Saturday, February 28, 2009

Six Words

Tesla coils.

Doctor Who.

Oh. Yeah.

Twenty more words: Sorry about the funky disco backbeat and the screaming crowds. This performance was filmed at the Chattanooga Science Fiction Convention.

Friday, February 27, 2009

I Write Emails

So you've probably all heard about these buses displaying the advertisement "There's probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life." I believe there are some here in the States, but the only website I was able to find on a cursory Google search was that of the British Humanist Society.

Anyway, on my morning commute today, the hosts of the radio station I've been listening to lately discussed an anecdote in which one of these buses broke down just outside the garage due to battery problems. They drew the conclusion that God had smote the bus in order to hush up the message, and they were largely approving of this interpretation.

So I wrote an email to them, the body of which I've reproduced here.

Dear Ashley and Brad,

I missed the first part of your discussion regarding the anecdote in which a bus carrying the advertisement "There's probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life" broke down due to battery trouble. The battery trouble was ascribed to divine intervention; I believe the phrase was "God 1, atheists 0."

I must politely disagree about the miraculous nature of this breakdown. Assuming for the moment that it actually occurred, there seemed to be nothing supernatural about it. The problem was quickly diagnosed, and the bus is presumably now back on its route. There is nothing about a battery problem that would induce anyone to remove advertisements from the side of the bus, and indeed no one stated that it had been removed.

Also, given that this was not the only bus to display this particular ad, but it was the only one to break down, this incidence is almost certainly ascribable to independent mechanical error. If God had wanted to stop that bus, He would have had to consider stopping it permanently, rather than delaying it by a few minutes or hours while a part is swapped out.

I do enjoy your morning show on my commute, but I found this assumption that God caused a minor and quickly repaired fault in one bus out of the whole fleet displaying the same message to be casting God as a petty and ineffectual deity. Which is more likely to offend his follows, the statement that he "probably" doesn't exist, or the statement that he's petty and largely impotent?

Thank you for your consideration of my email. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.


Tom Williams

On reflection, I probably shouldn't have included that rhetorical question about which is more offensive, but oh well. At least I didn't go all fatwah-envy on them.

Comments are welcome!

Monday, February 23, 2009

30 Years

At any time this past 30 years, I could have stepped out in the street and gotten run over by a bus.

So could my brother.

If it had happened while I was in college, so they said, my roommate might have been given an A for the semester for mental anguish. I never seemed to have ever gotten a roommate who was worth it, though.

I am celebrating 30 years of lacking squished-by-bus-ness with cake today.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Kitty

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Because it's quarter to four on a Thursday afternoon and the office is dead.

A Movie To Avoid

Via Pharyngula, I see that there's a movie about how Charles Darwin is haunted by the (metaphorical?) ghost of a dead child that is keeping him from finishing his work.

The Darwin we meet in CREATION is a young, vibrant father, husband and friend whose mental and physical health gradually buckles under the weight of guilt and grief for a lost child. Ultimately it is the ghost of Annie, his adored 10 year-old daughter who leads him out of darkness and helps him reconnect with his wife and family. Only then is he able to create the book that changed the world.


Here's what IMDB has to say about it:

What happens when a world-renowned scientist, crushed by the loss of his eldest daughter, conceives a book which will prove the non-existence of God.(sic) This is the story of Charles Darwin and his master-work "The Origin of Species". It tells of a global revolution played out the (sic) confines of a small English village; a passionate marriage torn apart by the most dangerous idea in history; and a theory saved from extinction by the logic of a child.

I would not hesitate to put forward liebensraum, dolchstosslegende, the modern self-made man, or even American exceptionalism as ideas far, far more dangerous than "hey, each individual is different from its parents and its children, thus species, as a whole, exhibit a tendency to change, given epochs to do it in."

Is this a movie we can only tell about Charles Darwin? Why not Galileo? This comes off as a cheap attempt to get back at "Darwinists" by "proving" that even Chuck D. needed some supernatural/emotional help, by producing a movie that doesn't sound like it will stand out from the crowd. Everyone knows, of course, that the Earth revolves around the Sun, but evolution is controversial, chiefly because religious leaders won't shut up about it.

Jennifer Connelly is in it. She's playing Chuck's religious wife, "whose faith contradicts his work." Generally, Jennifer makes good movies, but I'm afraid that this time she may have found a dog.

