Monday, December 31, 2007

Stealth Creationists

If you look really closely, as I have resolved,
At Boards of Education,
You'll see hidden creationists; some have evolved
A protective coloration.

Some wear their belief upon their sleeves
And some choose not to wear it--
But sometimes you'll see what one believes
By the phrases that they parrot:

"I think it's fair to teach both sides"
"Evolution is 'just a theory'"
"With freedom of speech, then who decides?"
"Just think of the children, dearie"

And just as we can identify birds
By the calls of hens and drakes
We can sometimes tell creationist turds
By the sound stupidity makes.

A tip o' the cuttle to PZ, here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

No vaccine for arrogance...

Orac reports on the latest pinhead celebrity to jump onto the anti-vax bandwagon. Yup, it's that walking, talking hairpiece, The Donald.

The anti-vax pinheads are a group I find particularly annoying. My aunt had polio. My grandparents' generation saw the Salk vaccine for the wonder that it is, and saw polio for the danger it is. Have we forgotten so much so quickly?

When polio was something that
Your friends and family got,
Damn right you'd wait in line to get
That magic-seeming shot.

When infant graves were commonplace,
Each parent knew the cost;
A victim of our own success,
Perspective has been lost.

But now that science gives our lives
More health and fewer pains,
True geniuses like Salk give way
To Trumps with shit for brains.

I'd bet if Trump was suddenly
Confronted with, say, cancer,
He wouldn't hesitate to look
To science for an answer.

But ignorance and affluence--
A potent combination--
Are threatening the future of
A younger generation.

With every anti-vaxxer voice,
Our children's risk enlarges,
And science must--for all our sakes--
Defeat these Trumped-up charges.

Monday, December 24, 2007

An atheist Christmas

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.

It has nothing to do with a babe in a manger
Or kings being led by a star up above,
But rather in family, friend, and in stranger,
In kindnesses done for the people we love.

A spirit of hope, and a spirit of giving,
A promise of peace in a troubling day,
A chance to examine the way we are living--
The courage to say what we’ve wanted to say.

You don’t need to think there’s a god up above you
To want to be good to your fellows on Earth.
To give to your friends, and to tell them “I love you”
Has nothing to do with some son of god’s birth.

For love, and for giving, we say “tis the season”
For caring, for kindness, for sharing good cheer
But why limit ourselves? I mean, what is the reason?
Why can’t we be giving the rest of the year?

This Christmas, my wish for each sister and brother,
To you, and to everyone you may hold dear;
Remember, this Christmas, to love one another—
Not only this season, but all through the year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The giraffe song (not the unicorn song)

Over on "Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)", there is an unfair contest going on. Unfair, because (apparently) GrrlScientist likes graphics. "Please show us in a picture because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words", she says. Hmph. I have only 345 words for her:

A long time ago, if you check the graphs,
There were more kinds of animals, and that’s just giraffes!
They played around with brontosaurs, and even T. rex,
And don’t you forget that they had long necks.

There were six giraffe species, or maybe more
A much different story than we thought before
As many as eleven, so there’d better be space
Or wise old Noah is a big disgrace.

When God said to Noah “time to make me an ark”
The animals lined up for the chance to embark
The cats, and rats, and elephants, two by twos
Heard the astounding news:

There were six giraffe species, or maybe more
A much different story than we thought before
As many as eleven, so there’d better be space
Or wise old Noah is a big disgrace.

Old Noah was puzzled—he’d planned for just two—
But now there were many; so, what should he do?
He looked at his list, to check who stays and goes
And just what do you suppose?

There were six giraffe species, or maybe more
A much different story than he thought before
As many as eleven, so there’d better be space
Or wise old Noah is a big disgrace.

You remember the song; you remember it claims
That the unicorns were hiding, playing silly games
The truth is that God has incompetent staff,
And each one thought “a giraffe’s a giraffe”

But no, there were six giraffe species, or maybe more
A much different story than we thought before
As many as eleven, so there’d better be space
Or that pinhead Noah is a big disgrace.

The unicorns were there—You could hear their laughs—
But the trick is, they got there behind the giraffes!
Old Noah screwed up, and someone had to pay….
And that’s why you’ll never see a Unicorn, to this very day.

