Saturday, September 12, 2009


Queen and David Bowie: "Under Pressure."

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: "Don't Come Around Here No More." The original MTV music video can be seen here.

The Vapors: "Turning Japanese." I have, a number of times, bought albums on the strength of a single song and ended up liking most of the album. When, years later, I hear the artist or group described as a "one hit wonder," I'm surprised. The vapors are one such group; they deserved more popularity than they received from this single.

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11th, 2009

I have mixed feelings about this topic, many of them indescribable. I am sad, awed, frustrated, hopeful, optimistic, cynical, and many other emotional states, over the events and repercussions of that day of disaster, a startling eight years ago already. Rather than go on, I'll just link a few pieces that have moved me today.

The Big Picture, as always, rises to a momentous occasion with a photogallery from 9/11/01 to 9/11/09.

Sheril Kirshenbaum lets a single picture poignantly speak for her at The Intersection.

Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast asks a profoundly important question that I hadn't considered before: what should we be teaching students about 9/11? Given the differences in perspective in this country, and the fact that this year's high school seniors were just beginning fourth grade that year, this is a fascinating idea to ponder. It will be only a few years before we have young adults who were too young to remember the day.

And finally, BrianR at Clastic Detritus sharply reminded me that no matter how remote one was, and how set on a schedule, the immediacy of communications brought the whole country to a halt that day.

So whatever your own personal reactions to that or this day may be, I hope this is one issue over which we can set aside our differences, take a moment to reflect and offer our quiet wishes for the lost souls, our sympathy and condolences to their loved ones, and renew the feelings— universal in the aftermath— that we could and would work together to strengthen our country, and ensure that such an event might never happen again.


A couple of minutes ago, this humble blog welcomed its 20,00th visitor! Thanks to all of you who make me feel like I have a voice in this word!

It took 10 months to get my first 10K, but less than six to get my second. I like the trend.

Interesting Rule

As many people have noted, it was a gross breach of house rules for Joe Wilson to direct his outburst at anyone, in the context of a Congressional meeting, will such a tone and vehemence. However, I hadn't seen this rule pointed out before:
To another political analyst, it's the nature of the accusation -- an elected official calling the president a liar -- that is not only a serious breach (accusations of lying are forbidden under House rules) but also extremely rare in politics.
Interesting. My first reaction was that this was sort of unreasonable in that sometimes lies need to be pointed out. Then I realized that there were alternatives that said the same thing without quite using the same words. For example:
  • The respected gentleman is clearly having difficulty distinguishing his dark fantasies from reality. He may wish to take a time out and reconsider his statement.
  • Facts can be difficult things, unless you choose to ignore them, as so many have in this debate.
  • I had been under the impression that the use of hallucinogens was strongly frowned upon on the House floor, but I appear to be mistaken.
  • I have little training in psychopathology, and it would be inappropriate for me to speculate on the roots of those previous remarks.
  • There are times when the revelation of the facts in all their rawness may cause one to pause and reconsider. This is not one of those times.
And so on. I think I like that rule.

ISS Again Tonight

The International Space Station will be visible again from Corvallis tonight:In the screen capture above, ISS is the object's name, 08:59:03 PM is the time it will rise above the horizon (but not ground clutter like trees, buildings and hills), W is the direction in which it will cross the horizon, 09:01:09 is the time it will be highest and brightest (NOT, as I said to Tucker last night, the number of minutes it will be visible), 30 degrees is its maximum elevation in the sky, and -2.2 is its visual magnitude.

You can track this and other satellites from your zip or Canadian Postal code here; there is also a link to a global tracker at this page. I haven't reason to use the latter, so I can't vouch for its quality.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Just Saw The ISS

And the observers are not lying: it's very bright! Actually I wasn't sure that was what I was seeing, but after I came back in and checked SpaceWeather's satellite tracker, my guess was confirmed. Cool!

