Skepchick Quickies 10.29

On October 29, 1863, the International Red Cross was formed. Coincidentally, if you’re in the path of Hurricane Sandy today (as I am), please be careful!


Mary Brock works as an Immunology scientist by day and takes care of a pink-loving princess child by night. She likes cloudy days, crafting, cooking, and Fall weather in New England.

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  1. The US student loan system is a nightmare. Here in the UK, it’s run by a single government-sponsored corporation, Student Finance (in England and Wales, it’s Student Finance England). The loans are at extremely low interest rates, and you don’t start paying back until you are earning more than £21,000 per year. And if you manage to avoid earning that much for 30 years, the loan is cancelled.

    Of course, tuition used to be free, way back when, and they’ve tripled the rates for the cohort starting this autumn, but at least the loan programme is vaguely sane, unlike the American system (which the Tories would no doubt love to emulate).

    1. Wish I had a loan program that worked like that.

      I’m only making around $14,000 a year (not sure what that is in pounds) and still have to pay off a loan.

  2. Mary,

    I had no idea there even was such a thing as dog debarking. It shows how little I know. It seems pretty cruel just on the face of it.

    1. The first time I’d ever encountered the concept was back in the 70s or so, reading Alistair McLean’s _The Satan Bug_, which featured some Doberman guard dogs at some high-level, secret government lab, whose vocal cords had been removed so that they would attack silently. So the idea’s been around for a long time, but perhaps only recently taken up by a society so thoroughly sick and twisted that it thinks dogs and children should be like ottomans or something.

      The asteroid can’t come soon enough.

      1. It’s supposed to be a last resort surgery. Most dogs labeled ‘unadoptable’ and euthanised after being relinquished were given up because of behavior problems.

        It is assuredly cruel when an owner has it done for comfort or convenience. But I think it’s naive to assume that all behavior problems can be resolved or tolerated. The city will impound (and destroy) a dog if it repeatedly and constantly violates noise ordinances, and landlords can and do evict tenants over barking dogs.

        To be really clear, I’m talking about obsessive and unceasing barkers. Dogs that literally do nothing but bark for hours on end, and owners who have tried multiple interventions with no relief. In those cases, it can be a life-saving surgery.

        1. The first time I heard about bark removal surgery was when I visited my brother in law in Australia. I kept hearing what I thought was a frog croaking outside and mentioned it t someone expecting to hear about some invasive non native frog species, but they laughed and said it was the dog. They explained that they tried every bark stopping intervention and product on the market and they knew it was either remove the bark or have the dog put down because no one else would want the nonstop barking. She’s an otherwise nice little dog who’s alive and croaks like a small frog.

          1. There may be good reasons for it, and I personally have not had to ever consider it, but it still makes me ill to think about. Just like declawing for cats.

          2. @Mary:
            Oh, I think feeling ill is the appropriate response. :) A lesser evil is still not good. It’s an extreme measure, and almost never truly necessary.

  3. Both of my children are college age with one currently taking a gap year in the UK and the other is working part time and attending college part time. For us there were two strong considerations about going into debt for our children; firstly I plan on retiring in ten years and I will not put that time line or a reasonable quality of retirement life in jeopardy so my children can have a “college experience”; secondly if what you get out of college, beside an education, is a bunch of debt such that you have to put other life events on indefinite hold after graduation then you need to think more about the long term ramifications of significant debt. We encouraged our children to participate in a program called Running Start where they had their two year AA completed when they graduated from High School and/or to attend the local community college for their first two years. We also have an excellent state university here in town they were encouraged to attend which led to the offer that staying at home would be rent and board free if they were in college. We have some savings so that we are helping with tuition and books at a reasonable level. Also both children were told they needed to work and save during the summer for college costs or we wouldn’t help with tuition. I think one of the biggest waste’s of money is for students to go into debt or parents to pay for the experience of living in a dorm and attending U of X when there are other more reasonable options available. Unless you are an exceptional student and plan on attending a top level research university or have good scholarships available then why not attend a cheaper or closer in state school? I have friends who have paid many tens of thousands of dollars for their two children to attend a very expensive private liberal arts colleges; and while a good education was had one is now employed in green construction swinging a hammer and the other is learning how to be an artisan baker. I don’t think the bread will taste any better as a result of the $160,000 BA, and I don’t mean to sound cynical but a large part of the college and university experience is a money making business for those involved in the process, and much of what is sold is promises and fluff experiences for a very high cost with very little return. Most universities float their financial boat on incoming freshmen and returning sophomores who drop out at an amazingly high rate, and many of these who leave are left with nothing more than debt and the ability to check the box by “Some College” on their next job application.

    1. A record length post from you Jacob, but a good one as usual, and I agree with what you say.

      Both our children are in their thirties now and both professionals with good jobs.

      My best mate sent his kids to the most expensive private college and despite him earning 3 times my salary, he was always crying poor because of it.

