Archive for March, 2012

Little bunnies arriving soon, I think

March 10, 2012 3 comments

I can’t figure out why bunnies don’t find more secure locations for their little ones. I’ve seen them dig a hole right in the middle of our yard and sit on their babies. Are they trying to be visible to hawks, owls, cats, etc.?

Bunny under bush

Visible from my bedroom window

Bunny in context

Bunny in context


Except when she’s foraging, this one has been sitting there for more than a week, neatly framed by a bush with lots of clear ground around her. If her behavior is at all typical, there will soon be baby bunnies under this bush.

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False equivalency of Limbaugh and Maher

March 9, 2012 1 comment

Conservatives and some liberals have been making a lot of hay over a supposed equivalency between Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher. See, Limbaugh spent three days dumping sexist hate on private citizen Sandra Fluke, and Maher said demeaning things about Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. And occasionally in passing, about others as well. So it’s practically the same thing, amirite?

Sure, it’s the same thing, if you think that words derive no meaning from their context. If striking a match, striking a bargain, striking out in baseball and going on strike are all the same to you. If yelling “fire!” means the same thing at a practice range, or at a beach party as it does in a crowded theater.

Limbaugh is a right-wing kingmaker whom Conservative politicians are careful not to offend. Conservatives take him very, very seriously. Conservative politicians at the national level literally apologize to him if they offend him, a radio host.

Maher has moments of sharp politicial insight, but plenty of dull wit as well. We laugh at his better jokes, but what we don’t do is take him seriously. Can anyone’s imagination stretch far enough to think of any national-level, liberal politician apologizing to Bill Maher? Could Maher make anyone’s candidacy untenable? Does the liberal blogosphere leap to his defense if he is criticized? It’s like comparing a battleship to a rowboat. Sure, both float in water.

We might wish we had a media personality with that kind of power, but there was never a better place to be careful what we wish for. The Democratic party at least makes room for nuance. A Democratic politician can still function even if they don’t tow every fibre of the party line. That is not a thing to be tossed aside lightly.

By the way, Limbaugh seems to have become bored with Sandra Fluke. A couple days ago he spent an hour dishing on “single, overeducated (not to say intelligent) white woman” Tracy McMillan, author of The American Way of Eating. McMillan replies; “I only have a B.A. I don’t have an advanced degree. Maybe he thinks women shouldn’t go to college at all?”


  • This is not to say Maher shouldn’t be more careful what comes out of his pie hole. And it wouldn’t hurt him to read a damn science book now and then.
  • @ktheaney Tweets: “GOP dudes who say liberals don’t attack Bill Maher on his sexism aren’t listening to feminists. Sort of their problem in the first place?”
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Miley Cyrus feels the Christian love

March 7, 2012 1 comment

The former teen star Tweeted thusly:

Miley Cyrus Tweets Lawrence Krauss quote

Miley Cyrus Tweets Lawrence Krauss quote

The response was immediate: Christian followers hated it. Here are a couple of the nicer ones:

“Sorry Miley but you can’t deny Jesus exists, he saved you, he saved all of us. He had blessed you every single day of your life,”

“This is why Miley’s tweet made me mad. Weird to see someone say all this, then say ‘Forget Jesus’ a few years later,” …

“I don’t get it, first Miley goes around preaching that God accepts gays and everyone’s equal, then she tweets ‘forget Jesus’ like wtf?”

Wow, Christian followers of Miley Cyrus on Twitter. Insecure much? As Arthur C. Clarke said, “A faith that can’t survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.”

Anyway, I was scarcely aware of Cyrus before this. Apparently she does have appreciation of the Universe, beyond a sectarian religion of some of the inhabitants of our particular speck of cosmic dust. Good for her, I say – and for the “impressionable young followers” who follower her on Twitter as well.

This post was prompted by another Tweet from @edyong209, which was reTweeted by @Dhunterauthor:
“Here’s Neil Tyson’s most astounding fact. I dare you not to smile.” pointing to this wonderful video from Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Enjoy!


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Bouncing from CP Snow back to Foxconn

March 5, 2012 Comments off

Wired magazine did a piece on Foxconn a few months back, looking at the awful conditions and which familiar consumer electronic names are involved. It was titled 1 Million Workers, 90 Million iPhones, 17 Suicides. Who’s to Blame? It got us talking about the lives of the rural poor vs conditions in the manufacturing giant.

Then today I was reading CP Snow’s 1959 The two cultures and the scientific revolution and saw this:

“One truth is straightforward. Industrialization is the only hope of the poor. I use the word ‘hope’ in a crude and prosaic sense. I have not much use for the moral sensibility of anyone who is too refined to use it so. It is all very well for us, sitting pretty, to think that material standards of living don’t matter all that much. It is all very well for one, as a personal choice, to reject industrialization – do a modern Walden, if you like, and if you go without much food, see most of your children die in infancy, despise the comforts of literacy, accept twenty years off your own life, then I respect yo for the strength of your aesthetic revulsion. But I don’t respect you in the slightest if, even passively, you try to impose the same choice on others who are not free to choose. In fact, we know what their choice would be. For, with singular unanimity, in any country where they have had the chance, the poor have walked off the land into the factories as fast as the factories could take them.”

