Monthly Archives: August 2010

Johan Rockstrom: Let the environment guide our development

Human growth has strained the Earth’s resources, but as Johan Rockstrom reminds us, our advances also give us the science to recognize this and change behavior. His research has found nine “planetary boundaries” that can guide us in protecting our planet’s many overlapping ecosystems.

Continue reading Johan Rockstrom: Let the environment guide our development

Stuff to read

While the world was focused on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a BP refinery here released huge amounts of toxic chemicals into the air that went unnoticed by residents until many saw their children come down with respiratory problems.

Ick, BP!

Fossil Hunters in Romania Find a 2-Clawed Relative of Velociraptor. Here.

Why we vaccinate. Part 1.

Join the Minnesota Planetarium Society! (A Facebook Page)

Wolves Are Smart, but Dogs Look Back

Focus on Family says anti-bullying efforts in schools push gay agenda

Read more: Focus on Family says anti-bullying efforts in schools push gay agenda – The Denver Post

A Bloggy Announcement

Starting tomorrow, September 1st, and running through the entire month, I’ll be posting one or two (or more) items each day specifically written for (or at least, that I think will be useful for) teachers, as part of the usual “Back to school” effort I do every year. This year’s effort will be significantly more extensive and intensive. After a few years of blogging, it turns out that I have written a few items that are worth re-posting about science education, creationism, and related topics. I’m also throwing in reviews of books that I think will be of interest to teachers because they will either provide background on some topic, will help with the creationism-evolution thing, or in some cases, be appropriate recommendations for students who are trying to learn above and beyond.

Now, you can do me a favor. If you know any teachers who do not read my blog, you can send them a link to this post so they know it’s coming. Chances are they won’t want to be caught dead with my blog most months, but this month they may find it useful, or at least, entertaining. Of course, they are going to be busy (as teachers always are but especially in September) so they won’t have time to slog through the zillion posts per day I usually produce. Therefore, for this month, Imma try to keep the posts focused on teachers, science education, and related topics. Perhaps I’ll shove the usual short three to five posts not on these topics every day into one big giant post every couple of days, to see how this works out.

This year, there will be something additional: Scienceblogs as a network has decided to do a “back to school” thing as well. I don’t want to pass on any details because it is being organized and refined as we speak. there will be something announced on the Page 3.14 blog, so stay tuned.

To see a listing of all the posts in the “Back to school special” series, click here. There’s not really anything there yet, but as I said, there will be one or two items added per day starting September 1st.

The Vampire, the Church Lady, and the Wardrobe (repost)

i-6c1c8914932e4bee121c556a4f7a5b33-church_lady.jpgShe was a church lady. I could see it a mile away. Her hair cut, her clothing, her way of standing, and as I got closer, her way of speaking and, eventually, the things she said. I will call her Joan.

It is not that surprising to find a church lady like Joan at Har Mar Shopping Mall. Har Mar is a unique phenomenon. From the outside, it is a strip mall, and from the inside, it is a regular “inside” mall. Some of the stores are only on the inside part, some open on both the inside and outside part. None are only outside. So you park, walk into a store in the strip mall, like into the LeAnn Chin’s Chinese Food place, and you go to the back of the store where the bathroom or emergency exit might be, and instead of a men’s room you find this full blown shopping mall. Like the cabinet in Narnia but instead of a fantasy world run by a big lion, you’ve got a kinda run-down but quaint Midwestern style shopping mall.


div id=”more”>This is the mall that until recently held the largest Bible Bookstore in the upper Midwest. It is also the mall that hosts the annual Christian Home Schooling Creationist ‘Science’ Fair. So, yeah, it was not all that surprising to find a church lady, whom I’m calling Joan, at the checkout counter.

I went over to Har Mar to grab a bite to eat and to check the used book section in the Barnes and Noble. This is the largest Barnes and Noble in the state and it is conveniently located on my almost daily path. I was looking for a particular used book which I did not find. But I did notice a copy of Anne Rice’s “The Mummy” on the shelf.

