His underwear carried dark portents

I just liked that line, from this story about Jim Bakker claiming his choice of underwear color was a sign from his god. Wait, Jim Bakker is still alive, and still working as a televangelist? That’s more a portent than his underwear, I fear.

He was claiming that because his underwear was black, the world was going to end in September. It is now October, of course, so it’s obvious that his underwear is a false prophet, and must die.

There seems to be a lot of end-of-the-world nonsense going around. Last month’s eclipse was also supposed to be a portent of apocalypse. It fizzled. Now some guy is claiming the world is going to end tomorrow.

I’m not worried yet. I’ll tell you tomorrow what color underwear I’m wearing, and then maybe it will be time to panic.

Just doing my part

A clinic in Virginia took a pro-active stance against the anti-choicers preaching and sermonizing outside: they tried to drown them out with a recording over a loudspeaker. I don’t actually approve of that tactic — the first consideration ought to be welcoming patients, and compounding cacophony isn’t helpful. Interestingly, though, their choice of a recording was the audiobook of The Happy Atheist, as read by the resonant Aron Ra.

“We are apes and the descendants of apes,” the recording of Meyers’ book “The Happy Atheist” declared. “We’re the descendents of rat-like primates, who were the children of reptiles, who were the spawn of amphibians, who were the terrestrial progeny of fish, who came from worms, who were assembled from single-cell microorganisms, who were the products of chemistry.”

“Your daddy was a film of chemical slime on a Hadean rock and he didn’t care about you—he was only obeying the laws of thermodynamics,” it continued. “You aren’t here because of grand design, but because of chance, contingency and selection.”

Not only was Aron Ra given no credit, they also…misspelled my name. I guess I should learn to expect that. When I got married, I suggested that I adopt my wife’s name instead, but she squelched that. No one would ever misspell “Gjerness”, would they?

But actually, much as I appreciate the attention and the anger of Christians, don’t blare my words at women just looking for care. It’s not appropriate and is counterproductive.

Another day, another shooting

This one is at Umpqua College in Roseburg, Oregon. Ten people are dead.

I feel cynicism and despair. Nothing will be done. We are targets in the sights of the NRA, and there will be the usual excuses from armed lunatics.

More gun control NOW.

I’ve just heard on the evening news that the shooter was “mentally ill” — I’ve heard this repeatedly now. I’m going to demand some consistency.

If this guy was so sick in the head that he should have been institutionalized before he committed this crime, then we need to round up all the sick fucks on 4chan and get them medicated right now. If you’re not willing to do that, if it is too much to label a huge fraction of the privileged male population mentally ill, then stop claiming somebody who is actually representative of a common attitude is diseased.

Finding insight in the funny pages

Maki illustrated two great truths about trolls:

  • They’re all about making sure only people like them get to be part of a community.

  • They’re so busy policing purity, they don’t bother to contribute productively.


His commentary is also spot on.

In a field where people work day and night to make sure every kid has a chance to become excited about science, the thought that there are old white dudes publicly sneering at a teenager because he wasn’t ingenious enough is sickening. Seeing people who identify as skeptics entertain wild conspiracy theories about a sinister muslim boy and his plot to get arrested for attention would be hilarious if it weren’t so toxic.

It’s a good thing to keep in mind: trolls aren’t necessarily simply frivolous haters who are out to destroy everyone’s fun for laughs. Sometimes they’re so very committed to the goals of a group that they dedicate themselves to non-stop hatred of the perceived enemies of that group, internal and external.

I guess we’ve been doing the advertising wrong

Heather Armstrong, better known as Dooce, is a mommy-blogger — she writes stories about her family and personal life — and she’s giving up the game for a surprising reason. Not because of the trolls (although there’s some of that) but because keeping her advertisers has been a pain in the butt.

The problem, Armstrong says, was that because she felt so beholden to them, she was agreeing to do just about anything to keep the advertisers happy.

“What happened over the last couple of years is the brands have been given a lot more say and a lot more control than they did when I was starting out,” Armstrong said.

“At the beginning, it was, ‘We’re just gonna put the logo at the end of the post. Write something around this.’ … And then it was, ‘Well, actually, we need you to show pictures of the product”. And then it was, ‘We need you to show the product.’ And then it was, ‘We need your kids involved in the post.’”

Wait, what? I’ve never been asked to personally endorse or build an article around the annoying items that we get as advertisements. No wonder we’re not rolling in the big bucks here!

