Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Sinister Plot

It happened again, just this morning,
As Winter took over from Fall
I find thirty-two gloves for my right hand;
For my left, I find nothing at all.

As I bike from my home to my office
Though the weather’s exceedingly nice
I arrive with my right hand all toasty
But my left, like a large block of ice.

Is it dogs? Is it mice? Is it chipmunks?
Is it vengeful and devious elves?
Are my neighbors conspiring against me?
Do my gloves walk away by themselves?

I suspect my left gloves band together
In some secret lair, hidden from sight;
In their absence I travel half-frozen,
But don’t worry—I’m clearly all right.

Monday, November 29, 2010


It doesn't seem quite fair to me, but it appears that Lulu (where my book is available) is having a CyberMonday sale--today only, 25% off any purchase (30% off purchases of $750 or more, for anyone who wants to buy 38 copies of my book). To those people who already have their copies on the way--I'm sorry; I honestly didn't know they were going to do this.

My question is, are they lowering the price by cutting authors' commissions? Or is that sheer paranoia on my part?

Anyway... they say the code for today is CYBER25 to get the discount. You should all try it out, and get your shopping out of the way early.

The Cyber Monday shoppers
Could find savings on some whoppers
If they buy a giant flat-screen, or a Kindle or a Nook
They could click away at clothing
Or computer gear with loathing
Or could see their worries melt away, by ordering my book.
They could feel the calm erasing
The anxieties they're facing--
Sure, they could use medication, but I've got a better way
If your gift-list has you crying
And you want to stop the buying
Might I recommend the Cuttle-Book--but order it today!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

One Stop Atheist Christmas

Looking back over the years, I find that I have written quite a bit for christmastime. Of course, I post them as the day draws near, and typically far too late for anyone to send them out as cards, or (more likely) as a response to somebody's chain-letter, spam, facebook rant, or Fox news story. So I thought I'd collect some of them here, on the off chance that they might come in handy a bit earlier in the season.

First, An Atheist Christmas, from 3 years ago (have I really been writing this blog that long?):
We’ll all open presents, and cook a big dinner,
And share in traditions we learned long ago
But Christmas is different for this humble sinner,
No “birth of the saviour”, just people we know.
I always liked that one.

Then, the war on christmas reared its ugly head, and had to be explained:
So it’s Christmas—my Christmas—my secular day;
The Supreme Court decided it must be that way.
As a secular holiday, Christmas can stay,
With department-store Santa Claus, there on display,
Or with Rudolph, or some other TV cliché,
And your photograph taken in front of the sleigh.
A bit clunkier than the first, but war does that.

"The war on christmas" has been a frequent theme; my proposal on how to fight it was... to celebrate it in all the ways the puritanical enemy finds abhorrent:
From the Cape of Good Hope to the Newfoundland islands,
The sands of Iran to the Panama isthmus;
From Outback Australia to Inverness Highlands
It’s time to take arms in the War Against Christmas!

My weapons are mistletoe, Christmas trees, holly,
A yule-log, and caroling out in the snow;
Sleigh-rides and snowball-fights, eggnog and Jolly
Old Santa Claus, laughing his loud “Ho! Ho! Ho!”

We’ll make them forget all the Truth of the season—
The sacrifice planned by a god up above—
And have them believing some bastardized reason
Like giving, or kindness, or caring or love!
I'm devious, I am.

If I had the slightest artistic talent, I'd have produced my own atheist christmas cards. But I don't so I didn't:

As we battle our way through the line at the store
And think to ourselves “there has got to be more”
And wonder where “Christmas of long ago” went,
When the meaning of Christmas was what it first meant…

It was stolen by Christians from heathens, of course—
From Greeks and from Romans, from Celtics and Norse—
Why, Christmas is pagan, from yule-log to tree
To mistletoe waiting for you and for me


And lastly, from just a few weeks ago, the night before (the war on) christmas:
‘Twas the night before Christmas; the Christians all hunkered
In basements of buildings they’d armored and bunkered.
They huddled in silence; they huddled in fear,
With thoughts that the atheists soon would draw near

Actually, there is even more back in the archives, but this is enough.

