Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Obama's Taking Questions

You can vote for the questions you'd like Obama to answer here.

My questions so far:

Are you committed to understanding and facing that which is true, no matter how unpleasant? Will you measure your confidence in the truth of various claims rationally --that is, using tests of corroboration, falsification, logic, and parsimony?

Health care:
Will you stop the anti-science lie of 'alternative medicine'? Any treatment proven effective with appropriate controls is simply 'medicine'. When the public can't appreciate basic rules of evidence, democracy dies. So help America to wise up!

Foreign policy:
Will you prove America's commitment to the rule of law? Will you allow the prisoners at Guantanamo the basic legal due process afforded to anyone accused of a crime in a civilized society? Their testimony will hurt us, but we will survive.

Snark (I'm not brave enough to actually type this in):
Will someone tally up the unfounded assertions and batshit notions nested among these questions at The list may help us understand why things are as they are.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

EMR Rant #1: Stupid Data Tracking Kills!!1!

I was posting on a thread at Orac's site. I found myself going off on a tangent about electronic medical records or "EMRs." In the midst of rant #3, I realized I was, well, ranting, and decided to dump it all here.

BTW, anytime you'd like to hear me rant, just tell me that EMRs will save doctors bunches of time while also saving the US taxpayer billions. Ha! Lies! Lies! Lies!

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-EMR, merely anti-EMR hype. The hype hurts the EMR cause because it provokes disappointment.

The rant below concerns the data tracking requirements set by insurers, JCAHO, CARF, state licensing agencies, corporate boards of directors, etc. These people are too easily impressed by the appearance of usefulness.

When I imagine the brilliant minds behind Enron, the subprime mortgage crisis, the Wall Street bailout, the Madoff scandal, the invasion of Iraq, and so on, I see the smiling faces of helpful people not unlike the healthcare third party players I have come to know. The nice people in my mind's eye await the reassuring sound of a number which is to be written in a box on a form that will ultimately be incorporated into someone's quarterly report and/or Powerpoint slide.

Example: New Jersey wants nurses to track psychotropic side effects. Sounds good, right? Heh. Don't get your hopes up.

Here's what New Jersey requires: On the back of the monthly MAR for each day that meds are given, the nurse must record "NSE" meaning "no side effects." Otherwise she must list any side effects reported.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Firstly, among my patients, self-report is unreliable. Further, most side effects are not evident at the med pass. They're usually pattern alterations that manifest over time --e.g., irregular menses, constipation, sleep-wake cycle disruptions, appetite changes. Imagine how silly you'd feel asking a patient every morning, "any menstrual irregularity today?"

Better to record a few daily indicators such as:
- menses? yes/no
- poop? yes/no
- wet bed? yes/no

Plot these data on a monthly chart and patterns become obvious and can be checked against dates when meds were changed. As a bonus, this system controls for confirmation bias and selective recall.

Logic is on my side. I am the doctor. But can I win an argument with a state licensing agency? No, I cannot.

Although the facility may make a half-hearted attempt to track things my way, the effort will fizzle. No organization can afford two systems that serve the same purpose.

Moral of my story: tracking stupid stuff screws up the tracking of useful stuff. Beware!

Some Things are Important

Do Not Turn Your Back to the Monkeys

From Photo Basement.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Aussie Spider

This may come in handy at some point in my dealings with a coworker who happens to have a spider phobia.

The Golden Orb Weaver is from the Cellar.

Sam the Eagle

I haz virus. Started with headache, then sleepiness, nausea, fevers, sore throat, dry cough, swollen lymph nodes. Got my flu shot a couple weeks ago. Still, might be the flu.

Trolling for pics that make me laugh. Too weak for lotta wurds 'n stuff.

More Pew Pew!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Texas Sharpshooter

Someone looking at the graph in my last posting asked what the increase in aggression around age 45 might mean.

It may represent a sampling problem. There may be an outlier, a single individual who is very aggressive pushing up the numbers. Or there may be a disproportionate number of 45 year-olds in the group.

But let's say we rule out a sampling problem. Then we might have fun speculating about why humans seem to become more aggressive around age 45. Midlife crisis? Brain changes? Hormones? Empty nest syndrome? Seven year itch? When inventing explanations, one's powers of imagination are the only limit.

Hence the reason we don't take post-hoc explanations for apparent correlations very seriously. Such explanations are like a rustling in the leaves - might be the wind, might be an animal, might be a friend come to visit. We can't know without further investigation.

The Texas sharpshooter fires his rifle at the side of a barn repeatedly and randomly. He then searches for a cluster of shots close together and he draws a bullseye around them. We control for this kind of error by insisting that the researcher predict what he expects to find before seeing the data.

The alt med guys are Texas sharpshooters. They order hundreds of lab tests without first predicting what they expect to see or what those results might mean. Order enough tests and it's a statistical certainty that something will come back abnormal.

An honest researcher looking at the graph with the bump in aggressions around age 45 would say, "Could be this; could be that. Can't be sure without further study."

But here's the typical alt med doc:

Our group has found that toxin accumulation in the colon becomes critical by the age of 40. Take a look at this graph BigPharma doesn't want you to see...

Symptoms of CTS or Colonic Toxic Syndrome include:

- depression
- irritability
- low self-esteem
- bad breath
- stinky feet
- a tired feeling

If you haven't had regular colonic irrigations and think you might have CTS ...blah blah blah free consultation bogus testing and so on.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Kids and Control Groups

A residential program I visit has a system for monitoring severe behavior problems, such as aggression toward other persons, running away, or self-injury: Staff fill out a form describing the behavior then a data entry person puts the info into a database.

The graph above is simply a count of incidents involving aggression to persons. The x-axis is the age of the client at the time the incident happened. These raw data are from 2008.

The above graph confirms my clinical impression: with respect to aggression, the teens and young adults are champs (I should mention that about one-third of the clients at this facility are under and two-thirds are over 18 years of age).

If I were a clever doctor, I'd try to take new patients of about 21 years. I could straighten these kids out with friggin' Fred Flintstone's Chewable Multivitamins. People would think I was a genius.

See why we need control groups for clinical research involving kids?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

So What?

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take-

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that's right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they're going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

Mr. President, at this point most people understand the sequence of events: You used 9/11 as a justification for going after Saddam Hussein. Americans, largely ignorant of Middle East politics and religious divisions, accepted your claim that al Qaeda and Saddam were somehow linked. Although it's possible you were sincere when you asserted the connection, you and your administration remain at fault for the lack of due dilligence in examining the evidence available.

You have not taken responsibility for your failure to rationally examine the evidence for a link between Saddam and al Qaeda prior to the invasion of Iraq.

You have not taken responsibility for your failure to rationally examine the evidence regarding WMDs in Iraq prior to 9/11.

"So what?"

May those words haunt you.

Wind at 30 knots

When does the Round Britain and Ireland race happen? Seems cold and gray.

I like how the guy on the winch gradually sheds his foul weather gear.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I'm reading a book at the request of a parent: Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies, The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders, by Kenneth Bock MD.

OMG, it's FAIL!

Firstly, Dr. Bock asserts a number of controversial claims as established facts - e.g., that there's an autism epidemic and that thimerosal in vaccines correlates with this epidemic. Objectivity would dictate that one explain for the reader the evidence on both sides of the argument, non? Dr. Bock doesn't bother.

Throughout the book he says, "in my experience" and "I believe" and "I recommend" without explaining the basis for his personal confidence.

