Monday, May 23, 2005

Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
The Navickas boy has become an Eagle Scout!

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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Fantasy Land

Brian
Carlos Zambrano has been sucking this month. Well, he's not sucking, but he's not being awesome either. And the Chicago Cubs think their pitcher's non-awesomeness is caused by his elbow problems, which, they think, are caused by his being a l33t h4X0r:

Cubs right-hander Carlos Zambrano has been told to cut back on his computer time because the hours he's spending typing could be contributing to his elbow problems.

Zambrano said he had been logging about four hours a day communicating via e-mail with his brother.

"I have to spend one hour and take it easy," Zambrano said.

Zambrano looked fine Saturday, allowing just one hit in seven innings against the White Sox.

"It's not carpal tunnel, but if you don't watch it, who knows what it can lead to? We are trying to alleviate it," Cubs manger Dusty Baker said.

Link. It's ironic, because the only reason I care about Zambrano not being awesome (1-2 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP isn't sucking, but he was supposed to be an ace) is that he's on my fantasy team . . . which is the reason I spend four hours a day on the computer.

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Critics Praise the Artwork as "Meta"

Brian

It's been almost fifty years since the Russkies put the first bleeping, blooping whatsit into orbit around the Earth. Now we've got satellites for the CIA, Google, DirectTV, and Major League Baseball. We've even got satellites that orbit other planets. Now two of those Mars satellites have accomplished what I'm told is a historic first: they've taken pictures of each other, or one took a picture of another, or something. Anyway, the whole thing reminds me of those situations where people think it's really funny to take a picture of each other taking a picture of each other, and you end up with two pictures that look like this:



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Wacky California

Brian
From The San Jose Mercury News:

Did Californians elect the wrong actor as governor?

Buoyed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent plummeting popularity, Democrats around Sacramento have started wearing ``Don't blame me . . . I voted for Gary Coleman!'' buttons.

The buttons, featuring a photo of the ``Diff'rent Strokes'' actor who was one of dozens of offbeat candidates in the 2003 recall race, are the brainchild of Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez's communications director, Steve Maviglio, and another top Assembly Democratic staffer.

On his own time, Maviglio had 1,000 of the buttons produced after seeing a segment on Jon Stewart's ``The Daily Show'' in which the comedian joked that things were so bad for Schwarzenegger that people were wearing the ``Don't blame me . . .'' buttons.


Link (registration, but use BugMeNot.com). Just another example proving that The Daily Show is the most influential player in American politics. I need to get me one of these.

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Personal Resource

Brian
Dear Self,

So that you never have to spend half an hour digging through old files again before indoor-grilling something, here are the recommended cooking times for the George Foreman Grill:

Salmon Filet: Rare 2.5 min., Medium 3 min., Well 4.5 min.
Salmon Steak: Rare 4 min., Medium 6 min., Well 10 min.
Sword Fish: Rare 7 min., Medium 9 min., Well 10 min.
Tuna Steak: Rare 6 min., Medium 8 min., Well 10 min.
White Fish: Rare 4 min., Medium 5.5 min., Well 7 min.
Shrimp: Rare 1.5 min., Medium 2.5 min., Well 3.5 min.
4 oz. Turkey Burger: Well 5 min.
8 oz. Turkey Burger: Well 6 min.
Pork Loin: Medium 5 min., Well 6 min.
4 oz. Burger: Rare 7 min., Medium 8 min., Well 9 min.
8 oz. Burger: Rare 8 min., Medium 9 min., Well 10 min.
Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast: Well 9 min.
Link Sausage: Medium 4 min., Well 5 min.
Sliced Sausage (.75" thick): Medium 6 min., Well 7 min.
Fajita Beef (.5" thick slices): Rare 1.5 min., Medium 2 min., Well 2.5 min.
T-Bone: Rare 8 min., Medium 9 min., Well 10 min.
New York Strip: Rare 4 min., Medium 7 min., Well 10 min.
Flank Steak: Rare 7 min., Medium 8 min., Well 10 min.
Onions and Peppers Brushed with Olive Oil: Medium 8.5 min.

Regards,
Self

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Saturday, May 21, 2005

Chicken Crossed Road, Exploding Toad Rode Commode

Brian

This product is revolutionary, or at least its jingle is.

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Friday, May 20, 2005

Top Twenty Anagrams of "Sith": Go

Brian
I haven't seen Revenge of the Sith yet, and I probably won't for a while, and it's only been out for a day, but more than five million of you have seen it already.
The last of the "Star Wars" movies has done what no movie in history has ever accomplished[:] sold $50 million worth of tickets in a single day.

"Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith" grossed $50,013,859 from showings at 3,661 theaters and more than 9,000 screens around the country Thursday, including special midnight shows, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

That beat the one-day record set in May 2004 by "Shrek 2," which sold $44.8 million on a single Saturday[,] its fourth day in theaters.


Link. Slate's Edward Jay Epstein argues this don't mean a thing, because, for many reasons, box office grosses are a bunch of--gross something:

Third, the "news" of the weekend grosses confuses the feat of buying an audience with that of making a profit. The cost of prints and advertising for the opening of a studio film in America in 2003 totaled, on average, $39 million. That's $18.4 million more per film than studios recovered from box-office receipts. In other words, it cost more in prints and ads—not even counting the actual costs of making the film—to lure an audience into theaters than the studio got back. So while a "boffo" box-office gross might look good in a Variety headline, it might also signify a boffo loss.