Is this a movie about Victorian values and ideas? Or is this a movie about modern values and ideas, wrapped up in a Victorian bow? Specifically, is Connelly's Mrs. Darwin going to be a 19th-century Anglican, or a 21st-century evangelist?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jim Cooper: Objectively Pro-Dog-Food-For-Granny

Representative Jim Cooper (DINO-TN), it is reported, is pressing for a "fiscal responsibility summit," which he hopes to convene next Monday, Feb. 23, my 30th birthday, in order to get the authority to axe Social Security.

Specifically, Cooper hopes to get the commission to allow him to present legislation that is immune to amendment or filibuster, and the goal of which is to "reform" Social Security, Medicare, and the tax code. These reforms are to be presented to Congress later this year, and voted up-or-down on the spot. The Social Security "reform" that he advocates is to raise the retirement rate and cut benefits. Just in time for the war babies and the boomers to retire.

Back in early February, the WaPo reported that Obama was opposed to such a commission. On Tuesday (2/17), however, the Wall Street Journal reports that Obama is in favor of such a commission. However, the WSJ previously reported that Obama was not going to close Gitmo, and then he did it, so their reportage of Obama's intentions is suspect.

I seem to recall that, on our last dance with entitlement reform, W couldn't pass it because the Republicans stomped on his proposals. Now it's the Blue Dogs and the Republicans putting this forward. It seems that they weren't really concerned with protecting our retirees, but with protecting George Bush from himself. Do they reckon that any president under whom SocSec payments are cut will get the blame? Is that why they're okay with it now?

Is this all a big game to them?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, For Pete's Sake

This is the caliber of my elected officials:

Lawmakers look dumb for reviving Obama hoax
Gail Kerr

In the Handy Guide for Newspaper Opinion Columnists, this is called shooting fish in a barrel. Or hitting a slow-pitched softball.

Four Tennessee state representatives, all Republicans, have signed up to be plaintiffs in a lawsuit against President Barack Obama, aimed at forcing him to prove he is a United States citizen by coughing up his birth certificate.

O Lord, let these names be branded into Your mind, so that at the end of the world, Your angels may look and find them in the Book of Dumb, that they have everlasting ridicule:

Eric Swafford, for Cumberland and part of Bledsoe Counties;

Stacey Campfield, for part of Knox County, and who also seems to believe that women are more powerful than handguns;

Glen Casada, for part of Williamson County, and also the Republican Caucus Assistant Leader; and

Frank Nicely, for part of Knox County.

These four polemic poindexters believe that Obama should release his birth certificate to the public, once and for all, just to relieve the public of this pressing and controversial concern, you know? Specifically, they have volunteered to go in as co-plaintiffs on a California man's lawsuit to have Obama's birth certificate released to the public. They volunteered on Tennessee 104th General Assembly letterhead. That makes it an official boneheaded move.

You can see Barack Obama's official birth certificate here. It's not the original, but it's attested by the State of Hawaii.

Are these people after the original birth certificate?

Of course, this flap isn't about the birth certificate. Nothing Obama can do -- or anyone else in the position to release the birth certificate -- is going to sate these hyenas. They are going to continue believing that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, or Polynesia, or wherever*, because they want to. They also cherish their theories about what Hillary Clinton did with Vince Foster's body. They're those kinds of insatiable vultures.

*The most outlandish theory I heard is that Obama is Malcolm X's love child, and Stanley Ann Dunham had to fly to Canada or somewhere so Obama wouldn't be born an American citizen, or something, which of course completely disregards the fact that even Malcolm X was an American citizen argle blargle fazzzzzzzzz pop!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Some Observations

I listen to the radio on my commute. I tune in for the music; no, you can't make me listen to the ads! If I hear something too egregious, I turn off the radio for a couple of minutes. But on those occasions when I do hear ads, there are a couple of observations that I'd like to make today:

First, there's a local family-owned business who has decided that the best tag line they can come up with is "Shop Cox!" which sometimes they expand into "If you haven't Shopped Cox, you haven't shopped!"

At least none of them are named Harry.

Second of all, you know, when you buy coordinated sheets and blankets and curtains and lampshades and all, isn't it pronounced "bedroom sweet"? Everyone around here calls it a bedroom soot.

Third of all, Georgia Satellites? No. Just no.

The Distinguished Gentleman from Vermont Is All Right

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is collecting online signatures to create a Bush Truth Commission to dive into what Bush and Cheney did that they have kept covered up for years.

