Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Enzyte Song (The Biggest Dicks Of All)

Well, it looks like "Smilin' Bob" won't be smiling much for a while.  The (Cincinnati) Enquirer reports that Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, the makers of Enzyte, are in court, accused of defrauding customers... to the tune of $100 million. That's an awful lot of male enhancement.
James Teegarden Jr., the former vice president of operations at Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals, explained Tuesday in U.S. District Court how he and others at the company made up much of the content that appeared in Enzyte ads.

He said employees of the Forest Park company created fictitious doctors to endorse the pills, fabricated a customer satisfaction survey and made up numbers to back up claims about Enzyte’s effectiveness.

“So all this is a fiction?” Judge S. Arthur Spiegel asked about some of the claims.
“That’s correct, your honor,” Teegarden said.

In their honor, I give you The Enzyte Song, or The Biggest Dicks Of All.

I once was meek and unassuming;
Walked around with storm clouds looming,
Awkward, sad; an isolated loner
I thought that I would be more happy,
Tell jokes better, dress more snappy,
Only if I had a bigger boner.

The TV said that I'd be smiling,
Witty, charming, smooth, beguiling--
Men in lab coats gave their solemn promise.
Studies showed I'd make more money,
Skies above would be more sunny,
If I had a Major League John Thomas.

Bob, Bob, Bob! Quit polishing your knob!
You always knew that Enzyte didn't work.
Hey, hey, hey! We're gonna make you pay!
That's what you get for being such a jerk!

I sent away to get a sample
Knowing I'd soon be more ample;
Nervous, 'cos of how much was at stake.
I knew that there was nothing less
Than all my future happiness
Dependent on a giant trouser-snake.

I took the capsules as directed,
Waited till the change affected;
Gradually, I realized, in shock--
Nothing changed; I still was geeky,
Shirt still wrinkled, shoes still squeaky,
Most of all, no difference in my cock!

Bob, Bob, Bob! Quit polishing your knob!
You always knew that Enzyte didn't work.
Hey, hey, hey! We're gonna make you pay!
That's what you get for being such a jerk!

Now I hear they're all on trial;
Records show, despite denial,
Lab results and surveys worse than iffy.
If customers weren't satisfied
The company just simply lied,
And wrote "I'm so delighted with my stiffy!"

So, yeah, right now they must be bumming,
But surely they all saw it coming:
"The bigger they are, the harder they will fall."
And in a twist a bit ironic,
No thanks to their useless tonic,
They've shown themselves the biggest dicks of all!

Bob, Bob, Bob! Quit polishing your knob!
You always knew that Enzyte didn't work.
Hey, hey, hey! We're gonna make you pay!
That's what you get for being such a jerk!

Tip o' the cuttle to Jake Young at Pure Pedantry.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Now, That's A Lot Of Bull!

"Indian brokers at the Bombay Stock Exchange are calling on the authorities to bring in religious experts to change the direction of a bronze bull statue.

They say the posterior of the bull, placed at the footsteps of the exchange building, points towards the traders which makes it inauspicious."

Our observations of the world
We may distill and write as "laws"
These shape our understanding, thus
We see effects, and look for cause.

The tools of science guide our search:
We vary, systematically,
Alleged cause--does output change?
Or simply sit there statically?

We put our theories to the test
And really try to prove them wrong.
(Unless we do, how can we know
An explanation's weak or strong?)

The power of coincidence
To make us see what isn't real
Is just one thing we're up against,
As stories in the news reveal:

On January 12th this year,
A statue of a bull was placed
Outside the Bombay Stock Exchange--
The steps, behind; the street, it faced.

The sculpture is a work of art
Expressing movement, form, and mass,
But brokers in the building want
To relocate the statue's ass.

The bull's hind end is magic, see,
And has the strange ability
To influence the world, and cause
The market's volatility!

That's right--it's not the sub-prime stuff,
It's not the housing market bubble,
But a bronze bull's butt in Old Bombay
That must have caused the market's trouble.

Don't fret about your stocks and bonds
Investments now are clearly sound;
Just get the Mumbai analysts
To turn their magic bull around.

And once you do, please be assured,
The market will again be steady,
And we can deal with other things--
There's far, far too much bull already.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


"Pastor Renee Brewster and her husband Bishop Winston Brewster are a very spiritual couple. But the site of their savior in a potato has reinvigorated their faith and their desire to help others." (MyFox Orlando)

I did not make up that quote.

