September 30, 2011

More praise for blushing

Recently, I posted about the social value of blushing. There are similar echoes today in an article on physorg. Here's an excerpt:
Embarrassment is one emotional signature of a person to whom you can entrust valuable resources. It's part of the social glue that fosters trust and cooperation in everyday life.
See? Blushing is a good thing.

It was a dark and stormy night

Click to embiggen a bit.
Carmine, our in-house artist at the Worlds Blog, took this photo yesterday as he was driving in New York City. Ominous. And it's totally weird when clouds have a sharp line at their edge. It shouldn't be allowed, I tell you! It's unnatural!

Perhaps if a nice, solid GOP president comes along, s/he'll pass a law that makes future clouds conform to the soft, rounded expectations of good Christian families. Or maybe s/he'll get God himself to fix this problem. I'm sure our new GOP president will focus from day one on all sorts of important issues, just like this one. Can't wait.

September 29, 2011

Statues of popey guys

Look at that thing. Even I, an atheist, think it's dreadful. It's supposed to be a statue of Pope John Paul II. Here's the first paragraph of the AP story about the displeasure surrounding the statue.
ROME (AP) — He was pilloried by the Vatican for creating a sculpture of Pope John Paul II that some mockingly say looks more like Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini than the beloved late pontiff. Now artist Oliviero Rainaldi has a chance at redemption.
Some Italians have said it looks like a public urinal. A pissoir. (Oops, wrong country.) Makes you want to stop by and "use" it. But despite high hopes at the Vatican, here's what the artist says about his coming "remake":

Even worse than we imagined

Evil popey guy.
From HuffPo today:
VATICAN CITY (RNS) A new report by the Irish branch of Amnesty International says the sexual abuse of children by Ireland's Roman Catholic priests "included acts that amounted to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment."
The 430-page report, released Monday (Sept. 26), "reminds us that Irish children were subjected to treatment that would be horrifying if it were done to prisoners of war, never mind little boys and girls," said Ireland's Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Frances Fitzgerald, in Dublin.
The Roman Catholic Church is a child-raping, criminal enterprise. Never forget this.

September 28, 2011

Great post today by thereisnospoon

David Atkins, who goes by the screen name "thereisnospoon", has been posting eloquently and cogently on the Hullabaloo web site ever since Digby let him get at the keyboard. The guy is so smart.

In "Faith-based policy and American exceptionalism", Atkins makes a great point about the obvious insanity of GOP policies. Go read this one. And then haul this argument out whenever you find yourself talking to a wingnut. Great stuff!

OMD! It's the last day of the baseball season!

Citi Field, empty. Sob.
It's actually here. It's not just a bad dream, like I'd hoped. It's real. The baseball season has come and gone. Sob. Seems like it was only yesterday that Spring training was starting up.

I'll never survive. My secret plan will help -- but I still don't know if I'll make it all the way to Spring. When all the major MLB players visit me this winter, and Jason Varitek moves in for a month or so, I'll probably feel better. But right now it's so hard.

There won't be a baseball game tomorrow night (barring any ties at the end of tonight's games). The season has ended. How could this have happened? And what can we do so it never happens again? Those are my questions.

Oy, I can't believe it. I'm going to go lie down and have a sick headache. How will you cope with this tremendous, gut-wrenching loss?

September 27, 2011

Bloomberg's sudden change of heart

Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of Money
The Mayor of Money, Michael Bloomberg, actually did something constructive this week. This article may explain why. I've said it here before: Bloomberg has been a monster toward young people of color.

Here's an excerpt from another article that explains the problem:
Just over 50,000 people were arrested on marijuana possession charges last year, a vast majority of them members of minorities and male. Critics say that as part of the Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy, officers routinely tell suspects to empty their pockets and then, if marijuana is displayed, arrest them for having the drugs in public view, thereby pushing thousands of people toward criminality and into criminal justice system.
Bloomberg duped young people of color so he could arrest them. That's the simple, verifiable truth. He sees New York City as a place for rich people and only rich people. And you know what color rich people are. So he gets his police to yank the people of color off the streets and thinks this makes the city more welcoming for rich, white people. It's that stark.

The "good news" is that he's finally directed the police commissioner to have officers, you know, follow the law. They can no longer trick young people of color into showing the (decriminalized small amount of) marijuana, and then arrest them for following an order. This has been going on for years. I hope a class action brings tons of money to the young people whose lives were derailed by this white man's "justice".

A third answer?

So let's see. The split in opinion seems to be between a universe that's many billions of years old, and one that cropped up a mere 6,000 years ago. But what if there's a third possibility?

Digital Cuttlefish wrote a smart, funny poem that suggests an alternative theory. It's in a post called Never got the hang of Tuesdays. Go read it.

