Archive for September, 2007

Next the meteor will unscrew itself and a Martian Tripod will emerge…

September 18, 2007 1 comment

BBC Reports scores of people sick in Peru from fetid gasses emerging from a meteor crater.  But this is just a little postcard from the cosmos, and the jumping-off point for the topic of this week’s Science Friday post…


Categories: Science & Technology

Looking to someone who is gone from us

September 18, 2007 5 comments

It’s a shame that we need to look to someone who is gone from us for relief from the din of constant argument.  But still, it is refreshing:  Sagan: Framing shared values betwen science & religion.

Shared values are not so tough really when you think about it.  Even if we don’t share cosmology or epistemology, we can share some reverence for the world we live in, for the joy of life, for humanity.  That should be enough for friendship, and enough to work together.

And Paul Kurz is trying to keep the lines of communication open.  Maybe we’ll be OK after all.

Categories: observations


September 18, 2007 3 comments

I’m at a loss to imagine why anyone would vandalize the Vietnam Memorial  [pictures]

Is it some random thing?  Some half-assed idiot protest against the Iraq war?  Something political?  Some weird religious annointing? WHAT?!!!

Hope they catch whoever did it.  I’m just dying to hear their explanation…

Categories: Stupidity

Checkout Lane Religion

September 17, 2007 9 comments

Spotted in a checkout lane at Schnuck’s in Urbana, Illinois 2 weeks ago…

The comic strip 9 Chickweed Lane has a character who is an alien living among humans.  His God is named “Monty” and the place of Monty worship is the checkout lane of the local grocery store.  Hmm…

Categories: Religion

25 manly pursuits

September 15, 2007 10 comments

Les, Cajun, and ***Dave have all taken a crack at Popular Mechanics’ 25 Things Every Man Should Know list. Here’s my take on the list but some of them seem irrelevant to me and I had to tinker with them and even add a few.  My additions are at the end.

  1. Patch a radiator hose – I’m going to take the same approach to all these car-repair items – this is nonsense.  I’m a bit of a car nut and I know a connecting rod from a tie rod but modern cars are super-reliable compared to earlier models.  Road failures of-maintained cars are now extremely rare.  I do wish people would understand their cars better, as part of generally understanding energy and transportation technologies better.

