New Discovery Channel head says no more BS

The Discovery Channel is a business like any other and, some might say, they’ve fallen prey to those well documented pressures with less than admirable results in recent years. Airing vapid stunts and fake documentaries including the occasional program on deities, angels and demons, that tread awfully close to validation, and one treating mermaids as real possibility I recently stumbled across and watched in slack jawed horror for as long as I could stand it. Well, maybe there’s some good news afoot: [Read more…]

Terror attack on French magazine kills a dozen

There are religions that were never violent. There are religions that had their violent days, mostly behind them now. And then there are religions that have extremely violent members, for whom the violence isn’t just a one-off tactic by the occasional lone wolf, it’s fundamentally built into their version of that religion at an institutional level. Today, it looks like some assholes from that kind of faith struck a deadly blow against free press and basic decency: [Read more…]

Hubble marks 25 years with exquisite image


Hard to believe it’s been almost 25 years since the Hubble Space Telescope went up on Shuttle Mission 31. NASA is gearing up for the official April 24th anniversary and released a stunning new image of an old favorite: The Pillars of Creation in the Eagle Nebula. Be prepared to wait if you click on that image, it’s linked to the huge NASA billboard version. This image at Bad Astronomy is a little easier to digest:

The pillars are these towers. The tops are pointing toward the onslaught of stellar radiation and are slowly being dissolved by the light. You can see small knots, clumps of material here and there; these are where stars are being formed and are being uncovered as the dust dissolves. You can see numerous finger-shaped blobs all over the region, too, being eroded by the same process. There’s also a near-infrared image, which detects light that can get through some of the otherwise-opaque dust, showing even more details, including baby stars.

Good news everyone!


I have been picked up as a part time free lancer. It’s not a lot of money, but I don’t spend a lot. One of the few silver linings in going through what I’ve gone through over the past few years is you learn to live cheap. The new gig, together with existing work, means I should have enough to get by. It’s work I’ve done in the past and the best part is it’s fun! It’s work I genuinely love to do. The big difference being it’s regular now, and I have some of what I guess you could call creative direction, much like I have here. My exec editor is giving me a lot of latitude in what topics and projects I take on, how it shake hands with the blogosphere and social media, and I’m just really looking forward to it. It’ll ramp up in January and I’ll be rocking and rolling by February.

It won’t interfere with FTB, in fact I’ll be able to write my brains out here. If it was not for you sweet, sweet skeptical guys and gals stuffing bills in my virtual stocking last month, my Internet might have been turned off.  Thank you all so much, you made Christmas 2014 very special for me! And you made this New Year the first one I’ve looked forward with any kind of hope and excitement in a long, long time.

Witnessing someone’s first step out of a wheelchair will leave you in happy tears

We take getting up out a chair and walking away for granted. But there’s something very special witnessing a friend’s stand up out a chair with no help and take their very first unassisted step with no one near them. I was privileged to see that today. My friend above who I mentioned a few days ago, the one who beat aggressive brain cancer, the kind that kills Walkerabout 90% of its victims, usually within six to 12 months after diagnosis, did that earlier today. Her 12 month mark came last month and the tumor is in full remission, it’s encapsulated and shrinking with no signs anywhere of another one. This particular form of Glioblastoma happens to the kind that rarely spreads.

They said her odds of people living more than a year with this kind and stage of cancer were 20% or less, and surviving 5 years would be much lower still, almost unheard of. They also said, because of the damage the tumor did, the surgery to take some of it out, and the process of killing it would leave her wheelchair bound for life, paralyzed from the mid-chest down. She would never be load bearing, meaning if someone picked her up and plopped her down on her feet, she would just collapse like a rag doll.

Or, best case scenario with years of lot of therapy, she might be able to briefly stand up with a persons help and maybe, walk with a walker for a few halting steps, as long as someone was standing right beside her holding on to her waist harness.

But today, just a few weeks after the last of the three emergency surgeries that almost killed her and left her almost completely paralyzed on one side and suffering from massive neuro-muscular problems on the other, and a mere three days in intensive rehab, my friend “M” stood up with ease and no help at all, and walked unassisted across her hospital room. What makes this even more startling is she is still bloated from the various meds that saved her, meaning she is weak as a kitten and balancing on atrophied muscles at twice her normal weight. She even raised the cane for those steps to prove she did it all on her own.

The docs now say, with that kind of progress so early on, as her weight returns to normal, and with lots of practice, she probably will learn to walk longer distances completely unattended with little risk of falling. Which frees up whole new possibilities in how much assistance she will need down the road. And that while there’s no way to know for sure, this kind of dramatic rewiring so soon after the damage was done means she might regain the ability to run short distances, maybe even long enough to someday complete a 5K marathon. Something she very much wants to accomplish.