September 26, 2011

They enjoy putting women down

Amanda Knox
Here's the lead paragraph in an AP story about Amanda Knox, the young woman who has been confined in an Italian prison since 2009, when she was convicted of the murder of her roommate:
Italian lawyers described Amanda Knox, the American student convicted of killing her British roommate, as a "she-devil" and a "witch" in an appeals court Monday while calling her alleged victim a "beautiful girl in the prime of her life."

September 25, 2011

Here comes the moon

There's an interesting article in the NY Times about an upcoming documentary on George Harrison. Within Him, Without Him is the name of the documentary and the article as well. Reading it made me hungry to see it.

Since it's directed by Scorcese it's guaranteed to be good. It will air on HBO on October 5th and 6th. Heads up.

Great post on religious freedom

If the issue of religious freedom -- including freedom from religion -- is important to you, I think you'll enjoy this post. It's a great rundown of what's been happening in our Christian American Air Force.

I've been following this issue for years. It's sickening that there are wacko Christian wingnuts running our armed services. Proselytizing is commonplace in our military and dog forbid you don't believe in any gods.

PS: I found the post on a blog called This Week in Christian Nationalism. It's one of the blogs at the new Freethought Blogs site. There's always good stuff there to read and it's where PZ and Ed Brayton hang out now. Freethought Blogs is a great addition to the blogosphere. Congrats to all the bloggers there!

September 24, 2011

Sleep awaits in the harbour

I love this song composed by Moby and sung by Sinead O'Connor. It's moody, which is how I feel today. So here's your Sunday music. Video first, lyrics below.


The street bears no relief
When everybody's fighting
The street bears no release
With lights so hot and biting

I run the stairs away
And walk into the nighttime
The sadness flows like water
And washes down the heartache
And washes down the heartache

My heart is full
My heart is mild
The saddest songs are played
On the strings of my heart

The heat is on its own
The roof seems so inviting
A vantage point is gained
To watch the children fighting

So lead me to the harbour
And float me on the waves
Sink me in the ocean
To sleep in a sailor's grave
To sleep in a sailor's grave

My heart is full
My heart is mild
The saddest songs are played
On the strings of my heart

My heart is full
My heart is mild, so mild
The saddest songs are played
On the strings of my heart.

Popey guy attacks gays for umpteenth time

Popey guy sees little boy.
The popey guy is on tour. Woo-hoo! Costume changes! He's in his home territory right now: Germany. Of course, this reminds us that he was a member of the Hitler Youth before he assumed the dress. First the Nazis, then the pedophilia scandal. I wonder why horrible things surround this man?

As usual, the popey guy said truly dumb things that indicate he lives inside a fact-free force-field. For instance, he told the German crowd that Christian churches "speak up jointly for the protection of human life from conception to natural death." I'm sure that went over well with the hostile German crowd. Does he not know that the children raped by priests fall into this broad age category? The man cannot recognize irony. 

Of course, the popey guy found time to belittle gay people:
"Knowing, too, the value of family and marriage, we as Christians attach great importance to defending the integrity and the uniqueness of marriage between one man and one woman from any kind of misinterpretation," he said.
Thanks, popey guy. It's statements like this, and the effect they have on society, that pushes more and more gay and lesbian kids toward suicide. You sure are the pope of love.

Climate change is real

Photo of sun's surface.
There's an article on the New York Times website called The American Allergy to Global Warming. Why?. (It's an AP product, published on the Times site.)

What I like about the article is that it states in no uncertain terms that global climate change is no phantasm. Global warming (the term they use) is real. It goes on from there to discuss the dissenters in America who make believe nothing's happening. But what warmed my heart was the early part of the article where they really socked the facts to readers.

Sad to say, you hardly see this in American newspapers. Kudos to the Times (or is it AP?) for this rare peek at reality undistorted by corporate influences. Now could they please start talking about the economy in similarly realistic terms?

Photo credit: The photograph above is one of many taken by the Japanese Hinode spacecraft. That's the actual surface of our sun! Cool, huh? (Oh wait, maybe that's not the right word.)

September 23, 2011

Back to his old tricks

Timmy in a clown outfit.
Timothy Dolan, the bigoted Catholic archbishop of New York City, is at it again. Fresh off his spectacularly failed effort to oppose the right of gays to marry in New York, he's going the national route. Little Timmy just can't go a week without attacking gay people. (He has to be a closet case -- no one else attacks gays with this much venom.)

His new schtick is to attack the Obama administration's decision to not defend DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act. The thing that has Timmy's bowels in an uproar is this statement:

September 22, 2011

What will god say to them?

Evil wingnuts never stop talking about their strong belief in god. As they slash "entitlements" and try to ensure that old people are thrown out of their homes, penniless and uninsured, they simultaneously see themselves as "good, church-going people."

I wonder if these dirtbags ever think about the conversation that will allegedly take place when they meet this god fellow up in heaven -- you know, right outside those pearly gates. I doubt they do.