This is especially important now that the Obama administration has apparently decided to keep the lid on torture and rendition:

“Is there anything material that has happened” that might have caused the Justice Department to shift its views, asked Judge Mary M. Schroeder, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter, coyly referring to the recent election.

“No, your honor,” Mr. Letter replied.

“The change in administration has no bearing?” she asked.

“No, your honor,” he said once more. The position he was taking in court on behalf of the government had been “thoroughly vetted with the appropriate officials within the new administration,” and “these are the authorized positions,” he said.

No, that's not the same old mold-and-rotting-filth smell out of Capitol Hill you've been gagging on for eight years, that's the smell of Change!

Obama's on a hiding to nowhere new, and he better get it turned around.

UPDATE: Sen. Leahy and Arlen Specter have reintroduced the State Secrets Protection Act, shot down in the Senate in 2008, which seeks to prevent the Executive Branch from declaring "State Secrets!" like they've just touched base in hide-and-seek.

This bill was passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with all committee Dems voting for it, including Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton. Arlen Specter threw in on it so we could have bipartisanship. Then the Senate as a whole killed it.

I'm so glad we now have bipartisan support for limiting the power of the Executive Branch. Did you remember where you left your spine, Arlen?

History of the World

Pharyngula has a wonderful embedded video that compresses the history of the Earth into 60 seconds. I'm afraid that I can't embed it here because it's a video from Seed Magazine and I don't have a subscription.

But I think you ought to go watch it anyway.

Shorter Religious Right

Phrase "Religious Right" Misused, Conservatives Say

We evangelical dominionists have to find something new to call ourselves, because our current title has been polluted by the reality-based community calling us on our intolerant, aggressive and dangerous bullshit.

Alternate Shorter:

This steel-toed boot is all worn out. Let's get a nice pink, fluffy pump to wear to our next gay bashing.

Hat tip to Pam at Pandagon.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


The Washington Times was perfectly okay with George Bush listening in on our telephone conversations, every number we dialed, every email we sent going into a national database that could be searched at the whim of the NSA and the Executive Branch. It was all good, in the name of national security.

Now that Bush is no longer in power, though, massive national databases are a humongous invasion of privacy ... when they deal with Reverend Moon's goiter. The Moonie Times is so concerned at this breach of democratic ethics that they have to haul out the big guns.

Yep, the Times' big guns are the equivalent of the most basic, ancient and puerile Internet flame war: OMG H1TL3R!!eleven!

The Times doesn't even make an effort to tie that in with the column. I was just there, and the photo's been moved to the right and captioned "UNDATED FILE PHOTO of Adolph Hitler."

The link the Times makes between this healthcare database and Hitler's Germany is forthright, bold, and as tenuous as a foggy day. They latch upon one word in the proposal, and even that has been cherry-picked:

The purpose of the database is to help increase health care "quality, safety and efficiency." The first two goals are commendable, but what does efficiency mean? is your friend, Times Editorial Staff:

1. the state or quality of being efficient; competency in performance.
2. accomplishment of or ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort: The assembly line increased industry's efficiency.

The other two definitions have to deal with work done by machines, and living accomodations, so I shall ignore them.

Unfortunately, the Times staff decides that efficiency always and can only mean one thing: Start wearing tiny mustaches!

They decide that this language in the bill can only have been inspired by a book written by Tom Daschle, which in their summary codifies the problems with for-profit healthcare: if it costs us too much to provide care for you, we're going to put you on an ice floe and let you drift out to sea.

The Times then unleashes the rhetorical questions:

What nondescript GS-11 will be cutting care from Aunt Sophie after her sudden relapse before he or she heads to the food court for some stir fry?

Obviously it's so much better to let an employee of the free market make such decisions, instead of a government employee. Sure, they're both grey, faceless cogs in the machine, but one of them works in Washington, D.C. Practically a blackshirt, that one.

There is no telling what metrics will be used to define the efficiencies,

That's okay, though, the Times is going to speculate and scaremonger anyway.

but it is clear who will bear the brunt of these decisions.

I've got money riding on CEOs and Wall Street mongols moguls. C'mon CEOs! C'mon CEOs! Daddy needs a new sword of wounding!

Those suffering the infirmities of age, surely, and also the physically and mentally disabled, whose health costs are great and whose ability to work productively in the future are low.


