Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quote of the day (stand-in for actual blogging today)

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
- Friedrich Nietzsche,
philosopher (1844-1900)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Monday, October 30, 2006

In honor of the season

jack-o-lanternScience applied to everyday things is one of my favorite topics, whether it's the lifespan of a twinkie, the response of a marshmallow peep to extreme treatments, or what happens to various foods when they're overcooked. Today, in honor of Halloween, I offer you a comparison of methods to preserve a carved pumpkin. Unfortunately, none of them work super-well, but the best might buy you a few extra days, if you got out the knife a bit too early this year...

(via boing boing)


Twisty mocks the rush to restore a brothel at Pompey, but the snark sort of comes off the story when you realize that priceless ancient texts are being left to moulder for lack of funds for real (read, non-titilating) archaeology... Sigh.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

NYT weighs in for Lamont

Don't know how much weight the NY Times holds with CT voters, but was impressed that they really nailed all the reasons why Lamont offers a better choice than Lieberman.
Mr. Lieberman has changed his tone but not his underlying conviction that he has been right all along. He and Mr. Bush are still on the very same page, encouraging the American people to believe that there is a happy ending for American involvement in Iraq, and that all it takes is the perseverance to keep marching toward the end of the rainbow.
There's more, and it gets beyond snarky to very thoughtful. yay!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy birthday, to a one in a million

ladybug on a leafWho is wise,
The eloquent or the quiet man?
Be quiet,
And loving and fearless.
-- The Dhammapada
(tr. Thomas Byrom)
(via gingko)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday random

Because what's more random than a find-your-own diamond mine? The only one in the world. Probably most folks find nothing, but a couple this year have found multi-carat beauties... Wacky.

(via GirlHacker)


Here's a quote worth repeating, from Friday's Cheers and Jeers at dailyKos:

The election is three [less than two] weeks away and there are rumors the Republicans are getting ready for an election night disaster, which would be a first---a disaster they were actually prepared for.
---Bill Maher
Let's make it happen! !!

For the Scrabble fan

Wow is all I can say to this set of couches. Brilliant.

(via GirlHacker)

Can't go another week without kittens!

Here are a couple of cute shots from shortly after we brought home our second bengal kitten (last September). The two took to each other immediately, as though they'd just been waiting for a familiar playmate to show up -- but it did take some faith on our part that the chasing and wrestling was all in good fun...

games through the stair banister
Hard to remember they were ever this small!

tense moment pre-pounce
Wait for it . . .

Previous kitten games (reverse order of posting): foursome, playtime!, window-gazing, random, overheads, portraits, rest and romp, three-fer, snuggles5, doubles, power-napping, (return of themeless), (themeless), snuggles4, shower games, sun snuggles, sunbathing2, catnip!, twofers, sunbathers, posh lighting, treehouse, friends, snuggles2, more lounging, snuggles, Thanksgiving, cones, forms of love, lounging, more games, P&P wrestling, Pixel and Yogi, catspage

The experience of depression

Dooce has a great post up, giving snippets from a columnist who found out the hard way that clinical depression really exists and isn't all that much fun.
I hate being dependent on a drug. Hate it more than I can say. But if the alternative is a proud stoicism in the face of sorrow accompanied by prolonged and unspeakable despair — well, I’ll take dependency.
Dooce herself has struggled with depression since the birth of her child (and has been quite open with her readers along the way), so she's a pretty good person to trust in identifying useful depictions for those whose loved ones might be wrestling with a dark cloud. You don't have to live through Katrina to get there...

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The brain is an amazing, amazing beast

rainbow brainCoolest story I've heard in a long time: turns out that Scott Adams, creater of Dilbert, has been unable to speak for some 18 months (not the cool part, but who knew?). That is, he could give public speeches (e.g., perform) but not carry on a conversation (create simple meaningful and audible sentences) -- sounds weird, but my neuroscientist pals will recognize that the brain compartmentalizes different tasks in unusual and sometimes unintuitive ways.

