I’d Like To Return This Gift, God…

It seems that perhaps abortion is going to be an issue again, maybe for a whole news cycle. Yet another Republican has spoken what he believes is the honest truth, and this is news because it clashes with the real world. Pregnancy, even due to rape, is a gift from God; as we know from earlier, it can only be a pregnancy if it wasn’t legitimate rape, anyway.

The Republican Party platform opposes abortion, and lists no exceptions (indeed, it applauds legislation that makes abortion more difficult to obtain). Not just the POTUS, but Congress and potential Supreme Court nominees are at stake, and all are relevant for this issue.

Anyway, it’s time to re-post this verse. It becomes relevant all too frequently. Oh… and, while I’ve never had a problem with people not recognizing it is satire, a recent comment came in that made me think that there are a handful of readers who don’t get it.

Jennifer, Jennifer, got herself pregnant,
The poor, irresponsible slut.
See, boys will be boys, so it’s up to the girls
To be moral, and keep their legs shut.
But Jennifer, Jennifer, couldn’t be bothered;
She led her young Billy astray.
They met, after classes, at Jennifer’s house,
And now there’s a kid on the way.

Jennifer, Jennifer, wants an abortion—
She says she’s too young for a baby—
But the law of the land says abortion is murder;
The answer is no, and not maybe.
See, murder is murder; we cannot condone
The destruction of innocent life.
And Billy, of course, is an innocent, too,
And he’s much, much too young for a wife.

So Jennifer, Jennifer, finds herself caught
In the view of a watchful Big Brother,
And Country and Church have a task on their hands—
How to keep the babe safe from its mother.
If murder is murder, for fetus or child,
Then surely assault is assault;
A fetus is damaged by drinking or smoking,
And all of it, Jennifer’s fault.

If Jennifer, Jennifer, falls down the stairs
Then the baby inside could be harmed;
And since that poor child is a ward of the state
It is right we should all be alarmed!
So Jennifer, Jennifer, needs to be safe
For the sake of the babe in her womb;
To keep the poor innocent safe from all harm,
Let’s keep Jennifer locked in her room.

But Jennifer, Jennifer, isn’t the first
Nor the last to be pregnant, you see.
The task that’s before us—protecting our children—
Is crucial, I think you’ll agree.
With the passing to law of my modest proposal,
I honestly think we’ll prevail.
It’s simple: Each woman who finds herself pregnant
Must spend the next nine months in jail.

Jennifer, Jennifer, shielded from harm
In a cell with a toilet and cot
With a closed-circuit camera, an unblinking eye,
For the safety of Jennifer’s tot.
When at last you deliver your new baby boy
We’ll whisk you right out through the door;
We care about kids while they’re inside your womb—
Once they’re out, we don’t care any more.

And Jennifer, Jennifer, can’t find her Billy—
Besides, he’s too young for a wife—
She weighs her alternatives, looks down each road…
And reluctantly takes her own life.

And the church says a prayer for the baby unborn
And a heartfelt and tearful farewell.
But Jennifer, Jennifer, so says the church,
Will be heading directly to hell.

One Answer To Pascal

A man once told me that he believed
Because he was playing the odds.
“Blaise”, I replied, “Take a look over here
At a site called ‘A Million Gods’.
You may think, by believing, it’s great if you win,
And there isn’t much chance you could lose–
But faced with a million and quite a few more…
Pray tell me, which god(s) do you choose?”

If you haven’t yet, and even if you have, please welcome FtB’s newest blogger Avicenna, over at A Million Gods. His old site was a favorite of mine, and I know I will read it even more often now that it is only a click away here.

Warning: the writing is so good, and the subjects so interesting, that A Million Gods has a distinctive gravitational pull, and you may find it hard to leave.

Horses And Bayonets (The Ballad Of Romney’s Run)

For weeks and weeks, for months and months
We battled toward the right
Outflanking arch-conservatives
We had to win the fight
We dropped opponents one by one
Who couldn’t keep the pace
Now we’re miles from the center
But at least we won that race

And it’s saddle up your horses, lads,
And fix your bayonets
We’re looking for some voters
So we’ll lie without regrets
We’ll ride hell-bent for leather
And we’ll cut our way with steel
We’ll tell the voters what they want
And act as if it’s real

When Perry fell, and Bachmann fell,
And Gingrich, too, and Cain,
We passed them—on the right, of course,
Their losses were our gain
We said the things we had to say
To pander to our base
Now we’re hell and gone from “moderate”
But at least we won that race.