But if some have indeed thought this through, I would love to know if they believe god will say, "Ah, I see you made sure poor children couldn't get insurance! And you wouldn't let 1/10 of the human population marry! Excellent!"

Seriously, these people are downright evil. They are 90-600 pounds of excrement dressed up as a human being. Is it possible that these mean, ignorant dolts expect the "god of love" to approve of their hateful lives? Or have they never considered what "judgement day" will be like? Maybe they think god just checks to see if you have an AFA membership card, and opens the gates if you do.

Yes, indeed, you ignorant filth. God is definitely going to look at you and say, "You're just the sort we want in Heaven." Seriously, it boggles the mind.

PS: Is that the greatest image of god ever? It was drawn by our artist-in-residence: cousin Carmine. I adore it. (And hey, I hear that's exactly what you're supposed to do. Woot! I'm in synch.)

September 21, 2011

Science links

Exactly why and how the World Trade Center fell is a question that we thought was answered. But perhaps the official report was wrong. This explanation sounds just right. In short, molten aluminum from the plane came into contact with water inside the building, causing huge explosions that ripped the building apart. With a floor torn apart, the structure above collapsed and when its weight hit the floors below, it brought the building down.

The fact that there were explosions just before the Towers fell is an anomaly that has fueled conspiracy theories for years. The suggestion in this article is not only scientifically sound -- it explains the explosions.

And oh, yeah -- I almost forgot. It looks like we're about to become immortal

So many geese, so little time

This shot shows quite a few geese. If you look deeply into the photo (sorry about the quality) you may spot an additional 30 or so in the water. (You can click on the photo to make it larger.) There were even more geese outside the frame when I took this shot -- about 25 on the left and another 30 or so on the right. We gotta lotta geese.

Longish geese post after the jump . . .

September 20, 2011

Newly released Hubble image

Click the photo to see a larger version. Is that beautiful, or what? It's hard to grasp how gorgeous the universe is. Stuff like this is just floating around out there.

You can learn more about the "Rose of galaxies" at Science and Reason, which is where I found this stunning photo.

I wonder what civilizations exist there. I'm sure they do. How could someone not live in a great-looking galaxy like that?

The fear of public speaking

There's an interesting post on the fear of public speaking at Ed Brayton's blog today. If the topic interests you, you can hear Ed, Sam Harris and Mencken talking about it. Well, you can read what they say, anyway. Mencken had a funny take on the topic, turning it into a jab at writers. I found the post interesting.

I had to do far too much public speaking in my human rights work. I would always have a nervous breakdown beforehand, similar to the experience Sam Harris describes in the article. But I always found that when I began speaking, the fear disappeared. Still, the experience beforehand was so unpleasant that I will avoid public speaking for the remainder of my life.

Do you share this common fear?

Big energy news

If this pans out, we have discovered an endless source of clean energy. Take that, oil!

Note: link fixed.

September 19, 2011

Dawkins profile in the NY Times

Longish article about my hero, Richard Dawkins, today in the Times. He is clarity personified and the fact that he's militantly atheist really warms my cockles.

By the way, he's written a science book for children. That's the cover image at left. It's already available in Britain and will be sold here soon. If you've got any bright-eyed inquisitive youngsters in your life, you might want to pick up a copy for them. The reviews say it explains everything. It's literally a kid's guide to reality.

The title for his book is just perfect. Reality is truly magical if you take the time to look into it. I'll bet this book is the best thing a kid could ever receive.

The insanity of America's rich/poor divide

There's an article in The Guardian with the headline: The Decline and Fall of the Middle Class. Here's an excerpt:
[S]o staggeringly unbalanced has America become that the richest 400 American families have the same net worth as the bottom 50% of the nation.
When are Americans going to wake up? This is not okay and it should cause people to riot in the streets. Funny how that's not happening, huh? The media writes the narrative and the people watch their TV screens and chew their cud. Nothing happening here; move along. Sigh.

Gamers solve scientists' puzzle

Science nerds will love this. There's a story out today about how scientists turned a difficult protein-folding problem over to gamers to solve. It had stumped scientists and computers for decades.

The gamers solved the problem in three weeks. You can read about it here. Very cool.

September 18, 2011

You're alone when you write

When making art, aim high.
It seems obvious -- of course you're alone when you write. But I mean you're really alone, to the point where you may as well be writing in outer space. When you go to that computer (or take pen and notebook in hand), there is no one there but you.

No one will write your book for you and it won't write itself. You are the one who will make or break your novel. I'll say it again: you're alone.

But another part of this deal is that you have complete freedom. From start to finish, no one but you is in charge. I like this so much and as I close in on the final manuscript of Xmas Carol I can feel the power of this proposition. The final form, the words as they'll be written in stone -- will come only from me.

