Saturday, April 9, 2011


Earlier this week, I glanced quickly at the forecast, and moved on in exasperation: every day was predicted to top out in the low to mid-fifties, with overcast skies and showers. This has been a cold, wet "spring" to the extent that it feels more like typical winter weather.

So yesterday's weather took me by very pleasant surprise: it was almost completely clear all day, with a few gorgeous, cottony cumulus clouds to highlight the bright blue sky, temperatures forged into the lower 60's, and sunshine... lovely, warm, bright, toasty sunshine!

It was glorious.

Of course it was too good to last, with overcast (though still fairly warm over the weekend) today and rain forecast for tomorrow, then cooler and wet through next week. I'm not complaining; it was nice while it lasted, and I'm sure in a few months I'll be sniveling about the heat.

The Oregonian's weather staff is not one to miss an opportunity for a nice bit of acerbic wit, though, and I for one feel quite appreciative of their efforts.Followup: Check out the chart under the above headline and photo- it shows quite well how dreary it has been for the last month and a half.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sanctimonious Pricks

That would be who is running our country right now. A group of overwhelmingly white, male, wealthy and religulous bastards have shown their fortitude and conviction of principle by stonewalling any attempt toward a functional Federal budget over the issue of... drumroll, please... Planned Parenthood.

Now I can understand that they don't like abortion. I can understand that, because neither I nor anyone I've ever discussed the issue with "likes" abortion. See, I like puppies. I like kitties. I like ice cream, coffee, pizza and on and on. There are literally uncountable numbers of things I really enjoy as improving my life and my perception of it. Abortion is not one of those things. But sometimes it may be the least painful choice among many, and as a male, I simply do not feel it is my place to make such a choice for someone else by removing that option. I do not feel it is my business at all, beyond advocating for those for whom it may be an option- a painful, sad option, to be sure, but again, perhaps the least painful.

Given that these same sanctimonious pricks also want to remove services for post-fetal human beings, such as WIC (Women, Infants, Children- a food benefits program), and have shown less than interest or concern for access to health care services by ex-utero (even in-utero, for that matter) individuals, their level of concern for the viability of what, let's face it, is tantamount to a nine-month infection by a parasite that plays sheer havoc with a woman's physical and mental health, is puzzling to say the least. But consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, as they say, which I suppose indicates that modern conservatism is all about fat heads.

But what really got my panties in a knot this afternoon was this, from The Daily What:(according to Wikipedia, Planned Parenthood's annual budget is $1.04 billion, not $11.4 million) And here's an excerpt from the post with the above graphic:
Despite the paltry sum (the US spends nearly twice that much on war every day), and the fact that it is illegal under Title X for any federal money to be used to fund abortions, Republicans insist that no federal funds should be appropriated to organizations that perform abortions.

But, according to Planned Parenthood’s 2009 report (as illustrated above), abortions accounted for 3% of all services performed — far outweighed by vital, lifesaving cancer screenings and STD examinations. Also, as Ezra Klein notes, cutting funding for family planning will ultimately result in additional spending to offset the taxpayer cost of unwanted pregnancies “among people without the means to care for their children.”
So abortions amount to 3 whole frakking percent of Planned Parenthood's exorbitant $1.04 billion dollar budget? Gee, that's $30,000,000! That's about half the cost of the hundred or so cruise missiles fired into Libya during the opening hour of the recent and ongoing festivities there! Now in fairness, I'm sure that GOP cruise missiles rain down puppies, kitties and ice cream, so this might not be an appropriate comparison. And anyway, those are brown people over there, and those don't really count.

As I tweeted a little bit ago, "Well," said Ford, "the Thumb's an electronic sub-etha signaling device..." Get me off this crazy planet.

Today's GOP: Nothing a Vogon Constructor fleet couldn't fix.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Geology for Clowns

(BizarroBlog) I've actually done this activity with kids to illustrate how density differences can cause rock and mineral grains to segregate. It didn't work too well- just separating black sand by panning works much better. Let me 'splain why. First, pyrite fractures conchoidally, and like glass, it's very sharp on broken edges and corners. So after picking numerous bits of mineral grains out of my finger tips following a trial run, I decided to do the actual classroom activity with the whole crystals, which were in the form of pyritohedrons a few millimeters in diameter.