Finally, and most important, the fixation on box-office grosses obscures the much more lucrative global home-entertainment business, which is the New Hollywood's real profit center. The six major studios spoon-feed their box-office grosses to the media, but they go to great lengths to conceal the other components of their revenue streams from the public, as well as from the agents, stars, and writers who may profit from a movie.


Link. I can remember seeing Phantom Menace on opening day after taking an AP test back in high school. And I can remember camping out, just like these poor saps, to see Attack of the Clones. But now here's Revenge of the Sith, and I'm just . . . eh.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005

New Monkey: So What?

Brian

Scientists have discovered a new monkey in Tanzania, leading me to the conclusion that what they say about the rarity of the discovery of new mammals is crap. All crap.

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Ebu Go Went?

Brian
Mars from Musings on Mars points me to a recent discovery of pygmies--regular, old, abnormally short homo sapiens--in the caves on Flores, suggesting that H. floresiensis never existed, but that Ebu Gogo, who keeps turning up on The Good Reverend, was just a short little native who talked funny and had pendulous breasts:

If the newly found community of 77 pygmy families in Rampapasa village can be directly linked to the tiny ancient remains, Jacob and Henneberg could strengthen their argument that Homo floresiensis never existed.

"The presence of the pygmy people (at Flores) is both very interesting and surprising," Jacob told Kompas. "For years, scientists from all over the world could only see their traces."

According to Jacob, the Rampapasa adult males tend to be less than 4-foot 7-inches in height, while adult females only stand about 4-foot 4-inches. The hobbit skeleton would have belonged to an individual who stood about 3-foot 5-inches, said Richard Roberts, professor and senior research fellow at the University of Wollongong in Australia.


Link. Well, any theory that allows for the Ebu Gogo to actually exist, whether they are homo sapiens or not, is fine by me. But I'm reminded of the immortal words of Randy Newman.

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Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
Following a dream I had three years ago,
I have become deeply moved
by the plight of the Tibetan people
and have been filled with a desire to help them.
I also awoke from this same dream
realizing that I had subconsciously gained knowledge
of a certain deductive technique,
involving mind-body coordination
operating hand-in-hand
with the deepest levels of intuition.
Sheriff,
Deputy Hawk,
if I could have your assistance
I will be happy to demonstrate this technique.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

And He's Talking with Davy, Who's Still in the Navy

Brian

A month ago local police in Sheerness, Kent, England picked up a man walking along a beach in a suit and tie soaking wet. They took him to a hospital and he wouldn't say a word. When the hospital workers brought him a piece of paper in hopes that he could write, he drew a detailed picture of a grand piano. So they took him to a piano. And they discovered that the man who wouldn't talk would play.

Hospital workers led him to a piano in the hospital chapel, where he seemed to play flawlessly. He has been playing ever since -- bits of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake," and long sad compositions apparently of his own making -- for up to four hours at a time. He protests when he is forced to stop.

Newspapers call him the "Piano Man," and nearly six weeks after he was found, the nation wonders: Who is this shy virtuoso?

Is he British or a foreigner? Did he fall off a ship? Or did he try to drown himself? Is he an amnesiac? Or is he suffering mental trauma?

Over the weekend, authorities made a public appeal to try to identify him. A haunting photograph of the hospitalized man, who appears to be in his 20s or 30s and is clutching a plastic folder containing sheet music, appeared in national newspapers Monday. TV news was filled with pleas for any information.


Link. If I washed up in England in a suit and tie and couldn't speak, I like to think that I could communicate through the didgeridoo. Except I've never played it. But it looks cool.



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Revolution, Gun Control, the Sound of Soul

Brian
As the Kansas State Board of Education has hearings on the teaching of evolution versus creationism in public schools, Slate's William Saletan has a commentary that--I can't believe I'm saying this--makes Intelligent Design Theory sound not all together kooky:

Two years later, in a bioethics journal, [lawyer-geologist John] Calvert and an [Intelligent Design Network] colleague, biochemist William Harris, summarized the differences between Biblical creationism and ID. "Creation science seeks to validate a literal interpretation of creation as contained in the book of Genesis," they explained. "An ID proponent recognizes that ID theory may be disproved by new evidence. ID is like a large tent under which many religious and nonreligious origins theories may find a home. ID proposes nothing more than that life and its diversity were the product of an intelligence with power to manipulate matter and energy."

. . . .

Essentially, ID proponents are gambling that they can concede evolutionist earth science without conceding evolutionist life science. But they can't. They already acknowledge microevolution—mutation and natural selection within a species. Once you accept conventional fossil dating and four billion years of life, the sequential kinship of species loses its implausibility. You can't fall back on the Bible; you've already admitted it can't always be taken literally. All you're left with is an assortment of gaps in evolutionary theory—how did DNA emerge, what happened between this and that fossil—and the vague default assumption that an "intelligence" might fill in those gaps. Calvert and Harris call this assumption a big tent. But guess what happens to a tent without poles.

