Monday, July 22, 2013

Money, Superstition, and Vaccines

It was a place of death.

It was a place where women went to die for their sins.

It started with a fever in the maternity wards. That fever was accompanied by severe headaches, nausea, and bilious vomiting. The back, hips, and pelvic area were wracked with pain. Defecation was immediate and uncontrolled. Urination painful. Women's bellies swelled to enormous sizes.

After the fever ran for a few days, the disease acquired a more putrid form. Death was quick and painful. At the time, it was the single most common form of maternal mortality.

It is now very rare to die from this infection. Prevention was rather simple. The single most important factor for preventing this disease? Doctors in the maternity ward needed to wash their hands before examining patients.

But in the 1800's, they refused to wash them. European doctors and clergy were convinced that childbed fever was God's punishment to women for the act of childbirth. They didn't want to think of themselves as "dirty", even when some medical professionals like Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis desperately pointed out that using antiseptic soap reduced the number of deaths by a whopping 90%.

This fever, consequently, has been forever dubbed "The Doctor's Plague". Their adamant refusal of a truth they did not want to accept caused countless, needless deaths.

And now, in modern times, this scenario can happen again. Unfortunately, the sufferers will be our children.

The cause of Puerperal fever, aka childbed fever or "The Doctor's Plague".
There is a movement underfoot - a movement to reject modern science. You know them as the anti-vacciners. This movement is considered crazy and on the fringes of rational thought. It is not supported by science. And the people heading this movement? They rely on emotional appeal and deliberate misrepresentation of data. They do not possess medical degrees. They do not have studies of their own. Why go to all this trouble?

Because, I suspect, they want to sell you something.

They want to sell you unregulated drugs. They want to sell you books that sell because they're scandalous. They want to sell you the idea that waving a quartz crystal over your head will cure your cancer better than chemotherapy would. They want to take advantage of you when the doctors give you a realistic evaluation of your health, and you lie in bed at night trembling in fear. In doing so, they can make a very comfortable living. Furthermore, to protect their profits, they need to make the public distrust the very people who can expose them as the frauds they are.

There comes a point when we all need to champion scientific reason and advancement, no matter if we are scientists or not. There comes a point when we need to expose those who make fraudulent claims and make baseless assertions about subjects they know nothing about. We need to correct our friends and family. We need to have this conversation with as many people as possible.

We need to have this conversation now.

We are in a Golden Age, and life in the present has been the best it ever has been. Science can do truly wonderful things. It saves countless lives every day. Imagine how many lives it can save tomorrow. Imagine, if superstition wins, how many lives will be needlessly, painfully lost. Perhaps we'll return to the kind of thinking where death is rationalized because people deserve God's punishment.

In the moment we shut our eyes to science, we no longer deserve to reap its rewards.

And that, my friends, is not a place you want to be.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Experimenting With Almond Flour

Almond flour... photo shamelessly stolen from

Hello people...

So... it's been a while since my last post. Yup, I got really behind. And busy. As much as I like blogging, school always comes first.

And boy, have there been changes. Since my last post, I passed my prelims, defended my Master's Thesis, and applied to law school.

Because of this, the focus of my blog has now changed from being about astronomy to something more casual. I can post whatever the heck I want now, and that's more than ok with me. I've decided to hijack this blog to post cat photos, food photos, and other things I'm generally too embarrassed to post on facebook.
I mean, as much as I like my cats, I'm not overly fond as being known as a crazy cat lady.

So... the first thing I want to talk about is almond flour. I bought some from Trader Joe's a while back on a whim. I baked some things with it, but now that I'm slated to move soon, I wanted to use it up. I shopped around on Pinterest and found some easy recipes that I already had the ingredients for.

Now, a bit of warning. I am a newbie at cooking.

And I'm not very good at it.

As a high school student, I wanted nothing to do with such a "feminine" activity (you know, something about breaking out of gender roles). Now that I realize that health comes from learning how to cook, I've since reassessed my previous attitude towards cooking. However, that means I have a lot of lost time to make up for, ha ha!

So the first thing I made was almond flour crackers. Here's what they looked like:
My very own crackers! Yay!
 They were so easy to make! The recipe I followed is here, but I decided to use herbs I had on hand (thyme, basil, and garlic). They go great with almost anything because they have a delicate taste (if not a little nutty, but I love that!). You can put any sort of cheese or meat on them. I've put raw tomato paste on them with a drizzle of pepper.

Don't ask why I like pure tomato paste. I just do.

Next, I made some almond bread. However... I had a much larger pan than the recipe called for, so my bread came out weird looking (and not at ALL like how the pic in the recipe looks, ha ha!). No matter, it still tastes delicious!
 My weirdo bread. I just eat it like a muffin... and just like a bran muffin, these things clean out your colon.

The bread is so think and filling, I think of it more like a bran muffin than anything else. It's nutty, slightly sweet, and buttery (although no butter was used in making it). I did make some blackberry butter to use as a spread, which was absolutely delicious! Although, how can you go wrong with butter, honey, and blackberries?

So yup! Those two recipes depleted my store of almond flour. Both taste delicious and were very easy and quick to make. I think I spent more time on clean up than on actual cooking, which is great for a lazy cook like me!

Finally, I just wanted to say that these recipes are great for people cutting out gluten. I personally don't care about going gluten-free (I've never had any medical problems from eating wheat), but these recipes tasted good on their own merits. So... people with gluten sensitivities... feel free to try these! Maybe yours will turn out better looking than mine, ha ha!