Posts Tagged ‘life’

A Quiet Sunday Post

April 13, 2014

{Much has been in transition here at Elwood Manor: a job change, obligatory after-work coursework of an unhelpful nature, various demands on my limited resources and some general readjustments. These have conspired to limit my inane stream of posts, but I’ve caught up on things (for now at least), so here’s a meager offering of tidbits I’ve found interesting of late}.

Slate’s feature on Your Inner Fish looks at why religious nutjobs Creationists hate the Tiktaalik. This Devonian example of tetrapod evolution had both lungs and gills, could probably do push-ups and had a face only a mother tiktaalik could love.  Is it because it’s a prime example of an organism transitioning between life in the water and life on land, or that it was discovered pretty much where geology and evolutionary theory predicted it would be that pisses them off so?

In other news of the backward, they’re still trying to overturn the consensus that the Earth orbits the Sun. You can’t make this stuff up… which is what makes a parody like this one so damned cutting! It only hurts because it comes out of Kansas!

Lots of sturm und drang over a scrap of ancient papyrus in which there is discussion of Jesus’ wife. My reading of the fragments makes it sound more like a hypothetical discussion, for what it’s worth, though I seem to remember Sunday School discussions indicating that Jesus wouldn’t have been called ‘rabbi’ (teacher) unless he was married. So He could walk on water, but marriage is a bridge too far for some? Given the Paulian attitude toward women (and sex in general), it’s amazing that this religion found any foothold at all.

Of course you don’t have to be a backwoods snake-handler to screw with science, as Greg Schiller can attest. He’s the science teacher at LA’s Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts who was suspended in February because some idiot thought two of his students’ science projects looked “dangerous”. Maybe it’s only a coincidence that Greg Schiller is also the teachers union representative at the school and had been dealing with disagreements with administrators over updating the employment agreement under which the faculty works? Parents and students are rallying around Mr. Schiller. Let’s hope they can overcome the LA school system’s apparent stupidity and/or duplicity.

The Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL is one of the really big software DOH!s in recent memory. XKCD gave the best quick explanation out there. Heartbleed.com has a long-form exploration.   Bloomberg reports that the NSA had exploited the bug for years, but the NSA denies it (predictably). We all know that the NSA never lies and is always right, right?

 

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“Albert the Space Monkey” is Bad Ju-Ju

January 21, 2013

Iran has announced plans to launch primates into space starting in February. Let’s hope they don’t name theirs any variation of “Albert”. The Americans’ first round of ‘space monkeys’ were all Alberts, one way or another. History has not been kind to space monkeys named Albert.

The first one they stuffed into a rocket was named Albert. He rode a V-2 to 60 km up in 1948, suffocating in-flight. Note to self: pack oxygen. He was followed by Albert II who technically survived the flight, but the parachute was having a bad day, so Albert II kinda flat-lined after streamering in. That was back in 1949. At least he got bragging rights for being the first monkey to actually reach space, a hundred thirty km up.

It was less glorious for Albert III. His bottle-rocket went POP! on the way up at 35,000 feet, and he died. Albert IV was the last V-2 passenger. He made the ride to 130 km altitude okay, but like Al #2 his parachute was FUBAR. Not a good way to go.

In 1951, a monkey possibly called Albert V, rode one of the new Aerobee rockets up, but also died due to parachute failure. Hello, low-bidder!

But then came Yorick! Though only sometimes called Albert VI (out of a sick tradition), Yorick became one of the very first animals (along with 11 mouse crew-mates) to actually survive a rocket flight and landing, but only on a technicality. Alas, poor Yorick died shortly after landing, along with two of the mice. Their  deaths were thought to be related to overheating in the sealed capsule in the New Mexico sun while awaiting the recovery team. Let that mundane irony soak in: they survived a rocket flight into space, but died from sitting in the sun with the windows rolled up.

“Albert” is right out for space monkeys.

Merry Xmas!

December 26, 2012

It did look a lot like Christmas… and it’s looking a lot like SpaceX is going to solve the reusable, vertical landing rocket booster problem. Hats off!

The Christmas Eve arson/ambush / mass-shooting / multiple homicide in Webster, NY has provided a rare example of a shooter not being a legal owner of fire-arms. This is only true of about 25% of mass shootings.  The rest of the time it’s lax gun laws that enable mass-shooters. Lawfully purchased firearms are sooo much better to be killed by (as is usually the case), though I do tend to lose track of the moral of stories like these.

