December 21, 2015

Must be time for this

Although Xmas has been cancelled in the northeast due to lack of snow, I figured I'd still put this up. Happy holidays, all. (Gonna be 60 degrees and rainy on Xmas Eve. Sheesh.)

December 15, 2015

Pretty cool up there

This is a photo of a layer of ice crystals acting like a prism in the atmosphere. Nice, eh? I've seen completely circular rainbows but never one like this. I'm putting it on my list of things to see, along with auroras.

You'll find an amazing photo every day at NASA's Photo of the Day site. Here's a link. Go there often!

November 27, 2015

Wolfote or...?

I wrote a post the other day about the wolfote that roam the horse farm where I live. Weird. But now I'm thinking they're even weirder.

They only howl at the moon when it's full. So I'm thinking these aren't mere wolfotes (a cross between wolves, coyotes and dogs), they may actually be werewolfotes! Jeebus. Scary, huh?

And that would mean that some of the people living on this farm aren't...people. They're werewolfotes! Jeebus again! I've been thinking about this for a while. It sounds like there are about 14 "wolfotes" howling at the moon, when they really get going. That would mean that 14 people on this farm aren't, you know, people.

In the coming days, I'm going to try to figure out who is and who isn't a werewolfote. I've been reading up on them and it seems they smell like cookies. Oh no, wait a minute; it's saints that smell like cookies. Well, I'll figure it out. They must smell funny in some fashion. Or perhaps the air tingles around them. Or something.

Werewolfotes, beware. I am on the case. And readers, expect further tales...if I survive.

Image of German woodcut of werewolf: Wikipedia Commons

November 22, 2015

True elegance

One of the (few) things that horrified me when I moved into my new place was that there was no room in the bathroom for a traditional wall-mounted toilet paper dispenser. A vision of toilet paper sitting on the floor seemed to characterize my future. I was so horrified that I searched Amazon until I found the wildly elegant item you see at left (or above if you're on a mobile device).

Two points

1. It works great! In fact, it's way better than wall-mounted dispensers. I'll bet you're tired of getting chest cramps as you try to reach the TP. I certainly was. With this little gem, you place the dispenser where you want it: right in front of you. It's ultra EZ. And after seeing how well it works, you come to realize that this tacky item is indispensable. But you're still...a tad ashamed.

2. But then you watch House Hunters International on HGTV (because it's not baseball season, so what can you do?) and you discover something. In an episode where a couple was viewing a way-too-expensive, high-end Swedish apartment -- there was my mobile toilet paper dispenser, standing proudly next to the toilet. It was a feature, not a bug.

These days, I am so proud of my toilet paper holder I could bust. It's the most elegant thing I've ever seen. (If you want one because you're jealous of me -- admit it; you are -- here's a link.)

November 16, 2015

Noted in passing

AP today:
BALTIMORE — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops, at an annual assembly Monday, gave two standing ovations to the Vatican's U.S. ambassador who was behind Pope Francis' controversial meeting with Kim Davis.
No one in the filthy Roman Catholic landscape is more disgusting than the US Council of Catholic Bishops. Appalling creatures, each and every one. If there is a hell (and of course, there isn't), that is where these men belong.

Fighting tooth and nail against the love of two people -- because Jesus. Ugh. Just ugh.

October 31, 2015

The howling

I hear it's Halloween. Faaabulous! Here in the Hudson Valley, everyone is Halloween-mad (which you'd know if you read Xmas Carol; I'm just saying). I went to the grocery store today and the streets were filled with people in costume. Halloween is practically a religion around here. The stores have people in costume outside their doors to give candy away to passing kids. And inside the stores, the employees are dressed like true believers. I'm tellin' ya: they're Halloween-mad here.

So it's probably a good time to mention the howling. We've been hearing the strangest howls just after dark. Whatever these creatures are, they congregate right next to our house and howl their hearts out. And it's such a weird howl! Like nothing I've ever heard. (And there are no wild ground animals on the farm. I haven't even seen a squirrel, though there are lots of trees. It's the howlers; they're killing everything out there.)

Yesterday I ran across an explanation of what these critters are. They're hybrids of wolves, coyotes and dogs. Here's an excerpt from the linked article:
An analysis of 437 hybrid animals found that coyote DNA dominates its genetic makeup, with about one-tenth of its DNA from dogs, usually larger dogs such as Doberman pinschers and German shepherds, and a quarter from wolves.

The animal’s cry starts out as a deep-pitched wolf howl that morphs into higher-pitched yipping — like a coyote.
That's exactly what I hear. It's such a wild yipping/howling. I still haven't seen the animals but I know where they live. The farm's manager pointed out a group of trees and said "that's where the coyotes live". Mind you, they're a bit more than coyotes. Puts a chill in your spine, it does.

Hopefully this news will put a few goosebumps on your arms. Now, if you want to go hog-wild and really get scared, pick up a copy of Xmas Carol at the Kindle store. The tale begins on Halloween day, so you'll be in synch with the seasons if you start reading it today.

Have fun. And Happy Halloween, me bloggies.

October 22, 2015

Just a thing

I'm not posting lately because I no longer have an urge to blog. After doing it religiously for a number of years, I find that I've already covered every topic in the universe. My work here is done.

So all you get today is this nonsense:

I was thinking about the silly phrase "a murder of crows", when I realized this technique could be expanded. For instance:

1. A pestilence of priests.
2. A steeple of conservatives.
3. A poof of saints.

Okay, now it's your turn. Submit your inventions in the comments. Remember, you must match the tenor of "a murder of crows". In other words, you work your own opinion into the phrase, as some evil people did with a murder of crows. (Crows are very sweet. I adore them, which is why I object to this phrase.) Put another way, the object of this exercise is to piss off people who love the group that is being described.

G'wan, I'm waiting...

October 6, 2015

Disagreeing with movie-goers yet again

Have you seen "Lucy"? It's a sci-fi movie that came out in 2014 and it stars Scarlett Johansson as Lucy. Here's the rub: it got a 66% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (Note that on the same page it says it got a 6.1 out of 10 rating, which doesn't translate to 66%. I'm just saying. RT is not a meeting place for smart people.) The rating isn't that bad, but I read a bunch of reviews when it came out and those people hated it. Well, they were wrong. It's totally fabulous. In fact, it's one of my favorite movies. I watched it three times in the last month.

It's the story of a woman who is forced to be a drug carrier, and I do mean forced. Five people are kidnapped, including Lucy, and a plastic baggie filled with a strange drug is inserted in their stomachs. They are then forced on planes to Paris, Rome, etc. to be met by drug couriers on the other end.

The drug isn't your typical dealer's favorite high. It's a wildly powerful substance that babies use to form their brains in the womb. But it's available only in tiny quantities. However, an enterprising criminal learned how to synthesize a relatively large quantity -- and that is what was placed into the victims' stomachs. Okay, that sets the scene.

Lucy, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) was in the custody of monstrous, women-hating thugs as she awaited transport on the plane. One of them tried to rape her and ended up kicking her in her stomach -- and perforating the bag. It's at this point that the movie really begins.

The drug has the effect of opening up the mind. The movie is built on the myth that says humans only utilize 10% of their brain-power. This is totally false but hey, it's only a movie. So as the drug courses through Lucy's system, she begins to evolve, quickly and madly.

The movie veers into fights, with Lucy able to lift people into the air with the power of her mind. She can do lots of other tricks, too. And all the while, her brain advances. At the climax of the movie, she reaches the point where she is utilizing 100% of her brain.

