Sunday, October 31, 2004

Just asserting my rights... post on this blog. Seriously, you gotta think twice about giving people the right to post things haphazardly on your blog.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Here we go

Well, classes are in full swing. I think I'm on top of things, for now. I've got a new system for tracking the amount of homework I'm doing compared with what needs to be done and I seem to be on track.

We had an interesting little weekend this past weekend. Rob and I were supposed to begin participant observation on Sunday at a local Nigerian church for our cultural anthropology class. However, we went to the car on Saturday afternoon to drive out to the church to check service times and one of our tires was punctured. Gak. So, we didn't get observation done this weekend. We ended up going back to Cedar Pointe, the church that meets at the school, just across the street. Good service, good band, great teaching.

Friday night, we went to Braum's ice cream parlour with a bunch of classmates and some SIL members in town for an international translation convention. We met a guy named Oliver, linguist in Mozambique, jazz guitarist. After the outing, we went to the dorm where he was staying and jammed together for a few hours. He came over Saturday morning and laid down some tracks of jazz progressions that he'd like me to put melody over. Saturday evening, we had chili and corn bread with Lee and Robin before playing Settlers of Catan. What a game! Resource management strategy game, fun stuff. Kind of like Age of Mythology/Empires without the mythology/empires and battle scenario.

We got our tires replaced yesterday, not just the one that was punctured but the other 3, being worn down quite a bit. Afterwards, we ran by the Nigerian church address but the building was empty. We need to come up with another location, perhaps the Liberian Lutheran church north of Duncanville. I have't got any response to my phone messages there though. We should probably do another drive out, make sure it still exists.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Weekend recovery

So, we recharged for 4 days ... ahhh. Here's how the time played out:

Friday: Fell asleep for a few hours in the afternoon. Went for Rob's birthday dinner at Pappadeaux seafood kitchen. I did not, of course, eat seafood; I had a hefty Greek salad. Played NWN in the evening.

Saturday: Cleaned like mad. In the afternoon, hiked on the trail behind campus. Watched movie in the evening; Adaptation

Sunday: Nearly fell asleep in church in the morning. Realized we had more relaxing to do before being ready for classes. Played some more NWN in the afternoon, watched movie in evening; A Beautiful Mind.

Monday: Worked on getting papers in order, financial crap and the like, in the morning. Went to Fort Worth botanical gardens in the afternoon with a group of friends from school. Played more in the evening while laundry was doing.

Tuesday: Grocery shopping in the morning, followed by internet research-curiosity-satisfaction for an hour before lunch. Afternoon of registering for Rob's next classes and gaming, interspersed with cooking chicken curry for dinner this evening at Dave and Ginny's place. We had a good time; curry, salad, firey mango pickles, ice cream, coffee and several hands of Rook. Dave and I trounced Rob and Ginny. Me, gloat? [teehee] Twas mucho fun.

The new session begins tomorrow. Sigh. I have hope for our readiness for this. Rob is taking Field Methods & Linguistic Analysis, Field Data Management and Cultural Anthropology. I am also taking the Cultural Anthro (finally ... a shared course!) as well as Biblical Backgrounds and Semantics & Pragmatics. Our in-class time is from 8:00 - 10:00 AM and 11:00 - 11:55 AM, Monday through Friday, plus whatever cultural observation and language learning sessions we'll have in the afternoons.

Must sleep now ... first early morning in days tomorrow.

Flu statistics and flu shots

This posting is a response to an article I saw on the news yesterday, about a woman who died in a line-up waiting to get a flu-shot.

This year's flu vaccine doesn't even contain the Fujian strain which is responsible for most deaths.

It doesn't look like the flu shot has had a meaningful impact on flu deaths over the last 4 years, according to the Center for Disease Control's statistics. One document states that the flu death rates have increased from about 20,000 per year in the 1970's and 1980's to 36,000 per year in the 1990's.

Compare them with mortality statistics from an earlier period:

Note the side effects of the flu shot:

What are the side effects that could occur?
Soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
Fever (low grade)
If these problems occur, they begin soon after the shot and usually last one to two days.

