Zombie death windpocalypse

So… we survived the apocalypse. Ben and Stephanie avoided a snowpocalypse in Minneapolis in their vacation to the Maritimes, but couldn’t avoid a low pressure system that brought winds up to 100km/h on Monday. It was pretty doomy though. Signs exploded, trees fell, roofs took flight, the dead rose and feasted upon the living… pretty doomy. Ayup. We survived it, with booze and delicious cake. And blunt instruments to fend off the undead hordes.

This morning, we surveyed the damage. The view off my deck:

But wait, there’s more!
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This universe is either eternally cyclical, or one of many

Scientists have been examining data from scans of the cosmic background radiation for a while now, and separate groups of them have over the past few months, alternately, discovered concentric circles pointing toward cyclicality, and found bruises where universes would have jostled against one another, that point toward M-theory. From The Physics arXiv Blog:

Last month, Roger Penrose at the University of Oxford and Vahe Gurzadyan at Yerevan State University in Armenia announced that they had found patterns of concentric circles in the cosmic microwave background, the echo of the Big Bang.

This, they say, is exactly what you’d expect if the universe were eternally cyclical. By that, they mean that each cycle ends with a big bang that starts the next cycle. In this model, the universe is a kind of cosmic Russian Doll, with all previous universes contained within the current one.

That’s an extraordinary discovery: evidence of something that occurred before the (conventional) Big Bang.

Today, another group says they’ve found something else in the echo of the Big Bang. These guys start with a different model of the universe called eternal inflation. In this way of thinking, the universe we see is merely a bubble in a much larger cosmos. This cosmos is filled with other bubbles, all of which are other universes where the laws of physics may be dramatically different to ours.

These bubbles probably had a violent past, jostling together and leaving “cosmic bruises” where they touched. If so, these bruises ought to be visible today in the cosmic microwave background.

I don’t throw in with either theory, as either one would be really cool. The discovery of bruises is more recent, though, so it’s at least the one I’ll be thinking more about for the foreseeable future. One way or another, scientists will have a bigger dataset to play with, when the Planck mission starts returning some data. I was very pleased to note that arXiv points out themselves: ‘these effects could easily be a trick of the eye. As Feeney and co acknowledge: “it is rather easy to fifind [sic] all sorts of statistically unlikely properties in a large dataset like the CMB.” ‘

Whether they’re a trick of the eye or not, almost doesn’t matter. What we’re doing is looking at the evidence, and developing hypotheses and ways to test these hypotheses. This pursuit of knowledge is fundamentally what defines us as a species. Stuff like this makes me happy.

Live blogging 2012: Doomsday

Yes, that’s right, not the original 2012, the cheap knockoff Christian propaganda film. Stephanie Zvan and I are about to subject ourselves to this… oeuvre… and I intend to live-blog it as we go. Completely alcohol-free, at that. Heaven help us.

Apparently George W. got here first. The bastard. I swear I didn’t spoil myself on this epic retardery in advance. Well, not much. Aside from the IMDB comments thread, and a tiny snippet of George’s post.

Beginning time: 10:41 AM. Refresh for updates.
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Pope: condoms stopping AIDS is good, ignore what I said last year

I’m a bit late on this. I know. Have been trying to blog a bit in advance, catching up on real content I’ve wanted to talk about, while spreading it out on the blog over the two weeks mid-December wherein I can’t really devote my attention appropriately — specifically, the week immediately before, and the week of, my vacation. Plus, it kept getting bumped down the queue. If all goes according to plan, I expect to also post a liveblogging of 2012: Doomsday, which Stephanie Zvan and I plan on subjecting ourselves to. With or without copious amounts of alcohol.

That said, here. Have a rant.

For the past several decades, the Catholic Church has been roundly rebuffed for teaching to the detriment of millions of Catholic adherents in Africa and elsewhere that condoms do not work, increase the likelihood of contracting HIV, and are an outright mortal sin if they happen to prevent a potential pregnancy. Pope Ratzinger has finally declared, albeit in a sidelong manner, that condom use that prevents someone from getting AIDS is not TOTALLY morally wrong, even if it does prevent you from accidentally popping out an HIV-ridden child whose short existence would count as a notch on the Big Catholic Soul Scoreboard. From the AP:

Using a condom is a lesser evil than transmitting HIV to a sexual partner — even if that means a woman averts a possible pregnancy, the Vatican said Tuesday, signaling a seismic shift in papal teaching as it explained Pope Benedict XVI’s comments.
[…]
The change came on a day when U.N. AIDS officials announced that the number of new HIV cases has fallen significantly — thanks to condom use — and a U.S. medical journal published a study showing that a daily pill could help prevent spread of the virus among gay men.
[…]
“I say hurrah for Pope Benedict,” exclaimed Linda-Gail Bekker, chief executive of South Africa’s Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation..

And everyone seems to be congratulating the fucker for overturning this onerous and disgusting policy, as though it was a courageous thing for him to do, even though a little over a year ago he was preaching the same old shit IN AFRICA. HIMSELF.

I’ll congratulate him for something else, personally. I’ll congratulate him for proving that papal infallibility is as big a myth as the idea that there’s a sky daddy that created an entire universe just for us and who cares — who is genuinely concerned, to the tune of your immortal soul — about whether you slice off your foreskin or wear a rubber.

