rite Aid to get toilet paper. In the Rite Aid I saw the latest issue of National Geographic magazine, titled "New Orleans, should it rebuild?" with the subtitle: "Levees failing, storms increasing, ground sinking, seas rising."

Now, I fully admit that I have not yet read the article, (which will probably be very informative,) but something about the cover alone pisses me off. When is the last time you saw a NGM with a cover featuring cute polar bears and the title "Polar Bears, should we even bother trying to save them?" As we all know, polar bears are increasingly threatened by global warming, the very same force which threatens New Orleans. But I don't see scientists saying that we should not do everything in our power to try and save animals like the polar bear. They may be doomed anyway, but people are still trying to help them. Why should New Orleans be treated any differently? It is unique, a United States treasure with enormous amounts of history and culture. This city is every bit as valuable to protect and save as an endangered species. If people are working to try and save animals as funky and cool as Lumpsuckers, they should darn well work to save New Orleans.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

FEMA Trailers

I don't know how much people outside of the gulf coast have heard about this, but it appears that some FEMA issued trailers in the state of Mississippi have been producing formaldehyde. The culprit appears to be the particle board and plywood parts of the trailers created to provide emergency housing for victims of Katrina and Rita. It seems that the high heat and humidity of the gulf coast region is causing the glues and resins used to create particle board to leak formaldehyde into the air. In higher levels of exposure, formaldehyde can cause respiratory problems such as asthma and nosebleeds.

As of today, about 200 complaints have been filed with FEMA relating to respiratory illnesses and emergency trailers. When complaints began to surface at FEMA, officials tested one trailer to see the level of formaldehyde. The single trailer which was inspected had a level of 1.2 parts per million, and FEMA decided that their was no risk to inhabitants. The only problem with this assessment is that "according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), workers should use respirators if they have to spend most of their working day in formaldehyde levels above 0.016 parts per million", about seventy five times less than the amount found in the one FEMA trailer tested. FEMA officials told people with complaints to air out the formaldehyde affected area, common advice given by agencies such as the EPA and CDC.

Now, let me tell you something. I have lived in New Orleans for nearly two months now, coincidentally moving in during the hot summer months. I sweat indoors, often. Riding in the non-air conditioned truck can be brutal (not to mention those vinyl seats). I have taken to tying a bandanna over my forehead so sweat does not leak into my eyes whenever I have to do anything outside (and sometimes inside). Walking two short blocks leaves me sticky and grumpy. So, as reasonable as this advice may seem, I cannot imagine people living in small metal boxes being told to simply "air out the trailer" by opening a window. Basically what this amounts to is living without air conditioning in a space that, I imagine, gets really hot during the day, and retains heat at night. Also, on this page, you can take a tour of a FEMA trailer with me. with me. I count two small windows, with a possible third in the "master bedroom". Really, how much ventilation can be provided from those?

For more info see: