semiotic_pirate: (speak your mind)
Saw a tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson in my TL retweeted by someone (though I could SWEAR I had been following him directly - nevermind, the weird add/drop bug of Twitter is another matter entirely) and it was:

"Odd that drivers of fuel efficient cars often get more green-praise than those who chose to live where they can walk to work."

A few people jumped in with things that make a one-off statement like this seem truly uninformed over economic truths:

@Hidoshi said that "the flip side is that a lot of people can't afford to live close to where they work thanks to housing prices in cities"

@Dracos_snitch said it's "probably because it's harder to find a place to live close to work when you also have other needs for you and your family."

@RationalPastime called Neil to the carpet by saying it was "odd that you think living close to work is a choice for most people" and then Neil was further mocked by @SoundCheckMama when she commented "If only we could all live where we work. Or work where we live.

My knee-jerk reaction was to think backward to when we purchased the house my family is currently living in. A house that we chose because it was halfway between my job and my spouse's job (at the time.) Although my spouse has moved on to another position that is - mostly - in the same direction of my job but much closer. I would LOVE to live closer to my job (either halfway between or closest to mine since I have less incentive to job hop in my profession) but this is where we are stuck.

Just after we bought the house, the market crashed hard. I saw it coming and was able to make sure we purchased something at a price low enough that we wouldn't go underwater, though we've come close a couple of times according to Zillow...

I live in an area of my city that has NO sidewalks - though it IS on the sidewalk master plan for the city and will "eventually" get them. The road is marked as a 25mph "country road" but, since it is constantly used as a thruway between one side of the city as another, people tend to drive an average of 10-15mph over the limit, even on the hairpin turns. This isn't discoverable until you move in and have lived on the street for a while. This results in a dearth of walking or bike riding because all the surrounding roads are like this as well.

Another thought that popped into my head is that I didn't pay any more for my hybrid car than the regular version of the vehicle, JUST AFTER the tax break for purchasing hybrid vehicles lapsed. Yes, I drive a hybrid, in a culture that requires you to have a vehicle to go anywhere (safely) and I would love to move closer to my job, and have access to sidewalks, and bicycle trails, and food shopping within walking distance, etcetera, etcetera. Heck, I'd love for even the rumored high-speed commuter rail line that supposed to connect all the way up to Montreal to get built posthaste.


Maybe the green-praise is by working from within the system that we are stuck in and making the most acceptable choice that we can live with, within our individual circumstances. I'd like to sum this tirade up with what @anneleonard said:

"Choosing to live where one can walk to work is a privilege."

Check your privilege, Neil.

Posty Post

Dec. 26th, 2008 06:39 pm
semiotic_pirate: (BattlePrincess)
The Netherlands' Delta Committee rocks. Click through to read an amazing article about the Dutch 200 year plan to protect their country from rising sea levels on account of global warming. Amazing diagrams and interesting pictures. Now that is prudent and rational planning. Now this makes me want to visit Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside of the Netherlands even more.

risk = (probability of failure) x (projected cost of damage)

Maybe if they had actually USED this equation for New Orleans, the damages and horrifying results of Hurricane Katrina wouldn't have occurred. This equation has been in used by the Dutch and for high-end engineering risk analysis since the 1950's, by the way. Other than the Dutch, it is usually only used by fields like nuclear power, aerospace, and chemical manufacturing.


In the never-never land of created wants, enter the Mitsubishi LaserVue 65" Black DLP HDTV - L65A90 which is a laser-powered television with a starting price of $7K. Yowch! But it is capable of producing a 3D image… and it's got the best color, clarity, high contrast, etc. of any television out there… and it runs on 1/3 the energy of an LCD, 1/4 that of a plasma television… Maybe I'll be able to talk myself into the purchase of one of these someday, after the price drops considerably. With a 10.1" screen, 12.6" in depth with the stand and 136 lbs… Wow. Would need to upgrade the furniture too. At least other flat panel television prices are plummeting.


Ummmm… What?! What's that you say? Pay especial attention to the comments below the article [ profile] ginmar; maybe you can use them on the various stereo people you encounter in your life. *no hugs here* There are also a lot of insightful comments about the use, misuse, and worth of torture further down in the comment stream.


Gives another layer to the meaning of the term kissing cousins, doesn't it? Dispassioned analysis of the genetic affects of intermarrying with your cousins as well as a handy-dandy figure showing where first-cousin marriage is outlawed. Very interesting. Genetically, I think it becomes a problem when the intermarriage of cousins happens multi-generationally. Meaning the first set of cousins' children marrying and then their children, etc. When the gene pool is limited by locality, this can be the outcome because the offspring tend to stay close to the epicenter of their birth, and their choices are narrowed further by having intermarriages between cousins above them in the family tree. Of course, all this reminds me of discussions of family trees in the Harry Potter novels. There are implications of everyone being related to someone, somehow, over the centuries. But, the most interesting comment in the article itself comes very quickly: "laws against the unions are a socially legitimized form of genetic and sexual discrimination." Who's the finger of blame going to be pointed at when the neochristians hear this tidbit? I bet they (as well as all the middle-aged couples looking to get their sprog on) get severely tweaked over the comment that it is comparable to restricting women over the age of 40 from childbearing because of an equivalent risk of birth defects.

I find it interesting that some of the articles linked to below this one are: Women, Trust Your Nose: Inbred Men May Smell Bad. And Calling Jerry Springer: Embryo Mixing Could Make Three-Parent Children where the term (new to me) trinogomous relationships is used. I think, in the case of the latter article, the more genetic mixing the better… Look at what it could do for mitochondrial based diseases! Are we on the edge of the reproductive freedom forefront? Between all of the above and gay marriage - I would say a resounding yes. I also would say that any child that is born wanted and is well cared for should be welcomed. Not as many commentors in this one, but the few ignorant dissenters are thoroughly trounced by the intelligent folk.


Did anyone on my f-list know that you could auction off this little Monopoly rule:

"The main rule that tends to get ignored is the auction. If you land on a property and don't want it, it goes to auction. That's what tends to slow things down and put a lot of people off. If you don't get houses built it will go on forever."

