International AIDS Day

1 12 2011

Today is International AIDS Day.

I still remember, driving home to school on a November morning and listening on the radio about Freddie Mercury’s death from AIDS. I still remember my friend D lamenting his death. (To this day, we say Freddie was gay only because he never met us…).

I would like to write about the most effective public health campaign ever. Granted, it is likely only a few hundreds of people saw it. It was never made national, or televised. It consisted of two small posters, drawn by hand, made by some medical students. I call it the most effective campaign because I still remember it, 22 years later.

It was 1989, and I was visiting Veracruz with my father, my mother and my brother. My mom had an AMFEM meeting, and one of the activities included touring the medical school. The posters were taped to a window. The drawings were something like blue and pink eggs (although it could’ve been the male and female symbol). The posters said, in large letters, SI DA and NO DA (a play on the Spanish acronym for AIDS, SIDA, and the phrase Si Da, you can get it.)

On the SI DA poster, you had the “eggs” engaging in activities that put you at risk of acquiring AIDS, like using drugs, having homosexual and heterosexual unprotected sex, a seropositive pregnant woman passing it on to her child, etc. The NO DA poster showed the “eggs” hugging, kissing, sharing food, dancing, swimming, etc.

Those posters stuck with me. I wish I had a photo, or knew who made them. They were clear, brief and simple, enough to attract a child’s attention, and retain it long enough for her to read and learn (granted, the child in question used to read anything in her path).

I can’t say those posters (or any AIDS campaign, for that matter) caused a change in my behavior. After all, I wasn’t old enough to partake in any of those risks. But I’m pretty sure that some of the students at the Veracruz medical school saw them, and learned, and changed their attitudes and behavior on account of those two posters.


Ha, nevermind. Romanticism, be gone! The posters were not made by students, but by the pros at the Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo. Still, it was an effective campaign! You can see the posters here, here (not the originals, but a better view), and the ads below. (Thanks to Google, and all the people who posted this material)



Pharyngula on Strike

21 07 2010

My favorite blog in the blogosphere is on strike!!!!

I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but it seems that ScienceBlogs, an organization that I wanted to belong to one day, made some bad decision, and several of it’s members (most of whom I followed) decided to leave.

This issue started with Sb inviting (and I use the word freely) Pepsico to write a blog.  This lead to many bloggers to feel that their trust in Sb, and the network’s  objectivity might be jeopardized.

It pains me to see that my favorite blog is on strike.  It pains to see that many other bloggers left a forum that allowed many learning opportunities to aspiring scientists and science journalists like me.

This loss of many voices and opinions is in detriment of Seed Media and might even deliver the final blow to the organization, according to some bloggers.

I don’t know.

I do know, however, that one of the best things science has going for it is objectivity. Individuals may fail at this, but the collective of scientists is an insurance against bias. It enriches the process, and makes its results extremely trust worthy.

When you one is sponsored, there’s the tacit obligation to comply with the sponsor’s agenda, and when it comes to science, this can have catastrophic consequences.

I hope the issue resolves soon, because I’ll miss my Pharyngula fix.

Coming back to life

13 05 2010

After several months on antidepressants I can say that I am actually sort of like back to my old self again. My sense of humour might have a lower pH, but hey, at least I’m laughing!

Partly, I must admit, is due to my not-so-new job. I can get my geekiness flow freely and I feel right at home. The students are enthusiastic and oh so amazing I can’t believe myself. I gladly go to work each day, wondering what my kids will do next.

Also, I’ve applied for a masters, and I hope to get word soon. Will let you know whatever the result.

Must go back to preparing class.

Meanwhile, a shark…

Nerds and Freaks and Geeks, oh my!

5 08 2008

Today was the first day of school, and as I was hearing my new student’s presentations, one of them confessed that she ran away form her former high school because she was surrounded by freaks, and geeks. Being a proud and out geek myself, I started a wee argument on the issue… Apparently, being a geek is seen as a bad thing nowadays.

So, just for clarity’s sake, I visited reference. com, and looked up all those terms that are used to refer to the intellectually inclined. Since that first search did not conform to my hypothesis, I tried wikipedia. Here, the definition was broader, and though it did mention the word’s negative connotation, it included the more mainstream, popular definition of the term.

It’s funny how meanings evolve. I’m ill equipped to talk about epistemiology (I’ll channel Tolkien whenever i want to talk about that), but I want to think I can at least deal with evolution. The term geeks, as the term gay , or queer has had it’s original meaning changed by the same community it describes.FYI, I’m not equating being geek oto being gay. This is just an excercise on the evolution of language. You can stop ranting now.

The term gay, meaning “happy, carefree, festive”,  once so inoffensive as to be used in a disney cartoon, has been used by the homosexual community to define themselves since at least the 1920’s, but it only became mainstream a few years ago. Now it’s used as some sort of badge of honor, cause of pride, and is also the P.C. way to refer to those who love members of the same gender.

