19 December, 2008

The Mastercard Commercial You'll Never See

I glommed this from a post on UCG BBS:

Amount spent each year in Europe and the United States on pet food: $17 billion

Cost per year to achieve basic health and nutrition for the entire world: $13 billion

Amount spent on perfumes each year: $12 billion

Clean water for all the world: $9 billion

Amount spent on cosmetics in the US: $8 billion

Basic education for the world's children: $6 billion

Total amount the US spends on Christmas each year: $450 billion (or 16 years worth of food, water, and education for the world)

Initial cost of the US Government bailout of failing financial institutions: $700 billion (or 25 years worth of food, water, and education for the world)

Coming to grips with the alarming disconnects of our consumerist society: Priceless

Farewell to Firefox 2.0?

Unlike most folks out there, I've decided not to upgrade to Firefox v3.0 ("FF3.0")just yet. You see, there are a couple of add-ons (aka extensions) that I really rely upon, and they're incompatible with FF3.0, which means that if I upgrade, I they won't be able to function anymore. So for the time being, I'm stuck with Firefox v2.0 ("FF2.0").

The other day (I think it was Monday this week), my FF2.0 was updated to version 2.0.0.19. A message came up on the "Firefox Updated" page that that was going to be the LAST FF 2.0 release, and the further support for FF2.0 would thereby cease. In fact, here's the quote from that page:

You’ve been updated to the latest version of Firefox 2.

This is the last planned update for Firefox 2.

That’s it for Firefox 2… Update to Firefox 3 Today!

Mozilla is not planning any further security & stability updates for Firefox 2, and recommends that you upgrade to Firefox 3 as soon as possible. It’s free, and your settings and bookmarks will be preserved.

Also, the Phishing Protection service will no longer be available for Firefox 2 users. Firefox 3 offers a free Phishing and Malware Protection service, which will continue to protect you from online scams and attacks.

Just now (about 3:00am EST on 19 December 2008), Firefox just downloaded, verified, and installed version 2.0.0.20, which pretty much left me in stitches, given the message that I just quote above. And upon coming to the "Firefox Updated" page, I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Here's the text from that page:

You’ve been updated to the latest version of Firefox 2.

This is the last planned update for Firefox 2.

That’s it for Firefox 2… Update to Firefox 3 Today!

Mozilla is not planning any further security & stability updates for Firefox 2, and recommends that you upgrade to Firefox 3 as soon as possible. It’s free, and your settings and bookmarks will be preserved.

Also, the Phishing Protection service will no longer be available for Firefox 2 users. Firefox 3 offers a free Phishing and Malware Protection service, which will continue to protect you from online scams and attacks.

For those of you without text-comparison programs, you will note that this is the same exact text, despite the fact that these are two entirely different web pages, and two different versions of FF2.0 (the first quote is from a page at http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/2.0.0.19/whatsnew/ and the second quote is from a page at http://en-us.www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/2.0.0.20/whatsnew/ ).

Obviously, what happened is that they had planned on releasing one last version but then found a few (possibly serious) bugs in that version, and brought out a new, final version a few days later.

Even though the situation is a bit hilarious (to me, anyway), at least it shows that with FOSS (Free, Open-Source Software), it's possible that a project might never truly die out....

For now, at least, I'll continue using my FF2.0, until the add-ons I rely upon are updated to be compatible with FF3.0, or until their functionality is brought into a future version of Firefox (which actually happened between Firefox v1.5 and v2.0 -- I was able to get rid of a few extensions during that upgrade due to increased functionality).

05 October, 2008

My Niece's Seizure Ordeal

As you may recall, my niece, Jennal, had a stroke when she was two days old resulting in a TBI; she currently is diagnosed with very severe epilepsy and cerebral palsy.

Jennal has been attending the John A. Coleman School & Children's Rehabilitation Center in Westchester County, New York. Over the past month (since the new school year has started), the school has been negligent (and in my opinion, grossly negligent) in their care of Jennal by not monitoring her for seizures and by not administering medication to her in a timely manner when she has had a seizure.

The latest incident left Jennal seizing for more than three hours as no one checked on her at the school, resulting in Jennal spending a few days in ICU, on a respirator, at the local children's hospital.

My sister has been advised that it is too early to determine whether or not there has been any permanent damage. Thankfully, Jennal was well enough to be discharged from hospital earlier today, although she remains too weak to walk and is babbling sporadically (I spoke with her on the phone this evening and one of her sentences was something along the lines of "OK house books worm sandwich").

Jennal has attended the John A. Coleman School since she turned one year of age (she turned four years old this past May, 2008) and the school is well-aware of Jennal's special needs and the necessity of constant monitoring, especially during nap times. In addition to having known Jennal since her enrollment there on first birthday, they have been advised, in writing (by Jennal's mother--my sister, Jennifer) of the necessity to constantly monitor her for seizures.

The Coleman School was made especially aware of this after an incident approximately two weeks ago where Jennal had a seizure on the bus (provided by the school and driven by a school employee), and the bus driver did not notice Jennal's unresponsive state. Once arriving at the school and seeing that she was in the middle of a seizure, no one administered Jennal's DIASTAT or Ativan. Rather, my sister had to leave her job in the south Bronx (she, herself, is a schoolteacher in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx) and travel to Valhalla to administer her daughter's medication--something the school should have done. To top it off, my sister is recovering from a double mastectomy performed earlier this year and recently underwent reconstructive surgery.

At the very least, I do not believe that the Coleman school is suitable for Jennal's continued education/treatment there. If you can provide any information about alternate choices for schools in the Westchester/Fairfield County region, or any other assistance (including information on legal/financial assistance), I would greatly appreciate it.

16 July, 2008

I miss you, Grandma

Six years ago, today, my grandmother's corporeal existence terminated. I know that she is still with me, in another presence, and her memory is well alive. But I miss her, terribly. I love you, Elizabeth "Betty" Zoel Frank, wherever and however in the Universe you now exist.