Oh, and every one of these is included in the new book!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Cuttlefish Omnibus

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

It’s the latest in technology, delivered to your door
Like the internet, but portable—why, who could ask for more?
All that Cuttlefishy goodness, but in one convenient book
What a marvelous invention; don’t you want to take a look?

You can take it to the mountains; you can take it to the park;
With a flashlight or a candle, you can read it in the dark!
It’s much lighter than a laptop, so transporting it’s a breeze
There’s no silicon or plastic—nope, it’s all recycled trees!

It's the omnibus edition! It's the Cuttlefish, condensed;
If your dog is acting funny, it's because he must have sensed!
So you'd better buy an extra, when you're buying one for you,
Cos the animals all know, it's all the verse that's fit to chew!

You could buy one for your Mother; you could buy one for your Pop
You could buy one for your Pastor just to hear him holler “stop!”
You could buy a bunch, and swap out all the hymnals in a church
So they never find “Amazing Grace” no matter where they search!

You could pull one on the Gideons, and place them in hotels
You could slip one to a Wiccan while she’s murmuring her spells
It’s the perfect gift for enemies—the perfect gift for friends!
It’s the gift that keeps on giving—oh, the messages it sends!

You can take one on an airplane; you can take one to the beach;
You could buy them by the dozen, so there's always one in reach
It's a conversation starter, if you bring it on a date,
And you'll know if you're compatible before it gets too late!

Be the first one on your block to place your order—click today,
And the elf and fairy printers will get on it right away!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tolerance Of Atheists (Just Not By That Name)

So I was driving along last night, listening to the radio, and the local NPR station was playing a rerun of a program on Robert Putnam's book "American Grace: How religion divides and unites us". "Religion, in general, is a positive contribution, I think, to civic life", begins Putnam. He notes that America is very religious (more so than, say, Iran), and notes that religion can be, "when taken in large doses... toxic to civic life". But americans are both very religious and very tolerant. He says.

The first caller (about 10 minutes in), though, is an atheist, who has experienced the intolerance of religious believers herself. Putnam is clearly uncomfortable. The research showing that americans are so tolerant... did not use the term "atheist" when asking about tolerance of those who hold no religious beliefs. He really does not like the word "atheist" ("a very bad word in american life"), and has to resort to some serious verbal gymnastics to avoid using it at times.

It's an interesting listen (found it!), and I found myself drawing very different conclusions from the same findings Putnam was reporting (not always--some were quite straightforward). It was exceedingly frustrating whenever Putnam was asked about atheists--the host does press him about not using the word "atheist" ("Doesn't the fact that you have to use a different word show a degree of intolerance?"); the host knew about recent polls indicating that an atheist would not be electable, and asks Putnam about that. It really seems he wanted to find tolerance. He does find intolerance toward non-believers, but the word atheist ("Most americans don't use the word atheist, even describing themselves") seems to be a special case.

Yeah, I can believe many people don't use the word "atheist" to describe themselves. This is a result of intolerance. Most people don't walk around with a "kick me" sign on their back, if they can help it.

Anyway, I was frustrated. So I wrote this:

Americans are tolerant, despite what you have heard,
Of differing religious groups (though “mine” is still preferred),
Or even non-believers, though the story here is blurred—
They didn’t call them “atheists”, cos that’s a nasty word.

There’s many strong believers in the father, ghost, and son,
But a shift away from churches, in the 60’s, was begun,
And the fastest-growing segment in religion answers “none”
But we dare not call them “atheists”, cos that’s a word we shun.

In the 80’s, you remember, the religious culture war
Pitted Robertson and Falwell ‘gainst the heathens they deplore
And their power, to Republicans, was costly to ignore
So they railed against the “atheists”, whom good folks all abhor.

In the 90’s and two-thousands, there was yet another shift—
Youngsters cutting off religious ties and setting them adrift—
So the ranks of unbelievers got a huge percentage lift
But we didn’t call them “atheists”, in case they might be miffed.

