Friday, March 25, 2011

this week in information (3/25)

Happy belated 0h0m0s Right Ascension, 0°0m0s declination!!!

Earlier this week, the Secular Coalition for America wanted me to contact my representative regarding legislation unnecessarily reaffirming the divisive phrase "In God We Trust" and encouraging its display. Great, except that my representative has already replied to each of my missives regarding equality and secular government with a patronizing dismissal.
He is clearly only interested in hypocritically pushing his own views onto his constituents and not in entertaining a difference of opinion. Barf.
I haz a sad. And so much angriez.

TV's Adam Savage is an atheist, and an inspiring one.

(Alleged) fraud Andrew Wakefield is trying to kill Somali children now. Somalia? Doomed.

3/24 marked the 137th birthday of eminent skeptic Harry Houdini. Ta-DA!!

Some perspective on radiation, if you're worried your face might melt off, what with the doom and all...

The "Do Something on Facebook and Pretend it Matters" bullshit has returned. This time, we're to post a flavor indicating our relationship status as our Facebook status to "confuse the guys" and raise awareness of breast cancer. Um, pretty sure people are aware of breast cancer. Also, pretty sure the guys don't care. No one cares. Facebook is not that big of a deal. More importantly, though: THIS SHIT DOESN'T DO ANY GOOD!! If you want to do some good, how about donating to an organization that actually helps breast cancer sufferers and survivors?!?! Or, just click here and give free mammograms! You know, DO something.

Rochester's Writers & Books is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and its 11th year of the If All of Rochester Read the Same Book program. My mother and I have read the book and attended programs each year for the past seven years, and were happy to participate in the program again this year -helping Writers & Books continue to have the highest participation per capita of any literary community center in the country. Hooray!!
The books chosen by Writers & Books so far have been:
2001: A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest Gaines
2002: The Sweet Hereafter, Russell Banks
2003: Kindred, Octavia Butler
2004: Peace Like a River, Lief Enger
2005: Servants of the Map, Andrea Barrett
2006: Name All the Animals, Alison Smith
2007: The Buffalo Soldier, Chris Bohjalian
2008: Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Laila Lalami
2009: Jim the Boy, Tony Earley
2010: Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
2011: The Good Thief, Hannah Tinti


Aaaaand, Astronom-O's!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

this week in doomed (3/18)

Doomed. Doomed doomed doomed.
Japan? Doomed.
Libya? Doomed.
Wisconsin? Doomed.

The recent earthquake in Japan actually changed the earth's rotation. It moved the Japanese coastline eight feet (cue TMBG "Science" song). The tsunami swamped nuclear power plants and they are creeping closer to meltdown every day. The country is basically melting and drowning and also on fire. Oh, AND the homeopaths are cashing in on the disaster by offering worthless scams. Never fear, water's here!! Hooray.

are all fighting each other and trying to get their whackjob leader to step down and instead of realizing that he's in trouble and his people hate him, he rambles meaninglessly while carrying a parasol. Check the internoodlez if you don't believe me.

Wisconsin... No longer just for cheese and Packers. Nope, now it's for union-busting and teacher-firing. Because the way to fix an economy that's been sucked dry by banker bonuses and corporate tax cuts is to sacrifice kid's education and public employee benefits. Go, big business!! Again, check the internoodlez if you don't believe me. You'd have to be blind and deaf (or watching Fox News, which amounts to the same thing) to not know what's going on.

We're all still doomed, but at least we can laugh while we cry. "A legislative Schrodinger’s cat killed by the quantum mechanics of the legislative process"? What? Nice. Thanks Rep. Markey.

Also, GIVE. Give to help Japan.

Basketball is not interesting to me, but helping fund vaccine initiatives is.
Made up religious bullshit that I might be convinced to support: all hail St. Urho!! This is especially spectacular since I've always been a little weirded out by St. Patrick's Day because of the whole Catholics-driving-the-pagans-out-of-Ireland thing, but I literally just found out, ON St. Urho's Day, that I am in fact about an eighth Finnish!! Weeeee!!!

The moon is cool. The back side of the moon is cool, too. But it didn't cause the freaking earthquake. "We’re not making it any better by panicking over something we know isn’t real."

Also cool, Preserve's recycling program for number five plastics: Gimme 5.

At least we have Nick Frost and Simon Pegg re-enacting Star Wars.

Also, Monday was Pi Day. Mmmmm, Pi.

Today is St. Patrick's Day. I'm of two minds about it. One mind says I like to drink. The other mind objects to the Catholic subjugation and expulsion of everything different. Maybe I should be wearing purple. You know, for St. Urho. Hey, did you guys know I'm an 8th Finnish?