When Dr. Bock provides something that might pass for objective data, I'm actually embarrassed for him. If he were a student in my statistics class, he'd fail. Example:

Chelation therapy has been successfully applied to thousands of children on
the autism spectrum, under the supervision of DAN doctors and other integrative
physicians. The results have generally been gratifying and promising. The
positive response rate, as quantified in the ongoing series of Autism Research
Institute parent evaluations, is as follows:

Symptoms improved: 76 percent
No discernible effect: 22 percent
Symptoms worsened: 2 percent

These parent evaluations represent a 38-to-1 ratio of improvement of
symptoms compared to worsening symptoms... No other single element in the
biomedical treatment of autism has been rated this highly. (
pg. 305)
Okay class, what further information might you want before drawing any conclusions from the survey data above? Yes, the file drawer effect! Good job! It's likely that many chelation patients didn't fill out the ARI evaluation, human laziness being a Universal Law n'all. Before interpreting the stated percentages, we'd need to know the total number of patients treated with chelation and how many didn't do the form.

Any other problems with Dr. Bock's conclusion that chelation works? Right again! We don't know what might have happened without treatment. There's no comparison group. Imagine if we had a no-treatment group and it looked like this:

Symptoms improved: 96%
No change: 2%
Symptoms worsened: 2%

Compared to these numbers, chelation would seem harmful rather than helpful, eh?

Other obvious problems with Dr. Bock's data: We don't know what "improved" means. We don't know the degree of intra- and inter-rater reliability for "improved."

Now, anecdotal data has its place. There's nothing wrong with doctors sharing case reports with colleagues. By comparing notes, we figure out where to put new research efforts.

But Dr. Bock's been at this chelation stuff for many, many years. He's had plenty of time to put his ideas to the test in a real study with adequate controls. For him to pimp the "chelation works" notion without evidence at this late date is, frankly, shameful.

My conversation with the parent who urged me to read this book was awkward. "These are DAN (Defeat Autism Now!) doctors, the leading autism experts in the country! How can you say they haven't got evidence? Haven't you heard of the Autism Research Institute?"

Dr. Bock mentions setting up a credentialing program, something like an autism treatment sub-specialty. I'm imagining it will be like the ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Board Certification. For anyone at a doctoral level, these certifications are a joke. Yet parents, teachers, and funders have bought the marketing hook, line, and sinker. "Doctor, are you ABA Certified?" If you don't buy the certificate *cough*, you're not an expert.

My fellow physicians, we are in deep shit. The rules of evidence have been broken and the thieves are minding the store.

I'm calling red alert. All hands on deck. Battle stations!

Get those Reiki wankers out of the feckin' hospital, to start.

Snark for the day

A federal judge in Honolulu dismissed the lawsuit seeking to stop operation of the giant collider, not because the science fiction writer who filed the suit was a few neurons short of a full compliment, but because CERN is not in Honolulu.

Old news, but I just read it and it made me lol. "CERN is not in Honolulu."

Gotta love Bob Park, the physicist and author of What's New, a weekly report of Washington happenings. No wasted words and always the appropriate amount of snark.

He's got a new book out: Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (Princeton, 2008). Anyone read it yet?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Mr. Penguin catches a lucky break.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Planing in a 5O5

Nice example of planing.

Did you know that boats have a top speed determined by their length at the water line? Here's the formula: hull speed in knots = (square root of the hull length in feet at waterline) * 1.34.

When I learned of this limit a few months ago, I was surprised. Imagine if cars were like this. Imagine shopping for a fast car: No need to bother about its width or height or weight. Check its length and there's your max speed.

But unlike cars, boats make waves. The wavelength of these waves imprisons the boat, from bow to stern. Well... so long as the boat is in the water. A boat at the surface of the water, a boat that is planing, can break this hull speed rule.

The capsize at the end of the 5O5 video is all too familiar. Although the crew slides onto the centerboard quickly, the boat seems eager to turtle.

Like the 5O5, my V15 sits high on the water after a capsize. A few seconds of wind and wave action and it's upside down.

I agree that a capsize is "part of the fun" of sailing a little racing dinghy. But a turtled boat is no fun at all. When turtled in shallow waters, the tip of the mast can bang against the lake or ocean bottom. It can bury itself so hard that the boat won't move. Then you've no option but to call for a motorized rescue. Even so, the effort to pull the boat free may dismast the boat.

A float at the top of the mast can keep the boat from turtling for several minutes - long enough for the crew to get the boat upright. The downside: any weight at the top of the mast makes the boat less stable and may increase drag.

At this point, I'm not taking my boat anywhere without some sort of float on the mast. Four empty 2-liter soda bottles seem to do the trick, albeit without elegance. Three soda bottles --trust me on this-- do not suffice.

I'm shopping for a better answer. The Hobie Bob looks heavy. I'd like to see the Flying Dutchman float, which seems to integrate with the top of the mainsail.

Sailing the Surf

Hobie Tigers surfing.

Before I bought my boat I would run YouTube searches for "sail fast" or similar. Lots of the videos I watched were blurry, thanks to spray on the camera lens. Many had wind artifacts or bad metal music dubbed in. But a few, like this one, were just ace.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I get a buzz off this video. I think it's the well choreographed team-work. Just brilliant.

The sample is from:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Roger Ebert Gets Two Thumbs Up!

Expelled! is now on DVD. Roger Ebert reviews.

Roger, you're one of the good ones. Sorry to hear about your hip.

My Blog Died

Cuz I bought a little sailboat.


But now it's snowing and the pond is icy. No moar boat. *sniff*

So what you been doing while I been gone?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

O hai!

Sorry I've neglected you, my dear fans. I been busy. No time for internet.

Here's something at the NYT to tide you over until I can grant you more of my attention:

The Trolls Among Us

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Some of these hosts have been consecrated; some not. Can you tell which? Carl from Atlantic City can.

I'm not sure how else a person could distinguish them-- the Church certainly doesn't claim a chemical distinction. I think anyone expecting that the host is going to turn green and be emblazened with 'Christ was here' is a nut. But my experience of the Eucharist-- of that spiritual distinction-- has been profound and life-altering.
There are more cracker threads at Pharyngula than I can count, each with bajillion posts. You will not believe your eyes.

Added: The crackers need a few friggin' lazers on their heads. Then they could say convincingly, "U THREATEN CRACKERS?!! OMG U IZ SO DED!!1!" But that's beyond my time and/or shoopin' skills.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dear baby birds

Please stay in your nests until you grow a few working feathers. There are cats and others down here ready to eat you.


Monday, July 7, 2008

The rock wall analogy

Imagine laying a natural rock wall without mortar. Good rock walls minimize the empty space between the rocks. Bad rock walls leave a lot of empty space and tend to fall apart.

To lay a rock wall, you start by setting some rock. Then you appreciate the empty space beside it. Then you look to your rock pile for something that will best fit that empty space. If you're slow and careful you will probably build a pretty good wall.

But imagine building not just a good wall but the best wall possible given the stones available. Could you accomplish this? I don't believe I could.

If you've ever constructed a rock wall, you've likely had the experience of discovering a spot that would be perfect for a rock you've already set. Ugh! Sometimes you'll unpack a little of the wall to get the rock for that space. But the unpacking sometimes creates new spaces that are hard to fill.

It's just too difficult predicting at the outset where each rock should ideally be placed.

Now, imagine you've got a large steel box in the shape of the wall you're building. The box sits on top of a platform that can be made to vibrate. Put all the rocks in your pile into the box and let the thing vibrate a while.

Q: Which wall will have less empty space in it, the human designed wall or the wall that results from vibration?

A: The vibration method will have a better outcome. Here's why:

1. Rocks that share large surface areas will vibrate less than other rocks, thanks to friction.

2. The variation in movement among the rocks allows for a kind of natural selection: rocks that don't move will "pass on" their stability to future rock arrangements while mobile rocks will continue to bounce until they find a snug spot.

