December 31, 2014

Booman's excellent idea

Booman has a great post up today about the NYPD's latest tactic, which is to do nothing. They're not arresting anyone or doing, you know, their jobs, because their lilly-white feelings are hurt. Aw, you just wanna grab an NYPD cop and hug him right now, don't you? I'm kidding, of course. They're showing themselves to be irrational, childish, resentful and hateful. They don't want to interact with the community, they want to arrest it (or at least slap it around).

Booman wonders if this might backfire on them:
So your brilliant, devious plan is this: you’re going to show the people who believe that the NYPD is full of power-hungry bullies and paramilitary goons what for by displaying to the country exactly how most of the collars you make are in fact wholly unnecessary exercises of petty microagression towards the citizenry you hold in open and rancorous contempt.
Okay then. Go with that plan, guys.
Booman's idea is to check the stats later on. Did traffic accidents increase? Were there more robberies and other crimes? Or is this plan going to show NYC that the police don't need to harass the citizens to do their jobs?

Remember, Eric Garner was murdered for selling loose cigarettes. There is absolutely no reason for the police to stop a poor person from making a few cents by selling cigarettes that he bought and owns. This is part of the poverty economy and it's been around for decades. To attack it is to attack poor people (who are often people of color).

Maybe it would be better if the police spent their time working on, you know, actual crimes. I hope this racist move ends up running over the PBA and all the white racists on the force. As Booman suggested, perhaps their hours need to be greatly reduced -- given the fact that they waste most of their time on harassing people of color.

Fun notion. Let's see what comes of it.

First time ever

I eat boring food. Not only that but I eat the same boring food, day after day. Today, in an effort to ignore New Years Eve -- which seems to be a holiday in search of a purpose -- I decided to cook all day and into the night.

The thing is, I usually make one thing per day when I cook. But today is special so I'm making all three of my world-famous (to me) dishes. I've never even tried two in one day. Three? Call Guinness!

I'll probably be up past midnight with the rice and beans but that's okay. When I wake up on January 1st, all my cooking will be done! This will supply me with breakfasts and dinners for at least two weeks. There's nothing like looking in the freezer and seeing tons of iced-over containers of food. Gives me a real lift, it does.

But the really-really great thing is that this gives me an idea for a New Years resolution: I resolve to never do this again. Ever.

What's your New Years resolution?

December 30, 2014

Police respect squandered in attacks on de Blasio

The headline above is the title of a great editorial at the New York Times today. It's spot on. Here's an excerpt:
Mr. de Blasio isn’t going to say it, but somebody has to: With these acts of passive-aggressive contempt and self-pity, many New York police officers, led by their union, are squandering the department’s credibility, defacing its reputation, shredding its hard-earned respect. They have taken the most grave and solemn of civic moments — a funeral of a fallen colleague — and hijacked it for their own petty look-at-us gesture. In doing so, they also turned their backs on Mr. Ramos’s widow and her two young sons, and others in that grief-struck family.
Go read the whole thing.

What digby said

Anyone who fails to read digby each day is missing out. Here she is on the NYPD:
I continue to be stunned at these police officers' lack of maturity and professionalism. I understand that they're upset at both the protests and the shootings of their fellows in NYC and that's fine. But their antics in the face of criticism proves in living color what we see in so many individual incidents: they don't just want respect, they want submission.
Uh-huh. And they ain't gettin' it. Not now or anytime soon. I think we're experiencing the Golden Moment. It's hard to see these things when they're happening, though they're readily visible in our rearview mirror. Truly, I don't think the protesters are going to stop until there is tangible change in police/community interactions. I believe that this is the Golden Moment, the instant when real change occurs. Cops have to alter their M.O. or they will be despised by all decent Americans.

Let's see if they're up to the challenge. As to the protesters, I think they're grand. I especially love the response many gave when asked about their willingness to keep protesting despite Mayor de Blasio's request that that they stop until the funerals of the two police officers are completed.

Paraphrased, this is their response:
"The world didn't stop when our loved ones were gunned down by the police without cause. We will keep on marching."
Good for them. They didn't kill those police officers; some nut did. There is no connection. Please, please let this be a real Golden Moment. Change has to come sometime. Why not now?

December 29, 2014

Appalling rightwing visuals

Visuals matter. The wingnuts never understand this.

In NYC, throngs of white people are holding events to show their mindless support for racist police officers. In image after image, there is a sea of white people holding candles and signs -- and there isn't one person of color. Not one. I doubt that rightwing viewers notice this. To them, the crowd probably looks "normal". It's sad, really.

So, let us pause and review. What we see in the news are huge groups of people of all colors marching against police brutality directed at people of color . . . and throngs of white people screaming "Leave our cops alone!" Extra bonus: Rudy Guliani -- nitwit of nitwits -- is on the side of the racists. Right there, you know something stinks to high heaven.

Is there really no one in rightwing circles who can tell them, "Uh, those images on TV and the news, of only white people supporting our side of the issue, could be a teensy problem." Apparently not.

Each day, they show exactly who they are and frankly, they don't give a damn. They themselves are the proof that their argument is a racist lie. They are white people, and only white people. And every single one of them is a racist. End of story.

That's the true joy of wingnuttia: it's all wrong, all the time and they don't even know or care. USA! USA! USA!

Image: Twitter, The Independent

December 27, 2014

The week that wasn't

My least favorite week is happening as we speak. The time slot between Xmas and New Years is an empty, dead thing. No one does anything, everyone's on vacation, nothing of note occurs and there is no news at all. The silence is deafening. If I could put myself into a nice restful coma with an end date of January 2nd, I'd do it. What the heck, I wouldn't miss anything.

