Wednesday, September 02, 2015

So, Fundamentalist Christians still object to same-sex marriage, eh?

I have a question for that annoying clerk in Kentucky who won't do her job and anyone else that feels like she does.  Why do you think you get to decide who can get married or what the definition of marriage is?  Got news for you, babe.  Christians don't own the institution of marriage, even though you seem to act like you think you do.  Hindus get married.  Sunnis get married.  Jewish people get married.  African tribesmen get married.  Navajo Native Americans get married.  Atheists get married, for God's sake!  How in the hell do you think you can define marriage for everyone in this country?  Define it for yourself, why don't you?  But don't tell the rest of us that we have to follow YOUR rules based on YOUR PARTICULAR interpretation of a particular version of a particular Holy Book called the Bible.  And, you know all that stuff about four marriages and having kids by one father five months after you divorced a different man?  Maybe you should drop all that Holier Than Thou crap.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Open thread. Discuss.

Oh, wait a second.  No one reads this blog anymore and it's very apparent no one comments.  Never mind.

Why do people not realize that, when they lie when trying to support their position, they have already lost the argument?

That just baffles me.

DailyKos has an article about the supposed "explosive" undercover videos about Planned Parenthood.  This is what an investigation into those videos by "three teams experts in "video forensics, production, and transcription.  These teams reviewed the initial five secretly recorded videos. Their experts include "Grant Fredericks who is a contract instructor of video sciences at the FBI National Academy and one of the most experienced video experts in North America." Ok, here is what they found....

-  Collectively, the five videotapes of Planned Parenthood staff have at least 42 splices where content is cut and edited together to make it appear to be a seamless conversation. 
-  In some cases, these splices completely change the meaning of statements. On one video, a Planned Parenthood staff member’s remarks about lab protocols were edited to make it sound like she was talking about changing abortion procedures. Phrases on the tape were isolated and removed, stringing together unrelated sentences to change the meaning. 
-  Anti-abortion activists used the doctored “quote” to support false claims that she was talking about changing how an abortion would be done, and the “quote” was published by mainstream media as if it were real.  
- On one tape, a Planned Parenthood staff member in Colorado says 13 separate times that any arrangements related to fetal tissue donation need to be reviewed by attorneys and follow all laws—and all 13 are edited out of the video. 
-  On another tape, a Planned Parenthood staff member in Texas says nine separate times that there is no “profit” related to fetal tissue donation—and all nine are edited out of the video.

I am baffled by people's behavior.  It makes no sense to me.  I can actually see some valid reasons why people object to abortion.  I am very much on the freedom of choice side of the argument, but I can see some of the points made by the other side.  Why can't they stick to actual real reasons rather than try to trick people?  That's just ridiculous behavior.  And they keep repeating the same crap even though it is been thoroughly debunked!  Who, exactly, are they trying to convince?  Sometimes, when I see crap like this, I think it is almost an effort to bolster up their own supporters, just in case interest was starting to flag and they felt they need to rile up the troops again.

Conservatives operate in a different plane of reality than I do, apparently.

Just not sure how anyone can look at this data and conclude that the US doesn't have a gun problem.


Of course, the favorite response of gun enthusiasts is "Guns don't kill people!  People kill people!"  OK, in a grammatical sense, that has a lot of truth to it.  But if that is true, then dammit, let's start doing background checks on PEOPLE before we let them have their weapons of choice in order to kill other people!  Get it?  We want to concentrate on people!  What is wrong with that, given what you keep saying?

The reality that graph depicts is just staggering, and it is even more staggering that we, as a nation, are in vapor lock and apparently cannot do a single thing about it.  

There are many things I hate about our society, and this is pretty much at the top of the list.

(Sorry about the small size of the text on this.  I thought if you click on the graph, you would get another, larger version.  You do get another version, but it's pretty much the same size.  I guess you will just have to squint.  The important point is that the U.S. is on the bottom line and is MUCH larger than any other country on the graph....)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Glass winged butterfly.


Photo of glass winged butterfly, taken by Katy Kiernan.

Fantastic close up photos of Saturn's moon Dione.

From Space.com.








These are the best and last photos we will see of this particular moon, as this is the last fly-by of this moon by the Cassini probe before the mission is terminated and the probe is sent into Saturn's atmosphere.

Donald Trump just cannot stop being an asshole.


Congrats @LindseyGrahamSC. You just got 4 points in your home state of SC—far better than zero nationally. You’re only 26 pts behind me.

