Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rough night

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-04-05

Despite my ghoulish reputation, I really have the heart of a small boy. I keep it in a jar on my desk.
    -- Robert Bloch

Monday, March 24, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-03-24

But he talks, a lot. It is a wind concerto played entirely on dog whistles ...
    -- Adam Weinstein, describing Michael Hill, in "Inside the
    American Id: Chilling With the South’s New Secessionists"

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Hard times at the checkout line

Got a fairly gushing compliment from a customer today.

On the ... uniformity, I think she meant ... of my "salt and pepper hair."

Might have hurt a little less had she been, say, fifteen years younger than me.

Ah, no. Probably not that, either.

Let us all describe him thus, forevermore

Bill Donohue, the president and probably sole member of the Catholic League, ...

That was from Dok Zoom's Weekly Derp Roundup. Item seven. Although how anyone will make it that far after first finding our how outraged we need to be at Honey Maid graham crackers, I have no idea.

[Added] Follow-up on the horror, the horror, that the PaPSM narrowly avoided.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-03-11

Still, I guess this ["hunger=dignity speech"] is a further nail in the coffin of [Paul] Ryan’s reputation as Serious, Honest Conservative. But I am of course a shrill bad guy, because I was guilty of premature anti-Ryanism — you weren’t supposed to figure out that he was a con man until 2011 or 2012.
    -- Paul Krugman

(previously in shrill)

[Added] More debunking of Ryan's speech from Jon Stewart, et al.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-03-04

If we are going to decide big issues, like eating genetically modified food, fracking for natural gas, responding to the prospect of drastic climate change, exploring space or engaging in ambitious science research, we are going to have to start from some common experience.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the longtime senator from New York, once said, everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts. So where are we going to get them?

In science, as in other areas of our culture, there is no dearth of voices, but are we paying attention? In the new New Age, it’s all about which cable channels you watch or whom you follow on Twitter.

We could use a national conversation that is not about scandal or sports. If everybody watches the new “Cosmos,” we can talk about it the way we once argued about “The Sopranos” every Monday morning.

And perhaps that will happen. The early reviews of the series are glowing, and an adoring profile of Dr. Tyson recently appeared in The New Yorker. And we are not talking about tweedy PBS here; the show will be on Fox, home of “24” and “American Idol.”

It’s hard to imagine a better man to reboot the cosmos than Neil deGrasse Tyson.
    -- Dennis Overbye

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Things that make your shoulder creak

A caption from an (otherwise) enjoyable report from someplace in spring training:

The Rockies’ LaTroy Hawkins, left, is the longest-tenured player, debuting in April 1995.

Come on. That's like, what, nine years ago?

</senior moment>

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Not even making this up

Or, typo of the day.

Jason Collins' jersey skyrockets to No. 1 on sales list

Happy headline! But then, an opening sentence. A lede, if you will.

Jason Collins' signing with the Brooklyn Nets as the fist openly gay professional athlete has been described as ...


(h/t: Lisa Needham)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Line of the Day: 2014-02-25

A Goldman spokesman, after being told that @GSElevator had been unmasked, said in a statement, “We are pleased to report that the official ban on talking in elevators will be lifted effective immediately.”

Who knew a PR flack for a firm like that could make a joke in public?

(source | @GSElevator)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

An animated puzzle

Swiped from Jake VanderPlas:

"... an impressively well-adapted resident of New York City."

The flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) does not actually fly — it glides. When a squirrel leaps from its perch in a tall tree, it spreads its limbs, stretching out its two patagia (thick, furred membranes that extend from its wrists to its ankles). In this way, a squirrel less than 10 inches long (including a tail almost half that length) can, in a single bound, cover 150 feet or more, gliding through the treetops effortlessly.

Emph. added.

(source | more)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Also, I was shocked, shocked that Facebook offered no obvious way to report a misleading ad.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oh, let's just throw this line in at the end

Apparently, there is a gas cloud that about to be sucked into the black hole at the center of our galaxy. (Well, it happened 26,000 years ago, but we're just about to see what ... will have happened?) This gas cloud is expected to form (to have formed) a halo around the black hole.