Interesting BBC article about board games, where Monopoly is touted as a game that takes social interaction to "new heights" by placing a premium on negotiation. Hell. I didn't realize you could make deals to waive interest, exchange property, or form strategic alliances. Well maybe the latter… Tactics that are said to be common in multiplayer games. Maybe I just never played a game with enough people. Another game highlighted, Diplomacy, is touted as a game requiring the playing of the opponent as much as the game which is finding favour outside the home as an "educational tool." Interesting. I didn't know that a game that's central attraction lies in the negotiations, alliances, betrayals, poker faces and backstabbing… where you are expected to lie at every turn and constantly second guess your opponents intentions would be used as an educational tool. Yeah. Who am I kidding? Sounds a lot like life in the worst circumstances - circumstances that all of us must face at one time or another. For the unlucky, they face those circumstances constantly. The final sentences of the article separate the skill sets acquired nicely. Soft skills that games teach us:

"How to win and lose with grace, how to play nicely with our families; and how to dissemble, cajole, and gull our way to victory."


Earlier today, I met with CoB, his brother and nephew - and they were laughingly teaching the toddler Chinese phrases and joking about preparing for our "Chinese overlords" a la Firefly universe beginnings. I was reminded of the conversation, over lunch I might add, when reading the following article, especially when I hit this part:

"In hindsight, many economists say, the United States should have recognized that borrowing from abroad for consumption and deficit spending at home was not a formula for economic success."

Can't everything be seen in hindsight when you are looking for it? Hrmphf. Now it is being said that Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble… No. Us greedy grubs did it to ourselves, you blighter.

On another Chinese note: a traveler's perspective of feeling like going from the Jetsons' to the Flinstones' when coming back o Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong. No kidding. Time to reboot our infrastructure indeed.

"My fellow Americans, we can’t continue in this mode of “Dumb as we wanna be.” We’ve indulged ourselves for too long with tax cuts that we can’t afford, bailouts of auto companies that have become giant wealth-destruction machines, energy prices that do not encourage investment in 21st-century renewable power systems or efficient cars, public schools with no national standards to prevent illiterates from graduating and immigration policies that have our colleges educating the world’s best scientists and engineers and then, when these foreigners graduate, instead of stapling green cards to their diplomas, we order them to go home and start companies to compete against ours.

we don’t just need a bailout. We need a reboot. We need a build out. We need a buildup. We need a national makeover."


Thought provoking article about for-profit charitable aid companies in the sin of doing good deeds. When they get more done for the charity in question, I applaud them. When they defraud the people donating to the charitable cause, this is when I have a problem. Hell. I loved it that Barnes and Noble did the "buy a book to be donated to needy children drive" this year… LOVED IT. I hope whoever gets the copies of The Hobbit and Ramona Quimby - Age 8 enjoy their first reading of them as much as I did. When businesses do things to help other people, when they (and no, I don't know if B&N fits into the whole category here) make it a point to act in ethical, sustaining, world/community building ways - while reigning in the business propensity for over-compensating the upper echelons of the business - good things happen. Businesses can do good even as they do well. That should be drilled into our children throughout their lives. Every person's actions have an effect in the world that can ripple out and affect people half a world away. Just because you aren't aware of that consciously does not mean it doesn't occur.


Goo Goo! May B.H.O. go the way of F.D.R.


Wish I had been able to be around to give the service people (mailman, firehouse, police station, the mechanic, etc.) boxing day gifts. I've done it a few times in my life. Usually it is a tin of home-baked goods or something like that.

"It is on Boxing Day, after all, on the “feast of Stephen,” that “Good King Wenceslas” looked out and saw the snow, “deep and crisp and even.” The cold was notable not for its beauty, but for the hunger that it brought with it. The king calls for food, wine and “pine logs” not for his own feast, but that he and his page may “bear them thither” to give to the poor… In the 19th century, the “boxes” of Boxing Day were either literally boxes of gifts or money, given by employers to staff and servants."

However, boxing day isn't just about giving to the poor, it is (I gather) about giving to those who work for you - either directly or indirectly. I got a bottle of wine from my manager before he left for holiday vacation. Yay! Just remember, today, your "servants" are out-sourced workers. The housekeepers, the dry cleaners, recycling and garbage collectors, delivery people and so forth… It is also a time for what is termed "duty visits" where you go and visit that obnoxious relative that you would never usually go and see. Ha! Don’t just keep “the Christmas of the belly: keep you the Christmas of the heart. Give — give.”

Must remember as well when Maundy Thursday rolls around. It is supposed to have a similar purpose - giving alms to the poor.


Gorgeous house in the background, neh?

The article that it is associated with, however, has a stupid title that is contradicted throughout by itself. Oh noes! You have to clear off the solar panels! You knew there would be a trade-off during the changing of the seasons when you installed the darn things, and no amount of poo-pooing in an article can make it seem like no one would know that days are shorter during the winter in the northern hemisphere. And, no, ice is not flung like javelins from spinning wind turbines. Sheesh.


More cheers for the Kindle and the beginnings of the passing of the "early adopter" phase of the e-book craze. Bring it on! Go paperless, people! Someday, the only books people will own on paper will be their ultimate favorites - or maybe even those won't need to be paper anymore. The easiest way to turn fetishist bibliophiles on to ebooks would be to start making/selling book/paper scented candles to burn when reading so you can elevate the ambiance of the moment.

In related news, and my last bit of writing… Finally... Crowdsourcing your tech support needs. It is something that I've done more and more often over the last few years. In addition to all the sites mentioned in the article I would like to applaud the advent of YouTube and the helpful how-to videos have helped immensely as well as being able to use Google to search for help using a short description of the problem. Way cool. Keep it up, internetz!

And now… I go cuddle with CoB. Huzzah!

Posty Post

Nov. 17th, 2008 07:19 pm
semiotic_pirate: (Giggle Loop)
It was a long, draining day where I worked very, very hard on difficult problems. Of course, I had a few minutes this morning before the hordes descended to write up a post.

Awesome "synthetic" (bio-) fuel company - Amyris leading the way with plans to make 200 million gallons of synfuel a year at $2 per gallon by 2011. Another plus - they'll generate a lot of real living-wage factory jobs where people are employed making actual products they can afford to buy themselves. But will they be able to pull it off?

USB 3.0 is coming, and man is it going to be fast! It's said to deliver a tenfold increase in data transfer speed when going head-to-head in a USB showdown with the 2.0 tech. This is also likely to signal the death of FireWire/IEEE 1394. Which, I guess, would the the Betamax?

Waiting until Friday for the Google Mobile App so that I can do a voice-enabled search on my NEW iPHONE! Yep. Christmas is around me; I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes.

Oh. And, after seeing Quantum of Solace three times this weekend… did anyone else notice the plethora of hip alternate fuel vehicles? Too bad the vehicles don't actually exist. BAD FORD! Shouldn't tease us like that, you bastards!

