Cantina Quote o’ The Week: Blaise Pascal »« So You Know Exactly How God Did It, Then?

Los Links 1/21

I’d write you an inspiring lead, and helpfully split this week’s links into categories, and generally do more by way of saying “Go read all these and then some!” But my book on South China agriculture just came in, I’ve still got Krakatoa to finish, and a dream has sent me on a scramble through old photos, so this is all you get:


Go.  Read.

Dr. King’s Nightmare: “It’s the priorities MLK spoke of that I find interesting. In retrospect, he seems to have predicted the place we’re in now – a nation diminished both economically and intellectually from what we were in his time. We’ve become more inclusive, but we’re mostly more inclusive at the bottom 99% of our society. The ones who really count are what they’ve always been.” (Slobber and Spittle)

At Least He’s Honest: “These people don’t believe that America is a country. They don’t believe that it is an American value, across all state lines and across all political divisions to ensure that children are not exploited. If Oklahoma wants to allow people to hire 10 year old children to make cheap consumer goods for whatever the market will pay, that’s just the price we pay for freedom.

“Likewise, slavery. But we had that argument already. They lost.” (Hullabaloo)

Battle Hymn Of The Republican: “I was just continuing to muse a bit over the fascinating change in rhetoric over the past week. The above verse is meant as an amalgam, not merely the obvious target. I remember Rush bloviating “talent on loan from God”; Beck gloating over the attendance at his rally, Billo’s obsession with the numbers competition between himself and his MSNBC counterparts… WHen it suited their interest, they claimed tremendous influence. That influence, however, has the fascinating property of disappearing altogether when reality catches up to rhetoric.” (The Digital Cuttlefish)

When Human Research Gets Inside Your Mind…:  “Early in the research career I began 11 years ago, I worked with a population of Vietnam War veterans with terminal lung disease.  They were incredibly sick, although still ambulatory and living independently, and we were trying a new medication to try to relieve some of their symptoms.  They visited my office every month for a year and would stay for 18 hours at a time.  None of them ever wanted to sit alone in our patient room with the comfortable couch, television, and fridge full of water and juice and snacks.  They wanted to sit with me in my office in the small wooden chair in the corner, and I accommodated them. Usually they would sit quietly, sipping decaf coffee and reading the paper or a book while I worked on my charts and entered my data.  Sometimes they would want to make small talk – tell me about the town’s latest gossip, their children and grandchildren, or discuss the weather,  And sometimes, late at night, at the end of our time together, they would tell me about the things they had seen.  Things so sad and so horrific that those stories are blistered permanently inside of my mind. Knowing these things changed me.  I don’t know that they made me better, but I know that they made me different inside.  I know now that there are things you can never forget.  But I also know that what are even more horrific, are the stories they couldn’t bring themselves to tell me.”  (On Becoming a Domestic and Laboratory Goddess)

Helpless in the Face of Madness: “What is the matter with us? Are we really helpless in the face of the astounding toll that guns take on this society?

“More than 30,000 people die from gunfire every year. Another 66,000 or so are wounded, which means that nearly 100,000 men, women and children are shot in the United States annually. Have we really become so impotent as a society, so pathetically fearful in the face of the extremists, that we can’t even take the most modest of steps to begin curbing this horror?” (NYT)

How Plate Tectonics Became Accepted Science:  “‘Most of the really great breakthroughs in science are unifications,’ said Owen J. Gingerich, a science historian at Harvard. Newton’s laws of motion unified the sky and Earth as ruled by the same physics; that was radically different from the earlier Aristotelian concept, in which the two realms were separate. Einstein’s laws of relativity unified space and time.

