Sunday, September 28, 2008

Presidential Debate 1: McCain on Science

The Scientific Research and Ecology circles are not at all happy with the glib comments made by Presidential Candidate John McCain about DNA research on Bears being pork spending and wasteful. When I was live blogging with Pam during the debate, I was livid to hear that.

He really drew a line in the sand with the science community. How dare he look down on SCIENCE? The subject and field were this nation is slipping steadily behind. But as I learned in ECOLOG, an e-community list serve maintained by the Ecological Society of America, McCain has been “joking” about this Bear Research being a waste. In fact, Scientific American published an article back in February 2008 McCain's Beef with Bears?—Pork.

First of all, scientific research like this is NOT pork or a special earmark. The Scientific and Education communities would be so lucky to have some guaranteed funding for these important lines of work. But I digress. Second, the study is very important and worth every penny. Grizzly Bears are federally endangered (listed in 1975) and research is necessary in order to understand the species and save it from extinction. "This is not pork barrel at all," says Richard Mace, a research biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP). "We have a federal law called the Endangered Species Act and [under this law] the federal government is supposed to help identify and conserve threatened species."

His remarks and regards don’t really surprise me; and I’ve not been secretive about my support for Obama. Check out McCain’s and Obama’s answers to the Science Debate 2008 14 Questions about Science Policy.

STEM is far too important, our nation’s children score poorly in science and math, far too many young people shy away from these subjects in college, and most American adults are scientific illiterate to shoot scientific research down as a waste of time and money. The time of ant-intellectualism and anti-education must end. NOW!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Green for All Demands Green Jobs Now

Green for All is just that, an environmental and economic movement that is for EVERYONE. The Wealthy. The Poor & Disenfranchised. Students. Urbanites. Small Town Folk. And Green for All is demanding Green Jobs Now – to save our world and our communities.

Living Green isn’t just about respecting and protecting the earth. It’s also about living this life well and with security. No one should have to worry about energy costs vs. quality nutrition. These issues are as much environmental as they are economic and about social justice.

Money + Environment = Green Economy

I’m ready to eradicate poverty.

I’m ready to live more responsibly and take care of my community & neighbors, nature & my environment, and fiscally.

I’m ready for a Green Economy. Are you?

Join me in spreading the word about Green for All and demand Green Jobs Now!
Visit the website and check out the Green Jobs Now Video to learn more about the movement and ways you can participate.

Go Green, Live Green, Save Green, Make Green!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

National Digital Media Day - Using Tech for STEM Education

Digital Media has really made a big impact in our world today. Think about it, some of us are easier to catch up with on line than on the phone or would rather send a text than write a letter. Digital media certainly does make life easier and convenient.

I think blogs and the internet in general have an amazing capacity to share information and educate the public. Teachers, students and parents can go to the internet and discover and download the world. Digital Media can be used (and are being used) to improve math and science education by enhancing and supplementing curriculum, aiding in research and independent study projects, and by just improving learning. It's all there.

Just googling can uncover gems.
The Smithsonian: Encyclopedia Smithsonian Science & Technology - everything from space, planet, animals, physics, forensics, conservation, to communications.

Or checking out any of the science, math, and education websites and blogs I have listed on my side bar.

Also, two of my fellow AfroSpear Members: Eddie Griffin and Fredric Mitchell.

Eddie Griffin's New School of Human Rights is a strong advocate of math education and enhanced critical thinking skills among today's urban youth. In fact, his tag line reads: "Building education systems online to propel our children to be the best that they can be." An archive post: Towards Solving the Math-Science Achievement Gap which is a bold proposal to solve this achievement gap using technology.

Fredric Mitchell with Young Black Professional Guide, is a web developer based in Chicago who hopes to one day start a foundation to support young, Black males in programming and computer science.