However, to be built by Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies and coachbuilder Fisker Automotive (designer of BMWs and Aston-Martins). This new car will use an innovative plug-in hybrid technology called Quantum Drive (come one...meant for Bond), a hybrid electric/gas power plant that can be plugged in at the owner's home garage for easy charging, and also refuel at any gas station on the road.

Building an alt-energy power plant is risky and expensive, but thanks to a new ruling by an Environmental Protection Agency panel, building a coal plant may become riskier and more expensive. So it is good that the EPA Coal Decision Levels Playing Field for Wind, Solar. And that, said the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, David Bookbinder, is good news for new clean tech companies.

Want to see the new high resolution map of U.S. per-capita carbon dioxide emissions and read the discussion about said map? Go here.

Bad Texans! Or are those emissions floating over from Mexico?

The recession is also driving the greening of the electronics industry. Yay! Driven by saving money, stricter policies on disposal of waste - and who's held responsible for them - and the marketing to retain positive public relations. Bottom line thinking, yes, but we are forcing the industry to comply to make it good for their bottom line to do so. Economics 101 anyone?

Finally, my photog geek friends: turn your flatbed scanner into a giant camera!
semiotic_pirate: (BattlePrincess)
Religion vs science: can the divide between God and rationality be reconciled?
By Paul Vallely
Saturday, 11 October 2008
Article from The Independent

''A clergyman in charge of education for the country's leading scientific organisation – it's a Monty Python sketch," pronounced Britain's top atheist, Richard Dawkins, recently.

The problem was that Reiss, as well as being an evolutionary biologist and population geneticist, is a non-stipendiary priest in the Church of England. When he said recently that science teachers should answer questions about creationism if pupils asked them he was deemed to have been advocating the idea that British schools should teach the idea that the world was magicked up (complete with fossils and ancient geology) just 6,000 years ago – and then tell pupils to make their own minds up between that and the theory of evolution to which the overwhelming scientific evidence points.

The hapless Reiss made it clear that he insists creationism is scientific nonsense. But a handful of the Royal Society's most eminent members began a campaign to have him sacked. Sir Harry Kroto, Sir Richard Roberts and Sir John Sulston said in a letter to the president of the Royal Society: "We gather Professor Reiss is a clergyman, which in itself is very worrisome." We must all now be on the look-out, it now seems for Revs under the beds.

The idea that science and religion are incompatible is a fairly recent import into contemporary culture. It has been given huge credence by the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The pronounced motivation of Islamic fundamentalists in 2001 hammered home that some people are prepared to inflict outrageous acts of inhumanity in the name of religion.

Yet the roots of the shift in attitude go back much further. "It came about because of a perfect storm – a wide range of factors came together," says the atheist philosopher Julian Baggini. Among them were a shift from liberal to evangelical Christianity in Britain, the rise of creationism in America, advances in scientific techniques in biology and changes in public perception on issues as disparate as homosexuality and assisted dying.

But we are leaping ahead here. The relationship between science and religion has had a long and chequered history since the settled days of the medieval consensus, which saw faith and the natural sciences as part of a cosmic whole. Galileo put paid to that with his insistence that the earth revolved around the sun. The Catholic Church, which saw man and his planet at the centre of the universe – and which already felt its authority threatened by the rise of Protestantism – locked horns with him. The clash became a metaphor for the irreconcilability of scientific materialism and biblical literalism.

Things changed with Isaac Newton. His laws of physics led to a world view which relegated God to background status as the designer of a clockwork world which he wound up and then left to its own devices. Newton's celestial mechanics brought an advance in our scientific understanding but didn't really work for a faith that wanted to believe that, through the historical Jesus, God had become, in the words of the song "a slob like one of us".

Next came Darwin. At first many saw his theory of evolution as a threat to religion but mainstream Christianity soon accepted evolution as the answer to the "how" of creation, leaving the "why" questions of meaning and morality to faith. Science and religion exercised authority over two discrete compartments of life between which there could be no link.

But through the latter half of the 20th century a synergy developed. In cosmology the science of the expanding universe and the Big Bang chimed in with a moment of creation. The inherent uncertainty that quantum physics discovered at the subatomic level overturned Newton's mechanics and created room for a "God of the gaps". Process theology embraced evolution and said men and women are called to play a part in an ever-ongoing creation. Advances in neuro-science showed that mental and spiritual phenomena depend upon biological processes, undermining the old dualist notions about body and soul and offering a more holistic body-mind-spirit axis.

"Attacks on religion, when I was a student in the Sixties, were largely on political grounds," says Dr Denis Alexander, the Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge. "It was seen to be on the side of capitalism and the rich." In Anglo-American philosophy, says Baggini, "religion was seen as wrong but as something that didn't really matter much. The world was going secular and eventually it would just die out."

But the rise of Christian fundamentalism in America in the past few decades – the word fundamentalist in its religious sense was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in only 1989 – was mirrored in a milder way in Britain too. Liberal Christianity, so long in the ascendant in the Church of England, began to lose ground to evangelicalism. "Non-literal Christianity failed," says Baggini, "because it doesn't capture the popular imagination. The certainties of evangelical Christianity appeal more to those for whom the attractions of religion are on a more visceral level." This appeal was symbolised through the 1990s by the Alpha course on the basics of the Christian faith devised in London by a curate at Holy Trinity, Brompton, which has since been used by more than 10 million people in 160 countries. The idea that the miracles of the New Testament may have been metaphors rather than literal truths suddenly went out of fashion in Christian circles.

Throughout this time scientists such as Richard Dawkins had evidenced a disdain for such simple certainties. In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene there were a few side-swipes at religion and in 1986 in The Blind Watchmaker he conducted a sustained critique of the 18th-century deist argument that the world is too complicated to have sprung into existence by accident so a rational observer should conclude that it must have been designed, just as someone finding a watch would conclude that somewhere there must be a watchmaker who made it. And by 1991, in response to the question of why evolution had allowed religion to thrive, he had coined the notion that religion was a virus.

But it was the terrorist attacks in 2001 that turned Dawkins into an Alpha atheist and transformed him from an academic backwater into a populist ideologue. Before 9/11, he said, religion may have appeared a "harmless nonsense". But the attacks in New York showed it to be a "lethally dangerous nonsense". Previously, he said, "we all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!" The gloves were off.