Hmm ... sounds suspiciously flu-esque.

Can severe problems occur?
Life-threatening allergic reactions are very rare. Signs of serious allergic reaction can include breathing problems, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heartbeat, or dizziness. If they do occur, it is within a few minutes to a few hours after the shot. These reactions are more likely to occur among persons with a severe allergy to eggs, because the viruses used in the influenza vaccine are grown in hens' eggs. People who have had a severe reaction to eggs or to a flu shot in the past should not get a flu shot before seeing a physician.
Guillain-Barré syndrome: Normally, about one person per 100,000 people per year will develop Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an illness characterized by fever, nerve damage, and muscle weakness. In 1976, vaccination with the swine flu vaccine was associated with getting GBS. Several studies have been done to evaluate if other flu vaccines since 1976 were associated with GBS. Only one of the studies showed an association. That study suggested that one person out of 1 million vaccinated persons may be at risk of GBS associated with the vaccine.

According to the World Health Organization's mortality statistics, 1665 people died of influenza in 1999 out of a population of 272,691,000. That means that 6 people per million dies of influenza. One is 6 times more likely to develop Guillain-Barré syndrome than they are to die from influenza. In 1995, 606 people died of influenza in the U.S.

Check out the side effects for the LAIV (live attentuated influenza vaccine):

Side Effects
• Symptoms are reported more often in healthy recipients of LAIV than in healthy recipients of placebo. These include:
o Nasal congestion/runny nose
o Sore throat
o Cough
o Chills
o Tiredness/weakness

Side effects in children
o Nasal congestion/runny nose
o Headache
o Fever
o Vomiting
o Abdominal pain
o Myalgias
o One unpublished study in 12- to 59- month-olds suggested an association of influenza vaccination with asthma or reactive airways disease. Further analyses and studies are pending on this issue.

I find this last potential side effect to be the most concerning.

And here's a quote from the CDC website:

Preliminary Assessment of the Effectiveness of the 2003--04 Inactivated Influenza Vaccine --- Colorado, December 2003

Influenza activity started earlier than usual in the United States this season, with widespread influenza activity* reported in 10 states by November 22, 2003 (1). The predominant influenza viruses (A/Fujian/411/2002 [H3N2]-like viruses) circulating this season differ antigenically from the 2003--04 influenza A (H3N2) vaccine strain (2). A retrospective cohort study was conducted among workers at a Colorado hospital to provide preliminary data on the effectiveness of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) against influenza-like illness (ILI). This report summarizes the results of that study, which indicated that TIV had no or low effectiveness against ILI. However, additional studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the 2003--04 vaccine against laboratory-confirmed influenza and influenza-related complications, including hospitalization and death. Influenza vaccine continues to be recommended, particularly for persons at increased risk for influenza-related complications, their household contacts, and health-care personnel.

Argh. I don't care what people do with their own bodies. I don't care what crap they buy into. I do care about media incited hysteria that leads to people dying in the process of buying into crap.

John Nash

We watched 'A Beautiful Mind' on Sunday and I'm doing a little poking around to see how much Nash's story was Hollywoodized. The movie doesn't mention:
- his seeking refugee status in Europe in 1959
- his divorce from Alicia; and her subsequent taking him in as a boarder a decade after the divorce
- despite the speech given in the movie, Nash gave no speech at the Nobel Prize ceremony
- the giving of the pens was a script writers invention, not a Princeton math department tradition

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Happy Birthday, Rob!

It's Rob's birthday! Drop him a line today ... he has seen the hill and refuses to cross over.

I'm at work right now; just shelved all the books, vacuumed the whole floor and stamped some books to go in the book depository for loan to missionaries on furlough. Rob is in the office here, spread out across the big table. The final grammar project. He's doing well so far with it. Seeing a lot of stuff, organizing on his computer screen as only a graphic designer can. We go home in an hour. Tomorrow, we celebrate both his birthday and the end of term.

He's working on Swahili.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


I completed my term paper at 3:45PM today ... woohoo! I can't wait to hand it in. Funny, doesn't seem like it's finished until I hand it in.

