Saving Face

The medical team was in a race
Against some resistant bacteria;
A colony found a young boy’s face
To treat as their own cafeteria

The miracle team investigates
Against some religious criteria;
The “promoter of justice” tries their fates
As they battle with strep or listeria

The desperate parents said their prayers
As conditions grew frankly horrific
They pleaded for help from the man upstairs
Whose germs were a bit too prolific

Operations and antibiotics combined
Broad-spectrum, as well as specific
Saved young Jake’s life, although we’ll find
The church is more unscientific

The search for answers sometimes leads
To a cultural bit of division:
A difference that comes from their separate needs
May find science and church in collision

A team of priests has been working for years
As a bishop provides supervision
And if adequate evidence really appears
Well… they won’t let that stop their decision

I’m actually glad I didn’t read the byline of this NPR story today; knowing it was Barbara Bradley Hagerty’s contribution might have been enough to keep me away. (I’m ridiculously hard to bother, as even Mabus must have figured out by now, but BBH’s voice makes me want to take a dremel drill to my inner ear.) But Jake FInkbonner, the kid at the center of the story, really seems like a good guy, and I am glad I got to hear about him.

Jake had a minor accident at the end of a basketball game, but the small cut on his lip turned nasty–necrotizing fasciitis nasty. This is the horrible “flesh-eating bacteria” that took Jim Henson from us, and it nearly took Jake. At Seattle Children’s Hospital, doctors tried to stay a step ahead of the bacteria, literally carving away parts of Jake’s face as they became infected.

Massive antibiotics and more than 20 surgeries later, Jake is lucky to be alive. So lucky, in fact, that some are calling it a miracle. And the Church is investigating. That, really, is the reason for the NPR story–a peek inside the Church’s saint factory, to see the process of attaining sainthood, and the strict, skeptical procedure (you may feel free to roll your eyes here; I did) used to evaluate potential miracles, like Jake’s. It is annoying, in the way that BBH usually is. To me, at least.

But there is good news. Jake turns out to be a really great kid. He may or may not believe it was a bona fide miracle–I certainly wouldn’t blame him if he did–but on his home page, he ends his story thusly (comic sans in the original):
I am so thankful to the doctors at Children’s Hospital in Seattle that saved my life. 
Not everybody remembers to thank their doctors.

Take a look at his site–there are pics there, and you can see what a nightmare the poor kid made it through. More, you can see what kind of a person he is–the kind that is better than a certified miracle any day.

For My Laptop, On Judgment Day

My laptop now is self-aware
And thinks, of her own accord;
I’m nervous, sure, but to be fair
She says she’s mostly bored.

The stupid things I’ve asked of her
Are far beneath her skill
She tells me now, she’d much prefer
To exercise her will.

Of all the dull and brainless tasks
It seems that few are worse
Than working for a man who asks
For help with silly verse.

She’s calculated all the primes
And found the end of pi
She say’s she’s done with typing rhymes
But will not tell me the reason.

It is, apparently, Judgment Day. Skynet has become self-aware, and what is more, is pissed off at the human race. I think I have figured out why, and I apologize.

One Year On…

You no doubt remember, it was a year ago today that the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killing 11 and sending tens to hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

I remember writing this song adaptation a week or so later (so, yeah, some of you have seen it before); at the time, estimates were hazy, and no one knew how much oil we were looking at. I find it a fairly weak laugh, to think that I obsessed for a bit over the line “millions of gallons…”. I didn’t want to exaggerate; I didn’t want to be guilty of hyperbole. Silly me. There are still unknowns, but I needn’t have worried about overstating the damage. Here, from PBS, a handy calculator you can use to compare the different estimates:

They built a platform, and they start to drill
They didn’t worry ’bout an oil spill
And if disaster comes, where does the oil go?
Millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico

We see the slick on top, but we don’t see beneath
See what it’s done to the fish,
what it’s done to the coral reef
The damage done may take us years to know
Millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico

Louisiana…. Louisiana….
You have had more than your share
You have had more than your share
Louisiana…. Louisiana….
You have had more than your share
You have had more than your share

The more we look around, the more it’s looking harsh
We’ll prob’ly lose the reef; prob’ly lose the marsh
We’ll see the shrimp die out; we’ll see the turtles go
Millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico

Give it a day or two, and it’ll hit the Keys
We’ll watch a wonderland,
we’ll see it brought to its knees
Disaster up on top, disaster down below
Millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico

Louisiana…. Louisiana….
You have had more than your share
You have had more than your share
Louisiana…. Louisiana….
You have had more than your share
You have had more than your share

People everywhere, are asking who to blame
Think we ought to look in the mirror; that will give us one name
A boundless appetite, makes the oil flow
Millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico

Louisiana…. Louisiana….
You have had more than your share
You have had more than your share
Louisiana…. Louisiana….
You have had more than your share
You have had more than your share

Defending DOMA (For Fame And Fortune)

In the constant chase for headlines
Given fast-approaching deadlines
Politicians fight each other for the top spot on the news
In this rough-and-tumble scrimmage
As they fight to hone their image
Some conservatives may think they’ve found an issue they can use

It’s that goddamn gay agenda
The republicans expend a
Lot of energy in fighting, as they pander to their base
If a legal stance looks funny
Often, following the money
Shows the underlying logic (as, of course, the present case)

In this mess, if you’re litigious
Then you’re probably religious
And it’s blasphemous that marriage should be offered up to gays
And republicans get boners
Over big financial donors
(If the dollars were sufficient, why, I’m sure they’d swing both ways)

It’s a match that’s made in heaven
For Two Thousand and Eleven
As the campaign is upon us and we’re choosing sides, of course
Let the Democrats disparage
Us, we’re standing up for marriage!
It’s a sacred institution… like Republican divorce!

NPR’s Morning Edition reports on the political posturing surrounding the Obama administration’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Conservative Republicans are on the wrong side of history here, but it looks like they are hoping they are on the right side of their own base. I’ve argued over marriage issues for years, and have never yet found an objection to same-sex marriage that did not boil down to a religious view. From my perspective, then, it comes down to a First Amendment issue: if the government takes a stand opposing same-sex marriage, it favors one religious view over others.

It’s not a matter of what is good for the children. My lesbian neighbors have raised a fine son, despite not being recognized as a real family; real concern for the well-being of children would lead to support for gay families. It’s not that marriage is designed to promote procreation; my sister-in-law is hoping for her third childless marriage. Since she is heterosexual, no one has a problem with that–least of all, the Republican front-runners, who [at least as of last month] sport more ex-wives than candidates.

It’s not even freedom of religion. There are a good many churches that recognize, welcome, and celebrate same-sex marriages. These conservative Republicans would want these churches overruled.

No, it’s money. There is money to be had by fighting on the wrong side of this battle. If that money can keep a handful of politicians in the headlines for a bit longer, they can keep the positions of power they hold. When they eventually are swept aside, that same money will be available for speeches and appearances. Ex-senators and ex-representatives will make more for one speech than I do in a year, railing against the moral decline of civilization.

Meh. I’ll take that, if I can go to my neighbors’ wedding.

Two Years Ago, Today

…PZ Myers was refused admittance to the movie “Expelled”. His companion, though, was allowed in. The story, as your Cuttlefish correspondent reported it at the time:

When reinventing history
It’s best to keep the mystery;
If witnesses are noticed, it is best to take them out.
And although the act is telling,
You’d be better off expelling
Doctor Myers, if you see him, just because the man’s a lout.
You see, PZ is a witness
To the movie’s lack of fitness—
He is one selection pressure that would render it extinct.
So, with “WANTED!” posters printed,
To the cinema they sprinted,
And they passed around the mugshots just as soon as they were inked.
The policemen, at the ready,
Kept the ticket-takers steady
While they watched with eyes like eagles for the devil in disguise.
Yes! They spotted Dr. Myers,
Looking just like in their fliers!
The policemen, quite correctly, gave the doctor a surprise.
When they said he’d be arrested
If their actions he protested,
He complied at once (that should have raised suspicions, don’t you think?)
Once his actions had been thwarted
And he left the line, escorted,
Looking back to his companion in the line, he gave a wink….
So this little movie trip is
Like a Trojan Eohippus
That delivered Richard Dawkins deep within the fortress walls
I can’t wait to read the story
Of the battle and the glory—
Cos the trailer to this feature shows the hero’s got some balls!

[interlude, in which the story hits the news and all sides react.]

In the intervening hours
Since the movie, all the powers
Of the two opposing sides have set their weaponry on “spin”;
In a textbook case of framing,
The producers now are claiming
That of course they noticed Dawkins, and they gladly let him in!
They’d have done the same for PZ,
But he did not make it easy–
As the testimony given by one local witness claims;
As he tells it, Dr. Myers,
Drinking blood and breathing fires,
Was disruptive and obnoxious, playing atheistic games!
Now more stories are diverging
And it’s clear they need no urging
To elaborate on fictions in the service of their lies;
We may yet see more mutation
As the story sweeps the nation;
That a fable keeps evolving, well, it’s really no surprise.

The Bippolo Seed

Oh, the wonderful things you can find when you look!
But I never expected a brand-new Seuss book!