Perversely, evolutionists refuse to facilitate this collapse. They prefer to dismiss ID proponents as dead-end Neanderthals. They complain, legitimately, that Calvert and Harris are trying to expand the definition of science beyond "natural explanations." But have you read the definition Calvert and Harris propose? It would define science as a continuous process of "observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena." Abstract creationism can't qualify for such scrutiny. Substantive creationism can't survive it. Or if it can, it should.


Link. Saletan's thesis is that these creationists are different from creationists of the past because they're not turning a blind eye to science and saying "if it's in the Bible, it must be true, no matter what contradictory proof you have." Rather, ID theorists believe in the scientific method but are starting from the assumption that God Created the universe through design and are skeptical, but not fanatically dismissive, of evolution. Eventually, Saletan argues, ID theorists will accept the overwhelming scientific evidence of macroevolution.

Personally? you ask. I don't really think God, whatever if anything the term means for you, belongs in the study or practice of science. "Teach the controversy," say religious right-wing politicians of evolution versus creationism in schools. To me, the controversy could be taught in a history classroom, but not a science classroom. Physical science and life science are about lots of things, but God and political controversy--not so much. That said, I don't see anything inherently incongruous between the theses "God is Creator of the universe" and "the universe, including life as we know it, changes and got to where it is today through evolution." But that's one guy's opinion.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Scalia-ve Me Alone

Brian
The Christian Science Monitor reports on the possibility of a Scalia promotion:

During oral arguments at the high court, sometimes Scalia's tongue can be as sharp as his intellect. Critics say he lacks the necessary political skills to lead the court from confrontation to compromise. His prickly relationship with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in particular, could undercut his ability to assemble and hold a conservative majority in important cases.

Others say he may not want to be chief justice because the position would reduce his freedom to skewer his colleagues in sharply worded dissents while championing his vision of constitutional "originalism."


Link. Clearly this is in response to my earlier post. And it's a little more thoughtful than that anonymous "3L," too.

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Meanwhile, in Montrose . . .

Brian
The local VFW post makes a surprise pick for the Memorial Day parade's guest speaker: the Hinds boy!

Indexed by tag Montrose.

Video Games and TV Shows

Brian
Steven Johnson has a new book called Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter. His thesis is that video games are getting increasingly complex and interactive in new and interesting ways, and that this in turn affects other popular culture resources, such as television, which grows more complex to keep up. He debates the vigorousness of this thesis with critic Dana Stevens at Slate and manages to whoop her:
How about the substance of the shows—the question, as you put it, of what we're learning when we watch these shows? Perhaps we disagree here, but when I look back at the television lineups from the 1970s, I don't see a lot of psychological depth or complex social analysis. I see CHiPs. At the high end of the spectrum, I don't see anything from 30 years ago that rivals the genuinely novelistic scale and originality of The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, the dark satire of Arrested Development or Curb Your Enthusiasm, or even the cinematic dread and general creepiness of Lost (though I admit I am only a few episodes into the latter, so please—no spoilers.) I like Soap and M*A*S*H as much as the next person, but I'll happily take the more formulaic sitcoms today—Everybody Loves Raymond or King Of Queens—over the generally awfully Garry Marshall sitcoms that dominated the ratings back then. But perhaps your mileage varies—these are aesthetic judgments, after all. I can point only to another review of my book—this one from Salon—where my argument about the positive trends in TV quality was critiqued for being too obvious: "What I wonder, though, is, Doesn't everyone know that today's TV is better than yesterday's TV? It's here that I think Johnson's too focused on straw men. … Is there anyone who prefers 'Hill Street Blues,' which as Johnson points out was one of the best dramas of the 1980s, to 'The West Wing' or 'ER' or 'The Sopranos'? I imagine only the very nostalgic would say they do."

Link. So I think this gives me a sound argument for blowing off Admin reading to play GTA and watch Lost.

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Friday, May 13, 2005

Fountain of Youth - Don't Drink the Water

Brian

Twelve-year-old Brooke Greenberg is only as old as she feels, which is twelve months old. She has a rare disorder--so rare, she's the only one with it--that prevents her from aging. It's no walk in the park, either:

"In height, weight, she's 6 to 12 months," [Brooke's pediatrician Dr. Laurence] Pakula said. "If you ask any physician who knows nothing about her, the response is that she is maybe a handicapped 2-year-old."

Her body may not be aging, but Brooke's health is deteriorating. She is fed through a tube, and she's had strokes, seizures, ulcers, severe respiratory problems and a tumor the size of a lemon.

The four times Brooke has come dangerously close to death, she bounced back and no one knows why.

Link. That's, uh, really strange. I feel bad for her. I think I knew some guys in college who had something similar, but it was entirely mental and emotional.

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You and Me Baby

Brian

Hot on the heels of the new Borneo fox, scientists have "discovered" a new type of rodent that Laotians have known all along:

"It was for sale on a table next to some vegetables. I knew immediately it was something I had never seen before," said Robert Timmins of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).

Other specimens caught by hunters were later identified by WCS researcher Mark Robinson.

DNA analysis and a comparison of the skull and other bones to other creatures suggest Kha-Nyou diverged from other rodents millions of years ago.

