Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Thoughts on Christmas

(Picture from here.)

It's going to be Christmas in a couple of days.

Atheist that I am, I truly like Christmas. It has a number of interacting mythologies (Santa, angels, Jesus). It has winter. It has gift giving. What's not to like?

What I find most interesting about Christmas is the complete collision of things. We have the mythologies which can range from Tim Allen's Santa, to the nearly non-theistic angels of It's a Wonderful Life, to all of the different stories of Jesus. We have the economic aspect where somewhere between one third to one half of the revenues generated by many stores centers on Christmas. Economists watch Christmas as much as they watch oil in the Middle East.

Then, there's the family aspect. How many stories (anecdotal or in the media) that center around how terrible it is to be away from one's family at Christmas. I'm not being cynical here. I've seen grown men that fight tooth and toenail to avoid visiting their family during the year openly weep when their flights are canceled because of Christmas weather. Women who hate their ex-husbands and husbands who hate their ex-wives will (for the moment at least) remain cordial to get through a Christmas holiday. The symbolic attachment of family to Christmas is enormous.

Coupled with this is gift giving (and sometimes associated bankruptcy) that rivals a Northwest tribal potlatch.

All ground up together like hamburger and, like hamburger, it's difficult to separate the pieces.

I love it.

So: I'll call my sister (pretty much the other Last Relative Standing for my generation.) and some friends. This year Wendy's family will come to our place. We'll crack open another of the slowly dwindling cellar of Marvinwine. Toast each other. Eat vast quantities of food. Enjoy an inebriated excess of gifting. Sing some songs. And sit back in a pleasant stupor watching the tree blink on. Blink off. Blink on. Blink off.

I won't obsess about work. Or money. Or the weather. Or anything.

Blink on. Blink off. Blink on. Blink off.

Merry Christmas.

I don't know where to put this: here.

Wall of Idiots
Monsanto and here
Alien giant snakes
Climategate. Again. And here.

Links of Interest
Galileo: The Beginning of Science
National Geographic Adventures
Gardens of the world
Bicycle routes of the world
Elevators of the world
Train rides of the world
Scotland's Hebrides
Very demotivational posters
Printable electronics
Genomic dark matter
Mysteries of Saturn
Made with Molecules

Fingerloop braids and here
Tile pictures
Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies
Christmas crafts
What to do with all that milk?

Monday, December 21, 2009


(Picture from here.)

I had a disturbing conversation over the weekend.

I have this friend who I like very much but who is also a Christian who refuses to acknowledge evolution. He also tends to bring me tidbits of anti-evolution propaganda to talk about.

The conversation tends to devolve quickly. (heh. heh.)

Of course, I think he's wrong and he thinks I'm wrong. The evidence is on my side but that makes no difference in a matter of faith. Because his faith, along with the rest of the anti-evolution crowd, hinges on a piece of science he is honor bound to deny the science. Since he is not a scientist this further descends into a battle of authorities.

Into this came the movie Expelled, Ben Stein's little foray into propaganda.

Like most of the propaganda, it's pretty much a lie or misdirection. If you want to read a refutation of expelled, here are some links:

SciaAm: Here. Here. Here.
Expelled Exposed.
Roger Ebert

Like other conspiratorial issues, there's a lot of circular reasoning around Expelled. The film centers around a couple of bald faced lies. I don't know if Stein believes them or has been duped but that doesn't make any difference. The conversation about these lies (and evolution itself) goes something like this.

False Proposition: Richard Sternberg was fired for publishing a pro-ID paper in a Smithsonian magazine.
Refutation of False Proposition: Well, no. In fact he wasn't. He was never an employee.
Dilution of Refutation: A lot of people believe that he was fired.
Refutation of Dilution: They're wrong, too. It's not a matter of opinion. It's a matter of fact.
Pursuit of False Proposition: Come on, you have to admit there's some possibility of this. After all, look at all of the people who say it happened.
Repeat of Refutation: So what? Thabo Mbeki and his entire administration refused to believe AIDS was caused by HIV and told people to drink beet tea. Did their numbers make them right?
New False Proposition: Lots of scientists believe that evolution doesn't work. There are lots of holes.

For the people on line, not my friend, it can even go so far as true conspiracy theory.

False Proposition: There are lots of holes in evolution-- enough that we should abandon it.
Refutation of False Proposition: That's not true. Look at (list of things.) Look at these (authorities).
Denial of Refutation: They're just part of the grand scientist conspiracy. They want to get grants and so they manufacture results. The fact that they're putting up [refutations of the false proposition] proves it.

(Note the similarity of reasoning to the same as Global Warming Deniers.)

And on and on.

People make money on this sort of rat crap. One of the lines in Bored of the Rings goes something like, "This book is mainly about the making of money and from its pages the depth of soul of the authors can be seen."

You can say the same about Expelled.

The problem is that there is so much drivel out there about evolution (and global warming and science in general) that people of good faith but little scientific understanding are getting bamboozled. Ripped off. Lied to. If you're standing in a storm and you have to choose between a rock of unknown stability and a rock you're familiar with, you're going to choose the familiar every time. It's human.