.@megynkelly must have had a terrible vacation, she is really off her game. Was afraid to confront Dr. Cornel West. No clue on immigration!

I liked The Kelly File much better without @megynkelly. Perhaps she could take another eleven day unscheduled vacation!

"@ColeHudson68: @megynkelly @FoxNews @theBlaze @greta @OreillyFactor Megyn needs to go back on vacation. What a waste of an hour on Fox."

"@bigpaulfla: @realDonaldTrump She has come back looking like Nancy Grace"

"@mstanish53: @realDonaldTrump @megynkelly The bimbo back in town . I hope not for long ."

"@YoungYoung54: @JeriHyatt @megynkelly @JebBush So true. Jeb Bush is crazy, who cares that he speaks Mexican, this is America, English !!"


Can you imagine if a President Trump thought Angela Merkel insulted him? Would he take to Twitter to call the leader of Germany a bimbo, or would he just start a bombing campaign right away?  This guy, for all the bragging he does about how "really smart" and "really rich" he is, has got to be the thinnest skinned famous individual in the world.  He WON the whole showdown with Fox News and Roger Ailes.  Can he not leave well enough alone?  Why does he insist on picking on a female news anchor?  Please don't make me feel sorry for Megyn Kelly!

Speaks "Mexican?"  Sheesh.....



Yes, very good advice on several fronts.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Many of Donald Trump's supporters are very proud racists.

Via Crooks and Lairs.

“Hopefully, he’s going to sit there and say, ‘When I become elected president, what we’re going to do is we’re going to make the border a vacation spot, it’s going to cost you $25 for a permit, and then you get $50 for every confirmed kill,’ ” said Jim Sherota, 53, who works for a landscaping company. “That’d be one nice thing.”
Wow..... It's just really, really glaring when I see the Republican Party constantly stating they are not racists, and then their supporters go off and say something like that.  It would be "nice" if someone were to give you $50 if you murdered someone you thought MIGHT be coming into the country illegally?  Getting paid for murder?  Yeah, I know a lot of what I read is just someone spouting off, but I am pretty sure that many people who say crap like this actually mean it.  I saw one of those meme posts on Facebook the other day asking if it should be legal to shoot looters.  Yeah, by all means, have regular everyday citizens that have no training or legal law enforcement activity start shooting people with the intention to kill.  It will save time and money from all the constitutionally mandated stuff like legal representation and being judged by your peers in a court of law.  Murder sounds just dandy!!!

About 1/3 of the people in this country are just stark raving lunatics who have lost all grip on reality.  And that is really scary, because if society does start to break down due to global climate change, lack of food and water, and no real operable government at the local level, then I have absolutely no doubt that many of these nuts would start doing exactly what they are wishing for right now.

This is getting really scary.  I have no idea what might be able to put this particular genii back in the bottle once the bottle has been uncorked.  People are really losing their grip.

Friday, August 21, 2015

When conservative people spout crazy stuff but they think liberals are the crazy ones....



Well, that's when I don't even know what to say anymore.  Crazy stuff gets said, so fast and furious, that I can't even keep up anymore.  I see one headline that I really ought to write about -- say when a conservative radio host thinks that we should just make slaves out of any immigrants that don't have legal authority to be in the U.S. and then Ted Cruz actually agrees with him -- because it is just so damn Out There, something else happens to make that old news.  And truthfully, it wasn't even much news except in the progressive blogs and news sites anyway.  I can't keep up.  We are living in Crazy Times and hardly anyone really wants to acknowledge how far off the rails things have come.  Yeah, yeah, I know.  Things in the United States always has been pretty damn strange, such as the 1960's with Nixon, the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, etc.  Maybe it's just now that we have access to instantaneous information that is very unfiltered from what we used to get from three television networks and the local newspaper.  

What I just find so difficult to deal with (like I said in the title) is the fact that not only do the people spouting all this nonsense not acknowledge how crazy they sound, they will call the people who call them out on their craziness crazy themselves.  There is no common ground or understanding anymore.  There are multiple sets of reality these days and if you were to make a Venn Diagram out of them, the circles that represent the predominant World Views that people hold today would barely overlap.

I have degrees in engineering and science and have really come to value logical thought based on agreed upon facts and rational conclusions based on those facts and logic.  I cannot seem to cope really well when facts and logic are just tossed out the window.  I have no basis in which to operate in that kind of universe.  I have no way to interact with those who operate with the notion that firmly held opinions outweighs facts and logic, and the more you believe in something, the more it becomes an unalienable truth.  

