Daily Archives: January 24, 2012

The State of the Union Address (2012)

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

Last month, I went to Andrews Air Force Base and welcomed home some of our last troops to serve in Iraq. Together, we offered a final, proud salute to the colors under which more than a million of our fellow citizens fought – and several thousand gave their lives.

We gather tonight knowing that this generation of heroes has made the United States safer and more respected around the world. For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq. For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home. Continue reading The State of the Union Address (2012)

Time to opt out of Google?

Google will now follow you around the internet, as you use e-mail, search, YoutTube, and so on and so forth, as you use web browsers or your Android phone, and you can’t opt out. This starts March 1st.

I’m not sure if this is a bad thing or not. It depends on exactly what they are doing. It will certainly make the Google experience a bit creepier: As you search for YouTube videos on some topic, Google may make suggestions based on information on your Google Calendar, or if you have a business trip to a certain city on your Calendar, Google may suggest which of your circled contacts on Google+ might like to know you’ll be in town.

From the Washington Post:

Privacy advocates say Google’s changes betray users who are not accustomed to having their information shared across different Web sites.

A user of Gmail, for instance, may send messages about a private meeting with a colleague and may not want the location of that meeting to be thrown into Google’s massive cauldron of data or used for Google’s maps application

Click through to the Washington Post piece if you want to participate in a poll regarding your reaction to this. So far 53% of respond ants plant to cancel their Google accounts because of this policy, 22% will not cancel, and 26% are not sure.

Happy Birthday Opportunity!

Can you imagine driving around on roadless terrain with a four wheel drive vehicle for eight years and not ever changing a tire, getting a tuneup, adjusting the suspension, replacing the hydraulics or brakes, or doing any other service whatsoever on your vehicle? I’ve actually done that, and I’m here to tell you, you can’t do that!

But Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has, in fact, done it.

Opportunity was tasked to took around on the Martian surface for three months. The Space Robot landed on Mars on January 25th, 2004. During the last eight years, Opportunity has traveled great distances, taken amazing photographs, and done all kinds of science.


Opportunity’s Eighth Anniversary View From ‘Greeley Haven’
This mosaic of images taken in mid-January 2012 shows the windswept vista northward (left) to northeastward (right) from the location where NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is spending its fifth Martian winter, an outcrop informally named “Greeley Haven.”

Opportunity’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) took the component images as part of full-circle view being assembled from Greeley Haven.

The view includes sand ripples and other wind-sculpted features in the foreground and mid-field. The northern edge of the the “Cape York” segment of the rim of Endeavour Crater forms an arc across the upper half of the scene.

Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time and EST (Jan. 24, PST). It has driven 21.4 miles (34.4 kilometers) as of its eighth anniversary on the planet. In late 2011, the rover team drove Opportunity up onto Greeley Haven to take advantage of the outcrop’s sun-facing slope to boost output from the rover’s dusty solar panels during the Martian winter.

The image combines exposures taken through Pancam filters centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The view is presented in approximate true color. This “natural color” is the rover team’s best estimate of what the scene would look like if humans were there and able to see it with their own eyes.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.
Continue reading Happy Birthday Opportunity!

Climate Change Denialism: Follow the money

Go look at this:


The Heartland Institute, the US organisation that plays a key role in organised climate denial, has directly funded New Zealand’s most prominent sceptics, a search of US Inland Revenue Service documents has revealed. In 2007, Heartland granted US$25,000 (NZ$32,000) to the NZ Climate “Science” Coalition, sending the money to NZ CSC member Owen McShane. They also gifted the International Climate Science Coalition US$45,000 (NZ$59,000), forwarding the cash to NZ CSC webmaster and …

Read all about it here.

How to implement IT role changes

Free-Dos Fearless Leader and IT Manger Jim Hall has a post at Almost Diamonds that some of you will be interested in.

