Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I'll Turn 50, Where's My Free Stuff?

On January 11, 2017 I will turn 50.  To many this chronological milestone represents a harsh reminder of beer-soaked sand clumping through life's hourglass, a grim reminder of aging and the unpleasantries of human senescence. 

I look at it as a way to start cashing in my chips for free stuff and early bird discounts. 


Frankly, I think it is all crap. It doesn't phase me a bit, but I'll take the bonus goods for eclipsing an arbitrary chronological metric.


I spent my first 35 years in school and postdoc time, scrounging for change, and taking any job that would give me five bucks or a sandwich. I could never figure out why the elderly got the discounts. Not only did they have all of the money, they also had social security. 

Senior discounts seemed wasted on the old.  I was the one that really needed the free bagel. 

I was taken back to January 10th, 1988, the day before my 21st birthday, and how the next day I'd be magically responsible enough to buy the alcohol I had been enjoying for four years already.

After the milestone of 21 years old my auto insurance rates dropped at 25.  Big deal.  Then I set my sites on 50 and put a big red X on the calendar, 25 years in the future. 

Now that marked date happens next month.  Many places consider 50 as eligible for certain discounts and freebies.  I'm interested in nailing those down now so that I can plan a 2017 filled with discount shit.  I've paid my dues, now I want them refunded. 

First stop, "senior coffee" at Arby's.  Mine. And then I'll bench press more than anyone that works there. 

So-- what do you know internet?  Where do I get something for free, just because I somehow managed to avoid the dirt nap for half a century?

What I've found so far:
  • Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
  • Bealls Outlet: 15% off on every Tuesday (50+ or “fifty & fabulous” as customer service told me)  verified
  • Peebles: 20% off with 50+ card on Tuesdays (50+)
  • Traditions Restaurant (East TX): Senior platter meal for $4.71 (50+) verified
  • Tea Room Cafe: 10% off for seniors (50+)
  • Kagle’s Barbecue: 10% off (50+)
  • American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50 +)
  • Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service
  • Chili’s: 10% off
  • Dairy Queen: 10% off
  • Krispy Kreme: 10% off
  

Monday, December 12, 2016

Comment on Natural News


I needed a picture of myself to send to organizers of an upcoming conference. I found this in Google images and was curious what it was:



So I clicked the link and it took me to a Natural News story that talked about how I "receive bribes", "run scams", engage in "corruption".  It says that Monsanto provides me with money to take luxury vacations in Hawaii.  It was all assembled from cherry-picked comments in my personal emails that I willingly handed over to USRTK.

Of course, none of that is true. 

it is simply an opportunity to hurt someone, so Mike Adams used his reaching website to produce a (well, one of many) story that was false and potentially very damaging.  



When you read the comments section you see how this hateful rhetoric whips people into a frenzy.  This is just one example.  Five likes! 

I thought that since it has been a year I could provide a factual synthesis of the situation and maybe at least have the proper story out there in space. So I wrote this in the comments section:


Hi Everybody, it's me, the guy that is the subject of this piece. I stumbled upon now, more than a year after it was posted. It was a sad attempt to harm my credibility as a researcher and scholar that helps the public understand science. A couple of quick notes. I run a science communication workshop. When someone offers to pay me to do a lecture or seminar, that money could go in my pocket-- but instead goes to the workshop. I financed this for years, along with organizations that would donate (farm bureau, etc).

Monsanto offered to do the same thing. That's great. It is expensive to rent a venue, travel somewhere, put out coffee and sandwiches, provide media/materials. They did the right thing. They didn't give me a script, not even a hint. They said, "We think your program in teaching scientists how to speak to the public is a good thing."
And for that, I was very grateful, and promised an excellent return on their investment-- that return being a scientific community more likely to engage the public about science.

All of this was public record (that's why it was in the emails too), all above board. Zero went to me. Zero went to my research. Zero. In the end my university took it and put it into a campus food bank because of threats against me, my lab, and my family. We had police presence in the building and the
Domestic Terrorism Task Force involved.

Because of articles like this. Read the comments below. This stokes hate.

There was no bribe, no scam, no corruption. It was a manufactured story produced from my emails which I freely provided.

Luxury hotels in Hawaii? Ha! Motel 6 in Columbia, Missouri! "Unrestricted gift" is university accounting language for "no strings attached" or "no delieverables." That means that the donor gets nothing in return. Zero.

The good news is that Adams' hateful rhetoric and the comments below are all screenshots that will be used in upcoming books, documentaries, etc about how activists try to destroy scientists' careers in vaccines, climate and genetic engineering.

The other good news is that this kind of hate brought a scientific community to my defense. I've won awards and earned tremendous respect for weathering such a vitriolic, personal attack.

Of course, all of my funding, reimbursement, etc are all public record and can be seen on my website at any time. Check it out. Not a cent from Monsanto was ever seen for research or to me personally, and not a cent was ever used for the workshops. Reach out if you ever have questions, I'm always glad to answer them.



I hit the button to post my reply, only to find out that it is "...waiting to be approved by Natural News."




It is amazing. Not only do they publish falsehoods that stoke vitriolic response, they don't afford their target to even present the factual interpretation.

Oh well. At the same time mine would be the first comment posted in a year, so maybe nobody cares anyway.

But I'm glad I saw this Adam's hit piece. It reminded me of where we were a year ago and how far we have come, and how far they had to sink. It reminds us of the anger, hate, and slander we have to endure when we simply teach science.

Amazing times.


**** Irony Alert! --for what it's worth, 20 minutes later the comment was apparently not approved, as it was removed. The people that scream for a 'right to know' are the first to censor what they don't want you to know. ****

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Mythbusting "Terminator Genes"

The discussion of the concept of Terminator Genes is important.  Many people feel that this technology is a reason to not adopt genetically-engineered crops.  Vandana Shiva speaks of the technology as though it is present in every plant. 



However, the story is much more interesting and is the subject of today's podcast.  The technology only existed in concept, maybe in a few plants that never left a greenhouse.  It was originally devised to limit gene flow, one of the issues that critics raise today.  However, it was never even close to commercialization. The story is told by Dr. Mel Oliver, the USDA scientist that developed the idea. 

The story is important to know.  Why do people claim that this technology is widespread?  The answer is that it is a way to create fear.  Why does anyone them, when their claims are not true?