UNC-Duke Coal Wars?

The NCAA basketball season traditionally brings to the Piedmont region of North Carolina the Tobacco Road battles between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, the private school in Durham about 12 miles to the northwest (actually 10.79 miles from the Dean Dome to Cameron Indoor Stadium).
But what I’m wondering is why a coal war hasn’t erupted between the two institutions.
In the last couple of weeks, much hand-wringing has occurred on the UNC campus regarding the fact that the campus burns coal to generate heat for the university buildings. Rather than burning it in eastern Tennessee or western North Carolina where the mercury and sulfur dioxide can be left unseen with poor Appalachian folk, it came to light the the state’s flagship university burns coal on its campus. Most of the discussion centered on whether or not UNC buys their coal from companies known to use the environmentally-less friendly approach of mountaintop removal. This latest discussion was sparked, as it were, during a recent visit by climate scientist James Hansen and an accompanying rally by local members of the Sierra Club.
It seems to have come as a revelation to some that the university uses coal as an energy source. Yet activists are pushing for a “coal-free UNC.”
Uhhhh, suuure. Let’s put a nuclear power plant in Carrboro. (for those outside NC, think Boulder, Berkeley, Bozeman)
But rather than pointing fingers at one another across the UNC campus, Tar Heels should look in solidarity across town at a common enemy: their archrival, Duke.
Back when I was well enough to go to Duke’s Medical Center library, I would drive up Coal Pile Drive to see if there was any short-term parking. Yes, Coal Pile Drive (map):
Coal Pile Drive David.jpg
Hey, Tar Heels! Duke has a big-ass pile of coal that they burn too! Right across the street from all kinds of research labs from neurobiology to their institute for the environment.
Rather than examine one’s own inevitable need for coal and lack of any plausible alternative, blame Duke.
Does it solve the problem? No.
But doesn’t it just feel better to blame Duke?

Latisse®: Tell me more about my eyes

Lookie what came in to my e-mail box overnight after yesterday’s post about the hypotrichosis treatment, Latisse® brand of bimatoprost.
Latisse E-card 515px.jpg
Hmm…I have a few ideas who might have sent this (no profanity, so it wasn’t Comrade PhysioProf). And very interesting that this comes just a week before FDA holds an opening hearing entitled, “Promotion of FDA-Regulated Medical Products Using the Internet and Social Media Tools. For your information, here’s the PDF schedule courtesy of colleague John Mack – Pharma Marketing Blog and @pharmaguy. John is currently running a survey in his masthead to solicit reader input as to what topics might interest them most – John is scheduled to speak early on the first day.
Just an aside: does the fact the hearing is being held at the National Transportation Safety Board Conference Center in DC mean it’s going to be a trainwreck? (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Continue reading

Passionate scientific imagination, fatherhood, and Google voice search

While working on a science-rich post and writing an exam, something came across Twitter that is, well, too good to just be seen only on Twitter.
Burp fullsteam tweet 515px.jpg
Fullsteam is the name of the plow-to-pint Southern microbrewery in Durham, NC, no-longer-in-planning-but-not-quite-done and I have written about the tweeter several times. The imagination behind brewing a beer with sweet potatoes (it’s awesome, btw) or kudzu comes from the very same mind that burped into his iPhone for the benefit of shared education with his daughters.
The result:
Burp into Google search.jpg
I use Google voice search all the time and have been very impressed with its accuracy and utility.
But now I’m not sure who’s more clever: Sean or the Google programmers.
(P.S. – but it didn’t work for me. I also tried to sneeze in it and it returned a search for “untouched.” Is Sean just taking the piss out of me knowing that I would be inclined to post this?)

Billionaires For Bush now against healthcare reform

Billionaires Against Healthcare 515px.jpg
Here’s the updated version of the group, Billionaires For Bush, doing their clever schtick prior to a healthcare town hall forum last evening in Durham, NC (Yes, they are standing in front of a Hummer H2).
A robust crowd of 850 people filled the B.N. Duke Auditorium on the campus of North Carolina Central University to hear from a panel led by Congressman David Price (D-NC4).
[N.B. – not well-known is that the Duke family purchased 25 acres of land to create the campus for this historically-black college four miles across town; hence, the university honored the gift by naming its central performance auditorium after the then-executor of the Duke Endowment.]
Over 100 people had to be turned away and there appeared to be only one skirmish that required police intervention.
The whole story and video report can be viewed here at WRAL-TV.
ibiblio pioneer and UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Paul Jones also provided timely and informative Twitter updates (@smalljones) while also coining the term, “Deather.”
One quick final note from the WRAL report: friend of ScienceOnline bloggers, Rep Brad Miller (D-NC13), has canceled his future public forums because of a death threat made to his office, choosing instead to meet with small groups of concerned citizens.

