31 May, 2010

Ane Eventfull Daye

Considering I fully intended not to step foot over my threshold, I've been very active indeed.  I've managed to do a desultory bit of the research necessary for my upcoming treatise on eastern Washington's geology, attempted to make pillow lava, blistered my feet (not related to pillow lava), disturbed ducks, topped up on all-natural vitamin D, and set my cat on fire.

Explanations and photos below the fold.

Memorial Day

Wise words from Hilzoy, recalled by Steve Benen:
I'm also reminded of something my friend Hilzoy wrote last year at this time: "Every Memorial Day (and not only then), I try to remind myself of what it means that people who serve in the military are willing to fight and die when our civilian leaders ask them to, whether they agree with those leaders or not. That's a stunning act of faith in American democracy. In return, we owe everyone who serves the effort to be the best citizens we can be, and to elect the people who are most likely to exercise good judgment about whether and when to ask them to risk their lives."


Tomes 2010: Parte the Third

We have some catching up to do.  My piles of unread books are growing faster than I can read them, but I'm trying to keep up.  It's only gonna get worse after I make my pilgrimage to Powell's in a couple of weeks.

Without further ado, then.

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution

I adore this book, not to put too fine a point on it.  It's one of the best books on evolution I've ever read: clear, concise and beautifully written.  I know that other books make a strong case for evolution, but I found this one of the strongest.  And it's full of things I never knew about, like "the bloodless fish of Bouvet Island."  Yes, seriously, there are fish in the sea that haven't got any blood.  They're fascinating.

That's just the beginning.  Sean B. Carroll goes on to explain "the everyday math of evolution," which explained said math in such a way that even a complete math ignoramus such as myself could grasp it.  He made it easy to understand how even the tiniest advantage can, over evolutionary time (which is sometimes remarkably short), add up to big changes.  And he doesn't stop there, of course - he shows us the immortal genes, which have been passengers in a great many species; how new genes can be created from the old; explores convergent evolution; sifts through fossil genes, and quite a bit more.

It's not a huge book, but it feels like a huge book - there's so much in here so clearly explained that it feels like taking a full semester of evolution, including evo-devo.  I plan to read this one again and again, not to mention recommend it to anyone who's confused about how and why evolution works.

The Restless Northwest: A Geological Story

I've been trying to learn more about the crazy-quilt geology in my backyard, and Hill Williams's little book is an excellent place to start.  I learned quite a bit in these pages, including about a tectonic plate I hadn't known existed (it's dead now, alas).  This book covers it all, from the time when the Pacific Northwest barely existed to the present, with a glimpse into the future.  It also got me more interested in the Glacial Lake Missoula floods, which led to more informed adventures in eastern Washington than I would have otherwise have had.

Helpful sidebars explore some geological concepts in greater depth, and there are plenty of diagrams, illustrations and photographs to support the text.  This book isn't a big as Northwest Exposures, a book I read last year and found useful, but it feels more substantial and less hurried for all its brevity.  That, right there, is a sign of a writer who knows his craft!

Crater Lake: Gem of the Cascades

The link above is to the 2005 version.  I haven't got that one.  I've got the one from 1982, which proved amusing, because plate tectonics was still a new and astonishing theory rather than a respectable middle-aged one.  I picked it up at Half-Price Books because it was cheap and it was about geology.  It's a good guide to the Crater Lake region, although some of the science was rather obviously out of date.  There were also ten tons of typos and a horrible abuse of the comma splice, which actually made it more fun to read.  It's one of those little guides that don't get a lot of spit-and-polish editing, and the typeface made it look like it just came off the typewriter.  All of these quirks may have been remedied in the 2005 edition, alas.

For all its quirks, it really was a good introduction to Crater Lake, and you can tell that K.R. Cranson loves his subject.  He provides plenty of photographs and helpful information on how to find neat things, which will make my eventual trip to Crater Lake all the more fruitful.

Fossils: The History of Life

Richard Fortey is one of my favorite writers ever, and while this book doesn't contain as much of his prose as Life or Earth, he more than makes up for that with his gorgeous photos.  Page after page after page of glorious, fantastic fossils in full, glossy color.  Yum! 

This is a kind of all-purpose book, which would be a good gift for anyone you know who's just now starting to develop an interest in fossils.  It explores everything from how fossils are formed to how to recognize them, collect, clean and even use them.  Any good fossil guide does that, of course, but this one goes further, explaining what they tell us about life, the Universe and everything.  It's even got a section on fossil DNA - not like Sean Carroll's exploration, which talks about genes fossilized within genomes, but actual fossil DNA dug out of frozen mammoths and such.  That chapter alone is worth buying the book, especially if you have an older copy without it.

This book is perfect: informative, with coffee-table quality illustrations in an actual readable size.  And it's by Richard Fortey, who is not only one hell of a paleontologist but also one hell of a wordsmith.  I actually read this one very slowly, interspersed with other books, because I didn't want it to end too soon.

Stories in Stone: Travels Through Urban Geology

I have one quibble with this book: it should have included color photographs.  That's all it's really missing, though.  David B. Williams, who ended up interested in urban geology because he got stuck in Boston after living in the wild, wonderful geologic paradise of Utah.  Buildings clad in stone became his friends, a link to the natural world.  This book eventually resulted, and you'll probably never look at a city the same way after reading it.

Each chapter is about a different stone: brownstone, limestone, gneiss, marble, travertine and more.  Architecture connects to geology connects to oddball tidbits of history and human endeavor (and sometimes silliness) in one seamless whole.  And there's a websiteAnd David sometimes does geological tours of Seattle.  I'm so there!

This is another book I didn't want to put down, because it felt like it was introducing me to quite a few friends - the Getty Museum, the petrified log gas station, and others - that I didn't want to part from so soon.  And it's given me ideas for a great many more adventures.  Inspiring, informative, intriguing - perfect!

That's it for the moment.  There's going to be plenty more soon, though, one of which will occasion a discussion about the etiquette of cannibalism.  How's that for a cliffhanger, eh?

What I Have Learned by Watching Carmen

Don Jose is an absolute idiot.

*Addendum: It's pretty damned rude for an interviewer to keep interviewing a singer when the singer's bleeding all over the place.  At least get the poor guy a tissue....

29 May, 2010

Two Views on NOMA

For those of you who, like me, find the idea of non-overlapping magisteria laughable, some funny bits from Jerry Coyne

And Jesus and Mo

I'd say something deep, profound and possibly even meaningful on the subject, but I went to the mall this evening.  I am two pairs of jeans and a few bras richer, and about 40,000 neurons poorer.  This is why all of the clothes in my closet, aside from a few shirts picked up at concerts and tourist traps, are well over two years old.  Shopping sucketh mightily.  And yes, I'm a female and I'm saying I despise shopping for clothes.  There are a few of us in the world.  I was once tempted to convert to Islam just so I wouldn't have to worry about it, but burkas aren't very comfortable in the summer and there's still the matter of the clothes under them.