It's like sculpting, this final stage of creating the book. Borrowing Michelangelo's imagery, I'm carving away the excess stone to reveal the sculpture of the story within. And in the process, I too am discovering its final form. I love this process.

Sensible article in LA Times

God at the Head of the Class is a nice, normal, accurate article in the LA Times today. It briefly recounts the case of a teacher who tried to proselytize his students in a public school, and the decision that came down as a result of his actions.

The reason I point to this article is that you rarely see such clarity in a major newspaper. Kudos to the LA Times. It's not so hard to say: religion doesn't belong in public schools. See how easy that is?

September 17, 2011

What is it about transcendence?

One of my favorites. David Gray singing "Shine". It rises up, this song does. Lyrics below, and damned if I know what he means by this "shining" thing. What do you think?


I can see it in your eyes
What I know in my heart is true
That our love it has faded
Like the summer run through
So we'll walk down the shoreline
One last time together
Feel the wind blow our wanderin' hearts like a feather
But who knows what's waiting
In the wings of time
Dry your eyes
We gotta go where we can shine

Don't be hiding in sorrow
Or clinging to the past
With your beauty so precious
And the season so fast
No matter how cold the horizon appear
Or how far the first night
When I held you near
We're gonna rise from these ashes
Like a bird of flame
Take my hand,
we're gonna go where we can shine.

For all that we struggle
For all we pretend
You know, you know, you know
It don't come down to nothing
Except love in the end
And ours is a road
That is strewn with goodbyes
But as it unfolds
As it all unwinds
Remember your soul is the one thing
You can't compromise.

Step out of the shadow,
We're gonna go where we can shine
We're gonna go where we can shine
I said we're gonna go where we can shine

And lookin', lookin', lookin', lookin'
Through the windows of midnight
Moonfoam and silver.

Before they went mad

A few months back, in a post about creativity v. creationism, I lightly referred to people who were great writers -- and then lost their minds. Whitley Strieber is the primary example of this. He wrote two of the most excellent novels in the English language, The Hunger and The Wolfen, but then he started seeing aliens and writing crazy-people books. It was a huge loss.

And then there's Ann Rice. There was a time when she wrote one excellent novel after another in original, almost unearthly prose. Yes, she was a horror writer but her talent would have made her stand out in any genre. Her books are literature. But at some point, the poor thing discovered jeebus and lost her talent. Jeebus does that to people. (Seen any creative Christians lately? Haha, just kidding. There aren't any.)

September 16, 2011

It ain't a choice

Today,  John Suntan Boehner said that being gay is a matter of choice. Well, I guess it's settled then.

When I hear people say this -- and it's almost always a guy -- I can't help but wonder. Could it be they want to have sex with men but "choose" not to? And therefore they see gayness as a choice? It's bumble-headed to think like this but it sort of makes (bumble-headed) sense. Dog knows, these guys aren't deep thinkers.

It's not a choice. I've was always gay, even when I was a kid. I think pretty much all gay and lesbian people can confirm this perception: we were always gay or lesbian. It's not like it's a difficult thing to figure out: you find men or women sexy -- either or, usually. And no matter what, if you are minimally conscious you know which sex attracts you. It ain't rocket science. Closet cases (and "ex-gays") may hide from themselves for a long time but that's just a sick game. And it doesn't change the essential truth: they're gay and they were always gay.

Who knows? Maybe a lot of these "straight" guys who spend enormous amounts of their time attacking gay people will "go gay" at some point. I wouldn't be surprised. But if this happens, they were always gay. Choice has nothing to do with sexual orientation and I think everyone with a head on their shoulders knows this by now.

Some of us last a really long time

This is a photo of my mother with my cousin Carmine's daughter, Julia. It was taken about a year ago and I love the image. (Carmine, did you take this photo?)

Today is my mother's 85th birthday. Jeez! She has had such a good life. For the most part, her health has been tremendous and her days have been full of energy and life. Norma, that's her name, has some serious get-up-and-go. We can hardly stop her from cleaning the house from top to bottom and then cooking all the food in the fridge. She's like the energizer bunny.

I just want to congratulate her on this achievement. Not many people make it this far in life, and she's always been a vital part of the family. Age didn't slow her down at all.

Happy birthday, Mom!

September 15, 2011

The Stone's vapid arguments

Philosopher Daniel Dennett. Woot!
The New York Times has a regular "philosophy" column these days. It's called The Stone, and I haven't seen one lick of sense in any of these columns.

Today's vapid entry, for instance, focuses on this idea:
Atheists, he maintains, need to undertake the positive project of showing how their worldview can take over what he calls the ethical “functions” of theism.
And then it goes on and on about this idiotic notion. Of course we atheists don't have to show how our "worldview" can "take over" the "ethical functions of theism". This is an inane point.

We have no need to "take over" any of the nonsensical realms dominated by religion. We simply know that there is no god. Period.