I mean, you have to be spiritual to see Jesus in a potato. Or tortilla. Or frying pan. Or oyster. (Or another oyster.) Or pirogi. Or grease stain. Or water stain. Or dog's butt.

I mean, what other reason could there be, but spirituality?

(With deep and sincere apologies to Ira and George Gershwin...)

You say “potato”, and I say “Jesus”
You say “hey, wait—Oh, just look at the pieces!”
Right there in the bowl, he’s so wonderfully holy
Let’s call the guys at Fox!
You say “sandwich”, and I say “Mary”
You think it’s grand, which I think is just scary
But you need no urgin’ to see you a virgin
Let’s call the guys at Fox!

And Oh!—if we call the guys at Fox
We’ll make the news.
And Oh!—If we’re on the news,
There’s no way we can lose

So if you say “tortilla”, and I say “Jesus”
I promise I’ll see a real face in the cheeses
How lucky would we be, to be on the TV
Let’s call the guys at Fox--
Let’s call the guys at Fox!

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Wow. Just... wow.

I knew that humans had left a large footprint on the planet, but I don't think I ever really quite grasped the scale. According to the Geological Society of America, in the February issue of GSA Today (pdf), it could be argued that we have entered into a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene. (I say "it could be argued", because the scientific community is doing just that.) The actions of humans have had effects on a global scale--erosion due to agriculture and deforestation, changes in sediment dispersal due to both erosion and the damming of most of the significant rivers, increased carbon levels, accelerated extinctions and population declines, ocean chemistry changes, especially impacting coral reefs and plankton exoskeletons...

These changes are big enough and abrupt enough to serve as a geologic marker. A million years from now, future geologists (human or not) will be able to see our footprint. I just hope they aren't using it as a cautionary tale--"this species, unlike the dinosaurs before them, brought their end on themselves..."

The scale of geologic time is vast
With all of human history a blink—
The march of continents, the ages past
The growth of life, the ice-caps swell and shrink

To mark the boundaries at this scale, we note
Some catastrophic change within the rock—
A comet’s impact kicks up ash, to coat
The planet’s surface, and to mark our clock

We humans, in the past two hundred years,
Have changed the earth is many different ways
With mass extinctions, global warming fears,
Oceans rising, rain forests set ablaze…

We see what comes from human and machine
As Holocene becomes Anthropocene

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Charge To Keep... (yeah, that's the ticket...)

This painting, I do not think I am understating, is important to President George W. Bush. He even took the painting's title as the title of his autobiography: "A Charge To Keep". And... it kinda looks like him. Don't you think? The real story of the painting, though... well, it's all right here.

A noble horseman leads a gallant charge--
Full gallop, up a steep and rocky trail
The group he leads is small; their courage large,
And heart and God ensure they will prevail.

This painting is a message to us all,
The very spirit of the Lone Star State,
That when our cause is just, we cannot fall--
Serve God, and you need never fear your fate!

Except...the painting here depicts a thief,
Who only narrowly escapes the noose;
The story may be Bush's true belief,
But his interpretation is... well... loose.

A realistic painting, but at best
For Bush, a diagnostic Rorschach test

Hat tip to Pharyngula...

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Researchers at the University of Chicago (also reported in the New York Times) have explored the tendency to anthropomorphize--how we, especially when lonely, attribute human characteristics to our pets, to inanimate objects, and even to Our Invisible Friend.
The researchers designed three experiments to test their expectations that lonely people are more likely to make up for their lack of social connection by creating humanlike connections with gadgets or pets, or to increase their belief in the supernatural.

In one experiment, the team found a correlation between how lonely people felt and their tendency to describe a gadget in terms of humanlike mental states.

In another experiment, the team made people feel lonely in the laboratory by asking them to write about a time when they felt lonely or isolated. Under those circumstances, they were more likely to believe in the supernatural, whether it be God, angels or miracles, than when they were not feeling lonely.

“If we made them feel lonely, they were also more likely to describe a pet, even if it wasn’t their own pet, as having humanlike mental states that were related to social connection, like being more thoughtful, considerate and compassionate,” Epley said.

The research further revealed that not just any negative emotional state produces this effect. “It’s something special about loneliness,” Epley said. Fear, for example, doesn’t increase reported belief in God, or how people describe their pets.