That's all I'll reveal, but I have to say I found the entire movie, and especially the conclusion, to be wildly wonderful and entertaining. The only reason some viewers gave it a low rating, I suspect, is that Lucy doesn't continue to fight people and blow things up for the entire movie. At a certain point, it becomes much more intellectual -- and that's the point at which you lose American viewers. Fight scenes and car chases? Love it. But intellectual stuff? Americans say "get me outa here!"

It's a fabulous movie. If you've seen it, chime in. As for me, I plan to watch it a few more times. You see, what Lucy discovers is in keeping with what I believe to be the true nature of reality. I won't say another word.

October 5, 2015

Illusion of gay-friendly pope collapses

There's not much more to say. Today's news confirms the anti-gay outlook of Pope Francis.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis opened a divisive meeting of the world's bishops on family issues Sunday by forcefully asserting that marriage is an indissoluble bond between man and woman.
The Roman Catholic church will never say that gay marriage is okay. The reason? It might interfere with the Catholic view of women as being far less important than men. Women aren't exactly full-fledged people, in the Vatican's view. And men are commanded by Jesus to lord it over the wimmenfolk. That is the true purpose of marriage: it is the perch from which godly males look down on their inferior female partners, presumably gathering holiness all the while.

Therefore, in the eyes of the Roman Catholic church, two men or two women cannot be allowed to marry. It would literally be impossible for they would be equals, which thwarts the god-given misogynistic power structure of Holy Marriage. The Roman Catholic god doesn't like that. End of story -- for all time.

The allegedly gay-friendly remarks of Pope Francis were just smoke and mirrors. But then, that's what religion is.

October 1, 2015

The pope's BFF: Kim Bigot Davis

Really disgusting news from pope-land. I'll let Jerry Coyne say it for me. This is from his post, "Pope Met Secretly with Kim Davis":
I have yet to see a mainstream American venue, like the New York Times or the New Yorker, point out in an editorial the disparity between Francis’s words and his actions (or rather, his inaction in changing repressive Catholic dogma). Those who claim that Francis really is a liberal pope, committed to changing Church dogma, but moving very slowly because that’s the only way to do it, must explain this secret meeting with Davis as well as his encouragement of her actions. If he really wanted the Church to eventually deep-six its position on gays, the worst way to do it is to provide succor for those who want to deny gays their legal rights.

The Pope is not liberal: he still opposes women’s equality, abortion, and rights for gays. He won’t even mention population growth as a factor causing degradation of the environment. At best his values are those of a Reagan-era Republican. So let us not call the man “liberal”, for while he gives lip service to Enlightenment values, he secretly meets and encourages bigots like Kim Davis.
It really was disgusting. I have no other word for the pope's actions. And, in accordance with my longstanding suspicions, it turns out this was his anti-gay trip. He just did it "secretly". Ha. Secret my ass. He knew we'd learn all about it after he left the US. So it was not only disgusting, it was cowardly.

UPDATE: The gooey aftermath. I don't buy it. The pope knew who Davis was and what she stood for. He practically applauded her in his comments to reporters about conscientious objectors. I figure the pope was trying to send smoke signals to the conservative dingbat wing of the church, and got caught in the act. What do you think?

September 27, 2015

Horses!

I love walking on the farm. I can amble around for many miles without seeing another human being. That's so cool. And all along the way, I see these guys. Here are two shots.

See that little guy, the white one? He's some sort of dwarf horse and the larger one is his best friend. They're always together. This is a shot from feeding time. All the trainers say the little guy is "nasty". We're told not to go near him. Poor thing. Someone dwarfed his genes and now everyone calls him nasty. There's something wrong with that.

Here's another shot, this time of three mares with their offspring. Again, it's feeding time.


Isn't it sweet, the way the little guys eat with their moms? They always do this. In fact, they walk around in pairs all day with the mother keeping close watch over her foal. Families work the same, no matter if you're a horse or a person. 

It's heaven here.

Lest you think

In case you thought I was off the beam in my expectation that the pope would trounce gay marriage in Philadelphia, know that I'm not alone in this.

Read this article in the NYT. Conservatives expected Francis to denounce gay marriage and stand up for every pinhead principle that the American bishops have identified in their hateful, pogrom-like reign in the United States. And to be fair, Francis did give tiny shout-outs to these principles, but in oblique language. He just wasn't having it -- at least not on this trip.
On a stage set for a blockbuster papal endorsement of the American bishops' religious liberty battle, Pope Francis didn't deliver. He side-stepped the bishops' most burning religious freedom issue — marriage — and spent more time greeting immigrants.
It's not just me.

UPDATE: Also, see this.

Maureen Dowd can write

It's stylish among many liberals to make fun of Maureen Dowd. I understand this, given that her columns often include descriptions of reality that sound like they were written by someone still in junior high school. But she can knock out a great column now and then -- and the woman can write.

Dowd has a column in the NYT today. It's called "Francis, the Perfect 19th Century Pope". It's terrific. Here's a bit, but I suggest you read the whole thing:
Francis preaches against the elites while keeping the church an elite boys’ club.

As he arrived to say Mass on an altar designed by students outside the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the pope was surrounded by hundreds of white-robed male bishops, male priests and a sea of seminarians as he nonsensically canonized Father Juníipero Serra, a missionary agent for the Spanish empire in California, a man who flogged Native Americans who broke the rules of Catholic teachings.
And she notes a very strange thing about Francis (though admittedly she's quoting someone else):
As the noted religion writer Kenneth Briggs told me: “People here are ardently projecting a lot of things onto this pope, including a liberal new day for the church. But there hasn’t been any change in the moral teachings. It’s to Francis’ credit, I guess, that he gets credit for things he hasn’t done.”
Remind you of anyone, perhaps a certain president and his unearned Nobel Peace Prize? Francis still has work to do. But to be fair, I think he knows this. It's just that he works for a misogynistic church and he leans this way himself. This causes him to be unable to see women clearly -- and it also prevents him from confirming the rights of gays and transgender people. It's all about looking down on women, and on femaleness itself. Why would a man choose to be a woman?! Or even to be like one? Horrors. That's the official Catholic viewpoint, as far as I can tell. It verges on disgust toward all things female. But hey, that's just how I see it. Read the article and if you have the energy, drop a comment. How do you see this guy?

PS: Of course, the pope's intention of making this the Hate Gays Tour for the Ages was sidetracked by the migrant crisis. And more power to the pope for putting aside his personal bias and doing something by speaking up forcefully for kindness and for seeing the migrants as valuable, decent people who are simply avoiding danger -- just as any of us would. They are us.  

The pope is not a bad man. I just wish he'd work on the sexual issues. Straight men are not the only people on the planet -- and we are all equal and worthy. You'd think a guy like Francis would understand this simple concept...Oh, wait a minute. I just remembered that he works for an evil, misogynistic, death-worshipping cult. Okay, never mind. It's hopeless.

But I'm still glad he's speaking up for migrants and telling the world that it must address the threat of climate change. No one's perfect.

September 15, 2015

Spiral aurora over Iceland

I wish we had these in the US. It must be insanely interesting to see something like this in person. Got the image at NASA's Astronomy Pic of the Day site.


September 12, 2015

The view from down here

If you follow this blog, you know I've tossed my bed in the garbage. I sleep on a cushion on the floor now. In part, this is because my new apt is pretty small. The only way I could have an office here was to take over the bedroom with my two large desks, which left no room for a bed. But that's okay because I like it down here.