Okay, so pyrite in that form is no big deal to geologists... but to middle-school-aged children, it's an amazing, wonderful material. They had no patience for the panning thing; they just picked the "nuggets" out of the sand. They had a great time, learned quite a bit about pyrite, and went home with (what to them were) some pretty special specimens. But they didn't quite get the point I wanted them to. And that's really the crux of whether a lesson is effective or not. Like I said, my own assessment was that this lesson didn't work too well.

Funny, the paths a comic can lead my mind to wander...

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Big Ol' Bronto-foo-foo...

...scourge of the Cretaceous,
running through the therapods...... and bopping them in the face. (From SVPOW, where you can see this and many other pictures of "Sauropods stomping Therapods.")

And down came a biiiiig comet...

Wednesday Wednesday

Mademoiselle Minx


Interesting piece in today's Speigel called "Pastor Terry Jones and the Claim to Absolute Truth." The lede summarizes the article succinctly:
Twenty people have died in the protests triggered by Pastor Terry Jones' burning of the Koran in March and more violence is likely. But both his action, and the reaction in the Muslim world share the same problematic roots: Claims to absolute truth have little place in the modern world.
As a person who has spent quite a bit of time reading, discussing and teaching about the nature of science, I'm well aware that within the sciences, claims of absolute knowledge are, for practical purposes, forbidden. The word "truth" in a scientific context raises my hackles and sets off my BS alarm.

This does not mean there aren't bits of data which I choose to treat as if they are absolute truth; Stephen J. Gould defined "fact" as follows:
Moreover, "fact" doesn't mean "absolute certainty"; there ain't no such animal in an exciting and complex world. The final proofs of logic and mathematics flow deductively from stated premises and achieve certainty only because they are not about the empirical world. Evolutionists make no claim for perpetual truth, though creationists often do (and then attack us falsely for a style of argument that they themselves favor). In science "fact" can only mean "confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent." I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
In other words, I treat my knowledge as an absolute basis for decision-making in the vast majority of day-to-day situations. But I have a duty to acknowledge evidence against data I consider to be "facts." Furthermore, when the outcome of my fact-based decisions may be injury or even death to another, that is not a day-to-day situation, and I have a human duty to reconsider just how certain I am about my facts, and how important I think those facts are, in the grand scheme of things.

It's all about perspective.

Absolutes are comforting, and as human beings we desire them. Our desire for them can lead us to believe they exist. But they don't. In believing that absolute knowledge can exist, and in blindly acting on the basis of that knowledge, the outcome is inevitably injury and death.

This is the basis of religion, going hand-in-hand with the guilt-assuaging certainty that when others suffer as a result of our decisions, it is because of "God's will" or "God's plan."

And unfortunately, that perspective is not limited to religion. One of this country's political parties has a whole laundry list of absolute facts that trump human life, as we saw yesterday with Ryan's "serious" budget proposal. I would be so much more optimistic if I felt that the other party was honestly willing to fight for principles and people, rather than trying to be bipartisan. Because with absolute knowledge, there is no compromise, no middle ground, no negotiation.

You can bet your life on it.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Unmixed Signals

Couple of articles in today's Oregon Live, here and here. I started to write these up earlier but I did something that turned quite a bit of text into a massive blob of html hamburger, and I'm not going to attempt to reconstruct it now. So, short version: The first article is mainly about Oregon coastal communities' preparedness or lack thereof, for large tsunamis, and some of the work underway to become better prepared. It contains the following quote which despite its sobering content is quite funny in its phrasing:
"The shaking will be so strong, you will most likely fall on the ground," said Nathan Wood, a geographer with the U.S. Geological Survey. "That's a sign you know this is not some little tremor. When you can stand up, that is the indication you should head for high land."
Got that? The shaking is the signal you should fall down, and standing up is the signal that you should run for high ground. Another quote highlights a fact about tsunamis that I didn't really comprehend until I'd seen some of the video clips of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami:
"It's a wall of water," said Witter. "It is a wave, but its wave length is kilometers long. They are so big they produce a sudden rise in ocean level and continue to flow at that level. If you raise sea level by 20 or 30 feet or even higher, where does it have to go? It flows downhill inland. There will be flooding in every place that is low. Where you have bluffs, the waves will hit the bluffs and go back out to sea. If the tsunami is higher than 50 feet, it will top the bluffs that are lower than 50 feet."
The other article is about a "buddy safehouse" program being developed at Cannon Beach- a community that is mostly at lower elevations. A point that I have mentioned in the past, and developed in much more detail in the earlier post I abandoned, is that many- I would say most- Oregon coastal communities are in large part on elevated terraces. There are a few, like Tillamook, Waldport, and Cannon Beach that are largely on dune, estuarine, and/or beach deposits, and which are vulnerable as a whole. But the heart of nearly all our coastal communities is a harbor and port, and even though most of the population and development might be out of inundation risk, these commercial centers are uniformly vulnerable to the inevitable large tsunami that will accompany a great Cascadia quake. And if it occurs during waking and working hours, these vulnerable area will be full of workers and tourists. In many cases, evacuation routes will be obvious and readily accessible, but in other cases, not so much.

