31 July, 2010

Zootastic #3: Metaphorical Mammal Molestation At Last!

Poor Karen.  She's gone days without so much as a whiff of geology from this blog, and it's got to be wearing by now.  So let's remedy that.  There's even geology at a zoo, if you know where to look:

That, my darlings, is Mount Rainier.  More specifically, it's a massive rotten mass of a stratovolcano covered in glaciers, and folks hereabouts aren't so much afraid of it erupting as simply falling apart.  Sometime soon, we'll talk about how lava becomes clay and hence leads to the possibility of a mountain simply falling down, which depending on how it comes about may mean that the mammals here have a Very Bad Day indeed.

Still, it's pretty.  And on a clear day, it's clearly visible from Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, which fact very nearly meant we didn't get to the mammals.  However, we tore ourselves away from the vista and headed out for some metaphorical mammal molestation.

Bad Universe Shall Be Badass!

Phil Plait's Bad Universe shall be coming to a teevee near you soon, but I know the waiting's hard, so here's a taste:

Ah, actual science programming!  This is gonna be a blast.


Thank you, FaceBook, for making sure I knew!  Tomorrow, when I go to work, the first thing I shall be doing is requesting the night of December 2nd off.


30 July, 2010

Zootastic No. 2: Sea Mammal Molestation the Reprise

Yesterday, we began rambling through the aquariums at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium.  I promised thee more sea creatures, and more sea creatures thee shall have.  With the caveat (in answer to a previous comment) that no, I'm not sure of a great many of my identifications, especially not of the squidgy little blobby things that all look remarkably similar in those helpful species identification drawings.  And as far as the following sea denizen:

I can help you not at all, because neither myself nor my intrepid companion could find a single damned sign telling us what it might be.  We saw the same species o' fish at the Seattle Aquarium and found no helpful signage there, either.  Apparently, the species name of this animal is classified Above Top Secret.  So, here's my identification: it's a tropical fish, and it's this big and it's blue.  I include it here because I was so damned excited that the camera actually captured its neony-goodness.

We'll have a wee bit more luck after the jump.

I Probably Require Medical Attention

Far too many years ago, I was in a Mexican cantina (continuing my) drinking after my first Circus Mexicus.  Stevie, then the Peacemakers' lead guitarist, was sitting a few tables away.  We were not yet drunk enough to approach him and engage in appropriate worship.  And then our chance seemed to have passed, as he got up to leave.  But on his way out, he stopped by the table, thanked us for coming to the show, and shook our hands.

Necessary hygiene forced me to actually wash that hand the following day, but it was a close-run thing.

Fast forward a couple of years, many Peacemakers shows later, and picture me staggering toward the exit of a Flagstaff bar after yet another tequila-drenched show.  Stevie emerged from a side door, saw me, exclaimed, "Hey - you were in Mexico!" and gave me a full-body hug.

Necessary hygiene forced me to bathe within the next few days, but it was a close-run thing.

Fast forward to a May in Mexico.  A few months before, having shed my early aversion to tattoos, I had gotten myself inked with the Peacemakers logo, and now no shit, here I was in JJ's Cantina, meeting Roger Clyne in person and learning that he did, in fact, approve of my choice in art.  I believe it was the alcohol that allowed me to remain conscious.  Otherwise, I should probably have required an ambulance crew to remove me from the premises after having swooned.  The coda to this is that when I saw him over a year later at the CD release party for No More Beautiful World, he studied my face for a moment, started mumbling about cantinas and tattoos, and then remembered my name.  What prevented me from needing paramedics at that time, I'm not sure, but I do remember the room blurring a bit round the edges.

So yes, I have met actual rock stars, and been recognized by them, and so I know precisely how it feels to actually be recognized as a distinct entity rather than an amorphous blob fitting the description of "yet another fan."  This necessary context should help you understand why I was revisited by this feeling just this evening, when I perused the comments on this thread.  And this on top of PZ responding to my pathetic pleas on Twitter and then linking to ye olde humble blog.  To me, PZ Myers and Ophelia Benson are rock stars, all right?  They are the Stevie and Roger of the blogging world.

There are only three responses appropriate to the occasion.  One is to pass right out, but it seems I come from a line of females not prone to fainting no matter the provocation.  The second is to give a somewhat-restrained "SQUEE!" and say, "Thank you!"

The third is to place your tongue firmly in your cheek, and enact the relevant scene from Wayne's World:

I know I'm not the only admirer of the above celebrities who's been treated as more than an interchangeable unit by them.  So there's just a few things to say: Thank you for recognizing us as more than amorphous blobs.  Thank you for inspiring us.  And thank you for providing Wayne's World-worthy moments.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Shit, the stupidity I missed yesterday.  Finally caught up on some of my pollytickal reading today, and came across this shining chunk of dumb shit:
At its state convention in Des Moines last month, the Iowa GOP adopted a new party platform that includes the repeal of mandatory minimum wage laws, the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, and even clarification on the definition of manure. Out of the “387 enumerated planks and principles,” Newsweek’s Jerry Adler found the most “startling” section of the platform calls for “the reintroduction and ratification of the original 13th Amendment.”
Adopted in December 1865, the current 13th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “slavery” and “involuntary servitude” in the United States or any place under its jurisdiction. The Iowa GOP is not trying to overturn this amendment to reinstate slavery. Instead, it wants to reintroduce the “original 13th Amendmentfirst offered by senator Phillip Reed of Maryland in 1810. The amendment states that “if any citizen of the United States shall accept, claim, receive or retain any title of nobility or honor” from a “foreign power, such person shall cease to be a citizen” and “shall be incapable of holding any office of trust.” In receiving only 12 out of the 13 votes needed for ratification, the amendment was never adopted.

Traditional supporters of the idea are known as “Thirteenthers,” who seek to prevent those with the title of “esquire,” such as lawyers and bankers, from participating in government. But according to its spokeswoman, Danielle Plogmann, the Iowa GOP supports it as an attack on President Obama’s Nobel Prize win:
There are, of course, other implications of Thirteenthism, such as ensuring that the United States never again suffers the humiliation of having a president win the Nobel Peace Prize. That was just what the Iowa Republicans had in mind, according to Plogmann, who wrote in an e-mail that the plank “was meant to make a statement about the delegates’ opinion about Mr. Obama receiving the prize.” (Presumably they didn’t mind if, in the process, they were also making a statement about any American scientist or writer unlucky enough to win a Nobel.) Unfortunately for them, the Department of Justice looked into whether Obama needed Congressional approval to accept the Nobel under the existing emoluments clause, and based on the meaning of “foreign state” (which would not cover the Nobel Prize Committee) concluded that he did not.
I read that ten hours ago, and I'm still speechless.  I mean, I know some people lose all sense of reality and proportion when it comes to Obama.  I know some people have an irrational hatred of him that causes them to develop symptoms of rabies when they hear his name.  But to be motivated to change the Constitution because he won the Nobel is just - there are no words for the magnitude of that insanity.  All I can think of is an astronomical comparison: if batshit fucking insanity is equivalent to the gravitational strength of a neutron star, this is a fucking black hole.  I mean, for fuck's sake, they almost make the Birthers look rational.

