Folding, spindeling, and mutilating lauguage for fun since Aug, 2004
Wednesday, 01 October 2008
Wednesday, 01 October 2008 05:38:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Tuesday, 05 February 2008

Martians are just so NICE!  They obviously want us to "Have a nice Day"

Darned nice of them to think of us considering they have that whole "nonexsistance thing" going on.  What a bummer, and they do something thoughtful like this...

...It just sort of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I mean, when you look at that how can you even THINK that it happened by RANDOM CHANCE?!?  Obviously, it was DESIGNED...designed by a giant five-year old with a Martian Magna-Doodle.

(Hat Tip: Jason Bock)

Tuesday, 05 February 2008 22:31:16 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] |  |  | #
Sunday, 13 January 2008

One of my fellow Kung Fu students is in this group, and sent me an e-mail promoting a free show.  The full text follows below.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend it.  I've seen it and it is fun!


Hello from the PHYSICS FORCE and the University of Minnesota


  You received this message because someone you know feels you would enjoy seeing the Physics Circus admission FREE! The show will be presented one night only (Thursday, January 17th) at Northrop Auditorium on the U of M campus at 7:00 PM. Bring the family and friends, get a seat, and enjoy over an hour of great fun.


  For over twenty years the Physics Force has attracted standing-room only audiences. They have been featured on Newton's Apple, at the Minnesota State Fair, and at Disney World's Epcott Center. They traveled three times to Europe and appeared on German television as guests of the "Knoff Hoff" show. A trademark of their show is "bigger is better." Why implode a pop can when a 55-gallon drum is available?

Why shoot down a mythical monkey when the target could be a live person dropping from a scaffold 20 feet high! This program is a delight for parents, grandparents and children of all ages. Science teachers and their students are fascinated and so are those that know little about physics.


  To learn more about the group go to:


  Please consider sending this message to your friends inviting them to come. We have little budget for promoting the FREE show on Thursday the 17th of January at 7:00 PM, so please help us if you can by forwarding this message on to friends.


  Thanks in advance from the Physics Force gang: Dan Dahlberg, Hank Ryan, Jack Netland, Fred Orsted, Aaron Pinski and Jay Dornfeld.


Sunday, 13 January 2008 15:32:39 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [2] |  | #
Saturday, 20 October 2007

So now Oprah has been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism.

Here’s the Wikipedia page for hypothyroidism.

I feel bad for her, I really do.  I know what this condition does to a person, and I know how it feels to have it go undiagnosed.  Depression, fatigue, a sense of impending mental break-down or dissipation.  I remember with horror the inability to focus thoughts, inability to discipline oneself.

I understand how much willpower it takes to drag your body out of bed and meet the demands of the day, force yourself against the screaming drag of your own body to force yourself to exercise…only to gain weight.

No amount of make-up can hide the bad skin, no amount of careful self-maintenance can get rid of the blue bags under the eyes, the dullness of the hair.

“You look tired” gets to be like a mantra chanted by everyone you meet.  Sometimes with sympathy or concern, more often with a bit of the gloat behind it.  What they really mean is “You’ve really let yourself go”.

Going to the doctor to find out what’s wrong, you’re told the only prescription you need is more self-discipline and will-power.

Even the Oprah show, which made its name singing the praise of persevering in the face of insurmountable problems manages to slap you in the face, when Dr. Phil says “You’re not fat because of your thyroid.  That’s just an excuse.”

I actually went to the website and left a comment.   I said it was irresponsible for Dr. Phil to say something like that.  I went back later to see if there had been any response to my comment, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I assumed it had been deleted.

 I had gone for years with an undiagnosed thyroid problem because of just such a response from a Doctor, who refused to administer a simple blood test, despite the fact that I have a family history of low thyroid, and all the symptoms.  And I DO mean all of them.  The CNP who eventually ran the test said that I was in s life-threatening situation, and not just because of the suicidal thoughts.

But this doctor just gave me the smug look, and the condescending encouragement to do more push-ups…push up from the table.  He actually SAID that.

Normally, I would have stormed out of his office and went to find a doctor who would run the test.  Unfortunately, depression and fatigue caused me to simply shut down in shame and never mention it again…until my friend Sue kicked my ass and told me that she didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I’d better figure it out soon, because she didn’t like who I had become, and she wanted her friend back.

I’m sorry for Oprah that she has to go through this.  But I’m glad that finally, she might address this really important subject, and empower women with knowledge and encouragement to speak up for themselves and demand to be tested if they suspect they have a thyroid problem.

Thyroid disorders require constant maintenance.  I recently went in for my annual test, and found that I might have to have my dosage upped again.  Not a big surprise.  I’ve gained weight, and I’m tired and cranky when normally I would be chipper and happy.    I’ve been unable to focus at my usual level in normal times, and become downright useless in times of stress.  Things that were once easy, have become difficult.  I’m confused, forgetful, and sad.

But I’m going to get a second test done, and it’s likely that a simple dosage adjustment will fix the problem.  It’s such a simple solution.  All you need is the knowledge of what your condition is, and the support of knowledgeable people to help you treat it appropriately.

Saturday, 20 October 2007 08:36:35 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [3] |  |  |  | #
Monday, 03 September 2007

Cato Institute Boggles. has commentary.

Ayn Rand turns over in her grave.

Leo Strauss also turns over and says "You're surprise?  Anyway, doesn't matter, the noble lie is what is important.  If the masses believe it, it will make them happy and easy to control."

George Bernard Shaw snuggles down in the covers and says "Ah, give everybody guns, it'll sort itself out."


Monday, 03 September 2007 21:41:18 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Here's an article talking about a legal arraingement in France some 600 years ago that was used to formalize a family relationship between people who were either related or unrelated, making them a household.  It could also have involved same sex romantic couples.

Of couse, anyone who hates the idea of same-sex romantic relationships having any legal standing will either claim the research has been faked, or simply dimiss it as French.

Personally, I don't find it surprising.  We know for a fact that other cultures had social/political/civil structures that accomidated such relationships.  And to be sure, there are non-sexual reasons why people who are not married might want or need to form a household...especially in such time when society had fewer built-in stabalizing forces such as we have now.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007 09:29:18 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Thursday, 09 August 2007 takes on Mike Adam’s hysterical screed against microwaves.  I’m really, really, really sorry that they had to do that.  After all, I remember when I was in grade school and our family got a shiny new microwave and one of the parents of one of my mom’s piano students told me about how eating food from that unnatural machine was going to give me cancer.