Britain Apologizes to Alan Turing

Sorry for the sort of fluffy posting today- by which I mean I haven't added much of substance to stuff I've mostly lifted from elsewhere. I'm feeling physically and emotionally crappy. This would have been a good day to simply sleep through.

But I did find a bit of good news. Britain has decided that it is appropriate to apologize for its treatment of Alan Turing, a gay mathematician who was crucial in breaking the German code system during WW II. While the circumstances were horrific, perhaps unforgivable, the sincere statement pleases me. It gives me hope that we, even governments, can learn.
Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

Dems Need to "Reach Out"

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Obama's rival for the Oval Office last year, said passing health care reform would be "good for America," but cautioned that the president needs to reach out more to Republicans in order to reach such a compromise.
Note that the key phrase is not in quotation marks, but is a paraphrase. Nevertheless, insistence that the left needs to "reach out" more to the right has been a consistent theme of this year's political theater, and one that has become more and more grating to me.
This has been the only real constant of the debate all year. President Obama showed his willingness to compromise by dropping single-payer as a possibility at the outset. He proceeded to signal possible concessions on a public option, a co-op plan, triggers, medical malpractice, reimbursement rates, eligibility rates. Last night, the president literally borrowed from the McCain/Palin platform in presenting new ideas.

And then there's the other side -- the one whining incessantly for weeks about killing reform and replacing it with a "bipartisan" approach. After six months of debate, can anyone name a single concession Republicans have been willing to make on reform? Literally, one?
Once they understand how it would work, most Americans say they want single payer... but that was off the table from the start. Now, the most sensible republican out there is "disappointed" Obama didn't take the public option off the table too. And McCain thinks the dems need to "reach out." Sure.

I say we take off, and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

You Can Make This S**t Up

but the republicans will always go further than your imagination: family values legislator resigns for boasting about fake sexcapades.

My mind reels.

Followup, a few minutes later: Looks like we have our own GOP creep here in Oregon. Tony Marino pleads guilty to raping his daughter. Via BlueOregon, where you can read about some of his previous shenanigans.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Counting to Four

It's pretty obvious I'm not going to find any relief from glum political news. Samurai Frog at Electronic Cerebrectomy found a cute, sweet video of Feist singing 1 2 3 4 (Counting to Four) that really cheered me up with its simple innocence and happiness. Time to hang up the computer and head home for the night, on a positive note for once.

Rational Debate

is not possible in this country. When a national representative interrupts a president's speech with "You Liar!" there is something seriously wrong. Was there ever a case where a US senator or representative ever interrupted shrub with a similar interjection? I don't recall such an instance, though clearly we might have been better off if someone had called BS on his BS.
I have not watched the speech, and I may not; I'll make up my mind as I read reports, and I'll certainly read the transcript when I find a copy. However, what is of interest to me is not so much what Obama said (I think the general outlines of that have been evident), but how he said it, and how various factions reacted. I've just seen evidence that at least one faction has decided to "just say no."


Very cool, startling gif of a trapdoor spider capturing a cricket from Ugly Overload. I also like the author's description of what this metaphorically represents.

Unsubstantiated Rumor of the Day

For the right price, Sarah Palin has agreed to provide escort services for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's dinner parties. The agreed upon price is $25,000 a head a pop per night for each party per appointment for each dinner appearance.

In My Dreams

Inspired by a post at SVPOW, background photo from here with a bit of photoshoppery... or maybe I should say Paint.nettery. Blooger's scaling has blurred the image a bit; click for slightly bigger, but much sharper.

Hubble in the Sky With Jewelry

Click the pic for bigger, visit this page for other size options (one much larger) and technical details, and this page for the press release on the results of this summer's Hubble repair and refurbishing mission. Hat tip to Cosmic Variance for bringing this beautiful imagery to my attention.

Followup: Bad Astronomer Phil Plait offers his personal response to the news and imagery, and here is the full gallery of images released along with the announcement. WOW!

American Power

VoteVets sent me the following vidclip earlier. I can't donate, but I can help spread the message.

