Friday, February 27, 2015

Great crow story

I've been feeding a family of crows for over three years. I enjoy their company so much. It's not like we've become friends, exactly. They don't fly to my arm when I call them, or anything like that. But in other ways, they let you know that they like you.

For instance, when I go for a walk they come with me. There's almost always a crow circling overhead. And when they want me to notice them (i.e., when they want me to feed them), they soar through my field of vision, looping this way and that. When they do this, they remind me of kids who want attention. There's something both familiar and childish in their antics.

But...I've never gotten a gift from them (or at least, I never noticed a gift). This girl had a different experience. I loved the story. And hey, the crows really, really like her! (The link leads to Jerry Coyne's web site.)

PS: If you'd like to make friends with a crow, all you need is unsalted peanuts (still in the shell). Toss some out at a regular time of day, and soon you'll have crows as regular visitors.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The miraculous gorilla in the room

There are tens of thousands of religions on this Earth. Each claims to be the only "true" religion.

If any one of these religions possessed the unvarnished truth and thus had access to the one true God, shouldn't we expect to see endless miracles occurring within this group? Shouldn't they be able to raise the dead, and whatnot? And wouldn't that make it stick out like a sore thumb among the "untrue" religions?

I don't see that religion anywhere, do you? I'm just saying.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The cold hasn't stopped, but hope springs eternal

It was minus 10 this morning. I've never seen so many double-digit negative temperatures in NY, and I've been around for a good long time. This is one heck of a winter. (Somehow, "hell" doesn't work with "winter". So "heck" it is.) But, but...are there signs of spring on the horizon?

Well, not quite. But I did see two lonely temps in the 40s in the 10-day forecast for NYC. It won't be that balmy here in upstate NY, but it's a sign. Spring, she is coming.

Providing more proof, there are actual baseball games in the next fourteen days (the furthest out that my TV listings can see). I've scheduled the DVR to record about 10 games. Woot! I miss baseball so much in the off-season. All winter, I try to make believe it's okay, that baseball will truly come back and I'll still be alive to see it -- but it doesn't work. Winter is a lonely, dead thing. And this one, with its fierce temperatures and winds, has been a nightmare.

But the nightmare is almost over. Just think, all us guys will soon be able to wear our shorts, nail polish and bracelets again. Double-woot! I cannot wait.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Those brave, brave American mall shoppers

It's hard to contain one's admiration as one observes Americans everywhere, heading to the malls despite the remote possibility of a terrorist attack. Be still, my heart! The sight of so many brave souls marching as one to the malls...humbles me and brings me to my knees. So much heroism in one place!

Have you ever seen such valor? These fine Americans are braving the incredibly infinitesimal chance that they will be the victims of terrorism (and hopefully end up being interviewed on Fox News). Seriously, have you ever witnessed such bravery in your life? Just look at their full shopping bags! These are true Americans who do the fruited plains justice.

And you know what? One aspect of their bravery has not been noted in media broadcasts or in print, until this very moment. Yes, it's time for more Breaking News on the Worlds Blog. It is this: not one item in any of those shopping bags is needed! No, these Americans literally braved gunfire for stuff they didn't need. Cuz that's the kind of patriots they are!

I insist that the Pentagon issue Medals of Valor to each and every American shopper who shows up at a mall, anytime this year.

Oh, oh -- and there should be a statue, too. Yes, that's a fine idea. A statue of The Valorous American Shopper should be erected immediately at every mall in this country. Preferably, each statue should feature a brave shopper who is carrying four full shopping because he wants to exercise his freedoms.

Truly, the heart thrills at the very thought of these new American Heroes. USA!! USA!!

Meh. And oy, too. (And yeesh.)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pope Francis is a monster

Time to cash in your bets, me bloggies. Those of you who had big money on Francis-the-Monster won big-time! There is no longer any doubt. The pope is indeed a monster, worse than the demons that live only in his (and the other pope's) imagination. Why do I say this? Well, the following is from an article about the popey guy's new book:
"Let's think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation."

"With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator," the pope adds.
A bit more from the article:
Pope Francis has appeared to compare trans and genderqueer people to nuclear weapons, saying both do not 'recognize the order of creation'.

The head of the Catholic Church has claimed people who 'manipulate' their bodies are similar to 'Herods' that 'destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.'
Nice, popey guy. Really nice. To be clear, I mean "nice" like finding a turd in your breakfast dish; that kind of nice. Francis has finally come out as the card-carrying, hate-driven, viciously rightwing lunatic that he's always been. 