Evolution is like an adding machine that can add together all sorts of interacting forces all at once. We find this process hard to understand. As humans, we can only add two numbers together at a time. So we look at evolution and we call it "random" because we can't see all the interacting links. But it isn't random. It's complex.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Why listen to the experts when you can listen to ME!!!11!!

Nice article on Neurologica: Deconstructing the Cranks.

Here's a quote:
Holly also demonstrates the true arrogance of those who equate their tangential knowledge with expertise. One theme I promote in this blog is proper humility when dealing with areas of knowledge in which one is not an expert. This does not mean you cannot have an opinion - but one should fairly account for the consensus of expert opinion and be wary of those who casually dismiss it.
I like that last bit enough to make it a rule of thumb:

Before going into the details of some personal opinion, people should summarize the expert consensus. If they can't do that, they must be told to STFU.

Time is money - life is short - lurk moar - and so forth.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gone fishin'...srsly?

I used to fish occasionally as a kid, usually when camping. While I lived in California, sometimes I went grunion running - yum!

I nearly always ate what I caught. But that is not fishing. When people say they like to fish on weekends, what they mean is: "I like to catch fish for the fun of catching them. Then I throw them back in the water."


Somehow I made it to middle age without realizing that most people who "fish" don't eat what they catch.

I'm not happy about this. Fish do feel pain just as we feel pain. If the hook cuts into a lip, they'll likely live. But if it cuts through the roof of the mouth, they'll suffer for a time then die.

The harm seems forgivable if a person is going to eat the fish and enjoy the benefit of the protein and other quality nutrients that make large brained life possible. But imposing such suffering upon another merely for the momentary thrill of catching something on a hook isn't good enough.

I blame religion. I blame the notion of "sacred human life" and "dominion over all."

Why must humankind serve as a monstrous nightmare to nearly every species upon the earth?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Redneck wedding

I know the camo makes it difficult to see, but it's a cake. For a wedding.

More stupid puns than you can shake a stick at here:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blogger sucks

The recent comments thing died. Granted only three people visit my page so I shouldn't have a problem keeping up. But what if someone says something fascinating on an older post and I never see it?

I'm taking a look at WordPress. I imported this site to

I like the new blogroll with automatic updates that blogger is doing; don't see anything at wordpress like that. Still, seeing recent comments is more valuable to me.

I may make a permanent move soon... Maybe I should check out LiveJournal first.

LMAO Zedong

So obvious. Why did I never think of that?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Why there are no pictures of the North Pacific Trash Gyre

From the Oyster's Garter:
The most common misconception is that the trash pile is like an island... It’s not packed in as tight as that - it’s more like a dense collection of tiny floating pieces of plastic, most of which are not on the surface. A big container ship or naval vessel going through there would probably not notice much out of the ordinary - after all, there is some degree of plastic trash floating on the surface all over the world...

For this reason, the trash gyre would be very, very hard to clean up. The plastic is so small, and so scattered, that it would take high-intensity trawling similar to that for shrimp. And shrimp trawling kills 10 pounds of non-targeted life (sharks, turtles, fish, you name it) for every pound of shrimp gathered. (Yes, Forrest Gump lied to you - for some reason they didn’t want drowned turtles next to Tom Hank’s angelic self.) The mortality caused by trying to remove all the trash in the gyre would probably be similar. We’re just going to have to live with it and try to prevent it from getting any bigger.

Fan fiction sub-genre: theology

Steve Zara has been thinking about the Emperor's New Clothes.
It is a very subtle tale, indicating how deferring to authority can lead to lies and hypocrisy, along with a sense that that behaviour is somehow appropriate. It is also about cowardice - no-one daring to point out the obvious; it takes the naivety of a child in the story.

He's right. However he initially minimized a related theme which he later came to appreciate: First things first. We have to establish that a thing exists before we can study it.

Well, unless we write fan fic.

Fan fiction is an exploration of the play space available within an imagined world established by some prior literary work. It's not easy and it would be unfair to say that a fan fiction writer just makes stuff up.*

Several months of study may be required to master the constraints of some literary universe. Characters can't simply do as you please. They have strengths, weaknesses, alliances, enmities, and motivations. Any potential plot line is constrained by setting, materials, and the laws of physics. If magic is introduced, its uses and limits must be explained to the reader.

Imagine all the research necessary to write a good Star Trek episode. Without careful scholarship, distracting discontinuities and contradictions with what has gone before are bound to appear.

Theologians get annoyed when atheists accuse them of studying a non-subject. Anything that takes work isn't "nothing" ... it?

*Example of the upset that can be provoked when one fails to appreciate all the hard work and discipline of good fan fic. The first response is civil:

Steve Zara's last comment, in which he says that "religion just makes stuff up" is so ridiculously silly one could almost imagine that he really doesn't believe it. Has he read any of the 111 comments so far, and by reading I mean thoughtfully considered each word and phrase, pondered what is being said, how it is being said, etc.? It would seem not.

Creationist logic

Peoples Archive

Peoples Archive, part of Web of Stories Ltd., is dedicated to filming for posterity the life stories of the great thinkers, creators, and achievers of our time. The people whose stories you watch on this site are leaders of their field, whose work has influenced and changed our world as we know it.

We believe these stories will be an invaluable resource for the future. Imagine watching Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, or Charlie Chaplin, talking about their life and work. Imagine Pablo Picasso or Jane Austen, Winston Churchill, or Marie Curie. The list is endless. Those stories could have added much to our understanding of the way these people thought and worked, and to the world in which their work was created. But beyond their value to scholarship they would provide something else - the living, speaking, image of each person. We could see such people - no longer as mythical figures, but alive - as alive as their work.

While those named in the list above are no longer with us, there are many of equal stature, in all professions, living and working today. We want to listen to and safely archive their stories, voices and presence, in order that they will not be lost. The parameters of the project are theoretically limitless. It is our intention to create a comprehensive and continually growing archive that will document all the people whose work has contributed to our world and our understanding of it.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Behavior or Behaviors?

The report in front of me contains this sentence:
His behaviors include property destruction, aggression to others, disrobing, noncompliance (drops to the floor), wandering, and food seeking.
Years past I would have cautioned the author of such a sentence to avoid "behaviors" as "behavior" is an uncountable noun. But I have grown weak. The tide has turned and "behaviors" now seems generally acceptable if one is speaking of particular types of behavior.

Language evolves. With enough time a language can become so different that the older version is incomprehensible to modern speakers.

Biological evolution is a very similar process. Yet creationists deny that an accumulation of small changes over time can add up to larger changes. I find this denial baffling.

I've developed a conditioned sense of exhaustion in response to the words "microevolution verses macroevolution." The words signal the presence of a vast mountain of wrong that must be removed stone by stone before there's any hope of useful conversation.

The defense of "species" against evolutionary change is so silly. It's like saying, "yes, you can go from red to red-orange or from red-orange to orange; but you can't ever go from red to orange!"

Monday, June 2, 2008

China bans the plastic bag

Here's the news report.
China, which consumes 37 million barrels of crude oil each year to manufacture more than one trillion plastic bags, is following in the footsteps of countries such as Ireland, Rwanda and Bangladesh. Italy is due to introduce a ban by 2010.
I confess I sometimes find myself at the store and the canvas bags are home. I haven't yet developed the habit of stashing the things in my car once the groceries are put away, but I'm trying.

Those bags look a lot like jellyfish in the ocean.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Sir Jason Beghe and Anonymous 5-26-08

Goon: Excuse me, look, look, go over to the other side of the street.

Jason: What do you mean? I'm not allowed to stand here?

Goon: No.

Jason: Why not? Who says I can't stand here? Besides you?

Goon: ...silence...

Jason: You have any law behind that?

Goon: ...looks away...

Jason: I didn't think so.

Jason: ...looks off camera... I'm supposed to take orders from this guy?