Though the use of Digital Media is great and can benefit all, it is not a universally accessible tool -- at least not just yet.
Our society still needs to address and solve the matters of access and affordability of these technologies. And we still need to close the computer literacy gap by introducing these technologies and helping members of under-resourced communities learn to fully utilize them in way that doesn't make them feel alienated.

In the meantime, I think lauding the benefits of Digital Media is a great start.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Addressing Diabetes with Traditional Nutrition

World Ark Magazine is produced by Heifer International, an amazing organization that empowers communities and addresses hunger. In the May/June issue of this year. Healing History is an article (on page 32) about how US Native Americans are re-discovering their food heritage and tackling their major health nemesis – diabetes.

North American Native Americans suffer unusually high rates of diabetes, so much so that being diagnosed with diabetes is no longer alarming. The subject of the article, Paul Smith, a member of the Oneida tribe in Wisconsin, has diabetes along with most of his family.

What’s to blame?

One answer is genetics. Type 2 diabetes does have a genetic component with high rates of incidence among full-blooded Native Americans. As a group, the rate of type 2 diabetes is more than twice as high as among whites.

A second answer has to do with major lifestyle differences of modern Native Americans compared to their fore-parents. Indigenous populations are choosing more wholesome, traditional diets less as fast food and convenience foods become so tempting.
Both of these answers hint to the role the diet and evolution and Thrifty Genes on this ethnic group.

To respond to this crisis, diabetes educators are advocating for a return to Native American diet traditions. Type 2 diabetes in this community is actually a diet-related illness and they are addressing this illness nutritionally. There is now a renewed focus on traditional Native American foods and diets – such as more legumes, fresh vegetables, squash, corn and beans and less convenient and processed foods. By eating like more like their great-grand-parents, today’s Native Americans are actually restoring the balance within their bodies, and improving their health and communities.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Science Vocab: Thrifty Genes

The other day, I hinted about my struggle with weight. Carrying extra weight is not healthy, but for some people shedding pounds is a challenge. It is for me. I blame my thrifty genes for some of my struggles.

The Thrifty Gene Hypothesis was first presented in the 1960's. It basically says that the among some ethnicities, their genes for metabolism work differently.
People from ethnic groups like Africans, Native Americans, and Polynesians evolved in areas where there were routine food shortages, due to extended dry seasons or cyclic famines.
Those individuals who carried a little extra fat -- in the hips, stomach, thighs or where ever --survived hungry times better. They carried more fat because of how their bodies metabolized carbs. Instead of burning it all off, their metabolisms were frugal or thrifty, burning less energy and storing more of it as fat.
I personally think the term Thrifty Genes isn't the best description. I prefer Famine-Resistance Body Type.

Fast-forward to the pro-industrial age.
We definitely have a more sedentary lifestyle than our ancestors. We put less energy into farming, chasing down game, gathering food, and preparing and cooking food.
Also, food is more regularly available - in the Industrialized world, fewer chances of famine and food shortages.
We also have a lot of processed, high carb, high sugar foods - more caloric-bang for the portion size. Those of us who have ancestors who successfully lived in these harsher conditions, but inherited their "good famine-resistant genes" are now at a disadvantage. Our genes and physiology are pre-programed - save more, burn less and there is little we can about it - other than eat differently and exercise more.

This hypothesis is presented as plausible, though not definitive, explanation for why African-Americans, Native-Americans, and Polynesian peoples have a higher propensity for weight issues and health problems like diabetes and heart diseases.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Milk does do a body good – for staving off diabetes

Milk does a body good. Young children need it for nutrition (afterall we are mammals, milk is our required first food). Calcium helps build and maintain a strong skeletal system – for children and adults (prevents osteoporosis). Dairy lobbyists even claim that milk can help with weight loss, too. I’m sure you’ve seen the cereal ads aimed at women encouraging them to drink 3 servings of low-fat airy a day…in addition to a reasonable diet and exercise…can help them recover that slimmer waistline. But I discovered another great reason to love dairy: Dairy Blocks Diabetes.

