Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Understanding Social Styles, and Why It Matters

Chemists Without Borders holds open conference calls twice a month (see here for details), in which I encourage you to participate. This Thursday at 6 PM PDT, we will start a discussion of social styles and how understanding them can have amazing results. Whether we are chemists or not, much of what we do involves communication and interaction with others. This is especially true for Chemists Without Borders. We are as much in a people business as anything else. Therefore, understanding how best to communicate with different types of people is essential.

Have you ever noticed how highly analytical people and highly expressive people seem not to understand each other as well as they do people of their own style? The same is true of amiable people and those who are strong drivers. To communicate well with others, we must ensure that we broadcast on the same wavelengths that they are receiving. Our discussion will examine the four basic social styles, how to identify them in ourselves and others, and how best to relate to the various types. If you are unfamiliar with this topic, I think you'll find it fascinating and quite useful.

Friday, August 15, 2008

If it's not one thing, it's another: Latest News - Arsenolipids In Fish Oil

Another interesting piece, "Potentially hazardous arsenic-containing compounds are characterized", by Carrie Arnold, in Chemical & Engineering News: Latest News - Arsenolipids In Fish Oil, August 11, 2008, Volume 86, Number 32, p. 10.

It seems the fish we've been encouraged to eat may contain arsenic. We usually just worry about drinking water, whether here in the US where I am, or, for example, in Bangladesh where tens of millions of people daily drink water contaminated with dangerous levels of arsenic from geologic sources. I wonder:
  • How prevalent is this arsenic in fish?
  • What are its sources?
  • Is it harmful to humans and other animals in this form?
  • Is this a new phenomenon or has it always been this way?
  • Do people who eat such fish as part of their daily lifestyle or culture have health consequences?
  • Are those consequences good or bad?
  • Do such arsenic compounds protect us from the arsenic?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chemical & Engineering News: Government & Policy - Francis Collins Leaves NIH

Chemical & Engineering News: Government & Policy - Francis Collins Leaves NIH: "August 4, 2008, Volume 86, Number 31,
pp. 33-35

Francis Collins Leaves NIH
After 15 years at the helm, Genomics Institute Director steps down
by Susan R. Morrissey"

This was an interesting article about Francis Collins that brought a bunch of questions to mind, questions to which I would welcome answers from anyone. Viz.:

How does the Human Genome Project benefit the developing world physically as opposed to intellectually (health versus genetic history and origins)?

What needs to be studied that is not being?

What doors does this open for the developing world?

Where's the opportunity?

What ideas or actions should Chemists Without Borders be promoting?

What is BlogThis! ?

Here's another useful tool. By the way, immediately after clicking Publish Post, please select Edit and add the appropriate tags for the piece you are adding.

What is BlogThis! ?:

BlogThis! is an easy way to make a blog post without visiting Once you add the BlogThis! link to your browser's toolbar, blogging will be a snap. Or rather, a click. Clicking BlogThis! creates a mini-interface to Blogger prepopulated with a link to the web page you are visiting, as well as any text you have highlighted on that page. Add additional text if you wish and then publish or post from within BlogThis!

There are two ways to use BlogThis!: if you use Windows and Internet Explorer, you can use BlogThis! from the SendTo feature of the Google Toolbar. If you're on another browser, just drag the link below to your browser's Link bar. Then, whenever the mood strikes, click BlogThis! to post to your blog:

BlogThis! -- drag this link to your browser's Links bar.

CutePDF - Create PDF for free, Free PDF Utilities, Save PDF Forms, Edit PDF easily.

For those whose software does not print directly to PDF, I recommend CutePDF, a simple program which will appear as a printer on your PC. When you want to create a PDF file from a document, instead of printing to your regular printer, just select CutePDF from the list of printers and continue. CutePDF will simple ask where you want the file created, and do it. Links are below.

CutePDF - Create PDF for free, Free PDF Utilities, Save PDF Forms, Edit PDF easily.: "CutePDF Writer (Freeware)

Create professional quality PDF files from almost any printable document. FREE for personal, commercial, gov or edu use! No watermarks! No popup Web ads! Now supports 64-bit Windows.

Free Download Free Download (1.6MB) (Vista Ready)"

Monday, August 11, 2008

How to Log on and Clock In - Solutions by PC Magazine

How to Log on and Clock In - Solutions by PC Magazine

Here's a nice summary of how various online software tools could be used by any member of the team who has internet access, regardless of location. These include a universally accessible desktop, instant messaging, mind-mapping, office suite with word processor, spreadsheet and presentation, file sharing, personal finance and expenses, among others. Does anyone have additional suggestions or improvements?

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Power Really Is in the Network

Instant-Messagers Really Are About Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon -

Here is one of the keys to our impact. Consider some numbers: the American Chemical Society has over 160,000 members; the American Medical Association has over 360,000 members. Suppose we assume that there are a like number in the rest of the world. That amounts to about one million people, professional people, educated people. Now consider all the other occupations that are necessarily involved in accomplishing our goals, for it is not just science and medicine that solves humanitarian problems. Many other activities are involved, from accounting to distribution to plumbing to information management to diplomacy to law to architecture, etc. (Another opportunity to stress that Chemists Without Borders is not just for chemists: "If all you have is a hammer, you treat everything like a nail." Some of the most exciting stuff comes from the interface between unlike and improbable things.) That's a lot of people.

One important point is that these millions of people are all connected to one another through their professional organizations and other relationships, and indeed there is nobody in our profession, whom we could do not reach in the six steps described referred to in the Washington Post article. We can reach anywhere on the planet just in our own profession never mind all the other people we know. One of the things that makes the Information Age so exciting is that we can capitalize on all these connections much more easily than people could do in the past. Networking is in. Social networking is a phenomenon unseen before. We have an opportunity that others do not have. The American chemical Society is the largest scientific society in the world. We uniquely positioned to connect people to address problems. Chemists Without Borders is devoted to seeing that happen.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Perspective from John MacIntyre for the San Jose Mercury News

I didn't find a link for this. The column is called Figuratively Speaking, August 3, 2008. How novel it is, I don't know, but it bears repeating, and repeating, and repeating, and repeating, and repeating, and .......

A picture of a starving African baby in its mother's arms tops the column; the caption is, "What's wrong with this picture?" Then:

$30 billion
The amount of money needed annually to eradicate world hunger, relaunch agriculture and avert future threats of conflicts over food, according to the Director-General of the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization, Jacques Diouf.

$1.2 trillion
The amount of money spent on arms in 2006.

Given our capacity to run up an annual deficit of hundreds of billions of dollars of deficits (and that's just the US) with seeming impunity, why don't we just tack this on and get the job done? If we're going to run up credit, why not spend the money to improve the planet and the human condition? (But then, the demand for armaments might diminish, and then where would we be? Who was that Eisenhower fellow, anyway?) What then must we do?