Holy fucking shit, Batman.

Anyway, while we're on the subject of Cons fucking with the Constitution, I think now would be a good time to point out that Sen. Lindsey Graham is just as much of a Con as any of 'em:
Remember, as far as much of the media is concerned, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a reasonable, pragmatic Republican, with whom Democrats should have no trouble finding common ground.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) announced Wednesday night that he is considering introducing a constitutional amendment that would change existing law to no longer grant citizenship to the children of immigrants born in the United States.
Currently, the 14th Amendment grants citizenship to any child born within the United States.
But with 12 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, Graham said it may be time to restrict the ability of immigrants to have children who become citizens just because they are born within the country.
In fairness, Graham didn't come right out and demand an amendment, but he told Fox News he's close. "I may introduce a constitutional amendment that changes the rules if you have a child here," Graham told Greta Van Susteren. "Birthright citizenship I think is a mistake, that we should change our Constitution and say if you come here illegally and you have a child, that child's automatically not a citizen."

It's genuinely difficult to overstate the radicalism necessary to seek a transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which was designed to ensure that slavery could never again happen in the United States and is now integral to keeping the United States free of a permanent underclass of immigrant workers.
And here's about where I start to think that the Con leaders spouting this shit aren't simply echoing their "brown people are scary!  Xenophobia rulez!" base in hopes of getting a vote, but are thinking more in terms of useful idiots, because creating a "permanent underclass of immigrant workers" would very likely suit them and their corporate sponsors right down to the ground.

I wish that didn't seem like such a plausible conspiracy theory.  I wish we had a sane opposition party.  These freaks and fools frankly terrify me.

29 July, 2010

Zootastic No. 1: ZOMG It's a Cuttlefish! and Other Sea Chanteys

The problem with going to a zoo like Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium is that there's so much to see.  You careen from one adorable animal to the next, end up with 50,000 photos, and then have to pick the best of the best when every single one makes you squee.  We're going to have to divide everyone into groups.

We'll start with the aquarium bit, because it's rather a nice continuation of our marine mammal molestation theme, and also because this is the first time I've come face-to-face-tentacles with an actual cuttlefish:

Okay, so that's more of a side view, but still.  THEY'RE SO CUTE!!!  I never truly realized just how adorable they are until I saw this little dude just hanging out in his tank.  I feel guilty now for all those cuttlebones we gave our budgies.

Follow me for more marine life.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Right, then.  So I'd had this perfect trifecta of burning stoopid all set and ready for ye when I got a bit sidetracked, and I thought this morning, "Oh, dear, something really profoundly inane will happen today and I'll end up with either an unwieldy foursome or I'll have to scuttle the trifecta as old news."  That was before I spent all day at work watching our queue grow and grow and grow (because apparently the scheduling software has a blind spot when it comes to staffing on Wednesdays).  Then there was the flood in ye olde inbox - a great many excellent old friends whom I'd lost touch with tracked me down on Facebook, and I spent some time reading over the list, reliving fond memories, and thinking, "Holy shit, how the fuck am I going to catch up on sleep, reading, blogging, and all these folks???"

Well, new dumbfuckery can wait.  Besides, this stuff is like cheese - it doesn't spoil, it just ages.

Let us begin with the rallying cry of Temecula, California's rabid right, who don't want none of those icky Mooslems building no new mosques in the territory they've already pissed on.  Well, they know just how to scare away that kind of rabble, yes they do:
As the Valley News of Fallbrook reports, the leader of the anti-community center rally -- who the paper does not name -- has "been active with Republican and Tea Party functions" in the past. Recently, the activist distributed an email to area media outlets calling on those opposed to the construction of the Islamic Center in Temecula to come to a "one-hour 'singing - praying - patriotic rally'" July 30 at the site of the town's existing Islamic center, which local Muslims are trying to replace with new construction.
Details on the event, from the Valley News:
"We will not be submissive," the notice proclaimed. "Our voices are going to be heard!" The alert went on to question what its authors described as Islamic beliefs. It suggested that participants sing during the rally because Muslim "women are forbidden to sing." It suggested that rally participants bring dogs because Muslims "hate dogs."
And they know this because an uncle of a cousin of an acquaintance of a friend once told the local pastor that some dude with dark skin and a Middle Eastern name once called in a nuisance complaint on someone's constantly barking dog, I'm sure. 

As for the Muslim ladies being forbidden to sing, well, that's going to come as a surprise to the other folks who could find nothing in the Qu'ran to prevent such activities.  (That, of course, has not stopped frothing fundie clerics from inventing such a prohibition, much like frothing fundie preachers have manipulated Bible verses to expressly forbid some activities not actually forbidden whilst explaining why it's okay to wear blends and eat shellfish despite clear prohibitions against those things.  However, I rather doubt the Temecula mosque and community center gives two shits about those fucktards.)

After that display of amazing ignorance, everything else should've been distant second.  But no.  When one group of rabid righties explodes with teh stoopid, another set needs to outdo 'em.  And when it comes to a right-wing fucktard trying to parse the meaning of the word "lynch," you just know the dumbfuckery's deep and getting rapidly deeper:
Yesterday, the American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord decided to go after Shirley Sherrod, this time accusing her of lying because she said Bobby Hall was "lynched" in 1943. Hall was beaten to death by a white sheriff and his two white deputies, but as far as Lord was concerned, rope wasn't involved. Ergo, Sherrod's credibility is in question.

As Adam Serwer responded yesterday, "A lynching is an extrajudicial mob killing. No one who worked to document the practice of lynching in the South limited the definition of the term to solely include those lynchings that occurred using a rope.... Now does three guys beating someone to death sound like an extrajudicial mob killing to you?"

Today, Lord answered that question and defended his offensive argument.
Random House Webster's College Dictionary defines lynching as: "to put to death, esp. hanging by mob action and without legal authority."
I have read the Court's decision. Three people are not a "mob." A mob is defined as a "large crowd." So there was no "mob action" because there was no mob.
Look, this is ridiculous. Lord wisely gave up on the whole rope line of argument, but now wants to parse the meaning of the word "mob." Three white cops beat a black man to death. They arrested him on weak evidence, beat him mercilessly for a half-hour, and dragged the man's unconscious body, feet first, through the courthouse square before his death.

If there were four white cops would Lord be comfortable with the word "lynching"? How about five? 

I have a feeling he won't accept anything less than a round hundred complete with torches and pitchforks, but who knows?  He could be satisfied with fifty.  However, debating the exact number of people required to make a mob (anyone encountering a toddler knows the correct answer is 1) rather distracts from the fact that some kindly soul needs to take little Lord aside and 'splain to him the meaning of "esp."  As I am not a kindly soul, I shall put it this way, Mr. Lord: if you looked up the word "dumbfuck" and found this definition:
"an extraordinarily stupid person, esp. Jeffrey Lord"

that would not mean that you are the only possible type of dumbfuck in existence, just an especially fine example of one.  Hope that helps!