Say what, drinking milk can help prevent the sugar? According to some research produced by Harvard, seems so.

Lactose, or milk sugar, is metabolized, or broken down and used by the body, at a slower rate than say soda. Breaking down sugars at a slower rate supplies your body with a steady dose of energy preventing sugar rushes and crashes – which can throw your insulin delivery system off. Malfunctioning insulin delivery is what causes diabetes.

Now some things might make some sense now. I love dairy and consume a lot, more than most people I know – cereal, cream in coffee, ice cream, cheese, etc. And this offers me a plausible reason why might despite my pre-diabetes risk factors (e.g. weight issues and family history of diabetes) my blood sugar levels remain normal. My recent doctor’s visit said so.
I am thankful that I am NOT lactose-intolerant. I hypothesize that I’ve kept my milk enzymes (lactase) up – continuing to drink and eat dairy in high amounts into my teen and adult years. So unlike most adult African-Americans, I can digest milk just fine. I blame it on my up-bringing. I come from a nice-sized family and there always seemed to be babies in the house making buying a gallon of milk every other day common.

But let me be clear, getting your weight under control and eating right is your absolute best defense against diabetes. Don’t go drinking milk thinking that’s all you need to do. There are no short-cuts to improved health.

I know there are some anti-dairy people out there; some food/health advisors recommend adults stay away from dairy. I know some people like that. I have some cult-ish relatives who are very strange about some food groups. They really freak me out how they demonize some foods and exalt other – and nobody has ever taken a class in A&P, nutrition, or heck Home Economics. One of the food groups they go on about is dairy. With the exception of people who are lactose-intolerant or have food allergies, I can’t figure out what makes dairy so bad? They once offered that it causes phlegm and that is true. When I have a cold or am congested I don’t want dairy. It makes me feel all stuffy.

But, just my effort to educate and share information.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Constitution Day

On this day in 1787, the United States Constitution was signed. Each year on September 17th, many of us reflect on the historical and political significance of this document – Constitution Day. This point in time, and in this excited political climate, I see the need of a good-old-fashioned Civics Education. Civics was a Social Studies/US History & Government class most public school students were required to take in 9th or 10the grade. I hear many people completely mis-interpret, mis-translate, and mis-explain aspects of US (Federal & State) governing policies. Public Education programs – formal and informal – are perfect opportunities inspired by such celebration days, to help clarify some basic Civics Education I think is so desperately needed.
I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show today that featured Laurence Tribe. He is a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University and author of more than 100 books and articles, including "American Constitutional Law," "On Reading the Constitution," and "Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes". He talked about his work: The Invisible Constitution (Inalienable Rights). He goes through each amendment and gives historical context, explanations, and consensus of the ‘unwritten’ interpretations of the Constitution. Very interesting. I recommend listening to it.

Get Educated. Stay informed

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Save the Date: National Digital Media Day - September 25

National Digital Media Day is coming, soon Sept 25th. I use digital technology - the computer, the internet, and occasionally a digital camera - to share with what’s happening in science and education and how we can make our communities better.

So as I promote this day, I want to share links about Digital Media and Science Education that reach out to young people – the Digital Age Generation – and creative ways Digital Technology is used to attract students to science and teach scientific concepts.

* Engaging the YouTube Generation in Hands-on Science – press release from the National Science Foundation
* State of Play: Students use Computer Games to do science experiments and solve real-world problems. – press release from the National Science Foundation
* Chemical Reactions – acted out by role play - funny and accurate – from Ovablastic, a blog of science you-tube videos. It’s great.
* AP Biology: Animal Behavior (Part 1) – a funny explanation and role play of animal behavior descriptions. Hat tip to Bora from Blog Around the Clock.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Science Diversity Meme - Latino/Hispanic Scientists

September 15 is the beginning of Latino or Hispanic Heritage Month. (It concludes October 15). America celebrates the culture and traditions of U.S. residents who trace their roots to Spain, Mexico and the Spanish-speaking nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean. Sept. 15 was chosen as the starting point for the celebration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and Sept. 18, respectively.