If loneliness depresses you,
Researchers say that what you'll do
If no one's there with whom to sup,
You'll be inclined to make one up,
Conversing with a dog or cat,
Or maybe, in the lab, a rat.

When lonely, or in isolation
We use anthropomorphization,
Projecting human mental states
Like wants and needs, or loves and hates
On pets, or cars, or even God
(Explains a lot you might find odd!)

We do this when we feel alone
Or isolated, it is shown,
But not when we're afraid or mad
And not when we are merely sad--
It's isolation's misery
That animates our company.

So Wilson, on the island beach
With human kind so out of reach
Became Chuck Noland's only friend,
Through thick and thin, till (near) the end.
(In outtakes, we may yet discover,
Wilson also served as lover!)

But why a volleyball? The study
Says the reason for this buddy
Also works to give a god
A greater "humanlike" facade--
So why a ball? The truth, I feel,
Is: Unlike God, the ball was real.

So talking to a volleyball
Is not so crazy after all.

(Oh, and for the record, the application of their study to Wilson is their own idea, not mine.)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Nautical Yarn...

Oh, my! I have found it! Ok, it's not a knit brain or teratoma, but hey, I am not "the digital teratoma", so I am happy as a cephalopod with a Mr. Potato Head to find this site, with patterns for knitting some of my favorite sea creatures! I am not affiliated with the site at all, but I hope I can send her a bit of extra business!

Had we but yarn enough, and time,
And knew to knit instead of rhyme,
We would sit down to purl and knit
The whole day through, and never quit;
A cute and cuddly cuttlefish
Or “Squid-a-licious”, if you wish
Two kinds of octopus, and more,
The cutest things beyond the shore!
A starfish and a brittle star;
A nudibranch (it’s so bizarre!)
A jellyfish, and seahorse, too
So many that I’d like to do
If only I knew how to knit
But I do not… so here I sit.

Dueling destinies

This past Friday, I found myself listening to NPR's Talk of the Nation--Science Friday, and I was struck by a throw-away comment by one of the guests. The subject was the Messenger fly-by of the planet Mercury; a caller asked something about the effects of the sun's expansion on the atmospheres of the planets. The expert noted that, although he was not an expert on stars, he knew that the sun would eventually expand to the point where it would likely engulf the inner planets. Of course, this would happen billions of years from now, so it is nothing to lose sleep over. It's not as if the world is going to be transformed tonight into a lake of fire.

No, that view was on the other radio station.

I was driving along, with the radio tuned
To the lowermost end of the dial;
Through the static, two stations were both coming in
So I listened to both for a while.
First one, then the other, would drift into range
As the road, through the hills, wound around;
And I gradually noticed, the speakers on both
Were discussing the same common ground.
The topic today was the end of the world,
And both stations had stories to tell;
The first speaker told how the sun would expand
But the second was speaking of Hell.
The first station spoke of the Messenger mission
And NASA’s new triumph in space
With instruments measuring surface and core
And cameras detailing its face.
The craters and faults look a lot like our moon
But the temperature there can melt lead!
As the speaker continued, I found myself shocked
By the very next thing that he said:
He noted “of course, in a few billion years,
We know that the sun will expand,
And the Earth will be hotter than Mercury now—
We’ll be long gone by then, understand.”
Now, I know that our species is really quite young
When compared to the age of the Earth
And the odds of survival are frankly quite small,
So today is of infinite worth.
But to hear this astronomer matter-of-factly
Discuss how our planet would die
Was a sobering thing—even more so because
Of the evidence none could deny.
Now, the funny thing is that the alternate station
Was speaking of fire as well
And the punishment meeting each ignorant sinner
Eternally sentenced to Hell.
The end is not coming in billions of years
But when God calls us back to his side.
It could happen tomorrow, so live your life right
With the Bible alone as your guide.
Today’s not important; the whole of your life
Is just prelude to life after death
In Heaven or Hell, so your choice must be made--
It’s too late once you draw your last breath.
He was blatantly trying to frighten his listeners
But strangely, I wasn’t afraid.
A Bronze-age mythology doesn’t stand up
When there’s evidence there to be weighed.