I have been having a running feud with my brother for several years now.  He is what I would term a Conspiracy Theorist.  He has tried to make me listen to him and his truths about 9/11, Agenda 21, the Fed is trying to destroy the U.S. on purpose, etc.  But he refuses to believe that global climate change is anything but a huge conspiracy.  He can't explain why any of these would happen and who would gain from perpetrating such a thing.  He can't tell me why our government would purposely be involved in the destruction of our landmark buildings in NYC and murder thousands of our own citizens, but yet, I am being closed minded when I won't listen to his own "facts and data."  He can't tell me why climate scientists from 35 countries and respected institutions such as the Smithsonian, National Geographic Society, Science, NASA, NOAA, etc. would all perpetrate this huge hoax.  He refuses to tell me why he needs to believe that.  But here's what really gets me.  When we talk about this, which isn't very much anymore, he refuses to even acknowledge when I ask him a question he can't answer or have made a point.  It's just like I haven't said anything.  And when I really pressed him on one point, he just said, "Well, it's kind of obvious that we can't talk about this."  Yeah, he was right, because he refuses to have this discussion honestly.  

And that is what is I think is at the heart of the matter for me.  People, and I am saying this in general and not just political, economic and social conservatives in the early 21st Century in the U.S., have an enormous capability for self-delusion and rationalizing away anything they don't find convenient or that doesn't fit in with their nicely arranged World View.  They will do anything they can to cram disconcerting input into their world view (see my previous post about Fundamentalist Christians and dinosaurs) or else ignore that input altogether.  And I find that unacceptable.  That is not logical.  I sound like Mr. Spock....  But this is a reality.  People do this to me all the time, and I don't know how to deal with it.  

I am getting ready to retire from my job, which also has a lot of these same issues I just discussed, in a year or so. I am going to retire to this nice little house we are buying and just retreat.  I am not sure I will even look at the internet other than to check e-mail and see what time the film I want to see starts at the movie theater.  Our society, I admit, has worn me down.  I can't cope, except at a very minimal level.  

More about this in a later post, if anyone is interested.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Can anyone actually envision Donald Trump as President of the United States?



This guy?  The guy who turns red while angrily spouting off at anyone who dares disagree with him or ask him a question he doesn't like?  Really?  President?  I can't imagine what would happen with any sort of delicate negotiations with a foreign leader who dared to have a different opinion than does President Donald Trump.  What would he do?  Just overwhelm them with irrefutable logic, such as "I am really, really rich!"  Or, scream at them until they capitulate.  Yes, I can see how that would cause someone like Vladimir Putin to just curl up in a fetal ball and give into anything that Master Of The Universe Mr. President Donald Trump would ask for.  I am on tenterhooks to find out what kind of argument he would use to get Mexico to pay for a really high wall on the entire border between Mexico and the U.S.  Would  The Donald ever take any sort of recommendation from his advisors, ever?  I can't see it.  I see him turning around and saying "You're fired!" a lot easier than I see him rationally considering nuanced input from multiple sources.  Heck, I can't see him rationally considering ANYTHING.  "From the gut, full speed ahead, offense is the best defense, and never, ever apologize for anything."  That would be how a Trump White House would be run, I would imagine.  Bull in a China Shop diplomacy.  

What in the world is the United States coming to?  This is just too weird to even comprehend that this person actually has a chance of getting the nomination of one of the two major parties in the U.S., and therefore, would have at least a theoretical chance of being elected.  And he might just pick Sarah Palin as a running mate to top it off.

Down the rabbit hole....


(Notice the likenesses in body language and facial expressions between Trump (above) and The Red Queen (below).  I didn't even notice those similarities until after I had posted this.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

787 after an encounter with a hailstorm.


This 787 hit a huge hailstorm at cruising altitude and had to make an emergency landing in Denver.  This guy is going to need a nose job.  With that kind of substantial damage, it seems very fortunate that all the air data probes on the outside of the fuselage (the dots right above the nose gear) weren't damaged.

Photo from the Dallas Morning News.

That's one very bizarre looking caterpillar.


Caterpillar of Saturniidae Moth., Switzerland  Photo (c) Marco Fischer.

The Pillars of Creation


This is an absolutely stunning photo from the Hubble Space Telescope.  As always, click to enbiggen.  Photo: NASA.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Best line, by far, of analysis of Donald Trump in the Republican debate last night.

This comes courtesy of Jonathan Chait.


