November 28, 2014

Malaysia Airlines does it again

Malaysia Airlines is an amazingly incompetent company. You remember them, don't you? Here's a phrase to jog your memery: loser of planes and people. Yup, that company. Well, they've done it again. No, they haven't lost another airliner -- they just said another crazy-dumb thing:
[Malaysia Airlines'] marketing strategy came under fire after the airline tweeted Thursday, "Want to go somewhere, but don't know where?" It removed the tweet Friday, saying it was meant to inspire travelers but "unintentionally caused offence to some."

It was not the first faux pas for the airline since the disasters. In September, it scrapped the title of a competition asking people what activities and destinations are on their "bucket list." A bucket list is a term used by some English-speakers to describe a list of adventures they want to have before they die.
Seriously, what's wrong with these people?

November 27, 2014

Physics is Lord

Wouldn't that make a great atheist T-shirt? It's a response to the stupidest thing Christian gits say: "Jesus is Lord". Oy.


Much better. Any other suggestions for atheist or pro-science T-shirts?

(Speaking of science jewelry, I love the idea of wearing jewelry that mimics the atomic structure of caffeine. Unfortunately, at the moment this link leads to a notice that says "out of stock". But they're around; keep looking. There's dopamine jewelry, too. Fun!)

November 26, 2014

Bruni on an Italian Thanksgiving

Frank Bruni wrote a very funny column today. Go read it. It's about how Italians do Thanksgiving and it sounds exactly like my family.

(Don't mind the O'Connor name. My drunken Irish daddy left before I was three and my Italian mother replaced him with a nice, solid Italian guy. So I'm as Italian as anybody.)

All Italian holidays, not just Thanksgiving, are exactly as Bruni describes them. It's all about too much food and just the right amount of family.

It looks like we're going to be snowed in today but every family member has already arrived safely (to beat the snow). So all is well.

Happy Thanksgiving, crew. Have a great time.

November 25, 2014

The Ferguson fiasco

Seriously, were we expecting a different outcome from the Ferguson grand jury? That was never going to happen and even if it did, Wilson would get off at the conclusion of the trial. Let's face it: our murdered kid wasn't a great candidate for this role. This could never fly.

But the reports about what Wilson said about the altercation are appalling. Courtesy of digby, we get this testimony made by Officer Darren Wilson:

“I go to open the door and I say, hey, come here for a minute to Brown. As I’m opening the door he turns, faces me, looks at me and says, “What the fuck are you going to do about it,” and shuts my door, slammed it shut. I haven’t even got it open enough to get my leg out, it was only a few inches.

I then looked at him and told him to get back and he was just staring at me, almost like to intimidate me or to overpower me. The intense face he had was just not what I had expected from any of this…

And when I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.”

Wilson testified that Brown punched him twice through the patrol car’s door, and he was nervous that a third punch “could be fatal.” After his gun fired twice during the encounter, Brown ran away. Brown did not get on the ground, Wilson recounted, as per his order. Instead, he started to charge back toward Wilson:

“At this point it looked like he was almost bulking up to run through the shots. Like it was making him mad that I’m shooting at him. And the face he had was looking straight through me, like I wasn’t even there, I wasn’t even anything in his way.”
Wilson is clearly a racist, paranoid white guy who is also a coward. I imagine this assessment applies equally to any of the white Ferguson police officers. The whole force should be fired and replaced with normal people.

Nevertheless, I believe this outcome was expected -- by all. This doesn't excuse the appalling way the media and government treated the people of Ferguson. But that, in the long run, will have a positive effect. This issue won't die here. It's only the beginning. Just look at what's happening in NYC and elsewhere too. Trust me, this will result in a modification of police forces everywhere. The time when white officers can abuse people of color is coming to a close.

I truly believe this. It's how all human rights advances are made: through pain and suffering and incredible dedication to the cause. There's never anything pretty about it.

Uh...about those "miracles"

Jerry Coyne has a great post up today about an Irish debate on miracles. There is one lone but very capable atheist on this panel of religious bobbleheads, and he socks it to them. If nothing else, do watch the first video Jerry presents. It's short, only 1.3 minutes. And note the priest's sad face as he listens to the words of Michael Nugent, head of Atheist Ireland. That's my favorite part of the video. Fun!

There are no miracles, kiddies. Nugent makes this clear to his hostile, faith-head co-panelists. Nicely done!

November 22, 2014

Aw, you miss me, doncha?

I've been working on my novel, which is why I haven't been around here lately. But don't worry, I never disappear for long.

It's been such a pleasure to get back to writing fiction. There's nothing like it. It's truly a dance -- and it involves a partner. That's the magic. We hook up with our Muse (which I think of as various subconscious brain regions working in concert, in a way they never do in daily life) and the writing takes off. It is the most exhilarating thing I've ever experienced.

And so it takes precedence over the blog. Adding impetus to the move away from blogging, it seems the American landscape has been permanently fouled by rightwing know-nothings. Reading the news makes me want to vomit. There's no sense blogging about the sort of nonsense that's going on in our country. It's an exercise in futility.

So I guess I'll just keep working on the book for now. See you soonish.