It’s funny—the world-view that talks about Heaven
And promises souls will survive
Has to stoop to extortion and threats, like I heard
As I motored along on my drive.
The so-called “dispassionate world-view of science”
Has beauty, and greater appeal—
What’s more, in a contrast from mythical Hell
What is studied in science is real.
No threats of damnation, just projects like Messenger
Quietly getting it done—
Enjoy your Earth—only a few billion years
Till the whole thing’s engulfed by the Sun.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Matters Of The Heart (... in a jar)

It's all over the news--researchers at the University of Minnesota have "created a beating heart in the laboratory". Basically, they used the protein fiber matrix from one heart, stripped of muscle cells, as a scaffold upon which to grow a new heart, using a solution of cells from another rat. Yeah. I know, all this talk about hearts is so romantic. So, in a bit of a reversal from my previous position, I return to the romantic view of the heart as the foundation of love, with a trio of little verses inspired by the heart in the jar. I can see it now... the picture above, on the front of the Hallmark card, with one of the following verses inside...

I'm new at this game,

And I don't know your name,

But I love you, whoever you are;

My heart may be true

But it's also brand new

I grew it myself, in a jar!

I can feel my heart grow,

So I love you, you know, 

And not like a cousin or brother;

I will give you my heart--

Every bit, every part;

If you break it, I'll grow me another.

My heart is yours; it’s in a jar
That sits upon your shelf;
It’s happy being where you are
And not all by itself.
You asked me for a souvenir
To keep while we’re apart;
I thought a bit, and it was clear—
It had to be my heart.
And now, although my heart may soar,
It is no longer mine;
A message that forevermore
I’ll be your valentine.

A rat cadaver’s donor heart
Is stripped of every cell
The protein fiber matrix left
Looks like a ghostly shell;
This matrix, in a sterile flask,
Is bathed in rat-heart goo
With both adult and baby cells,
And starts to grow anew.
In only days, the growing heart
May beat, or merely twitch,
Then work, at roughly two percent…

Like yours, you heartless bitch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What the...Huck?

In case you were the one who missed hearing this story, it turns out that presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee really truly actually for-real is a Man of God (tm). Whether speaking from his heart, or in a bid to outflank his opponents and capture the fundamentalist vote, The Huckster announced to a Michigan crowd Monday that he wishes to change the United States Constitution, to bring it in line with "the word of the living god". Really, he said that.

When you think about it, though, it is not all that radical. What were his other choices? I mean, you could bring it in line with the word of all the dead gods, but frankly I don't see that garnering a lot of votes. Or you could choose to have a constitution that draws authority from "We the People". As someone much more gifted with words than I am put it, it would be a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."

And who needs that?

There's too much pollution in our constitution
As any good Christian can see;
Compare with the Bible, and anyone's liable
To note that the two don't agree.
And so, if we tell 'em it's just ink and vellum,
Not sacred like God's Holy Word
The people might buy it, and let someone try it
Although it seems wholly absurd!
A nip and a tuck 'd be just fine for Huckabee--
Really, I don't like the odds--
He already said it; he's ready to edit,
And substitute Man's law with God's.
This ludicrous scheming (I wish I were dreaming)
Must surely be nearing its end;
Voters, open your eyes, and say your goodbyes
To the Huckster's invisible friend!

Verse originally posted as a comment on Pharyngula.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

"The New Phone Book's Here!!!"

In the movie "The Jerk", Steve Martin's character gets excited when the new phone books arrive: "I'm somebody now!" I kinda feel a little like that, today. There is a wonderful new book out, full of excellent writing on Academia, Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mathematics & Technology, Medicine & Health Sciences, Humanities and Social Sciences... oh, yeah, and my little poem.

Even though I thought The Ridger's poem was better, mine is the one you can see in the preview; indeed, aside from the table of contents (which you should take a look at--this is an excellent collection!), my poem is the only bit of writing in the preview! A position of honor, indeed!

... and I had to choose to remain anonymous? So much for fame, glory, and fabulous riches!

Anyway, the book is available here--be sure to click the "preview this book" link and see what all is in this collection! If I ever run into anybody who has bought one, I will (given sufficient notice) sign it with a poem for them--and just for them.

And if you are looking for a poem in this post, that is also there in that link.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Keep an open mind!

I wonder sometimes, why it is that the people who tell me to "keep an open mind" have theirs utterly closed to the possibility that they might be wrong. An open mind, of course, is willing to follow the available evidence, even if it disagrees with one's assumptions. An open mind is not one that keeps an issue open after every bit of information says "case closed." But of course, as I have heard it most frequently, "keep an open mind" is used as a synonym for "agree with me!"

