Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Voice Geek

I just started my second year of graduate school this week. Second year speech pathology students do two different field placements (like a rotation or internship) in our last two semesters: a medical placement and a pediatric (generally school) placement. I started my medical placement on Monday at a large army hospital here in San Antonio. It's been exciting and scary and interesting and traumatic, all rolled into one. I have a great supervisor who is constantly pushing me out of my comfort zone (which is a blessing, though sometimes I have to remind myself of that). It's been particularly interesting because I eventually want to work in a medical/clinical setting with voice patients, and voice patients make up about 50% of our caseload. So I'm loving it.

One aspect of voice evaluation and therapy that I've been a little leery of, though, is scoping (or videostroboscopy). Basically, that's where the speech pathologist inserts a long metal rod with a light and camera on the end (rigid scope) through the patient's mouth to the back of their throat (without making them gag) to get a look at their vocal folds ("voice box") in action.

(See that metal rod in her hand? That's the camera. See the expression on that old guy's face? That's about how most people feel when they find out that thing's going to be getting acquainted with the back of their throat.)

(View of normal vocal folds (they're the whitish V-shaped things) from a videostroboscopy)

I've tried scoping people a few times before, and it's not easy: even if they don't gag, it's still hard to get a good view of the folds. But today, I did it. Grabbed the tongue, slipped the scope in her mouth, and all of a sudden a great shot of her larynx was on my screen. I got so excited that I totally forgot what to do next. It was fantastic.

Next on the list: learn how to insert a flexible scope (same idea, but this one goes up the nose). Woot!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Warming Shwarming

Just about everything I post is written by (and usually about) me. But I firmly believe that there are scads of people out there who can express my views better than I ever could. Sometimes because they know a lot more than I do. Sometimes because they're way better writers. And sometimes both. So when I found this review by Orson Scott Card on his Hatrack site (which contains columns where he reviews all kinds of different products for his local newspaper), it really resonated with me because it's exactly how I feel. And I would have written it myself, except that I'm an ignoramus when it comes to science. And because I'm lazy.

His review is of a book, but he goes off on a tangent about global warming and what a load of bull it is. And that pretty much sums up my own opinion about global warming: it's a load of bull. (Seriously. Did you notice they've now changed the name from "global warming" to "climate change" so that, if it suddenly starts getting colder, they can still blame it on sinful, polluting humans?) Climate change is a natural phenomenon, meaning it's a result of nature. It's been going on long before humans were around. Just ask the dinosaurs. Oh, wait... They were wiped out by climate change.

Some of my scattered thoughts on global warming/climate change:
  • I have no patience for a bunch of scientists and politicians adopting a new and unproven theory as scientific and immutable fact. Especially when it will affect my lifestyle and my bank account, because you know they're doing everything they possibly can to pass copious amounts of legislation to tax us all back to the 1700's (cap and trade, anyone?).
  • If the U.S. does adopt extreme legislation like cap and trade, hiking prices on U.S. companies and businesses, more jobs will be lost as plants shut down and move overseas where they will not only no longer be subject to ridiculous taxes, but they will also be able to pollute as much as they want. Which leads me to...
  • Unless every country in the world adopts similar restrictions, taxing and restricting U.S. businesses to death isn't going to affect the world's overall ecology all that much. So if companies or factories can't operate here because of costs, they'll move somewhere else. Even if every SUV and smoke-belching factory relocated to India or China, the U.S.' air would not be the way it was 500 years ago. It's not like there's some bubble over the United States that holds in all of "our" pollution. Air moves. Pollution spreads. If the laws and demands here on factories remain reasonable, they will stay here. Not only does this boost our economy, but it also allows for some environmental regulation (whereas if the companies moved to certain countries overseas, there would be no regulation and we'd have to deal with that pollution indirectly anyway).
  • I think we need to be responsible stewards over the Earth. I do. That includes limiting pollution, being responsible about deforestation, and using cost- and waste-effective energy sources (like nuclear power or wind/solar power where efficacious, because it doesn't work everywhere). That does not include pushing through extreme legislation by using threatening words like "apocalypse," "dooms day" and "panic."
Okay, so that was more than I was planning on saying.