28 May, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

My darlings, I feel like dog meat, and I'm not talking the gourmet you-can-practically-serve-it-in-a-restaurant variety, but the cheap-ass Wal-Mart variety that's likely got more bits of gristle, fat and bone fragments than existed in the actual animal kind.  Yup, Aunty Flow's on the way, and bringing with her all of the aches, pains, hot flashes, and terminal exhaustion she can muster.  It makes it all too easy to look at the floods of stupidity pouring forth from our right wing and say, "Fuck it, I'm going to bed.  Forever."

I'd meant to pull together the remarkable examples of utterly outrageous anti-gay rhetoric pouring forth like explosive diarrhea from the rabid right, but I didn't have the energy.  Thankfully, Steve Benen did:
Unable to come up with compelling justifications for an expensive, discriminatory policy that undermines military readiness, religious right groups have gone off the deep end.
Here's how the Family Research Council envisions things going if Don't Ask, Don't Tell is repealed: first, more straight soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines will be fellated in their sleep against their will. Then, commanders afraid of being labeled homophobes will refuse to do anything about it. Eventually, the straight service members will quit out of fear.
On a conference call with reporters today, FRC Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg delivered the results of what he said was the first-ever study of "homosexual assault" in the military. Joined by several former military officers opposed to allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces, he warned Congress that the DADT repeal language currently under discussion with the agreement of the White House will turn the U.S. military into a terrifying free-rape zone where no heterosexual is safe.
The Family Research Council, which is a religious right powerhouse, has quite a case. As the right-wing group sees it, 8.2% of sexual assaults in the military were homosexual in nature. (I have no idea if that's true, and it's best not to take the FRC's word for it.) FRC added that less than 3% of the national population is gay (again, a dubious number). Ergo, gay soldiers commit more sexual assaults than straight soldiers, and ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would unleash a wave of gay sexual predators who will terrorize American fighting forces.

Who could argue with logic like this?

It wasn't just the Family Research Council. The FRC's friends at the American Family Association have begun pushing the line that Adolf Hitler was gay, and he recruited "homosexuals to make up his Stormtroopers," because Hitler believed that only gay soldiers "had no limits and the savagery and brutality they were willing to inflict on whomever Hitler sent them after."
That last one really made me laugh, because I'd been under the impression that the FRC and its fellow travelers hated teh gayz because they don't make bebbies and don't act like manly men.  I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that they also believe gays are killing machines par excellence.  After all, this is a crowd that has plenty of practice clinging to mutually-exclusive ideas and are experts in losing all contact with reality.

Steve, alas, missed some of the best hysteria on offer:
Today, right-wing hate-monger Cliff Kincaid’s group America’s Survival launched a repulsive fear campaign against repeal, warning that “disease-tainted gay blood threatens our troops.” The group’s abhorrent video — and the 60 page report that accompanies it — present ludicrous stereotypes of gay men and women, going so far as to claim that “open and active homosexuals into the U.S. military could very well result in the spreading of deadly HIV-tainted blood throughout the ranks”

Kincaid goes on to warn that repealing DADT will lead to “transgendered individuals who want to dress up as members of the opposite sex and would cry ‘discrimination’ if they are not allowed to do so.” Ignoring the fact that service members of both genders often wear identical uniforms, Kincaid’s only example of this allegedly real threat is a fictional character from the TV show MASH.
Those of you who actually watched M*A*S*H*will  recall that Klinger wasn't even a real transvestite, but a man attempting to earn himself a psychiatric discharge:
Klinger first appeared in the episode "Chief Surgeon Who?". In that episode's original script, Corporal Klinger was written as an effeminate gay man. However, the writers subsequently decided that it would be more interesting to have Klinger be heterosexual, but wear dresses in an attempt to gain a Section 8 discharge.

So this fucktard not only doesn't understand that gays openly serving in the military aren't going to be rampaging around like vampires subjecting fellow soldiers to STDs (which he apparently thinks can't possibly be introduced by regular ol' heterosexual sex), but can't even comprehend M*A*S*H*.  This is supremely pathetic.  I mean, for fuck's sake, I understood two things about M*A*S*H* quite easily: a) it's fictional and b) Klinger really wanted out of the war, so he paraded around in dresses.  Either I was a freakishly smart child*, or he's far dumber than a five year-old. 

It seems that with majorities coming around to the notion that gays aren't the epitome of evil, and with DADT on the verge of being dishonorably discharged from the military, the rabid right's frothing even worse than usual.  If we're lucky, they'll give themselves apoplexy over this and leave the rest of us in peace.

*Those tempted to plump for the former should bear in mind the fact that math pretty much defeated me.

26 May, 2010

Oh, the Places We Will Go!

My heart sister recently commented that it looks like we'll have quite a bit of exploring to do when her family's up this way.  We certainly will!  And I know just the place to take my honorary nephew:

They're standing outside the Ginkgo Gem Shop, which not only has the kind of statuary guaranteed to delight a kid, but a lot of educational toys that will edify and amuse at a reasonable price. 

Photos courtesy of my intrepid companion, who snapped these while I was making a beeline for the rocks.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Heh.  Finally, someone so extreme the Cons On High are scrambling to ensure they don't have to stand about uncomfortably pretending he's not an outrageous fucktard, as they're having to do with Rand "Liberty Means Segregated Lunch Counters" Paul:
North Carolina Republicans are circulating court documents that suggest a far-right Tea-Party-backed congressional candidate claimed to be the Messiah, tried to raise his stepfather from the dead, believed God would drop a 1,000-mile high pyramid as the New Jerusalem on Greenland, and found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona. 

Tim D'Annunzio also has written that he wants to abolish several key government departments, including the IRS. But there's more going on here than just another wacky conservative politician. The effort by GOP leaders to stop D'Annunzio at all costs offers an intriguing test case of their ability to keep control of the party in the face of challenges from the Tea Party wing. 

Good luck with that.  You know, this is what happens when you try to win the affections of the most extreme right-wing freaks after having fucked up the job of governing so badly that the vast majority of sane people want nothing more to do with you.  Eventually, you end up facing down the barrel of extreme insanity, and realize this nutjob may end up being your candidate.

Horrifying, innit?  Well, for Cons, anyway.  I'm just heartily entertained by their discomfiture.  The only thing that could amuse more is if D'Annunzio wins the runoff and ends up as the actual GOP candidate.  That's a political contest I'd have to put on DVD so that I could enjoy it again and again.

Get A New Room, You Two

Woozle and Mike Debate Thread Mark Something-or-other.  I've lost count and I'm too lazy to look.

Have unmoderated fun, you two.