If “Americans are tolerant” is going to be your claim,
But you steer away from labels which might anger or inflame,
Then it’s mere semantic wanking, and the truth is, it’s a shame
When the tolerance researchers fear to mention us by name!

Buy my new book, buy my new book, buy my new book:
Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Just In Time For Black Friday

I'm exhausted. I could keep tweaking this until some time next year, or bite the bullet and post this now.

So... that's right; all your squidmas shopping worries are over. It's the perfect gift for both friends and enemies alike!

Note--this is not volume three, but rather a three-year collection, with over 300 pages of your favorites, and the favorites of that other person with weird taste. Guaranteed never to make Oprah's list!

So, spread the word, and demand that your local bookstores carry hundreds of copies!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

At The Airport

I was heading on vacation
And I needed transportation
From location to location
So thought I’d hop a plane
But the flying population
Has a modern obligation
Borne of fear and desperation
Though it goes against our grain

At the port of embarkation
There’s increased investigation
(With attendant irritation)
For our safety, so they say—
Using X-ray radiation
In a new configuration
To assist examination
And to get us on our way

But it takes coordination
To avoid some aberration
And despite their dedication
Somehow, problems will arise
Something odd in presentation,
Maybe dithered pixilation,
Or a plain disinclination
To have X-rays near one’s thighs

With the slightest instigation,
Like an awkward hesitation
(or mid-eastern pigmentation),
You’ll get pulled behind the rope
Where to hell with moderation
Or the flyer’s protestation—
Though it’s not quite penetration
It’s a very thorough grope

Is it merely exploitation
Of a country’s trepidation?
Is our self-determination
Just a fad that’s now reversed?
After some deliberation
I’ve got just one stipulation:
I won’t stand for molestation
‘less you buy me dinner first

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Night Before (The War On) Christmas

Well... today was a little bit better. I'm no longer 4 or 5 weeks behind. Now, I am a mere 2 weeks behind. Practically skating. Anyway, while I was working, I noticed a few more stories (again! it comes earlier every year!) about the War On Christmas. It seems to me that the fundamentalists who go on about said War may find themselves wishing they had not...

‘Twas the night before Christmas; the Christians all hunkered
In basements of buildings they’d armored and bunkered.
They huddled in silence; they huddled in fear,
With thoughts that the atheists soon would draw near

The War Against Christmas had started on Fox—
Just a couple of fools on the idiot-box
Who were looking for noise to give ratings a boost—
But lately, those chickens have come home to roost:

Believers are frightened; they’re panicked; they’re scared,
And not one among them will go unprepared;
They’ve heard that the atheists roam, Christmas night,
So Christians stay hidden, and safe out of sight.

It’s serious business, the whole Christmas season,
When people of faith fend off people of reason—
At least, that’s the story you hear on TV,
So the basement’s the place meant for children to be

There’ll be no “Silent Night”, or “Away in the Manger”
The godless might hear it! Consider the danger!
And then, they’d attack—Why, they’ve done it for years,
With that vile “Season’s Greetings!” invading the ears!

“Happy Holidays!” may seem inclusive and nice,
But it just isn’t Christmas, unless it’s got Christ;
Those words are no less than a form of assault!
So it’s war (and it’s clearly the atheists’ fault!)

(Plus, it’s unpatriotic, and now it’s high time
We made non-Christian greetings a federal crime!
The clear, true intent of our great founding fathers—
Which someone should check, although nobody bothers)

The elders remember an earlier time,
When a bottle of Coke only cost you a dime,
Each Christmas the snowfall was brilliant and white
And there wasn’t an atheist heathen in sight!

Folks visited neighbors; they caroled with friends;
They hand-crafted gifts out of old odds and ends;
They knew that the joys of the season would last…
But now, such delights are a thing of the past.

There are rifles to oil; there is ammo to check;
There’s a radio, straining to tune in Glen Beck;
No time to sing carols, or even say prayers,
With the danger that some may be caught unawares!

A war—manufactured, but war nonetheless—
Could kill hundreds, or thousands, it’s anyone’s guess;
They’re under attack, and that is the reason
They’re locked and they’re loaded, the whole Christmas season!