It is hard to say whether his bombastic persona won or lost him support among Republicans. Trump’s self-presentation appears to be obvious parody, indistinguishable from a comedian lampooning him. He makes goofy faces and body gestures. He does not act like a regular politician, or a politician who is trying to come off as authentic, or a strongman, or even the goofballs who are running for jobs as talk-show hosts in the guise of a campaign. He’s just a weird asshole who seems to have wandered onto the stage with little preparation.

Ooo!  Ouch!  Damn, that's a nice takedown.

Shih Tzu blogging


Our dog Nina with her Happy Face on.

Whoa, that's pretty trippy....


In that you could trip really easily and bash your teeth in.  "What key shall we climb the stairs in today, dear?"

Thursday, August 06, 2015

The International Space Station Passing In Front of the Moon.


First off, click on the photo to get it as big as possible.  Then look for the little speck just a bit right and up from the center of the moon.  That is the ISS.  You can barely make out the solar panels sticking out like big ears or something.  This shot looks like something out of the Star Trek movies.

The Politics of Being a Raging Asshole.


I am certainly not the only person in the U.S. that has this particular thought, but my theory about why Donald Trump is doing so well in the Republican president polling with conservatives is very simple.  They want someone to be an asshole.  They are angry and want someone to respond to people the way they want to respond to anything that displeases them this day, by being an asshole.  They enjoy it.  It gives them relief to vent all their pent up frustrations.  The bigger asshole someone is, they more it pleases a certain constituency of the Republican Party.  It gives them much pleasure to see people who they don’t like being called names, and the more insulting the name, the better they like it.

That is my theory about why Donald Trump is doing so well.  Yes, there are other candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, such as Chris Christy (a gigantic asshole), Ted Cruz (ditto), and to a lesser extent, Rand Paul, who enjoys shushing female news reporters who ask questions he doesn't like.  But Donald has them all beat. 

This would also go a little way in explaining what I think is just a remarkable phenomenon.  That is, why do so many “regular Joe and Jane” voters identify with Trump and call him “one of us?”  That is an astounding thing to say, given that Trump is a multi-billionaire with real estate holdings worldwide, is a reality TV star, and flies around in a private 757 with TRUMP emblazoned on the side.  How can anyone possibly think, “Gee, that Donald Trump is just like me”?  Well, given my theory, it isn’t much of a stretch just to think that what people are relating to with Trump is his ability to say anything he damn well pleases and gets away with it.  Of course, it helps when what he is saying totally agrees with the audience’s opinions. 

It’s all a variation of the Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingram, etc. approach.  The bigger and better insult you can deliver, they better the audience likes it.  It doesn’t matter if these Republican candidates don’t have anything to offer beyond “I hate Obama and everything he has ever done!”  Just so long as they can get their rocks off with good insults, they are happy.

And that might be what ends up electing our next president, and that scares the living crap out of me.  

Another person voicing the exact same thing, in much better terms than I ever could.

Driftwood Mare and Foal.



John Stewart points out the amazing lack of self awareness of conservatives.

Stewart: The biggest problem with the denizens of Bullshit Mountain is they act like their shit don’t stink. If they have success, they built it. If they failed, the government ruined it for them. If they get a break, they deserve it. If you get a break, it's a "handout" and an "entitlement." It's a baffling, willfully-blind cognitive dissonance best summed up by their head "coach" in what is perhaps my favorite sound bite of all time:
Clip of actor Craig T. Nelson on Fox News: I've been on food stamps and welfare. Did anybody help me out? No!
Ahhh...  I see.  And that just about sums it up, I think.

It's all in one's point of view.


Saturday, August 01, 2015

In Memory of Cecil the Lion.

May Cecil now reside in a better place not populated with assholes with guns and a load of false machismo who think killing wild animals in a very sterilized setting with hardly any danger to himself makes him a "Man."  



"Lions" Painting by Jock Bartley

Friday, July 31, 2015

So, what hasn't destroyed the Earth lately?


Let us make a list or two, shall we?

First, what hasn't destroyed the Earth in the past.
  1. Women getting the vote.
  2. Black people getting the vote.
  3. Social Security.
  4. Medicare.
  5. Fluoride in drinking water.
  6. Publically funded education.
  7. A nuclear arms reduction pact with the Soviet Union.
  8. Diplomatic relations with China and Vietnam.
  9. Electing a black man as President of the United States.
What hasn't destroyed the Earth very recently.
  1. Women serving in the military.
  2. Gays and lesbians serving in the military.
  3. Gays and lesbians being allowed to marry who they love.
  4. The Affordable Care Act (aka "Obamacare").
  5. Diplomatic relations with Cuba.
What probably won't destroy the Earth in the near future.
  1. Removing the trade embargo with Cuba.
  2. A nuclear arms agreement with Iran.
  3. Getting rid of all these so-called "voter I.D." laws and making it easier for U.S. citizens to vote, not more difficult.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

If you have to start our your statement with "I'm not a scientist, but..."