Anyway, while we're on the subject of lynching:
The National Organization For Marriage (NOM) has embarked on a disastrous 23-city “Summer for Marriage Tour 2010,” spreading the gospel of one-man-one-woman marriage to tens of supporters and encountering well organized counter protests in almost every city. Yesterday, the The Bilerico Project’s Bil Browning attended a NOM rally in Indianapolis, Indiana and found that while “over 250 LGBT and allied folks protested the rally,” “only 40 fundies showed up.” Among the small crowd of so-called traditional marriage supporters was a man holding a sign reminiscent of the Jim Crowe era. It showed two yellow nooses and a bible passage suggesting that gay couples should be put to death...

(I do not want to confuse Mr. Lord here, so let me explain: just because "noose" is the first image to spring to mind when someone brings up "lynch" does not mean that a noose is the only possible means of lynching someone.  Please refer to the definition of "dumbfuck" above once again, Mr. Lord.)

I'm sure it will surprise you not at all to learn that the wielder of said sign "was all confused himself" before he became a fundie and learned he should hate himself for his icky attraction to other blokes.  Amazing how such buffoons feel the need to turn their self-loathing into exhortations to execute those who refuse to despise their sexual orientation.

These are the supporters that NOM's Maggie Gallagher was "very proud of" before the rally.  I wonder how proud she is now?

That's it, my darlings.  We've had to don scuba equipment for this foray into the deep dumbfuckery, and I believe I'm running out of air.  Time to surface.

Oh, What a Night!

I didn't get a chance to post more than the picture, because I'd dragged one of the lovely Pharyngulites I'd met home and we were busy engaging in the kind of free-ranging geek discussion I haven't been able to enjoy since my dear friend Sean last came by (which was all too long ago, as we ended up on wildly different schedules).  Put it like this, my darlings: it's been a desperately long time since I've stayed up until 6 in the ay-em with a fellow creative person.  And that's all the excuse I've got for abandoning you lot.

Anywho, I was fortunate last night in that PZ and Ophelia were still at Pike Brewing Co. when I escaped work and hurried me arse down there.  My workplace, alas, does not understand how rare opportunities to see two of my favorite bloggers in one place at one time are.  I got about half an hour's worth of basking in Ophelia's presence.  Those of you who read her blog know she's a brilliant writer.  She's also brilliant in person.  I wish I'd had the opportunity to beg a photo with her, as that also would've put me closer within earshot.  Ah, well.  Another time, perhaps.

PZ's always a joy, of course.  He's one of those quiet-seeming, soft-spoken people with a rapier wit and lightsaber intelligence who can keep a conversation going without dominating it, which may surprise some folks who only know him from his blog.  I'd had the great good fortune to meet him years ago, when he was here giving a talk on evolution and we closed yet another Seattle bar afterward.

I don't often close bars, but when you understand the nature of the people he attracts, you understand why I'm willing to stay out late on a work night despite my homebody tendencies.  There are few groups who can slip seamlessly from satirical conversation on baby-eating (only free-range for us, thanks - we are ethical baby-eating atheists!), to the sad fact that so many people still don't understand "A Modest Proposal", somehow leaping to the women of Shakespeare's plays (which Ophelia can easily hold court on), to how society should deal with the threat that someone may someday be able to brew up a custom virus in their garage, and many other subjects besides.  And, while you can't see it in the photo, there was a plush squid involved.

I've ended up with several new friends, and stayed out far too late as so many of us couldn't bear to part.  And I got a cameo on Pharyngula.  Woot!  A person can ask for more than these things, but that would be outrageously greedy and overkill to boot.

Anyway.  That's my excuse for not blogging last night, and I'm sticking to it.  But I did miss you, and I felt a smidgen of guilt for depriving you of the promised mammals and a delicious serving of dumbfuckery.  It's good to be back with you, my darlings!  And now, without further ado, let us proceed.

Update: Found a pic with Ophelia and squid!

Wish I'd been there for that!  Thanks, Nysamis!

27 July, 2010

It's Been a Zoo Round Here

More precisely, we've been to the zoo.  And I've got tons and tons of adorable photos of lots and lots of adorable animals, which I shall share with you - tomorrow.  And probably the day after.  Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium has a lot of adorable animals.

Right now, though, I believe this gentleman has the right idea:

I wish they were truly tame.  Cuddling up with him sounds like the best afternoon ever, doesn't it?

26 July, 2010

Oregon Geology Parte the Second: Earth, Air, Fire and Water

At last, the long-awaited continuation of our series on Oregon geology!  If you were breathless with anticipation, you can breathe now.

In Parte the First, we made it to Astoria, and caught a fleeting glimpse of Tillamook Head.  We learned that the Columbia River Basalt flows are responsible for a lot of the outstanding features of the area, but didn't get to see much of them because of all the damned trees in the way.  Well, trees have a hard time growing on cliffs whilst pounded by salt water, so the bastards are in retreat, and we finally get to see ourselves some rocks.  We also get more than a distant, misty glimpse of Tillamook Head, and learn why it is called "massive."  Follow me after the jump for a look at why earth, air, fire and water were the original elements.

25 July, 2010

Oh, Dear - Happy Belated Blogiversary!

It's John's 5th Blogiversary!  Well, the 24th was, anyway.  Look, the point is, John Pieret's been pureeing the stoopid for five glorious years, and we loves him, and if this were a real cantina he'd be drunk on comp drinks by now. 

Happy happy blogiversary to ye, laddie, and a great many more!

Ask and Ye Shall (Sometimes) Receive

Chris wanted more pirate and zombie stuff on ye olde blog.  Well, he asked for it.

Talk to Your Friends About DD

No, not drunk driving:
I’m suggesting now that distracted driving is in the same category. People just don’t multitask behind the wheel as well as they think they do, and we should get up in their faces about it.  If you’re talking to a friend and you realize they are driving a car, say; “Are you driving?  Good bye” and hang up.  And if you know someone who texts and drives, refuse to text them at any time until they stop doing it.  
A car is no place for multitasking.  It's time to get Zen, folks: when you're driving, just drive.  Please.

And really, really don't call the phone company to troubleshoot your cell phone while you're behind the wheel.  If it's that important, find a place to pull over.  I trust none of my readers are stupid enough to try to navigate cell phone menus, remove cases and batteries, and all that other stuff while also trying to navigate traffic, so pass it on: don't make the poor rep you're talking to listen to you kill or maim yourself and others.  Don't turn an annoyance into a tragedy.  Okies?

Here endeth my lecture, but if you didn't visit George's post, go do it now.  Unless you're driving.  In which case, what the hell are you doing in my cantina?

While We're On the Subject of Evisceration...