The view from the floor has disappeared from modern lives, at least in America. Sure, rugrats hang out there but adults shun floors. Bad move. It's cosmic down there.

And yes, this comes from my hippie days. In the 1960s, when we budding hippies visited a friend's house we'd all sit cross-legged on large floor cushions assembled around a low, round table. One or two poor slobs would sit apart, in the torture machines we referred to as butterfly chairs. Poor gits. They missed out on the lower vantage point. It was great on the floor. It just seemed so damned friendly. When you're on the floor, everyone's equal; you can feel it.

Now I find that going to bed, since my "bed" is on the floor, gives me that same feeling (okay, minus the crowd and the marijuana). It just feels right down there. Try it. Grab a friend and sit on cushions on the floor. It's way nicer than up here.

That is all. You may resume your lives now.

September 9, 2015

Vatican remains evil despite Frankie

The Vatican recently stated that it is "impossible" for a transgender person to be a godparent. It's true, they really said this.
The Vatican's report says being transgender "reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one's own sexuality. Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother."
Can you imagine the sexual confusion that went into that Vatican statement? I mean, being trans is "an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity"? If you're trans, switching genders is, in fact, the only solution to the "imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity". To turn the trans quest for normalcy on its head with this type of  statement is utterly bizarre. Seriously, what is wrong with priests? These old Vatican men are so hateful. They just had to reach out and slap trans people? Why? What did trans people ever do to them?

The linked article goes on to remind readers that Francis has condemned "gender theory". Uh, there are actually genders, Frankie. It's not a theory. And sometimes they get mixed up. It's seen in nature and of course it's seen in humans, since we literally are nature. We were born of this Earth, just as all the other creatures were. And this happened without the need for a magic man in the sky. (BTW, this means your religion is a pile of nonsense. I'm just saying.)

The Vatican cannot keep its greasy fingers off sexual matters. It just can't. These men in dresses are literally obsessed with penises and vaginas. It's what they do.

September 6, 2015

Local wildlife

One of the painful things about leaving my old house was that I was leaving the wildlife behind. I had so many geese and crow friends, not to mention squirrels and groundhogs and all sorts of other critters. I hope someone takes care of them now that I'm gone.

As soon as I got to the new place, I scouted out the terrain and I'm happy to report that -- due to the miracle of peanuts -- I've established a great relationship with the local crows. Already, they wait for me on a particular fence at about noon. They know I'm coming. It's so sweet to see five or six crows waiting all in a row. It's hot outside today and I might have skipped my walk but I had to feed the crows. I mean, how could they possibly get by without me? So I trotted out into the breezeless humidity and suffered for my pals. One treat: on the way back, they followed me and settled into the tree right outside my house. From there, they serenaded me with friendly caws. I find crows always want to give back. They're actually sweet. (I know, I know; they murder little birds. But that's what they're supposed to do.)

Moving right along, I've also made friends with a horse. Okay, okay, so horses aren't exactly "wildlife". But they're so new to me, they may as well be. This horse is hurt with a muscle sprain and has to spend her days in a round, covered pen that has a radius of about 20 feet. She has room to pace, it's cool in there, and there are two windows she can stick her head out of, which she does all the time in an attempt to find people to play with.

The first time I saw her I could tell she wanted company. And did she! This is the huggiest horse ever. I'm 6'5", so I'm way up there, right around a horse's head. This makes it especially nice to hug with her. And all right, so it's me that's doing all the hugging. But she presses back with her head and nuzzles it into my chest and stomach. And at some point, she does something very friendly -- she snurfles my hand! I don't know what else to call it. She kind of puts my hand in her mouth, but not where her teeth are. She lays her huge wet lips over my hand and slobbers on it in a very friendly way. It's so sweet! I guess it's kind of like when dogs lick your hand. Have you ever had a horse snurfle your hand? It's not to be missed.

[PS: A horse trainer told me this is fine but you never want to stick your fingers directly into the mouth. Apparently, the horse might bite you without meaning to. (Or it might want to; there's always that.) She said "lips are fine". And they are!]

That's kind of it, so far. I'm sure I'll make more friends out there but this is a great start. I had no idea what I was missing by living in Manhattan most of my life. Concrete ain't it, kid.

September 1, 2015

Allergies are weird

Last night I woke up with a mad itch. First it was just in one place, then two -- and then it spread. When I finally stumbled out of bed and looked in the bathroom mirror, I discovered I was having yet another major allergic attack.

My lips were all swollen, as were my gums. And something inside my ears must have blown up because I couldn't hear a thing. The front of me was purple and my back was a whitish yellow. It was hard to breathe because something was swollen inside my nose, but I was able to breathe through my mouth. I felt like I couldn't stand and was close to passing out.

Luckily I've been through this before. I didn't have an epi-pen on hand but I had the next best thing: a full prescription of prednisone. I've gone to the hospital in this condition before and all they did was give me prednisone. So I asked my doc for a spare prescription. Thank goodness. I was able to start the medicine immediately.

I also breathed albuterol through my nebulizer to ensure that my lungs kept working. And then I headed back to bed, because why not? There's nothing to do but wait these things out. Today I still have swollen lips and I feel a tad shaky, but the big problems have diminished and I'm on my way to being well. I'm not looking forward to seven days of prednisone, but what can you do? (It makes you shake like crazy. It's instant crazy-guy.)

Seriously, allergies are weird. And I don't even know why this happened. I didn't eat anything unusual before bed, and it's the same bed I always sleep in. So why did I experience this attack? Who the heck knows. At least I've got the symptoms under control. That's all I can ask, really.

Here's hoping you slept well last night.

Pope to hold Jubilee Forgiveness Sale. Hurry, hurry!

Did you know that the Roman Catholic church sometimes has special forgiveness sales celebrations? It's true, they really do this. Pope Francis wrote a letter about an upcoming "Year of Jubilee, a celebration of forgiveness based on a biblical ritual of debt forgiveness." Now, isn't that sweet? At all other times, you go straight to hell -- but the Jubilee Year is coming and it offers hope, even to fornicating Jezebels!

It seems it's easier to be forgiven during this spiritually special year. Essentially, Jubilee Years are the equivalent of a church sale on forgiveness. But what about that letter the pope wrote? 
[H]idden within today’s letter — which offers various particulars for the coming celebration — is a discussion of abortion, something Francis describes as a “tragedy” but which he insists can be forgiven. Francis then declares a new church policy: During the jubilee year, women who have abortions will be able to receive forgiveness from a priest, an action that has historically required a bishop.
Now, isn't that marvelous? So, for a short time only, women who did what they thought was best for themselves and their families -- by having an abortion after careful thought and consideration -- can be forgiven for their giant, unspeakable sin. 
Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, told ThinkProgress that he found the pope’s words “refreshing,” but still flawed for many Catholics.
“The letter really tells us about the approach Francis is taking generally to his papacy, being more pastoral and less political than his predecessors,” he said. “However, Francis gets it wrong, because Catholics who have abortions at the same rate as other women have stopped looking for forgiveness a long time ago. They recognize the reality of their lives is one they can embrace, and they recognize as good Catholics they can make decision about contraception and abortion in good conscience. They don’t need to be forgiven or look [for] forgiveness.
You tell 'em, Jon. They can stick their forgiveness where the sun don't shine.

(You can probably see how the gay issue will go down the very same road. Francis is changing nothing. He's just holding sales and saying meaningless things. Thanks, Frankie!)

