Blitzed

http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/news/article_9d4a1d0e-f4d1-11de-8edf-001cc4c002e0.html
So this woman in South Dakota has registered a 0.708 blood alcohol level. For reference, a standard limit is from 0.05-0.08 and the LD50 (lethal dose for half a population) is 0.5. Not only that but she was caught behind the wheel of a stolen car. She was obviously hospitalized and eventually released on bond only to be picked up again drunk and behind the wheel of a stolen car. This woman is clearly a winner. I mean i've been pretty wasted before but i've clearly never been close to this woman. Furthermore when i'm that far gone i'm lucky if i can even tie my shoes much less steal a car. I guess there is the possibility that she got drunk after stealing the vehicle but i mean really...do people do that. Is this like a normal night out for her? She didn't even steal a NICE car...she stole a delivery truck. This makes me think she must have been drunk before the theft...thats what i call a functional alcoholic. Patrick OUT!!!

New Link

Quick ...look right and click the link in the side bar to add me to your google reader so you never fall behind on my ramblings. Patrick OUT!!!

Homeopathy sucks

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/12/22/Why-Skeptics-Love-to-Hate-Homeopathy.aspx

This article is fantastic. Its by a one, Amy L. Lansky whose CV you can find here http://www.renresearch.com/vita.html. Of course in this context when I say fantastic I really mean, its a steaming pile of unintelligent batshit crazy bullshit.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and declare that Amy Lansky is a "singularity of stupid." She has a PhD in computer science from stanford which goes to show you that a PhD doesn't make you smart and that being around smart people doesn't make you one. I know its the holidays but i just couldn't resist pointing out this small minded dolt. Merry Christmas everyone (even you Amy). Patrick OUT!!!  

Gifts (with links)

So its that time of year when we all try and find the perfect gift for every important person in our lives. I'm not sure if its just me but I love to give gifts but I HATE to give bad gifts. Its a lot of pressure. Also, I'm not very good at receiving gifts. In fact, I can hardly think of a more horrible person to buy something for than me. Its not that i'm unappreciative of the things its just that I often think it silly that we manufacture this sort of gift giving social contract. I suppose I always get stuck on this idea that a gift should fill a need (or desire) and if it doesn't its not worth giving. So with that little thing in mind, to give a good gift you really need to know someone's actual needs and i think that is something most people don't know. We might know someones hobbies or their favorite foods but i think its rare that we know precisely the item that was lacking in another persons life. I know that for me, there is very little that I need. If someone out there has a sweet post-doctoral appointment for the next couple of years...I do need that...and I forgot to ask Santa for it. So in the tradition of last year, i would encourage you all to look for a charity to donate to so that actual NEEDS can be met during this holiday season. Of course, I'll give you some good options if you can't decide on your own.

New Lambo

This is now officially on my christmas list...you've all been notified.
http://www.dreyx.com/2009/12/lamborghini-ankonian.html
Patrick OUT!!!

Cocktail Redefined

Awesome bartending video...i've never seen stuff like this. Patrick OUT!!!

Gaydar

http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2009/12/people_identify_the_sexual_ori.php?utm_source=selectfeed&utm_medium=rss
So apparently "Gay-dar" is real and quick...but not very accurate. I would have never guessed. Sometimes science is just neat.
Patrick OUT!!! 

Hitchens on History

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=4223

Great Video at the Link Above
Patrick OUT!!!

Zicam is NOT Homeopathy

Zicam is NOT Homeopathy

The above link is one of the greatest things I've seen in a long while. I'm posting it because I think that people who read this blog regularly envision that I just have a thing against religion but in reality I have a think against any sort of hocus-pocus hand waving, religion is just the most common example. Here we have homeopathy in relation to the intranasal spay, Zicam. Zicam is a suspension of Zinc gluconate which has been the focus of lawsuits because people are losing their sense of smell after using it. The beauty of the above link is that while homeopathy is a steaming pile of disingenuous shit, i can't help but agree with the majority of what these people are saying here. They are totally honest and I believe that any thinking person could read that and come to the same conclusion. 
Of course they are trying to distance themselves from Zicam (which claims to be a homeopathic cure). Of course, a homeopathic cure could NEVER cause such an effect. Why you ask? Because homeopathy, while pretty stupid, is perfectly safe. How do I know this? Because homeopathy is WATER. Its based on some pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo that claims the "law of similars." The homeopaths explain it better than me though,
"To choose the proper remedy for a given patient, one must thoroughly understand his condition, and then choose the remedy that best matches it homeopathically.  Imagine the way your eyes and nose feel when you chop onions.  If you can imagine having a case of hay fever that feels just like that, a tiny dose of a remedy made from raw onion will help that hay fever." 
Wow, that is total crap. Of course hay fever (an over active histamine induced allergic reaction) is in no way similar to the teary eyes you get from cutting an onion (caused by gaseous sulfinic acids that irritate your eyes). If you yourself are a homeopath devotee let me put it a little simpler, "ONIONS DON'T CAUSE HAY FEVER."
But it gets better, you see the principle behind homeopathy is that dilute solutions of toxins can cure the ailments they would cause if they were more concentrated. Again, they state,
"Yes, some homeopathic remedies are made from substances that are poisonous in large doses.  But as homeopathic remedies, they are administered in such minute quantities that they are completely non-toxic.  We occasionally get phone calls from panic-stricken parents whose children have just eaten a whole bottle of a remedy.  They taste good!  These "overdoses" are NEVER harmful.  There just isn't enough of the substance to cause chemical toxicity"
See here's the deal, most homeopathic remedies are so dilute that you would be surprised to find even a single molecule of any active component left in it.  So the problem with Zicam is that it actually has too much of an active compound to be homepathic. They would prefer it have NO active compound, at least it would be non-toxic. Little side note, my PhD advisor likes to use Zicam and was pissed when they took it off the market...I'm not sure whats more disappointing, she was using a claimed homeopathic cure or something that has been known to potentially eliminate your sense of smell since the late 1930s. This is what I deal with. 