The Mummy may be Anne Rice’s best book. It has nothing to do with any of her other books. It is not part of a series or in any way linked. It is the old story about the mummy that comes back to life because of a curse, etc., but with a number of variants that only Anne Rice would come up with. I say, if you only read one Anne Rice book, make it this one: The Mummy.

It occurred to me that my wife had never read an Anne Rice book. I figured she might be interested. She seems to have been casting around for a good book to read these days. Just the other day she fell in with what I think may be a bad book … a book I don’t like the looks of too much … but she’s reading it anyway. Her choice, of course. But when she gets done with that bad book (which, enigmatically, she seems to be enjoying a great deal) maybe she’d like to read an Anne Rice book. That is what I was thinking. Get the used copy of The Mummy for Amanda.

You probably know who Anne Rice is. Her first famous book was, of course, the one about the vampire. Then she wrote the other one about the other vampire. Then the other one. And so on. The vampire stories were actually very good. Three things made them stand out for me. One is that the real mystery in these books is the origin of the vampires. A vampire is made by another vampire, but how do you get the first vampire? The mystery is partially solved, or at least strongly hinted at, in each book in series, but then in the next book it turns out that this previously suggested history is totally wrong. The story totally changes in each book. I thought that was cool.

Another thing that stands out about the vampire books by Anne Rice is the sexual, erotic nature of the vampires. They never actually have sex, of course. For some reason vampires can’t or don’t have sex. But they do suck blood. And that is very, very erotic. One might not think so, I mean, personally, I don’t think sucking blood is even slightly erotic or sexy. But it is for Anne Rice’s vampires. Anne Rice’s vampires are the bonobos of the literary world. They suck each other’s blood, and the blood of mortals, irrespective of gender or age. And it is always very sexy, in their own vampirish blood-sucking way.

The third thing that stands out is how the fundamental nature of the main characters that do crop up in more than one book can change dramatically. One book’s totally bad guy is the next book’s awesome hero.

Rice also wrote another series of books about the Mayfair Witches. That was pretty sexy and/or erotic too. This story overlaps with the Taltos stories as well. And this does not even count the books that are explicitly written as and labeled as soft porn, or erotica, that Anne Rice is also famous for. Let me put it this way: I found myself in Har Mar looking for, since I couldn’t find what I originally was looking for, a book for my wife as well as a book for my daughter, in the used book section. Let’s just say that the Anne Rice books … all of them … were off my list for the kid’s summer reading. Off. The. List. And I’m not particularly prudish. Just frightened. Of the questions.

So, I grab the book … The Mummy by Anne Rice … and a couple of other items and go to check out.

And there is the church lady. Joan (remember?)

And she notices the Anne Rice book and starts talking about Ann Rice.

“Have you read her latest book?” she says.

Now, I’m thinking … wow, did I have THAT wrong. Here I was profiling this woman as a “Church Lady” and she’s talking Anne Rice. Things are shifting in an unexpected direction here, I’d say….

“Ah, no, actually, no,” I replied.

“Oh, it’s wonderful, just wonderful,” she went on. Visibly titillated. Metaphorically.

“Hmm,” I replied, pawing through my wallet for a credit card or something…

“It’s called ‘Christ the Lord,'” she beamed. Church-lady like. (‘Oh…,’ I thought)

“Hmphrph..,” was all I could get out. Rice. Church lady. Jesus Christ her savior. What the fu….

“It’s just wonderful,” she continued, “she writes the story of Jesus Christ as he was growing up.” Obviously, she has not read any other Rice novels.

“Have you read any of her other books?” I managed to choke out…

“No, no, but I’ve only read the first Jesus book. I’m going to get the second one soon.”

“There are two? How many are there going to be?” I said, remembering that special feature of the Vampire Chronicles … the perspective of each book totally shifting. Totally. Shifting…

“Well, the first one is up to age five. The second one is, I guess, from age five to about middle school….”

(Middle school??? In Roman occupied Canaan?)

