Digital Chum - Virtual fish guts and other nonsense

August, 2011:

Anti-science? No surprise there.

Denying realityPaul Krugman had an editorial today in the New York Times about the decidedly anti-science bent of the Republican party… or at least of the current crop of candidates. John Huntsman seems to be the only candidate grounded in actual scientific reality at the moment. Romney was, too, but now he’s hedging.

When it comes to science, Republicans seem to have no problem with things like atomic theory, gravitational theory, germ theory, physics, chemistry, etc. The problem is just when it comes to science that reaches conclusions that don’t mesh well with their ideology (or the ideology of their base). The obvious mentions are evolution and climate change, both of which are supported by an astounding amount of evidence, yet both of which cause Republicans some discomfort; one on political note and one on a theological note. But rather than acting responsibly and dealing with the reality the science represents, they attack the science or the scientists or the data or (more often) the make-believe stories conjured up as easily-attackable straw men.

Sadly, Huntsman is way behind in the polls, so that leaves either the outright anti-science group or Romney, who has, in a politically stereotypical move, hedged his bets on science in an attempt to placate the Republican base. That leaves the party with pretty lame options. As Krugman says in his editorial…

So it’s now highly likely that the presidential candidate of one of our two major political parties will either be a man who believes what he wants to believe, even in the teeth of scientific evidence, or a man who pretends to believe whatever he thinks the party’s base wants him to believe.

Phil Plait, on his Bad Astronomy blog, follows up on Krugman’s piece with a few more details on some of the candidates, and with this thought…

[Huntsman] recently said he thinks both evolution and global warming are real. This makes me sad, and scared. Why? Because this statement is considered bold.

How can it be bold to accept reality, to not deny the overwhelming evidence, and to agree with the vast, vast majority of scientists studying the very topics of discussion?

Huntsman wants his party not to be "the antiscience party". But that shouldn’t be bold. That should be common sense.

It should be common sense. Sadly, for most of the Republican presidential candidates, it seems to be neither common nor sensible.

Review: The Blind Watchmaker

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m not a fan of Dawkins’s writing, as he tends to ramble and go off on tangents that are related to his main point, but sometimes only marginally… and they go on far too long.

There was plenty of good information about evolution in the book, but it was tough to stay with it because of the asides and meanderings. There are much better books on the topic (even his own The Greatest Show on Earth is better, though it suffers from the same problems). In the end, the point that evolution is not a product of random chance is sufficiently made and explained, which is, after all, the intent of the book, so it is successful on that note.

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Calliope Klenk

My sister and brother-in-law just got a new Pembroke Welsh Corgi puppy, so I had to go see her and I figured a bit of video was in order.

I shot this with my Kodak Playsport at 720p resolution and edited it using HitFilm Ultimate.

How far we’ve fallen

With two notable exceptions, the Republican candidates really need to take a page from Woodrow Wilson’s playbook.

Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.

Woodrow Wilson
Letter to Winterton C. Curtis (29 August 1922)


Update: Sadly, it seems Romney is hedging on the science, presumably to pander to the science deniers that tend to inhabit the Republican base and the Tea Party. He said, “Do I think the world’s getting hotter? Yeah, I don’t know that but I think that it is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.”

As I’ve said before, if you want to argue policy, that’s fine, but do it honestly. Don’t try to discredit the science just because you don’t like related policy suggestions.

Curse those scientists!

A bit of sarcasm from Phil Plait.

Bachmann wins Iowa straw poll

FacepalmMichele Bachmann won the Iowa straw poll on Saturday, beating Ron Paul by a narrow margin. I’m not really that surprised, but I am disheartened. She won with a total of 4,823 votes (over Paul’s 4,671). However, by some reports, she gave away 6,000 vote tickets herself, tickets which normally cost $30, so the people who voted for her didn’t have to shell out the $30 themselves, so as the Hot Air article says, it’s "not exactly a big endorsement."

However, just the fact that there are 4,823 people, in Iowa alone, who are willing to vote for this woman (whether it cost them $30 or not) is what I find disheartening. This is the woman who has touted theocratic views, anti-equality views, anti-scientific views, and just general nonsense (including revisionist (read "false") history) on a regular basis for years, putting her ignorance and bigotry on display for all to see… and people still want to vote for her.

That someone like this is given even passing consideration for political office is a sad statement about our country.

2004’s Catwoman was really bad

I was going to title this post “Halle Berry’s Catwoman was really bad” but I really didn’t want to blame Halle Berry for it.

I just watched the last 30 minutes or so of the movie on HBO and it reminded how how incredibly awful it was. The story itself… not so bad. Everything else… horrid.

The lighting is off. The camera angles are jarring and seemingly random. The writing seems like it was written by a 14-year-old comic book freak. The acting is even really, really bad… but that could be because of the writing. Some lines can’t be well-delivered no matter how good the actor.

There are times when Halle Berry does a great job being cat-like… expressions, movement, etc. But most of the time, it’s just over the top.

…like she’s possessed by Jim Carrey.



Coffee MugOne reason I look forward to the weekend is being able to drink my morning coffee out of a real coffee cup instead of a travel mug in the car.

Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne weaves a great story, interspersed with somewhat tedious observations about geology, paleontology, and evolution (thought not nearly as tedious as the repetitive classifications of aquatic life found in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). The characters are interesting, though the narrator (who is the nephew of the intrepid professor) tends to be whiny and overly dramatic (read “drama queen”) about the perils they are facing, sometimes to the chagrin of his uncle.

I was somewhat disappointed in the ending, and the book should properly be re-titled Journey a Small Percentage of the Way to the Center of the Earth but the story was entertaining, nevertheless. Verne is great at weaving stories in a way that makes it easy for you to imagine being in them yourself, and Journey is no exception.

I listened to the unabridged audio version of the book read by Tim Curry (making the book all the better, in my opinion!).

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Review: Footfall

Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Footfall by Larry Niven
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was perhaps the most tedious science fiction book I’ve ever read… or listened to (I had the audio book). The book had way too many “main” characters, most of whom had no bearing on the outcome of the book. Some seemed completely pointless. The alien names were unnecessarily complex and having a section of the book describing their language and its construction seemed self indulgent (of the authors) and tedious.

The book suffered from a lack of coherent story line, uninteresting characters, pointless dialogue, and unbelievable events. The premise was interesting (alien invasion), but the execution was poor.

I give it two stars only because the narrator of the audio book (MacLeod Andrews) was simply spectacular. His narration was the reason I was able to suffer through the book to the (disappointing) ending.

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