Daily Archives: January 1, 2012

Retrospective: What we talked about in March, 2011

March was a particularly important month for this blog, and for everybody in the world, really, because it is when the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, and Fukushima meltdown started. Although I blogged early on about the quake and tsunami, my colleague and friend Analiese Miller and I eventually focused on the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and to date we’ve produced 41 numbered updates, part of a larger set of over 60 posts. And we shall continue.

We were able to identify, from the very beginning, a problem in the skeptical community’s reaction to Fukushima. For historical reasons, most skeptics had become supporters of nuclear power, and often with good reason, but many had become uncritical advocates and at the same time, uncritically viewed people (like Ana and me) criticizing the nuclear power industry as woo-peddling anti-rationalists.

They were wrong, we were right. We were seeing, in the physical evidence at hand, evidence of meltdowns, as our skeptical colleagues smugly and with perfect certainty told us that no such thing could happen. We questioned the intelligence of placing a nuclear power plant at an elevation susceptible to a tsunami, we were told by our skeptical colleagues that no one had any idea a tsunami could strike this location, and then it was shown that the possibility of such an event was known and brushed aside at the time the plant was planned and licensed. And so on. But if you think I’m saying here “I told you so,” don’t worry, I’m not. That will come later, when we know more, and when it will have more meaning and more exposure. Watch this space during the coming March.

There were a few other posts that month, of course. I addressed the question How long is a generation? This was the month Tom Johnson was revealed. I did an interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I wrote a really fun essay about stramtolites. We talked about the question of how often animals die in front of visitors in zoos, after a tragic and rather public polar bear death. The Crossley ID Guide, a remarkable new bird book, came out (or, at least, my review of it came out). It was PZ Myers (of Pharyngula)’s birthday, which is also my brother’s birthday, and a big deal in the blogosphere. Also, I interviewed PZ on the radio.

In March, I updated and reintroduced The Skeptical Search Engine.

And I reposted one of my favorite essays, which you should read if you have not already: Finding Facebook.

Retrospective: What we talked about in February, 2011

One of the most read posts of the month was titled Justin Bieber’s New Haircut but it was actually about something else. It was about a bunch of things, including #Occupy (even though #Occupy had not happened yet) and the end of civilization as we know it.

In February, we also explored the question “Why is my poop green?” or, more exactly, why is YOUR poop green. The answer may surprise you, and likely, you are not gonna die.

Also this month, Desiree Schell, of Skeptically Speaking interviewed Sheril Kirshenbaum about her new book, and on a related topic, I did one of my “Everything You Know is Wrong segments on Human Universals. Here is the link to that podcast.

We did a fair amount of geology in February. For example, we discussed How old is the earth, and how do we know?. We asked the question, Is the yellowstone caldera safe? And you will remember that one of the big news stories of February was about an earthquake in Christchurch. So, we explored the question Why does New Zealand have so many earthquakes and volcanoes?

The Nation’s (US) “Science Report Card” came out and we talked about that.

Every now and then I write a post that addresses a fundamental question about how people think (or fail to do so) which is not exactly a falsehood, but rather, a cultural phenomenon or a mode of conversation or something else that may be a bit subtle. In February, I explored the phenomenon of people judging others and, at least verbally, sentencing everybody to the same ugly fate regardless of what they actually did or did not do: If you do something wrong, you should be fired or killed. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should be killed. Or, just go read the post.

And none of this will matter unless you are well organized. So, here is How to organize your stuff.

Retrospective: What we talked about in January, 2011

In January I noticed, and blogged, that Michele Bachmann is an Unmitigated Idiot and Racist. And I proved it. Also, during the winter of 2010-2011 there were a handful of die-offs of birds and some other critters that happened to get into the news, and for some, caused great anxiety. We explored the question of Why are all the birds dying? and considered Dead Birds in other ways as well.

We also explored the universal question of “Human Universals.” Are they real or are they some kind of falsehood? I said that there are Human Universals but that it is complicated, and noted that people may have different ideas of what a “Human Universal” looks like (or is made out of). (See February’s retrospective for more on this.)

This was the month that Rickey Gervais got in trouble for hosting the Golden Globes. Lots of people got snooty about his snark. Was that because his snark was so sharp, or because he is an overt in your face Atheist? We argued a bit about that one.

The Julian Assange rape allegations were also a matter of discussion that month.

The most disgusting thing I’ve seen all year, so far

… is over on Camels with Hammers.

Daniel documents and discusses Cee-lo Green, whom I’ve never heard of before but now know of as a dishonest, disgusting dick-head, singing but changing the words of a song written by a man who is a thousand times better than Cee-lo Green, as part of the New Year’s celebration. Cree Lo, kiss my ass.