Anyway, despite being told that nobody has ever recovered from this syndrome (i.e., see here), he kept tinkering and experimenting, and then stumbled upon a way to retrain his brain to find a route to his lips.
When I say my brain remapped, that’s the best description I have. During the worst of my voice problems, I would know in advance that I couldn’t get a word out. It was if I could feel the lack of connection between my brain and my vocal cords. But suddenly, yesterday, I felt the connection again. It wasn’t just being able to speak, it was KNOWING how. The knowing returned.
Pretty darned cool, that brain -- guess that's part of what drew me to neuroscience in the first place. How things develop, fix themselves, work. The more you know, the more you're blown away by increments in our understanding, and by the adaptive leaps the system can make every day.

(via boing boing)

Interesting things I haven't blogged

Have been reading a lot, even while I've been too groggy to post much. Two stories in particular struck me this last week, one in a hopeful way and the other of the more dread-inducing variety:
  • Chris Bowers, local Philly guy, has been focusing activist energies on Democrats with big warchests and no or token oppositions, in his Use It or Lose It campaign -- telling those folks that this is the year that they should be giving back to the party in its attempt to take back Congress, and that we'll be remembering during the next election cycle whether they ponied up now or sat on their moneybags. The "deep target list" of winnable seats means lots of money can be put to good use, so he's actually been asking those with no race to pitch in 30% of their hoards. Happily, the publicity and pressure are paying off, with some big names stepping up with serious contributions to the DSCC, etc. Yay for accountability!!

    protest fists

  • Meanwhile, on the grimmer side of the ledger, ABC has gone over to the Dark Fox side, giving up any pretense of balanced reporting in its scramble to make sure that conservative feathers aren't ruffled. That augers poorly for the longer haul -- I've pretty much lost any sense of humor about the tired phrase "liberal media" at this point -- so I find it almost too depressing to consider. Perhaps after the election, progressives can start becoming the kind of loud critics (beyond late-night TV comics) that make broadcast stations afraid to let conservative blowhards go unchallenged . . .

Look after your sandbox

A wombat seems like a strange source, but this little flash thing is truth, of the "everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten" variety, the stuff we seem incapable of remembering... As Bob says, heed the wombat!

(via This Modern World)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quote of the day

We find comfort among those who agree with us, growth among those who don't.
- Frank A. Clark,
writer (1911- )
(via A.W.A.D.)

Meant to blog this before, but somehow forgot...

This is quite funny to anyone who was raised in a Christian church, and probably to many who weren't: Real Live Preacher does a taste test of communion wafers, searching for one that might make passable food (rather than, say, styrofoam). fish sign Probably most jarring is watching him cram in two or three, like snack chips...

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Support the damn troops, already!

Silly Hunter! What matters is who supports the troops on their way over there, not who supports them once they come home! Don't try to inject your silly reality games into this rhetorical airspace!

Visual illusions

Check out the latest Photoshop contest entries -- things sliced to show unexpected features in their cross-sections. Pretty neat.

(via boing boing)

Thank God for TNT

It's hard to peg the worst part about being sick at home for a week (ok, it's coughing yourself awake all night), but one of them is having 10% your usual brain function and needing entertainment. TNT logo The last New Yorker was *way* too intellectual for my feeblemindedness, and I couldn't have faced hour after hour of game shows and people arguing about who was the better spouse (or whatever it is that's going on on those daytime shows!), but TNT came gallantly to my rescue. In addition to such standbys as Law & Order, it offers paired installments of E.R., Judging Amy, Without a Trace, and other things that offer just enough plot to carry your feeble attention along all day long without challenging or confusing it (or causing more nausea than you already have).

The odd show out is definitely Charmed ("We know drama." Charmed??), but it's a measure of how sick I was that I grasped gladly at every episode -- "yes! these are nice girls who just want to live normal lives but never can! I too, stuck here on my death couch, long only for the pencil-pushing normalcy of my office -- I understand!!" (ahem.) Anyway, I don't think I've ever watched so much TV for so many days in a row, let alone been so grateful for the option. Even the computer was just hard...

That all by way of explanation to anybody who wondered where I've been. I even missed my Ward meeting last night. But I hope that today's bundled foray to the office will be only the first of many, and that no evil spirits arrive to challenge my pretense of everyday life everything's fine from here on out.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Nothing's the matter with us!