29 June, 2008

Sidney J. Frank, Jr. Obituary

This morning I wrote my grandfather's obituary, based on notes that he had provided for the purpose. I went with my sister and my father's brother to the funeral home to arrange for services and what not. The funeral director made a few changes to what I had written, and added in the last two paragraphs (advising as to the arrangements that were made). It cost nearly $1,000 to run the obituary for one day in The Journal News (you don't want to know what the total cost of the funeral came to...):

Sidney J. Frank, Jr., a 60 year resident of Rye Brook, NY died at home June 28, 2008 surrounded by his family. He was born April 6, 1921 in Greenwich, CT to Sidney and Mary Selzer Frank. Raised in Rye, NY, Sidney graduated from Rye High School in 1938. He served as a corporal in the US. Army Air Corps during World War II. He married Elizabeth Zoel of Port Chester at Our Lady of Mercy Church on April 9, 1944. They were married 58 years at the time of Elizabeth's passing on July 16, 2002. Upon returning from the war he was employed as an electrician and was an active member of the I.B.E.W. Local #503/#3 Union for 67 years.

Sidney was very active in his church and community: he was a parishioner of the Our Lady of Mercy Church, and a member of the Choir for 55 years; a volunteer firefighter and past captain of Washington Engine & Hose Co #4 in the Port Chester Fire Department for 55 years; a member of the Port Chester Knights of Columbus as Forth Guard Knight, a member and officer of the Port Chester Elks Lodge #864; a member and officer of the Port Chester Lyons Club where he ran their fundraising efforts for the Make A Wish Foundation; a member of the Rye Brook Senior's Chorus; a member of the Rye Town Electrical Licensing Board; and a member of the American Legion Rye Post #128.
Sidney is survived by his sister, Marguerite MacAulay of Rye, NY; his two sons, Keith of Rye Brook, NY and Peter V. of Marietta, GA; his four grandchildren, Jennifer of Rye Brook, NY, Peter C. of Yonkers, NY, Sharon de Luca of Bedford, NY, and Graham of Massachusetts; six nieces and nephews; and three great-grandchildren, Jennal Brooks, Summer de Luca, and Cadance de Luca.

Visitation will be 4-8PM Wednesday July 2, 2008 at Craft Memorial Home, Inc. Mass of Christian Burial will be 10AM on Thursday July 3, 2008 at Our Lady of Mercy Church 260 Westchester Ave., Port Chester, NY. Interment to follow at Saint Mary’s Cemetery Rye Brook, NY. Memorial donations in memory of Sidney may be made to Jansen Hospice 69 Main St., Tuckahoe, NY 10707

CRAFT MEMORIAL HOME, INC.
40 Leicester St. Port Chester, NY
(914) 939-0131


28 June, 2008

R.I.P, Grandpa

My grandfather just died. :(

My Grandfather, My Younger Brother

My father just called me. I think I posted how my grandfather had three heart attacks and a stroke last summer. I know I've posted about his melanoma. Well after his heart attacks and strokes last summer, apparently they decided to do nothing about the melanoma. On Monday, my father told me that my grandfather went to the doctors as his legs weren't working and he was getting worse, and they "discovered" that his legs were covered with the tumors from the melanoma. The oncologist decided not to do anything about it because he's lived long enough.

So now my father just called and said that the priest was coming to administer last rites and he's apparently unconscious. It's going to take me around four hours to get up there, as I have to take three separate buses.

Last weekend my younger brother, John, who's a paranoid schizophrenic with bi-polar disorder, decided to self-medicate as he had stopped taking his medications. He felt a need to "become one with nature" and get away from the people who were chasing him. He got butt-ass-naked and ran through a field of thorns. There wasn't a square inch on his body that wasn't covered in scratches or cuts. He lost his mobile phone, his wallet, and his glasses.

My sister and I had planned a visit to see mom and John, and to help John deal with custody/visitation/child support issues regarding his 10-month old daughter, Cherokee. His ex-gf (Cherokee's mother) isn't letting John see his daughter, and is running up unnecessary hospital bills.

So when we got there, John had just come home from his little excursion in nature, mom was a wreck, and I had to spend nearly three hours trying to figure out what to do with him. Eventually, after speaking with mobile crisis teams, I called 911 and had him taken to hospital. I went with him, and speak around six hours waiting for a nurse to tell me I had to leave, but I had to speak with her about his condition. He's done this sort of thing before ... the last time he did it he jumped off the roof of the apartment building where he was living, because the "ninjas were chasing [him]." They didn't even begin tending to his medical issues (e.g., removing thorns that were embedded into his skin, etc.),

So long story short, the next day we go to the hospital to find out what they're doing with him. He's still in the psych ER, and they're still tending to his medical issues. After waiting 2-3 hours, I finally get to talk to a mobile crisis counsellor who, apparently, makes the decisions about patients in the psych ER at the hospitals in Hartford, CT (where John and Mom live). He tells me he'll admit him to the psych unit of the hospital to medication stabilization and, even after describing past events to him, he told me that they won't hold him beyond that. So basically, John will stabilize on his meds in a week or two and he'll be released so he can not take his meds and do the same shit all over again. CT sure has a fucked up way of dealing with mental health.

I need to get up to Rye Brook so I can say goodbye to gramps and yell at him for allowing my father's brother, Keith, to treat me as he did and make me homeless for 2.5 years.

I could sure use a valium right now....

21 June, 2008

Lightbulbs to Leadership

The Sierra Club has an interesting video/commercial out urging us to take action against Climate Change. I'm placing it here for your convenience, and also because I thought it was pretty damned cool.

14 May, 2008

Finally got my hair cut

So Mom paid for me to get my hair done today--finally!

Here's the most recent picture I have of me before the cut (it was taken approximately one month ago so you'll have to imagine my hair approximately another half-inch longer, not that you can really tell how long it was in the photo because my hair becomes curly when it gets long--stepping out of the shower with my hair soaking wet, my hair would hit the nape of my back (you know, that spot between your shoulder blades where there's like a "hole" in your back right below the shoulders), which is pretty darned long--and I hadn't bothered to shave in a while):


And here we are this afternoon, after the cut (Mom took this photo of me with my camera phone, a Sprint Sanyo MM-8300 -- completely outdated but I'm waiting for the 2.0 megapixel camera phones to come out before I upgrade):


And here we are inside; I took this one myself, so it's not quite as good, and the lighting was kinda crappy. Plus it's a camera phone pic, so whaddya want from me?

