It's just one of those obscure little unreported-upon conspiracy theory-ready hunks of floating White House detritus, a couple of odd, sticky, foul-smelling documents no one really wants to touch and no one knows quite what to make of, probably means nothing, probably being misread anyway, all a bit overblown and strange and not all that important and not all that different than the way things are now.
Unless, you know, it's not. Unless the violent twinge of queasy paranoia crossed with that uncontrolled bout of colon-clenching sighing you experience is deadly accurate and your radar for all things sinister and Rovean is right on target as you read about the delightfully titled National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51 and the Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20, wherein it is calmly and furtively revealed that, in essence, George W. Bush owns your sorry ass.
Or, to put it another way, it looks like the Bumbling One just gave himself ever more power. Power to control and dictate the entire government, power to really spread the gospel of happy GOP incompetence, power to command the entire wobbly American universe should some sort of epic -- or not so epic, as the case may be -- calamity strike the homeland.
It goes something like this: Should any "decapitating event" occur in American that somehow incapacitates the D.C. power structure, should "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions" take place, well then, all power and decision making would devolve to the White House, which would then attempt to orchestrate our very survival and oversee all essential governmental functions with none other than the president himself as, well, Super-Mega Lord Decider. With extra crayons.
You know, a dictator.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I am laughing and snorting in a distinctly un-ladylike manner.
This whole hoo-ha has previously resulted in a lawsuit that demanded the right to hand out specifically christian-themed information. Following a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Maryland in response to the lawsuit, the school board must allow all non-profit organizations (Boy scouts, the YMCA, church groups, etc) to have their information sent home with children through the school. It's a convenient way to get info to kids and families.
But you know what? Now that a group wants to hand out flyers that the school board doesn't like, the same people are claiming that it's oppression and offense against Christians.
"They do put a disclaimer there, that the school doesn't' support it, [as they do for all documents]" the representative said. "But we are expected to send this stuff home in childrens' backpacks. It's still coming from me and my classroom."
"I took a stand and did not send it home," the representative said. "Other teachers did the same thing."
So, the teachers are not going to distribute this paricular flyer because they disagree with it. They didn't seem to worry much about offending anyone else's beliefs when they handed out christian flyers, did they? You can't have it both ways.
I have no problem with sending out either flyer. Churches have myriad community programs and information that is valuable. So do non-church groups. If the school is being used as a vehicle to send out "community info" then all groups should have fair access.
Sending these flyers home is a normal part of the school function, btw. Mostly they are for after-school programs, or scouts, or other community offerings -- including religious organizations. But apparently, people want a double-standard here. One standard for 'things we like and approve of" and another for "things we don't like and don't approve of". The school board has a responsbility to make sure that the flyers are from valid non-profit organizations in the community -- so no specious strawmen that 'so...you'd let KKK members hand out flyers?', please -- but they are specifically even-handed about it (based on a court decision!)
From Notes on the Culture war:
Gee, do Christians object to handing our flyers promoting non-Christian events?
Funny, you weren't concerned about how handing out flyers for Christian camps might "violate the teachers' religious beliefs" if those teachers were Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, when that was the case, all the talk was about how unfair it was for them to refuse to hand out such flyers. Ain't it funny how the attitude changes when the shoe's on the other foot? When Christians do it, it's a brave fight for religious freedom; when non-Christians do the same thing, it's obviously anti-Christian oppression. Quite convenient, that.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Both the PM and I are very frustrated with one of our clients -- for a variety of reasons I won't post here -- and our weekly status lunch turned into a generic bitch-bag session. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with two hour lunches, but when I got in my car and drove away, I realized that I'd hit 40 hours sometime on Thursday and I was just done. finis. over-and-out.
I went home and got re-immersed in my favorite computer game for about six hours. The Adorable Husband was stuck at work until almost 10pm, and I wasn't even aware that it was suddenly LATE. Definitely a completely engrossing game. If I haven't mentioned it before, the game is a PC role-playing game called Oblivion. We have it on the PC and downstairs on the xBox. It's quite nice on the big screen!