25 May, 2010

Side Trip Off the Fossil Freeway

Well, my darlings, I can't take you Crusin' the Fossil Freeway myself, since they don't allow cameras, but the Burke Museum did have a few things outdoors my intrepid companion and I were able to photograph, so you'll have a little benefit from my day's adventure.  And, at long last, I ditched the hairtie, and my intrepid companion snapped a photo of me with my hair down!

The boulder I'm standing next to was hauled off from the North Cascades by a glacier and dragged all the way to Issaquah.  For those who aren't from the area, that's a helluva long way.  And so we have this enormous rock that's all shiny and smooth with grooves in:

The thing's bright and shiny as a meteor.  It's pretty awesome.

For more awesome, follow me after the jump.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

A cornucopia of dumbfuckery for ye today, my darlings.

Let us lead with one of the dumbest states in the union, my old home state of Arizona, where the governor has resorted to puppet shows in an attempt to ridicule her critics:
In recent days, the right has been attacking Attorney General Eric Holder and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for criticizing Arizona’s draconian new immigration law without having read the entire text of the bill. Now, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) has employed a frog puppet to mock Napolitano and Holder in a newly released campaign video.


While Holder and Napolitano should probably have read the bill, they were, as Andrea Nill writes on the Wonk Room, “likely briefed by someone who had read SB-1070 in detail.” Brewer’s video simply attempts to distract the public from the substantive problems with the legislation.
The last refuge of the xenophobic ignorant is a sock-puppet theater.  Oh, and it turns out Arizona's law isn't just very likely unconstitutional, but in violation of international covenants as well.  When my old home state fucks up, they certainly fuck up big.

This year's an election year, and the Cons have quite the field developing.  We have Rand "Fuck Civil Rights and ADA" Paul, whose dumbfuckery only begins with his confusion over the Civil Rights Act and continues on through a veritable bazaar of inane loony-libertarian beliefs.  But don't let his burning stupidity blind you to the glow coming off of other candidates, such as Idaho's Vaughn "Don't Care What It Is" Ward:
In Idaho, Vaughn Ward is running for the Republican nomination in Idaho's 1st House district, and has received a fair amount of support from prominent right-wing voices. On Friday, former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Fox News) even made a campaign appearance with him.

But Ward is quickly becoming one of the year's most embarrassing candidates.
Idaho Republican Vaughn Ward has already come under fire for mimicking other candidates' policy language on his website, but now the congressional candidate is facing accusations of plagiarizing from another source: President Barack Obama.
In a kickoff speech for his campaign in January, Ward used language that closely followed Obama's 2004 speech to the Democratic National Convention, and a conservative Idaho blog spliced together the two sets of remarks to show their similarities, accusing Ward of cribbing from Obama's remarks.
After watching the video released by a local far-right activist, it's hard to deny the fact that parts of Ward's speech were lifted directly, word for word, from Obama's 2004 speech. In fact, it seems more than a little bizarre that Ward and his campaign would assume no one would notice -- that '04 convention speech was pretty widely seen. Someone was bound to think, "Wait, that sounds kind of familiar."


What's more, Ward seems to keep running into trouble. Last week, he was asked in a debate whether he would vote in Congress to support Puerto Rican statehood, Ward said he opposes "extending statehood to some, to any other country," adding that he doesn't care "what country ... wants to become part of America." Told that Puerto Rico is an American territory, not a foreign country, Ward said, "I really don't care what it is."
Ignorance and unoriginality!  Quite the combo.  I'm sure he'd be the Teabaggers' most favoritest candidate if he wasn't filching bits from Obama's speeches.  It's apparent no one ever educated Ward on what a U.S. territory is and why it's important to understand the difference between one of our own territories and an actual foreign country, but I'd at least have thought he'd be schooled that Obama = Hitler/Mao/Stalin/TheAntichrist.  Just seems strange to me that a far-right nutjob who thinks all Puerto Ricans are filthy furriners would filch from someone so despised by the rabid right wackaloons he's trying to woo.

And yet, even his weapons-grade stupidity just doesn't seem quite the match for someone who doesn't even realize Jack Bauer's a fictional character:
Chuck DeVore, a California state legislator and Tea Party-backed candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, has a new Web video claiming that "Jack Bauer," the protagonist of the action-adventure show 24, would support him for Senate. 
I wish I could say I was feeling more confident about solid Democratic majorities being comfortably elected this fall, but I'm not sure - too many voters don't pay attention to politics, and so those middle-of-the-road conservatives who reflexively vote R might not notice that all the sane Rs have become Ds, and all that's left with Rs after their names are a bunch of batshit insane fucktards without a lick of common decency or common sense in 'em.  George was right: the Republican party's in trouble.  I just hope staunch Republican voters realize it in time.

Bonus dumbfuckery o' the day: Faux News craftily cut out the applause for Obama's West Point speech.   Fair and balanced in name, but not in game, as always.

And here's another Faux News Moment that makes me wish I had a clip of Rocko's Modern Life handy.  Alas, all I can do is point you to the relevant quote:
Filburt Shellbach: Ed! Ed! You have been charged with treason. How do you plead, froggy-lips?
Heffer Wolfe: He looks funny.
Filburt Shellbach: Shut up! Ed, I am your conscience.
Heffer Wolfe: I'm his conscience, too.
Filburt Shellbach: What?
Heffer Wolfe: Don't say I, say we.
Filburt Shellbach: What?
Heffer Wolfe: We! We!
Filburt Shellbach: All right. Wee-wee!
Heffer Wolfe: [Snickers] You said "wee-wee." Say it again.
Filburt Shellbach: Wee-wee!
Hey, if AZ's governor can attack people with frogs, I can hit Faux with a Nickelodeon kid's show.  At least Rocko is actually funny.

24 May, 2010

Mount St. Helens Redux

I wish I'd had The Fire Below Us recorded when I did the Mount St. Helens post last week, because it's led me to some awesome extra stuff.  At the beginning of the program, they play the audio of David Johnston's last transmission.  I'd never actually heard it before.  He sounds excited and rushed, the consummate geologist doing his job in the most intense of circumstances, an instant before his death.

That got me to searching the intertoobz for a recording, which I didn't find.  But I did find this amazing audio of the eruption, recorded by a young man in Newport, Oregon who was wise enough to think that maybe those thuds were worth getting on tape.