Jason: ...mimics goon... Go on the other side of the street!

Jason: ...turns to goon... I can talk loud too.

Jason: ...tries to engage second goon who won't talk, then turns back to first goon...

Jason: Nice to meet you tough guy.

Jason: ...walks a few steps away then...

Jason: I smell pussy.

It's not always about you

Does a fish know he's wet? If water is all the fish has ever known, perhaps not.

Does a creationist recognize when he's anthropomorphizing? Does he consider that human ideas and heuristics such as purpose, order, benefit, or progress may not have any meaning from the vantage point of some other being or impersonal entity?

Here's a comment from a creationist posting at, followed by my response:
I believe things are in descent having begun in perfection. Evolution is trying to say that organisms have ascended to where they are now from a single cell by way of mutations. I believe living organisms are in a downward spiral.
Biologists may speak of the ascent of man or other species. But this is poetry. There is no ascent or descent per se. There is simply a sea of replicators replicating.

To get the hang of biology you must lose your anthrocentrism. Have a look at the world from the vantage of a bird, a fish, a spider, a bacterium, a mitochondrian, or a gene. Would T Rex feel that this era of mammalianism is an improvement compared to the age of reptiles? In terms of the menu, maybe.

Approximately 90 percent of the cells within your body belong to various non-human species. They call your body "ours" just as you call it "mine." Your arms, legs, and brain work for these others as much as for yourself.

Of those cells within you which are human you'll note no loyalty oaths. They generally cooperate with the rest of you, clearly. But they do murder their brothers with some frequency. These fratricides are often to your benefit but not always.

Even within that which is most you --your own genome-- you are overrun with foreigners. Your chromosomes are chock-a-block with endogenous retroviruses and fragments of genes once useful to other species but of no use to you.

Now that you have shrugged off your speciesism you can answer this question: Who conquered the New World, the European or his parasites?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Neurons Red in Tooth and Claw

There's an article summarizing recent brain development research at Johns Hopkins. We've known that neurons exposed to Nerve Growth Factor survive while their neighbors who might not be sucking up enough NGF die off. This article introduces another element: strong neurons actually harming weaker neighbors.
To test this idea they plugged these three additional genes into their computer model, assuming that the stronger connected nerve cell punishes its neighbors by releasing the two proteins capable of killing. The computer model showed again, that half the nerve cells die over time, but this time the death occurred over two to three days rather than 100 days, just as in living animals.

Online Textbook: Behavioral Neuroscience

The Rice University web site offers the Multimedia Textbook in Behavioral Neuroscience


Language by Lesley Inglis, Mary Newsome, Zhihua Tang, and Randi Martin
Speech Perception
Word Comprehension
Sentence Comprehension (I)
Sentence Comprehension (II)
Word Production (I)
Word Production (II): PDP Model
Sentence Production

Attention and Perception by Deborah Pearson, Geofrey Potts, and James Pomerantz
Visual System
Shape Constancy
Attentional Deficit Disorder

Thinking by Daniel Osherson

Autism by Elizabeth N. Bartmess-LeVasseur and Kathryn Loveland. Internet links: David Lane
Theory of Autism

Monday, May 19, 2008

The North Pacific Gyre

This story has been around a few years, but still I meet a lot of people who haven't heard about the Texas-sized plastic dump in the Pacific Ocean.

Below is the result of someone's discarded plastic soda can rings:

Plastic is an unbelievable problem. Plastic only seems cheap, because the associated disposal and clean up costs aren't included in the product price.

Go watch this: Garbage Island *

Then for something a little happier: Canvas Bags (thanks Steve Zara!).

A few minutes into episode 3 of Garbage Island, a crew member says, "You go to Subway for a sandwich. They always put it in a plastic bag. How long do you use that bag for? One minute?"

That's a significant point. We're blind to the plastic waste we create because it all goes someplace else. How will this ever change?

Garbage Island suffers from a lack of aggressive editing. There's some great material in there that won't be seen because it's surrounded by stuff that's reduntant or paced too slowly.

*Updated link here: Garbage Island I haven't watched the updated version all the way through. I notice the piece has been renamed "Toxic Garbage Island," which I find unfortunate as the word "toxic" adds the "scary" but comes with pseudoscience baggage that might be off-putting to smart people.

Science Fair

Over on Sciencewomen you can read about the winners of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair:

Three talented, hard working, and lucky students are the recipients of the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award, which includes a $50,000 college scholarship. This year's winners are:

Efficient Hydrogen Production Using Cu-Zn-Al Catalysts Prepared by Homogeneous Precipitation Method by Yi-Han Su, 17 from Taipei Municipal First Girls' Senior High School in Taipei.

Development of Biosensors for Detecting Hazardous Chemicals by Natalie Saranga Omattage, 17, from The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus.

Computation of the Alexander-Conway Polynomial on the Chord Diagrams of Singular Knots by Sana Raoof, 17 of Jericho High School in Jericho, New York.

Three girls!

And now for something, ah, a bit more ordinary yet far more hilarious...(click me for teh lulz)


I fell and broke the scaphoid bone in my right wrist yesterday while doing yard work. Typing and mousing is a bitch. So I won't be as active on teh web tubes for a while.

I might pick up one of those voice recognition programs. Any suggestions?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

In US, Religion Picks You!

Click the pic to go to an article about the US religion map.

When I was a kid, the Catholics were Democrats and the Baptists got abortions. Once the right-to-life movement pulled in the born-agains, a natural alliance between the Catholics and southern Protestants emerged (see map for why this alliance kicks ass).

In addition to the bloody red Baptists, the Religious Right has the Mormons, the Latino Catholics, and a lot of the working class Catholics in New England who resonate to the family values stuff even though they're not interested in the Rapture business.

The Catholic Church has watched the growth of happy-clappy fundamentalism in the US while more liberal flavors of Christianity have been dying away. I think they want some of that market share. So they've moved right. They've toughened up the rules. They got a pre-Vatican II Pope and brought back the Latin Mass for the elites. Woo to follow, I reckon. You need Holy Spirit woo to keep the peoples turned on and tuning in.

But this crazy, dominionist, when-can-we-bomb-Iran voting block has to be stopped. It's not good for anyone in the long run, including the Church.

It's possible the Church might take the high road, skipping the mysticism and authoritarianism in favor of a more rational, anti-poverty and pro-social justice message. This likely will disrupt the current alliance between Catholics and the Republicans... and so save us all.

Peer Review

What would the male-female ratio look like in a photo of today's top physicists?

Here's another story that might be about girl power. I dunno.

For some strange reason when I was in my teens, my brain liked math. I taught myself eighth grade algebra at the start of seventh grade and soon reached a point where I needed a ride to the high school across town for geometry.

The school counselor called me into his office. He said that interacting with my peers was just as important as book learning. He recommended that I take a year off from math. "You like to draw. why don't you take another art class?"

So I spent a year as a li'l helper to a math teacher, grading papers and decorating bulletin boards.

Memories evolve with time. As an easily intimidated thirteen-year-old, I heard the counselor saying, in essence, "Miss Titmouse you quirky geek, don't be such a freak!"

Now I believe he was saying, "Miss Titmouse, the school district doesn't want to pay for transportation."

The Game

Congratulations. You are now playing the game (if you weren't already).

The Game is very simple:

1. You are always playing the game.
2. You cannot win. You can only lose.
3. You lose whenever you remember the game.
4. Whenever you remember the game, you have to announce out loud, "I lose."
5. After you lose you have 30 minutes during which you can remember the game without losing.
6. As soon as you mention the game to anyone, they begin playing as well.
7. The goal of the game is to have everyone on Earth playing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

What do men want?