A number of Kansas politicians have noticed that national GOP moving ever rightward, and are switching to the Democratic party this year, giving the winger nominees a run for their money. Welcome to the sanity game, kids!

clashing heads
(via Medley)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Can't afford complacency

This report at dailyKos is a needed wake-up call about the effectiveness of the Republican get-out-the-vote machine. No spiffy poll rankings will help if one side gets all their supporters out on Election Day while the other side lets its supporters get wrapped up in taking the kids to soccer and forget to vote. We need feet on the street, everywhere!!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Did I forget to mention this?

Remember the Club for Growth, those guys who thought that Arlen Specter was too liberal? Apparently Joe Lieberman is right up their alley... I don't know how the guy sleeps with himself anymore, or how his wife does, for that matter.

The trials of being a girl

Two pithy pieces from Echidne make excellent points:
  1. There have been several headline-grabbing school massacres in recent weeks, and for some reason the media studiously avoids mentioning that girls were targeted. Echidne has noted this silence before (e.g., here), but it finally got mentioned in print:
    Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

    There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

    None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. The startling aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.
    Not pretty, either the events or how we accept (or ignore) their symbolism.

  2. A shorter post notes the ways that right-wingers ignore the successes of feminism because they've bought their own spin that it's only about man-hating (and maybe witchcraft) rather than a more general empowerment of girls and women in all aspects of their lives. femsign The specific story here rang a particular bell for me -- I know that my own aunt didn't pursue a veterinary career 40 years ago, despite her obsession with all things animal, because women didn't do such things at the time -- nobody would think of telling a girl today that teacher and secretary were her only choices, whether for career or Halloween costume. But apparently those systemic changes happened all by themselves... idiots!!

Monday, October 16, 2006

For those who know him

Pal Jeremy has been wandering the world, most recently a trip to Japan to play commentator for a backgammon tournament there -- we should all have such glamorous lives. Anyway, for those of my readers who know him and/or might randomly be interested, he's posting lots of photos to his nonce travel blog for the amusement of others. Great stuff -- makes me wonder why I ever tried to put together photo albums!!

Sometimes I think Orwell was too complacent

More propaganda-as-entertainment on the way. eesh.

(via Avedon at Eschaton)

My favorite story in a long time

Yunus' smiling faceThis year's Nobel Peace Prize was awarded this weekend to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank, who together pioneered the idea of "microcredit" -- tiny loans of $50 or $100 that allow people to pull themselves out of poverty, often by starting a small business raising chickens or rabbits. Many of the success stories involve women -- married, widows, single -- who have gone from begging for food to supporting their families and even employing several of their neighbors. The system uses social pressures to make sure that ideas are sound and loans are repaid, and it's been hugely successful, as a business and as a mechanism to improves lives in many impoverished regions (and it has spawned many related charities and businesses specializing in microfinance, such as this, which I support). A great concept, and an apt recognition. And wow! what a smile...

Quote of the day

Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.
- Lewis H. Lapham,
editor (1935- )
(via A.W.A.D.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday niece-blogging

Around the time of the YearlyKos meeting, we stopped in to visit our charming two-year-old niece Sophie (and her parents too) -- somehow I forgot to upload this cute shot of niece and uncle "reading" some books...

Sophie & Rob

Previous Sophie-cake: 2, 1


This Modern World draws some uncomfortable comparisons between what's going on in Dafur and what's going on in Iraq. At least, they'd be uncomfortable if you cared about reality on the ground, the lives of brown civilians, etc. -- the Bushies are busy with alternative spin and proving that this isn't Vietnam.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quote of the day

I think the next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it.
-Frank A. Clark,
writer (1911- )
(via A.W.A.D.)

Fools and fallacies

Three good pieces, not enough time to do them justice here:
  1. A new book by a former Bushie reveals that the Administration manipulated the evangelicals as patsies for their own ends.
    The book is reported to chronicle Kuo's growing frustration and eventual realization that the Republican Party in general and the Bush White House specifically were shamelessly using Evangelical Christians to advance a secular political agenda with little or no connection to the concerns of the religious right.
    Not really a surprise to those of us who've seen the lack of integrity on every other front, but may poke further holes in the unquestioning support of the right.

  2. Rice is a twit, and Bush lost North Korea on his own watch, whatever crap she may be trying to sell.
    "Failure" =1994-2002 -- Era of Clinton 'Agreed Framework': No plutonium production. All existing plutonium under international inspection. No bomb.