See, people have this big idea that the Pope is an emissary of The Big G, and that his words are channeled through this emissary infallibly and unchangingly. That image probably comes from the fact that the Vatican basically spouts the same old shit they always have, covering up where their policies and their authority figures have demonstrably damaged human lives, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. However, they only persist in doing so right up until the public outcry is so overwhelming and so undeniable that they begin to lose adherents over their bullheadedness on the matter. Then they reverse course, and pretend like they’re still and have always been correctly interpreting the will of God.

I have a special hatred for Catholicism, steeped as it is in inhumane and ridiculous dogma, and doing as much damage to human rights and human lives as it has in the name of humble piety. To err is human, but to really screw this world up, you need a religion. That way you can turn your solitary erring, into a human-powered Beowulf cluster-fuck.

There’s no such thing as “Sex By Surprise”.

As I mentioned in the Wikonspiracy post a few days ago, I recently got into a knock-down drag-out fight on Facebook. I don’t want to expose you to blog drama, but it involved me falling prey to one of my weaknesses — assuming that people who act like they have an ulterior motive for repeatedly asking a question that gets repeatedly answered satisfactorily, actually DO have an ulterior motive. It also involved the repeated assertion that Julian Assange was accused of “sex by surprise”, rather than any actual rape charges, and despite several links stating otherwise, it took one specific link stating that the charges were read out in court to finally get my sparring partner to apparently realize (though not admit, mind you) that line of argumentation to be specious. It also ended with me being called a lying sack of dog shit. In front of a number of people I would like to count as my regular readers.

That notwithstanding, despite the conversation going that way (and not, certainly, in any direction wherein the participants were inclined to dialogue), I can’t help but continue to think that people who claim the charge against Julian Assange was “sex by surprise”, are just trying to pull something.
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Metal Gear Stand-up

I already loved Dara O Briain before this video. You know, for his wonderfully godless comedy. Then… THEN… I found out that he does a bit about Metal Gear Solid.

Ask Jodi. Before I got the hang of the controls again, that was exactly how Solid Snake fared under my incompetence. Jump crouch touch. Yes, there’s a touch button, so your adaptive camouflage can assume the pattern of the object you’re touching. Good luck figuring the buttons out without the manual.

Snake! Snake!? SNAAAAAAAAAAAAAKE!!!

Wikonspiracy

From an infosec perspective, the US losing over a gig and a half of classified material to a mid-level military goon with a CD-RW labeled “Lady Gaga” is nothing short of a bloody nose. It means several things: the database is unprotected and/or the database was available to people who had no business with it; there are working CD burners (and probably working USB ports, allowing for more easily concealable USB drives, for that matter) on computers with access to this database; and no physical screening is done on the military personnel entering and exiting the building to audit for what data is being transferred over the premises’ borders. It means that military security is nowhere near as invasive as has been recent TSA airport security changes. It means that military informational security, to put it bluntly, fucking sucked.
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Recipe for a French onion sandwich. Not soup, sandwich.

Our good friend Dan linked to an absolutely amazing-sounding recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich. Not just any old grilled cheese sandwich — one that attempts to improve on, of all things, French onion soup by turning it into a sandwich that apparently tastes pretty much like every good thing about the original classic. Hope the author, Kerry Saretsky, won’t mind too terribly if I nick it from her post at HuffPo, so I have it someplace I can stand to be for any longer than five minutes. (No offense, Kerry, it’s just all the antivax and Deepak Chopra nonsense that get me riled up.)

French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Image also credit to Kerry Saretsky, who really knows how to photograph food.  This looks absolutely sinful.

serves 4

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons unsalted room temperature butter, divided
1 vidalia onion, sliced 1/8″ thick on a mandoline
Sea salt
1 dried bay leaf
1 1/2 tablespoons cognac
1/4 cup beef stock
Freshly cracked black pepper
8 3/4-inch slices of sourdough bread, about 1 8″ round loaf (see Note #1)
8 ounces gruyère, coarsely grated
8 ounces Italian fontina, coarsely grated (see Note #2)

PROCEDURE

1. Melt one tablespoon of butter in an 8.5-inch sauté pan over medium heat.
2. Add the thinly sliced onions, salt, and bay leaf. Cook 8 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the onions are soft and golden, but not charred. If the onions begin to brown too quickly, add 2 tablespoons of water, and continue cooking.
3. Add the cognac off the heat, and allow to reduce 2 minutes over low heat.
4. Add the beef stock and cook on low heat for 3 minutes, until the onions are soft and jammy, and the pan is dry. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
5. Meanwhile, lightly butter one side of each slice of bread with the 2 remaining tablespoons of butter. Divide the cheese between all the unbuttered sides of bread, and scatter the onion mixture evenly on half of those slices. Then top each piece of onion and cheese bread with a slice of just cheese bread, so the butter is on the outside of the sandwich, and the onions are sandwiched between two layers of cheese.
6. Place in an 8.5-inch sauté pan on medium-low heat, place one sandwich at a time on the hot pan. Toast 2 minutes on the first side, lower the heat to low, and toast 4 minutes on the second, or until the outside of the sandwich is golden and crisp, and the cheese is melted. Cut in half, and serve immediately, with Dijon mustard and a few cornichons on the side.

NOTES

1. You could also use a rustic French farmhouse round loaf.
2. Feel free to use either a mix of gruyère and fontina, or just 16 ounces gruyère.

Fair cop: I haven’t made this meal yet, but I have every intention of doing so at the earliest possible juncture.