Thinking about girl power reminded me of something recently posted on by Christopher Davis:

Tomorrow I will roll out in a convoy of up-armored HUMVEES heading to a small town in Afghanistan to witness the opening of a school constructed by the Afghan government along with the help of coalition forces. En route, we will see dozens of small children and they will run to the edge of the road and smile and wave. We will wave back and our gunners will toss out small bags containing candy, shoes, pencils, pens, toothbrushes etc. Many of these children will be girls...these little girls break my heart and remind me why I am an atheist.

You see, the school we are opening is for boys only. The Pashtun culture places very little value on women, much less the education of women. So when I see these little girls laughing and smiling, it saddens me because I know I am seeing them at possibly the happiest time in their life. I know that in ten or twelve years they will be someone's property.

They will be wed to some man who will treat them only slightly better than he does his livestock and feel no remorse in doing so. A man who has been taught since he was a little boy that such is the way of the world and such is a woman's place in it...and he has been taught this as part of his religion.

Now I know some wise-ass is going to read this and say "That's not what Islam teaches! Those behaviours are derived from tribal customs, not from the Koran!" I concede that may be true. But for those little girls who will wave at my convoy tomorrow, that bleak future is most likely the only Islam they will ever know.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Power to the X2

On my fourth grade report card I remember reading the comment, "Miss Titmouse should try to be more lady-like!"

Ah the good ol' days, when men were astronauts, doctors, warriors, and scientists while women were nurses, teachers, and secretaries.

Where were things like this when I was seven? Why was I denied some schooling in the ways of power? What kind of horrid, unjust society cripples half its citizens?

It's very warming to see young women now unselfconciously slicing and dicing through that which must be defeated. I refer to such mighty beings as the beloved ERV.

ERV aka Abbie Smith is a grad student studying HIV and epigenetic control of endogenous retroviruses. She's also a founding member of the Justice League. Together with her trusty companion, Arnold Schwarzenegger, she sniffs out evil pseudoscientists, liars, and witless 'tards. Then she noms upon them heartily for the sake of science and all humankind.

Kittehs Groovin'

I Will Survive

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dear Denialists

What's with calling me a "liberal" and hating all over me if I happen to use the words "Al Gore" or "carbon footprint" in a sentence? Are you so convinced that global warming is nothing to worry about?

Listen, if I feel a lump in my breast, I'm going to inconvenience myself with a doctor's appointment and a few tests, even though I know the odds of any lump being cancer are quite low. Low probability disasters still merit some attention and preparation, just in case.

We can do a number of things to reduce greenhouse gasses that won't tank our economy. Surely we ought to begin reversing this trend toward ever greater CO2 emissions, even if climate predictions aren't certain.

Consider the potential risks and benefits of your denialist position: on the one hand, if global warming does not cause any major headaches, many will thank you for opposing the imposition of needless sacrifice. On the other, if you're wrong, if drought and famine overwhelm large parts of the planet, you will bear some responsibility for that outcome. Do you think you won't be held to account?

I confess I lack your courage. I say, "I'm not an expert so I'll listen to the experts." With the stakes so high, there's no way I'm putting my ass on the line.

Imagine your potential futures: beyond, "I told you so," will a win taste sweet? I'm not so sure. However I am confident that losing will suck the dog's balls. If you're wrong, the echoes of your denials will haunt you everywhere you go. No one will take you seriously. Many will want to shit all over you and your memory for getting in the way of people who might have done something before it was too late.

So denialist, do you feel lucky?

Ding Dong!


Hey Ben Stein, Walt Ruloff, Discovery Institute, et al. I have a question for you: How are you going to deal with the evangelicals once they realize they've been punked?

You've used these people. You've appropriated the mantle of Judeo-Christian righteousness and played upon fears of the anti-Christ to make a buck. Maybe you also had some hope of rallying the faithful politically, as these "Academic Freedom" bills in several states seem to indicate.

But the evangelicals may not be as dim as you imagine. They may notice that your rhetoric doesn't match reality.

Gene sequencing technology is starting to change the practice of medicine. Soon we'll routinely sequence patients' liver enzymes, in order to better select drug dosages. Popular awareness of the genetic code shared among all living things is bound to increase.

People do not enjoy being manipulated.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Newtonists hate kids

In 1687 Isaac Newton published his PhilosophiƦ Naturalis Principia Mathematica. This revolutionary work outlines a theory of gravitation capable of explaining the motion of apples falling from trees and planets moving around the sun.

Newton's theory has dominated the teaching of science in our schools and universities to such a degree, that alternate theories about mass and force are hardly given any consideration. Newtonists will admit that their theory isn't perfect. Yet few academics openly question or criticize Newtonism, as any dissent from the status quo is generally met with ridicule and worse. Try asking a Newtonist about some of the problems with Newton's theory, and you'll soon find yourself ... EXPELLED!

I've met several people who didn't particularly enjoy their high school physics experience. These creative souls just happened to see things a little differently. But were they given equal time to express their opinions? Sadly, no.

In fact these questioners suffered discrimination and humiliation. Their Newtonist classmates would receive comments on their homework like, "good job!" whereas the non-Newtonists would read statements like, "see me after class." The dissenters were warned that if they didn't start towing the Newtonist party line, they'd flunk out.

Hey Newtonists, what happened to free speech? What happened to America?

Very few faculty members at our leading institutions openly admit the problems with Newtonism. For example, Newtonism says nothing about where life came from, or what caused the Big Bang, or what happens when we die. With so many holes in their theory, it's surprising how arrogant and intolerant the Newtonists behave toward anyone who simply wants to hear other points of view.

Newtonists have been teaching our children that larger objects exert more force than smaller objects. A brief visit to any classroom in the US reveals what happens when these ideas are taught without criticism: the average child today weighs a lot more than the average child of a few decades past.

Yes, there's a terrible obesity epidemic in this country. Obesity is associated with diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, early death, and social stigma. Is this what we want for our kids?

Newtonists are forever going on about matter and energy as if nothing else existed. Ask a Newtonist about God or love or morality and you'll notice how quickly they try to change the subject. Many leading Newtonists even describe themselves as materialists! Shocking yes, but all too true.

Materialism and the culture of constant consumption are driving this obesity epidemic. I'm not saying Newtonism alone is making us fat. But I don't think we'd have this obesity problem today were it not for Newton's ideas of mass and inertia.

Anyone willing to question the Newtonist dogma can easily see the dangerous, slippery slope these people want us to walk: Newtonism leads to materialism leads to obesity leads to a whole lot of kids dying.

Hey, I don't have all the answers. But neither do the Newtonists. What right have they to call the rest of us ignorant fools? At least we care about the children.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I science; you science; he sciences

In his article, "Evolution: what's the real controversy?" Josh Timmer compares the manufactroversy of intelligent design v evolution to some bona fide debates among scientists today. Would "teach the controversy" make sense for any of these genuine disputes? His conclusion: no.

I can't argue.

Science is a method for assigning an appropriate level of confidence to claims about the world. It's a skill, like math or cooking. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

You can learn a fair amount of history from TV documentaries. But you won't learn much science while sitting on the couch. Yes, you can absorb a number of interesting facts from well-written science shows. But a collection of sciency facts does not a science make.

Science, like math, is a skill that benefits from frequent practice. Lectures and readings only take you so far. To really get the hang of it, you have to knuckle down and work your way through some problems on your own.

I hear the word "scientific" used to suggest a fashion or style evocative of test tubes, chemicals, blackboards, equations, conservative attire, monotone voice, and mechanical mannerisms. With respect to style, I prefer "sciency" to "scientific." I'd like to save "scientific" for something more useful, i.e. "defensible per accepted rules of evidence."

If I say that a claim is scientific, the onus is upon me to defend that claim using evidence and reasoned argument. But if I say, "well that's what I was taught in science class," I've actually demonstrated a non-scientific basis. This is not to say that a scientific basis doesn't exist; just that my basis is not scientific.

