Thursday, June 30, 2011

Terrapin Runway

Fertile-ly, turtle-ly
Diamondback Terrapins
Took to the runways, in
Order to mate;

Flights were delayed, due to
Love conquers all, so they
Just had to wait

It's happened before, and it happened again yesterday; around 150 turtles (terrapins, really) halted landings at one JFK runway. This year, the JFK turtles are even on Twitter.

But really, I just posted this so I could quote one of my favorite Ogden Nash poems, "The Turtle" (actually, I have heard that Nash's estate has had a great deal of trouble with people stealing his work and posting it without permission, so I'll just let you follow the link. It's very brief--4 lines--and charming, if you don't already know).

And yes, the title of this post is a Grateful Dead reference.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Jury Duty

I cannot help but think it odd
To swear an oath “so help me god”

Yeah, well... I've been on jury duty this month. Found someone not guilty, and decided on a load of compensation for an accident. It was, overall, a very worthwhile, though extremely frustrating experience. Trying to get 12 people to agree on X, where the two opposing sides had suggested values of X ranging by over an order of magnitude. Long, boring story.

At the end, though (indeed, after we delivered our decision, before we were dismissed, while we were talking), I found at least 2 other jurors (only 4-5 of us were talking in this group) who, like me, raised their right hand but remained silent during the "do you swear or affirm yadda yadda yadda so help you god?" rigamarole. One of the others in this small conversational group had never considered the oath as discriminatory--I couldn't tell for certain, but it seemed to me that he was quite sympathetic.

I guess I'm not quite used to the idea of a significant number of godless around. Here, at least a quarter of the jury was (no idea about others, other than one christian minister).

Maybe I'm projecting, but it seemed like each of us was glad to find the other two. I know I was; it felt like they were as well.

Maybe there are more of us than we imagine; if we just show ourselves, we may already be in good company.

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's All So Simple, Really

My problem wouldn’t go away
No matter what I’d do or say
No matter what I’d think or wish
My problem still stayed problem-ish
And so I looked for expert thought
To ask advice on what I ought…
I saw a doctor on TV
Who said he had advice for me:

“Remember, as you walk along:
You might be right—you might be wrong.
You’ll find two sides from which to choose
Each side could win—why must one lose?
There is no right and wrong, you know;
It’s only thinking makes it so
So close your eyes—just shut them tight—
And all your choices will be right!

Some say that two and two are four;
I don’t believe that any more—
It might be five, or six, or three,
They’re all the same (at least, to me).
Don’t close your mind! Go on! Ask why
The answer can’t be e or pi!
Of course it could! And so, it might!
It could be wrong; it could be right!”

I slowly turned and walked away
And thought on what he had to say;
I knew my odds were awfully slim
(Of course, that’s why I looked to him)
I realized, to my great delight
He’s either wrong, or else he’s right!
A simple fifty-fifty shot
Is better than I ever thought!

So now, when playing cards or dice
I never have to worry twice—
The odds I’d get the card I got?
I’d either get it or I’d not!
The trick to feeling really wise
Is simply to dichotomize:
This little trick is really nifty:
Everything is fifty-fifty!

And now, when faced with tricky choices,
Hordes of disagreeing voices,
Climate change, or vaccination,
Ayurvedic medication
Follow science? Follow gods?
I now know how to play the odds—
To find which side is best to join…
I close my eyes and flip a coin.

Technically, this post was inspired by reading some of PZ's give-and-take on Twitter with Deepak Chopra's followers. Science and magic, after all, are both possibilities, and there's no reason to think that either of them is more right than the other.

I've known people who reason like that. You probably do, too. Someone who will buy a lottery ticket, thinking that their odds are pretty decent--either it will win, or it won't, so there's a fifty-fifty shot. Or that there is a 50-50 chance the Large Hadron Collider will destroy the universe.

This is why courses in statistics and probability should be mandatory. And early. And repeated.

After all, sometimes it's not something trivial like the destruction of the universe. Sometimes it's something important, like vaccinating your child.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brave Little Emma

Brave little Emma, a child of God
Was at the museum one day
She listened politely, but found it quite odd
That they said what she heard them to say
Brave little Emma, she took them to task—
It was more than another might dare—
She knew in her heart just the question to ask
“Were you there?” Emma asked; “were you there?”