You’ll see six giraffe species, or maybe more
A much different story than we thought before
As many as eleven, so there had to be space
And old man Noah is a big disgrace.

(to the tune of "the unicorn song", by the incredible Shel Silverstein. Like I had to tell you...)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Meme of Eights...

CAE tagged me!

You cannot be a cuttlefish
And hide in pixels, or in ink,
While still appeasing those who wish
To ask about the stuff you think.
And so I turn to camouflage
To hide a little—or a lot.
I write a verse that’s part mirage—
Some of it’s true, but some is not.

8 Passions

I’ve a passion for food, and a passion for snow
(I will go out for ice cream at twenty below)
I’ve a passion for poetry—also, for Greeks
(The Odyssey’s best in the words Homer speaks)
A passion for travel, but also for home
(A place to come back to, and places to roam)
A passion for language, a passion for culture
(Both living and dead—I’m a bit of a vulture)

8 Things to do before I die

First, eat some of every food in the world;
Then do that again, one more time.
To learn to play bagpipes, and then mandolin;
Find someone who’d pay me to rhyme.
To act, as Iago, and Caliban, too;
Learn a language, start a new trend.
Or trade all of these for the chance to go back
And start over again with [my friend].

8 Things I often say

“That’s a really great question”,I often will say,
And of course, “I do not know the answer”
“You know that a horoscope’s nothing but lies”
“Well, of course I think that—I’m a Cancer.”
“In my humble opinion—which also is right”
And yes, “It’s my job: I’m a Dad.”
To my dog: “what, again? Hey, I just took you out!”
And though it seems dated, “Egad!”

8 books I recently read

Fabulous Females and Peerless Pirs;
Of course, Eats, Shoots and Leaves;
Frans De Waal’s Our Inner Ape;
Shermer’s How We Believe;
Towing Jehova; Dr. Tatiana’s
Sex Advice To All Creation
Magic In Theory; and last but not least,
Behavior Modification.

8 Songs that mean something to me

All of Tom Waits, or just “I Want You
Elvis Costello and “Almost Blue
Wake Up And Dream”, If I may be bold,
And “Ghost” by the Indigos never grows old
Grand River Lullaby”, by Alex Bevan
Once In A Very Blue Moon”—sheer heaven
There’s Lucy Kaplansky’s “Guinevere
And “The Promise” the last, not the least one here.

8 Qualities I look for in a friend

I’ve never really looked for friends,
Held tryouts or auditions;
The people whom I love the most
Seem random acquisitions.
For every stand-out quality
(Believe me, those are ample)
Another friend is there to act
As opposite example.
With so many people whom I love,
So many I hold dear—
Although the question’s very good,
You’ll find no answer here.

8 People whose blogs I enjoy

Of course, there’s the people I list to the right,
So don’t neglect them, although this poem might.
I’m choosing some others to list in this verse,
Like Moon River, Dienekes, and The Head Nurse;
One I read from years ago, one I found today,
One you probably know about, but I’ll list anyway
One that needs poking, to get him to speak
And one that I love, though it’s written in Greek.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A long-running bet...

A pair of hucksters had a bet, a long, long time ago
Each swore that he could prove himself the lowest of the low;
Each knew who was the world’s top swindler: “Naturally, I am!”
And so the competition: who could pull the greatest scam?

The first said “I shall tell each father, mother, son and daughter,
That I can cure most anything with nothing more than water!”
Oh, sure, he had to shake it up, succuse each next dilution,
But in the end it’s water, and there’s nothing in solution.

The second watched, and chuckled, “I admit, that’s very good!
You kept it simple—not at all the scam I thought you would!
But frankly, in simplicity, you’ve left an open door,
Lemme show you how to do it, when you do a little more.”

So the second had another plan, and here’s how it begins:
“I will have the people pay me when I puncture them with pins!
Not a hypodermic needle with a drug or some vaccine,
But a pin—that’s all, a pin—that we can only hope is clean.”

The first, in turn, was quite impressed, and told the second so;
And by this time both hucksters knew how far the two might go.
Colloidal silver, orgone rays, and therapeutic touch,
TM, reflexology, and enemas and such.