  2. Protect your computer – Only item two, and already I’m calling gender-BS.  Every home and workplace needs someone who understands protecting computers, and testosterone is not required.  And everyone should develop some instincts about what NOT to click on.
  3. Rescue a boater who has capsized – Right – except I never go near the water.  I’d use the rope I carry in my car, I guess…
  4. Frame a wall – Sure, I guess that’s a good thing but I can’t figure out what it has to do with manliness.  Very few of us ever have a reason to do this.
  5. Retouch digital photos – I’m just going to stop mentioning the gender thing but it applies all down the list.  Very few people need to know how to retouch photos.  I’d be happy if I could get them to understand basics of transferring photos from their camera to their computer, giving the photos descriptive names, managing them, and sizing them appropriately for display.
  6. Back up a trailer – Huh?  How many people ever use a trailer?  I can do this just fine but it’s been 30 years since the last time I needed to.
  7. Build a campfire – Uh, I guess.  I know lots of ways to start a fire, most not requiring matches.  Maybe having built a few campfires would help people understand combustion better, an important safety consideration?
  8. Fix a dead outlet – Yeah, anyone should be able to do this – it really isn’t difficult.  But remember there’s a reason electricians go through long apprenticeships.
  9. Navigate with a map and compass – And how about developing some sense about directions generally?  Which side of the room you are in is the “North” side?
  10. Use a torque wrench – I’d be satisfied if most people understood what a torque wrench does – or even the concept of torque.
  11. Sharpen a knife – How about carrying a knife in the first place? And yes, sharpen one.  Used to be, all men and most women did.  If you don’t know what a pocketknife is for, I can’t help you.
  12. Perform CPR – Hmm… I know how but hope I never have to try it.  More importantly, I may someday get a tattoo requesting others refrain from doing it on me.
  13. Fillet a fish – Is this another one of those things that takes years to learn?  It sounds more like “read the instructions and you’re good to go”.
  14. Maneuver a car out of a skid – This had better be more than reading instructions in a book.  All drivers should practice on icy or wet parking lots – to the extent that it becomes second-nature and they don’t have to think about it.  This is a seriously important survival skill, like looking both ways when approaching an intersection to catch red-light runners (which is even more important).
  15. Get a car unstuck – And also develop some good instincts for “don’t try it” when conditions do not suggest going forward.  See “what not to click on” and apply.
  16. Back up data – starting with understanding file management.
  17. Paint a room – I’ve done it, it’s boring, but the instructions tell you how.
  18. Mix concrete – Done it, boring, instructions.
  19. Clean a bolt-action rifle – Sure, I guess.  I mean, it’s a mechanical thing and I’m really good with mechanical things so I suppose I could clean a bolt-action rifle.  But there’s just one problem: I’m a really lousy shot.
  20. Change oil and filter – Which should include proper disposal of the oil.  And don’t forget to lube the front end.  And oil the door hinges.  Check the brake fluid.  Washer fluid.  Air filter OK? Power steering fluid?  Anti-freeze?  Battery terminals clean? All lights work? Wiper blades OK? Air up the tires?  This jalopy is carrying your ass around, y’know.  Or you can drop $25 and take it to a garage for this routine process.  Either way, make sure it gets done.
  21. Hook up an HDTV – Generalized as, “able to read and extrapolate procedures from poorly written instructions”.  It wouldn’t hurt to understand the fundamental concept of inputs/outputs, different kinds of signals, etc.
  22. Bleed brakes – Most people should never attempt this.
  23. Paddle a canoe – No thanks.  I have a friend who really digs canoes, though.
  24. Fix a bike flat – And choose a good (not dime-store) bike to begin with, keep it generally maintained, and use it in preference to the carbon-belching auto whenever practical.  How to dress for different weather, etc.
  25. Extend your wireless network – Sure, I guess.  Which should include at least some nod to security.

Here are my additions.  We’re not eking out an existence on the frontier anymore – these are abilities that go beyond personal survival to leaving a good place for our children.  Some of them are a bit more abstract, in keeping with the subtle nature of the threats facing us.  Random examples:

  • Resist advertising – get in the habit of mocking commercial content.  As far as corporations are concerned, your purpose in life is a source of revenue to be exploited.  Get beyond that.

  • Assess risk – this boils down to weighing sensationalism against science, and understanding the difference.  Are school shootings or obesity a greater risk to your child?  Coal or nuclear?  Hand sanitizer? Airplane hijacking or climate change?  The list goes on and on, and talking points are no substitute for fundamental understanding.
  • Listen – even to people you disagree with.  Keep in mind that if you were them, you’d do what they are doing.  Look for their humanity operating within the way they understand the world.  There are no downsides to understanding the other guy.
  • Catch appeals to simplistic answers – This goes back to mocking advertising.  When someone starts thumping the bible and waving the flag, and warning about our enemies, hold onto your wallet – and your vote.
  • Be frugal – How did conspicuous consumption ever get to be OK?  What happened to conservation?  Oh, right… “advertising”.  I’ve never seen a study that showed owning more stuff made people happier, and it certainly isn’t good for the environment.
  • Communicate – develop communication skills by writing every chance you get.  Let your kids see you doing this.  Use photography, sketches, and even music.
  • Turn off your television – Read. Let your kids see you doing this.

I could go on with a bunch of variations, but you can invent your own.  Short version: I didn’t think much of Popular Mechanic’s list.  Of course, the title of the magazine should tell me something.  And while we’re on the question, there are a few specifics each gender needs to know separately but the idea of a different fundamental knowledge set for men and women is not helpful to either.