    "Success" = 2002-2006 -- Bush Policy Era: Active plutonium production. No international inspections of plutonium stocks. Nuclear warhead detonated.
    Truthiness is selling less and less well. Unfortunately, it's too late for factuality to make any difference.

  3. A psychologist explains the "sunk-cost fallacy" being used to justify our stupid Iraq policies (and the "cut and run" accusations aimed at opponents). It's bad economics and it's bad foreign policy.
    How should we honor the sacrifices of those who have died or suffered serious injury in a U.S. military conflict? The best way to show how much we respect and value their lives is by not risking other lives unless future prospects for success fully justify putting more people in harm's way.
    But no, throw live soldiers after dead, "stay the course." The price, I suppose, of being governed by idiots.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The recurring wow

dried podPaula is fab over at the House of Toast -- her wander of Monday does a great job of capturing the beauty, the wonder, in everyday things. Something should all strive for -- it's a far deeper well than any pile of cute kittens could aspire to offer.

(thanks, Mom, for the reminder to check)

Held to his own standard

Joe Lieberman, being haunted by his own promises back when he was a challenger. Ah, how quickly they forget . . . (Have you chipped in for Ned Lamont yet?)

The Foley effect

Americans are completely justified in their disgust that Republican leadership sat on knowledge of Foley's pedophilia for some years, as classes of pages came and went. I guess I just wasn't sure how much even that could really dissuade the True Believers, but these numbers are quite impressive, putting some truth to the initial claim that one-third of voters say they're less likely to vote Republican because of the scandal.

Anyway, it's hard to know how generic ballot results carry over into real races with real regional candidates, but it's certainly noteworthy. Perhaps it blunts the "moral superiority" that some of those GOP candidates have been claiming... Only November will tell.

That's a really big number

image of despairOn NPR this morning I heard that a new study estimates that our action in Iraq has led to some 600,000 civilian deaths in its three years. Ouch, I think that's about the size of the population of Philadelphia (inside the city limits). That's a lot of people in a country that small, and no end in sight.

Did I say ouch already?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

More of the magic of archived video

This is Peter Sellers? He's doing a fantastic job of schooling some interviewer on the inanity of asking for "an English accent" as though there were only one -- and he has them all down by intonation and geography. Wonderful, and wonderful that such things can be found online; call me an old fogie, but I think we live in a miraculous age in that regard.

Good point

Digby points out that Secretaries of State may be the key to safe and reliable elections of the future -- s/he also links to a site that's supporting some SoS's that have a commitment to voter rights. Worth checking out.

Headline of the week

Foley scandal has Republican politicians running for cover-up

(via DemFromCT at dailyKos)

Monday, October 09, 2006

test tubesFun with science!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Too much ink

I hate to be judgemental, but this guy is over the top -- I don't think I'd ever just feel like I was talking to a person, rather than a... sculpture? clown? walking distraction? I just don't know -- that's a lot of visual field action!

(via boing boing, of course)

Wow, thin skin much?

Apparently criticizing Cheney constitutes assault. Pooooor baby.

(via This Modern World)

Friday cat-blogging: The whole mess of 'em!

A shot from August, our household cats squeezing into the morning sun in our bedroom. Looks like a good model for weekend relaxation to come...


Past feline goodness (reverse order): 68, 67, 66, 65, 64, 63, 62, 61, 60, 59, 58, 57, 56, 55, 54, 53, 52, 51, 50, 49, 48, 47, 46, 45, 44, 43, 42, 41, 40, 39, 38, 37, 36, 35, 34, 33, 32, 31, 30, 29, 28, 27, 26, 25, 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Just say No to Joe!

Sure, I'm ready to lay aside the sanctimonious treatment of Bill Clinton. I could even understand a misguided vote for the war. But there are just so many reasons to vote against Lieberman if you're a Democrat, or really anybody who wants Connecticut to have intelligent and principled leadership. Exactly what has this guy done right? Certainly not recall his own standards of decency when considering current leaders who've shown their irresponsibility. This man is only looking out for himself, and Connecticut needs somebody who's thinking about the rest of them. I think Ned Lamont's the guy.