I don’t remember her exact words, in part because it was a long time ago, and in part because I wasn’t paying attention to her words.  My attention was focused on waiting to see how she would react to the fact that she wasn’t getting any smoke when she dragged on her cigarettes because we had taken them all out and poked pin-holes in them and then put them carefully back in the pack as a prank while she was in the studio with my mom visiting and writing out the check for her daughter’s lessons for the next month.

Also, I could tell that what she was saying was total bullshit.

Anyway, the anti-microwave screed got the Hoofnagle treatment, so I don’t think I need put in my housewifey two-cents except to point out that there is absolutely no possible way I could keep up with my daily coffee habit if not for my microwave.  Keeping a constant freshly-brewed-in-small-batches supply going all day would be too time-consuming, and going without is unacceptable.  No, two pots brewed daily, (one in the early morning, and one in the afternoon) and then kept at the perfect temperature cup-by-cup throughout the day by constant “zapping” is the way to go.

I’d like to turn my attention to the article where Mr. Adams puts the howler on the “corrupt” FDA for wanting to regulate dietary supplements.  He absolutely freaks out:

I've documented much of the criminal history of the FDA in my recent book, Natural Health Solutions and the Conspiracy to Keep You From Knowing About Them, which suddenly seems even more relevant today than when I wrote it. In that book, I documented the FDA ordered book burnings, the raids on vitamin shops, the kidnapping of natural health practitioners, the threats, intimidation and oppression tactics that have been used to suppress natural medicine for nearly a hundred years now. And now, with this CAM Products Regulation effort, the FDA is about to deal a final, fatal blow to the alternative medicine industry, outlawing nutritional supplements, functional foods, homeopathy and natural therapies all at once.

Wow, and here I thought it was just about the prevalence of unsubstantiated health claims made by the producers of these materials or the constant and shrill demands that they be treated legally as legitimate medical treatments (sorry, regulation and FDA compliance is part of being a “legitimate” medical treatment in the U.S. You can’t have it both ways, sunshine).

It couldn’t possibly be because of the prevalence of wild variance in product quality and dosage regulation, contamination of the product by mercury, lead, and other potentially harmful chemicals that have been a common problem for the industry?

Seriously, the more I hear alternative practitioners kvetch about not being taken seriously, about the government programs not allowing their treatments to be paid for through Medicare, how their treatments are not validated by science because of  a "conspiracy" in the main-stream medical community to ignore them, how they can’t get insurance companies to cover their services and treatments as “legitimate” medical treatments…you would think that they would welcome the opportunity to prove the safety and efficacy of their products, and to have them validated by standard science.

But then again…maybe they actually know how full of bullshit their claims really are.

Thursday, 09 August 2007 19:15:19 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [1] |  |  | #
Saturday, 30 June 2007

God did it. (link to Pharyngula)

God reached in and futzed around with this researcher's randomized binary code so that the results came out looking much like the results we would expect from "Darwinism".  He will stop at nothing to get them to disbelieve in Intelligent Design.


Wait 'til the punch-line though.  When these scientists get to hell and God says "Ha!  Psych!  it was me all along!  Fooled you!  Boy I really had you going there!  Enjoy your Brimstone.  Don't forget to tip your tormenting demon."


That God.  What a card.



Saturday, 30 June 2007 07:01:16 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Monday, 25 June 2007

Oh good lord.


I totally suck as a parent.


No really.  I probably ruined my children for life.

Forget about how reading them Lord of the Rings will teach them Satanism, or letting them play D&D will turn them into blood-drinking disciples of Marilyn Manson. (and don’t think J.R.R. Tolkien can’t turn your children to Satanism.  He’s very persuasive.  He persuaded C.S. Lewis to convert to Christianity.  And don’t think for a minute that the whole initial thing was C.S’s idea.  No.  I’m surprised he didn’t invent a second middle name just to be more like his mentor.  THAT’S how effective J.R.R. Tolkien’s influence is) Insidious, isn’t he?

No, I did something, much, much, worse.

I read them the “children’s book”    If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

Turns out, it is an eerily prescient account of how human/mouse Chimeras will eventually take over the world, making humans into slaves to their will just because they look adorable in blue cover-alls.

Forget about how Harry Potter is a cultural retro-virus designed to insert the cancerous code of witchcraft into your child’s social programming.  THIS IS MUCH WORSE!!!

If you give a mouse a human brain and a cookie, the chain reaction will be unstoppable!


And I read a story that makes my kids think it’s “cute”.


Oh!  The humanity!


Worse, they have also been exposed to Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH.   NOW I realize why Jerry Fallwel didn't want us to read science fiction!


This reminds me of another personal story.

It begins at the Minnesota Zoo.


I was there with a friend I have known for a long time.  We have kind of a strained history, and the reasons for it will become apparent as the story rolls onward.


We were at the Minnesota Zoo with another mutual friend.  We were in the barn area and there were some new-born calves in a pen.  They were adorable.  Just sweet.  I grew up helping on my grandparent’s farm, and one of the things I got to do every morning I was there was help feed the calves.  It was good messy fun, and they were always happy to see me.  I love calves, and I understand them.

Anyway, my friends and their daughters rushed the calf pen, and stood around “ooohing”  and “awwwwwing”.  The little critters were ADORABLE.


They couldn’t gush enough about them.


Of course, I’m the observant one.  I noticed the sign above the calf pen identifying the calves as clones.

The nice part of me wanted to just wanted to let the happy mommies continue with their adoration of the little miracles of nature.  I knew how both these women felt about anything “unnatural”.


But the Imp of the Perverse had claimed me long ago, and I could not resist.

“They’re clones”  I said.  With perfect timeing.  Just as the rapturous adulation of the miracle of nature’s bounty  reached its crescendo.


“They’re clones.”  I repeated, pointing at the sign.

The mommies’ eyes tracked from the calves to the sign, and back again, making the round trip several times in a few seconds.

“That’s just creepy”, said one mom, and they both marshaled their children and hurried them away from the offending freaks of nature.

My boys and I lingered a few more moments.  “Isn’t that just cool?”  I asked.

“Yeah.”  My boys said.


And that, my friends, is why the meek shall inherit the Earth.  The rest of us will don our best blue cover-alls, gather up our adorable, demanding, cookie-scarfing  mouse-human chimera friends, and go to the stars.


(Hat Tip: Pharyngula)

The original article PZ was commenting on is here.  To be fair, it says nothing at all about the story If You Give a Mouse A Cookie that was Prof. Myer's very apt addition.

