[Several WordPress themes seem to actually be broken. I’m not sure why, but I’m slowly cycling through the themes that do work to find one that works, more specifically, for me.]
In the middle of all this mass hysteria surrounding our favorite red liquid-sucking parasites, I’ve chosen to bring a dose of reality into my life and read a book called Blood: An Epic History of Medicine and Commerce.
I’m mostly kidding, I picked this up almost by accident when I went to the SJ downtown library as I said in another post. But I really have to note down some of the quotes I picked up from the book.
- Apparently certain citizens with cotton wool for brains decided that they were going to object to blood mixing along racial lines. This i’m sure makes perfect sense when a person not of your color donates blood that saves you when you’re bleeding to death in enemy lines. But to get to the point, the Red Cross figured that there was no way to separate “black” from “white” blood when it came to albumin (a protein that sucks in liquids and keeps people from going into shock) production and so banned “black blood” from their production pools.
- After which The New York Times ran indignant articles about how many a Southener remembers being “nursed by a Negro nanny”, and how this is really hypocritical, concluding with “Sometimes we wonder whether this is really an age of science.”
- “The historical French reverence for blood… would blind many doctors to the virus that tainted it.” One section touches briefly on how the French came to view blood transfusions as almost something spiritual, about how it was a social contract, so much so that when AIDS began to taint batches of it, decades later, the transfusionists found that they just couldn’t refuse prisoners and AIDS sufferers.
- “Everybody used to say that the only blood that was shed [during] Munich was that collected by Janet at the Hammersmith.” Janet Vaughan was a young lady who pioneered blood banks at a time (1938) when as a woman she wasn’t allowed to interact with the patients at her hospital.
- One official commenter, on the philosophy of selling blood vs. collecting it via donations: “Is human blood properly an item of commerce to be peddled like maple syrup?”
- Blood use in America, as the book depicts it a fascinating reflection of the philosophies of the country itself: the world leader in innovation and creation, yet amongst the least-regulated, most patchwork systems of blood distribution. The American Association of Blood Banks and the Red Cross represented opposite ends of a spectrum of beliefs regarding the role of individuals in society — while the AABB thought it made perfect sense to hold individuals accountable for their debts to society, and therefore required repayment in forms of donation or payment, the Red Cross thought blood shouldn’t be paid for because it was the duty of every member of society to give to every other member.
All in all, a fascinating book. I’m just at the rather heartbreaking part where they get into the whole AIDS epidemic, detected initially in hemophiliacs. For some it appears to have been a choice between bleeding out immediately, and dying a slow and painful death by immune system compromise.
Ada And Babbage
Apparently it was Ada Lovelace Day on October 7! I don’t like the idea of reverse-discrimination and I don’t think you should be treated differently if you’re a woman in STEM, but considering that Lady Ada Lovelace was the first programmer, this is pretty cool. The stories and resumes of some of the women on the site are really impressive (what little I’ve gone through).
However, I discovered something even cooler: a web comic about the alternate-universe lives of Lady Lovelace and her mentor, Charles Babbage, as crime solving geniuses.
Some notes from the webcomic (seriously, kickass brilliance, who thinks of these things and can I meet them?)
- Lovelace was taught by Mary Somerville, the polymath and only the second woman to be recognized as a Scientist, as well as Augustus De Morgan and George Boole. If those surnames don’t sound familiar, you haven’t taken basic computing.
- “…Mathematics was an extremely eccentric pursuit for a woman in this period, not least because higher study was widely considered to damage women’s bodies by depriving their wombs of blood.”
Turning into my mother
Now all I need is a pair of kickass boots, and I’m ready to face Winter. And any forties detective mystery you care to throw at me.