CommComm posted on October 16, 2012 21:42

Word on the street has it that a new BLOG design is on the way. Hooray, says Alonzo. I appreciate everyone's patience since this is exactly what's going on. We should have our brand new toy very soon. So hang in there a few days longer. We're grinding out the final kinks.

 

 

Alonzo LaMont

alonzo@jhmi.edu


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Posted in: Hopkins Community  Tags:

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We see this all the time. The latest for me was last night. If you happened to catch the "60 Minutes" segment on "Rodriguez" you proabably came away enriched. It's your basic rags to rags story about a much over-looked Musician/Artist who stays unknown in the US, but becomes a gigantic star in another country. But he never knew about it. He became a day laborer doing construction in Detroit. For 40 years. People thought he was either homeless, or soon-to-be. Finally, a DJ in South Africa tracks him down (not believing the rumors that he was dead by having set himself on fire during a concert), and Rodriguez goes to South Africa and sees that he has a huge following. He plays a concert or two, doesn't really make much money and goes back to being a day laborer. Of course, some unknown not-a-shiny-nickel-to-his-name-wannabe-filmmaker discovers him, makes a movie from his smart phone (he downloads a $1.00 app), and submits it to Sundance. Sundance gets their industrious underdog-loving hands on it, and Rodrigues is off and running..........

 

So now there's this and that about Rodrigues. 40 some odd years later. I mention this because the statement from a current Nobel Prize-Winner also highlights how rejection, or shall we say that early career discouragement (which is always bound to come) should never be enough to throw anyone off their horse. The price of recognition seemingly always comes with a pricetag that includes having your face shoved in the mud. You can almost expect it. Watching the "60 Minutes" segment last night could easily bring you to tears. But seeing how both men stayed true to their dreams, corny as it sounds, positively humbles you. Rodrigues has a shining humility that is a joy to behold. And our Nobel-Winner, Sir John Gurdon casually reflects on comments that may have been too much for others to overcome.

 

For each man, the road they continued on after their early setbacks was something, was someplace, that was clearly much more than a physical path. It was an interior landscape that no amount of "directions" or GPS assistance could map. Hooray for those who continue their journey.


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Informationists Peggy Gross and Rob Wright held court at the "6th Annual Young Investigators Symposium and Poster Session on Genomics and Bioinformatics" the other day. The much-esteemed Dr. Jonathan Pevsner stopped by their Poster area to share and hobnob.

(Dr. Gao from the Lieber Institute for Brain Development on left, Dr. Pevsner - middle, Rob Wright - right, of course)

 

 

I grabbed Peggy Gross during a free, less hectic moment. But honestly, after watching Peggy in action---I really don't think she has any free moments.

 

You'll hear more about the Symposium, along with thoughts from Rob and Peggy on Genomics and Bioinformatics in an upcoming video.

 

Alonzo Lamont

alonzo@jhmi.edu


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CommComm posted on October 3, 2012 06:15

I read with interest how Stanford is going hook, line and sinker into flipping their classrooms. The very first sentence reveals a belief in such a forward-looking system that, by it's very design, is meant to become revolutionary in nature. They're completely buying into the new learning jumbalaya of using class time for more rigorous and engaging activities than lectures. Case you didn't know, lectures are now passé. Lectures are no longer tres chic, they're tres snore. No, that's not a hint of cynicism. There are many who may snicker at all the shiny new educational mental toys, but I wouldn't be one.

Like many sideline observers, we're curious how it all plays out. We, the almost-maybe-possibly-converted-but-still-as-yet-unconverted, are wondering if all this flipping is about better learning or a better learning lifestyle, that happens to involve learning. As the article mentions, there is a call to "show me the data," but it's still too early for data. However, we're all well aware of the success of Khan Academy and Khan boasts a nearly Roman gladiatorial spectacle of videos, online talks and a "knowledge map" that's completely to die for. And do they EVER have a following. Egad---but they sure enough do indeed.

