Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Day Scandal!

Well, it's official.  Santa's star player, Rudolph, will not be able to guide the sleigh this Christmas.  Apparently, Rudy has tested positive for RGH, reindeer growth hormone, and has received a holiday-season suspension.

This is the latest in a series of scandals to have rocked the reindeer pen at the North Pole.  From Blitzen's public struggles with alcohol abuse to Prancer's admitted cocaine addiction, it seems like the days when reindeer were all about innocence during Christmas are over.  All eight of the females in the original team (and this is an interesting bit of trivia: female reindeer have antlers, and all Santa's reindeer, save Rudolph, are female -- which is part of why you put him in the very front; if you put him anywhere else, there could be a problem!) have come forward with tales of personal or emotional struggles that have made a simple thing like pulling a sleigh through the air at Mach 3 seem overtly complicated.  Donner, who came out of the closet as gay three years ago, and still maintaining she's in love with Dancer, who refuses to speak with her, is not bowing to pressure from the American Family Association to recant her statement.  Comet, a long-time opponent of global warming, who had her paddock fall through the ice last year, is still maintaining that was due to a fluke warm-water current.

And here we thought nothing would be more annoying to Santa than Cupid being diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1987.

It's hard to fault Rudolph.  He's even older than Brett Favre, and has to find some way to keep going year after year.  And with all the young reindeer who have been showing up with the characteristic bright, shiny nose (which is a scandal in and of itself), there seems to be no shortage of potential replacements.  Word is that with Rudolph out, Santa has turned to the Russian Caribou, Alexi Akhnigoyovich, to temporarily take point on the sleigh.  There should be no language barrier with the new acquisition, as Santa himself, who wears a red suit and makes lists of people who are naughty and nice, is of course as fluent in Russian as any other Marxist-Leninist.

So here's  hoping the best for Santa's reindeer.  Hopefully, Vixen's gonorrhea won't attract a cruise missile over Afghanistan.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Shroud of Turin? Seriously?

Well, it's just been reported in the news that a team of "researchers" (I will not dignify them by calling them scientists) have come forward with the claim that the Shroud of Turin is authentic.  The incredible part isn't that a bunch of religiously motivated people have attempted to twist science into confirming their faith.  That nonsense has been going on ever since before Darwin turned the cannon of science against religion 151 years ago.  What's incredible is that so many reporters would report it as though it were at all credible!

Now, everyone knows that radiocarbon dating put the shroud's age at between 1260 and 1390 C.E., thus making it a medieval forgery.  But these researchers say that the sample of the cloth used to make this measurement was likely taken from a piece that was likely repaired with newer material after a fire burned parts of the shroud.

If the PolitiFact meter were put on that one, it would say, "Pants On Fire!"

Shown above, is the shroud itself.  It's not as large as I would have liked, but it will do.  That white rectangle in the lower left is where scientists clipped a 2" by 8" section which could be atomized for the Carbon-14 test.  It's pretty obvious that this section is contiguous with the rest of the cloth.  And if that's not enough, there's a PBS documentary that filmed the section being scissored out, and anyone can see bloody well that it's not a "repaired section."

But just for the sheer hell of it, let's play along.  Let's say the shroud breaks with every Jewish tradition in folding the body up in a single piece of cloth (not done) folded the long way (also not done) and leaving a narrow, two-dimensional imprint pattern, as if the ultraviolet rays emitted from Jesus upon resurrection only went in a single parallel, straight up or straight down, rather than in a dispersed, outwardly-radiating pattern (as you might expect) which would have created an unrecognizably darkened smear instead of a photograph.  You then have a scriptural problem.

The Book of John, chapter 20, verses 6 and 7 clearly state that Jesus' burial cloth was in strips, not a single piece, and that a separate burial cloth had been around Jesus' head.  So, logically, we have only three choices:  1.) This passage from The Book of John is fake, 2.) The Shroud of Turin is fake, 3.) They are both fake!  The only option we do not have is that either of these things support Christianity!

So go on, you stupid reporters, and uncritically pass along this story without one, single guffaw.  Oh, how I miss Christopher Hitchens at this moment.  Hell, I miss H.L. Mencken!

Meanwhile, most high school graduates in America can't find Italy on a map, much less Turin.  Now you tell ME which is the more important story!


Friday, December 16, 2011

Brrring!!! Here's Your Wake-Up Call!