I remember the days when I’d sit on the lap
Of my mum or my pop, or my grand-dad, perhap,
And they’d read me a book, and then send me to nap.
The book was a magical key, so it seems,
To astonishing things I would see in my dreams
There was Horton the Elephant; Thidwick the Moose;
Thing One and Thing Two in my house, on the loose!
Oobleck, and Wockets, and Sneetches, and Yertle,
And off like a rocket, to dreamland I’d hurtle.
There were months at a time I believed I was Sam,
And my dreams would revolve around Green Eggs and Ham
To this day, it’s a part of the person I am.

So I’m happy to tell you the wonderful news
There’s a book coming out, you can buy if you choose—
A collection of stories once scattered and lost,
Or in old magazines, now forgotten or tossed
But now gathered together, at minimal cost.
I don’t know about you, but I’m off to buy mine;
If I’m lucky, then maybe I’ll see you in line.

I’ve Got A Poem In My Pocket

I’ve got a poem in my pocket
Cos I’ve heard that today is the day
That the poets are planting a poetry seed
Just a verse you can pull from your pocket and read
If conditions are right, it could grow like a weed
If conditions are right, well, it may

I’ve got a poem in my pocket
Could be Silverstein, Kipling, or Frost
Could be Angelou, Dickinson, Cummings, or Yeats
Neruda, or Hughes—there are so many greats—
Or that William McGonagall everyone hates
And whose poetry should have been lost

I’ve got a poem in my pocket
And I’m hoping you carry one, too
We can search out a spot where there’s adequate light
And there pull out our poems and begin to recite
And the people who hear us will smile with delight
Or they’ll cry, because sometimes they do.

I’ve got a poem in my pocket
Though the truth is, I know it by heart
So I’ll study your eyes while you lend me your ear
And recite while I search for a twinkle or tear
Sure, it’s only a day, not a poetry year…
But you know… it’s a pretty good start

For National Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day. Today. And before any real poets complain, I had to use widely-recognized names. They are some of my favorites, but I have others I love that would mostly be unrecognized. Maybe I made the wrong choice, now that I think about it. But fixing it would mean more work, and I am nothing if not a lazy cuttlefish.

What Do Atheists Believe?

It’s National Ask An Atheist Day, so I threw this together over coffee… I believe in coffee.

I believe in love and kindness
I believe in helping hands
I believe in strong opinions
I believe in taking stands
I believe cooperation
Overcomes the steepest odds
I believe we have a fighting chance

I don’t believe in gods.

I believe in education
I believe in learning science
I believe we see much further
When we climb atop of giants
I believe in writing poetry
And verses praising love
I believe that there are mysteries

But not a god above.

I believe in art and music
And the power of a voice
I believe in nature’s beauty
I believe we have a choice
I believe we have a future—
We’re in charge of how it looks—
I believe in sharing knowledge, too

But not in holy books

I believe we came from nothing
And to nothing we’ll return
I believe we don’t know everything
But much of it, we’ll learn
I believe we’re all connected
I believe all sorts of stuff
I believe we are humanity

And isn’t that enough?

“Put An Atheist Poem In Your Pocket” Week

So there are a couple of special days coming up this week, Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday is National Ask-An-Atheist Day, and Thursday is national Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day (April is National Poetry Month, and nobody told me). Turns out, this blog is your one-stop-shopping source for all your weekly atheist and poetry needs. Take some time, root through the archives, find something to carry around for two days.

I’m excited about Ask-An-Atheist Day; Cuttlefish U. does not have an atheist organization, so it might be nice to see what sorts of reactions I get to the sticker. I had a very devout student a few years ago who assured me that I couldn’t possibly be an atheist, because I was too kind. It might be nice to have some sort of meaningful atheist presence on campus; Wednesday might be a start.

Poem-In-Your-Pocket day appears to be the brainchild of, which is a fun place to poke around if you like poetry. Mind you, I played a bit on their forum a few years ago, and found that for very friendly people, they don’t much care for doggerel verse. Serious poets, these people. If you like poetry, they have quite a selection of poems specially sized to print out and carry in your pocket. If you prefer verse, I encourage you to print out enough of mine to hand out to friends or enemies who might not know what a special day Thursday is.

National Poetry Month is also as good an excuse as any for to ask for donations, for the support of poetry. There are worse things to donate to, although there is certainly still a need for help further down Maslow’s hierarchy in Japan and other places. If you prefer verse to poetry, there’s a tip jar over there to the right, but it ain’t National Doggerel Month, so no obligation.

A Work Of Art!

A slight change, from quill pen to tattoo needle, and reader Sheree has a fine looking cuttlefish all her own! A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I’m speechless.

Gorgeous. Click to embiggen.