But on the other hand, those damn sales are still going on. It seems the retail industry is setting itself up for a fall. The lesson presented this year is clear: don't buy anything unless it's December. Otherwise you'll pay too much. Something tells me this isn't a functional plan for the retailers. Only sell in December at rock-bottom prices? This will lead to failure.

But Americans have totally bought into the idea of becoming a new species: homo shoppiens. The purpose of life is (wait for it) buying things. And then hooray, life is fabulous. Yeah, for about five minutes. I understand that this is just the hunter-gatherer instinct gone wild, but it's still obscene.

And you have to buy things. Well, if you need things, anyway. I just bought four sweaters at Old Navy for $12 each. I mean, seriously, how can you not buy them? So I'm a sinner too.

But I know it's wrong. This isn't the pinnacle of human achievement we were hoping for merely decades ago. We've lost our place, our bookmark. We're not progressing anymore. All we're doing is lining our nests and making sure no one else can climb into them. Damn those immigrants cuckoo birds!

We've lost our way, folks. And I think it's too late to search for the path we were on. Ah, who cares? Let's go eat donuts and shop online.

December 25, 2014

How nice!

I woke up this morning to discover a new, positive review for Xmas Carol at Amazon. Now, that's how to say Merry Xmas (to me, anyway).

Hohoho, kids. Merry Xmas! Now go give everybody presents. See you tomorrow, bright and early (ha).

December 24, 2014

David Brooks' idiotic thoughts

The least inspiring writer in the world, David Brooks, has a meaningless Christmas column in the NY Times this week. It's called "The Subtle Sensations of Faith". In the following excerpt, he sets up a strawman so he can knock it down and thus display to the world his nonexistent chops. Here, he's talking about the value of faith.
It begins, for many people, with an elusive experience of wonder and mystery. The best modern book on belief is “My Bright Abyss” by my Yale colleague, Christian Wiman. In it, he writes, “When I hear people say they have no religious impulse whatsoever ... I always want to respond: Really? You have never felt overwhelmed by, and in some way inadequate to, an experience in your life, have never felt something in yourself staking a claim beyond yourself, some wordless mystery straining through word to reach you? Never?
This is obvious tripe. Of course we feel awe. If you explore the scientific nature of reality, as Brooks never does, you cannot fail to be impressed. Reality is indeed awesome. (Read "Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene if you doubt this.) Reality doesn't contain any gods because it doesn't need them. Everything proceeds smoothly without the intervention of a super-creature. God-belief is just a silly, primitive notion that came out of the forests with the earliest people -- and we've never managed to rid ourselves of it. To this day, it claws at humanity and fights every effort we make to improve ourselves. 

How many people were killed today because of religion? A hundred? Two or three hundred? A thousand? Religion kills profusely and often, while atheism kills no one. And yet there's a "wordless mystery straining to reach" David Brooks. Well, reality's been straining to reach DB for some time, but it always fails. Maybe he needs to look for something real instead of wallowing in his own thoughts.

Today, the godless are excited because it's finally Xmas Eve. We've got our gifts wrapped and we can't wait to see the smiling faces of our giftees tomorrow morning (or tonight, for those of us whose traditions include Xmas Eve gift-giving).

We look forward to seeing family and friends, for whom we wish the best in the coming year. Friendship and love, that's what Xmas is about. That's why each year at this time, we gather together and rejoice in the bonds we share. That's real. Gods aren't.

Here's some more gibbering from Brooks, to send you on your merry way today:
These moments [of faith] provide an intimation of ethical perfection and merciful love. They arouse a longing within many people to integrate that glimpsed eternal goodness into their practical lives. This longing is faith.
When innocent babies die as a result of terrible, painful diseases, I wonder if Brooks things of god's "ethical perfection and merciful love." That's quite a god they've got there.

Merry Xmas everyone. Have a great time tonight and tomorrow!

December 22, 2014

Satanists on top

You really have to hand it to the Satanists. These guys have a way with words:
The Detroit branch of the Satanic Temple has put up what they call a “Snaketivity Scene,” in which a snake offers a book titled, “Revolt of the Angels” as a gift. The snake is also wrapped around the Satanic cross. 
They knocked it out of the park with that phrase. What could be better than a "Snaketivity Scene"? It's just so darn special. But some wingnut Christians don't think so. Go figure.
State Senator Rick Jones, a Republican from the town of Grand Ledge, erected a Nativity scene on Friday featuring a baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and said he was glad to "represent the light and not the darkness,” AP reported. 

"They could have put theirs up in July or April or sometime. They didn't need to put it up in the Christmas season. That's OK. We're going to ignore them. I'm not afraid of the snake people. I'm sure that Jesus Christ is not afraid," Jones said. 
That was the best he could come up with, that he's not afraid of the snake people and neither is Jeebus. Swell. But of course this has nothing to do with Satan. It's just a bunch of fun atheists whose point is that you can't allow only Christian kitsch on government property. If you want to include sacred kitsch, you have to open the doors wide and let everyone in.

But rather than do the sensible, logical thing and take the Christian kitsch away, they were forced by law to allow anyone, even (gasp!) Satanists, to set up their kitsch.

But don't misunderstand. No one believes in Satan except religious nitwits. The truth is that there are no Satanists, just as there is no Satan and no god. This is just theater -- and good theater at that. Well done, guys!

Hohoho, Merry Xmas!

December 20, 2014

Little known Vatican fact

I came across this today:
In the case of a papal death, the camerlengo is the person who officially confirms it, traditionally by tapping the pontiff's head three times with a silver hammer and calling out his name.
I assume they use silver to rule out interference by werewolves.