The last part was the little author bio, where the two people claim to be naturopathic doctors. One of my favorite sayings in regards to the PhD is that, "you're a doctor, but not the kind that helps people." I would take that any day over the appropriate ND conversion that would be, "you're a doctor that fools people." Of course, they've been to "accredited" naturopathic medical schools. I had to find out where the closes one is and its close, The University of Bridgeport. Apparently it really is accredited and issues degrees of this sort. Not only that, but REAL doctors can be accredited as naturopathic medical professionals. HOW CAN THIS BE POSSIBLE. Your tax dollars are going towards accreditation programs for people who think that dilute solutions of onion-water can cure hay fever. This is CRAZY. Thankfully, Massachusetts is NOT on the list of places that currently offers such licensure to naturopathic "doctors." I can't imagine how you can go through 4 years of medical school learning the complex inner workings of the body and come out still believing that a drink of water is going to effectively cure any serious disease. Thats like going through 4 years of English literature training and declaring your favorite book to be, "Red Fish, Blue Fish." Yikes! Patrick OUT!!!

Why Academia Sucks

Had a chat with my advisor today about what i was going to do next year...yikes. Side note: don't ask me what I'm going to do next year...if i haven't told you then i don't know yet. I know you're interested or feel you should be interested but really i won't feel bad if it seems like you don't give a shit because its better than me feeling like i have no idea whats going on (closer to the truth). Anyways, back to the topic at hand. She asked and so I was forced to answer and talk about getting a position in academia. The chances of landing a position in academia are SLIM. There are way more PhDs out there than there are faculty positions (especially ones at major research universities). She encouraged me to still try and get a faculty position at some point noting that I would have an easier time because I was American...not sure i want to get a position because I'm American, rather than being the best candidate and I can't imagine that being American makes you the best candidate automatically. That's another issue though that I really don' t have the patience to discuss. 
Of course, the question in the first place is...do I want a faculty position? For the last five years I've trained myself to say, "yes" because that's what other faculty want to hear. Its like its part of their DNA to tell people they should get a PhD and become faculty someplace. I don't get it. They encourage all sorts of people to go for a PhD and pump up their egos and never mention the fact that getting a job with that degree is tough. Doesn't seem quite right to me. I fall into the same boat, 3 years ago with my committee lauding praise in an attempt to get me to stick around for a PhD. I know for a fact now that there was no way they could have known the ability i would have to complete the whole thing or to eventually get a position. I think stuff has worked out OK but it was just as likely that I could have been a total loser who was goaded into wasting time on a worthless degree or no degree at all. That's a pretty big risk to take with someone else's life. Sure its up to each person to decide for themselves , but young folks in the beginning of grad school are easily taken advantage of due to insecurity, power issues, and fear of the real world. Faculty need to be more mindful of this and be realistic with their students. 
Back to what I want to do...faculty or not? I have BIG issues with academia today. I think the first is the type of people that academia attracts. Sure you've got lots of really brilliant people and lots of not so clever folks. The problem is that just about everyone thinks their the former even if they're the later. What this amounts to is a lot of people in a room who are so used to being the smartest one and never having to say they screwed up or were wrong. I know there are some readers out there who are right now thinking, "so whats the problem, Patrick, you'll fit right in." True. I can't argue that one much more except to say that at least i recognize the problem and don't want to be a part of it. 
The second problem with academia is that across the country the people that run universities are academics. The people that run the place should be managers. Its not accidental that the heads of big pharmaceutical companies start out as PhDs but eventually become MBAs. Universities  should be the same way. A department head is a manager and he/she should be hired not for his skills at the lab bench but for his/her ability to inspire people, bridge communication gaps, set direction/policy, and implement plans. As a cocky scientist, i don't want to work for another scientists...i want to work for someone who has a skill set that is NOT my own. 
Lastly, academia sucks because you need contrived reasons for funding. With industry the reason is simple and consistent, "we want to make more money." With academia you have a problem you want to study and the reason is (and should be) because you were curious but the reason you tell the NIH/NSF is that you want to study it because it has implications for global warming, or it will help cure a rare disease amongst the southwestern albino Eskimos. Yeah right. Big pharma scientists might be sellouts but at least they're honest about it. Don't get me wrong, industry sucks too...just not sure i'm right for academia at the moment. 
Maybe I should just be more positive. Academia is nice because you get to wear funny robes every so often and after a few years you pretty much can't be fired. Always some upside i guess. Patrick OUT!!!

Way to go Nell

The woman in this video makes a very valid point and she tells it like it is. Asking, "What makes the Vatican holy?" Should the children abused by priests still refer to a priest as, "father?" Of course the archbishop flounders in his response because there is no defense for the actions of the catholic church...shameful. Patrick OUT!!!

Getting older everyday

Last night I watched the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary concert. It had the feel of a benefit concert, lots of big name acts coming out performing their biggest hits. The different thing was that just about every act had some sort of other hall of fame name come out and perform with them. Some of these pairings really worked, Metallica/Ozzy Osbourne and others didn't do so well. The highlight for me was definitely the U2/Fergie/will.i.am/Mick Jagger singing "Gimme Shelter." I would say i'm a big fan of the rolling stones (that song in particular), a fan of U2 and I generally thing that Fergie sucks. This time though, fergie was great in the chorus sections and really shined there. She was a bit of a diva but i suppose you really need to be when you're on stage with Bono AND Mick Jagger. The highlight though was 66 year old Mick, strutting around like a cocky 20 something...never missing a beat. Sure he looks a bit like a skeleton, and you worry he might break a hip but in reality, i hope i'm that lucky. I think if I started practicing my over the top strut now, by 66 i could be half as good as Jagger. 
Another of my favorite acts was also there, Crosby Stills and Nash. They should probably consider hanging it up for good. The beauty of their music is the harmonies they produce and that was almost entirely gone from this performance. They just couldn't exactly hold it together and it doesn't quite work. For them, I'll stick to the original albums and not worry about seeing them live. Other highlights included Sam Moore (still awesome), Buddy Guy (just great), Jeff Beck (rocks a guitar so hard it should be illegal), and Bruce Springsteen (who is just the best performer out there). Patrick OUT!!!