Monday, 25 June 2007 20:32:02 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [7] |  |  |  | #
Monday, 04 June 2007

For a little background on what I’m talking about…read this link. (culled from the comments section of a Pharyngula post.  Actually, go and read this as well.  It’s important.)


OK, now for the summary: 

1.       Link number one is about how a bunch of brain scientists measured brain activity during a bunch of moral mental experiments.  They concluded that moral dilemmas are in part due to different areas of the brain having an argument.  Also, when we do something we know is good…our brain gives us a warm fuzzy chemical bath in our blood stream (actually more complicated than that.  Go read the article.  I’m just the wise-ass telling you about it.  Don’t count on my summaries I might accidently leave out important stuff, like the involvement of the area of the brain that responds to s-e-x).  They also conjecture that these reactions are more or less consistent throughout humanity regardless of culture, language, religion, etc. (in other words, the much maligned “we’re not as different as we think” sentiment is about to make a come-back, much to the chagrin of its detractors)

2.       Link number two is about PZ Myers mocking Michael Egnor and giving him a verbal spanking.  Don’t miss it.  Particularly, The good Prof. points out that we KNOW that people who suffer particular brain injuries can become incapable of empathy and altruism.

3.       Link number three is Michael Egnor whining about how altruism CAN’T be a function of the brain because you can’t bend a spoon with your mind.  Therefore, the mind can’t interact with matter.  Or something like that.  Mike can be quite obtuse.  What I DO know from reading his essay is that I would rather he not operate on my brain. I can see it now:  “Oh, don’t worry, I cut away a little extra in the frontal lobe area, it’s not like you NEED sociability and self-control.  God will provide”.

This is the great battlefield of our time.  Science verses superstition.  I don’t mean science verses faith or piety or veneration of and gratitude toward a creator.  I mean Science versus the insistence that the evidence before us, provided all around us by creation MUST NOT BE SO because it is in opposition to pet dogmas and prejudices.

Interesting.  If I were a brain scientist right now, my next project would be to get a bunch of fundies in a room and tell them that their brains are great-big chemical-electric computers that make them believe they have a soul…and measure the brain activity, and see if an electromagnetic image emerges of the researcher being hauled around by a flaming pitchfork up her nose, wielded by a little spike-tailed devil.

After further consideration, that’s probably why I’m not a brain scientist.  That, and my math grades.


BioBlog - Ineresting in that it addresses some objections to this information, for in stance, the fear that if psychopathic murders can be shown to merely have malfunctioning brains, we will be obligated to allow them to roam freely to kill again because they can't help it.  Obviously, we can't do that.  We still have to restrain them because they cannot restrain themselves.  Still, it challenges us to be more compassionate in our moral judgements.

The Design Interference - Slime molds display acts of self-sacrifice despite being un-aware.  I wonder.  Is God making them do it to make us less special? - Yeah...what ABOUT LSD?

Arbitrary Marks - Did he just argue himself out of his own argument?  Michael Egnor:  Breaking the wind he's p***ing into.

Tired of the Egnor flavor?  A Blog From Hell slices and dices (just like Julia Child!) a little brain-related Chopra Woo to cleanse the pallet.

Monday, 04 June 2007 20:57:43 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [5] |  | #
Tuesday, 29 May 2007

CDC facts about the HPV vaccine.

Here, you can explore the Epidemiology of the various strains of the HPV virus.  Note that strains #s 16 and 18 are the most common strains found in new-borns.  The HPV vaccine covers those strains.  Yet the religious right still opposes the use of the vaccine under the argument that contracting HPV is a “Lifestyle choice”  While a person might make that judgment on the mother, it seems a rather harsh one to make on her innocent infant. (never mind that 1 in 4 women will be raped in their lifetime, and 22% of these will be raped under the age of 12…lifestyle choice?  Who “chooses” to have a spouse cheat (26 – 50% depending on if you buy the conservative estimate or the liberal one) on them and bring an STD home?  

It is estimated that 50% of the sexually active population is infected with HPV at some time in their lives.  It is estimated that 90% of all cervical cancer is caused by HPV, which is the second leading cause of death in women world-wide.  HPV is also implicated in a number of other urogenital cancers which affect men and women…as well as genital warts.

Transmission possibilities include: sexual transmission (most likely) transmission from mother to infant, between children who have been the victims of sexual abuse, and non-sexual contact with infected urogenital secretions ( no confirmed cases, but the possibility exists unlike with some other viruses)

Still, control of this virus on a epidemiological level is portrayed as inconsequential to public health, and the equivalent of heart disease, despite is ubiquity and links to several types of cancer…and despite the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing not only contraction of the virus, but  also in reducing the risks of lesions in already infected women.

Cost is another argument, but estimates on the opposing side merely pit the cost of mandatory vaccination against a single life (the absolute highest I’ve heard in cost per life saved is $1M.  I’ve also heard the cost estimated as low as $81,000 per life saved).  Since estimates of value of lives saved to society are frequently in the multiple millions, it seems fair enough.

After all, Religious Conservatives celebrated the Supreme Court decision that would save an estimated 3,000 unborn recently.  Yet an expected 3,700 women not dying of cervical cancer in the country is considered negligible., and not worthwhile.

They don’t talk about the money saved in pre-cancerous lesions that needn’t be treated, in transmissions that don’t occur.   Plus, those figures fail to mention if they took into account incidences of other potentially fatal and/or life-shortening urogenital cancers which have been linked to HPV (some of them affect men as well).

Add to this the number of different strains of HPV, and the dangers of allowing them to spread unchecked through the population, recombining to create new strains with greater ability for transmission, infection, and a greater possibility of affecting long-term health (risks which would be lowered by control of the virus); and you make a pretty good case for mandatory vaccinations.

Maybe it’s not a slam-dunk, but aspersions about “life-style choice”, and assertions about lowering the resistance of young girls to having sex seems more than a little trivial.

I DID find a JAMA article about mandatory HPV vaccinations.  It recommends against mandatory vaccinations.  Why? Because backlash from the anti-vaccine crowd could politically endanger the mandatory status of already mandatory vaccines.

 Cowards. “Oh, the anti-science people will get us if there’s anything remotely disappointing about the policy.  Run away Run away.”

One of their other arguments is that they haven’t seen suggestions as to who would pay for it.  Although legislation usually covers that…and it really isn’t the purview of the doctors.  Finally, they say that public funding of the vaccine would likely lower the amount of money spent in other areas.  That is an interesting question, and it would be interesting if we could see how public funding of the vaccine for poor people might actually lower the cost of treating conditions caused by HPV.