An open window can be a good thing, but a window which cannot be closed is just a hole in your wall. There are times when it is ok to shut the window. You can always open it up again if the evidence says you should.

Anyway, today's verse:

They told me “keep an open mind,
And you will see—the world’s designed,
And everything that’s in it.
The folks who say mutation’s random?
Open-minded folks can’t stand ‘em
Even for a minute!
You see the touch of God each day
In every strand of DNA
Unless your mind is closed;
When looking at genetic blueprints
Clearly, there are You-Know-Who-prints
For those so predisposed.”

I told them “really, no offense…
I’ll need to see some evidence.”

They told me “keep an open mind,
And never heed the double blind
Experiments of science;
The open-minded person knows
You cannot trust what science shows—
The truth is in defiance!
It’s science that is always changing;
Scientists keep rearranging—
How could it be true?
So put your trust in common thought,
Which needs no facts at all—well, not
In my considered view.”

I told them “that’s a lame pretense…
I’m waiting for your evidence.”

They told me “keep an open mind
While we stick pins in your behind
To fix your aching head;
We’ve got to re-align your back—
Don’t be alarmed to hear a crack
Or have some herbs instead!
Now take a draught of this solution,
Infinite in its dilution,
(That’s what makes it strong!)
So many cures that fit your Karma,
Hard to see just how Big Pharma
Always gets it wrong.”

I told them “you may not commence
Until you show me evidence!”

They told me “keep an open mind—
Our brainwaves, if they’re all combined,
Can lead to lasting peace;
And simply wishing hard enough
Brings health and love and other stuff,
They’ve known since Ancient Greece!
The figure of the Oracle
Was not just allegorical—
It works! Just take a look!
The truth is, if you wish and pray,
It might just happen, come some day—
And Oprah likes the book!”

I told them “here are my two cents—
Please wish and pray for evidence.”

They told me “keep an open mind;
Though in this lifetime you’re confined
Within your mortal part,
In death you find a pure release
And living on in love and peace,
The you inside your heart,
You’ll leave behind this thin façade
To gaze upon the face of God
If, meekly, you submit;
Each death, each illness is God’s will
You can’t reach Heaven’s gate until
The mortal world you quit.”

I told them “such a moral sense!
If only you had evidence!”

She told me “keep an open mind,
And while our bodies are entwined
Our energies commingle.
Don’t roll your eyes, I do implore;
I speak, of course, in metaphor--
And by the way, I’m single.”
From one to ten? She’s my eleven;
Better than some made-up heaven,
Wondrously mundane!
And best of all, I think you’ll find,
Much better than an “open mind”
She keeps a working brain.

Friday, January 11, 2008


As Disney and Pixar have so often told us,
The ultimate goal of a toy
Is to live in the sweet, unconditional love
Of a cute-as-a-bug girl or boy

But the truth is, the love of a boy or a girl,
Though I’m sure that it must have its charms,
Could never compete with the story of Louis--
Who hugs with all eight of his arms!

BBC story here.
A giant Pacific octopus living in a Cornish aquarium has formed an unlikely bond with a child's plastic toy.
Louis regularly plays with the Mr Potato Head figure which was given to him as part of an enrichment project at Newquay's Blue Reef Aquarium.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Dirty Bird! Dirty Bird!

Flags to bulls, debates to pundits, quackery to Orac... some things just elicit reflexive responses. GrrlScientist was looking for songs about birds, and a comment led to... this.

I apologize in advance. (yes, it does have a tune.)

We met on the day of the backyard bird count,
and I thought her exceedingly pleasant
With lovely long legs, like a heron’s mount,
and the breast of a succulent pheasant;
I will nevermore grouse, like a lark I will sing,
at the wonderful evening to follow—
Now she calls me her snowcock, the pretty young thing,
and I call her my sweet red-rumped swallow!

I just thought, on a lark,
We could walk in the dark
Just my raven-haired beauty and me
If my heart doesn’t quail
As we stand at the rail
This old coot has a desperate plea:
By the light of the moon
I’m a bit of a loon
And half out of the mind that I’m in--
So I’m asking, would you be
My blue-footed booby
And join me in cardinal sin…

I said “My name’s Jay”; she replied “Call me Phoebe”,
And craned, with the grace of a swan;
I saw a great tit, thought “How lucky could we be?”
And our list, once we kissed, now was on!
We ducked out the back, oh so rapid and swift—
With her pace, why, I barely could match ‘er—
Now she calls me woodpecker, which gives me a lift,
And I call her my dear oystercatcher!

