Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Some H1N1 perspective

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I think that the H1N1 pandemic should be taken seriously.  Precautions like hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer seem sensible to me.  I’ll probably get immunized when it’s my turn in the queue.  I don’t want to get this flu, and I don’t want to be responsible for others getting it.

However I wonder if some of the H1N1 panic might be a bit out of proportion.

Flu Deaths in Canada


Deaths in Canada from the 1918 Spanish Influenza (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Annual Deaths in Canada from Seasonal Flu (Public Health Agency of Canada)

H1N1 Surveillance (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Last chance to donate to Team Glen – Walk for ALS

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Back in late April I posted about Team Glen, which had just started recruiting members to participate in the Prince Albert Walk for ALS.  The response has been overwhelming, with 21 team members/walkers registered.  The walk will be happening this Saturday morning, just a couple of days away.  If you would like to make a donation to this great cause, there is still time to do so online at the Team Glen Website.  Alternatively if you chase down any of the team members listed at that website, I’m sure they would be glad to add your donation to their pledge card.

Team Glen

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Some of my readers may remember that last spring I participated in the 2008 Walk for ALS.

This year’s Prince Albert Walk for ALS will be held on May 30.  Having more advance notice than last year, upon discussion with some family members we have decided to form a team to walk in this year’s event.  Team Glen will be fundraising over the next few weeks to raise money to fight this cruel disease in memory of my brother Glen, who died of ALS in 2004.

Glen Loseth with his siblings - April 2002 - ALS not yet diagnosed.

Glen (middle front) with his siblings - April 2002 - ALS not yet diagnosed.

We have registered for the walk, and have created a team website on the ALS Society of Saskatchewan’s website.  If you knew Glen and would like to join Team Glen to help fundraise to fight ALS, or if you’d like to make an online donation, or just to learn more about ALS, check out the Team Glen Website here.

Poster fort the 2009 Walk for ALS in Prince Albert

In cahoots

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

The newly characterized antibiotic, which Clardy and Currie call dentigerumycin, is a depsipeptide containing unusual amino acids, such as piperazic acid and N-hydroxyalanine, as well as a polyketide-derived side chain containing a pyran ring.

If that sentence is Greek to you, join the club.

However I’m glad that there are people who understand the science of the symbiotic relationship between ants, fungi and bacteria, and are working to use it for the benefit of humans.  In my opinion, the potential for new drugs, and enzymes to potentially turn wood waste into liquid fuels, is worth investing in.  I for one do not begrudge my tax dollars helping to fund this kind of research.

The Pope says AB and his critics say C but I think ABC

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanisation of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness – even through personal sacrifice – to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.

“Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.

“I believe that this is the first response [to AIDS] and that this is what the Church does, and thus, she offers a great and important contribution. And we are grateful to those that do this.”

So spoke Pope Benedict several days ago.

And boy did it set off a media firestorm.

In the news and opinion articles that I’ve read, I haven’t seen much mention of the so-called ABC strategy.  That is the strategy that Uganda used to dramatically reduce that nation’s HIV/AIDS infection rate, where A stands for Abstinence, B stands for Be faithful to a single committed partner, and C stands for Condom use if you can’t commit to the first two points.

To me this just seems like a no-brainer.  Abstinence is indeed the surest way to prevent infection (recognizing the slight chance of infection from intravenous sources etc.).  Faithfulness is also excellent, if indeed both partners remain true to their vows (recognizing that many faithful spouses have been infected by unfaithful partners).  Condoms have a fairly high success ratio … I’ve heard as high as 99% protection and as low as 80% (would you encourage your child to play Russian Roulette on condition that he/she only places a single cartidge in the cylinder?), so it makes sense to use them if engaging in risky behaviour.

The Pope’s opposition to condom distribution is consistent with Roman Catholic teachings forbidding contraceptives.

While I think the media has distorted his message, I do think he is wrong on this issue.  Whether a sex trade worker or the faithful spouse of an unfaithful partner, a lot of people are dying who might have lived if a condom had been used.

However I also think that his critics who discount abstinence and faithfulness are equally wrong.  I don’t see the same media indignation over the way that abstinence and faithfulness are dismissed as unrealistic.

