Random (but not really)

Friday, February 14, 2020

Want a Bigger Research Pool for Concussion Studies? Stop Focusing on Football Players

Violence against women has been an invisible epidemic pretty much forever. Even when we moved past “She must have provoked him” and “It takes two to make a fight” it still happens every day, across all classes. One quarter–25%–of all women will experience domestic violence.

So why do researchers focus on football players and soldiers when looking at the affects of repeated concussion? Most likely because these huge numbers of women are hidden. Women rarely talk about the violence perpetrated against them, for reasons of embarrassment but also of fear.

72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.

Fear for their children. Fear for family members. Fear for themselves.

In 2017, 2,237 people were murdered by their intimate partners–a number that has been on the rise in recent years. Those murders didn’t just come out of left field–they generally come after violence and abuse and attempts by the victim to escape.

But because we don’t talk about these victims, because they are hidden in plain sight, researchers don’t even consider adding women to their research studies, even if their history of abuse has affected their health, income, and ability to work.

I have no answers or solutions, just a reminder that violence against women remains a problem in our society and our world. By forgetting about it, by allowing it to remain hidden, by allowing those who have been abused to feel shame and guilt and fear, we allow it to continue, and we fail to help those who have suffered not just the immediate bruises and broken bones and fear, but the long term affects of fear and trauma.

Research into athletes should continue, because they are the most obvious sufferers of repeated concussion, but researchers need to remember that their pool of candidates is far larger, and those who have suffered violence often don’t have the resources to help them deal with the long-term affects.

CTE Researchers Should Study Domestic Violence Survivors

National Statistics Domestic Violence Fact Sheet

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/us/domestic-violence-victims.html

Patrick Stewart: the legacy of domestic violence

Written by Michelle at 2:37 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Podcasts I’ve Been Enjoying

As I noted on the book roundup, I’ve been listening to podcasts rather than audio books recently, so I thought I’d give y’all a round up of what I’ve been enjoying.

First up is Make Me Smart with Kai & Molly. Because I love listening to Kai’s voice, and the repartee between Kai and Molly is wonderful. Especially when Molly utterly geeks out.

Also, the episode What. The. Fed. opens with Kai cussing, and it is delightful.

But what you really want is CRISPR for Beginners. For work a wrote a piece on ethics and gene-editing, because this is something we need to consider NOW.

Next up is Planet Money, which I listened to right after it started (and even have the T-shirt!)

What I especially like about Planet Money is that I had NO (zero, none, zip, zilch) classes in economics and finance through all my many years of school. Planet Money doesn’t assume you know anything about economics AND it has really interesting stories.

You should check out this short episode on the Indicator, The Private Firefighter Industry . I recently read a book that was set during the time public fire companies were first being set up in London, and I find it disconcerting that we might be returning to a time when only those with money can afford real protection.

Another podcast I’m adoring is Smart Podcast, Trashy Books, which is (unsurprisingly) the podcast for Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Yes, the focus is romance books, but they can talk about so much more here, and I recommend to every woman a recent episode: Burnout – A Feminist Book about Stress: An Interview with Emily and Amelia Nagoski

If you like science, I highly recommend This Podcast Will Kill You. They recently did a two-parter on vaccines that I HIGHLY recommend.

They also talk a fair amount about epidemiology, which is a highly underrated science. (Correlation is not causation!) Thanks to Mary for pointing this one out to me.

So have you been enjoying any interesting podcasts?

Written by Michelle at 10:02 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading,Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, August 26, 2018

How Do You Like Them Apples?

Yesterday on our hike I started to wonder about apples. Specifically: Why are apples typically portrayed as red?

The majority of apples we find at our Farmers Market are green or green & red. Yet when you think of an apple, you generally think of a shiny red apple. Why?

Considering that the most common red apple is the misnamed Red Delicious, which was bred not for flavor but looks and storage, it’s amazing that anyone would want to think about Red Delicious when they think “apple”.

Vaguely from my plant biology classes, I remembered that color was often dependent upon light. So might where apples were red be related to why red is seen as the color of apples? Were red apples more common in Europe?

