Nothing’s Gonna Change Dan’s World

Dan J at Relatively Unrelated has updated his blog for the first time since being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. If for no other reason, check it out for the Beatles cover he posted.

Cancer isn’t ruining my life. Without treatment, I would certainly be getting very close to death. That didn’t happen. I’m getting very good treatment that has a proven record of beating the hell out of Hodgkin’s Disease. How good a record? I’m very lucky in that it’s over ninety percent successful. The ABVD chemotherapy regimen has been used against Hodgkin’s for over thirty years, and there really isn’t anything that’s proven to be better at it in most cases.

That’s science, people. That’s not prayer. That’s not mumbo-jumbo whispered by some shaman as he contacts his spirit animals to engage their assistance in curing me. It’s a science-based technique that is going to help me beat this disease, and will leave me much healthier than I was the day I went to the emergency room because of it.

If only every person saved by medical science understood what it was that saved them as acutely as Dan does. Glad to have you back in the fight, my friend. Nothing’s gonna change my world either.

Siberian tiger takes a bath

From our impromptu trip to Oaklawn Farm Zoo yesterday. A Siberian Tiger (not a wion, as the nearby three year old protests throughout this video) named Czar decides to take a quick dip, then gets in a territory contest with one of his co-inhabitants and sprays a post right next to where we were videoing. We’ve never lucked out on seeing this kind of interaction on previous visits.

Kitten, or Batman villain?

Oh my. This is pretty disturbing. I don’t know terribly much about how DNA works where I’ve never formally studied it, but I’m pretty sure this is a result of a random duplication at conception. What happens when DNA is randomly duplicated? Most of the time, not much, because the DNA in question is in “junk” areas where it doesn’t actually create any proteins because of a previous “stop” codon. Sometimes, however, the DNA that gets duplicated does some very uncanny things. Like give animals two faces.

Hat tip to Jeremy Witteveen via Facebook.

*shudder*

Giant Alberta bonebed gives insight into mass fossilizations

A 2.3 square kilometer area about 50km north of Medicine Hat, with thousands of Centrosaurus brinkmani bones, has recently been unearthed, providing some insight into massive fossilization events.

Centrosaurus - Mark Schultz, 2005

“Data from this mega bonebed provide pretty clear evidence that these and other dinosaurs were routinely wiped out by catastrophic tropical storms that flooded what was once a coastal lowland here in Alberta, 76 million years ago,” said David Eberth, a senior research scientist at the museum, the lead author on the study and one of the book’s three editors.

Rather than picturing the animals as drowning while crossing a river, a classic scenario that has been used to explain bonebed occurrences at many sites in Alberta, the research team interpreted the vast coastal landscape as being submerged during tropical storms or hurricanes.

With no high ground to escape to, most of the members of the herd drowned in the rising coastal waters. Carcasses were deposited in clumps across kilometres of ancient landscape as floodwaters receded.

“It’s unlikely that these animals could tread water for very long, so the scale of the carnage must have been breathtaking,” said Mr. Eberth. “The evidence suggests that after the flood, dinosaur scavengers trampled and smashed bones in their attempt to feast on the rotting remains.”

While fossilization events are rare, they do happen, obviously. This giant cache of bones provides invaluable data in researching Earth’s ancient past. It explains how larger clumps of fossils could conceivably have been deposited, e.g. by flash-flooding due to hurricanes, and it also proves that Centrosaurus travelled in large herds like prehistoric, armored reptilian buffalo.

It’s all about the evidence. We can’t travel back in time and see it for ourselves, so we have to collect data and extrapolate to find out more about our planet’s last owners. I love this stuff!

Death to the man behind Facebook!

Pakistan’s attorney general is investigating Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, for his part in allowing the user-driven Draw Muhammad day. Of course, under Pakistan’s penal code, for facilitating a derogatory remark about Muhammad, Zuckerberg ain’t going to get poked with the soft pillow.

Last month, according to English-language Pakistani newspaper The News International, a Pakistani High Court judge summoned the police after lawyer Muhammad Azhar Siddique filed an application for a First Information Report (FIR), claiming that the owners of Facebook had committed a heinous and serious crime under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code. In essence, an FIR launches a criminal investigation. But no charges have been filed.