Gervais on Genesis

Ricky Gervais on the Bible...hilarious.

Patrick OUT!!!

Sharia Law Explained

The video below is very powerful but also contains VERY GRAPHIC images. Its message is quite simple and should be a wake-up call to anyone who doubts the power that religion has to explicitely motivate the most inhumane acts imaginable.

Patrick OUT!!!

Hot Stuff

For a good long time I was really into backpacking and camping and all of that. I still probably camp 5-10 weekends a year in some form or another but its not like it was a few years back. I think there are two schools of thought in regards to camping. The first is, "How much can I replicate the comforts of home and still be outside." The second is, "How little can I bring and not die of exposure." I am all about the second theory. I don't want to bring anything unnecessary but I also don't want to die. For me that means, things that do double duty, things that are durable, and things that solve problems in a creative and useful way. For years, to cook food (because one can not live on pop-tarts alone), I used a really great MSR simmerlite stove. Its a standard white gas stove that I really enjoyed because it was pretty dependable, well built, and entirely FIELD SERVICEABLE. I never had it break down or let me down...even in some pretty harsh conditions (think subzero, blizzard conditions). And yet, I wanted more.
The MSR stove is a great product but its heavy. The stove and a half bottle of fuel (smallest bottle they make) weighs in at  1.5 lbs. At one point, I could pack for a summer trip and have everything I was going to take (tent, sleeping bag, food, fuel, clothes, backpack, etc) weigh in at 20-25 lbs. That means that the stove was accounting for a whopping 6% of my total pack weight. NOT COOL.
Thats when I discovered my first alcohol stove in the gear inventory of an AT thru-hiker. I soon made my own and have now made 10-15 of them. They are constructed from two pepsi-can bottoms and some high-temp epoxy. When all is said and done...they often weight less than an ounce (1/50th of the MSR stove). Fuel is just ethanol which makes it a "greener" stove than the MSR (no foreign petrolium here). With boiling a cup or two of water they can easilly compete with the MSR in terms of speed (though their heat output is significantly less). For just one person they are perfect. I recently found that you can buy the same one that I make on ebay for more than $10 which is a pretty good turn around for a half hour of time and 45 cents worth of materials. If you camp and you want one...let me know. Patrick OUT!!! 

Jail Time...really?

 
The new health insurance initiative includes penalties for going without health insurance...which may or may not include jail time. I can't help but be brought back to the visions of Ayn Rand and her descriptions of governmental power by force. That is the only group in society that can take what is your by the threat of physical harm is the government. In that sense, we should limit the power of the government. Now, I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the health care debate and I don't know enough about this bill to really be able to comment on it but I would have a hard time supporting jail time for people without health insurance. Why should it be that the government can threaten you with physical harm to force the purchase of a product (don't forget, health insurance is a product like any other). If they want to provide an affordable version of that product than so be it but don't make me buy yours or anyone elses. In return, I'll absolve the government of its responsibility to look after my health at all. ; ) Patrick OUT!!!

Craft Brew per Capita


I think this map might be my new guide for where my next job should be. Montana, Oregon, Maine...anyone? Patrick OUT!!!

Post-doc ho

Looks like my perfect policy fellowship is no longer a possibility...alas, not eligible until NEXT year. So what now? Well back to plan B (now plan A). I need a job in 10 months. What sort of job? I need a post-doc or maybe a job in industry. Here's what I need out of that job. I need Independence. I've been spoiled as a grad student by having mentors who have been largely absent and yet trusting. After only about one and a half years, my advisor left on a two year sabbatical and my other advisor became an associate dean which left me on my own. Heavenly to say the least...both too busy to be concerned with my day to day comings and goings. I need that again. I need a place where I feel pressured to get shit done and a lab with research that can move faster. I'm getting frustrated with my experiments that i can't speed up at all. I need a system that is quicker and more instantly satisfying than what I've got now. Weeks of experimental prep is no good...i want a time scale of days. Also, i don't want to be in Worcester any more, though I'll miss parts of it. I want people around me that are all working on facets of a similar problem and that are able to provide suggestions and criticism of what I'm doing. I want to diverge from my current research. I need to be more biochemistry and less physiology (he's a little bit country, I'm a little bit rock and roll). I want a lab that is truly collaborative where I can dip into other projects with ideas and get a taste for a lot of little things besides my own work. That being said, if anyone knows of a lab in need of a post-doc...let me know...I'm open to lots of things. Labs in southern California and Hawaii are highly encouraged to contact me. Patrick OUT!!!

Chronicle

Last night I returned home early enough to tune into "Chronicle" on WCVB. For those not from my neck of the woods, Chronicle is a "news magazine" program on television that covers lots of the comings and goings of New Englanders. Last nights episode was concerned with the rise in non-believers in new England. In general it was pretty good, they had some humanists (read: atheists for those not scared of the word), and even a nun on to discuss the role that religion or non-religion plays in peoples lives. The best moments of the broadcast were the explanation of how important it was that President Obama mentioned non-believers in a number of key speeches (including his inaugural), and profile of some parents who chose not to induct their young children into any church and the pressure they faced from family to do so. Very strong people...i admire them.
The low points of the evening came not from the profiles (not even the nun) but rather from the hosts. Mary Richardson stated that the numbers of new atheists has dropped since 2000 and suggested that the tragedies of September 11th and the Iraq war may have something to do with it. The implication is that atheists feel fine until they are emotionally tested and then they see the light and return to the fold. Christian evangelists oft like to quote stories of death-bed conversions of atheists and other heathens. I would guess it happens very little because if you are an atheist, dieing without god is far easier a process than living without god in most societies. To make matters worse, Anthony Everett, the other host, implied that atheists lack a sense of community that people of faith have from their church. He should talk to the legions of disenfranchised Catholics or the secular Jews about that. I know from personal experience that my sense of community with other people who I know to be without belief is much stronger than it ever was when I might have called myself catholic. Certainly not everyone has that experience but a sense of community is not really a good reason to believe in magic. As mom always said of following the crowd no matter how silly, "if they all jumped off a bridge...would you do that too?"
All that being said, the high point of the broadcast was the poll question at the end which asked what people believed. 46% of respondents said they didn't believe in god. Someone must have crashed it and I love it. Patrick OUT!!!