In fact, the next time some gun bozo starts ranting about confiscating baseball bats (because they are so the main homicide tool), show them this Department of Justice  graphic and tell them to STFU.

Aww GEEZ! Ben Affleck isn’t running for the Senate. He could still run for President and pick Nicholas Cage as his running-mate. “That would make such a terrible movie it must be about to happen!” say imaginary sources. You heard it here first!

Speaking of terrible movies, I do have a morbid fascination with badfilm and I just saw one, “The  7 Adventures of Sinbad” (2010). It makes even most ‘SyFy Originals‘ look like High Art. It’s sooo bad I can only stand to listen to it at a distance, rather than watch it from the same room. My cat would have written (and directed and starred in) a better movie… but it will never shake my opinion that “Isaac Asimov’s ‘Nightfall'” (1988) is the Worst Movie Ever Made (Post- Ed Wood Era) , we were hooting from the opening credits on.

The WiFi engineers at Boeing are all DEVO now, using bags of potatoes to simulate humans. So close to the truth they are!

“My Drunk Kitchen” would almost be autobiographical for me for the last few days. DAMN YOU GRAHAM CRACKERS!!!!!

Santa came through with a solid! I got a nice print of the periodic table, violated several laws (all man-made) with impunity, got some groovy fossils, a sexy new saucepan and thoroughly enjoyed the friends and frenzy that is the Xmas holiday season. Another good orbit, folks!

Martian Attention Junky

December 5, 2012

The Curiosity rover has grabbed a lot of press lately for dishing the dirt on Mars, but lets not forget the Opportunity rover is still doing science at nine years into its 90 day mission. The rovers have worked out so well that NASA is planning another one.

Thanks to the zealous wackos at the Department of Homeland Security, during the latter part of the Bush administration an order went out that all workers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena had to be vetted for high security clearance in order to continue doing their jobs. That cost us 100 scientists.

Liquid Robotics’ wave-powered PacX Wave Glider robot just set a world record by self-navigating for a year to cover 9,000 miles across the South Pacific. Aqua-bots are GO!

Inexplicata presents “Weird War: Strange Stories of the Military“, as if war needed supernatural assistance to be any scarier.

There’s something quintessentially early Twenty-First Century American about a farmers’ market operating in a shopping mall named The Commons in the middle of winter.

Oh, and a happy Zappadan to you all!

Martian Attention Junky

December 5, 2012

The Curiosity rover has grabbed a lot of press lately for dishing the dirt on Mars, but lets not forget the Opportunity rover is still doing science at nine years into its 90 day mission. The rovers have worked out so well that NASA is planning another one.

Thanks to the zealous wackos at the Department of Homeland Security, during the latter part of the Bush administration an order went out that all workers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena had to be vetted for high security clearance in order to continue doing their jobs. That cost us 100 scientists.

Liquid Robotics’ wave-powered PacX Wave Glider robot just set a world record by self-navigating for a year to cover 9,000 miles across the South Pacific. Aqua-bots are GO!

Inexplicata presents “Weird War: Strange Stories of the Military“, as if war needed supernatural assistance to be any scarier.

There’s something quintessentially early Twenty-First Century American about a farmers’ market operating in a shopping mall named The Commons in the middle of winter.

Oh, and a happy Zappadan to you all!

“Sever The Feeling”, Bring on the Vocals!

December 2, 2012
Tim and D

Tim and D of Sever The Feeling

Last night saw the debut of Sever the Feeling with a certain blogger’s daughter, “D”, providing female vocals.  The venue was The Shrine in Tulsa, at the historic intersection of 18th and Boston Avenue. This is a corner rich with memories for me: underage drinking in the “liquor by the wink” era, listening to jazz at the Nine of Cups, munching on avocado sandwiches under the pressed-tin ceiling at Boston Avenue Market with the D’s mother back in the day… good times.

The night was billed “Metal Meets Industrial“, with a number of local bands rotating through the stage. There were many familiar faces from the Assimilation crowd, making it a comfortable crowd. As is usual with live music, the schedule was “fluid”, so there was time for D to relax and hob-nob with members of the other waiting bands.  The patio/deck area became an impromptu green room. The guys in Nursing Home Panty Raid out of Wichita KS, were friendly and erudite, sharing tips and anecdotes with D before the conversation veering off into “Romeo and Juliet” in the pre-show lull. Metal meets Shakespeare, go figure.