Not having hair with split ends that's unmanageably long (however did I wear my hair that length in high school?????) has done wonders for my self-image. Now, if only I could afford to get it coloured again. We'll have to check into that. But my Depression (with a Capital "D") lifted a little today after the cut.

As you can see in the last picture, it's still a bit curly. I asked him to leave it long-ish. I'm going to have to see if I can get it to be a wee bit less curly (perhaps with less humidity and more gel?), as I usually prefer it to be wavy. But maybe now I can do stuff with my hair again and not have it look all unkempt and wild and what not.

Details: My hair was cut & styled by "Larry" At Domani Hair Spa, 12 Seneca Road, Bloomfield, CT 06002. The price was reasonable--about what I was expecting to have to pay for a salon shampoo, cut & style, although it wasn't nearly as "luxurious" as some of the NY salons can be (no free coffee/tea/finger foods, etc.) I would recommend him. He wasn't overly chatty but he was friendly and he did do a good job, don't you think?

All in all it was a pleasant day out with Mom, and I'm feeling a little bit better about myself. Yay!

08 May, 2008

MTV Networks launches video hub for gay community | Tech news blog - CNET News.com

MTV Networks launches video hub for gay community | Tech news blog - CNET News.com

From the article:

"This is the kind of content that has only been available at art houses," Sherman said. "But the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) audience, can now check out content that has never been available to them nationally."

Some of the full-episode shows that can be found at Logoonline.com are Big Gay Sketch, Noah's Arc, and Outlaugh Festival on Wisecrack. Documentaries include Elephant in the Room and The Two Cubas.

There are also short clips, news, and music.

06 May, 2008

Senator Santorum gets the history of marriage law wrong

One of my Gather.com buddies pointed out this article to me and straight away I noticed a glaring error. I tried to find a forum to post a comment to the article, and instead could only find a general e-mail address to the web site; I couldn't even find a link to e-mail the individual interviewer/research fellow.

I appreciate that this web site is providing both sides of the story; however, I hold firm the belief that it is a journalist's responsibility to do their fact-checking and point out any errors or omissions in the facts contained in their publication.

Here's the e-mail that I sent to Pew Research:

Hi I couldn't find a way to comment on your articles. I write specifically in reference to your article entitled "Two perspectives on gay marriage."

There is a factual error in Senator Santorum's argument. He states,

See, I think that's the foundational flaw with this whole debate. The law is as it has been for 200-plus years, and so the burden is on them to make the persuasive case as to why they should be married, not just for their benefit but for what the impact is on society and marriage as a whole, and on children.

In reality, the laws regarding marriage are not as they have been for 200-plus years. The most glaring example of this is the recent modification of marriage law when the United State Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation laws to be illegal in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967). Additionally, the Loving case affirmed and upheld the fact that marriage is a fundamental right, so the burden is not on "them to make the persuasive case as to why they should be married" but rather the burden is on the government to prove a compelling interest as to why same-sex couples should not be married (e.g., any restrictions upon marriage are subject to a strict scrutiny standard of legal review).

The rest of Senator Santorum's interview is opinion and therefore I cannot comment as to the veracity of his statements. However, I do believe it would be a great disservice to your readers were you not to point out the factual inaccuracies in Senator Santorum's statements, and either include an editor's note or allow the Senator a chance to correct his mistakes.

Please note that I will include a copy of this e-mail, in part, on my blog.

Thank you for your time,
-Peter C. Frank

As many of you who have been reading my blog for quite some time know, same-sex marriage is an issue I've written about on other occasions, and I believe it to be of great importance to the gay rights movement, of which I consider myself a minuscule part.

The fact that Senator Santorum, a graduate of the Dickinson School of Law, would make such a glaring error leave one to wonder whether the error was intentional, as one would imagine that Senator Santorum would have done at least preliminary research on this issue before speaking publicly about the subject, and certainly his omission would have appeared in any preliminary research on marriage law. In fact, a search using the Google search engine returns the Loving case when searching under "marriage law" within the top 50 results.

And lest we not forget the importance of Loving to the matter of same-sex marriage, religious and social views were held to be the main reasons as to why Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws were upheld by the lower courts. Sound familiar?

But my point here isn't to argue the same-sex marriage issue; rather, it's to point out that marriage has not always been defined as between a man and a woman. Rather, it used to be defined as between a white man and a white woman, or a black man and a black woman, or what not. And before that, I'm certain there were other definitions. And the laws with respect to marriage have evolved over the past 200 plus years. For instance, in many states, polygamy was legal.

So as society evolves, so do the laws that govern society. Shame on you, Senator Santorum, for attempting to trick your audience into thinking anything to the contrary!

Kidspeak

I wrote this during one of my hospitalizations, in honour of my niece, Jennal.

Kidspeak

Dribble dribble dribble
drazzle
drip drip drip
PLOP
drip drip drip
drazzle
drizzle drizzle fizzle.

Putt Putt Putt
Revvv
Putt Putt
Rev
Putt
VROOOOOoooooommmmm
Putt Putt Pfizzle Putt

Puff Puff Puff
Singularity
Puff Puff Drip Puff
Mechanics
Puff Puff Puff
Quantum Equations drive
Linear Compression algorithms
Puff Putter Putter Puff Piddle
Puff Puff Pfwiddle diddle little

Middle Meddle Faddle
Little Fiddle
Schwimm Schwamm
Faddle Faddle Meddle Middle
Little Fiddle

Synchronized Sycophant Symphonies
Swing in the Breeze of
Exhaust created by
Temporal Drive Machinations

Parliamentary Proscribed Penundrums
Expertly Executed by
Deus Ex Machina
Semper, Semper, Excelsior!