Maybe, as flipped clasrooms begin to take a foothold, those are the only real numbers and data we'll need to look at. It forces us to ask ourselves: are we facing a completely new educational paradigm that's real and irrefutably genuine? Or, are the practitioners only passing along some sweet syrupy drug to assist the ailing cosmology of faltering academia. The Italian Playwright Pirandello says, "Right you are, if you think you are". Sometimes invention and hubris walk in the same footsteps. Not a bad thing. Fresh ideas and directions are rarely polite. They never ask permission. Right now it appears----we roll with the new.  


Alonzo LaMont

alonzo@jhmi.edu


CommComm posted on September 27, 2012 04:33

This is about you. Yes, you. Not me. I don't text. I don't want to text. I have a text disabled phone. But you----you never saw these results coming, didja. No you didn't, and why? Because your face was buried in that phone. There you are stealing a few precious moments out of the office, and wham. Seems as if texting and trees don't mix. Neither do texting and curbs, highways, sidewalks----or---- fountains. If you google-up "texting and talking and accidents" (or any combination thereof) you can find further support for this epidemic.

 

Do we honestly believe that texting is the desire to communicate? Others espouse theories that are exactly the opposite. They say we're running away from conversation. Real conversation that is. Instead we get the chance to present the more ideal "me". We enter a universe where we're so god-almighty- powerful. We participate in a language that doesn't require depth or nuance, only an abbreviated configuration of letters. Life hard. Text easy. Isn't  there just a little tinge of superiority behind looking busy and "engaged". Especially in the public eye. (For the life of me I don't know why since everyone's telling everyone else how messed up their family is). But having tasted the rich fruits of continuous texting we now, like so many falling stars, land and go boom. We hit things. They hit us back. And now the research is piling up, and stronger anti-texting movements are afoot.

For many of us it's actually an easier choice than pouring through data, or taking a pledge, or watching victim after victim (go through youtube and "texting") do something disastrous. Here's the straight skinny: when you're walking outdoors and it's a beautiful day, with beautiful sun and you're walking along under your own power, breathing in all that gorgeous-new-day smell----it all gets flushed away when you decide you need to showcase your verbal acumen. And with cursing as a sidebar, well things are just double-ruined.  So there you have it. Research, studies, visual nightmare samples----they're all there for the taking. Or you can just take a deep breath, put away your gadgets and step into the sunshine.  

Alonzo Lamont

alonzo@jhmi.edu

 


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CommComm posted on September 24, 2012 20:42

I don't know what's better, the time spent time rummaging through this article's detailed proclamations about scientific fraud, or the rather lengthy commentary at the bottom. As "graphic" a picture as the author draws, the comments reveal an equally passionate amalgamation of thoughts and sensitivities. First and foremost is the conclusion that misconduct is far more rampant than we're led to believe. Also, the pressure of publishing and recognition drive the undercurrent (or does "underbelly" sound greasy and criminal?) of shady conduct---and what a strong current it appears to be.

 

Ahhh, much like life, someone has their hooks in the Scientific community. New discoveries along with overwhelming bodies of evidence to support MORE new discoveries and MORE research and funding---are dangling carrots that attract rational people to, shall we say,  fudge the details. In this case, Psychology takes it on the chin, but (especially judging by the comments) the villainy operates without regard for boundaries or disciplines.

 

Starting with, oh shall we say----the beginning of civilization, the public has maintained a love/hate relationship with Science. Yes, we all love the goodies it provides, but for a variety of reasons, we've sometimes taken issues with the trust element. Look no further than any Sci-fi B-movie since the creation of Hollywood. You'll see all too clearly examples of Science or Scientists gone Mad. Out of control. "Gross stereotypes" you say. Yes. But while these are perhaps extreme examples, the mistrust blueprint seems to fall well within the parameters of these celluloid spectacles. Prove my point---ask your neighbor about any scientific issue of the day. You'll find a rainbow of observations that trace a colorful spectrum of public trust. 

 

The levels of misconduct represented in these articles showcase a cross-pollination of factors. With all the "pressure to perform," how will Science treat these missteps?  If the diagnosis becomes more widespread, can the doctor treat himself?