People are always trying to attach their harebrained notions to what atheism "needs to do". We don't need to do nuthin' -- except laugh at all the idiots who believe in gods.

Hint: whenever a writer poses a question for the "New Atheists", it's a clear sign that nonsense is ahead. Read further at your own risk. And by the way, there are some good philosophy blogs. (For instance, this one and this one.) I read a batch of philosophy blogs every day. The Stone isn't one of them.

September 14, 2011

Book extras

Another reader joined the pack last week. My longtime friend Dale read Xmas Carol and I'm happy to say he gave it an enthusiastic review. So far, that's what I'm hearing from readers. Xmas Carol is a hit. I can't tell you how this gladdens my heart.

But my readers do more than read: they get a say. Dale agreed with Annie that the longest scene in the book should be a lot shorter -- or axed entirely. Now, I think it's a fun scene but I can understand that people want the story to move along.

I think I'll reduce the long scene to a few short pages -- and move the longer version to this blog (or a special Xmas Carol blog; not sure which way I'll go with that). As a reader, I know that it's painful to finish a good book. So wouldn't it be great if there were additional scenes waiting for the reader online? I like the idea and I've got tons of cut scenes from all three of my books. Why not recycle them?

So here's the plan. Tomorrow I begin the final, final, final edit. I'm going to put my Barbara Stanwyck boots on for this one. I will axe whatever needs axing. And really, this is the last time I'll edit the book. I promise (I think).

No memory whatsoever

From the New York Times today:
The potential proliferation of both conventional and unconventional weapons in Libya after six months of civil war is a "key concern" for the United States, a senior American official said Wednesday.
Excuse me, but . . . weren't we just handing out guns to these people by the truckload a few weeks ago? And now we're worried about weapons proliferation?

There's no one in charge of continuity anymore. Just say any old thing and that's that; you won't be questioned. I send a shout-out to our fearless press: "You stupid twits! It's your failure that's bringing this country to its knees."

September 13, 2011

My secret plan for the baseball off-season

Mr. Baseball. There's nobody like him.
Okay, I don't handle the end of the baseball season well. It's a crushing, depressing, mind-shattering prospect and the question is always the same: how the hell am I going to get through the long winter months without a single baseball game?

Each year I think I'll flip out. I try to imagine myself getting through the first evening without a game -- and I can't. No baseball games? I'll go mad! I don't sob when I think about it but I come very close. And it's coming! There are only two more weeks to the regular season and then it's on to the short post-season -- and then comes that long, deathly silence that lasts until Spring. No baseball! Horrors!
The man.

But this year I have a plan. To stay close to major league baseball, I've decided to have Tommy John surgery during the off-season. Take that, empty TV screen! Oh, it'll be tough for sure. But I'll bet a lot of the regular players will stop by to share their experience, strength and hope with me. Probably Jason Varitek will move in with me for the first few weeks after the surgery, just to be sure I'm okay.

And then of course I'll have a period of intense rehab leading up to Spring Training. I figure I'll do it down in Port St. Lucie, where the Mets train. I think this is a very good plan. I feel positive about it. I will spend the off-season in the heart of baseball!

September 12, 2011

Ghost: Here comes the sun

I found these guys by pumping in "Here Comes the Sun" at YouTube, hoping to find a cover version where someone really made the song his or her own. Nina Simone's version is great, of course, but then I saw this.

Sad to say, there's really no video to this "video", just the soundtrack. There are live versions of the song on YouTube but the quality is ghastly. What I like is that Ghost's lead singer always seems to dress like a sick popey guy, a true "Ill Papa" (as Joe Jervis refers to the nasty little creature). Now, I like anyone who makes fun of the popey guy -- but I like the song too. They actually take a happy song and make it sound ominous, which is great fun. (It reminds me of O-Negative's "Mary Had a Little Lamb", which unfortunately is not on YouTube. Drat.)

Like it or hate it, it's nice that a band in Finland makes fun of the popey guy each time they go on stage. Go, Ghost!

Journals: a lifelong habit

A journal is the story of your life.
I've kept a journal since I was about 21. I'm 62* now, so I've been at this for a long, long time.

It's weird to look back at my earliest journals. I was a twit when I was in my twenties, truth be told. All I cared about was romance. Every entry was about my relationship with my lover -- as if this defined the world. I know: I was young and this is what youth does.

September 11, 2011

Burial alternative

Where they do the deed.
While reading a breezy article about burial alternatives, I was struck by this:
Much like mummification, plastination involves preserving the body in a semi-recognizable form. Invented by anatomist Gunther von Hagens, plastination is used in medical schools and anatomy labs to preserve organ specimens for education. But von Hagens has taken the process one step further, creating exhibits of plastinated bodies posed as if frozen in the midst of their everyday activities. According to the Institute for Plastination, thousands have signed up to donate their bodies for education and display.
That makes my blood run cold. Not the idea itself (though it's bad) but that innocent-sounding phrase about donating your body for "education and display." Whoah, Nelly. Who controls where my body ends up? If society dives any more rightward, my plasticized body could end up in a Noah's Ark Park display one day. No way that's gonna happpen.