Veni Vidi Vici
(Fiddle Puff Faddle Drip)
Make headway to the mainstay
(Puff Puff)
And don't stray
(Waddle Widdle Waddle)
'Lest one day
(Widdle Widdle Waddle)
you won't be around
(Drip Drop Drip Drip)
to see another May
(Fiddle Drop Drip Faddle)

Waddle Widdle
Puff

Puff

Puff

poof.

copyright (c) 2007, Peter C. Frank


05 May, 2008

R.I.P., Mildred Loving

I just posted an article on the death of Mildred Loving over on my other blog site, Gather.com. Read about it over there, comment here, there, wherever. But most importantly, please take a moment of your time to remember this great, strong woman who stood up in the face of injustice and fought for what she believed to be right and just.

19 April, 2008

Manage Depression At The Worksite



 
 

Sent to you by Nite*Star via Google Reader:

 
 

via Psych Central News by Rick Nauert, Ph.D. on 4/9/08

manDepression is estimated to affect more than six percent of the working population. When people with bipolar disorder and other forms of depression are included, the true rate is even higher. Unfortunately, only half of workers suffering from depression receive any form of treatment, and less than half of these receive care consistent with current treatment guidelines.

The issue is discussed in a series of new studies found in the April Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Authorities call for an integrated, evidence-based approach to manage this common, chronic, and often recurrent disorder.

The 15 papers in the issue, prepared by experts in their fields, are presented as part of the ACOEM Depression in the Workplace Project, a joint venture of the ACOEM Occupational Mental Health Committee and the ACOEM Health and Productivity Section.

Having defined the scope of the problem, the new papers discuss some promising approaches to improving the management of workplace depression. For example, programs to improve coping and stress management skills, identify employees at risk, and promote early treatment may help to prevent or lessen the severity of depression.

New approaches will be needed to manage persistent gaps in treatment for depression. Although antidepressant medications are effective, they do not eliminate symptoms in all patients. Specific types of psychotherapy have proven beneficial, but appear to be underused.

Newer "collaborative care" approaches show promise in improving the outcomes of depression treatment. Although initial costs are higher, these intensive approaches make good business sense — more effective treatment leads to better employee retention and increased hours worked.

For employers, for whom depression is linked to increased unemployment, increased absenteeism, and decreased productivity — not to mention disruptive effects on work organization and increased health care and disability costs — such enhanced depression care programs should be viewed not as an added cost, but as a "human capital investment opportunity."

The authors call on the occupational medicine community to play a leadership role in improving the management of workplace depression. Drs. Caruso and Myette advocate the development of integrated approaches incorporating the best of clinical, community, and workplace programs.

They conclude, "An expanded role for employers and occupational health professionals in the management of depression and other chronic diseases is seen as fundamental to maintaining a healthy and productive workforce."

Source: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins


 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

18 March, 2008

More information on TRIM22, a recently discovered human gene that blocks HIV formation

I recently posted an article to my blog about a recent breakthrough in HIV research--the discovery of the TRIM22 gene in humans, and linked to it from an article on my Gather.com account. Unfortunately, a number of the responses to the post on my Gather account were somewhat negative, along the lines of "[yawn] We've heard of this before its nothing new." Take, for instance, one of these comments:
old news, this has been out and about for a year now!
and

Even though this has been around for a little while (as so rudely mentioned early in the comments) it will still be kept relatively quiet until the pharmaceutical companies find ways they can cash in on it.
I even had a few friends who read my blog post IM me that the cure for HIV/AIDS exists but is being blocked either by the US Government or various pharmaceutical interests.

After receiving this sort of a response to my post and the information contained therein, I went on the 'net and tried to search for a similar announcement but, try as I might, I couldn't find anything remotely similar to the announcement of 29 February, 2008 made by Dr. Barr and his research team at the University of Alberta. So I did what any curious person would do, ask Google for more information about the research, itself. In doing so, I found the paper that Dr. Stephen Barr (lead researched) authored, which was published in the Public Library of Science Pathogens journal.

The article contained contact information for Dr. Barr and, like any curious person, I sent him an e-mail:
Dear Dr. Barr:

Do you have any articles/abstracts wherein you explain, in layman's terms, how your research and recent breakthrough (which I believe to be remarkable and promising) differs from previous announcements of HIV-blocking genes? I posted an article about your recent announcement on a blog I write for and a number of people took a very "{yawn} been there, seen that, nothing new" attitude, some claiming that this research was announced five years ago (whereas, clearly, one can see that your paper was published on 29 February, 2008).

My only interest in your paper is in informing people about what I believe to be a giant leap forward in successfully developing a cure and/or vaccine against HIV/AIDS.

Thank you for your time and kind courtesies.

Truly yours,
-Peter C. Frank
Approximately 12 hours later, Dr. Barr sent a response to me, which he has subsequently given me permission to post here. So here, straight from the horse's mouth, and in layman's terms, is what Dr. Barr's research is all about, and the current and potential significance that his team's research holds in the battle against HIV/AIDS:

Hi Peter,

Thanks for your interest in my work. Some researchers out there (like me) are trying to understand how our body fights off viruses. In many cases, our bodies are able to fight off many viruses. This defense is largely due to a response called the Interferon Response. The Interferon Response is activated when our body is exposed to viruses such as HIV. When this occurs, several genes are turned on that have “virus-killing” abilities. How these “virus-killing” genes act differs greatly. Some prevent the virus entering our cells, some attack the virus soon after it enters a cell, and some prevent the virus from physically forming new virus that can leave cells. Of course, I am not sure what genes specifically your bloggers are referring too, but a couple human genes have been identified previously to attack HIV early after it enters cells. However, HIV has evolved a counter-attack against these genes, making them useless. About 5 years ago, researchers found a gene called TRIM5 from monkeys that attacks HIV when this gene is put into human cells. Humans have TRIM5 too, but HIV has evolved to counter-attack this gene, making it useless. Concerns arise about using monkey TRIM5 in gene therapy as an HIV vaccine because it is of monkey origin. If we all take a vaccine that puts monkey TRIM5 in our bodies, it may very well kill HIV, but because it is not natural to humans, it may do something else less desirable in our bodies. Researchers are currently trying to find ways to mimic the effect of monkey TRIM5 that will be a safe form of therapy.