Deviations from the predicted shape of the halo would indicate that Einstein’s theory of gravity needs revision.

That would seriously be something.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

No room at the inn?

Never fails to amaze me how pedestrian are the concerns of people who see themselves as among The Chosen of a deity they claim is so powerful he transcends time and space.

I mean, loaves and fishes, anybody? And that wasn't even the real Messiah!

(h/t and post title: TC)

Monday, February 03, 2014

Smells like SOCIALMALISM!!!1!

And that smells gooooood.

Go, Liz Warren.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shyster, please

Check out the big standard on Steve!

The question is, Are we prepared to say as lawyers that a man who is no longer considered moral enough to be a journalist is moral enough to be a lawyer?

In fairness, Steve is described as "Stephen Gillers, a law professor of legal ethics at New York University." So maybe, you know, ivory tower, and so forth.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Yes, we can all wail about the partisan divide

And sure, it's easy to agree that primaries for Congressional seats tend to be dominated by small groups of activists, and that this can lead to outcomes like Senator Ted Cruz. This is the dark side of that Margaret Mead line.

But if your best supporting example is that in a state without a "sore loser" law, Joe Lieberman was nonetheless able to get reelected after losing in the primary . . .

Well, I will just say that your argument is unpersuasive, Mickey Edwards, and so here is a cat riding a Roomba, wearing a shark costume, chasing a duck.

The problem is not extremists getting elected, because of the primary process. The problem is Republican extremists getting elected, and that is something the GOP is going to have to figure out for itself. Meanwhile, as you do point out, you can hold up Christine O'Donnell as a counterexample to Ted Cruz -- come the general election, democracy sometimes works.

Also, points to you, sir, for this:

For one thing, the political “center” is not always the right place to be (it certainly wasn’t in the pursuit of civil rights and women’s rights, or on issues like slavery and child labor). Compassion toward candidates who find their political prospects cut short is also of little interest to me.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Follow-up to earlier tweet

Shortly after posting this ...

... I happened across Dok Zoom's latest "Sundays with the Christianists." In a change of pace, this week he has published some emails from readers who were "educated" with the sorts of textbooks he usually reviews in that space. Definitely worth a read, if only to lament how many children don't recover from the early brainwashing.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A very fine photo

Go see what M. Bouffant took.

And after some moments of examination of the embedded pic, don't fail to click it for a bigger version.

(This is far from the first very fine photo appearing on that blog, by the way. But for whatever reason, this one really spoke to me.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Help stomp out robocalls [updated]

(Update at bottom of post.)

TC sent along an article about a free service called Nomorobo that claims to block robocalls. He wondered how it worked: "If you're not bundled with everything together, how is your computer going to answer your phone when it rings? There's no connection between the two as far as I can see."

So I looked into it a bit, and I figured I'd post (a mildly edited version of) my reply to him, since it seems like potentially useful information.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Well, if I count all of the different brands of leftover shampoo ...

I turned 66 last week and started worrying that maybe I really was getting older, but whenever that sort of thing happens I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune.

Just messing with you.

What I did, actually, was walk into my bathroom and take the Wadler Sure Fire Accurate Aging Test, which I hope to be marketing soon. It goes like this: You count up the number of hair products you own, then you count up the number of digestive aids, and if the hair products are in the lead, you are still young. (I understand this test may not work as well for men; I’m open to suggestions.)

I do not actually own any digestive aids (I buy bourbon and cognac for other reasons, although admittedly they do tend to settle the stomach), so I guess I'm still infinitely young, amirite, Joyce Wadler?


Also, I call men get to count razors and shaving cream as hair care products, especially if they're opting to Be Like Mike.

(pic. source)


-- or --
Had Photoshop been around when Gary Larson was a boy ...

(Swiped from Christian Heilmann)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014


Dhananjay had posted his problem on StackOverflow and promptly got an answer that wasn’t really solving or explaining the issue, but at least linked to W3Schools to make matters worse ...
    -- Christian Heilmann

Monday, January 06, 2014

Bad day for the snarkosphere

Looks like we won't have Liz Cheney to kick around anymore.

Good riddance.