While all eyes seem to be on Obama's health care reform speech this evening, and the news has been focused almost entirely on that issue for the last month or more, we can't afford to forget that there are numerous other issues facing us. This shouldn't detract from the health issue, but I do believe that the climate change and energy independence issues— which are in many ways inseparable— are, over the mid to long term, even more important than health care.

The frustrating thing is that we now have a preview of the right's response to any issue that comes up: obfuscation, obstruction, and falsely inflaming passions with lies and innuendo. An article in today's NYT tries to put a happy, optimistic face on the current situation as regards health:
“At this point, there really should be no doubt where the American people stand: the status quo is not acceptable, but neither are any of the proposals we’ve seen from the White House or Democrats in Congress,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, said in a statement, adding: “It should be clear by now that the problem isn’t the sales pitch. The problem is what they’re selling.”

Yet Mark McClellan, who ran the Food and Drug Administration and later Medicare under President George W. Bush, said he saw the churning in August as a part of the public’s education, a “necessary step in the process” and not a fatal blow.
With all due respect to McConnell (that would be pretty much none), the problem isn't what the dems are selling, the problem is the lies he's telling the voters. If I stood outside a restaurant and protested them for selling ground up puppies, kittens and babies in their burgers, that restaurant could sue me. Unfortunately, there is no process by which I can sue liars who defame and libel the policy recommendations of my party.

And while I find McClellan's comment interesting, I'm not sure why death panels, socialism, fascism, and pull the plug on Gramma were “necessary step in the process.” Does he honestly think that fewer people give credence to those possibilities now than did in mid-July? I'm very worried that we're going to end up with a "reform" that enriches the insurance and medical industries, provides no better, and perhaps worse, actual health care, and serves neither patients nor doctors.

There are at least a half dozen other issues that are of similar importance to health, and the energy and climate issue is probably more important.

And I'm going to have to watch this circus of freaks go through this same theater over and over in the next few years.

I can't wait.

Greatest Headline Evar?

Great tits found hunting bats

There has to be a Britney Spears punchline there some where. Actually, despite the ambiguity of the headline to American readers, the story is very interesting:
The researchers staked out the cave and spent 22 days observing over two winters. On hearing the bat calls the birds flew slowly along the roof of the cliff where the animals nestled. The birds were recorded killing bats 16 times.
So now we know that to protect yourself from vampires, all you need is a bunch of great tits.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Homes Threatened By Florida Hurricane

The Onion nails it once again:
According to meteorologists, the incoming tropical storm could leave as many as 3 million residents every bit as homeless as they've been for the past year or so.

"Those who haven't already lost everything to the housing-market crash are urged to evacuate their homes immediately," said Robert Menken, head meteorologist at the National Weather Bureau. "That should be about 10 or 12 of you. Everyone else, please stay where you are, probably on the couch of some in-law who lives near Atlanta."

President Should Not Be In the Classroom

Ya know... I was thinking about pointing this out. Did Bush ever quit visiting classrooms? Did he get parental permission slips from each student? Was he greeted by protestors carrying signs with "Stay Away From Our Kids" emblazoned across them?

Will I ever learn to quit asking pointless questions?

Slow-Motion Hummingbird Moth

A couple of Geobloggers, Silver Fox and Kim, have put up posts on the hummingbird moth over the last few months. A physics blogger I follow, who has a hobby of high-speed photography (rendering the resulting video in slow motion), has put up a lovely video of one of these fascinating insects in action. From Swans on Tea.

I Don't Know Why This Moves Me So

It has sort of a new-agey Windham-Hill sort of sound... quite lovely!

Birds on the Wires from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

Australopithecus Spiff-arino

Snopes sez this is false. Too bad. Click over to read the second half and the evidence that it's fake.
Paleoanthropology Division
Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled “211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull.” We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents “conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago.” Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the “Malibu Barbie”. It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to it’s modern origin:

# 1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

# 2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.

# 3. The dentition pattern evident on the “skull” is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the “ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams” you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time. This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it.