New Favorite Insult

My new favorite insult is now, "you are a singularity of stupid" as applied to Dr. Charlene Werner.
 
 
This woman truly is at the VERY bottom of the intellectual pond. She makes Carrot Top look like a Rhodes Scholar. Patrick OUT!!!

Jon Stewart is Smart

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jennifer Burns
http://www.thedailyshow.com/
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

Two things, Jon Stewart is pretty damn smart and this book is now officially on my christmas list. Patrick OUT!!!

Thank God for the Catholic Church

Time magazine reports on the move by the Vatican to make it easier for Anglicans, unhappy with their church's stance on same sex union and the ordination of women, to join the catholic church. Gee whiz, its a good thing that the catholic church was there to step in and give bigots a place to go. As the world moves forward, the catholic church remains behind...i suppose its not the first time. Apparently analysts say the move could be seen as "predatory." The Anglicans shouldn't be worried...they should be happy to see these people go. Don't fight for them, let the Pope deal with them and you'll be better off. Patrick OUT!!!

Great Disappoitnment

 
Thanks to Wikipedia I know that today is the anniversary of the "Great Disappointment." A day when the followers William Miller were let down to find that their prophets predictions of christ's second coming were not quite right. Miller had said that today (in 1844) would be the day of christ's return. Some of his followers even gave away their possessions to ease their entry into heaven. While this happened more than 150 years ago...I kind of think people would still fall for this today. I think I'll start making deals...like a reverse insurance policy. I'll take possession of your material goods just in case jesus comes down and wants to judge you poorly for owning  a Lexus. Should the great redeemer come to earth you're all set and I'll take the fall for all your evil material possessions. If he doesn't, you get your stuff back minus a small commission for my services. Its a win-win. Or maybe its just a win...for me.
More seriously the "great disappointment" here is not that christ didn't make it back to earth in time for these folks but rather that William Miller was able to fleece so many people into believing such BS. Hopefully we've come some distance since then. Patrick OUT!!!

Great Schism...sort of

Apparently there is a schism in the atheist community...time to pick sides. I'll see if I can summarize the "schism" for you. On the one side, we have the "old" atheists who just wanted to not believe in magic and invisible friends and be left well enough alone. On the other, we have the "new atheists" who think that their lack of belief in god not only makes them right but also makes them moral. In other words, it comes down to the question of whether you think that religion is a force for good (or is of neutral value) or a force evil. I've already made my point on that particular issue and it puts me pretty squarely in line with the "new atheists." For that position, I've been called immoral, uneducated, a fundamentalist, a liar, a hypocrite, and a host of other things. Would I trade those insults for an imaginary friend? Not on your life. I'll wear them as a badge of pride when they're lofted by ignoramuses.
The NPR article also includes some commentary on the idea that the "new atheists" are critical of not only religion but of religious people and the supposition that such criticism serves no other purpose than to make the religious feel bad or to insult them. While that may be one result it is rarely the purpose. Rather the purpose of the criticism is to try and effect change whereby the place of religion in society is undermined for the betterment of that society. In one small example, suppose I hurl insults towards creationists (who are almost always religiously motivated) and with my limited scientific expertise it undermines their position while at the same time hurts their feelings I think it is justified. It would be the same if they, in their field of expertise (presumably theology) decided to cast derision on my knowledge of new testament scripture (which I think is likely better than the average christian). I might be insulted but in the end they would find it justified if it helped their cause and would have little mind for my feelings on the issue. Though to know less of scripture might also show a certain purity of thought that I could envy under certain circumstances.
So you may wonder how I can go about not caring about the feelings of people with whom I have disagreements. How Machiavellian you might say. Well yeah, it is. But the good of society always outweighs the good of the few and ignorant. What about a nicer approach you may ask. I'm not sure that such a thing is possible without losing all bite. In deed, any questioning of one's religious beliefs (even the minutiae) has the potential to insult ad naseum (ask the Sunni and the Shia about that one). So if I lead with the idea that I don't believe in god I am by very virtue of that stance (with no further input from myself) questioning the foundations of the religious person's world view. That's tough to swallow for most people. Its also tough for me to do it without being just a bit smug. I'll freely admit that and also say that its impossible to get around. But its really no more smug than a religious person believing that other people of other faiths are going to be sent to the fires of hell for all eternity. My smugness just comes from a belief that the religious are wasting their time and that I have succeeded in avoiding such things not as bad as believing that their going to be tortured for their intellectual failings. I also don't derive any smugness from a belief that the creator of the universe talks to me and picks my path in life. Nor do I derive smugness from the revelation of magical secrets that only the chosen get to experience. Far from it actually, I want everyone to see the beauty of the "materialism" that surrounds them.
So for me there is no conflict in atheism. There is an exchange of ideas and a continuum of action but no conflict. No atheist is going to kill another because of his interpretation of godlessness. If only I could say the same for the other side of the coin. Patrick OUT!!!
 

My Nemesis

Yesterday I received a notice from the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), which I'm a member of, asking for donations to counter a new offensive by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics (FTE). With that innocuous title you could be forgiven for not realizing that FTE is one of the primary players in the push to get creationism admitted to public school curricula. As such, they are my sworn enemy...my nemesis (thanks Mel). You see the FTE is worried that NCSE is trying to "indoctrinate" our young people in believing in "Darwinism" and that this will turn them into "materialists." Of course these are all key words designed to rile up the masses into thinking that NCSE is going to, through the teaching of evolution, turn the helpless children of America into brainwashed godless heathens.
Don't get me wrong here...I am all about turning children in godless heathens but I'm not about brainwashing. Of course, the NCSE has to be a bit more political about the whole thing and deny that they are trying to act against religion and yada yada yada. I, however, am under no such restraints and can freely state that I would be happy if children looked at evolution and compared it to their bible studies and said..."well, would you look at that...one of these things makes sense and the other does not." Of course, i don't need to tell you which one makes sense in this case. If such an event occurs and that child leaves behind the religion of his forbears than so be it, he has been educated and the schools have done him a favor and he in turn has advanced society.
The FTE, of course, is acting against society and is actively trying to undermine the science education of millions of young people. It is unconscionable and should not be tolerated in a modern society. Furthermore, selling a falsehood seems to me an immoral act which in my mind makes the FTE neither thoughtful or ethical...but what more could you expect from a "christian think tank (oxymoron perhaps?)." Patrick OUT!!!