High school students, with rare exception, haven't developed the skills needed to independently critique or defend most basic scientific claims. Discussion of conjectures on the frontiers of current scientific understanding certainly won't grant them an opportunity to do the maths for themselves --i.e., to independently weigh the arguments and evidence forming the basis of each rival position.

When you can't double-check the maths, what's your basis for accepting what you're told? A vague hope that the teacher's got things right? Gosh, isn't that an appeal to authority --the basis for nearly everything that isn't science?

If we confuse kids about the nature of science, if we lead them to believe that knowing science means knowing a lot of sciency facts rather than knowing how to do science, we'll wind up with a generation of gullibles who can be made to believe a claim is "scientific" simply because someone sciency said so.

Oh wait. We've got that already.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Is there an "F" in Moron?

Steve Zara has started a conversation about whether Intelligent Design is science or not on his blog.

Someone pointed out that a specific claim that some biological structure is "irreducibly complex" can be falsified. Therefore, the common assertion that ID is non-falsifiable is wrong.

But hold on. Don't you smell something kinda fishy about this notion of "irreducible complexity"? Perhaps we ought to stop and take a closer look.

When someone declares that a natural structure is irreducibly complex, he's saying effectively, "I have no idea how the hell that got like that." Phrased thusly, it's easy to recognize an old friend: the argument from ignorance.

Notice that the argument from ignorance says something about the speaker, but actually nothing about the object of his remarks.

So yes, I concede that the statement: "I am an effin' moron" is falsifiable.

But I ask, dear reader, does the effort to challenge this hypothesis advance the cause of science?

Hmm. I think not.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows

I'm adding Richard Mellon Scaife to my list of wealthy men responsible for the stupifying of America with prolefeed and pseudo-scandal.

Scaife is heir to the Mellon family's banking, oil, and aluminum fortunes. In 1970 he bought the The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He also owns 7.2% of NewsMax Media, a news-based website with conservative political content.

During President Clinton's tenure in the White House, Scaife funded The Arkansas Project, which had as its objective the unearthing of damaging information about President Clinton.

Remember those wacky conspiracy theories about the Clintons --e.g., how the Clintons worked with the CIA to run a drug smuggling operation in Arkansas, and how Clinton had White House aide Vince Foster murdered as part of a cover up regarding a land deal called "Whitewater"? That stuff originated in Sciafe's newspaper.

In 1996 Sciafe endowed a new school of public policy at Pepperdine University. Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr was named the first dean of this school. Yes, that Ken Starr, the Clinton ankle-biter.

Did Ken's appointment by Sciafe look like a quid pro quo for a job well done? Oh yes it did. The controversy over the appointment prevented Starr from taking the position, and in 1998 he finally declined the job.

But time heals all, as they say. In 2004, Ken Starr was picked to head Pepperdine's law school. Woot!

Pepperdine. Say, isn't that where Ben Stein filmed his fake lecture before an audience of fake students in that dreadful Expelled flick? Hmm.

A couple of weeks ago something very curious happened. Two days before Pennsylvania's presidential primary, where the race between Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama seemed too close to call, Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune Review gave its endorsement to Hillary Clinton.

Now you say, whaa?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Following the Money

Howard Ahmanson, like Sun Myung Moon, has a lot of money and he's not afraid to spend it on political favors and media time. I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with this, provided the objective was, at minimum, reality-friendly.

But Ahmanson is living in a theological castle built within his own head, a rather strange place where there's nothing wrong with, say, stoning adulterers and homosexuals.

I think when you become a little too rich, people stop telling you that your breath stinks, or your joke isn't funny, or you're boring the crap out of everyone. And thus you slowly morph from something basically recognizable as human into something more like Tom Cruise.

Following the Money is a report published by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, where apparently not everyone is happy with Ahmanson.
Since the 1970s, charitable foundations established by families with politically conservative views have donated billions of dollars to what the National Committee on Responsive Philanthropy, a watchdog group, has called "an extraordinary effort to reshape politics and public policy priorities at the national, state and local level."
There's too much there to summarize here. But I'll mention one bit which illustrates a familiar deception: guilt by association.
CEPAD ran a network of medical clinics for the poor, as well as a successful literacy campaign, according to Fred Clark, an editor of Prism , the magazine of Evangelicals for Social Action. "That literacy work had won the admiration and support of Nicaragua 's president, Daniel Ortega, and his Sandinista regime. Ortega's praise of CEPAD gave [Diane] Knippers [ed: Ahmanson funded] what she saw as an opening," Clark wrote in a 2003 account.

Although the evangelical churches did not support the Sandinistas, Clark wrote, "Knippers portrayed CEPAD -- and therefore the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society -- as 'guilty' by association. She wrote of CEPAD as a communist front, part of a supposed Soviet beachhead in Nicaragua . No one in this country paid much attention, but the contras did. CEPAD's clinics became targets for their paramilitary terrorists."
Humans are naturally associative thinkers. Rational thought, which is rule-based, impersonal, and self-skeptical, is more difficult. So yes, it is possible to sell nonsense to people simply by associating positive or negative values with the nonsense.

That's what Expelled is all about: associate Hitler, Stalin, smugness, elitism, and black-hearted cruelty with science, and people will feel wary of scientists. Rather convenient if the scientists might challenge something you'd like to say.

The King of America

The King of America is John Gorenfeld's short film about Washington Times publisher Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Moon is one of several uber-rich men effectively inserting propaganda into our news outlets, in order to manipulate the emotions of the general public toward a variety of issues.

Apparently there are plenty of politicians and journalists happy to take this man's money. Look upon the crazy and despair, my fellow Americans.

Ye Olde Sweets

Once upon a time, there was a candy factory making something called "Ye Olde Sweets." Over 90% of the candies were fairly good. A few made certain people sick, and occasional pieces caused a strange reaction in some that resulted in an irrisistible urge to kill someone.

Then a new factory sprang up that made something called Reason's Pieces. It was tasty stuff. Absolutely no mass murders in any box.

Sadly, many chocolate lovers had grown attached to Ye Olde Sweets and resisted making a change. They pointed to all the delicious bon bons that never did anyone any harm. They were angry with the Reason's Pieces supporters, who "want to condemn all Ye Olde Sweets confections, when only a very few cause any problems."

One Day I'll Be Pope!

Why Richard Dawkins No Debate Me?

Theist: Dawkins is in there, isn't he.
Reason: Yep.
Theist: Ask him to come out to debate me.
Reason: I'm sure he'd prefer for you to meet him inside.
Theist: Great! (steps toward door)
Reason: Hang on, where's your ticket?
Theist: I've got it.
Reason: Let me see it.
Theist: That's what the debate is for. I'll prove I have a ticket.
Reason: I'm not letting you in without a ticket.
Theist: Oh alright. Give me a second.... (pulls out a slip of paper) There you go.
Reason: This isn't a ticket.
Theist: Of course it is.
Reason: It says, "teeket."
Theist: Your point?
Reason: That's not a proper spelling.
Theist: (chuckles) Goodness, my young lad. Have you never been in love?
Reason: Eh?
Theist: Have you never felt an ocean breeze against your skin?
Reason: (lifts an eyebrow)
Theist: This thing you call "spelling" cannot contain the laughter of a child.
Reason: Oh, will you quit this wanking.
Theist: Look I gave you my ticket; let me in!
Reason: You made this using a crayon.
Theist: Philistine!

Ticket Please

Reason stands at the door to the movie saying, "ticket please."