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Why is he at large? 'Cause we haven't got him, yet, Jim. That's why. And he's hiding. And we're looking. And we will continue to look until we bring him to justice. We've brought a lot of his buddies to justice, but not him. That's why he's still at large." -- President Bush, at a press conference today, responding to a question about why Osama bin Laden has not yet been captured.Does anyone else feel like we're going in circles? Is that even an answer? Not in any sort of conversation I've ever had.
It's meaningless doublespeak.
"Why is the house on fire?"
"Well, the house is fire 'cause it's still burning, you see. You've got to understand that fire is hot, and the house is burning. And we know that the house is burning. So the house is on fire."
Not only is Brian Benson wrong, he is sadly, laughably, shockingly wrong. Wrong facts, wrong interpretation, wrong conclusion. Wrong on all counts. It demonstrates not only an ignorance of biology and science, but a complete lack of ability to interpret facts and results. No, being able to make "stalactites" with a paper towel and epsom salts is NOT a correlation to the creation of stalactites in the natural world. Different material, wrong facts about stalactite growth, and absolutely wrong in thinking that this in any way even touches a part of evolutionary science by "proving" anything.
Brian Benson, an eighth-grade student who won first place in the Life Science/Biology category for his project "Creation Wins!!!," says he disproved part of the theory of evolution. Using a rolled-up paper towel suspended between two glasses of water with Epsom Salts, the paper towel formed stalactites.
He states that the theory that they take millions of years to develop is incorrect. "Scientists say it takes millions of years to form stalactites," Benson said. "However, in only a couple of hours, I have formed stalactites just by using paper towel and Epsom Salts."
Sorry, kiddo, not even close. Every aspect of his "science" project is a sad, ignorant joke. What did he learn in science class? That he will will be rewarded for contorting, misrepresenting, and misapplying actual science as long as he supports a religious ideology.
And he won a PRIZE for it.
It could have been an interesting science project on how solids dissolve in water, how accretion works, or how water is transported via the paper towel via capillary action. Instead, he claims an easy victory over us poor evolutionists, and is fully supported by his school and the judges of the science fair.
I really do blame the school, btw. The kid's in eight grade. Some level of ignorance about scientific matters is to be expected. But the judges in the science fair? They obviously put their desire to support a specific religious agenda ahead of practicing actual science. Or even recognizing actual science when it walks up and smacks them on the ass. There were some great experiments described in the science fair; apparently they didn't deserve as much attention because they were so mundane.
(Btw, the references below to 'creationism' refer to the current press to teach the christian creation myth in schools as an alterate to actual science. 'creationists' don't seem to be suggesting that we teach the babylonian or incan myths, or any other version, so I'm sticking with the xian mythos.)
If you want to believe in the myths of creation as taught by christianity, go ahead. It's a pleasant story. But it's not science. The arguments for god-guided creation cannot be expressed as any sort of scientific pursuit. You believe it because you have faith. One of the things I hear all the time is that creation science/intelligent design are reasonable, and should be considered. "Reasonable" does not equal plausible. It does not even equal possible. If anyone has actually come up with valid evidence for the creation story, I'm sure the world would love to see it.
Creationists are attempting to play out the argument between evolution and the creationism/ID in the public forum -- public debates, creating museums, by "talking about it" extensively-- because it can't stand up to actual scientific inquiry. Convincing people to accept a simple story because it "sounds good" is not science. "You're wrong because I don't understand it" is not a valid argument.
People argue that we should "explore other theories" in an attempt to make creationism more palatable -- I'm all for exploring other theories, but creationism or even ID is NOT a scientific theory. It's not worthy of being considered. People proposing that it be taught as an alternate theory simply don't understand that a scientific theory is not just a nifty idea that might be possible. All the possible permutations of evolutionary theory are not bulletproof -- and I fully support teaching that there are still things that need to be investigated. There are things we don't understand, and the data is constantly evaluated and the details of the theory adjusted as we learn more. This does not make the theory "false" -- recognize that a scientific theory is not "proved true or false", the data either supports it or it doesn't.
If the data doesn't support it, the theory is re-evaluated to express the existing known facts and the new hypothesis is tested, over and over again. That's how science works. Unlike creationism, which comes up with the same result, no matter what the facts are.