Interesting

 
So a recent study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion has found some interesting information about the population of Muslims in the world. While I know I routinely think of the Muslim hotbeds of the middle east and Indonesia...there are massive numbers of Muslims living in China and India (22 million, and 161 million respectively). That's a lot of people are it dwarfs many of those middle east nations. Of course, the difference is whether they are living in a "Muslim country." In other words, are they a majority and do they have a legal system based on sharia law. This presents a few problems for those not in "Muslim countries" in that many regions and cultures are not particularly accepting of minorities and especially not Muslim minorities. Outbreaks of violence in France, Indonesia, and more recently China's western provinces highlight these difficulties. All in all, nearly 25% of the world proclaims Islam as their faith. With atheists/no affiliation accounting for a measly 15% of the population we've got a ways to go. That being said, its surprising, I think, that the godless among us don't wield more power poltically. Patrick OUT!!!
 

Backsteet Boys of Science???



This is courtesy of Pharyngula and is for you to compare and contrast with that religious/musical train wreck I posted earlier today. I'm not saying that this is much better musically but only one of the two of them is taking themselves seriously. Furthermore, any music video that can incorporate the words chromatography and crystallography into its lyrics has my support. Patrick OUT!!!

Evidence

For those of you who doubted the previous post on the ability of religion to do just awful things, I present the following evidence. I true and loving god would never allow this. Enjoy...if you can.

Patrick OUT!!!

A Novel Nobel

So I'm going to heap criticism onto the Nobel prizes with the rest of the blogosphere...not to say that I disagree with this years selections but the Nobel prizes could use some reworking. At this point we have chemistry, physics, medicine and physiology, literature, peace, and economics. The first five are specified in Mr. Nobel's will but that last one, the Nobel Prize in Economics, is awarded not from the original interest on the Nobel fortune but rather from the bank of Sweeden.
This is the model I think we should adopt going forward. I would like to see more prize categories raised to the level of the others. Perhaps a prize in earth sciences, or social sciences or even engineering. Furthermore the Medicine and Physiology prize discounts massive amounts of biological inquiry...including my own. Since the prizes are funded through Al's fortune and the categories are defined in his will, I think that the scientific societies should step up and fund other prizes to be given the same prestige in these other fields as the prize in economics has achieved. Its time to recognize great achievements across the board and not be reliant on outdated paradigms of scientific disciplines. Patrick OUT!!!

Just sayin

Just want to get it out there that I think i've finally seen enough to say conclusivelly that Glenn Beck is a first degree black belt moron to the third power. Thats it...just wanted to get that out there. I have no evidence to present except for EVERY GLENN BECK SHOW EVER! I dare you to disagree. Patrick OUT!!!

Climbing

I blog about a lot of different crap but i think that probably 90% of what I write about is either religion/philosophy, science, politics, and formerly professional sports. To that I'm going to add another topic that I probably could have been writing about all along, climbing.
Climbing is one of those things that I've done off and on for years and always kind of liked for a variety of reasons, the least of which is fitness. I think the thing I like most is the perpetual challenge of it. It is also infinitely NOT like science despise what people may think. Its much more akin to a practiced art and for someone who is perpetually not graceful it gives me an opportunity to explore that whole thing in a way that is both fun and different. I also have a confession. I say confession because my readers who climb regularly will no doubt guffaw at such a thought but...I like climbing in the gym better than on rock. There I said it...its out. I know its sacrilege to even suggest such a thing but its true. I like the simplicity of it, the quickness, the focus on particular skills rather than conquering a face. Is it easier...yea. Does it have less risk...yea. Are those things that I can appreciate about it...yea. Does that make me less of a man...i don't rightly care.
Went climbing yesterday (as I do every Thursday) and had a particularly strong workout. A disclaimer, I'm going to get technical here but I'll do my best to insert wikipedia links where appropriate for those of you not familiar with the lingo. As I was climbing a more or less moderate 5.9 (which is probably a bit below my ability now) i found myself stuck on a particular portion requiring a double gaston. It was a kind of weird ring hold that needed a real focus on body tension to get your feet right before dropping down and sliding over the wall and I struggled with it falling twice before I realized what a simple move it should have been in the first place. It really highlighted why I like climbing...there is such a neat progression between practice and perfection in climbing. I know that next time I do that climb, maybe a month from now, I will not even think about what I should have done first...I'll just do it.
I will say that despite my struggles with grip strength, I've gotten a LOT better in the balance department and the avoidance of the barn door effect, and I rely far less on doing repeated pull-ups during a particular run. I was always mindful of my reliance on using that particular ability for escaping my own bad form and I've just started to escape that particular handi-cap. As a final note, anyone in the worcester area should check out the Central Rock Gym. Its a nice place with a great staff and decent climbing all around at all levels. Also has a huge bouldering wall and some really neat features including a few runs with great Arete features. Highly recommended for a visit. Patrick OUT!!!