She remembered the question, our brave little Emma;
She’d learned it at home, during school
Museum guides, hearing it, faced a dilemma:
Should they lie? Should they look like a fool?
If they told her the truth, why, of course they weren’t present
But admitting it doesn’t seem fair
So they awkwardly pause—it’s distinctly unpleasant—
“Were you there?” Emma asked; “were you there?”

They had rocks that were nearly four billion years old
Or, at least, that was what the guide claimed
They were merely repeating some lies they’d been told
Emma’s question would leave them ashamed.
Don’t they know it is written, “a child shall lead them”?
They shouldn’t have been unaware!
There are truths in the Bible, if only they’d heed them—
“Were you there?” Emma asked; “were you there?”

Our brave little Emma, perhaps, could have learned
How they knew all the things that they said
Imagine that Emma, instead, was concerned
Asking “how do you know it?” instead!
There is wonder, and knowledge, and people to share it
You can learn quite a lot, if you care
But listen! Or else you’re no more than a parrot:
“Were you there?” Emma asked; “were you there?”

I hope that young Emma, that brave little girl
Will ask questions that let her mind grow
In museums, or church, she could give it a whirl,
Asking everyone, “How do you know?”
She will open her eyes to the world all around
And be willing and eager to share:
“Were you there on the day a new Emma was found?
“Were you there?” she will ask; “were you there?”

Context, of course, here and here.

Good News On The Diabetes Front!

One of the more mysterious things doctors have ever seen
Is the spleen.
Throughout history
The function of the spleen has been shrouded in mystery.
The literature tells
It is known to filter blood, and remove dysfunctional red blood cells
It releases platelets and neutrophils when you bleed
And is a source of stem cells, in times of need
It can produce new red blood cells, like the marrow
But its function is not that narrow
Today, we see excellent news from drug trials (phase one)
For people with Type 1 Diabetes, which is not fun.
Mass General is testing the Calmette-Guerin vaccination
In a new situation;
It has been used to prevent tuberculosis and in the treatment of bladder cancer
But now there are questions about diabetes for which it might be the answer
The first trials show it is safe to use
Which is good news
And it has been shown to reverse type 1 diabetes in mice
Which is very nice
Even if you don’t happen to be a mouse
Which, as it happens, is the case for all the diabetics in this house.
So now, Phase II trials are beginning
And, though it is too early to really say that we are winning
I think I can reasonably say
It’s a good day.

According to their press release, the Phase I trials showed no ill effects of Calmette-Guerin vaccination on individuals with type 1 diabetes. This is not really unexpected; the C-G vaccine is already in use for TB and for bladder cancer, so it has had to pass such tests before. The big news is both in the past and in the future. In the past, this vaccine has allowed mice with type 1 diabetes to reverse the course of their disease. Studies have shown that the vaccine stimulates splenic stem cells to produce pancreatic islet cells; the stem cells essentially mimic their function in embryogenesis. In the future, the therapeutic potential for these stem cells is promising--not just for type 1 diabetics, but hey, right now that's the application that's got me smiling.

I'd try to explain the process a bit more, but it is not my area, so I'll defer to any of my readers who have the expertise--or if you see that someone else has written about it, let me know!

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York State Of Bliss

(I have the New York Senate live stream up on another window, and this song insinuated itself on my brain. I'm posting it before the vote--NY, you'd better do the right thing, or this post won't make any sense!)

Some folks want the right to bake
Just a wedding cake for a wedding night
Groom and groom standing side by side
Or a bride and bride
As they wait for the notice
And their newly wedded kiss
I’m in a New York state of bliss

I’ve seen all of the politics
Of the little tricks and the grand debate
Been watching the senate in the Empire state
Had my own expectations
But I never hoped for this
I’m in a New York state of bliss

It was so different, living day by day
Out of luck, and the bigots bring the blues
But now I see a little give and take
In The New York Times, The Daily News

It comes down to reality
And it’s fine with me, ‘cause it’s simply right
Now the votes are in; it begins tonight
There’s a remnant of history
I am never going to miss
I’m in a New York state of bliss

It was so different, living day by day
Out of luck, and the bigots bring the blues
But now I see a little give and take
In The New York Times, The Daily News

It comes down to reality
And it’s fine with me, ‘cause it’s simply right
Now the votes are in; it begins tonight
There’s a remnant of history
I am never going to miss
I’m in a New York state of bliss

I’m just watching the live stream
And I’m waiting for the kiss
I’m in a New York state of bliss

(With apologies to Billy Joel.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Animal Rights, And Wrongs

I don’t believe in testing drugs
On poms or poodles, pits or pugs;
Those scientists are merely thugs
To do the things they do.