“’Obviously, plate tectonics was an enormous unifying theory that began to make sense of disparate sorts of phenomena,’ Dr. Gingerich said.” (NYT Week in Review) (h/t)

How deep the Universe: “Now there you go. Did you see that? What I said? ‘The nearby spiral…’. ‘The galaxy is close to our own…’. But it isn’t.” (Bad Astronomy)

Dysteleological Physicalism: “Ernst Haeckel coined the term ‘dysteleology’ to describe the idea that the universe has no ultimate goal or purpose. His primary concern was with biological evolution, but the conception goes deeper. Google returns no hits for the phrase ‘dysteleological physicalism’ (until now, I suppose). But it is arguably the most fundamental insight that science has given us about the ultimate nature of reality. The world consists of things, which obey rules. Everything else derives from that.”  (Cosmic Variance)

Palinspeak and Violence: “One of the constants in Sarah Palin’s worldview is violence. You see it in her reality show where most wildlife is immediately identified as a threat to be guarded against or killed. You see it in her inflammatory language, and the ways in which she corrals supporters to sometimes shockingly violent threats. You see it even in completely innocuous Facebook postings on sports. Just check out this Palin stream-of-consciousness on, yes, March Madness…” (The Daily Dish)

“An armed society is a polite society”:  “So how is the aphorism; ‘An armed society is a polite society’ supposed to work?  I often hear people use it who advocate universal access to firearms as a solution to social problems.  What form, exactly, would that politeness take?  And what would happen if it were violated?  What would the result be in very crowded places?  How would it work out for people who cannot conform socially? What about the exchange of ideas considered by some to be inherently rude?  How would social innovation ever take place? A bit of imagination is in order and for that we might turn to a very imaginative author.” (Decrepit Old Fool)

The elephants in the room at ScienceOnline 2011: “Chris Mooney told us that we need ‘Deadly Ninjas of Science Communication’, Tom Peterson of the National Climatic Data Center said that he had been told by a Congressman that the debate over climate change was a ‘knife fight’, and Josh Rosenau drew some compelling parallels between the tactics and rhetoric employed by denialists and the creationist playbook. And yet, there was still a rather odd focus on the communication skills – or the implied lack thereof – of scientists as the reason that so many seem to think that the basic fact of anthropogenic climate change is still up for discussion. Sure, we can refine our message. But how effective is this in a media landscape, particularly in the US, where manufactured controversy abounds, and people who knowingly distort and misrepresent the science are happily given a megaphone? Our ninjas are going to need more than better framing in their toolkit of rhetorical jujitsu moves.” (Highly Allochthonous)

Krugman Finally Has His ‘Creationist Moment’: “I’ve written many times that everything you need to know about movement conservatism can be understood by observing creationists (not surprising, since the theopolitical right is a major element of the conservative movement). I’m glad to see NY Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman has finally reached his ‘creationist moment’: the epiphany one realizes that, to creationists, words have no meaning, that they are not being honest.” (Mike the Mad Biologist)

When my Inner Writer is stomping her foot in protest….: “I love writing. I really do. Editing, not so much. Background info….meh. But I love writing.

“And yet, there are days when I sit at my computer and open my WIP*, and all I can think is, ‘Okay….now what?’” [What follows is damned good advice, and all writers should go read it.  Now, in fact.] (The Coffee-Stained Writer)

Flooding on the flanks of Mt. Hood: “It’s the middle of January. You’ve traveled to Oregon’s majestic Mount Hood for a weekend of skiing the snow- and glacier-covered slopes. On Saturday morning when you begin to head up the mountain from Portland, it’s warm and raining. ‘No problem,’ you think, ‘it will be snowing at higher elevations.’ (Thanks t
o generally decreasing temperature with increasing elevation, or the environmental lapse rate.) But it’s not. Instead, it is raining. Not just run-of-the-mill Oregon drizzle, either. It’s really raining hard. (Highly Allochthonous)

The Significance of a Symbolic Gesture: “With yesterday’s vote, Republicans effectively told American families, ‘We’ll gut the health care system now, and maybe figure something else out later. In the meantime, good luck — and don’t get sick.’ Those who find this compelling probably aren’t paying close enough attention.” (The Washington Monthly)

A Really Big Erratic White Rock in Jefferson County: “A few weeks back David Tucker posted a query regarding big erratics located within the Puget Sound area. He has done some nice write ups on our local glacial erratics including ones I would recommend. So it took me a few days to think of some. Some of my favorites are resting on the mud flats of Drayton Harbor southwest of Blaine, but an impressively large erratic is located north of Hood Head on the west shore of the upper Hood Canal. It is so big and prominent, you don’t have to take a field trip to see it. You can see it using Google Maps or Bing Maps.” (Reading the Washington Landscape)

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