As an example, Newport is the town about an hour west of where I sit. The north shore of Yaquina Bay is a narrow strip of flat developed land that rises quickly to the newer parts of town- a person could get to safety in just two or three minutes of brisk walking. The south shore, on the other hand, is broad and low, and is becoming more and more built up. It is the home to The Oregon Coast Aquarium, Oregon State's Hatfield Marine Science Center, the Rogue Brewery, and NOAA's marine operations headquarters is being built there. Where would those people evacuate to? I'm not really sure.

So the point is, if you live or visit the coast of the spectacular Pacific Northwest- and you should: there's only one really bad day out of about 100,000 or so- take a moment to look at your surroundings and ask yourself, "What would I do?" Having even a sketch of a plan is better than none, and though unlikely, could save your life.

Tuesday Tits

The Daily What. We had two days last week when we broke 60, but the forecast for this week tops out in the mid fifties with rain and showers. I'm so ready for some warmer weather...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Three Weeks of News, One Small Victory

I've been oppressed by the news lately, but there's nothing for it: I'm a news junkie. But every now and then, I come across something that, for a few minutes at least, makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Hooray for rescued goggies!Crikey.

Followup, April 5: Here's a videoclip of Ban being reunited with his owner; it concludes with footage of the helicopter rescue, and a very bewildered, worried-looking goggie.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sunday Funnies: Hellbound Edition

Bits and Pieces
Skull Swap
A volcano on Wall Street? Hear, hear! Tree Lobsters
Savage Chickens
Sober in a Nightclub
Hopping to It Gif - Hopping to It
see more Gifs
Sofa Pizza
I find this seriously creepy... Bits and Pieces
funny puns - The Mathematicians of Dunharrow
see more So Much Pun
demotivational posters - MEANWHILE
see more Very Demotivational
demotivational posters - THE MAGIC
see more Very Demotivational
My friend Doug sent me this earlier, but that link is apparently broken; above from Hacked IRL.
Skull Swap
The Internet is like a Penis.

It can be up or down. It's more fun when it's up, but it makes it hard to get any real work done.
Read the rest at Sober in a Nightclub... very funny and too true.
Surviving the The World
funny pictures - Taste the rainbow... twice.
see more Lolcats and funny pictures.
Hacked IRL
While it has been long known that the rotation of the Earth, combined with the Moon orbiting our blue marble, makes it appear that the Moon rises and sets, some have thought otherwise. As shown above, it looks like evidence is now falling to their side. Rumor has it that the Moon is brought down for repair about one day each month, but no photos support this claim. Thermal infrared film used to view the crane, which was nearly invisible to the unaided eye.
Earth Science Picture of the Day made a funny!
Cyanide and Happiness
Sober in a Nightclub
"Cat By Northwest," Savage Chickens
Sober in a Nightclub
The Far Left Side
The Daily What
demotivational posters - Hello Mailman
see more Very Demotivational
Dr. Boli
My First Dictionary
see more Hacked IRL - Truth in Sarcasm
demotivational posters - Well done!
see more Very Demotivational
funny dog pictures - I got a new dog. He's a paranoid retriever. He brings back everything  because he's not sure what I threw him.
see more dog and puppy pictures
LOL! What A D*ck!
see more Lol Celebs
funny celebrity pictures - Untitled
see more Lol Celebs
4koma comic strip - NERD ZING!
see more Comixed
It Can Be Done Gif - It Can Be Done
see more Gifs
Cyanide and Happiness
How's That for a Slice of Fried Gold? Click over for a nonpartisan collection of political lampoonage.
Bits and Pieces
Brilliant at Breakfast- click over for a hilariously snarky rundown of the "leading" Republican nominees for the presidential run.
From a collection of vintage April Fool's gags at Dark Roasted Blend
Sofa Pizza
The High Definite