You know something?  That may just automatically disqualify you from having an opinion that will be taken very seriously by anyone who IS a scientist or trusts how actual, real-life scientists go about their business.

I get the sense that people (including prominent politicians) who say this when weighing in on global climate change or whatever think this is some sort of "Get Out Of Jail Free" card.  They can say what they think and demand to be heard and respected, but when someone calls B.S. on them, well, they get to fall back on the "I'm not a scientist..." trope.

One thing that just makes me really angry with the discussions ongoing in the public arena is how intellectually dishonest some people are.  Anything to win, even to the point of making up crap out of thin air.  If no one calls you on it, then you win!  And even if you do, that lie is out there and has a good chance of taking root even though it has already been thoroughly debunked.  The audience to which that was intended doesn't CARE if it isn't true.

When one side insists on playing by entirely different rules than the other side, no matter the context, then it is pretty certain that chaos will result and the concept of working together to solve problems is totally a waste of time, because the two sides can't even agree on the basic facts and ideas being discussed.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Highest resolution photo of Pluto yet.


The colors are enhanced to bring out the different regions.  You can certainly see how different the black areas are from the white plains, named the Tombaugh Regio after the discoverer of Pluto.

My own little theory is that region is where the mini-planet suffered a "swipe by" collision of another body, and this collision resulted in the dwarf planet's moon, Charon.  In fact, I just read the Powers That Be that decide such things are considering designating Charon as a dwarf planet as well.  This is mostly because the two bodies orbit each other around a point in space called the barycenter that is not inside either of the two bodies.



So, Pluto and Charon may not be planets, but they are something else that is pretty special, our first known example of a binary dwarf planet system.  That's pretty cool, too.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

New Horizons says goodbye to Pluto, takes this photo on the way.



Pretty cool, eh?

If modern birds are descendants of dinosaurs, I have a question regarding the evolutionary process.

First off, I do want to say that I am very dedicated to the scientific process in all subject matter, including evolution.  I actually love the concept that my chickens out in my pen that I keep for pets (and eggs) are somehow descended from dinosaurs that lived 125 million years ago.  I can watch them, how they move and run around, and imagine that is how small feathered dinosaurs acted.  Their eyes are especially interesting.  There is actually something very reptilian looking about a chicken's eyes.

So, I am not questioning evolution here.  I just have a question about the specifics that I actually have never seen answered before.  It involves knees.  Dinosaur knees.  Bird knees.  Specifically, which way they bend interests me.

Now, here is a picture of a modern ostrich.  Notice how the knees bend toward their rear, opposite of what our human knees do.


I picked an ostrich to illustrate because they have such long legs and you can see where their knees are quite easily.  All bird knees do this, they are just usually really short and it's difficult to make out their joints.

Now, take this illustration of a Deinonychus.  It lived around 110 million years ago and is related to Velociraptor of Jurassic Park fame.

Look at its leg on the left of the picture.  Don't be confused by the ankle, which is right above its toes.  It apparently walked around on its toes all the time.  The knees are the next joint up.  You can see on the leg on the left of the picture that it bends forwards, just like a human's knees do.

So, my question is this.  If dinosaurs to modern birds represents a direct line on the evolutionary tree, when and why did this transition take place?  I can't imagine a evolutionary step-change where an animal's knees just all of a sudden turned around in the other direction.  I also have difficulty imagining a slow change over time.  I am pretty certain we don't have any fossils of creatures whose knees bent out perpendicular to their bodies.  Could it have something to do when they started flying and that kind of leg made it easier to land in trees and such?  I don't know, but I wish I did.

I haven't made any kind of real effort to research this. But I do know that in all my readings on dinosaurs and modern birds, not only have I not seen an explanation of this, I have never seen this question asked before.  Yes, it would probably be helpful of me to go off an do some really in depth reading on this.  Maybe I have just missed something...  But it's an interesting question, don't you think?


Friday, July 24, 2015

There are just times that I am ashamed to be a white male in America.



These guys mothers must be so proud.  I love the guy flipping off bystanders and the fat clown in the tank top, who would appear to have absolutely nothing at all to criticize in other people.



Here is a different shot of the guy down front wearing the White Power Stormfront uniform.  Nice....