We live in a time where liberal compassion is called weak and traitorous. When species once considered canaries in the coalmine of our environment are not only being allowed to die but being shuffled off wholesale while being ignored or deemed unfit by their inability to survive the toxic stew dumped on them. When one state can smash the militia and police of another and then claim superiority because the other side can't maintain itself.

Is it such a surprise that bald faced lies and propaganda are accepted as comforting truth?

For anybody out there still listening, here are the principles that I use to penetrate the fog:

1) Like There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL), simple answers are rarely correct. There are very few social or scientific matters that don't become wildly complex when you look closely enough. Therefore, be suspicious of simplicity.
2) Science is all about experimental verification. Scientific publication is all about peer review. Anything that doesn't submit to these two principles and calls itself science isn't. (I have a whole rant on how experimental verification can be scientifically applied to non-verifiable hypotheses (such as the Big Bang) but that's for another time.)
3) Numbers are your friend. Anecdotes are your enemy. People find stories stronger than facts. Therefore, stories must not be considered as evidence with much standing.
4) Ideology is no substitute for any of the above. Once Ideology enters the argument, reason leaves.
5) Consider the risks if the idea is wrong or right. (The risks if Global Warming is right? Bad, bad, bad.)
6) Consider the gains if the idea is wrong or right. (The gains if evolution is right? New medicines. Understanding of physiological systems. Explanation and utilization of scientific principles. Gains if Intelligent Design is right? Zippo.)
7) It's not worth reading without citations. If you read an opinion piece and it makes claims of fact without citing the source, don't bother. FactCheck.0rg is your friend.
8) Consider the source of the source. If a bunch of scientists sign a petition arguing against evolution, that's interesting. If, however, on examination those scientists are, say, economists from Oral Roberts University, it's probably not worth bothering about.
9) Most news isn't. If there's enough data to show up on the news, it might be interesting if you can get the original material. But most news is slanted, biased, incomplete and wrong especially when it comes to science. If you're not willing to dig down and figure it out, shut up about it. You're probably wrong.
10) Don't use a single source for anything.

And finally, the most important thing, remember that people who distribute "information" for the money are the least credible sources.

Wall of Idiots
Climategate and here, here
Chevrolet Aveo
Parental Issues
Ray Kurzweil
Joe Lieberman

Links of Interest
Mount Roraima
360 Cities
Life on Mars? Here, here.
Gordon's scale of corporate evil
Deimos and Phobos, together at last
Real Data on Temperature Rise
Winter Wonderland and here
Hubcap animals
V: Robert Sapolsky
Physics of Space Battles
Liquid on Titan
New underwater rovers
Copenhagen wheel


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Perils of Winter

Tonight we're going to get as much as a foot of snow. We're in pretty good shape. We've repaired the canopies over the chickens and the wood pile. The ice remaining on the driveway has been removed.

I've been talking about preparing for winter in New England in previous posts. A few of my friends (those who live in the city)
have suggested I'm overreacting.

Well, here are some pictures.

We used two canopies over the woodpile this year, the big one that is sturdy and I've been working on for some years and a smaller one that we used as a shelter for our summer party. The idea of using the smaller one was to finish up the wood underneath and then fold it up and put it away for the winter. Well, we weren't quite quick enough.

The canopies are both under a hickory tree. I figure about a ton of shown came down and destroyed the weaker canopy. The other one can take a licking and keep on ticking.

Winter in New England is sort of like a bear, except a bear might leave you alone once in a while.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Battle of the Extra-Terrestrial Titans

Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins duked it out recently regarding whether or not an intelligent ET would look like us. You can read the post here. Shermer's position, anyway. To put it succinctly, Shermer thinks it's a virtual uncertainty they'd look like us and Dawkins thinks it's merely wildly unlikely. Both of them miss the mark, in my opinion.

The question always comes back to the nature of "intelligence". If we define such a thing as equivalent to us, then the probabilities go one way. If we broaden the definition to include evidences of similarity, then we have to include evidence such as Pepperberger's work with parrots (definitely not mammalian) and the work with cephalopods. While they are not building cities and running cars, they are using tools to a limited extent and have quite a bit of "intelligence"-- the story about the octopus determining when the staff was gone and carefully sneaking over to an adjacent tank and eating the fish, then returning to his own tank is pretty smart.

My own feeling is that while bipedal may not be the only way to go, a body plan that allows manipulation of the environment seems surely a necessity to achieve anything like human level technological abilities. Similarly, the ability to store information external to the geonome in an easily accessible location (read here, "culture") is probably also a necessity. Both of these, together, have only struck paydirt in the primates. (My own hobby horse on this subject is neoteny. Without that, the rest of the evolutionary process leading to man would never have had a chance.)

What is needed is a circumstance where intelligence can in fact be selected for. Such circumstances appear to be rare.

It's also important to note that once these two components came together, intelligence did evolve more than once: Neanderthals, hobbits, man, etc. While the others didn't reach our heights, to dismiss them out of hand is pure arrogance. Neanderthals didn't change their use of tools much. But for a long time neither did we. But we both did use tools. We both had culture.