Link. They're calling it Laonastes aenigmamus, which, if I know my Latin, and I think I do, is "The Laotian Enigma," which incidentally would make a great Lucha Libre name. Apparently if you are going to discover new mammals, Southeast Asia is the place to do it, because, as previously noted,
Discoveries of mammals are extremely rare. Six were found in the 1990s in remote forests in Vietnam - a rhino, a rabbit, three deer and a primate - but they were the first since the discovery of the kouprey in the area in 1937.

Link. This recent rash of new mammal discoveries can mean only one thing: it's time once again to link to The Ballad of the Sneak.

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The Waggle Dance Is Your Chance to Get Some Nectar

Brian

You've probably heard of the waggle dance--the mysterious little dance honey bees do in their hive right before other bees go out and find a great nectar source. Now, by using little radar transponders, English scientists have confirmed that the dance effectively communicates the location of the source to the other bees:

Most recruited bees undertook a flight path that took them straight to the vicinity of the feeding site - on average within five yards over a distance of 200 yards - where they then located its exact position by sight and smell.

"This can take them a long time, and it explains the anomaly in Frisch's experiments" said Prof Riley.

When bees caught just outside the hive were moved to a new location, 250 yards away, and released they flew to a correspondingly "wrong" destination, showing that they were following a prescribed set of directions - yet more support for von Frisch.


Link (via The Anomalist). The findings suggest that the waggle dance is slightly more entertaining than Dancing with the Stars.

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Thursday, May 12, 2005

Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
Like the fella says,
in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias
they had warfare,
terror,
murder,
and bloodshed,
but they produced Michelangelo,
Leonardo da Vinci,
and the Renaissance.
In Switzerland they had brotherly love--
they had 500 years of democracy and peace,
and what did that produce?
The cuckoo clock.

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Boneyard Revisited

Brian

The most recent stop of TheGoodReverend's Tour of Tucson, the airplane boneyard, is the subject of a feature in this week's Tucson Weekly:

The Pima Air and Space Museum runs public tours of AMARC [(Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center)], but those tours only give a glimpse of what happens. The tour bus doesn't pass the Wing Shop or the area where old F-4s are being turned into drones to be shot down in military exercises, or becoming artificial reefs to benefit sea life. You also won't see the retired Titan missiles. However, the tours do pass an area referred to as "Celebrity Row," which consists of a fine collection of A-10s, F-4s, C-5s, C-141s, B-1s, B-52s, F-4s and many other aircraft and spare parts.

You may even catch a glimpse of some celebrity aircraft that have been used in movies. The tour guides love to talk about those.


Link. The article also makes the case for refraining from calling it a boneyard. But that's not gonna happen.

It's also cool to check out the bird's eye view of AMARC on Google Maps (via No Idea):


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Thyla-unseen?

Brian
I know that there are those of you out there who depend on The Good Reverend as an authoritative news source because it's your only contact with the outside world. For that reason, I must disclose that I've uncovered something that suggests that I've told you all something . . . erroneous.

Done gasping? Okay, I blogged about the Tasmanian Tiger last February, citing news sources that told of a recent photo of the beast, thought extinct for decades. One such story said this:

Tasmanian wildlife biologist Nick Mooney, who has examined blurry images of what is claimed to be a tasmanian tiger, fears the photo may never be seen in the state again.

Mr Mooney was shown the photos by a Victorian man, who flew to Hobart last week in an attempt to verify the images taken by his German brother.


Link. The story also featured a picture of the marsupial, which I ripped off and posted. The original caption? "Tiger photo disputed." Yet even at the time there seemed something fishy about the picture. The photographer clearly got really close to the supposedly wild animal. The background seemed to include some sort of fence, even though the tiger was claimed to have been spotted in the wild. And strangest of all, the story talks about how the picture has gone missing from Tasmania, how the biologist "fears [it] may never been seen in the state again," and yet there it is, a copy of it anyway, on some plain old major news website.

It's pretty clear now that there was indeed something wrong with the picture. I'm convinced that either (a) it's a hoax and the picture isn't what its owners claim it to be, or (b) the guys at the Australian ABC News website screwed up and wrote the wrong caption for the picture. I think it's probably the latter. Why do I doubt the picture's authenticity? Because it's pretty obviously a still from the famous 1933 Hobart Zoo video discussed at One Plus One Equals Three. That would explain the closeness of the photographer to her subject and the fence in the background. Plus it looks exactly the same. This leaves me with my two possible explanations, and of them I'm inclined to think it was a news website screwup, because that's the only explanation that accounts for the discrepancy between the story and the presense of the picture.

If that picture is wrong because somebody at the website screwed up, it means that there is still a chance that the real picture, which purportedly provides evidence of a living thylacine, is still out there somewhere.

Well, next time I get something like this wrong, I'll eat crow. Preferably one of the crows causing the German toads to explode.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Jurassic Garden

Brian
We've known the thylacine to be extinct since the thirties, yet it might still be around. We thought the ivory-billed woodpecker was extinct for the bulk of the twentieth century, but now we know it's been hiding out in Arkansas. But that's nothing compared to life that's been extinct since the Mesozoic. Still, the Wollemi pine, thought to have died out 200 million years ago, has recently been discovered in Australia.