December 19, 2014

The Sony hack

If I was running things, here's what we'd do. Sony is expected to lose up to $100M over this nonsense. That may be a lot to them but it's chickenfeed to the government. The head of Sony should have called Obama and worked this out:

The government gives Sony $100M. In turn, Sony releases "The Interview" for free to every American household that has a cable or satellite connection. It is also uploaded to YouTube as a free view. And Sony tells the world that any broadcaster who will show the movie in their own area gets a free copy to distribute. The entire world sees "The Interview".

End of story, sorta. The rest of it is that American companies, which are totally hackable, need to up their game immediately. Make your networks secure! It can be done, you're just not doing it. Because the US can't be expected to fork over a hundred million dollars every time this happens.

But just this once, it would have been lovely.

Show us

Each day, religious wingnuts tell gay people that they weren't born gay. Gayness is apparently just an illusion, even if we can remember same-sex attractions from when we were five years old. Never mind all that, they say. We can turn straight any time we want to (if we ask Jeebus for help).

I think these folks should demonstrate this simple sexual orientation-changing process by, say, having one of their straight male bigots turn gay. You know, so we can see how easy it is to change one's sexual orientation. That's the challenge, bigots -- just turn gay, preferably while a camera is rolling.

But as I think further about this, I realize such a demonstration would have little meaning. Because let's face it, almost every bigot who says gays can go actually a closet case. And seeing a closet case "turn gay" would be a joke. They're already gay.

Never mind.

John and Yoko's Xmas song

Here you go.

December 18, 2014

Worst Xmas song? No way.

I saw a poll somewhere in the past few days -- probably at PuffHo -- suggesting that Paul McCartney's "Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time" was the worst Xmas song ever.

C'mon, it sounds like Xmas itself. I don't like McCartney much and I'm certainly no fan of his solo career. But this song is perfect. What do you think?

So that's how it's done!

I remember when I was four or five, someone gave me a compass. I looked at it and said, "This stupid thing doesn't work. It's not pointing North." It didn't occur to me that I'd have to turn the compass so the needle pointed toward the North. Nope, it was just broken. Didn't work at all.

That's the earliest dumb thing I can remember doing. What's your earliest dumb memory?

(Actually, I have a contender. When I was even younger, perhaps two or three, I remember being convinced that if I just pulled hard enough, I could grab the chains of a swing and lift it up and sit on it and hold myself up while I swung. No structure was needed, it would be all me. I was very upset when it didn't work. Truly, I suspected something was radically wrong with the world. It should have worked!)

December 13, 2014

Great atheist quote

Today, Jerry Coyne included a quote from Andrew Bernstein in one of his posts:
Here is the tragedy of theology in its distilled essence: The employment of high-powered human intellect, of genius, of profoundly rigorous logical deduction—studying nothing. In the Middle Ages, the great minds capable of transforming the world did not study the world; and so, for most of a millennium, as human beings screamed in agony—decaying from starvation, eaten by leprosy and plague, dying in droves in their twenties—the men of the mind, who could have provided their earthly salvation, abandoned them for otherworldly fantasies.
I love it. Religion is a waste of time and energy. It's killing the planet too, in case you haven't noticed.

Dog's image perfect for heaven that welcomes dogs

Dog would laugh at the idea of his image being synonymous with dogs going to heaven, but it could work! BTW, the reason he's smiling in the photograph at left is because he thinks crosses are so funny. They don't have religion on his planet.

Still, isn't it uncanny how perfectly this image would work for the new push to get dogs into a Catholic version of heaven? And of course, the real fun here is how much Dog would laugh about this use of his image. And that's the very meaning of fun.

In case you missed the true story about Dog's visit to Earth, just pump dog into the search box at the top left of this page. (You'll get a few irrelevant posts but most will be about Dog. Yippee!) And if you're too feeble to search for a simple word like dog, here's a post that explains who he is.

Sadly, now that I've raised the topic of Dog, I must reveal something that I've hidden for many months. Readers who followed this story from its inception probably suspect what I'm about to say. Yes, I have terrible news for you. After Dog arrived on Earth he took a long, close look at humans and turned around and went back to his own galaxy. He didn't explain himself; he didn't have to. We are unworthy to join the Federation of Sentient Planets. We're just too damned aggressive and greedy (and dumb).

This news crushed me...but I'm still in telepathic contact with Dog. So really, you missed out; I didn't. Sad, that. Hmmm, I think I'll put my Lid on and go talk to Dog right now. Oh, joy!

December 12, 2014

It seems a past pope hated animals

I came across this tidbit in a story about Pope Francis' recent statement that dogs go to heaven:
The question of whether animals go to heaven has been debated for much of the church’s history. Pope Pius IX, who led the church from 1846 to 1878, longer than any other pope, strongly supported the doctrine that dogs and other animals have no consciousness. He even sought to thwart the founding of an Italian chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Sweet guys, these popes. I don't understand anyone who says that animals "have no consciousness". They can't possibly believe that, can they? Does the creature look at you? Does it know you're there? Does it react to what you do and try to move away from you if show that you're a hateful git? But it's not conscious?!

My favorite thing is that Pius tried to stop the SPCA from forming an Italian chapter. Wow. But he was holy, people. He was holy! And don't you sinners forget it - or you'll burn for all eternity in the fires of hell.

Religion is an illness. Don't believe anything a priest, imam or rabbi tells you. They lie for a living.

One last thing. You have to love the confusion Francis' remarks have caused. I loved this (from the same article):
“The Catholic Church has never been clear on this question; it’s all over the place, because it begs so many other questions,” she said. “Where do mosquitoes go, for God’s sake?
They're so deep, these religious people.