Lots of stuff to talk about, but they all revolve around one, basic theme:

It's time for a wake-up call!

Brrrrring!  Here's your wake-up call regarding education in America.  Iran has captured a billion-dollar spy drone.  And why?  Was it shot down?  Lucky grenade-launcher shot?  NO!  It was captured because the Iranians, these backwater, third-world, religious hacks with nothing to offer but oil, out-thought us in computer software technology!  They hacked US? Yes, THEY HACKED US!  And not only did they hack us, they hacked the most cutting-edge piece of expensive-assed technology in our military arsenal!  Imagine!  On the eve of the era of robotic warfare, Iran, fucking IRAN, mind you, has up-ended us!

This happened because we have been lax in our education standards.  Not enough boarding schools in the inner city, poor education quality, cutting of funding at critical junctures, teachers unions having incompetent leaders, and bringing down slash-and-burn Republicans down upon all of us as a direct result.  Hell-LO!  We'd better start thinking of high school as middle school and college as high school, or we're in big trouble!  We'll end up getting more third-world hackers upending us!  And when the inevitable day arrives when we have robotic drones defending our freedom, we'll find some Islamic terrorist hacking our own robots and turning them upon our own cities.  Or worse, Israel.

Brrrring!  This is your wake-up call regarding so-called American supremacy!  The United States can no longer sit back on its haunches and assume that we are leaders in world technology.  Hell, we're not even leaders in world economy anymore!  And unless we want our military weapons built in China, with software designed in India, we'd better get off our asses and quit playing around!  That means we're ALL going back to school.  Not just me!  It doesn't matter how old or young you are.  We're all re-taking technology 101.  Because right now, we're still believing that desk-top computers are cool.  Hell, Bill Gates built his company when everybody else was still ga-ga over digital watches!  No, our smart phones and iPads are going to take over, and that means any terrorist hacker will have immediate access to everyone's belt-clip and waistline!  Unless we wake up!

Brrrring!  No more playing around with science and technology!  If we're going to survive, as a nation, as a people, if democracy is going to have even a snowball's chance in hell, then we've got to stop pretending that science isn't science, and learn what's really true.  No more creationism being taught to kids in high school and hoping our colleges and universities eventually clean up the mess!  No more failure to recognize the brain as defining the being by fooling ourselves into thinking that conception is the place to draw the line regarding new life.  No more wishing, hoping, and yes, even praying, that global warming is a hoax.  Science, people!  Not politics!

And speaking of which...  Brrrring!  Here's your wake-up call regarding the general scientific ignorance surrounding steroids in sports.  Oh, yes!  There's a connection, here.  We're all stunned over the Ryan Braun  allegedly positive test for (it's assumed) anabolic steroids.  But as I dealt with in a previous post, false positives for drug tests are a real danger in any profession.  Especially with sports, because what makes a great athlete great is a naturally high level of testosterone, above and beyond what the normal person has.  That means a false positive for testosterone is just one fluke chemical imbalance or incompetent lab tech away.  And the best athletes will always be at the greatest risk.

Am I calling Ryan Braun innocent?  He's innocent until proven guilty, yes!  But what I'm really trying to say is, the same general scientific ignorance that let one of our billion-dollar drones get hacked is quite possibly the same thing that let our million-dollar athlete get jacked!  One incompetent fool in the wrong place at the wrong time can cost us big!  Having too few science professionals and too many incompetent technicians virtually guarantees it!  And if having terrorists gain control of our military doesn't scare the piss out of you, then maybe losing our star sports hero for 1/3rd of an entire baseball season will.

Brrrring!  Here's your wake-up call regarding how silly it is to put sports above the stuff that really matters!

Enough with the scientific ignorance already!

Finally, let's all say a non-prayer for a hero of fighting scientific ignorance, who came forward to shake up our culture at exactly the right time.  Christopher Hitchens, the landmark journalist and unabashed atheist, just passed away at the age of 62.  Let's face it, 62 is young, these days.  If you haven't read Hitch-22, please do so.  He gave us all a wake-up call.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Christmas Card Conundrum

It's that time of year again.  (I don't really need to describe it, do I?)  And with all the shopping for presents and hubbub, there's the inevitable barrage of (ugh!) Christmas cards.