Planting the rare tree Sir David [Attenborough, wildlife expert,] said: "How marvellous and exciting that we should have discovered this rare survivor from such an ancient past.

"It is romantic, I think, that something has survived 200 million years unchanged.

"There are other plants that come from that period; but to suddenly find not just a new species but a new genus, too, is really quite exciting."

On the same day Actor Kenneth Branagh was to plant a Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) at Wakehurst Place, Kew's country garden in Sussex, where seeds are already preserved in the Millennium Seed Bank.

A tall conifer, it is closely related to the monkey puzzle tree, and has an unusual pattern of branching, with the mature foliage having two ranks of leaves along the branches.

Link. This sort of reminds me of going to Yosemite and seeing those tree cross sections with the really old historic events marked in the rings. Only, you know, way older.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Goodbye Dali

Brian

The Salvador Dali exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which has transformed the city along with the Rocky Steps, ends this month. If you haven't yet gone to check it out, do so. I hearily endorse it. It's the only chance you'll have to see the exhibit in the United States. Yes, it's a bit expensive, and yes, it's crowded, but it's also worth it. Mrs. Good Reverend and I went back in March and spent several hours taking the comprehensive audio visual tour through Dali's life. The story of Dali's art is the story of the great Big Ideas and Events of the early twentieth century--Freud, Einstein, the Spanish Civil War, the Atomic Bomb. It's Dali's surrealism that we have to thank for what our society now understands to be the pinnacle of high culture: the Tender Crisp Bacon Cheddar Ranch commercial.

If you can't see the paintings in person, this website comes pretty damn close to the experience.

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Take a Sad Song and Make It Better

Brian
This wiki features a table noting philosophical observations in Beatles lyrics:
Her Majesty Abbey Road "Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl, but she changes from day to day." McCartney advocates stage theory.
Taxman Revolver "If you walk around, I'll tax your feet". Harrison advances neo-Lockean critique of the state: taxation as cannibalism.
Nowhere man Rubber Soul "Doesn't have a point of view, knows not where he's going to, Isn't he a bit like me and you?" Lennon takes issue with Nagel
Link (via Leiter Reports). Somebody get in there and change "me and you" to "you and me."

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Ice Across the Pond

Brian
Merry old England is actually at the same latitude as Siberia and the Canadian shield. So why do Brits get to complain about rain and fog instead of, say, piercing ice storms and frozen tundra? Because cold water in the Greenland Sea sinks, sucking a warm current called the Gulf Stream up from the South to warm the British Isles by ten degrees. Thanks to global "warming," that's all about to change:
“Until recently we would find giant ‘chimneys’ in the sea where columns of cold, dense water were sinking from the surface to the seabed 3,000 metres below, but now they have almost disappeared,” [Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University,] said.
. . . .

Such a change could have a severe impact on Britain, which lies on the same latitude as Siberia and ought to be much colder. The Gulf Stream transports 27,000 times more heat to British shores than all the nation’s power supplies could provide, warming Britain by 5-8C.

Wadhams and his colleagues believe, however, that just such changes could be well under way. They predict that the slowing of the Gulf Stream is likely to be accompanied by other effects, such as the complete summer melting of the Arctic ice cap by as early as 2020 and almost certainly by 2080. This would spell disaster for Arctic wildlife such as the polar bear, which could face extinction.


Link. I think the polar bear would fit right in Piccadilly Circus. Or maybe that's just for werewolves.

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The Word of the Day is Chimerical

Brian

In mythology, a chimera was a beast assembled from parts of other, more common animals, such as the eponymous Greek Himera (above), the Egyptian Sphinx, or the lawyer's favorite Chinese dragon-goat Hsieh-Chai. In biology, a chimera is an animal that contains not only its own genetic material, but that from some other zygote as well. The mythological chimera doesn't really exist. The biological one does.

If you've ever received an organ transplant, you are a chimera. If--and this is not as uncommon as it sounds--you were conceived alongside a twin who was then reabsorbed into you and your mother, you are a chimera. If you are the mother in such a scenario, you are a chimera. If you were ever gestated in a living person, there's a chance that you're a chimera.

If television is to be believed, which of course it is, such a state would enable you (CSI) or your supposedly dead twin (The X-Files) to commit crimes undetected.

Now the New York Times has a story on American cyclist Tyler Hamilton, who is about to be banned from racing because small amounts of another person's blood were detected in his blood. The conclusion the arbitration panel jumped to: he's been blood doping to gain a competitive edge. But Hamilton is sticking by his chimera defense.

One route to this odd state, called chimerism, is the vanishing twin. Dr. Helain Landy of Georgetown University, who has no involvement in the Hamilton case, has found that 20 to 30 percent of pregnancies that start out as twins end up as single babies, with one twin being absorbed by the mother during the first trimester.

Others researchers have found that in some cases, before the twin is absorbed, some of its cells enter the body of the other fetus and remain there for life. The cells can include bone marrow stem cells, the progenitors of blood cells.

Another route to chimerism is through the cells that routinely pass from a mother to fetus and remain there for life.

Dr. Ann Reed, chairwoman of rheumatology research at the Mayo Clinic, who uses sensitive DNA tests to look for chimerism, finds that about 50 to 70 percent of healthy people are chimeras. The more scientists look for chimerism, the more they find it. It seemed not to exist in the past, she said, because no one was explicitly looking for small amounts of foreign cells in people's bodies.