Then I stumbled across Alan Levine's post on St. Helens's anniversary, which contains this astounding photo of a pyroclastic flow, which I'll let Alan tell you about:

In graduate school, I ended up studying past volcanic activity. I dont recall a decision to be safe and not follow the live eruptions, it just was the flow of my interest at the time. One project I worked on was studying a later, smaller eruption at Mt St Helens in 1980, on August 7. This one was of interest because Rick Hoblitt, another USGS field observer, had captured a series of photos of the front of a pyroclastic flow as it cascaded down a channel of the volcano, and since his camera had a time stamp, he was able to calculate its velocities by location the front of the flow on a map.
You know what, that takes balls of adamantium right there.  I mean, we're talking about snapping photos of the front of a pyroclastic flow.  Y'know, the stuff that can move at speeds approaching 90 miles per hour and run anywhere from 600-1350 degrees Fahrenheit.  I know that the only reason I'd be snapping such a series of pictures is because I'd be figuring, "I'm dead whether I take cover or not, so why the hell not?  Maybe the film won't melt, and the folks who find my body will have pics that grant me posthumous fame."  It would have nothing to do with being cool under pressure and being a consummate professional and all that, and everything to do with mind-numbing, fatalistic terror.  Only, you'd never catch me snapping a series of shots of a pyroclastic flow in the first place because the closest I ever want to get to an explosively erupting volcano is roughly two to three states away, depending on the size of the state.  So the next time I go drinking, I'm raising one for David, and one for Rick's adamantium balls. 

While we're at it, let's have a cold one for Dave Crockett.  He's the gentleman Cujo mentioned in his comment to that post, who was caught by the eruption and videotaped the ordeal.  Here's the news report, raw footage and all:

Pretty intense stuff.

And with that, I must away to bed, or else I shall faceplant in the fossils.  I leave you with my sincerest wishes that you not get to witness a volcanic eruption quite that up close and personal unless you really really want to, and then I hope you're as fortunate as Dave Crockett.

Creationist Sidewalks Must Be Very Dirty

They've obviously never hosed mud off of them.  Otherwise, they would understand why streams cut through loosely-consolidated pyroclastic deposits so much more quickly than metamorphic rock.  And they'd know why we laugh so very hard when they try to compare stream erosion in the area of Mount St. Helens with the Colorado's long saw through the Colorado Plateau.

I feel for the trees that lost their lives so that this drivel could be published.  At least part of that small forest will find a useful new life as post-consumer recycled paper.

What I Did...

...when I was supposed to be working on a post about geology.

No, really, I meant to do the first of many posts about the geology I saw whilst visiting eastern Washington.  But I woke up with this sudden urge to weed through my books for tomes no longer of use which can be traded for fresh meat at Powell's Books in Portland, and that led to a complete rearrangement of my shelves.  This, my darlings, is no small task in this household.  It took hours.

Then I decided the house needed to be cleaned.  The fact that I practically had to excavate to get to the kitchen counters and that the carpet was covered with little black patches of cat hair that caused it to resemble a spotted leopard made cleaning an obvious necessity.

More hours spent doing that, and by the end of it all, my body ached worse than it did after climbing steep, rocky hills in eastern Washington in the blazing heat.  So I took a nap.  Afterward, I started watching Carmen while I regained consciousness.  I didn't know opera was still allowed to extol the virtues of cigarettes, but special dispensation is apparently given to the classics.

There's only so much opera on teevee I can take in a night, so I've switched to 10 Things You Didn't Know About Earthquakes.  One thing I surely never knew about earthquakes was that one of their causes is the melting of ice sheets.  Normally, the ground rebounds slowly and gradually from all that weight (the technical term is isostatic rebound, for those who, like me, take pleasure in knowing such things).  But in some cases, the sudden release of pressure causes earthquakes along weak zones in the crust, and you get things like the Parve Fault in Sweden, which was a helluva big earthquake in its day - probably around magnitude 8.6 or so.  That certainly made my eyes pop.  And, it turns out, it has some relevance to my own dear Puget Sound.

Before I go to bed, I'm probably going to cut all of the nice pictures of Mount St. Helens out of a ridiculous creationist book about same that I picked up off the clearance shelves at Half-Price Books by mistake.  It's amusing to flip through, watching them desperately try to use a volcanic eruption to prove that the earth really truly is only 6,000 years old.  And the pictures are lovely, so now that I'm done laughing at their inane pseudo-geology, it's time for the old snippety-snip.  At least then the book will have been of some good use.

None of this has helped me actually write the damned geology post I meant to write today, and tomorrow's doubtful since I'll be off playing with fossils at the Burke Museum.  But we shall see.

23 May, 2010

Organizing Digital Photos Should Not Be Physically Exhausting

And yet I feel I just walked the entire length of Grand Coulee.  Argh.

I've very nearly got my shit together, though, and thee shall have treatises on the geological wonders of the Scablands very soon.

22 May, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Arizona fucktard Con decides AZ hasn't been racist, offensive, and disgusting enough, triples down by going after the 14th Amendment.  Oh, and aside from shredding, shitting and spitting upon the Constitution, he also sees no problem with forwarding remarkably sexist, racist and offensive emails:
KPHO obtained a troubling email from one of Pierce’s constituents who is encouraging him to pursue the “anchor baby” legislation. KPHO reports:
One of the e-mails written by someone else but forwarded by Pearce reads: “If we are going to have an effect on the anchor baby racket, we need to target the mother. Call it sexist, but that’s the way nature made it. Men don’t drop anchor babies, illegal alien mothers do.” [...]
Pearce said his new idea is not only legal but constitutional. “It’s common sense,” Pearce said. “Again – you can’t break into someone’s country and then expect to be rewarded for that. You can’t do it.”
When Pearce was shown the e-mail referring to “anchor babies” that he forwarded, he said he didn’t find anything wrong with the language. “It’s somebody’s opinion…What they’re trying to say is it’s wrong. And I agree with them. It’s wrong,” said Pearce.
No, Mr. Pearce.  Coming to America in search of a better life and having children who are American fucking citizens isn't wrong, you are wrong.  Extremely wrong, on all levels including legal, moral, and civil.  Disgusting little shits like you do a fuck of a lot more damage to this country than hard-working illegal immigrants who keep our lawns mowed, houses cleaned, and do a shitload of other jobs Americans are too cheap to pay legal wages for, not to mention all too often refuse to do.  And all the while, they have tolerate getting shat upon by little shits like you.

Sometimes, I think the best solution to the immigration problem is to trade assholes like you for decent folks like them.  But that unfortunately would mean America exporting total shitheels in exchange for decent human beings, and that's just not fair to the countries that would have to suffer your presence.  It's bad enough my beautiful home state is infested with you.

Here's hoping decent Arizonans will take the state government back from these disgusting assclowns.

21 May, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

All of the really good Dumbfuckery appears to have happened whilst I was vacationing.  So it goes, and I don't have the motivation to seek out old stupid in order to give it a good hard kick in the ribs.

Today's a bit dull, but a theme's emerging.  In this year's election races, the Cons are fielding some extraordinary nags.  I mean, Jim DeMint's beloved darling Rand Paul buried both feet in it with his civil rights faux pas, creating suck a stink that DeMint's gonna have to talk to him about washing up.  My only question is why didn't DeMint figure out his baby's propensity for extreme dumbfuckery before he annointed him the Chosen One?  Perhaps it's because Rand enjoys a good feed at the ol' gubmint trough just as much as the rest of the hypocritical fucktards.