LugerFest 2009: Ed Brayton, Isis, and the legendary 40 oz porterhouse

Each summer, the fair City of New York plays host to a cosmic convergence of bloggers within the ScienceBlogs.com corral. It’s a great time to meet all the folks we know very well online, but perhaps not IRL. Moreover, we had a really nice reader meetup last year where – thank you very much – all four of you came to see me, including Dr Val of Better Health and Peter Frishauf, Medscape founder.
The planning for this summer’s gathering has led to the two following posts. One is a throwing-down-of-the-gaunlet by Isis the Scientist to Ed Brayton, challenging him to a duel over the 40 oz porterhouse steak at the century-old Brooklyn landmark, the Peter Luger Steak House (“No other steakhouse serves a porterhouse so breathtaking” Frank Bruni, The New York Times). The second is Ed’s response to the challenge from Isis.
An Open Challenge. . . (Isis)
Picking Up the Gauntlet: It’s On (Ed Brayton)
I kid you not, upon reading Ed’s response in my office yesterday I was doubled-over with laughter, tears streaming down my face (no doubt enhanced by my immune system’s current battle with blooming honeysuckles):

Isis, my dear –
I know that spending so much time with a young child can sometimes reduce one’s faculties a bit. And lord knows that even the most well-crafted high heels can cause a serious delay in blood flow to the brain. But as a physiologist, you know all of that.
What you clearly do not know is that, to quote Vizini, you’ve fallen for one of the classic blunders. The best known never get involved in a land war in Asia and never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, but only slightly less well-known is this:
Never challenge a fat man to a steak-eating contest.
I am to charred flesh consumption what Lance Armstrong is to bike racing. What Michael Jordan is to basketball. What Cato Kaelin is to couch crashing. What Rush Limbaugh is to pill popping.

This is from an amazingly serious and accomplished gentleman commentator and public speaker experienced in the online, print, and broadcast journalism discourse on matters of science, religion, law, and culture. So the tone and content of Ed’s response is all that more hysterical.
I would never think of calling Ed a fat man until he used the term above. Let me just say that Ed is of greater than average mass and volume of distribution. Here is photographic evidence submitted for your consideration:

Continue reading

Greybeards an endangered species

I was very late to the game on a DrugMonkey post last week examining the demographics of Early Career Award winners from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). Drug noted that only 9 of the 50 awardees are women:

So who got lucky? See the slideshow here.
huh. anything strike you? no? lemme get a pencil here….hmmm.
2 African-American looking guys, another maybe. Six Asian guys. Maybe another four or five men who look other than standard model white guy. Nine women.
Really? That’s the best you could do? Seriously? You couldn’t even that gender ratio up even a little bit better than that?

As one might suspect, the reasons for the predominance of mostly white guys drew a comment thread approaching 100.
But nowhere in the thread did anyone mention (until I did), another trend that struck me upon viewing the awardees’ photos.
The paucity of male facial hair.
I am deeply concerned that of the 41 men, a full 33 sport no facial hair. I’m being generous here in giving the dude with the soul patch a pass. Including him and the single-moustached guy among the eight bearded, only three were goatees. (Great facial hair style guide here).
How can a man do legitimate science without at least a goatee? From where will our future greybeards come? Have we gone mad?

“What does Jewish look like?” – Vanessa Hidary, The Hebrew Mamita

Even though it’s Saturday morning, drinking coffee while getting ready to take the PharmKid to ballet class, I’m not usually one to throw up YouTube videos as blog posts without any context.
However, my dear friend, frequent commenter, and devoted traffic-driver, anjou, passed this along to me.
I’ve never really gotten into the whole spoken-word / poetry slam movement but maybe it’s because I haven’t been paying attention. We also don’t have HBO so I’ve never seen Def Poetry, where these Vanessa Hidary performances aired.
Even if you aren’t Jewish or a woman, these two are worth every second of the six minutes it’ll take to go through both.

Then, go to Vanessa’s MySpace site and listen to “Brooklyn,” but with earbuds if there are little kids around. (Her personal website is currently being revamped.).
And then, since you’re now hooked on Vanessa Hidary, read this 2003 article in Jewish World Review.
How have I missed this woman?

Enjoy the Oscars

You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard,
Some that you recognise, some that you’ve hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,
Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain.
Celluloid Heroes, The Kinks, 1972

Star-generator hat tip: Pharmagossip
With gratitude to Johnny G. for taking me and T.P. to our first big concert, The Kinks at Nassau Coliseum, 1979-ish.