Link. The word of the day today is, as it was for over a year in my friend's AIM profile, "chimerical," which, according to Webster's, means "existing only as the product of unchecked imagination; fantastically visionary or improbable; [and] given to fantastic schemes."


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Monday, May 09, 2005

Brown Rat, Cockroach, Tree Fungus, Assistant Principal, Amoeba. In That Order.

Brian
A high school in Columbus, Georgia, has suspended a junior for the rest of the year because he refused to hang up his cell phone outside the building during the lunch hour. On the other end of the line was his mother, a sergeant stationed in Iraq.
"Kevin got defiant and disorderly,'' [Assistant Principal Alfred] Parham said. "When a kid becomes out of control like that they can either be arrested or suspended for 10 days. Now being that his mother is in Iraq, we're not trying to cause her any undue hardship; he was suspended for 10 days.''

Link. Clearly, if they let this kid talk to his mom, who's only calling from a combat zone, the school would erupt in a chaotic orgy of text messaging test answers. Without rules, we'd have anarchy.

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I'm Strong Bad and You're Listening to National Public Radio

Brian
All Things Considered has a written/audio profile of homestarrunner.com:
Strong Bad sports a Mexican wrestler's mask and wears boxing gloves all the time. He's the bane of Homestar Runner's existence. And who is Homestar? He's a slightly dim high school jock with a bowling-pin-shaped girlfriend named Marzipan.

Did we say bowling-pin-shaped? Yes, because Strong Bad, Homestar and Marzipan are all cartoon characters residing at homestarrunner.com, a flash-animation Web site created by brothers Mike and Matt Chapman. Out of their basement. The site is visited by more than a million viewers a month, and updated weekly, as John Ydstie found out in a visit with the Chapman brothers.
Link. This makes me smile. It also gives me another opportunity to link to the greatest internet cartoon ever.

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How You Got Here

Brian
Search engines are powerful tools. Without them, people would be forced to think in complete sentences and actually figure out what reference to look things up in. The answer to all things, of course, is The Good Reverend. If you are reading this because you clicked the immediately previous link and ended up here, congratulations, you just did something useless. Anyway, I thought we might all want to know what sorts of things people are likely to find on The Good Reverend, according to Google and/or Yahoo. According to Google, as of this posting, I'm the . . .
. . . #2 result for crow attacking toad liver stomach burst.
. . . #10 result for "Huffard" "underwater bipedal locomotion."
. . . #9 result for FBI data on "guns and bars."
And according to Yahoo, I'm the . . .
. . . #2 result for arthro plura.
. . . #5 result for spiritual meaning exploding toads crows.
. . . #8 result for Charisse Hartzol.
. . . #7 result for hoe rap court.

I'm sure these rankings will change shortly. But at least for the time being, I'm authoritative on things people need to know.

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The Test to End All Tests

Brian
In light of recent multiple choice quizzes on sites I know all too well, I thought I'd bring you the world's first Self-Referential Aptitude Test (via Boing Boing).
 1. The first question whose answer is B is question
(A) 1
(B) 2
(C) 3
(D) 4
(E) 5

2. The only two consecutive questions
with identical answers are questions
(A) 6 and 7
(B) 7 and 8
(C) 8 and 9
(D) 9 and 10
(E) 10 and 11

3. The number of questions with the answer E is
(A) 0
(B) 1
(C) 2
(D) 3
(E) 4
Continue the test here (actually, in all fairness, you should probably look at the test as a whole).

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

New Mammal Discovered

Brian
Scientists have discovered a brand new species of fox on Borneo, marking a rare event in new animal discovery:
Last week WWF reported that 361 entirely new species - 260 insects, 50 plants, 30 freshwater fish, seven frogs, six lizards, five crabs, two snakes and a toad - have been discovered over the past decade, a rate of three a month. But the fox, which has come to light only after the report was written, is a far bigger find. Discoveries of mammals are extremely rare. Six were found in the 1990s in remote forests in Vietnam - a rhino, a rabbit, three deer and a primate - but they were the first since the discovery of the kouprey in the area in 1937.

But all of these are herbivores, making the finding of a carnivorous fox even more extraordinary. The animal - which was caught on an automatic infra-red camera, set up in the forest of the Kayam Menterong National Park - is foxy red all over, with no white markings, and a bushy tail. It has slightly extended back legs, suggesting that it may spend part of its time up trees.


Link. Unfortunately the new mammal wasn't this one:


But at least the discovery of a new mammal puts another nail in the coffin of Baron Georges Cuvier's "rash dictum": "There is little hope of discovering new species." He uttered that one in 1812, before the world knew of the pygmy chimpanzee, white rhinocerous, Kodiak bear, or mountain gorilla.

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The Story of the Snake Who Didn't Have Legs

Brian
Friday in Eastern Washington, where strange things happen with some regularity, a couple gardeners discovered a rattlesnake while burning tumbleweeds. It was only later that they learned that this was no ordinary snake:
Osorio said he noticed the strange little appendages on the charred snake after the fire died down. "I called to Nancy, 'Come here and look at these little legs,' " he said. Each leg, about a half-inch long, protrudes from the snake's body about 4 inches from the tip of the tail. "Obviously it is a mutant," said McLeod, who wasted no time in trying to alert Kelly Cassidy, curator of the Conner Museum at Washington State University in Pullman.