If humans ever managed to travel to a distant star and found something as smart as Neanderthal, we'd be quite pleased. Heck, we'd be thrilled if we found something as smart as a magpie.
Links of Interest
Go Sukashi

3D Hell Beast
Mexican Martini
Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Whiskey and Baileys
Feather writing quill
Cookie recipes
Play-doh and here
Paper roses
Walking stick
Gifts for men
Gifts for women
Bench power supply
A lamp
Christmas after dinner mints

Monday, December 14, 2009

Consideration of Works Past: Kim, Rudyard Kipling

(Picture from here.)

This isn't quite in the same vein as the other posts. For one reason, it's not SF or fantasy. For another, I've been re-reading Kim every couple of years since the seventies.

But I was looking over a paperback version I gave Ben and read, for the first time, the introduction. In it the "professor" said that it was ironic that Kim was termed "Little Friend of All the World" when there was no evidence he had any friends at all. One wonders what book the "professor" was writing since it bears little resemblance to Kipling's book. I am forced to presume there exists a book, Kim, by an author, Rudyard Kipling, that, by a wild coincidence bears the same name of book and author as the work with which I am familiar.

Thus, this entry was born.

Kim is the story of Kimball O'Hara, a poor white boy in India. It bears a similarity to Huckleberry Finn in that both are poor white boys that make their way in the world. They are vastly different in that HF deals with a set of very similar cultures and Kim deals with the vast and diverse of 19th century India. I will not deal here with criticism of Kim as essentially oppressor work about an oppressed country. Similar criticism can be aimed at HF.

Both works deal with an individual coming to a moral sensibility through a path frowned upon by the culture they belong to. However, Huck is born into a world where right and wrong are clearly (if incorrectly) defined. He knows what is right because that's what he's been taught. Huck chooses a different moral path from the one he has been taught, valuing his friendship with the slave, Jim, over any possible damnation from the "moral" world.

Kim has a journey through a different section of the same country. The book starts with Kim having almost no morality whatsoever. Any higher purpose he might serve is washed away in the excitement of his life, poor and destitute though it might be. It is by way of the friendships he makes and keeps that he brings himself to any sort of moral understanding.

In Kim's case, the overbearing morality of the white sahib culture is insufferable. He seeks over and over again to escape it to the freedom of his poverty-- which to him is not any sort of poverty at all. He befriends and is befriended by a lama from Tibet. One of the struggles through the book is Kim's love for the old man and the old man's resistance to that love, since emotional attachments is against his sect of buddhism. Finally, almost in desperation, the old man finds a parable that seems to give him leave to love this boy to whom his heart is drawn.

Oh, there's a bunch of adventure, spying, etc., in the book, too. It's a lot of fun.

So I got to thinking. I've read a fair amount of 18th and 19th century literature. I've worked my way through Dickens, Austen, Eliot, etc. But I find them pretty tame stuff. Not terribly interesting. Clearly, they are works of quality but they are not works to which I'm drawn.

After reading the introduction to Kim and revisiting it, I realized that from what I can tell, the other novels (Dickens, Austen, Eliot, etc.) are safe novels. It's absolutely clear where the moral high ground is in Dickens. The stories are marvelously complex and interesting in the way they navigate the moral high ground but the moral high ground itself is undisputed.

Similarly, the Austen and Eliot are shades of gray morality. The nature of these books, as I see it, are how to negotiate between the heart's desire and the needs/demands of society. Again, the moral high ground is undisputed. These are novels of negotiation. For marriage. For wealth. For love.

(I know there are Austen fundamentalists that would burn me at the stake right now. So it goes.)

Both Kim and Huck both toss out this moral high ground in the first chapter. Morality, high or otherwise, is itself suspect. The path Kim and Huck have to decide is not how to negotiate the path through morality but what is the nature of a morality to which they can subscribe. In Huck's case, it is freeing his friend Jim. Not because slavery is wrong or right (Huck thinks and has been taught it's proper for Jim to be a slave) but because his love for Jim requires him to act as a friend to this slave even if it means he'll go to Hell.

The moral decisions for Kim are not so clear. India, for that matter, is not so clear in this book. All manner of evil and heresy lie about. Kim could pick any one of them and be fine. This doesn't come up because to Kim they are not important. He has an inkling of higher things-- how could he not as a companion to a lama? But what drives him is not a moral decision (as drove Huck) but a denial of the morality itself. He is with Teshoo Lama. He is Teshoo's chela (disciple). That is enough.

In painting Kim's story this way, Kipling strikes out from the safe, moral path to an area of risk. The moral ground of a thinking man is that which the thinking man decides it should be. What is right is what Kim decides it should be. In this way, Kim picks up burdens he chooses, not submitting to the will of others in his life. Morality becomes a matter of personal choice and cannot be dictated.

Now, that said, these are all interpretations of the actions of the character, Kim. Kim doesn't wade through this moral quagmire; he acts. But the acts he chooses change over the course of the novel from a lost but joyful boy to a sober but still joyful young man.

Huck made a moral decision that would make him an outcast in the culture from which he sprang but it is a decision that would gain him acceptance somewhere.

Kim made a different decision. Instead of choosing a particular point of view he denied the necessity of that choice. Kim is presented with having to pick a particular life: sahib, native, etc. He decides to be who he is (sahib, native and etc.) and embrace it. For Huck, the moral decision was to embrace an act. For Kim it is to embrace a life.

Neither choice, and neither book, is safe.