In other news, Nevada's Sue "Chickens" Lowden has jumped out of the rotisserie and into the fryer:

"Let's talk about my RV," she told a local reporter. "It was donated. I'm really fortunate. Anyone could have had an RV if they had a supporter who wanted to donate."

And that'd be true, if the value of the RV were a few thousand dollars. But as a would-be senator (or at least her staff) should know, there are legal limits on campaign contributions.

To try to spin her way out of the mess, Lowden changed course yesterday, and said she "misspoke." The RV wasn't actually "donated" after all, the Republican candidate insisted.

But Nevada's Department of Motor Vehicles came to a different conclusion, noting that Lowden's name is on the title.

Here's the part I don't get: why are Republicans in D.C. putting up with this? Lowden is their preferred candidate, and the best bet, in their opinion, to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) in November.

Haven't they sent out competent staffers to help her out? Shouldn't the party have prepped her on how to be a capable candidate for statewide office? At this point, Lowden seems to be embarrassing herself, and the GOP establishment must be kicking itself for not having done more to get Lowden on track.
This, alas, would require more intelligence than the Cons seem to possess.

And, most pathetically, Staten Island Cons have decided to place their hopes in disgraced adulterer Vince Fossella because, and I quote party chair John Friscia,
"It is my firm belief that he is the strongest candidate we can field," Friscia said, adding that he didn't know if Fossella would run. "I have an obligation to pick the strongest candidate with the best chance of success."
I usually don't like to believe that special elections are any sort of bellwether, but considering this slate of fine candidates, I really have no choice but to conclude that the Cons' ignominious loss in PA is a bit o' a sign that voters aren't quite as stupid as the Cons need them to be.

19 May, 2010

A Real Vacation

This was one.  I know this because I need a vacation to recover from my vacation.

As regular readers know, I made my first-ever trip to eastern Washington over the weekend.  My intrepid companion and I were only gone for two days, but we packed a ginormous amount of activity into that time.  I saw lotsa geology!  So much it'll take me days to sort through it all - not to mention the rocks I picked up. 

In the meantime, here's a taste of what I saw and did.  Follow me after the jump for pics.

18 May, 2010

Happy 30th Anniversary, Mount Saint Helens

30 years ago today, I was a five year-old child watching as reporters somberly announced that Mount St. Helens had blown herself apart. It looked painful, so I made her a get well card. Kids, eh? She was my introduction to the power of volcanoes. Horrifying and enthralling, really, when you live with a volcano rather like her framed in your back window. She's responsible for both my fear and fascination. And she continues to teach me about the vagaries of plate tectonics, the power of subduction zones to create as they destroy, and that one must seize the opportunity to enjoy what's there today because it might blow the hell up tomorrow.

One of the most interesting things about her is that incredible lateral blast that took all the vulcanologists by surprise. In retrospect, it's obvious that enormous bulge in her north flank meant trouble, but at the time, few people realized volcanoes would blow anywhere but up.

Note how distorted her profile had become. She'd gone from America's Fuji to something ominous. Less than a month later, that north face came down, and the mountain blew out. These two videos capture the eruption wonderfully.

And here she stands today, a far different mountain than she had been:

Mount St. Helens, May 14th, 2007
The USGS put together a fantastic report on her past, present and future eruptions, should you like to know more about the science behind her. Join me after the jump if you'd like to take a personal journey with me.

16 May, 2010


I was going to get up to get a soda, grab my newly-arrived book on trees, and head for bed early in advance of driving out to eastern Washington tomorrow.  That, at least, was the plan until my cat got other ideas.  She is now tucked on my legs purring loudly and looking cute as possible.  This is her way of saying, "I'm happy right now, but if you try to move me, you bleed."

And my book on trees is just out of reach.

If only I were a Jedi.


15 May, 2010

Not Exactly a Leap, No

Via Happy Jihad's, this answer to that sneering, obnoxious claim by theists that atheism requires a leap of faith just like belief blah blah blah bullshit blah:

Even were one to concede that some ‘absolute atheists’ know for certain there is no God, that would not require the same leap of faith as one who knows for certain that there is must take. A theist must take the word of his or her holy scriptures, her personal experience, his longstanding tradition, and come to accept that the world was created by an immense invisible being who works through mysterious means, controls the weather and occasionally demands human or personal sacrifice.

An atheist looks at the lack of evidence for god/s, notes that evolution accounts for the diversity of life, that cosmological theories such as the Big Bang account for the universe’s existence, points out that all religions seem more focused on human concerns than is logical for a creator of the entire universe, and concludes that believing in God/s is rather foolish. This is the state in which I, and atheists following last week’s definition, rest.

Our theoretical ‘absolute atheist’ then takes it one further step, and concludes that the non-existent evidence is sufficient, and takes the miniscule millimetre-wide step of faith to this statement: “There are no God/s at all, whatsoever, ever, under any circumstances.” It involves faith, sure, but about as much faith as my stating: “There are no Mars Bar farms on Pluto, whatsoever, ever, under circumstances.”
Brilliant.  Simply.  Brilliant.

I shall have to run off several copies and keep them handy.  Perhaps in nice pamphlet form, for those times when theists come out with that "leap of faith" dribble and try to hand me pamphlets about Jesus & Co.

Two Days Changes Everything

When I left work on Tuesday, I had hair so long and heavy it swung like a pendulum when I walked, and fishbelly-white skin.  Two days later, I've lost about five or six inches from my hair, leaving it free to strut its natural curl, and I've got a bit of a tan going, with a hint of sunburn here and there.  And I still have four days of vacation left, so who knows what'll happen next.

The poor folks at my workplace are in for a wee bit o' a shock.

I still haven't got a photo that really does Ken's wonderful work justice, but this one gives a hint, and it's got a bonus cute cat in it:

Having way too much fun, as if you couldn't tell.

A Day in Jack's Shoes

I must've got lucky, because getting my emissions test and re-registering the car took all of about an hour out of my day.  So no shit, there I was with all this time on my hands, and so I decided to get some of my research taken care of.  What better idea is there for a brilliant sunny day in Seattle, right?

Follow me after the jump for further adventures.

14 May, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Well, I see PZ has already taken care of the Maine Cons who spent part of their convention adopting a Teabagolicious party platform and the other part of it vandalizing classrooms (which earned them a prompt smackdown by an 18 year-old who's orders of magnitude more mature than they are).  And he's spanked the Cons who used sex to sink science, along with the cowardly Dems who let them get away with it.  (By the way, the Cons seem to have a fetish - Think Progress has a rundown of times they've wielded sex as a political weapon, much like rapists wield sex as a weapon against women).  So there's that, then.  I shan't pile on myself, other than to say these little episodes only reinforce my impression that the GOP is filled to the brim with immature, evil hooligans whose anal myopia qualifies them as legally blind.