Let's talk about death and taxes.  The Tax Fairy myth's just been killed (again)- by conservatives:
Bruce Bartlett, who was an adviser to Ronald Reagan and a Treasury official in the first Bush administration, points out that even the Bush administration never claimed such a ridiculous thing. He quotes no fewer than six Bush economic advisers saying that the tax cuts could not possibly have paid for themselves in increased revenue. And then he cites other conservative sources on the question:
In a 2006 article published in the Journal of Public Economics, economist Greg Mankiw, who chaired the Council of Economic Advisers during Bush's first term, estimated the long-run revenue feedback from a cut in capital taxes at 32.4 percent and 14.7 percent for a cut in labor taxes. A 2006 analysis of extending the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts by the Republican-leaning Heritage Foundation estimated that only 30 percent of the gross revenue loss would be recouped through behavioral effects and macroeconomic stimulus. A 2005 Congressional Budget Office study during the time that Republican Doug Holtz-Eakin was CBO director concluded that a 10 percent cut in federal income tax rates would recoup at most 28 percent of the static revenue loss over 10 years. And this estimate assumes that taxpayers have unlimited foresight and know that taxes will be raised after 10 years to stabilize the debt/GDP ratio. Without foresight and no compensating tax increases or spending cuts, leading to an increase in the debt, feedback would be negative; i.e., causing the revenue loss to be larger than the static revenue loss.
Ye evisceration continues at the above link.  And Ed Brayton finishes up with a very good point:

This reminds me a lot of those prosperity gospel preachers who claim that if you send them money it will be returned to you ten or a hundred times greater. If they really believed that, they'd be sending you money.

Remember that when next someone tells you how much money you can make by sending them money.  That goes triple for Cons babbling about the magic of tax cuts for the rich.

For more pwnage, see Sen. Bernie Sanders on oligarchy and the Cons.*

*How the fuck did I manage to fuck that one up?  At least Cujo's there to correct matters.

24 July, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Dumbfuckery would be a lot harder to get away with if more news organizations were as interested in facts as Arizona's KPHO:

During this election cycle, Arizona politicians have touted the potential danger of illegal immigration. Gov. Jan Brewer is one of the loudest voices.

She has made several statements to the national media, the validity of which CBS 5 Investigates could not confirm. The governor told one media outlet that almost all illegal immigrants are bringing drugs across the border. U.S. Border Patrol officials said that statement is false.

Brewer also said law enforcement officials have found decapitated bodies in the desert. Calls to all of Arizona’s border county medical examiners revealed no decapitated bodies have been reported to them.
Do go read the whole thing.  It's a study in earned evisceration by media, and it is glorious. I especially love it when they uncover the fact that two of Brewer's advisers have close lobbying ties to the private prison industry, which stands to gain a fair amount from laws such as Arizona's odious immigration law, should those private prisons contract with the state to house all those lovely extra prisoners before they're deported.

Once that travesty is either repealed or shot down as an unconstitutional piece of shit, I shall have to go visit ye olde home state and buy the fine folks at KPHO a good, stiff drink.  After wading through all of Brewer's bullshit, they could probably use it.

(Tip o' the shot glass to Crooks and Liars)


I've made a few changes to the old place.  Let me know if you hate them.  Not that I can put it back the way it was, mind, but adjustments can be made if things are hideous.

Bad Astronomy the Series!

Woot!  Yippee!  Phil's finally gonna have a show!
Finally, at last, after many months, I can now officially reveal the project that has kept me so busy over all this time. I think you’re gonna like this… so why not just jump right in to the teaser trailer posted online by a small TV network you may have heard of called THE DISCOVERY CHANNEL!

[evil laugh]
I’ve been working with the Discovery Channel on hosting a new TV science show called "Phil Plait’s Bad Universe". It’s a three-part program where I dissect issues in astronomy and science, putting claims to the test. 

I first heard the news on Twitter, and I very nearly leapt from my desk, ripped my headset from my head, and danced through the cubicles for joy.  However, it's a tough economy, and such behavior might be frowned on by Management.  So I had to settle for a retweet instead.

I've been hoping Phil would end up on my teevee since the idea for the Skeptologists was first floated (and I still hope that show gets produced).  This is a joyous day indeed!

Alas, the video is broked, but when it's up and running again, I shall post it.  And thee shall have the happy knowledge that actual real science will be aired on the Discovery Channel very soon.  And because it's Phil, we know it shall be entertaining as hell.  Huzzah!  It'll be the baddest universe ever.

I Think George Became Upset

And why do I think our own dear, sweet, epitome-o'-kindness George became upset?  There's a Clue contained in his most recent post:
It was about then that my predatory, reptilian atheist mind wanted to simply lunge forward and devour the theologian in two or three gulps.
Had I been there, I suspect he'd have only gotten about 1 - 1½ gulps in, because I would've been devouring with him.  So much for "friendly."

I have no idea why atheists even try to have "friendly" debates with believers anymore.  I mean, sure, when you're among friends, you'll probably keep it friendly, but these "friendly" formal debates look like an exercise in frustration, without a little fire to liven things up.  The theologian spouts vapid crap, the atheist politely shares reality, and everybody in the audience probably ends up feeling like poor dear George except those frightening folks who seem to have had the irritation centers burned out of their brains.  You know the type.  They're the ones who'll chirp, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade!" when they've become a quadruple amputee in a horrific accident that also killed their family and their dog.

If you're not one of the latter, do go enjoy George's deconstruction of the blessed event.

23 July, 2010

At Short Last, the Strike is Over!

At short long last, the strike is over!  And just in the nick o' time, too.  The Pharyngula withdrawl was getting acute, and since I'd pledged not to visit ScienceBlogs until the strike was finished, I suffered from knowing Orac and Erik had new posts up but not being able to read them.  Yes, granted, there were plenty of ScienceBlogs expats to keep me occupied, but I'm a total Pharyngula addict and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

It's good to see that Seed Media cared enough about its (remaining) bloggers to act quickly (though they could've acted before the strike, y'know), and that we'll probably have a viable ScienceBlogs going forward.

This doesn't mean I'll forget the expats.  Never!  Wherever they end up, there I'll be.

And, BoraThank you.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

When Cons brag about outraising Dems, it pays to have a closer look at those magic numbers:
The National Republican Congressional Committee, which raises money to help put GOP butts in House seats, sent an email this week bragging in big red letters that it outraised its Democratic counterpart for the month of June. 

The NRCC raised about $9.15 million and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee came in a close second with around $9.02 million. The difference: $138,000. 

The thing that put the NRCC over the top? A $500,000 settlement from the NRCC's insurance company, stemming from the years-long bilking of the NRCC by its former treasurer, Chris Ward

So it took an insurance settlement for them to "outraise" the DCCC.  And they're bragging about it.  That's actually pretty fucking pathetic.

Between that and the NRC's criminally cute accounting tricks, it seems to me that the national Cons have a few problems they don't want to admit to.  As the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, it looks like they will continue to be total fuckwits for the foreseeable future.  The shock is absolutely making my toes tingle.

Oh, wait, that's not it.  I'm sitting on my feet.  Perhaps I should allow circulation to return.  Hey, presto, the tingling is gone!

Anyway, while we're on the subject of people inflating their importance artificially, let's discuss the brand-new House Tea Party Caucus:
As for the caucus itself, as of late yesterday, the House Tea Party Caucus reportedly has 29 members, with a membership list that's nearly identical to that of the right-wing Republican Study Committee. There is, however, some ongoing controversy on this front -- some of the members included on Bachmann's list of caucus members hadn't formally given their permission to be included in the group.