Theist: Oh, give me a minute and I'll show you my ticket.
Reason: OK, I'll wait...
Theist: Say, how 'bout the Redsox this year? inches toward door
Reason: Hang on, I didn't see your ticket.
Theist: I showed it to you. In fact, I showed you several times.
Reason: Show me again then.
Theist: You just don't want to see it.
Reason: I'd love to see your ticket.
Theist: Ha! You called me a 'wanker' last time. You don't 'love' anything, hater!
Reason: Ticket please.
Theist: You are so repetitive and boring. My life is filled with joy. Don't you want joy?
Reason: No getting in without a ticket.
Theist: That's not true! Loads of people in there now didn't show you their ticket.
Reason: I haven't seen your ticket.
Theist: And I haven't seen your ticket. Show me yours first.
Reason: That's not how things work.
Theist: Things have to be your way, do they? Know what you are? You're a bigot! You're a fundamentalist!
Reason: Look, you wouldn't want Lord Xenu getting in without his ticket. The rules are the same for everyone.
Theist: There's more to life than your precious "rules." Take, for example, this apple I just finished. And look at this puppy. How can you resist such a cute puppy?
Reason: Nice puppy. Ticket, please.
Theist: Oh, so you like the puppy! That means that deep down, you know I'm right.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Ephesians 5: LOLCat Bible translation project

Ceiling Cat haz teh Whup Ass
1 Be liek Ceiling Cat, cuz u noes he luvs u.2 and luv teh uthr kittehs leik Jebus luv u. Membr Jebus gaeb hiz laif an eben all hiz cheezburgerz fur u. Dat nice prezent froom Jebus smelt leik fresh cookies outta de oven to Ceiling Cat.

3 Now wen I sais "luv" I'z not talkin bout goin in heetz! An I'z not talkin bout luvin cookies sos u taekz em wid out askin! Ceiling Cat's kittehs not liek dat.4 Dun sai liek teh Tom cats, "Hai secksy puss, show me sum ur tail..." DAT BE UBSEEN! Ceiling Cat NO WANT UBSEEN TALK!

5 Iz tellin u teh troof: no nasteh, greedeh kittehz gonna get cookies frum Jebus oor Ceiling Cat.6 Kittehs sain, "Iz not nasteh; iz natral" iz lyin. Ceilin Cat dun wanna heer dat kind uf tawk. An Ceilin Cat got big can whup ass redeh fur kittehs who dun do wut He sai.7 So dun hangout wid teh slutteh kittehs.

Lite. U haz it now
8 Yooz kitteh of teh Lite, metafurklee speekin. So live leik kitteh uf teh Lite, k?9 Lite haz froots, mix-metafurkleh speekin. Dat froot iz goodnis, raichoosnis, an troof.

10 Wut maekz teh Loard happi?11 If u sai, "lite frootz," u iz correct. If u sai "dark frootz," u failz! "Dark" iz nuther metafur. Means stuf Ceiling Cat no wantz.

If u see a kitteh wid dark froot, go tell uthr kittehs bout him.12 Srsly, iz totly embarasin wut bad kittehs do wen dey finks no wunz lookin, LOLs!13 If u see bad kitteh doin bad, tell uthr kittehs to go see. If u haz camera, maek YouTube video.14 All teh kittehs lookin will maek bad kitteh feel totly embairesd. Derz paipr sais, "Waik up, sleepeh kitteh! Uz not dead. Jebus shines a lite on u an taekz pix, hahaha!"

15 So don be stoopid.16 Time coems u cud do gud, u bettr do gud an not ebil liek teh stinkeh kittehs.17 An don be silli. Fink bout wut teh Loard wantz.18 Dun roll in teh catnipz, wot maeks u act retarded an getz u in trubbles. U shud let Hovr Cat mark u wid hiz scent.

19 Dun maek secksy talk, srsly! Iz moar bettr u sing all teh tiem bout how awsum Ceiling Cat iz, liek dis: "Awsum Awsum iz teh Loard!"20 An sai thx to ur Daddy in de Ceiling for efry think, an thx to Jebus, liek dis: "kthx, kthx, no whupass plz, kthx!"21 No fites nether, cuz u respect Jebus, k?

Wimmins an teh mens
22 Wimmins, u do what ur mens sai, liek u do wut Ceiling Cat sais.23 Teh mens pwns teh wimmins liek Jebus pwns teh kittehs he went an gots from de bushes nstuff.24 Teh kittehs do wut Jebus sais, an u wimmins got to do wut ur mens sai. Mens is teh boss of teh wimmins, an teh mens no want back talk, srsly.

25 Now mens shud luv teh wimmins, liek Jebus luv de lil kits.26 Mens shud cleen teh wimmins up an wash teh wimmins brains wid words.27 Den u see teh wimmins iz all cleend an glowin an eyez iz glazed liek nethin goin on inside.28 Den mens gonna luvs teh wimmins leik dey iz a body part.

29 D00ds, u feedz an caerz for yersefs, rite? Well dats how u caerz fur teh wimmins. Iz liek Jebus carin for teh lil kits, puttin down plate uf milk an noms.30 Laidys membr iz not bad bein pwned. We all iz pwned by Jebus.31 Der iz paper sais, "A mens moevz out teh moms basement wen him gets a wimminz, but he don eated her."32 Wai iz liek dis? Wai? I dunno. Iz leik Jebus, he don nom de kittehs nether.33 So mens don nom de wimmins. But wimmins do what u iz told, kthx.

Ephesians 4: LOLCat Bible translation project

No fites in Jebus tairtory
1 Uz marked wid Ceiling Cats sent. Evr bodeh noes uz totly pwnd by Him. So dun be embarasin Ceiling Cat!2 U gotz be humble leik lil kit. No fites. No meows if u haz to wait fer stufz, or if uthr kittehs gettin on ur nerves. U gotz te act leik u don mind.3 Even if kittehz askin fer it, dun fite, srsly.4 All kittehs in Ceiling Cats tairtory no fites.

Membr wunz u wuz out, now uz in. Same fer all Ceiling Cats kittehs.5 We all gotz 1 Loard who pwns us wid Hiz sent.6 We all gotz 1 Daddy, an Hez de boss uf uz.7 But all kitteh getz cookie froom Jebus.8

Der iz paipr sais, "When Jebus climed up teh ceiling, him carried teh kittehs, an gived teh kittehs cookie."9 Now, if Jebus goed up teh ceiling, he gots get back downd teh floor. Dat jes commin sentz.10 Jebus goed up an caem down, so he been boef plaisez.11

Jebus gived sum cookies to teh ol kittehs12 so dey kin halp de new kittehs13 an all kittehs kin be groed up kittehs noin bout Jebus an Ceiling Cat.14 Den weez not itteh bitteh babeh kittehs no moer, all fraid uf scairy noises nstuffs, an totly gulbal an lettin meen kittehs taik ar cheezburgers.15 Stead, weez leik pride uf big, roarin lions wid Jebus teh King.16 An allo Jebus kittehs luvs teh uther an halps teh uther. An each do him job, maekin de pride strong.

Don act leik teh stinkeh kittehs!
17 K, if u driftin off, wake up an lisen now. Dis imortant: don act leik teh stinkeh kittehs!18 Stinky kittehs no haz lite. Lite iz metafur, means nawlege uf teh Ceiling Cat an Jebus.19 Stinky kittehs jes do watevr dey wantz cuz dey don care bout Ceiling Cat. Dey alwais goen heetz, eat all teh cheezburgers, an fites.