December 11, 2014

United States of Torture

I can't even post about America's use of torture. It sickens me too much. But do you know how this monstrous practice became standard fare in our country?

Read the disgusting details on PZ's blog. It's not about what we did to those poor souls but how we came up with the rationalization to do it. It focuses on the psychotic psychologists who enabled the process -- and walked off with $18M for their troubles. Apparently, there is no justice on this Earth.

The United States will never recover from this colossal misstep. Bush's coterie destroyed our country. That's what happens when you elect a stupid man as president, twice.

December 9, 2014

Just say no

Now here's a lesson for every kid who attends school.
Police say a Maryland teenager eating a pot brownie in class panicked when his teacher asked him for a piece of the treat, and that he is now charged for obliging.

Anne Arundel County police said Tuesday that the 17-year-old didn't tell the teacher that the brownie contained marijuana. She began feeling ill and acting disoriented, and was brought to the nurse's office at Broadneck High School in Annapolis on Monday.
The teacher told police that the student had given her the brownie during third period and that she suspected it contained marijuana.
When your teacher asks you for a piece of your marijuana brownie, just say no. Problem solved. See, kids? It's easy.

December 8, 2014

Digby says what we're all thinking

In digby's post, The Torture Genie, I found this:
At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them. 
Someone finally said it. This ain't America anymore -- and what we think we miss, may never have existed. That's it, exactly.

Digby is a national treasure. I don't know what we'd do without her.

Drones are big this Xmas

A man on the teevee said that this year, at least a zillion people will get a drone for Xmas. Think about that for a moment. I mean, what could go wrong, right? Piece of cake.

Seriously, I can't believe that drones can be purchased by any nitwit with a few bucks in his pocket. This is not a good idea. Starting on December 26th, I guess you should expect to see lots of tiny air vehicles populating a sky near you. Wow, huh? What fun.

Some of these things are 50 pounds or more. How'd you like one of those to fall out of the sky and hit you in the head? Or perhaps it'll just hover near you and the rotor blades will nick your eye. And of course there will be many, many drones looking in bedroom windows; that's a given. If you're female, you can probably expect to see one at your window within a month.

But I guess it's not all bad. I assume some people, particularly people of color, will choose to have a drone hover over them everywhere they go. This way, if a police officer decides to assault or kill them, there will be a video record of what occurred. (Not that such records do any good; just ask the Garner family.) Still, it's a moderately good use for these things. Gotta try, right?

You can't fly drones too high. Nuh-uh. That's against the law -- and if there's one thing all Americans do, it's follow the law. But I guess it's okay to fly them really close to the ground to, you know, take photos up women's skirts. I could go on and on, suggesting awful uses for drones. You can probably come up with some on your own. These things are going to change the way we live. Just imagine the creative uses criminals will find for them. Put guns on a drone and shoot your local prosecutor. Fly them into police helicopters. Truly, the sky is the limit.

Moving right along, the law says you have to hide your gun so innocent children won't get their sticky hands on it. But what about your drones? I haven't heard anything about a requirement to keep them out of the hands of children. And let's face it, any self-respecting kid over the age of five should be able to operate one of these things. Maybe a little kid will send one out over the neighborhood and then forget what he's doing and walk away, leaving the drone flying, but unmanned. That won't be a problem, right? I mean, it won't crash into anything dangerous, like a propane tank, and cause a fire, or anything. Nah, it'll be fine.

Just consider how interesting life will be after everyone has a drone. Why, it'll be a brand new world. I can't wait to see how this plays out on the streets and in the skies of America. It should be lots of fun. Ho ho ho!

December 7, 2014

Before I forget

I meant to write about this yesterday but it slipped my mind. On Friday, NY's governor Andrew Cuomo and NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton both said stupid things about the Garner protests.

Bratton said, in his wildly irritating manner of speaking (have you heard this guy speak?) that demonstrations like the Garner grand jury protests "tend to peter out on their own". As in, he doesn't have to do anything but wait, and this too will pass. Naturally, he said this with a condescending smile. He might as well have added, "I'm the man. I know high-level stuff you peons know nothing about."

But, Brat, that's not the point. We don't need to see perfectly legal protests "peter out"; we need the unlawful killings of innocent black people by racist NYPD officers to "peter out". Better yet, "petering out" is not the optimal way to go. These police crimes need to cease immediately. Brat isn't even on the right page, which doesn't surprise me.

Then, as if to cap it all off, Andrew Cuomo said something startlingly stupid. He said the problem here is "the perception" that people of color can't get fair treatment from police officers. He literally said it's "a problem of perception". No, Andy, that ain't it. You see, it's not "perception" that is killing innocent black people; it's racist police officers with guns. Perception has nothing to do with it.

I'm glad to have cleared this up for both men. Hopefully, they'll send me tweets of thanks in the coming days.

Bruni's column on Hillary

You can go read it for yourself. Bruni tries to say there would be something new if Hillary was elected president: she'd be the first woman president. Uh, whoopee?

Here's the line that sticks out for me:
[D]etractors will say that she’s a third term of Obama: business as usual.
Uh...yeah. And that's not what we need. End of story. Why oh why can't we look toward a progressive candidate for president, someone who would, you know, do something about the mess that is our country?

I don't think Bruni wanted to write this one. It seems forced, which is unlike his typical writing.

December 6, 2014

Xmas shopping

Have you bought all your Xmas presents yet? I'm done. It's a good feeling, too. It seems like I bought good, appropriate gifts that all my recipients will like. Unfortunately, I always think that and it's rarely never true. Guess I'll find out later this month.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday were pretty awful this year, no? I mean, they were out to git us. Did you see Amazon's idiotic deals page? It was just like watching QVC on the teevee -- a ton of items you don't want or need, flying by on the screen, waiting for a sucker to pounce on them. "Honey, we just gotta buy that rhinestone suit with an American flag theme for momma! We gotta!"