In this review, Orson Scott Card mentions "Ekman" several times; Ekman is the author of another book that was reviewed earlier on in this article. Here's OSC:

Brian Fagan's books on climate change through history were recommended to me by a friend. I even passed along his mini-review. But I have now read The Great Warming, The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850, and The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization.

Fagan does a really excellent job of his project, which is history rather than science. He has gone into the historical record and correlated it with the scientific record of past climate changes.

What emerges is a series of warm and cold periods. First, there's the macro-climate pattern, which for the past million years or so has primarily consisted of a long ice age interrupted by warm periods that last ten or twenty thousand years at a whack.

Within those ice ages, though, there are brief warm spells, and within the warm periods (like the one we're in now, in which all of known human history has taken place) there are cold periods.

We are now in a warm phase that began about 1850. Previous to that was the Little Ice Age, a stormy, miserable period with bitterly cold winters, chilly summers, and shortened growing seasons. It lasted from about 1300 till 1850.

Prior to the Little Ice Age, though, there was a Medieval Warm Period that was much like the climate today -- only warmer. They were growing wine grapes in the south of England (not yet possible today); Greenland looked, amazingly enough, green; and Newfoundland could be called "Vineland" by Norse explorers.

Not surprisingly, when we're in a warm period, weather is better, summers last longer, crops are less likely to fail, and the world can, on the whole, sustain a markedly larger population than during the cold periods. All of this Fagan faithfully reports.

And yet ... somehow Fagan remains a believer in the alarmist idea that somehow human activities are causing our current global warming through our excessive carbon emissions, and the results of this will be a dire problem that must be stopped.

So even though every bit of actual evidence Fagan has found in the historical record and in the findings of scientists points to our present time as being well within the normal pattern of climate cycles, he still remains a true believer in the dogma that humans are doing bad things to the climate and must be stopped.

From time to time in his books, he will point out that religious leaders blamed bad climate events on the wrath of God. The people have sinned; we must repent. He doesn't actually ridicule these efforts to understand climate change by blaming it on God's reaction to human sins, but the message is clear. Weren't these people naive to think that sinning against God's will could have caused these storms, this shortened growing season, this famine?

They have the mindset that whatever happens must be God's will, and so when bad things happen, God must be angry.

And yet Fagan does exactly the same thing himself, over and over -- blaming human activities for climate events that clearly are well within the normal range.

When he is talking about facts, he carefully demonstrates causality, giving evidence. But when he blames current human activities for our present warmer climate, it's as if he switches off his brain and repeats the mantras of the eco-puritans. Suddenly our good weather is a bad thing. Suddenly a thing that happened long ago when there were no human carbon emissions worth mentioning can only be understood as the result of human activity when it happens now!

What's going on here?

Well, it's the opposite, really, of Ekman's attitude toward science. Where Ekman built up consensus slowly, by gathering evidence and by inviting other people to test his results, the global warming alarm hit the ground running as a full-fledged explanation. Somehow it made the leap from being a hypothesis -- what if human carbon emissions are causing a rise in global temperatures? -- to being a dogma, without any intervening skepticism allowed.

Fagan is not doing bad science. He's a historian, and he faithfully follows the historical record. You can actually find out true things by reading his books.

But just as the true believers in the wrath of God were able to assign human sins as the cause of whatever bad weather they had, so also Fagan is able to look past his facts and blame modern changes on forest-clearing and carbon emissions, not because he actually has any specific data proving it (if he did, he'd have produced it), but because that's what good, faithful eco-puritans have to say.

So Fagan is doing pretty good science.

But he has been utterly taken in by the people who do very bad science.

Global warming was seized upon as an explanation as soon as it was proposed. We were getting news articles about it as fact back when even its proponents could only claim it as a guess, backed up only by computer simulations which were not science at all, but merely visual aids.

In the years since then we have found out what we already knew -- that the Little Ice Age is over and we're in a warmer cycle now, which has not yet reached the high temperatures and long summers of the Medieval Warm Period.

But we have found nothing, nada, zilch that proves or even indicates that human carbon emissions have anything to do with the warmer trends since 1850.

First, the industrial revolution was highly localized and serious scientists agree that what was happening exclusively in Europe could not have had any noticeable effect on global temperatures. Besides, the industrial revolution began decades before the Little Ice Age ended in 1850.