The problem with holiday cards can best be summed up this way:  Suppose I want to send people cards.  I make out a list of people to send cards to, and send them out, thinking that I'm doing something nice.  But, without fail, there are always a few inconsiderate boobs who end up sending me a card when I didn't send them a card, making me look callous and insensitive to those nice people.  Meanwhile, all those who received a card from me who didn't send me a card in return feel guilty due to the fact that I sent them a card, but didn't get one in return.  It seems like the number of people who got cards from me but didn't reciprocate, and who sent me cards when I didn't send them one, always outnumbers the people who got cards from me and sent one in return!  So, to those few friends of mine who were nice enough to NOT send me a Christmas card this year when I didn't send them one either, I decide to reward by sending a card next year!

You know what? Screw that.  Now you all know why I don't bother with Christmas cards.

I don't much bother with cards in general, either.  The people who send them mean well, I know they do.  It's just that they think they're sending me a little piece of paper to let me know that they're thinking of me, when in reality they're sending a piece of paper to convince themselves they're doing something nice to a person they probably don't know very well and to whom they can't think of anything to say in a meaningful letter or e-mail.  So, I get this sappy little message which I didn't ask for, and don't particularly want, which is supposed to make me all warm-and-fuzzy, when all it really does is put me in an ethical dilemma over whether or not I keep this useless item in permanent storage in a shoe-box, there to be toted by me from apartment to apartment and residence to residence for all eternity, or whether I have to subject myself to permanent guilt by throwing it in the trash.  This is doing something nice for me?  I didn't ask for this huge responsibility to be thrown upon my shoulders!

For this reason, I dispensed with the feeling of guilt over cards a long time ago.  They go out with the sale ads, un-clippped coupons, and overdue tuition notices.  If I get one, I smile, then throw it away without a second thought.  The nice person who sent me one isn't really going to police what I do with it by stopping over and asking where on the mantle her card is being displayed (unless she's a Jewish grandmother), so why should I mind getting rid of it?  For that matter, why should anyone else, especially the sender?

Not that I don't, at some level, appreciate getting a card.  As I say, there is some genuine good feeling behind the act of sending one.  But if it's going to make my friend feel guilty about eventually throwing it out, why send it in the first place?  My more rational friends realize this.  They never send me cards, and I gratefully show my appreciation of this by never sending them cards either.  Not for birthdays, not for graduations, not for holidays.  It's quite a relief, actually, to have such understanding friends who are so good as to be pleasant enough to spend time with, but who will never stuff my mailbox with clutter.  Life is good.

Sometimes I rather like getting a card.  For example, I got one recently from the National Center for Science Education, signed by Dr. Eugenie Scott and her wonderful staff.  Now THAT'S a card I intend to keep in my files for all eternity, not just because such a prestigious organization would bother with me, but because those are all people I really love over there.  And if some future biographers feel that I actually merit attention, and want to go through my things, they'll find that card, and know how genuinely close I felt to all those kindred souls.  Beautiful!  A card, when given in the right way, and given for the right reason, at the right time, can be a good thing!

Nevertheless, there are always people who think that giving a card is some ubiquitous thing that is to be done whenever one wants to give the appearance of being nice, and that's hardly being nice at all, in my estimation.  Just yesterday I received a card from the office staff at work, most of whom go about their business in a different building from me, and who haven't seen me in a little over three years.  They all signed it.  I know that this was meant as a gesture to make me feel welcomed, part of the team, one of the family, etc.  But really it's just a corporate gimmick designed to make me feel happier in a job that is far beneath my talents and abilities, and pays me according to that standard.  I'm certainly not the only employee to receive such a card.  Everyone, from the janitorial staff to the cafeteria cooks, got one.  So how really special is it then?  I honestly don't know which is worse: that this supposedly nice gesture came about as a result of corporate edict inflicted upon everyone by the boss from on-high, or that a percentage of resources, which at least included purchasing costs and the five or ten minutes (at least) of each staff member's hourly wage that everyone had to sacrifice in order to sign all these cards together.  I could think of far better uses for their time, and considerably far better uses for the money!  I'm thinking, just to get back at them, that I should send them a huge glossy saying "Merry Christmas!" with an overtly flamboyant flower bouquet.  That would certainly serve them right, wouldn't it!

On second thought, nah.  They wouldn't understand.  They'd probably just send me an even bigger card next year.