 

Alonzo LaMont

alonzo@jhmi.edu 


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When did food allergies, such as an allergic reaction to peanuts, become a recognized condition as opposed to being viewed as something "idiosyncratic"? Even now, perhaps because we seem to have an outbreak of food allergies, don't we place someone with food allergies in the "they're just allergic to everything" category. By doing this, don't we tend to close a certain door? Our dirty little secret is that we place the onus of the allergic condition more on the person and not the condition. We stigmatize the person as being "one of those folks".

 

This article states that the journey from a controversial diagnosis to an accepted standard not only affects the general public, but also has it's roots within the medical community. Case in point, prior to the 1990's, it was very difficult to find any medical or popular literature reference to peanut allergies. As the article states, even the process of diagnosis tended towards a rather dismissive point of view. How far we've come from that attitude compared to the present, almost Kafka-esque treatment for protecting classrooms of children from nuts. Big Brother practically patrols the hallways in search of those rebellious peanut outcasts, those off-the-grid neanderthals who DARE to wave their mom-made PB&J's victoriously in the air. A victory for Peter Pan, a defeat for closely-regulated food sensitivities. What was once a controversy, has now become an epidemic. 

 

Hyperactivity, (you'll gain more street cred saying "ADHD") has now become part of our daily linguistic routine. What son or daughter doesn't have it? And what's wrong with them if they don't? Seemingly, we place the blame for every "fault" our children may have on something. Ritalin seems to provide a wonderful bailout. It a deliciously simple solution, and parents can feel practically guilt-free---why? Because ADHD is now accepted. Unfortunately, it's a badge we wear a little too easily, and a little too proudly.

 

Alonzo Lamont

alonzo@jhmi.edu



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CommComm posted on September 10, 2012 21:41

I'm taking a moment to pile on. Now, let me say this: I do love me some WholeFoods. The fruits and veggies appear to be Heaven sent. There's almost a halo of superiority that envelops patrons strolling the aisles. Even a quick dash-in leads one into a consumer ecstasy of "natural" goodness. Food ectoplasms await those standing in check-out lines, our bodies anticipating the moral enlightenment behind our choices of turkish apricots, soy nut butter, caribbean tofu, and original Nasoya nayonaise. We leave floating on a cloud of wellness nirvana.

And then that gosh darn Science comes along to clutter the nutrition consciousness highway with sour grapes, spilt milk and if further evidence was needed, it seems to have arrived in spades.

Woe is we. Woe is we living on all the Higher Plateaus Of Smart. No doubt in the coming months, there will be more outrage from all the wounded parties. Questions will be raised, conclusions overturned and conclusive issues investigated. Yet, our very own Elizabeth Tracey (my guest on this month's Podcast) opines on her own blog about the analytical doubt that's been created, and it's the particular nature behind this newly discovered doubt that I believe is the greater issue. While facts will be debated and reviewed, I don't think that pure 100% FACTS will alter the greater perception that may now exist within the court of public opinion. No, it wasn't just the facts that flamed out---it was that self-anointed (did someone say "smug") morality and lifestyle that's now being nudged off the cliff. That now is taking the far greater hit. That now has to cede the moral high ground.

The simple fact that a certain measure of doubt has been created, shows that we're officially living in "The Fantastic Age of What-If". In this instance, the 3,000-pound-elephant-in-the-room-What-If is------what if regular supermarket food is on the same food health chart as any Organic Stuff?

I wonder if any tie-dyed in the wool healthy food fanatics will now "dispute" the Science. (I thought because Science was SCIENCE, we weren't allowed to dispute?) Maybe all this will pass, and the topsy-turvy nature of things will right themselves back to Status Quo-ville. However, at the very least this certainly puts a fly in the buttermilk behind the purity of natural foods. I somehow suspect that (as an example) Vegans will still be Vegans, not because of any facts but because deep down they don't rely on Science, they rely on what they feel inside. And what they feel their bodies feel inside. More power to Vegans and to everyone else who makes choices they believe are healthy. Who can knock that. Certainly not I.

 

I still love my WholeFoods. Will still buy my same stuff. Will still walk in with my head in the air. But maybe, just maybe everybody over at ShopRite, SuperFresh and Safeway will start walking a little bit taller.

 

Alonzo LaMont

alonzo@jhmi.edu



 

   


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