Thursday, September 17, 2009

Vaccine Russian Roulette

Very often, I seem to be catching flack from people who disagree with my opinions on vaccinating my kids. 


The school seems to think I'm exposing my kids to dangerous germs.  Other parents believe that by not vaccinating my kids I'm somehow endangering theirs--an argument that makes absolutely no sense, because if the vaccine works, and their kids are vaccinated, then vaccinating my kids would be completely irrelevant to the health of theirs.


Granted, there are quite a few disagreements over certain vaccines and their effects on people:


1.  Thimerasol (mercury):  Depending on who you ask, this is either a deadly toxin or "such a small dose as to be absolutely harmless."  Many parents blame this additive for autism.  I'm not taking sides in this debate, but I have a problem with injecting any amount of mercury into a child's body for any reason whatsoever.


2.  Side effects (Swine Flu, 1976):  How do you ensure that the vaccine you're providing doesn't kill more people than the disease it's supposed to be effective against? 


3.  Contaminants (Monkey virus in the Polio vaccine):  What do you do when you discover--years after the vaccination--that it contained a virus or other contamination, and that you've exposed fifty million Americans to a substance that causes cancer?


4.  Profit margin (Gardasil):  I have a philosophical/moral/libertarian problem with government passing a law that requires citizens to buy a product from a company.  Whether the vaccine works or not, ordering people to boost the vaccine maker's profit margin seems like a basic misuse of the law.


5.  Risks versus Benefits:  There have been 1500 cases of polio, annually, worldwide, and the WHO calls the entire Western Hemisphere "Polio Free."  Every case of polio in the United States over the last twenty years is directly related to the polio vaccine itself.  90% of the people infected with polio brush it off like a case of the flu, and nearly 98% of the people infected with polio have a full and complete recovery.  Do the dangers of the vaccine--five different doses for kids before they turn 12--outweigh the risks of even being exposed to the disease, let alone being harmed by it?  The mortality rates for flu, measles, whooping cough, and chicken pox are negligible; are the side effects from the vaccinations worth it?


6.  Expiration dates on vaccination immunity:  The vast majority of the vaccinations children receive provide only temporary immunity.  Only Tetanus antibodies survive in the body for thirty or forty years.  The Hepatitis B shot?  Gone in 7 to 12 years, at most. 


7.  Can we compare against non-vaccinated kids?  For example, the Amish don't vaccinate, and strangely enough, there are no recorded cases of autism in Amish communities.  And Dr. Eisenstein, a Chicago pediatrician, doesn't believe in vaccinations--and the 35,000 kids who have moved through his practice have remarkably low statistics when it comes to autism, asthma, diabetes, and other problems.


I'm sure other people can easily add to this quick list if they wished.  But these are all side issues that don't touch on my real opposition to the concept of vaccination in and of itself.


Basic biology says that the heart pumps blood into the arteries; they carry it to the capillaries, which then feed the cells they touch with the oxygen in the red blood cells before sending the empties back up the veins.  Capillaries in general are barely big enough to allow red blood cells to march through in single file.  Call it a blood-cell bucket brigade to the cells.


A vaccination is meant to kick the body's immune system into overdrive--crank up white blood cell production, and "program" the body to recognize this particular virus and attack it with massive force, should it ever be encountered again.  The needle contains millions or even billions of virus particles for the body to identify and destroy.


Here is a question, then.  What would happen if the body ordered five hundred white blood cells to pursue a microbe into a capillary?


After the first dozen or so arrive, stuffing themselves like marshmallows into a garden hose, nothing else gets through.  And after a very short while, whatever was supposed to be fed by that capillary...dies.


Now, granted, this might only be a handful of cells fed by this one capillary, and there are billions of capillaries.  But at the same time, there are billions of virus particles in one injection; how many of those actually make it down to the capillaries?  Two?  Two hundred?  More?


Perhaps the cells that die are the brain cells that would allow this person to learn to play Mozart.  Or perhaps they are the ones that allow a kid to sit still and pay attention in class.  What if those cells are involved in the processing of Vitamin D or insulin?