Link. By Saturday, the story had grown and changed. It was only later that they learned that this was, in fact, an ordinary snake:
"When snakes die in agonizing pain, like being burned alive, the penises expose themselves," [said Mike Wingfield, a Richland resident, self-described retired snake handler and amateur herpetologist].

Link. I have just one word for you:

Penises?

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Friday, May 06, 2005

What Judges Do All Day

Brian
The trial transcript quotes Ms. Hayden as saying Murphy called her a snitch bitch "hoe." A "hoe," of course, is a tool used for weeding and gardening. We think the court reporter, unfamiliar with rap music (perhaps thankfully so), misunderstood Hayden's response. We have taken the liberty of changing "hoe" to "ho," a staple of rap music vernacular as, for example, when Ludacris raps "You doin' ho activities with ho tendencies."

United States v. Murphy, Nos. 04-2032, 04-2293 & 04-2309, 2005 U.S. App. LEXIS 7695, at *3 n.1 (7th Cir. May 4, 2005), available at http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/IH0GWSBN.pdf (citing LUDACRIS, Ho, on INCOGNEGRO (Disturbing the Peace 2000)).

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Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yes, You Could Paint It, But Did You Think of It?

Brian

It's the Mark Rothko paint-by-numbers kit (hooray for Bats Left Throws Right, via Sivacracy.net).

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Is a Magic Number

Brian
Quick! What's the number of the beast? If you said 666, you lose:

A newly discovered fragment of the oldest surviving copy of the New Testament indicates that, as far as the Antichrist goes, theologians, scholars, heavy metal groups, and television evangelists have got the wrong number. Instead of 666, it's actually the far less ominous 616.

The new fragment from the Book of Revelation, written in ancient Greek and dating from the late third century, is part of a hoard of previously unintelligible manuscripts discovered in historic dumps outside Oxyrhynchus in Egypt. Now a team of expert classicists, using new photographic techniques, are finally deciphering the original writing.

Professor David Parker, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism and Paleography at the University of Birmingham, thinks that 616, although less memorable than 666, is the original. He said: "This is an example of gematria, where numbers are based on the numerical values of letters in people's names. Early Christians would use numbers to hide the identity of people who they were attacking: 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula."


Link. So I guess I don't have to worry about this strange birthmark on my scalp then.

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Breaking the Rules

Brian
If I were playing donkey basketball, I wonder if I'd be disqualified for riding a zonkey.


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One Pest Not Living in Our Apartment

Brian
Ladies and gentlemen, the arthro plura:

I don't know whether WD-40 would take care of this guy.

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Random Movie Quote Thursday

Brian
At Rex Kwan Do,
we use the buddy system.
No more flying solo.
You need somebody watching your back at all times.
Second off,
you're gonna learn to discipline your image.
You think I got where I am today
because I dressed like Peter Pan over here?
Take a look at what I'm wearing, people.
You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face
while I'm wearing these bad boys?
Forget about it.
Last off,
my students will learn about self respect.
You think anybody thinks I'm a failure
because I go home to Starla at night?
Forget about it!

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Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Chief Justice

Brian
There's speculation that Deep Throat intends to retire next month at the end of the current Supreme Court term:
In anticipation that Rehnquist's resignation could come at the end of the Supreme Court's current term, politicians, interest groups and lobbyists are girding for a nomination battle for an open Supreme Court seat even before knowing if one might occur or whom President Bush might nominate.
. . . .
Much of that speculation centers on the high court's two most conservative members, Clarence Thomas, 56, and Antonin Scalia, 69, both of whom Bush has praised as model judges.

Less frequently talked about is O'Connor, whose age and health, Schwartz said, leave her an unlikely choice for a president who wants to leave his mark on the high court for a long time.

Although the White House has refused to comment, other top contenders for chief justice that have been reported to be on various administration short list include J. Harvie Wilkinson, 60, and Michael Luttig, 50, both of whom are on a federal appeals court based in Richmond, Va.; Samuel Alito Jr., 54, of an appeals court based in Philadelphia; John Roberts, 50, on an appeals court in Washington, D.C.; and Michael McConnell, 49, on a Denver-based appeals court. All are said to be as conservative as Rehnquist.

Link. Apparently the Supreme Court nomination battle is the elephant in the filibuster controversy room. From a political standpoint, I don't see how Rehnquist's replacement can make much of a difference: she'll be a conservative who take's Rehnquist's place in the "conservative bloc" next to Scalia and Thomas, just to the right of Kennedy and O'Connor. On the other hand, looking at the Supreme Court from a political angle is misunderstanding it.