Bah. Sorry for the rant.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The ad(s) are for the Volvo S80 Sedan, which has as its tagline "A luxury car that protects the luxury of life". Cue up a dark parking lot and a lone woman walking to her car. A hundred yards away, as a voice intones seriously that she is a "woman alone" she glances down at her key fob...which is blinking rhythmically. "And the S80, with the innovative heart-beat sensor, tells her that there is an intruder in her car." Relieved, she turns back to the light.....
Um, is this actually such a humungous problem that we need to have a heartbeat sensor in the car? I can't say I've ever really given much time over to panicking about whether someone has broken into my car and is lurking inthe back seat. I'm sure it happens -- but designing a sensor to try to detect it? I can see that being useful. I can't find any statistics regarding assaults by intruders lurking in parked cars, but really, you're going to check your keyfob every time you approach you car for a tell-tale blinking, or are you going to look into your car when you get there?
Or the 'accident predictor' feature that lets loose with a shrieking wail if you approach an object too quickly. The ad shows the driver smoothly and effortlessly swerving to avoid the slow-moving truck as the car whoops racously to warn him what he is about to have an accident. Of course, for most drivers, instead of warning them of the imminent threat, the klaxon just tells them "You've had an accident!" . Yeah, right. Oh, I thought -- look! It screams along with you as you have a crash!
Monday, May 21, 2007
The last is sci-fi fluff, but I've been entirely drawn in by the book about the Black Death, In the Wake of the Plague. It's fascinating. It was recommended to me by a fellow air traveler as an interesting book on medieval life, more than a history book. It covers the basics of the bubonic plague outbreak in the 14th century (1347-1350 or so) and weaves it in with fascinating details about the way people lived and how the plague changed society.
Fir example, he whole "not bathing" thing was a result of churchmen deciding that bathing would "open the pores" to the miasma and make you susceptible to plague (it was thought that "bad air" was the cause of contagion). The tapestry industry in Bruge wa sa direct result of the idea that closing off the windows (again, to keep out "bad air") was necessary.
We rely on the descriptions of contemporary records to identify the "Black Death", and the common belief is that it was bubonic plague -- vivid descriptions of black welts and buboes (hence, bubonic plague) on the victims, who died a particularly gruesome death in a matter of a week or so left us with the clear idea that the pestilence that wiped out 20 million people in Europe in the 14th century was, indeed, a form of bubonic plague. But writers also described people who died without these symptoms, often within a few days.
Bubonic plague is spread by fleas, carried by specific species of rats. (For a really detailed description of how it affects the flea, check out Wikipedia. Ugh). But the plague spread too quicky, and in odd patterns, to be entirely dependent on this infested-rat idea. There are a few people who have hypothesized that the "plague" was not plague at all, but a form of anthrax spread by contact with (or ingestion of) diseased cattle -- a topic which also had much contemporary documentation.
In 1984, Graham Twigg argued that the climate made it nearly impossible for rats and fleas to have transmitted bubonic plague. His suggested alternative was anthrax. In 2001, scientists in Liverpool posited that the Black Death was more likely an ebola-like virus, since the human-to-human transmission rate was unsupportable in the fleas-on-the-rate model. Both of these alternative explainations are detailed at Wikipedia: Black Death.
One of the most interesting theories, however, relates to a genetic mutation and seeming immunity to HIV/AIDS in modern times. This got a half-page treatment in Cantor's book, but I happened upon a Science Channel show discussing this mutation -- CCR5 -- and how they had traced it back to people who had contracted the plague and survived. It is related in some way to people who have survived plague and possibly smallpox, and is a promising avenue of research into AIDS drugs or vaccines. Apparently about 15% of caucasians have this mutation, which showed up only a few hundred years ago.
Of course, it's all theory, and there are just as many scientists with alternate hypotheses. But it's fascinating reading, nonetheless. Considering that we we haven't wiped out bubonic and pneumonic plague (although we can treat them now), and the real risk of biological warfare, knowing about how earlier mass deaths occured is pretty critical. I strongly recommend the book -- not necessary for it's scientific accuracy, but for its interesting and engaging coverage of the period.
