You are currently browsing the Breaching The Web blog archives for January, 2004.


January 26th, 2004

Bob Keeshan died on Saturday. Like many others, I adored Captain Kangaroo when I was young. Keeshan was an avid child advocate, who felt strongly about children’s programming and child welfare. I miss him already.

Close the flu

January 19th, 2004

More on the avian flu in Vietnam: a fifth person has died of the deadly avian flu, called H5N1. The World Health Organization has confirmed that a 5-year old girl who died in Hanoi on Saturday died from H5N1. So far, all the known cases of this flu strain have been transmitted directly from birds to humans, but WHO is investigating known cases closely to identify any cases of human-to-human transmission — which would be required for H5N1 to become an epidemic. To fight this possibility, Vietnam has ordered the slaughter of all fowl in the 12 regions hardest hit with the bird flu.

In related news, Thailand denies having the avian flu but EU officials are dubious. The EU imports thousands and thousands of Thai chickens every year — if the flu is present in Thailand, this could be a major vector for it to spread to Europe.

I know my obsession with the flu makes me sound like a germ freak, but that is a spurious correlation. I’m really an epidemiology freak. I sometimes think that somewhere along the line I missed my calling by not becoming a medical epidemiologist.

Spring Movies

January 19th, 2004

Spring movies are rarely noteworthy, but there are a few coming out in the next couple of months I’d like to see, including Starsky and Hutch, Spartan, Hellboy, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and The Punisher That last one is on the list only because I can’t imagine how Frank Castle can be translated to screen — I think he is one of the least sympathetic superheroes ever created. Don’t get me wrong — I think that’s a good thing, I just don’t see it going over well with movie audiences.

The San Fransisco Chronicle has a spring movie sneak peek to help you get up to speed.

Flu Shot

January 14th, 2004

I am afraid of needles. Not just your ordinary “oh I don’t want to be pricked” kind of afraid, but the irrational, terrifying “get that thing away from me or I will kick you and run away” kind of afraid. I can’t even be in the same room with my cats at the vet when they get shots, or I have a massive panic attack complete with shakes, sweats and tears.

As a result, I usually avoid getting shots of any kind if I can possibly manage it. I don’t get any shot that I convince myself is optional. I have, for example, never had a flu shot. I’ve even had influenza before, and that has not been enough to convince me to get the shot, in spite of how sick I was.

However, this year’s flu outbreak, and ominous indications from Asia & the Netherlands about next year’s flu have convinced me that next year I must get the flu vaccine. I think it will be increasingly important to get vaccinated next year, and over the next few years, as epidemiologists of all stripes are saying that conditions are ripe for another flu pandemic.

If I can do it, anyone can do it. If you have doubts about how bad a flu pandemic would be, do a little reading about the 1918 epidemic of Spanish flu, and remember — the flu is a virus, which means that antibiotics can’t help you if you get it. There are no wonder drugs to treat the flu — only wonder vaccines to prevent it.

flu shmy

January 12th, 2004

Some interesting stuff in this nuts and bolts article about how the flu vaccine is developed, and the limitations of this year’s vaccine.

It’s not yet clear if the high number of flu cases this year is related to a failure of the vaccine, or if only people who didn’t get the shot are getting sick. However, it’s a good reminder of why getting a flu shot is so important.

Weekend update

January 11th, 2004

This has been an eventful weekend. Friday night, we went to the E Street Theater in DC to see Bubba Ho Tep — afterwards, Bruce Campbell answered questions about the movie. It was great. Campbell was very funny and honest (though he would not disclose who he supports for president for 2004), and the movie itself was great fun — I believe Campbell was born to play The King. The movie theater is brand new — Friday was the first night it was open. It was quite nice.

Also, I bought a new digital camera as a late Christmas gift for myself. It’s a Canon Powershot A70. I came home from store to find this outside my apartment building:

a firetruck outside an apartment building

As it turned out, there was nothing major wrong — a water pipe burst behind our building. We have no water at the moment, but nothing was on fire.

I think it was pretty cool that the first picture I got to take with my new camera was of a firetruck.

And since I have a new camera, here is an obligatory picture of one of my cats, Oscar:

profile of a tabby cat

He has a nice profile, doesn’t he? Other than that, it was a quiet, uneventful but fun weekend. Just what I needed!

It continues

January 9th, 2004

The mad cow saga in the Northwest continues: 129 more cows are to be killed as potential herdmates of the original infected cow. This problem isn’t going away — as long as we continue to treat meat as a staple of our diet, mad cow or diseases like it will make their way into the food supply. Even if every offsping and herdmate of the originally infected cow were found and killed, the conditions of our nation’s meat industry (and the policies that foster those conditions) make diseases like mad cow a real threat.


January 9th, 2004

I have a soft spot for guerrilla art — it is sometimes wacky, sometimes compelling, and always real. A guerrilla installation has turned up in a park in Seattle, for the second time in 3 years.

One of the things I like about this type of art is that there is no one who can be questioned about its meaning — it just is, and viewers have to figure it out for themselves.

I am so there!

January 9th, 2004

Here’s where I’ll be tonight. I already have my tickets (thank you moviefone!). C’mon, admit it — you know you’re jealous!

Tire PSA

January 7th, 2004

I just had to buy new tires for my car — the old ones were in bad shape, even though they had a scant 40,000 miles on them. They were seriously cupping (bulging out on the inside edge) and were slipping on dry pavement*. I was beginning to worry about driving on them. I had to replace all four of them, but at least I hit a sale at Sears so the price wasn’t too steep.

So here’s a little information about how to take care of your tires:
Causes of tire wear from the Car Care Council (an industry organization)
Tire care tips from Canadian Driver
TLC for tires from Parts America

* And (for anyone who cares) my struts are fine. The problem resulted from faulty alignment, and unbalanced crappy tires.