I feel, in no uncertain terms,
Protective of the slugs and worms;
In fact, the new resistant germs
Deserve protection too.

I cherish every living thing
Despite diseases they might bring
To life—all life—I fiercely cling
And each gets equal weight

And so of course, I think it best
To halt this sort of horrid test
(I’ve got my health—as for the rest,
Well, that’s the hand of fate)

Bacteria are living, too
And thus deserving, in my view
Of shielding from the folks, like you,
Who say they merit killin’

So I’ll stand up as one who fights
For every living being’s rights
Next up, I’ve got to set my sights
On banning penicillin.

Inspired by the comments on this thread. The above verse is, of course, a strawman; this comment has a much more nuanced view, which I endorse. Of course, given Cuttleson's diabetes, I have an interest in animal testing, and my priorities are clear.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Strange Bedfellows

When Christians thought Mormons were Others, not Brothers,
Their prophets were false, their religion a cult.
Books would portray them as awful unlawful,
And violent riots would sometimes result

Now, the Republicans gather to blather,
To pound on their pulpits, to goad and incite;
But Mormons are, strangely and oddly, now godly,
When allied against the true, atheist blight.

NPR's Double Take 'Toons today got me thinking. If Romney or Huntsman either stand a ghost of a chance in the Republican primaries, among the people they have to thank are the vocal and visible atheists.

The cartoons (available at the link) illustrate a sea-change in religion and politics. The first shows the traditional prejudices against Mormons by evangelical christian Republicans; this prejudice has existed nearly as long as Mormons have. The second shows a very real reason that this established anti-Mormon prejudice is largely fading. Mind you, it doesn't explicitly make that connection, but I want to.

When the Mormon church was young, the religious landscape did not really have to contend with atheists. Sure, we existed, but we were invisible. Religious groups fought against one another, and you were identified by your particular religion--no one was "a believer", they were catholics, lutherans, episcopalians, yadda yadda yadda.

The rise of atheism, though, changed this landscape. It has only been with the recognition of a "non-believer" group (not monolithic by any means, but certainly qualitatively different from any believing group) that there could be a meaningful "believer" group (again, nowhere near monolithic, but sharing a characteristic that was once assumed to be universal).

Mormons were seen as a non-christian cult; some christians still view them this way. But now, thanks in no small part to atheists, Mormons are one of many varieties of christianity, which is one of many varieties of religious belief. And as such, they are (or may be) seen as fit to be elected to public office.

Because they are not atheists.

And that is the new religious landscape.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Almost Heaven

County Rt. 1
Is not very fun;
It's bumpy, and narrow, and curving.
It's missing its shoulders,
Has potholes and boulders,
And driving it's frankly unnerving.
Traversing its length
Takes all of your strength;
It will measure the courage that's in ya--
I have crawled to its end
And I can't recommend
The destroy-your-car state, West Virginia.

My apologies for a few days of radio silence; I was on the road. Lots of driving, lots of bad weather to drive in, more than a few tears (I visited my brother's grave), and no internet from Thursday morning till late last night. So this post has nothing to do with anything major in the world, but serves as a warning to anyone thinking of driving in West Virginia.

Don't. Just... don't.

Go the other way. If you have to, make sure you have a car that is easy to lift.

I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I have just been informed that my books are now available through the iBookstore, for downloading to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch (none of which I own, so you'll have to let me know how it looks). I'll put up a button over on the sidebar, but for right now, you can follow this link.

Please share the link with anyone you think might be interested, or any you think might be really annoyed and have recently pissed you off.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Speaking Of Naked...