And how will premature babies fare under the utilitarian gaze of Washington's health efficiency experts? Will our severely wounded warriors be forced to forgo treatments and therapies based on their inability to be as productive as they once might have been? And will the love between a parent and child have a column on the health bureaucrats' spreadsheets?

You make me laugh. You don't care about any of those people, anyway, Editorial Staff, except when (as now) you think you can score points with them. What did you have to say about the Walter Reed scandal?

Consider the following statement: "It must be made clear to anyone suffering from an incurable disease that the useless dissipation of costly medications drawn from the public store cannot be justified."

This notion is fully in the spirit of the partisans of efficiency but came from a program instituted in Hitler's Germany called Aktion T-4. Under this program, elderly people with incurable diseases, young children who were critically disabled, and others who were deemed non-productive, were euthanized. This was the Nazi version of efficiency, a pitiless expulsion of the "unproductive" members of society in the most expeditious way possible.

Oh, well, let's compare health-care apples with euthenasia cowpats. Aktion T4 wasn't a healthcare program. Its end was the euthenasia of those deemed incurable by medical professionals at the time. It certainly would have done away with Terri Schiavo. Limbless Nazi soldiers? Not so much.

God, you're making me defend Nazi programs. Eff off, you. It's only because you're lying in order to scare people.

The efficiency-based approach to health care reform is a betrayal of the compact between those who are most capable of work and those who are least capable of defending themselves. And we have come a long way from what was supposed to be a "targeted, timely and temporary" stimulus bill.

Oh yeah, the Billionaire Moonie Times cares about the little guy. Pull the other one, it goes ding.

And the only people holding up the stimulus bill are people you would have us vote for.

Let's recap, Editorial Staff. Lies, distortions, scaremongering, and false equivalencies. This, by you, is thoughtful and considerate? Get stuffed.

Graphic shamelessly boosted from Sadly, No!.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Big storm today around 4:00 or so.

Fortunately, I and mine suffered no reversals of fortune; I still have a household, cats, roof, job, and transportation. I suffered nothing worse than really bright sunlight reflected directly into my poor, useless eyes on my drive west and home tonight.

Some people weren't so lucky. I hear tell there's a tree down onto a house over in Powell. A couple of traffic lights weren't working on my commute. There was tree debris down all over the road, mainly pine cones, foliage and light branches.

I came upon a line crew all of a sudden, that had parked in my lane to fix the power lines. I wasn't in much danger of hitting them, but they gave me a start and an unpleasant speculation or two.

Home, safe and dry. I hope the best for everyone who got wet or worse with this squall line.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


This has been cropping up around the Intarwebz lately, so I thought I would put in my two cents.

The Passion 4 Christ Movement is concerned about today's youth. Specifically, they're concerned that today's teens are spending far too much time aligning their warp nacelles (nudge nudge wink wink), a behavior they object to because, well, some old Israeli patrician refused to honor his societal obligations to his late brother's widow. This they take to mean that a godly person lets her warp nacelles get badly out of alignment; but I digress.

Passion 4 Christ had a problem; they wanted to reach out to teens. Perhaps, they thought, teens could be reached through something they enjoyed. They then blithely waved off all the evidence that teens tend to ignore adults who try to appear to be "with it." What is it, they ask, that teens on the net find cool?

That's right: T-Shirts!

And ... hold on. What's that guy doing? Is that a hand sign? Is that the shocker?



Ahem. Excuse me. Where was I?

And routine polishing of one's warp intermix column isn't the only problem that can be solved through admitting one's sins to the world via upbeat casual clothing.


And this is at the bottom of their promotional page.

Could they have more of a tin ear? Or the equivalent, whatever that may be? Passion 4 Christ Movement, this isn't helping your image.


Monday, February 9, 2009

One Hungry Kitten

Dinner at my place? No, but a convincing replica thereof:

At YouTube.

Via Lolcats.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Given A Choice

... between felis sapiens and felis ralphwiggumi, even though I think sapiens are awesome, I might prefer to live with the dumb ones:

The dumb ones can't get out and leave the door open, running up my gas bill, for instance.

17 degrees and bright outside. Melissa McEwan is complaining about her snow ennui, but no one's making her hoard the snow for herself. Some generosity might be appreciated, Liss :P

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Via Nodwick.

You bet your sweet ass this is going under White and Nerdy.