I despair for humanity

The New York Times has just released a poll of American attitudes toward the health insurance reforms pending in Congress. There’s a lot to be depressed about, but the worst might be this: 75% of respondents are “very” or “somewhat” concerned that the cost of their health care will go up if no action is taken; but 77% have the same concern that costs will rise if action is taken. If those are completely independent probabilities, that means almost 58% of the country thinks health care costs will go up no matter what happens. (If, instead, we minimize the number of people who think costs will go up under both scenarios, it’s 52%, still a majority.)

Those numbers tell me that my fellow Americans are just scared, and they may not even know why. They’re faced, on the one hand, with an economic downturn in which it’s good news if we only lose a quarter-million jobs in a given month and health insurance is becoming more expensive and less meaningful by the day; and, on the other, with irresponsible idiots telling them that government health insurance means mandatory euthanasia for Grandma. The system is broken, and we’re terrified of the fix. And that terrifies me.

I should’ve done this when I audited botany

This fall I’m going to be teaching the mammalogy lab. This is going to be something of a stretch, since I actually study plants and insects — and I’m already trying to get a grip on the material. I haven’t put in any real memorization-based studying in a long time, but I’ve got my coyote skull, and I’m going to learn the names of all the bits, dammit.

One thing that helps: Genius, a freeware flashcard-creator and study tool. I spent my first time with the skull creating a list of flashcard-type associations between the bones of the skull and their descriptions, and now the program can quiz me. Incredibly, this seems to be working: I know the zygomatic process of the maxilla from the condyloid process after just a few minutes-long sessions.

My only complaint about Genius, so far, is that it’s only for Macs, which prevents me from offering to share the flashcard files with my students.

Canis latrans skull
Photo by boneman_81.