I was also pissed off by the sale sites' insistence on magic words to score a discount. "Don't forget to enter IMAFOOL on the checkout page to get an extra 15% off!" I just figure there are a lot of addled brains out there who won't see this tip, or will forget to enter IMAFOOL by the time they get to the checkout page. Alzheimers, anyone? Why put an extra hurdle out there for your customers? Just pick a sale price and go with it. Oh, I forgot: it's a scam.

Retailers are all about the money. They're supposed to have it, not you, so they're gonna get it any way they can. On one site, I didn't forget to enter IMAFOOL; there just wasn't anywhere to enter the code. Seriously, there was no box for the code. So when the order went through, I wrote them and asked them to apply it. They wrote back "thanking" me for pointing this out so they didn't "overlook" it. Uh huh. I'm sure that's exactly how it went down. Just an oversight on their part.

But shopping is done. Woot! Now I can fall into the mass daydream we call "the Christmas season". For a month, we are commanded to believe that all is calm, all is bright, and the world is filled with people of goodwill.

That must be why so many people are getting killed by cops or bombs -- because everything is so calm and bright.

Merry Xmas, everyone! Ho ho ho.

December 5, 2014

Required reading

Seriously, just drop whatever you're doing and go read this. It's an op-ed by a black, former NYC police officer and it tells it like it is. We've got to fix the problem of racist police.

The racist, sexist Republican mindset

Finally, someone says what we've all been thinking. That someone is Timothy Egan. In an op-ed in the NYT today, called "A Deficit of Dignity", I found this:
It’s one thing to make fun of Nancy Reagan’s designer dresses. It’s quite another to ridicule Michelle’s Obama’s rear end, as the Republican congressman James Sensenbrenner did, trying to discredit the first lady’s Let’s Move initiative. Why a politician with a red bulbous nose and no discernable chin — the very caricature of a pampered political hack — feels that he’s in a position to comment on someone else’s appearance is another question.
A similar thought comes to mind whenever I hear beastly men dissing a woman's appearance. But, but...look at you. Egan's description of Sensenbrenner is actually kind. The man looks like a fat and particularly ugly hog. And Sensenbrenner's ugliness is not merely external -- he's a horror inside and out. Contrast that with Michelle Obama, who looks great and has a kind disposition.

The op-ed is about the disrespect shown to both Obamas, and Egan is 100% right. Check it out if you're so inclined.

December 4, 2014

Sure, go kill. We don't care. Have fun!

Washington has an agreement with Baghdad on privileges and immunities for the growing number of troops based in Iraq who are helping in the fight against the Islamic State group, the new U.S. ambassador said Thursday.
The article goes on to say:
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has given assurances that U.S. troops will receive immunity from prosecution
Very nice. I assume this is similar to the 007 license given to all white police officers in NYC. It's nice to know that the good guys can kill with impunity. USA! USA!

The NYPD gets away with murder

The grand jury's appalling decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case in NYC made me crazy last night. I couldn't watch anything on TV afterward. I had to shut it off. If the NYPD can kill any person of color and suffer no consequences, then NYC doesn't have a police force, it has 007 agents. They undoubtedly have a license to kill -- as long as the victim is a person of color.

I don't know what needs to be done about racist cops in this country. Certainly every cop should be forced to wear a camera that is always on. That would definitely help. These racists operate under cover of darkness, and the cameras will shine some much-needed light on everything they do. Police cameras represent one small step that we can take right now, but much more needs to be done.

One thing I'm thrilled about is the return of protesters to the streets. There's been far too little of that, even as the 1% siphons away all the money and benefits. People are so uninformed that they don't know enough to fight back. Some don't even realize there's a reason to fight...anything.

But violence against people of color, perpetuated by cops, is the norm on city streets -- everyone can sense that. If you're black and you're outside your home, you're in danger. You don't need to tune in to a particular TV channel to understand this. You just have to go outside while black, and it will happen to you. So this is one area in which people at least know that there's a need to fight for their rights. Fox News can't take that away from them by doling out misinformation. It's something they see every day of their lives.

If I still lived in NYC, I would refuse to recognize the existence of an NYPD officer ever again. If one of them said something to me, I would walk on by without recognizing him. And if a cop was coming down the sidewalk, I'd give him a huge berth. If everyone did this, the police would no longer be able to do their jobs.

That's what's needed at this time: something that will hurt the cops where they live. This has been one-sided for far too long. Shun all police officers. If they want the time of day, let them go buy a watch.

Being polite to cops is now an anachronism, something from our quaint and distant past -- you know, when people had rights. Today's cops don't deserve civility, since they don't feel a need to show respect for citizens of color.

I hope lots of people dig down deep to try to come up with ways to disassemble the ability of cops to function in NYC. They lost that right. Let's put them out of business.

