Some talk, some do: Kansas just sucks

Three movies encapsulate and reverberate throughout my life: The World According to Garp, Wonder Boys, and American Beauty.

I’ve reached my American Beauty moment, and may I go on and have such a fruitful career as Kevin Spacey has since 1999.

I’m an unemployed former food safety professor of almost 20 years, who coaches little and big kids in hockey and goofs around.

I’ve enjoyed the last few months – despite the angst of moving into a house that may slide down the hill at any moment given the Brisbane rains – but with 80,000 direct subscribers and students and media still contacting me daily, I feel a connection.

I just gotta figure out how to get paid.

(If you see any adverts on barfblog.com, like Amy did this morning, it is not authorized. Chapman and I are quite happy to say what the fuck we want and call people on their food safety fairytales).

And I would like to publicly apologize to Amy for dragging me to Australia, and all the bitching I did about shitty Internet, and how I lost my career (at the mall).

It’s looking much better now.

Kansas State University took whatever opportunity they could to get rid of me, for the salary, for the controversy, for whatever. Wasn’t too long after that Kirk-2025-Schultz bailed for Washington state. The provost queen is still stuck there.

As full professor, Kansas had become boring and I hated doing admin shit.

And there was no ice.

When people in Australia ask me about President Trump (two words that never sound right together, like Dr. Oz – thanks, John Oliver) I say, look at Kansas, that is what will happen to America.

The N.Y. Times seems to agree.

In an editorial today, the Times wrote:

Kansas can only hope that reports are true that the Trump administration will let its governor, Sam Brownback, escape the disaster he created in Topeka for a quieter United Nations agricultural post in Rome. And global humanity can only hope for the best.

Mr. Brownback, a Republican first elected on the Tea Party crest of 2010, used his office as a laboratory for conservative budget experimentation. His insistence that tax cuts create, not diminish, revenues has left the state facing a ballooning deficit plus a ruling by the state Supreme Court that Kansas schoolchildren have been unconstitutionally shortchanged in state aid for years, with the poorest minority children most deprived.

The court ruled this month that they would shut the state’s schools if funding wasn’t made equitable by June 30. It found reading test scores of nearly half of African-American students and more than one-third of Hispanic students were deficient under aid formulas favoring more affluent school districts.

Mr. Brownback played no small role in the long-running school crisis by leading the Republican Legislature to limit school aid after enacting the largest tax cuts in state history, for upper-bracket business owners. Characteristically, the governor’s reaction to the court mandate was to further undermine schools by suggesting parents “be given the opportunity and resources to set their child up for success through other educational choices.”

If that’s the governor’s parting contribution to the school crisis before his flight to a Trump diplomatic appointment, Kansas parents and school administrators cannot be too surprised. They have been experiencing the deepening budget crisis firsthand in shortened school hours and resources as the state suffered two credit downgrades. Public protest led to a number of Brownback loyalists voted out last year, with legislative newcomers igniting a budget revolt against the governor. He barely survived a showdown last month, by vetoing a $1 billion tax increase.

The tax push seems likely to be renewed, since the state faces a two-year $1.2-billion deficit plus the school funding mandate. For that obligation, state education officials have estimated it might require $841 million over the next two years. The court fight was prompted by a slide in school aid that began in the recession under Mr. Brownback’s predecessor, Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat. But it spiraled once the Brownback tax cuts drained state coffers.

It seems unfair that Mr. Brownback might abandon the mess he created, especially since Mr. Trump never ceases to renounce life’s “losers.” But Kansans have learned the hard way that they need to be free from the benighted Brownback era, and maybe Mr. Brownback has, too.

I wish nothing but the best for my Kansas colleagues, and a slow, endless angst for administration assholes who put money above values.

There was a time I thought being a prof meant something.

But we don’t need no institution.

More to come.

Cooking angst? Stick it in

We start moving into our new (old) house later this afternoon, and go full on tomorrow.

We love the Brisbane suburb of Annerley (that Amy picked because it was 12 minutes by bike to the University of Queensland and 12 minutes by car to the arena in Acacia Ridge), because of its multiculturalism, home to schools for the blind and deaf (Brantford, Ontario, Canada, my hometown, is also home to the W. Ross Macdonald School, founded in 1872 and the only school in Ontario for blind and deafblind students and the only such school in Canada serving academic students. Wayne Gretzky is a patron.), former home to the Church of Scientology, and a mixture of life-long residents whom I routinely chat with at the shops (our social commons), drug addicts, criminals and newbies as the place becomes gentrified.

That’s a long intro to a brief about thermometers.

I always carry one in my backpack, in case someone needs one, and when we met with our Brisbane philosopher-contractor to go over some ideas, we got to cooking, and I gave him a tip-sensitive digital thermometer (note to Chapman, I need more).

He just rang me up to say a truck had side-swiped his car, we’d be meeting later, but began the conversation with this:

“You’ve changed my life.”

“Really. How so.”

“You gave me that thermometer and now I check everything. My food tastes better, and the angst has disappeared.”

Stick it in.

If I was still a prof, how would I count such an encounter to ensure I measured up to HR or departmental metrics?

Going public real time: Hepatitis A in my daughter’s Brisbane school, this time it’s personal

At 4:23 p.m. AET on Friday, March 3, 8-year-old Sorenne’s school issued a notice to some parents that said:

“Hepatitis A has been reported at school. Hepatitis A is a viral disease that affects the liver. Anyone can be infected with hepatitis A if they come into direct contact with food, drunks, or objects contaminated by faeces of an infected person.”

I’m not sure they meant drunks, but that’s what it said.

Amy got the e-mail.

I got notification of the e-mail at 5:30 p.m. AET

I immediately called the school.

No answer.