August 30, 2015

Hue Lights: fun but flawed

Last Xmas my nephews gave me a set of Hue Lights. (Thanks, guys!) The lights are produced by Philips and they come with software that allows you to change the color of the bulbs. They're a bit pricey but lots of fun. You get three lights (and a "bridge" that you plug into your Wi-Fi router, which makes the lights work) with the original set, which costs about $200. Additional bulbs are sold separately and they cost $60 each. Not cheap.

I didn't install the system last Xmas because I was about to move, and the lights in my old house were way up there on 20-foot ceilings. No way I'd climb a ladder to put a bulb up there -- especially since we planned to move during the coming year. So I waited until I arrived at my new location to plug them in.

The system is great fun. I bought two additional bulbs so I've got five colored bulbs in all. I love being able to display dim, glowing colors in my house. And with a tap of a button on my iPad, they change from red to blue to...well, that's the problem. There isn't much range. The ads make you think you can use any photo to change the colors. Just upload it to your iPad, take the Hue software eyedropper and pick up the color you want. Nuh-uh.

Basically the lights want to be a pinkish lavender. When you "choose" another color, what you're really doing is trying to fight your way away from pinkish lavender. It loves that color. Beyond this, there's no real blue. You can get a tinge of green, but that's it. And there are very few vivid colors you can produce. So it's wildly limited.

But the main problem is that the software sucks. Let's say you add a bunch of bulbs and now have a system of 12 bulbs at your house. The problem is that you can't segment them into groups. All you can do is choose all the bulbs and set them individually. So if you have blue bulbs everywhere, for instance, and you want to change one to white, you either change it permanently (which you didn't want to do; you only wanted to light a white bulb in the kitchen for five minutes; you like your blue bulbs) or you have to make a new "scene" (what they call the saved color schemes) and set all the lights again, this time setting one to white. Then you have two full color schemes and must click between them to have the white light for a few minutes. Tch. Think what happens when you have 50 bulbs in the system. Pain in the butt.

They've had literally years to fix this but they haven't done a thing. Philips' attitude is very PC and not Mac at all. You have to improve your product when everyone's bitching about it. And everyone is, I assure you.

Still, they're fun and I don't know of any product that does the same trick. I just wish they did it well.

August 28, 2015

Big Brother is in the sky and packing heat

Now, this is ominous.
North Dakota’s police agencies can fly drones armed with Tasers, tear gas, bean-bag cannons, and other “less-lethal” weapons, thanks to fierce lobbying from the law enforcement industry on a bill that was initially meant to restrict police use of the flying robots rather than outfit them with weapons. While other local police departments have flirted with weaponizing their drones, North Dakota is the first state to explicitly allow the armaments.
And not the last, I'm sure. How can someone not understand that this is the first step on the road to insanity? An America where drones shoot citizens down from the sky? And someone actually thinks this is a good idea?
The weaponization of law enforcement drones could facilitate police abuse of force. Military drone pilots can develop a “Playstation mentality” toward their deadly work, according to United Nations official. The physical remove of a drone pilot desensitizes him, the thinking goes, and makes it easier to be rash about deploying his armaments. Pilots themselves contest this desensitization claim, however, and there’s reason to think military drone operators experience post-traumatic stress disorder despite sitting far from the battlefield.
Far from the battlefield and far from reality. If this isn't slapped down instantly, we are in for a real sh*tstorm.

August 22, 2015

Another bad move by the pope

So you think Pope Francis is sweet, eh? Not to gays, as I keep telling you. I came across this today:
Pope Francis has become wildly popular in the United States for striking an unusually inclusive tone as pontiff, winning praise — and possibly converts — for encouraging his fellow Catholics to be less judgmental towards the poor, immigrants, and even LGBT people. But when the pope travels to Philadelphia next month to attend the World Meeting of Families, he’ll be rubbing elbows with people known for advocating a very different kind of conversion: Ex-gay therapy.
So now that "ex-gay therapy" has been rejected by most Americans, including medical professionals, the pope thinks it's a great time to go to a conference that says sexual orientation is a choice and it can be changed. No, it can't. There is no gay person on this planet who "became straight". Nuh-uh. Doesn't happen. They just turn into closet cases -- who go on to do what closet cases always do: they attack gays who are happy to be gay. In other words, they become our worst enemies. This is who Pope Francis is siding with.

And as I mentioned the other day, while the pope plans to lift the spirits of gay-haters everywhere by meeting with fictional "ex-gays", his minions continue to attack gay people:
By contrast, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput told reporters in June he had no intention of allowing LGBT groups to speak at the conference, saying, “We don’t want to provide a platform at the meeting for people to lobby for positions contrary to the life of the church.” 
Indeed. Chaput is one sick cookie. He's always lashing out at gays and the pope is openly siding with him. I think at this point we can assume that the Roman Catholic church hates gay people and apparently always will. But it is church leaders -- not typical American Catholics -- who feel this way. Polls show this to be the case.
Ex-gay therapy is also widely rejected by most Catholics. A 2011 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute found that an overwhelming majority of American Catholics (69 percent) don’t believe that sexual orientation can be changed, and the group is actually more supportive of same-sex marriage than any other American Christian denomination. Some parishes even march in gay pride parades.
So there you go. For no rational reason (they've never cited one that makes sense), the church under Pope Francis will continue its pogrom against gays.

Because god is good. Or something.

August 21, 2015

Sadly, even the NYT does it

In an editorial at the NYT today, by (ahem) the Editorial Board, I found this sentence:
Recently, NBCUniversal, a division of Comcast, recently invested $200 million in BuzzFeed, the digital media company.
I mean, seriously. No editor or copy editor at the entire New York Times noticed the double-use of "recently" in that sentence? And you know, I might not have mentioned it but this error is online. How hard is it to correct an online error? (Answer: not hard at all.)

Tacky. Really tacky.

August 19, 2015

I found it!

Moving is awful. You think it's going to be really, really bad -- but in the end, it's even worse. Much worse.

I don't know how other people handle moving, but for me it began with total inaction. I couldn't imagine doing it: going through everything, tossing stuff out (since I was moving to a smaller place), packing, cleaning and finally arriving at the new place. I just sat and stared at the wall for a month, unable to do anything. But finally I started to pack. It's not pleasant. For a month or so I had no clue where anything was because all my possessions were in boxes. It made for a shaky period where all I said was "Where is my goddamn (fill in the blank)?!"

But finally the boxes were all packed and moved to the new location. I'd like to say we had people move us, but that would be a lie. We did it ourselves so we could suffer immensely. Luckily, the first heatwave of the year hit exactly as we carted the heavy stuff. You want to be as uncomfortable as you can at a time like this, and I'm pleased to say we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

And then you think you're done but you've got all those boxes to unpack. Sheesh. So you rip them open and stuff things here and there in your new home, and finally you're done -- and you realize you still have no clue where anything is. In the coming days I'm going to walk around the house with my iPad and open drawers and closets as I dictate where everything is. Socks are _____; bedding is _____; etc. And then I'll alphabetize the list so I can find anything easily. I'll just open my "Where's My Stuff" file and presto, I'll be able to locate the item.

The worst thing was that I couldn't find my book of character names. I created the grandest list of character names in the history of the universe, with the idea of using them in upcoming novels. But the book was nowhere! I almost cried, truly. I tore through the house again and again but I couldn't find it. However, I'm thrilled to report that it turned up today. Again, with the almost-crying. Thank Dog! I feel so much better now that I've located it. Sweet, sweet book. Mwa!!

The upshot is that it's just about over. A great craftsman built a huge closet for me this week, so I can store the extra stuff that wouldn't fit anywhere else. This closet is huge. So now, even with everything put away, I have several empty shelves available. Again: sweet.