Second, if human carbon emissions were causing global warming, we would expect that there would be some relationship between increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and rises in temperature. But the data show the opposite: There is not a correlation or even an inverse correlation. Global temperatures rise and fall in patterns similar to those that the weather has always had, and rises in human carbon emissions have no effect at all.

Sometimes as carbon emissions have shot up, temperature has fallen. Then it rises again, when no particular change has happened, and falls again even though carbon emissions have not decreased.

In the world of rational science, this would be taken as a very strong indicator that if human carbon emissions have any effect at all, it is probably negligible and not worth worrying about.

But we're talking about religion here, just as we saw during the Little Ice Age. It isuseful to the eco-puritans to keep blaming every bad thing (or even good things that they claim are bad) on human activities, because they want a good excuse to stop those activities.

The eco-puritans have been making war on civilization for decades now. We can't build a dam without lawsuits claiming that we are endangering species. They start from the assumption that if humans need it, it must be a bad thing and should be blocked or delayed as long as possible.

This bias continues. And the eco-puritans use all the tools of fanatical religion to try to get their way.

If a good scientist dares to speak up and declare that anthropogenic global warming has not only not been proven, but seems to be contra-indicated by the data we have, that scientist is punished.

There is no punishing in good science! You don't suddenly deny speaking engagements to a notable scientist because he dared to say the wrong thing. You don't attack anyone who questions your findings -- you welcome their scrutiny.

You don't hide your evidence or refuse to share it -- but that's what the "hockey stick" claimants did, until it became clear they had faked their data and suddenly the eco-puritans stopped talking about the hockey stick. It was a lie and it had always been a lie -- but it got swept under the rug because, after all, it was a pious lie in support of a "good" cause.

Even now, the eco-puritans confess the bankruptcy of their religion in everything they say. I just heard a spot that made me laugh -- but sadly. "Just because you don't feel any effects of global warming right now doesn't mean it's not important," said the message.

Yeah, well, maybe the fact that we don't feel any effects of global warming right now means that whatever is happening is part of the natural cycles of the Earth and Sun, and it is not caused by our eco-sins.

Good science: The methodology of a self-skeptic like Paul Ekman.

Pretty good science: The faithful reporting of the correlations between history and science in the books of Brian Fagan.

Bad science: The attempts by the eco-puritans to squelch or punish any dissidents and to pretend that an issue is settled when it hasn't even been examined. They leapt to believe because they wanted to believe it.

This is is the kind of behavior that will lead the public to conclude that scientists are just a bunch of liars who will say anything to get their way. Because, unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening with the false claims of human-caused global warming.

It is going to be used as an excuse to put foolish and onerous burdens on Western industry (but not on Chinese or Indian or Russian or African industry, as if they didn't share the same planet!)

It is a political ploy to hurt the West, and it is being backed by people so stupid that they don't understand that if they actually bring down Western economies, it will hurt the poorest parts of the world first and worst.

Meanwhile, though, the survivors can read Ekman's books and accurately interpret what emotions we're feeling about the eco-puritans who lied to us when they used global warming as an excuse to break the back of the global economy and bring to an end the ascendancy of the West.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Early Memories