I e-mailed all the school contacts to say, “Hepatitis A is a serious disease for those who are unvaccinated. It passes fecal-oral, and can be acquired by drinks with straws, but usually not drunks (as your note says).”

Standard procedure in the U.S is vaccination clinics for anyone who has the potential to be exposed, but is only useful if done within a few days.:

So then I called Queensland Health, the state health agency.

Being after 5 p.m. on a Friday, there wasn’t no one around, except for a nice man who said he would investigate.

I e-mailed my questions:

“What is standard vaccination clinic procedure in the event of a positive case?

“What is the vaccination policy for hep A in Australia? Queensland?

“What was the timeline for detection and public notification?”

He said he would do the best he could and call me back.

He didn’t.

This is apparently normal.

On Feb. 23, 2017, I e-mailed media relations at Queensland Health to ask, “Can Queensland Health confirm or deny there was an outbreak of Salmonella in Sunnybank (Brisbane) around the Chinese New Year possibly involving deep-fried ice cream?
“thank you”

No answer.

Going public is about protecting people from public health threats.

Brisbane sucks at it.
Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public. Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

Going public: The new normal for foodborne outbreaks

I’ve had different versions of this paper running through my head for 25 years.

It started as a rebel-without-a-clue teenager, and led to questions about mad cow disease in 1995 (or earlier) when the UK government knew there were human victims but said nothing until March 1996.

My father – the inspiration for the cooking show paper – has asked me a couple times over the years regarding the engineering/automotive sector, when they knew something was wrong; what should we do? But like so many other sectors, it gets brushed aside.

There’s money involved.

My local hockey club can’t figure out how to go public, so it’s no wonder that public health agencies can’t figure it out either.

Yet the job of public health, no matter how many political assholes, no matter how many impediments, and no matter how many dog bites you have to investigate, is to protect public health.

If people are barfing, it’s time to go public.

That doesn’t always (rarely) happen.

Anyone can search barfblog.com under the phrase “going public” and find hundreds of incidents of people acting like shits.

But this is important shit, because credibility depends on transparency and trust and truthiness (at least in my idyllic world-view).

Public health is under siege.

The science is there, the outbreaks are there. Go public.

Or at least explain the process so mere mortals can understand.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public.

Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions. Information provision on its own is not enough.

Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

 

Food safety and hockey: Play by the rules or penalties will kill ya

A friend from Guelph sent me this pic the other day (that’s in Ontario, Canada) from 2005, the last year I played with the boys before moving to Kansas (where the closest ice was 2 hours away, so we got it pretty good here in Brisbane).

During the school break — about now for Canadians, so they can all go to Daytona and escape the snow — teams of faculty and staff from at least 6 universities, McGill, Lakehead, wherever — would gather for 3-4 days in Guelph and have a tournament.

We won in 2005, although I can still describe the gut-wrenching feeling as goalie when up by a goal and time ticking away, one of our defence decided to pinch, leading to a 2-on-0 (yeah, that was you, Naylor).

I made the save, we won the game.

Best to go out on top.

Unfortunately, the seniors team I coach in Brisbane had a 3-1 lead going into the third of the summer finals, penalties and mistakes lead to a regulation 3-3 tie, overtime yielded nothing, and we lost in a shootout.

This is what it looks like when doves cry.

But, great summer season, great group to hang out with as I stand with our captain and two team managers, looking old, not so wise.

Always more to learn.

 

Jim, maple syrup and anxiety

My friend Jim calms me down almost as much as my puppy, Ted.

I’ve known Jim since about 1996. We collaborated to shut down emotion-not-evidence-based rules on genetically engineered foods in Canada, and he has always brought a practical sense of what a farmer goes through to make a buck.

He also used to terrorize my then young girls by telling them how he shot stray cats left at his dairy farm, because cats carry toxoplasmosis, and it impacted his money-making side.

We were grateful for the three cats from Walkerton.

Jim and Donna’s Walkerton farm is across the road from the source of the E. coli O157 outbreak in 2000 that killed seven and sickened thousands, and I still get chills when Jim recalls another chopper going over the farm, probably another dead person.

Media outlets were broadcasting live from Walkerton, like it was a dam about to collapse.

Or as I said at the time (Jim had to remind me), media wanted cows, manure, river, and townhouses all in one photo.

I spoke with Jim the other day, primarily to balance myself against the most moderate person I know.

Jim has gotten into the maple syrup biz in Ontario (that’s in Canada), he’s got grandkids, like I do, and a seemingly stable situation, running his B&B with Donna, substitute teaching, and new farming ventures.

I admire that.

 

Strunk and White never goes out of style

For the thousands of students I have had the privilege of teaching over the past three decades, a reminder: read Strunk and White, and know it inside out.

For assignments, I always gave 60% for content, 40% for style.

So learn to fucking spell and write in coherent sentences, or stop wasting my — or anyone else’s — time.

7-minute abs, not 6: Shortest bullshit workout possible

Gretchen Reynolds of the NY Times writes that super-short workouts are a favorite topic in this column. I have written about seven-minute, six-minute, four-minute, and even one-minute workouts. They are appealing because they require so little time, but they also demand straining effort.

Martin Gibala is the scientist we most have to thank for the popularity of very brief, very hard exercise. All of these workouts are built around the concept of high-intensity interval training, in which you push yourself almost to exhaustion for a brief spurt of minutes or seconds, and then rest and recover for a few minutes before repeating the intense interval.

Athletes have long used interval sessions as part of a varied weekly training program to improve their competitiveness. But Dr. Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, has helped to popularize the idea that we can rely on high-intensity intervals as our only exercise, and do very, very few of them while still improving our health and fitness.

Since 2004, he has published multiple studies about the potent effects of intervals.

But McMaster? Shithole Hamilton?