Daily Archives: November 5, 2007

“Like the tree that stands beside the water …

We shall not be moved. …”Fifty five of us jammed in a bus designed to hold fourty people plus a driver, rolling down Highway 90 from Upstate New York to Chicago. As a teenager (just turned 15), I was thrilled to be going to Chicago to attend the Fight Back Conference, a thinly disguised Communist Party meeting. I was going, in part for Keith, the young African American kid (about 12 years old) who was shot in the back by a state trooper just under a year earlier. Keith was driving a mo-ped down the toll road, on the shoulder, where he shouldn’t have been. It appears that he did not notice the trooper pull over behind him, so he just kept driving off. Or maybe he was trying to escape. If memory serves, he was the first human to be shot and killed with one of the brand new Magnum sidearms that the troopers fought so hard to arm themselves with, to replace the old .38’s typical in those days for police officers. He was shot square in the back. Continue reading “Like the tree that stands beside the water …

Off to the Great White North

I’m off for two days to the Great White North, Grand Rapids, where I’ll give a talk tomorrow night for the area Library Association on the topic of Race and Racism. If you are in the vicinity, please stop by and visit!I’ll be “at the lake” for the day prior, taking a few more winterizing steps for the cabin (mainly rescuing the latex from the oncoming winter) and writing highly controversial yet amusing and informative blog stuff.

Urgent Notice regarding Impeachment

I’ve just been handed the following notice:”Congressman Dennis Kucinich will introduce a Resolution in the House of Representatives to impeach Dick Cheney.” You are being asked to call your member of Congress now to ensure that this passes.The bill is House Res. 333.”I suppose it makes sense to take Cheney out first, then impeach Bush later. Perhaps.

Technology Tidbits

Reiser … Its a file system. And its a courtroom drama.File systems … as in how the data on your hard drive if filed and how the computer you are using lets you see things like a list of those files, opens the ones you want to open, etc … are a key feature of any modern operating system. There are several ways to do it. One method is the so-called “Journaling” file system, which keeps extra-special track of everything it does (in a journal) and is therefore extra reliable.One of the most effective file systems is, of course, the LInux file system called “ext” (there are different versions, such as ext2 and ext3). I would recommend using ext3 because it has the best combination of features, theoretical reliability, and reliability proven through widespread use. But another one that is probably better is an OpenSource filesystem known as Reiser.Reiser is also the name of a guy, the guy who created this file system, and who is also on trial for murdering his wife.In September 2006, Nina Reiser, a 31-year-old doctor and mother of two, disappeared. Continue reading Technology Tidbits

Abducted by Aliens … and dropped off at the Grand Canyon

I’m pretty sure Amanda and I were abducted by aliens this morning. This is not the first time, for me. I was abducted with two others about 20 years ago in Southern Maine while looking for antiques, back when you could still get them cheap even in antique stores (inexpensive antiques, not aliens). You can tell about the abduction because one moment it is a certain time and the next moment is it much later in time and you have no memory whatsoever of he ensuing time. Since that is essentially impossible, alien abduction is pretty much the best possible explanation. Back in Maine, it caused us to miss a critical turn just by the Big Red Barn antique store. This morning, it caused Amanda to go rushing out of the house only half-ready for a day of teaching Life Science, and me to sit here wondering, why did I just spend 20 minutes reading pages in the creationist web site “Answers in Genesis.”Well, I’m not sure how Amanda’s day is going to go, but I’m going to make use of this abduction and talk about the Grand Canyon. Continue reading Abducted by Aliens … and dropped off at the Grand Canyon

More Evo-Creo News from NCSE

From the National Center for Science Education:

UPDATE ON EVOLUTION IN THE FLORIDA STATE SCIENCE STANDARDSSupport for the inclusion of evolution in Florida’s draft science standards continues to amass. Writing in the Orlando Sentinel (October 25, 2007), Mike Thomas quipped, “We are moving toward intelligently designed science curriculum in public schools. And by that I mean we are leaving intelligent design out of classrooms. By golly, Florida is evolving.” The standards are presently open for public comment for sixty days; Thomas reported, “Of 1,400 respondents to date, more than 80 percent support evolution.” A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education told Thomas that the draft standards are based on “[w]hat research says should be in the standards” and that nothing would be deleted from the standards in the absence of a research-based argument for the deletion.Following previous editorials in Florida Today, the Tallahassee Democrat, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel (October 27, 2007) opined, “It’s taken seven years, but Florida is on its way to developing a science curriculum for the new millennium — one that requires teachers openly and vigorously to teach about evolution,” adding, “it’s important that the state Board of Education and Gov. Charlie Crist fully endorse these changes to ensure Florida’s children can compete in the increasingly technology-driven global marketplace.” Noting that evolution is one of the so-called Big Ideas of the science standards, the editorial concluded by proposing, “Let’s add one more big idea. In Florida, science should win out over politics when it comes to educating children.” …visit NCSE for the entire report.