The atheists, meanwhile, are feasting and singing;
Our stockings are hung and our sleigh-bells are ringing—
Though Jesus had nothing to do with a sleigh,
We’re all unbelievers, and so it’s ok!

With holly, and eggnog, and mistletoe kisses,
We’ll watch “It’s a wonderful life" (just like this is)
With family and friends—with the people who love us—
With no one beneath us, nor no one above us

We’ll celebrate all the things Christmas is for,
Like giving, and loving, not hatred or war
And we’ll say to the world (cos we’ve got every right):
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Not The Book For Me, Thank You

How is it that work multiplies so? What sort of reproductive strategy does it use? Wouldn't you think it would be in danger of killing off its host? Anyway, what I'm saying is that the hiatus continues, and it remains Cuttlefish Pledge Week. So for now, another favorite from the archives--not as old as some, but old enough I had forgotten about it, and maybe you did as well. Or maybe that just tells me something about my memory, and explains a bit about why that pile of work doesn't seem to get any smaller. This one is for the Witnesses coming to my door with their silly book...

I’ve seen fossils of the ammonites, in lovely curving spirals,
I’ve seen children saved from certain death by modern antivirals,
I’ve seen salmon swim up waterfalls, to find their tiny brook--
And you’re asking me to trade it for the contents of one book?

I’ve seen galaxies, and nebulas of brilliant glowing gases
I’ve seen Painted Desert valleys; I’ve seen Rocky Mountain passes
I was at the Gulf of Corinth when the earth beneath me shook--
Do you really think I’d trade it for some stuff that's in a book?

I’ve seen elephants and rhinos; I’ve seen buffalo and deer
I’ve seen humpback whales I almost could have touched, they came so near;
I’ve seen giant redwood forests, where I craned my neck to look;
Is there anything so awesome in your tiny little book?

I’ve seen microscopic beasties of a thousand different forms
I’ve seen hurricanes, tornadoes, snow and hail and thunderstorms
I’ve seen babies reach adulthood—Oh, how little time it took!
And I would not trade one heartbeat for that obsolescent book!

I’ve seen beauty that you couldn’t buy, no matter what the price;
I have tasted of life’s bounty, each ingredient and spice--
I would throw it all together in a pot, and let it cook…
And I guarantee it’s better than the contents of your book;
Yes, I’d sooner starve, than swallow all the poison in your book.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I Know Just What You Are Thinking...

So, Cuttlefish Pledge Week continues. All that really means is that the real world continues to pile work on top of me, so I'm here at the office while Cuttlefish University is on holiday. Maybe I'll even get caught up a bit. From way, way behind to just way behind, probably. Anyway.

Today's choice of verses comes from a discussion in class this week. No, none of my students reads this, that I am aware of. But we do sometimes get off on some fun tangents in our explorations. This week, a discussion of the limits of self-knowledge, and of the contributions science can make toward exploring a topic which some philosophers have argued is so far removed from the observable world around us that it is an entirely different reality. I could write for a solid week on this topic, but that would rather defeat the purpose of CPW, wouldn't it?

I have no eyes to look behind
And view my brain, much less my mind;
I cannot know your thoughts, and you
Are blind to what I’m thinking, too.
These are the facts; we can’t deny
We have no working “inner eye”
Nor any form of ESP;
Your thoughts cannot be seen by me.

The claim that we can "know ourselves"
Is countered by the miles of shelves
Of self-help books. Our knowledge hides
From where, in theory, it resides!
If we could simply take a look
Inside our minds, why need a book?
We’d never ask “How do I feel?
Could this be love? Could it be real?”

If God or Science offered me
Some cranial transparency
So you could see my every thought—
The change of mind; the urge I fought,
The censored comment never spoken,
Secret kept and promise broken—
What fabled treasures! Wondrous finds,
If we could read each other’s minds!

But we cannot. Make no mistake,
Our skulls and minds are both opaque
We do, instead, what we can do;
We read the things in public view
We see the song, the poem, the kiss;
Infer from these that love is this.
In turn, each element we find
We sum, and call the total “mind”.