Via "Wait, wait, don't tell me" and their news quiz (June 13th's in particular, but I can't seem to link to just that), I find TIME's article on naked hiking in Germany, and on Switzerland's Supreme Court challenge of their no-nude-hiking laws.

I remember those laws; I wrote about them at the time (amusing pic at the link):

The Swiss have said “Enough! Enough!”
We’ll have no hiking in the buff!
See, German hikers gave them fits
By showing off their naughty bits—
A practice which the Swiss construed
As lewd, indecent, crude and rude.

So now, if Germans wish to slough
Their clothing there, the going’s rough.
No innies, outies, bums, or tits;
The Germans now must use their wits
If suddenly, they’re in the mood
To go out rambling in the nude.

If someone tried to call the bluff,
And hike in full display of stuff
The Swiss police alertly sits
To meet them with an all-out blitz--
A picture which, I must conclude,
Leaves naked hikers rightly screwed.

I particularly like the way it's all the same rhymes. Not as easy as it looks.

Dance Naked At My Funeral

Dance naked at my funeral! Because
You can; because you are alive to dance!
Dance naked—never mind the laws—
The cops might care; you’ll have to take that chance!

Dance beside the fresh-turned earth—my grave—
With nothing on but bright blue sky, or clouds
If the sky is mourning my loss. Misbehave!
Dance naked! You have no need of shrouds!

Dance, naked, around my silent stone;
If I were there, and living, I’d dance too!
But no, my music’s stopped; my dance is done
Dance for me! That’s all I ask of you!

Dance naked—mourn in movement, in the buff;
For now, forget… you’ll join me soon enough.

Via our friends at the Good Funeral Guide, an article on some recent arrests in Zimbabwe, of people who caused a disturbance by dancing naked at a funeral "in the full glare of mourners".

In one case, four were arrested; in another, 15 were arrested for naked dancing (or scantily clad dancing) at another funeral:
Officer commanding police in Mutare Urban District, Chief Superintendent Winston Muzah, confirmed the arrests.

"We cannot have a situation whereby people strip naked at funerals. That is taboo and criminal. As police, we do not condone such acts and we are on the alert for any repeat of such behaviour. We will take stern action against anyone found on the wrong side of the law," he said.
It kind of made me wonder about the motivation. Was this a celebration? Were these people crashing funerals they were not part of? The article, while disapproving, is short on details of motivation:
Of late, funerals and burials in the high-density suburbs have degenerated into platforms of nudity in which mourners indulge in all sorts of misdemeanor.
Again, but why?

The more I thought about it, the more I thought... I want people dancing naked at my funeral. It is a time (or may be) when you feel most strongly the impermanence of life--so what better time to celebrate the delicate absurdity of it all?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Beat(less) Poem

image: Texas Heart Institute

There’s a little pump that’s sorta
Attached to my aorta
It plays a major part
But I knew I needed somepin’
For my blood to keep on pumpin’
Like an artificial heart

I knew it was worth tryin’
Cos otherwise I’m dyin’
I needed to restart
Though my blood races quicker
There’s no ticking in my ticker
It’s an artificial heart

For life, I’d face the knife
I know just what to do

You want to try a little something new?

Without a beat? Still sweet!

I can keep the reaper waitin’
My blood is circulatin’
I’m feelin’ mighty smart
Though my pulse won’t be stirrin’
I will hear the gentle whirrin’
Of my artificial heart

Via NPR, a story to warm all three of my cuttlefish hearts--new directions and progress in plumbing! Circulatory plumbing, that is--a new artificial heart, using centrifugal pumps rather than attempting to replicate a beating heart. No pulse--complete flatline--but blood circulates, and I am assured that this is what blood is supposed to do.

As always, the comments are fun; already, the poor poets and songwriters are being pitied. So I thought I'd be the first to jump in and write a bit of non-beat poetry.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Four Wheels Good--Two Wheels Bad!

When on a bike, I take great pains
To stay inside the cycle lanes
There may be unexpected stops
But still, it beats the traffic cops.

Actually, the cycle lanes in and around Cuttletown are getting better, but they have been thin, poorly marked, and ignored by drivers. As cycle lanes often are. So when I saw the story of a cyclist, ticketed for riding in a vehicular lane, there wasn't much chance of me siding with the cop. Cars frequently use the bike lane when they need a bit of breathing room--and who can blame them? Much nicer to ding the paint on a bike than to face a truck nose to nose.

