Wednesday, January 30, 2008

7000-year-old Egyptian City

A team of US archaeologists has discovered the ruins of a city dating back to the period of the first farmers 7,000 years ago in Egypt's Fayyum oasis, the supreme council of antiquities said on Tuesday.

"An electromagnetic survey revealed the existence in the Karanis region of a network of walls and roads similar to those constructed during the Greco-Roman period," the council's chief Zahi Hawwas said.

The remnants of the city are "still buried beneath the sand and the details of this discovery will be revealed in due course," Hawwas said.

"The artefacts consist of the remains of walls and houses in terracotta or dressed limestone as well as a large quantity of pottery and the foundations of ovens and grain stores," he added.

The remains date back to the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 BC.

The local director of antiquities, Ahmed Abdel Alim, said the site was just seven kilometres (four miles) from Fayyum lake and would probably have lain at the water's edge at the time it was inhabited. [Yahoo news]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Almost Smarter than an 8th Grader

JustSayHi - Science Quiz

I'm...almost smarter than an 8th grader. It's been a long time since I thought about some of those questions.

See? I knew that inportant stuff was getting pushed off the stack.



The Smell of Books

Erie has a new Library! Finally, after 17 years of supposedly being served by a Bookmobile that actually showed up a total of five times, our new Community Center and new Library opened last weekend. It's lovely. Only about half-full right now, but I'm so excited!

So I head off last night to get a library card and wander around the new library...

Wait, a bit of background here. For anyone who knows me, the fact is that I am a well known Liberator of Library Books. I don't mean to be, I mean I try to return things promptly, but when it comes to books I tend to forget that just because the book is in my house, doesn't mean it belongs to me. Many overdue notices and letters for lost books show up at the Phouka household. I'm really good for a while, then I lapse. I do my penance (pay fines) and return, only to lapse again. It's been quite awhile since I had a library to go to, though.

But back to my saga. I approach the shiny new circulation desk and produce my driver's license and a printed check (for a second form of identification) to the nice librarian and she stands there for a moment staring at the names.

"Phouka....Phouka....I know that name!"

The klaxons go off in my head, and a sharp pang of terror weakens my knees. OMIGOD! They KNOW! The aren't going to give me a library card! They KNOW I'm a book thief! AAARGH!

"You donated a lot to the Children's Library."

My relief was so great I nearly swooned.

Moments later, shiny new library card in hand, I skipped off into the new library and wandered among the stacks and the new book smell.

With the best intentions to be a good library patron, of course. Really!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sugar Crash

So my sister has had a pretty bad week. Her son is very sick with flu (high fever, barfing, the works) and her house has chosen this week to decide that heat is optional, as is hot water. Those two are easy enough to fix, but a sick kid doesn't eat much, doesn't drink much, and as a result...doesn't poo.

Well, you think, not so worrisome as all that. It happens. But four or five days and my sister is getting a bit freaked out. He's having abdominal pain, and is cranky as all get out. Floundering around for a means to solve this problem, she alights on the fact that corn syrup actually has laxative effects.

Right! Corn Syrup! Which she then fed to her son in just about every concoction she could think of. Mixed into Gatorade, poured over cereal, over fruit, teaspoons of it plain. I'm sure if the poor kid had felt any better, he'd have been sure he'd hit the jackpot! Sugar! On Everything! W00t!

It worked, of course; but I can only imagine the Serious Sugar Crazies in the household (for a kid who is already on the high end of active) and then the absolute, utter, dead-to-the-world Sugar Crash that happened later.

I'm sure he fell asleep in mid-word a bit later that night. Possibly in mid-step, falling to the floor in a drooling, snoring heap.


Saturday, January 12, 2008


OK, I admit, I spent a bit of time poking around the AiG site. Whoo-boy, is there a lot of conjecture there. But it was this item in their "Statement of Faith" that made me laugh like a hyena:
No apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the Scriptural record.
Well, of course not! If you require that your worldview is absolutely correct, you simply refuse to see any contradictory evidence. Doesn't exist.

No, not doesn't, can't exist. Because actual empirical evidence, based on observation of the real word, will demolish your baseless assertions. No, can't have that. Better just to blindly stick to doctrine

What a complete crock of shit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Science? Really?

Ok, this just made me laugh, then sort of shake my head with bemused horror. AiG -- Answers in Genesis, a very populate creationist/ID website, has decided that it will host - -get this -- peer reviewed papers, so that it can be all scienc-y and stuff, ya know?
[...] Answers Research Journal will provide scientists and students the results of cutting-edge research that demonstrates the validity of the young-earth model, the global Flood, the non-evolutionary origin of “created kinds,” and other evidences that are consistent with the biblical account of origins.
I've posted a couple of comment earlier on the ridiculous claim that ID is "scientific", but I just had to post their guidelines for paper review as a concrete evidence that they really have no idea how science actually works. I'm not really aware of any other "scientific journal" that pre-defines the evidences that they are going to accept. But that's only the tip of the iceberg.
VIII. Paper Review Process
Upon the reception of a paper the editor-in-chief will follow the procedures below:
A. Receive and acknowledge to the author the paper’s receipt.
B. Review the paper for possible inclusion into the ARJ review process.
The following criteria will be used in judging papers:
1. Is the paper’s topic important to the development of the Creation and Flood model?
2. Does the paper’s topic prvoide an original contribution to the Creation and Flood model?
3. Is this paper formulated within a young-earth, young-universe framework?
4. If the paper discusses claimed evidence for an old earth and/or universe, does this paper offer a very
constructively positive criticism and provide a possible young-earth, young-universe alternative?
5. If the paper is polemical in nature, does it deal with a topic rarely discussed within the origins
6. Does this paper provide evidence of faithfulness to the grammatical-historical/normative interpretation of Scripture? If necessary, refer to: R. E. Walsh, 1986. Biblical hermeneutics and creation. Proceedings First International Conference on Creationism, vol. 1, pp. 121–127. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Creation Science Fellowship.
What does this mean, exactly?

