October 31, 2014

Why Earth's animal life forms took so long to appear

It's a question that bugged scientists for a very long time: why did it take so long for animal life to appear on Earth? Was life so fragile? Did it necessarily take several billions of years to come into existence? And what, finally, did it take for animals to emerge via evolutionary processes?

Well, the answer is in: there wasn't enough oxygen on Earth prior to the time when animals first appeared (about 600-700 million years ago). They literally could not have existed prior to the moment when they first appeared in the fossil record.

Scientists have long believed that the oxygen level in the billion years that preceded the appearance of animal life on Earth was approximately 40% of the level we see today. You'd think some animals would pop up, given this relative abundance of oxygen. But a new experimental result shows that in the billion years that preceded animal life on Earth, there was only 0.01% of the oxygen we see today. That's the reason animal life held off for so long.

Six hundred to seven hundred million years ago, when there was finally enough oxygen for animals to exist and thrive, they appeared everywhere -- and some eventually evolved into us. Mystery solved. Pretty cool, huh?

World to get cold and dark this weekend

It cometh, at least in the northeast. It will be cold this weekend and there will be a brutal, cutting wind. And at the very same time, as if to mock our mortal concerns, the clocks will be set back an hour. And then it will be dark forever.

Happy Halloween!

Now go read Xmas Carol, a story that begins on Halloween and like a shambling (and hugely entertaining) creature, wends its evil way toward Xmas.

You really really don't want to face the coming Xmas season without reading Xmas Carol. Get your copy today.

What can you say?

We live in a heartless universe where no one is looking out for us except ourselves. And irony abounds. Never doubt this facet of human existence.

I mean, two people (or three, reports differ) were killed while using a flight simulator inside a flight safety building when a real plane crashed through the roof and hit them.

Never doubt irony. It's always looking for you.

October 28, 2014

Nordic nations outrank U.S. in sexual equality

It's funny, isn't it? American religious leaders never say boo about gender equality. It just doesn't come up. In my whole life, I don't think I've ever heard a priest say that men and women are equal, which makes sense when you consider the patriarchal, misogynistic nature of religion. Let's face it: religion is a boys' club and America is religious.

And we're not only religious in America, we're downright exceptional. We're the mostest special people who ever lived. And we're quite sure of this because we hear it all the time. If the people on TV are saying it every single day, it must be true.

Well, maybe not so much.
Nordic nations led the world in promoting equality of the sexes, as they have for many years, with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark occupying the top five spots.

The United States climbed three places to 20th, thanks to a narrowing wage gap and more women occupying political offices.
Well, golly gee. It seems those atheist countries are the ones that treat women fairly. Jeebus! Every one of the top five countries falls into this category. I wonder why?

You don't think rationality could have anything to do with it, do you? Jeepers, if that's true we're only going to fall further behind as the decades pile up. 

But we'll always be exceptional in our own heads. Hooray for us! USA! USA! USA!

October 27, 2014

Obama gets a letter

Twelve winners of the Nobel Peace Prize wrote a letter to Obama, urging him to release a full report on America's use of torture. These folks won their Peace Prizes by actually, you know, doing something peaceful. Here's a paragraph from that letter:
"In recent decades, by accepting the flagrant use of torture and other violations of international law in the name of combating terrorism, American leaders have eroded the very freedoms and rights that generations of their young gave their lives to defend," they said. "They have again set an example that will be followed by others; only now, it is one that will be used to justify the use of torture by regimes around the world, including against American soldiers in foreign lands. In losing their way, they have made us all vulnerable."
It's quite clear that Obama will ignore this letter in one last attempt to brush American torture under the rug. What a brave fellow he is.

October 25, 2014

To blog or not to blog

Some days I don't blog. At times, this is because I'm writing fiction and don't have the time or energy to blog. But most often, it's because I'm beaten down by the idiocy I see in the news. As Brendan said at Daily KOS yesterday:
"If you want to know why I don't blog, it's because the stupid bested me. I simply couldn't take the stupid." 
That explains the occasional scarcity of posts here, too. The stupid is overwhelming. And the greed. Humanity is dying because of stupidity and greed. That's it in one sentence.

October 24, 2014

Can't let this go by without notice

You've probably seen this but on the off chance that you missed it, here's an extremely powerful image. It was created to honor Corporal Nathan Cirillo, the guard who was on duty at Canada's WWI memorial to fallen soldiers. While standing guard over the statue, he was shot dead by a terrorist. This is the image that appeared in Canadian papers the following day:

One of the best uses of art I've ever seen. Kudos to Bruce MacKinnon, the artist. Amazing!

Eek! Ebola!

So let's see...we're nearly hysterical over Ebola after four infected people were seen in the United States. Um, okay.

But we don't give a hoot about the nearly 10,000 children that are killed or injured by gun violence every year in the United States, although that's something we could fix if we wanted to.

Ebola: eek! Gun violence: meh.

What's wrong with this picture?

NYT disses baseball but misses the main issue

Joe "Ugh!" Buck
Today's NY Times has an article that says baseball is no longer the nation's pastime. Apparently no one cares about the game and most everyone watches football instead of the World Series. Fine, that's true. But in the entire article they never mention the gorilla in the room: the World Series is on Fox and features Joe Buck. That's why no one wants to watch it.

I've asked friends who are baseball fans if they're watching the World Series this year. Everyone says no because they can't stand Joe Buck. With Buck, it's unwatchable. I feel the same way. Yes, I'm watching the World Series but I do it without sound. I play music instead. Anything is preferable to hearing Joe Buck say uninteresting things in a loud voice.

Fox has a contract to show the games through 2021. So much for baseball. It would've been nice if the Times bothered to mention Buck, the man who single-handedly killed baseball.

PS: Go Royals!

October 20, 2014

It's the same illogical argument

I've been reading articles about the aftermath of the Catholic bishops giving gays the finger last week. I mean, really. Raising gay Catholics' hopes and then stomping them into the ground is not, I'm quite sure, what Jesus would have done. But then, there never was a Jesus. So there's that.

Today I noticed that the hateful bishops who put the kibosh on the welcoming language used in the first synod draft document last week are relying on the exact same argument that nitwits use against gay marriage.

For instance, consider this article:
After an initial draft of the synod's final document was released on Monday, conservative bishops vowed to row back on the upbeat tone adopted regarding gays, cohabitation and re-marriage, saying it would create confusion among the faithful and threatened to undermine the traditional family.
There it is: the Great Anti-Gay Non Sequitur. How, precisely, does a church's welcoming language to gays undermine the traditional family? The two are utterly unrelated. If the church welcomes gays, traditional families will break up like ice floes in a warm ocean? That makes no sense.

And it's the same idiotic argument that homophobes make against gay marriage: it threatens traditional families. How, exactly? Can they offer even one example of this happening in the real world? Gay marriage has been around for quite some time. So where are the traditional families that were threatened and broken apart by the mere existence of gay marriage? They don't exist.

There is no argument against gay people that is anything but idiotic and hateful. But see, we're here, we've always been here and we're never going away -- so you'd better get used to us. And our existence and our relationships have precisely nothing to do with what goes on in "traditional families". (And btw, it's those traditional families that give birth to gays. I'm just saying. We didn't come from Mars.)

Hate is hate. And that's exactly what the Catholic bishops showed when they jumped on the synod's welcoming language and killed it. It's what Catholic bishops do, especially American Catholic bishops: they attack gay people. And you really, really have to ask yourself why. What is wrong with these bishops? Could it be their unnatural way of life, eschewing sex? Ya think?