But come on--give the same consideration to a bike that needs to travel a car lane!

In theory, bikes and cars both are vehicles, subject to the same laws, and with equal claim to the road. In practice, some vehicles are more equal than others.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Clover The Turtle

Clover the turtle, with no back legs,
Can’t dig a hole to lay her eggs
But when she arrives on the Florida sands
Biologists lend some helping hands
She lays her eggs, they’re covered over,
Then slowly, off again goes Clover.

Via CNN, a story of Clover the leatherback turtle. Her hind flippers have been bitten off by sharks, but with a little help from her human friends, she still lays several nests of eggs each year (seven this year).

It's really a sweet story--especially on a news day dominated by scandalous politics. There's only so much muck I can wade through. On the other hand, take a look at the comments following the story. Even here, commenters are chastising those who deny god's powers--how else would a turtle know how deep to dig?


Thursday, June 09, 2011

"Two Crustaceans On The Moon..."

A guest post of sorts today! Reader Azita shares a song she wrote, and which I absolutely love. There is something special about the cross-pollination between art and science; Azita is a biology student, and so this song takes a unique perspective. It is "Lobster Love", and I've attached the lyrics below--but watch and listen first!

The lyrics:
Wouldn't it be nice you and me
Two lobsters in the sea
Holding claws on the beach
Wouldn't it be nice if we had time
To watch the world go by
Watch day turn into night
As the stars begin to shine
Under starlight you are mine

I know that I only met you once but I never needed anyone else
I'm not saying this is love but I never needed anyone else

If we could I'd like to ride in a balloon
Fly as high as we could
Two crustaceans on the moon
We could do all the things we dreamed we'd do
Have anemones for tea
And a conch shell made for two
And we'd have to make some room
For the little lobsters too

I know that I only met you once but I never needed anyone else
I'm not saying this is love but I never needed anyone else

You make my heart beat faster, just listen
Faster than it should with my single circulatory system
I always knew I wanted you in my picture
If I had a spine you'd make it shiver
Believe me, I'm your biggest fan
I care for you as deeply as an arthropod can
When I'm with you, we have a lot of fun
You see right through my protective exoskeleton

I know that I only met you once but I never needed anyone else
I'm not saying this is love but I never needed anyone else

There is just so much to love about this ("if I had a spine you'd make it shiver"), and I thank Azita from the bottoms of all three of my Cuttlefish hearts, and encourage all of you to follow her example, and be creative and wonderful.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Just Because

So I was looking through the comments at USA Today's "Faith & Reason" blog--you know how much I love reading comments. In particular, this one brought out a predictable sort because a religion blog was criticizing the tone of a science blogger. Commenters claimed there was no solid proof for evolution, and that no scientists were present at the Big Bang so it's only a theory... and that if they want hard evidence, then they should look to the words of Jesus Christ.

It brought to mind a verse from just over 3 years ago, so I dredged it back up. Long time readers will recognize it, but I have quite a few more eyes on the page since then.

I’ve examined evolution, and I think I understand
Though the evidence is shaky, still I think the theory’s grand
But it’s only just a theory, so it’s only just a start
And an open-minded person should try picking it apart.
No belief without a reason! Give me proof of what you claim!
And the more I look, the more I see the evidence is lame!
When considering a tangled bank, I choose to see God’s Laws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

Charles Darwin drew a picture of an ever-branching tree
From the earliest of creatures all the way to you and me
Other limbs produced the fishes, beetles, lizards, monkeys, ants,
Paramecia, bacteria, creationists and plants;
He supported it with evidence of every kind he could
Which I’ve critically examined, as a thinking person should;
Now I know that he’s mistaken in the picture that he draws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If you analyze it critically, as science says we must
You’ll find laws of physics broken, so the theory is a bust:
The second thermo-something law is busted into pieces
By the fact that evolution means that entropy decreases!
And random changes couldn’t make the creatures that we find,
So the evidence is clear, that we cannot be un-designed!
With castles out of playing-cards and armies made of straws
There’s the reason I believe it: Just because.