Wall of Idiots
Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity. Surprise!
Senator David Vitter R-LA
Rep. Aaron Schock R-IL
The American Army

Links of Interest
World's scariest swimming hole
Cano's Castle
CO2 + sunlight = Diesel
Obama's toast to Alfred Nobel
V: Obama's Nobel Prize acceptance speech
Fun with giant orangutans
Fun with Fractals
V: National Geographic's Blue Moon
V: National Geographic's Alien Worlds
V: National Geographic's Crocs eating dinos
Looking for Life in the Multiverse
The role of healthy bugs inside us
What's melting the Himalayan glaciers?
Quantum propulsion
Trolley canal boats

Soft-setting adhesive putty
Home Solar: Here. Here. Here. Here.
Pottery kickwheel
Tarp tents
Ski bike
Butterflake rolls
Air muscles
Millefiori beads
Laundry detergent

Shop News

(Picture from here.)

Worked on the shop over the weekend. Turns out Rockler had this little Jet dust collector. (See here.) They had it marked down to $100. Turns out I had $125 in gift cards given to me over the last couple of years. But the collector was just too small: 500 CFM.

Damn, I said. I was going to this unit. But when I talked about it with the staff, they pointed out that since the collection bag and exhaust bag were the same thing, the unit didn't do so well when it started to get past half full.

Then, I thought: why not buy two of the smaller units? Link them both to an intermediate trash can with a "Y" juction. I probably won't get 1000 CFM out of the deal but I bet I get 750.

So, I bought them and some additional material. Total = $200. Right now I'm using one of them and moving it around as I need it. I need to make space for the full assembly.

So I made a couple of window inserts over the weekend. All in all, a good time.
All DIY. All the time.

Mini toy car launcher and here
Rocket fuel from aluminum and ice
Interestingly dangerous gift guide
Vintage book hardware
Harvesting battery chemicals
Breakdancing robot
Wimhurst experiments
Christmas and Chemistry
Camera in a rocket
V: Wimhurst Experiments
V: DIY Electrostatic Meter
Wire bending machine
Make your own camera film
Machined figures
Alien projector and here
Electronics handbook
V: Chair from molten plastic waste
V: Cyborg piano
V: Festo cyber kite
Oak wine barrel furniture
Cardboard taxidermy

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Seek and Ye Shall Find, Part Deux

(Picture from here.)

There's a contributor to the Ann Coulter comments section name Annvestite. I can't bring myself to link to Ann Coulter-- I don't have a shower handy. I mentioned the contributor earlier.

The usual caveats: this applies only to the current, post Gingrich, Republican party. I actually liked Eisenhower.

I can't vouch for any facts in this. Just it's entertainment value.

You might be a Republican if........ Part II

1) You were angry when a liberal group called General Petraus "General betray us," but you were proud when a junior congressman shouted out "Liar!" at the president, because he was a Republican.

2) Your definition of healthcare is when you and your family are covered through your work, but anybody who isn't is just a cheapskate who would rather spend his money on unnecessary junk.

3) You determine a person's patriotism by which party he's registered with, rather than whether or not he actually votes.

4) You believe bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the US for trial is just a ploy to embarrass the Bush/Cheney administration by shining a light on their war crimes. Wait -- did I say war crimes?

5) You believe the recently revealed notes by Russian hackers refute all 35 years of accumulated global warming data; compiled by tens of thousands of meteorologists, physicists, astronomers, geophysicists, NASA, environmental engineers, geochemists and atmospheric statisticians, and literally thousands of universities around the globe, because Sean Hannity's and Mark Levin's explanation makes more sense to you.

6) You believe the whole global warming crisis is actually a get-rich-quick scheme, designed to make lots of money for fat, rich slobs like Al Gore. And you know this, because you heard it from a 325 pound man who recently signed a $400 million contract to continue broadcasting this message from his $35 million home in Florida... far away from the Polar Ice Cap, that has shrunk 40% in the last thirty years.

7) You believe torturing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was good for America, but giving him a fair trial would be bad, because then the world would see US justice in action. Huh?

8) When president Obama bowed before the King of Saudi Arabia and Emperor of Japan, you were outraged. But when George W. Bush bowed before King Abdul and kissed him on the mouth, you thought it was very proper.

9) When Dick Cheney accused president Obama of "giving aid and comfort to the enemy," and of "denying American exceptionalism" on Fox News for planning to hold KSM's trial in New York, you agreed. But you don't think that Cheney's ordering the torture of detainees (an internationally recognized war crime) is un-American, nor the exposing of an undercover agent as an act of treason, because; her husband was openly critical of Cheney's bogus WMD claims.

10) You believe that Sarah Palin, a woman who actually thought Africa was a country, is qualified to be president because she was once the governor of a state with fewer people than the city of Baltimore (even though she resigned under duress). But you don't think Barack Obama is qualified, because his speeches sound better with a TelePrompTer than without one, therefore, he should be impeached.