Categories: observations

Microsoft Expression Web Editor: first contact

September 13, 2007 1 comment

I’ve begun working with Microsoft Expression Web editor, and I must say, it’s a pretty decent standards-based ripoff of Dreamweaver.  But the code view has a blinking validation notifier that actually interferes with cursor placement – obnoxious! 

Will Microsoft ever create a good product without at least one feature that turns using it into a grinding endurance test? Stay tuned…

Categories: Geeky, Software

9/11 6 years on from many angles

September 11, 2007 15 comments
  • I put up last year’s post again, 9/11, five years on, because nothing’s changed, and I still feel the same way as I did then.  But Google Reader didn’t grab it so here’s a link.

  • Paul linked to An Unquiet Mind posting a quote from Sagan that seems to apply rather well to 9/11
  • Cajun’s answer is mass murder.  Sorry, Cajun; I don’t know what else to call it.
  • Les posted An interview the Colin Powell that is damned well worth reading.
  • At The Pump Handle David Michaels calls for compensation for ground zero workers
  • Zuska is at a loss for words, which must be better than the feeling I have that my words are completely inadequate
  • Creek Running North notes some other history that took place on this day
  • Thoughts From Kansas identifies where we got sidetracked in 911+6
  • And over at Respectful Insolence, Orac posts a Quicktime video, What We Saw, created by someone who lived 500 yards from the North Tower.
Categories: observations

Giving truthiness to falsity

September 10, 2007 2 comments

Here’s a report that’s unlikely to brighten your day.  On The Media relates a study about how the brain tends to cling to the most-heard piece of information as true, even if the actual quote said it was false.  I bet GOP strategists have known about this for a long time.

Categories: Media, Reviews

Monday Morning music

September 10, 2007 Comments off

I reckon any Monday is improved by some finger-snappin’ toe-tappin’…

(Actual music starts 30 seconds in)

Categories: Reviews

Bin Laden becomes televangelist, invites US to “Embrace Islam”

September 9, 2007 5 comments

Osama Bin Laden released another video this week, and it has been confirmed that it was actually him.

I’ve always said that I could find something to agree with from almost anyone:

…he tells the American people that they have failed to persuade the Bush administration to stop the war in Iraq. “You made one of your greatest mistakes, in that you neither brought to account nor punished those who waged this war,” the speaker in the tape says, according to the transcript obtained by ABC News.

“You permitted Bush to complete his first term, and stranger still, chose him for a second term, which gave him a clear mandate from you… to continue to murder our people in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

I agree; that is strange that we let Bush wage war in Iraq.  We had Saddam bottled up and he wasn’t going anywhere.  He certainly wasn’t any threat to us.  We should have kept our focus on Afghanistan where we were going after your sorry ass, Osama.

The speaker tells the American public that there are two ways to end the war in Iraq: “The first is from our side, and it is to continue to escalate the killing and fighting against you.”

The second way, he continues, is to reject America’s democratic system and convert to Islam.

“It has now become clear to you and the entire world the impotence of the democratic system and how it plays with the interest of the peoples and their blood by sacrificing soldiers and populations to achieve the interests of the major corporations”.

“I invite you to embrace Islam,” the speaker says.

And I invite you to eat my shorts, you terrorist pile of swine excrement.  If you wanted to convert the US to Islam, why didn’t you just come here and become an Islamic televangelist?  Aside from being funnier than a troupe of monkeys loose at high tea, you’d have gotten embarrassingly rich.  The Christian televangelists would probably even invite you to their decadent parties.  It isn’t like there’s that much difference between you and them.

Again, the maddening thing is that Osama has a point about corporations making out like bandits while soldiers die in an entirely unnecessary war that makes us LESS secure.  But he didn’t figure that one out on his own.  Neurophilosophy has a link to the whole transcript, noting that the most-wanted terrorist is now a fan of Noam Chomsky.  Apparently during his years of hiding, he’s had time to read up on neurolinguistics – LOL.  Chomsky is an interesting guy, and no fan of Bush, but I doubt he’ll approve Bin Laden’s fan-club application anytime soon. 

Categories: Religion