[Added] TBogg is already in mourning.

[Added2] Yr Wonkettes, also.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

"... a subject in which popular beliefs often do not reflect scientific evidence."

I've had this same thought myself:

Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones.

And I've shared this despair:

Popular opinion masqueraded convincingly as science, and the science itself was hard to grasp. People who spoke as experts lacked credentials, and G.M.O. critics discounted those with credentials as being pawns of biotechnology companies.

A longish article, which I have not yet finished, but which I do wish to share based on the opening paragraphs: "A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops."

Related: if you're still not persuaded to be a bit more open-minded about GMO food, how do you feel about modifying a plant so that it produces more low-carbon biofuel?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Funding denialism, documented

From the Dec 2013 issue of the journal Climatic Change:

Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations

Robert J. Brulle


This paper conducts an analysis of the financial resource mobilization of the organizations that make up the climate change counter-movement (CCCM) in the United States. Utilizing IRS data, total annual income is compiled for a sample of CCCM organizations (including advocacy organizations, think tanks, and trade associations). These data are coupled with IRS data on philanthropic foundation funding of these CCCM organizations contained in the Foundation Center’s data base. This results in a data sample that contains financial information for the time period 2003 to 2010 on the annual income of 91 CCCM organizations funded by 140 different foundations. An examination of these data shows that these 91 CCCM organizations have an annual income of just over 900million,withanannualaverageof64 million in identifiable foundation support. The overwhelming majority of the philanthropic support comes from conservative foundations. Additionally, there is evidence of a trend toward concealing the sources of CCCM funding through the use of donor directed philanthropies.

The journal is peer-reviewed, I believe.

The full paper, sadly, costs a lot of money to see, but there is a bunch of supplementary online material (PDF) available for free.

The Guardian has a good article about the paper. Here's how it begins.

Conservative groups may have spent up to $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change, according to the first extensive study into the anatomy of the anti-climate effort.

The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change. Such financial support has hardened conservative opposition to climate policy, ultimately dooming any chances of action from Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet, the study found.

News of the unsurprising, and mighty discouraging news at that, but a shoutout to Prof. Brulle for making the effort to document the atrocities, and a vote of sympathy to him for the character assassination he will doubtless be suffering in the next few weeks.

(h/t: Wired UK, via Ars Technica)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The only parargaph I don't like in Carl Zimmer's ...

... latest column in the NYT is this:

In our smaller-brained ancestors, the researchers argue, neurons were tightly tethered in a relatively simple pattern of connections. When our ancestors’ brains expanded, those tethers ripped apart, enabling our neurons to form new circuits.

Call me a paranoiac, a fringe member of the reality-based community, or whatever: I worry that this sounds too much like it's happening in individual brains, over the course of individual lifetimes, as opposed to what is actually meant: this is what you'd see if you made a film of snapshots of the the typical brain, over many generations, in an evolving species.

Trying to keep the voice active is commendable, especially when the topic is ... ooooo, Science. BOring. [Or so you worry your editors might think] ... but when writing about evolution, it's also worth keeping in mind how the denialists will seek to parse every frickin phrase; as in the familiar [snickerchortle] "Was your grandfather a monkey on your father or mother's side?" [/snickerchortle], &c.

All of the rest of the article is fascinating. This being Zimmer, that comes as no surprise.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

So, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, and an atheist walk into a bar ...

Ah, sorry. There's no punchline.

But it was a great way to spend Christmas Eve. Thanks y'all.

And praise god for diversity.

I might even say.

Because vernacular, of course.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grammar question. How say you?

There is a myriad of reasons why ...

Or should it be, there are a myriad of reasons why ...

Consider also:

There are a score of reasons why ...
There is a score of reasons why ...

There is a dozen reasons why ...
There are a dozen reasons why ...

There are a handful of reasons why ...
There is a handful of reasons why ...

Is the verb after There supposed to agree with the quantity-noun (myriad, score, dozen, handful) or the word (noun) reasons? And does the of, where it appears, make any difference?

My own ear leans toward(s) is when there is an of and the other way, when not. Which seems inconsistent after the most fleeting of thought(s).