So let's focus on Lisa Murkowski instead, as she carries oil-tainted water for the industry that brought us one of the worst environmental disasters in history:
With the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf getting worse every day, it was tempting to think the "Big Oil Bailout Prevention Liability Act" stood a chance at passage. The measure, pushed by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), would increase the $75 million liability cap for oil spills to $10 billion.

Given what we've seen in recent weeks, what politician would want to side with the industry on a bill like this one? Reflecting the ongoing shamelessness of the Senate Republican caucus, one of its members was only too pleased to step up.
Alaska's senior senator blocked legislation Thursday that would have dramatically increased liability caps on oil companies, in the wake of one of the industry's biggest disasters.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) objected to a voice vote request by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) on the bill... Murkowski said the legislation is "not where we need to be right now" and would unfairly advantage large oil companies by pricing the small companies out of the market.
Murkowski did signal that she would be open to "look at the liability cap and consider raising it." Just not at this moment.
Menendez wasn't buying it: "The risk is what has to be calculated here. If you drill, you need to be able to pay for the damages." As for the notion that large oil companies would have an advantage, Menendez explain that we're not talking about a "mom and pop in the grocery store around the corner" that wants to drill offshore.
So, Murkowski thinks now is not a good time to make oil companies pay to clean up their toxic, ecosystem-destroying messes, and down in Alabama we have Haley Balbour telling everybody millions of gallons of oil spilling into the Gulf is no big deal - go for a swim. You first, Haley.  Take Lisa with you. You can hang on to some dead dolphins as flotation devices.

You know what, I'm done with these jackasses.  Let's move them all to the Gulf Coast, where they can enjoy their new tar-sand beaches.  We'll build that border wall they so desperately desire right around them.  They can create their own little Con utopia down there, and the rest of us can get to work repairing the damage they caused to the rest of the country.

Getting My Rocks On

A trip to Kirkland very nearly inevitably means a trip to Earthlight Minerals and Gems, where I always promise myself I won't go over X dollar amount and succeed in only going double it if I'm disciplined.  Today, I almost behaved myself.  But look, there were certain things I had to have.

For instance, there was the rock I actually identified all by myself!  It's a garnet lodged in a piece of mica schist, much like this one:

It alone cost what I intended to spend, and it was worth every single penny.  I used to dislike garnets intensely - I'd never seen a good one, just those dull dark red ones you get in cheap jewelry.  Now that I've seen garnets in all sorts of shades and in their natural state, I like them quite a lot, and I'm pleased they're my birthstone.  They're interesting.  They show up in all sorts of things, from metamorphic to igneous rocks, and some of them have a fire that can outshine a ruby.  And that brings us to my next purchase, a spessartine garnet somewhat like this one:

See the fire in there?  Gorgeous!

Now, I had no idea what the hell a spessartine garnet was until just now, but About.com has the answer:

Spessartine is an uncommon garnet, mostly found in granites and pegmatites. It ranges in color from red-brown to yellow-brown. Its orange occurrence is a gemstone known as mandarin garnet.
Spessartine is one of the aluminum garnets, along with almandine and pyrope forming the "pyralspite" group. Its ideal composition is Mn2+3Al2(SiO4)3. Almandine and pyrope have iron (Fe) and magnesium (Mg), respectively, instead of the manganese (Mn).
So, huzzah!  An uncommon garnet.  Everybody needs an uncommon garnet (or many) in their collection, right?

And, finally, I got a Red Plume Manzanita geode, which is from Mexico, and is one of the most unusual geodes I've ever seen.  It's interior is rectangular rather than circular, and looks very much like opal.  I'd show you a picture, but finding a similar one online would take too much time, and my camera sucketh at ye olde closeups.  You'll just have to take my word that it's teh awesome.

When we went to Waverly Beach Park, of course, I had to sift through the shingle for some pebbles.  And I found a tumbled piece of what I do believe is mica schist, all smooth and sparkly, along with a bit of green jasper and some pretty stones beyond my paltry indentification skillz, and a piece of glass so rounded by the waves that it can easily be mistaken for a bit of quartz.  Fun times.

You know what this means, kids.  Summer rock hounding season is on in earnest.

Playing Hooky in Kirkland

So no, I didn't read the political blogs today.  Instead, I got up at the buttcrack o' dawn in order to drop off the car for brake work, and wandered about Kirkland instead.  Oh, and got me hair hacked off - you'll see examples of that eventually.  Gracias to my intrepid companion for coming up to chauffeur.

Kirkland's one of my favorite cities, and if you follow me after the jump, you'll see why.

12 May, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Not really even sure what to say about this one, so I'll let it stand on its own for the moment:
Last Sunday, Attorney General Eric Holder and White House homeland security adviser John Brennan publicly stated that the Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, was facilitated by the Pakistani Taliban. Yesterday, administration officials conducted a closed-door intelligence briefing for members of Congress to present its evidence of the connection. Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) emerged from the briefing unconvinced, telling reporters that “the information I’ve seen so far” does not confirm a link between Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban. Bond, however, may have missed portions of the briefing because he reportedly fell asleep...
A couple of thoughts, here, Kit.  Firstly, maybe you should stay the fuck awake during national security briefings.  Secondly, if you decide to sleep on the job, maybe you should shut the fuck up about the information you've seen, because it's fucking hard to see when you're snoozing.

Ordinary people get fired for sleeping on the job.  Senators, on the other hand, get to wipe drool off their chins and then go on to explain just how unimpressed they are by the information they didn't see because they were fucking asleep.

Bonus dumbfuckery: Arizona just doesn't know when to say when on the xenophobia:
* Yes, Arizona's xenophobia can get worse: "Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has signed a bill targeting a school district's ethnic studies program, hours after a report by United Nations human rights experts condemned the measure.'

* On a related note, Arizona's recent moves are costing the state dearly, and not just in lost respect.

Yup.  It's not a great idea for a state that gets an enormous slice of its income from tourism to piss off tourists.  How bad is it?  Even the Republican National Convention has decided to give AZ a miss.

That's just sad, that is.

*Update: Looks like Los Angeles, among several other cities, has decided to take its business elsewhere.  I hate to say I'm glad my home state's a pariah, but I'm glad its dumbfuck leaders and the fucktarded citizens who egg them on will see some pain from their insanity.

ZOMG! I Finally Got to Order Brian's Book! SQUEE!!!

Look!  Look at it!  Look at how beautiful it is!  It's Brian's book!  And it's available for pre-order on Amazon

I've waited years for this.  Years, I tell you.  And now I've only got to wait until November, and it will show up on my doorstep!  I can take it from the box and cradle it in my hands and hold it and squeeze it and pet it and love it and I will name it...

Ahem.  Sorry.  Got carried away there.

