Friday, November 27, 2009

Sage and more sage

Historically, we've gone shopping for The Turkey Feast and bought a bottle of sage. Since my recipe uses about half a bottle of sage, some time last year we looked in the cupboard and had...SEVEN half-empty bottles and cans of sage.

So when on the shopping trip this year, we both looked at the spice aisle and said to each other -- "oh, no, we have TONS of sage at home and dont' need another bottle to add to the collection!"

So, as I was making my fabulous stuffing this evening, I reach into the spice cabinet for sage.


Nothing. We both rummaged through the cupboard, disbelieving. How could there be NO sage? How could we possibly be OUT?

Well, at some point during the year, we apparently decided to clear out all the old, half-used bottles and made a note to buy a fresh new bottle from Penzey's before Thanksgiving. And forgot.

The Adorable Husband is currently at the grocery store, buying sage, while I do the rest of the stuffing recipe. Hah!!

Eating Bees

Berit, sneaky weasel that she is, ATE A WASP (or two) late on Wednesday night. It apparently stung her on the tongue and roof of her mouth, so her eyes swelled shut, her face is all lumpy and blotchy, and she feels really, really sick. We pumped Benadryl into her fast, and the swelling went down, but she just got more and more agitated and spent the night pacing and whining and crying. DH slept out on the porch with her, since the cold air seemed to calm her down a bit. SHe was up all night and she looks just horrible.

Took her to the vet this morning, thinking she had some sort of intestinal problem (the pacing and crying are classic signs of bloat/torsion), and our vet thinks that she is just VERY allergic to wasps and that as it goes through her system (the little dead wasp carcass, that is), it will continue to make her sick for a day or so. Steroids and benadryl to make sure she isn't so twitchy and agitated, but poor stupid puppy!

I wonder if we need to have an epi-pen or something? She was breathing, ok, but her whole face swelled up, and her tongue was all lumpy. Scared us to bits!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Catholic Church Threatens To Stop D.C. Services For Needy If Gay Marriage Passes
The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn’t change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.
Apparently a medieval dogma is far more important than, you know, actually doing good. Nope, can't actually love they neighbor if it contradicts your systematic and entrenched bigotry. So let's pull out of helping the poor, ministering to the needy, if the city doesn't kowtow to our demand that they deny marriage to a part of the population.

What with this and the latest offer to the Anglican church to take back their anti-gay members...well, the Catholic church has mad it very clear that they are more interested dogma than in people. Shame on them.

And, since they seem to be throwing their weight into the political arena - perhaps we should be considering their tax exempt status. That seems fair.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you.

To all those who served, to all those who have fallen, thank you.

The world is better for the sacrifices you have made, the risks you have taken, the difficult tasks you have performed. Risks and sacrifices that most of us never have to face.

Thank you.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Shrinky Dinks

Remnember Shrinky Dinks? The acetate sheets you colored, cut out, and then shrunk to thick, clunky plastic in the oven? Did you ever think they'd be useful in a scientific lab? Hah!

In 2006, Michelle Khine arrived at the University of California­'s brand-new Merced campus eager to establish her first lab. She was experimenting with tiny liquid-filled channels in hopes of devising chip-based diagnostic tests, a discipline called microfluidics. The trouble was, the specialized equipment that she previously used to make microfluidic chips cost more than $100,000--money that wasn't immediately available. "I'm a very impatient person," says Khine, now an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine. "I wanted to figure out how I could set things up really quickly."

Racking her brain for a quick-and-dirty way to make microfluidic devices, Khine remembered her favorite childhood toy: Shrinky Dinks, large sheets of thin plastic that can be colored with paint or ink and then shrunk in a hot oven. "I thought if I could print out the [designs] at a certain resolution and then make them shrink, I could make channels the right size for micro­fluidics," she says.

So she drew out the designs, and when they were shrunk, used them as a mold for her microchannels. While not perfect, the solution has gotten a lot of attention -- both critical and enthusiastic. Now that she's started, of course, people are working on other applications of her "shrinky-dink model". How very cool!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

..into the silence

Yeah, I've been quiet for a few days.

New computer game.

Very absorbing, time-suck of a computer game. So instead of doing anything constructive with my evenings, I've been battling ogres and dragons and zombies.

I'm seriously getting too old to stay up until 2am playing games. It makes getting up for work pretty hard in the morning. But it's fun!

Dragon Age: Origins

Lovely game, and - -as I've found out over the last four days -- it drags you in for hours. Great voice acting, good graphics (although not the best I've seen) and an engrossing storyline with so many different options that I've barely made it out of the first city. I keep wandering around talking to everyone.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Trick or Treaters SCORE!

Perfect weather, and we had TONS of trick-or-treaters. It's been hit or miss around here, really. The first couple of years, we had a total of 10 kids show up - we were apparently too far out on the edge of the development to be worth hiking all the way out for candy (at least for most kids).