I notice that all of the objections raised in the JAMA article were political in nature, and not medical nor even went into any depth to really look at the epidemiological effect of mass vaccination.

The JAMA article is in response to the ACIP recommendations for girls 9-12 years of age.

[UPDATE:  I found a reason why the fundies might now rally behind the HPV vaccine.  Apparently, there was a study that showed that it is possible that having the virus might inhibilt the implantation of zygotes into the uterus.  In other words...HPV could cause "abortions".  They won't do it to save women, or babies that are born (since it's a "lifestyle choice") but maybe they will do it to save teh unborn babies]

Tuesday, 29 May 2007 23:49:06 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [21] |  |  | #
Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Go read this article about HPV vaccine:


Here’s the money quote:

I remember when people rolled their eyeballs if you suggested that opposition to abortion was less about "life" than about sex, especially sex for women. You have to admit that thesis is looking pretty solid these days. No matter what the consequences of sex--pregnancy, disease, death--abstinence for singles is the only answer. Just as it's better for gays to get AIDS than use condoms, it's better for a woman to get cancer than have sex before marriage. It's honor killing on the installment plan.

And another one:

As they flex their political muscle, right-wing Christians increasingly reveal their condescending view of women as moral children who need to be kept in line sexually by fear. That's why antichoicers will never answer the call of prochoicers to join them in reducing abortions by making birth control more widely available: They want it to be less available. Their real interest goes way beyond protecting fetuses--it's in keeping sex tied to reproduction to keep women in their place.


Here is another article for the layman, but more science-oriented about the virus, the vaccine, and the reasoning of the people opposing it:


Here, you can get the facts about HPV Vaccine:

Tuesday, 22 May 2007 09:18:28 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [1] |  |  | #
Thursday, 17 May 2007

Yet more proof that the Discovery Institute is "in error where the truth is concerned".

The Panda’s Thumb points out that eugenics principles were not only around before Darwin, but that eugenics principles are detailed in religious texts, and also that some creationist anti-Darwinists throughout history have embraced eugenics.

And yet, somehow Darwin is to blame for eugenics?

Here’s the thing.  Eugenics and eugenicists existed BEFORE Darwin.  Many of them misused theology to support their ideas and even misused the Bible to support their ideas.

Along comes Darwin and his observations and theory… and SURPRISE!  A bunch of illogical, self-serving ideologues, who already proved themselves capable of misappropriating information to support their immoral ideas MISAPPROPRIATED INFORMATION TO SUPPORT THEIR IMMORAL IDEAS.

Tinkle came along after Darwin, reject Darwin soundly and roundly, yet continued to advocate eugenics, as the Panda’s Thumb points out, right up to the eve of the moon landing.

Huh.  Then along comes the Discovery Institute, and claims that those ideas originated with Darwin, when they very clearly pre-date him and anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of history and a functioning brain could bother to figure it out.

But they don’t want to.  Why?  Could it be because they are a bunch of illogical self-serving ideologues who misuse information to support their immoral ideas?

[Update: has a wonderful post about the lying ways of "Pro-family" groups as well.]

Thursday, 17 May 2007 08:37:39 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [3] |  |  | #
Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Neil at 4simpsons provides a link to a blog claiming that a new classification of the fossil remains of  “Lucy” is another nail in the coffin of evolution.  Apparently, “Lucy” has been moved to another branch on the Hominid family tree.  Interesting also how the creationists claim that “Lucy” disproves evolution because she has physiological traits in common with a chimp.  She also still has many traits in common with a modern human, but that is ignored.  At the same time, they claim that a “lack of transitional fossils” disproves the theory of evolution and natural selection.

 Let’s see, a fossil that has some traits in common with one set of creatures on the earth, and some traits in common with another set of creatures on the earth, though now believed to not be a direct ancestor of either one of them somehow disproves the theory that they have a common ancestor and the differences are due to changes over time in the genetic code that lead to different species with a common ancestor?

Kirk Cameron demands to see a croc-o-duck before he believes that evolution happens, but then these people insist that a “chimp-o-human” is somehow proof of the opposite?  The discovery of a third cousin somehow proves that you and your first cousin don’t share grandparents?

Evolution and natural selection necessitates the existence of branches in the evolutionary line.  Yet, somehow, the discovery of branches is supposed to disprove the theory?

Creationist “logic”:   “The theory says that B follows A.  Therefore, if A is true, then B cannot be true.  If A is false, the B cannot be true”.


There is no way to win against such…I was going to say illogic, but somehow, that doesn’t cut it...

Both Neil, and the blogger he points to claim that the “mainstream media” would never cover something like this.

Untrue.  The mainstream press covers this sort of thing all the time.  When new evidence is discovered that changes our understanding of the world, it is most certainly covered.  This, for instance.  Or this.

And CNN will almost certainly be all over it in their race to catch FOX in a contest to see who can out-pander the other for the viewership of the somnolent masses.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007 08:21:55 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [18] | #
Monday, 14 May 2007

My mom and I were just talking this morning about the peat-bog fires that are a common event up where my mom and dad live in Northern Minnesota.  There's been one peat bog fire that has been burning, under the surface, for as far back as I can remember being aware of such things.  It's generally seen as an unfortunate fact of life...

...but now I wonder...are those sub-surface peat-bog fires the sort of thing that could result in Pyrolysis?  I have no way of knowing for sure if the peat bog fires are proceeding without the benefit of oxygen...but I suspect it's quite likely, as they burn under a layer of soil.

And if so, they are apparently a potentially useful method of carbon sequestration.

That would be just cool.  I wonder who I would ask to find out about such a thing?  At least there would be SOME benefit to having fires that nobody can put out burning under "ground" for years and years and years...and which are otherwise a dangerous, potentially expensive, hazardous nuisance.

Oh, and by the way, really DO follow that link and read the article.  There is a suggestion that systematic controlled pyrolysis could be one possible remedy for some of our environmental problems...disposing of waste, enriching the soil, producing alternative fuel and sequestering carbon all in one fell swoop.

The catch, of course, is that carbon sequestration must become more economically desirable.

Lehmann said that as the value of carbon dioxide increases on carbon markets, "we calculate that biochar sequestration in conjunction with bioenergy from pyrolysis becomes economically attractive when the value of avoided carbon dioxide emissions reaches $37 per ton." Currently, the Chicago Climate Exchange is trading carbon dioxide at $4 a ton; it is projected that that the price will rise to $25-$85 a ton in the coming years. (quote from article, follow link for more)

(Hat Tip:  A Blog Around the Clock)

Monday, 14 May 2007 21:12:53 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Wednesday, 02 May 2007

Flashbacks to that one Batman movie.

