Ramblings

Usually drunken.

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On Francis Collins

Jul 29, 2009, 9:44 pm by Zach

Francis Collins, Director NIHPaul sent me a link to this NY Times article about Obama's pick for national director of the NIH, Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. Most non-scientists are probably pretty in the dark about the NIH, but it's a Very Big Deal. They head up lots of biomedical research and are responsible for giving out lots of grant money to scientists across the US.

Collins is a Christian and a scientist. Without knowing much about him, I'm sure most liberals would roll their eyes and consider this a step backwards. Collins is actually pretty good about separating religion from science. In fact, I'd say he's a great model for demonstrating how the two need not be mutually exclusive. He doesn't promote "intelligent design" and his CV is pretty impressive. He headed up the National Human Genome Research Institute, which will prove to be an invaluable tool for treating genetic diseases. I actually met him once at a lecture at SMU when I was in high school and he was a great speaker.

However, as outlined in the NY Times article, he has said some things that make people like me cringe--that at some point in our evolution, god inserted a soul. Of course, no science can prove this. The nature of science is to answer how, when and what, but never why. Collins has said, however, “science offers no answers to the most pressing questions of human existence”, which any scientist would agree with.

The question remains as to whether or not someone who is religious can ever be a truly good scientist. To say not would be as intolerant as the religious right is known to be. Logically, science and religion answer different questions (or different sides of similar questions), and a truly great scientist's work would never be swayed by their spiritual beliefs. Historically, this is almost never true. Lots of us hope that Collins is level-headed enough and will make a great director of the NIH, but part of us worries that NIH funding might change directions and support scientists who hold his religious beliefs. I personally don't think this will happen. I think he will end up doing a great job. Your thoughts?

One thing we can all agree on, though, is homeboy needs a new haircut. Do he and Bill Gates see the same barber? Damn!

Witchcraft!

Oct 25, 2008, 2:36 pm by Zach

Teenage Mutant Ninja PoodleWhile looking at this picture, I got to thinking about Sarah Palin. Look at this poor dog. Forced to look like a ninja turtle. Not just any ninja turtle, but Leonardo, the de facto leader of the group. This poor poodle doesn't look too happy about that. I doubt he feels equipped or ready to handle a leadership position, but, well, here he is, like it or not. There's a pit bull lipstick joke here somewhere.

This morning I saw this video of Mrs. Palin talking about how silly it is for scientists to get funding to study something as silly as "fruit fly research in Paris, France," all the while doing that folksy little headcocking business. Way to play to the uneducated hicks who make up the vast majority of your voting base, ma'am. I also saw a clip somewhere of John McCain saying he wanted to end funding silly projects like "black bear DEE ENN AY" (with strategic pauses between DEE, ENN and AY to highlight the notion that it's all just made up hoo-ha).

It really grinds my fucking gears when people think any research that isn't directly related to CANCER or something is stupid and a huge waste of money and effort. As if all scientists (especially biologists) are just a bunch of crazy kooks in lab coats, drunk on lab-grade ethanol, laughing in a menacing manner and studying bear DEE ENN AY. Give me a cotton pickin' break.

Vote Democrat, if only for the reason that the Republicans want to squash funding for research they don't understand.

Also, happy birthday, Paul.

Gee, thanks, Sarah!

Oct 2, 2008, 10:46 pm by Zach

Watching the VP debate tonight was fun and frustrating. The part that irked me the most, and I knew it would, was the mere mention of education reform. Wow, Sarah, you think education is good and things should be done to make it better? Great! Ok, what the hell are you going to do?

I tutor about a hundred 9th and 10th graders in math (algebra I, II and geometry) and science (biology and chemistry). My list of resources include three biology text books and 3 algebra I books. That's it. My students don't even have books to take home, so they rarely have homework. For a while I showed them cool videos on YouTube of how proteins actively transport molecules across cell membranes and what the inside of a cell looks like, but someone in the technology department found out I was using YouTube and blocked my computer from accessing it. God forbid there be any relevant, useful, and easy to find videos there. Advice I was given from other teachers and admins: just do your best.

No child left behind was the most retarded thing ever. This may sound shocking, but some students really should be left behind. I know that sounds terrible, but some of my sophomores are so defiant, nasty, snotty and mean that I've just decided to quit helping them. Sorry. In a class of 25 students, I'd rather help the 5 or 6 who genuinely want help than spend all of my time with those who just refuse help.

I did make one breakthrough today. I felt like Jaime Escalante. I have one student who is pretty defiant, but shows a lot of potential. He usually ignored me, so I started ignoring him. Until today when it came up that he's from Alexandria, LA, where my mom is from. When I told him that, he sat his ass down next to me and asked for help with chemistry. Booyah. Stand and Deliver.

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