Expect much more from the pit of hell that exists inside this pope's heart. The next big chapter in Catholic hatred of GLBTQ people will take place in Philadelphia and New York, when the illustrious new pope celebrates "the family". (Praising "the family" is Catholic code-speak for "I hate all gay and trans people".) Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Gay people are supposed to be excited about this? Meh.

The headlines blare: "American gay Catholic group welcomed to Vatican". But then we learn the details:
For the first time ever, a delegation of American gay and lesbian Catholics were in the VIP seats at a public papal audience in the Vatican.
Pope Francis did not mention New Ways Ministry in his remarks Wednesday.

They were identified on the list of attendees only as a “group of lay people accompanied by a Sister of Loreto.”
From now on, when I go anywhere, I won't tell people beforehand that I'm gay. Instead, I'll just say that I'll be "accompanied by a Sister of Loreto". In the new code-speak, this apparently suffices as identification.

And then there's this:
“We didn’t get the shout-out, but we were very, very close,” DeBernardo told The Associated Press.
Uh-huh. And this excited you, eh? As I said above: meh. Anyway, I guess this means that gays are allowed to do Catholic things now -- as long as they remain invisible.

And this is supposed to be progress? I think not.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Wildly important word things

Okay, so maybe they aren't that important. And maybe they're not important at all. But if I don't talk about the odd word issue now and then, who will? Let us begin.

I've mentioned on the blog that I fell into HGTV this year, as a tonic to soothe me following the rude conclusion of the baseball season. They use amusing language on the show. Plus, you get to hear the strange comments of buyers. Unscripted television is a delight to me for this very reason. 

The other night I saw a show that featured a young couple looking for a big house. The woman said that when she walked into her dream home, she wanted it to be "grandioso". She used this word over and over, apparently having no clue about the pejorative meaning of the word grandiosity. Adding to the fun, she was accompanied by a husband who had only one thing to say as he was shown various houses: "Where the man room?" Is there anything more appalling than the idea that every man deserves a "man cave"? The chutzpah of such an idea is hard to match -- especially when the "balance" is that the woman gets...a great kitchen. Cuz that's what wimmins wants: kitchens.

The HGTV lexicon (their little language book, in other words) includes some weird terms. For instance, clients often request a "soaker tub". This term reminds me of the equally nonsensical "sniffer dog". Are there really "non-soaking tubs" and dogs that don't sniff? Last night, I heard a new one. A realtor pointed out, helpfully, "and there you have your standing shower". Uh...

Singleton. Simpleton. What's with the -ton? (And Jeepers, I found "doubleton" while looking for singleton. Who knew?) These words are not like the many other words that end in -ton. For instance, wanton or skeleton or mutton. They seem qualitatively different. So what is the meaning of the -ton suffix? 

Random House Dictionary notes that -ton is "a suffix formerly used to form nouns from adjectives: simpleton; singleton." Note the two words they used to illustrate this point. Odd, don't you think? These words seem to be separate from the flock. I don't feel I got a real answer here, so I'll toss it out to you. If you know something more about this suffix and would like to share your information with readers, please comment.

Let us now jump to the peripherally related but wildly entertaining field of movie captions. I found these two gems the other night. (I usually watch movies with captions turned on. There's far too much whispering in movies these days, if you ask me.)

"Unholy grunting" the captions said. How did they know? (Okay, it was a silly demon movie, but still.)
"Eerie music fades up." I thought that was so strange. They kept repeating this, so I noted what the music was doing as the caption appeared. It got louder. How that is "fading up", I don't know.

I now return you to your own lexicon. Use your words wisely, and take the time to enjoy the language that you encounter. But always remember: it's a word jungle out there. Be careful!

Will fans cheer for this nitwit?

Alex Rodriguez is a disgusting creature. I've been wondering why the Yankees would even consider putting this loser on the field. Perhaps this article provides the answer.
There ain’t no easy way out for the Yankees, unless they release Rodriguez. Until then, he is like that stench in the carpet that will not go away. No matter how much you spray and scrub, sometimes you have to just give up and throw the thing out.
That's what I would expect: throw the bum out. But that's not what they're doing. The writer goes on:
The Yankees will go through the charade of spring training, partly to see if Rodriguez’s hips break down and force him to retire. In that case, the team would fulfill its fantasy of collecting, through insurance, most of the $61 million still owed Rodriguez.
Ah, I see. They're hoping he'll injure himself. Kinda fun, actually. I wonder if they'll play him hard, to encourage serious injury. Nah, he'd just sue them. That's all the guy is good for: hiring lawyers to claw at other people's checkbooks on his behalf.

