Friday, January 27, 2012

Dropping the Ball at Day Care

For as long as humans have gathered in societies, perhaps even before we evolved into homo sapiens, we have engaged in the communal care of our children. Whether it is a collection of parents, sharing responsibility for the care and upbringing of the youth; a single parent caring for several neighborhood kids; or even modern professional facilities; to one degree or another, there has always been a need, on occasion, for a division of labor when it comes to taking care of infants, toddlers and older children.

Today, this most often takes the form of day care. The demands of working life lead us to put our trust in others to watch after our children while we go off to earn a living to provide for our families. The opportunity to stay at home, to spend time with our kids, is often a luxury that few can afford. This may be due to the necessity of simply earning enough money to pay for rent and other bills or the need to advance in our careers. Whatever the reason, there are many for whom day care is a necessity, and as such, we trust that those in charge will take appropriate measures and put in place certain rules to ensure the well-being of those under their care. We also trust that all parents who use those resources will abide by the rules.

When the system breaks down, the repercussions frequently ripple outward, affecting more than just one or two people who failed to uphold that trust.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pertussis Toxin, Aiding and Abetting Influenza

Pertussis, or whooping cough, is bad. In infants, it can kill or lead to neurological impairment or other permanent injuries. In adults, the 100-day cough can range from a persistent annoyance to bone-wracking agony. As bacteria go, it's a pretty nasty one. Less than two years ago, an outbreak in California resulted in the deaths of 10 babies. In the mid- to late-1970s, vaccination rates plummeted in many countries after reports of neurological damage following immunization, leaving the immunocompromised at much greater risk. The reports were ultimately mistaken. We are currently seeing another downward trend in vaccine uptake rates, as well as reminders that immunity wanes with time. Outbreaks continue to spread across the United States and other nations as teens and adults fail to get timely boosters and parents opt out of immunizing their children.

Avoiding the agony and loss of time, not to mention possible heartache, that accompanies whooping cough would seem to be a good idea regardless of any other factors. But a new study published in PLoS One hints at another reason to immunize.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Defending a Fearful Magic

I suppose that writers should, in a way, feel flattered by the censorship laws. They show a primitive fear and dread at the fearful magic of print.
I've been debating with myself whether or not to write this post. In fact, it's taken me a very long time to put my thoughts down, and I've even held this post back even after I finished it. You see, a recent post of mine was received somewhat, shall we say, unfavorably by someone. I had put down my thoughts on some general rules to follow when writing things on the internet, whether it's in a blog, comments on a newspaper article, Facebook, what have you. As some illustrative examples of what not to do, I included some screen shots of this individual's tweets and other comments, but never actually used the person's name in my own composition, though she did identify herself in the comments, later on. In fact, she left her comments only minutes after sending me an e-mail.

I had tried to inject some humor into the post as a means of keeping the issue light while still providing an educational point. But, as anyone who has done extensive writing or reading in the skeptical community, you can probably see where this is going.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Lesson from History

There are many reasons people are opposed to vaccines. They may have some fear of needles, oppose them for ideological or political reasons, confused a coincidental change in health with a vaccine reaction or simply read and believed propaganda put out by anti-vaccine organizations like the National Vaccine Information Center, Age of Autism, SANEVax and so on. Whatever the reasons for their dislike of vaccines, a frequent question that they ask is, "If your kid is vaccinated, then what does it matter whether or not my kid gets his shots? If vaccines work, then you shouldn't have anything to worry about."

This is a very naive and simplistic question. I addressed this question a while ago and reposted it recently. After presenting some numbers showing what happens when people refuse immunizations, I briefly talked about some people from my own life who could be negatively affected, as well as some hypothetical talk about others that could be harmed.

Recently, a comment at Respectful Insolence brought up a story that I felt should be presented more fully. This is a story of a parent whose child could not be vaccinated and how declines in immunization rates affected the family. Due to the harassing nature of some anti-vaccine activists, identifying details have been altered.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Moment for the Sublime

Every now and then, you just need to stop and appreciate the world around you. After several days of hectic activity and stress, today offered a wonderful opportunity to do just that:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Quacktion Figures™ Will Have to Remain a Dream

Back in November, I put up a survey to gauge interest in my series of Quacktion Figures™, created with the help of Lil Peck. Generally, feedback on the figures was positive, and I thought it would be great to have them produced. Personally, I would love to own one of each.

With the help of one of my readers, I looked at some companies that manufacture action figures to see how much it would cost. Turns out, action figures are friggin' expensive! There are some one-off shops that will produce very small batches of limited-run figures, but they tend to run into the hundreds per figure. Other companies can produce large batches, but they tend to have a minimum number of figures per order, like in the 2,000+ range. While the costs to those interested in purchasing one would be cheaper with the large-scale production route, I would really need to be sure that there was enough interest to make it worth my while. Otherwise, I'd be spending a lot of money to have hundreds or thousands of figures taking up space in my home.

And so, I did the survey. What did I find out?