I will fully accept the risk that my child might spend a week in bed with measles--in return for their ability to learn to play Mozart.  I would much rather risk exposing my child to chicken pox than chance destroying some critical cell in their body and ruining their future.


Every virus particle is a microscopic bullet, with the potential to kill something small but critically important in the body into which it's injected.


There are billions of these bullets in every needle.


And the average child gets, what, fifty needles before they turn 12...?



For more information, read the work of Drs. Andrew Moulden, Mayer Eisenstein, and Shari Tenpenny

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nicky Weird's Summer Vacation

Note: This is an entry into this week's Friday Challenge. The assignment: "What I Did on my Summer Vacation only make up something cool."


Thirty years ago, an evil sorcerer cast a spell on the Earth. Under it's influence, humans can no longer recognize magic; vampire slayings become "teen runaways," magical storms and disasters are "freak unseasonal storms." Even history isn't immune; show a human a picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with the wizard robes and auto-writing quills moving, and they'll see a bunch of stuffy white men in the style of the 1700s standing around, powdered wigs and all.

Magic just doesn't register on human senses, and even if it does, it's instantly rationalized away.

But there was a glitch in the spell, a mis-spoken word in a long forgotten language...a loophole, if you will, in a spell that was supposed to be eternal law.

The spell only works on adults.

And so, the future of the world lies in the hands of children, like Nicky Ward, who try to fight the demons and vampires as best they can, hoping that some day, the spell will break...

Dear Mom and Dad,

...yeah, I know, when you read this, you'll see "I'm having a lot of fun on my summer vacation!" instead of what I'm really writing...

I'm really glad you agreed to let me come down to Florida with my Guardian group--um, I mean, my "church youth group." The bus ride down was nice and quiet; we had a close pass from a Kansas storm demon. The bus driver called it a small tornado, and we parked under an overpass until it went by. Good thing storm demons are stupid.

Once we got here, we hooked up with the local Guardian club, and started sharing notes. That's really big with the Guardians, you know. When you're twelve and decide to hunt vampires for a living, you've got a life expectancy of maybe six months. If we didn't get to be neurotic about writing down everything we know and sharing copies with everyone we know, then no one would remember how to go about killing vampires and demons, you know?

So, once all the braindraining was out of the way, we helped the local group clear out a vampire nest in the swamp. Bright sunshine, couple of kids go inside and make sure the coffins are full while the rest of the team pours gasoline on the outside...if you're really lucky, the coffins are bonfires before the bloodsuckers are done wiping the sleep out of their eyes...

...we weren't lucky. We lost two, both local kids, and they said we burned up at least six or seven vampires when the plantation went up. Some people might be happy with those numbers, but they can crank out new vampires by just biting someone, and we have to teach even more kids everything we know about staying alive...doesn't seem like a fair trade to me.

After that, we celebrated with carbonated cider, if you can call it a celebration and not a wake.

We spent the next two weeks researching some pretty gruesome murders. Finally, Jim hit on it; it was some kind of possessed-alligator-half-human-half-swamp monster...thing. Dunno, we never really had a name for it. It had an appetite for small pets, but when the supply of Yorkiesnacks ran out, it moved on to the main course--people.

We cornered it in an old warehouse downtown, and Jim hit it with a de-possession spell he found a couple of months ago. It worked; the thing turned into a two-foot long normal alligator, except that it was purple, and one of the local kids was going to keep it as a pet. At least we didn't lose anyone this time, though Bobby will be bringing home a big ugly scar on his leg.

Unfortunately, Jim messed up the spell, and his hair turned white. You get that when you try to do magic without years and years of training. He told me about a friend of his last year who tried to use a spell to burn up a trio of bloodsuckers--but stumbled over one of the magic words and melted into a puddle of goo, instead.

Jim said the worst part was hearing the voice from the bucket when they took the goo back to HQ, but I don't know if he was kidding or not. Jim's like that.