Anyway, plastination seems like a crummy idea. Why add more non-degradable junk to the landscape? And just think -- the junk would be us.

9/11: the postmortem

Krugman is the only one who hit the nail on the head today. A large excerpt from his blog post for today:
What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?
The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.

Piaf's stories

Here's a translation of Edith Piaf's "L'etranger". I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I love the stories in her songs. Video below.

L’etranger (The Stranger)

He looked really sweet
Slightly mad, dreamy eyes
With a strange sparkle
Like lots of Northern boys
In his hair a hint of gold
An angel's smile
I was about to pass by without noticing him
But when he bid me good evening
In a sing-song voice
I knew then that, that evening
Despite the rain and the cold
I would be happy.
He had a really sweet face.
He came from I know not where.
Where are you from? What's your name?
The ship is my home
The sea my village
My name will be known by none
I'm a simple lad
A keen, honest worker
And If my heart is too heavy
Then give me a bit of love
Hope of caresses
And I, a girl with a jaded heart
I felt, under his kisses,
A burning exultation
He had a really sweet face
He came from I know not where
Simply, without patter
I loved my new lover
My husband of an hour
Like many unfortunate souls
He thought he read in my eyes
A woman who leaves you crying
While, madly, I was hoping
That in the morning, he would say to me
Come, I'm taking you with me
I would have said yes, I feel it
But he fled, leaving me
Fastened to my chain
He had a really sweet face
He came from I know not where
I've dreamt of foreign lands
And, my heart all troubled
By cigarettes
By alcohol and the blues
His memory each evening
Made my head spin
But they say that, close to the port
They fished out the body
Of a lad from the marines
Who, abandoned by love
Could find nothing to comfort him
But the tender sea
he had a really sweet face
He went away I know not where

September 10, 2011

Two questions

First, if it was determined beyond all doubt that a public figure had been a robot all along, who do you think it would be?

And second, who should play you in the movie version of your life?

Ponder these questions instead of going to mass today, and do yourself a good turn!

Writing dialogue

There was a great article at, of all places, HuffPo this week. It's by Angela Fluornoy and it's called On Dialect, Dialogue and Good Books. She really nailed one point perfectly. Here's a rather lengthy excerpt (since I doubt you'll follow the link to read it):
In my experience, the dialogue that borders on tiring (which really isn't the right word -- I'd say challenging) is that which focuses on spelling words differently to highlight pronunciation (phonology) instead of taking the time to depict how a dialect is syntactically different.
Example (made up by me): "Dey iz headed to da pictsha show."

September 9, 2011

Don we now our homey apparel

I feel them: those cool breezes coming down the pike. After a summer of suffocating heat they're finally here and it's exciting. I sense a world of possibilities in those breezes, as if life is ready to roll.

But of course, the change of seasons is significant for all northern bloggers. For in the Autumn, in accordance with longstanding Blogger Traditions, we make The Change.

Yes, throughout the hot summer months we toiled in our pajamas (or even less, if truth be told; okay, a lot less), pounding our keyboards and struggling each day to put out good, interesting prose for our zillions of readers. But now the cool breezes have arrived. And with great excitement, every northern blogger is reaching into his or her closet today to retrieve . . . The Garment.

Rejoice! It is time for the Annual Donning of the Robes! The instant we slip our arms into the inviting, terrycloth sleeves we feel the power! Now we're ready for winter blogging. And so it goes every Autumn, as we return to our keyboards refreshed and renewed by the simple, nubby presence of The Robes. 

All hail The Robes! Oh, the power! 

What's wrong with this picture?

From Reuter's today:
Japan's biggest utility estimated around 4,720 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 and iodine-131 was released into the Pacific Ocean between March 21 and April 30, but researchers at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) put the amount at 15,000 trillion becquerels, or terabecquerels.

Government regulations ban shipment of foodstuff containing over 500 becquerels of radioactive material per kg.

September 8, 2011

Okay, supernovae worry me

Drops of mercury.
I am a worrier. I freely admit this. For instance, Milo and his flock disappeared two days ago and they're still not back! But I don't freak out. I try to take things in stride. Still, certain worries abide in the back of my mind.

One of them concerns massive volcanic eruptions. In Earth's history, there were times when huge swathes of the Earth erupted in furious volcanic activity -- thousands and thousands of miles of eruptions. If this ever happened in our time, it would be an extinction-level event. So that's one worry: I fear the air will become unbreathable and that it will happen swiftly.

So let's see now . . .