Good for Armstrong for refusing to put up with it, but I’m wondering now how we’d handle it if FtB decided to sell out. Can you imagine the makers of homeopathic medicines, or shills for Bible colleges, asking me to show the product in an article or bring in a heartworming (not a typo) story featuring my godless, snarky kids? Not gonna happen. First try in which I mention some of our advertisers, they’d be frantically phoning me up to never mention their company name again…hey. HEY. I just had an IDEA.

Got something you want to bring to the public attention? I’ll start talking on the blog about your fantastically godless, liberal, feminist hair gel…wait a minute. What’s that poking out of the side of my laptop?

I didn’t know companies could transmit $100 bills through HDMI ports. That’s kind of cool. And a very fast response, Nameless Company That I Shall Never Ever Mention on the Blog Ever Again.

Terrence Howard explains math


It’s been a long, long day of teaching and meetings and lab work, and sometimes it’s good to get home and discover why it’s important to teach. Like by learning what a movie star thinks about basic math, along with his history of domestic violence.

“Since I was a child of three or four,” he says, “I was always wondering, you know, why does a bubble take the shape of a ball? Why not a triangle or a square? I figured it out. If Pythagoras was here to see it, he would lose his mind. Einstein, too! Tesla!” He shakes his head at the miracle of it all, his eyes opening wide, a smile beginning to trace itself, like he’s expecting applause or an award. And all you can do is nod your head and try to follow along. He just seems so convinced that he’s right. And that he is about to change the world.

“This is the last century that our children will ever have been taught that one times one is one,” he says. “They won’t have to grow up in ignorance. Twenty years from now, they’ll know that one times one equals two. We’re about to show a new truth. The true universal math. And the proof is in these pieces. I have created the pieces that make up the motion of the universe. We work on them about 17 hours a day. She cuts and puts on the crystals. I do the main work of soldering them together. They tell the truth from within.”

After high school, he attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, studying chemical engineering, until he got into an argument with a professor about what one times one equals. “How can it equal one?” he said. “If one times one equals one that means that two is of no value because one times itself has no effect. One times one equals two because the square root of four is two, so what’s the square root of two? Should be one, but we’re told it’s two, and that cannot be.” This did not go over well, he says, and he soon left school. “I mean, you can’t conform when you know innately that something is wrong.”


He seems to be doing all right, despite the disgusting attitude towards women and the most useless and deranged ideas about math.

I feel sympathy for his professor, and relief that all of my students are a lot brighter than Terrence Howard.

Now I have to go to an evening meeting with a bunch of students.

Will your name be remembered 700 years from now?

The secret seems to be to acquire a good nickname, like Roger of Chester County, England.

If it is a real name—a nickname, presumably—there seem to me to be two possible explanations for its application to Roger. First, that it applies to an actual event—a clumsy attempt at sexual intercourse by an ‘Inexperienced Copulator’ (my name for Roger), revealed to the world by a revengeful former girlfriend. Fourteenth-century revenge porn perhaps? Or it could be a rather elaborate way of describing someone regarded as a “halfwit”—i.e., that is the way that he would think of performing the sexual act.

Of course, whether you want your name to live through the centuries in that way is an open question.

Have I become an unwitting accomplice in the Rupert Murdoch machine?

I was horrified to learn that Rupert Murdoch had bought a controlling interest in that venerable institution, National Geographic. Jennifer Ouellette explains why this is such bad news.

What does Murdoch get for his $725 million? Under the terms of the deal, Fox owns 73% of the fledgling NPG, with the National Geographic Society controlling 27%. That’s…. a little worrying, despite the fact that each partner will have equal representation on the board and governance will be shared equally between them.

It didn’t take long for people to start voicing concern. Among other things, Murdoch is on the record as a hardcore denier of the fact that humans are causing climate change. Sure, he’ll insist he’s really more of a “climate change skeptic,” and not an outright “denier.” But he’s not fooling anybody, especially when he says stuff like this:

Climate change has been going on as long as the planet is here… How much of it are we doing, with emissions and so on? As far as Australia goes? Nothing in the overall picture.

Naturally there is some concern that Murdoch and his minions might be tempted to put pressure on the magazine regarding its editorial coverage, particularly on politically controversial issues like climate change. On that score, National Geographic editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg is toeing the party line, at least in her public statements. She says she thinks the deal will be “great for the magazine” and insists she’s been assured that 21st Century Fox will not interfere with the magazine’s content. Fox CEO James Murdoch and National Geographic Society chief executive Gary Knell both echoed that sentiment, swearing that there had never been interference with the content of the TV channels and the same would be true of the magazine.

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