Tomorrow, we're going to try to chase down a possible were-something or other near Miami Beach. The adults think we're doing a community service project, and we're actually going to do some painting on an old house as a cover while Mitch sets up his wolfsbane trap.

Tonight, though, we're going to try to have a barbecue on the beach, if the storm demons will leave us alone. Seems like the hurricanes move in every time we light the bonfire.

We'll be hopping on the bus to head home in time for school next weekend, and I'll see you then.

Yeah, yeah, I know, that last sentence is probably the only one that will get through to your brain...that's okay, though.

Your daughter...


Okay, a quick overview/introduction on this one.

I'm fascinated by this character because she defines herself.

I came up with this ridiculous, bizarre, black-humor story, "The Night of the Inflateables," where a kid's Halloween/birthday wish turns balloon animals in a mall into vicious monsters. The lead character, Nicky Ward, sets out to protect the people and kill the balloons; the fight spills out into the mall parking lot, where the inflated Sumo wrestler in front of the auto dealer next to the mall is wreaking havoc in the parking lot...

I hadn't even finished my notes for the story when the character of Nicky started letting me know who she was. And the one biggest character trait...was *jaded*. She's thirteen years old, but talks and acts like she's been doing this for a really long time. That one factoid led into the definition of the world she lives in--and sparked the ideas for more than a dozen (so far) short stories, chronicling her life from about age 10 to 18. Three stories are half done, some of the rest are nothing more than one-sentence ideas; I've also got notes on at least a half-dozen supporting characters...

So, when Bruce asked for "what did you do on your summer vacation," my brain threw a "...Nicky Weird?" on the end of the sentence, and this is what came out.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Ten Thousand Nickel Challenge

It's all Jerri's fault.

Jerri read something I wrote , and declared "I'm impressed. You can write funny; I can't do that."

Now, Jerri is a "real" writer, with over a dozen tech books under her belt; I'm strictly amateur, with a handful of unpublished and mostly unread short stories and poems. To have impressed someone I admire as much as Jerri had an impact on me.

Thus was NickelAtATime born.

The concept is simple (and right there in the EULA, and everyone reads those, right...?). If you laugh at a joke, you pull up your Paypal account and send in a nickel. You can send more if you like, but the MSRP of these jokes is exactly five cents. It started out as a mailing list, but the job I was working at the time went away shortly after I sent out the first issue, and it...kinda died. Once life stabilized again, I turned it into a blog, and lately, I've been trying to bring it completely to life--and pack it full of fun and humor.

Why am I writing about another blog here on my fiction and photography blog? Easy. I'm trying to replace my broken camera. The one I want is still a ways away, and I'm asking for your help in getting there. Besides the Redbubble pictures that are up for sale, I'm also posting jokes and pictures to NickelAtATime, and many of those will be going up on CafePress as well. And with the economy the way it is, I figure not everyone will want to spend "the big bucks" on a photo print or poster...but I figure everyone can spare a few nickels here and there.

How many nickels do I need to get the camera I want...?


Ten thousand.

(Why am I having Star Wars flashbacks here...? "All in advance.")

Yes, between the money I've got stashed away, and the Redbubble sales I've had so far, and the nickels I've pulled in, I'm about ten thousand nickels away from my new camera. So, I would like to invite everyone I know, to invite everyone they know, and stop by NickelAtATime, pull up a rock, and (hopefully) have a good laugh.

And if you DO have a good laugh...kick in your nickel. Comments and criticisms are, of course, always welcome.

Thank you for your time.

See you in the funny papers!


Friday, September 04, 2009

Southern Knights Rocks!

Note: This is an entry in The Friday Challenge, which can be found here. This week's challenge? Explain how Hollywood would screw up a perfectly good comic book--the independent Southern Knights.