Wall of Idiots
Copenhagen (you decide)
Republicans and global warming
Chemical babies
Alternative autism treatment
Asian Carp
Human Irrational Decisiion Making

Links of Interest
Antarctica haven during Permian extinction
Adapting to global warming
Jesurex and here
Russian weather control
Mediterranean flood
Migrating dinosaur
Our atmosphere came from space gas
Paper battery

Pallet Playhouse
Illuminated eye loupe
Artist warmup exercise
Digital picture frames
Manly crafts
Viking spoon
US Nickel Ring

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Rampant Silliness

Ben participated in a fairly good sized local judo tournament on Saturday. He had four matches and won all of them. One by a hair, two by pin and one by a resounding throw. The cry of ippon! was lound and long.

On the way there, we ate pocky sticks.

I observed that if we were at a hockey game, it would be hockey pocky.

Wendy pointed out that there might be a fight: knocky hockey pocky.

Ben suggested they would be wearing socks: socky knocky hockey pocky.

I thought they could be playing in the North End, near the Charles River Locks: locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

Wendy said: Only if they're lucky. Lucky locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

They could be followed there, said Ben. Stalky lucky locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

Only if they went near the North End Docks, said Wendy. Docky stalky lucky locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

They could be Democrats, said Ben. Donkey docky stalky lucky locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

I hope they're confident, I said. Cocky donkey docky stalky lucky locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

I bet they're suprised they're playing in the North End, said Wendy. Shockey cocky donkey docky stalky lucky locky socky knocky hockey pocky.

At this point I knew it was going to be a long drive.

Doctor Seuss would be so proud.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Scientific Illiteracy

Having just read a slew of idiotic comments on Climategate, I'm appalled at the lack of understanding of science.

A few things about science:

1) It's not a religion. Scientists argue, fight, smear each other and do all other things humans have been doing since we were living in the trees. But the final arbiter over time is what best satisfies the experimental data. Data changes the world of science.
2) Scientists are human beings, not priests. See #1.
3) If you want to understand scientific hypotheses, read scientists. Don't read the Washington Times. Don't read the Time or Newsweek. Don't watch Faux News. Don't listent to Glenn Beck-- well, don't listen to Glenn Beck anyway. Read the science. Read the abstracts. If you're not well enough versed in the material, read scientific blogs by scientists.
4) Don't read just one scientist. Read a bunch. Consensus isn't reached by a lone voice in the wilderness. It's a crowd of voices shouting data. The ones that most match up are the loudest.
5) Check the credentials of those you read. Salt your credibility by the expertise of those you read. Vaccine safety is better understood by doctors than by beauty models or actors. Not that credentials should dictate who you believe, but whom would you rather have give you an appendectomy? The guy who does them every day for a living with eighteen years of training and twenty years experience or the guy who played a pet detective? If you'd trust that guy with cutting open your body, why do you suddenly not trust him with vaccinating your child on the sayso of someone who talks out of his ass?
6) If ideas can't be tested in some fashion, they can't be called science.

I could say a lot more about science here but the main thing is someone like Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck are not competent to discuss these matters. Not only are they not qualified, they have a vested interest in taking a particular side. They get paid to take that side-- just like the shill selling cars on television. It's their bread and butter. This makes them, by definition, partisan and untrustworthy.

Now is the worst possible time to be scientifically illiterate. Yet, that's what this country has embraced.

That said, if you actually want to know about Climategate, here are some links:

For a good analysis of the content, check out Nobel Intent here and Real Climate, here.
For a good analysis of the scientific misconduct, check out In the Pipeline, here.
And, finally, if you want the raw data, get it from Real Climate here.

You might check the comment section on that last one as it has some interesting criticisms. Also, you can see criticism of what data is there and the response-- scientific process made miniature.
Wall of Idiots
Lawyering for animal rights

Links of Interest
Thanksgiving Chemistry
Census of Marine Life
Morality and Wilderness
Nano Soccer Bots
The Northern Lights of Saturn
America's Army on the Moon, and other stories
More LHC. And here.
Solar energy -> Hydrogen
Five things you should know about climate change
Complex history of scientific facts
Ravens hunt cooperatively
State of glaciers in the Himalayas
Mechanical forces on the cell
Killing Rinderpest
Shrimpus eBayicus

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seek and Ye Shall Find

(Picture from here.)
I found the following in the comment section of the Ann Coulter article on Human Events. (No, I won't post the link. I'd have to wash my hands afterwards.)

I don't know where it came from. I cannot vouch for its authenticity nor its facts. But I can vouch for its entertainment value.

Before I post it, I will say it applies to the current Republican Party, not the party I remember from yesteryear. I still miss it. Some wounds don't heal easily.

Anyway, enjoy it:

You Might be a Republican If..........

1) You believe that Bush's redistribution of middle-class tax cuts to the top 1% of tax-payers was good for America, but Obama's plan to return it to the middle class is 'socialism.'

2) You believe stem cells are living human beings, but thousands of Iraqi children are 'expendable collateral damage.'

3) You believe tax cuts for billionaires is a great idea, yet you wonder why the economy has stalled, your job just got outsourced to India, and oil company executives receive $400,000,000.00 retirement packages as they cut pensions for their labor force.

4) You believe that the surge worked because the violence in Iraq is back to 2006 levels, which is only horrible, compared to what it was in 2007; intolerable. Besides, Brit Hume said so.

5) You think trial lawyers are harmful to America, but you support prosecuting some guy in Muncie Indiana who burned his 99¢ American flag that was made in China by forced child labor.