I just thought, on a lark,
We could walk in the dark
Just my raven-haired beauty and me
If my heart doesn’t quail
As we stand at the rail
This old coot has a desperate plea:
By the light of the moon
I’m a bit of a loon
And half out of the mind that I’m in--
So I’m asking, would you be
My blue-footed booby
And join me in cardinal sin…

Kick off your Sunday shoes, Missouri!

Afarensis reports on life imitating art imitating life. It's Footloose, but in St. Charles, Mo. "The proposal would ban indecent, profane or obscene language, songs, entertainment and literature at bars."

So if Kenny Loggins wants to cut the soundtrack to Kevin Bacon's "Footloose 2: The Documentary", I scribbled down a few lines for him...

It's the limit! It's the end!
From now on it's "What a friend
We have in Jeeeeeeeesus!"
It's a blizzard, not a flurry,
Cos the people of Missouri
Say Hell freeeeeeezes!

I'll take everything to God in prayer,
And hope to hell that God is there
From what to sing, to what to wear
Let God decide, cos I don't caaaaaaaare...

Grow a backbone, you amoeba
Or you'll nevermore hear Reba
Cos St. Charles is making you sick
And the Devil loves rock music
And hellfiiiiiiiire

I'll take everything to God in prayer,
And hope to hell that God is there
From what to sing, to what to wear
Let God decide, cos I don't caaaaaaaare...

Hurry, scurry, time to worry, no more sinning in Missouri
Onward Christian soldiers, now advaaaaance!
Shakin', quakin', god-forsaken, send the call for Kevin Bacon
Maybe he can teach the kids to daaaance!

And what's more, the city's thinking
Let's ban table-dancing, drinking,
Yes, and sweeeeeaaaaaring
We can see throughout these verses,
And the famines, plagues, and curses
That God's caaaaaaaaaring

I'll take everything to God in prayer,
And hope to hell that God is there
From what to sing, to what to wear
Let God decide, cos I don't caaaaaaaare...

Hurry, scurry, time to worry, no more sinning in Missouri
Onward Christian soldiers, now advaaaaance!
Shakin', quakin', god-forsaken, send the call for Kevin Bacon
Maybe he can teach the kids to daaaance!
Six degrees from maybe our last chaaaance...

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Juxtapositions (I just love that word)

Shelley, at Retrospectacle, once again has captured my attention. Plague week continues, of course, but another post will not be denied attention--how often do you get the chance to watch an egg-sized cyst, full of tapeworm larvae, being removed from a 16-year-old girl's brain?

Yeah, I know, cool!

Cool...because the girl lives, and makes a full recovery. Because she lives in this century, rather than in a century when people saw the plague as God's wrath, treatable by prayer, bleeding, herbs, mercury, or lucky charms.

You can complain about modern health care all you like. I take a bit of a wider view. It has saved my life on more than one occasion, has saved my son... There are old cemetaries in this area that are practically littered with infant and child graves, many where the child had not lived long enough to be named. Follow the link. Watch this huge cyst being removed from this girl's brain. Be grateful to medicine, science, education... you live in a very good time to be alive.

A golf-ball sized hydatid cyst
Is not the sort of thing I'd list
As one I'd like to try.
Indeed, I'd rather think it marvy
Not to host so many larvae--
I'm not that kind of guy.

In juxtaposing these two posts
Where humans serve unwilling hosts
To tapeworms or bacilli,
And treatment may be surgery
Or bleeding, charms, or mercury,
You make my spine go chilly.

I won't say much, but I concede
That in the past, I've had the need
To seek a doctor's care;
I'm fine, of course, but even so,
I think: It's not that long ago
My "treatment" would be prayer.

This girl here in your video
(My daughter's age, I'll have you know)
Is lucky as can be--
To live in this, the present day
Where science, not the church, holds sway
I hope that you'll agree.

For her, and for my daughter's sake
I'd like to take this chance to make
A science-based reply;
For researchers, for doctors, nurses,
Not for priests, or prayer, or curses
The stakes are much too high.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Oh, rats!