This trend has only accelerated since 2 Cultures was published. Companies know this and are setting the bar accordingly. Must we accept that corporations exploit the misery of the rural poor by setting them in slightly-less miserable urban manufacturing settings? Does the fact that they are a little better off mean we must abandon all hope for standards we, who buy the things they manufacture, enjoy? We can afford the slight extra cost to our pocketbooks of demanding even minimal standards of decency, but can we afford the cost to our own moral reflection if we don’t?

It’s good that Foxconn workers just got a raise, but they’re still working super-long hours. As consumers of electronicrap we shouldn’t let it fall off our radar; the man who eats meat is on the same moral level as the butcher.


  • In 2 Cultures, Snow lamented the disconnect between scientific and literary/intellectual culture. He was careful to focus on the mutual need of each side for that of the other’s perspective. I am not optimistic that the situation has improved since then; Conservatism has its think tanks full of intellectuals-for-hire who exploit scientific ignorance in the general public to assert that somehow, the inconvenient discoveries of science just aren’t happening. Reality as social construct, or as Karl Rove asserted, “When we act we make our own reality”. Sorry, no you don’t, Karl. Sooner or later, reality owns you.
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Patience worn out

March 4, 2012 4 comments

I was reminded this weekend of an incident from my childhood, in which my dad and I were making a Morse Code key out in the garage. As the physical core of the switch he used a discarded distributor rotor from his ’53 Mercury, and set about drilling a hole through the center. The drill slipped somehow and jammed directly into his palm. Electric drills in those days weren’t variable speed; it was turning full spin and went most of the way through his hand.

He used some rather strong language and went straight to the house, leaving a trail of blood behind him. My mother wrapped his hand in a towel and off they went to the hospital. I stayed behind at the house.

On their return my mother made some coffee for him and related an amusing story from the hospital. The secretary at the emergency room was carefully, and ever so slowly, collecting every conceivable piece of information and typing it onto the admission form.*

It was taking a long time. The towel was soaked with blood and my father’s hand was really beginning to hurt. He asked if they could finish all this paperwork after getting someone to look at the hand. No, she said, paperwork comes first.

Much digging through wallet and purse ensued to produce the information needed, but seeing an actual doctor seemed farther away than ever. My dad could be tremendously patient when fixing a clock or a gun, but he was not known for suffering foolishness gladly.

The secretary was correcting an error – a slow process on multi-part forms. Her attention was on the typewriter. Finally my father had had enough. He held his injured hand above the machine. Blood dripped on the  uncompleted form, on the platen, on the nameplate. She looked up, startled.

“Oh, we’d better get that hand looked at, Mister Wiman!”

And with that, paperwork was delayed. I assume it got done eventually. Perhaps somewhere in the archives of University Hospital in Iowa City, there’s a bloodstained admission form with his name on it. Or perhaps it’s been digitized, and is now immortal.


  • For those among us of more recent vintage, this was done by a mechanical keyboard contraption called a typewriter, which impressed each letter onto a piece of physical paper by striking an ink-filled cloth ribbon against the paper with a metal casting of the desired letter. It differed only in incidentals from the one used by Mark Twain.
  • The paper itself actually consisted of four sheets of different colors, bound together and treated with chemicals so that each letter impression copied itself onto all four sheets. Typing the form once, provided no errors were made, produced four copies at once. The system was called “carbonless forms”, deriving from the fact that no carbon paper was needed between the sheets.
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Adding a step to my first-aid procedure

March 4, 2012 3 comments

P2 screwdriver bit penetrated thumb, went some distance under surface. Took 1 second to happen, 2.5 hours for first aid and PromptCare visit

Got a little boo-boo today when electric screwdriver slipped and the P2 bit jammed itself into my thumb. It penetrated about 10mm under the skin along the thumb. I went into the kitchen, cleaned it up, bandaged it, and then did something that in the past I would not have done.

Previously I’d have just splinted the digit and let it heal under my deft bandaging, but not this time. Because the bit went so far under the skin, rotating all the way, I couldn’t be sure the wound was fully cleaned out – and there are some very nasty bugs running around now that were much less common 25 years ago. So I went to PromptCare.

The physician’s assistant did a great job irrigating the wound  (which is what I went there for) and stitching it up. But the nurse who applied the post-op dressing needed some updating on her sterile procedure. She put on gloves, then opened the cabinet door, then opened the bandage and folded it with the gloves that just opened the cabinet door and applied it to the wound.  I didn’t say anything because the wound was already closed, but what are they teaching kids these days?


  • My first-aid kit is pretty well-stocked. My standard treatment is: let it bleed a lot, then irrigate with water a lot, then irrigate with Betadine solution. Then bandage and a spot of Neosporin cream and, if big enough to require butterfly stitches, splint.
  • I left with a scrip for generic keflex. It was so cheap they didn’t even bother collecting a co-pay at the pharmacy.
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Love your optimism

March 1, 2012 Comments off

Some chalk-graffiti on campus:

Unicef Saves Every Child

20,000 kids die every day UNICEF will make it ZERO (Picture contrast enhanced for readability)

That weakling Christian god claimed to love children, but UNICEF will show Him up Old School!

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