6) You're all for the 'rule of law' when it's applied to Bill Clinton for lying about his infidelity, but not for prosecuting Karl Rove and Scooter Libby for committing treason.

7) You think George W. Bush is actually a really smart guy, but his folksy manner just makes him seem dumber than he really is.

8) You believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own, and that those who are born to poverty and never have opportunities for advancement, got what they deserved.

9) You believe Ronald Reagan was a great president who had complete control of all aspects of government, but that Iran-Contra Affair was an insignificant scandal that went on without his knowledge.

10) You believe Democrats tax and spend, but George W. Bush was a fiscal conservative.

11) You believe Oliver North, who was CONVICTED of perjury, obstruction of justice, destroying evidence and accepting bribes is a patriot, but John Kerry, who saved a man's life while under enemy fire in Vietnam is a coward.

12) You believe George W. Bush has kept us safe from terror, and that the failure to prevent the 9/11 attacks were Clinton's fault.

13) You actually believe Fox News is fair & balanced.

14) You still believe Saddam had truckloads of WMDs, and that he somehow managed to sneak them into Syria, right under our noses.

15) You believe Terri Schiavo was sentient all along, and that Bill Frist had the ability to diagnose her condition by watching a 5 second video of her sleeping.

16) You're in favor of stronger prison sentences for drug users, yet your favorite radio personality is Rush Limbaugh.

17) You complain about having to press 1 for English, yet you hire illegal Mexicans to mow your lawn because they're cheaper than hiring the kid next door.

18) Homosexuality is abhorrent to you, except when a Republican senator, the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and a planted White House journalist get caught having sexual affairs with gay men, then you suddenly feel sorry for them.

19) The war in Iraq makes perfect sense to you, but any suggestion by Barack Obama that we target al Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan is 'dangerous and reckless.'

20) You don't mind that president Bush tortured men who were never charged with a crime, yet you're horrified by the barbarism of al Qaeda when they capture one of our guys.

21) You believe the 1/10 of 1% of scientists who claim global warming is a hoax, and reject the 99.9% who say it's real, because Sean Hannity and his friends in the oil industry have convinced you that science is a liberal conspiracy.

22) You believe that patriotism means you should support your government right or wrong ... unless a Democrat's in power, then it's your patriotic duty to call him a closet Muslim, challenge his birth certificate, expose his sex life and impeach him.

23) You're proud of your party's 'culture of life.' Yet you support the death penalty for minors, you believe 600,000 dead Iraqis is justified because one of them was Saddam Hussein, and you oppose confronting the genocide in Darfur because they don't have oil.

24) You support prayer in school, as long as your kids aren't subjected to any prayers other than Christian ones.

25) You think Darwin's theory of evolution is a loony fairy tale and that mankind actually began with two naked teenagers, a magic apple and a talking snake.

26) You think $35 billion spent on health care for children is a waste of taxpayer's money, but $3 TRILLION spent on a catastrophic war that has isolated us from our allies, decimated our economy and made us less safe was money well spent.

27) You believe embargoing communist Cuba is sound foreign policy, but trading with China is just good business.

28) You believe Bill Clinton was an immoral cad, but Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were faithful husbands, and that Larry Craig just has a wide stance.

29) You fervently defend the Constitution, but when president Bush got caught monitoring 300 million phones without a warrant, politicizing our justice system, hyping evidence for going to war and pardoning a convicted perjurer who just happened to be on his staff, then it's okay, because he was just 'protecting America.'

30) You were outraged when a gallon of gasoline went from $1.29 to $1.40 during the two terms of the Clinton presidency, but you didn't seem to mind when prices tripled under George W. Bush, the "oil man."

31) You were furious when Bill Clinton pardoned international commodities trader Marc Rich, who was convicted of tax evasion, but applauded when George W. Bush exonerated Scooter Libby for obstructing justice to protect Dick Cheney from a treason indictment.

32) With no evidence whatsoever, you complained of 'voter fraud,' and demanded that thousands of blacks be scrubbed from voting lists during the 2004 election in Ohio, yet when Rush Limbaugh asked his audience to illegally claim to be Democrats and vote for Hillary Clinton during the Ohio Primary in February to "stir up trouble," a FELONY, you were okay with that.

33) You believe that Barack Obama should be held accountable for every sermon that Jeremiah Wright ever gave, but John McCain, who sought the endorsement of anti-Semitic, xenophobic, openly racist and homophobic pastors should be given a pass.

34) You believe that Barack Obama is either a secret Muslim, was actually born in Kenya, and his parents forged a fake birth certificate when he was born - just in case he should ever run for president, or that his father's nationality disqualifies his son from being president, all because you read that on the Internet.

35) You believe that the 8 consecutive years of prosperity and strong economic growth from 1993 - 2001 was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, but today's recession is all Clinton's fault.

36) You laugh at how much better Barack Obama speaks with a TelePrompTer than without one, yet you never mention the fact that even with a TelePrompTer, every time George Bush opened his mouth, gibberish tumbled out. Bush couldn't construct a coherent gaff-free sentence even when Karl Rove was whispering in his ear with a wire.

37) You still believe Barack Obama is lying about being born in Hawaii, and has somehow succeeded in fooling every government and independent examination with his "obviously Photoshopped" documents. Instead, you rely on Internet gossip, WorldNetDaily and Jerome Corsi as your sources for "truth."