Remember Iraq?

Pretty much all that needs to be said about our priorities and the waste is said in this post: What can you do with $2 billion a week? It's almost unimaginable.

(via Medley)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Quote of the day

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.
- Eleanor Roosevelt,
diplomat and writer (1884-1962)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Hard to imagine

slice of cake

As of today, this blog is 2 years old. That's like 30 in dog years. Still a small undertaking, but it continues to be an outlet I need and appreciate, with a handful of readers I know and admire. No plans to give it up, although having two blogs may someday prove unsustainable... Thanks to those who showed me the way, and thanks to all who drop by, however briefly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Priorities unmasked

is there a feminist in the house?Pro-life groups like to claim that their goal is to reduce abortions, but their reaction to a recent "compromise" proposal (which would work to reduce the demand for abortions by providing better support at many levels) reveals otherwise. The lifers immediately began dismantling the bill:
In other words, Ryan’s “allies”, when they realized that he was serious about a pragmatic program to reduce the abortion rate, flipped shit and started taking out the very things that will be effective, from sex education so that women know how not to get pregnant in the first place to actual female-controlled contraception.
Amanda gets the take-home lesson exactly right here:
Guess they actually like having a high abortion rate, right? Well, not exactly, of course. But when given a choice between lowering the abortion rate and disempowering women, they’re going to pick the latter every single time, which demonstrates where their priorities lay.
It turns my stomach.

(via Medley)

Monday, October 02, 2006

And one other thing

I was going to post another depressed bit about this additional deconstruction of the Constitution (this time the First Amendment)...

... but really, enough despair for the day! How can I worry about petty politicians when Twisty is again taking on the entire patriarchy!?! I wallow gratefully in her wordsmithing magic, this time with regard to an intra-circular battle over popular feminism.
... How am I supposed to take that? What’s the hidden cryptic subtext?

That she shall be roundly chastised who threatens, with ideas, the peace and harmony of the other feminists, even as they graze placidly on the patriarchal green?

That I should resign my membership in the Society of Dissident Spinster Rhetoricians?
Wonderful, wonderful. Read it all, enjoy the deft turns of logic and phrase. Peruse the thoughtful and pithy comments. Be refreshed!

Thoughts for Yom Kippur

star of DavidA column in the Philadelphia Inquirer gives a personal reflection on forgiving one another, making peace with the past, and starting afresh.
When my patients ask me whether they can fully heal without forgiving those who abused them, I tell them that "forgiveness happens." It is not a decision. It is not related to reconciliation nor speeded by the atonement of the perpetrator. Once you heal your wounds and enrich your life, the abuser's reprehensible behavior becomes irrelevant to your own current identity.
An appropriate contribution to the season.

Happiness chases out the roaches

Dangerous cuteness warning: It's no kittens, but pink hamster toes!
Le faint!...

Update: in a different vein, Hoarded Ordinaries presents festival of the trees -- what could be a better rebalancing (other than kittens and hamster toes, that is) than a wander through misty woods?
(via gingko)

Quote of the day

History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.
- Thurgood Marshall,
US Supreme Court Justice (1908-1993)
(via A.W.A.D.)

Roaches in the kitchen

When I heard about this Foley stalker thing at the end of last week, I thought it seemed odd and a little disturbing; was relieved when he quickly resigned, though I did think that probably meant there was more than one intern with tales to tell. But now the story is much *more* creepy, as it appears that House leadership and GOP colleagues had been aware of the problem and had sat on it for as much as several years! Greg Saunders and Josh Marshall think that heads may roll over this cover-up, and maybe he's right (although I'm pessimistic), but all I can think about is the parallel with the Catholic priest scandals of the last few years -- both amazement that nobody learned anything from them, and what it all says about the dangers of elite insider power structures, which place protecting their own above what most would see as the broader public interest...

Update: more astonishing revelations here (5 years they knew), here (they let him eat private dinners with pages), and here (the cover-up continues)... It's all so ironic that this guy's main issue was protecting kids from online predators. eesh.

Update 2: ugh, here's some ugly speculation that the cover-up was a political calculation around the need to hold Foley's seat... (They're already putting the elephant above the flag; why is anybody surprised that they'd also put it above the well-being of a few interns?!)