As for the location, it's heaven here, as I knew it would be. I'm literally living inside the novel Xmas Carol. My house is part of the very horse farm that inspired me to write my lovely little horror novel. It's a tremendous place, 300 acres. I can easily go on a six-mile walk without encountering a single human being. To me, that is the very nature of heaven. And all along the way I encounter beautiful horses. They're such nice creatures, calm, friendly and curious.

As for the wildlife, I'm currently in the process of making friends with a huge murder of crows. I adore crows. They're not 100% on board with the idea that I'm their new pal, but due to the magic of peanuts, I'm making headway each day.

And did I mention that I found my book of character names? I am set. Hopefully, now that things have settled down you'll see a few more blog posts around here. I plan to get back to work on the new book by next week, and I also hope to keep the blog going with fresh posts. This is a new beginning. I love that.

So I hear summer happened while I was packing. I totally missed it. Tell me, how did you fare? We're experiencing another heatwave right now in upstate New York. Tch. Not good for walking. C'mon, spit it out: how has your summer been?

August 18, 2015

The pope's upcoming anti-gay US tour

As I've said all along, although there is a new pope, the Vatican has not altered its hateful attitude toward gay people. The Roman Catholic church's pogrom against gay, bi and transgender people will continue unabated. It's what this church does; the hate will never end. On JoeMyGod's new blog, I came across this headline:

Catholic church reneges on hosting LGBT groups during World Meeting of Families

From the article: (bolding is mine)
Equally Blessed [a Catholic group that pushes for GLBT inclusion in the church] had secured the use of St. John the Evangelist Church’s parish center at 12th and Ludlow Streets [in Philadelphia, where the pope is soon to visit] this spring, said Francis DeBernardo, head of the Maryland-based New Ways Ministry, one of the groups in the coalition. The apparent ejection from St. John’s is the latest evidence of the divide between church leaders and LGBT Catholic groups as the meeting and the visit by Pope Francis draw near. Organizers of the alternative events planned for St. John’s were told last week by its pastor that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia disapproved of their gender identity program and they would no longer be allowed to use space at St. John’s for any events that week, DeBernardo said.
So that's that. Nothing has changed. The Roman Catholic church is evil and it intends to remain evil, despite societal pressure. On this topic, the new pope is just like the former pope.

August 17, 2015

Whistled Turkish

Time to break my blogging log-jam. I'm ba-ack! And I moved. Hooray! More about that later. For now, let us marvel at the existence of whistled Turkish. There actually is such a thing.
Generally speaking, language processing is a job for the brain's left hemisphere. That's true whether that language is spoken, written, or signed. But researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on August 17 have discovered an exception to this rule in a most remarkable form: whistled Turkish.
It seems like such a strange concept. I mean, what would whistled English sound like? I speak English yet I have no clue what this would mean.
Whistled Turkish is exactly what it sounds like: Turkish that has been adapted into a series of whistles. This method of communicating was popular in the old days, before the advent of telephones, in small villages in Turkey as a means for long-distance communication. In comparison to spoken Turkish, whistled Turkish carries much farther. While whistled-Turkish speakers use "normal" Turkish at close range, they switch to the whistled form when at a distance of, say, 50 to 90 meters away.
I love this but I wish I really understood what it's like. I assume you'd have to understand Turkish to grok it, but even Turkish speakers have problems understanding it if they haven't grown up hearing it.
"As a native Turkish-speaking person, I was struck that I did not understand a single word when these guys started whistling," he says. "Not one word! After about a week, I started recognizing a few words, but only if I knew the context."
The article goes on to recount how the existence of this language strand allowed them to test something, once and for all: whether language is primarily a left-brained or right-brained activity. Spoiler: we have a winner -- the left side won, which affirmed its long-supposed dominance of language.

Still, whistled Turkish. How cool is that?
Generally speaking, language processing is a job for the brain's left hemisphere. That's true whether that language is spoken, written, or signed. But researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on August 17 have discovered an exception to this rule in a most remarkable form: whistled Turkish.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-08-turkish-notions-language-brain.html#jCp

July 28, 2015

The confusion of Pope Francis

Will Pope Francis say something positive about gay and transgender people when he visits the United States this Fall? In a country newly accepting of gay marriage, a place where transgender people are finally getting just a bit of respect, will the Pope applaud these changes? Will he call for an end to the firing of gay teachers at Catholic schools, and the denial of communion to married gays? The world wants to know.

At the NYT today, as the writers try to read the tea leaves, they note that despite the general media impression that this pope is less hateful toward gays than his predecessors, Pope Francis' remarks on sex and gender have been all over the lot.
But he has shown no indication that he intends to lead the church toward changing its teaching that gay people are “called to chastity” and marriage is only for a man and a woman.

On a visit to the Philippines in January, Pope Francis said in a speech that “the family is threatened by growing efforts” to “redefine the very institution of marriage.” He also criticized wealthy Western countries for imposing their ideas about gender on developing countries, calling it “ideological colonization.”

A month later, he was quoted in a book saying that “gender theory,” which holds that gender is a social construct, is one of the great modern dangers to humanity, like nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons? Isn't that sweet? As readers of this blog know, I don't think there's reason to hope. This pope will do what all the other popes have done: he will cast aside gay and transgender people. The church is the church. It never changes.

July 19, 2015

Bruni's take on Trump

You must read Frank Bruni's column about Donald Trump. It's quintessential Bruni -- and Trump would hate it. Right there, you've got a good reason to read it. G'wan. Click that link right this instant.

July 15, 2015

Your daily typo

Two headlines from today's online NY Daily News:

"Hacker gets 13 yeas for selling 200M Americans' data". 

Yea! But why put only one typo online when you can put two? I also found this:

"Man accused of killing fiance to death held without bail".

You know, it's not that hard to find someone to proof your headlines before they go live. Truly.

July 13, 2015

The pope's upcoming anti-gay visit to the United States

In case you had any doubt about the pope's bad intentions, note that Francis is holding his "family" gathering in Philadelphia with this piece of work.
Philadelphia's archbishop says Roman Catholic school leaders who fired a married gay religion teacher showed "character and common sense."

Archbishop Charles Chaput says the Sisters of Mercy and board members who run Waldron Mercy Academy are simply being "honest" about the church's teaching. The church opposes gay marriage.
Nice, huh? Chaput is one of the most evil U.S. archbishops. He looks gayer than god and takes every opportunity to lash out at gay people. Closet cases are the worst; it's always been this way.

But this is what provides a strong hint that Pope Francis won't try to make nice with gay marriage during his US tour. The fact that he's holding his family meeting in conjunction with the monstrous Chaput tells us everything we need to know.

(Except why the church is so gung-ho on demonizing gay people. That is the zillion-dollar question.)

July 11, 2015

I don't need no damn bed

My move to a new apartment is happening, albeit slowly. Some pieces of furniture were moved to the new place today, so it's finally begun. It will still be a long, slow slog because we're doing it ourselves and we don't have a huge truck. So we're bringing stuff there in dribbles. It will happen, but like progress, it'll take some time.

[When I say "we", I mean my sister's family and me. We live in adjoining houses and that won't change at the new location. We're stuck like glue, my sister and I. It's a good thing. But it means we're moving two houses full of stuff.]

The new place is a one-bedroom apartment. But I don't have room for all my stuff there, so I'm cancelling the bedroom concept. I won't have a bed, nor will I have a dresser and side table, as is traditional. Instead, I'm making the "bedroom" into an office. I have two desks, a great computer and a trillion notebooks. They need a home and frankly, I don't need a bed.