From the fleas of rats and mouses
To a plague a' both your houses,
If we can't blame sheep or horses, then we gotta blame the Jews
When we found a small bacillus,
Not a god, had tried to kill us
It's the sort of information anyone can surely use!
If you wish Yersinia pestis
Not to kill you, our request is
That you clean the fleas from bedding, and the rats from in your larder
But if you're afraid of science
And you'd rather put reliance
In the methods of the church, then their advice is: Just pray harder!

Shelley at Retrospectacle has begun a week-long series that I am very much looking forward to--that's right, it's Plague Week!!

I have always been fascinated by The Plague; no matter how I have tried, I don't think I can wrap my head around what life must have been like during such horrible events. I hope that the avian flu does not give us the chance to find out.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Danger! Warning!

When bloggers write, with laptops, seated,
Bits of them get overheated—
Sitting in their rooms, retreated
To their hidden cloisters.
If I should hear “Well done! Well done!”
I hope they mean my writing’s fun
And not some cruel and heartless pun
About my mountain oysters.

The writers putting out these blogs,
Like robots built with well-oiled cogs,
Or samurai, or feral dogs,
Eviscerate their fools—
But now, it seems they face a danger,
Not from any foe or stranger,
Simply from a heat exchanger
Near their family jewels.

Though Yossi Vardi starts to warn
It’s not time, yet, to be forlorn
(Though if your kids are not yet born
You’re one unlucky putz.)
It is, however, time to plan,
And if you are a hopeful man,
To buy and use a cooling fan.
Oh, yes… and shave your nuts.

Thanks to Greg Laden.

It's A Miracle!

Man survives after God pushes him off a skyscraper...

"If we can talk about medical miracles, this certainly qualifies," said Herbert Pardes, president and chief executive officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital, during a news conference.

Moreno, whose brother Edgar died in the Dec. 7 accident, broke at least 10 bones, including multiple ribs, his right arm, vertebrae and both legs after the 500-foot fall from an apartment building on East 66th Street following an apparent malfunction of the scaffolding. Edgar Moreno, 30, also of Linden, struck a fence and was killed instantly. Neither man was wearing a safety harness.

I always found it rather odd
When people think to credit God;
The doctors helped, at least a bit,
The rescue workers didn't quit,
The strangers there, who saw him fall
And made the first responder call
So many people did so much
But still we see His Holy Touch--
You see, it seems the signs are there
That show this man has seen God's care:
The shattered ankle, broken shin
The shards of bone that pierce through skin
The massive bleeding in his gut--
Yes, every fracture, every cut--
This is the way that God Above
Displays His omnipresent Love.
And just in case He's still denied
Remember, this man's brother died.
Such agony makes Man aware
Of just how precious is God's care
And when Humanity forgets,
God has a way to hedge his bets:
He'll find a patsy, just some guy,
Like this Moreno, way up high--
When disbelievers start to scoff
God simply pushes this guy off;
With bleeding, pain, and broken bone,
God shows us that we're not alone,
With just a little Godly shove,
He gets a chance to prove His Love.

Of course, Orac got there first.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Of Trees, and Life, and Fun

Clicking in through a post at The Loom, I was led to a wonderfully inspirational site, the Interactive Tree Of Life! For some people, a site like this puts them immediately in mind of Darwin. Others, Linnaeus. Others, Gould. Others, others.

Not me.

Me, I see a site like this and immediately think of Ogden Nash. Naturally.

Nash wrote classic little verses inspired by various animals. Here, for instance, is a site that presents the Nash classics "The Octopus", "The Panther", "Centipede", "The Firefly", "Ant", "The Cow", "The Turtle", and several others (although, if memory serves, "The Eel" as presented on this site is incomplete). They are wonderful little pieces, unmistakably and marvelously Ogden Nash.

One notes, however, that they are limited to animals. The Tree Of Life site reminds us of just how narrow a focus that really is. So, as I said, I look at that interactive site and wonder what Ogden Nash would have thought of it. I make no pretensions about coming even close to Nash, but I thought I'd take a stab at a few. Each of these is represented on the site by a number and a picture, with links to source articles for information.

My point is not that this is any sort of high art--rather, my point is that the stereotype of the expansive vision of the artist, and the narrow focus of the scientist... are stereotypes, not reality. The tree of life is awe-inspiring, all the more so because it is not a fiction, but well-documented reality.

Oh, yeah, the verses...