According to the paper, Section 295-C of the penal code reads: “Use of derogatory remark etc, in respect of the Holy Prophet, whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representation, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly, defiles the sacred name of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life, and shall also be liable for fine.”

So, peace be unto Muhammad. But not unto Mark Zuckerberg.

And I bet you thought this was going to be a rant about Facebook’s privacy concerns. No, no. There’s far bigger retardery afoot whenever you get Muslims that believe in the Hadith as canon and put them in positions to make batshit insane laws. Granted, after Pakistan blocked Facebook and Youtube over the ZOMG BLASPHEMY, Facebook had the Draw Muhammad Day pages removed. But they STILL want to kill Zuckerberg.

This is why you don’t want to be tried under Sharia Law. Congratulations to Pakistan’s government and legal system on planting a flag on your stake as biggest bunch of pitiful losers to ever run a country.

A few blogospherics before bed

Just a few quick, interesting things (a short RCimT, if you will) before I hit the hay.

Monocle-Cat

I bet Russ looks something like this.

If you haven’t already seen it, check out Jim Gardner’s multi-part review of Joe Cienkowski’s tract really-short-book Atheism is a Religion – Evolution Is Their ‘Creation’. As an added bonus, I clash with some random anonymous dude here in part 2 over some specious claims about the ability to be “true-agnostic” like True Neutral in D&D. Amusingly, later in the same thread, a steady-stater named Russ shows up to talk about how light can get tuckered out, and how he knows better than the scientific consensus through his self-education in particle physics and cosmology over the past 41 years. And guess why there’s a scientific consensus about the big bang cosmology? That’s right, a global conspiracy for money! Of course!

Our Lady of Perpetual Win, AKA my evil overlord, has a fantastic meta-analysis post about how alliances are formed and maintained on the blogosphere, and what can be expected from allies — and conversely, what CAN’T be expected in any fairness. And here I just thought you went around collecting minions from willing subjects. Suffice it to say, expecting a nascent community of otherwise outcasts to act monolithically is pretty counter-intuitive. Though I guess if you were really supposed to collect minions, you could expect at least some measure of uniformity in action. Stephanie also reposts a salient piece from last year about allies, containing this most-choice quote:

The people we need to reach, in the mainstream or in other marginalized groups, are not monolithic. We need as many ways to reach them as there are people to be reached.

So, again, quit elbowing the people on your side of this argument. Just because they do things differently, doesn’t mean that method is inherently wrong or will damage “the movement”, if there even is such a thing.

And finally, George W, a frequent commenter, takes it upon himself to enter dialog with someone that confronted PZ Myers, PZ ignoring him, and the Pharynguloids going rabid over him thereafter for his troubles. While I don’t personally care for the whole tone debate, this is exactly what Stephanie means by that pullquote above. There is some utility to the slavering hordes at Pharyngula. There is also utility to my making fun of, say, the more fundamentalist Sunni Muslims for believing some fan-fiction about their prophet and threatening people for drawing him as the logical extension to that belief. Likewise, there is utility to those cases where someone honestly, and without malice, offers their hand to the person on the other side of the debate, hoping to educate them about how the universe actually works and how splendorous it is unfiltered through religious dogma.

Mind you, there are some cases where the person you’re trying to lift out of dogmatic belief has no intention of ever leaving it. Sometimes you have to live and let live. It’s why I do not argue against the sillier beliefs on other people’s forums unless the owners are known quantities and, well, already proven allies (so to speak). I advertise, instead, hoping people with sincere beliefs will come to me seeking enlightenment. Or sometimes, just seeking a fight. You get some depraved and tenacious loonies this way (search for Zdenny on this blog!), but every once in a while, you get a genuine discussion with someone that genuinely wants to know more about the universe, and those make it all worthwhile.

Portal 2 E3 trailer

Holy crap. Portal 2 looks like it’s more than just a minor upgrade. They showed the trailer and some of the new wrinkles they’ve added at E3. Way to go, Valve! You’ve successfully extracted money from my wallet well in advance of actually releasing the game. I think the propulsion gel you sprayed it with might have something to do with that, though.

Part 1:

Parts 2 and 3 below the fold.
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