I'm bringing a thin pad on which I'll sleep. Yes, on the floor. The pad folds, so I can stick it in a closet during the day. Very Japanese, no? The thing is, I don't like soft beds because they're, you know, soft. Gimme a floor any day. It'll be kind of like a platform bed without the platform.

The living room is, in today's terminology, "open concept" with the kitchen. There is no dining room, but I don't have people over for food. Heaven forfend. I do give guests an occasional slice of pizza or a sandwich, but I haven't eaten at a table in decades. Chairs are just fine, thanks. So the open area will be for cooking and watching baseball games. I also plan to get a bunch of plants. I haven't done that in years, what with living in the dark and all. But if I sleep in the office and stay in there at my computer all day, that can be the dark room. This way my plants will get all the sun they want during the day. And then I'll move into that room at dusk. See how nicely that works?

The kitchen has tons of cabinets, more than I've ever seen in an apartment. So I'm going to use a few of them to house clothes. Everyone puts clothes in their kitchen cabinets, right? And the kitchen has lots of glass-fronted cabinets. Using HGTV as my guide, it would seem that I'm supposed to "show off" lovely white dishes in them. But I don't even have two matching dishes. (Actually, a friend brings me beautiful, random dishes that she finds at flea markets. I've got some cool ones. But none match.) So I'm thinking of putting fun stuff in the visible shelves. For instance, my leather top hats might look nice there. And I can set up pyramids of espresso coffee in one and nicotine lozenges in another. It will be so welcoming!

I'm really looking forward to this. A fresh, new start sounds like a great idea. Okay, I have to get back to packing now. See you next time.

July 8, 2015

iPhone is hermit's best friend

I never wanted an iPhone. Not for one second. I'm a hermit; we don't want to "stay in touch". In fact, we like to be way, way out of touch. Plus, I hardly ever leave my house. So why would I want an iPhone? Subject closed -- or so I thought.

But then my sister bought one for me. I wasn't happy. I thought "oh, good, something to put on a shelf and forget." But I was wrong. iPhones are great! They let you stay out of touch much better than land lines. I cancelled my land line the second I grokked this.

There's this thing (you probably know this, but I didn't) called "Do Not Disturb". I love those words. Turns out, you can limit phone calls to only those people listed in your contacts. That is so cool! No more marketers, no more old friends calling to relive old times. I love it.

And an even better thing is that you can limit this further, so only your "favorite" contacts can get through. And if you only list your own contact information as a favorite, which is how I've set it up, no one can call you at all! Huzzah! I adore this.

Additionally, I shut off Facetime and Messages. No one in the world can get through to me now. I think I may be in heaven. Let's hear it for iPhones! Yaaaay!

The ever-present, disgusting ingredient

I'm busy packing, rather than blogging. I'm moving in the next few weeks, so it's time. Oy, the dust and the boxes and the cans of garbage! And surely the most oppressive thing is that you're still expected to tend to your normal life. That seems so unfair. Surely someone should do my chores for me as I pack. Surely.

Anyway, I had to stop packing to visit the grocery store yesterday. That's another in a list of moving travesties: it seems I'm expected to eat and cook as I do all this work! What can you do? Those are the rules.

I bought three loaves of "potato bread" while there, because I couldn't find my usual bread. And then last night, I happened to eat a plain slice of the bread...and it was sickeningly sweet! Yuck. When I read the ingredients, I found that it was suffused with high fructose corn syrup. In bread! I threw all three loaves in the garbage this morning, and then figured I might as well check the other loaves in my freezer. Yup, they had high fructose corn syrup in them. And we're talking about whole wheat bread. Isn't this supposed to be a healthy choice? I was utterly disgusted. So I cleared out all the bread in my freezer today and tossed it in the garbage, which is where anything that contains HFCS should go.

High fructose corn syrup is in everything. Americans are growing fatter and fatter and stupider and stupider -- and everything at the supermarket has this unhealthy, extremely fattening and heart-unhealthy ingredient in it. (I also believe it makes people stupid. Just looking around tells the tale. They added it to our food supply and the entire country got fat and stupid. There is a causative relationship here.)

From now on, I'm reading the ingredients on every food item before I purchase it. My only fear, going into this regimen, is that every item at the food store has HFCS in it. What has gone wrong with our food supply? Yuck again.

July 6, 2015

And this pope is just warming up

A hint of things to come?
In his homily Monday, Francis said he hoped the second meeting of bishops on family life, scheduled for October, would come up with “concrete solutions to the many difficult and significant challenges facing families in our time.”

“I ask you to pray fervently for this intention, so that Christ can take even what might seem to us impure, scandalous or threatening, and turn it … into a miracle.”
Gee, I wonder what he's referring to. Oh, wait. Let's see what the Vatican's main bigot has to say.
The Vatican spokesman, the incredibly bigoted Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis wasn’t referring to the gay or divorce issue specifically but was making a more general reference that he hoped the bishops would “help the church chart this path of leaving a situation of sin to one of grace.”
Well, that's reassuring. Thanks, Federico. You're a beacon of light in a dark and dingy world. (Hahaha, just kidding. You're a pig.)

July 2, 2015

Sinatra

I keep returning to YouTube to watch this video, after first seeing it on Jerry Coyne's web site. This is Sinatra at his best. He did the recording of "It Was a Very Good Year" in one take. This is it. Amazing.

July 1, 2015

It's all about them

Gays cannot experience persecution. Only Christians can. In case you haven't noticed this trend in the comments of Christian loons, I give you the Roman Catholic church: (Bolding is mine.)
The U.S. bishops are facing an even greater challenge within, even as they move forward as the leading religious voice advocating for legal protections for those who object to gay marriage.
In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Va., Bishop Paul Loverde held a Mass and organized a lecture for the U.S. bishops' annual religious freedom commemoration, called "Religious Liberty For How Long? How to Prepare Spiritually for the Coming Persecution."
Only they can experience persecution. Got it? Good. And what is the nature of this persecution? Why, the fact that they can't persecute gays with all the vitriol and hatred they used to direct at them. It's downright unfair! Oh, the poor dears. It really makes you feel for them, doesn't it? If only they could go back to the good old days of hating gays, openly and freely, as god wants them to.

Persecution. It's only for Christians these days. Hahahaha. Torquemada, anyone? Now, those were the good old days.

UPDATE: TBogg did this much better than I did. Go read it

June 30, 2015

The American urge to punish

In a NYT article on the Supremes, I found this: (bolding is mine)
The 5-to-4 decision rejected a claim by three death-row inmates that use of the sedative midazolam would put them at risk of severe pain. It also ruled preposterously that in order to succeed the inmates had to show that there is an alternative manner of execution that is significantly less painful but readily available.
Uh, heroin? It's available on every street corner and would send these inmates out peacefully. The sad truth is that America wants painful deaths for its condemned inmates -- and I find that sickening. 

(I also believe the American tendency to be vicious whenever possible is rooted in religious beliefs. But that's another post for another day.)

June 26, 2015

Bruni's take

I won't crib from Frank Bruni's column on the gay marriage decision that came down today (though I'd love to paste the final paragraph into this post). I'll control myself and let you read it yourself. It sure is nice to have Bruni walking among us.

Kinda makes you want to rush out and get gay-married

We won, kids. The decision just came down a few minutes ago.
WASHINGTON — In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.
Go celebrate -- and then enjoy the view as wingnut heads explode across the nation. I think of the latter as the after-party.