My fears of a first-performance freeze-up were just wrong. STF’s turn on stage came and the band got down to business.  D, nattily attired in boots, gartered hose and and a snappy skeletal print top, took center stage and the magic happened. If I’d had any doubts, they were gone by the middle of the first number. Despite the awkward acoustics of the space (my heart went out to the house sound man), the whole band shined. Tim’s compositions and keyboards were sublime and D made vocals like I’d never heard before.

I felt like vampire meets stake –I’d been far more nervous about it than she. Their set positively rawked. Not biased even a little bit: go see Sever The Feeling if you ever get the chance. You’ll be hearing some damned good music. Tell ’em Offlogic sent you.

Twinkie Apocalypse Now!

November 17, 2012

Hostess Brands, the maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies, asked a federal bankruptcy court for permission to close its operations on Friday, after more than 80 years of production, blaming a strike by bakers for sinking the company. Hostess had annual sales of about $2.5 billion, making 500 million Twinkies and 127 million loaves of Wonder Bread annually before Friday’s shutdown.

Shallow and dishonest commentators, largely pandering to the “capital” crowd and their 47% world-view, will paint this as another “greedy union” chestnut of moochers and takers and freeloaders dragging down good, honest, moral job creators, but the workers that chose not to grab their ankles again had valid contracts that management wanted to walk away from, so it’s hard to paint the unions as the villains here. Frank Hurt, president of the bakers’ union, said Friday “They decided that they were not going to agree to another round of outrageous wage and benefit cuts and give up their pension only to see yet another management team fail and Wall Street vulture capitalists and ‘restructuring specialists’ walk away with untold millions of dollars.” Damn the Twinkies, prepare to ram!

You see, Hostess Brands had been acting like a zombie, relying on pretty much the same mix of products for decades. Over the years consumer tastes changed,  but Hostess Brands (and their previous corporate identities) didn’t change with them.  This failure to adapt to the marketplace was the main reason that the company, then known as Interstate Bakeries, first went into bankruptcy in 2004. Interstate Bakery’s stock fell to $2.05/share (from a high of $34/share), and during the 2004–2009 bankruptcy period, the longest in U.S. history at the time, Interstate closed nine of its 54 bakeries, more than 300 outlet stores and laid off 10,000 workers.

In 2009 the company was brought out of bankruptcy as Hostess Brands, with unions making heavy concessions in exchange for some equity and  Ripplewood Holdings (backed by General Electric Capital and GE Capital Markets, Silver Point Finance and Monarch Master Funding) taking a heavily leveraged 50 percent stake. Hostess exited bankruptcy with nearly $670 million in debt, almost 50 percent more than the $450 million it owed when it went into bankruptcy. What could possibly go wrong?

But Wall Street’s best and brightest just didn’t run the bakery very well, so they stopped payments to the pension fund in July of 2011 and again hounded the unions for further concessions. In fact, management wanted the unions to agree to the closure of 10-12 plants as part of a new contract, meaning many of the company’s 18,000 workers would be laid off even if they accepted management’s rapacious terms. When they balked at being bent over yet again after such a short time, management took Hostess Brands back into bankruptcy in January 2012 and got the bankruptcy court to impose a new contract that cut union salaries by 8%. The bakers’ union said enough was enough, and they went on strike.

But here’s the punchline: while management was filing for bankruptcy in January 2012, it actually tripled the CEO’s pay and increased other executives’ compensation by as much as 80 percent. That’s right, the Captain of this sinking ship saw his pay upped from $750,000 to over $2.5 MILLION. Some would call this the worst negotiating position to take while demanding unions take deep cuts in wages and benefits, but I like to think of it as just another tactic: they wanted nothing more than to create an impasse.

It was a “Springtime for Hitler” move: seven of Hostess’ eight largest unsecured creditors were union pension funds, and bankruptcy just wipes that out. This is the usual M.O. for Wall Street jackals: having sex with the corpse before plundering its organs, selling off the product lines and branding to the highest bidder. Getting to smear union workers for striking while screwing them out of their pensions is just the icing on the cupcake for them.

Beachcomber illuminates a thought-provoking historical note, found scribbled in the margins of a certain copy of Historia rerum ubique gestarum by Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini (later to be known as Pope Pius II), published in Venice in 1477. Here it is:

Homines de catayo versus oriens venierunt. Nos vidimus multa notabilia et specialiter in galuei ibernie virum et uxorem in duabus lignis areptis ex mirabili persona.