Finding my calling

So I was somewhat pleased yesterday when the previous post got so much
attention. Granted it was from just a few major contributors but none
the less it was nice to see that at least people read them. The debate
following it got a bit more heated than usual and I'm always a fan of
when that happens. I'm not one to start a "flame war" or anything like
that but a good spirited debate is right up my alley. Its especially
fun when both sides REALLY believe in what their saying and aren't
just trying to stir up trouble.
This all ties in a bit with my new potential career path. Namely, I've
been investigating for some time now the possibility of leaving the
lab setting and working in science policy as an advisor to
governmental departments and legislators. I think that this would be a
productive way for me to leverage a passion for reason and inquiry
into a greater public good. Luckilly, I've come across a number of
fellowship opportunities open to newly minted PhDs that might take me.
If anyone out there knows a big wig in AAAS, a heads up would be
greatly appreciated...or if you want to say super nice things about my
superior intellect in relation to the seas of other newly minted
PhDs...thats nice too.
Because of this new obsession, I've been thinking a lot about what i'd
like to change in terms of science policy in the US and I think that
the problems facing science here are simple but also very deep.
Namely, scientists don't sell their work properly or have an
understanding of how the system works. We spend a lot of time thinking
we are way smarter than all those idiot legislators and wondering how
nice it would be if they just understood what it is we do. Indeed,
that might be nice but its the WRONG approach. Rather its important
for the communication to run the same way the money does, in other
words legislators need to talk to scientists and explain their jobs
(and we need to listen rather than lecture). Scientists need to be
more appreciative of the pressures of being a senator, representative,
or even President. It is too much to expect our elected officials to
be experts on everything. With a nation as complex as the US it is
just an impossibility and we should expect really no more than a
rudimentary understanding of any particular issue and probably less
than that on scientific matters. Don't believe me? Look at Al Gore, he
has devoted his time out of office to climate science and some of the
mistakes he makes are HUGE. If he is an official dedicated to
science...think about how awful the understanding must be with the
rest of them that still need to worry about schools and roads and
health care.
Scientists need to make it simple and sellable (to constiuents). When
Sarah Palin decries the spending of money on research into fruitflies
she is unwittingly exposing whats wrong with the culture of science in
this country. Its not like NASA in the cold war...the public doesn't
see the purpose of it...to them its just more tax dollars that could
put food on the table. If they knew that some of the most basic
understanding of human development comes from fruit flies or our
understanding of diseaes like diabetes and cancer is fostered in these
model organisms...they might not be so quick to discount it as
wasteful. We as a scientific community need to show them. It doesn't
all need to be about curing cancer. Even the most basic research could
be sold as the basis for human understanding for bettering the human
race, for expanding knowledge, for making sure that our college
graduates are the best educated in the world, etc etc. We also need to
make sure we treat our lawmakers like investors. Show them the ROI of
doing basic scientific research. Sure we put people to work but we
also build intellectual capital that makes competitive companies, new
partnerships, and fosters cooperation both at home and abroad. The
value here should not and rightly cannot be understated.
We also need to be careful to pick our battles and not be too
frightening. If the public is worried about cloning and stem cells
well then we take those things more slowly. If you move to quickly
forward you'll end up going backwards...better to slowly turn the tide
of public opinion before opening up the floodgates. For those familiar
with my views on evolution and education this probably sounds a bit
hypocritical but hey...no one is perfect. Patrick OUT!!!

Sinners Repent

So its been a LONG time since i posted here but despite by unusual
workload, I was inspired this morning during the ride in and wanted to
share. I followed a car in this morning with a bumper sticker that
read, "Change your ways or god will change your location ↓" I'm
assuming the down arrow meant hell...but maybe it just meant
south...maybe he will send you to New Jersey...alas I digress. I was
caught off guard a little bit because it struck me that the bumper
sticker was actually referring to me (and the millions of other people
that don't belong to this man's religion). It was kind of like school
yard bully tactics, "Give me your lunch money or i'm gonna pop you in
the head." Of course, the bully doesn't also put up a false pretense
of loving you in the meantime. Furthermore, does the gentleman in the
car really think that his GOD needs a Capo on earth, an enforcer, a
thug to do his dirty work? Of course he might have gotten that idea
from the catholic church...don't believe me? go to confession. I can
only think how horrible it must be to go through life with such a chip
on your shoulder to believe that you have an imaginary friend who
talks to you and is going to save your soul but he is going to damn
the rest of society (including good friends and family) to eternal
torture. Shouldn't that make these people sad? It would be make me
frightfully upset...thankfully I don't buy that crap. The guy was also
selling his car and had a phone number in the window. Unfortunately I
was on the motorcycle this morning and was without pen and paper to
write it down. I wanted to call him about the car...meet up, tell him
i cared very deeply for him, punch him in the face, take his keys and
say i was following god's example. That way he feels good about me
leading a righteous life and I get a crappy old car...win-win. Patrick
OUT!!!

Dutch cartoonists...again

 
So apparently the Dutch government now sees fit to prosecute some Muslims for a very distasteful and anti-semitic cartoon concerning the holocaust. Now, i'm all about distasteful cartoons and so of course I'm not about prosecuting people for writing of publishing them and i'm definately not for double standards. If they wish to prosecute for this than they should have taken out charges against the writers of the infamous prophet cartoons of a few years back that so enraged some muslims. They were both in poor taste and people were offended. Neither should be prosecuted beacuse its not only an issue of fairness its an issue of maintaining a free society where you can offend whoever you please and nobody gets to whine about it after the fact. Patrick OUT!!!

Pointless Babble

A nice article for the “No shit” file.

40% of Twitter messages are pointless babble

 

Patrick OUT!!!

So yea…this video is awesome. Sometimes its good to feel real small in the universe. Wait wait...the realization of the minutiae of human existence has me wanting to kill grandma...DAMN YOU SCIENCE. Patrick OUT!!!

I'm shocked...almost

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/aug/11/getting-rid-of-granny/

 

So the Washington Times is now proposing that the reason that the secular left wants to “get rid of granny” is because they believe in evolution. Wow! So not only am I now a godless evolutionist…I must also be a homicidal sociopathic evolutionist. Evolution= killing grandmothers…do this paper have an editor? Anybody? How does he get away with saying this? Well be supposing that evolutionists see no value in human life…we are all just a bundle of cells and biochemistry with no particular connection to the universe that makes us special. Don’t get me wrong, in the grandest sense…this is something I do believe but in a personal sense this is not true for me and I would venture so far as to say that its not true for many other evolutionists either. Of course he likens the health care reform plans to the secular left trying to “play god” by deciding who lives and who dies. I for one, would never want to play god. All that killing, torturing the people who love you, ignoring pleas for help that you could easily grant, denying atheists vision to see your greatness thereby damning them to a life in hell…rough day being god. I’ll stick to being me with the potential that I might have to kill a grandmother for my evolutionary beliefs every time. Patrick OUT!!!