I went to a panel discussion last week at the National Constitution Center called "Judging the Court: Looking Back at the Rehnquist Court." The panelists were con law bigwigs and the moderator was my con law prof, Nate Persily. In thinking about what they discussed, I came to a couple conclusions:

(1) "Conservative" in Supreme Court terms doesn't mean the same thing as it does to the Republican Party. It doesn't have to do with your views on abortion or gay marriage or the death penalty, or even whether you prefer smaller government or lower taxes. The conservative SCOTUS justices are the ones who interpret the Constitution "strictly," meaning according to anything from literal dictionary definitions to the intention of the framers in 1787. It has more to do with the way they balance the Necessary and Proper clause against the Tenth Amendment than it does with their campaign contributions. More often than not, this interpretation aligns with what most people think of as conservative political aims. But sometimes it can produce counterintuitive results--which it may well do in Raich v. Ashcroft, the medical marijuana case, when conservative justices have to balance the federal policy of being tough on drugs against the state's right to set its own, more liberal policy regarding pot.

(2) Scalia would make a terrible Chief Justice, and not just because I disagree with almost everything that comes out of his pen. He's certainly an astute intellectual and the biggest personality on the Court, but he's no manager. One thing that's been great about Rehnquist, who is almost but not quite as conservative, in both senses, as Scalia, is that he can actually manage the Court. He keeps the trains running on time. If you take the word of esteemed former clerks for it, he's got the Court--which, by the way, represents the longest period the same slate of nine justices has been together--working like a machine: the justices vote, he (or someone else, if he's not on the winning side) assigns the writing of the opinion, and the opinion gets written. No finagling, no day-long debate--not that those are bad things, but Rehnquist, my Arizona homeboy, my fellow Stanford alum, perpetrator of the Great Panty Raid of 1947, just wants to get things done. A Scalia Court would be a mess because Scalia would never stand for such mindless efficiency, nor, importantly, would he stand for the wheeling and dealing of, say, the Warren Court. Scalia is a lone wolf. Anytime the Court doesn't go his way, he files a dissent, often joined just by himself, arguing circles around everyone else, and sometimes being a dick in the process. Even when the Court does go his way, he might file a concurrence, arguing circles around everyone else, and sometimes being a dick in the process. He seems to look down on the other justices, and that's no way to get them to vote your way. To paraphrase William Brennan, as Nate Persily says, the most important thing for a Supreme Court Justice, especially the Chief Justice, to remember is this: 5. Get five votes, and you win. To Scalia, his is the only vote that should count.

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You Can Do Anything

Brian
I was just introduced to a powerful Internet tool (turn sound up now): zombo.com.

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The Finest Television Science Fiction Series of All Time

Brian
Orson Scott Card, sci-fi author of Ender's Game, has a commentary piece in the L.A. Times in which he argues that the death of Star Trek is overdue:
Little of this [excellent science fiction literature] seeped into the original "Star Trek." The later spinoffs were much better performed, but the content continued to be stuck in Roddenberry's rut. So why did the Trekkies throw themselves into this poorly imagined, weakly written, badly acted television series with such commitment and dedication? Why did it last so long?
Here's what I think: Most people weren't reading all that brilliant science fiction. Most people weren't reading at all. So when they saw "Star Trek," primitive as it was, it was their first glimpse of science fiction. It was grade school for those who had let the whole science fiction revolution pass them by.

Link. Notably, Card praises my favorite current show:
Jeffrey Lieber, J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof have created "Lost," the finest television science fiction series of all time … so far.

I'm pumped that there's a new episode of Lost tonight, as I am every night there is a new episode. It does a good job at what we demand of television shows: walking the fine line between well-crafted literature with deep complexities and frivilous superficial entertainment. I love that every episode divides its time between the backstory of one of the marooned ensemble and the present events on their strange island, with at least one and often both of these threads ending in a bizarre twist. I love that there are constantly emerging truths, never quite explained. I love that the series is trying hard to work as an allegory about the formation of society out of a state of nature, going so far as to include characters named Rousseau and John Locke. And so, while I am wary that Card's praise is premature--that there's only been one season of the show and we don't know how it will hold up, that we can't even be sure that it's science fiction yet--I am glad that the show is getting high-profile recognition. And I'm positively stoked for tonight.



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My Ripper Was a Sailor

Brian
The popular wisdom says that Jack the Ripper, the serial killer who terrorized London in 1888, was a surgeon; he mutilated his victims with scientific precision. A new book poses a contrary theory: Jack was a sailor responsible for not only the killings in Whitechapel but also more in Nicaragua and Germany.

[Trevor Marriott's] conclusions, published this week in Jack the Ripper: the 21st Century Investigation, challenge the conventional wisdom that the murderer was a skilled surgeon. Moreover, Marriott says the location and timing of the killings - not far from London docks with gaps of several weeks in between - suggest the killer may have been a merchant seaman.

Marriott thinks he may have identified the ship he arrived on - the Sylph, a 600-tonne cargo vessel which arrived in Britain from Barbados in July 1888, before the killing of the Ripper's first victim, Mary Ann Nichols, and which returned to the Caribbean on November 22, two weeks after the Kelly slaying, from where the same killer could have committed the Nicaraguan murder spree.

"The detectives at the time took a very blinkered approach,' says Marriott. "They were convinced the killer was someone who lived or worked in the Whitechapel area. They completely overlooked the fact that there was a pattern emerging which pointed to the possibility the killer may have been a sailor who only occasionally visited Whitechapel, hence the gaps between the murders."


Link. Perhaps the sailor theory would also explain the killings around the London Bridge in Lake Havasu, Arizona.

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