38) Your conservative media spent more air time discussing Michelle Obama touching the queen than on the economy, the environment, terrorism and health care combined.

39) You believe that we should get out of Afghanistan because Obama is "nation building," yet for eight straight years of Bush's bumbling incompetence there, you kept mum. Therefore, attacking Iraq makes sense, even though they never threatened us, but finishing off the job of finding Osama bin Laden; the terrorist who killed 3,000 Americans -- Bush's original task -- is a dumb idea because it's nation building. Got it!

40) You were furious that Barack Obama admitted in France that Americans have been "arrogant, dismissive and derisive," but you cheered them on when Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld were arrogant, dismissive and derisive.

41) You believe that Obama's $3.6 trillion budget is an outrage, but never once complained that George Bush turned Bill Clinton's $300 billion surplus into a $1.3 trillion deficit. And it never once occurred to you that Bush deliberately omitted the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from those statistics, which means Bush's TRUE deficit was $3.1 trillion.

42) You supported Gov. Sarah Palin, partly because you believed that she kept a good Christian home. This, despite the fact that her seventeen year old unmarried daughter was knocked up, her son was accused of vandalizing 44 school buses (cutting the brake lines - HELLO!!?) and was given the choice of going to jail or join the military, and Palin herself was found guilty of abusing the power of her office. But Barack Obama can't possibly be a true Christian, because his father was a Muslim, and his middle name is Hussein. (Besides, he's black, and everybody knows that Jesus was a blond haired blue eyed white man.)

43) You believe that the only solution to gun violence is to make sure everybody is armed to the teeth. That way, when some crazy person goes on a killing spree, right-thinking people will take out the killer, and tranquility will prevail throughout the land.

44) You believe the mainstream news anchors are crazy and filled with hate, but Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are rational, accurate and informative.

45) You defend Rush Limbaugh's right to wish for Obama to fail, and therefore, the failure of our republic, yet you call Democrats the "blame America first crowd."

46) You claim that the economic crisis is the fault of the Democrats, but never mention that it was the Reagan administration that massively deregulated the banking industry in 1982, and it was Phil Gramm - McCain's choice for economic advisor - who completed the task for his pals in the banking industry in 1999.

47) You believe the failure of the US automobile industry is primarily the fault of the unions, and not because management of the three corporations insisted on producing vehicles that nobody wanted. And you're angry with the $28.00 per hour average wage of the work force, but you believe that the multimillion dollar salaries of the men who bankrupted the industry are perfectly reasonable.

48) You believe Barack Obama is a "narcissistic megalomaniac," because you heard Glenn Beck call him that once, but you don't think Beck himself is anything but out for your welfare.

49) You believe anybody who doesn't subscribe to Orly Taitz' birther movement is a RINO, and those of you who do, are carrying forward the torch of Reaganism.

50) You think this list is mean-spirited and biased, and even though you privately acknowledge to yourself that it's all true, you believe the Democrats are just as bad. Here's a bulletin: Nobody has ever been this bad.
Wall of Idiots
How to talk to a climate denier. If you have to.
Wasteful American Eating
Rush Limbaugh. Surprise!
GOP Purity Test and here
The deficit in politics (PDF here)
Credit Cards and the Poor
Vermeer. With Graffiti.

Links of Interest
New CO2 capture technology
Adapting woodland management to climate change
Dealing with inevitable climate change
New anti-cancer treatments
LHC moves forward
Tough and stiff: Deer antler
V: The Antikythera Mechanism: Part 1, Part 2
Green chemistry
Ending polio
Wet Mars and here, here,
Royal Society puts historic papers on line
Maria Kalman's Thanksgiving
Habitable exomoons
Robot kitchen

Steampunk gift guide

Monday, November 30, 2009

Preparation for Winter V

(Picture from here.)

A wonderful Thanksgiving. A gallon of Marvinwine (which I'll talk about one day when I blog about my father-in-law). Bottling Old Freezer "White"-- the first batch of the 150 pounds of grapes that were in the freezer. I mentioned that here. And, with the long weekend, more preparation for winter. Someday winter will come. Then, I'll be happy I've done all of this prep.

Well, I have heat in the shop now. I installed the pellet stove as I talked about here. It works pretty good. There's a smell associated with it I'm not too crazy about. Since the smell occurs after it heats up, I think it's some oil burning off the unit. What I might do is crank it up and let it burn for a couple of hours. So far I've only burned it an hour here or an hour there. I think I'll also put on an extra foot or too of chimney. It meets code but I think the extra draft will do me better.

We also started to seal up the house for the winter.

In winters past, we've usually sealed up the windows with the shrink wrap stuff. (See here.) It's not that expensive and saves a fair amount of money. We usually burn about one tank of oil a winter. I'm hoping for less this year.

But I don't like putting up the film and taking it down every year. It's wasteful. We have a few windows we've just left it up and the film seems to last a long time.