Black Death in Western Europe
Shifting Definitions of Plague
Encyclopedia of Death and Dying
The American Civil Liberties Union today cheered an amendment to the House Intelligence Reauthorization Bill that would prevent illegal domestic wiretapping by the government.
The amendment, by Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), will reaffirm the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as the only legal means of collecting electronic intelligence surveillance. The amendment was passed late last night by a vote of 245-178.
If this wasn't so serious, it would be laughable. They're going to pass a bill to prohibit illegal wiretapping. So now, illegal wiretapping will be...you guessed it, illegal!
So the administration, which has engaged in some seriously questionable wiretapping in the War on Terra while it was simply "illegal", will now have to stop because illegal wiretapping is double-plus-really-really illegal.
Basically, they are reaffirming that the original wording of FISA must be adhered to, and efforts by the administration to "modernize" the law by clearing out legal oversights, will not be accepted or tolerated.
I find it interesting that congress is implicitly stating that they believe (know?) that the NSA has performed illegal wiretaps or is illegally monitoring communications they should not be listening in on...and yet all they can manage is to propose legislation to reinforce that it is already illegal. I suppose that every other effort to prevent it has failed, but this just seemed a little bit too 1984 to me. Ooh! Double-plusGood!
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
That is, the woe and horror that currently making my perfectly comfortable and happy life annoying and difficult....which is so unbelievably trivial that it's embarassing to complain about. It's not like I don't have clean water, or food, or shelter, or the basic protection of human rights. No, my particular little first-world problem is exceedingly banal.
Not that that would stop me, of course. Sometimes we just need to whine and complain about the trivialities.
I can't find my favorite pens.
Seriously, they are impossible to find and it seems as if they are being phased out and replaced by roller-ball pens or gel-ink pens. I hate all of these. I spend so much time typing, that my handwriting has become crabbed and tiny and nearly impossible to read if I'm not very careful, and these new-fangled roller-balls and gel-ink pens are simply too smooth. (And, oh, isn't that a reason for woe and horror?). I end up writing in an illegible scrawl. I need a pen that has some resistance to it, more scratchy, heavier ink. Something.
So I have been using Pilot RazorPoint porous point pens (they are like regular felt-tip pens, but have a hard nib made of plastic, so they are fine-lined or extra-fine-lined). We stopped at every office supply place we could find. We finally found a box of 12 black pens and a packet of colored (oy! Pink! and Aqua!) pens but nothing else. Online, I could find them sold by-the-pen, with a whopping eight bucks for shipping, but that's about it.
I am quite unhappy. I bought all the boxes I could find on the assumption that they are going to disappear entirely quite soon and I'll be left with sparkly gel-pens in Fun! Colors! and super-needle-point rollerball pens that render my writing into chicken-scratches.
Woe is me. Oh, woe.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Which only served to remind me that I don't sound Minnesotan anymore, unless I'm actually saying 'Minna-soh-t'n'. Sigh. I've always believed that we in the midwest have a pretty flat, almost non-existant 'accent' (which is wishful thinking, we all have accents), but I've apparently started sounding more 'western' than 'midwestern'.
I may have to adopt a Fargo accent just to reconnect with my roots! Ya, sure, you betcha!
And so I hope that the afterlife that he believed in is exactly what it should be for a false and arrogant prophet.
21 "Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' 23 Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.' (Matthew 7:21-23)
Sunday, May 13, 2007
So, she went out to breakfast on Saturday and when she got back, the power was out at her house. It was out for everyone on her side of the street, but the other side apparently worked fine. Work on the lines, or something, and the power company said the power would be back on by 2 or 2:30. Sure! No problem. They went out to see a movie and go grocery shopping and when they got back....still no power.
As it started getting dark, she looked over at the houses across the street, and said to all and sundry, "Well! They have power over there, maybe I should go and borrow a lamp."
It took a full ten seconds before she actually processed that this was a boneheaded sentence, while everyone in the room stared at her with gape-mouthed horror. Doh!
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
But the gaffes are flying thick. Not only did Bush give a starkly political speech at a social gathering, he apparently winked at the Queen. This is apparently Not. Done. (Although to be honest, I have no idea what possible offense this could be!)