Effect Measure has an article on Melemine, and the convention of adding the substance to food to boost the appearance of a high protein content.

But now there is talk of the Melamine not being that big of a deal, that there is a second chemical that reacts with a metabolite of the Melamine that has caused the crystals to form in the kidneys of the animals that have been affected.

This leaves a person wondering about the identity and source of the second chemical.

I get the feeling I should be worried about this, but for some reason my brain sticks on that scene in the Batman movie where the reporters are all wan and washed out and greasy and they are reading off the list of things to avoid mixing.  Something like: “Do not combine Shampoo with mouthwash and toothpaste”.

It DOES bother me that we’ve been eating plastic thinking that it is protein all this time.  If a US food producer did this to us, it would be called fraud.  China has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Also, note to you “anti-regulation” people out there…this is what happens when a government doesn’t regulate industry.

Oh yeah, and I'm ALSO put in mind of the sneaky and diabolical cleverness of "Famine" in the Book The Nice and Accurate Prophacies of Agnas Nutter, Witch By Neil Gaiman...where Famine is all chuffed with himself because he has anorexics starving themselves to death in the middle of plenty by binging on non-nutritious foodstuffs.  Melamine shows up in food tests as protein, but it has no nutritional value.

Wednesday, 02 May 2007 09:20:43 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] |  |  | #

PZ Myers thoroughly debunks Stephan Milloy's crazy stories about how butter-fingered environmentalists are going to go bankrupt paying to clean up all those Compact Flourescent Lights they break.  And, as he drives by, he takes a swipe at Stephans hypocracy in saying that the negligable amount of mercury in the CFL bulbs is dangerous while pooh-poohing mercury from power plants.

Denialism also has a nice treatment for the layman.

The verdict is:  CFL are still a good idea.  Find out where you can recycle them, and find out how to clean them up safely and cheaply when they break.  In other words USE YOUR BRAIN.  Sheesh.

Here's the link to the EPA page

Here's a link to the Earth 911 recycling page.  Just click on the item you'd like to recycle, and you will be taken to a page where you enter your zip code, and they will point you to a facility near you where you can learn how to dispose of common household items properly.

It took a mid-western suburban housewife 20 MINUTES to find and put together this information, and Steven Milloy couldn't figure it out?  Junk science indeed.

Wednesday, 02 May 2007 06:04:47 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [2] |  | #
Tuesday, 01 May 2007

For those who wondered why we are here, in the decade of the double aughts, and you don't have your personal flying machine yet...WAIT NO LONGER.

Tony - This one's for YOU baby!

Tuesday, 01 May 2007 16:04:41 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] |  |  | #
Tuesday, 24 April 2007

argh.  shortbread cookies, with a chocolate layer on top.  I am powerless before them.

They are my Jadarite.

(Hat Tip:  A Blog Around the Clock)

Tuesday, 24 April 2007 21:17:06 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] |  |  |  |  |  | #
Wednesday, 18 April 2007

ERV points out that "framing" is inadequate with some audiences and in some situations, such as dealing with the Discovery Institute on
"their" turf
.  This is because they cheat.

If Framing is a screw driver, you can't be sucessful with it in situations that call for a hammer.

You don't engage in a "framing" debate at a Discovery Institute event where the only purpose of having a counter argument is to bring in big names to add legitamacy to the event.  No matter how well you "frame" your argument, it's not going to have much effect when you have fifteen  minutes and the Discovery Institute has a couple of days.  As ERV pointed out, a Q&A that only allows students to ask screened questions is also not helpful.

In a closed system, this would be a disaster.  However, getting those facts out to any media coverage on the event would be a good start.

That's framing.

The Discovery Institute "frames" this event as a debate.  We need to get the word out that it is a sham.  Use analogies to sporting events.  The Discovery Institute is holding a track meet, invites world class atheletes, and then only allows them to run if they agree to run while wearing fat suits.  This is so their people can "win" and say they beat world-class athletes.

When the world-class athletes turn down the invitation, the Discovery Institute can say "they're afraid" when it is the Discovery Institute that is afraid of fair competition.

John Q public is going to say "Huh.  I don't blame them.  I wouldn't go to a track meet and run in a fat suit either."

Right now, if you get into an evolution debate with a rank-and-file creationist, they spew every single Discovery Institute talking point down to the punctuation.  But when you say "Oh, the Discovery Institute" they say "who's that?"

Now, when they hear something from the Discovery Institute, they are going to say "Oh.  Those are the guys who can't handle fair competition with their ideas. " and go in search of other information.

They still might be creationists, but at least their sense of fairness won't let them use DI talking points whereas before they were unaware of even where that information was coming from.


Wednesday, 18 April 2007 05:49:45 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [1] |  |  | #
Sunday, 15 April 2007

My  apologies to those not interested in framing.

PZ Myers has reacted to a Washington Post Op/ed by Nisbet and Mooney.

Far be it from me to disagree with Prof. Myers, but on this one, I DO.  Not his principles, but his interpretation of the framing agenda.  As one of the potential targets of "framing", I gotta say, it would be helpful for me.  You know who argues with non-scientist anti-science types most often?  Non-scientist pro-science types, that's who.  I would really welcome some good tools that would help me accurately argue with people who I encounter on a dialy basis who think they "know enough" to be consumers of science, and make decisions in ignorance that they don't even realize is ignorance.  I would like a faster, better way of getting to the meat of scientific matters.

Prof. Myers seems to view it as an attempt to silence or gag atheist scientists, or sugar-coat science.

I don’t see it that way at all.  I see it as asking the science community as a whole to order their priorities, and emphasize those priorities in their explanations of their work to the general public.

Let’s say you’ve got a house with a gecko infestation.  I choose gekkos because they are inherently funny, and I am trying to lighten the mood.  Yes, it is a ridiculous analogy.  Just roll with it.  In this case, I suppose geckos are analogous to the fact that while pursuing scientific knowledge, you will encounter challenges to any faith you might happen to hold, and there may be aspects to that faith that you will abandon as a result of those challenges.