December 3, 2014

Increasing the intelligence of animals

I've read a few versions of this story in the past few days, hoping to gain further details. The link I've provided seems to be the most comprehensive version of the tale. What's it all about? Well, it seems that a group of scientists did something very interesting:
A team of researchers working at the University of Rochester in New York, has found that injecting glial cells into a mouse brain caused an improvement in both memory and cognition in the mouse. In their paper published in The Journal of Neuroscience, the team explains how they injected the test mice and then tested them afterwards to see what impact it had on their abilities.
Now, don't freak out. They weren't neurons -- in other words they weren't human brain cells. The cells they injected merely provide support to neurons; no one literally thinks with them. The procedure served to expand the network of the mouse brains, and that allowed them to think better -- and probably more swiftly (with their very own mouse neurons; calm down). Here's a bit more:
Testing the mice showed that their memory was far superior to normal mice and they had improved cognition as well.
That's what I want to know more about. Exactly what were these altered mice able to do? Run mazes in a single bound? Figure out tests that had been opaque to them a week ago? Tell me! The story ends with this:
The team is considering testing the same procedure with other animals, but says it will not do it with monkeys—the ethical issues might become too great.
I'm not clear about the ethical issues involved in using monkeys. Is there a fear that the monkeys will become too smart and will resemble humans to an uncomfortable (to us) degree? Is there a fear that a super-intelligent monkey would be smart enough to be saddened by his fate, echoing the situation experienced by the human character in the movie "Charly"? Will the altered monkeys realize how badly we've always treated them and demand a condo and reparations? I wish there was more detail.

Ebola Nancy apologizes

I'm sorry but this just won't do:
Dr. Nancy Snyderman returned to NBC Wednesday morning to give an apology for breaking in October a 21-day home quarantine she agreed to after returning from reporting in Ebola-plagued West Africa.

“We had already been taking our temperatures 4, 5, 6 times a day, and we knew our risks in our heads, but didn't really appreciate, and frankly we were not sensitive to, how absolutely frightened Americans were,” Snyderman told colleague Matt Lauer on the “Today” show. “So I came back, agreed to a voluntary quarantine in my home, and then 72 hours, left my home.”
Uh-huh, because you wanted soup. This is the most insufficient apology imaginable. Snyderman is allegedly a medical professional, a smart woman and a journalist. She "didn't really absolutely frightened Americans were"? How could that be, since everyone in the United States was filled with mindless terror over Ebola and there was absolutely nothing on the news that wasn't about Ebola and Americans who were terrified of catching it? (And, ahem, Snyderman is a newswoman.) The TV coverage was all-Ebola, all the time for weeks. And her perfidy occurred in the midst of this. But poor Nancy had no clue that Americans were frightened?

And then there's what she didn't say. This had nothing to do with the fear of Americans, it had to do with the medical safeguards put in place to contain a deadly disease, and Ebola Nancy's disregard for those safeguards. Let's be clear: she was completely familiar with the protocols and voluntarily agreed to a quarantine. And this isn't just any woman; she is the NBC expert in this area, on the teevee nightly to tell us rubes all about it. And she broke quarantine for a supremely ridiculous reason: she wanted some hot soup. That's inexcusable.

The truth seems to be that Nancy Snyderman has a one-percenter mindset and thinks the rules don't apply to her. I will not accept her return to TV as a medical expert. She blew that gig. Blew it up, in fact. The woman needs another job, one that has nothing to do with medicine, trust, or educating the public about anything.

December 2, 2014

How to clean house quickly and efficiently

This is from The Independent:
Thousands of people have resigned from the Lutheran church in Finland after its Archbishop said he rejoiced “with my whole heart” following the government vote to legalise same-sex marriage.
I think that's fabulous. What a great way to rid a church of its most hateful members. They should do this in all sorts of organizations. Consider who would be left behind: the good people!

Then there wouldn't be a need to wear white cowboy hats and black cowboy hats when you head out to church. Everyone could go hatless! Think of the savings in haberdashery.

November 30, 2014

About that fake "Shroud of Turin"

The best debunking article about the Shroud of Turin can be found here, courtesy of Jerry Coyne. The article has extensive links that will convince (almost) anyone that the shroud has nothing to do with Jesus.

Archive this link so you can knock down the silly arguments of believers.

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

November 13, 2014

Putin is a huge problem

Moscow is planning to send long-range bombers to patrol the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean amid escalating tensions with the West.
What could happen, right? I'm sure everything will be fine.

November 12, 2014

Words, words, words

The other day I asked myself what was the most meaningful relationship of my life. The answer wasn't another person, it was my relationship with language. Words. I love 'em. Here are a few thoughts about how we use them.

My blue collar friends (I have a lot) say things that I find intriguing. Like "butt naked" instead of "buck naked". They have their own language. When they see me in "dress-up" clothes they always say "hey, you scrub up good!" To them, it's really an achievement to be able to make yourself look like a city feller. I think that's sweet.

Moving along, have you noticed that people no longer say "deteriorate"? Instead, they say deteriate. It's as if the word deteriorates before they can get it out of their mouths.

And now we come to an extremely crucial moment in our discussion of words. Yes, I give you: somersault vs. tumblesauce, the eternal question. Which is right? Maybe some of you have never heard the term tumblesauce. But in NY, especially years ago, it was the word for a somersault. Why? Who the hell knows. I think this use is centered in NYC, but since New Yorkers migrate all over the place, you may have heard it even if you live out west. No one knows where it came from, this tumblesauce word. I think it's simply a kid term, perhaps a silly word invented by parents when playing with their toddlers. Or maybe kids created the word as they laughed and did somersaults. I confess I smile when I hear someone say tumblesauce. It's so darn cute.

Last night I was laughing in bed at the word "smidgeon". It's a word that's intrinsically amusing. Today's dictionaries use the spelling "smidgen" but I don't approve of that. I like the word smidgeon but it also seems silly, which is what makes me smile. What I don't enjoy are people who, when you offer them food or drink, reply "Just a smidge". No matter what the thing is, they only want a smidge. It's an epidemic of cutesy word use and I don't like it. Ah haz spoken.

Yesterday I had so much fun working on my book. I just love words, I can't help it. To think that I get to play with them all day! It's amazing. And they say there's no heaven. Bah. It's all around us. You just have to know where to look.