I can't imagine being a Yankees fan right now. How can anyone look at this guy without feeling disgust? I certainly can't. And let's remember that when it counts, A-Rod will always let the team down. If the Yankees are one run down with the bases loaded in their favor, and Alex Rodriguez is the final batter, NY fans may as well head for the exits. He'll bomb out every time, guaranteed.

Any Yankee fans want to chime in? Are you looking forward to the coming season? If so, why?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Long ago and far away

In the 1960s, Sam Andrew was incredibly kind to me. I was a heroin addict at the time and, trust me on this, I didn't deserve anyone's kindness. But that didn't stop him. It was just his nature.

Once, after giving me everything I needed to survive -- despite the fact that I hadn't asked for a thing -- he took his shirt off and traded it for mine. It was as if he was saying "what I have is yours". It was just his nature to do things like this. 

I've thought of Sam many times since then, and I was sad when I learned of his death.

Sam Andrew, you were a good, good man.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Susan Jacoby settles the issue

Yes, Christianity once birthed something as awful as ISIS: the Crusades. Just go read it.
Cultural ignoramuses portrayed President Obama’s references to the Crusades and the Inquisition at the recent National Prayer Breakfast as an excuse for Islamic terrorism, but the president’s allusions could and should have been used as an opportunity to reflect on the special damage inflicted in many historical contexts by warriors seeking conquest in the name of their god.
That sound you hear is a zillion rightwing religious heads exploding. Sweet, isn't it?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Should we invite aliens to visit Earth?

There's an interesting story today about the idea of humans "actively" contacting aliens. A scientific conference was held this week in San Jose to consider the advisability of sending messages toward the stars, in hopes of attracting the interest of an intelligent alien species.
Astronomers have their own version of the single person's dilemma: Do you wait by the phone for a call from that certain someone? Or do you make the call yourself and risk getting shot down?

Instead of love, of course, astronomers are looking for alien life, and for decades, they have sat by their telescopes, waiting to hear from E.T. It didn't happen, and so now some of them want to beam messages out into the void and invite the closest few thousand worlds to chat or even visit.
Stephen Hawking, among others, thinks this is a terrible idea. If they're much more advanced than us, there's a good chance they would see us as expendable. And who knows? They might think killing is fun. After all, humans seem to think it's fun. (Hunting, anyone?)

Here's the problem: evolution creates predators. While humans see themselves as "higher" forms of life compared to other Earth species, in truth we are simply the most deadly predators. That's who we are: the most successful of Earth's predatory species. We can kill anything, eat it, enslave it, torture it, etc. Sadly, this isn't a surprise. Because of the way evolution works, it's inevitable.

Species fight each other for resources. Scientists often speak of the "arms race" between species. Plants have defenses against the insects that prey on them. When the insects develop a new way to evade this protection and eat the plant, the plant either dies or comes up with a new weapon to use against the insects. This is the constantly evolving "arms war" that works hand in hand with evolution. All animals prey on something. And humans prey on everything. Hooray for us, huh? I find the whole thing far too bloody -- but hey, that's me.

But this isn't just an Earth issue. Evolution is omnipresent; it isn't confined to Earth. It will happen whenever and wherever life emerges. In this way, evolution is (probably) creating predators throughout the universe. Given an alien species that's existed for a very long time (way longer than humans, in other words), there is a tremendous likelihood that it would be a predatory species beyond anything we've seen in our little Earth backwater. Add inconceivably advanced technology into the mix, and the outcome is predictable: we would lose, every time.

Invite them to visit? I think not. We wouldn't have a chance (if they wanted anything from us; if not, they'd just ignore us).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A huge hawk joins my menagerie

I feed sunflower seeds to the little birds who live around my house. So many tiny birds live in bushes; it always amazes me. I don't understand how they survive the cold, northeast winters. But somehow, some way, they do. (Speaking of which, NY is supposed to see the coldest temperatures in 20 years this weekend.)

I tossed out my usual big glass full of seeds this morning, and later decided to toss some more -- along with birdalicious suet. They adore this stuff in the winter, though it seems to lose its allure in the summer months.

But when I opened the curtain and the sliding door in one movement, I startled the feeding birds and a huge bird came flying right toward my face. It stopped only a foot short and veered up toward the roof. I wasn't freaked out by this. I just thought, "What is that big bird?!"

It immediately flew to a tree right next to my house. At this point, it was about 16 feet from me. I said hello and it looked at me with interest. As I say, it didn't seem to fear me -- though it's a smart bird that keeps its distance from humans. And he seemed to be interested in the seeds, rather than the innocent little birds around him. There wasn't a drop of blood out there, thank Dog. Happy with my bird sighting, I tossed out the seeds and went back to my computer.