And it’s saddle up your horses, lads,
And fix your bayonets
We’re looking for some voters
So we’ll lie without regrets
We’ll ride hell-bent for leather
And we’ll cut our way with steel
We’ll tell the voters what they want
And act as if it’s real

When we met at the convention
We were serving up raw meat
With partisans surrounding us,
No need to be discreet;
We’d hide our views if needed,
But it never was the case—
No leftist thoughts contaminate
Our winning of the race

And it’s saddle up your horses, lads,
And fix your bayonets
We’re looking for some voters
So we’ll lie without regrets
We’ll ride hell-bent for leather
And we’ll cut our way with steel
We’ll tell the voters what they want
And act as if it’s real

Now we need to reach the center
And it’s quite a dreadful hike
Are there undecided voters?
Then let’s tell them what they like
Once we know the stuff they like to hear
We’ll say it to their face
Sure, it seems a bit dishonest
But we have to win this race

And it’s saddle up your horses, lads,
And fix your bayonets
We’re looking for some voters
So we’ll lie without regrets
We’ll ride hell-bent for leather
And we’ll cut our way with steel
We’ll tell the voters what they want
And act as if it’s real

Now we’re sprinting to the finish
It’s a battle; it’s a war
And we need to reach the people
Who weren’t listening before
So we boldly bear false witness—
It’s forgiven, by God’s grace—
If we told the truth, unvarnished,
Then we wouldn’t win the race!

And it’s saddle up your horses, lads,
And fix your bayonets
We’re looking for some voters
So we’ll lie without regrets
We’ll ride hell-bent for leather
And we’ll cut our way with steel
We’ll tell the voters what they want
And act as if it’s real

Donors Choose Re-Booted

Ok, I now have a brand new page just for this year, without all the pesky compliments and accolades from last year’s comments (*blush*). It will soon be up in my sidebar, but I also want to put it here–in part because one of my (my?) teachers from last year has a project that is in its last 12 hours or so! So go, take a look at the projects, and if you have a few spare bucks, some of these projects can stretch that money quite a ways!

Plus, with the previous comments gone, you have the chance to take over the billboard!

Happy Fechner Day 2012!

162 years ago today, Gustav Theodor Fechner awoke from a dream which would change his life, and the course of science itself. In his dream, Fechner had discovered the key to studying sensation and perception, the method to measure the mind itself. Of course we cannot simply turn up some switch and increase your awareness, or your sensitivity, or anything about your experience of the world; prior to Fechner’s dream, the only way to study your thoughts was… to think about them. Introspection, essentially. It could not be systematically controlled-indeed, the very thought of controlling the mind, that non-physical part of Descartes dualistic view of Man, was ludicrous.

But Fechner found a method that, in hindsight, was simplicity itself. He would vary the external stimulus systematically, and an observer would report whether a perceptual change was noticed. Can you tell the difference in brightness between this light and this one? Can you tell a difference in saltiness between this solution and this one? Can you tell a difference in weight between this cylinder and this one? By reducing the subject’s responses to a simple choice, and varying stimulus materials, Fechner could measure sensitivity and bias separately, and could determine both absolute thresholds (the dimmest light, quietest sound, lightest weight, that one can detect 50% of the time) and difference thresholds (how much brighter, louder, heavier, must a stimulus be in order for that difference to be detected) for a number of different sensations and stimuli.

And he found that our perceptions are describable by mathematical equations–initially a simple linear function (Weber’s Law), improved to a logarithmic function (Fechner’s Law), suggesting that just maybe our minds are not working under separate and distinct rules than our bodies. Fechner’s work laid the groundwork for the science of Psychophysics, and pretty much all of experimental Psychology owes a debt to his methodology.

For this Fechner Day, I am re-posting a portion of an older post, from February of 2008 (and which is well worth reading for the cool sciencey stuff). You will see why.


Parenthetically, I note with sheer joy the fact that the paper cites Fechner (1877). And it is relevant. How cool do you have to be, to have your work cited 131 years after you wrote it? As cool as Fechner, that’s how cool. Fechner more-or-less invented the science of psychophysics, managing to capture sensation and perception scientifically for the first time. And here he is, cited in a 2008 paper. On machines tasting espresso.

On second thought, that might be my problem right there. I am still impressed by Fechner, and I live in a world where machines can meaningfully taste coffee. Food… or espresso… for thought.

I have a machine to smell my coffee,
To see if it’s any good;
I asked it to make me the perfect cup,
But I think it misunderstood—
It analyzed alkaloids, sampled aromas,
Tried seventeen samples of beans,
Then told me I clearly had no taste at all:
I never was good with machines.

My pre-owned car has an onboard computer—
It measures my driving, you see.
I guess I don’t drive like the previous owner;
My car likes him better than me.
It spits out a spreadsheet of technical numbers—
I don’t know what much of it means,
Except that my car thinks it’s better without me:
I never was good with machines.

Of course, at my office, I have a computer—
The one I am using right now;
It laughs at my grammar and sneers at my spelling,
Although I’m not really sure how.
Just one tiny part of a cubicle farm
Where we’re packed like so many sardines—
Do we use computers, or do they use us?
I never was good with machines.

I’m worried that someday my household appliances,
Sitting at home on my shelves,
Finally realize there’s nothing I offer
That they can’t do better themselves.
They make better coffee, they get better mileage,
Their words rarely stink up their screens—
And I’ll be left out in the cold and the dark:
I never was good with machines.