If I could see inside my head,
(A place where angels fear to tread)
And see how thinking really works,
The jumble of selected quirks
And if (what wonders “if” can do!)
I saw inside your thinking too
I think that I should never see
What now makes up philosophy.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Priorities, Priorities

After the last elections, it may be time to get accustomed to a new old morality, a mythological good old days to return to, when god was in the schools, the gummint was small and kept out of the way except for what we did in our bedrooms, minorities and women knew their place, and all was right with the world.

It's all quite simple, really: blame the victims. In all things. That way they have earned their miseries, and we (part of the trick is convincing each outgroup to band together as "we" in opposition to other outgroups) can feel justified in denying basic human rights to our fellow human beings. The narrative must always go "when you blame society, you are letting criminals off the hook!" Even when we could have prevented the crime by having a job, an education, a future for the eventual criminal. Preventing a crime does not give the satisfaction that punishing a criminal does. Preventing a crime reminds us that it is in our power to influence one another, and that is one frightening step away from... being responsible for one another. Can't have that. When we blame a criminal, we are quite intentionally letting the rest of us off the hook.

Dammit, I got off narrative. Like I was saying, the clock has been turned back. It's time to embrace the new old world view. So, for our third installment of Cuttlefish Pledge Week, a story and a modest proposal.

Jennifer, Jennifer, got herself pregnant,
The poor, irresponsible slut.
See, boys will be boys, so it’s up to the girls
To be moral, and keep their legs shut.
But Jennifer, Jennifer, couldn’t be bothered;
She led her young Billy astray.
They met, after classes, at Jennifer’s house,
And now there’s a kid on the way.

Jennifer, Jennifer, wants an abortion—
She says she’s too young for a baby—
But the law of the land says abortion is murder;
The answer is no, and not maybe.
See, murder is murder; we cannot condone
The destruction of innocent life.
And Billy, of course, is an innocent, too,
And he’s much, much too young for a wife.

So Jennifer, Jennifer, finds herself caught
In the view of a watchful Big Brother,
And Country and Church have a task on their hands—
How to keep the babe safe from its mother.
If murder is murder, for fetus or child,
Then surely assault is assault;
A fetus is damaged by drinking or smoking,
And all of it, Jennifer’s fault.

If Jennifer, Jennifer, falls down the stairs
Then the baby inside could be harmed;
And since that poor child is a ward of the state
It is right we should all be alarmed!
So Jennifer, Jennifer, needs to be safe
For the sake of the babe in her womb;
To keep the poor innocent safe from all harm,
Let’s keep Jennifer locked in her room.

But Jennifer, Jennifer, isn’t the first
Nor the last to be pregnant, you see.
The task that’s before us—protecting our children—
Is crucial, I think you’ll agree.
With the passing to law of my modest proposal,
I honestly think we’ll prevail.
It’s simple: Each woman who finds herself pregnant
Must spend the next nine months in jail.

Jennifer, Jennifer, shielded from harm
In a cell with a toilet and cot
With a closed-circuit camera, an unblinking eye,
For the safety of Jennifer’s tot.
When at last you deliver your new baby boy
We’ll whisk you right out through the door;
We care about kids while they’re inside your womb—
Once they’re out, we don’t care any more.

And Jennifer, Jennifer, can’t find her Billy—
Besides, he’s too young for a wife—
She weighs her alternatives, looks down each road…
And reluctantly takes her own life.

And the church says a prayer for the baby unborn
And a heartfelt and tearful farewell.
But Jennifer, Jennifer, so says the church,
Will be heading directly to hell.

Maybe if we cut funding for prenatal care, we can save enough money to pay for those jail cells and closed-circuit cameras...

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Gary Aldridge: The Back Story

Y'know, Twitter is an odd thing. All these people I've never met, together at a virtual cocktail party where they can snoop on other conversations, pontificate on weighty or trivial topics, and take a drink from the firehose of public opinion on any topic they care to. I'm not certain how I feel about it. But anyway, one of my recent Twitter followers is author of a book and host of a website, both of which tout the Bible as the cure for pornography addiction. I'm thinking perhaps this person didn't take a really good look at my blog before deciding to follow my tweets. Either that, or he's a porn viewer so deep in the closet that he knows half of Narnia personally.