At the old house, we used to get HUNDREDS of kids on Halloween. But Old Town is neat little rectangular blocks and is pretty small. Every single kid went out and followed the same path. The new development is all curvy and full of dead-end cul-de-sacs and we apparently just don't get the volume. Lots of parents around here take th elittlest kids to the mall for trick-or-treating, though.

It doesn't stop us from buying a bazillion bags of candy, though, so when we actually did get a ton of kids last night we had plenty of candy! Lots of neat costumes -- plenty of star-wars Clone Wars, ninjas, a fire-fighter, Indiana Jones, plenty of little fairy princesses and gangsters. Even a tiny little munchkin dressed as a cow who managed to say 'ticker teet' and 'fank yoo' loudly and with enthusiasm, albeit with a little prompting.

Intellectual Dishonesty

[Edited to add (11/4/09) that not only is Comfort dishonest, he's a plagiarist, as well - see the comparison of his "introduction" to "A Brief History of Charles Darwin" by Dr. Stan Guffe]

When Ray Comfort announced that he was going to give out free copies of Darwin's Origin of Species with his own, special introduction, I was ticked off, but figured that getting the book into people's hands was more important than worrying about the fifty pages of dribble that Comfort felt he had to put in the intro. Bad enough, but his idiocy is pretty easy to debunk and no one interested enough in reading Darwin's book was going to give him any credit.

But now, I've read that the book is actually EDITED. Yup, whole chapters are missing -- you know, the ones that Comfort doesn't agree with, and that ones that contradict his little fairy story of how life ended up where we are. He can, of course, the book is out of copyright, but if he's going to drop chapters from the book, he should be honest enough to admit it. Honest enough to leave the book intact and let his "arguments" stand for themselves. He can't. He's got nothing but debunked and rejected stories that can't stand up to criticism or even casual attention. So he has edited the book shamefully while still representing it as the original. It's dishonest to the extreme.

His response? It was too expensive in the initial printing -- "too many pages", but the second printing, the one that will go to students, is intact. I'll believe that when I see it - he's shown that truth is a rather fluid concept.

Ray said "The first printing of 30,000 was an abridged edition. It was abridged because it was too many pages (too expensive) for a giveaway. In the book, we explained that the removed chapters could be downloaded freely online at

The second print of 175,000 (which has just come off the press) was the complete book--that's the one that will go to students. Nothing is missing from the original book. Not a dot. Thanks for asking. I appreciate it. Best wishes."

Does this make any sense to anyone? So, it was too expensive to give away the full book, but now they are going to give away the full book for free. That's a pretty thin excuse. Didn't expect to get caught, I imagine.

In the meantime, the absurd abridgement is out in the wild. It's been sent to various outlets for review and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Which version has been sent out? Guess.

Eugenie Scott, of the National Center for Science Education, wrote her review of the book.

Unfortunately, it will be hard to thoroughly read the version that Comfort will be distributing on college campuses in November. The copy his publisher sent me is missing no fewer than four crucial chapters, as well as Darwin's introduction. Two of the omitted chapters, Chapters 11 and 12, showcase biogeography, some of Darwin's strongest evidence for evolution. Which is a better explanation for the distribution of plants and animals around the planet: common ancestry or special creation? Which better explains why island species are more similar to species on the mainland closest to them, rather than to more distant species that share a similar environment? The answer clearly is common ancestry. Today, scientists continue to develop the science of biogeography, confirming, refining, and extending Darwin's conclusions.

Likewise missing from Comfort's bowdlerized version of the Origin is Chapter 13, where Darwin explained how evolution makes sense of classification, morphology, and embryology. To take a simple example, why do all land vertebrates (amphibians, mammals, and reptiles and birds) have four limbs? Not because four limbs are necessarily a superior design for land locomotion: insects have six, arachnids have eight, and millipedes have, well, lots. It's because all land vertebrates descended with modification from a four-legged ("tetrapod") ancestor. Since Darwin's era, scientists have repeatedly confirmed that the more recently two species have shared a common ancestor, the more similar are their anatomy, their biochemistry, their embryology, and their genetics.

So, Mr. Comfort, because he can't really counter the information, simply omits it. Where their "evidence" fails, they just ignore it. No one with on iota of ethics is going to support it, and this has simply cemented the opinion of rational, thinking people that Comfort is intellectually dishonest (as if we actually needed this particular incident, but there it is). He has a fabulous strawman idea of what atheists believe and continually conflates evolution with abiogenesis, and procedes to tilt madly at those instead of actually addressing the reality of evolution and scientific fact. It would be funny if it weren't for the people who actually think he's honest and accurate.

If you want to propose a different model for life on earth, you really do have to address ALL of the points of the other model. Your new theory has to account for ALL the empirical evidence and ALL of the facts available. Ignoring them simply shows that you can't and it's pretty pathetic.

If he wants to slice and dice the book, fine. But at least have the decency to note that it is NOT the entire text, that you have abridged and edited it to fit your own agenda, and don't attempt to market this as the real thing. What he is doing is dishonest and manipulative.