Down Time

The server has been sporadic here at my favorite coffee shop yesterday and today, and there has been a frustrating amount of time I've been offline. I was able to get some facebook conversation time in last night, but the neighborhood signal is weak and slow. So one of the things I've done this morning is go through some of the pictures I've downloaded onto my hard drive to see if I can come up with captions.So has Obama given his speech yet? Did the world explode? I'm off to find out.

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Snow of the Season

That's Mt. Bachelor, a little bit west of Bend, OR (the peak behind and to the right is South Sister, and you can make out Middle Sister farther to the right, behind the pair of trees). The first snow this "winter" fell yesterday. The snow level was at 7500 feet; the peak itself goes up to a bit over 9000 feet. But we're supposed to be back up to nearly 90 by the weekend; I expect most of the snow will melt off before it goes below freezing for the season.

I Guess I Knew This

but I didn't realize that a fair amount of research has been done on it, nor did I realize how effective it is... even against otherwise antibiotic-resistant bugs: cinnamon oil kills bacteria.

Hospitals will henceforth smell like bakeries, but they'll all be shut down, 'cause the fasislamicommie Obama wants everyone to die under his gummint-run antihealth plan.

Here Ya Go, Tengrain!

Damn Typo! If you like snarky, satirical and liberal humor, and you don't read Mock, Paper, Scissors, that counts as a FAIL! 100 fails per semester, and you lose the innernetz.

Health Care Mythology

  • The U.S. has the best health care system in the world.
  • Private health insurance companies are more efficient and customer-focused than the government.
  • Covering the uninsured isn't our problem.
  • We don't need comprehensive reform now -- we can wait.
  • I don't need to worry. I have good insurance through my job.
Nice debunking of these myths at OregonLive. I've read a couple of pieces in the last few days claiming the problem isn't that the dems are wrong, or that they have proposed bad ideas, the problem is that in addition to their complete mental and ethical vacuity, the republicans have an astonishing knack at drumming up short, memorable slogans and talking points... "death panels," "pull the plug on Gramma," "government-run health care" and so on.

The editorial piece linked above does a nice job of taking each of the above sentences and making them into slogans by tacking the word "Myth."

Obama's Big Let Down

I just finished reading the prepared speech he's planning to deliver to America's school kids tomorrow. I am SO disappointed.

There's not one use of the word Nazi.

Nor of indoctrination camps.

He doesn't encourage anyone to read Marx, or Mein Kampf.

He says being educated takes hard work and persistence.

He says it's unlikely that most will grow up to be wealthy rappers or sports stars.

Not once does he tell the kids to strip naked and have gay sex while they're watching the speech.

He doesn't tell them that Christianity is evil, nor encourage anyone to blow up the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, or congress.

No, all we get is insipid platitudes like this:
Your families, your teachers, and I are doing everything we can to make sure you have the education you need to answer these questions. I’m working hard to fix up your classrooms and get you the books, equipment and computers you need to learn. But you’ve got to do your part too. So I expect you to get serious this year. I expect you to put your best effort into everything you do. I expect great things from each of you. So don’t let us down – don’t let your family or your country or yourself down. Make us all proud. I know you can do it.
I feel completely let down. Maybe he'll stray from his remarks; one can only hope.

Students in the state's largest school district may listen to President Barack Obama's education speech Tuesday morning. Portland Public Schools officials say they will allow teachers and principals to decide what's best for students on the first day of school.
Criminey... go read the speech, seriously! Can you imagine anyone who honestly thinks of themself as an educator wouldn't want that message to get out to kids? And officials will allow principles and teachers to decide? How... magnanimous... of them.