Now, with Darwin and his evolution clearly in the tank
There is only one alternative, if I am to be frank;
That’s the theory found in Genesis, the Holy Word of God,
And with natural selection out, creation gets the nod.
But we can’t be disrespectful to our deeply held belief,
So our critical examination, this time, must be brief
There’s no clothing on this emperor, not even filmy gauze—
But the reason I believe it? Just because.

Sure, the logic may be iffy, and the evidence is slim—
Who created the creator? And then, who created him?
Why the Genesis creation? Why not something else instead?
Can we guarantee the story is exactly what God said?
Is it literal or metaphor, or maybe outright fiction?
What’s the proper course of action when we find a contradiction?
I’m ignoring any nagging doubt within me where it gnaws
And the reason I believe it? Just because.

If I’m right, I go to heaven, which I’d really like to do
But I’ll go to hell for sure if I suspect that it’s untrue
It’s a simple little wager, there’s no reason to think twice:
You get punished if you’re naughty, you get presents if you’re nice
From the guy who watches all of us, from there behind his beard
(And who cares if it’s millennia since last time he appeared?)
And so, even if it’s really just a grown-up’s Santa Claus
Well, the reason I believe it? Just because.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Much-Revered Sarah Palin

Listen my children, and then discuss
The stupidity found in the Palin bus
At the end of May, and beginning of June,
A visit we can’t forget too soon
That the media types force-fed to us.

She said to supporters gathered there
In folksy phrases, full of charm,
“You patriots are all aware
That Paul Revere, he gave that alarm
By ringin’ that bell, and shootin’ that gun,
That red-blooded patriots weren’t gonna run
He was ready to ride to keep us free
And tell them all ‘don’t tread on me’
So, one if by land, and two if by sea”

Reporters there were heard to say
They hadn’t learned it quite that way
As writers, some were English-lit-ish
And questioned if he’d warned the British
Who were, of course, the enemy,
Invading us—by land or sea—
So Sarah missed a thing or three
Her more important task that night
Was “make the news”, not “get it right.”

Meanwhile, her teabag friend Michele
While touring in the Granite State
A fortnight sooner to this date
(Well, give or take a day or two)
Was misconstruing facts as well
Her “shot heard round the world” was great
New Hampshire, though, was heard to boo.

The Concord where the shot was fired
“Heard round the world,” you may recall
Was not New Hampshire’s town at all,
Thus not the one where she was mired.
It seems there may be no Repubs
Who haven’t uttered stupid flubs
Their grasp, it seems, of history
Is battered, bruised, and blistery,
And why they’re on the public stage
In this enlightened day and age
Is more or less a mystery

Reader Kathie has alerted me (and so, I alert you) to a bit of versical fun at the Washington Post. You are invited to submit your own poems, honoring those there great patriot types, Paul Revere and Sarah Palin.

For a while, I considered writing a verse the length of the original. Then, I slapped myself in the forehead and scolded myself for contemplating such a waste of time. But hey, maybe I'll add on to what I have here. When I'm all caught up with more important things, like alphabetizing my socks.

I'm Just A Tweet

Boy: Woof! There sure are a lot of people talking about this new scandal! I wonder what started it all!

Oh, I’m just a tweet
A congressional tweet
Just a photo that he’d like to delete
Well, if he’d stopped for a moment
Or considered just a minute
And thought “what would happen
If the whole world saw what’s in it?”
Now he wishes I would go away
And he hopes and prays that I will
But today I am still just a tweet

Boy: Gee, Tweet, that’s an awful lot of commotion over one picture!

Tweet: Well, I’m not just a tweet—I’m a lewd tweet by a Democratic member of Congress! I’m like a gift from the gods to the media, and especially to the right-wing pundits on Fox News! I started out small, but here’s the thing; any attempt to make me go away just makes me bigger! And any attempt to make me bigger, also makes me bigger!

Oh, I’m just a tweet
A congressional tweet
And he’s wishing that he’d been more discreet
Well it’s a long, long way
From initially denying
To a full press conference
With confessionals and crying
Now the media have come to play
They are sensing prey they can kill
So today, they are still on the tweet

Boy: Listen to the media talk! Is all that discussion and debate about you?

Tweet: Oh, it’s not debate; that would require more rationality. This is blood lust, and it’s only mostly about me. Some of it is about old grudges and insults, and I’m just a proxy issue. If they didn’t puff me up with importance, my story might die.

Boy: Die?

Tweet: Well, the news cycle is a stern taskmaster. But it looks like Fox News is going to run with me! Now the rest of the networks, papers, and websites have to choose whether they want me.

Boy: If they do, what happens?

Tweet: I’ll be the only thing on every media outlet until the next scandal hits!

Boy: Oh no!

Tweet: Oh yes!

I’m just a tweet
A congressional tweet
And the media are howling for meat
So now I’m stuck in the headlines
As a useful distraction
Diverting attention
From every other action
I’m the dirty laundry on display
Leading folks astray is my skill
So today I am still just a tweet

Boy: You mean there are other stories in the news, that people won’t see because they are focusing on you?

Tweet: Yes, that’s called the Modern Attention Span. The media believe you can only pay attention to one thing at a time, so that’s what they give you.

Boy: Wow, I guess it’s not easy to get out of the public eye when so many people have reason for you to stay, is it?

Tweet: No!

But how I hope and I pray that I will,
But today I am still just that tweet

News Anchor: Look! Sarah Palin said something stupid!

Tweet: Oh yes!!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Weiners In Public

The members of the media
Were moved, it seems, to tears;
They hadn’t seen such honesty
In far too many years
The congressman spoke openly
And did not try to hide;
He did not say “mistakes were made”
But rather, said “I lied”
He’d hurt his wife and family;
He’d hurt some friends he’d met
(Though they’d never met in person,
Merely on the internet)
His sin was, frankly, private,
And the public was not hurt;
He simply was a man who’d found
He rather liked to flirt.

The members of the media
Decided it was right
To keep his private troubles
From a harsh and public light;
They thought he’d had his punishment
Just facing them today
They thanked him for his troubles, and
They turned and walked away.

As virtually every news source in the world is reporting, Rep. Weiner has confessed. He did a bit of cyber-foolery, and lied about it.

I don't recall Weiner as having been a moralizer, so I can't easily laugh at him. He is in a world of hurt with his wife, but this is a big nothing, as scandals go. The measured response by the media should be... to leave it be.

So, how many weeks/months/years do you think they will actually drag it out?

Saturday, June 04, 2011

How To Get An IPad

Won’t you listen to my story
Cos it won’t take very long
It’s a tale about a Chinese boy,
Whose name was Little Zheng

Just a boy like any other
And he liked the latest stuff
But it costs a lot of money
And he didn’t have enough

So he thought about his problem
But he didn’t have a clue
Till he saw a notice posted
And he knew what he must do

If you’re feeling some frustration with your current situation
Here’s a little operation, if your conscience will allow
It’s a serious incision, but it’s done with great precision
It’s the rational decision if you want your money now

Little Zheng, he called the number
And they told him where to go
But he had to keep it secret—
It’s illegal, don’t you know

But he really needed money
Cos an iPad costs a lot
And a kidney was the only
Thing of value that he’s got

So he signed away his organ
And he vanquished any doubt
And they gassed him up, and laid him down
And cut the sucker out

If you’re feeling some frustration with your current situation
Here’s a little operation, if your conscience will allow
It’s a serious incision, but it’s done with great precision
It’s the rational decision if you want your money now

It’s a gory little story
But this isn’t where it ends
See, he got a lot of stitches
But he couldn’t show his friends

He devised a bit of fiction
But it wouldn’t get him far
And his mother got suspicious
So he had so show his scar

Now his story’s hit the big time
So I’ll make this guarantee
That this tale of Little Zheng’s is
Not the last one that we’ll see

If you’re feeling some frustration with your current situation
Here’s a little operation, if your conscience will allow
It’s a serious incision, but it’s done with great precision
It’s the rational decision if you want your money now

Yup, Xiao Zheng allegedly sold his kidney to buy an iPad and an iPod, the BBC reports. Video at the link. The cynic in me suspects that this story (mother's shame and all) will result in a boom of kidneys available for rich people, and a new iPad market among teenagers.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Happy Donut Day!

Let us raise our voice in chorus
For that deep-fried, doughy torus
Though it’s not the best thing for us
It’s a super special treat

Found in bakeries or delis,
Dipped in sugars, filled with jellies,
We can stuff them in our bellies
Just as fast as we can eat

And it's Donuts, Donuts, Donuts, and Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!
So let's all go out and go nuts, saying Happy Donut Day!

Surely, nothing could be duller
Than a day without a cruller
In that toasted-almond color
So you know it's cooked just right

I love fritters and berliners
Some say Boston Cremes are winners
Cider donuts for beginners
So you're hooked at just one bite!

And it's Donuts, Donuts, Donuts, and Hooray, Hooray, Hooray!
So let's all go out and go nuts, saying Happy Donut Day!

In the US, the first Friday in June is, as you all know, National Doughnut Day (or National Donut Day). Rumor has it that both Krispy Kreme and Dunkin' Donuts are handing out free donuts (or doughnuts) today. I don't know; I'm on a diet. Besides, the best donut in the known universe (as determined by me, but objectively true nonetheless) is no longer being made. It was the apple fritter (don't complain that it is not technically a donut--it is the perfection that every donut would want to be if were able to choose) made by a small bakery one town over from Cuttletown. I lived next door to that bakery 27 years ago, and never tired of those fritters. We moved away, and when I went back to visit over a decade later, they had discontinued their fritters! Customers just weren't buying deep-fried pastries, so they got rid of the equipment (gasp!) and the recipe (horror!).

So, you can have your National Donut Day (or National Doughnut Day); for me, it is a day of mourning, for what was, for its time in the universe, the best possible argument for Platonic Ideals.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


God is not dead; God never lived.
There was no God to begin with.
No Eden’s fall, no Hell at all,
No matter who you sin with.

There is no reason, is no plan,
And purpose, what we make it.
No god above—but merely love
For all who don’t forsake it

Ok, so quite some time ago I posted something about a "Socrates Exchange" program I had happened upon on the radio. For no particular reason, I was looking through past posts, clicked a link, and found the upcoming Socrates Exchange... rather annoying. "Is life ultimately meaningless?" is the question, but that doesn't begin to tell the story. The real question is, if there is no god, is life meaningless? If there is no ultimate purpose, is life meaningless? And the odd thing is, those questions are assumed to be identical!

Most of the comments, thus far, suggest (reasonably) that purpose is what we make it. There are one or two that say God gives life purpose, and that the "if there is no god" clause is just silly. Ok, they don't use that phrase.

What would be our purpose, if there was a god? I'd really like to know. How would it make our lives meaningful, if our purpose was to suck up to a deity? Might be nice for him/her/it/them, of course--might give h/h/i/t a purpose, much like stamp collecting gives a collector purpose--but what does that say about our own purpose?

If god gives us purpose, are we the equivalent of beany babies to a collector? More active, perhaps. Pawns? No, far less powerful. Goldfish?

I don't think the Socrates Exchange people have really thought this through. True purpose must be our own, and cannot be god's. It can only be determined by us--a false "ultimate purpose" (you may insert any god's wishes here) is nothing but fantasy. Real purposes, our own purposes--learning about ourselves and our universe; making our world a better place; collecting all the beany babies--are, no matter how trivial, superior to god's purposes in one very important way.

They are real.

(BTW, the actual program does not start for about a week, so if you have comments to add to their site, you could go a long way toward polishing the image of atheists/skeptics/humanists/cuttlefishists (or just plain humans) and our view of the world as it actually is.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Thank You!

Just a quick note, because I am busier than I ought to be after handing in grades.

The Camp Quest fundraising challenge is over, and the clear winner is....

Camp Quest!

As for any other winners, you can take a look at the final tally here. Or a few other places, but I wanted to link to PZ's because he's wrong. It was actually ever-so-slightly closer than that, with a late donation to Team PZ.

The final numbers, for those who don't wish to click...

Team Awesome: $13,550.06
Team PZ: $13,016.01

Matched amounts:
Team Awesome: $1,868.73
Team PZ: $1,640.00
Total Match: $3,508.73

Team Totals (with matches included):
Team Awesome: $15,418.79
Team PZ: $14,656.01

Grand Total Raised: $30,074.80
So, yeah, thanks to all who helped!