You want to sell your house, and you want to present it to the largest portion of buyers.  You know that the geckos are going to be a critical point in the sales strategy.  Some people think geckos are cute, but wouldn’t want them in the house, some people will see the inherent benefits of having a houseful of geckos (no bugs, for one) so you would be best served to “frame” your presentation of the house by emphasizing the non-gecko attributes.  It has a large kitchen, it has numerous conveniently placed bathrooms…look at that lovely skylight, and then mention the geckos at a convenient time, after the people have had a chance to get ALL the information.  You can’t deny that the house has geckos, but maybe that fact doesn’t have to be at the fore-front of the discussion.

Now pretend your neighbor wants to sell his house, and his house is gecko free because he is unscrupulous about using whatever means are necessary to have a gecko-free house.  Poison, cats, bludgeoning them with clubs, etc.

He puts up a big sign that says “I want to sell you a house.  My neighbor just wants to sell you a big load of geckos.”

So what do you do?  You could put up a big sign and say “I want to sell you a house.  My neighbor is an evil bastard who likes to slaughter innocent animals.”  That is true, and it might convince some people to hear you out.  It’s a little mean, but it’s not like the neighbor didn’t deserve it.  Problem is, you’re going to attract a bunch of people who are interested in the fight and name-calling, and people who just want to buy a house are going to keep driving.  Calling a spade a spade can be refreshing and feel good, but if your primary goal is to sell your house, it might not be the best approach.

What about “Yep!  We’ve got Geckos!  And How!”

Well, it’s honest, and you’re going to get a LOT of interest in your house from Herptaphiles…but maybe you want a bigger set of perspective buyers.

What about a sign that says “spacious kitchen, ample bathrooms, gorgeous skylight, many recent improvements that my neighbor doesn’t have because he spent all his money on the latest gecko-killing gadgets”.

Get the people in the house, show them what you’ve got.  Let them look around.  Let them shop your neighbor’s house, too.  Let them see the geckos, but for Pete’s sake get them in the door.

Sure, some percentage of them will leave with a crawling case of the heebie-jeebies and beat a path to the neighbor’s house and embrace his anti-lizard agenda…but YOU will have a LOT more perspective buyers to choose from.  You may even change some minds about whether or not it is possible to live comfortably with geckos.

Sunday, 15 April 2007 07:42:56 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [8] |  | #
Wednesday, 11 April 2007

From Conrad Zero I get a link to this article in the Washington Post.

A world-class violinist playing on a priceless violin, posing as a street musician, and his value is only recognized by a few people...a handful who have dabbled at being violinists, and one who recognizes the musician.

People who rushed past, perhaps flipping spare change, perhaps trying to shout over the annoying noise of this bothersom begger...what would they have done if they had realized that they were getting a free front seat at a performance that they would never get another chance at again?

What do people simply throw out as useless, meaningless, even stupid...just because they don't have a reason to really look at it's value?

How much of our "junk science" is the public policy equivilant of a virtuoso with a nearly priceless instrument being ignored by commuters too busy to bother knowing what they are missing?

[UPDATE:  Michelle gives us a link in the comments to a blog entry that expands on the "framing" aspect of the WaPo story.  She says that in order for the audience to respond to a classical musician in a street musician setting, he needs to develop skills for presenting to that audience appropriately for the kind of audience they are, and in the situation they are in rather than actually expecting them to respond to a performance just because it is good and worthy of their attention.

This is EXACTLY what I've been trying to say.  Thank you, Michelle.

Quote from the blog entry:

A busker is someone who can turn any place into a stage. Obviously, Joshua Bell needs an actual stage. As a busker one needs to interact with those around, break walls of personal space, and lure people into a collective and spontaneous group experience on the street, in the moment, with you. A bad busking act is when the performer doesn’t make an effort to connect with the audience. Like musicians who play for themselves, not acknowledging the audience, just burying their heads in their instruments.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007 21:29:10 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [3] |  |  |  | #
Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Ben at Eclectic’s Anonymous has a piece up commenting on the current “framing” debate going on in the science blogger community.

I don’t really know much about the original paper that introduced the concept of framing into the scientific debate…because you have to pay to read it.  So reading the commentary on it is a little like trying to follow a conversation by just listening to one side of it.

But I will try.

Near as I can tell, Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet put out a paper saying “Maybe we should try to figure out what it is that the public doesn’t understand about key areas of science that have become political footballs, and instead of giving them more facts and figures to digest we should give them a better means of digesting the facts and figures that they have.”

Framing is nothing new to people who are in marketing, or in politics, or Human Resources…or domestic abusers and those who try to rescue their victims (more on this later).

“Framing” seems like such a bad thing to some people because it is, at its heart, manipulative.  Some of us prefer to be allowed to make up our own minds about things, and when we smell “framing”, we think that someone is resorting to such tactics because their material can’t stand on its own.

But as Ben points out, it has gotten to the point where there is so much information that impacts us every day, that we cannot be expected to know it all.  Add to this that there is active MISINFORMATION being spread, and on top of that, there are competing “frames” that have been being refined and come so readily to hand for the anti-science crowd, that the inability of the common man to understand everything he should amounts to more than laziness or disinterest or even something that can be called ignorance.

Framing helps get a message of how evolution REALLY works across without having to begin at the level of Eukaryotic cell structure to teach a middle-aged Sunday School teacher with three kids of her own who all need to get to their orthodontist’s appointments on time.

The anti-science forces don’t balk at “framing”.  That is how they manage to get their 80% of the population to doubt evolution.  They don’t have to prove that God has his angels on a protein assembly line working over-time to roll out the this year’s upgraded model of the Avian Flu virus.  All they have to do is yell “Monkey’s uncle!” or “gaps in the fossil record” or “scientists disagree”…and they shed enough doubt to get their audience to do their work for them.

Framing the forces of “evolution” as “just random chance” has been VERY successful…but I wonder what would happen if scientists managed to shift the emphasis in the debate from “Random mutation” to “the relentlessly ordering force of Natural Selection”.  The idea that we could just spontaneously emerge from some primordial ooze is, of course, ridiculous.  Many people reject the idea of “evolution” just because of that frame.  I talk to otherwise intelligent people who wave their hands and say “well, I don’t know what happened, but I can’t believe we’re the result of random chance”.

Right now, many people see the choice as being between “our air was created for us to breath.  Why else would it be so perfect for us?” or “We just randomly happened to spontaneously pop into existence ready to breath the air.”

I don’t think that most people would come to this dichotomy on their own.  They see this as the choice to make because it has been framed so by the anti-science types…and there are few people out there who are interested in seriously providing another frame…because it seems so “stupid” to have to say “maybe only things that could use the air survived to replicate, and maybe those that were able to use the air most successfully survived and replicated more successfully.”