20 But u noes Jebus don act leik dat.21 U noes troof bout Jebus, k?22 U iz not spose te fites, an yowls, nom all teh cheezbugers, an go crazy in heetz liek u uzed to.23 Jebus no wantz an u iz leik him now.24 Ceiling Cat changed u into gud kitteh inside.25

So don BS uthr kittehs (i noes contraidikshin uz gud but still need me tellin u don lie; don worri bout it, kthx!).26 If uthr kitteh piss u off, be caerful u don make invisbl err. An stop bein pissed if teh sun is goen down.27 When u iz pissed, debil kitteh can taek ovr ur mind.28

An WTF is wid kittehs bogarten all teh cheezburgers?!! Dat sheetz gotta stop, srsl. U shud hunt and bringz back noms fer de lil kitz or de sick kittehs.29 I dun wanna heer no moer trash talk from u kittehs nether, even if iz funneh. Dat bad fer kitteh self esteem.30 Don make Hovr Cat crai. Membr, he marked u so Ceiling Cat noes uz Hiz.31 U ragers an haters got to chill, srsly.32 Be nice to each udder, jes liek Jebus be nice to u, k?

Ephesians 2: LOLCat Bible translation project

A moar betteh laif. We haz it.
1 B4, yu wuz bad kitteh, srsly.2 U no smell gud.3 Wuz alwais goin in heets, LOLs. Ttly embaresin. An all time u fite fite fites. Ceiling Cat not want.4 But Ceiling Cat lovded yu newayz.5 Even tho yu not gud kitteh, Ceiling Cat tell Jebus bout u. Jebus go finded u, even tho u wuz vereh stinkeh kitteh.6 Jebus washed u off an maded u smell gud.7 Now you iz speshul an can haz RESPECT! An Jebus give yu best cookie EVAH!

8 U can haz cookie not cuz u earnded it, but cuz iz preznt frum Ceiling Cat.9 Kittehs braggin "See teh cookie? Maded it mah selfz!" got to STFU, srsly.10 Ceiling Cat maded kittehs cuz He wantz kittehs keepin Him compny an watch Him make cookies nstuf.

Jebus maded teh kitteh door
11 Membr wunz u wuz stuck outside Ceiling Cats houz.12 U no haz cheezburger, no haz cookie, no LOLs, an u wuz liek WTF?? Cud mai life sux smores?!!1!13 But Jebus opended teh door an sais, "O hai keete keete! Wanna coem in mah houz?"

14 Jebus maded teh kitteh door sos kittehs cud be inside wid Him when dey wantz.15 At first Ceiling cat wus liek, "Hey Jebus, WTF?!!! Wair all deez stinky kittehs coem from!!!" But Jebus sais, "Kittehs wid me, k?" Den Ceiling Cat wuz liek, "k."

16 Kittehs wunz wuz fraid Ceiling Cat. He wuz alwais liek, "Hey U, GTF off Mai lawn!!!" an throwded stuf.17 Den Jebus went out to find kittehs, Dey wuz hidin in teh bushes an sum wuz kinda far. Jebus wuz liek, "Heeer kitteh, kitteh..."18 An he tooked teh kittehs into Ceiling Cats houz.19

First kittehs wuz liek, "Oh noes! Halp! Halp!" But Jebus petted teh kittehs an shareded sum his cheezburgers. Den kittehs wuz fraid Ceiling Cats place no moer.20 Soz new kittehs met old kittehs, an all kittehs wuz gettin nice rubs frum Jebus while Ceiling Cat maded teh cookies. Wuz no fites, just purrs.21 Srsly, Jebus and kittehs an Ceiling Cat maded happy famly.22 Den Hovr Cat marked evrboodi wid Hiz scent.

A Moment of Awesome

Hustle on over to Scientific American for this: A Conversation with Expelled's Associate Producer Mark Mathis. Download both parts of the interview, kickback, and enjoy. The SciAm team, including John Rennie, Steve Mirsky, Phil Yam, Dan Schlenoff, and Aaron Fagan, open a big can o' smart on a whole lotta toopid.

My offering among the comments there:
As Chuck Norris is to the roundhouse kick, John Rennie is to critical analysis.

John Rennie eliminates wooliness so effectively, he's a danger to sweaters.

John Rennie has a special "spidey sense" for impending bullshit.

If Tops released a line of "Good Guy" cards for kids to trade and collect, John Rennie would be the Hank Aaron of the set.

Way to go SciAm!

I am so proud of you guys.
Hope my reaction gave the boys some lulz.

Oh Noes! Judge Sai STFU to teh Gheys!

People are upset over at INSIDE HIGHER ED. A federal court ruled that a Georgia Institute of Technology GLBT student support group, the Safe Spot, was handing out unconstitutional literature. The materials in question described certain religious groups as more gay friendly than others and expressed a bit of disdain for fundamentalism.

Federal District Judge J. Owen Forrester concluded that these materials violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. Some bloggers are troubled by the ruling. Inside Higher Ed views the matter as "Gay Rights vs. Religious Rights." PZ Myers wonders whether church-state separation causes more harm than good:
"...because we have to mindlessly avoid any perception of preference for one over another at any official level, the more enlightened faiths must be lumped with the dumbest, vilest, crudest kinds of religions, and you are not allowed to distinguish between them. I've said it before: church-state separation is a principle that protects and privileges religious belief in the United States, and furthermore as we can see here, it isolates pathological, dangerous beliefs from valid criticism."
In my opinion, the judge did the right thing. Two factors created the establishment clause challenge:

1. The dean had editorial power over the literature in question, creating state entanglement with its content.

2. The literature used a theological justification for the notion that homosexuality is not immoral.

It's not okay for the government to do stuff like that. We don't need the state telling us how to correctly interpret the Bible or when some verse has been "taken out of context." Read the judge's ruling and you'll appreciate how far the Safe Spot literature strayed over into Bible opinion land. Here's a taste:
Is homosexuality immoral?

Many religious traditions have taught, and some continue to teach, that homosexuality is immoral. These condemnations are based primarily on a few isolated passages from the Bible. Historically, Biblical passages taken out of context have been used to justify such things as slavery, the inferior status of women, and the persecution of religious minorities. In recent years, many theologians and clergy have begun to look at sexual relationships in terms of the love, mutual support, commitment, and the responsibility of the partners rather than the sex of the individuals involved. Currently, there are many gay and lesbian religious groups and religious congregations that are open, accepting, and supportive of the gay community.
The Safe Spot Training Manual, created to guide staff in their efforts to support gay and lesbian students, has a section entitled, "What does the Bible Say about Homosexuality?" Judge Forrester quotes some of the questions and answers listed:
Q. Some TV Evangelists act as if homosexuality among men were the worst sin. What Biblical texts do they base this on? Is their approach legitimate?

A. The supposedly sweeping Biblical condemnation of homosexuality rests almost exclusively on only eight (brief) passages in the Bible...

Q. When homophobic people start using the Bible to attack me, how can I verbally defend myself? Are there any passages in the Bible that seem to support gay relationships, or at least indicate that perhaps marrying and having children is not the ultimate Christian duty?

A. There seems to be little point in arguing with people who still believe the earth was created in 4,004 B.C.; this doesn’t mean that you have to accept their interpretation of the Bible. Remember: these people are not homophobic because of the Bible; they hurl these passages at gays and lesbians because they were homophobic to begin with. (You might chide them for wearing mixed fabric or ask them if Jim Bakker must be 'put to death' – if you really enjoy arguing). You might familiarize yourself with the many Biblical passages (Too numerous to mention here) that stress love, compassion, forgiveness of sins, not judging others, etc. Remember: Jesus himself never married nor had children! Other parts of the Bible simply can’t be forced into the 'family values' obsession of the Fundamentalists.
I'm surprised the matter went to court. The dean should have recognized the problems in the handouts and requested that they be revised. A simple list of gay friendly churches in the area would have sufficed. No theology necessary.

So please everybody, be happy!

State schools can continue to create free speech forums for both faculty and students. Administrators simply need to avoid:

1. Asserting editorial influence or control over the speech expressed in those forums;

2. Offering theological opinions.