When I returned to the door an hour later, the hawk was right on the other side of the glass, sitting happily on my top step. Boy, is he big! Seeing him up close really told the tale. Big and powerful. His legs and claws are amazing.

I thought about taking a photo but in my experience, birds are wary of cameras. Since I didn't want to scare him off permanently, I skipped the photo session. Still, if he keeps returning I should be able to sneak a shot and show him to you.

A hawk. How cool!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This is amazing

You have to be a true science geek to get excited about this, but that describes me perfectly. Long ago, I encountered the idea that life is merely a means to dissipate energy. In other words, life is just another agent of entropy. It may be true that we are not more meaningful than the bubbles that rise up from boiling liquid.

Here's the key idea in one sentence, taken from this article:
The general trend of the evolution of biological systems seems to be this: more advanced life forms tend to dissipate more energy by broadening their access to various forms of stored energy.
In other words, life began on Earth because our sun shines on an otherwise cold planet. The heat differential is what did the trick. Plants took the sun's energy and made it into something they could use. Then animals ate the plants. And then people ate the animals. It's all part of an energy scheme: we must dissipate energy in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics.

But intelligent life can do way more than eat a few animals. As smart creatures, we're able to not only eat everything that walks past -- we can also rip the Earth up and get the plant mass from eons past and turn it into oil, which we then expend through machine use. Heck, we're so good at using energy, we may nuke the entire planet. USA! USA! etc.

We are engines for energy dissipation. I love that. Extra bonus: this may mean that intelligent life is very likely on other worlds. After all, we intelligent creatures dissipate heat so well.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

This is not a joke

I found this today on physorg:
While the largest of a neutron star's nuclei exist in its inner core, forming an exotic ultra-dense quark-gluon plasma, the star's less dense outer edges are composed of more conventional matter. Lying at the boundary between these two types of matter in this giant pressure cooker of a star is what scientists call "nuclear pasta."

Nuclear pasta consists of very dense matter arranged in regular shapes, such as flat plates or rods, and is thought to be formed by the competition between attractive and repulsive forces of similar magnitude. The nuclear pasta shapes are made of not only neutrons, but some protons and electrons as well.

Judging by the radiation emitted by the stars, nuclear pasta appears to exist in many complex phases, to which scientists have given names such as the gnocchi phase, the lasagna phase, and the penne phase—based, of course, on the predicted shapes. As humorous as the names are, these complex nuclear pasta phases could provide some of the most detailed information scientists may ever know about the strange characteristics of neutron stars.
Nuclear pasta is now a thing. I adore physics.

(Bolding in the article above is mine.)

Media blows pope story

I watched several broadcast and local news shows last night, and not one provided context for the story about the pope's approval of fathers who hit their children. They simply reported some version of "the pope says it might be okay to hit your child". That's not how it went down.

Let us once again look at how the pope came to utter these dreadful words. Here is the exact quote that I provided in yesterday's post:
Pope Francis had praised a father who admitted smacking his child "but never in the face so as to not humiliate them."

Francis described the man's comment as "beautiful," adding: "He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on."
Not one media source mentioned the father's comment which led to the pope's sickening assessment. And none of them quoted the pope's words. He praised the father and called his actions beautiful and dignified.
Once again we see that the media whitewashes the words of those they see as primary players. It's a much more disgusting exchange when we understand that the pope praised this father for hitting the child everywhere but the face! And the pope actually said this indicates the father "knows the sense of dignity"! Beautiful? Just? There was absolutely no mention of the exact words that the pope used. Just a simple "the pope thinks it might be okay to hit kids".

That's not news, that's protecting the pope and preventing the actual story from being disseminated. These sources surely had access to the conversation that led the pope down this shady path. Hell, it was right there in the AP dispatch. But they chose not to share this context with viewers. It might make the pope look bad.

This is the state of American news. They never tell people what actually happened. They just tell us what they think we can handle -- while protecting those in power. It's appalling.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Craven pope lauds abusive parents

This makes me sick:
In his general audience this week, Pope Francis had praised a father who admitted smacking his child "but never in the face so as to not humiliate them."

Francis described the man's comment as "beautiful," adding: "He knows the sense of dignity! He has to punish them but does it justly and moves on."
I'd like to send a big, resounding "F you" to the pope. It's never okay to hit a child. Oddly, children can understand language -- so we don't have to hit them to get their attention. Only inhuman scum hit their children, and only a religious git would praise this abuse with words like "dignity" and "beautiful". The pope just revealed that he has no soul. (Mind you, no one does. But you know what I mean.)

This reminds me of a disgusting story I saw on the news last night. It was about fathers who "humiliate" (they actually used that word as a plus) their children by making them get "old man" haircuts. The cuts were pretty awful but I won't show the image to you. Because to do so would further humiliate the child.

These fathers are animals and their children should be taken away from them. Ditto for the awful parents who make their kids wear demeaning signs on the side of the street, to "teach them" stuff. I send out a huge "F you" to all these parents.

Kindness. Religious people haven't heard of the notion, but it's out there. Never hit your child or humiliate him. It only shows your lack of morals and teaches the child that he or she should aspire to be better than you.

You're harming your children. You're scum. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

HGTV saved my soul

Just kidding; I don't have a soul. But I do thank Dog for HGTV. It saved me from the horror that descends on me when the baseball season ends. It's like "OMD! What am I going to do with myself during the winter? Knit? Pray? Scream?" It totally freaks me out. I love baseball.

However, this year I found the holy grail of time-wasters' TV: HGTV. I had noticed the station before but just laughed at it, as if it was the Oxygen Network. I'm not sure why I dismissed it but I did. And then one fateful evening, I turned on Property Brothers -- and was instantly hooked. HGTV is the opposite of entropy: they start with a mess and turn it into something wonderful. How can you not like something like that?

(I always enjoy shows where people create things but I detest the current tendency to turn them all into competitions. Baseball aside, competition sucks. I don't care about the people involved. I'm not interested in their personalities, their squabbles, their life stories or anything else about them. I just want to see someone make something pretty (or prettier). Sadly, this means I can't watch, for instance, Ellen's Design Challenge. It's that "challenge" word. Just show me the goods and let me see the person as he or she makes them. Why do we need arguments and drama? That's nonsense.)

Anyway, so I watch these rehab shows -- all of them. Essentially, the idea is that people buy a house in some sad state of disrepair and they (or others) turn it into a gem. What's not to like?

Well...the people. Don't get me wrong, some of them are great. But there are so many free-range pigs looking to buy a property specifically to impress others. Isn't that special? I can't tell you how amused I am by these people.

The first thing they do is show you the family in their present home, which they typically say "doesn't meet the needs of their growing family". Ha. As you tour their current house, you see that every room is in a state of total disarray. Possessions are strewn over floors, counters and tables. Nameless items are stacked, teeteringly, all the way to the ceiling. And then we hear the hapless couple say, "We thought this house would work for us, but it just doesn't." Hahaha.

I sit there in my chair and yell at the TV: "You're slobs. A day after you move into your new, perfect home, it will look exactly like the pig sty you currently occupy. You don't need a new house, you need a new life."

The next best thing is when the hapless, messy family initially tours a property. The tall, front door is flung open and the ill-dressed couple says, "Oh, we were hoping for a much grander entrance." Hahah. To suit your lifestyle, I assume.

One of the best parts is the tour of the "master" bedroom, which the couple always thinks is too tiny for them. Because they're so special, and all. I especially love when they check out the bathroom attached to the master bedroom. The woman (it's always the woman) cringes with revulsion and says, "That's not very impressive for a master en suite!" Indeed, princess. It doesn't suit you at all.

But the most enjoyable thing for me is watching how the people react to the most beautiful aspects of a property. In one episode, a couple of dude bros saw that there was a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling stained glass window in one room. Their reaction was, "Ugh. That's gotta go." I roared. When they were told that it was a heritage house and the stained glass had to remain, they said "Well, that's a deal-breaker". They just had to get rid of the gorgeous stained glass. They did buy the place and this room ended up being the most beautiful space in the rehabbed home. It was stunning.

And there's a special place in my heart for the couples that have dreadful taste and insist that they be surrounded by the kitsch, clashing colors and tacky art they so love. The great thing is that the designers, being good designers, give them exactly what they requested. It's a riot to see the finished houses. The. Worst. Houses. Ever.

So yeah, HGTV saved me. There's more to come on my HGTV joys. Stay tuned.

Now, where the hell is baseball?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

PZ eviscerates the odious David Brooks

I don't have time to post today, so once again I leave you with a link. David Brooks wrote a terrifically stupid column today, and PZ Myers shredded it in style. Go read it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Funny post today at Ed Braton's blog

Good old Ed. Go read his post -- and be sure to read the comments by nitwits. Funny stuff.

What has happened to this country? Sometimes it seems like no American currently alive received an education in school. Come to think of it, I guess they didn't.