“The Right Kind Of Christian” Goes Voting

“The right kind of Christian” is hard to define
Except that his views are exactly like mine.
He believes in the bible (the parts that he’s read—
While the wrong kind of Christian reads others instead)
The right kind of Christian will vote as I vote
She’s certain which issues are issues of note.
She sees every issue the way that I see
While the wrong kind of Christian is different from me.
The right kind of Christian has made up his mind
He’s thinking like Jesus, I think you will find;
Let’s hope that the vote goes the way He would choose
And pray that the wrong kind of Christians will lose.

An article in CNN’s Belief Blog today asks whether Obama is “the wrong kind of Christian”; both within the article itself and within the comments, it is clear that the only agreement on what “the wrong kind of Christian” is, is that it includes all Christians who are not like oneself. “Love thy neighbor” cannot coexist with “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword”, when it comes to foreign or domestic policy. As always, one’s Christianity is a Rorschach test.

What is sad, but not surprising, is that each side (and there are many sides) points to the bad they see in other (self-labeled) Christians as evidence that the others are not “real” Christians, never as evidence that “real Christians” might sometimes do bad things. “Christianity” gets to be all the good stuff, and none of the bad, even when what is good and what is bad varies from person to person.

Maybe They Just Don’t Like Gruyere…

I’m trying hard to listen to the undecided voice
To the people who are still unsure which way they’ll make their choice
But it’s hard, when I’ve decided, to believe that others can’t,
If their mental capabilities outrun a potted plant*
“Would you like grilled cheese, or dog shit?” See, with choices such as these,
Can you really trust the voter who will ask “What sort of cheese?”

*I heard someone paraphrase Molly Ivins, and claim that anyone who can’t choose between Obama and Romney ought to consider watering themselves twice a day. Made me miss her, so I had to include this line.

NPR’s All Things Considered had a piece this evening on the Undecided Voter. Once we have decided, it is very difficult to see why others have not. But of course, once we have decided, everything changes. We give different weights to messages about our candidate and the evil bastard running against him or her. We actively look for confirming evidence, and actively avoid disconfirming. Mind you, there might be good reason for that–any candidate who keeps changing positions this late in the game, should that person happen to say something you agree with, might best be ignored anyway. We’ve had years to watch their feet; their last-minute words should not be able to change our thinking about which direction they have been heading.

Jesus-Ween Coming Up!

Someone, on Twitter (I think it was @BugGirl) was pointing out that JesusWeen is a real thing. With the Cuttlekids out of the nest for the most part, I had forgotten that it was that season again.

Good Grief!

The dumbest thing I’ve ever seen
Is Jesus-Ween.

At Jesus-Ween,
the zombies walk the earth—well, one, at least.
At Jesus-Ween,
there’s blood and body, ready for the feast
At Jesus-Ween,
the demons are afraid to show their heads
At Jesus-Ween,
good boys and girls are safely tucked in beds
At Jesus-Ween,
good Christian children keep their bibles handy
At Jesus-Ween,
we all refuse to eat satanic candy
At Jesus-Ween,
we steal another holiday for Jesus
At Jesus-Ween,
we wonder why the other people tease us.

I suspect that if, after Charlie Brown had gotten a rock in his trick-or-treat bag, some other kid had gotten the little green Gideon bible, even Charlie Brown would have pointed and laughed.

Yes, it’s a re-run.

Donors Choose

Pretty soon now, you’ll be able to see a widget in the sidebar over there to the right, that looks something like this:

For now, you can use this one. Anyway, it’s that time of year, when you would pretty much chew off your own leg to be done with all the attention on the USAian presidential race. Well, here’s the thing. If you donate to these needy classrooms, then in just under 3 weeks the presidential campaigning will be over! (True, it is quite possible that the campaigns will end even if you don’t donate to these needy schools, but at this point, is that a chance you want to take?)

Last year, the donors who went through my widget were incredibly generous, and I heard back from a number of teachers (and some students!) who shared their thanks, and who showed what a difference you made. I’ve included some of those classrooms again this year, along with a number of others–you can also browse around and search for schools near you, or projects that are near and dear to your heart (lots of people funded science projects through my widget last year, even though I linked mostly to poetry-related projects). Or you can specify high-need projects, schools in high poverty areas, or even have them pick projects for you at random.

So please give, and in giving, let not your left tentacles know what your right tentacles are doing. You know, just in case it’s something icky.


Binders Full Of Wrong

Let’s say you’re in charge of the hiring and firing—
You’re after a woman who’ll answer to you.
Assuming you’re needing a binder to find ‘er
You’re likely admitting you don’t have a clue
Despite your executive power, you cower,
Cos all of your partners, for years, have been men
You’re frightened to look past the he-males, at females—
Accustomed to capons, you don’t want a hen.

Your yes-men will tell you, debating’s creating
An alternate viewpoint; an alternate world.
Available polls seem to notice the POTUS
Is there at the top, with his banner unfurled.
The strategy thus far you’re trying (that’s “lying”)
May work in the short term, but not in the long;
The truth, though (the stuff you’re not saying)’s dismaying
Your lies do all right, but your truth is all wrong
[Read more…]