The main problem with this from the scientist’s point of view is that it is simplistic and imprecise.   But to be more complex and more precise is to lose the soccer mom with the orthodontically challenged offspring.  And she votes and goes to church and talks on the phone to all of her church friends (who also vote) on the phone about how stupid it is that they have to spend tax money on science books that teach their kids that they come from monkeys, rather than fix the potholes at the intersection down the street.

Reframing can be used to remove these stumbling blocks to understanding.  While it is not, in-and-of-itself and answer, it can be one step toward an answer.

Reframing that one thing will not be enough.  You will have to have a frame to answer every frame of the anti-science forces, and they will always come up with new ones.  More promotion and funding for science education, more emphasis on science education, more strident and strenuous defense of science in the public sphere and more generalized science literacy is the ultimate goal.  Wouldn’t it be great if people could just understand and know what they need to in order to be good consumers of science information on their own?

But you aren’t going to get that unless you first convince people that they have a reason to want it and value it.  Marketing.  Promotion.  Branding.

It seems so dishonest, doesn’t it?  Manipulative.  Abusive.  Distasteful.

Yes and no.

Think about a situation of domestic abuse.  The bad partner in the abuse creates a view of reality.  A “frame” if you will.  They spend a lot of time and energy to create a world where their partner is alienated from friends and family (eliminating competing frames), they make it difficult or even impossible for their partner to maintain a job or reliable habits.  They create a “frame” for reality where they are the most powerful person in the partner’s world.  They are the person that the partner fears, and yet also looks to for protection.  They set up a “choice” where the abused partner “chooses” between two outcomes…both originally selected by the abusive partner, and presented as the only alternatives in a closed system.

In that “frame” there is a choice between “order” (the imposed order of the abusive partner) and “chaos” (the results of disobedience in rejecting order).

Enter the domestic violence worker.  The helper’s job is to break down the frame.  She can’t so it by depicting the abuser as a monster, because that is part of the frame.  The monster abuser isn’t responsible for their behavior, because in the “frame” the abused “chooses” the monster through disobedience, rather than the “protector” form of the abuser. 

She has to do it by offering a different frame, and inviting the abused partner to explore it.  Rather than attacking one side of the frame, only to have the abused partner defend the flip side (the side the abused person sees as the only alternative), the helper presents a frame that allows for other choices.

You might call the Domestic Violence Worker’s frame “reality”.  You might wonder why she has to present this frame at all.  You might think it’s a waste of time for her to have to present it to someone who won’t accept it.

But in her absence, the abusive partner can continue to frame the situation, not making it impossible for the abused partner to escape, but making it less likely.

To get the abused person to leave the abusive person,  you might realize that they need a job and a car and a house or apartment to live in, but getting them all those things is not only putting the cart before the horse, but ultimately useless if they do not have a new frame through which to view their relationship to those things, as well as the rest of the world.  If they continue to accept their role within the old frame, nothing you do can change their outcome…no matter what other things you add to the mix.  While a job, car and a place to live SHOULD give them independence…they will never achieve it without first accepting and embracing a new frame.  Gaining the tools of independence without actually gaining that independence will just cause them to have new tools to use as the abuser dictates.

If you continue to allow the opposition to frame the argument as being one between God’s order and chaos, for instance, or between environmental safety and economic stability, or public health and personal freedom or whatever…it will not matter how much information you give them, they will still continue to view things with the same process and outcome.  They will use the new information as dictated by the old frame.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007 15:27:27 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [3] | #
Wednesday, 21 March 2007

I found this blog at A Blog Around the Clock.  I think I like it.



So far, this is my favorite post: (it has pictures)

Wednesday, 21 March 2007 15:37:54 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Thursday, 15 March 2007

Meet Steven Milloy

Fox News. Really likes him.

He runs

He doesn’t seem to think that second-hand smoke is a very big deal. (and Philip Morris likes him)

He doesn’t seem to believe in anthropogenic forcers for Global Climate Change. (and ExxonMobile likes him)

He says there’s “uncertainty” about macroevolution, and there’s no reliable evidence that ingesting lead is bad for waterfowl. (and the Cato Institute likes him)

He also seems to think that DDT and Asbestos got bad raps.

Thursday, 15 March 2007 23:22:22 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Here is some information on mercury, autism and immunizations .

Some right-wing anti-science libertarian types don’t like immunizations.  They don’t like immunizations to be mandatory, because they feel it denies them their “freedom” to not be immunized, and they suspect that “public health”, like anything that has the word “public” in front of it, is just a plot to take away their “freedom”.

Some lefty-tree-hugger anti-science –types don’t like immunizations because they are “unnatural”.

Some people are worried about mercury poisoning in general, and it is the trace amounts of mercury in the shots that worries them.

Reader, commenter, friend, and fellow blogger, Karen recently sent me a link to this article by John Stossel  at the Townhall website.  I found this article to be more interesting for what it DIDN’T say than for what it said.

First of all, Mr. Stossel starts out invoking the dreaded “Kennedy” name.  Booga booga booga.  Kennedy.  Gather the children and run for the hills.  Circle the conservative wagons.  There’s a KENNEDY involved.

Robert Kennedy Jr. is an activist against pollution in general, and has taken an interest in Mercury specifically (mercury is one or the waste products of fossel-fuel burning power plants).  I believe that he is in error where the facts are concerned when it comes to immunizations, but it is not due to an anti-industrial liberal commie plot that he’s involved in the issue.  It is not scare-mongering that brought Robert Kennedy Jr. into the fray.  It is good intentions, a real issue, and a not-so-subtle dose of mission creep.

Stossel goes on to point out that “As March of Dimes researchers put it, "Changes in diagnosis account for the observed increase in autism." Sure enough, California data show the rise in autism diagnoses almost exactly matches a decline in cases of retardation.”

As far as I know, and I'm no expert, this is true.  The advent of the Autism Spectrum model has caused a number of different diagnosis to be lumped together under the umbrella of autism.  Also, more children are being diagnosed with these disorders due to several factors.

Stossel goes on to blame one single factor: “"People that we once called quirky or geeky or nerdy are now called autistic," Dr. Offit said, "because when you give that label of, say, autistic spectrum disorder, you allow that child then to qualify for services."

Imagine that. A trendy diagnosis being driven by government-paid services.”

Of course it is convenient for Mr. Stossel to put the entire burden down to the avarice of government schools.  I’m sure that the extra funding per child diagnosed with a learning disability is one way to help offset the cuts that cause crowded classrooms and other woes, but that isn’t the only reason there has been a jump in the rate of diagnosis for these disorders.