Sounds like they're off to a good start.

True Cons, those.  We certainly wouldn't expect them any other way.

And, finally, Shep Smith has a few choice words on the Sherrod fiasco:

Meanwhile, Fox New anchor Shep Smith — whose network breathlessly promoted the smear campaign — slammed Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com as “widely discredited,” and blasted the White House for acting on its video. Smith even called out his own employer, saying, “The video, taken completely out of context, it ran all over the Internet, and television, including on this network:”
We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn’t know who shot it, we didn’t know when it was shot, we didn’t know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source. [...]
[The White House based its decision on] an edited videotape on a widely discredited website that has had inaccurate postings of videos in the past–edited to the point where the world was deceived. … What in the world has happened to our industry and the White House?
Well, y'see, Shep, your network kind of dragged the industry down by being loud, obnoxious, unprincipled partisan shits, and since they make money pandering to the right wing shit-bubbles-for-brains crowd, other networks decided they needed to chase after the right wing shit-bubbles-for-brains crowd, or at least that actual journalism cost too much money when you could just have a lot of shit-bubbleheads babble at the top of their lungs, and Americans were too busy chasing celebrities to notice, and thus the industry went straight down the shitter, shit-bubbles and all.  As for the White House, I think they've been conditioned by years of Faux News fanatical screaming combined with Con tantrums, and they're terrified of you all hitting them in the face.  Alas, the choice was between cowards and batshit fucking insane people this last presidential election, so we ended up with the cowards.  Does that clear it up for you?

I hope so.  That said, I do hope folks pay attention to what you said, because a little more of that kind of thinking would go a very long way toward giving me less dumbfuckery to write about.  Don't worry, though - I'm sure Michele Bachmann and her ilk will continue providing me with plenty o' material.

And don't forget to check out the shit-bubbles link.  I think we could all use a good laugh.  If you don't want to read the whole thing, just start with the first paragraph after the "Invisible Girl" video and keep reading, but only after swallowing all substances presenting choking or spit-take hazards.

22 July, 2010

No, I Won't Join in Any Facebook Games

But you can be my friend anyway.  Don't expect much.

Relative Dangers

I'm currently reading Fire Mountains of the West.  It has caused me to reconsider certain of my assumptions, namely that Seattle's far enough away from all the fire mountains to be relatively safe from their upsets.  This assumption turns out to be wrong.

Facts must be faced: I've decided to live in one of the most tectonically interesting parts of the United States.  If the volcanoes don't get me, the megathrust and regular ol' subduction zone earthquakes might.  There's also a reasonable chance of a tsunami.  Oh, and don't forget the landslides.  Additionally, if a new ice age were to suddenly strike, I'd be under 4,000 feet of ice.  Conversely, should global warming get much worse, I could end up unintentionally living on an island.  That's not even to mention the traffic woes.

So yes, there are times, like now, when I think that perhaps I should return to the quieter climes of Arizona, where all I have to worry about is running out of water and perhaps getting barbecued during the next fire season.  The place is, for the most part, tectonically dead boring.  But then I consider the assorted fucktards in charge, and the fucktards that vote them in, and the fucktarded shit they do on a daily basis.

Thank you, but I'll take my chances with the fire mountains et al.  They're statistically less likely to kill me.  Should I return to my dear old home state, I'd probably die of apoplexy within the first six months.

Another One Gone Away - Plus PZ Sighting!

We can move Abel Pharmboy from the "considering" to the "done considering" column. Don't miss his wonderful blog Terra Sigillata in its snazzy new digs.

Only one video seemed appropriate for this occasion:

For those pining after Pharyngula *raises hand*, don't forget that PZ can post to the Panda's Thumb, and in fact has already taken advantage of those privileges.  We aren't completely PZ deprived during this strike, which if all goes as well as PZ's saying on Twitter, shouldn't last too much longer.  If, however, negotiations falter, I just want Adam Bly to understand that I will never ever forgive him.

And, finally, I'd like to pour Greg Laden a glass of the cantina's finest by way of saying thanks for noticing this backwater blogger's existence.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Ye gods, wot a day.  There's about ten thousand news items all clamoring for attention at once.  We are, in fact, drowning in dumbfuckery.  And to top that off, it seems everybody in the nation had a broken cell phone, so I merely had time to skim rather than wade into the depths.  In retrospect, this might have been for the best.

Well, let's start from the shallow yet disgusting end and get our feet acclimated before we wade any deeper.  We can begin with the Cons' continuing battle against the unemployed.  With an extension to unemployment benefits a foregone conclusion, Cons decided desperate families could wait another thirty hours while they played their little obstruction games in the Senate.  Rep. Alan Grayson analyzes their thinking:
On the floor of the House, Grayson soundly berated the Republicans for holding up the extension of unemployment benefits with a "May God have mercy on your souls".
Noting that his grandfather scoured the garbage dump for things he could sell to support his family in the 1930s, Grayson said, “That is the America the Republicans are trying to revive — the America of desperate straits and cheap labor.”
“I know what [Republicans] are th/inking [sic]: ‘Why don’t they just sell some stock? If they’re in really dire straits, maybe they could take some of their art collection and send it off to the auctioneer. And if they’re in deep, deep trouble, maybe the unemployed can sell one of their yachts.’ That’s what the Republicans are thinking,” Grayson said.
The Party of Marie Antoinette, they are.  Despicable little bastards.  (And yes, I know, a Dem or two is lumped in with that category - I'm looking at you, Ben Nelson.)

Now that we've endured some group sociopathy, let's wade further and observe a pure psychopath in action:

We got a better sense of Breitbart's perspective today when the right-wing media activist told MSNBC, "I feel bad that they made this about her, and I feel sorry that they made this about her. Watching how they've misconstrued, how the media has misconstrued the intention behind this, I do feel a sympathy for her plight." He added that he's "sympathetic" to the fact that the media "went after her and not after the NAACP."

So, in Breitbart's mind, the media is to blame -- apparently because news outlets ran with the story that Breitbart gave them.

David Kurtz calls the remarks "almost sociopathic." Simon Maloy labels Breitbart's response "pathological."

Why, indeed.  Y'see, a psychopath never sees himself at fault.  Someone else is always to blame.

For further psychopathy, see also Mitch McConnell, the idiot who wanted to start a revolution by shooting the ACLU and the Tides Foundation, and our national media.  Oh, fuck it, throw in very nearly the entirety of the right wing while we're at it.

We're pretty deep in the brown, sticky and stinky.  Time to wade back to shore, passing the RNC on the way, who're hip-deep in the deep shit and getting deeper:
It's clearly a busy media day, with a variety of stories generating plenty of discussion, but the RNC's hidden-debt controversy is probably under-appreciated at this point. It has the potential to be a very big deal.
A GOP civil war has broken out between RNC Chairman Michael Steele and RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen.
The dust-up reveals new levels of dysfunction at the RNC and suggests the Republican National Committee is having real money problems.
In a memo obtained by ABC News, Pullen makes startling allegations against Steele's chief of staff, accusing him of trying to hide unpaid invoices and causing the RNC not to report more than $7 million in debt in its April and May filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Now, we know that at least some of what Pullen is charging is already true -- the RNC had to file amended reports to explain previously unreported debt. But according to the RNC's own treasurer, Steele and others at party headquarters did this deliberately, allegedly going to literally criminal lengths to hide party debts and financial troubles.