… and …

THE ASSOCIATION FOR SCIENCE EDUCATION ADDS ITS VOICE FOR EVOLUTIONThe Association for Science Education — a professional association for teachers of science in Britain and around the world, with over 15,000 members — recently issued a statement on science education, “intelligent design,” and creationism, reading in part:***

it is clear to us that Intelligent Design has no grounds for sharing a platform as a scientific “theory”. It has no underpinning scientific principles or explanations to support it. Furthermore it is not accepted as a competing scientific theory by the international science community nor is it part of the science curriculum. It is not science at all.Intelligent Design belongs to a different domain and should not be presented to learners as a competing or alternative scientific idea. As such, Intelligent Design has no place in the science education of young people in school.

***The statement also cautions against presenting “intelligent design” as a case study of a controversy in science, commenting, “Intelligent Design …cannot be classed as science, not even bad or controversial science,” and recommends that “it should not be presented as an alternative scientific theory” if it is presented in religious education classes.

Judgement Day

From the National Center for Science Education:

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, a special two-hour documentary about the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, in which teaching “intelligent design”in the public schools was ruled to be unconstitutional, is to air nationwide on PBS at 8:00 p.m. on November 13, 2007. “Judgment Day captures on film a landmark court case with a powerful scientific message at its core,” explains Paula Apsell, NOVA’s Senior Executive Producer. “Evolution is one of the most essential yet, for many people, least understood of all scientific theories, the foundation of biological science. We felt it was important for NOVA to do this program to heighten the public understanding of what constitutes science and what does not, and therefore, what is acceptable for inclusion in the science curriculum in our public schools.”

Read the rest at the NCSE. Also,The PBS Web SiteA PreviewEducator’s Briefing Package

Animal Rights and Animal Rights Wrongs

Check out these two posts on animal rights issues.Discourse on Animal Experimentation Marred By ViolenceAnimal Rights Extremists Wreck Scientist’s HouseIn the first, Shelley Batts discusses this verbiage from the Animal Liberation Front:

A new era has dawned for those who fund the abusers and raise funds for them to murder animals with. You too are on the hit list: you have been warned. If you support or raise funds for any company connected with Huntingdon Life Sciences we will track you down, come for you and destroy your property with fire.

In the second, have a look at Mark Hoofnagle’s commentary on this issue, with this concept as central to what he is talking about:

The reason I consider animal rights extremists denialists is because like other ideologues with an anti-science agenda, they lie about science to accomplish their goals.

I’m all for animal rights, within reason, and in fact, I’m not against extreme actions under certain circumstances. The threat of violence is a right coopted by the state, and perhaps that is where it should stay. The problem, of course, arises when the state is out of control. But that is another topic.

ADDED: Shelley Batts has correctly pointed out to me that the above paragraph conveys the idea that I’m not against extreme actions by animal rights activists against, say, scientists. Very very bad writing on my part. I do not condone such actions in any way shape or form. The above paragraph should be parsed as follows:

Regarding the topic at hand:

I’m all for animal rights, within reason,

Regarding political action in general:

and in fact, I’m not against extreme actions under certain circumstances. The threat of violence is a right coopted by the state, and perhaps that is where it should stay. The problem, of course, arises when the state is out of control. But that is another topic.

Below, in the comments section, you will see Shelley’s comments and my response to them. Please have a look.

There was an attack by a cell of ALF here at the University of Minnesota several years ago. They broke into labs and “liberated” several lab animals. What was left of many of the animals were found later by police in various parks and other localities, the ones that were still alive freezing and staving to death and wandering around aimlessly.Lab materials related to research in process and equipment was destroyed as well, and a few graduate students had their work on cancer set back months or a year or so.I think scientists do have to take more responsibility as a group for better treatment of animals, or even to curtail unnecessary animal research. Especially on primates. Rodents, I don’t care so much about. I mean, I love rodents, but more as objects of wonder than political allies.Anyway, go check out these much more lucid sources of discussion pointed to above.

A 50-million-year-old fossilised spider has been brought back to life …

… Oh, wait. brought back to life “in stunning 3D by a scientist at The University of Manchester.”I hate those press release writers…This is actually fairly cool despite the fact that no actual spiders were actually brought back to life. Very High Resolution X-Ray Computed Tomography (VHR-CT) was used to “digitally dissect” tiny fossils thus revealing very fine detail including internal organs. Here is an example:i-0f8e3dba2482fd3776615ea315eab345-spider_3d_490.jpgView larger imageThe same graphic in a different format can be seen here, and you can get a PDF of the paper here.___________________Penny et al. 2007, ‘First fossil Micropholcommatidae (Araneae), imaged in Eocene Paris amber using X-Ray Computed Tomography’ appears in the current edition of Zootaxa 1623: 47-53