Nickolas Geekzinski, NYT Movie Critic

Southern Knights Rocks.
Honestly, I can't say it any clearer than that. From the opening scene with the giant robots, to the final fight featuring magical lighting against superhero lightning, this movie keeps you on the edge of your seat. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but there are so many cool things to say about this cool movie that some things are just going to leak out.
Whenever you take a book or comic book to the screen, there's a lot of baggage that comes with. Superhero movies have to acknowledge the things that came before. One of the funniest quotes in movies comes from Scott Summers/Cyclops in the first X-Men movie: "Would you prefer yellow spandex?" For a new Superman or Batman movie, there are years upon years of baggage to take into account, and a thousand nitpicking little details that the rabid fans of those franchises want to see. That's why the first words Superman speaks to Lois in "Superman Returns" are the same as the first line he says to her in the original "Superman: The Movie."
However...if you build your movie from something that doesn't have all that baggage--say, a lesser-known comic book, with a much smaller legion of rabid fans--then you have the chance to create your own baggage, and define these characters anew. So, let's take a look at the characters.
David Shenk/Electrode: The leader of the team, played to brooding perfection by Chris Pine, fresh from Trek. The comical moment where he works out a battle plan, calls out instructions to his teammates--and then watches them totally ignore his plan and rush off to do their own thing--is absolutely priceless.
Connie Ronnin: Rumor has it Paris Hilton offered to finance the movie for a shot at this role, but fortunately, it fell to Summer Glau instead. The intensity she brings to the role is astounding. It must have taken weeks of fencing practice to make her look that good.
Dragon: The one piece missing from the film is some kind of backstory on a man who can change into a dragon. I mean, did Shia Lebouf just suddenly wake up one morning and realize he could change into a dragon? And what's with all the anachronistic speech--he sounds like he learned to talk by watching Masterpiece Theater, for crying out loud.
Kristin Austin: This is the role every comic book fan knows about--because of Jessica Simpson storming off the set halfway through production. Scrambling for a last-minute replacement, all of her scenes were re-shot with Hayden Panattiere in record time.
Brian Daniels: And the show-stealer of the year award goes to...Jeff Foxworthy, for his portrayal of the robot-suit wearing comedy sidekick of the team. Purists may complain about the amount of screen time granted to what was essentially a minor character in the comic book, but his sub-plot--featuring him losing everything to his ex-wife (played to shrewish perfection by Drew Barrymore), then the commiserating drinking party with Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy, and finally figuring out the answer to all his problems--all of these things made the movie. And the final fight, seeing his battle suit covered with more corporate sponsor stickers than the average Nascar vehicle, just brought everything together.
And finally, Morrigan, the villain. Other reviewers have already sung her praises, so I don't need to go into any more depth here. Suffice it to say it's terrific to see a true, villainous villainESS for a change.
The action was stupendous; not even Michael Bey could have done it better. The robot battle at the beginning which totally destroyed the freeway into Atlanta? For the first time, really, audiences get a glimpse into just how much collateral damage superhero combat entails.
And it's really rare to see a superhero movie with as much humor. Having Kristin join the rednecks at the bar was a stroke of genius, and the barroom brawl to follow--while predictable, "when there's a scene in a bar, there will be a fight"--was one of the coolest scenes in the movie, as Kristin spun at least a dozen drunken men through the nearest available window...or wall...without once spilling her drink. The sex scene that followed, when she rushed off drunk into Dragon's apartment, was more touching and warm than even the one in Watchmen.
There are nitpicks, of course; you can't film a superhero movie without them. Why Connie's psychic lightsaber could cut through some things and not others is one. And Morrigan's lightning bolts--why didn't they short out Brian's sticker-encrusted battlesuit at the end of the movie, the way it did at the beginning when the enemy robot dropped power cables on it? Did the stickers give it protection against magical lightning or something?
All I've got to say is this. The Southern Knights movie may not have been true to the word of the original comic, but with the massive injection of Southern humor, it was very true to the spirit of the original, and adds a whole new chapter to what will eventually become a dynasty of...
...hey, what are you doing in here? Aren't you the guy who invented the Southern Knights? What do you think you're doing with that butter knife...?