How criminal?  Just ask criminal mastermind Hans von Spakovsky:
Though RNC aides and officials are strongly denying any wrongdoing or misreporting, the organization has brought on “former [FEC] Chairman Michael E. Toner” as outside counsel, an “unusual and significant move,” according to Heritage Foundation legal pundit Hans A. von Spakovsky. He noted, “The RNC normally uses its own inside counsel to deal with the FEC, but if I had a really serious problem with the FEC, Michael Toner is one of the first guys I would turn to help me out.” 
Somebody needs to pop us up a container ship's worth of popcorn while somebody else holds us some ringside seats.  This looks set to get fascinating.

But first, if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to go hose off after that dip with the dipshits.  I feel icky.

21 July, 2010

Cujo Wields The Smack-o-Matic to Excellent Effect

On the frothing idiots throwing a major shit-fit over the planned mosque near Ground Zero:
Compared to those people, Islamic terrorism doesn't seem terribly frightening at all. Terrorists can never take from us what we are. Americans are the only ones who can do that. What we need to remember from this is that there are clearly a group of Americans who want to do exactly that.

They're the really scary people.

And do read the rest of the post.  It's well worth your time.  Then, should you need to calm your blood pressure, enjoy a lovely sunset.

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Epic fucking USDA fail:
It looked like Breitbart and the Big Government website had gotten the goods on another one of their enemies. But as is often the case, there's more to this one than meets the eye.

The story involves USDA official Shirley Sherrod, the director of regional development in Georgia. She spoke recently at an NAACP event, and Big Government posted a portion of her remarks. As far as the far-right site is concerned, Sherrod "admitted" that she's used her "federally appointed position" to "discriminate against people due to their race."

At first blush, the allegations almost seem fair. The video shows Sherrod talking about a deliberate decision not to help a white farmer because she was "struggling with the fact that so many black people had lost their farm land."
And so Tom Vilsack demanded her resignation, and the NAACP condemned her, all without pausing a moment to consider one teensy possibly significant fact:
The anti-ACORN crusade -- and its creative editing -- should have been the first clue that right-wing video clips released by Breitbart and Big Government may not be what they seem to be. Shirley Sherrod offers another painful reminder.

Because, as it turns out, context is absolutely everything.  It's just that Breitbart and his merry band of fuckwits kinda sorta forgot to include those bits of the video that explained why Sherrod had gone to bat for the farmer after all, learning the important lesson that race doesn't matter in such matters, and has applied that lesson about going beyond race ever since.

I would just like to remind everyone that when Breitbart et al post something that's giving off a lot of smoke, one should fan said smoke away and determine if there's actually a fucking fire before busting out the fire extinguishers.

Bonus dumbfuckery: Ben Stein performs an exhaustive study of the personal qualities of the unemployed (i.e., picks what passes for his brain) and concludes they almost all suck.  Additionally, what "family values" really means to a Con.  I know, I know, a man boinking his stepson's estranged wife on the side would not seem to be a "family values" candidate, but he totally is - at least compared to David "Diapers" Vitter.

Ye Exodus Continues

I pulled up my Twitter feed today expecting news of one or two more Sciblings on the move.  Well, it's more than one or two:
Living the Scientific Life

The Questionable Authority (Twitter only for now: questauthority)

Speakeasy Science


Thus Spake Zuska

And that's not all!  There's a non-inconsiderable handful considering a move toward the exits:
On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess

Respectful Insolence

Terra Sigilata

Thoughtful Animal

Thoughts From Kansas

And just when it seemed the news couldn't get any worse for ScienceBlogs, STRIKE!

Greg Laden

Casaubon's Book (yeah, they'd moved back)
(Picketers list is as of last I checked - there could be more now.)

Then we look at the updated list of those who've Done Left:
A Blog Around the Clock

Culture Dish

Good Math, Bad Math (no new digs yet)

Highly Allochthonous



Neuron Culture 

Obesity Panacea

The Primate Diaries (New digs at last!)

The Quantum Pontiff


Science After Sunclipse

Whitecoat Underground

(Did I miss anybody?  Let me know!)
Eighteen bloggers gone, five more considering, and three (among them the 800 pound gorilla on the network) striking - if that doesn't get the Seed Overlords' attention and lead to some substantial positive changes, Seed and all its media deserves to go down in flames.

At least the bloggers will land on their feet, no matter what.

20 July, 2010

River Walk

I was going to write something substantive on the earthquakes cracking ScienceBlogs apart, but fuck it.  I'm too tired to think.  I shall just babble about today's adventures instead, and you can all enjoy some pretty pictures before we return to the wielding o' the Smack-o-Matic, pontificating on ye olde exodus, and eventually really seriously I promise the next installment of Oregon geology.  And for the geology-deprived, there's rocks below the fold!

I'm suffering the dregs of this summer cold, so we took it easy and stayed in the neighborhood today.  We went to Ruby's Diner for lunch, and I have it on good authority that the American Kobe beef burger is very tasty indeed.  You can't take my word for it.  The bits I could taste seemed pretty good, and the texture was awesome, but considering I didn't realize there was black pepper on it until a stray tastebud kicked to life over halfway through the meal, I don't think I can accurately report on its awesomeness.  So maybe you'll just have to come up here and have one of your own.  I'll take you myself, even.

After Ruby's, we headed down to the Sammamish River for walkies.  There's a nice stretch that runs by downtown Bothell.  I shared a few pictures last year, but you'll get far more this time.  Plus, bebbe duckies and the moon!  So do follow me after the jump.

19 July, 2010

Aaaand Another One Bites The Dust

One of my favorite Sciblings, PalMD, has left ScienceBlogs.  You can find him at his old/new digs here.

The exodus continues.  Who's next?

It Didn't Have to Be This Way

Bora's leaving ScienceBlogs.  Now, I'd have to consult my father for the proper engineering analogy, and he's at work at the moment, but let me try:

So far, all the bloggers they've bled over (so much more than) PepsiGate are about equivalent to losing a bunch of their walls.  It makes the place look pretty shabby, and let the rain in, and created serious problems, but the place could be shored up.  It will never be the same, but it's at least still standing.

Losing Bora, though, is like having a major load-bearing wall knocked out.  They could lose the place right down to the foundation.  The whole structure's ready to topple right over.  And if PZ decides to go, there goes the foundation.  Hard to see ScienceBlogs surviving as anything other than a ruined mound if that happens.

Bora's farewell should make Adam Bly et al do that serious thinking they've seemed to avoided up until now.  I've seen a lot of tacking up of tarps and cheerful assumptions that she'll be right, good as new, but no in-depth contemplation of how the place got into such a sorry state to begin with.

So, dear Seed Media overlords, read Bora's post.  Absorb every word.  Go back and read the farewell posts of the others who have left.  And realize that if you don't make some major adjustments ASAP, ScienceBlogs will end up as either the ugliest house on the block or a vacant lot.