For what I consider a fair analysis of HIV/AIDS prevention, check out the April 2008 article by Green and Ruark in First Things – “AIDS and the Churchs: Getting the Story Right“.

Three wolves

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Logan and Arnie have managed to harvest three wolves so far this winter.  The first two are black, and the most recent one is grey.

Logan and Arnie with two black wolvesLogan and Arnie with a grey wolf

The wolf population in Saskatchewan’s agriculture/forest fringe area has been increasing dramatically in recent years, to the point where predation on livestock is a problem in some areas.

Some people are opposed to trapping.  However I see it as a valid way to supplement an income, provided it is done in compliance with provincial legislation.  In fact the trappers that I know tend to have a good understanding of conservation biology, and see themselves as responsible stewards of our province’s renewable resources.

May they have continued success, and here’s hoping that fur prices increase.

Good scum

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

With increased concern about the apparent link between elevated atmospheric CO2 levels and climate change, there has been a real push recently to produce liquid fuels from organic matter. However enthusiasm over grain-based ethanol is tempered by concerns about increased cost of food, especially for poor countries where a significant increase in the price of grain could make a difference between having a meal each day or going without.

As a forester, I would like to see more research into the production of cellulosic ethanol, especially if it can be produced economically from parts of the tree that presently get piled and burned.

However a really fascinating option is the idea of producing fuels from algae. Those disgusting scummy green ponds may have a lot more value in the future.

Here’s a video clip about one private research facility that’s investigating algae biodiesel.

Update on Walk for ALS

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

A few days ago I posted about the upcoming Walk for ALS. Picking up the pledge form just a few days before the event, I set myself a goal of raising $100.

In addition to my blog post, I emailed some family and friends who knew my brother Glen, and sent an email to my co-workers.Walk for ALS in Prince Albert 2008

The response was overwhelming. I collected $171 and received pledges from out-of-towners totalling another $330, for a total of $501. (not counting another $40 pledge that I found out about after returning from the walk).

Here is what one shirt-tail relative stated in his email response:

I still think about Glen often. Until Glen was diagnosed with ALS I had no idea of the devastation it causes. I still can’t understand why someone as awesome as Glen would be inflicted with such an evil disease! It was torture to watch Glen go through all that suffering, I can’t imagine what he went through! I still miss him very much. So this is something I will always support!

The threatening rain never materialized, and it turned out to be a great day for a walk. Thanks all for making my fund-raising easy.

Glen with Carmen, 1980 family camp-out

Walking for ALS

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

My brother Glen died of ALS about four years ago.

From Wikipedia …

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Maladie de Charcot, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (US)) is a progressive, usually fatal, neurodegenerative disease caused by the degeneration of motor neurons, the nerve cells in the central nervous system that control voluntary muscle movement. As a motor neuron disease, the disorder causes muscle weakness and atrophy throughout the body as both the upper and lower motor neurons degenerate, ceasing to send messages to muscles. Unable to function, the muscles gradually weaken, develop fasciculations (twitches) because of denervation, and eventually atrophy because of that denervation. The patient may ultimately lose the ability to initiate and control all voluntary movement except of the eyes.


That description just begins to describe the tragedy of ALS.

A couple of days ago I discovered that Prince Albert will be having a “Walk for ALS” event this Saturday, June 7. On the spur of the moment I picked up a pledge form. Now I need to get some people to sponsor me.

ALS awareness isn’t as high-profile as cancer, heart disease, etc., so it is under-funded. Please consider contributing to the search for a cure for ALS, either by sponsoring me, sponsoring someone else, or signing up to “Walk for ALS” in your community.

No they don’t kill the whitecoat seal pups

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Whitecoat seal - Canwest News Service The annual seal hunt has begun, and of course the newspapers are featuring pictures of whitecoat seal pups, despite that fact that, as I mentioned in a previous post, the whitecoat pups cannot be harvested.

My prediction is that before the end of the seal hunt, the number of photos of whitecoat pups prominently featured in news stories by Canwest News Service and other media will outnumber photos of legally harvestable seals by a ratio of 10 to 1.