Escherichia coli 562; Shigella flexneri 623

Escherichia coli and Shigella flexneri
Are technically different—but really, not very.

Porphyromonas gingivalis 837

Porphyromonas gingivalis,
To tell the honest truth,
Attacks the oral cavity—
The gum, and bone, and tooth;
I did not heed my mother’s word—
She warned me (quote: “Forsooth!”)
But I chose not to brush or floss,
And now my thmile ith looth.

Pyrococcus furiosus 2261

Remember the movie “Some Like It Hot”
With Marilyn, Tony, and Jack?
This archaebacterium’s like that a lot
(But it doesn’t have Marilyn’s rack).
But in sea-water heated to 100 C
It can still make a go at mitosis—
With habits like this, this creature must be
Pyrococcus furiosus.

Oryza sativa 4530

Oryza sativa (the Latin for “rice”)
Is genetically simple, which really is nice;
The genome for corn is some five times as big
And for wheat, roughly forty times larger—you dig?
But rice is a staple for billions, you know,
And the template for much of the grain that we grow.
So we study Oryza, my favorite crop,
To find out the genes behind “snap, crackle, pop!”

Drosophila melanogaster 7227

Geneticists love this little guy—
In my kitchen, he’s a disaster;
We both agree, the dude is fly:
Drosophila melanogaster!

Gallus gallus 9031

Nine-oh-three-one, or Gallus gallus
Comes as quite a shock:
The picture shows (no, not a phallus)
One fantastic cock!

Rattus norvegicus 10116

Rattus norvegicus, Norway Rat,
Is cute as a bug, and that is that.

Cryptosporidium hominis 237895

O Cryptosporidium hominis!
It’s never good to see ya—
For countless anno dominis
You’ve brought us diarrhea!

Wigglesworthia brevipalpis 36870

Wigglesworthia brevipalpis (How I love that name!)
Isn’t as cute as kittens, but it has a claim to fame—
It lives symbiotically, in the gut of the blood-sucking tsetse fly
(You’d think D.I. would eat this up, but they don’t even want to try.)
The tsetse fly carries trypanosomes, which kill both man and cattle;
Without ol’ Wiggly, the flies are sterile, and that is half the battle.
The genome project could help in this, but just you keep in mind,
There is nothing we can do if it’s intelligently designed.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


As of midnight last night, New Hampshire's laws have changed, allowing "civil unions" between same-sex couples. In related news, there appears to be an upcoming election, with candidates vying to stake out the high moral ground. At least one candidate has announced plans to use the civil union issue in campaign ads. No, I won't say which one; I won't waste the pixels. Suffice it to say, the whole state has been rocked to the core by the knowledge that the sanctity of our marriages has been fundamentally shaken overnight, by allowing people to marry one another simply because they are in long-term loving relationships. The nerve...

I had insufficient warning
When I stumbled out this morning
Past a half a dozen candidates, each stumping for my vote;
When I looked, the morning paper
Had a headline of some caper
Or the record-breaking snowfall—really, nothing there of note.

So I grabbed my trusty shovel
To plow out my “home sweet hovel”
When I noticed something different—something didn’t quite feel right.
There was snow, and politicians,
But some change in the conditions
Made me wonder if my marriage had the sanctity it might.

So I checked the sanctitometer
And struggled not to vomit—her
“Conventional morality in danger” light was on!
Now a grim new dawn was breaking
And I couldn’t stop my shaking
‘Cos the morally upstanding world I trusted now was gone!

I considered seeking shelter
As I watched the helter-skelter
Of the politicians canvassing the noble Granite State;
I heard one of them disparage
Civil Unions, or Gay Marriage
As the reason for the panic—then I thought, more clearly, “wait!”

All this rattling of sabers
Is about my friends and neighbors;
These are people whom I know, and who have lived here all along
If these folks are who they’re blaming
It’s just pre-election gaming
And between the politicians and my friends, I know who’s wrong.

If our morals are declining
As the candidates keep whining
I propose a different theory to explain why this is so:
An invasive mass of liars
With their speeches, signs, and flyers,
Slinging mud and kissing babies in a dog-and-pony show.

Soon the voting will be over
And the state, from Keene to Dover,
And from Lancaster to Nashua, will heave a weary sigh;
With the moral issue buried
Now my neighbors can get married
And the Granite State will mean it when it says “Live Free or Die!”

(Tip o' the cuttle to Dispatches from the Culture Wars)