      His kids turned out to be over-privileged wastoids with a ridiculous sense of entitlement.

      Ours went thru a similar phase but more short lived because they went to a more reasonably priced place and it was always clear that they needed to work for a living.

      Also, we found that the OPW phase ended when a girlfriend/boyfriend came along. These were impressive people, intelligent and cultured, and provided a strong impetus for the spawn to extract their digits.

      But, if all you end up with is an OPW anyway, at least you haven’t spent your entire family fortune on it.

      1. Thanks. The situation some of the folk in the article were in was quite amazing, depressing and devastating for the parents and grandparents holding the bill for children who were unable or unwilling to continue making their college loan payments. And because of the specific laws around student loans you cannot cry poor, retired, fixed income or even declare bankruptcy to get off paying them back. One elderly lady in the article was stuck paying her grandchild’s student loan payments out of her Social Security which was her only income. I understand that when you’re 18 you are an adult, but too many college students have no concept of how devastating $100,000 in debt can be to their future or their parent’s assets, especially if you have periods of un/under-employment. I love my children and trust them (to a point), but that trust does not involve a sure knowledge of their future work history, the health of the economy or their physical and emotional health; all of which could impact their ability to repay a student loan. And for what it’s worth, the two guys who are my friend’s sons are wonderful, bright, liberal and caring individuals…, who spent a lot of their social worker and oncology nurse parents hard earned money.

  4. The cost of higher education is a travesty in the US. One with no real solution coming anytime soon. One that will widen the already wide gap between rich and poor. My wife and I started a college fund a few years ago, but we don’t know if it’ll be enough :(.

    Also, I feel that cell phone article should be on the first world problems blog. If you’ve ever traveled outside of a first world country, you realize how ridiculous the “health concerns” cited in that article are. Personally, give me all that wonderful bacteria, I want to keep my immune system on its toes so that I can avoid diabeetus.

  5. I felt that Lana Wachowski’s story could have been my own–and I am speaking as a heterosexual white guy. Thanks for bringing her wonderful speech to a wider audience.

  6. That’s interesting about Boo Berry cereal. However I’m pretty sure Amazon sells the stuff all year so I’m surprised that wasn’t mentioned in the article.

  7. Dog Debarking? Do y’all need to ask? Fuck that!

    Many people should not have dogs. Thousands are euthanased each year in every city. The neglect and cruelty is shocking.

    If you are going to have a dog, do your research as to appropriate breeds and their temperament: border collies are intelligent and excitable, labradors are intelligent and placid, red setters like Seamus Romney are ratbags with an IQ ~ a box of hammers, etc.

    Do not get a working dog unless you are prepared to walk it every day.

    And so on. Protip for working people: TWO dogs is often a good idea, as they keep each other company and the older dog teaches the younger how to behave to a large degree.

    You need to spend a lot of time and money on your dog. If you can’t manage it, don’t do it.

    N.B By “you” I mean “people in general”. I’m sure most people in the educated Skepchick community does not need to be told any of this.

          1. OK, this isn’t going to turn into one of those things you see on Failbook where we throw puns Barack and forth, is it?

    1. What I don’t understand is the random tangent at the end of the story about spaying/neutering. Spaying/neutering is one of the most consistent goods next to feeding, housing and attention you can give to an animal. Although I guess that good isn’t apparent at the individual level but only becomes obvious when you look at it across populations.

      Also Labradors placid?! You need to meet my dog who ideally needs 2 45 minute quick-tempo walks every day to remain livable. I’m hoping that this puppy phase people keep telling me about ends soon cause man she is exhaustingly full of energy.

      1. You are right, I was giving the textbook description of temperament. Individuals vary, but I guess it is all relative, and on average you are better off with a lab than many other breeds.

        About the puppy phase – we had one who lived 14 years and was a puppy til the day he died!

  8. Why do you find debarking so bad and not castrating? You’re basically removing an animals testicles or ovaries, depriving them of a chance to procreate, and somehow debarking is worse? If i had to choose between castration and vocal chords removal, guess what i’d choose!

    1. It’s a fair question, maybe our resident vets Laika and GlowOrb would like to weigh in, but I’ll try to do this justice.

      Neutering is necessary to prevent the greater cruelty of thousands of unwanted dogs in every city living lives of misery and being euthanased. Cruel and wasteful.

      There are also side benefits to the dog’s health (my wife is up to speed on that, but she’s asleep right now). Neutered dogs live longer – spayed bitches are less prone to breast cancer, for instance.

      Neutering, therefore benefits dogs themselves. We could draw analogies to contraception and vasectomy in humans.

      Debarking, in contrast, does not. Excessive barking in my view is a sure sign of neglect by the owner, as well as poor training and poor selection of breed.

      Debarking therefore benefits only the lazy incompetent owner and should not be an option.

      I do note Punchy’s case for its use as an option of last resort, but I fear that would too easily become a slippery slope.

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