But another prominent atheist, medic and secularist, the Liberal Democrat MP, Dr Evan Harris, is not so sure that 9/11 was the nodal point. "It's not the main thing to scientists," he insists. "When you talk to them the thing that comes up most often is the influence religion has had on science in America under George Bush." Religious pressures there have had direct impacts on a wide range of policy – from a ban on public money being put into stem cell research to a refusal to allow US aid programmes to hand out condoms to fight Aids in Africa. "Scientists who are publicly funded can't go to conferences and speak without being obliged to stick to the Bush line," says Harris.

Advances in bio-technology have opened up new areas for disagreement. Test tube babies, embryo selection, saviour siblings, stem cell research and animal-human cybrids have all created new battlegrounds between those who think that an embryo is a person from the moment of conception to those who think it is merely a cluster of cells before implantation or even birth – and all variety of opinions in between.

"There is a definite danger of our desire for research outstripping our capacity to anticipate the ethical implications of those advances," says the feminist theologian, Tina Beattie, whose book The New Atheists argues that Dawkins & Co misuse Darwin and evolutionary biology as much as the Christian fundamentalists misuse the Bible. "Some scientists experience religion as merely an irritating brake on their striving to do new things." The public, after a list of scientific disasters from thalidomide and nuclear weapons to BSE and the stealing of dead children's organs at Alder Hey, are much more suspicious, judging that "scientists have problems policing their borders".

From a very different perspective Andrew Copson, the director of education for the British Humanist Association, agrees. "Scientists are fearful so the issue has become very emotive," he says. "They fear that, behind what people like Michael Reiss say, there lies a Trojan horse." It is perhaps significant here that the two main instigators of the campaign to have Reiss ousted from his Royal Society job, Sir Harry Kroto and Sir Richard Roberts, are now based in the United States where creationism is a major phenomenon. Polls suggest that around 45 per cent of Americans are creationists with 40 per cent believing that God worked through evolution and just 10 per cent saying it was nothing to do with a God.

The experience of being a secularist in the US is clearly a radicalising one. "I don't know if it is too late to stop the slide in Britain but I think it is in the US where [the religious right] have now almost complete control over politics, the judiciary, education, business, journalism and television," Kroto, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1996, has said, adding darkly: "The Royal Society does not appreciate the true nature of the forces arrayed against it."

The position in the UK is nothing like that, though the statistics are unclear. A 2006 BBC poll claimed that 48 per cent of the British public accepted evolution with 22 per cent preferring creationism but the definitions it used were so sloppy as to be almost meaningless. A survey of schoolchildren has suggested that more than 10 per cent now believe in creationism. But the Evangelical Alliance, whose members now number around 3 per cent of the UK population, reckons that only a third of its members – about 1 per cent of the population – are creationists. About a third think Genesis is merely symbolic, and a third believe that God worked through evolution but is still capable of intervening in specific ways. Its most recent, unpublished, survey shows that the proportion seeing the Genesis account as symbolic is increasing, the EA's Head of Theology, Dr Justin Thacker, says.

Evan Harris accepts that the number of British schools teaching creationism is tiny. But, as an MP, he is worried about the increasing activity of religious lobby groups in public life. "Groups like the Evangelical Alliance, the Christian Institute and Christian Action Research and Education are now all much more organised and active in seeking to change public policy. They are making the running in parliament, much more than the leadership of the Catholic Church. The Church of England's bishops are much more evangelical too; their centre of gravity has changed form the days when liberals ruled the roost. And the C of E has been much more active in Parliament."

All this is having a real impact, Dr Harris suggests. "In the days of Thatcher all the mainstream Tories voted in favour of embryo research. Twenty years on most of the new suave modernising Cameroonian Tories vote against it." Academics detect a similar shift. Professor Steve Jones, of University College London, who has been teaching genetics and evolutionary biology for 30 years, has said that religious students – even those studying medicine – are becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to evolution, demanding to be exempted from classes and exam questions on the subject.

Creationism, like Coca-Cola, came here from the United States. The American lobby group Answers in Genesis, with its $13m annual budget, now has an office in the UK from where staff go round giving illustrated talks about how humans and dinosaurs roamed the earth together. Another conservative group, Truth in Science, has adopted a strategy of lobbying for schools to "Teach the Controversy" in an attempt to get Intelligent Design, a spin-off of creationism, taught alongside evolution in school science lessons. In 2006 it sent resource packs to the heads of science of all British secondary schools; New Scientist claims that 59 schools have used, or plan to use, them.

The fear generated by such tactics is what did for Michael Reiss. "Even if he doesn't support all this, what he said might be seen to give succour to it," says Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association. "I can understand why alarm bells go off with people who are familiar with 'Teach the controversy' tactics of people who want to baby-step creationism into our science classrooms."

All of this mystifies the vast majority of the nation's Christians who have been taught since the time of St Augustine, who died AD430, that where there appears to be a conflict between demonstrated knowledge and a literal reading of the bible then the scriptures should be interpreted metaphorically. They see no conflict between faith and reason because, as Pope John Paul II put it: "God created man as rational and free, thereby placing himself under man's judgement." Just last month the present Pope reiterated the same line, warning of the dangers of fundamentalist readings of the Bible. Each generation, he said, needs to find its collective interpretation of the text. For this task of interpretation – which can never be never completely finished – science offers a major tool.

It all perplexes academics who specialise in the interplay between science and religion too. Creationism doesn't just involve many scientific errors, it relies on a major theological one too. "When Robert Burns tell us his love 'is like a red, red rose', we know that we are not meant to think that his girlfriend has green leaves and prickles," says the particle physicist and Anglican priest, Sir John Polkinghorne. Why, he wonders, would any rational person want to read the Bible in that way?

The world of science he encounters is a much more subtle one. "There's a cosmic religiosity among physicists," he insists, though "biologists see more ambiguity, perhaps because they look at the wastefulness of nature, and perhaps because sequencing the human genome has made them triumphalist." It is more complex even than that: the head of the Human Genome Project, Dr Francis Collins, last year published a book about his journey from atheism into faith arguing that science and religion, far from being irreconcilable, are in fact in deep harmony.

In the past 30 years an area of inter-disciplinary activity has opened up to explore this. Areas of research include cognitive neuro-sciences and issues like freewill and consciousness and whether human minds are merely matter or something more. In evolutionary psychology they have also explored together questions like the origins of altruism – asking whether evolutionary biology can give an adequate account of why people are willing to sacrifice themselves on behalf of others. In paleobiology they are asking questions like how eyes evolve in different lineages – suggesting that evolution isn't a random or chance process but is channelled by certain chemically-determined pathways. In cosmology there is a universe versus multiverses debate.