Like my Women in Science Meme in March, I am hosting a Diversity in the Sciences Meme and challenging everyone to name 5 Latino Scientists, Engineers, and or Mathematicians. In the end, I hope we can get a great list that represents each major STEM discipline.
Why am I hosting such a meme? All too often, the story of the scientific discovery doesn’t mention anything about the discoverer. And without a human story or face to attach to the discovery, very often, most students (elementary through college) simply assume that the scientist was a Man, was middle-aged or older, and was white or European. One the easiest ways to promote diversity in STEM is to make a conscious note of the diversity within the discipline and share a real human story. So, will you join me in this meme?

Can you name 5 Latin/Hispanic Scientists?


1. Be sure to name their discipline or field.
2. You can't choose people from your own institution or company. (I may go soft on this one, this time)

3. You can't Google or use the internet to aid in your search. (But if you know someone is a scientist, but not sure what disciple, you can look that up).

4. You can consult textbooks, journals, and class notes.

5. You can ask others to help you brainstorm, but they can't use the internet just to get 5 names fast (see #2).

6. Living and deceased scientists are acceptable.

7. Links to or references about the named scientists are greatly appreciated. Let's share the knowledge, and tell mList as many as you can, even if it isn't five.

Major Discipline Fields: (you can add more)

Biomedical & Medicine
Social Sciences
Space & Planetary Sciences

I encourage you to post this meme at your page and track back.


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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lean on Me – A Movie about Education & Class

Last night, I was watching a classic 1980’s film, Lean On Me, featuring Morgan Freeman. That was the first time I had viewed the movie since I became an informal student of Class/Socioeconomics and Education issues. Viewing this movie through those lenses was quite eye-opening for me. The film was released in 1989, but was prophetic of today’s urban public education mess of school districts being threaten with state takeover for consistently failing state assessments. Joe Clark is a brash, rude, take-no-prisoners No Child Left Behind School principal in a rough and tough school populated by very poor, black, Latino and White students from working class and welfare families. Through-out the film, Joe Clark repeated refers to these students and their families as the sufferers of classism that “turns Blacks into a permanent underclass”. View the Clip to see for yourself.

And he sees his style of reform as the only way to save these children from crappy lives plagued by un-wanted teen pregnancies, crime, violence, jail, welfare, hopelessness, failing relationships, unstable economics, and early death from such lifestyles. In a keeping it real moment, just before the state tests, he explains to the kids how everyone thinks the students are worthless “niggers, spicks, and poor white trash”. How everyone has given up on them and doesn’t expect anything from them. And true to its genre, Crazy Joe Clark energizes the students and convinces them to prove all the classist nay-sayers wrong. View the Clip to see just what I mean.

Let me just say I love Joe Clark-Coach Carter genre of movies. They show us that 1) education is a necessity to achieve success, 2) some people have the deck stacked way against them, but that is no excuse for not wanting and expecting better of yourself, and 3) spirit-guided tough love can save the hardest knuckled head. G

Big Ups to All of the Crazy Joes of Education and Juvenile Correction!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How Privilege is a bias in Political Discourse

I’ve been debating about what to say, how to say and whether or not to say what I think of all of this RNC, McCain-Palin, and Conservatism vs. Liberalism stuff. And the more and more I try to pack it away, it keeps getting in my craw. It’s bothering me because it is ultimate theatre of Privilege afforded by race and class as I have EVER witnessed.

America has some serious double standards. Please read this re-print of a HuffPo on Electronic Village.