Don't mess with robots

This woman is totally messing with this robot...all he wants to do is race and she tries to push him around. If she had read this she wouldn't be so cavalier about the whole thing. Patrick OUT!!!

Peanuts

Exactly!
Courtesy of Common Sense Atheism

The Hike- WITH PICTURES



So on day 2 in Switzerland I decided to hike the eiger trail from Grindelwald to Lauterbrunnen via Kleine Scheidegg and the Eigergletscher. I took the early morning train to Grindelwald from Interlaken Ost. A pretty short and uneventful ride preceeding a long and exciting hike. From there I hiked down (seemed like the wrong direction to be heading) into Grindelwald Grund where I quickly found the trail I needed. From there I began the hike up into Brandeg where there was a train station and a restaurant. The picture below is of the cog railway leading into Brandeg. I didn't stop here and didn't see anyone else either though the sign said they served breakfast (it was right at about 9:00 am...must not be very good breakfast). I followed the signs further heading towards Alpiglen.

These are photos looking back across the valley in the opposite direction to where I was going. I'm not sure what mountain this is but its the one just east of Monch (anyone who knows can inform me).






A delightful set of stairs in the trail with a welcomed hand hold...this would have been better coming down I think than going up when my legs were still pretty fresh. The clouds had really started to come in at this point and I was concerned about rain (or snow at the top). Luckilly things stayed overcast until I reached the top and then cleared up just in time to make me really sweat on the way down.


I saw some wildlife on the way...like these sheep and horses. Well they weren't actually WILD life they were domestic but they were the only animals I saw for close to four hours until I got to the other side of the valley. They were pretty high up and I couldn't see any farmer's barns near by and I didn't cross any fences so i wonder if they just stay where they are all the time???







Looking back down across the auto road into grindelwald...its starting to get kind of far away at this point as I approach alpiglen but I'm still feeling pretty good at this point. The mountains in front of me are still covered in clouds so its hard to see how far I have to go...probably a good thing.




Waterfall number one of the day...a little outside of Alpiglen.


Looking back again onto grindelwald as I approached tree line for the first time this hike. Clouds are starting to be at eye level now which was weird. Makes for some tricky hiking because the fog got REALLY thick in places.


The glacier is starting to come into play here. The snow looks like rolled out carpet on the side of the mountain. I made a snowball here and threw it at these french people and then blamed Klaus for the assault...OK, I didn't do that, they were actually dutch not french.
This is me...I was really there. This is at the base of the Eiger's north face. It pretty much goes straight up from this point. I'm glad I wasn't climbing that too. Yikes!


Looking up at the north face...can't see much but you can tell its STEEP.





A cool little stream had cut this snow cave out. There was probably a good 3-4 ft. of snow on top of this little "bridge".


Getting close to the top here. I'm just past Kleine Scheidegg and heading upwards on to Eiger Gleitscher. The people in the picture were an older british couple that offered me a cup of tea at a little rest stop (how quaint).



Looking backwards again on Grindewald...yea, too far to turn back now.
A little trail marker (cairn) garden that someone or many made. This is when I was really starting to feel the altitude difference. I had gained around 4500 ft in elevation or about 9/10ths of a mile (straight up). I was also running a bit low on water and was starting to get hungry (it had been almost 3 hours since breakfast and 1.5 hours since that bannana.




At the TOP I stoped in at the restaurant (lots of people here...they took the train) and had an amazing meal. It was pork cordon bleu with a salad and fries. Who knew that a pork chop stuffed with gruyere cheese, and ham, and then DEEP FRIED, could be so good. Actually, I knew. I mean come-on...its pork stuffed with ham and then fried...I called it the kosher nightmare and I also called it delicious. The picture is a bit decieving because it makes the plate look small, but in reality the dish is easily more than 12 inches across. I also had a cappucino and a cup of tea before leaving. It cost me close to $30US...but I would have paid fifty.
A view from the porch of the restaurant...pretty breathtaking in real life...not so much in this picture.



I left through the back door of the restaurant and it dumps you on this trail going out. On the right is a modest 80ft. drop. On the left is a crazy 400 ft drop...you take your steps carefully. The people in the distance were americans and were on their honeymoon...I passed them a bit later and they decided to turn back and take the train down (I scoffed at the time but later thought maybe they were smarter than I).
One of the ubiquitous trail markers on this section.




A view down towards where I was finally going to end up. In the distance you can just barely make out a later section of the trail. I'm still way above tree line but at least I could see them again.


Another huge cairn garden creation. The tallest ones here were almost over my head. I added a small rock to a shorter one as a mark of my trip.


The first trees on the way down...a welcomed sight as the sun was starting to come out again. It got noticeably warmer at this point and I took off the long pants, fleece, and hat.


Goats in my way...they clearly didn't care I was there but gave me evil looks...demon goats I think.

Looking across the Lauterbrunnen valley for the first time...my train station is at the very bottom of this. I was getting a little nervous about my knees at this point. Alas, I made it in the end but felt the effects for DAYS to come.
A waterful and an opportunity for me to get "artsy" with my photography
Swiss trail construction reminds me of the game "Mousetrap." Ok so hiker trips on log and knocks over pole which lets water break roll down hill pinning the hiker to a tree...you WIN.
"Artsy again"

I looked backwards a lot and this one was worth it. You can see the trail going back up to where I came from and on the left is the Eiger and the right is Jungfrau...the Eiger might look bigger but is actually a few metres shorter than Jungfrau.

Civilization thank goodness...but no cars in this town, I guess the roads don't make it so far. Everyone gets around on foot or by bike (mostly mopeds though).
If you chicken out you can take the cable car down. I'm glad I didn't but at the time it seemed like a nice option.