Between the ages of two and five, I lived in San Francisco. I have a lot of memories of that place, most of them brief snapshots:
  • counting with beans and buttons in Kindergarten
  • the two-headed snake in the reptile section at Golden Gate Park
  • giving money to beggars on street corners
  • practicing holding a baby and changing a diaper on a cabbage patch doll in preparation for the birth of my sister
  • going on long walks with my mom up hills so steep the sidewalk was bordered by a set of stairs
  • the cubbies in my walk-in closet and my fears there was a bear hiding in the shadows
  • eating Better Cheddars in our tiny kitchen
  • learning to answer the phone ("hello, this is Lindsay")
  • clapping my hands until they hurt as my dad graduated from dental school
  • walking through all the apartments in our building with my mom (the apartment manager) and the bug spray man
  • the whales on our bathroom shower curtain
  • sprinkling sugar on my Wheaties and Kix (the only two cereals we usually had because they were cheap)
  • the window in my bedroom that faced the window of a super nice gay couple in our building
  • feeling out of place at the baby shower for the birth of my sister until a sweet woman arrived with a gift for me: a delicate gold butterfly necklace that I still have in my jewelry box
  • visiting my aunt in her studio apartment when she moved into our building
  • standing in my white nightgown (the one with little red hearts) and feeling a little scared as my mom prepared to drive a pregnant teenage girl who lived upstairs to the hospital. She sat in our living room, tears from pain and contractions and fear running down her face.
  • two different dreams and two hallucinations
  • when my cousins and grandparents from Utah came to visit for my dad's graduation: they stayed in our tiny one-bedroom apartment, and we terrorized our poor babysitter
  • the parking garage and little drugstore across the street we could see through our living room window
  • driving to San Jose to visit Grandma, who always had cupboards full of Lucky Charms
  • the blue flowered couch with the pull-out bed my parents slept on every night
  • spinning around in circles as fast as I could and then jumping on the couch where I watched the room spin and pretended I was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz when she was caught in a cyclone
  • making a "guitar" with different sizes of rubber bands and an empty shoebox
  • feeling jealous when my sister would toddle around the apartment carrying my pink lunchbox
  • going to daycare at a woman named Barbara's house. She had long hair and a child gate I couldn't climb over
  • feeling sick and anxious every night before preschool because I hated nap time and I was scared of Patricia, a dwarf woman with red hair who was one of the teachers
  • crying when my mom left to teach college night classes
  • accidentally swallowing a fruit snack without chewing it
  • taking trips to Utah, just me and my dad, and putting melted Andes mints in the slots of the air conditioner to slowly firm up
This post was initially going to have a completely different focus, but once I started reminiscing, I couldn't stop. I love SF: the Giants, the 49ers, the bay, the parks, the skyscrapers, the hills, the colorful people, the constant overcast sky and 60 degree temperature. I've been back several times since, but my favorite memories of San Francisco are the ones where I saw it for what it was through fresh, young eyes.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Skills, Take Two

First, please allow me to indulge myself by stating that I have a very handsome husband. He is one dreamy, good-lookin' guy. Truly.

But sometimes...

well... can be rather difficult... get a good picture of him.

(These three are probably the best of the lot--the last one is a self-portrait. I have to say, though, that I kinda like #3 up at the top: it's 1 part freaky and 2 parts hot.)

Yes, I realize the lighting and angles and photography skills in general are bad (not all of us have SLRs, okay?), so I can't blame Jay for that. But still, after looking at these ten shots, I think it's safe to say that Jay's not going to take home the prize for Most Photogenic.

So why was I taking pictures of Jay in the first place? Believe it or not, I wasn't trying to showcase my portrait-taking ability or Jay's photogenic-ness (or lack thereof on both counts) or even our cool green accent wall; rather, I was documenting a new achievement of mine.

That's right: I have a new skill. It's actually one I never dared to make a goal of because I never thought I'd have the guts to try it. But like my parallel parking skills, I think it will serve me well in the years to come.

I cut his hair. By myself. And while it's not the best haircut Jay's ever had, it's certainly not the worst. And even though you're now scrolling back up to scrutinize (and probably find flaws with) his hair in those ten pictures, you have to admit that you didn't even notice his hair the first time you looked, did you? Which means that I didn't do too bad of a job according to Lindsay's Theory of Human Behavior #23, which states that people generally only notice things in passing that are either really good or really bad (explaining why if you play the piano in church and mess up a few times during the hymns you'll get a lot of compliments afterwards, whereas if you play without flaws no one will say anything because nothing brought their attention to you in the first place).

If I were a true blogger, I would have before and after shots and pictures of me standing with clippers and shears and (of course) a picture of the huge pile of hair on the bathroom floor. But I'm not. So you'll just have to imagine Jay with long hair. And me snipping away while Jay watched Nacho Libre on his laptop. And the pile of hair, which was really quite impressive.

Acknowledgments: I owe everything to Lindsey Whiting, a top-notch hair stylist/esthetician in my ward who gave me enough demos and coaching and pep-talks and affirmation that she convinced me this was something I could actually do. And to Jay, who really couldn't care less whether I messed his hair up or not.