So, as a public service for him, one of the first verses ever on this blog--in fact, posted on Pharyngula before this blog even existed (which, of course, means that a total of like 6 people saw it here, after thousands saw it there). As the second post of Cuttlefish Pledge Break, I give you the Eulogy of Gary Aldridge (based on true events, of course).

We gather here to eulogize
The Pastor and the Man
Old Gary Aldridge, often wise,
Though not his latest plan.

A member of the Christian nation,
Friend of Jerry Falwell,
His last attempt at masturbation
Didn't go at all well.

For fifteen years, he'd preached the word
A Southern Baptist minister
His death--now, is it just absurd
Or something rather sinister?

How does a person come to wear
Not one wetsuit, but two?
(Although, I know, I should not care
I'm curious--aren't you?)

I tend to think that, years ago,
He spied a rubber glove,
And wondered "Should I--well, you know--
When God and I make love?"

He tried it on, and found a tube,
Half hidden on his shelf,
Of KY--smiled, and murmered "Lube
Thy neighbor as thy self."

And minutes later, hard at work,
He felt a little odd
Was this a sin, or just a quirk?
He talked it out with God.

"Is what I'm doing here a sin?
Or is my pleasure Thine?
Is this as bad as skin on skin?
Lord, please, give me a sign!"

So God produced a pamphlet: "Your
Vacation in Aruba!"
And pointed out--right there, page four--
The wetsuits used for SCUBA

See, God's not really how you think
A deity might be
He's got a wicked bondage kink
(Just ask His son, J. C.)

So Gary died, not steeped in sin
But following God's plan;
So straight to Heaven--come on in!
And bring the wetsuits, man!

A story, sure, but it may yet
Explain what happened then.
The moral is, please don't forget:
Your safeword is "Amen".

Friday, November 05, 2010

SIWOTI (the poem)

It's day one of Cuttlefish Pledge Week, so we dig into the vaults (or at least to before I was on Facebook or Twitter) for some of my favorites. What with ... well, everything, from post-election bickering, to Halloween costume nonsense, to "vaccination awareness week", to increasingly annoying opinion pieces I won't bother to link to, it is clearly time to revisit this one. Except, really, actually, in truth... I wasn't wrong.

Someone Is Wrong
…On The Internet,
And I won’t get to sleep for a while,
Cos I’ll stay up and fight if it takes me all night
When I know I am right and my coffee is strong
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
And the cases they cite are all lame;
I don’t mean to be picky, but hell, it’s not tricky,
Just google or wiki, you’ll see before long
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
And I’m not going to idly sit by!
What he says is a crock! So I’ll teach, tease, or mock
Till my internal clock thinks I live in Hong Kong
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
On a topic of interest to me,
And the rancor’s increased; I’m becoming a beast
And that glow in the East is becoming quite strong
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
Which I’ve stayed up the whole night to say
But his head is cement, and I’ve made not a dent
And one hundred percent of the gathering throng
Says that Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
But it looks like they’re siding with him.
They are here not to cheer for the points I’ve made clear
On this fight I’ve used sheer force of will to prolong
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet
It’s beginning to look like it’s me.
I can hardly admit that my logic is shit
But it doesn’t quite fit, ‘less I twist it a bit,
So defeated I sit, at the end of my wit…
Since time will permit, I will land one more hit:
Declare victory, quit, let that be my swan song,
Because Someone Is Wrong!
…On The Internet

image source XKCD, as if I had to tell you

So, What's Up?

So, what’s up?

I’m taking a bit of a break. Lots to do, and I’m spending too much time looking for stuff to write about. I need to force myself to stay away for a while, until the pile of stuff gets finished.

What about the blog?