Woohoo! We're equal under the law.

June 24, 2015

Satan saves the day

We all owe a debt to Satanists. They're the final barrier in the way of anti-female wingnut laws. You're hip to the notion that the GOP is engaging in an all-out war on women, right? If not, you haven't been doing your due diligence. Try and keep up!

Here's today's episode:
A group of Satanic worshippers are suing Missouri's governor and attorney general in federal court, alleging that the state's abortion restrictions violate their religious beliefs and should be scrapped.
Hey, if no one else will step in to fight misogynistic laws, the Satanists know what they have to do. And thank god (or Dog, or Beelzebub; whatever). These sorts of laws are being passed all over the United States. It's much, much harder to get an abortion these days. And that's not how it's supposed to be. We crossed this bridge long ago. 
"All women who are contemplating getting an abortion in Missouri have the right, pursuant to the First Amendment, to exercise their freedom to believe when human life begins and act upon their belief without interference or influence by the state of Missouri," the lawsuit submits.
Sounds sensible to me. Read the entire linked article to get some background. And if this strikes you as !Breaking News! -- as I say, you'd better start reading real news sites. 

Go, Satanists! We finally have an answer to "Who you gonna call?" L. Diablo, naturally.

June 21, 2015

Positive branding

The NY Mets, like every other team, occasionally gives free stuff to fans who buy tickets. Usually these are tacky throwaway items, but I really like this one. (That's it on the left.)

It's a growth chart for kids, using first baseman Lucas Duda's image. He's 6'4" and I imagine it's made with a lifesize image of this earnest, hardworking player. I'm a big fan of his because he's talented and he tries so hard. He'll be a well-regarded baseball star, when all is said and done. That's my prediction. But for now, he's young and this is his first major league team.

To return to the topic of branding, the idea of using his image for a height chart for kids is really good. Not only will kids have fun trying to grow as tall as Lucas, they'll also turn into lifelong Mets fans. That outcome is built into this lightweight giveaway.

That's smart. It costs the Mets next to nothing to produce, turns kids into fans, provides fun for the kids in their private lives -- and gives Lucas something really nice to remember when he's old and gray. I mean, just imagine how many kids will use this chart for years. They'll remember it all their lives, which has to be a kick for young Lucas.

Now, that's good branding. It's positive in every direction. You can't ask for more than that.

Happy about the pope's climate encyclical? Not so fast.

In his encyclical on protecting the planet, Pope Francis pushed the idea that climate change is all about industry, selfishness and greed. The elephant in the room, of course, is that he's unwilling to consider the benefits of sensible population control. Women gotta have babies. They gotta, especially if they don't want to. After all, they're just breeding stock, and you don't want them to get uppity by having too much control over their lives. Barefoot and pregnant is how women are supposed to be.

Nick Cohen nails this issue down for you. If you were pleased by the pope's encyclical, do read it. This pope isn't liberal. He's got a few nice ideas but he's bound by inane Catholic dogma -- which pretty much ruins everything.

June 19, 2015

GOP candidates ignore what really happened in S.C. church massacre

A large group of peaceful black people at a church service in in Charleston were shot dead by a white maniac. Now, let us delve into the twisted mind of GOP "leaders".

For starters, this is the lede to an AP story today:
Republican presidential contenders are condemning the deadly shootings in South Carolina as an attack on faith, as they court religious activists in Washington.
If you don't understand how wildly off-base this viewpoint is, read this story at Think Progress. It'll help you sort it out.

And these people are running for president. America has become a cartoon -- and don't think Europe isn't watching these antics with horror and disappointment. We ain't what we used to be. That's for sure. It's all up to young people now. Change the world, kids, or there won't be a world for your children.

June 18, 2015

Uh, what about high fructose corn syrup?

It's nice that trans fats are being removed from the American diet. We've only known of the dangers of trans fats for, oh, about 30 or 35 years now. So it's just about time for Americans to notice; we're right on schedule. (I've always said it takes 30 years for anything to work its way into the American mind. We're a tad slow here, but still in the mental ballpark.) So, good. We're finally tackling that one.

But what about high fructose corn syrup? We added it to our diets and almost immediately, we became morbidly obese and very, very stupid. It was one big, double-barreled wave of change, powered by fructose. So...has it been about 30 years since we began to walk down this idiotic path? Well, it's getting close. But apparently we don't care. It remains in just about every food product on our market shelves. We still haven't noticed that this "food innovation" is ruining the country's health.

But maybe this will wake a few people up: (bolding is mine)
A new paper by Krek and his team member Peter Mirtschink describes a further, more troubling side effect of fructose. The researchers have discovered a previously unknown molecular mechanism that points to fructose as a key driver of uncontrolled growth of the heart muscle, a condition that can lead to fatal heart failure. Their study was recently published in Nature.

When a person has high blood pressure, the heart has to grow as it is harder to pump the blood through the circulatory system. These growing heart muscle cells require a considerable amount of oxygen. However, since not enough oxygen is available to adequately supply the increased growth, the cells switch to an alternative energy supply. Instead of drawing energy from fatty acids, they rely more on an anaerobic process called glycolysis—literally, the 'splitting of sugars'. If the heart muscle cells can access fructose in addition to glucose, this can set off a fatal chain reaction
So, are you ready to ditch all foods that have high fructose corn syrup in them? Might be a good idea, huh? Mind you, this science story doesn't even hint at the fat-and-stupid thing. But if we fear high fructose corn syrup because of heart disease, and wipe it from our supermarkets, that will take care of not only heart attacks but, yup, fat and stupid. I'd love to see the country regain its brain power. Slimming down wouldn't hurt either. I'm just saying.

Don't eat this stuff, kids. Seriously.

June 17, 2015

What'd I tell ya?

Pope Francis is not a friend to gay people. He is and always will be our enemy. Here are a few of Francis' recent remarks, which will clear up any vagueness about his position on gay marriage. (Bolding is mine.)
On Sunday June 14, Pope Francis addressed more than 25,000 faithful on the importance of heterosexual parenting during his general audience -- just one day after thousands marched in Rome’s LGBT pride parade

Heterosexual marriage makes for happier couples, the pope said, and is essential for healthy parenting.

“Children mature seeing their father and mother [happy],” Francis argued. “Their identity matures being confronted with the love their father and mother have, confronted with this difference.

The pope called the differences between men and women fundamental, and said these differences make heterosexual couples strong. “What great richness this diversity is, a diversity which becomes complementary, but also reciprocal. It binds them, one to the other,” he said.
I trust this ties up any loose ends for you. The Catholic church will always be one of the staunchest and most vicious enemies of gay people. Thus has it always been. And as I've said all along, the pope's upcoming tour to the United States is going to be a straight-marriage encyclical, brought to life. There is no room for gay people in the Roman Catholic world of Pope Francis.

Apparently, Francis learned nothing from Ireland's recent approval of gay marriage. This isn't surprising. You've got to be dense to be pope.

Also, too: this. Francis isn't on solid ground with his "hets are best for kids" routine. What a surprise.

June 7, 2015

Bruni on Hillary

Frank Bruni has a stunning op-ed about Hillary in this morning's NYT. I'm amazed at how much Bruni can pack into a few short paragraphs. Go read it.

Here's the open:
LATELY I’ve been running into people even more put off by the Clintons than the nefarious operatives in the “vast right wing conspiracy” ever were.

They’re called Democrats.
You know you want to read it. G'wan, give in.