I just can't wait to read it and review it and give it the five stars I'm already convinced it'll deserve, because if it's even half the quality of Laelaps, it'll be worth every star.  Brian's a brilliant writer.  He knows his shit.  And he's worked his heart out making sure he gives his readers the very best book possible.

You know what this calls for: a champagne fountain!

Now, go pre-order your copy and prepare a toast to the author!

Heckuva Job, Georgie!

So, today, my intrepid companion emails me this link, and so I was prepared a few moments ago when I stopped watching a program I'd recorded on my DVR and got this:

Y'see, there's a satellite that's been knocked out, likely due to a solar flare, and it's wreaking havoc up in space as it drifts out of control.  Encore movie channels are suffering the consequences of the Bush regime's short-sightedness.  And how do I know Bush is to blame?  Because I recently finished reading Our Choice:
During the time when [the DSCOVR] satellite was built, experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were deciding how to replace an older satellite that was already at the L1 point warning engineers about large solar storms that can disrupt cellular telephone communications, electricity distribution equipment, and other electronic equipment sensitive to large solar flares.  From the L1 point, the light from these solar flares is visible 90 minutes before the plasma from the storm hits the planet.  That's enough warning time to harden sensitive electronic equipment and avoid expensive outages and repairs.

Since the older early warning satellite (called the Advanced Composition Explorer) was about to wear out, NOAA decided to put the replacement for it onto the satellite intended to measure global warming and provide a constant full color picture of the earth.

We still haven't seen that live TV image of the earth.  The old satellite has not been replaced, because the Bush-Cheney administration canceled the launch within days of taking office after the inauguration on January 20, 2001, and forced NASA to put the satellite in storage.  It is still there, nine years later, waiting to be launched.  As a result, the older satellite could stop working at any moment; it is already two years past its predicted lifetime.

One of its key instruments is already dead; another now routinely fails during peaks of solar flares, when it is needed most.  Several important global industries are at risk of being exposed to heavy losses by damage from solar flares.
Bet you a dollar poor Galaxy 15 didn't get protected from said solar flare because ACE went down.  And so, a great many cable stations are down, I get to see the off-air screen and have my eardrums pierced by that gawdawful shriek they play, and I'm sitting here contemplating all of the other delicate and essential bits o' equipment that keep this modern world running that might go down next.  Encore, I can live without.  But some of those satellites up there do much more important jobs that ensure I've got a steady stream of chick flicks for my Muse.  And all that's threatened because George W. Bush and his merry band of fuckwits decided we didn't need no stinkin' early warning systems.

So, heckuva job, Georgie.  I hope you got to enjoy the fruits of your stupidity as well.

11 May, 2010

Dumbfuckery Du Jour

Have to admit, I've been kind of meh about pollyticks lately.  It's beginning to feel like watching too many clown shows at the circus.  And I've been much more interested in reading my new books, researching the evolution of plants, going outside to play, and all that.

But I can take a moment to tell Eric Holder he's a motherfucking moron for giving in to the fearmongers.  Add him to the list of dumbfucks who believe telling suspects about the rights they already have somehow makes us less safe.  Hate to break the news, but just because an officer doesn't tell a suspect he has the right to remain silent doesn't mean that right magically goes away.  Any crook who knows how to work a remote already knows that.  And cops have had a great many years to work out ways to get suspects to talk despite that.  So all this talk of carving out exceptions to Miranda does is walk us further along the path from democracy to police state.  Grow a fucking pair and stand by the Constitution, Eric.

Perhaps I'll send him a box of Depends, as he's decided to join the pants-pissing pansy crowd.

In other dumbfuck news, Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, and the American Fucktard Family Association and friends nearly instantly came out with these little gems:
In a blog post for the far-right American Family Association (AFA) today, Bryan Fischer comes right out and says that the media should pointedly ask Kagan, “Are you a lesbian?” And if she is, according to AFA, she shouldn’t serve on the court:
It’s time we got over the myth that what a public servant does in his private life is of no consequence. We cannot afford to have another sexually abnormal individual in a position of important civic responsibility, especially when that individual could become one of nine votes in an out of control oligarchy that constantly usurps constitutional prerogatives to unethically and illegally legislate for 300 million Americans.
The stakes are too high. Social conservatives must rise up as one and say no lesbian is qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Will they?
Americans For Truth — a group “devoted exclusively to exposing and countering the homosexual activist agenda” — also put out a statement saying that Kagan needs to answer, “Are (or were) you a practicing homosexual or do you consider yourself homosexual (gay)?” Last month, Focus on the Family also said that it would not be open to a gay Supreme Court justice. 
The National Organization of Marriage put out a statement today saying that a vote to confirm Kagan "will be a vote for imposing gay marriage on all 50 states."
Wow, that's power.  A single justice can single-handedly make everybody gay-marry.  Who knew?  I just wish it were as simple as all these social cons think it is, because then I could petition the court to hand down a ruling demanding Liv Tyler and I to get married.  Mind you, I haven't got any desire to get married, but if it's a legal requirement...

These rants make me hope she is a lesbian, and that she'll come out wearing her Supreme Court justice robe and flaunt it in their faces.  I'd say it would break their brains, but seeing as how they're already broken, I'm not sure just how much more damage she could do.  But it would still amuse.

I'm taking bets on how long it'll be before Bryan Fischer's caught with a rentboy of his own.  Wild homophobia is a symptom of repressed urges, it seems, and he's positively foaming at the mouth.  I give him a year at best.

Pig-ignorant fuckwits abound.  I think I shall go back to burying myself in geology now.

10 May, 2010


I've been playing with Google Street View while captioning photographs from yesterday - they don't do me much good as research unless I know precisely where I was and what direction I was facing when I took them.  This, somehow, led to a brief foray into Nostalgialand - I looked up me old home on Google Maps.  It turns out 13 Blackhorse Road doesn't exist anymore, due to the street numbers having been changed.  But ye olde home is still there, complete with barn, and really barren-looking woods behind it. 

View Larger Map

WTF? said I.  Don't remember it being that scrubby.  Granted, the woods are pinon pine with just a few lone ponderosas, but still.  Used to play in those woods.  They were big and green and lovely.

Can't go to the street view here in Google, alas, but I've gots photos:

See?  It's not all dirt.

Some of the best years of my life, I spent in those woods, with the limestone bones of the world poking out.  There were tadpoles in Wildcat Canyon, even.  In wet years, anyway.

Speaking of barren, my intrepid companion and I were planning our trip to Grand Coulee today, and we came across a restaurant review that reminded us we wouldn't be in Seattle anymore:
While most of the food appears fresh, the fruit (appears to be the only cafe in town to even offer a fruit bowl) is canned, and there appears to be a lack of choices on the menu for those concerned with healthy foods. Otherwise a fine place for breakfast.
That, in the immortal words of Bing, cracks my shit up.