"All that going on, but all the public knows about is Dawkins," says Dr Denis Alexander of the Faraday Institute in Cambridge. "Academic discussion on the relationship between science and religion is genuinely exploratory, not polarised. To most people in it Dawkins just sounds rather odd."

John Hedley Brooke, who recently retired as the first Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, is more sanguine. "These eruptions take place from time to time historically," he shrugs. "Dawkins is just a throwback to 19th-century rationalism. He has a strong emotional antagonism that is very indiscriminate and treats all kinds of religion the same. A lot of fine distinctions that get lost in the polemics. The problem is that it is all a cumulative process in which the extremes feed off one another."

"Paradoxically, Dawkins is the biggest recruiter for creationism in this country," says Denis Alexander. Recently, he says, Bill Demcksi, a leading US creationist, e-mailed Dawkins to thank him for his assistance. "The danger is that all this polarisation will make some believers more anti-science which is not a clever move tactically." He hopes that whoever succeeds Dawkins as Oxford's Professor of the Public Understanding of Science is more interested in promoting science than in attacking religion.

On the other side of the argument Evan Harris is unapologetic about contributing to what Julian Baggini waggishly calls this "assertiveness inflation". "It's good that there's this tension," the MP says. "These debates need to be had in public. Science has nothing to fear from them. I don't think we're winning; we've won a few battles; but there's a war to be fought." He concedes that Michael Reiss may have been sacked unfairly – saying that the "overstrong line" taken by Kroto and Co should not be taken as representative of all on the secular side – but points out that employment injustices are perpetrated every time a church school refuses to appoint a maths teacher because she doesn't "have Jesus in her heart".

The danger is that between the strident secularists and the fanatical fundamentalists some important middle ground is being squeezed out. "Dawkins sees religion as credulous, superstitious and prejudiced but mature religious traditions teach people to challenge all that," says Tina Beattie. "Science will never offer an answer to the parents of Madeleine McCann. Nor will it ever be irrational to go to a Mozart concert, though science can never explain the genius of his music. The new atheism completely misunderstands the way that human beings experience the poetry and narrative of life."

Perhaps the conflict is not between science and religion but between good and bad ways of doing both. In all of us there will always be a struggle between the craving for certainty, purity and closure and the acceptance of mystery, brokenness and provisionality. At their best, both scientists and people of faith are in a permanent state of awe-struck humility before the wonder and strangeness and messiness of things. At their worst, they are arrogant, dogmatic, and incurious. There's a bit of both in all of us, of course.


Huzzah! for the red squirrel!
semiotic_pirate: (speak your mind)
Has anyone heard of The Pickens Plan? What do you think of it and do you think it is something people should get behind and support? Does it sound reasonable and doable?
semiotic_pirate: (Juicy Oranges)
Let's keep them wild. Let's keep them free.

This is the PBS website on the documentary. This was a beautiful film. If you have a chance to watch it, take that chance. It has a boom-de-yadda feel to it. The most hard-hitting moment for me was when Mark talks about his need to find a right livelihood.

From Amazon's website: "Quiet patience and an observant eye turn a seemingly unpromising subject into a rich and fascinating movie. The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill captures the life of Mark Bittner, a gentle (formerly) homeless musician who's befriended a flock of wild parrots in a neighborhood of San Francisco. Following Bittner, the camera zooms in on individual parrots, revealing their individual personalities and the traits of their species. This leads to Bittner's own life, the network of friendships that support him, and the ways in which the parrots--a non-native species--interact with both the natural ecosystem and the city government; just about every topic opens up another until a flock of colorful birds represents a microcosm of nature and society.

Filmmaker Judy Irving has created an exemplary documentary simply by paying attention to the details of the world around her subject. Everything you expect from a Hollywood blockbuster--romance, violence, humor, sorrow, strong personalities in conflict--is here in spades, except that the heroes and heroines have bright red and green feathers. Utterly rewarding. --Bret Fetzer

PBS links to Mark's book The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill - A Love Story With Wings as well.

The following essay, written by Mark in 2007, describes what brought on the need to talk about and bring these parrots to the attention of the public mind. It also describes the battle to allow them to continue to be free and wild.


In the spring of 2007, I found myself in the awkward position of working for the passage of an ordinance that prohibits the feeding of San Francisco's wild parrots in city-owned parks. While the great majority of people I've spoken with have understood the reasons for my stand, a few others have had difficulty with it, regarding me as a hypocrite. Yet it was entirely consistent with everything I've said and done throughout my association with the parrot flock. During the struggle to get the ordinance passed I was unable to talk about the issue in a very public way. I felt constrained by the very situation I was working to stop. This is my explanation of what happened.
Read more... )
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
Emphasis added by me to certain, key sections of the article. Why do the oil companies think we are "punishing" them by taking away their subsidies? They're making more than enough profit to offset the loss of the tax breaks, I'm sure. Shit. When were these subsidies created, by whom, and for what reason? We want clean energy, we want cheap energy... We know that the combination of those two demands are possible. But infrastructure isn't there yet, and the "Oil Mafia" and others are out to squeeze as much profit out of what they have going now before they allow (by lobbying, yeah?) anything more beneficial to both society and the environment to be used.

What are your gas prices right now? Because, already, this articles quoted prices are out of date. I saw 87 octane at $3.95 - $4.05 on Wednesday, here in CT.

Oil Lobby Reaches Out to Citizens Peeved at the Pump
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008; D01

Faced with a national outcry over the high price of gasoline and soaring profits for energy companies, the oil and gas industry is waging an unusually pricey campaign to burnish its image.

The American Petroleum Institute, the industry's main lobby, has embarked on a multi-year, multimedia, multi-million-dollar campaign, which includes advertising in the nation's largest newspapers, news conferences in many state capitals and trips for bloggers out to drilling platforms at sea.

The intended audience is elected officials and the public, with an emphasis on the latter. The industry is trying to convince voters -- who, in turn, will make the case to their members of Congress -- that rising energy prices are not the producers' fault and that government efforts to punish the industry, especially with higher taxes, would only make pricing problems worse.

"We decided that if we didn't do something to help people understand the basics of our industry, we'd be on the losing end as far as the eye could see," said Red Cavaney, the institute's president.

Despite the efforts, Democratic congressional leaders this week again proposed an energy plan that would strip oil companies of billions of dollars of tax breaks and impose a tax on windfall profits. Also, the Democratic presidential candidates routinely pronounce "big oil" as if it were a one-word epithet, said former Oklahoma senator Don Nickles, an energy lobbyist.