But it’s even more complicated than that.

Apples do not breed true from seed. If you plant apple seeds you will not get an apple tree that bears the fruit of the apple you planted, most likely you’ll get a cider apple (which is what Johnny Appleseed was doing–planting seeds for cider apples, not the fruit).

You have to graft to get a reproducible apple variety.  So what grows in an area is dependent not just upon hardiness, but what humans have chosen to grow in any particular area.

Out of curiosity, I decided to look up what influences peel color in apples, and although light is important, temperature is also important, and colder temperatures increase anthocyanin production. Which makes sense in retrospect, since anthocyanis are protective. So you’ll get red apples where there is a lot of sun, but also where there are colder temperatures.

So red apples would seemingly be more likely to thrive in areas with harsher conditions (more UV or lower temperatures).

It still doesn’t make Red Delicious apples taste better, but it does help explain why we might have developed a preference for red apples.

(FWIW our other indepth discussion yesterday was use of silver to kill paranormal creatures and what kind of ammunition would be best (and easiest) to defend yourself. So don’t think that I spend my time pondering highfalutin topics.)

Red Color Development in Apple Fruit
Traverso, Amy. The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. W. W. Norton & Company.

Written by Michelle at 11:51 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Food,Non-Sequiturs,Science, Health & Nature  

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Better Living Through Chemisty

Someone on FB linked to an article about the medical management of mental health disorders: What It’s Like to Know You’ll Be on Antidepressants for Life.

The essay starts out noting the following:

The notion that people who take medication for mental illness are weak seems rooted in internalized social stigma. There’s still this strange divide in thinking about mental illness, where much of society seems to dismiss those illnesses as somehow less “real” than ones that are considered “physical.”

That’s unfair, yet true. We’re not supposed to talk about mental health issues. It’s ok to have diabetes or high blood pressure but depression or anxiety are secrets to be kept. Issues to be hidden.

To believe that my mental health issues make me a weaker person than someone who has a physical health issue is absurd. Yet it’s a common belief: depression and anxiety are weakness that can just be overcome by hard work and the correct attitude.

Part of it I suppose is historical: Suicide was a mortal sin that would send you directly to hell, so wouldn’t that make the mental state that made you suicidal a moral failing as well?

Part of it might also have to do with many mental health issues being more common in women than men, and women have historically been seen as weaker, both physically and mentally.

But perhaps a greater part is because mental health issues are less visible. You get a cast with a broken limb. You get scars from surgery. I can show someone my scars and X-Rays from my broken ankle, but what do I have to display for more than 30 years of mental health issues?

(Life insurance rates three times higher than my husband’s because I was honest during my interview about my past aren’t really anything you can display as a wound.)

 
 

After Robin Williams died, I remember being enraged by people who couldn’t understand how he could be so weak as to take his own life.

Weak?

When I broke my ankle I didn’t cry–I wasn’t even certain at first I’d broken my ankle, because I was certain it wasn’t painful enough to be broken bones. Yet I have felt emotional pain that was so harsh it took my breath away. A misery so strong that all I wanted was for it to end because it was unbearable.

I knew I could take medicines for relief from physical pain, and that over time the wounds would heal and the pain would eventually be gone.

Mental anguish is different. When you’re given anti-depressants, you’re told they might take up to a month to work. And that some meds are better for some people than for others so what you’re taking might not make things better. And again it’ll be a month before you know for certain.

Know what? I’ve had meds that not only didn’t work, but actually made things worse. That took more than two months to resolve.

Two months of something that no one could see. Two months of something I was certain was a moral failing: A weakness on my part.

A weakness.

During pre-marriage counseling, one of the questions we were asked was whether we suffered from mental illness.

“Yes,” I said, “depression.” (At this time I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with anxiety or OCD, even though they had been part of the mix since the beginning.)

“Not like that,” the counselor replied, “they’re asking about serious illness.”

 
 

Here’s the thing: I’m lucky in that I’ve always been able to work through my depressive episodes. It may have been a struggle, but I was able to get out of bed and be physically, if not emotionally, present.