One factor could be an increased awareness of the problems students with learning disabilities face, and the growing awareness that their potential need not be wasted if we only give them a little specialized attention and help.  Motivation to provide that help is at an all-time high in the school systems, even to the extent that it can become egregious and over-bearing if you don’t happen to believe that your child has need of their interventions.

Another could be the fact that in schools increasingly burdened with large class sizes and (unfunded) mandated performance requirements, there is less and less tolerance in the system for children who perform in an anomalous way.  Children who don’t hit the milestones on schedule used to have time to grow and develop.  There was some latitude for children and teachers to cope with small degrees of learning difference.  That latitude is disappearing.  There is no longer time for the geeky and the nerdy to get on board with their unique approach to learning.  They must conform or be “helped “ to conform.  The very existence of their school can depend on it.

Yet another might be the effect of “parent advocacy support groups" some of which are at least partly funded by the pharmaceutical industries, encouraging parents to procure a diagnosis (and treatment) for their children.  Far from being an attack on Big Pharma, the incidence of the diagnosis of learning disabilities is quite in their favor as the profit on an immunization is realized once or at most a few times, while the cocktails of drugs needed by a child with learning disabilities can become quite a bonanza for them. (Go to the CHADD website and find a parent support forum.  Just read for a while, it won't be long before you encounter at least one parent whose child is on several medications at a time.)

But all of that is very complicated, and addressing it would make it so that the burden would not appear to fall so neatly on the shoulders of the Kennedy family and the conservative bugaboo of a liberal public school kleptocracy.

But what ABOUT mercury poisoning?  After all, there are people who actually suffer the effects of mercury poisoning, and if they aren’t getting toxic levels of mercury from immunizations; where oh where could it be coming from?  Does anyone else know of some large, highly profitable business interest that could be poisoning our environment with mercury as part of the waste production they put into the environment?

Anybody?  Anybody?

Or were we supposed to just conclude that mercury isn’t that big of a deal and write all mercury fears off as anti-business liberal commie fear mongering?

Who knows, but the one conclusion I've come to is that I will go just about anywhere other than for a fair and balanced treatment of any complex issue.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007 20:32:59 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [4] |  |  | #
Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Wow.  A preventative measure for prion diseases?  Unbelievably cool.

(via A Blog Around the Clock)


In prion diseases, which are called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, prion proteins unfold and cause plaques in animal and human brains. Transmission of prion diseases has impacted the availability and cost of blood donations, especially in Europe.

In the Lancet study, the researchers took the blood of scrapie-infected hamsters and removed the white blood cells using a device called a leukofilter. The leukoreduced blood was then passed through another filter containing the new resin particles engineered to capture the prion proteins. A group of disease-free hamsters was inoculated with the blood that passed through the leukofilter only. A second group was inoculated with the blood that passed through both the leukofilter and the prion-capture filter.

The researchers found that while leukoreduction itself removed a good deal of the bad proteins – approximately 72 percent – none of the nearly 100 hamsters inoculated with the leukoreduced, resin-filtered blood were infected with scrapie by the end of the 550-day test. Fifteen of 99 hamsters receiving leukoreduced blood not passed through the resin filter were infected with scrapie.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007 22:46:46 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] | #
Monday, 26 February 2007

Remember a while back when an entry by Karen prompted me to ask why The Smithsonian Museums were feeling the need to whore themselves out with semi-exclusive contracts to private companies?

Well, this might be part of the answer. (via PZ Myers over at Pharyngula)

If you liked that one, here’s another from the Washington Post.

I seriously doubt that even the most besotted staffers could manage to drink a budget like the Smithsonian’s into submission, but  it seems likely that if he’s lavishing such expenses on his wife and underlings, he is playing fast and loose in other ways with the money entrusted to him.

Even his own kind are balking at turning a blind eye to his excesses (quote from the WP article):

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who had requested the inspector general's review when he was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee last year, expressed outrage at the audit committee's response.

"I am shocked at what the Smithsonian is spending its money on when it comes to food, flowers, alcohol and other items," Grassley said in a letter last week to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who chairs the Board of Regents. Grassley criticized "what appears to be an 'anything goes' culture by the Smithsonian secretary and his staff, which views that his champagne lifestyle should be subsidized by the taxpayer."


While $90,00 may seem like a LOT in personal expenses, and while looting the budget for the Smithsonian Institute might seem merely selfish and thoughtless, there appears to be a darker political agenda to the actions of our intrepid candidate for “besht boshhh in the whole worrrrrlll…”

This headline from the NYT on May 28th of 2005 might shed some light on some of the more damaging reasons Bush might have appointed Mr. Small to the office he so thoroughly enjoys.

Monday, 26 February 2007 08:13:13 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [0] |  |  | #
Monday, 04 December 2006
If they can make more money giving us what we think we want, rather than what we need, they will. Whose fault is that? And if we could stop it, but we like the pay-offs...once again, whose fault is that?
Monday, 04 December 2006 10:10:15 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [3] |  |  |  |  |  | #
Thursday, 21 September 2006

The New York Times has a story about the skeleton of a little girl found in Ethiopia.  She was about three years old at the time of death, but her skeleton is about 3 million years old.


You can read more about it in the journal, Nature, where the findings will be announced, or in the National Geographic magazine in November.


The skeleton belongs to the same species as the famous “Lucy”, Australopithecus afarensis.


But being a child’s skeleton, and apparently better preserved than Lucy, it gives a lot of important information that was missing before.  For one thing, we all know that in any species, the bodies of children are very different than the bodies of adults.  The experts seem to espect that this child’s skeleton will give us information on how these creatures developed as individuals.  Also, the hyoid bone is preserved…the small bone in the larynx.  This is so small that it is rarely preserved.  It might shed some light on the nature of the evolution of speech. 


It will also most likely provide some insight into the culture, psychology and sociology of modern primitive man:  we will be able to observe how the creationist argument that Austarolpithecus afarensis is not a transitional fossil has evolved since the last one was found.


As usual, Pharyngula got to this first, but I got in a sarcastic swipe at creationists.  PZ must be mellowing.


Ben at Eclectics Anonymous has a critique of this as an example of poor science writing.


Also, I’d like to note for the record, that I got through a post about the history of humanity being dug out of the dirt, and didn’t make one single solitary lustful comment about Daniel.  Them jets cool enough for ya, Jason?  J

Thursday, 21 September 2006 05:38:57 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) | Comments [2] | #
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