Archive for: May, 2007

If you hear someone coming into the house in the middle of the night and have a teenager...

May 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

...odds are good that someone's breaking curfew. In which case, the pistol - though tempting - should probably take a back seat to grounding.

(via Pharyngula)

4 responses so far

Volcano House

May 31 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Note: This is the second of a series of posts that I wrote while on the Big Island last weekend. Due to a lack of internet access, they were not posted at that time.

We arrived at Volcano House right after sunset tonight. The best word I can come up with to describe this place right now is "quaint." It's a small hotel. The bedrooms aren't very large, and lack pretty much every modern convenience - to be honest, I was almost surprised that the phone is touch-tone. There wasn't much of an attempt made to match the furnishings in the bedroom, but the rocking chair that I'm sitting in right now more than compensates for all of that. It's large, very solid, and made of koa wood. There are no pads or cushions, but it's one of the most comfortable chairs I've sat in for a very long time.

Downstairs, there's a very nice lounge with a lot more koa furniture and a fireplace where the fire is never put out. I'm heading down there in a few minutes to read and relax. The real treasure here isn't what's inside the hotel, though. It's what's outside. About 50 feet from the back wall of the hotel is a low stone wall. About ten feet on the other side of that is the caldera. I just walked out there and took a quick look around. It's really something to see at night.

You stand there at the edge of the caldera at night, and look out, and you see almost nothing. There are a few shrubs between you and the edge, but beyond that it's like looking off the edge of the world. There are stars above you, the light from the hotel behind you, but in front of you there is nothing at all. No lights, and all you can see are faint hints of the caldera below - subtle differences in the shades of darkness, but no distinguishable shapes.

I'd love to be able to show you, but it's hard to take a picture of nothing at all - even if an image could capture it.

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Thou Shalt Not Be Bloody Stupid

May 30 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Tara and Revere have posts up today on the story of the anonymous jackass of Air France Flight 385 and Czech Air flight 104. His story has been all over the news lately - he's the idiot with extensively drug resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) who took two intercontinental flights after being diagnosed with the disease because he didn't want to mess up his long-planned wedding in Greece, or honeymoon in Rome.

Yesterday, he told his side of the story to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, because wanted "to make sure his side of the story was heard." Reading his side of the story, I was reminded of the old saying, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and have people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." The intellectually impaired gentleman in question was a much more sympathetic figure before he tried to explain himself.

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14 responses so far

Big Island Trip 1 - the flight there.

May 29 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

Note: During my trip to the Big Island last weekend, I wrote several blog posts. I didn't have internet access, so I didn't post any of them at the time. I'm posting them now, as originally written.

The 50th State is a group of islands, and if you want to travel from one to another you're probably going to wind up flying. At the moment, there's no commercial ferry boat service between islands - one is planned, but the launch was just delayed again. Unless you're massively opposed to human flight, though, the air travel isn't that bad an experience. Our flight to Hilo was actually quite pleasant.

We booked early enough to get seats on the left side of the plane. If you're flying from Oahu to Maui or Hawaii, that's the side of the plane that usually has the scenery. (If you're flying back to Oahu from Maui or Hawaii, the right side has the view.) It's usually been either dark or cloudy (or both) when I've flown interisland, but today the weather was beautiful. This had two big benefits. There was a lot less turbulance than the last few flights, and the view of Molokai and Maui was fantastic.

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One response so far

Off to Hawaii

May 25 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

The Island of Hawaii, that is. I'm already in the state. The last time I went over there, it was to do research. This time, I'm bringing the family and we're going to have a nice little vacation. I don't know if I'll have the opportunity to blog in the evenings or not, but I will try to keep and post a daily diary for this trip.

Right now, I'm sitting in the interisland terminal at Honolulu International, waiting for our flight to be called (Hawaiian 262, nonstop to Hilo). It's a short hop from Oahu to Hawaii - about 50 minutes there, 45 minutes back. Once we land, we're going to head pretty much right for the national park. Since this is our first family vacation since my wife got back from Iraq, we decided to splurge and stay someplace nice. We've got reservations for three nights at Volcano House - a hotel that's right on the edge of Kilauea Caldera. The hotel has been rebuilt several times, but has been there in one form or another since 1866. The guest book runs several volumes, and has quite a few famous names in it (Samuel Clemens stayed there shortly after it was constructed in 1866.)