My research, on the other hand, has identified a gene called TRIM22, that is naturally found in humans that is effective at stopping HIV infection in the lab. This gene differs from the other genes in that it attacks HIV at a different stage, when it is trying to get out of cells. TRIM22 prevents HIV from assembling (or forming) new virus. This means that new virus can’t get out of cells to infect other cells, thereby stopping the spread of virus. In the lab, it appears that HIV has not evolved to counter-attack TRIM22, unlike the other human genes reported a while ago. Obviously, it seems that TRIM22 does not seem to be functioning in HIV patients. We still have a lot more research to do in order to find out why. Because TRIM22 is of human origin, it would potentially have less toxic side-effects if it were to be used as some form of gene or drug therapy or vaccine. By identifying a new stage of the HIV lifecycle to attack by natural means (ie. stopping virus assembly), we have opened up a new avenue for research, which could lead to more effective therapy. Such therapy is still many many years away, but we have made a significant advance towards that goal.

When I hear that people have a: "{yawn} been there, seen that, nothing new" attitude, it makes me realize that the public is really not aware of what it takes to make these kind of advances. To put things into perspective a little more, if I were to find the cure for AIDS in my lab today, it would still take another 10 years just to prove that it is safe and effective for use in humans. So you can see, by finding more natural, human, ways of combating HIV, we are a lot closer to a safe, effective vaccine. I hope that this provides you with some helpful info Peter.

Steve

So there you have it. I have found Dr. Barr to be quite approachable and dedicated to his work/research, as well as an individual who is passionate about his research. I with to thank him, publicly, for responding to my inquiry in such a timely fashion, and in such detail. So if any of you still believe that Dr. Barr's research is "old news," I urge you to read the above and, if necessary, contact him via e-mail, to express your thoughts and ask any questions you may have about his groundbreaking research. I am certain that he will provide the same courtesies to you as he has to me, and explain to your satisfaction exactly why his research is such a breakthrough (simply put, this is the first HIV-blocking gene that has been discovered that exists naturally in humans and not some other species that must be synthesized for human use).

Finally, I wish Dr. Barr and his team, and all researchers out there, continued success, good luck, and good fortune in their efforts to improve the human condition. I leave you with this comment from Dr. Barr, which he sent to me in a follow-up e-mail:
When I look at others in my field and how they interact with the public to try and explain their research, I feel there is a strong disconnect, especially with those directly affected with HIV. I promised myself, being a fairly young researcher, to try and stay in touch with the public and explain ourselves and our advances as best I can. After all, it is the public’s money that we use to make these advances. Feel free to ask me any questions any time. Until then, I will be trying my hardest to develop something big.


12 March, 2008

Victoria (Australia) set to recognise gay couples

I posted this over on my Gather.com account:

Here's a sneak preview but you should really go over there and read the full article:
Over and over, governments around the world are recognising that this is not a matter of religion, virtue, tradition, and the like but rather it is a simple matter of equality, fairness, and civil rights. All around the world, foreign governments are recognizing the validity of same-sex relationships.
* * * * *
From the article:
Victoria to recognise gay couples Paul Austin and David Rood
March 13, 2008

GAY and de facto couples will be able to formally register their relationships in Victoria after the Legislative Assembly last night passed historic legislation that split the Coalition.

Liberal leader Ted Baillieu supported the Government bill, which will allow couples to record their relationships with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriage.

Read my full post on Gather.com now!

Researchers discover gene that blocks HIV

This is the announcement we've all been waiting for.

From the article:

A team of researchers at the University of Alberta has discovered a gene that is able to block HIV, and in turn prevent the onset of AIDS.

Stephen Barr, a molecular virologist in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, says his team has identified a gene called TRIM22 that can block HIV infection in a cell culture by preventing the assembly of the virus.

"When we put this gene in cells, it prevents the assembly of the HIV virus," said Barr, a postdoctoral fellow. "This means the virus cannot get out of the cells to infect other cells, thereby blocking the spread of the virus."

Barr and his team also prevented cells from turning on TRIM22 - provoking an interesting phenomenon: the normal response of interferon, a protein that co-ordinates attacks against viral infections, became useless at blocking HIV infection.

"This means that TRIM22 is an essential part of our body's ability to fight off HIV. The results are very exciting because they show that our bodies have a gene that is capable of stopping the spread of HIV." Read the remainder of the article.
I can't believe that this story came out on 29 February 2008 and I just found it today. I guess I really have had my head in a hole in the sand. :(

The most important impact of this discovery/finding is for the future development of a vaccine against HIV. Essentially, now that scientists have identified a substance (which turns out to be a gene) that blocks HIV, they can now begin working on a way to manufacture this substance into a vaccine, or possibly a cure. I'm not really a molecular biologist or physicist so I don't know the specifics as to how this will all come about; however, I do believe one thing for certain: this discovery is the beginning of the end of the reign HIV/AIDS as a killer virus/disease.

I wonder how long it will take for the development of a vaccine now that we know what to use to make one. Anybody out there have any ideas on this?

Oh, and a great super-humongous megacongratulificaciones to the team at the University of Alberta who made this discovery, and to all those in the scientific community who are racing against the clock to combat this deadly virus and resulting disease! Woot woot woot woot woot!

11 March, 2008

New York Governor Elliot Spitzer's Hypocrisy (regarding prostitution)

Well by now the blogosphere is filled with articles and opinions and what not about the revelation of New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer being linked to a high-priced (at $5,500/hour, I would nominate this description as understatement of the year) prostitution ring that was recently busted by United States federal authorities. Take, for instance, this latest piece by The New York Times:
The idea that Gov. Eliot Spitzer — the square-jawed crusader who promised to bring ethics to Albany, the former prosecutor who chased corruption on Wall Street so ferociously that people nicknamed him Eliot Ness — was somehow involved in a prostitution scandal was too much. New Yorkers who thought they had heard everything were, for a change, dumbfounded.