But time and time again, their efforts only met success—
They knew they had to try once more to make a bigger mess;
They had to pull out all the stops, and really take a chance…
The time had come for sorcery with eggs and underpants.

“You’ve got a curse, you’re going to die, it’s too late now to beg;
There’s just one chance—you’ll need to bring me urine, and an egg,
A plate, a pair of underpants, and yes—five thousand pounds.”
(The fact they were not laughing by this point is what astounds)

The victim paid five hundred pounds, but not the whole five grand,
And so the hucksters argue still, who’s best in all the land.
As long as there are victims there, and money to be had,
This contest will continue—who’s the baddest of the bad?

So keep your eyes wide open, and be sure your brain’s engaged,
For I’m certain there are scams out there this verse has not presaged;
If you hear your spine needs cracking, or your underwear are hexed,
You can call yourself a skeptic, or have hucksters call you “next”.

A tip o' the cuttle to Podblack Blog for this one...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

It was Cephalopodmas...

It was Cephalopodmas, and all through the blogs
Not a writer was stirring—all sleeping like logs.
Each blogosphere-dweller, from Orac to PZ
Was all bundled up and just taking it easy.
Their prone, sleeping forms, that might well have been granite
Slept through the most wonderful tale on the planet!
For all ‘cross the globe, from the oceans and seas,
All the cephalopods, just as nice as you please,
Took a break from their lurking in kelps and in corals
To visit the houses of people with morals.
(Ironic, you think? If they hadn’t been sleeping,
The bloggers would be so much happier peeping,
And witnessing all of this marvelous night.
Well, now that I write of it… next year, they might.)

But how can a creature that’s mainly pelagic
Accomplish all this? Is it hoax? Is it magic?
Of course, I could never achieve it alone
I had oceans of help—why, in every time zone
There were octopi, cuttlefish, nautilus too
And squid by the thousands who knew what do do.
From the deepest of depths, from the shallowest shoals,
From around the equator and close to the poles,
From every far corner of all seven seas
Came crawlers and swimmers, as quick as you please,
From cuttlefish cubby or octopus den,
To each lend a hand, or perhaps eight or ten.
The skies and the seas were both darker than soot;
No safe place for tentacle, feeler, or foot—
Was it safe for the journey? I had to think twice,
But a wise old molluscan proposed this advice:
“You know, you should hitch up some firefly squid”
So, not being stupid, that’s just what I did—
(In the darkest of depths, when I could not find any,
I used the much larger Taningia danae).
With a glow that left headlights in sad obsolescence
We lit our own way with our bioluminescence.
(And once (but just once) when we plain lost our bearings
We got back on track with the help of some herrings.
On Cephalopodmas, good nature prevails—
Even giant squid know they can trust the sperm whales—
And whether you’re predator, whether you’re prey,
You can take the day off. Hey, it’s only one day.)
And with luminous squidlings providing the light,
The Onycotuthidae took us to flight!
(It’s a myth that a reindeer can fly, as you know
But true that some squid can, as others can glow!)
So we flew, over trees, over hills, over mountains,
(Keeping moist by, sometimes, flying low over fountains)
We flew over deserts, with sagebrush and cactus;
Some day we’ll invade, so it’s really good practice.
And each place we flew, and the others we crawled,
We left little gifts, that surprised and enthralled
All the good boys and girls, and their parents and pets
(Why should some folks miss out on what other folks gets?)
An octopus, crawling up pipes from the sewers,
Might leave a small gift, say, a bottle of Dewars.
For those who do not have a liking for whiskey,
Perhaps lingerie (although nothing too risky);
If the oysters cooperate, maybe some pearls
For the fancy tongue-piercings of good boys and girls.
If we think we’ve been spotted, then quick as a wink,
We are gone—what remains is a black cloud of ink,
(But when it’s so dark you can’t see where you’re going
Then ink is no good—so a cloud that is glowing--
A trick taught by Heteroteuthis dispar)
So it shows where you were, when you no longer are,
And predators, peepers, or unwilling hosts
See nothing—or see what might well have been ghosts.
They know they’ve seen something, but what? They won’t swear.
By that time, of course, we are long gone from there.
You can see from the picture that, once, we were caught
By some kittehs, who said “U R not who we thot.”
But we gave the poor kittehs a soft little pat,
‘Cos we knew we were safe—who’d believe a dumb cat?
Then back to the oceans, for seafood and beer,
Saying Merry Cephalopodmas, and Happy New Year!