Or, in the vernacular:

Men from Cathay [China] come towards the west. We saw many remarkable things and particularly in Galway in Ireland a man and a woman on two pieces of drift wood of the most extraordinary appearance.

Beach dates this marginalia to 1481. The Gulf Stream is known to wash up American plants, American animals and American driftwood on the shore of south-western Ireland, so if this man and woman came from anywhere it was more likely America than China, but nobody had heard of America at the time. This note would be considered just an unremarkable sea-man’s tale if it weren’t for the fact that the man who wrote it is remembered by history as Christopher Columbus.

Ever been told to put on your thinking cap? Well, there’s a new Kinect math game that lets you do just that and shows you how well it works.

So BP is pleading guilty to High Crimes and Misdemeanors related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill? Let’s see, there’s manslaughter (plain and involuntary) for the 11 killed by the blast, lying to law enforcement officials, misleading investors, a felony count of obstruction of Congress, a pair of misdemeanor counts under the Clean Water Act and Migratory Bird Treaty and 23 criminal counts for the two highest ranking BP supervisors at the scene of the crime. BP’s total fines amount to $4.5 billion, which. compared to the $43 billion in BP profits since then, looks like a tiny slap on the wrist. If that “corporations are people” theory was anything real, BP would be doing life without parole instead of just getting a speeding ticket.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Arizona’s own Uncle Fester, rants that he’s going to give his deputies automatic weapons so they can shoot Mexicans in the back. Repeatedly.

Louisiana’s unrepentant GOP zombie-Governor Bobby Jindal recently urged his Republican Party to “stop being the stupid party.” Well, the glassy-eyed gov has got that half-right: the GOP keeps pissing away their chance to rule by pandering to the ignoramus vote. Science? Pshaw, all lies from the pit of Hell! The settled issue of Roe v. Wade? Nothing that a little forced vaginal ultrasound won’t fix! Pregnancies from rape? It’s just God’s plan, you see!

No, Gov. Jindal, the Stupid is only part of your party’s problem: you’ve got to represent the American people and quit pimping the country out for corporations. Remember how GOP Rep. Joe “You LIE!” Barton told BP “I think it is a tragedy of the first proportion that a private corporation can be subjected to what I would characterize as a shakedown” during the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearings?

If ever there was a time for the Republican Party to develop a sense of shame, it’s now. The Citizens United ruling brought almost unlimited funds to this election cycle, with upwards of USD $5 BILLION spent… and the GOP still couldn’t close the deal with the voters. There is a message there: a party whose primary loyalty is to corporations and that espouses the retrograde notions of a bygone age while being a collective asshole in every way possible just isn’t going to survive.

The Screen Door, Etc.

November 13, 2012

Here’s a “One Minute Physics” open letter to the President about physics education. Take note, Mr. President!

Is humanity losing its edge? Stanford’s Dr. Gerald Crabtree has ideas about selection pressures and genes responsible for, you know, brainy stuff and all that. He, didja catch the pro wrestling last night?

Nothing but Batboy and the facts: “20 State to Secede From the Union!“, the Weekly World News reports.

Have you read those pin-head petitions? I can’t believe the mimeographed drivel: “Pretty please, can we secede?”. That’s what mixing tea and kool-aid will get you: no class and no balls.  There are also competing petitions to strip the citizenship and exile everyone that petitions for secession. I signed both of those, fwiw. It’s exile or the Soylent Green pools for that crowd. Fuck them. The border is that-away, morons! Go. GO NOW!

Another “oops moment” for Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, as he backs away from all the ignorant secessionist talk fueled by Obama’s re-election. Now that he’s not pandering to the GOP/Tea Party Nutzies he can afford to sound sensible. I’m not fooled by it, but he is trying.

After all their brave talk about taking their country back, “the 47%” and secession tantrums … how come the red states are such a bunch of moochers?

Here’s a nice comparison of the U.S. and Britain using minimalist infographics from Brain Pickings.

Hey, didja know that the British have invaded 9 out of 10 countries? Got that? Invaded, not “petitioned”. Fish and chips are just the opening act.

Allan West is still not conceding defeat in the Florida House contest with Democrat Patrick Murphy. The issue has been clouded by unreliable, unauditable, untrustworthy electronic voting equipment, which may leave a hand re-count the only viable method of determining the actual winner (an approach that has worked just fine in the past).