They had trouble folding their minds around what law enforcement officials said was contained in a federal affidavit — that Mr. Spitzer, identified only as “Client 9,” had arranged for a high-priced prostitute to meet him in Washington on the night before Valentine’s Day.
The are reports that The New York Times, which worked diligently to break the story about New York State Governor Spitzer's connections with the ring of debauchery, tried its best to "spin the story as favourably as they could for a Democrat." However, even the New York Times article is quite scathing of Governor Spitzer's conduct. And why shouldn't it be?

Personally, I don't have a problem with prostitution (I think it should be legal and regulated and could be used as a source of revenue from "sin taxes" that can be applied thereto). And quite frankly, after the whole President Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky debacle in the 1990s, I've pretty much thought that politicians are now insulated from their "personal" actions, which they always say had been a grievous mistake, an error in judgment, a failing of their own personal morality, etc. As such, I'd long-ago given up on the notion that top law enforcement official(s) of a municipalities are automatically immune from the laws for which they have been elected to enforce?

So why am I so perturbed at this latest political scandal? The answer to this is contained in this single word: hypocrisy.

To be certain, the case of NYS Governor Spitzer is somewhat unique, and yet not so unique. But first, let's look at why it's unique, and why it has shocked us un-shockable New Yorkers:

Though his signature issue was pursuing Wall Street misdeeds, as attorney general Mr. Spitzer also had prosecuted at least two prostitution rings as head of the state’s organized crime task force.

In one such case in 2004, Mr. Spitzer spoke with revulsion and anger after announcing the arrest of 16 people for operating a high-end prostitution ring out of Staten Island.

“This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multi-tiered management structure,” Mr. Spitzer said at the time. “It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring."

For me, I think this quote in the recent New York Times article sums it up best:

“He’s pulled a lot of people through the mud, and look what he’s done,” said Ben Clarke, who works for a technology company that counts Wall Street firms as clients. Sipping red wine at Harry’s Cafe on Hanover Square, Mr. Clarke added, “The hypocrisy is incredible.”

So you see, Attorney General, and gubernatorial candidate Spitzer periodically proselytized over and over and the evils and ills of prostitution. Why, then, would he engage in the very acts he has, for years, condemned?

As I previously mentioned, Governor Spitzer's case is unique yet, at the same time, not so unique. Governor Spitzer now finds himself in exactly the same position as such great political heroes as:

U.S. Senator Larry Craig

U.S. Congressman Ed Schrock

Washington State Representative Richard Curtis

There are probably others but I can't find them at the moment or recall who they are (I'll edit this list at some point in the future once some people I've contacted to help fill in this list get back to me).

By the way, if Governor Spitzer refuses to resign and brought to an impeachment trial (and subsequently impeached), it wouldn't be the first time in the history of New York State.

I should point out this breaking news article, which exemplifies just why this level of hypocrisy does, and should, bring one's blood to a boiling point.

While I disagree with a certain aspect of his politics, kudos to New York State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, for doing and saying the right thing and not using this moment for political advantage, which is something that most politicians wouldn't think twice about doing:
Joseph L. Bruno, the Senate Republican leader who had a fractious relationship with Mr. Spitzer, said he felt “very badly for the governor’s wife, for his children.”
For you conspiracy theorists out there: this is a plot by the conservative right-wing (a/k/a the religious right), as Governor Spitzer has recently voiced his support and advocated for same-sex marriage rights in New York State--stating that he would introduce such legislation in the near future--to discredit him and force him out of office so as to prevent such legislation from being introduced into the legislature by him.

On a personal note, it boggles my mind that this latest scandal still leaves people wondering why I'm such a raving cynic, especially with respect to U.S. Presidential Candidate/Senator Barack Obama's "Change" campaign. :p

Finally, let's all take a moment of silence out of respect for the passing of Governor Spitzer's political career...

[Updated 7:00am 11 March 2008]Think of it this way, what Spitzer did would be akin to Rudy Guliani running off and doing business with the mob. Think about it. It just makes no sense, no sense at all. And, as one of my friends told me, "He's the frikkin Governor of New York--I'm sure he could have gotten a woman, any woman, without having to pay for it? Why would he be so stupid as to think he had to pay for it?" But then, paying for something connotes a certain meaning, n'est-ce pas?

07 February, 2008

Ingrid E. Barnes, R.I.P.

It is with deep sadness that I inform you of the passing of Ingrid E. Barnes this past Monday, 4 February, 2008 from cancer of her colon.

I will always remember Ingrid as a driving force, a strong and driven woman; one with whom one would not want to find one's self in opposition with. She was an advocate for equality for many, many years, and was politically active throughout most of her life. Her words will hopefully be forever immortalized in the writings on her blog, as well as in Letters to the Editor that you can find by performing a Google web search on her name.

Ingrid served as a Co-President of The LOFT: The Gay & Lesbian Community Services Center in White Plains, NY, and also later served as a director on their board. Most recently, she was President of the Hudson Valley chapter of Log Cabin Republicans.

Professionally, Ingrid was most recently employed as Associate Director of Adult Services at PACE University.

There was a time when I counted Ingrid among the closest of my friends. I was instrumental in Ingrid's political conversion as a Republican, and will hold fond memories of her and those times we spent together.

A wake and memorial services are planned.

Rest In Peace, Ingrid. We will miss you!

26 January, 2008

Quote of the Day

Keep it simple. The more you say, the less people remember.
(on a fortune cookie I just ate)

This sage advice is ignored most often, I believe, by our politicians.

08 January, 2008

An Emotionally Wrenching Day

I'm writing this in my word processing program on the train back into NYC, where I will then take the subway back to Forest Hills.

Today was emotionally wrenching for me. I wound up spending the night in Throgs Neck at my friend's because I went over to her place in the afternoon to help resolve a problem that she was having with her computer and wound up working until almost midnight, and by then I was just too exhausted to spend the two hours it would take me on NYC's subway system to get back to where I was apartment sitting for my friend in Forest Hills (remember that I've been homeless for about the past two years and have been couch hopping among friends since then).

