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


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!