Some time ago, I posted an online poll to survey the relative importance of four qualities at various levels in an IT organization. With the help of other bloggers, and through retweets, we got the word out to as many IT folks as possible. We received responses from all across the globe (though most were from the U.S.) representing private industry, higher education, and government. The poll was up for about two months, but most of the responses came within the first few weeks. I’d like to share the results with you.

Click here to read it.

Catching up on your reading

Sea Monkeys Made of Straw

So, you’ve got what you think is a problem in your community. You know you’ve got a bunch of arguing happening, and you observe what you believe to be fallacies mixed in, probably due to the strong feelings the topic brings u. You have some strong feelings yourself, whether about the community or the subject or about the behavior you witness. Your SIWOTI meter is pegged. What do you do?

Defending Our Mother’s Gardens: In Observance of Roe v. Wade

In her landmark work In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, Alice Walker wrote: “What did it mean for a black woman to be an artist in our grandmother’s time? Our great-grandmothers’ day? Did you have a genius of a great-great-grandmother who died under some ignorant and depraved white overseer’s lash? Or was her body broken and forced to bear children (who were more often than not sold away from her)—eight, ten, fifteen, twenty children—when her one joy was the thought of modeling heroic figures of rebellion?”

Is feminism skeptical? (or: are ninjas awesome?)

Every damn conversation we’ve had over the past several years in our respective atheist/skeptic communities that even approaches the topic of feminism, or discusses women in any way, seems to attract the sort of person in our communities who demands that we prove that feminism — the idea that women are human beings and should be treated with basic human dignity — is skeptical. Who evidently believes that the natural overlap between skepticism and feminism is insufficient for the topic to be broached. That the feminists in the skepticism community are not turning a skeptical eye to their dogmatically held beliefs that women shouldn’t be systematically mistreated or disadvantaged by any social structure that we humans have built.

The remarkable adaptability of ‘family values’ voters

The Republican party likes to portray itself as defenders of ‘traditional family values’, which seem to many of us to be synonymous with narrow-minded, bigoted, and religiously-motivated ones. But that’s fine. People have their own moral standards and need some measures by which to evaluate candidates and they have every right to expect the candidates they support to have the same values that they do.

But what is odd is that rather than letting the values determine who their candidate should be, many of those voters seem to reverse the process and let the candidate determine their values at any given moment.

Islamophobia is used to scaremonger people into silence

The Guardian has published a letter calling for an inquiry into the ‘anti-Islam’ press.

Whilst racism must be unequivocally condemned, the signatories – like the Guardian, confuse racism with a criticism of Islam. They are not one and the same no matter how many letters and articles the Guardian publishes.

Islamophobia is nothing but a political term …

Hello, Hello Again!

Hi everyone!

My name is Natalie Reed, and I’m newly arrived here to Freethought Blogs. Before this move, I was a writer for the Skepchick network, and managing editor for sister site Queereka. I’m young and grossly unqualified, but people seem to enjoy what I do. “What I do” generally being posts on trans and queer issues, gender, sexuality and so on from a skeptical, secular perspective.

Warning Will Robinson: There Is No Evidence of Life on Venus

There is a story going around that there is evidence of life on Venus. The evidence would be very convincing if some descriptions of it were true: Scorpion or crab like creatures walking around on the surface sounds a lot like life to me! And, the research is published in a peer reviewed journal put out by one of the big publishing houses, and the paper is by a mainstream Russian scientist who’s done a lot of work. But is seems to be very wrong.

The research is by Leonid Ksanfomaliti, and looks at photographs from the 1980s period landing probe. What looks a lot like a crab seen in two separate photographs is actually two fragments of lens caps that fell off of the probe’s cameras (I assume they were supposed to do that). Other objects are also explained as artifacts or tricks of light.

This really wouldn’t be interesting enough to mention here were it not for the fact that the version of the story where there really might be life on Venus is getting some traction, despite the widespread story of how there is no life on Venus.

This is from Yahoo, and This is from MSNBC.