Originally my mother was supposed to come out and see me in Forest Hills, pick me up, and take me to Yonkers where I could finally get to the police station there and file a complain/report regarding what happened to me in October/November/December, and how a really disturbed individual named Louis Rivera pretended to be my friend in order to have me star in his own personal soap opera (at least, this is what it feels like to me). I've previously written about that on my Gather account and, in fact, the narrative was so long that I wound up breaking it up into three separate parts (I'm eventually going to have to post a Part IV...).

So instead I had to call my mother and give directions to my younger brother (who was driving) to my friend's place in Throgs Neck. This actually turned out for the better as it meant that they wouldn't have to drive as far to retrieve me (they live west of Hartford, CT, which is about a bit over two hours from where I was staying in Throgs Neck). Also, my friend is right off a main highway in Throgs Neck, which is a branch of the highway that they would have taken down from Hartford. So this part of it worked out better. My brother said that he would probably arrive between 11 in the morning and noon.

At approximately 1:30pm, my brother and mother finally arrive. I obtain directions to the 2nd Precinct of the Yonkers Police Department and we depart. Once we arrive at the Yonkers PD, 2nd Precinct, I advise the desk sargeant (or whatever his rank was) as to the reason of my visit there, and he tells me that it's probably going to be a long wait. Apparently, the City of Yonkers was going to hell that day and all of their officers were occupied and unable to take a report from me.

I waited at the Yonkers PD for nearly three hours before an officer (a team, actually; I guess they work in teams there) was able to speak with me. And what's worse, because I ended up spending the night in the Bronx (Throgs Neck) instead of going back to Forest Hills (Queens), I didn't have what I really needed in order to lodge the complaint. The officers informed me that there really wasn't anything that they could do because I didn't have bank statements or whatever showing what had been done. They didn't seem to think it a big deal that Louis Rivera still has my old notebook computer, clothing, a suitcase, notebook computer case, diary, debit cards, driver's license, social security card, Medicare card, shopping club cards, checkbook (to my old account) and just about every other important piece of information that helps to identify me. I suppose that because I informed the officers that I had canceled all of my cards, that they didn't think anything was pressing.

Even though I pleaded with the officers to at least open a report, as it is extremely difficult for me to get there via public transportation, they advised me that the best they could do for me was to give me an incident report, which they marked as not having a police report being filed at that time, but when I returned (they advised that I must do so in person) then at least I would have a starting point. So I left there with a small slip of paper with an incident report on it. They took down my name, address, phone number, and email address, and the name and addrees of Louis Rivera (I didn't have his phone number on me as I'd left my mobile phone in Forest Hills when I left for my friend's in Throgs Neck the day before).

So my visit to the Yonkers Police Department was not nearly as productive as I had hoped that it would be.

I also had planned to go up to my bank, and my branch of my bank, to close my new checking account and open yet another new checking account there, without ID (which is why I wanted to go to my branch), because of fraudulent activity that has been taking place on my new checking account. (You may recall that I had to close my old account because of the fraudulent activity that Louis Rivera was conducting on that account.) Needless to say, because of the wait that I had at the Yonkers PD, I wasn't able to make it to the bank in time.

After I was finally finished with the Yonkers PD (it was almost five pm by this point), my mother was complaining that she needed to eat (she's diabetic) so we went to Kam Sen, the Asian Market in White Plains, NY where, in addition to offering everything that an Asian supermarket offers, they also cook food on the premises either for take-out or dining on the premises (they have some cafe-styled tables and chairs set up near where the food is served for people to sit down and eat a quick meal). So we got food, ate, and then my mother bought me some food so I could cook and not have to spend as much money on eating out (which is usually what I do).

As it was too late to get to my bank so I could open a new account,, we wound up going to visit my sister, who lives with my grandfather. Also residing in the household now are my uncle (the one who kicked me out of my grandfather's home), my sister's boyfriend, her daughter, and her godson. Earlier in the day I had called what I thought was my sister's mobile phone number, but my uncle answered and advised me that it was now my grandfather's number, and I asked him for my sister's number and he gave that to me. I really did not want to speak with him and I never call the house number for this very purpose. He was all nice and everything but I just can't deal with it. He's nice one minute and a POS the next.

In any event, I wasn't planning on coming into the house, especially since I'd previously been told that I wasn't allowed inside anymore. But after waiting about 15 minutes in the car while my mother visited with her daughter (my sister) and her granddaughter (my niece), my uncle came outside and told me that my sister wanted to see me, inside. Great, just what I wanted to have happen: interaction with my uncle who likes for nothing better than to screw with my mind.

Oh, have I mentioned that I also haven't seen my grandfather since I was thrown out of the home by my uncle?

OK, so I go inside. I see my sister and she just doesn't look right. [Update: I finally figured out why she wasn't looking "right": she was pale, very, very pale....] I'd been trying to get hold of her since last week--when she told me that she was going in for every test under the sun because they found a lump in her breast, and she's only 31--but she hasn't been online, so of course my anxiety disorder takes over and I start thinking the worst.

I guess that this time, I had reason to be anxious and to think the worst. My sister has a very invasive form of breast cancer—Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, Grade 2—and she is scheduled for a total mastectomy of both breasts with axillary dissection, which means that she will have both of her breasts completely removed at the ripe old age of 31, as well as some of the lymph nodes in her breast/back, and then undergo a harsh chemotherapy treatment and, if the results from the lymph removal come back as being positive, then she will also undergo additional surgery to have all of her upper-body lymph nodes removed and then begin radiation treatment. Oh, and did I mention that the reason my mother came down this way was because she has an appointment for a mammogram tomorrow in Bridgeport, CT?