Gargoyle, National Cathedral.
Toting up god's works, we find he sent an earthquake to Washington's National Cathedral, harming the poor old thing. And then yesterday, god made a heavy crane that was there to effect repairs, topple over onto two buildings. God must really hate this cathedral.

But what do the religious nitwits on the scene have to say about today's toppled crane?
The Rev. Simon Bautista, canon for Latino Ministries for the diocese . . . said it was miraculous that no one had been killed or seriously injured.

“You can see that this was a divine hand that kept something else from happening,” Bautista said.
Indeed, the divine hand has been helping the cathedral all along. It's all so clear now that I've heard the Reverend's words. It's a wonder these people can pick out two matched socks each morning! A miracle indeed. Twits!

September 7, 2011

"Cultured" meat

Nice, normal, uncultured cows.
That's the terminology used for meat created in the lab: cultured meat. And guess what? No animals will be required to create this artificial meat. An article at ScienceDaily says they won't even use animal cells to create the meat. They're thinking algae. From this they will tease tissue -- and you know what the other name for tissue is, don't you? Yup, meat. It's a wild notion, isn't it? Meat from algae.

Wanna worry?

September 6, 2011

Baseball talk

Jeez, I haven't done one of these posts in a while. Let me make up for it. Here are some fun things I heard the announcers say during a baseball game.

Keith, back in the day.
Keith Hernandez, during a game: "Dizzy Dean was hit in the head in a double-play. They took X-rays and the report was that the X-rays showed nothing!" And all three announcers laugh.

I heard a new use of the term schneid. After Lucas Duda hit his first home run after months of trying, one of the Mets announcers cried, "And Lucas Duda finally gets off the schneid!"

I liked this one: "You might need a suitcase to visit that home run!"

September 5, 2011

Up at the castle with Nils

My associate, Nils.
My trusted associate, Nils, invited me to his mountaintop castle late Sunday afternoon. Of course I went. Who wouldn't? He rarely allows anyone to see the inside of that place; even I have only been twice. It's holy there, what with Nils' searing intelligence and his inimitable sense of style. He decorated the castle himself and it is breathtakingly original. I'd say more but it's against the rules. Nils is strict about this.

Anyway, Nils sat me down before the red stone fireplace in the library and told me he had something very serious to say. As if to underline the gravity of the situation, he brought out some fabulous dope and we smoked ourselves into a state of extra-cosmic consciousness before he said a word. So there I was, stoned out of my mind and ready for anything -- or so I thought.

September 4, 2011

From dolphins to aliens

They won't look like this.
The other day I posted about similarities between human and dolphin speech. It was in reference to an article at physorg called Dolphins, Aliens and the Search for Intelligent life. Ah, you didn't know about that last bit, did you? I figured I'd save it for another post -- this one.

In the article, Laurance Doyle, a scientist at the SETI Institute in California, speaks about what the language of aliens who are more intelligent than us might be like:
To explain, Doyle highlights the example of Koko, a captive gorilla that has learned sign language and can understand concepts like “tomorrow” or “yesterday”. But combine time tenses, and Koko doesn’t understand.
 “If you say to her, ‘by this time tomorrow I’ll have finished eating’, Koko doesn’t understand the two time jumps, that at some point in the future there will be a point in the past,” says Doyle. “Now imagine an alien comes with more complex abilities. They may say, ‘I will have to be have been there’. Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but humans can’t handle three time jumps or more. An alien could just think in a more complex way.” So instead of double entendres, they might have triple or quadruple entendres.
Isn't that cool? I'm 100% sure there are aliens out there who are vastly more intelligent than we are. It makes perfect sense given the size of the universe and life's propensity for existing in any possible niche. In fact, it's insane to think there aren't aliens who are more intelligent than us. Dog, I'd like to meet them (even if they think I'm a fly). Go read the entire article. It's major fun.

September 3, 2011

After the storm

A song for everyone picking up the pieces this week -- Nina Simone's "Feeling Good". I wish there was more in the way of visuals but the song is so hopeful. And "Merry Sunday" to everyone. Don't forget to blaspheme today.

Silly story, silly airline

In a dull AP story about Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day being thrown off a Southwest Airlines plane for saggy pants, they mentioned that the Southwest spokesman -- trying to cover the airline's ass (no pun intended) -- issued the following written statement:
"As soon as we became aware of what had happened, we reached out to apologize for this Customer's experience," the statement read. "He elected to take the next flight. We followed up with this Customer and involved Employees to get more details and, in our latest conversations, understand from the Customer the situation was resolved to his satisfaction."
The guy who sent this out, Brad Hawkins, seems to be living in an early 1950s reality where we capitalize words to make them seem important. It looks so silly. You'd think a spokesman would know that. It reads like it was written by a chat-bot.

Great timesaver!

All newspapers should have half-a-headline ready the night before the paper is printed. It would say:

"Obama backs down on . . ."