Still, the oil lobby thinks it has made significant progress with consumers and will make even more as it continues to spend heavily on public relations. Allied industry groups such as coal and natural gas are also increasing their efforts to curry favor with the public, hoping to improve citizens' sometimes poor opinion of them.

The campaign has stirred outrage among consumer groups. They complain that the industry is using its outlandish profits to make even more money, and that its advertisements use statistics selectively. "It's basically deceptive advertising that dulls the natural and proper reaction of the public," said Mark N. Cooper, research director of the Consumer Federation of America.

Oil company profits have soared lately, bolstered by record crude oil prices. This month, Exxon Mobil reported a first-quarter profit of $10.89 billion, up 17 percent from a year ago, which provoked new congressional complaints. Shell and BP also posted sharp quarterly profit increases. Gasoline prices, meanwhile, have risen to a national record of nearly $3.65 a gallon, and crude oil has hit a new peak of nearly $124 a barrel.

Cavaney will not disclose how much his institute is spending on its campaign, except to say that it is less than $100 million a year, which was roughly the size of the "Got Milk?" ad blitz that featured famous people with milk mustaches.

The price tag for issue-oriented campaigns that lobbies routinely sponsor is huge, said Bill Replogle, an advertising executive at Qorvis Communications.

"A typical issues ad-spend in D.C. might be $2 million to $3 million for a significant campaign," he said. "This dwarfs that, and many national ad buys."

The oil and gas industry has long been considered a powerhouse in Washington, thanks to its big spending inside the Beltway and quietly extensive ties to influential lawmakers from the oil patch. The industry is the third-largest campaign contributor among major industry groups and the fourth-largest buyer of lobbying services, according to the nonpartisan CQ MoneyLine.

The industry has lobbied Congress intensively in the past few years, institute officials said. But such insider connections were insufficient to hold back an anti-industry tide that rolled into the capital after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. Energy prices spiked then, prompting a spate of congressional hearings that focused on oil company profits and led to attempts to pass a windfall profits tax.

"That was a wake-up call," Cavaney said. His organization began to research public opinion about, and knowledge of, the industry and found it extremely low. In response, it began a national advertising and public relations drive that has become among the largest of its kind.

This has been especially visible to residents of big cities this year, with prominent ads appearing in major newspapers and commercials during public affairs television.

This week, for example, the institute bought full-page ads explaining what goes into the cost of gasoline (predominantly crude oil and taxes) in USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and seven other large newspapers.

But a lot of the oil lobby's outreach has been directed at smaller markets, where its press events have gotten prominent and positive coverage. State capitals have been a favorite venue for what the institute calls its "tech tour," an interactive exhibit, including video games, that highlights technological advances that allow companies to extract oil and gas cheaper -- and to burn it cleaner -- than in the recent past.

In March 2007, the tech tour exhibit spent time in Lansing, Mich., the state capital. A year later, it visited West Virginia's capital, Charleston. Local television stations aired prominently placed, upbeat 30-second news segments after each visit.

The lobby has started courting online journalists as well. In November, the institute said it invited bloggers to Shell's facilities in New Orleans and then took them to visit the offshore platform Brutus. The same month, the institute also brought bloggers to Chevron's offices in Houston and its Blind Faith platform under construction in Corpus Christi, Tex. There are more tours in the works.

Coal companies, and the users and transporters of the commodity, are also trying to improve coal's image with a $45 million-a-year campaign, and Oklahoma billionaire Aubrey K. McClendon is spending millions through a foundation to promote natural gas.

R. Skip Horvath, president of the Natural Gas Supply Association, said energy companies are reacting not just to higher prices and profits but to the three-year, $300 million "We" campaign launched in March by former vice president Al Gore urging a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. "The need to get information out there to explain how energy relates to the environment is key," Horvath said.

But Cavaney of API is not promising instant results. He said that his group's efforts have produced "a very different conversation" about energy, but that the job is not nearly finished.

"There's no expectation that the public will end up loving the oil and gas industry," he said.

And the shit-storm is flying on the Washington Post comment board. Over ten pages of them so far. People are RILED.


Dec. 8th, 2007 06:27 pm
semiotic_pirate: (pirate rosabella)
I predict that there will be a giant upsurge of lung cancer (and others, but the primary one affecting the lungs) in China. It's like they need to learn the hard way as the United States and Western Europe did during our initial industrializations.

December 8, 2007
Trucks Power China’s Economy, at a Suffocating Cost

GUANGZHOU, China — Every night, columns of hulking blue and red freight trucks invade China’s major cities with a reverberating roar of engines and dark clouds of diesel exhaust so thick it dims headlights.

By daybreak in this sprawling metropolis in southeastern China, residents near thoroughfares who leave their windows open overnight find their faces stiff with a dark layer of diesel soot.
Read more... )

I've posted about this before, back on LJ. That post was about the waste and pollution problems that are rampant in China. One would think that they could learn from our mistakes.
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
The key is the density of the network - to make it convenient enough to the consumer to make it worth their while. Reminds me of why people rarely will put a shopping cart in a corral if the corrals are few and far between or badly placed. This advertising agency is taking things seriously, and making a profit from it at the same time. You provide a public service, useful and high-demand service, and you get special advertising locations and rights. Well done.


Paris Bike Rental Scheme Goes Global
A French advertising company hit upon the simplest self-service scheme. It won over thousands of Parisians and is now being exported across the world.

by Manfred Dworschak

Chicago is interested, and so is Moscow. Geneva and Sydney are in negotiations, and the mayor of London has called by twice. All eyes are on Paris. But what is the big attraction? It's a brand new model of bicycle, one that can be seen teeming through the streets by the thousands, all the same chic silver-gray, with a dolphin-like design. And they are all rented.

Paris has suddenly become the world capital of bike rentals. Nowhere else in the world has quite so many rental bikes standing at the ready: there will soon be over 20,000. And the fleet is really being put to use: commuters pedal from the Metro to the office, managers pop out in their lunch breaks to pick up groceries, tourists zigzag in every direction. More than six million rides have been clocked up in just three months -- there is hardly a faster way to get through the legendary tangle of the French capital.

What the French call "la Vélorution" was launched on July 15 this year and it was an advertising company that came up with the idea.
Read more... )
semiotic_pirate: (Pirate Grrl - RIOT)
This is not new. Meaning, when the western world first kicked off the industrial age, this self-same thing happened. And it kept happening until the people experiencing the horrors stood up for themselves and laws were enacting that disallowed the pollution, the extortion, the inhumanity and earth-killing practices that the newly industrialized nations were experiencing. History is repeating itself. And it isn't just China that is shitting on its own people and the rest of the world. And let us not forget the multinationals exploiting the third world. Eh? Why is history repeating itself? Discuss!