I don't want to see that happen.  And what really saddens me is that it didn't have to be this way.

For now, you can follow Bora here.  And I shall leave you with the appropriate video (do not ask me how hard it was to find):

Bob Dylan- The Times They Are A-Changin'
Uploaded by BabaORiley. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

*Update: PZ puts it in rather starker terms.

"Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning"

Everyone - whether you have a kid or not - needs to read this:
The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. “I think he thinks you’re drowning,” the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. “We’re fine, what is he doing?” she asked, a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. ”Move!” he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. 
I come from Phoenix, where the news keeps a daily count of the children who've drowned, and I still didn't know this stuff.  Read this article.  It will save lives.

There's some literature after the jump for ye, if you want to learn more about drowning behavior and the Instinctive Drowning Response.

Why Science Education Matters

Yes, this is going to be one of those annoying adult "if I'd known at your age what I know now" screeds.  Get the fuck over it.*  One day you, too, will be pouncing upon innocent young things screaming the same phrases you now denounce, up to and possibly including "Get off my lawn!"  It's an unfortunate consequence of aging.

Have I got your attention?  Excellent.  Let's talk about science education, and why those classes you roll your eyes at now could just save your life one day.  Seriously.

Now Would Be a Good Time to Tell Me How Awesome You Are

(Postdated in hopes all shall participate. Speak up! I beg you! Love and hugs to all who already have. New content below.)

There was a meme running around ScienceBlogs for a while there, asking lurkers to de-lurk, stand up and be counted.  You know what, why not?  The most important part of blogging is you, my darlings, and at least just this once, step into the spotlight and take a bow!  I promise you can run back to the shadows afterward, if the shadows are your preference.

Tell me who are you (although you can choose to remain anonymous, pseudonymous, or any -mous of your choice).

How did you get here?

Why are you here?

What do you want from me?  Which is actually a pretty serious question, although you can be snarky if you like.

Any of you wanting to engage in shameless self-promotion, by all means do!  This is your time to shine.

Right, then, my darlings, it's over to you.

18 July, 2010

A Precise Summation of Christian Teaching

For the two or three of you who don't read Pharyngula:

Dumbfuckery du Jour

Step this way, folks, and see John McCain and his Wonderful Missiles!

Arizona's first debate for the Republican primary race had a few memorable moments but none summed up the Republican Party's view on what is "pork" and what they consider their priorities on spending than than this bit by John McCain. Spending for teachers, it's pork, but we need to keep that military industrial complex going and make sure that the people "making those wonderful missiles"... the "job creators", have their taxes cut.

"Wonderful missiles"... I can't believe he said that, but he did. I can't think of a single reason to call missiles "wonderful" unless you think dropping bombs on people's heads is a "wonderful" thing. 
I couldn't believe he said that, either.  But he did.  Check out the transcript at the above link.  Then consider that Arizona voters are likely going to choose this supreme asscrunch to represent them for another six years.  In my home state, the wonderful sane people are vastly outnumbered by complete fucktards. 

But you know what, Arizona?  It need not be this way.  There are four folks currently in the Democratic primary for US Senate, and any single one of these four would be a saner choice.  Don't like any of 'em?  Wouldn't be caught dead voting for a dirty Dem?  Why, then, write in Camelback Mountain as your senator of choice!  At least the mountain won't run around making a complete arse out of all of you.


Of course, the Teabaggers will probably say it's a crypto-Muslim terrorist because it looks like a camel, camels are found in the Middle East, etc. etc., but who the fuck cares what they think?  It's solid, it's held steady and virtually unchanging all these years, it's been an American citizen since Arizona became a state, and I believe these qualities, among many others, make it the obvious conservative choice for any conservatives who still possess a few shreds of sanity.

Really, when you've got a choice between a majestic mountain and John "Fuck Teachers, Fund the Missiles!" McCain, there's really no choice at all.

Possibly Pithy Observations

(This may become a semi-regular feature if all find enjoyable and I can think of more.  Right, then.  Here goes.)

How Studying Geology is Like Studying Abnormal Psychology

On the first day of Abnormal Psych, our professor told us that as the class progressed, we would all become convinced we had each and every psychological disorder listed.  He assured us this was not the case, especially as some of those disorders were mutually exclusive.  This did not prevent us from believing that we did, indeed, have every psychiatric disorder studied.

As I delve deeper into the realm of geology, I'm finding a corollary: I think every rock I encounter might be the type of rock I'm studying.  Right now, very nearly everything looks like serpentine (even though it can't be, because serpentine's fairly rare). 

I believe this happens for the same reason we all thought we were mad: just like every human psyche contains common traits that become a disorder when exaggerated or present in the extreme, all rocks share basic features, and what particular kind of rock they are depends on the concentration of those features.  It's all down to a matter of degree.  And it sometimes takes an expert to determine the difference.

Either that, or we were all freaks of psychology, and I'm a serpentine magnet.


Most of the time, I feel pretty good about living in the very-nearly-enlightened state of Washington.  This, however, is not one of those times:

In this respect, Washington is no better than Arizona, the land where anyone with an accent can be bunged into jail for not presenting papers.  Both states are highly rated for overall evolution education, but seem to shy away from mentioning that humans are part of all that evolving.  Rather a significant oversight, that.

Now mind you, this data's two years old.  I took a ramble through the science standards online, but couldn't find anything definite, so I've queried a relevant official.  Perhaps she'll share the happy news that Washington's beating Arizona now.  If not, it appears we science supporters in Washington State shall have to kick up a wee bit o' a fuss. 

Especially since it looks like we may have to kick the English standards up a few notches, as exemplified by the comment at the bottom of this page.  Yeesh.

17 July, 2010

Follow Me!

I've been dabbling my toeses in this Twitter thing, and you now have a prime opportunity to push me into the deep end.  Look to the left.  Look under "Alternate Dana."  You see that little "Follow Me" thingy?  Click there, and you, too, can become a follower!  But you'll also be a leader, because I'll probably end up following you, too.  See how awesome that is?

If all has gone well, FeedBurner should soon be posting updates to this blog on Twitter.  You'll know it's a new post because it'll say "Nuevo Verdad" and display a link.  That's if I've managed to figure out this new-fangled technology stuff.  Considering how addled my mind is after several days of cold medicine and severely reduced breathing ability, I may not have managed.

I'm also debating joining FaceBook because two or three friends are on my arse about it.  However, I'm not sure how I could do that and avoid having coworkers suck me into playing Mafia Wars with them.  FaceBook denizens with suggestions as to how to avoid that horrid fate, please share said suggestions in comments.

And I think that's quite enough babbling about social media for now.

Important Lessons in Physics

Yes, summer illness has reduced me to watching "Destroyed in Seconds."  In my defense, I'm watching it whilst also reading various science-bloggers.  My brain may be flagging, but it ain't dead yet.

Anyway, so I'm sort of half-arsed watching this program, and I see a grain silo tilting like so:

(No, I know that's not a grain silo, it's the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  Tell yourself, "It's just an illustration of a concept.  I should really just relax.")