It started with Fred Thompson’s speech (yeah, star of the big and small screen) about how much a rule breaker, trouble maker – no “leader of the trouble makers”, and stripper dater John McCain was in his youth. Text and video of speech can be accessed here. And the crowd cheered and roared, with pride and energy. Only in this nation which awards the ultimate privileges to white boys with fathers with supreme rank and authority over many of his classmates’ fathers could these be something to publicly laud. There is no way we could EVER have a similar conversation about Barack or Hillary or John (Edwards) and expect the public to cheer them as proud leaders. Why? Because black folk, women folk, or poor folk must tow the line. When such marginals (e.g. not power-brokers) break the rules, even a little bit, there are huge repercussions to pay. Such behaviors make them a menace, an amount-to-nothing, out-of-control person.

Sarah Palin and her teenage, unwed, in-a-family-way-daughter present more double standards afforded by privilege. They are a sweet, kindly, Caucasian family with some influence and authority, and let’s forget their moral high standing an evangelical Christians. By simply splattering a little explanation of “she’s keeping the baby and the will get married” that makes the moral issue of Fornication go away. I have never heard of anyone commend poor (rural or working class) white girls or girls of color (any color and especially immigrants) for their moral choices to carry their infants to term and love their man with all their hearts. In fact, many of these same girls are referred to as trashy, loose, immoral, fast-ass, dirty blanket-blanks, welfare recipients, baby-mammas. But the great RNC community is behind Ms. Palin and applauds her for her struggle.

The code talk used by the GOP. I was ready to hurl something at the TV set.

Uppity, even Gergen called Westmoreland on this coded crap.

Small town values; Common, everyday Americans. This one really tears me a new one. Like only white folk from small town USA or West VA know what America means.
Country First. What the hell is this? Just a phrase, that actually means nothing. There are no verbs here, that means NO ACTION! If country is first, then why in the hell did the McCains, specifically Cindy, sell ALL of her shares to the very American, very patriotic, Anheuser-Busch Brewing company to InBEV, a Belgian company. She made about $70 million from the American is NOT first deal.

Give me a break.
And it’s time we give the DNC credit for its hard work and achievements
Obama as a community Activist (it is NOT a dirty word, in fact George HW Bush commended community activists and organizations with his 1000 points of light. George W Bush gave away millions to community –ahem – faith based organizations, to help improve our communities) and a statesman with PLENTY of legislative experience.

And love or hate Hillary Clinton, she busted her ass in her effort to run for the White House. I imagine she is more than a little miffed by an anti-feminist female getting all of the credit and glory of being the first best chance of a woman in the white house and she hasn’t paid ANY dues.
I'm pissed for her for this load of crap.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thanks for the Love - Black Weblog Award Winers Announced

The results of the 2008 Black Weblog Awards are out. And the Science/Tech Blog Award goes to two Technology-based blogs.
Popular Vote: Nerd With Swag
Judges’ Vote: The Boy Genius Report (NIX)

Congratulations to both. I wasn't surprised that the voter turnout would be much less than the nomination turnout (9,000+ vs. 1400). And I wasn't too surprised that the Tech blogs would win, either. I am very honored and glad to have made the Finalists cut and that my blog was one of 2 actual science blogs named as finalists. I curious to see the the entire list of nominees for this category. How many blogs were nominated and how many were science-based versus tech based. Science Blogs written by people of color are pretty rare, so I would love to connect to my brethren/sistern. So, BWA, can ya help me out with that? That would be nice.

Thanks for all of the love!!

New Best Science/Technology Blog (Judges’ Pick) Selected - it is now SheGeeks.
Still a Tech Blog, not science. Seems, that the Boy Genius Report failed the first criterion - a black author.
Congrats, SheGeeks.

Oh, and I'm still waiting on a reply from BWA about the list of Black Science (and Tech Blogs). I'm about to put the BWA founder, Markus Robinson, on blast. No, I am doing it.

Dude, C'mon with the list. It seems more than fair considering you and your committee flubbed up big time and chose a non-Black Blog for a Best Black Blog Award.