August 26, 2007
As China Roars, Pollution Reaches Deadly Extremes

BEIJING, Aug. 25 — No country in history has emerged as a major industrial power without creating a legacy of environmental damage that can take decades and big dollops of public wealth to undo.

But just as the speed and scale of China’s rise as an economic power have no clear parallel in history, so its pollution problem has shattered all precedents. Environmental degradation is now so severe, with such stark domestic and international repercussions, that pollution poses not only a major long-term burden on the Chinese public but also an acute political challenge to the ruling Communist Party. And it is not clear that China can rein in its own economic juggernaut.

Public health is reeling. Pollution has made cancer China’s leading cause of death, the Ministry of Health says. Ambient air pollution alone is blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year. Nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water.

Chinese cities often seem wrapped in a toxic gray shroud. Only 1 percent of the country’s 560 million city dwellers breathe air considered safe by the European Union. Beijing is frantically searching for a magic formula, a meteorological deus ex machina, to clear its skies for the 2008 Olympics.

Environmental woes that might be considered catastrophic in some countries can seem commonplace in China: industrial cities where people rarely see the sun; children killed or sickened by lead poisoning or other types of local pollution; a coastline so swamped by algal red tides that large sections of the ocean no longer sustain marine life.

China is choking on its own success. The economy is on a historic run, posting a succession of double-digit growth rates. But the growth derives, now more than at any time in the recent past, from a staggering expansion of heavy industry and urbanization that requires colossal inputs of energy, almost all from coal, the most readily available, and dirtiest, source.
Read more... )


Aug. 24th, 2007 05:17 pm
semiotic_pirate: (book naked in field)
For years now, people have been troubled over the continuing bizzare loss of honeybees to an unknown ailment. Now there is another reason to worry about the honeybee disappearing...

Honey Remedy Could Save Limbs
Brandon Keim Email 10.11.06 | 1:00 AM

When Jennifer Eddy first saw an ulcer on the left foot of her patient, an elderly diabetic man, it was pink and quarter-sized. Fourteen months later, drug-resistant bacteria had made it an unrecognizable black mess.

Doctors tried everything they knew -- and failed. After five hospitalizations, four surgeries and regimens of antibiotics, the man had lost two toes. Doctors wanted to remove his entire foot.

"He preferred death to amputation, and everybody agreed he was going to die if he didn't get an amputation," said Eddy, a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

With standard techniques exhausted, Eddy turned to a treatment used by ancient Sumerian physicians, touted in the Talmud and praised by Hippocrates: honey. Eddy dressed the wounds in honey-soaked gauze. In just two weeks, her patient's ulcers started to heal. Pink flesh replaced black. A year later, he could walk again.
Read more... )This also made me think of my grandfather who suffered for many years with a wound that he got back in WWII on a little island in the Pacific. That wound, to the best of my knowledge, never truly healed and troubled him up until his last days.


Aug. 8th, 2007 08:02 pm
semiotic_pirate: (OH NOZ!)
Global Warming Alert...

Tornado just reported on CNN as landing in the Bronx section of NYC.

semiotic_pirate: (Default)
Okay... Is the world about to end? I agree with the pope.

Pope: Creation vs. evolution an ‘absurdity’
Benedict XVI also says humans must listen to ‘the voice of the Earth’

MSNBC News Services
Updated: 2:55 p.m. ET July 25, 2007

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy - Pope Benedict XVI said the debate raging in some countries — particularly the United States and his native Germany — between creationism and evolution was an “absurdity,” saying that evolution can coexist with faith.

The pontiff, speaking as he was concluding his holiday in northern Italy, also said that while there is much scientific proof to support evolution, the theory could not exclude a role by God.

“They are presented as alternatives that exclude each other,” the pope said. “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”

He said evolution did not answer all the questions: “Above all it does not answer the great philosophical question, ‘Where does everything come from?’”

Benedict also said the human race must listen to “the voice of the Earth” or risk destroying its very existence.

The pope is wrapping up a three-week private holiday in the majestic mountains of northern Italy, where residents are alarmed by the prospect of climate change that can alter their way of life.

“We all see that today man can destroy the foundation of his existence, his Earth,” he said in a closed door meeting with 400 priests on Tuesday. A full transcript of the two-hour event was issued on Wednesday.

“We cannot simply do what we want with this Earth of ours, with what has been entrusted to us,” said the pope, who has been spending his time reading and walking in the scenic landscape bordering Austria.

Our Earth is talking to us
World religions have shown a growing interest in the environment, particularly the ramifications of climate change.

The pope, leader of some 1.1 billion Roman Catholics worldwide, said: “We must respect the interior laws of creation, of this Earth, to learn these laws and obey them if we want to survive.”

“This obedience to the voice of the Earth is more important for our future happiness ... than the desires of the moment. Our Earth is talking to us and we must listen to it and decipher its message if we want to survive,” he said.

Last April, the Vatican sponsored a scientific conference on climate change to underscore the role that religious leaders around the world could play in reminding people that willfully damaging the environment is sinful.

Reuters contributed to this story.

semiotic_pirate: (ruby slippers)
Like living in a place where you wouldn't expect tornadoes... and they happen.

Storm clouds so dark they appear black, making it seem like twighlight even though sunset is three hours away. Seeing the clouds go green tinted just before the deluge hits and the lightning and thunder - one giant bucket of water being poured out of the sky.

Gotta love Connecticut - it is like living in New England and Tornado Alley all at the same time.

Wouldn't you know it, The Rundown just came in the mail from Netflix. "a little bit of lightning, a little bit of thunder" *shakes one foot at a time for each*

In other news, got a bunch more legwork done on my business plan today. Spent two and a half hours talking stuff over with someone at the Agricultural Cooperative Extension. Good times. I could actually qualify for a grant to really do this even. Wow.
semiotic_pirate: (Default)
something I just found out about yesterday. fascinating. its a shame that the republicans got a bunch of states to ban the practice because they don't want to fight "against the world" (wouldn't that be against the people who you want/intend to represent?) or cater to anyone else, etc.

fortunately, connecticut is one of the handful of states where it is still legal. read about it here and here. I love the idea that a party can be beholden to the few percent that tip the scale in a close vote. reminds of of why OPEC controls oil prices too. strange.

hell, if we were able to do this in every vote, on every matter, including the presidency, we might not be in the shithole we are now. especially bush being president. damn.

why haven't we repealed the bans? when does the other party candidate/party decide who they give their votes to? before, or after the votes are tallied? the little people would have more power if it was after.

comments? debate? let's go people.