Then in the morning they'd just have to add a word or two. What a great timesaver that would be!

Popey guy caught with dress up, again

Evil popey guy.
There's a story today in the NYT about the Vatican's response to the Irish prime minister's scathing accusations against the popey guy's crime headquarters in Rome. I found it hard to believe what I was reading. There's obviously no distinction between right and wrong in the Roman Catholic church. (For background, I wrote about this story here and here.)

Here's the part that amazed me:
The Vatican response noted that at the time, in the mid-1990s, there was no law in Ireland requiring professionals to report suspected abuse to police and that the issue was a matter of intense debate politically. In fact, Ireland has never had a law explicitly making the failure to report suspected child abuse a crime, but is planning to draft one now in the wake of the Cloyne report.

"Given that the Irish government of the day decided not to legislate on the matter, it is difficult to see how (the Vatican's) letter to the Irish bishops, which was issued subsequently, could possibly be construed as having somehow subverted Irish law or undermined the Irish state in its efforts to deal with the problem in question," the Vatican said.
Can you believe that? It's the sort of nonsense lawyers trot out as a distraction during a trial. On the world's most pompous stage, the popey guy's stooges ignore the immorality at the core of this situation and focus instead on an absence of legislation! The abuse doesn't matter to the Vatican; failure to report the abuse to the police doesn't matter; all that matters is that the Vatican can point to a lack of legislation on the matter in Ireland -- and skitter away to the shadows, unscathed. I could not believe my eyes when I read this. It's a total abdication of any moral stance -- which is fitting when you consider the source.

So the popey guy once again throws up his dress and moons the world's sense of morality. Welcome to today's Roman Catholic church.

September 2, 2011

Cop talk

Earlier tonight on the news I heard a police officer say to an interviewer:
"From what I've been able to ascertune, it never happened."
Love that cop talk.

The despicable Dick Cheney, yet again

I meant to post about this the other day but was waylaid. I saw a story at the Christian Science Monitor about Mr. Personality, the former VP -- "Might Dick Cheney really be tried for war crimes?" The short version is they don't think so. But check this out:
"And the part about other countries acting, if the US doesn’t? For that to have any actual consequence, it would have to involve snatching Dick Cheney off the streets and spiriting him away to, say, the International Criminal Court in the Hague. That’s almost certainly not going to happen.
"The US would protest strenuously – and probably take some kind of action in retaliation – if one of its citizens was subjected to international courts without Washington’s approval."
Can you believe someone wrote those words and wasn't joking? The US -- the country that spirited away dog knows how many men during our illegal wars and threw them in dungeons in foreign countries so they could be extensively tortured -- would "take some kind of action in retaliation" if Dick Cheney was forced to pay for the crimes he freely admits he committed?

Can you imagine how the world would see the US if it retaliated for, uh, justice? But this is our country today: the rule of law is a thing of the past. I can't believe Dick Cheney is allowed to roam free. This astounding judicial oversight will cloud our country's future until it is remedied. Let's hope some country snatches him, and soon.

I'm back in the saddle again!

Yesterday the blessed Apple Store called to say my computer was ready. Of course, I rushed off to Connecticut immediately to fetch it. This time the store was not only very noisy and crowded -- it was hot! Still, it didn't take too long, perhaps 10 minutes, before they handed me my baby.

(You must buy Apple's "AppleCare Protection Plan" when you get a Mac. It's 249 bucks and covers you for three years. The bill for fixing my computer -- they told me lightning or a power surge killed something inside it -- would have been $776 but because I had the plan it was free. And I've still got over two years coverage coming. Plus you can call them with questions every day if you want. They're quick and they actually help you. It's a grand company.)

I can't tell you how happy I am to be staring at my 27 inch screen again. What you really should do after reading this article is go buy a 27-inch iMac. This thing is so fast and responsive, it's shocking. Anyway, to celebrate the moment, here's Gene Autry. I'm home, baby, home!

September 1, 2011

The Finger of Thank You

Baseball has traditions. Some are longstanding but others appear in an instant and are magically adopted by all the players. One tradition in the latter group is the Finger of Thank You.

You see it there on the left. A guy in the outfield (where this tradition proudly reigns) catches a ball. The fans cheer. And the player acknowledges the applause with the Finger of Thank you.

Me, I don't like the Finger. And I don't like the other variation, either -- the Gang (or Phone) Finger of Thank You. That's it on the left. I say meh to these Fingers.

Mostly, it's the top version that you see -- the Limp Finger of Thank You. Note how the Finger in the top photo is not fully extended, as if it's some sort of half-gesture. That's the usual way the Finger is used. In effect, it's like a pointing index finger that fainted along the way. "Meh," I say to all the Fingers.

Any other opinions out there?

Chatbots chatting

Cornell students hooked two chatbots together and let them talk to each other. Fun. Here's the video.