Here in Seattle, you can't sneeze without hitting healthy food, and you can't walk for tripping over farmer's markets, which overflow with fruit.  Sometimes, I forget how very spoiled I am, living in a large city close to productive farmland.

Enough nostalgia for today.  I need to shower and take a nap.  I'm cross-eyed after several hours of captioning and organizing photos.

The Fruits of Mah Labors

Today, I dragged my poor intrepid companion along for some research work, which entailed driving to downtown Seattle and spending most of our day finding a parking space.  Parking is next to impossible when every single person in Seattle has decided to visit the city on the first sunny Sunday in May.  After we found a parking space, we went walking in my characters' shoes.

My characters, incidentally, do a fuck of a lot of walking.

I got some pretty pictures out of it, so I thought I'd share some with you before I go collapse and die.  Join me after the jump for some highlights from the Emerald City.

09 May, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

This is my heart sister Nicole's first Mother's Day as teh Mom!  So a very special Happy Mother's Day to her, and a tip o' the shot glass to all those moms out there who raised us without giving in to the occasional temptation to strangle us.  Salud!

08 May, 2010

Hapi Birfday 2 U!

Ai wuv u infinity!  Ai hope ur day iz grate!  Ai got u sumfin but it eated teh bag.

(U no who u r.  ;-)

John Pieret, Poet and Champion

Raise your glasses high and toast our own John Pieret, who won The Coffee-Stained Writer's National Poetry Month competition.  And he deserved to - "Winding Sheet" is a beautiful, haunting poem.

Twasn't an easy decision for my heart sister, I'm sure - he was up against quite a few talented poets, including our own Chris Rhetts

To extraordinary wordsmiths and the power of poetry, let us raise our glasses and shout, "Salud!"

An Arizona Primer

In light of Arizona's noxious new immigration law, folks may be confused as to whether or not they should have papers on them at all times in the Grand Canyon State.  This helpful illustration should clear things up:

(Tip o' the shot glass to Jerry Coyne)

Gorgeous Science

Whilst spelunking the intertoobz today, I stumbled across this phenomenal video showing what happens when galaxies collide:

Ethan Siegel at Starts With a Bang also has some dramatic photos illustrating why we're a spiral galaxy.  Those who like to claim there's no beauty in science need to visit that post forthwith. 

George referred me to another post of his that tells you what you need to know about getting involved in astronomy.  You'll likely need it after viewing the above.  Then you'll want to have a look at A Mysterious Light on the Darkest NightGracias, George!

Happy Science Saturday, my darlings!

07 May, 2010

A Good Cause

Here's a chance to do some good for AIDS victims and get up Fred Phelps's nose at the same time.

Extra bonus fun: protesting Fred and his Westboro Baptist Church dumbfucks, a la Happy Jihad:

How I wish I could have been there...

Good on Yer, Flagstaff!

I'm very, very proud of my former city right now (h/t):

The Tucson and Flagstaff city councils voted Tuesday to sue Arizona over its tough new immigration law, citing concerns about enforcement costs and negative effects on the state's tourism industry.

They are the first municipalities in Arizona to approve legal challenges to the law. Earlier this week, proposed litigation in Phoenix took a hit when the city attorney said Mayor Phil Gordon lacks the authority to file suit without the support of the City Council.

The Flagstaff City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution that says it's an unfunded mandate to carry out the responsibilities of the federal government.

Here's the full text (pdf).  You'll notice they got in a good dig about the bill making it less likely that immigrants will report crimes, too.

Good on yer, Flagstaff!  Go, Tucson!  I hope they start a landslide among cities.  And, Phoenix?  You don't have an excuse - Tucson's closer to the border than you are, so you can't stick your nose up and claim those idjits up north don't understand your suffering at the hands of teh evil immigrants. 

Additionally, let me congratulate Los Suns on their victoryViva Los Suns!

There are good people in Arizona.  Hear them roar.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Every Con in this country needs to be put in a remedial class on the Constitution.  They obviously don't understand it.  Take Lindsey Graham, for instance, who joins the chorus of bleating buffoonery:
In today’s Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Terrorists and Guns,” and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said he wholeheartedly agreed with his colleagues and wanted to write legislation that would allow authorities to deprive them of their rights: 
GRAHAM: I want to stop reading these guys their Miranda rights. Me and Peter are so much on board here.
Graham was on active duty in the Air Force as a Judge Advocate General, the corps that acts as legal advisers to the U.S. military. He is now in the Reserves and serves as a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School. In light of his role, it’s disturbing that he would be so willing to distort what Miranda rights are and call for getting rid of them in certain instances. Graham and his conservative counterparts are under the mistaken impression that Mirandizing a suspect grants special rights, when all it does is inform someone of existing rights. As Matt Yglesias adds, “And the whole reason cops mirandize suspects is that if you don’t, you risk having your evidence thrown out of court. If you gather all the information before mirandizing, you could be throwing the whole thing into doubt.”
But, of course, the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments don't mean jack diddly shit to these dumbfucks.  When they talk about the Constitution, adhering to it and honoring it and how inviolate it is, I believe they have only two amendments in mind: the Tenth, of course, because they're under the mistaken impression that it allows them to ignore the federal government when they're being required to do icky things like treat teh gayz like humans and provide health care to disgusting poor people.  And I think you can all guess the other amendment they worship:

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) has been pushing a bill that seems pretty reasonable -- if you're on the FBI terror watch list, you should be ineligible to buy weapons in the U.S. Law enforcement has long supported the proposal, but Congress keeps rejecting it.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee held a hearing on the subject yesterday, and as Gail Collins noted, it didn't go well.
"I think you're going too far here," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He was speaking in opposition to a bill that would keep people on the F.B.I. terrorist watch list from buying guns and explosives.
Say what?
Yes, if you are on the terrorist watch list, the authorities can keep you from getting on a plane but not from purchasing an AK-47. This makes sense to Congress because, as Graham accurately pointed out, "when the founders sat down and wrote the Constitution, they didn't consider flying."
The subject of guns turns Congress into a twilight zone. People who are perfectly happy to let the government wiretap phones go nuts when the government wants to keep track of weapons permits. A guy who stands up in the House and defends the torture of terror suspects will nearly faint with horror at the prospect of depriving someone on the watch list of the right to purchase a pistol.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said, "Let me emphasize that none of us wants a terrorist to be able to purchase a gun." She then proceeded to explain her opposition to a bill that would prevent those on the terrorist watch list from purchasing guns.

The NYT's Gail Collins added, "There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only constitutional right suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms."
I really don't understand these people.  And my head has hit my desk with such force I'm unable to come up with anything more to say than "ZOMG WTF ow."

Bonus dumbfuckery: the cognitive dissonance between shrieking about teh evil guvmint ramming itself down throats while cheering on the imposition of a police state explained.