(yeah, I'm mostly ignoring capital letters at this point. should I go wholesale and even not capitalize I or proper names? hrm. perhaps. would it annoy the hell out of my f-list? maybe.)
semiotic_pirate: (Pirate Grrl - RIOT)
hat tip to [ profile] sunfell

Future Food
"Future Food" on Google Video
There is a revolution happening in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America -- a revolution that is transforming the very nature of the food we eat.

THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery store shelves for the past decade.

From the prairies of Saskatchewan, Canada to the fields of Oaxaca, Mexico, this film gives a voice to farmers whose lives and livelihoods have been negatively impacted by this new technology. The health implications, government policies and push towards globalization are all part of the reason why many people are alarmed by the introduction of genetically altered crops into our food supply.

Shot on location in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, THE FUTURE OF FOOD examines the complex web of market and political forces that are changing what we eat as huge multinational corporations seek to control the world's food system. The film also explores alternatives to large-scale industrial agriculture, placing organic and sustainable agriculture as real solutions to the farm crisis today.

Go here for more information. **OUTRAGE**


Jan. 17th, 2007 07:27 pm
semiotic_pirate: (OMG!  OMG!  OMG!)
We don't care who or what created the universe, the earth, or the human species... stop global warming!

US scientists, evangelicals join global warming fight
17 Jan 2007 21:10:44 GMT
Source: Reuters

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - U.S. scientists and evangelical Christian leaders joined forces on Wednesday to protect the environment from the ravages of global warming, calling on President George W. Bush and others in power to help.

"We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative," the new coalition said in a statement sent to Bush, the leaders of the House and Senate, and potential presidential candidates including Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican.

"We agree not only that reckless human activity has imperiled the Earth -- especially the unsustainable and short-sighted lifestyles and public policies or our own nation -- but also that we share a profound moral obligation to work together to call our nation, and other nations, to the kind of dramatic change urgently required in our day," the group said.

The group was organized by the National Association of Evangelicals, which has led an environmental Christian movement in the United States, and the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.

Bush is expected to offer a policy change on global warming in next Tuesday's State of the Union address, but the White House has discounted reports of a major shift. Sources familiar with Bush's plans have said he is likely to call for a big increase in U.S. ethanol use and tweak policy on climate change.

The president, long a skeptic on the human causes of global warming, acknowledged last year that human activities spur the phenomenon that has been blamed for more severe storms, rising seas, worse brushfires and longer droughts.

In last year's speech, Bush said the U.S. addiction to foreign oil was a serious problem.

American evangelicals have a tradition of social conservatism and helped Bush win the presidency, but in recent years have embraced such issues as the environment, the push for an end to the conflict in Darfur and the fight against worldwide poverty.

Dr. Eric Chivian of Harvard and Rev. Richard Cizik of the evangelical association announced the coalition and its "urgent call to action" at a news conference, held six weeks after a scientists and Christian religious leaders gathered in Georgia to discuss global climate change.

"There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, a religious or secular environment," Chivian told reporters.

"Scientists and evangelicals share a deep moral commitment to preserve this precious gift we have all been given."

One hurdle was agreeing on a way to talk about the environment. The evangelicals called it creation, and the scientists "quickly became comfortable with the term," said Jim McCarthy, a biological oceanographer at Harvard.

The group plans to craft a "pastor's toolkit" including biblical references to the need for humans to protect the environment, said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Orlando, Florida.
semiotic_pirate: (scrat eye twitching)
December 13, 2006
Flying Mammal Found From 125 Million Years Ago

innit cute?

Scientists have discovered an extinct animal the size of a small squirrel that lived in China at least 125 million years ago and soared among the trees. It is the earliest known example of gliding flight by mammals, and the scientists say it shows that mammals experimented with aerial life about the same time birds first took to the skies, perhaps even earlier.
Read more... )
semiotic_pirate: (multiple images)
December 11, 2006
In Kansas, a Line Is Drawn Around a Prairie Dog Town

RUSSELL SPRINGS, Kan., Dec. 6 — On Wednesday, the prairie dog poisoners stayed home.

Their absence, in a landscape whose contours are etched by absence — not many trees, not many hills, not many people — would have been unremarkable had it not been for the general expectation that the day would bring a climactic confrontation over the fate of the largest prairie dog colony in Kansas.

The Logan County commissioners want the prairie dogs dead. But two ranchers, Larry Haverfield and Gordon Barnhardt, and their allies in two environmental groups want the 5,500-acre colony on their property to flourish, for the good of the land and for the eventual delectation of black-footed ferrets. The ferrets, an endangered mammal, thrive on a diet of prairie dogs.

The ranchers’ defense of prairie dogs prompted bewilderment then anger in this county of about 3,100 people. Here in this red corner of a red state, where the sanctity of property rights is seldom questioned and the sanity of the government is questioned all the time, the prairie dog debate has turned everything upside down.

Some people are demanding enforcement of a century-old state law allowing the county to send exterminators onto the Haverfield and Barnhardt ranches — against the owners’ wishes but at their expense — to protect local property values.
Read more... )


I wonder if Prairie Dog is good eats? People used to keep pigeon cotes, and rabbits and so forth... why not Prairie Dogs? If they eat the same stuff that beef cattle do - grass - how bad can they be? Of course, I approve of people trying to raise cattle on grass, that is the best way to raise beef, but I don't approve of monocultures. Too delicate to protect effectively in this day and age. Really. It would be a bit more complicated but it would be safer. Food security is an important issue.


Brrr. On one hand, I could turn up the heat, on the other, I could put on anther layer or two. However, I don't want to end up like that kid in The Christmas Story.
semiotic_pirate: (ass twitch)
Got the link for this earlier - appalling.

Inuit See Signs In Arctic Thaw
String of Warm Winters Alarms 'Sentries for the Rest of the World'

By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, March 22, 2006; A01

PANGNIRTUNG, Canada -- Thirty miles from the Arctic Circle, hunter Noah Metuq feels the Arctic changing. Its frozen grip is loosening; the people and animals who depend on its icy reign are experiencing a historic reshaping of their world.

Fish and wildlife are following the retreating ice caps northward. Polar bears are losing the floes they need for hunting. Seals, unable to find stable ice, are hauling up on islands to give birth. Robins and barn owls and hornets, previously unknown so far north, are arriving in Arctic villages.
Read more... )


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