After I get off work, I'll rush home to bed and try to get to sleep so I can wake up in the morning and hurry to class to hand in my paper.

Like Christmas, only bizarre.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

A fun aside: many of my classmates are wearing red today, in honor of the Canadian component of GIAL.

Term Paper!

Need I say more? Due on Wednesday ... the crunch is on. Must not spend too much time blogging.

Friday: Took the afternoon as my weekend, gaming with Rob, had Jess (from down the hall) as dinner guest.

Saturday: With lunch break at Chick-fil-a, grocery shopping afterwards, spent the day working on term paper with an evening break; Rob's grammar class had an end-of-term party. I made Northwest garden salad: spinach, dried cherries, slivered almonds, bleu cheese, lime-marinated green apples with a balsamic vinaigrette. Returned home to work until 11:45PM on term paper.

Sunday: visited church on campus, worked on term paper for the rest of the day until 8:45PM. Was able to haul together a beef stew for dinner. Sent Rob to clip fresh rosemary for the stew from the massive rosemary bushes that can be found next to the sidewalk on our way to school.

Today: continuing to work on the paper this afternoon and evening ...

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Long time, no blog

It's been, what, a week? (How's that for a lovely example of spoken grammar?)

End of session coming up, term paper due, material getting more complicated. Here are the highlights of our latest days.

Sunday: went to drive to church, car wouldn't start (made a clicking noise)

Monday: Class as usual, heavy homework day for Rob; I spent more than 2 hours trying to do his grammar homework and couldn't get a handle on it. Every theory I came up had a single piece of data that 'broke' it. Got discouraged.

Tuesday: Rob discovered in afternoon grammar class that no-one else could get the homework either; I breathe sigh of relief. That's the problem with homework that accurately reflects all the complexities of actual language. Sure, you get the benefits of working with real data. But when the data selected is too complex to be done in a few hours, that's demoralizing. Part of me says, "Hey, the guy who collected this data probably took weeks to figure this out: I shouldn't be discouraged that I'm not getting in in a few hours." But there is another part of me that says, "Hey, this wouldn't be your daily assignment if it weren't doable in a day." Sometimes I have to shut down that second voice so that I don't develop negative self-image. I know I have aptitude for this stuff. Language is not rocket science; it's more human and complicated. You don't truly analyze or deduce from a language; you come to knowledge of through relationship with a language. Who does that in a day?
These courses are like speed-dating in preparation for a marriage. Imagine for a moment that you are a language and your potential spouse is a linguist. Now imagine that there are people determining whether or not people are good potential spouses for you on the basis of observing how they interact with you for a few hours. Sure, they may get a fast connection with you, sparks might fly. But are they capable of really achieving true emotional intimacy with you in the long haul? And how could an outsider judge their innate capability for intimacy based on a short interaction or a series of short interactions with a number of people? You'd end up for sure with an aggressive extrovert. Similarly, one-night-study linguists may have the capacity for understanding the question and picking out the answer but who will have longevity and intimate comprehension in the long haul?
Rob finishes homework earlier than usual; we do dishes and play Neverwinter Nights together. [sigh of joy].

Wednesday: We watch a National Geographic video in R&W class in the morning, challenging stuff. Look at land-diving in Vanuatu, fire-walking in Greece and voluntary crucifixion in the Philippines. I get help with term paper in the afternoon, get some guidelines for paragraph charting. In the evening, breakthrough! I finish a chart that works for the data! Now, I can start drawing conclusions.

Thursday: Still haven't called the mechanic; keeps slipping my mind. Must do that today.

Friday, October 01, 2004


We had our worship chapel this morning. I sang backup. I must have been locking my knees for the whole thing; my tendons are mondo achy.

I think we'll have leftover mac-and-cheese for lunch and I'll make something nice/fresh for dinner. Apple crumble at some point as well. Today is overcast so it's a nice time to bake.

I'm planning on not doing any homework for the rest of the day. Rob is doing a term paper this weekend so I want to be scholastically occupied around him so he doesn't get jealous. I think it helps when I do housework in front of him as well, makes him feel like he's not the only one busting his butt here.

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