Friday, March 11, 2011

this week in information (3/11) -and also Lent

It snuck up on me before I even realized it: Lent is here!! For most people who claim they are Catholics, this means giving up something meaningless in a transparent effort to get on the good side of a deity for which they cannot provide anything but emotional anecdotes as evidence. For a few Catholics, it means making an actual sacrifice of something truly meaningful in order to bring oneself closer to one's faith and savior; a time of penitence and reflection that one can only hope will carry over into the rest of the year.
For me, it means eating meat. Tasty, tasty murder meat and lots of it. The rest of the year, I buy my meat at the public market where the animals are raised with kindness and humanity and I am not supporting a sick culture of corn-suffocating antibiotic-pushing shit-wallowing miserableness.
I haven't enjoyed a McDonald's cheeseburger in over two years, I don't get street meat or cart hot dogs or have the burgers at family gatherings, I make my tacos with cheese and lettuce and sometimes other vegetables but I leave out the ground beef. I've learned to enjoy Quorn and some tofu creations (I have the tastiest vegan tofurkey/spinach/cranberry sauce/stuffing wrap after Thanksgiving this past year and I could eat that every damn day), Amy's and Annie's and Helen's (oh my!).
Lunch and breakfast every day are vegetarian, and dinners that do include meat are as responsible and ethical as I can make them without actually being a vegan or vegetarian. Which should ultimately be the goal, I know.
You're supposed to give up something important to you, for Lent, and so for Lent I give up giving up factory farmed beef. Not every day, but especially on Fridays. Because I am irreverent and sarcastic and kind of a bitch. Blessed be.

Lentien irreverency:
- PZ Myers on why everyone has smudgies on their foreheads
- via PZ Myers: hypothetical Christian science test

Touchdown, Discovery!! Phil Plait, as always, is well worth reading.

Mike Starr, former Alice in Chains band member, succumbed to his addiction this week, at age 44. Very sad, but also -more sadly- not surprising.

A greater tragedy: an 8.9 magnitude earthquake has shattered and burned Japan and lead to a tsunami that could reach as far as the tip of South America. And, of course, there are already woo-woo claims about the disaster... Sigh.

Cheer worth sharing:
- Baby Got Bugs music video
- Carl Sagan parody
- on the topic of the moon... WE LIKE THE MOON!!!

Friday, March 4, 2011

this week in information (3/04)

Every morning, I click through the Charity USA "click to give" tabs and aid all sorts of groups through that simple, painless, free action. This week, I noticed that there is a new tab and new charity available that you can help with an easy click and I figured it was a good excuse to remind people of the ease with which they can do good.
No, seriously, all you have to do is click. Advertisers do the rest, and they really do provide the funds to help the way it is described. Links to partners, sponsors and beneficiaries are available on the pages themselves.
Set up an e-mail reminder, mark it as a favorite, make it a bookmark, add it to your toolbar... Whatever it takes, get there and click to help!
the Animal Rescue Site: help animals and pet shelters
the Hunger Site: help end hunger and poverty
the Breast Cancer Site: fight breast cancer and provide mammograms
the Veterans Site: give meals for homeless veterans
the Child Health Site: help children and provide child health care
the Literary Site: fight illiteracy and support reading and education
the Rainforest Site: stop global warming and protect endangered animals

Here's a scary reminder about why it's so important to be up to date on your boosters and vaccines: because the whole world IS out to get you!!

This week in awesome sciencyness: A picture of the shuttle taken from the ISS, as the shadow of the ISS passes across the shuttle!

This week in Tree Lobster awesome: AVP.

Great quote for the week: ‎"Our Republic only works if people are informed." - Brian Trent, The Rogues Gallery

Finally, apparently, the Great Ice Storm of '91 was twenty years ago today. And apparently, if the trending on Facebook is any indication, it's a big freaking deal. Granted, it was a disaster, and it was an awesome reminder of how nature can be so beautiful and destructive at the same time. But it was also twenty freaking years ago. Way worse has happened to the world since then, even in this year alone...
Twenty years... I was eleven, then, in 1991. Sixth grade, it must have been. I remember waking up through the night wondering why Mom kept walking up and down the stairs with her plastic cup full of ice water, because that's what the ice pinging off the windows sounded like to my eleven-year-old half-asleep ears. I remember that we lost power, and tree limbs were still cracking and crashing to the ground in showers of ice when I went out to see if the neighbors had power -I made it about halfway across the street before turning back. Ice storms are scary. I remember that my father built a fire and hung wool blankets and we tried to stay in the house, but Mom's asthma made that impossible. The parents of one of my schoolmates took us in, though our cat had to spend the week in their basement. I remember that my mother and I were so strung out that at dinner one night we laughed until we cried about an inexplicable Muppets episode. I remember that I watched "The Abyss" for the first time that week. I remember that a huge tree in our neighbor's backyard that down in thirds and trashed our yard, next door, and the tree's owner's yard. Fences smashed, yards torn up, wires down... It totally crushed the pussy willow tree in our yard so we cut it all down and tried to dig out the stump, but come spring there were green shoots and within five years it was a bush as tall as the tree had ever been. In the end, though, spring came and 1991 faded into the past as just another bad winter in western New York.