A really nice view down the valley...I could totally live here.

Final Stats: time: 6.25 hours, distance: 16.1 miles (2.6 mph). total elevation change 2840 metres (1.8 miles). Total water consumed: 2 gallons. Patrick OUT!!!

Interlaken - with Pictures

So these are the pictures and my recollections in Interlaken Switzerland. I camped in Interlaken which was great and this first one was the view from my tent door each morning (though usually there were clouds covering the mountains in the mornings...this was actually taken in the afternoon. I didn't climb this one but I did something similar if not actually a bit taller.
This photo is of the main drag in interlaken heading from one train station, Interlaken Ost (East) to Interlaken West, a good deal of the town is situated on this one road with nice little side streets to explore along the way. Of course along the whole thing you can see the alps in all their glory surrounding you. The weather was also perfect here...days were nice but not TOO hot and nights required a light jacket at best.
This is phot of what is actually a chain of stores in switzerland that I thought was funny because if you don't know swiss german it would appear that the store's proprietor is CHRIST with a lesser partner in Schmuck. Its actually a jewlery store and the Uhren and Schmuch refer to watches and jewlery rather than well...schmucks. I'm pretty sure that the store is not actually owned by Jesus but I could neither confirm nor deny that fact.
The interlaken town common...it looks right onto the Jungfrau (young woman) and while it appears nice hear is really overgrown and nobody seems to use it. Its actually kind of a bright green eyesore in the middle of the city. The swiss should take a cue from the French and start dominating nature a little bit more in their living areas.
Of course, interlaken wouldn't be complete without a Hooters in town. This place was packed both nights I was there. I didn't go because that might have been a bit depressing just to think about. I took the picture because it features really some of my two favorite things in the world...you guessed it, the bike and motorcycle in the front. Get your minds out of the gutter.
A big hotel in Interlaken that I could never afford to stay in...but it was nice to look at from the outside.
I couldn't figure this out for the life of me. Its in the center of town and advertising itself (in English mind you) as being the last sex-shop before the Jungfrau. I'm not sure what mountaineer in preparing for his climb of the Jungfrau goes through his list as: "backpack...check...boots...check...ice axe...check...midget porn...shit we better go back to Interlaken." Of course, Jungfrau translates to Young Woman so maybe its not the mountain they're refering to. I kept walking down the street looking for the young women as a better alternative to the sex-shop. The next day on my trip to the Jungfrau I forgot to stop here ahead of time...big mistake.

Some old church in town...i took pictures of churches in every city I visited. I thought it was ironic to do so.
So while in Interlaken on the first night, I took a hike up one of the big hills that flanks the city. At the top I found this weird little bench with the inscriptions about warts or something...i have no idea if it translates to anything or not (google seems to think it doesn't). Anyways, on the bench was that little bottle of wine just waiting for me. It was already open so I drank some as a self-congratulations for completing the climb. Ok, I didn't do that because it was open already and that would be a bit risky so early in my trip. It was a bit weird though.
One of my favorite parts of hiking in Switzerland were the trail signs. They start right in the middle of town and direct you very specifically to lots of cool things. They also deal in time rather than distance which took a little getting used to. Of course, these times assume you are the average swiss man or woman. On average, it appears that I'm about 20% faster than the average swiss. Anyways, it was nice and they made hiking around and getting places by foot extremely easy.
A view from the top of the hill looking down onto the town and the river. That river was about as blue as I've ever seen. Extremely clean and cold water that flows at quite a good pace through the town. There are multiple companies that run white water rafting at points just outside the city limits. I'm assuming that the water is mostly glacial run-off and i think thats probably why its so clean and clear.

Another view from the top looking over towards the Jungfrau again across the town green. My campsite is not quite visible but its close to the green patch in the distance on the other hill. A nice little spot indeed.Patrick OUT!!!

Obamabeer

Looks as if the whitehouse has managed to ruin yet another good idea. The whole Crowley-Gates-Obama beerfest seemed like an alright sort of thing but then the pictures came out. Gates and Crowley in suits sitting at a small table with Obama (looking pleasantly casual) near the WH rose garden. So far so good, until…the butler brings out bar snacks in silver bowls. So now we have what was already an odd scene intereupted by a butler with silver dishes and BIDEN. Say it ain’t so…Joe, a non-alcoholic beer. Ugh. Obama drinking a bud light, probably so that he didn’t seem elitist but I’d rather have an elitist president with taste than a bud light drinking first executive. I can only imagine that it was probably the most uncomfortable beer hour EVER for any of them. Next time there should be a keg and maybe a funnel to go with it…that would get people talking. Maybe a fist fight to settle things old school…yea, that’s diplomacy. Patrick OUT!!!

 

Helsinki Recap with Pictures

So I think its that time now, when I should finalyl write about some of my European experiences. The first post will be about the conference in helsinki, not because it was my favorite place but rather because it paid for me to be there and so I need to give it its due.

This was my hotel room, it was really small but kind of cozy. The window at the far end looked onto an office building. I could see in all the windows but never saw anyone working (even during the afternoon one time). I'm not sure if maybe the work crazy hours because it certainly looked like the place was occupied.

This was my room key for the hotel. I could tell it was a classy place because of the included bottle opener. That was a first...of course I didn't use the bottle opener at all, maybe that would have made finland more exciting, i don't know.
This is a picture of the conference hotel's beach. I took the picture at 9:30 at night and you can see it was still pretty light out. It stayed this way until a bit after 10:30 or so. Crazy, i think it really threw off my clock more than usual. I was really dogging it at the morning sessions of the conference but then by about 2:00 I was wide awake and had a strange hunger for pancakes...
This is kind of like Finnish bowling. You throw these log/pin things at other log/pin things and try to knock over single pins to get points. Knocking over multiples gets you negative points and so on. I played for a while but the game takes forever (at least when you play with a bunch of other foreigners who suck). The best thing about finnland was definately the food. Reindeer, lots of berries, wild salmon, chocolate mouse, these potato pancake things for breakfast, smoked fish, all of it awesome. More on switzerland in an upcoming post.
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