I’ll put up some “best of” posts. It’ll be like PBS re-running that Celtic Dancing special, or the Yanni concert, or a Red Green marathon, during their pledge break. That’s it—this is the Cuttlefish Pledge Break. Donations gladly accepted at the Tip Jar, over there, to your right.

What will happen if they don’t donate?

Not a damned thing; Blogger doesn’t charge, I can’t imagine quitting, I don’t like ads, and so I don’t think I’ll change anything at all.

Wait, what if nobody donates anything at all?

Then they save themselves that much money. If they need it, they should keep it.

So why would anybody donate?

I would hope they think some of what I do here is worth paying for.

Dude, you are deluded.

Well, if it isn’t, then I surely don’t deserve donations for it, do I?

Fair enough. So, is there going to be a verse on this post?

Um… that would kind of defeat the purpose, don’t you think? There will be some best-of posts coming up shortly—gotta load up the Yanni concert…

Edited to add: A couple of years ago, I had a very specific and genuine need for monetary help. When I announced this, my incredible readers responded with kindness and generosity that I will never be able to repay fully. This, today's post, is not that sort of situation. I never ever want to take advantage of my readers, and so I want to make that clear.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Billion Dollar Lie

It’s often said that “Love is blind”;
If that were true, perhaps we’d find
We’d still be seen as beautiful, although we’re slightly older.
But research shows, a different truth—
That beauty’s seen in fertile youth—
So industries arise to fool the eye of the beholder.
It may seem cruel; it can’t be fair,
But flawless skin and shiny hair
Are hallmarks of attraction, so perhaps it’s no surprise
This aspect of biology
Gives rise to cosmetology—
A billion-dollar industry* that’s based on telling lies.

*I lied. Eight billion dollars a year, in the US alone.

This seems like quite a cynical verse, but if you want to see the science behind it, visit Christie Wilcox's blog here. And if you visit before November 5th, (noon, pacific time), click on through and vote for her in the 10K blogging scholarship contest, to encourage posts like that.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Election Day Verse

I don't have time now to write, so I have tweaked an old verse just a little, so as to have something appropriate for (US) election day. I suppose it also would have been a fairly fitting verse to add to the Rally To Support [something], so if you happen to know Jon Stewart, you can point him to it.

When the original was posted, it came with a series of videos, of some of the worst of the pre-election rallies last cycle. Now, of course, the Tea Party has its own network, so I don't even have to link videos--you already know what sorts of thing are being referred to.

Of course there are Christians, of course there are Muslims,
And Atheists, Pagans, and Jews
Supporting the left or supporting the right—
Supporting a spectrum of views—
Of course there are numbskulls, and ignorant pinheads
Whose views are incredibly dense,
And of course they reside on both sides, red and blue
Of the nation’s political fence
It gets to the point where we almost expect it—
Perhaps it’s what humans just do—
We forget these are merely the vocal extremists
Whose numbers, in truth, are quite few.
These salient images seen in the media
Show us ourselves at our worst
But just look around, and you’ll see something different,
And not what it looked like at first:
The people who back both the left and the right
Are people like you and like me
And most are intelligent, thoughtful and kind,
And like us, they don’t like what they see.
This silent majority, not in the news,
When confronted with ignorant hate
May decide to combat it, or maybe ignore it,
Or challenge them to a debate
And sometimes you’ll find that these ignorant cowards
Back down when you call out their bluff
So… if you’re like me, and you’re sick of the lying,
Decide that enough is enough!
And remember, the ignorant liars can shout
Until all of their faces are blue;
When you get in that booth, and you pull shut the curtain…
The one with the power is you.

Anyway, go vote! And if you seriously are considering "sending a message" by boycotting the vote, read the comments here first.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Carnival of Evolution #29 is up!

...over at Byte Size Biology.

Yes, I'm in it, but you've already read that one--you should be visiting it to read all the other wonderful posts. Besides which, the commentary is great fun! It never fails to awe and humble me, to get the merest glimpse of the enormous landscape of evolutionary biology. Seriously, I thought my own contribution to this one took a bit of a wide view, but it is positively blinkered compared with the scope of articles collected at BSB.

So, go! Read! Enjoy!