Archive for June, 2010

Familial Genetic Profiling: Get Over It

Posted in Politics and Society, Science! on June, 2010 by melendwyr

razib khan, over at his new Discover blog site, briefly discusses an article in Slate which mentions familial genetic profiling, and this guy has the following response:

The article goes to list all the law-related reasons why using this partial-match system is problematic. The bottom line is that this new expansion of CODIS searches is infringing on some rights and privacy statutes. So some laws will have to be re-written if this is all going to become legal and above-board.

The bigger message is that the government’s always going to be doing these types of law enforcement expansions in total stealth mode, and it’s up to the public and their constitutional defenders to drag such changes out into the daylight and force them to be regulated.

All I can say is: How ridiculous! If law enforcement officials have a genetic profile of a criminal, and they note that a sample taken from a crime scene is almost but not quite a match to the known profile, why in the world would we expect them not to take a closer look at family members of that criminal? We know that siblings are more likely to resemble each other than randomly-chosen strangers – should we prohibit taking photographs of criminals to protect the ‘privacy’ of their relatives who may look somewhat similar?

What exactly are we expected to expect? Laws banning cops from taking note of partial profile matches? How precisely would that protect the privacy of the innocent, especially when no information about their own DNA is stored in the computer? The similarities between siblings are only statistical, after all. Possessing knowledge about one person’s DNA does provide statistical knowledge about the DNA sequences of their biological relatives, but I cannot see how that is an invasion of their privacy, nor how using partial matches to determine avenues of investigation constitutes a violation of relatives’ rights.

If a crime victim gave a description that is vaguely like that of a known criminal with an alibi, but he had a sibling who strongly resembled him, would it be a violation of that sibling’s rights if police took note of this? We’re quite willing to accept that. Why is this different?

Is it merely that genetic profiling is new and unfamiliar?

The Absurdity of Custom

Posted in Comics, Politics and Society, Things You Should Read with tags on June, 2010 by melendwyr

everyone is going to jail

Sometimes the line between respectful treatment of the dead and unspeakable corpse mutilation is merely an optical illusion caused by long familiarity with tradition.

How many of our customs and traditions would be bizarre and horrifying to us if we saw them with fresh eyes?

Chickpea Victories

Posted in Gardening with tags , on June, 2010 by melendwyr

Over the years, I have occasionally tried to plant garbanzo beans (AKA chickpeas), but with extremely limited success. It’s not that they wouldn’t sprout – even planting material purchased from grocery stories grew vigorously, as long as it was given initial cool temperatures and sufficiently high moisture. But rabbits mostly ate the seedlings to the ground, and when the survivors set pods, they ate off the pods too. So I could never harvest enough seeds to recoup my planting requirements, much less have an excess for consumption.

I have, however, made a discovery. The standard type I planted – known in India as Kabuli – is the large, round, white chickpea with white flowers. There’s another, closely related and native to India, known as Desi – which means ‘country’ or ‘local’ in Hindi – that has notably more pigmentation in the flowers and leaves, a bitter seed coat, and a smaller, coarser texture. But the rabbits won’t eat it – not one bite. Not the seedlings, not the mature foliage, and so far not the pods.

They seem so unappealing to rabbits, groundhogs, and other plant predators that I’m giving serious consideration to using them as a repellent border in next year’s garden.

My planting stock came from an Indian grocery store, labeled as ‘kala chana’. They’re the main ingredient in chana dal, only with the seedcoat removed and split (which makes it impossible to plant them).

Outrage Expiration

Posted in Uncategorized on June, 2010 by melendwyr

Is there a limit to the length of time a text can be out in the public eye and still generate outrage? I ask because I’ve come across a rather startlingly bad book that’s been in print for decades. Is my umbrage still valid, or is it too late?

Dresden Codak: Dark Science

Posted in Reviews, Science!, Things You Should Read with tags on June, 2010 by melendwyr

Ooh, a new DC comic!

Not as wacky or as inspired as Codak’s work usually is, but I’m grateful for anything given how much time passes between updates. Plus this is the beginning of a new series, so the use of an old and shopworn joke isn’t as objectionable as it might have otherwise been; I’m confident that high levels of surreality will again be attained. The art style, as usual, is pleasing to the eye.

Also, the particular titled parodied are quite clever. I wonder what other books could be so amusingly ‘adapted’.

Shakers on Salads

Posted in Useful Aphorisms on June, 2010 by melendwyr

“To make a good salad four persons are wanted:
a spendthrift to furnish the oil,
a miser to measure the vinegar,
a councillor to dole out salt and spices,
and a madman to toss it.”

– attributed to a Shaker work on cooking, mid-19th century