November 17, 2014

Pope says stupid thing(s)

As if to prove that the devil sometimes takes over his body, Pope Francis said something evil.
Pope Francis said Monday that children have the right to grow up with a mother and a father, emphasizing traditional family values as he opened an interreligious conference on the "complementarity" of men and women in marriage.
And who did he say this to? Why, to a gathering of Evil Ones, of course:
[The conference] was organized by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, whose conservative prefect, Cardinal Gerhard Mueller, helped lead the opposition to Francis' radical agenda of acceptance at the synod.
This is a reference to the recent synod where Francis' acolytes allegedly tried to encourage the acceptance of gay Catholics and divorced, remarried Catholics. Radical, eh? But to the Evil Ones, this is indeed radical. They want to keep on hating until they reach heaven, which is where they think hateful priests go when they die. Compounding the vacuity of his remarks, Francis said he'd attend a major hate meeting in the US next year. Sounds great, Frankie! Can't wait to hear what you come up with for that crowd. Public burnings of married gays? Could be. Anything to please the Dark One.
"I wish to confirm according to the wishes of the Lord, that in September of 2015, I will go to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families," he told the crowd, which erupted in applause.
The cave-priests always applaud when they hear the word "family". But this word doesn't mean what they think it means. And apparently the pope has no understanding of the term either. Consider what he said about the "right" of children to be raised by both dear old mom and dear old dad. And where do single mothers fit into this picture? Apparently they don't. They must be evil, huh? You gots to have a daddy. You gots to!

This is an ill church. It's sad that Francis got everyone's hopes up, only to dash them. Why is he trying to appease the low-hanging fruit in his organization? It doesn't make sense, given what he's said and done recently. Lord! You don't think the pope has become possessed, do you? Saints preserve us!

November 15, 2014

Ebola, physicians and immunity

Now that we're bringing another physician with Ebola to the US for treatment, the tally of "the cured" is rising. There are now two doctors and three nurses who have survived Ebola in the United States. (I'm not counting the cameraman, since this post is about medical professionals.) Demons willing, the new doctor will also be cured, raising the number of medical staff cured in the US to six.

It is said that these doctors and nurses are now immune to Ebola. No one can truly know, of course. In the fullness of time, we will learn if anyone can be infected with Ebola twice. But so far it hasn't happened in any Ebola outbreak. The cured sure seem to be immune. 

This begs a question. If these three doctors return to Ebola-affected countries in the future, must they wear protective gear? The same goes for the three nurses. Will they be able to help Ebola patients without having to worry about contracting the virus themselves? Have these medical workers become, in effect, Super Medical Staff?

A crazy idea, perhaps. And once you open this door, an even crazier notion comes to mind. Is it possible that some medical professionals will purposely allow themselves to contract Ebola in the US, under controlled conditions in a hospital that can provide effective medical treatment? After all, we seem to be able to cure Ebola as long as the patient is treated soon after becoming infected.

As for the risk, there will always be altruists who are willing to suffer if they believe it will help others. So this is not totally out of the realm of possibility -- though it's doubtful because of liability issues. Still, a legal document signed beforehand could address such concerns. So who knows?

Surely I'm not the first to have these thoughts. But I haven't read anything about doctors with immunity, nor have I seen the issue discussed on TV, so I thought I'd throw it out there. Consider it thrown.

November 14, 2014

Dupes by bots

Have you noticed this? There are lots of duplicate stories at news sites. On the very same page you'll find a story twice, sometimes even three times. Same image, same text.

Obviously these stories are collected by a bot -- an algorithm or rule -- that sends stories to various pages based on internal tags. The problem is that the process is lushly duplicative and no one is in charge of the bots. I doubt any human being reviews these web pages. It's all automated. Gotta keep the costs down, y'know.

The screenshot above is from a HuffPo page. Even side by side, no one noticed.

The sites need to fix this. It makes them look like fools.

Christmas is coming too quickly

I don't know about you, but Xmas seems like a pushy guest this year. It wants to move in right now -- but it's far too soon. Think about it. Thanksgiving is still two weeks away and yet we're already being urged to run to the closest mall and shop our hearts out. It's bizarre. In New York, Rockefeller Center's Xmas tree is already in place and folks have been ice skating there for weeks. But, but, but...wasn't it summer about five minutes ago?

And it snowed here last night. How rude! The trees still have leaves, fer god's sake. Back off, Xmas! But no, it's here and there's nothing we can do about it. They even moved Black Friday up this year so it seems like it's happening all the time. Xmas: it's unstoppable.

As a result, Christmas seems like a rude guest this year. Don't you agree? Or have I turned into one of those bah-humbug guys? Could be. I am getting older, after all.

What this early Xmas rush means, bottom line, is that you'd better pick up a copy of Xmas Carol today. Get going, kids! If you don't start reading right now, Xmas may hurtle past without you even noticing it. So get your very own copy of Xmas Carol and hold on tight. It'll put you in the right frame of mind for Xmas, guaranteed.

All kidding aside, the book is great fun. I promise you'll enjoy it (unless you're a religious nitwit or a raging anti-gay monster, in which case I have to wonder why you're visiting my blog).

Photo credit: J. G. Howes