So this year I built a frame out of strapping and then insulated around the edge with weatherseal. (See here.) The result came out pretty well. There were a couple of tricks to it. For example, I had underestimated the amount of force the shrink wrap puts on the frame. This made the frame bow so I needed a brace in the middle to keep it straight. The additional cost/window was the cost of the strapping (3 pieces, about $5 bucks), a set of angle braces ($3) and the foam ($2). So about $8/window. However, that was for one. I can probably stretch out the strapping and foam across multiple windows. I'm estimating about $5/window over all. Given that a a single window is about $3.40, it needs to last about two years in order to break even. Of course, that doesn't count the electricity and aggravation of installation. In addition, if the shrink wrap stuff goes, I'll just add more shrink wrap. The frame is more or less permanent.

Not sure how to store the frames for the summer, though. But that's next year's problem.
Wall of Idiots
Science and Media Disinformation
Climate change denial

Links of Interest
Ancient bristlecone pines
Alfred Russel Wallace's collection
Rings around the earth
Mice that resist age related hearing loss
Connection between suffocation and terror
New species galore
Ecobenefits of Organic Wine
Tramp stars
Ten views of earth, moon, and Mars
Hearing with the skin
Cassini flyby of Enceladus

Apple Cider
Corn Bread
Quick trifle
Cider donuts
Godzilla Sparkleball
Tile pictures
Ping Pong Ball Lights
Homemade Christmas Gifts
Christmas ornaments and here
Christmas Crafts
Gift wrapping ideas

Thursday, November 26, 2009


(Picture from here.)

Newt Gingrich wrote this article regarding to whom do we give thanks on Thanksgiving. In his usual silly way, he basically says we have to give thanks to God in order to be good Americans. It's a fatuous article and I wouldn't have anything to say about it (other to put it on the Wall of Idiots) except that the question he poses (and does not answer) is to what should an atheist give thanks?

The whole concept of "Thanksgiving" implies something outside one's self to give thanks.

Hm. This is a bit of a problem.

When I got married, Wendy and I had a discussion with the minister. I strongly did not want the ceremony to have any hint of deceit. The ceremony was, in and of itself, a binding promise and I didn't want to taint it by being in the position of listening to or proposing something in which I did not believe. But there is God and Jesus all through the ceremony.

Fortunately, we were dealing with Unitarians. The compromise we reached was that the use of the word "God" was permitted, since I could interpret that metaphorically, but we didn't use the word "Jesus". Seemed to work. We've been married 19 years next month.

But that concept doesn't work here. You can't give thanks to a metaphorical agency since the act of giving thanks implies a non-metaphorical being. Giving thanks implies something got done.

The idea of giving thanks is a little weird anyway. It's eerily similar to the idea of getting absolution from God for things you did to human beings. As if the sin against your fellow man is a lesser offense than violating God's law.

When I was studying Judaism the idea of repentance and forgiveness was managed differently. I was told that before participating in the rituals of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) you must make right the sins you have committed against your fellow man. Only then can you partake of the rituals before God.

Damn. I really, really liked Judaism. If only I believed in God...

Which brings us back to the whole giving thanks. You give thanks for a gift. In the case of God, it could be mundane things: good health, a good job, we're not starving and all of that. But that's a complex function of good judgment and random chance. I couldn't have known my job would weather the economic storm. And if I give thanks for a good job and not starving does that mean somehow those people who lost their jobs are are starving got shafted by the Big Guy Upstairs? I don't like zero sum games in human relationships and giving thanks is rapidly approaching that.

On the other hand, the act of feeling as if one must give thanks is a very human quality. It is a recognition that a large part, possibly the greatest part, of one's life is out of one's control. That good things come to you by grace more than by anything else. It is very like prayer, the act of giving up control to something else and by that act releasing the need for that control. This idea of prayer is, to me, a common ground between Christianity and Buddhism.

Or it's just a harvest celebration saying isn't it great we have enough to make it through the winter.

That's sort of the way I think of the original Pilgrims, staring at the bounty in front of them, much of it given to them by heathens, knowing that nearly half of them died the previous winter and that maybe, just maybe, their friends and family might live through the next one.

Maybe that's it. We did okay this year, not by grace or by God, but through a lot of luck and a little skill. Look at what we have and feel lucky. Look at who we're sharing it with and feel luckier. Next year could be worse. This year could have been much worse.

Thank each other for being there.
Wall of Idiots
Drug advertising
Cigarettes: worse than you thought
Lead poisoning in Arizona
Hacked climate emails
Paternity issues
The Completely Evil Institute

Links of Interest
Creating your own online data portrait with Personas
Hacking the brain with light
V: The Pistol Shrimp
V: Going West paper craft animation
Darwin's effect on modern thought
More on Darwin
New approach to quantum gravity and here
Creatures of the deep and here
The future of trains
The history of wine
V: Orca vs Great White Shark
World of the blue whale
Crocs in the Cretaceous
V: Galapagos tortoise critter cam
IBM's Cat Brain
The results of the Stardust mission
People's response to life-like human models
The remains of life in a lava tube

Scrimshaw etching
Crab cakes
Apple cider donuts
DIY Christmas
DIY Thanksgiving Dinner
Homemade gifts and here
Gifts for "Dad"
Paper snowflakes
Wire jewelry ring
Hydroponic drip garden
Glue bugs
Twice cooked scallops
Repair a lawn mower engine
Pomegranate jelly
Thin mint cookies
Built in book cases
Hand blown glass ornaments