James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

November 30, 2009

State Dinners

Filed under: food,Politics — Tags: , , , , — James @ 8:55 am

Anastasia has started an interesting discussion over at Biofortified about the food served at the Obamas’ first state dinner, a reception for the visiting Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh.*

The dinner was quite light on meat** and included both traditional American and Indian foods. As I said last night on the twitter feed: Anyone who serves naan and cornbread in the same meal has my approval.

*Prime Minster Singh comes from the Indian National Congress which formed a coalition government with several other Indian parties rule the country. Indian party politics are very complex, though in some ways it could be argued a complex multiparty system is more responsive to the wishes of voters than the two party system we have here in the US (I’m waiting for a program to run and have too much time to think).

**The reporter for the nytimes seems to have lumped prawns (a crustacean similar to shrimp, although I always associate them with the crayfish I had to dissect in intro bio) with the vegetarian parts of the menu…

November 6, 2009

More on why Science Isn’t a Perfect Fit with the Right or Left

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — James @ 2:40 am

In a follow up to my post yesterday afternoon.

The opponents of science are those who put ideology over empirical facts, putting how they want the world work over how data shows the world actual does. On one side the extreme left is fine with the observational side of science telling us everything that’s wrong with the world, but when scientists try to come up with ways we could try to solve those problems, we get shouted down. Since I’ve written plenty about genetic engineering, consider how Steve Levitt, the author of Freakonomics*, was received when he simply suggested we should evaluate geo-engineering techniques as one of the ways to mitigate climate change.

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Or watch the interview of Bill Frist (a former Republican Senator) with Bill Maher, and cringe at the discussion of vaccines.

On the other hand the extreme right is mostly ok of with all the goodies scientific reseach produces: modern “Western” medicine (including vaccines and antibiotics), genetically engineered crops, computers, and microwaves. But when it comes to believing anything science tells us from “hey, the planet is getting warmer” to evolution (without which, let me tell you, comparative genomics would be a very boring field of study, an I’m not bored, I’m fascinated!), to not so much.

I am exasperated with the world. Try back tomorrow.

*Freakonomics is a fascinating read. I haven’t had the chance to read Superfreakonomics, which is what apparently generated this controversy.

August 6, 2008

Insight from Jiffy-with apologies for bringing up politics

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , — James @ 11:04 am

This story all begins because I went in to get my oil changed before driving across the country. It turns out my car went past 90,000 miles since I last had it serviced, and lots of things recommended to be serviced every 15,000 or 30,000 miles also needed to be taken care of (fuel filter, automatic transmission system, etc.) I tell you this not because I believe you will find it fascinating, but because it explains how I came to spend an hour sitting in a Jiffy-lube on monday watching fox news, and happened to catch Obama’s speech on energy issues.

I haven’t been one of those people who’s been grabbed by Obama’s speeches, but he’s certainly the guy I’ll be voting for in the fall and he was talking about an issue that interested me so I was watching his speech intently, and he was making good points (except for the windfall profits tax + rebate but that’s a different post). About ten minutes in to his speak, I start worrying I’m giving away the fact that I’m a democrat, so I decide to look over at my car, so it’s obvious I’m not paying TOO close attention to Obama’s speech. I turn my head and everyone in the room has their eyes locked on the TV. The middle aged, working class guys getting coffee, an old lady, a young mother with a screaming baby, even the employees working behind the counter.

And that’s why I think Obama is a great nominee for the democratic party, and would make an excellent president. Despite all the dirt Hillary Clinton and John McCain have tried to make stick to him, despite the fact that his personal appeal and policy positions were definitely a second choice for me after those of John Edwards, Obama gets people to pay attention. People who would normally tune out any news about politics, and people who normally meet anything a democrat says with an audible snort of derision, simply because the person who said it was a democrat.

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