Now here's the thing ... approximately five years ago, I had a lump form in my right breast. There is an estensive family history of breast cancer in my family: my mother has already had a lumpectomy in each of her breasts, the first one occurring in the Fall of 2002—the same year as my automobile accident; both of my grandmothers also were diagnosed with breast cancer, and my paternal grandmother wound up requiring a mastectomy as a result of the cancer in one of her breasts.. Because of this history, I underwent a mammogram and ultrasound to determine if the lump was cancerous. The doctors were fairly certain that the lump was not cancerous and just a cyst at this point, and advised against further testing; however, they did advise me to have the lump checked out every two years via a bi-annual mammogram. Due to a variety of factors (no/little insurance, not having a primary care doctor, etc.), I haven't followed up on their advice. Due to the recent developments with my sister, I believe that I now am left with no choice and must figure out a way to get a mammogram scheduled ASAP.

My sister is absolutely devastated because she went to the plastic surgeon yesterday for a consultation, which she advises me is “practically required for women my age”, and the plastic surgeon showed her images of what she would look like without breasts. He also told her that they would insert something into her breasts that would, over the course of six weeks or so, be inflated, so that when she was completed with her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, implants could then be inserted with minimal effort.

I can only imagine what my sister is going through. She already has body image problems (like me, she's morbidly obese, although unlike me she was more svelte as a teenager and put weight on as she grew into adulthood; I was the opposite as I was quite “chunky” as a kid growing up and wound up taking off the weight in college but I have put all of it back on afte my automobile accident, because I am unable to physically move around like I was before the accident. But I digress....

She's had relationship problems with her boyfriend (the father of her daughter), and he's left her for other women in the past, although now they seem to be doing OK but one never knows. Add to this the fact that she will be losing both here breasts, at the age of 31, and the body image problems rise exponentially. She confided in me that she doesn't want to have to undergo any more surgeries (she had an injury to her arm while she was in college and she also has had, from time to time, some sort of growths in her intestines removed) and she really doesn't want to have to undergo plastic surgery to have breast implants. I told her that she didn't have to undergo any medical procedure that she didn't want to but she responded that, because of her age, they were essentially dictating that she undergo therapy and have fake breasts put on as it was too psychologically damaging for a woman of her early years to have both breasts removed. I'm not sure I buy that answer; if you don't want to undergo a procedure then you aren't required to undergo it.

However, what I didn't pick up on was that my sister was talking about not wanting to undergo any of it, including the removal of the cancerous lumps in the first place. I advised her, as gently as I could, that should she choose that route then she was certainly fortelling her early demise, and I know that that's not what she really wanted, especially given how much she cares about and loves her daughter. She responded that if such was the case then that wasn't a good thing, and she truly seemed torn by the decision to have both of her breasts removed or face certain death.

As we were getting ready to leave, I my grandfather had emerged from his room. He was sittting in a chair in the living room. He is wheeled around the house in a wheelchair. He has a chair that he can slump into in the living room (it's one of those chairs that rise off the ground to make it easier to get out of—the back pushes up and the chair tilts forward so that one is left virtually standing by the time it is finished its thing, and it remains in that position until one returns to sit in it.

I don't know if I've written about this previously, but my grandfather had a run of very bad luck with regard to his health over this past summer (summer 2007). He suffered a heart attack while he was driving (and took out a bus stop near his home). While he was hospitalized, he wound up having, and I'm not certain of the order of these events so I'll just lump them all together, another minor heart attack, a massive coronary, and a major brain hemorrhage (a/k/a a major stroke). The stroke left him unable to speak and unable to use the right side of his body, although he has begun to recover somewhat from that.

It was a real shock seeing my grandfather. He looked frail, and if there was one thing one never would say about my grandfather was that he looked frail. He's now 86 years old, and will be turning (should he survive so long) 87 come April. He can't hear out of his right ear, so he has to turn his face so that his left ear is facing you while you're talking to him. That's from the stroke.

The train will be pulling into Grand Central Terminal in a few moments; I'm emotionally drained, which, along with my depression has left me physically drained. I don't think I could really write much more anyway.

My sister, my grandfather, my mother, my niece, and me. Happy, happy, joy, joy....

For my Gather friends, here's a link back to the article so you can return to comment and receive your points.

05 January, 2008

QOTD

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.
~ Dale Carnegie (1888-1954),
American author and lecturer

04 January, 2008

QOTD

If you really do put a small value upon yourself, rest assured that the world will not raise your price.
~Anonymous

A New Beginning, A New Direction

Well, it's official.

I did it.

I'm so anxious right now that I'm shaking. And I'm about to s**t my pants!

What, what, you're asking, what is it already?

Well, I sent a letter (via email) to the law school that I attended but was unable, due to my depression, to complete my studies. At the time, however, I didn't know that I had depression. Hell, I didn't even know what depression was or even that it existed.

But now, after a few years of therapy, some psychiatric hospitalizations, and the like, I know about depression. In fact, I know quite a bit about depression.

And I have a much better handle on my own depression. I know how it affects me. And I've gotten better at managing it.

I know that I have to remain in treatment. I know that I have to take my medications. And I'm doing my best to do both of these things. I have a treatment team that knows mjy situation and is flexible and willing to work with me.

I know that if this works and I'm accepted back to school I'll have to do so as a first-day student, as none of my prior work will count (ABA rules dictate that when one is out of school for more than one year then one must start their studies over from day one and all prior studies are not to be taken into consideration).

Here's the e-mail that I sent out. Wish me luck!!!!!

4 January, 2008

VIA EMAIL
William D. Perez
Assistant Dean for Admissions & Financial Aid
New York Law School
Office of Admissions and Financial Aid
57 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013

Dear Assistant Dean Perez:

I am a former student of NYLS (attendance dates: Fall 1994-Spring 1997) and was unable to complete my studies due to what I now know was severe and persistent depression. Although considered disabled, I now feel that I am ready and able to once again pursue a legal education and career.

I would very much appreciate an opportunity to meet with a member of your office to discuss the possibility of my return to studies at NYLS.

As such, please provide me (via e-mail) with a few dates/times that would be convenient for your staff to meet with me regarding same. Afternoons would be best for me.

Thank you for your time and kind courtesies.

Sincerely,
-Peter C. Frank

cc: NYLS Offices of Admissions and Financial Aid