What made me laugh about the whole thing was The Look that she shot him. That LOOK should have drilled him dead on the spot. Had the poor Shrub been British, he probably would have just exploded in a puff of smoke. You could hear the 'We are not AMUSED' behind that look, and it had me giggling madly.
Monday, May 07, 2007
That was yesterday.
Today, the other developer on the project announced that she's taking a leave of absence for the summer and will be leaving in two weeks. This, of course, after my company pulled her "temporarily" off the proejct to deal with fires at another client. By now, she should have been on my project for almost two months. In reality, by the time she leaves, she'll have worked on our project for less than three weeks.
I can't blame her -- I took a sabatical last year and it was the best thing I've done for my professional life in years. She's frustrating with previous and ongoing projects, and realized that she just wanted some time off. Good for her! Bad for us, of course, but we'll manage.
Sigh. So, it's just back to ME, alone, on the project doing the front-end development. The PM for the project is going to pitch in, and it might end up that she and I do this ourselves. Given the past history with the project, the person we get to "fill in" may be a) temporary or b) a novice and on this project that's going to be bad.
We'll just have to adjust the timeframe and deliverable dates. At least I don't have to be the one telling that to the client! I just have to put my head down and churn out a whole lot of code in the next few weeks! Wish me luck!
Sunday, May 06, 2007
So we napped all weekend. I think the Adorable Husband managed to mow the grass late tonight, but that's about it.
I can't tell if it's stress, if we're still depressed and just ignoring it, or what. But I'm awfully glad that we don't have kids around who need to be fed and monitored, and that no one is counting on us to do anything that requires more than the basics of effort!
Ullaq's doing much better -- although she definitely has attached herself to the Husband and is pretty much ignoring me. I can't tell if it's just because I'm home all day and she's bored with me, or what. He takes her for long walks (which might be a bit too long, considering that she's getting old and sleeps for HOURS after he brings her back inside) but otherwise we're both around. Maybe she's picked up on the fact that for a few days after we lost Rukh, I was irrationally angry at her -- that she wasn't the one who was sick, that she was still around. I'm not anymore, of course, but I'm still being snubbed.
Friday, May 04, 2007
Apparently this is something that many people object to -- the religious televangelists and neo-conservative groups are trying to paint this as a religious freedom issue. There was a representative from Georgia (I think) who was objecting strenuously to the bill. He claimed that this would somehow stifle freedom of religion. He was going on and on about how passing this bill on national prayer day was in and of itself hateful against Christians.
The primary people against the bill? Mostly religious groups, the "social conservatives",
who say the bill threatens the right to express moral opposition to homosexuality and singles out groups of citizens for special protection.Umm. ooookay. Apparently these people don't quite get the concept of "hate crime".
According to the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), Congressional Democrats rammed through the hate crimes bill defeating all 25 Republican amendments, which [included those that] ...ensured Christians would not be prosecuted for expressing religious convictions opposed to homosexuality.
I really need someone to explain this to me. Classing attacks on homosexuals, and hate-speech aimed at gays and lesbians is somehow stifling religious speech? Are the fringe religious groups actually arguing that it is their right to bash gays because they have somehow twisted their scriptures to tell them to? This is somehow a christian behavior?Maybe I'm missing the point.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
I know it's been about two weeks since I posted at all -- just haven't had the oomph to think about writing anything. I took a couple of days off, and I've travelled a bit for work. Nothing too fun. I didn't realize that I had completely ignored the blog until my sister called to see if we were all right, since nothing new had showed up for weeks.
The house is pretty quiet with just one beastie, and Uulaq is pretty damn depressed. She just mopes around the house, running to a window when someone drives by, and then just laying down when she realizes it isn't Rukh. I think she realizes that he's not coming back, but even so, we (the humans in the household) are not satisfactory replacements. She doesn't even want to play with the neighbor's dog, Maggie.
But, we're doing pretty well and life is slowly falling back into place. I'm still working from home, and loving my project (even spending a few days in Baltimore). Busy, and just stressed enough for it to be motivational, and not freaky.
Thanks to everyone who sent a nice card or note. We really appreciate your kind thoughts and wishes.