Details here.

Read the comments at CWH. It appers that Cee Lo Green has committed an illegal act, violating copyright law, in the process of being a dick. I assume he has no problem with this because it was also a Christian Act, which justifies it. Right?

Whichever recording company or network owns his ass should make a statement explaining how they are going to fix this, I assume.

Bachmann, Mother of 28, Plays Gender/Mom Card in Iowa

Which is funny, because Iowa is one of only two states that has never had a female in congress or the statehouse.

Bachmann is the only female candidate in the current Republican field. They used to have a black guy but he’s gone. And I must say that I’m very disappointed that the only woman is, apparently, about to be shoved to the side in the race to the top. I’m not disappointed because of the gender bias … I fully expect that from the Tea Bagging Republicans. A woman’s place is in the home, making babies and brownies, obviously. I’m disappointed becuase Michele was, indeed still is, my candidate. I so much want her to do well in this race and truly set her sights on the White House.

Don’t give up, Michele!

Here’s the story from WCCO discussing the gender thing. It talks about how Michele is a real coupon clipper and stuff.

Strib Throws Bachmann Under Bus, But Occupy Loves Her

Or at least, they tried to move in with her!

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus were ushered through a back door Saturday as several dozen Occupy Des Moines protesters descended on her suburban Urbandale headquarters chanting slogans and banging drums.

Urbandale Police said they made 10 arrests after a scuffle broke out between some of the protesters and members of Bachmann’s advance security detail.

Read the rest of that story here.

And, from the same source, we hear that Bachmann came in last in the recent Des Moines Regiser poll. But she didn’t. Huntsman came in last, and Michele came in second last, as previously discussed.

Be careful clicking on the Star Tribune links. Sometimes they come up with a video ad running, thus waking up the baby or startling the cat.


Last night, a Minneapolis woman gave birth to twins. Two of them. But labor was tough. The first one was born just before 7PM on December 31st, 2011. The second one was born just after midnight, Januray 1st, 2012. This will get interesting in about 12 years.*

The following tragic news story appeared on this morning’s WCCO Web Site. I’ve highlighted certain parts of it:

i-f0781b63a986ca727378c34ece67871e-Thinkering.jpgAre you tired of Tebow Tebowing? Well, one answers a gesture with a gesture, a symbol with a symbol. Next time you score at Touchdown during an NFL game, or whatever the normal human equivalent of that might be (finding your shoes on sale, getting your cheapskate friend to buy you a beer, etc.) try Thinkering. This is a picture of David Silverman of the American Atheists demonstrating this idea, which is apparently his. Good idea, Dave. A little reminiscent of the “Brights” idea but hopefully no one will remember that.

For the first time all year, we had more than just a dusting of snow. The snow transcended the New Years Moment, so only a tiny bit fell in 2011 and a tiny bit fell in 2012 (no big deal because that is not how we count winters, but still…). Unfortunately, the snow fell during the New Years Drunk Driving Tournament we seem to have every year, so statewide 138 vehicles were reported to have run off the road or spun out (I quickly add that this is a very under-reported statistic. If you drive your ride into a field and then back onto the road and continue on your way, you are not likely to call it in.) There were 88 crashes statewide, 54 in the Twin Cities Metro. There were eleven injuries and 20 people were arrested statewide for DWI. One of the accidents was a police squad car at a crash scene which was in turn crashed into by a (would have been) passing drunk driver. Happy New Year. I was in bed, didn’t see a thing. (Statistics from various radio and web reports.)

Birders, please report your first bird of 2012 here. And speaking of new year, what is the history of new year anyway? Here’s one take on it.

As you know, I rather enjoy having some food in my bugs, but sometimes it is nice to have some bugs in my food too.

And finally, check out this Skeptics Guide to New Year’s Resolutions.

Romney Leads For Iowa, but numbers suggest he is not really a favorite

The Iowa Caucus (not to be confused with the mostly bogus Iowa Straw Poll, where Michele Bachmann bought herself a good lead) will be held Tuesday. A Caucus is an actual political event and it is not insignificant. If you hear someone say “Oh, caucuses don’t mean anything” or “A caucus is not a real thing” or whatever, start asking them questions and you’ll quickly learn that they don’t know much about the political process. Very likely, they’ve never been to one. Have you? If you haven’t, and your state has them, give it at try!

Amazingly, Mitt Romney is in the lead according to a recent poll by the Des Moines Register, going into Tuesday’s caucuses, but the lead is slim. And the configuration of the field seems at least a little stable. The CNN poll of December 28th shows this pattern: Continue reading Romney Leads For Iowa, but numbers suggest he is not really a favorite