I know I will be on meds for the rest of my life. I’m fine with that, because I have a strange quirk where I remember feelings painfully clearly. I remember the angst of being a teenager. I remember the shame of being different and unable to fit in. I remember breathtaking misery of grief. I remember the feelings of all my mistakes and the belief I would never get past them. I remember how it feels to believe I was worthless. That I was unworthy of love. That all I ever have done is cause harm and create misery.

I don’t want to live with that agony in the here and now, so I’m glad to take meds.

 
 

My primary fear is not being able to recognize if the meds start to fail and I begin to slip backwards into the abyss.

My secondary fear is of failing to recognize someone else who is suffering. Of missing the person who thinks they are the only one who feels they way they do: lost and broken and unworthy.

Which is why I share things like this. Because we aren’t alone. These things aren’t moral weaknesses or failures. They’re just physiology, and even if it takes a while, these things can usually be fixed.

Because these issues might be permanent but they don’t have to control me.

Because we are more than our illnesses and because we can live through them and be happy.

Written by Michelle at 6:50 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why We Have the EPA: Water

In 1952 and 1969 and at least 11 other times, the Cuyahoga along Cleveland Ohio caught fire. (Ohio History Central) (Washington Post)



Let’s take a look at something that’s a little more personal–the water quality of the Monongahela River, which runs past Morgantown and is the source of my water. The Mon River also has had a long history of pollution, especially from acid mine drainage.

The Monongahela River watershed was considered to be one of the region’s most intensely polluted by acid mine drainage in the United States until about 1970. (USACE)

Look at the change in pollution from 1974 (1) to 2000.

Morgantown

1974

1999-2000

pH

4.8

6.3

Alkalinity

2.5

14.2

Acidity

24.4

12.2

Total iron

4.9

2.7

(WVU Extension Service)

See also: (1964 Department of the Interior Report) (Morgantown Utility Board 2015 CCR)



Access to clean water is not a problem for 3rd world countries, it is a problem in many areas of West Virginia (and elsewhere in Appalachia). (Inside Appalachia)

Clean water is something many take for granted nowadays, but this is something that has come about through regulation and work. It does not come through the actions of private industries who don’t give a shit about those living downstream.

(1) The Clean Water Act was implemented in 1972, so this sampling is from two years after that.

Written by Michelle at 6:28 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Friday, March 3, 2017

Why We Have the EPA: Air

In 1952, England had a Great Smog that killed at least 4000 people (History.com) (The Guardian), although the history of killer smog in London dates back to the 1800s. (Guardian)



In 1966, at least 50 people were killed by a smog that covered the city of NY over Thanksgiving weekend. (Business Insider) (US Dept of Health, Education and Welfare Report from 1966)



In 1948, smog killed at least 20 people in Donora PA (a town south of Pittsburgh along the Monongahela River, north of Morgantown). (History.com) (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) (NPR)



Current smog in the western US comes from uncontrolled emissions from China (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics), and it’s possible that one third of deaths in China come from smog. (Business Insider)



Why do we need the EPA?

Because industry will not regulate itself. Because without regulation people die.

Written by Michelle at 11:28 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics,Science, Health & Nature  

Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Tyranny of Clothing

I have several bathrobes, which I wear all the time.

This is partially because I like bathrobes (I have three–a heavy terrycloth robe for winter, and two waffle cotton robes for summer) and partially because we shower in the basement, and it’s a trek to make in the winter.

The softest robe has been causing problems for the past couple months–the overlap has been getting smaller and smaller, and it’s a bit to small to contain… me.

This, of course, made me feel badly about myself.

Until I realized that the loops for the tie were no longer at my waist, but are now just underneath my armpits.

The damned thing has been slowly shrinking, but I was convinced that the change was in me.

Nevermind that all my other clothes fit fine, and I’m still wearing the smaller jeans (I have jeans in two sizes; 10 and 12. I’ve been wearing the 10s) but I was somehow convinced that I was getting bigger.

Brains are stupid.

Also, I’m totally getting another robe to replace this one.

Written by Michelle at 9:54 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Depression,Science, Health & Nature  
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