1. While this assumes that there is a valid creation and flood model, we might even grant this one as acceptable, since they are an ID-based organization. I don't expect a journal devoted to ornithology to entertain papers on the development of fish, for example.
2. see 1, and has this actually changed in the last 3000 years?
3. "does this paper already presuppose that we are right?"
4. "if the paper actually includes actual physical, observable evidence, does this paper dismiss/explain these facts if they do not support the creationism/ID model?
5. "does this paper assign special privilege to conformity to a doctrine over and above correlation to observational reality'

So, basically, "Make your papers conform to doctrine and we'll peer-review them. If they don't, well, tough noogies. We're only interested in apologetics." Great science, there. Basically, adherence to Scripture is of primary importance, not "science".

And then, the best of all: they won't even consider your paper if it CONFLICTS with doctrine.
The editor-in-chief will not be afraid to reject a paper if it does not properly satisfy the above criteria or it conflicts with the best interests of AiG as judged by its biblical stand and goals outlined in its statement of faith. [emphasis mine]
Just as a quick comparison, here are the author guidelines from Science/AAAS. No presupposition on topic, or dire warnings that they must conform to specific doctrine. Imagine that.

This quote, from a creationist/ID proponent online (not a scientist, as far as I can tell, just a staunch fundamentalist Christian who is a Biblical Literalist) seems to sum up why I have little tolerance for people who argue that ID is "science" and that what they are doing is "scientific":
"The proper approach to any truth search is to select the most plausible Fundamental Assumptions first. I call this a Worldview. The Theistic Worldview is far more consistent with the evidence ... I have presented much of this evidence previously. After the most plausible worldview is selected, then and only then can one set about evaluating data."
oooookay. No. This is not scientific investigation. This is (with the unfounded assertions and a priori arguments intact) almost the exact opposite. "I have the answer, let's find the evidence to support it" is not the way things work. It's supposed to be "ooh, that's weird. I wonder what that piece of data signifies".

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


This made me laugh so hard I nearly peed myself.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Who Needs Congress?

If Congress doesn't reauthorize No Child Left Behind, Bush intends to make as many changes as he can "on his own" through administrative or executive order means.
"And so now is the time for Congress to reauthorize it. I'm sure a lot of people look around the country and say it's impossible for Congress and the President to work together. I strongly disagree. We worked together to get the bill written in the first place, and I believe we can work together to get it reauthorized. If it's not reauthorized, then I've instructed our Secretary to move forward on some reforms or to analyze reforms that she can do through the administrative process. If Congress passes a bill that weakens the accountability system in the No Child Left Behind Act, I will strongly oppose it and veto it, because the act will continue on -- in other words, this act isn't expiring, it just needs to be reauthorized."
Congress? Who needs Congress? Certainly not the king.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Dental Surgery

While we were in MN, the filling that the Adorable Husband had done on the 20th started to act up. Within a few days, it was so excruciatingly painful that he was barely making it from one dose of tylenol to the next.

An emergency visit to a dentist in MN confirmed that there was a serious problem, although they told him he could manage for another day or so to have his dentist at home handle it (they thought it was a bad filling) and sent him on his way.

It turns out that the problem is a bit more serious than a bad filling, though, and requires extraction of his wisdom tooth. He's not happy. He's got a full set of wisdom teeth which haven't had any problems until now, but htey are so far back in his mouth that they are hard to fill and so a cavity in one of them is a serious problem. He goes in Monday to have it done. They're actually going to take both wisdom teeth on the right side. I'm stocking up on mashed potatoes and soup for him.

Of course, the first oral surgeon he called told him that they could see in in February. Now, I have no problem with them not having an appointment, but I still boggle that they thought a reasonable response to a request for an emergency appointment was to try to schedule something in six weeks. Um, no. Perhaps, "sorry, we're entirely booked for weeks and weeks and here's a list of other surgeons we recommend!"

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Stoned Puppies

So, we left our bags in the hallway upon returning home yesterday and the Adorable Husband left the outer pocket of his unzipped...which predictable results: the puppy weasels rifled through the bags and had a grand old time.

Normally, not a huge problem. Except this time, there was a full bottle of aspirin in the pocket. I heard them crunch on the bottle, and made it out into the living room in time to see the contents spread all over the living room...we have no idea if they ate any of the actual pills or not. Most of the aspirin were wet, but the bottle was mostly full when I scooped everything up.

Off to the emergency vet, tuit suit, after a rather frantic call to our vet. Aspirin can be seriously toxic to dogs, so they sedated the weasels (after coming out to tell us, "oh, they are active, aren't they?) and pumped them full of charcoal. We honestly don't think they ate more than one or two aspirin, but better safe than sorry.

They seem to be fine. Of course, it's awfully fun to have puppies that are so stoned you can sort of pile them up and bend them like gumby dolls. We had to carry them in from the car, and once we got them on the dog beds, they didn't move at all for six hours. Rowan just wanted to lay down and stare at the corner.

We were wondering if we could have more sedative...they are quite cuddly and sweet when they are high as kites!

Catching Up!

The holidays are over -- and were a relatively quiet, easygoing few weeks here at Chez Phouka. The Adorable Husband spent Christmas Day at work, but the rest of the time was spent with the new, spiffy computers. And, of course, back to MN for New Years where we got to see everyone and have lovely dinners and enjoy the too-cold weather.

I'll be back.