She survived and is now walking without ever giving up or giving into pleas to God for a miracle. Not that anyone would have held that against her including me and I hope, you. It wasn’t my idea to photographed the moment and share it here. But she’s so proud and excited now, that she wants people to see that’s she’s going to be OK. I wanted people to see what kind of moxy this lady has. I’m proud to say I played a small coaching role in this. But it should be pretty obvious who the star player is.

Remember, any Paypal donations I get at Darksydothemoon-at-aol go to help her from this point on. Thanks for sharing this with me. We’ll keep posting updates as they come.


Gas prices are really starting to creep me out



Crossposted to Daily Kos — good discussion in comments there with poll — DS

Gas is at 1.74/gal down the street. That’s a huge, huge drop in a really short period of time. I’ve skimmed back on commodity reports and there’s nothing beyond the usual bear-bull financial entertainment fluff predicting it, not until the move started.

Not that I’m complaining: when a blogger is reduced to begging his readership for holiday donations, any relief helps. This is the last night of that, I’m short about a hundred bucks, and just to give you an idea what ads pay bloggers these days, my last ad based payout was $5.82. Please consider sending any leftover change you might have to Paypal via Even five bucks helps. You can also mail a check to my literary agent G. Scanlon FBO Stephen Andrew; 11512 Tincup Dr #109, Austin, TX 78750. Thanks again folks, it means a lot to me!

Back to the gas glut: here’s an anecdotal sign I picked up during my years as a portfolio manager: when ordinary people suddenly feel they’re experts, that’s a bad sign. I’m talking about people who are definitely not pros or even slightly knowledgeable, worse than ignorant, openly dangerous. I’m talking your uncle Bob Dunning-Kruger that I meet at a party, and instead of asking me after he finds out what I did he proceeds to lecture me with a superior nod-nod wink-wink air of contempt exactly what the market is going to do. Lately, when I mention my admittedly vague concerns over oil prices, people are quick to shut me down and reassure me with no shred of analytical reasoning whatsoever that this is a 100% positive thing that can’t possibly hurt anyone …. It may not be rigorously scientific, but that worries me, and folks I’m talking from experience, lots and lots of experience, on this one. [Read more…]

Dwarf planet Ceres beckons


Some mildly good news: I have tapped into a free lance site that nets me a few bucks for custom work, I had to pay a small fee for that privilege. It wasn’t much and thankfully the site appears so far to be legit, I’ve almost recouped my initial investment on the very first job and there are others waiting. It’s dull work, the job I chose is writing and formatting a description for a kid’s bike helmet. But it’s work in my field that I can do from home in a bathrobe and the thing is, I wouldn’t have been able to take even that small risk without your help over the last few weeks. I have successfully leveraged your investment in me.

Today is the last day, if you’ve been considering it, my Paypal email at DarkSydothemoon-at-aol is still open. You know you want to!

How about a pure fun science-y-fiction-y article to end this holiday blegathon? I have a timely one in mind: The Dawn spacecraft is closing in on the enigmatic dwarf planet Ceres, it officially arrives on March 6, but by the end of Jan we’ll have the best images ever taken and that’s got a lot of people interested. Ceres is a mysterious world indeed! Right now the best enhanced image we can get using the Hubble Space Telescope is the one above. But in the next few weeks Dawn will see it like its never been seen before. As main belt asteroids go, it’s an unusually colorful world, and its exciting to see any planet up close and personal for the very first time. [Read more…]

Grudge Match 2015: the Kochs vs the Pope vs Satan


Who do I root for now?

The year that was, 2014, was a shitty one for almost everyone I know. It certainly saw a bunch of people worse off, myself included, and there’s not much on the horizon that looks promising. Maybe that means things are more likely to get better than worse. Today is also the last day of this extended holiday beggathon that saved my ass. Readers sent me almost 600 dollars over the past several weeks. And while that may not sound like a lot to some of you, when you are a poor progressive activist, it’s a fortune. If you can squeeze out five or ten bucks, or more, it matters to me. My Paypal address remains Darksydothemoon-at-aol and I’ll drop a snail mail address in comments for checks; yeah, I’m that fucking desperate. After midnight it’s over. Help me Obi-wan, you are my only hope.

Recall that a few days ago reports surfaced that Pope Francis will issue an encyclical on the environment and climate change, challenging a billion plus Catholics to take the matter seriously. Remember, gentle atheists, what you get when you mix religion and politics? Politics! And by politics we mean power and by power we mean money. The grifters of America are more than happy to use religion to dupe the faithful into giving them more money, but what happens when religion interferes with chalking up another billion for the richest zillionaire orc brothers on Earth? [Read more…]