Yesterday, a co-worker espoused the theory that the GOP old guard had purposely gerrymandered the FL-18 boundaries to get rid of West and his Tea Party ways. I’m guessing it was just some stupid shit that LimpBlob said on the radio. I didn’t bother asking what benefit they got by handing that seat to a Democrat, since one never gains anything by questioning a sinister conspiracy like that.

Back in April [2009], the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart offered some sound advice for frothing at the mouth Tea Baggers, “I think you might be confusing tyranny with losing”.

I Am NOT Gloating

November 7, 2012

It was truly “Hell Night at Fox News” wasn’t it? They did everything but break down in tears, shouting “Oh, the humanity!!!”. I’m glad I was there to watch the fun unfold when Karl Rove, AKA “Bush’s Brain” AKA “Turd Blossom” AKA co-head of Crossroads GPS super-PAC that spent millions upon millions of dollars in ‘dark money’ to ensure M’Lord Willard was the next president, threatened to hold his breath until the entire country turned red when Fox News was the next-to-last news network to call the election for Obama (at 11:18PM Eastern, followed by ABC at 11:23)…

Just say it ain’t so, Karl!

Crooks And Liars sums up the outcome nicely:

Allen West is out, Chris Murphy & Alan Grayson are in. Scott Brown and deadbeat-dad Joe Walsh are out, Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth are in. You know things are bad for Republicans when their one bright spot is a narrow victory for Michele Bachmann. Democrats increase their numbers in the Senate from 51 to 54, win the Electoral College by over 100 votes (once Florida and others continue to come in), and the popular vote by (currently) more than 2.5 million votes (remember Bush called his 20,000 vote win in 2004 a “mandate”).

I turned in before any concession or victory speeches were made last night, or the popular vote from the western half of the country caught up . I fully expected to wake to headlines about court challenges and recounts and the GOP claiming that they wuz robbed and not having any closure on this thing for at least another week.

It just came down to this: most american voters deciding they had a better shot with Barak Obama than M’Lord Mittens and his Carnival of Greed. I think they made the right choice, and I’m happy about how it turned out.

No time for gloating, though. There’s plenty of hard work immediately ahead: knocking off the bullshit with the bogus debt-ceiling fight, getting serious about the budgetary sequestration  “doomsday” scenario, stopping GOP plans to raise taxes on the non-rich and getting past the pre-election posturing from the right.

The voting is over, folks. It’s time to get moving again.

What’s with the GOP? (w/ correction)

October 4, 2012

It’s getting to be a sinister comedic tradition: the annual GOP spasm to sacrifice Big Bird on the altar of “balancing the budget“. We saw M’Lord Willard of Romney trot out that tired line again in last night’s debate. Of course, that’s just a side-show for the real havoc the GOP is bent on inflicting on the 90% .

What’s with these guys? It’s like the GOP has become that kid that sits there and bangs his head on the wall over and over again: it’s obvious that something’s wrong with that kid, but everyone pretends not to notice or says that “it’s just a phase”. Is it that they don’t acknowledge that the budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (that allocates the funds for public television and radio) amounts to just 0.012% .00014% of the federal budget in 2011, or is it that their Randian sensibilities can’t stand having non-commercial media around? Maybe they are just bent on destroying anything that smacks of “the general welfare” and the common good?

So grow up, GOP, and knock off the “moocher/looter” talk.  Not only can it be turned back on your party, anyone beyond (a healthy) late adolescence knows that is a dick-headed world-view. Some of us miss the days when the GOP had principled positions and weren’t just providing cut-rate blowjobs to the Koch BrothersBPMonsanto and the other wealthy scumbags that keep them in office.

Maybe there’s a better way to balance the budget without cutting into Granny’s cat food budget, like restricting deductions on incomes over $500K a year and/or eliminating the bullshit tax-dodges used by corporations to avoid paying any tax at all (or, like  General Electric, getting a multi-$billion tax refund)? Sure, nobody likes paying taxes, and me neither, but taxes are the entry fee to living in a civil society, and if you are going to raise revenues (and we do need to do that) let’s at least raise them from those with the wherewithal to pay a tiny bit more more without having to go hungry.

Corporations are not people: they won’t starve in the streets, their shareholders will just get a few pennies less. If you believe 10 years of historically low tax rates are slowing “job creation” (rather than a collapse of demand due to Wall Street stealing everyone’s money), well you are just the kind of fools the GOP is looking for. Double dittos, y’all!