June 6, 2015

Mishearing

Oliver Sacks has an op-ed in the NYT today. It's about the words he mishears now that he's going deaf. As with everything Sacks writes, it's an interesting read. It also made me remember something I misheard.

A few weeks back, a friend phoned me while she was out for a walk. She was huffing and puffing as she told me that a friend had a "hip-hop-eration". I thought "Wow, a hip-hop-eration! I wonder what that does for you." Listening to the next few sentences, I realized she had said "hip operation". Mishearing -- sometimes it's fun.

June 4, 2015

Whither the wave function?

As you can tell from my sidebar, I'm a physics freak. I adore it. So for me, this has been a banner week. There have been so many wildly interesting physics stories in the past seven days. If such things interest you, I suggest you visit phys.org this weekend, when they will reprise the best stories of the week. You won't be disappointed.

Here's a taste. It's an article about a new mathematical discovery which suggests that the wave function does not exist. If so, this is startling. Here's an excerpt:
"So what we have done is to open the possibility that the quantum wave may not exist. It now has only as much right to that claim as do many interacting worlds – no more and no less. This may be as definitive a statement as one can hope to make about a subject that has confounded the best minds of physics for a hundred years and still continues to generate controversy.
No wave function! Additionally, the new theory shows that quantum "weirdness" may be the result of particle interactions among parallel universes. I love this. Seriously, there were so many killer physics stories this week. If science is your thing, do visit phys.org this weekend.

June 3, 2015

The best thing about writing fiction

When I was writing Xmas Carol, I was happier than I thought possible. Coming up with the plot, living every day with the story, honing it and making it graceful and readable -- was a joyful process for me. So the best thing about writing the book was, well, writing it.

But fiction has an added bonus for authors: reader reactions. Yes, a reader can enjoy and learn from non-fiction, but she is rarely elated. There is no true emotional attachment, no reader participation in the story. It's just the facts, m'am. The book may be beautifully written, may say things that have never been said before -- but it's not a fascinating tale of fiction written by a creative soul. It doesn't take you someplace no one has ever visited before. It's just a rundown of things said or done.

But there is something that comes very close to the joy of actually writing a novel. It's the experience of receiving notes from readers -- reports from the fictional landscape I've invented -- that tell of their experience when reading the book. I've gotten a lot of emails like this and I'm truly appreciative. Each note is from a person who enjoyed the book enough to take the time to tell me about her experience. That means so much.

One of the ways readers do this without contacting me directly is by writing a review at Amazon. Here's a new one that arrived on the site this week:
I strongly recommend reading Xmas Carol at anytime of the year. I read this book during the Xmas holidays and was so caught in the moment, in turning each page to find out what was happening next, that I took no notice of the festivities going on around me. The author has a great gift for language, for keeping the suspense and excitement going. It is an art, to keep the reader on tenterhooks, riveted, desperately wanting to know what will happen next. I was most impressed by the author's skillful drawing of the characters' personalities and their physical qualities. He understands that some things need not be said, whilst others, in being said at the right time, provide interesting plot twists and wrinkles. I really liked the descriptions of the inanimate, the evil villain's home with its stained glass windows, the horse farm, the homes of the main characters and the surrounding countryside in all seasons. Do read Xmas Carol. It is a special book of "magical sci-fi".
Thanks to everyone who shared their experience with me -- especially if they did so at Amazon, where other readers can check out what they said. It's the only way books get sold these days: people read reviews, like what they hear, and buy the book. If you haven't read Xmas Carol yet, join in the fun. Grab a copy -- and don't forget to provide a review when you're done.

And thanks to that reader for my new review!

May 31, 2015

More from Ireland

A friend who lives in Ireland wrote me the day after Ireland approved gay marriage. I loved what she said and asked her permission to post it here. She said yes, so here you go:
Today was historically significant here in Ireland. Ireland is often viewed as a reactionary, religious backwater; e.g. civil divorce has only been legal since 1996, and abortion is still not legal. Women in Ireland can travel to England for abortions, they can legally sneak around the law as a result of the X case.  A young girl, aged 13, became pregnant after rape. Social services wanted to send her to England for an abortion. Recently, Savita Halappenavaar, who was refused an abortion even though her life was at risk, died at Galway General Hospital.  Her husband said they were told that the pregnancy could not be terminated because "this is a Catholic country". 

While Ireland fought for independence, a glorious ideal, it developed into a theocracy after the war in 1921, and a subsequent Civil War that ended a year later. It did have some trappings of a democratic country, but the government always had to allow for control from Rome in family matters. It is said that in 1936, when then-President DeValera wrote the Constitution, that he modelled it on the much-admired American Constitution, but that although he had almost complete autonomy, he had to accept the input and the control of the archbishop, or as I refer to him, the "evil archbishop".The Constitution, while exalting the family, allowed for the state, in a multitude of situations, to show a lack of compassion for what amounted to state-sanctioned cruelty. The constitution was fundamentally unfair to women, to unmarried fathers, to orphans, to gay people, etc. The church apparatus, with the evil archbishop as its totem, destroyed attempts to socialise medicine here. The "mother and child" scheme threatened the Church's power. Interestingly, Ireland happily jumped on the fanatically anti-communist witch-hunt bandwagon in the United States in the 1950's.

However, today, Ireland should be proud of itself! The people have voted in a new Constitutional Amendment allowing gay marriage. Previously, gay couples could have some sort of civil contract, but now they can get married if they want. I think that rules on surrogacy will still have to be worked out but I am really happy about this new development - although it won't change the past for those who suffered through criminalisation, cruelty and bullying, it will certainly make for a happier future. 
Indeed. Thanks to my anonymous friend for allowing me to share this with readers. 

May 30, 2015

Acronym insanity

You know what acronyms are, right? Like DOD for Department of Defense. Acronyms are the initials that become so well-known, they virtually become the "names" of organizations or concepts. Well, here's a doozy for you and it's absolutely perfect for our braindead era:

I ran into this gem while reading an article about an AI expert who is calling on others in the field to oppose: 
"lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS)—armed robots that enter the battlefield without human masters and make decisions about who to kill."
LAWS. Could any acronym be more appalling than this one? LAWS are the robots in the sky who will come to kill you. You can't invent irony this deep and delicious; you just have to encounter it cold turkey.

And as for the call for all AI researchers to oppose this, hell yes! Haven't you heard of SkyNet? You're creating it, fer god's sake.

Knockin' on heaven's door

After decades of searching, I finally found the solar light I envisioned in my dreams. You can get it here. This is a shot of the lights:

I wanted a light that I could put out in the sun all day to absorb the sun's energy, and then take inside for an evening of dim light. Just try looking for a "dim light" on the web. (Maybe that's changed recently but my old searches were fruitless.) But I finally found it!

Yes, this light does stupid things like blink and flash and fade. For the record, things are not allowed to blink or change colors in my house. That way leads to a disordered mind. I almost threw the light out after turning it on for the first time because I couldn't stop the damn flashing and color-changing behavior.

I experienced this problem because (of course) the directions are inadequate. The trick to a steady colored light is to press not a color swatch (of which there are many) but the words red, blue or green on the top of the remote that comes with it. Finally, I got the steady light I was seeking.

And the best thing of all is that it has a dimmer switch. You can depress it to lower the light to an almost nonexistent glow -- just what I was looking for.

It was a long search but it was worth it. Now if they could only come up with a way for my walls to glow in any color I want, and supply a dimmer switch with it, I'd be the happiest camper in the world.

PS: I bought the 10-inch globe. It cost about $93 - money well spent.