Hail to the Bees

When I was a child, I was always afraid of bees and other insects. You can thank the fire ants in Chihuahua for that. They always managed to sting me in the summers that I spent there running around with my cousins. Grandpa would compound the hurt by adding merthiolate (thimerosal and alcohol, basically) to all the stings. Those stings were horrible, and I came to believe that the stings from any insect were bad especially for me. That was only confirmed in college, when I got stung by a wasp and broke out in really bad hives all over. (I should really carry an epinephrine syringe.)

One summer, my uncle decided that he was going to raise bees. He had three hives, and he got a lot of honey from them. In order to encourage me to lose my fear of insects, dad told me to go see how my uncle got the honey. As I approached him as he smoked the beehive, a swarm of bees came at me. I freaked out and ran away.

Now that I’m older, I understand that honeybees will pretty much leave you alone if you leave them alone. They only attack to protect the hive. Africanized honeybees are said to be more aggressive towards people near the swarm, but I’ve seen them out and about and haven’t noticed them chasing me or anything like that. Then again, I haven’t run into a swarm.

I went to a sunflower field in Maryland today. The Washington Post recently announced that the sunflowers were in full bloom, so a ton of people had the same idea I had. Still, with some good depth-of-field management and the right angles, I managed to not take too many pictures of people and a lot of pictures of sunflowers. (The full album is on my Flickr page by clicking here.)

hail_bee_sunflower_picture
Hail to the bees!

It shouldn’t be a secret to you that bees are in trouble, and we need them for our food supply. As I walked among the flowers today, I had a lot of bees and bumblebees flying around me, and a couple of them landed. None stung me, and I didn’t hear anyone complain from being stung. I did wonder, however, if I was the only one there worried about the future of the bees. (I’m sure I wasn’t.)

So I’ve planted my own sunflowers in the backyard right around July 4th. They should be blooming by mid-August, just in time to meet The Child. Hopefully, lots of bees will take advantage of them and pollinate other plants nearby. I see that my neighbors have a lot of vegetable gardens going, but not a lot of flowers for bees. So maybe they will also benefit?

Anyway, here are some more pictures from today, and I hope you too will consider helping out the bees in any way you can.

Read more

Epidemiological Podcast S0E2: The Weight of the Evidence

On today’s podcast, I talk to you about a recent tragedy in our family and how it helped me understand anti-vaccine parents a little more. Not completely, but just enough to realize that there is very little in the way of a debate that one can have with them.

See, When people who don’t believe that vaccines save lives tell you that there is no evidence that vaccines are safe, they’re either misinformed or lying. On the flip side, when they tell you that there is evidence that vaccines cause autism, they’re either misinformed or lying again. There is plenty of evidence for both arguments out there, but only one set of “studies” pass the biological plausibility test (not to say anything about ethics).

However, because an injury (perceived or real) to a child triggers such a deep-seeded, primal reaction, it’s hard to be logical or reasonable. When parents see autism as death (when it’s not), their search for answers becomes chaotic and full of inferences that are misguided. Anti-vaccine people looking to make a buck take advantage of that, and then we’re off to the races on trying to stop further harm, encourage critical thinking, and have an actual debate based on facts.

In about 33 minutes, I tell you about the different kinds of studies out there, and I explain to you why we cannot do a vaccinated vs. unvaccinated study like the antivaxxers want, but we’ve done plenty of vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies in an ethical and scientific way.

read more Epidemiological Podcast S0E2: The Weight of the Evidence

Read more

Epidemiological Podcast S0E1: The Perfect Epidemiological Surveillance System

Today, I thought I’d share with you a 15-minute presentation I gave in Mexico City last about two weeks ago. It was on a paper I wrote based off a previous blog post. I talk about what I imagine to be the perfect system for keeping track of the population’s health… That is, if money, technology, laws, and ethical considerations were not in the way of such things.

Yes, I’m giving the podcast a season and names. The first season runs from now until the end of the year and will be season zero, along with previous episodes. Kind of like “the lost season” if you will. Then, starting in 2018, I’ll have a first season of six podcasts with pre-planned topics and a little more preparation. You guys deserve it… And it’s a good way to be just creative enough to be doing something but not too busy to forget about the dissertation (which should be almost done when 2017 ends and 2018 begins).

read more Epidemiological Podcast S0E1: The Perfect Epidemiological Surveillance System