“So I don’t know how many there will be, but they are wonderful…”

Oh. My. God. … Jesus Christ through Age Five. Then Middle School. Then adolescence. He will be gay for a while; he’ll have sex with his mother. He and three of the apostles will be co-owners of a leather bar down on the Galilee. …

“…The second book must go up to his bar mitzvah…,” she was saying as new meanings to the phrase “Let the Holy Spirit be with you” passed through my consciousness “… to that part where he is left behind and they have to go back and get him, you know that story, right?”

What, did they find another scroll? … I’m thinking, as far as I know, the bible is silent from the Bronx Swap in the manger to his appearance as a self professed carpenter 30 years later.

“Right… yea, cool,” I said as I took the receipt and the bag of books from Joan.

“You should read some of her other books. They’re fun.”

The above experience occurred prior to me knowing that Anne Rice has become some sort of bible-humping born again Christian. She claims that from here on out, everything she writes will be about and for Christ, or some such drivel.

This of course does not diminish her prior work. It merely diminishes her as a person. Not much one can do about that.

But I do hope Joan enjoys Lestat.

Earl likely to invoke invokes east-coat hurricane watch this PM

Despite rather bizarre rumors to the contrary, Earl was never headed straight for Haiti, but it is a large and strong hurricane, and strong tropical force winds are affecting and will continue to affect the northern regions of the island.

Earl is now a Category Four hurricane and will remain so for the next few days, possibly strengthening tomorrow morning following what looks like an eye-wall replacement cycle.

UPDATE: Earl is sitill a Category Four storm.
There is now a watch for North of Surf City , North Carolina to the NC/Virginia Border, and a Tropical Storm Watch from Cape Fear to Surf City.

At present, there is a non-trivial chance that hurricane force winds from this large storm will graze North Carolina and points north in the US beginning as soon as early afternoon Thursday. As it dissipates, Earl will come close to or overrun New Brunswick and/or Nova Scotia. Presumably, the storm will be an extra-topical tropical storm (as it were) by then, but that’s a long way off and it is difficult to predict.

Fiona, as predicted, is a tropical storm and is located due east of the Lesser Antilles. Fiona is not a strong storm and has a nearly 100% chance of weakening and dissipating before turning into a hurricane.

There is some other activity off of the coast of Africa, but nothing to write home about yet.

I’m looking at a disturbance on the southeast border of Mauritania and central Mali. I like it for the next numbered depression. I’ll give it a one in five chance of being named Gaston.

Info from the NHC

Florida Man with No Background in Science Determines that Creationism is a Valid Theory for How Life Got There and What it Is

Ray M. Davis, Jr., of Alachua also admits that his religious beliefs tell him that creationism is true, but despite this admission he still feels that his local school board should ruin science education for all the children in his local public school by ramming their non scientific beliefs down the throats of the students in science class. Oh, and he must also think his school district has a grove of money trees, because the legal defense when they do follow such nonsensical advice and get snagged … and yes, we are watching … will be substantial.

Read this remarkable story from the Gainesville Sun here. You might also want to write your own letter to the editor at the Sun, and while you’re at it, you might want to suggest that from a journalistic point of view, publishing letters like this one from Mr. Davis is roughly like publishing letters that suggest that Bigfoot be covered in the local high school’s Zoology Class and that the Geography Class must include the Flat Earth theory, and the physical science class should cover Alchemy. (Roughly. Not exactly. Analogies are not exact, else they would not be analogies.) Mr. Davis is certainly entitled to his uniformed opinion, but the primary institutions of our nation, like schools, newspapers, etc. have a responsibility to be more selective than the Gainesville Sun appears to be.

Creationists, Other Humans, on Divergent Evolutionary Paths

Creationists have often argued that they did not come from apes, a view usually ridiculed by the scientific community. Recent evidence, however, suggests that they may have actually been right. Scientists think that at the dawn of mankind, when the rest of the human race was busy evolving and adapting to their environment, creationists were refusing to take part in the evolutionary game, and as a result of this are therefore thoroughly unevolved human beings.

Read the rest, where the DNA evidence is also discussed.