Tip to either Pharyngula or Pharyngula.

Much more here

Sunday, December 09, 2007


Of all the creatures in the world
Deserving to be knit (and purled)
I think it’s clear, we all would wish
A cute and cuttly cuddlefish.

A comment-writer, “Impolite”
Has, very clearly, got it right
So now, the screen of my computer
Shows a pic that can’t be cuter

It’s beautiful, this much is clear,
So huggable, so very dear,
So soft and cuddly, cute and charming
Lots of arms, and yet disarming

A knitted brain cannot compete,
Nor teratoma, bearing feet—
The cutest creature of them all,
And made of yarn—so have a ball!

But still, the cuddlefish I see
Does not have eight arms—only three
(No tentacles at all, I think,
Nor any way to shoot its ink)

And not that it should trouble you—
It’s pupils should go “W”.
Small details, sure, but that’s the fun
So here’s the deal. Another one.

The ravellers who visit here
(Or any else—let’s make it clear):
I’m offering some sort of prize
(Just what it is, I can’t surmise)

But fame and glory, sure enough
For one who has the cuttle stuff
Just send your pics, your best and worst,
I’ll see to it you all get versed.

(And so the rest don’t feel so jilted,
I’ll take them drawn, or stitched, or quilted)
There is no subject more befitting,
So ready, steady, go! Get knitting!

An experiment...

So, when I wrote about knitting, I got lots of visits from "", which appears to be an online community of knitters and crocheters. This group easily doubled the number of visits I was getting (but they did not tend to leave comments!)

So the experiment--knitters like poems about knitting... do car people like poems about cars? (Of course, my ultimate goal would be to have this read on air by Click and Clack on Car Talk...) This is an old poem of mine (written in response to a comment, "the murmer of innumerable motors"...), really not much more than a collection of cliches put to verse.

The Old Car

My car does not murmur; she groans and complains
And she limps--just a bit--on the right.
She shouts out in protest at tasks she disdains
As one cylinder fails to ignite.
Whenever we turn, there's a noise from the brakes
That's a hollow and cancerous cough.
The faster the highway, the harder she shakes
Until bits of her start to fall off.

I remember the days when she purred like a cat
So responsive, so agile, so fast;
She would tear through a curve and then leap down the flat
And refuse--stubborn thing--to be passed.
I will always remember the car she once was—
That’s the reason I can’t let her go;
It’s the things that she did, not the things that she does;
I suppose it will always be so.

I, myself, I admit, may be showing some wear
And my warrantee’s long since expired;
There’s some rust in the joints and some grey in the hair
And what once revved me up makes me tired.
When I look, with my near-sighted eyes, at my car
It’s the beauty of old that I see;
If you look this direction—I see that you are—
Would you please do that favor for me?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Teratoma--or, Knit me a sister.

Shelley serves as my muse again today... The brain was not her first post about anatomically accurate knitting; there was a previous post on a cute and cuddly teratoma. Ok, so she calls it "complicated and grotesque", but tomayto tomahto. But the knit teratoma is indeed cute and cuddly, if you ask me. So I thought I would try a slightly different spin on the whole idea of having had a twin who died and whose body, in the womb, was absorbed into yours in the form of a tumor with recognizable body parts.

I mean, that can't be all bad, can it?

"Teratoma", or "Knit me a Sister".

"I have an invisible friend", I said,
"But she doesn't hide beneath my bed,
Or in my closet--no, instead,
I keep her tucked inside."

"We do not mean to condescend,
But we all know, there's no such friend;
This fabrication now must end."
My Mom and Dad replied.

"But Mommy! Daddy! Please, I swear!
She's closer than my teddy bear!
See my tummy? She's in there!
I even feel her growing!"

My parents didn't scream or shout;
They trusted me, despite their doubt,
And had a doctor check me out
When something started showing!

My friend was real! I hadn't lied!
At first, my twin, but then she died.
The doctors cut me open wide
And shoveled out my basement.