The term geek has followed the same path, I think, from being used as a reference to circus workers, and later a way to design those who are socially inept, generally disheveled and technophiles.

Today, the term geek is used inside the community as a badge of honor. It means that you have accumulated enough arcane knowledge in an obscure field, and that you have the nerve to apply this arcane knowledge to everyday life. It no longer means “socially inept”, since geeks are highly functional among their kind.

We are actually a very interesting and fun crowd to be around of. The trick is to be in on the joke.

Watt are you talking about?

13 07 2008

Ah, eavesdropping. It’s never polite. If you don’t want it to happen to you, please, keep your voice down.

Last week, while having a luxurious, sophisticated dinner at McDonalds, my boyfriend, E, and I ran into a bunch of kids that were planning an astronomy thing for their camping trip, and since we are always looking for excuses to go stargazing and camping, we got into their conversation, and quickly scored an invitation for the weekend.

So we arrived to Rayones, a beautiful valley filled with pecan trees a couple of hours from home, and promptly set up both camp and telescope. I was about to point our 5 inch scope to the always jaw dropping M13, when it starts acting all weird, followed by the acre scent of burning circuitry.

Man, was that stressful. The C5 (the telescope) was NOT working, the control flashing a dim red light and no information whatsoever. Subtle panic. We continued the tour with binoculars, and went  to sleep.

By the time we got home, the telescope hospital was closed. Later, while i was taking a much needed shower, E plugged the scope to the wall, and, Oh miracle! It worked. It was aligned successfully, the motors worked and everything was good. Apparently the problem is in the battery pack, because it is not sending enough energy to the scope’s control. We’ll take it to the hospital tomorrow.

At the end of the day E gave me a thorough, totally well explained lecture on electricity and power and the difference between watts and volts and amperes. It would have been a total success if not for my being completely baffled by those things to begin with. Well, at least i now know the difference. Just don’t ask me to explain it back.

Though this is not the explanation that my boyfriend lovingly dispatched over a hot cup of coffee last night, I leave Physics for Doofuses: Understanding Electricity, for all of us electrically challenged folk.

My Summer with Dick

2 07 2008

I spent a week in Puerto Vallarta. Unbeknownst to my very dear boyfriend, who remained here, working , I spent endless hours under the sun, and in bed with a most wonderful, intelligent, and I must admit, good looking man. His name is Richard Dawkins. And he wasn’t really there. But his books were.

In just one week I went trough “The Selfish Gene” and “The God Delusion” while “The Ancestor’s Tale” was waiting for me back home.

This is my review of my summer with Mr. Dawkins.

A lot has been said about the selfish gene, and though i know I won’t be saying anything new, I will venture this into the internets: The book is f-ing brilliant. It’s fun, fast paced, scholarly,  witty and easy to understand. It’s what i wish I could write some day, being that I long to be a science communicator. Being that I was trained as a Biologist way after the book was published I was familiar with its central thesis, that the genes use individual organisms ( uni or multicellular) to reproduce and multiply themselves. What struck me as brilliant was how clearly it was, at least to me, the ramifications of this particular characteristic of the genes from a human perspective. Not to say by this, that I though that the book justified Social Darwinism, as many an infamous character has suggested. Quite the opposite, since the book put into perspective familiar relationships and social relationships in my own life. As cultured and intelligent our species claims to be, we are still heavily influenced by our genes, and i can’t wait to discuss the brilliant book with my SocialPsychologist friend. I could easily see why the book became a science classic.

The other book I read, the God Delusion was even more palatable. Biologists seldom get into religious debates ( with the exception of me). I went to a catholic school, all the way trough high school, and quite frankly, i never quite fit in.. Too much questioning, apparently. Anyhow, I slowly gravitated towards atheism during my late teens, and finally, thanks to this book, came out of the closet as a godless scientist.

Anyways, the book brilliantly and with a lot of british humour, talks about some inconsistencies not only among the gospels and the lessons they try to teach, but also about the “unchristian charity” of some practitioners who can’t stand that other people have different points of view, and gives fair warning to the evils that spring from blinding the eyes of  reason.  It also talks about morality , a possible evolutionary explanation to religious thought, that seamlessly intertwines with the selfish gene’s theory, and in-group mentality and all those things I enjoy talking about with E, and my friend, SocialPsychologist. Also, I can’t wait to lend this book to my friend Astronomer P. He’ll enjoy it so much!

That, not-so-briefly, is how i spent my summer with Mr. Richard Dawkins.

One more thing. Mr. Dawkins, if ever i meet you, I’ll take out for some mojitos (or coffee, or ice cream) and I will have a long, deep conversation. I hope I did your work justice in this review.

Hello world!

2 06 2008

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