Right, then.  So, a genius in a Bobcat

decides he's going to push it all the way over.  He's shoving in the direction it's leaning.  What could be easier, right?  It'll just topple right over.

Physics quiz time!

If itty-bitty Bob pushes against the base of the great big leaning cylindrical thingy, will the tower a) keep falling in the direction it's leaning, b) bonk Bob, or c) vanish into another dimension?


Now, I'm sure there are equations that govern why, precisely, a tower will fall on top of you if you knock out its support, even if it was leaning the other way.  I don't know 'em.  But I know enough about physics to know that if you're very, very short, you'd best not undermine the bits holding up a tower and expect it to fall in the opposite direction. 

And you don't even have to take physics to understand this.  Hasn't Bob ever watched a teevee show about logging?

This, my darlings, is yet another reason why even average Bobs should be taught basic science in school.  And if they start whining about its inapplicability to their own lives, well, the teacher could play an episode or two of "Destroyed in Seconds" to demonstrate why everyone needs to learn this stuff.  At least enough of it so that they will not end up wearing grain silos on their heads.

I would appreciate it, too, if they would teach elementary PhotoShop, because as you can see, my skills in this department are minimal at best.

16 July, 2010

Tracking Down Science Bloggers

In the aftermath of PepsiGate, it might be difficult to find some of your favorite ScienceBloggers.  Here's a handy list (muchas gracias to PalMD and Carl Zimmer):

Causabon's Book (now The Chatelaine's Keys)

Culture Dish

Highly Allochthonous



Neuron Culture 

The Primate Diaries (mostly on hiatus)

The Quantum Pontiff


Science After Sunclipse

By my calculations, that's nearly 12% of their bloggers gone in a flash.  I do hope it makes the Powers that Be think about how they should treat a precious resource like the folks who provide content for their site and draw in the readers.  But knowing corporate minds the way I do, I doubt it will make them think any such thing.  Not for long, and certainly not deeply.

15 July, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day

Sun is shining, birds are singing, I'm home from work... fighting a rearguard action to keep this bloody cold out of my nose.   Eventually, I hope to retake my larynx.  Argh argh argh.

But we are making progress.  I've managed to stay awake for more than one hour, and I'm able to smoke as much as 1/3 of a cigarette at a time now.  I always think that a cold would be an excellent time to quit smoking, but the addiction always proves too strong.  I shall probably be one of those sad people taking alternate hits off an oxygen tank and a cancer stick. 

I've discovered some interesting things this illness.  Like package inserts.  The company doc put me on antibiotics - I have no idea why, as I suspect this is a virus, but then he says a course should keep me from ending up with severe bronchitis, so yay.  They have antibiotics now that don't require ten days of remembering to take a pill three or four times.  You pop two the first day, one a day for the next four, and voila.  They come with a rather lengthy package insert, which I've never bothered reading before.  I perused this one, and discovered all sorts of detail.  I mean, this is the kind of stuff most normal people wouldn't bother to read, much less comprehend.  But after so much reading up on science over the last year or so, I actually found it interesting.  It tells you how the antibiotics work ("by binding to the 50S ribosomal subunit of susceptible microorganisms and, thus, interfering with microbial protein synthesis.  Nucleic acid synthesis is not affected.").  You can find out how much of it will end up in your system, and how many days it takes before it's gone (nearly three after the last dose).  You'll even discover how your body gets rid of it (liver, not kidneys). 

All of this stuff is written in super-dense language not meant for the typical layperson.  If you ever wondered why your doctor had to go through so many years of medical school, look no further than the package insert.

So that's what I've been doing on this brilliant, beautiful day.  And now, I'm going to enjoy the wonderful weather by... going back to bed.  Argh argh argh.

14 July, 2010

Dumbfuckery du Jour

It's a good thing I don't need functioning vocal cords to point out how ridiculous Sharron Angle is:

CBN's David Brody, to his credit, brought up the fact that there's a "perception" that Angle is "avoiding those mainstream media outlets" by limiting herself to Fox News and other conservative outlets. He noted, for example, that she isn't "going on 'Meet the Press' or a 'This Week,' those type of news shows."

Angle replied that she only wants to talk to media that will let her beg for cash.
"Well, in that audience, will they let me say I need $25 dollars from a million people go to Sharron Angle.com send money? Will they let me say that? Will I get a bump on my website and you can watch whenever I go on to a show like that we get an immediate bump. You can see the little spinners. People say 'Oh, I heard that. I am going and I'm going to help Sharron out because they realize this is a national effort and that I need people from all around the nation.' They may not be able to vote for me but they can certainly help."
I guess, then, that the Christian Broadcasting Network is one of those outlets that doesn't mind being used by Angle as part of a fundraising ploy.

In this sense, I'm not sure who should be more embarrassed: Angle, for her willingness to only appear on programs that let her shamelessly beg for money; or the news outlets that actually agree to go along with this and allow the crazed candidate to treat their interviews as a telethon?
Whelp.  At least now we have a quick and accurate field test for whether news outlets are actually legitimate news outlets.  If you see Sharron Angle shilling for cash, it's not a legitimate news outlet.  How easy is that?

She's only willing to go on teevee for cash money.  When it comes to having a dialogue with reporters, you can forget it:
This weekend, Fox 5 in Las Vegas caught up with Angle at the state GOP convention. As the Plum Line’s Greg Sargent points out, Angle attempted to backtrack on her remarks by saying that she opposed the MGM project because it received stimulus funds... [snip]
But as Fox 5 notes in its report, Angle’s explanation is bogus, because the City Center never received any stimulus funds
FOX 5 ANCHOR: But I listened to that interview, and the caller asked Sharron Angle, would you have called the banks as Harry Reid did to get them to open up some lines of credit to the City Center so they could continue construction after their partners pulled out. That’s what she was asked, and she said, no I would not. And tonight she told you, no that’s not what I said, I said I would not vote for the stimulus — but the stimulus had nothing to do with the construction of City Center. Was anyone able to follow-up with her on that?

FOX 5 REPORTER: No. We were not allowed to ask any sort of follow-up questions. I tried, and another reporter tried, and we were told just one question each. Again, only four questions for the assembled media that was there. [...]
Maybe if they'd offered her 25 bucks, they could've asked another question.  That's a steep price for stupid, and I'm not sure they'd have gotten their money's worth, but at least they could've asked.

Harry Reid's gotta be feeling good about his chances.  Unfortunately, we shouldn't underestimate the potential stupidity of American voters.  They did, after all, give us eight years of Bush the Younger.  Sharron "Deregulate the Oil Companies!  Force Rape and Incest Victims to Give Birth to Assault Babies Because It's God's Plan!  Send Me Money!" Angle might be exactly what they want.  I dunno why.  Maybe it's because they can't be bothered to pay even five seconds' attention, or maybe it's because these batshit-insane barely-functional morons make them feel better about themselves.  Or maybe it's because they've given up on finding useful politicians and are going for sheer entertainment value.  If it's either of the latter two, I can assure the American voter that Sharron Angle is cheap at the price - although she'd cost our country dear.