I never knew I had a sister,
But once my friend was gone, I missed her;
So, knitting till she raised a blister
My Mom made a replacement!

By the way, the original source of the pictures also has a poem (or song) about it! And instructions!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Please, Australia!

Deep-Sea News reports that my cousins the Giant Australian Cuttlefish may be in serious trouble. It seems they had the lack of foresight to evolve in an area where featherless bipeds would eventually discover uranium, copper, and gold. As of this writing, the link to the original Australian source is down, so you will have to settle for the condensed version on DSN.

Australia is evidence: memories don't last--
They ought to have learned from mistakes in the past;
The hull of a ship carries passengers, too
(Ask any whose job is to clean off that goo--
Green algae, and seaweeds, and mussels and such
Which can kill off the locals--it doesn't take much).
This plan should be dropped like a really bad habit,
If Aussies have learned from the tale of the rabbit;
There's a reason, you see, for the rabbit-proof fence:
Once you bring bunnies hither, you can't send them hence.
They devastate flora, and quickly outbreed
Their marsupial neighbors--a problem indeed.
Or look to the waters at Port Philip Bay
Where another invasive is living today;
The Northern Pacific Sea Star is its name
At that bay, there's a full hundred million to blame
For destroying the natives, both mollusks and corals--
When species collide, we get more than mere quarrels.
From foxes and cats, who are powerful killers,
To carp and salvinia, waterway-fillers,
From cane toads to mynas, to red fire ants,
Once here it's too late, so you can't miss your chance.
These cuttlefish giants are beautiful creatures
(Just look at the picture! What beautiful features!)
I hope that Port Bonython learns from the past
And decides that they want their Australia to last;
Ecosystems are fragile--we know they can break;
I'm begging you--please don't repeat your mistake.

(Now, go to this page, download Michael McRae's delightful illustrations, and use them when reading my verse to children.)

Photo from The Cephalopod Page... which I also cannot get to link. Bad day for linkage...

...and special thanks to Pod, of Podblack Blog

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tuber magnatum Pico

I’d like to report, for the gluttons among us,
A story about a remarkable fungus;
An auction today caused a giant kerfuffle
And set a new record—the costliest truffle.
A truffle dog found it near Pisa last week
(although hunting with pigs is another technique);
Weighing 1.5 kilos (or 3.3 pounds),
It’s the largest discovered by pigs or by hounds.
An artist was bidding, and so was a Sheik
But neither had what it would finally take;
The winner, from Macau, is named Stanley Ho—
He owns a casino; I guess he has dough.
A third of a million is what he will pay
For the privilege of taking that truffle today
A price unexpected, though truffles are rarities,
But proceeds, today, were donated to charities.
The price for this truffle, reporters were told
Is nine times (by weight) more expensive than gold!
So if your back yard contains Tuber magnatum,
It’s time to call Christie’s, and tell them you’ve got ‘em.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Knit me a brain!

A tip of the cuttlecap to Shelley of Retrospectacle for reporting on the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art

We’ve got sweaters to mend; we’ve got socks we can darn,
So pull up a chair, and I’ll spin you a yarn;
It’s a song with a Scarecrow-of-Oz-like refrain:
Please pick up your needles and knit me a brain!

I’ve knitted my bones, and I’ve knitted my brow,
But I’ve never seen brains knitted—up until now;
With each neural pathway a separate skein,
It’s Art and it’s Science, so knit me a brain!

Two hemispheres knit, and then reaching across ‘em
A beautiful, zippered-up corpus callosum;
Such fine application of knit, purl, and chain,
I want one myself—so please, knit me a brain!

With the brain’s convolutions appropriately gyred
This fabric creation has got me inspired!
My love for this art, I can hardly contain—
So how can I get one? Please knit me a brain!

Some people may tell you I’ve gone ‘round the bend
That the stuff ‘twixt my ears needs some decades to mend.
I could use some new grey-matter; mine’s gone insane,
It would not go to waste, if you’d knit me a brain.

You can see for yourself—why, just look at the time
I must take to obsessively put things to rhyme;
Something’s wrong, and I think that the answer is plain:
I need a replacement—so knit me a brain!