Okay, that's it. You may return to your normal lives now. A suggestion: for the rest of the day, try to enjoy your use of language. Words are toys that anyone can play with. Play with yours today. Enjoy!

November 11, 2014

What's going on in Putin's Russia?

Vladimir Putin is a monster. He has radically altered the calculus on Russia's interactions with the world. Let us recall that right after his tacky hosting of the Olympics (you remember the bathrooms with too many toilets in them and no dividers, right?), he swooped in and stole Crimea. Then he attacked Ukraine and his hooligans shot down a plane full of Dutch tourists.

So what's Puti doin' now? Here are a few postcards from Russia:
Russia signed a contract Friday to build two more nuclear reactors in Iran to be possibly followed by another six, a move intended to cement closer ties between the two nations.

Russian soccer teams are facing a severe financial squeeze, with the Ukraine conflict and plummeting ruble leaving clubs short of money but with soaring wage bills.

The international news channel CNN says it will halt broadcasting in Russia due to recent changes in media legislation.
Hmmm, doesn't sound good, does it? And let's remember the man has nukes, lotsa nukes. This will not end well. I fully expect Putin to erupt in the coming months and do something incredibly destructive. It's just the way he is: flawed beyond imagination. The man truly is a monster (and the Russian people aren't far behind him in this respect; they just love beating up their gay boys).

Russia is a pig sty, and a dangerous one.

November 10, 2014

Worrying is a waste of time

On Friday I received a letter from my insurance company saying that my doctor will no longer accept my insurance, so I need a new primary immediately. My doctor, in other words, was no longer my doctor. Oy.

I love my doctor. He's a guy who treats me respectfully while really fixing my problems. I think of him as a miracle worker. And he's not a drug pusher. He usually comes up with a non-medication-based solution to my problems. I love that! (As to the "respect" issue, I've had trouble with anti-gay doctors who treat me dismissively. Tattoos are also something that can freak out white doctors and make them think you're a drug-mad biker -- even though you never ask them for a pain killer. Oy again.)

There was also a good chance that I would lose all my doctors, since they're part of the same medical practice that I was being told wouldn't take my insurance. And I'm just about to begin a long period of allergy treatments with one of them. And again, I love this doctor. She fixed my severe breathing problems in two short visits. Another veritable miracle worker -- and now I can't see her either?!

Okay, so that's the background. You'd think I would worry all weekend, what with this prospect blowing in the wind. But I didn't think about it at all. Not even once. My take on life is that you don't worry about anything until you're really, really forced to address the issue. So I had a lovely weekend. Even painted my nails candy apple red. Fun!

This morning, I remembered and called my doc's office. They said further negotiations between the medical practice and my insurance company resolved the issue. I can stay with my doc(s).

There was no need to worry. I find this is usually the case. The moral is this: don't worry until you have to. It's often a waste of time and energy.

November 8, 2014

Oldest photo of human being

Have you seen this photo? I think it's marvelous. The image was photographed in Paris in 1838! How do ya like them apples? I mean, jeebus, that was 180 years ago. And get this: it was taken by Louis Daguerre, yes, as in "daguerreotype". That guy.

Look at the man in the photo (he's at bottom-left in the larger photo; for a better view, see the blown-up inset below). He seems to be getting his shoes shined. I love the lyrical stance of the fellow. The sprightly way he's holding his body tells me he's a sophisticated man-about-town in 1838. It's a bit like having a telescope that allows you to view the past. To me, this is such a striking scene.

Pretty cool, no?

Image: Wikipedia Commons via Mashable

U.S. bishops struggling under Francis' pontificate

Aw, the poor evil things. My headline is taken from an AP article I found at the NY Times today. Apparently, we're supposed to feel sorry for these incredibly disgusting "conservative" cardinals. Wait a minute while I cry for them. Hah. These guys are the church's official hitmen -- or rather, they were in the days of Pope Ratzinger. They engage in their most evil activities under the banner of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, where they mount campaigns against gay people, against gay marriage, against reproductive rights, against female priests, etc. They're not for anything but they're against many things. They are the spawn of Satan -- or rather, they would be if there was such a thing as Satan. 
U.S. Roman Catholic bishops are gathering at a moment of turbulence for them and the American church, as Pope Francis moves toward crafting new policies for carrying out his mission of mercy — a prospect that has conservative Catholics and some bishops in an uproar.
They're not even hiding it under the rug anymore. It's right out there for all to see: they find Francis' "mission of mercy" an abomination. How dare the pope forgive people? How dare he welcome them? Doesn't the pope know that Catholicism is all about guilt, hell and policing people's lives? The nerve of the man, trying to disrupt so many blissful centuries of discrimination. Hmph.
"Many of the U.S. bishops have been disoriented by what this new pope is saying and I don't see them really as embracing the pope's agenda," said John Thavis, a former Rome bureau chief for Catholic News Service.
So now they're openly fighting the pope. And why? Because he wants to welcome everyone into the Catholic tent. Not so fast, say the cardinals. This sacred space is only for people who kneel before our majesty as we decry their disgusting sins.
Cardinal Raymond Burke, the former St. Louis archbishop and leading voice for conservative Catholics, said the church "is like a ship without a rudder" under Francis. Burke made the comments before the pope demoted him from his position as head of the Vatican high court, a move he had anticipated.
What Burke, one of the most evil of the archbishops, means is that the pope's ship doesn't have a hateful rudder. Because hate is all these pious cardinals have ever known. It's the blood of Christ, this freely flowing river of hatred. It sustains them and makes their lives meaningful.