Also, John Cole at Balloon Juice has an amusing, snarky piece on his predicted response from righty pundits:
BTW- Who do you all think will be the first wingnut to find a hidden coded message in the text of the speech? The odds on favorite for that kind of lunacy would be Glenn Beck, but then again the one lunatic who pushed the “Republican car dealers is being punished!” nonsense would be a good bet, too, as would that clown who freaked out over dijon mustard. There is just so much quality amateur wingnuttery going on these days that there really is no safe bet anymore.
You can, in fact, make this shit up. But Beck and Co. will still go you one further, and astonish you with their interstellar conclusion leaping.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Would So Love to Teach This Trick To Ozma

but it isn't going to happen. She startles and moves away from anything that sounds like running water.

Speaking of which, we've been having steady, but fairly light, rains for the last couple of nights, then occasional light showers during the day. I think the precip is supposed to taper off over the next 24 hours, but it's actually been very pleasant. I love the odors associated with the first fall rains, as the parched ground and vegetation come back to life.

I've been referring to this 2-3 day window as "our fall preview trailer." We'll be back to summery weather by Tuesday; 90's are not unknown in September, but I hope we're done with that range for the year.

Worse Than 9/11: Obama's Gonna Fly a Work Ethic Into My Kids!

Poor, poor conservatives... crying (literally) about the fact their precious little ones might be exposed to the President of the United States encouraging them to study hard and stay in school. If they want to keep their kids home, that's fine by me. As an ex-teacher, I guarantee you that your effect as parents on your kids' attitudes toward education is magnitudes larger than any teacher's. If you want them to wallow in hate, stupidity, ignorance and fear, that's exactly what they'll do. Just one word of warning: as they pass through their teens, they're likely to start rebelling. It's sort of surprising to me how many libs I know who came out of profoundly conservative households. Just keep that in mind, Okay?

From Mock, Paper, Scissors; Tengrain then pointed out what the righties are picturing:


Lobautomatic Part Two

Haven't forgotten the LOLBecks, I've just had other topics that interested me more. I'll be damned if I'm going to give this putz his own tag, but I have been seriously thinking about instituting an "Idiots and Scoundrels" label. However, I do use the "Monsters" label for this guy and his ilk when the latest offense warrants.


A current facebook conversation (with names and pics other than mine redacted).

Sunday Funnies

This is just so wrong... Skull chart memes
see more Funny Graphs
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
He finally got to live his dream of swimming with dolphins... Skull Swap.
Times New Roman... web comics were crap back then. Luke Surl.
Cyanide and Happiness.
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
I Hate my Parents, a recent find. I just realized it's put together by the same person who does the Skull Swap tumblr feed.
I find your lack of cake disturbing... No Cats on This Blog.
anti-obama lawn sign
see more Political Pictures
Serious Lulz.
star trek cast
see more Lol Celebs
funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.
Steven Spielberg's worst nightmare... Skull Swap.
epic4chan. (now I have 867-5309 running through my head again...)
Misery Loves Sherman.
Evolutionary forces are powerful... epic4chan.
Pavlovian Obesiance.
Skull Swap.
Cyanide and Happiness.
Phydreaux Speaks
My First Dictionary.
rush limbaugh totally looks like balthazar from buffy
see more Celeb Look-A-Likes
John "Boner" Boehner Totally Looks Like Howdy Doody
moar funny pictures. Via EB Misfit. Probably Bad News. This was sent widely around the innernetz after the disaster, but I'm pleased to see it again. 18 times the speed of light is relatively fast.
This group should be called "Hug." Skull Swap.
CNN Speaks in Tongues! Probably Bad News.Also speaking in tongues... epic4chan
Glenn Beck, however, may not be. From Criggo.
From That Will Buff Out, silly-looking accidents, a recent find. The next two are from the same place.
fail owned pwned pictures
see more Fail Blog. OSU starts Fall term three weeks from tomorrow; the kids are starting their shopping already though.
Pareidolia for the godless, from Pharyngula.And more pareidolia from LOLtheist: Whatever. Jesus is everywhere, blah, blah, blah. Click over for a very snarky, funny discussion, and a link to an enormous and amazing image of martian fluvial-alluvial geomorphology.
Skull Swap- Awwww!
Skull Swap
Night Deposts
Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal