Friday, April 21, 2006

Poem of the Day

The Strangest Creature on Earth by Nazim Hikmet

You're like a scorpion, my brother,
you live in cowardly darkness
like a scorpion.
You're like a sparrow, my brother,
always in a sparrow's flutter.
You're like a clam, my brother,
closed like a clam, content,
And you're frightening, my brother,
like the mouth of an extinct volcano.

Not one,
not five--
unfortunately, you number millions.
You're like a sheep, my brother:
when the cloaked drover raises his stick,
you quickly join the flock
and run, almost proudly, to the slaughterhouse.
I mean you're strangest creature on earth--
even stranger than the fish
that couldn't see the ocean for the water.
And the oppression in this world
is thanks to you.
And if we're hungry, tired, covered with blood,
and still being crushed like grapes for our wine,
the fault is yours--
I can hardly bring myself to say it,
but most of the fault, my dear brother, is yours.

Trans. by Randy Blasing and Mutlu Konuk (1993)

Happy Birthday

Catherine II the Great

Reigned as Empress of Russia for more than three decades
The epitome of the "enlightened despot"

(sorry, couldn't resist.)

John Muir
(1838 – 1914)

Scottish-American environmentalist, naturalist, explorer, writer, inventor, and geologist

The spiritual father of the modern conservation movement.

Anthony Quinn

(1915 – 2001)
Mexican-American actor, painter, and writer.

He is best known for his performance in Zorba the Greek.

He showed us how to live the full catastrophe!

Elaine May

(1932- )

American screenwriter, movie director, and performer

One of the funniest people alive.

Charles Grodin

( 1935- )

American actor and comedian

The embodiment of droll.
A very funny man.

Avast! Map of Pirate Activity off Somalia.

from Cartography:

UNOSAT is a United Nations initiative that seeks to provide satellite imagery and mapping products to the humanitarian community. To access satellite imagery users need to be part of “an active member organization”- that is, an organization that is part of the U. N. system or one that is working in accordance to U. N. policies.

Some maps are created and made freely available, usually in response to a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis. Recent examples include maps of the area around Mount Merapi, a currently smouldering volcano in Indonesia, piracy around the Horn of Africa and maps of Lorestan Province in Iran, site of a recent earthquake.

Listen Up!

from AmericanAgenda

Simple Instructions for the Perfect Friday in Pennsylvania

Click the link below:

Directory for the Pennyslvania House of Representatives.

Locate your rep, pick up the phone and call him or her.

Tell your Rep to oppose the passage of HB 2381 (The Marriage Protection Amendment) or they will lose your vote forever! Tell them to focus on the real priorities of Pennsylvania, not the hate of a fringe group bent on erasing the seperation of church and state.

Hang up.




Oh...And tell your friends.
Copy and past the link and tell everyone!

The vote is on Monday, April 24th.

Enjoy your Friday!

Whites Take Flight on Election Day

from WaPo:

Bad news for Michael S. Steele, the leading Maryland Republican candidate for Senate in November: The scuttling noise he hears on Election Day could be the sound of tens of thousands of white Republicans crossing over to vote for the Democrat.

In fact, white Republicans nationally are 25 percentage points more likely on average to vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP hopeful is black, says economist Ebonya Washington of Yale University in a forthcoming article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics. White independents are similarly inclined to vote for the white Democrat when there's a black Republican running, according to her study of congressional and gubernatorial voting patterns between 1982 and 2000, including five Senate races (more)

This doesn't portend well for Lynn Swann's run for govenor here in PA. Ed Rendell already has a lock on SE PA and Philly proper. If Swann loses 25% of the white Republicans statewide due to race prejudice I think that would cook his goose.

I admit to thinking that Rendell should be re-elected, entirely on the merits of the job he's been doing, but winning because a bunch of bigots won't vote for an African American sticks in my craw.

NASA Black Hole Simulation

There's a great bit of animation with article. Real Sensawonda Stuff.

NASA scientists have reached a breakthrough in computer modeling that allows them to simulate what gravitational waves from merging black holes look like. The three-dimensional simulations, the largest astrophysical calculations ever performed on a NASA supercomputer, provide the foundation to explore the universe in an entirely new way.

According to Einstein's math, when two massive black holes merge, all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O as gravitational waves race out from the collision at light speed.

Previous simulations had been plagued by computer crashes. The necessary equations, based on Einstein's theory of general relativity, were far too complex. But scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have found a method to translate Einstein's math in a way that computers can understand. (more)

A Real 'Green' House: No Heating Bill for 25 Years

from ScienceDaily:

When David Mears and his wife Dorothy put their house up for sale at the end of last year, it wasn't just the four-plus acres of beautiful woodlot land that made the property appealing. Nor were the five bedrooms or extra cabinet space in their roomy kitchen the most significant features.

The main attraction was the fact that the couple hadn't paid their heating bill for more than 25 years.

That's because they hadn't received one since 1980.

Using his knowledge of alternative energy sources for commercial greenhouses in response to the energy crisis of the 1970's, David Mears, a professor of Bioresource Engineering at Rutgers University, virtually eliminated the use of fuel oil for heating his home. (more)

The beauty of this system is that it uses 25 year old technology and works quite well. So much for the myth that says you can't depend on solar power for heating in the NorthEast.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Happy Birthday

Joan Miró i Ferrá

(1893 – 1983)

Spanish painter, sculptor and ceramist

Harold Clayton Lloyd


American actor and film maker

The forgotten man of silent comedy

Lionel Leo Hampton
(1908 – 2002)

American bandleader,
jazz percussionist and vibraphone virtuoso

The very essence of utterly smooth
and the person whom I most wanted to be when I grew up.


It is also Adolph Hitler's birthday.
The thought of him burning for eternity in Hell is one of the few reasons I have for wishing there truly was an afterlife.

The Worst President in History?

Is there any serious doubt? W makes James Buchanan seem like a mensch.

from Rolling Stone:

One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush

George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace. Barring a cataclysmic event on the order of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, after which the public might rally around the White House once again, there seems to be little the administration can do to avoid being ranked on the lowest tier of U.S. presidents. And that may be the best-case scenario. Many historians are now wondering whether Bush, in fact, will be remembered as the very worst president in all of American history.

From time to time, after hours, I kick back with my colleagues at Princeton to argue idly about which president really was the worst of them all. For years, these perennial debates have largely focused on the same handful of chief executives whom national polls of historians, from across the ideological and political spectrum, routinely cite as the bottom of the presidential barrel. Was the lousiest James Buchanan, who, confronted with Southern secession in 1860, dithered to a degree that, as his most recent biographer has said, probably amounted to disloyalty -- and who handed to his successor, Abraham Lincoln, a nation already torn asunder? Was it Lincoln's successor, Andrew Johnson, who actively sided with former Confederates and undermined Reconstruction? What about the amiably incompetent Warren G. Harding, whose administration was fabulously corrupt? Or, though he has his defenders, Herbert Hoover, who tried some reforms but remained imprisoned in his own outmoded individualist ethic and collapsed under the weight of the stock-market crash of 1929 and the Depression's onset? The younger historians always put in a word for Richard M. Nixon, the only American president forced to resign from office.

Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been. (more)

Thought for the Day

from The Viscount LaCarte:

'As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.'

-H.L. Mencken

Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agents

One of the 'agents' named on the list actually demanded that TOR Books fire the Nielsen-Haydens for running this on Making Light, their personal, non-corporate blog. Way to work for your clients, fool. Piss off a major publisher and two of its best editors at the same time. Not to mention taking another blow at the First Amendment. You truly are a GREAT agent. Brilliant.

from Absolute Write Water Cooler:

Writer Beware's 20 Worst Agents

A list of the 20 agents about which Writer Beware has received the greatest number of advisories/complaints during the past several years.

None of these agents has a significant track record of sales to commercial (advance-paying) publishers, and most have virtually no documented and verified sales at all (many sales claimed by these agents turn out to be vanity publishers). All charge clients before a sale is made, whether directly, by charging fees such as reading or administrative fees, or indirectly, for 'editing services.'

Writer Beware suggests that writers searching for agents avoid questionable agents, and instead query agents who have actual track records of sales to commercial publishing houses.

And Here I Am, Stuck Outside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again

Seems like a major hoot and a true holler. Oh to live in NYC. (at least part of the time).

Flarf Festival April 20-22 at Medicine Show in NYC:


April 20-22, 2006, Medicine Show, 549 West 52nd Street, NYC.
$8.00 per evening, general admission. $20.00 for 3 evening pass.
For tickets: 212-262-4216 and leave message. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Film, poetry, music and theater by members of the Flarflist Collective in collaboration with Abigail Child, Theresa Buchheister, Stelianos Manolakakis, The Drew Gardner Poetics Orchestra, and actors who have worked with Medicine Show, The Ontological-Hysteric Theater, and The Upright Citizens Brigade. Award-winning experimental ensemble Medicine Show hosts the celebrated and controversial Flarflist Collective for three nights as part of its ongoing Word/Play series, partially funded by NYSCA. Hosted by Jordan Davis.

I'm The Decider

from The Huffington Post:

Tee-Hee! This little ditty is just a bit too much.

I'm The Decider

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Happy Birthday

Dudley Moore
(1935 – 2002)

British musician, actor and comedian

Best known as the drunken rich kid in Arthur,
he did his best work during the 1960's in partnership with Peter Cook.

Tim Curry

(1946- )

English actor, vocalist and composer

Best known for his role as mad scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show,
he is currently appearing as King Arthur in the Broadway production of Spamelot

Poem of the Day

A Dog Has Died by Pablo Neruda

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.

Translated, from the Spanish, by Alfred Yankauer

For my beloved Laika, dead now these 13 years. Remember my promise. I'll meet you there when I can.

Find Leaves IDiots Snakebitten

A true transitional fossil. The second in as many weeks! HOO HAH!

from Pharyngula:

Najash rionegrina, a snake with legs

It's a busy time for transitional fossil news—first they find a fishapod, and now we've got a Cretaceous snake with legs and a pelvis. One's in the process of gaining legs, the other is in the early stages of losing them.

Najash rionegrina was discovered in a terrestrial fossil deposit in Argentina, which is important in the ongoing debate about whether snakes evolved from marine or terrestrial ancestors. The specimen isn't entirely complete (but enough material is present to unambiguously identify it as a snake), consisting of a partial skull and a section of trunk. It has a sacrum! It has a pelvic girdle! It has hindlimbs, with femora, fibulae, and tibiae! It's a definitive snake with legs, and it's the oldest snake yet found.


Meat-Eaters Aiding Global Warming?

Take a close look at the chart to the left. Note that the items enteric fermintation and animal wastes account for 110 Tg/yr of methane production . That's nearly as much as all non-anthropogenic sources produce and more than the amount from gas, oil, and coal use.

Now comes the study below which factors in the costs in greenhouse gasses in the production of various diets.

The results are pretty grim.

So I think it's time to put my mouth where my money is, I guess. Years ago I foreswore drivng as a contribution to a better environment. In as much as I fulminate regularly about the coming global climate change on this blog and elsewhere, it now looks like I must give up meat as well.

It's for the best from a health standpoint anyway. So here goes. My goal is to be meat free by my birthday in July. And please consider joining me.

I'll write from time to time on my struggle to become less of a carnivore.

from ABC News:

Your personal impact on global warming may be influenced as much by what you eat as by what you drive.

That surprising conclusion comes from a couple of scientists who have taken an unusual look at the production of greenhouse gases from an angle that not many folks have even thought about. Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin, assistant professors of geophysics at the University of Chicago, have found that our consumption of red meat may be as bad for the planet as it is for our bodies.

If you want to help lower greenhouse gas emissions, they conclude in a report to be published in the journal Earth Interactions, become a vegetarian.

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that both researchers are vegetarians, although they admit to cheating a little with an occasional sardine. They say their conclusions are backed up by hard data.

Eshel and Martin collected that data from a wide range of sources, and they examined the amount of fossil-fuel energy — and thus the level of production of greenhouse gases — required for five different diets. The vegetarian diet turned out to be the most energy efficient, followed by poultry, and what they call the 'mean American diet,' which consists of a little bit of everything.

There was a surprising tie for last place. In terms of energy required for harvesting and processing, fish and red meat ended up in a 'virtual tie,' but that's just in terms of energy consumed. When you toss in all those other factors, such as bovine flatulence and gas released by manure, red meat comes in dead last. Fish remains in fourth place, some distance behind poultry and the mean American diet, chiefly because the type of fish preferred by Americans requires a lot of energy to catch.

Eating Red Meat Like Driving an SUV?

Can changing your diet really have much of an impact?

'It is comparable to the difference between driving an SUV and driving a reasonable sedan,' said Eshel, who drives a Honda Civic, and only when he has to.

Eshel, who grew up on a farm, has always been interested in ecology and the impact we have on the planet. He got into this research, he says, because 'now that I'm a professor of geophysics, I have tools in my tool kit that I can apply much more quantitatively and rigorously to evaluate what we do."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Another Blow to the Case for IDiocy

from ScienceDaily:

Evolution Of 'Irreducible Complexity' Explained

Using new techniques for resurrecting ancient genes, scientists have for the first time reconstructed the Darwinian evolution of an apparently "irreducibly complex" molecular system.

The research was led by Joe Thornton, assistant professor of biology at the University of Oregon's Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and will be published in the April 7 issue of SCIENCE.

How natural selection can drive the evolution of complex molecular systems -- those in which the function of each part depends on its interactions with the other parts--has been an unsolved issue in evolutionary biology. Advocates of Intelligent Design argue that such systems are "irreducibly complex" and thus incompatible with gradual evolution by natural selection.

"Our work demonstrates a fundamental error in the current challenges to Darwinism," said Thornton. "New techniques allowed us to see how ancient genes and their functions evolved hundreds of millions of years ago. We found that complexity evolved piecemeal through a process of Molecular Exploitation -- old genes, constrained by selection for entirely different functions, have been recruited by evolution to participate in new interactions and new functions." more

equator works

This artwork just thrills my geographer's soul. The artist, James Koester, works by placing into small everyday containers pins that glow in the dark. The outlines are of generally recognizable geographic features like lakes, islands, seas and subcontinents. My description isn't doing it any justice, but check it out and try to guess the identity of the object depicted. Nice work.

Well, That's Encouraging.

I've been fighting a most hideous mind fog for the past 6 months.

It's been all I could do to pull together enough concentration to study for the few classes I took this academic year. I have been sleeping 12 hours a day. Music has become uninteresting. I've been living on mac'N'cheese and popcorn and reading only the schlockiest of SF and mysteries. Anything requiring attention was dead to me. I was even finding it hard to follow inane Hollywood movie plots.

The best descriptor I've found for the feeling in my head is to imagine living in a world stuffed with cotton wool. Muffled, white, and thick to move through. Every motion seemingly requires great effort, but you have no sense of having moved at all. Sound sometimes reaches you, but you can't reach it. Light doesn't vary, nothing attracts your attention.

The worst of it is the acceptance that comes with the endless repetition of these effects. It's just easier every day to imagine/believe/accept that this is how it is and always was.

Overlying all of this is the sense of being a spectator. It's like watching this sad, slow crumbling of an ancient and beloved landmark building that no one cares to repair. Everyday another piece cracks off and falls to the ground and is swept away to the ashbin by the groundskeeper. The building stoically stands there being buffeted by the forces it cannot see and slowly dissoves away.

But I think I might be coming out of it.

The fog has parted a bit. This miasma composed of a chronic Lyme flare, anti-depressant detox and BushCo lies/hatred/malefeasance is still roiling about me, but there are objects to be glimpsed in the fog.

It's sunny outside today. Flowers are aburstin' up everywhere. The cat is tanning on the window sill. The maples are in full bloom and I can't breathe, but it's OK.

In the past month I've found that I can do math in my head again. The horrible deterioration of my memory exemplorized by my failing recall of names has seemingly improved greatly. I had been blaming the Lyme for these things, but now I suspect it was the anti-depressant.

Beware the Jabberwock my friends, It steals slowly and without notice.

I actually was able to read a some of my favorite blogs today (arse poetica, Blogfonte, Bats Left Throws Right, corndoggeral, Creek Running North, dharma bums, Fragments from Floyd, Hoarded Ordinaries, Kathryn Cramer, Making Light, Michael Berube, pharyngula, The Heretik, The Sideshow, Via Negitiva, Whatever) without having the instantly familiar and powerful feeling that I shouldn't bother, these guys do it so much better. Today it was, well they do do it better. Enjoy.

I've been able to read some non-schoolwork non-fiction in the past couple of weeks, something I hadn't the mentation to handle in quite a while. Thanks go to Kevin Phillips for confirming much of what I had figured out about the slow motion apocalypse that's upon the USA and the world. To Wislawa Szymborska,for her new (in English) book of superlative poetry. I only wish I could read her in her own Polish. Some cutting edge, intelligent SF. ( Greg Egan, Alastair Reynolds, Charles Stross and Kim Stanley Robinson ) to help me fire up a few braincells as well.

And I've been a bit creative on my own. I've half written a couple of new poems. I'm deep into the design of a new D&D campaign that I plan to run this summer.

And to top it all off, the news out of DC doesn't totally suck bitter lemons for once.

So maybe Miss Dickinson was right. Maybe hope can fly after all.

I'm going to give it a shot, it seems.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Spring Fever

Why I so very much need for it to be spring

The view toward PSU from Tudek Park,
my 'backyard'
(about a 90 second walk from my living room)

My favorite thinking, drumming,
to hell with the rest of the world spot.
BushCo rarely intrudes here.

Audience seating
for my concerts, rants and raves.

Photos taken last summer, obviously.

Spring Now!

Early Friday Cat Blogging

HRH The Lady Xanthippe, Feline Ruler of the Universe
examines the spring day
through the curious human thing known as a screen.