I truly hope the church experiences a schism over issues of hatred and discrimination. Some atheist bloggers dread this prospect because it might make one of the offshoots seem "nice" -- and that might attract more people to the meaningless faith.
But I think it would be marvelous if all the hateful people moved to one side of an impermeable barrier. There, they could spew venom for ages and attract all the hateful "believers" like a magnet. And then the new church could be ignored en masse by Americans, since they would be seen as way behind the curve. American Catholics are in favor of contraception, they're in favor of gay marriage and they're obviously in favor of divorce. Catholics divorce as readily as any other American group and they don't worry about jeebus while taking this step. It's an obvious, necessary step -- so they push their religion aside for the moment and do what they have to do. Catholics are like that: sensible, for the most part.

So yes, let's see more evil church leaders speak up. Let them spew their venom and thereby marginalize themselves for all time. It sounds like the sort of thing I could observe with pleasure: religious idiots effectively blowing up their own church. Get the popcorn, kids! It's gonna be a great show.

Photo credit: AP, found at CBS News

November 5, 2014

See through anything

This could be very cool. Imagine being able to see through any wall. Sure, you'd need a device. But you could see through the wall! I love it.

Here's just one line, to titillate you:
They said "this technology could be used in the cockpit of an airplane to make the floor transparent during landing, enabling the pilot to see the runway in full view."

This and that

The next time someone tells you that nuclear power is "clean energy", say "Oh, that must be why they make dirty bombs from it -- because it's so clean."

You have to admit that Kaci Hickox, the Maine nurse they keep trying to quarantine, is just about the healthiest-looking woman who ever lived. She should do skin commercials.

Here's a question for you: do you answer the phone when Caller ID says it's from "private caller"? I never do. I wouldn't want to violate the caller's privacy by learning who they are. Their secret is safe with me.

I turn subtitles on when I watch movies because the sound is often so bad that I can't figure out what anyone's saying. In the process, I've learned that subtitles are often amusing. For instance, I recently noticed that when a dog barks on-screen, the subtitles say "Woof". And if the dog barks twice, they say "Woof woof". I love that.

I've decided to be successful in everything I do for the rest of my life. It's such a good feeling, knowing that everything will turn out well. Woo-hoo! I'm just saying.

And finally, a word about the baseball season that just ended. No, never mind the play or who won this or that series. The highlight of the baseball season was the wonderful series of signs about Hunter Pence. In SF, the fans adore this guy. So when Mets fans in NY first made a few really silly signs to mock Pence, the SF fans joined in by making even sillier signs about him. I think my favorite is "Hunter Pence would never confuse you're for your". See what I mean? If you'd like to see a slew of these signs, here's a Google images link to them. Fun! (And if you're too lazy to click on links, here's an image of some of the signs:)

And oh yeah, yesterday was Election Day and awful things happened. But never mind.

November 4, 2014

Vatican statement on Brittany Maynard's assisted suicide

C'mon, admit it. We think that Brittany Maynard was a brave woman who did the right thing while trying to help others by speaking out about assisted suicide. She was a good person. There's no doubt about this...well, to normal people, anyway.

So of course the Vatican has to say something off-key about it. It's their way of "chiming in". (Yeah, they don't quite get the chiming-in thing.)
The Vatican's top bioethics official calls "reprehensible" the suicide of an American woman suffering terminal brain cancer who stated she wanted to die with dignity.

Monsignor Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, the head of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told the ANSA news agency on Tuesday that "dignity is something other than putting an end to one's own life. Dignity is a priest raping an innocent child. Dignity is priests going after gay people who never harmed anyone. And dignity is keeping women down while not having the balls to tell them outright they are worth less than men."
The Roman Catholic church is always on the wrong side of important issues. Their atonal pronouncement about Brittany Maynard will clang in people's minds for quite some time. The church is obviously wrong about this and is, as always, trying to tell others how to live their lives -- though priests have no idea what it's like to live a normal life. "Normal" isn't what they do over at the Vatican, and this is why they can't tell right from wrong.

And of course, being the Vatican, they had to end with one of their "love the sinner, hate the sin" pronouncements:
Carrasco de Paula said "Brittany Maynard's act is in itself reprehensible, but what happened in the consciousness we do not know."

He cautioned that he was not judging individuals "but the gesture in and of itself should be condemned."
Uh-huh. The Vatican: always out of it, always wrong. But then, I guess you can't come down too hard on them. After all, there never was a Jesus Christ, so there is nothing at the heart of their religion. It's all smoke. And smoke doesn't help you much when you're trying to discern right from wrong.

But those of us outside the Jesus bubble can tell. I wonder if there's a moral somewhere in this?

November 3, 2014

Aurora over Norway

This image is why you need to visit NASA's Photo of the Day site every single day. Click to see a huge version of the photo.

And if you do click on it, you'll be able to see the happy guy standing on top of the mountain. Killer pic.

November 2, 2014

The nicest time change brings extra sleep

Have you heard? We're not saving daylight anymore. So if you see any, throw it out. It's just garbage now.

I'm pretty happy about this. I love when it gets dark before 5 pm. It makes the night seem expansive and exciting. Why, anything could happen at night. You know that's not true of the daytime. Daytime: bor-ing. Nighttime: fascinating.

So I approve of the time change. And this year, it's working to my advantage. I slipped into a late schedule by watching the baseball playoff games. Why they have to start at 8 pm, I don't know. But it made me go to sleep late and it's hard to get back on a normal sleep schedule.

But now that we're throwing daylight out, I'm already waking up at a reasonable hour. So I'm happy as a clam. How did it go for you? Longing for summer? Tch, tch, tch. But don't worry. It'll come back, and when it does, it'll be baseball season again!


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!