If all goes well, this should be an interesting trip. We're going to visit quite a few climate zones in the next few days, each of which has its own unique features.

2 responses so far

A quick note on comments

May 24 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I just checked the Junk folder for the comments, and found that there were quite a few legitimate comments that came in over the last few days that had been labeled as spam. The IP address blacklist that Movable Type blogs had been using to check for spam shut down recently, and apparently there are a few bugs in the system. I'll be trying to check the junk folder more frequently until the problems are resolved.

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For crying out loud . . .

May 23 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

. . . what the hell is it going to take before those flaming idiots running Congress figure out how the hell to do the right thing? Collectively, they've got the spine of a beached jellyfish, the tenacity of a chipmunk on speed, and the leadership qualities of a concussed pigeon. At this point, they're going to have to work overtime to make it to the Homer Simpson level. Right now, the only thing that they've got going for them is that they're not as bad as the Republicans. That's enough to keep me voting for them, but only just. Call me crazy, but "not as bad as Bush" just doesn't get me jumping up and down.

6 responses so far

Show me the money.

May 21 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

The Discovery Institute is (still, and predictably) in an uproar over Iowa's decision to reject Intelligent Design proponent Guillermo Gonzalez's tenure application. The DI is claiming that the decision could not possibly be anything other than an example of discrimination against a brave non-Darwinian scientist by the Darwinian Orthodoxy. Personally, I think it's something different. I think it's about the money.

According to an article that was just published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Gonzalez has not received any major research grants since arriving at Iowa. Casey Luskin of the DI points out that the tenure guidelines written by the department do not specifically mention funding as a requirement for research. That is true, but irrelevant. I've never heard of a tenure committee at a research university that does not look at outside funding.

Casey claims that if Iowa is using funding, it's clearly just an ad-hoc reason invented to deny an otherwise qualified candidate tenure. It's not. A professor's ability to get outside research funding is a very good indicator of how well they will perform at a research university. Here's why:

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24 responses so far

Species and The Economist

May 21 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

The Economist is normally my favorite weekly news magazine. It has a much broader focus than any of the major American publications, covers topics in more depth, and uses a vocabulary that goes beyond the 6th grade level. Every now and then, though, they come out with something that makes you wonder what the hell they were thinking - and this week is one of those times.

Their recent opinion piece on species and conservation (which was also picked up by the Wall Street Journal) was written by someone whose head was so far up - well, let's just say that their scalp's not getting a lot of sunlight, and leave it at that. The basic thesis of the article is that well-intentioned scientists are splitting single species into multiple species in order to make more populations eligible for conservation efforts. PZ Myers and Loren Coleman have already weighed in on this dreck, but neither seems to be quite as outraged as I am. That's probably because I've got a slightly different perspective than they do - Coleman is a cryptozoologist, and Myers is a developmental biologist. My own research has been in an area of biology called molecular ecology, which is the field responsible for most of the species splitting that The Economist takes to task.

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19 responses so far

A political ad really can change perceptions

May 08 2007 Published by under Uncategorized

I saw my first political TV ad of the 2008 season last night while watching Countdown. It was a Mitt Romney ad, and it really changed the way I see him. Before I saw it, my impression was that Mitt's a guy who is willing to jettison any belief, change any position in order to win the Presidency - in other words, a younger, better-looking John McCain. After watching the ad, my impression shifted a bit - from "typical politician" to "what a frigging tool."

If you haven't seen it, the spot in question is available on Romney's website. Personally, I wouldn't recommend it, but you should go for it if you're in the mood for painfully bad. The theme of the spot is "I like to veto." In it, Romney promises to cap all non-defense discretionary spending at the rate of inflation minus one percent, says that he'll veto any budget that hits his desk that exceeds that, says that he likes to veto, brags about the vetoing he's done as governor, and finishes by saying that he can't wait to get to DC and start vetoing things.

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26 responses so far

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